Graciela yawned, fighting to stay awake. Knowing that she was going to have to learn how to hone her abilities as a vampire gave her anxiety because it made her think about all of the instances in which she would possibly have to use them. “Hey, Gracie…” A nudge in her side made her eyes jolt open. She looked around the room wildly.
“Graciela,” Alistair said from the front of the room. “Sleeping during lessons is not permitted.”
Graciela could see Winter’s wide eyes, clearly not expecting to have scared Graciela by trying to alert her that she was dozing off. “Grandpa, I’m sorry…” She could hear the snicker from behind her, and she turned around almost instantly. “Why don’t you be quiet, Kris.”
“Graciela!” Alistair slammed his fist on the white board behind him. “That’s it. Detention.”
“Detention?” She asked incredulously. “What the heck is detention? This isn’t a real school!”
“Oh? It isn’t? You need to take your studies seriously! You are the one in the most danger, and you’re treating this like some mandatory punishment. I can’t believe you. Everyone here in this room right now has everything on the line but you…”
“Are putting everyone in jeopardy,” Graciela finished angrily. “I got that.” She rose and headed out of the room.
Graciela grumbled, staring at Callen who Alistair had called after Braylen’s lessons to come and supervise her. “What has gotten into you?” Callen asked, raising a brow. “No, wait. Don’t tell me. I can guess. The darkness is keeping you up all night? So, you’re being cranky? Don’t try to hide it. I see you yawning.”
“The lights don’t stop it anymore!” Graciela cried. “So, what am I supposed to do? I close my eyes and it won’t stop.”
“There’s a guy I know with this incantation…” Callen placed a finger to his lips. “I’m not sure how effective it will be but I won’t tell you if you keep this up. Alistair is working very hard to train you all for your journey into the underworld. He is only trying to help you. So cut him some slack. You have the best grandfather in the world.”
Graciela frowned. “I know…it’s just that…” She threw her arms over herself. “Lessons don’t really work. The darkness hears it all anyway. What’s the point?”
“I know it’s frustrating. You hear a voice in your head that no one else does.” He frowned. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not assuming things, I once heard the darkness too.”
“You did?” Graciela asked. She leaned forward. “How?”
“See these wings?” Callen asked, pointing to the white wings that adorned his back. “These white wings are very rare. They signify that I am an angel of death, and that the darkness will come in contact with me. Or, rather already has. I had to fight it.”
“You did?” Graciela repeated.
“Mhm.” Callen nodded. “Except I lost. The person who went inside of the underworld with me lost his life and I had to make a deal with death himself to hold back the darkness. I had to promise to send my son in to the underworld to finish the job I wasn’t strong enough for. Now, I know what trials the darkness is going to put you up to but as you said, it will hear me- so preventive measures are not easy. Your grandfather and I just have to give you the skills and hope you know what to do with them. Braylen will be able to open entry to the underworld for you and whoever else decides to go with you.”
Graciela leaned her head on her knees. “But why is the darkness inside of me? If you had to face it, why doesn’t Braylen? Why does it have to be me?”
“You have to ask the darkness yourself,” Callen said. “But if it’s anything like my case, you were bonded to it at birth. I didn’t seek the darkness, it found me. When it is ready for you, you have to go to it’s home and fight it. Otherwise, it starts to take away everyone you care about.”
“How long do we have?” She asked. She had already known the darkness had no qualms about targeting others, but could it really do that while inhabiting her? She could see now the irritability it caused was making trouble for other people who were just trying to help her.
“I’d say about two years, because I was 18 when the darkness first called. Listen to me, the darkness may only be inside of you, but this is a team effort. All of us are on your side. You have to trust us, and we can help you vanquish it. But for now, I’m going to visit my friend and see if that incantation will work on you now. Keep the darkness at bay for a bit.”
“Thank you, Callen,” Graciela said. “Thank you so much.”
