New Kingdom: Australian Court Ch. 02byMicKay©
Thanks to Willie for her assistance w/ the geography and locals. Also, thanks to TaFace for additional editing assistance.
Gabriel suddenly tensed. He had already started moving through the estate when Abigail screamed. Plowing over guards who remained motionless, he raced towards the mansion dreading what he would find. How could he have missed an intruder? He had walked the grounds all day and nothing had changed. Unless....
He leaped the stairs using his strength to pull him closer to her cries. Only now, silence was beckoning him. As he entered the main doors, he noticed his brothers exiting Con's office. He raced on towards his daughter's room feeling them close to his heels. Alena was crossing the hall when she noticed him bounding towards her. Wisely, she stepped aside an allowed him to enter the room first. Close to his heels, she nearly plowed into him when he stopped and opened the door to Abigail's bedroom.
Without moving from the door, they could smell the salt of her tears, still wet on the pillow. They could see the destruction of the bed covering. The room was in shambles. But yet they could not sense any signs of an intruder lurking inside their daughter's room. There were no signs of anyone inside the room.
"Gabriel," Edward shouted from the door.
"She's gone," he answered walking to the balcony. "They've taken her."
"Impossible!" Conlaoch replied. "We've been watching. No one has sensed anyone entering the property."
"Unless," Gabriel said turning to face his brothers. "They were already here."
Joshua pulled away from Nola as the rush of panic passed through him. He looked around feeling the danger but not able to see anything from the ordinary.
"What's wrong?" she asked quietly.
"Please," he said grabbing her hand, "please let me take you inside the house."
He was her holding close when he sensed the danger growing near. He realized the closeness of their proximity as the chill of fear rippled through his body. He felt a nauseating stir of the wind that reminding him of the Panthralges he had killed only days earlier. Wrapped within that foul smell was a small sweetness that tore into his heart. Looking at the tree line ahead, he knew that he and his fragile Nola would be in direct contact with this strange intrusion.
"Please trust me," he said pulling Nola close.
"Joshua, what's wrong?" she asked and then squealed as he leaped across the garden holding her against his chest.
Joshua raced to the large fountain in the center of the garden. He jumped into the pool and dived beneath the cool water surface. Giving Nola a brief moment to fill her lungs with air, he pulled her beneath his body praying that the scent of her blood would be disguised. He felt the rush of the evil pass by and tempted a careless look.
Breaking the surface of the water, he could barely distinguish more than the dark shadows racing away from the mansion. Counting five moving forms, he locked eyes on the one captured within the arms of one cloaked in black. He panicked with recognition when he saw those eyes, so similar to his, silently plead for help.
Joshua quickly rose to his feet pulling Nola with him. He heard the sounds of Conlaoch's guards approaching but estimated that the fleeing party was moving at greater speed.
"Go to the guards. Stay near the house," he said as he leaped from the fountain.
He ran fast as his sister was moved farther from his reach. His body burned with the exertion but his spirit would not let him quit. Seeing the gates ahead, he looked for the point of exit when he felt another person approach from behind. Focusing on the mission of saving his sister, he frantically searched for the abductors' path of escape. His motion slammed to a complete stop when familiar arms circled his shoulders.
"Joshua, stop," he father commanded. "Look up."
Following the area where Gabriel pointed, he could see how his attempts to run down the kidnappers would be futile. The five dark figures soared to the skies carrying a small figure wrapped in pale pink. He screamed incoherently as he felt her fear pierce his heart. Soon the figures were out of sight leaving Joshua experiencing a new part of his life. Separation from his twin.
Gabriel ran back to the mansion nearly dragging Joshua along with him. He moved into a large room that appeared to be a dining room to accommodate more than forty people. He assisted Joshua into a chair beside Nola and move to Alena's side.
Whispering a few words of comfort to his mate, he held her close and addressed the others who had quickly followed him into the room.
"They've taken her," he simply stated. "And there's been a change to their attack. They can fly."
"You're saying there are Panthralges? Here?" Conlaoch demanded. "Impossible."
