tagNovels and NovellasA Dangerous Legacy Pt. 08

A Dangerous Legacy Pt. 08

bymadam_noe©

Chapter Ten


Someone familiar was walking under the awning towards me. It took a moment but I realized it was Valerius, the Roman I'd seen when Alessandra took me back through centuries to the accord. He still looked like he was thirty, but his hair wasn't brutally short, and he wore jeans and an open Hawaiian shirt.

I stopped and stared as did he.

"You have the look of her," he said in a deep voice. He spoke in modern Italian.

"Who?" I answered in kind.

"Sigrid."

"I'm Anna. You're Valerius."

"Valerius Magnus. These days I am known as Marco in the human world."

I cocked my head. "You look like a Val."

He laughed and it was a warm sound. "Anna, it's come to my attention your guardian has been amiss, and I want to help correct that. Lest it shock you later you should know I am your ancestor. Sigrid asked me to father a daughter upon her eldest. You come from line formed from that union."

Yeah, this was where immortality could get tricky. The council probably had a division just to keep track of family trees. "I called my grandfather pop-pop, my dad is pops. What do I call you?"

"Val would be fine," he said, switching to English. "Come, you must be hungry and we have much to discuss."

I walked to him and he turned, and we fell into step. "You know, I was raised among humans. I didn't know about my birth mother until a year ago. I met my guardian just over three weeks ago, and when I was made a witch two nights ago it was the first I'd heard about it. I know nothing of this world."

"When you ascended- that means became a witch, Alessandra informed the council of your origins. She was to file a report on your progress this morning, but she did not and seeing as you're here I can see something has gone wrong."

"She's playing games with me, and leaving me in ignorance."

He nodded, no pity, sympathy, or doubt, a pragmatic man. "Come, dine with me, and I will explain our world from the beginning."

"Do you remember being human?" I asked as we neared the building.

"Yes, but I was raised knowing if the witch of my ancestral line died I too would ascend. I was not left in ignorance."

"Hmm."

We walked through the building and many people nodded in a kind of bow to us. A council member and the "princess" would get such attention, I guessed. He led me out the other side to where the tennis courts, pools, and other strange patches of landscaped entertainment grounds were.

We made our way to a small restaurant that looked fancy and sat down outside. Within seconds a waiter appeared and handed us menus. I made my selection quickly and set it down, staring at a man that puzzled me. My own ancestor, a man I had seen in ancient Roman garb. How strange to be sitting here like this.

"What will you have?"

I glanced back down at the menu. "The Australian chicken and salad, I think."

"Excellent choice. Have the Riesling, the eighty-six, it will complement it perfectly."

The waiter brought bread and water, took our order, and scurried away.

"Okay, Val. What...hell, I don't even know what to ask. Where do I start?"

He nodded sympathetically, his blue eyes almost sad. "Let me begin with what you would have been told as a child had you been raised in our world.

"In ancient times, I am speaking now of cro-magnon man times, caveman times, there were a pair of twins born. No one knows how, but they were creatures of magic. One, the girl, was given to good thoughts and deeds, the boy...was evil. They may not have begun life that way, but his magic called to dark things, hers to light, and they grew into their roles. She discovered how to share her magic with others in her tribe, the women, and witches were born. The boy made monsters to keep him company, vampires and dragons, and sought to enslave the women of their tribe as his lovers and sire his heirs. He succeeded in taking a few from his sister's care.

"He, a sorcerer, gave magic to all his children, not just the eldest, male and female. Twelve of them, all his blood, all with dark magic. The girl had only ten fellow tribeswomen to carry her magic, twelve to evil's thirteen. He began with more, but it passes only to the strongest child of each sorcerer, and they do not always breed strong children.

"The girl on the side of good made it so each new witch of the first generation gave it to her firstborn of either gender, and those firstborn only passed it to their firstborn of the same gender. This made it so the side of good witches could breed faster and make more."

"How so? Aren't there enough strong sorcerers?" I asked.

