Chapter 119 - Free
The blast rocked the mountain and showered them with dirt and debris. Rowan and Alena blindly started to scramble toward the shadow of a flimsy tree they recalled being near the entrance. They braced themselves for the excruciating pain from the light of day searing their skins, and there was none. They became still as the truth registered.
Belvare’s blood had changed them. They were no longer mere vampires. Belvare expected their blood to alter him but didn’t realize that his blood would transform them.
“Don’t open your eyes,” Robert warned. “You’ve both walked in darkness too long. Your pupils won’t take kindly to the light,” he said as he used strips of cloth to bind their eyes.
“Trust me,” Robert requested, and how could they not? He knew more about what they’d become than they did.
“We have to go now. Not all the guards were inside the mountain,” Robert reminded as he took their hands and led them. Alena and Rowan’s free hands instinctively found each other. They couldn’t believe that they were alive, and Belvare was dead. That they escaped the mountain and won a war that no one even realized was being waged. Who would believe their tale or understand the price they paid?
Blindly finding their way wasn’t easy, despite Robert’s help, and he quickly settled them in a shallow cave to wait for nightfall.
He guarded over them as exhaustion won out, and when they woke, he’d caught one of the Valern that wandered too close to their hideout. He already showed signs of decay, but they weren’t picky. This time they needed very little to restore their strength, and they suspected that soon they would need to feed only once in a long while.
They continued on the journey, and Robert was right. Those that survived the blast hunted them, but they were no match for Alena and Rowan. Not even the strong ones could stand their assault for more than a moment.
Halfway down, they found the escaped prisoners being led by Siriana, who sprang to the defense of her charges at the perceived threat.
“We mean you no harm,” Rowan stated pointedly, but the vampire didn’t lower her defenses.
One of the wretched creatures that Belvare fostered, chose that moment to attack Alena. He hit her hard enough to make her lose her balance, but he was dead before she hit the ground. She jumped back up to her feet before he understood his end had come. The humans screeched as blood spattered them and would have run, but Siriana commanded them sharply, and they stayed.
Rowan and Robert moved off to find whatever else hid in the murk. They left with such swiftness that to the humans; it seemed they just disappeared.
“Where is your master?” Siriana demanded, and Alena grew still.
“I have no master, Marcus is dead,” Alena said in a voice that carried no expression, and Siriana raised her weapon in threat.
“Belvare is dead too. Marcus, Rowan and I, killed him,” Alena announced, and the sword did not waver.
“You would have me believe that you killed the monster who had slain a legion of vampires before you?” Siriana scoffed, but Alena saw the terrible hope in her eyes.
“Whatever you believe or not, does not change the fact that Belvare is dead,” Alena confirmed and kept her voice neutral.
“What would you be doing with his lapdog, if he didn’t send you?” Siriana demanded belligerently, unwilling to believe in a concept that made no sense to her.
“Robert saved us from the others. I wouldn’t be belligerent if I were you. Look at the motley group you’re saving. Do you understand what others of our kind would do to you if they found you? They would kill them, and then they would kill you, but much, much later,” Alena stated calmly. Siriana knew these things. She grew up with her father hunting humans before he changed his ways.
“This is not your father’s domain. This is Tertius’s territory, and he hates vampires who consort with humans. You need us, but we don’t need you,” Alena held her facial expression neutral as she stated these facts, and Siriana’s sword lowered slowly.
“What would you do with them, Siriana? They cannot go home, and the world cannot learn what almost befell it,” Alena asked almost tiredly in the vampire dialect.
“My father would take them in. There are others like them in our service, although some of these may have suffered too much to be useful,” Siriana still did not entirely let down her guard.
“We must go,” Rowan insisted when she returned from the gloom with guarded eyes.
“There are no caves this way, and we’re far from the hideout. It’s only three hours till dawn,” Rowan warned. Rowan and Alena had agreed with Robert to keep their new trait a secret. It was a weapon no other possessed, and it would make them a target.
They changed direction and found a deep cave just as the sun rose. The humans didn’t venture far into the cavern, and it took a while before Siriana joined Alena, and Rowan by their fire.
She had many questions about Belvare’s death, but Rowan and Alena didn’t reveal much. It didn’t boost Siriana’s confidence in them, but they didn’t care. Belvare’s death left raw wounds in them that would never heal. They weren’t ready to speak of what they lost, and she was intuitive enough to quickly realize that whatever happened to them was too horrible to repeat.
She didn’t return to her mixed group of humans and vampires. None of them approached Alena and Rowan either. Whether at the memory of what Belvare made them do to his prisoners or because they sensed that these two were not like other vampires.
Rowan and Alena didn’t mind being isolated. They appreciated not having to answer questions and pretend to be polite for the sake of others. They would have preferred being on this journey alone, but they would not leave Siriana to her fate.