December 31 at 3:00 PM
Photo by Anna Cervova
Upon her return, Carmella of Sidon winced at the pain growing in her abdomen. She could barely get off her horse, let alone walk, and was immediately conveyed to her bedside chamber. Loss of blood was not to blame, for a vampire can survive many moons without tapping into the red river; nor was it the bite of the sun as she passed through the castle walls.
The vampire queen was with child, however unlikely it seemed.
"That is impossible," Carmella exclaimed.
"No, your highness, it is a miracle," said Dominic.
"Cut it from me." She begged, but counsel feared that the unexpected defeat clouded her judgment.
And so the child lingered.
Vampires seldom had offspring, an advantage afforded to the mortal herds. The narrow causeway between life and death was exceptionally difficult to navigate; thus, the predators of man believed themselves to be 'chosen,' and therefore, 'enlightened.'
Not a single day passed that Carmella did not wish to die. "The sickness is without end. I cannot hold down anything, not even water. Kill it," she pleaded.
But Carmella was too weak. Killing the child meant killing them both, an outcome they could not afford. Finally she fell into a sleep that she would not wake. On that fateful day when the baby girl arrived, it passed from her without a whimper; for as the child lived, Carmella died.
In the days that followed, the queen's niece Carmine arrived with a waspish tongue. She took the child in her hands, and recoiled at the touch of its skin. "She is a plague." Her fingers blistered over. "And she has cost us our queen."
"Fate cost us our queen," Dominic corrected.
"Her majesty wished for us to kill it, and we shall honor that request."
"This child is a godsend," counsel fought back, "and the true heir to the throne."
Carmine's designs were well known, and on rare display that day. "If you do not stamp her out, you will be entertaining my army in your courtyard."
"Do as you will," he countered, knowing full well that their depleted numbers were no match.
Reluctantly they came to an accord. "We shall give her back to the morning light, and see what becomes of her. If she survives past daybreak, then fate has truly shined. She will inherit what is rightfully hers, and to this I will yield," said Carmine.
The royal family climbed the highest tower, and spread out a blanket, the naked child squirming in the wind.
"Farewell, my child." Carmine blew a kiss. "Lhyr will decide which way the wind carries you."
They pressed up against the tower door, listening to the child. They waited for an abrupt end to its cries as the sun crept over the plains, but the child continued to protest.
"A while longer." Carmine blocked the door. "We are all stronger in our tender years."
On and on the baby sobbed, until the sun fell from the sky, leaving the child unscathed.
"The queen awaits." Dominic forced his way through the door. The royal family scooped up the child, dehydrated, but in good favor.
Carmine was tossed out of the kingdom at once, and asked never to return. As agreed, she did not retaliate, nor step foot in her lands again.
As the miracle grew, those who cared for her fell ill. Fearing a plague had broken out, Castle Tempest was quarantined, and subsequently abandoned. In the years that followed, the kingdom fell into ruin, its brethren condemned, and its child queen, forgotten.
"My God." Lawson looked up, and considered the shadows around him. "She is here, in this book. Why is there no further mention of her?"
"Trust me Lawson, she is not the one you seek." Laurent squirmed in one of the broken pews. "Those events transpired over 1,000 years ago. Although the child was a rarity, she did not have the capacity to breed. Also, the legend is not entirely accurate. The child was blamed for wiping out Carmella's bloodline, but Carmine lived on, and in wicked fashion."
"All the more reason we must learn more about her." Lawson grabbed the torch. "Come, Laurent. We must return to the archives at once. I can feel her pulse in these pages." Firelight glimmered off the rims of his glasses.
Laurent rose. "And what about sleep, vampire hunter?"
"It will find me eventually." Lawson unbolted the chapel door.