“The power that each of us has over complete strangers to either make them feel terrible or terrific is amazing.”
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
Hurrying after her father, their footsteps echoing off the stone floors and walls of the old castle, Scarlett was nearly forced to run to keep up with Caleb’s quick pace and long strides, as she said as calmly and softly as she could muster.
“Daddy – I really don’t feel comfortable having Caitlin alone with that … strange boy.”
“Scarlett, she is a vampire, he is a vampire, they are roughly the same age and everybody is strange, depending on perspective. He and his father are new in my society, OUR society, it is our job as the first family to assist any new arrivals get settled in. Besides, what are you afraid of happening, exactly?”
“I … ahem … I don’t know, daddy. It’s just, his father. He just … seems …. evil. Lord knows what the boy will turn into. Both give me the creeps.” Scarlett shrugged.
Caleb stopped on a dime, quicker than Scarlett could react, so she had to backtrack to face him.
“Evil? An innocent child? I believe you living among the mortals in that fake town – Del Sol Valley – is not becoming you, appears to cloud your judgement, and is starting to make me question if elevating you into the Grand Elder Council as the first female in the entire history of our kind might have been a tad premature. This is not a movie with evil villains and good heroes and heroines. This is real life, OUR reality, and in a way like a business transaction. Societies have new arrivals and departures. In and out, coming and going. Obviously, not all that come in can be to your liking. You better get used to this – and fast. Our family is here to lead by example and lend helping hands to show our society the right ways, not judge them and dismiss them. Besides, whom better to show a little boy around than a little girl? It makes perfect sense. They speak the same language, get each other, better than any adult or teen could.” Caleb said, then resumed his fast pace again, making it hard for Scarlett to keep up again.
“Dad, I am not thinking like a mortal or a vampire, I am thinking like a parent, because I am one, and it just comes natural. The boy’s father has a startling rap sheet. A known criminal, he did heinous things to mortals, which is concerning as you and I both have mortals among our own kin. He is not good people, and do not tell me you have not always tried to make all vampires in your care ‘good citizens of the world’.”
“I believe the more correct term would be ‘denizens’ considering most of us are bound to certain regions, since the world just still hasn’t signaled to be ready for the truth. However, yes, he has done terrible things, he has been punished by being stripped of some of his powers, now he has been sent to me to finish his rehabilitation by integration into a strong society away from his old home, to start a new – and hopefully better – life with better choices. His previous Grand Master Elder Regent was a wise man, but they have different laws about what vampires can or can’t do with mortals, we have to respect that, and since Grainger has a young son, already a half-orphan, it would be just as cruel to separate the boy from his only living parent, as it would be to punish him for his father’s crimes by exiling him too. I have interviewed Grainger Sr. in great length and come to the decision he is salvageable. In fact, I have a wedding to be planned for him. He will marry Veronique Kyran. Once that has happened, he should be sufficiently busy trying to keep himself off her and her mother Lilith’s shitlists to ever again have the time to dream up any more criminal nonsense. And as a bonus, it will get my sister off my back about finding a match for her insufferable daughter – at long last! We both know your aunt and her daughters are about as pleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard.”
“Oh my god, dad. I know you aren’t wrong, but that would mean he would marry into our extended family. Yikes! I am not thrilled. Can’t we just send him to the Spellcasters and wish him good luck?”
“Scarlett – know your rank, please. I know it’s a joke, but there is a time and place for humor. You wanted this position of Grand Elder Councilwoman, this is what we do. It’s political, you studied politics in college, remember your teachings, by and large it makes little difference if it’s mortals or Vampires – or even Spellcasters. Half the time we contemplate the best moves for everyone’s sake, like an important game of chess. There is only so far kindness and mercy can carry you as a Grand Master Elder Regent, one false move and you find yourself facing usurpers thinking they can do this job better than you or simply out for their own benefit. You are the daughter of the first family of this region, nobody in this family gets the luxury to follow personal likes and dislikes if it comes to the vampire society business. Between you and I, if ANYONE could cut that man down to size, it would be something that sprung from Lilith’ groins. We both know your aunt and twin cousins are far from obedient and harmless, may God have mercy on his soul should Lilith or Veronique find him lacking. I pity him if he thinks his blushing bride would fetch his slippers for him. But his boy needs a mother, even if it is a daughter of Lilith and he needs friends desperately. That is why I think Caitlin will do wonders for him. I am well aware that she is not as angelic as she looks, but she is a social butterfly if I have ever seen one and she will know how to talk to him and how to reach him to get through to him, cos I most certainly couldn’t. You should know better than to think for a split-second that I would expose my own granddaughter to any perceived risk. She will be just fine, that, I am certain of.”
