Queen of Gods – Scarlett Dawn, Katherine Rhodes

Every child knew the truth of that from the moment of birth. Whether suckling at their mother’s breast or taking their first taste from the vein, it was ingrained in all of them. Blood is life. Life began again, not as a roar but as a trickle, almost a tickle to the subconscious. I wanted to dismiss it as a dream my body wanted me to have. I tried to will it away. It was too soon. I was still tired. I was still owed years of sleep. The trickle turned to a stream. Deciding that the flow calmed the soul, I went with it, riding along, still drifting through the Rest. Falling over the rocks, slipping by the deep pools of my mind, I followed. I allowed it to carry me. The stream became a river. I could not deny that my Rest was coming to an end.

It was too early. I was too far away from blood. If I woke alone, with no chance for life, I would go mad. I would ravage anyone nearby, and sing and dance with their existence coating my skin a deep garnet. The river became rapids. Violent, uncaring, channeled toward just one end. I became aware of things. The long, cold stone my body rested on. The smell of must and dust. The utter darkness that surrounded me.

The feeling of death, the chill of old bones and desecrated humans in the room. Blood is life. I awoke from my Rest. A scream tore from my throat, the desperate sensation of hunger ripping through my stomach, my heart, my fangs. I was awake. Years before I should have been and the blood madness was taking a firm hold quickly. Climbing, demented and nearly naked, from the altar I was on, I crawled to where I had discarded the last of the humans I had fed on before the Rest took hold. Bones. No blood. I snapped one open, hoping for marrow.

Only dust. The crypt door was shut, but opening it was nothing for the strength the madness lent me. I shoved, hard, and the stone door moved smoothly to the side. A stream of light slammed into the back of my eyes and I could see nothing. Like a feral cat in the light of a hunter’s sights, I scurried to a corner, welcoming back the dark and cool. I huddled there, in the grip of insanity, not knowing what to do. A whisper not my own, “Christ.” A lamb…a lamb has come. I waited. Light followed the swear word and passed over me.

The figure of a woman, dressed as a Bedouin, rushed forward. She smelled healthy, full of blood I could use. I hissed, dropping my fangs. Quickly rushed words, “Gwynnore. Don’t. It’s me, Adelie. I’m here, my friend.” Who? No matter. She was a lamb. I lunged, wrapping my hands around her neck and pulling her down.

“Gwen, stop. Stop.” She struggled inside my hold. My fangs itched, aching to taste the red, warm life as it flowed around them. “Thirsty.” “It’s coming, Gwen. It’s on the way.” Some part of my hunger-addled brain recognized her. “Adelie.” Not… Not a lamb.

“Yes, it’s me.” With hard drawn breaths, I could feel the death rattle in my chest. I had to drink. Soon. I sniffed at the air around her head. “Bring them forth, Adelie. Bring them.” My voice gave out at the end. I could smell… life. More life than just her.

I peered toward the entrance of the cave. “Thirst—” “They’ll be here in a minute. They’re all here for you. All of them, all of their memories, all of their blood.” “Lambs…” “…to your slaughter.” She grinned, her fangs gleaming and healthy. “Stay here. Stay hidden. Until I come back for you.” I watched, unmoving.

Adelie moved to the cave entrance and enthusiastically waved outside, at someone. No, someones. I could feel them, more than one. A moment later, the first of the humans climbed in and looked around, and they began making quick work of filling the cave. I started to tremble. I needed them, and I needed them now. “Someone opened the crypt for us,” Adelie said, cheerfully. “We can set up camp right in this cave.” “Was it cranked open or broken?” said one of the hikers. The individual…looked strange to me.

“It’s in one piece. Let’s go in. We’ve been running ahead of that storm for hours. The rain won’t hold off much longer.” Adelie turned and called to the group that had assembled. “Into the crypt, everyone! There’s going to be a storm, and we want to be as far away as possible.” Without question, the whole group walked in. Smiling the whole time, my wonderful best friend had brought me nearly twenty-five warm bodies full of blood, of life. I stayed dead still until she walked over to me and offered me a hand. “They are all yours.