"Strong means whoever can handle the magic. The tests you were given are given to us all. You must be able to handle the responsibility, understand your actions. Sorcerers often bred with dragonkind or vampires, creatures with no moral compass. Neither good nor bad on their own, they do not posess the qualities necessary to wield magic. If a sorcerer is born half breed or has vampire or dragonkind blood in greater than that he or she is physically strong, a creature of pure magic, but unable to cast spells. This means for sorcerers it's a lottery; witches just keep trying until they have a child the same gender as them."

I got an image of creatures held dragon half human, or witch as the case were, and it seemed hideous. That was what we faced? I looked around at all the supermodels and hoped witches were better with magic because if this was a real war, pretty didn't have an edge over supernatural strength.

"But the powers that be, whoever they are, have decided good and evil should be in balance. So, the sorcerer used his dragons and vampires to prey on witches and a war began. It lasted thousands of years even as witches created werewolves to fight the vampires. The war between vampires and wolves took its toll and even as vampires were wiped from existence, lingering only in a few drops of blood in modern sorcerers. Still, the tide turned towards evil until the wolves and witches struck an accord."

"Alessandra took our souls back then. We saw the deal." I tried for a neutral tone, but seeing anyone willingly sell themselves into slavery stuck in my craw. It was this man's lovers who had made the mistake that haunted their kind for centuries.

"Then you saw how they agreed to be our slaves. Oh, don't like that, Anna? Please understand that slavery was common back then, as a Roman I myself believed in it. Sadly most witches felt this was right since we made the wolves, but not all of us feel it should remain that way. Like you, I love my wolves. I would die for them. They are free and pampered." He smiled at my raised brow. "As a man in my own time slavery meant nothing. But having lived for centuries and having seen what mankind has become, I know in my heart it is wrong."

Our drinks and salads were brought and for a long moment we ate in silence. I wanted to edge away from the uncomfortable topic of slavery.

"So am I descended from the first witch?"

He nodded. "Directly. As long as your line exists, so does magic."

That stopped me cold. "So..I'm the last."

He nodded. "We'll get to that in a moment. Anna, your magic is immense. You hold dominion over fate, death, life. You can travel to the future, not just the past. You can create things that have never existed anywhere but your imagination. That is why our people refer to you as a princess. Your power makes a mockery of even mine. Perhaps all three of us of the council could contain you, but never defeat you."

"Lucky we're not at war, then." Sarcasm seemed the best defense as my head reeled. I had fallen down the rabbit hole a bit too far and those was no ground to stand on.

"We are, with the sorcerers. It's an arbitrary term, but they are those of darkness, chaos, and evil. They care nothing for balance and good. Your equivalent is Malachai. He is ancient and he slew Sigrid. And the witch of your line before her, and the one before. Malachi is formidable to say the least."

"So watch my back, you're saying."

He stopped as our food arrived and once more we ate in silence for a few moments before he responded. Val liked his bread dripping with butter and everything on his plate would give a normal human a massive coronary on the spot. He seemed wound tight, but there was a little joie de vivre to him one wouldn't expect from a Roman general.

"Not the way you might think. Malachai has forbidden any of his people to attack you. He alone understands what is at stake."

Translation: he alone reserved the right to kill me. Peachy. "And that is?"

"If either you dies with no heir, magic as we know it dies too."

Heavy, I thought with a shiver. Taking a sip of wine I realized it was perfect, just as Val had said. A Roman Epicurean, how novel. "Well then, so...what, we don't get to fight?"

"You get to lead. When one of your line ascends to witch, you lead us. However, you were raised among the humans and know nothing of our world. This is not going to be an easy transition."

"Can I say no?"

He dropped his fork and stared at me as if I suggested vivisecting him at the table. "Say...no? Deny your birthright?"

"Birthright? I think my mother said no when she dumped me far away from this world to be raised in ignorance by humans. Funny that. I'll have to ask mother dear why she did that. Oh, wait, I can't."

Er, yes, yes you can...if you choose. You can raise spirits of the dead, but like all dead, she won't remember much. She will only know a few pertinent facts of her death, her name, where she came from, and whom she loved. Plus, long ago her memory of the world of witches and magic was wiped. She faced the tests and failed. If I remember, she never even passed the first one.