“Fine. Maybe you’re right. Actually, come to think of it, I think I worry more about that boy, in case he ends up upsetting her. But that father of his – he dared to call my husband a cretin in front of everyone at the meeting – and you didn’t put him in his place and I felt if I reacted at all, I would end up ripping him to shreds for having the forehead to dare something like that!” Scarlett said with dismay ringing in her words.
“I would have, Scarlett, had I had the chance. Blaine had been barely paying attention, per usual, until he heard his own name and thought Grainger had called him a crouton, and just ran with that, went off on the man for half an hour changing the subject dozens of times until nobody knew what he was talking about anymore. Man, that guy can talk – nobody could get a word in edgewise, not even me. Once Blaine was done, that guy didn’t remember his own name. Nobody present did. I feel Grainger has been sufficiently punished by having to listen to that non-sensical rant by your husband, Scarlett. I really don’t think you need to worry about Blaine, nor any of your children. I raised you, don’t forget that. I have a good concept of their level of confidence.” Caleb could barely keep a straight face.
“I don’t know what you are implying, daddy. I was always the perfect angel. At least as far as you knew.” Scarlett had to fight back a giggle.
“Your mother and I always knew a lot more than you – and your brother – might have thought we did. Besides, Lucifer was once an angel – and we know how that ended.”
“Oh dad. I wasn’t half as bad as my brother. Where is he, anyway.”
“Not half, but twice. Love you, petal. Caelan’s away on a mission. Raising you two was challenging at times, but I love both my children equally and am thrilled you get to help me rule now. Certainly took us both long enough to get here, and frankly, you have to hand it to your husband and his hair-raisingly unconventional ways, he achieved what both of us failed to do. You, your brother and your husband make me prouder than I have words to express. Even though you still have a lot to learn, my rose.”
“My genius all-knowing daddy ran out of words, now the world’s end is afoot.”
“Oh, believe you me, once you lived as long as I have, there will have been many things that rendered you utterly speechless, my petal. You still have seen nothing yet. But lucky for you, I will always be there to guide you through and protect you.”
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Park
At the same time nearby.
“Soooooooooo, how come you don’t talk?” Caitlin grimaced.
“I talk. Talking right now.” Heath Grainger replied.
“Finally. After I talked most of the way over here, and all you ever said was uh-huh. How am I supposed to show you around when you don’t even say anything? I don’t know what you like? Not a mind-reader.” Cait ranted.
“What I like?”
“I mean, I don’t know what you want to see. What to show you or where to take you. So, what’s interesting to you?”
“Forgotten Hollow isn’t that big, is it?” Heath wondered, slightly confused.
“Forgotten Hollow is boring, nothing to see, it’s dark, lots of trees, all encircled by mountains with one pass leading out for those that cannot port yet. A bunch of dusty old houses a lot of them with dusty old residents and a castle, this park and the town square. Who wants to look at that? That’s why I am wondering what you like, Heath, because obviously, we are not going to stay in Forgotten Hollow.”
“You can port? I am not sure father would want me to leave here.”
“Why would your dad care? He knows they sent you out here with me to get to know your way around, there is nothing to see here, besides, you live here now and can explore this on your own. And no, of course I cannot port yet, nobody before puberty can, duh! Do I look like 15 or something to you?! But what I can do is read bus schedules. And I have money. Enough for both of us to get somewhere and back and have some fun. Do you like Arcade Games?”
“Ride a bus? With mortals?”
“No, with wheels. Yes, with mortals. What’s with you?”
“Father does not like me mingling with mortals. In fact, I am not sure I ever really met one. At least not a live one.”
