“So, is it customary for humans to be kept as pets?” Seveline asked.
Maud sipped her coffee. It was genuine Earth coffee, given as a gift to the bride by House Krahr, and sweetened with some local syrup until it was less drink and more dessert. The bridal party about lost their minds when they watched her pour cream into it.
She was painfully aware of both Onda and Seveline starring at her. The questions started the moment she sat down and became progressively more outrageous. The last one was an insult. If she were a vampire, by now there would be blood.
It wasn’t a bad plan. Isolate her. Get her drunk. Insult her until she threw the first punch, then kill her. They were likely recording this to absolve themselves of blame. Maud had done a mental sweep of the room when she entered. The situation hasn’t changed. They were in a tower, in a round chamber. Eight tables, four vampires each. She could hold her own, but nobody was that good. Ilemina was right. If I draw my sword, I won’t make it out of here alive.
Her best defense was to pretend to be dense. “I do not know what you mean,” she said.
Seveline heaved a sigh. Onda leaned forward, brushing her chestnut hair out of the way. “It is a logical question. You are not a member of our society. You have no rights, no purpose, and offer no benefit to House Krahr.”
“Aside from sexual amusement for the Marshal,” Seveline added.
“In other words, you are being kept around as a source of comfort, much like a dog.”
“That’s not true,” Seveline said. “Dogs serve a purpose. They warn you of intruders and add to your safety.”
“Very well, not a dog then.” Onda waved her arm. “A bird. A pretty, ornamental bird.”
Maud raised her eyebrows. “So, what you are saying is, I am here for the Marshal’s sexual amusement like a pretty bird? Are members of House Kozor in the habit of copulating with their pet birds? I had no idea you had such exotic tastes.”
The two women blinked, momentarily derailed.
Seveline switched to Ancestor Vampiric. “I’m going to wring her neck.”
The bride chose that moment to float by, all smiles. She smoothly turned, rested one hand on Seveline’s shoulder, and still smiling, said, “Do it and I will personally jab a knife in your eye. You will not ruin this for us. You have a simple job – provoke this bitch. How hard could this be? The Hunt is about to start. Get on with it.”
The bride offered Maud a bright smile. “Are you enjoying yourself? These two aren’t bothering you, are they?”
The temptation to answer in Ancestor Vampiric was almost too much. “Not at all. They’ve been the soul of courtesy.”
Onda looked like she was about to have an aneurism.
The bride’s smile sharpened. “So glad to hear it.”
She floated away.
“So, you’re content with being a bed warmer?” Onda asked. “How will this reflect on your daughter? Or do you expect her to learn by example?”
“What a good question,” Seveline said. “Perhaps you have already selected a client for her?”
“What a disturbing thought,” Maud said. “Sexual contact with a child is forbidden. It is incredibly damaging to the child. I am surprised that this is tolerated within House Kozor. This is turning out to be a very educational conversation. Birds, children… is anything off limits to your people?”
Onda turned grey, shaking with rage. Seveline glared. “We do not have sex with children!”
Vampires at other tables turned to look at them.
“So, just birds, then?” Maud asked.
Seveline picked up the pitcher of coffee, jumped to her feet, and hurled the contents at her. There was no time to dodge. The coffee was barely warm, but it drenched her completely.
Onda’s eyes were as big as saucers. The room went silent.
Seveline stared straight at her, anticipation in her eyes.
Maud looked back. It’s still your move, bitch.
Seveline unhinged her jaws. “Coward.”
Under the table, Maud sank her fingernails into her palm. In her mind, she flipped the table, gripped her sword, and drove her blade into Seveline’s gut.
A moment passed.
The sticky coffee slid down her neck, dripping from her hair.
Seveline bared her fangs in a vicious grimace, spun on her heel, and stomped off. The door hissed shut behind her.
Maud sat very still. This could still go bad. If they came at her now, her best bet would be to jump out the window. It was a thirty-foot fall to the ledge below, but she could survive it.
The bride opened her mouth. Every pair of eyes watched her.
“My Lady, we are dreadfully sorry. I do not know what came over her.”
“Clearly,” Maud said, her tone dry, “some people just can’t handle their coffee.”
A light ripple of laughter spread through the gathering.
“You are most gracious,” the bride said.
Oh you have no idea. “I implore you, think nothing of it. Please excuse me, I must now change.”
“We wouldn’t dream of keeping you.”
Try it and you’ll regret it.