Asher watched the fairy with the utmost curiosity. Seeing him again after all these years was shocking, if not out of character. The last time he had seen Callen, the male was barely breathing. The darkness had really done a number on him. “You aren’t supposed to be back to the underworld and you know it,” Asher said, arms crossed over his chest. “No one granted you permission, or called you and notified us. Yet, you risk it all by being here.”
“You mean you’re risking it. You answered the door.” Callen smirked at the pale male. “Why?”
“I figure it must be important if you were willing to come back to the place your lover died.”
“How is Luke?” Callen frowned. “Do you know where he was sorted? Did he cross over?”
“You know I’m not allowed to say but…” Asher winked. “He’s happy where he is. If you haven’t- you need to move on. He certainly has.”
Callen smiled warmly. “I’m so happy. I feel like I did him dirty. I didn’t try hard enough.”
“You did,” Asher assured him. “The darkness is a formidable opponent. I don’t think that Luke is angry at you. He chose to be here with you, and he chose to end his life like he did.”
“Perhaps,” Callen said, a frown growing on his face. “If by chance the two of you meet again somehow…will you tell him that I’m happy now? I’m finally happy.”
Asher nodded. “I will. I’m sure he’ll be just as happy to hear it. Is that why you’re here…closure?”
“Not exactly. No.” Callen shook his head. “It’s nice to know, of course. But I have a favor to ask of you. There’s a girl touched by the darkness.”
“Yes, I’m aware. But a deal has been made with the darkness. We cannot allow you to fight down here until the whole calls back it’s child.” Asher held his hand up. “I know that I have to explain. Imagine the darkness as being a vast sea. Graciela is a bottle who contains only some of that water inside of her. Your case was a bit different. When the darkness calls your son, it is asking him to bring the bit of darkness inside of Graciela back into the vast sea. It just so happens that, naturally, those who care for her don’t want her to be destroyed in the process.”
“A deal is in progress. If Graciela fights and wins, the darkness will not swallow her whole. Your role was different. You weren’t called by the darkness to bring a piece back. You were the one called to bring that piece back to your dimension. Does that help?” Asher asked.
“Wait a second…you’re saying that I am the reason Graciela has the darkness inside of her?” Callen asked, stepping backwards. “That can’t be.”
“No, it isn’t like that. I don’t know the reason why it had to be Graciela, or why the darkness needed her. That isn’t anything I’m versed in. You’ll have to ask the darkness itself if you care enough for that answer. You were simply the transport.”
“If that’s the case, why did it try to kill me?” Callen asked.
“Darkness destroys, even if it doesn’t mean to. Besides, would you have come on your own if it did not take from you? I suspect having things play out as it did was the desired outcome after all.” Asher looked down at his wrist, pretending to look down at a watch. “Is that all? I don’t mean to rush you, but my master isn’t very patient. He’s going to ask a lot of questions and I need to be able to come up with an answer to satisfy him.”
“There’s a specific reason I came. I appreciate the explanation, I know it must not be protocol for you to talk about it,” Callen said.
Asher simply smiled. “I always liked you, Callen. Remind me a bit of myself before I was, well…this.” He shrugged. “What is it you need?”
“When I was fighting the darkness, there was something you chanted to protect me. An incantation of sorts. Would that help quell the darkness for Graciela? On some days it is louder than usual.”
“I suppose I can try it,” Asher nodded. “But not just anyone can use it. I’ll need to speak the incantation to her myself. There’s a catch.”
“Of course there is. Hit me.” Callen shut his eyes tightly as if in pain. “What do I have to sell to you? My soul?”
“Would you sell your soul to me for this girl?” Asher asked, casually. “Does she mean enough to you?”
“I love her grandfather,” Callen said. “I would do anything to him. He doesn’t even need to ask.”
“I see.” Asher began to walk away from Callen. “Only you and her can see me. If anyone else notices me, the Grays especially, I will be in a lot of trouble.”
“I don’t like keeping secrets from Alistair,” Callen said.
“I don’t like keeping secrets from my boss. Only one of us will be sentenced to a life of eternal damnation in this scenario. I want to see her succeed. I know that she will be able to right the wrongs the darkness has put into place. So please, trust me.”
