Declan’s announcement had shocked me to say the least. I didn’t want him to leave, I didn’t want him to give up his powers, or his life here in Moonlight Falls. He would be going to Sunlit Tides and I’d be staying here. We’d essentially be switching lives. I’d be the leader of all of the witches and he’d be, I don’t know, doing something in Sunlit Tides. Not only would I be losing Declan, but I’d be losing my father as well. I didn’t know how he was doing at the moment or if he was even okay. He was alone right now, utterly alone. Four of his kids were missing, his husband was dead and I was here. He had my uncle Ambrose, but he was preoccupied with his own kids. How much could he really be there for my dad? I felt a pit in my stomach, mulling over the details. “Alistair….Alistair!” I didn’t hear Declan’s voice until I had hit the ground. I felt a vision coming on, but this time it was different. It was much more painful, but I was aware of what was going on around me.
“I’m going to have another vision,” I mumbled, throwing my arms up to my head to massage my temple.
Declan dropped to his knees and grabbed my arms. “Damn it, I should have known you’d become stressed. I’m sorry, try to control it. Don’t distort time.”
I took in sharp breaths. “I’ll be fine…”
Declan kept his firm grasp on my torso as he tried to soothe me with small whispers. “Hold on Alistair, you’re strong. You can beat this.”
I tried, I tried so hard to fight it, but I couldn’t. I knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary vision. It was something much stronger trying to latch itself on to me…something I had no strength against.
“Alistair, finally! It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Altiere.” I stared at the image in front of me. A tall, slender, pale man in a suit stood smirking at me. He looked…like me? The resemblance was striking. His hair, beard…and some of his facial features mirrored my own. I instinctively let my hands trail to my face, and then I jumped back. I could control my movement?!
I tried speaking to the man. Was I able to interact in my vision? “Is this a vision?”
“Not really, no. I don’t know what I’d call it. We’re meeting in the deepest psyche of your mind.” He must have been amused by my confused expression because he laughed. “You do know who I am, correct? That succubus Aria told you about me.”
“You’re her lover…” I said. I could see why she had attached herself to me. We were almost twins!
“In her dreams. I never loved her, I was just using her to get to Damian. I was going to dethrone him once and for all, but something stopped me.”
“What was it?” I asked cautiously. Was there something much bigger than Damian that I had to worry about? Was Altiere even on my side?
“That stopped me?” He looked pensive for a moment but then his features grew soft. “When the person you love holds their wand up to you and threatens to kill you, would you get mad and eradicate them first, or let them blast you?”
“I guess I would…” I paused for a moment. “kill her? She never loved me if she’s trying to kill me.”
“You wouldn’t, because you’re a lot like me.” He stepped closer to me. “You’d let him shoot you and take your powers. You’re still young yet. You don’t know the boundaries that love places on a person. I’ve lived for thousands of years, even longer than your grandfather Lucas, and I’ve never met someone who affected me as much as he did. This young pink tinted male was a fighter. He hadn’t allowed me to walk all over him, but had given me enough to be satisfied and still get himself what he wanted in the end. Of course, it became clear to me early on that maybe he might have been using me, but I do feel like there was a connection that could have been something more if I wasn’t so powerful. People were always trying to steal my powers but he was the only one who was smart enough to get close. He awakened the feeling that I thought had gone numb from living the same drab life every single day, so even if he did turn on me, I can’t stop loving him. What a profound effect that man left on my life.”
“I’m, uh…sorry?” I mumbled awkwardly. What did you say to a confession like that?
“I know what you’re thinking, not only because we’re inside of your mind, but also because I’m a vampire, and I can read minds. It’s kind of what we do.” He chuckled. “Do you know how long I’ve been living in your mind? Ever since you were born. Those guardians took remnants of my power and injected it into you. You already know that your birth wasn’t natural, at least your sister Pandora was created using magic, but you…you’re immensely lucky to even be healthy at this point in your life. My powers gave you the strength to survive, but not only that, it’s awakened the witch gene that your father Ethan had passed down to you.”
“Is that why I look like you?” I asked. “Because of your powers?”
“Mhmm.” Altiere nodded. “You of course look like both of your fathers, there’s no denying that, but you also resemble me. I’m sure it’s from me living inside of you. I’m lucky to have finally been able to manifest myself. My power has been dormant, and your brain has been getting a little cocky. It’s been drawing from my power as if it’s your own and then causing time distortions. But, now that I’ve been awakened, I can finally control my own powers and keep your brain at bay.”
“You’re saying that you can control the time distortions?” I asked. “That’d be amazing!”
“Don’t get too excited, I’m still a vampire and you can’t trust us,” Altiere admitted. “I’m not going to help you without my conditions.”
