Dominic sat at the head of the long table, legs crossed over one another, as if he had all the time in the world.
Which he technically did. He had all the time in the world for the three simplest facts he’d recently concurred. The first was that, well--he’s obviously an imperial. Second was that he had his powers intact and apparently, mingling with the human leader in bed strips you from them and possibly kills you. Third was, well again-- all of these heads around the council’s table were going to be ripped off, especially now that the council were really making it much easier for him to be rid of them. Possibly much sooner than later.
After his little hiccup last night, with Atticus having a short dance with death and all, Dominic was speedily summoned to a meeting the following morning. While he allowed the other council members to puff their chests and fill the empty shells of their ego with indignant condemnations, Dominic took his time counting all the heads around the table, vividly concocting each and every single slow death of theirs.
One of their deaths was evidently too funny, a loud laugh slipped from his mouth. The room quieted down.
“Are you..Are you laughing right now?” Xavier, the fourth imperial, almost bellowed.
Dominic presses his lips together, raising his hand in mocking apology as he fought off another wave of laughter. “Apologies, Xavi. Please resume.”
Xavier bawks as he stares at the third imperial. “Do you realize the vulnerability of your position right this instant?”
Heavens, they were really testing him. Maybe Dominic had let them run loose longer than they should have.
“Now, Now, Xavi. I suggest you don’t push your luck here. I’ve let you get it out of your system for a good while now.”
“Dominic. You breached your terms of freedom.” Damien interrupts with somberness. In turn, Dominic decides to let his air of cool drop.
“He lived, didn’t he. I let him live.” To make a point, his eyes narrowly cut across the room to Atticus’s, who looks anywhere but straight.
“Oh. So now we ought to bow in gratitude that you let him live?” Another imperial voices in.
Not a muscle in Dominic’s face twitches. “That or you let Atticus remind you how painful I made his body convulse on itself.”
The imperial’s face blanches. Conspiratorially, Dominic leans in, with complete and utter calm. “Unless you’re one of the ten who’s let her fuck him and steal his powers. Now you aren’t one of those dimwits, Xavi, are you?” A slow wicked smile spreads over Dominic’s lips.
After making sure every implication of threat rang clear in everyone’s heads, Dominic lays back in his chair and slips on a pleasant smile for the solemn faces around the table. “Now that yesterday’s hiccup is out of the way, I’d suggest none of you entertain the idea of omitting or withholding anything back from me ever again.”
“The only reason I let Atticus live, or any of you matter of fact, is credited to the sole fact that it led me to a revelation. Something you all should consider before shaking in your damned boots that I’d touched one of you.”
“So, if we are done here, I would like to excuse myself. I’ve got preparations to do if I’m meeting the one and only conspirator behind your doom.”
Then, Dominic is out of his chair and by the door, halting by it to throw over his shoulder, “Funny, I’d figured I’d be the subject of that sentence.”
Stony silence followed as he exited the room.
It was only a matter of hours until the commence of the annual meeting. As every year, Valentine stands before the full length mirror, poised and tranquil, as all her maids dress her to perfection. Never a wrinkle of concentration displayed on her cooly composed face. Except for possibly this year.
For the first time in two decades of her reign, this was the first time there was a disturbance in her being prior to the meeting. She couldn’t quite pinpoint where the disturbance ended and the thrill started. She shouldn’t feel a thrill at the news of a massacre regarding her spies and people, but a small, sick part of her thrills at the change of pace and events she did not realize she had been aching for.
A vampire on the rogue had decided to acquire the humans contracted to the vampire side as fencing opponents, only to viciously slaughter them and collect them as heaps by the piste’s floor. Conveniently enough for her (and she says that with sarcasm), he’d left her one spy to convey back the dismal news of the violations done against her people.
This rogue individual was a mystery to her, one she couldn’t easily rule anything of him out. She had too little information to make a judgement, but knew enough to realize a new pawn had entered the game. And quite possibly had even changed the game itself.
He made sure he was known to his fencing victims as an imperial, but her spy had reported he was one none had ever witnessed before. No one had ever heard of him, and his name was never whispered in the hallways. The only guise he’d appeared in before her spy was in a bloodied shade of raven black, hard black eyes, and a once pristine uniform that had turned ruby after his murder spree.
