Ace in the Hole
Summary: [Sequel to Celtic Aurora's Dark Ripples in Blood] When an arcane necromancer offers his allegiance and powers to help him defeat the vampires in the grisly war, Lucian cannot refuse. With Kraven as an unpredictable factor in the game, he needs an ace in the hole to win. [LucianxSonja & other various parings]
Chapter XII: Pandemonium
"The Valley of Unrest" by Edgar Allen Poe
"The Night is Darkening Around Me" by Emily Brönte
Disclaimer: You know the routine. I say I don't own Underworld and you scroll down to read the chapter. Or just ignore this, whatever works for you.
"Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sunlight lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley's restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless-
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude."
-The Valley of Unrest, Edgar Allen Poe
The next time Selene sauntered into the Ordoghaz coven, she was feeling much more confident and empowered compared to when she left. Tanis's tomes had given her much information and with it, she could finally turn the tide of her debate with Kraven and give him exactly what Amelia needed. Finally, progress could be made here, in this coven. If Victor was around, he would have been utterly revolted by the lack of development and advancement that was transpiring in his coven–courtesy of Kraven.
As she made her way up the stairs, she briefly checked the old grandfather clock to her right and was rather relieved to see the time. The second meeting hadn't started yet; she was going to be arriving on time, and not a minute too soon. Her drive to Tanis went quicker than she anticipated, hence the reason Kahn was pleasantly surprise to see her enter the meeting room earlier than either one of them had expected.
"What has happened so far when I was gone?" she whispered to Kahn as she took a seat next to him.
"Amelia has just been gathering all of the important members to the meeting before it commences," he murmured back, "And Kraven has been tearing the coven apart, looking for you."
"Good thing I left when I did," Selene mused softly, rolling her eyes. She didn't think she had the patience to deal with Kraven and his excessive complaining and outbursts today, especially after what transpired in the first meeting.
"Is everyone here? I would like to begin right away." Amelia's cold, clear voice resonated among the entire chamber, silencing all private chatter. Out of the corner of her eye, Selene noticed Kraven slipping into his seat and giving her a dirty glower, evidently furious with her strange disappearance. He's going to try to corner me afterwards and demand to know about my whereabouts. That's when I will take my gun and tell him I'll shove it up his ass if he tries interrogating me again.
"Yes, Amelia, everyone is present," responded one of the members. Pleased, Amelia nodded and commenced the meeting.
"From our last meeting, I decided that before I awaken Victor, I would like to hear more of what some of you have to offer to me." She shot a look both at Selene and Kraven. "If you can support your ideas and theories with more evidence, then I just might consider your plans."
"Lady Amelia, I have something that could support my idea about a succubus using Michael for her own ends," Selene replied, slamming the tome she borrowed from Tanis (he had a copy anyway, or so he claimed) down on the council table. "My research will prove it."
Hopefully, she just doesn't ask where I found this book…
Amelia quirked one elegant, thin eyebrow at Selene, obviously not believing her claim but nonetheless motioned for the tome to be passed her way. Once the book was in her hands, Selene spoke up again, once again ignoring Kraven's murderous glare.
"Please to turn to page 332," she said calmly, her face betraying nothing, "I marked it for you so the page would be easier to find."
"How generous," Amelia murmured drily, flipping the pages around until she found the one was looking for: page 332. In front of her were two beautiful colored ink drawings of a stunning, curvaceous woman and a well-built, muscular half-naked man who had a smoldering look on his face. In black, curvy ink letters, the next chapter spelled out "Incubi and Succubi: Demons of Lust".
"Is there any particular passage you want me to read?" Amelia looked up to face the impressionable Selene, the Elder's dark eyes inscrutable and practically displeased. The female Death Dealer reckoned Amelia was getting rather impatient.
"Third paragraph," she answered swiftly, silently hoping her plan would work and Amelia would come to the same conclusion she did after reading the passage. Seconds ticked by but time seemed prolonged, as if the length of minutes became more and more elongated while Amelia continued to read the passage. Selene wondered if everything would have gone faster if she had simply read the paragraph out loud for her.
