This chapter reverts to the viewpoint of Leila Moss
Uyghur: يەتتىنچى ناخشىنىڭ ئۆيى
I stood in front of the full-length mirror and sighed. Then I turned again to the attendant who had hardly left my side for the past day. “Do I really have to wear this? I’d be fine in something simple.”
“Milady, the master insists that you are shown respect and given clothing appropriate to your station.”
“But I don’t want that!” I reminded her for probably the forty-second time since I’d arrived. “Can I just have a plain chemise and gown like what you have?”
The attendant looked flustered at my suggestion. “Lady Moss, Grand-Master Thorne would not allow me to dress you as a servant.”
I scrunched my mouth to one side and shook my head. “Can I at least take out the jewelry? I really don’t need all this gold.” The attendant looked worried, so I said, “Never mind… I’ll wear it. I just don’t feel as fancy as I look. I’m just a girl, you know? He thinks I’m so much more than that.”
Judging by the way she was looking at me, she wanted to counter what I’d said, but she knew she wasn’t supposed to argue with me.
I turned back to the mirror and looked myself over. Lord Thorne had prepared an entire suite of rooms for me before I was brought to his castle. It was a lovely gothic-era castle, and it had all the shadows and style of a vampire’s abode, and I was trying to appreciate the beauty of it even though I’d been brought there against my will, and there wasn’t a safe way for me to leave. Even if they let me walk right out the front door, what was I supposed to do? So I was stuck there, playing dress-up until Lord Thorne saw fit to speak to me.
My gown that evening was made of ample amounts of green velvet and lined in black and gold brocade. It was plush and comfortable, I had to admit, but it was far too extravagant. The skirt was wide and worked in detail with black lace and golden beads. I just wanted to get out of it and ask for simple breeches and a tunic. There were even matching shoes, which were lined in pine green silk and had tiny gold buckles.
There was a knock at the door, and the attendant hurried over to open it. “My lord,” she intoned, and then opened the doors wider. She backed away and lowered her gaze. “Lady Moss, Lord Thorne has come to see you.”
I looked over to the doorway and crossed my arms over my chest. I noticed that Matthias was with him, but wasn’t sure why he hadn’t been announced. The vampire grand-master was dressed regally in a late-eighteenth century style, with dark fabrics and polished jewels. His hair shone beautifully; he looked like he’d spent all day being styled and tended to. I didn’t know why he wanted to be so formal, but I also didn’t seem to have a choice.
“Milady,” he said with a bow that swept low and nearly had his hair touching the ground.
Matthias, rather stiff with worry, followed suit, but bowed even lower. He swallowed hard once he stood back up, and I wondered what was bothering him.
I took the risk and decided not to bow. “Did you come to make sure I was still trapped in here like your little Odette?”
He chuckled a little. “My dear Lady Moss, you have far too fiery of a spirit to compare yourself to a swan. A princess, perhaps, but not a frail one in need of rescuing.”
“Says the one who gave the order to kidnap me,” I snapped. “And I didn’t expect you to understand the Swan Lake reference.”
“Didn’t you?” he asked coyly. “I am curious, then, whether you believe that your ancestor Tiernan was the only one from this world to visit Earth.”
“Wait– you mean you did, too?”
“Is that so hard to believe? Jean-Marc played in one of symphonies you attended, did he not? And the faun was there…”
“Okay… but how do you get there?”
“I admire your curiosity,” he replied, walking closer to me. His pale fingers caressed my cheek as he looked down into my eyes. “There are, however, things that I cannot divulge to you.”
I pushed his hand away. “Don’t get familiar with me. I’m not going to court my kidnapper, so that better not be what I’m here for.”
“A shame,” he murmured. “It would be interesting to see what would happen if our bloodlines were to mix. Ah, but perish the thought, milady, for I would never force such things. Really, I had hoped that Jean-Marc and the others would be more willing to hear my request.”
“You want to be heard? Okay, I’m listening.”
Lord Thorne smiled. He seemed truly pleased, but it was still unnerving being around a vampire, especially one like him. He was so sure of himself– and it wasn’t exactly arrogance; he knew he was powerful and experienced, that he didn’t need to put on airs.
“We appreciate that, Lady Moss,” he said. I think he meant it, too. “If I may escort you to another room…?” he offered an arm for me to walk with him.
“I’ll follow you,” I told him, “but not arm-in-arm.”
“Very well, milady.”
Lord Thorne turned with practice grace and walked out of the room. Matthias watched me follow him, but didn’t start walking until I’d passed him. We went down the length of the hall and around a corner before he knocked on another door. There must not have been a servant inside, as Matthias stepped forward to open it.
