The Honesteade felt different than when he had been here before, although he knew nothing had changed. It was still the largest room in all of Ardtrea, at least that is what they were always told by their boastful Elders. The ceiling was high enough it even had a moon light, a window in the top that was only open when the moon was full, to let in the natural night light. There were large ionic pillars that lined the room, and in between each of these pillars were tapestries depicting Ardtrea’s great achievements as a land, and them some depicting the achievements of the Vampires as an individual species. The banishment of rogue packs, the peace treaty after the Great War and his own marriage to Courcelette in which they joined the human world and their own. It made him long to be in his own home, to have her in his arms, to see her smile first hand like he was seeing it on the tapestry.
He turned his gave back to the circular room in front of him, trying to think of anything but her until he had to, taking in everything for the hundred-thousandth time of being here. The room was divided roughly into four sections by furniture and colored areas set into the workings on the ground. On either side of where he stood in the door frame were bench seats, made of dark cherry polished wood, the mosaic floor pieces different shades of gold where the members of the community would sit during hearings or changing of the Laws. The seats were on angles, and curved to face the middle of the room. The middle of the room was completely exposed, the pattern on the floor was a giant circle, these tiles made up of different shades of red that got darker as they got closer to the center. This is where the persons who was being charged with whatever crime would stand, surrounded by the silver tiles that wrote out the sigils that kept the whole Ardtrean world in check. They came from the most powerful form of magic that was eventually banished by its creators when the Underworlders started using it maliciously to get what they wanted. The last tapestry showed the Spire pushing them underground, banished, all the markings removed from Ardtrean surfaces. The only place they remained was in the circle of The Honesteade, and the only ones that used them were the Spire in dire times of need.
At the farthest region, directly in front of him was where The Spire, the council of Elders that ruled over Ardtrea, would sit, where they sat on multiple occasions back when deliberation over species issues happened almost on a weekly basis. Their bench was the tallest, being able to overlook the entire room, the velvet on each chair colored accordingly for the race that occupied it. Sapphire for the Vampires, Emerald for the Lycans, Rose for the Sealie, Violet for the Ancients, White for the Spirit, Red for the Nites and Gold for the Fallen. Nites and Fallen were rarely seen, their seats dusty as they only intervened when there was an imbalance. Each throne was spaced equally apart, leaving room for eight places, the area where the last chair would sit completely empty. The chair for the Underworlders, who were once part of the Spire so many moons ago that Kynthelig had not yet been thought of being brought into this world, have been completely destroyed when they were banished. Their velvet was always black, and the burning of the chair marked a dark time for Ardtrea when the imbalance of energy was at an all time high, the land not sure of how the Underworlders would combat what they thought was a disgrace having their place at The Spire being taken away from them. The banishment charms The Spire had used against the once peaceful demons of our world were being used for good intent instead of the malicious outcomes the Underworlders were trying to procure, and it held up in battle, pushing them underground for good.
Valtin gave a little cough that woke Kynthelig from his historical daze, and brought his attention to the far right hand area of the room, where the Vampire Elder Keziah stood in the door frame. Draped in her gold attire, she entered into the room. None of the Elders really walked, they had almost developed a way to move without ever touching the ground, giving them an air of grace and mystery they love empowering over the little people. When she reached them, Kynthelig and Valtin knelt down into a low bow.
“Kynthelig.” her voice was as always smooth, enchanting, and frightening. “It is most unusual for you to be here, again. I choose you have quite important news.”
“I very much do my Lady. When I returned from The Spire to my home, my daughter and wife had gone missing.”
Keziahs’ expression was unchanged.
“Is this not a matter of your mortal justice control.”
“Under normal circumstances yes, but my front passage way was coated in dark, demon-like energy.”
He felt Valtin tense up beside him. “Are you positive Kynthelig?”
“I saw it with my own eyes, I felt it.”
“Were there any eyes that could test to the crime you believe to have been done to your family?”
