Guardian – Part IV

This is entirely new territory for me, and I was turned into a vampire less than a fortnight ago.

Before me stands the Queen herself, her guard – Brom, she introduces him as – pointing his gun squarely at my head in case I get any ideas to either escape through the open cell doors, or maul them all for the blood in their arteries.

I would be lying if I say it isn’t tempting; the blood packs were small, carefully rationed, and nothing compared to the scent and sound of fresh blood running through three healthy humans. I push these treacherous thoughts to the back of my mind, gripping my wrist behind my back, the free hand curled into a fist.

“Are you tempted? The blood packs I had sent can’t have been fulfilling for a vampire so freshly turned,” Queen Sybil says, tone as casual as if she were asking if I’d like some tea.

So that’s where those came from. From the corner of my eye, I see Draya glance at me in surprise. Clearly she hadn’t known who had given the order. Choosing honesty, I admit, “They were not, though they did give me strength. And I am. Tempted, that is. But I meant what I said— I am not a traitor.”

“Majesty, she is not to be trusted. Who’s to say she has not been radicalized by her sire, his whispers in her mind?” Brom bursts out, his gun never wavering from its aim on my head even as he looks at the Queen, frustration clear on his face.

I stifle a snort. “My sire only visits in my nightmares, with that cursed night relived every time I close my eyes. There are no whispers. But,” I turn to Queen Sybil and Draya, “if it will prove I mean no harm, then I will not resist the chains.”

Queen Sybil is silent a moment, then nods. “I do not question your service or your loyalty, Rayborn,” she says almost apologetically. “However, you are a vampire still, a young one at that, and I am not here to take unnecessary risk. No matter what my head Queensman might think,” she adds with a reproachful glance at Brom. “Captain Anguard, restrain her. Brom has ones with the silver you need.”

Draya looks to obey without question. Only I notice the slight skip in her heartbeat, the way her eyes track over me, the split-second before she actually walks towards Brom. He hands the manacles from his pack to her, but it’s clear he was hoping to be the one to place them on me. Too bad.

I do not move as Draya approaches me carefully, her scent and the scent of her blood flooding my nose. I try not to breathe too deeply. “Your hands, Commander,” she says quietly.

Slowly, I bring my hands forward.

“How badly will it hurt?” she whispers, taking her time unlocking one of the manacles.

I smile grimly. “Bad,” I whisper back. “But I will heal after. And you trained us to endure pain.”

She sighs. “I did not train anyone to endure this.” She closes one shackle around my right wrist and the pain is immediate as my skin sizzles at the silver. I hiss. Higher concentration in these than the bars. Draya clenches her jaw and ignores everything except getting the left shackle done, then immediately steps away so as not to see the way my skin burns, returning to her place on the Queen’s left with her eyes steadfastly looking away from me.

The pain is excruciating, all my senses homing in on where the silver meets my wrists and protesting keenly at the contact. It’s evident by the way I grit my teeth, breathing sharply through my nose. I can’t look at Brom, whose lips are quirked up in a satisfied smile – sadist – or Draya, who can’t look at me at all, so I keep my gaze fixed on Queen Sybil, whose gaze flits between my burning wrists and my pained expression with part regret, part genuine interest.

“You are braver than I thought you were, if this is what it means to have you restrained,” she remarks.

“I wanted to prove my loyalty.”

“As I said, it is not your loyalty in question. It’s your self-control. But I will keep this as brief as I can. Please sit, if the pain does not allow you to stand.”

Much as I want to remain on my feet, it’s already far too difficult for me to focus, so I take the offer with thanks, almost crumpling onto my cot and holding my wrists out between my knees. The smell of burning flesh starts to permeate the cell. It takes all of my training not to scream. I also don’t want to give Brom the satisfaction he’d so clearly gain from it.

“As you know, despite nearly a century of war, we have been unable to capture a living vampire. All our intel on their weaknesses and strengths has come from what little observations we have made in the field, trying to separate fact from the legends and myths. You are an anomaly in more ways than one. To our knowledge, the first of our soldiers to ever have been turned rather than killed, as well as the first vampire to be captured.”

I nod, trying not to look impatient. If I’m burning my wrists right off the bone only to be told things I already know, it isn’t worth it.

