Historical Note: The Princes in the Tower were actual historical figures, who were imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1483, during the War of the Roses, by their uncle Richard, who became Richard III of England. It is assumed but has never been proven that Richard had them killed shortly thereafter.
Hearing the whimpers, the blond twenty-year-old rolled out of his bed and padded across the dark room to his brother’s side. He laid a comforting hand on the younger boy’s shoulder. "Dickon," he whispered, trying to calm Richard out of his nightmare without waking him.
After a few moments of silence it seemed he’d succeeded, and he returned to his own bed, long familiarity allowing him to navigate without light. He drew his knees up, resting his chin on them, and stared into the shadows, wondering again how it had come to this.
Seven long years he and his brother had been entombed in these rooms, and they knew they would never leave them alive. The man who’d sequestered them, their own uncle, was five years dead, but his successor had married their eldest sister and was no more interested than their uncle had been in setting them free. In fact, it had been so long since they’d seen anyone but the deaf mute who brought their meals that Edward thought Henry Tudor might well believe them dead.
The young man who had once been King of England for a span best measured in days muffled a bitter laugh, not wanting to disturb his brother. They would be better off in their graves than enduring this living death.
"They come to take us away yet, Neddy?" Richard, child groom, child widower, and Duke of York asked, sitting up and brushing his long blond hair out of his face. "I almost wish they would; it would be better than this infernal waiting and wondering."
"No," Edward sighed. "I don’t think anyone remembers we’re here, Dickon." He finally said aloud what they had avoided acknowledging for a very long time. He bit his lip, holding back the screams that wanted to escape, knowing that if he once allowed himself to start, he would never stop this side of madness. And he still had to be strong for his brother.
Richard let out a hoarse sound that might have been a laugh or a sob. "I wonder if suicide would be a mortal sin considering our situation?"
Edward knew he should be trying to lift Richard’s spirits, but under the circumstances it was beyond him. Seven years locked in a small suite of rooms was enough to drive anyone to despair. "I am beginning not to care," he admitted.
"After almost half our lives behind these walls, I fear I am beginning to agree with you." Richard stood and crossed over to Edward’s bed, sitting heavily beside him. "What I wouldn’t give to be a part of the world again."
"Would you give your life?" a soft, sweet voice asked an instant before one of the shadows moved.
"What witchery is this?" Edward exclaimed, jumping from his bed to stand between his brother and whatever specter this was.
"’Tis a demon come for our souls!" Richard hissed, looking about for a weapon to ward off the woman who was walking toward them.
"No witchery and no demon," she answered, raising her face so that her dark hair fell away from it, revealing a pale, beautiful countenance. "I offer you both your freedom, but it comes at a price."
"Ha! Think you we are so foolish as to make a deal with the devil, no matter his guise?" Edward scoffed. "Nay! Begone, evil temptress. Though we may die here, we shall do so with our souls intact."
She laughed again, a sound that sent a shiver that had nothing to do with fear through Richard’s body. "Offer me a cross so that I might swear I mean your souls no harm on it."
Frowning, Edward edged over toward their small altar and grasped the holy crucifix, extending it warily toward the woman. "No mortal woman could have come here so."
"That is true, and I will admit that I am no mortal woman." She reached out and took the crucifix from his hand, causing both young men to gasp in shock. "I am more—and less—than mortal, and I have been for many years."
"What are you then? For I tell you truly, if there is some way out of this coil, an escape from this accursed Tower that does not imperil our immortal souls, I believe I would take it, no matter what it might be." Despite his growing hope, Edward was still careful not to commit himself before knowing to what.
Moving from behind Edward, Richard eyed the woman closely and threw caution to the wind. "I care not if it imperils my soul or not. Have we not been in Hell these past years, Ned?" he asked, looking at his brother. "If we would go to another, at least it will be more pleasing to the eye than your face."
He walked up to their visitor, his chin raised and his gaze steady. "Do what you would, mistress."
"’Tis Lady Anne," she corrected gently. "I am the Dowager Countess of Wycke.
"As for my will, you must consent before I may do aught, with full knowledge of what will occur. I would not have you spend centuries in misery because of over-hasty words."
"Centuries, my lady?" Edward questioned warily.
"Centuries, Your Grace," she replied, giving him the title that had been stripped from him. "I offer you immortality, if you would become as I, a vampire." As she spoke, she again reached out and touched the crucifix, proving that it did not harm her.
