They were in a hotel suite not too far from the Empire State building. Beca and Chloe, Stacie and Aubrey. The two pairs had gone about dispersing unofficial acquiescence to the demands of the various Fae leaders. Bahek was the first to enter the room wearing his traditional tailored Italian suits and golden enchanted rings. They accented his regal posture while juxtaposing his dark skin. He gave Aubrey a soft touch of the arm before approaching his seat. The Witch Mother was. Next, her soft frame was countered by her shining blue eyes and olive skin. She was the oldest witch alive; to their knowledge, that is, there was a long history of witches suddenly reappearing centuries after they were presumed dead.
Cynthia Rose arrived with her fellow sirens in tail, followed by Flint, the werewolf alpha, and his wife, Myra. The Werewolf leaders were extremely tall individuals with flashing yellow eyes and rippling muscles. He held out the chair for his wife before taking his own seat. They both had bright red hair and pale skin. When they weren’t flashing their teeth and wolf eyes, they had a similar iris coloration to one Chloe Beale.
“Where’s my son?” Flint barked. He had a bottle in one of his massive hands; he was in the process of pouring his wife a drink.
“What? You owe me an apology for your threats on my people,” The Witch Mother snapped.
“I never -” Flint broke off as Stacie flooded the room with a calming aura. Aubrey felt her own body relax in its seat as Stacie worked. Beca and Chloe were turned to brush their lips together as everyone else in the room fought the succubus’s effect.
“How about we try to relax a little, talk about everything in a calm and orderly fashion,” Stacie suggested. Aubrey hummed and resisted the urge to kiss the succubus. One side effect of succubi's mood affectation was that any feelings of genuine affection became all the more obvious, even when Stacie didn’t purposefully introduce sexual tension into the mix. “Flint, you promised your son to the Brooklyn wolves, correct?” Aubrey spoke up.
“Yes, I did, and wolves don’t break their word. He needs to come home and marry the girl.”
“He is already bound to my daughter through her bearing his child,” The Witch Mother argued.
“Please, Paulina, you and I both know that we could work out maintenance for the child,” Flint scoffed.
“The child deserves a father, and there are some decisions I can no longer make for my daughter. They are bound by blood.”
“You said that already,” Flint attempted to stand suddenly, but his motions were much more languid than he intended. “Blast it; why do I feel so slow?”
“You’ll handle this meeting calmly and rationally until we say otherwise,” Aubrey answered. The werewolf’s wife settled a hand on her husband’s arm and leaned in to nuzzle his neck as she whispered words into his ear. Aubrey turned to look at Stacie, who seemed to be studying the maps they had laid out. The blockade was marked in red ink with moving dots that symbolized their current forces stationed there. “We all need to work together if we’re going to beat Alaric. He has numbers and power; Luciana can’t leave the Court. The Huntresses aren’t accepting peace talks, and half of the hunters have gone rogue while the other half is scrambling for a leader. We need to do something, and we don’t have enough time to settle your petty squabbles,” Aubrey iterated for the group. Cynthia Rose, Beca, Chloe, and Bahek all nodded in agreement. “Alaric has never been a friend to those with red blood in their veins. He can’t be allowed to persist in his plans, lest he reveals our existence to the humans,” Cynthia Rose sighed.
“The Moretti boy is running around clueless right now as well, trying to gather up the remainder of the Hunter forces. We need to help clear things up on this side of the globe as well,” Beca added.
“Paulina, Flint, Myra, we need you to cooperate. Please, for the safety of everyone. Put this feud aside, lest we all die before your decisions are made,” Bahek implored them.
The Fae leaders came to some form of consensus under the influence of Stacie’s pathokinesis. Flint and the Witch Mother agreed to rearrange their other children’s marriages to make it up to the slighted groups in question. The Brooklyn wolves and Egyptian Coven would simply have to make due in the meantime. Flint sent wolves to aid the vampires at the blockade; the Silversmiths were projected to be routed momentarily. The witches were able to aid in the erasure of unwanted memories for the humans, while the Sirens prevented a naval retreat.
Stacie and Aubrey returned to their apartment, drained from the unending negotiations they had just endured. Chloe and Beca stayed behind to strategize with the werewolves and witches of Brooklyn further. Leaving Stacie and Aubrey alone together in their newly acquired apartment. Upon their return, Stacie tugged Aubrey into the bedroom to recharge in a long session of lovemaking. Beca and Chloe had the chance to return and leave twice before Stace was finally sated. Aubrey took her to fill as well; her eyes flared a deep red before fading to their more human green.