"How interesting," came Amelia's voice, returning Selene back to the present, "I am now starting to understand what you have in mind, Selene." She leaned back in her chair, pausing to stare at the book before lifting her caliginous eyes back up at Selene.
"Do you truly believe that the succubus you ran into is planning to create a coven of her own and this human is destined to be one of her followers?"
"It's possible, yes," she admitted, relieved that she could finally state her entire plan, "I believe we should send two teams on two very different reconnaissance missions. One to the lycans' lair in search of Markus and the other should track this succubus down and uncover what she's up to. What if she starts adding vampires to her collection?"
"I see where you're going with this," Amelia responded, leaning back in her chair, "And you may have a point with this. In light of this new information and the fact Markus is still missing, I decided to wait a little before awakening Victor as an emergency. Instead, like what you have just suggested, Selene, I plan to send out two teams to deal with these threats. One group will go on a reconnaissance mission to the alleged lycan lair Selene uncovered while the second group shall go after this succubus and hunt her down. If the second team finds the human she required, retrieve him and bring him back to the coven for questioning. I too would like to know why the lycans have in interest in him."
"Then allow me to lead the first team into the lycans' stronghold," Selene interjected quickly prior to Kraven could open his mouth and say anything, "I've been there before, I can navigate the group down there faster than most." Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Kraven's jaw clenched tightly, a wild, raging glint in his eyes. He looked like he was ready to explode. Triumph flared inside of her but she dared not parade her joy in front of everyone else, especially when Amelia had yet to make the decision.
"I second that," Kahn voiced out, lending his support, "I think it's best if Selene were to be the leader of the first team. She knows the layout better than we do." Selene smiled softly at his words and Khan returned with a short grin of his own. Maybe everything would go according to plan after all.
"Perhaps so," interjected Kraven, "but I am more concerned with how much emotional involvement Selene is in."
The short joy Selene experienced died instantly and a brief flash of blue sparked in her dark eyes. Damn you, Kraven! Why can't you keep your mouth shut for once?
"What do you mean?" queried Amelia, a puzzled yet troubled look on her face. Already Kraven had planted the seeds of doubt and inserted himself into the predicament.
"What I mean is that even though Selene is an extraordinary Death Dealer, I have noticed many times she allows her emotions to cloud her better judgment and occasionally, these very same emotions lead to obsession, which compels her to charge into situations without thinking things through all the way. For instance, she decided to investigate this human without letting anyone else know about her plans and look what happened: She was caught off guard by a succubus and the human escaped, captured by a potential foe. If Selene would have told me and some of her fellow Death Dealers about what she was up, we could have been there as backup for her and instead of botching up her plan, we would have helped her succeed and brought the human to us for questioning."
"But what does this have to do with lycan base?" Selene demanded, forgetting herself as she shot right out of her seat, fists clenched in utter fury.
As if he was pleased with her outburst, a slight smirk edged its way across Kraven's face. "Because, Selene, you carry your obsession to the lycans, even when there isn't a connection. I am concerned your need to find something, to prove something when what you seek isn't there could jeopardize the mission. Perhaps it's best for all of us if you sit this one out."
Selene never wanted to murder someone so badly in her entire life, and that counted for all the werewolves she had slaughtered in the past. But Kraven…he set up a whole new bar of being a pain in her ass.
"I need to be a part of this mission, whether in the first or second group. I have the best information regarding both the lycan den and the succubus–I fought her before." she told him coldly, slowly sitting back down as she controlled her breathing. She couldn't let Kraven get into her skin now and continue to ruffle her feathers even more, that was exactly what he was aiming for. He wanted provoke her and send her flying off the handle to prove to everyone that she was slipping and letting her feelings get the better of her. Well, I'll show them that isn't the case and all Kraven is spouting are empty words, putrid lies.
"And such information could be relayed to anyone here. Why, I am certain you could tell Kahn everything you know about both cases." Kraven countered, taking his goblet of blood and swirling it around in the palm of his hand.
