“Why would Lord Voltaire invite us exclusively but there are basically every other Vampire present?” Jessie asked, his eyes scanning the Lair.
“Something is telling me that they came because they’re scared,” I replied. “Look at their faces, their body language—like refugees from a war-torn place.”
Wynona chimed in, “I agree. There’s something off. Did Lord Voltaire tell you anything?”
Jessie shook his head, “Not much. But he did mention that there was a surge in reports about djinn attacks in the Worldly realm.”
Father. I turned to Jessie, reading his expression. “Do you think it is related to the attack at my parents’ home?”
“That’s what we are here to find out.”
“Good grief, is every Vampire here?” A voice wondered aloud.
I turned to see a long, black-haired female Vampire with Lord Voltaire. Beside her was the Neophyte, Heidi. She was only as tall as the female Vampire’s shoulders but still stood out like a sore thumb in her band t-shirt and black leather jacket. There was a scar above her right eyebrow that was not there before. Did she get into more trouble?
“Hey, we’re going in,” Wynona said as the doors to the dining room opened.
Vampire ushers stood at the sides of the entrances as we walked in. We all took our seats and the council began after the doors were shut. Lord Voltaire began by thanking everyone for attending. The High Court, as he called it, was attended by all nine Grand Masters and us three. And Heidi, I supposed.
I turned to her, something made me, and caught her looking away. Did she hold a grudge against me? She was not the first student to do so.
“Thank you all for joining me at such short notice. We must prepare ourselves for the worst, I believe,” Lord Voltaire began in his rich baritone. “We must not look for trouble until it comes to us. We do not know what or who is sending them. We must prepare our defences and work as one. Together, we will be stronger.”
The others nodded in agreement. He continued, “Do we have any objections? Speak out, if you will, for this is the time for counsel.”
“What defences do we have?” A voice asked from the other end of the long dining table. I knew that voice very well. My grandfather and many other former Sages knew it very well too. I suppressed an eye-roll.
The air in the room grew tense. I glanced at Heidi, wondering what she took of all this, but she remained composed and curious. For a Neophyte, I admit, she impressed me. I turned to Lord Voltaire who waited patiently for that voice to continue and it did.
“I believe that our defences are not up to par with what we have coming for us. But if we strike first, we can win this war.”
“Our defences,” Lord Voltaire replied, “are our forces, allies and kingdom. We have a civilised society designed to move freely between different realms. We interact with each other closely. We are one unit, Grand Master Augustin, and we shall work with that.”
Grand Master Oldie let out a laugh through his nose. Then he scoffed, “You speak like a Vampire who has forgotten his power and responsibility. I say we go out there and fight this war.”
I could not resist it any longer. I rebutted, “It is not a war yet. However, it will be if we go in guns-ablazing like you suggest. I agree with Lord Voltaire. We do not know what we have in store for us so we cannot judge our defences with weak reasons to attack.”
My arms were on the table and my back felt tense. The urge to freeze him in his chair was too great. However, I maintained my composure and leaned back on my chair. I could not lose my temper on him again.
Grand Master Augustin straightened his back. He leaned forward and spoke in his typical condescending tone, “You are brave but a mere child, my dear mortal, with such vast wisdom. But you are untamed, as your specialised magic suggests, so you best watch your tone with me.”
I could not resist a smirk. His snarky remark was predictable, and so was that jab at my youth. I knew he never liked me—he always thought that I was too young to be a Sage. Wynona and Jessie remained silent but I could see their eyebrows knit. Lord Voltaire scowled, eyes on the table, listening.
When he was ready to speak, he raised his head and his booming voice projected as the King of Vampires, “Tell us, then, O’ Grand Master of the Void, why should we go in blind? We do not know who or what we are up against. The djinns could just be the tip of the iceberg. There has been talk of The Fallen’s return.”
The other vampires shifted uneasily in their seats at the thought of Synto.
Grand Master Augustin stood and leaned forward, his red eyes wild, “You asked if there was anyone who opposed your suggestion and I did. There will come a battle where your throne will be usurped, my Lord. Let not this battle be it.”
I narrowed my eyes. Usurped? This old man was senile. Either that or he had let slip a plot.
Lord Voltaire relaxed and responded patiently, “And when that time comes, Grand Master Augustin, that would be my fate. I understand your concerns, but for now, we must fortify our strategies and defences.”
Heidi’s eyes darted from that cranky old Vampire to Lord Voltaire. I could tell she was trying to digest all of this. I would too, if I were her. Grand Master Augustin adjusted his collar from slight embarrassment that the King of Vampires was not persuaded to side his nonsensical claims. He fixed his gaze on me, as if he was targeting. I returned with indifference.
“If I may interject, my Lord,” Grand Master Ingram spoke. Her voice was soft and velvety, like any Vampire had when they had motive, usually an unsavoury one. “I believe Grand Master Augustin has a point.”
“And what point would that be? To attack and slay the djinns in their nest?” Jessie blurted. I startled slightly. I had never witnessed him this frustrated.
The female elderly Vampire was also caught off-guard, but remained composed. “This is a war. We have seen this war for thousands of years and yet we lose our kind from these djinns and their...king. If we have to invade their nest, then we must. We cannot lose anymore of our kind for the sake of defending the kingdom.”
