Sophina’s back ached. Waking up on the cold hard floor of a dungeon wasn’t ever something she thought she’d have to face. “I suppose I did come here of my own free will,” Sophina muttered to herself, holding her head in her hands. She had thought at the very least, Dionysus would have visited her before the day’s end. He hadn’t. She couldn’t expect more from him, she surmised. Her stomach twisted in knots. He had not only betrayed her, but Timmy too who had believed in the man so much.
Loud footsteps had the young girl looking up, dread dripping from her features. She would be taken back to Halina and tried as a traitor. It was foolish to think otherwise. At least she had the opportunity to live amongst the civilians in the lower lands. She would be forever grateful to Lavina Gray for taking her in, and Timmy Gray for being a wonderful friend to her. “We don’t have much time,” came a familiar voice.
“Dragos?” Sophina frowned. “What are you doing down here? Come to torture me yourself for me not marrying you?”
“No, don’t be ridiculous. I’m not going to let them take you back to Halina. Indy is not king yet, so his order don’t have to stick indefinitely. I can fight this for you. You need someone of good status in either Auguria or Halina, correct? What if I convince my father to let you become a citizen of Auguria under my protection?
“Why would you do that?” Sophina cried, rushing to the bars of the dungeon cell. “You don’t even know me that well. You’d be putting your name at risk for someone who has no status anymore.”
“Yeah well, Dionysus seems to know you quite well and he was my adviser since I was born. If he says you’re a good person, I’m taking his word for it,” Dragos said confidently.
“He put me in here to begin with!” Sophina exclaimed. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
“No he didn’t,” Dragos replied, shaking his head. “I talked to him and he said this was never his intention. He just wanted you to face your reality and choose what meant more to you. He didn’t know that I wasn’t going to be king anymore.”
“Then why isn’t he here apologizing to me Making things right? He lied to me, whether this was his intention or not!” Sophina’s hand flew up to her heart. “I had thought the world of him on the way up here.”
“He’s covering my ass,” Dragos muttered. “As always. I’m supposed to be blessed by the divines in a few days time. I am trying to resolve this before then.”
“It’s a lot to ask for your help,” Sophina muttered. “Do you get anything in return?”
“Maybe my kingdom back,” Dragos replied. “If my father sees that Indy is not fit to rule by making brash judgments. But, I know that’s a long shot. I expect nothing else in return.” He turned on his heels. “We’ve talked too long. Just cooperate with the guards and do as they say. Dionysus and I will handle your escape. If we cannot do it diplomatically, we will free you.”
“Absolutely not.” Sophina shook her head. “You will not put yourself on the line for me. Please, I have been ousted by my own family. There is no place for me where I once grew up. If you love your kingdom and want to have the life as a ruler, you will not do anything to jeopardize your name.. For once you’re out, it’s for good.”
“Yeah well, I’m willing to take that risk,” Dragos muttered to himself. “But you better prove worth it because if not, we’re all dead. Even Dionysus.”
Lavina looked around the lavish abode. Of course the vampires lived in luxury. Why wouldn’t they? If they wanted something, they could simply take it. “Lucis, please. I appreciate all the help you have given my family in their time of need but I wish to speak to Elisha directly.” She had bit back her harsh words, having been highly offended that the mage who helped her ailing brother before was aligned with the vampires the entire time. He had called her over only a few days after she had encountered Altiere. Showing her the way directly to Elisha when he knew about her distaste for him only meant one thing. Lucis expected she could be beneficial to Elisha in some way, and if he could help her brother she’d do anything.
“He’ll have his word with you,” Lucis said. “Trust me, it is in his best interest to start interacting peacefully and publicly with the humans more.”
“I don’t want to be his example,” Lavina said coldly.
“No, but you need his help right? You’ll help each other out, like a mutual feeding of sorts. You feed him and he flourishes. Then he leaves your crops alone so that you can feed too. Metaphorically, of course,” Lucis said. “I know you are here about your brother. No other thing could make you ignore your pride.”
“The spells you’ve been casting on him haven’t rally been working. I mean, he can stay in the sun for longer but he still hears the voices,” Lavina explained. “Well, he told me he hears voices. It is the darkness who taunts him, yet I have no way to reach it to make it stop.”