“None my Lady that I am aware of.”
“It is quite possible that the energy you saw was coming off your daughter after this run in with a demon, it is normal for latent energy to linger.”
“I really do not think that is what this is, the way the energy felt was different than the Morkid demon, which I can say for certain since I was close to the demon. Something has taken them, I know of it.”
“It sounds like you are going on pure speculation, mortal speculation. You have picked up some unnatural and disgraceful habits being in that world, and mortal hunches do not entertain me or The Spire.”
“My apologies for being brash, but since I am partner to a mortal, for the sole purpose of binding our worlds, I should think they would be of more interest you.”
Keziah remained un-phased, staring into Kyntheligs’ eyes. He stared back, trying to show that he was not afraid, and more importantly that he was not lying. She drew in a long breath and turned towards the door.
“I will go speak to the rest of the Elders. You better hope they are as lenient as I am Kynthelig, or your name may certainly loose its lustre.”
“I don’t personally care what this place thinks of my name Keziah.”
Kynthelig muttered the last line under his breath, and only once the door behind her had closed. He was sure she could still hear him, and speaking to an Elder in such ways, even saying their true names, was usually punishable by death. He turned to Valtin who stared back at him with the same concerned look.
“I will never understand why she favors you so much.”
“I’m special apparently.”
“Special is quite the understatement, come on Kyn.”
They exited the tunnel coming out on a hill side, still in night overlooking Drean and Saphyr, the only two main cities that were clearly visible from almost everywhere in Ardtrea.
They walked in silence to the west, making their way to the main gates of Drean. Kynthelig let loose a heavy sigh.
“I really hoped I would never have to come back here Val, and definitely not twice in such a short amount of time, and most definitely not to stay for longer than desired.”
“I don’t see why you hate this place so much. You’re here with your own kind, you don’t have to hide, you don’t have to pretend here, isn’t that a relief?”
“There are rules here Val, rules that don’t apply in the human world. There are many, so many different races in the human world, and most of them are friends. Granted there are the scuffs, the pointless wars, but they all live rather harmoniously. Two races can live within houses of each other, or in the same house, without any issue. Everyone here, every species here, from the wild to the tame, all has problems with those who aren’t like them.”
“But that is how it always has been, that’s just Ardtrea.”
“It’s archaic Val. I’m not saying we have to partner with the Lycans,” with this Val made a shallow retching noise which Kynthelig ignored, “but there is no reason we couldn’t be at least tame with each other.”
“We signed the peace treaty, that should be enough tame for everyone.”
“This is why I left.”
Silence fell between them again. Most of Drean was taken aback when Kynthelig had originally openly shared this opinion. The only people that stood with him were those that attended the partnering of himself and Courcelette, the marriage being almost like his rebellious stage, although he really did love her. She even took the risk when she wanted children that they could turn out like him. He and Courcelette tried to instil in Vitania the right morals, which although she has enforced a little too well with her new friendship with the Lycan, he was proud of her for not conforming to her origins old ways. Kynthelig was almost banished from Drean and partly Ardtrea as a whole when he partnered with Courcelette. Eventually his race came to terms with it, and applauded him for bringing another milestone to the Vampire race, only using it as a bragging chip to prove them to be superior to the Lycans.
As the dawn was upon them they watched as the ever familiar dome was pulled over Drean, masking the sunlight. The artificial night was necessary for the Vampires who hadn’t become accustomed to the day. It didn’t bother Kynthelig anymore. He had asked the Ancients for help in making him more like his human wife, to be able to walk in the sunlight, and whatever they did worked perfectly. Working so well it was passed through his altered genes, never bothering Vitania at all. Sometimes she could even change her pigment, but not for very long.
Getting closer to the gate, it started to open. Drean was never famous for throwing any kind of “welcome home” celebration, but the Vampire that was opening the gate was running to meet them. Kynthelig and Valtin exchanged interested glances, and when he finally got to them, he was dark eyed, fangs out, and dressed in the Viral attire.
