A warrior who trusts too much in his intelligence will end up underestimating the power of his opponent.
Grumpy and exhausted, Caelan was returning home to Forgotten Hollow from a hunt, but not the kind to find sustenance. An assignment by his father, to eliminate a target who had broken the laws of the vampires by cruelly and recklessly killing over a dozen mortals by drinking them dry, leaving them to suffer a slow and painful death, therefore he had been sentenced to pay the ultimate price himself.
Most of the large community Caleb Vatore ruled over survived nearly exclusively on plasma packs and pungent plasma fruit per Caleb’s request. It was his way to ascertain the instances of mortals mysteriously passing out from blood loss were kept at bay, which in turn helped keep the existence of vampires a secret only a select few were privy to. Most vampires in existence today, especially the more recent generations had chosen to adapt for many reasons, many younger ones lived disguised as mortals among the mortals, undetected, hiding in plain sight, only a few remained who kept to their own kind and insisted to live the old way, but those had mastered the art of stealthy feeding without leaving any noticeable evidence.
Caelan was new generation, not even 30 years old by mortal count, but his disregard for mortals, with the exception of his niece Vivien, was legendary, needless to say that he would rather famish than consume blood that didn’t come straight from the veins of a mortal.
He could have easily ported himself into the castle, after all, it was his home, but after hunting and eliminating perpetrators his father had sentenced to lose their right to exist, adrenaline and testosterone ran hot in his veins, so he used the long road into the mostly hidden town to cool his temper. He didn’t need to fear being held up by unsolicited small talk, even among his own kind he wasn’t exactly popular and not someone other vampires truly cared to socialize with, mostly because they feared him, but also because he just never mastered the friendly banter. He was blunt, crude and rude, and that was if he said anything at all, which was rare to begin with. The only ones he really ever had the occasional conversation with were his older sister Scarlett and her daughter Vivien. He preferred it that way, last thing he wanted was to one day find himself in the position of having to extinguish the lifelight of a friend.
Finding the last target had taken him longer than usual, most vampires were masters of hiding, and most very strong, but Caelan was an expert at what he did and always ended up outsmarting them, always more cunning and the better fighter in the end. When he first started out he made mistakes, took bad hits which left him with marks all over his body, the most visible one was a scar near his right eye and across his cheek as a constant reminder that hesitance could be deadly. He learned quickly the rule of his profession was simple, if not for the faint of heart: You find them, you kill them, swiftly. No palaver, no mercy.
With his senses still heightened from his completed task he instantly felt a presence that wasn’t his kind. A mortal maybe? Vivien? He looked around, hiding his machete in one of the bushes to have his hands free. While Vivien knew what he did, he never wanted her to see him like this, holding a large blood-stained weapon. She might well be the one mortal in the world he cared about protecting fiercely, from everyone and everything, including himself. Then it occurred to him why it couldn’t be her. She was in Del Sol Valley, had school and if she were here she would be waiting for him at the castle, under the watchful eye of her grandparents. They’d see to that.
He followed his instinct and his jaw dropped when he saw the girl from the lake, right there in the park near Vatore Castle, apparently investigating the plasma trees. Correction: not a girl, a witch.
He unfroze and stepped towards her with long strides, looking impressive and dangerous approaching, but she only smiled at him after turning around.
“Handsome Caelan … well, hello.” she purred.
“What are you doing here?! Witches are forbidden in Forgotten Hollow.” his tone remained rude.
“I am only passing through …” she smiled, clearly toying with him by using his excuse from when they first met.
“This is dangerous for you. Leave! Now!”
“Are you going to make me?” she challenged, teasing.
“I may! But you wouldn’t like it!”
“There are so many more … pleasant ways this could go.” she cooed next to his ear, pressed up against him so hard that he could feel her feminine shape through his heavy leather coat.
“What?!” Caelan wasn’t used to people not being scared of him, it bothered him greatly that she wasn’t, he shook her off himself like a bug that had landed on him, then stepped backwards.
“There is a tower right over there, lots of privacy there for us to … engage in more … pleasant activities.” she purred, undeterred.
“I know what’s in this park, I grew up here. What the hell, woman!?” Caelan wasn’t a stranger to loose women, but never like this.