Kahn shifted uncomfortably in his seat, as if he sensed the murderous aura surrounding Selene. Hence, he used this opportunity to cut in. "Yes, it is possible that could be done but I believe it would more beneficial to all of us if Selene were to lead one of the teams. Despite what Kraven says, I have complete confidence in her abilities."
Selene was able to breathe easier at Kahn's interference and mentally noted to herself to thank Kahn tremendously for his help after all of this was finished. Without his support, she wagered she would have had an even tougher time convincing Amelia of her idea. At least at these meetings, there was one friendly face she could count on having her back.
"All of this is very insightful," Amelia began, inserting herself back into the discussion to prevent any more verbal combat between Selene and Kraven, "but I have already made my decision."
The entire room became utterly still, silent and motionless save for Amelia, who was reclining in her chair in an almost lax, casual manner, subtly displaying her power. She wanted to have everyone's undivided attention prior to speaking again. Sometimes, Amelia reminded Selene of a cat.
Satisfied with the members' reaction, the female Elder resumed. "For the first team, the group that will investigate the lycan base will be led by Kraven—"
"What?" Selene hissed sharply, unable to stop herself. Why was Amelia thinking, sending Kraven, who barely displayed any admirable warrior qualities, on a reconnaissance mission?
"—and Selene will be leading the second band to find this succubus and her human pet," finished Amelia, ignoring Selene's little outburst. She then turned her gaze to the entire room, her steely eyes scrutinizing each and every vampire present. "That is my decision and I am not wavering from it. Is that understood?"
Even though Amelia wasn't staring precisely at her when she spoke, Selene had a sneaky feeling she was one of the people Amelia was directing her final comments to. The Elder probably suspected (and rightly so) for her to object to her choice of selecting Kraven as one of the group commanders and placing her on the second team instead of the first one, like she specifically requested. She dimly wondered if this was Amelia's way of pleasing everyone, because if she truly believed all of Kraven's lies, she wouldn't have been picked to lead a platoon at all.
Despite her fuming and frustration, Selene managed to form out of the words, "No, Lady Amelia," along with everyone else, their responses tantamount to a solemn, monotonous chorus.
"Good. I want to find Markus as soon as possible. Meeting adjourned."
It had only been several minutes later after Bristol's "water mirror" had started flashing a myriad of colors and the carefree witch vanished into the kitchen to See what the future held for her–or them, for that matter. Catherine had overheard faint mumbles and voices, wondering if some of them were coming from the water mirror but she couldn't be certain. It was a question she would have to bring up to Bristol after she was finished.
Minutes rolled by and eventually, the murmurings were gone but the American witch still didn't come out of the kitchen. There were rustling sounds, grumblings, and a few chosen curses that caused both of Catherine's eyebrows to rise upward. At least her children weren't around to hear such expletives.
"Bristol?" she called out, reaching out to slowly open the door to the kitchen, "Is everything all right?" The door cracked open, revealing a table covered in one extremely large and detailed map, scrying crystals, and a bowl of water, devoid any life or energy it held a few minutes earlier.
"Yeah, everything is fine," Bristol responded in a hurried fashion. She was hovering over the enormous map, gently but tiredly swinging an even larger scrying crystal than Catherine remembered. "It's just I haven't been having much luck finding this person, that's all."
"Who is it that you're searching for?" Catherine queried curiously.
"Some scribe of Victor's–I heard he has tomes on everything! I believe with his knowledge and those books, he can help me with my family's curse." Bristol explained, not even paying attention in how much she was revealing of herself as she continued her scrying. But this caught Catherine's attention in an instant.
"Wait, wait, a family's curse?" she asked, repeating the young witch's words. Bristol stopped her scrying momentarily, a rather sheepish look on her face.
"Oh, I didn't mention that before, did I?" she said, dropping the crystal to give her arm a rest. Catherine shook her head and the witch sighed. "Well, I'll tell you more about that later. Right now, I need to find that scribe!" She then went back to the water mirror, hoping her search would yield more bounty if she tried something else.
As she placed her hands in the water, Catherine had a sneaky suspicion of who Bristol was looking for. "Do you happen to know the name of the scribe?"
