Reclaiming The Magic

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Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 7

Vampire society knows him as the Thirteenth Elder first vampire in creation, the mages know him as an immortal high sorcerer and the Keeper of the Prophecy.

Delgarias Dullahan only cares about the woman who knew him simply as "Del." Two thousand years ago, he gambled his soul for the power to marry Nikkita Leonine...and lost. Now he is finally on her trail.

But Del is not the only one searching for the missing luminite princess, and whoever finds her first will have the upper hand in the battle against the greatest evil ever known.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

Delgarias Dullahan, faelin high sorcerer, and the first vampire in creation, entered the heart of the motherhouse in Amsterdam, where the Elders convened. As the Thirteenth Elder, he had final say over the rulings of the Council of the Twelve.

Ten of the dozen vampires tasked with governing all the vampires on Earth were seated at the circular table in the meeting chamber. Ian, the Lord Vampire of London, sat perfectly composed, his hands folded on the table, only the furrowing of his brow and an agitated glimmer in his silver eyes revealing his concern with the situation at hand.

Marcus, the Lord of Rome, didn’t bother hiding his agitation, he tapped his pen across the polished marble table in an irritating staccato, garnering glares from the Lords of Tokyo and New York.

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After taking his seat at ornately carved chair at the head of the table, Delgarias surveyed the other six Elders. Lord Vampires from Lima, Munich, Perth, and Ulsan regarded him with expectant expressions. The Lords of Bejing and Calgary had already sent their apologies, unable to make it as such notice.

Mixed impatience and worry roiled through Delgarias’s being as he waited to learn why they’d requested his presence this night. The Elders feared him, so they rarely called upon him to participate in their affairs. Del prayed the matter didn’t involve their creator, Mephistopheles, who had once more surfaced and attacked Wurrakia only three months ago. And on Earth, the would-be god was now reaching out to his once-banished creations, luring them to join his infernal army.

Yes, news of Mephistopheles would be very bad. They weren’t ready for him. Pieces of the Prophecy had yet to fall in place.

Delgarias cleared his throat and addressed the Elders. “What need have you of me, my brothers and sisters?”

Jodie, the Lord of Perth scrunched up her nose. “More prisoners were delivered to us from the vigilante rogue.”

Delgarias allowed a sigh of vexation to escape. “Please tell me they didn’t take more cult members.”

The Order of Eternal Night worshipped Mephistopheles and were experiencing a resurgence of the likes none had ever seen, with the Evil One’s recruiting. Delgarias had tasked some of his most trusted vampires to infiltrate the cult and gain knowledge of their enemy’s movements.

If this rogue persisted in arresting cultists, all of Delgarias’s plans could be upended.

“I’m afraid so,” Jodie said.

Ian cut in, “At least they were dangerous criminals, and better off being eliminated from our world.”

Marcus waved a dismissive hand. “They’re always criminals, Ian. But that does not give this rogue the right to take the law into her own hands. The Lord Vampire of El Paso should be the one to handle these things.”

“But he didn’t,” Neko, the Lord of Tokyo said softly.

Carlos, the Lord of Lima curled his knuckles beneath his chin and leaned forward. “Interesting that though the rogue now seems to be targeting the Order of Eternal Night, she still holds to her pattern of apprehending cultists who have violated our most sacred laws. These ones were kidnapping children and selling them to human sex traffickers.”

Delgarias shuddered with revulsion before a realization struck him. “Wait, did you say these cultists were taken from El Paso?”

“Yes.”

“How in the hell did the rogue manage to haul three vampires all the way here?”

Ian ran a hand through his long black hair. “I have no idea, but one has to admit that it is an impressive feat.”

“The portals.” Delgarias blurted, feeling foolish that the answer hadn’t come to him immediately. It was the only way the feat could be accomplished. “We need to interview every Lord Vampire about the portals, find out who is not being discreet.”

Earth held many stationary portals that would take one to the world of Aisthanesthai. The world where Delgarias had been born. The world that he’d also been working hard to keep safe. Vampires were slowly being integrated into some of Aisthanesthai’s countries, allies who’d fight Mephistopheles and his dark horde at the sides of sorcerers, Kanuri priestesses, Wurrak knights, and Tolonquan warriors.

The adjustment was precarious, to say the least. And this Annarkie was endangering that fragile integration by bringing evil vampires through Aisthanesthai, using the magical world as a shortcut. If one of them escaped? Alliances that so many had worked so carefully to forge would be undone by a reckless vigilante.

He had to find the rogue vampire who called herself Annarkie before a sorcerer or knight learned there were uninvited intruders.

Damn her.

She’d been plaguing him on and off for centuries. In the early days, he admired her boldness and even appreciated her capturing dangerous vampires, but after countless failed searches to identify her and recruit her in a formal position, her meddling had grown irksome. Back then, Delgarias and his fellow Elders didn’t know anything about the vigilante, not a name, not a sex, only that they must be a vampire to have such knowledge about their kind and their numerous laws.

