Adriana the first episode in a new Historical Shadow Sprawl Story by Terri Pray.
Artwork by Samuel Pray, created using Daz3D, Photoshop and Filter Forge.
Water dripped from her form, clinging to the curves of her breasts as Adriana rose from the center of the pool. A light breeze played across the surface of the water, lifting small ripples into points as she moved toward the shore. Goose flesh rose across her skin as the breeze touched her wet and naked form, yet she did nothing to ease the chill that seeped into her form.
“I don’t understand how you can do that to yourself.” The words filtered out from behind the thick trunk of a tree as the woman who laid claim to it stepped into line of sight. “The cold must be enough to steal your breath away, yet you spend every chance you get neck deep in a pool or river.”
Adriana smiled as she moved through the water, lingering in the reeds for a moment. The sand moved beneath her feet, burying itself between her toes as she shifted her weight, trailing one hand over the surface of the pool. “Bathing is relaxing, you should try it sometime, for something other than getting clean.” Was she the only one among her sisters who found that soaking cleared her mind?
No, she couldn’t be. Her mother enjoyed it as well, though she seldom wandered far from their home and preferred the bathing chamber if for no other reason than to silence wagging tongues.
“In hot water, maybe.” The other female snorted, her top lip curled in disgust. “Where we have attendants who will provide clean linen, in a room warmed by fire or brazier, but out here?” She shook her head, her long dark curls brushing over her shoulders with the movement. “This is foolish. You will become chilled to the bone and then what? Will you become sick as well?”
“No.” She rarely felt the cold.
“I don’t understand why you do this, why the cold doesn’t bother you the same as it does everyone else.”
“Perhaps it’s the nymph blood?” Adriana teased as she stepped out of the water. Did they all think her strange? Of course they did, she wasn’t the same as they were, though many carried magic from other sources, their family lines mingled with human and magic touched races alike. Yet her differences were closer to the surface, despite the fact that she had been born into the line of Lilith.
And that is why they watch me.
“Please don’t say that, there are enough in the family who already think you tainted by your mother’s blood.”
A flicker of a frown creased Adriana’s brow but she forced her features back into the calm smile she habitually wore. “She has never denied the stories, that her family line held a touch of the nymph before she was changed.” Odd how others in her family had a problem with her blood line when that magic infused blood was the very reason her mother had survived the turn and then had been able to give birth to a vampire daughter. “We all have something within our family line that isn’t quite vampire. Yet that is forgiven or forgotten when we are turned, or that is how it is supposed to be.” Even as she spoke she knew life wasn’t like that, her people, the daughters of Lilith, were proud of their background, their ties to Lilith.
“No, but it would have made your life a lot easier if she had denied it, or at least not engaged others when they spoke of her birth. Yes, she is one of us now, just as you are, born and reborn into the line of Lilith, but she will not forget where she comes from, what she was before she was turned. She revels in her ability to use water, to spin it to her whims, use it as a weapon against others. She even uses it against those who are members of her family. She is foolish and because of that she will never rise within the family. Never become more than a daughter of low rank.” The woman at the edge of the pool sighed and held out a large piece of linen. “Please, it’s time you stepped out of the pool. You’re making me feel cold.”
Adriana arched an eyebrow. How could she feel cold when she was doing nothing but standing there, holding a piece of cloth out? No, that wasn’t a conversation she was about to get into, not when it would be a waste of time. The words were, no doubt, another way of trying to convince Adriana that she was being foolish by openly admitting the nymph blood that tainted her being. Silently she stepped out of the last of the water and into the waiting drying linen, closing her eyes as the cloth was draped around her damp form.
“We need to hunt.” Liliana announced, her words clipped.
“You need to hunt but I know where my prey waits for me.” Adriana opened her eyes, smiled and reached for the cloth, holding it against her body. “It is you that has no source easily to hand.” She glanced over at the other woman. Was it wrong to want to lord it over Liliana? Perhaps, yet Liliana had done it to her time and again. “His pack will not come to you, but this one will come for me soon. I can feel it, the pull between us, Liliana.”
Liliana scowled and stepped back away from the water, her shoulders stiff, arms folded beneath her breasts. “You’re mistaken, they will come to me, all I have to do is send out the call and one or more of his pack will willingly give me their veins. They are, after all, but males and sex is something that will tempt them.” The woman looked back at her. “Not that they will be allowed to touch me. I would not waste the chance of a daughter on sex with a beast.”
“A beast?” Adriana arched an eyebrow.
“Shifters are one step away from animals and if their blood did not carry the magic that feeds us, I would have nothing to do with the filthy creatures.” Liliana scowled, her voice cold. “Nor would you if you had any sense.”
