WARNING: This chapter contains strong language.
Xavier was surprised the girl had actually done it. She’d reverted to her human form. When he opened his eyes upon hearing her voice, he saw her standing with her arms crossed, fully clothed, as a young woman. Her hair was much longer than he remembered it being, but after three months, of course a werewolf’s hair would grow.
“Let’s start with something simple,” he said. “In all this time, I’ve never once found out your name.”
“What does that even matter?”
“Well, you know mine, and we’ve been here for months. Wouldn’t you rather I refer to you as something other than beast or dog?”
“Ugh, fine. I’m Allanna.”
“That’s surprisingly a pretty name.”
“For a wolf.”
Xavier chuckled. Allanna then said, “Now, answer my question. What’s up with your mother?”
Xavier’s face slightly fell as he remembered the last time he’d seen his mother. The memory wasn’t a pleasant one.
“My mother’s dead,” he said.
“As in, really dead? Or dead as in dead to you, like she was a crappy mother?”
“The former. My mother loved me, as well as my younger siblings, very much. I know you won’t believe this, but she had a good soul. Had we not been vampires, she would have wanted us to be transformed into them so that she’d never have to see us die. Her worst fear was to see her children perish before her.”
“But if she and your dad were both vampires, wouldn’t any siblings you had also be vampires?”
A sad shadow passed over Xavier’s face then. “Yes, any offspring between my parents would be vampires. But my mother was pregnant when she was killed.”
“I’m sorry. What happened? And, well, what does her being pregnant have to do with it?”
“She was burned to death for treason.”
“Treason? But…what did she do that could have been so bad that she was burned to death while she was pregnant?”
“Her pregnancy was the motive.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
Xavier thought about the last century that had been his life, give or take a few years. And he told all of it to Allanna.
When Xavier was 22 years of age, his mother had been cruelly taken from him, as well as the life of what was to be his younger brother, Dante. Vivica hadn’t deserved to die – she’d merely fallen in love.
Too bad the new target of her attraction hadn’t been his father. Dorian had been completely unsympathetic about Vivica’s death. He’d flat out declared, “The fucking bitch deserves more than death. I hope she burns in hell for all eternity for what she did to this family.”
It wasn’t that it was an act of infidelity. That didn’t qualify as reason enough for vampires to kill one of their own. No, Mortius had ordered Vivica to be destroyed for an affair with the enemy.
The enemy being a werewolf.
It irked Xavier severely to think of his mother’s untimely end. Her beautiful face had been charred at first, but then, to fully express his discontent with the situation, Mortius had put out the fire and instead tied Vivica to a pole in broad daylight, where the sun slowly and painfully ate away at her skin and her soul. It was the most elaborate form of torture Xavier had ever witnessed for a vampire’s punishment. As if that weren’t bad enough, the entire clan had witnessed this occurring, and they were actually condoning it. They threw stones and glass at Vivica as she’d stared down at the spectacle before her, betrayed by her own kind. Essentially, she literally had been burned to death.
As Xavier had watched this, his infuriation kept growing. He swore that he’d avenge his mother’s death one day. As for Vivica’s lover, Savek, he’d been hunted down and literally ripped apart by the angry vampire clan. Had he been human, they would have consumed his blood. But as it was, they didn’t even bite Savek – they just ripped him to shreds and hurled his body over a chasm and into a lake. Xavier had even been forced to help. Ever since then, a large cloud of turmoil had followed him around. He could never forgive himself for what had happened to his mother. He could have tried to save her, but he was too much of a coward to even try.
Astonishingly, Allanna stayed quiet the entire time Xavier told his tale, and just listened. She didn’t interrupt, she didn’t pretend to be listening, she really heard everything he said. In fact, if he was not mistaken, he thought he saw her eyes glistening.
“That’s a terrible story,” she finally said. “But you swore you’d avenge your mother. Why haven’t you?”
“What do you mean? I did avenge my mother. Savek is dead.”
“Um…Savek didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I concur, it was his fault my mother was killed.”
