The Oracle (The Cedric Series 3)

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Risks

“Cedric, is everything ok?” Romasanta repeated, his voice snapping Cedric from his thoughts as he paused at an empty chair. “Is Angeline-”

“She’s fine!” Cedric barked, sensing the abnormal level of concern radiating from Romasanta, Lillith, and the Sorceress sisters all aimed at Angeline. “Are we going to cover this new fascination you all have over her?”

They all flinched. His sharp green eyes slicing across each person in the room. Jaw twitching, Cedric refused to sit at the conference table with the rest of the group. Romasanta had called them there to share his life’s story, but as the tale progressed, the parts involving Angeline or her Ancestor Artemis were vague and left unspoken. He had been tense about Angeline discovering those parts, but the fact Romasanta was still shielding the information from everyone spoke volumes. Indeed, he had entrusted Cedric with much more than he had originally assumed the old wolf. Still, the faces and shifts from the other patrons at the table told Cedric they were aware of the missing chunks, instances, and even mentioning of Artemis’ or Angeline’s relation to Romasanta. The old wolf was painfully aware the group knew and kept secrets about each other and themselves.

Angeline was overwhelmed, not just by the incident at the bar, but adjusting to the modern world. All of this was exhausting both mentally and emotionally, even for Cedric who desperately took the edge off where he could. With her asleep in the bedroom, he aimed to pry secrets from the elder demons and gods he leered over. He was tired of feeling like the last one to know anything about his own life, but the unusual worry over Angeline irked him. They needed to work together or they wouldn’t be able to face the enemy who still lurked in the shadows. It was only a matter of time now before they would have to take up arms yet again.

“I want you all to spit it out.” Cedric growled, the pounding of his fist on the glass table making them wince. “She doesn’t need to know, but I do. I’d be a fool to think you all didn’t have your own needs for her survival, even for my own survival. Spit it out!”

All eyes fell on Romasanta and Cedric turned, the muscles in Cedric’s arms visibly tightening. Romasanta’s docile brown eyes turned yellow in response. It was Romasanta’s choice to allow him to know anything more, meaning he had known more than previously let known. They glared at one another, but soon a sigh broke from Romasanta’s lips, looking over his audience. Secrets were only part of the dilemma he was working over inside his mind.

“I suppose I keep giving each of you a small part of the whole problem.” Snorting, Romasanta returned Cedric’s green glare with his own amber stare. “As some of you all know, Angeline’s ancestor, the old witch, is actually my sister Artemis. We were twins raised in an ancient village whose name I have even forgotten over the thousands of decades. I was born without magic and Artemis had acquired all of it, possibly absorbed my own in the womb, but one could only guess. She was strong, but even I did not know how deep her own involvement went in my own life let alone yours and Angeline’s, Cedric.”

Leaning forward, Romasanta had everyone’s attention at the table, even earning an eyebrow left from Lillith. Satisfied with no further interruptions would be unfolding, he continued the secrecy he had held to himself since the start of his curse.

“Growing up, I felt like a little brother years below the intelligence and understanding she possessed. To say she was a genius in the arts of magic would be an understatement. If I recall, she served Gaea directly in those days she served as the village shaman.” Closing his eyes, Romasanta saw memories of the hut burning, the smoke still stinging in his nostrils. “What I recently learned, thanks to the sisters, is that she was the creator of Avalon itself. Worse, she intended for me to inherit control of the island, but I cannot do that. An immortal can only hold a key to one barrier at a time. I am bound to the Black forest and refuse to tear down the barrier that protects not only Daphne, but many forgotten magical beings. Only someone from our bloodline has the rights to claim Avalon.”

“Then Angeline…” Tension broke and Cedric allowed himself to sit down and ponder. “So, Angeline is the heiress to Avalon.”

“Yes.” Morrighan’s whisper joined the conversation. “We realize allowing her to even know this much would be damaging to her current mental status. I don’t think any of us would be capable of absorbing the idea we were the rightful owner of the very place we spent centuries being torn apart and put back together. Merlin had access to some unfathomable practices… the idea that any of herself was still there in her head is… impressive.”

