Laurissa woke with Lord Dunkan’s body wrapped around her protectively. It is a strange feeling to be in his arms. Laurissa’s grief numbed her hatred toward him. The feel of his body against hers did not disgust her and make her skin crawl.
What Lord Dunkan did for her would have made her love him. She knew he was selfish and only needed her to live for his gain. He saved her life and gave her comfort so he could use her to accomplish his task. She groaned inwardly and wished he would have simply let her die.
A single tear fell from her eye as she looked up toward the single window in the room. She must fight to live and fight to win her freedom.
Laurissa took a deep breath, then wiggled and stretched. Lord Dunkan breathed in deeply as he woke. “Are you well?”
“Well enough.” She replied weakly.
“Good. We have an important evening.” Lord Dunkan rose out of bed and began getting dressed. “You must educate me on how to better master my house and the region.” His voice is the smooth dangerous voice she knew so well. The edge demanded to be respected and warned there would be consequences if not respected. Gone was the gentle tone she heard last night.
“You would not like it. Why should I waste my time?” Laurissa rolled over to rest her mind and heart. She was not sure if she could stomach the image of the monster in the room.
“That is not the Laurissa I know. Are you defeated? Are you giving up and fully submitting to me?”
Laurissa winced from the painful memory of Zillah’s vacant eyes, then rolled her eyes at his arrogance. Lord Dunkan is connected to her. He can simply listen to her thoughts if he wanted the opinions of a weak female. “No. I know you will not change. I must grow and learn how to defeat you.” She projected.
“Come now, my dear, we have nothing better to do. You can talk to me or you can pout until dinner. Which do you prefer?”
Sighing, Laurissa sat up and began to dress. She does not pout. If he only knew the pain she was truly in, he would not consider this pouting. “I suppose I should thank you for your kindness you showed yesterday.”
“You are welcome, my dear.” He said, proud of the compliment even if it was fake.
“You would achieve greater feats if you showed mercy and kindness more often.” Lord Dunkan did not dispute what she said. Laurissa stopped what she was doing at looked at Dunkan for the first time. He leaned on the edge of his desk with his palms gripping the edge for support while his anckles were crossed in a relaxed manner. He showed no threat, and his eyes were not glowing with anger. He was listening to her idea of how to govern a region.
This encouraged Laurissa to voice her opinion without consequences. “How do you feel about the vampires under your care?”
“I feel nothing.” Lord Dunkan shrugged with a twinkle in his eyes. He was enjoying this. His tendril vibrated with excitement as he studied her every movement and thought. He will know the beauty before him and learn her weaknesses. One way or another, he will harness her power and gain supreme dominance over the region.
“You do not love them?”
“Most certainly not!”
“Strange to think you have no feelings toward them. You were under duress when you came to rescue Keres the other night. You must do this often. Thana was not surprised by your actions. You prevented Zillah from attacking me twice. You feel you ‘fathered’ many vampires. Fatherhood is an intimate feeling. You must feel at least a sense of duty to protect us.”
“You are mistaken, my dear. I have selected the vampire for my gain, just as I selected you. I see potential, and I work to dominate it.”
“How do you feel about the other masters?”
“They are merely vampires I can control.”
Laurissa nodded. “Perhaps, you should form friendships instead of subjects. You would gain more with a humble heart.”
Lord Dunkan burst into laughter. “Do not be ridicules, my dear! You do not know what happens to a weak vampire. Disgrace to master Nicholas was only the beginning for him.”
“You have owned me and studied me for some time now. With each strengthening grasp you have on me, I fight harder against you and have vowed to kill you. By your arrogance and greed, you have made an enemy. Had you shown compassion and kindness, I might have grown to be one of your most loyal females and worked to help you with your dream. Being mated to you would bring new meaning.
“I agree there should be rules and punishment for breaking rules. You should never show weakness to your enemies. However, there is a difference between brutality and wise justice.”
Lord Dunkan remained leaning on his desk without any response. His eyes told her to continue her little speech until she said all she wanted to say. It a rare occurrence to gain Lord Dunkan’s full attention.
Laurissa began feeling frustrated. She is losing her chance to make him see his tyranny. She had to speak his language. “What does the former master Nicholas’s house have that you desire?”
“For now, land and human villages.”
“And why do you desire Rowland to control this house instead of Nicholas?”
