Once upon a time, there was a village that lay in between two valleys, with a clear, cold river on one side, and a dark, dense forest on the other. Perched on a side of one valley was the castle, run by a fair queen and an aloof but smart king. They had two children, a prince named Dari and a princess named Rosa.
Prince Dari was a young, broad-shouldered man of dark skin and white hair who was best known for his swordsmanship and speed, always with great timing delivering blows – or wit. His sister, Princess Rosa was similar, especially with wit, but her talents lay not with the sword, but with the mind.
While Dari was known to travel around the valleys with fellow knights, exploring the forests and collecting whatever caught his eye, Rosa could be found in various parts of the castle reading whatever she found interesting. With hands a paler brown than her brother’s, she would grab almost any item that had words on it, her fingers flipping through the pages every couple of minutes, sometimes tucking back a short lock of blond hair.
Although the two were known for their banter, Dari would always bring something back for his sister from his escapades with his men, be it news, a curious item, or a book. Likewise, Rosa would enlighten him with whatever he asked of her, or provide entertainment by beating another hapless opponent at any game or riddle, as her intellect had since acquired a reputation across the region.
“And… Checkmate.” Rosa announced, planting her black bishop in the white king’s path. She watched as her opponent du jour, a travelling elderly man with glasses and a beard, shifted his gaze around the black and white board, searching for any way out. ‘There is none, of course.’
“Well, I’ll be!” The man exclaimed, pushing his glasses up as he locked eyes with her, a smile spreading across his face. “Good show, Princess, and good game!”
“Like-wise.” Rosa returned the smile and shook his hand. “You were a great opponent. I would love to have another game, if you are ever in the area.”
“I’ll see to it.” He stood up from the chair with the grace of a younger man and strode out.
No sooner had the elderly traveller left the palace gardens, where she and all her opponents met, that the stench of death carried over the sweet aromas of the numerous, colourful flowers. Adjusting her white and purple dress, she stood up from the chair and turned to see a couple of the palace guards, some knights, including her brother, and the bloody, few-days-old carcass of a young boy a couple years younger in a quilt. Another knight carried what was left of the boy’s gun.
“You had to drag a corpse to this room?” She said, folding her arms and standing up tall, just like her mother would.
“Puh-leeze.” Dari scoffed as his fellow knights set the body and gun on the nearest tables for her to inspect. “Like you have not seen a dead man before.”
“That does not mean that you have to poison the gardens with his stench.” She shot back, walking over to the boy and moving the black hair from his face.
“That’s Erroll!” The shorter knight gasped, stepping forward for a better look. “Yes, he’s the youngest son of Dressler, the noble family from the northern hill.”
As the knight, Sir Varano, and Dari talked, Rosa looked the body over, repressing a grimace. While her eyes were no stranger to dead things, a human corpse was a rare sight. The wound on the neck, however, caused her to take in a sharp breath.
“The killer…” She started, waiting for the men to quiet down. “… Was very meticulous. First, you said that you found him in the forest, yes?” The knights nodded. “The killer was waiting there for him, I’m guessing.”
“Premeditated?” The taller Sir Proulx asked. “Noble families having a spat?”
“Maybe.” Dari said. “But then again, Erroll was kind of a dick. You think revenge?”
“No, but the killer was very fast and very strong. He was able to ambush Erroll, smash his gun, then cut him almost completely in half… And then slash his neck.”
“How do you know he did not slash the neck first?” The Sir Varano crossed his arms, staring at her with red eyes, similar to Dari’s.
“Simple. You see much of the blood left from his middle…” She gestured to the bloody and ripped midsection, clothes stained and darkened with red. “… While the neck has less blood, despite a sliced artery, which carries much of it through the human body.” True to her word, there were only trails of dried flecks on the skin. “They are bite marks. Whoever did this was not human.”
A silence merged with the foul stench of death, sucking the bright and pleasant atmosphere dry.
“You mean…” One pale guard mumbled. “Uh, your highness, that there’s a monster in the woods?”
“Yes.” Rosa nodded. “By the looks of it, I’m guessing either a vampire or a demon.”
Vampires! People, who were once human, then cursed to roam the world as monsters who feed on their fellow humans. They could live for hundreds of years while hardly aging and possessed supernatural strength.
As the two royals investigated further into the situation, they had one other family confess to finding their uncle in a similar fashion: sliced and bitten post mortem. He was also found around the same area as Erroll, by the edge of the forest.
With this information, Dari and a couple of his knights left to scout the area. Little did they know, Princess Rosa was trailing behind them, the curiosity of such a creature pulling her into the unknown.