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She was beautiful, wearing a long silk gown of dark evergreen. Her hands were covered in rings; her neck had several beautiful diamond-encrusted necklaces. She didn’t wear a crown, but I imagined that was because one of the boys was busy combing her hair as it hung over the arm of her chair. The feet hanging over the other side were being massaged by one of the other men. None of the men were wearing shirts; it was like the werewolf festival all over again.

As we reached the last of the columns before the throne, she turned, a lazy smile forming on her lips.    “Ah, Ryan, I see you’ve finally decided to come home.”

Ryan’s eyes seemed to brighten at her words.

“It took you long enough,” her expression turned sour as she waved away her attendants and turned to sit in the chair properly.

“Mistress, I waited as per your instructions.”

A twist of anger formed on the woman’s face, but then was gone before I could register it. She gave an over enthusiastic smile instead.

“Of course, my poor little baby, come here, come join your mistress.”

I almost reached out to grab Ryan’s sleeve, but Victor grabbed my hand first and gave a small shake of his head. Ryan moved forward with little provocation moving up to his mistress with almost an excited buzz. As soon as Ryan moved within her reach, the woman grabbed Ryan and kissed him on the mouth. I didn’t see if Ryan kissed back, but a stunned numbness jumped through me. I kept telling myself that this was okay. We came to Italy for this, but something about it kept unnerving me.

When the woman pulled away from Ryan and untwisted her fingers from his hair, she smiled, “Still as cold as a dead fish. Give me some feeling next time. Now go stand over there.”

The woman pointed vaguely to her side, and Ryan moved there and stood, facing us. I could finally see his face again, and was surprised by expression on it. The sadness that often sat in Ryan’s eyes was still there. Wasn’t this what he wanted? Didn’t he want to come here? Why was he still sad?

The mistress snapped her fingers, her long lacquered nails clicking, and one of the men moved forward, moving to his knees in front of her and lifting a strawberry dipped in chocolate towards her. She leaned forward and bit into the strawberry as the boy smiled with an almost vacant look in his face.

She moaned as if she was in pleasure, and then leaned back, crossing her legs and turning her eyes to Victor and me.

“My boys did mention that Ryan brought a couple of guests. I suppose it’s to be expected. Leave a tool lying around for too long, and you can’t blame it if someone else picks it up and decides to use it,” The woman responded, “I suppose you are looking for a reward. Some wish you want fulfilled?”

“A fulfilled wish? I don’t understand, are you a genie or something?”

“No,” Victor spoke up, “She’s not a genie. She’s a sorceress. Now that I see her in person, I can feel the magic coming off of her. Vampires tend to have that ability. Think of them as witches with a capital ‘b’.”

The sorceress raised an eyebrow, “Do I know you? Perhaps a past boyfriend? I’ve had so many I’ve needed to discard over the years, forgive me if I’ve forgotten. None of them have ever seemed able to satisfy me for very long. Your face does seem familiar though.”

One of the boys looked up, “I believe he is an American pop star, Demetrius.”

The sorceress’s eyes opened with excitement, “Why yes, of course. Well met, Demetrius, I am Lilith Castalia. I’ve had pop stars before, but I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of a vampire. I’ve always wanted to try one.”

“Keep wanting,” Victor growled.

Lilith gave a darker glower, but then brightened.

“Well, you can’t have everything… for now. So what would an immortal pop star want from me? Certainly not health, nor fame or money.” Her eyes turned to me and brightened, “Ah, I guess you’d want beauty.”

“Excuse me,” I demanded.

“Well, I’m sure Demetrius doesn’t want to walk down the red carpet with something like you hanging on his arm.” Lilith waved dismissively, “I could put a glamour on you, and you’d be just like any other Hollywood starlet.”

“No thank you,” Victor interrupted with firmness in his voice, “I love Jane just the way she is.”

That comment shouldn’t have caused me to blush as much as it did. I still refused to turn and glanced at Victor, my eyes focusing on the woman in front of me instead.

“Alright, then what will it be?”

I spoke first, “We just wanted to bring Ryan home. We want him to be happy and have a good life.”

Lilith looked at me with confusion, and then broke into a laugh. Several of the other boys seemed to join in with her. Ryan just stood amongst them, the sadness still in his eyes.

“I will keep him very happy, so if that is all you want, you have it. Leave my presence.” Lilith waved a dismissal before turning away with a bored expression reforming on her face.

“Before we go,” I spoke up, “Why did you leave Ryan in the first place?”

Lilith turned back to me, a mischievous smile on her face, “Haven’t you ever lost something before? Just forget where you last put it? I’m not saying I was heartbroken when I couldn’t remember where I told him to wait. He was kind of new and exciting in the beginning, but toys become less exciting the longer you have them. Eventually, toys get thrown in a box, brought to the basement, and forgotten.”

“Is that what you’ll do with Ryan again?” I demanded.

