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The Pale Web: Dragonmage

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Lucinia travels Sylvania, encountering many creatures, but upon her return to her home at Hawk's Tower learns that a high price will be required to free one of her closest friends.

Chapter One

Lucinia traveled the moonlit road from Hawk's Tower. She intended to leave the road soon and find some caves where she imagined dangerous beasts to reside, but thought that she would need to gather her strength first, so searched for a crossroads and waited for unwary travelers she could challenge and kill.

When she was satisfied that she had taken all the blood on offer that night, Lucinia searched for a cave, both to find monsters and to avoid the breaking daylight which she didn't want to touch her skin. The blue-eyed Blood Dragoness was 50 years old, but the sun still hurt and weakened her, and being a Vampire it was an instinctive fear.

Lucinia approached a cave entrance. It was large and dark. She smiled. She liked the dark, being what she was, and knew monsters did too. The red-haired Blood Dragoness moved deeper into the cave, discovering it split off into multiple tunnels. Suddenly, she thought she saw something. There! A flicker of movement she would have missed if not for her Vampiric eyesight. Lucinia stared into the tunnel, waiting for it again. Something approached. Something that looked like a man, if a man was naturally hunched, possessed claws, and looked monstrou with gleaming eyes and overlarge teeth. The sight gave her pause for a moment. Then she bared her fangs, and drew upon her inner bestiality, turning from a fair maiden into a terrifying Vampiress for the first time in far too long. How she missed this side of her. How she missed it...

Roaring, she charged at the thing, and supernaturally fast as she was - even if compared to a Lahmian - avoided its claws and teeth before striking a fatal blow. Then she plunged her fangs into it - and recoiled. It tasted disgusting, so much so that she kicked it as far as she could, and her bestial appearance was replaced by one of revulsion. It was disgusting! Whatever it was had blood that tasted like...something she wouldn't want to taste again. Hopefully there would be something better tasting deeper in the cave system.

As she progressed, Lucinia avoided any more of the things she encountered. They were no match for her, but she didn't want to drink their blood, and there was no need to fight something she had no intention of drinking from.

After a while, Lucinia came to what appeared to be a nexus, with tunnels branching in many directions. Cautiously, she stepped into the centre, and saw upon a barbaric mockery of a throne a mound of flesh that Lucinia's senses insisted were a Vampire, or at least undead. That confused her. What was a Vampire doing here, devolved, and ghoul-king? She swallowed as the realisation hit her. This was a Ghoul-king, a devolved child of Ushoran. Ever since learning of this line of the lords of death she had wanted nothing to with it. And now, it seemed, it had forced an encounter.

The Strigoi jumped off its throne with more agility than its size should have allowed, and landed with a growl. Then Lucinia herd many feet and saw a horde of the things - Ghouls, presumably - pour out of tunnels. Emotions warred within her, pity for what the Strigoi must have gone through to become this, revulsion for what it was, and fear of what it and its horde could do to her. The only thing that stopped her from stepping backward was the knowledge she was surrounded. She really should have done more practice against humans and lesser creatures, she scolded herself.

The sea of flesh parted to allow the Strigoi through. Up close, it looked even more horrifying, to the point where Lucinia suspected it didn't have a human mask as she usually wore.
Then it spoke, in mocking tones that agonised Lucinia's ears.
"Little Blood Dragoness... You wish for a challenge? Have it..." Then it leaped at her.
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Thank you, Dread King. I love my Blood maiden too much to stop writing about her.

