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Prologue:

On the Children of Vampires: A Treatise on the Species by Radmilo Batory

It is a commonly held misconception that the children of vampires, that is, those whose mothers were attacked by vampires while they were in utero, or who copulated with a vampire and thus conceived their children, are born without bones.

This idea is based on the impression that vampires do not have bones themselves, and thus their children are made of a jelly-like substance. However, I have been given the rare chance to study two subjects of vampire parentage, and have discovered that if such boneless children of vampires do exist, the phenomenon is not universally observed.

These girls are adolescent twins in my care, who I shall refer to as subjects 1 and 2 to shield them from undue scrutiny and possible mistreatment.

I was called upon when their mother realized that her recently deceased husband had tricked her and returned to her bed as a vampire. She feared the worst for her children, for she had been bitten, and as any young widow might, she sought help.

With the help of my associates, we secured a safe environment in which the birth could take place, and monitored both mother and children carefully to ensure that the vampire had not done them irreparable harm.

When they emerged, both subjects were observed to have bones, and were immediately baptized as a way for the parish to claim the children back from the vampire.

Subject 1 has developed into a girl one would not assume had been fathered by a vampire: a pious and gentle creature of quick wit and a talent for storytelling. The one irregularity which she has developed is an ability to become nothing but a puff of smoke, and an instant later to reappear a short distance from her original location. It is her belief that she is capable of more, and we await evidence.

Subject 2 is likewise a typical youth on an ordinary day, possessed of a lively, friendly, fun-loving spirit, who is always helpful and considerate. She possesses none of the brooding character presented in gothic romances.

Under duress, or when she can be persuaded to practice, Subject 2 becomes a creature somewhere between a young lady and a wolf, which might be odd enough save for the bisecting line which runs up and down her body, dividing her into pearly white and obsidian black. She often cannot return to her usual shape for some hours, which causes her distress.

It is a belief widely accepted in Romania that wolves and dogs are great enemies of the vampire, and that furthermore, a white wolf battles the creatures in graveyards and a black wolf pursues them elsewhere.

Building from this set of beliefs, it is likely that Subject 2’s talent is a gift which endows her with the ability to seek out vampires wherever they may be and thence to destroy them.

As hunters of vampire kind, both girls are driven by a sense of justice that seeks to prevent further predations of the dead upon the living, as well as to compromise with those dead who are harmless to the living.

When they die, it is unclear whether they will be forced to walk the earth as did their father, but they are children of God more so than of their father, a fact they adamantly emphasize whenever given the opportunity.

Should you find children of vampires anywhere, it is my prescription that they be nurtured as any child might, and brought up in the church as well. Dangerous assumptions about their destinies and character may steal joy from many households and cheat God of loyal servants.

Deliberate in all wisdom and love of life.

Chapter 1:

Long before snow had dusted its way across Charani’s face, there had been vampires in the mountains. Villagers whispered about them, formed mobs to hunt them, and lived and died with the fear of them. That was why her feet sank into snow and left one trail among many leading up the mountainside.

Beside her, her sister Katya clutched her cloak about herself, its fringe brushing along her cheeks like an affectionate blue puppy. Both made something of a different impression than the rest of the group. It looked as if the Order of the Dragon was minding children, even though they were now both fifteen years of age.

The sisters caught one another’s eyes briefly before bowing their heads again to brace against the onrush of wind. It had already been a long walk, and there was no sign of the summit they sought, so quite likely, they would be subjected to trudging through the snow until it froze their toes through their boots.

Despite all this, a figure ahead of them forged the path through the relentless cold, and did not crouch. Radmilo Batory, their intrepid leader, was planting his walking stick purposefully with each step, and his barrel-sturdy bulk seemed purpose-built to withstand the cold. His long, thick beard, which he kept meticulously trimmed such that with the aid of a leather binding it resembled a dragon’s tail trailed in the snow, making him seem like a dragon in search of his prey.

