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 XIV: Confronting the Enemy
"Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth
"Shades of Eternity" by Luca Turilli's Dreamquest
Disclaimer: The standard disclaimer still stands. Have a nice day and enjoy the chapter.
"You take a mortal man,
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch people's heads a'roll
Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the Symphony...
-Symphony of Destruction, Megadeath
Pandemonium soon struck the Ordoghaz coven–or as Tanis dryly muttered underneath his breath: "the shit has hit the fan, Selene". As much Selene hated in admitting it, but the former scribe was dead right. As soon as she and Kahn emerged with Tanis in-between them, each of them gripping the crook of his elbows tightly while they marched him along, nearly all the vampires–especially from Amelia's coven–exploded into a ferocious mess of bitter malice and contempt. Selene knew she would be treading into hostile territory by bringing Tanis back but in all honestly, she never expected the negative reactions to be this atrocious.
"Regretting anything, dear Selene?" whispered Tanis into her ear, his vaguely amused, cheeky grin grating everyone else the wrong way. Sometimes, Selene wondered if he was doing that on purpose.
"No!" she hissed back, "And please, for pity's sake, keep quiet! I don't want you babbling in my ear." During her short conversation with Tanis, the stoic Death Dealer kept her eyes focused on Amelia, who had just appeared from staircase above and was making her way down the smooth, polished marble stairs in a hurried, irate fashion but still managed to look graceful nonetheless. The female Elder's pallid visage screamed out lividness.
"HOW DARE YOU?!" she shrieked across the manor, her enraged voice reverberating harshly in every corner of the room, silencing the rest of the vampires. "HOW DARE YOU DISOBEY MY ORDERS AND BRING THIS TRAITOR, THIS REFUSE, TO OUR DOORSTEP!" This was the first time Selene had ever seen Amelia lose her cool, collected demeanor like that. Steam was practically rising off from the seething Elder as she finished descending the last stair and strode briskly over to Selene, eyes bright with feverish choler.
"Have you lost your mind, Selene?!" she spat, lowering her voice but her tone was no less even, "Do you not remember his sentence and that he must never leave his location of exile?"
"Yes, I do," the said Death Dealer interjected stiffly, "but in light of the circumstances, we need his expertise, his knowledge. I'm not suggesting we free him of exile, he deserves that fate."
"Why thank you, Selene. Your gratitude is so overwhelming." Tanis remarked sardonically. Both Selene and Amelia shot him a killer glare and he ceased talking immediately. It was best not to prod a raging snake–that was sure-fire way to get bitten, and lose a finger or two in the process.
"You do realize that by defying me, you also defy Victor?" Amelia's voice lost its bluster, it now became soft and foreboding, a harbinger to impending, ominous events. Although, there still was an edge to her tone. Selene nearly bristled at her words.
"I know Victor gave the orders for Tanis's exile but given to the matters at hand, I don't think he'll refuse the option of gathering more knowledge about our new enemies!" she retorted, her electric blue eyes matching Amelia's irate orbs. No one else in the coven dared to insert their input on the issue; they merely let the two vampires handle the severe topic themselves. However, Kahn glanced worriedly at Selene, pondering whether or not Amelia was right about Victor. Amelia knew him for centuries but he also was like a father to Selene. Either women had a sense of understanding of the vampire Elder yet even so, one could never predict Victor's actions.
"At the price of accepting aid from a traitor of the coven? I think not!"
As if to make the situation worse, the front doors flew open and Kahn inwardly cringed when he saw Kraven and his troupe strolled in, their faces solemn and terse. Judging by their posture and demeanor (and for the fact there was no sign of Markus or his tomb behind them), the search for the vampire Elder Markus yielded no fruits of victory.
"Lady Amelia," Kraven addressed the said vampire cordially, gathering her attention. Was it Kahn's imagination or was there a spark of gleeful triumph in his eyes? It must have been a trick of the light…
"Yes?" Amelia responded impatiently, "Did you find Markus or not?" She already knew the answer she just wanted Kraven to say it out loud so the result would be final and Selene would be put back in her place.
