Dragos began packing his bags angrily. How could his father be so callous as to demand he stop trying to help Sophina? Since when did Indy’s orders hold so much weight in the kingdom? Indy was still a prince, and Dragos held seniority. “Dragos, please,” Dahlia, the royal priestess, begged. “Stop this.”
“I will not!” He cried, throwing his hand embroidered suitcase across the room in a fit of rage. “Leave me be, I will not be doing this ceremony.”
“You must!” Dahlia cried, clutching her holy beads to her chest tightly. “If Lady Elora has bestowed her blessing upon your family, you cannot disrespect her. It will incur her wrath and bring dishonor to your family name.”
“You seem to think I care about that,” Dragos grumbled. He loved his kingdom above all else but it was very clear to him that his father and Indy only cared about obtaining the most out of their positions. Indy had made it clear he wanted the power of the divine and his father was a man who too devoutly stuck to his traditions. Dragos wanted to usher Auguria into a new era with progressive movements. Ha, like anyone would let him do that. Sophina was right to have run away from her duties.
“You should!” Dahlia snapped. “It is selfish to bring shame to the name of your family. Goddess Elora is providing you her power and blessing, and you choose to ignore that? You simply cannot.”
“But I’m going to,” Dragos said, his fists clenching. “I asked my father one simple thing, to free Sophina Aguirre. He could not do that as it would ruin relationships with Halina. But, what message does that send out to people in need? If you need help, if it isn’t advantageous to the king he will not provide assistance. You are nothing but a priestess who preforms the rites of the kingdom, so how would you know?”
“Say what you will,” Dahlia replied. “I know you speak out of anger, but you do not realize the power Elora wants to give you.”
“To do what exactly” Dragos asked. “Help her grant wishes, yes? Wishes for who and what? My Kingdom is being led blindly to their subservient doom and you want me to follow some path that was laid out for me? I will not, and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Dragos, angry beyond belief, slammed into Dahlia as she tried to block his exit. “You are making a big mistake, Elora will be angry and we will all have to pay.”
“Well good for her,” Dragos replied. “I am going to do what I think is right and that’s not following the will of a divine blindly. Right now what feels right is leaving my responsibilities and thinking about myself for once. You can tell my father that.”
“Dragos!” Dahlia cried out, but it was too late. He had already stormed out of the room in search of Dionysus. If Dahlia was smart, she’d leave him be and let him head out on his own.
Dragos made his way to the dungeon, frustration fueling his actions. It was about time that the guards would be on break, but his next actions still needed to be hasty. He approached Sophina’s cell, grabbing onto the bars. “Hey, get up . Now. there’s no time, we need to get you out of here.”
“Huh?” Sophina looked up groggily, wiping her eyes. “Did you get approval from your father? He’s allowing me to leave?”
“Not exactly,” He replied. “My dad doesn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with Halina, so the only way to get you out of this is to break you out.”
“That is not a good idea,” Sophina said. “What about your kingdom…?”
“What about it?” Dragos asked, already annoyed with her questions. “Don’t try to stop me. I don’t want to be bound to a divine. I feel disrespected that my throne was given away so callously to my brother. Not because I don’t have the throne, but because I want what’s best for my people and my brother wants power. You can see what my family values more.”
“You think you know family until they choose money and power over you. You get replaced, but at least Indy is blood.” Sophina frowned. “If you do this, you’ll be banished from your country.”
“If my dad and brother banish me, then I don’t want those kind of people in my life. If love means nothing to them, then I’m clearly not in the right place. So, when I open this cell you’re either with me or you’re not.”
“Hello, remember why I’m in here? Of course I’, with you,” Sophina replied. “I’ll follow your lead.”
Dragos undid the lock on the cell. “Dionysus doesn’t know I’m on my way, so we have to get to him quick. He’s not in the castle right now.”
“Where is he?” Sophina asked.
“Out buying some thing or other for the ceremony,” Dragos replied nonchalantly. “The rite of the divines.”