“Sirs, are one of you master Kynthelig?”
“There is no need for “master,” I have not been known by that title for decades now.”
The young Vampire bowed anyway, and stood up at attention in front of them.
“You will always be a master to me sire. I have news from the Watchers.”
Kynthelig stared at him, and waved his hand for him to continue.
“It is your daughter sir. She was seen entering the city Saphyr, not voluntarily.”
The sunlight on her face was warm, something very few Vampires could actually experience, and it was one of the things she could never imagine living without. Vitania rolled over in the bed, noticing now how elegant it really looked. The silk that draped over everything was slightly translucent and bathed the far corner in a red glow, the posts were polished, a glistening shade of charcoal. She was up and dressed before the maid knocked at her door.
The maid didn’t look to be very old, possibly twelve or thirteen. She was small, thin, dressed in the Lycan colors but in nothing she thought a maid should wear; no skirt or anything cute like that. She actually looked like a Lyvian solider in training more than anything.
“Madam, I was sent to gather you for breakfast.”
“Thank you.” She looked around her to see that the girl was totally alone, no other gaurds had accompanied her. “Are you not afraid of me?”
“Well you do well to not show it, I will give you that.”
“Thank you madam.”
“Where is Detalia?”
“She is already at the table madam.”
“Thank you, and please stop calling me madam.”
The soldieress in training moved to the side as she walked in front of her, tensing slightly as she brushed past her fur. Savory smells drifted through the air playing with Vitania’s nostrils and causing her stomach to yell in excitement.
The dining hall, much like the rest of the Lycan fortress, was large and depicted “all” their great achievements. Matching pillars lined the room and giant windows were opened wide for the breeze and warming sunlight to touch each being in the room. These windows including one decorated soldier each, probably for protection and just in case they decided they want to suddenly excuse themselves from Lycan presence. When the doors of the hall closed behind her, Detalia’s ears perked up and she turned from when she was already stuffing her face with raw meat and jam.
She jumped out of her chair and ran over to her, Vitania holding out her hand as to hopefully impede the incoming hug, she got closer and slowed at the sight of Vitania’s hand in her face, shaking her head. She motioned with her head for her to follow her back to the table, where she tentatively took the seat next to Detalia never breaking eye contact with at least one of the multiple Lycans situated at the table.
“Aren’t you hungry Vitania?”
She looked to see the Elder from the night before standing at the end of the table that was closest to where they were sitting.
“Thank you sir, but I don’t eat raw meat.”
“Oh yes of course.” He scratched behind his ear as if he knew this fact and it had somehow slipped his mind, almost looking a forgetful Uncle if she had ever had an Uncle. “My apologies.”
She nodded in response while he snapped his fingers. Out came a quick little Lycan maid, dressed much more appropriately for her role than the previous one, where he whispered something in her ear. Just as quickly as she had appeared she disappeared back into the kitchen, and without warning had emerged again balance a large wine looking glass, half filled with dark red, iron smelling, liquid.
“What background is this?”
“It’s fresh I assure you. It’s a mix of different creatures’ blood I promise, straight from the kitchen. The meat on the table is fresh too, from the same livestock.”
Vitania leaned closer and smelled it. Every blood has a specific smell depending on where it came from. Animal blood and human blood were very different, in both taste and smell, as every species had its own blood characteristics; like plasma count, fat content and red blood cell factors. It did smell similar to the bottles of beer and chicken blood on her shelf, so she took a tiny sip. The warmed liquid rolled over her tongue, a sweet and sour taste igniting all of her senses, and down her throat. She could feel her adrenaline rising, not realizing how hungry she had actually been until this delicious concoction had touched her stomach. Fairly certain it was not of human origin, because she would never forgive herself if she became so archaic as to feed off of another human, she took an unadulterated gulp.
“It’s delicious, thank you.”
The Elder nodded in satisfaction at her acceptance of his offering.
“Take as long as you need here.”
