I know a lot of the recent chapters have had some of the excerpts from the book but that is to get me back into the swing of writing. I know the readers that have been keeping up with my stories are aware that I suffer from long periods of writers block or being to damn busy to get anything done that is remotely recreational. But I am trying to get this story completed but I don't want it to lose any of the appeal that so many of you have come to love. So bear with me and please don't give up on me.

~PrincessJolie


Chapter Twenty Six

RPOV

It turns out that Dimitri had a friend who had a friend and somehow, despite the best security in the Moroi world we managed to get into the Court's prison facilities.

"Why are we doing this?" I asked Dimitri as we walked down the hall towards Victor's cell.

"To talk to Dashkov."

"No shit. Why are we talking to him? Are you trying to take him out or something because of the threats. If so I'll just turn back around. I am going to be in enough trouble as it is when we get out of here."

"No. If Victor wanted to take revenge on use, he'd just do do it without any warning. He doesn't do things without a reason. The face that he told you first means he wants something and now we are going to find out."

We reached Victor's cell. He was only prisoner currently being held. Like the rest of the facility, his room reminded me of something you'd find at a hospital everything was clean, bright and sterile and very bare. It was a place without any stimulus or distraction whatsoever, which would have driven me crazy in an hour. The cell had silvery bars that looked very hard to break, which was the most important part.

Victor sat in a char, idly examine his nails. Though it had been months since I had last seen him the sight of him still made my skin crawl. Feelings I hadn't know were buried in me suddenly burst to the surface.

One of the hardest things of all was seeing him look so healthy and young. He'd brought that health by torturing Lissa, and I hated him for it. If his disease had run it's normal course he might be dead by now.

A smile lighting his face he said, "Oh my. This is a treat. Lovely Rosemarie, practically an adult now." then his eyes flickered to Dimitri. "Of course, some have been treating you that way for quite a while now."

"Stop screwing around you son of a bitch and just tell us what you want." I snapped out at him.

"Easy Rose." Dimitri said putting his hand on my shoulder.

Slowly I took a deep breath and back away till my back hit the opposite wall. I wanted to put as much distance as I could between myself and Dashkov.

"You wanted us here Dashkov now you got us here. What do want?" Dimitri asked.

"Does there have to be some sinister reason? I just wanted to know how she was doing, and something tells me we aren't going to have a friendly chat tomorrow." that annoying smirk stayed on his face. The man was lucky he was behind bars our I would have beat him into a bloodied pulp.

"We're not having a friendly chat now." I growled.

"You think that I am joking, but I'm not. I really do want to know how you're doing. You've always been a fascinating subject to me Rosemarie. The only shadow-kissed person we know of. I told you before, that isn't the kind of thing you walk way from unscathed. There's no way you can sink into the regimented routine of academic life. People like you aren't meant to blend in."

"I am not some kind of science experiment."

He acted as though I hadn't said anything."What's it been like? What have you noticed?"

"There is no time for this. If you don't get to the point," warned Dimitri, "We are going to leave."

I didn't understand how Dimitri could be so calm in this man's presences I was going out of my mind and my body was hyperaware. Everything about Victor Dashkov screamed danger to me even if he was behind bars. "There is now way they'll let you walk tomorrow. I hope you enjoy prison. I bet it'll be great once you get sick again-and you will, you know."

Victor regarded me levelly, still with that amused look that made me want to choke him. "All things die Rose. Well, except you, I suppose. Or maybe you are dead. I don't know. Those who visit the world of the dead can probably never fully shake their connection to it."

There was a snarky retort on my lips, but something held me back. Those who visit the world of the dead. What if my Mason sightings weren't because I was crazy or because he was seeking revenge? What if there was something about me- something that had happened when I'd died an come back that was now connecting me to Mason? It was Victor who had first explained what it meant to be shadow-kissed. I wondered now if he had any of the answers I'd been looking for.

My face must have given away something, because Victor gave em a speculative look. "Yes? There's something you'd like to say?"

I hated to ask the man for anything, it made my stomach turn. But I swallowed my pride and asked anyway. "What is the world of dead? Is it heaven or hell?"

"Neither." he told me.

"What lives there?" I exclaimed. "Ghost? Will I go back? Do things come out?"

Victor was taking great pleasure in me having to come to him for information, just as I'd feared he would. I saw that smirk intensify.

"Well, clearly something things come out of it, because here you stand before us."

"He is baiting you," Dimitri said. "Let it go."

