The uneven earth beneath me jolts and my head smacks into the side of the wagon—again. I crack my eyes open from a restless sleep, expecting sunlight but instead I’m greeted by another gloomy gray sky. The same sky that’s dominated most of my passage to my new home.
No, not home. My new prison.
It’s only a prison if you survive, stupid. And survival isn’t likely.
The glamour of Paris drifted away as we crossed the turbulent sea and landed on the coast. Now I’m surrounded by the wild rolling hills of Ireland. I’ve never know anything but France or the conniving ways of the Parisian Court. Now a damp wind assaults my face as we cross along the Irish coastline. The grass is so green, it practically glows, and though I’m here against my will, there’s something quiet and tranquil about this land.
The gnawing in my belly grows, not for food, but blood. The blood I’ve been withheld in order to weaken me. That’s how she wants it.
She, as in Morana, the Kresova heretic who stole my father from me.
Again, my mind returns to the moment, only two years ago, when my life changed.
Morana, once my father’s most devout disciple, is now his most vicious enemy. It only took her two-minutes to storm through my father’s guard and overtake him.
She shouldn’t have been able to do it. My father holds a thousand years on her. He has strength and power Morana can’t contend with. And yet now, he lies slack against her chest, as vulnerable as a babe, as she drinks every ounce she can steal from him.
His eyes are trained on mine, the fight in him all but gone as he seeks me out in my secret hiding place behind the throne wall.
“That’s right, Père." She ran the back of her hand along his jaw, "Give in.”
How dare she call him father. She is a viper. A serpent who would choke you as soon as your back is turned.
There are a dozen other vampires in my father’s chamber, not one of them intervenes.
I want to go to him. To stop this monster and her betrayal, but my body won’t move, and I know why. My father, Abhartach, creator of the Kresova, is using all of his power to conceal me.
He glances away and looks up to the face of his traitor. “Why?” The word sputter out of his blood coated lips.
She pulls back from his neck, “Because, where you are weak, I am strong. This world needs a mother, a queen, and only I can give it to them.”
The wagon halts and I lurch forward, so caught up in my thoughts, I almost tumble out to the wet ground below.
“This is as far as we go, Enzo.” Says the vampire holding the reins.
Our wagon stops at a fork in the road. One path continues on further into the countryside, the other to the woods, and the last to the great castle, ominous and stark, set beside the sea.
These two have been my only guard on the trip over. Not that anymore are needed. What can a ten-year-old half human do against two elder vampires? Nothing.
I hated myself for my weakness. As Abhartach’s halfblooded daughter, I have his gifts, but I barely know how to use them. I myself am as useless as a mortal child.
The other vampire, Enzo says, “So we just wait?”
“They know we are here.”
“Where is here?” I dare to ask hoping the question doesn’t result in another beating. My head still aches from the last one.
Enzo glances back at me, “Ardgillan Castle.”
Home of the Wolves.
A tremor of fear rakes down me. My father taught me all of the territories. He insisted that in order to reign well, one must make it their life’s mission to learn continuously. Their Alpha, Callahan the Savage, was known for his brutality against enemies of their clan, but most especially vampires.
As Abhartach’s daughter, I am enemy number one.
For two years, I remained hidden well beneath Morana’s grasp, and had it not been for a simple mistake, she would’ve never found me. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. In truth, she would seek me out unto the ends of the earth.
Why didn’t she kill me when she had the chance?
“Climb out.” The dominant vampire says as he kicks his foot at my back.
I tumble and fall onto my knees, the wind knocked out of me from his assault. Mud splatters onto my face and I cough a few times, trying to clear my mouth.
“Merde, Theo, don’t kill her before the wolves get their chance.”
I cradle my stomach before catching my breath and stand.
At least my tomb is somewhere beautiful.
Mountains rise to the North and birds sail overhead outward to the sea. The wind whips my long, dark braid into my face, the damp air turning the ends into hard belts. Horses whine in the distance beyond the castle and moments later, riders come into view.
Six men, Wolves, ride out to meet us.
A gust blows toward my nose and I catch their scent. The unmistakable odor of blood tainted with beast. Their alpha is easy to spot. Among Wolves, he is always one step ahead, his presence commanding and fierce. He drops off his black stallion and stalks toward us. The other’s follow him, until all six stand only feet from us, on the opposite side of the road.
“As promised,” Theo grabs me by the braid, and drags me forward, “Your gift.” He pushes me so hard, I tumble again at the Alpha’s feet until my face is pressed into his dirt covered boots. He steps back, removing my face and steps over me until he stands toe-to-toe with my guard.
His voice is rough and low and tinged with an Irish accent, “The girl is now my property. Harm her again and your death will be imminent.”
Theo steps forward, “She’s not here to be pampered. You have a job to do.”
“And I decide the when and the how. Not you.”
“Just be sure you do as you are ordered.”
“Asked—not ordered.” The Alpha corrects.
“A letter from the one queen, Morana.” Enzo says, holding out a sealed envelope between Theo and Callahan, the Kresova ‘K’, stamped in crimson. “Morana has specific instructions on how she wants this handled.”
By this he means me. I may be only a girl, but I’m not stupid. I know that Morana intends to have me tortured before my death. A long, slow death, so awful, its stories will be told for centuries.
Enzo, grabs Theo’s arm and has to push the vampire back toward the wagon before a fight breaks out between him and the Wolves’ leader.
“Remember who you are challenging, mutt. Do what you said you could, or Morana will bleed your entire pack dry.” Theo calls out before smacking down the reins. The horses whiny and their hooves thunder along the pathway back toward the sea.
They expect me to die here. But I won’t. I’ll survive.
I watch their wagon bounce on each rock, hoping they’ll topple over and impale themselves on a broken branch.
“Girl.” The Alpha says from behind me.
I fight back the tears that want to break free. I won’t let them see me fall. See me beg. I’ll die my father’s daughter before I give in to fear.
I turn around and raise my chin to meet his stare. “Lyra. My name is Lyra. Daughter of Abhartach the rightful king, and heir to his throne. Don’t mistake my youth for ignorance. I am my father’s daughter.”
Callahan’s eyes are just as unforgiving as I imagined, but instead of cruelty, I see something else. Something that wasn’t there before, masked beneath the surface.
Something my father taught me.