I’m headed home! As I sit here writing this, Oliver is attempting to shove all of our luggage into his sister’s Fiat. I think we would be better off just calling a van, but when Mosquito gets it into his head that he is going to do something it is hard to convince him otherwise. I haven’t spoken with his mother since our surprise chat in Venice. I had expected there to be more talks when we returned to Rome, but all has been silent.
I kept my shopping to a minimum. I arrived with one suitcase and am returning home with three. The larger of the two is entirely books that I can’t read yet. I know it is going to cost a small fortune in overweight charges but Oliver made the mistake of handing me a platinum card and telling me to have fun. He can pay the overage fees while he is at it. The second suitcase is filled with new clothes and shoes. Most of the shoes I expect will disappear once you see them. Good riddance since they hurt my toes and are hard to walk in. I also have a few goodies for Sheldon and Flurry.
Oh good, he’s calling for a van!
I’ll see you soon,
Oliver and I have arrived back in Rome after our brief holiday in Venice. We leave in two days and he plans on spending them eating food and playing tourist. He wants to show me all the city has to offer because it is where he grew up. I can’t help but wonder if I will be the same way when I drag him home to meet my family in December. Since my time here is limited I plan to visit as many bookstores as possible and eat an alarming amount of gelato and pasta.
I had a surprise meeting with Daemona, Oliver’s mother, while I was in Venice. I still haven’t mentioned it to him, but I should. I can’t wait to speak with you about it more when I get home. I could really use some insight. Also, Oliver mentioned something about you adopting a Banshee while you were in Scotland. Was that the weird girl we met with the dark eyes?
Can’t wait to get home to Sheldon and my own bed,
“I’ll meet you in the lobby in one hour,” Oliver said as he leaned down to kiss me. I watched with mischievous delight as he turned and walked to the bathroom where his bath waited. As the door closed behind him I found I was once again able to concentrate. I grabbed my purse from where it rested on the coffee table of our suite, gave myself one last glance in the mirror, and headed out the door.
I had just exited the elevator and was heading towards the coffee shop when a strong hand closed around my upper arm and hauled me into a private function room. I tried to cry out but another firm hand clamped over my mouth. The door behind me and my assailant closed with a slamming finality that scared me more than the possible abduction. I was spun around and urged down into a soft chair. I looked up at my assailant.
Her eyes were emerald green and she had golden curls cascading down from her head. Her pale skin looked like porcelain even in the low light of the conference room. “Dani, it’s me, Daemona.” I stopped my struggles when she released me. Oliver’s mother stood over me with sympathetic eyes. “I’m sorry to have frightened you. I’ve been trying to get a moment alone with you for the last few days.”
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I need to speak with you.” She paused and looked around. “Without Oliver around.”
“You couldn’t have found a time while I was in Rome?” I snapped crankily.
She leaned back against the conference table and looked truly apologetic. “I really am sorry to have frightened you,” she said. She pushed off the table and pulled out a chair beside me and took a seat. “What I need to discuss shouldn’t take long.”
I sighed and nodded. “Very well.”
She pulled a small black velvet pouch from her purse and sat it on the table before me. “Oliver’s father was born a Vampire. As was my second mate who fathered the twins, Oliver’s younger sisters. What Oliver doesn’t know and very few people know, is I was born a halfling. My father was Vampire but my mother was Human. When his father and I were bound, I gave up my Human half to become fully Vampire. It was a difficult decision for me because I was raised Human. It made me a target while I decided, because my father’s house couldn’t protect me from others.”
I listened carefully to what she told me. I wasn’t entirely sure what it all had to do with me but it felt somehow reassuring that she trusted me with the information. “I’m honored that you trust me with this secret, but I’m not sure why you are telling me.”
