I stay in the castle for days, at first too afraid to leave my room, but slowly building confidence to leave and meander through the halls during the daylight. For the time being, I avoid my father, I’m not sure how I feel towards him, there’s a part of me that’s still angry at him, yet another part that wants to push all that aside and be happy that I’ve found him and am now back at his side where he can protect me.
But can he protect me?
I often find myself pacing near the windows to calm myself, I don’t sleep often, still feeling unsafe in a vampire’s lair.
How is this possible? How am I possible? Here I thought vampires couldn’t procreate with humans, that they couldn’t produce what was necessary for life. Certainly will all my years of experience with vampires, I should know by now that they cannot get mortals pregnant.
Was my father human before I was conceived? No, impossible, it’s dated that the vampire king is centuries old. Did he make a deal with another entity for the gift of life? Were the gods just simply looking the other way when I was conceived?
It doesn’t make sense.
I brace myself with bravery one night to step into the halls of the castle, this time finding it much livelier as I pass doors and rooms lit with light and laughter.
The vampires I come across aren’t surly or mean, they don’t sniff at me or threaten to bite; they just nod their heads or say hello as they pass.
I find other humans roaming the castle too, humans happy and contempt to stand by a vampire’s side and offer their necks when they want. And it’s the humans that decide when the vampires feed; as I walk through rooms unnoticed I hear vampires asking to be fed and humans either accepting or rejecting with no consequences when they choose the latter.
For all the hunters talked about this place, it isn’t as bad as it seems, with humans and vampires coexisting in peace.
“Hey,” Alec says, falling in step with me, “First time out in the night, I’m proud of you.”
I ignore his remark and continue looking around, observing the life that dwells within.
“But shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Alec asks, “I thought you were on a human schedule?”
“I don’t sleep much,” I say, rubbing my arm, “I can’t.”
“And you’re not eating much either so I’m told,” Alec says, humming to himself in thought.
Every morning, noon and night, a human brings me food and checks up on me during the day. She is nice with kind eyes and a sweet smile, she’ll sometimes sit with me and talk whenever I’m feeling lonely, her name is Leighla, she’s my age and according to her, she was found on the streets of Rome, homeless and alone.
A vampire offered her shelter in the castle and she accepted, she’s never once regretted her decision as she is now cared for and free, she has a salary and can come and go whenever she pleases.
I like her, she makes me feel less alone and when she’s around she is like a calm wind.
“You’re avoiding your father,” Alec notices, as I steer clear of the throne room.
“I don’t want to talk to him,” I say, looking to Alec out the corner of my eye, “he left me.”
“He didn’t leave you,” Alec says, his voice dark and angered.
“Then why didn’t he come for me?” I ask, glaring right back at him.
“He tried, Rowy,” Alec says grabbing my arm and pulling me into an alcove, “Tristane went missing for years trying to find you, he tore through all of America searching for you, he killed many vampires trying to get information as to where you were.”
Alec lets my arm go as he senses my fear and resentment for being touched.
“The court was falling into chaos,” Alec says, “Intruders were trying to get into the court and take over the throne, which would have put everyone here in danger. I forced your father to return.”
I look to Alec in shock as he admits the truth.
“It was for the good of everyone, but I paid a price,” he continues, “your father locked me out, banished me from Romania, I wasn’t allowed to return without you.”
“He’s your master,” I say piecing together the information based on the way Alec hurts from his banishment.
Alec nods his head once.
“Your father never wanted to leave you,” Alec says, “He wanted to keep you safe, but if he had persisted, Rakin would have discovered the truth about who you really were, about what you really were and Rakin would have done far worse.”
“The only thing worse than what I endured would have been death,” I snarl, “And at that point, I would have welcomed it.”
I walk away from Alec, letting the information he has dumped on me sink in.
As I meander back to my room, my mind spins and reels, nothing makes sense, despite what Alec has told me, I still have thousands of questions running about my mind.
I pace in front of my mother’s bookshelf and read some of the titles, that is until I come across a series of books with no titles.
I pull one out, the first and find that it’s a journal, one written in my mother’s handwriting.
September 1st, 1985
My therapist wants me to start journaling, says that it will be good for me to write down the feelings I can’t say.
Little does she know, I can’t speak about ‘my feelings’ because it would turn her brain to mush, that or she’d institutionalise me. Because of the vampires.
