The Blood Pool
The girl tried to regulate her breathing as her father and brother led her towards the chamber. Each held onto one of her arms, as if they expected her to run away at any moment. Then again, maybe she would.
It was embarrassing, being this nervous. Every single member of her family had gone through this. Yes, the age varied... Justin had been twenty when he'd gone through the First Death. Still, that all depended on the person. It was predicted at birth...
She'd been told ever since she was a little girl that this wasn't really death. She knew that. But still—she couldn't help but feel like she was too young to die. Seventeen was far too young to give everything up. Still, it had been predicted in the stars moments after her birth, as was tradition with every Vampire child.
The three of them paused at the door, and Justin touched his sister's hair. "It's not bad, Beth. It'll be over before you know it." He was lying. Bethany could hear it in his voice.
"We all went through it, daughter." Matthew's voice was solid, firm. There was no sympathy in his tone. "Your future husband will have done it, your children will do it... It's what people with our blood do."
"I know, Father." Trying to seem tougher than she was, Bethany tilted her chin upwards. "I am ready. I've been preparing for this my entire life." They all had.
Nodding in approval, Matthew opened the door. The chamber was clean, as usual. Its beauty was dark and eerie, as it was only lit by some candles and torches around the walls. A chandelier that had been passed down from generation to generation hung down from the middle of the ceiling, the brightest thing in the room. All of it was rather simple. No furniture, no windows... A stone table, long and lean, was right under the chandelier, a red cloth hanging over it. Red for women, blue for men.
Amelia, Bethany's mother, stood next to the table, dressed in a black gown. She looked much like her daughter, and far younger than her thirty-nine years. Far younger. A chestnut curl fell into her face as she offered her daughter a wide smile. In an instant, she was standing in front of the girl, wrapping her arms around her shoulders.
"Bethany, darling. What a momentous night." Dramatically, she laid a kiss on Bethany's cheek; her daughter nearly recoiled. "So wonderful. You shall be so lovely." After running a hand down the side of Bethany's face, she nodded. "Let us begin."
It was a simple ritual. Bethany knew that much. The last one in the family had been only a year ago; Justin's. Her father and brother came to stand next to her mother, staring.
Struggling not to tremble, Bethany laid down on the cold table. As scared as she was, she couldn't stop the icy chill of anticipation run up her spine. The stirring in her blood... She truly had been waiting for this moment all her life. Her life, which would be ending in a few moments.
Slowly, as if wanting to build suspense, Amelia slipped a knife out of the sheath it hung from on the rope around her waist. A smile crossed her lips as she slit her own wrist, watched the dark blood soak the blade. "Mother's gift." She passed the dagger to her mate.
In a businesslike fashion, Matthew did the same, his own blood mingling with Amelia's. It carried the same abnormal hue. "Father's gift." He practically tossed the knife to his son.
Justin glanced at his sister, confusion clouding his eyes. He wasn't sure if he wanted this to happen to Bethany, the innocent one of the family. She'd change forever... Still, as was expected of him, he cut himself. "Brother's gift." The blade was handed back to Amelia, who abruptly became solemn.
"Do I need to take any vows?" Bethany couldn't keep the quaver out of her voice, and she blushed deeply, something she'd never be able to do again.
"No, no vows." Amelia simply brought the knife to her daughter's lips. "Just take the mixed blood. The blood of your turned immediate family. That's all. Then it will be over."
Bethany could see the lie in her mother's eyes, but she didn't say anything. What happened would happen. Disgust filled her body as she stuck her tongue out, running it along the blade. The blood was metallic—but at the same time, something in her veins begged for it.
"Good, good, enough." Amelia smoothed the hair out of her daughter's face. "You know that isn't it, right?"
"Of course." Bethany wasn't sure about the exact mechanics of it, but she knew that the blood-tasting wasn't all. "I have to die some way, don't I?"
Amelia nodded, and Bethany closed her eyes. She didn't even move as her mother plunged the knife into her heart.
Sally the maid laid the platter of food down on the banquet table, then rushed over to wear her fellow maid Nell was waiting near the curtains. They hid in the shadows, watching the peculiar family that was visiting.
"Lord and Lady Spencer, aren't they?" Sally murmured, trying to look like she wasn't speaking. "The ones Lady Cordelia's been so flustered about."
"That's them," Nell nodded in confirmation. "Them and their little one. She's been getting the nerves about 'em for months now, and they're only staying a week."
"Acting sort of cold, aren't they?" Sally wrinkled her nose in distaste. "We've all been breaking our backs preparin', and they aren't even acting grateful. Barely talkin' to anyway, are they?"
Nell shook her head. "Not even the child. Young Lady Olivia, we're supposed to call her. Ridiculous. Acting like her parents, and only six years old. Young Lord Liam's been trying to get her to play with him all night, and she refuses him every time." She chuckled, shaking her head. This was the first time in young Lord Liam's nine years that he'd ever been spurned, and he wasn't taking it well.
"It's a shame when the child is expected to grow up before the time comes," Sally sighed, tucking a wisp of hair behind her ear. "A true shame."
Across the room, Bethany tossed her hair, knowing that she was catching the attention of all the men in the room. She laughed at Lord Nathaniel's joke, lowering her eyelashes and fiddling with her necklace flirtatiously. But at the same time, she kept her hand firmly laced in her husband's. Noah didn't seem to mind the attention she was getting at all. In fact, he seemed quite proud, and flattered the ladies just as much as she toyed with the men.
As flirtatious as they were with other people, no one could doubt that the Lord and Lady Spencer were in love with each other. Sometimes, they would share a brief gaze, skim a hand over the other's skin... The gestures were simple but clear.
