“Maxwell Alderman… Aha, here we go.”
The clerk pulled out a map of the housing areas and circled his new address. “All of your belongings have been relocated as well. Your partner was given both keys as well.” “Mr. Spellman, both your keys are in count Astorio’s possession. We can issue you a new key if either of them were lost but it will take twenty four hours. I’ll have the request placed and you can pick it up at your convenience if you wish.”
The needle dropped delicately from her finger onto the surface of the record, taking just a moment to start playing. Soft piano notes floated out from the gramophone, a little scratchy with age, and she let herself indulge in the music. The quiet, desperate scratching of boots on the stone floor and the creaking of fingers, white knuckled and trembling, slowly splintering wood faded away into hazy memories of dappled warmth on her skin and the laughter of a family long gone, long replaced by time and responsibilities. So rarely did she let herself remember a time when the hunger never existed, a time when she thought the world was safe and happy, that demons were only fairy tales and monsters existed under the bed only in the imagination of the young.
But those were times best left where they were. Red eyes opened slowly as she focused on the world around her. She could feel her sister’s impatient gaze on her back, she could smell the fear in his withered heart, she could feel the desperation rolling off her previous student’s fingers as they scratched uselessly at Nox’s wrists. Letting out a long sigh, Ryner turned with a friendly smile on her face as she settled back into the chair in the cold room. A champagne flute sat on a small table next to her chair alongside a dossier and a plain cloth napkin. Count Lutheran sat across with fingers leaving indents in the wooden arms, staring past her at Nox whose hand covered Mariette’s mouth and kept her just on the tips of her toes. Before they’d invited Lutheran in, the girl remained docile and cooperative and that wouldn’t do. It ruined the ambiance after all. So Ryner murmured exactly why she was there and Nox sntached her up like a rag doll just as the Countess screamed and bolted for the door.
Ryner let Lutheran stew a while longer, picking up the dossier. She flipped it open, reviewing the documents about the murder of Count Dracul and the exile of his daughter Arianna, the disappearance of Ikelos, and the full investigation report of Mariette Eve and her family’s extended vacation. Each report made her feel worse, not because her sister and she have systematically destabilized the House but rather Lutheran forcing her hand this far. She’d forgiven his incompetence the first time and spoken politely about it the second time. She still needed Varis’s influence for the time being and with this many problems, the noble brat wouldn’t stay contently in the dark for much longer. She’d already dealt with a few unauthorized inquiries but there were bound to be more snakes in the garden if she didn’t get this under control. She snapped the folder shut.
“The Noila family isn’t in the habit of letting mistakes go unpunished, let alone three, Lutheran.” Ryner spoke conversationally, like she was inquiring about the weather. “I would like to remind you, my Mother’s favor secured you your position. Just a few words, a rumor here and there, and a leaked report would ruin you, Lutheran. You have so many enemies in the House, each one with a better handle on their affairs and the affairs of their factions." She let the folder fall open on the table next to her, angled so the other vampire could clearly see everything in it. She pulled a letter out of the back, clearly addressed to Count Benjamin Eve.
"Dracul's would-be usurper managed to get his hands on a piece of history about my territory that was not authorized for release. Rather than bring the Council to bear against him, I believe I'd like to bind his spawn to me. Do you think you're capable of ensuring that information makes it into his hands?" Ryner asked sweetly.
"W-well, Princess that's a little difficult." Lutheran laughed nervously at Ryner's questioning look. "See, Pierce doesn't take orders all that well and that's a very specific thing you want. May-maybe something I'm not supposed to know about. So I'm not real-"
Ryner’s finger traced the rim of the glass as he spoke. A faint cracking could be heard and a muffled blood curdling scream. Lutheran watched in horror as a member of his house bled from the temples as Nox crushed the little vampire’s skull. She was slow about it, pausing periodically to let the girl scream herself hoarse. Lutheran made to speak, a protest on his tongue, but Ryner pressed a finger to her lips. She raised the glass and Nox let Marienette’s blood drip steadily into it. Once Ryner waved her away, Nox crushed the vampire’s skull completely against the wall and took her place behind her older sister. Ryner swirled the glass, breathing in the metallic tang. Her smile never wavered.
“I’ve always preferred Noble blood. And it’s been far too long since I’ve been allowed to indulge.” Ryner drank long and deep from the glass, a pleased sigh following her tongue as it darted out to lap at the stain on her lower lip. Ryner’s eyes never left Lutheran’s as she sipped at it again and again and again, showing no sign of the usual sickness vampiric blood afflicted. She drained the glass with one last content sigh.
"Please forgive me, Lord Eve. Duty has demanded my attention beyond my appetite's patience.” Her eyes barely cleared, still bright red despite the meal. She picked up the napkin and blotted her mouth. “Now, you were saying?”
"Nothing to be concerned about. It will be arranged as you wish" He spoke shakily.
"I expect so. Take this." She tossed the letter into his lap and with the press of a button, the shackles unlocked. Lutheran stood on shaky legs and bowed before he took his leave as quickly as he could. Ryner waited until the door shut behind him before covering her mouth with the napkin and retching. Only a few drops of blood came up and she clicked her tongue irritably. Her Sire forced her to acclimate to the experience all those years ago. Apparently, it’d been far too long since she drank and made a mental note to continue doing so. Behind her, Nox also made her way to the door.
“Thank you for your help.” Ryner said as she stood, fetching her supplies to clean up the mess.
“Now I owe you nothing.” The other spat and slammed the door behind her. Ryner sighed as the display. She missed the nights they would spend together before they were driven apart. She chuckled at the memory of teaching the younger girl to ride, of teaching her how to loose an arrow and set a trap, of long nights of hide and seek deep in the woods shrugged off as survival exercises. Ryner thought she’d be a useful ally but Greta discovered her plans and twisted the girl against her. Ryner sighed again at an opportunity lost.
Staring at the rotting corpse of a hundred year old vampire, Ryner considered asking one of the servants to clean up after it. But doing so would add one more unknown variable that the other Houses or even her own Sire could pick apart and she had little interest involving more individuals that she already had. ROlling her sleeves up, she picked up a trash bag and a bucket and mop and set to work cleaning up the mess her fun had made.