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I ran through the Forest of Darkness, my lungs burning like fire as I fled from the cottage I called home. It was an intention I’d already dreamt of happening over the last one hundred and twenty years of my life. My mother, Eris, had chased me out of the house because of an argument she had had with my father, Canis. She had failed to kill him the night before, an order requested by Crimson, the queen of Shelvarya. She was the Dark Lord, Draken’s, heiress. But she had created him from her sister, Katrina’s, remains. My father, Canis, was a werewolf, and in a fight between them, Katrina was ripped in two.
My mother’s task wasn’t carried out and Crimson made her immortal. She was a vampire and her thirst for blood was ravage. The night she was bitten, I hid myself in the farm house and stayed quiet. I was an elf, born long before my mother was cursed, and the past two hundred and twenty years of my life, I had grown accustomed to the problems around me. My father had been born by a mother who was a vampire. Her name was Belle. His father was a werewolf and he took to his side. Crimson was his sister and the reason she despised him, was because of his father’s temper towards their mother.
It was a dark night when Katrina was born, and Reginald, my grandfather had seen his daughter. His anger was overwhelming. While both my father and my aunt—I refused to call her that—were asleep, he ripped her heart out. There was a quarrel between Crimson and her brother, and my father won—he escaped into the land of Falden, Queen Isabella’s kingdom. There, he was allies with her and her army.
Crimson disappeared and over the past two hundred and twenty years, she’d been on my father’s tail. I knew he wouldn’t give in to showing his face to her even if it meant his death.
I tripped over a vine in the ground and fell head over heels into a tree. Except it wasn’t a tree at all. It moved and I quickly got to my feet. My eyes widened as I saw Sithka, and Lord Draken mounted in his saddle, hands gripping the reigns as if they were his only lifeline.
“Hello, Katrina,” I said.
“Do not use that name, child,” he hissed, “your father destroyed her long before you were born.”
I glared at him, narrowing my eyes. “Crimson made you, Draken, and she can destroy you.”
His face was barely visible beneath his hooded cloak. His red eyes glowed brightly in the darkness of the forest. He chuckled. “You are alone, Vondra. There is no one to protect you.”
I heard a growl and Draken snapped his head to the left as my father jumped on him. He screeched and fell to the ground. My father stood, a good three feet taller than me. He walked over and wrapped his arms around me. I buried my face in his fur, smelling his scent of wet leaves, and damp earth.
“You’re safe now,” he said.
Someone shouted a spell and his form went limp.
“Father!” I cried. He fell onto his back on the forest floor. I looked up to see Crimson. She chuckled softly.
“You’re so easily caught,” she said. Her left eye was covered by a lock of her dark hair, the other narrowed, the red iris growing darker. “You’ve made a poor choice, Vondra. You should’ve stayed home.”
“You’re wrong, Crimson,” I said, “he’s your brother and you know it.”
She hissed, baring her teeth. “Don’t test me!”
“Well, it’s not my problem that he’s your family!”
Before I knew it I was up against a tree and she was nose to nose with me. Her breath reeked of stale blood, and her skin smelled of lavender. She smiled, brushing her lips against my neck, then looking back at me. “Do not be so absentminded, Vondra. I could kill you if I wanted to, but I love you.”
I spit in her face.
She blinked, then wiped it away. “Obviously, I’m lying.”
I smiled and she threw me to the ground. “Not thinking about your father now, are you?” I asked.
Crimson spun on her heel and ran at me. I rolled out of the way before she got to me. I stood up and heard a roar, looking to the sky to see Arra, the queen’s dragon, land in front of me. Queen Isabella jumped from her saddle, landing on her feet on the ground. She drew her sword and advanced towards Draken.
“Fool!” Draken hissed, leaping towards me. “You’re no match, Isabella.”
“Don’t play games, Dark Lord,” she retorted. “You have no right here. This is the land of the elven warriors and you have contaminated it with your filthy blood and treacherous cruelty to my people.”
Crimson laughed and grabbed the queen from behind. Isabella spun around and stabbed her through the heart. Crimson shrieked and she drove deeper in, then backed away, yelling, “Get in the saddle!”
