WitD3: Chapter 42, pt. 4

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42, Part 4

The words flew out before I realized I was going to speak. “Gwen, go into that huge boulder over there.”

Xi froze. I didn’t know it was possible for a snake to look surprised.

I pressed the advantage. “Don’t ever come out. Not until I release you, or time stops.”

The gathered fairykin, including Xi, looked at the Elders.

Gwen’s eyes glistened, and her jaw trembled. I felt like a giant prick, but said, “You will stay in that rock forever. When it is sand, you will live in the sand.” I turned toward Khalid. For the first time since I’d known him, he appeared to be at a loss. “Did you see that coming, you fuck?”

Gwen slouched in despair as she took a step toward the pillar of stone. “No,” Hot Sister said as she threw her arms around Gwen. “Please, vampire, have mercy.”

My eyes still locked with Khalid’s, I held up my hand. “Actually, hold up, Gwen. You only have to go into the boulder if one of your brothers…hell, if any of these freak fairies come anywhere near me. In fact, go in if anything happens to me at all, ever. Even if it’s an accident. If I stub my toe in the dark, you go into that fucking boulder. Do you understand?”

Gwen bowed deep, then glared at Khalid. “Yes, my master,” she said in a barbed tone.

A spike of fury jumped off Khalid. “Well played, bloodsucker.”

The scales that formed Xi’s brow drew into a knot. He gave Hot Sister a sharp look, then jerked his head toward me.

Rhiannon’s beauty became almost unbearable when she smiled. She took a step in my direction and I backed away on reflex. “You just…keep your distance” I said.

“So, you say.” Her voice was a rich purr. “But your body says come ever so much closer. I can, if you like.”

Yes, please. “No.” I shook my head hard to clear it.

“Don’t you want me to?” Her disappointed tone cut me in half.

I did. God help me, I wanted nothing else. “I don’t trust you.”

Rhiannon’s pretty smile made an even prettier pout. My hands ached to know if her skin was as soft as the silk that clung to her body. “As well you shouldn’t. But I propose that we put an end to these games. I desire nothing except my precious sister’s freedom. In exchange, I offer one night of my favor.”

The passenger in my pants was immediately on board with this idea. I caught myself before I could agree outright. “Are you saying…”

“Sex. I would let you fuck me. One night of my warmth and considerable skill. In exchange, I would have your oath that my sister will be released at daybreak.”

She was making a lot of sense. However, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. She had an angle, I just couldn’t see what it was with her standing so close. “I can’t,” I said.

Rhiannon tilted her head. “You can’t? Seems to me you’re more than capable.”

“Well, maybe—wait, no. No.” I shut my eyes tight. “I can’t. I need Gwen’s help to free Karen.”

“Karen is free, remember?” I could hear the smile return to  Rhiannon’s voice. “That wholly unworthy djinn has been stripped of all his assets. There is nothing standing between us.”

Oh, yeah. My relief turned my limbs to jelly. Before I could make a move toward Rhiannon, Khalid said, “She is wrong.”

I glared at him. Cock blocker.

“Yes, my wealth and property have been taken, but Karen falls under neither category. Ours is a contract between teacher and student. I help her develop her powers and as payment, I use her powers as I see fit. This tribunal doesn’t have the authority to break that sort of contract.”

I frowned at Rhiannon. “Is that true?” I could tell by the look of resentment on her face that it was.

Rhiannon waved her hand in dismissal. “Come to me, Toby. Forget all others and fall into me. I promise you that this will be an experience unlike any you’ve ever known, or ever will again. Your death will be exquisite.”

It was like someone dropped an iceberg onto my libido. I was so stupid. I reminded myself that I could fuck Rhiannon every night for a hundred years; I’d still remember Gwen’s True Name. There was only one way to make sure I’d never use it again.

I tore my eyes away from Rhiannon then said, “Gwen, shut this bitch up.”

Gwen waved her hand. The look of shock on Rhiannon’s face was priceless as a thick black veil dropped over her head. Once she was out of sight, her power over me was broken.

The fairies murmured as Gwen’s squatty brother took a few steps toward me. His arms were longer than his legs, and he walked on his knuckles like a gorilla. He had a lumpy face and small, wide-spaced teeth. However, he had a lovely speaking voice. “Greetings,” the little goblin said.

I looked him over. If I made it out of that mountain alive, I’d have to draw him, just to show other vampires. “Hi,” I said.

“It’s an absolute pleasure to meet you. You may call me Durin.”

My vampire instincts became a stern voice in my head. Don’t engage it. Don’t answer too many questions. Above all, don’t let it trick you into granting it a favor. “Okay.”

“I must say, you are far more resourceful and clever than any of us would have given you credit for.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot.” If they were going to kill me, they would’ve done it already. Right?

Durin laughed. “Of that, I have no doubt, my friend. And, you clearly possess an impressive will. I have never witnessed my sister’s charms fail before. One can’t help but wonder how you managed it.”

I frowned at him. “Are you coming on to me?”

Durin blinked in surprise. “What? No. Perish the thought.”

I wondered how far I could kick him. “Then get to the point.”

