A child may ask, “Mother, what’s in there?” He was pointing at the mansion on top of the hill. Dark and gloomy, almost empty. The uphill climb looked easy but the ground seemed soft, as if one would be swallowed by it if they dared reach the top.
It would take quite a while before the mother would answer, remembering how stories spread in their village go. “Vampires, dear. Best if we move now because we don’t want them devouring us both.”
There was fear in her voice for she wasn’t exactly sure what was inside. The mansion contains a lot of stories, from villagers and travelers alike. Sometimes they encountered beasts, sometimes ghosts. There were even reports of rotting corpses walking out of that soft ground. Vampires were the most common story. Blood suckers were said to venture out of the mansion, in search for humans they could feed on. For a mother, it’s best to kill her child’s curiosity over something dangerous.
The villagers were partly right, mostly wrong. The mansion wasn’t empty and vampires do exist inside, but they were far from the savage beings they were branded to be. They adjust with time just as humans do. Better than most, even. They recognize what was clean and proper from utter barbarity. They learned to be silent with their prey, feeding only on what was once but now gone. Vicious as they may appear, there is one thing that is most important to these near immortals.
Traditions. Oh, and family. Of course, who would perform these traditions without the long line of purebloods?
For every hundred, a drop of blue must be absorbed by the heir. It was pretty self-explanatory as the blood of royalty had the most exquisite taste of them all.
Except that it didn’t end there. Before dinner was a performance. A game which one must play to not waste the moment of devouring. They had all done it. One even placed herself in a tower and waited for the fateful day where the prince would find her. It was all planned out. Long, golden hair lent down for him to climb up- oblivious to the trap.
It was Beatrice’s turn this century, and she had been preparing for it. Planning, to be exact. With her responsibility of continuing the tradition, she sacrificed a grand life in their mansion to being a traveler to a neighboring kingdom.
A decade before the centenary was what she gave herself. Just waiting for a plan to arrive as if it were all fate’s doing was becoming a bore. She needed to be the one who will come before her prey. She needed her game tamed by her strings.
“Can you read this for me?” It was a child. Quite small, Beatrice could squish her and she would burst. She might try but she composed herself, turning her attention away from the girl by the window. “Mama wanted to ask you how many days you will be staying here.”
So she was the inn-keeper’s daughter. It made sense as to how this little girl barged in like she owned the place, Beatrice’s personal space invaded.
“Tell her that I will only be here for a moment.” Or a while. Ten years may be the longest.
The girl nodded, waving a paper around. “So you might be a traveler! Pity, mama expected that she’ll gain a few from you because you looked well-off.” Silence. The girl was waiting for her to respond. Beatrice didn’t so she continued. “You know, them travelers don’t stay the longest but they bring the most fascinating stories. Have you got one?”
The young woman scoffed, but now finally seemed interested. “I do, actually. Have you heard of vampires?” A perfect way to scare a kid so that she’ll finally be left alone.
“Meh. Vampires are the cause why we cannot play under the moonlight. How rubbish. Do you have more?”
“What?” She didn’t know if she’s surprised or offended.
As if not hearing her, the girl pointed at the paper. “Can you read this word? Cla- Cley- I’ve been struggling to read this for days now.”
Beatrice glanced at it, only planning to tell whatever word she may think of. But long and hard, she continued staring until the younger girl finally got the gist. “You cannot read.”
With an unfamiliar warmth spreading across both cheeks, Beatrice held her breath before replying. “You are an intelligent girl. When did you learn how to read?”
“A traveler taught me and my friends. Mister took a good look at us and thought of how commoners deserve more. But you, miss, looked like a lady of a house. How do you not know how to read?”
How does she not know? How long had she lived? Probably thrice the years of this girl’s mother. Despite that, her years were mostly fast than slow, and it’s not that she cannot find time to read, at all. She could scan a few words, know how they were pronounced. Like die, family, blood, creativity. But never had she read out loud. And never had she focused on it for she didn’t think it mattered much. Such pampered heiress, she was.
