Demonique and Dominique were nine years old. They were twins, and even their mother regularly mistook them for each other. Dominique used this to full advantage. Whenever a pet was found drained of blood, or a servant suffering from a sudden fainting spell, Dominique was the guilty one, but she was so good at acting innocent that it topped Demonique's act, which wasn't properly practiced because Demonique really was innocent. Besides, their mother, Lady Margolotta, was always busy with important letters and parties and people the children weren't allowed to see.

Dominique spied on the secret messengers, always making sure to wear Demonique's dresses. And so, once night, Dominique turned up in Demonique's room.

"Wake up, stupid-sister! Whoever heard of vampires sleeping at night?" She complained, kicking her sister's coffin.

Great wings seemed to surround Dominique as her sister descended from her perch in the roof beams. The cloak caught Dominique's arms, and was knotted around them deftly. "Only fools sleep in a coffin." Demonique countered. Dominique struggled in vain against the bonds – she hadn't learned to transform yet. That cloak thing with the wings – she had to admit it had been impressive. Dominique was secretly envious of Demonique. Demonique got the better name, Demonique was impossible to take by surprise, Demonique always won when they fought.

"Now, sister-mine, what brings you here... into this dread tomb?" Demonique asked, and her voice almost made Dominique shiver. Dominique's voice was thin and reedy, the best she could do was whine at adults in an annoying fashion. But Demonique's voice... it sounded so grown-up sometimes. It sounded like a boy's voice.

"Let go of me! They're sending us to Quirm! I heard Mother and Mademoiselle Lambert talking about it! They're sending us to a school for humans! To make ladies of us!" Dominique was furious. How dare her sister treat her like this, capture her, humiliate her? Of course, Dominique had done worse. But you'd think Demonique would get the message by now. You'd think she'd give up, realize she couldn't beat Dominique. Except, of course, that she could, couldn't she?

Demonique released her sister. "Interesting. That, I think, shall be very entertaining. I doubt they will succeed. They might as well try making ladies out of bears."

Dominique rubbed her aching wrists. Someone would die tonight, to pay for this pain... "You're actually going to go along with it? You're actually going to pack your things and go to Quirm when they tell you to?" She asked, amazed. Of course, Demonique had always been the obedient one... but even so... what was Quirm, that they should leave their beloved Überwald to go there? What could humans teach them?

Demonique grinned. "Indeed. There aren't many vampires in Quirm. And that, sister-mine, means no garlic at the windows, no holy symbols around the necks of children... that, sister-mine, means we will feed well. But never at the school, sister-mine. Mother will forbid us to feed at the school. No one must suspect a thing."

Dominique's eyes widened. Demonique, curse her clever mind, had a point. They were nine years old... but already they knew the thrills of hunts... and of kills.

The next day, their governess, Mademoiselle Lambert, instructed them that they should from that day onwards address their Lady Mother only in Quirmian. This was done so that they would become practiced in the language that would be their spoken language at the Quirm College For Young Ladies.

Dominique, being her usual petulant self, harldy spoke to their mother at all during the next three months. Demonique, by contrast, spoke in Quirmian to everybody, and was soon on the level of a native speaker. Inside, she seethed at her mother for placing such limitations on her, these last months the family would be together, ans she wowed that when she got back from Quirm, she would always address her mother as Maman, to remind her of what she had demanded.

And so they went to Quirm. If the teachers at the school knew the two new students in first grade were vampires, they made sure not to mention the fact to anyone. Demonique and Dominique got absolutely hideous school uniforms, a note each from their mother excusing them from all athletics lessons taking place outdoors, and beds in a dorm room. Their mother had taught them not to need coffins for sleeping. She had taught them to endure moderate amounts of sunlight. She had taught them to not be shocked by holy symbols, and even taught them how to digest human food that contained garlic. Their childhood had never been easy.

Dominique slept in her dorm bed, exchausted after days spent trying to understand things in Quirmian. Demonique could be found in her bed whenever the matron came calling, but she didn't seem to do much sleeping anywhere. The rumors in the City began to speak of a demon child who appeared to criminals at night and drank their blood. Old vampire stories were remembered. But no one connected the child with the College – the child was obviously a little boy, a beggar boy with a felt cap on his head, on that all the gossips were agreed on.

One night, in their fifth year at the school, Demonique was just tossing her disguise into the stable hayloft, when she became aware of someone watching her. It was Dominique, of course.

"You've got blood on your cheek, Demonique." Dominique leaned closer and licked Demonique's cheek. "Human blood. You must let me hunt with you, or I will tell the teachers."

Demonique shook her head. "Since you've tasted it and all, you know I've hunted already tonight. And I won't hunt again until next week. If you can curb your hunger until then, then yes, you can hunt with me."

Dominique pouted. "Very well. But you shouldn't act so superior. I can do this, now." Dominique turned into a bat and flew up to the hayloft. There she took her own shape, and put on Demonique's felt cap.

White mist flowed from all sides, and suddenly Dominique found it hard to breathe. The mist turned into the form of her sister. "Sister-mine... I will always be one step ahead of you. I drank our father's blood, when I was three years old. And our father, of course, is ashes now. Where shall you find this power?" Demonique laughed. The felt cap was on her head, covering her long hair, and she looked like a boy, in as much as all little boys look like fiends from hell.

Dominique stood trembling. "You... you went into my lungs! You... I have no words! I shall drink your blood... one of these days I shall catch you unawares and drink your blood, and then I will have your powers and mine."

Demonique just shook her head. "Sister-mine, it is the simplest principle of tactics not to reveal your intentions to your enemy. Then again, you can't keep up with the tactics classes because you never took time to learn Latatian. Considering that it is only for our sake that our Lady Mother convinced this backward school to teach tactics in the first place, I daresay you could make some effort."

They were fourteen years old... but already they were being honed to rule over nations.

Dominique bristled, but found no sharp retort. Her time would come... perhaps today, in fencing class?

Polly listened to Maladict's story. "And what happened in fencing class?" She finally asked.

Maladict chuckled. "Oh, the teachers never let us face each other, not after the first time. She cut some girl's ear off that day, I think. There was a lot of parental complaint about that, even though the doctors managed to sew it on alright, and the stitches hardly showed."

Polly decided not to pursue this line of investigation farther. "I thought you told Strappi you couldn't use a sword?"

Maladict smiled a smile that was very reminiscent of her younger, wilder self. "And what makes you think I'd tell the truth to a man like Strappi? You'd have been better off lying yourself, Ozzer."

Polly sighed. "Point taken. One more question?"

"Ask away."

"Your name is, in its short form, Demonique Maladicta Carmille Lamiana Absinthe von Übervald. What is Dominique's name?"

Maladict groaned.

"Dominique Erzsébet Melisandre Lilith Valeriana von Überwald. Our father named us both. And now you're going to ask about our father, but I can't tell you his name. He was powerful... but not as powerful as our mother, and that, I think, is why he's dead."

Polly's mouth opened, but Maladict closed it with a sudden kiss.

"No. More. Questions. You already know more than is safe for you."

Polly sighed, and leaned against Maladict's shoulder, feeling beneath her cheek the epaulettes of the new, impressive uniform. Maladict had changed, and Polly was not sure how she felt about all these changes. My superior officer is a vampire who used to bite criminals in Quirm... and I have given her my heart, and how can I take back something I cannot reach? Do I even want my heart back, or am I just annoyed because I'm still a Sergeant?

"Thank you for telling all this to me."

Maladict didn't answer. In a few minutes, Polly realized she had fallen asleep where she sat. Polly helped her lie down on the bed, took off her boots, and covered her with a blanket.