“Politics, my dear. Rowland is mine. He will always belong to me. His blood rests in my blade. Nicholas was an equal and uncontrollable. Apparently, he thought himself to be better than me. He displayed this by disrespecting my house. I was within my rights to kill him. Had he respected my house, I would have worked to gain control over his house as I am about to do with the other masters here tonight.”
“Why do you need to control human villages through these masters?”
“That will be discussed this evening.”
“Fair enough. You find value in their domain. I am sure they find value in yours; otherwise, they would not be here. I would have stretched my hand out to Nicholas in friendship. This bond would entice him to give you what you want generously and want to respect your home. In return and out of respect, I would incline to compensate his generosity with a gift of my own. It is written betrayal comes with a death sentence. This is something I agree with. A betrayal of a friendship or contract would mean a war and more lives lost. However, if the bond is strong enough, you could have a powerful ally in a time of great need.”
“You study the female for traits you look for. You could request, not demand, he looks for and brings a female to you that possess these traits. Or, perhaps there is a great sickness or a warring house that you are unaware of. This would also be valuable information. I say all this to try to bring to light a just and wise ruler is better than a cruel oppressor.”
“Everything you have said, I have and more already at my disposal. Rowland will be the new master of Nicholas’s house. I will bring another male into my home and begin training him. Each of my males are loyal to me. Soon, they will master their own house. As time goes by, I will create a kingdom that will follow me blindly.”
“That is foolish! You cannot control that many vampires. You have already lost two of your own, and a third threatens you. If you cannot control your own home, how do you expect to control a kingdom?”
“I have my ways, my dear.”
“Yes, I am sure you do. Why work hard and waste energy with a hardened fist? With that many houses and vampires, you would need to continuously look over your shoulder for a revolt. Eventually, your cruelty will claim you. Why not attract followers who would do anything you desire? They would give their lives for you freely. You could be free to think of new tactics, study to your desire, or explore the world instead of constantly managing houses to ensure they follow your rule. You should form partnerships, not a kingdom.”
Lord Dunkan chuckled, “My dear, vampires do not simply follow you because you are nice. You know nothing. This conversation is over. You may do as you please until midday. Report to Thana at that time.”
“As you wish, my Lord. I will never serve a tyrant. I may not know much about politics or of the vampire world, but I do know your way is wrong!”
Laurissa stalked out of the room and slammed the door closed behind her.
Laurissa spent the few precious hours she had in the woods listening to the creatures and earth. The melody had changed slightly. Winter would be coming soon. The creatures and vegetation seemed to know this. They started making preparations by looking for extra food to store and finding the perfect din to hide in. Even the creatures that stayed awake all year began to grow extra fur. Laurissa sighed and returned to the manor and approached Thana and the other females.
“Lord Dunkan has instructed me to report to you and prepare for tonight.”
“Good, we must bring the banquet tables and fine linen and make sure our bed chambers are in perfect order. We will also hunt for humans to bring. You must also bathe and make sure your clothing is clean.”
“Follow me.” Thana said sternly it was apparent she did not like Laurissa. She led Laurissa to the chambers of her youth. It is where she used to sleep before Dunkan took her.
“You no longer need the desk and chair. It is not pleasing to a male to know the female is educated. When you are done, clean the room spotless. Do it quickly. You have thirty minutes. Find me when you are done.”
Laurissa did not respond. She simply started moving the desk to its original position. She only vaguely remembered the struggle she had to bring it into the room. Now it is effortless as she is much stronger. The room needed very little cleaning. She was done within her time frame and went to the other females. Each was still busy cleaning their bed chambers. She looked into each room and offered to help, and each denied her threateningly. She is unsure what the animosity is about. Perhaps they blamed her for Zillah’s death.
Laurissa went to the sitting room to wait for Thana to instruct her further. Once Thana had come, she instructed Laurissa to help set up the tables. They were stored in a dark corner near the kitchen. Cooper goblets and fine cotton linen was brought out and set. Oil lamps were dispersed around the tables. Wood logs were brought in and sat near the fireplace. Vampires are not subject to the elements. The fire is merely cosmetic and gave off an inviting glow. They could technically gather in a dark cave and still see and feel comfortable. Everything that was done was for a show of wealth and strength. Laurissa thought all of the fuss was comical.
