It was winter in Berlin, and a thin layer of snow was on the ground. School was finally over for the day and Sera Reinhardt wanted to go home.
The January day was cold and she was thankful to have worn her thermal stockings as it was windy as well as cold when she had gone outside. She also wore fashionable brown winter boots. The uniform for school had always been mandatory but there were times that she felt it would have been better had she worn a longer skirt. The uniform consisted of a jacket colored midnight blue and a short slate grey skirt, stylish and to her personal liking.
Turning Sera saw her two closest friends, Anne and Eve, approach them while trying to put their winter coats on. Eve was the taller more athletic one with short brown hair and a few freckles under her eyes. She was a proponent of sports, something Sera could not relate to but appreciated her friendship none the less. "Think you could leave without us? That's not nice."
Sera shrugged her shoulders. 'Guess I wanted to get the hell out of here too much...' "Sorry about that. I have some prior commitments to attend to back home."
"Being the Kaiser's daughter must be a pain sometimes. I mean you hardly have any free time as it is with school." Anne Schmidt, short and yet full of energy, was the polar opposite of Eve. More of an intellectual than an athlete Anne was definitely the smartest person that Sera knew.
Sera zipped up the white fur winter coat she wore. Made of the finest fur in Europe, such a coat cost more than the average person made in half a year. She smiled, "Prinzessin Sera Erika Reinhardt, forever busy to the wonderful people of Germany." Her words were empty of sarcasm and full of truth.
The three friends walked down the front stairs that led to the street in front of the school. Traffic in Berlin was quiet and slow which benefitted the princess in her desire to get home as fast as possible.
"So what's so important that you want to get home so fast?" asked Eve as they came to a stop on the sidewalk.
"Technically my day doesn't end with the setting of the sun. I still have to meet with diplomats and the like...you know, all the boring politics I cannot talk about."
"Still, it's a shame ever since your last birthday we haven't been able to hang out like we used to," said Eve.
A black car drove up and stopped at the sidewalk near Sera. A young man lowered the window and stuck his head out, "Hello princess. Your escort has arrived."
Sera smiled at the driver, "Thanks Joel."
One of the doors opened, and a young man came out of the car. Tall, dressed in dark grey, and with a handsome face, the man walked around the car and greeted the princess. "Afternoon, Your Highness."
Sera's posture stiffened slightly at his presence. "Hello Viktor."
Her bodyguard nodded slowly. His posture was still as stone, not bothered by the cold despite being in a dark grey leather overcoat.
While Sera and her guard locked eyes, the eyes of her two friends were on Viktor, and Sera had hoped this sort of situation would not happen. Every time Viktor came to pick her up she had hoped that her friends would not be there to see him. They were mesmerized by the man's looks, and Sera felt embarrassed by it while Viktor seemed to not mind. Though to be honest it wasn't something that he could control. Being a vampire had its downs, and such magnetism was ordinary for them. Yet Viktor couldn't simply explain that to everyone. His being a vampire was a secret that existed only between him and the princess herself.
The only way she could save herself from further embarrassment was to push the whole thing along. "I'd like to go home please."
Waiting for such a request Viktor opened her door and waited.
After bidding her friends' farewell Sera got in the car and the door was closed behind her. It wasn't until Viktor had gotten into the car and they were well away from the school before Sera spoke. "Thank you for picking me up."
Viktor nodded, though he added something that surprised the girl. "Sorry for making you uncomfortable back there."
"Well...I should be used to it by now," said the princess. "Being a vampire must be annoying for you as well, I mean the girls love you just by looking at you."
In the darkness of the car Viktor's hazel eyes started to shift color to a glowing crimson hue. The red eyes of a child of the night. He chuckled, "You get used to it."
"I just wish I could control it, least on my part," Sera sat back in her seat. Ever since her last birthday her life had been turned upside down. Finding out that your mother was a vampire before she died and that you're half vampire did that to you. And that was just for starters. Then Viktor came into her life. That proved to be the biggest headache of them all in most circles.
Sera sighed, all this drama on top of being the Kaiser's daughter got to her. "I just want to curl up into a ball and sleep the world away..."
Though she didn't notice it Viktor expression towards her was one of pity. Sadly, he couldn't help her with the road her life forced her to follow. He could only hold her hand—and protect her whenever she needed him.
Yet her day was about to get more complicated. He pulled out a white letter from his inside coat pocket. "A letter addressed specifically to you came in the mail today."
He handed it to her, already opened with the seal broken, and she took it without a second thought. The contents of the letter was short and eloquently written.
