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The Pale Web: Book III

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
The third book in The Pale Web series. Niklaus calls in Lucinia's debt by sending her on a dangerous mission to Lustria, further complicated by the Dreamer informing the Dark Elves of the same artifact Niklaus is looking for. Dark Elves also attempt to find the artifact. The artifact itself gives Lucinia her greatest temptation yet.

Chapter One

Lucinia sat on her couch, reading a book on the performing arts. The Blood Dragoness was living a part-time day job as a performer, her Lahmian adopted sire seeing the career as being the best way for her to use her talents to bring in income. not that it was needed, because Annabella herself was rich, but Lucinia needed very good reasons to use any of Annabella's money, and could use her own in any manner she pleased. She enjoyed it as well, and it helped strengthen her muscles and improve her agility, both necessary for a Blood Dragon with a Lahmian-esque fighting style. Lucinia was Blood Dragon, but her sire had been killed some years after Blood Kissing her and Annabella had seemed a good candidate to take over her training. A real mother-daughter bond had quickly formed, and they were best friends.
There was a knock on the door. Lucinia put her book on the table and ran to open it. At 23, and around 50, she was still quite young, which clearly showed in her actions and temperament.
At the door was someone she had not expected to see.
'Hello, Lucinia.'
'Andresse?' she asked.
'Yes. May I enter?'
'Well, I...'
Andresse laughed. 'Don't worry. I'm sorry about our mission together. Annabella should hear my apology as well.'
Lucinia nodded.

When the three Vampiresses were sitting in the living room, Lucinia beside Annabella, Andresse on the other couch, Andresse began.
'I came to apologise. I shouldn't have been angry. I should have realised it was a very personal matter, and I had no right to comment.' They had been on a mission together, and Lucinia had run off to save Annabella from a Vampiric assassin. Andresse had been very angry. 'I suppose I was questioning your loyalty to the Sisterhood. I thought you cared only for Annabella, not us.'
'I'm pleased you have apologised,' Annabella said. She was physically perfect, at least in Lucinia's eyes. Tall, slim, sleeveless black dress, long blond hair, black eyes, and an aura that made her even more attractive. Her voice sounded special, as well. 'I forgave Lucinia.'
'Good. Lucinia, will you accept my apology?'
The Blood Dragoness looked at her with her pale blue eyes. 'Yes.We can be friends again, if you want.'
Andresse held out her hand. 'I would like that.'
Lucinia shook her hand, a custom she was not used to.
'I'm delighted you've made up. I hate to see dissension in the Sisterhood,' Annabella said. Lucinai wasn't Lahmian, but her achievements had earned her an honourary place. Some Blood Dragons and some Lahmians thought of her as either a traitor or fool, or worse.
'I agree,' Andresse said. 'I'll go now.' She stood to leave.
'You are welcome at any time,' Lucinia said.
'Thank you.'

When Andrese was gone, Lucinia and Annabella faced each other, Lucinia struggling to keep herself focused as she looked into Annabella's alluring eyes from a very short distance. She was good-looking herself, muscular, red hair, blue eyes, red clothes, but had a scar on her neck just covered by her clothes, received from an assassin's silver sword the day her original sire had been killed, and she possessed little magic, a part of her Blood Dragon training hammered into her from night one. And Annabella was just so much better at looking good. As a Lahmian, she was pretty much born for it.
'How is your reading going?' Annabella asked in her sweet voice.
'Good. I'm learning useful things. Thank you for inviting me into your career.'
Annabella laughed. 'You're my daughter. Of course I was going to invite you.'
Lucinia smiled. 'That's good to know. And, have you received any word from the Pinnacle?'
'A message came earlier. The Queen is impressed with our latest activity, which has earned us a few weeks' rest,' Annabella answered. Recently they had been captured by an assassin sired into the von Carstein bloodline, and taken to Drakenhof on the way to Nagashizzar. After starvation from Count Mannfred they had agreed to go with the assassin. At the first opportunity they had forced him to escape, and made their way back to Middenheim.
'Great. I don't feel like exerting myself much after that.'
Annabella grinned. 'Would that extend to a duel?' They dueled regularly to practice, with Annabella usually winning.
'I would like a duel,' Lucinia responded eagerly.

