Blood Price is a big twist on the vampire stereotype, mixing magic and death and life altogether. It shows all the different sides of being human; love, greed, survival, power, vulnerability, life!
Eyes turned her way as she stepped to the dance floor, and just as quickly turned away. She acted as if she didn't notice them, even though that wasn't true. She noticed every time. She just ignored the looks, the long glances, the turned up noses and the whisperings between the bolder of the Nobles.
She simply did not care about any of them. She was exactly where she wanted to be. The music that was playing lured her to the dance floor and she swayed in time with the haunting melodies. Her long, satin black and ruby red dress flowed around her feet as she moved. The dress fit her snugly around her torso, draping down to her toes. Inch thick shoulder straps led to a deep V both front and back. The front revealed only a small amount of her bosom, but the back opened all the way down nearly exposing the dimples in the small of her back.
She felt him as he approached and when he wrapped his arms around her from behind she closed her eyes and leaned her head back, allowing him to take charge of her dance.
The floor on which they danced was nearly empty, the other Nobles keeping a distance. Most of them made space out of respect for the Prince, but some had already started to move away from her. As usual, she ignored them. She ignored their longing stares directed at the man with her. Nothing mattered to her except the music and him.
Placing his hands on her shoulders, he turned her towards him and she opened her eyes. Pulling her tightly against him, he ran his hands from her shoulders down to her hips, barely keeping decency in mind while in such a public area. She knew the dress she was wearing was making that difficult for him. He finally rested his hands on her hips with his fingertips tracing around the just-barely-unseen dimples. Her waist was small enough that his large hands could almost reach around it.
He kissed her gently on the forehead before he spoke.
"You seem wistful tonight, my love. And you look even more radiant than I thought possible. What is it that makes you glow like you do?"
Dartein stared into her eyes, warmly and lovingly, urging her to speak to him. He had told her before that he loved her voice. That it was like a magical caress to his soul. Did a man such as he have a soul? That did not matter to her. Only he mattered. He was everything to her. Her entire world was centered on her Prince. He had captured her attention immediately the night she first saw him. He had captured her heart only moments after.
She inhaled deeply and registered all the scents around her. His scent of dark smoke and midnight lilacs, a myriad of scents from the other dancers, the sweatiness of the few humans who were also attending the ball. And another scent. Even darker than her lover's. Smelling of oak and earth. She pondered the semi-familiar scent for a moment before she turned her attention back to him.
"It is hard to believe but I just feel so much more alive than I ever have!" She laughed softly at that, because she really hadn't been alive for over 40 years. In fact they had just awoken not four weeks before that night, from a year’s long sleep. The Grand Ball that was taking place around them was in honor of their return from Slumber.
Usually an Awakening Ball was held much sooner after the actual Awakening. But due to the unusual circumstances of their Slumber, it had been held off to make sure the couple were well adjusted. You see, the ordinary slumber of a Noble and their chosen human took a matter of weeks. Some of the more powerful Nobles had been known to take a few months. There was a rumor that a long deceased uncle of one of the council members had taken five years in his slumber.
Their slumber had been unusually long. After ten years of waiting and the Prince and his Chosen not rising, most had given up on them ever returning. Some of the Nobles had whispered about how the Patriarch would pace around the Slumber chamber for weeks on end before passing out from exhaustion. After twenty years he finally let himself grieve for his son, fearing him never to return. It was well known the Patriarch loved his son. But this display of emotion seemed unnatural to members of the court. After seeing the concern from his court that his power was waning, he forced himself to mourn in private and returned to ruling his people.
Things had turned back to normal within the court for a time. Some Nobles were restless, waiting for the Patriarch to deem his son lost and the Slumber Chamber to be cleared. The court could not grow until then, but he refused to give up even though the Council would gently push him to clear the Chamber quite often. They were forced to accept that they would continue to wait, impatient but scared to incur the wrath of their Master.
And then, one day, forty years to the day after the Noble Son and his Chosen had been sealed in the Chamber, the unexpected happened. One of the Noble Court Guards heard the cleaning lasses exclaiming that the Slumber Chamber was now open. The girls feared to tell the Master; since they did not find his son in the Chamber, they feared he would do something terrible when brought the news. Upon hearing this the guard and his comrades rushed to the eastern wing of the palace, and there found the couple that had been all but been given up on. The guard fell to his knees in disbelief at seeing his Prince alive, and yelled for the other guards to run to the Patriarch's chambers and tell him the news.
Staring deeply into her eyes, Dartein replied to her comment, "You are still newly turned my sweet Josaleene, and I hear the first few months are full of new sensations and revelations."
"Well, would you not know of those things, or was your change too long ago to remember?"
