“The common good and the individual good rarely coincide. Some truths are probably worse than lies.”
Jonathan's office at the House of Representatives Hall
At first, none of the oddities and old apparatuses made much sense to Leeora, until she opened an interesting looking chest, which revealed what initially looked like medieval torture instruments, but then it dawned on her. An ancient bible, a crucifix and a wooden stake. A silent scream escaped her.
“He’s a ….”
“… vampire hunter, yes.” said a deep, familiar voice behind her, startling her, she whipped around while taking several steps backwards.
With a deep sigh, he took a step closer, making her step back even further, her back almost up against one of the many bookshelves, which generated a pained expression on his face seeing her avoid him, while Leeora’s face showed sheer panic. Nowhere left to run.
“Oh god, it’s you!” she pressed out, her voice not her own, her eyes widened with genuine fear.
“Leeora, my love, I hate that you found out this way …”
“You lied. You are using me! Liar! Monster!”
“No, none of those things are true. I … maybe initially they may have been. But I swear to you, my feelings for you are real and strong. I love you, Leeora. On all that is holy, I swear it. Besides, we were both not entirely truthful with each other, were we?”
“Slumber tea essence? Really? One of the first recipes any magical scholar masters. But you are not a magical scholar, are you? No, you are a master. I can feel your powers, and I can almost feel you weighing off if you could use them against me. I ask you not to do that. In fact, I plead you wouldn’t. I would hate to have to respond in kind, but will, if you force me to.”
Leeora sharply inhaled.
“Yes, my beautiful, I know your secret, I know you gave me a potion so you can snoop undisturbed. I also know the antidote, obviously. As soon as I noticed a strong aftertaste and the scent of valerian and lavender, I knew what you were going to do. You are strong and not afraid. One of many things that attracted me to you.”
“How do you know about that essence? And … the other things?”
“How do you think? Seems like we both have more in common than either of us thought. I should have known right away, but when you introduced none other than Seraphina Bartholomew, formerly Latimer, to me as your mother, I knew. I hoped you would come straight with me, but you didn’t. Not about your mother or your father, nor about yourself. That is a lot of secrets already.”
“So what now? You want to kill my dad?! Kill me? Oh, you can try, but I won’t make that easy on you.”
“Please, there is no need for threats, and of course not! I love you, Leeora, I need you to hear me, I. LOVE. YOU. I would kill myself before allowing anyone or anything to harm you, or our unborn baby. Nothing has changed between us, my love. As for your father, I never touch family, unless they prove to be dangerous. Is he a danger to humanity? To me? To my guild? To the Spellcasters?”
“He will be, when he finds out about this! You are a monster. A murderer! I want a divorce!”
“Shhh … no, Leeora, you are not thinking straight. How could I murder what is not even technically alive? You know vampires have no heartbeat, no pulse and in some cases, no conscience. The latter ones are the ones my guild and I hunt. We don’t bother law-abiding vampires, as long as they remember a few simple rules. Please calm down and collect your mind. Focus. Like only we can.”
“We? You mean … you are …”
“I am. Just like you. I must say, I was rather surprised to see your name on the recently born again. You renounced Wicca some years back, a true shame, but I guess you are back. Suspect your powers are nearly complete again? Yet, not a word to me.”
“How was I supposed to know you are part of our circle. You never once gave me a sign. You KNOW we are not to disclose this. So, you are a mage? Sage? Wizzard?”
“Witcher, to be exact. One of a small group left. And as you already discovered, I am one of the chosen few to protect the Magic Realm and humankind from dangerous vampires who have lost all humanity, leaving them to be nothing but dangerous, bloodthirsty shells of their former selves. There is no cure or coming back from it. That is a real problem, if you do not believe me, ask your father or grandfather.”
“Protect us from what exactly? From my family?!”
“From serious threats. Not from your family, none of them are even on our watch list. Besides, considering his pedigree as the Crown Prince of the vampires, which comes with a certain level of responsibility, noblesse oblige as the French say, nobility obligates him, I you so want, and the fact that he and I share a profession, albeit for slightly different reasons and more importantly, he has a very vested interest in our kind because of you. I do not see any of them as a threat to the Spellcasters, a blind man can see he loves you, like only a father can. And Caleb has been trying to cement in peace between our kinds for many decades, somewhat successful.”
“My mother knew. About you. She had to have known, I mean, she was our leader, and your group or creed or guild whatever you want to call the vampire hunters, they served her too! That bitch!”
“She didn’t. At least I don’t think she did, I never told her and she never hinted anything about it to me. You know vampire hunters are to be anonymous, even from our leaders. Your uncle Dorian is the leader now, I have never met him, and I promise you he could not tell me from Adam, nor would he know what I really am. That is why I rarely visit the Realm.”
“So all this was a lie. We are a lie … my whole life is a lie, still! And now I have nothing left. I sold the boutique, I can’t model for much longer … because I am .. oh God … I am having YOUR child! Oh God help us all!”
“You are carrying my child. Our child. A love child. I assure you, Leeora, my feelings for you are genuine. I love you. If it helps, you have my word that your family will be safe from my efforts.”
“Look, that’s not good enough. I have friends among the vampires. You can’t touch any of them.”
“If they abide the rules, they don’t have to fear me … or any other vampire hunter. Including your own father, I suppose, isn’t that what Caelan does too, hunt those of his own kind that break the laws on orders of your grandfather Caleb Vatore? So how is that different from what I do? I have never seen you anything but happy to see him, even though he and I do the same thing. Rules are strict, for the Spellcasters as for the vampires. Most rules are even pretty much the same. Although, my research shows that evidently Caleb is only so righteous when it doesn’t affect his immediate kin, isn’t he?”
“What are you even talking about?”