Charani considered perhaps she, too, would be impervious to cold, if she wore a mantle with that many furs sewn into it. The Order of the Dragon was generous to its members, but Radmilo had the good blood to afford the best.

Thinking of furs did nothing but perturb her, so Charani attempted to cycle through what she would do when she met this vampire. He was known as Radu the Obnoxious Hill Creep, the most irritating vampire in all Romania.

Per the stories other guild members had told her, the order only kept Radu alive because he was so easy to obtain information from, and he did so little harm. If it had been up to the complainants, they may have killed him not for being an abomination, but for being so damnably infuriating. She and her sister had never been part of the missions which took them Radu’s way, but Charani hoped one day she would become a specialist in obtaining and retaining intelligence, so she counted this a grand opportunity.

“Tell me a story,” Katya said, nearly pulling Charani up short. “I need to think of something other than fires and hot pies.”

“What sort of story?”

“A happy one,” Katya instructed.

Charani sorted through the stories in her mind, distracted by the constant pelting of increasingly sleet-ridden wind. “There was once a fortune teller,” she said, nearly shouting for Katya to hear.

“Eh?” Grigory Antonescu, one of the other members of the Order of the Dragon took a step closer to the girls. “A story? Do speak up!”

Charani obeyed, and put an arm up to shield her eyes as she forced her steps onward. “The fortune teller stopped outside a new town, and found two women quarreling. The one, she told how pleasant she was, how skillful a mistress of her home she was, and flattered with other such lovely words. She earned herself a fine silvery reward, and was instructed to return the next day for a similar gift.”

By now, Marya the Alchemist was snickering as she had heard enough snatches to recognize one of Charani’s most popular mainstays.

“The next day, she set out to perform once more and collect her reward, but she was stopped by a sudden rain storm, which drove her into a cave.”

“Oh, the poor woman,” Bartok the Russian drawled, and snickered.

“Yes, the poor woman,” Charani emphasized before she deigned to continue. “The woman was driven into the cave, and found that there was already a fire burning within, and twelve fantastically handsome men sat around it.”

Ooh!” Katya cooed, and then gave a whistle of appreciation. “Such a fine thing to come upon!”

“Indeed,” Charani nodded solemnly, as if this tale had happened to her own aunt. “One of the men welcomed her to the fire, then complained, ‘Oh, such terrible weather besets humankind in March, with the winds and the rains!’”

“Ah, me, that there is,” the feigned solemnity of Bruna Hesse from behind Charani nearly made her own false solemnity crash into a fit of giggles.

“But the fortune teller disagreed,” Charani said. “At the least, she said so, and justified her statement by offering the truth that March gives way to April, and makes ready for the flowers which bless our eyes.”

“Such a wise woman!” Katya cheered.

“And wise she was! For this statement drew sunshine into the eyes of the man who had spoken, and she was asked by all the others to defend the merits of the other eleven months. She had fine words for each, and when the rain let up, they sent her home to feed her children.”

“Don’t forget the bag!” Katya urged.

“I have not forgotten it! The woman was given this bag when she left, but was too polite to open it in front of her new friends. When she returned home, she found a multitude of golden coins and gemstones to dazzle the eyes of a king! It was such a sign from God that she believed she had met with the embodiments of all twelve holy months, for they had rewarded her for kind words spoken of them.”

“Was she correct?” asked Bartok the Russian.

“Who knows? If they were not spirits, they were certainly very bored and careless noblemen, surely. Why else give her such a gift, and how else may they have obtained it?” Marya asked.

“The tale does not say,” Charani said. “That is what the woman thought, and as her sensitivities to the ways of God and time were so often correct, why should that assessment prove false?”

“Pardon the interruption,” Radmilo said, drawing every eye to him. “We have reached the doorstep of our friend, Radu, and we are best advised to be watchful. He may be mostly harmless, but do not develop lazy habits.”

Charani fumbled with her coat and cloak to make sure that each red and yellow flaming cross emblem was visible. Maybe it would protect her, but in case it didn’t, she made the sign of the cross in the Orthodox way for some added assurance.