“Does the girl show any signs of having access to magic?” It was the first time Cedric had heard Nemaine speak in a serious manner. “Even accidental? Surely you, my dearest little brother could sniff out the difference between dormant and active magic in a human’s bloodline, no?”

Cedric paled, closing his eyes to recall the memories he had held. “It was her curse that gave Merlin the opening he needed to steal her away. That alone signals there was magic before I was able to really acknowledge it. I have also tasted the magic there in her veins before but… now… with the change…”

“You haven’t drank her blood since you’ve reunited?” Nyctimus lifted an eyebrow, pushing his eyeglasses up on his nose. He looked like a model doctor with his hairstyle combed over wearing a business suit and clean shaven. “Not to be rude, but why haven’t you?”

Cedric rolled his eyes. “None of you understand how my body works at all. Before Vladimir awakened the moroi bloodline in full, I drank from Angeline as a means to keep the magic in my system intact.” He shot a nasty glare at Nemaine and Morrighan who both chuckled. “I only fed on her in order to keep myself from dying. Before her, I was taking advantage of the ability to suck the souls and power from demons to do essentially the same thing. Since then, I have found more sufficient ways of healing myself. So no, I have not thought of drinking from her, it’s not something I do in leisure.”

A coy grin crawled across Lillith. “A more sufficient way? Is that so?”

“I am stable and have no need to suck her blood.” Cedric scoffed, ignoring Lillith’s teasing. “From my experience, when magic is dormant, the sensation is like it has something heavy covering it. With Badbh, there was no mistaking her magic was active, it pulled with the blood much easier than with Angeline. I suppose I could tell the difference if I had taken any from her…”

“Merlin’s goal was to access Artemis’ magic. There is a chance he managed to flip the switch somehow.” Morrighan tapped her lips, thinking on the facts laid before her. “Would you be willing to-”

“No.” Cedric’s voice was stern and he glowered over at Morrighan. “Until I fully understand what she has become, I refuse to tempt my luck or hers. No offense, but it also involves an unknown factor of how I would react. I am sure Lillith, Romasanta, and even Nyctimus would understand the complications of being a demon of animalistic tendencies. Developing a blood lust is a hard habit to kick once you start one, the last thing I want to ensue now that she’s become something… else.”

“He has a point.” Romasanta raised his eyebrows, impressed Cedric was thinking things through for once. “We won’t need to know until the time comes for her to decide to take Avalon over as its possible protector.”

“Protector?” Cedric was back on his feet again, Chair screeching and his fangs clenched. “You’ve got to be kidding me! She hasn’t told me one thing about her time as Merlin’s prisoner. To ask her to protect the place where she has spent centuries being tormented! You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Calm down!” Snapped Romasanta, his golden stare placing Cedric back into his chair. “Don’t you think we already took this into consideration, pup?”

“Sometimes I wonder why I am still sitting at this table.” Cedric sneered over at him. “Why are we having this story time session? I imagine there is a matter to be resolved.”

“Glad we can get back on topic.” Grunted Badbh, her arms crossed with her feet propped on the table. “So I know this involves going to Mt. Parnassus and battling the Mother of dragons.”

“Y-you can’t be serious?” Nyctimus knotted his brow, looking over at Romasanta’s unmoving expression. “You don’t intend to face her alone to get to the Oracle, do you?”

Laughing, Romasanta smirked. “I know I’ve been a fool in the past, but please give me more credit, my old friend. I called this meeting to see who here would join me. There is no way I can carry this out on my own.”

“I will.” Cedric’s voice cut through the room and Romasanta’s smile fell away.

“And what about the girl?” Scowling, Romasanta’s eyes flashed their golden color. “Do you intend to leave her behind so soon?”

