Kyntheligs’ blood was almost boiling as he paced around his brothers common room waiting for night to fall. Of course he couldn’t trust Vitania at home alone, she was so much like him in her defiant ways, but to leave her mother alone to be presumably taken was a whole other story.
“She must have found the rift, that’s the only explanation of how she got here. We always told you there was something about her Kyn, something you couldn’t contain, and from what you have told me I’m sure she can handle herself.”
“I never should have trusted those Lycans.” He let out a hiss and slammed his fist into the wall.
“Kynthelig, calm yourself.” Val’s wife Milena walked into the room balancing a tray of three cup and saucers steaming with hot blood in her slender hands.
Although he had never wanted a life in Ardtrea he had to admit Vals’ reason for staying was a good one, involving the smoothest, palest skin that wasn’t too cold to touch. Built but still thin and feminine and standing just under six feet; she had always been one of the more beautiful Vampires in Drean. How his dimwitted brother ended up with her Kynthelig would never understand. Opposites do attract, which help true to their blood line with Kyntheligs out of the ordinary marriage.
“My only daughter is in Saphyr and I can’t leave until the Spire has come to its decision. Pardon me if I’m having a hard time controlling myself.”
“Well, if you are going to throw a temper tantrum then you can take it outside. I will not have you destroying my home, even if you are family.”
Kynthelig stared defiantly, but sat down reluctantly and watched as she picked up the pieces of the wall he had knocked out and rubbed his temples. She came and placed a cup in his hand.
“Drink up, you look thin even for you.”
He sipped the seemingly scalding liquid, although he couldn’t feel the pain, and looked out the window through the shade of light pink the dusky sky had changed. Sunsets were beautiful yes, but they always seemed to take forever to finish. Milenah pushed the cup back to his mouth and started to speak.
“What are you going to do Kynthelig? Just barge over to the front doors and demand the release of your daughter? You know you would be starting a war because no one knows she’s here. No one even knows you are here except for the Spire.”
Although he would hate to admit it, to himself and out loud, Milenah had a point. He couldn’t just go over and be demanding; they wouldn’t give her up that easily especially since he would be alone. He would also risk her safety if they knew he knew she was there. All he could do was just stand by and wonder what they could possibly be doing to her.
“I will think of something. I have to.”
“We understand Kyn, we just don’t want--.”
“How could you understand?” He could feel his pulse racing again.“My only daughter is in the Lycan City, with another Lycan who probably set her up! Having no fighting skills what so ever for hand to hand combat with a different race, or knowing how to negotiate her own safety, they could be draining her right now.”
He had gotten up and was in her face. He had to bend over to do so but Milenah stood her ground, staring back at the black abyss that had taken over his eyes, while hers welled up.
“You’re right,” she took deep breathes, “we wouldn’t know how that feels.”
She turned from him and took off out of the room faster than Kynthelig could remember that they did know how he felt, and he had forgotten. Val looked at his brother and shook his head, knowing that he could be forgetful when his temper ran high, and followed his wife to give comfort.
When Kynthelig, Courcelette, Valtin and Milenah were young, new couples, they had children around the same time, trying to plan for Vitania to have a cousin she was close with. Vitania had just turned four and Val and Milenahs’ son Kren was just over three, when a raiding party over took parts of the city; a traitor had let the Lycans in to attack his fellow Vampire. They ravaged the city, taking anyone they could, alive or dead. Kynthelig, Valtin and Milenah fought hard to protect their families, but they had been too distracted by the Lycans coming towards them that they failed to notice those advancing from behind. Valtin and Milenah were struck down, Kynthelig too wrapped up in his own battle to do anything but watch as a screaming Kren was held in its jaws. The creature leapt, evading every blow and attack from both parents, and ducking down a side pathway. Kynthelig watched out of the corner of his eye his brother and sister-in-law disappear into the crowds and shadows, their battle drowned out by the multiple battles around them. When they eventually returned to the house both Val and Milenah were covered in blood and mud, Milenah sobbing and clutching something to her chest. They walked past him, Courcelette and a crying Vitania and into their home. He never asked what happened because it never seemed like a good time, and eventually it was put in the past and completely forgotten about. They tried to have another but with no success, and it was shortly after that that Kynthelig decided it was time for him to leave Ardtrea.
