|What Lies beneath
Author: lunerwerewolf PM
Lord Conrart Victor Weller Has been Keeping one hell of a secret from everyone, How will his friends, family, and every one else react once it's reveled.Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Drama - Conrad W. & Yozak G. - Chapters: 12 - Words: 44,654 - Reviews: 53 - Favs: 20 - Follows: 37 - Updated: 04-03-12 - Published: 09-21-09 - id: 5392023
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Yuri smiled when he caught sight of 5 year old El running through the palace grounds with Conrad. Wolfram, Conrad and he had returned from Caloria only two days ago, and while Conrad was still a little shaky, it was good to see the man happily running around with young El, who had just recently been given his very first practice blade. El didn't look much older than three, and with brown hair and eyes he could easily have passed as Conrad's son rather than the son of Gwendal's cousin.
The demon king smiled as he chatted happily with brown haired Nicola and Hube, El's mother and father. Yuri couldn't help agreeing with the older man when he wondered aloud why Conrad hadn't just settled down and fathered a litter of his own children yet. Conrad loved children – and was far more affectionate and patient with them than most men considered 'manly'. Actually in some ways the young soldier was - as Yuri himself could attest to – down right mothering. He was calm, gentle, loyal, and loving, but Conrad could easily turn into a mother bear when something put one of his charges at risk.
Conrad carefully engaged the child with his own wooden sword, easily blocking the clumsy blows, before going to his knees beside the small boy, correcting his grip and showing him a new technique. He drilled the boy for a moment or two until the small child had the move down, meanwhile praising him the entire time.
"Conrad," Hube called, his voice laced with good humor. "Grow up and have kids of your own already and stop spoiling mine."
Conrad laughed and stashed the wooden blade in his belt beside his actual sword, and swung the small child up so that El was perched on his hip, with one small arm around his neck. Somehow he miraculously avoided being bashed in the temple by a hyper active toddler waving a wooden toy.
"And why would I ever want to do that when I get all of the benefits and none of the disciplinary pains? Being 'Uncle Conny' means I get to spoil them rotten, give them loads of sugar, and then hand them over to you." Conrad joked back.
Hube snorted, "Uncle Conny? I still like Tori better. Isn't that right El, Conrad's Uncle Tori?"
Conrad scowled while the little boy in his arms just blinked, clearly as baffled by the conversation as Yuri.
"Tori?" the young king questioned mildly.
The answer came in the form of Yozak who seemed to simply appear behind Conrad, making funny faces at the now giggling child in Conrad's arms. "Conrad's middle name is Victor," he said simply.
Conrad laughed and handed young El over to his father before turning his attention to Nicola. "Do you have any ideas about what you're going to name your second son?" he asked politely.
Nicola sighed. "Not you too," she said with a groan. "Why is everyone so sure that it's going to be another son? I've been telling Hube for months now that he's going to have a daughter; I just know it." She smiled and left to go talk with Gisela – leaving the boys to do 'whatever boys do.'
Yuri opened his mouth to say something only to be cut off when Yozak and Conrad rounded on Hube. "You haven't told her?" Conrad demanded, at the same time as Yozak asked, "How could you not tell her about that damned law?"
"How could I? It would break her heart!"
Conrad raked a hand through his slightly shaggy hair. "And finding out after the child is born will kill her!"
"At least if she knows you can make plans and do something, not just hope and leave it to fate." Yozak added sharply.
Hube snorted. "I'd like to see either of you have this conversation with your wives about your children, but you don't have any!" Hube snapped back, before stalking off with El still in his arms.
Conrad pinched the bridge of his nose and half collapsed against Yozak, "For their sakes, I hope that baby's a boy."
"So do I," Yozak replied quietly. "I couldn't imagine how horrible it would be to have a female half-demon child."
Conrad sighed, and stood tall again. "If you'll excuse me, I need to go see Anissina." He muttered before turning and walking away.
Yuri rounded on the only person still there – Yozak. "What the hell was that all about?"
For a moment Yozak just looked at him and then he looked away, his blue eyes clouded with sorrow. "By tradition and under the mandate of a very, very old law, female half demons are put to death shortly after they draw their first breath."
"WHAT????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Yuri yelled completely horrified.
Yozak sighed and scratched the back of his neck. "Lady Cheri tried to get the law overturned on several occasions, but the council vetoed her every time – since she married a human and gave birth to a Half-breed, she's not fit to change the law since she's too close to it."
Yuri paced back and forth, furious with that bit of information. He always wondered why he'd never seen or heard of a female half-demon, but honestly he never expected the reason was because there weren't any. He thought that maybe they were incredibly rare thanks to some trick of genetics.
But this –
This was just horrible.
Poor Nicola . . . poor Cecilia for that matter- she must have been terrified before Conrad was born.
