The Fanged Lady
Daemon, Daimon, or Demon
1. a divinity, spirit, or supernatural being considered part god and part human.
2. An inner, attendant, or guardian spirit; inspiring force.
3. Ancient Greek and Latin for “godlike”, “power”, “fate”
I gripped the silver dagger, La Dame d’Croc tighter. Like droplets of blood across the blade, my eyes reflected my desire for its destruction. The ornate hilt’s laughing skulls and vines dug into my palm. Tilting the keen blade, a long-forgotten language made itself known. This is the tool for the rite of passage for the next generation of bloodeaters. As heir apparent to The Court, it was my duty to protect it with my life. A responsibility I didn’t care to inherit.
“Why not join the celebration, Dante? You’re becoming a bloodeater tonight! One of us!” The voice belonged to Viceroy Falco, a sinister bastard who was also a revered war hero with a fourteen-knot braid to back that title. “Ah, I see they named you guardian of the La Dame d’Croc. Mmm, The Fanged Lady, such a wonderful name for a blade.”
Tonight, a masquerade was thrown in my honor, whispering from the lower levels of the manor. Unlike them, I had no desire to celebrate that tonight nor the fact I would become a bloodeater like the King and most of the nobility in Glensdale. The sense of jubilation resonating from the guests was a growing friction against my soul. There would be no turning back the moment I drank my first drop.
Falco’s fingers wrapped around my braid, lifting its weight from my back. “Such a beautiful, somber brown. Are you sure we can’t give this one last try?” I didn’t flinch nor respond to his attempt to rile me. “The cold shoulder on the matter? What a waste.”
Glancing over my shoulder, his lips were tight and a scornful flare in his eyes told me the reason for his rage. “I’m sorry my father hadn’t chosen you, Viceroy Falco.”
I intended to end the centuries-old tradition of bloodeating by abdicating the throne. I would likely be imprisoned by my father’s advisors if they knew of my intentions, blaming the pacifist daemons of The Court or the human ideals of The Tower for my change in heart. But the truth was simpler. According to surviving historical records in the royal library, they tell stories of betrayal and ascension to a never-ending civil war. The House had turned on those they’d sworn to protect, devouring them for their power. Thus, beginning the tradition of eating human blood by using the magical blade in my hand. I wanted nothing to do with it.
“It’s only because you’re the king’s last surviving son,” he snorted, inching closer to inspect the skulls adorning the hilt. “You are still too young, too naïve to wield such a sacred artifact. A mistake, no offense, my dear prince.”
By human standards, Viceroy Falco was in his mid-twenties, but he has walked this earth for more than two centuries. He had fought in the vanguard when the civil war had crested, pressing for territory. They pushed The Court and its non-bloodeater daemons to the mountains over a hundred years ago. It was obnoxious how he towered over me, despite my superior ranking. He was broad-shouldered, carried a sword, and the white strands of his hair looming across his maroon eyes added to his deceitful atmosphere. Viceroy Falco’s armor clacked as the golden devils and chains knocked against the black lacquer of the ceremonial plates on his shoulder and chest. It was more of a fashion statement than practical for battle when he wore the black steel equivalent.
“Twenty-eight is old in human terms.” I pulled my braid over my shoulder and out of his grip, feigning affection for any eyes that may fall upon us. It earned me a sneer, his fangs clenching as I covered the blade with a black silk cloth. “I’m old enough to know not to misplace this into the wrong hands.” He stiffened at the verbal stab. “As its protector, no one is to touch it.”
Despite my old age, my appearance was that of an eighteen-year-old boy. Besides the fangs hidden behind my lips and the ever-present maroon eyes of a daemon, an uneducated person could mistake me for human. I had come of age to join the ritual of the blade where cutting of flesh and my first feeding would unlock a lifetime of thirst.
“Watch your words,” Viceroy Falco hissed. Then he turned on his heel, slipping his mask back into place, then paused, regaining his composure. “If I didn’t know better, it’s like you’re accusing me of becoming a thief, Dante.”
“Don’t fool yourself, Falco.” I didn’t fear the monster standing before me, my eyes bore into his, fighting for supremacy. “If I wanted, I could end your life here. We both know you’ve stolen enough from me, but you will not have this.”
As for the ritual, the first blood must be taken from a cut brandished by La Dame d’Croc or face the Madness. A curse which drove human and daemon into insanity of wanting to devour the meat of their fellow men and sometimes, themselves. When the Madness peaked, they would foam at the mouth, eyes rolled back in their heads, berserking until their hearts beat themselves to death. The magic ritual passed down to The House cleansed both vessels, bloodeater and prey, allowing the art to be feasible. Viceroy Falco had sent many humans and opposing daemons into the Madness with relentless bites, earning him the title of Le Chien Enragé or The Rabid Dog, on the battlefield.
“A lot of talk for a daemon who’s fought one tiny battle and hasn’t tasted human blood.” He gripped his sword. “Before your conception, I’ve slain entire armies. One day I will reclaim what’s rightfully mine.”
“And I will be there to watch you fail.” He marched away, the sway of his fourteen-knot braid reflecting his position as a Viceroy.
“The scorned lover look doesn’t suit you, my dear prince.” Laughter rolled from him as he vanished down the hall.
I glared at my braid resting against my shoulder, sixteen knots marked me a prince of Glensdale, one of three kingdoms in Grandemere. Only kings held eighteen knots and queens seventeen. From there, the caste system continued ending with the braidless servants and the bald shaven heads of slaves. Cutting one’s braid was a sin, a way of disrespecting your status and birthright, whether you served The House, The Court or even The Tower and Church. It had been this way since the beginning, between human and daemon alike, for over a thousand years.
I will not become one of them. I refuse to become the Blood Prince they’d expected me to be.
Tucking the dagger into my white leather tunic, I gripped the balcony’s cold marble railing. Two-stories above, the topiary and ground were laden with snow. Winter had reached its peak, the days growing darker and the icy air serving as a reminder of the harsh desires of The House.
With little effort I hoisted myself over the railing, falling through the icy wind before landing in silence. I peered at the lights and shadows from the nearby ballroom. A great weight was lifting, and with no remorse, I surged into the forest, leaving nothing but a prince’s shattered mask in the snow. At last, I was free from becoming one of those monsters, one of Viceroy’s beloved things that craved blood like wild beast who he praised as if God’s of Old. Instead I chose this path, a fate of my choosing.