Charlotte looked around in pure astonishment. How had a place like this existed right under their noses? Leon shot Graciela a worried look. “Are you guys going to destroy us? Man, I hope I don’t get in trouble for this.”
“We just want a place to live,” Graciela answered. “We are tired of people trying to destroy us.”
“Destroy you? Why? What did you do?” His eyes scanned the crowd, landing on Pax. “It was him, wasn’t it? He did something stupid, right?”
“Hey, I can hear you!” He complained. “I didn’t do anything. There are just some really mean people out there who do terrible things for reasons I don’t understand.”
“That’s the way the world works,” Leon mumbled. “People do bad things to each other.”
“Not everyone,” Jeff told the boy. “Some people, like my family and I,are trying to prevent the bad people from winning.”
“And how do you suppose you’ll do that?” Leon asked. “If you get rid of one bad guy, another will come. Don’t you know anything?”
Jeff raised his brow at the little boy, but laughed off the insult. “So, we just keep fighting until they get scared and stop stepping forward.”
“That sounds like a good plan, but how do you expect to fulfill that, through pure will?” All eyes landed on the powerful vampiress, as she hovered near the stone walls of Fortitude. Adeline let her gaze linger on the woman for a few seconds before moving them back to the walls. They were strong, meant to either keep things out, or keep things in.
Adeline used some of her strength to transmit a message through Charlotte’s mind. She hadn’t done it in awhile, but she was sure she could manage it. “She’s a pure-breed.”
Charlotte made no bold movements, merely closing her fist. Good, she had heard her sister’s message. She’d be on her guard. The woman approached Charlotte with a confidence unmatched, even by Charlotte herself. “Are you the leader of this little rat pack?”
“Rat pack?” Charlotte lowered her eyes at the woman. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Over the past year she had become increasingly protective of her family. They had been with her through the bad times, and the even worse times.
The woman laughed. “Now, don’t freak out on me. I was simply commenting on how varied your group is. Supernaturals tend to stay with their own kind, for whatever reason. Two humans, 4 half-breed vampires including yourself, a fairy, a nymph, a werewolf, two mages and a purebred. Does that just about cover it?”
Graciela looked at Leon, hoping to gauge his reaction. He seemed unwilling to interrupt the woman, which made her shrink back. Pax nodded encouragingly at her, hoping to quell some of her fears. She tried to be strong and fearless like her mother, but there was always something holding her back. “Yeah. Why, is there some sort of quota you have to fill?”
“And why would you think that?” The woman asked.
“Because why else does it matter what kind of supernaturals we are?” She crossed her arms over her chest, thankful that Millie was cradling Waverly in her arms.
The vampiress laughed. “I ask, simply because the people take pride in who they are here. That’s not to say that we’re divisive in any way, but the fae like to let you know who they are, and others as well. There are people who will become offended if you lump them in with another kind of people. For example, the vampires. Is that something you’ve faced before?” But Charlotte didn’t answer. So the woman moved onto her next line of questioning. “Tell me, how are a purebreed vampire and a halfbreed sisters? Twins no less?”
“We can sit here and talk all day, but you seem to already know all about us. So, if you could just cut to the chase already… my children are hungry and need to eat.”
“You should be allowing your young to feed from the group.” The woman’s eyes landed on Jeff and then Graciela. “He’s no doubt that girl’s father, so why not just allow her to bite into him?”
Graciela’s eyes grew wide in repulsion. “Mom…”
Charlotte stood protectively in front of her daughter. “My children don’t drink blood. I don’t even drink blood. We don’t feed.”
“You use that artificial stuff, don’t you?” She rolled her eyes. “That’s why she’s as scrawny as she is. You have ample specimens for her to feed on. What a terrible mother you are.”
Now it was Jeff’s turn to be angry. Who the hell was this woman commenting on his parenting style? She knew nothing of them. “Say that again about my wife, I dare you.”
“What are you going to do? I can crush you like a bug, human.” She dismissed him. “As a unit, you’re much weaker than anyone here. If Leon wanted to, he could take a few of you out, easily.”
He shook his head. “Ma’am, I don’t want to.”
“Jeff…” Charlotte grabbed onto his arm, silencing him. Her eyes were pleading for him to let her handle it. And he would. He just knew how much that comment about her skills as a parent would hurt her and it made him furious.
“Leon, you were traveling a bit with these people. As a future magister, give me your take on them.” Her tone was even and calm, treating him as if he was an adult.
The boy looked around at each person, except for Graciela, whom he refused to look at.She was glaring at him. She couldn’t have blamed this all on him, but a warning would have been nice. This woman was ruthless. She still shuddered at the thought of feeding blood, from her dad no less! “I saw the two halfbreeds and the pink one, err, mage, playing a game-”
“Shut up,” Graciella said, finding her voice. “Don’t call us that, like we’re dogs! We’re just people. We’re not halfbreeds!”
“Gracie,” Charlotte said sharply, once again standing in front of her. She looked up at her mother. “I’m proud of you, but let mom do all the talking okay?” She nodded, burying her face into the back of Charlotte’s jacket.
