“-Lao-TzuKnowing others is intelligence.Knowing yourself is true wisdom.Mastering others is strength,Mastering yourself is true power.“
Forgotten Hollow Vatore Castle
Caleb shot up from his position seated at the table, now facing his son. Behind Caelan, near the wall, stood Caleb’s grandson Connell, stiffly and uncomfortably.
“What do you want me to do about it? Still better than a war – and not like this intermingling hasn’t been happening before, long before there even was a truce, let alone this edict! It’s only an opportunity to be taken if one so wishes, not a mandatory idea that all vampires must marry witches from here on forth!” Caleb growled.
The issue at hand was a new edict that had been written into law on both sides, the witches and vampires, brought forth by the witchfolk and accepted by Caleb and Riordan in the name of the vampire community. Why that suddenly had come up, after millennia of war, was quickly explained.
Aside from the usual hiccups to be expected, making the existence of vampires public knowledge to the mortals had gone much smoother than anyone could have ever expected, clearly aided by the many popular VIPs who were vampires, who were able to help educate regular mortals to separate fact from fiction.
The witches were still the same secret society they always had been and wanted to remain that way, but the younger generations were sick and tired of the ancient battle with the vampires.
Witches were every bit as smart and cunning as vampires, so it didn’t take them long to realize the easiest and fastest way to guarantee a lasting peace was to allow the long-frowned upon and often downright forbidden intermingling of species between witches and vampires. The ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ approach. A war would be a lot less likely if the opposing parties were related.
Caelan disliked that idea, not only because of the bad blood between him and his daughter’s mother Seraphina, a witch, but that certainly didn’t help the case.
“Grandpa, I think dad’s right. Last thing we need is some cripples, vampires born with magic wands rather than fangs, who will starve to death.”
“Oh, you do, don’t you? Lucky for all of us, YOU my dear grandson, are not in charge, and won’t be for a very long time, judging by that horse manure which just fell from your mouth! Hearing that is as humiliating for me, as my reaction to it should make you feel!” Caleb ranted.
“Why? What good has ever come from those witches?!”
“Your sister!” Caleb retorted.
“She’s not my real sister!”
Caleb didn’t respond, just slapped his grandson hard, causing the tough 14-year-old to stand there, staring at him, surprised. Vampires were a very old community, as much as they adjusted to modernity, some things would just always be handled different than in the mortal world.
“Forgive him, father. He really doesn’t know Leeora well. He’s much younger and it was always so complicated to get them acquainted right. I failed him. It’s my fault.”
“Connell, grandson, do you know why I punished you?” Caleb asked the boy directly, ignoring Caelan.
“Because I said something you didn’t like?” the teen guessed.
“No. Because you said something foolish, which is not only wrong, but has a great potential to cause much harm. Words, dear Connell, are our greatest and strongest weapon. No dagger, no knife, no sword could ever cut as deep as words can, and those wounds will never heal. It already hurt your father. It hurts and offends him, and hurts and offends me. Do you not see that?”
Connell’s head snapped towards his father, who stood there with a hardened facial expression, his lips pressed together, forming thin lines, then back at his grandfather.
“I am sorry, grandpa. And I am sorry, dad. I didn’t mean it.”
“It’s fine. Go to your room, we’ll have a real talk about all that in great detail later. You are old enough now to fully understand why everything was as complicated as it used to be as far as Leeora is concerned.” Caelan told him.
“No. He will remain. Last I checked I am the master here, I will dismiss.” Caleb overrode Caelan’s decision.
“Pardon me, father.” Caelan immediately remembered his rank.
“Why are you so cranky, grandpa?” burst out Connell, aside from his choice of profession, your average teen, and he clearly had already forgotten about the slap to the face.
Caelan braced himself, thinking his father would strike Connell again, but Caleb didn’t.
