QUOD PRIMOGENITA VENDIDISSET
I am Fierna.
I am power.
For years, I shackled myself. Begged that cripple who thought himself a warlord to chain me, to weaken and hobble me. For years, that damned device cursed me, held me back, denied me what was mine by right.
Even now, I could feel it. Years of poison did not fade in moments. But oh… it was fading. Burning away like ice before a flame. With every moment, my power grew. With every moment, what was mine slowly returned.
I was thrown roughly against the cold stone floor.
“My sclavi found this one with the others,” a female voice said.
“She looks like a ghoul worked her over. Did she resist?”
“No. The sclavi were simply not careful when they carried her here.”
Old instincts were surfacing, like a blade slowly being sharpened after disuse. For the moment, I merely peered around myself, trying to determine where I was. At the moment, my strength was not fully returned, and it was all I could do.
But my blood was quickening. My power would come to me soon enough.
There were many shivering sclavi, standing barefoot on the cold concrete floor, guarding the entrances and simply acting as servants for the well-dressed vampires scattered around. There were several baselines, bound together in chains. They were unconscious, and irrelevant. There was a giant, pinned to the wall with spikes. Also irrelevant.
And there was an angel, staring at me with wide eyes from his spot on the floor just a few feet away. He was mouthing words, but what, I couldn’t say. I peered closer, trying to divine his meaning, but had little luck.
He seemed to be saying ‘Please.’ Please what?
“Oh good, the baselines are waking up.”
“What do we do with the vampire?”
“We’ll get to her in a moment.”
Strong hands grabbed me and dragged me to the rear of the room, where I could be stored until they were done with whatever minor thing they were doing.
“You there, baseline. What’s your name? What made you think attacking Phlegethos was a good idea?”
Phlegethos. I knew that name. The Heart of Darkness, the Seat of Despair. Sitting in Northwest Middle, it was the last spark of power of an old, dying culture, waiting for a lord that was dead and gone.
I knew Phlegethos. I knew it.
I had recovered enough to crack open my eyes and get a better look around the room. The floor was cold concrete, but the walls were lined with tapestries and paintings. There were a few lights in the ceiling, barely more than dying candles, dim enough to give baselines the vaguest impression of what was happening, but bright as day to vampire eyes.
The room itself was wide and long, large enough to park five or ten cars. It was clearly an audience chamber, a gesture of the ruler’s might and abilities. The effect was undercut by the fact that the throne at the end of the blood-red carpet was empty.
Four vampires sat on short chairs flanking that throne, a massive chair-shaped edifice of blackest obsidian. All four were distinct in their suspicious lack of distinction; they all had ivory skin and raven-black hair, fitting the vampire definition of beauty. They would have more unique toys hidden under those loose robes of theirs.
There were a scattering of other vampires in the room, in addition to the dozens of sclavi. The slaves, of course, were mostly dull-eyed with the drugs used to keep them under control, but the nightstalkers were sharp and dangerous.
“I am Derek Huntsman, Honorless Bloodsoaked,” a strong male voice called out. “And this man next to me is Adam Anders.”
The effect of the baseline’s words was electric. All the nightstalkers recoiled away from the blond man standing before them with his hands bound, and even more when his bland little friend struggled to his feet as well.
I felt like I should know who these two were. It was tickling at the back of my mind, but the power stirring in my body made it hard to think. Nights, it made it hard to do anything but just revel in my own strength. Why had I ever given this up? Why had I ever thought that would be a good idea?
Everyone in the audience chamber was staring at the blond and his friend, ignoring everyone else in the room, including the other two baselines still on the ground.
Everyone, that is, except for the angel. He was still mouthing words at me, now with tears dripping down his cheeks. ‘Please.’ Please what?
“Huntsman,” one of the Nobles flanking the throne, Bathym, hissed as he leaned forward, his black talons hidden in his robes. “It is… unfortunate that you are here. But the laws of Necessarius are clear. You broke into our domain. They will not rescue you from our wrath.”
