The next Monday came and everything felt strange. The Venatori were argueing over who was going to rule them in my stead. Someone thought that if they put the right person in place they could ride me out of the picture. The civilian Venatori they chose had not been difficult at all for them too choose, they didn’t realize that they held more sway than the leader did. The poor no body nothing they choose from Mark Green’s arsenal of young Venatori was a shy thing. He hadn’t offered his name at the council meeting. But then Isabelle was ranting about the wiccan living conditions.
Ged had showed up too with plans. I couldn’t read half of it, but the shape and the explanation came out in a manner in which both Alex and I nodded too. Ant and Ryan were there too but they just stared at the monstrosity he’d brought as a model. He’d had to rebuild it on the island in the kitchen. And when he left it had remained. It was going to be a huge. But it was going to be safe. Safe for anyone to life in – human included.
Dorian had been good with his word, next Wednesday I had a meeting with the city mayor. He’d become much more a secretatry in these few days than my mentor. So I had sent Jin to assist him. She could do all that he needed. Jin said she was much happier working for someone who wasn’t exactly needy. I didn’t take offense, I was needy.
Between the four of us, we could manage my schedule. I’d never needed a personal assistant before.
But it was Monday – the first day of school for all the kids. We had Sage fake Drake’s paperwork and sent him along to school with Cass and Hunter. He was smaller than them but he was a Dragon, and far smarter than anyone gave the three year old credit for. Dragon’s minds grew faster than their bodies. He’d be human toddler for several more years but his mind was going to push past Cass and Hunter. We’d have to figure out what to do with them, but for now they all promised to not show themselves to their human bretheren.
Alex had found a charter school for students with special needs. And while the children weren’t mentally disturbed or whatever, because of Dorian we were able to get them into the school on short notice. It of course took a sizeable donation on top of the tuition but Alex had said it was worth it if the kids could be a little more free with themselves. Different here wasn’t going to stand out as bad. Thing was though, some of those special needs kids were there because they had behavior problems, so we’d have to watch out and curb any of those picked up tendancies. Alex was worried for Quinn, she was alone amongst the children. The kids either being five or sixteen. She was only ten. That really was until Isabelle brought her little sister over. Carina was shy and quiet and very talented little witch who was struggling with school. She was eleven, but with a little convincing they put the two of the girls together.
Carina was in heaven, and Isabelle’s mother was more than happy we had more of her kin in our ranks. She was not happy that Isaelle wasn’t with me, but she resigned herself to never having grand children because Izzy and Ant were hot and heavy. We’d have to figure something out there for them.
The girl in the stairwell hadn’t shown up again, but I’d seen her in my dreams. Not like Alex dreams or those prophectic ones Hunter has. Normal dreams I guess, but they didn’t feel normal. She was there, and I wondered who she was. What was her name? I felt a kinship to her but until that day I’d never seen her before. I’d told Alex and he joked that I was fantasizing about girls, but it wasn’t that. And it left me feeling strangely when I woke from those dreams.
Eddie never shut up. Everyone complained about him, but when it came down to it, Eddie fit right in. He loved to curl up in your lap so you could pet him. It was the only time the telepathic cat was quiet.
So this was our new life. It was strange and comforting all at the same time. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go or how long I could keep doing it. But it was our life – mine and Alex’s. And I fucking loved the man.
Alex laughed, “You didn’t even need us.”
“I did.” I said with the stone still in my hand and blood all over the front of me for the second time that day. As I came near Alex’s eyes grew wider.
“It’s brighter.” He said.
I lifted the stone and he was right, the closer I got the Ant and Alex the brighter it got. I laughed, “See, I needed you.”
Alex took the stone from my hand and the power didn’t dim. Ant took it from him and handed it back to Dorian. “As the witness you will tell your people?”
Dorian stood up and took the rock from Ant and the glow ceased completely. He nodded, “Nox Setanta is the new leader. ” He smiled at me, “Is that them all now?” he joked.
Alex smirked, “The only ones he doesn’t rule is the humans. i’m sure he’ll get them next.”
