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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
The story of a young Blood Dragon and her training.

Death's Squire -Meeting

Eloise stared up at the apparition before her. It looked like a knight. It was a human-looking figure clad in blood-red armour that caught the moon astride a similarly clad horse. At least, that was what it seemed to be. But there was something just a little off about it. Perhaps it was the sword pointed directly at her. Perhaps it was the blazing green eyes of the rider. Perhaps it was the blazing eyes of the horse that was glaring at her. Or, perhaps, it was the rotten stench that emanated from both. The dark sigils and dragon helmet didn't help either.
Although, to be fair, the sword pointed directly at her was the biggest problem at the moment.
"What are you doing?" Eloise demanded. "Here I am, sitting outside my parents' castle on a fine moonlit night, and then some very rude knight shows up and starts waving their sword at me?"
Eloise was sitting on a chair in the front garden of Castle Straussen, admiring the night time view. Which was somewhat ruined by the threat of imminent death.
"Your response confuses me, child." The voice was surprisingly gentle and feminine for such an intimidating image.
"I'm not a child, and wouldn't you be upset if someone waved a sword in your face?"
"I would. But if I were in your position I'd probably be a little too scared to snap at them." The voice sounded the tiniest bit impressed.
"There's no point being scared when you're in danger, Stepmother always says." Eloise fixed her brown eyes on the knight's. Challenge or not, she wasn't going to back down. She was scared, yes, but she thought that focusing on being offended would keep her from panicking..
"Your stepmother is a wise woman, Eloise. You should listen to her."
At that moment, Eloise heard a loud voice call from near the castle. "Fiend, stay away from my daughter! This isn't Sylvania." Indeed. This was Rhysburg in south, southwestern Reikland, near the Brettonnian border. The other side of the castle connected to a series of watchtowers. Just because Louen Leoncour was a benevolent king and along with Karl Franz recognised greater threats to both their realms didn't mean there weren't occasional fights. Especially as this wasn't the Marienburg border anyway, but part of the Helmgart defences.
The rider turned to face Eloise's father,, Lord Henry, who was striding towards them. Eloise felt a sudden flash of fear. Her father was awarrior, a soldier, a veteran of border skirmishes with Brettonnia in worse years, with the scars and stride to prove it. But this rider was something else.
"Please, don't hurt him."
"I don't kill anyone who isn't worth it," the knight said. "And besides, I'm leaving now." The knight called to Lord Henry. "I'm sorry for offending you, my lord. I just heard that -"
"I don't care what you heard. Just go." Lord Henry's face held no room for argument.
"Very well. Farewell, Eloise. I'll see you again, one night."
"Farewell," Eloise replied. As the knight turned to go, she added, "May I ask your name?"
"Wilhelmina. Lady Wilhelmina Ostbrook." Wilhelmina kicked her steed, who moved at a deliberate pace.
Eloise felt a surprising curiosity watching Lady Wilhelmina go. Her stepmother, and her mother before her, had always encouraged her to read and explore. And this mysterious, if disturbing, night, pricked her mind in ways she didn't quite understand. Maybe it was just all the Brettonnnian tales of knighthood proximity to their border had encouraged her to read.
She was broken out of her thoughts by her father's firm hand on her shoulder. "Le's get inside. Your stepmother will be worried about you."
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Grave Tacticus

Staff member
Jul 26, 2020
Interesting start, it does catch the Blood Dragon vibe. I would love to see some more detail and description though.

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Death's Squire - The Musician

As the sun came up, Eloise knelt before her mother's grave. It had been 8 years since 8-year-old Eloise had received the tragic news of her mother's passing in a carriage accident. She still remembered being inconsolable for weeks. Madeleine had been a kind and loving mother. It was so unfair for her to be taken so soon.
At least she'd been allowed to offer suggestions for the epithet, and had agreed with her father on what the words should be.
Now she knelt, reading the message her younger self had helped create, within the family's ancestral burial grounds behind the castle. Given the proximity to Brettonnia, there were as well as the usual Sigmarite devotions a few tokens of the Lady of the Lake. A large tree hung over all, providing shade and protection for the departed.

