Hearts of Warriors Ch. 20byJazCullen©
"You must come with me." They were the first words he'd spoken directly to her and he waited with bated breath for her response. She hadn't spoken a word since she'd been led away earlier. He wanted to savour the sweetness of her voice once more. Instead, she glared balefully at him, rising from the narrow cot she was seated on.
She flinched as he took her by the upper arm, his big hand curling lovingly around her delicate flesh. Liam ignored her abhorrence and gave into the urge to run his thumb over her caramel skin. She hissed and tried to pull away, revulsion on her eyes.
"Do not touch me, abomination!" Not the first words he wanted to hear spoken directly to him but he would take what he could get.
"Pardon the intimacy but I have to take you up and I must ensure that you don't try to get away. If you run, I don't think there is anything I can do to stop them hunting you down and executing you on the spot. Please allow me to do what I can to ensure your safety."
He waited for some kind of response but she dropped her gaze, staring directly ahead. Liam took that as a sign of her capitulation and led her from the room and upstairs to the fate that awaited them. He had no idea what was about to happen but he knew whatever did, he would face it with her. Their lives were now irrevocably joined together and nothing in the world would ever change that.
All eyes turned to greet them as they entered the living room. The emotions battered at Liam's mental defences and he stumbled slightly before regaining his balance. The vampire at his side paused, halting his forward movement as she regarded him with narrowed eyes. Something flickered in their depths as understanding crossed her face.
"Mon dieu!" It crossed Reasa's mind that her coven leader would most likely have found it amusing that she exclaimed in his native tongue, however, Louis was thousands of miles away and the situation had suddenly become so much worse than she'd ever imagined possible. The male at her side was a walking time bomb!
Anxious eyes cast around the room, taking in the vampires and Weres as well as the rest of the abominations. She knew they were there to protect the hybrids, she knew they would cheerfully kill her for her actions, but that didn't stop the frisson of fear running down her spine as she looked at hate-filled faces. They were all in danger, every single person in the room. The red-haired hybrid was barely in control, didn't they know that?
It all made sense now, the way he was ill in the practice yard earlier. He hadn't been physically wounded but mentally; overcome with all the emotions flying around at the time. Didn't these people know what they had among them? Her own mental abilities were nothing compared to his. When she lost control, the results were bad, any human close by suffered catastrophic brain damage. Weaker younglings too suffered damage, often losing all trace of who they once were. This male...he was a thousand times more powerful than she was. If he lost control...it would be the end of them all.
"Bring Thereasa to me, Liam."
The petite redhead spoke and her eyes whipped to her, more fear trickling down her spine as she looked into the other woman's gaze. She had never seen eyes of that hue before, never seen eyes that old in one so young. Just who and what was this woman whose very presence soared above all others in the room?
"Annie, please don't hurt her. I know you're in there," Liam pleaded, his head beginning to throb painfully. He raised his other hand in surprise at the sensation, rubbing at his forehead even as his feet moved forward against his will. He was vaguely aware of Elina taking a step towards them, Kallum halting her progress by holding onto her arm. "Annie, please."
Anakatrine's gaze impaled him, demanding instant obedience. "All actions have consequences, Liam. Annie cannot help you now, this is not her time. It is mine and I must do this. An example must be set so others will know the futility of their actions. Caleb's edict is death but you make that impossible. You force my hand and I must go against the one I love most in this world. I must protect all, not just you. Do you understand, Liam?"
Pain exploded in his frontal lobe, searing blinding pain and he heard Elina call out and then she was gone from his mind and his fragile barriers wavered at her loss. He didn't see his cousin collapse against Kallum or hear the commotion behind him, his gaze fully fixated on the vampire queen. "You cannot hurt her. I will not allow it. I can change her, Anakatrine. I can make her understand who we are, what we are."
The desperation in Liam's voice heightened the tension. Karn crossed the room behind them, coming to Kallum's side to gaze into Elina's pale face. He bit out a curse, glaring over his shoulder at the vampire queen. "You charged Mac with protecting the Vârcolac. He, in turn, charged us with taking up that task. Stop this now. You're hurting Elina and Liam!"
