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 pairings]
Chapter XIII: Method to the Madness
"The Thing That Should Not Be" by Metallica
"The Power of One" by Sonata Arctica
Disclaimer: *sings* No, I don't own Underworld! If I did, different ideas would have been unfurled! Lucian would be alive and rockin'! Victor shall be squawkin' and Kraven would be dead, with Markus holding his head. And that is all that needs to be said!
"Crawling chaos, underground
Cult has summoned, twisted sound
Out from ruins once possessed
Fallen city, living death
Lurking beneath the sea
Has been upset
Hunter of the Shadows is rising
In madness you dwell
Not dead which eternal lie
Stranger eons Death may die
Drain you of your sanity
Face the Thing that should not be."
-The Thing That Should Not Be, Metallica
The Seven Deadlies were late.
Nero had expected to hear from them hours ago but he heard no report of their success, as they should have finished the mission by now. No news was sometimes considered good news but in this case, it was far from it. Judging by the predicament, their quarry must have uncovered his assassins' intentions and fought back, naturally. Now, from the lack of information, it was clear to Nero that all of the Seven Deadlies were either dead or captured (yet the later couldn't be true because every assassin in the Order of Anarchy was trained to die first before becoming a captive. Hence, the special cyanide pills he created to kill any living creature on the face of this planet). So, he safely ruled them as "deceased".
"Pity," he muttered, sitting down in front of his desk, "It will be hard to replace them." He pulled out several cream vanilla sheets from the drawer and with an elegant ballpoint pen, began scribbling on the paper. The ink immediately vanished, dissolved into the note, salvaging the secret code. Since his second-best assassins were dead, logic only dictated that he send his very best, the Unholy Five. Apparently, he had misjudged the potency of Lucian and his army–perhaps they had assistance? After all, with a man like Victor, he had countless enemies.
Soon enough, Nero's work was completed and five neatly sealed and warded messages laid spread out on his table. He then placed his hands on the desk, his fingers and palms touching each and every folded note. Closing his eyes, Nero then commenced the spell, strange, deep incantations pouring out from his mouth while a shimmer of dark byzantium and argent rose from the surface of the desk and swirled around the five cards, threads of violet and silver constricting themselves around the pieces of folded paper. Suddenly, the secret messages slowly started to evanesced, disappearing from view altogether. Nero only halted the spell once he didn't feel the papers against his hands and opened his eyes to see the five letters had been delivered, reappearing into the homes of each member of the Unholy Five.
Smirking at the easiness and convenience of his delivery spell, Nero leaned back in his chair and summoned a decanter of brandy for him to enjoy. After all, who really needed technology so much when you had magic? Magic kept secrets far better than any powerful security system.
Tanis didn't know what to think when both Selene and Kahn barged into his private quarters. At first, he panicked because his first assumption was they uncovered the fact he had been supplying Lucian and his men with special military weapons and technology to fight off his own kind but the fear evaporated when he inspected Selene's visage more carefully. She didn't necessarily look like she wanted to wring him neck and then turn him into a corpse laden with bullet holes. Kahn was impassive as ever but Selene seemed impatient.
"Another visit, Selene?" he called out, wearing a cheeky grin to mask his nervousness, "Can't stay away from me, can you?"
"Tanis, I don't have time for this." There was that tone again, all business and no pleasure.
I bet she wouldn't be saying that if we were having sex.
Stunned by such a random (but oddly arousing) thought, Tanis nearly lost all sense of composure. If he hadn't possessed such supreme self-control (working for Victor always improved one's acting and lying abilities), he definitely would have been bombarded with images of a naked Selene and ogling her fine body, whether or not she was looking.
"Then whatever is the reason that brought you and Kahn to my humble abode? For more information about the succubus? I gave you one of my best tomes; surely that book sufficed enough!"
"I was wondering where you got all that information from," muttered Kahn under his breath, an amused smile on his face, "Good thing Amelia didn't ask."
Tanis feigned a wounded look on his face. "Don't tell the gracious Lady Amelia doesn't approve of my knowledge? And after all I have done for her…you'd think she'd be more grateful!"
"Yes…one would think," Selene uttered dryly, lifting her dusky eyes up to pierce the scribe with her uncompromising, frosty glower. Her tone implied edginess for Tanis's tomfoolery and she was quickly losing her patience. Tanis mentally sighed; why did she always have to be all serious and have no sense of fun or humor? She would lose the whole point and purpose of immortality and life in general.
