Princess Ishtar stepped into her room, her kyawl kitten tucked safely within her arms and all but slammed the door, practically into the faces of two of her bodyguards, Jill and Krai.
A happy expression filled her face, "Oh Duzie," she addressed her cat, "it's such a pity you can't transform into your original form."
"Meow?" The kitten turned his head to glare suspiciously into her face.
She giggled and placed him down on her bed before walking over to her wardrobe.
"Meow? Meow, meow? Meow!" the kitten asked, thinking, 'What is that ditzy princess up to now?'
Ishtar turned, grinning at her striped kitten, "Duzie Wuzie, will you please transform if you are going to speak to me? You know I can't understand you as a cat." She then went back to searching through her overly large wardrobe.
'Duzie Wuzie' looked taken aback by that and transformed where he sat, quickly gathering part of the bedspread to cover his naked form. "I asked why you thought it was a pity," he repeated.
Ishtar turned around again, her face in slight confusion. "Why is what a pity?" she asked as she stared at her cat. A cat who could now be mistaken for her twin, albeit a male and naked twin. The being that sat before her had long black hair down to his knees that shone and large green eyes just like herself, only instead of the mischievous glint that she had in hers, his eyes held something far older and far darker.
He was Duzell, the vampire king and he had been reincarnated into the body of a kyawl kitten and 'rescued' by the princess shortly afterwards while his still newborn body was unable to even see yet. One hundred years ago he had been slain by Ishtar's dying great grandfather, King Phelios. Duzell had sworn vengeance and had predicted that a century from then, his enemy's soul would be reborn into the body of one of his descendants and Duzell would also return, to find the Great King Phelios and take his revenge.
The legend was a well known one of which the princess, in her infinite wisdom, had found dull and uninteresting, not to mention repetitive due to the way the senile old fart Sir Keld kept retelling it over and over, until the day that she discovered her 'twin'. Upon sight of him, she had immediately recognised him as Duzell, her aptly named pet. It was then that he admitted the truth, the truth that he was in fact the reincarnated vampire of legend and Ishtar, in defiance of her family's laws and traditions offered her help to the enemy.
Duzell fought to suppress a sigh, the sigh of the eternally frustrated trying desperately to appear patient. To his chagrin, Duzell actually did like Ishtar and he knew that he was the only one that the princess entrusted with her secrets and longings. "Why is it a pity," he closed his eyes for a moment, "that I can't transform into my old body?"
Ishtar grinned. "Because you could have gone to the costume parade as the Vampire King Duzell, that's why," she explained as though to an idiot.
"And why would I go dressed as myself?" Duzell asked, staring at Ishtar, not bothering to hide his suspicion.
She laughed, "Because you could have been yourself in public instead of having to hide."
"Wait a minute… why do I have to go to a costume parade at all?"
"It'll be fun, I've always wanted to go and we can trick and treat," Ishtar giggled. "We'll trick Darres by sneaking out…"
The princess nodded enthusiastically, "And we'll treat ourselves to some fun in the town."
"Darres won't be happy," Duzell warned.
"Oh well," Ishtar sang, "he may even try to give me that spanking he keeps threatening me with." Darres was Ishtar's main bodyguard and the man she loved. Unfortunately, due to the laws of her family, Ishtar had to marry within her own kin. It was a law she despised, wanting little more than to live in defiance of it.
"We'll be recognised as you," the shape-shifting kitten added, hoping that like usual, the princess hadn't thought things through properly and that he would manage to get out of the mess that Ishtar was sure to drag him into. He may have been a great and powerful vampire king at one time but there were still times that he liked to take it easy and avoid trouble.
"Nuh-uh! That's why we're going dressed up," Ishtar returned, "Here, put this on!" The fifteen-year-old future queen of Pheliosta threw a light blue bundle of clothing at the former vampire king.
The bundle landed neatly in Duzell's lap but he made no move to try on the garments, instead, he continued to stare up at the princess.
"What? You'd prefer to wear a dress? I'm sure I can find one suitable," Ishtar mused thoughtfully.
"No, no," Duzell assured her hurriedly before putting on the outfit. "I'm fine with this."
A few minutes later, vampire king and princess alike were dressed in their respective costumes.