As expected, the bureaucratic regent shook his head apologetically. "No, my lady. My group and I searched the base, just as Selene described but we did not see Markus among the lycans. Clearly, all of this was a wild goose chase."
Amelia's face tightened yet schadenfreunde flashed in her dark, furious periwinkle eyes, clearly pleased in the failure of Selene's ideas. Another unsuccessful mission would place Selene more in the disadvantage and possibly tempt Amelia to decree for her to be under full house arrest until she could be tried for her actions. Bringing back Tanis and defying direct orders would be the first transgression for Amelia to utilize.
"Evidently so. And now, since you all have returned empty-handed, I see that there is no choice but to proceed with my original plan. Victor will be awakened in a few days from this time and there shall be no arguments on the matter. Now, I shall begin the ritual process. Everything must be prepared for Victor's arrival."
"But Lady Amelia—" Kraven interjected quickly, dismayed by her announcement yet prior he could say more, Amelia silenced him with a frosty, killer glare.
"I said no arguments on the matter, Kraven," she hissed. With all the elegance she could muster, she whirled around and let her skirts fly out behind her, her most trusted attendants and soldiers trailing around her as she went to commence the preparations for Victor's awakening ceremony.
Zael was a strange being, Lucian concluded after spending a considerable amount of time in her company. Catherine assured him that Zael and her friend could be trusted but often, Lucian had to ponder where on earth Catherine seemed to find these types of people. It was akin to bringing in stray animals from all over the globe–literally, sometimes.
"I know you don't trust me just yet, Lucian," voiced Zael, her cool, detached voice ascending over him like a chilling frost (was she always this cold, he wondered), "But I bring you Markus, a tool for revenge against Victor. Thanks to Bristol's magic, he is bonded to me and must do what I command."
Markus snarled. "An utter travesty," he sneered yet Zael ignored him.
"Consider this a gesture of my allegiance to you and Catherine," she resumed as if there had not been any rude interruptions. "I am willing to kill any vampire of Victor's coven."
I wonder why… Then again, from where I'm standing, I understand your willingness completely but your reasons seem to be more personal…almost similar to mine, I reckon.
Although he was certain he could rely on Zael as an ally (he trusted Catherine's judgment), the werewolf leader had to deal with Markus next. Even though he was "bonded" to Zael, that didn't mean he was completely loyal to her. Right now, the vampire Elder's utter contempt for the woman could cause them a major amount of hassles.
"Tell me, Markus," Lucian began, his face a solid mask as he circled the vampire, "Do you support Victor? Do you adore him, worship—"
"Absolutely not!" hissed Markus, eyes flashing that familiar wintry azuline color, displaying the hidden rage the Elder had stored inside of him for so long, "How could I when I was the who made him!"
"Wait, what?" sputtered Catherine, astonished by this admission. Even Zael looked taken aback. Lucian, however, remained po-faced.
"Please, enlighten us. What you do mean?"
Like a trapped, indignant beast, Markus gave another snarl before replying. "I was the first vampire ever to be born, to be created! I was the one who offered Victor the gift of immortality, not the other way around, like so many of his ilk believe! I gave him a precious gift and when he finished his part of my request, he turned around and betrayed me! Locked up William, my own brother! My flesh and bl—"
It was Zael who spoke and shockingly enough, her timbre was not emotionless like before. Instead, her voice was softer, almost sympathetic to Markus and his imprisoned brother. "You have a brother?"
Markus paused, his perplexed face studying Zael and for the first time, his eyes bore no hatred for her, only confusion. Finally, he responded. "Yes…yes, I do. He is a werewolf but unlike the lycans here, he is trapped in his wolf form, unable to comprehend the world around him and losing sanity bit by bit. I think the only person he won't lash out is me."
We might have an opening here.
Prior Lucian was about open his mouth and swoop in on the opportunity to persuade Markus to willingly join them, Zael walked closer to the Elder, her winter blue eyes fixed solely on him.
"You love your brother, do you not?" she queried.
