In the Shadows of Dryden

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CHAPTER 34 - Getting answers

“Ian Söring and Ian Luseberg are one and the same person. He’s my twin brother!”

Thia’s face was one of shock and utter disbelief. She stepped back, almost fumbling with the tree roots and leaves gathered on the ground.

“No… he.. he never told me he had a brother…” She whispered, eyes riveted at his face.

“That’s probably because we were hiding.” Thia tilted her face, questioning him. He took the time to brush off his clothes of whatever dirt or leaf remnants that had grabbed hold of his clothes, somehow relaxing his posture a bit. “Do you know about the Ralion war?” She nodded. “Do you know what started it?” She nodded a few times, shaking off her initial surprise.

“He told me that the war started because the vampires found Ralion’s blood extremely sweet to them. Because of that, Ralions were sought after and drained of their blood. It became a delicacy between vampires. They all wanted to try it and the ones that had already tried, couldn’t get enough of it.”

“And do you know why it’s so sweet to them?” Thia’s brows knitted together, then relaxed again before she looked around. A few meters away from where they were standing were two wooden benches that seemed to have been carved from an old tree trunk. She walked there, somehow knowing he would follow her. They sat opposite each other while their respective familiars went to lay down next to them. Thia patted Lamia’s head tenderly, watching how the cat pushed her head into her touch and purred in content. Blue had long reverted back to his cute bunny self and had decided to curl up in a ball for a quick nap.

“Just like Lycans are werewolf Royals, Ralions are the witches and warlocks Royals.” With her peripheral vision, she saw Erik nodding but he didn’t add anything to it verbally. “I am a witch and I’m very aware that Ian was a Ralion, although I could never really grasp the amount of power he held. Like most witches, our knowledge is passed down through generations and what can’t be passed down that way, we learn by reading old books. Although, there aren’t many books nowadays which we can learn from. Both Lycans and Ralions are considered extinct races and records about them are scarce, to say the least.” She paused, vision still transfixed on her purring cat. It was so easy for Erik to see that she was remembering some fond memories just by watching her expressions.

“It wasn’t solemnly the sweetness of our blood that caused the war. It was the fact that our blood imbues vampires with extra magical powers.” Thia met his eyes with surprise and fear written all over it.

“Imbue vampires with extra magical powers? My God! It’s no wonder they’ve become harder to deal with.”

They both stared at each other for a moment until Thia let out a sigh.

“You’re really his twin brother, huh?! You two are so alike. Only your hair color is different.”

“Yes. He had light brown hair.” Answered Erik with a smile while his eyes seemed to stare at a blank spot somewhere.

“How old are you?” She asked, but Erik didn’t answer for a few minutes. Still, she waited, watching him, studying this man that looked like a copy of her husband. He was so much like him that it was hard to believe he was just his brother. She knew it wasn’t Ian but her brain wanted him to be. It was only when he spoke again that her thoughts went back to their current discussion and she found him staring at her.

“I’m about 600 years old. Probably a few years more than that. I stopped counting after the war.” He shrugged. “I’d have to check my journal to know for sure.”

“I see. Just like you, Ian didn’t seem to age at all but I never really asked how old he was. It simply didn’t matter to me. Months before his passing, we had decided to move away from Dryden because people were starting to suspect it.”

“His passing? So he did die?” Thia nodded, face sullen, shoulders hanging down low. “I have felt a disturbance in the world’s magic energy many years ago. Of course, I knew that it could very well have been him but I didn’t want to entertain that possibility.” A wave of pain and sadness akin to the time when he lost the love of his life washed over him. Leaning his head backward and closing his eyes tightly, he fought the agglomeration of tears threatening to escape his eyelids. “May I… ask about your relationship with my brother?” He said with a raspy voice.

“He was my husband. We fell in love with each other the moment we met.” Thia blushed visibly, a slight smile curving her rosy lips. Erik nodded. He had a feeling she would say just that.

“That makes you my sister-in-law, I presume.” They stared at each other as Thia nodded slightly. Hearing those words had a welcoming effect on her, something she wasn’t expecting but she felt herself relax a bit more in his company. Although, the next second, realization that he had presented himself but she was yet to present herself properly made her nervous.

“Oh, deary… I’m… I’m so sorry. I’m Thia Luseberg.” She flashed him an awkward smile. Erik could almost picture some sweat dripping down the side of her face. “Sorry for attacking you.”

“That’s alright, Thia…” Erik’s eyes suddenly went wide, mouth falling open. “Wait! You’re Claire’s grandmother?” Thia’s eyebrows lifted in surprise and confusion.

“Yes. Claire and Clarisse are my granddaughters.”