"Centuries of life?" Richard asked, recalling the tales they had both heard before their imprisonment. "Life in the form as we are now?"
"Exactly as you are now," Anne answered. "You would live forever, unchanging, able to enjoy all that life has to offer, even as I have these past two and a half millennia, my lords. I find life very sweet, and I believe you would as well."
"The tales say that vampires are creatures of the dark, my lady, foul and unclean, evil, unable to survive the touch of the sun’s rays," Edward responded.
"Untrue, sir. We are more sensitive to light than ordinary mortals, ‘tis true, at least when we are young, but any man may be burned by the sun. And if you should choose this path, I am old enough that you would gain my tolerance. You could walk in sunlight as freely as you ever did."
Edward bit his lip. "We have walked nowhere freely for near half our lives, madam." He glanced at Richard, still standing before the woman and nodded slowly as he moved to his side. "My brother has the right of it. Do your will, Lady Anne."
She looked at the two fair-haired young men and smiled. "I would explain what the change entails first though; I must drain you nearly dry of blood while you drink of mine; that done, you will sleep for a time and awaken as vampire."
Richard nodded and reached up, drawing his hair away from his throat. "I will be first, to be certain you speak the truth."
Edward made a sound of protest. As the elder, it was his duty to protect his brother. Watching the other two, he subsided, reminding himself that he was unable to protect Richard from anything, and if this woman could free them from the accursed Tower, then it would be best to let her do so.
Listening to both young men’s thoughts, Anne smiled, pleased by their concern for one another. "Soon," she breathed. "Soon you will be free." She cupped Richard’s cheeks between her palms and kissed him, granting him this much in his mortal life. Only then did she let her mouth trail down over his jaw to his throat, and she bit down, beginning to drink the rich blood.
Richard shuddered and groaned, arousal coursing through him so sharply it held more pain than the piercing of his throat. He swayed and felt Lady Anne steady him but forced his eyes open to look at Edward, wanting to reassure him.
Edward had taken a step forward when Richard seemed like to fall, but the reassurance in the blue eyes stopped him. He halted just out of arm’s reach, watching intently. Richard did not seem to be in any danger, not if the expression on his face was any indication, but Edward still kept watch, his life not lending to blind trust.
Richard’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he gave a low moan.
Feeling the weakness flow through the young man, Anne lifted a hand and, in the flicker of an eye, tore open her wrist. "Drink, my prince. Drink and be born again."
Edward watched worriedly, hovering over them. He feared the results of this night’s work, but he reminded himself that even if they were to die, it would be better than what their lives had become.
Richard drank mindlessly, his mind already clouding due to blood loss. He felt his knees give way and himself lowered to the floor, then the world closed in on him, and he knew no more.
Anne continued feeding and allowing Richard to drink from her until she was certain that he had been changed. Only then did she gently disengage herself and settle Richard’s limbs comfortably. Once she was sure he would not awaken cramped, she rose to her feet and turned to face Edward.
"Have you changed your mind, Your Grace?"
After a quick glance at his brother, Edward swallowed hard and shook his head. "I await your pleasure, my lady."
Some little time later Richard came back to consciousness with a start, feeling more clear-headed and alert than he could ever recall. "Ned?" he called, before turning his head to see Lady Anne bent over his brother’s prone form, her mouth and Edward’s both wet with blood. "Is it done?" he asked, moving to Ned’s side and cradling the blond head in his lap in a gesture of fierce protectiveness.
"Nearly so," Anne said, watching the brothers closely. "When he wakes, he will be changed, as are you. And though it is not required, it would be best that we find you a willing meal. Feeding from your own kind will do much of the time, but you will find that you need mortal blood as well from time to time."
"I will not kill another person to preserve my own life," Edward said emphatically, struggling to sit up against his brother’s supporting arm.
"You need not," Anne reassured them both. "A small amount is all that is necessary, and you will find there are many willing to give it in exchange for the pleasure we offer."
"Pleasure?" Richard asked before realizing what she was speaking about and remembering how he had felt when Anne bit him, then nodding in wonder. "It will feel like that for any that we... bite?"
Edward’s eyes shot to Anne, equally interested in her reply, and he smiled faintly at her nod. "It seems the stories are inaccurate in many details," he murmured.
"Very much so," she replied, also smiling. "But now, perhaps you would care to leave this tower and come to my home?"
Edward nearly leapt to his feet. "Yes!" he exclaimed, eager to leave this place and never lay eyes on it again.
