Authors: Jonathan Yanez
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Occult, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Vampires, #Teen & Young Adult
“What do you think, Connor?”
Connor shifted uneasily in his seat. “If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said to stay away from him. I know he loves you but he also knew the Law that stated Elites and humans are forbidden to intermix. But now I have Laren, who at the moment is very human. I know that I love her and there isn’t a law that could be created to stop me being with her.”
Rebecca tried to sweep the tears in her eyes away without Connor noticing, but he saw the quick motion. Connor handed his mother a clean linen napkin from the table.
“He loved you, Mom, and he still does. When he realized that there was no hiding my birth from the Council, he turned himself in. He willingly sentenced himself to a horrible place to protect us.”
Rebecca was strong like her son. No whimpers or sobs escaped her throat but she was crying. Small streaks fell down her face. Connor rose from his chair, as did his mother, and they hugged again.
Rebecca wasn’t saying anything. Connor knew she had a big decision to make. “I don’t think I can tell you one way or the other. That’s something you have to decide. All I can tell you is the truth. But the truth is he still loves you, Mom.”
A few moments of silence passed before Rebecca regained her composure and separated herself from her son’s arms. “Oh, for goodness sake, look at me. A grown woman crying like a teenage girl over a boy.”
“Take your time. There isn’t any hurry. I was told he’s going to be fine. He just needs to rest.”
“No, enough time has been lost. I want to see him. I think I need to see him to make my decision.”
“Are you sure? You’ve been through so much today and—”
Connor gently opened the door to Caderyn’s room. The small room closely resembled his own. A bed, dresser, chairs, and a small table were the only pieces of furniture. A door in a corner of the room led to a small bathroom. Light was held at bay by a thick drape.
Connor and Rebecca did their best to quietly enter but Caderyn still turned his head at the sound. When he saw Rebecca, Caderyn smiled and tried to get up. He made it to an awkward sitting position half supported by an elbow before a grimace washed over his face. He grunted as his body forced him back down.
Connor and Rebecca ran to his side. “Easy, how are you feeling?” Connor asked.
“I’ve had better days.”
Connor could only imagine how much pain his father was in. The damage Vercin had done to his body was far worse than Connor had at first thought. Caderyn was covered in bandages. He was shirtless with a huge wrap around his torso, cuts and bruises ran at will around his face, arms and chest.
“Your healing factor will kick in. You’ll be fine in a few days.”
“Bones take longer to mend. I should be up and around soon.”
“Why didn’t you let them give you something to rest? To at least ease the pain and let you sleep?” Rebecca asked, speaking for the first time.
Caderyn eased himself into a sitting position again. This time he moved slowly. His shoulder-length grey hair fell on either side of his face. “I told them I didn’t want anything that would make me sleep or dull the pain because I wanted to be awake if you came.”
Connor started to feel uneasy. Put him in a hunt for dragons, a crowd of undead, or a fight with a genetically modified Elite and he could handle that. This was something far out of his comfort zone. He took a step back so his mother and father could be next to each other.
“Well, I did come, Caderyn. I came so I could hear from your lips what happened, why you left. I’ve been told, but I want to hear it from you.”
Caderyn nodded. His eyes were locked on Rebecca and Connor could practically feel the weight of this moment. Connor’s unease was beginning to grow and he took another step back towards the door.
“Connor, wait,” Caderyn said, “I want you to hear this, too.”
Connor stopped moving but still gave them their space.
“I fell in love, Rebecca. I fell in love with you and everything about you. You know now what we are and the rules we have. I, of course, knew that I wasn’t supposed to love you, but I didn’t have a choice. I tried not loving you, but you were the first woman in centuries that I felt this way about. I knew that I had found the one person I was meant to be with. I wasn’t going to lose you, no matter what the consequences.”
So far Rebecca had been silent. She stood, arms crossed, next to Caderyn’s bed. Connor couldn’t see her face but he noticed a change in her posture. Instead of straight backed and rigid, she shifted her feet. Her head turned down as his father continued.