When they finished, Lucinia felt she needed a drink. Annabella suggest she take some of the blood she kept stored in the house, but the Blood Dragoness wanted fresh blood and decided to go to a road to hunt in the traditional Blood Dragon way - challenging passing warriors and draining defeated enemies.
As she walked up the road, fully armoured in her red armour, minus a helmet which would have given her the constant task of fixing her shoulder-length hair when she took it off, she saw an armoured figure ahead. As she got closer, she recognised the Dragonscale armour.
'Georgina!' She responded, smiling. Georgina was wearing a helmet, but Lucinia could recognise her green eyes, and her armour. She was Lucinia's other best friend, a member of a now-defunct cult of Blood Dragons who had worshiped Abhorash.
They embraced.
'It's good to see you,' Lucinia said.
'And you.' She felt Lucinia's hair. 'You should cut it. Then you can wear a helmet.'
'I like it this length,' Lucinia countered.
Georgina shrugged. 'Your hair, your choice.'
They broke apart. 'So, what have you been doing since...since it ended?'
'It's been hard without Father, but not as hard as I imagined.' Georgina's sire had been the Grandmaster of the cult. 'I've mainly just been existing, really. I obviously can't join the Sisterhood, and my honour wouldn't let me even if I could, something you wouldn't know about.'
'I have honour!' Lucinia protested, laughing. It had been a light-hearted jibe, referencing Lucinia's Lahmain training bending her honour.
'I'm sure you do. What are you doing tonight?' Georgina asked.
'Looking for food.'
'Then you can take my place here. I'm only doing this because it feels natural. I must confess I never planned for life without the Blood Monastery.' The name of the cult.
'Well, I probably can't speak, because I've had an...unusual life, but Blood Dragons usually just find the toughest challenge they can and fight all their lives. In fact,' Lucinia said, an idea coming to her. 'I'm sure the survivors of Blood Keep have reconvened somewhere.'
'Myself, under Walach Harkon?' Georgina asked, stunned by the suggestion.
'A possibility. it would be a strict, regimented life, like the Monastery, except without the praying.'
'Maybe I should try it.'
'Maybe you should. Now, let's wait and see who comes to us tonight,' Lucinia said, baring her fangs expectantly.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Two

By the time the first light of dawn could be seen over the horizon, the Vampiresses had drunken their fill of blood. Lucinia invited Georgina to sleep with her and Annabella for the day.
'I would be delighted,' Georgina said.
When Annabella opened the door to admit them, she smiled to see Georgina - a friend of Lucinia's was a friend of hers - and then shook her head in annoyance when she saw the Blood Dragonesses were still baring their fangs.
'Lucinia, what have I told you about showing your fangs?'
'In private only?' She recited, annoyed at herself and sheathing her fangs. beside her, georgina removed her helmet.
'Exactly. And Georgina, you're 500 years old! You should know better!'
She smiled apologetically as her fangs slid from view. She managed to retain her sense of reason in front of the Lahmian, but then Annabella's aura wasn't very powerful at the moment. 'I'm sorry, Annabella. Habit, I suppose. I'm just used to baring them all the time as I did at the Blood Monastery.'
'Just keep them sheathed. You're a bad influence on my daughter.'
'Sorry!' Georgina said, laughing.
'Now, come inside,' Annabella said. 'It's just about dawn and Lucinia hurts in the sun.'

Inside, Annabella sipped from a glass of stored blood, replaced the glass, then closed the curtains over the kitchen window. They sat on the couches, Lucinia and Georgina on one, Annabella on the other. The blood Dragoness' had placed their armour on holding racks.
'That will give you some more time before you need to sleep. I want to know what you've done since you last saw us.'
'Not much, really,' Georgina admitted. 'Mostly just wandering. I don't have much direction in life without the Blood Monastery, and with Father having released me from service.' The last words seemed to take a while to leave her throat.
Lucinia placed an arm around her best friend. 'At least you still have a father,' she said with an encouraging smile.
'That's true.'
'I still suggest you find another group to live with. Preferably a less...religious group,' Lucinia said. 'Vampires aren't supposed to have anything to do with religion.'
'I'll take that advice to heart,' Georgina promised.
'Another thing, Georgina. It's my birthday in a few weeks. Would you like to-?'
'Stay until then?' Georgina finished for Lucinia. She grinned. 'Of course! What kind of person doesn't attend their best friend's birthday?'
'I'm pleased you'll be with us until then,' Annabella said. 'Visitors always liven up the house.' Her eyes twinkled and Lucinia smiled. Georgina didn't understand the joke. 'And I agree. It will be good for Lucinia to celebrate with some friends.'
'Who else?'
'She hasn't told me yet. Still deciding, it seems.'
'Not many, though,' Lucinia informed them. 'I want this to be private business.'
'Of course. Whatever you want,' Annabella said.
'Which birthday?' Georgina asked.
'My siring. I neither remember not particularly care about my actual birth.'
'I hold an annual vigil for own siring,' Georgina said.
'I don't do much more than count the years, myself,' Annabella said. 'After about 700 I decided it was pointless celebrating it. The older you are, less time seems to pass between dates.'
'I'll go to sleep now,' Lucinia said.
'I'll go with you,' Georgina said, rising. 'Annabella?'
'I'll stay up. I have important visitors.'
'Who?' Lucinia asked.
'For me, Lucinia. It is not business which would concern you.' Her tone was friendly, as usual, but Lucinia decided not to inquire further.