“Uggh,” I groaned. “How do I know that you can control the time distortions in the first place?”
“Look around you, do you see what I’ve created for you? I’m powerful.”
“What about the visions, do you control those too?” I asked.
“No, that’s something else entirely that I’ve yet to find the source to,” He said. “But, I’ll work dilligently to help you but you must do something for me first.” When I nodded, he pointed to the crystal ball in front of us. “I’m going to use my powers to show you something. Watch carefully.”
The dark image became clearer as Altiere waved his hand over the purple crystal ball. I rubbed my eyes, was I really looking at…”Declan?”
“Yes, your friend Declan is the man I love,” Altiere admitted. “And he loved me too, at least for awhile. If Damian hadn’t killed his father and broke apart his family, he wouldn’t have wanted to take my powers, but I guess it wouldn’t have led him to me in the first place. So, beggars can’t be choosers.”
“I don’t understand, exactly. You and Declan were together…Declan is gay?”
“That’s all you care about?” Altiere rolled his eyes. “Yes, Declan is gay. Like I said before, we actually loved each other. He came to me as a young man, broken and destroyed. He needed power to protect his sister. He was tired of falling behind Patrick who was a natrural leader. Patrick that blasted werewolf was always saving the day. If Sienna needed someone to go with her somewhere, she’d ask Patrick. It must have hurt to know that you’d choose someone over your own brother.”
“She’s always loved Patrick,” I cut in. “It has nothing to do with Declan’s inability to protect her.”
“Well, he felt like that. He wanted to be strong for his sister so he asked me for power, and I agreed to train him. We became extremely close. He would sneak out at night when Patrick or Sienna wouldn’t notice and come to my castle. He’s an incredible witch because of me. When I had told him about my plan to usurp Damian, he was all for it, until I had actually tried to enact it and he hit me with his blasted spell. The spell I had taught him, that little brat. But, I hadn’t been more in love with him in my entire life. The man is twisted and I find that incredibly sexy. Maybe I’m an idiot for loving someone who had obviously been using me, but I’d be damned if I thought he didn’t love me at one point too. Which made it all the better. How could you kill someone you love?” He didn’t seem upset, he was smiling. Declan’s actions hadn’t hurt him, it excited him. What exactly was wrong with this guy? But, I believed him, Declan would do anything to protect Sienna. Even if it meant being with this guy.
“But, one thing doesn’t add up,” I said cautiously. “How would killing you help him, if you were going to dethrone Damian? Obviously, he must have known that you cared deeply about him. You would have protected him, Sienna and his friends right?”
Altiere nodded. “I would have done whatever Declan asked of me. I could never say no to him. But, he got a better offer. One from Damian himself.”
He shook his head. “I’m not joking. Damian offered Declan protection of Sienna, that’s why he stopped me. Do you remember when time distorted and you visited Lucas’ old house? Everyone had been taken except for Sienna, now you know why. When a vampire makes a promise, they don’t go back on it. Sienna will never be killed by Damian, and it only cost my life. Damian let Declan keep my powers, so he hears my nagging voice in his head as well. Except, he hates hearing it. Maybe it’s the guilt, or maybe he’s really moved on. Whatever it is, I can’t stop until I’m free.”
“Damnit…is that it? Just one deal? How do I know that he’s not working with Damian now? You know, like an inside man.” My head was spinning. It didn’t make any sense, I had just been comforted by Declan, the man who was going to give up his power to bring my father back to life so I could save my siblings.
“He still is, I’m sure of it. That’s why he’s blocking me out,” Altiere said. “The immense power Declan has was what he took from me when I died. If you and him were to somehow combine magic, I’d be set free. But Declan wants to give up his magic to resurrect your father. If he gives up his magic, I’ll never be able to become a living being again.”
“And Damian would love that,” I finished. “No, Declan is helping me because I’m his friend.”
“No, he’s a master of deception Alistair. He’s very passionate and will do anything for those he cares about. Anything. Of course, what would you care, if you’re getting what you want either way, right?”
“If Declan gives up his powers, he can’t help Damian anymore and won’t Damian just turn on Sienna?” I asked.
“Maybe he thinks that you can really stop Damian, or maybe that bastard told him that he’d always protect Sienna. I don’t know the details but it adds up,” Altiere said.
“What about Patrick? Weren’t they best friends? Why would he let Damian kill him then?” The questions were shooting out of my mouth. I didn’t know what to believe. Was Declan really working with Damian? Was he really harmful if he was doing this for his sister?
“Patrick isn’t dead. You forget that I’m partially in his mind as well, so when he lets his thoughts slip, I can see them. Damian has them working for him, in return of their safety. Declan set that up, within the time distortion. Yes, since he has part of me inside of him, he can maneuver through the time distortion without forgetting what happened like you.”
