Chapter 11:


Vampire Lanterns

For a minute Petrona sat quiet, letting Yan stroke her head. After a minute, it became a little awkward, so she interrupted him. "I should get dressed, because I need to run some errands." Demyan was concerned about her injuries. "Can't it wait? You still need some time to recover." She shook her head.
"You see my Lord, it's for the festival. I need to acquire the lanterns and all the spells. I have only a few days for it. I need to walk all around in the Lush realm, so I must start today." Demyan got serious. "Are you telling me, you will not return back for the night?"
She nodded. "Yes, for a few nights, I will be out..." He cut her off. "NO! You can't go! I will not allow it..." She was surprised and Demyan was as well, why was he acting this way? "I-I mean, you are hurt. It might be dangerous for you..."
He gave it a thought. "Ok! I decided to go with you." Petrona sighed. Seems, like she got herself a noble weight on her neck. Or maybe it will make things much easier for her. Who knows?

Mirko decided to tag along with them for the human settlements and the capital a few days later. Everything was going well. Demyan was seeing and learning about new things. Especially how the society worked in this part of the country. More and more he realized, that the whole image he had in his head about the Lush Lands, was false.

He paused a little observing the surroundings. The people talked down to Petrona, belittled her, treated her like a child... It was really going on his nerves. Anybody walking by her, was sometimes intentionally ramming her.
Demyan wanted to step in, but Mirko laid his hand on Demyan's shoulder and with a whisper reminded him. "Your Highness, do you recall, what I told you, shortly before our departure on the terrace?" Demyan thought about it, he remembered their conversation...

"Your Highness, I have to tell you about the customs around here. I know you came from a far land, where you have different laws and societal traditions, but here..." Mirko changed his position from leaning on the railing with his back, to turning his front towards it. "People like me have it harder, because of our heights.
The taller an individual is, the higher rank he acquires. If you want to say, it
's the law of the jungle, the bigger and stronger survives. Even, when we, the shorter people fight in the first lines. How hypocritical right?
But in Lush Lands, it has worked like this for hundreds of years. In my case, I could be salvaged, by marrying a taller woman and having kids with her, but Petrona is destined to die here alone.
Her kind of a woman, is sometimes forcefully sterilized and then thrown into the adult industry to be a plaything. Some choose it by themselves, because they see a better life in it."
Demyan gave him a horrified look.
"She is a fighter, she endured and avoided such fate. She is aware she could be anytime abducted, used, or even killed, so I beg you, to not lead her on. She is a nice caring person, as you know by now.
You shouldn't protect her left and right, because it will make her feel just worse. Also, it can bring a dark light over her, since the law allows it, to mistreat shorter people. It's seen, as our own fault to be short.
Let her continue to live the life she has lived for years now. On this trip, you will see all the abuse, she will get from other higher-ranking people. You have to just let it happen and not interfere. You might cause her just bigger problems by it.
Petrona doesn't like to call unnecessary attention to herself, so please respect it. She can deal with it by herself, she is a fighter, so don't worry, no matter how bad it will look. Promise me it, Your Highness!"
Demyan had to begrudgingly agree to it.

The human settlements, they have passed, were really beautiful to look at. That medieval style couldn't beat anything. The buildings were covered in smooth coating, not like in Waste Lands, just plain rock.
But the behavior of the people towards Petrona, was really awful. Mirko acted like nothing was happening and Petrona just bounced from the hits of other people without even blinking. It was really sickening to look at for Demyan.
Sometimes she got hit into her back by "accident" and Demyan was seething from anger, but he had to let it go... Even, when Waste Lands were harsh to live in, their society wasn't that much discriminatory. Vampires respected and treated each other much better, even their servants. What was it about this land?
Petrona suddenly disappeared into a building. For a second Demyan felt like he had a heart attack, when she was nowhere to be seen. Mirko was like, all calm and cool. Petrona peeked out of a shop and called both of them. It was a lantern shop.
Demyan's eyes suddenly lightened up like of a childs. She told him to pick a color and a motive. He looked around and he got himself a big, pretty and gray lantern. The motive of a moon and stars fancied his choice.
Petrona took a blue one with butterflies for herself and an expensive one; mix of darker colors: red/yellow/brown/green with autumn leaves for her "friend".
Mirko fell in love with a green lantern, which had lightning motives. He found them to look cool. This little shopping spree felt nice. Petrona enjoyed the company of both of the men.

In high spirits, she just ran out of the shop and collided with someone. As she was picking herself from the ground she froze and was left mortified. It was the same woman, who took everything from her five years ago.
Mirko stopped short behind her in the doorway, with wide-open eyes, which turned just angry and serious. Demyan looked over him to see what was going on.

The unpleasant sight of Petrona getting slapped with a hand fan caught him off guard.