When stepped off the final rung of the ladder leading down to the underground coffin room, Georgina stopped behind Lucinia in surprise.
'There's a third coffin!' she exclaimed.
Lucinia smiled, eyes warm. 'Of course there are. We decided that if you're going to visit occasionally - or regularly - then you should have a proper coffin to sleep in, and not just the floor.'
Georgina bared her fangs and smiled. 'Thank you, Lucinia.' She touched her shoulder. 'You're a good friend.'
Lucinia showed her own fangs. 'I like you, too. Now, time to go to sleep.'


Niklaus sat in his office, a small, plain room with only a table with a chair on either side. The status of his agents was recorded on paper on the table. Over the past 50 years he had built a large organisation, and created a network of tunnels underground to serve as his base.
A hooded figure entered the room and sat. His spymaster, the Hooded One.
'What have you to report?'
'We have heard rumours of a powerful artifact in Lustria that would be very useful for our fight against Vampires.'
'Rumours?' Niklaus had little interest in rumours. He preferred facts.
'The artifact is said to reveal the bearer's true person. I'm sure the witch hunters would like that.'
'Ah, yes, they would. And how do you propose to retrieve something thousands of leagues away in a jungle filled with magical frogs and lizards larger than Drakenhof's tallest tower?'
'Ah,' the spymaster hesitated. 'I have not given thought to that.'
'No matter. I know just the person to steal it for us.' The young Lahmian Vampire hunter smiled. 'But first, find me an attractive, clever young lady.'
'Yes, Master.' Niklaus' servants did not question him. Those that did were never heard from again. Even his seconds.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Three

With Lucinia and Annabella allowed rest 'until ordered otherwise,' and Georgina having no actual schedule, being a lone wanderer, the three friends could do pretty much whatever they wanted in the weeks leading up to Lucinia's 50th. Most of the time this involved dueling, staying up late - Lucinia and Georgina were at heart in their early 20s, and so as long as they avoided the midday sun they enjoyed stretching the boundaries of what might be considered a sensible bedtime, also Georgina was still adjusting to a life without strict routines and fixed waking and sleeping times.

One night, Lucinia and Georgina were lying on the grass outside the house, staring at the stars.
'Beautiful, isn't it? The night sky,' Lucinia said.
'We see it every night,' Georgina replied. 'It loses its allure.'
'I haven't grown tired of it yet,' Lucinia stated.
'Then lucky you,' Georgina said. Lucinia couldn't work out her tone.
'Now, Annabella is a performer.'
'Is she?'
Lucinia nodded. 'Her bloodline makes the acrobatics very natural. I sometimes perform as well. It really helps my dexterity.'
'Excellent.' Georgina smiled. 'You enjoy it then?'
Lucinia grinned. 'Of course! It's actually quite refreshing. We have a show tomorrow, if you would like to watch us?'
'I would love to,' Georgina declared.
'Great. You'll remember it forever,' Lucinia promised.
'Actually forever? Remember we are immortal.' Georgina's eyes sparkled with humour.
'Yes, actually forever,' Lucinia answered, laughing. 'I'll put on my best show, for you.'

Lucinia did enjoy performing, even more so knowing her best friend was watching from the audience. That knowledge made her work harder to perfect her act. it obviously had worked because afterwards as they walked home Annabella congratulated her.
'That was the best show I've ever seen you do,' the Lahmian said, the praise evident in her eyes.
Lucinia smiled. 'Today I was performing for Georgina. Georgina, did you like it? I hope you did.'
Her friend nodded. 'I did, Lucinia, thank you. I think I would like to see you perform again.'
'I'll tell you when I have another show,' she promised. 'Just visit every few months and you should time it right.'
'Thank you.'