Radmilo stood on the threshold of a house built into the mountain, and knocked using his hawthorn walking stick. “Radu! The Draconists are here, again!” he called.

“Does he have to let us in?” Katya whispered.

I wouldn’t refuse if I were him,” Charani replied, afraid the snow would steal her whispers.

“What if he isn’t home?” Katya asked.

“He is,” Marya said, and set one hand on both girls’ shoulders. “He’s always been slow.”

A hole opened in the door before Radmilo. “What do you want?” a raspy voice asked through the hole, somehow immune to the wind.

“More of your ilk are stirring trouble in the mountains. Either you've changed your hunting patterns or something wickeder is in the area.”

“Eh…” the entire group heard Radu’s wheeze of mild irritation, and the following silence.

“We have not come with the intention of slaying you, we want answers, just like always,” Radmilo said.

Eh… What if when I help you, this other fellow finds out? If you cannot kill him, he may still come to bother me.”

“We are the best,” Radmilo said. “We will make this threat cease.”

“What do I get?” Radu asked, the suspicion virtually dripping from his fangs.

“We will not impale you,” Radmilo said easily, as if he were promising to pay for another round of beer at the tavern below.

“If you tell us stories, we will tell you stories,” Charani offered.

“Stories…?” there was genuine interest.

Radmilo squared his gaze on Charani, and she thought she would see much more disapproval than she did. He nodded to her after a moment, and the moment afterward the door slowly swung open.

Radu stood in the doorway, framed in faint light from the house within, which revealed his awkward proportions.

Charani had prepared for the lovely monsters, the ones that could steal her heart away just as surely as her blood, but this monster was nothing like a creature from the tales she knew. His skin was so pale it could have been molded from wax, as expected, but the bulky, hunched shoulders and willowy proportions… the massive hands… the long, greasy hair… Hardly a girl’s dream come true.

Radu was staring right back at her from sunken eyes. “You said you would tell me stories…” he wheezed at her. It wasn’t clear how he’d known it was her, but he was a vampire, after all. “Come in… and I will tell you what I know.”

The small task force followed Radmilo into the cave house, and Charani hung close to Katya as the fact they were in a home did nothing to bring warmth to their frigid bones.

No fire lit the enclosure, perhaps Radu was afraid of it. It was one of the most effective methods in vampire destruction, after all. “Come into my home…” Radu said, gesturing with too-long hands for the members of the guild to enter.

Charani watched him as she passed, and saw how closely the yellow eyes set in that sallow face watched her. The mouth was hanging open so she could see jagged teeth, and smell wretched breath rolling off his tongue.

It was a blessing Katya was so near, to keep her steady. These creatures were so familiar to her, at least in a conceptual sense, that she could have coached herself out of worrying about Radu’s intent, but her humanity was frail enough it feared the undead no matter how pathetic.

Apparently, being halfway of his kind did not much lessen the natural abhorrence the living felt toward the Undead.

“We have several questions for you, Radu,” Radmilo said sternly, and the sunken yellow eyes fixed on him.

“How many?” the vampire asked, and lank tendrils of black, greasy hair covered half his face as he turned his head.

“Count,” Radmilo instructed, and pulled a pouch from his belt.

“Oh, no…” Radu wheezed just before the pouch spewed forth what must have been hundreds or thousands of millet seeds.

The seeds were small, nearly imperceptible grains, and even Charani and Katya had to cringe at the mortification on Radu’s face.

“I was already going to tell you everything…” Radu whined.

“And now, you’ll tell us without any sudden moves,” Radmilo said cheerfully, pulling up a crate Radu must have squirreled away while no villagers were looking, and sat on it.

“Eh…” Radu wheezed irritably, but dutifully knelt as all vampires must to count out the many, many seeds. “What do you want to know?” he asked. His eyes flickered Charani’s way.