She tried to give a sincere smile, followed by the clearing of her throat and the placing of her glass on the table.
“May I speak with Detalia in private for a moment?”
She felt the room tense at her request, as if she planned to do away with her friend, a message fitting a Vampire I’m sure what was they were thinking. With one gesture from the Elder the room was emptied, save for a few guards left at the window, which was probably as good as she was going to get to alone and she was fine with that.
“Why do you keep looking at me like that?”
Detalia had anxious eyes and was fiddling with her paws, nervous motions she hadn’t seen her do on this trip, or ever in class. She wasn’t overly courageous but she never came across as this shy to her.
“Because I can smell on you that something is wrong, you’re just, off.”
Knowing it was probably better to keep last night’s events to herself, she looked down at her glass, twirling a finger through the dark liquid letting the stain soak in and then disappear from her skin.
“If I’m a little on edge it’s probably because I’m the only Vampire alive to see inside Saphyr, the Elder palace and probably, hopefully, get out of it all in one piece. And I would very much like to keep it that way.”
“Does that mean we’re leaving?”
“Yes Detalia, we’re leaving, you can’t honestly expect me to stay here, and I definitely can’t leave you here alone.”
“But why not? I am one of them after all.”
“You might be a Lycan but you are not one of them.” Her voice, even if she was talking in a whisper, came off as slightly harsh in tone bending closer to Detalia’s face. “You don’t know of the customs here, it is definitely not like home. They decided not to cut my head off at first which although is a step up, I still want to get out and get to Drean to find my father and try to find your boyfriend. Or have you forgotten about him already with all the new furry eye candy around here?”
She let out a low grow, her ears almost flat to her head at the insult Vitania knew would get her point across. It was a rude statement she knew, and the Lycan guards perked up at Detalia’s defensive state, but she knew Detalia needed the push back to reality.
“I have not forgotten about Tal.”
“Well then, let’s get out of here. Once you’ve had your fill and I’ve finished my glass how about we get out and head over to Drean.”
Detalia nodded and was about to start eating again when the double doors burst open to reveal the Elder stalking towards them, Vitania was quite astonished at how intimidating the older Lycan could actually be, after seeing the softer side to him last night. Both of them sprang from their seats and stood back to back as the Lycan guards began to advance on them.
“Vitania, what’s going on?” She could hear the nervousness in Detalia’s voice again, regretting her decision to stay as long as she had.
“I don’t know.”
“Vitania,” the Elder spoke to her in a voice many octaves lower than before, “you’re father has gotten wind of you being here and suspects you are a hostage. He is advancing on our gates, we need you to come with us, so that you can prove to him we have been nothing but humble towards you and your party.”
Without another word Vitania leapt past the wolves too quick for any of their advances anyway, and started down the corridor yelling back for Detalia to follow. She reached the front doors and was springing through the streets towards the gates. Lycans at every turn were glaring and growing at her as she weaved her way through the throngs of fur, narrowly avoiding some attacks by small children and even adults, much to the Livian officers growls and barks to try and keep the citizens calm. As she got closer they started to open the gates, knowing that as a pure Vampire he couldn’t physically enter the threshold so they had no fear of him charging into Drean, and she settled down to a steady stride reaching the difference in sand and grass. She tried to slow her breathing and not to look hasty, hoping her father wouldn’t get an even more wrong impression of her “visit” to the Lycan city, she didn’t want him to think she was trying to escape by the breathing patter she couldn’t keep steadied. Once she had crossed the threshold she felt stronger than she had inside the city, what little silver in the walls relinquishing the hold they had on her Vampire attributes, the smile she had tried to hide at the sight of her father fading when he didn’t let her get one word in before opening paternal hell.
“How did you, where did you, did you go through, ugh it doesn’t matter. I don’t know how you got to Ardtrea Vitania but you have a lot of explaining to do. You need to come with me at once.”
