“You will go to the home, and you will kill them both. If I so much as get wind that either of them live, I will hunt you and your family down and kill them all, making you watch as I do so.” The faerie before her nodded, his wings moving so quickly that he appeared to be floating in the air without aid. Lucia knocked him out of the air and wanted to ask him to repeat what she’d said to him, but he just lay before her, his face nearly buried in the dirt. “What are you waiting for? Do you think I should go and hold them for you whilst you remove their heads? Or perhaps you wish for me to drive the wood into their chests and reward you for my work?”
“Nay, my lady. Both of them will die this day. This I promise you.” She waited for him to leave her, but he lay there. Before she could ask him what he was waiting for, he lifted his head to glance at her. “He is said to be very powerful, my lady. Much stronger than even I am, being a lowly faerie and all. All I have to help me in this task is my magic, puny as it is.”
“You are asking for something? Perhaps you think you should have some of what I have?” He told her no and whimpered when she stood up. “You have it in your head to go there, to have some of me within yourself to kill this man? You wish a part of my magic? Do you think he will not know, should you fail, that it was me? That he will not smell me upon you?”
“Nay, my lady. I was thinking that you could give me a weapon to use. A sword to defend myself should he arise whilst I’m there.” She’d not thought of that, giving him a weapon. But there wasn’t any reason he should know that. “I should like to be able to come back here and report that I have done as you asked. I fear that should I only be able to kill one of them first, it will be doubly hard to kill the other with my magic drained so much.”
“There are ample things for you to take with you at the door. I am not stupid enough to think you could do this without my help. But bring them back to me if you please. I have a fondness for those things.” There wasn’t anything there, and when he returned to her to ask after them, she blamed it on someone else. Anyone but herself.
After he left her the second time, she sat in her chair. It was nothing more than a simple chair, not even made wholly of wood, but it served. For now. Someday, soon she hoped, she’d get her something worth sitting in. But for now she would use some of her magic, very little of it, to make it appear that it was as grand as she was.
A knock at her door had her tensing up. Surely he could not have done what she’d asked so soon. But when the Council of Magic and the Gathering entered her chambers, Lucia had a fear so deep that she felt her magic curl around her. When they both visited a person—both the ones that made the rules and those that punished when rules were not followed—you knew that something was wrong.
“Lucia Alvarez, it has been brought to our attention that you have been using magic to better your own station in life. Using it in ways that are against the rules of our kind. Of all kinds, as a matter of fact.” She wanted to point out that bettering her own station in life should always come first, but he continued before she could. Probably a good thing when she thought on it. “And as such, after looking into the matter, we have deemed the accusation to be true. You have murdered others for their magic, lesser beings that would have added nothing to your own base. You’ve stolen from higher faeries; not just their magic, but things that you have used to make yourself richer and your magic darker. You have also not paid your dues to us, something that you were to do every year on the day of your birth. These rules, and a great many others that you have dismissed for some reason, are to be followed to the letter, and this you know. You will come with us, and be heard before the Gathering.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell them to go away. That she had more important things going on right now that didn’t have anything to do with them. Of course, that would be a mistake. One thing that she had learned over the decades she’d been alive was that she wasn’t to mess with the Council. And never ever the Gathering, which was known to be harsh in their judgment, as well as quick.
She found herself transported before the Gathering and her hands bound in magic so that she couldn’t use her magic against them. It thrilled her to no end that they were afraid of her. But when they began to speak, each of them naming a law she had broken or a deed that she had done against humans and her kind, she knew that someone had turned her in. Someone who was going to be dead, and very soon.
When the list seemed to be coming to an end, Lucia wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be excited that her list of grievances was so long or pretend that she was saddened by it. Either way, she was pretty sure that she was in trouble. When asked what she had to say about her list of crimes, she pouted prettily at them.
“I don’t know what you’re speaking of. I have been a model faerie. I have.... As you might not know, I have been a volunteer at the local branches of the hospital, as well as working in other places that I cannot name at the moment.” There weren’t any places that she’d been working, nor had she ever volunteered. It was Ryiah who had done all of this and put her name to it, so if questioned, she would look like she had. “I have several letters of acclaim that tells of my work at the hospital. I am also on the board of directors at the library.” She tried to think what else was on that list, but came up blank. “This was all just a mistake,” she told them. “Whoever has turned me in for these crimes, they must have some sort of grudge against me.”
