Home > Magic Forged (Hall of Blood and Mercy #1)(9)

Magic Forged (Hall of Blood and Mercy #1)(9)
Author: K.M. Shea

“Almost noon. Here.” She handed me a snack packet of seasoned pistachios and motioned for me to follow her. “A snack to hold you over. You’ll have lunch with me, but I’m to give you a quick tour first.”

She strode out of the room, and I staggered after her, wincing at my bruised feet and scruffy pajama pants.

“Do you think I could change first?” I peered up and down the hallway—it was surprisingly modern with bright, white panels and white limestone columns and arches placed by the largest doors.

“Ahh yes, we’ll end with your room—where your uniform is waiting and you can take a shower to make you feel like a decent person.” Debra kept her pace quick and still managed to talk to me over her shoulder, even as she side-stepped a man toting a large crystal vase with bird-of-paradise flowers jutting from it. “Since you’ll just be working in the kitchens until we can find an official role for you, you’ll only have to know your way around a small portion of the mansion. Unless you signed up to be a blood donor?”

It seemed the female vampire had dumped me on the other servants without an explanation—not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully it meant Killian was going to ignore me and just use my presence as a statement. (I wasn’t sure what kind of statement—hopefully one that would keep me alive.)

“I can’t be a donor,” I said. “I’m a wizard.”

Debra screeched to a stop and swiveled so she could stare at me. “Oh. Well. Then, yes, you’ll be in the kitchens for a while.”

Her reaction was pretty expected, given the circumstances.

You see, wizards are almost completely helpless against vampires.

Technically vampires are vulnerable to magic, but vampires are also a thousand times faster than us wizards. Wizards are pretty much just regular humans who can use magic, so yeah, the vampires with their unnatural speed would always have the upper hand. Fae, though, can use their brand of magic against vampires because they can keep pace with them.

But wizards? A vampire could take a wizard out with his/her speed before a wizard could even summon a flicker of magic. Add in the fact that vampires are physically tougher, ageless, and way stronger, and you have yourself a genuine predator of wizards.

Except!

Our blood tastes awful.

No joke—vampires can’t even swallow it. Supposedly it smells like roadkill and hits their gag reflex so if they even taste a drop of it, they heave. It’s why they call us rat-bloods.

This is probably the only thing that preserved us wizards as a race, and a lot of people theorize it’s actually a survival adaption our magic creates on our behalf—kind of like poisonous animals—because there’s a property to our blood that would normally have vampires’ attention and make them hunt us ruthlessly.

If a vampire manages to drink wizard blood, it makes that vampire immune to the wizard’s magic.

We wizards pull raw magic through our blood and use it in its purest form. Fae have to use tools—wands, staffs, and stones—to manage it and transform it, but not us wizards.

But the only way a vampire can stomach drinking a wizard’s blood is if a wizard trusts the vampire completely, and the vamp returns that trust.

There’s no way to fool this test, because it’s magic itself that makes the blood unpalatable, so a vampire can’t manipulate a wizard into trust and then drink her blood—the magic will know, and it will still taste like roadkill.

Vampires are a super paranoid and suspicious lot—I suppose when you’ve been alive as long as they have it’s natural. So, there aren’t many cases of vampires being able to drink wizard blood—at least not too many in the past century. Things used to be different, but there’s no use sighing over what supernaturals had become.

The point is, there was no way I could be a blood donor. Even if I lost all sense of self-preservation and was swindled into trusting one of the House Drake vampires, a vampire wouldn’t ever fully trust me, so my blood would always smell awful and taste gag-inducing-rancid.

Debra trundled down the hallway, so I hurried to keep up.

“The Drake Family uses the top two floors of Drake Hall as private quarters,” Debra said, surprising me. “The main level holds the communal rooms—the dining hall, the kitchens, parlors, meeting rooms, and a very grand ballroom. The basement has the training grounds.”

I mentally spooked—did the Drake Family have a dungeon downstairs? Was “training” code for torture? “What sort of training grounds?” I tried to casually ask as we marched past a glass door that looked like it opened up into a plant filled conservatory.

“The shooting range, a track, the weight room, the boxing ring, the dojo—everything the Drake Family needs to train. Well.” Debra thoughtfully paused in front of a window, which overlooked gardens almost as magnificent as the ones that circled House Medeis. “The pool is outdoors—just beyond those trees. But they don’t use it.”

“You don’t say?” I asked, my voice faint.