"Of course I do! That's not even a question!" Markus growled, keeping his sharp gaze on her, wondering what sort of game she was playing.
"You would do anything for him, wouldn't you?"
Now Markus seemed to be puzzled all over again. Lucian didn't blame him for Zael wasn't treating him with disdain or mutual despisal akin to what she was doing only a few moments ago. It was like she understood Markus's pain of losing a sibling.
"I would. Why do you ask me this?" He glared down at her, trying to cover up his previous bafflement.
"I have my reasons." Zael's tone became hard and unyielding again and Lucian almost blinked. To him, it seemed as if there were two Zaels, just one was more dominant than the other. He glanced briefly at Catherine. Just by beholding the expression on her features he could tell she noticed that change in behavior as well. "But I have a proposal for you, Markus, if you're willing to listen."
"Since I don't have much of a choice around here, I might as well. What is this proposal?"
"If you agree to fully and completely dedicate your efforts to help Lucian and his cause, I promise you, in exchange for you services, I will not only release the spell over you—" That quickly got Markus's attention, "—but also find a way to free your brother. And maybe, Bristol's magic can assist your brother in controlling his transformation."
Now everyone, including Lucian and Catherine, were nearly gapping at Zael's proffer. Lucian was planning on using the brother to help sway Markus to their side but he never conceived Zael would be willing sever the bond tethered between them after the war was over. Maybe that was the other ace in the hole that they needed in order to compel Markus to align himself with them.
The vampire Elder stared at Zael suspiciously, expecting an ulterior motive behind her words. The offer was tempting but he could not bring himself to have faith in her. "How will I know you're telling the truth and this proposal is not a ploy?"
Silently, Zael produced an ornate dagger from her coat pocket, its blade honed and wrought of pure, solid steel while the handle was completely black, save for a silver crest near the bottom but neither Lucian nor anyone else could make the insignia out.
"If I offer you a blood vow, would that convince you?" she suggested tonelessly. Markus cocked his head, considering her words. Lucian fathomed Zael was talking about the ancient blood oaths, ones that if anyone were to break them, death would befall upon them instantly. In fact, it was usually the other member subjected to the oath would have to kill them, as punishment for betraying their blood vow. If Zael wanted to enact one with Markus, than she definitely was serious about using his skills for the war.
"If you indeed perform a blood vow, then I aid you and Lucian in every possible way that I can. And if you uphold your end of the bargain, I won't kill you or Bristol either." Markus finally said. Lucian heard Catherine release a quiet sigh of relief. Zael nodded stoically and without saying anything else, she slit a thin gash in the palm of her hand and did the same when Markus offered his own. Placing their injured hands together and mixing their blood, they began reciting the archaic incantation of the blood vow.
"Lucian," whispered Catherine as she approached him while keeping her tone low so she wouldn't distract the pair during the ritual, "Have you ever been involved in one of these…oaths?" He shook his head.
"No, and nor do I want to. Now, tell me again where did you find Zael and her friend, Bristol? You're bringing more and more strays to my doorstep."
Catherine repressed a giggle. "Actually, if we really want to accurate about this, it was Bristol who found me, not the other way around. I must have a beacon or something."
"Well, you might want to be a bit more careful with that 'beacon' of yours," grumbled Lucian but there was upward quirk in his lips, conveying a short, fleeting smile. "I can only hope that trusting them and also in Markus will be a wise decision in the end."
"I hope so too," echoed Catherine, glancing back at Zael and the vampire Elder. She prayed to God that this was a smart move for them, strategically.
"Morfran O' Byrne."
The said man shot him a dark glare, golden eyes rife with subtle but pure hatred. Nero ignored the glower and continued.
A woman (if one could call her that) with a mass of silky garnet curls raised her arm almost instantly, boredom clearly etched on her ivory features. "Why do we always have to do these roll calls, Nero? There are five of us here; we all know every member of the Unholy Five is present."
"Do you dare question Nero's methods?" snapped the only other female in the room, rings of sky blue emerging inside and around her chocolate brown eyes.