"You miss her, don't you?"
"She was my mother, and I was too young."
Her stepmother knelt beside her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "She was my best friend, too. When I found out, I was unable to believe it. All I could imagine was poor little Eloise with no mother to care for her."
Eloise smiled at Eliza's gentle smile, her comforting blue eyes. Her stepmother was a woman of wealthy taste and warm demeanour, with blonde hair in a braid.
"It was my idea, in the end. To marry your father, that is. I loved you, and I couldn't bear the thought of you growing up without a female guide."
Eloise blinked. "Thank you, Stepmother."
"It is nothing, Stepdaughter. Your father agreed, and we do get along."
Last night's encounter came to Eloise. "I was approached last night. By a woman named Wilhelmina Ostbrook. She knew my name. And I think my father knows her, too. She certainly seemed to know you."
Eliza frowned, then shook her head. When she spoke, she was smiling again. "She is a dear friend of mine. I imagine she is eager to meet her friend's daughter."
"Why did my father react so badly, and say "This isn't Sylvania", then?"
Eliza laughed, pulling Eloise into a hug. "Don't worry about that, Stepdaughter. Your father is a soldier at heart, and has seen things no man - or woman, or girl - should see. He was probably just remembering something."
"Yes, Stepmother." Eloise pressed her head against Eliza's chest, wanting to believe her explanation. "i love you."
"I love you, too."

After breakfast, an interesting man arrived at the castle. Eloise was her father's sole heir, so it was considered appropriate for her to attend audiences he held, and this one was the most interesting by far.
A young man with blond hair and a violin he held tightly stood before Lord Henry.
Lord Henry was attired in his ceremonial uniform as a General of the Empire, all very noble and proper. Eloise had always been impressed.
Beside him sat Eliza, in rather more casual, if expensive, clothing.
"My lord," the young man said. "I am Ebenezer Humbug. I have been to almost every tavern, inn, theatre house in the Empire and Brettonnia. I am a great violinist of unusual talent."
Lord Henry looked at him directly. "Are you?"
Ebenezer stammered, then said, "Yes, my lord. Even though no one has yet appreciated my talent -"
"You're no good, then," Lord Henry said. "It doesn't take travelling the Old World to find some reward."
"This is a border fort. The garrison would appreciate some relief."
"You think I cannot arrange musicians of my own liking?"
Eliza place da hand over Lord Henry's. "Please, my love. let him play."
Lord Henry sighed. "Very well. One must never refuse the powers that be."
Ebenezer smiled like Sigmar himself had praised him. "Thank you, my lord, my lady. When shall I play?"
"It is Geiheimisnacht in a few nights' time," Eliza said, eyes alight with anticipation. "I should like a performance then. You may preserve your talent until then."
"I should be delighted, my lady."

After Ebenezer departed, Lord Henry shook his head. "I know he's useless. What do you see in him?"
"He does his best," Eliza said diplomatically. "Under certain circumstances you will find his work most captivating."
Eloise laughed. "He is rather handsome, and you can't blame a man for trying."
"Go talk to him, Stepdaughter," Eliza said. "I should like for you to find out about him."
Eloise gasped. "Stepmother?"
"Just have a few conversations with him. That is all."
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Death's Squire - Conversations

Eloise met Ebenezer in the garden. It was a beautiful afternoon with few clouds. A perfect place for a polite conversation. As a border defence the castle wasn't really decorated, but there was always room for some amenities on the inner side of the border.
"You look tired," Eloise said.
Ebenezer smiled. "I'm always travelling. I was in Stirland last. Near Sylvania."
"Oh! Did you see anything...out of the ordinary there?"
"Not exactly." He was hiding something.
"How disappointing. But you're here at last. To grace us with your talent. Could you give me a little performance before? Somewhere private?"
"Your stepmother made it clear I was not to perform until Geheimisnacht."
"She is a firm woman." There had always been something just a little...off about Eliza. Eloise couldn't pin it down.
"I can tell." Ebenezer grinned. "Do you like music?"
"Not particularly. I'm just curious about things. What are you going to play?"
Ebenezer looked at his violin that he always had with him. "I don't know yet. Something suitably dark, I think."
"Good idea. Keep to the mood. I was wondering. Do you live anywhere in particular?"
"No. I've been thrown out of more theatres than I can name. No one appreciates my talent," Ebenezer complained in the manner of one who didn't quite understand that wasn't exactly the case.
"You do look bruised."
"Not everyone was polite in their dismissal of me."
"Poor thing." Eloise touched his shoulder. "Know you're welcome here. Father and Stepmother are most hospitable."
Ebenezer smiled. "Thank you. Now, I must prepare for my show."
"I look forward to it."