Anakatrine could see the damage happening, Elina swooning and Kallum being the only thing holding her up. Sweat was beading Liam's brow, pain blazing from his eyes. One of the Praetorians suddenly clutched at his head, falling to the ground with a wordless cry. Immediately pandemonium broke out, people rushing to the fallen vampire's prone body. She had to end this now before things turned more desperate.
"What the fuck is happening?" Caleb ground out, coming to stand at her side. Her gaze fixed on Liam and she heard the woman beside him cry out.
"He's an empath and he's losing control. He will destroy us all. You have to stop him." Reasa struggled to get free of Liam, tried to run but he refused to let go, tears beginning to streak down his face.
"Speak! Now!" The order issued from the vampire queen demanded an answer. There was nothing Reasa could do to stop the words tumbling from her lips even though she didn't want to tell her anything. It was if she was under some kind of spell.
"He's like me, has empathic abilities. You must know that because she was helping him shield." She gestured to Elina before turning back to Anakatrine and Caleb. "A loss of control for one of us can kill humans in an instant. We cause brain haemorrhages. Vampiric minds are at risk too. Those with weaker minds can have their personalities wiped during a loss of control. That's what's happening to that vampire there. We can also affect Weres."
"Stop it this instant!" Caleb ordered, fury crossing his face as he thought of what this could mean to everyone present. The Weres weren't even safe? No vampire could manipulate Were minds but this woman was telling him they could? If any more of them had weaker minds then they could lose them all.
"I'm not doing it!" Reasa screamed at him, terror on her face. "I'm far too weak to affect just about everyone in this room. He's doing it! He's losing control. With the amount of anger in this room bombarding him, he's overwhelmed, and projecting it back out into the room. It's fuelling itself now, growing stronger and stronger with every moment. He'll kill us all if you don't stop him. He's way more powerful than I will ever be."
Liam cried out, dropping to his knees and pulling Reasa down with him. She fell forward at the sharp movement, her arms automatically coming up to steady herself. Liam twisted around; resting his forehead against hers as another Praetorian screamed and fell to the floor. "Help them," he whispered, his eyes full of unshed tears.
Despite the agony in his head, he had heard her words. He knew she could help him in a way Elina never could. He was killing people and had no way to stop it. The pain of destroying those meant to protect him was mixing with the building fury and he couldn't construct barriers fast enough to stop it. Before too long it would be other minds disintegrating, minds of people that he loved. "Please help them. Do what you must."
Reasa shook her head, torn between wanting to stop the impending disaster and not wanting to go inside the mind of the man holding her trapped to his body. She couldn't do it. She couldn't go into the mind of an abomination.
"Do it," Anakatrine ordered. "Do it now before it's too late. He won't let me in and from the expression on everyone else's faces he won't let them in either. You're the only one who can save these lives, Thereasa. You have to show him how to shield and do it now!"
"Have you lost your fucking mind?!" Caleb roared, trying to intervene. He couldn't believe she was being so reckless when it came to Liam, despite the cost to the others around them. She couldn't seriously be allowing the would-be assassin to join with the Vârcolac's mind.
He was suddenly spinning away, pushed by an invisible force. Caleb staggered backwards with a flick of her hand, shock crossing his face as he realised what she was doing. Anakatrine hadn't touched him physically but that didn't stop her power reaching out and forcing him away from the kneeling duo.
"Annie, no!" Rafe cried, trying to move forward but finding his way blocked by an unseen barrier. Static electricity filled the air, crackling dangerously around the three in the centre of the room. Lavender eyes glowed with menace, daring anyone to get in her way.
"Take out the weaker minded ones. Help those who have fallen," the vampire queen said quietly, her voice a cold whiplash across the room. "Let no one approach us or you will feel my wrath. Do not test me. Do not presume on the relationship you hold with Rhianna Armand. I will do what is required to end this and no one, and I mean no one, will get in my way." Long talons pointed to Reasa, a spark of electricity jumping from the end to strike the vampire in the temple and cause her to cry out.
