Chapter 33 - Gift
Rowan washed the dirt from her body with relief. Three nights of travel with only basic necessities made her long for a real bath, but the basin would suffice.
She was drying herself when she heard the door creak open, and before she could react, a lean, amazingly strong arm clamped around her midriff. She noticed the rags that covered it and recognized the smell, but she couldn’t move or even turn her head.
“Be still my child,” the voice of the Crone didn’t sound old anymore, with its gentle whiskey tones, but the effect of her presence remained the same.
“Move your feet,” the Oracle demanded, and Rowan obeyed, but not of her own volition. The Crone made her walk to the left until Rowan could see their reflections in the mirror. The myth that vampires had no image was nonsense. Only when the vampire surfaced, did their reflection waver in the mirror for a brief moment as they straddled the change from one form to another.
The dark cowl stared back at her from the mirror before the Oracle pushed it back and Rowan blinked. The face in the reflection was almost familiar, somewhere between her own and that of Alena with Alena’s dark hair and green eyes to create a striking resemblance.
“My uncle never told his new family of his twin sister or the child she carried when he banished us to the Outlands to die. She disobeyed him by falling in love with a human, but he didn’t know the child she carried belonged to another,” Rowan recognized the echoes of pain and anger in that emerald gaze.
“Victor’s best friend, Thames Connor, raped her, and she realized that Victor would never believe the truth. Thames was the brother he wanted, and the power ally he needed to get to the top. Thames wasn’t a useless woman who would not marry to give her brother the alliance Victor both craved and demanded. To annoy Victor, even more, she saw things, and he hated her gift because he never fooled her,” the anger intensified on that young-looking face, but Raven suspected this vampire was much older than even Marcus.
“They hunted us, and they would have killed us both if the old soothsayer hadn’t taken us in. She was ancient, and when she died, my mother took her place. When my mother died, I became the Oracle. Before that happened, Victor arrived in the Outlands to further his little empire, and she could not bear his presence, so she fled, but he found her,” a small growl crept into her voice, and it was odd to see someone dislike Victor even more than she did.
“I would have left with her, but he came here. I was the soothsayer, and he wanted my wisdom. It provided a way to get to him, to expand his fears, and increase his paranoia. I wanted revenge, but there was no way I could take it,” the Oracle’s eyes glowed with the helpless anger she must have felt, having Victor within her grasp, and not being able to exact her revenge.
“His death was unexpected, and I despised the way he treated Alena, it was unacceptable, and yet she never rebelled against him, but you were nature’s vengeance,” she held Rowan to her in an embrace that was as gentle as the wind and as strong as iron. Motherly, but also uncompromising.
“I would have taken you from them, but I dared not, he would’ve followed you here. You were his obsession. His punishment for indulging the sin he condemned my mother for,” she allowed her chin rest on Rowan’s shoulder. She was that tall and beautiful, but broken in some indefinable way.
“You understand what I am, don’t you?” She asked, and even though Rowan did not move or speak, the answer was in her eyes.
“Yes, and I am a pureblood. I’m even stronger than Victor,” She caressed the side of Rowan’s face as if Rowan were a small, beloved child.
“I’m older than Marcus, and I have the strength of two royal bloodlines in my blood, something you will need. The path you will travel is dark. I can’t see past it, and I can’t come with you in the flesh, but as long as I’m alive, I will be near you. You need only want it,” she hugged Rowan to her with fierce affection, and her eyes turned a vampire blue of such clarity as Rowan had never seen before.
“You girls are all I have left in this world, and I cannot reckon the sins of your father upon you, as I cannot bear the wickedness of my father. Fate brought you to my door for a reason,” the Crone said, although calling her that seemed wrong now, Rowan’s strength return little by little.
“You may hate me for this gift, but come back if you can,” she whispered, and even though Rowan understood what she intended and she had the option to struggle, but she didn’t. Now that this woman revealed herself, their connection was as strong as her natural bond with Alena. Rowan had grown tired of fighting her need to belong. She no longer wanted to be the accursed Damphir.
She endured more than she should have of suffering and something inside her wanted this. Her instincts recognized the Oracle when they first met, but she didn’t understand that the pull she experiences was that of blood to blood. She experienced it the first time she met Alena, and she denied it ever since. She would fight it no longer. Rowan nodded.
The bite was painful, and it sapped the strength from her body as a fire ignited in her veins. Martin did this to her, but his strength didn’t compare to this cousin that Rowan never knew existed. The woman briefly disappeared from the mirror, her image wavered and returned, almost glowing in the dark.
“I am Ariana,” the introduction entered Rowan’s mind while the vampire still fed. This time it would differ from before. Martin made her but laid no claim to her. He abandoned Rowan, leaving her without a home or a sire. He turned her into a rogue, and that was worse than being a Damphir. Ariana claimed her right as Sire with that bite, and Rowan submitted to her will.
“Don’t tell Marcus. He must not see your strength. Hide it from him, you are part of me now, and that means you can do things other vampires can’t,” Ariana instructed, and when she offered her arm, Rowan took it without hesitation.
“Just a little, young one, I have another visit to make,” Ariana cautioned as she gentled Rowan as one would a child. Their eyes met, and Rowan let go. Rowan saw the way her eyes dilated, and she deduced that she was drunk on the power of Ariana’s blood. This woman was probably the most powerful vampire alive, and no one even realized she existed.
“Sleep my Angel, Marcus will slumber until the change has passed. He won’t notice the difference because I will use my influence to blind him to the truth. You’re my daughter now, forget the past, but don’t forget who you are, and how you came into this world. You’re whole of body and soul, more powerful than you can imagine,” Ariana put Rowan to bed like a child, and as she promised, she visited Alena.
Alena fought her influence until she understood the truth and realized that Ariana could and would give what Victor denied her. That Ariana’s gift was more potent than Victor could ever have foreseen. She understood that her father didn’t shun his sister because she fell for a human, but because Riana had to potential to be more powerful than him. She was his equal, although she didn’t realize that until he destroyed her world and to add insult to injury, she possessed the magic and psychic ability stolen from their grandmother by the bite of a vampire.
Rowan couldn’t hold her grasp on the thought of Ariana, and with a sigh, she stopped fighting and allowed the power of Ariana to burn through her mind as well as her body. Somewhere during the relentless fire of change, Rowan’s anger at her father, the world, and the circumstances of her birth ceased to be the center of her existence.