Charlotte gasped, a feeling of pain running down her body. She collapsed onto the floor, trying to inhale air. “What the…Jeff!” She called out for her husband, hoping he could make it into the room in time before she passed out. The darkness flashed across her eyes and for a brief moment she could understand what Gracie was so afraid of.
“Char?” She heard his heavy footsteps, but she couldn’t situate herself in the room. Where was she? “Baby!” She felt arms around her, heard his voice even, but where was he? Where was she?
“Charlotte?” The voice was familiar, but she didn’t think she’d hear it ever again.
“Daddy?” He looked the same as always. The room around him began to focus and she could see that she was in a living room of some sort.
“Baby girl!” He ran towards her and scooped the vampire in his arms. “I missed you so much.”
“Daddy, I missed you too. I can’t believe it. What’s happening? What is this place?”
He shut his eyes. “I had visions like this when I was younger. They usually led to time distortions. I would see something and then, I’d either be back where I was or find that a considerable amount of time had passed.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” He replied. “I shouldn’t be having these visions. They stopped after Altiere was released from my body. But the real question is how are you seeing me right now? This is the real you and not some figment my brain conjured up?”
“I think it’s me. I was just cleaning my room, and then I fell. I felt like I was suffocating, and then a darkness washed over me. Now here I am.”
“The same thing happened to me. Which makes me wonder…” He placed his hand to his temple. “Altiere was supposed to be in my body. That’s why we look alike, and that’s why I have magic. This is not adding up. Something isn’t right.”
“I’m in a place called Fortitude. It’s the predecessor to Moonlight Falls. According to the leader here, Altiere was a former king. He took people to Moonlight Falls, which is why there’s such a mix of supernaturals there. Here in Fortitude, almost everyone is a purebred supernatural and the ones that aren’t make up a totally new species. There is a child here whose mother is a human and father is a vampire, but he’s a witch.”
“Fascinating…but, how? How did you get there?”
“Adeline and Erik deciphered the seer’s tale and so we went to where other supernaturals would be. But it sounds like Altiere isn’t who we think he is.”
“Yeah,” Alistair agreed. “There’s no way that he was a part of me. Something else is going on and he made others lie for him.”
“Something else is bothering you, dad. What is it?” She asked.
“I’m not in Moonlight Falls. I was in Audric’s Haven with Astra and Declan.”
Charlotte froze at the traitor’s name. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, for the most part.” He grabbed onto her hand and squeezed it. “He…Audric…damn it. I don’t know the full story yet, but Audric kidnapped Astra and blackmailed Declan into helping him infiltrate Altiere’s lair. But, the deal is supposedly off and Audric claims he loves Astra. And Declan is still in power. I just don’t know anymore.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Charlotte balled her hands into fists. “I will kill him. Both of them. I told her to leave, but she didn’t listen to me.”
“I know, she said that. But I won’t be letting her stay there with him. Is Fortitude a good place? Is it safe? This vision proves to me that Altiere is worse than I had thought. I can’t stay in Moonlight Falls no matter how badly I want to. Grandpa, me and Astra will come.”
“What about him? That traitor?” When Alistair ran his fingers through his hair once more, she got defensive. “Daddy, no. You can’t be thinking of getting back with him.”
“I don’t know what will happen, Charlotte. But I am fully capable of making my own decisions.”
“I want you to be safe.” She held her arms out. “I’m fading?”
“Vision must be ending. Be careful, Charlotte. Your family comes first.”
Charlotte let out a cry of agony, as her senses returned. “Is it over?”
“Charlotte!” Jeff held onto her tightly. “What happened? I was terrified. I thought…I thought I was going to lose you. You weren’t breathing for a minute. I just…I love you.”
“I love you too,” She mumbled weakly. She tried to sit up, but Jeff held her steady in place. “IS this something I should be worried about?”
“You’ll be worried regardless.”
“This is not the time to be cute, Char. Tell me what I can do to help.”
She clutched both sides of his jacket. “I just spoke to my dad. In my head, or something like that. He called it a vision, and said he had them before. He said that Altiere is much more dangerous than we thought, and that he’s not in Moonlight Falls anymore, because he’s with Audric. Apparently Audric told him that he kidnapped my sister and blackmailed Declan into working with Altiere. But I have so many questions. I just-”
“Need to rest. We reconvene with the family and discuss this. But, right now you need to rest.”
“I’m not losing you. Ever. So, if I have to stand guard, I will.”
Alistair felt strong arms around him. His dad? No, Audric. He yanked away from the man. “Are you alright, Mr. Gray?”
“Cut the formalities.” He blinked. “I’m in no mood.”
“Did you have another vision?” Declan was taken aback. “How? I thought that when Altiere left your body, those stopped.”
Alistair struggled to get up on his own. “Yeah, me too. I’ve also never connected with somebody else through a vision.”
“That’s because you’re a seer, Alistair,” Audric said. “A type of seer, at least. The time distorter. You evaluate a situation and speed up or reverse time to fit the vision you seek. Inexperienced seers cannot control the time distortions, but at your age now and affinity for magic, it’s no shock that you haven’t distorted time in a while.”