"Each of us is raised with the knowledge of what we are. If there is no active witch of our line we each face the tests at age twenty-five. If we pass, we ascend. If we fail, our memories of magic are wiped from us, and we are left to live out a human existence."

I'd been daydreaming about running away and hiding from all this in a cave and missed some of that. "At what age?"

"Twenty-five is the preferred age."

"Why?"

He smiled. "Tradition. In America, in most places the drinking age is twenty-one. Why? Because that was the earliest age in old England you could become a knight, so someone thought that made it a good age to determine being an adult. Funny that they decided eighteen was the age to be a warrior. What has one to do with the other? Nothing more than tradition. Even we witches are not free of it. Twenty-five was probably picked so we could have children before taking the tests, prepare them well."

I shrugged and chased some yellow and red carrots around my plate. "My mother had me when she was just nineteen. Product of a one-night stand, yet she tracked my father down and dumped me on his doorstep. So she abandoned me knowing what was coming for her in six year, but it seems she didn't want me to know anything about it."

"We'll probably never know why."

Great, Val was quite chatty on insignificant details, but when it came to something that mattered to me mum was the word. So far the supernatural world had been nothing but dickish. "Or is it yet another secret I'm not to know?"

Shaking his head Val sipped his wine and stalled, considering. "I can teach you the magic to unlock the binding spell of memory. It's possible your human parents knew something and she bound them from ever saying anything."

I tried to think of my father letting anyone bespell him. He was the still the Big Bad no matter how much older I got, or how far away. Even with three werewolves backing me up and packing a supernatural punch, I wouldn't want to see him. "No need, Val. We can file that under shit to leave for the second coming of Carl Sagan."

He gave me a blank look and with a sigh I polished off my vegetables. I was quickly learning I did not always want the answers to my questions, they just seemed to bring new complications.

"Anna, I will take over your training. I would suggest you set aside six hours each day and I will show you what you need to know. Tomorrow I will show you movement, transporting, and teleknisis. Wednesday I will show you summoning and healing. Thursday I will show you dueling, killing, and restoring life. I will procure the book of spells your line keeps and give it to you. In short, this week you will have all you need to know to handle day to day magic, and books of spells to take you further. I would suggest you extend your stay on Thunder Island to two weeks, there is much to teach you about life in general for witches."

Two weeks on a tropical island to escape the cold snow back home sounded good, but as I glanced around at the witches and wolves often staring at me, and down to the bespelled volcano, unease grew. "Let's start with one week and see what happens. I appreciate your help."

He nodded, lips pursed. "It is my duty as your ancestor, and also as a council member. Now, outside of training I suggest you take several hours a day to get to know the male witches on this island."

"Why?"

"Since you have arrived, many more will come. You have no heir. Your wolves cannot give you the heir you need. You should think of producing issue at once. Your line must continue."

I laughed, the only reaction I had. "Who talks like that? Look, if I am the last it doesn't matter since you said Malachai can't kill me. If it's just me, no one would want to kill me or we all go back to being boring and human."

"Or dust. Anna, be aware there are those in our world who might wish for an end to magic. Dragonkind, for example, walk the earth as men and women, but come the new moon they must change to dragons. These days that means crowding into caves, hiding from human. Many would gladly sacrifice their powers to avoid that pain."

"Well perhaps sorcerers should better protect their creations the way we do ours."

Val's lips twisted again, a gesture I was coming to understand was the expression of a general turned back at the planned attack trying to discern a way around the flanks. "Malachi killed Sigrid when her only living child's life hung in the balance from illness, and life was uncertain."

"Why would he do that?"

Val glanced off down the beach, his eyes lingering on a few women playing volleyball and I rolled my eyes. Way to concentrate on the matter at hand, daddy-o.

Impatiently I snapped in front of his face and drew his eyes back to focus on me. "Yo, Val, why would Malachai do that?"

He polished off his wine, stalling yet again. "No one of our side but the witches of your line has ever spoken to him. Sorcerers are everywhere in the world just as we are, but we tend to keep those of the pure lines protected in all ways. There is a powerful spell blocking us from viewing Sigrid's death. You may ask your wolves, but only Malachai can explain why he did it. You must not see him alone, he is obviously suicidal and would ill you if given half a chance."