Richard rose as well, staying near Edward in case his support was needed. He felt different: stronger, colors and scents seemed sharper, and, above all, he felt hungry. "How do we go about this?" he asked, looking around before deciding there was nothing he wanted to take with him.
Steadier now, Edward walked over to his bed and opened a small chest on the table next to it, removing several miniatures, all that he had left of his parents and other siblings. "I want nothing else from this place."
Anne nodded. "Then close your eyes and imagine yourself thinning, fading until you are as insubstantial as the morning mist," she murmured, reaching into their minds as she spoke to show them how to manage this ability.
Tensing at first as he felt foreign thoughts in his mind, Richard forced himself to relax, risking a glance at Edward, then doubling his efforts when he saw his brother’s form was already becoming hazy.
Why, this is fun! Edward thought gleefully before wondering how he could still be aware of himself when he was nothing more than a barely visible cloud.
"And that alone should convince you that your soul remains intact, for is that not the insubstantial part that makes you who you are?" Anne replied, most of her attention on Richard, who was taking somewhat longer to catch the trick of this new ability. She was unsurprised since many at first fought what seemed a loss of self and she urged him on, as did Edward once he realized they could still communicate in this form. She felt a surge of pride when Richard mastered the skill moments later, assured of the rightness of her choice in changing them.
"Very good, my dears, you have already mastered an ability that takes some vampires years to learn," she said delightedly.
"What?" Edward exclaimed in surprise. "You might have told us beforehand, lady!"
"And put thoughts of failure into your minds?" she laughed. "No, you believed you could, and so you did."
"What I believe is that I’d like to leave now," Richard offered, the strange sensation unsettling him. Although he couldn’t see Edward or Lady Anne, he knew where they were, and he could still hear them in his mind.
"An excellent idea," Anne agreed, leading the way through the exterior wall and to her townhouse a little distance away, not wanting anyone to see them. Once inside, she solidified again, giving them a little help as they had some difficulty.
"That was a most peculiar sensation, my lady," Edward said fervently.
"Aye," Richard agreed, feeling his body and looking down at himself to make sure he was all there. "Is this your home, m’lady?"
"Yes, it has belonged to me for several centuries under a variety of names. I thought it time to leave my previous life behind, now that my husband is dead, and it will be easier for you away from scrutiny. In fact, I think it best that we leave London entirely. One of my country estates in Cornwall would be safest."
"Do you think us cowards, madam?" Edward demanded indignantly.
"Heaven save me from young men’s touchy pride," Anne sighed.
"He was king," Richard mused. "How else should he behave?" He looked around, mulling over their situation, then nodded. "It would be best to leave London for a while. We might not be remembered, but I for one wish to see something other than the city; I do believe I hate this place."
"And I," Edward agreed. "As well, I fear what I might do if we remain here near those who kept us mewed up. Though our uncle is dead, the pretender Tudor is right here in London, and I do not think our sister being his wife would sway me."
"Then we shall leave this very night. We can arrange clothes and whatever else you need once we are safe on my estates," Anne replied. "Come."
"But will not your carriage be noticed?" Edward inquired warily.
Anne laughed. "We shall travel on foot, my lords. It shall be much faster than you can imagine."
"On foot?" Richard repeated, astounded. "But my lady, neither Ned nor myself have been outside in many years; we may prove hindering for a journey done in such a manner."
Edward said nothing, but his expression clearly mirrored his brother’s sentiments.
Anne smiled. "You have gained more than eternal life this night, my lords. You have also gained immense strength and speed. We shall reach my estate within hours, and you fill find that you are not fatigued by the journey.
"Then I suppose we shall bow to your knowledge, m’lady," Richard answered, glancing at Edward and taking courage from his presence.
"Sensible men, I’m shocked," Anne murmured, smiling. "I think we shall do very well together, my dears." She led the way outside, using a door known only to herself and the few other vampires she’d trusted with the secret.
"Do we simply begin running?" Edward asked, staring across the field.
"Precisely," Anne nodded, removing her stylish shoes and stockings, then shedding her dress so she would be able to move freely in only her shift.
Shocked speechless, Edward could only stare.
Coughing and looking anywhere but at the nearly nude form of the woman who had turned him, Richard was aware of an unseemly stirring in his groin, and he turned to the side to hide it.
Anne hid her smile behind a genteel cough. "You may want remove some of your garments as well... for ease of movement," she suggested.
"My lady!" Edward exclaimed, scandalized.