” “All? “Yes. All of them.” She wasn’t taking any. I darted into the crypt with the last of my energy. Adelie shoved the door closed behind me. Not one of those humans would be able to open it. The high-pitched shouts started right away. The humans couldn’t see a thing. There was no light. There was only blood pumping and shaking breaths and screams and terror.

It was beautiful. My lambs—all mine. I started with the young boy, barely this side of puberty with a scraggly beard and rich, rich blood. I held his throat to keep the shriek quiet and drove my fangs into his neck. With the first swallows of my first meal in nearly three hundred years, the fog in my brain started to lift. The knowledge this child held was siphoned off with his life, and it was all mine to take and remember. I discarded his personal crap. I took only the history and events of the time during my Rest. Time and again I struck. Draining all I could from the first six victims, I then took just enough to render the rest unable to fight me.

I was going to enjoy the rest of my meal. Blood is life. * * * Dripping crimson stained my face. And it couldn’t be any sweeter. I stared down at the lambs brought before me. My mind churned with the memories I had stolen from each human. So much knowledge. So many differences in the world since I had lain down for my magical Rest two hundred years ago. Correction. Almost two hundred years ago.

‘Almost’ was the keyword there. I had been woken early. And from the horrid churning in my stomach, I knew it was because of the overlords. Only they had the power to pull me to them. And I wanted to see the vampire rulers. Desperately. The urge to run day and night to stand before them made my skin itch. Or perhaps that was the dust covering my pale flesh. I brushed off my shoulders with a brutal rub, and at least two handfuls of dark dust fell from them to the floor. I was in need of a rinsing.

Or a shower, as they now called it. I cracked my neck and stepped over the bodies cluttering my crypt. Eventually, they would be nothing but bones—all before the next time I decided to Rest. Those bones I would shove into the back room, along with all the others. At some point, I would need to clean my crypt up. That back room was getting a bit cluttered with skulls and hip bones and such. My dirty hands pressed against the crypt door, and I shoved. It swung open with ease. My two hundred years had been good to me. More power flexed within my muscles than I could remember.

It was always like this upon awakening, reuniting oneself with one’s own body again. I held up a quick hand to shade my eyes. I squinted, asking, “Adelie?” A flash of curly red hair came into focus. My friend now stood directly in front of me. “Here. Put these sunglasses on until your eyes adjust.” “Sunglasses?” “Yes. They go on your face.” Her words were gentle. I held still, allowing her to put a pair of sunglasses over my eyes.

Instantly, I breathed a sigh of relief and dropped my hand from the glaring sun shining into the cave. I cracked my neck and rotated my shoulders. I bounced a few times in place. My friend, who appeared all of sixteen years old with her innocent features, watched as I worked out my stiff muscles. Up and down, I jumped. Her eyes tracked every movement, a slow smile etching her lips. She muttered, “You’re coming around faster than last time.” I grinned. “I feel damn good.” She nodded, her brows lifting as I raced around her in a circle.

Just for the fun of it. A crypt can be cramped. Jerking to a sudden stop in front of her, I probed, “Do I have this generation’s lingo down correct? Or do I sound like I’m from the past?” She snorted. “I picked well for you, my friend. I made sure there was a social media guru in there. So you sound even more up to date than I do.” I nudged her shoulder with mine, teasing, “So I’m still better than you.” Adelie huffed a long-suffering sigh. “Once, Gwen. Only once did you beat me in chess.

I don’t know why you must continue to bring that up.” I flashed a little fang. “Because it’s so much fun.” Another sigh. Added to a roll of her pretty, brown eyes. “I should have stuck a therapist in there, too. Dammit.” My head tilted back, and my laughter filled the cave. Adelie blinked ever so slowly, her gaze running over my features. “You know, you look straight from a horror flick right now.

We should probably get you cleaned up before I take you out into civilization.” I stuck out my bottom lip, joking, “I can’t scare the food?” “Oh, you’d scare the humans all right. But you shouldn’t.” She pulled her backpack off her right shoulder and unzipped it. Rummaging through the contents, my friend mumbled hesitantly, “Aren’t you going to ask me why you woke up early?” A pair of dark jeans, a black t-shirt, boots. Weapons. Bottles of water and rags. All were dropped at my feet. I started stripping down out of my Rest attire. “I know the overlords are behind it.

