Mathias: "...I'm sure you know, vampires take this to an unhealthy degree. Their needs consume their partners. And, sometimes, they take their partners and change them into new vampires. More of the same, historically-speaking. But, maybe, if dark magic were involved, some licentious ritual, some sacrifice drawing on the most profane corruption of passion, a new, more powerful form of vampire could be born of it... And one aware and capable of dark rituals to create new creatures would be a great threat, indeed."
Raf: "A dark ritual in the deep forests of the East, maybe?" "Perhaps one involving twelve maidens and a grief-stricken King," "who had been having an affair with Francesca?"
"Francesca played Philip like a fiddle," Malia concluded, the distasteful curl on her lip broadcasting her disgust and the resulting nausea loud and clear. Malia understood it, instantly, because the plan had crossed her own mind - many times. But she had never been able to risk Eventyr in her pursuit of status. Killing the king had been her most extreme move, but she had made it only once the king had lost all confidence of the people and she'd set James up as the clear successor….
Malia had never expected such a betrayal from a quarter of the kingdom. Her jaw clenched, but she gritted out, "So… you suggest that Francesca Rossi is the greatest existential threat Eventyr has ever faced?" A breathy exhalation betrayed how very floored the Duchess was to speak those words...
"But..." Malia pushed, and the intensity of her panic redirected to a focused steadiness now, as she placed her hands on the back of her seat and leaned forward. "How would Francsca know how to execute such a ritual?" Perhaps the king had told her?
But that wasn't the most compelling question, was it?
Why? Why would a Duchess do this?
"Why… why would Francesca want to open a plague on Eventyr? Or, two plagues?" The zombies and the winged-vampires both…
And, unbidden, Malia's eyes darted toward - and then settled - on Rafael. The truth was that Mathias knew Francesca no more than Malia did, but Rafael knew the rogue duchess on a level they couldn't dream.
Malia's lips didn't move - her dark eyes smoldered with expectation as she held Rafael's gaze. Was Francesca power-hungry? Out for revenge? Or just the vampires' pawn...?