“Can you produce these letters?” She nodded and snapped her fingers. Nothing happened, of course, but she asked them for this one bit of magic to do as they asked. She needed to return to her home to get them and to bring them back to them. Just as soon as she was finished with the project she was working on. “No, that won’t be necessary. We shall send someone to your home to retrieve them. Where do you have them filed?”
Again, Lucia had no idea. There had been a list on her desk, but where was it now? She wasn’t sure where she’d put the paperwork that had been given to her over the last few months. She was positive that she’d not tossed it away, but she’d not filed it either.
Instead of telling them this, she asked to have her assistant brought to them so that she could go with them. In seconds, less really, Ryiah was standing by the dais with the Gathering.
Ryiah wasn’t happy…that much was obvious. But Lucia didn’t care what she was upset about now. It was more than likely something that she’d done, but so long as Ryiah did as she was told when she was told to do it, she could be as pissed as she wanted.
After the Gathering told her what they needed, Ryiah glared at her. It would have been her greatest pleasure to kill her. Every second of every day she wished the woman dead. But she couldn’t kill her. Few knew the reason why, but Lucia wasn’t able to even prick Ryiah’s fingers without great pain to herself. But that didn’t stop her from making her the scapegoat of every one of her deeds. Or at the very least the one that got her out of trouble.
The paperwork was brought to the Gathering, and once it was verified that it was real, Lucia was sent to a cell. It was better than having her head removed any day, but she didn’t want to be here at all. The next ten days, very little in the long run, was to be her punishment. It would keep her from her tasks and information. Information that she needed.
But alas, she would do her time for now, because it was better than the alternative. This was nothing, not for the deaths of the hordes of people that she had murdered. Not for the beheading of several heads of their government. She was in this cell for ten days because she had not reported the fact that she was now living in a nest of vampires. Who, she might have pointed out to them—but didn’t—were all dead. Also by her hand.
Ryiah came to see her on the last day of her sentence. She’d been calling to her since she’d been locked up, but today was the first time she showed. There was and would always be bad blood between these two, but to leave her without one bit of information, or even a few new clothes to put on, was cruel. And Lucia knew her sister was about as cruel as it came when she needed something from her.
“I’m only here to inform you that I have moved my things to the family home. I will no longer work for you.” Lucia only smiled at her. “You have no hold over me. I owe you nothing. And should you try and kill me, as you have done to so many others that I cannot fathom why you’ve not been killed by the Gathering, know that I have a list of not only where you have put the bodies, but also magic that can be used to watch you do the deeds.”
“I don’t care what you think you have over me, Ryiah. You’re nothing, and will never be anything more than a pawn in my plans. So you will move your things back to the house where I am. I have more need of you than before. The Council will keep a closer eye on me and my magic now, and I have no desire to be brought here again. And since you have decided, for whatever reasons that you have in that small mind of yours, to not come here when I call to you, I will punish you. Not as badly as I would like, but you will suffer.” Ryiah told her that she didn’t care. “Oh, but you should, Ryiah. You really should. Being my sister will not only open doors for you, it can shut them as well. When the Council finds out that you have lied to them to save me, what do you think they’ll do to you?”
“No more than you have tried over the centuries, Lucia. In fact, I think death would be better than living with you for the rest of my days.” Lucia stood up and came to the bars to scare her sister. But Ryiah held her ground, even went so far as to lift her chin in an act of defiance. “I despise you, Lucia. I truly do.”
“I care not for your feelings, Ryiah. Should it be possible, I would gladly kill you myself. But our blood relationship prevents it.” Ryiah just stood there, and Lucia wouldn’t have believed it possible, but she hated her sister even more in that moment because she truly looked as if she did not care what Lucia did to her. “You’ll do as I say because you know the consequences should you not. I own you. And will until I say differently.”
Ryiah didn’t move. Didn’t so much as blink at her. Lucia was fearful of her sister, if the truth was known. No one but her knew Ryiah for what she was…a powerful faerie in her own right. But Lucia had always made sure that she was close by to control it. And if Ryiah ever found her mate, then Lucia would pay, and pay dearly.
