It is internationally known that vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night exist. In that case, they exist to cause trouble for the mortal world.
There were events in world history that, if nothing else, were attributed to the supernatural. The Czars of Russia knew that; with the knowledge that the supernatural world was at their doorstep, most Czars were content with ignoring the supernatural and paying attention to the mundane problems plaguing their country.
But not Nicholas.
He was a man who believed there was more to life than the problems of the country. Nicholas was fairly new to the throne; his father, Czar Alexander III, died a few days earlier. In that death, he knew the burden of ruling Russia would soon fall to him. Nicholas was 26 years old and recently married; his wife, Alexandra, was a German-born princess whose grandmother was known as Queen Victoria of England. She had recently moved to Russia and was with her husband when his father died.
Many people who heard the news of the czar's passing wept, yet many more remembered his father, Czar Alexander II, often known as the Czar Liberator. He had ended the feudal system known as serfdom the moment the U.S. Civil War happened. At that time, most humans believed that the civil war was fought mainly to free the slaves, especially the slaves who were of African descent, but it was primarily seen as the Northern part of the United States interfering in a private Southern affair.
Little did anyone know that the issue was far from that.
Vampires were the main cause of that war; they raided many southern plantations, eating the slaves who lived and worked on those plantations, and hiding their bodies in the woods, making many people think the slaves escaped to freedom. But the truth most people were unwilling to face was that vampires raided the plantations at night, killing and eating the slaves, as most of them were too weak from the backbreaking labor and abuses their owners inflicted on them to fight off their attackers.
But what happened in the States also happened in Russia as well. Czar Alexander III recruited many vampires and werewolves to hunt down and kill anyone working for the revolution as an ironic tribute to those who killed his reformist father in 1881. Alexander II was riding in his carriage when a bomb struck it. He was killed in the attack, leaving behind his sons, daughters, and many grandchildren, including a 12-year-old grandson named Nicholas. Alexander III swore to make those who killed his father pay for inciting terrorism and assassinating the Czar, so he had the conspirators hung and tormented by vampires and werewolves until their deaths.
Many people killed by the vampires and werewolves for attempting to overthrow Alexander III protested as they died. In fact, one man called for the Czar to die and a better man to take his place as he was slain. Alexander was determined that Nicholas would never rule Russia as its czar; in fact, he spent the past ten years grooming an orphaned boy named Alexander Smirnov to become the new czar. But the church objected to that plan, claiming that the czar must be the son of the ruling czar and czarina. Nicholas was everyone's first choice to rule Russia; he would rule the country with a firm but gentle hand.
But on his first day of ruling the country, Nicholas decided his father was to be buried before he took the crown. A public marriage ceremony would follow the coronation a few weeks.
It was a poignant moment when the people crowded into the Church of the Resurrection and paid their respects to the dead czar and spoke to the new ruler and his wife. Nicholas benefited from meeting the people who he now ruled over and Alexandra was gracious towards the people.
Yet in that moment, two events would change their lives forever.
One event was the arrival of the Snoweagle clan, the vampire clan that served Czar Alexander III from his ascension until his death. They weren't pleased with the news of the czar's passing and that his son Nicholas, not the boy Alexander, was the new czar. Aramaeus Zempanga, leader of the clan, demanded that the Snoweagles be allowed to continue eating the revolutionaries that still plagued Russia.
The seven werewolf clans weren't forgotten, as they feasted of the flesh of the revolutionaries the vampires ate; they also wanted Alexander on the throne. They too descended into the church looking for the new czar.
These groups arrived as Nicholas and Alexandra were speaking to a baker and his wife. Marie, the mother of Nicholas, saw then and said to them, "The Czar is busy right now, as is his wife, but I can grant you an audience if you wish."
Hans Fruar said to her, "Your late husband promised us that the boy would be the czar of Russia. Yet when it was known that he was dead, the people immediately declared his son czar."
"Indeed they have," said the Dowager Empress. "But do not think Alexander will be czar; the people won't follow the rule of a young boy. Plus, he is baseborn though he bears his father's name. The Church won't allow it."
Hans snarled at her, but Nicholas noticed his mother's distress and said to him, "I know what you want, Hans, but it will never happen. I know that no rivalry has existed between myself and Alexander and you are not to start any trouble. The people owe it to me to keep the peace, even those who were called revolutionaries know better than to get behind a baseborn boy who has no experience ruling anything and choose him over the rightful czar."
