Note: This story was originally posted as a contest entry on Wattpad. While it did end up winning the contest, it does have its flaws and failings, and while it did well on Wattpad, I do know that some of the tropes featured will probably give me some backlash anywhere else. But I'm posting it anyway because I felt like sharing it. Hopefully, even with its mistakes and bumps, you'll still enjoy the story.
Moonlight broke through the clouds, making Eleanora's pale skin seem luminescent and her blonde hair shine. Shivering despite her inability to feel the chill in the night air, Eleanora hurried along the quiet forest path, noticing as the trees began to thin out.
Sapphire blue skirts swishing around her and over every rock and root beneath her slipper-covered feet, Eleanora grit her sharp teeth as the glittering palace came into view, its golden lights seeming unnatural in the darkness of night. She wasn't used to seeing such brightness, nor did she want to be.
For a moment she paused, her eyes focused on the palace. She didn't want to be here, but as her eyes landed on the palace gates and the heads of her deceased brethren that topped each spike, each gilded spear, she felt her resolve harden even as her stomach churned with the fear she couldn't shove away.
Eleanora pursed her lips, the words of her stepmother playing in her head like the classical music playing in the air as it drifted from the palace.
"You must complete your mission by sunrise. If you do not, you will be nothing better than that ill-fated guild."
Yes, that ill-fated guild whose heads now lined the palace gates of the Wizarding Royal Family. Eleanora felt her eyes prickling with tears she couldn't cry. She could do this for them, since it was clearly not for herself.
She couldn't let her fear get to her or the premature sense of grief. She was to give up it all so her people could be free from the wizarding population that hunted them for sport. Steeling herself and her fingers, that, were they human, would've been quivering, Eleanora rushed forwards, her hair ruffling in the gust of wind her movement created. She was going to go through with the plan.
She was no weak-minded human, she was no simple maiden in a pretty dress like the ladies going to and from the palace that stood close by to the shadows of the forest.
No, she was a vampire, and she had a prince to kill, even if it would hurt her more than any wizard in the world ever could.
No one noticed Eleanora as she slipped through the gilded gates, keeping her eyes averted from the bloodless vampire heads lining the spiked fence that surrounded the palace of the Royal Wizarding Family. For all intents and purposes, the enchantment cast upon her by her stepmother held, making her look like just another young Wizarding lady. It hid her unnaturally pale skin and her lack of the glowing eyes that were a testament to wizards everywhere, and it kept her head from joining those already perched atop the palisade.
She hoped the enchantment would hold. She had no wish to become a head on a stick or a pile of cinders in the middle of the palace ballroom because of the palace's rune defenses.
Brushing past the ball-goers, Eleanora kept her own eyes averted from the forms of those coming from the ball. If she wished to escape from the palace alive, she couldn't draw attention to herself. The enchantment could only take her so far; she'd have to do the rest herself.
Ignoring the multiple pairs of glowing blue eyes that surrounded her as she hurried past their owners, Eleanora tried not to quake with fear as she walked under the marble archway leading into the palace. Carved into the stone with runes that told of fire and death were the same words that gave the palace defenses the power to smite any vampire who dared to step foot in its halls.
The runes were how her father died, her mother passed, and those runes would kill her if she didn't get out of the palace before the sun rose.
As she walked under them, the runes failed to flare up like the wizards who'd cast them a century ago had intended, and Eleanora let out a silent sigh of relief. Her stepmother was right. It was as if she was still human, not a being who required darkness and blood to survive.
Although the morning hours creeped steadily closer, the ball still went on at full swing, the crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling bathing the dancing couples in a warm glow that made Eleanora's head hurt. A number of the ornately dressed party-goers now sat at the edges of the ballroom or leaned up against pillars, trying to catch their breath or rest their no-doubt aching feet, yet it appeared the ball wouldn't burn out until the sun came to greet them.
Onyx eyes scanning the ballroom, Eleanora allowed herself to follow the movements of the crowd, not dancing of course, but just swaying as if she was just another starry-eyed girl enjoying herself. No, it was her eyes that did the dancing, sweeping a piercing search over the ballroom, not pausing even to look at the King and Queen more closely. She had no need to. She had no interest in them; they were murderous tyrants who killed blindly, not stopping to spare even those who were once their close friends.
Breaking free from the crowd, she gave into her instincts, although not her vampire ones-- those were too swamped with the scent and sounds of the moving bodies that surrounded her like fog. No, instead she listened to her other instincts, the same ones that allowed a mother to find a wandering child in a crowd, or the instincts that led a pair of lovers to find each other's gazes across a crowded room.