"No, not Panthralges. Vampires. Vampires who have been here in your court right under your nose. And they took to wind like bats!"
"Gabriel," Edward said cautiously approaching his brother "is it possible that you are mistaken?"
"No. I saw them too."
All eyes turned to the young man who had finally spoken. His face was pale and streaked with tears. His hands shook as he tried to gain control.
"They were vampires. I could feel them and suddenly, it was cold, and very dark. They had her and were running for the gates. They ... they .... they just ...went up in the air."
"Impossible!" Conlaoch replied. "If they flew then they were not vampires. Describe them to us."
"I didn't see their faces," Joshua answered, "but they were like us. Well, I mean, they were more like Abby and me, maybe a few weeks ago."
"What does that mean?" Conlaoch asked.
"Small. Like children."
"Vampire children?" Edward asked. "Con, is there something you should tell us?"
"Oh my god," he answered taking a seat at the head of the table. "I thought they were innocents. They've been harmless."
"Who?" Gabriel asked finally breaking his silence. "Conlaoch, what have you done?"
"What have I done? How dare you Gabriel?! I've asked you for help and yet, I had to send my son and guards to help you! I had no way of knowing what they were."
"Gabe," Edward said calmly, "everyone needs to sit down and listen. Conlaoch, tell us what happened."
Abigail screamed when she felt the ground fall away below her feet. Her captor held her tightly bruising her arms in his grasp. She had tried to struggle against the hold but the person had just laughed and held tighter.
The laugh was shrill, high pitched, and either effeminate or childlike. She had yet to quit crying as her fears escalated. Attempting a peek at the surroundings, she saw only the dark night. She shut her eyes and began a personal mantra and pleaded with her mother, father and brother to find her. Soon.
She had seen Joshua as she was rushed through the gardens. He had been hiding in the fountain protecting Nola. He had looked at her while she begged him for help but he never moved. How could be so angry with her? And her parents, only hours after begging her to eat dinner, were now avoiding her pleas. Had she been that bad? She searched for some comforting words from her mother or a promise of rescue from her father. The silence mocked her.
Could she hope that another warrior would seek her? Would he care that she had been taken right out from under his nose? Maybe his wounded pride would be enough to make him find her.
Five brothers of the New Kingdom sat at the long table. They were joined by their mates, Joshua, and high ranking vampire guards. Nola had been escorted to her room with guards stationed nearby. Conlaoch waited until everyone was seated to begin the story of the recent events in his kingdom.
"The rebels have continually grown in strength and numbers," he started. "They started attacking the rural camps first taking men leaving the women and children. We continued hunting and killing the newborns with Alex leading the raid. If we killed one, they made three more. Two weeks ago, after Alex left, we received word of an attack and so we investigated immediately. All of the homes were burned to the ground. Human skeletons were charred beyond recognition but the numbers totaled the adults living there. One home remained."
Conlaoch paused as a servant brought him a large glass of dark liquid. He drank slowly but drained the glass motioning for the servant to bring him another.
"Would anyone like one?" he asked but continued his story before they answered.
"One home remained," he repeated. "In that home we found young people. Children really. I would estimate their ages between twelve and fifteen years old. They had been drained but not dead."
"And someone changed them?" Tec asked.
"I hadn't thought so," Conlaoch answered. "They were dying."
"How could you not know?" Edward demanded. "How could they be in your home and you did not know?"
"I had extended every courtesy for their comfort but they were dying and I had a kingdom to run. And don't forget, I had given my best man to you," he declared. "Seven died within a few hours of arriving here. Five remained."
"And they turned," Tec said solemnly. "Do you know who changed them or when it happened?"
"No, but you must understand, they were very well behaved. I promise you that there were just newborns living under my care. But they looked ...different."
"So they were here when we arrived," Gabriel stated. "Show me their rooms. I want everyone who interacted with them gathered in a room immediately."
"Wait just a minute," Conlaoch said standing to his feet, "you overstep your authority, Gabriel. This is my land."
Gabriel leaped over the table and grabbed his brother by the lapels. Spinning them around, he crushed Conlaoch back to the table. The others moved to Gabriel's side but he ignored their presence.
