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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
A short story (that may turn into something more) about a castle in Sylvania and its owners.

Too Small a Castle

Banners flew above the crumbling Castle Nurendorf. They fluttered limply, despite the strong wind, as if they simply wee no longer interested in their duty. A fair enough decision, as the castle was in little better shape. Most of the outer wall was ruined, the buildings within damaged or destroyed. The inner keep was strongly warded and stood proud, but even the windows there showed signs of cracking. It was a sad sight.
Emilia's dismal assessment of her home warred with joy to have returned at all. As she made ehr way through the thick forest towards the main entrance, surrounded by an ancient retinue of Grave Guard, bound to her will by the simplest of magic, it felt good to be home. She sat astride a skeletal steed, what remained of her prized warhorse. After years of training it to accept her nature, she was unwilling to discard it and restart the process, at least for now. If nothing else, she didn't need reins.
When she arrived at the front gate, it unexpectedly opened. A short, stocky man with a not at all welcoming smile greeted her.
"Lady Emilia. My mistress has informed me of your coming. She cannot wait to meet you again after so many years."
Emilia raised an eyebrow.
"Your mistress? Who is she? What is she doing in my castle?"
"If you would follow me, you will find out."
He turned and walked deeper into the castle.
Emilia dismounted, concerned, and had her Grave Guard surround her. She wasn't scared. She was just disconcerted at someone else moving in during her absence. The echoing footfalls of armoured boots was reassuring.

She and her retinue followed the man into the castle, into the main keep, wards crackling with energy as Emilia passed through them. Then downwards towards the lower levels that served for the masters of night. After all, if going out in the sun was difficult, why not just conduct all your business underground anyway?
The interior was in no better shape than the exterior. The carpet was rotten and ragged, the paintings faded. It smelled of decay. But it was home. Though, apparently, home to someone else, too. That sent a shiver down Emilia's spine. Who dared usurp her castle? Who had gotten through the wards without breaking them?
She reached for the wards, and realised that wasn't true. These weren't her wards. She hadn't thought about it, but these were new wards, commanded to permit her entry. Her old wards destroyed? Her talons drew her own blood as they extended from balled fingers. Someone had some explaining to do. Preferably with those talons in their neck.
Finally they made it to the antechamber of the throne room. The short man gave another disingenuous smile.
"Wait here. I shall inform my mistress you are here."
"Who is she?" Emilia demanded.
"Don't be so impatient."
Emilia wanted to tear his throat out, but knew that would be petulant. She held her nerve, forced her hands and talons to rela, and drank up as much of her own accidentally spilled blood as possible. It was dead, not nourishing at all. Ugh.
After some time, the man returned and the doors opened.

Emilia stepped through the threshold with her Grave Guard. A new chord of anger struck within her at the sight of a figure on the throne. Her throne! This was too much. Pushing past her retinue, she stormed towards the seated figure, who was wrapped in a black cloak.
"Do not be so impatient," said a familair voice.
No, it couldn't be. It just couldn't. She was dead.
"Who are you? What are you doing in my castle?"
The short man stood to the side of the throne, his smile even worse, if that were possible.
"My mistress says you would know her by now. Or shall I remove her hood?"
Emilia growled, drawing her sword and pointing it at the cloak figure.
"Reveal yourself."
Suddenly, swords were pointed against her own neck.
"Welcome to my castle."
"This is my castle."
"Oh dear. This will be difficult. It's really too small for both of us." The figure pulled back her hood. "Isn't it, sister?"
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
Too Small a Castle - Reunion

