Grima heard the call of her daughter’s voice caress her mind and she instantly froze. The last time she had seen Varna was in the Duke’s quarters and it had not been a warm visit. She spouted orders to the other demons in the kitchens. The suffocating fires of the huge furnaces and stoves steamed across the room while servants went about their duties to prepare for the Legions to adorn the meeting hall. It was close to dinner time, the kind of feeding frenzy that would have every demon in the realm chomping at the jaws to get a piece of fresh meat after a day of scavenging the upper realms for souls. Her eyes roamed the room making sure everything was moving as smoothly as could be expected at such a late hour, before she slipped beyond the door to the hallway. She was dressed in servant’s clothes, brown and dingy; her attire spoke of her servitude to the Duke. Her hands were still covered in the blood of the beast she had slaughtered for the evening meal, but there was no time to wash up before she met her daughter in the Duke’s private chambers. Her shoes were soft against the cobblestone floor, but her eyes were ever watchful, knowing that the walls held no secrets from its Master’s ears. She passed beyond the torches that danced to life as if on command. Her pace was quick but cautious. She took in a long breath and let it out, attempting to calm her nerves, while she slipped beyond on hallway into another. The air was thick and musky like a sewer after a heavy rain, but after centuries of living in this hell realm Grima was used to the laboring on her lungs with each passing breath. She stood just outside the Duke’s quarters. She noticed the door was free of the Duke’s guards when she knocked on the door. There was something very wrong, she thought, when the door opened. The moaning of the door as the dead vines revealed the Master’s chambers sent a chill down her spine as she peeked through the entrance. She waited for her daughter to summon her inside before she would allow her feet to cross the threshold. The glow of the fire could be seen just inside the dark room but there was no warmth flowing over the air.
Varna heard the knock at the door and it brought her out of her thoughts. She gripped the royal blue blood stained sheet tighter around her body as she called out for the door to open. “Come in Mother”. Her words were haunting as they left her lips, the reality of what she had to do was heavy on her heart and she needed her mother’s advised. She looked over her shoulder to beckon Grima to come in. She was caked with blood from the kitchens and smelled of spices and raw meat. But even dressed to fit her station Varna’s heart constricted with love for her mother regardless and that caused her alarm. “I see I caught you in the middle of meal preparation. I’m sorry but this is important”. She stood up to greet her mother properly when the door slammed behind the elderly woman who walked into the room. She maybe the Duke’s new pet, but she was still Mistress of the realm while the Marquis was away. She kept her face stoic, the facade of a strong woman greeted the servant before her, but the blood covering the fabric caused the woman alarm. Varna looked down at the silk sheet covering her naked body and a scowl appeared on her forehead. “He came back before I woke and in his anger he’s destroyed the only link to get the Marquis back”. She spoke as if this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but she was angry that the Duke would be so careless. Her purple eyes met the female before her and she had to swallow back the emotions that were rising in her throat. “I have thought a lot about this and I need your help. You know the Duke better than I, or so you say, and I need to trap him into giving me his blood”. She left the words to hang between them hoping her mother wouldn’t refuse to help when their true Master’s very life may depend on it.
Grima entered the room cautiously when she heard her daughter’s voice. She looked around the room, noticing the blood and rubble on the floor, and her eyes instantly went to the female standing before her. The royal blue of the silk sheet made Varna’s skin look luminescent to her eyes and her heart nearly stilled in her chest when she noticed the blood stains. Her eyes lifted to meet her daughter’s gaze, self-consciously wiping at her clothes, when the kitchen was mentioned. She swallowed back the emotions flooding her throat while she listened to her daughter talk about needing the Duke’s blood and revealing that the cistern had been destroyed. “I beg you child reconsider what you are asking me. He will kill us both if we try to trick him”. She moved to stand closer to her daughter, the need to touch her overwhelming, as the panic of such a plan could lead them both to death. “What do you plan on doing with his blood if by some miracle he gives it to you?” Grima’s eyes darkened as she recalled how deadly her previous master could be. She placed her hand softly on her daughter’s arm and looked into her eyes. “You of all people know you are playing with fire here. I mean look at you”. Her eyes lowered to examine her daughter’s body and the blood on the sheet assuming that it was her blood not the blood to the cistern when it hit the floor. “I can smell him on you even as I stand here”. Her voice faltered as the reality of what had happened in the room before she was summoned registered in her mind. She cursed the bastard for touching her daughter again after she tried to lay seed of the legitimacy of Varna being his daughter. “He will not fall for any deception that will leave him vulnerable. Why can’t you see that?”