"Greetings Princesszin Sera, you have been invited to my master's welcome home party from his travels abroad tonight. My master, Leon Scheltz, would like to meet you and would be honored to have your presence in his home. The address to his manor is written down below should you decide to accept."
There was no name at the bottom.
"Leon Scheltz..." the name didn't register with the princess. In fact she had never heard of this man before.
"Scheltz is the name of one of the older vampire families in Germany." Viktor answered for her.
"So I am being invited to a vampire party?"
"Yes, and a refusal will not do you any good, Princess."
Already at work with her cellphone Sera started to dial the number to her personal boutique. "Such short notice. I hope Matilda hasn't gone home for the night..." Even as her preparations went through her mind Sera asked aloud. "You think there will be trouble?"
His silence was enough to answer her and she put her head back against the seat. The sarcasm overflowing this time, "...a perfect capper to a perfect day..."
"The day will end...," said the knight next to her, watching as the sun in the winter sky began to grow steadily darker. His mind focused on what was to come. 'But the night is just getting started.'
Exactly three hours passed before Sera felt comfortable in her preparations for the night to come. She was grateful that her personal fashion dresser hadn't closed for the night, though she seemed perplexed that her services were called for on such short notice. The Princess had to come up with a convincing lie to cover her true reason. A date with a hot bachelor did the trick, though Matilda requested not to hear the details and went about her work. That was a perfect deal in Sera's view.
A few hours later and Sera was ready to go. Dressed in a mermaid skirt white dress made of the finest lace she could get at the time, Sera was beyond lovely and her dhampir beauty only enhanced it. Well, she modified the skirt to be much shorter so no one would step on it. Her black hair, stylized and smooth as silk went over in a tail over her left shoulder down her front. The top covered most of her chest but her back was bare, and that made her a little uneasy. So much skin being revealed didn't sit well with her which is why she wore long white gloves that reached her elbows. She also wore small diamond earrings and, the cherry on the top, also wore her mother's silver cross choker around her neck.
Matilda, an older lady who had been in the Kaiser's employ for over thirty years, was exhausted but proud of her work. "You are a vision, Your Highness."
A little blush worked its way into Sera's cheeks hidden mostly by the small amount of make up on her face. "Danke."
The old woman went over to her front desk, the store having been closed once the princess had arrived to avoid any onlookers or press. She handed the princess her purse before moving on. "Please bring the dress back when you're done with it."
"Will do. I will also pay for it when I return." Sera looked inside her purse, which contained only a few items and her cellphone in case of emergencies. She hoped she didn't get a call during a vampire party but there was always the chance.
"So, what is this bachelor like? He must be quite the stud for you to get all dressed up like a princess for a first date."
Sera paused for a moment. She had thought her last excuse would have been enough to cover her plans, but a backup one had never crossed her mind. "Well, he's the usual type I like. Tall, dark, handsome...that sort of thing." That had more truth than she intended to tell but it was too late to take it back.
"Most of the time men like that are dangerous as well, and in more ways than one," said the woman as she began to close up shop. "Though I have found that they tend to have a tender side hidden under that rugged exterior."
Sera smiled lightly.
The woman chuckled unknowingly having hit a soft spot on her wealthy customer. "Seems your ride is here, Your Highness."
The princess looked to the door and saw that her limousine had arrived, and Viktor could be seen standing outside the vehicle, though he hadn't noticed her through the store window.
Taking a few more moments of small talk with Matilda before she left Sera stepped outside and the white high heels she wore crunched into the light layer of snow on the concrete. Viktor saw her and between the time it took Sera to leave the store to reach the car he admired her.
Sera could tell he was enamored and she felt more embarrassed than had she been in front of the paparazzi. "How do I look? Tell me the truth."
The knight looked her up and down quickly, "Beautiful."
She looked away. She had asked for the truth had prepared for it yet his response was smooth enough to make her uneasy. "Let's go."
The drive to the Scheltz mansion was going to be quick so the princess didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare herself. She was ready physically, looking the best she could on such short notice but mentally speaking she wasn't close. She had butterflies in her stomach the size of eagles.
Thankfully she wasn't going in alone.
Viktor was sitting next to Sera and unlike her he was relaxed.
To break the silence the princess opted to speak. "So, what can I expect from this vampire party?"
He turned his head slightly, looking away from the window. "In the human world you're a princess and are treated like one. In this dark sphere you'll be treated no differently than any other noble. You're new to this world. They'll most likely take advantage of you and try to make themselves look better at your expense."