“Where I go, she follows.” Cedric snorted. “This is a chance-”

“Are you trying to get her killed?” Snapped Romasanta. “Do you realize we are facing dragons? Have you ever battled a dragon?”

“No.” Cedric’s brow folded, angry at the demeaning tone. “But who else do you have willing to go?”

“In that case, I will go.” Nyctimus removed his glasses, tossing them on the table. “After all, I owe you and Fenrir for taking down Aitvaras and gaining me the Lykoan throne.”

“Badbh?” Romasanta lifted a brow, pleading for someone else to join other than Cedric.

Sighing, she removed her feet from the table making her chair slam on the floor, groaning out her words. “I can’t.”

“My apologies, but our barbaric sister is needed on Avalon as a stand-in guardian.” Nemaine frowned. “Needless to say, she blames us for this missed opportunity. Come now Sissy, have more faith in our little boy toy.”

“Don’t blame me if I get restless on Avalon...” It was a cold tone from Badbh’s lips. “Regardless, I will give you my blessing and perhaps some parting gifts can be arranged under my guidance. This will not be an easy fight. Unlike Aitvaras, his mother is the one to watch when it comes to trickery, let alone the sheer power and size she possesses will be overwhelming when she takes her true form.”

“I see.” Nyctimus peered over to Lillith at this news. “I don’t suppose the Queen Succubus has time to spare for this matter?”

“Romasanta already knows this is something I cannot aid you in.” She lit a cigarette, smoke puffing up from her hands. “My hands are tied.”

A devilish smirk crawled across Cedric’s face. “We both know that two werewolves aren’t enough for this, old man.”

Snarling, Romasanta continued his refusal. “And what good would it do two werewolves and an idiot if the fourth is unable to join the fight?”

“She can, and will, fight.” Cedric’s smile dropped, replaced by a serious expression. “You know I would not offer this if I had any doubts in what Angeline could or could not do. If we go with you, that gives you the Incubus King and a Demonized Sorceress in your ranks. This is as good as having Lillith and Morrighan on board, is it not?”

Closing his eyes, Romasanta huffed at the term demonized sorceress. “What good will a medieval bow user serve us? Angeline is stuck in the past, what good could she do-”

“Actually…” Lillith interjected, blowing a long thin line of smoke from her pursed lips. “Mt. Parnassus has a very unique barrier. Delphyne is not one to leave herself vulnerable by allowing certain items to exist within the barrier she is the keeper of…”

Badbh leaned forward. “That’s right! The Mother of Dragons has it where certain things get destroyed when you pass through. Technological advances are useless. Electricity not created via magic will not work and gunpowder will not ignite within that barrier. You will literally have to depend on your own brute strength, melee weapons fused with silver, or a magic wielder.”

Romasanta’s face reddened and veins visibly pulsed on his head. Cedric was grinning like a fool at the news. He knew what Badbh and Lillith were both saying. Not only were they agreeing, but insisting Romasanta needed them. Silence took over as all eyes fell on the angry golden-eyed man who refused to meet the excited green ones next to him.

“Romasanta.” Cedric started in a softer tone. “If something happens to her, know that it falls on me. I do plan on asking her, she will have a chance to say no.”

“Fine.” Romasanta caved, having no other options among those he trusted. “We will meet and prep at Lykoan Tower. Before we head to Mt. Parnassus, you will have to prove to me she still has the will to fight, or even remembers how to fight. I’ll have her take care of the nuisance Busse buck in the Black Forest.”

“Busse?” Cedric blinked. “I thought they were extinct?”

A smile came to Romasanta’s lips. “Not under my roof. I have a large bull with eighteen or more points on his horns that is terrorizing other wildlife. Plus, a kill like that should provide enough leather and horns for tools for the trip to Mt. Parnassus. Considering we will require some older gear fashioned to accommodate the circumstances.”

“Fine.” Cedric rubbed the back of his neck. “We’ll take it down.”

“You misunderstood me, pup.” The tension in the exchanged glares sent shivers across those watching. “Angeline will have to prove she can fight, without you or me or anyone to save her.”

