Chapter 8 - Mausoleum
Rowan followed them inside the castle. Anger briefly flared in her veins at the thought of being inside Victor’s home, but she brought her emotions firmly back under her control. She never thought to see this building or expected an invitation inside these hallowed doors, no matter the circumstances. It was much grander and colder than she imagined. Alena did not grow up in a home, but a mausoleum to Victor’s life.
She experienced a nervous edginess at being in this castle with the man who inherited Victor’s mantel, but Alena, the woman who was her half-sister and yet nothing of her, unsettled her even more. Seeing so much of Victor in her surroundings felt strange. She had the distinct feeling that in some eerie way, his essence lingered in this place he called home. A chill ran down her spine, and Rowan angrily ignored it. Grown women didn’t allow their imaginations to run away with them.
“I think it would be better if we left,” Rowan suggested practically, and Marcus nodded in agreement. They were the least safe in the one place they thought they were invincible, and untouchable, which must have been the intent behind the attack. She also couldn’t help but wonder if getting them out in the open could be the next step, but at least then they would have a chance to escape.
Marcus gave in to the suspicion that nothing happened at random, not since the day walkers first attacked the villages. The thought that all of this was part of an elaborate plan, made him uneasy. This ancient thing, which now seemed to stalk them, started this game on precisely the same day Alena first discovered the prophecy. He would have dismissed his train of thought an hour ago, but now he knew they faced a superior enemy.
“This place has become a trap,” Alena acknowledged with something aching to sadness. This was her home, and abandoning it, wasn’t something she wanted to do, but like her father before her, she was both a realist and a pragmatist. There was no wisdom in staying where their adversary could find them.
“Pack only what you can carry,” Marcus ordered, and Alena nodded. She felt slightly annoyed that he should say such an obvious thing to her; a warrior. It gave her the impression that he saw her as a frivolous princess who would pack a chest full of dresses to fight a war. His opinion of her could not be high, and it angered her that he made such aspersions with Rowan present.
Alena excused herself, with her mouth set in anger and left. Rowan frowned at the grace of the woman as she stalked away. She was so inhuman, so much more vampire than any female of their species Rowan met before, and almost as intimidating as Marcus himself. Alena belonged in this castle and yet there was nothing of her here, no trace of a woman’s hand in the furnishings or the decor, especially not in this library, which also seemed to serve as a study.
Rowan knew Marcus goaded Alena on purpose. He seemed to enjoy angering her, and she doubted if he realized that his barbs chafed at the raw wound Victor’s dismissal left in Alena. It cemented her suspicions that Alena didn’t know their father would choose Marcus. Rowan doubted that she would act with such control and grace in Alena’s stead. Victor didn’t deny his daughter a pony or a dress, he brought her up to believe this was her birthright before casually handing it, and her, to another. He never owned Rowan. Victor ignored her existence, but for playing games with her through others. Rowan wanted nothing of his and never saw him as anything but an enemy. Alena did not foresee his betrayal, and Rowan could understand that while she expected nothing but pain from Victor, Alena had no reason to feel the same way.
“We will speak on the road,” Marcus decided and being alone with him, made her feel the strength of his presence more acutely, Rowan found it both strange and unnerving. She had never been this close to a vampire prince before, and she found him daunting: sterner and more controlled than she would have imagined. The weaker vampires who crossed her path in past years, and who often mistook her for easy prey, were pale copies of these people. Compared to Marcus and Alena, they were weaklings and fools, except for one. Rowan suppressed the thought; she could not stomach thinking of him under the present circumstances.
It wasn’t admiration she felt for them. Rowan excelled at reading people and gauging her enemies. Only an idiot would look at these two without seeing the obvious differences between them and most of their kind.
Alena returned, and she no longer wore a dress along with the appropriate clothing fit for a lady of her station. She chose a plain black linen blouse coupled with a leather bodice, black pants, long boots, gloves, leather arm, and leg guards. The clothes accentuated the fact that she was a beautiful woman who could make very unfeminine garments look indecently sexy. The women at her camp wore similar clothes, but on them, the attire looked plain.
Rowan looked down at her clothes, and she could not help but wonder what they saw when they looked at her. She liked her clothes, but she knew that she lacked Alena’s curves and she thought herself a whole hell of a lot less feminine than her sister. These garments were practical and not of the same quality as their attire; she could not afford such luxuries and never felt self-conscious until just then.
Rowan could not see herself through their eyes, and didn’t know that to a stranger; she would fit in with them. She was too graceful, controlled and beautiful to be anything but inhuman.
“Will you get our horses?” Marcus requested of Alena as if she were his servant and not his equal. Her mouth set in a stern line, but she nodded in response, indicating that she would obey. Rowan never realized that Marcus was Alena’s master in the full sense of the word, and it somehow didn’t feel right. Why would Victor have done such a thing to his beloved daughter, and why did it anger her? She tried to shrug the thought aside; it was not her concern, but she couldn’t ignore it as well as she wanted.
“Do you want a weapon?” Alena offered when she noticed that Rowan was completely unarmed. She was not fool enough to think any weapon made by man could help them now, but it would at least make them feel better.
“I left mine outside,” Rowen declined politely, but stiffly. She could sense the animosity in Alena, and despite herself and her own best intentions, she reacted to it. She usually had more grace in social situations, but she didn’t much care to attempt it in this place, the differences between them were too glaringly obvious.
“Suit yourself,” Alena shrugged it off as she made her way outside and with no alternative, Rowan followed. Something inside her urged her to play along and see where this would lead.
Rowan made her way to Striker and calmed him down while she waited for them. Her eyes kept restlessly searching the darkness, uneasy with the silence and the fact that someone left them alive, had a purpose for them, and she didn’t know if she would much like to find out what that purpose was.
Marcus met Alena at the stable, and he knew he bore the blame for her annoyance. His attitude had humiliated her in Rowan’s presence. He almost sighed, he could understand her reactions, and he knew her better than he would allow for her to guess, but with all that transpired, he wasn’t in the mood to deal with her growing insecurities or her simmering resentment.