“If you like,” Durin said. “You realize, don’t you, that there is no way we can allow you to leave here alive.”

I relaxed. If there’s one thing I’m used to, it’s death threats. “Is that so?”

“It is no secret that our two species have never borne any love for each other.”

“Yeah, no shit.”

“Your quick wit has saved you for now, but consider for a moment what this means.” He nodded toward Gwen. “For her. For you. Our sister being enslaved to a human was bad enough. We will never allow her to remain in thrall to a vampire.”

“Half-vampire, actually.”

Durin shook his ugly little head. “Still too much. The very idea of her granting your every desire is the most galling notion I’ve ever heard. I can assure you that this sentiment will be shared by all my kind, everywhere. In the land. In the sea. In the air. Across every known dimension and on every world, this will not abide.”

“So, suck it up. You know what happens to her if anything happens to me. Gwen?”

She looked at me.

“Got that? Anything.”

Gwen nodded once then glared at the ground.

To Durin, I said, “You can’t keep me here.”

The goblin sighed. “Look, Tobias…May I call you Tobias?”

“I honestly don’t give a shit.”

“All right. You can place whatever condition you like upon her service, but I assure you that we will find a way around it. Your every wish, once granted, will be corrupted, more curse than blessing. Just as it was for her first human master, and his long line of descendants.”

I didn’t doubt the truth of that, but it changed nothing. “I’ll take my chances. Gwen, come on.”

Durin’s voice hardened as Gwen walked toward me. “Tobias, you will have the whole of fairy kind putting their heads together on this one. We will find a way to thwart and punish you, as well as save her. Do you understand?”

I took Gwen by her boney wrist. “Do what you have to do. So will I.”

The corners of Durin’s mouth pulled down. “I see. Since you care so little about your own health and wellbeing, can I assume then that there is no one in the world you care about?”

I felt the granddaddy of all scowls settle over my face.

“The priest? That sanctuary for your kind? What about the daughter you crippled, or even that revenant?”

“Dude, she’s not my—you know what, you’re boring the shit out of me. You’re threatening me with bad luck? My father is a vampire and my mother was bat-shit crazy. I’ve been fucking homeless since I was five years old. The woman I loved cursed me with Waking Death. What you call bad luck, I call fucking Thursday. Gwen, open the portal. We’re going back.”

I turned my back on Durin as he said, “And what about that necromancer you are so eager to save? Is her safety of such little concern to you?”

I fucking hate fairies. “Enough. Gwen, the boulder thing extends to all my friends, family, the Sanctuary, hell, even people that say hello to me on the street. Say goodbye to your freak show.”

Gwen looked at Xi for help, but didn’t resist when I pulled her behind me. I took a step toward the portal, hesitated, then muttered curses under my breath.

I turned on my heels then walked toward Xi. The giant serpent’s eyes were hooded and distant, already plotting my demise. “Alright, Xi. You freaks like to make deals. Here’s my deal. Karen for Gwen. How about it?”

Xi gave me a long look. “Explain.”

“The only reason I need Gwen is to free Karen from that demon bastard’s control, right? Once that’s done, I’ll have no reason to say her True Name ever again. So, if you can bring me Karen, Gwen is free to go.”

Xi tilted his head, intrigued. “Gwen can give you wealth. Fame. Power. She could ensure that you never go hungry again.”

“Please. I can get those things on my own. Karen for Gwen. Do we have a deal?”

“Karen is not theirs to give,” Khalid said, making it hard for me to pretend he wasn’t there. “I suggest you make this deal with me.”

“Because I’m dumb enough to trust you not to fuck me over? Eat a cock.” I turned my attention back to Xi. “What do you say?”

Xi’s scales whispered against the stone as he slithered around me. “And why should we trust you to keep your word?”

I pulled Gwen closer, should he get any bright ideas. “Because I swear it on my life.”

The air began to thicken with magic. “What do you swear, and please be specific.”

I turned to look deep into Gwen’s eyes. “Gwen, once Karen is free from Khalid, you are free. I will never use your True Name again. If I break that promise, kill me. Put an aneurism in my head that’ll pop so hard, liquid brain comes out of my nose. And you won’t have to go into the boulder afterward. Okay?”

Gwen looked at me as though waiting for the other shoe to drop. Finally, she said, “I accept your terms.”

The press of magic vanished as Xi shrank back into his human form. “I also find your terms acceptable,” he said as he straightened his suit jacket.

This didn’t put me at ease. In fact, I was more suspicious than ever. “So now you and your kind have no reason to fuck with me or my friends because that donkey cock told me your sister’s True Name?”

Xi shrugged. “Sounds reasonable.”

I stuck out my hand. “So, do we have a deal?”

Before Xi could accept, Khalid stepped between us. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. There is only one thing you can offer me that would compel me to release Karen, especially since Karen has no desire to be free.”

Biker Fairy crossed his arms. “Would that one thing be me not breaking every bone in that body before we tear it off?”

“There is no need for violence, Prince Kailen. If this bloodsucker can prove capable of reason and mercy, I suppose I can do the same. I would at least like the opportunity to retain my relationship with the lovely Karen.”

“What do you propose?” Elder One said.