"You will have to put aside the artificial manners and morality you have known till now," she replied bluntly. "You are no longer part of that world."
Edward swallowed hard. "It is difficult, madam."
Anne nodded. "But necessary."
Slowly, Edward’s hands rose, and he began to remove his outer garments.
"Neddy," Richard whispered, keeping his hands in front of his lower body to hide the fact that seeing Anne in her shift had aroused him unbearably. "I can’t."
Edward moved so that he blocked Anne’s view of his brother, his hands on Richard’s shoulders. "Think about the Tower," he whispered, hoping the bad memories would take care of the problem.
Anne watched them, wondering if she should offer to take care of the problem for Richard, but she had a feeling that his reaction—both boys’ reactions—would delay them even longer.
Closing his eyes, Richard tried to block out everything around them and do just that. The memory of the long, anxious days, not knowing if each would be their last, flooded over him, and he felt himself wilt. "Thank you, Neddy," he whispered, reaching up to clasp his brother’s hand before stepping back to remove his clothing down to his drawers, only then looking at Anne. "I believe we are ready now, m’lady."
Edward finished removing his garments as well and nodded. His toes wriggled at the odd sensation of grass beneath them, and he wondered how they would not end up crippled from racing through the night barefoot. Lady Anne had been proven correct in all she’d told them so far, however, so he vowed to continue following her directives.
"Splendid. Then let us depart, my dears. I think it shall be long and long again before we set foot anew in London." Anne started across the field at an easy lope, giving the new vampires a chance to grow accustomed to their own speed and ease.
Richard fell in beside Edward, both of them following Anne through the night, and, as he discovered that he wasn’t growing tired and, in fact, felt wonderful, Richard sped up, grinning at Edward. "Race you to the next town," he challenged, laughing.
Edward grinned and sped up, taking up the challenge. Watching them, Anne smiled as she followed easily, glad to see them slowly putting aside the cares that had weighted them down. Whatever came of this night’s work, she did not think she would ever regret finding and freeing the two young men, though she did wonder if the king would ever even realize they were gone.
"Ha! Beat you!" Richard crowed, though in fact that might not have been the case at all. Still, it was entertaining to see the look of indignation spread across Edward’s face.
"And you still know not the difference between dreams and reality!" Edward snorted. "What say you, my lady?" he appealed to Anne, who laughed as she shook her head and held up her hands.
"Oh no, you’ll not place me in the middle of your battles. I know better than that!"
"But Lady Anne..." Richard pouted, turning to her and smiling winsomely, "Did you not see I out-paced him most soundly?"
"I saw that you both seem to have mastered running at your top speed," she replied diplomatically.
"Ah, it shall be entertaining attempting to trip you up, my lady," Edward laughed.
Richard laughed as well. "Indeed! This shall prove most entertaining." He frowned then and rubbed his stomach. "How often is it that we must eat?"
Somewhat hungry himself, Edward was intensely interested in the answer to that question and waited quietly for their sire’s response.
"When hungry," Anne replied. "Once a week or so should be enough, but sometimes a little more is necessary when first turned. You are hungry?"
Wondering if he shouldn’t be, Richard frowned. "Yes, but if I shouldn’t be, it isn’t important."
Anne laughed. "Silly boy, there is no should. If you are hungry, then you must feed. We do not need you to starve yourself into a frenzy. And yes, I should have thought before we left. You have not fed since being turned, and you have used a great deal of energy this night." She looked around. "There is a village not far from here. I will teach you how to feed without being discovered and how to make the human forget afterward."
"It seems rather... illicit," Edward said distastefully.
"And who is it we should... feed from?" Richard asked, licking his lips at the thought of it though he had no idea as to how it would be accomplished.
Anne shook her head. "It gives them a bit of pleasure in half-remembered dreams, Lord Edward. And once we reach my lands, you will find many of my people are willing, nay, eager, to serve our needs. For tonight, to answer your question, Lord Richard, we shall see who we may find in an outlying hut." She eyed them. "And I suppose for now it will have to be a woman," she sighed.
"As opposed to whom?"
"A man of course."
"A man!" Edward exclaimed, scandalized. "We are no pederasts, madam!"
Anne rolled her eyes. "Yes, yes. We’ll discuss it again in a hundred years or so. For now, let’s find you some buxom, young milkmaid."
"Buxom?" Richard’s eyebrows rose, and he followed after Anne, wanting to see and experience more.
"Men!" Casting them both a disgusted look, Anne led the way to the village, reaching out mentally until she found a house where there were only two sleeping minds, each at opposite ends of the small dwelling.