“Because here, in this room, Connell, I am not your grandpa. Here, in this very room I am the dangerous, fearsome leader. To be respected, minded, not questioned or argued with. In this here room, I can never show mercy or weakness. I won’t snuggle you, kiss your booboos or handle you with kid-gloves. In any other room I am your grandpa. You will have to learn that. Forgetting it can cost many their lives, including us and our loved ones. See, despite of what we tell the mortals to keep them happy and calm, the three of us probably know better than most that not all vampires are good, actually, there are many that need VERY firm rules with very dire consequences and fierce enforcers to remind them. There are many of us with little to no humanity left, no emotion, no compassion, no mercy, only out for their own benefit, at any cost, regardless of consequences.
Looking weak, even for one split-second, could cost me the throne and all of us our heads, that includes family not living at the castle. Every drop of Vatore blood would be eliminated. So, in order to avoid that, I have to be vigilant, we all do, always, at least to any spectators. We rarely receive guests in our home, they are required to request audiences from Riordan, and I see them here, when we do all our business. Therefore, even your grandmother always knew, in this room, I am the leader, not her husband, she will not hug me or kiss me here, just represent as the queen consort, as will your mother. Here, in the throne room, I am to be respected, feared, and so is your father. And soon, so will you be. That is the road you chose.”
“Got it. Makes sense. So, if grandma were to backtalk you in the throne room, would you slap her too?”
“No, grandson, I am a fierce leader, not a crazy fool. There is no greater threat to anyone than a woman offended, scorned or wronged. Let this be another life lesson for you.” Caleb smiled.
“What is the lesson? I don’t get it. Not to hit grandma? I already knew that …”
“Not to ever hit a woman, THAT is the lesson, at the very core. The rest, my child, you will learn as you grow older.”
“But what if she is my mark? Or if a woman attacks me first?”
“Caelan, would you take this one, seeing this falls in YOUR domain?”
“Connell, a woman as a mark is dealt with swiftly. Women of our species don’t do the truly heinous things, they are usually guilty of crimes of lust and love, and usually only committed one single act of revenge. In the rare case that a woman is our mark, and does not need to be brought in for sentencing, she will be dealt with swiftly without ado. As for a woman attacking you, Connell, at 14 years of age you are already significantly stronger than ANY mortal, male or female, and also stronger than most vampire women we know, save the ancient ones or those from strong ancient bloodlines, like your aunt Scarlett, for instance. Those rarely forget their place, they fought to hard to get there to wanna risk it. You have to always respect and mind those.”
“What about Lilith? She’s old. URGH!”
“Careful son, she is your grandfather’s sister and the term is ancient, not old. Don’t ever call her old, especially not with her in earshot. And what about her anyway?” Caelan warned his son, one eye on his father.
“I just don’t wanna have to marry her awful daughter! She told me earlier she would make that happen. Eew. I don’t care if grandpa’s mad about this, but EWW!” the boy pouted.
“WHAT!? Father, is she on with that shit again?!” Caelan glared at Caleb, while talking, Caleb, Caelan and Connell had made their ways to the grand hallway near the stairs.
“Urgh, has she ever stopped? I will talk to her, AGAIN! For the record, you will NEVER have to marry any of her dismal daughters, Connell, none present or future! That I promise you, but this did just give me a lovely idea and leverage with which to light a fire under Heath Grainger should he drag his feet in proposing to Caitlin.” Caleb smirked.
“Father, they just became a couple. Give them a few years. Good grief.”
“Oh, I will, was just planning ahead, and that Heath doesn’t seem to be the fast-decisions type. But you do not seriously think that in a few measly years from now Lilith will finally have found someone to take that terrible Veronique off her hands, do you? After all the decades she has been a benchwarmer so far, despite her mother’s fiercest efforts.
And from what I hear, her other twin daughter will soon join her sister on that bench again. Her marriage to that mortal is falling apart. Probably since none of the children they produced turned out to be vampire. Or maybe she realized marrying an already old man only ends in an even older one eventually. Which is fine if it was true love, but I think we all here present agree, it wasn’t.”
“Good point. Heath will probably be scared shitless too, but once Caitlin hears about your ‘threat’, you know she’ll be beating down your door, most likely with her mother in tow, both furious, and then you have to explain to Scarlett and Cait how that was funny.” Caelan grinned.
