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The Pale Web: Reboot

Discussion in 'Tales from the Crypt' started by Count Vashra, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. Count Vashra

    Count Vashra Lord of Shadows True Blood

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    After long consideration, I've decided that whilst I enjoyed the basic idea of The Pale Web, I didn't execute it that well. In this light, I have redrafted, and will now be posting chapters regularly.

    For new readers, this is the tale of a young Blood Dragon who loses her sire soon after turning, is adopted by a Lahmian, and her struggles between her two upbringings, along with various friends and enemies along the way. There are several references to the massive roleplay The Vampire Council as well.

    The Pale Web

    One

    After congratulating her brother on his new posting at a barracks, Lucinia Hadris turned for home. It was perhaps not the best idea to be wandering about at night, but with her armour and weapons she felt confident,.

    That was, until the crimson-haired young woman approached a bridge guarded by a knight in darkest blue plate. He turned his horse her way, and issued a challenge in a deep voice.

    “I, Sir Luis of Bretonnia, challenge you for passage of this bridge.”

    Lucinia’s better judgement was telling her to run, but her family honour compelled her to stay. If she were to die, best in a well-fought duel.

    “I, Lucinia Hadris of Middenheim, accept your challenge.”

    Sir Luis dismounted. “Are you sure? I must warn you even dismounted I am skilled beyond normal measure.”

    “Stop boasting and fight,” Lucinia said, to quell her own doubts. Her sea-blue eyes turned to steel.


    Eventually, Lucinia found herself disarmed and bleeding from multiple small wounds. She looked at Sir Luis’ helmet and growled, “Finish it.”

    He laughed. “I have no intention of finishing you. You fought well. I can train you to do better than anyone alive.”

    Lucinia blinked. This was unexpected. But to be the best warrior alive? Surely that was a goal worth achieving. She could show off her skills to her family, even. Luis certainly looked very skilled.

    “Your answer?” he prompted.

    “Teach me.”

    Luis removed his helmet, revealing a ruggedly handsome face with hard brown eyes and dark hair. Then it twisted o something monstrous with fangs and red eyes, for a second, before returning.

    Lucinia swallowed. Was she sure she wanted to train under that?

    “You will be what I am, a creature of the night. You shall live forever and have speed and strength beyond imagining. You shall have to drink blood, but only from those you defeat in honourable combat. And yes, you will look like that, but only if you choose. It is entirely worth it.”

    Eternal life as a blademaster, as a blood-drinker? Were there not tells of blood nobility in Sylvania? Lucinia promised to herself she would control herself. “I accept.”
     
  2. Count Vashra

    Count Vashra Lord of Shadows True Blood

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    Two

    Lucinia found herself in a strange world. It resembled her home, but the colours were all off, and outside was only darkness.

    She heard a voice eerily like her own behind her. “Welcome, Hadris.”

    Lucinia spun to see – herself. Well, a deathly pale, black-eyed version of herself. But she could recognise the medium size, the strong muscles, the crimson hair, and the always-friendly expression on the face. She was even wearing a black-cloured version of Lucinia’s red garments.

    “Ah, hello.”

    Her dream-self laughed. “You may call me Shadow-of-Doubt. I am a mind-warden. Each vampire – what you are now – has one, to protect their minds for magical assault, to advise, and, well, be a skeptic.”

    Lucinia smiled. “I had an imaginary friend when I was young. I wish she had been half as useful as you sound.”

    “I am sure she was, in her way.” A bed appeared. “Sit.”

    Luicnia sat beside her new – whatever it was – and said, “First, can I call you Shadow?”

    “Yes. Now, the first rule of mind-wardens: each is private and secret. Do not tell Luis or anyone else about me, or ask about his.”

    Lucinia nodded. “I promise.”

    “The second rule: I shall be in your dreams when you need me, but if you contact me enough I should be able to talk to your waking mind as well.”

    “I look forward to it. I would hate to need to sleep to talk to you.”

    “Third rule: As long as you protect me, I promise to protect you and advise you.”

    “I promise to do all I can to protect you.”

    “I think we know each other’s honour enough to know we both mean that.”

    Lucinia hugged Shadow. It felt great to have a friendly advisor to call upon in her sleep, and, eventually, whenever she wanted.

    Shadow squeezed her in response. “I consider myself fortunate to be your mind-warden. Thank you for letting me exist.”

