A/N - When things are written like this in this chapter, it is a memory or flashback
Also, 2 reminders:
1 - Malcolm’s gifts include foresight and shapeshifting. I know people always forget so I’m just putting it here.
2 - For those with Patreon, please do not reference any of the new information from the Kalem gets jealous extra in Master comments. PLEASE. I uploaded a post explaining why, so please read it before you read this chapter.
“The castle will be full in a week’s time if things continue at this rate, but it’s for the best,” Malcolm says beside me, keeping his tone hushed while he eyed me as I did the map, “we need to get a better handle on the ground situation before we are overpowered.”
“I agree,” Alexander adds from my left, her stance firm as always. “We’ve bolstered our numbers as best as we can, it is time to take the fight to them.”
“We’ve secured a blood flow strong enough to support us a decade if the war came to that. The castle is barricaded as is all the land under our clan’s name now,” Malcolm continues, his breaths hasty with his insistence, “we are ready to face them Lincoln.”
I could feel their eyes on me, all of their eyes on me, - Malcolm, Alexander, the elf, and the rest of my council; Fae, Sterling, and Karios - but I kept my focus on the piece of cartography before me.
It was vast and compact all at once.
Wequie steps closer, sliding into the conversation as he leans against the nearest wall, “it would give us better standing amongst the few remaining clans to see that we’re making proper, enforced moves.” He adds thoughtfully, “It displays power and confidence, two things that would make them more inclined to support us.”
The remaining members of my council, all hum their agreement, adding words of wisdom before they quiet once more and wait for my response.
I was focused on the map, this map of this world that was so... underwhelming.
Everything was smaller now.
I’d realized time ago that the world, this planet of ours, was beginning to feel smaller. Almost as if it was caving in but I hadn’t truly taken notice of that feeling until now.
Time ago, when I stood before this map, it was like I was examining the entire universe instead of just one planet. Earth had felt massive initially, with so many places to see and things to discover.
That was before the lines had been drawn all over it, creating borders made of greed.
And now... now, it all seemed so small.
Smaller still with all the dotted areas that marked Diablos’ territories. I knew he’d expanded his reach, I just never realized by how much.
The little red pins that littered every inch of the map showed his reign, his terror, in full and he was quite literally everywhere. In every continent, in every city, town, and crevice, his mark on this world was a bone-deep one.
“We’ve grown from where you left us. We are far stronger than you can imagine, the deals we share run deep, the path we’ve dug for ourselves through the mud will not be washed away.”
There was much truth to Diablos’ rambles after all.
“I’ve examined every scenario and every outcome I could see,” Malcolm presses with unwavering confidence, “we can plan for everything, as we always have, we will still win this.”
“I know,” I say immediately because I could never be doubtful about that.
I had, in fact, agreed with everything they’d said, to the letter. I was of the same mind... it was just that something was making me feel uneasy.
I didn’t know what it was, whether it was just a feeling, instincts, or paranoia, but there was something inside of me that recommended patience.
“Then what is it suckling,” the wench drawls from somewhere in the room, “your silence is hardly inspiring.”
I don’t bother glaring at the elf, his existence was insulting enough.
“Lincoln,” I finally look away from the map of our coming battlegrounds and to Malcolm stood, where there was confidence before, there was now worry as well, “why are you hesitating now? When we’ve come so far?”
“It is just...” I take a breath, “I feel as if this is all too easy,” I confess to the room, causing several pairs of eyes to widen all around.
“Easy?” Malcolm repeats with only confusion now and a deep frown to support it.
“Have you forgotten all the hunts we’ve been on?” Wequie asks disbelievingly, no longer leaning on the wall he stared at me with his hands gripping his cocked hips, “or all the times we’ve had to put lives on the line to build this clan, ours included?”
“The negotiations,” Karios supplies.
“The secrecy,” the plank of wood includes unhelpfully.
“It has not been easy,” Malcolm concludes for the group.
“But it hasn’t been hard either,” I reply gently, knowing they were rightfully tired of remaining relatively stagnant, “we’ve put lives on the line, yes, but we haven’t lost any,” I point out with a glance at Wequie, “we’ve had to be exceptionally smart with our negotiations and careful with who we allow in, but we’ve weeded out all the bad fruit so far.”
Weeded was a very nice way of putting beheading.
“It’s been challenging, yes, I admit that. But in the same breath, tell me you don’t find it all not nearly as challenging as it should be.”
When only silence follows after my words, I relax in my place, satisfied to know that I was making some measure of sense.