That night, Wilhelmina returned. Eloise was sitting up in bed, unable to go to sleep, when she saw the knight outside, seemingly looking directly at her despite surely being too far away to actually see her. The dragon helmet didn't help. Curiosity soon overtook the feeling of intrusion, and Eloise scrambled some clothes on and rushed down.
"I hope I didn't wake you."
'I couldn't sleep. What do you want? Who are you? How do -"
Wilhelmina held up a hand. "You'll find out if you survive past Geheimisnacht."
"What?" Eloise swallowed. "Why would I be in danger?"
"I don't think you are." Wilhelmina jumped off her hellish steed, which then walked slightly behind her as she approached Eloise. She then drew an ancient-looking, finely-crafted blade. "But you might be. Something's happening this Morrslieb, and Mother says you have to be prepared."
Eloise suppressed her fear, remembering her composure the last time they'd spoken. "What should I be prepared for? What does your mother think about me?"
Wilhelmina growled. "She won't tell me yet. But she has good reason, I know." She presented her sword to Eloise. "Take it."
"What do I want with a sword?"
"Take it," Wilhelmina repeated with dread finality.
With no apparent alternative, Eloise took the sword. It didn't on close inspection, match a style she'd ever seen. A nimbus of power hung about it, that didn't feel like Sigmar or the Lady.
"Can you use a sword?"
"I'm aristocracy. Martial skills are required training." Eloise tested a few swings. It was awkward and uncomfortable, but she was sure she would manage with training.
"Good. I don't need you to be able to beat Abhorash by tomorrow night, but do try to learn it."
"You'll learn." Wilhelmina turned and climbed back onto her horse. "Have fun, squire."
"I'm not -"
"You are now, by Mother's orders."
"I'd like to see your mother and get some answers from her."
"She looks forward to meeting you properly."
Wilhelmina departed, leaving Eloise standing in newly arrived rain holding a strange sword she wasn't quite sure what she was supposed to do with,, beyond the obvious.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Thank you. It's been a passion for a while. My favourite part is writing the characters and the dialogue.

Death's Squire - Training

Normally one was supposed to learn in the presence and with the guidance of one's teacher. But Eloise supposed that Wilhelmina and her mysterious mother wanted to keep out of sight as much as possible. And it was easier to train without hat disturbing woman standing before her. At first the new sword had felt uncomfortable, but then it had warmed to her, her fingers fitting it as if it were made for her. It seemed odd such a weapon had been given to her so easily, and she wondered what the threat was to be. And what did she have to do with anything?

"You can use a sword," Ebenezer commented, stepping out into the shade of the castle behind her.
Eloise wiped sweat from her brow. "I'm aristocracy. And my father is, or was, a soldier."
Ebenezer leaned against the wall, holding his violin gently. "Makes sense. I've seen worse."
Eloise laughed, a sweet, girlish laugh that made Ebenezer smile. "You're so chivalrous."
"Hardly. My violin is my only real talent. That, and being thrown out of theatres."
Eloise laughed again. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't -"
"Don't worry. The sun's out, the birds are singing. Why not have some fun? Actually, you could teach me to use a sword. Just out of interest."
"Oh!" Eloise gestured for hi to approach. "This close to Brettonnia, there is a certain chivalric ideal to live up to. Actually, my mother's - that is, the one who brought me into this world, not my stepmother - ancestors were from Brettonnia. We like to keep up some of the traditions."
"how delightful." Ebenezer's eyes fixed on the sword. "I've never seen such decoration. It is not Imperial or Brettonnian. And it is too slender for Dwarfs yet too solid for elves."
"How do you know all that?"
"I travel." Ebenezer placed his violin down safely, and took the sword. "Where did you get it from."
Eloise shrugged. She hadn't been told not to say, but it had been strongly implied by the fact that Wilhelmina seemed not to want anyone to know about her. "I just found it. Somewhere. On the ground."
"You're lying, but I don't think you want to. Very well." Ebenezer got the grip of the sword, and his fingers slid into placed over the handle. "It seems almost to want to be used."
"That is interesting," Eloise said. "Is it a magic sword, then?"
"Probably. No idea who made it, though. Go into your castle's library. Might be something about it there. I'll come and help when I've played with it a little."
"No, I'd prefer to watch."

Eventually Eloise decided it was time to check the library, so Eloise brought them inside with the sword and violin and got into the archives. There were a lot of books about magic weapons and armour, but little on this sword. Eloise had almost given up when she found a small reference scrawled into the margins of an old book. The inscription was most ominous.

The Sword of the Tomb City

I do not know who will read this. Perhaps it is better if none do.
Then why do I write this?
If you suffer misfortune from reading this I can blame only you.
I and my band recovered this in a Sylvanian crypt.
But it was clearly stolen by the vampires from somewhere else.
When they used it against us, it turned on them, jumping into my hand.
Use the sword if you must, but do not trust it.