“What?! They’re just like us, for the most part. All of my bestestest friends are mortals. A lot of my relatives are.”
“Father says they reek of decay and mortality and cannot be trusted.”
“That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard and so not true! Half my family is mortal, so you watch it now! Especially my sisters and brother. They smell great. As do my friends. Well, the girls. The boys often smell like sweaty gym clothes. Especially KC. But he is a bit of a bad boy. In a good way. And he has really pretty blue eyes.”
“How can you be related to mortals when your grandfather is Caleb Vatore? He is way too powerful to have mortal offspring.”
“You really need to learn a LOT, Heath. Lucky for you you are cute. That’s what my mom always tells my dad when he says stupid stuff.”
“Isn’t she afraid?”
Caitlin burst into laughter.
“My mom? Afraid? Of what? My dad? You are funny! Oh god, you are serious. No, Heath, my mom is not afraid. Afraid of what? Dad’s lame jokes? We all fear those – especially in public. You are so funny. My mom, afraid .. hahaha.”
“Beating? By whom? My dad? Oh my gawd, where did you grow up? The Middle Ages? He would never and if he tried, my mom would have his hide. And that is before my uncle Caelan and grandpa get to him.”
“Glad to hear. I certainly feel like I am from another time. Your grandmother explained a television to me. I did not know those exist, that was so humiliating. But I like it, the television, though father would never allow me to have one.”
“Aaaaah … so THAT’s why. They want me to teach you stuff. Why didn’t they just say so? I thought they wanted me to be some tour guide and I don’t even live here.”
“You don’t? Where else would you live? Is there another vampire coven around here?”
“Nope. First of all, we don’t do covens, we are a society, cos grandpa says covens are a thing of the past and our society is modern and way too big to be considered a coven. So there are quite a few of us that don’t live here in Forgotten Hollow, but we all come here for events. My family and I apparently don’t live here, never have, well my mom was born here and grew up here. We live in Del Sol Valley, my siblings and I were all born there. I like it there. Better than here, for sure.”
“Del Sol Valley? The sunny place where all the big screen movies are made?! I have been to the movie theater before. But isn’t that place dangerous for our kind?”
“No. We all have daylight immunity. We live there because before my daddy became a vampire, he lived there already and has his career there. He’s famous, Blaine Cameron, the rock musician, I am sure you know him. Yeah, that’s my daddy. My sister was a pop singer, ViVa but sadly retired because she has a baby now. My brother Chase keeps trying to get famous, but so far all his music has been used for were teen movies and commercials, he keeps getting nominated for awards, but never got one, pisses him off. Me too, because I think he is great. My other big brother is famous too, Blake Cameron the actor, I am sure you know him. Blake’s awesome and his wife is sooo pretty, also an actress. Okay, so give me your cell phone, so I can put my number in. Whenever you have a question, you call or text me, day or night because … well .. you know. And I can let you know whenever we come back here for a visit. My mommy is a Grand Council Elderwoman now, the first ever. I guess my whole family is pretty special.”
“I’d say. What’s a cell phone?”
“OMG! No way. This is crazy! I need to talk to your dad. Right now. He’ll get an earful. Which kid doesn’t have a phone? Seriously!”
“I don’t think that is a good idea, Caitlin … he gets .. angry. That is never good.”
“Oh yeah? I can get angry too and I betcha he would be more scared of me than I would be of him. And you should never be afraid of your own parents, Heath. If you are, you HAVE TO tell me and I will tell my mom and dad and my grandpa and they will make sure you will NEVER have to be afraid again.”
“I am not afraid of him. I respect him. Shouldn’t every child respect their parents?”
“Sure, but as my grandpa always says, respect is ALWAYS earned, and cannot be demanded for nothing. Oh, I know. Have you met Riordan and his family yet?”
“I don’t think so. I have met so many new people, but his name does not sound familiar.”
“Perfect. So, Riordan is my grandpa’s right hand, his wife is a beautiful opera singer, his teen son Colton is my brother Chase’s best friend and they have a daughter, Annaleigh, about our age and she is super-sweet and super-quiet too. How about I introduce you to Annaleigh and you two can be silent at each other, while I fix the no cell phone issue.”