“While many,” the Queen glances at Brom again, “think you a liability, I think you can be an invaluable asset. I’ve seen your records, Rayborn. You rose through the ranks quickly for someone your age. While you have a penchant for trouble, you still command respect of those you lead. And now, though unplanned, you have given us the opportunity to study what a vampire truly is.”

“Am I to be a lab rat, then?” I can’t help but ask. I expected as much, but it would be nice to be certain – at last – of what will happen to me.

“Yes and no. It will be good to learn more about vampires through someone actually willing to provide that information. However, I foresee a greater purpose for you.

“Between your years of training, and your newfound abilities, you are the closest we have to a super-soldier. Part of each world, and in many ways stronger than both. If you are able to gain control over your bloodthirst, remaining satisfied with the blood packs I am willing to provide, then I want you to work for me. It is, in my mind and heart, the most important role in the kingdom. I want you to protect my daughter.”

…What.

“What!?” exclaimed Brom and Draya.


In case you missed it, read the previous installments of Guardian, a short fantasy story about a young woman becoming one of the monsters she’s spent her whole life fighting against:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Guardian – Part III

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.

Guardian – Part II.

I’m next woken by the clanging of the prison gates, and I rise to my feet immediately.

Having tracked the days and nights through the slit high up on the cell wall – too narrow to classify as a window – I know it’s been five days since that disastrous night.

The hunger has only gotten worse since then. Sleep is no solace, when all my dreams serve only to replay my transformation, my capture. The searing pain, the taste of blood, that killer’s laugh echoing in my brain.

If I make it out of here alive, the first thing I’m gonna do is murder that bastard. …Who knew revenge would always be this cliche?

“Commander Tamara Rayborn. What a… situation you’ve found yourself in.”

I stand at attention, raising one manacled hand in a salute. “Captain.”

Despite herself, Captain Anguard chuckles. “Even like this, a prisoner of the kingdom, starved and isolated for days, you remain a soldier.” She seems almost surprised. “At ease. And speak freely. I’m the only one here and I refuse to treat you like a criminal, even if you are one of them now,” she adds sadly.

I flinch at her last words. Somehow, despite having had days to reconcile it with myself, hearing that I was no longer human – from my mentor no less – brings fresh pain. “I may be a vampire now, but I sure as hell am not going to forget where I came from. Who I a- was. Besides,” I force a breezy smile, “I’d argue this proves dedication to understanding the enemy.”

“Right. Well, you look terrible.”

“Never one to mince words, Cap,” I laugh. “Not eating or drinking or seeing another soul for days will do that.”

She raises an eyebrow. Draya never did approve of my dry humor. Or my calling her “Cap.” Though I knew she was always secretly amused by it all, even back when I was a young recruit. ‘You need to take this much more seriously,’ she used to say. ‘For as long as vampires exist, we’re at war.’ I’d always retort that finding the humor in things was the best way I had to survive a war. But right now, even though I’m trying, it’s actually a lot harder to maintain.

With a resigned sigh, she reaches into the pocket of her breeches and pulls out a sealed bag. As soon as she unseals it, I scent blood and I am immediately on edge. I let out a low growl and nearly yank at my chains in desperate desire to grab it. My skin breaks out into a sweat, my fangs emerging despite me struggling to clench my jaw shut, and I can tell my eyes are no longer the brown they once were by the way that Draya looks at me, for the first time in eight years, with fear writ plain on her face.

It’s that look that keeps me in check. I look away, shaking, fists clenched and fighting for control as I ask, “You have blood. Where did you get it?”

Draya recovers, clears her throat. “Blood bank. We’ve been granted permission to let you feed. It isn’t much, but it should sate some of the hunger.”

She approaches the cell door and I force myself to shrink further back. The scent has woken my other vampiric senses, dormant from hunger. It’s not just the blood from her package. I can hear her heartbeat, the pulse of the artery in her neck, smell her scent as much as I can the mix of donors in her hands. It’s torture, and I don’t trust myself not to lose control.

Mercifully, she does not ask to hand it to me, pushing the bag between the bars and throwing it towards me. I make no move to grab it yet.

“Aren’t you going to feed?” she asks quietly.

I grit my teeth, refusing to look her way, refusing to look at the bag, refusing to look at anything but the cuffs on my wrists. “Not in front of you, Draya.” It’s the first time I’ve ever used her first name.

“I’m sorry.” I curse my enhanced hearing for being able to hear the crack in her voice. “I’m sorry this happened to you. You were one of our best.”

Were.