Dorian nodded, “We can arrange for city officials to be brought in if you’d like.”
I looked at my former mentor and current friend and family member, “That would be excellent, I actually need to talk to them about some new construction anyway. Dorian.” I said and he looked at me, “You need to choose a new leader to rule your everyday lives with whom I will use like Adrian and Dom. And I need a common Venatori for that council too. Someone who is one of the people who isn’t a ruling family and who will only have the Venatori’s best interest at heart.”
Dorian nodded, “It will be as you say. It might take a little while. Anything else?”
Alex added, “No more killing without a trial. Bring them to the Night Life building, we’ll handle it from there.”
I looked at Alex proudly. Dorian was staring wide at him. “What, we have prisoners now, we’ll keep on doing it until there is a trial. They are well cared for.”
Dorian looked at me and I nodded, “As you wish.”
The four of us left the council room, and the contingent of armed guards followed us out. “Dorian until you choose a leader you are in charge.”
But none of the people in the hall way balked. I was clearly the winner. I was clearly their lader. “Bury Mark Green properly.” I said before we entered the elevator. There was no more bowing and scraping as the three of us exited on the main floor of the lobby. “When we get home remind me to tell Jin to tell them to open it back up down here.”
Ant nodded, “I’ve informerd her, she’s making the call.”
“Did you just communicate telepathically with my assistant?”
Ant laughed, “It seems that Alex has strengthened my power to do so yes. And she is sworn to me as are many others.”
“Your kiss is growing.”
Ant grinned, “My kiss is your kiss. Alec’s fealty gave me a power boost and then when we finished the triumvirate bond it crecendoed into power I never thought I’d have. ”
“We all need to figure out what this means. First thing we need to do is see what we can do, then we need to work on it together. We can’t be three individuals in this. The Venatori won’t be easy, but you two are part of this now. I’m sorry.”
Alex wrapped his arm around my shoulder and tugged me close. “Let’s not worry about that today. There will be no more attempts on your life today. Next week might be another story, but today there will be no more. I want to go home, get you cleaned up and then maybe we can watch that movie you fell asleep through – again.”
The doors pushed open and revealed a large room with a oval table in the middle. The head of the table was an orante chair, and an balding man with grey hair and a pattern so weak in the elements I almost laughed. He was 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.
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.”
Adam drew a gun and raised it at me. “Nox, I won’t hesitate.”
“If you interfere wih the challege issued you forefeit 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 pointd at me. He started to lower it but Matthias 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 polietly when no one moved. “Any special rules you want?”
There was very little movement on the councils part. The smirk on the old Cesari’s face never slipped he didn’t even really look at me. “You come with a vampire and a human. 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 moatter 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 Emerson was attacking you.”
I nodded, “He was. He was about to breathe fire on me or 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.
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 noddd. He took the stone from the man carrying it. “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?”
Dorian nodded and brought the rock to Mark Green 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 brough the stone near. He purposefully kept a wide berdth from me. He knew iit had nothing to do with being Cesari. 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 th 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 wha it that Dorian just said? ‘Only the true leader can use it’ Wasn’t there a little more too, ‘the most powerfu 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 studdered.
“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, meticuolous maintained even though I never used the knife. It cut deep and it cut fast and blood splattered everywhere as the man in front of my tried to talk, but his life force was gone.
There was no movement. There was 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.
The door to the elevator opened and a man with blue eyes and tanned skin looked out pointing a gun. He looked sad and reserved and my heart sank. I reached forward and took the gun from Emilio Vega’s hand. He didn’t resist. “I won’t hurt you.”
He frowned. “They know that.” His body reacted and his hand was on my wrist and he wrestled my arm behind my back at an awkward angle and the pain was there but it was mostly so the others didn’t hurt him because I was incapacitated. “You two stay here.” He said.
“We won’t.” Alex argued. “You know that.”
“Stay here or he’ll die.” Emilio pulled a blade from his sleeve and pressed it to my stomach point pressing into my skin and aimed at my kidney and heart.
“Where are you taking him?” Ant asked through barred teeth.
Emilio sighed, “To the council. I can’t kill him, but they can.”