“Yes, my Lord, we must seek our enemies and destroy them once and for all!” The other old bag chimed in.
I had enough. There was heat inside me that would be channeled into flames if I held myself back any longer.
“That is hunting! You know that is against your rules. If you seek them, you will either find yourself trapped or an end to your civilisation!” I raised my voice, but not enough to be shouting.
Jessie looked like he was ready to hold me back. When I finished, the last word rang in the cold air. It was so thick with tension at this point that no one moved. I had not realised that I was standing up. Jessie tugged my arm to sit back down.
“My fair Grand Mistress Ingram,” Lord Voltaire finally spoke, breaking the tension. “I understand and agree with you. But storming into the nest of the beast on the basis of our defence is merely murder and nothing more. We have rules in our kingdom which I am sure you remember them.”
Lord Voltaire was clearly taking my side but threaded it carefully. Of course, to the two old bags, they could not accept that their King sided with mortals instead. Deep down, I knew that we were the bane of their existence. No one would speak of it. No one would speak against their King. Until now.
“And if they take your throne from you, after they kill you, what then, my Lord?” Asked Grand Master Ingram.
Her voice was riddled with concern and sympathy although I knew her intentions consisted neither of those. I resisted another eye-roll.
“You are thinking of my own interest,” Lord Voltaire reminded, “and not the kingdom’s. I apologise but I shall not manage the kingdom’s defence if it is on the basis of mainly protecting me.”
The two Grand Masters agreed to disagree and sat quietly for the remainder of the council. Lord Voltaire then continued his strategies when no one else opposed his suggestions. I shifted my attention to Heidi who sat and took everything in. She might have realised how deep in the council she was in.
Occasionally, throughout the council, I glanced at the two deluded Grand Masters but they listened without another word. When Lord Voltaire began discussing the different defence strategies, I felt my aura pulsate. The others had their auras pulsate and shift too. We could all feel a heavy sense of unease blanketing over the dining room, like a dark veil trapping us. I slowly slid my hand into my coat pocket for my wand. Before I could alert Wynona and Jessie, the dining room doors burst open and a Prime Vampire stumbled in. His hair was disheveled and clothes ripped. Bruises and scars were all over his face and he was panting.
“Djinns everywhere! The Lair is under attack!”
The Vampires dashed out of the dining room as soon as they heard the informant. I pulled out my wand and headed for the door without hesitation. A swarm of djinns in their true forms broke through the glass ceilings and windows. The Vampires were fighting off for their lives. Blood was everywhere. Had we been too late?
I turned to see Heidi coming towards the door but Wynona held her back.
“Stay put, Heidi! This is not your battle, you are not ready!”
Wynona shut the doors and placed a magical Mis-chief rune on them. Her violet eyes glimmered as we turned to face the battle between us and the djinns. I readied my stance and channeled my current for Arsonion, a personal favourite—the spell of arson. Whatever being that stood my way would be singed immediately.
* * *
Chaos persisted for more than twenty minutes at that point. More djinns were coming in, breaking the stained glass all the way from the ceilings. Jessie and Wynona stood behind me.
“I may know why there are so many Vampires gathered here tonight,” Jessie shouted above the noise. We were in the middle of the battlefield with djinns and Vampires around us.
“You think someone tipped them off? Or purposely called them?” I asked.
Wynona formed a magic shield around us. Some of the Vampires entered it for shelter while the djinns burned upon contact.
“I don’t think these djinns are here to take over the throne, like the old fellow claimed. This looks like they’re out for blood,” Wynona concluded.
“You must get Heidi to safety,” Jessie said. His voice was dead serious.
I turned to him, his blue eyes darting back and forth. “But...what about the both of you?”
“We’ll be fine. Bring her back to The Academy and keep her safe. It’s the safest place for now.”
I knew I could not argue with Jessie. Wynona added, “I locked her in the dining room with my magic.”
I nodded and exited the shield. Pieces of glass shattered and the walls crumbled around us. I had to move swiftly. Before I could reach the dining room, a djinn lunged itself onto me and we wrestled across the floor. We landed near the entrance of the Lair, under the broken windows.
A piece of broken glass pierced through my slacks and cut my calf. I felt my lips bleed from the scuffle as the djinn pinned me down. It hissed and snarled and let out a revolting stench. I had not realised that my wand had dropped a metre away. The djinn roared, like an unholy beast, and I shut my eyes.
“Arsonion oblivion!” I yelled, channelling every ounce of energy I had in me, like the spell always did.
The djinn released me as it began to get sucked into itself with orange flames, and eventually into oblivion. I pushed myself off the floor and picked up my wand before darting for the dining room to break Wynona’s lock spell.
“Heidi! Heidi, are you all right?” I called. She was standing in the corner, eyes wide with worry.
“I need to do something! Vicky is out there—”
“No!” I exclaimed. “I’m taking us back to The Academy. Hold still.”
She did not argue. I waved my wand and chanted, “Homewordial Transportatus!”
Heidi braced herself and shut her eyes. So did I. When we opened our eyes again, we landed on The Academy grounds, wrapped in total peace and silence.