Princess Amelia of the House of Sacrifice watched as the dirigible was secured on the lawn in front of the palace. Men swarmed in from the sides, grabbing the ropes that were thrown down and running them toward the short posts that surrounded the airship on all sides.
Soon they’d tied the ropes to the posts. Then they carried out the stairway platforms, assembling them and placing them next to the gondola’s doors–including the cargo hatch.
They’d need the cargo hatch. She’d be bringing a lot of baggage with her.
Turning away from the window, she clenched her fists. It was all so unfair. She hadn’t asked for this. She hadn’t asked for any of it. What she wouldn’t give to be born into a normal family right now–the daughter of a merchant, maybe, or an airship engineer?
As she stood in the second room of her suite, a room where she’d had private dinners, studied with her tutors, and played with her sister, she began to feel it again. It was always there below the surface of her thoughts. She could hear the whispers of all the Bloodmaidens before her, the saviours, the merely successful, the failures, the exiled, and the damned. All of them wanted the same thing. They wanted her to reach within herself for her power. It would be easy, easier than it ever had been even when her tutors had been teaching her magic.
She took a breath and let it out. She could control it. She wasn’t going to transform again, not so soon after yesterday. If she had a choice, she’d never transform again.
As she breathed, a new person entered the room. At a little under five and half feet tall with short, red hair, and pale skin, the new girl looked almost exactly like Amelia. Clothes were the only obvious difference. The new girl wore a pink dress while Amelia wore a black leather overcoat that covered up everything down to her matching boots.
“Amy,” the new girl said, reaching out her hands to pull Amelia into a hug. “You’re already leaving?”
“As soon as they can throw my things aboard the airship, I’m told. Doing anything less invites dissent, rebellion, and the fall of an empire. Our empire,” Amy frowned, but didn’t let her sister go.
“I’ll be completely lost without you,” her sister whispered.
Amy shook her head. “Amanda, you won’t be. You can’t be. You’re the Bloodmaiden. The real one.” Amy thought, but didn’t say the new one, the better one, and the one that doesn’t terrify an empire.
Amanda pulled her head off Amy’s shoulder, and they looked each other in the eyes. “What’s it like?”
At that they both let each other go. Amy said, “Do you remember the feeling you had when we were first learning blood magic? When you touched that first drop of blood, it felt like you’d touched the smallest part of an ocean? I’m touching the whole ocean, and I’m touching it all the time.”
Amanda nodded. “It’s not like that for me at all. I can’t even do blood magic anymore.”
Amy blinked. “It cut you off from blood magic? That makes no sense at all.”
Amanda held up her hands, stopping Amy from saying anything more. “No, it’s more like I am the blood magic. I can feel everything, and everyone in the empire. Our tutors, well, my tutors tell me I’ll be able to do all of it again, but using different techniques.”
Amanda opened her mouth, stopped, and then said, “I can sense everyone except you.”
Amy took a breath. “Oh.”
Another voice broke into the conversation, this one a tenor. “That’s enough. Even here, there’s a risk of being heard. Don’t divulge any secrets except when you know you’re safe.”
Tall, with red hair and a red moustache, and skin as pale as his daughters’, their father stood in a black, pinstriped suit. Small red gems glowed on his cufflinks.
“From me?” Amy asked.
He shook his head. “I know that she’s in no danger from you. I wish the lords understood the same, but I can’t blame them. Before the council changed the nature of the Bloodmaidens, the birth of twin Bloodmaidens almost always led to civil war. We’d thought twin Bloodmaidens was now impossible and reverting back doubly so, but there have been no twins since the change. The lords are scared. The commoners are scared. Unless we’re seen to do something about it, we risk chaos.”
He looked from one daughter to the other. “You both know what happened to the last Bloodmaiden of the old line.”