~~Written years before her leap from the window of the Castle Tepes~~
It is never easy living in the shadow of those who are so much stronger than you are. It is like being a flower that is forever covered in shade. It does not grow until light shines upon it and it is watered and cared for with a loving hand. Vlad Tepes was that light to me all those years ago, and I am blessed to say, he will be forever. As I watch our son Viktor in his crib by my desk, I am certain it will be forever.
Our meeting was not one that should have caused so much pain, but those around us made not feeling pain impossible. No. My father. He made happiness if I stayed at Tara Mount impossible. It is a shame it came to that, but it did. I do not regret my choice. I never will. I just wish I had not had to make it in the first place.
My meeting with Vlad was purely by chance that first day. He had been summoned to the Tara Mount as many of the other eligible rulers of the provincial and allied kingdoms had been. My father lost Kari to the arms of the demon lord Ryu Harada after my father tried to bend the demon worlds to his rule, and he was bound and determined not to have me, as he would say, "screw things up beyond all belief by falling in love with a lesser being," as he got ready to give me away in marriage.
Kari warned me not to go through with our father's stupid idea of a royal ball to sort out my suitors. Truth be told, most of the men there were not interested in me. Being Emperor Ronan's chosen one was all they wanted. That is, except for Vlad. Apparently the Count of Wallachia was never afraid to tell my father when he was wrong. That is why my father decided to recind his invitation to the ball at the last moment. Perhaps that is why I fell in love with the idea of the Count of Wallachia before I officially met him.
We did not meet first at the ball. When Vlad first saw me, I was in the mud in the gardens on the castle grounds, planting the flowers that represented my middle name. I wasn't even sure he knew who I was, but he spoke with me all the same. He treated me like a queen even though I looked like the gardener's daughter. His gentle manner and strong but quiet demeanor seemed to win a bit of my heart at that very moment.
When we next saw each other, we were both very surprised by what we found. There was yelling coming from my father's chambers, and the doors flew open as the man in the garden suddenly exited the room and almost ran into me. I could tell from the aura surrounding him that he and my father had come to words. He was livid. I thanked heaven that their meeting had not been worse. I remember my father yelling that the count was now barred from the ball. That seemed to be ridiculous to me. I ran after the man and introduced myself as the princess of the realm and that I was requesting he attend the ball as my guest. I thrust a small piece of paper into his hands and asked him to wait for all the other guests to be introduced before he entered. I told him I would take care of everything if my father caused trouble. The paper was insurance if things went badly. I had no idea if Vlad had any magic abilities at that point, and it was a talisman that could teleport him out of danger if it came to it.
I never had to worry about my father doing anything that would scare or harm Vlad. I know that now. But that night, I waited with baited breath for Vlad to enter the ballroom. I watched all the others as they made their way down the grand staircase, but my heart stopped as I saw Vlad come to the top of the stairs. To say he was breathtaking would be an understatement.
As he was being introduced, my father started to utter vulgarities about Vlad's heritage, and I was snapped out of my girlish trance. I ran to Vlad's side as the guards tried to rush him out of the ball, and it was then that I noticed why my father had reacted so badly. Vlad was a vampyre. The mighty Ronan had lost his eldest daughter to a tengu from Japan. He was not about to lose his youngest daughter to a vampyre from Romania.
"I'm sorry my father is a bigot," I whispered to Vlad as I glared at the guards and took my future husband to the dance floor. If anyone could stand up to my father, then he was certainly a man to be admired. Over time, I would find that man was also one to be loved with my heart and soul.
As we danced together, I could feel my heart beating through my chest. I was giddy and terrified at the same instant. I was not scared of Vlad. I never could be. I was scared for him, though. My father hated all of what he called the lesser beings--vampyrs, demons, lycans, humans, mutants. If you did not have pure mystic blood in your veins, you were trash to be swept away. I was not about to let that happen to Vlad.
"Please, let's keep dancing," I said to Vlad quietly as we stayed on the dance floor for the next waltz. "Tell me more about yourself," I asked as I felt my father staring at us as if we were doing something vile in the middle of the dance floor. I wished Kari and Ryu were there to see this, and my wish was granted as the guards suddenly had something else to contend with. The sight of my pregnant sister coming onto the dance floor with her tengu husband sent my father into fits. Our brothers, for the most part, stayed on the sidelines. Branan was not there because of his association with the X-Men, in particular his new wife, Jadzia Praxus, but the others milled about looking a bit lost for words.
"I hope one day to be as happy as my sister," I whispered to Vlad as I looked out the French doors onto the courtyard. "My heart is not in this place. I have never fit in. Perhaps it is time I stopped trying and simply lived the life I want, even if that leads me away from the Tara Mount? It's too bad my lineage will likely keep that from happening."
As I held onto Vlad's hand, I started to feel like someone besides my sister and our mother understood. My mother Kennis was not the bigot my father was, thank God. She often went to help the oppressed souls my father left for dead in the ghettos around the city and countryside. I saw her on the opposite side of the room smiling as I danced with Vlad. She swayed and clapped as the band played, and she simply beamed when she saw Kari and Ryu enter the room. She nodded as she watched us dance, and I could tell we had at least one more soul to our side that night.
I did not know then if it would be one night only or an eternity, but I would take what I could get and cherish it always as I stayed at Vlad's side.