“I loathe you, Lucia.” Lucia smiled. She’d won. Again. And after waiting for her to tell her she was moving back, Lucia said nothing. So apparently she was going to be denied her begging, a pleasure that she tried to get from her sister as much as she could. “The woman is dead. The man you tried to have murdered? He is alive, but saddened because of you. And I do hope you know that when the other comes to claim you as his mate, you will no longer have a hold over me. A mate to you means my freedom. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that he finds you, too.”
“You will die when he finds me. I will make sure that I’m there when your head is removed from your body. No one will be there to save you, least of all me.” Ryiah said nothing, but did smile. A frightening sort of not giving a crap sort of smile. “Or perhaps I will bind you to him, to be his sex slave whilst I have my fun.”
“I will have no ties to him but through your magic. I will murder him before he even touches me.” She could do that, Lucia thought. Murder a man that was nothing to her. “Think well on your next move, Lucia. I will be your downfall if you make me move back to your home.”
Of course, she had to live with her. How else was she to keep an eye on her sister? Keep her away from all men that she did not deem to be safe and not her mate? Ryiah wasn’t going anywhere, and if she had to make her hurt to stay, then she would. Murdering her would be better, but again she wasn’t able to do that. At least not by her own hand. And she wasn’t worried about her having a mate. Lucia had taken precautions on that score, and he would soon be dead too. Or he’d better be. But Ryiah would not know that.
“I care not what you think you will or won’t do to me, Ryiah. I am your master and I will expect you there when I return.” She sat on the bed and glared at her sister. “Malcomb will be my mate, but not for many, many decades if he lives through this. I hope that he ends his own life. It will save me so much trouble. But if he does not by then, I have a plan that will make you heel, much better than you are now. Go to the house, have it cleaned from top to bottom. Then I want six...nay, seven men in my bed awaiting me. They will fuck me until I am sated. Then I will deal with you.”
After she left, Lucia sat there thinking. If her sister ever found out, ever even had an idea what she’d done to her, Lucia would be dead, by Ryiah’s hand. In this, her death would be justified. The bond that held them safe from each other would be broken, and her sister would be well within her rights to murder her. No harm to one that is blood. The rule, like so many others, had been one of the first ones that she’d broken. And there would be little that Lucia could do to stop her.
“So long as she never finds her mate, I will be safe.” It was her only fear…to be found out by Ryiah when she came into her power with her other half. Her magic, the very part of her that Lucia had stolen from her, would come to her sister then, and Lucia would be left with nothing. Not one single bit of magic to even call her sister to her. “Her magic is safe for me, and I will never let her go to find him. Whoever he might be.”
Rick moved among the ruins of his brother’s home. The pain in his own body was only secondary to the one in his heart. His wounds would heal when he next fed. He knew this, but the death of one that he loved as much as he did his brother would haunt him for the rest of his life. The death of his sister-in-law hurt them all.
Rick had been staying with his brother and his family last night or he might not have been able to pull his brother from the burning shell. He had no idea if a stray ember from the fires from the night before had started the blaze, or if someone had dropped a candle. As it was, his brother’s lovely wife had been killed by a stake through the heart, more than likely from falling timber, before he could get to her. Rick didn’t know why; if it was set, who would do this to his brother and his wife? But he was going to find out.
Turning when someone said his name, he looked at his only friend.
“You must go to ground, my friend. Should you stay out here longer, you will join your sister-in-law in the afterlife, and she will be most upset with you should you not avenge her death.” Janell looked around, then back at him. “I will find she who has done this. And when I do, I will make sure that she suffers greatly for it.”
“You know that it was set then?” She nodded at him. “Then I have no wish for you to get into trouble either. Nay, do not do this for me. I shall take care of it. Besides, you know as well as I that it was Lucia.” Janell said nothing, not even to acknowledge what they both knew. “She meant to destroy him for a reason that I cannot know.”
“It is said that Mary was to die in childbirth and Lucia was to be Malcomb’s second mate. I do know that the earth says this, but I cannot believe that such a match would have been correct. Your brother is a good man, kind and full of life. While Lucia is—”
“She’s a bitch and a murderer. And should she find out that I am the one that turned her in for her crimes all those weeks ago, I will be next on her list. I don’t even know why she bothered with poor Malcomb. He leads such a quiet life, not even bothering to be involved in family much. He is so timid and afraid of things.” Janell smiled at him. “You find this funny?”
