Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference.Scott Sauls
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
The mood was tense, the air palpable.
Around an ancient table sat six people, three on each side, separated by affiliation.
Spellcasters across from Vampires.
On the Spellcaster side their leader in the middle, high mage Minerva Latimer, flanked by her son Dorian and her daughter Seraphina.
Opposite them, also in the middle sat the leader of the vampires of the entire region, Caleb Vatore, flanked by his nephew and right hand Riordan and his son Caelan on the other side.
After polite banter, followed by long moments of uncomfortable silence, both leaders began to speak at the same time, both halted, when Caleb with a nod and a hand gesture gave the floor to the female leader opposite him.
“Please, go ahead.”
“No, I’d like to hear what you have to say, my dear Caleb. After all, you are so kind as to host this … meeting.”
“I insist. Ladies first.”
“Very well then. My son, my daughter and I have discussed this rather precarious situation in great lengths and come to the conclusion that there are only two ways to handle this, one still favorable to sustaining our current truce …”
Her words were interrupted by a demonstratively dismissive snort of the only male on that side of the table, the leader’s son, Dorian, silenced instantly by an angry glare from his mother, putting him right into his place without the need for a single word. He directed his angry looks at Riordan instead, seated opposite him, which fazed the experienced vampire little, if any, who was focused on Minerva’s continued speech.
“… the other, less favorable way to look at this would be as a clear demonstration of violation of said truce, disrespected by both my daughter and your son alike, and considering their ranks within each our guilds that serious trespass would leave each of us with no choice than to apply serious action. We would both be forced to make an example out of our own children. I dare assume the vampires came to a similar conclusion and would lean towards the first option as well?” Minerva had a way to speak assertively, yet seem polite about it.
“Your assumptions are correct. We do not want this to constitute as an act of war, nor was it intended as such by my son as he assured me, therefore I see no reason to abandon the truce as far as we are concerned. It truly was a series of bad choices on either side, the foolishness of youth, reckless maybe, but my associate Riordan and I are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that it did not root from ill intend or stemmed from political reasons. My son may not have been thinking clearly, if at all, an affliction that befalls many a young man, as we both know that decades ago now your own son had not been immune to that very same mistake himself, leaving him – and by extension you – with an unplanned child as well. However, other than keeping the origins of the unfortunate fruit of lust a secret for the sake of …”
“It wasn’t …. lust ….” Caelan piped up, then remembered how dire his situation was and quieted down again, staring at the table before him, while all eyes burned holes into him, before Minerva addressed him.
“Please, young vampire, do carry on. So, you didn’t just lust after my daughter then? Please elaborate. We are eager to hear more. This – erm – romantic union comes as quite the surprise for me as evidently it did to your father.”
“I love her.” without looking at anybody, Caelan, who had never been a man of many words, pressed out.
Several gasps sounded around the room, along with stirring.
“Mother …. please. Stop this. I beg you!” the plea marked the first time Seraphina had spoken at all since their arrival.
“Oh, my dear daughter. Since you finally seem to have found your words again, please do enlighten us in his stead then.”
“He is right. It wasn’t lust. It was in the beginning. But then .. over time … we eventually … I … he … we … it …” Seraphina struggled herself into a total loss for words again when she met her mother’s warning glare.
“If you do not mind me interjecting, Seraphina, but you just said ‘over time’. I could not help wonder how much time we are talking about here.” Riordan spoke up.
“Does that matter?” growled Dorian.
“It does to me.” Riordan held the Spellcaster’s gaze.
“Seraphina, where are your manners?! Answer Riordan’s question!” ordered Minerva.
“I don’t know … few years …” Seraphina hesitantly admitted.
“Years? Indeed. I assume you were not aware of this timeline, dear Caleb?” Minerva’s tone was suspicious.
“Well, I am certain you have spoken to your daughter, just as I have spoken in great length and detail to my son, so you would already know the answer.”