    “You are most welcome. Thank you for being my mind-warden.”

    “I sense the mists of your transformation are fading. You shall wake soon. Farewell, Hadris.”

    “Farewell, Shadow.”


    Lucinia woke on a wooden floor. Blinking, she felt about herself for her multiple wounds, but, to her surprise, found nothing. If this was a benefit of vampirism, like her mind-warden, and not simply evidence of a month-long torpor, she liked it.

    She noticed her armour and weapons hung from a rack, which was very reassuring. Lucinia got to her feet and walked over to it, noting al the dents had been repaired and the blood cleaned. Sir Luis had obviously gone to some effort for his new…apprentice?

    “You admire my effort?” he asked.

    Lucinia turned, to find him in street clothes. He looked no less dangerous. “Yes. Good morning. I mean, good night.”

    Luis smiled. “That one always trips them. I do like to make my children feel appreciated.”

    “Thank you…”

    “Father will do. I have always wanted a daughter, even if only for the duration of knightly training.”

    “Thank you, Father.” It seemed a little disloyal to her mortal parents, but something told Lucinia she was beyond them.

    “I shall begin training you now. Take up your weapons and meet me outside.”


    Outside was a sizable yard. Lucinia took her position.

    Luis smiled, shaking his head. “Wrong, completely wrong.”

    The night was spent instructing Lucinia on correct stances. She had no idea how meticulous one could be.

    “I have centuries of experience. I want to see it put to good use.”

    “Naturally,” Lucinia grunted, arms beginning to lock from a long-held pose.

    “You may finish. I should explain about the bloodlines.”

    Lucinia listened excitedly. This was a far greater tale than any she had heard. A kingdom in the desert playing with magic, a queen corrupting her court, a warrior seeking to be the greatest in the world. Aristocrats who fed on their subjects quite literally (”arrogance, the height of arrogance”). Ladies who preyed on the wealthy and sought to corrupt the Empire. (“Entirely dishonourable”). Sorcerers who studied dark arts and lived on twisting magic. (“Insane”). And devolved vampires who lived as beasts. (“Mindless unfortunates”).

    “So you can see, we are the best bloodline. Who else can claim to have an active Master?”

    “I should love to meet my grandfather,” Lucinia gasped.

    “In a few centuries, when you are ready. He is stricter, stricter than I.” A shadow passed over Luis’ face. “Now, to bed. We shall continue tomorrow night.”

    “Yes, Father,” Lucinia said, looking forward to Shadow, but not another night’s training.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  3. Borgnine

    Borgnine Moderator Staff Member True Blood

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    This seems interesting and promising!

    It seems rather fast at some moments - for example, the simplicity of Lucinia's decision about becoming a Vampire - I found it a bit too straightforward for such a dramatic change in one's life - but I understand that's not the most important part about this story :) I am looking forward to more chapters.

    Is the mind-warden your own invention, or was it mentioned in some existing WFB lore?

    Also, I noticed a typo "The second rule: I shall be in yur dreams when you need me (...)”
     
  4. Count Vashra

    Count Vashra Lord of Shadows True Blood

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    Thanks.

    Yes, I know it's unrealistic, but you could consider it a time compression or something. As you said, it's not the most important part.

    As for the mind-warden...it's my own invention, but it's not an addition to what vampires are - there's a reason it's telling Lucinia not to talk about it.

    Three

    It was time, Luis had decided, to learn to control the blood thirst. He took Lucinia to a road where many warriors passed, and told her to wait on it.

    “Challenge any who come. Defeat them, and Drink from them. Only what you need. Nothing more.”

    Soon enough, an armoured warrior appeared.

    Lucinia braced herself, and challenged him.

    Lucinia traded blows, surprised by how strong she now was, and drawn by the blood she sensed. She needed to drink it, she knew. She quickly finished the warrior, and proceeded to rip off his helmet.

    Luis appeared. “Remember, only what you need.”

    Lucinia nodded reluctantly. Why restrict herself? There was so much blood here! She extended new fangs and bit deep, savouring the taste. Crimson liquid ran down her throat, only inflaming her appetite.

    Then she felt herself dragged away. But she had not even started! It was so good! Lucinia fought, but Luis was too strong.

    “I said, only what you need.” He looked annoyed, but not angry. “We shall remain here every night, until you learn to control yourself, my daughter.” He dismissively smashed the Imperial to the ground.