“What does that mean?” Sophina asked. “Rite of the divines?”
Dragos pushed the cell door open and stepped to the side to allow Sophina to exit. “Oh, do you not worship the divines in Halina?”
“We do,” Sophina said. “But I know of no rites. What kind of ceremony is this?”
“Years ago, like decades ago, the Draknar family assisted a goddess and she promised to bestow her favor on one of the man’s descendants. That’s me apparently. Kind of why I can’t be king. And before you say anything, no it isn’t cool to have another kind of shackle around my ankle.”
“I won’t comment on something I know little about,” She murmured. “I can just thank you for your kindness.”
She followed Dragos closely as he led her out of the dungeon through an underground passage he had often played in as a child. “We’re going into town through the sewers so stick close to me.”
Dragos held onto Sophina’s hand tight, as if letting her go would cause his future to fly away. He hadn’t stopped to think about his actions, he just knew that he didn’t want to be in the castle’s walls any longer. “How much farther?” She asked quietly, allowing her long hair to cover her face.
“The store is up ahead, can’t you see Dio’s horse?” Dragos asked. Sophina followed Dragos as he ushered her forward into the small potion store. Were the people of Auguria openly dabbling in magic?
“Welcome to the store. Please let me know if we can help you. Oh!” The older cashier ducked her head. “Your highness! What blesses us with your presence?”
“I was fetching my advisor,” Dragos said kindly, bowing in honor of the older merchant. “If we can be so kind as to steal him from you?”
“Oh! Of course,” The woman cried, sliding the bag of ingredients towards Dionysus without even ringing it up. Dionysus slid a coin across the table and smiled. “How very generous, thank you my lords!”
Dionysus walked up to Dragos and placed an arm behind his back. “What are you doing here?” He whispered. “And with her?”
“Exactly what it looks like. You’re a smart guy, put two and two together and let’s get on your horse now,” Dragos hissed under his breath.
Once outside, Dionysus slammed his hand against his face. “I’m not going to make you return Sophina to her cell but you need to return in time for the rite.”
“I don’t want to go through with it,” Dragos replied. “I’m not going to do it.”
“You were the one who told me to find a life where I can be free. Is that different for Dragos?” Sophina asked. “Or, was that a lie to get me here so I could be captured?”
“That was not my intention at all,” Dionysus said. “I didn’t know Indy would order your capture. I meant everything I said on that horse. You are very special and deserve to be happy. But you and Dragos are two different people. Sometimes happiness has to come second.”
“Why in this case, huh?” Sophina asked.
“You realize what turning down a divine’s blessing means, yes?” Dionysus asked. “It is the ultimate dishonor towards a woman who wants to pay homage to the Draknar family. To dishonor Elora is to damn both Dragos and his family to a life of misery.”
“You cannot pass judgement until you wake up with that weight on your shoulders,” Sophina said. “They are causing misery to Dragos. Is he supposed to shoulder the misery so that his father and brother may be worry free? It is an unfair thing to ask.”
“I am just your advisor,” Dionysus told Dragos. “I am not going to force you to do anything, but I am advising you not to turn your back on Elora if just for the sake of saving yourself.”
“I will find a way to make this work,” Dragos replied. “But I just need some time to sleep on it. Sophina was going to be taken back to Halina today and I’m not ready for the rite. So what was I to do?”
“Think on your actions,” Dionysus replied. “But if this is what you want, my job is to make sure you get all you need. So, take my horse.”
“No,” Dragos replied, shaking his head. “You’re coming with me. We’ll go on foot. The three of us.”
“Where?” Sophina asked.
“Back to clan Gray,” Dionysus replied. “That’s a safe place. Lavina would welcome us, no?”
“Yes,” Sophina said with a slight nod. “I’m sure she would.”
Lavina flipped through the pages of the ancient arcane book that Elisha had given her. She let out an aggravated sigh. “This is almost impossible to read. What language is this?”