” “Are you curious why?” Adelie zipped her bag up and shoved the strap back over her shoulder. “I think you’ll like the reason, be less pissed.” I wet a rag down, my head cocking as I eyed her in silent question. “Lord John took his final breath six months ago. He decided he’d lived long enough and chose his death,” she explained. A small, pleased grin graced her features—an impish look. “King Pippin has elevated to the Council. He’s now Lord Pippin, an overlord.” My breath caught in my throat, the cleansing rag in my hand halting against my cheek. “You mean I’m finally being called as a possible candidate for the new queen?” Her red hair shook as she bobbed her head in excitement.

“Yes! There are two women before you, from what I hear, but if they decline the offer, then you could be the candidate for the next queen!” “Oh…my.” My blue gaze widened as all my dreams flashed before my eyes. Adelie squealed, jumping up and down. She even clapped her hands together. I blinked. “You can’t do that in front of them.” She cleared her throat and held her hands behind her back. Attempting calm. “That’s better.” I nodded and began scrubbing my face once more.

“I can’t believe, after all this time, I’ll get a chance at the crown. I didn’t think any of those overlords were ever going to die.” It took one of them dying for a king to ascend to overlord. Only five at a time. And vampires lived forever. She shrugged a delicate shoulder. “Lord John was ready for his Eternal Slumber.” My brows rose, and I wet the rag again. “He was the youngest of them all.” “Now Lord Pippin is,” my friend hummed.

Pleased. She was so pleased with this. But I probably had her beat. My grin grew, pinching my cheeks. “When does the official meet happen? When do I have to be there?” Because I wanted to be there now, my gut churning and heating from the magical pull. Adelie pulled out her cell phone. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she stared at the time and date on it, counting silently with her fingers. Her head nodded with her own internal thoughts, then her brown eyes pierced mine. “We have three days. With our travel, it’s cutting it down by half.

But the overlords do have a private jet waiting for us.” I sighed in relief. “Thank fuck I have you listed on my paperwork as an emergency contact with the Council. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what the hell was happening, and I’d be killing left and right until I was sated.” The killing I didn’t mind at all. Not being discreet would bother me. Dead humans lying around normally tended to bring the nearby authorities. From all accounts of the memories I had just stolen, that hadn’t changed in the past two hundred years. If a human was murdered, it was still considered bad. Pity that.

It would be much easier if you could just dump their bodies in a landfill. That was what the humans did with their garbage. We should have the same rules. We were the predators. I lifted my sunglasses, closing my eyes to clean my eyelids. “The humans still don’t know about us, right? I didn’t miss that clue with my feeding, did I?” I had fed very fast, sating my thirst. And I was still thirsty. Adelie snorted. “Not a chance. We’re still hidden.

” “Good. No wars have resulted then because of our nature.” “Nope.” She popped her lips with the word. I dropped the sunglasses back over my eyes. “The stronghold is still in the southwestern portion of South America?” “They haven’t moved. There’s no reason to. The castle is still in Japri.” “Excellent.” I grinned.

“Anything else I need to know?” My friend nibbled on her bottom lip. Finally, she shook her head. “No, I think that’s it. All your affairs are in order, like normal. You’re fully prepared to enter society again.” I picked up the clothes she had brought me. One black eyebrow rose. “We’ll need to go shopping before I meet with the overlords.” Adelie laughed, the sound like tinkling chimes. I rolled my eyes.

“What?” “Some things never change.” Her arms wrapped around my bare shoulders, squeezing me in a tight hug. “I’ve missed you so much. Next time, we’re going to schedule our Rest at the same time. The last two hundred years have been hell without you by my side.” I hugged her back, holding her tight. She had once gone to Rest while I was still awake. It had been hell during that time. I completely understood. I whispered, “Sounds like a plan to me.

” She continued to hold me tight. Eventually, I cleared my throat. “Adelie, hello? Naked here, remember?” Her strong grip loosened, and she released me. “Fine. Fine.” I waggled my brows. “I know I’m fine. I look damn good for being almost a thousand.” Her brown eyes lifted skyward in exasperation. “Here we go.

Gwen is back.”

.

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