After Lucinia and Georgina went to sleep, Lucinia heard her coffin open. She opened her eyes, surprised to see Annabella looking down at her.
'What is it?'
'Come with me to the main house. i need to tell you something...' Annabella's eyes clouded. 'Something Georgina doesn't need to know.'
'She's my bestv friend. She knows what I know,' Lucinia insisted.
'I know, but what I'm going to tell you would serve her no purpose. Only you need to know.'
Lucinia nodded.
'Can I trust you won't tell her?'
'Yes.' Lucinia was unsure about the secrecy, but trusted her mother.
Once they were seated in the living room, Annabella spoke.
'I know your birthday will be private and small, according to your wishes, but there are two friends of mine who should be there, but will not. Know that they would have wanted to attend their friend's daughter's 50th, and do so in spirit.'
'Hadros and Hadria von Carstein, Sylvanian nobles. I will tell you all I know about them, though I do not know their fate.'
When Annabella finished, Lucinia blinked. 'That is unfortunate. They sound like good people.'
'They were, and I wish I knew what happened to them.'


The young woman entered Niklaus' office. She looked scared, as he had expected her to be under the circumstances. Despite this, he could tell she was attrative. Short brown hair, a slender body, green eyes. Very much physical characteristics of many Lahmians.
'Welcoem to my office. For security neither of us need knwo the other's name. Call me 'Master.''
'Yes, Master.'
'There is a woman named Andresse. You may find things out about her that shock you, but she is not a bad person. My agents will lead you to her house. Ask for a job, befriend her, start a conversation any way you can. Just make sure you get into her trust. When you feel she trusts you enough, tell her these words. Are you listening carefully?'
'Yes, Master.'
Niklaus spoke slowly. 'In Lustria is an item that gives its bearer their heart's desire. I heard this from a survivor of a failed expedition to recover the artifact. Understand?'
'I do, Master.'
'She should believe you without questioning. Take her to Andresse.'
Niklaus smiled as she was led away. The artifact actually showed the true nature oh the bearer, something very useful fro the witch hunters, but there was no need for the Vampires to know that. The Dreamer thought he was a master at espionage? The Master of Shadows could weave his own pale web.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Four

Several weeks later
It was the morning of Lucinia's birthday. She could stay awake to celebrate the day, but being a naturally nocturnal creature she preferred to celebrate it the night after. Georgina and Annabella agreed with this, wishing her a good sleep and a great celebration. With this in mind, Lucinia excitedly went to sleep.
And woke up. But not at home. her wrists and ankles burned, and as her surroundings came into focus she saw she was chained in silver to a stone table. A towering statue of Abhorash glared down at her from her left. Altar, then, she decided.
But what shocked Lucinia most was when she looked at the person standing over her with a sacrificial dagger, she saw to her horror it was Georgina.
'Georgina? What- why-?' she spluttered.
Georgina was fully armoured in her Dragonscale, the pattern Lucinia could recognise though she wore a concealing helmet. 'You're awake at last. I wondered how long it would take.'
'What are you doing?'
'You destroyed the Blood Monastery. I rebuilt it, and will consecrate the temple with your blood, Blood maiden.'
Lucinia froze. The term was an insult to refer to her confused bloodline allegiance, at least usually. But to be called that by her best friend? Unthinkable.
'But Abhorash isn't a god! And I never thought of you as a religious fanatic!'
'I'm not a fanatic. I'm just doing what our Lord demands.'
Then Lucinia noticed they were surrounded by armoured Blood Dragons, evidently waiting for the sacrifice.
'You can't do this!' she protested. 'You're my cousin, my best friend!'
'And I wish I didn't have to, Lucinia, I really do. But what must be done must be done.'
'Will you at least allow me an honourable duel?'
'You deserve that, cousin.' Georgina released the chains and helped Lucinia to her feet. Blood Dragons gave the duelists swords.
'Are you prepared for one last duel?' Georgina asked.
'I was hoping not to die this way, but I am,' Lucinia responded, swallowing.