Chapter Two
Nearly overcome by horror at what the Strigoi had become, and the voice in her mind telling that was what she could become if she wasn't careful, Lucinia jumped backwards, allowing the monster to land in front of her, hissing at her. She roared back, allowing her humanity to slip and baring her fangs.
Calling upon 50 years of dedication to martial skill, the Blood Dragoness struck at her opponent, causing small pinpricks in its skin. Eyes wide at the lack of damage , she dodged the counterattack. The bleeding called to her, invited her to let go of herself more, live up to the Blood part of her lineage, but with her iron discipline she resisted the temptation.
Suppressing her bloodlust was one thing. but defeating a Ghoul King - its minions were even refraining from intervening, in mockery of the personal challenge kings would often give - would require intelligence as well as determination. Fortunately, Lucinia did have brains, and good ones, and she resolved to use them.
Keeping her distance, Lucinia observed the 'throne room,' looking for some feature to exploit. Ledges went acround the cavern to meet behind the throne, and a large hole, presumably where the Strigoi had appeared from, was high up a wall. First jumping onto a ledge - lacking the strength for a single leap - Lucinia bounced up to the hole, and saw it was a wide tunnel leading elsewhere, far enough even her eyes could not make anything out.
The Strigoi growled, and leaped after her. Perhaps she had just gotten herself into a trap. Then, reconsidering her position, Lucinia thought of her own trap, licking her fangs. "Come here, beast," she challenged, retreating into the tunnel. It came towards her.
Timing it perfectly, Luicnia dodged aside and ran back to the mouth of the tunnel. furious, the Strigoi turned, and went after Lucinia, who was balancing on the edge of the cave.
As the Strigoi leaped at her, she leaned aside, avoiding everything but some claws that scraped her armour. She followed after it, landing on it. Lucinia stabbed her sword into its spine. or, at least, tried to. Her sword dug into hardened flesh, and the Blood Dragoness spent the next eternity - from her viewpoint, at least - desperately clinging on as the Strigoi tried to shake her off.
It succeeded, and Lucinia slammed into a wall, her sword still stuck in its flesh. She shook herself, and scolded herself for such a stupid plan that had resulted in losing her sword and leaving her almost defenceless. Angry with herself, her control slipped, and her eyes glowed.
No! I must concentrate! she thought to herself, desperately recalling a memory of her mother scolding her for losing control. Thus self-reprimanded, she recovered her control, just in time as the Strigoi was almost upon her.
"Now you die, Dragon."
"No!" She jumped to her feet. Despite being smaller and weaker than her opponent, Lucinia was more agile, dodging lunges and inflicting her own scratches.
The Blood Dragoness managed to get around behind the beast, and channeled all her strength into driving her sword deeper. That still didn't work, so she made a decision before her rational mind could tell her it was the most stupid thing she had ever done, even counting that incident with the warpstone, and jumped on top of the Strigoi, wrenching her sword out to make room for her body. She lunged for its neck with her fangs, and bit. Unfortunately, Lucinia wasn't strong enough to rip its throat right out, so she had to drink. forcing herself to swallow the degenerate blood, she hung on desperately until the Strigoi collapsed. To make sure, Lucinia retrieved her sword and decapitated it, before sitting down and calming herself, trying to clear the red from her vision. it was disgusting blood, but blood nonetheless and it had triggered her instincts. She gagged on the Strigoi blood.
Fortunately, the Ghouls seemed confused with the death of their leader. A few even approached her, making nervous sounds.
Holding back her revulsion, Lucinia said sternly, "Go away. I don't want to be your queen."

Having had enough monster-hunting for now - yes proper Blood Dragons wandered for years if not eternity, but she was only young, had hardly lived a proper Blood Dragon life, and a Strigoi Ghoul King was quite enough of a challenge - Lucinia slept at the mouth of the cave system until the sun went down, hating the rough ground, and hating herself for being so soft. Blood Dragon. Ha!