“So, their grandfather is…”

“Your brother, deary. You’re their granduncle, I suppose.” She interrupted him, shrugging afterward. “Why?”

“FUCK!” Erik suddenly stood, hands flying to his head to grab his blond hair. “I freaking knew I recognized this magic signature! It’s my brothers!”

Thia stared at him, dumbfounded.

“Magic signature? Well, we did live here for as long as I remember. Ian built this house…” Then, Thia went silent with a mix of expressions showing on her face again. In fact, it showed so much that without realizing it, Erik had stepped forward and grabbed her upper arms. Eyes delving, searching into hers.

“How long ago has he built this house?“

“About 500 years ago. I only found that out from Claire herself some time ago. I knew he was a Ralion and that he was basically immortal but I didn’t imagine that he would be that… old.” A darker shade of pink suddenly appeared over Thia’s cheeks. “He was always so hot and masculine.”

Erik flinched and immediately stepped back a few steps, feeling awkward to see Thia reacting this way.

“How old were you when you two met?” He asked, looking sideways at her.

“We met on my 17th birthday. I’m 104 years old now.” She beamed, looking almost like a 17 years old girl again. Somehow, Erik felt that she was a young and wild woman at heart. The kind that his brother really loved to tame. He felt a cold sweat run down his temples as he cleared his throat, averting his gaze from her.

“500 years ago and I can clearly feel his magic signature embedded into the house.” Playing with his beard stubs over his chin, Erik’s mind was working 101 percent. Out of nowhere, his gaze shot up at her. “Has he left anything behind with you? Anything that could contain magical powers?”

Nodding, Thia pulled the heart locket attached to her necklace.

“He did and told me to never remove it because it was a protective talisman.” She undid the chain and handed the talisman over to Erik. “I knew better. He was a Ralion and the moment I saw this red liquid move on the locket’s surface, I knew it was his blood. I knew it wouldn’t let me grow old as a human should.”

“And you faked ignorance.” He held it in the palm of his hand, watching as the liquid moved as if it was alive itself. She shrugged.

“I was too happy to receive such a gift from the man I loved to say anything. But I suspect he knew. Deep down, he knew.”

Erik opened the locket heart, finding a picture of his brother and Thia together while his brother held a little baby up. He smiled, closed the locket and returned it to her.

“Not only can I see how emotionally important this locket is to you but also that you do understand its value. If any vampire sets his eyes on that locket, they will certainly try to kill you for its blood.” She nodded as she placed the locket’s chain back around her neck.

“Did he ever get to meet your granddaughters?”

“Oh, yes! He met both of them but Claire was a baby back then so she will probably not remember him.” She lifted an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Just curious.” He smiled. “Did he leave anything behind for them?”

Thia pondered in her head for a bit, holding her shin with her free hand. After a few seconds, she shook her head.

“No. He didn’t. At least, I don’t record him leaving anything to...” Her hands immediately shot up to her head as she lost her footing with the intense pain in her head. It felt like a knife stabbing her over and over again in the head. She wanted to curl up in a ball and cry. Water began building in her eyes as she closed them shut and gritted her teeth. She thought for sure that she would fall but then, she felt strong arms holding her up.

“It’s alright! I got you!” Erik kept on holding her while she tried to stop thinking of his last question. Little by little, the pain subsided as she let go of the question he had made. Lamia walked back and forth over the bench, not knowing what to do.

“I don’t believe it! He put a forgotten spell on me!”

Erik nodded slightly, bringing her near the bench to sit again. After she was seated back on the bench, he took a few steps back and moved his hand in a spiral movement in front of him. A little sprout peeked out of the soil, growing from the center of the spiral. Soon after it reached waist high, it started to elongate and thicken as small branches sprouted from its top. They spread in a circle pattern, interlacing with one another to form an exquisite, beautiful table.

Thia was still holding her head but the pain had subsided enough for her to be able to watch him build a table with awe in her eyes. Lamia was standing on her back paws while she licked her owner’s face. She patted Lamia’s soft fur, comforting her familiar.

Erik crouched to get Thia’s twisted wooden cane and placed it next to her. He took his seat again, watching her pat both her head and Lamia.

“Try not to think about the answer until I can undo the spell.”

She nodded, trying to get her breathing back to normal. Only then did she realize that she had held her breath for a good amount of time because of the pain.

Erik lifted his backpack into his lap and dug inside it, removing a tiny multicolored gem from a pouch and gingerly placing it in the middle of the table. Then he removed two white crystals and placed one in front of himself and the other in front of Thia. Placing his backpack aside on the bench, Erik moved his hand over the multicolored gem and rubbed his indexfinger and thumb together. Glowing powder fell over the multicolored gem, making it shine in a myriad of colors as it grew and shaped into a beautiful colorful teapot. He repeated the procedure over the other two gems and again, Thia saw them shape into delicate crystal teacups. She was mesmerized by the beauty of the little items.