He had to fix this.
He would fix this!
He was the king for crying out loud!
What good was he to his people if he couldn't put an end to the injustice of an archaic law?
The Great One had carefully crafted his soul – taking generations to do it – to rid their world of the evil contained by the Four Demon Boxes.
Well, this was another evil that he would rectify.
And he would do it before Nicola gave birth!!!!
"Then that law WILL be CHANGED!!!" he told Yozak firmly before stalking off in search of Günter and Gwendal.
He found them in Gwendal's office making plans for the spring equinox.
"Günter! Gwendal! You are my chief advisors, so advise me. How do I change an antiquated law?"
Both men jumped, startled by his tone and glanced at each other. Honestly Yuri wasn't surprised; he'd never taken that tone with anyone before. It was a measure of just how outraged and disgusted he was with the injustice of this law and the failure of his advisors to bring it to his attention sooner. His displeasure clearly showed in his voice.
"Which law does his majesty wish to change?" Günter asked carefully.
Conrad sighed as he knocked on the door to Anissina's lab. He'd been doing this for more than a century and it still hadn't gotten any easier. It was still damned painful actually, but he needed the pills she gave him, just like he needed the bright orange sludge he had to drink once a month despite the side-effects it forced him to endure. He honestly didn't know which was worse—the muted pain he was in immediately after drinking it, coupled with the nausea and fatigue, or the agony of not taking it promptly every month.
He didn't even want to think about how bad the drug withdrawal symptoms would be if he ever actually stopped taking it. The pills were just as bad in some ways; when he missed a dose he got VERY emotional.
It was beyond aggravating.
Anissina smiled at him as he entered her office, and looked him up and down, in a manner that made him feel like an interesting specimen under glass. "You're looking better. Have the – ah – residual effects of being late for a dose worn off yet?"
Conrad blushed at the reminder of the horrible week he'd spent (as Jose had once put it) 'coming down' off of the drugs he'd been taking for an extremely long time. "Most of them stopped as soon as I drank that vile two days ago. The rest I can live with until they pass, and it's not like anyone's noticed the symptoms. I've gotten rather good at hiding them."
Anissina nodded and reached into one of her drawers and pulled out a non-descript cloth bag that Conrad knew from experience held a two months supply of the little green pills he took twice a day. The drawstring was pulled shut, so she tossed it lightly to him and he caught it, raising his eyebrow at the slight difference in the weight from what he was accustomed to.
The pills actually felt bigger.
"I've upped the dose," Anissina told him calmly. "You're gaining a bit of a tolerance to them, so hopefully that will do something for you."
He inclined his head and muttered his thanks before reminding her that if she ever needed anything from him all she had to do was ask. With a snort, she dismissed him with a wave of her hand and he left the room.
Knowing he was safe from prying eyes since no one ever came down this way for fear of being Anissina's next lab rat, he opened the bag, liberated two pills, and popped them into his mouth, swallowing them before tucking the little bag into his breast pocket.
With a sigh, he headed towards his rooms. Unfortunately, he was still a bit shaky from not taking the sludge on time, so he decided to lie down for a bit.
He was blissfully unaware of the green eyes following his every move.
Wolfram couldn't believe what he'd just seen!
How – How could Conrad do something so stupid?
What was he thinking? And what in the hell was he taking? It couldn't be medication; he'd have gotten that from Gisela and not Anissina. That and from what he'd overheard of their conversation – well, it definitely didn't sound good.
He should go straight to Gwendal and Gisela with this information. Conrad had to be relieved of duty and they had to find some way of helping him. However, this could ruin his reputation. Wolfram groaned—he wasn't quite sure how to handle this.
By the Great One, of all of the people he knew Conrad was the last one he'd expected to be stupid enough to do something like this.
He wondered exactly what his brother was taking. Judging by the symptoms it couldn't be opium, and Conrad had no reason to be taking steroids.
Could it be one of those new hallucination-causing drugs that had recently been seeping into the country through Big Shimaron?
Ugh! He wasn't familiar enough with those things to gauge Conrad's behavior to look for possible symptoms! Then he stopped and thought for a moment—Anissina had asked him if he was feeling any better after missing a dose. Their trip to Caloria had lasted a week longer than expected due to bad weather; in that time Conrad had become distinctly crabby. He even lost his temper to the point of shouting, and he kicked over a bucket of mop water while having a cursing fit. Then he dissolved into tears and had doubled over as if in pain on several occasions.
Yuri had actually confined the man to their quarters below deck after Conrad had joined Wolfram in losing his lunch to the sea three separate times. They all thought he was ill – and thus irritable.
Now he wasn't so sure.
Wolfram groaned, torn between doing his duty as a member of the king's military – and his duty as a brother. As an officer, his duty was to report this so that they could pull Conrad off duty and away from anything he could potentially screw up. However, as a brother his duty was to Conrad.