"Yeah. His name is Tanis, I think."
I knew it!
"Well, Bristol, you're in luck–because in the past, I have come across him." Bristol's sightless eyes snapped open wide and she jerked her head around.
"Really? Then why didn't you say so before?" she exclaimed, overjoyed. She looked over at her scattered crystals and almost immediately began packing them away. "Guess I won't need this anymore."
"But I don't know exactly where he is," Catherine interjected, feeling a little guilty for getting Bristol's hopes up. But before the joy in Bristol's face could completely disappear from her face, the fallen angel hybrid quickly added, "But I know someone who will."
This recent bit of news got Bristol eager all over again. "Who?"
Lucian found the enigmatic necromancer the same place he usually spotted him in: Reading in his chambers.
"Thanatos," he began, knocking on the partly opened door, "Do you have a minute?"
"Lucian, I have all the time in world," replied the said necromancer putting his book down. The lycan arched an quizzical eyebrow at this comment.
"Literally or figuratively?" He had to ask, just to humor himself.
"Both, actually." By the cryptic edge in his tone, Lucian knew better than to question his meaning on that. So he ignored the answer and went back to what he really came here for.
"I had another meeting with Kraven and this time, he actually managed to produce some credible, worthwhile evidence for once. He even offered a sound plan that involves you."
Thanatos cocked his head, intrigue in his smoky viridian eyes. "Did he now? It appears saving Kraven's skin is finally paying off for you. Now tell me, what is this scheme of his?"
"In order to divert attention away from the possibility that Michael is with us, he suggested that you have Clarissa pose as a demon trying to create her own coven by abducting men, human or not, to be her followers, Michael being one of them. I have already instructed Tanis to plant the seed to the next Death Dealer who comes to him for answers. All we need now is for Clarissa to play the part. I will send some of my own men to protect her and pretend they are her servants, her fledglings. Michael will also be with her. However, when the Death Dealers strike, I hope the vampires can be overcome. If the battle proves too daunting, I have orders for Raze and the others to pull Michael out of combat and send him to another location. He will remain there until both Death Dealer parties are gone and the coast is clear." He paused to glance back at Thanatos, waiting for his reaction. "What do you think?"
Leaning back in his chair, Thanatos stroked his beard while saying, "I believe this plan could work. Yet I would like to add another person to join Clarissa: The incubus called Lust should join her as well."
Frowning, Lucian disagreed with this request. "Why should we send an assassin that tried to kill us on this mission when we fully know where his loyalty lies?"
"Because his loyalty lies with us now," Thanatos answered firmly, mirth dancing in his eyes. "After resurrecting him, we didn't have much luck fishing information out of him. Jacob wanted to torture the living daylights out of him but Clarissa refused to have him harm one hair on the incubus's head. So, to ensure Lust wouldn't try to escape and report back to his boss, she decided to inject him with a little of her succubus venom to keep him pliant and obedient. She gave him a small dose so he won't be completely enslaved to her whims like her previous 'partners'."
Millions of questions buzzed around in Lucian's head as he listened to this newest update, many of them revolving around Clarissa and her abilities and the lack information they could extract from the incubus. But before he could raise any concerns or queries, Thanatos resumed the discussion.
"Now, I know you were looking to learn more about the assassins and who they work for but I can tell you, they were well-trained because I don't think Jacob's torture would have loosened his lips in the long run and that's saying something. I'm hoping he'll spend so much time with Clarissa and in utter devotion and loyalty, he'll let something slip and reveal a crucial bit of information for us."
"Is that all?"
The arcane necromancer shook his head. "No. From our encounter with these assassins, I also gleaned that not only is this new enemy highly dangerous and capable, but also they have access to powerful technologies and new knowledge we are currently unaware of."
This intrigued and disturbed Lucian at the same time. "Where did you come up with that?"
Two deep emerald eyes stared at him straight in the face, piercing the lycan leader with their calm but intense gaze. "Demons are not supposed to die by poison, even cyanide for that matter," Thanatos explained effortlessly, his tone dry and crisp like parchment paper, "And yet, Lust was killed by a cyanide pill. Clearly, their leader has crafted such a device that is capable of killing supernaturals with a poison that is normally deadly to humans."