“How did this war start?” Stacie asked. Aubrey turned to look at Stacie in surprise; the war had become such a large part of daily vampire politics she sometimes forgot other members of the Fae wouldn’t understand the full reasoning. Especially succubi, who seldom choose sides.
“Do you know the origins of the Hunters?” Aubrey inquired.
“Yeah, that story has been passed down forever. My Babushka used Luciana and Titus’s story to scare my brothers and sisters into not talking to humans. They’re crazy.”
Aubrey giggled into Stacie’s shoulder at the brunette’s words and shook her head. “Humans aren’t too bad.”
“You’re only saying that because you used to be one,” Stacie countered. Aubrey didn’t have a response to that, so she conceded that point to Stacie. “If you know about Luciana, then that leaves about three-fourths of the story for me to tell unless you also know what happened with Alaric’s family?”
“I do; that one was also a story to dissuade baby succubi from fraternizing with food.”
“The beginning of the second great war, do you know that one?” Aubrey probed.
“Yeah, a sect of witches that later called themselves the mages enslaved half of the Fae world in the fifteenth century. My family escaped most of it because of their influence over the human nobility.”
“That’s lucky; I was one of the enslaved. They caught me days after my turning. We were locked in a prison world where none of us could die. Centuries passed without us. The vampires that lived there relied on being summoned to feed, that or they fed off of those with blood.”
“Is that why you have blood haze?” Stacie queried.
“Not exactly; I guess it’s time I tell you my origins, though.”
Stacie hummed and waited for Aubrey to begin, eyes focused on the blonde with rapt attention.
“I was born in the seventeenth century to a minor noble family in England,” Aubrey started. “I married a man named Charles when I was sixteen, and I bore him a child. He died while taking passage on a ship, a pirate attack. Charles was so brave he would have been considered stupid if he was of any lesser birth. In those days, though, your life is almost over without a man to protect you. His parents claimed my son and my own parents were devising another way to use marriage to curry them favor in court. I was miserable and bereft. Charles was a good man, and good men were hard to come by in those times, even if he was stubborn to a fault. I loved him, or at least I liked him. Alaric found me in the cemetery in front of Charles’s grave.”
Aubrey sat on the ground by the grave of her late husband. She was in a black gown of mourning, and a veil hung over her face. She ran a soft hand over the tombstone; the etching of Charles’s name ran against her fingers. She had so much left to say but nothing left to give. “I’m sorry you couldn’t see your son grow up.” She murmured. Charles had been so excited when Arthur was born; now, neither would ever get to raise their beautiful boy.
“How long ago did you lose them?” A voice inquired behind her. Aubrey whipped around and came face to face with a man in a worn black coat and hat. He had wild blue eyes and windswept black hair. His pale skin was whiter than Aubrey’s, which at least had the pulse of blood behind it. The way he moved was smooth and calculating; a preternatural aura seemed to accumulate around the man.
“My apologies for interrupting; my name is Alaric. I heard you and thought you could use an ear. I have some experience in grief.” The man, Alaric, explained.
“He was reported dead a year ago on this day,” Aubrey answered. The man nodded solemnly and settled down beside her. “I lost my wife; I know what it is to lose your love, how much it hurts. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too; I wish he got to see our son say his first words. I wish I got to see him say his first words;” Aubrey’s voice was ne'er above a whisper, but the man seemed to hear her easily. “You didn’t get to see your son say his first words?” Alaric exclaimed surprise colored his voice mixed with something else. Something that Aubrey felt too, rage, barely contained but strong.
“His parents took our boy away; they said I couldn’t provide for him so that they would take the burden away from me,” Aubrey said.
“Raising a child isn’t a burden; it’s a gift.” Alaric smiled sadly at the headstone as though he and Charles were old friends. “My wife and I had a child; her name was Sylvia after my mother-in-law. People took her from me as well.”
“What did you do?” A stony silence met Aubrey’s question. Alaric’s eyes hardened as he glared at the tombstone. “She had grown up by the time I found her; I left her to her life. I dropped in sometimes to make sure she was well; she never really knew. She had children, and they grew up as well, so I watched out for them too. Everything I’ve done is for my family.”