A power game, huh, Sera thought. She had some experience in that field, though being only one of a few surviving royals in Europe meant little in the face of beings that had been alive far longer than her. "I don't tend to be treaded on. Least without a struggle."
Viktor admired her strength in the face of what she would soon be facing. Even then he offered her a word of caution. "Just be mindful of what fights you take up. These nobles have strong ties with each other and will honor those ties should the need arise."
"I'll be careful," she replied. The car started to slow down before coming to a stop. That was when she noticed something that didn't make her feel all the more at ease. "You're bringing your sword?"
Viktor's weapon of choice was a long sword that had a four foot red and black blade as well as an intricate black dragon handle design. He was rarely seen without it, and it was the same weapon he had used to save Sera the first time—as well as numerous times since. "Of course."
"Wouldn't a gun be a preferred arm to have? Less conspicuous and better in modern situations."
Playfully rolling his eyes, the knight shook his head. "Let's just say I am old fashioned. Besides, you might be surprised on how often firearms aren't used by vampires."
"Sounds like they are a bit backwards then…"
"No, just proud of their ways. A stubborn breed when it comes to change."
Sera didn't know why but she found the fact that he had said that about his own race rather humorous. The princess heard Joel get out of the driver's seat. She had one more question to ask and it was the most important one yet. "What should I do if I get into trouble?"
She expected her knight to be quiet on the matter, or be stern and serious with a look to match. To her surprise he did neither. Instead he gave her an assuring smile, all the while holding onto the handle of his sword with his right hand. "I'll protect you."
She had no reason to doubt him and her heart eased.
She returned the smile with her own, "I'm counting on you."
Her door opened and Joel offered her his hand. Stepping outside and into the brisk winter air Sera looked up and felt dwarfed by the manor before her. Reminding her of the Reichstag in appearance the building was mostly dark save for the dim lights coming from the large glass windows. Music was heard coming from inside. Though her anxiety had been lifted somewhat Sera still felt nervous. She put on a white fur jacket to cover herself, with an absent thought of it protecting her from what was to come. That was a futile thought.
Viktor came to stand by her side. "We'll be awhile Joel."
The driver nodded once, "I'll be a phone call away should you need me. Enjoy yourself, Your Highness." He tipped his hat to her and she returned with a nod before he got back in the car and drove away.
'I certainly hope I do...' Taking a big breath Sera looked up at the building, "Well, let's see where this goes..."
She took her first step, heading once into a world she was woefully unprepared for.
Through the entrance Sera seemed to take a step back in time.
Besides the moon light from above the large room was lit only by candles, even the chandelier was made of them. The room was a ball room of sorts, with a large space in the center where people were dressed elegantly and formally dancing. Soft yet foreboding music played by a small orchestra at the far end. Tables lined the sides of the room where people were talking and gossiping.
All that stopped when the doors behind the princess closed behind her. The latching of the doors seemed to break the rhythm of the room and everyone, including the orchestra, stopped to gawk at the newest arrival. Multiple pairs of red eyes focused on her, pale expressionless faces soon narrowed at her like she was an insult to their presence. Sera felt like she was going to an execution. Her own.
She hesitated at the stop of the stairs; her hands had a tight grip on the skirts of her dress. It didn't help that she was the only one wearing white, and so she stood out like a red rose in lily bouquet. 'Why are they staring at me like that?'
Her hesitation wasn't helped by her heart beating unusually fast.
The servant who had opened the door for her spoke up behind her, making Sera jump as she had not known he was there. "Ladies and gentlemen, Princesszin Sera Erika Reinhardt, daughter of Lady Ruina Reinhardt and human Kaiser of Germany, has arrived."
The crowd remained silent.
Sera nervously nodded once. She was used to being stared at, she was a princess after all, but before it was with a lively crowd who knew her. These...people, if one were to call them that, were technically meeting her for the first time and thus had nothing to offer her in terms of respect.
From her left Viktor got in front of her and offered her his hand. His eyes told her to keep her wits about her and her head held high. She took his hand without hesitation. She needed him now more than ever before, thus she would take all he could give her.
Across the floor Viktor led her, always by her side as he held her hand with an assuring grip. The crowd parted for them but only enough to give them passage. Some of the nobles didn't give her a single glance.
"Ah, yes, the princess has arrived!"
The lively words of a young man wearing a black tuxedo approached Sera from the front. Unlike with Sera the people got out of his way. His smile, wide and full of excitement, showed a pair of sharp canine fangs.