"Do not defy me, vampire. You came into our territory with murder in your heart. You hurt Liam and Elina and now it is time to begin making amends for those actions. Show him how to shield before we lose him. Begin your penance, Thereasa."
The pain in her head was astounding. Reasa cried out in agony, tears coursing down her cheeks as she knelt locked within the embrace of Liam, their foreheads pressed hard together. She had to do it. It was the only way to stop the agony inflicted by the other woman. She didn't know how she knew this but she did.
"Let me in, Liam. Relax just a fraction; don't let down your full guard. I'm like you, I know how to slip into the smallest of cracks in a mental guard. That's all I need." The words came out on a sob, more pain lancing through her temple. "Please, please let me in."
From a distance, Liam heard the pleas from his mate's lips. The sound of her tears filled his heart with more sorrow, a waft of pure grief flooding the room on the next wave of uncontrolled emotions he projected. He could hear Elina begin to weep, Cassia, Dara, even Lacey weeping in the background. He had to let Thereasa in without causing any more harm.
With a strangled sob, he pressed his forehead harder against hers, releasing the smallest fraction of what remained of his self-control over his mind. Immediately a soft brush of cool air assailed his mind. For a second, he was stunned by the sensation and then he reached for more, joining with his mate in the most intimate way he could imagine.
It was so beautiful, so right, the feel of his mate flowing within his mind, her cool breath soothing the raging mass of emotions within. Her touch was so light and delicate, hesitant at first and then bolder as she breezed through bringing peace wherever she touched.
"This is how you shield, hybrid," she whispered in his head. "Your analogy of bricks is too literal, too unyielding. Yes, it will work for a while, but eventually the bricks will shatter from the strain as they did today. A shield must be strong but have some yield in it so it can flex and move as needed and not become too brittle. Follow what I do."
Liam was entranced by her words, his heart beating erratically as she danced within his mind. He watched her work, enthralled, as she appeared to pluck a strand of what looked like clouds and began to deftly weave the strands together until they formed fine barriers. He tested the strength on one, amazed that it moved to his touch but didn't break. As he stopped applying mental pressure against the barrier, it slipped back into shape, an impenetrable defence.
"It's so beautiful, Thereasa," he answered, awe in his voice as he tried to catch a strand of cloud to mimic her actions.
"No, don't snatch at it like that. You have to be more delicate." Her admonishment made him smile and he laughed aloud. He heeded her words though and his next attempt had him securing a strand though he struggled with weaving two together.
Let me do it for now," she told him, a hint of softening in her mental voice though it was still clear that she was uncomfortable being in his mind. He let her do as she wanted, watching each movement avidly so he could practice himself later. Why had he never thought of doing something like this? It appeared such a simple thing. It could have saved him years of grief.
It was over before he wanted it to be. Liam tried to keep her with him but the more he tried to hold onto her, the faster she withdrew. For the moment, his mental shields were the strongest they had ever been. He was still unable to do the weave himself, but the effects of Thereasa's help should last far longer than his own attempts at constructing safe barriers.
Reasa sagged from the effort of concentrating for so long within the hybrid's mind. Her own defences were weakened by the task but still holding. Slowly opening her eyes, she looked at the man she had just saved and in doing so most likely have saved most of the remaining people in the room. She had come here with the intent to kill him and ended up saving his life. The irony was not lost on her.
Most of the people were gone from the room, only the hybrids remaining with their pack mates and a few of the vampires. Most of the younger vampires were gone, whether this was a precaution or whether more had been damaged she didn't know. Her gaze turned to the woman who had hurt her and was now at her staring intently.
"You have done well, Thereasa. Though you came here with death in your heart you have performed a service that would grant you a stay of execution, had that option still been on the table." The vampire queen walked around the kneeling couple slowly, her electric gaze meeting the eyes of loved ones as she passed them.
In some she saw confusion, in others she saw hurt. In Caleb's eyes, she saw cold bleakness. She paused before him, read each minute detail on his beautiful face. A boundary had been crossed that should never have been. Only time would tell if they would be able to recover from the damage done this day.
