Chapter Fourteen: He Who Was Crowned King
“Do not, welcome home me. This has not been my home, ever since I found out what you were doing all those centuries ago. And no look what you have brought, destruction as plain as day” Ida spat her feet already pulling her closer to the steps to the stone steps to the throne.
Kaydence knew she was glaring fiercely, there wasn’t much time where she wasn’t in all honesty, but the man her eyes dug into he had to admit looked relatively healthy considering the environment he lived in and if he dared to say, quite handsome in some respects.
“Destruction? No, no, no” Vasilios tutted, a sly smirk unwinding “I have bettered these lands, I rule over a place that needs no sunlight nor water to survive. You could say it is self-sufficient,” he said nonchalantly as if having had the same conversation time and time again.
“Everything is dying or already dead, there’s a reason why nothing needs basic things to survive” Evan stated bravely, Kaydence was more than happy to stay silent and let the debate between Ida and the mysterious man run its course.
“It may look like that to you, boy. However, that is simply because all of your eyes are blind to the new life force I have created.”
“New life force? How?” Ida uttered exasperatedly.
“The tree you all so sacredly worship provides energy, clean and pure life to all five realms, or so it did before its downfall. I, unlike the others, found a way to manipulate such power and combine it with my own, it is far more powerful than I anticipated. Yet, not unusable.”
Ida’s feet stepped back, her hands squeezed into fists of pure range “Dark magic! You dare defile the life force of mother for your own gain? What purpose could possibly compel you to believe there’d be no consequences or punishments for your actions?!
“A breed of life” he whispers, his voice being carried through the room like a deep echo as it reverberated off of the walls and amplified for them all to hear.
Above their heads, they were alerted to at least half a dozen cages, all-metal and rusted matching the rest of the place.
Within them writhed, bird-like creatures all of which were flapping and screaming with shrill squeals through the bars.
From where he stood, Kaydence could distinctly make out the bulbous, tumorous growths that entirely disfigured the animals, the only reason he thought of them as birds were because of the wings, but he wasn’t entirely sure anymore especially because of the banshee-like wails.
“What have you done?” Ida muttered in bewilderment.
“I simply did what others feared, I tested the power and influence of the tree. Once mixed with the power of the dark and the dead, it produces new meaning. A new life form to take and use at will. I have, however, felt a new energy, a new presence you may say. One I have not felt for aeons, that of the Lamia Rose” he explained as if it was the simplest idea to believe.
“I cannot fathom what reasoning you had for using such dark magic, as well as necromantic magic. How dare you corrupt the very power we were created to protect and respect. You butchered the very meaning of protection!” she yelled.
Despite the anger she had shown them in the time they’d known her, never once had Ida raised her voice such as she had, it was a tone that could have rivalled even Solon.
“Are you the one responsible for poisoning the Lamia Rose?” Erabos asked.
He had been told of his father, it was something his mother thought was important for him to know because despite how she viewed him, my son deserves the choice to make what he will of his father, she would say.
Erabos never argued with her, he understood what it must have been like for her having to live with such hatred and yet keep it all withdrawn around him as to not influence his opinion, she was strong, he just wished the others understood that instead of seeing her as argumentative.
Vasilios, a seemingly arrogant man from Kaydences first impression, chose to ignore his son's question and in all his existence.
Instead, he took an interest in Mayfel’s, a spark of excitement, one might say, lit up in his serpent eyes as Mayfel asked “The creatures, the seaweed ones, you made those too?”
It seemed to feed Vasilios’ ego as he replied smugly “Impressive, aren’t they?” he claimed proudly “I named them sea wraiths, they are of my own invention. I gave life to common seaweed, which is something your sacred twig couldn’t even do, Ida”
“It is pure magic that is why and magic that should never be meddled with. You have broken the very foundations of our dimension, and the binding oath we all too to protect it. To combine it with mutilated animals as an experiment is unheard of!” she hollered, infuriated by his arrogance.
