While Laurissa healed, the days were much the same. Laurissa spent time outside exploring the area and came inside when she was cold. She never spoke to anyone in the house. She was glad no one forced her to speak. Everyone seemed to ignore her as she stayed by the fire or explored outside.
Lord Dunkan preferred it that way. His children will be less tempted to answer her questions. He listened to her mind as she healed. The girl is very curious about her surroundings. She continually thinks of survival tactics and rarely thought of the vampires living in the manor.
The manor sits on a prairie with a small farmhouse three miles to the east, which houses his five sons. Further south and north is a small wooded area. Laurissa never traveled far enough to explore either of those areas.
Snow has fallen, making it impossible for Laurissa to truly explore the areas surrounding his manor. She would occasionally spot a rabbit or a deer roaming the snow looking for tinder grass beneath the layers.
Lord Dunkan watched her dig through the snow, looking for the food the animals sought. She is not planning on staying with Lord Dunkan. He must be patient and force her body to desire the comforts of his home. Humans can grow lazy and fat with luxuries. The girl will eventually see his manor as a place of security and accommodation.
Lord Dunkan made sure the small girl would not want of anything. He provided a small breakfast and dinner and provided her with fresh clothing. Laurissa wondered why he gave her clothes. No one has ever done that. He explained the clothing she wore was no longer suitable for his home. She can shovel snow off the gravel path as payment. This seemed to satisfy her. Nothing is ever free.
The female vampires busied themselves until Lord Dunkan thought it was appropriate to introduce them to Laurissa. This will not happen for some time. He silently weaved his web around Laurissa, trapping her without her realizing she was already tangled.
Lord Dunkan gave her a sense of freedom that she did not have. None of his children are entirely free of him. He could feel through the tendril they were all pleased his attention was not on them for the time being. He allowed them the luxury of feeling safe. The safety they felt will lull them into a false sense of security and will make them make a fatal mistake. The male who makes a mistake will be dealt with harshly. The female who makes a mistake will forfeit her life, and Laurissa will take her place.
Every evening Laurissa seated herself in front of the fireplace and nibbled on a piece of bread before going to bed. Lord Dunkan sat in his chair, silently watching her. This evening, Laurissa noticed something about herself. She wasn’t sure why it took her all her life to understand it. She is ungrateful and took advantage of those who cared for her. She loved her mother and missed her fiercely. When Parnell was alive, Laurissa assumed Parnell would provide for her forever, allowing her to do as she pleased.
Parnell had constantly asked Laurissa for help, but she didn’t feel like it. She would rather complain about her circumstances to the sheep. Self-pity is a loathsome thing to have. Now, Lord Dunkan opened up his home and freely fed her and gave her pretty white dresses to wear. She only had to clear the gravel path once for the new clothing she was wearing, and that which was by choice. Lord Dunkan suggested payment only after Laurissa hesitated accepting the white dress.
He took care of the insects living on her head and gave her a warm, comfortable place to sleep. He never once commanded anything of her other than being cleaned. He doesn’t force her to talk to him. He seems to know what she needs without her asking for it. She was taking advantage of Lord Dunkan’s kindness.
Laurissa gazed at Lord Dunkan and absent-mindedly picked at her bread. She couldn’t remember him ever eating. He only sat quietly, watching and keeping her company while she ate. She felt ashamed of her actions. Laurissa vowed to never again take advantage of someone’s kindness. Maybe it’s time to be more grateful and thank him.
Laurissa stretched her hand out with the bread toward Lord Dunkan.
“Would you like to eat?”
Lord Dunkan smiled a small smile in thanks as he gently took the bread, tore a piece, and ate it. He does not need human food to survive. Only fresh human blood will keep him alive. His body still accepts the food, but it would not sustain him like it does humans.
“Thank you.” He replied gently. It is done. She is his now.
Laurissa beamed at him.
“Tell me your name, little one.”
“My name is Laurissa.” She said excitedly. She didn’t realize how tense her shoulders were until she finally found the courage to speak. Lord Dunkan didn’t run away from her or tell her to leave the house. It is nice to finally have someone she could talk to.