“I hate to admit this, but we had not been able to find my daughter until just a few hours ago. Silly girl seemed to have felt behooved to try and disappear. I am certain the pregnancy hormones are to blame. As you see, the cat seems to have gotten her tongue and she barely said anything at all. Maybe your lovely vampiric mind reading skills might come in handy here. I, for one, would very much like to know exactly what all we are dealing with here.”
“No need. I will admit that I have known about what I considered an affair between them several years ago, 7 if memory serves, but I was assured then, after a very candid – and as I thought then, fruitful – talk with my son, that it had been just that, an affair and was ended at my request. I was not given any reason to doubt his affirmation then, and I didn’t, so I was more than unpleasantly surprised to learn the opposite was true, and even more so about the accidental consequences it now bears. I am very disappointed in my son’s disobedience and he will be held accountable, I assure you. However, it seems the result of their secret union requires more immediate attention from both our sides. It is, after all, a child we have to consider here.”
“Well, one of the exceedingly few things I have been able to extract from my daughter would surprise you even more then, my dear Caleb, namely that it wasn’t an accident at all. Seraphina deliberately decided she wanted him to be the father of our heir. Without any intended offense, it would not have been my choice, nor would I have ever sanctioned this plan, but what’s done is done and needs to be dealt with. For what it’s worth, your son seems like a prime specimen of a strong, virile male and promises to at least have produced a strong child. As long as this debacle is now contained, and under the condition that we both can find ways to reliably assure that this long term romance, if you can call it that, is herewith concluded for good I am confident we can put this behind us and move on as if none of this ever happened in the first place.”
“What?” Caelan stared at Seraphina, who averted her eyes, sunken into the chair like a rag doll, but said nothing. Instead Caleb cleared his throat.
“Well, it would appear nobody has been playing with all cards on the table until now, so we have no choice to figure out how to make this unfortunate conception somehow fade into the background without details of both parties’ involvement becoming public knowledge, which would be in both of our species best interests.” Caleb stated plainly.
“A man after my own heart, shaking off the unpleasant curve ball and right to business. Since in this case the vampires are the offending party through the actions of Caelan Vatore, who admittedly has trespassed into our territory countless times to create the current mess we are in, I think it only fair that I get to decide the terms. The solution here is quite simple really. If the child is a boy, you will receive him to do with as you see fit. Raise him or kill him, your choice. I have plenty of male heirs already, they are but warriors for my kind, not the carriers and continuers of our species. For that I need a female heir. So, a boy would be of no use to me, more trouble than it’s worth, therefore the male infant will go to you immediately after birth. Even if he were to have inherited any significant magical abilities, they would be negligible without proper training by one of ours, which is obviously out of the question. If the child is a girl, she will remain with us, to continue the Latimer line under my care. That way, only one parent needs to be known, the other will remain undisclosed. Just one more secret to keep. Not really anything out of the ordinary for either the Vampires or the Spellcasters. Needless to mention that we both must take action to keep your son and my daughter apart until we can be sure both came to their senses. I trust you can contain your son in this beautiful castle until the birth, after which I believe it no longer matters, at least for one of us, either the Vampires or the Spellcasters.”
“No! I can’t give up my child. Mother!” Seraphina nearly screamed the words, clearly distraught and caught off-guard. Yet, the way her desperate plea was answered for the first time showed that her mother was above all a leader, as she angrily glared at her daughter.