Daemona shifted in her seat. “My son asked for the ring his father proposed to me with. He said he had found the girl.” She watched my face carefully. “I can see he hasn’t made his move yet, and he may not. I don’t know.” She opened the small velvet bag in front of her and pulled out a large magenta pendant suspended on a short ornate silver chain. Emblazoned in a smoky design within the gem was Oliver’s household crest. “This is the mark of our house. As long as you are with my son, Vampire or not, you are a member of this house. I can offer you the protection that was never given to me.”
I reached out and touched the stone. It seemed to pulsate and glow under my fingers. “I don’t understand.”
“I love my children more than anything. You aren’t even remotely Vampire, Darkling, or even Italian, but you make my son happy. I would never want anything to hurt my child. If you choose not to stay with my son, return the necklace, but as long as you are together, wear it,” she said firmly.
I nodded and didn’t resist when she lifted the chain and suspended it around my neck. “Oliver is going to see this and ask where it came from,” I pointed out.
“Tell him I gave it to you if he asks. He will see it as me giving my blessing.” Daemona stood up. “We’ve been long enough. Just remember Dani, you may not be a Vampire, but you are now family.”
I gulped and started to argue, but when I blinked she was gone. I quickly rummaged through my purse to pull out my phone. I was relieved to find that I still had almost half an hour to calm my nerves before seeing Oliver. I stepped out of the private conference room and back into the hallway. I headed directly to the cafe where I had every intention of buying something chocolate to sooth me.
Tessa and I sat in a quiet corner of the great hall. I had spent the better part of the morning meeting with the people of my kingdom and helping resolve issues. I had sorted through land disputes, revenge-fueled brothers, chicken populations, and of course the ongoing vegetable-eating cat problem. We had just started discussing lunch possibilities when a messenger approached the table. “Your Highness, there is a Lord Geren of the Drakemoore Nest here to see you. Should I show him in?”
I looked at Tess and gave her a smile. “Geren’s really nice. Sort of a big goof, but still nice.” I turned back to the messenger awaiting my reply. “Yes, have him shown to my brother’s solar, and please also let the kitchen staff know that we will take lunch there for three.” The young woman gave me a polite bow and darted away to do as she was instructed. I stood and made my way to the solar with Tessa close behind.
“Is this one of the Dragons responsible for banning you from your home?” Tessa asked as we entered the solar.
I shrugged. “I’m not sure responsible is the correct word for it. He is an elder, but I know that most of the anger at the Nest stems from Lord Vallen.” I reflected about it from Vallen’s perspective. “With good reason,” I added.
Tessa patiently waited for me to take a seat first. She still wasn’t comfortable around me, but I knew that would come with time and I would someday see something other than the demure and proper side of her. I took a seat at the end of the table and she sat to my right. I started to ask her a question – I wanted to know more about when she had discovered she was a Banshee – when I was interrupted by a loud pounding on the door. It opened and the messenger stepped inside. “His noble Lordship, Geren Sturlungar Dreki,” she announced.
Geren stepped into the room. He was dressed in leather boots and leggings and a tunic in vivid green and gold – which was almost overkill considering the rest of his looks. The top of his bright yellow hair was pulled away from his face while all his golden waves tumbled down his back. His golden eyes and light skin, glimmering with the shine of golden scales, served as a reminder that he and Hue were cousins. He approached me with a half-serious smile and a red wooden box in his hands. I stood to greet him. When he was less than an arm’s length from me, he knelt to one knee. “Princess Alizeyah, my deep gratitude for your agreement to see me given current circumstances.”
“Geren, it’s always good to see you,” I told him. I held out a hand, meaning to offer it as a hand up. Instead he took it in his, turned it over, and kissed my palm. Then he looked up at me and gave me a dazzling smile. It was the same smile Hue gave me when he was trying to be charming.
Geren released my hand and stood. I motioned for him to take a seat before I also sat. Carefully he set the box on the table. “Princess, I am here on a secret mission. Neither Hudraer nor members of the Nest know I am here at the moment. Least of all with this.” He patted the box beside him. “What I am about to show you must stay a secret.” He turned to face the box and opened it. It unfolded in three parts that came together at the latch and inside was a crown of silver and gold that seemed to glow with its own power.
