Charlotte held Waverly close to her. Travelling with so many kids was an experience. They couldn’t trust Audric to just zap them somewhere, and instead relied on some portals to get them to an area near the supposed fortress of Fortitude. From there? They walked. It was a long walk, Pax was quick to remind her every few feet.
“Can you fly us there, Uncle Erik?” Pax asked.
“On his back?” Camilla rolled her eyes. “That’s not even possible.”
“He’s a fairy,” Pax answered as if it was obvious.
“They shrink, not get bigger,” Graciela told him.
Erik laughed at Pax’s bemused expression. “Sorry kiddo, they’re right. I turn really tiny. I can’t fly anyone anywhere like that.”
“Oh man,” He groaned. “What about you Uncle Zayne? If you can fly us there, you’ll be my new favorite uncle.”
“You mean, I wasn’t before?” Zayne teased.
“Of course not,” Erik answered for the boy. “I’m the clear favorite. I have wings.”
“It’s actually Caleb,” Jeff told the men. “The pink hair, you know?”
“Caleb always has us beat.” Zayne threw his arms over his head.
“I married into something much bigger than I thought even possible,” Erik muttered. “The amount of family history with you guys is incredible.”
“It gets complicated,” Charlotte added, bouncing Waverly in her arms. “I don’t even know the full story. We used to be all humans, I was told. What a wild concept.”
“Wild?” Adeline shook her head. “It’s wild that we’re vampires when our ancestors were human.”
“I think it’s kinda cool,” Millie replied. “When Astra went to the human world, she said it was so different. It was a lot more superficial, but I guess the threat wasn’t there.” The group silenced at the sound of Astra’s name. “I’m sorry,” She mumbled. “But how do you think I feel? She’s my twin. You’re supposed to know your twin in and out. Like Char and Ade.”
“I spent a good amount of time despising my twin,” Charlotte said. “There’s no rule that says you have to feel a certain way because of the way you were born.”
“I wanted to believe that she wouldn’t…” She dropped her voice, noticing the kids run ahead. “Harmony! Stay in my sight.”
“I will, mom!” She called back. “I’m just racing Pax.”
“Don’t do that,” Charlotte told them. “Gracie, please go after your brother.” Her daughter nodded and took off.
Harmony let out a breath. “You’re such a cheater, Pax.”
“How am I cheating?” He asked, hands on hips.
“You’re a vampire, you just run faster,” She huffed. “I’m going to train so that one day I can beat you!”
“Good luck,” Graciela told her cousin. Harmony jumped backwards, startled.
“See! I want to run as fast as you and Pax. No fair.”
“We can’t zap things with magic wands,” Pax replied. “That’s pretty cool.”
They heard rustling within the bushes behind them. Graciela put a finger up to her lips, and Pax stepped in front of the girls. “Who’s there?” There was no answer. “I said, who’s there?”
“Pax,” Graciela whispered harshly. “Don’t draw their attention.”
“I won’t let you get taken again,” He said firmly. “Whoever is out there better come out before I go in!”
A child around their age came out, his hands up. “Wait, don’t hurt me.” His skin was pale, but he lacked the glow that Pax and Graciela had.
“Who are you?” Pax asked. “What are you doing out here?”
“Who are you guys, and what are you doing outside the walls? It’s against the rules,” The purple haired boy challenged.
“If it’s against the rules, why are you out here?” Graciela asked, just as forcefully.
He glared at her. “I live here, so I can do whatever I want.”
“That’s a stupid lie.” Graciela lowered her eyes at him. “Besides, how do you know that we don’t live here?”
“I know all of the kids here, and you’re not any of them,” He responded. “I’d remember a pink girl.”
“What’s wrong with the color pink, huh?” Pax asked.
“Nothing, I didn’t say there was.” He looked at Graciela. “Is he your brother? Because he’s very stupid.”
“I am NOT stupid!” Pax shouted. “Take that back.”
“No, I don’t want to.” The boy mimicked Pax by placing his hands on his hips. “Now tell me who you are and what you’re doing here.”
“We asked you first,” Graciela told him. She shut her eyes, ready to blast him with something. But Harmony beat her to it, by taking her wand out and pointing it at the male. “Tell us,” Graciela began again. “Or my cousin blasts you.”
“Cousin?” He furrowed his brow. “But she’s a witch. That’s impossible.”
“No it’s not, stupid,” Pax told him with a snicker, enjoying putting the boy in his place. “Our aunt is a mage.”
“What’s a mage?” He asked. “You guys are so strange.”
“It’s the same thing as a witch, but it sounds way cooler,” Graciela answered.
“Graciela? Pax? Harmony?” The kids heard Charlotte’s voice. It was close, but not enough for them to see her.
“You’re with adults?” His eyes widened. “You can’t bring them here!”
“Why not?” Harmony asked.
“It’s just not allowed here. No more adults, we have enough.”
“Where is here exactly? Fortitude?” Graciela asked.
“You shouldn’t know about us. You can’t. That’s impossible!”
“Everything is impossible to you,” Pax muttered. “And you called me stupid.”
“What’s going on here?” They all looked up to see Charlotte, followed by the rest of the group.
The boy made to run but Erik materialized in front of him. “Woah!” He exclaimed, falling backwards onto the grass.