"Well, by the Lady!" Eloise exclaimed, staring at the mysterious sword that now seemed to be winking at her mischievously. Somehow.
Ebenezer dropped it in shock. "What? The sword would betray us? We should throw it in the Great Ocean and be done with it."
"That may be a little drastic." Eloise wondered how much Wilhelmina and her mother knew. How long ago had this been written? How had they gotten it? What was she supposed to dow ith a sword she couldn't trust?
"We should take this to Stepmother. She is wise and knowledgeable on many things."
"Does she need to know this?"
Eloise frowned. She loved and trusted her stepmother. But something told her Eliza shouldn't know. She grabbed the sword. She'd challenge Wilhelmina next time they met, if at all. Until then, she'd keep it locked away in her room.
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Disciple of Nagash

Staff member
Feb 12, 2008
A very interesting read, I like the air of mystery and how the characters build. I think the only thing that jarred slightly was the musician who is a stranger seemingly have free reign to go where he wanted, meet with the general's daughter etc. It felt like from his introduction he wouldn't initially be trusted so much?

Unas the slayer

Staff member
Jan 1, 2017
Northern Italy
A very interesting read, I like the air of mystery and how the characters build. I think the only thing that jarred slightly was the musician who is a stranger seemingly have free reign to go where he wanted, meet with the general's daughter etc. It felt like from his introduction he wouldn't initially be trusted so much?

I could agree, but Ebenezer is a sort of co-protagonist, given that he's the main focus of another story in the setting, so i think he's having a kind of plot advantage.

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Given the reveal I'm planning, plot advantage would be putting it mildly.

Death's Squire - Secret Mission

Lord Henry was outside Castle STraussen, engaged in conversation with a figure clad in dark, expensive attire that nevertheless seemed to have gone out of fashion before Sigmar was born. Morrslieb shone down on them. Eloise couldn't hear what they were saying as she and Ebenezer observed from behind a statue of Sigmar. A reasonably sized one, that was.
"I wish I knew what they were saying!" Ebenezer hissed. "I don't like this stranger's air. And what time is this for your father to be talking to mysterious strangers?"
"You're a mysterious stranger."
"Hush up. You know what I mean."
Eloise nodded. It was rather dark now. Who was this person her father was talking to? He'd never mentioned he was expecting anyone. And she could feel a similar air to that created by Wilhelmina, the dark knight. Who hadn't visited the past few nights The absence of such a disturbing individual should have been a relief, but something seemed just as wrong about the absence as the prsence.
To her surprise, Eloise's stepmother appeared, walking up to where her father and the man were talking, smiling in a faux-polite sort of way. As if only her husband's presence kept her from attacking him on sight.
Her voice carried easily to Eloise and Ebenezer. "Welcome, my lord Johann Hauptmann. It is a fine night, is it not?"
"A fine night indeed, Lady Eliza. I assume?" Now, somehow, Eloise could hear him.
"Yes, Johann. What were you discussing with my husband?"
Lord Henry frowned. "Geiheimisnacht. But I don't know why you insisted on meeting me this late for mere administrative details."
:It is always polite to meet one's....hosts before the feast."
Something in those words made Eloise wince.
"Very good," Eliza agreed. "Now stop bothering Henry and come back when you're ready to approach the castle like any other respectable guest."
"As you wish, my lady." Johann began to turn.
"You may as well walk. it's a fine evening."
Johann nodded, looking at Morrslieb. "I look forward to both moons in the sky as much as you do."
"We welcome all on such nights," Henry said

Before she could control herself, just after Johann had departed, Eloise jumped up and ran towards her parents. "Who was that? What were you talking about? Why couldn't we hear until you arrived, Stepmother?"
Eliza and Henry looked at one another, then smiled at her.
"Someone you will, i believe, come to know very well," Eliza said. "He's a guest for Geheimisnacht, but he is very peculiar. He insisted on meeting your father tonight."
"So we could discuss arrangements for the night." Henry frowned. "He was very curious about your stepmother."
Eliza put an arm around him. "He's an old friend."
Eloise didn't believe that. Ebenezer didn't look like he did, either.
"How are you managing with the sword?" Eliza asked.
"Very well, Stepmother." Eloise patted it, resting at her belt. It had grown quite possessive of her lately. "It is old and mysterious."
"As these things should be.":
"Come inside now, it's cold," Henry said.
"Wait," Ebenezer said. "i don't mean to intrude, but Eloise asked why we couldn't hear the conversation until you arrived, lady Eliza."
Eliza laughed. "Not everything in that conversation was fit for tender ears, young man."
Eloise and Ebenezer looked at one another.
"We'll continue this inside," Henry said firmly.