"So Selene, can you tell me why you decided to return and bring a friend to my establishment?" Tanis reiterated, hoping the visit really didn't have to do with Amelia or Selene planning to keep her meetings with him hidden. Either option didn't sound appealing–at all. Selene shot him a stern look.
"I have come to bring you back to the coven. Despite what many might think, you're still of value. You'll be useful to us."
Someone else has already taken advantage of that, sweetcakes.
Regardless, Tanis's eyes sparkled with interest. "Does this mean my sentence has been lifted? I know you—"
"No!" came the sharp response from the irked vampiress and Tanis sighed, the fleeting illusion of hope dying once more into the embers. I should have seen that coming.
"Your sentence will remain and you will be placed under house arrest once we arrive at the coven," Kahn spoke up, his eyes narrowing at him suspiciously, "However, providing how cooperative you are, Amelia might be persuaded to lessen your sentence."
Tanis's brows furrowed, displeased with the offer he was rather coerced to accept. Even if he did reject the proffer, Selene would simply drag his ass back to the Ordoghaz coven and put him back into his old chambers, under lock and key. So, no matter which angle he viewed the situation from, he really had no choice in the matter. Either answer led to the same result.
"In case you haven't notice, I have been cooperating," Tanis pointed, making his reluctance and annoyance on the matter be known, "But since you two leave me with little room for argument, I am afraid I have no choice but accept." He then spread open his arms in a welcoming but mocking gesture.
"Now, take me back to that ghastly place I once called home. I am overdue for a lovely family reunion." In the end, Tanis wasn't sure if it was his sarcasm or the roguish smile he sent at her way that provoked Selene to roughly grab him and practically frogmarched him into her car, her trigger finger twitching the whole time.
At least he'll have a copious amount of opportunities to push her buttons…even if she presses a gun to his forehead.
Despite the amiable, cheerful nature of this woman called Bristol, Michael was still unsure and concerned about following a stranger back to her house–or a friend's house, as she mentioned before. But he needed a place to stay and since he had no money on him, an inn or motel was certainly out of the question. Thus, he was completely at Bristol's mercy, so to speak.
"Is your friend Catherine around?" he asked uncertainly, looking around him as he stepped through the door, into the strange but inviting house.
"No, I think she went out with a friend of mine. Her kids don't seem to be here either." Bristol replied with a frown. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied a sheet of paper taped on the kitchen counter. Walking over to it, she picked up the note and read it thoroughly.
You wouldn't pick up your cell so I'm leaving a message here. Catherine and I went with Markus in tow to see Lucian. Destroy this letter once you finish reading this.
Sighing, Bristol did what her comrade commanded and crumpled up the letter, furtively using her magic to burn the note, a small fire flaring in the palm of her hands as it devoured the wrinkled paper. She had forgotten how paranoid Zael could be at times.
Once the fire vanished in her hand, she back into the living room and found Michael (it was funny that there were two Michaels in her life now) sitting rather comfortably on a sofa. She wasn't sure exactly how she should entertain the man before Catherine, Zael, and Markus returned and even then, it was best if Michael and Markus didn't met. It would raise eyebrows–and some questions.
Perhaps it's best I should warn them about our new visitor prior their return.
But first, she had to make Michael Corvin feel safe and at ease, she didn't want him thinking she was a serial axe murderer or something. Once Michael felt more like his usual self and was willing to stay the night, she'll call Zael and beg Catherine to let the poor man stay in her house. True, it was rather selfish on Bristol's part to spring this sudden news on Catherine (after all, it was her house they were using) but the more time she spent with Michael Corvin, the more she could feel the tugging of her sorcery. The magic in her very blood, coursing through her veins hummed and thrived whenever he was near. It was as if they had a mystical bond, a tie linking them together and they weren't even of aware of such connection.
Scoffing to herself, Bristol mentally shook this silly notion out of her head. This feeling, this urge couldn't be from her magic; the sensation probably derived from all those raging hormones of hers because she hadn't been on a date in several weeks and she was lucky enough to stumble across a good-looking fellow who was willing to spend a few days in her company, in the same house with her. Maybe that was just attraction she was experiencing. It made perfect sense!
Michael's voice jarred the witch awake and she blinked, clearing her mind.
"Sorry, my brain just wandered away from me," she said, giving him a smile, "I was going to ask you if you wanted anything to eat or drink."
"Are you sure your host won't mind if I start inhaling the contents of her refrigerator?" he questioned and Bristol nodded confidently, already heading back into the kitchen.
