Some of the women were napping this early afternoon while young slave girls, with huge fans adorned with peacock feathers, moved to cool the humid air.
A current of excitement had swept through the rest of their ranks, leaving them wide-eyed, alert, and whispering among themselves in the harem's enclosed garden while having their muscles massaged by the eunuchs.
Outsiders may covet their way of life, but once the consortium doors were shut, it was evident that their freedom was merely a mirage.
They might be pampered and spoiled, but they were just much as captives to the Vampire royalties as servants.
No matter their rank, they each had only one purpose.
They existed solely to serve the King and his cronies.
To see to their needs and provide for their pleasure only to be doomed to spend the rest of their lives beating frantically against the bars of this gilded cage.
Luna feared that she'd become like them, always waiting for a summons to leave the Consortium just to break the soul-sucking monotony of long, languid, hours.
As she and Lady Clarence began to walk their way through the chamber, several of the women cast furtive glances at her behind their lashes.
"Well, well, well. Look who is here?" A woman suddenly uncurled herself from a purple couch with the sleek grace of a jungle cat and sauntered over to plant herself directly in their path.
The woman forced Lady Clarence into a halt while Luna huddled behind her.
She bobbed a curtsy in the direction of this new lady.
Luna followed suit as she spread her skirts and bobbed an awkward curtsy too.She almost tripped on her skirt in the process.
She was doing a miserable job at this consort thing.
Luna eyed this domineering woman with a cooling appraisal.
She pouted with her plum-colored lips. Her waist-length glossy midnight-black hair looked soft, and her dark eyes danced dangerously. She was truly one of the most stunning women in the harem.
Her lush curves were covered by little more than scraps of translucent silk fashioned to draw a man's eyes to her chest and the juncture of her thighs.
Luna wanted to shield her eyes from the image in front of her because she wasn't used to it.
It was blinding.
After this, she's going to search for virginal robes to wear.
"You're a new one, Silver Hair. I can't seem to identify your species." The lady clutched her hair and tugged sharply, sending tiny sharp needles prickling across her scalp.
Luna had to curl her twitching hand into a fist to keep it from slapping the smug expression from her face.
Luna also didn't want Cederic to descend on them like some avenging angel because she created trouble.
Luna did not want to be a blood slave anyway.
"What creature are you?"
Now, the women openly stared at her long silver hair like she's some rare albino monkey, not bothering to hide the wonder and resentment simmering in their kohl-rimmed eyes.
"You should not torture the recruits, Lady Catriona." Lady Clarence glared daggers at the lady as she pulled Luna behind her for protection.
Yes, it was sweet, but Lady Clarence was drawing all the unnecessary attention to herself.
"My, my, Lady Clarence." She smirked. "I admire your bravery for showing up here at the crime scene. Aren't you afraid you are going to be the victim of yet another poisoning?"
The other harem girls sat up straighter and leaned closer like sharks scenting fresh blood in the water.
Lady Catriona cast a glance over her shoulder, making sure she had her audience's avid attention.
"This isn't your territory, were-leopard. Remember that this place is a sanctuary for all the girls in the Consortium. If you don't like to see me, you should have gone back home in the forest to be the savage you really are."
The women behind Lady Catriona collapsed their couches in fits of giggles.
Luna suppressed a triumphant smile while Lady Catriona scowled at them.
Lady Clarence might be all bark and no bite and, what's more, a human.
Luna admired her for her fearlessness despite her belonging to the weakest race.
Lady Catriona planted her hands on her shapely hips and lifted her chin to an even haughtier angle as she surveyed them with contempt.
"You are a mere human, Lady Clarence, even if you are favored by one of the Dukes. That won't give you an advantage over me since I have a higher rank than you." Lady Catriona said as she gave a dismissive wave of her hand as if they were insignificant.
"You don't want to make a High Consort angry. But since I'm in a rather good mood today, I'll let it slide."
This is her 'good mood', acting all insulting and confrontational all of a sudden?
How much farther did this go if Lady Catriona is in a 'bad mood'?
"Don't act so haughty yet, Catriona." Lady Clarence sighed as if she was done with her. "You are acting like an Empress when you aren't a Concubine yet."
"Oh, wait for it, human. If I become one of the Concubines and get to be the Empress in the future, a three-day coma and a stomach ache will not be enough punishment for your impertinence. I'll let you rot in the dungeons without food and water. The rats wouldn't starve with you there."
Lady Catriona gave them a cold smile.
Although her sultry voice was still clearly audible throughout the chamber, she drew closer. "If I'm feeling generous that day, I'll just tear you to pieces with my claws while your cadaver is hung on a wooden pole in front of the castle gates. Wouldn't it be nice if your spilled blood was enough to tempt the vampires to drink it from the ground instead?"
"Stop threatening me or I'll tell Vali what you have done!"
"Then drop out from the Concubine list. " Leaning closer to Lady Clarence, she lowered her voice to an actual whisper. One intended only for her ears. "You are a Consort. If you want to have power that much, why don't you become a High Priestess? You are a virgin, so I'm sure you'd be qualified. All you have to do is pass the test. Touch the Delphi Staff at the Blood Moon Ceremony tonight and see if you have the potential to learn magic. You just have to break the Vampire King's curse in a year, and he will grant anything you wish."
Luna's ears perked up at what she said.
If she became a High Priestess, learned forbidden magic, and broke the King's curse in one year, could she wish for anything she wanted?
Isn't that killing all the birds with one stone?
"You are trying to convince me to drop out so that you'll get the position, aren't you? You thought one less Concubine to contend with would not hurt. The fewer harem girls in the competition, the better your chances of being the Empress." Lady Clarence shot back. "Nice try, Lady Catriona, but I won't be fooled. I knew you were the one who put the poison in my drink while I was relaxing and rubbing volcanic ashes on my body to prepare for the festivities tonight. You might be prettier than me, but you're just one insecure little bitch."
Lady Clarence set her feet into motion, sidestepping Lady Catriona and sweeping the rest of the way across the chamber.
When Lady Clarence glanced over her shoulder, Lady Catriona shifted into a snow leopard and attacked.
Edited by RedPandaChick
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