"You have lost control of your land," Gabriel hissed. "And you've brought us into a home where we are all at risk."
"Gabriel," Edward said, "let him go. We need to act fast."
Gabriel allowed his brother to pull him away, walking to the far end of the room. The tension in the room became unbearable as the reality of their situation became clear.
"Should we send our mates home?" Tec asked ignoring the immediate protests from the women. "How can we protect them if we don't know who we are fighting?"
"No," Gabriel answered. "Separation would only weaken us. It would be the easiest way to defeat us. They stay. They go with us."
"No!" Tec answered.
"Yes," Gloria said. "He's right. We would have to be of some assistance."
"Where do we begin?" Heron asked breaking his long silence.
"The children's caretakers are on their way," Conlaoch said. "Their rooms are being guarded so no one can change anything."
"We need to move fast," Gabriel said calmly. "I'll question the staff and search their rooms but we need to leave while the trail is warm. Divide into groups and we'll cover the land. We leave in an hour."
Gabriel left the room trusting his brothers to agree with his instructions. He sped through the house in search of the rooms recently occupied by the newborns. In his haste, he barely noticed the human crouching in the shadows. Certainly they could count on his expertise. They would just need to let him follow his own course.
Alex slammed his head against the wall. How could his father have fallen for the Trojan Horse? He had allowed these children into his home where they laid in wait for the brothers and their families. They had literally been a time bomb waiting to detonate. Abigail's arrival had been earlier than planned but she was definitely on Conlaoch's guest list. Finding the vampire who had recently sired these children would be left to Gabriel. Finding the girl would be Alex's priority.
He listened to the others plan their paths. Unfortunately, he knew they were missing the target. His senses burned with the evidence of the trail. He would pack light and go alone. He tried to imagine Abigail right now but kept seeing his own mother's last human minutes. If he could save her, really save her, then he would. Her future would be her choice.
Gabriel and Alena stood apart with a handful of guards. They had not spoken since he had returned to the house but they appeared unified. He had reviewed the plans, had made suggestions and gave his approval. Each brother would be accompanied by their mate and guards. They agreed to speed through the night, sharing every clue they could find. When the actual path was found, they would regroup and move together.
Joshua stood alone. Wishing that he could fight with his father but he had proven to be useless when his sister was taken right in front of him. Now, he would try to keep Nola safe and work with the others to find the sire. His father had found no clues in the house. Gabriel suddenly appeared in front of him moving him farther away from the others.
"Joshua," his father said, "you did well tonight. They were beyond our grasp. Promise me, look at me and promise me that you will stay in the house."
"It's not like I can help so yeah, I'll stay here."
"You don't understand," Gabriel pleaded quietly. "They want you too. I'm just not comfortable taking you closer to them."
"Want me? But the Panthralges said..."
"Don't you know that he lied? Everything he said was to make you question your purpose. Stay here. Stay close to the guards."
"I will. I promise."
"Dawn will break soon," Conlaoch announced. "Our newborns like most changelings here cannot tolerate the sun. We have that advantage."
"Then let's take it," Gabriel said walking to his mate. "No chances. Everything is shared."
Alena pressed her fingers to her lips then waved them to her son. For one second, she almost lost the tight control she had on her emotions. Blinking away tears, she turned and followed Gabriel through the trees that bordered the estate.
Abigail opened her eyes when she felt her captors touch ground. Before she was able to get her balance, she was dropped to the floor. The darkness swallowed the meager light produced by the small fire. She glanced up hoping to find the stars that would pinpoint her location but blackness hung above her head. Closing her eyes she tried to calm herself and think.
The sound of water dripping echoed around her. The ground beneath her hands felt hard but smooth. Darkness surrounded her everywhere. She had been brought to a cave. How far she was hidden inside the earth she could only guess. If anyone was looking for her, would they be able to find her?
She could feel the breeze blow cold against her skin as her captors rushed around the cave with their cloaks snapping like whips. Certainly she would be told why she had been taken. If it was for ransom, then she could help them with the information they would need.
