Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.Margaret Mead
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
“You wanted to see me, father.”
The moment Caelan stepped into Caleb Vatore’s study after having been summoned, he was able to tell that this wasn’t going to be an ‘atta boy’ kinda talk about Caelan’s latest successfully completed task.
With a deep, dark voice and without ever turning around, the moment Caelan shut the door behind himself, Caleb spoke, even though he was still the stoically calm man he usually was, something in his voice told Caelan otherwise. Caleb was angry. Very angry. With him.
“I heard some disturbing news about you, some I didn’t like, not one little bit! I could hardly believe my ears! What were you thinking?! Associating with a Spellcaster, a Latimer at that, and right under my nose! Are you trying to disgrace the family?! Are you so keen on starting a war for us?! Explain yourself!”
“You set your spies on your very own son?!”
“Never mind how I found out, worry that I did! If I know, others may, and that is equally as concerning. I have come to terms with your unspoken decision to not give me an heir, I have accepted that you are not someone I can take to meetings of the Elder Council with me, let alone send in my stead, that needs to be my nephew, as my only son is incapable of respectfully holding his tongue until he has something valuable to add – and that is if he talks at all, which is rare enough! Half the council probably thinks you are a mute and daft, the other that you were raised in the gutter by a sailor and a whore, not a former Florentine nobleman who is now the reigning Grand Master Elder over a very large community of vampires, where lack of respect could mean mutiny! With your cousin Riordan as my right hand I could even handle that, and I have. But this, THIS is unacceptable! It will stop right here and now!”
“I don’t care what the Elder Council thinks of me, father! I despise that nonsensical drivel where all those old farts sit there feeling important while speaking for hours without saying anything at all, just to hear themselves talk! I speak when I have something to say. You do not need heirs from me! Scarlett already gave you some, yet, I do not recall you yelling at her for mingling with a mortal. Oh no, quite the contrary, you attended their wedding, grinning like a mortal fool who found a cookie!” Caelan snapped back defensively.
Finally, Caleb turned around, anger clearly reflecting in his eyes.
“Watch your tongue, boy! I tolerate no disrespect, not even from my own flesh and blood! You may have forgotten whom you are speaking to, let me remind you that I am your father and your Grand Master Elder, so you WILL show me respect! I am done with your jealousy of your sister! If you think I gave her more attention, more options, more anything than you, you should take a long hard look at yourself and your often dismal behavior and ask yourself what you have done for me to be proud of! Scarlett is someone you should look up to, learn from, rather than pitifully judge with childlike – not to mention unfounded – jealousy! I love the two grandchildren she has given me, more than anything, but your sister cannot give me proper heirs. One is a mortal and a girl at that, little Chase may be a vampire but does not bear our family name. No, I would need a viable and male heir to come from you, but not with one of your whores, let alone a witch, if you please! I never even asked for you to be married, not even a relationship to last, as long as you would give me a son who would live and train at the castle, but you won’t even give me that! Should there ever be a war, and should I perish in it, God forbid Riordan as well, Lord have mercy on the world, as mutiny would be imminent and devastating to humanity and even those of our kind who prefer a peaceful, harmonious life, as there would be none of that ever again! That is clear, far from a guess. And if you think for even one second you could fight your way to safety with your usual brute force, you are sorely mistaken! They would kill your mother, your sister and you and anyone with Vatore blood, as that is how vampire warfare works. Lucky for you, you never had to worry about this. I have seen it, first hand, it ended my mortality and made myself and my sister into this, as we could only watch the rest of our family perish! Is THAT what you want, son?!”
“I am sure you can find a way to make Scarlett’s boy your heir, he can grow up under your influence and then you can save the world together. Ha! You always managed to bend the rules for her. I’ll be over here slaying those who won’t obey you, blissfully single and unattached without brats to worry about, just like before. My profession isn’t exactly the perfect precursor to be a husband and father anyway, wouldn’t you agree? Which decent woman wants an executioner, a killer, to share their bed with? Which child wants that for a father?”