“He’s not a bad guy,” I reasoned. “I can’t believe that. It makes sense but…”
“But what? Someone you care about would never do that?” Altiere asked. “Someone who has lost so much doesn’t care who he hurts to protect what little he has left. You should know that, right? Wouldn’t you do that to protect your siblings? If Damian offered you a deal in return for the safety of your siblings, you wouldn’t take it?” He chuckled at my silence. “You don’t have to say anything, I know where your loyalty lies. I know Declan very well, I’ve lived in his mind for as long as I’ve lived in yours.”
“Again…how, that doesn’t add up!” I exclaimed. “Declan is only a little older than me-”
“Doesn’t make sense, does it?” He smirked. “If your brain can speed up time, why can’t his? I learned about time travel from a man named Mason Moon. He taught me about time, and I learned about dimension shifting from a woman named Cora Lyons. Declan and I trained in the past of another dimension, otherwise…Damian would have caught us a lot sooner. Declan knows a lot more than you think he does,” Altiere finished.
I rubbed my temple. “No, no, no. I can’t do this. It doesn’t make any sense. This is too complicated.”
“I’m sorry, but Damian has to be stopped and you know that. You can’t let Declan give up his powers. You need to combine your powers with his and free me. I’m the only one who can stop Damian. Once it’s over, Declan won’t be miserable. I’ll treat him as my king. Everything will work out.”
“What are the consequences?” I asked. “You said so yourself, never trust a vampire.”
He laughed heartily. “You’ll lose your powers naturally, and so will Declan. Chances are, you won’t get the opportunity to save your siblings from imaginationland either.”
“Then why would I help you?” I nearly spat. “That leaves Moonlight Falls with no keeper of magic! I can’t do that.”
“You don’t need a keeper of magic if Damian is gone, no one will try to take advantage again, don’t you get it?” Altiere cried angrily. “I’m not trying to trick you. I’m being upfront with you. Is it my fault that the guardians chose you as my host? That’s something you need to discuss with them. Your future depends on my genes, and you’ve already had vampire children, so you don’t need my magic anymore. You can go home and live your normal life.”
“But…” I began.
“Declan? I told you he won’t be hurt. All he cares about is protecting those he cares about! If you help me, I’ll try my hardest to get you into Imaginationland, I’ll go to Mason, he knows a thing or two about imaginary friends. We can work this out, alright? What else is there that you’re unsure about?”
“I can’t go to Mason,” I said. “But…I need some time to think about all of this, it’s too much.” I shut my eyes tightly. Declan’s name kept running through my mnd. Was he a traitor? Was he really trying to protect Sienna? Should I be, upset, mad, relieved? All I was feeling was confused, and bitter that I couldn’t understand it all.
“You only have a couple of days until Declan decides to leave. Now that I’m able to manifest in your mind, you’ll hear my voice more often. You can think responses back to me, but you’ll need to concentrate. Or, you can say your answers out loud if you’re anything like Declan.” He chuckled. “But people would think you’re crazy.”
I nodded. “I’m going to think about it, and then I’m sure you’ll know what I’m thinking.”
He nodded. “Truly Alistair, I’ll admit that I don’t much care for you because of Declan’s strong connection to you, but as long as you let me have Declan when all of this is said and done, I’m very much on your side. When everything is said and done, I want you to end communications with Declan. You can go back home with your family, and your siblings if you so choose to go to Mason for help.” I was silent for a moment, who was he to tell me who to be friends with? Who I could see and couldn’t see? I decided not to answer him. “I can see that you’re fading already, my hold isn’t as strong without my other half of power. But before you leave, know that the only reason Declan is so concerned about you is because of your resemblance to me.”
I wanted to yell at him, to tell him that I was my own person. No matter what I looked like, Declan saw me right? Not him? More and more questions ran through my mind until finally, the red room had disappeared and I was back in the real world, with Declan’s arms still around me. “Hey, Al. Are you alright?”
My eyes widened and I shoved him off of me. “I’m fine–!”
“Hey,” He frowned at me, but didn’t yell. “Was it a bad vision?”
“Ye-aa-h,” I stuttered, unable to quiet my thoughts. He stared at me, a look of concern written on his face. But, was Altiere right? Should I have even been questioning Declan’s intentions. Right now, I wanted to be as far from the man as humanly possible. I needed space to think, and his kind face was making things worse. I was so damn confused. “Please just give me a minute!” I stood up on shaky legs. “I’m okay. Everything will be fine.”
“Alistair.” The voice behind me caused me to jump, but it was only Lucas.
“Grandpa!” I flung myself at him and hugged him tightly. I didn’t say another word, but he seemed to understand how shaken up I was. He held me back tightly and didn’t say a word, until we were ready to leave and go back “home.”