This imperial had her head reeling in a spin. The possibilities of explanations and moves propelled by this event presented an infinite amount she could study. She couldn’t rule anything out. But most important of all, how had this said imperial never been presented in meetings? An imperial must have a place at the table of council. Either he was a wild triumph card hidden for a time, or he was a ruse for a deception trap. Whichever it was, she would tread carefully and see for herself, winning back the vengeance for her lost human lives as well in the process.
If opulence was incarnate, it would be a gross monstrosity of an ogre hulking in the middle of the meeting room.
Velvet draped every item. It was every item, in every shade, in every corner of the room. A lush velvet carpet of blood flushed out from the depth of the room. The long, rich wood table was shimmering with newly polished wax. Three mega sized chandeliers of three levels of shimmering crystals were suspended from the high vaulted ceiling, over the long table.
Gold, however, was the absolute star of the night.
The tapestries were in gold. The handles of every door were gold. The intricate drawings engraved onto the towering dark walls were in gold. But that wasn’t the reason gold was definitively the star of the night.
It was the color of choice for the fallen imperial.
Dominic was a hypnotizing mix of night sky black with a shimmer of gold. Even in his dressing he was calculated. He wasn’t going to go all out for some human ridicule of a leader. The council may, on several occasions, cower to her feet and beg for nights with her, but Dominic was here for one thing, and one thing only.
To demolish any whimsical notions over the holders of the true power, which is soon to be made singular by him.
Just like the sinful garish setting of the room, Dominic knew it was expected of all imperials to dress and pull out all stops. They believed it was a show of remaining strength and capital, but Dominic knew that they all knew it was their sad attempt at grasping for show of any power they had left.
So, here he stood, alone, by the entrance of the meeting room, in nothing but a black high neck, full sleeved sweater, and dark slacks to match the ensemble. He had his hair combed back into a neat combover. The only notes of color were the glimmering gold watch adorning one of his wrists, and the brush of specs of gold around his coolly lidded hazel eyes.
Spurning him out of his contemplation was the sneaking presence behind him. Already did he know what this was about.
“Are you here to tug my ear in warning, brother?”
Damien sighed behind Dominic’s shoulder, coming to stand directly beside his step brother.
“You leave me no choice but to.”
Dominic wished to stifle a reaction, but as the usual response his step brother got out of him, he rolled his eyes. “Need I remind you who freed me willingly, on his own accord? Willingly sought me out from the dungeons you made very sure I shall rot in, in the very first place?”
“Yes, but you trudge recklessly into a water you haven’t tested. Meanwhile, we have. And you heed not our warnings, because you think yourself too highly to need to.”
Again, Dominic stifles a roll of his eyes. Indeed they were step brothers, because while his mother and Dominic’s father had married before the curse had transformed them, the difference between them remains quite startling. Damien had always claimed rationale while trudging toward sentiment. Dominic, on the other hand, was straight out apathetic, which always allowed him to be clear headed.
“Have you finished with the fretting? You’ve got a guest to host. Or a possible lover, haven’t quite determined yet.” Dominic had added the last bit for a jab of his amusement. On cue, his step brother bristled.
“I assure you, brother, I hadn’t—wait. What do you mean by you? Where would you be if not alongside me?”
Now, this is where the fun truly begins.
Dominic turns to face the current head of the council, slipping on a cordial, possibly delighted smile that had Damien’s stomach churn in worry.
“Worry not. Dominic will be right there when the human meets you. Just not exactly me.”
Everything Damien had imagined upon the release of Dominic and the council’s collaboration with him was starting to prove his fears true, causing him to pinch the bridge of his nose and sigh with defeat.
“What are you planning, Dominicus? You must know anything you plan should not be shown as a grand reveal to us all, but be passed first by me.”
“Had you been the truly superior mind of us, you wouldn’t have reached out to me at all. So kindly, pull your mind out of the gutter and listen to what I say.”
Damien’s blood flared, but a single look at Dominic’s dead hard eyes killed any rebuttal Damien held for the third imperial.
“What are you planning on doing?” He asks through gritted teeth.
As if summoned, Raphael steps into the picture, settling into the room by his master’s side, except that he’s in his human form. Damien takes one look at the sudden appearance of the familiar, dressed formally from head to toe as if he were truly the royalty among them. Accordingly, his eyes narrow in suspicion.
“I‘m not following,” Damien clears his throat uncomfortably. “What is this arrangement?”
Tingling with the last great welcome gift he’s leaving for this Valentine person, Dominic slings an arm around his familiar’s shoulders, casually slipping an elaboration that only serves to murk any clarity to the situation.
