Chapter 95 - Letter
“My nieces, daughters of my brother’s loins, blood of my blood, if you found this, then you saw the map, know what it means and where it will lead you,” Rowan read aloud. They glanced at the emblem on the floor, and as Alena walked around it, she frowned. It wasn’t until she reached a certain point, that she realized that from that angle, the emblem was also a map of the coastline. This Dark One was both brilliant and devious. Rowan saw it in the same instant Alena did.
“Also, if you read this, then my attempt to steer fate from you has failed, my daughter has done her duty, and you found the master to strengthen your claim,” Rowan continued as Alena studied the map.
“You also realize that you have a choice to make, but first I must tell you what you need to know, to make you understand what you have seen.” They glanced at each other.
“His name is Belvare, his father was the first of our line, and he needs you to complete the circle, to give him the strength to sway.” It was as much as they already suspected.
“That which he sways, does not last long. Some survive only months, but the stronger ones last three to four human years. It is all that has kept him in check for he does not wish to be alone. He despises both humans and vampires for their weaknesses.” This they already learned, but it confirmed what the facts they gathered from the Watchers.
“He wishes for sons and daughters which he can breed from you, but that only comes after you sway him. He will use you to make that which will destroy all, and he will hate you for what you are. When he has his wish, he will finish you. Slowly.” This wasn’t news either, but it gave what they knew a finality that they could no longer deny.
“There is only one way to kill him, and for that, you will need the poison of the black widow spider mixed with the venom of a cobra, silver filings, wolfsbane, red okra leave, and the poison from a blowfish. This won’t kill him, and a small dose won’t kill you. His body will metabolize it fast, but then add to the mixture the white powder made from the seed of the poppy flower, and it will slow him down. This you must obtain from the silent watchers, but be careful of them. They are not what they seem.” Rowan read and frowned.
“Pity we didn’t find this sooner, we could have used the information and the warning,” she said with bitter irony.
“You wouldn’t have believed this warning if we found it sooner,” Alena countered, and Rowan admitted that her sister spoke the truth.
“He needs you to sway him, as I’ve said before, so he will allow you close. The two of you must be together, and you must drain him to the last of his blood. The dregs will be thick with the poison, and even without the mixture, whoever drinks it will die without doubt,” Rowan continued to read, and this confirmation sealed their fate as it confirmed the inevitable outcome one of them would choose.
“It’s a terrible choice I tried to spare you, but Victor and I failed to protect you. We were not strong enough. Our plans were for naught, and if you possess this letter, both my brother and I fell to our enemy,” Rowan finished reading, and the tone of fondness in this last bit surprised her. She thought Victor and Helena were enemies.
They glanced at each other, and when she moved to fold the letter, her touch made something happen. More words appeared below the first.
“Rowan, you lived a harsh life, but I want you to understand that it was not your father’s choice. You are alive only because he shunned you. The elder council insisted upon your death in their fear of damphirs. He dismissed you as weak and unworthy of concern to keep them from killing you. They still tried to assassinate you, but they failed on several occasions,” Rowan read with a frown as Alena approached to watch the words appear on the paper as if written by some invisible hand.
“Victor loved you just as he loved Alena. He could not allow the council to see how much he valued his daughter and that she would be his true heir in the end. He could not let them see her strength or realize how strong she would become. They have feared our line for eons. The prophecies say that one of us would rule all. They believe it is Belvare, but we do not adhere to the same belief,” the letter continued.
“Marcus must not guess that one of you would die. He also must not know that he will not rule our house for long. I watched both of you grow, and I was often nearer than you realize. We will look out for you from beyond,” Rowan finished, and when Alena picked up the letter to read it for herself, her touch ignited one more paragraph in a familiar slanting male hand.
“Beloved daughter, I could never tell you this in life, but you must understand the truth if I am never to see you again. I love you, and I am proud of you. I also suspect you will not shun Rowan as they forced me to do. I did the unspeakable to you both to prepare you for the task ahead, and I hated myself for every moment of pain you suffered. You loved Rowan long before you realized you did. You two are everything I dreamed you would be and more,” Alena didn’t even realize she read the words aloud. She lowered her hand, and the letter fluttered from her fingers. The words she struggled a lifetime to hear, tore open the grief she never allowed herself to feel for her father. She started to cry, and Rowan was there for her in an instant. Alena did not allow her emotions to rule her for long.
“You have to go back to become the gatekeeper, and the heir,” Rowan said with certainty, and they both reasoned that it was the only way their line would continue; if they survived killing Belvare.
“Not even this child in my belly will give me ground to stand on and do what you can. Marcus may still be hurt or die with me,” Rowan said with sober wisdom and wiped Alena’s tears away with the heels of her hands.
“I was born to die, and I lived more than most of them ever will. They don’t even know what threat they face. I’ve seen so much and felt so much. Yes, I would have liked to see our children grow, but you will do that for me,” Rowan fought the tears that tried to choke her words. This once, Alena needed her to be the strong one.
They may both die, they may all die, but this moment was more important than anything. They were sisters in a way most of their kind and most of humankind would never understand.
“We still need Marcus’s protection until we reach the mountains,” Alena said as she wiped her face dry with impatience and Rowan almost smiled at the gesture.
“Yes, but I will not let him die for us,” Rowan said with fierce determination, and Alena nodded. Marcus already did his part, and he didn’t have to die for them if it wasn’t necessary.
“Yes,” Alena agreed. They let go of each and silently gathered the letters off the floor. They burnt Helena’s message with their hands intertwined, sacrificing the only evidence that Victor wasn’t the monster that he made them believe he was, so Marcus would not find it.