"I do not remember my change, my love. I am not even sure how it happened. My father is not very forthcoming on that subject." Curiosity flashed across his face a brief second but then his attention was fully back on her.
Their dance had taken them towards the front of the room, near the large dais with the Patriarchs seat. The Patriarch himself stood nearby, solitary, taking in the scene of the ball in front of him.
Josaleene had not noticed him, yet.
"So is it just your newly awakened senses that have you so full of life?" Dartein was asking her.
"I am almost afraid to speak of this, I fear it is a laughable thing as I have never heard of it happening before. But Dartein, I feel as though I am carrying a life inside of me. I almost believe that I am pregnant!" Her cheeks flushed as she spoke it out loud, thinking maybe she was being terribly foolish and misjudging her new abilities.
When she looked back up she spied the Patriarch and felt his hard eyes on her, his oak and earth scent curling around them. His eyes held...fear? Then he bowed his head to her and she put that thought aside as her emotions just making her jumpy.
Pulling her chin up to bring her eyes to him, Dartein asks her in barely a whisper, "Do you truly think so? I'm not sure it is possible either. What a wonderful thing, if it were! But I could check the Library to see if it has ever happened before. If there are any accounts of Noble pregnancies it would be there." His eyes were hopeful, full of love and warmth. "What an incredible miracle it would be! We mustn't speak of it though, just in case. I would die if you were to be hurt for any reason, and this court has jealousies enough already." He kissed her cheeks, her chin, and then her forehead; his eyes sparkling like diamonds.
Josaleene basked in his warmth, his affection calming her nerves and making her feel much less foolish.
"Do not fear Dartein, I know all too well how easily some are jealous of me. They have all made it clear I do not belong here, without saying a word." In spite of that, she had never been happier in her life. She still felt like she was dreaming, like maybe she had never come to be as lucky as she is now. She smiled at the thought of her pinching herself to make sure it was all true. But no, she wouldn't pinch herself. If she was dreaming she surely did not want to wake up. She had worked so hard to get here, and dealt with so much to find her love.
Josaleene peeked out of the doorway making sure no one was walking by. Those folk who lived around her were all poor and hungry. She did not want them to see her dressed up like a highborn lady. They would shun her, or yell at her to take off the clothes she did not deserve to wear. She was a common girl. Lower than common really, born of a street whore.
Her mother may have sold herself to make money, but she was the greatest woman Josaleene had ever known. She was always clean and smelled of lilacs. She took good care of her little “lady” and never let her go hungry, even if it meant she went hungry herself. Her late night visitors never came to their room, she always entertained them elsewhere, away from Josaleene.
Her mother would sit and tell tales of the lords and ladies of the village they lived in, Nobles Rest, and their festive parties. She would tell of the mysterious guests they would invite, and then how the village lords would fight with each other for weeks over whose party was the best. She would laugh at them, but always said that they never wanted for anything. Especially if someone of their family was picked by a Noble as a Chosen.
The Noble Court was made up of an ancient race of...well exactly what they were was shrouded in dark mystery. The history of their race was erased from human minds by time and any written word on it was locked away high up in the palace, guarded heavily by the Patriarch's magic. In the times they lived no one even bothered to ask or wonder about the Nobles. They were just an accepted reality that had been around for centuries. And everyone desired alliances with them.
Every generation the Noble Court would choose a member from the human village to become part of their court. Every time the choice was made from a passionless decision, based on someone’s influence and wealth or ability to provide necessary services to the Court. Families would compete rabidly against one another to have one of their young ones chosen. They would offer up immense amounts of wealth, land titles, businesses, contracts...whatever they thought would bring them favor at that time. It was no matter that children would never come of the union, the Chosen would live on for hundreds of years and would look after their family for as long as it suited them. Sometimes that wasn't for long, but the Council of the Noble Court was always gracious and grateful to the families who had a relative in the court.
The folk of the Noble Court were beautiful creatures. And they were deadly. The Patriarch who ruled them kept them peaceful, though. And through him they had peacefully ruled the lands around their court for over a thousand years. Their only price to keep this peace between the lands was to be able to pick one young human every generation or so to turn to keep their court full and vibrant. And of course, with all the wealth thrown at them to sway their decision on who to pick, the court was also incredibly wealthy.
On the rare evenings that her mother was not entertaining, she would take Josaleene to the more wealthy parts of town in the Palace District. They would watch the lords and ladies for hours going about their affairs, and watch the strange Nobles come and go from the human's parties. From their outings, Josaleene had become obsessed with the beautiful creatures and wanted so badly to become a part of that lifestyle.
Their women were always dressed in the finest dresses. Rich silks and brocaded laces, the smoothest satins and every jewel possible. Their full and lustrous hair was worn in every different fashion, but never short. Done up with nets and large gemmed combs that sparkled like stars under the brightest moon.