“I’ve rehearsed this conversation and what I would say thousands of times. I had plenty of time to think during my stay in the Elite prison. I thought about what I would say over and over again, but you deserve the truth above anything else. I did what I had to, first to love you, second to protect you. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Connor couldn’t believe his ears. His father wasn’t apologizing for anything and Connor was sure his mother would lay into him. Connor tried grabbing his father’s attentions with a scared look on his own face and chopping motions made across his own throat with his right hand. His father ignored him and continued.
“I would rather have loved you and spent the time we did together than obey the Law and leave you the second I saw you. I wish I could have said goodbye, but to ensure yours and Connor’s safety, I couldn’t. If the Council knew that you were aware of the truth, they would have killed you as well.”
The room was silent. Connor wasn’t sure how his mother was going to react or what he would do if he was put in a position to stop her from slapping his father. But he didn’t have to worry about any of that as his mother opened her mouth.
“Oh, Caderyn. I’ve hated you and what you did to me for so long. To hear the truth now is—is so hard to process. But after hearing what you have to say—I think—I think I can forgive you.”
Connor let out a huge sigh before he could stop himself. The noise reverberated through the quiet room. Caderyn and Rebecca were both smiling as they looked at their son.
Only smiles returned from his parents as Rebecca took a seat on the edge of the bed and Caderyn reached for her hand.
Connor slowly turned. He left his parents to have a conversation that had been in the making for the past eighteen plus years.
Connor was careful to close the door behind him without a sound. He didn’t want the slightest thing to disturb his parents’ reunion.
Making his way down the palace hall, Connor couldn’t help but feel happy. He knew war was just over the horizon. There was no assurance that the antidote for Laren’s virus would work. A dozen other things should be wearing him down with worry, but Connor still couldn’t help but smile.
His father and mother were together again. He had pictured this scenario a hundred times as a boy. Without a father growing up, it was something he had caught himself thinking about far too often. Never had he imagined events would turn out as they did. This proved that there was always hope. That things happened for a reason no matter how bleak they seemed.
Connor had lost all sense of time. Jumping between the human world he knew and The Island played with his concept of where the hands on the clock would be at any given time. Now as he rounded a sharp corner in one of the palace’s many halls, Connor caught sight of the dark sky and clouds.
The sky was showing signs that a storm was coming.
Well, I guess that makes sense. The weather is matching the times. A storm is coming. All we can do now is prepare.
Connor was interrupted from his thoughts at Lu’s unfamiliar, kind voice.
“Hey, Judge. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“What’s wrong?” A shadow passed over Connor’s face. Lu had been watching the doctor and if he had another one of his violent outbreaks, then they may never find the cure. “Lu, you didn’t—”
“Calm down,” Lu said. “I didn’t kill the doctor. He’s working hard to come up with a serum to shield us from the virus that made Laren human. He’s promising us that he’s almost there now. Morrigan is watching him. I came to let you know that we should have something by tomorrow morning. After that, we’re going to put him to work right away on a cure for Laren.”
“Great. Thank you, Lu.” Connor’s heart went out to the large man in front of him. Lu would never admit it but Connor knew he was still hurting, too. “If there’s anything I can do, Lu, just ask.”
“This might be because I haven’t slept for a few days, but I think I’m going to say something nice to you. You’re doing a great job. But don’t stop now, the final battle is still coming. If there was ever a time to push forward, it would be now.”
“Lu, I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. You must be exhausted.” Connor raised his right fist with two fingers extended. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Lu raised an eyebrow. He threw a peace sign up above his head as he turned his back. “Get some rest, Judge. You’re going to need it.”
That night Connor went to bed with a weariness that told him he would be out as soon as his head hit the pillow. He was. What he didn’t anticipate was his nightmare.
It wasn’t a Vercin-induced dream this time. This time it was all Connor’s psyche.
Connor was standing in a dark room with a pick axe in his hand. The same Elite he had killed in the cabin in the Catskill Forest was kneeling in front of him. The man was pale, fear in his eyes. He was begging.
The man was practically crying as Connor lifted the pick axe. Spittle dripped off his lips as he begged. He pleaded with every ounce of his being for Connor to spare his life.
