The Lady Raven surveyed the surrounding landscape, still perched on top of the belfry; although now, it must be noted, she was no longer in avian form, and had anyone looked up from the grounds, he would have beheld the strange sight of a nearly-naked woman, wearing a cruel crown of tarnished metal, crouched upon the peaked roof, unbothered by the hundred-foot drop below her. But there was no one upon the castle grounds to glance upwards, and even if there had been, it was dark, and the observer might have mistaken her for an oddly-placed gargoyle silhouetted against the starry sky.
Some hours passed, each marked by the tolling of the nonexistent bells beneath her, before she stirred from her watchful vigil and leapt, catlike, onto the roof of a neighboring building. She darted across its summit, fearless of falling, her bare, bone-white feet scarcely seeming to touch the uneven slate tile work. Upon reaching the end, she jumped easily over the battlements to alight upon the castle wall, mindless of the posted guards. Nor did they mind her, for that matter. Their attention was directed outward. They did not even notice the Second Queen of Time as she dropped from the sky and glided past them behind their backs, brushing so close to them so as to flutter the garments that stuck out from beneath their chainmail.
She came to a graceful halt directly above the castle gates and looked out unto the masses encamped outside. There they all were, at her disposal, like livestock crowded into the slaughterhouse. There were so many of them present that she could smell their blood from afar, hear the beating of their weak little hearts. How thoughtful of them, what a lovely assortment to select from! She ran her coal-black tongue over her blood-red lips and smiled, just widely enough for her fangs to show. She would feed now, ah, yesss, she would feed. Their blood might not be as sweet as that of the little Sysaran man-boy, but that mattered not. There was plenty more here, enough to sample until she found one that met her tastes.
She dropped down outside the castle gates and made her way slowly amidst the sleeping horde like an aristocrat browsing a wine cellar, looking for the finest variety. Most of the barrels, she noted, had collected a fair amount of dust, which was rather off-putting. She preferred to sink her fangs into a clean neck, not a grimy one.
But here, here was a decent fellow. Aged a bit further than was her predilection, but not too bad. Looked to have been concocted roundabouts 1160, judging by the grey in his curly red hair. She crouched beside his sleeping body and sniffed at him. This seemed to be a Sysaran vintage, hearty and a bit spicy, with notes of whisky and…what was that, medicinal herbs? A doctor, then? What was a Sysaran doctor doing in the Carvil Valley amidst a rabble of peasants? Unless…
Yesss. That was it.
Perhaps his blood would taste nearly as sweet as his son’s.
“Welcome to Carviliet, Dr. MacInnes,” she whispered to the black-cloaked man as she lowered her mouth to his neck. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”