“The darkness?” Lucis asked, furrowing his brow. “That’s the first I’m hearing about this sort of thing. Elisha would be the one to know if anyone did.”
“Yes, of course,” Lavina mumbled. She took the seat that Lucis offered her, with a bit of trepidation. She was out of her element here, but she was hoping Elisha would listen to reason.
Lapis shook his head furiously. “I will not listen to reason!” He shouted, demanding to be heard by the vampires. You tell me which one of you supernatural scum killed my love!”
Lavina noticed the other human thrashing about almost immediately. She furrowed her brow in confusion. What was another human doing here? He must have wanted retribution for the recent vampire attacks. “Please calm down, sir,” Lucis said, placing his hands in front of him. “Our leader will talk to you and sort this out, I promise.”
“I don’t want the leader!” Lapis shouted. “I want the man who killed my lover and took her baby. He has to pay for what he’s done.”
“We are doing an investigation and-” Lucis was promptly cut off.
“Investigation!?” Lapis cried. “What kind of investigation do you need to do? Everyone in the lower lands knows that a vampire committed those crimes! Why defend them when they’re clearly a threat? I want justice and I want it now.”
Lavina stood up and strode over to the pair. “The vampires have to answer for their crimes whether you agree with it or not. Angry people just like this guy will revolt,” Lavina said.
“Handle this then,” Lucis said with a wave of his hand. “I’m sure that will put you in Elisha’s good favor.” Lucis stalked off, obviously worn out from his daily duties.
When Lucis was gone, Lavina turned to the irate man. “I don’t know how Lucis wants me to handle you, exactly. You’re angry and rightfully so. Had I not needed the service of the vampires, I wouldn’t be here.”
“You….” Lapis placed a hand on his head, as if in a trance. Had he not heard a word she said? “You’re the girl I’m looking for. I saw you!” He cried.
“You saw me? Where?” Lavina asked. “What are you talking about? We’ve never met.”
“No, I suppose we haven’t,” He muttered. “I’ve seen you in my head. A vision of sorts…of the future…”
“Visions of the future?” Lavina wanted to laugh but she knew it was entirely possible. Her brother had been hearing voices in his head. “What did you see?”
“You, a young boy who looks like you, and a vampire. Other than that, it is all darkness,” Lapis said. “I cannot make sense of these visions, though I know they’re correct for they foretold the death of my beloved. I wish I had listened to it sooner.”
Lavina frowned, scratching her head. “That could mean any number of things but I suppose it’s a good start. After-all, it means I have been travelling in the right direction.”
Amanda pushed her hair out of her face, letting out a huff. “I’m a human. What did you expect? I can’t keep up with a vampire.”
“Bullshit,” Elisha said, lowering his eyes at the human girl. “Did you think you could simply lie to me? I can smell Altiere all over you. Are you sleeping with him?”
“No!” She cried. “Of course not. I haven’t been sleeping with him. You’re my boyfriend.” She bit her lip, hoping that the potion to mask the smell of the babies worked. Leaving the scent of himself, Amanda was sure, was a tease for Elisha. A hint of what was to come. Something the man couldn’t stop on his own.
“Yet you have the smell of that rat all over you,” Elisha mumbled. “What game is he playing? Amanda, if you are loyal to me you must be honest. If you are stuck, please allow me to help you.” Elisha reached out to grab her arms, frowning when she recoiled from his touch. “I see.”
“You see nothing!” She cried, closing her eyes. “I just wanted the potion, Elisha. But you would not allow me to have it. He has promised me much more and I won’t betray him.”
“That is a dangerous game you’re playing,” Elisha warned. “You would be playing with father time, and that is something you humans don’t know about. You cannot simply stop the aging process without a cost.”
“My cost is working with Altiere,” She replied simply. Amanda turned to leave, swaying her hips. “You will see the reckoning when it’s too late.”
Elisha shut his eyes, trying to calm his emotions. “Do you think I will simply let you leave? You have told me of your betrayal and I’m supposed to just let you walk? I am not too blinded by love to let you go free.”