“It is finally nice to meet you. You have a lovely voice. It is a shame you are so quiet.”
Laurissa’s voice rang like a small set of chimes moving in a soft breeze. It is high pitched due to her youth, but very soothing to listen to. Laurissa’s cheeks flushed at his compliment.
“I see you have fully recovered. Would you like to remain a permanent member of my house?”
This surprised her. If she stayed, she will never again grow hungry or become cold. She will not have to work to survive. Lord Dunkan can provide for her like Parnell did. Maybe if she kept showing gratitude, he would not abandon her like Parnell did. “I would like that very much.”
Lord Dunkan nodded with approval. “The members of this house must earn their keep.”
“I don’t mind hard work, Lord Dunkan. I can help. I don’t know much, though.” Laurissa returned to eating her bread and swinging her legs. She missed the scowl on Lord Dunkan’s face.
Lord Dunkan resisted lashing out at Laurissa. No one addresses him as ‘Lord Dunkan’. It was too casual for those under his care. That title was only spoken by his equals.
“I will teach you everything you need to know. The first lesson, little one, is never to address me in such a casual matter. You will call me ‘master’, and you will answer me promptly when I speak to you.”
“Yes, master.” Laurissa beamed, proud of herself for doing what Lord Dunkan said without a mistake.
“Good. Off to bed with you. Your training will begin tomorrow morning.”
Laurissa lunged herself at him and embraced Lord Dunkan’s neck. Lord Dunkan stood quickly. She had never seen anyone move so fast. He took Laurissa by the chin. “Never touch me without permission, little one. That is your first mistake. Do not do it again!” The furry in his voice scared Laurissa. She wondered if staying under his care was a smart thing to do.
“Yes, master. I’m sorry. I won’t ever do it again.” Lord Dunkan released her jaw and calmed his rage.
“Go to bed. I will see you in the morning.”
Laurissa hurriedly scurried away with tears in her eyes. Pleased with himself, he went to the study that connected to his chambers. The study had several shelves of scrolls he collected over the years. Some of them were historical documents of kings and queens. He had a map of the region he lived in. There were other vampires further east and south. This map located the clans that lived there.
Within a few decades, perhaps a century or two, the map will be covered with small marks of living vampires. He realized he could not control every clan. Forming trusting relationships and growing strong vampires to help him would ensure his grasp stays firmly. The current masters will forfeit their lives, and he will place his sons in the home.
Books on human development, farm life, and medicine are grouped together. Scrolls on nature explained about certain types of animals and plants. Children seemed to like animals. Laurissa was no different. She liked the woods north of Norstrumn and tried to learn from nature. Laurissa needed to learn how to read and write.
One book sat under scrolls, unused. It is in leather binding taken from human skin, and the pages were sewn into the human skin. This book was given to him by his vampire father. It was passed down to him by his father, who inherited it from his father and so on for more generations than Dunkan knew. It was a rule book and the origin of the vampire.
Rules are simple enough. House rules are established by the master of the house, and regional rules will supersede house rules. There is not one vampire who rules everyone else. If a member of the house is unsatisfied or believes the master is guilty of breaking a regional rule, the house member can bring the matter to a neighboring master.
This will sometimes cause house wars. It is the reason Lord Dunkan is careful who he places into the houses that live near him. His grandchildren are bound by blood. He could effortlessly destroy the revolting house and create a new one.
The marks on his map were mostly his grandchildren. He instructed them to send a trusted family member to live within the house that did not belong to him. This spy will tell Lord Dunkan if the house is revolting. He did not care about the regional rules. He is master, and he will do as he pleased to whomever he wished. Lucky for his race, his goal is to ensure vampire domination.
Lord Dunkan picked a scroll that taught the reader about nature. It is the easiest thing he had to read. This is where Laurissa will begin learning to read and write.
“Thana, my dear. Tomorrow morning go to Madwell and collect plenty of paper, ink, and a quill.” He projected through the tendril.
“As you wish, my Lord.”
Satisfied, he quieted his mind and rested for the night.