Frostbite

By: Richelle Mead

PROLOGUE

THINGS DIE. BUT THEY DON’T always stay dead. Believe me, I know.

There’s a race of vampires on this earth who are literally the walking dead. They’re called Strigoi, and if you’re not already having nightmares about them, you should be. They’re strong, they’re fast, and they kill without mercy or hesitation. They’re immortal, too—which kind of makes them a bitch to destroy. There are only three ways to do it: a silver stake through the heart, decapitation, and setting them on fire. None of those is easy to pull off, but it’s better than having no options at all.

There are also good vampires walking the world. They’re called Moroi. They’re alive, and they possess the incredibly cool power to wield magic in each of the four elements— earth, air, water, and fire. (Well, most Moroi can do this—but I’ll explain more about the exceptions later). They don’t really use the magic for much anymore, which is kind of sad. It’d be a great weapon, but the Moroi strongly believe magic should only be used peacefully. It’s one of the biggest rules in their society. Moroi are also usually tall and slim, and they can’t handle a lot of sunlight. But they do have superhuman senses that make up for it: sight, smell, and hearing.

Both kinds of vampires need blood. That’s what makes them vampires, I guess. Moroi don’t kill to take it, however. Instead, they keep humans around who willingly donate small amounts. They volunteer because vampire bites contain endorphins that feel really, really good and can become addictive. I know this from personal experience. These humans are called feeders and are essentially vampire-bite junkies.

Still, keeping feeders around is better than the way the Strigoi do things, because, as you might expect, they kill for their blood. I think they like it. If a Moroi kills a victim while drinking, he or she will turn into a Strigoi. Some Moroi do this by choice, giving up their magic and their morals for immortality. Strigoi can also be created by force. If a Strigoi drinks blood from a victim and then makes that person drink Strigoi blood in return, well . . . you get a new Strigoi. This can happen to anyone: Moroi, human, or . . . dhampir.

Dhampir.

That’s what I am. Dhampirs are half-human, half-Moroi. I like to think we got the best traits of both races. I’m strong and sturdy, like humans are. I can also go out in the sun as much as I want. But, like the Moroi, I have really good senses and fast reflexes. The result is that dhampirs make the ultimate bodyguards—which is what most of us are. We’re called guardians.

I’ve spent my entire life training to protect Moroi from Strigoi. I have a whole set of special classes and practices I take at St. Vladimir’s Academy, a private school for Moroi and dhampirs. I know how to use all sorts of weapons and can land some pretty mean kicks. I’ve beaten up guys twice my size—both in and out of class. And really, guys are pretty much the only ones I beat up, since there are very few girls in any of my classes.

Because while dhampirs inherit all sorts of great traits, there’s one thing we didn’t get. Dhampirs can’t have children with other dhampirs. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like I’m a geneticist or anything. Humans and Moroi getting together will always make more dhampirs; that’s where we came from in the first place. But that doesn’t happen so much anymore; Moroi tend to stay away from humans. Through another weird genetic fluke, however, Moroi and dhampirs mixing will create dhampir children. I know, I know: it’s crazy. You’d think you’d get a baby that’s three-quarters vampire, right? Nope. Half human, half Moroi.

Most of these dhampirs are born from Moroi men and dhampir women getting together. Moroi women stick to having Moroi babies. What this usually means is that Moroi men have flings with dhampir women and then take off. This leaves a lot of single dhampir mothers, and that’s why not as many of them become guardians. They’d rather focus on raising their children.

As a result, only the guys and a handful of girls are left to become guardians. But those who choose to protect Moroi are serious about their jobs. Dhampirs need Moroi to keep having kids. We have to protect them. Plus, it’s just . . . well, it’s the honorable thing to do. Strigoi are evil and unnatural. It isn’t right for them to prey on the innocent. Dhampirs who train to be guardians have this drilled into them from the time they can walk. Strigoi are evil. Moroi must be protected. Guardians believe this. I believe this.

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