30 – In Which Timothée Bargains for Blood
Timothée stumbled, caught himself on the wall. His vision was blurry from the pounding in his head. Get to the ballroom. That was his first priority. His heart raced wildly inside his chest, and every time he breathed in, he smelled the coppery tang of blood. He looked down at his shirt. The cuff of his sleeve was crimson.
No. Darius’s blood.
He rolled up his sleeve, then ran a hand through his sweat-streaked hair. Buttery orange light spilled out from underneath the ballroom doors, illuminating the dark hall. Night still clung to the winter morning.
He needed Val to come back to their room without anyone suspecting.
Or better yet, have them suspect the wrong thing.
He pushed open the double doors. Coloured lights sparkled above the tall pine, and the smell of cranberry and gingerbread ensconced the room. Everyone turned to look at him.
Alright then. He wasn’t trying to be subtle. A spectacle would keep the students’ minds occupied.
A smash broke the silence, and Timothée turned in the direction, found Val.
Val who was staring at him, a shattered glass and wine pooling around his feet, eyes wide as the moon.
Timothée sucked in a breath and started across the ballroom toward him. What a sight he must look: mussed hair and rumpled shirt, and the hems of his pants still snow-damp.
Unlike Val, who stood among other Dark Stars by the drink table. Who was sparkling and glamorous as ever in his purple tuxedo, hair braided back, and eyes darkly lined. Timothée had barely even had time to talk to him before they’d had to sneak out to the sentient castle’s chamber.
And now he was about to do something completely and ridiculously crazy.
And maybe the only thing that made sense at all.
He slammed to a stop in front of Val. Before the Dark Star boy said anything, Timothée gripped his arms, pulled him close, and kissed him.
His mouth tasted of nutmeg and spiced wine. He felt Val’s surprise melt away as Val’s hands knotted in his shirt and he deepened the kiss, sighing. Timothée tugged him further away from the crowd.
Finally, he pulled away with trembling hands. His breath caught on each inhale. He needed to ask…he needed… he needed…
Val reached up and tucked a loose strand of hair behind Timothée’s ear. “What’s wrong?” He rose on his toes, their foreheads pressing together. “Tell me what you need, Greywick.”
“I should have known there was something awry when you were releasing whiffs of skunk cabbage and corpse flower at the Yuletide Ball.” Val lifted a brow as he surveyed the room. “But I did not expect to see a dying prince on your bed.”
“He’s not dying,” Khalid said. “He’s—”
Val cut him off with a soft “Hmm” as he stepped into the room.
Vivian sat curled in the corner. She wore a dark purple sweater and loose black sleep pants. Marion must have found them in Timothée’s dresser. Her hair and face were still wet, but at least she wasn’t covered in blood.
But her eyes were still glassy, body trembling.
Marion stood like a mountain between Vivian and Darius on the bed, as if her presence could shield Vivian from the horrible sight.
And Khalid kept pacing, never able to stand still.
Timothée followed Val’s gaze as he took in the room. He hadn’t been able to explain anything on their walk from the ballroom, but Val had taken his quivering hand. Students murmured as they passed. An echo of All Hallow’s Eve, they believed.
With that thought, no one would come to their room to bother them.
But now that they were safe behind the walls of his room, he had to let one more person know his family’s most important secret. Can I trust you?
His heart ached because no answer sprung forth. “My sister is a vampire.” He sucked in another breath. “She’s never bitten anyone before, I promise. She only eats leech blood. We’re trying to find a cure for her, and she didn’t mean to bite Darius. It was an accident.”
Behind him, he heard Vivian’s whimper, Marion’s ragged breath. But he couldn’t look away from his roommate.
What are you thinking, Val?
Val didn’t scream out curses, didn’t run from the room to find a professor. He didn’t even look shocked. He just clutched his stomach and doubled over in laughter. A wicked, mocking sound.
“I’m all for humour at inappropriate times,” Khalid chimed, “but even I can’t see the joke in this.”
Rage grew hot inside Timothée. He could still smell the blood and Vivian was crying, and he could barely see the rise and fall of Darius’s chest. He stormed to Val and grabbed him. “Stop it.”
Val whipped his head back, lilac hair falling across his face. There were tears of laughter in his eyes. “Oh, that’s rich, Greywick. Of course, you’re trying to cure the vampires.”
Timothée’s hands shook, but he refused to release Val. “Why are you laughing?”
“Not even Noctis himself could have broken such a curse.”
Timothée drew him closer. “You don’t know all the powers of the world, Val.”
“Maybe not,” he said with so much certainty. “But I’m right about this.”
“ENOUGH!” Marion yelled, storming between them. “Why did you even bring him here if he’s just going to laugh at us?”
Timothée dropped Val. “Because we do need his help.”
