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Of Light and Darkness: The Vampire's Daughter

DEDICATION

For Frantisek Mach, my muse, my inspiration, and own personal Valek. And for my mother, who never stopped believing in magic, and never stopped believing in me.

Prologue: A Narrative

I, being of mind, body, and death was fully aware journeying beyond the borders of my Occult city was strictly against The Code of the Central European Magic Regime. I missed the human city beyond all reason — missed it enough even to break the law. There was no stopping me as I flew to my escape.

I hurtled through the window, splintered glass flying around me as I plummeted several stories to the dark, alley floor. I glanced around to make sure I remained unseen by passing humans. Blood soaked my chest from where a nefarious wizard had stabbed me with his wretched letter opener. Though thankfully, I felt no pain. I could hear shouting above me. Guards were being called. I had to run.

Too fast for any of them to see, I dodged each one, knowing I did not have time to act on any of my instincts. I held my breath and kept my pace as the flesh wound in my center began to slowly mend itself. Law One, arguably the most important law of The Magic Code, meant any creature of magic blood could not expose what they truly were to any mortal. I was already breaking Law One simply by being in the capital city, not to mention the many other laws I’d already violated that evening.

None of the guards’ thoughts were audible to me anymore. I glanced back just in time to see the platoon run off in a different direction through the dimly lit alleys of Old Town. I was too fast — too powerful. Vladislov knew this was the case the moment I broke into his chamber, behind what he thought to be impenetrable palace walls. I chuckled as I slowed, the world breaking into real time around me. It seemed so much slower, like it was standing still, as I ran.

Prague was unseasonably warm that evening, bustling with East Germans and natives thriving against the organized chaos in the streets. The majority of the German refugees packed themselves in and around the embassy walls, making it increasingly difficult for me to ignore the aroma of so much flesh in one place.

The Golden City of my memory, gleaming brilliantly under the sun, was now a mere indigo shadow under oppressive red and yellow flags. The parallels between the mortal world and ours were uncanny. I cursed the tower of the Regime Palace as it dipped back beneath the sea of city spires behind me.

Perching on a forsaken bench in the middle of Hradcany, I listened to a folk band play a native song under the glow of a crooked streetlamp. I recognized the song made famous by Karel Kryl. I studied them all. I smelled their warmth. I heard their happiness. It was as though I was watching a play, as if I were the reality looking in on the make-believe. The exact same way they would feel if they ever happened to look in on me.

Passersby threw coins into a tattered hat near the band, and I stayed there into the early hours of the morning. Fixated. Memories of myself, as I used to be, surfaced in my mind.

A group of drunken Russians stumbled out of a nearby tavern, their sound obnoxious and intruding against the peaceful acoustic din. The young women smiled flirtatiously at me as their pursuers pulled them past, casting threatening glares. I chuckled. Little did those men know what a threat I really could be. I shifted the chip on my shoulder and averted my gaze.

Peering eagerly into the hat now filled with small change, the band celebrated their night’s earnings and packed their instruments away into their cases. Soon they disappeared from the city square. I was alone once more.

The moon was beginning to retreat to the underbelly of the earth, dawn’s army of light invading over the horizon. I would be dying soon. It was time to return to my home — my prison. I craned my head up to look at the stars, delicately woven beading that mapped out our fate. Fate. The word used to make sense to me. Though now, I learned to only appreciate the idea of self. I had become my own friend over the vast years that turned on a dial like minutes. Expendable. Life to me was expendable.

Walking out of the town square, I heard a wailing. Muffled and hidden, like no sound I had ever been familiar with before, it was slight enough so even the keenest human ear would have missed it. But there were also thoughts. Small, simple pictures that seemed human coming from just behind a nearby shrub.

Inching around the corner of the boxy greenery, I expected to find some malignant little monster waiting for me just on the other side. My hands hardened into claws. My cat’s eyes shifted around in the dark. I was ready to attack, to feed if I had to.

But I found nothing like what I expected. I returned back from beast the moment I saw her, a tiny body wriggling in a pile of rags that did nothing to keep her warm. A mortal infant. Curious, I knelt over her and saw tear droplets quivering on her downy cheeks. Little auburn wisps from the top of her head shuddered in the breeze.

The child stared at me with large, glassy eyes. I looked around to see if there was anyone to claim her, perhaps from some horrible mistake they made by leaving her there. Alas, the street now was empty, and no one seemed to have remembered the lonely little being. I sighed and my gums began to throb with a familiar pain. I gazed down at her and could feel my pupils spread, engulfing my entire eye in black. She smelled so pure. Clean and completely uncontaminated, like breathing fresh air. Her blood would taste sweet, but I feverishly shook those demons from my mind.

I slid my long, cold hands underneath her and lifted her out of the crude nest of covers. The child cooed at me and looked wondrously at the world around us. Little noises continued to slip from her mouth. I watched her, rather surprised at myself. It was impossible — out of everything which existed in my horrible world of nightmarish things, this impossibly tiny human was the first thing in a hundred years that scared me. Me, the monster. I chuckled, despite my fear.

She peered up at my grave-marker face and continued to make slight, curious noises at me, naive to our deadly differences. This innocent little mortal was so weak, vulnerable, and terrifying.

“I am not going to kill you,” I convinced myself. Glancing around the square, a sign indicating the Charles Bridge caught my eye. “Charlotte.” The name fit her so well. My decision had been made. Walking at a steady, human pace, all the while transfixed by her, I carried her away from the bushes, not taking my eyes off her for a second. I — we — made our way back home, into the deep woods of Bohemia.

I was to be alone no more.

Chapter One

The Bohemian Occult

A twig cracked behind Charlotte. She stopped to see where the sound had come from. Her pulse leapt into her throat as her eyes sifted around in the dark for a pursuer. The Regime had increased the security around Occult

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