"Hello?" she whispered. "Who are you?"
The only response was the return of shrill giggles reminding her of what her captors really were. At first glance, she had thought a young vampire had landed on her balcony but then the cloaked figure had turned to face her. She shuddered at the memory.
Listening carefully, Abigail strained to hear something beyond the constant dripping of water. Her adductors suddenly fell silent and with a rush of air, they were gone. She crawled towards the fire seeking both warmth and light. The small blaze offered little of either.
Huddling closer, she realized that the young vampires were completely out of sight and hearing. Whether they had moved deeper into the cave or toward the exit she could only guess. They had been fluttering around and then were gone. Thinking about their ability to take to the skies, she hesitantly looked up and froze.
Where the fire had refused to light the walls of the cave, it illumined the ceiling. Hanging from their feet, the five vampires swung from the ceiling in an apparent state of rest. Abigail could only guess because their eyes remained opened but unfocused. Catching her breath, she ventured another look to learn more about them.
She had known they were vampires when she first saw them. With their fangs bared, they still had the remains of their last meal dripping from their chins. But the similarity to her family ended there.
Where these five kept their fangs elongated, Abigail was certain that she had never seen her mother's. The bloodstains on their faces could never happen if they had drunk blood from a glass. Even the rebel vampires had appeared civilized even if it was just a ruse to capture their human prey. But these guys ...
They appeared to be walking corpses of humans but whether they had been male or female, Abigail could not guess. They were monstrous. Their skin was a sickly pale gray reflecting the flatness of their dead eyes. Mostly bald, they each had a few patches of long but thin hair. Their fangs reminded her of the Panthralges that had held her so vulgarly in the maze.
But these creatures were not the same as the Panthralges. Abigail reached deep into her senses and could find nothing that distinguish these creatures from other vampires. She knew they were not family or friends but she could find nothing different from those who were members of any household staff or her father's army.
The thought of her father was immediately followed by a wave of emotions. She missed him and knew, without a doubt, that he was roaming the big island looking for her. But could he find her? How deep was she hidden inside this mountain? What would he advise her to do -- besides avoid being captured? He had never taught her to fight and she doubted that she could overcome the five who had taken her.
He would remind her to be wise. "Use your senses," he would say. A lot of good that advice did. Wasn't she using her senses when she sneaked into Alex's plane? With a loud mocking voice, her conscious screamed, "No!"
One mistake had become many and now she was waiting for the consequences of her actions to ...what? End her life? That would really make her father proud. The daughter of General Gabriel Philandros is a quitter.
"Not today," she whispered quickly looking to the ceiling for any sign of disturbance in her captors. They remained immobile from their perch. She moved and cringed when she kicked a rock against the cave wall.
"Use your senses," she could hear her father say.
She stood still to find her bearings. If the rock hit the wall so near, then that direction would not be an escape. Gently she moved her foot until she found another small stone at her feet. With a generous kick she sent the rock into the opposite direction and found another wall blocking her path. Two directions out of four were now eliminated. Hopefully, the cave would have one main path and not be a confusing web of tunnels. Now what?
"Use your senses," she felt her father's familiar voice say inside her mind.
With a shrug, Abigail turned to the left and then the right. Both directions were dark. Her sense of sight was no help. She inhaled deeply. The odors of the cave were varied. A strong, disgusting scent first assailed her nostrils. Mold? Sulfur? Her jailors?
Standing still was no solution so she took three steps to her right and stopped. She waited. Nothing from Dad so she reached deep within herself and searched. Fighting panic, she closed her eyes and inhaled.
"Gross," she groaned quietly. The stale air was stronger in this direction so she moved back to the fire. After a few seconds, she turned to her left and took three steps forward. Fearing that she would find nothing, she held her breath and waited. When her lungs threatened to burst, she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.
The air was still stagnant but with a slight scent. Flowers? Grass? She took another step forward and noticed the ever so slight change in temperature. The air was definitely warmer this direction. She moved again and suddenly an amber color formed behind her eyelids as though she had stepped into the sun. Quickly opening her eyes, she gasped when she saw the wall of blackness.