“What? You do not like sex, handsome Caelan?” she asked, her bluntness made him even more upset. That was his way to handle most people, shock them, make them uncomfortable, nervous, watch them squirm. She took that from him.
“Who doesn’t? But not this desperately. I don’t even know you.” he snarled.
“You do not strike me as the man who finds that mandatory. I can tell you had plenty women in your life, doubt you bothered getting to know them beforehand, I don’t think you even knew their names half the time, and I can also tell when you see something you like you just take it. I know you like what you see. Besides, you know who I am … that should be enough, considering nobody ever knows anybody fully, not even after decades. You already have seen what I have to offer. My turn to get a show. Take off your clothes.”
“You’re completely nuts. LEAVE! Get your ass back to the witches town or you may find yourself over for dinner at some vampire’s home, but not in a way you may enjoy. Doubt father would take much issue, considering you are breaking laws by merely standing here now. Only vampires and mortals may enter, if they dare. You know that.”
“I won’t leave until I get what I came here for. Besides, it’s just a technicality, I am mortal, just possess special talents. Still mortal though.” unimpressed she leaned up against him, rubbing her body against his.
“So you are not a witch now?”
“I am. All witches are mortal, silly. A few manage to cheat death longer than others, most do not. We only ascend, not transform like your kind, we’re definitely not immortal or invincible, most definitely mortal, but we inherit a magic gene from our parents. Guess you and I are both mutations of a sort, and I like to think better versions of the standard old boring humans. Oh, look at your face, you didn’t know that? How curious. Did they not teach you all this? How narrow-minded. Ultimately though, animal or human, mortals or not, we are all but bones beneath our skin, which will once more become one with Mother Earth once we perish. All the same in the end. Even you vampires.”
“Did they also teach you how dangerous this is? You being here? I could kill you right now, would have every right to, and even your mother could to jack about it.”
“Now, now, why would you even think about doing that and miss out on all the fun to be had together. And maybe I like living on the edge. My offer still stands. I bet you are very captivating in certain activities. Definitely won’t be commonplace – or boring.”
“What is wrong with a person to trespass on forbidden grounds, risking their life, to offer up themselves to a vampire? You must be insane.”
“Maybe we are all insane, so much so, that we don’t even realize it. And what can I say? You captivated my interest. You are handsome and have this darkness about you. I enjoy a good thrill. Sex can be very liberating, few things are more relaxing and freeing, I told you, I am one with nature and it’s only natural. Besides, you look like you could use something to take your mind off a rough day you seem to have had. I don’t mind you being dirty and sweaty. We all wash clean.” she gestured to his bloodstained clothing.
“Vampires don’t sweat. You do realize I didn’t return looking like this from petting puppies and kittens, right?”
“Hmmm … all the more enticing. Which girl wouldn’t want the dangerous, tall, handsome stranger … a dark warrior, covered in grime and the blood of his opponent. Or maybe opponents, plural.”
“Is this a nightmare? Did I get sucked into my mother’s sappy romance novels? She enjoys those, not me. I prefer the rough realism.”
“All right. I can make this rough and real for you.” she cooed, turned around to face him and with a swift movement cupped his manhood through his pants with one hand, making him wince and groan with surprise, they both stood there, her holding on to him with tight grip, not tight enough to hurt, her eyes focused firmly on his and somehow, porting away didn’t even cross his mind. He remained, not even trying to get away from her.
They stared at each other for some time, her still holding him, smiling.
“Real enough for you now?” she taunted.
Caelan’s mouth stretched into a faint smirk.
“OK witch, if you are THAT eager for some rough pleasure, you were right about one thing, I am not one to turn down an easy offer.” Caelan grabbed her, kissed her roughly, then ported with her into the nearby tower where he quickly rid them of their clothing, then instantly went into action, pressing her hard against a wall as he took her violently, she only moaned for pleasure, never even attempted to fight back.
Once finished, he released her, looked at her as if waking from a dream, their eyes met again and he realized hers were of a strange color, a mix of red and blue. The red was a ring of fire around her iris.
“My eyes bear the mark of Wicca. Spellcasters are born with them.” she explained, as if they had been engaged in idle banter, rather than rough sex before.