Aubrey studied the man beside her in confusion; he looked not much older than she was. He looked to be in his late twenties, early thirties, maybe. “How old are you?” She asked.
“Older than I look,” the man answered. His voice sounded tired, defeated almost. Aubrey waited for him to explain, but he remained silent. Their eyes met, and she saw the flash of red, which was enough. She stood up and scrambled away, eyes wide in fear. “Demon,” she gasped. Alaric stood slowly and cautiously, his eyes back to blue. “Wrong, I am no child of Lilith. I am something else entirely.”
“What are you?” Aubrey gasped. She knew there was no way she could outrun him in her dress. She could only keep him talking and hope someone else would come to her aid.
“Some would call me a vampire; you may call me that if you wish, although I prefer my name. The legends of vampires based around my kind are often inaccurate, although the title isn’t a new one.”
“You feed on the blood of innocents,” Aubrey said. The man laughed. “Innocents? No. Humans, yes.”
“Are you going to kill me?” Aubrey stammered. Alaric moved closer to her slowly; his ethereal grace was a heavy contrast to the fabled brutality his kind was supposed to have. He shook his head. Aubrey assessed his handsome features, unmarred by bloodlust or anger. He simply looked sad.
“I would never seek to harm someone of my blood. You are one of my children. You look like the spitting image of my dear Sylvia, who was the spitting image of her mother before her.”
Aubrey’s eyes widened in surprise at the new information; she took a stumbling step backward. “What?” She choked out.
“I’ve missed so much time, so many moments. They’ve had me in Prague, Russia, the Americas. I wasn’t summoned here until recently, but they’ve left me sometime in this world. I’ve scoured church records all over, and I finally found you and your family. Silvia, my Silvia, was your, many great’s grandmother.”
Aubrey paled at the vampire’s words, her heartbeat was erratic, and her hands were beginning to sweat. “What?”
“You have nothing to fear from me; I only wish you the best. As long as I am in this world, I will always protect my family. I promise.” Alaric came to kneel before Aubrey as though he were a knight before a queen. Aubrey felt a sudden urge to touch him, her supposed great grandfather. She started to do so when she heard the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching. She looked up to see a group of men drawing near, laughing uproariously. When Aubrey turned back to speak to Alaric, he was gone.
“Alaric?” She hissed into the night. There was no reply, but the group of men noticed the utterance and quickly changed course. One of the men held a torch aloft as they sauntered closer, merrily singing bawdy songs. They were all obviously deep in their cups. “Look, lads, it’s a lady!” One of them jeered. They all sped up to head in her direction.
“Is that Lady Posen? From the Castle?” One of the men queried; he was balding and broad-shouldered.
“The widow probably didn’t even get half a decent ride out of ‘er husband,' ' another man leered. Aubrey noticed that he walked with a slight limp.
“Think we could give her a ride and win us a lordship?” A third man suggested. The others laughed while Aubrey took a hesitant step away from them. There were six men in total, all in breeches and roughspun tunics. Some of them were barefoot, while others were in boots. She knew she could outrun none of them.
“Stay away from me or -”
“What? Your father will hear about it? He won’t know anything; no one’s around.”
[TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT]
Aubrey gulped and stumbled back once more. The men quickly charged forth, grabbing her and attempting to hold her down. Aubrey kicked out with one leg and drove her foot in between a man’s legs. The man collapsed to the ground, clutching his groin. Another man rushed to take his place. Aubrey screamed while she lashed out. Her left hand cracked across one man’s jaw; she felt the back of her dress rip. The men were howling with laughter as Aubrey struggled to push the men away.
Her efforts were in vain as the men rushed forward. Aubrey shut her eyes as she braced herself for the onslaught, but suddenly she hit the ground, and the men’s grubby hands were no longer groping and touching her.
[Attempted Assault Over]
Aubrey got to her feet from where the men had left her. The sound of droplets hitting stone was the only thing to break the silence. Alaric stood amongst the carnage, a man’s head in one hand. Blood dripped from the neck and the corners of his mouth. His eyes glowed a deep red. “I’m sorry I let them get so far; my master called me away for a moment,” Alaric apologized. He wiped the scarlet droplets from his chin and tossed the head to the side. Aubrey nodded mutely and settled on the ground with wide eyes.
