In light of Karin’s continued silence and apparent inner struggle, Haven was forced to speak again “so, is the plan to murder me the very moment that Sean steps off of the boat, or do I have some sort of grace period before my own childe attempts to end me?” he asked, his tone sharpened by his emotions more than he had meant for it to be.
Karin let out another heavy sigh in response to his question “I don’t know what to tell you, Haven. You told me to pretend to be still doing Baron’s bidding, and so I have, for thirty years. For thirty years I’ve been telling him that I’m making you fall in love enough to give me the throne. But it’s been those thirty years and I am still not your heir. He’s obviously run through the last bit of patience he ever had for this plan” she finished with an obvious defeat to her tone.
“I do believe the plan was to pretend to be Baron’s creature until we could defeat him” he corrected, though quietly.
“Well, obviously you’re never going to be able to defeat him” she returned in the same quiet tone, shrugging slightly to accent the statement.
Haven narrowed his eyes over at her upon hearing that particular statement pass her lips, and with a decided lack of emotion to it. He was quiet another long moment “when Sean contacted me, and told me of your ‘invitation,’ he said he had to sort out his affairs in London before he could make any move to return. Have you heard anything more from him about when, and if” he had to add “he is actually planning to make this journey?”
“No, I haven’t actually spoken to Sean at all” Karin admitted.
“You haven’t?” Haven asked as he turned his eyes back to her once more.
“No, I spoke to Claire. She is the one who passed the message to Sean” she allowed.
“Claire?” Haven repeated “the same Claire you staked because her husband loved her more than you?” he had to throw out that reminder simply for the sake of gauging her reaction to it.
As suspected, Karin did flinch at his words “Awsha did that, not me” she managed as her only response.
“Of course” Haven replied with an almost tangible sarcasm “but it’s still a rather odd choice for you to contact her instead of your…. Awsha’s brother” he corrected himself with the same sarcasm.
Karin looked down with another sigh “it’s easier for me to break into Claire’s mind than Sean’s. Plus, I don’t know if the illusion of Karin would hold up through telepathic communication. It would be harder for Claire to discover my true identity than it would be for Sean to” she admitted quietly.
Haven just shook his head once more “it’s amazing how you’ve gotten to the point where you refer to yourself as Karin in one sentence and Awsha in the next. Thirty years may be a bit long to play act the same role. You just may develop a rather shattered psyche if you keep up this act for too much longer” he warned her in a tone that was difficult to tell whether he was offering her a serious appraisal or simply trying to shake her.
Karin just shook her head in angry frustration “seriously, what do you want me to do? I tried the more palatable plan and you’ve refused to make me heir until he’s defeated. He’s obviously going to try to force the issue in another way after this long. Seriously, what else would you have me do?” she asked him desperately.
“Again, the deal was that you help me defeat Baron to gain your own freedom from him” he reminded her again.
Karin just scoffed “it’s not possible” she stated, her voice breaking as much as she felt her mind was about to “if you were smart you’d just give up” she sniffled as red tears began trying to force their way to the surface.
“Give up?” Haven repeated, even his eloquence failing to find any more words to add to that response.
“Just give up and give me the throne. You’ll never be able to take him on. You’re better off just surrendering the throne to him willingly” she whispered “and at least then I wouldn’t have to continue to endure this game any longer” she added as she propped her elbows on the table, hiding her face in her hands, making it obvious how broken she had become by trying to serve two very different masters and for so long.
Haven watched his so obviously broken childe for several long moments, thinking on her words. After what felt like eternity, he spoke “the ironic part is that, like Sean, I’ve never particularly wanted the throne either” he admitted quietly.
That did cause Karin to look back at him with another sniffle “then what’s the problem?” she pleaded “name me heir. Let me give him the throne. And then go on your merry way back to England to be with your preferred childe” she sniffled again “it’s the only way to keep anyone else from dying; yourself included” she added with the same desperation. After all, if she could find any way to get the throne for Baron at all, she would still be fulfilling her now blood bound duty to him.
Haven couldn’t help a slight scoff, sad though it was “is that what you honestly believe would happen?”
“If we just gave him the throne then…”
“If I gave a Setite my throne, do you honestly believe no one else would die?” another scoff “you can’t possibly be that naïve, childe” he shook his head sadly over at her. Karin simply closed her eyes against more tears, rather than offering any further argument “he would murder every single one of us. He would probably even send his minions to London just to make sure there wouldn’t be any threats to his claim in the future. He would take the power we handed him and use it to destroy each and every one of us; and probably every mortal in the settlement as well. It’s what his kind do. It’s their raison d’etre. You have to realize that by now” Haven sadly shook his head once more “if I were to just give up the throne that I don’t particularly want anyway; I would not only be giving in to accepting my own death, but also yours, and Sean’s, and Claire’s, and everyone who I’ve ever cared about. Anyone who you’ve ever cared about. And you know it. Is that what you honestly believe that I should do?”
“I don’t know what else we can do” Karin whispered, burying her face in her hands once more, as another red tear made its way down her cheek.
It did take a few weeks after Karin had mentally contacted Claire before she and Sean were finally able to gain an audience with London’s current Prince Hollister. Upon arriving at his castle, they were shown in to see him fairly quickly, though Hollister did already have other company with him when they arrived in his throne room.