Connor was panicking. He was ordering his arms to lower. He wanted to save the man. He didn’t want to lift the pick axe, but still the weapon rose above his head.
Connor screamed at himself to stop, to lower the weapon and to show mercy, but nothing was happening. It was like he was in someone else’s body, powerless to do anything but watch.
The pick axe rose higher and higher. The man screamed and begged. The tool-turned-weapon, came down with so much power it was nothing but a blur.
The axe sunk deep into the man’s skull, his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Bile and stomach acid made its way to Connor’s mouth as his stomach threatened to empty at the thought of the man’s death.
Connor woke up in his bed. His heart was racing as morning sun was kept at bay by dark clouds. Connor knew it had been a nightmare but the thought of taking life again poked at his conscience in a sinister way.
Connor rose from his bed, freeing himself from the nightmare with a shake of his head. He knew there was still so much to do before the final showdown with Vercin. He even felt guilty for sleeping the few hours he had. Vercin would be coming soon and it was on him to get everyone ready.
Connor ran through the motions of dressing and washing before he exited his quarters. He made his way through the halls on his way to the palace’s main room. If Connor thought palace life had been hectic before he didn’t know what to think now.
With the promise of war coming their way, everyone had kicked it up into a higher gear. Now not only servants but Elites from every family found a job. This was to be the greatest confrontation in history, Elite or human. It seemed as though everyone was aware of the importance of the conflict and was running to complete their tasks.
Nods, smiles, and grim looks of determination met Connor as he entered the large hall. Zheng was in the center of the tornado of productivity, directing people like the calm eye of a storm.
Connor made his way to the King’s side. He caught the tail end of a conversation between Zheng and a small group of monks looking to their leader for direction.
“When they come, brothers, our walls must be strong and hold like they never have before. We must be prepared to propel the attacker from the battlements at all costs. Make sure they are supplied with enough weapons to last not just days but weeks. In fact, over supply the stockpiles. The last thing we need is to run low during the heat of the battle.”
The monks nodded and bowed. A swirl of orange hurried away to do their master’s bidding. Zheng turned with a smile.
“Connor, you are already awake.”
“Yes, I thought that I should check in with you to see what needs to be done. Where will I be the most use?”
“Everything is moving well at the moment. Come, follow me.”
Connor walked side by side with the King of The Island as they made their way out of the palace and into the large courtyard. Soldiers, monks, and servants ran around them, some stopping to say hello but most content with a smile or nod.
Zheng led them down the stone walkway to the large double gates that led from outside of the palace into the courtyard.
“I imagine the bulk of the fighting will take place here. If we can repel them from the battlements and stop them from climbing our walls, then they will focus on the gate.”
Connor nodded, taking in the thick stone walls. The outside wall protecting the palace made a perfect circle around the estate. It was fashioned out of large pieces of rock and rose what Connor guessed to be eight to ten stories high.
Even now monks ran up and down the long stairs that led from the ground to the tops of the walls. They carried with them all kinds of weapons. Connor caught sight of arrows, spears, and stones among others.
“The arrows and spears won’t kill them, of course. Not with their Elite healing,” Zheng said as he noticed Connor’s eyes stray to the weapons. “But it will slow them down.”
“I see. And the gate?”
Zheng pointed a forefinger at a group of blue-eyed Elites. A dozen or more members were hammering away at the wooden doors. Steel and iron braces were being attached to the already thick wood. Connor noticed one man in particular directing the project. It was Randolph. The former enemy noticed the two men looking on and waved.
Connor smiled and waved back.
“I think he still feels guilty,” Zheng said.
Connor turned to the tall lean warrior king. “Why do you say that?”
Amber eyes playful, Zheng brushed his long goatee. “When the gates needed to be strengthened, he was the first to volunteer. Nobody wanted the job on account of the lifting and hammering. Randolph was eager for him and his family to show their worth.”
Connor could see what Zheng meant. Although the sun was hidden by dark clouds, Randolph and his crew were sweating heavily.
“I’ve already told him it’s forgotten,” Connor said. “But maybe he needs to do this more to forgive himself.”