"Are you thinking that sort of weapon can be used against us?"
Thanatos nodded. "Precisely."
All emotion evaporated from Lucian's face, replaced by the stony mask of a warrior. "Then we just earned ourselves a shit load of more problems."
"And I reckon they all will point to Victor's coven, directly or indirectly," added Thanatos with a joyless smile.
Michael Corvin didn't understand what was transpiring when they had him bounded and gagged, but he knew they were transferring him somewhere else and didn't want him making a single peep during the journey. He had struggled at first, determined to show them he wasn't broken or pliant to their demands. They managed to subdue him but odd enough, Michael felt a strange stab of satisfaction, as if he had made his point to them all. But no one else seemed to care. The werewolves accompanying him barely spared him a glance while the woman whom they called Clarissa simply smirked at him, giving him a coy wave before she removed his gag (it was sign that they "trusted him, she explained but he ignored her) and was soon joined by a male who shared her stunning good looks. He definitely didn't look like a werewolf–at all.
"All right, boys, let's get moving. Keep your eye out for any of those pesky Death Dealers." Clarissa called out and all of sudden, they were moving and driving the road so fast Michael didn't think it was legal.
And that's when the attack happened.
A bullet zipped through one of the side windows, embedding itself in the lycan's brain. Michael was in the other car but he heard the crack of the bullet and all of the swearing and cursing, and saw the glass breaking, the blood, and the car swerving, trying to get out of harm's way. He knew right away one of them was already dead and someone was assaying to kill them. The lycans fired back on the unseen opponents, parking the cars as they engaging in another shoot-out. Spiders emerged from the shadows and dragged the perpetrators into the light while birds of prey, seemingly coming out of nowhere, bombarded the assaulters relentlessly and viciously. It was like watching the Birds movie all over again, in Michael's opinion.
At first, he was frozen from the shock and cupped his hands over his head and neck to protect himself from any shattering glass or stray bullet. But as his guards died or left the car to fight back, he soon realized they had utterly left him alone in a very abandoned car. And the American doctor knew exactly what this meant: Freedom.
First, he grabbed one of the shards of glass and used the sharp edges to saw his way through the bonds, maneuvering his hands around so the glass would cut through rope and not his own skin. Once he managed to slice through all the layers of rope, he dropped the broken piece of glass and shrugged off the bindings on his hands, his shackles being cast aside. Now all he had to was get out of here.
Quietly, he slowly opened the left door (which faced the opposite direction of the battle) and stumbled out, landing on his knee and palms. The sound of gunfire, the dying, and wounded unnerved him but the taste of freedom melted his fears and guided him onward, away from the battle, away from the horrors, away from the idea of vampires and werewolves actually existing in this world. Michael ran, dodged, and weaved as fast as his legs could carry him and didn't stop sprinting even when his lungs were burning and on fire, his heart hammering so loudly in his ears and chest, and his muscles screaming for release. He only slowed his pace down when he reached civilization, a tiny, calm town far away and secluded from the inner city, not even near the gun fight that was occurring many miles away. He didn't glean how long and far he had raced but all he knew now was that he was safe. Safe from his captors and safe from their enemy, these so-called Death Dealers or vampires. No one would find him here.
Relief and exhaustion overcoming him, Michael sank to his knees, collapsing to the ground, his chest tumultuously heaving in and out, his lung gulping for more air. He realized he would have to eventually get up soon and find an inn to stay at but right now, he just wanted to stay right here and bask in his victory, his grand, unplanned escape. After today, he would put as many miles away from this place as he possibly could.
"Hey there…are you all right?"
The concerned voice brought him back out of his reverie, reminding the doctor of where he was. Slowly, he picked himself up and brushed the dirt on his jeans, looking up to face the bystander who just so happened to encounter him. Imagine his shock and amazement when he faced a young woman around his age with opaque eyes staring right at him, as if they were exchanging gazes.