    Lucinia sighed, torn between anger at being denied and disappointment at having failed. “Yes, Father.”


    After several nights of road duty, and several days of Shadow expressing doubt she would ever succeed, Lucinia found herself with an entirely different proposition.

    At dusk she went from the house to the road as usual, and waited for someone to challenge. Luis had disappeared, as he usually did.

    Instead of some armoured knight, however, the first person to approach was an extremely beautiful woman.

    Lucinia gasped in astonishment. The woman had long blonde hair, a black, sleeveless dress and black eyes, along with a tall, slender form. Lucinia felt quite unable to challenge her, even if she had been armed.

    “Good evening,” the woman said, smiling perfectly.

    “Good evening to you, madam,” Lucinia stuttered.

    Suddenly, like waves retreating from a beach, the feeling of ethereal beauty disappeared. The natural beauty was still quite there, however. “Oh, I am so sorry. I always do that to those I meet. Let us leave the road and talk, shall we?”

    Luicnai nodded dumbly. Luis had warned her to stay away from other bloodlines, but this person seemed far too kind to be some type of threat.

    When they were off the road, the woman offered her hand. “Annabella Castellan, of the Lahmian bloodline. Yes, I can smell your Blood Dragon.”

    “I should have known, I apologise.”

    Annabella shrugged. “I doubt you could have recognised me. You seem so young.”

    “A few weeks at most,” Lucinia answered.

    “Congratulations. Though, I would have preferred one of my line to have taken you.” Annabella laughed in her honey-sweet voice. “I am only joking. I am sure you love your sire.”

    “My…ah, yes. Father – Sir Luis – is very good to me, if strict.”

    Annabella cocked a brow. “Sir Luis? Of Bretonnia?”

    Lucinia nodded. “Yes, Annabella.”

    “I know him very well. He is very good at heart, if distrusting of others. Has he lectured you about the other lines yet?”

    “Yes.”

    “I shall admit to not living up to his standards of honour, but what is better, live pragmatism or dead honour?”

    Lucinia shook her head. “If you don’t live by a code, you’re not living at all.”

    “Technically, we’re not alive regardless.”

    Lucinia shrugged. It was hardly the point.

    “Now, I should be going. Luis and I have…history I would rather not revisit in front of a child.”

    “I am hardly a child,” Lucinia protested, wondering what history they had.

    “You are less than a month turned. I am 800 years.”

    Lucinia’s eyes widened. “Really?”

    Black eyes glowed with warmth. “You may achieve that if you are careful, Lucinia.”

    Just as Annabella went to leave, Luis returned.

    “Lucinia!” he growled, face near-monstrous. “Get away from that Lahmian! I warned you to avoid contact with others.”

    “Farewell, Annabella,” Lucinia said as she moved away.

    “Farewell, Lucinia.”

    “Go back to the house for the rest of the night, and do not disobey me again.”

    That sounded harsh, but Lucinia had survival instincts. “Yes, Father.”


    “You idiot,” Shadow said almost as soon as Lucinia closed her eyes. Her mind-warden had her arms folded and looked angry. Lucinia wondered if she had ever looked that way. “You were warned not to.”

    “But she was so beautiful, and friendly, and…” Lucinia trailed off.

    “That is what Lahmians do, Hadris. They get into you, make you want them, and then, they cut you. Of all the lines, they are the most dangerous. And, she nearly sensed me.”

    “I thought all vampires had mind-wardens.”

    Now Shadow looked even more angry. “You promised to keep me a secret. And I know your honour.”

    “I am sorry,” Lucinia said. “I shall try to avoid her.”

    “And other strong magic users. I will not be pried into.”

    “I would not want you to be,” Lucinia assured her. Shadow felt increasingly like a twin sister, and in more than just appearance. She was someone she could pour all her secrets out to. Shadow had promised she did not seek out Lucinia’s memories, only emotions, and everything else was completely voluntary. “But what of this history? If something is wrong between them, well, Father…”

    “Sir Luis can manage himself. It is not for a child to meddle in such things. And besides, you cannot even drink properly.”

    “I try,” Lucinia insisted. She hated when Shadow was on sceptic duty.

    Shadow’s gaze hardened. “Trying isn’t enough. What if you eat too much and become some monstrosity?”

    “How? And how do you know anything other than what I know?”

    “Blood, magic. They never go well together. Just control yourself, alright?”