“It’s beautiful,” I told him.
He smiled. “As you know, my family has been responsible for watching over a number of artifacts important to the Dragon race. This crown belonged to the Original Dragon. Do you know who that is?” he asked.
I nodded, remembering that he was the Dragon that had given his blood to Arthur to teach Humans to rule themselves and not be ruled by magic. “Yes, I do.”
“Then you know he was chosen because of his pure soul, honor, and power. When Hue, Vallen and I were young, we all took turns touching the crown. All three of us are of the noble bloodline, but only Vallen chose to swear his oath to the Knights of the Order. Hue and I were both Knighted, but under different banners. All three of us were burned when we touched the crown. When the King rises again he will be pure of soul, honor and power.” He took a deep breath and I stared at him.
“Ok, so the Original Dragon will come again?” I said with a smile. “It sounds like a fairy tale.”
“When Hue came to the Nest to collect your parents before going to see my aunt and uncle, he told Lady Jura how you had looked without your glamours during Cariss’s funeral. Something about his description reminded me of something. I remembered the crown. Your armor and the sword you call on is like that of Vallen’s. Only those of the bloodline have that ability. So I’d like you to touch the crown.” He pushed the box towards me.
I laughed as he smiled broadly at me. I shook my head. “You’re being silly,” I told him. “I’m not even full Dragon.”
“Touch it anyway. I’m probably wrong and you’ll get a tiny burn on your finger,” he said mischievously.
“I don’t want a burn on my finger,” I argued.
“Do this for me and I will never never make another silly request of you.”
I glared at him. “You shouldn’t say never when you and I both know that won’t be the case,” I taunted. He wiggled the box in front of me. Sighing loudly, I reached out with a single finger and touched the crown. There was a hiss of something burning, but it didn’t come from me. It sounded like it came from the crown. Geren, Tessa and I all watched with fascination as the crown seemed to glow like fire then turn white in a flow from my finger. I turned my hand over to look at my fingertip. Not so much as a spot of pink.
Geren’s smile faded into something else and he sat the box back on the table. In one fluid motion he drew his sword and sank to his knees. With lowered eyes he stared at my feet. “Forgive me, your Majesty,” he pleaded.
I laughed. “Geren, get up. I’m sorry I broke your crown, but you have nothing to apologize for. I wasn’t burned. If anyone is sorry it’s me. I’ve ruined your sacred crown.”
Geren looked up at me with a mix of awe and outrage. He laid his sword at my feet. “From this day forward I swear my life blood to you and the kingdom you will build.”
“What?” I blinked several times before turning to look at Tessa, who was nodding.
Tessa met my gaze. “It makes so much sense now,” she said.
“What does?” I demanded. I looked back down at Geren. “Will you get up? You kneeling like that makes me uncomfortable.”
Geren immediately rose at my request. “Your Majesty, you have been reborn. Don’t you see Alizeyah? You are the King.”
I looked over at the gleaming crown. “No I’m not. Take it home, put it in your vault, and don’t speak of this with anyone.”
Geren nodded, closing the box. “I will keep your secret, but as I said, from this day forward I am sworn to you. I won’t be the last to make that promise even if you don’t accept my oath.”
I shook my head. “I can’t be who you think I am,” I told him. “You need to pray I’m not.” I buried what had just happened deeper and deeper within me where I hoped neither Ian nor Hue would ever find it.
Lunch arrived then. Nervously, I invited Tessa and Geren to take a seat and enjoy the meal with me. We didn’t speak of the crown or the Original Dragon for the rest of the day. We stayed on topics like the binding ceremony, my upcoming trip back to Vesaria for Lily’s baby shower, and how much I was missing ice cream in the daytime heat.