"Uh, yeah, I am. Just a bit lost." Michael confessed, speaking in Hungarian. It was the truth, he was technically lost.
"So I take it you're not from these parts," the blind woman replied in the same language but Michael noticed like with him, she too was missing the typical accent. In fact, it sounded an awful like his own accent–or lack thereof.
"Yes…I was just visiting. But right now, I'm just looking for a place to stay for the night."
"Then look no further!" she exclaimed, ambling over to him to hook her arm around his own. It was then he noticed she didn't use a special walking stick or wear black glasses, which struck him as odd. Was she really blind? "I know a prefect place you can stay at and it won't cost you anything! In fact, I was heading back there right now. Aren't you a lucky fellow?"
"I wouldn't say that," he responded, thinking about the previous events that he had been embroiled in. The word "lucky" wouldn't begin to describe any of it.
Furthermore, he was uneasy, at first, to trust this woman but he had heard about the kindness of the locals in these areas to strangers, foreign or not. As long they weren't going to roast him and then eat him for supper, Michael was perfectly fine in staying the night at this woman's house without lightening up the thickness of his wallet.
"By the way, my name is Bristol. What's yours?"
"Michael," he found himself saying, "Michael Corvin."
The ambush did not finish exactly as she had planned.
Some of the lycans did perish but not enough to sate her hunger, her choler and of course, plenty of them got away, including the succubus. That only deepened her rage.
And top it off, the human called Michael Corvin escaped, dashing away all her hopes and theories to use him to understand more of the werewolves' plans and see if they knew anything about Markus.
Slamming her pistols back into their holsters, Selene made her way to the car, silently fuming as she took the driver's seat while Kahn settled for the seat next to her. "Look on the bright side. At least you were right." he had told her while she ignited the engine and sped on down the road leading to the highway. She remembered nodding mutely at his comment, not really listening and not really paying attention. She was just too busy envisioning Kraven's sneer (she knew for certain he wouldn't come up with anything from the lycans' base) and the disapprovingly lecture all of them would receive from Amelia, who would then go on to complain about all the time wasted, chasing after half accurate ideas and sloppy plans.
It was these moments where she missed Victor the most. He would know what to do in an instant.
"I know you don't like him, Selene, but maybe Kraven will return with something worthwhile for Amelia to keep the pursuit going," suggested Kahn in the middle of her musings. He only said those remarks to add a little hope to the situation, to give her ideas another fighting chance but he comprehended as much as she did that Kraven would definitely arrive back empty-handed and gloating over her lack of success. And she was getting extremely tired of Kraven getting his way.
"I'm not going let him win this, Kahn. Not this time." she growled between clenched teeth and took a different exit instead of cruising down the lane for ten more minutes and then taking the exit that would lead them to the coven. Kahn immediately noticed the change.
"Selene, what are you doing?"
"I'm going to get Tanis. At this point, I don't care if Amelia approves or not. We need his knowledge and expertise and we just can't afford to lose the war simply over foolish pride or the coven's strict code." The tone in her voice broke no argument. Kahn held back a sigh.
"Yes, but are you completely sure about this?" he asked her softly. He was willing to support her on this decision if she was willing to go through with the plan all the way, one hundred percent. She nodded stiffly.
"As sure as I ever am, Kahn."
The swarthy vampire leaned back in his seat. "Fine, then. Let's bring Tanis back to the coven."
"The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me,
And I cannot, cannot go.
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow;
The storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.
Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me :
I will not, cannot go."
-The Night is Darkening Around Me, Emily Brönte
Another chapter up and done. Hope you all enjoyed reading it.
And thanks to Celtic Aurora for reviewing! You never let me down.
And here are some previews to the next chapter:
The Seven Deadlies were late.
So, no matter which angle he viewed the situation from, he really had no choice in the matter.
Thus, he was completely at Bristol's mercy, so to speak.
In retrospect, it seemed like she slowly becoming a different person all on her own and Thanatos was the catalyst.
"When I'm free from this petty sorcery, I will rend your vocal cords from your throat."
But he always succeeded in revenge–always.