“So you wish to wait longer Pylen?” Sterling questions with a grimace of clear displeasure. As our appointed battle commander, I was sure that Sterling was more than tired of being stuck in the castle walls instead of being on the outskirts, slicing through our enemies.
“No,” I answer instantly, “I agree that we need to act and that we are in a good position to do so, I just think we need to be careful about it. As you all have stated, we’ve put in a great deal of work to get to this point and I won’t let it all go to waste because of negligence.”
“That is wise,” Alexander replies with a nod, “we are a smaller force, so being more careful is essential.”
“Aye,” Sterling agrees through his thick Scottish accent.
Hums and nods of agreement come faster this time as understanding passes between us all.
“Shall Sterling and I plan the first attack?” Fae asks, her nerves only showing a bit through her words, and while she tried to hide it, it wasn’t necessary.
I’d picked Fae because she was tactical as she was kind, she was the heart needed in war rooms to ensure that darkness and violence didn’t reign unprovoked.
“That won’t be necessary,” I state as I take a step closer to the map, “I’ve already made one.”
Bodies moved in blurs of color all around me, the silver sheen of weaponry mixing into the colorful display mostly made of reds.
I hadn’t seen blood shed quite so fiercely in nearly a millennium.
My eyes move faster than them, my body dormant everywhere but there as I try to pluck out those who weren’t mine and cast them aside or force them into the incoming fangs of my clan’s warriors.
It was hard to distinguish the enemy in the darkness and even harder through Lyrra which was supposed to be clear in this. Instead, I could barely identify which were my own with how many vampires fought before me.
Over a hundred if I had to guess and increasing by the minute as Diablos’ spawn came rushing out of the Jefra Stronghold we were attacking.
I turn, letting my back face the map so I could look at my council, “We’ll start with the strongholds.”
“Pylen,” Sterling inserts quickly, his downcast eyes showing his resistance despite how he tried to lower himself to the floor with a bow, “I would advise against such action. The strongholds are nearly impervious and house the most well-trained figures in Diablos’ armies.”
“Which is exactly why we’re casting them out first, we need them gone to better tip the scale of things in our direction.” I draw my figures to the strongholds closest to us, the ones on this side of the globe: Jefra, Phione, Lupin, Progin, and Wed.
“By crossing out the pillars, we force their remaining forces to converge at the smaller outposts, they’ll be ill-prepared for larger figures and that will leave them scattered when we wipe those out after.”
I pluck the pins of the strongholds out before gesturing to the outposts that were littered everywhere, “without enough blood, they’ll be weaker when we hit them right after, making it easier to finish off those who don’t immediately drawback to what we will certify is where they’ll make their last stance.”
“Please do not tell me you want to drive them, and by extension, us into the devil’s bed,” Malcolm groans with the audible exhaustion of many nights to come.
I offer him a nearly conciliatory smile.
Letting my power out, I focus on the ones trying to exit the stronghold, forcing them to stay in their places and block the way of others in a barricade of flesh. We needed to deal with the ones outside now and not a second later.
When I’ve locked them into place, I take a moment to cut down a dozen and then thirty more, moving faster than they could see as I tore their heads from their frames and their lungs through their ribs.
The momentary shock of watching bodies fall suddenly in what must’ve seemed like a millisecond was the advantage my warriors needed to kill the stunted newborns.
“You weren’t supposed to do that,” Malcolm reprimands as he stops before me with a splattering of blood across his eyes.
“There weren’t supposed to be so many,” I reply in the same tone.
My order surrounds me again and I can’t hide my grimace at the feeling of being caged in.
“Don’t make that face,” Malcolm says he walks backward with a smirk, “this was your plan.”
Malcolm’s grin only lasts half a second before he morphs himself into a serpent large enough to remind me of Jörmungand. Many never saw the full capacity of Malcolm’s gift and as he reared his head back, they could only watch his snaked head peak before he struck the ground and them with venomous intent.
“Always so dramatic,”
“Starting with the strongholds is an insurance of bloodshed,” Karios inputs plainly, “their numbers will be greater and our forces may be wiped out before we’re even aware of it.”
“I’ll keep to the sidelines with my Order, and focus on breaking our enemy down for slaughter,” I reply regretfully, “I don’t need protection but I’ll need to concentrate, hence, my Order will deal with any who approach.”
“So you’ll bare their necks for us to slit?” Sterling questions hungrily.
“Quite literally, yes,”
“But the real question is, will you keep to this plan?” Wequie prompts doubtfully, “will you really just watch or will you jump in to try and do it all yourself?”