"She won't mind at all! Now, just tell me what you crave and let's see what I can cook up!"
Even as Michael rattled off the soda and the simple meal he wanted, Bristol still couldn't shake the remerging surge of emotions and magic she felt as she began preparing supper for their new guest. For a moment, without aid from her powers, she could have sworn she saw colors and clear shapes—
…And then everything was blurry again and it was only her magic that prevented her entire world from being swallowed by the darkness.
Bristol blinked, nonplussed at what had just betided her. Deciding it was simply a fluke and huge spike in her magic, she brushed the strange incident aside and went back fixing a meal for both her and Michael. Hopefully, by the time they were done, Catherine and Zael would be back in time for her to explain their new situation.
The coven was abuzz with gossip and rumors and normally, Erika would be listening intently to any intriguing bits of news or information she could use to her advantage but lately, Erika suddenly no longer had the desire to socialize or mingle with all the other reveling vampires. It was strange and the notion even baffled her a little because that was what she did, what was expected of her. It was tantamount to the idea that she had been wired to behave and perform in certain manner yet after her recent encounter and subsequence phone conversation with Thanatos, many of her routine mannerisms starting falling apart, as if they didn't appeal to her anymore. In retrospect, it seemed like she slowly becoming a different person all on her own and Thanatos was the catalyst.
Or maybe it was something else and she was just bored out of her skull. And also desire to see Thanatos again and not just have one measly phone conversation with him–which was still replaying in her mind, even right now.
"I'm shocked you called me back." His tone seemed to be surprised, amused even. "I wasn't expecting to hear from you so soon."
"Well, since I decided to withdraw myself from being Kraven's personal errand girl, I have some more free moments to myself, which is rather nice I am starting to find out."
"Has he repented?" This time, all regalement died from his voice, switching to monotonous and cool. Erika wondered if it was just her being delusional or was this Thanatos's way of acting jealous.
Maybe I am just getting a little bit too hopeful on this. He could just want to look out for me, like a friend or a protective brother.
Either way, he certainly would like her answer.
"Not really. I'm not completely sure but he did attempt to worm his way back into my affections. It almost worked until I realized what he was really after."
"Let me guess: Sex."
"Bingo. And I was completely livid."
"You have every right to be. What did you say?"
"I told him to sod off and find someone else because I'm not going to be his little pick-me up item." Saying those exact words gave Erika so much power, so much strength that she could still taste the potency on her lips, burning deep inside her heart (not to mention the reaction on Kraven's face was absolutely priceless).
Laughter came from the other end of the line. "You really said that? My, my, Erika, I didn't know how feisty you were. Perhaps that little shove was all you needed in the right direction."
Erika chuckled along with him. "Tell me about it. I'm actually hoping I'll start to see less and less of him."
"And if he becomes trouble?" There was no missing the edge in his words.
"Just because I'm not a soldier like Selene, his future queen, doesn't mean I don't know how to handle and shoot with a gun." Thanatos's smirk was practically audible.
"Aim for the ass. That will send your message loud and clear."
The phone conversation went on like that for a few minutes before Thanatos said he had to go–work needed him and he couldn't spare another second away from his duties. But he did say he enjoyed their talks and wanted to hear from her soon, whenever she got the chance again.
But Erika didn't want another phone call. She wanted to see Thanatos once more, face-to-face. She lost track of how long it had been since their first encounter but she desperately needed (or was that too strong of a word?) to seek him out and know more about this relationship of theirs and where exactly it was going. It seemed friendship-based yet…Erika couldn't shake off the feeling that the relation was slowly budding into something more, skirting across the borders of intimacy.
Or perhaps this is me being silly again and simply moving my affinity from Kraven and over to Thanatos. …I really need a hobby.
Despite all the uncertain musings swirling about in her head, Erika picked up her cell phone and dialed Thanatos's number anyway. She just had to find him and meet up with him again and sort of her feelings out–before getting hurt all over again.
Erika didn't like making the same mistake twice.
"Just because you have a little magical bond tying us together doesn't mean I have to respect you or carter to your every whim or desire!"
"On the contrary, Markus, you do. In this spell, I am marked as your master–and that makes you my bondsman, my servant." There was a smirk gracing Zael's face prior to adding, "Or my bitch."
"Funny, I was going to call you that."
"And here I thought with you Elders living for so long you would actually invoke some creative insults. Perhaps I should have lowered my expectations."
