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The Velvet Castles of the Night

Claire Bartlett lives in Copenhagen, where she works from her enchanted forest apartment and ventures out on occasion to give tours of Copenhagen to visitors. She posts news at authorclaire.com.
They wait for you, in the velvet castles of the night.
It's not like they have anything better to do. Everyone knows the story stops for the hero, and who would the hero be but you? That is why every mirror in every inn in this town is enchanted, showing chiseled jaws, sculpted arms. Nine out of ten heroes have a verified need for encouragement along the way.
As you ride up to the inn you hear the crows caw, see them gathering by the dozens in the trees. But they don't come down. The wind ruffles their feathers, but not your hair. Heroes need to look good for the pictures. An unearthly sound, a low moan that tugs your thoughts in all different directions, seems to rise all around you. On the hill, the castle ruins jut up like knives against the cold gray sky. You shiver. Eight out of ten heroes are susceptible to atmospheric cues.
There is where they wait for you. You saw it in your restless dreams for weeks: legs pale as cream beneath lace as black as sin. Lips strangely red. For all that these women are undead, they seem so much more full of life than the good girls at home: you know the ones. The bland girl next door who slapped you when you pushed her against the cowshed, the tiresome school friend who thinks that kisses should be enough to sate you. Before you came here, all you wanted was to rip their innocence out from under them. But the women of the night are here for you. The innkeeper whispers of monsters when you buy your bed for the night--for you, they'll be exactly the right kind of monsters. Seven out of ten heroes prefer their gold with a side of sexual encounter.
The potato dumplings aren't how your mother used to make them, and the innkeeper's conversation could put your horse to sleep. He prattles on about how the lucky ones go up to the castles on the hill and see nothing but ruins, a long-forgotten world with no inmates but the crows and the wind. He speaks about this fool or that who walked up the hill and never came down again, as though you care. He doesn't even employ a girl to keep your eyes occupied. Bad business, that. Doesn't he know that six out of ten heroes prefer tavern wenches?
Your dumplings are cold and the beer is gone by the time he abandons you as a cause lost and harasses the patrons at the next table over. This hamlet does a fantastic trade in heroism, ever since word got out that the vampires were here, and not the vampires your mother warned you about. These vampires have long legs and red lips, and sure, they might try to kill you, but wouldn't it be worth it? Besides, you can't really bring yourself to believe it, especially when you catch a glimpse of that jaw in the hall mirror. They just think they're waiting to kill you, because they have nothing better to do. And oh, you'll give them something better to do. Five out of ten heroes simply lack the proper technique.
You wait until the moon has risen to the middle of the sky before setting out. You keep a jealous eye on the road, but no other silver-black figures trudge up the hill towards your castle, towards your prize. Tonight is your night. The wind is still, the crows are silent. The whole world has stopped. You think of legs sliding against each other, frozen in the act, a perfect tableau for your artistic meddling. Your heartbeat quickens, as does your pace up the hill. Four out of ten heroes don't care if their quarry can say yes or no.
But even you must stop when you round the last bend in the mountain path and see the castle not as it seems from afar, broken stone teeth on a hill. The stones here are neat and whole, fitted like puzzle pieces around a strong oak door, around thin fine windows that shine golden and warm. The roof glints the dull green of copper in the moonlight. You have stepped out of your own reality, into another. Three out of ten heroes don't stop to consider the implications of this.
The door is locked, of course. What sort of quest would it be if you could just walk right in? You have to use your skills, and the effort you make is to your credit. Only two out of ten heroes break down the door on the first try.
And when you do break it down, you find... us. Not negligee-clad, lounging in various semi-Sapphic poses for your enjoyment. Not waiting for the magical cure-all that you bring with your charm and your physique, like it's nothing we've ever seen before. Like all we need is a hand on our thighs and we'll open like a treasure chest. We do not have cream legs. We do not have blood lips. The women of your dreams--we don't know where they came from, either. But now that you're here, well. It would be a shame to waste all those pints.
It's around now that one out of ten heroes realizes: they're not the hero of every story.
Ten out of ten vampiresses lack sympathy.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 29th, 2018


I wrote this for a class called Monstrous Women, in the wake of hearing hot takes about the #MeToo movement and how it might restrict men in the workplace. Since people are often so eager to indulge in misconceptions of others, I thought it might be fun to know what female vampires think of the sexy stereotype.

- Claire Eliza Bartlett

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