Briella’s eyes watered as Lady Bethany berated her. “What do you mean Sophina is gone? Who is to form the alliance between Halina and Aguria now? She is of royal blood, she can not run around of her own free will! She has responsibilities!”
“Yes ma’am,” Briella said, bowing her head slightly. “What will you have me do? I can look around town once more. Maybe there is a stone we left unturned…”
“I always told her father that she’d run away from her responsibilities. Maybe now he’ll finally see.” Lady Bethany let out an angry huff. “Go and change. We have work to do.”
Briella looked down at her clothes. “Change into what, madam?”
“Something presentable. Something from Lady Sophina’s closet. Prince Draknar is coming to meet his betrothed today and we cannot send him away. We must improvise and distract him. If anyone asks, you are a lady in waiting. Here to meet Mr. Draknar’s younger brother. Understood? .”
“I…” Briella’s eyes widened. “Ma’am I can’t do that. I don’t know nothin’ of becoming a lady. I cannot!”
“You will,” Lady Bethany growled. “Or you will have no place else to go. Trust me, if there were any other girls your age around here, I’d have chosen anyone but you. A lowly servant. But no matter. All you must do is play the part of a pretty lady. A show to make the Draknars think that Sophina is still interested. Now come along, let’s get you dressed up.”
Sophina looked out into the wilderness. This was everything she had wanted. The cold breeze caressing her face, the birds singing her a melodious tune, and the fish swimming harmoniously. “I’m far off from home. I ought to travel a bit farther than this if I’m to leave Halina. I must be out of the province by now, no?”
Because escape from the life of royalty was the only way out. Otherwise, she’d be trapped in a loveless marriage and a power struggle between multiple sides vying for her to extend her will to them. She could not do that. What kind of a life would that be?
“I wonder what Lady Bethany is doing now,” Sophina said aloud. “No doubt attacking poor Briella. She is a smart girl, she can handle the woman. Who knows? Maybe I shall return after this journey and realize that a life of adventure doesn’t suit me. But for now, I am quite enjoying the great outdoors.”
But…now what? Sophina was born and raised in a castle, never being allowed outside without someone close by. Now, she was on her own with nothing but a small bag of rations not meant to last her more than a few days, some gold coins and the clothes on her back. It wasn’t like the other outfits she owned were suitable for the rigorous activity she planned on doing. All she needed now was an adventure. Where would one find that? She kicked her shoes off and dipped her toes into the cool lake.
Sophina’s eyes widened when she heard a male’s voice talking. She looked around wildly, but she couldn’t she a single person. “Crap!” She cried, jumping to her feet and running behind the side of a wagon that had been situated conveniently by the lake.
“Just get it done,” Came an elegant voice. “Hold your tongue for a moment. Someone is here.” Sophina poked her head out but saw no one. Where was the voice coming from?
Her breath quickened as she noticed a sparkling brunette man, seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Sparkling! Huh? She covered her mouth with her head as she watched him approach the shoes she had left by the lake. “Damn it!” She mumbled, instantly covering her mouth when she heard her own voice.
“No need to hide,” The voice called out. “You were here first, were you not?” His back was turned to her, so she hadn’t seen anything but his back.
“I….” What was she supposed to say now? “Uhm…hello?”
“You shouldn’t leave your belongings out in the open if you’re trying to be stealthy,” the man replied. “Are you on the run?” He made his way over to her bag. “You’ll not survive on this alone.”
“Take whatever you want, but please leave the locket…” Sophina squeaked, shutting her eyes tightly and leaning against the wall of the wagon she was hiding behind.
“Everyone always assumes the worst of me,” The man said. “I assure you that I need not your items. Something tells me you meant not to travel all the way out here.”
“Who are you?” Sophina asked, finding her courage. “Why are you sparkling?”
“Hm, this?” He lifted his arm, but Sophina still had her eyes closed. “How will you tell if you cannot see?”
“I have learned enough to know that sometimes seeing things is the worst possible thing one can do,” Sophina mumbled. “How do you know so much about me?”
“Your bag has food in it,” The man said. “So, you’re traveling. But no one comes this far out. There’s nothing here.”
“It was accidental,” Sophina said, letting out a breath. “Don’t come any closer!” She cried, hearing footsteps approaching her.
“Elisha!” A loud booming female voice rang out.
“I’ve got to run. Befriend that woman, she’ll help you get on your feet young traveler.” Sophina opened her eyes only to the man bolt off, leaving a blur in his wake. What did she just see? Definitely not someone human.
Sophina turned to find the woman who was shouting, only to collide with her. “Ah!” Sophina shrieked, falling to the floor.
“Oh, damn it,” The woman mumbled. “Are you alright?” Sophina looked up at the tattooed woman with paint across her bottom lip. Her dark pink hair was slicked back, giving her an effortless beauty. “Here, let me help you up.”
