“The people who love you will guide you like bright lights into the other worlds.”Josephine Angelini
Evergreen Harbor Oh La La Exotic Dance Club
Downing the last of his whiskey on the rocks, Caelan looked up, raised his glass towards the bar, where the barkeep acknowledged his request with a nod, while Caelan directed his attention back to the stage where to some raunchy music a stripper in a stylized cage was doing her thing.
“Hey handsome, want a dance, baby?” from behind him some female now whispered near his ear in a purposely suggestive tone, making him smirk as with his cat-like vampiric reflexes he quickly pulled her into his lap, where his expression changed as he jumped up and away. She caught her balance smoothly as well, with the same reflexes.
“What the … !?” Caelan exclaimed.
The female laughed. It was Caelan’s sister, Scarlett.
“What? Don’t like your women already knocked up? Not sure whether you should get a discount … or pay double since you get two girls at once?!” Scarlett laughed at her younger brother’s face while teasing him.
“Very funny! What are you doing here?”
“You mean, besides humiliating my little brother to watch him squirm? Oh – also BUSTED!” Scarlett chuckled.
“I am not humiliated. I am just … surprised to see a pregnant woman in a strip club. How did you know I was here?”
“Really, CaeCae? We grew up together, remember? I know you like the back of my hand, lil bro. But once you finished that next drink, can we leave here and have a chat somewhere more private and less inappropriate? It’s kinda urgent, so ‘make haste’, as daddy would say.” Scarlett gestured to the barely clad server on her way to them.
“Sure.” Caelan took the drink, held on to the server as he downed it in one sip, then put the now empty glass back on her tray and tossed money on it, before heading for the door, followed by Scarlett.
Outside he turned to her.
“So, what was so incredibly urgent that you had to come find me … in there?”
“What? You don’t like your big sissy watch you drool over some naked chicks dancing seductively for money? You are losing your mojo, CaeCae, you used to get all that for free. Joking aside, what I need you for is a bit more peculiar than to be discussed out in public.”
“Fine. Castle or your mansion?”
“Neither. Liam and Viv’s place.”
“You didn’t tell Vivien where I was, right?”
“No, Caelan, I didn’t tell my daughter her uncle was most likely at some strip joint. Nor will I. She still thinks you hung the moon while walking on water, no need to make her imagine you in a place like this.”
San Myshuno Senator Suites Apartments
They ported to outside Liam’s door, where Scarlett knocked. Shortly after, Liam opened, smiled at them as he let them in.
“Living room.” he said.
“All right, Cae. Let’s go.”
With his usual long strides Caelan crossed the entrance and dining area into the large, open living room, where he stopped as if he had run into a wall, staring at the toddler Vivien was playing with.
“Oh HELL NO!” He turned but Scarlett held on to him, thereby preventing him to just port away.
“Scarlett, I am warning you!”
“Warning me? Really? I mean, really?”
“Does father know?!”
“What do you think?!”
“Does nobody here realize what this means?! We’re all toast!”
“Caelan chill! It’s not like we sought this out. We have a bit of a situation here. Evidently Seraphina found out where Vivien and Liam lived, showed up with the baby, told Vivien she had to keep her safe, then just left. We think she is planning to do something dangerous.”
“Why did that bitch have to involve my niece and everyone here?!”
“Because you know she cannot go to the castle. She is forbidden to enter Forgotten Hollow. They’d kill her on sight. Where else was she supposed to go?!”
“I might do the same with that brat there! Just snap her neck and that problem is done for good!”
Without warning Scarlett slapped her brother hard, his face was thrown to the side, with a quick movement he recovered, glaring at her, looking like he wanted to retaliate but didn’t, instead endured Scarlett’s following rant.
“I never want to hear that from you ever again or I swear I will beat you into next year! Not even as idle threat is something like that acceptable! Her family needs to take action now, and YOU are part of her family. We all are. None of us here even know where to start, that’s something YOU excel at, but we cannot sit idle by. I’d do it, but I’m very pregnant, have to think of my unborn baby, stress could trigger birth or issues, and without the ability to port to search it would take Vivien and Liam ages to find anything at all, plus it is too dangerous for two mortals to get actively involved at the front lines of occult business, time is of the essence and we already wasted much … This is the mess YOU created, Cae! We’re here for you, but you need to take action, help fix this!”
“Fix what – and how?! Look for the witch-bitch? Me of all people? I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t go to Glimmerbrook either, I am not allowed there! They will kill me on sight just like our kind would if she set foot into our hometown! And why the hell are you worried about the witch’s and the brat’s safety, but not mine?!”
“Caelan … look at me. I am worried, but you are strong, smart, skilled and brave. I know you are hurt, we all know it and understand why, but we need you to snap out of it. The mother of your child is in some sort of trouble. YOUR daughter needs her mother. Whatever the circumstances, you are that little girl’s father and you owe her this. Like it or not, being a parent means something in this family. Liam, Vivien and I are holding you accountable now. We’re here for you, we’ll do whatever we can, but we need you to take action! This is what you excel at, finding people who do not want to be found, and bravely weather dangerous situations without getting hurt. So, do your job then! For Leeora, your child.”
“I didn’t consent to that! The child! I didn’t want to be a father! This is not fair! Why do I get dragged into this now?”
“Shoulda pulled out in time then.” Liam chimed up.
“Oh, shut up, mortal!” Caelan growled in his direction.
“HEY! Not in that tone at my fiancé!” Vivien hissed at her beloved uncle, who felt cornered.
