Chapter 66 - No Games
Marcus sat back in his chair. Almost a week had passed since they arrived at Arthur’s home, and he sent a message to Byron through Arthur’s butler. The trail had gone cold, but they learned a lot that they didn’t know before.
The girls became quiet and introspective after their walk with Arthur. Marcus sensed a distance between him and them that didn’t exist before, but it wasn’t a divide. Something told him that they needed space to figure out some things. His curiosity about their conversation with Arthur ate him alive, but he knew from experience that they would not tell.
“So let’s make a list of what we know. First of all, the thing is no true vampire in the sense that it was born from a human; which makes him the first recorded Damphir, but its father’s blood was so strong that it ripped from its mother’s womb,” Marcus said the words with distaste.
“She bled to death, and he blamed her for not being strong enough to carry him. He seduces women until they become pregnant, but for some reason, his offspring do not live. They still rip from their mothers, but they die, which maybe means that his blood is not as powerful as that of his father,” Marcus continued.
“He mutilates the bodies in his anger at their weakness. He cannot sway a human either, not with any success. They live for a while, a year or two, and then they die. They are immune to sunlight, and they don’t suffer from the thirst, but they die,” Marcus concluded.
“Somehow, he figures that in the bloodline of Victor lies an answer to his problem. He saw you in his visions of the future, and he’s oddly connected to your bloodline until it’s diluted by other blood,” Arthur continued where Marcus left off.
“He believes that pureblood vampires are inferior to him, and he killed many of our kind to prove his delusion, yet it is your strength he seeks. He wants to turn you or have you turn him...” Arthur stuttered to a halt.
“One to master and two to sway,” Alena responded.
“Marcus is our master because he turned us to his blood and the monster wants us to sway him. To make him a vampire, no, make him ‘the’ vampire,” Alena realized with horror.
“If he makes us do this, then he would have no use of vampires and no need of humans. He would turn his select few, and they will slaughter humanity; not for food or fun, but because he hates them. Just like he detests us,” Rowan murmured and didn’t realize that with her words, she made a choice. “Then he would have no more use of us,” Alena concluded, but Arthur shook his head.
“You would be strong enough,” Arthur concluded, and they blinked.
“Strong enough to carry his babies and not to die trying,” Rowan realized bitterly, and Alena grew pale. Their eyes conveyed some message, and Arthur subtly relaxed.
“Powerful enough to make him his army. When we are no longer capable of serving him and his purposes, or if he’s satisfied, he would rip out our wombs himself and mutilate us, because we would be inferior to him,” Alena said the words and the chill they felt in their souls was confirmation enough. The expression on Marcus’ face became set in stone.
“He would turn us into broodmares to carry his lust and his seed. I would rather die,” Rowan decided with no hesitation and absolute conviction.
“So would I,” Alena agreed, and Marcus became even more still.
“It would never come to that,” Marcus ground out from between clenched teeth.
They didn’t answer him, but across the table, the two women sat staring at each other, and some unspoken message passed between them. They made their choice.
They found their monster in between the pages of the books they read. They followed the trail of breadcrumbs the Dark One left for them, and as they continued on their journey, they found his old haunts one by one. They also always discovered some small token of his arrogance to lead them on.
Arthur was a historian, and since his collection of books came from the elder council, it appeared that the elders always displayed an interest in this dark Damphir. They found him wherever he would go, by following his trail of destruction. The scribes who documented his path disappeared without fail, but the documents never did.
It was a pattern that started in that long ago tomb because the thing wanted them to follow his trail. He desired for them to find him because he was playing with them, and they had no choice but to follow.
Alena spotted pirates earlier in the evening, and as close as they were to the third major site in less than a week, Marcus decided that Alena should stay with the boat. They needed the ship, and they owed Byron and his people their protection.
Marcus and Rowan took the small rowboat out onto the dark waters of the bay, and it was the first time they were ever alone together.
Rowan felt overly aware of his proximity, and the thoughts that Arthur stirred within her mind. Marcus grew uncomfortable with the intensity of her glances. He made a few hard choices after they left Arthur, and he pressed the girls without mercy to teach them as much as he could of what he knew. He wanted them able to defend themselves against any enemy. They were reticent all week, disconnected from him, but tonight Rowan seemed more focused on him than ever before.
They entered the shadows of the cliffs, and she leaned forward to kiss him the way a woman kisses a man. For a moment he savored the feeling, sweet, forbidden and at his slightest touch, she withdrew just a little.
“You’re too young Rowan, and this isn’t the time,” Marcus said brusquely, and yet his heart missed a beat at the thought of taking her for himself.
“Seventeen was too young for a man like Marius,” Rowan denied as she leaned closer until she could look into his eyes.
“Can you guarantee it?” She asked, and he frowned. “That you will still be alive when you deem me ready to be your lover?” She almost demanded, and he realized she wasn’t that half-child any longer. She changed since they returned to the ship, and he hadn’t wanted to notice.