“Why are you doing this?” Alex plead.
I laughed. “He’s a good little boy – always has been.”
Emilio shook his head, “Your father was once a good little boy too. Until he met you. You destroy everything, Nox. My son, your father, you will destroy the Venatori if you win this.”
“I’m not going to destroy it.” I said.
“Taking the kill orders from the hunt will destroy us.”
“Then maybe you need to be destroyed. Like the Aeternus before you. So stuck in your ways you can’t see there are better ways.” I said. “It’s why they died. It’s why you’ll die. Why don’t you just kill me now? No one will stop you.”
The knife dug in father and Alex frowned, “Don’t.”
He was talking more to me than to Emilio. “I won’t watch you die.”
I smiled. “So turn around Alex.”
His frown grew deep and he turned around. I felt him in my head. You better know what you are doing.
Trust me I thought over and over again inside my head. Ant growled and lunged at us. Emilio pressed the knife up into my body, lancing my kidney and I felt it peirce my heart. There was so much pain, and yet even as I collapsed to the ground, Alex and Ant were pulling me inside the elevator and Alex tossed the evil Venatory violently out the door with his hands.
He looked at the man stumbling backwards. “I didn’t know I could do that.” He said as he pulled the knife from my gut. “You have until we get to the top to heal up.”
I nodded and Alex helped me stand up. “He’s radioing to the top about your death and us two accompanying your body.”
“Good. They won’t expect me alive.”
“Are you okay?”
I lifted my blood soaked t-shirt and showed Alex there was nothing there. “It only hurts a little.”
“I think w are even know.” Alex said. “I’m not sure I’m going to get over seeing you fall like that.”
I was too preoccupied with healing myself that I didn’t notice our upwards movement until just before the doors opened. There were no guns waiting, just a mass of Venatori who thought to subdue a vampire and a telepath with ease. I flung a mass of air in front of me and they all flew backwards. Ant and Alex followed me out of the elevator. I yelled “Mark Green. Leader of the Venatori. The Imperordo. I challenge you.”
I stopped yelling knowing they could all hear me perfectly fine. “You will stop sending assassins after me. You will stop killing the innocent because you feel they are dangerous. Yield now, or die.”
Alex and Ant followed and as we passed everyone else followed. Alex asked, “Why did they stop?”
Ant chuckled to himself, “Such a new born babe at times.”
Alex growled but Ant kept talking, “Once a challenge issued, no one can interfer. That means us or them or anyone else. ”
“So we could all walk away?”
“It doesn’t work like that.” Ant said. “Dishonorable and they’d probably shoot us before we got out of the elevator.”
“But no one can interfer.”
Ant laughed, “It doesn’t work that way. As much as we’d like it to. A fight to the death is the only way this ends.”
Alex growled. I knew he didn’t like that thought. The fact that i was putting myself in danger wilingly. But it was the only way they were going to stop sending assassins after me. I didn’t want my kids to live in fear. I didn’t want to live in fear and I really didn’t want to lose Alex in all of it. He was Chevalier, but even immortal Chevalier can die.
I kept walking down the hall to the Council chamber. I’d never been inside before. The large double doors looked heavy and I pushed them opened. This could go horribly worng or it could go horribly right – either way it was going to happen.
Outside on the streets of New York City humans didn’t know about the war goiong on between supernatural races. They didn’t know about vamires and their bloodlined. They didn’t know about the varios therian packs around the world much less the types of therians there were – bears, lions, wolves and almost every predator known to man. Maybe even some not known. They didn’t know that dragons lived among them – as part of them. They didn’t know about the magic around them – the most fantastical world and they were blinded to it.
As we walked I thought about how it would be to not see this world. I looked to Alex who had barely touched on the surface when he’d come here at first, and now, he was one of us. Part of the bigger whole. I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be to join this world. But then again I can’t imagine not living in it my whole life either. I wondered how life would be different if I hadn’t become Cesari, if I didn’t spark out of fear and violence and I joined this world like a normal hunter’s child.