Lapis raised a brow. “Can I see it?” He asked. When Lavina slid it over he frowned. “It’s ancient vampiric text. They had their own language a couple of centuries ago.”
“You must know a lot about the arcane,” Lavina muttered.
“No,” Lapis replied. “But the voice in my head does. Er, it’s not much of a voice actually. This book right here…” Lapis held up a book by his side. “It says the voice that tells me of the future is not a voice belonging to another entity, but the power of a divine invested into me. So the gods are telling me of what is going to happen and I’m just the vessel.”
“Makes sense that you’d know so much then,” Lavina said. “Do you think you could read this text?”
“No.” Lapis shook his head. “Not even I can. You’ll have to ask Elisha. Though, for it to be written in such an ancient language, I wonder what it could possibly say. What did they know back then that they never translated to the current generation of vampires?”
“I hope that whatever this darkness thing is that is harassing my brother can be destroyed so that he can finally live a normal life,” Lavina said. “Have you seen into teh future as of late?”
“A woman is going to be coming back with a human and an elf,” Lapis said. “They’ll be asking to be under your protection. Though, it is unclear if you should house them or not. I can’t really see the implications of certain actions yet.”
“I will be fine to make that decision on my own,” Lavina said. “Thank you for alerting me. Anything about Altiere?”
“No,” Lapis said, shaking his head. “I wish I knew where Chastity’s baby is being held and what that sick bastard is doing to her.”
“I’m sorry about that,” Lavina said quietly. “It must be the hardest cross to bear. If I can help you bring Chastity justice, I will.” Lavina tapped the pages of the book, not wanting to confront Elisha herself.
“You should go,” Lapis told her with a slight nod. “I wasn’t able to save Chastity, but you may be able to save your brother before it’s too late.”
Lapis was right. Lavina shot to her feet. “Thank you for your kind words, Lapis. You are more than right.”
Lavina held her breath before knocking on the door to Elisha’s office. She felt so strange being in his hoe. She knew if her clan had seen her, they’d probably disown her. Even worse, getting them to accept the vampires as equals was going to be impossible. Not all of them would sacrifice their pride and beliefs for Timmy’s well-being. After all, he was just one life and they were many. “Come in, Lavina,” Elisa said, before the woman could even announce herself.
She bowed her head, not used to this kind of humility. “Elisha, I do not understand the text in this book. Lapis says it’s an ancient vampiric language.”
“Let me see,” Elisa said, taking the book from her hands. “Ah, yes it is. This is just the table of contents. The section on darkness is on page 15. Let’s see.” Lavina felt as if Elisha was turning the pages painfully slow. “When the world was created, two things were added to the sky: darkness and light. In the morning we have beautiful sunrises because of the light, but nightfalls because of the darkness. As is customary with any opposites, we cannot have one without the other. As such, the darkness will always exist.”
“Keep reading,” Lavina urged. “Please.”
“The world would not be able to function without the darkness to shadow over our people. Darkness and light act in harmony, except when one is more powerful than the other. If darkness is more powerful than its counterpart, it will try to manifest and spread to as many things as possible. If the darkness is at a critical point of power overload, a light being will absorb it into itself. In many cases, this is a human or supernatural vessel. The vessel will bear the brunt of the extra power, until it is destroyed and the darkness calms down.” Elisha scratched his head. “I believe that’s the gist of it.”
“Are you saying that Timmy is the light that’s absorbing the darkness?” Lavina asked in disbelief. “That is impossible, how has the darkness gotten so strong? It is just a shadow. It makes no sense.”
“The darkness is something not even I truly understand. It is a matter of nature, something that will always exist as the book says. If it is inside of Timmy, the darkness must need to be contained by the light. He is saving us all.”
“It needs to stop!” Lavina cried. “Keep reading, how do I stop this from tearing my brother open?”
“There is no more on darkness,” Elisha whispered, shutting the book. “Lavina, I am sorry.” But, she wasn’t giving up on this. Her brother would be rid of the darkness.