Are we still in the business for novel openings? I hope we are.
Upon the Milan Cathedral looms a Vampire’ shadow.
The hapless preys surrounding me have no idea they are sitting so close to the most dangerous of their natural predators. I look just like one of them, dressed in my white tailleur. A young and gorgeous woman, a sinful fall of golden hair surrounding my voluptuous body. My ice-blue yes shine like the frozen lakes under the thin light of the northern sunset.
I came here from the vast plains of taiga, feasting on heart upon heart, like a thirty crimson cloud, until I landed here in Europe’s soft underbelly, this slumbering Italy caught between its irrelevant Witches wars.
I allow myself an indolent grin, bringing my Martini to my ruby lips. I thought it would have been quite more difficult to slither into Atropa Belladonna’s dominion, but for such an amazing specimen as I am, who survived both the Zar’s alchemists and the horrors of the October Revolution, any border is easy to pass.
And how could they stop me, anyway? I look so graceful and so fragile, a petite blonde in a dress, but I have the strength of three burly men. I can hear every step going off on the bar’s terrace, and down to the square’s floor. My bones are steel, my nails are knifes, and my gaze death!
I have studied and tasted my prey for three long centuries and I know their every weakness. I pass my tongue over my lips and I wonder which of the people sitting here will sate my thirst tonight.
Days of hunting, nights of feasting: that’s all I can see in my future, even without any foresight ability. In this Country so ripe with meat, and away from the influence and threat of my similes. Why didn’t they even try to slither in?
It was the easiest thing in the world. Atropa Belladonna surely is not as dangerous as fear might make her seem.
I chuckle, sitting the glass back onto the table. It tinkles against the marble surface – almost like the bell giving way to the Hunt. Shadows loom pink over the exterior of the Christian temple. Sheep. Their faith has never protected them and their arrogance is their chief weakness.
It’s great to be on top.
This place is such a paradise, and I am going to be the wolf who found its way into the garden of Eden.
Truly, I thought it would have been harder.
“Excuse me.” A young female voice takes me away from my thoughts. The cattle pulls over a chair, making it grate over the floor, and sits right besides me, looking me straight in the eyes with her hazelnut gaze.
She’s such a frail thing, this cattle. Her heart is still young and beats strong, pushing nectar through her veins. Her looks do not make justice to the beauty of her circulatory system: the deep bags beneath her eyes, her dirty brown hair and her clothes, dressed only with a white t-shirt and a pair of dark jeans. At least she does seem to keep fit: her arms are strong and covered in scars. Maybe she’s a cattle who likes to tussle.
“Took me a while,” she states, rubbing her thin nose and then scratching a black tattoo on her right cheek: it looks like a figure eight, a black serpent that’s intent biting its own tail, the single red eye a crimson star full of challenge.
I give her my best smile. The preys around me don’t seem to have noticed anything strange.
I could just kick her. She’s fly through the weak steel and marble parapet like a knife through paper, a flower of crushed ribs and pulped heart. Her cracked body would draw such a beautiful arc flying over the parapet and she’d impact on the square below, her eyes opened in shock and regret, so much regret for the annoyance she has just caused me.
And yet – something stops me.
There’s something weird about this little Child of Men.
I feel the beat of her heart – and the rumble of the nectar running through her veins.
Something’s off. I have no idea what is it.
“I am not supposed to drink yet,” she states, knitting her thick eyebrows. She shrugs, picks up my drink and gulps it in one go. She grimaces. “Meh. Weak. I’m afraid they just gave you overpriced dirty water.”
I give my lips another lick, this time showing off the sharp canines that are the pride of my kind. This little kid seems… resistant. Even as I push my gaze deep into her own, she’s still fine. Any prey her age would just have her brain turned into a steaming pile of goo under my gaze, but…
“What are you doing, little one? This is not really polite behavior, don’t you think?” I chuckle. “Didn’t your parents teach you good manners?”
For the first time a shadow covers her brow, but it disappears at once.
“They did not have much time. Now, let’s go back to the present situation.” She hits the table with both hands and in her right one she now holds a thin bone knife – where did that come from? – chiseled with weird black characters that even I do not recognize. “I suppose the border patrol did not inform you, so that’s up to me. Please be patient, it’s my first time.”
At this point what’s stopping me from just biting into her and snapping her miserable neck in two?
Not like anyone can stop me here.
But once again, a cold hand stops me by grasping my nerves. The same animal instinct that stops the wolf from jumping into open flames.
Why do I feel like I’m standing right before a bonfire?
“I’m new as a Retriever,” she explains. “And you are part of my final exam.”
My eyes widen in shock before such boasting. My fingers make the marble creak and the echoes wave about on the terrace. A few heads turn, but at this point I do not really care about the mood of cattle.
The girl with scales on her face doesn’t betray the least emotion before my show of strength.
“What an absolutely inane sentiment,” I reply with a hiss that would turn the bravest warrior into a crybaby. My Martini glass cracks at the sound of my voice. There’s a huge power in a Vampire’s true voice, and this deluded little child has no idea who she is facing. “I have not seen any sign of Hunters, Retrievers or Alchemists ever since I crossed the Alps for Italy. If you had wanted to stop me…”
“No, you got it all wrong,” she says talking over me. Talking over me! “I’m gonna stop you right there. First, you are not just here in Italy. You are here in the Atropa Belladonna’s domain.” She bites the inside of her mouth. “Well… Milan is specifically under Datura, but you get what I mean. Second mistake: you have been spotted since you were in Germany. The Hexenwacht told us all about your movement and supposed destination. Third mistake: to pass into the dominion a permission is required. Can I see yours?”
I shake my head. It cannot be.
Atropa Belladonna is just a an old dotard of a Witch who’s busy dreaming over past glories! Nobody caught me! I made sure to pass through Germany only by night and only as a listless dark cloud, silent and invisible.
That does it.
I stand up from my seat. My grin is a show of teeth.
“Your chattering got me thirsty.”
She throws an eye to the cracked Martini.
“What did I tell you? Bogwater. Anyway, if you want me to Retrieve you here on the terrace I’m okay with that, but in that case I would have to let you know you just made a fourth mistake.”
She stands up as well, not even aiming her ridiculous bone knife at me. She holds it against her chest.
Who does she believe she is? This… this nothing of a girl! This meaningless cattle!
“As I told you, Miss Vodljana, you have been spotted ever since you left Russia. The reason why they did not cleaved your head in two the moment you stepped into Atropa Belladonna’s dominion is that we keep the small fry like you as exercise.”
It’s her turn to grin.
“And you are part of my exercise. So I will ask it again. Are we doing this on the terrace?”
Author’s Notes: fairly proud of this opening. I really like Silvia’s character – it’s just hard to write urban fantasy in a market that’s oversaturated with cool protagonists. I will see if I can work with her later on in the future. For the time being, thanks for reading.