He addressed the clans as the people watched, "I don't approve of your way of life, but who am I to say what you can and cannot do? You may do as you wish, but bear in mind that I am your czar and I demand you observe our rules and customs and treat them with respect."
He glanced at his mother and wife and they nodded. "Until further need I require from you, you may reside in the palaces my father has set aside for you." Both vampires and werewolves nodded, then left the hall.
Alexandra said, "I have my reasons to fear this isn't right. Nothing good will come from this."
Marie replied, "Yet, a compromise of any sort will leave everyone angry. Such are the things our Nicky must learn if he is to be a good ruler." For Marie herself had to educate Nicholas on ruling an empire and being the czar that Russia needed once his father died and he ascended to the throne.
But the second event led to Nicholas becoming involved with the Smirnov family and the sorcerer Leo Trichenberg.
Mainly the life of one Hadassah Trichenberg.
It was known that the minute Czar Alexander III took his final breath, Hadassah Rachel Shoshana Smirnov took her first breath of life. Many people claimed it was bad luck for the infant to be born when the czar died, and it amounted to the bad luck inflicted upon the family of Sergei and Jessica Smirnov.
Sergei was the nephew of Nichollo Smirnov. He initially sought to marry Nichollo and Rachel's daughter, Jacqueline. Nichollo objected to the marriage, claiming that Jacqueline was too young to marry. He unwisely suggested Sergei marry his stepdaughter Jessica Shalit despite her mother's objections. Rachel planned for Jessica to marry a man from a minor Russian noble family.
Sergei and Jessica had a daughter named Sabrina and a son named Leonard. But when it came time for Jessica to deliver her third child, many people knew it would be another daughter. But what they didn't know was that she was a baseborn child.
Not until after her mother's death from complications of childbirth several hours later, that was.
For starters, Hadassah was a weakling; no one expected her to live. Also, it was bad luck for her to be born on the day the Czar died. On her fourth day of life, the Smirnov family knew she wasn't Sergei's daughter; she was the daughter of Leopold Trichenberg.
Leo was a powerful and feared sorcerer who made his home in the northern part of Russia, near the city of Archangel. He had several lovers and other children, yet the lovers lived apart from each other in his palace. At one point, he had been married, but his wife was weak of mind and body. She managed to give him four children before succumbing to her illness eight years into their marriage.
Leo had no idea of Hadassah's birth, as he planned to travel to St. Petersburg to attend the funeral of Alexander III and witness the coronation and wedding of Czar Nicholas II. He had left St. Petersburg upon the death of Alexander II and the coronation of Czar Alexander III. The Czar had angered him by requesting that he use his powers to put a permanent end to any thought of democracy in Russia. Leo packed his wife Slavena and their two daughters Lara and Serafima and went to his palace in Archangel. There, they raised their children and had two more children named Vasily and Raina.
Lara, Serafima, and Raina traveled with Leo as he made his way to St. Petersburg; none of his mistresses and children were willing to travel to meet the new czar and his wife. Plus, Leo's unconventional lifestyle scandalized many people; to have him bring his mistresses or baseborn children to a royal function was to insult the Czar himself.
At the same time, four men dressed in dark cloaks arrived at the palace, begging for the czar's help. They told him that upon the discovery of baby Hadassah's true father, Sergei had tried to kill her. The men scarcely got her away from the Smirnov estate with her wrapped in a red blanket before the madman burst through the door.
Nicholas said, "I have not yet been crowned czar and already they ask too much of me. What am I to do?"
Alexandra said, "Give them your attention. It is evident they need your help."
Nicholas said to the men, "Why do you request my presence?"
One of the men said, "Are you familiar with the sorcerer Leopold Trichenberg?"
"Indeed I am," said Nicholas. "My father had angered him once and he said that his reign will be short and harsh. He was right; my father was Czar of all Russia for ten and three years."
Another man said, "Be that as it may, but this is his poor child."
He peeled back the blankets and Nicholas gasped in horror. He turned to his mother and wife and they too had horrified looks on their faces as they stared at the blanket. Most of the servants and guests stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the blanket.
Inside the blanket was a baby no bigger than half a loaf of French bread, with ghost-pale skin and golden-white hair. Nicholas thought this child looks like a corpse; my father is dead and he looked the picture of health. Has God taken leave of His senses?
But when the infant's eyes opened, Nicholas knew why the men had brought her to him. Her eyes were a pale olive green, and he knew Leo had green eyes and blond hair. The Smirnovs, however, were more inclined to have dark brown eyes and dark brown hair.
"Now you understand, do you not?" said the first man.
