Over the next eighteen months, Titans Books will be publishing paperback and e-book editions of Freda Warrington’s The Blood Wine Books. The series was originally published in the 1990s, and has been re-edited and revised by the prolific and award winning vampire writer (as in: she writes books about vampires, not that she is one).
Warrington has been nominated for the British Fantasy Society’s Best Novel Award four times. Dracula the Undead won the Dracula Society’s 1997 Children of the Night Award and Elfland won the Romantic Times Award in 2009 for Best Fantasy Novel.
The folks at Titan Books have been kind enough to supply Shelf Abuse with an extract from Warrington’s rare short story ‘And Their Blood Will Be Prescient to Fire,’ which is set within the universe of the Blood Books. Two shorts are available, and both have been spread over several book sites, listed below:
So… check out the first extract from ‘And Their Blood Will Be Prescient to Fire’ below, and if you like what you read, head over to Falcata Times for the second instalment.
And Their Blood Will Be Prescient to Fire: Part 1
by Freda Warrington
Violette: she is the Death Lily. Her eyes blaze violet, drawing you in with the light of forbidden wisdom. Her midnight hair and glacial skin leave you wrecked upon the rocks. I love her. I would give my life to meet her. Off-stage she wears silver and lilac and black diamonds and that is her: soft as silk, hard as gemstones.
She is the mysterious celebrity in the shadows. Fêted, celebrated, unknown. The latest in a family tree of prima ballerinas called Violette, Juliette or Mistanguette Lenoir; when one fades, another young protégée steps into the white satin shoes. For seventy years this has continued. No one realises, since it’s impossible, that they’re all the same woman. But I worked it out. I know her secret.
I’ve loved her all my life. I have collected every old book, every press cutting, taped all the arts programmes. I’ve travelled to every performance I could afford – and those I couldn’t. Violette is an expensive obsession. From the audience I watch her create her bright world of enchantment and I fantasize that she is dancing just for me.
In reality she would never notice me: a small, skinny nobody. In our family, the looks, height and charisma passed me by. Not in her immortal life would she ever look at someone like me.
And yet, I heard she fell. It burns me even to say this. She fell for my sister.
‘It’s a dessert wine,’ said Charlotte. ‘Try it.’
She slid a dewed glass across the darkly varnished table. Within, liquid shimmered straw-gold. Violette stared suspiciously.
‘What the hell is this?’ She looked ragged tonight, Charlotte thought; black hair a bird’s nest, toned body airbrushed into black jeans and purple tie-dyed cotton. Around them stretched the anonymous semi-darkness of a bar in the basement of a large hotel. Low music, murmuring voices, Tiffany shades glowing in the dark.
‘Muscat with a twist,’ said Charlotte.
‘We don’t drink wine.’ Her smile was sardonic, dangerous.
‘A little something created by our good friend Stefan. He thinks it’s a bore to sit in a bar and not drink along with humans. Think of it as protective colouration.’
‘Blood tastes like the finest wine,’ said Violette. ‘Actual liquor, however, tastes like bleach with a dash of battery acid. If you think I’m putting that to my lips, you’re out of your mind.’
‘That’s what I said, but…’ Charlotte took a mouthful, to show it was safe. A burst of familiar nectar, laced with spice and a fiery afterglow. Violette took the smallest, hesitant taste, held it in her mouth, swallowed with the shudder of a human sampling his first raw oyster. Her compelling eyes opened wide.
‘It’s wonderful. What is it?’
‘Plasma, fermented with herbs and other ingredients according to Stefan’s secret recipe. He’s been working on it for a while.’
Charlotte shrugged. ‘For the pleasure of immortals.’ She felt heat swimming in her head. A pleasant feeling, but strange; alcohol from human veins only induced a flat headache.
‘It tastes…’ Violette frowned, turning the glass between elegant fingertips. ‘Intoxicating.’
‘I believe that is the idea.’ Charlotte smiled.
‘Stefan is the devil.’
‘He really is,’ said Charlotte, amused. ‘He loves to put humans in thrall, often using more than his own charm. Opium was a favourite, in the old days. Perhaps he’s found an addiction for us, too. I wouldn’t put anything past him.’