The next evening, Lucinia woke after bad dreams she couldn't remember the details of, and made her way back to Hawk's Tower.
She noticed a subdued atmosphere about the castle as she passed through the outer wall. She arrived inside the castle and made her way to the banquet hall after changing into more appropriate clothing, where she expected her family to be.
As she had guessed, Annabella, Annabella's daughter Rachelle, whom she considered a sister, and Rachelle's get - he was not really her son in any normal sense of the word aside from the literal one - Albrecht were at the table.
Lucinia took her seat beside Annabella. Rachelle was at the head of the table, and Albrecht was near her.
Rachelle looked up at Lucinia's arrival, smiling. "Lucinia! You're a hopeless Blood Dragon! You're back after only a night!"
Lucinia bared her fangs. "Come here, Rachelle, and I'll show you how hopeless I am."
Rachelle's green eyes widened in what Lucinia supposed was meant to be fear. "Annabella! Lucinia wants to bite me!"
Laughing, Annabella said, "Stop scaring your sister," in a voice that made it perfectly clear she knew Rachelle was joking. Despite that, Lucinia complied and sheathed her fangs.
Despite Rachelle's levity, Lucinia could tell it was forced. Trying to ignore that, she asked, "Where's breakfast?"
"I just sent out a...request," Rachelle answered, uncomfortable.She was only physically and mentally 13, and hated the darker side of Vampirism, including coffins and blood drinking. She wore yellow and had blonde hair.
"Rachelle was joking, but you did return far earlier than I expected," Annabella commented, curiosity in her black eyes.
"I...found a Strigoi. I guess it knocked the adventuring out of me," Lucinia explained nervously.
Annabella smiled. "You are a hopeless Blood Dragon. At least it explains that smell."
Lucinia bared her fangs.
"I've told you before not to threaten to bit your mother," Annabella warned gently, eyes twinkling. She had long blonde hair, and a sleeveless black dress, which in Luicnia's view made her simply amazing.
"Yes, Annabella," Lucinia conceded, sheathing them. Then she realised what was wrong. "Where's Georgina?" Normally, her green-eyed cousin would be teasing her to death about her failed attempt at adventuring, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Albrecht spoke, surprising her. The darkly-clad Vampire really intervened on matters pertaining to the Draconia family, as Lucinia affectionately thought of them. "My Lady's bodyguard was taken last night, by a Necrarch calling himself Khazakas. He said he would return her in exchange for you."
"And you've been sitting here, scared?" Lucinia demanded shocked.
"I sent out a force to locate her," Albrecht told her.
"I'll find this Necrarch, and kill him," Lucinia promised. No one hurt Georgina. Except possibly herself, if she irritated her too much.
"You're a young Blood Dragon. i sensed powerful magic. khazakas is old and dangerous," Annabella warned.
"Georgina's my best friend."
"I know. If I can't stop you, I'll help you."
"I will, too!" Rachelle added, springing to her feet.
"Our enemy left a note," Annabella said, presenting some paper to Lucinia. It had directions, and a warning to come alone.
"You're ignoring that warning, aren't you?" Lucinia asked, though it was more a statement than a question.
"Georgina's my niece and your best friend. I can't leave her."
"I'd love an adventure with my sister," Rachelle said. "Albrecht will look after the castle."
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Three

The trio arrived at the directions that had been given. It was a large tower in the middle of nowhere.
"I'm guessing this is a Necrarch," Lucinia commented, looking at the tower.
"Clever as always," Annabella replied. Lucinia couldn't tell if she was joking or not.
"Uh, Necrarchs," Rachelle spat. "I hate corpses who think they're masters of death." She wore yellow armour suited to her size, and wielded an equally tailored sword. Lucinia would have thought the image endearing if she didn't know the 'child' was actually an 800 year old Vampiress.
"You're a corpse," Lucinia reminded her.
"I don't look like one!" Rachelle protested.

The door to the tower swung open.
"Have either of you children considered this could be a trap?" Annabella asked. As usual she wore no weaponry, relying entirely on her magic.
"I know it is, Annabella," Lucinia replied. "But Georgina's my cousin." She grinned. "if you're scared, of course..."
Annabella laughed. "Girls who call their mothers scared usually get flaming coffins."
"Mothers who burn their children's coffins usually get shredded bed sheets." Not that Annabella usually slept in a normal bed, but Lucinia had to come back with something, didn't she?
"Lucinia, Annabella, you can tease one another later. i have a cousin to rescue," Rachelle reminded them.
Lucinia nodded. "You're right."