“This vampire cannot be trusted because his true desire is not to free Karen. His one and only desire is to become a Pure vampire. So, I offer that instead.” From the inner pocket of his suit jacket, Khalid pulled out a wide goblet. It was made of tarnished gold and studded with gems. “This is the Tepes chalice. I offer it, as well as the ritual to change him to a Pure vampire. I give it on the condition that once the ritual is finished, he will leave Karen in peace.”

Xi’s expression soured. “He has already struck a deal with me.”

“No deal has been struck at all. The choice is his. Karen or the chalice.” Khalid gave me a very cold look. “Of course, should he choose Karen, he will never exist in the same dimension as the chalice again. I propose that we make it a game.”

Khalid held out his other hand then opened his palm to reveal two small, silver coins. One had a female shape engraved on the surface, the other a chalice.

“I propose that the bloodsucker picks one token at random, and that will be the wish that is granted,” Khalid said.

I gave his offer some thought, as though I had a real choice. I didn’t doubt Khalid’s ability to take the chalice somewhere I’d never see it again. What would stop him from doing the same with Karen? At least, this way, I had a chance.

I stuck my hand toward Khalid.  “Fine.”

Khalid snatched my fingers in his before the word was out of my mouth. He ground my knuckles together as thunder clapped overhead. “Outstanding,” Khalid said. “However, I don’t like these odds. Would anyone else like to get in on this?”

Motherfucker. “Wait, no way. That wasn’t part of the deal.”

“But it is,” Khalid said. “You will be granted one uncorrupted wish, to be chosen at random, and then you will only speak Gwen’s True Name under pain of death. There was never any specification as to how many choices you’d be given.”

Son of a bitch. I’d forgotten I was a vampire for a minute.

Biker Fairy tugged his beard in thought. “I offer the death of his worst enemy. I will deliver Nicholai Santos to him, to be dealt with as he sees fit.” He dropped an axe token into Khalid’s hand then took a step back.

Rhiannon was next. “I offer to create for his lost love, Justine, a new body. A living, breathing body that will last as long as he does.” She placed a gleaming silver heart in Khalid’s palm. I noticed him twitch his fingers to touch her hand.

“That is enough,” Xi said, apathetic.

The rest of the fairies murmured to each other as Gwen attached thin, transparent threads to each token. She looped each thread around one of my fingers then took my hand. She led me to a pool in front of the Elders. Without a word, she dropped the tokens into the black water.

“Pick a finger,” Khalid said when I continued to stand there. “Any finger.”

I gave him a murderous look then flipped him the bird. Unblinking, I pulled that thread from the pool, my throat growing dry. When the token broke the surface, my heart knocked against my ribcage. I’d had no idea how much I’d wanted this.

Khalid nodded once, then handed over the Tepes chalice.

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 3

Chapter 43>>>

Whew. Sorry for the long wait. As you can see, this chapter was super long, it had a lot going on, and everything on this end has been ker-ay-zee. Thanks for sticking with me for this long. If you like what you’ve read, please, click on the like and share buttons. In that one simple act, you’ll be helping me more than you can possibly know. I hope all of you have a safe, happy Thanksgiving! This year, on top of all the blessings I already have in my life, I’m grateful for all of you.

Witd3; Chapter 42, pt. 3

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42, Part 3

Biker Fairy jerked hard on Aliese the Whore’s chain. She tripped, falling to her hands and knees at the base of the Elders’ thrones.

“Speak, ifrit,” Elder Two said. “Tell us of your relationship with Lord Khalid.”

Aliese the Whore got to her feet with difficulty. “I have served my lord faithfully, and in all ways, since before humankind harnessed the power of fire.” Her voice slurred, because it’s hard to speak with a broken jaw. “I have been loyal to him as no other woman has. Yet, here I am.”

Khalid didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed.

“Did you bear witness to the crime of which your lord stands accused?” Elder Three said.

Aliese the Whore shook her head at the unfairness of it all. “I did.”

Elder One, at least, seemed sympathetic. “Tell us, then, of what transpired, and spare no detail.”

Aliese the Whore’s breath wheezed through her crooked nose as she fought tears. “My lord commanded that I should come along to collect his necromancer from that bloodsucker. He worried the Princess of the Mists would collect herself and rightly seek revenge. He wanted his property secured before that happened.”

“This seems a simple enough task,” Elder Two said with a frown. “Did you not question why your master would require your presence on such a menial errand?”

“I don’t make a habit of questioning my lord’s orders. Besides…” Aliese the Whore bowed her head. “I know now why he wanted me there.”

“And why is that?” Xi said with smug satisfaction. I could tell that he already knew the answer, but wanted it stated for the record.

Aliese the Whore closed her eyes. “Because the only other witness was the bloodsucker.”

I laughed once in the back of my throat. People wonder why vampires hate demons.

Xi began to circle Aliese the Whore. Even hobbled, she turned to keep him in her line of sight. “Therefore, do you believe it was his intent to reveal my sister’s True Name in your presence all along, regardless of what that meant for you?”

Tears glistened in her eyes. “I do.”

“And did your master reveal my sister’s True Name in your presence?”

“He did.”