“I take it all back Uncle Erik, fairies are awesome!” He exclaimed, after watching the green light form into his uncle.
“Don’t kill me, please!” The boy cried out. “I didn’t do anything!”
“Who are you?” Jeff asked kindly, kneeling by the boy.
“You’re human,” He mumbled, eyes locking with Jeff. Then he looked around, eyes falling on Graciela, who he, for whatever reason, thought was the reasonable one of the trio. “This is your family?”
She nodded. “That’s my dad.”
“How?” He asked, rubbing his head. “How is your dad a human?”
“Dummy!” Pax sat near him on the floor. “Our mom is a vampire, so we’re vampires.”
“Seems like the supernaturals here are just as close minded as the ones in Moonlight Falls,” Jeff commented, eyeing his wife with a smirk.
“Did you say Moonlight Falls? That’s just a place in stories.”
Adeline gasped. “We must be close to Fortitude. It’s real. They don’t know anything outside of their little coven. Erik, all of it was true.”
“Did you just gasp?” Millie asked. “You said you were like 97% sure it was real.”
“It’s still hard to believe,” She defended herself. “This is a place forgotten to time. This is where it all began. The birth of our people, supernaturals.”
“What’s your name?” Graciela asked the boy. She extended her hand to help him up. He took her hand, looking down in embarrassment. “Mine is Graciela, but people call me Gracie. My dad called me Ela.”
The boy looked at the group, taking mental note of each person. Even if he had wanted to fight, he’d be outnumbered and outmatched. Besides, Adele would want to hear about this Moonlight Falls place. “I’m Leon.” He dusted off his pants. “If you promise not to kill me, I’ll show you where Fortitude is. But you can’t destroy it, okay? Promise me you won’t!”
“Why would we do that?” Pax asked. “You really are a dummy.”
“Pax!” Charlotte exclaimed. “We don’t use words like that.”
“Mom, he called me stupid first.”
“It doesn’t matter, we don’t say things like that to people,” She told him. He nodded and quickly apologized to the boy, to Leon’s satisfaction. She bit her lip at Jeff’s nod of approval. She didn’t mind the cursing. She did it quite a bit herself, but Jeff was right. They needed to foster positivity in their kids. Now, if only she could follow Jeff’s advice.
Graciela walked by Leon’s side. Pax was glaring at him, but decided he’d hang back with Harmony, Camilla and Nerissa. His sister could handle herself if she needed to. He wanted to keep an eye on Camilla. She could also handle herself, but he liked being by her. “He’s your real dad, or did he marry your mom after she gave birth to you?”
“He’s my real dad,” Graciela answered. “Why is that so hard to believe?”
“When a vampire has a child with a human, the result is a witch,” He told her.
“No, that’s not true.” Graciela shook her head. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“Yes it does. A human with a vampire’s power is a witch,” he told her.
“It doesn’t mix. You can either be a human with no powers, or a vampire. There is no in between.”
“That’s not how it works,” He told her. “I’ve seen it before. Your dad has to be a vampire.”
“He’s human. Can’t you see my hair?” She pointed to it. “It’s the same color as his.”
Leon looked shocked for a moment. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“You don’t make any sense.”
“Me? You’re the one whose dad is a human!” He exclaimed.
“What about your skin, huh? Every vampire I’ve seen has a glow to them. You have skin like my dad’s.”
“That’s because I’m not a vampire,” He told her. “I’m a witch.”
“That’s impossible,” She repeated his sentiment. “I can sense your vampire powers.”
“Because my dad is a vampire,” He said. “My mom is a human. You get a witch.”
Graciela looked down at her hands. Her pale skin was emanating a light glow. His wasn’t. “How?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. That’s just how it works.”
“Pax?” The boy looked to his right.
“Is he a good guy? That kid, I mean. I know Gracie is tough, but I don’t want her to be kidnapped again,” Nerissa said.
“He’s weird,” Pax admitted. “But don’t worry. I’m keeping an eye on him.”
“Mrs. Gray is here too,” Camilla added. “It wouldn’t be wise.”
Harmony jumped when she felt her dad’s hands on her shoulder. “Kids, are you doing alright?”
“Yeah,” Harmony mumbled. “I’m just tired.”
“I want some food,” Pax complained.
“Will a granola bar work for you?” Zayne asked, fishing in his pocket for the salted caramel one he brought along.
“Let’s see.” He turned around. “Uncle Erik, do you have any food?”
“No, I’m sorry bud.” He shook his head. “But we’re almost there.”
“Don’t tell Erik, but you’re uncle number one now,” Pax said.
“You can’t just switch between favorites,” Camilla told him, rolling her eyes.
Zayne laughed at his nephew’s antics. “Well I see nothing will deter you kids.”
“What’s deter mean?” Pax asked.
“Harmony, do you know?” Zayne asked.
She nodded. She had been practicing vocabulary with her dad, having failed a few tests that Erik had given her when she was being home schooled. “Basically he’s saying nothing will bring us down.”
“Oh.” Pax nodded. “Yeah, that’s true. Because we’re Grays.” He gave his uncle a thumbs up and a toothy grin. Zayne let out a chuckle. He was definitely Jeff’s son, there was no doubt about that.