“Bend the rules?! For your sister? Hardly! There was never any need! You have always been the only one I had to look the other way for, you seem to enjoy few things more than test the bounds, trying my patience appears to be your favorite past time. But your sister, no. I will not stand here quietly, while being accused of preferring either of my children over the other, but I will readily admit that I admire your sister greatly. I have walked this earth for over 500 years now, I have seen civilizations rise and fall, I have seen great strategists, highly intelligent leaders, but your sister easily measures up to each and every one of them! What she accomplished, the plan she presented to me about the much needed change in our male-dominated community with all the outdated laws, her plan was so good that I dared to present it to the Elder Council, well aware that it could have been my downfall! But no, it was so good in fact that even they considered it! Several voted in favor of it, almost a majority, just a few votes shy! Can you even begin to comprehend what sort of feat that was, for a woman in our society?! It was not her fault, or my fault or any of our faults that she failed anyway. That is a way to make a father burst for pride. And yes, she wanted the mortal, Blaine, it seemed impossible, and look, in the end, she managed that too. You better believe I can appreciate all her sacrifice and will always stand there proudly, even if that makes me a fool in my own son’s eyes! Besides, nobody has any problem with any vampire associating with a mortal, but a Spellcaster is a very different story!”
“There you have it. Still sounds to me like if Scarlett were a man, you wouldn’t even care what I was doing, not even if I were fucking a dozen witches right here in front of you, right on your desk!”
“This comment only proves to me that you are still much too immature to be taken serious, out of spite you’re incapable of giving due respect, and hencewith deserve none yourself, your demeanor that of a little boy, so I will treat you accordingly. You will remain in your suite until I decide otherwise. Riordan will take over your tasks in the interim, should any arise. And rest assured, should I ever see another Spellcaster in this town, they will be dealt with, once and for all.”
“Father!” Caelan could feel it. Without even moving, Caleb had stripped his son of his powers.
“Fuck this! Fuck you!” he roared, glaring at Caleb angrily, before storming out of his father’s study, up the stairs to the top of the castle, which was exclusively occupied by him.
Some hours of brooding in his suite later he heard steps on the stairs up to his suite and braced for more confrontation.
When he looked up, and his niece Vivien came into view, he relaxed, instantly felt relief, rose up and went to hug her.
He said nothing, just pressed the slender girl against himself, burying his head into her shoulder. Her presence made him feel better, less hopeless, a feeling that had followed his punishment once the anger subsided.
“Surprised they let you up here.” he growled.
“Well .. I didn’t exactly bother to ask. We’re in town to finalize the paperwork for us to foster Celeste, my dad’s ex-wife’s orphan from her subsequent marriage. When we got here, grandpa had the doom and gloom face, then pulled mom aside to talk privately while grandma distracted dad and the little ones. I just knew it had to be something to do with you again, so I took the chance when nobody was paying attention and ran up the stairs. Sooooooo whatcha do this time, you rebel?” she smirked, making him chuckle, and shake his head.
“Why do you automatically assume I did something wrong?” he let go.
She gave him a telltale glance, which made him smile more.
“Ahem – maybe because I know you?! Remember, I used to live here! Duh!” she told him with a cocked head.
“Fine, you’re right, I pissed off your grandfather because … well …. in a nutshell I saw a woman I shouldn’t have and he got wind of it. That’s all I can tell you without running it by your mom first.”
“Seriously now? Secrets? From me? You need mom to approve the truth now? Not like I already know about other secret stuff, like – say – vampires that don’t even exist and secret halls and rites and …”
“Okay okay! Has your mom ever mentioned Spellcasters to you?”
“Of course. I know everything about those.” Vivien said a little too quickly and enthusiastically.
“You’re lying!” Caelan called her out.
“Well, mom may have forgotten to bring that up, but my awesome uncle Caelan will tell me about those, because he is just the bestestest uncle in the world and he loves me sooo much and I love him even more.”
“Does that actually work on your parents?”
“Yup, every time, so don’t even try to resist the urge!” Vivien grinned.
Caelan chuckled again, wondering how such a little mortal girl could change his mood so much with so little effort.
“Fine, you brat. Spellcaster is a broad catchall term for magicians, mages, witches and witchers, the whole magic lot. In other words, yes, they exist, and they have a century old war with the vampires, but father made a truce with them long before your mother and I were even born. Of course we are not supposed to fraternize with them, but …”
“… but you fraternized with a pretty specimen of theirs anyway. And by fraternizing I of course mean … well … you Caelan-ed her. You didn’t knock her up, did you?”
“Boy, I hope not. That’s just the thing, last time I saw her, that’s what she told me she wanted to happen, needless to mention I was done with her then and there, you know I don’t go there, but father’s spies must have seen me with her here in Forgotten Hollow, in some peculiar situation at Vatore Park. Spellcasters are prohibited from entering to begin with, doing the nasty with them at the park named in honor of our family is definitely not allowed.”