“Sean and Claire Beringer” Hollister greeted them with a smile as he turned away from his current companion, who was a tall, thin, dark-haired man who was just as attractive, if not more so, than Hollister himself “it’s been what? Twenty-five years?” he asked as he approached them with an offered hand, the other man following a few paces behind Hollister as he appeared to be sizing up the new arrivals as he drew nearer.
“Prince Hollister” Sean greeted him as he took his hand, his pale blue eyes moving to their Prince’s still silent companion.
“I do apologize that it’s taken me so long to meet with you. It’s been a bit busy here with my brother visiting” Hollister told him as his eyes moved to his companion on the last word.
“Brother?” Claire repeated as she looked up at the other man who did manage the faintest smile as he bowed his head in greeting.
“This is Griffyn’s first childe, Lemuel” Hollister made the introduction.
“Pleased” Lemuel greeted them with the slightest trace of a French accent as he reached for Sean’s hand.
“Griffyn’s first childe?” Sean repeated as he shook the other man’s hand, his eyes moving over him once more, obviously affected by the magnetism all elder Kindred emanated to even other Kindred, especially those younger.
“Yes, he actually would most likely be your current Prince if he hadn’t already been busy running Paris” Hollister smiled over at Lemuel who stood a couple inches taller than Hollister’s own 5’10”, though still a tiny bit shorter than where Sean usually towered over most other men at 6’4”. Though despite that difference in stature, Sean and Claire both found themselves more affected by Lemuel’s majesty than even Hollister’s.
“You’re the Prince of Paris?” Claire spoke to him, though in a tiny voice.
“Coupable” Lemuel returned with another smile from behind those impossibly dark eyes. Though when he saw the questioning looks on both she and Sean’s faces, his smile deepened as he translated “guilty.”
Claire allowed a small laugh as Sean simply smiled “pleasure to make your acquaintance” she offered with a slight curtsy.
Then Sean spoke again “I’ve heard your name before, haven’t I?”
“’Tis quite possible” Lemuel affirmed “I have been alive since the 14th century after all” he stated with another faint smile, his accent becoming even clearer the more words he graced them with.
Sean and Claire paused at that a moment, though it wasn’t that terribly surprising, considering how old Griffyn was. Sean then spoke again “I remember now; you’re Prince Marcus’ sire.”
“Guilty again” Lemuel confirmed.
“Well, that’s quite the coincidence, considering the reason we needed to see Hollister” Sean returned with his own faint smile.
“Meaning?” Hollister asked as he and Lemuel both awaited that answer.
“Lemuel’s grandchilde is the one who has actually contacted us, requesting that we return to America” Sean offered the briefest explanation.
“My whom?” Lemuel asked before Hollister offered any response of his own.
“Marcus’ childe, Karin” Claire answered for her husband.
Lemuel looked a bit perplexed by that statement “and did this ‘Karin’ say when it was exactly that Marcus embraced her?”
“I think she said 1700, didn’t she?” Claire offered, looking up at Sean for confirmation.
“Ninety years ago?” Hollister interjected as he and Lemuel looked at each other with the same question in both of their dark eyes.
“You two seem a bit… surprised by that information” Sean stated, easily catching their expressions even though he had no hope of deciphering either’s auras or thoughts, considering how very much older they each were than him.
“Well, if my childe embraced this girl nearly a century ago” Lemuel shook his head “he’s never mentioned her to me; which would be rather odd.”
“Or to me” Hollister added, his brow creased warily “and you said that she is the one who asked you to return home?”
Sean and Claire then turned to each other, the same questioning look on both of their faces now before Sean spoke again “yes she did, but when I contacted Haven about it; he still seemed to believe that Karin was who she said she was.”
“Well, he may very well believe her. News does travel rather slowly from the colonies; sorry states” Hollister corrected himself, as now all thirteen colonies were indeed being considered states “so he may be out of contact with Marcus unless he had some reason to speak with him in recent nights” Hollister finished.
“So you two don’t think that she is who she says she is?” Sean asked for clarification, a slight stammer to his voice, considering the very real danger Haven had been in for a very long time already.
“Well, she may be, but I would have to advise asking Marcus that to find out for certain. And sooner than rather than later” Hollister added as Lemuel nodded his agreement.
“I’ll contact Marcus. My bond is strongest to him” Lemuel offered as he moved out of the room to do just that.
“Ok, I’m even more beyond worried about us leaving Haven behind now” Sean stated quietly to Claire.
“Let’s at least wait until Lemuel confirms this girl’s identity before jumping to too many conclusions just yet” Hollister offered, though he also looked toward the door Lemuel had just exited through, his concern apparent then as well.
“And if she’s not who she claims to be?” Sean asked.
“Then we will definitely need to inform my childe right away” Hollister added, his worry for Haven obvious then as well. Though Sean had a feeling it would be even more apparent if Hollister knew of the prophecy he and Claire knew of.
As impossible as it was for anyone in the room to get a read on the eldest among them, Lemuel; when he returned, his mood was obvious. He somberly looked down as he joined the three of them once more “Marcus knows no such woman” he confirmed sadly, causing what little color Sean and Claire had to drain from their cheeks.
“So who is she then?” Sean asked shakily.
“Something I also would be very curious to find out” Hollister added in some combination of anger, sadness and worry for the well-being of his first made childe.