"I am grateful that you took up my invitation. I apologize for such short notice. Oh but where are my manners, I am Leon Louis Ramon Scheltz, the lord of this fine manor."
He offered his hand and Sera gave hers in return, a sign of respect. "Sera Erika Reinhardt, Princess of Germany."
Leon bent over slightly and lightly pressed his lips on the black of her gloved hand. She felt nothing but the cold of his breath and it made her skin tingle.
"I must say, I have seen you on the news many times, to see you in person is quite a sight to behold."
She pulled her hand back rather quickly, "Thank you." She managed to keep her composure and held her head high, "As for the sudden invitation, it's alright. I made the time."
"I am grateful, being in the human world most of your time I was afraid you wouldn't be able to come here."
What Leon said echoed through the room but the word 'human' seemed to echo the loudest and it irked the majority of the crowd in the most unpleasant way.
Sera noted it, but Leon didn't seem to care. "And this man must be your servant."
Speaking to Viktor he nodded once, and politely corrected the man. "Her knight, Lord Leon. Name's Viktor."
Leon blinked in surprise. "Really? A knight in this day and age? Can't say I wasn't expecting you to have one princess." He had further ignored the knight, which didn't bother Viktor in the slightest. He had expected it.
"As the story goes, a princess must have her knight, right?" Feeling the conversation trailing off into more personal territory Sera ended it abruptly.
"Well, be that as it may, dinner is about to be served. Please join me in the dining hall." He offered her his hand. The princess took a quick questioning glance at Viktor but didn't get a hint of what she should do. Accept it or not? She took the former, just to avoid making a fool of herself further.
The lord and princess walked hand in hand together through the crowd, all of whom gave their lord respectful looks and appreciative smiles. The same could not be said for Sera where she was eyed with envy at best and disgust at worst. Viktor followed close behind, and Sera couldn't help but find it humorous when the other nobles elected to get out of the knight's way.
The dining hall was beginning to fill up with the nobles from outside, but there were many empty chairs yet to be called for. Leon took a seat at the end of the table made specifically for him. Sera was given the chair to his right, a place of honor.
Viktor pulled her chair out and back in after she sat down before he backed up to the wall lined with tall glass windows. Outside Sera could see a lavish garden with statues of goddesses and a large fountain.
"Lovely, isn't it?"
Leon's words made the princess turn around, "Yes."
"I designed the garden myself. Human designs interest me for their color and vivid expressions."
Wanting to strike up the conversation with her own spin Sera spoke, "Then I think you'd love the gardens at the palace. They'd blow your mind away."
Leon smiled in her attempt to impress him. "I am sure they would."
As soon as everyone was seated at the table Leon stood up with a wine glass in his hand. It was filled with red liquid. "Now that we are all here, I propose a toast. To our guests who have come far and wide to see me return home safely. To the nobles who made my trip possible, for without their support my estate would have been...well, not as pleasant as when I left it, shall I say." He chuckled at that last part. A few nobles did the same. He continued, "But I also want to thank someone for taking time out of her schedule to visit me. Sera, princess of Germany." He motioned to her.
All eyes turned to the princess before she stood up; her glass was filled with water. "And I thank you for inviting me, Lord Leon."
All nobles despite their expressions being less than pleased, all raised their glasses as well to honor the toast before taking a drink.
Sera and Leon sat back down, and the lord's excitement skyrocketed, "Finally, now that we have custom out of the way, we can eat! Enjoy."
Within seconds the calm returned to the room and most of the nobles silently went about their meals. Everything was red meat, which wasn't as much of a shock to Sera. She had thought that vampires were mostly carnivorous and preferred meats and blood. That much she expected. However, there was little meat on the table to begin with. Most of what was on the table was pitchers of red liquid and Sera had a feeling she knew what that was. She was also the only one to drink water and that had gone down during the toast.
"So, Lord Leon. Where did you run off to this time?" said an elderly looking man on Leon's left.
"I went to visit the family in Barcelona, before heading to Romania and Lithuania before heading back to Berlin. Quite the trip I must say."
One woman, dressed in a sleek black dress that was nearly see-through raised a hand to her deep red lips. "Romania? I heard there was another wave of Chiroptera attacks there."
Leon took a bite out of a piece of meat with a golden fork. "They had been corralled long before I arrived. I wasn't worried."
"Excuse me but, what's a Chiroptera?"
The woman's attention turned to the princess and she had nothing short of a shocked expression. She looked like she had been insulted.