It was not Radmilo, but Marya who spoke, and it must have been to ask this question specifically that she had left her alchemy laboratory. “There has been a series of break-ins all in the homes of wealthy peasants. Whole families have been laid waste, few have survived. There has been such violence done to the bodies, and yet, not a drop of blood.”

Radu looked up at Marya and calculated his response before he gave it. “It may be someone of my kind... what of it?”

“How do we make it stop?” Marya asked. “These people may be forced to wander like you.”

“Oh, I stopped the wandering after I killed Mama,” Radu said. “Now I stay here. I am retired from all that young people stuff.”

Katya squeezed Charani’s hand.

Had Radu killed his mother before or after his ‘retirement’ to the mountains, or was killing his mother something that had sentenced him to this un-life? The two of them remained silent, afraid to dredge up more attention for themselves.

“You said there would be stories…” Radu muttered without looking up from the millet seeds.

“One story per answer,” Charani said.

“I did answer…”

“I don’t feel answered,” Marya said. “How can we stop the deaths?”

“Are you not professionals?” Radu asked.

“We would be forced to track this creature through the mountains unceasingly if we did not know where to go. Why don’t you just tell us where you think he’s gone?” Grigory asked.

“And then the story…?” Radu asked. He sounded much like a child by this point, and Charani looked away to avoid pitying him too much.

“And then the story,” Radmilo said, stroking his long black beard as if in thought.

“Well… he passed through a few days ago…” Radu paused to make a neat pile of millet seeds even with his long clumsy fingers before he continued. “He said that he had eaten well, and that if I wanted… I could, also.”

“Have you partaken in the suffering of the people in those villages?” Radmilo asked, an edge of warning on his tongue.

“Of course, I did! It was right there! But I didn’t make it… I just ate it… Now, tell me a story!”

Charani shot a look at Radmilo, startled by the adamant tone on the vampire’s words, and afraid of further chastisement if she told the story without permission. When she saw that her leader gave her permission with a light nod, she spoke. “You’ve been cooperative enough, so I will give you a story. Before we got here I was telling the tale of the fortune teller and the twelve months.”

“Ah, I like that one… did you reach the part about the bag of snakes?” Radu wheezed, only glancing up a moment from the millet seeds.

“No,” Charani sighed. “That’s the end of it…”

“Aw…” Radu looked back down. “That’s my favorite part…”

Charani looked to Radmilo. Wasn’t it possible Radu was feeding off her insecurities? His power was to waste people’s time on useless minutia, or to cause minor discomfort… but he must be so lonely up on his mountain…

There was no disapproval in Radmilo’s eyes, and so she returned her attention to Radu. “When the foul-tempered woman cursed each of the months for some fault she found with them, the months gave her a sack, and when she got home, she discovered that the sack was full of snakes, and each of the vipers contributed some venom to her death.”

Radu smiled, and Charani counted the vicious teeth, uneven and gleaming.

“I can add something to that story…” Charani cleared her throat. “The snakes continued to live in the disagreeable woman’s home, and nobody dared to enter. Because there were no humans about, the snakes frolicked in the woman’s home, and learned how to live and speak like people. Eventually, they started to go to market with little baskets, and thought to buy themselves groceries, but that was before the villagers offered to pay them for eating the mice in their homes. This pleased the snakes, and they became so well-loved in the village that every year, the villagers hung streamers in the streets to celebrate the snakes.”

“Oh!” Radu paused counting the millet seeds only long enough to clap his disturbingly long hands. “I like that even better than before! You are good at this!”

Charani blushed, uncertain whether this childlike enjoyment shining off the vampire were part of a trap.

“Radu, tell us the name of the vampire,” Radmilo said. “If we could know his name, we could call on him and capture him that way.”

“I do not know his True Name, only what he told me,” Radu wheezed grumpily.

“Tell us what he said, and you can have another story,” Katya said in her sweetest voice.

“Do you tell stories, too?” Radu asked hopefully.

