Mircalla is eighteen; she should be at the ball, sipping champagne and learning of gossip and politics – often one and the same – in between dances. She should be playing cards with her friends, or flirting with her suitors. The Duke’s son, she thinks, would have been a good match. His eyes were kind, and her father would have heartily approved the match.
None of this matters, of course, because Mircalla, in all her finery, lays in an abandoned farmhouse far from the ball, gasping for breath as her blood trickles down from where her throat was neatly slit, staining the chain of pearls her father gave her mere hours before that night’s ball. As her vision turns black, she wonders why her murderer didn’t bother to steal the necklace. Just before she exhales her last, a woman appears from the shadows and smiles, fangs glinting in the moonlight.
Two days later, Mircalla opens her eyes. Her throat has never hurt so much in her life. It burns, but she does not think she has enough energy to move, much less to go in search of liquid to quench her thirst when –
“Here” a woman says, and then tips her head up as she pours a goblet full of a dark, warm, thick liquid that leaves a salty-sweet aftertaste on her tongue. Mircalla cannot get enough, and laps at the edges of the goblet like a cat. Once the goblet is empty, and Mircalla is feeling stronger, she sits up, and notices the days-old blood staining her gown.
“What happened to me? Who are you?” she croaks, turning towards the woman. The woman is older, her face lending her the appearance of a woman the same age as Mircalla’s mother, but her eyes are ancient, dark, and impossible to look into for more than a moment.
“You died, girl,” the woman says, “and I brought you back from Death’s country, so that you would be reborn as one of my kind. Think of me as your new mother.”
“One of your kind?” Mircalla asks.
“What you might call a vampire,” the woman says. Outside, Mircalla can hear human voices approaching. The woman turns her head towards the noise and frowns.
“Come, child. We must move on. I have had need of someone like you, my dear. I have much to teach you,” the woman says, holding her hand out.
Mircalla touches her throat, where the string of pearls still sits. The skin there is smooth, as though her throat was never cut, although, the pearls, she thinks, will still be stained with her life’s blood. Sensing her hesitation, the woman says,
“Come, child, the world is ours for the taking. Your new life awaits you, but we must hurry.”
Mircalla takes the woman’s hand.
“My name is Mircalla” she says.
By the time Count Karnstein’s search party reaches the barn, Mircalla and the woman are long gone.