“Unheard of, yes, that was until now that is. I have something to show you all, it may help you to understand why I have done this”
“I do not trust a poisonous word that slithers from your mouth” Ida hissed, her words urged a frustrated but brief frown onto Vasilios’ lips.
“Very well, for those of you that wish to see the future, follow me” he declared rising from the throne and sauntering to a pair of doors to the left of the hall.
They swung open with a groaning creak before they connected with the walls in a deep and loud thud.
Admittedly, Kaydence was curious, but not nearly enough to defy Ida and her high temper which could result in her exploding at any second.
From what he could see, still standing before the throne, there were strands of some sort and a name plaque or at least that’s what he assumed from the shapes and colours his eyes gathered.
“Mother, we should follow”
“Absolutely not Erabos, we do not know what he has planned” she replied in a whisper.
“What else is there to do? Stand and wait for him to return? We should uncover his plans before he has a chance to implement them”
“He has a point, Ida, if we hear him out and make him trust us it’ll make killing him a lot easier” Kaydence observed, breaking eye contact with the next room.
“If anything happens to me or my son, I am holding you solely responsible Kaydence Harkhallow”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way” he muttered with a sigh.
“After you then” she urged.
Rolling his eyes, Kaydence followed by Mayfel, Fraya and Evan, lead the way into the connecting hall.
It was much bigger than the previous, laying host to numerous display cases and boards as well as tables with which tanks, like those they saw earlier, sat upon minus the murky waters.
Each display case showed an individual specimen, ones of true horror, the back wall, for example, held one of the Sea Wraiths they were all so well accustomed to.
It had been unfurled to its full length and width, spanning nearly the entire wall which had to have been twenty meters at least.
All of the creatures were deceased, exhibited like pinned up butterflies in a collectors study.
And in the centre of it all, in the very heart of the room was a raised stone platform, stone Balustrades surrounding its perimeter.
On climbing the few steps, Kaydence reached the top where he could observe the dead army from another perspective, not that it looked in any way less daunting.
A desk was positioned in the middle of the platform, a portable revolving blackboard was pushed to the far side with smudged scribbles and diagrams, none of which were discernable now.
Mayfel joined his side and both cast their eyes to the papers spread out on the desk, more diagrams but ones he could actually understand showed numerous of the beast, all labelled and noted with some sketches focusing solely on specific sections.
Ida out of nowhere, jerked her spear forwards bringing it to a stop just centimetres from Vasilios’ chest.
It caught Kaydence off guard along with Mayfel who seemed somewhat startled as did Erabos who clearly had nothing to do with his mothers outburst.
Vasilios, the one being threatened with a pointed weapon however hadn’t batted an eyelid at her actions “I know you plan to kill me, however, that will not prevent the disease from spreading. I am no longer in control of it, it has a will of its own”
“Then how do we stop it?” she asked edging the point closer.
“It’s simple” he began, a sly and wicked grin cracking across his face “You can’t”
His eyes flickered to the right catching Kaydence in his gaze as if registering him for the first time, his smile only grew to show off his yellowed and slightly pointed teeth.
“The Blue Angel” Vasilios whispered “Another Harkhallow”
Stepping forward dramatically in Kaydences direction and ducked under Ida’s spear as if he were about to begin ballroom dancing up the steps, he came to a stop close enough that Kaydence could smell the wretched stench of decay in his breath.
“I can see the family resemblance, a shame about your eyes though. True love and loyalty is hard to come by” he continued on, his eyes flitting to Ida briefly.
“There’s no way you could have met my brother” Kaydence assured as he watched his expressions closely in an attempt to detect deceit.
In an eruption of guffaw that resembled grinding stone, Vasilios somehow managed to respond clearly “Not your brother dear boy, I have never met him although I would not object if it gave me the chance to recruit the whole set. It is your father I am familiar with”
“Hoe do you know my father?” he said his body tensing at the mere mention of his undesirable parental figure.