“Were there any other witnesses to the crime, beside the vampire?” Elder Three said.

Aliese the Whore lifted her shoulders with a tired sigh. “There was the necromancer and a revenant.”

The Elders considered one another. “Should we bring them here?” Elder One said.

Elder Two shook its head. “Revenants are dangerous and unpredictable. It would be folly to bring such an abomination to this place.”

Elder Three stroked its chin.  “I know of this revenant. She was a respected witch, in her time. That which reanimates her now is her burning need for revenge. It will not occur to her to use her knowledge of the Princess of the Mists’ True Name to exploit her powers.”

Elder One nodded in agreement. “Once her bloodlust has been sated, she will pass from this world.”

“Then it is agreed,” Elder Two said. “The problem will resolve itself.”

“But the necromancer may speak the princess’s True Name,” Elder Three said. “She should be here.”

I felt a stab of panic. “No!” I wasn’t supposed to speak, but it burst out of me. “No, Karen didn’t hear anything. She was unconscious.” Nik held out his arm when I took a step toward Khalid. “Tell them you had Karen knocked out, and that she couldn’t have heard you say Gwen’s True Name. Tell them!”

Khalid’s lips curled, but he said, “It’s true. I’d placed Karen in a deep slumber to ease her extraction from this bloodsucker’s custody. She heard nothing. I swear it on the sand.”

This pacified the fairies for some reason. They’re so fucking weird.

The Elders turned their attention back to Aliese the Whore. “Continue,” Elder Three said.

Aliese the Whore seemed reluctant, but said, “The vampire was unwilling to let my lord leave with his rightful property. Of course, he was powerless against my lord’s might. In true vampire fashion, he threatened to take his revenge against one that my lord held dear.”

Xi interrupted again. “So, it is your testimony that your lord not only revealed my sister’s True Name. He did so to a vampire that had explicitly threatened her life?”

Aliese the Whore bit her bottom lip. “Yes.”

This sparked another titter of outrage from the fairies.

“And now, the proof,” Elder One said. “Alga, the All-knowing, step forward.”

An ancient, hunched creature shuffled out of the crowd. She had stringy grey hair that looked as though it had never been washed. Her face was a mass of wrinkles and folds, but she had no mouth, nose, or eyes. What she had were giant ears that took up both sides of her head. Her earlobes dragged along the ground as she leaned on her walking stick.

Elder Two spoke. “Ifrit, in the softest whisper you can manage, speak the Princess of the Mist’s True Name.”

Aliese the Whore cast a worried look at Khalid, but he gave her a nod. She closed her eyes, pained, then leaned forward to whisper into Alga’s ear. Alga covered her face with her knotted hands, then her shoulders began to shake. Two more weirdos stepped out of the crowd. They allowed her to lean on them for support as they practically carried her away.

Elder Three shook its head. “And so it has been proven. Lord Khalid of the Shaytan Djinn, do you have anything to say in your own defense?”

“No. However, I would like to know when Gwen and I are to be married. I’d prefer the wedding take place as soon as possible.”

This was met with dead silence. The sheer massiveness of Khalid’s balls shocked everyone.

“I will never marry you!” Gwen screeched. “Ever! I hate you. I hate everything about you. I hate the sight of you. I hate the sound of your voice. The thought of you touching me makes me want to vomit. If I knew your True Name, I would broadcast it to the whole of China, in the hopes they would command your festering spirit into a rabid dog to be eaten alive by maggots until the end of time.”

This was an impressive level of hate, but Khalid took it in stride. “You have the right to your anger, and your grief, my love,” he said without a trace of irony. “I know that you believe I have committed a heinous crime against you. That the damage is irreparable and unforgivable.”

Xi looked at Khalid as though questioning his sanity. “And how do you deem the crime you have committed against her?”

“As a brutal necessity to free my beloved from bondage. I was successful in doing what needed to be done when her cowardly, sanctimonious siblings fought to do the exact opposite. She has been a slave for so long that she has forgotten what it is to be free. In time, she will forgive me.”

Gwen spat at him. “Never.”

Khalid’s tone grew more solemn, more determined. “You will love me again. I swear it.”

Gwen shook her head in disgust as she looked away.

“You speak as though we would allow you to occupy the same hemisphere as our sister ever again,” Xi said.

Khalid’s eyes began to burn. “Allow? Her hand was promised to me by your father, a contract he has never revoked. The Elders’ decreed that Gwen be punished, but that punishment has reached its natural end.”

Quick Brother laughed in disbelief. “Murder is natural, Infernal one?”

Khalid didn’t blink. “Prince Elrich, there is nothing in the universe more natural than murder.”

Biker Fairy snorted. “You’re daft if you think our father would uphold any contract with you after what you’ve done.”

“Perhaps you don’t know your father as well as you would like to believe.”

The goblin brother—the smart one?—reeled. “And now you have the brazen audacity to imply that you know our father better than we do?”

“History has demonstrated that I have far more in common with your father than any of you ever have. Do you think he will side with you after you took his wife away from him a piece at a time? If you are so sure that he wouldn’t uphold his contract with me, then perhaps we should wake him and have him weigh in on these proceedings.”

