Chapter 6

 H.M. Ward

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Reginald never caught a break. Ever since he was a child, he was always second to his sister. Sophia was the epitome of the perfect child, even though she was a girl. It angered him to even consider it. He fared nothing but disappointment after disappointment. Bitterness coated his tongue so frequently that it never shocked him. Not anymore.
He was lucky to make it out of the palace before Sophia turned on him. Even with that little bit of blood, she was more powerful than he'd seen her in very long time. Everything came down to blood, blood is power, and Reginald wanted power. He was sick of his life, of trading exotics to maintain his meager status.
The truck he was riding in rumbled on. The driver speed away from the Queen faster than was reasonable in the ice and snow, but Reginald offered him a stipend of blood if the vamp managed to get them away from Sophia alive. That was all the driver needed. The trucked bounced over the poorly constructed roads, until there was no road to follow. The setting sun blinded them, casting a dazzling array of white light in their faces, as they drove westward.
Reginald slumped back into his seat once they were off of Sophia's property, sighing with relief. "Good man," he said to Thomas, the vampire driving the truck. Thomas didn't take his eyes off the road. He just grunted like a pig. Reginald lamented the passing of high society when vampires didn't digress to making livestock noises while driving a truck. Civilized conversation was something only attainable at court. Thomas was a portly vampire with onion colored skin that was far too sheer. The lack of blood did that, made them sickly and weak. Thomas would do just about anything for an extra ration. If Reginald wasn't a Regent, he didn't know what he'd do. That was about the only bit of luck he had from being Sophia's sibling.
"Drive carefully, but quickly. If we get back to the house before the storm sets in, I'll add another drop to your ration."
Thomas' lips twitched, like he was happy, but the man was never happy. No one was. "Thank you, sir."
"Yes, well, you're far too ghastly to look at anymore." Reginald waved his hand while he spoke, "If you don't increase your blood intake, you'll wilt away into nothing."
Thomas didn't reply. There was nothing to say. Human blood was scarce and each vampire only had so much. Many vamps perished from lack of sustenance. Things were not like the old days, although Thomas was too young to remember those days. Perhaps, that was why the man was not bitter, Reginald thought to himself as he studied Thomas' profile.
Reginald settled back into the seat and sifted through the things he'd learned while visiting Sophia. The human's blood was potent enough to cause an issue with consumption. That alone was worth the visit. If Reggie had done as he planned, it would have gone poorly, no doubt. Vampire metabolisms took blood and utilized it swiftly. In the old days, as soon as it touched his lips, Reggie could feel the power from the blood flowing through him. However, Sophia's warning, the reason why she only drank a drop at a time rang in his ears. She was trying to build a tolerance, he was sure of it. Which meant swallowing the wild human's blood was most likely fatal.
He drew in a deep breath and looked at the storm clouds that were finally visible as the sun sank below the horizon. "Better speed things up, Thomas."
"I don't like the look of them clouds. It's like they're too thin, too wide." Thomas leaned forward, pressing his face to the windshield as he spoke. The truck hit a bump and the vamp slammed his head into the glass. He groaned and returned to his proper position.
Reginald ignored the display of incompetence. As long as the lunatic didn't topple the truck, Reginald didn't care about Thomas' intelligence. He was a servant and nothing more. "They're storm clouds with too much wind, from the look of them." He laughed, picturing himself as a meteorologist a couple hundred years ago, when people got their news from an attractive man on a glowing TV screen. Those were good times.
"What's so funny?" Thomas asked, his face turning paler, if that was possible.
"Just drive," Reginald said slouching back into the seat.
But it didn't matter how fast Thomas drove, it was inevitable. They were headed directly into that storm. When the wind blasted the truck, it nearly blew them off the road, or what was left of it. The ice was slick and Reginald felt the truck slip across the smooth surface. He reached for the door, holding on as they slid. Thomas regained control and slowed.
The few animals that fared well in the wild were scattering, running in the opposite direction of the truck. Thomas' gaze watched wolf, rabbit, and fox trying to escape what they were driving into. "Sir, perhaps we should turn around?" Thomas was never so brazen, but he couldn't keep his thoughts to himself. If they spun off the road and died, Reginald would kill him.
"Keep driving," Reginald said, ignoring the man.
Thomas protested, "Them animals are running, sir. Running. That's not like them. Their natural instinct is to hide. The only thing that flushes 'em out anymore is bad. I gotta say - "
"You've said enough," Reginald snapped. "I realize you think that death may lie ahead of us, but I know with utter certainty that it lies behind us, waiting with a fang and scythe." Pressing his fingers to his throat, Reggie thought of the head that rolled across the throne room floor, eyes still wide in shock. "We will not turn back. Sophia will kill the King and anyone who is in her path. I do not intend to be there when it happens. Drive on."