    “Alright.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
  5. Count Vashra

    Count Vashra Lord of Shadows True Blood

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    Four

    When Lucinia, after several years, got her thirst under control, Luis rewarded her by taking her to a joust. Not just any joust: This was a contest for vampires only, being put on ty the von Carsteins in Sylvania. Caseel Drakenhof could be seen in the distance.

    “Normally I would not want you meeting other vampires,” Luis said. “but this is a place of truce, where the only fighting is between the contestants. Mingle as you will.”

    Lucinia, grinning, ran off into the forecourt, where dozens of vampires – so many blood types! – were moving about and speaking to each other.

    Lucinia found one standing apart from all the others. He was a distinctive, raven-haired, sharp-nosed vampire resting against a wall. His clothes were dark, and included a limp cape. Lucinia approached him.

    “Hello, are you having a good night?”

    “That depends,” he replied. “On the one hand, my parents want me to prove myself in some stupid contest. On the other, I can watch all these others kill each other. Less competition is always good.”

    “Ah, I suppose, yes,” Lucinia laughed nervously. There was a bat sigil indicating the vampire’s bloodline, and right now he was confirming the idea that that family as arrogant.

    Then he smiled. “I was joking, my lady. I shall enjoy testing my skills against others in an environment where I need not fear tripping other a spider’s web.”

    “It must be a relief, then,” Lucinia laughed, relieved.

    Emerald eyes glowed. “Indeed. Now, let me introduce myself. Ruben von Carstein.”

    “Lucinia Hadris of the Blood Dragons.”

    “I suppose you cannot wait to satisfy your honour in the joust, then.”

    “I am only here as a spectator. My sire is rewarding me for controlling my blood thirst.”

    “Good on you. I achieved that 200 years ago.”

    “Ruben, who is that girl?” A brown-haired young (apparently) woman ran over to him.

    “Oh, my name is Lucinia Hadris, of the Blood Dragons. I was just talking to him. If he was…well, someone to you…er…” Lucinia started backing away, half expecting fangs through her neck.

    Instead, the newcomer said, “Welcome, fellow child of Lord Abhorash.” Ruben winced. “I do it to tease him. I am glad to see a fellow Blood Dragon hair. I am Georgina Draconia, of the Blood Monastery.”

    “The what?”

    Georgina groaned, emerald eyes flashing. “Does no one know? It is an order of Blood Dragons – no, not the Order of the Blood Dragon – dedicated to worshipping Lord Abhorash. You have to join it. Many of us are here.”

    “We mostly communicate through letter,” Ruben said. “The only non-Blood Dragons allowed in are mortals in training. I have to sit in my old castle all night and ‘learn to be a lord’, or something.”

    Georgina put a finger on Ruben’s lips, playfully shushing him. “You shall be a most perfect lord, and I shall be your bodyguard.”

    “The first time I met a vampire of another line I got yelled at and sent home. Well, to the house we were using at the time.” Lucinia somehow felt comfortable enough with these two to laugh about her own misfortunes.

    “Poor hatchling,” Ruben teased, lips unsealed.

    “I prefer young blood,” Lucinia muttered.

    “That is unfortunate, though,” Georgina said. The Blood Dragon wore soft fabrics, evidently to reduce chafing from her armour. “I am allowed out of the Monastery sometimes. And allowed to meet others.” She cocked a brow. “My father is the Grand Marshall fo the Blood Monastery – and no, I don’t know his name either. Who si yours?”

    “Sir Luis of Bretonnia.”

    Georgina hugged her. “So we are cousins, then! How wonderful.”

    “Excellent,” Lucinia agreed, grinning. Georgina seemed a perfect cousin. And Ruben, by extension.

    “I am glad to see you have found a wonderful cousin, Scales,” Ruben said, looking equally delighted for his – Lucinia tactfully decided to call them friends for now.

    “Thank you, Wings.”

    “My joust is next,” Ruben said. “You two go to the stands and clap for your lord and master.”

    “Stop it, Wings,” Georgina warned affectionately.

    “Does he completely change every time?” Lucinia asked when Ruben was gone.

    Georgina nodded emphatically. “He is an arrogant von Carstein.”

    “Why do you call him Wings? Does he fly?”

    Georgina smiled. “He’s the best flyer I have ever seen. I wish we Blood Dragons had some special ability.”