They convened in one of the many drawing rooms, with food and drink.
"Geiheimisnacht is always a strange night," Henry said. "But I think this one will be stranger than most. Ebenezer, you must be ready to play something by then. My wife tells me it is of utmost importance you do not play until then, but you must be ready at the feast."
Ebenezer nodded. "Yes, my lord."
"Yes, Stepmother?"
"A group of Brettonnian knights will be visiting, along with their squires. You must challenge one or two of them to a duel, where everyone can see you. And you must use this sword on your belt. It is most important."
"Why? Not that i question your wisdom, but..."
"You will understand in time. You must also keep Ebenezer at your side always."
Eloise looked at him. It wasn't exactly an assignment she objected to. "Yes, Stepmother."
"What is this all about?" Ebenezer asked. "What are all these strange instructions?"
"You are a talented musician, in ways you don't understand," Eliza said.
"I am told we will need your talents under both moons," Henry said. "And Eloise will need to defend you until then."
"Defend? Father, this is a castle, full of soldiers. I would lay down my life for my friends, but -"
"A noble attitude,' Eliza said. "I admire your chivalry. But this is not something any soldier can do. The less know about this, the better."
"Secrets! I love secrets," Eloise said. "Very well, I'll do as you ask."

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Death's Squire - Challenge

The Brettonnian knights arrived a couple of days later, the sun glinting off their highly decorated armour. They were a fine display, a column of sturdy warhorses bearing great warriors towards Castle Straussen. The gates were opened to permit them entry, and Eliza and Lord Henry made all the necessary welcome and formalities.
Eloise and Ebenezer watched with interest from a distance, Eloise having been too embarrassed to actually greet them. Eventually, however, a banquet was put on and Eloise had to join for that, along with Ebenezer.
"have you come a long way?" she asked.
"Not very," Sir Adalhard replied. "And it is always good to see our friends in the Empire."
"It is good to see our friends from Brettonnia, too," Ebenezer said. "Excuse me. My name is Ebenezer Humbug, greatest musician in the world."
Eloise suppressed a laugh. it sounded so self-important.
"Will we have the opportunity to hear this?" Sir Adalhard asked.
"On Geiheimisnacht," Eliza cut in. "We are hosting a performance, and Ebenezer needs to practice until then."
"Perhaps we could hear a practice?"
"Not at all," Eliza said politely but firmly. "Although, Eloise here had something she wished to ask you."
Eloise blinked. By the Lady! Thank you, Stepmother. "Um, yes. i mean, your knightly bearing is ever so impressive. I have something of a passion for chivalry too."
"I'd have assumed you would be the gentle damsel under his protection," Sir Adalhard said, looking at Ebenezer, who blushed.
"Not at all," Eloise said. "I can defend myself. And I acquired a wonderful sword I simply must show you." She dashed up to her room and returned with the strange sword Wilhelmina had given her.
"Now that is a fine sword," Sir Adalhard said. "Where is it from?"
"We don't know," Lord Henry said. "But it seems to have bonded quite well to Eloise."
Indeed, the sword seemed to cling to her, almost like it was annoyed at having been put away.
Sir Adalhard looked about the table to his companions, who all murmured amongst themselves. After a moment he said, "That is an impressive sword. Although I do not know if I like strange swords appearing from nowhere just before Geiheimisnacht. I think it means something very important will happen."
"Probably just coincidence," Eloise said, wanting to punch Wilhelmina, hard, next time she saw her. "And one other thing - I wanted to show you what it can do. I wanted to duel you."
Sir Adalhard looked shocked. "You, a mere girl, which to challenge me? A knight of the realm? Slayer of monsters?"
"Waster of words," Ebenezer said, earning him an affectionate kick under the table from Eloise.
"It would only be a little fun, before the celebrations," Eloise said.
"My stepdaughter is most keen to show her skill," Eliza added, looking directly at him.
"Surely you are not averse to sparring?" Lord Henry asked.
"Very well. After the banquet is over we shall see how much a girl can do against me." A change seemed to have come over Sir Adalhard. he seemed to be staring intently at Eliza.
The sword seemed annoyed.

Perhaps this was a bad idea, whatever her stepmother thought, Eloise decided, comparing her relatively wiry frame with the, even unarmoured, bulk of the knight before her. Even without considering experience, it seemed obvious who should win. Sir Adalhard's sword alone was probably bigger than her. But she'd come this far, so she grit her teeth.
Ebenezer and her parents watched from one side, whilst the other knights watched from opposite. Ebenezer looked worried, Eliza looked almost academically curious, and Lord Henry looked as if he wanted to ask Eliza why in Sigmar's name she thought this was a good idea.
Eloise gripped the sword, and it responded well.
Sir Adalhard approached, pinning her with a fierce gaze.
"You may begin," Eliza said sweetly.
Sir Adalhard leapt into action, attacking Eloise before she was quite ready. But her sword moved to defend her, almost without her telling it to. And despite the size difference, she didn't eel at all as if a giant were hammering at her arm.
"Eloise!" Ebenezer shouted encouragingly.
At some instinct, Eloise felt it was time to respond. She made her own attack with speed that surprised her. She pushed Sir Adalhard onto the defensive. His defence was flawless, and Eloise couldn't push through it. Her arms were beginning to tire, and she knew this wasn't going to end well. But then her arm flicked out and disarmed Sir Adalhard. He looked at his bare hands, whilst Eloise looked, equally surprised, at her own hands.
"Excellent, dearest," Eliza said, beaming. She walked to Eloise and held her. "I knew you could do it. Now let's get inside before someone gets upset."
Eloise nodded. "Yes, Stepmother." She turned and followed her parents and Ebenezer inside. Just before she stepped inside, she looked back and thought she saw, just for a moment, a claoked figure standing under the shade of a nearby building. Then the figure disappeared. She was probably just imagining it.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Death's Squire - Geiheimisnacht Part 1