I obeyed, climbing onto Arra’s back and grabbing the reigns. She said, “Stay quiet.”
“I will,” I said, looking at the ground to see my father getting to his feet. He turned to see Crimson crying out in pain. Then he looked at me and said, “Get in the air, Vondra! That sword will only hold her for so long!”
Queen Isabella jumped into the saddle and Arra kicked off with her hind legs. We rose skyward, the Forest of Darkness fading to a series of trees in the distance. As we got farther away from my father, I grew worried and burst into tears.
“It’s going to be alright, Vondra,” the queen said.
I didn’t reply I just stared at the Forest of Darkness, watching as I left my father behind.
Canis looked around him to see where Crimson had gone. They were nowhere to be seen.
“Don’t make a poor choice, Canis,” Sithka said. Smoke trailed from his nostrils and he stepped closer.
Canis growled at him. “You come near me; I’ll rip your head off.”
“Brother, Brother,” Crimson said, putting a hand on his shoulder, “you know that’s not the way to speak to Katrina’s dragon.” She came around and put her long finger nail on his throat. He gasped, staring at her with wide eyes. She smiled at him. “Don’t be poor, my brother.”
Canis jerked away. “You’re not able to be trusted.”
Draken appeared behind him, and put his blade to his throat.
“You see,” Crimson said, “we may not be the same, but when father killed mother, I had no choice to seek out my sister who you killed.” She hissed. “You have been so inconsiderate.”
“You know what, Crimson?” Canis asked.
He smiled. “You always were like your mother.” He ripped the sword from Draken’s hands and snapped it in two, advancing towards her.
“Stay away from me,” Crimson said, backing up against a tree. “Stay away!”
Canis turned around to face his wife. She beckoned for him to follow. “Come here.”
He was led to a place where they were alone in the woods. Thunder boomed and it began to rain. He looked around him for any sign of an intruder. “What is it you want, Eris?”
She smiled and he cringed, seeing her sharp canines, which were pure white. “You already know, don’t you?”
Her smile faded. “I want to kill Vondra,” she said flatly. She walked up to him. He was eight feet tall and stood over her, glaring at her with his deep brown eyes. A growl emanated from his throat.
“Now, Canis,” Eris said. “You still love me, don’t you?”
He sighed. “Of course.”
“Then find her.”
Rage hit him like a wave and he swung his arm, scratching his wife across the face with his sharp claws. “Never!” he turned around and ran, leaping into a tree and going from branch to branch.
Eris looked up, the deep gouges in her cheek sealing, her face taking form. She hissed in rage.
“A little trouble?” Crimson asked, walking up to her. “Did you get him?”
“No,” Eris said through clenched teeth. She stared at Crimson who put a hand on her shoulder.
“Do not be worried, Eris,” she said, “he will be dead soon enough.”
Crimson turned to face the Dark Lord. “Yes, Draken?”
“My sword.” He held it up.
Crimson held the blade together, and the pieces reformed, then she handed it back. “Find him,” she said.
“Yes, my queen.” Draken walked over to Sithka and mounted his saddle.
As they flew off, Crimson muttered a curse and disappeared into thin air. Eris walked back to her cottage where a vampire wearing a dark cloak stood waiting.
“Well,” Eris said, “I’ve managed to keep you alive, haven’t I?”
“Yes, Eris,” the vampire said in a feminine voice.
“You have your husband’s heart, you are the undead. I brought you back to life, and had I not, Belle, you would have suffered a great deal.”
Eris walked over and reached into her chest. “You’ll have no need for this.” She pulled it out.
A high pitched shriek echoed through the Forest of Darkness.
I cried fitfully into the queen’s dress, her arm was around me and she was trying to comfort me as we landed in the castle in the city of Falden. Arra crouched and I got off onto the marble floor of the dungeon.
“Are you alright?” she asked, cocking her head.
I sniffed. “I’ll be fine,” I lied. But I already expected something from Arra; because she was sensitive to a false tell.
