Chapter 20 - War
“My father forbade me to ever touch another weapon,” Catherine almost spat the word father, and the longing was there to obey Dillon.
The familiar weight of the sword, even as she tried to ignore it, was as welcome as a long lost lover. She was not so hard to read now that he accustomed himself to see her not as just a woman, but a soldier.
“You are my property, and I will decide what you will and won’t do,” he bade, but her eyes shifted to him and from him with no change in her stance.
“No one will come in here, Catherine. They know better than to interrupt me,” this time her eyes rested on him longer as if she weighed his words. He pushed the advantage.
“I need the practice. The truce with the East is shaking apart, and soon they will try to overrun our lands,” he explained. Her attention shifted firmly to him.
A small frown marred the perfection of her skin, and he actually found it cute. He could not allow himself to lose focus. This was not just about her. It was about him and his world.
“Not all of the Eastern soldiers are human. Many of us will die, and I don’t aim to be unprepared. You have spent the better part of a century by your father’s side.
He is one of the best swordsmen among your kind. You have all of that knowledge, and it is information we’re going to need,” he saw the way she longed to change her grip, to feel the weight of the blade.
This could give her something of herself back. He should have realized it much sooner. She was so much like him and yet so different.
“Even you would not last a second against a male vampire, my lord,” her eyes were earnest as she dared to look into his. He liked it when she did chance to look at him. She seemed less distant, less unreachable in those moments of contact.
Catherine trusted him to some degree, and he understood the worth of her confidence in a way that her own kind did not.
“The Eastern vampires have taught their skills to their minions. They think that your kind will stand aside and allow the humans to be subdued.
They believe very few of you would dare to stand against them. They reason that your kind would not want to shed their precious lives for us,” Dillon explained, and Catherine pursed her lips in sudden anger.
“We have defended you from ourselves for centuries. We stood beside you and fought with you. Why would we forsake you now? When our worlds have become so comfortably entwined with yours? My... Father would not allow it and neither would the Council,” Catherine was almost fierce in her defense of the alliance when he would have wagered her confidence in all things vampire to be dead.
He caught a glimpse of the vampire princess, and he felt in awe of her. He could not allow the distraction. If he could not convince her, he would not succeed in persuading any of her kind.
“Some of you would, those that feel cheated. The weaklings and the few Halfbreeds you have allowed to live. The point is, centuries of weapon craft was taught, patiently, by men with all the time in the world to a new generation of Easterners.
Men bred to not be curbed by the bounds of honor, fair play and pitiful concepts like the rules of war.
We don’t stand much of a chance without your kind. Even with your help thousands of us will die, and the battle may not be won. Ground could be lost.
We have grown weak. We were humored into comfort by the assurance of this alliance. Your kind has become arrogant and careless in your obvious superiority to us. Your armies are not as well maintained.
We have mere months before they invade. I intend to at least try to prepare my men for what is to come,” he was so fierce and so sincere Catherine could not doubt him.
Dillon could see that she was at least listening to him in a way that her father and Hellenic were not prepared to hear. She listened to him, where before she might not have, she heard him.
Mostly, now that Dillon knew the truth of Catherine fall from grace, he realized it was Hellenic who dismissed him. It was Hellenic who persuaded Eduardo to pay Dillon no heed.
The vampire called him paranoid and power hungry. His dismissal of Dillon was convincing. Yet something had Dillon thinking that if only he could get Eduardo to see him alone, the vampire might listen.
Then Catherine was accused and convicted of treason. The doors to Eduardo’s kingdom were firmly shut in his face even before he spoke up in Catherine’s favor.
Without the sway of Eduardo’s power, getting the council to listen to him would be a monumental task. As it were, the very fact that Eduardo dismissed his claims shut most doors to him. At least on this topic and it was the only thing that really mattered.
The petty day to day things of the Alliance could not concern him less, and Dillon’s disinterest could not be allowed to show. It would alienate even more of the council, and he could not afford to do that.
He found it frustrating and confounding. How could so few people see the genuine threat they were about to face? How did they become so blinded to the world that an impending war could be overlooked?
“You want me to teach you?” Catherine asked, pinning him down with that inhuman glare and she was unaware of how her hand already shifted on the guard of the sword. The familiar weight was a comfort she had missed like the loss of an arm.
“My father would kill us both if he found out,” she warned him, and with a hard smile, Dillon nodded.
“Your father and your kind do not understand how close this war is. They think the East will not dare invade their lands. They don’t know how their strongholds were corroded from the inside. You should know that from personal experience,” he explained, and Catherine’s face went blank.
Her expression grew cold as she belatedly understood why she was betrayed. Not out of petty vengeance and minor greed. No, she was betrayed to break the backbone of the Griffon stronghold and to distract Eduardo.
She wasn’t even aware that she bared her teeth as understanding dawned upon her. Hellenic wanted more than her father’s land and power, he wanted it all, and he was not going to wait forever. Her father had to be warned, he had to be told.
“He’ll never believe you. Hellenic will kill you before you ever got to say a word.
There will come a time when Eduardo will listen, that time is not now. This is the time to plan and prepare,” Dillon was that dangerous man again, and it took a visible effort for her to bring her attention back to him.
The darkness was from her eyes, and they swirled with a cold determination and inhuman will.