Blood and War

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Chapter 36 - Aldrich

The room was no larger than perhaps twenty feet, but Dillon could only see it fully when the darkness flared into light. His heart beat slowly and heavily in his chest.

It betrayed his unease, and he hated not being able to control it. He hated the knowledge that his unease must amuse Aldrich even more.

“Now you may speak,” Aldrich motioned to a table cut from stone and beside it were matching stone benches.

You could almost feel the passing of the ages in this place. Dillon hesitated only momentarily before he sat down. When Aldrich only stared at him with expectation, he made himself release the tension from his frame and refused to be cowed any further. He started his tale, while he kept his voice quiet and certain.

Aldrich interrupted often and sharply. He asked many questions, and although he was impressed by Dillon’s replies, no one would be able to gauge such a fact from his demeanor. He was unlike any other vampire Dillon had come across.

Finally, Aldrich sat himself down, and he paged through the animal skin maps. He idly played with the poison, and then he folded his hands beneath his chin. His stare seemed to see more than Dillon’s grave face.

“A long time ago, a woman of your species told me three things. Two of those three things have come to pass. She said I would become an important man and that my word would become law. I became Lord Chancellor, despite the fact that I am no royal and had no such ambitions for myself.

She said I would save a princess from daylight’s death for the pity of a human man. My actions would serve both her fate and his and that too has come to pass.

Now you tell me there are traitors among my kind and that these lands and all of our people were betrayed. You say that war found its way to our doorstep.

She called it the Dark Moon which would swallow the Divided Land,” Aldrich’s finger traced the pattern of the Dark Moon around the edges of the map.

Until just then, Dillon did not notice it for more than decoration and some kind of foreboding passed through him like the dark touch of fate.

“Go back to your men. I will come to see you, but first I must find us some allies. People who can be trusted, because we will not be swept from the earth by the Easterners.

You do what you must, and I will bring you a few friends too. Until then, I suggest you use different armor and visors to completely hide your faces when you fight. Do it, so no one knows your business or your intentions,” Aldrich bade Dillon, and their eyes met across the table.

Dillon stared back into those unfathomable depths, without flinching. A small smile teased at the corner of Aldrich’s mouth. He liked this human, his spunk and his sense of honor.

“I know what Catherine does here. I know she is not your mistress, her fate was never for Eduardo to decide. Her destiny is her own. Keep her safe and hide her face.

I want you to marry her in silence. Your action will restore her to her place without anyone knowing. It is not time yet to reveal ourselves or our purposes.

Trust me and give her this. She will know what it means,” Aldrich brought forth an intricately carved dagger of great age. It was fashioned in the manner of a dragon in wrought silver and jade.

Aldrich didn’t even hesitate to order this earth shattering thing and he never even seemed to doubt whether Dillon would comply.

Dillon stared at him as if he expected Aldrich to laugh. What vampire would allow a human to marry one of their own kind, nay order it?

“It is close to dawn. I have far to travel, and I do not wish to be seen. Go to your people. Do what you know is right. We will win this war, or we will lose it, but we will not go down without a fight.

I promise you, Dillon, you are no longer alone, but without Catherine, you will not succeed,” Aldrich walked over to the wall, and it opened at his touch.

“I always knew that you would step out of the shadows cast by your great father,” Aldrich murmured. They stepped outside, and Aldrich nodded at Dillon as if to an equal.

Before Dillon could say another word, the stone slid shut, and Dillon glanced at the doorway for only an instant, but Aldrich was already gone as if he were never even there.

All the way down to his camp, Dillon felt as if he was followed. No matter what he did, the presence remained. It only disappeared once he entered his campsite.

Dillon moved straight on to his tent, and he resisted the urge to glance over his shoulder. Once inside, he found Derrick and Catherine were both pale and quiet.

They waited for him with tension on their faces, and definite relief flooded them as he entered. It felt like coming home to his family.

If Catherine were human, she would run over to him and hug him to her. Instead, she only nodded at him. He would never know all the dreadful things she pictured in her head or how close she came to following him up the mountain.

If it were not for the possible consequences of her presence, she would not have allowed him to go alone. She felt responsible for Dillon, and if anything happened to him tonight, it would have been her fault.

“I am alive,” Dillon joked, but neither of them managed to smile. They were tense and uneasy as if they sensed something odd about him.

Truth be told, Dillon felt as if the world was on his shoulders. He knew they would be happy to help him shoulder the load. Instead of taking a moment to rest, he sat himself down and indicated for them to join him.

He hesitated only briefly before he allowed himself to glance at Catherine. He started speaking, and they listened avidly as Dillon told them of his encounter with Aldrich.

“When he said those things,” he ended his one-sided diatribe, “the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was as if I waited all of my life to hear those words,” Dillon shifted his weight. The feeling of foreboding created by the image of the Dark Moon had not yet eased.

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