It’s days before anyone else comes. I spend the time trying to ration the rest of my blood packs, experimenting with the newfound strength and abilities that come with finally being able to… drink? eat? “feed?” Whatever.
Despite the eons spent fighting vampires, no one knows quite enough to separate all the myths and old wives’ tales from actual fact. If nothing else, I figure I can use my time to change that. Give the Royal Guard an advantage, and tell them exactly how best to execute me, my mind unhelpfully adds.
I break my shackles within the first hour of Draya leaving. I knew we should have added silver.
The bars of the cell burn to the touch, so the silver there definitely works. My hands heal within seconds, the searing pain soon a phantom memory. Well that’s useful. Could have used that in the Guard.
The next day, I find I’m able to fly. Or, hover. Of course, the moment I wake up to my body floating five feet above the cot, I come crashing back down and gracelessly roll onto the floor. The rest of my time is spent trying to control it, until two days later I find I can get myself all the way up to the slit in the wall, which is just wide enough for my arm to pass through. Once day breaks, the sunlight making the gap a shining yellow portal, I experimentally reach my hand out, then my whole arm, bracing for pain.
Nothing happens. Interesting.
My hearing and eyesight continue to improve, but the walls of the prison were built thick enough that I can’t hear much beyond barely audible murmurs and the march of the guards up above. While part of me is frustrated by it, desperate to know what’s going on, another is pleased to know that much of the elements that went into building this facility actually work.
While I continue to find ways to occupy my days, the nights continue to be, in a word, utter shit. I discover I need less sleep, which just means driving myself crazy replaying the raid and Draya’s ominous visit over and over. Then it continues in my dreams, everything made ten times eerier in the way that dreams often are.
Six days after Draya came to see me, I hear footsteps approach, and the outer doors to the prison open soon after. I keep my eyes closed, trying to ignore the beating pulse of their hearts and focus instead on their gait. Draya, and two others, one male, one female, neither from the Royal Guard by the sound of it, and both heavily armed— I can smell the gunpowder, hear their weapons clink against their body armor.
“Tamara,” Draya whispers softly under her breath as they approach. “If you can hear this, please cooperate. Don’t give these guys a reason.”
So they’re not here to kill me. Yet.
Once at the door to my cell, Draya speaks. “Commander Rayborn.”
I hear the scoff from one of the men. “You still consider her worthy of her rank? Her name?”
Forcing a smile, I step out from the shadows and approach. “In the absence of anything else to call me,” I reply for her. “Though I’m sure you have plenty of suggestions.” I notice both men are a step back from Draya— out of fear of me, or because they’re controlling her, I wonder. I also note, with a measure of surprise, that they wear the face masks of the Queen’s Men, though the rest of it is pure military gear. I bow my head, as customary. “To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from Queen’s Men?”
The man to Draya’s left, the one who spoke earlier, is the one to again. “We’re here for you, vampire.”
“They’re here to escort you to the Queen. She wishes to speak with you,” Draya adds.
Now I’m really surprised. “The Queen? What does Her Majesty want with me?”
The two Queen’s Men exchange a glance. The man seems angry, and definitely does not want to be here, though the woman looks more curious than anything else. Aside from the look they just shared, she has yet to take her eyes off me. “It is not our place to question the Queen’s commands,” the man answers gruffly. “Will you come in peace, or do we have to chain you and drag you to the palace?”
“You’ll need to use silver if you wish to chain me.” I lift my wrists, and point to the remnants of the shackles on the floor, taking quite a bit of pleasure at the wide eyes on all three of them. “But you won’t have to. I swore an oath to this Kingdom. I have no desire to hurt anyone, least of all our ruler.”
The man scoffs again. “Oath? That still means something to you?”
I’m beginning to lose my patience with this git. I level a cold stare at him and step closer. “I was changed against my will, Queen’s Man. Changed, but not indoctrinated. I still remember who I am, or was. And so my oath stands for as long as I live. It just so happens that I will now be living a very long time.”
“Well-said, Tamara Rayborn,” the woman finally speaks. I recognize that voice.
Turning to her, I see she has removed her mask. Queen Sybil.
I immediately drop to one knee, head bowed. “Your Majesty.”
In case you missed it, read Part I and Part II of Guardian, a short fantasy story about a young woman becoming one of the monsters she’s spent her whole life fighting against.
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