Jaw tight, Cedric turned and left the conference room without another word. His wave of anger had escaped him and he could feel the reflection of worry from Angeline. Whether she was still asleep, he would not be able to tell until he made it to their bedroom where he left her. No one in the conference room dared to stop him. They were still dealing with Romasanta’s frustration and rage with the idea of putting Angeline in the line of fire and having to be dependent on Cedric. Pausing in front of the bedroom door, his hand gripped the cold handle. He could feel the struggle of emotions coming from her, a mixture of fear, anger and pleasure. Sighing, Cedric knew Angeline was dreaming about the countless times she had been tortured. Opening the door, the room dark, he blinked a few time before he could see as clear as day.

Standing at the edge of the bed, Cedric stared down at Angeline with overwhelming sympathy. He had been hard on her, but the fate she had led without him had eaten away at his own soul. The covers had been kicked off and she continued tossing and turning in her sleep. Her skin prickled as an ghostly chill from her past made her body shiver. She was wearing one of his t-shirts, but her sweat soaked it, making it cling to her skin. Panting, she shifted, her eyes tight with sleep. Struggling with her nightmare, flinching from an unseen action, he could only grimace. She had wiggled to the point the shirt which normally reached midthigh had bunched up under her breasts. Smirking, he soaked in the site of her laid across his bed.

Her lips still reminded him of a rose pedal, but her once sun-kissed tan was now a ghostly white. Despite her torture, she was in the same physical condition he remembered when they last laid together. The cotton shirt clung to her, exposing the curvature of her breasts in an enticing manner. They seemed fuller than he had recalled, but she was also much older. The flashing memories in his mind made her feel like a girl by comparison. She had become a woman in her time spent imprisoned. If only she realized how beautiful she had bloomed in the darkness. So much time had gone by that even he felt older. Looking back to his days with her during the Medieval age, he had changed too. His shoulders were thicker, muscles stronger and harder from his excursions through the centuries, his eyes more tired, and he couldn’t remember the last time he recalled worrying about keeping his fangs hidden. Still, his trademark blood red hair with its black tips had not faded and the ferocity in his bottle green eyes still stung those they hit.

His eyes moved on to the one scar that had not faded on Angeline. Most of her injuries and marks faded away after she dug her fangs into him in that first embrace. A long purple scar distorted the flesh across her abdomen just below her belly button. It stretched from the top of one hip over to the other like a grisly grin teasing him for his failure to keep her from harm. Looking down at his left hand, he sneered at the scar on his ring finger. Stomach knotting, he knew some place deep in her subconscious she was preventing this one scar not to heal. Many times he caught her frustrated stare in the mirror. Even she felt there was something important she was forgetting. Looking back to the ragged scar, her hands gripped it. Teeth clenched, tears rolling down her temples from her sleeping eyes. Terror and rage slammed him so heavily he felt nauseous from its weight. Paling he reached out to shake her awake but stopped. Panic rattled him.

She insists she cannot remember her first years on Avalon. Would waking her kill a chance of remembering a sliver of that time?

A scream broke free of her lips and a wave of pain emitted from her. Dropping to his knees, he watched her nightmare shake through her. Gripping his own stomach, he involuntarily did what he had done so many times before. Replacing her pain with pleasure was merely an instinctual reaction for him. Sweat poured over him as a haunting and familiar sensation shook him. This was the same as the time he was at the monastery shortly after he lost her. The jagged ripping that matched the grim scar across her stomach was playing out its beginnings again. He felt the muscles under the slice tighten and release in excruciating waves. Folding himself into a fetal position, the pain tearing through him made him lose his focus on Angeline. He was failing to keep himself intact. With his heart pounding in his ears, his thoughts exploded in a flurry of questions and memories.