The woman was smiling. “Okay, that’s enough of my intense questioning by the gates.” Her tone had changed, if only a little. “My name is Adele, I am the leader of Fortitude. As you can imagine, we don’t get many visitors, especially not any like you guys. Don’t take any offense to my harsh words in the past and probably future. I need to know who I’m letting into my town. Your daughter is very courageous. I take what I said about her upbringing back.”
Adele turned to Leon. “You did good bringing them back here.”
“I did?” He blinked, recovering from Graciela’s outburst.
“You did.” Adele nodded. “At least we got to meet them on our terms and not in a way that could have been potentially dangerous to either side.” She looked to the group. “You must all have some pressing questions, as I do of you all. So, if you’d like to come to my estate, I’ll provide food for you all and a warm place to spend the night until we come up with something better. Leon, why don’t you come along as well? This would be good training for you.”
“Well, guys?” Charlotte valued their opinions more than anything, and if they said to book it, she’d leave right now, no questions asked.
“I think we can learn a lot here,” Adeline responded.
“Think of your sisters too,” Zayne added. “They’re pregnant. Do you really want us out travelling again?”
“Pregnant?” Adele nodded. “I didn’t even sense that until now. Then he’s right. Now is no time to be going out. There’s a reason we have walls.” She motioned for them to follow her as she walked forward.
“This is incredible,” Camilla whispered to Pax as they walked through the town. It looked like something out of some medieval themed movie. “Do you think they have cars?”
Pax nodded, pointing one out in a driveway. “It’s medieval with a modern twist.”
“It’s so pretty,” She answered. This was the first time he had seen her really astounded by her surroundings. “Much nicer than Audric’s place.”
“Well yeah,” Nerissa cut into the conversation. “There are other people here.”
“Kids our age,” Pax added. “Even if he is jerky.” That earned a glare from Leon, who was listening but not speaking to them. Harmony was hanging on Zayne’s arm, overwhelmed by the new surroundings. Waverly was in Millie’s arms, sleeping against her chest. Gregg, playing around with the light on Erik’s wings. Graciela stood by Nerissa, but said nothing.
They walked for a few more minutes until Gracie felt a light touch on her arm. She looked over at Leon, then turned slightly to see the glare her brother was giving him, the smirk from Nerissa and the curiosity from Camilla. “Are they always so intense?” Leon asked.
She shrugged, but said nothing. Her family weren’t the intense ones. Even if Adele was scoping them out, she could have been nicer. Her mom shouldn’t have to fight for everything.
“Are you mad at me?” He asked. “I didn’t mean what I said. I mean, I did but not in the way you took it. That’s how we refer to each other. I don’t even know what half of those things are. I just assumed she meant you when she said halfbreed because she mentioned 4 of them. Process of elimination.”
“Why are you talking to me?” She asked coldly. “Don’t you have a rank you have to stay in? I’m not a witch.”
“Wait, it isn’t like that.” He shook his head. “You have it all wrong.”
“Leave me alone,” She answered. “I don’t care about all of that stuff. You should have stood up for us when that woman started being mean.”
“She’s my leader,” He told her. “I can’t do that. And it was for the protection of the town.” Graciela turned away from him when her stomach growled. She covered it with her arms. “Are you hungry? You don’t drink blood right?” He thought for a moment. Throwing his arm out in front of her would make her more angry. “I have some candy I can share with you.”
Pax’s ears perked up. “Candy you say?”
“Not for you.” Leon lowered his eyes at the male. “If Gracie wants some, she can have. But none of you guys.”
“Why not?” He whined.
“I don’t like you. The only person who had a decent conversation with me was Gracie. And that other girl.” He turned around and waved to Harmony. “Here, catch!” She looked up in time to catch the piece of caramel he hurled at her.
“Thank you,” Harmony muttered shyly. He gave her a thumbs up and a smile.
“Whatya say, Gracie. Want one?” He gave her a cheesy grin. She took the caramel from his outstretched hand and handed it to Pax.
“Alright!” Pax cheered. “Now, how do I cut this into four pieces?”
“Hey, what was that for?” Leon asked, a hint of annoyance in his voice.
“He’s my brother, and those girls are like my sisters. They come first.”
After finding out the girls didn’t want the candy that Pax had bitten in half, her brother gave what was left to Graciela. She thanked him and then looked at Leon, who still seemed befuddled.
“I don’t understand you at all. We were having a good talk earlier, weren’t we?” Leon asked.
“That was before.”
“I’m really sorry,” He apologized again. “Honest, I am.”
“I know.” She nodded. “You didn’t get mad at me for giving your candy to Pax.” Leon’s curiosity and confusion only grew. “Why do you call me Gracie?”
“Don’t people give each other nicknames?” He asked. “And you told me people called you Gracie.”
“To people they know well,” Graciela told him. “I don’t mind that you call me that. You can call me whatever.” But she was curious about one more thing. “Why do you care so much if I’m mad at you?”
He answered as if it was obvious. “I like you. Unlike your brother, you have smart things to say. And I kinda feel like we’re the same because we both have a human and a vampire for a parent.” An awkward silence befell them. “Are you guys going to stay here?”
“I don’t know, it’s up to my mom.”
He looked away, a slight twinge of embarrassment coming over him. “I hope you do.” Then he added quickly, “Because I want to find out more about why you people are so strange!” He hoped she didn’t notice the hesitation in his voice.
Adele was made by Francothecitysimmer.