“I shouldn’t have to,”
Wequie laughs before he chirps, “That’s not a yes,”
I apparently had a hard time keeping my hands out of the dirt.
But it was my own fault for underestimating how hard it would be to mentally divide our adversaries from my own. I thought it would’ve been far easier than it was to fight the way Lyrra grouped them all together in my mind.
“It won’t be that simple,”
“What do you see?” I ask reluctantly.
Whilst Malcolm’s gifts were undeniably helpful, after a few centuries with it, it became incredibly annoying to have your plans, efforts, and wants completely struck down because he saw the outcomes it might sprout.
Rubbing at his eyes, Malcolm gives me a shrug, “a challenge of some sort, a fork in the road that’ll make it harder for you to control them. But, it won’t be impossible, it’ll just be a menace.”
“We’ll figure it out then,” I say dismissively, “as it stands, we continue onwards.”
Malcolm had warned that I would face a challenge, just as I was now, but while he didn’t know what the reason for it might be, it was embarrassingly obvious to me now. But just as I’d said when we were planning our first attack, I’d just have to figure it out.
Returning my gaze to the stone walls that made the imposing tower that was Jefra, I’m made idle for a moment as I look up at the impressive beast.
Jefra was a cylindrical fortress made of stone and infused with magic that kept it hidden from any species outside of its owner’s. Made nearly fifteen meters high when witches were the rulers of the world, Jefra was a testament to what could be done when one was left unchecked.
I’d never seen Jefra, not when the witches kept her hands at my neck. I’d been brought near it and could feel it sometimes, but I’d never seen it.
Not until today. I take it in, knocking by daybreak it would fall.
Unlocking my hold on the vampires in the doorways, I let them fall through and regain control over themselves just as my clan drove forward to meet them.
Heads fall as they rush inside, forcing their way in to finish this attack that should’ve been - and would’ve been - concluded time ago if I could only unblock this pesky mental barrier.
“I thought you’d be finished by now,”
I close my eyes and send a prayer to the Gods before I glance at Aias who stood beside me with his arms crossed while he surveyed the bloodbath before us.
“You should be in the castle, protecting Kalem and the rest of the clan,”
“And you should be returning to it, not still fighting here,” he returns without straining his gaze in my direction, “besides, my presence here does not weaken the hold I have over the castle. My barriers will hold and Kalem’s will as well, so why don’t you be useful and tell me why this is taking so long.”
Feeling a call for help through Lyrra, I strengthen the stances of my fighters, ushering them in further and faster than they probably thought capable.
“Perhaps if I weren’t being forced to listen to the whines of a rodent, we’d be progressing faster,” I muse while I plant several more of the rivaling vampires to the floor before shifting my own forward to rid them of their hearts.
“You’re staggered, slow, and more useless than normal, what is faulting you as Malcolm predicted?”
“I can’t imagine you’re beloved by your people,” I reply instead of answering him.
The needle turns to me, a smile on his lips, “on the contrary, they adore me.”
It was decided then; all elves besides Kalem were sickly creatures.
“If you need assistance from a greater being, simply say the word,” the harridan crones in my ear like an annoying parrot.
“If only I knew one,”
“This all seems like a great deal of work and a waste of time,” the elf imposes, slithering forward like the serpent he was to add his unwanted thoughts, “I’m sure if I deal with all but a few, we can speed this war up. Maybe save some lives, energy, and trouble too?”
“You believe you can take down a stronghold on your own?” Fae asks cynically.
“No, no,” Aias says quickly, his tone and expression suggesting that idea was ridiculous, “I know I can demolish them all on my own. What I am suggesting is that I leave one or two for the rest of you so it can not be said that an elf did all of the work.”
Fae blinks at him and he blinks back.
“You’ll do none of it,” I dismiss, “not until the end, you won’t play a part in this besides barricading our lands.”
“Pride is dangerous,”
“We’re dismantling one structure and for the new one to stand, it’ll need to be built on our backs alone.” I respond lazily, “we will only face judgment if we don’t fight our own battles. So what you shall do,” I say turning to face him, “is sit down and be quiet until you’re called upon, like a good dog.”
Aias’ golden eyes morph into silver hues for a moment and the lights in the room flicker for a moment before he tames himself. But that flicker of annoyance was enough to make my day.
“I live with children,” Malcolm mutters whilst nuzzling himself under the elf’s arm for pets.
Malcolm had to know he could do better...
