Blood and War

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Chapter 17 - A gesture of kindness

Dillon oversaw his lands for most of the next two weeks. Catherine very rarely saw him, and she kept herself mindlessly busy. She could not afford to think of her former life or the man she missed with an ache that angered her.

To add to her frustrations, Catherine was a novelty that didn’t wear off. If it weren’t for Helga, the housekeeper, her life would be a living hell.

She doubted that Eduardo, she no longer called him father, not even in her mind, could know just how well his plan succeeded. This was not a kind fate.

The servants didn’t seem to realize that she could hear them even across the courtyard. That she could overhear them at night. That she could listen to them through the walls in the servants quarters because they were not as thick as those in the other wings. Maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they wanted her to hear even if only subconsciously.

Sometimes Catherine just wanted to roar at them to shut their foul, ill-informed mouths before she let go of her control and made all of their nightmares come true. Then Dillon’s face would pop into her mind, and her anger would drain away to leave her hurt and disturbed.

These were his people, and she was the one that didn’t belong. Some were uneducated and ill-educated. Others were just vicious and spiteful.

Catherine’s biggest problem was becoming hunger. She could not leave the inner courtyard and ignoring the warm human blood smell became increasingly challenging. Especially after having human blood so recently.

If Eduardo were less strict about human blood, she would probably be better equipped to deal with her new home. Instead, hunger and fighting for restraint became her new torture devices, and those two things offered no mercy.

Finally, Helga seemed to notice how Catherine was unobtrusively edging as far away from the others as possible and called her discreetly aside.

“Are you hungry?” Helga asked with her expression almost bordering on sympathy. Suddenly Catherine understood that Dillon shared all of her secrets with Helga, Catherine nodded quietly.

Catherine’s mouth set in a tight line of anger. She had no idea of how haughty, how dangerous she looked at that moment or how vulnerable.

“Come,” Helga ordered shortly. Catherine followed the woman around the back of the castle and past the gardens almost to the outer wall.

Here there were no people and no guards, only sheer cliff faces. Catherine could smell it before they got to it. A pig was tied to a stake.

It ate from an upturned through with grunts of relish. It was not the prettiest pig in all of the kingdoms, but somebody took extraordinary care of it. It was almost too clean, brushed down and not at all concerned by their presence.

“Can you not kill it, cook likes his truffles?” Helga asked, and Catherine nodded.

Her fangs were aching from hunger, and it took only an instant to realize Helga was not about to leave her alone. She only half turned her back to Catherine, and she deduced that Helga was standing guard. They could not afford to be caught doing this.

Helga didn’t want the humans to see Catherine feed. Catherine understood the reasons for the woman’s actions, but that did not subtract from the discomfort of feeding before a human. It was not her favorite thing.

The expression on their faces was always exactly the same, horror, disgust, fascination and fear... not to mention the fact that this was someone’s pet and if something went wrong there would be hell to pay.

Catherine’s senses were painfully intent as she approached the pig. She dared not pounce and using the tone of voice she used on horses, she calmed it. It took time, and her hunger turned to pain as she ignored the animal smell. She also ignored the even more temptingly sweet smell of human blood so close and so far.

Catherine took as much as she dared from the pig, which was not much at all. She was still hungry, and the sharp edges of hunger were simply dulled a little. Two weeks without blood was not long for a vampire, but she was young and not very used to fasting.

Catherine soothed the pig, and it settled. It was another thing she was not used to doing. She would learn, she resolved, as she rose to her feet. It wasn’t as if she had much of a choice.

Catherine wiped her mouth. The taste of human blood was too recent for her to like the taste of animal. She shuddered with distaste and rose to find Helga watching her.

Helga must have been beautiful once. She was tall for a woman. Her hair was dark. Her skin was unblemished. Her teeth white and straight, but it was the high, haughty bones of the face, which gave away a heritage not wrought of peasant stock. Her expression held some distaste, but no horror.

“Enough?” Helga asked. Catherine admired her strength and fortitude.

“No, but it will do,” she admitted, and Helga nodded.

They did not speak as they walked back and Catherine respected the silence. She guessed that the other woman was more shaken up than she would admit.

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