Caelan took a step back to pull on his clothing.
“Hm.” he made.
“You do not like them?” she asked, while slipping on her clothing as well.
“Eyes are eyes. I don’t have a preference. Just know, when mine turn red, you better run, little witch. In vampires it means we desperately need to feed.” he smirked at her deviously.
“Ah. Interesting. From what I could tell, you were hungry, but not for blood. I am hungry a lot too, if you catch my drift, not much for being coy and prude about it. Goodbye dark warrior.” she had pulled her dress back on, smiled then turned and walked towards the stairs leading down the tower, leaving Caelan just standing there.
“So, that’s it? You leave?”
She halted, didn’t fully turn, only turned her head so Caelan could see her perfect profile against the lights of the candles.
“What? Did you want a kiss goodbye? You know where to find me, handsome warrior.” she giggled.
“I am not a warrior. I am a … uh … ” Caelan was searching for the right term.
This time she fully turned around.
“I know what you are, Caelan. I am not the one underestimating the other here.”
Then she turned and walked off, Caelan didn’t follow her, still trying to get his bearings about himself. He felt under a spell, which he knew was impossible, as her magic didn’t work here, same way his powers were useless in Glimmerbrook. No, this spell he was under wasn’t the magic kind. This idea caused him to grimace.
“Hmm. I think I need some rest. Making poor choices.” he snorted a laugh.
As he entered the castle a while later he ran into his mother.
“Oh, you are home. I see you were successful. Your father is otherwise engaged, but will be very proud of you, I’ll let him know once he returns. Let’s get you cleaned up and then go hibernate, you need rest. Must have been a rough time this one, you look positively exhausted!”
Caelan only smiled.
“You have no idea, mother, what kind of day I had.”
Rolling onto his back from his position atop her, as he let out a satisfied moan and smiling wide Caelan looked over at the woman next to him, her coppery hair and golden hued skin nearly glowing against his own paleness.
He and Seraphina had met again, in Windenburg this time, half-way between Forgotten Hollow and Glimmerbrook, and like before she initiated sex soon after their greeting. Earlier that day, in the otherwise gloomy garden around Vatore Castle, devoid of any blooms, Caelan had spotted a flower, it stood out, upon investigation he found a message from Seraphina, requesting him to meet her here. He had been curious and a willing subject to her advances, even though it still felt strange to him to have such an attractive woman be so proactive to share herself with someone like him. It was unusual at best.
“Gotta admit, I could get used to this.” he told her.
“Me too. I had a feeling you might, which is why I chose you. You are delightful.”
“Not something I am called often. What do you mean by you chose me?” Caelan drew his eyebrows together.
“Pretty straight forward. Seems we are both pleased with my choice.”
“What choice? What are you talking about, woman?!” Caelan roared while sitting up to glare at her.
“I chose you as my mate.”
“WHAT?! I am not anybody’s mate! What does that even mean?!”
“It means that I am Wiccan, the females choose their mate. I chose you. And you don’t seem to have much reason to complain.”
“You listen to me now, witch! I am not your mate, whatever that even means. We just met, we both had our fun, and that’s as far as this goes! I am not one to be tied down. I am not, I won’t ever be and I do not WANT to be your – or anybody else’s – mate. You need to take your meds, girl.” he growled, while raising to his feet, buttoning up his trousers, while she stood too, adjusting and buttoning her outfit.
As usual, Seraphina was not affected by his outburst.
“Maybe not yet, but you will. It’s not your choice to make. You can’t help it. You like me. And I like you. I read it in the stones. One day you will give me a child, a girl, not yet I am not ready, but eventually, and that child will possess your strength and my powers and continue the Latimer women’s legacy. Everything else is just nature’s course, we are but leaves in the wind. This was meant to be, I only just sped up the process a little. Patience may be a virtue, but it unfortunately isn’t mine.”
“Listen, your crazy heathen talk won’t wash. I am not your mate, I don’t want any kids, not yours, not anybody’s and I won’t change my mind, not ever! I cherish my freedom, I am not settling down, most certainly not with a witch and I won’t raise any bastards we created. You should know that’s not even possible, it is written that our species can’t mix, both of us need a mortal or our own kind to procreate with, and even if we managed to beat the odds, we would be shunned by our people. Our kinds can’t marry each other! Or did the wicked red witch bitch skip that in her teachings? I knew a woman so willing to put out was too good to be true. Turns out my instincts were right. You are nothing but a crazy nymphomaniac with a vampire fetish, you are certifiable!” he roared, speaking more in that rant than often in an entire week.
