Chapter 79 - Poison
“Do you know the way back?” Alena asked when they reached a crossroads, and Rowan smiled at this tart reminder of their previous journey.
“Yes,” Rowan sighed with a smirk, and they started off at a gallop.
“I’m sorry,” Rowan finally admitted when they slowed down to give the horses a breather, but the journey continued without pause, and the silence stretched almost to breaking point.
“You would have done the same thing,” Rowan said with absolute certainty as she drew her horse even with Alena. Marcus gave them space, to work out their differences, by riding ahead of them.
“Yes,” Alena admitted it grudgingly, “but that still doesn’t make it right, Rowan,” Alena admonished like a strict parent, and even as much as it amused Rowan, she took it seriously.
“You would have never allowed it,” Rowan reminded, and Alena became taut with anger.
“Damn, right we wouldn’t have!” Alena bit out with her teeth showing, and her eyes turning vampire.
“It was our only chance,” Rowan reminded quietly, and Alena seemed to settle down.
“Yes, but it still wasn’t your choice alone,” Alena stated as she slightly spurred her horse.
“Then whose was it?” Rowan asked almost angrily.
“His; because that baby is as much his as yours, and you endangered both your lives,” Alena hissed without hesitation, “you also made the same promise I did,” Alena reminded once she regained control of herself, and Rowan remained quiet in the wake of that.
“They wouldn’t allow me to speak about it, and they were able to enforce their decisions. You don’t understand how many of them waited in that house, just in case we became a problem,” Rowan admitted.
“How could we have not known of them?” Alena challenged, but she didn’t need the answer; there are many gifted people in that house.
“I never thought we were in any real danger, and I didn’t think they would turn on me,” Rowan confessed and shrugged.
“The leader of the Watchers is a man named Heilbron Adams, and Alderin is his daughter,” Rowan started to explain, and hesitated.
“He used her to get to me because we were once at odds, but it forced us to learn to respect each other. He knew I would trust her,” Rowan explained as she let the rhythm of the horse lull her, she missed Striker.
“Not all fathers are like that, Rowan,” Alena soothed when she noticed that Rowan’s face reflected a deep sadness, anger and hurt.
“How would you know?” Rowan asked as Marcus drew slightly ahead of them
“Marcus once told me about his father, and Fabio was everything...” Alena couldn’t say the words, but she didn’t have to; Fabio was everything a father should be, and theirs hadn’t been. Alena glanced at Marcus and leaned unexpectedly forward to touched her hand firmly to Rowan’s stomach.
“We’re not alone anymore,” Alena whispered as she straightened back up, and they spoke without words.
*Our decisions affect not only us.* Alena said firmly.
*I know.* Rowan acknowledged
*You know, but do you understand?* Alena insisted.
*Yes.* Rowan said as their eyes measured each other.
The sound of horses, running at full tilt, disturbed their silent conversation. They checked their horses and drew their weapons.
Rowan frowned, and so did Alena. The riders were still far off, and although they did not yet see the vampires, the vampires could both see, and smell them. They waited patiently, and the riders were almost upon the trio before they realized it. The horses reared, but the riders never hesitated.
It turned out to be Claire of all people, dressed in leather and with a sword strapped to her side. She didn’t look like a waif anymore, and they noted a sense of purpose in her manner that previously lacked.
They dismounted, and the two young riders hastily removed packages from their saddlebags, Claire approached them while her friend stayed behind, and she smiled sadly.
*You left without saying goodbye,* her delicate hands drew the words in the air and Rowan nodded.
“You know I hate goodbye’s,” Rowan responded truthfully, and Claire nodded, although they both acknowledged it wasn’t the reason. The watchers didn’t allow Rowan to say goodbye to Claire.
*You did it last time too,* Claire’s hands reminded and Rowan said nothing. She could not deny it, and she saw the hurt she caused.
*Alderin and Heilbron sent you gifts. Alderin confronted him in his study, I don’t know what she said to him, but he wasn’t happy. Claire smirked as if his unhappiness pleased her.
*Still, he gave her everything she asked, and even then she packed her things as I left. Now I will be all alone in that house, but maybe I’ll go with her.* Alderin signed, and Rowan didn’t think that was a bad idea. Alderin was Claire’s cousin, and Alderin practically raised Claire.
“Maybe you should, but I am sorry for the upheaval we caused,” Rowan apologized.
*Why? We all leave home sometime. She’s my cousin, and we’ll take care of each other. Everything has a purpose. I missed you, but things always work out for the best.* Claire said, and at that moment, Rowan realized that Claire had come into her own. She wasn’t a child that needed protection anymore. The butterfly had broken free of the chrysalis.
*Those are weapons, and we forged them from special metals. They’re supposed to be almost unbreakable,* Claire motioned toward the packages her companion brought toward them.
*There are other useful things too, but there’s only one thing you really need.* Claire produced a small vial made of silver and corked with wax.
*This is poison, the merest touch would kill any of you. It won’t kill him, but it would weaken the Dark One enough to give you a chance; if you can come close enough to get it under his skin,* Claire explained, and Rowan glanced at her with the first stirrings of hope.
*The people who entombed the Dark One in the first place, created two of these vials. They used one to put him to sleep and entrusted the other to us if he should ever wake. They couldn’t kill him but only contain him. Alderin said a woman would understand how to get close enough to administer this,* Claire informed Rowan.
*A purebred vampire woman and her pharaoh lover put the Dark One to sleep, but they weren’t strong enough, and both died. You must drain him to the last drop. His death lies in that last bit of blood and the poison,* Claire stressed.
*The one who drinks it will die,* Claire approached Rowan and hugged her close. Rowan allowed the affection but felt a distance inside her, now that she understood the truth, a void she no longer fought.
Alena also allowed Claire to hug her. She understood every word Claire signed, despite her limited knowledge of sign language. Rowan made it possible for Alena to understand because neither of them wanted Marcus to realize the truth.
Claire nodded at Marcus and mounted her horse. The trio watched them ride off in silence, and Marcus came to stand between the two.
“The watchers reconsidered. They sent us weapons and poison. It appears they knew everything all along and they toyed with us,” Rowan said with some anger. When they turned to mount, Alena caught Rowan’s hand and held it for a brief moment; Marcus never noticed.
Alena explained about the vampire, her lover, and the poison, but they mentioned nothing of dying and the things a woman knows. They made their choice in keeping this secret from Marcus. If he found out the truth, he would try to stop them, and they couldn’t allow that to happen. They would have only one chance to end this.