“Please. I can’t control myself much longer. Please go.”

I hear her turn and walk away. And beneath the sound of the creaking door, I hear her sniff and stifle a small whimper.

If my heart was still beating, it would have broken.

Once I hear her steps recede far enough, I throw myself onto the package in front of me, grabbing the first blood bag out of the pack and tearing into it with my teeth.

The first drop on my tongue is bliss, even as another part of me shirks away from the whole thing.

Fucking disgusting. But also so, so good…


In case you missed it, read Part I of this short fantasy story about a young woman becoming one of the monsters she’s spent her whole life fighting against. You can find Part III here!

Guardian [Working Title] – Part I.

Someone must have knocked over the universe’s bucket of irony on the day I was turned into the thing I was sworn to protect the world from.

Five years as a member of the Royal Guard, undone in one night.

We were betrayed, had to have been. The horde of vampires we had been tracking for weeks knew we were coming. They were ready, and they were hungry. It was wholesale slaughter, and I lost seven good people before I even had the chance to call a retreat.

Tessa had fallen in her rush to escape the warehouse. I ran back, helped her up, made sure there was no one else falling behind. And just as I was about to make my own exit, he found me, pinning me and smashing my sword hand into the wall.

I did not cry for help. The vampires were already giving chase, having drained the fallen and now ready for more. To call my team back would be asking them to commit suicide.

So I stared defiantly into his red eyes, and waited to die.

“You’re not afraid?” He cocked his head, amused. Playing with his food.

“Nah. Only angry that I couldn’t slay more of you before this rather unfortunate turn of events.”

The vampire actually laughed. A melodious sound, damn him, designed by nature to inspire trust, to lower guards. Look: I’m human, and attractive, won’t you let me in? “Why are you so keen on murdering us? What is our crime, except being different?”

My sword hand twitched at the audacity, and everything in me wanted to plunge the blade into his heart. I knew it was futile to try; rage and adrenaline is still no match for superhuman strength. Instead, I looked at him in angry disbelief, and looked past him to where my teammates lay, exsanguinated and very dead. I had only met them for this mission, but they were brave and good and did not deserve this.

He followed my line of sight and gave an almost sheepish shrug. “You attacked us without provocation. We were defending ourselves.”

“Without provocation!? You’re murderous vermin! Leaving nothing but drained bodies and broken families in your wake, a threat to everyone in this kingdom!”

“Is that what you think?” he hissed, pressing back harder and looking hard into my eyes. His own blazed with a strange, righteous anger. “There are those of us who are evil, yes, but how is that different from humans whose morality has as many variations as there are people? This horde kills only in self-defense. We drain only those who are willing, and never to the point of illness or death. But you wouldn’t know that, would you? Because you’ve lumped us all into one, and came in here only with intent to kill.

“You would think you’d remember the days when your people faced similar persecution,” he grazed his eyes over my dark skin, (low blow, you vampiric asshole) then glared back at me. “But maybe you ought to be reminded.”

I was given no chance to retort before he plunged his fangs into my neck. My sword fell and I cried out at the agony of the bite, my veins and arteries protesting the intrusion. I knew that vampires sometimes secreted a potent anesthetic in their saliva when feeding, so the human would be too high to struggle or feel pain. Clearly, this one had no such intentions. He wanted me to feel it, and every moment of it hurt.

Instinct had me clawing at his arms, pushing at his chest, kicking my legs and trying anything to get him off, even though some rational part of me – drifting further and further away – knew there was no point. I’m going to die, I thought, and the struggling stopped. I gave into it, almost looked forward to it, the throbbing in my neck a distant sensation as I began to lose consciousness.

Everything that happens next, I remember only in flashes.

Falling to the floor, the vampire’s boots walking towards me.

My head being lifted. Tasting iron. Trying not to swallow his blood but being too weak to resist him forcing it down my throat.

His sardonic laugh as he left.

Curling up on my side in the darkness, ringing in my ears, muscles twitching.

Shouts of, “She’s here! She’s breathing!”

Jerking awake for only a moment, gasping, only to hear, “Oh, fuck!” and then a significant blow to the head.

And now I’m here. In a prison that I had helped design, chained to the wall, with a brand new set of fangs and a hunger that I know won’t be quenched by food.

Great.


Read Part II and Part III of this short fantasy story about a young woman becoming one of the monsters she’s spent her whole life fighting against.