“Alright. Fine. I will.” Callen nodded. “I trust you.”
Winter crossed her arms and glared at Kristopher. “Why are you like this, huh?” She demanded. “You seriously suck.”
“Me?” Kristopher smirked, eyeing the girl. “I laughed because I thought it was funny.”
“Yeah, Graciela getting in trouble is so funny. She’s so nice! Leave her alone, I like her. Sometimes I wonder why you’re even here.”
“My dad and Alistair go way back. And since my dad is now head of the vampires here, I’m the way of creating an alliance. A tool, if you will.” Winter took note that he seemed unperturbed by that admission. “Trust me, I don’t really want to be here. Excuse me for trying to make it a bit more fun. Besides, what kind of vampire is afraid of the dark? It’s where we thrive.”
“Me,” Winter said defiantly. “I hate the dark. It’s a perfectly reasonable fear! Gosh, I hate you so much right now.”
Kristopher winked. “Good. I don’t really date vampires anyway. Feel free to set me up with your cousin though. She looks like she might like to get her life ruined by a vampire.”
“You son of a bitch!” Winter cried. Kristopher was clearly enjoying getting a rise out of her. “Wait until tomorrow’s lessons! You jerk.”
“What are you going to do? Bore me to death with your notes?” Kristopher asked with a simple shrug. “You’re a stick in the mud just like Graciela.”
“We’re not sticks in the mud,” Winter challenged. “We have fun. Just not the kind you like.”
“Girly days at the spa?” Kristopher mocked, pretending to flip his hair. “Wow, I’m missing out on so much.”
“No, we play games and talk about how annoying you are.” She turned to leave. “You can’t get me to come to a club with you by acting this way.”
“What if I’m trying to get you to invite me to a video game and gossip session, hmm?” Kristopher asked mischievously. “Then what?”
“Apologize to Graciela, and she’ll think about letting you come over. It’s not up to me, you jerk.”
Kristopher couldn’t help but chuckle as he saw the girl stalk away from him, shoulders drooped in anger.
Adriana watched Jared with curiosity. They had been in Moonlight Falls together for a few weeks already, and every night he did the same thing. Jared sat by the chess board and played alone, moving pieces from both sides. Something about him was so captivating. He always looked so troubled, except when he was focused on chess. She spent way longer than she liked to admit trying to figure out why he might be hurting inside. Though, since he didn’t speak she didn’t think she’d ever find out.
Today, she must have lingered just a little too long, as he gazed up at her. His eyes never left hers, and finally she had to speak up. “I play chess with my father all the time. Do you want someone to play with? I’m not the best, but I can hold my own for a few rounds.”
He looked stunned for a moment and Adriana realized that he probably didn’t get a lot of invitations to hang out. The others tended to stray away from him. It was hard to communicate with him, yes. But it didn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. Jared put the pieces back in place and simply nodded. Cautiously, Adriana walked over to the table and sat down. “Today’s lesson was weird, huh?” She felt the need to fill the silence even though she knew her conversation would be one sided. Jared nodded his head and Adriana smiled. This was a start.
He slid a piece towards her. “Hm? This isn’t how you play chess, Jared.”
He shook his head as if he knew and then reached over to put the black piece in her hand. The queen. “I don’t get it.” He looked frustrated for a moment but then gave her the white queen piece. He pointed towards her and then made a motion as if putting a crown on top of his head. “Me? I’m the queen?” Jared nodded furiously. “Uhm, thanks?”
He stood up and bowed in front of her. Then, pointed to the doorway and leaned his head on his hands as if he was sleeping. “Bed? Oh, okay. Goodnight then, Jared. Can we play together after lessons tomorrow?” She saw him smile and her heart skipped a beat. “Okay, tomorrow then. Have a good sleep.” Had he smiled at her? She didn’t think she ever saw him smile before this interaction. She was positively giddy, having been able to get through to him. But what did he mean by her being the queen? She’d try to figure out a way ask him tomorrow.