Back in the Realm of the Mortals, in The Crossbreed Land, Daphne arrived home. A modest wood construction included two rooms, with only one bathroom, a small kitchen, and a living room. Its decoration was based on simplicity. There was nothing warm about it, nothing to indicate that it was a family home. She didn’t really care about decorating a place that didn’t feel like hers, and she barely lived in it. Her brother James cared much less, and it was not because he was indifferent. It was merely because he was a man interested in everything that Mortals could offer him.
James’ age stopped that year, at the exact moment when she made that deal. However, now, instead of looking sickly, James looked full of life. Despite her emotional exhaustion and the external coldness she showed to hide it, she was still happy because she had him. After all, she was a creature capable of sacrificing everything in the name of love. And without expecting to receive anything in return.
Daphne shed her still wet clothes, filling the tub with hot water and soap, creating a white foam that concealed her figure.
With her hands resting on the edge of the tub, she closed her eyes, just for a while.
“Well, well.” The female voice alarmed Daphne, dropping drops of water from the bathtub.
“Maret, it’s not appropriate for you to just show up.” Daphne looked at her, furious. What she hated most was someone showing up unexpectedly like that. Demons, like Maret, believed that a being as insignificant as she did not possess the privilege of privacy.
“I don’t take orders from mortals,” Maret stressed once again. Her green eyes and red hair in a braid and her black leather trousers and the corset that held her long-sleeved blouse made her look somewhat intimidating. You could not say that Maret was a dazzling woman, but she was pleased enough to the eye.
“Why did you come here?”
“Rothvaln wants you to wear this for the Ball” Maret dropped the dress on top of an old wooden chair near the sink. Daphne knew that not only did she hate her for being a mortal. But because in her eyes, Rothvaln favored Daphne over his own kind.
Maret made fun of such a word and disappeared, leaving Daphne alone once more.
James returned after a while. Dressed in a pair of light blue jeans and a white shirt, moving with confidence. Despite his almost eighteen-year-old appearance, he possessed such maturity that simple mortals could often be astonished to hear him speak.
A tea kettle with boiling water brought James to the kitchen, where his sister, dressed in a satin dressing gown garnished with white flowers and shades of green, was standing, preparing a cup of tea with milk, and take an open packet of sweet biscuits from the cabinet.
“Oh, you’re back at last. Do you want tea?”
“No, thanks. How did it go this time?” James asked her, following her to the square table with two chairs that occupied a small space in the living room near one of the windows.
James was always aware of all of his sister’s assignments. That has always been the promise between the two. Even if he could not go to her if something happened, at least he would know where to start looking in case she needed help.
“The same as always,” Daphne said with indifference. Biting a biscuit piece and taking the white cup with yellow flowers to her lips, sipping the delicious hot liquid.
“Are you okay?” Her brother grabbed one of the biscuits, looking into her eyes as she chewed. The sun of the last days of the summer illuminated the surface of the table.
“Mmm,” Daphne managed to say, leaning her back on the chair, staring at the cup, self-absorbed.
“Has Rothvaln said anything else to you?” James knew perfectly well Rothvaln’s interest in his sister. It was precisely he who realized from the very first moment, when Rothvaln appeared in the house looking for her, with the excuse of going to a demonic banquet. Which King would look for his servant personally to take her to a feast?
“Yes, but not in the way you might think.”
“Another task then?”
“Yes, only this time, I must go to the Land of the Lycans.”
“Eve told me that Darious and Elenor’s daughter is the Luna Queen.”
“Oh, is that so? Who is Nala or Maeve?”
“I think it’s the younger one, Nala. What will you do there this time?”
“I have to meet the Luna” Daphne took another sip. “Give a message to Nala,” she emphasized.
“Be careful then. Not only will you have the King of the Lycans at her side, but her father will be there too. And from what I hear from Eve, Queen Luna is now also the Master of Shadows.”
“Yes, I know. Do not worry. I’ll just go and say hello on behalf of Rothvaln. Where is Eve anyway?”
“Last night, she left again. She said she would be back in five days.”
“Where did she go this time?”
“To the usual place.”
Daphne sighed. As much as she enjoyed talking to James, Eve was her closest friend. She was full of a passion for life that Daphne herself had forgotten. And it wasn’t that Daphne was tired of living for so many years. No, simply when you take away so many souls, you see the meaning of existence in another way. Life no longer has that mystery; curiosity no longer exists. Dreams stop being dreamt. Life becomes a mirror, where you only observe the other side and with only one mission: to eliminate it.
Eve was the only one who knew about her emotions and concerns. But knowing her, her friend would disappear for days or even months, looking for the answers she had needed for so long and still couldn’t get.
Daphne got up from her chair, gave her brother a kiss on the cheek. “I am happy to come home once again. I’ll sleep for a while”.
“Have a good rest.”