Damage that wasn't over. There was still one more thing that needed to be done. If Rhianna had been present she would have begged her other half not to do this, but she was subsumed by a will six thousand years older and with a power far superior to hers. This last act had to be done and there was no one who could do it apart from her.
Anakatrine turned back to Thereasa, a small movement of her hand urging Liam to release the woman.
"Anakatrine...please." Liam didn't want to release his mate, his eyes pleading with the woman who held their fate in her hands.
"Trust in me, Liam."
He opened his mouth to speak again but suddenly found himself outside the circle they had been in, looking through what appeared to be a shimmering wall of air. Rafe was immediately at his side, holding him in a tight grip. "Don't try to get back inside. It's electrified or something. No one can breach it. We have to trust she knows what's she's doing, Liam. I know it's hard, Lord, do I know just how hard that is, but there is nothing else we can do but trust in her as she asks."
"She can't hurt her," Liam ground out, sinking back to his knees, his heart thumping, his gaze never leaving his mate. "Please someone, do something. Don't let Anakatrine hurt my mate."
Silence greeted his words, though his brethren joined his thoughts, Elina sinking down beside him and holding him close. They all stared at the two women so close and yet so far away. Foreboding filled the room as everyone was rooted to the spot, waiting for an impending tragedy to unfold.
Anakatrine knelt down before the vampire, a finger reaching out to brush away a lone tear. "You understand your actions cannot go unpunished, child. You have caused untold harm here this day, not just to the Vârcolac but to the very heart of all I have worked so hard to create."
"Who are you?" Reasa choked the words out, her entire body almost paralysed with terror at the being before her. She looked so small and fragile and yet, she appeared invincible.
"I am Anakatrine, last Queen of Vampires. I was murdered by my people six thousand years ago, along with my King, Callain, the rather irate male drilling holes in my back."
Reasa shook her head, denial crossing her face. "We don't have a queen. You North Americans have that stupid Council thing but we have never had a monarchy."
Anakatrine smiled, shrugging her shoulders. "Believe what you will, child, it's a moot point. You asked me who I was and I answered. Choose not to believe right now, but you will by the time this day is done."
Standing she looked down on the vampire, a small amount of compassion filling her heart at the fear she saw in her eyes. She had no room for manoeuvre though. The die was cast and Thereasa's fate had been chosen. And Heaven help them all.
Reaching within, Anakatrine delved deep, searching for the most hidden repository of stored knowledge she had. As she delved, she began to summon her magic, calling on every element and sucking the energy into her mind to join with the knowledge she sought. The air crackled loudly, sparks beginning to fly from her auburn curls as it whipped in the air by an unseen wind.
Reasa tried to cower away, her terror mounting as power engulfed the vacuum she was imprisoned in with the other woman. There was nowhere to hide though, her way blocked at every turn. She could hear Liam calling her name but she was too afraid to take her eyes from Anakatrine. She had no idea what the vampire queen was going to do, but she knew it would be something that would wound her deeply, if not kill her.
For the first time, Reasa truly questioned if she had done the right thing in coming here and trying to wipe out the abominations. Louis, the other covens in Europe, they had no idea what they were up against if they continued to produce the Amort poison and tried to bring down the vampire Council. They were outclassed and it was only now that she was realising that.
"Thereasa of the European Covens, you have been found guilty of attempted murder of one or more under my protection. You have been found guilty of causing untold mental harm to those under my protection, and you have been found guilty of being the catalyst to Liam Eriksson's mental break, which has caused the destruction of minds under my protection. Punishment for each of these crimes is death as decreed by my mate, Caleb. However, a conventional death is something that cannot be granted because of unforeseen circumstances."
The sparks erupted louder and brighter, contained within the circle with the two women. None of them touched Reasa, though they came close as her terror mounted. There was so much power encased in the tiny space with them. There would need to be an outlet for that power and she was certain where it was going to come. Glowing lavender eyes connected with hers as she began to weep silently.
"For saving Liam and those he loves, I grant you one lifetime to right your wrongs. Choose your actions wisely henceforth, Thereasa, for you shall be at the mercy of all those you have wronged in the past."