“Yes, but Charani does it better,” Katya said, “and she’s the one who made the promise, not me.”

“Oh, thanks,” Charani whispered to Katya in Romani, the language of their mother’s people.

“Then I want another story from Charani.”

And now he knew her name. Wonderful. She gave Katya a look she hoped communicated fully what she thought of that.

“You haven’t told us what the other vampire’s name is,” Charani pointed out to him.

Radu made a sour face, and finally shrugged as he accepted it. “His name he said was Costache. He had one eyebrow, and he said he had been born to be a vampire because of it. Maybe someone else knows more. Now tell me a story.”

Charani stood up straighter. She could not think of a story she already knew at that moment, but what she could do was invent one. It had to be one where the undead were helpful. Perhaps it would be a subtle hint to Radu.

Her words were flowing from her before she’d truly considered them. “There was once a girl who lived in an old mill. There were no windows but there were two doors, one that led outside, and one that was in the floor, and led to a passage below. Her father had always said never to go through the passage below, but one day, the local rapscallions pounded on the door to the mill house, and her father could not make them stop.”

“And what did the bullies want?” Radu asked, his yellow eyes eager.

“You see, the girl was quite lovely, and they insisted that her father should let one of them marry her. But the man knew that all of them were worthless rascals, and they would act cruelly to his beloved daughter, the only child of his departed wife. When he realized that they would surely break down the door, he called to the girl, and shouted, ‘Beloved child! Run through the forbidden door!’ and though she had been told for so long that she must never do it, that was what she did.”

Oh…” Radu nodded and his lank strands of hair waved around like reeds soaked in pig fat. “Tell me what happened when the girl did the bad thing!”

“Well, it was when the girl had descended the ladder that she discovered rows…” she paused, watching as Radu leaned in, “upon rows…”

“Rows! Rows of what?” Radu exclaimed, waving his pasty, overly-long fingers.

“There were shelves and shelves of corpses! All wound in their burial sheets, and staring at her!”

“Opa!” Radu cried, and clapped. “And did they eat her?”

“No,” Charani was enjoying this more than she had thought, blushing with exhilaration. “There was a silver bell hanging from a hook on the ceiling, and she rang it just as she heard the toughs breaking in!”

“Tell me! Tell me what happened!” Radu had all but forgotten the millet seeds, and had one poised between his fingers as he jumped up and hopped in a circle.

“When she rang the bell, the corpses began to move!”

“Yes!” Radu exclaimed, and dropped his millet seed when he threw his hands in the air. He paused, then knelt again sheepishly. “Eh… continue.”

“She heard her father’s cries as the tough youths beat him so he would tell them the location of his daughter, but he would not tell. She pointed to the ceiling overhead and cried, ‘Quick! Quick! They are harming my father!’ The corpses were infuriated! They ran up the stairs and seized the youths. Death was far stronger even than their lusty vigor, and the corpses dragged them all to the river, where they were then drowned. The girl and her father lived happily then, knowing that the corpses of their dead loved ones would always protect them.”

“Aw, that was a sweet story,” Radu nodded, having clearly lost count by now as he was sorting through the same seeds repeatedly.

“Now it is my turn,” Grigory said. “Radu, you know that every year we must check on you to ensure that you are not harming villagers.”

“Grig, you know me!” Radu gestured to himself with his hands full of millet seeds. “I feed off irritation! How can I eat if I have nobody to irritate, ah?” he asked with his version of a smile.

“Yes, I know that,” Grigory conceded, “but I also want to make sure you never get worse. You are the undead, and it is our duty—”

“To be a bunch of busybodies?” Radu asked sourly, with a vampire pout. “Yes, and you’re good at it. Except for that one,” he pointed at Charani. “And almost that one,” he gestured to Katya and the millet seeds he’d been holding onto flew from his fingers. “Blestemat!”

“Language, Radu,” Radmilo said patiently, picking up one of the seeds and flicking it back at him. “There are ladies present.”