“She didn’t even ask me … just did it! The baby. She deliberated did it without my knowledge!”
“Yes, Caelan, we know. And that was wrong. Seraphina knows it too. But if you were so firm on not wanting a child, you know what you did wrong too, don’t you? Point one finger at others … remember?” Scarlett told her brother.
“Just hold the baby. Come on Caelan.” Vivien tried, moving closer to Caelan, Leeora in her arms.
“NO!” Caelan stepped out of reach, looking tortured.
“Look honey, this is your daddy. Can you say, hi daddy? And ‘daddy’, this is your daughter, Leeora.” Vivien continued unimpressed.
“Mama?” Leeora asked in her squeaky toddler voice.
“No, mommy’s not here, sweetie, but your daddy is. Say hi daddy!” Vivien told her.
As dangerous as he could be, Caelan never forgot where his loyalties lay. He may talk the talk, but would never harm his own kin. Instead he stood there, stiffly, purposely not looking at the little girl in Vivien’s arms, well aware that if he did, he’d fall, just like it had happened with Vivien. Back then he had hated Scarlett being pregnant by Blaine, he hated the thought of her living at the castle with the baby, but when he ended up holding newborn Vivien the day after Scarlett had brought her home, he was a goner. Ever since, they had been peas in a pod, she was what retained his human side, became his best and only friend, confidant, and he would give his life for her. And then it happened …
“Dada …” the little girl babbled, then clumsily pat Caelan’s face. His bottom lip vibrated suspiciously, but he caught himself, opened his eyes and looked into his own eyes like in a mirror. Like lightning it hit him that this baby was his. His blood, his DNA, his daughter. He stared at her in awe like a living miracle, carefully touching her as if she would dissolve if handled too roughly. He swallowed.
“No. This is wrong. All wrong. I need to right this wrong!” Caelan muttered, seemingly only making sense to himself, still staring at the little girl, who seemed bemused by the dark man, smiling at him, until he ported away.
“Goddamn it, uncle Cae! Mom, do something! Get him back again!” Vivien urged.
“I don’t think I can. I am not sure what Cae is up to, but if I know him at all, he’s trying to find Seraphina now. He can do that better than all of us combined, it’s literally his job. That is what Caelan does for my father, he tracks vampires who do not want to be found, which is a huge and dangerous task. If he can find those, he can find a mortal witch. It’s dangerous, but he is a trained warrior, he can hold his own, especially when he is in mission mode. I am 8 months pregnant, I cannot help him anyway. And we really shouldn’t get my father or Riordan involved or they will shut it all down quick. Maybe afterwards, we’ll see.”
Glimmerbrook Forested Area
Scarlett would be right, Caelan had arrived in Glimmerbrook, forbidden to him at the threat of life, but he didn’t care. He was tracking and it didn’t take him long till he found Seraphina, but the scene before his eyes made even the blood of his seasoned and cold-blooded hunter run as ice …
He heard a woman screeching and screaming, as he approached he saw a woman burning at the stake, the stench of burning flesh, clothing and hair sickened him, he feared he was too late to save Seraphina, when he saw the other people watching on, in front he now recognized Seraphina herself, chanting in a language unfamiliar to Caelan, holding a torch which she now tossed onto the raging flames before her. Behind her Caelan saw two people, men, whom he recognized as Seraphina’s brother Dorian and his son Lysander … which meant the burning woman had to be Minerva! The flames now illuminated her face, eerily grimacing from the agonizing pain of being burned alive, confirming his suspicion.
“I am your mother! I curse you – you ungrateful bitch! All of you be CURSED! You too, Dorian! And your son! CURSED BE!” Minerva screeched.
“Curse me? I already was cursed with you as a mother! We all were. All the things you put me through, put all of us through … You tortured me, you threatened to kill my unborn child, I have been living in fear of what you might do to her at some point – ENOUGH! You are not sending her away. Oh yeah, I found out about your plan. I know if you live, you will take her, I cannot let that happen.” Seraphina screamed back, her voice unusually harsh and filled with the torture and hatred she must have felt over the past years, she now chanted more in the unfamiliar language, while her brother and his son said and did nothing.
“I am your Grand Mage! Our people will lynch you for killing me! They will butcher you and your daughter if they find out who her father is! All this is punishable by death! All three of you are already dead now, you just don’t know it yet! But you can stop this … Dorian? Lysander? …”
“You are no leader. You are cruel.” Dorian said, and it would remain his only words, while Seraphina spat in Minerva’s direction.
“Nobody will help you, Grand Mage. You shall perish in the way fit for an evil witch, in a way you cannot return from. You are no mother, you were no mother. It wasn’t until I met Caelan that I ever truly felt love, and there is no greater love than what I feel for my own daughter. She shall never know what Dorian and I went through, because of you, the way you treated his son, denying him his mother. You took my love from me, poisoned him against me, but you are not taking my baby!” Seraphina’s tone matched the cruelty of her words.
Caelan could do nothing but watch on, the fire was snaking its way up the woman’s body fast, once it caught her hair it nearly exploded in a hiss until the bloodcurdling screaming went silent.
Mesmerized by the gruesome scenes Caelan remained, just like Minerva’s children and grandson, who were spectators in watching their cruel former leader perish before their eyes. Even for a cold-blooded hunter like Caelan, that was tough.
Eventually the fire burned down to just embers remaining, as a thick plume of smoke revealed a burned corpse left in Minerva Latimer’s wake.