If I told her about them, I’d be deemed insane.
My parents don’t know about me seeing this therapist, it was the school’s decision to make me sit in the stupid office that smelt like mothballs. They said I was becoming too difficult and this was the last effort before expulsion.
She would have been thirteen, the whole book is filled with her angst-ridden ramblings. The next book starts in the middle of July of 1991.
I met a man tonight, he was extraordinary and beautiful, he was wounded. I knew he was a vampire, yet I still helped him escape my family’s snare.
I was afraid that he’d bite me, but he didn’t his face was so pale, he had lost so much blood that he was no longer healing. I dragged him away from the snare to my car, I drove him to a motel and kept him out of the sun for the day while he slept.
But he wasn’t healing, so I did the most taboo thing a hunter could do. I gave my blood willingly to a creature of the night.
He drank from my wrist, I was afraid he would kill me, but he took only one mouthful, then let me go.
He stared at me with eyes of blood-red, I knew he needed more, wanted more, but he didn’t even attempt to attack me, he kept his distance.
And as soon as the sun went down, he left, he didn’t say a single word to me, he just vanished into the sunset.
Am I a fool, I keep sneaking out at night, desperate to see him again, returning to the motel hoping he would too.
And then he does, as soon as I step into the room we shared, he knocks on the door and we spend the night, just talking, becoming friends.
Then he tells me, of all things, he tells me that he is the vampire king, the one my family has been desperate to find for millennia, my ancestors tied to find him, and there I was, sitting in a motel with him, as if he and I were the same.
Tristane told me about his life, he trusted me with his secrets and his name, trusting me not to tell my family or begin a hunt.
And then I trusted him with my secrets, I told him about my family, about the institute and where we live.
Am I insane, am I being a fool? And lastly, am I beginning to have feelings for him?
My mother doesn’t write for several days, not again until January.
My parents are forcing me into a marriage, they’ve found some legacy hunter who wants to continue on their legacy. Sorin, he’s a pretentious, egotistical sadist, he likes killing and he will do it without hesitation. I’ve met him once before, on a hunt, I didn’t like him then and I certainly don’t like him now.
My parents are forcing me and I wish I had a way out. Tristane says that he could be my way out, that he would take me away, but the catch would be that I’d never be allowed to see my family again.
I couldn’t do that, I’d miss them, my sister and brother, and my parents, I couldn’t just leave them.
So I will do what I must and I will marry Sorin.
There are no more pages for this book, in fact, the rest of the book is burnt and ashen.
I put the book down and then look out to the woods, it’s starting to get light out, and my head feels weary and eyes heavy. I crawl into my bed, wrap the covers around my body and fall asleep.
In my dreams, I’m surrounded by fire, but I’m not afraid; I’m calm and not afraid of being burnt. But then the fire begins to recede, vanishing back into the floors and walls; sucking back into the curtains.
As the fire recedes, my anxiety rises, my body screams in pain and then it too recedes, to a dull throb in my chest.
The scenery clears of smoke and haze and I stand in a bedroom, where a bride paces dressed in elegant white, with a veil so long it trails behind her.
A groom enters, already half undressed, he takes the bride by her shoulders and my fear spikes as the groom rips the virgin white fabric from the woman’s body. Pain burns in my body as the groom forces himself on his bride, holding her down despite how she struggles and screams in protest.
The groom is interrupted before he can finish, something hits the home and ricks the very foundation, fire catches and races through the home, igniting and spreading quickly.
The groom finishes with the bride, despite the apparent danger, then he grabs her arm and drags her through the crumbling home, feeing the fires and the danger, saving her so that he may hurt her again later.
Screams of anger and war flies through the home as vampires invade, tearing through the fire, trying to find the bride and groom.
One vampire, one with eyes redder than all others charges forward, trying to reach for her but is held off by a wild, swinging stake wielded by the bride’s sister.
They flee, the vampires, unable to reach the bride in time, retreat to the darkness, hissing obscenities as the groom takes her further and further away from them. Moving quickly despite the burn he receives to his upper thigh.
When I wake, my blood feels cold and my heart is racing. What was that? It felt so real, so true, like I was witnessing the past.
The sun is high in the sky, shining brightly and filling the room with it’s warm, golden light.
Leighla enters with a soft knock, she enters holding a tray of hot food.
“You were sleeping so deeply this morning,” she says, setting the food down on the table, “I couldn’t rouse you.”
