“What is she?” the Queen asked.
“A vampire,” Sir Francis said. “A dead being who has lost its soul and survives by feasting on the blood of the living.”
“And not just any vampire, Your Highness,” the archbishop said as he closed his bible and joined the queen and her advisors. “An agent of the Legion.”
“‘The Legion?’” the Queen inquired.
“A confederation of foul spirits and supernatural creatures who have sworn allegiance to the devil,” the archbishop said.
Queen Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “The…devil?”
“Father,” Lady Beatrice mumbled.
“Vampires have long been Satan’s chief emissaries,” Sir Francis said.
The Queen took a long, deep breathe. She closed her eyes, took all the information in, then looked toward the spymaster.
“Why is it that I get the impression that you and the archbishop have known of this for quite some time?” the Queen asked.
Sir Francis coughed into his fist. “Because we have, Your Majesty.”
The Queen turned to Sir Walter. “And you?”
“First I’m hearing of this,” was the rogue’s reply.
“This…” The Queen struggled for words. “This is most unacceptable. Lady Beatrice has been a friend to the crown for years.”
“Vampires walk among us, my Queen,” Sir Francis explained. “They keep their true nature hidden all the while acquiring wealth, status and power – assets to fuel their ambition to conquer the world in the name of their master.”
The Queen raised her voice. “And at no time did you ever think this was information that I should know?!”
Sir Francis lowered his head. “I am sorry. The archbishop and I, we have long found ourselves in an unenviable position.”
“Your most regal father swore us to secrecy,” the archbishop said.
The Queen’s eyes widened. “My father knew of this?!”
“Intimately,” the archbishop said. “For you see…”
Sir Francis cut the holy man off. “Three out of your father’s six wives were vampires.”
The Queen almost fell off her throne. “Shut your mouth. This is certain?”
“Most assuredly so,” Sir Francis said. “Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. All bloody vampires.”
Sir Walter picked up a stein of ale and sipped. “This is hilarious.”
“So embarrassed was your father that he’d been fooled thrice by the Legion that he swore us all to secrecy,” Sir Francis said.
“Wait a moment,” the Queen said. “Was my mother a vampire?”
“Nay,” Sir Francis said.
“Then why did father chop off her head?” the Queen asked.
The archbishop and the spymaster traded shamed looks. Sir Francis grimaced. “It was most unsavory business, Your Majesty. You see, Jane Seymour did this thing with her thumb and your father’s backside that he found to be most enjoyable and…”
The Queen threw up her hands. “I’ve heard enough!”
“I haven’t,” Sir Walter said. “Details, man. Details.”
The Queen slapped Sir Walter’s shoulder. “You are utterly useless, Sir Walter.”
The rogue quaffed some more ale. “That’s not what you said last night.”
Queen Elizabeth shook her head. “It’s what I say today. Don’t flatter yourself.”
Sir Francis produced two parchments. “Your Majesty, at your leisure I shall gladly answer any and all inquiries you may have vis a vis the Legion but at present, I feel it would be expedient to question the lady as to the plot on your life.”
“As you wish,” the Queen said.
The spymaster approached Lady Beatrice. The guards still held her down on her knees. Her eyes had returned to normal. Her fangs had retracted.
Sir Francis held the first parchment in front of the lady’s face. “A letter in the hand of Mary, Queen of Scotts, addressed to you and secreted out of her place of imprisonment.”
Lady Beatrice grinned.
“In this letter, the Queen Mary bids you to assassinate our Queen Elizabeth and promises you great riches once she is in control of England,” Sir Francis said.
The lady kept her mouth shut.
“Is Queen Mary a vampire?” Sir Francis asked. “Or is she merely in league with the Legion?”
“How does she intend to usurp Queen Elizabeth?” Sir Francis asked.
“You’ll just have to kill me,” Lady Beatrice said. “I’ll never talk.”
“We shall see about that,” Sir Francis said as he reached underneath the top of the lady’s dress.
“Right,” Sir Walter said as he stepped forward. “Now we’re talking.”
Sir Francis fished out a golden medallion that the lady had been wearing around her neck. Lady Beatrice was highly displeased. Her fangs popped out again.
“Do your part and guard this, Sir Walter,” the spymaster said as he handed the piece of jewelry over to the rogue.