‘So, are you trying to get me drunk?’ Violette was sweet and sharp at the same time. In these unpredictable moods she could tip into playfulness or fury.
‘No. To relax.’
‘Only, the last time you got me drunk, I passed out human and woke up crazed vampire goddess. What was it you used?’ Violette tipped her face sweetly towards Charlotte. ‘Laudanum?’
‘That was years ago.’ Shocked, Charlotte drew back. She ran her fingers up and down the stem of her glass. ‘Surely you’ve forgiven me by now.’
‘Forgiven, yes, but not forgotten.’ The teasing edge to Violette’s voice sounded dangerous. ‘I never forget anything.’
‘All right, what’s wrong? Whenever you’re upset, you play games.’
‘Nothing, sweetheart.’ Violette reached out and stroked the tender skin of Charlotte’s forearm, where it lay relaxed on the table. Her hand strayed upwards, over the silk and lace of Charlotte’s old-fashioned dress, caressing the bronze and gold fabrics. These days, if Charlotte wanted to be pre-Raphaelite and Violette a Goth chick, no one noticed any more. ‘Boston gets to me.’
‘Yes. Sorry. I know.’
‘I’m restless,’ the dancer went on. ‘Danced my feet off for weeks, one city after another. Endless receptions, after-show parties, press calls. Always on my best behaviour.’ She smiled, suddenly looking endearingly tired and human. ‘I can’t be the great Lenoir all the time. The demon-goddess part really ticks me off as well. I needed to be in a different world, where no one knows or cares who I am.’
Charlotte flicked a glance at the ceiling. ‘Hence we leave a perfectly good hotel and end up in another with a huge business conference upstairs?’
‘Different world.’ Violette sipped her wine. ‘They wouldn’t know the ballet from their arses. I want to be among strangers who are not fascinated by my every move. It makes for better hunting.’
Charlotte glanced around at other tables and became aware of guarded but intense male attention.
‘You can’t escape. There are drink-sodden businessmen ogling us.’
‘Eugh,’ said Violette. ‘I’ve lost my appetite.’
‘Perhaps they think we’re lovers,’ said Charlotte.
Violette leaned in and kissed her on the mouth. Charlotte tasted Stefan’s wicked nectar on her lips. ‘Are we?’ Violette whispered.
The unanswerable question. ‘I worship you. You know that.’
‘I know the love that made you turn me, Charlotte. I raged and hated you for it, until I understood that you only made me become myself. Don’t keep fishing for absolution. You love someone else, and my nature is solitary.’ The dancer sat back, her dark tone lightening. ‘They’re looking at you, not me, dear. The voluptuous one, hair shining all shades of gold. Sometimes it’s fun to have sex with your supper. Is there nothing to tempt you?’
Charlotte surveyed the bar. Amid an ocean of trolls, she saw one tempting blond young man in a fall of light. He caught her eye in startled fascination. She looked away.
Then the woman walked past. A conference delegate, neat in a grey tight-waisted suit, name badge on the lapel, leather folder under her arm. Passing their table, she bumped into an empty chair and dropped the folder. The table shook, spilling wine. Papers fanned out on the carpet. Swearing, she bent down to collect them up. As she did so, the mass of her long chestnut-brown hair fell forward across her face.
Quick as a snake, Violette was down there helping her. And as the woman rose, pushing back the glorious hair, Charlotte saw her face, heard the precise upper-class-Boston accent.
‘I’m sorry… thanks so much… that was really clumsy of me… oh no, did I spill your drinks? I’m so sorry.’
‘That’s all right,’ Violette said softly. ‘Only a drop, it’s fine.’
Her hands, giving back stray papers, brushed the woman’s.
‘Oh, you’re British, right?’ said the stranger. Violette inclined her head. ‘Well, have a nice evening.’
She went on her way, her step quick and business-like in high heels, luscious hair swinging against her back. Violette’s face was frozen, her lips parted. All her languid teasing sarcasm had vanished. She looked nakedly shocked.
‘That was Robyn,’ she said.
‘No, it wasn’t,’ Charlotte gasped. She’d seen the resemblance, but Violette’s reaction alarmed her. ‘I know it looked like her, but… Violette, it wasn’t.’
‘Yes,’ the dancer whispered. ‘It’s her, it’s Robyn.’
© Freda Warrington