The duel began, and Georgina's 500 years of experience quickly showed. Lucinia's unarmoured body was soon covered in wounds, and she knew she was going to die.She mentally shouted the Invocation of Nehek, healing her injuries, and then attacked again, determined to die a proper death. Georgina easily parried the strikes, and was about to counter-attack when Lucinia saw a dark shadow over her, a semitransparent image of a cloak. her eyes widened in horror as the implications hit her.
Blocking the counter-attack, she said, 'Georgina, this isn't you!'
'What do you mean?'
'You're being possessed by a Dreadlord, the one who possessed me!'
'Oh really? I would never fall for his promises.'
'I saw his shadow over you. You are a puppet. He wants me dead, not you!'
'I make my own decisions, Lucinia, and I want you dead. Hallucinations won't save you.'
'It's not an illusion!' Lucinia insisted. She launched into a flurry of attacks, taking Georgina by surprise. As the Blood Dragoness defended herself, the Dreamer's shadow flickered more and more, as if he was having to use more and more power to guide Georgina's blade.
Then Lucinia, somehow, managed to disarm Georgina, sending the sword flying.
'Georgina, you're my cousin. I don't want to have to kill you. Please fight him,' Lucinia pleaded.
'I killed you when you were possessed.'
'You think these Blood Dragons would resurrect me?'
'I suppose not. But are you strong enough?'
'I...am.' Reluctantly, Lucinia plunged her sword into her best friend's heart.
Then she heard an all-too-familiar mental voice. Happy birthday, Blood maiden.
Lucinia screamed as the world around her dissolved. 'No!'

Then she woke to see Georgina and Annabella standing over her.
'Lucinia, what's wrong? We heard you shout.' Annabella asked, worried. Georgina looked equally concerned.
'A nightmare. From him,' Lucinia answered, standing.
'The Dreamer?' Georgina asked.
'And on your birthday! What a terrible thing to do.'
'I know. You were going to sacrifice me to Abhorash to consecrate a new Blood Monastery. I had to kill you.' Georgina placed her hands on Lucinia's shoulders and locked eyes with her. 'Lucinia, you are my cousin. That was a dream. You know I would never sacrifice you to Abhorash, or anything.'
Lucinia nodded.
'My daughter, don't let dreams trouble you,' Annabella said. 'You will have a great night, we promise, and no constructed dreams will alter that.'
'Thank you.'
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Five

It was the night of Lucinia's birthday. The Blood Dragoness was excited, as she really had this celebration. her last had been he Vampiric 25th. Immortality meant counting off the years was pointless. Only milestones were really worth celebrating. She was also excited as to what presents she would receive.
Lucinia woke. She noticed Georgina and Annabella's coffins were empty beside her, but was unconcerned. They probably had something planned. Wondering what this would be, she climbed up the trapdoor linking the basement to the main house. She walked a few paces, and then Georgina appeared.
'Happy birthday, Lucinia. Have some wine.'
'Thank you.' Lucinia took the glass. it wasn't really wine, but enchanted so it tasted like it. She began raising the glass to her lips when she felt gentle arms wrap around her body and her body fill with delight. She almost dropped the glass, but forced herself to drink.
'Happy birthday, my daughter,' Annabella said softly, gently tickling Lucinia. 'Do you like the wine?'
'Yes, I do, Mother. Thank you.' When she was released, she walked to the kitchen table and set the glass down, forcing herself to relax.
'Congratulations on reaching 50,' Georgina said. 'Many don't see 30. You're doing well.'
'Is that so? Great. I think the pampered life helps, too.'
'I don't pamper you!' Annabella protested.
'Half the time I feel your aura on me, like now. I'm sure that's pampering.'
'Well, I...'
Lucinia laughed at Annabella's discomfort.

There was a knock at the door. It was Andresse. She smiled and hugged Lucinia. 'Happy 50, Lucinia,' she said.
'Thank you. And you're the only person In invited.'
'Well, I don't want a massive, out of control party I'm sure you Lahmians are used to, and you three are my best friends, so i decided on something small.'
'A good decision,' Annabella said. 'Now, wine's on the table.'
After the Vampiresses finished their drinks, Georgina and Annabella left to get presents. Georgina was carrying a red necklace with a dragon hanging from it.
'Wear the sigil of my Father's Order, so you always remember honour and courage,' she said.
Lucinia blinked as she took it and placed it around her neck. 'Thank you.' She slipped it under her clothes, a compromise between not being extremely ostentatious and wanting to accept the gift.
Annabella presented a sword to Lucinia. 'It's enchanted with warpstone. It can cut anything. You're already dead, so it won't corrupt you, and I personally ensured there are no...presences on it.'
'T-thank you,' Lucinia stammered, accepting the blade, eyes wide. it was beyond anything she could imagine. 'This is amazing.'
Annabella smiled. 'I'm your mother. Now, Andresse?'
Andresse placed a helmet in the shape of a dragon head on Lucinia. 'You look impressive enough in your armour, but the helmet completes the image,' she said. 'Also, I don't understand why you neglect such protection.'
'I...' Lucinia wore no helmet because there was some part of her reluctant to mess with her hair. She removed it. 'Thank you, but I'm just a little bit interested in not doing anything to to my hair.'
Andresse shook her head and looked at Annabella. 'You're a bad influence.'
'No, it's not her. I've never worn a helmet.'
'A vain Blood Dragon. Something I never thought I'd see,' Andresse commented.
'But thank you for the gifts. I do like the three of you. You are my friends.'