It was rare to see them out of their palace too often. But Josaleene would go those parts of town at least once a week to try to catch a glimpse.
Tonight though, Josaleene wasn't going to watch. She intended to get herself invited to one of those parties. She took in a deep breath, brushed at the skirt of her dress nervously and shutting the door quietly behind her, headed north towards the Palace District.
Mortul, Patriarch of the Noble Race, had a hard time keeping his expression flat for the rest of the night, after over hearing Josaleene's declaration to his son. He excused himself early, telling his advisors he had some contracts to review that were ending soon and needed to prepare new terms. It wasn't untrue but it was the last thing he wanted to work on right now.
He closed the door to his room, leaned heavily on it and ran his hands through his hair. He couldn't calm his mind. The memories came back to overwhelm his normally placid emotions. 'Oh Samana, not our boy... not him too.' He had never stopped thinking of his wife, dead now for 700 years. He thought of her every day.
Unnatural love lasted forever, and love between a Noble and a human was anything but natural. And for them it had ended in disaster, pain, and a lot of blood.
Swallowing past the lump in his throat he walked over to the large cabinet near the painted window. The window was a marvel to behold. He had based an entire Chosen Slumber contract on its construction. The lesser Noble was just happy to have a chance to choose, and the young ladies father was a wonder in creating painted glass masterpieces.
Mortul was young for one of their kind back then, but his poor Samana ... his poor beautiful wife... was just laid to rest. He couldn't bear being without her, not having her next to him every minute of the day and night. Her beautiful face was no longer with him to look at, to touch.
The master glass artist had taken his time. It was an unbearable amount of time for Mortul, but he had schooled himself in patience and not for the first time in his life.
And his patience paid off.
The window had been finished at midnight, and after being set into the frame he came into the room to inspect it. Upon walking into his room he was beheld with his beloved Samana's face, lit from behind by an enormous harvest moon. The artist swore there had been no magic involved in the making of the window, but only magic could have calmed his heart so suddenly. He was captivated by the window and could not take his eyes off of it. Anyone could have sneaked past him at that moment and stole his entire wealth and he would not have noticed.
The artist had excused himself, leaving completely unnoticed by the Patriarch. Mortul stood there all the rest of the night and stared at his wife's face. At dawn he crawled into his bed and slept for two full days... the most he had slept since Samana left his side.
Bringing his memories back under control, he poured a drink from the cabinet and gulped it down. After pouring himself a second drink, he sighed and looked up at the window.
The window was just as beautiful now as the first night he beheld it. If possible, it was only more beautiful. He needed the calm feeling he got from looking upon the window, but there was nothing calm within him tonight. Frustrated he drained the glass and set it down, turning back to his door.
He needed to get to his library.
After the guards found him in his chamber in his normal spot at the window, The Patriarch ushered them back out and paused a moment to reign in his emotions. Putting on his rulers face he walked to the wing of the palace his son occupied. He entered his son’s chambers, ordered the guards away and closed the door. He did not speak until he knew they were alone.
"My Son." Mortul, Patriarch of the Noble Court spoke, his voice firm and low but powerful. "I was beginning to think you would never return to your Court."
"Father I do not understand the guards reactions to our return. There surely is no fuss like this when others Awaken."
"No other Slumber has taken forty years to complete." The Patriarch tried to keep his eyes clear of emotion. His love for his son more than was common for those of the Noble Blood. Nobles did not attach themselves so readily to others. And recently he had learned in order to keep his court calm, he could not show such personal emotions.
"Forty years... I cannot believe... why would our Slumber take so long to complete?" His voice was tired. Even though he looked as healthy as ever, healthier even, his posture was one of exhaustion.
"I do not know. I had all but given up on you. But you are my son and one of the strongest in the Court. " Looking closer he saw just how tired Dartein was, and spied his son's Chosen fast asleep on the large bed in the back of the bedroom. Looking back to his son he said, “You did not sleep while inside the chamber, did you?"
Seeming indignant, his son replied "I do believe that what we shared in the chamber was our business."
Fear crept up the Patriarch's spine. Memories from long ago threatened to push their way forward in his mind. He forced them away. He would not think of that now. His son was back, and that was to be celebrated.
"Of course. It is just very unusual to be so tired upon your return. I believe we should give the two of you some time to adjust and rest. I will have the council begin to plan your return Ball, to take place in a few weeks." He patted his son on the shoulder and turned and whisked out of the room, turning to shut the door behind him.
The last thing he saw was his son crawling onto the bed and collapsing next to his precious human lady. No, not human anymore. Feeling apprehensive he turned from his son's door and walked away.