“You should drink some tea.” He dug inside his backpack one more time and removed some herbs, placing them inside the teapot and swirling it as if there was water in the teapot. “It will help you rid the remaining headache.” He poured the tea for Thia first then to himself, placing the teapot back on the table.

Thia whispered a ‘thank you’ and took the teacup to sip on. They drank the tea in silence.

“As you might have noticed, the magical signature was just one of the reasons why I came over here today. Tell me, was your daughter born with magical affinity?” Thia slightly shook her head while she sipped the tea again. It tasted flowery with a hint of cinnamon in it and something else that reminded her of honey. The first sip she had taken had immediately helped her with her headache, almost completely eradicating it.

“No. We thought it was strange since we both had magic but we never felt any magic affinity within Diane.”

“It’s indeed strange but it can happen sometimes. On rare occasions, the magical affinity can jump a generation. Especially if the parents’ magical affinity is in different levels of strength. In your case, even if I can see that you’re a powerful witch, your magic affinity is considerably weaker than mine or my brother’s.”

“Yes, I know. We thought it would finally show up on Diane’s children.” She paused and poured more tea for Erik and herself. He nodded a thank you, crossing his legs while lifting the teacup to his lips. “After Clarisse and Claire were born, we kept on checking their magical affinity but neither one of us could detect anything. There were simply no sparks. Nothing!”

“I couldn’t feel anything coming from Claire either.” He said, placing the teacup down on the table with a pensive look on his face.

“You’ve met Claire!” She asked.

“Yes. When I had to treat a werewolf pup that had fought with…”

“Caio.” She completed his sentence, drawing him from his thoughts and earning an inquisitive look from him. “I heard Caio had a fight with… was it Cedrick? Think that’s the pup’s name.” She sipped on her tea one more time, letting out a sigh of relief after her headache stopped. “I get it now. You’re the doctor that all the supernaturals rely on when they get injured. Have you met Clarisse?”

“Nahh. Haven’t gotten the pleasure of meeting her yet but I heard she’s dating Richard.”

Thia smirked but didn’t say anything.

“So, other than figuring out the magic surrounding my house, what else got you so interested to come over here? I doubt the house alone would have made you take the risk.”

Erik blinked, taking a few minutes before he leaned forward to pour himself another cup of tea and sip on it. His expression was serious, she could see that whatever he was about to say was important.

“Are you aware that Caio cannot tell when Claire is gonna die?”

Thia didn’t seem surprised by the news. She kept on sipping on her tea, eyeing him before placing the teacup on the table.

“Well, she is a direct descendent of a Ralion but she has no magic affinity so that’s impossible!”

“That’s what is making it all the more interesting for me. He cannot tell when a Ralion will die because we are technically immortals. We don’t get sick but we can die from certain very rare and specific things like a vampire’s bite. At the end of the day, Claire is still a simple human with no magic whatsoever.”

The silence of the night took over. The symphonic stridulations of the crickets mixed together with the hoots of a nearby owl and the murmuring of the wind blowing gently over the forest’s vegetation. In addition, the wind blowing over the calm lake surface caused many ruffling fluctuations over the surface of the lake to splash gently on the shore, making the boat swing ever so gently against the jetty to create light thuds every now and then. The gears in their heads turned as they listened to the diversity of sounds that nature was providing them with while trying to solve that mystery.

*Knock knock*

“Granny? Are you inside?”

The teenager’s voice brought them back to reality and they both jumped up from their seats, turning toward the window where Blue and Lamia had their confrontation earlier.

“It’s Claire! I have to go.” She whispered, not removing her gaze from the window.

“Go! I will return another day to remove the spell my brother cast on you. We might get some answers to why he did so.”

“Please, do, deary. And next time, use the front door. That way, we don’t have to hide like two teenagers that have done something they shouldn’t.

Erik smiled, chuckling softly while he slowly turned his gaze to Thia.

“I sure will! I would love to get to know my brother’s family but it might be better to keep that a secret for now.” That got a smile out of Thia, that turned to face him, nodding in approval.

“I understand, deary.” She hit the ground with her cane, disappearing from right in front of him and reappearing inside her room, where she waved to him. Lamia, who had jumped over her owner’s shoulders right before Thia disappeared, jumped down from Thia to the window sill and went to lay down.

Erik flashed one last smile to his sister-in-law and turned to leave with a blue bunny perched over his shoulders.

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