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Gothic Horror/Vampire
novella in Paper Flower Consortium Universe.

Agata was first seen in Immortal House and Norma’s Cleaning Service Mysteries

Publisher: ZB Publications
Date Published: September 6, 2019

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Principality of Moldovia, 1509

While her beloved husband is away at war, Agata manages their estate and dairy. One night, she is called to assist a first-year heifer. She does not know a vampire lurks in the darkness. Agata wakes in the birthing barn disoriented, wounded, bitten, and defiled. Her son is injured, but alive. The herdsman is discovered with his throat gnawed open. Several cows are missing.

Plunged into a strange existence of monstrous cravings, she moves to secure her children’s futures before the details of the attack is known. News spreads quickly in her village. With the conviction she might regain her honor by defeating the vampire, Agata leaves her parish. Unaided, she crosses the mountains to an ancient crumbling Roman fort where it is said the vampire resides. However, the vampire doesn’t live alone.

Lying in her bed, Agata could not sleep. Parched with thirst, her stomach ached by the water she just consumed. Loneliness subsisted all around her. She rolled over and felt the cold place where Jakub should be. She squeezed the quilt to her chest. Nausea rose into her throat. Dear God, let me not be with child. What if my attacker brought the plague to Râuflor? What if he brought a new disease of Venus?
She wiped her eyes. “And I lost my calf. A calf that might have helped my boys find suitable brides. I can only pray for the heifer to regain her health.”
Above, the servants argued. She didn’t remember the servants ever speaking so loudly. Did they want her to hear?
“The Legatus came to our town last night,” a man said.
“Robert was dead, throat torn open and drained of blood. That’s the mark of a strigoi’s work,” Another said.
Agata was pretty sure the last voice was Cook.
“I agree. Seven cows are missing. The heifer was badly injured.  The calf is dead. Who else could do this except the Legatus?” Another answered.
“But if it was the Legatus, why didn’t he take the count’s sheep?” The first countered.
She listened across the garden into the bachelor’s quarters where Florin interrogated Artur.
“I barely saw our attacker,” Artur growled, “But I will duel the first man who slanders my good mother.”
The older men assured him that would not be necessary. They all agreed, never was a finer mistress than Lady Agata.
“No matter what happened,” Florin said. “Our tongues will not wag.”
Their protestations did not assure Agata since tongues were already wagging. Agata slipped out of bed and covered herself in a robe. Her feet were cold on the stone floor. She reached for her door, but thinking better of it, she rang for her maid.
Elana’s candle flame flickered as she opened her door. “My lady?”
“Come with me to the kitchen? Last night, I had such a fright, I fear going the kitchens on my own, but I didn’t eat enough at dinner. The attack and the ugliness with Father Bogdan weighs on my heart.”
“Certainly, my lady,” Elana said, “If you don’t mind me saying so, it is unlucky to quarrel with a priest, the countess ought to be more careful. What if he puts the evil eye on you?”
“I fear thinking of such things,” Agata said softly as she embraced herself and rubbed the ache from her arms. Though in reality, she feared Bogdan’s loose tongue convincing Mihai that he be permitted to marry Agata and take her house than the evil eye.
Elana put an arm out. Agata allowed herself to be comforted by the other woman closeness. Her stomach cramped in hunger. The scent of Elana’s flesh made Agata salivate. Ignoring the urge to bite her maid, Agata crossed the halls of plaster walls. What if the Legatus is real? What if he attacked me? No. I don’t believe in vampires.
There was power in gold and silver, parsley and garlic, but not because they could ward off vampires. Infants met death at a midwife’s hand because if they were born with a caul, it was thought they were cursed to become vampires. She had witnessed too many instances of infected, untended wounds that might have healed with a good scrubbing of potash soap instead blamed on vampires. Vampires were even blamed when a starving peasant elder failed to recover from a winter’s chill when a hot meal might have saved them.
Agata bit the inside of her cheek; trying to pinch the craving away. She looked away from Elana’s neck. The walls of the long corridor were painted green, but everything seemed black flickering in the candlelight. They passed several tapestries and the carved pillar showing Jakub’s family heraldry with his emblem in the cadet position.
They slipped into the kitchen. The maid lit several candles. Light flickered around the room, casting the women in comforting softness.
The two hounds which the manservant kept looked up at them and wagged their tails in unison. The maid sliced off a hunk of yesterday’s bread and set in on a plate.
Agata swallowed a bite. It tasted like ash in her mouth. As naturally as she could, she broke the rest of the piece in two and threw it to the dogs. They gobbled up the morsel as if their lives depended on it.
Meat was what her body craved. “Do we have sausage in the pantry?”
“Indeed.” Elana sliced pieces of blood sausage and set it on the plate.
The hounds nuzzled her side, hoping for more. She listened to the creatures’ heartbeats. Their backs trembled under her hand as she pet them. Her mind wrapped around their primitive dog minds.
Food. Lady. Pet. Food. Food. Lady. Pet. Food.
She threw them pieces of sausage.
“Perhaps some milk or beer would help you sleep?” Elana asked.
Beer sounded awful, but perhaps milk would sooth Agata’s stomach. “Would you warm me some milk, please? And for yourself, if you wish it.”

About the author:

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Elizabeth Guizzetti is an illustrator and author best known for her demon-poodle based comedy, Out for Souls & Cookies. She is also the creator of Faminelands and Lure and collaborated with authors on several projects including A is for Apex and The Prince of Artemis V

To explore a different aspect of her creativity, she writes science fiction, fantasy and horror novels. Her debut novel, Other Systems, was a 2015 Finalist for the Canopus Award for excellence in Interstellar Fiction. Her short work has appeared in anthologies such as Wee Folk and The Wise and Beyond the Hedge.

She has had a lifelong love of vampires. Honor Among Vampires is her fourth vampire novella in the Paper Flower Consortium Universe.
Guizzetti lives in Seattle with her husband. When not writing or illustrating, she loves hiking, swimming, and birdwatching.

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