No one seemed to like that idea, not even Xi and his siblings.

“Lord Khalid,” Elder One said in a soothing tone, “the legitimacy of your claims are not without merit, but that is a matter for another day. Regardless of your motives, there is no justification for what you have done. Our course is clear.”

“The Seven demand his head,” Xi said without hesitation.

Khalid didn’t flinch. “And I would gladly give it, as husband to your precious sister, and brother-in-law to the rest of you.”

“We’d prefer it on a spike,” Quick Brother said.

Nik nodded. “To roast in the sun.”

Khalid raised his hands. “Brothers-to-be, no one understands the need for immediate, visceral revenge more than I do, but I fear you are being shortsighted. My contract is with your father, and not any of you. Prince Xivinaxus, you speak for your siblings, but not for Vesuvius. To make such a decision without his counsel, you risk incurring his wrath.”

“Agreed,” all three Elders said in unison.

Xi’s jaw bulged as he glared at Khalid, then he spun to face the Elders. “So be it. If I can’t have his life, then I will have his livelihood. Everything that he has of value must be stripped from him. His property, his wealth, his servants, his slaves, his title, and his rank in the Shaytan Djinn army. I will take the very skin from his back, forfeited to my sister in the first of many tributes he will make to her in amends.”

Khalid tilted his head. “That seems a bit extreme.”

“Djinn, I have only just begun to make your life unbearable,” Xi said.

“But…how will I give your sister countless hours of physical pleasure without a body?”

“Goddamn!” I said. Again, I couldn’t help myself. That was the most magnificent burn I’d ever heard.

“Well?” Xi said, his hands fisted at his sides. “How do the Elders decree?”

The Elders looked at one another for a few seconds, then Elder Two spoke. “The law is clear. For the crime of revealing the Princess’s True Name to a mortal—a vampire, no less—Lord Khalid’s life as he has known it is forfeit. Circumstances being what they are, execution is not an option, therefore Prince Xivinaxus’ alternative is acceptable. All of Lord Khalid’s wealth and property is hereby transferred to the youngest of the Seven.”

Xi smirked. “And so you have nothing, djinn. My sister’s engagement was to a general. You are now lower than the slaves that muck your stables. Do you think my father will still give her to you?”

Khalid made an indifferent gesture. He must be awesome at poker. “There is nothing I have lost that cannot be regained. Armies can be raised, fortresses built, fortunes accrued. Any price I have to pay is small, if my beloved’s freedom is the reward.”

Xi had nothing to say to that. The Elders nodded once, then Biker Fairy began to undo Aliese the Whore’s shackles.

Aliese the Whore stared at Khalid with obvious betrayal. “Did you ever truly love me?”

Khalid looked her straight in the eye. “There were times when I almost believed that I might. I always came to my senses quickly.”

Aliese the Whore’s chains fell. I had just enough time to think that she had a lot of healing to do before she could be pimped out again, then Xi burst out of his suit. The crowd surged back to make room for the colossal snake he had become. In the blink of an eye, he swallowed Aliese whole. The bulge slid down Xi’s throat, stretching his body as it twitched in pathetic struggle. There was a sickening crackle, then the lump disappeared.

I knew nothing about fairies or their anatomy, yet I understood what had happened. What little power Aliese the Whore had would be digested and absorbed, the rest shat out and forgotten. She had never mattered to anyone. She may as well have never existed. The worst she could do to Xi was give him syphilis.

I didn’t have time to catch my breath before Xi swung his enormous head toward me.

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 2

Chapter 42, pt. 4>>>

WitD3: Chapter 42, pt. 2

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42, part 2

 

Nik and Xi took me by the elbows to drag me deeper into the chamber. The mob parted to reveal wooden thrones growing out of the ground like gnarled trees. Seated upon them were three creatures I couldn’t begin to name. Their bright blue eyes bulged from their grey, alien faces. When they moved, even to blink or turn their heads, it was slow and deliberate. White hair and sheer robes floated around them like smoke. They wore silver crowns I realized after a moment were actually metallic horns.

Xi’s lips twisted into another unpleasant smile as he took a step toward them. “Elders, thank you for assembling this tribunal, and so quickly. The Children of Vesuvius are honored by your time and attention.”

As one, the creatures on the thrones nodded. The Elder to the left spoke first. “As the eldest of the Seven, do you speak on behalf of your siblings, clever Xivinaxus?” Its voice was like the wind through a narrow canyon.

“As always, wise Elder.”

“Speak your charges, then,” the middle one said. I wondered if these things were separate, or one being.

Xi turned to face the horde with more theatrics than ten drama majors. When he spoke, it was as though he addressed each individual freak. “Elders, kinsmen, I come before you today to charge one of our own, Lord Khalid of the Shaytan Djinn, of the most unthinkable, the most reprehensible, the most atrocious crime of which any of us could stand accused.”

The Elder on the right scowled. “You don’t mean…”

“Yes,” Xi said. “Lord Khalid has given my youngest sister’s True Name to a mortal.” There was a general murmur of shock through the crowd. “And not just any mortal. He has given her name to a vampire.”