“You didn’t love me and you know it,” She accused. “You just wanted a human commodity on your arms.”
“Contrary to what you humans believe, I do have a heart,” he spat, anger taking over him. He walked over to the door, swinging it open. “Guards, detain this woman. Do not harm her. We are better than that.”
“Let me go!” She shouted, kicking angrily. “You vampires are vile!” Despite her thrashing about, the guards stayed true to their orders and didn’t harm her.
Lapis, who had already began leaving, turned back around. “Hold on!” He cried, jumping to her feet. “You vampires do hate us humans! Unhand that woman!”
“Everyone calm down!” Lucis shouted, jumping in front of Lapis and the approaching guards. “I personally invited both Lavina and Lapis here to our den for an important reason. You will leave them unharmed.”
“Do as he says,” Elisha replied with the wave of a hand. “The two of you can approach me now. No malicious activities or else my guards will apprehend you and you will face the same fate as that woman before you.”
“I want answers about my dead love,” Lapis said. “And I will get them before I leave or else.”
“Or else what?” Elisha asked. “You are two humans amongst a den of vampires and other supernaturals. You do not stand a chance at defeating us. I am not looking for a war, so please do not make it that way. I am looking to help the humans who have been wronged by people of my kind.”
“How can you make it better?” Lapis demanded. “Chastity is already dead!”
“I cannot bring her back to life, but perhaps I can retrieve her baby,” Elisha said. “I do not condone the actions of the men in my clan who have done that to your people.”
“All of this fancy talk aside,” Lavina said. “Why us? You think we can help somehow, don’t you?”
“Of course,” Elisha said. “I wouldn’t have risked the lives of my people otherwise. Lapis, you are very clearly a seer. Someone who can see into the future. Your powers could be of great use to us here. We will be able to tell what is being planned with those babies, if anything.”
“And me?” Lavina asked, not bothering to listen if Lapis was interested. “I’m here for my brother, nothing else.”
“Your brother is bonded to the darkness. I can feel it quite strongly when I approach anywhere near Clan Gray. It is a strange concept that none of you have noticed it sooner. Lucis can help alleviate the pressure, but having ties so closely to the darkness will undo anyone. It is fated to be that way.”
“What do you mean by undo?” Lavina cried.
“He will be torn apart by the darkness when it chooses to leave his body and enter our world. He is but a vessel. Of course, in legend there are stories of a light that can illuminate that darkness and erase it from the boy without harm. But, those may just be legends. Seeing something like this is not common.”
“I refuse to believe that,” Lavina said. “He will not be destroyed. You are going to help me rid him of the menace once and for all!” She cried. “Why is it bothering him?”
“It is anyone’s guess, but if I had to make a summation it’d be because of who your family is. Darkness finds those who harbor it in their hearts. Your people have a hatred for all unlike you,” Elisha explained.
“But not Timothy,” Lavina muttered. “He is accepting of all.”
“Yes well,” Elisha began. “Sometimes the bad deeds of one can ruin the life of someone undeserving. Similar with the situation we find ourselves in now. We cannot control every person and their actions. We can only help to influence them and prevent them from hurting others with our good deeds.”
“I cannot guarantee a removal of the darkness,” Elisha said. “To be honest I haven’t even had much experience with it myself. But I have ancient arcane literature in my archives that I can reference. My library is available to you if you would please help me.”
“Yes, deal. Anything you want,” Lavina said without missing a beat.
“As for you, Lapis, I have literature about seers as well. Looking into the future is something talked about but not often, if at all, seen in practice behind a human’s eyes. Beyond literature, I will bring your love’s baby back to you,” Elisha said. “I promise that to you.”
“And what do you expect of us?” Lapis asked.
“Aside from your help in attempting to see the future of this matter, Lapis, I would like you and Lavina to simply tell your people we are not to be feared. Not all vampires are bad,” Elisha said. “We do not wish harm or ill-will towards anyone. At least not all of us. You have to let them know that we are not all bad seeds.”
“That’s it?” Lavina asked. “You know that my clan will not stand for that.”
“Please, just try to tide the masses over. We do not want a war,” Elisha said. “I know it will be difficult, but the faith of the people is enough to change the world.”