Would You Like Brains With That?

Currently re-writing.

Portal Keepers Book 1.
A job at a café for the Undead, a ghost best friend, and an annoying handsome vampire protector. Danira has it all.

Danira isn't your average girl. For generations her family has looked after the portal that links the Realm of the Undead to the Realm of the Living, by running a cafe for the Undead that are travelling through the portal. Then news reaches Danira and her parents that the Vampire Lords want to take over control of the portal and wreak havock amoung the Realm of the Living.
An adventure of hot vampires, zombies, ghosts, mummies, and life-threatening danger is thrust upon Danira, and she must try her best to protect the Realm of the Living, by preventing the Vampire Lords from obtaining the Infinity Blade, which has the power to change the portal. As well as saving her world can Danira resist the dashing vampires that cross her path? Some are more dangerous than others.

Cover by Zillah Designs.

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12. An Audience with a Lady

 

I landed with a loud squelch in what appeared to be a large group of marshes. Gasping for air I clawed my way out of the mud until I was standing.

“Perfect,” I muttered looking down at my clothes which were covered in the brown sludge.

All I could see in my peripheral vision for miles was the marshes.

What was I supposed to do now?

Someone coughed and I jumped at the sound. Stood behind me at the teasingly close edge of the marshes was a skeleton. But this skeleton was dressed like no other skeleton I had ever seen before. Usually they didn’t wear any clothes, or if they did it was just rags and scraps of their old clothes, i.e. the clothes they had died in. The skeleton that stood on the dry, dusty ground peered at me through empty eye sockets. He was dressed as a butler and even had a grey wig on.

His expression was one of distaste when he spoke, as if I was riffraff and below him. “Follow me,”

His voice was surprisingly posh and without another word he spun on his heel and started walking.

I stayed where I was for a moment, not knowing if I should go after him or not.

Knowing that I wasn’t doing as he had said, the skeleton called back. “Her ladyship does not like to be kept waiting.”

Her ladyship? Did he mean Lady Prenalla?

With a considerable amount of effort I extracted myself from the mud and ran after the butler.

“Where are we?” I asked breathlessly once I had caught up with him.

“The Murderous Marshes,”

In the distance I could see what appeared to be a town. “Is that Gore? Are we going to see Lady Prenalla?”

“Yes,” he answered, in a tone that suggested I should stop talking.

I attempted to brush the mud off my arms but it was a waste of time, so I gazed up at the permanently grey sky. Vampires didn’t go comatose in the Realm of the Undead because there was no Sun, no moon, no day or night, only the bleak grey sky.

I became increasingly anxious as we approached Gore. What if the Undead could smell me and hear my heartbeat? They would find me and hand me over to the Vampire Lords and then I would be sacrificed. I had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other, and to keep following the skeleton.

Without any warning, the skeleton whirled around and clamped something cold and metallic around my wrist.

“What is it?” I asked surprised and shocked at how quickly he had moved.

“It will make you appear to be a vampire.”

We continued walking and I examined the bracelet. It was plain, made of gold and a centimetre wide. It had to be enchanted if it could conceal the fact that I was a human. Lady Prenalla must have known that I was coming if she had sent the bracelet with her butler to meet me. I didn’t know if I should be worried or not. King Alandros knew her though, so surely that meant she was safe?

Ten minutes later we reached the outskirts of Gore, and the skeleton led me to a massive windmill. It was either brown or a deep red, but I couldn’t tell which it was in the poor lighting of the Realm of the Undead. The windmill would have been beautiful when it had been new, but now it was falling apart and stood slightly crooked, looking sinister and imposing.

The skeleton butler ascended the stone steps to the large, wooden front door and opened it with a key, before gesturing for me to enter.

“Remove your shoes,” he ordered as he closed the door.

My bare feet were cold on the stone floor as I gazed around the hallway. To step from the dreary outside and into the wealth and luxury that now surrounded me was hard to adjust to. The walls were covered from top to bottom in intricate tapestries and paintings. I gazed up to see that there was a staircase leading presumably to the top of the windmill.

Just who was this Lady Prenalla?

Next the butler took me to a room where a bath filled with steaming water was waiting. I felt a lot better after scraping all the mud off my skin. An old fashioned dress, some boots and a cape were set aside for me and I dressed in them. Looking at myself in the ornate mirror I realised that the clothes were something a female vampire would wear. I scratched at the lace collar feeling uneasy.

The door opened making me jump, and the skeleton appeared.

“Her Ladyship is waiting.” he told me, indicating that I should get a move on. His  coattails fluttered as he pivoted around on the spot and strode off down the hallway.

I followed him, passing a huge grandfather clock that seemed to shine from within, and various porcelain and china objects with gold engravings on them.

The butler eventually stopped outside a massive oak door. “Her Ladyship is inside.”

I eyed the door not daring to open it by turning the carved handle. What would Lady Prenalla be like? How should I act? If she was a Lady did that mean I had to curtsy?

Taking a deep breath I turned the handle and entered what appeared to be a parlour. There were several chaise longue with dated but fine upholstery, and a huge glass cabinet that ran along one wall with many knickknacks in it. There was a table in the centre of the room, on which was a teapot, a decanter full of a red liquid, several cups and a tray with a selection of cakes.

Lady Prenalla was reclining daintily on a chaise longue. She was deathly white, excuse the pun, so much so that I could see her skull through her skin it was that translucent. She had blonde hair, with beads entwined through it, which looked like it was made of gold and was piled on top of her head. Her grey eyes seemed strangely bright as they regarded me. Her dress was like something a queen would have worn and she was decorated with so much jewellery that made me wonder if she could move at all.

