Where there’s a will, there’s a way…
All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Vlad stood up. He felt worse than usual, as if this time drinking from a sim without permission was harder.
Because you did something awful. Because you feel guilty, his conscience whispered.
But Vlad shook his head. He wasn’t going to argue with himself. The real problem was that there was something else vibrating in the air and making him feel off…a low frequency hum. He narrowed his eyes and flicked on the light switch, testing his suspicions.
The bathroom was suddenly very bright. Too bright.
Vlad roared in fury. Decades ago, Caleb had given the house a small makeover. It was the ’30s and though they would outlive the market crash, most of the Windenburg vampires had become very sullen—Caleb included. It was a small dalliance that Vlad allowed because there was no electricity flowing to Straud Manor.
Or at least, there was not supposed to be electricity flowing to Straud Manor.
Vlad stalked from the restroom through the livingroom and down to the basement where he found William and Caleb sitting comfortably in two chairs.
Caleb had the good sense to look guilty and immediately jumped up pretending to examine the bookcases for dust.
William, however, continued lounging as if he had not shoved Vlad’s pipe organ out of the way and installed a giant flatscreen on the wall in its place.
“For all of the gold bars you hoard, I would’ve thought you could afford at least one more carpet for this drafty basement,” William teased, his lilting accent making the sentence sound almost musical.
Vlad looked around. It didn’t look much different from the records room that the monks had kept at the abbey near the castle, but this was how he preferred it. In fact, he wished the whole house looked like this.
“Carpet? And miss hearing the footsteps of an enemy? Like one shoving a large piece of furniture out of the way? Wasn’t it you who taught me that trick?”
William snorted. “And that’s the one piece of advice you choose to follow?”
Vlad tried to clasp onto the anger that was slowly burning away in William’s presence. This is what you need. Home. Comfort. Friends, his conscience sang. But a king did not have friends or comfort.
Still, Vlad itched to sit down and banter with someone who truly knew him. A king needed to confer with his council, right? That’s all this was: conferring. Vlad gave William half a smile and took a seat.
When he was a boy, William had taught Vlad how to swing a sword, what berries were poisonous, and, when he got older, how to woo a romantic interest. He loved giving advice. Or, as his husband used to say: William loved hearing himself give advice. He was Vlad’s most trusted advisor.
Friend, his conscience corrected.
William had fought with him and, in the woods of Forgotten Hollow, he had died with him too. Just that thought made Vlad feel forlorn, but he quickly covered it with a scowl. “What in sages’ name is a television doing down here? And, for that matter, what is electricity doing in my home—“
William stood up. “You need a good workout. Spar with me.”
“Sims don’t pull out swords for a fight anymore,” Vlad insisted, “And besides, you are changing the subject.”
Why was he resisting? He did need to do something with all of this dark energy swirling inside of him.
“I’m sure if they come back in fashion, you’ll be first in line to use them. Come on. What’s it been? 300 years? You’re due to beat me again.”
Vlad growled. Of course William would bring that up. Of course he would use that against him. In all these centuries, Vlad had only beaten William three times. Three times! And William hinted that at least one time was because he let Vlad win.
“Fortune doesn’t favor the smug,” Vlad said, his upper lip curling.
But William just laughed. “I tell you what, you win and I’ll get the power to the house shut off immediately.”
“And if you win?” Vlad asked, his arms folded. Here he was negotiating about rules in his own house. This curse was worse than he thought.
William gave him a crooked smile. “We’ll see. A king grants favors at his discretion, does he not?”