They approached the tower, and found a disturbing lack of creatures blocking their path.
Rachelle swallowed. "This place is creepy," she admitted.
Lucinia squeezed her sister's hand reassuringly. "I've been in a Necrarch tower before. You get used to it."
"I hope so..." Rachelle muttered, though she seemed to appreciate the hand.
There were many laboratories to search through, but eventually Lucinia sensed a familiar, almost nonexistent Vampire. Georgina never used magic, but still as a Vampiress she had some innate power.
"This way," Lucinia indicated, leading the way carefully.
In a large room, Georgina hung from a wall, hands tied by silver chains that Lucinia thought must be agony.
"Lucinia?" Georgina asked when she saw them. For some reason she'd been allowed to keep her armour.
"I'm here, Georgina. Annabella?"
Annabella nodded. The chains caught fire, and Lucinia rushed underneath, catching Georgina when she fell.
"Thank you, Annabella."
Annabella smiled. "Now, let's go."
"You have very good timing, Blood Maiden," a voice like sand announced.
Lucinia looked at the staircase on the other side of the room, and saw a figure in dark robes.
"I am the Necrarch Khazakas. I have watched you for many years, Blood Maiden." The term was a reference to her mixed-bloodline life, either an insult or a playful tease.
"What do you want with me?" Luicnia bared her fangs.
"Your service as an apprentice. The others can go."
"You should have just asked."
"Then you wouldn't hate me. I like hate. it is powerful."
"Well, I certainly hate you for stealing my cousin."
"Very good."
"Are you talking or fighting, Lucinia?" Annabella asked.
Lucinia blinked. "I'm going to kill you, Khazakas."
"You can't."
'We'll see about that." Annabella threw a fireball. It dissipated with no apparent motion from the Necrarch, who responded with shadow-cages for Annabella and Rachelle. They tried to free themselves, but the magic was too strong. Lucinia charged at Khazakas, but he knocked her back with a gust of wind, presumably Heavens magic.
"Come with me, and your cousin will live. Your life or hers."
"What about my mother and sister?"
"They can go either way. I have no care for them."
Lucinia looked at Georgina.
'Don't you dare sacrifice yourself for me, Lucinia!" her cousin told her furiously. "What use does Necrarch have for a Blood Dragon anyway?"
"Good question."
"A bodyguard. And surely you have learned, if not practice, much from observations of your mistress' work."
"Annabella? Rachelle?" Luicnia asked desperately.
"You're not working for a rotten corpse," Annabella growled, looking more like a monster than Lucinia had ever seen. She noticed Rachelle had turned away, unable to see her mother in such a state. Annabella disintegrated her cage, and summoned fire as a shield around herself. She then summoned flames in the shape of cats that charged at the Necrarch.
He waved his hand, dispelling the burning cats, and spent the next minute calmly resisitng whatever Annabella threw at him. Rachelle tried to assist, but had less skill than her mother and was also unable to break his defence.
green mist formed beside Georgina, coalescing into something resembling a human, with a skull and scythe.
"Wraiths. Incredibly useful against the stricter Blood Dragons. Serve me, and I'll call it off."
Georgina was doing a much better job than Lucinia of hiding her fear.
"I'll serve," Lucinia mumbled.
"Let me bite her!" Georgina exclaimed. "You shouldn't give yourself up in sacrifice for me."
"he can easily kill me if I refuse," Lucinia pointed out.
"Then die on your feet like your father did," her cousin insisted, green eyes defiant.
"I have something of your father's here. I'll let you see it if you serve me."
That broke Lucinia. "Let my family go, and I'll serve."
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Four