A pool? The Drake Family had a pool? Why? They were vampires! Given their reputation I could see the need for the weight center, dojo, and the rest of it—even the shooting range was understandable given that some of the Drake vampires might favor crossbows or daggers. But a swimming pool?

What, was it for nighttime pool parties? HAH!

Vampires preferred to operate as if the world was centuries younger—although they did make exceptions for things like electricity, indoor plumbing, etc. But I’d never heard of a vampire Family having an HD TV, much less a swimming pool!

“The kitchen and all the servants’ quarters are located near the back of Drake Hall,” Debra said. “Blood donors have rooms in the same hallway as ours, but they aren’t expected to work.”

“How many blood donors live here?” I asked.

“Currently? Twelve.”

I nodded as we made a sharp turn. “And how many vampires?”

Debra turned an eyebrow up at what she must have imagined was an inappropriate question, but she answered anyway. “Thirty-eight of them—though the Drake Family is much larger. A number of Drake vampires elect to live off the hall grounds or are positioned around the Midwest to serve as the Eminence wishes.”

Ah. In other words, Killian Drake scattered his men across the Midwest to better control it. I nodded, because she seemed to expect some sort of response, before her words actually dawned on me. “Wait. Twelve blood donors, for thirty-eight vampires?”

Did they drink the donors dry and toss their bodies out in the pool? Twelve humans couldn’t possibly satisfy almost forty vampires!

A bell rang, interrupting us before Debra could explain the uneven mathematical equation. She gave me a business-like nod, then marched to what was clearly a back entrance to the house, given that it was surrounded by coat closets, and flung the door open.

A female vamp stood at the doorway, balancing a cardboard box in either hand. “I’ve got this week’s blood delivery.” She smiled and gave Debra a slight nod in greeting.

“You know the way?” Debra asked.

“Yep!” She hopped inside and made a beeline down the hallway. She must have been a newer vamp—her hair was dyed an ombre blond, and though she wore a delivery jacket in her company colors, she had a pair of dark jeans on.

I was a little surprised—vampires don’t typically hold down jobs outside of their Family. She probably was an Unclaimed—a vampire that didn’t pledge allegiance to or belong to a vampire Family. It’s the vampire version of werewolf Lone Wolves.

She darted through an open doorway—the kitchen, judging by the sound of rattling dishes and the sharp tap of a knife on a cutting board—but returned to the hallway in a flash.

Debra smiled pleasantly as the delivery vampire trotted back outside, but held the door open. “Most Drake Family vampires drink packaged blood.”

“Really?” I asked, trying to hide my skepticism.

Lots of vampires drank packaged blood—it was a cheaper and more easily law-abiding alternative to keeping blood donors on retainer, something the average vampire couldn’t afford.

But blood donors were a sign of status. Most of the powerful vampire Families kept more blood donors than members so they never had to drink from a blood pack.

There was no way Killian freaking Drake’s vampire Family dined mostly on blood packs.

“Really,” Debra assured me. She stepped back, giving the delivery vampire a clear path when she returned with two more boxes. “In fact, Killian Drake only drinks packaged blood.”

I had to work hard to keep my jaw from dropping. “The Eminence,” I squeaked, my voice going high, “only drinks blood packs?”

Debra gave me a smile that was half wry half smug. “Indeed.”

The delivery vampire made four more trips while we waited in silence.

There had to be a reason for Killian Drake’s pre-packaged diet. I didn’t believe for a minute that the Eminence—the vampire leader of the Midwest—drank packaged blood due to the cost or the reluctance to see humans as dinner.

Once Debra had signed off on the blood delivery, she marched down to the kitchens.

Standing in the doorway, I was overwhelmed by the spotless white of the kitchen. The elaborate wooden cupboards and the fancy molding on the edges and corners were all painted white. White marble topped every counter, the walls were a shining white—the only relief was the stainless-steel appliances and sinks. And yeah, you got that right—there were multiple sinks, and four fridges that I saw—though I was willing to bet there was a walk-in fridge somewhere for the blood packs.

Scurrying through this intimidating domain was: a pair of chefs, three assistants, a baker who was busy rolling out cookie dough, and a teenage boy who must have been the dedicated dishwasher given that he was elbow deep in soap suds.

It seemed a little overkill given the number of blood donors in the house, but vampires could technically eat regular human food. Not much—and it didn’t have any nutritional value for them—but if most of them drank packaged blood it wouldn’t be too surprising that they prefer to have a human meal occasionally.

   
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