The room on the other side of the doors was large room with a oval table in the middle. At the head of the table was an ornate chair, and an balding man with grey hair and a pattern so weak in the elements I almost laughed sat with his fingers steepled in front of him while he waited impatiently for my arrival. He was ranked a five, but he was on the low end. Maybe not even a five if you asked me. Power plays weren’t uncommon in the Venatori. And the ruling families were always getting their way.
But even as Cesari Mark was only alive because he was so nonthreatening to the dragons. I was alive by mistake. There was no competition here at all.
Around the table sat each of the heads of the houses, my brother, Adam, sat in my father’s spot. Kai had left of his own violation otherwise Adam wouldn’t be sitting at the table. My half brother stood up and glared at me, “What is the meaning of this brother?”
I laughed. “Now you claim me.”
Adam scowled. “What are you doing here, Nox?”
“Didn’t you hear? I yelled pretty loudly.” I quipped back at my eldest brother. One so unlike my little brothers that he could almost be a stranger. I’d known Rider and Laker for five or so years, and my brother for all my life, but I knew him less than I knew them. I didn’t even know his favorite dish.
Adam drew a gun and raised it at me. “Nox, I won’t hesitate.”
“If you interfere with the challenge issued you forfeit your life.” Mark Green said.
I shook my head. “No, let my big brother shoot me. I dare you.” I said to Adam. Alex snorted behind me and I knew Ant was smirking.
Adam stared at me the gun pointed at my chest. He started to lower it but Matthias Haskins grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger in the span of a second. Apparently no one paid any attention to the show down stairs. The bullet topped over the middle of the table. This time Ant flung it wide with a wave of his hand. I wasn’t sure if it was my power or his own that he used. Or if it was all one and the same.
“Anyone else want to try?” I asked.
“Where do you want to do this Mr. Green?” I said politely when no one moved. “Any special rules you want?” I said as I advanced around the table to where Matthias was. His son Matthew was a good man, at least so I thought. I wondered what had turned him. Why he was working for the blond – for Poet. I pulled in my mental shields and I heard Alex growl at me. It’s for the best I thought at him through our bond. I didn’t want the Venatori to know they had been played by something bigger than them. They might take it out on my people.
Alex sent me a mental image and laughed, _you can’t keep me out anymore._
I smiled inside. _Good. Don’t let it go to your head. Either of them._
I had to fight the images from my head of my own making. I needed alone time with Alex. Just me and him. _Always._
There was very little movement on the councils part as I walked around the table. The smirk on the old Cesari’s face never slipped he didn’t even really look at me. “You come with an army. Truly tells us where your loyalties lie.” He laughed.
“My loyalties lie with the people of New York, human, dragon, therian, vampire, alien, I don’t give a fuck. But they don’t deserve to be hunted down and killed because you didn’t bother to find out why they did wrong. The humans just don’t execute, and if a cop kills someone it’s put under investigation. Murder is murder no matter how you look at it.”
“So noble from a boy who can’t back it up.” He said and pulled out a file. “You’ve killed as many as most of us.”
I frowned, “I killed in self defense and only self defense.”
“So the bombmaker was attacking you.”
I nodded, “He was. He was about to breathe fire on me and my friends. I wasn’t going to let someone die like that – especially myself.”
“And what about The Dragon?” He snickered.
“You pull out the only two recent ones? What about Walker who I saved, or Trix who I caught and now use to help me do what I do best – help people.”
Alex was beside me, “Don’t talk to them, Nox, they aren’t going to listen. They are waiting for something.” He added the last in a whisper, but the Venatori still heard it.
“We are waiting for something.” Mark Green said as a pile of armed Venatori and a rune stone came into the room behind us. The guards lined the wall, and the council left – except their illustrious leader. Adam pushed past me roughly, with a whisper, “I’m sorry it came to this.” My brother didn’t hate me, no matter his pretense, but a show of hatred and threat was all he had. He wasn’t my father, siding with me could mean his death. He wasn’t my greatest fan – never had been but he at least didn’t really want me dead. I took comfort in that.
Dorian stepped into the room, “Sir, you….” He stood staring at me holding the rune stone close to his chest. I felt a sort of pull towards the inanimate object he cradled like a baby. It was like the one he had given me before.
Mark Green smirked, “I did. You will witness the death of the student you raised to be like this.” He waved his hands at me like I was some sort of abomination.
Dorian nodded. He took the stone to Mark Green in official capacity. “This is the stone handed down from leader to leader. It bears the mark of the Venatori, and it keeps the shroud around, only the true leader can use it.”
I recognized the runes etched into the rock. It was just that until someone gave the rock power. Alex smirked. “So only your leader can make it work?”
Mark Green took the stone, and it glowed red and yellow. “And so the winner of the challenge shall be the next. So have the ancient laws decreed – the most powerful of us shall make the stone glow in all it’s colors and he shall lead us into the light.”
Dorian looked at me but never brought the stone near as was the custom. It looked like he was declaring Mark Green winner, but he knew better and so did I. He knew it had nothing to do with being Cesari or leader of the Venatori. He’d seen the runes too, the one he’d given me.
The rune was placed on the table and Dorian with ease shoved it to the side. “And so shall the challenge begin. A fight to the death.”
“One question.” I said.
Dorian looked to me with a smile, “Anything goes?”
Mark Green laughed, “Anything goes. What do you think to the death means?”
“It means that you will die.” I said. Mark’s face went fiery red and he charged me physically. I laughed as I wrapped the leader of the Venatori in air. Only his head could move freely and he thrashed in the confines of the tomb he was about to die in.
I walked over to the rune stone and picked it up. It glowed like the book a fiery hot red but it also came alive with other blinding colors, gold, blue, green, orange so bright it felt almost as hot as fire itself.
I smiled at Mark as I brought the bright stone to the former leader of the Venatori. “What was it that Dorian just said? ‘Only the true leader can use it’ Wasn’t there a little more too, ‘the most powerful of us shall make the stone glow in all it’s colors’?” I held the stone up for Mark to see better. “Seem that your puney red and yellow are nothing.”
“How…how are you doing that.” Mark Green stammered.
“It is no longer any of your concern.” I pulled Salvation from my holster at the small of my back and I drew it along the air below Mark’s chin. Salvation was sharp, meticulous maintained even though I never used the it. It cut deep and it cut fast. Blood splattered everywhere as the man in front of my tried to talk, but his life force was gone.
There was no movement. There were no cheers. The sound of silence was deafening. Dorian was the first too move, “And so shall it be from this day to your last day.” He bent the knee.