Game of Thrones but with vampires, absolutely terrifying magick,
and a world in which humans are food.
~o~o~ ⚔️🖤⚔️ ~o~o~
A Standalone Dark Romantasy Novel
© 2023 Jena Gregoire
“I’d give up my fangs for a different assignment,” Rake grumbled as he trudged up the stairs of the Eastern Tower for the hundred and seventy-eighth night in a row. The climb was steep and seemed to go on forever but that wasn’t what had him in such a foul mood.
Night after monotonous night, he and Kameron sat in the tower and stared out the window into the darkness waiting to defend the keep against enemies who never came. They couldn’t if they wanted to.
Their island home was surrounded by a ring of jagged rocks preventing any ships from passing. The magic protecting the castle would only lower the seablades when an ally approached, which meant they were wasting their time.
“And what assignment would be better?”
“I joined the Royal Guard to be a warrior. I was going to fight for my King, not stand around staring out over still waters.”
They reached the top of the stairs and Kameron pushed the door open. At the sound, Eklund and Mace turned to face them. Mace smiled, clearly thankful to be relieved of his watch. Eklund just sneered. He was a severe man━all duty and honor. If he ever smiled, his face would probably crack.
“I thought you’d never arrive,” he groaned.
“The moon hasn’t even fully risen yet, old man. We’re early.”
“Don’t mind him,” Mace said. “His bloodbound was killed in a tavern brawl the night before last and the fool hasn’t eaten.”
“Why didn’t you get another?” Rake asked. Eklund didn’t answer. Instead, he turned and disappeared down over the stairs without another word. Mace shook his head.
“What’s his problem?” Kameron asked.
“I suspect he was in love with her, though he’d never admit it.” Becoming romantically entangled with a bloodbound was forbidden, and for good reason. They’re food. Eventually, they all die. There is little point in growing attached.
“Anything to report?” Rake asked, eager to change the subject.
“What do you think?” Mace replied sarcastically. With that, he left, closing the door behind him.
“See?” Rake fired at Kameron. “I wish someone would just declare war already. At least we’d finally get off this gods forsaken island.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying, friend. It may be exciting at first, but the great wars killed our kind by the millions and all but exterminated our bloodbound. We nearly starved so don’t go taunting the fates. No one truly desires war.”
“Well, I need something more than this,” Rake replied as he gazed out over the black water.
Kameron took a seat at the small table in the corner and began his evening ritual. He removed the leather satchel and wooden pipe from his waistband and untied the drawstrings. Careful not to spill its contents, he dipped the head of the pipe into the bag and when he set it on the table again, the bowlhead was full of the familiar brownish-green herb. He replaced the pouch and lit the pipe from the candle on the table. A few puffs and the whole room was filled with the sweet aroma of twilight ivy. Kameron held the smoking pipe out to him and he gladly accepted.
He took a long pull from it as he turned his attention back to the blackened sea, letting his mind wander to memories of his childhood when he dreamt of being a famous knight. Fathers would tell their sons tales of his adventures and victories in battle. When he’d return from a campaign, her majesty the High Queen Valaine would hold tournaments in his honor. None of that happened. The wise lords can’t document your conquests if you never leave your keep.
“Be thankful, my friend. A quiet life is not a bad thing.” As he spoke, Rake thought he saw something on the water out beyond the blades.
“What was that?”
“Very funny, Darkblade.”
“I’m being serious. Look,” he commanded and pointed out into the night. Something was moving above the water in the distance. The shape wasn’t clear but it seemed to swallow everything up as it moved closer.
“This must be magic,” Kameron said as the seablades vanished into the darkness. The pipe clattered to the floor but the men barely noticed. Whatever was coming was moving fast.
“Light the torch,” Rake ordered. “We must sound the bells.” Kameron did as instructed, mounting the torch just outside the tower’s window once it was ablaze. One by one, each of the nine towers did the same. The invading force was finally close enough to see and neither guard could believe their eyes. A thick cloud━blacker than anything Rake had ever seen━roiled and spun as it hurled toward them, giving them brief glimpses of the danger contained within. A firestorm howled beneath its surface, concealed in an inky black shroud of smoke.
“Get the royal family down to the dungeons,” he barked as they both hurried down the staircase. “If that storm overtakes the castle, our best hope for survival is to get below it.”
“Still wishing for adventure?” Kameron asked but there was no humor in his words.
“This is a little more excitement than I had in mind,” Rake admitted. By the time they reached the bottom of the stairs, the castle halls were buzzing with bloodbound and nobles.
“May I have your attention?” Kameron boomed. The room went silent and every face turned toward him. The bells tolled all around the keep. “I need everyone to proceed down to the dungeons and stay there until you’re told it’s safe to come out.” With haste, they filed toward the main stairs leading to the lower levels of the castle. Panicked screams filled the air but it was nothing compared to the thunderous roar surrounding them on all sides. An otherworldly howl like a massive beast screaming out in pain, becoming exponentially louder with each passing second. The din reached a deafening level and in a blinding flash, heat and flames erupted all around them.
Then, all at once, the halls of Bladestone Keep fell silent for all time. The only thing left of its inhabitants were the ashes that could be seen drafting on the breeze as the sun crept up from the horizon.
~o~o~ ⚔️🖤⚔️ ~o~o~
More coming soon!
~o~o~ ⚔️🖤⚔️ ~o~o~
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