Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.Benjamin Franklin
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
The finality of the single word spoken calmly, yet with perpetual determination begged the recipient to dare and argue the choice then deal with the consequences as it echoed of the high walls of the room.
“And why NOT!?” came the challenge only few would dare.
It was instantly met by a fiery glare in the usual icy silvery grey eyes, now seemingly illuminated from within.
“I hardly need to justify my decisions to anyone!” roared he.
“Well, I am hardly ‘anyone‘, now, am I?” the woman’s voice remained just as calm.
Her beautiful, delicate, porcelain doll like appearance could be very misleading. Her preferred dark clothing, often containing a fair amount of leather already suggested that she was everything but delicate. Yet, throughout the past five centuries it had been a mistake that had become the fate of many a shady, grimy men thinking her to be a helpless maiden to still their primal urges with, only to learn their mistake the hard way as they ended up stilling hers instead.
They were both vampires, very old ones, very powerful ones, he even more so than her. He was also the leader of the local band, a large population of vampires, all of them flying under the radar of detection by the mortals while continuing their old traditions in the shadows of Forgotten Hollow. But above all, they were siblings. Brother and sister. Caleb Vatore and his sister Lilith. The only reason she even dared to defy him as she did now.
Caleb wasn’t your average cold-blooded, bloodthirsty vampire Grand Master Elder seeking world domination as most fictional literature made them out to be. On the contrary, Caleb sought peace, which he could only ascertain by urging his subjects to remain hidden in plain sight, tucked away in the myths of the living, leaving no traces of their existence in the foggy darkness of Forgotten Hollow where few mortals ever dared set foot in. The few who had, had found only aloof residents, surrounded by little more than remnants of old folklore that just happened to be more true than most mortals would ever dare guess.
But for every bit as calm, composed and just as Caleb may be, he was also no fool, nor did he allow anyone to even breathe a challenge and have it go unanswered. Doing so could prove dangerous for him and his family. In other words, he was a kind man, until disrespected, then he was every bit as dangerous as you would expect any vampire to be. He avoided violence, but was neither a stranger, nor opposed to it to assure the security of his family and subjects.
“I will not allow you – or your family – to turn anybody. That is my decision and the end of this discussion!” his words were more a growl.
“Caleb, I have an unmarried daughter. Is she supposed to live with her father and me forever?” questioned Lilith.
“Your other daughter managed quite well without help, let alone drastic measures. They are twins. Shouldn’t be so hard for the other to follow suit.”
“Valentina just happened to stumble onto some vampire-fanatic fool who just hung on every word of hers. She didn’t even have to try hide who and what she was, he fell all over himself in awe! That and her beauty was all he needed to be her toy. Let’s just be honest, that Goth character is not much to look at! And it took her two tries and still no vampiric heir! How many more kids need she have with that fool to ensure our continued existence if you do not allow any of us to turn anyone? What if that silly mortal dies before he can father a viable offspring?”
“Well, if her powers were higher, the chances of vampiric offspring would be higher as well. That’s not news to you. You should have worked harder with her. Or train her more now. And train your other daughter while you are at it, maybe she can use her vampiric powers to charm some mortal into her bedroom and bridal chambers. That is YOUR job as a parent. It is NOT my job as your brother or your ruler to fix your lazy mistakes in parenting all the time.”
“Silence! Do you need me to do everything for you?! You know the reason you have been barred from ever turning anyone again, and why your family is as well! Because of YOUR reckless actions they are paying. That was the deal with your husband Draven in order to be able to wed you. He was pawned off to me after he made terrible trespasses himself in his old home. I saved him from exile or destruction, all he had to do was agree to a few things and to wed you, I did both of you a favor. And you both ended up falling for each other, it all worked out in your favor, so quit complaining! I saved you BOTH from exile or death, so do not get greedy, Lilith!”
“What about your own children!? You bend the rules by allowing your own daughter to move away from Forgotten Hollow to marry and reproduce with that … that …”
“Careful now!” warned Caleb.
“Fine. But your son, your heir is …”
“ENOUGH! I AM WELL AWARE WHAT GOES ON UNDERNEATH MY ROOF! I do NOT require your approval of my parenting or decisions! After all, part of MY family under MY roof is YOUR son, whom YOU rejected as a baby, as a helpless toddler, when the boy needed you. A cat would have been a better mother than you were to Riordan! It was ME who took him in, ME who raised him, ME who groomed him into a fine specimen of our kind fit enough to be my right hand now, when I had my hands full building all this into a stable structure as a safe haven for all our local vampires, but you could not be bothered to take care of the fruit of your own loins then! You were cruel and cold to your own kind, wreaked havoc around you, including my best friends, as you were blinded by lust and vengeance about unrequited love, as if you were a foolish teen girl rather than a several hundred year old strong Master Vampire! A disgrace to the Vatore name! YOUR son still won’t speak to you a single word more than absolutely necessary to this day. He CHOSE to live with me, have his family live with me. So, do not dare to tell me ANYTHING about family or choices, Lilith, especially not mine, if you know what’s good for you!”