“Not without Detalia.” She knew he wasn’t going to like what she was about to suggest. “You need to tell the Viral that she’s okay. She was turned and really doesn’t know anything about the politics here. She is no danger.”
“Well,” she heard Detalia’s voice beside her, “I wouldn’t say any danger exactly, but I would never hurt a friend of Vitanias or her father.”
She tried to look as sincere as she could, but really she only pulled off the sad puppy dog look. Her father nodded as the Elder came up behind her.
“Apologies for the hasty approach. She is my daughter, even if she keeps odd company.”
He looked at Detalia but not with disdain, it was a different expression.
Vitania waited beside her father, not feeling as at home or comfortable him as she usually did, while Detalia said her emotional goodbyes to all of the guards who looked very uncomfortable with her hugging them. They walked for a bit feeling the eyes of the Lycans burning into their backs, probably wondering if Vampires were going to start popping out of the dirt.
After a while of the doors finally closing, Vitania wheeled on her father, hand on his throat and threw him down to the ground.
“Vitania!” Detalia was in shock at her actions but Vitania didn’t falter.
They stayed that way for some time, neither Vitania nor her father saying or doing anything. Eventually Vitania spoke.
“Who are you?”
“I am your father Vitania.”
“Liar.” The word came out in a low hiss. “If you were my father you would have been able to sense the attack I just pulled, known what I was going to do and would have stopped me. Even if you didn’t know, you would have fought back instantly, I’ve never been able to best my dad in anything. So you either tell me who you are right now or I sink my teeth so far into you you’ll be praying for the Spire to torture you.”
He just lay there under her hand, while she stared him on displaying her teeth. When he didn’t move or falter she lunged and sunk her teeth into his neck, right above where the carotid artery runs, just enough to get the point across. The figure acting as her father started to spasm beneath her and Vitania immediately pulled back, spitting and coughing up the vile liquid that had just entered her mouth. She stumbled slightly and Detalia steadied her, Vitania wiping her mouth and watching the body on the ground.
She had been right, it wasn’t her father. On the other hand, she had no idea who, or what, it was that had just picked them up from Saphyr and been able to mask the senses of the Lycans. They both watched as the body convulsed in every which way in front of them. The fangs, the skin tone, the height, it all started to fade away and give way to a new being. A slender being, with skin that had a pale blue tint to it, and eyes that looked to be so bright they could shine in the dark. The hands were dainty, the fingers long and slender to match the rest of the limbs elongating from the body, and it was dressed in clothes that almost looked like it was made of giant leaves. She watched as the puncture holes from her fangs started to dissipate and were eventually gone. Detalia and Vitania looked at each other while the body lay still on the ground. And then it was gone, just vanished.
“What did you do to it?!”
Detalia ran over to where the body had been and felt around, hoping to find some clue.
“I didn’t do anything to it.” She spit again and wiped her mouth. “Ugh, that was disgusting, absolutely disgusting.”
Standing over Detalia she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye, towards the forest.
“Detalia,” she slapped her shoulder to get her attention, “look over there.”
They both looked towards the forest and waited. Eventually the shimmer came again and they both took off, running stride for stride towards the edge of the forest, both insanely captivated by this mysterious glow. When they were a couple strides into the forest they stopped and looked around, waiting for the glimmer but it never came, they had lost their target.
“Great,” Detalia dropped to the floor, “we lost it again.”
“We don’t even know if it was it. Or what it even is.”
“Oh that was it, you could tell by the shine.”
I “Oh now you’re an expert on mythical creatures huh? This coming from the girl who has only been a part of her species for a couple months.”
“Hey at least I’m taking an interest in my own species instead of hunting others!”
“If you haven’t noticed I’m helping you, not hunting you, so I would appreciate if you-“
“Ladies, ladies, please. I’ve been known to cause women to tear at eachothers throats but pretty please, don’t fight over little old me.”
A voice so suave and arrogant distracted their argument; when they looked over it was indeed their body, but with distinctly more life.