“I am talking about Heath Grainger, son of Armand Grainger and recent fiancé to one of Caleb’s granddaughters. Like his late father, Heath is not above breaking the rules, is he now?”
“Heath? He’s a nerd and a dork, that’s all he is guilty of.”
“Didn’t he turn Everett Cameron against his will and without authorization? I believe that is a serious offense among the vampires. Or, shall I say, it usually is, if it is not a relation of the leader?”
“That was an accident and Heath still feels horrible about it, even though Everett is living it up. Trust me, it may have not been intentional, but no harm was done. Quite the contrary. And I don’t know Heath’s father, except that he’s dead. Or presumed dead since .. oh my God, please don’t tell me that was you!”
Jonathan wet his lips, but remained silent, Leeora realized the meaning of it.
“You?! It was you?! You killed him? You murdered Heath’s father? Oh God!”
“You judge what you do not understand, my love. Armand Heathcliff Grainger was a terrible person. The entire line of Graingers has been on our books for centuries. Half of them were mad, while the human ones weren’t our concern, the mad vampires wreaked havoc until my creed rid the world of them. Heath’s father was no exception. He butchered recklessly and without rhyme or reason, not even for food, just to kill, because the demons in his head told him so. I did the boy a favor, pray, he is not going to suffer the same fate of madness. Have you never wondered why Heath grew up without a mother?”
“You killed her!”
“No, that would have been Heath’s father. In a mad rage. Once he realized what he had done, he lost his mind completely, did what that family had always done, run. Back to Forgotten Hollow this time. But this time, we were ready. He had no chance. Lucky for him are we not the sadistic monster he was. I have photographs of many of his victims, if you do not believe me. I can show you why my guild still exists, even though the vampires have most mortals quite convinced that they are sweet and innocent, misunderstood creatures. If that were true, neither your father nor I would have this job. Think, Leeora, before you pass judgement on me.”
“Are you gonna kill Heath?”
“Well, he is on our watch list, but is not a mark. Not yet.”
“Why? Just because of his father? We can’t choose our parents. If we could, Seraphina would not be mine, I guarantee you.”
“I understand you better than you might think. I never wanted to become this, but I was my father’s only son and destined to follow in his footsteps. I was never given a choice; I was to be trained and dedicate my life to this job. A lonely life. Reluctant at first, until vampires butchered my entire family during what you may know as the Red Solstice. It was the Summer Solstice celebration, everyone in the Realm was having a good time, I was a teen then, had wandered off with a girl to … well, I’ll spare you those details, considering you are my wife, but when we came back, both our families had perished, brutally butchered. I will never forget one face. Armand Grainger. It took me decades to get him, but I did. Now his own son learned what being an orphan is like. Heath just lucked out more than me. I was sent to an orphanage for our kind, Leeora. You know firsthand that witches and witchers aren’t the fun folk mortals think we are. Quite the contrary, sometimes I wonder who is darker and more sinister, vampires or we.”
“So, our marriage is because of a vendetta?”
“No. Like I told you several times already and I will say it a million more times until you believe me again, I love you. Besides, Grainger was already dead then. I have no vendetta. Only an oath to uphold now. One that is very important, not just to me. Which leaves me to wonder, where we stand now.”
“I am wondering the same. Jonathan, I don’t know how I feel about this, about you. I had actually fallen in love with you, truly, but once more, all I get is lies. My entire life I have been surrounded by lies. But this … I don’t know … and now I really hope this baby is not a boy. You can’t do that. I won’t let you. You know I am a Latimer; you know we kill our own mothers if we feel we have to, in order to protect our child. Fathers are no exception either.”
“Yes, I know, your mother, the high mage killer. It’s legend. Another thing I found incredible about you. And this, you being here proves to me, that you are sharp, cunning and very brave. All things I deeply admire. I love you, Leeora. Body, mind and soul, and I ask you to keep my secret and to not throw what we have away just because of this. You know you were never meant to lead a regular life, no matter how we try, we cannot escape our destiny. I wholeheartedly believe fate has brought us together. You and I, Leeora, we belong.” Jonathan pleaded, sounding very sincere.
“How did you know I would be here?” she purposely didn’t respond, couldn’t. She needed time to think, because he was making too much sense and she wasn’t as appalled as she probably should be anymore.
“You came here earlier today. I could still sense you, smell your fragrance, in my office, but thought I just imagined it, because I missed you so. Until I checked the video feed of the surveillance cameras of the building. I work in a government building, my love. Everything is recorded. You signed in around noon and left only about 15 minutes later. I know this is my fault, I had been reckless, leaving the door open, but it needs a repair, gets stuck, and I really do not want to get locked into my own secret room again. Leeora, look at me. Tell me what this means for us now? My life is in your hands now. If you tell anybody who I really am, it will be my death warrant.”
Leeora thought for a moment, a million scenarios, thoughts, feelings, emotions, rushing over her until one stuck. Warmth. The comforting warmth of genuine love, dedication, family, trust.
“I love you, Jonathan.” she simply said, which was all he needed to hear. He visible relaxed, then stepped closer, this time she didn’t step away from him, but closer towards him. They kissed. The kiss was real, each of them put all their feelings into it.
When they parted, Leeora gave the scary box with the vampire hunter instruments one last look, then snuggled up against Jonathan.
“Please take me home. This place gives me the creeps.”
“I understand that. Let’s go. Leeora, my beautiful darling, you can ask me anything you want to know and I will tell you. I won’t have any more secrets between us. If this is a fatal error, so be it, but at least for once I had happiness and love.”
“There will be one secret we both have to agree to never disclose. My family must never know who and what you really are. It would break my father’s heart to know I love a hunter, and my mother would probably come up with some evil plan, trying to manipulate both of us to kill innocent vampires on her accord.”