“Then you should have considered this before taking a vampire to your bed! And that more than once, and behind my back! You disgraced yourself – and me – by your actions, so do not dare come crying now! You are lucky I didn’t exile you for what you have done! The convent in the other realm is usually the final destination for girls like you! I am very lenient here with you, but do not try my patience! If you wanted a happy little family, you should have chosen your mate more wisely. Another Spellcaster or a regular mortal you could have married, a vampire is out of the question, by our laws and theirs, there are no exceptions possible and even if there were, I would NEVER consent to it. You KNEW that going in, so playing the victim now is not becoming to you and even more of a disgrace to your kind! You are my heir, Seraphina, act like it! You have obligations to uphold, producing a female heir is one of them. If this child is a girl, you have fulfilled your duty to the bloodline, you may raise it with me or I will raise it as I see fit. If it is a boy, for all intends and purposes, you never had a child, none of us will ever mention that child ever again and you will never see it. Same goes in reverse. Should this child be female, none of you will ever make mention of this young man’s involvement and there are no rights or claims, not now, nor ever. Furthermore, should either of the two ever trespass again into each other’s restricted territory, they may be eliminated instantly without need for a trial. Those terms are non-negotiable. Do you accept them, dear Caleb?”
To those who knew him well, it was clear as day how uncomfortable Caleb was, having to make this decision, a family man himself, now judging over his son’s child, his grandchild, facing a 50% chance that he would never meet if this deal was struck, yet, if he didn’t agree, it would most likely end in war. The Latimers were only the face of all the Spellcasters. There were many more, unknown numbers, which was part of what made them so dangerous to the vampires. Nobody knew how many there really were, they were almost indistinguishable from regular mortals. Their spells could be powerful and dangerous, there were many ways Spellcasters could use their powers against vampires without them even realizing it until it was too late. He had no doubt that if Caelan ever wandered into the restricted area of Glimmerbrook again, they would kill him and there was nothing he would be able to do about it.
“What if the child is a female, but vampire?” Riordan wondered, partially out of true curiosity, part to buy his uncle a little more time to work up his answer and composure.
“I am sure we can figure out how to successfully raise a little girl with an – let me call it – affliction like yours, my darling Riordan. We will call it a serious sun allergy as far as our people would be concerned. Fear not, the Magic Realm where we spend most of our time at has no sun exposure anyway. She would just spend most of her days there then. Presumable as far as special talents go, same would hold true for your kind as for ours, that it won’t evolve without proper training and encouragement?” Minerva inquired.
“Yes, correct. Except the … well, let me call it ‘special dietary needs’ the child would have. Those would have to be acknowledged and addressed.” Riordan said quietly.
“Oh, I see. Well, that would be a terrible setback and much harder to explain away. Well, in that case there may not be an infant after all then for us, at least not a live one. We would call it a stillbirth and move on.” Minvera determined.
“MOTHER!” Seraphina yelped, while Caleb’s and Riordan, both fathers themselves, tried hard for composure.
“All right. We have an agreement.” Caleb said, after a deep inhale, he could feel the quick stare by Riordan, who could read that his uncle didn’t like his own choice, but realized there was no other way.
“What about … us?” Caelan spoke up, meaning himself and Seraphina, staring at her.
To the trained eye her inner conflict would have been noticeable for a split-second, but quickly her expression hardened, before she firmly said
“There never was an us. You heard my mother. You were a means to an end.” her words were cold, but sounded a little too mechanical to be 100% believable.
“No. NO. You are lying. Is she threatening you? You love me, you told me so! Many times!” Caelan began to talk himself into a rage, stopped in his tracks by Minerva’s laughter.
“Oh, pardon me, dear Caleb, but your boy is simply delightful. I do see how you arrived at your evaluation of all this being the foolishness of a young man raging with hormones. How human, indeed. I always had a very different idea about vampires, always imagined them completely devoid of feelings and incapable of emotions, other than maybe than the sinful ones, lust, greed, anger. I would have never imagined. It would appear this unpleasant topic has become more of a learning experience for all of us than we would have anticipated.”
“You made her say that! Deny us. This is all YOUR doing! YOU ARE FORCING HER TO DO THIS! Seraphina tell them! Be honest, help me! Make my father see that what we had was real. Make them all see it! They won’t be able to keep us apart! We are stronger than that, together! Seraphina say something, anything!” furious now, Caelan’s words dripped with frustration and panic, his eyes were aglow for anger, like a trapped animal lashing out at its captors in a last attempt to break free.