“Sorry ladies…” Radu seemed genuine in his apology when he bent down again to organize the millet. “I haven’t done anything. Some of the children like to pull pranks on me… I gave one of them a headache. He was very irritated with me after that.” Radu nodded proudly to himself over the memory, licking his lips.

“And was the child incapacitated by this headache?” Marya asked.

“No…” Radu sounded rather like a child himself, a child that had clearly just done something wrong but was trying to seem innocent, anyway.

“You know your boundaries,” Radmilo said. “This is why we keep checking on you. If you were more trustworthy we wouldn’t have to do this so often.”

“It’s not my fault! Tell the little freaks not to pick on me!” Yes, he really was an overgrown immortal child. No wonder he was so irritating.

“I will speak to them,” Radmilo said, “the order believes in fairness. But you must still remember not to overstep your bounds. We are exactly as just as we are fair.”

“And justice sometimes means punishing people. Spare the stake and spoil the milk.” Katya said firmly, smiling as she had remembered that from her lessons.

“Eh… what does that mean?” Radu asked.

“If you don’t kill vampires when they need killing, they’ll make life miserable. Such as spoiling cows’ milk,” Katya said.

“I did that once!” Radu exclaimed excitedly. He went back to counting the millet seeds, but this time he raked them into little piles.

“Thank you for your help, Radu,” Radmilo said quickly as he stood. “My friends and I will return at the appointed time. Three months, recall?”

“Yes,” Radu said, giving Charani a longing look. “Why not just send her?”

“Because she is one of our trainees,” Radmilo said, putting a hand on both Charani and Katya’s shoulders. “They’ve come along as a learning experience.”

“Oh, fine,” Radu pouted.

At a nod from Radmilo, Marya and Grigory exited the house, and Radmilo ushered Charani and Katya out.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Radu said, “what am I supposed to do with these millet seeds?”

“You could mash them up and turn them into millet bread,” Charani suggested.

“Oh! Nice! That sounds tasty!” Radu exclaimed. “Except… eh… I don’t really bake… or eat…”

“Maybe sell it,” Katya suggested, and Radmilo opened the door, taking his hand off Charani long enough to do so and usher Katya out into the snow.

Charani, too, attempted to leave, but a set of overly long fingers clamped around her upper arm. Slowly, she turned her head to stare up into those shadowed yellow eyes, her mouth gaping open with horror.

“Storyteller…” he wheezed, and his breath smelled of the grave as it crashed against her face. “Stay with me… tell me stories…”

“I-if I’m made to stay here, I will run out of stories,” she said hurriedly.

“You will learn new stories, and retell the old ones,” Radu said, and it was then that Charani fully stopped to look at his teeth. She had already noted their jaggedness, but she had not taken full account of how sharp and gleaming they were. Those filthy teeth may soon be embedded in her neck if she didn’t…

“Charani!” Katya and Radmilo both exclaimed, and suddenly the world snapped back into focus.

Of course, silly girl, there was an avenue for escape! She summoned the strength and squeezed her eyes shut.

In the peaceful dark behind her eyes, she willed her physical body to evaporate into smoke. The sweet smell of cinnamon permeated the air in place of Radu’s decay, and she flowed through the air until she stood a yard away.

She only reappeared when she was out of Radu’s reach, even with those massively long fingers, and stood next to Charani again.

Radmilo strode past the girls and angled the pointed foot of his hawthorn staff at Radu. “You tried to steal my daughter,” he said.

“She is not your daughter,” Radu contended, even as he shielded himself with his arms crossed before his face. “Her father was of my kind.”

“And now he is gone, and I have raised her,” Radmilo said, advancing on the vampire. “I warn you, Radu, become more than a mere annoyance, and the Order will dispose of you!”

It was difficult for Charani to believe that so recently she had pitied this creature. Now he stood distorted and threatening, and her heart had yet to stop racing.

“I want someone to tell me stories!” Radu exclaimed.