“He came to me, as I recall he had just escaped and I being the good soul I am, took him in. of course Bregan wasn’t too happy to see him though”
“Bregan was here too?” Mayfel asked before Kaydence had the chance to, Vasilios knew what he was doing by bringing up those names, Kaydence could see it in the man’s observing eyes. He was looking for a reaction.
“The man wanted help. Now that he’s dead I suppose there’s no reason to keep his plans a secret, not that I would have refrained from speaking them aloud anyway. I didn’t see a point to his plans if I’m honest, eradicating the fae was a little extreme, even for me”
“Well it’s good to know you’re not trying to kill everyone,” Evan said sarcastically.
“Well, a few must die, even my plans aren’t casualty free. People fear death you see, fae and humans alike fear the unknown. Everyone expires eventually, it is the way the world works I’m afraid”
Vasilios took a seat at the wooden desk cluttered with books and papers, not to mention the odd few vials of distasteful coloured liquids.
“Bregan visited me not too long before his death, he wished to know about the Elder Book”
“What did you tell him?” Ida snapped, her foot aggressively stomping onto the first step.
“I told him the truth, perhaps not all of it although Bregan didn’t seem to figure things out too fast. I told him of the Mati and of, you” he answered.
“What do you mean?” Mayfel asked, his furrowed brows mirroring Kaydences and the others who all seemed equally as confused with Vasilios’ statement, although the scowl coupled with her deathly grip on the wooden pole of her spear that sent her knuckles pale, told Kaydence that Ida knew exactly what Vasilios was referring to.
“Oh dear, has she not told you all about her past” he tutted as he pulled a face of mock hurt as if on their behalf.
“It is my past and my right to tell”
“Do you not think it’s time they knew everything Amica mea?” he asked moving his line of vision to Erabos, finally acknowledging his presence.
The slits of his pupils thinned a degree as his gaze met Erabos’ own that held such a strong resemblance “Did you even tell our son? It is one thing to lie to your allies and keep such important things hidden, but to hide them from your child, now that is heartless. But then you always were”
“What are you talking about?” Kaydence demanded, tired of the family discussion that clearly wasn’t going anywhere.
“Ida here was a Mati member, until their downfall. She always seemed to work her way into tight-knit communities, just like the king’s family. Isn’t that right Lady Ida?” he snarkily divulged.
Her voice was hoarse and trembling when she replied “I am warning you Vasilios, that is enough”
Vasilios took no notice however, his bony finger simply gestured to Acuere peeking from beneath her cloak.
“That sword is an old one, crafted for the first king Helian himself”
Unable to resits answering Kaydence spoke up “It is mine. Ida has already explained some of its history to me”
“Oh she did, did she? Tell me boy, has she told you that the sword was given to a lady as a gift and that it in fact did not go missing?”
Clear unknowing showing on Kaydences face was enough to urge Vasilios on “A young woman, graceful, fair and ageless and King Helian’s right-hand consultant. It was an affair that shadowed the time during Amara’s pregnancy with Helian’s first child. When their son was born, however, Helian had no choice but to end the affair and as a token of his affection and love to her, he graced her with the blade. A weapon of honour and lordship given to an affair.” he began all the while his eyes trained on Kaydence who listened intently to every word that was spoken.
“The sword was passed down from parent to child until it reached the Weylin’s soon to become the Harkhallow bloodline.”
“My mother’s maiden name was Weylin, it belonged to her” Kaydence admitted solemnly.
“I am aware” Vasilios stated noting the sadness of Kaydences tone.
“You seem to know a lot about it all, do you know who Helian’s affair was? Who the sword belonged to?” Mayfel asked hoping for an answer, not entirely for Kaydence but himself also, he couldn’t deny that he was curious.
“Indeed I do. The woman is as ageless as she was back then, still so fair and graceful” he said as if lost in a wistful daydream.
All eyes fell to Ida as Vasilios reaches out a gesturing hand towards her, even Erabos’ eyes were held wide.
“That’s why you wanted Acuere so badly” Kaydence accused seeing no reason for it to excuse her for taking it from him.
