Interlude Four: The Darkness Thickens

Bridgeport, a few weeks after Alaric’s death


 

The city’s lights faded away in the rearview mirror of the expensive car.

Belisama Donovan sat behind the wheel, her grip on the steering wheel made her knuckles white.  She had thought about ignoring this summons.  Had actually contemplated just ignoring and doing what she wanted.  But right on the heels of that thought was the possible consequences from ignoring the summons.  Though she hated to admit it, those thoughts sent a shiver down her spine.  And so, she found herself following a winding road out of the city.

It looked like nothing more than a small stone shack on the far outskirts of the city.  But looks could be deceiving.  Bridgeport was home to one of the world’s only super, super max security prison facility.  It was the kind of place that was used to house supernaturals.  The only place that could, aside from the Netherworld, anyway.  Belisama looked disdainfully at the shack façade as she climbed out of her car.  She walked through the double doors into the barren interior.  In front of her was an elevator.

She rode it down and instinctively knew that they were several stories below the surface.  The wards, both technological and magical, made her skin crawl.  Hmph, she’s the one locked up like a rat in a cage and she has the nerve to summon me like a wayward child!

She went through the security station.  There were no guards here.  There didn’t need to be.  Those wards were more than enough to keep the inmates in line.  And if by some miracle, they managed to escape, the unseen guards would take care of them.

Another shudder ran over Belisama’s flesh, raising goosebumps along her arms.  She sauntered through the double doors in front of her.

There was almost a sucking sound, as if the next little room was some sort of a vacuum.  Then she was through the last set of double doors, a huge window looking through into a room on the other side.

The woman on the cot had been waiting for this visitor.  She didn’t need to look to know it was her.  Her energy was only too familiar.  Elvira supposed it was better late than never, though the lack of obedience would need to be dealt with.

Belisama looked around, that unmistakable sneer on her face.  “How the mighty have fallen,” she murmured, though not even she was brave enough to say it any louder.  She watched out of the corner of her eye as Elvira levered herself off the dingy cot in the corner of the small cell.

Elvira wanted to wipe the smirk off the arrogant chit’s face, but that would have to wait.  They had much to discuss first.

The elder vampire matriarch went and sat down in the small chair in the cell, steepling her hands in front of her as she rested her elbows on her knees.  “I’m glad you could finally join me,” she murmured.  She had no need to raise her voice.  She would be heard.  Belisama had gone right up to the glass, peering in.

That voice… it sent a chill down Belisama’s spine.  Her mother in law had always been able to do that.  The power seemed to roll off Elvira Slayer in waves.  One could forget it for short periods, but never when they were in her presence.  That thought of defiance, of refusing to sit, flew out of Belisama’s mind.  She took the seat, even as Elvira stood up, her arms crossed over her chest.

“Good girl,” Elvira murmured.  “Now, shall we get down to business?”

“That would be appreciated.”  Belisama managed to inject enough disdain in there to make it clear what she thought of being summoned there, yet Elvira had to admire her pluck.  At least for a short amount of time.

“Word has reached me that you plan on traveling to Monte Vista.  Didn’t I make myself clear already?  Any moves against the Wyverns are to be made only with my express permission.”

Belisama’s eyes narrowed dangerously.  “I see your network is as strong as ever.  There’s no point in lying.  Yes, I plan on going there.  I plan on ripping Luna Wyvern’s heart out of her chest while that traitor watches.”

Elvira sneered.  “Do you even have any idea who you’re dealing with?  The Wyverns are powerful.  More powerful than you can imagine.  And their home is surrounded by wards.  Wards that will turn you to dust before you could attempt to step across the threshold.”

“You’d let them get away with they have!?” Belisama hissed, clenching her hands into fists.  “They killed your son, my husband!”  Fury and what might have been grief colored her pale cheeks.

“I’m well aware of what they’ve done.”  Elvira’s voice was as cold as an Arctic wind and her eyes flashed dangerously.  “They will pay, in due time.  But touching them in their home territory is not only foolish but dangerous.  I gave those orders for a reason.  Don’t you think I would have already taken care of them by now if caution wasn’t needed?”