"When I'm free from this petty sorcery, I will rend your vocal cords from your throat."
"Not if I crush and shred your heart first."
Rubbing her temples, Catherine Van Helsing was forced to listen to both Zael and Markus bicker back in forth, insulting or threatening the other in gruesome or vicious details. Honestly, it was much worse compared to her children's fighting!
"Can you two keep it down? Lucian will be here any minute and I don't want him to see both of you squabbling at each other like an old married couple!" retorted Catherine, not even witnessing the frozen, awkward expression on Markus's and Zael's faces when she mentioned the "old married couple" part. If she did, the fallen angel-vampire hybrid would have laughed her head off.
Markus muttered a few words under his breath but his voice was too low and deep to understand clearly. Zael retreated back to her cold, stoic mask, one the Van Helsing woman noticed she would do too often when treading unknown or uncomfortable waters. The more time she spent with Zael, Catherine was beginning to sense that this icy azure-eyed stranger didn't like revealing her vulnerable side, even to her allies. And that just open a whole new set of questions that Catherine knew would never be answered. Zael was just one of those types of people who didn't like talking about herself or her past, reasons be damned.
Lucian, I do hope you hurry up soon before the Bickersons here start another verbal spat. I don't think my nerves can stand another one.
Thankfully, as if God himself heeded her prayer, the aforementioned lycan leader melted out from the shadows of the base, his quick, sharp eyes piercing everything as he cast his gaze around from Catherine, Zael, and Markus. His expression softened first upon seeing Catherine but the emotions soon change once he glimpsed at her companions. Lucian's eyes widen considerably when he saw Markus, curiosity and puzzlement flashing his orbs prior to redirecting his scrutiny to Zael. Catherine watched the silent exchange between them, wondering if Lucian could tell what exactly Zael was. Catherine reckoned for a fact that she wasn't human but unlike Bristol, who flaunted her magical prowess around, Zael was rather tight-lipped about who or what she was.
"Lucian, I take it," voiced Zael, surprising everyone in being the first speaker. Her remark was more of a statement rather than a question.
"Yes, that is me," replied Lucian uncertainly, his stare shifting back to Catherine, wordlessly demanding some answers. Catherine took the hint and immediately inserted herself into the conversation.
"Lucian, this is Zael, one of the people I talked to you about. Bristol, her friend, is the other but she has been busy at the moment."
"Toiling away at her cauldron and cackling like a madwoman, no doubt," came the stinging comment of Markus, who looked the least bit happy compared to the rest of them. Zael cut him a venomous glower that could have poisoned an entire forest grove. She even elbowed him in the ribs and the vampire Elder sent her a death glare of his own. If they kept this up, Catherine and Lucian were going to have to separate them from each other.
"So they want to join my cause, correct?" resumed Lucian, ignoring Markus's interruption. Catherine nodded, hoping Zael wouldn't mind that she was speaking for both her and Bristol. Lucian glanced back at Zael and Markus and the hybrid huntress could tell more inquiries still lingered inside his head. …Probably in regards to the vampire Elder.
"I don't mind the extra allies but can someone please tell me why there's a vampire Elder here?"
"Oh, him?" said Zael casually, acting like Markus's presence was no big deal, "He's insurance and revenge wrapped up in one pretty, neat package with a lovely bow on top."
Morfran O'Byrne was not like other men. He didn't even borderline "normal".
Before he was even born, his mother had forced his father into marriage to prevent herself from wedding another man, one she did not absolutely care for. As soon as her family found out about his father's abilities and the elemental powers had been passed down to him, straight from the cradle he became a tool for the O'Byrne family (he carried his mother's surname because the O'Byrnes refused to let their own take on the last names of any outsiders). Trained to be their personal assassin, Morfran was a professional killer, a man devoid of emotions and a conscience. These traits and his powers from his father and mother served him well, especially when he went on a massive killing spree and nearly massacred his entire family. But they deserved their demise, because after all, he was a son trying to protect his parents from a grim end, only to fail miserably. But he always succeeded in revenge–always.
So, for those who knew him or his story were always shocked and rather perturbed to uncover years later, he was married man with two children and with plenty more on the way. Granted, it helped that his wife was a werewolf and didn't seem to mind his past as an assassin but then again, he did owe his change towards her: Alexandra, his darling, feisty wife.