"How is this any better than a dress?" Duzell asked in disgust. Sure, he wore dresses often enough when masquerading as the princess but if and when he could, he avoided the practice, even if Ishtar did have good taste. He was dressed in light billowy pants, a very short top with an equally short vest over the top of that, which didn't come past his arms in the front and his long hair was in a ponytail, hanging out through a hole in a small circular hat which was perched on the top of his head. There was also a small veil that could be clipped up to cover half of his face. "My stomach can be seen!" he added critically.
Ishtar was dressed similarly, only instead of light blue, she wore pink. "You look cute Duzie!" She said, obviously amused by his reaction.
"I'm a vampire king, not a Jeannie!"
"So? You're not a princess either. You're not even me, even though you look like me," Ishtar laughed.
"I'm not going out dressed like this," he warned.
"Oh? There's a rumour that one of my cousins likes to come to this parade every year. If we can find him, you may be able to put the bite on him to see if he's Phelios," Ishtar tried smothering her laugh, knowing that with that argument, she had won.
Ishtar continued grinning, that glint back within her eyes. "We better leave before Darres comes looking for us for dinner."
They headed to the window to sneak out of it. "Don't be too surprised if you wake up one morning to find that Darres has had bars put on your window to stop you from sneaking out like this."
"If that happens, I'll just find another way out or you could always use that strength of yours to break us out," Ishtar teased.
Duzell didn't say a word.
Sometime later, Ishtar and Duzell were wandering around town, looking at all the costumes that people wore, joining in for a few of the games and watching the kids running around happily. Even Duzell had to admit he was enjoying himself. The atmosphere was one of excitement and there was a touch of spookiness in the air. Even the fact that so far there had not been any sign of Ishtar's supposed cousin didn't alter how he felt and neither did the fact that he was sure she had made up the story just to get him to agree to come along.
"How often do people get together for this?" Duzell asked. "I don't remember anything like this happening before Phelios killed me."
"Once a year but this is a fairly new tradition in Pheliosta. Someone brought it back from a distant country only a few years ago," Ishtar admitted. "It's really taken off though."
Duzell nodded and they continued to wander for a while until they heard rumours that the royal guards were out looking for the princess in the town.
Ishtar grinned, "As long as we keep our veils up, they shouldn't find us."
"Darres isn't that stupid. He's been guarding you so long that he sees through most of your tricks."
"Maybe, but," Ishtar grinned happily once more, "he hasn't worked out the truth about my widdle kitty cat yet. I've kept your secret from him and everyone else for months now."
"I don't know how," Duzell muttered under his breath.
Ishtar continued as though she hadn't heard the vampire speak, "We just need to be careful and keep an eye out for him."
"At least we don't need to worry about those two idiots Jill and Krai," Duzell added. "They likely wouldn't notice if one of us walked past and then a minute later the other did as well, heading in the same direction and in a different dress to the first."
Ishtar nodded and was about to reply when all of a sudden, a small group of squealing children ran by, shouting shrilly at the top of their voices. "The vampire is coming! The vampires will be here in a few minutes!"
Duzell and Ishtar looked at each other worriedly. It would have been a comical situation had things not been so serious. Duzell, wearing Ishtar's small five foot two body and a delicate-looking Jeanie costume stepped out and grabbed one of the passing children by the scruff of her neck. He held the squirming girl in mid-air, level with his face.
"Duzie!" Ishtar cried, "What are you doing? You can't just grab a kid like that!"
"What do you know about the vampires? Where are they?" he questioned the frightened child while ignoring Ishtar.
The other three children circled around him, "Let go of our friend you meanie!" "You're hurding her!" A couple of them started hitting the vampire in an effort to help their friend.
Their blows had no hope of hurting Duzell but he took notice anyway, finally noticing the tears streaming down the little girl's face. He muttered an apology and gently placed her back on the ground.
Ishtar gave Duzell a sharp look and then hunkered down to eye level with the child. "I'm sorry about what my kitty did. He… uh, I mean she didn't mean to hurt or scare you," she tried to comfort gently.
The girl stared into Ishtar's eyes and hiccuped before backing away in fright. Duzell and Ishtar's costumes may have been different colours but the difference didn't register in the little girl's mind. The two were just too much alike in appearance.
Duzell also crouched down to look at the kids at their level. "This is very important, please tell us what you know about the vampires," he asked seriously.
One boy glared back at Duzell. "Why should we tell you?" he stuck his tongue out before reaching for the crying girl's hand and pulling her after him as he ran.