“Master,” a female voice said from inside.
Matthias entered the room and moved away from the door to allow Lord Thorne and me to come in as well.
“G– grand-master!” the woman cried, and I saw her fall to her knees before him. “Lord Thorne, I’m so sorry! She is still not well, even though I have drunk from everyone you sent to me, and I have nearly drained myself in feeding her.”
“Calm yourself, fledgling,” Lord Thorne told her, his own voice low and soothing as though to demonstrate the calmness that he wanted to see in her. “You may go back to her side.”
“Tha– thank you, grand-master,” she said. She was shaking, on the verge of tears, as she sat on the edge of the four-poster bed that took up much of the room.
“Lady Moss,” he said, his tone exuding nobility, “this is Ingrid; I am sure you’ve heard of her by now. She is Matthias’s fledgling, and hasn’t even been a vampire for ten years yet.”
I looked between them and nodded. “Sir Maël mention that she wasn’t supposed to turn anyone at this stage.”
“You are correct,” Lord Thorne said. “Both Matthias and I warned her not to do it, no matter how much she loves Brielle.”
“But she did it anyway,” I finished for him.
“That she did,” he said with a nod. “The woman lying pale beside her is Brielle DeChanson, cellist of Tierney Ríocht. Ingrid has drunk more blood than any other fledgling her age, and has passed it all on to Brielle, but it hasn’t been enough to sustain her.”
“Why not, though?”
“The simplest way to explain it would be to say that– in our world– there is a certain factor in a vampire’s blood, something akin to power. I have more of that factor inside my body than all of my bloodline combined. It would take very little of my blood to sustain any of the fledglings. Even Matthias here would feel incredible strength from just a drop of my blood.”
“Okay… So does it get weaker as you go through the generations?”
“In a manner of speaking, though I prefer to explain it as being more dilute. Erik is quite strong because I sired him myself, but I and stronger yet. The ones he sired are just a little less powerful, and so on.” He glanced over at Matthias. “He is only a little over one hundred years old. Nearly ten years ago, I gave him my blessing to take on a fledgling. He drank from me– just a little– and I helped him choose someone I believed would serve him well. She thrived as a vampire up until she met Brielle.”
I nodded as I listened. “I just… Sir Maël tried to explain some of their relationship to me. Why couldn’t they be together without turning Brielle?” I looked over at the woman sleeping on the bed. She was pale and gaunt, and I worried that she would waste away.
Lord Thorne glared at Ingrid, who looked away in shame. “Yes, that has been quite a point of contention ever since Ingrid brought her body here.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, opposite from Ingrid, and leaned in to gaze down at the cellist.
I crossed my arms over my chest. “Are you not going to tell me?”
He looked back to me, his expression had changed. He looked work by time, and maybe even a little sad that I didn’t understand. “You are a story-teller, Lady Moss,” he reminded me. “You know about literary themes. You know that stories can sometimes do a better job of conveying the truth about the world than any professor could.”
“You know countless stories, do you not? You read and you write, and you read some more. Therefore, you know about the eternal struggle between light and darkness.”
Matthias pulled over a chair so that I could take a seat nearby. I nodded my thanks as I sank into the thick cushions.
“The ballad says that music created light first,” Lore Thorne said. “It doesn’t say it in words, but as the land was formed and the light shone down, shadows formed behind all things.”
“But you say that like shadows have substance. Light is made of photons,” I told him, “and shadows are just where the light can’t go. It’s not like there are particles of darkness.”
He looked slightly disappointed. “Yes… that is the scientific explanation.”
“What do you mean?” I replied with a weak laugh. “Tierney Ríocht couldn’t have defied science so much that it has shadow particles.”
“I wouldn’t look at it in terms of defiance, milady. Whatever it is, the shadows here have substance, and there are many beings borne of them.”
His gaze turn downward. “In a manner of speaking. My own master came from the shadows.”
“Wait– you have a master? A vampire master? But I thought you were the grand-master…”
“Of my own bloodline, yes.”
“There are others?!”
Lore Thorne nodded. “My master sired four of us before going back to the shadows. Matthias, recite theirs names.”
Matthias looked surprised at first, but he quickly nodded and stood up straighter. “Grand-master Damien Averel Thorn, Grand-master Edgar Philip Raven, Grand-master Lucius Antony Draco, and Grand-mistress Anaïs Mireille Lyon.”
“Wow… okay, those are some really noble names,” I replied. “What about your master’s?”
Matthia’s eyes went wide; it seemed that this was privileged information. Lord Thorne simply shook his head. “I cannot tell you.”
“Okay… is that because you’re not allowed, or because you don’t know it?”