“How about I teach you?”
Beatrice frowned. A child? Teach her? “And if you are wrong?”
“Then we are both wrong! We make fun of ourselves. What is more exciting than that?”
For the first time since she got there, the vampire laughed. The child was as entertaining as her game. Maybe for now. “That is a stupid thought. But then, I agree. Shall we make a deal then?”
The little girl shrugged. “A blood pact, perhaps?”
Beatrice cringed. That’s right. In her eyes, this little one may become food. The smell of blood may trigger her, savage as it may sound. What she was trying to avoid may come after her, possibly dragging her family’s tradition and her efforts down the drain.
“A name would be enough.”
“Alana. I’m 13, miss. Nice to meet you.”
Thus the introduction and start of lessons the following days.
It wasn’t in the plan to grow closer with someone so mortal. But Beatrice wouldn’t recognize it as a distraction. Perhaps, something that she can also use to set her plan. A blood blue of hue would make her worthy of her position in the family, she cannot forget her purpose here.
Using the child to her advantage, she decided to ask whom they think is the closest to the royal family. It’s impossible for Alana to not know anything about their rulers. She is, after all, a very intelligent girl.
“The honorary physician, maybe?”
“We see him come and go,” Alana told her. “And before you came, they announced that they will be building a medical household. So if we’re talking about closest, then it must be the physician because he’s the only one allowed to see them on their beds, especially when they’re sick.”
Odd how she seemed to know all the details. Beatrice continued writing about her a’s and b’s, her mind constructing on what must be done. A physician. Is it not hard, though? Nevertheless-
“Then, I want to be one!”
Alana gaped at the lady. Completely understandable, of course. One day she cannot read, now she’s blurting out dreams beyond reason.
“You’re amazing, Beatrice!” Lips pulled into a wide smile, eyes sparkling in awe- this child is a wonder among all. “I want to be a physician, too. But I don’t want to do it here. I wish I could be a lady like you. Free to travel and can decide what you want to be, whenever.”
“Then we must learn more words so we can both be physicians.” Another deal, only this time it was far off entertainment. It was a promise.
What was once a plan for a game became reality’s dream, one day, when Alana started coughing up. Days passed but it didn’t stop. Rather, it worsened. Her body’s temperature was always high, her face red and her throat dry. She was weak, never leaving her room to play or learn. And the coughing. It echoed across the rooms of the inn that some travelers avoided stopping by, afraid that they might catch whatever it is that’s making the young girl sick.
Beatrice had never wanted to save anyone before. Calling the town’s physician was little to no help when he told them that Alana might not be cured. It was the first time the vampire begged someone. That she’ll give whatever she had in store, just so the human may heal. She almost gave the girl her own blood.
When Alana recovered, Beatrice knew more than ever that she wanted to heal. It was like a snap, loud and lucid. But a vampire as a healer of humans? Who would even think of someone crossing the line? She did. Her experience with Alana changed her.
Unfortunately, the experience also changed the perspective of Alana’s parents.
Beatrice was there. Windows were open for sunlight to pass through while her books were piled up on her desk, parchment full of scribbles. Catering her way through a university (she definitely didn’t use her compelling ability) was easy but the passion to continue all that studying was like lightning a candle. She lights it and then the wind would blow the fire out if she hadn’t protected it enough. It was exhausting.
Alana was the only one who kept her going. Until she was suddenly taken away by a fancy carriage, straight out of fairytales, on the girl’s seventeenth birthday.
“It is for the best,” said the inn-keeper. “The child would keep suffering if she stayed here.”
It was an assurance but it made Beatrice angry. How dare they give away their daughter? Married off to the first person who showed them pennies of gold. And here she though family relations mattered to humans just as much.
“You do not love your child!”
She had never left such lowlife hurt her. Temper at its peak, Beatrice prepared to show her fangs. The desire to suddenly see blood was overwhelming her.
