"Marishka!?"

"Verona, you're trying my patience," Dracula responded coldly, turning around to look at his eldest Bride, who stood arms folded and shoulders hunched in a way that reminded him distinctly of a raven. And ravens were all very fine for winter, but here it was the summer of his life and he had gotten a wonderful tropical bird to dance for him.

Verona stared, lips parted slightly, at the Count. He looked at her for moment, his expression one of false patience and a thinly veiled threat- "Don't argue with me, Verona. It will not get you what you want, only what you don't."

If she pressed the matter, Verona knew that she would only end up facing exile from his life, and she knew that she would then throw herself at his feet and beg him not to banish. So she swallowed her accusations and said in a soft voice, almost a whimper, "Don't you love me anymore?"

His expression did not change, and he turned back to what he had been doing with a wave of his hand that said he quite thought the matter was trivial.

"I've had enough of this conversation," he said by way of a response. Far from reassuring.

Verona took a step back slowly, uncrossing her arms. She hoped he'd stop her from leaving, maybe turn back and insist he loved her the best of all and take her into his arms and she would kiss him in worship, like she had done before after fights.

But this wasn't just a fight she could kiss away from his hands. This was an entirely different matter. There was another Bride in Castle Dracula.

She took another step back, and another, but could not bring herself to turn away. Her voice felt small and trapped in her throat, choking her, making her feel so helpless at the situation.

She made a small noise, half wanting to get his attention, and half hoping he'd ignore it, so fearful she was of his temper.

And he turned around with an eyebrow slightly raised, his face no longer amused at anything. It was a mask of cruel indifference and harsh reality.

"You're still here?" he inquired.

Verona didn't think about anything, just turned and ran out of the chamber, her feet echoing in the room, making a dull, hollow sound, and as she usually was so silent, she felt like a clumsy child afterwards. As soon as she got out, she took the brass doorknob and tried to slam the door behind he. It didn't work. The door was too heavy, and while she pulled at it, her cool losing and frustration and deep sorrow setting in. It slowly closed, finally shutting, making a small clicking noise as it locked.

Verona collapsed down against it, and would have fallen to the floor if her hands hadn't still clung to the doorknob. A small silence passed, and then was interrupted by the smallest of small sounds, sounding like crying without tears.

Verona never cried, though, did she? Of course not…but there was something she was doing.

Eventually, as the black sky grew to a purple, she went up to her own chamber and leaned against the door. She wondered why the Master had needed someone else. Was it because she wasn't beautiful any longer? She didn't know, she thought she had been beautiful before. He had chosen her for that as well as her take-charge attitude and intellect. Maybe she was losing out on it. She smoothed her long, dark hair. It still felt soft. Was the new girl's hair softer? And her eyes…she didn't know what they looked like. She touched her face, her neck, her shoulders. Maybe it was that stupid conservative outfit of hers. Maybe the new one didn't dress like that. Maybe she dressed in order to show off her assets. Well, then Verona would do the same, she vowed.

She went to her closet and frantically began searching for more light clothing.

Her efforts slowed and she finally sat amid a sea of clothes, her head bowed in humiliation and defeat. She put her hands to her neck and ripped off the fashionable starched collar, then the huge dress and rummaged around for something else. It was sheer, it still had a collar, and it had a low neckline. Wiping her face off of all tears, she pulled it over her head.

She looked up. The sky was pale and it would be dawn soon. She crept into her coffin and latched it shut. Lying there, after all that, she thought before venturing into sleep, was it really worth it? Changing her appearance just for him?

Yes, she decided firmly before falling asleep. His love and attention was worth anything, even dancing in the snow.

Ravens only dance in the snow when they're looking for food. If you send your pet raven out into the snow, you know that she's going to become a scavenger? A heartless black bird, flying over fields of battle until she's shot down?
Are you willing to risk that?

I would expect more from you…

To be continued.