However, Morfran was no fool and suspected his past would slither up behind him and haunt him around every corner but he had never expected to fall into insidious ilk like Nero and his Order of Anarchy or be catapulted into one of the highest ranks, the Unholy Five. None of these events were planned or voluntary for Nero had merely crafted and executed a cunning scheme that entailed Morfran to be indebted to him, a price which forced him back into another assassination guild. And what was worse was the fact that Morfran didn't even ask Nero for help, the bastard simply knew Morfran's weak points: His family.
To this day, Morfran still couldn't decide who he despised more: Nero or his mother's family members.
Yet there were days Morfran would forget about Nero and the Order of Anarchy but when that rich, cream-colored vellum paper magically appeared on his table, taunting him with its innocence, Morfran recollected everything and was promptly reminded that if he didn't do his job, his family would be in immediate danger. And today was one of those days.
Sighing and gritting his teeth simultaneously, Morfran numbly opened up the message, wishing he could just sink his blade into Nero's flesh and carve that psychotic smirk off his face. Perhaps that was why Nero never left himself be alone with Morfran, he was smart enough to realize if given the chance, Morfran would go medieval all over him.
Gold eyes glazed over the blank paper, which suddenly became visible to him. The method was a part of Nero's spell, the ink would sense the blood of an Unholy Five member and would only emerge if that same person was holding letter and reading it. Alexandra one time tried reading the instructions over his shoulder but the words refused to appear until she left his side. But it didn't matter; he was still able to tell her about his tasks, unpleasant as they were.
Dear Angel of Death,
Or is it Master of Ravens? I don't know which nickname you prefer these days but I like the first one better. It suits your personality more.
Morfran hated it when Nero was in a joshing mood. His light-hearted but mocking jests were enough to tempt a man to rip his head off.
I need you to come to the headquarters immediately. Your next assignment contains delicate matters and I want to explain the situation when all members of the Unholy Five are present. So don't be late, you know how much I loathe tardiness.
Morfran wondered if the other assassins' letters were this personal. He read onward.
Oh, and Morfran, if you do tell your pretty little wolf wife about this latest job, I will tear your tongue out, rape that werewolf bitch, and after painting your children's corpses red with her blood, I'll then turn her into a thrall. Is that clear?
Be a good boy for Daddy, Morfran!
And when he was finished carefully reading each message, Morfran would always conclude that these were the moments where he distasted Nero more than anyone else and thought of new, creative, and painful ways to torture the monster for even hinting to harm his wife and children.
However, no matter how many times he would try to forget the shadow of the Order of Anarchy looming over his household, Morfran Syam O'Byrne could never forget his absolute hatred for Nero Wentrcek. The loathing burned red hot inside his heart, consuming his mind and soul with swift dreams for a sanguinary, satisfying vengeance.
"In your own blaze of hate you've spawn a fear in many lives
You've taken action thinking it was all said on the signs.
You cannot heal the feeling burning deep inside your spine
You now collapse, cave in revealing scabby marks of life
Mother I've seen too much, I hate to live my life.
Forgot every word you told me, stubborn little child, (angel of your life)
I have to find my Eden now, the gates I left behind.
But the pain will remain.
No power to gain.
Now I have time to dwell on, self-awareness, dreadful crime.
I saw colors too bright, not knowing that I was blind.
I slayed a man who took a chance and drank the forbidden wine.
The map I draw reveals that I have been complete, machine, in team.
Father I've seen too much, I hate to live my life.
Forgot every word you told me, stubborn little child, (angel of your life)
I have to find my Eden now, the gates I left behind.
The pain will remain.
No power to gain."
-The Power of One, Sonata Arctica
Sorry that this chapter came out so late, I keep getting distracted with video games, college life, and for a while, I was studying abroad in Germany and had an abundance of fun while I was there. But it's a new year so I'm determined to update faster and eventually finish this fanfic.
For those who are curious in who would play Nero, I decided that Andrew Scott, who is Moriarty in BBC's Sherlock, would be the perfect choice for crazy ole Nero. I've seen him act insane before so it was hands down for Andrew Scott being Nero's model.
Once again, I'd like to thank Celtic Aurora for her review and everyone else who took the time to read this latest chapter.
Previews for chapter 14:
"You do realize that by defying me, you also defy Victor?"
"Now, I shall begin the ritual process. Everything must be prepared for Victor's arrival."
"I was the first vampire ever to be born, to be created!"
Nero definitely did not like cleaning up after other people's messes.
For the first time in his life, Thanatos wanted to bash his head against the cement walls of Lucian's base.
"Hello, Selene. Missed me?"