“You have no say on what I feel!” the voice cracked. Glancing at the woman, Beatrice had always saw just an inn-keeper and in no occasion a mother. But now… “She was almost dead when she fell sick! Do you think I want that to happen again? We are just us. In no way would we experience a life treated easy. And with Alana here, we do not want her to live the life we are living today. We’re not like you, we do not have a choice.”
The inn-keeper’s words hurt more than her slap for she was right. Beatrice had most things that people like them had not. Living with them made no difference because she still dwelled on her pocket, oblivious to the arguments below. The heiress wouldn’t understand. That thought was a stab in the gut.
Beatrice left the inn.
Studying had kept her away from thinking about the intelligent girl she once knew. It also brought back her focus to the plan. Practitioners come and go from the royal family’s medical household. If she became a part of said household, tasting such precious blood would be easy from there.
Glory would once again fuel her family to lead the other purebloods. It was a plan a few steps to succeeding.
The day that she got the results of her hard work, Beatrice couldn’t stop smiling. This is ridiculous, how could a piece of paper make her happy?
She passed the evaluation! She couldn’t believe it. Her heart fluttered as she stared at the words written on the paper. Now all she had to do was write a letter to the honorary physician then, she’s inside the palace!
Or maybe she could make a few stop-overs first? Try to get her hand on really healing children- No! The tradition. It had to happen before all of that.
“Muriel! A student! Take her under your care, will you?”
Convincing the honorary physician wasn’t hard, at all. Ability used or whatnot, persuasion was something that came easy with her as a vampire.
There were a few reminders like “Mind you, you are not an official physician just yet,” and “Someone as young as you are may commit mistakes and that is forbidden here,” even though she’s years older than them all. It didn’t bother her like before. She’s now fine with being schooled, especially by deemed professionals.
“The prince is with a fever right now. I am tasked to take care of him while you may assist,” Muriel said, making Beatrice carry a tray of supplies.
“Of course.” Got it.
Opening a humungous wooden door up the west wing, Beatrice was welcomed with a warm smell of weakness. She grinned, opting to continue with her plan while thinking of a way to get rid of Muriel.
“Muriel, you’re here,” a familiar voice distracted her from her thoughts.
Beatrice stood, gaping at the adult version of her friend from long ago. Alana was by the young prince’s side, her voice coated with concern. “Phillip kept on mumbling in his sleep. He’s still warm but not as much as before.”
Sensing that someone else was with the physician, Alana met Beatrice’s eyes. It was again the time the vampire felt a heavy emotion wash over her. A reunion with a friend she hadn’t thought she’ll meet again.
“Beatrice,” she sounded quiet, but she looked glad.
“You’re highness,” Muriel called Alana’s attention. “I brought a basin of lukewarm water. My new student here, Beatrice, will attend to the young prince while I supervise.”
Alana nodded and stood up to exit the room. She stopped in front of Beatrice, squished her hand before whispering, “I’m proud of you.”
Beatrice grinned in response, only replying a short. “Thank you.”
A princess. Remembering how she saw the carriage, it all made sense now. She was married off to the crown prince. And this child must be…
“I see you know who the princess is. This is Phillip, her son.”
That complicated her thoughts. What would happen now? Her victim was her dear friend’s son.
It was an unthinkable coincidence. It was too much of a coincidence. How did it come to this? She said she would not rely on fate but instead have her hands on it, playing it like a fiddle. She challenged fate and now this boy whom she was supposed to feed on was more than just royalty.
No, he was Alana’s son.
Muriel’s voice echoed but she was far deep. Beatrice was out of choices. Her tradition or her friend? Should she be the one respected or should she give respect to her friend? Precious Alana who dreamed with her, who pushed her to be more humane. Whom she thought she had a hard time understanding while she had been sitting on her seat of privileges.
She looked outside. The sun was setting, she would be much more powerful with the moonlight up the sky. But power is such an unsteady thing that loyalty could beat.
Beatrice was out of choices. Tradition or her friend? Her family or her dream? Vampires or mortals?
Night time came, she chose to flee.