He stood staring at the door feeling like a fool for what he’d said to Milenah, but when he opened the door to find her and apologize, the whole house was black. He listened for a warning sign, but the energy in the house was calm, meaning they must have left. Cloak on and hood up, he went out into the streets of Drean on his own for the first time in years, where all the lanters were just being lit and the city was coming to life.
Kynthelig avoided the main streets like an old pro, knowing where to turn and which way to go without even thinking, until he was at the main gates. The guards took their positions and brandished their weapons.
“Halt sir, we need your pass.”
“You need what now?” He let out a low hiss.
“Please sir, there is no need to be rude.”
He walked forward some and took off his hood so they could see his face. One guard was not moved, the other relaxed a bit.
“I know you.”
Kynthelig looked closer at the younger guard to his left that had spoken up.
“You’re Sire Masters, Vitanias’ father.”
“Well son, I suggest you get out of the way.”
The other guard perked up.
“Sy we can’t just let him through.”
Sycon turned and put on his most menacing facial expression.
“Do you have any idea who this is? He’s part of the Viral and good friends with my father who I know you know. If he has business outside of the city I suggest we let him pass, unless you want to explain why you did not let a veteran and respected member of the Viral do as he pleases.”
“Alright Sy calm down, don’t get your pants in a knot.”
The other guard lowered his weapon and Sycon gave Kynthelig the salute.
“Thank you son, you’ll be a fantastic general one day.” He leaned in a little closer. “Don’t tell your father I’m here. If he comes looking for me and I’m not where I’m supposed to be, it could mean a lot of trouble.”
“Yes or course sire.”
Kynthelig nodded and Sycon gave him one last salute before opening the doors and watching him disappear into the night. He looked to see the other guard staring at him.
“What are you looking at?”
“Just because you might get the father to like you doesn’t mean you’ll get the daughter to right? What was it about her you talked so much about, I think it was her amazing hair, or was it that amazing ass when she bent over the counter.”
Mork had to duck to avoid Sycon’s flustered attempt at bashing his head in with the end of his staff, trying to get him to shut up in case Kynthelig heard.
All Kynthelig heard was the ting of metal on metal which he found odd, and then the far away thud of the gate as, he made his way around the wall that lined Drean stopping only for a moment when he saw the lit up city of Saphyr. He slunk across the field that divided the city, keeping low and out of sight, watching the walls loom up around him. As he got closer though he began to cringe and once he was but a few feet away he dropped to his knees, fangs out and eyes black. His blood was hot, actually simmering inside his veins and his eyes were burning, tears of blood and saline running down his face momentarily staining his pigment. His vision blurred as he rolled away from the wall, feeling emasculated and defeated he looked up at the top and noticed through blurred eyes the shine that came off it. Groaning he crawled away and lain down against a rock. ‘Blasted silver, when did they do that.’ He grunted as he gained the strength to get to his knees and stare up at the wall that was holding him back from his daughter. Instead of being able to get a look at the inside and devise a plan, he was going to have to either wait and see if Vitania could handle herself, or send a letter to summon their elder Lycan and confront him about holding his daughter. He didn’t like either of the ideas. One made him weak and one made him worry.
He heard the snap of a branch and was on his feet as fast as he could, even though he cringed slightly at the quick movement, just to see Sycon standing behind him.
“I’m so sorry sire I just had a feeling something might go wrong if no one had told you about the upgrade to the walls, I-.”
Kynthelig went to walk towards the boy but faltered and Sycon was immediately at his side bracing him.
“You are definitely a strong lad Sycon, much like your father, quick too.”
“I take pride being his son. Will you let me help you at least across the field?”