“I want her dead!” Belisama exploded.  “She deserves to die for what she did!  Alaric tried to protect her and it got him killed!”

She had begun to rise from her chair but then dropped back in shock as the lights all around her went out.  Elvira hadn’t moved.  But all the lights had simply died… Belisama knew fear then.  Elvira could manipulate things in this place?

“Yes, she deserves to die,” Elvira continued, as if nothing untoward had occurred.  “They all do for their interference.  I have already begun to ensure that, but the fact remains that attacking them on their home turf is out of the question.  Disobey me in this at your own peril, Belisama.  My name, nor my power can protect you in Monte Vista.”

Belisama knew a dismissal when she heard it and she was only too happy to make a beeline for the door.  She couldn’t help looking over her shoulder as if something monster was behind her.  But even as she left Elvira’s presence, fury and something akin to shame assailed her.  How dare that woman order her about like some dog.  She had a right to avenge her husband’s death.  So their home was warded.  There were other ways to get to someone.


 

Elvira watched Belisama’s retreat with the same stony expression.  Only once she could feel the girl leave the premises did she allow the malicious smile to cross her lips.  The seeds had been planted.  She knew Belisama better than the girl knew herself.  Even terrified, the girl’s rebellious streak and need to prove that she was her own boss would send her running to Monte Vista.  Elvira very much doubted Belisama would succeed in her mission, though even if the girl managed to do half of what she wanted, it would be worth it.  And Elvira had no doubt that the Wyverns would rid her of the nuisance that Belisama had become.  It was killing two birds with one stone, as far as she saw it.  And if Belisama managed to kill Luna Wyvern?  All the better.

Her eyes glowed red in the absence of light and the abyss seemed to look back.


 

Interlude Three: Wrath of the Dragon Queen, Part 2

David enjoyed the cool air of the evening as it swirled around him and his wife.  His gaze was pointed up to the sky but he was only too aware of her next to him.  Since he had awoken in Simgardheim- that was the name of this place, a place where the Gods of Simanity resided- he’d actually become used to quite a lot.  It was a protected world, he’d found out, one filled with wonder, but also with dangers of its own.  The first “person” he’d encountered had been Lyall.  She’d smiled at him and welcomed him to his new home.  He had been so confused, he hadn’t had a thought in his head, let alone been able to speak.  “Don’t worry,” the Goddess had told him.  “Your wife will along shortly.”

Lyall had spoken the truth.  He had been afraid that it had been a dream, that his life with Celestia might have been some hallucination.  He’d always been able to feel her, her vibrancy and her energy.  He had stood in front of the easel Lyall and provided and lost himself for a little while, trying to make sense of things, a part of him feeling as if he were missing something vital.  Then… in a moment of perfect clarity, everything righted itself.  He’d turned… and there she was.  His Dragon Queen.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since they’d both awoken here, since they’d… well, died.  It was a pretty distinct memory in his mind.  He missed his family, but being able to watch them, even from afar helped a little, though worry marred his countenance a little.  The undercurrents in Simgardheim were vast and bound to pull the unwary below and would drown them quickly.  It wasn’t much different from the Sim Realm, really, in that regard anyway.  With a quiet sigh, he leaned back a bit and just looked up at the gorgeous night sky, his wife beside him.

They had sat there in silence for a long time, neither really needing words.  But David felt compelled to ask after a long moment, “Thanatos is due to arrive soon, right?”

His wife nodded slowly.  “Yes.  I’ll know when he does.”

“Celestia…” he murmured, hesitating for a moment.  She turned her head a little to look at him out of the corner of her eye.

“Yes, love?”

“Are you sure about this?”

“I am, David.  I am.”  She turned her gaze back up to the night sky, letting her husband absorb that.  He gripped the hand that was beneath his securely and let the time slip away.