Sera on the other hand had asked a genuine question and thus felt no guilt in asking, though she now felt like she had made a mistake instead.
The woman took it in stride, "I say, the daughter of an esteemed noble must not be as educated as I had thought to ask such a question."
Her arrogance had not been hidden in the slightest, and Sera noticed a great deal of distain in her voice as well. The fact that she had refused to answer added salt to the situation.
Lowering her chin slightly and feeling her cheeks grow hot in embarrassment Sera started to apologize, "I just-"
"Chiroptera are a breed of vampire that's more animal than human. They live all over Europe but prefer the Carpathian Mountains which is also their ancestral homeland."
All eyes turned to the knight standing behind the princess, coming to her rescue by informing her at the expense of the nobles.
"They tend to attack at night often in the forests, attacking both humans and vampires indiscriminately." He finished with a nod towards the princess before taking a step back to his post.
Sera gratefully nodded back and her spirit was lifted a bit.
The woman seemed insulted but kept her composure. "Oh? A knight knows more than the princess he is charged with protecting? Ha! Waste of an education."
Sera turned to the woman, holding back any urge to return any smart talk. "I appreciate his assistance. I have only been involved with this since last October."
Leon spoke up, "Ah yes, your birthday party. I missed it but I heard you were attacked by some unruly vampires."
Sera tapped the table with her fingers nervously, "Yes, it was quite a shock..."
"But luckily you had your knight to protect you," said Leon with a nod to the man in question. A small form of praise that Viktor returned with a nod of his own.
The woman sighed loudly to regain the attention of the room. "Be that as it may, the daughter of the late Lady Ruina should have been able to handle the situation on her own, if she were a true noble, that is."
Sera lowered her eyes to the table. She had been powerless in that initial attack on her birthday. In fact, had Viktor not awakened and rescued her she would no doubt be dead now. That powerlessness was something she despised on a personal level. 'I may be a princess but I sure as hell don't like to be a damsel in distress...' She said nothing aloud, however.
The noble woman had achieved her victory, and now made her own lap to show off. "You must better prepare yourself if you wish to earn any respect at this table." The other nobles around the table either smiled or chuckled as sera was put in her place. The woman certainly didn't hide her joy in humiliating the young woman. "Now then, Lord Leon, could I trouble you for a drink?"
Leon's expression was plain, he hadn't found what she had done to Sera amusing in the slightest. "Let us finish our meal and afterward I will take a walk through the gardens. I missed it on my travels."
His cold response to the woman's offer was like a slap in the face, yet she didn't respond with words. When she set her glass on the table she had been gentle but were one to look close enough they would have found cracks in the glass at the base.
The rest of the meal had gone on without any incident. Leon did ask Sera various questions about her human life. Such as her school and what she did during the day time, but it never delved into anything really personal which the princess was grateful for. She didn't want to divulge any details unless she trusted him completely, and that was a long ways off.
Eventually the conversations between the nobles went beyond their meal and most got up to continue conversing elsewhere. This led to Leon making an announcement.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you will follow me I would like to show off the newest addition to my estate: the garden."
No one said a word and instead got up from their chairs without a second thought.
Leon offered Sera his hand, and she took it with slight hesitation. Viktor watched intently as the lord and his princess went out the door behind the table first and he had to squeeze his way past the nobles that followed them.
The garden itself was much larger than sera expected it to be. The size of a football field lined with statues and three water fountains in each of the three sections. Walls of vines separated the three sections, and various flowers lined the fountains. A spectacle by any means was made better by the light of the moon in the sky, despite the wintery conditions the garden remained green.
Sera and Leon went down the stairs to the first fountain which had a statue of a woman and a man. At the base was a gold plate that read "Psylocke and Cupid", the Greek mythological lovers.
The extravagance of the garden had left the princess temporarily at a loss for words. Yet she remained humble. "Okay, I take back what I said, my garden pales in comparison to this."
Leon smiled, "Thank you."
A servant approached the two. "Lord Leon, I beg pardon but there is an urgent phone call for you inside."
"Ah, must be father, I will be in shortly." The man turned to Sera, "Excuse me, Your Highness. I should be back shortly."
Sera nodded once before Leon took his first steps back towards the manor. Just after he had gone out of sight she released a long exhale. "Good god I can finally relax.."
She had forced herself to breathe slowly and quietly the whole time she had been in his presence. Otherwise her nervousness would have been a dead giveaway for how uncomfortable she had been this whole time.