“Man, are you dumb! Duh! If you want to meet a girl you are not supposed to, definitely don’t do it in your own backyard. Wow. You are definitely more brawn than brains. Lucky for you you’re good looking.”
“Hey, watch it, you beast! Even though, that’s pretty much what your grandfather told me too. Among other, even more demeaning things. Of course the old dog and pony show about how your mother is just infinitely better at everything than me. As if I needed a reminder.”
“I think my mom is great and all, but so are you. You’re just different, just like Blakey and I are. I don’t think he is better than me or I am better than him, neither do mom and dad. So why would grandma and grandpa think that about you? I think you are a little oversensitive here, Cae. Crystal-clear to me that granma Breana and grampa Caleb love you a lot! The same as they love my mom.”
“Well, Blake didn’t almost change the entire future of the vampire community worldwide by trying to make them publicly accepted, rather than us hiding in the shadows. Your grandfather just got off on that again earlier and I got nothing to show for like that. Your mother is a hard act to follow.”
“Wow, right, I forgot about that. My mom is pretty awesome. But then again, so are you, and at the end of the day, mom did end up trying and failing. As my grandpa Rett always says, you can try in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up first.”
“Hmm. Smartest thing I have heard in a while. Gonna have to remember that.”
“Don’t bother. If your dad is anything like your sister, you just end up grounded and without your cell phone for whole day, if you use that as an argument in a fight with your parents.”
“I think I am a bit too old be grounded and loose cell phone privileges, little one.”
“Ah yeah? Cos from where I sit …. ya know.” Vivien gestured around them.
“Touché, I guess I did get grounded after all. Hm.”
“Well, there are ways to get out of that sooner. Just kiss up to your dad, tell him you love him ….”
“Viv, that’s not the kind of relationship we have. We don’t do that.”
“Well, then you should start, CaeCae. I know my mom tells grandpa that all the time, dad tells his parents that, I tell my parents, my entire family even, aunts, uncles, grandparents. You do love your parents, don’t you? You SHOULD tell them. It’s incredibly powerful. Trust me on that one. It makes all the difference in the world for them. Here, I go first: Uncle Caelan, I love you.”
“Vivien, I appreciate you trying to help, but not everything that works for a little mortal girl applies to a full grown vampire, especially not one like me. It would probably make father think even less of me than he already does, he’d think me weak and wimpy.”
“My mom’s still a vampire, right? Or did I miss a big memo? And I wouldn’t call my mom weak and wimpy, especially not to her face. Not even as a full grown male vampire.”
“Your mom’s a girl too. That’s always different! I am a man, so is your grandfather. We just don’t do that.”
“Sexist much? Love is universal, especially between parents and kids!”
“I am not sexist! Please let’s just agree to disagree and drop this, okay?” Caelan was about to lose his mind.
“Ha, if you run out of arguments, change the topic I guess, huh? But fine, we’ll talk about something else. Sooooo, more importantly, do you like that witch girl? Is she pretty or like … scary witch, like moles with hairs growing out of it, crooked nose and all that? Any weird body parts that shouldn’t be there? She’s not green and flies around on a broom, right?”
“What do you think?! You think I would fuck a gargoyle?! Sorry, I meant .. fraternize with one. I wouldn’t. So, no she looks just like the rest of us. Well, like you. Older of course. Well, what I mean is, she looks like a regular woman, but trust me, she’s not. She knocked me down on my ass without much effort. Pretty powerful.”
“Ugh, there is a Seraphina in one of my classes. Not a fan. Arrogant bitch. Not sure I can ship you being with one.”
“No need to ‘ship’ anything, it was nothing serious, besides, I am quite sure I don’t need my niece’s approval! Also, I doubt it’s the same one, Viv. I am a lot of things, but cradle robber is not one I can be accused of. My Seraphina definitely has no confidence issues, guess you could call her arrogant. And yes, she is very attractive. Red hair, blue eyes with a strange red ring around the iris that make them look as if there were a fire raging within, ivory skin, freckles, perfect figure, firm where she should be and soft in the right spots…”
“Quite the sales pitch, CaeCae! And you called her ‘my Seraphina’. Ooooooooh! You like her! And red hair? That’s new. Tired of all the blondes?”
“Don’t you jump to conclusions! That’s not what I meant. All I meant was, not your classmate, but the witch I was … dealing with. Just another affair, I don’t want her, she just kinda pushed herself on me and last time I saw her she went all crazy on me about me being her mate and us having a baby. I don’t roll that way! You know that. And even if I wanted her, my father would have my hide if I tried. He made it sound that by me getting my – ahem – ‘fraternizing stick’ as much as near her, I doomed our entire population for generations to come. He completely exaggerated something unnecessarily. Totally overreacted. Look at me, he stripped me of my powers and I am stuck at the castle now.”