“Lacking in taste,” Sir Walter said as he examined the medallion. It was decorated with a pentagram. “I’ve nicked better pieces off of Orientals.”
“’Tis not the style but the substance,” Sir Francis said as he turned his attention to the Queen. “Vampires are so untrustworthy that even Satan himself keeps them in line. Only the members of his inner circle are allowed to walk outside during the day without being set ablaze by the sun’s warmth. For vampires, this medallion serve’s as the devil’s permission to bask in sunlight.”
“She is doomed to darkness without it then?” Queen Elizabeth asked.
“Quite,” Sir Francis said. He returned his focus to Lady Beatrice. “And she will not get it back until she tells us what we need to know.”
“Do your worst,” the lady said.
“I assure you that the worst is coming if you continue to withhold your cooperation,” Sir Francis said. “How did Queen Mary come to believe that she would obtain dominion over England?”
Lady Beatrice retracted her fangs and stared up at the spymaster blankly.
“You conspire with the Catholic Church, do you not?” Sir Francis asked.
“The Catholic Church?” the Queen interrupted.
“Replete with vampires, Your Highness,” the archbishop said.
“Surely you jest,” the Queen said.
“Alas, no,” the archbishop replied. “Your father was happy to allow the masses to snicker that he adopted Anglicanism as a means to avoid his marital promises but in truth, there are many vampires lurking about in that faith.”
“The Pope himself is a vampire,” Sir Francis added.
Queen Elizabeth shot Sir Francis an angry glare. “I was going to tell you.”
The spymaster addressed the prisoner again. “My sources inform me that as we speak, King Phillip of Spain has drained his treasury to build a vast armada of ships. For what purpose?”
Lady Beatrice said nothing.
“I have further learned that King Phillip and the Vicar of Rome have had several meetings,” Sir Francis said. “To what end?”
Sir Francis returned to the throne. “I shall deign to assemble the puzzle before us, Your Majesty. King Phillip, no doubt in league with the Legion, has publicly proclaimed Catholicism as the one true faith. He has sought the blessing of the Pope to invade our country. In truth, he does so to add one more nation to the Legion’s holdings. He will install Mary, herself a Catholic, to the throne.”
“To the world it will look like the product of a religious war,” the archbishop said.
“And many people will be fooled into rising up against you in the name of said religious war,” Sir Francis said. “Completely unaware that they have been turned into unwitting agents of the Legion.”
“This cannot be so,” the Queen said.
Sir Francis walked back to the prisoner. “I fear it is. And I have but one more question.”
The spymaster looked down on the lady. “How many zombies and werewolves will King Phillip bring with him?”
That question startled the lady. She suddenly became very talkative. “What? How do you know of zombies and werewolves?”
Sir Francis smiled and stretched out his arms. “Spymaster.”
“Zombies and werewolves?” the Queen asked.
“Zombies are dead men who continue to walk,” Sir Francis explained. “Mindless monsters created through the ingestion of vampiric blood. On their own they are wild beasts who destroy anything in their path as they search for the brains that they crave for sustenance. However, when controlled by the vampire whose blood they drank, they can be turned into formidable soldiers.”
The Queen rested her head in hear hands. “I feel ill.”
“Werewolves, on the other hand,” Sir Francis said. “Are men and women tormented by an inner rage that transforms them into large, hairy dog-like monsters.”
Queen Elizabeth put her hands up. “I…can’t…this is all so far fetched it’s as if that hack Shakespeare wrote it.”
The spymaster looked at the lady. “Phillip is a vampire. Is he not?”
Lady Beatrice shook her head.
“Phillip has conspired with the Catholic faith to force thousands of Spaniards to drink his sacramental wine laced with his blood,” Sir Francis said. “Has he not?!”
The lady looked away.
“He plans to invade our shores with scores of werewolf mercenaries and an army of the undead that obeys only him,” Sir Francis said. “Does he not?”
Lady Beatrice chuckled. It started off slow. “Ha…ha ha ha…”
And then it reached a maddening crescendo. “Ha ha ha!!! Yes! It’s only a matter of time before all of your entrails are ripped from your bodies, your blood drained, your brains feasted upon, your lands and your riches ours!!!”