The king is dead. Long live the king.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Though he was loathe to admit it, five months ago, Vladislaus Straud—he who had crushed his enemies with sword and fang, seized Forgotten Hollow and led the Windenburg vampires out of darkness, a vampire so deadly that others of his kind called him “The Reaper,” called him King—had made a mistake.
The skin on the back of his neck prickled at the thought, encouraging him to dig deeper, to perhaps consider a more expansive definition of the word “mistake.”
Had he really made just one?
Vlad growled, tossed off his covers and sat on the edge of the bed. He hated this prickling feeling. For the last five months it had been winding itself through his body wreaking havoc on his nervous system—on his mind—forcing him to second guess himself, to think about doing things differently.
If there was one thing that Vladislaus Straud hated, it was doing things differently.
He got up and began to pace the room.
Five months ago he had an…altercation with the new head of the Windenburg Witches. They took issue with vampires feeding indiscriminately throughout the city, and had made their displeasure known in a very public way. The ashes of three vampires who had been left to burn in the sun were found outside of Pan Europa nightclub, along with a cease and desist note from the coven.
They had sent a cease and desist note to him! Vladislaus Straud!
Like they didn’t know who or what he was! Vlad stopped pacing. A slightly hysterical laugh bubbled up.
He had answered the coven leader’s show of power in kind and that was how they ended up in this…this…dispute. He still remembered her exact words: You, Vladislaus Straud, shall be cursed all the days of your life to know the truth of what you have done. A tricky incantation. Complex spell work. It meant that for the first time in his long life, he was experiencing guilt, struggling with his conscience.
It was excruciating.
A knock sounded at the door. “Sir, I have your dry-cleaning here,” Caleb called from the other side.
Caleb had been with Vlad as a valet since 1759. Back then, he was the penniless son of a former aristocrat who had died with debts a mile long. He and his younger sister were eking out a desperate living in Magnolia Promenade. Lilith Vatore was happy wearing patched wool skirts and taking in their neighbors’ washing, but Caleb wanted something more. And Vlad had given him an…opportunity.
Death sentence, his conscience whispered. Vlad winced. “Thank you, Caleb, you may enter.”
Caleb strolled through the door with a set of freshly pressed dress shirts and placed them on the bureau. He looked calm, unassuming, perhaps even a little bit silly with his haircut. No one suspected Caleb Vatore of having a thought in his head.
It was exactly what Vlad had been betting on once he found out how the elder Vatore had used his son to stay on top of so many card games. A king needed a good spy.
And so? Vlad’s conscience asked.
And so first he made Caleb a valet, and then he made him a monster.
Caleb asked him a question but Vlad couldn’t hear it. Guilt was seizing control of his insides. For centuries, he had employed Caleb without a second thought about his origins. Now, when he looked at him, he could only see his deep betrayal of someone who he trusted and depended on. The feeling went beyond words. He doubled over, clutching at his stomach, searching for a way to relieve the ache.
“Sir?” Caleb asked.
“I…I…I’m starving,” Vlad said by way of explanation, though there was no real reason for the lie. Caleb knew about the curse. “Have you gotten an answer from the witches?”
Caleb waited patiently, probably cataloging every possible entry and exit in the room and using his vampire hearing to sweep for listening devices. “I’m sure I don’t know anything about that sort of thing, sir.”
Vlad gritted his teeth. “You don’t know? You didn’t do anything I asked of you? Talk to the witches? Get me a cure?” He sped over to Caleb, invading his personal space: a threat to any vampire.
Caleb did not so much as blink.
“Go to therapy. Get a hobby.” LOL, I wonder what kind of hobby Vlad would choose–maybe crocheting tiny outfits for bats.
Must be rough, suddenly having a conscience after all the horrible things you’ve done! Getting some Buffy vibes here. 😄 Can’t wait for him and Alice to meet!
Buffy vibes, what a compliment! They were definitely on my mind, I was hoping these characters would pay a little homage to them (along with a few other of my favorite supernatural couples).
LOL I don’t think in all his years Vlad has ever considered taking on a hobby for fun. I’m not sure he’s ever even considered fun.
Oh man, poor Vlad, this is just the beginning of his journey.
I’m actually in the midst of writing their “meet cute” right now…
Ooh, I’m excited!!
The witches have style, I’ll give them that. I always send my cease and desist notes with a pile of corpses.
Your editing is fantastic!
Thank you! HAHAHA I mean, I also feel that if I had to send a cease and desist letter, it would need to involve corpses. I mean, how else would you get their attention? Vlad may have picked a fight with the wrong people lol.
I sense a theme here. LOL 😀 This is terrific, and I love your editing, too.
Enter love interest?
Oh 100% like I said, I love a villain 😉
What a fun different angle on Vlad. (Ahem, speaking of angles, I’m loving the facelift. Oof!) I’ve enjoyed seeing him struggle with the concept of guilt haha, poor thing. So inconvenient!