Val crossed his arms, surveyed them all, his laugher fading into deep breaths. “Go on.”
“Your Forget-Me potion,” Timothée said. “The one you sell to the students to make them forget. I need you to make one for Darius. He can’t remember what Vivian is, that Vivian…that she bit him.”
“What, you don’t think he’s going to wake up and join your happy little vampire sympathiser club?”
Khalid stepped forward, an uncharacteristic darkness to his eyes. “Most of the time, you are simply intolerable, Valentine. But today, you’re just cruel. Of course, he’s not. Everyone knows the Dark Prophet killed Darius’s family. His little sister, damnit.”
Val shrugged. “Maybe everyone’s wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Khalid said. “Darius hates vampires, and he will not tolerate one to live in his presence, even if he loved her once.”
“Well, that’s it then,” Val said. “It won’t work.”
“What?” Timothée asked.
Val looked between Darius and Vivian. “Did the Prince truly love her?”
Silence hung thick as fog in the air, until Vivian whispered, “Yes, he loved me.”
“Although the scholars tend to disagree,” Val walked over to their makeshift potion station, tapped a vial, “love is the one external factor that can complicate a potion. If it’s really love, if it’s true love, then there’s no potion I can create that that will make him forget her.”
More silence spread across the room.
“Oh bother,” Marion said softly, sadly.
“Okay, okay.” Khalid scrubbed at his face. “We get her things. I’ll take her on my sky skiff. I know places—"
“No!” Timothée said sharpy. “I don’t buy it.” He rounded on Val, grabbed his shoulders. “You are the godsdamned most brilliant person I’ve ever met in my entire life. I hated you for it when I first came here. You were so annoying about it, and maybe that’s why I was so drawn to you. I learned more from you making potions than any of the professors. You said intention matters as much as the ingredients. I know you can make one strong enough to help us.” Timothée dropped his hand, stepped back. “Val...please. Please just try. For me.”
Shock rolled across Val’s features. “Okay…”
“Okay, I’ll try.” Val blinked up at him. “But you’re coming with me to replace the ingredients.”
Val shook him off then walked around the bed toward Darius. He looked uncomfortable with all the eyes on him. He grabbed the Prince’s wrist ad his eyes shuttered close. When he looked up, he said, “No Forget-Me potion is going to help him if he’s too dead to take it.”
“No,” Vivian said. One word laced with so much pain.
“We’re stopped the bleeding. We kept him warm.” Marion pushed her way up next to Val. “We…”
Val dropped the Prince’s wrist. “He’s lost too much blood. He needs more.”
“He can have mine.” Vivian clawed her way up the wall. “He can have all of mine.”
“Sit down, godling,” Val snapped. “Unless you’re determined to have a vampire rule Thraina.”
“Do none of you nitwits know how a vampire is made? You’re a vampire!” He gestured to Vivian.
Her grey eyes wavered. “I was…I was made?”
“You most certainly were.” Val’s eyes darkened as he looked at her. “What, do you think one of them just took a bite out of you for fun?”
Timothée exchanged a look with his siblings. They had never considered Vivian’s illness…her creation…had been purposeful.
“Listen, it’s a whole blood exchange thing.” Val waved his hand. “Which doesn’t matter now, as long as you keep your blood away from him.”
“He can have mine.” Timothée rolled up his sleeve.
“Don’t be dramatic, hero boy,” Val said. “You’ve got god’s blood. Who knows what will happen if we mix it with a mortal’s?”
Timothée stilled. “You actually believe I’m a god?”
Val turned away from him in a flurry. “Medihsan, you love to lick the royal’s boots. What’s the Prince’s blood type? Does it match yours?”
“That was extremely rude, even for you, Valentine.” Khalid tilted his head back, pinched the bridge of his nose, and let out long groan.
Marion grabbed his arm. “What’s wrong, Khalid?”
“When we were eleven, I was playing on the palace gates with Darius. He fell off, and badly hurt his leg. He lost a lot of blood.” Khalid straightened. “His family was away, so the medic took blood samples from the staff, from me, and from Carmilla. They found a match.”
Marion sighed. “Oh—”
“Fuck,” Val and Khalid said together.
For a secret held under lock and key for years, there were now certainly a lot of people who knew about it. Besides the Greywicks, now there were three. Four, if you included Darius. But if Val’s potion worked, at least they could cross him off the list.
Carmilla lounged on a chair beside Darius, staring at him with a red raised brow. She didn’t seem at all bothered about the situation at all. If fact, Timothée swore she would have had the same expressed if he’d tried to get her to come up here to play cards.