"I will teach you how to find out for yourselves when we have more time," she murmured, "but for now I have found a likely prospect." She only hoped the widowed father remained asleep and neither prince caviled at the girl, whatever her appearance.
"We shall do as you say, my lady," Edward replied, following closely as Anne thinned to mist and passed through the wall of a nearby dwelling.
Still fixated on the single word, Rick followed, changing back from the mist to himself and staring down at the sleeping maid. "Oh, lady, you spoke true!"
Anne sighed. "What is it with men and breasts?"
Edward’s head whipped around, and he stared at her, shocked to hear that word pass a lady’s lips.
"Oh, stop that," she said irritably. "I’m older than the idiotic habit of being mealy-mouthed. I do know what a breast is. And several other body parts as well!" Despite her exasperation, she kept her voice low, not disturbing the sleeping girl or her elderly father in the next room.
"Go ahead, both of you. When you’re done, I’ll show you how to make it seem a dream to her."
Edward glanced from the girl to his brother. "Go ahead, Dickon, you may have the first turn."
Richard licked his lips but forced himself to keep from falling on the girl. "Nay, Neddy, you are older, you deserve the first chance."
Edward grinned slightly. "You forget, Dickon, I am somewhat older. I had my first chance before we were mewed up. Enjoy her," he urged. "I shall sate my hunger as well once you are done."
Eyes widening, Richard looked from Edward to Anne. "I thought we were simply to eat from her?"
"You are," Anne replied soothingly after a forbidding glance at Edward. "For this time. But it is still a sensual experience. It matters not who goes first, so drink your fill, Lord Richard. We require little enough; it will not harm her."
Hoping he didn’t embarrass himself in front of his brother and the lady, Richard moved to the bedside, saliva flooding his mouth as he smelled the blood beating beneath the girl’s skin. Lunging forward, he pierced her neck with his fangs and gulped down the hot blood that filled his mouth, groaning at the flavor.
Edward bit back a moan as he watched his brother with the girl and smelled the rich scent of her blood.
"Calmly, my dear," Anne said softly, speaking to both of them. "Do not rip her flesh, Richard; it will be harder to heal. Take your time and enjoy."
Shuddering, Richard tried to do as Anne said, though the feel of the girl squirming beneath him was a terrible goad. He fisted his hands in the straw mattress beneath her and controlled his drinking, finally backing off when he felt sated, blood running down the sides of his mouth in thin streams.
Unable to resist, Anne drew close to Richard and licked away the blood that had escaped him. "Very good," she praised, still pressed against him while Edward looked on, his eyes wide.
At the feel of her tongue on his flesh, Richard moaned and climaxed, hiding his face in shame when he realized what had happened.
Anne stroked his hair. "A delightful compliment," she murmured, "and one I hope you will permit me to return once we are safely at my estate."
For his brother’s dignity Edward pretended not to have seen or heard anything, instead sinking to his knees beside the girl’s pallet and beginning to drink.
Richard hid his face against Anne’s shoulder, trying not to think of what her words implied. He peered out behind her hair to watch Edward feeding as well, relieved that the sight didn’t affect him as his own meal had.
Not long afterward Edward drew away from the girl, instinctively licking the wounds. "They heal!" he exclaimed, surprised, leaning closer once again to peer at the vanishing marks.
"Very good, Edward! Your instincts led you to the correct action. Always lick the marks when you are done feeding, and they will heal almost instantly. This healing power works on any wounds, so should you have a human companion, it will be possible to aid them when necessary as well.
"Now watch my mind and see how I cloud her memory, though in this case it is hardly necessary since she never woke."
With less effort than the time before, Richard linked his mind with Anne’s, blushing as he ‘saw’ the dreams she placed in the girl’s memory. "And we can do that when people are awake too?" he stammered.
"Yes, though it is much more difficult." After checking to be certain that Edward was following them, she led the way back out of the hut. "Are you ready to continue our journey now?"
"Completely, my lady," Edward replied after a final glance back over his shoulder at the cottage.
"How much farther is your home?" Richard asked.
"We have covered near half the distance." Anne set out through the night, confident that the two fledglings could keep up.
Edward wordlessly handed Richard a rag he ripped from the bottom of his smallclothes, watching Anne’s direction as his brother cleaned himself.
Nodding his thanks, Richard cleaned himself and took off after Edward and Anne, running into the dawning of a new life.
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