As always, Eloise was up early for Geiheimisnacht. It was a most exciting time of year, rivalled only by Sigmarfest and the Lady's day. She put on her best clothes - a black-gold dress with long sleeves but cut low under the neck, and braided her dark hair. She placed the sword in its now customary place at her side.
"You look beautiful," Ebenezer said, eyes wide, when they met on the way to breakfast.
Eloise smiled. "I do my best. You are looking decent too."
Ebenezer was wearing a fine, light set of shirt and trousers, a good contrast to Eloise's dark choice.
"Thank you. Shall we continue to breakfast?"
Eloise couldn't help but stare in shock at her stepmother. Eliza was dressed in a most flattering set of clothes, black with red and gold highlights, shwoing her figure in a most excellent way. Something she had done to her eyes made them seem cast in shadow. And her hair was done most delicately.
beside her, Lord Henry was wearing finest military dress, with all his medals.
"Stepmother, Father, you are most well dressed."
"Thank you, Eloise," Eliza said, her perfectly white teeth shining in a brilliant smile.
"It is Geiheimisnacht," Lord Henry said. "It is our duty to put on our best show."

The day passed most wonderfully with a tournament, prayers, dances and many celebrations of life. Eloise had never had such fun in all her years. Ebenezer seemed to be enjoying himself too, even if he wasn't allowed to play his violin yet.
As evening approached, they found themselves dancing together.
"Your stepmother wants me to wait until night time. She has a special treat for a special guest prepared."
"Oh!" Eloise exclaimed, eyebrow raised. "I wonder who that could be."
Ebenezer laughed, then looked awkward. "Actually, I don't think you should be here tonight at all."
""I'm not allowed to say why, but...something your stepmother's planning."
"Come on, Ebenezer. it's my job to protect you. And I've never been one to hide."
"Eloise, I really can't tell you, but you really -"
Eloise placed a finger on his lips. "Stop worrying. Please."
Ebenezer pulled her tight. "Promise to defend me whatever happens, then."
"I promise."

Finally, darkness fell. Morrslieb bathed the dance hall in evil green light. Eloise felt shadows dancing at the back of her eyes. The sword grew agitated.
Then Eliza stepped up onto the stage at the rear of the hall. "I hope everyone is enjoying themselves tonight. I have some more celebrations planned for tomorrow morning, and I really must get on with preparing for them. You should all go to your rooms now."
There was confused murmuring in the hall.
"What?" Eloise whispered. "It's just gone late. What could Stepmother need us gone for?"
"She doesn't mean us," Ebenezer replied.
"Eliza?" Lord Henry asked, standing beside her. "We have only just begun."
"Alright, I'm going to have to do this the hard way. I hate it when business ahs to ruin my pleasure." Eliza's eyes changed to a deep, dark red, and her skin lost all its colour. She still looked beautiful, but in a wrong sort of way. Lord Henry stared at his wife in horror. "What are you?"
Eliza looked at him apologetically. "I'm sorry, my love. Go to your room." Her eyes flashed, and everyone except Eloise and Ebenezer followed her order.
The sword jangled at Eloise's side, seeming desperate to be drawn.
Then the door to the hall burst open.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Death's Squire - Geiheimisnach Part 2

