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Dark Lords, Shadows: Chapter 13

cover-dark-lords-1Chapter Thirteen

Storm

The Monument of Alexandria, Albion, Realm World

 

Dani stepped out of the car. Madeline was disapproving, but Dani had insisted on going alone. The rain was pouring from the sky. Lightning lit up the trees around the cemetery, the effect starring her vision. Though only two in the afternoon, it seemed that night was descending early on Albion.

She walked, letting the cold rain run through her hair, down her back. By the time she reached the monument, she was shivering. The mounted and hanging skulls of defeated enemies that surrounded the monument mocked her with their clacking laughter. The wind whipped her coat allowing the rain already soaking her legs to drench her further. As the wind gusted, she had to turn from the stinging drops.

Dani walked up the stairs to the west entrance. Maybe he would not come. Would he try to dissuade her? Threaten her?

The monument rose almost forty feet above the surrounding land. The huge circular building was cut from raw black local stone. The four openings each faced a compass direction. On the roof was the fifteen meter across dome of quartz, a single giant geode. In the gloom it seemed to glow. On the dais in the centre sat the six metre tall statue. The throne was carved of green slate. Brittle, because all thrones were. On it, in hard heavy bronze, sat the form of Alexandria. She who had founded the Realm more than ten thousand years earlier. The first Dark Lord.

Dani stood a moment staring at the back of the statue. Alexandria. She had led them from old Earth. She who had killed many of the first Vampires and worse creations. Known as both the Dragon Queen and as the Dark Mother. Alexandria, who had collected by choice and by force groups of unaltered humans. Naming them the Potentia, a title she had taken from a book of Latin words. Many assumed the word meant peasants, but it did not, it meant strength.

Alexandria faced the east so that the rising sun would strike her face. Her head was slightly bowed, as if she was listening to something … or waiting. For this was the place where oaths, Dani’s oath, would be given when she took her father’s title.

Dani looked up at the back of the statue’s head. The hair was tied back with the old Earth symbol of yin and yang. Dani began walking north. The left arm lay on the throne, but her hand had slipped down and her fingers rested delicately on the huge bronze shield. It’s surface looked pitted and worn as if the shield had truly seen combat. The Dragon, the symbol of Vampyre power, spread it’s wings upon its surface.

Like all children raised on Albion, Dani knew the inscription upon the inside. Remember My Name.

Coming around to the East entrance a flash of lightning momentarily gave life to Alexandria’s face. Dani knew it was an illusion, a sculptor’s trick, but the eyes had focused on her.

The fingers of Alexandria’s right hand rested lightly on the hilt of a standing sword. Dani’s heart was pounding. Upon the sword, in the ancient language was written, Honour Before All Else. Honour, it truly was double edged.

On the base of the dais that the throne sat on, was written the names of the six hundred and ten thousand, three hundred and fifty-one Vampyres who had fallen during the Founding War. And upon the next step of the dais, the names of thousands more who died during the Second War.

A giant ring of pitted platinum lay at Alexandria’s feet. The Crown of the Shedu A Lakash. Taken from the head of their Emperor, Kolad Kun-Hehrhun during the Second War. Her great-great-grandfather had been killed during that war, at the battle of Avalon. He had died killing Guish Toe Sho, one of their greatest Generals.

Sixteen hundred years later her great-grandmother died during the Third War. She had rammed her war ship, Excaliber, into the Shedu A Lakash’s home world’s Imperial Palace rather than allow just one of her people to be taken prisoner.

Dani looked down at thing that sat next to the alien emperor’s crown. The desiccated heart of Osh Nosh Tok was encased in glass to stop dogs from carrying it off. The religious leader had started the Third War. And to end it, the Vampyre had laid over a thousand of their worlds to waste.

Lightning spider-webbed across the sky. As the spots cleared from her eyes, she found herself focusing on the shields that hung on the walls. There were still a hundred and forty-one of them, each with the crest of a house, but the rest of them were a lie. Her own, the red dragon with bowed head that shared the tan field with a black horse, hung in a place of honour. They represented one of the founding Vampyre families. Dani felt tears falling down her cheeks.

“Daniella.”

She turned. Frederick stood, soaked from the rain. He had come. Though his family were unofficially boycotting the summit, he had come.

“Daniella,” Frederick said again as he closed the space between them, “I—”

The slap silenced him. Dani, hand stinging, was shocked at the anger, at the rage that filled her.

He looked at her, then took her roughly by the shoulder. His mouth suddenly crushing her lips. Dani could not breathe. Could not catch her breath. Water was running down his face into her mouth. She could taste his blood from where her hand had split his lip.

She shoved him away. He stumbled, but stayed on his feet. His blue eyes never leaving her face.

“You broke Madeline’s arm. Would you have killed her if you could not keep her in your prison at Chevaliers?”

“Your dog killed three of my men. Chevaliers is not exactly a prision.”

“And to think, I thought I was in love with you.”  Dani watched Frederick’s face pale.

“Dani, I am in love with you. I need you. Forget our titles, forget everything else. My only plan had been to spend some time alone with you.” Frederick looked away. She could see he was shaking. “It all went so wrong…”

“What exactly happened, Frederick?”

“I do not know.”

They stood, the storm raging around them. Water and wind buffeted the monument. He kept looking at her. Minutes passed then he opened his mind.

She stepped forward as he fell to his knees, but he did not fight her even as she tore through his memories.

Dani stopped.

Blinking, she looked down at Frederick, he was crumpled by her feet, shaking. But the truth was there. His fear, his confusion, it was the same as hers. Nothing made sense, their memories the least of all. Outside the storm had died down. How long had they been like this?

“I will not let them hurt you.” His voice was a hoarse whisper. “I will take the blame.”

“No. You did not kill him, Frederick, I did.”

“Did you? Are you sure?” He struggled to get to his feet then gave up and leaned against the wall. She could see he had a nose bleed. He looked at the floor as he spoke. “Because I am not. I am not sure of anything anymore.”

Dani sunk down next to him and leaned her head on his shoulder. The statue watched them.

“I am afraid,” he said.

“So am I.”

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