Sitting down on the edge of the fountain the princess felt her body go limp. Being surrounded by beings that were much older, not to mention far more powerful than her and forcing herself to maintain her royal air had been exhausting for her. Normally when faced with delegates and rulers of other countries her father was the one to address them and she was pretty much a flower on the wall. 'Though to be fair that was with humans. These were vampires. A very big difference.'
The princess failed to notice Viktor approach her. He had kept his distance though he kept her in his sights the whole time she had been with Leon.
She raised her head to her knight. Though she hadn't been at the party for more than a couple hours she was already tired and wanted to go home. "I'll be fine, just...I feel out of my element here."
She expected Viktor to say nothing, or at the least tell her to get over it like anyone else probably would have at this point.
Instead he encouraged her. "You're doing fine for your first vampire party."
"I grade myself a C-plus at best," Sera joked. It was a half-hearted one.
"B-minus, princess," the knight chuckled.
The sound of the water freely flowing out of the fountain was soothing to her mind and the princess turned to see her reflection in the pool. She saw a teenage princess mentally beaten and staring in the face of just giving up and going home.
"When can I leave?"
Viktor crossed his arms over his chest, though Sera didn't know since she couldn't see his reflection in the water. "Depends on what you want out of this."
She looked at him with a questioning look. "What does that mean?"
Making sure no one else was close enough to eavesdrop on them Viktor sat down next to the princess. "You leave now and you won't earn an iota of respect from the nobles. They will see you as weak and not worthy of being one of them."
Sera scoffed, "They constantly compare me to my mother. The mother I never knew. On top of that they know I am not fully a vampire by birth. How can I possibly win against that form of thinking?"
"By doing so in your own way. Nobles are, for the most part, snobbish and arrogant. They think themselves better than even kings of countries. Valuing their beliefs and power to rule. So they see you, a dhampir and a princess with noble blood in her veins, and they don't want you to be here. Best way to establish yourself is to do so in grand fashion. Make a statement that tells them who you are and why you should be respected."
Sighing lightly Sera didn't know how to respond to that. Her idea of power came from the fact that she wore the title of princess in the human realm. That title was just that, it had no power behind it. Though it gave her immediate respect from those inside her country and some from outside it as well. She never had to exert herself before for people to take her seriously. She liked it that way if she were to be honest. Still, if she wanted to be respected and not ridiculed she had to take measures to ensure she got it. Yet how that would happen she hadn't the foggiest idea.
"How immediate should I be in my endeavor?"
Her knight gave her a knowing smile. She was catching on. "You'll know when to make your move. Vampire politics is very much like any other. You make the right move when the need arises."
"I just hope it comes when I at least feel ready for it," said the princess before standing back up. "Thanks for the talk Viktor. I feel a bit better now."
Viktor nodded once before standing up. "Still want to leave?"
The princess felt her courage returning and it energized her. "No. I think I'll stick around a bit longer. See if I can leave a mark on this party before I do."
The nobles remained in the garden even as a light amount of snow began to fall. Being the only one susceptible to the cold sera had asked Viktor to retrieve her coat from Joel and thus she remained near the fountain and awaited his return. To keep herself somewhat warm the princess rubbed her upper arms to try and keep them from going numb. For this she somewhat envied the other nobles. 'One of the few perks of being a vampire I guess, being immune to the cold.'
Leon had not yet returned from his phone call but Sera wasn't worried about that. She may have been his guest of honor but she wasn't going to wait on him hand and foot, especially in this environment. She felt safer with Viktor than with Leon, only because she had known the knight for longer.
None of the other nobles seemed to pay her any mind and left her alone.
But that didn't last long as a familiar but unpleasant woman approached her, stepping through the cold with a swag that showed off her arrogance.
"Did your knight leave you as well?"
'Her again...' Feeling irked the princess looked up at the noblewoman, "None of your business."
The woman raised an eyebrow. "So rude..." She feigned at having her feelings hurt but carried on. "First Lord Leon and now your sworn protector. You really do drive the men away."
Her irritation level started to rise, including her patience with this rude woman, Sera stood up. Remembering what Viktor had told her earlier she went and stood her ground. "And why is it that you continue to single me out?"
"Ah, finally getting to the meat of the issue," the woman licked her lips, showing the tips of her vampire fangs to the princess. A sign of intimidation and it sort of worked. "Well, first off, I am Rira Shadreign, noble of Southern Romania and I will indulge you. I want to think that you've noticed the praise the other nobles have made about your mother?"
Sera turned to see the nobles speaking in groups at various points in the garden. She had heard, and acknowledged them. "Of course, but what does that have to do with me?"
"Everything, for the most part. Queen Ruina was above all of us. Elegant, beautiful, smart, and a great ruler. Powerful... A noble whose dark powers cast a shadow over darkness itself. She ruled the nobility with the utmost respect-" Her praise of the late Queen seemed to dwell into zealousness and almost worship, but soon turned sour. "...only to fall in love with a petty human king, 'retire' to a life of no bloodshed among humans, and die giving birth to a filthy half-breed. Were it not for you being the daughter of Lady Ruina, you wouldn't have lived to see your first sunrise. You or your pathetic human father-"
Right as she finished her sentence she turned her eyes to see Sera's right hand hit her square across the face.
"Gah!" Rira stumbled back a step, Sera's slap had more force in it than she would have thought possible for a dhampir. Her arrogance had also blinded her to the possibility that Sera wasn't going to take insulting her father or herself lightly. Rira held her left hand to her face, her pale complexion would not show any sign of harm but her pride had been butchered in front of all the nobles who had seen the ordeal go down.
"Insult me or my family again and I will do much worse," said the princess, standing triumphantly over the downed noblewoman and meaning every word of her insult. Though she didn't have much of a chance at what she had threatened she still intended to back her words up.
Rira got up in a huff clearly embarrassed and extremely upset. She pointed at the princess and screamed, "Omoar-o!"
Sera knew it was Romanian, but she almost failed notice the tip of the spear coming right at her chest, aiming straight for her heart.
Luckily for her something caught it before it could pierce her skin.
A wall of dark grey and leather got between her and the spear, and though she couldn't see it from her perspective, Viktor had caught the spear tip with just his left hand. His entire left arm had been encased in crude black armor and he was unhurt. Catching the spear sent a shockwave through the garden, blowing back all the snow in the immediate vicinity.
Sera gasped, fully realizing her life had been saved yet again by her sole protector. "Viktor!"
"Can't leave you alone for more than a moment can I?" The knight joked before turning to the new threat.
Rira stood behind the man in silver armor holding the spear, he bore the symbol of the Shadreign house on his chest. "Move boy! Or else I'll kill you too!"
Viktor wasn't fazed by her threat. "Rather unbecoming of a noblewoman to send her personal guard to kill a defenseless girl, wouldn't you think?" He pushed the spear away with ease. The enemy knight still remained in an attack position while Viktor remained where he was. Though he stood before an armed soldier and he had yet to draw his own weapon, the knight of the princess seemed unconcerned with the threat before him.
While Viktor was cool of the situation Rira wasn't on the other hand. She was red hot furious.
The shout from a third voice outside of the four stopped everything. Leon stood atop the stairs, having finally finished his call and was in the process of returning to the party. "There will not be a duel here, if that is what you are planning, Rira."
Salvaging any of the mature nobility she could Rira stood up straight and faced the lord of the manor. "Lord Leon! I was just-"
"I hate to admonish a woman such as you in front of everyone here but Rira you leave me little choice in the matter. Upset me again and I will be forced to evict you from the premises. Understand?"
"...Yes, Lord Leon..." Rira lowered her head in shame, and Sera couldn't help but feel a bit satisfied. Even more so than when she had slapped the woman in the face.
That feeling went away when Leon addressed her, "As for you Princess Sera, what were you thinking? Striking a noblewoman so brazenly, and threatening her on top of it?"
Sera didn't back down, and told the truth. "I could only take so much insult, Lord Leon, before I retaliated."
"So do you apologize?"
Sera's silence was answer enough. She would not.
"And so I will make her apologize," said Rira, her bravado returning after her admonishment. "No one strikes me and gets away with it! Cristian!"
The spear knight lowered his spear to a battle ready stance and in clear violation of Leon's order and acting more on impulse than reason, swiftly thrust his weapon at Viktor.
Anticipating such a response Viktor used his sword to swipe away the attack. When he had drawn his weapon no one knew and as such he had caught the spear knight as well as Rira completely by surprise. Sera knew his sword was close but still couldn't figure out how he got it out in time. Cristian was forced back by the next heavy blow, using his spear handle to guard it and sparks flew from the collision.
"ENOUGH I SAID!"
Cristian lowered his spear, but Viktor didn't lower his guard. He was playing defense for Sera and was ready to defend her again should the need arise.
The spear wielding guardian lowered himself to a knee as his lady spoke, "Fine. Since I cannot be allowed to kill this wench I think I will take my leave." The noblewoman glared at the princess. "Next time I see you, you will bleed girl."