I move forward, forgetting Aias and maneuvering through my warriors who still fought in the entryways and were only just breaking through the ground floor of Jefra. I gain only a moment to grasp the magnitude of what we were facing next before they were on us all.
My order was around me a second later, taking their stances just in time to confront the shower of vampires who jumped from the upper floors to rain down on us in their numbers.
With their fangs bared and their eyes glowing red, it was a picture of demons escaping hell.
Focusing solely on the vampires above me, I release my power and authority, latching onto them all to force their own fists through their chests, compelling them to detach their own hearts from their blood vessels.
It was a bloody execution.
Corpses slam to the floor, splattering and resting still while blood sprays down on the rest of us, wetting my skin and eyelashes with the last of their lifeline. The smell of death was poignant and the feel of life evading them sparked through me quietly as my hold on them dimmed.
What was left after that first wave was easy pickings really, my help wasn’t so desperately needed, so I let myself turn to the pesky elf I knew was standing right behind me.
Aias eyes me, completely unbothered by all the blood and gore while he stood tall and untouched as if he weren’t as thin as paper. Whatever magic he was using kept the blood from ever grazing him, ensuring that he was perfectly spotless to appear just as bored and annoyed as earlier, only now he was clearly thinking.
“You were fine in this,” he says, gesturing to the bodies, “so what was ailing you before?”
“It’s worrying how you find it acceptable to speak about such things right now,” I reply before I tap the shoulder of one of my Order before pointing towards the top floor. The woman, Alina, disappeared instantly, knowing who I sought.
“What is concerning is that you’d believe that I would ever utter a word others could hear which I didn’t intend them too,” the squid mocks, “all here who aren’t our own will be dead shortly and for the rest, they won’t be able to make sense of a word said between us if they tried.”
I’d long since given up on trying to understand the innerworkings of Elven magic.
I had too much concerning me in my life as it stood, and after watching the way Kalem and Aias moved between walls and objects with a word, it seemed like a lost cause.
“I have control over all vampires once I latch onto them,” I explain finally, giving breath to the scramble of thoughts within my head, “here, it’s become more difficult to do so with the enemy.”
“Magic?” Aias offers and I shake my head. “Something from Diablos then?”
“I don’t think so. If I’d bothered thinking about it properly, I would’ve realized that this was the first time I was fighting against my own kind at such a large number,” I reveal, watching carefully for Alina to appear amongst the chaos, “when we were enslaved, I controlled them all, and similarly, in training, I’ve controlled only those in the clan.”
“You’ve never had to control foe of your kind while they were littered amongst your own,” the elf finishes, and I nod, “you’ll need more practice then.”
“Which Kalem won’t appreciate,”
My love was not a fan of me being out here, exposed to death alongside the rest of my warriors, but by doing so, I inspired confidence so it was something I’d make common.
It was only good that Kalem had come to understand it was necessary.
“Then shall we wrap this all up so you can have that unwanted conversation a little sooner?” The piece of lead suggests just as Alina looks over the edge of the topmost floor, in her hands, the eldest vampires commanding this fortress.
I gesture for her to return and she does so hastily, appearing by my side a moment later with the two in hand.
“Dispose of the rest of them and ensure they are all truly dead, I don’t wish for a single survivor.”
My Order disperses to see my command through while I walk out the way I came, stepping over and on the deceased while I dragged the commanders of this stronghold behind me.
I find Wequie without much trouble and toss the pair at his feet where they hang limply.
“Must they always be so bloody when I get them,” Wequie complains whilst he cleans his blades before pocketing them away with his tail’s end.
“It’s war,” I deadpan and he rolls his eyes.
Lowering himself before the two, Wequie smiles sweetly and releases his pheromones to get them to talk.
Whilst he unravels their minds, I turn back to the building that was almost quiet now with only my own remaining as survivors.
The time for mercy had long since passed.
There were to be no hostages, no survivors. We’d given any outlying vampires more than enough time to side with us and if they weren’t in our clan already, then they weren’t to be spared.
“Besides some communications between themselves and other vampires, there’s not much here that we didn’t already know,” Wequie announces as he swipes his fingers through the hair of the vampire kneeling before him while he kept his foot firmly on the other’s back, “neither of them has seen Diablos or heard from him directly. It’s all a chain of command and they’re not too high up.”
“Any plan of attack?”
“They’re trying to find a way to take Aias out, but they’re lost,” Wequie supplies with a chuckle, “Diablos knows he’s the reason they can’t get anywhere near to the castle.”
“And Kalem?” I prompt, “anything with Kalem?”