Arabelle lifted herself from the throne - Emilia's throne! - and stretched to her full height, with an almost catlike smirk, and paced in a circle around her sister, Emilia trapped by the Grave Guard.
"Welcome home, sister," Arabelle said. "I've been waiting a long tie for this. Rickard, thank you for bringing her this far."
The short man bowed.
"My honour, mistress."
"You may leave us. My sister and I have...family business to catch up on."
Rickard faded away.
Arabella returned her gaze to Emilia.
"Now, where was I? Oh, yes. It is so good to see you again, after so long."
"I was rather hoping I'd never see you again, Ara."
"We don't always get what we want, do we, Milia?"
Emilia's hands clenched into fists.
"Last I saw you, you were caught in a black powder explosion. Lots and lots of black powder." You needed a lot to kill a vampire.
Arabelle continued pacing, head turned away.
"You tried your best, didn't you? And I thought that was it. I never expected to eb killed by own sister."
Emilia shrugged.
"You got in my way, Ara." It was jarring to use the childhood pet name, on someone she would kill right now, but maybe the shock of seeing her little sister again was doing things to her mind.
"On the other hand, you did promise you wouldn't let anyone else hurt me. Should've seen where that was going."
Arabelle had returned to the throne by now, but did not take her seat, instead leaning against one of the armrests.
"I can't describe how it felt sitting here. In my big sister's chair. Taking everything you ever worked for. Oh, and I have taken everything." She bared her fangs. "If you're wondering where all the servants have gone, well, being almost blown up takes a lot out of you." Arabelle pulled her cloak's sleeves back and exposed parts of her body. revealing the full extent of the damage. While her face was intact, deep gouges were cut across ere skin, and most of her fingers were missing. "Just Rickard found me. He is most loyal. And useful."
"You don't look any uglier than you were before. I get it. You're back. You control my castle now. Are you going to kill me? If you want me to apologise, don't waste your time."
Arabelle put her cloak back in place and gave a smile.
"I'd never ask you to apologise for doing something I should have expected. Besides it taught me a lot. And I'm not going to kill you. Not yet, anyway."
"The as soon as you remove these puppets, or I break your control on them, I'll rip your throat out. And this time, I'll do it right."
"Good luck with that. My castle now. I can draw what magic I need from the walls and the wards."
Emilia groaned. "Then what, pray, are we doing?"
"It takes a lot to recover from being blown up. Right now I'm functional, but it hurts like sunlight, which I can't go into right now, and I need more healing before I'm done. I have to feed, and who better than my sister who put me in this situation to begin with?"
"Don't you dare.' She really should have checked, shouldn't she?
"Or what? Go to sleep now, Milia. I'll see you when you wake." Arabelle nodded.
Somthing heavy cracked into the back of Emilia's head, and her mind fled.

The next thing she knew, Emilia was chained to a wall in what, after her senses properly returned, she realised were the crypts. Directly below her was a coffin. How much she wanted to be in there, safe from the world and able to recover from the sheer amount of blood she had just lost. She could feel it even now, the occasional drop falling from her neck.
She blinked.
"Ara, get me down from here!"
Her sister surrounded by Grave Guard, eyed her carefully. "Hurts, doesn't it? Being trapped somewhere so close to safety. Your wrists and ankles burning away. I can't find any black powder, but it will do."
"No." Arabella licked her fangs, and exposed newly healed flesh. "A little more and I'll be fully recovered. I'll send you a meal shortly, so you may continue to help me."
Emilia's skin burned from the silver, making her grimace.
"I'll do it properly next time. I promise."
"I know you will." Arabelle turned and walked out, guards following her.
After a while, Emilia screamed.

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
A Castle Too Small - Hospitality.

After a good long while, Arabelle returned to the crypt surrounded by the Grave Guard. Rickard followed behind with a young woman whose heart beat quick with terror.
Emilia's instincts stirred. The smell of fresh blood, the beating of a mortal heart, was almost too much for her. This was what she wanted. Needed. Blood was her sustenance. Here, a meal was being offered up to her.
She held the thought. This wasn't for her. This wasn't kindness. This was a sick game by which Arabelle meant to torment her by taking her blood, allowing her to feed on mortals in between,.
"Are you ready for a meal?" Arabelle enquired.
"Send her away. I won't play your game."
"Good idea," the mortal said.
Rickard clamped her mouth shut.
"Do not question the mistress."
Arabelle gave a sigh of disappointment, and turned to Rickard.
"Oh dear. My sister disapproves of my present for her."
"She isn't a present for me," Emilia said.
Arabelle turned back to Emilia, smiling.
"You always were so fussy, Milia. Would you like me to send her away and have Rickard find one more to your tastes?"
"It's not a question of tastes." Emilia's hunger, stirred by the presence of a human, was making it hard to resist. Her primal part just wanted to feed.
"You're making this more difficult than it has to be. Rickard, send her forward."
Rickard brought the woman forward, and presented her to Arabelle.
Arabelle turned to the young woman and stroked her hair, stifling protest with a finger to her lips.
"Now, don't be afraid. You're doing a great service for us - well, me at least. My sister and I have a...complicated history."
"As complicated as an explosion in the face."
"Anyway, I have plans for my sister, and part of that involves...I won't dress it up. She's going to bite you. Drink your blood. You're going to walk around that coffin, present your neck, and when she's done, you'll come back here like a good girl. Won't you?"
The woman bit Arabelle's finger.
Arabelle laughed, and kissed her forehead.
"Maybe I'll have to train you. You're brave despite your fear. I need someone like that."
The mortal tried to punch Arabelle, but the vampire caught her hand.
"We can play later, mortal. Go and let Emilia feed on you."
"I won't. I simply won't."
"I'm not going to like having to carry you there myself."
"Trouble with your new pet?" Emilia teased.
Arabelle growled.
"Stop embarrassing me in front of my sister." Arabelle pushed her towards Emilia. "Go on."
The mortal looked up at Emilia, who realised her fangs were now fully extended. She let them stay like that. Watching her sister being defied was amusing, and the racing blood was now irresistible.
"Come here, mortal. I won't kill you."
One of the Grave Guard started moving forwards.
"That might," Emilia added.
After a moment, the human placed herself beside Emilia, to where she could reach to bite into her neck.
The screaming was the best part.