"now you have me. What do you want?" Lucinia demanded. She stood before Khazakas in one of his laboratories.
"First, some information. I've watched you for a while. But that has not told me whether you are truly limited in magic, or if you are simply hiding it. And how much of those theater performances are mundane?"
"I have forsworn most magic, except healing. I don't use it in theater, even if certain people sometimes insist I learn parlour tricks." Annabella occasionally suggested it might be beneficial for Luicnia to add magic to her shows, but the Blood Dragoness remained steadfast in her refusals, and her mother accepted that.
Khazakas nodded. "So you are still, to an extent, Blood Dragon."
Lucinia's eyes blazed. She hated her mixed lifestyle being discussed. "Blood Dragon is a bloodline, not a lifestyle. I do try to live to my honour and my father's teachings as much as I can, but sometimes that must be compromised for my Queen."
"Your Queen? I never expected a Blood Dragon to declare for the First Vampire."
Lucinia wondered if that had been a stupid thing to say. For a madman - though he hadn't shown it yet - Khazkaas was smart. "My loyalty is to the woman I call my mother, and her loyalty is to the Queen, so therefore my loyalty is to the Queen."
"Ah, yes, your mother. I also never expected a Blood Dragon to clign son tightly to ideals of family, especially for one who is not even of your line - indeed, a Lahmian. Did your sire not teach you to distrust Lahmians?"
Lucinia's eyes calmed. "I made up my own mind. I know Annabella is deceptive, but I cannot believe she would lie to me."
"How naive. She's Neferata's daughter. She was sired to deceive. Her interests and yours simply align for now."
"I am aware most Necrarchs fall to the hand of their apprentice," Lucinia responded, trying to counterattack.
"Mine tried, but he is now a gibbering wreck in a cell somewhere. But yourb point stands. I, however, do not pretend to love my apprentice, and made no pretence to love my late master. I was freed by killing him, in fact. Lahmians are more subtle."
"Do you want an apprentice? Or just someone to insult?"
"Both. Now, I have something to show you. It will help your cooperation." khazakas flicked his wrist, and a suit of armour walked up to Lucinia. She recognised it.
"How did you get hold of my father's armour?" she asked, almost upset and certainly disturbed by the animated shell. Yes, she was a walking corpse herself, but at least she sustained herself and moved herself. Armour had no right to move without occupants.
"44 years is along time to acquire something. But is it long enough to ease memories?"
Lucinia looked at the armour, and immediately her mind was dragged back to that dawn, when assassins had killed her father and, before dying, he had given her to Annabella, his final moments granting him the clarity to see he should never have blocked their friendship. It was too much, even 44 years on, and the young Blood Dragoness knelt down before her father's armour, and said in a weak voice, "Father, if you can hear me, i still yearn for you. I love Annabella - she's a god mother and an amazing friend, but you made me one of the immortals and I still wish you could return somehow. I'm sorry if I've broken your code, but I've compromised as much as I could, and I still love you."
"Most Blood Dragons leave their sire once they are ready. You are no ordinary vampire, Lucinia Draconia."
"No, I'm not."
"Serve me without thought of escape, and I will kep the armour here. Betray me, and I will destroy pieces of it until it is gon,e one piece each time. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Lucinia replied. She turned back to the armour. "I will find a way out of this. i can't fail with your armour watching."
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
Chapter Five

Lucinia tried to sleep in a coffin that barely fit her This was a nightmare, being held prisoner and forced to serve a master who apparently wanted her to hate him. She still didn't understand why a Necrarch would want a Blood Dragon, but perhaps that was it - a Blood Dragon could be insulted, could be made to hate, whilst Necrarchs were far harder to drive to hatred.
The Blood Dragoness cursed her bad luck to constantly be stolen or enslaved. Weren't there other people in the world? But that wasn't really her concern right now. Her priority was finding a way out and getting back to her home in Middenheim for a nice warm glass of blood. Lucinia smiled at that. But how to escape? It was a magical tower, and she had little power, as yet at least. And surely Khazakas was prepared for errands she may run - no chance of escape then. Of course, she could take the long route, and build enough skill and power to defeat him, but then she would be casting aside the last of her honour, which she could not do.
But then, was there not a powerful sorcerer a thought away? Not yet, she told herself. He wanted her to be a Dreadlady, and each time they met Lucinia suspected he was putting a suggestion into her mind. So, how to escape? Was killing in sleep dishonourable? Was the Necrarch not prepared for such an attempt? She didn't want to become a gibbering wreck like his previous apprentice. She could, of course, jump out a window. But that was too obvious. They were probably warded. Still, she may as well try.