I would have had my brothers my whole life. I might have met Alex sooner. But there really was no point in thinking about what coulda been. I wouldn’t be here right now, in this moment if everything hadn’t happened to me in the past. And I was happy. Alex was by my side and we had a loving family. It might not be the type of family most American live for, or even any supernatural family but I was happy with mine. It had taken years to find it and make it mine. But it was now – mine. And I wasn’t going to let it go.
We didn’t have to walk far. The world outside completely oblivious to what was going on. The doors to the AU building were locked but that was a trivial thing. The AU building never closed so this was a precedence and it gave us a little hope that maybe there would be no collateral damage.
A man stood standing in front of Atlas and I sort of recognized the back of his head. I’d worked with him before. He’d been on my side before. “Lock the door.” I said to no one in particular.
“I just wanted to let you know, Nox. This isn’t personal.”
I laughed. “Killing me? Isn’t personal?”
Walker turned to look at me and saw the other two hovering close by but had let me walk towards the blonde. “Brought witnesses?”
“Something like that.” I said.
“You won’t make it to the council chamber.”
“I will.” I said.
“You have to go throuh me.” He said and drew a gun that pointed at my head. I stopped where I stood and frowned.
I really didn’t want to hurt Walker, “I don’t want to hurt you. But I will if you fire that gun at me.”
Like the word triggered his finger pull, the gun went off and I heared Alex gasp, but the bullet didn’t get far, it hung in mid air between the two of us. Stuck in a pillar of solid air. I walked up to the bullet and it fell into my hand as the air around it disolved into the gas that it was. I sighed, “Walker, didn’t you learn anything working with me?”
He looked at me with a sort of fear and then he turned his gun and fired at Alex. He knew my weakness. Ant pushed Alex out of the way and took the bullet in his left shoulder. He hissed and bared his fangs. The blood dripped from the wound and you could see the bullet working its way out if you cared to look.
Alex surprised me as I felt his mental blast. His emotions powered through the Venatori’s shield and Walker flew backwards.
I looked back at Alex with a smile his eyes were wide he hadn’t meant to do that. We all had a little bit of work to do. Raw power was nothing if you couldn’t reliably use it. Even I needed help.
Walker had tumbled over the barrier that separated Atlas from the rest of the lobby. He leaned against the base of the man and stared at us in fear. He lowered his gun again and fired at Alex. He was going to take what I most loved. And that was not going to happen.
The bullet stopped and I sent the projectile back at Walker. It didn’t miss as it sped through his shoulder with a howl to stick inside the statue behind him. My power was all around, it tickled my skin but it seemed to suffocate Walker as I walked slowly towards him. He wrapped his hand around his throat, the fear in his eyes was apparent and they only grew wider as I stepped closer.
“I don’t want to hurt you but if you try to kill Alex again, I will snap your neck like it was a twig.”
He raised the gun and aimed. He didn’t have time to pull the trigger, his head snapped at an awkward angle with a mere thought. Walker slumped to the ground and I looked up at the glass elevator several feet away. We could take the stairs but it would be a long fight up. And it could be a long ride up the elevator if every floor had another threat.
I pulled out my phone and called Sage. He picked up with a tired voice, “Yeah.”
“You still have access to the AU building?”
“Yeah.” He said.
“I need the Wicked Truth to make all the elevators an express from the bottom to the top only. No getting on or off until top or bottom.”
“Okay. That’s not a problem.” Sage sounded like he was getting out of bed and moved to his computer, which was in his basement which was unusual, but I didn’t ask then. I’d have to check on my best friend when this was done, “Alright, Nox. It’s done. I don’t know what you are doing but be safe.”
“I will do my best.” I said then hung up. Ant and Alex were already waiting by the elevator doors. When I joined them Ant pressed the button and stood in front of us – always the body guard.
I was finishing my lunch. Alex was watching me, “You can eat knowing you are going to fight later?”
“I’m hungry. And since I’m now tied to a plethora of different magics I need to eat. One of the voices in my head keeps telling to eat and I’m pretty sure I should listen.”
“He tallks too much.”Alex laughed, “Eddie reminds me of someone.”