Andresse left at around midnight. They had passed the time talking, dueling, and drinking, though fortunately Vampires couldn't get drunk.
'That was an excellent birthday,' Lucinia said.
'I'm glad you enjoyed it,' Annabella said.
'I think I'll go now. I said I would stay until now, but no later,' Georgian said.
'Okay.' Lucinia nodded. Georgina left the house.
An undead bird flew into the house, with a message attached.

Annabella and Lucinia
I have been informed of a powerful artifact in Lustria that gives its bearer their heart's desire. I want you to retrieve it for me, and wish to receive it personally.

The Queen of the Silver Pinnacle

'Lustria?' Lucinia asked, confused.
'A jungle land far to the west, populated by lizards of various sizes and varying intelligence and ruled over by...' Annabella grinned. 'Magical frogs.'
Lucinia burst into laughter. 'Magical frogs?' Her fangs appeared.
'Slann. They look like frogs. But don't underestimate them. The more powerful ones are more magically strong than Necrarchs.'
'Oh,' Lucinia said.
'But that just makes the adventure more exciting, doesn't it?' Annabella asked, baring her fangs.
'It does.'
'And we may encounter Dark Elves.'
'Dark Elves?'
'Imagine High Elves, except far more evil. And they cause suffering like they need to.'
'Still, we're Vampires, and now you have that warpstone sword, so I am confident we will succeed.'
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Six

Lucinia and Annabella quickly moved through the Empire to the Bretonnian coast, filling themselves with blood along the way for the dangerous mission ahead. Lucinia took her armour and her new warpstone-enchanted sword, unable to wait to use it. Annabella, for once, took a sword, because claws and fangs would not be sufficient in Lustria, and there was too much risk of flaming weapons being dispelled.
On the coast, they found a boat and offered a favour and a large sum of money in exchange for Lustria. When the captain was still reluctant, Annabella's hypnotism 'persuaded' him to accept the offer.
'Are you going to honour the favour?' Lucinia asked as they boarded.
'If eh calls it in, yes. But he will have to remember who I was, find where I live, and, well, the chances of him doing so are minimal. But I do pay my debts if necessary.'
'If necessary?'
'I'm not an honour-bound Blood Dragon like you. I have discretion.' Annabella smiled.
Lucinia had never actually been in water before - the closest she ever came was when she went to the beach to think - and so was unsure what effect the sea around her would have. Just to be safe, she slept in the driest place she could find, as did Annabella. Fortunately Lucinia was able to survive the sun with nothing more than a headache, which she hid, so was able to keep her nature secret from the crew.

When they landed - the boat making full speed away as soon as the unintended passengers had exited - Lucinia gazed around her, drawing in the new sights and smells. The forest was new and exciting to her, filled with strange and exotic life.
'Incredible, isn't it?' Annabella said.
'It is.'
'But that beauty hides danger,' her mother warned. 'It's boiling hot here. As Vampires we don't notice that, but it means lizards and other nasty things live here. We're immune to the poison, but watch your feet - the undergrowth will cut you if you're not careful. And the lizards we'll encounter, these won't just be things that could fit into my palm. The warriors are man-sized. The scouts a third that, the monsters...you don't want to know.'
Lucinia swallowed. 'Then let's find the artifact an go before we meet something massive.' Suddenly the forest was a lot less appealing.
'Unfortunately we were not told where to find the artifact. We will just have to look until we do.'
'This must be the hardest mission I've had to do,' Lucinia said.
'Don't worry, Lucinia. I'll keep you safe.' She placed a hand on Lucinia's shoulder. The Blood Dragoness touched the hand. 'I know, Annabella.'
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Seven