Marion dabbed Carmilla’s arm with a swab of alcohol, while Khalid prepared the needle and thin clear tube that would transfer Carmilla’s blood into Darius. They’d gathered the necessary supplies while Val had found the former Imperial Princess. Timothée wondered if Val had conjured Carmilla the same way he had with Val. With a kiss.
He hoped not.
“So, you’re saying,” Carmilla said, “I’m going to save Darius’s life again and I can’t even hold it over his head?”
“If Val’s potion works,” Marion said.
“It will,” Timothée urged.
He looked over at Val, hunched over their makeshift potion station. He pulled out herbs and vials and began boiling something over the small burner.
“Okay, I think it’s ready.” Khalid knelt by Darius. The Prince was so pale, skin gleaming with sweat.
Under direction from Marion, who had the massive pilfered medical text open, Khalid pushed the needle into Darius’s arm, then leaned over Carmilla.
“Oh, you can’t see a darned thing in this dark room,” Marion huffed. She scurried to the window, where Timothée saw the edges of dawn peeking beneath the curtains.
“No,” Carmilla said sharply, then: “We don’t want to risk prying eyes from an eager student’s morning sky skiff flight.”
Marion sighed and squinted down at the book again. The fireplace brightened, a soft purple glow. Timothée felt the presence of the castle near them. “Thanks,” he muttered under his breath.
“That works,” Khalid said, as he pushed the needle into Carmilla’s arm.
She gave a little hiss. “Admit it, you’ve always known you’d end up stabbing me, Medihsan.”
“Oh, of course.” Khalid straightened, stretched. “I just always imagined it’d be in your back.”
And then gently, he helped Carmilla stand and hover her arm above Darius.
Blood began to flow through the tube, travelling from Carmilla’s arms down to Darius. Timothée studied Vivian, but she didn’t seem to be reacting to it at all. Besides the sad expression on her face, she looked better than she had in weeks. Her eyes were bright, there was a flush to her cheeks, and she seemed alert.
“Oh, sweetness.” Carmilla made a pitying express at Vivian. “It’s alright. Even the best of us indulge a little too much sometimes.”
Marion shot her a glare, but kept her mouth shut. Timothée wandered over to Val, who brushed a pile of dried herbs into a small vial, bubbling over the burner.
“How’s it going?” Timothée noticed an ingredient he hadn’t seen before, a yellow flower with a single glowing petal.
“You actually gave me an idea, Greywick.”
“It’s about intention and counteracting.” Val plucked the glowing petal off and placed it in his mortar, began stamping it to dust with the pestle. “We’ll use something strong enough to neutralize the little prince’s stupid love.”
Timothée looked at the glowing remains of the flower, wondered how rare it was. Val’s secret ingredient. “Is it going to be hard to regather all these?”
“You can tell me.”
“You did agree to go with me, didn’t you?” Val looked up at him. The hair had fallen loose from his braid and waved around his face. “I just don’t know if you’ll go where we’ll need to go.”
His lips were curved in a smile. He hadn’t run to the professors, and he was trying to make a potion, even though he didn’t think it would work. Maybe I can trust you.
“Noctis really was a sick bastard, wasn’t he?” Carmilla drawled, and both him and Val turned back to the other side of the room.
Khalid was leaning low to Darius now, monitoring his progress, while Marion had taken to helping Carmilla hold up her arm. “Huh?” Marion said.
“Well, what else do you think about while you’re having your blood drained?” She gave a red-lipped smile. “The God of Shadows didn’t just want his creations to feast on us. He wanted us to want them. Darius was probably too busy reeling from the pleasure to even realize he was losing so much blood.”
“What do you mean?” Timothée asked.
Carmilla gave him a lingering look. “Haven’t you heard the effect vampire venom has?”
He’d read in one of his books that desire could make a vampires fangs drop, teased Vivian about it. But he must have given Carmilla a blank stare because she continued, “Let’s just say you’ve never truly fucked until you’ve done it while a vampire is biting you.”
Timothée blanched, and Marion nearly dropped her arm.
“Is that one of your Kirrintsovan things, darling?” Khalid started. “Is it true Novagrad have underground—”
“Shut up, Khalid,” Carmilla said. “And don’t try to explain something you clearly know nothing about. Let’s just say in the old Kirrintsova, vampires were treated quite differently then how Andúrigard likes to handle things.”
“Kirrintsovan things,” Timothée murmured, then stepped closer to Val. He had lived in Kirrintsovan, hadn’t he?
Timothée leaned closer, trying to see past the loose pieces of hair that fell on Val’s neck.
“If you’re looking for bite marks,” Val said, without looking over, “you won’t find any. Vampire venom is also highly soothing, making the wound heal quickly. In fact, if it wasn’t outlawed, I’d say it would make a rather good component for salves.”
“So, you’ve…” Timothée said slowly.