The woman extended her hand and Sophina took it. “Thank you,” Sophina mumbled.
“No problem. Say, you didn’t see which way that vampire bolted off to, did you?” The woman asked.
“Vampire!” Sophina cried. “The sparkling man!?”
“They don’t all sparkle. Just Elisha. He keeps evading me, but I’ll get him one day.” The woman combed her right hand through her hair. “So, which way did he go?”
“I’m sorry, what? Vampires don’t exist,” Sophina said, coming to her senses.
“He’s probably far gone now,” The woman mumbled to herself. She walked over to a nearby tree and leaned against it. “My name is Lavina Gray.” She waited for Sophina to proclaim her realization, but the woman just furrowed her brows.
“I’m Sophina Aguirre. But that doesn’t answer my question. Vampires don’t exist. They’re only of stories.”
“Are you serious? You don’t know who I am? I’m from clan Gray. Famous vampire hunters. You mainlanders have buried our legacy, haven’t you? Unbelievable. Where are you from?”
“Huh? Is it that obvious?” Sophina asked.
“Yeah, you stick out like a sore thumb! And, you haven’t heard of me. Even if you’re like the rest of the people on this land who think I’m out of my mind and vampires don’t exist, recognize that my family is of legend. Vampire slayers.”
“I’m sorry,” Sophina said. “I haven’t heard of that lesson. I’m from Halina.”
“Ah, that uptight fancy town.” Lavina shook her head. “Of course you don’t know anything of vampires. Well, you saw that guy run at super human speeds. And he sparkled because he was in the sunlight.”
“He’s a vampire?” Sophina asked, still in disbelief. Surely there was another explanation.
“Not just any vampire. The leader of the vampires here. Elisha Van Winkle. His dirty tribe has to go,” Lavina said. “His people have preyed on ours for too long.”
Lavina dropped to the ground and motioned for Sophina to join her. “Go ahead, say it. I’m wasting my time, right?”
“I don’t know about that, but he seemed nice enough. He didn’t steal my stuff,” Sophina said. “Or, you know. Kill me…or suck my blood.”
“No, of course not. He’s trying to show his solidarity to people and drink the blood of animals. I think it’s just because he’s too noble. Did you see his coat? Fancy as hell. He lives a better life than most humans. Filthy stinking rich.”
“You really hate him, huh?” Sophina asked. “Why? It seems like he wants nothing to do with offending humans. Isn’t that a good thing?”
“The Van Winkles have dishonored my family. I don’t suppose you know of the Great Vampire War?” Sophina shook her head. “No, of course not. Why would you? Ok so, centuries ago humans used to live among vampires, yada yada.”
“They lived among you guys peacefully?” Sophina asked. “Like, integrated in society?”
“Yep, that’s what the story says. But somewhere and some time, something happened. One of those Van Winkle vampires fed on one of our people and got the taste of human blood. They created this whole underground cult that kidnapped unsuspecting humans and didn’t just suck their blood, but drained people completely. They murdered us.”
” But that was years ago,” Sophina argued. “You just said they don’t do that anymore.”
“Well, because the Grays stepped in and started a Vampire War to save humanity.” Lavina picked at a blade of grass. “My great grandmother didn’t believe in fighting at all. She…she visited Elisha and begged for a truce. Two days later, my granddad found her body in town square with no blood left! War couldn’t be avoided.”
“Who won?” Sophina asked, jumping to her feet to cover herself from the now falling rain. Lavina seemed un-bothered by it. In fact, it brought a smile to her face.
“The vampires of course. They’re much stronger. People agreed not to bother them anymore to avoid the amount of loss that we suffered. Thousands of humans died…” Lavina said.
“You are resentful of that?” Sophina asked. “You humans started a war.”
“And they finished it. My family sees them for what they are, violent creatures. My great grandmother vied for peace and look at the disrespect they served her. Many people now pretend like the war didn’t exist and so now, my generation thinks it was famine that killed our people. But my family knows the truth, and so does Elisha, centuries later. He has to own up to his people’s actions.”
“It seems like he might be sorry,” Sophina offered. “He’s not taking the blood of people anymore.”
“Once a bloodsucker, always a bloodsucker,” Lavina said. She shook her wet hair. “Anyhow, I should get inside. Are you coming along?”
“I uh….can I?” Sophina asked timidly.
“I can’t very well fight for humanity but let the stray stay out here on her own.” Lavina pointed to Sophina’s measly bag of supplies. “Running away?”
“Something like that.” Sophina walked over to her stuff, slipped her shoes on and followed the pink haired woman. She didn’t exactly know what to think of all of this, but there was an adventure to be had here for sure.
[AN: Elisha Van Winkle was made by Dandylion240. He is the great ancestor of her Van Winkle Family which can be read about right here in her legacy. ]