Lucinia lifted the lid of her coffin, ignoring the minor inconvenience of sunlight, and searched for a window. Finding one, she experimentally reached out. Her fingers brushed something invisible, making her growl in frustration. It had been worth a try.
She climbed back into her coffin-

-and woke in her home, Annabella standing over her.
What am I doing here? she wondered.
Annabella smiled. "I understand your confusion. You must know this is a dream, my daughter."
"Him?" she demanded, suddenly furious.
She heard the voice in her mind. Your mother was concerned for your safety. I have constructed a setting for a conversation.
"Why are you helping?"
There was no answer.
"Lucinia, you are real," Annabella said. "I know I'm real, even if you can't for sure. What matters is that I am acting exactly as I would, and I love my little dragon."
Lucinia climbed out of her coffin and threw her arms around her mother, accepting her words. "I love you too, Annabella."
"I wonder, if I bit you, would I taste strength, courage and an overdose of honour?"
The affectionate teasing, and the comforting aura, made Lucinia feel better, causing her to smile. "I suppose if I bit you I would taste compassion, intelligence, and far more deception than healthy."
"I suppose you would." A shadow went across Annabella's face. "Are you alright?"
"I'm great. I'm loving being locked up by a Necrarch and learning magic from him. I have no idea why I didn't before."
"That was...unexpected," Annabella commented.
Lucinia growled. "A Necrarch's imprisoned me. How do you think I feel?"
Annabella nodded. "You must be terrible if you're talking like that." Lucinia was so rarely...biting to her friends.
"How is the family?"
"i really am here. i can't stand Hawk' Tower right now. Rachelle has locked herself away, and Georgina won't even look at me. She blames her exchange for you on myself and Rachelle. She's putting your involvement down to being her cousin."
"You're her family, too!" Lucinia objected.
"Sometimes she doesn't see it that way. Especially when she's furious."
"What about Rachelle? Aren't you her sire?"
"I tried to comfort her to begin with, but she's too stressed. She asked me to seal her room with a spell only she could undo."
Lucinia gasped. If her family was split apart by her imprisonment..."I need to escape."
Annabella smiled. "We're your family. We each respond in our own ways."
"How are you responding?"
"Wondering how to burn down a Necrarch tower, and finding what books I can."
Lucinia smiled. "That's why I love you, Annabella. You're always thinking about a solution."
"Thank you. There is something I found. There are some towers with very, very powerful wards. Nothing gets in or out without permission. I sensed that level of power. According to my research, however, such power requires a focus to be bound to, or the Necrarch would expend most of their energy maintaining it."
"Why do I have a feeling I know exactly what that focus is?" Lucinia asked.
"What is it, my little dragon?"
"He somehow found Father's armour. He'll destroy it if I misbehave."
Annabella's eyes widened. "That's horrible! But, if he's threatening to destroy it, how can it be his focus?"
"Because he knows In won't give him cause to destroy the last trace of my father in existence," Lucinia explained sadly.
Annabella stroked her cheek. "My girl," she said gently. "some things are important physically, some emotionally. Your father's armour is just armour. You can hold his memory without it."
"I know. And before you ask, this is me talking, for all that means. You know I would only act in your best interest."
"I know, Annabella. It just feels...wrong."
"Do you still have your armour?"
Lucinia shook her head.
"Is there something fragile you can easily access?"
"There should be." Lucinia was sure of it. "What are you suggesting?"
Annabella stroked her cheek, sending a thrill through her. "My daughter, it's time you learned to alter a binding."
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