“They’ll never touch you again,” Alaric soothed. Aubrey bobbed her head in understanding while she continued to stare at her vampiric ancestor.
“If you would like, I could escort you home,” Alaric offered. He offered a pale hand to her, slow and steady.
Aubrey took it, allowing the man to hoist her up. Something he accomplished with ease. “If you need to take a moment,” Alaric suggested. Aubrey continued to study the scene with a critical eye. The men had been torn apart. Some of them had holes in their chests the size of fists. Bite marks stood out on necks as blood trickled from the wounds. Aubrey turned to look at Alaric once more; her heart was beating profusely as she stared at the man. “You tore them apart,” Aubrey remarked dumbly.
“Would you have preferred I leave them alive?” Alaric asked in confusion.
“No, I just, I’ve never seen men torn apart like that before,” Aubrey shuddered.
“I’m sorry you had to see that; you must not be used to the carnage; I can get you out of here in the blink of an eye if you wish -”
“No!” Aubrey refused, “How did you - How were you -” She halted her speech as she attempted to ascertain what she wanted. Those men were relentless, and her attempts to fight back were practically useless—child’s play. If Alaric hadn’t been there, she would have been utterly at the mercy of absolute brutes. For all her life, she had been at the mercy of the powerful men around her. Her father controlled her life. Her future husband definitely would. Even sweet, stupid, Charles held sway over her life. If her son were to grow up, she would undoubtedly fall mercy to his whims, as well. Now, she met another man, a creature that claimed he would protect her, but she didn’t want to be protected anymore. She never wanted to fall at the mercy of another man again.
“You killed them. You killed them, and it was easy for you.” Aubrey said, “All my life, I’ve been a pawn to the whim of men like them. I don’t want that anymore. I want out. My son has been taken from me; my husband is dead... I don’t want this life anymore.”
“What do you want then? Whatever it is, if it’s in my power, I can grant it. I can compel your family to obey you; I can force the return of your son. I can make the world fall at your feet. Whatever it is, I will do it.”
Aubrey looked at her husband’s grave one more time and sent a small prayer for forgiveness; whatever she did next, she did for herself.
“I don’t want anyone to do anything for me anymore. I want to be able to protect myself. Make me what you are. Make me a vampire, so I never have to suffer at the hands of men like them again.”
Alaric stared at his great-granddaughter for a moment as though he were debating. He remembered his sweet Annabelle, how she had glowed as an immortal. He nodded. He would grant Aubrey this request. If for nothing else, but to have a member of his family forever.
Stacie laid sideways, leaning on one arm as she traced patterns into Aubrey’s shoulder. She was completely enraptured with the story of how Aubrey became an immortal, how her great-great-grandfather had taught her everything she needed to know about being a vampire. The growth of their bond entranced her as they were trapped together in servitude during the mage war.
“You loved him,” Stacie commented.
“Yes, he was the father I never had. He was patient and kind, he showed me everything I needed to know, and we served in Luciana’s court together happily, once the war was over.”
“So, what went wrong?” Stacie asked.
“Luciana wasn’t interested in continuing the centuries-long fight against the Hunters. She chose to hold her court more peacefully. Alaric wanted to take a more aggressive stance. She denied him.”
“Why would he force a war, though? It doesn’t make sense.”
“It does, though. Ever since he came to the Red Court, he has done nothing but plan his revenge against the people that took his daughter and wife away from him. Humans, witches, hunters, they’re all guilty in his eyes. Witches and humans have more wiggle room than the hunters, though, because being a witch or human is simply something you’re born as. Being a hunter is a mantle you take up; it’s the perpetuation of oppression to Alaric. The Hunters organized the storming of his home and the murder of Annabelle, and they never once apologized. There was no trial or checking of the facts. They saw vampires and immediately started killing. It didn’t matter that Annabelle and Silvia only fed from Alaric.”
“That happened centuries ago,” Stacie pointed out.
“Doesn’t matter to him; The Elites never corrected the system. Hunters still kill vampires and other members of the Fae without discernment. He could never forgive Luciana’s unwillingness to fight back. He’s been in charge of the Red Court’s security for centuries. He was an instrumental part of the Second Great Fae War. He was known for being ruthless; he was admired for it even. His measures kept everyone safe and stopped the Mages in the end.”
“It sounds like you agree with him, so why are you with Luciana?” Stacie inquired.