“Well, maybe my daughter and I can trade such explanations then, as I am dying to learn why she is expecting yet another child with Blaine. How many more grandkids do I need? And all but one by her are immortal, not counting that mortal boy Blaine had with that other woman. I am trying to limit the number of vampires in relation to the number of mortals, but my own daughter seems to have put it in her mind to even that number out.”
“You could build them a Blaine Pyramid. Has Chase ever told you about that?” smirked Caelan.
“When Chase had just started officially dating Hailey she was over at their home again, as so often, went to use his restroom and Blaine had built a pyramid out of condoms in there, with smiley faces on them. It was huge, came up to her hip, Hailey showed me pictures. Maybe we all should join efforts and build one so big it blocks his and Scarlett’s marital bed.”
“As tempted as I am and as hilarious as I find that, son, you do not think for one moment that they limit themselves to a bed, do you? Blocking that would barely inconvenience them. I had the dubious pleasure to walk into moments I wish I could unsee …”
“Ah … dad?” Connell asked from the sidelines, visibly uncomfortable.
“Oh crap, my kid. Can you please dismiss my son, before he is scarred for life.” Caelan told Caleb.
“Oh dear! Good idea! Run along, Connell, you are dismissed for the day.”
“Thanks!” they didn’t have to tell him twice, and he was gone.
“He really is a good kid.” Caleb mumbled.
“Can you at least TRY to sound less surprised about that? I am capable of producing smart and good children, and even raise them properly, if given the chance.”
Chuckling, Caleb pat his son’s shoulder.
“I didn’t mean it like that, son, before you stands a proud father. But also a concerned one. Your son will need a very strong hand. He is still young, but I can already sense the fire burning within him. He has purple eyes, and silver hair, like his mother, those are very unusual traits and stem from one strong vampire bloodline, ancient, like ours, and there are said to be only few descendants left across the whole globe carrying that ancient strength, most of them unknowingly. The last vampiric descendants recorded had a lust for the flesh, and likely fathered many mortal offspring, which are long gone by now, some may have reproduced and handed the DNA down, unknowingly.
Your lovely wife is one of those unaware descendants, I always suspected it, but now am sure, watching your son age into a young man before my very eyes. Heath Grainger has those purple eyes too, and I always suspected his eerie quiet and calmness is really a sign of potential danger. Luckily, having him raised by my daughter nipped any dismal tendencies in the bud, but I still believe with enough training, he could be as strong as us. Take the accident with Everett for instance. A young vampire, barely fifteen should not have been able to do any of that. He turned him, completed the job, but I jumped in at the end to assure I maintain control over Everett as his master, not Heath. I know your wife was mortal before you turned her, but I assure you, unbeknownst to her she already carried a strong vampire gene within her long before you ever turned her, it was just lying dormant and too weak to affect her.
Mixed with our ancient bloodline, Connell is a real weapon, or can be one day, he will go far, it is upon us now to shape him to assure that can never be used for ill intends. We must never forget that we are not mortals. Me hitting him didn’t do much real damage, but it reminded him of a very important fact of life: there is ALWAYS someone stronger than you.”
“That’s why you are on the throne, and I never will be, never want to be. I need action, I could never restrain myself as much as you do, father. There isn’t room in my head for all your wisdom, not now, and not in centuries from now. When I look at Connell I see my son and that’s it, my boy, apple of my eye, unless we are in the practice room or hunting a mark. I would have never made the connections you have, but hearing it now, it makes perfect sense. Heath too. How concerned are we?”
“About Heath? Not at all. As long as he is with Caitlin, he will purr like a kitten. And should they break up, he will spend eternity trying to win her back. Heath is no longer a threat unless – God beware – someone was to ever threaten Caitlin. The moment they decide that will be their death sentence, that I promise you, and there won’t be anything you or I – or Connell – could do to stop it.”
“If anyone were to ever try to harm Caitlin, I’d wager Heath is only part of a long line of us vowing to inflict great agony upon those who dared. I know I would be, you would be, Blaine would be, but I think none of us would be as dangerous and scary as my sister would be then.”