Lilith sneered, “If I want to, he’s mine to do with as I wish.”

Victor put out an arm, preventing me from taking a step forward as he moved in front of me. “I do apologize, but I’m not one to let a friend be treated like that. Even if you weren’t upsetting Jane, I would step in and prevent this from happening.”

The mood in the entire room seemed to darken. The vacant looks of all the boys turned into something infinitely more hostile. The darkness became almost palpable, and electricity seemed to shoot through the air.

“Is that a threat?” the sorceress demanded.

“I am an immortal vampire. I have lived for over five hundred years. Do you honestly think you can intimidate me? Ryan will come with us.”

The sorceress let out a harsh laugh.

“He doesn’t want to come with you. Right Ryan?” Ryan remained silent, seeming to ignore the tension in the air, “Tell them you don’t want to go!”

Ryan eyes focused on the pair of us, “I am sorry, but this is where I belong, with my mistress. I must stay.”

He must stay, but does he want to stay? Oh Ryan, what kind of place did I bring you to?

“I am not content with that answer,” Victor responded before I had a chance to, “We are your friends, Ryan, we are not giving up on you.”

The expression on Ryan’s face almost seemed happy for a second. He turned to Lilith, and then the buried sadness reappeared.

Lilith noticed the look in his eyes, her face growing even darker, “So… you plan to steal my property? Is that how it is? Claude, assess the threat level.”

One of the boys with strange, white hair and glasses stood up and turned to us. His mouth moved wordlessly as his eyes danced between Victor and me.

“The Vampire can be classified as dangerous, he has some magic, but it is bound and uneasily accessible,” the boy stated, then turned to me, “The human is… wait… I sense something else. No… it is gone. This is just an average human girl. Her threat level is minimal.”

“Enough!” Victor stopped the man, “It is time I showed you how dangerous a vampire can be!”

Lilith raised a finger and bent it. A blurring form blew passed. My eyes barely even registered the movement, but there was a boy standing in front of Victor. It wasn’t until Victor started falling back that I recognized the stake sticking through his heart. Victor hit the ground with a thump and I shouted, moving down next to him.

His face looked surprised, but otherwise frozen, his features hidden by my shadow across his face in the low lighting. The man who had stabbed him took several steps back, a smile on his face. He seemed to move slowly on purpose, as if to taunt me. I cuddled his head in my lap, tears rolling down my cheeks.

Wait, Victor wasn’t dead yet! He mentioned that being stabbed in the heart only paralyzed his kind. I reach forward and grabbed the stake, pulling. The stake didn’t budge. I pulled again, this time with all of my might. It stayed stuck within his body.

“You can’t pull it out,” the sorceress stated, standing up and walking towards the pair of us, “because I won’t let you pull it out.”

Lilith looked down into Victor’s eyes, which seemed frozen open, “I know you can hear me vampire, so let me tell you a thing or two. I am the most powerful sorceress that ever lived. I have half a mind to bind your will to me, like most of my other boys. Would you like that? Would you like to be my love slave for the rest of time? No, pop stars are simply too boring. It’s always about the work. Even when you enchant them, you can always tell they aren’t given it their all. It is better to just kill you.”

Lilith leaned forward, flicking the steak with the tip of her long nail. The wood seemed to blacken into a charcoal like consistency. Then the fire began to spread. The skin around the wound began to darken. I panicked, staring down in shock, helpless to do anything. The blackness grew and grew, moving along his skin until his entire body looked burnt. No, this wasn’t happening, this could not be happening.

For a second, I could swear Victor’s eyes moved to me, and a smile formed on his face. His body became light, and turned into ash. A breeze picked up, and the ash blew away. My hands went forward, and I found myself left with nothing but air.

The sorceress didn’t watch this scene, instead walking back to her chair and sitting down, the bored expression already returning on her face. I sat on my knees, staring in shock at the place Victor should have been. The tears flowed down my face, and I couldn’t stop them. For all the situations I’ve been in, I never felt as helpless as that moment.

Eventually, my body started to go numb. I continued to stare at the floor, the numerous flickering lights of the antechamber causing my shadows to dance across the ground.

“What would you like us to do with the human?” One of the boys spoke up.

The sorceress was already sitting perpendicular to the throne once again, having one of the boys rub her feet.

She glanced over at me, “Just a useless human. Toss her outside. Let her life be her reward for bringing my Ryan to me. See? Am I not merciful?”

“Yes, mistress,” Ryan nodded, his expression impassive.

I couldn’t see or feel who grabbed me. I knew I had been picked up and was being carried, but I was numb. I didn’t know where I was going, or what was happening. All I could think about was Victor, those last few seconds as he turned to dust.

I was tossed down, and the footsteps of the man who carried me drifted away. After some time, I looked up, willing myself to focus. I was in some kind of alleyway in the middle of Italy, and I was completely alone.

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