"I already know you're weak to sunlight," I told Claude the following morning. We were sitting outside, he in the shade and I in the feeble sunlight. I had convinced him to give me some answers, "What happens when you do go into the sun?"
"Sebastian and I are not true vampires, so we can move freely in the sun without suffering damage. However, we still experience pain. Lord Niklaus, because he is so old, his skin will rot within seconds and his bones will turn to ash, and along with that will come a pain unlike any you can ever experience. It is one way to kill him. If he returns to the shade before he dies, he can heal almost instantly," he said, "It has only happened a few times before, and only by mistake. It is not something he tends to do."
"So how old are you, and Niklaus?"
"Are you sure you want to know that, my lady?" he asked.
"If I didn't, I wouldn't have asked," I said irritably.
"The last ball we had celebrated Lord Niklaus's seven hundred and eighty-ninth birthday," he said, causing my eyes to snap up to his in shock, "His great-grandfather was Meiyou's son. Sebastian and I are in our three-hundreds."
"Wow. That's - uhm - little disgusting ... and it explains why Niklaus would turn to ash in sunlight: it shows you for what you really are?"
"So what would happen if a person who just became a vampire went into sunlight?" I asked.
"They would only experience the pain. Their physical appearance will remain the same."
"So, is Lee and Jack really family of his?" I asked, "Are they also vampires?"
"No," he said, "With each passing generation, Lord Niklaus's 'family' changes. Jack and Lee are descendants of his younger brother."
"What about garlic?"
"Crucifixes and crosses?"
"Beautiful to look at."
"Very foolish to try."
"What?" I asked, surprised.
"Lord Niklaus cannot come in contact with water," he said.
"What about you?" I asked, "I saw you wash dishes once."
"These marks," he said, taking off one of his gloves and showing me the numerous symbols on his nails, "They are protection seals Lord Niklaus put on Sebastian and me. They are complicated techniques that have very long and tedious explanations. As for the other elements: earth cannot bind us, air cannot cut us, but fire can burn us, but we heal quickly, so it will not kill us."
"How are you killed, then? Besides sunlight," I asked.
"Why would you want to know that, my lady?"
"In case I ever meet another vampire and for some bizarre reason Niklaus is not by my side," I said.
"He will always be by your side in time of need, my lady."
"So sunlight and water are the only ways to kill you?" I pressed.
"No." I groaned, but did not press the matter further.
"Why do you wear such strong glasses? Why do you wear them at all?"
"I was born blind," he replied, "Vampirism gave me weak sight, and the glasses make up for the rest."
“Why did you drink my blood yesterday?” I asked softly. “Niklaus almost killed me because of it.”
I watched in wonder one of the rare times when Claude showed emotion: in this case, guilt. He spoke softly, “Your cheek was bleeding, my lady, and I lost control. If you wish for me to punish myself-“
“No, you’re not going to punish yourself,” I interrupted, “I just wanted a reason.”
“A reason … well, I have always wondered what your blood tastes like, my lady, and I saw an opportunity, which I took…”
"I see … that's all I can think of for now," I said thoughtfully.
"Very well," he said, "Let us go inside."
I followed him up the stairs and into the entrance hall to find Aurora there. The moment she laid eyes on me, she pulled her scythe from her back and swung it at me. I was frozen from shock, but Claude caught the blade before it hit me.
“Damned slut,” she barked.
"What are you doing, Aurora?" I turned to my left to see Niklaus standing in the doorway to the dining hall, his hands behind his back. Aurora's expression changed immediately to horror. I felt even my own fear levels rise.
"I - I'm sorry," she stuttered, and I heard the chain rattle because of her trembling.
"Sebastian," Niklaus called, still dangerously calm. The butler stepped out from behind him.
"Yes, my lord?"
"Take her to her room and torture her," Niklaus ordered simply. I knew he meant for Sebastian to make her hallucinate and torture her there, as there were no actual torture chambers in the mansion.
"No - please - I didn't mean-"
"By what means, my lord?" Sebastian asked.
"Hang her by her hands for two days without anything to eat or drink, and stab her arms and legs repeatedly," Niklaus replied.