Then it was time for Arabelle to feed on Emilia. It was her turn to scream. There were some vampires she knew who liked to use hypnosis or other means to soothe victims, make them enjoy or at least not hate the experience. Emilia was not one of them. Neither was Arabelle. It was even worse being chained up with silver. Now, to the constant pain of the cuffs was added the brief, sharp pain of fangs, and the feeling of blood being drawn out. The primal beast within her screamed and kicked, fighting to free itself, but her movement was limited, and all she did was make Arabelle wait until she'd stopped thrashing. This cycle repeated again and again. Normally Arabelle wouldn't care how her victims responded. This was special. A sister.
At long last, when Emilia felt weak and drained, and her inner daemon whimpered, Arabelle stepped back and wiped her mouth clean.
"Now, that was very kind of you, Milia."
"As if I had a choice in it, Ara."
"I feel much better. If you don't mind, I'm going to sleep in this coffin right here until evening. Then you'll see what I've been working on. What I've been planning."
"Just kill me now."
"You don't mean that. And it wouldn't be very interesting. Rickard - kerchief."
Rickard supplied the item and Arabelle wiped her hands.
"You're really going to sleep in that coffin right below me? What if I break my chains and land on you? Fangs first? In your neck?"
"Sweet dreams, sister."
An image of two girls, arguing over the top bunk, slipped into Emilia's mind. She discarded it. They weren't children anymore. Besides,, she wanted the lower accommodation now.

Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
A Castle Too Small - The Summoning

The next night, Emilia was roughly awoken and inconsiderately torn free of her shackles, the silver cutting deep as she fell to the floor. Biting her lip, she looked up at Arabelle, her sister grinning down at her, fangs just visible, having traded her cloak for stately garments. She was surrounded by Grave Guard, and Rickard stood just behind her, smiling.
"Good evening, Milia. There is something I should like to show you now." She cocked her head to the side, looking concerned. "Dear sister, have I hurt you?"
Emilia pushed herself to her feet and met her gaze.
"Not as much as you will be."
"I expected nothing else. You've been good, so I won't lock you up where we're going."
"Where, exactly, are we going?"

Emilia followed Arabelle out of the castle, to the decaying fields outside. Some crops grew, straining for the little light there was during the day, and giving a stench as that of a corpse.
Behind Emilia, Rickard dragged along the girl from last night, who was resisting as fiercely as she had before. It wasn't enough, however, and she was soon delivered to Arabelle.
"I will need my strength for this." She plunged her fangs into the human, biting down as she tried to twist away. To her credit, she didn't scream.
"How long has my sister had this pet?"
Rickard smiled.
"A little over a year now. She is quite...resilient. But my mistress likes those who fight. It's be boring ottherwise."
Arabelle released the human.
"Good girl. You can stay with us for when I need sustenance."
The human rubbed her neck, pale from repeated feedings.
"Thank you." Her eyes were furious.
Arabelle laughed.
"Rickard is right, Milia. They're better when they fight. At least I am fully healed now."
Arabelle's body was now fre of all sign of injury. Even her eye had grown back.
"Well done, Ara. Now, what is this all about?"
"Theatre, I expect," the human said.
"Do you want me to bite you again so soon?" Arabelle warned.
She hushed.
"Dear sister, I shall present what I /aahve been gathering. Warriors, come forth!" Arabelle raised her arms as high as she could. "Fallen warriors, heroes of old, steeds of death, coem forth!"
The ground began shaking beneath, and Emilia had to fight to keep her footing. Holes appeared in the earth, where corpses clad in ancient armour emerged. Some rode the remains of warhorses, others were on foot. Some carried banners that, once unfurled, blew on the currents of the roiling Winds of Magic. Others played drums.
Great power was emanating from Arabelle, the Winds of Magic surging about her. Despite the circumstances, Emilia couldn't help feeling proud of her little sister, who only five years ago had needed assistance in raising and controlling an undead horde.
The human's eyes widened. She looked around her at the rising dead, and clutched her arms to her side.
Emilia laughed.
"Ara would have killed you by now if she meant to, mortal. As she said you're her dinner. The theatre is for me."
"My name is Greta."
Arabelle cast a withering glance at Emilia.
"Stop talking to my pet like that."
"How? I'm just making conversation."
Arabelle groaned.
"Rickard, find my carriage. You and the human can ride together."
Greta swallowed.
"Mistress, please."
"He won't hurt you. Just keep you out of trouble. Until I need another meal." Arabelle lowered her arms and walked towards Emilia.
"Well, Milia. Here we are again. Embarking on a grand campaign together. Except, of course, I'm in charge now and you'll stay right beside me,. If you so much as bare your fangs without my permission,..."
"Ara, you're insane."
"Don't be petty." Arabelle raised a hand. "Steeds of death, to me!"
Two horses - technically speaking - emerged from the ground. One was clad in fine armour and a cloak. The other was...not.
"Mount up, big sister. I'm going to enjoy this."
"Who are we going against? What is happening?"
"Whilst you were running around skirmishing with the Empire - you must tell me of your adventures sometime -I've been making plans." Arabelle tapped the sword at her side. "Come on, we're wasting night time."
"Don't think this doesn't mean I'll kill you, Ara."
"I love you, too, Milia."
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Count Vashra

