I’ve done a lot of foolish things in my life but sleeping with a daughter of the Impaler was up there with the stupidest. Especially when said vampire lord was right outside the door.
I was halfway out of bed when the door exploded inwards. Any hope of reaching for my sword dissipated with the red mist that funnelled out the window. I hit the wall, a sharp exhale clawing from my lungs, and landed on the floor in a heap.
Dark mist surged into the room, carrying the eye-watering scent of rotten onions. Bile climbed my throat. I gagged, then vomited up last night’s delicacies with such violence that anyone listening would probably mistake it for the sounds of a pair of mating minotaurs.
Armoured boots thumped in time to my pulsing headache. Blurry-eyed, I reached for the edge of the mattress. The Impaler kindly helped me up with a hand clasped around my throat, then slammed me against the wall, knocking the breath from me for a second time. I squinted through the pain and uttered a pitiful, ‘your Grace.’
‘Where is she?’ snarled the Impaler through black teeth, rancid breath threatening to stir my stomach again. Red veins throbbed against his sickly skin, gathering like crow’s feet at the corner of his feral eyes.
I managed to gasp out a ‘who’ only to be pushed harder against the wall where the jagged stone dug into the back of my skull.
‘Don’t play coy with me, scum. I know she was here.’ He sniffed the air around my throat with his imaginary nose, the real one having rotted off decades ago. ‘I can smell her on you.’
‘I... I don──’
‘Silence!’ barked the Impaler. ‘You’ve the arrogance of your mother’s kin and brazen stupidity of your father’s. Letting a half-breed into my home? Listening to your request? Hah! I should have killed you the moment you arrived.’
He squeezed my throat.
Images flashed through my mind: the feast the night before, the two-hundred-year-old wine that the Impaler had sworn was not blood, Myrra sitting beside me...Myrra sitting on top of me. In any other circumstance I’d have let a smile pull at the corners of my mouth, but having the life choked from you tended to put a dampener on things.
I closed both my hands over his gauntleted one and attempted to prise open his rigor-mortis grip.
‘I’m going to impale you on a stake and let the harpies feast on your eyes and tongue,’ mused the Impaler. ‘Keep you alive as I strip the flesh from your bones and feed it to my wyverns.’ He licked his thin lips with a slimy white-coated tongue. ‘I will save your heart for myself.’
It was said that your entire life flashed before your eyes right before death. All I could see was the disappointing shake of Gospiah’s hairy horned head and the soundless words of ‘I told you so’. So much for learning from your mistakes.
I felt a sudden calmness close around me. Not the tranquillity that came with acceptance of one’s fate because I sure as shit didn’t want to die. No. It was the soothing seductiveness that coursed through that sweet voice every time it uttered a sentence, a word, a single deathless breath.
Although my sight was blurry, I could make out the female silhouette enter the room. A seraph come to save me.
‘What are you doing?’ The questioning in the words loosened the Impaler’s grip enough for me to suck in some air. My sight returned to find Matriarch Alessandra standing beside her husband, a questioning look decorating her regal dusk face. She wore her midnight hair in an archaic braided fashion, something akin to what the shieldmaidens of the Frostbeards wore to war.
‘This filthy half breed seduced our daughter with his elven magic,’ defended the Impaler, though his voice lacked the conviction it had moments beforehand.
‘No, dear. Myrra left the castle last night before the feast ended.’ She placed a delegate hand on his shoulder. ‘She has gone to visit my sister.’
There was a moment’s silence as the Impaler considered the sincerity of her words. I chanced a quick glance towards the window where a wisp of red mist floated along the sill.
Alessandra pressed her other hand to her husband’s forehead and he almost caved into her touch. ‘Oh, my sweet darling, your fever has returned.’ She inched her long elegant fingers along his arm and gently prised his hand from where it rested around my throat. ‘How about we go and lie down?’
There was an almost apologetic look on the vampire lord’s face. ‘Ah...forgive me, Edgewalker.’ His eye twitched and he looked away, as if in shame. ‘I thought that─’
‘No need for apologies, your Grace,’ I said hurriedly, my voice rough as rust. I rubbed my neck where the bruising had already begun to form. Hopefully Ane had something to prevent the painful few days of swallowing that laid ahead. I cleared my throat. It was like gargling glass. ‘You were just defending yours and your daughter’s honour.’