Turning her head, her blonde hair swinging about her shoulders, Eleanora watched as a tall, dark-haired figure clothed in white walked out to the doors she'd once entered through herself as a human. They were the doors to the balcony overlooking the rose garden and she knew the figure was him instantly. Even though the only hint provided was a clear outline of a crown amongst his tight curls, she knew the figure to be Prince Julius from the way he held himself.
If her heart still thumped in her chest, she knew it would've skipped a beat or two, but alas, just like her heart, Prince Julius was a friend from another life. He was a friend she'd first met as a little girl while wandering the rose garden, waiting for her mother to be done having tea with his mother, the queen.
With all of her stone cold and silent heart, Eleanora wished she didn't have to follow him, but in her mind she knew she needed to. If she did not, more of the creatures she called family would die. What was one life in exchange for thousands?
That thought didn't make her feel any better.
Breaking away from the crowd, Eleanora followed the prince on silent feet, her quiet countenance and unassuming demeanor letting her fall into the shadows like the monsters she descended from. No one trailed after her, not a single soul glanced her way, and she had eyes only for the Prince.
Coming up behind him, she paused. If she wished to, she could do it now. He'd never see it coming, she'd never get to have the memory of killing her childhood best friend. She'd never have to see the betrayal on his face.
It was for that same reason that she cleared her throat.
They were supposed to be mortal enemies now because of what she'd become, but that did not wash away over a decade of friendship that came before it, nor did it sweep under the rug the fear, adoration, regret, and sorrow coursing through her veins like blood.
Julius turned his head to the side, his crystalline, blue eyes meeting hers. To his credit, his eyes widened, but he did not react otherwise. He didn't take a step back, or even reach for the wand hidden away on his hip. A single spell from him and she would die. A single shout and the plot would be exposed.
He did neither of those things.
"Eleanora," he whispered her name, his mouth barely moving but caressing the sound of her name all the same. Just the way he said her name made her heart clench and her stomach churn. He said it like a priest would whisper a last prayer, and she felt her chest tighten as if her own lungs sought to betray her, kill her, before she had the chance to kill him instead.
"Julius." And she said his name like a sinner asking for a savior. He peered at her, taking a single step towards her and lifting a calloused hand to her face. She leaned in to it, unable to stop herself.
"What are you doing here? You promised me you'd never return unless..." He left the rest of the sentence unsaid. She knew how it ended, they'd agreed to disagree on the subject for three years now. Indeed, she had broken her promise, but she'd always known that she'd never be able to keep that particular promise. She placed a hand over his wrist, taking it away from her face.
"I'm sorry, Julius," she murmured, apologizing for more than breaking her promise. Her eyes locked with his, and she felt as if she'd been stripped bare under his inspection, her body shivering without her consent. He tugged the wrist she held in her hand free, his own hand coming up to cradle the back of her head, forcing her closer, his body pressed up against hers.
"How can you say that?" Her voice came out strangled. "You know why I'm here."
"Yes, I do, but I don't care. Now do it, before the sun rises and you're burnt to ash." Eleanora stared up at him, his black eyebrows, his high cheekbones, his riotous curls, his pink lips- she couldn't do it.
Behind him, the sky had begun to lighten, and Eleanora knew that if she made the wrong choice, there was no going back, but she couldn't do what she had come for. She couldn't do what her stepmother wanted her to do, she couldn't complete the mission she'd been handpicked for. Who better to kill the prince than his best friend? Who better to kill the prince than the woman he loved? How better to break her heart and force her into submission than to make her become a murderer by killing him?
"I can't do it," she answered, and Julius pulled her tighter against him, his nose hair-widths away from hers. In a single intake of breath his mouth met hers, his lips caressing hers, scorching hers, drinking her in, while his hands gripped her ever closer. Eleanora wished she could cry, that this moment just before dawn could last forever.
With a rush of air, he pulled back from her lips, still holding her to him.
"You can and you will." Julius hid his head in her neck, leaving his own bare and unguarded. Eleanora looked over his neck as the horizon began to glow a deep red, announcing the lack of time before the sun arrived. Her fingers dug into the silken, white fabric on his back, her eyes fluttering closed as she felt the heat from his breath, and then from his mouth, scalding against her neck.
She knew what she had to do. She'd been trained for months. Eleanora knew what her stepmother, what her family asked of her... But she also knew what Julius asked of her.
And who was she to say "no" to a prince?
And so in the true spirit of short stories, I end this story with you all probably wandering what she decided to do. What do you think Eleanora decided to do? Did she kill Julius? Did she allow herself to be burnt to cinders? Did she turn him into a vampire or run away with him off into the sunrise? Let me know what you think she did in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!