When dawn had come, they had found a place deep within the forests to sleep, and because it was so dangerous, they had slept in shifts.
When night fell, Lucinia tried to rise, but Annabella placed a hand on her chest and pushed her down. 'Lucinia, this is probably a silly time to ask, but I assume you are aware of the dangers of looting a temple to gods - well, maybe - who shaped the earth?'
Lucinia nodded. 'Yes, Mother.'
'Good. This will be our most dangerous mission yet.'
Lucinia smiled, baring her fangs. 'I've been looking forward to a challenge all my life. Both of them.'
'Fighting the Grandmaster of an order of Blood Dragons wasn't a challenge?' Annabella smiled.
'I had a Dreadlord to help em then.'
Annabella's tone hardened. 'Let's not talk about that. Get up, and we'll see what we can find.'

Fortunately, a temple city was quite close. When Lucinia saw it, she stopped.
'Impressive, isn't it?' Annabella asked, smiling.
'It is.'
'Shall we start our search?'
'Just watch out for magical frogs.'
Lucinia could barely keep herself from laughing.
As they walked through the streets, Lucinia marveling at the designs of the buildings, they saw many dead lizards, and were surprised to meet no resistance as they approached the temple. Annabella saw a crossbow bolt protruding from one corpse. 'Dark Elves,' she hissed.
Lucinia swallowed. To massacre an entire city with no casualties?
Suddenly a black bolt slammed into her heart. Sh tried to scream, but found herself frozen.
Annabella's eyes widened in horror. 'Lucinia! No!' she screamed. Then she clicked her fingers, and the dead around her staggered to life as she moved towards Lucinia to remove the bolt.
Just before she reached her daughter, another bolt whistled past Annabella's head, missing her by such a small distance it had to have been deliberate.
'One step further, and she dies. Properly,' a harsh voice said.
Annabella turned to see a heavily armoured, darkly resplendent Dark Elf ahead of a square of crossbow'men'. Spear elves flanked them on either side, and beside him stood a female elf wearing a staff. How had she not detected the Sorcerss' magic?
'Evidently Lahmians are not as good at magic as they claim to be,' the Sorceress said.
Flames crackled around Annabella's fingertips.
'Don't be stupid,' the commanding Dark Elf said. 'The moment you throw that flame your not-quite get is dead.'
Annabella ended her spell, knowing it to be correct. 'What do you mean, not-quite get?'
'You consider her your get, she considers you her sire, but she is not of your blood,' the commander said.
'How do you know?'
'I have sources.'
'What do you want with us?'
'We're not stupid enough to walk into a temple of the Old Ones ourselves when others are around to test the defences for us.'
'If I refuse?'
'Are you really as brainless as you are beautiful?' the Sorceress asked, sounding surprised. 'She dies. And don't try your aura. I can reduce it enough so we are not distracted.'
Annabella sighed. 'I'll do it. but if you kill my child, you all die.'
'Oh, really?' the commander asked, sneering.
'Really,' Annabella promised as she walked towards the large central building. How would she get herself and Lucinia out of this, she wondered?
The door itself seemed simple enough. A fireball blasted it open. She entered a large cavern, occupied in the center by a large chalice. As she approached, a barrier of flame appeared. Annabella tried to dispel it, but she couldn't. She was hardly going to give up with her daughter's life in danger, though. She looked around for something to use. Nothing. She walked close to the barrier. Then the flames lashed around her, burning her, scalding her. it was all she could do not to scream. Then she heard a voice in her head.
On which sign did our lord Sotek arrive?
Sotek? Who was Sotek? Oh, yes, one of the Old Ones. Or a god of some description worshiped by the lizardmen. What sign? Annabella reached into her memory. She knew the answer, yes she did. Yes, she did!
'The twin tailed comet!' she gasped. The flames vanished, and she collapsed in agony, scorched all over. She could only hope there was no permanent damage. She felt her long hair. Some of it was burnt off at the bottom. That was unfortunate, as it would never grow back. At least it was only a little hair.
'Are you vain as well? Get the artifact, then worry about your hair, Lahmian!' the commander shouted.
Annabella stood and approached the chalice. In its water was a crystal, in which she saw herself. She saw herself as...a performer. Which was what she was. So it showed what the viewer was, then. But no mention of her espionage? Was she not meant to be a sneak? She had to admit she had accepted the Gift in a rush of excitement. Perhaps she was not supposed to be this. But she loved espionage. A mystery for another time. She took the crystal, and left the building.
Annabella gave the crystal to the Sorceress. 'Thank you. One more thing.'
'Never trust a Dark Elf.'
An elf approached Lucinia and drove the bolt further in.
'No!' Annabella screamed as her daughter collapsed. Flame surrounded her, coruscating in an angry outline of her body. 'That was a mistake,' she growled, pointing at the Sorceress. She incinerated in moments. A rain of crossbows flew towards Annabella, bur disintegrated in the heat surrounding her. She waved a hand, and fire spread amongst the Dark Elves. In the end, only the commander remained, terrified. he turned to run, but Annabella dismissed her flames and grabbed him.
'Who sent you? How do you know of this?'
'A-a dream! Some Vampire in cloak with a staff. He promised immortality!'
'I know him. He was lying. I'll show you what his immortality would have brought.' She bit into his throat. She had never sired anything other than a human before, and first times were always interesting.
The Dark Elf laughed. 'You gave me the Gift? When I- What's happening?'
'Elves, even you, are filled with High Magic. It reacts badly with Dark Magic.' Annabella stepped backwards. 'Don't trust Vampires.'
'You-!' the Dark Elf screamed as he exploded.
Annabella ran to Lucinia, and pulled the bolt out of her heart.
'Lucinia? Are you alright?' she asked desperately, looking into her best friend's pale blue eyes.
'I'm alive.' Lucinia blinked. 'You were....you were terrifying, surrounded by fire, burning them all.'
'I had to do it. You're safe now. That's all that matters.'
Lucinia nodded, feeling her mother's aura filling her. 'Did you have to burn them all? I'm so thirsty.' She whispered the Invocation, which healed her heart and the skin around it, then sighed.
'As I told that idiot, Dark and High Magic don't mix. Drinking their blood is probably safe, but as weak as you are now...I wouldn't risk it. Also I was so angry.'
'I understand.'
'Can you make it back to the Old World?'
'I...don't know,' Lucinia admitted.
'Wait here. There may be some lizards around here.' Annabella left to find something with a pulse.