He reluctantly took a hold of Sycons shoulder and they started to walk back to Drean. The farther they got from the walls of Saphyr the better he started to feel, and after a while he could stand on his own again, walking with a slight limp next to the Vampling.
“When did they do that to the barricade?”
“Just after I was born I think sire.”
There was a silence that Kynthelig didn’t like, it was the silence that happened right before Vitania was about to tell him something she’d done against his wishes.
“Sir?” Sycons voice quivered a little.
“Don’t sound so nervous son, it will give your enemy an edge.”
“Pardon my asking, but why would you want to try to get close to Saphyr alone? Without reinforcement or even telling someone where you were going. You never know what might--.”
“Are you interrogating me Sycon Falkrie?”
Sycons stomach dropped and he tried as quickly and as coherently as possible to retract what Kynthelig thought he was intending.
“No not at all sire! I was just curious and I was concerned if something did happen than your wife and Vitania might be worried about you was all.”
He sighed and ran his hands through his hair.
“I sensed there was a good reason you would go sire, and the look on your face is the same look my mother gives me when she takes me for battle training in the morning. Its Vitania, isn’t it sire?”
“Just like your father in that sense too I see, always being able to figure out more than he’s supposed to.”
Sycon looked at his feet. “I didn’t mean any disrespect sire.”
Kynthelig looked ahead to the gates of Drean in silence, enough time passed with nothing said, and Sycon knew that the conversation was over.
Vitania was multiple steps in front of Tal and Detalia on the forests’ path. Detalia squeezed Tals paw and looked up at him.
“I can understand one side of why she’s upset, with her mom being someone else, but I don’t understand why it’s bad about what she half is, why does it matter so much.”
“Underworlders are very bad creatures Detalia. One of the most evil things to ever walk the fields of Ardtrea. They aren’t human, they are creatures damned and tortured in the fires of their own Hell. Their souls aren’t souls at all, but captured souls of the innocent. There is no one soul per one Underworlder. They each have a mountain of terrible things stewing inside them that gives them their unworldly powers that never seem to end. They are the very definition of pure evil. They used the old ways, old forms of magic, to control the different species. They meddled and took over the minds and bodies of Lycans, Vamps, Sealie, and turned them against each other. They started the Race War to satisfy their love for chaos, and when everyone had killed each other they could make Ardtrea a dark and damned place for them to rule over. The only ones strong enough to push them underground were the Ancients and at the time they were a lot younger and much more powerful than they are now. They used to be in at least tolerable, they were part of the council that ran Ardtrea until they started to use their magic” He sighed, gripping her paw tighter and looking at Vitania. “So it’s no wonder why she’s upset. What I don’t understand is how the Ancients could have been so blind not to have known her mother was one of them when they paired her and Kynthelig, or how Kynthelig wouldn’t have known either.”
“What happens if others find out who she is?”
“Yeah Tal, what happens.” Vitania was in front of them now, hands on her hips and her black eyes staring him down. The remnants of tears still staining her cheeks.
“Ardtrea thinks you are half-human, half-Vampire right now. You are the only Halfling in existence and because you are only “half a Vampire” that makes you less of a threat. But being two halves of two Ardtrean beings, one having incredible powers, makes you a danger to society.”
“Are you calling me unstable Taliesin.”
“I think most women are unstable regardless,” Vitania let out a hiss but Tal didn’t seem overly worried, more annoyed. “I’m calling you an asset.” He growled his answer, and Detalia watched as her eyes dimmed slightly. It was a creepy sight even for her. Her eyes were normal with what looked like a dark grey contact that was spread over them. You could tell she had pupils but they weren’t exactly noticeable. Tal continued. “Or a danger. It could really go either way. They will either want you on their side or they will want your head mounted on their wall. Also, we need to go this way.”
He pointed to a path that led North-East, away from Drean and Saphyr.
“We need to get to Drean and find my real father, so we can tell him what we know.”
