Author's note: I was mostly excited by the challenge of trying to write a vampire novel that wasn't cliche... Show full author's note »
PrologueThe Bloodless Barren spread as far as borders of ancient Manchuria to the farthest reaches of the Xue Province – a desert of yellow sand and burning sun which frowned unrelenting on whatever crossed its path. The name, ‘Bloodless’, was befitting of such a blessed place where the Nobility cringed to enter for fear of pain and anguish. The Nobility could never die, as was said in the prophecies, but they could be tortured and pained; and the Nobility of late, so pampered and soft, had grown up in a society which spurned anything uncomfortable and unkempt. They said that before, in the days when the Nobility was still known as Vampires and humans were in rule, the undead were strong and powerful, relishing challenge and pain and the lust of a hunt. They were still powerful and timeless because of the curse which they carried with twisted pride, but used to having food brought to them willingly. As were the Ancient Days, a distant fairy tale which told of fantastic and impossible things. All but lost, now, all but what was written in books that no human could read anymore.
Romarie was a bought human, raised from birth as a slave to serve and serve only for one Noble, his vampess Rosarie. Rosarie, his mistress, was a slave dealer; a Noble who specialized in catching rogue humans who had somehow foolishly escaped from the grasps of their masters. It was a profit for the slave dealers, if a slave escaped – there were absolutely no more free humans in this world, so the only ones that could be sold had to be recycled from previous use. Some were damaged, but most were smart or strong, and could be sold for the arenas or as jesters in higher courts. Some humans escaped solely to pursue a better life.
While his mistress rested, Romarie scavenged in places where Rosarie could not reach; places where the sun still extended her withered grasp, outside of cities and during the day. His sole purpose, ingrained in his mind from birth, was to serve his mistress. He would please her if it cost him his life.
And there was something that would please her. It would please her very well. Romarie’s lips twisted into a smile, the only kind of smile he could remember being able to use. He crouched on the scorching ground, ignoring the burning sensation prickling the backs of his bare hands, peering through a sand-crusted telescope at the figure framed by the burning red sun on the next dune.
“Human,” he lilted harshly, throat cracking between his parched lips. He lowered his telescope, letting it dangle against his chest as he replenished his thirst with the last few drops from his camel-skin canteen. Then he leaped up, fueled by his passion to please, and started sprinting towards the human on the horizon.
He reached her easily – she didn’t seem prone to resisting. Animalisticly, relying on his instincts, he jumped and tackled her from the side, not minding that his bare skin was scraped raw by the coarse sand as they both toppled down the dune. The girl in his hands raised a cry of alarm, struggling minimally, though she wasn’t too strong. As their slipping fall came to a halt, Romarie grabbed her arms in one of his hands and pulled her straight to get a good look at his merchandise.
One thing that puzzled him about the girl was just how clean she was. Other than the dust which was sprinkled through her hair and clothes and a painful red burn across the bridge of her nose, she looked practically fresh out of the castles of Montgamma. She was dressed in mismatched clothes of white – loose white pants, an even looser white shirt, and some kind of blanket which she had cut to roughly cover her bare shoulders and arms. A strange one, but she was pretty and would sell well.
Romarie grabbed the girl’s jaw in his hand and turned her face from side to side, feeling the quality of her skin. It was smooth and soft – that was strange, too. It must have been days since she had escaped (there were no Nobility cities around here for days) and other than her early red burn there were no signs of tan or roughness. Though Romarie couldn’t tell age as well as he might have if he hadn’t grown up around the timeless, he guessed that this girl was roughly into the beginning of adulthood. She had red-gold locks of naturally curly hair to her waist, a color so remarkable that Romarie had to touch it to see that it was real. It was like the marvelous, mixed color of a bloated setting sun – the symbol of the end of light and the beginning of the reign of darkness.
Romarie stared into the clear blue eyes of his captive, realizing that she had been saying something during his inspection. She didn’t seem frightened or anxious – strange – but was very calmly and oddly stating clear-cut words.
“…get off of me, please? Where am I? I assume it’s a desert, isn’t it? I’m afraid I might have amnesia. Tell me – do you know who I am?”
Romarie let the unfamiliar word ‘amnesia’ roll around in his brain as he tried to figure out what it meant. Then, giving up on the impossible task, flipped his prisoner around and started tying her hands behind her back with practiced roughness.
“Hey! What are you doing? What are you…?”
Suddenly the girl went limp. Romarie paused for a moment, and then stretched out his two fingers to feel the pulse on her neck. It was still steady and strong, and he hadn’t done anything – why was she still? Perhaps the heat had gotten to her head. It was starting to get to his.
“Mistress will be pleased,” he cackled, swinging up the girl over his shoulder like a sack and starting to stumble across the steadily cooling desert. Perhaps he would die during his journey, especially with an extra burden – but Mistress would be pleased with the girl. She would sell to the highest stock for the highest prices – if she was any good she might become a dancer or consort. And her blood…Romarie had met many people whose blood apparently appealed to the Nobility, and he felt that this girl was one of them. The translucent bluish veins threading through her wrists looked, even for him, good enough to eat.
After all, there could only be the best blood for the best species on this earth.