“Nay, my lord, I do not. But she is with the Council as we speak. She sits in a cell awaiting her fate. The Council has found her guilty of the charge and she will be punished. I know not which charge, but it is said to have her behind bars until such time as things can be carried out.” He asked her how long that would be. “I do not know that
either, my lord. The Council has their own rules and secrets, and my kind, or any kind of being, is not privy to them. I only know that she was taken before them and that she was found guilty.”
Rick felt somewhat better, even relieved, but his brother and his family had suffered at her hands and he wanted revenge. But it had been taken out of his hands now. She would die quickly and not suffer in ways that he was…or his brother.
When he felt something akin to a blade into his heart, he fell to his knees. He knew what it was immediately. Malcomb was no more.
“My lord?” He waved Janell away, his heart tearing apart, because as surely as he was standing here, he knew that his brother had met the sun. His pain for the death of his wife was just too much. “My lord, you’re frightening me. Come away from there and tell me....” When she paused, he knew that she was as aware, if not more so, of what happened as he was.
“He’s dead.” Janell put her arms around him and helped him to an area in the yard that had not been a part of the devastation. “Malcomb hurt terribly. Even when I tried to help him out of the burning house, he begged me to leave him behind. Now…now he is gone from me.”
“It is the way of your kind.” He sat there thinking of his kind. The way that they took mates to make them stronger, yet it killed a part of them when their mates were gone. “Your own mate, she is coming too. Her love will mend you. I know this.”
“I’ve no wish to meet her.” Janell said nothing. “What should happen to her? When I cannot care for her the way that I did my brother?”
“I cannot tell you of that future. You know this. I only know that she comes to you. That is more than you should know of this.” He did know it, but it wasn’t something that he liked. “I have given you a part of me, my lord. You can now be in the sunlight because of our bond. This will keep you safe. And once you have taken your bride, she too will enjoy the benefits that come with you being her other half.”
As he sat there, Janell fussing with him about what he was doing, he looked down and saw the faerie garden that he had sat on. When he looked at her, he could see her shock and tried to stand up to move. He felt the pain almost as soon as he opened his mouth to ask her where he was, on whose garden he had lain.
His back and neck burned as if someone was setting hot stones to his skin. Even as he cried out that he wanted help with it, he knew that Janell couldn’t help him. Wouldn’t be able to, because she knew, just as he did, what was happening to him. Someone was killing him.
As he cried out over and over with the pain of it, he saw the blood as it ran down his body and covered his chest and arms, as whatever was going on with his body was diminishing. When it was over, the pain was less and he could feel that whatever had happened had created a marking on his body that would never leave him.
“She is a great and powerful being, the woman you have brought awake.” He looked up, seeing Janell bowing before a being that was as pure white as his blood was red. “You must stand and thank her, my lord. She has given you a great gift.”
“I hurt too badly for me to consider this a gift.” The laughter had him looking up again. He felt himself being pulled to the woman—for he had no doubt that was what the being was—his feet not touching the ground that neither of them stood upon, his pain gone. “Thank you, my lady. But since I think you hurt me, I think you owe me as well.”
“I have given you all that I can, Lord Richard James.” He felt his heart pound in his chest and wondered at it. “You will face many things in your life. A great many deaths yet, some that will bring you yet again to your knees. But know that as you stand before me, you will survive. Nothing will kill you.”
“The sun, it cannot, but a sword can remove my head.” She told him no longer. “I am but a mere vampire, my lady. Subject to the ways of my kind.”
“I have chosen you, with the help of your friend here, to help me with a great project. It will be many years from now. Decades will pass…centuries before she comes to you.” He asked her who. “A being so strong that she will give you more than you have ever seen. A power that will dominate all that bow before you. And a love that will know no bounds. A love that will last you both until the end of all time.”
“I’m not deserving. I think you...perhaps you meant my brother, Malcomb. He was a man to deserve such a gift. Not I.” She smiled at him and turned to look at Janell. It was then that he saw the jagged scar on the woman’s face. It marred her from hairline to chin. “Who would dare do such a thing to you?”
