Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 35

Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 35

After Emeric had left, Elizabeth sat, thinking. She had been unsure, when he arrived, if he had found some trace of her abduction of Vlad. A competent magic worker could have divined what had been done. Of course, she had left a few traps, demonic traps, that probably would deal with all but the most competent of magic workers.

There were few of those left in Hungary. The church was docile in Emeric’s domain, and Elizabeth had hunted the pagans far more relentlessly than any Christian fanatic ever had. She had made very sure that Emeric had little access to anything but dilettantes in the field of magic, especially the darker arts. She’d had to kill a few who had attempted to seek his protection.

But he might have found someone in his rather futile militaristic efforts that she had not yet found out about and neutralized. He had done so before. There was a streak of deviousness in the boy. That was about all that was left of the old bloodline. She ought to breed from him soon. The original line had been a strong one. She’d seduced her own brother to make sure that they bred true. It still gave her a tiny frisson to think of his utter horror when he had discovered what he’d done, and just how she’d manipulated him and forced him, and that limp wife of his too, into deceiving the court and the world.

She smiled. He’d driven him to take his own life, in the end. She’d seen to it that he died unshriven, with the full burden on his soul.

The role of great-great-aunt suited her better than that of great-grandmother. She wondered if she should do it again. It would be easy enough: the compulsion had been set in place during rituals that Emeric did not even remember, back when he had been about four years old. He’d been charmingly innocent and terrified.

But perhaps it was just as well to thin the blood. She’d had to kill the others far earlier in life. They’d become suspicious and rebellious at a younger age than Emeric, shaking off some of the enchantment. Emeric was so vain that he considered his person sacred.

Anyway, it would appear that everything had worked out for the best. Emeric had given her the troops she desired to herd the bait with. When she was ready, she would catch both the prey and the bait. Both had their uses. She stood up in a fluid movement, almost cat-like, refreshed by her deliberations. She must go and speak to Count Mindaug. It was he, and his endless literary researches, that had brought her the knowledge of what she needed for bait. Mindaug didn’t know that she had been trying to catch one for the last fifty years. Like pagans, the non-humans were creatures to be used and then destroyed. Except the Vila, who were too useful to be destroyed.

She had even met the original Dragon of Valahia briefly. Such an opportunity that she had missed, perhaps. But there had been something about him — despite his reputation, which had interested her — which had made her uneasy. Besides, he had undoubtedly been more than a little mad.

Belatedly, her thoughts turned to the younger sister that Emeric had mentioned. Just the right age. Very probably a virgin. That would be particularly valuable blood for refreshing her youth. Royal blood, and with a nonhuman taint. Best drunk straight from the still warm victim.

Emeric wanted to waste such a resource on marriage to one of his vassals. Her need was greater. She would have to have the girl snatched, if Emeric succeeded in capturing her.

****

“They were relatively common creatures once,” said Mindaug. “Many were created.”

He wore, Elizabeth was amused to discover, eyeglasses here in his book-piled chambers. Perfect vision — indeed, better than perfect — had been part of what she’d demanded for her side of the bargain. She recalled that she had once been prone to terrible headaches, back when she too had read, seeking a way — any way — to avoid the creeping ravishes of time on her beautiful skin.

“So you have said. And the pure essences extracted from that blood will have value to me and my works. But I become more and more interested in the effects of the blood in admixture with humans. Vlad may be bait, but he is powerful too in his own right.”

****

Mindaug looked down at the book in his hands as a way to avoid looking directly at her. But the deceit was not worth it. He had no other bolt-hole, yet. “Yes.” he said. “It said so in the book I showed to you. Creatures of mixed blood are dangerous, as they exist outside the constraints of either humans or the others, with some of the powers of both. So are the creatures which cross the lines between the non-human realms. But they are not easy to create.”

“I have some experience at forcing matings of nonhumans of air and water, and some success with the offspring,” said Elizabeth.

As Elizabeth talked, Count Mindaug reflected that it was odd that he — like so many of the other nobility of Europe — was related to this woman. As a class they were, he reflected, more inbred than was wise. Perhaps that was where her madness came from. There could be no doubt that there was madness there, underlying her vanity and the strange desperation that had led her down this course. She enjoyed killing and pain. Count Mindaug did not. They were necessary tools and he was adept at using them. But, like his point-filed teeth, they were about survival, not choice.

So was helping her with her preparations here in this bleak, stone walled and cold “nunnery” that she had as an adjunct to her castle. At the same time, he was preparing certain spells in case he would need to make a rapid physical departure. He had, as yet no second country or a protector to flee to. He’d been quietly searching for both. Hungary looked to be the best possibility, as little as Mindaug wanted to be in the proximity of that realm’s vicious and sadistic king. But if things went awry here — or Elizabeth Bartholdy decided that he was a threat, which could happen — he could disappear rapidly. True, it would only take him as far as his crowded library in her castle in Catiche. But he could use more ordinary and physical ways to flee from there. It would take her a while, even with demonic aid, to find him.

Mindaug continued to study the plainly bound book. It struck him that demondim might take a multitude of forms, including appearing to be paper.

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