The Emerald Lily (Vampire Blood)

By: Juliette Cross

For Kevin—

my own prince charming and happily-ever-after


Long, long ago, there lived a king and queen who were deeply in love. Out of their infinite joy, they bore a daughter—lovely and fair. Unfortunately, the birth was too much for the queen’s frail body, and she died. Though in mourning, the sad king still invited royalty and gentry from all over the empire to his palace, Briar Rose, to celebrate the birth of his beautiful child. For that was the dying wish of his beloved.

When the dark queen of Varis arrived in the great hall and peered into the bassinet with malevolent intent, she proclaimed that the infant must be betrothed to her youngest son. The king stood from his throne and declared that it would never be so. The king sensed the evil emanating from the empress and feared for the safety and well-being of his precious girl.

The empress stormed from the great hall, but not before she turned at the threshold and warned, “Mark me well. You will regret this injury you have done me.”

The king said nothing, knowing the dark queen was capable of crooked, evil deeds to get what she wanted. The throne room fell into a hush as all present bowed their heads in sorrow.

Then…from among the crowd stepped an old woman—her hair, face, cowl, and cloak all a snowy white. And though she was old, her eyes glittered like emerald stones, and her smile was kind. “There, there, my king. Do not be afraid.”

“How can I not be afraid?” he asked. “My darling child is in danger. The empress will stop at nothing.”

“Fear will not save her, my king. But I can. I come bearing a gift that will do more than protect her. It will save the whole world.”

“Who are you?” he asked.

She smiled. “All you need know is that I am a friend. Will you allow me to bestow my gift?”

An aura of peace hung about the woman, compelling the king to nod his approval. The woman bowed, then approached the cradle and gazed down at the beautiful babe.

She pulled from within her cloak a radiant stone, translucent and shimmering with myriad colors that glittered up to the vaulted ceiling. The crowd murmured in wonder.

“What is that?” asked the king.

“It is a fragment of the Stone of Making.”

He gasped and whispered, “The hartstone.”

The white woman did not answer, having eyes only for the infant girl, who peered up at her from wide, crystal-blue eyes. She held the stone above the baby and began to speak, her voice vibrating with power. With enchantment.

“You will grow even more beautiful and fair, yet you will walk in a waking slumber. When you are a woman, the dark queen will curse you with a living death.”

“No!” he cried, stepping forward. “Please help her.”

The white woman tapped the magic stone three times. Shimmering dust floated down in a magical whirl upon the babe’s cheeks, eyes, mouth, and gurgling tongue. A mystical wind blew through the castle, rustling the skirts of the women who gasped in awe, and billowing the banner above the king’s head which bore his sigil, the white dragon.

“But one day, darling girl, a prince will awaken your heart with a blood kiss. Not long after, you will drink fire into your soul and awaken the beast of vengeance and righteousness. And courage and hope.” The baby cooed as if she understood the old woman’s cryptic words, still resonating with magic and portent. The white woman pressed her thumb to the stone and then smudged the shimmery dust across the infant’s tiny forehead. “And you, blessed child,” she whispered, “you will awaken the white queen with emerald eyes and smite the evil one with one bite. You will be the savior of them all.”

Then she vanished into a swirling plume of smoke, leaving them in heavy silence with only the soft cooing of the babe echoing in the hall.

One year later, on the road home from a long journey, the king and his men were killed by brigands. The baby princess, now motherless and fatherless, and her kingdom were put into the care of a steward.

Time went on. The king and queen were forgotten. So was the white woman. But it mattered not at all…for the hartstone never forgets.

Chapter One

Briar Rose cut an eerie silhouette in the moonlit night. Sharp turrets and massive battlements would be formidable to scale and climb for most men. And vampires. But not for Mikhail and his four brethren in the Bloodguard. They’d watched from the woodlands since sunset. Watched and waited.

Mikhail flicked a hand, signaling his men. As one, the hooded vampires melded with the shadows and flashed to the eastern gate. Gregoravich cracked the neck of the first Legionnaire guard, then severed his head with a clean, deep slice. Dmitri, the second. They dropped the bodies along the inner wall.