Once the manor was in order, Thana led the group of females to Madwell. “We will each select one human. Lord Dunkan prefers the wealthy. Once we have made our selection, we will bathe them, rid them of any parasite they have, and then give them fresh clothing. Lord Dunkan has already selected the robes they will wear. Time grows short. Make hast.”
Laurissa knew exactly where to go. She had spent a few evenings in the town listening to the people and enjoying their company. Lord Dunkan prefers the wealthy young. The wealthy lived in the East part of Madwell. Those are the humans that are able to afford health care. They are also the ones who smelled the most inviting. Lord Dunkan hated the smell of humans. It disgusted him that he had to feed off them to live. She thought to bring a homeless hag, one that smelled of urine and stale blood, to Lord Dunkan to despite him.
Thana would never allow it. Laurissa must choose her battles. This was not a time to be pretentious. There are other vampires in his home that are much older and stronger than her. Embarrassing Lord Dunkan tonight would mean her death. She must play along for the time being.
Perhaps after tonight, he would allow her to hunt. She found the hunt to be exhilarating. She had to rely on her senses to locate the perfect human. Being allowed to hunt on her own would also give her opportunities to ruin Lord Dunkan. These humans could become her army. Would a god be able to fight off thousands of humans and one vampire?
Laurissa jumped from rooftop to rooftop as she looked for a human that walked alone. Most of the families here were already inside enjoying their meal. The homes are full of laughter and love. This is the part she most hated about being a vampire. She will destroy a family tonight. Tonight one loved one will be taken and never seen again. Tonight the sounds of laughter will turn into shouts and screams in grief.
A sweet perfume filled Laurissa’s senses. It was light and reminded her of the fields during spring. She saw life in that scent. This would be the one she would take to Lord Dunkan. Laurissa followed the scent to a home toward the northern part of town. This family is not as rich as the homes she passed moments ago. One female in the home smelled amazing. She is very young, just turning into an adult. She looks to be about the same age as Laurissa.
Laurissa opened the door and used her power to project an illusion, just as Lord Dunkan had done. The blood running through this young girl tempted Laurissa. Her veins pumped blood and pulsed through her soft skin. She gently brushed the girl’s arm and walked around her, studying her, and found her scent to be arousing. This one would truly please Lord Dunkan. Proud of her discovery, she took the girl back to Thana for approval.
Thana stood with the other females and their humans. Apparently, Laurissa took the longest to find her human. Thana’s brown eyes glowed with anger as she lunged at Laurissa and backhanded her across her jaw.
“Fool! Do you want a house full of drunk males?”
“I do not understand. She smells amazing. I thought this would please them.”
“This girl is a virgin. It is toxic to the vampire. Take her back and select another.”
How could something that smells so good be toxic?
Laurissa stood and grabbed the girl’s elbow. Perhaps she would take a taste of the girl. Lord Dunkan warned he would remove her teeth if she ever fed off anyone besides him. She did not have to use her fangs to open a vein.
She could feel the hunger grow. The same hunger she felt whenever she was around the young humans. It was those humans she avoided. She never wanted to give in to her hunger.
Laurissa was about to pulse power and run back to the home when Thana called out to her.
“Laurissa wait a moment. I will take the virgin. She is to satisfy Lord Dunkan. Please continue looking for another.”
Laurissa dipped her head and left.
You are still listening?
“Oh yes, my dear. You intrigue me. Make your selection quickly. The masters will be arriving very soon. Do not force me to remind you of who you belong to. You will not drink off any creature other than me.” His voice was commanding and dark. She felt her stomach drop at his warning.
“Yes, my Lord.”
Laurissa selected the girl’s mother and returned. Satisfied with their selection, Thana led them back to the manor and into the washroom. Each human was stripped and scrubbed. Only one human had parasites living on their scalp. This one was shaved and the clothing was burned.
Black Cloth robes were laid on Laurissa’s bed. It did not matter the size of the human. Each only had a thin strap where the shoulders would be. This left the arm exposed. The robes draped around knee length depending on the height of the human. Some a few inches shorter or longer.
The humans were then placed near the table at intervals around the sitting room. Hot pokers were set inside the fire. These would be used to cauterize the wounds until more was desired.
Thana took the maiden to Lord Dunkan’s chambers then instructed everyone to bathe and dress.