“I’m done telling stories!” Charani shouted back, and darted away using her power to disappear and reappear even further away. “I don’t want to stay with you!”

When she gathered the courage to look at Radu, she saw that he was looking at her with a saddened pout. “You will come back, though?”

“Only if you promise to be good.”

Marya and Katya dragged Charani away.

“I will be good!” Radu wheezed after her. “Come back, storyteller! Tell me more stories then!”

Chapter 2:

As they walked down the mountain path, the group was silent for some time. Some of it was due to exposure to Radu, and the draining effect that his very presence exerted. Some of it was the natural exhaustion of having climbed the mountain in the first place, and in sum most of the guild members were drained and cranky.

Such was not the state of Radmilo. “You’ve all done well today,” he informed them.

“Even me?” Charani asked.

“You did beautifully,” Marya said quickly. “You kept him talking, and that was for the best. Sometimes he gets so petulant he clams up.”

“You have a real talent,” Radmilo said gently. “It is good that you know how to use it well.”

“Use it at the tavern!” Grigory said, grinning back up the path at Charani. “Get us all a discount!”

“I think I will,” Charani said, practically glowing with the pride of using her powers for once.

“I’ll actually participate this time,” Katya said with an apologetic glance her twin’s way.

“Right, what was that about telling the vampire my name?” Charani knew it was petty but she allowed a little anger to rise to the surface.

Katya quailed away and raised a hand defensively. “I’m sorry! I forgot!”

“Now if he comes looking for me he knows what name to inquire after,” Charani noted bitterly.

“At least she did not divulge your True Name,” Radmilo pointed out. “Then he could have summoned you wherever you were and you would have no way to resist his call.”

Charani shivered. “Do you think he’s going to follow me?” she asked, glancing over her shoulder as if Radu may be on the path, already.

“He could, but he isn’t terribly brave,” Radmilo said. “If he did come after you, it would only be after some time had passed. There’s no reason to fear him. Even if he bit you, your heritage and your membership in the guild will protect you. We wouldn’t let you complete the transformation.”

Charani took a deep breath. “I suppose you’re right. I’m still not used to that, I guess. I grew up with the fear and now…”

“Remember that you were baptized, and no thief can enter a strong man’s house and take what belongs to him. Your body is a temple to the Lord. After death, we will take the proper precautions.”

Charani and Katya exchanged another glance. Their mother had conceived them in the normal way, by their human father… But it was after their conception that their father had died, and returned to their mother as a revenant. The bite he had given her had not turned any of them, but the twins were in an in-between space, now, an undefined gray area which they had yet to fully grasp.

In the silent interlude, all the Draconists could hear aside from the snow-crunching hoofbeats of their horses, and the trundling of the cart were the occasional calls of ravens.

Their first sight of the village was over its wall, and they could see the scattered homes blanketed in smooth planes of snow, and the sloping roofs were hung thick with glittering icicles.

The silence was swallowed up when they neared the village by villagers who had been waiting anxiously by the gate.

“According to the vampire, he’s only caused a headache to one of your lads,” Radmilo told them. “He requests that you keep the children from confronting and mocking him. I apologize for the inconvenience he caused, and his nature suggests he will search for a new hideaway quickly. The struggles which plague other villages are unrelated to your own, but we thank you for helping us find Radu.”

The villagers were displeased with this report, and it showed on their dull gray faces. Perhaps if they had heard of Radu’s death, they would be jubilant.

Just how annoying was Radu, anyway?

Radmilo led them back to the inn where Katya and Charani had left their carpet bags full of extra clothing from home and the books they’d been reminded to bring for roadside studies. It was a cozy little place, more like a house with several expansions than a designated inn, which simply added to its charm.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I am a small town Navy brat who likes to pretend she can break out of her mundane surroundings even if it is only through the medium of indie fiction and tons of documentaries.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
My friend and I were at work, and she suggested we collaborate on a series. She wanted to write a dieselpunk magical girl series set during World War 2, and this is the leadup to it.

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