The fairies erupted. I couldn’t understand most of what being shouted, so I craned my neck to find Gwen. She sat on the floor, as though she didn’t have the strength to stand. Quick Brother and Hot Sister kneeled beside her, cradling her in their arms as they stroked her hair. Gwen’s head was bowed, her shoulders hunched under the weight of her grief. Curls of her true form drifted into the air like steam.

Elder One had to shout to be heard above the rabble. “These are grievous charges, Prince Xivinaxus, and not to be made lightly.”

“Or without proof,” Elder Two said.

“I assure my Elders, we have the proof you need. The Seven demand justice.”

It was Elder Three’s turn to speak. “We know the Children bear no love for Lord Khalid. Given the mandatory punishment for such a crime, tell us you have more evidence than…” The Elders looked me over. “That.”

I rolled my eyes. “You won’t need more than me,” I said. “Gwen’s True Name is—”

The rest of my sentence was drowned out by the panicked outcry of the mob. I saw the flash of more than one weapon being drawn. I folded my hands in front of me, satisfied my point was made.

I heard the wood creak when Elder One gripped the arms of its throne with spindly fingers. “Prince Xivinaxus, you would do well to instruct your witness to hold his vile tongue.”

Xi bowed. “Of course, my Elder,” he said before whirling on me. “Speak again and I will weld a leaded mask over your head, so that you might live out the rest of your days as my feral dog. Do you doubt me?”

No. No, I did not. I shrugged as I said, “Damn, dude. Chill.”

Elder Two looked down its nose at me. “Aside from the fact that he is a vampire, this creature despises Lord Khalid. He would say anything to hurt him, and therefore cannot be trusted.”

Xi nodded. “True, which is why I shall provide a second witness, one that loves him.”

As though on cue, Biker Fairy stepped through the portal behind us. He carried a thick iron chain in his gloved hand. The heavy links sparked as they dragged along the ground. Biker Fairy jerked, then Aliese the Whore stumbled through the portal. She wore a spiked collar attached to thick metal cuffs around her wrists and ankles. She sported two black eyes and her nose dripped blood. Golden runes burned in her shackles, I assumed to keep the demon within from jumping ship.

Xi’s lips curled into a sneer. “This…woman, I suppose we shall call her, is inhabited by a lesser ifrit. She sustains her physical and metaphysical existence by whoring herself in Lord Khalid’s brothel. She goes by the name Aliese and her loyalty to that djinn is beyond contestation.”

The Elders looked over Aliese the Whore. “Is this true?” Elder Three said. “Speak, ifrit.”

Aliese the Whore looked like a baby goat in a den of lions. Before she could begin to beg for her life, Khalid stepped through the portal. “Greetings, Kinsmen,” he said with obscene cheer. “How strange it was to awaken to find my home invaded, my subordinates arrested, and to discover that I am on trial. Stranger still to have not been invited to the proceedings.” Despite his claim of having just woken up, Khalid wore a black suit and tie. His hair was perfect, his beard was smooth, and he had recently bathed. He lifted his chin toward Xi, as though noticing him for the first time. “Xivinaxus. Always a pleasure. My highest regards to your father.”

Elder One made a sour face at Khalid. I guess even his own kind didn’t care for him. “Lord Khalid, this is merely the accusation phase of the proceedings. Should it be determined that sufficient evidence exists to place you on trial, you would’ve been summoned.”

“And yet, here I am,” Khalid said. “Let Xivinaxus make his charges, then present his evidence. Afterwards, I see no reason not to move at once to my criminal trial.”

Gwen lifted her head as the line of her body hardened. I could feel hatred roll off her as she refused to look at Khalid.

“So, you admit that a crime has taken place?” Xi said.

Khalid shrugged.

Elder Two gave Khalid a suspicious look. “Justice should not be rushed, Lord Khalid. We do not suffer the human lifespan.” The various pyxies, gnomes, and ogres chuckled. “By all means, explain your urgency.”

Khalid sobered. “My urgency stems from the fact that this atrocity has been allowed to continue for far too long already.”

The Elders looked at one another, then Elder Three nodded toward Xi. “Prince Xivinaxus.”

Xi stared at Khalid as though trying to figure him out. After a few seconds, he said, “First thing’s first.” He began to pace around the circle again, and I noticed that his footsteps didn’t make a sound. “It is difficult to convey the profound heartache and rage suffered by the Seven at this moment. Everyone gathered here knows our story. They know our royal parents. The legend of their love, and the sacrifices they made, have become the standard by which all love is measured amongst our kind.

“We all know my father, of his reputation and his awe-inspiring power. We know of the savage army he unleashed upon this world to bring it to heel. He is the embodiment of war and ruthless brutality. At least, he was. That changed the very instant he first laid eyes upon my mother.

“She had been offered to him, effectively sacrificed, in the faint hope of peace. There was not a soul in the universe that expected her to crack the icy shell of his heart, comparatively humble as she was. Moreover, no one believed that she would genuinely love him in kind…or even survive her wedding night.” The fairies laughed again. “Yet the world rejoiced at the birth of their first son.”

I snuck a glance at Khalid. He was checking his phone.