We have arrived in Venice. Despite all the warnings from you and other friends, I am really liking it. Yes, the canals smell a little funny, but there is an aura of happiness here that I like. The street food is one-of-a-kind and puts Seoul’s to shame. That’s saying something since you know how much I love Korean street food. Oliver and I have spent every minute together since we arrived and things have been… hot. Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not sure if it is because he is glad to be done with work or if it is because I am glad to have escaped the family. They are good people, just… intense. I can tell I don’t fit into their ideal box, but I could see they were trying to be as welcoming as they could be.
I’m sorry this postcard is a little shorter but we are headed out for more gelato and a gondola ride. I’m not sold on the gondola ride but Oliver insists it is romantic and I will love it. I think that is code for river boat make-out session.
Oliver made arrangements for me to visit the library at the Vatican today while he and the others slept. It was the first time since arriving in Rome I felt completely at ease. The books were breathtaking. Don’t get me wrong – the royal libraries in Everwood and Vesaria are impressive, but there is something amazing about touching that much Human history in one room. I was a little bummed that security wouldn’t let me take my hand scanner or cell phone in, but I do get why. I spent the entire day elbow deep in impressive manuscripts and couldn’t have been happier. At closing time, I sadly handed my white gloves over and left. We NEED to go back there. Seriously, we really need to go back there and read stuff.
I’m meeting Oliver and his family at Piazza Navona for dinner tonight. He promised to take me to the gelato place you raved about. I’ve been enjoying exploring the city during the day while they’re sleeping. You were right; it is an amazing city full of so much history, culture, food, and bookstores. I can’t read Italian, but I used Oliver’s credit card and bought a five-hundred-year-old, leather-bound book that was handwritten and gorgeously illuminated. My Mosquito has promised to read it to me and translate. It’s so sexy when he reads to me in Italian.
Off to eat too much gelato,
I felt bad. I had dragged poor Tessa back to Everbloom with me then all but ignored her for days while I dealt with my parents. Aiden had ridden out to Vesaria in hopes of finding Avery’s hideout. I had finally convinced Hue to take my parents and discuss the binding ceremony in more detail. They were going to take the portal back to Tarell and meet with his family. It was most likely a trip I should have also gone on, but someone has to run the Kingdom while Aiden is away.
After my daily royal chores I found Tessa out in the garden behind the kitchen. She had a basket filled with herbs and vegetables. “How’s it going?” I asked.
She jumped at the intrusion and swung around to stare at me wide eyed. “Holy hell, you scared me Princess.”
“I’m sorry,” I told her. I held out my hand and took the basket from her. “You know, you don’t have to call me that.”
“Call you what?” she asked.
She raised a brow at me before looking back at the castle. “Was there something I can help you with?” she asked.
“Actually, yes. I was hoping you would join me for tea. I thought we could talk some,” I explained.
Dusting her hands off as she turned towards the castle, she gave me a little nod and headed back for the kitchen. Once inside she began putting away the herbs she had collected. “What would you like for me to fix for you?” she asked.
I stared blankly at her. “Tessa, you do realize I brought you here as a guest, not as a maid, right?”
She shifted back and forth uncomfortably. “You want me to just sort of like… sit there and do nothing?”
“No, you can do whatever it is you would like to do. You aren’t here to wait on me though.” I stepped around her and began filling a kettle with hot water from the stove. I filled a basket with tea and dropped it into the kettle, then made quick work of filling a tray with all the needed elements for an afternoon tea. I then turned to her and motioned with my head towards the great hall. “C’mon, I want to talk to you some.”
Tessa nodded and followed along closely behind me. She took a seat in one of the chairs near the unlit fireplace. I put the tray down on the small table between us and began pouring. Tessa prepared her tea before she finally spoke. “I’m just a little overwhelmed, I think. I came here and it’s the largest number of Otherworlders I have ever been around. Also because all of them are tied to you I can’t really see their destinies. It’s like I’ve lived in a house with loud music blaring everyday nonstop and then suddenly one day the music is totally gone.”
I picked up a scone and took a bite while I considered her words. “Do you have any memories of your past?” I asked her.
