King Lucius Vladonov sat on his desk, reflecting on the kingdom and his priority list: replan the kingdom's budget, renovate the west wing, eliminate Lord Dimitri (for insubordination) and hire some of his best trackers to find the heir to the Dragomir realm, Crown Princess Valentina Aurora Daenerys Dragomir and his betrothed.
Future Queen to an equally powerful vampire realm, their union will go down in history as the greatest event in vampiredom. No one will challenge them or their descendants. Together, he will have it all: power, wealth, and greatness.
A knock from the red oak door disturbed his thoughts.
"Enter", called Lucius.
"Your majesty, your uncle request your presence in the music room," said the servant boy, as he bowed deeply and rather shakily, which made Lucius smile.
"Is it a matter of state?" questioned Lucius.
"Um…I believe it's…um…" stuttered the boy as he pulled his collar in answer to his perspiration.
"Then tell Lord Julius that I am in no state for amusements. Surely my cousin Lord Ramus' presence is enough" answered Lucius as he dismissed the boy and resumed back to his planning.
"My king, Lord Julius is adamant and he … he said something about taking your guests to you-…"
With a slam on his oak table, Lucius stomped out of his study and made his way east of the castle. Once there, he roughly pushed the double doors to the music room open and was immediately met with shrill laughter. That shrill laughter belonged to Lady Anna Karoff, daughter to Lord Radu Karoff and elder of the Vladonov council.
"Why, I thought I will not see you tonight, Your Majesty" said Anna, as she tugged at her rather low neckline of her scarlet dress. "I thought you've forgotten me".
"I was preoccupied…"answered Lucius, trying hard to ignore her suggestive hand.
"Oh your majesty, if you need me to do anything…"suggested Anna, as she blushed and winked at Lucius.
Lucius sighed and regretted that night on his sixteenth birthday where he admittedly got carried away and unfortunately spent a night with Anna. In truth, he was blinded by his anger that the elders from the Dragomir realm did not present Valentina to him by then... and maybe consuming too much blood-mixed alcohol was also to blame. Regardless, he was pissed that he could not spend his coming of age and the next 7 years courting his betrothed like the humans. Since being told of the betrothed at age 4, he had always imagined him and Valentina playing soldiers at 8 years, sharing their first kiss at 12, pashing behind school buildings and becoming head boy and girl togehter.
Brushing Anna's constant flirting aside and staring blankly at the window that faces the east and towards the Dragomir's realm, Lucius reflected back on a memory.
It was five days after his fourteenth birthday and he was riding his black stallion with Julius. His uncle was rather attentive that day, making sure that the horse was saddled and well fed before Lucius arrived at the stables. Julius even bought bottled blood for the trip through the Carpathians. Lucius, on the other hand, grew suspicious.
"Is there something you want to tell me uncle?" questioned Lucius. "If it is, skip the pleasantries and be forward".
With a sign of relief, Julius removed his fur hat and looked at his nephew. "You are fourteen, a vampire and now you will soon be a man". When his nephew answered him with a confused look, Julius elaborated, "Madam Marion is at the castle as we speak, getting her girls…um, ready. They will teach you the art of manhood, putting it discreetly".
Shocked, young Lucius said, "But uncle, what about the betrothal? Wouldn't the Dragomir feel betray if they find out?"
"Nephew, they will not know. I believe Madam Marion and her girls know the consequences of uttering Vladonov's secrets" answered Julius as he fingered his wooden stake. "Besides, any bride would want her husband to know such things and therefore, the Dragomir princess should be thankful on her wedding night".
With these reassurances, Lucius raced back to the castle and became a man.
Now at 23 years, he shook his head at his rash behaviour as a teenager, which followed after that day. From the lowly kitchen maid to the titled Princess Margaret from a far off kingdom, he greeted them all. He didn't care for the gossip that might've followed. No, it was the constant pursuit from these women. Thinking that he will make one of them his official mistress, they made themselves present at every official gathering, at every polo match or trip to Monte Carlo for a night of poker and business. The Dragomirs will definitely not be happy.
It was at this moment that something red and pearly caught his eyes and made him freeze.
"Cousin", Lucius called to his brown haired, right-hand man standing stoic in the corner. The man named Dante looked at the black haired king, concerned at his unnatural stance. "Is something the matter, Lucius?"
"Dante, you have a photographic memory, so tell me how many towers do the Dragomir castle have?" questioned Lucius
"There are six…"
"Any red flags on top…?"
"No cousin, the castle was destroyed in a fire and abandoned 17 years ago. Why do you ask…?"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but there are now seven intact towers with red flags on top" said Lucius. The music room suddenly went quiet as every vampire and mortal women looked towards the now intact and indestructible Dragomir castle.
"It can't be…" muttered Elder Lord Anton.
"…and the Dragomir elders didn't even bother to mention such things last meeting… this is preposterous", exclaimed Elder Lord Alexandru.
As Lucius stepped onto the adjoining balcony, he was followed by his cousin and to his misfortune, Anna and her ladies-in-waiting. He couldn't believe he was completely blind to the Dragomir's renovations. It must have taken them at least a year to rebuild the castle and it went unnoticed to the Vladonovs.
"Why do you think the Dragomirs have not said anything? Surely, they must have known about the betrothal", Dante said besides him as he marvelled at the glimmering castle. "Such work must have been done with great secrecy, which does not exist. Why do you think the princess hasn't presented herself? Her debut must have been at least a year ago".
"Maybe she is unfortunate looking and is not ready to announce her arrival", answered Anna on Lucius' left side. The comment was followed by snickers from the ladies-in-waiting, Anna's ridiculous smirk and Dante's frown. The balcony was quiet while people from the music room stepped out to admire the beautiful castle. Suddenly, a loud bang from the castle erupted and fireworks came from the towers.
"I guess that's her announcement that she's back" said Dante and Lucius smirked. Anna looked on darkly at the castle. The fireworks from the castle were soon answered with several smaller fireworks in the distance.
"What does that mean?" asked Lucius' mouse-like cousin, Lord Cezar.
"It means that the Princess is back and she demands her people's loyalty. She just got it," answered Dante before he followed Lucius to the stables, where they each mounted a horse and rod to the Dragomir territory. Lucius had an idea to confront his princess and demand her overdue presence. But if he could be honest, he just wanted to see her and return home to confirm the myth: that Dragomir women are beautiful.