Janette DuCharme absently wiped a stray spot of blood from her lips. Her now golden eyes shimmered as she gazed on the sleeping figure of King Philip Augustus his youthful features relaxed despite the glistening puncture wounds in his neck. Janette dabbed the wounds with her still moist finger and watched closely as the wounds dissolved leaving smooth unmarred skin in their wake.
The King of France moaned his eyes lazily settled on Janette, "Isabelle?"
"Non, mon cher. How are you feeling?"
"Weary, my love…why did you leave me, Isabelle?"
Janette rolled her eyes, "Sleep, my love. When you wake, ask for a hearty meal with rich wine. You shall remember nothing save our passion. Bon nuit, Philip."
"Bon nuit, Isabelle." the young monarch muttered his eyes fluttering closed.
Inwardly fuming at the mention of the king's dead wife Janette threw on her chemise and fastened her night robe before storming out of the bedchamber.
Her young pageboy was startled awake by the commotion and hurried to catch up with his mistress.
"My lady, a message arrived for you from your father." the boy quickly reported.
Janette abruptly slowed her pace as the small scroll bearing the wax imprint of her master's signet ring was pressed into her hands.
Entering her spacious apartments, Janette swiftly broke the seal. Her eyes immediately beheld her master's steady flowing script written fluently in the Latin of his youth.
I send you fond summer greetings and hope you are as well at court as I am at Chateau Crepuscule. As these sweetly warm summer nights progress, I find myself grateful that I decided to heed your advice and take a rest from the affairs of the royal court.
The country air has provided the most intriguing of companions. A wise woman, from the outskirts of Calais, of all things. Her delicate prettiness is a clever mask concealing a will of forged steel and a quick wit to match. Merely being in her presence evokes such strange feelings in me that I cannot control yet I find I do not want to even try. If you think that the king can spare you I would, most appreciate your company and council in this matter.
Janette read the letter twice more to be sure she was reading the letter correctly. Could it be possible? Had someone managed to snare her ancient father's cold heart? No it could not be. Her master Lucien LaCroix was a fearsome vampire with a heart that had little room for the frivolities of love save for his children. Why this letter might as well have been composed by a lovesick squire pining for the love of a mythical fair maiden.
Janette had heard of wise women, mysterious and conniving spinsters, who carried knowledge of black arts far older than the most ancient of vampires.
Was it possible that one of them had managed to bewitch her master?
King Philip Augustus could certainly make do without her while she investigated this matter.
A bright summer moon and a multitude of sparkling stars bathed the trees and flowers of the courtyard in a soft silver glow. A towering marble sculpture of a young woman in graceful robes wielding a bow dominated the center of the courtyard. Magdalena de Sang silently marveled at how the moonlight cast the woman in an unearthly white brighter than freshly fallen snow.
"Artemis, the patron goddess of the hunt, the guardian of children, and the keeper of the moon. Many vampires also revere her as their protector." LaCroix explained softly as he and Magdalena walked closer to the statue her hand warmed by the soft lining his sleeve.
Magdalena nodded, "Because of the connection to Lilith? My grandmother told my sister and I the story when we were children. Lilith is highly regarded among my people for her refusal to submit to a man.," she replied at LaCroix's raised brow.
"Indeed. Then you know that after leaving the garden Lilith mated with the moon. The vampires being her firstborn were the strongest and most favored of her children." LaCroix replied with a touch of smugness in his tone.
Magdalena rolled her eyes, "It is a beautiful statue regardless."
"It is but carefully chiseled stone preserved by a nostalgic man. It is nothing compared to you."
Magdalena nervously giggled hoping the darkness would hide her blush, "You are a shameless charmer, Monsieur LaCroix."
"Please call me Lucien. I believe we are beyond formal address."
"Very well. You are a shameless charmer, Lucien." Magdalena replied her face pulsating with warmth.
LaCroix chuckled, "I can assure you that I have been called far worse throughout my life."
"Tell me more about your life. You mentioned before that you have a daughter. By bite, not birth. What is she like?"
"Janette is a fiery independent woman. The mortal world sought to smother her but I freed her. However, do not assume that she is cold or conniving. Janette is a kind woman and fiercely protective of those she takes under her wing. Not unlike yourself."
Magdalena felt her face pulse with the warmth of her blush, "Then she must be a wonderful woman."
"She is indeed."
"Is Janette your only child?"
"My first and only child. I have not felt the need to create more."
"Did you not have children while you were mortal?" Magdalena asked tentatively.
LaCroix sighed, "I did have a daughter, and that is all I will say on the matter. It is not a time that I look upon and smile."
Magdalena nodded and the two strolled the moonlit garden while the soothsayer worked up her courage.
"If you have something to say, ma cherie, feel free to speak your mind."
"Answer me this first. Why have you not created a son? As a vampire, you can take whomever you choose and mold them in your image. You did not give Janette life but you regard her as your child."
LaCroix withdrew from her hold and stared intently towards the dark abyss of the courtyard.
"Creating a child is not a matter I take lightly. I encountered many women like Janette in my travels but she alone proved herself worthy to be granted the gift of immortality. I doubt any man could ever prove himself worthy enough to be regarded as my son."
"What if he were your child through birth not bite? A child created from your own seed. Would you think him worthy then?"
"I believe the wine has muddled your senses, ma cherie. I cannot father a child. I forfeited that when I chose to become a vampire!"
"How are you so certain?"
"You think vampirism takes away physical desire? I have been with many women since my rebirth and not one has ever given me a child!" LaCroix snapped his eyes brimming gold with fury.
If Magdalena was offended by his crass revelations, she hid it well. The soothsayer and experienced midwife was no prude.
"What if I were to tell you that it was possible? That you could have the son you desire. A living son, who would be the very image of his father." Magdalena asked softly placing a tentative hand on LaCroix's shoulder.
LaCroix turned to face her unwilling to be spellbound by her promises. The military strategist within him quickly considered all of the options.
"I would ask what you hope to gain from this little arrangement. What is in it for you, Magdalena de Sang? What is your price?"
Magdalena cleared her throat, "I ask for nothing, Lucien. I only ask that when the time comes I am the one who carries the child. I want to be recognized as his mother and have an active role in raising him."
"That price is a little more than nothing, ma cherie. May I ask what has possessed you to make this proposition? A week ago, you were repulsed by the smallest touch of me and now you wish to bear my son? You will forgive me if I doubt the sincerity of this proposal."
Magdalena sighed, "I have never been repulsed by your touch, Lucien, merely frightened of the feelings it began to awaken within me. Feelings I thought were long buried, by the firm assertion that I would never be able to have a child of my own. When I chose to accept your help, I cast aside every constraint and any feelings of loyalty to the coven and my family. You can't imagine what I endured because of their wishes and what little I received in reward."
"I actually can. I too endured much for Emperor and country." LaCroix replied kissing her hand.
"Then you will understand why I am prepared to finally take control of my destiny and have the family I have always wanted. Please, Lucien, I know it may sound strange but I can think of no man more worthy of fathering and loving my child."
LaCroix pulled Magdalena close. His hand caressed the delicate skin of her throat.
"I am certain that my child would never find a more loving mother. This is why I must ask something of you, my sweet Magdalena."
"You must allow me to serve you and prove myself worthy of your love."
'My son will not be the result of a light tryst. Not like Divia.'
Magdalena nodded and allowed her lips to be claimed in a deep passionate kiss.