“You kidnapped several ‘sarians. They will demand compensation for that.”
Bathym grinned in that annoying way he had, showing his fangs poking over his lower lip, but nothing else. “That is too bad, Huntsman. But the Belians remain a rich culture. We have more than enough money to pay retribution for a self-defense case.”
The baseline shrugged. “Perhaps. I guess we’ll just have to fight our way out of here.”
Bathym laughed loudly at that, though no one else so much as cracked a smile. “Oh, you are a confident one, Honored Paragon. But we are hardly helpless.” His black eyes turned hard. “We know what you are capable of. You are vastly outnumbered, and your clay is unarmed. Not to mention you must keep your friends safe. You are not getting out of this alive. You have no trump card.”
“Well, there is me.”
My power had not returned to me. Not completely. It would take hours, perhaps even days, before all traces of that vile chemical was purged from my system.
But I did not need physical power to deal with these wretches.
“Go back to sleep, nightstalker,” Balan, the warlord with the massive eyebrows and the tufted beard, said wearily. “You will be dealt with in a moment.”
I ignored him, and instead took off my clothes.
It wasn’t hard. My armor was missing—most likely taken—and the underclothes were ripped and torn in places. A single hard yank was enough to remove my shirt, and my pants weren’t much more difficult.
Everyone in the room stared at me. Not in lust, either. Just in sheer confusion.
“…someone get this girl out of here,” Gaziel said, waving his hand lazily in such a way that the bulbous, bony joints of his wrists were seen under his robe, and I could see the hint of his long, purple-red forked tongue in his mouth. “Sclavi. Scoateți-o.”
Instead of following his orders, one of the sclavi quietly stepped up from behind me, dressing me in a long, fur-lined cloak that went right over my naked body. There was no tie around the waist, but it was expertly tailored to my physique, and carefully clung to my body to hide both my breasts and groin.
I smiled. “Sclavi. Îngenuncheze.”
And the slaves knelt before me.
Now the Nobles and nightstalkers jumped back in fright, understanding exactly what they were dealing with. No, not yet. I saw the looks in their eyes—they were afraid of my power to control their sclavi, but they didn’t understand why.
They didn’t recognize me yet.
I strode through the rows of kneeling vampires, past the crying angel still on the floor, ignoring the baselines who were staring at me, as well as the Belians who had no idea what was going on.
I strode towards the obsidian throne, with no one to stop me.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Gazra looked from me to the throne.
Then he knelt.
Balan and Bathym followed suit a moment later, and Gaziel, looking between his three colleagues, knew he had no other choice but to do the same. I noted his hesitation, but kept my lips shut for the moment.
I turned to see the confused faces of the rest of the vampires, the nightstalkers who had joined after I had left. They saw what their Nobles were doing, but couldn’t believe it, couldn’t understand it. They had no more idea what was happening than the baselines we had captured or the giant stapled to the wall.
The angel knew, though. He was still crying, still begging me to stop.
Oh, dear, sweet Alex. You knew this was how it was going to end.
“…Kelly?” Derek asked slowly. “What—”
“Drakela Sanguinas never existed,” I explained, as if to a child. “She was a broken mask worn to interact with others.” I met the Paragon’s wary gaze with a firm one of my own, knowing full well what I was doing.
“I am Fierna,” I said calmly. “Daughter of Belial, heir to the Throne of Abriymoch, the Fourth Black Crypt Phlegethos, and all the secrets of my mother, Naome the Golden.”
I sat in the throne, the black obsidian seat too large for me—it had been designed for my father, after all, who was almost eight feet tall.
“I claim this culture by right of blood and right of shadow,” I said, my voice echoing throughout the chamber. “Let all who wish to take it from me come forth now, so that I may defend what is mine.”
The power in my veins sang. It felt good to be home
The only problem was my conscience screaming in the back of my skull.
Behind the Scenes (scene 261)
I’ve been waiting for this one for a very, very long time. Still not sure if I should move it to later.