I was a student of history. My first true love had been The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus, a copy left at the little library at the main trailer of our park. Since then I had fallen for the genre and all the shades of truth history held, it was why I had always wanted to write historical non fiction. One lesson I had learned was that everyone had a story but the truth was often all of them and none of them. Something told me there was more to this, but Val wasn't going to talk, so best to file it away and move on.

"As a sorcerer perhaps he knew her daughter's illness wasn't truly fatal. Maybe he wasn't trying to end all magic, but we needn't discuss that now, I don't know enough. Has he ever attacked one of my line if they had no child?" At the shake of his head I shrugged. "So I guess I'm safe as long as I'm child free. Now, when do lessons begin?"

Again, the circumventing-the-flank look. "Tomorrow after lunch. Most of us like to sleep in, here. Take today and enjoy yourself. Do me the courtesy of at least meeting some male witches, get to know your people."

"Fair enough. I'll start now." I rose and he did too. I knew there were pieces missing but my head was beginning to hurt. I could read between the lines. He wanted me to get pregnant, squeeze out a kid, and they'd feed me to the wolves. Oops, probably a turn of phrase I'd need to drop, I rather liked the way my wolves ate me.

And that was part of the problem. I didn't fit in with witches. I was raised ignorant of my heritage, to them I was a mongrel princess. Of all the roles to be cast in in this maudlin play, that was one I didn't want. I knew my history and monarchs either rose to greatness, let themselves be controlled into obscurity, or died horrible deaths.

Well, fuck that, I didn't want to be a fucking princess. I'd had a very long and hard life already before magic came along. Wasn't the point of all this magic to relax, have fun? Oh, hell, dark thoughts, I realized. Thinking that way would only lead to treating my boys like servants. Though I was angry at them, I would rather die than make slaves of them.

Still, I needed time to cool off, so I made my way to the beach. People stared at me, whispering, speculating. Several of the male witches looked me over with interest. Great, had gramps already spread the word he wanted me dancing the tube steak boogie with a male witch ASAP?

I made my way down towards the volcano on the public side of the island. Our side had larger bungalows, this side had what looked like a nineteenth century amusement park. People walked along the beach or the concrete sidewalk, played tennis on the courts, and many sat at bars drinking. They all stared, and I hated the feeling of being the center of attention and did my best to ignore them.

As I walked further back I saw a maze of shrubs that had no business being on a tropical island. There was an outdoor pavilion with a shell set up for concerts. There were tennis courts, a pool, hot tubs, and several large spaces I couldn't guess at the use of, all with different markings or patterns.

I went past those, sidestepping wolves and witches. Realizing having to rely on my magic box was like being an adult riding training wheels, I wanted privacy. Once I found it I summoned a large towel, a good novel, and some sun block.

Getting the sun block on alone was challenging, it would be so much better with six hands of three treacherous but sexy wolves, but alas I was without aid. Once I was reasonably covered I summoned an iPod crammed with good classic heavy metal, speed metal, and classic rock tunes, then made my way back towards the people.

I could tan now, one of the changes to my body I'd made, but the whole process still seemed a little stupid. Still, I would try it with the rest of the witches. Truthfully now that I was away from my wolves I was a bit lost. I'd met a relative, and while it seemed I was away from Alessandra's cold teachings for the moment, I was stuck with Valerius who seemed to be encouraging me to breed myself like a horse. There was a dark tint to his plans, but I couldn't say if it was real or I was just growing suspicious in my old age.

A child. I'd always been on the fence about kids. With as bad a childhood as I had I doubted I could give a child what they needed. I'd grown up surrounded by neglect and addiction, with many adults seeing the situation and trying to take advantage. As a result, nurturing had never been one of my strong suits, I'd spent my childhood fighting to survive and it had made me tough. Raising Diego to be a loving pooch was as close as I'd come, but a dog is a million miles away from a child in terms of responsibility. As such I had never given any weight to the thought of children, never bothered to think about what it might mean.

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