“They shift their shape, so they’re animals to you?”
“Yes, what else could they be? Male beasts fit only for food or work.”
Is that what Liliana truly thought about the males they fed from? Not that they fed only from males, but Liliana preferred that as her choice of meal. Females, after all, deserved better after the way they were treated by their own kind or the sons of Caine. At least, that was the excuse Liliana, and those like her, used. It wasn’t something Adriana could understand. Just as she found fault with the idea that males were foolish. Yes, there were issues, and those of their own species who were sworn to the service of Caine were a true problem, but not all males were like that.
Just as not all daughters of Lilith felt that males were nothing more than a food source, or brute labor.
“Your male will need some taming if you would use him more than once.” Liliana shrugged as she stepped back, casting her gaze over the trees. “Shifters are a dangerous, brutal lot who seldom listen. It would be better for all of us if they were under the control of our kind instead of allowed to run free, ruling lands of their own. Perhaps, in time, the elders will see sense and allow us to tame these creatures.”
“Even the women?” Adriana tugged her tunic from a nearby branch and pulled it over her head.
“They’re little more than animals.”
Adriana caught her bottom lip between her teeth, taking a moment to put her thoughts into order. Was it worth the energy to fight with Liliana? She glanced over at the other woman and shook her head. No, it wouldn’t matter what she told Liliana, the woman’s beliefs wouldn’t change. She, like so many others, saw the other magic users as nothing more than a source of food and brute labor. That was a mistake, but women like Liliana would never believe that, no matter how often they were told otherwise. Instead they clung, willingly, to the ideas passed down by those who would happily reduce all magical creatures except vampires, to nothing more than slaves.
The inclusion of the female shifters in all of this was new. What had happened to Liliana?
Even as she tried to find the right words, ones that would allow her to find out what had changed her companion, Liliana lashed out with another verbal attack.
“You’re weak, Adriana. Weak and foolish if you think they could ever be our equals. We drink from them, we use them, how could they be equal to us?”
Fury rose, tightening her skin as she smoothed down the tunic and took a step toward the other woman. “I am not weak.”
“Yes, you are, and one day you’ll realize that, hopefully before you make a mistake that will cost you your life.”
Adriana closed her eyes and counted under her breath. Anger wouldn’t help her, rage would lead to mistakes and there was a man who would be waiting for her before the moon set and the sun crept its way into the sky. “And you continue to try and change my behavior. One would almost think that you’ve been told to do this, that someone else has set you at my side as my teacher.” She paused long enough to put her thoughts and words into order, taking care to keep her tone calm. Liliana was powerful, most of the daughters of Lilith were, but her magic, the energy she tapped and used, was stronger than almost anyone else Adriana had ever known. Yet she lacked discipline, at least discipline she could claim as her own instead of the structures set in place through her own discoveries.
No, it was more than that, she knew what she was doing, wanted to please the other women in their home, and she used those connections she built in order to secure her place within the family.
I could do the same thing. Follow the unwritten rules and work my way through the ranks of my sisters until I stand side by side with women like Liliana.
It would be more than that, she’d become the next lady if she followed their rules, all of those rules. Yet that wasn’t who she was, not in her heart.
“Would it be so wrong to help you see the error of your ways? You wouldn’t be the first daughter of Lilith to be mistaken in their beliefs, nor the first to find out how the world truly works and seek redemption.” Liliana smiled, though it didn’t reach her eyes. “If you can’t adapt, if you can’t accept everything that is a part of how we live, then you will one day find that you are no longer welcome among your sisters and even your mother will be unable to help you.”
Horror chilled Adriana to the bone. Was this what was going on then? Her family wanted rid of her or was it more likely a small number within their family who had banded together to make this threat? Either way, it left Adriana sickened and fighting to keep her reaction from showing. “Perhaps that will happen, or perhaps others within our family will see the error of their ways and realize that those with magic in their blood are far more than mere food.”
Laughter filled the small glade as Liliana took a step toward Adriana, power radiating from Liliana as she spread out her fingers, arms lifted from her sides, energy crackling between her fingers. “If you truly believe that, then you are a fool, sister mine. You will learn, the hard way. Oh, I had hoped you would learn the error of your ways, but you still hold onto your beliefs.”
Adriana closed her eyes for a heartbeat, tapping the power that rolled through her body. The water, it was close enough that she could use it as a weapon, one that she knew Liliana lacked the ability to deflect. Calm and focused she opened her eyes, fixing her gaze on the woman who was a sister in all but blood. “Would you strike me down, Liliana? Is that why you come with me, to see if it was time to attack me?”
Liliana arched an eyebrow, her full lips twisted into a cruel smile. “Why else would I be here?”
To Be Continued.