Chapter 80 - Acceptance
Byron awaited their return with a stern expression that betrayed his worry. Their explanation only made him sterner. They hadn’t told him their plans, and he worried when they disappeared. They could understand what lay at the root of his unhappiness.
Byron and his crew had become part of their lives, and they deserved to at least be kept in the loop; the vampires realized with feelings of guilt.
When they were alone, they studied the materials in their possession, and the puzzle was finally complete - if you knew how to put the pieces together.
The Watchers observed the Dark One for centuries. They knew all about him and his makings, and they did nothing but help the world forget about him.
“Do you notice the pattern? If you put together the places he visited and the things he did, then you notice gaps of time when he seems to disappear only to reappear ten, fifty or a hundred years later. In the last few centuries, those gaps have become much longer,” Rowan pointed out.
“He rests,” Marcus concluded.
“How can he survive without food for that long?” Alena asked, and he shrugged.
“The ancients knew how. They would tire and go to sleep to wake up in another era,” Marcus explained, and they frowned at him.
“This is more like he’s aging,” Rowan concluded as she studied the materials.
’If I stayed a Damphir, I would have lived maybe two or three hundred years, and then died. If I hadn’t managed to kill myself, I would have died of old age. It might not have shown on the outside, but it would on the inside,” Rowan traced the writing with her fingers.
“When he was born, the blood of his father was strong, almost pure. That bloodline has been diluted with every successive generation, and weakened,” Rowan glanced at Alena then.
“Your dam, the original vampire, would have crushed you, Marcus and me, without breaking a sweat. We are weaker, but we are stronger. He wouldn’t understand that this very humanity that taints us, this impurity he would perceive as weakness, is our strength,” Rowan frowned as she said those words.
“We don’t fight out of animal instinct or predatory skill; although we have both and I learned that the hard way, we fight because we have the will to survive,” she continued, and they listened intently.
“It’s all about will and always has been. We fight for what we hold dear, and what we believe is right. What does he hold dear?” Rowan asked, and Alena looked at her with an expression she could not read.
“Nothing but himself,” Rowan answered for them.
“He’s you, Alena, a year ago, or even ten years ago at the side of Victor. He’s trying to show his father that he’s not only worthy; he’s better,” Rowan pointed out, and Alena frowned at the comparison, but she nodded.
Marcus sat back, and Rowan recognized his mood as well as Alena. He was keeping himself so tightly in check that he’d been a powerful but benign presence, but now he’d reached the end of his patience.
“Its all good and well, but was all this worth nearly dying for?’” He pointed at the weapons, the vial of poison and the manuscripts.
“No,” Rowan answered truthfully, and his anger intensified.
“Then what the hell were you thinking?” Marcus growled.
“I didn’t know what they intended, my love,” Rowan tried to calm him, but Marcus would not allow her to handle him. He would never forget the fear he felt when he saw Alena carrying her like a child.
“You guessed well enough,” Marcus countered with that quiet voice that only intensified her perception of his anger.
“I guessed, but not well enough,” Rowan admitted frankly. “I never expected them to attack me so openly, but I learned my lesson,” she admitted, and they could see the truth of this in her eyes.
“When I came to the Watchers, I hated what I was, and I hated myself. It’s not easy to stop doing that or to stop believing that the world would be better off without you. You have no idea of the things I’ve done to survive. You two have your vampire code of ethics, but I didn’t grow up with that. Martin wasn’t wrong when he said I grew up like an animal,” Rowan grimaced at the memory, and Marcus became still as he realized what lay at the root of all Rowan’s insecurities.
“After I left my home that day in the forest, I hated vampires. I would find a vampire living among humans, and if they behaved, I would leave them alone; if they didn’t, I would kill them,” Rowan could guess from their expressions that they already knew this part of the story.
“I fed on them, and I made them feel the fear humans felt before I destroyed them. I would take their stuff, sell it off, and keep some of the money, but the rest I would leave with their victims,” she could tell they didn’t know what to think of this.
“I thought of myself as a bounty hunter. That is why the Watchers recruited me. They used me to get rid of the bad apples. Only now, I wonder. At first, I made sure that the ones I hunted were really bad but after a while? I didn’t care. The Watchers would give me a name, and I would take that vampire out,” Rowan admitted, and they could see the conflict in her.
“Now you wonder if the people you hunted were evil or if the Watchers had another agenda?” Alena asked, and Rowan nodded.
“Victor might have been cruel to you, but he made you accept the way you are, and he made you comfortable in your skin. You chose what that meant to you, even though your choice meant that he would never see the strength in you,” Rowan said, and she could see the way those words altered Alena’s perception of the past.
“I didn’t have that; all I had was hate. All I knew was hate. I never learned to be comfortable with myself; a wolf cannot learn from a dog to be a wolf,” Rowan admitted, and there was no recrimination in her voice; she had finally come to terms with her past.
“I never learned to find my strength, I could only see myself in the reflection of human eyes until their hatred and fear became my own,” she admitted and although Alena couldn’t imagine feeling like that, Marcus could. He still remembered being newly turned and learning to live with the monster he had become.
“You felt sorry for me when we met, and at the same time, you hated my weakness; you couldn’t help it. I always denied my nature, and it pained me to admit that I was nothing more than a monster,” Rowan said while frowning at the memory.
“I never allowed my vampire to surface, and then when circumstances made me need it, it overwhelmed my sense of control. I used to be at the mercy of my instincts and was so busy fighting myself that I didn’t understand how this worked. It wasn’t until I started this quest that I learned what real vampires were like,” Rowan turned to Marcus.
“The Watchers did me a favor. They taught me that I am capable of control, even if I let go of my vampire. I am your weakness because I never learned to trust my vampire. I never learned to let it be part of me,” Rowan admitted.
“I want to be everything I can be, and to do that I need the two of you to train me as they trained you,” Rowan said, and they could see it in her manner; this wasn’t a spur of the moment decision or a reaction. Rowan was ready to learn the extent of her nature. Marcus sat back while considering her.
“I’m no gentle teacher,” Marcus reminded and just then Alena’s face showed a touch of that old look of coldness.
“I think the time gentleness has passed,” Alena said with her eyes on the manuscripts that documented a plague in human form. A thing for which killing wasn’t necessary, but fun.
“Claire, Alderin, Miguel, Roman? They’re warriors, and they will be sheep to the slaughter. Humans will inherit the earth; we’re just gatekeepers. Our time is passing; whether or not we want to know it,” Alena murmured, and Marcus scowled.
“If we are to train you properly, we need to be ashore, and we need to be safe,” Alena suggested with a touch of her old arrogance, and Marcus nodded in agreement.
“Ballgarod,” Marcus decided, and Alena nodded slowly.
“Yes, it’s safe, there would be no distractions, and no spectators,” Alena agreed.
Marcus could sense something going on with the two of them. He noticed it from the moment Claire handed Rowan the poison. They had yet another secret, and he should have been angry after all the times they promised, but they were two grown women.
Marcus didn’t like it when they kept secrets, but they always had a good reason. It didn’t stop him from worrying, and it didn’t ease the feeling of foreboding that he felt since the day in the black tomb.