When had this happened? This is the moment scarred across her body that she is so desperate to remember. I was at the monastery. This pain made the monks think I was possessed. I lost consciousness, I was weak for a long time after. How could I forget, it was the first time I had experienced illness, fevers, shivers, and every part of me ached without reason. What could this be? Where did the pain come from to lash out at even me through our bond…

His mind raced to recall where in her timeline her abdomen had received the mark. Muscles tightened yet again, her voice was moaning in pleasure but her pain was now his. Grinding his teeth, it was up to him to help her overcome these moments and if she woke not recalling any of it, at least he could give her the information that was fleeing her grasp. He owed her that much for his failure to get her back sooner. Folding over slightly, the pain erupted in a cold sweat across him and he swallowed back his fears of experiencing the sensations for a second time.

The pain was peaking. Angeline’s back arched with pleasure while Cedric fell on his side to the floor. Flashes of his own past drowning him, holy water plashing across him and the chanting reverberating in his mind. Eyes rolling in the back of his head, shaking on the floor, much like the first time, he faced pure agony. Tears were welling up in his eyes, his jaw clenching to keep in the roar he wanted to release. He had lost focus on his environment, everything blurring to black. At his core, his soul was being ripped apart in waves of fire and ice.

Squeezing his eyes tighter, harrowing thoughts crept forward, Why does this hurt so much more than the first time? I remember it was ungodly, but I’m stronger now. Why does this feel like the throws of death I have felt so many times at the tips of my own fangs?

He felt himself jerked to his feet, dragged across the floor and into the blinding light of the hallway. Gasping, his pain was washed away by a chilling amount of arousal. His pupils adjusted and he stared up at the befuddled faces of Lillith and Romasanta. Enraged, he jumped to his feet ripping Lillith’s hand from his wrist.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Hissed Lillith. “Are you daft? An incubus can die taking on that type of pain!”

“It didn’t kill me the first time!” He roared.

“What the hell is going on?” Romasanta looked to Cedric then to Lillith. “You rushed back there so fast... exactly what was happening?”

Lillith’s maroon eyes were fiery and her voice full of ire. “You are such an idiot! The fact you don’t acknowledge the kind of pain she’s reliving at this very moment! How can you call yourself an Incubus King if you’re going to be so oblivious!”

Pushing between Cedric and Romasanta, she slammed them against the walls of the hallway. Her face had mottled, eyes watery as she marched away. Nearing the end of the hall, Cedric’s own anger faltered seeing her horns crawling out before losing sight of her. The apartment was filled with loud bangs as doors slammed shut in her wake. Lillith was leaving in a fit of rage. Never had any of them seen her lose her calm, always a stronghold of confidence left in an unstable fit where she failed to even hide her own demonic appendages. Romasanta and Cedric exchanged wide-eyed stares. Angeline’s dream had ended, but sweat dripped from Cedric’s chin from the feat. Romasanta’s expression filled with wrath before he closed the gap between them. Gripping the front of Cedric’s shirt, they both growled at one another.

“What were you doing to Angeline?” Fur sprouted from his skin, clothes ripping as his face distorted grimly before reaching its final form of a wolf’s head. “Spit it out now!”

“None of your business!” Cedric shoved Romasanta and his shirt ripped, chunks of it still in Romasanta’s clawed fists. “But if you think it was wrong to take on the pain a dream was bringing her then go ahead and kill me over it!”

Romasanta blinked, snorting from his massive nostrils in frustration, “Is that all?”

“Well I was on the fucking floor! What do you think!” Cedric reared up on him, nose to nose.

“Then why was Lillith so pissed?” They were huffing from the adrenaline filled moment. “Is it not what you do for her all the time?”

“Y-yes.” They paled in confusion. “Or I thought I was doing the same thing?”

“Do you always do it for dreams as well as the real thing?” Romasanta pushed Cedric back, pacing over to the cracked bedroom door where Angeline whimpered in her sleep.