‘Come, dear,’ said Alessandra, wrapping her arm around her husband’s. The Impaler allowed himself to be led from the room. When they reached the door, the matriarch glanced back at me, a knowing look in her eyes. ‘I will have Jasper call for you once you’ve had a chance to freshen up.’ She closed the half-broken door behind her.
Red mist gusted back into the room. It coalesced, a figure forming at its heart. A moment later and another strikingly beautiful woman stood naked in front of me.
‘That went better than I thought,’ said Myrra.
‘He nearly killed me!’ I blurted, wincing at the pain.
‘You weren’t worrying about that last night,’ winked Myrra. She turned towards the mirror and stretched her nimble arms over her head, arching her back. She glanced over her shoulder, her emerald eyes meeting my own and smiled that seductive fanged-smile that made every muscle in my body quaver.
‘I need a drink,’ I said. I reached for the bottle on the bedside locker, took a swig and nearly choked. Whatever it was lacked the necessary comfort for a sore throat and had more kick to it than an agitated donkey. ‘This stuff’s stronger than Gospiah.’
‘Ah, yes, your...friend,’ said Myrra disapprovingly, as she studied herself in the mirror. A merchant had once tried to sell me a supposed magic mirror that had the power to capture a vampire’s reflection, which was of course ridiculous since vampires were vainer than most and cast a reflection just the same as any other.
‘He ain’t so bad,’ I said, forcing down another mouthful of archaic spirits and regretting it instantly. Shame water was so hard to come by in a vampire’s castle. ‘He’s a calm fellow mostly, reasonable even, only prone to his kin’s nature when the blood’s up.’
‘There’s no such thing as a calm and reasonable minotaur,’ said Myrra, lifting the sleeves of her dress over her shoulders in a way that was just as enticing as it was the night before when she was pulling it off. ‘You should not surround yourself with such barbaric company.’
‘And what about the company you keep?’ I retorted a little too quickly.
I snorted and watched her fix her hair. It was still somewhat surreal how I, a half-breed mix between a human and an elf, had managed to bed a centuries-old daughter of one of the most vicious and ruthless vampire lords to have ever ruled the aptly named Bloodfang Coast.
A succubus had once said I was handsome in a world-weary kind of way, although that could have been one of her many tricks to seduce me. I was a tall bastard and had the high cheekbones of my mother’s kin and the strong northern jawline of my father’s with a stubbled beard to match. I missed my full beard, felt naked without it, but the damned heat in the Bastet jungle had forced me to tearfully shave it off. Although, Myrra seemed to like it the way it was now.
A sudden knock on the door caused my heart to start pounding for all the wrong reasons. I instinctively glanced at the window, judging my chances that Tempest would catch me if I were to jump. Myrra continued to fix her hair, seemingly unperturbed.
‘Master Edris,’ came a harsh voice through the door. Jasper, the Impaler’s majordomo.
‘One moment,’ I said loudly, pulling on my trousers. I threw on my shirt and started buttoning it up with clumsy hands. It was best not to keep the Impaler waiting. Ironically, patience was not a virtue of the ancient count.
Halfway up I realised I had done my jerkin wrong and began pulling the buttons open when Myrra’s slender hands slipped over my own, guiding them away. She began to fix my shirt, fingers working meticulously even as she peered up at me with those damned eyes.
‘Think your father will help?’ I asked with genuine curiosity.
‘Not if he realises that you did in fact seduce one of his daughters with your elven magic,’ said Myrra. She giggled. ‘My dear, what’s the matter?’
‘I don’t want to be impaled.’
‘Oh nonsense. He hasn’t impaled anything since the Goblin Wars. He spends most of his days lost in broken memories.’ She finished buttoning my shirt but stayed where she was.
‘Will I see you again?’ The words came out unexpected. I felt stupid.
Myrra smiled. ‘Perhaps.’
I leaned forward and planted a kiss on her enticing lips. She responded in kind, holding it for a moment before pushing away.
‘Now, dear, hurry along. Best to not keep my mother waiting.’
I nodded and fetched my sword. When I turned around, she was gone. I shook my head, took a deep breath and left the room.
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