Varna felt the anger build even as her mother tried to talk some sense into her. The warmth of Grima’s hand on her arm wouldn’t waver the need to obtain the Duke’s blood nor would the concern in the woman’s voice. Varna stepped away from her mother to rethink the plan and her eyes drifted over to the blood stained cobble stone floor. “I can’t do this alone, Mother. I can’t continue to be his slave and not die a little each time he touches me”. She turned to look at her mother once more, the sadness in her eyes was very clear, as the hot salty tears fell along her pale cheeks. She tugged at the sheet as her hands shook, the pain in her mother’s eyes matched her own, but still she wouldn’t give up her plan. “You know him better than I and I need your help to seduce him into giving me his blood”. She stepped across the cobblestones to stand in front of the woman who had given birth to her and protected her from the time she was born. She needed the strength of that love to help her get what she wanted no matter what the cost. “Can you do this for me?” Her voice was but a whisper between them, low and desperate, she pleaded for her mother to help her take the Duke’s blood. If Grima could help her, then it would be the first time since the Duke’s return, that some hope finally graced her life. She was tired of being his victim, his concubine and his pain threshold. She wanted the Marquis back and she was willing to die to make it happen.
“It doesn’t surprise me child that you are so stubborn”. Grima spoke with a hint of humor in her voice while she thought about what her daughter was truly asking her to do. She cupped Varna’s cheeks in her hands and rubbed away the tears. “I have watched you grow into a very strong female and even when I feared for your life, deep down I knew you would be stronger than I ever was.” She leaned forward and kissed her daughter’s cheek. Her eyes closed briefly as the scent of ginger poured over her senses and then she stepped back to look into the brave face of the child she had carried in her womb so many centuries ago. She let out a heavy sigh and looked around the room. She knew how her daughter felt about the Marquis and there was no mistaken the emotions that poured from her lips. “I will help you any way I can, but I want you to promise me you’ll be careful. He has no limits the damage he can cause and you are not immune to his wrath.” She shook her head as knelt down next to the blood on the floor and then snapped her head back to look at her daughter. “Is the blood on the sheet yours?” She needed clarification to assess just how dangerous the situation was. Even if her daughter enjoyed pain, there was a difference between brutal cruelty and staving off personal emotions. “He is a sick bastard who enjoys the pain he can cause others. His son was not immune and now you are his new toy”. She stood up from the floor and turned to face Varna with a sad expression curling on her lips. Her violet eyes were filled with a mixture of anger and concern. She had loved the Duke once, but that love soon turned to anger after he turned her out of his bed when she needed him most.
“I get my strength and stubbornness from you”. She wasn’t afraid anymore to express her feelings about having her as a mother. She smiled as the elderly woman spoke of her nature and a sense of pride poured over her. Varna wasn’t perfect by any means, but to been as strong was a surprise when she had always thought of herself as just another play thing for the ruling class to toy with it. “Was my father as stubborn as I am?” She wasn’t sure where that question came from, it was out of her mouth before she could withdraw it and now it was dangling in the air between them. She wanted to know everything she could about her parents even when the situation needed to remain focused on the treachery at hand. “I’m sorry, Mother. I know I shouldn’t ask when things are so confusing right now” She turned away from Grima and walked over to the fire. The embers were slowly dying down leaving the room with a soft glow but very little warmth. She grabbed the steal poker from the edge of the fireplace and poked the burning wood piece hoping to increase their flames. “I will be careful with the Duke, but I think I’m going to need something more than just my curves to tempt him”. She stopped stroking the fire once the flames burst into a dancing light bringing forth warmth into the air, before she put the instrument back against the marble hearth. She turned to face her mother with a question on her lips. “When he captured me in my dreams and held my spirit in his grasp, he drugged me or so it felt like he did”. She felt the sheet start to slip down her breasts and she grabbed it tight with her hands and readjusted the material as she spoke. She bit at her lower lips as the memories of that night flickered over her mind and a grin appeared on her lips. “It was like an aphrodisiac. My mind was fuzzy and when the Duke touched me I was lost to his will”. She blushed as she recalled that night, the heat caressed her cheeks and she diverted her eyes away from the stern violet of her mother. “If you could find me something like that than I can manipulate him into giving me his blood”.