I curtsied, remembering my manners. Lady Prenalla held out a bejewelled hand and  I kissed it, presuming that was what I was supposed to do. It was like pressing my lips to concrete that had been in a freezer and I tried not to let my shudder show.

“Sit.” she ordered her voice surprisingly strong for someone who looked so fragile. “Tea?” Lady Prenalla asked me.

“Yes please, your ladyship.” I sat down on one of the chaise longue, hoping that my anxiousness didn't show. There was something about her that I didn't like. I didn't know what it was, but I had a bad feeling in my gut.

The butler suddenly appeared and poured me a cup of tea before standing in the corner. I sipped at my tea forcing a smile as warmth flooded into my body.

Prenalla drank from her own cup, which contained blood not tea, and licked her lips. “Help yourself to the cakes, Danira I know you must be hungry.”

I reached for a cake but then stopped. “How do you know my name?” I asked with wide eyes.

Lady Prenalla merely smiled and set her cup down on the table. “I knew that you would be coming because King Alandros had told me about you.” embarrassingly, my stomach let out a low grumble and Lady Prenalla gestured towards the cakes. “Please eat, Danira.”

The cakes looked so divine that I gave in and chose what looked like a cream cake. It was delicious.

Prenalla was watching me, her head tilted slightly to the side. My eyes were on her hair, wondering if it would topple over.

“I cannot remember what it is like to eat. I could try one of course, but it wouldn’t be the same.”

I had finished the cake and picked up another type. I had just bit into it when the door suddenly burst open and Ridge ran in. His expression brightened upon seeing me and he yanked me into his arms, crushing me against his chest. “Oh thank goodness you are safe. Are you hurt?”

I would have answered but I had a pastry between my teeth. He released me and gazed at me, an unreadable sentiment on his face. Pushing him away in annoyance, I thought I saw hurt flicker through his dark eyes. Hadn't he noticed Lady Prenalla sitting nearby, her scruitinising gaze on us? What did he think he was doing hugging me anyway? When had he gotten so sappy?

Ridge turned to face Lady Prenalla and bowed low. “Please forgive me, your Ladyship. I did not mean to cause any offense.”

“Of course not,” she smiled. “I understand that you must have been very worried. Please join us. Would you like a drink?”

The butler poured Ridge a glass of blood before asking. “Will that be all, your Ladyship?”

She nodded and I felt her eyes on me as I returned to my seat and ate my pastry.

When I had finished I asked. “Your Ladyship, what did King Alandros tell you about me?”

Lady Prenalla replied. “Only that you are the last hope of protecting the Realm of the Living. I hope that you can stop the Vampire Lords from finding the Infinity Blade. I do find humans amusing. It has been a long time since I visited the Realm of the Living, and I suppose that it has changed dramatically, however I would like to see it again.”

“King Alandros sent me a note saying that you would help me in the start of my search for the Infinity Blade, your Ladyship.”

Lady Prenalla smiled at me, twisting some of the rings on her fingers. “Yes, of course I will help you. The two of you have a demanding journey ahead of you. The fate of the Realm of the Living rests on your shoulders.” no pressure at all then. “There are clues that will guide you on your way, though I do not know how many for it was thought that the less I knew of the location of the Infinity Blade, the better.” I noted that she sounded slightly bitter at this. “I can however give you the first clue. Listen closely.”

I leaned forwards in my seat and was sure that I saw Ridge do the same.

Prenalla gave a dainty cough before saying in a quiet but booming voice. “Blood was my beginning, blood was my end. Through a cavernous mouth you must descend, for the next clue resides around the bend.”

I arched an eyebrow. What was that supposed to mean?

Ridge nodded silently, eyes thoughtful.

With what seemed like a considerable effort, Lady Prenalla sat up and crossed her scarily thin legs. Resting her hands on her knees she smiled primly. “I would like to speak with you both separately. Danira, leave us.”

I quickly stood up and gave a clumsy curtsy before leaving the room. Out in the hallway I leaned against the wall absently biting my nails. That ‘clue’ had confused me completely. I hoped that Ridge knew what it meant.

There was something about Lady Prenalla that scared me. Maybe it was because she was so old, not that I’m ageist, it was just you know, she was a really old vampire and as vampires grow older their powers grow stronger.

I jumped when the door opened and a brooding Ridge appeared. He didn’t even look at me which I found disheartening.

“Don’t keep me waiting, Danira.” Prenalla called.

I went into the parlour and shut the door behind me. “Sorry, your Ladyship.” I said with a curtsy.

Lady Prenalla was still sitting up and pointed to the carpet beside her feet. “Kneel here.”

I did as she said, uneasy about what would happen.

Prenalla smiled at me and placed a wiry finger under my chin, tilting my head to the side and then up. Her touch made pins and needles run through my body and I could feel my body temperature decreasing as coldness spread from where she was touching my chin. I flinched as she scratched my neck and watched as Lady Prenalla lifted her finger up. On it was a bead of my blood and her odd looking, grey tongue darted out and tasted it, her eyes half closing as she did so, reminding me of a lizard.

“Mm, you are strong, maybe even strong enough for what lies ahead, but time will tell.” her grey eyes were sparkling with intelligence. “Every sense of your being will be tested, your mind, your soul and your heart. I only hope for your sake, and for the sake of the Realm of the Living that you can endure all your trials and of course, survive them.” I gulped and Prenalla’s smile disappeared. “Take this.” she said, handing me one of her rings. It was a gold band with a large blood red ruby on it. “Keep it with you at all times.” then she leaned forwards and kissed my forehead. Her lips were ice cold and I shivered at the touch. Lady Prenalla gave a small laugh. “Hmm you will face many a trial indeed.” she said it almost proudly.

 

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