Lord of Shadows
True Blood
Sep 29, 2013
New Zealand
A Castle Too Small - Camp

Arabelle had been busy since Emilia's failed attempt to destroy her. She had moved into the old castle and started building forces. Her politicking with nearby vampires had broken down, and tattered banners were raised about her. Now,she planned to defeat one of her opponents, seize his corpses, and continue her campaign.
She explained all this while relaxing in a tent she had brought to protect from the sun. Emilia would be sent to her own shortly, but for now the sisters sat across from oen another. Greta, Arabelle's pet human, sat between them, watching with disdain. All three sat on fancy cushions and expensive carpet.
"Do you really want to kill her, mistress?" she asked. "You are being rather hospitable for a sworn enemy."
"All the sweeter when the final betrayal happens." Arabelle laughed. "Just because we're enemies doesn't exclude us spending quality sister time together."
"She has to keep an eye on me, and make we watch her glory," Emilia added. "Very important for a power hungry monster."
"Makes sense. As far as anything about vampires makes sense." Greta rubbed her neck. "You know I'm going to kill the other one one day. Do you have any idea how much being bitten every other night hurts? I feel so weak."
"Stop complaining," Arabelle snapped. "You stay alive as long as you do as I tell you."
"Given I never do as I tell you, do you want me dead?"
Greta shrugged.
"Probably. Now, Milia, sun's about to rise. Be a good girl and go to your tent."
"Don't talk to your older sister like that, Ara."
"Or what, you'll tell Mother?"
The two got to their feet, bared their fangs at one another, hissed.
Arabelle smirked.
"Things are different now. I'm in charge."
Emilia's hand whipped across Arabelle's cheek. She touched it, eyes wide in surprise.
"Sleep tight, little sister," Emilia said, feeling greatly satisfied as she turned and walked out, past the Grave Guard.

A little later, Emilia's tent flap opened and Greta popped her head in.
"May I enter?"
"Did Arabelle send you?"
"No. She's asleep."
Emilia nodded.
Greta slipped in, and gave a calculating look.
"I can't believe you slapped her in own tent."
"Little sisters need to be kept in line."
"Not bitten?"
"She'd have killed me there and then for that."
"Your tent looks rather...ordinary. Only the barest of carpets."
"She's in charge now."
"What, exactly, is going on between you two?"
"A hundred years of sisterly competition. Fused with an immortal dark beast nested within our souls."
"Sounds dramatic."
Emilia laughed, and clasped Greta by the shoulders.
"hands off. I might be a pet, but I'm a proud human, too." Greta wrestled out of Emilia's gentle grip.
"What's going on between you and my sister?"
"My mistress seems to like a pet that fights back. So I give her what she wants. Bide my time."
"Ah! A scheme. I do love schemes. Is that why you came here?"
"Yes. I want to offer you my help. Assuming you really want to kill my mistress."
"I do. For the most part."
Emilia turned away, leaving the human in silence for a time. She was right. This was an odd situation. Emilia wasn't sure Arabelle didn't know about this. At this point, anything was possible. If only Arabelle had just died.
She turned back, seeing Greta tap ehr foot in impatience.
"Well? Do you want my help or not?"
"You have a strong tone for a vampire's pet."
"My life is over. Was over the moment my mistress discovered me. If one of you snaps my neck, it might even be a mercy. Again, do you want my help?"
"If you're lying, and my sister did send you,, I'll kill you. Horribly. Whatever she thinks of you."
"Understood. When I'm not being bitten, or shown off to you, my mistress sends me on daylight errands mostly. You vampires need us humans in more ways than just the culinary."
"Daylight errands, hm. I can work with that. Do you want anything out of this deal, other than the satisfaction of seeing Arabelle dead?"
"No, not really. Only your promise to let me go."
"I'll think about that." Emilia wasn't in the habit of promising humans their freedom. There were always more of them. And, as Greta said, they were extremely useful.
"Wait, doesn't Rickard do daylight errands, too?"
"He mostly acts as butler for the castle." Greta shook her head. "I should go. He'll be wondering why I'm not in the carriage yet."

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