“I never said a word about marriage, did I? I also said we are not ready to conceive yet, we are just having fun now. You will know when that changes. I have yet to lie to you, handsome Caelan, my cards have always been on the table. By wicked red witch do you mean, Grand Magus Minerva? I thought you liked strong women. But only when it’s convenient to you, otherwise they are bitches and witches and wicked, yes? And no, my mother didn’t teach me the ways of Wicca. That’s our high priestess’ job. Isn’t that the same for vampires?”
“We don’t have priests or priestesses, we have Elders who teach. So, priestess? As in a woman?”
“Yes. All our leaders are female.”
“Ha, how about that. My sister would love that idea. Vampires are very male dominated, always have been and obviously the men in power are not interested in changing that, so women have limited roles among my kind. My sister wanted to change that, with the help of my father, my cousin and me, we gave it our best shot, but hit the glass ceiling and failed at the very last minute. She gave up, married a mortal and is doing … whatever you call that now. Sad, really, so wasteful. She had so much potential, I would have liked her as an Elderwoman.”
“How interesting. Yes, we are lead by powerful women, who chose their mates, male or female, depending if they want to procreate naturally or not. The men are mostly mages. Wizzards. They can cast spells but most will never be as powerful as the women. Now, my brother, Dorian is very powerful. Mother saw to that. But she does not like his choice in mate. I guess that my brother hit his glass ceiling there. They have a son together, who lives with us.”
“Wait …You are Dorian’s sister?! This just keeps getting better and better. Dorian is Minerva’s son?!”
“Yes. Why do you ask about him? Oh, because of your affair with Allie? Poor girl, stuck between two men who only want to bed her. Nothing more than a toy. Foolish girl, but her own fault. So gullible and weak. Pity.”
“Allie is not a toy!”
“You still have feelings for her. Sad. I had hoped I put her out of your mind. Forget about her. She wants my brother and he wants her. But he can never have her, a vicious cycle. Either way, you don’t stand a chance. Begs the question who really is the toy in this game of love. Starting to think it may be you.” Seraphina shrugged.
“You really like to hear yourself talk. What is all that even supposed to mean?! Did your brother send you after me?! To seduce me and get rid of me, so he can have Allie all to himself? That’s not gonna work. Especially not now that I figured it out! You just watch. Before I was just playing, she chose, I stepped away, now I WANT her and I will have her. Hell or high water.”
Arms crossed and smiling Seraphina clicked her tongue.
“What a silly and very misogynistic thing to say, tssk tssk, you should really know better by now. You cannot affect free will, vampire, at least not for long. And I am not a token to do another’s bidding. My brother has no power to send me anywhere, let alone tell me what to do. No man does. Keep that in mind and don’t ever assume you figured me out. You will always be wrong. Uh uh uh, keep your distance. Remember, we are on neutral grounds. My powers work here and I do not give more than one warning, handsome warrior.”
“As do mine! You do not scare me, witch! Nothing does! I do not like to be a pawn in some witch’s game! What is really going on here?! Talk!”
“I told you. I chose you as my mate, and the future father of my child, once I am ready for that. All my cards are on the table, at least as much as they will ever be.”
“For the final time: I am not ANYBODY’s mate, nor will I ever be! You’d wait an eternity for me to agree to that, and by what you told me, only one of us has that much time – and it’s not gonna be YOU! So, once more, why pick me?! Why a vampire? Why not a mortal, much easier to control than any vampire, especially someone my rank.”
“What would be the fun in controlling you? You know all you need to know, handsome Caelan. All you are going to know. For now.”
She smiled, turned to leave and stepped away, Caelan went after her, held on to her when sudden brief bright light blinded him, he felt hot electricity before he was thrown backwards by powers beyond his comprehend.
Laying on the floor he could only watch flower petals rain down to the floor where Seraphina had stood before, the spot now otherwise vacant.