Victor gave Dimitri a brief glare. "I am helping here." he turned back to me. "Honestly I don't know much about it. You're the one who has been there, Rose. Not me. Not yet. Someday, you'll probably be educating me. I'm sure the more you deal death out, the closer you come to it."

"Enough," Dimitri said his voice harsh. "We are going."

"Wait, wait." Victor said, his voice congenial. "You haven't told me about Vasilisa yet."

I moved forward again. "Stay away from here. She doesn't have anything to do with this."

Victor gave me a dry look. "Seeing as I'm locked away here , I have no choice but to stay away from her, my dear. And you're wrong-Vasilisa has everything to do with everything."

"That's it," I said, suddenly getting it. "That's why you sent the not. You wanted me here because you wanted to know about her, and you knew there was no way she'd come talk to you herself. You had nothing to blackmail her with."

"Such an ugly work, Blackmail."

"There's no way you're going to see her-at least outside of the courtroom. She's never going to heal you. I told you: you're going to get sick again, and you are going to die. You going to be the one sending me postcards from the other side."

"You think that what this is about? You think my needs are that petty?" the mockery was gone, replaced by a feverish and almost fanatical look in his green eyes. The tight set of his mouth stretched the skin of his face a little, and I noticed he'd lost weight since our last encounter. Maybe prison had ben harder on him than I thought. "You've forgotten everything, why I did what I did. You've been so caught up in your own shortsightedness that you missed the big picture I was looking at."

I racked my brain, thinking back to that time last fall. He was right. My focus had been on the wrongs he'd committed against Lissa and me personally. I'd forgotten other conversations, his insane explanations of his grand scheme.

"You wanted to stage a revolution-still want to. That's crazy. It's not going to happen." I said.

"It's already happening. Do you think I don't know what's going on out in the world? I still have contacts. People can be bought off-how do you think I was able to send you that message? I know about the unrest- I know about Natasha Ozera's movement to get Moroi to fight with the Guardians. You stand by here and vilify me Rosemarie, but I pushed for the very same thing last fall. Yet, somehow, you don't see to regard her in the same way."

"Tasha Ozera is working on her cause a bit differently than you did." noted Dimitri.

"And that is why she is getting nowhere." Victor retorted. "Tatiana and her council are being held back by centuries of archaic traditions. So long as that sort of poser rule us , nothing will change. We will never learn to fight. Non-royal Moroi will never have a voice. Dhampirs like you will continually be sent to battle."

"It's what we dedicate our lives to," Dimitri said. I could sense the tension building in him. He might show better self-control than but I knew he was getting frustrated.

"And it's what you lose your lives for. You're all but enslaved and don't even realize it. And for what? Why do you protect us?"

"Because you have it imprinted into our minds that we need you. That the only way we will survive is if we keep you alive."

"I see your eyes have opened up just a little Rosemarie. You know that is utter bullshit. You know what a waste it is. I even wager that you aren't even entertaining the thought of being a guardian. I wander what Lissa thinks of that." Victor said with that annoying self righteous smirk of his that I just wanted to wipe from his face as I repeatedly punched him.

"You shut your mouth you don't know what you are talking about." I snapped furious that he could read me so easily. "Though I am not disillusioned with the way the Moroi play their mind games I do realize their importance. Their magic is very important to our society. Without it we are all defenseless from strigoi. Even you."

"We used to do amazing things. Humans used to revere us as gods, but over time we grew lazy. Advent of technology made our magic more and more obsolete. Now, all we do is parlor tricks." Victor said ignoring the last bit of my statement.

"If you have so many ideas then do something useful and write a manifesto while you here in prison." Dimitri said

"And what's this have to do with Lissa anyway?" I asked.

"Because Vasilisa is a vehicle for change."

I stared incredulously. "You think she's going to lead your revolution?"

"Well, I'd prefer that I lead it-someday. But, regardless, I think that she's going to be part of it. I've heard about her too. She's a rising star-still young, certainly, but people are taking notice. All royals aren't created equal, you know. The Dragomir symbol is a dragon, the king of the beasts. Likewise, the Dragomir blood has always been powerful-that's why the Strigoi have targeted them so consistently. A Dragomir returning to power is no small thing-particularly one such as her. My impression from the reports is that she must have mastered her magic. If that's so-with her gifts-there's no telling what she could do. People are drawn to her with almost no effort on her part. And when she actually tries to influence them...well, they'll do anything she wants." His eyes were wide as he spoke, wonder and happiness on his face as he imagined Lissa living out his dreams.