“Ha ha.” I smirked. But I kept eating. Food was important.
Ryan came back with Ant and the vampire didn’t look very happy. “Nox, you sure you want to do this?”
I shook my head. “Not really. But I don’t know any other way.”
“Alex, are you sure you want to go?” Ant asked.
Alex shrugged, “No, but Hunter says I have to go.”
“Stay with me, we will work better together. Better than the last time.”
I smiled, “We all need to stay together. Eddie says our power is stronger together and there is more control. And Hunter says we need to go together.”
“When do you want to go?” Ant asked.
“The sooner the better.” Alex said. “I’d really like to on with my happily ever after.”
Ryan laughed. “Sounds like a wonderful plan.” The smile faded and ryan added, “I will stay here with the rest of your family. Alec, and Adrian, and the Last Phoenix will send more bodies. No one will get to your family as long as we stand.”
I nodded, “Alex you good? Do you want need something to feel safer?”
He took my hand. “I’m good. I got all I need. A gun is just going to be wrong. And we aren’t expecting to have to fight are we until the end?”
I shrugged. “Dunno but that is the plan. The Venatori have clairvoyants so it’s possible they’ll see us coming.”
“I’m really going to be useless.” Alex said.
“You aren’t useless.” Both Ant and I said at the same time, he continued, “I’m better with my Chevalier around and it’s not a power suckng drain thing. I’d take Ryan too if it would help, but I think taking us is going to be pushing the boundaries as it is. We watch his back so no one stabs it. And you my friend are a strong telepath and can understand the danger long befoe they present themselves. Even in the land of the Ventori they aren’t all as good as Nox is.”
“Just because you can’t fight the big bads,” I grinned at Alex, “Doesn’t make you useless. We are stronger together. And that isn’t about power sucking either as Ant put it. It just isn’t. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Alex smirked, “That’s okay pretty boy I understand. Well I don’t but I understand what you are saying.”
All the kids were back in the media room watching cartoons. It was one of the few joys they had left even as the boys grew up they still liked their cartoons so they never minded watching with the little ones. I gave each of them a hug and so did Alex. Rider gave us knowing looks and smiled but said nothing. The kids just thought we were going off on some other little mission like before – no danger involved. I had afeeling they all knew. But they choose to ignore it and be happy knowing that I couldn’t die. Which was sad in and of itself, I’d watch them all grow old and die and be alone again. Well not alone, I’d always have Alex thanks to Ant. I was eternally grateful for my friend.
Good-byes were said. Though I wasn’t sure if they understood this could go horribly wrong. Mark Green was the most powerful man in New York City. It was why he was in charge of things. He had connections around the city but he also was Cesari. It could go horribly wrong if I under estimated my opponent.
So I didn’t under estimate Mark Green. I took all the tools of my trade. Before we left I stopped in our room. Alex followed me with a smirk, “This is no time for a nap or a quicky.”
I girneed at him. “I’m getting Salvation and Damnation.”
Alex looked at me with a curious look. I held up a survival knife, the handle wrapped tightly with paracord and inside was more things needed for surviving in the middle of no where. Or in the city if you went into the ghetto places too often. “This is Salvation.”
The gun I held up to show Alex was nothing special just your run of the mill Beretta that Dorian had taught me how to use. “And this is Damnation. Together they are what it means to be Venatori. Killing dams us but surviving will save us.”
Ant was waiting for us outside and the three of us left, Darwynn still sat on the stool were we left him, he called out, “I’ll help keep them safe.” It was good to know my family would be protected. I didn’t need Darwynn, but I wasn’t going to tell him no. My family was my life and if he wanted to put his life on the line for theirs I was okay with that. His choice.
The Night Life was busier than usual. Crowds of people in the lobby – almost too much going on. Alex grumbled, “The AU mall is closed.”
“They know I’m coming.” I said.
“That’s not a good sign.” Alex said. “So no surprise element. What else do we have here.”
I shrugged, “We go to the top, I challenge the leader and this ends.”
“Sound so simple.” Ant said dryly.
And just like that we were off to see the man at the top.