Castle Rotbone, the Outworld
Nineteen year old Eric took pride in the four portraits he'd painted. Dracula brides graced either side of Count Rotbone's bug-eyed Nosferatu visage. The vampire lord didn't have a lot to say about all these women invading his turf, though it did add a badly needed touch of class. No more skulls or tin cans littered the great-room floor.
Eric approached the table and its high-back chairs, leery of distant hollow clanks and moans despite his privileged status. The brides counted themselves much in his debt; if not for him, they'd still be haunting a ruined fortress near the Caucasus. Yet his purpose here might use up that largesse. It all depended on Cambris.
She swept downstairs, white gown and Cleopatra bangs undulant to some phantom current, gliding in that spectral way of theirs. Cambris: first and eldest, bossy and aristocratic, maybe her due as former wife of the village alderman. And also Dracula's biggest mistake. Patient centuries passed in her oblique undermining of the count, culminating in setting him up for vampire hunter von Halter.
They took adjacent seats at her bidding. Eric knew she sensed his pulsing blood, hoped she attributed it to youth rather than his shady agenda. Could you even plagiarize the undead? He merely wanted her character to sound authentic. That was the excuse, anyway.
Those yellow grackle eyes bored into his. "Your quest precedes you, Eric of Newcastle."
Heart attack time. "You mean my book idea? Well. . . .I thought I'd start out with your story, Miss Cambris." To be precise, your lyrical and fluid speech, to help make my mark with a story series on social media.
"I?" Imperious brow arch. "Have you such clerkliness of pen?"
Eric wrote that down. Clerkliness. Good, good. "To be honest, I'm no writer." Why did he say that? If she was magicking him. . . ."I mean, the other three brides can help me flesh out the centuries post-Dracula." Really? Emmy lacked speech, and neither Yelena nor Mirjana spoke English. "What I mean to say is, maybe not--you'd only have to translate for them." Which wasn't what he wanted at all.
Cambris went heavy-lidded with. . . .suspicion? Or perhaps her own saga was too personal to bear. "Set quill rather to your unmirrored and crated inheritance."
Unmirrored. He'd definitely use that. Wait a minute--a crate containing the family secret, passed on to him by his Granddad, whose occupant cast no reflection. "You mean Emmy?"
Eric had thought the girl in the box a cheesy trick, regardless of the mirror thing. But the setting sun made him a believer in the hissing, spitting wildcat. Still, Eric refused to follow Gramps' lion-tamer act, and spent several nights--shakily assured she couldn't harm him--learning to communicate. Then he'd done the unthinkable, and set her free after four hundred years in the Harker clan. That led to her search for the other three with Eric's help. Now they lived (?) a privileged existence safe from an Earth that had outgrown them.
"That's a good idea," Eric allowed. As long as it kept her talking. "Even better if we knew some of Emmy's early history, like when Dracula shipped her out when he discovered she couldn't speak. I wonder if Count Rotbone would have done the same." That ought to do it.
Her pupils shrank to pinpoints. Damn scary. "The pangborn wastrel who was Dracula had not Rotbone's dullard jollity, else he must of needs grant Emmy harborage. Her sagacity e'er has him unawares." She watched Eric furiously scribbling. "Why do you scribe my words?"
His scalp tingled under her Mistral gaze. Would she bespell him, even beholden as she was? Best not to risk it. "I'll play straight with you, Miss Cambris. I could listen to you talk all day. I mean night. If I could write like that, I'd be in the big leagues."
If only vampires blinked. Her stare was unreadable. "Such prosody does not bear the telling overmuch. I would even tire of myself."
Prosody. Was that even a word? She did like to make up stuff. "Is that in the dictionary?"
"It refers vaguely to metrics, though I have decided it lies between writery and poetry."
Now she was making stuff up. Writery indeed. "Then you aren't mad that I came here under a pretense?"
The amused half smile bared fang tips. "Curious. I had thought you instead enraptured of Emmy."
"Whoahhh. . . ." Eric scraped chair legs in getting up.
Regal laughter echoed. "You are safe from my sunless designs, young Eric. Bring to me your Cambris rendition, and I will cause her to speak my words."
Eric steadily backed to the exit. "Perfect! My own ghost writer! Not that I'm calling you a--" He collided with the door frame, hastily adjusted course, clutched the precious notes. Maybe they'd be enough.
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