Here is an excerpt from The Dark Queen.
It was glorious. The utter confusion, the chaos, the terrified expressions on the sea of faces undulating before her. Their eyes darted around the room, looking for escape; looking for answers. Their necks craned almost painfully as they sought to see above each other’s heads but despite their terror there was an undercurrent of curiosity running through them. Few here had ever seen a soul-feeder up close. They were afraid, oh-so-terribly afraid, but who could resist admiring that most attractive of monsters?
Soul-feeders, nightwalkers, children of the milky moon. They had been called that and more since the Great Mother had first set her dainty but dangerous feet on the Earth. Despite their furiously beating hearts and sweating palms the crowd was slowly becoming transfixed. The deadly lances and the wicked-edged swords held by the vampire guards had lost their interest as their fierce red eyes began to work their charm.
Vampires were not truly telepathic. They had no power to read minds but they could project their own thoughts and if there were enough of them all in one spot, each projecting the same thought, then even a large crowd could be subdued.
The effect would not likely last long. Most vampires were not that strong and even together they had limited power to keep up such a ‘spell’ and even the most transfixed of crowds would eventually wise up to the fact that they were being swayed, but she only needed the effect to be temporary, to last just long enough for her to have her say while they were calm enough to listen.
“My friends. My people.” Julill stood and held out her arms as though to encompass the crowd within her embrace. “There really is no need for alarm. You must forgive me for my little moment of drama. My father was something of a showman in his youth and I have inherited his liking for it.” She swallowed, tasting bile as she thought of Senovar.
Hateful old man, she sneered inwardly. Hateful, cowardly old man who had kept her from her rightful place for too long.
She smiled brightly. None of that mattered now. She was back. She was in Illanier, in the palace…back in her true home.
She re-seated herself, taking a moment to toss her cushion aside before doing so.
Ah, she sighed softly. Much better.
A throne should not have cushions. A throne should be a strong thing, powerful enough to withstand blows, large enough to convey majesty but not so big it overshadowed the one sat upon it, but above all it had to be hard. A leader had to be hard and needed to be reminded of that fact each time he, or preferably she, sat down. Soft things bred soft people, and Illanier was in danger of becoming too soft, with its plump cushions and gilded finery. Look how easily her vampires had managed to enter the city, the palace…the very throne-room!
Her people had become too used to how things were. They had their fine clothes and their bellies were full so why worry? What was there to be concerned about in a city where true crime was dealt with out of sight and therefore out of mind? The rich were rich and the poor were not as poor as they could have been. There was little to complain about, little to fear. Illanier was prospering so what need was there to be concerned?
Julill swept her green gaze across the room, thinking that there was great need.
Illanier was a rising power but as it rose it had grown complacent. What could possibly threaten this great city, this magnificent country? It had its famous army and its renowned palace guard. It had its loving, benevolent king and sweet, pretty princess. Julill smiled faintly. Had, she corrected.
She looked across the crowd again, turning her eyes to the vampires.
Illanier’s famous army, well known for their incredible parades, for their marching skills, for the cut of their fine uniforms…where were they now?
Illanier’s famous palace guard, each man hand-picked by Senovar himself, taken from a pool of soldiers who had been fighting since they were boys. Or at least training to fight, she added. Illanier’s army had not fought a war in decades; the palace guards did nothing but patrol.
Day in, day out, night after night, they walked around the palace, up and down its corridors, checking its many rooms, peering in through its countless windows. They walked and walked, marching proudly in their neat uniforms and brightly polished boots. They could blind an enemy with that shine but when had they last had to physically defend their monarch?
Julill harrumphed softly.
The famous army; the famous palace guard…neither had noticed nor prevented her entry into the city. She had smuggled her vampires into the palace with almost laughable ease.
Only she was not laughing.