“Why would you try to wake me?” I ask, “I didn’t get to sleep until late.”
“Your father wants you to have at least a half-decent sleeping schedule,” Leighla says uncovering the food and setting down a knife and fork, “He wants you to retain a human schedule.”
“All the humans here are awake during the night,” I say, getting out of bed and crossing over to the table.
“Only if they choose,” she counters, “most of us still keep a human’s schedule, going to bed at a reasonable hour and working during the day.”
“What do you do during the day?” I ask as I take my seat, “before you were assigned to me.”
“First of all,” she says with a scoff, “I requested this position. And during the day, I do whatever I like, sometimes I go into town to shop and waste time, other times I’d just wander about, helping with the upkeep and cooking.”
“Does my father make you clean?” I ask, trying to gauge how my father treats the humans in his castle.
“No,” Leighla laughs, “It’s not something that’s expected of us to do, but he thanks us for it nonetheless, often in payment, like a mother would a child. His vampires help clean during the night, but we like to help, makes us feel as if we are earning our keep and our allowance.”
“My father gives you all an allowance?”
“Of course he does,” she says, “in payment for doing chores and feeding those who need to be fed.”
I hum in thought as I dig into my lunch, as we sit in silence, my dream returns to me, and I realise why the bride looked so familiar, she was my mother.
“Did Sorin rape my mother?” I ask, now standing in front of my father in his massive dining hall that evening.
I asked for Leighla to organise for my father and I, I wanted to ask him about what I’ve read so far.
My father sits at the head of the table, his hands laced together and a hard scowl set on his face, as if he had just eaten something sour. He nods his head tightly, and I watch as his face contorts into dark anger.
“So there is a chance that he is my father,” I say, though the thought makes my chest ignite with rage.
“No,” my father says immediately and without hesitation, “no, you are mine, make no mistake, though we are still unsure how, you are my daughter.”
“How do you know?” I ask.
“Because you were conceived nine months after your mother was freed from her family,” my father says, his hands flexing, opening and closing.
“Why did you go back to the motel,” I ask, watching my father with a raised eyebrow, “You knew she was a hunter and yet you returned.”
“I was fascinated by your mother,” my father answers, “she reminded me of someone I once knew a long time ago.”
“How old are you exactly?” I ask, “I know now that you’re the king, but no one knows exactly how old the king is.”
“I was born in the year 34BC,” my father says and my eyes widen in shock, “I was turned by my father twenty-six years later.”
“You’re two thousand and forty-eight years old?!” I ask in disbelief, “How long have vampires been around for?”
“A long time,” my father says, “I am willing to tell you everything, but later, right now I have other things to attend to.”
“Like what?” I ask, following him as he stands from the table and walks away.
“I have to patrol,” he says, walking through the halls towards the door, “there are dangerous vampires wandering too close. They’ve smelt you here and they want to find you.”
“Why?” I ask, stopping in my tracks as I realise who would have sent those vampires to find me, “Why are they after me?”
“They want to know what makes you so special,” my father says, “They want to know why your blood smells the way it does, why you have such powers like you do.”
“I don’t have any powers,” I say staring at my father’s back in confusion.
My father opens the door and the remaining rays of sunlight floods inside.
“Wait!” I exclaim, reaching for my father as I see his body become covered in the afternoon glow.
But nothing happens, he doesn’t catch on fire, he doesn’t burn, he just turns to look at me as if nothing is wrong.
“You- you’re not burning,” I gape in shock, “I thought vampires couldn’t step in the sunlight.”
“We can’t,” My father says with a sadness in his voice, “At least not most of us.”
“We don’t burn in the sun,” my father says, turning to face the sunlight, “At least not right away. What happens is that we decompose.”
And as he speaks, small blisters appear on his cheek, festering in the sunlight.
“Which is painful and makes it harder for us to hide,” he continues, “the younger the vampire, the quicker they decompose. The hotter the weather, the harsher the sun, the quicker we can start to decompose as well. Now, I’ll be back before sunrise, we can talk then.”
I watch as my father steps out of the castle and disappears into the woods in the blink of an eye.
He leaves me with more questions than answers, he has me feeling confused.
I leave the front door and walk around the castle, talking to other vampires and finding out that vampires, at least the vampires here, are kind and after a while of speaking to them I forget that they are any different to me.