Would have never thought to make Caleb Vlad’s butler, but it really works. I wonder if Lilith lives with them too – but I guess we’ll find out soon enough!
Haha Caleb is a man of many talents! Oh yeah, I had to give Vlad a makeover. The in-game version of him is insane lol!
Oh Vlad has a long road to go and much to learn 😂😂😂
Whoa, talk about an improvement for Vlad’s face!
Something about a coven of witches burning three vampires to death and then casually sending a cease and desist note cracks me up. Ouch, a murderous vampire tyrant that is now forced to experience guilt and remorse over everything that he has done. That’s a big pill to swallow. Caleb’s attitude towards it all is just another nail in the coffin, so to speak, though he does seem to be right. If it can’t be cured, then he might as well learn to live with it. Or, err, un-live with it. I’m imagining Vlad in a therapist’s office trying affection/hug therapy with a giant plushie.
I love how you’ve made those flashback pictures! Especially the one of the throne room. There’s something so lonely about it.
Vlad in game was not bring the romantic lead dream daddy energy that I needed for my story so I spent A LOT of time in CAS haha.
Ugh, it’s all fun and games until someone makes you actually feel remorse for all the horrible things you’ve done. And I’m stealing this idea for Vlad’s eventual therapy session lol!
AH! Thank you. This was early when I was trying to experiment with how to make flashbacks look cool. I’m so glad it worked 🙂
Listen, witches mean business when they are trying to get a vampire to stop hunting them.
this is so fun, you’re at the beginning and things really do get wild!
hello I am loving this story so far!
A vamp with a conscience? Vlad is bringing me back to my Buffy and Angel days! <3
loving the nuanced characters, the tidbits of dark humor, the worldbuilding, the gorgeous establishing shots…
i know i'm only on chapter 2, but this already feels like i'm reading one of my favorite books that i've checked out again from the library for the umpteenth time. now if you'll excuse me, i must continue reading! 😀
Ah thank you!! It’s a very wild ride so strap in 😂😂 I loved Buffy so that’s a huge compliment. I’m also a huge romance, fantasy, and sci-fi nerd so you’ll prolly see a lot of those influences 🙂
Hehe now I’m so curious which book you’re talking about!
I’ve silently wondered about Caleb’s intentions, in The Strauds, as the Acolytes/sages are not fully trusting (given his *family*). I know BBD and The Strauds are set in AU, but Caleb being a spy does sort of make the possibility of THAT as his true intentions in The Strauds seem more plausible. He’s a vampire with time to ….heh…. kill. He can be patient.
Okay, sticking with this story, the flashback scenes with Vlad were beautiful. The contrast of past and present inside the throne room and outside the castle’s walls, how time mostly erased what had once stood, and despite the passage of several years, and the wishing well no longer existing, Vlad could still feel its presence and the description of it was so visceral it was like the reader could feel what Vlad once felt when human. His humanity/soul is almost like a state of being high; his senses are experiencing an intensity he doesn’t normally feel.
It was enjoyable knowing more about who Vlad was as a human (troublesome brother, loving son to his mother, and man the jealousy AND admiration of William), even though it hasn’t been mentioned how he became a vampire, but that he had waged war against the interlopers who had changed him (the sages?) or perhaps this is another war that hasn’t been mentioned yet, unless the phrase “the interlopers who had changed him” refers to, not his sim-to-vampiric state, but his vampire-with-soul state, in which case, who vamp’d him is unknown.
Caleb is like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, yo this life isn’t good enough, I WANT MOOOOOOOOORE. Hahaha, “aristocratic brat” sounds like “white privilege,” so I’m going to keep my eye on that shifty vampire valet who tells Vlad to just accept it, which SOUNDS like his intentions are honorable and wise, but is that what we are supposed to believe? That Caleb, who acts as a servant and attends to Vlad (folding his shirts), but was raised a noble, is fully accepting of this role or waiting in the shadows ready to strike when the time is right.
I’m curious if Vlad, soul in tote, actually cares about that boy falling from the cliff because it ended the boy’s life, or if his concern is that it ended Vlad’s (thoughtless) existence.
There’s a lot to take in, and I am glossing over Lilith and her patched wool skirts for a reason. Give me Goth Lilith or give me death. Goodness.
Haha, I love how Sexy Vlad is the original thirst trap. Yo, but for reals, that extreme makeover made Vlad go from frightful to delightful 😉
Great story, Ferosh! I am slowly making my way through this story, and goodness it may take me a year or two to finally catch up.
Sending a cease and desist note to Vlad is hilarious to me and now I understand exactly why you were so tickled about my suggestion of a Vampire Club membership card 😂
“Investiture” shall be my new safeword and OMG I am here for spy Caleb.
And then immediately after that you ruin me with
for the first time in history:
Damn you, Ferosh! 😭
Vlad getting a hobby or therapy… maybe he should try hot yoga 🙈
I am sorry I had to hurt you, but if it makes you feel better, I also hurt myself.