“Fathers man. Enough said!” Vivien let out a theatric sigh.
“Hmm, perfect daddy dearest give you grief, lil one?” Caelan couldn’t help the snarkiness.
“You have NO idea. Dad used to be soooo cool, but as soon as I have a boyfriend he turns into dadzilla. He humiliated me sooooo badly. I swear I am gonna die.”
“Wait … you have a boyfriend?! Why am I just now hearing about that? Aren’t you a bit young for that?” his face darkened, Caelan frowned, causing Vivien to grimace angrily.
“OMG, is dadzillaness contagious?! Don’t you go rogue on me now too, or I swear, CaeCae! You’re supposed to have my back here! I am 15 years old, almost ALL girls at school have relationships. I do NOT need more weirdness in my life! Besides, you probably dated when you were my age.”
“I did, but I wouldn’t call that dating. I used girls, then and now, so I have to agree with your father there. I don’t think I like that much. What kind of boyfriend? Is he one of those rich celeb kids?”
“Of course he is, those are the only ones I can get even close to without dad freaking out, thinking everyone only wants me because of him, his money and fame. The only non-celebrities I am allowed to associate with are my family and Nikki. You know my boyfriend, it’s Matt. Matteo, from next door. You met him a few times at parties at the Mansion.”
“Oh, the gay kid. In that case …” Caelan looked relieved, but received a nudge by Vivien.
“HE IS NOT GAY! He asked me out, he kissed me first! A gay boy wouldn’t do that! Duh!”
“He probably just hasn’t figured it out yet himself. Or he needs a beard. Duh yourself!”
“Caelan, I swear! Knock it off!”
“Okay, chill. But I will tell you ‘told ya so’ when he starts borrowing your clothes and makeup.” Caelan said, barely able to hide a smirk, earning himself a hard whack by Vivien.
“Shut up! Gay boys don’t do that, that would be transvestites or transsexuals, you are getting your entire LBGTQ mixed up now! For the record – Matt is neither! I have known him for years!”
“Ouch, you hit pretty hard for a mortal!” Caelan complained, rubbing the spot she hit.
“I am a Vatore, still and also 50% vampire. I may not have your strength, eternal life or any of the other cool stuff you can do, but I am proud and brave.”
“That you are. And the coolest mortal I know, hands down. I am glad they didn’t talk you into changing your last name, I hoped you wouldn’t. Bad enough you live so far away, at least you still belong here with us in name. That Matt guy is lucky to have you. Better treat you right, or I will pay him a visit. Maybe his last one ever.”
“You’d visit whatever mush is left of him after I am through with him, which won’t be much. I told you before, I do not need a man to fight my battles.”
“No, you do not, and don’t you ever change, little one. You are absolutely perfect just the way you are.”
“Now that sounds a lot better. Thanks. And I inherited that from my uncle CaeCae. He’s grade A awesome.”
“I wish that were true, little one. You at least make me want to try to be better, but I think I am a hopeless case. Just scum, the type of guy a girl like you should stay far away from. Nothing but darkness and trouble.”
“Are you calling me a liar? I said you are awesome. Accept that, or do you wanna go, huh? I bet without all your powers I can totally take you!”
Caelan laughed out loud, as he pulled the skinny frame of his giggling niece close, pressing her tight against himself until she complained.
By the time Vivien left, after planting a big kiss on his cheek, which felt like medicine to him, Caelan’s mood had improved tremendously. She had always had that effect on him, even as a baby. Back when he was just learning his job as executioner of vampires, after a rough day, or a fight he almost lost, hurting, humiliated, battered and bruised, he used to go into the nursery and just watch her sleep, hold her if she was awake. It kept him from losing the last bit of humanity he had left.
A while later there was another visitor, this time it was Caleb.
“A word, my son?”
“I have been thinking. I may have been too harsh on you, and I apologize for that. You are a good son, you complete all tasks I give you to my fullest satisfaction, smoothly and quickly. I should not have compared you to your sister. Siblings are rarely ever the same and …. what?” Caleb had been carefully choosing his words, but got distracted and now looked at his son, slightly irritated when Caelan couldn’t bite back a slight chuckle.
“Sorry father, please proceed.” he said with a forced straight face.
“I’d rather hear what was so amusing about me making amends.”