Annabella returned sometime later. Lucinia, who was now lying down, saw that she had come back with nothing.
'I'm so sorry, my daughter. It looks like you'll have to wait a while until we find something.'
'I'm thirsty,' Lucinia said again.
Annabella lay beside her and stroked her hair. 'I know. You're very lucky to survive a crossbow bolt through the heart. I'm sorry. You'll just have to...' she blinked. 'Unless...'
'Unless what?'
'Unless you drank my blood.'
Lucinia blinked. 'What?'
'Yes. Drink my blood.'
'But...I don't want to drink my Mother's blood.'
'Or you could hope you can last until we return to the Old World.'
'I don't drink friends' blood,' Lucinia protested.
Annabella presented her neck to Lucinia. 'I offer it freely. I'll tell you when to stop. Just recover your strength. I doubt you could walk right now.'
Lucinia doubted that as well. But she was still hesitant. Then she saw Annabella's neck, and her fangs instinctively slid into view. The thought was so tempting. Fresh blood, willingly given. And of a higher generation than her, and a different bloodline.
'You're Lahmian.'
'Of course.'
'So what I get from drinking your blood, other than strength?'
'A temporary speed increase,' Annabella answered. 'And a boost to your magic, although because of your honour code it won't matter.'
Could she accept a magic increase? She wouldn't use it, but still...no, she wouldn't use it, so that was alright.
'What about the Queen?'
'She won't know who drank my blood. Do it, Lucinia.'
'You trust me not to drain you?'
'What a stupid question. You're my best friend and my daughter. I love you more than anything. Of course I trust you.'
Lucinia could resist the temptation no longer. She bit into Annabella's neck. The blood was...not warm, but delicious still. She felt stronger, far stronger. So this was what a 2nd generation Lahmian tasted like. There was a part of her mind telling her Neferata would be furious, but it was too late, even if she wanted to listen to it.
She was disappointed when Annabella told her to let her go, but did so, feeling much refreshed.
'Now, collect the crystal and we can leave,' Annabella said.

The Lizardman temple scene looks a bit simple, I know. That's because I don't have too much idea of what kind of things would be found there. it's not the main event of the story, though.
Lucinia drinking Annabella's blood was an interesting plot point that I thought too good to turn down. Neferata will not be impressed...:vampire3: