Amy laughed, “Of all the books to be based on reality…”
Vincent muttered, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
One of the sparkling vampires stepped out in front of the group. He had short, black hair, a pale face, and wore black armor with silver rivets. The shape of the armor either emphasized or created the illusion of a lean, muscular physique.
In short, someone cared enough to pay for a suit of brigandine that had some style.
The man held a sword pointing upward, letting it lie on his shoulder.
Though I wasn’t a great swordsman, the pose struck me as dangerously casual.
He looked us over, giving a thin smile as he did. “I’m Barrington, vampire king, protector of vampires from those that would hurt them, and leader of this band of warrior vampires.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking about the vampires around us, all of which were dead, many of which only existed as oily, ashy messes on the wooden floor. “You protect vampires? Um… Nice to meet you.”
Amy glanced over at me, raising her eyebrow. Since she was some sort of princess in her native world, I guessed that I’d violated some sort of royal etiquette.
Not sure what it was, or if she’d just been thinking he and his band were a little bit late to protect anything, I decided to introduce her, “I’m V4. This is Bloodmaiden, she’s a princess and kind of related to vampires where she comes from. Plus, I’m sure you know Blue Mask and Vincent.”
Amy frowned in my direction for an instant before facing them with a smile, “V4 is correct. I’m an heir of the House of Sacrifice. In my world, the sun never sets on our empire. I haven’t heard anything about a vampire king here.”
Barrington smiled, turning his face from a caricature of a tortured artist to one that would sell magazines and whatever clothes he happened to be wearing, “I only heard of the vampire king and our order of warriors within the last few years myself, despite having been a vampire for a century before that. I was lost and lonely and hating what I was, but this brotherhood of warriors has given me purpose.”
Nodding, Amy said, “And how does that make you a vampire king?”
He glanced back to the others, grinning, “I’m the last scion of a great vampire line. I didn’t know it, but the others did and they were searching for me. When they found me they told me what I was and everything changed. Now, as for you, I knew you for what you truly are the moment I saw you. You’re one of us. Tell me about this world where vampires rule.”
“Rule?” Amy looked at him. “It’s not exactly what you’re thinking. In my world, there aren’t vampires the way they are here. There’s a race called the Elder that mixed with humanity before they were destroyed. Their descendants rule in many nations, but not in all.”
As Amy and Barrington talked, I heard Mateo talk through my comm, “What are you doing?”
Keeping my voice quiet and hoping it wouldn’t escape from the V4 suit’s helmet, I said, “I don’t know. I was trying to get a second to catch my breath. Maybe we don’t have to fight them. The guy seems a little deluded, but not evil so far.”
As I paid attention to the conversation around me again, I heard Barrington say, “That’s how it is with us too. While there are other vampires, true vampires are a race within a race. We mix with humanity, but we aren’t truly of them. It might be that your Elder visited this world too. Wouldn’t it be amazing? It’s been a great mystery to our people where we come from. If you join us, perhaps you can clear it up. We have writings in languages even the oldest of us don’t understand. Look at this—“
He pulled a black metal dagger out of a sheath on his belt. Red veins spiderwebbed across it. Some of the veins had been shaped into letters.
Amy drew in a short breath as she looked at it and muttered, “Dammit.”
She looked away from the dagger to Barrington, “I need to talk to my team. Give us a second.”
Turning around, she led us a few coffin lengths away from the vampires, stopping and looking back toward Barrington. He and the rest were talking in low voices.
“That dagger,” she said, “I’ve seen them before. We’ve got them at home. They come from wherever the Elder came from before they reached my world. They made more when they reached my world, but they’re not the same. That’s an original.”
Mateo glanced over at Barrington before saying, “And what does that mean? Do you want to go with them?”
She shook her head, “No, but this is important. I’ve known since I came to this world that blood magic here was similar to mine, but wasn’t the same. If this is true, it might be that it’s because less developed and more like the kind the Elders used when they first came to our world. Some of the past Bloodmaidens are telling me I need to find out more and the others are telling me I need to kill all of them and destroy the dagger.”
Mateo met her eyes, “What do you want to do?”