A Host of Monarchs

Idea: This is the sequel to A Horde of Gummies. I knew as soon as I’d finished it that there would be a sequel—oh, who am I kidding, I knew as soon as I hit the halfway mark and I realized the main characters weren’t actually the main characters, and Ados was the one with the best story to tell. Who wants to write romances anyway. I really wanted to dive into the Darkworld, and show ‘vampires’ in their natural habitat, and address the predatory structure of vampire vs monarch. The monarchs themselves are fascinating, but due to their love of vampire flesh, I didn’t have any excuse to dive into their social structure at all, which means… I could write a 3rd book. But I probably won’t.

Process: I chose to do this for Nanowrimo because I knew I wanted to write it, I knew it would be fairly short, and I didn’t care about the quality. I was able to plot it fairly easily without any expectations. I think the biggest challenge was making Ados a sympathetic character without dwelling on his sob story. I don’t know if I succeeded or not, but I still like him, so there is hope. I even like the most annoying character in the book! For whatever reason, Horde and Host have become my special babies. They’re just fun, in very different ways.

Oh and I looooooved playing with the language differences between Vampire and English, and coming up with vampire names. I mean… ‘Teardrop’, ‘Shining-Fang’, ‘Scorpion’, ‘Skyroot’, ‘Hill-Walker’, ‘Ether’… it’s fun. (10 points to anyone who ever figures out where Ados’ name comes from.)

Edited: Not really.


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The vampire Ados Nikab was stargazing, tracing the unfamiliar constellations, when the rock-lion sprang on him from above. Unlike an Earth lion, the rock-lion of Darkworld had prehensile paws, suitable for climbing the rocky landscape, and especially suitable for grasping limbs and never letting go. ‘Lion’ was the closest translation Ados could make, based on the beast’s size and pack mentality. Not that anyone here spoke any of the languages of Earth that Ados had grown familiar with.

All these thoughts passed through his head as he watched the rock-lion’s front paws reach for him, waiting until the last moment before throwing himself forward in a roll down the slope. Moving any sooner would have only caused the rock-lion to change direction as well; this way, he was able to roll and come to his feet as the beast landed and skidded itself to a stop. It was now about 15 feet above him on the slope, its front paws curling around the loose gravel, its back legs beginning to crouch on solid rock. Ados crouched, curling his own toes to grasp the rock, and placed one hand on the hilt of his knife. The rock-lion sprang, Ados moved under it and used its own momentum to flip it over, using one hand and one knife blade. As the beast tried to right itself and land on its feet, Ados’ knife cut through its underbelly muscles, and it failed, falling on its side. The knife came down between its eyes and the beast died quickly. Ados sank to his knees, grasping his trembling knife hand with his other hand. Aside from his clothing—which was all but worn away at this point—the knife was the only thing he brought back with him from Earth. And he was very glad he did. His relatively mild experiences on Earth had softened him, made him weak and his body unused to fighting. A month back in Darkworld had torn apart his shoes and built callouses on his feet, and the old instincts and training were slowly returning, but 300 years of living among humans left him poor prepared to face the creatures of Darkworld.

He took deep breaths, and gradually the shaking stopped. He wiped the knife on the rock-lion’s fur then sheathed it, thankful once again he had brought it with him. At the time of his return, following the death of his beloved partner Water, he had been in no mental state to make rational decisions. Of course he thought he was being rational, choosing to return to Darkworld, but he really should have given it some time before making such an important change. Not that he was convinced it was the wrong decision, it simply hurt, every day, physically as well as mentally. That first week… he thought for sure he would die. And he had been at peace with that. At least, that’s what he thought, but his subconscious continued to keep him on his toes, avoiding the various dangers. A moment ago, he could have let that rock-lion eat him… but he hadn’t. Steeling himself, Ados bent over the beast’s neck to smell it. Smelled healthy. Before he could think too much about it, he sank his fangs into the skin and began drinking the warm blood. Fresh blood was much better than the blood after a couple hours, which was what he was used to drinking now, not being a natural hunter anymore. Of course none of it was as good as human blood, which was sweeter, and less… acidic. His stomach was still adjusting to the changes, so he pulled away and wiped his mouth. A creature of this size would feed a good portion of the nest, if he could get it to them.

Ados sighed. Then he stood up and looked around. There was no way he could carry the rock-lion back to the nest on his own, yet he expected that Shining-Fang, the leader of the nest, had not yet gotten over his paranoia, and there should be one or two young vampires on his tail. “Hello. Come out.” The Darkworld tongue was still uncomfortable, and it was taking longer than it should have for a linguistic such as himself to re-learn the language he was born with. His words prompted no movement in the landscape around him. Or, not that he could see anyway. His eyes were also not returned to normal; after 300 years of sunlight, the ‘Darkworld’ was even darker than it had been when he left it. He worried his eyesight was permanently damaged and would never adjust to the shades of starlight and eclipsed rings of sun.

Long, long ago—millennia, at least—the ‘Darkworld’ had another name, something that, if the scholars interpreted it right, would translate to English close to ‘the land of our ancestors and all the great beasts’. After all, if this world was the only world you had ever known, you would not know it to be particularly ‘dark’. At some point, though, the vampires acquired the knowledge to create portals that took them to Earth. The ones who returned spoke at length of an entirely different world of blinding light, and thus had been born the distinction between the Darkworld and the Lightworld.

…And Ados could feel that distinction acutely, every day of his return, just as he had felt it the first years of his time on Earth. At that time, the adjustment had been easier, for although he’d had to hide from the sun, nighttime on Earth was pretty much the same as nighttime on Darkworld. But Darkworld’s day was nowhere near as light, glimpsing only for a few short hours a beautiful total solar eclipse.

Ados took a deep breath and tried again. “I know you are here. Help me. This.” He motioned down toward the rock-lion. Already, it seemed as the shadows moved, as hundreds of small black spiders swarmed the bloody corpse, stealing his prey. Rocks shifted behind him, and he glanced over to see Teardrop walking to him. Teardrop—Ados couldn’t help but translate the names to English, although they were more impressive in his native tongue—was a young vampire, about 26 Earth years, so he looked no older than 12. Vampires aged slower than humans. Ados wasn’t sure how old a vampire could get—as far as he knew, he was the oldest here, by at least 200 years. Vampires in Darkworld didn’t often live beyond 100, and more often than not they didn’t live beyond 60.

“What gave me away?” Teardrop asked, moving around the rock-lion corpse.

“Shining-Fang’s unease.” He couldn’t remember the word for ‘paranoia’. Ados knelt and pulled the front-end of the beast over his shoulder, scattering the pebble spiders. Teardrop squashed a few of them, unjustly, then lifted the back-end of the corpse over his own shoulder. Teardrop was small, but he was strong, and better than nothing.

“Shining-Fang, and many others, think you will bring the Monarchs upon us,” said Teardrop, his voice only slightly strained by his burden. They began walking toward the nest.

“Maybe. Maybe not,” Ados said quietly. And that was all the conversation either chose to make.