“Are you asking if I’ve fucked a vampire while they bit me and drank my blood?” Val looked up at him.
Timothée’s face burned. “Uh—”
“Well, I haven’t done that.” Val smirked then shook his head. “But you’re cute when you’re jealous.”
Timothée turned away from him to study Carmilla. Had she done that? How did Kirrintsova treat vampires? Weren’t they all monsters, like the ones that followed the Dark Prophet?
Vivian wasn’t a monster—but she was different, wasn’t she?
“This is almost done.” Val leaned over his potion.
“I think we’re almost done here, too,” Marion said.
“Dare’s got some colour back in him and his pulse is up.” Khalid said. “Let’s unlink them.”
Val took the vial off the burner, swirling murky water. He held it out to Timothée without looking at him.
“I need you to spit in it,” he said.
“Spit in the vial, Greywick.”
“I’ve never spit in any of your other potions!”
“Hey,” Khalid called. “Is that ready? I think he’s waking up.”
Val looked up at Timothée, vial still outstretched.
“Spit in it.”
“His eyelids are fluttering.” Panic crawled through Khalid’s voice.
“If you need spit, I’ll do it.” Marion moved toward them.
Val’s eyes widened.
Timothée grabbed his wrist, bent his head over the vial, and spat.
“So gross,” he murmured. “The Prince is going to drink that!”
But no one was listening to him.
Khalid was staring frantically over, and even Vivian had walked away from her corner.
Val tucked the potion in close to his chest, and then shook it violently. Nothing happened. His brow furrowed in concern. Timothée grabbed his shoulder. “Val?”
Suddenly, the potion began to glow, tiny purple sparkles shimmering in lavender liquid. “This might just work,” Val said breathlessly.
Then he pulled himself away from Timothée and addressed the room. “This will take his memory from the last twelve hours; you’ll have to conduct a good story for when he fully wakes up. Drank too much eggnog.”
“Darius hates eggnog almost as much as he hates fiddlers,” Khalid said.
“Focus,” Marion scolded.
Val ignores them. “Mention Vivian, but not too much. Hopefully he’ll just think he dreamed of her. Like all Forget-Me potions, they don’t take his memories away fully. It just suppresses them. You’ll have to be extremely careful to never mention the actual events to him, or he’ll remember.”
“Okay, okay,” Marion ushered. “Can we give it to him now?”
Val handed her the potion, but when they looked over at the bed, Vivian was standing above him.
“He looks so much better.” She lightly stroked his face.
He stirred beneath her touch, leaning into her palm. Rough words fell from his lips: “Vivian…Vivian…Vivian…”
“What if I told him the truth? What if I explained everything?” She looked up at them, eyes watering. “What if he could understand?”
Panic flashed across Khalid’s face. He rushed to Vivian and pulled her away. “Darius will never understand this. You don’t know him like I do. And I hope you never have too. This is what’s best for you both.”
“But what if he could?” Carmilla eyed them. “If the Prince had a vampire consort, maybe it would usher in an age for all vampires. Hmm?”
“All of you understand.” Vivian looked at Timothée, then Marion.
He didn’t know what to say. He barely knew Darius. “I…”
Val whispered lightly, “Störmbergs don’t take well to vampires.”
“Viv, we would all like that. But I can’t risk you. The Dark Prophet showed us what he was like that night and…” Marion looked from Khalid to Vivian. “Khalid’s right. I trust him.”
Khalid’s voice lowered darkly as he looked at Vivian. “I think Darius has already been hurt enough by you. You don’t need him to hurt you back.”
Fresh tears pooled in Vivian’s eyes and Khalid pulled her into a tight embrace, then nodded at Marion. “Do it.”
Marion walked over to the Prince, lifted his head, then poured the potion—Timothée’s spit and all—into the future King’s mouth.
Darius moaned slightly, eyelids fluttering, before falling back to the bed, breath heavy.
“He’ll sleep for a little bit now,” Val said. “You should get him back to his rooms before everyone wakes up. Start spreading your little tales that he was insanely drunk last night.”
Timothée let out a huge sigh, running a hand through his hair. “We did it, Viv. He’s going to be okay.”
But as he looked at his sister, he wasn’t sure she would be. She would bear the burden of the memories herself.
“Oh dear,” Carmilla drawled as she cast a piercing green gaze over all of them. “This has been quite the eventful Yuletide.” She looked directly at Vivian. “Since it seems none of your friends are any good at managing your…unique needs, won’t you come with me to Kirrintsova over holiday break? There’s some things I could show you there.”
Without awaiting an answer, the former Imperial Princess swept from the room.
Timothée stepped closer to Val. “What would she want to show Vivian in Kirrintsova?”
Val let out a long sigh. “Trust me, Greywick, you don’t want to know.”
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