It wasn’t long though, before Celestia sensed Thanatos’s presence.  David had gone to another part of the large mansion to wait for her.  This business was hers alone to deal with.  She sat in the office, the same office that she had met Lyall in when all this began.  The irony of it was not lost on her.  Here she was again, this time cast in Lyall’s place.  The door opened as she sat lost in thought and in walked Thanatos, the God of Death.

Slowly, Celestia stood up, her face a blank mask even as the dark hood came up, looking at her.  She couldn’t see any eyes, but she didn’t need to.  She could feel the way he measured her.  “Celestia,” he intoned, his voice a dark resonance that seemed to echo within all that darkness.

“Thanatos,” she murmured with a slight incline of her head.

Silence reigned for a long moment as the two studied one another, neither wanting to be the first to break the silence.  It had often been thus with them.  Celestia and Thanatos had once been neutral parties in the petty squabbles that went on around them.  But many things had changed.  Finally, Thanatos broke first, a hint of impatience in his voice.  “Why have I been summoned here?”

Tilting her head to the side, Celestia acknowledged the concession briefly before she intoned, “I claim the Right of Accusation against you.”  Her words seemed to echo around them, the very utterance of them holding some kind of power.

Though she could not see his expression, hidden as his countenance was by that infernal hood, Celestia knew by the way he crossed his arms over his chest that she had startled him.

He said nothing as Celestia laid the charges before him: one of her children, her flesh and blood children, had been wounded, had technically been killed by one of his.  The rules governing the Gods’ flesh and blood offspring were many and myriad, but their protection was absoluate.  The fact that Celestia’s son would have died because of Thanatos’s daughter was a serious matter indeed.

When she finished speaking, Thanatos said nothing.  Finally, he intoned, “What is your price?  What boon or what punishment do you require to right this wrong?”  His words held as much power- and as much of a binding oath- as Celestia’s had.

Something appeared between the two of them.  It was an orb.  The mortals called it a Moondial, but this was a finely crafted Looking Glass.

It was a precision instrument and used for viewings of many types.  Celestia had thought to use the large screen that Lyall had had commissioned, but Celestia knew Thanatos was old fashioned, a traditionalist.  She thought he would appreciate this more and it would keep the advantage to her.  The boon she was asking was unheard of.

Letting a trickle of power flow through her, that golden glow surrounding her, an image began to swirl inside the globe of the viewing sphere.  As it coalesced into a discernible image, that of a person, Thanatos flicked a glance at Celestia.  The image was that of a vampire, his red eyes glowing brightly, his handsome face vaguely familiar somehow.

“He is the price to be paid.”

“You wish his death?”  She could hear the uncertainty, a sure sign that she was hitting her mark.

“No, his life.  He is no longer one of yours, Thanatos.  His life now belongs to me and mine.”

The silence that fell was glaringly loud in its intensity.  Celestia waited, her body seemingly relaxed, though she was coiled tighter than a spring.  “As you wish… sister.  It is done.  He now belongs to you.  The debt is paid.”  With a crack of sound, he disappeared in a cloud of yellow and black smoke, leaving Celestia alone.

She wasn’t alone for long though.  Lyall appeared, looking at the globe, but more importantly, the image within it.  Celestia leaned against the desk, letting some of the tension drain away.

Lyall frowned, her brow furrowing.  “You’re responsible for Luna’s dreams.  That’s her “vampire prince”, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I’m responsible,” was all the Queen of the Dragons murmured.  She waved her hand and the image changed.  This time, there was a young girl there, and though there wasn’t any outward indication, Celestia knew that power flowed through her veins.

“I hope you know what you’re doing…” Lyall murmured.

“Me too,” Celestia whispered as Lyall disappeared once more.  She continued to stare into the globe, watching the girl within it, her expression troubled.  Then it became determined.

This would work… it had to.