“Do not be inconsiderate, Vondra. I know you’re not telling the truth.” She came closer, her warm breath hot in my face. “Will you be alright?”
Her yellow eyes gave me a stern look and the pain in my heart grew more with intensity. I broke into a fit of sobbing and said, “No! I’m not going to be okay. I want to know if my father is fine. He could hardly stand a chance against Crimson.” I turned to the queen. “Please, I beg of you, I must find my father before he is killed.”
She looked at me and sighed, closing her eyes. “We cannot, Vondra,” she said. “Draken’s army is powerful with the utmost vile demons created from the very depths of hell.” Her eyes locked with mine and I knew she was right.
I held back tears and looked back out into the darkened night. Wherever he was I knew he would find me. I just didn’t know how long it would be before I found him.
Lord Draken searched the Forest of Darkness. There was no sign of him, but the Dark Lord had a hunch that he would be near the castle. He flew back to Shelvarya where Crimson was waiting with Eris.
“Well?” she asked. “Did you find him?”
Draken shook his head.
The queen of Shelvarya ran at him and grabbed him around his neck. She rose into the air, lifting him skyward. “You’re most unfortunate,” she said. She tightened her grip on his throat and he wheezed.
“Please, my queen,” he rasped, “I know where he might be.”
Crimson removed her hand and he fell, shrieking, to the stone floor. She floated down and walked over to where he lay. “Tell me where he is,” she hissed, “or you will live no longer.”
“He is on his way to the castle,” Draken said. “He is headed for Vondra.”
Crimson smiled, giving a motion of her hand. His sword’s hilt was gripped tightly. “Thank you,” she said, “your presence is no longer needed.” She raised the blade in both hands and pierced him through the heart.
Eris watched as the Dark Lord evaporated into thin air, the sword disappearing with him. She smiled. “I have something to tell you,” she said.
She snapped her fingers and Belle appeared. Crimson gasped and her blood red irises grew a shade of pink. “Mother?”
“Yes, Daughter it is me,” Belle said.
Crimson’s eyes turned a dark red and she looked at Eris with a scowl. “You hid her from me?” she leapt towards her and her mother put an arm out, blocking her. She fell back winded and out of breath. The very being of this illusion she felt was intimidating and a retched dream turning into a nightmare.
“Have you even thought, Crimson?” Belle asked incredulously. “Have you even taken a second to think about the very blood that runs in your dry veins? You are immortal, Daughter! You have no need to kill savagely. We may thirst for mortal blood, but we are not killers.” She paused, helping Crimson to her feet. “Think, Daughter. Use your mind and become part of your family.”
Crimson heard what her mother was saying and a boiling rage heated her body. She hissed and spun around grabbing Belle by her throat.
“Daughter!” Belle rasped.
“Goodbye, Mother,” Crimson said calmly, removing her head from her shoulders and ripping the body in two. For second everything was still; Eris stared at the mess on the floor, her eyes wide with astonishment. The queen of Shelvarya turned to face her, her hands shaking.
“Crimson?” Eris asked.
Crimson sank to her knees and screamed. Her voice echoed through the Shelvarya, the very pitch reaching Canis’s ears. He covered them and howled in pain. A second later the sound died and all was calm again. He listened intently for any other noise and continued marching through the rain to the streets of Falden.
I sat staring out my window into the night. The streets were wet and some pools had formed in the cracks and crevasses in the road. There was a knock at my door.
“Come in,” I said.
Jane, the queen’s daughter walked over to where I was on my bed. “Are you alright?” she asked.
I shook my head.
“My mother says she wants to see you in the dining hall.”
She shrugged. “She wants to talk to you about something.”
I got to my feet slipping them into my slippers and following her down a lighted corridor and down the stairs in to the banquet hall. Her Majesty sat at the end of the long table, a chair on her right. She looked at me and gestured for me to sit.
I sat down and she said, “Tell me about your childhood.”
“Yes, Your Majesty--”
“Please, call me Isabella.”
“Just start off slow, okay?”
“Alright.” I took a deep breath and began my story.