“It is of no consequence now that I have found you, Lord James. She will suffer greatly for hurting me thusly. When you meet a woman of great humility, you will save her for me. She will give you her heart, but not easily. Her body will be the greatest gift that a man can receive. Yet before she comes, there will be much death; you will witness many lives being taken in the name of greed. This woman and those that you are with will gain all that I have given you this day.”
He closed his eyes when she asked him to. When he opened them again Rick could see it then, markings all around his neck and down his back. He knew that magic had put them there. Because of what he was, there should have been no magic to mark him so. Magic, very strong and powerful magic, had done what nothing else could. He looked at her when she said his name.
“What is this?” She only smiled at him. “You’ve marked me as belonging to you. What if I...? What would you do should I try and end my life?”
The sword was in her hand before he could blink. She swung it around, cutting into his throat as soon as she lifted it to her shoulder. He felt it slice through him. Grabbing his neck to try and stop the flow of blood or his head from falling, he felt nothing. Not a drop of his blood, nor even a small tear to his flesh. And there was no pain. He asked her if she’d missed.
“Nay, I do not miss when I wield the sword of my kind.” Again, he asked her what she was. “You will live as I have decreed. And this favor I ask of you, you will carry it out for me and things will...the earth and the inhabitants of it will thank you for it.”
“Why me?” She only smiled at him again. Rick had a feeling that even if he were to ask her a million times, he’d not get an answer from her. “My lady, I just want to live my life as a vampire. I have no desire to find a mate. I don’t want anyone in my life that....
Well, I should like to join my brother. And there is a woman who will wish me dead soon enough. I would rather not subject a mate to such—”
“The matter is closed.” He felt his anger take him, burn over him like acid. But when she laughed, he knew a new kind of pain, consuming him in ways that had him thinking the marking of his body had been mere child’s play, his body stiff with it. “’Twill do you not one bit of good to try and harm me, Lord Richard James. Should you try, even thinking that I will end this between us, it will not work. You belong to me. And until you have completed this favor, you will be alive and healthy no matter what things come your way. Even during what you think of as your blackest times.”
When he was dropped to the ground, he stayed where he was. He knew her to be gone. The magic that had brought her to him was gone as well. But not the feeling that he’d been had. That he’d been tricked. He looked at Janell then.
“Nay, whatever goes into your head, I had nothing to do with it. When I sat you there, the ground was clear of any garden. It was not until I saw what you were about that I realized that it was someone’s magic.” He knew that. She could no more lie to him than he could her. “You have been chosen, my lord. A great gift was given to you as well.”
“I don’t think of it as a gift, Janell. Did you not hear her say that a great many people would die? That I would have my heart broken many times while I waited for my mate to come to me?” She nodded. “Will you remain with me? Not leave my side while I have to go on living?”
“I must take to the ground for a time.” He asked her why. “I need to rest. I have been, as were many other beings here, drained so that you might speak to the lady as you have. To hold her image for you is very taxing to my kind.”
“What was she? And why did she pick me?” Janell said nothing. He wasn’t sure if she was trying to keep from telling him the truth or if she didn’t know. “How long will you leave me? When will you return?”
“I know not.” He nodded and stood up. “You are lord now. You are aware of this, are you not? When your brother died, his lands and monies, they came to you.”
“I’ve no wish of it.” He didn’t need it, either. What use could he have for lands and monies? “Take it for yourself.”
“I shall protect it from others. I will rest on the land where he has died. The connection to the rest will be there for me.” He didn’t care and said as much to her. “You will someday, my lord. If for no other reason than when you take a mate.”
“I won’t. Not ever.” He knew it for the lie that it was. “The lady, she said I was to have pain, pain that would bring me to my knees again. I won’t have it, Janell. I can’t stand pain like this again.”
He wondered if his own mate would die before he could convert her, and decided that he wasn’t going to worry over something that was never going to happen. As he gathered what he could from the house, he made his way to talk with his parents. They would know that Malcomb was gone, as well as Mary, but he wanted to be with them. He would not talk of the lady that had come to him. Nor the magic that she’d given him.
He would mourn the loss of his brother and then move on. Life was going to be on his terms, not that of a woman who had no name.