She turned in a huff and walked away. Cristian spoke not a word before he too turned to join his mistress.
Only when they were out of sight did sera let out a sigh of relief. 'That was intense.'
Viktor put his sword in its scabbard and went over to the shaking princess. "You alright?"
Sera nodded once, her hands shaking slightly. "Yeah, thanks."
The knight smiled lightly. He knew she wasn't used to all the action that the vampire world would bring but sadly it would get worse from here. 'Best better get used to it, Sera.'
The rest of the nobles looked at the girl with disdain, though there were a few who seemed to express something akin to respect. Not many people stood up to Rira, especially to her face, and the fact that Sera had done so without backing down or apologizing about it brought a snicker or two from the higher crowd.
Leon was one of the few who thought Rira had it coming.
Still after all that had happened, Sera personally felt like it was now the best time to leave.
"I think it's time I go home," she uttered under her breath.
Her knight was the only one who caught it and he didn't object. The tension in the air was suffocating and he could feel it. "Very well, Highness. I'll call for Joel."
It took Joel less than five minutes to bring the car around to the front drive. By that time Sera had made it to the front door. No one, save for Viktor, escorted her. She wasn't sure anyone wanted to be near her, let alone talk to her. Because of that she wasn't in a talkative mood either. Thus when Joel greeted her and opened her door, she only gave him a smile before she even reached the vehicle.
Before she got into the car Sera heard her name and turned to see Leon scurrying to meet her. He was also alone.
The urge to speak returned to Sera and she brought her a small smile. "Lord Leon."
"Sorry your evening was less than stellar."
"…I wasn't expecting it to be anything other than enlightening, if I am to be honest." She had seen but a glimpse of the world she was unknowingly born into, and that was enough for one night.
"Still, I appreciate you coming, and hope to see you again."
He offered his hand to Sera and the princess gave hers to him. She felt the coldness of his skin through her glove. She expected him to merely shake her hand, but she was proven wrong when he lightly kissed it instead. Sera pulled her hand back, slowly but with a sense of urgency. It wasn't often she was treated like a true princess and thus her reaction.
"Good night, Lord Leon."
She got into the car and after she pulled her skirt into the car Viktor shut the door behind her. Yet that wasn't the end of it as the knight didn't even take one step before Leon spoke to him.
The knight didn't speak but his red eyes laid on the noble, waiting for a response.
Leon nodded in respect. He knew of how valuable Viktor was to the princess. The way she leaned on him for support in this new world and looked to him for advice. The other nobles thought of it as weak but Leon understood that she needed it. "You're good for her."
The knight nodded once in acknowledgement. He secretly appreciated the noble's words. In fact he almost smiled. "Good night, Lord Leon."
He got in the car and it took off slowly through the snowy night. Leon waved until the car was out of sight.
Inside the limousine Sera finally let her body relax. She had been tense almost the entire time at the party and it was so obvious of being at the end of her rope that Viktor put a hand on her shoulder.
Sera nodded once. "Very much." She then began to undo the intricate knots of her hair. Her plans for the rest of the night were made of nothing except for going straight to bed, so she was getting a head start on doing just that.
Viktor smiled lightly, "I think he was impressed with you."
"Better him than the rest of those snobs."
Now a full grin went on the knight's face. "That is the best case scenario for you. Impress the host and the others won't have a reason to complain."
Taking off the gloves she took a look at her right hand. It was still slightly red from slapping Rira, not to mention the stinging sensation had lingered. 'I'll have to add ice when I get home.'
"Does hitting a vampire always feel like hitting concrete?"
"Heh, more like steel."
She cradled her hand in her lap. "Still, I think I messed up royally back there."
"You did what you felt was right."
"But I don't think I got respect for it."
"That's not what Leon thought."
"It's not often that a noble strikes another for any reason. At least not one that showed dignity like you did."
Sera had struck Rira after she had insulted her family, which was a no go to the princess, and she didn't put up with it. Added that the noblewoman had been singling her out all night didn't help her psyche. She had let her temper get the better of her, no matter how justified it was in hindsight. Still, it felt damn good to let it out on someone who deserved it.
Yet even if the night ended on a bit of a disaster, Sera couldn't help but get excited about the next social gathering. "Well, maybe next time I can leave a better mark."
Viktor put his unarmored hand on Sera's. A gesture of reassurance and a bit of affection. "I think you already did."
Sera gently squeezed his fingers, letting out the last bit of frustration she held in her body.
There would definitely be a next time.