Blood and War

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Chapter 37 - Premonition

“My mother was the maid Adrianne. She was of the South Clans. They had many superstitions and her woman... her chambermaid who brought me into the world, was an old crone my father hated.

At first touch of my skin, as she held me in her hands, it was said Henika went into some trance. She said night would cover the earth and beware the sons of the Dark Moon.

Henika chanted those words over and over again. My father was said to have stormed into the room, he snatched me from her hands and slapped her into silence

The next morning Henika was gone. No one ever saw her again, and my father was certain she had cursed me. When I became sickly, everyone else believed it too, except for my mother.

They say she thought it was a premonition that concerned my future,” Dillon looked at them as if he expected them to laugh it off, but neither of them did.

“Aldrich was right. Fate did send me across your path, master Dillon. It set us on this route we travel now, and it brought us to him. We will find out soon enough if he is friend or foe,” Catherine’s voice calmed the men. Only then did Dillon remember the knife and when he eased it out of his boot, Catherine’s eyes were nailed to it. She looked shocked.

“Aldrich sent you this. He said you would know what it means,” Dillon pushed it across the table and for the longest time Catherine just stared at it. Her eyes became suspiciously over bright, almost as if she might cry.

Catherine was not a woman given to tears, although Dillon saw pain force tears from her eyes to stream down her face.

“Catherine?” Dillon asked. She remained silent and unmoving for long enough that he began to wonder if she hadn’t heard him or if she didn’t want to answer him.

“Aldrich has no family. A long time ago his family was brought to ruin, their lands destroyed and their honor taken from them. He is the last of his kin,” Catherine held up the dagger by its tip.

“This is his family crest. The Jade Dragon is his, as the Jade Griffon was mine. There are only five of these daggers in existence. One for each of the provinces in his lands.

The crest and daggers were restored to his father a hundred years ago. Since Aldrich has no family and no heirs, he may choose his family and determine his heirs.

Aldrich is supposed to entrust these daggers to powerful males to strengthen his lands. Men who are like brothers to him and whom he could trust with his people. They would become his heirs. His sons,” Catherine tried very hard not to sound emotional, but she was, and her eyes were blazing.

The meaning of her words took a moment to sink in. Aldrich did not choose a male as his successor and his kin. He picked a female and even more oddly, one with no kin of her own and no armies to support him.

It perplexed Catherine and yet that he would do so, was an honor beyond words. She could find no reason for his actions.

“You are not male. Will someone not be able to contest Aldrich’s claim?” Derrick asked, and Catherine frowned.

“No, the rules were written with men in mind, but do not specifically exclude women. No one can alter the wording without Aldrich’s consent,” Catherine explained as she put the dagger on the table and traced its lines with the tips of her fingers, almost as if she could not bring herself to believe it was real.

“But...” Derrick asked, and she grimaced, pain in her eyes.

“I am not a vampire. I am an outlaw. I am not a citizen of vampire lands. Even Aldrich can’t alter my fate,” Catherine drew her hands away from the dagger as if letting go of a dream.

“Aldrich actually had a plan. He said I had to restore you to your place,” Dillon allowed the words to rush from his mouth. Her head came up, and her attention settled on him.

Catherine blinked once, twice, seemingly perplexed and then her hands tightened into fists. He could see she knew what he meant..

“How can a human restore a vampire to her place?” Derrick asked almost angrily, but neither paid any attention to him. She lifted the dagger idly as if to remind him of it and suddenly Derrick had an inkling that he had misunderstood.

“By marriage,” Catherine intoned. Her face was set in some odd expression, almost as if she were in pain.

“This is about me as much as it is about Dillon. Aldrich has claimed me as kin. By marrying me, Dillon would be forging an alliance with Aldrich himself, thereby protecting us both,” the silence was overwhelming, but it was a silence filled with many thoughts.

Dillon had misjudged Aldrich, misunderstood the magnitude of what the Lord Chancellor was willing to do, to keep these lands and their people safe.

There would be no greater alliance than this. Even Eduardo would find it hard to rally enough lords to stand against Aldrich, and the council, to upturn this alliance.

It would require valuable time and resources, while war threatened. The only real obstacle left would be Hellenic and the vampire whore.

“Derrick, find me a priest,” there was only one way for Dillon to prove his intentions to Aldrich and he understood that now.

“No human priest would bind a vampire and a human in...” Derrick started as the magnitude of what was about to happen, hit him. He was losing Catherine to Dillon, but at the same time...

Derrick was losing Dillon to this alliance formed only on the word of a vampire, but then he glanced at Catherine, and his heart stilled. She should be ecstatic. She was getting the man she wanted, but she was sad and infinitely so.

This was not what she would prefer or how. She didn’t do this for herself. She did this for Dillon and for all of them.

“Find a way Derrick.... and Derrick, no one must know of this until the time for it comes,” it was Catherine’s voice and not. This was the princess, but her eyes were unhappy as they met his.

Derrick understood that Catherine hid her feelings from Dillon. The power of her warning was of consequences she understood, and they did not.

It carried with him into the black of the night and for the first time in his life, Derrick felt the chill of the darkness that threatened to swallow them all.

It was the same chill Dillon felt when they were finally alone. Catherine avoided his eyes out of habit. Just this once he would have liked to know what went on behind all that reserve. Dillon wanted to know what she thought, what she felt.

“I would want this to be a business arrangement, a marriage of convenience, but...” Catherine’s voice sounded uncharacteristically unsteady. “We live in too close proximity to the men, and with Derrick here most of the time, it won’t work.

They know he isn’t a man for games and they will not be credible witnesses when the time comes. Derrick has to move out.

The marriage has to be consummated. No one must be able to cast aspersions,” The words came with so much effort that Catherine’s eyes blazed with them.

Dillon finally understood that this marriage was the final betrayal of her kind. This was worse than what got her chained to that block of granite.

This treachery would not get her killed, in fact, it would save both their lives. The cost of it would be for Catherine to regain her place, but not her standing. She would be ridiculed, shamed for choosing a human.

Now Catherine was nothing, and she didn’t exist for her own kind. If she married Dillon under the protective wings of their new master, they would have to be accepted publicly by all.

Catherine would still be ostracized on a personal level. It would be all smiles and gleaming teeth with no sincerity behind the masks. It would be the same for him among his own kind, but it meant more to her.


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