“But you found a wife for him. For Riordan. A vampire too! You helped Riordan, so why can’t you do the same for Veronique? Her mate doesn’t even have to be all that handsome, just a vampire and virile. She, too, is your family. Your niece! Just like Riordan is your nephew.”
“I am not Cupid. Your daughter is YOUR responsibility, just like your son should have been. You know full well, I did not turn Layla to gift her to Riordan as a wife. She was abandoned by her master and landed on my doorstep. I had no choice to take her under my wing. Me connecting the dots for Riordan with Layla by making him take her on as his ward to clear my already full schedule a little was only his job as my right hand, and could at best be considered slight nudging on my part. The rest was all fate. If an abandoned new creation ends up in my care, I will be sure your daughter will have first dibs, but no telling when that may happen, so if you cannot wait, you and your husband should have raised your twins more capable in striking their own match then! You want your daughter married, have her do the legwork. If there are no eligible vampire suitors for her in this region, try the adjacent ones, just know that she may have to leave this jurisdiction. If not, she will have to find a mortal or go without until something comes up. We have nothing in as much abundance as time, Lilith. There is no rush. And do not dare have even the hint of some supposed ‘accidental turning of some hapless mortal’ reach my ears. There will not be a third chance for you, Lilith. One more strike and I have no more sister! Blood may be thicker than water, but it is not a carte blanche that negates all rules everyone else has to adhere to, including me!”
“What if I knew something about a certain young promising vampire heir, our lovely crown prince, something that could create considerable trouble, possibly even start a war? And also something that would prove you do not know everything happening underneath your roof as well as you seem to think you do after all, dearest brother.” she cooed gleefully.
Caleb drew in air deeply, unnecessary for vampires, as they didn’t breathe, and therefore always a sign of anger.
“What are you implying?!” he demanded coolly.
“Not a thing. I am straight out telling you a very reliable little birdie has told me that your wonderful offspring isn’t as obedient as you may think.”
“I am not in the mood for games, Lilith! If you think you have something to share, do so or quit this nonsense.” Caleb hissed.
“All right, I’ll be more direct then: rumor has it, that you may become a grandpa yet again before long. Just this time not by your dear daughter and her mortal husband, but by your little crown prince. Too bad only that you are not supposed to know about it. Pity really, seeing how much of a family man … ARGH!”
In a split-second Caleb had her in a tight grip. While mortals couldn’t do much that way to any vampire, vampires could hurt each other.
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! SPEAK!”
“A witch … urgh … your son Caelan … and one of the witches …. with child …”
“You are not certain of this!”
“I … I saw … them … urgh … they are … lovers …” sputtered Lilith.
With one strong move Caleb cast his sister aside to crash to the floor like a ragdoll.
“I didn’t think you needed this lesson AGAIN, but I do not allow blackmail! Did it never once occur to you that whatever you think you saw during your covert snooping stints may have been a mission I personally sent Caelan on? No? Well, maybe you are not as clever as you think you are then after all, Lilith. I have told you before, it takes a lot more than you or most others have to outsmart me. Caelan seduces women all the time. Maybe I needed eyes on the Spellcasters. You only assumed you saw a love story as your head seems to be filled with nothing but wedding ideas for your daughter, so you see romance where there isn’t any! One man and one pregnant woman does not a secret couple make! What you saw was nothing. I am well aware of what is going on with Caelan and I urge you to never spy on my son again! LEAVE! NOW! While I still allow it! Utter a word to this nonsense to anybody and it will have been your last, I will see to that and urge you not to test me on this, sister! You’d do well to put all of this discussion and any of the so-called knowledge you think you have about my son out of your mind entirely!” Caleb’s tone was dark and dangerous now, reflecting as sheer, unbridled fright in Lilith’s eyes. She knew well she had gone too far and come within inches of losing her immortal life at the hand of her own brother.
She didn’t argue, scrambled up and ran as if ten devils were after her out of the room. As soon as the door shut in her wake Caleb’s fists hit the wall as an infernal, out-of-this-world type of scream filled with anger and frustration left his mouth and echoed eerily off the walls ….