One of the other children, another girl, stared wide-eyed from Duzell to Ishtar and back again. "You're pretty, are you twins?"
Ishtar, behind her half veil, grinned in embarrassment. "Uh… something like that, yes. Can you tell us where the vampires are attacking from?"
The girl gaped for a moment longer before suddenly answering at the top of her voice. "We aren't s'posed to talk to strangers!" Then she and her remaining friend ran.
Duzell and Ishtar stared after the fleeing children. "Brats," Ishtar said with a look of amusement passing across her face. "Well, Duzie? What do we do now?"
"Excuse me!" a stranger called, "If you really want to see the vampires that badly, just follow in the direction those children ran in."
"Thanks!" Ishtar replied gratefully. She then turned her head to face Duzell as the two began running after the kids. "Though… why would those children go where the vampires are?" she asked.
He shrugged, "How should I know how the minds of human children work?" he asked not really expecting an answer. "Are you wearing your legsaram charms?"
"Are you kidding? With this costume?"
Duzell sighed, "That's what I thought. Stick close by me so I can protect you."
The legsaram were magical wards that could protect against various monsters or spells. They could either be worn about the person or arranged around a home or property to protect the wearer or occupants of the property from harm. Ishtar normally wore at least five different legsaram to ward against various attacks.
A few minutes later, Duzell and Ishtar reached what was obviously their destination. The crowd was fairly large and in the gloom of the evening, one particular area was brightly lit. They slowed in amazement and Ishtar laughed. "It's a play! They're re-enacting the battle where my great-grandfather defeated you Duzie!"
Duzell glowered at the sight but inside, he was secretly relieved. Ishtar tended to get into enough trouble without them seeking more.
The two watched as the play progressed and eventually wrapped up. The crowd burst into applause and catcalls as 'Phelios' cast the deadly spell 'La Gamme' which defeated the 'Vampire King Duzell' and guaranteed the hero's own death.
At the end of the performance, Ishtar and Duzell were about to head home when Duzell suddenly transformed back into his kyawl form. "Duzie?" Ishtar asked in confusion, "Why did you…"
A hand clamped down on her shoulder, "How did I know you would be at the play?" a familiar voice asked sternly. Darres!
Ishtar unclipped the veil and let it hang at the side of her face, grinning at her bodyguard. "Hi! Fancy seeing you here, Darres."
He frowned at his young charge, "You know if you wanted to see the festivities Lady Ishtar, all you had to do was ask."
She laughed, happy that Darres had cared enough to look for her. She knew it was his job but there was more to his searching than that, she just knew it even if he would never admit it. "So, you going to give me that spanking now?"
Darres sighed, "Let's just get you back to the castle now that the play has finished. You better put these back on before you get attacked." The bodyguard handed Ishtar her legsaram charms. His face then took on a slightly puzzled expression. "You know princess, I could have sworn that there were two of you here."
Ishtar laughed slightly nervously, putting on her legsaram and then picking up her kitty. "Well, a lot of people were in costume tonight. I did see someone wandering around dressed in one like mine."
"Yeah," Darres said slowly, "That must be it."
Later that night in Ishtar's room, the princess smiled at Duzell. "What did you think of the play, Duzie?"
'Duzie' transformed from kitten to Ishtar lookalike and snorted in annoyance. "They had it all wrong! That actor who played me was pathetic, he couldn't have acted his way out of a paper bag if he tried."
"Jealous that someone else played you?" Ishtar teased.
"Hardly! Other than that, whoever wrote that play obviously has a sick sense of humour, either that or they need a history lesson. I can't believe they wrote Phelios and myself as being lovers!" Duzell continued in disgust. "I want to kill him, not take him."
Ishtar couldn't help herself. She burst into laughter. "I thought it was great."
"You would, you keep trying to get me to seduce your male cousins and uncles," Duzell retorted.
"It's not like you protest too much." Ishtar grinned mischievously.
Duzell rolled his eyes at the princess. "It's only because I need to sample their blood. It's the only way I have to recognise where Phelios's soul is. I'm going to sleep now princess and I suggest you do the same." With that, the vampire king morphed into his usual kyawl kitten form and curled up on the bed, going to sleep.
Ishtar gazed down at the kitten, a soft look in her eyes. "I'm glad you had fun tonight Duzie Wuzie." The princess murmured before getting up to turn off her bedroom light and likewise going to sleep.