“Really? You just said that all she did was fall in love. People aren’t forced to fall in love. It happens naturally. Isn’t that all Savek did? It was Mortius and all of your kind who killed her. You said yourself that she had to endure a very vindictive punishment, one the likes of which you’d never seen before. Mortius ordered that execution. Savek was innocent. And for all you know, your mother never told him she was married.”
Xavier frowned and clenched his fists. “How dare you…”
“No, I didn’t mean that. I just meant that you don’t know exactly what happened between your mother and Savek. But you do know what Mortius did.”
Xavier had to stop and think about that. All this time, he’d thought his mother’s death had been avenged with Savek’s death. But maybe Allanna, this natural enemy of his kind, was right. It had been Mortius who’d ordered Vivica to die for treason, and it had been Mortius who’d tortured her to death by exposing her to the sunlight until it burned off all her skin.
“That also doesn’t make sense,” Allanna cut in, “the part about the sun. I thought if vampires went out in the sun for even a split second, they’d turn to dust and die.”
“That’s just an old stereotype. We can be in the sun, but not for prolonged periods of time. Our skin will start to burn after a while, and the longer we’re in the sun, the more the burning will occur. That’s why we live here in Duskwood – the sun doesn’t shine that often, and it’s mostly concealed by giant willow trees.”
“Is that the real reason you want my pack to leave our homes?”
“I like to think so, but I’m sure it’s just an ego thing. I’m not feeling too fond of Mortius now, so I have no problem saying that owning all of Duskwood would probably just be something more for him to brag about.”
“He already has things to brag about?”
“Only the fact that he’s our leader, is one of the oldest vampires known to exist, and has the ability to both teleport and control the thoughts of others.”
“Sheesh, I wonder if he’d be as determined to flush us out if we were humans instead of werewolves. You know, there are humans living in Duskwood too. So he technically still won’t own the whole town.”
“Actually, he explained that he plans to have a victory celebration in the form of a feast after he seizes control of your territory.”
“Victory feast? You mean…you mean he’s going to eat the humans in Duskwood?”
“Not eat. Drink their blood. And the feast would be for the entire clan.”
“That’s sick! Let me out of this damn cage, I’m tired of being in here. I’m tired of not even being able to go to the bathroom without having a chaperone, I have no privacy, nothing to do…just let me the fuck out of here!”
Allanna lost control of herself then. Xavier watched as she shrieked at the top of her lungs and began flailing her arms about like a woman possessed, her calm demeanor gone. Finally, he stood up and walked over to her cage.
“Allanna,” he said, which ceased her craziness right away, since he’d never said her name before, “calm down. Your father will…”
“My father didn’t sign any treaty, I know it. Never in a million years would he sign a treaty giving up his territory to the likes of you guys.”
“Even if it meant getting his daughter back?”
“You don’t understand. Wolves work in packs. The death of one affects all of us. He won’t sign a stupid piece of paper to get me back. He’ll sniff you guys out and storm right through. There will be a war. They’ll bust me out themselves instead of trusting Mortius to just return me.”
Xavier furrowed his brow. Images flashed from her mind to his of how wolves operate. He knew they traveled and lived in packs, but Mortius had undoubtedly failed to contemplate a situation in which the pack leader didn’t play by the rules.
The rules set up by the pack leader’s arch nemesis.
That, combined with what he’d just learned about his mother, made Xavier do something incredibly rash, and so unlike him, that he thought he might be dreaming.
And that was that he shattered the lock on Allanna’s cage with his brute supernatural strength, causing its occupant to look at him with a bemused expression on her face.
“What the hell are you doing?” she demanded.
“You’re right,” Xavier explained. “There’s no way your father will play by Mortius’s rules. And he’s more to blame for my mother’s death than Savek. Now that I think about it, I’d never even seen Savek before, and I only saw him as a wolf. What proof did Mortius have that my mother had been unfaithful? Well, don’t worry about it now, we don’t have time.”
“Time for what? What do you think you’re doing? Hey, put me down!”
Xavier picked Allanna up like she was a doll, placed her on his back, and quickly shushed her.
“Be quiet. If I carry you, it’ll mask your scent.”
“Why are you carrying me anywhere? What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that I’m tired of following Mortius’s orders. I’m getting you out of here.”