His appearance and demeanor would have scared most, mortal or vampire, but Minerva never even flinched, a detail that didn’t go unnoticed by Caleb, confirming his suspicion that Spellcasters may be mortal and seem harmless, but had to be taken with great caution, especially Minerva, she clearly felt very save and secure, despite technically being in the center of enemy territory. Behind an eerily calm Caleb, Riordan was holding his cousin back, forcing him to sit back down when he tried to get to Seraphina, who never once spoke, nor looked at Caelan, just stared at her hands atop her swollen baby bump.
Once Riordan had Caelan back in his seat and calmer, Minerva addressed him directly, as she was speaking, his eyes kept staring at Seraphina for help, when she didn’t budge, the young vampire sunk into himself in the chair, visibly surrendering to the realization that their fate was out of his control.
“You still do not see the picture clearly, poor young man with your confused heart on your sleeve. I am not the one who manipulated anyone here. Face it, my dear young friend, you have been had. Entangled in a web of lies, a means to an end. For that, I almost want to apologize, until I remember that it was YOU, young vampire, who broke many rules, starting with repeatedly trespassing in the forbidden areas of Glimmerbrook, something I could request to have you brought to justice for right now, but I won’t. As your father so aptly reminded us, I have a son myself who has fathered a child with a woman I never approved of, against my will, so I understand the predicament of a parent here. But it does not change the fact that you and my daughter have done unforgivable things to still your own desires, completely ignoring your parents’ – and leaders’ – wishes – not just once, but for a very long time. So, my young friend, if you want to find a guilty party to blame for all this mess, you need only look into a mirror. Which, sadly, of course, you can’t. Another affliction of your kind. Was this it then, my dear Caleb? Do we have an agreement and can I count on you doing your part to enforce it?” Minerva diverted her attention back to Caleb.
“Yes. We agree to all your terms and Caelan will never enter Glimmerbrook again. If we have nothing more to discuss, my associate Riordan will see you all safely to the edge of town now.”
“How courteous of you, and a gesture I gladly accept. A true delight to the senses a widowed woman like myself would never turn down. All too rare do I get to enjoy the company of such a handsome gentleman. That part of your kind I greatly envy you for, the eternal life and youth. What a gift, I hope you know to cherish it.”
“Sometimes it is a gift, sometimes it is a curse. Please, follow me.” Riordan politely said offering his arm to Minerva, which she took with an appreciative smile linking her own into Riordan’s, while her two adult children followed quietly without looking at anyone. Caleb stood courteously, Caelan had remained seated, stiffly, unmoving, collapsed onto the table.
Once alone in the large reception hall Caleb looked at his son.
“I tried to warn you, son … you may not see it now, but a great disaster has just been averted, even though it may have cost you – us – dearly. But I hope you acknowledge I had no other choice.”
“Yes, I know and yes, you did. You told me so. I fucked up royally, you were right, about everything, so lay all the punishment on me. I feel nothing anymore anyway. Exile me, kill me, I won’t even fight you, nor beg you. Just make it quick. I need all this to be over.”
Without one more word Caleb pulled his son into a tight, comforting hug.
“Caelan, the last thing on my mind now, the last you need right now, is to be punished more than you already have been, nor will I push you away. I am angry about what you did, livid even. But I am a father, your father. You belong into the fold of the family now. I know this lesson has been received, now all we can do is wait for the birth and see where that leaves us. Let us get upstairs and calm down your mother and sister, I am sure they have been pacing deep treads into the floors for worry. Oh, and I never thought I would ever mutter these words, nor that they would ever needed to be said, but I would never kill my own son. I would have let this become a war before that, but I am sorry if you end up losing your own child now.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want a kid. Especially not THAT one. I hope it dies inside of her and kills her. I could never love that creature from hell that witch is growing inside of her. They best keep it or I will kill it with my own two hands. I refuse to raise that monster!” sheer anger and bitterness poured from Caelan’s words.