“I was soon joined by my brothers, Kailen and Nik. It was then that the toll on my mother’s health became apparent. Her first child was bright and clever, yet her own wit had dimmed. Her second son was strapping and powerful, yet she herself could no longer dazzle the court with feats of strength. Her third son proved invulnerable to everything, from physical attacks to the deadliest toxins, yet our mother had grown weak and sickly.

“Everyone begged her to stop, to grace our father with no more offspring. Her love for him and her family was such that any part of herself was worth sacrificing to see more of her children into the world. His love for her was so great that he could deny her nothing.

“Her fourth son, Elrich, took her grace and fleetness of foot. Her first daughter, my sister Rhiannon, took her immense beauty.” Holy shit, did she ever. “My youngest brother, Durin, took her vast intellect. By this time, my mother could do little except lay in bed and whisper, and yet…” Xi closed his eyes as he pressed his hand against his heart. “Even those faint whispers could soothe the most wounded soul. Because, more than anything else, love defined my mother. It was all she was, all she had to give.

“And so, when my youngest sister came, the pain of my mother’s passing was mitigated by the knowledge that she had delivered unto this world another person defined by her capacity for love. There is no other being in existence that can love as completely and as deeply as our Gwen, and therefore she is the most beloved of us all.”

Xi’s tone darkened. “My siblings and I did not approve when our honorable father arranged her marriage to this…desert upstart—”

“A fact made plain from the beginning,” Khalid said without looking up. “I could hardly begrudge you your animosity, my prince, considering how thoroughly I’ve always defeated you on the field of battle.”

Xi’s jaw tightened. “We were aware that our sister loved him at once, because of course she loved him. That was what Gwen did. That was who she was. Sweet Gwen loved all things, everyone, without hesitation or reservation, no matter how unworthy they were of that love. While it could be argued that the feeling was mutual—”

“Because it was,” Khalid said.

Xi spoke louder. “We, her siblings, saw the disaster looming on the horizon. We knew that, left unchecked, Lord Khalid would destroy her.” Xi shoved more sarcasm into that word than I would’ve though possible.

“You fools knew nothing,” Khalid said under his breath.

“We knew that you would twist her spirit and break her gentle heart,” Biker Fairy said.

“Gwen never would’ve been enslaved by that boy, had she not attempted the come-hither to impress you,” Hot Sister said.

Khalid arched an eyebrow. “Beautiful Rhiannon. Did you hurt yourself on that stretch?”

Xi went back to pacing around the circle. “This is why, when the wise Elders—” Khalid made a contemptuous sound, “—decreed that Gwen should remain the boy’s slave until the end of his line, they did so with our full support. That support stemmed not from agreement with their verdict, necessarily, but because this was the only way we could delay Gwen’s union to one so far beneath her.”

Khalid said nothing. He didn’t need to. The look on his face said it all.

“This is also why we took it upon ourselves to protect the child, and his child, and his child’s child, on and on, against that djinn’s relentless campaign of extermination. We were not always successful, as Khalid layered curse upon curse against their bloodline, as well as any poor fool who dared to breed with them. Not one of the decedents lived to experience old age, but we kept the line going for over one hundred generations. Over the centuries, we came to love them, as Gwen did.

“Now, that line has ended with the one-hundred-sixteenth descendants, because we’ve failed them. We’ve failed Gwen. We do not simply mourn those two children, taken far too young. We swear vengeance in their honor.”

Rhiannon and Quick Brother hugged Gwen as she began to weep again. Biker Brother placed his enormous hand on top of her head.

Xi spoke with genuine sorrow, so I guess his speech wasn’t all for show. “We surrender their bodies to the flames, so that their ancestors might welcome them with open arms.” Xi lifted his gaze, then I saw a bright flicker dart across his eyes. “Go now into the next world, knowing that justice will be carried out.”

Except for Khalid, who might as well have been in traffic court, the horde seemed moved. After a few moments of respectful silence, Elder One said, “Let us proceed.”

<<<Chapter 42, pt. 1

Chapter 42, pt. 3>>>

WitD3: Chapter 42, pt. 1

*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*

The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.

<<<Start at the beginning

Chapter 42: Part 1

 

The three men didn’t carry a scent, but they didn’t come off as Infernal, either. So…fairies. Not the Tinkerbelle-help-you-fly kind of fairies. These were the spin-straw-into-gold-in-exchange-for-your-firstborn sort of fairies.

A beast of a man stood behind the leader. His bald head scraped the ceiling as his black leather vest struggled to contain him. A bushy red beard and thick brow ridge took up most of his face. Bright tattoos covered his neck and arms. Though, being a fairy, that could’ve been his natural skin tone.

Biker Fairy stepped around the leader without a word. His shoulders jarred the bathroom counter as he crouched next to Gwen. He turned her onto her back, gentle despite his size. Gwen let out a heartbreaking sob when she saw him. “Kailen…”

The giant made a soothing sound as he gathered her up, then stood to leave.

“Hey!” I said, scrambling to my feet. The other two fairies moved to block the door. “Where are you taking her?” Gwen was a vital part of my plan to release Karen from thrall, but I didn’t have time to explain that. Instead, I yelled, “She’s mine.”