“Introducing Dominic 2.0. Only less handsome and wicked. The one Valentine shall meet.”
“P-Pardon??” Damien splutters helplessly. This was not the time for their only triumph card to spiral into madness. Not an hour before the commence of the meeting.
“All you have to do is make sure the council allows Raphael to take my place on the council table. To the human leader, Raphael will be the only Dominic she meets. For myself, however, worry not. I have a different entrance in mind for the night.”
This, in no way shape or form, did it settle soundly in Damien’s head. He had to battle between giving in to his doubts and anxiety regarding his step brother, or believe in the common enemy between them and the magnitude of his fellow imperial’s deceitful genius.
But his step brother was already out of the door, marching toward heavens know what plan of his.
There was a dance to Dominic’s steps as he ambled through the spacious hall. The scent of wine and fine dining accentuated the air, making every sniff taken aromatic and drool-inducing.
But that wasn’t why Dominic was currently humming a tune that raised the hairs on the necks of passing servants. Dominic was in the most brilliant of moods as he started toward setting all his pawns in motion, thrilling at the possible reactions he would solicit from ‘revered’ human leader. One the human servants won’t stop whispering fervently about.
Also the one he was planning on visiting right this moment. Of course she wouldn’t recognize him as anything, because he made sure the one spy he had left for her was brainwashed to give her the physical features of Raphael. The very same figure she would meet at the council table as Dominic. This as well as the simple fact he was thrown in the dungeons way before her birth or any of the human servants’, so no one would technically be able to identify him.
The meeting only starts in an hour, and he knew her graceness would be cooped up with her entourage in her given room, where she would stay for a sum of 40 days as they went through every knick knack of the annual agreement.
Swapping himself with Raphael wasn’t really a part of a huge elaborate scheme, more than it was just a diversion that would allow Dominic the first step, the first game move toward what he would suppose would be an extensive game extending over the 40 day period.
He needed to see this Valentine in her natural form, unguarded and among her people, where, you never know, she might slip some information she would otherwise keep tightly safeguarded.
Pausing by the kitchens, Dominic had picked up the golden goblet of wine (he had to withhold from tainting it), and went about on his way toward her chambers.
The thrill of the hunt was springing his nerves to life, and the fast palpating of his heart gave indication to what he denies to be his slight interest in finally (and sneakily) meeting this human that had her beauty praised and seduction feared.
A knock at the door, and with baited breath, Dominic awaits with the goblet in hand. He expected a human, in maid uniform at least, to open the door for him; but what he saw on the other end was a sight that knocked him breathless for a moment.
He thought he’d seen her.
Charlotte. Long dead Charlotte staring back at his face.
But another great look at the woman who stood before him removed any traces of Charlotte from her features. Charlotte was a ghost meant to be tucked away in the forbidden dungeons just like how he physically was.
This woman had smooth tanned olive skin and a heart shaped face that was framed by glossy waves of dark chestnut brown hair. Her hair seemed endless in its layers, until it’s reached the very end of her back. Her eyes were round and dark, with thick lashes that batted at him.
“Did you need something?” Her voice startled him out of his comparison of her features. Indeed, she wasn’t Charlotte. While he’d remembered Char’s voice as sweet and angelic, this woman’s was alluring, with an edge to it.
Remembering what he was here to do, Dominic slipped on his cordial, not-here-to-snoop-at-all, smile as he greeted the woman. “Greetings. My master has sent me to your lady with a gesture of welcoming intentions.”
That warranted him a reaction from the lady. One he didn’t think he’d expect.
“Oh did he now?”
Dominic had no idea who this woman was, but he was assuming it was one of Valentine’s entourage. Before her reaction would solicit a reaction from his high ego, Dominic redirected his efforts toward his initial goal: snooping on the main lady of the hour.
Dominic tried to be casual, “I don’t suppose your lady has the time to accept master’s gesture.”
“And why do you assume her ladyship isn’t the one standing before you now?”
Dominic went back to her look with enhanced scrutiny.
She was dressed in a maroon asymmetrical dress, with transparent lace exposing most of her arms, shoulders, waist, and mid thighs. It was shorter on the front and longer on the back. Her legs were long, tanned, and heeled. If he weren’t on a plan, he would have spared the woman ten minutes of his time in the back of this room or some kitchen.
She was beautiful, but he wasn’t counting on the human herself to open the door for any knocker.
