Blood and War

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Chapter 20 - Teacher

Dillon was lying on his back on the cold floor. Perspiration ran off him in streams. He never before truly understood the power and strength of a vampire. He had no grasp of their incredible speed and unrelenting tenacity.

He no idea of their sharp intelligence and their accrued knowledge. Not only was Catherine a woman, but a child compared to those that would come. It was a thought that chilled the soul.

Adding insult to injury, in her struggle not to overpower him, she held back. The great Catherine Drake was forced to play nice with her puny human master. Dillon could almost pity himself. He was never as tired or exhilarated, in his life before.

He learned so much from watching her and listening to her. There was a world of knowledge in her mind, and he could only marvel at it. His thirst to know more, to know it all, grew with every moment and so did his determination.

She looked young, but her eyes were not young. She lived more than a human lifespan and the knowledge she allowed him was perhaps only the basics of what she learned as a child.

When they traveled back from Eduardo’s lands, he was defeated, and his last hope had gone. Whatever fate brought their paths together, he finally saw the wisdom of it.

Dillon had prayed for a way to get them a fighting chance. He had hoped for a powerful ally or a benefactor, anything to give his people a way to survive this war.

He thought that saving Catherine cost him everything when saving Catherine gained him all he asked for. It just took him a while to figure it out.

“I have chores to see to, my lord,” she reminded him. It was her discreet way to tell him he needed to rest. She didn’t have to remind him, though. He could barely move.

She didn’t even have the grace to sound winded, while his muscles would ache in the morning. Dillon grouched to himself, but already his mind analyzed and calculated as he busily adapted her lessons to his fighting style.

“I spoke to Helga. You will hunt with Sam, and you will help Helga as she sees fit. You will clean my personal quarters and my library.

You will practice with me before sunrise every morning and before dinner every evening,” Dillon hated hearing how out of breath he sounded. He could almost feel her amusement.

“You will come to my rooms after dinner some evenings. I have a large number of questions I need for you to answer. I want to see the world of warcraft through your eyes.

I want to see my kind as you see them, but not as a people. I want to hear how you would see us as a vampire facing an opponent,” he glanced at her, and Catherine frowned down at him. She was disturbed by his request even as she saw the logic in it.

“Tomorrow, my men at arms will start to arrive in groups of twenty. I will spend most of each day trying to teach them what I can.

My head of the guard, Derrick would practice with us most evenings. He is a far more patient teacher than I and he will be around the men more than me.

He can be trusted with your secrets, but I would be careful of his charms,” he laughed as he said it, but he was serious underneath. She could not explain to him how good it felt to be needed and not just used. Even under the circumstances.

Catherine nodded her acceptance. She knew humans well enough to guess that the other the servants would see the time she would spend with him in the wrong light.

In these lands, women were not soldiers. They also did not spend time alone with men in their chambers, but then again, they arrived alone too. Gossip was already rife.

* * *

Derrick was wary of her like a deer sensing a predator, and she did not blame him. He watched her spar with Dillon on their first evening and the further the lesson progressed, the more Derrick’s wariness increased.

He was jumpy and uneasy. It caused Dillon to frown in his direction more than once. Dillon was used to her presence. He didn’t see Catherine as a threat to his person. Derek had no such assurances. She was a stranger to him and a vampire. The boy was petrified of her.

When Dillon finally called uncle, he was getting better much faster than she would have thought possible for a human. He nodded at Derrick as he walked over to dry himself off and drink from the water fountain. He signaled for the younger man to take his turn and face her.

Derrick walked into Catherine’s mental circle with tension coming off of him in waves. Dillon was never this tense in her presence or as distrustful of her. It made a little warmth seep into the cold of her soul, the lonely place she inhabited lately without comfort.

Catherine slowed down considerably for Derek. She sensed already that Dillon was by far his better and perhaps even his mentor. Derrick noticed it immediately.

His inability to make a dent in her defenses or create any sort of headway against her, frustrated him. Catherine instantly pegged him as a juvenile. In her world he would be classed as a young adult. He was still a little immature, unpredictable and volatile.

It was as if she threw a gauntlet at him and he picked it up with a vengeance. He continued long past the time he should have stopped.

He persisted when he should have allowed for his body’s frail, human weakness. He relentlessly kept coming at her, and he kept mindlessly attacking with more aggression until he just collapsed, and Catherine was startled... Dillon wasn’t.

Catherine was aware of Dillon watching their every move, with an almost single-minded attention to detail. She half expected him to call a halt at some point or to intervene, but she also understood how such an action would damage Derrick’s pride as a man.

Derrick started to rise again, and Catherine almost sighed in irritation. It was getting tedious to not injure him or his pride. She did not have the same regard for his well-being or his ego, as she did for Dillon.

“Sit your ass down, or I will allow Cathy to teach you a lesson you will not soon forget. This isn’t twelve years ago Derrick, and she is not me.

She will eventually run out of patience,” Dillon mocked Derrick with a fondness as of a little brother, and inexplicably Derrick slumped and blushed. He actually blushed, and his whole demeanor changed.

The wariness wasn’t entirely gone, but it was hugely tempered. It took only a moment for Catherine to deduce that his actions were driven by jealousy.

It was his possessiveness which had caused him to come at her with such single-minded stubbornness. This had nothing to do with her being a vampire.

Dillon was his master, his teacher, and his mentor. She was an intruder into that territory. He was much younger than Dillon and in some little ways not yet grown. His eyes told you he already saw much in his short life.

Derrick felt his lack of experience, his lack of control and could find no effective way to compensate for it. She felt pity for him. Naught could fix his problem, but time and it was the one commodity they did not have in abundance.

She refused to admit to herself how insanely pleased she was at having just become Cathy, instead of the distant and formal Catherine.

Catherine glanced at Dillon and could barely tear her eyes away from him. He was dressed in tight fitting trouser pants with his shirt untucked and unbuttoned.

His highly polished boots came up to below his knees and highlighted his muscular calves. They fit him like a second skin. He was devastatingly handsome, but also kind of debonair and mysterious.

She wondered if he could ever guess how she hated cleaning his rooms? His smell was so intense in those rooms it was like a presence. Helga checked in on her every now and again and kept her too occupied to wallow overly much in self-pity.

How Helga managed all, she did in a single day, baffled even Catherine. The woman seemed to be everywhere all at once. Nothing happened between the walls of this castle that Helga didn’t know about or couldn’t guess at. It kept her staff on their toes.

Dillon’s bed was the worst part of Catherine’s day. It was as if he were there in the room with her. It was also her duty to wash his sheets, twice a week.

It was one of those mind-numbing duties which left her thoughts completely free to wander where they should not and to pick at scabs.

It was only when she was in the arena with the men that she found her mind could be sufficiently occupied. In the arena, there was no time to dwell too much on the past, anyway.

To see Dillon first thing in the morning, freshly ruffled from sleep and vigorously active wasn’t safe for her either. To watch him warm up and attack her with determination, told her he spent most of the night trying to find new ways around her defenses and that wasn’t easy either.

Dillon often managed to surprise her with his uncanny knack to think things through and to locate the flaw in them,

“Enough. Thank you, Cathy, you may go,” Dillon dismissed her. She nodded and left. She did not see him frown at the way Derrick’s eyes followed her all the way out of the room.

She did not see the grim set of Dillon’s mouth as he caught Derrick appreciating the perfection of her derriere. It was Derrick’s second most favorite part of a woman. It was a fact Dillon knew and suddenly did not appreciate.

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