Chapter 27 - Birthright
“Rowan mentioned Martin,” Alena speculated later that evening in the library as she watched Marcus read from an ancient book. His eyes came to rest on her with rapt attention.
“Are you certain?” He asked, and she shrugged.
“She said Marti... and caught herself,” Alena supplied, and he digested the thought for a while before he spoke.
“That would explain a lot,” Marcus murmured before he closed his book with slow deliberation.
“I don’t understand,” Alena admitted, and he considered her for the longest moment.
“Ten years ago, Martin was one of the stronger vampires, not as strong as you, basically no more or less than a hundred others like him. One night, about two years ago, he entered into a safe house, and he was belligerent,” Marcus frowned at the memory, and his distaste of the man was palpable.
“He picked a fight with a young vampire, and I thought him a bully. I challenged him, and he was stronger than I expected. Only then did I deduce that he picked a fight with me all along. He wagered that I wouldn’t allow him to bully a lesser vampire,” Marcus related with obvious anger.
“The moment he came close to me, I could smell your father’s blood on him. I concluded that he meant to challenge me for the position Victor might give me. I beat him, and he got frustrated, then this smirk appeared on his face,” he became pensive.
“Martin opened the door and ran into the morning sun that would have scorched me, and nothing happened,” Marcus watched her, and saw the hurt that registered when she understood that Victor strengthened Martin, a nobody, when he always refused her.
“I still...” His look silenced her.
“Damphirs are supposed to be immune to sunlight, and Rowan isn’t,” Marcus prompted, and she stared at him with an expression that revealed she didn’t want to draw the connection.
“Your father strengthened Martin to turn Rowan fully vampire, and his payment was strength, but he took her ability to withstand the sun from her. It was an unexpected side effect. How else could she know the things she knows? Where would she have learned them?” Marcus clarified, and a myriad of confused emotions showed in Alena’s eyes.
“Martin was at our house ten years ago. Rowan must have just turned seventeen and looked about the same age she does now,” Alena took a deep breath.
“Victor dared not turn Rowan himself, and make something he couldn’t control,” Alena realized with some anger, but she kept it all inside.
“We don’t know if it’s true,” Marcus soothed with little conviction.
“It’s true. I don’t know what a Damphir is supposed to be like, but I know all about vampires,” Alena kept her emotions under such tight control that Marcus felt concerned.
“She is still a Damphir,” Marcus insisted, and her gaze on him blazed with the intensity of her suppressed nature.
“Her father was a vampire. When Ilza gave birth to Rowan, she was halfway through the turn. Victor killed her afterward because she didn’t want to become one of us. He ripped her head off,” Alena revealed, and she noticed the way Marcus frowned at this revelation, “You didn’t know that? Did you?” Alena challenged.
“Those were rumors, and it doesn’t change anything,” Marcus said in a calming tone as he tried to influence her, but it didn’t work.
“No? He said it himself. I disobeyed him one day, and he told me that. He said he loved Ilza the way he never loved my mother. His meaning was that if I went too far, he would kill me, even though he loved me. I hated him, but I also loved him too,” Alena revealed, and Marcus found that the more he learned of Victor, the less he liked the man.
“Rowan isn’t a pureborn, but she isn’t precisely a Dhamphir. His seed, and his blood. She would have been strong had she survived birth on her own, but he made sure she survived, and he strengthened her to be more than any other before her, by turning Ilza,” Alena pointed out.
“It wasn’t enough. Victor had to change her, but no weaker elder would dare, and he couldn’t do it himself, so he made Martin a master. No wonder Rowan hates us,” Alena said with conviction, and she would have risen from her chair, but Marcus motioned for her to remain seated.
“This is between us. Treat Rowan the same. She didn’t tell us, and she has a reason for doing so; I want to know that reason,” Marcus ordered.
The next day Rowan found Alena dangerously irritated during their lesson. It started off a little tense, and she sensed the suppressed anger in Alena, but nothing more and something in Alena shifted or snapped.
Rowan broke through Alena’s defenses, and her fist connected solidly with Alena’s jaw. Moments later her foot connected with Alena side, and then she dropped Alena to the floor with a swipe. Alena jumped to her feet, and Rowan realized that Alena’s immovable composure had given way to something else. All those suppressed emotions had broken free and gelled into a feral rage.
There was no escape as the lesson became a fight for survival. Rowan called out to Marcus, but he wasn’t near, and Alena kept coming at her. She hit the ground hard enough that she almost cracked open her head, and Alena moved in for the kill. Rowan’s tried to ward Alena off with her arm, and she didn’t even realize she was pleading for her life.
Alena stopped as if stricken. Her eyes turned back to emerald, and she sat down heavily on the thick carpet as if defeated. Her entire body shook, and her breathing sounded labored.
She looked at Rowan as if she couldn't believe what she did. Guilt and disbelief fought a war in her eyes as she rose unsteadily to her feet, and Marcus came down on her like the angel of vengeance.
He would have struck Alena, and she just stood there. She would take the punishment she deserved. This was conditioning, Rowan realized. Someone took this strong, spirited woman and taught her to take punishment when she thought she deserved it. It made Rowan angry.
“No,” Rowan commanded without even realizing what she did. Marcus looked down at her with his eyes blazing, and she felt intimidated but angry at the same time.
“This is between us,” Rowan insisted, and he looked at Alena with hard eyes, which made her lower her head in submission. Rowan hated that even more.
“Do you people always strike when something doesn’t go your way?” Rowan demanded as the nervous, hollow feeling of fear got replaced by fury.
“Discipline is necessary,” Marcus insisted in a cold tone of voice.
“When necessary,” Rowan corrected, staring him right in the eyes when he turned to look at her with an irritated frown.
“She almost killed you,” Marcus bit out, surprised by the strength of her will. He couldn’t make her submit.
“I learned a dear lesson,” Rowan admitted.
“What lesson? That you are no match for your sister, and that she allowed herself to lose control so she could take her frustrations out on you?” He asked, and Rowan took a deep breath.
“I didn’t want to die,” Rowan admitted and stunned them both. He had no answer to that.
“Fine, then you will determine her punishment, or you will suffer my choice of punishment in her stead,” Marcus decided and left them alone.