"Unbelievable," I said. "First you wanted to hide her away to keep you alive. Now you actually want her out in the world to use her compulsion for your own psycho plans."

"I told you, she's a force for change. And like you being shadow-kissed, she's the only one of her kind that we know about. That makes her dangerous-and very valuable."

Well, that was something. Victor wasn't all-knowing after all. He didn't know about Adrian's spirit use.

"Lissa will never do it," I said. "She's not going to abuse her powers."

"And Victor's not going to say anything about us," said Dimitri, tugging my arm. "He's achieved his goal. He brought you here because he wanted to know about Lissa."

"He didn't find out much," I said.

"You'd be surprised," said Victor. He grinned at Dimitri. "And what makes you so certain I won't enlighten the world about your romantic indiscretions?"

"Because it won't save you from prison. And if you ruin Rose, you'll destroy whatever weak chance you had of Lissa helping you with your warped fantasy." Victor flinched just a little; Dimitri was right. Dimitri stepped forward, pressing close to the bars as I had earlier. I'd thought I had a scary voice, but when he spoke his next words, I realized I wasn't even close.

"And it'll all be pointless anyway, because you won't stay alive long enough in prison to stage your grand plans. You aren't the only one with connections." Dimitri said as he stood there, tall and threatening while he glared down at Victor, I felt a chill run down my spine. I remembered how when I had first come to the Academy, people had said Dimitri was a god.

In this moment, he looked it.

If Victor was frightened by Dimitri's threat, he didn't show it. His jade green eyes glanced between the two of us. "You two are a match made in heaven. Or somewhere."

"See you in court," I said as I held in a snort. Victor thought he knew everything, but it was clear he knew nothing about what had happened between me and Dimitri or the fact that I was with Adrian.

Dimitri and I left. On our way out, he said a few words in Russian to the guardian on duty. From their manners, my guess was Dimitri was offering thanks.

We ventured outdoors, walking across a wide, beautiful parklike space to get back to our rooms. The sleet had stopped, and it had left everything-buildings and trees alike-coated in ice. It was like the world was made of glass. Glancing at Dimitri, I saw him staring straight ahead. It was hard to tell while walking, but I could have sworn he was shaking.

"Are you okay?" I asked him.

"Yes."

"Are you sure?" I asked as I looked at him carefully.

"As okay as I can be." he breathed out.

"Do you think he will say anything? Do you think he will try to tank your career?"

"No." he said to me.

We walked in silence for a bit. I finally asked the question I had been dying to know since I gotten that letter from Victor.

"Does Natasha know? Does she know how we use to have a thing? Or about what happened that night?" I asked him/

"No she doesn't. I have never planned on telling her because what we thought we had were confused feelings. And that night doesn't need to be known by anyone but you and me."

"Well and Adrian."

"You told him?" Dimitri asked, well more liked a barely controlled snap.

"Of course I did. There are no secrets between me and Adrian. Well none that can potential cause us to split. It's not as though Adrian wouldn't have known how I felt about you while we were at the ski resort or how you felt about me he read aura for christ sake. But that isn't the only reason why I told him. I wanted him to fully understand the pain that Victor Dashkov had put me and Lissa through. It's the reason he didn't want me here but also the reason why he understood why I had to put all this behind me and it starts with seeing that man put away forever. If you are worried that he will tell or try and get you in trouble I can promise you he won't. Adrain has no desire to see you lose your job. Hell I don't think he particularly cares what happens to you period." I told Dimitri.

"Though I don't like the idea of you with him and I will never approve of you being with which I know to you means nothing. I can see that he has changed and he has put a great effort into being with you. I just don't want to see you give up on your dreams of being a guardian."'

"What are you talking about Dimitri?"

"I'm talking about what Victor said in there about you thinking of not being a Guardian. I know that wasn't one of your ideas. You have been focused on this for so long and as soon as you meet Adrian everything seems to change."

"While Adrian is a big influence in all my recent decisions he doesn't make those kinds of decisions for me." I snapped at Dimitri. "Whether or not I want to be a Guardian is because of something I have decided. I make the decision on how I want to spend my life and time. And for you to dare insinuate that I would let a man change me and to make those decisions for me tell me that you never really knew me."

"Rose-"

"Thanks for the field trip that is going to get me an earful because there is no way Adrian hasn't already heard about this. But I think I spent just about all the time with you today that I can muster. Have a good day Guardian Belikov."