“They think he’s weak, a human you’re infatuated with, and,” he stops for a moment, his easy smile dissolving as rage takes its place, “they all have orders to kill him first.”
The command didn’t come as a surprise but it didn’t make the words any less enraging to hear, the only comfort was that they didn’t know how strong my boy truly was. After months of training with me, the elf, and even Malcolm, Kalem could handle himself quite well if he ever needed to.
Any being who might try to hurt him going forth was in for a very rude awakening.
Wequie looks to me to say something, his anger for his friend clear as day, but things slow themselves down like a tape through my eyes as I watch one of the vampires begin to twist in his grasp.
The world shifts to stilted frames as I follow the way they break free from under Wequie, bringing their arm up with a hidden dagger and aiming it at his neck.
Panic wells inside of me like I’d never felt it but before I can force myself to move, to stop them, a mixture of fear and anger at losing one of my own pulls itself together in my chest and forces itself out like an expression through Lyrra.
The vampire’s hand freezes a hair’s width from Wequie’s neck and stays still for a moment before it crumples, falling limp like the rest of him does seconds before his skin wrinkles against him.
Wequie, now frozen in his place, stares at I do at the dead vampire beneath him who’d withered like a prune. His skin turns grey before us and his eyes dry out, leaving the sockets empty and droopy as he becomes this horribly sickish figure in a matter of moments.
I stand there, numb and shocked at what I’d done, what I’d never done.
And all because I’d feared losing one of my own, my friend, a member of my clan. The thought made that same harsh feeling rise inside of me as it searched for something to protect again.
Protect. I wanted to protect my clan.
That was obvious but it’d never felt like this before, never quite felt this strong in my bones as it did now, and where I should’ve felt uneased, I felt strangely more relaxed now than I had ever felt before in Wequie’s company.
“I... that was not me...” Wequie manages slowly before he glances at the vampire who still remained alive and under his control. He quickly buries a dagger in their chest and watches it take flame before he looks to me again, “that was me, but this other one..., not me.”
I step towards the pruned figure, lifting one boned arm that I barely get a chance to grasp before it decays between my fingers.
“What the actual fuck,”
“Lincoln,” I snap my eyes up to the elf who’d been following me like a pesky demon I could not shake.
“Was this you?” I ask, almost hoping he’d say yes.
“I think we all know it was not,” he replies as he steps closer to us, “I suspected you could kill them with a thought, however, I was not aware that you could force such a violently fast one on them.”
“Neither did I,”
I had killed vampires through Lyrra in the past. It wasn’t hard to send a command that forced them to not breathe or for their brains to stop receiving oxygen. But I had never in my time, forced a body to decompose in an instant.
Not until I’d been so scared of losing a member of my clan.
It was more terrifying to know that in my extensive lifetime, this was the first time I’d brushed against this gift than it was to know I feared losing Wequie at all. Especially when he was fucking immortal, but that thought hadn’t come to me when I had watched him face danger.
I could never speak such words out loud, he’d never leave my side.
The elf stares longer at the decomposed body before he raises a hand and a gust of incoming wind drags it off in broken pieces, “I’ll have a look at it,” he states as we watch it go, “maybe I’ll find out whether or not there’s any merit to you.”
Ignoring him, I refocus my attention on the job we’d come here to do.
I send a signal for everyone to get out of the building before doing a sweep of my own to ensure no one remained. I didn’t trust that there wasn’t someone lingering in the shadows, so I take my time.
When we’re all gathered outside, they all quickly find their formations once again for the journey home, before we all take one last look at Jefra.
“Bring it down,”
Malcolm moves in immediately, still in his serpent form, he wraps himself around the monstrosity from the base and moving upwards in his serpent form. He winds himself around the fortress countless times until he reaches the top.
Then he squeezes.
Like if he were suffocating his prey between his jaws, Malcolm breaks down the stones that were said to never break, and as cracks form through its outer shell, and we watch Jefra fall.
“Always so dramatic,” Wequie whispers beside me and we both laugh as Cheers rise up around us.
This was the first victory of many to come.
OOOOOOOOOO fighting stuff loooool
It was about time we started getting tenser with things and I was hoping that this chapter was a nice way to slide into that section of things. Hopefully, between the flashbacks and descriptions, you all understood my vision!
What did we think about Lincoln’s little moment in the end? Did we enjoy the Aias moment too, I love when they banter.
I really hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, I really really do, vote and comment if that is you.
I’m not sure what I’ll be updating next, but I’ll just relax for a day or two.
Until next time,