“W-well, no.” Cedric rubbed the side of his neck, thinking deeply. “It was different. Before it was always the actual pain. I realized she was having a nightmarish memory and instead of waking her, I thought I could pull the pain from her so she would have a chance of remembering something she had forgotten. A moment in her past she’s desperate to recall, in fact.”

Romasanta let Cedric pull the door close, whispering. “Why on earth would she want to remember any time there on Avalon?”

Cedric headed down the hallway after Romasanta. “She can’t remember the first few years there. It’s safe to assume Merlin took them from her, but she seems determined to remember that first year in particular. When her dream started I realized it was from that time period. What right did I have to deny her what she has been trying to recover?”

“Then you had experienced the pain once before?” Shuddering off his wolf form, they continued to the kitchen. “Did you have that hard of a time with it the first time?”

“That’s what concerns me...” Cedric’s jaw muscles twitched with anxiety. “And if Lillith hadn’t interfered...”

“She flew from the conference room like the place was on fire. Whatever happened to you, she could sense it.” Romasanta grabbed a bottle of vodka from the liquor cabinet and took a long draw from it. “I’ve known her for well over a thousand years and I have never seen her face mottle or turn red or look as pissed off as she was when she put us against the wall.”

“I’ve seen her that mad...” Cedric motioned with his fingers to give him the bottle and he followed with his own long gulp of vodka.

“Oh yea?” He had Romasanta’s attention as his eyebrows raised high over his brown eyes. “When did you manage that?”

“That time you left me at Vladimir’s castle.” Another hard slug of vodka sent Cedric’s throat burning. “Let’s just say I would have rather repeated my fight with my grandfather. There will never be another brood made between us. There was no love, no lust, it was purely-”

“Cedric! CEDRIC!” Angeline came running into the kitchen.

The two looked over in alarm when she stumbled to a stop at the entrance of the kitchen. She was covered in sweat, still in the cotton t-shirt panting from running down the hall. Her eyes locked with Cedric’s and a wave of relief snuffed out the blast of fear she had sent out. Her eyes fell on the other person who stood between them. Romasanta crossed his arms, his clothes nothing more than a pile of scraps in the hall. Angeline’s eyes fell below Romasanta’s belt line and a wave of embarrassment hit Cedric through their bond, making him grin.

“Why are you naked?” Squealing she turned on her heels, blushing as she covered her face. “Where are your clothes, Romasanta!”

A roar of laughter exploded out of the men over her reaction to Romasanta’s unwarranted nudity.

“What on earth is the matter?” Cedric was struggling to catch his breath.

“I opened the door and saw the hallway smashed up and pieces of your shirt and I thought, I thought...” Her voice was trembling.

Handing the vodka bottle back to Romasanta, Cedric came up behind her. His arms wrapped around her, his lips kissing and suckling at her neck and shoulder. Pausing, he watched as her damp skin prickled in response to his warm breath, something he missed so dearly about her. Leaning back into him, she sighed, enjoying his warmth and relieved nothing had happened. Reaching up, her shaking hands gripped his arms, a silent plea for him not to let go.

“I’m sorry. We were rough-housing and got carried away.” Cedric nuzzled at her neck some more, knowing she could smell the liquor on his breath. He hoped his lie would suffice, she didn’t need to know what had sparked the fight in the hallway. “We drank a little too much.”

“I need a shower anyhow...” Grumbled Romasanta, disappearing through the living room with the vodka bottle still in hand.

“Why is he naked?” Angeline was trying not to giggle, her nerves still tingling from her fright. “Who wrestles with a naked man?”

“In my defense, he started as a werewolf...” Cedric began walking her back to the bedroom, tugging her hand lightly behind him.

A chuckle escaped him when they passed the cracked drywall. Pausing, he let go of her, looking down at the two holes in his shirt. His bare chest was unharmed underneath as he inspected the damage. Smirking, he tugged off the ruined shirt and tossed it to the floor behind him. Turning his attention back to Angeline he grabbed her hand. Pulling her once more, he led her into the bedroom, slamming the door behind them as if shouting to leave them alone.

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