Crown of Ruin
“How long have you lived at Court, Diana?”
She leans forward, bracing her forearms against the edge of the table. Her features are hard, her face angular. I think she just permanently looks angry. “For about three hundred years.”
“And you were born here, yes?” I prompt.
I smile, nodding. “I would like to tell you a story, Diana,” I say, mirroring her posture. “A story of when our kind very first came into being. When my husband made himself into the ultimate hunter, but also cursed himself with the craving of blood.”
Diana’s eyes widen a bit and her entire body tightens slightly.
“I watched in horror as he hunted down his first human. I saw his tears as they fell down his face in remorse. Cyrus, the first vampire, like yourself, craved blood and he could not resist the urge to drink. So people went missing and the rumors began to spread in our town.”
I can picture it all. Every detail. Every memory. The beginnings when I wore the face of Sevan and had never died a single death.
But in this moment, I pay exact attention to my words. I control every line and every thought.
“And then when there were two of us, the whisperings grew louder. Dark eyes turned our direction. Our lives were torn apart. We had to leave, or we knew they would turn against us.”
I shiver as I think of that first night in the forest.
“We lived like animals in the woods,” I continue. “And every night, we moved, because always during the day, they hunted us through the forest. With knives and primitive weapons. We didn’t know how they would hurt us. For months and months we were driven from place to place, constantly pushed by fear.”
Diana sits there, very, very still. Frozen. She’s hardly even breathing as she listens to my story.
“After I gave birth, we were once more on the run. One of us would always kill, and most of the time we were not discovered, but the times we were…” I shiver, remembering the terror. “We were strong, we could defend ourselves, but it was the two of us against the entire world. A population of billions.”
I look up and meet her eyes. I lean forward slightly, our faces only a foot apart.
“Roter Himmel was a god-send,” I say. “After years of living in fear and uncertainty, we had somewhere safe. Somewhere we did not have to hide what we were. We grew our family here. We loved and cherished here.”
I sit back, my eyes darkening. “There are over eight billion people in this world, Diana,” I say straight and blunt. “There are roughly fifty-thousand vampires, Born, Royal, or the few Bitten left, throughout the world. There are forces at work in this moment that are trying to destroy Roter Himmel. They would expose our kind to the world, perhaps to change the system. To create a new monarchy. Perhaps to attempt to take over the world.”
I sit forward again, locking my eyes on hers. “Fifty-thousand of us, eight billion of them. I’m not willing to take on those odds and lose the peace and protection of Roter Himmel. Are you willing to take that risk, Diana?”
Her expression has been going slack, slowly, over this entire story time. Her eyes are open, her lips slightly parted.
“We all look the same, loyal or betrayer,” I say. “This may take some time. But if even one of them slips through the cracks, it could mean the end of us all. Are you ready to take the risk, Diana?”
She blinks five times, as if clearing the fog of my story from her brain. “No,” she whispers.
“Do you want to be hunted one day, 160,000 to one?” I ask her.
“No,” she immediately says.
“Do you understand why I must be careful and thorough?”
“Yes, my Queen.” She says it with a little bow of her head.