“Another lesson for you, my son. You have never been the easiest child, but you are my child, and your mother’s, so no matter how frustrated and upset you are now, I guarantee you that you would never be able to kill your own child.”
“You are WRONG! That is literally what I am good at, killing. Our own kind, at your behest. I WOULD and I WILL kill that baby, that … mistake! I am not good, like mother and you – and Scarlett. I am bad, I am dark and I am a killer. That is the REAL me. I betrayed myself by letting myself get sucked into this web of lies of love. I don’t believe in love, I hate children, and especially THAT child. I hate myself for failing you and for failing my instincts. I always hated mortals and to me, women were a means to an end. I should have stayed true to myself then this would have never happened! This marks twice that I was fooled and humiliated by a mortal woman. TWICE, father! Never again! I swear it on my own immortality! NEVER AGAIN!”
“Now now, I know your emotions are getting the best of you, but please do remember that there are mortal women out there that are worth their weight in gold and then some.”
“Name one!” Caelan’s challenging voice was so deep, Caleb barely recognized it.
“Vivien Vatore.” he replied, calmly as usual, and by the brief flash across Caelan’s otherwise stony expression he knew he had hit a nerve.
“Fine. One. The ONLY One. Vivien has vampire blood running in her veins, so she is different. All other mortals are beneath us. Inferior, barely fit to be a meal and a fuck!” Caelan growled, Caleb let him vent without even a frown. His son was bitter. Even if he would never change his mind again, if this was his coping mechanism to see him through the tragedy, so be it.
About three weeks later a message arrived for Caleb, a brief, handwritten note in a clearly feminine penmanship on parchment, informing him that the child had been born. A healthy baby girl.
With a grim expression Caleb stood stiffly by as he watched the tongues of the flames of the fireplace in his study greedily devour the note, omitting it from existence as the tiniest gleam of hope Caleb secretly retained had been upon reading it. An entire chapter in his son’s life, erased before his eyes by the vicissitudes of fate, while he could do nothing but stand by, helpless, bound by his own word and the terms he had no choice but agree to, the flames eating away at the paper as if erasing a grandchild from his life that he would now never know, causing Caleb briefly to consider the great cost his position as leader sometimes required him to pay for the sake of the greater good, and in this case, especially his own family. His son. Who had just lost a daughter he would never know.
Caelan had grown noticeably colder than before, distant and even more of a loner than he already had been all his life. While it seemed hardly imaginable, he spoke less as well, days passed without a single word from him.
Initially, Caleb had considered stripping his son of his powers, fearing Caelan would make another one of his rash decisions and try to see Seraphina, but it took little to realize he wouldn’t. Whatever Caelan may have felt for her, was gone, every single tiny ember of the fire that had them risk everything to be together for 7 years had been extinguished by the bitterness of betrayal.
Caelan rarely left his room at all anymore, even more rarely did he leave Vatore Castle, and if, only to hunt for blood or for one of Caleb’s missions, which were luckily, quite rare. Most of his subjects were peace-loving, law-abiding vampires who didn’t want to cause discord.
Caleb learned quickly to be very precise about what condition he expected the targets to be in once Caelan brought them in, otherwise Caelan was merciless and borderline cruel, seemingly enjoying the torture and kill significantly more than simple capture.
The only way Caleb had found to ensure Caelan wouldn’t loose the last bit of the healthy range of human emotion was to bring Vivien in for visits as much as her tight schedule with her final semester of college allowed. She had always had a way to get through to her uncle and during her visits were the exceedingly rare times anyone as much as saw Caelan crack the hint of a smile, let alone even heard a slight chuckle. Caleb knew he was asking much of his granddaughter, but feared his son would otherwise grow irrevocably cold. This development caused great concern and many secret tears with Caelan’s mother Breana, leaving Caleb feeling like a liar consoling his sobbing wife, photos of their son as a child spread out all around them. While he told Breana he would recover, he wasn’t so sure that without Vivien he would.