 

Interlude Two: Wrath of the Dragon Queen, Part 1

The image played on the screen and the three people on the couch were silent.  “N-no, no.”  Celestia could only stare in horror as she watched her son- her child, of her flesh and blood- as he fought for his life.  Lyall’s surprise of being able to watch her family had been wonderful.  Celestia had gotten to see her granddaughter grow up.  Even her antics in University had made the Queen of the Dragons laugh.  And watching her find love had made her weep with joy.

Then the birth of her great-granddaughter.  Getting to watch her son with Luna took some of the sting out of her not being able to be there with them.  But then he’d gone to the precinct.  And then to Bridgeport.  Celestia and her husband could only watch in horror, helpless to do anything for him.

Now they could only watch as the events in the Sim world unfolded on screen.

As Sophia’s prayers reached Celestia’s ears, the Dragon Queen bowed her head, unable to stop the tears.

But amidst the horror and grief came a molten hot fury that seemed to flood her.  She stood up, a gold glow beginning to surround her, her very energy beginning to boil over in her rage.  Her hands were clenched into fists so hard that her nails cut into her palm, blood welling from the puncture marks to drip down onto the floor.

“That Child of Death does not know the wrath,” she spat, “but she soon will.  She will pay, this I vow!”

“Celestia!” Lyall snapped, not quite daring to stand up.  “You cannot interfere!  I-I’m sorry, but there is nothing you can do!”

The Queen of Dragons whirled on her sister, her fury palpable in the air.  “You dare speak to ME of interference!?  It was your interference that brought me to the Sim realm in the first place!  You saw to it that I had children and now, when I would avenge them, to protect what is mine, you dare tell me I cannot interfere!”

Lyall was very sure that in her fury, her sister would use the power that their siblings feared so.  But then David spoke, his voice soft.   “Celestia.”  Just that, just her name.  Her rage didn’t dissipate, but it was enough to pull her ire from Lyall.  She looked at her husband.  He leaned over and took one of her hands and gently unclenched the fist, then leaned down to kiss the half-moon shaped wounds her nails had dug into her palms.  “She’s right, Celestia.  You know she is.”  He slanted a sideways glance at his sister-in-law, then looked up at his wife.  “I hate it just as much as you.  But… we cannot interfere.”  His voice hitched.  “D-draco is strong.  But… if it is his time, it is his time.”

Celestia could only stare at him.  She wanted to rage, to let out the beast inside her, the one that Lyall had caged with her serum.  But while she was still the Queen of Dragons, her time in the Sim Realm had changed her.  She turned away, looking back at the screen once more as more images flicked over it.

Her granddaughter’s wail of grief followed by the sobbing of her great-granddaughter had silent tears tracking down her cheeks even as she felt the disturbance in the energy flows of the Realms.  “Draco, no!  You can’t!” Sophia sobbed on the screen.  “Don’t leave me!”  Her cries tore into Celestia’s heart even as she felt her son’s life-force dim.

Grief swamped the Dragon Queen even as her husband came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her.  Her arms gripped hers as the fiery light of her temper faded around her to be replaced with a heavy grief.  Even as her vision blurred with the tears, she heard Lyall gasp.  The Wolfen Goddess stood up, unable to believe her eyes.  “It-it can’t be!”

Celestia dashed the tears from her eyes and looked at the screen in shock.

Then a slow, almost wicked smile crossed her face.

She turned to look at her sister even as David’s grip on her had slackened a little.  He began to chuckle a bit.  “Well, well, sister.  Seems that your serum wasn’t able to suppress it all.  There in front of you is proof of that!  My heirs live on; not even mortality was able to rob them of it.”

Lyall frowned.  “I see that…”  She didn’t voice the rest of her concerns.  What would this do to the balance?  She had no idea, but they would need to keep a close eye on things.

Celestia straightened up even as the rest of the scenes played up on the screen.  She turned to face her sister, David watching the two of them.  “Send for Thanatos,” she told Lyall, looking imperious.

“Celestia… is that wise?” Lyall asked after a moment.

“Wise or not, do it.  One of his Children wronged one of mine.  I have the Right of Accusation.  He’ll be required to come and hear it.”