Running a hand through his hair – in a manner oddly reminiscent of the brother he was currently contemplating, he resolved to confront Conrad first – and if that didn't work, he would take the matter to Gwendal and then to Gisela.
Conrad shifted slightly, trying vainly to make the world around him settle. This new dosage was wreaking almost as much havoc on his body as they had back when he'd first started taking the things. He was cold—
But his blood felt like it was on fire!
He could feel something . . .
Writhing beneath the surface of his skin
Like a caged lion just waiting to get out
Something more aggressive then his normal self lurked just beneath the surface of his soul
He wanted to scream – but he held his piece.
He wanted to break something, just to hear it smash, but he refused to give in to the urge.
So he was less than happy when Wolfram barged into his rooms without knocking.
"I know mother taught you how to knock!" he snapped, glaring at his little brother over the pillow he was currently crushing.
Wolfram glared right back. "We need to talk."
"I have nothing to say to you until you take yourself outside and practice the manners I know you were taught. You are a prince of this realm, not a peasant who grew up among the riff raff. No go out and ask permission to enter like a proper gentleman!" Conrad was definitely not in the mood to deal with his little brother right now. He was annoyed and his head hurt.
Wolfram shut the door alright – but he didn't leave first. "I know you're taking drugs!" the blonde said sharply.
"I BEG YOUR PARDON?!!!!!!" Conrad snapped sitting bolt up in bed, his languor vanishing. Had Wolfram just accused him of what he thought he did? Honestly either Wolfram was on something himself or he needed to have his ears checked because he'd done nothing to indicate that he was taking anything!
Wolfram crossed his arms. "Don't bother trying to hide it, Conrad! I KNOW you're taking something! What is it?!"
Oh, this wasn't good!
"Nothing, now get out!" Conrad retorted sharply, rising to his feet to face his little brother.
"You can either tell me, or I'm going to Gwendal and Gisela!" Wolfram yelled, refusing to budge even an inch.
Conrad sputtered… Gwendal? He was going to tell Gwendal? Oh by the Great One, Gwendal would kill him for being so foolish! Gisela, oh Gods, Gisela—he didn't want to have to explain this to her. She'd find out the truth . . . the secret he'd kept hidden for so long. Oh Gods, if that happened he was a dead man.
He swallowed, forcing down his fears. "What are you going to tell them? That you think I'm on drugs? You do realize they'll laugh you right out of their offices, right?" he shot back, planting his hands on his hips in one of his more effeminate gestures.
Wolfram raised an eyebrow at his defensive stance. "I saw you taking those green pills outside of Anissina's lab, so you'd better start talking or I WILL go to Gwendal and Gisela." He paused before adding forcefully "And then I'll go to Yuri – and you know how he feels about drugs!"
Conrad jerked as if he'd just been struck. He was furious, and having trouble controlling his temper. Gods, how much had Anissina upped the dose? He wanted to throttle Wolfram – and he was only just able to control himself.
He wanted to tell Wolfram – the truth was the best option, but he also wanted to live. Wolfram also had an explosive temper that made telling him any form of a secret dicey. He still remembered how Yuri – and actually everyone barring Yozak had discovered his proclivities.
Wolfram had been angry and it had 'just come out' in the middle of the palace courtyard. He wanted to tell his brother the truth – but he valued his life more.
Wolfram was still ranting at him as his fury suddenly took over. He snatched something off the bed stand and flung it at his baby brother. He couldn't stop himself – by the Great One he had tried, but it was like he was merely watching someone else.
Wolfram neatly ducked under the – thankfully unlit - candle with ease and went right back to his lecture. Fearing his own temper, Conrad stormed out of the room and slammed the door sharply behind him. He stalked down the hall; a veritable thunderstorm given Demonic form! He was nearly at the end of the hall when he then realized something. Turning sharply on his heel, he marched back down the hall and flung open the door to find Wolfram exactly where he'd left him.
"This is my room!" He snapped. "Get out!!!!"
Wolfram jumped about a foot and scurried out past him, yelling "This isn't over Conrart!" over his shoulder as he left.
Conrad swore as he slammed the door behind his retreating brother's back and stalked over to his wardrobe. Pulling out his civilian clothing, he dressed quickly in dark colors, specifically a deep blue with a purplish hue. Then he put on matching boots and slipping his hands into a set of matching gloves that covered only the backs of his hands. He grabbed a lightly colored overcoat and fled the palace as quickly as his horse could carry him.
He was going underground, to the Comb, the one place in this entire cursed world where he could just be himself. It was the one place in the entire kingdom where he was known by everyone, and they didn't care who or what he was – he was going to the place where the Shadows dwelled.