Thirteen

Lars forced down yet another large sigh, channeling the display of emotion into a reproachful glare at the rundown building he had parked the car in front of. Cassille’s grimace and narrowed eyes stuck firmly in his mind’s eye, and it itched under Lars’ skin for multiple reasons. In the few months he’d known her, Cassille had barely expressed distress, fear, or nervousness, if she even experienced those emotions at all. So, her obvious unease when Lars had told her that he was leaving her for a short time only increased his own discomfort and guilt.

To be fair, he was far from abandoning her–no, Cassille would never be abandoned by him so long as he lived, Lars knew this for fact. She was to remain in the city with the Diya witch. The two had become fast friends in the two weeks upon their arrival, and had spent the majority of those days trying to figure out the damned ring and the Aztec women. He knew Cassille would be safe.

The witch had gotten nowhere, and her vampire, Antony he now called himself, had known only barely more than Lars, and even that ocean of knowledge held no clues. But there were more who Lars was sure had to know something, and it was time to return to ask for their help. His glare deepened and his already white-knuckled grip on the wheel tightened.

Finally, a figure emerged from the side of the building, dark blue and grey in the early light, successfully pulling Lars from his cyclical thoughts. The young man strode confidently to the car, even though he had no way of knowing who was within or that Lars had arrived. He’d sent no word. Nevertheless, he unlocked the door just as the man’s fingers grasped the handle and he slid in with a boyish grin.

“I knew I’d see you again, my darling. Our love knows no distance, no savagery of time apart,” he drawled mockingly, increasing Lars’ agitation.

“Hello Mr. Windsor,” he bit out, which resulted in a derisive snort.

“Daniel, Mr. Windsor was my father,” he said as though reciting lines. Then he paused. “Actually, my whole point is I never knew who my father was, so I suppose he wasn’t Mr. Windsor,” he chuckled humorlessly.

“You’re quite ready this morning,” Lars observed. Daniel nodded and smirked.

“Of course I am. I bloody knew who you were as soon as you stepped into the streetlight and I got a decent look at you. So, your lordliness, what are we up to? And where is your delectable charge?”

This time, Lars let the sigh leave him. He chose to give a straight, monotone answer rather than give the devil boy the fuel of a reaction. “I am resuming my search for Artahe. Cassille and I have encountered a puzzle too large and dangerous on our own, and I may require the rest of the Six as well.”

Daniel nodded, his mouth shut. He seemed to be waiting, but Lars had the sense that Cassille wouldn’t appreciate him discussing her with this man, if their encounter had been anything to go by.

“Why Artahe specifically?” he finally asked. “If it’s power you need, you of all people, it’s already at your command. Reach out to them as you normally do, and I’m sure they’d be willing to assist.”

“Yes, but I wish to seek her individually first. Artahe is one of the six first vampires–”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Daniel said. “Aquitani, specially grabbed by Caesar’s men when he was in Gaul, and turned by his witch-whore into epic weapons and cursed examples for any who dare defy Caesar,” he said theatrically. “But why her, other than the reason I’m guessing?”

“Which is?” Lars humored him. Daniel chuckled.

“She’s your girlfriend, mate,” he said proudly. “I haven’t been round to Paris in a while, but vampires have as loose tongues as they’ve sharp ears. You two were quite known to often…be around together,” he snickered.

Lars didn’t answer as memories suddenly crashed over him. Honey curls, draped gracefully over elegant collarbones, fluttered in his mind’s eye. Full, pink lips smiled and blue eyes shone at him. Daniel had quieted and his face had smoothed from its teasing, looking at the man intently.

“Yes,” Lars said simply, steeling himself for more humor. All that seemed to leave this man’s mouth was taunts and snickers. But Daniel just nodded solemnly.

“There’s more to this,” he prodded. Lars inhaled slowly, as though if he lingered over the air it would inflate him with far more confidence than he felt.

“Each of those six were chosen specifically, because in their respective tribes they were honored and revered. For their beauty, their skill in battle, cleverness, or some favor of the witch or of Caesar himself. By altering these people, manipulating the entire tribe’s role model or prized mind, Caesar instilled the belief that he was the ultimate human.

“Artahe was known for her beauty and grace, in body and mind. Her purity stood as a symbol of goodness and hope when all feared the invading Romans and the war surrounding them. She actually has very diluted witch blood in her veins, which connected her more deeply to nature, gave her a natural talent for healing, and uncannily accurate predictions of the near future. The Aspiates tribe, in the Valley of Asp, greatly admired this.”

“So Caesar literally rained on their parade,” Daniel grumbled, but it was without a trace of mockery. “I did not know they were so specifically chosen. She still carried those aspects into the Supernatural though?”

Lars nodded, determinedly looking at the painted lines on the road as they slipped under the wheels. “I believe, with our history and her disposition, that she will be the kindest to me.”

“And why would any of them be unkind to you?” he asked sharply, Lars could feel his piercing eyes on his face. So this was where his knowledge ran out, and instead confirmed Lars’ suspicions. They’d worked to keep that information quiet, then. It comforted him slightly, knowing that at least he hadn’t sent the world crashing in his selfish impulsiveness.

“You know who I am?” he tried to begin. Daniel nodded.

“You’re my bloody king,” Lars glanced over to see the briefest twitch of an ironic smile. “You’re Lorens, vampire king and, thus, king of the Supernatural world. But I haven’t seen your ring.”

“I ran away,” Lars chuckled at the ridiculousness of it. Daniel raised his eyebrows.

“You ran away from home? Are you ten? Because I did that, many times. When I was ten,” he said flatly.

“I gave the court the slip, as you’d say, and left the Underground. I wished to find an heir among my currently living descendants. Not customary, but perhaps I am a bit sentimental,” Lars was determined to give only the most necessary details of the tale. Daniel whistled lowly, but said nothing.

“Leherenno deserted the palace even before I did, but I know where he is. And I’m fairly sure he hasn’t contacted the others, just as I am certain that they are searching. They’ll find me, but I wanted to speak to Artahe alone first.”

Silence. Blissful silence from the obnoxious boy beside him. And Lars was too filled with shame at his own foolishness and apprehension for Daniel’s reaction to appreciate it. Finally, Daniel chuckled and shook his head.

“You ran away from–and, resultingly, pissed off–the six most powerful vampires, and probably most powerful beings, in existence, because you had a midlife crisis? What, the sports car wasn’t good enough?”

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