    “You could probably knock him to the ground on your worst day,” Lucinia said reassuringly.

    Georgina laughed. “True. Now, let us go watch some actual jouster knock him off his horse.”

    “That is not very supportive,” Lucinia pointed out.

    “My vampire, my opinions.”


    Afterwards, they met in a pavilion. It would be light soon, and here some coffins had been set up.

    “You did well, Wings,” Georgina said proudly.

    “Thank you, Scales,” Ruben answered. He looked just as fresh as ever, much to Lucinia’s irritation. Her line was made for fighting!

    “I wonder if you really need a bodyguard,” Jealous or not, Lucinia had been impressed by the von Carstein.

    “Why fight when I have a loyal servant to do it for me?” Ruben asked, earning a glare from Georgina that did nothing to change his attitude.

    “You just like taking credit for other people’s efforts.”

    Ruben shrugged. “Anything helps.”

    Lucinia stifled a yawn. “I need to go to sleep. You two enjoy yourselves.”

    “Wings, go ahead. I need a word with my little cousin.”

    “See you tomorrow night, hopefully,” Ruben said.

    “You, too,” Lucinia replied. She loved her new friends.

    Georgina coughed. “A word of advice, little cousin. If you cannot handle being embarrassed in public, do not have more than acquaintances.”

    Lucinia smiled. “One last thing. How old were you?”

    “21. What about you.”

    Lucinia grinned triumphantly. “25, little cousin.”

    “Do you want me to bite you?” Georgina asked, irritation showing.

    “No.”

    “Then forget that. Our mortal ages make no difference.”

    Lucinia laughed. “Have it your way, little cousin.”

    Georgina turned on her heel and stormed out. “Good morning, hatchling.”


    Lucinia found Shadow in a copy of the jousting arena. The mind-warden was looking, well, doubtful, as usual.

    “Oh, give me a chance, Shadow. I love them.”

    “The von Carstein is as scheming and arrogant as the rest of his line. And the Blood Dragon will think you are stealing her mate. And the von Carstein might sense me.”

    “I would never steal someone’s mate. You know that. And I think Ruben is too distracted to sense a warpstone pyramid.”

    “That may be true, but do not take the chance, Hadris.”

    “I will look after you, Shadow.”

    “One last thing. I liked how you pointed out you were actually older than the Blood Dragon.” Shadow’s face flickered with a smile.

    Lucinia laughed as the dream faded.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017 at 5:42 AM
  6. Borgnine

    Borgnine Moderator Staff Member True Blood

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    I really enjoy this series :thumbsup: The characters are really flavourful. At first, I found Lucinia a bit too childish, but when I think about it, she's 25 and still a fledgling vampire, that actually fits. I am looking forward to more ;)
     
  7. Count Vashra

    Count Vashra Lord of Shadows True Blood

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    Thanks.
    Lucinia being childish is kind of the point. :) Also, I always treat my vampires as having locked emotionally as well as physically upon turning.

    Five

    Several nights later, Lucinia was talking with Georgina and Ruben before a match started. She was seated to Georgina’s left, with Ruben on her cousin’s other side.

    “So, how does a member of a reclusive group meet up with the heir to a grand castle?”

    “We sometimes do mercenary work for other vampires. Ruben’s parents hired a group including me, and I found him worth staying in contact with. By secret messenger bat, of course. Controlling animals is such a useful power,” Georgina finished enviously.

    “I imagine so.”

    “I don’t get to exercise it often,” Ruben said bitterly. “I am usually stuck inside learning lord business.”

    “Yes, but you will be such an awesome lord when it is your time,” Lucinia said encouragingly, wishing she had some power besides being good at fighting. She liked that, but something special as well would be preferable.

    Ruben smiled. “You have a point.”

    “What a surpise to see you here, Lucinia.”

    Lucinia turned her head and saw Annabella taking a seat beside her. “Hello, Annabella. Father said I should see how other vampires fight. Learn their strengths and weaknesses.”

    “A good plan. And will you introduce me to your two beautiful companions?”

    Internally laughing at Ruben’s blush and Gerogina’s scowl, Lucinia introduced her new friends.

    “Ah, the Blood Monastery.” Annabella frowned, and then her smile returned. “Annabella Castellan of the Lahmians, 2nd generation.”

    “A Lahmian.” Georgina looked unimpressed. “I am unsure if you could take me in a simple fight without your tricks.”