"No, I am simply suggesting a more…"
Once again, Nero ignored the heated conversation percolating before him and called out the next name. "Eugene Hayes."
The demented demon with the unfortunate name looked up from whetting his dagger and his mouth spilt open into a satanic fleer, showing how eager he was to spill someone else's blood. Eugene had always a few screws missing but Nero prided himself in the fact that Eugene was nowhere as insane as he was. He liked being the craziest man alive. Deep down, Eugene was simply wrathful and bitter demon and used his madness as a cover. But he, Nero, comprehended what true madness was and Eugene wasn't quite there.
Upon hearing her name, the dark-haired female immediately halted her spat with Sibylla and bowed her head in submission at the head assassin. Ever since Nero had unintentionally saved Lenka from certain death while he was touring Czechoslovakia–before the country was divided in two separate nations–she promptly swore herself to his services (he was actually hoping for a different type of service but alas, luck was not on his side that day). She also vowed to become one of his best assassins and defend him from harm. Nero didn't need protecting but it was rather nice to have more followers joining the Order of Anarchy. Therefore, he didn't complain and brought her back his headquarters.
"And lastly, Raz Sokoloff."
A more middle-aged man with tan skin and pepper-sprinkled hair barely inclined his head to show that he heard him. Raz was the quietest of them all, always strategizing, always scheming. If Nero didn't have Morfran to worry about, Raz would probably have been the greatest possible threat to him, should he bore him any ill will–which he didn't.
"As Sibylla has so pointedly remarked, all of the Unholy Five are here," drawled out Nero, easing back in his chair as he poured himself some delicious merlot from the southern regions of France, "So now we can get down to business. I'm summoned you all here because the Seven Deadlies had failed. More specifically, they are dead. Apparently, Lucian and his allies have more tricks up their sleeve than I originally imagined. Hence, this time I want you, the Unholy Five, to be more careful when you approach your targets. I want to know more about Lucian and whether or not he has help. His army of werewolves shouldn't have been able to defeat seven of the second-best assassins in the Order." He paused to take a huge gulp of merlot. The smooth, fruity taste exploded in his mouth and Nero felt at ease. All he needed now was a whore or two and he'd be content.
Lenka was the first to speak. "We shall uncover their secrets immediately and wipe them off the face of this earth."
Ah, Lenka, but the dramatics are my gig! Perhaps I am rubbing off on you.
"I don't care how you accomplish the goal. I just want you five to get the task finished. I loathe being the one who ends up taking care of this all."
Some of the assassins shifted uneasily in their seats, sensing the deadly implications of his words. Nero definitely did not like cleaning up after other people's messes.
"But enough doom and gloom!" Nero dramatically stated, clapping his head to dispel the sober mood that had briefly descended upon the Unholy Five, "How about you all go out there and kill some furry beasts now, why don't you?"
Thanatos was busy man but even he relished in taking a break and reading some of his favorite books. However, his moment of peace and quiet was effectively shattered when Magna limped her way into his room, rabbling on and on about her injured leg and how she should have turned that assassin called Sloth's penis green.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Thanatos closed his book, and in a strained tone, asked, "Magna, what is it now?"
Magna gave him a toothy grin. "It's your girl!"
He blinked at her. "My what?"
"That vampire girl called Erika. Spending some time with her, haven't you?" She waggled her eyebrows at him in a horrifically suggestive manner. The necromancer almost felt a little queasy in witnessing that.
"Yes, I have. What about it?"
Magna huffed, clearly annoyed by Thanatos's vague, unhelpful remarks. "I Saw her in my visions. She is looking for you, Thanatos. In fact, she's trying to find you today, so if I were you I'd go meet her—"
The old witch barely finished her sentence by the time Thanatos got up and left the room, cell phone pocketed inside his robe. Nosy as ever, Magna followed him, trying to catch up despite her age and the recovering, wounded leg of hers. "Now, Thanatos, are you forgetting anything?" Thanatos knew by Magna's cheeky smile that he wasn't going to like her answer.