She shook her head. “Not really. I think I may have been a nurse or midwife. I seem to have a fairly good understanding of Human anatomy, but I’ve had to learn about other races. I know I can turn into a crow and I may have been able to do that before I became a Banshee. I know my name is Elizabeth, Tessa for short.”
“Have you met other Banshees? Can any of them give you something to go off of?”
“I have met other Banshees, but they don’t seem to be any more knowledgeable about their pasts than I am. It’s like when you become a Banshee your old life just fades away to nothing.” Tessa took a sip of tea and looked around the room. “Where is your Dragon?”
“Hue took my parents to meet with his parents. They are discussing plans for the binding ritual,” I explained. “I’m sort of happy to have them out of the castle for a day or two.”
“What about Ian’s input?” Tessa asked.
I blinked. “Huh?”
“Your other Soul Mate. You can’t do the binding without Ian and Hue,” she said. I continued to stare at her. “Really? Surely, I’m not the only one who can see your souls?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I finally said.
“There are some souls that are so powerful they aren’t reborn to the world very often. Usually, when they become too powerful they split and that’s where you get a Soul Mate. It’s why frequently the people in positions of power have Soul Mates. Your soul was split into two halves, but it looks like your half was asleep for a very long time. Meanwhile the other half was reborn over and over and eventually split again. Ian and Hue are the two parts of the same half. Technically, they are the Soul Mates,” she explained. She reached for a cookie and popped it into her mouth. “These are really good,” she told me.
I continued to blink at her with nothing to say as she happily munched on cookies. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I processed that.”
Tessa took a sip of tea and swallowed. “You are way too powerful as it stands. Soul Mates don’t always find each other in every life cycle. Hue and Ian are both a part of you. With you being born now, they would naturally mate with you rather than each other. You’re the more powerful.”
“So why was it just Hue that was my Soul Mate?” I finally asked.
“My guess is that his soul was slightly stronger of the two. When he died it weakened his bond with you some and allowed Ian’s bond to strengthen.”
“Then why wasn’t Ian going crazy without Hue?” I was processing all this new information. It made sense, but I had never had what a Soul Mate really is it broken down so matter-of-factly.
“How do you know he wasn’t? It also stands to reason that part of why you were successful in saving Hudraer was because you had Ian’s help, as well as three quarters of the soul in the living realm.” She lowered her hand to let them rest in her lap.
“So what will happen when Hue and I are bound?” I asked.
Tessa shrugged. “I don’t know. Just because I can see what you are doesn’t mean I knew you existed. Granted I haven’t been a Banshee too long, but I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this before.”
“How the heck do you know so much about it?” I said, exasperated.
“You three are the talk across all the realms. What’s more, I’ve now seen you with my own eyes. In some cases seeing really is believing,” Tessa said.
I sighed heavily and lowered my head to the table in defeat. “Yet again, I’m the freak of the party.”
Tessa sat silently watching.
I realize all I am doing is venting to the mailbox when I send these, but it still makes me feel better. Oliver’s family is insane. I don’t mean in that fun, makes-a-birthday-cake-for-no-reason way. I mean really certifiable. His grandmother took me shopping for a coffin. His mother insists on teaching me to cook. It’s only been a few days but I have burned lasagna, overcooked a lot of pasta, and sent the house into panic when I cut myself mincing garlic. Then there are his sisters. They have single-handedly taken it upon themselves to plan a wardrobe for my binding, wedding, and honeymoon. Can I point out again that Oliver and I aren’t at this point yet. Not even close.
Each day here I struggle more and more to keep myself calm and not lose my patience. Oliver has been off taking care of the business that he came to Italy to handle. It would seem there have been threats from that household we dealt with last summer. He is concerned because there have been a lot of sightings recently of the higher-ups in Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong. His goal is to arrange a meeting with their Patriarch and make sure he knows that Asia is under Oliver’s jurisdiction. That being said, he has mentioned he may be sending me to stay with you for a while after we return. It doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling if you know what I mean.
