Chapter 15 - Exact
The smudges of blood transferred a perfect impression of the medallion as if the mark recoiled the liquid. Instead of a line, there was the distinct impression of a sword which crossed the image of the dragon.
Rowan’s knees threatened to buckle under the weight of the knowledge her brain refused to accept, but more than their flimsy evidence, the sinking sensation of inevitability in her gut convinced her. Experience taught her to trust her instincts above all else, and they screamed danger when she looked at that image.
“I will give you a moment alone,” Marcus decided, his eyes met with those of Alena, and Rowan sensed the silent understanding there. His eyes were dark with worry and his body language more formal when he left them.
Alena removed her shirt off a second time and turned her back on Rowan. She folded it carefully to place it out of reach, and suddenly Rowan knew why. She didn’t want blood on it, or more accurately, Rowan’s blood.
She understood the silent look now, and if she were honest, she didn’t like her impure blood touching Alena either. It seemed wrong in some fundamental way.
“You expect me to smear my blood on you?” Rowan asked just to test her assumption, and Alena realized her tangled feelings must have translated to Rowan. She hadn’t exactly made a secret of her antagonism earlier, and now she regretted her thoughtlessness.
“Just do it,” Alena encouraged, and she almost sounded tired. Her usual crystalline clarity of thought had deserted her. She never expected this confrontation with her father’s past, and some part of her had hoped to avoid it. This was too close to home, and she harbored many negative feelings, which she could not hide from Rowan with the bond between them in place.
The knife scrape free of its sheath, and Alena tensed. She now understood just how vulnerable Rowan must have felt. The smell of blood tinged the air and made it impossible to ignore the hunger pains that shot through her as her thirst flared to life. Rowan’s blood touched her skin, and the connection made her blood rush through her in answer to something. Flashes of heat and cold seared through her veins and startled Alena. Did Rowan also experience this? She wondered.
The birthmark changed color; it became darker and clearer as if drawn with ink. The lines were sharper, more distinct, and Rowan hesitated.
“It changed,” Rowan informed Alena, and she noted the unease in her voice. Alena nodded as if she expected this would happen, but seeing it and experiencing it were two different things. Rowan smoothed the cloth over the mark as Alena dit earlier, and her trepidation intensified. This seemed too much like a ritual, and she feared the act might bring something to life.
“It’s fine,” Alena instructed after a few moments, and Rowan refrained from looking at the impression on the cloth while she cleaned the blood from Alena. Something made her think that if she saw the image, the circle would be complete.
Alena called Marcus, and when he returned, he took the two impressions and put them on the floor before him as he sat down. They seated themselves near him, and he noticed that their scents had altered. They saw it too, and he wondered if they too worried if the ritual changed something in their blood to awaken an unforeseeable consequence.
A shudder ran down his spine and unease settled in the pit of his stomach like a lead ball, but he would not allow them to see it.
“It’s the same,” Marcus muttered almost to himself.
“You do not have such a mark?” Rowan asked, and he never even glanced at her.
“Marcus is not... of our bloodline,” it took all the courage in the world for Alena to admit that and even more for Rowan to understand what it implied, without reacting.
“He is my appointed master,” Alena continued, but Rowan noted her hesitation before she spoke again, and she was sure Marcus did too, “my father chose Marcus as his heir,” Alena found those words excruciating to say out loud and Rowan understood them only too well.
Victor had no son, and he chose one. He refused to allow his daughter to take his place, and in a fair world, Alena would have been his heir.
“One to rule, that would be Marcus,” Rowan speculated.
“Yes, we came to the same conclusion,” Alena agreed.
“So explain what sway means?” Rowan requested, but she suspected she already knew the answer and if it were true, she would rather run naked into the sunlight than allow it.
“Sway means to influence or to affect. The old people used to call turning someone, the sway. Contrary to common belief, it isn’t something a youngling like me, or you can do. Marcus can, but his function is to rule, and not to sway. It might mean anything,” Alena admitted and shrugged. The uncertainty seemed to frustrate her, and Rowan kept staring at her as if she didn’t exactly believe any of this.
“If you bite someone they die, whether you drink their blood or not. It’s something in our fangs, like an illness, not venom. The old ones are different. Their blood is strong, and the virus well formed. It connects with the blood, but doesn’t destroy it,” Alena felt strange explaining this to Rowan of all people.
“Your father could do it; why aren’t you strong?” Rowan asked, and she had trouble veiling the antagonism in her. Victor would always be the one topic that angered her.
“My mother wasn’t strong because her mother wasn’t a natural vampire, but a turned human. My father should have rectified the situation, but he never would; not for all of her pleading or even for me,” Alena’s voice betrayed both a wistful sadness and anger.
It took Rowan a long moment to understand how much Alena had loved her father. Rowan knew of love only that it hurt. From her point of view, there was a link between love and pain. She couldn’t bear to look at Alena just then, the daughter her father loved.
When she did, she found Alena staring at Marcus, who watched Rowan. Alena almost hated Marcus at that moment, and Rowan knew that if Victor made Alena stronger, she would have fought Marcus for her rightful place. Her actions would have forced his hand against her, and he would have had to kill her or lock her up.
It hurt in the raw wound in her soul to understand that the monster who made her and killed her mother, might have been a considerate father to Alena. He kept her alive by denying her the one thing she wanted the most.