"No, Magna, I'm not but please do enlighten me!" Exasperation was evident in his voice but despite all the times she nearly wore out his patience with her odd ways, he still saw Magna as the grandmother he could have had. The grandmother he had lost so long ago.
"Why, protection of course! I simply will not stand you having a child out of wedlock!"
For the first time in his life, Thanatos wanted to bash his head against the cement walls of Lucian's base.
Because no one was ever the same once they (accidentally) had a discussion about sex with Magna.
Selene didn't believe Kraven's tale of finding no Markus in Lucian's lair. His entire story was a collective load of bullshit and she was starting to wonder if this so-called rogue vampire who had taken the Elder was a falsehood as well. But she wouldn't get any answers if she simply sat around theorizing. So, after getting Tanis situated and asking Kahn to help her out and watch over Tanis (she didn't want the scribe getting killed after all the trouble she went through to get him back), Selene slipped out of the coven once more, making sure no one witnessed her departure. She would have been successful if she hadn't bumped into Erika, who was trying to sneak back into the coven and also remained unseen. Suspicion trickled into Selene but she didn't have the time to waste on Erika. She had to get out of her before Kraven or Amelia noticed her absence. They wouldn't at all like what she was planning.
"Oh, sorry, Selene," mumbled Erika, moving aside. Her face appeared flushed, her eyes sparkling with untold happiness. Selene stopped dead her tracks at the sight of this. She remembered looking like that when Jarek was alive.
Suddenly, more questions exploded into her head. What exactly has Erika been up to?
"Don't worry about it," she quickly replied yet grabbed Erika's arm to stop her from going any further. The blissful air surrounding Erika faded instantly and the blonde vampiress stiffened, immediately, going into a defensive position. "But Erika, you must not tell anyone that you saw me. I promise I will say the same regarding you."
Understanding bloomed in Erika's indigo eyes and she nodded. "Of course, Selene. If they notice, I will keep them busy." She seemed sincere enough so Selene released her and the two women went their separate ways. For now, she would just have to trust Erika.
Selene didn't run into anymore complications after Erika and thankfully, she was able to arrive at her car and get in without a hitch. Igniting the engine, she sped out of the compound, wondering if the car's roaring sound would be enough to alert Kraven, Amelia, and the entire force of Death Dealers and have them realize she had been missing from the compound in over ten minutes.
I would give almost anything to see the reaction of Kraven's face when he knows I have eluded him again. Honestly, this is becoming easier than I thought.
After an hour or so of driving, Selene finally came to the entrance of the lycans' base: A small sewer hole lying innocently in the ground. Once she parked her car and locked it, Selene surreptitiously dropped herself into the large sewer complex and began her search.
Unbeknownst to her, the lycans were prepared this time and placed scouts all along the perimeters. And someone was watching her movements. Dusky eyes observed her every movement and he motioned to his companion, who approached him almost silently. The other scout spoke to him, his voice soft and hushed.
"Ukon, alert Thanatos, Lucian, and the others about this Death Dealer's arrival. I will distract her and keep her occupied until everyone has been mobilized. Tell them to think of a plan– fast."
With that said, Ukon nodded and raced off, and Edward was left alone in dealing with Selene. He reckoned how much his presence would enrage her–she blamed him and his wife for her lover Jarek's death, after all.
Maybe it was the demonic blood in him or how bitter he became due to everyone in Victor's coven screwing him and his family over but Edward still craved to have a little fun and mess around with Selene's mind. In a flourishing act, Edward jumped down from his perch and landed right behind the Death Dealer. However, his landing echoed in her keen ears and she whirled around, gun pointed directly at him. Her eyes widen with disbelief and horror. Unfazed by the weapon in her hands, Edward simply offered her a fanged smile.
"Hello, Selene. Missed me?" He had to dodge several bullets in order come out unscathed. "I guess not. Oh well, that doesn't matter, I really didn't miss you either."
"You bastard!" raged Selene, her irises now completely a solid electric blue hue, and she fired at Edward once more. "You were supposed to be dead! Jarek's death should have been avenged!" She fiercely ran up to him, determined to punch him straight in the face–hybrid strength be damned–yet he caught her arm and flung her aside.