“Not to offer offense, but I don’t suppose her ladyship would open the door to just anyone.”
At his words, she offers him a coy smile. One that gave him the inkling that he was right, but he was also gravely not at the same time. “Glad someone around here runs with his brain in his head.”
Dominic wanted to shut her up. He was starting to grow sick of the woman before him, and either he swiftly made out with her then snapped her neck, or he’d meet the forsaken human leader and get it over with in this begrudgingly long night.
“You didn’t tell me though. Who would your master be?”
Dominic engages his muscles into a look of grand offense. He knows she knew exactly who he’s talking about, but he had to play the game.
“The one and only fiercest imperial, the third. Lord Dominicus.”
A smile had threatened to strain the revered look of awe Dominic plastered onto his face. He certainly didn’t mind singing elaborate high praises of himself.
“Lord, my ass.” The entourage lady mutters under her breath. Dominic self-satisfied smirks twitches in place.
What did that meek, lowly, insignificant nobody just breathe about him?
Boy, is she clueless of what he has in store for her.
He could make it quick. No one would know. And most of all, no one would notice the disappearance of some meek entourage girl like her. Pathetic.
But before he could think twice about what he wanted to do to her, a pale blonde of beauty sidles up beside her giving her a questioning look before settling her bright eyes on him.
“What is taking so long, cherie?”
The brunette for some forsaken reason, shares the unspoken loathe for Dominic and glares right back at him before turning her face to the blonde. She bows her face slightly down, and a bulb flashes in Dominic’s head.
He has just won the lottery.
“Apologies, your Excellency, but this man’s Lord apparently still believes blondes lack brains.”
Dominic dismisses the brunette’s bitterness. Instead, he zeros all his attention in on the blonde beside her. Regal, extravagantly dressed, blue eyed, and certainly not impressive. Lackluster. That was definitely the feeling Dominic was swimming in.
She had the brightest blue eyes he’s ever seen, well enough, and the silkiest and most golden shade of blonde he’s ever witnessed. She had even made eye contact with him. But it all felt..disappointing, and Dominic couldn’t help but curl his lips in distaste.
What a horrifying state the council’s tastes have succumbed to. If they consider this woman alluring, irresistible even… they definitely need a reality check.
The blondie was directing words to him, he could tell by her direct gaze on him and moving lips. Yet he couldn’t bother snapping back to his senses to realize what exactly she was speaking to him.
All he knew was that he has had enough of an inkling gathered about her, and deemed her not worthy of further lurking around. He would waste more of his energy with her anyways when he’d slip back into the meeting hall for the annual bull crap the council lets her get away with.
Dominic had thought that and came to peace with the sufficient deductions he had made of her. True to his doubts, the council had in fact exaggerated everything about this human’s beauty, which should ultimately entail their additional exaggeration to her wits and politics.
He’d left the human’s headquarters then, the goblet past forgotten with the entourage beauty who he’s sure would have drained the wine down the drain.
What he didn’t expect, however, was the same entourage beauty standing over the head of the long table of council.
Dominic did a double take.
The long table of council members all turn to him, silence holding the room in a chokehold. He’d entered the meeting hall, oh so entirely late to half of it, but he figured nothing of value was to be missed. With all the lack of worries of the world, Dominic had pushed through the heavy doors humming, entirely in his real demeanor of thrumming power and devious.
Then he paused. She was staring right back at him. The brunette lady.
“You—,” he broke off, his confident stride halted.
The same startle and comprehension spark her eyes. Then they never leave him as he slowly resumes back to his place at the meeting table, where Raphael starts to get off and conforms back to his raven self.
He starts to settle languidly into his cushioned chair, all the while keeping his eyes steadily glued to the brunette lady who should have been from the entourage—
Once he was settled in, recognition set its marks on her face. They were both sure then and now.
Neither of them was claiming the roles they played. They both played the same move, the same card at the same time.
Dominic wanted to laugh. He settled for a small smirk while sharing her gaze.
“So, I take it her ladyship does open the doors herself?”
She blinks back the short-lived surprise, mirroring his own slightly annoyed slightly amused smirk. “Not when the council members were the number I thought they were. I take it the raven isn’t the newest addition?”
“Quite the contrary. I’d said something that tickled some feathers decades ago, so they put me on time out ever since.” Dominic cocks his head to the side, before finishing his introduction with a flourish of a half bow. “Third imperial at your service.”