The leader smiled without humor, his thin lips a slit in his face. “So it would seem. Worry not, half-breed. You’re coming with us.”

The being to the left of the leader could almost be mistaken for human. Well, by dumbasses without the sense of smell to know better. Aside from the fact he wore armor, there was nothing remarkable about him. It was anyone’s guess how old they were. Their skin was marble smooth, but their eyes were ancient. Power radiated from them like heat from a nuclear reactor.

“Who are you people?” I said.

The leader placed his hand over his heart then bowed his head. “I am known as Prince Xivinaxus the Serpent.” I could see why he’d be called that. His eyes were like rubies, and there was a greenish-yellow gleam to his skin. “You may call me Xi. This is my brother and bodyguard, Prince Nikolas. Nik.”

Xi’s sandy brown hair looked as though a toddler had cut it. His suit and trench coat fluttered around his frame as he stood to the side then gestured toward the door. “After you.”

I didn’t want to turn my back on the…whatever the hell these things were, but Gwen was getting further and further away. “I know her True Name,” I said as I stepped into the hall.

“So, you do,” Xi said.

“That means I, like, own her now, right?”

Xi made a noncommittal sound.

We passed the open door of the nursery. Another tall, wispy being stood over the crib. Its sharp features were so pretty, it took a moment to figure out if the thing was male or female. I assumed male, due to a lack of boobs, but you can never tell with fairies.  His shoulder-length, reddish brown hair was a mass of tall cowlicks that didn’t distract from his pointed ears. He straightened when he saw me, and his large, green eyes narrowed. I noticed that he held a bloody dagger in his right hand.

I blinked, then the elf was nose-to-nose with me. Xi’s hand was on his chest, pushing him back as he clucked his tongue. “Now, now, Elrich. Patience. All in good time.”

The elf snarled, and I saw a row of jagged teeth. He turned in a huff then walked back into the nursery.

A small, squatty creature perched on the crib railing, shaking its head at the tragedy on the mattress. I guessed it was a goblin, or maybe some sort of kobold? I had no idea. Those things never revealed themselves to vampires.

A woman stood in the center of the room, her back to me as she cradled a small bundle. Her blue dress molded to her in a way that made it impossible not to notice her body…which was smoking hot. Chocolate brown hair cascaded down her back in shimmering waves. She looked at me over her shoulder, then I found myself frozen in place. Her face was far too perfect to be human, and her pale skin caught the light like a pearl.

I didn’t realize I was staring until I felt Nik’s hand between my shoulders. He gave me a hard shove toward the stairs. “Keep walking, bloodsucker.”

I stumbled but recovered. “How many fucking fairies are in this house?”

“Considering the gravity of the crime, we have all seen fit to ensure justice is done,” Xi said as we started down the stairs.

We stepped into the kitchen, then Nik said, “Continue out into the hall, then go into the first room on your left.”

The portrait room. I stopped in my tracks. “Why, what’s in there?”

Xi and Nik smirked at each other. “Judging by your tone, I think you know,” Xi said.

Every instinct in my body told me to cut my losses and run. Karen needed me, though, and to help her, I needed Gwen. I growled under my breath as I turned toward the hall. “Fine,” I said.

“There’s a good lad.” Xi’s neutral tone made it impossible to tell if he was being sarcastic.

I stepped into the portrait room just in time to see Biker Fairy duck through the mirror. He vanished with Gwen in his arms, and despair washed over me. I turned on Xi as though I had the power to make him do anything “Bring her back,” I said.

Xi nodded toward the portal. “You saw which way they went. Go after her.”

“Dude, no one’s that stupid. There’s no way in hell I’m going through a fairy door.”

“You say that as though you have a choice in the matter,” Nik said.

I debated calling Mata Diablo. I could maybe get one good stab into Xi before he knew what hit him, but I’d still have to deal with Nik and the others. And Gwen was already gone.

Fuck it. Whatever.

I stepped through the mirror. I’m sure I made vampire history, not that anyone would ever believe me. Turns out, there was nothing to it. I’ve had more trouble crossing wards after I’ve been invited. One second I was in Gwen’s crappy little house. The next, I stood on the set of Game of Thrones.

The first thing to strike me was darkness, and the smell. In that sense, I’m no different than any other vampire. The cold, salty stench of the ocean filled the air, but it wasn’t the ocean I knew. Under the saltwater, I could smell soot and burning wax. This was from the candles that dripped overhead and smoldering fire pits. Heavy chandeliers covered in rust provided a little light. They hung from rafters made of rotting tree trunks. The ceiling was so high that it disappeared into the shadows. Moss covered the stone floor, but I didn’t see any sort of masonry or brickwork.

I’d been teleported into a hollowed-out mountain. I didn’t think those things really existed, but I didn’t have a chance to wrap my head around it. My eyes adjusted to the gloom, then I realized I was surrounded.

Fairies. Demons. Goblins. Trolls. Even nixies swam in a crumbling fountain. The horde stood shoulder to shoulder, blocking every chance of escape.

I was supremely fucked.

<<<Chapter 41

Chapter 42, pt 2.>>>