    “Is that all children of Abhorash think of?” Annabella teased.

    That made Lucinia uncomfortable, for she really just turned so she could swing a sword forever. But it was too late for reflections like that.

    “Please, honourable combat is the only true test,” Georgina said.

    “I have met one your kind before,” Ruben said, eyes distant. “She was so perfect.”

    Georgina slapped him. “And she was planning to marry you, put you in your coffin and throw away the key, and rule your lands.” Her voice softened. “Lovestruck idiot.”

    “I do not plan to trick anyone Lucinia considers her friends,” Annabella assured them, an amused glint in her eye. “I am delighted you have bonded so well, Lucinia.”

    “Thank you,” Lucinia replied, grinning. “Now, it looks as if the match is starting.”

    Georgina’s emerald eyes firmed. “Annabella, we are fighting after this. No magic.”

    “As you wish, child.”


    Seated in a grand box at the head of the large fighting arena were a number of vampires, whose ancient power washed over Lucinia’s magic senses. Von Carstein heraldry fluttered despite there being no breeze. In the centre sat the strongest source of the magic, a well-appointed man in lordly garments. His bald head only added to his dark majesty. Around him sat a few others of similar power and majesty.

    A wave of magic, demanding submission, washed over the stands. Lucinia felt some it blocked, presumably by Shadow, and was grateful for her mind-warden. Annabella seemed unaffected, Georgina looked insulted and Ruben seemed to be fighting to stay in control of himself. Georgina’s hand closed around his, and he asserted himself. However close their relationship, they clearly supported one another strongly, and Lucinia admired that. She was sure Georgina would go on to be Ruben’s champion.

    “Lords, ladies, guests, warriors,” a powerful voice boomed out.

    “Count Mannfred von Carstein, lord of Sylvania,” Ruben whispered.

    Lucinia swallowed. She had heard of this very unpleasant – understatement, probably – man.

    “Welcome to the second week of the Sylvanian Blood Wars. We have tested the competitors in honourable joust, and I an unsurprised by the result. Tonight, there shall be no honour. This shall be a fight to prove the supremacy of a bloodline for the next decade.”

    “Weren’t you jousting last night?” Lucinia asked.

    “I only came for that. No honour, I’m not doing it,” Georgina said. “I don’t fancy being torn apart by a Strigoi.”

    “And I’m just here to support my future champion,” Ruben added.

    “You look so good together,” Annabella said.

    “You, quiet,” Georgina snapped.

    “As before the bloodlines are divided into teams. But now, there are fewer restrictions on the powers.”

    “And I don’t want to go against an unrestrained Necrarch, either,” Georgina added.

    “The von Carsteins, Lahmians, Blood Dragons and Necrarchs have all been promised great reward. The Strigoi have made…interesting requests.”

    Annabella looked disgusted for once. “I cannot believe any of my sisters or nieces would get involved in such a sport.”

    “I suppose not all Lahmians have your standards,” Ruben observed.

    Annabella gritted her teeth. “I suppose not.”

    Seeing the battle excited Lucinia like nothing ever had. Such a display of speed, powers and strength was fascinating. The only rule was that the contestants try not to hurt spectators. That left a lot of room for creative fighting.

    The battle was over quickly, however. At the end, the two Necrarchs – master and apprentice, presumably – remained, heavily bleeding, but standing. One pulled out a vial and sipped it, before handing it to the other.

    “Blood substitute,” Annabella explained when Lucinia looked at her curiously. “Dhar only helps somewhat.”

    “I give my congratulations to the Necrarchs V’raztra and Khazahas. They have proven the superiority of their bloodline this decade. The others…shall be revived and sent home in disgrace.”


    “A most enjoyable show, wasn’t it?” Lucinia said happily upon exiting the stand.

    “Indeed,” Georgina agreed.

    “Grandfather is going to be upset,” Ruben said nervously. “The Count, I mean.”

    Lucinia did a double take. “Him? Your grandfather? Oh, that is terrible.”

    “I know. Thank you. Those contestants were of my parents’ generation.”

    “It was not them. Besides, a von Carstein lord can hardly go about worrying all night, can he?” Lucinia added reassuringly. She hated seeing her friend like this. His nervous disposition was bad enough without it being aggravated.

    To Lucinia’s relief, Ruben smiled. “No, he cannot. I shall be a lord, and act as one.”