"I do," said Nicholas. "Leo is on his way here, it is rumored, and I know he will want to claim the child. He has four trueborn children and seven baseborn children."
"She now makes eight," said Marie as she stared at the child with pity. "Such a shame her mother died so early in her life; our own empress was lucky to have known her mother before her untimely death."
"And if she had lived, I'm certain she must answer to the charges of adultery and fornification," said Alexandra. "No one may violate the marriage bed and live."
"It will pain Leo to know the child is his," said Marie, "and yet, he has another child to feed."
"Shall we send for a vampire to do away with her?" asked a servant. "She's already a weakling and weaklings are troublesome. We must get rid of her immediately or she'll bring troubles upon your reign."
"You most certainly may not," said a priest. "She may be a baseborn and a weakling, but she is also a gift from God to our czar. The czar has been long seen as cruel and unfeeling, but if he is seen with this child, the people will believe that he is kind and gentle."
"Plus, Leo will want to see the child, and it will do him no good to discover that we have slain her," said Alexandra. "She is an infant; her life has only begun. She has committed no crime save for being born, and there is no punishment for that. Let Leo deal with it. Meanwhile, I shall find a nurse and get some milk for the baby; she looks hungry."
As Alexandra took the baby and walked away, Nicholas said, "I have not been married two weeks and already I am to raise a child."
"Why do you worry?" said Marie. "Your father has raised young Alex..."
"Only to be cruel towards others," said the same servant.
"But what if you can raise her to be kind towards others?" said Marie. "Surely the people would love a princess who cares for others as herself. They need to see that you are nothing like your father."
"Maybe I'll take this up with Leo when he arrives," said Nicholas. He knew that deep down, Leo was a harsh man and he could demand the child at any moment. He could also recall Alexander's cruelty and question Nicholas's right to rule as well as his ability to lead a nation. But he knew his life was changing quickly and supernatural forces were hanging over his head...
The next day, the former czar was buried in an elaborate ceremony. Many people attended the funeral, but only to say farewell to the dead man and to cheer for their new czar.
Nicholas and Alexandra led the ceremony. With them were Nicholas's mother, Marie, and siblings George, Xenia, Michael, and Olga. Young Alexander Smirnov was also with the family; he had not been forgotten. Many of the former czar's supporters wanted him to be czar instead of Nicholas.
Leo Trichenberg was summoned to attend the funeral of Alexander III and to pledge allegiance to the new czar. Leo had a public falling out with Alexander III and left St. Petersburg soon after.
After the burial, Nicholas had servants prepare a huge feast for the guests. As many hungry guests enjoyed the food, Nicholas noticed that Leo was barely eating. It was as if he was worrying about something. Nicholas recalled the infant Hadassah and the strange story regarding her birth. He saw the blond-haired green-eyed infant sitting with a nurse in a corner of the room. Did Leo know about his newest daughter? What had he done about the situation he was now involved in?
Leo said to Nicholas, "Why do you worry?"
Nicholas said to him, "I know you and my father had a fight years earlier."
"I'm aware of that," said Leo. "But I've heard rumors regarding an infant who would be mine. But is she mine?"
Nicholas said, "In that case, you haven't been seen in St. Petersburg for thirteen years. But that would mean someone has been lying."
Leo said, "I meant to say I've been on the outskirts of the city, near the Jewish villages."
Nicholas said, "Then are you familiar with a man named Sir Nichollo Smirnov?"
Leo said, "I've had my dealings with the Smirnovs before. So I do know him. I also happened to know that stepdaughter of his."
Alexandra cut in, saying, "And did you know her?"
"I have known her enough," said Leo. "She was vain and selfish. That younger sister of hers, Nichollo wished to marry her off to me. But I objected, saying that she was too young to marry, and I offered one of my baseborn daughters for his son. And so, last spring, Sir Nichollo celebrated the wedding of his second son Vladimir to my daughter Varvara. But that Jessica was nothing if but clever, saying sweet words to me, filling my head with lies. My wife had recently died, and my trueborn daughters and son were bereft of a mother and they were not ready for marriage. Jessica performed a kindness towards my daughters, but never my son, whom she despised. But it was with me that she had deceived the most."
Alexandra said, "So Hadassah is your daughter."
"That is indeed true," said Leo as they saw the nurse approaching them with the tiny infant in her arms.
"Nichollo had named her Hadassah," said Nicholas, "but who she was named for, I do not know. Perhaps I would ask him myself."