The next day, Daphne spent her time in the comfort of her home with James. Playing cards and talking about how times have changed. Imagining what life would have been like if Agate or Rothvaln had never appeared on her path. And speaking of Agate, once again, they both wondered where the witch had ended up. After Daphne and her brother began to live a new life, the old woman disappeared without a trace, leaving only the ring with the grotesque stone and a note next to the object, with her name on it.
That night Daphne sat on her front porch. The round, silvery moon was completely full, leaving a trail of faint glow around her. She just closed her eyes, sighing deeply. She believed that she would find the calm that her soul so desperately needed, which was forbidden to her. She had never lied to herself. She was happy in a way, glad to have her brother, to have lived all these years with him. But she knew that only those years were borrowed, there was no eternity in them, one day James would not be by her side anymore. And although her brother was aware of this, he was grateful. And Daphne was too, except that deep down, she wanted more.
She wanted to love, to love as a woman loves a man. To experience the passion she had seen in many. Would it be too much to ask? Could you call her greedy for wanting to live and know what it is to be in love? She would never know that because she knew that would not happen. In this world, what man would want a woman like her? A soulless woman who takes lives. A woman who has lost her ability to connect with the world over time. A woman who, even if she seemed to be graceful and self-confident, was nothing more than an empty shell inside.
The night of the Ball arrived. Daphne fits perfectly into the grey and silver embroidered fabric with a dramatic off-shoulder neckline and long open sleeves. A tight bodice, a zip closure at the back, and a trumpet skirt with a sweep train finish. Looking at herself in the mirror, she didn’t doubt for a second that Rothvaln had chosen this dress personally for her. The man had been envisioning her for years, longing for her from a distance.
With the power that Rothvaln had granted her, Daphne was transported to the Kingdom of the Lycans. At the same main entrance, everyone passed by without a care in the world. Daphne scanned around her. No guards were guarding the main door. Instead, she saw shadows moving all over the place.
I guess they belonged to Queen Luna, she thought for a moment. And without waiting for another second, she just walked in, following the guests.
The Castle was undoubtedly imposing. Not only its structure but the decorations also made it look charming in some way. She had now reached the Hall, where the celebration was taking place.
Daphne couldn’t help but feel out of place, everyone looking happy, celebrating that their sovereigns would soon have their offspring. And she? She was only here for one more quest. A mission she had no idea it was about. Greet the Queen? She didn’t believe for a second that that was the reason for being here. Something was going on between Luna and Rothvaln.
Soon, King Alaric and his Queen, Nala, arrived at the center of the room to open the Ball. Everyone could see the happiness in their faces. No one could deny the love that the Lycan had for his wife when his eyes shone with deep admiration. And Nala could only answer him with the same glow and with a smile that reflected absolute devotion.
Daphne stayed a moment, watching the radiant couple. The music was perfect for the occasion, each of the couples began to dance. She patiently waited for the Queen to finish her dancing. Then she slowly began to approach, avoiding the lascivious glances of some guests. Nala spotted her instantly, holding her gaze.
“Queen Luna, Master of Shadows, my congratulations,” She gestured to Nala’s pronounced belly. Daphne gave her a sincere smile.
“Thank you. What’s your name?” Nala frowned in surprise. She had never seen this woman before.
“My name is Daphne Brooks. I came because Rothvaln asked me to.”
Daphne was startled by an animal growl. King Alaric immediately appeared, wrapping one of his arms around Nala’s waist.
“What does that son of a bitch want now?” Alaric asked with hostility. And Daphne tried to calm down a bit. No doubt, this man possessed brutal strength. She didn’t think she would come out alive in a fight with him.
“Let’s talk better in private,” Nala said, soothing her mate. Shadows wrapped the three of them, taking them to the King’s studio.
“Please sit down,” Nala asked her politely, although her face was severe. “Now tell me what message do you have for me?”
“I have no specific message. Rothvaln only asked me to come and give you his regards.” Daphne responded with the truth. There was no reason for her to lie.
“Only that?” Alaric asked this time, more calmly, but you could still see the tense muscles in his face.
“Yes. I’m very sorry to have interrupted you at your celebration. I came only because Rothavln asked me to.”
Nala and Alaric looked at each other. Knowing Rothvaln’s real motive, Nala turned around again, facing her.
“Thank you for the message. I would like to invite you to stay for the party, but as you can see, King Lycan is not very pleased that you are here. And honestly, I’d prefer you to leave before something worse happens.” Daphne could sense a note of apology in Nala’s eyes when there was only hostility in Alaric’s face.
Without saying another word, Daphne stood up and left. There was no need to talk anymore. Obviously, her presence was no more than a hindrance, and the last thing she wanted was to upset the King of all Lycans and the Master of Shadows. She was not offended by Nala’s words. She simply understood her concern. In her place, she would have done the same.