    “Of course you will,” Annabella agreed. “I am sure there is some of Vlad’s arrogance in you.”

    Ruben laughed. “I am sure. Now leave my sight before I have my champion here execute you for insulting me.”

    Annabella smiled. “I do apologise, my lord.”

    “At least let me try,” Georgina said. “I want to prove I can beat her.”

    “I sense you are young and thin-blooded.”

    “Thin-blooded?” Georgina had a delightfully shocked expression on her face. “I am of the third generation.”

    “I am second. And over 800 years old.”

    “I am…ah…centuries old.”

    “Five, to be exact,” Luicnia supplied mischievously.

    “I am going to ram my sword down your throat, hatchling,” Georgina muttered.

    “Are you threatening my daughter?”

    Lucinia, Georgina and Ruben all jumped at Luis’ growl. With Annabella they spun to see him glaring at Georgina.

    “I was joking, Uncle Luis,” Georgina apologised.

    “I am sure. Now, the tournament is over. I shall have my daughter back. And certainly away from you,” he added to Annabella.

    “Oh, Luis, she wants to be with me.”

    “Have you corrupted her?”

    Ruben whispered into Georgina’s ear. She nodded. “Goodbye, Luicnia,” Ruben said. “I hope to see you again.”

    “I also,” Georgina added. She made to hug Lucinia, but caught Luis’ eye and withdrew. “Farewell.”


    When Lucinia slept, Shadow came to her as usual, this time at the fighting pit. “A fine show indeed.”

    Lucinia nodded. “Thank you for protecting me from the Count.”

    Shadow smiled, and a playful light entered her eyes. “It is my job.” She hugged Lucinia. “Now, my host, I have a suggestion for you. I am pleased that you are strengthening your blood with the Blood Dragon and the von Carstein.”

    “Their names are –“ Lucinia began loyally.

    “I know. As I was going to say, I am still disappointed that you are bonding with the Lahmian, although I am hiding myself for now.”

    Lucinia blinked, admonished. “I cannot refuse her.”

    “That is unfortunate. But she will not look for magic in a Blood Dragon.” Shadow brightened. “Now, I have a suggestion. Tomorrow night, make an excuse. Say you wanted to visit Drakenhof, or something.”

    “Father would never –“

    “He indulges his children. Or, perhaps, I shall speak for you. Our connection is strengthening.”

    Lucinia grinned. This was exciting! Visiting an ancient castle! It would be such a tale for her friends. A small voice told her this was very stupid, but Shadow was so helpful, she deserved a request, and Lucinia felt she deserved some fun. “You’re my best friend, Shadow. What can I say?” She hugged the wind-warden, not noticing a brief flash of emerald in her eyes.
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2017 at 5:33 AM
  8. Count Vashra

    Count Vashra Lord of Shadows True Blood

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2013
    Messages:
    1,515
    Six

    “Please, Father.“ Lucinia insisted, sea-blue eyes bright. “I wish to visit Castle Drakenhof.” She was walking with Luis near the arena as the vampire knight’s armour was repaired. He had taken part in a few jousts, and done very well.

    “Why, my squire?” he asked, in a suspicious voice.

    “I have never visited a powerful lord’s castle before.” Lucinia felt uncomfortable arguing against her father, but Shadow’s warm mental presence soothed her. “And I have heard many legends of the home of the von Carsteins.”

    “I should never have let you meet that child.” Luis shook his head. “But if you are so close, why do you not visit his?”

    “Ruben’s parents would not have a young blood of a different line, he said. And which is better, Drakenhof or some minor holding?” Luicnia did not mean to insult her friend by comparison, but it was the truth.

    “What business does one such as you have visiting one such as Count von Carstein?”

    Luicnia swallowed. That was difficult, but Shadow had prepared her, with an explanation she quite liked. She loved her mind warden more and more. “Not with the Count himself. I would like to test my skills against his best men. If this tournament is anything to see, he is proud of bloodline contest and would like to see how his household fare against a child of Abhorash.”

    Luis took her shoulder firmly, and Lucinia stopped, gritting her teeth in pain. “You are a child of lesser generation. He is a sorcerer, child of Vlad himself, and even if he allowed you to face one of his children – worse, one of his brothers – it would be no contest, both a waste of tiem for them, and danger for you.”

    “I would not dare challenge the Count himself,” Lucinia protested as Shadow comforted her. “And certainly not to the death. I only wished to test myself at Drakenhof.”