Lyall sighed.  “Very well, I will do so.  I hope you know what you are doing.”

“I may have been out of the Game for a long time, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how it’s played, Lyall,” Celestia reminded her quietly.  “And now, more than ever, I will play to win.”

Lyall looked at her sister.  “I do believe you do.”


 

Interlude One: Awakening

Before Aurora becomes a young adult

Darkness.  Heavy darkness that seemed to stretch on and on.  It was a weight on my chest.  I couldn’t breathe.  Then the darkness receded and the weight lifted.  I tried to open my eyes.

A groan escaped and finally, my eyes did open, though I couldn’t see anything.  My vision was blurred; I could only see shapes and colors, nothing definite even as I struggled to rise.  The blanket hindered me.  Wait, blanket?

“There she is,” an all-too-familiar voice said from my left.  Blinking rapidly, trying to make sense of what my senses were telling me, I looked over.

“Lyall?”

“Oh aye, it’s me, sister dear.  I was wondering if you were just going to sleep forever or finally wake up.”

I held my head.  It was pounding with a vengeance.  “W-what’s going on?”

I could hear the smirk in her voice, even if I couldn’t see her.  “What’s going on is that you’ve been lounging about, Celestia.  I think it’s time you woke up, don’t you?”

Images flashed through my mind almost faster than I could comprehend.  And then I remembered…  I remembered all of it.  A snarl curled the corner of my lip upward.  “You!  You stranded me in the Sim Realm!  Y-you took my powers away!  I-I… died.”  My ire died away to be replaced by grief.  “David…”  Tears burned my throat.  “Why, Lyall?  Why?”

“Oh Celestia…”  My sister sighed.  “It wasn’t to hurt you, I promise.  I had my reasons.  We have a lot to talk about, a lot to discuss.  But first, there’s something I want to show you.  Will you come with me?  Give me a chance to explain?”

I hesitated, but there was something about Lyall, something different than I was used to.  So finally, I nodded.  She stood up.  “Follow me, then.”  My vision had been steadily improving so this time, when I went to get up, it was easier.

We were in her home, the one she had summoned me to… well, for me it was a life-time ago.  I walked through the halls, so many questions running through my mind.  I didn’t even notice that I had stopped following her and was just heading outside, toward… something.  I stepped out of the doors, onto the little patio and just stopped dead, unable to believe my eyes.

I could only stare.  It was a heartbeat, it was an eternity.  It was hard to say.  “David,” I whispered, barely able to make a sound.

He turned to face me and we could only stare at one another.

Then I was there, in his arms, my own wrapped around him.

I took one step back and could only stare into his eyes.  “I’m not dreaming, am I?”

He laughed.  The sound made my heart soar to hear it again, after what seemed like so long.  I frowned.  “How?  How are you here?”

Before he could answer, the door opened and my sister emerged.  “I’ll explain everything,” she said.  “But I thought you’d want your reunion first.”

I didn’t know what to say.  Things were so confused.  And yet… I couldn’t bring myself to care at that moment.  I was in David’s arms once again.  Yet my sister Lyall wasn’t done yet.  “Oh!  I almost forgot, before we get down to business.  There are others who were waiting for you to get up.”

As I stood there with David, our hands clasped together, neither of us wanting to break the contact, I got another shock.  The familiar bark had my goggling.  David’s words, not my own.  “Diego!?   But…”

My sister’s creation gave me a canine grin and then he spoke.  “Hello again, mistress.”  He bowed down.  Lyall grinned.  “And he’s not the only one.  His own brood is here.”

Even as I leaned down to hug Diego, two more canines came running out.  “Darcy!  And Gabe!”

Diego nuzzled his big head against my hand.  “Yes mistress.  Gage and Glenna as well.  They’ll be with us later though.  They are currently going through the debriefing.”

My sister nodded briskly.  “Yes, which it is time to debrief you.  Follow me and I will answer all your questions.  It is time you knew just what is going on.”

I had no choice but to follow, David following me, my hand still in his.