“A what?” Alistair asked. “No, I am a witch. I am tired of you people labeling me because I was created in the future.”
“That you were not,” Audric said, as if it was obvious. “You can’t just create babies in a lab. Through magic yes, but not in a lab. And even then, I’m keeping a close eye on Oasis Landing. I don’t trust Emit Relevart at all. How was Alistair given to you, Ethan?”
“Emit and Frost, they said he was a gift to us created in the future. They swore it was against guardians orders and then we found out later that he had some DNA from Altiere which is how he’s a mage,” Ethan said.
“No, do you hear how ridiculous that sounds? He’s a mage because you’re a mage. His daughters are mages because he’s a mage. The Altiere you know is not the real Altiere, not in his true form at least. He’s a watered down copy.”
“Copy?” Astra asked. “No way. That’s not possible.”
“It shouldn’t be, but it is. I don’t know how, but the real Altiere is different. He is more powerful. That’s why I had your daughter Adeline decipher the seer’s tale, to lead me to Altiere’s true origin in an attempt to find out more about him. I sent Declan to work with this Altiere to see who he really is. He is either a copy, willed by Altiere himself, an impostor, or maybe even something worse. You see why I had to do what I did? I have been watching from the sidelines but I have many blind spots. That’s why Puzzle is in imaginationland, Declan was supposed to be in Moonlight Falls…” He slammed his hand into his forehead. “I am trying to figure this out.”
“You’re saying everything that has happened to me, the visions, the magic, the distortions is because I’m a seer. One, how does someone become a seer and two, how does Altiere look like me?”
“A seer is born, though I am not sure how specifically that is genetically determined. You were born through magic, but magic headed by the guardians. So we can’t be sure with them. There is knowledge from my Elven ancestry a book, or there was a book, that held ancient Elven secrets. It is in someone else’s possession and I feel it will have what we need to know in it. But in the event that we can’t have find it, we have to have a backup plan.”
“We don’t have to have anything,” Astra said. “We’re not helping you.”
“Those children are staying with me, Astra,” Audric said. “I need their power.”
“You have no claim to Dionysus’ child, and I will not give them up. Take your child, I don’t want that spawn anywhere near me. Take over the world, do whatever it is that you have to do. But leave me out of it.”
Audric let out a pained sigh but knew better than to argue with the girl in front of her father. “Very well. But I do need assistance. I can’t deal directly with Moonlight Falls, and I must stay in my haven. The threat to this dimension spreads to others, and I have to maintain it before it spreads further. All I need are some eyes and ears in Fortitude. You don’t even have to have anything to do with me. Just find out who Altiere is, and destroy him for good. That will heal up some of the holes.”
Declan stood, unmoved. What was his deal? Were things starting to click for him? Audric looked to him.
“I have no idea why you continued to do what you did, but that is between you and your family. I will not be returning any of you to Moonlight Falls, because now that I have seen you have a vision, Alistair, and have confirmed your status as a seer, I know that Altiere is a bigger threat than I have given him credit for. That copy will not be leaving. I will send you all to Fortitude.”
“Declan too?” Ethan lowered his eyes. “I don’t see why he would need to come.”
“I worked for that man for over a decade,” He stated simply. “I have more to work with than you do.”
“But why would you help us?” Alistair asked, hope invading his senses.
“I don’t like being lied to,” He said. “And I don’t like having someone make a charade out of my home, my family or my people.”
Alistair’s heart skipped a beat. His family? Did he mean his kids and husband? It couldn’t be, could it? Did he mean his sister and father? Alistair tried to wipe the wonder from his face. “My daughter won’t be happy to see you.”
“They’ll accept him,” Astra said. “I’ve done a lot of bad things and they accepted me.”
“Honey, you’re blood,” Ethan said. “Declan is not Charlotte’s father. She has no reason or obligation to forgive him.”
“I’m not seeking forgiveness, because I did nothing wrong. Audric was right, I stayed for a reason and those are my own. I will not explain myself to you. But Millie and Astra are my daughters.”
“Now you care?” Alistair asked bitterly.
“He did what Audric told him, for me daddy,” Astra pleaded, grabbing his arm.
“Charlotte and Adeline thought of you as their dad for the longest time,” Alistair said, tears of rage welling up in his eyes. “You had no problem stepping on them when they relied on you. You don’t get to pick one kid.” He shot a look at Astra. “That goes for you too, you don’t get to be the mother of just one kid if you have two.”
“My child is non negotiable,” Audric stated. “You can fight me all you like but there are no custody courts like you mortals have. My child will stay with me but I will not lay claim to Dionysus’ child.”
“I will always love them, even if I don’t know them, but his child has to stay here, dad. It’s just better this way. I cannot teach them the way their magic works and Justine will make sure that things go smoothly. I hate this man, but I don’t doubt that he really is trying to save the world.”
“So then that’s it?” Alistair shut his eyes. “I guess then, I’m ready to see my daughters and grand kids again.”