The door burst open, replaced by a wall of night and darkness. Through the night stepped a figure clad in ancient, but clearly well-maintained, armour, with a grey hood. At its side, a young woman in dragon armour was struggling to free herself from an iron grip.
The worst thing about it was its face. It looked human, but clearly wasn't. At least not anymore. It was pale, its cheeks sunken. Long fangs extended from its grinning mouth. Red eyes glowed like braziers. The thing fixed Eloise with its dark gaze.
"Give me the sword, mortal." Its voice was deeper than anything Eloise had ever heard.
The sword made it clear that wasn't happening.
"No, fiend. Begone from this place."
"How brave of you. Foolish, but brave." The thing pointed its own ancient sword at Ebenezer, whose face drained of colour. "Give me the sword, or he dies."
"Don't listen. Play your violin now," Eliza hissed.
"Stepmother? What's going on?"
"I'll explain later, child."
Ebenezer stood frozen.
"hury up and play it, idiot!" Wilhelmina growled.
"Stay your music," the ancient figure warned, placing its sword at Wilhelmina's neck.
"Mina!" Eliza exclaimed.
"Wait - are you...?" Eloise stammered.
"Yes, I'm her mother. That's not important right now." Eliza looked terrified, but not for herself.
"My Lady?" Ebenezer asked.
The ancient vampire hissed.
"Put the violin away," Eliza said finally.
"By Abhorash, Mother!" Wilhelmina exclaimed.
"Still, i must have the sword." The ancient vampire sliced across Wilhelmina's throat, then threw her aside.
Eloise gasped.
"She'll be fine," Eliza said. "Just get her a little blood later."
Before anyone could respond, Eliza was standing before the ancient vampire. "Leave the children out of this."
There was something deeply unsettling about watching the two vampires - one Eloise had always thought of as her stepmother -staring at one another with their red gazes. Eloise seemed so much smaller, slighter, and was wearing party dress, comapred to the larger, armoured monster.
The Eliza slipped out of the dress, revealing slender, tight armour, and a long, thin sword she now drew. She looked for a moment at Ebenezer, nodded, and attacked the ancient vampire.
The two combatants exchanged blows quicker than Eloise could follow, but neither seemed to find purchase. The sword seemed agitated, impatient, like it wanted Elosie to kill both of them right now.
But she was still confused.
Ebenezer, however, seemed to understand his duty. He placed the violin against his chin, and began to play. And it was the most awful sound Eloise had eevr heard. But it seemed to have a particular effect on the vampires. Eliza and her opponent both clutched their heads in pain, growling from deep within. Eloise turned to see Wilhelmina, who was now sitting up, blood dripping from her cut neck, groan. But she nodded at Eloise.
The sword, too, seemed to be telling her to attack.
So she charged at the ancient vampire. It barely raised its blade in time to defend itself, and she kept attacking. Slowly, she drove it back.
"Impressive. Your stepmother's plan was very clever. It may even have worked if I hadn't caught her daughter. But now, i shall take what I want." The ancient vampire's form began to dissolve into darkest mist, mist that settled about Ebenezer.
Eloise shouted his name, and the musician swallowed.
But then the vampire reformed, sword at his neck, and began shuffling towards the exit. "Impede me and he dies."
In stunned silence, Eloise watched the two leave.

Then she turned to Eliza, who was rubbing her head. Her eyes had regained their usual colour, her skin its usual complexion. "I'm sorry, Eloise."
"Sorry? You have a lot to be sorry about. What just happened? What are you? And why does my sword want to kill you?
Eliza looked over at Wilhelmina, who didn't look healthy even for someone who wasn't alive. She stumbled over to her daughter, and placed her wrist against ere mouth.
"I didn't beat you -"
"Stop complaining, you foolish Blood Dragon. You're dying."
Wilhelmina sighed and bit into Eliza's flesh with two sharp fangs. After a few moments, her wound had closed up, but not disappeared entirely.
"Now rest for a while. I have a stepdaughter to clear things up with."
Eloise frowned. "Well, yes. Am I right that you arranged all this? You had Ebenezer come here? And what about the sword?"
"Yes, I had Mina bring the musician here. He is an awful musician, so awful he can hurt the undead with it. A rare talent." Eliza smiled. "I knew one of my old enemies was coming for me, so I decided to make preparation."
"Why did you host Geiheimisnacht then?"
"I needed him to not think anything was wrong."
"What about Wilhelmina? The sword?"
"I needed Wilhelmina to keep an eye for when he would come. I forgot that i could never make a Blood Dragon just watch an enemy," she added fondly.
"Not when that enemy wants to hurt my mother."
"And I had her give you the sword. She found it in a tomb somewhere. It was made to kill vampires. I thought that combined with the music would be enough."
"Why not give it to an actual soldier?"
"I must admit I had pans for you, too, Stepdaughter. I'll explain later."
"No! You'll explain now. Why did you marry my father? Why treat me as your daughter?"
"It was my idea," Wilhelmina said. "I wanted a squire, and I got the idea that a properly trained chivalrous Bretonnian damsel like you would do just fine. Before you ask, your mother did die of a tragic accident."
It was all so overwhelming. But Eloise somehow knew she still loved her stepmother. Maybe the implications just hadn't sunken in yet.
"I see your confusion, child. Come here."
Eloise slowly walked towards Eliza, and accepted her gentle embrace.
"When Mina's feeling better, we'll go after Johann and finish this. And get your boy back."
"He isn't 'my boy'," Eloise laughed.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Death's Squire - On the Road