“For one thing I doubt he will take the word of a Sealie. For another neither Detalia nor I should be anywhere near either town, especially Drean. We can’t be found and if your father is found to be helping harbouring a fugitive so to speak, we will be both be severely punished. It won’t matter how far up the ladder he is, harbouring is harbouring. The punishment for that in Saphyr I remember is being Unchanged, I don’t think you want that, do you?”
Vitania looked at the ground. Detalia looked from Tal to Vitania.
“Unchanged?” her voice was weary like she already knew the answer but she hoped she was wrong.
“Remember when we talked about replacing your Lycan blood and making you mortal?”
Detalia put her paws over her mouth. “No. They-they can’t do that!”
“They can, and they will. Both to me and Kynthelig.”
The three of them were silent for a moment, Detalia watching Vitania. She knew that she knew they couldn’t go back to either city, it would do more harm than good even Detalia knew that. She looked down the path and back at Detalia, where she tried to give her most sympathetic “I’m here for you” looks but Vitania just turned away.
“Where does that path take us Tal? Somewhere the faerie suggested?”
“Yes actually. And don’t just call him the faerie. The Sealie folk can be surprisingly helpful because they don’t choose to take sides, they think logically. If someone is in trouble they help them, how do you think I could fake my own death? We’ll be going to the Mountains of Is.”
“You say that like I have no choice.” Her voice came out childish and unimpressed, which made her feel a little ashamed.
“You don’t have a choice.” Vitania glared at Tal who tried to give his best stance against her. “For your sake and for everyone’s safety, you need to know what you can and can’t do. Normally any kind of powers would have shown themselves by now which means if it’s not being controlled and just dormant it could come out at any moment with your mother not around. That could cause for a lot of implosions or explosions or who knows what.”
Detalia heard the vampiric hiss and in a moment Vitania was on top of Tal, hands around his neck and fangs out. Tal just lay there, looking up at her. Why wasn’t he trying to defend himself?
“Don’t talk about my mother like that! She would never do anything to hurt me!”
Her voice came out in an odd, coarse, low octave. Almost like her vocal cords were being scraped across a cheese grater, Tal continued to do nothing.
“Vitania, you can’t deny that you don’t even know who, or what, your mother really is now. Being naïve about it and not preparing yourself is extremely stupid.”
A low hiss in the same tone escaped from her as she started to tear up again, small blots dropped onto Tals shirt and Vitania released him. She got up and through the short breathes Detalia barely made out a “let’s go” and she started off down the path Tal had directed them in, her cheeks and neck now sufficiently soaked.
Detalia gave Tal a hand at getting up and he rubbed the back of his head.
“Why didn’t you do anything to protect yourself from her?”
“Because as angry as she is, she is too much like Kynthelig the Peace Keeper to ignore the sensible side of things,” his voice came out disgusted in a way that made Detalia’s hair raise. “She knows her emotions and confusion at her family and what she could be are getting the best of her, so when I pointed out the logic, I knew she couldn’t and wouldn’t hurt me as much as she wanted to. Vampires are readable that way; they pride themselves at being higher beings and being able to control their animal instincts. Personally I think if they gave into their animal instincts once and a while they might be less tense.”
“How do you know so much about Vampires?”
“Vampire knowledge is something we’re taught when we learn to fight as defensive and offensive strategies, but I also know a lot about women. I’ve learned over the centuries.”
The path they walked down became increasingly thin, so thin that Detalia and Tal were no longer able to walk side by side, so they walked in a line with Vitania in front, Detalia in the middle and Tal bringing up the rear. The sun was setting and the shadows of the trees were stretching far under their feet, just as dusk started to creep in Vitania jumped into the trees, running from branch to branch, breaking limbs off and screaming to get out her frustration.
She couldn’t understand her mother, or this situation. What had happened? She didn’t expect all of this to come from chasing what she thought was just a rogue Lycan. She looked down to see Tal walking behind Detalia; ears perked keeping a look out and Detalia just looking around, not really noticing anything. Vitania shook her head and grabbed the nearest branch, bringing herself higher so that she could see over the tree tops, and noticed smoke off in the distance. She leaped down to land in front of Detalia who let out a small scream to which Vitania paid no attention, looking past her to Tal.
