A million years ago I wrote a short story titled Bonding with Graven. For the next few weeks I’m going to be posting it here to give you something to read while I work on other things 🙂
Steerl didn’t know what he expected to see at the castle of a vampire prince, but this wasn’t it. Where were the blood-soaked walls and drained bodies lining the walkway? It was anti-climatic to see caramel veined white marble covering the floor and strong, healthy men standing as guards. He’d half expected pale, drained bodies stacked from floor to ceiling. He pushed back the twinge of disappointment. His dreams of using the king’s unsuitability against him slipped through Steerl’s fingers like fine sand. His sister deserved a real marriage not the figurehead position they had mapped out for her.
He’d been against dragging Delilah to the vampire castle but their father had been adamant. She’d missed the last few years because of family drama. Delilah had caught a cold right before the last call and had escaped having to present herself. Even an immortal didn’t wish to be sneezed on.
Forced by his father to accompany his sister, Delilah, walked through airy hallways glancing with surprise at the numerous priceless objects scattered about with artful precision. Not the cold cave-like walls he had imagined in his dreams. Maybe Delilah’s future wouldn’t be as dark as he’d imagined.
A bit of tension toppled away, like heavy snow sliding off a boulder. So far it was an easy, if unsettling, assignment. It was difficult to protect his sister from unwanted attention while wearing a veil covering his face. Attention she was unlikely to get in the middle of the vampire prince’s palace, but it was the job assigned to him and he took his responsibilities and his sister’s safety seriously even if he didn’t agree with the final goal. Maybe their seeker had been wrong and she wasn’t fated to be a vampire king’s mate.
He glanced over at Delilah in her black captia garb and felt her knowing gaze watching him from beneath her veil. She knew how much he hated this. The captia, a traditional full body scarf worn by marriage petitioners, swathed her head to toe in black silk lace. Although the fabric was transparent enough to see to walk, it didn’t allow a great deal of motion. Steerl’s outfit was almost the same except his scarf ended at his shoulders and he wore a pair of black flowing pants made out of some silky material he didn’t recognize and a fitted black shirt.
Steerl’s father had presented him the outfit that morning and insisted he wear it out of respect to the royal family’s traditions. All the escorts he saw in the crowds around them wore the same garb so he suspected his politically savvy father knew what he was talking about. Good thing he hadn’t rebelled and wore his comfy jeans. It wasn’t like anyone would be looking at him anyway. All eyes would be on the female candidates. Rumours whipped around the castle that maybe the king was too picky and had turned down the only eligible mates and hoped to find someone different. What he was seeking no one knew.
As Steerl understood it the clothes he wore were to prevent distracting the prince from the prospective brides. Bare flesh was enticing to the vampires and they didn’t want anything distracting the senses from finding the proper mate. If the king did anything to hurt his sister, king or no king Steerl would knife the fucker. He might not be a big, bad vampire but he knew enough to stab a man in the most vulnerable locations.
Steerl loved few people. His bond with his sister surpassed his love for anyone else. He didn’t need his father to tell him he affection like his beloved sibling. With her blue-black hair and tall form Delilah favored their father, while Steerl took after his petite golden mother. There was only a hair’s length difference in their heights, which made it easy for him to match his stride to Delilah’s as he escorted her in slow smooth steps ready to catch her if she stumbled in her heels. As well as he could, through the black veil, Steerl scanned the people on either side of the walkway. His gaze swept back and forth, ready to step forward if his sister needed protection.
“Relax baby bro, no one is going to jump me.” Amusement slid through her tone.
“Damn right they aren’t going to jump you.” Rage, barely checked, vibrated his normally smooth voice to just above a growl. “I may not be much of a guard but I’m not going to let anything stop you from meeting the prince. Larel has never been wrong and if something prevents this marriage father will blame me. He still hasn’t forgiven me for not marrying the baron’s daughter.”
Last week Larel, the family seer, pronounced that the last Raisel of this generation would bond with the vampire prince. The thought of his sister so well set up still sent tremors of joy down Steerl’s spine. Money wasn’t a concern with their family, but he always worried about his gentle older sister. Not a great thinker, Delilah was the last to get a joke but the first to rush to a friend’s side. He could tell from the gleam in his father’s eyes that Delilah was his next matchmaking victim. If this didn’t work Steerl might send her to a Northern galactic nunnery.
Anything was better than his father’s plans. Their father arranged matches for his first three children and as far as Steerl could tell each of them was more miserable than the last.
After seeing the unhappy unions of his other two sisters and only brother, Steerl was determined not to let the same thing happen to the only one of his siblings he actually liked. Even his preference for men didn’t stop his father from trying to arrange a match for him every few months. Matches he refused to honor but annoying all the same. After all according to his father his love of men was just a phase he would grow out of as soon as he met the proper woman.
“What if he doesn’t like me?” Delilah’s voice trembled with nerves. Steerl shook free of his musings and focused on his nervous sibling.
“How can he not like you?” Steerl asked giving the question the brief attention it deserved. His sister was pretty, even tempered and open hearted. “Any man would be lucky to get you.”
Delilah continued, talking over her brother, her voice getting more and more distraught. “I’m not beautiful like you Steerl, the prince might not find me attractive.”
“Nonsense.” He stopped her in the middle of the procession and walked her up to the first knight who didn’t give her an inappropriate leer. “Excuse me sir.”
The knight went to attention, his back going so straight Steerl was certain a ruler would align with it perfectly. “What can I do for you, mateseeker?”
“Oh no. I’m just here for support. My sister is here for the mating.” Curious he couldn’t stop himself from asking. “I didn’t know they allowed male seekers?”
The guard shrugged. “Male, female it doesn’t matter we go by soul bonding not sex or appearance.”