Eloise stared at the network of forts and castles, hers included, making up the Helmgart defences as the carriage departed at great speed. A part of her wondered if she would ever see her home again. Another part told her that if she didn't, it was her fault for agreeing to come along on this strange journey. But then, she could hardly refuse a direct request from her stepmother. Even if she had just found out that person was a vampire, who had some plan in mind for her. The answers hadn't quite stood up to Eloise's liking, but she was too confused, and too curious,.
It was dark outside, scant time having passed since the ball had been interrupted, and both moons shone. An armoured figure rode alongside, the horse seeming to only have to trot despite the carriage's great speed.
Eloise's father had been, at best, reluctant to allow her to go on this rescue mission for the musician, but Lady Eliza had persuaded him that it was quite important, and Eloise needed experience of a proper adventure if she were to amount to anything. Although, what she was supposed to amount to was as yet unclear.
"Stop worrying, child,' Eliza said. "I can see it in your eyes." Eliza's own eyes were their normal colour.
Eloise returned to the present, looking at her stepmother on the opposite seat. "It's your fault." She fingered the sword at her belt, then pulled her hand away when it started insisting she do unpleasant things to Eliza.
Eliza nodded. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have dragged you into this. But my daughter wants a squire, and I think you'll do nicely. Besides, my superiors want results, too."
"Your superiors?"
"Alright. But I do expect a proper explanation soon. So, where are we going now?"
"Johann will be taking Ebenezer to Sylvania. There, he will present him to the court and...I'm not sure about afterwards. But the musician is definitely valuable." Eliza smiled. "I'd hoped I would surprise him, a vampire employing weapons that specifically target the undead. But he was prepared. Now, we have to catch up to Johann before he gets to Sylvania."
"Wouldn't it be best for a vampire to...?" Eloise couldn't say it, but it seemed logical.
"Dispose of someone like Ebenezer? Yes, well, it would. But we are proud, arrogant creatures, as you learned from me tonight. Twice the pride, double the fall. When he arrives in Sylvania, or wherever he's really going - I don't really know - he will use Ebenezer to control the other vampires there. Doesn't need to expose himself if he can just threaten them."
"Couldn't Ebenezer play something/" Eloise hoped he would be alright. He was well-meaning, and deserved none of this.
"He'll be kept separated from his violin except when necessary. At least I would."

They stopped just before sunrise, taking a sharp and unsettlingly sharp turn into a forest under which to shelter from the sun. Eliza said it didn't bother her or Wilhelmina too much, but force of habit and Eloise must be exhausted.
Eloise yawned, feeling the fatigue catch up to her as if she'd just remembered she'd been awake a full day and night.
When she stepped out fo the carriage, Wilhelmina greeted her. Her wound had healed, and she was looking as bright and healthy as, well, something like her could.
"I don't suppose Mother's explanations satisfied you overmuch?"
Eloise shrugged. "I'm still so confused." They began walking together under the trees, which felt surprisingly pleasant.
"I was, too, to begin with. Especially as my actual vampire sire - the one who turned me - just let me figure out the vampire business on my own. He only really saw me as a fellow warrior. Turns out teaching a lady a perfect decapitation isn't all there is to training a vampire."
Eloise gagged.
"Mother doesn't always satisfy me, either. But it always works out in the end." Wilhelmina laughed. "Did you manage to practice with that sword I gave you?"
"A little. I'm alright with it. I think it'll help me against vampires. And other things. How did you get it? Wouldn't it have fought you?"
"Mother got some mortal mercenaries to dispose of the previous owner, with instructions to deliver the sword to a secret place. They did, she collected it, and gave it to me. I never actually used it. It hated me. No idea why she'd keep it. Or give it to you."
"Stepmother is a mysterious woman," Eloise said carefully.
"You can say that. I suppose as long as she knows where the sword is and the owner doesn't want to use it on her or me..."
"Clever. But do you have any swords you can give me that won't urge me to kill you?"
Wilhelmina reached into her travelling pack and pulled out a collection of swords of varying lengths. "Extra weapons are always useful for my life."
Eloise's eyes widened. The swords were all - well, almost all - of strange design and each looked suited to one particular job. Such craftsmanship. And all had clearly seen much use, even if they were clean.
"When you've made your choice, come find me at the carriage. You've got a lot to learn."
"You're immortal."
"We can talk about that later."
Ugh. They were going to Sylvania of all places. And Eloise still wasn't entirely sure of her stepmother's plans for her. And why did Wilhelmina want her as a squire anyway? What was so special about her?
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