"This is the second time you've insulted me for no reason," I tell her, "First you called me a whore and now you call me a slut. Tell me what your problem is."
She glanced nervously at the butlers and Niklaus in turn, "Well, I'm mean to say-"
"Ignore them!" I bellowed.
"It's because you are an effing slut!" she said heatedly, "Luka doesn't want me near him! He says there's another girl in his life, and who else could it be than you?"
"Uhm, there are about forty females in this castle, I think," I said irritably.
"Thirty-three, my lady," Sebastian said smartly.
"There you have it," I said, "Thirty-three females. You know I hate that piece of crap, so why the hell would I look twice at him if I were looking for romance?"
After a pause, Niklaus carelessly said to Sebastian, "Take her away. Aurora, I will add a day to every scream you utter."
"Y-yes, my lord," she said, a tear sliding down her cheek. I rolled my eyes as she followed the butler from the hall.
"My lady," Niklaus said to me, "Follow me, please."
With a nervous glance at Claude, I followed Niklaus up the stairs to the very top floor, where I knew his room to be. He led me inside and closed the door. I scanned the room, seeing nothing but the bed and paintings everywhere.
"Is something wrong?" I asked.
I gasped as I was pressed against the wall. The weight of Niklaus's stare was unbearable, but before I could lower my gaze, he lowered his to my neck. My heart started racing.
"How I have desired your blood these past months," he asked softly. Panic froze me in place, and I felt myself beginning to tremble again. I wondered whether he was going to kill me like this. “I have admired this artery for so long…”
The sharp pain was familiar, but it hurt more than it had done when Claude bit me. As my muscles relaxed again, the sense of euphoria was stronger, too. After a few seconds the sharp pain returned and Niklaus pulled away. His eyes gleamed a brilliant red for a few moments, and the smile on his face suggested that he was feeling something close to euphoria. When the gleam faded, he looked me in the eyes.
That wasn't so bad, I thought, relieved.
Well, it wasn't pleasant, either, was it? Dark replied.
He leaned in and planted a kiss on my lips. I stayed frozen, afraid to move. If I pulled away, he might kill me on the spot. I felt like vomiting when he ran his tongue over one of my canines. I heard him wince.
"Your teeth are sharp," he said, pulling away, but not before accidentally letting me taste his blood. I felt my eyes widen and twitch a few times of their own accord and I felt a strange tingle run through my body, and I let out a shaky breath. Before I knew it, I had him pinned to the ground. I did not know what was going on, and why my body was acting so strangely all of a sudden, but I could tell that Niklaus did not mind. Dark’s influence on my body was as strong as ever, and I suddenly felt a craving for the cool liquid that was his blood.
I meant to nibble softly on his lower lip, but I felt the cold, sweet liquid smoothly running into my mouth, sending another strange tingle through my body.
"M-my lady?" he asked uncertainly, but his voice sounded far off and unfocused.
Before I knew it I had bitten harder, causing more blood to spill from his lip. The sensation left me numb, and my vision became slightly unfocused.
"Victoria?" his voice echoed in my head.
Suddenly I felt myself being pushed onto the cold floor, my hands above my head, and Niklaus was towering over me. I gasped and pulled myself from my trance.
"What - what the-?" I asked, confused.
"Why do you want my blood?" he asked - no demanded.
"I don't know," I said automatically, and I saw that the cut on his lip was barely visible, the blood gone. He let my hands go.
Not being able to resist, I cupped his neck in one hand. A look of confusion passed over his face, and I tilted his chin back with my thumb, exposing his neck. I could see his impossibly slow pulse and ran my canines softly over the skin until I felt a decent spot.
"Victoria, I would not do that if I were you," he said suddenly, but I ignored him. I pressed my teeth as gently as I could into his flesh, the sweet, cool liquid flowing into my mouth. The sense of euphoria reappeared, but this time I held onto myself.
My senses dulled somewhat, and my body started trembling again. Just before I lost myself, I pulled away and gazed into his eyes, feeling a little confused.
Oh, my God, you did it! Dark yelled happily, Niklaus's blood was the last requirement for the tampered Mark to take full effect!
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