“You have a keen mind, Lady Moss,” he said. I could tell that he was avoiding the question. “If only Ingrid had your wit, she might have better understood her limitations.”
“Sure, but that doesn’t explain why they couldn’t be together.”
“Ah, yes, the light and the darkness. The night they met, the musicians were performing at a mid-winter festival. They had the forest lit up, rather like Yule or Christmas on Earth. But as lovely as it was, we of the shadows do not appreciate being chased away.”
“Oh… I see. So the people of the light keep trying to bring light everywhere, to chase away the darkness, but those of the shadows…”
“Just want to survive,” Matthias finished for me. I wondered whether Lord Thorne would be upset at him for interrupting, but when I looked his way, he only nodded.
“As you can imagine, we are affronted by their attempts to case away all shadows,” the vampire grand-master said.
“But what if they don’t realize that what they’re doing hurts your kind?”
“I recognize that it is a complex situation, milady,” Lord Thorne replied. “As you were asking about Ingrid and Brielle, allow me to say that Ingrid was still getting used to living in the shadows and honoring our ways. Brielle saw her watching the musicians perform from among the trees, and went to speak to her. Matthias eventually found out and warned her not to get involved, but his words went ignored.”
“So… is it sort of like how it went in Romeo and Juliet? They weren’t supposed to be together because of… well, because of their families?”
Lord Thorne nodded. “That is an apt comparison, I daresay. And like the lovers in the play, Ingrid and Brielle could not be kept apart. It seemed like such a fleeting fancy at first…”
“Thankfully they didn’t take poison or use daggers,” I said, “but it looks like Brielle is barely surviving this transition.”
“Had I realized just how serious they were about each other,” Matthias said, “maybe I could have done something better… something so that they wouldn’t run away together and make such a rash decision.”
“Well, what’s done is done,” I told him. “but what are you going to do so that Brielle doesn’t have to stay in bed like this? Won’t bad things happen if she can’t play cello?”
“She needs more powerful blood than I can give her,” Matthias replied. “I drank from the grand-master before I took Ingrid as my childe; she was not given that.”
I looked over at Lord Thorne. “You could solve all of this easily,” I pointed out. “Just give Ingrid what she needs, then she can share it with Brielle.”
Matthias looks surprised, yet again, at my suggestion.
“If that were all it was,” Lord Thorne said, “I might do it. But Ingrid disobeyed us, and instead of pleading the sincerity of her feelings for Brielle, she ran away with her, and when she heard that she was being searched for, she turned her as a means to avoid being separated from her. She knew that any other fledgling would have been forsaken, but that Brielle could not be allowed to die.”
“You’re not saving her because of disobedience?”
“There is power that comes with my blood, Lady Moss. It isn’t just that Ingrid is unworthy of it; she is still too reliant on her own master to drink from me. I cannot explain to you all of the intricacies of the bloodline, but trust me when I say that I would have rather fed her myself than let her drink more heavily from our acolytes than any fledgling has ever been allowed.”
“Then why not Erik?”
“It is a possibility,” Lord Thorne admitted, “but he requests that I first exhaust other avenues. That is why you are here, milady.”
“Do you realize that you sound petty and stubborn?”
“I suppose we might, Lady Moss. If admitting that will help your choice in what I have to ask you, then I do so gladly.”
“Wow, okay… So what do you need? I hope it isn’t music, because I don’t even have my instrument with me.”
“Not at all,” he replied. “Lady Moss, my blood isn’t the only kind that is potent. Moss’s blood was, too, and the seven musicians are also rich and nourishing. There are also those beyond Tierney Ríocht… What I mean is, the people of Earth feed us far better than the creatures of our own world.”
“Wait, you want my blood?” I asked. “Why not–“
“Why not have Ingrid feed from any other Terran?” he asked for me. “She is too young to go to Earth. Even Matthias has limited ability to go there. Still, he has tried to gorge himself on Terran blood, so that he could feed Ingrid. It did her good, but Brielle did not benefit from it nearly as much.”
“So– wait, there’s more to me, isn’t there? I’m a Terran, but also…”
“A descendant of Tiernan Moss,” Matthias added. “Not only that, but you are a writer, a creator, and a musician.”
I looked rapidly between him and Lord Thorne. “You– but– listen, I don’t–“
“I would rather you not decide right now,” Lord Thorne interrupted as he got up from the bed. “I only wanted to introduce you to Ingrid and Brielle, and share with you a bit of information.”
Matthias tried to follow Lord Thorne to the door, but the grand-master shook his head at him. “Stay with them, Matthias. I shall return to you after some time with our decision.”
Without waiting for Matthias’s acknowledgement, Lord Thorne ushered me out of the room and back to my own.