Leo said, "I believe my daughter Varvara and her husband are here, but not Sir Nichollo and Lady Rachel. I wonder why they haven't showed up."
The nurse showed him the baby, who was still as pale as the day she first arrived at the palace. Leo gasped as he laid his eyes on her. "Has no one bothered to wash her in lavender water?"
"I wonder why not," said Alexandra. "She is so weak and tiny. Many have said she would not last the month. We wonder if her future is tied to ours."
"Indeed," said Leo. "Not only is her future tied to yours, but her life is the life of your reign. I knew that one day, a czar would bind his life to that of a common child, but he is not the boy Alexander promised to Russia. He is a baseborn boy with connections to the Smirnov family, though few members would admit to actually knowing him. Nichollo himself knows nothing about the boy. You would bow and address the boy as your czar?"
"I would, if I had no other choice," said Nicholas. "I have spent 13 years preparing myself for that eventuality. But my mother would not allow her husband to appoint a baseborn boy as czarevitch over her trueborn son."
"Your mother was wise to object to her husband's foolishness," said Leo. "He had tried to get me to join him and make Alexander czarevitch. That was the main reason for our falling out in 1884. Another reason was the fact that he used vampires and werewolves to carry out his deeds of killing off anyone who dared to speak against his rule. You do realize that what you do now will affect your life and reign. Do not repeat your father's mistake, Nicholas. It will destroy you and your family. Not to mention the people who you rule over and call themselves your faithful subjects."
Alexandra said, "What do we do? I have had a vision that if Hadassah were to die, then we would die as well; czar, empress, and father-sorcerer. Our children will finish what we began, or there would be a new change in Russia, one that we will not live to see."
"But if Hadassah is connected to us all, then she must live with us," said Nicholas. "She will not be influenced by her father's relations nor his mistresses."
Leo said, "And she must live with the Imperial family; any who try to take her will be cursed. If any in your family, be they relations or servant or any who live in your palace harms her or causes her death, then they will die. And if she dies, then the czar and his wife and the father of her will also die. And if your son who shall come after you knew her and has her properly buried, then he will have a long and prosperous reign. But if there is a new government, then I fear that we will be forgotten and their rule will be tainted with disasters and failures; be it comes with honor or dishonor. Usually most governments are formed with dishonor, and what comes after the czars will be no good, lest one comes that is different and will be honorable."
He glanced around the room, then at the child in his arms. Everyone was staring at him when he made his judgement regarding his daughter living with the royal family. "Ah, what am I rambling about? I should be enlightening the guests with stories of your father's arrogance, not worrying about your new reign. And a new child to worry about." He looked at Hadassah again and said, "I won't risk bringing her to my castle; oh what a scandal it would cause, with her mother's history and all. No, she doesn't leave the Imperial Family; it would kill us both. She must stay with you. You and your wife shall welcome your first child before the next year is out."
He stood up and handed Hadassah back to the nurse. He then said, "And regarding the wolf clans and the Snoweagles, be discreet in how you handle them; it is dangerous to have them as your friends, but don't be unwise and make them your enemies. The people will know of this, if they don't know already. They will beg you to keep to the alliance with the vampires and werewolves. You must, though it will bring you great pain."
He turned away and said, "Now I must go to my brother sorcerers and inform them of your father's demise and that you now rule Russia. They will advise you."
He left the palace and Nicholas said to Alexandra, "He is filled with fear and uncertainty, not to mention pain over a newborn child and the death of her mother. He was deceived by her false charms; now he must be an advisor to the new czar, a czar that's not ready to rule and reign over such a vast country."
He walked to a window and stared outside. "The world is changing. There are new things to do and see. The face of the world is different. Your grandmother still rules over England, but now you're among those who now control a country. Her government could use some improvement, but as well, she's clearly cutting a figure."
"A figure I hope to avoid as I reach old age," said Alexandra. "I refuse to allow myself to even look like her." She glanced at Nicholas and said, "You will still love me when I'm old, won't you?"
"I will," said Nicholas. "After all, we did vow to remain together, even as we approach old age."
"Then let us not speak of it until we are old ourselves," said Alexandra. "It's ill luck to speak of old age when we are so young. Your mother will not approve."
Nicholas nodded and stood outside. It was time for him to take charge of things. He had a country to rule, he had to get his father's affairs in order, and he had to do something about young Alexander Smirnov. The boy would need some men of honor to guide him as he would now learn his new place as Imperial Prince of Russia.
But as for Hadassah Trichenberg, now known as the Imperial Princess of Russia, that would remain to be seen...