    “You have no idea what you ask, my squire. You are too young. A lord does not suffer an infant to play with his children. Think no more of this.”

    “But –“

    “No more,” Luis insisted, eyes glowing dangerously.

    Lucinia’s shoulders slumped. “Yes, Father.”

    “When my armour is in shape, I shall take you somewhere you may lose your sickness and fight battles more truly at your level.”


    “I tried,” Lucinia said miserably that day. She sat with Shadow on the coffin in her pavilion. The desire to visit Drakenhof grew within her every hour, and the shame of failure with it, along with the feeling she had disappointed Luis.

    “And that is all you could have done, with Luis,” Shadow assured her with a smile.

    “I shall have to wait a few centuries, then.”

    “Who said that?” Shadow asked brightly. “You are a brave and proud warrior. You do not accept defeat.”

    “But what can I do?” Lucinia asked.

    Shadow placed a hand on Lucinia’s shoulder, affectionately squeezing it. “Go. No one need find out. I can shield you from their magical senses, and as long as you remain out of sight, you will be fine.”

    That sounded most dishonourable to Lucinia. “Lahmians sneak. Not Blood Dragons.”

    ‘Oh, please, I know you are close to that Lahmian, and a real warrior does what she needs to win. And this is not battle, mere…sightseeing.”

    “I am uncertain,” Luicnia said hesitantly.

    “Do not be,” Shadow laughed. “I shall be with you all the way, and then you may treature a sight few see.”

    That convinced her. “How do I get in?”


    The next night, Lucinia crawled through long-forgotten tunnels and alleys. The stench would have been bad enough for mortals, she supposed, but as a vampire her sense of smell was cruelly exaggerated. She pinched her nose.

    Ha. Shadow sounded amused. If your nose defeats you upon the first challenge, you are unworthy of your blood.

    “Quiet. I am concentrating.”

    On not vomiting? Which a vampire cannot, at least. Shadow remained quiet after that.

    Even without the mind warden’s teasing, the maze under Castle Drakenhof was a challenge. Rats ran here and there, whilst water dripped unseen. The young Blood Dragon wondered why lords allowed their castles to fall into such repair, before remembering vampires had different standards of repair, and the last mortal Count had been happy to marry his daughter to a daemon. Maintaining old tunnels was not a high priority.

    Tarnished tapestries hung dejectedly from ancient walls beside what may have been windows. Lucinia wondered if there were hidden treasures amongst this waste of ages.

    No.

    Luicnia hissed. “Thank you very much.”


    Eventually Lucinia crawled into more amenable surroundings and stood, dusting her legs.

    “The things I do for my friends,” she muttered. “You don’t even get wet.”

    Stop complaining. You want to do this as much as I.

    “Stop being right.”

    Stop complaining and have a look around.

    Lucinia swallowed a sharp response and looked. She was in a dungeon, having pushed open a secret tunnel. It was, well, what she expected a dungeon to look like, with bars and cold stone. There was, however, something interesting. A rack full of liquids of various colours and instruments that all looked perfectly capable of of piercing Lucinia’s skin, along with a table with chains.

    “I suppose this is where the Necrarchs set up.”

    I suppose. Now let’s go somewhere more interesting.

    Lucinia nodded and made to leave the dungeon. When she opened the bars, however, she stopped.

    A pair of heavily armoured skeletons, trailing dark magic, turned to her. They were dressed in the remnants of the Drakenhof Guard, and corrosive magic pooled on their swords.

    Lucinia bared her fangs and drew her own sword. “You said you would hide me,” she hissed.

    For once, Shadow was quiet, perhaps in humiliation. The mind warden’s absence was the least of Lucinia’s problems, however. Turning her attention back to the outside world, she found herself moving back, and arrested that momentum. She was a granddaughter of Abhorash! She ddi not flee from skeletons!

    Except, whoever controlled the skeletons would, if not directly looking through them now, would probably have received an intruder alert. Which meant more would be on the way. Which meant, contrary to her instincts, Lucinia would have to swallow her pride and run.

    Sheathing her sword, the young Blood Dragon growled and then turned and ran for the secret tunnel, hoping it really was secret. As she approached, an explosion of shadow revealed one of the Necrarchs before, who slapped her with an ancient, rotten hand. The force was such that Lucinia blacked out.
     

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