Grima felt panic when Varna asked about her father. It was a closed topic that she refused to talk about and now was not the time to delve into such a tragic subject. She stared into the fireplace while her daughter flamed the embers. She folded her arms over her chest and rubbed her hands over her skin as if a cold chill had swarmed around her. There were too many unknowns about this new turn of events and deep down she prayed Varna would change her mind. “I maybe stubborn and I have had to be strong to keep you safe, but I have never tried to pull off what you are asking me to do”. She spoke with a confidence that had guided her through her life as a slave to the Duke and now a servant. Hiding in the shadows was beneficial and if she could teach her daughter that importance than maybe this scheme wouldn’t need to take place. “You haven’t talked about that time since you returned. I have often wondered about where you were and what happened there. I know that the Master Zagan was very worried about you and I believe he would have told you so himself if the Duke hadn’t exiled him through the portal”. She watched her daughter closely, hoping her words would somehow soften the emotions that were flickering over her daughter’s face. There were no apologies that could be made to stifle of pain, but deep down she knew that the Marquis and Varna were meant to be together. “This potion you mentioned. Is it something that the Duke might have in his chambers? I will have to do some searching outside these walls to find what you need, but child it will take some time.” She wasn’t sure there was such a potion that could be found, but Grima would try.” She felt the lateness of the hour and she needed to return to the kitchens to finish her work. “It’s getting late, child and I must return to the meeting hall before I am missed”.
Varna’s heart constricted when her mother mentioned the concern the Marquis had for her while she was gone into the other world. She wanted to believe that after everything they had been through together there was still hope for affection between them. “I am not trying to be brave nor deceitful, but I can’t continue to live this lie and not try to bring our rightful Master home. I need him to come home, Mother… I need him…” She heard the crack in her voice as she spoke of the only man who ever understood her and she swallowed slowly to catch her tears from falling again. She looked up at her mother with affection in her eyes and warmth on her face. “You are my last hope, Mother and if this fails I don’t know how much longer I will be able to keep my sanity when the Duke is around”. She was honest with her feelings, knowing that what she was asking her mother to do was deadly, but what choice did she really had. She walked over to her mother quickly and pulled the elderly woman against her chest. “We have missed too many years to be together and I will never forget all the times you protected me from anything that would cause me harm. This is our only hope now and I am grateful that you are willing to help me”. Wrapping her arms tight around Grima’s small frame she whispered into her ear with a warm breath on her lips. “I love you… always”. She pulled back quickly to avoid the emotional scene to come too overwhelming. She nodded towards the door as the moan of the death vines broke the silence between them. “Now go finish your chores and we will talk again soon.” She gave her mother a soft smile and watched her leave the room. She was in over her head and she would probably get caught, but if there was any chance she would see her orange eyed demon again, it would be worth every drop of blood shed to bring him home.
Grima felt the pressure of Varna’s request and the faith was overwhelming. Never in her lifetime would she have imagined she would be plotting to other throw a Duke to restore the previous Master to his rightful place. She listened intently to her daughter and heard the door begin to open behind her. She never faltered her gaze from the beautiful woman before her, draped in blooded silk, and still willing to put her life on the line to bring back the Marquis. She didn’t have much time to react when Varna moved across the floor to wrap her arms around her smaller frame. Grima’s arms instinctively wrapped around her daughter and her heart melted when the words ‘I love you’ were whispered into her ear. There was no time to express those words between mother and daughter at the time. She blinked back the tears that blurred her violet eyes and heard the dismissal to return to the kitchens. She took in a deep breath and let it out before she turned on her heels and left the room. She waited until the door closed behind her before she wiped the tears from her cheeks. The darkness was welcome against the heat of the sheer liquid glistening her cheeks and she was thankful it was going to take some time to return to the kitchens to go about her duties.