“I agree with most of his sentiments; I’ll admit that. The Hunters were harsh and unfair, especially when they stole Alaric’s life from him. I sympathize with him there, but I no longer agree with his methods. I worshipped him when I was newly sired, and I reveled in the power my new status provided me. I hunted men and tore them to pieces. I felt their blood fill me; I used to rejoice in their pain. It felt like revenge, retribution for everything the world put me through.”
“What stopped it?” Stacie asked.
“The first time it was Chloe, she saw the path of destruction I was wreaking, and she forced me to get clean along with Bahek. I had just decimated a village in Czechoslovakia; Chloe had freed me from the mage that bound me. To protect me from further entrapment, she bound my form to hers until the war was over. She let me have free will, no jobs, no demands. She only requested that I not kill anyone else.” Aubrey explained, “I thought I could stop at any time and that I was killing for my own satisfaction, but it was more than that. The blood lust had taken over; it was warping my brain, making me lose control. Bahek was one of the few free vampires during the era, so he was Chloe’s answer. He helped me gain control.”
“What brought the bloodlust back?” Stacie probed.
“I never really stopped longer than a decade; I was always falling off the wagon, per se. I usually cheated by killing rapists and murderers; I figured that they weren’t helping society. It fulfilled some form of recompense for all the innocents I killed in Czechoslovakia. I only really started getting clean when Chloe begged me to stop killing people that I could simply compel to turn themselves in.”
“But you said you were in a full blood haze when you met me.”
“Yes, all those other times I only killed those I was certain was guilty. I stayed away from innocents if I could help it.”
“I was in Chicago after the Second Great War. Everything was back to normal, and I had refrained from drinking from a live human for three years. Chloe fed me some of her blood habitually to keep me sated, but I was walking down the street one day, and this stupid man tried to cross the street in the city. He was running across; he had just been running after one of his friends. He was halfway across the street, following her, when a passing carriage hit him. I hadn’t fed off of Chloe yet that day, and I was thirsty; his chest got a large enough gash to require stitches...”
“You killed him?” Stacie surmised.
“I pulled him up a fire escape and drank every last drop. When I was done, all I wanted was more. I became a reaper again for the next half a century,”
“What pulled you back” Stacie’s question brought a small smile to Aubrey’s lips. She raised a hand to trace a finger along Stacie’s bottom lip. “You did. I had torn my way through most of the Americas and into Russia. I was a complete menace during the French Revolution, but you, I couldn’t kill. I remember waking up from the haze and breathing in your scent. I remember everything from that day, your face, your lips, the way your eyes glowed….”
Stacie’s eyes lit up a deep Fuschia in answer.
“Yeah, just like that. I remember the way you said my name, the way you held me for a moment before you fell asleep.”
“I thought you forgot all of that,” Stacie remarked.
“I lied, but whatever this is between us, it feels stronger than a normal bond. I feel drawn to you in a way that isn’t blood lust. It’s different. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Is that why you didn’t join Alaric, you don’t want to hurt people anymore?”
“Kind of. All he’s known as a vampire is war and revenge. He’s constantly seeking a fight to fill the hole of his missing love and daughter. I lost Charles, but I wasn’t in love with him. I realize that now, it doesn’t help that only some human memories survive when you're turned. Whatever was the dominant thought in your mind when you are turned is what becomes the core memory and drive for you as a member of the supernatural. He died with revenge on his mind. He watched his family die in front of him then was promptly murdered with their blood in his veins. Alaric turned me after being saved from the worst; the thoughts in my mind were a little more varied than his. Vengeance wasn’t my only desire; I also thought of my relief that I would be safe and in control of my life for once. That’s why I chose Luciana’s side because I don’t want what I used to. Alaric claims he wants to save the Fae from the interference of the hunters, but I know what he really wants because I used to want it too.”
“What did you want?”
“ Destruction. I wanted to watch the world burn before me, but I changed, and I learned to want something else. I spent enough time with him, though, to know that his desire hasn’t changed. What he wanted back then, he wants now. Destruction to anyone that isn’t his family, and he’s willing to take anyone down with him to do that.”
"And what do you want now?" Stacie asked.
Aubrey smiled and ran a thumb along Stacie's bottom lip. The other girl sucked the finger into her mouth, eyes a brilliant violet. You. Aubrey replaced her fingers with her lips.