Headed back to the Hell Kitchen,
My parents sat across from Hudraer and I at one of the large tables in the great hall. “I can’t wait to see you get bound here at the castle,” my father spoke up.
My mother, Lady Jura, spun on her seat to face him. “Here? What do you mean here? She is my daughter and Hue’s Soul Mate, they should be bound at the Nest,” she argued.
“She’s an Elven Princess. It is her duty to be bound publicly so that her people can see her mate and recognize Hue as a member of the royal family.” My father smiled softly but his tone was firm. Hue cleared his throat. “Actually, I was thinking we would host the rite at the Nest as well.”
I lowered my head to rest on in the table while the three argued about the location of the binding ceremony. I sighed deeply but it seemed to go on without notice… mostly.
What’s wrong? Ian asked.
They are arguing about where to hold the binding ceremony, I explained.
I think Hue wants it at the Nest. It would make sense as he is a Dragon and you are half Dragon. Ian was silent for a moment. Where do you want it?
Honestly? I asked
Of course. I would know if you weren’t honest anyway.
I don’t care, I told him.
Ian went back to being silent. Being bound to someone you love is the greatest feeling in the world. Have you changed your mind about Hudraer?
No, of course not. I love Hue. Something just doesn’t feel right, ya know?
I do. Like as much as you love someone there is just some small part missing, he explained.
Yes, exactly, I confirmed.
It was like that with my first mate. Ian’s laugh echoed in my head. I loved her, I did, and I would have rather it have been me that died that day. It still doesn’t change the feeling that something wasn’t there that should have been.
It was like that with my first husband, I told him.
Are you two done? Hue cut in. My head shot up and I looked at him. He grinned the way a mischievous little boy would. “I was just telling your parents that I think we should let you choose where to have the binding ceremony.”
I blinked at Hue a few times then turned to face my parents. “What about Tarell?” I offered.
Everyone looked back at me. Jura took my hand. “That’s not really a possibility. The magic needed is difficult to control there,” she explained.
“You’re a powerful high priestess. Are you telling me you can’t handle the magic as it works in Tarell?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Have you ever noticed that you are more powerful in other realms than there?”
“Not really. There’s been no difference in my powers in any of the realms I have been to so far.” Jura and Hue exchanged looks.
“None at all?” Hue asked.
None, both I and Ian responded to him.
I huffed and rested my chin on a hand. “Seriously, if none of you are going to listen to what I want, then why don’t the three of you plan it?”
Leonide was the one to try and calm the water. “Alizeyah, we just want to make you happy. Having someone like you turn out to be a Soul Mate is rare and exciting. It means a lot, not just to us, but to the people who will look to you for guidance in the future. The Nest, the court here, Tarell, wherever you choose, whatever you choose, we will support your decision.”
Just tell them what you want and let them be the ones to figure it out, Ian offered. I could tell Hue was less than thrilled that the Wolf was encouraging me to not make all the decisions.
“Fine. I want a ceremony on the beach in Drakemoore, under the moon. The one near the portal. I want lanterns, starlight, Fairy Silk, music from Tarell and food from there as well. Big silk tents, orchids and ivy, and the people I most care about. You can invite whoever you like but you need to secure a glamour from Mab because I am not getting bound without my Human family. Anything beyond all that you can figure out yourselves,” I said firmly. They all stared at me as I turned on my chair. “Now, if any of you need me, I’m going to go stab something with a sword.” I left the table rather proud of myself.
Hue chased after me and put an arm around my shoulders. “Was that so hard?” he asked.
I think you did well. Parents can be overwhelming when it comes to binding ceremonies, Ian told me.
Hue pulled me to a stop. Did you both pick up the part where Jura mentioned Vallen’s been bound to a Fae?
“What?!” I was so shocked I spoke out loud. Oh, I so don’t want to be the one to tell Dani.
Both Hue and Ian agreed.
Originally posted on Isabelle Saint-Michael:
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