“There is smoke up ahead.”
Tal’s ears perked right up. “Smoke? From a forest fire?”
“No, it’s too controlled, more like from a campfire.” Vitania watched, eyebrows raised as Tal started shifting and looking around, the scent in the air getting uneasy. Even Detalia could smell it because she turned around and put her hands on Tals hips.
“What’s wrong hon?” It almost looked like she was talking to a puppy the way he was uncomfortable and the tone of her voice.
“We should find an alternate route.”
“There are no other paths from here, and I doubt there will be other paths up ahead. What’s the issue with going to the campfire?”
“Only rogue species live outside of the cities, you should know that from the history your father would have taught you. Rogues don’t take kindly to anyone who isn’t part of their group and you don’t want to be a part of that. They might be bound by the rules now but stepping into their territory makes you their property, to do with you what you will.”
Tal broke away from their party and started, looking back and forth, searching for any other way around the future persons behind the smoke.
“Sorry to break it to you Tal but you probably aren’t going to find another path unless we make one which will definitely point us out, which if you’re trying to be stealthy you won’t want to do, so you should probably think of something.”
Tal raised his finger about to make what she assumed was going to be a smart ass comment, but stopped and instead pointed up.
“Get into the trees.” His ears were going back and forth, and his eyes were pulsating with the yellow glow.
“I’m sorry what?”
“Honey what are you--.”
Tal jumped up onto a branch. “Both of you get up here now.”
They did as they were told and sat together on a branch, waiting for Tal to give them any insight on what was going on. Minutes went by and not only did nothing happen but Tal stayed silent.
“Tal are you going to tell us what we’re doing in the tree?”
He put his finger in Vitania’s face and before she could retort she stopped, finally hearing what Tal must have heard before. She could hear paws, paws hitting the ground running, coming in their direction. Detalia’s ears perked and Tal motioned for them to stay put. They watched four large Lycans come running from the direction where the smoke was. They stopped under them, sniffing the ground and pawing.
“Something familiar. I know.”
“I know too.” The Lycan growled. “But where”
Their speech was broken, almost uncivilized. They used short sentences and didn’t seem to have the common sense to really look up or around, just sniffing around at the ground as if they were waiting for them to pop out of the dirt. Vitania and Detalia looked at Tal who gave them the “stay here” look and before Detalia could grab him he had dropped out of the tree. Detalia almost squealed before Vitania put her hand over her mouth.
The ‘thud’ of Tal dropping to the ground made the other Lycans turn around, their fur raised and growling, Tal just stood there arms crossed, looking bemused and comfortable. They advanced and Tal still stood his ground, a devilish smirk on his face, all fear they had just seen seemed to vanish. When he gave no reaction the Lycans stopped and shifted back to their Halfway form. One of the Lycans advanced on Tal, sniffing the air, their ears down close to their skull.
“You wouldn’t hurt an old friend now, would you Krawnex?”
“You’re supposed to be dead Taliesin.”
“And you’re supposed to be the intelligent one.”
The Lycan Krawnex growled but did nothing.
“So how is it that you died, and then here you stand breathing like you always lived.”
“Maybe because I never died.”
He talked to this Krawnex like he was an idiot, and although he probably was, Tal was asking to be hit. His tone was demeaning and talking down to him.
“You remember what we told you before you died, don’t you? If you tried to leave, we would kill you. But you died before we got the chance.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“I guess since you’re back that means we will half to fulfill that promise.”
Tal just stood there; Vitania strangely, could sense nothing from Tal. No fear, no emotion or scent whatsoever, he seemed completely blank and numb.
The Lycans grabbed both of his arms, Tal didn’t struggle but Krawnex laughed as they started to drag him down the path towards the smoke, Tal never looked up, not daring to give away their positions.