“Sorry, it just sounded like Vivien worked you over verbally.”
“Vivien? I don’t see what my granddaughter has to … well, no. I do not want to base my apology to my only son on a lie. You are right. Yes, Vivien did come to me and – how did you put it? Worked me over verbally. It’s a good term for it, very fitting. I do not think I have ever met a mortal – or a vampire for that matter – who had the ability to get me to change my mind about things like she has. Which is putting it mildly. But she was also right, and I like to think I am man enough to admit when I was wrong. I should never have said to you what I did, I should never compare my children to each other. Not everyone is good at politics and tactics, Scarlett could never do what you excel at, your talents are equally as important and very necessary to keep the peace and our community safe. However, as for the witch, my decision stands. It is simply unacceptable.”
“Father … it wasn’t as you think. I didn’t seek her out deliberately. Our paths just crossed at some point and we somehow were attracted to each other. Turns out she had some agenda, and I fit the bill. Bitch wanted to make me her baby daddy and you know that won’t fly. So that case is closed, no matter what.”
“Music to my ears, but be careful. Witches are known to be very manipulative, even more so than my granddaughter, as hard as that is to even imagine. If that witch has her sight set on you, it will take effort to dissuade her. But, maybe now is a good time to bring up the possibility of you to maybe consider rethinking your ways. I am not pushing you, son, but maybe you could refocus your efforts with the opposite sex from your usual one night affairs to something with a little more substance. At least attempt actual dating, I don’t even care if the girl is vampire or mortal, just please no witch. And maybe, just maybe, you find someone worth your while for the long run. We Vatore men may be strong, and hold important and powerful positions, but it’s the women behind us who make us achieve true greatness.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about that, father. I hear you, and I understand your motives, but I just cannot imagine myself with a steady relationship, the thought alone makes me feel claustrophobic. As for a woman behind me, I got Viv to keep me straight, no need to tie myself down. Truth be told, I enjoy the loose women for the night, but the type of woman I really admire would not want a man like me. I am nothing like you, father, calm, always know the right thing to say and do, charming, a social butterfly, you have a way with words and I just rarely have anything to say, abhor idle banter and am about as charming as a clogged latrine. I think today I have spoken more than I do in a month, normally. Let’s face it, I am an acquired taste, and one most decent women will never acquire, can’t say I blame them.”
“Oh, Caelan, my boy, you would surprised. You and I are much more alike than you may think. I was not born like this. Oh no. Had you known me as a young man you would think very differently of me. I never had a problem with talking, oh, I often said too much, I was a hotshot as they say, explosive of temper, liked the ladyfolk a little too much for my own good, got into many a fights, and wasn’t exactly the most popular man with my peers, especially the fathers, brothers and beaus of the women I chose to enjoy intimately utilizing that charm you pointed out. Sound a little familiar? Maybe this is why I reeled you back in, as for me, that ultimately ended with a terrible disaster, which sadly also affected my sister, your aunt Lilith too, by my reckless actions both our futures became collateral damage. We had to flee the only home we had ever known and make a new life far away, which is how we came here. In those times, long ago now, it wasn’t easy, not like nowadays. I learned my lesson the hard way, so hopefully my nephew Riordan, your sister Scarlett and you wouldn’t have to. Oh, and you can leave the premises again. I lifted the block and restored your powers.”
Caleb turned and headed for the stairs, when Caelan chewed on his bottom lip while watching him, then called out.
“Father … I ….. I … ahem … love you.”
Caleb froze in mid-stride, Caelan worried he made another faux pas, when he noticed his father act strange, nod, then without ever turning he told him with a faltering voice
“I love you too, son. More than you will ever know and nothing you or anybody else might do or say could ever change that. You are the most precious gift anyone could have ever bestowed upon me and the best son any father could ask for.”
With that Caleb hurried down the stairs, while Caelan realized he had probably made his father, the king of the vampires, one of the most powerful ones of their kind, cry with one single sentence.
“Goddamn Viv, you were right. How about that? Not bad for a mortal. You really are wise beyond your years, and if you were vampire, the world had better watch out.”
Several flights below stood Caleb, regaining his composure while smiling absently, as he mumbled to himself
“How about that, an emotion out of my son. It occurs to me I wasn’t the only one Vivien ‘worked over’. Maybe I should recruit her help to get Caelan serious about one woman, rather than waste his time with floozies. There clearly is just the right amount of Vatore and Cameron blood in her veins. Oh if that child were vampire and male, the world had better watch out.”