Hearing the distaste in his voice Ida attempted to relate with him, although she had an inkling it wouldn’t make a difference “It means as much to me as it does to you”
“You had your time with it, my mother passed it to me. I plan to keep the tradition going”
“That is enough!” she hollered, her suspicions coming true “Vasilios you had no right in telling them that. I have had many children in my lifetime, what has become of one bloodline means nothing to me so whatever reasoning you had other than spite for revealing such private things is beyond me”
“I do have a right, afterall you became pregnant with Helian’s child and not only deceived Queen Amara but me also. Clearly, unfaithfulness runs in your family Ida” he said peering into her eyes although she was quick to break eye contact.
“Stop attempting to walk in my mind”
Grunting in reply he cast his eyes to the rest of the group, one by one his calculating eyes scrutinised them halting on Fraya slightly longer than the rest but soon his eyes made another pass as he said a name they were all familiar with “Rena”.
He observed the reactions, seeing the way some shuffled onto their other foot, how others looked to a wall of the floor, even how one couple joined hands in comfort.
“She was another bloodline descendant of yours was she not? And yet you never told her, that was a bit cruel even for you Ida”
“As I said, I have no interest in my descendants. There are too many to cunt by now and they have all grown plain with the rest of humanity”
“You recognised her, didn’t you? When we first arrived in Mater Arbor, you knew who she was and you didn’t say anything” Mayfel uttered exasperatedly, bringing his fist down onto the wooden workbench sending a pencil clattering to the floor.
His trembling voice rattled off of the walls as he all but screamed out the rest of his thoughts “You could have saved her! If you would have told her, treated her like family and kept her close, she would never have done what she did!” his throat grew raw like the emotions he wore across his face. Grief and agony.
Ida was quick to raise a hand that sent a gust of wind sweeping across the desk, it snatched the papers and guided them through the air around Mayfel, one catching his cheek leaving a red trail that soon beaded with minute red dots.
“Do not blame me for the death of your friend. Telling her any of it would not have changed her fate-”
“She wouldn’t have felt so alone when she was running and fighting for her life. I hurt her, but you never even let her know and now she will never know” he barked before storming from the room with no idea where he was headed.
Kaydence stood still, unsure whether to follow or stay.
It was hard to make a decision when Mayfel lost his nerve or lashed out, it could go either way when trying to console him and calm him down.
“What happened to Helian’s and your child?” Evan asked from the silence.
Speaking for Ida seeing as she made no advances to speak for herself Vasilios answered his question “Ida gave it up for adoption, she left it in a human orphanage and from there it was lost with time. But Ida never completely let go, even when she fell pregnant with Erabos”
“And you stayed? Even though you found out about the affair?” Fraya asked.
“Love makes one do ridiculous things. And promises, no matter how empty, are a perfect form of persuasion in times of conflict or hurt”
Her voice blooming from a mutter, Ida collected herself “You also betrayed us, you grew mad with power and the words from the pages of the books your eyes never left”
“I have lived for centuries upon centuries, even before you yourself came into existence. Love in my mind is brief whereas power and the possibilities for my power are endless, limitless and constantly evolving.”
“Wait, what does this all mean exactly?” Kaydence questioned hoping to grasp some idea of the power they were dealing with.
Vasilios and Ida both turned to him and expressions he wasn’t familiar with were written across their faces, the first similarity they shared so far other than their hatred for the other. “I’m related to Ida and she was a Mati member? You lied to us all the entire time”
“You may see it as a lie, but nothing I have kept from you wouldn’t have changed anything had I told you all. I was a Mati member, yes, but I never set eyes on the Elder Book and as for our relation, It is a very distant connection”
“And I’m connected to the king too?”
“Very much so, as well as your dear brother. Both of you have a right to the throne.”
“You’re lying” Kaydence uttered baffled.
“I have no reason to. Now if you are all done chitchatting, I would like to sit down for a meal. I have a guest arriving soon that I would like for you all to meet”.