"Jarek's death was never avenged, Selene," Edward replied, his tone clipped and short. Nigrine eyes stared back at her just as ferociously, flecks of orange slowly appearing in his orbs, signaling his impending ire. But Selene wasn't frightened to see the demonic side of Edward Van Helsing. She has seen worse.
"Obviously," she snarled and took another shot at him, aiming for his shoulder. Edward ducked but he wasn't swift enough as he was before. The bullet struck his arm, tearing through the skin and muscle of his bicep. Savage delight and satisfaction coursed through Selene at the sight and smell of his blood. Edward grunted, clutching his wounded arm, thin rivers of cinnabar seeping through his pale fingers and down the hand.
"No, what I meant was that Jarek's killer is still out there and you haven't even opened your goddamned narrow mind to the possibility that just because Catherine and I are hybrids, that doesn't mean we killed Jarek!"
Edward received another round of silvers bullets for his trouble, yet unlike lycans, silver couldn't do much damage to him. But the pain was still hellish and agonizing, as always. He was growing weary of dodging bullets, pulling punches, and being on the defensive. Catherine would understand if he fought back and caused some collateral damage. It would be self-defense.
"Lies!" spat Selene, "I don't care what you say! I know the truth!"
And that's what everyone else says in this rotten world of ours.
"If that's what you truly believe, Selene, then Catherine would be most disappointed in you." A short but potent pang of sorrow and grief shot through Edward like a dagger yet he composed himself well, to show no signs of his vulnerability or emotional agony due being separated from his wife and children. Not to mention she'll want to skin your ass for all the trouble you caused us, just like what Kraven did.
Selene merely glared at him. "Do you think I would care about that, after what you and her did to Jarek, to me, to the entire coven?!"
Rage and vengeance being the sole two entities guiding her actions, Selene whipped out her other pistol but Edward anticipated this. Back-flipping into the air, he grabbed a hold on the ceiling and then pushed off it, using the momentum from the launch to increase the impact when his body plowed into Selene, causing her to lose balance and for the guns to be knocked out of her grasp. She then rolled out of attacking distance, grabbing her automatic pistols in the process. But just when Selene had recovered, Edward was on her once more. Decking her across the face, his nails elongating, Edward finally answered, "Very well. Have it your way."
"Upon the wall
The great medallion
The gothic arch
The living shadows
Real smell of myth and legend
The hall of throne
In all its splendor
Around the ruins
Testament of ancient battles
WARM THIS LONELY SILENT HALL
COLD NIGHT SHARE
LOST SOULS, GHOSTS
HOLY SHADES OF ETERNITY."
-Shades of Eternity, Luca Turilli's Dreamquest
Periwinkle- light blue
Cinnabar- scarlet or red color
Another chapter is done and gone! But seriously, the more I write Nero, the more I suspect of him acting like BBC's Moriarty. How humorous…
For the record, I apologize how abysmally late this chapter is. Summer vacation, another study abroad trip (to the UK this time), video games, and another term of school have ways of distracting me. I had this chapter and one more written already but I wanted to finish one more before I sent this one out. But on the bright side, I have a complete outline of the remaining story so I know where I'm fully going with this fanfic and how long it will be. So, despite my year-long lack of an update, please stick with me. I love reading all the reviews or receiving emails of people adding this story to their list of favorites or story alerts. Thank you, lovely readers!
Anyway, I would also like to thank Celtic Aurora for her continuing support and awesome review! You always got my back and know the time to support me and also when to prod and remind me about updating my fanfics.
And here is the preview for chapter 15:
She lost everyone she loved at a tender, young age.
"I would be a fool to say that I wasn't, Erika. I'm not Kraven. Remember that."
"And while you do that, I will make sure this troublesome Death Dealer of ours doesn't go too far in poking her nose where it doesn't belong."
"What is it, Thanatos? Did someone happen to my men?"
The injuries of the past still tortured him so and she could understand why.
"Take me to them, Lucian. I have waited centuries to be reunited with them."