The second-eldest product of their love sat in a chair next her mother, solemn and silent. The other two children, one older and one younger, were both away. The younger, a boy, was simply little more than a baby, while the older, another girl, didn't care for get-togethers like this.
"Olivia, darling, have some venison." Bethany offered a large forkful of red meat towards her daughter.
Lord Nathaniel, owner of the very castle they were staying at, gave a booming laugh. "My, my, Lady Spencer, you must be joking. That is quite a mouthful for a little girl child, don't you think?"
Bethany bristled, fixing him with a sharp glare. "No, sir, I believe that my Olivia can eat as much as she wants to. Can't you, Livvy?"
In response, Olivia grabbed the fork from her mother in a dignified fashion and gulped the meat down in one smooth swallow. There was a momentary silence around the table, brief but obvious. Then the table broke out into meaningless conversation again, as if nothing had happened.
Noah gripped his wife's arm. He leaned in to whisper into her ear so no one else could hear. "Bethany. I know you like to show the children off, but could you not cause a spectacle?"
"I hate how the underestimate us," she murmured warningly. "They underestimate us all, even you."
"That is simply because they have no idea, isn't it?" Seductively, Noah stroked his wife's throat, too quickly for anyone but she and their staring daughter to see.
"Very true." Casting Noah a pacified glance, Bethany turned towards Nathaniel and laid a hand on his wrist.
"Now tell me, what are you planning on doing with that river?" She knew that Noah's gaze was on another woman, but she also knew that he wasn't interested in the maid's body. No, Noah wanted a bit more than that.
By the end of the week, when the Spencers left, Sally was sick in bed, pale and delirious. She spoke of demons, lovely demons. Lord and Lady Arden wished their best, of course, and even gave an age-old family remedy. This, combined with the doctor's suggestion of leeches for Sally's poisoned blood, seemed to make Sally better for a few days. But she still died, moaning about how a man had visited her in the night.
There was no speculation about the one who was truly-if also inadvertently-responsible for Sally's death. Nell had her own ideas, but she never told a soul. After all, who would suspect the charming Spencers of anything nasty?
"The Spencers and the Ardens, united," Bethany murmured dreamily, plaiting her daughter's hair. "This is an excellent match. Possibly the best our family has ever made."
Olivia stared at the mirror, her reflection clear while Bethany's was faded. She wasn't paying too much attention. After all, she'd known that this was coming for years. "Yes, I suppose it is." Her parents' marriage had been unplanned; it was a love match, and her grandparents certainly hadn't disapproved.
Sometimes, however, things didn't go that way. It all depended on whether families thought that alliances through marriage were good decisions or not. There weren't too many families that weren't related too each other in the country. At least, not too many with the right blood.
"I'm not sure when Maximilian will be Turned," Bethany said quietly, finishing the hair off. "But when you both are finished with it, you'll be married. You're fine with that, correct?" It wasn't really a question.
"Correct." Olivia pushed at her cuticles, disinterested with the entire procedure. Her ten-year-old mind wasn't fazed by all this. She stood and obediently twirled for her mother, her pale blue gown swishing a bit.
"Come now, come now." Bethany took her daughter's hand and led her out of the bedroom and down the hallway.
When they reached the ballroom, it was very... well, empty. Immediate family only. Olivia's father and her two siblings were on the right side of the room, while on the left were Maximilian Arden, his parents, and his three younger sisters. There was one man, a distant cousin of some sorts, who stood in the middle.
At fourteen, Maximilian was a strong, handsome young man. His family was, like the Spencer family, highly aristocratic and admired by all of society. Another trait they shared with the Spencers was their love of privacy. For the exact same reason.
Maximilian and Olivia stood facing each other. She was indifferent towards him, for he was a stranger at the time. She knew they'd be married eventually, but that didn't matter at the time. After all, they wouldn't be really interacting with each other for a while.
The cousin-Jonathan-cleared his throat and began. "Like many of our traditions, this betrothal has to do with blood. The blending of blood, creating a Bond, one that will eventually be eternal. This Bond will unite two powerful families—the Ardens and the Spencers. Through, more specifically, Lord Maximilian Arden and Lady Olivia Spencer."
This was all spoken quickly and routinely. Jonathan walked up towards them. Quickly, he pressed their hands together, made them lace fingers. Only then did Olivia meet Maximilian's eyes and blush. Here she was, becoming betrothed to a boy she didn't know.
Carefully, Jonathan let go of their hands, making sure they were still holding onto each other. "Once their transformation into Vampires is complete, they will be wed. Do the parents of Maximilian, Lord and Lady Arden, agree?"
"We agree," the Ardens stated.
"Do the parents of Olivia, Lord and Lady Spencer, agree?"
"Agreed." Their twin voices were icy and calm.
"Good..." Jonathan gave a wide smile. "It is done."
As her parents came to walk her away, Olivia spun her head around, shooting Maximilian a glance. He was looking at her at the exact same time. It never seemed important before... She was brought up to know that betrothals happened all the time. Now that it was actually happening, she realized that suddenly, she was going to have to marry someone. There was no way out.
All of it seemed so simple, so quick. Like emotions weren't part of the procedure. Then again, they weren't. True emotions didn't figure into the Vampire world much.
Ah, yes, another vampire tale. Wonder what's going on in this world?
OK: Raksha is a fictional country in a fictional time I made up. Vampires in this story are born to Vampire parents. The time in which they will be Turned is predicted in the stars right after their birth. They can Turn humans to Vampires, but that's a no-no, as is breeding with a human. (Remember that.)
Hope y'all like it so far, and I REALLY hope you R&R:)