Eventually, the deliveries of maimed, wicked vampires would stop, and they would assume that the rogue had gotten his or herself killed by their dangerous pursuits. But a few decades later, a bound vampire would be dropped on the Elders’ doorstep, often missing a limb or two. How the rogue kept the prisoners alive long enough to be delivered to their inevitable execution, Delgarias had no idea.

Also fascinating was the question as to why the prisoners were always delivered alive. The vampires had always been guilty of crimes meriting a death sentence, and yet, the rogue never executed them herself. To do so would have kept her under the radar for longer.

He’d long concluded that she wanted the Elders to be aware of her. Perhaps wanted Delgarias in particular to know of her.

Indeed, this desire for attention was how Delgarias had learned that she was a she, and later on, her name. She always sent notes with her catches, albeit tied up with a messenger. Two hundred years ago, she’d slipped and touched one of the missives, allowing him to cast a divination spell to get a name and the shadowy scent and figure of a woman. It was only a matter of time before—

Ian broke through his ponderings. “Do you wish to see these prisoners, Your Eminence?”

“Yes,” Delgarias rose from the table. “And if they are guilty of the crimes they’ve been charged with, I will execute them myself.”

“They are always guilty,” Hans, the Lord of Munich echoed Marcus’s words.

They went down to the dungeons and approached the cell where the three wicked vampires were held. As usual, all three were missing their tongues, the stubs expertly cauterized. One was missing both feet, bandages soaking crimson. One missed an arm, another his eyes. All three had been castrated, as was Annarkie’s usual tradition for any crimes of a sexual nature.

Jodie made a disgusted sound under her breath. “Every time a batch of these arrives, I think I’m prepared for the sight, but no. It never does get easier, even knowing what they’ve done.”

“How does she keep them alive?” Neko wondered aloud.

“A mystery to be solved another time.” Delgarias tried to conceal his impatience to probe the prisoners. “I’m just thankful they do indeed live so I may try to ferret her out.”

Marcus snorted. “Good luck. She is very thorough at wiping their memories of her voice and visage.”

“She’s made mistakes before,” Delgarias said before lunging toward the eyeless prisoner and sinking his fangs into the other vampire’s throat.

Maybe the fates wished to prove Marcus wrong, or perhaps it was the truth-seeking spell Delgarias had recently cast, but at last he got something from the prisoner’s memories.

Though all he saw was darkness, he heard voices.

“Mistress,” a male voice quavered faintly, as if blocked by a wall or door, “the cell in La Grande is larger than any we’ve come across. I think it will be too dangerous.”

A reply came, but it was distorted, as if coming through electric interference.

The male voice replied, muddied, but discernable. “Still, Pendleton is a mere hour away…. ten of them? You cannot be serious.”

All went black as the blood ceased flowing into Delgarias’s mouth. Triumph surging in his chest, he seized the next prisoner and drained them even quicker, then he moved to the next. No information was to be gleaned from those two, aside from flashes of terrified children and whimpers of pain, but he had what he needed.

“I, Delgarias, Thirteenth Elder, sentence you three worms to death,” he growled, disgusted with what they’d done to over thirty innocents.

Even though the vampires were unconscious from losing what little blood they had left, Delgarias didn’t have the patience to drag them to the execution chamber. Instead, he gathered his power and reached towards the prisoners with both hands.

Arcs of lightning shot out from his fingertips, striking the child traffickers. They jolted like puppets on a string, then flopped on the stone floor like fish hauled from the water. Smoke curled out from their mouths, nostrils, and melting eye-sockets. The reek of burning hair permeated the area before Delgarias stopped frying them.

When he turned around, he saw that the other Elders had stepped backward about twelve feet, staring at him in naked horror.

He watched their eyes scan his almost luminescent hair, with its bi-layered strands, his overly long fingers with their extra knuckles, his pointed ears, and lightning-shot eyes, wondering always what he was before he’d become the first blood drinker. Sure, they’d recently learned that he was faelin, but only Ian had visited Aisthanesthai and had just the slightest comprehension as to what the faelin were.

Tonight, the Elders’ fear didn’t bother him. Not when he was flush with victory. Soon, he would close in on the rogue who’d evaded him for the past three hundred years. It took all of his centuries of self-discipline and sense of duty not to immediately begin pursuit.

Because first, he needed to look in on his other people. And perhaps gain news of someone who’d evaded him for far much longer.

He weighed the pros and cons of telling the Elders that he knew where Annarkie was going to be and decided to hold his silence for now. Between desire to maintain his credibility and the matter of her knowledge of the portals, it was best to wait until he had the rogue in his custody before acting. Besides, there were so many questions he had for her that were best asked in private.

Delgarias cleared his throat. “I must leave for Aisthanesthai now and see if Mephistopheles has made any new moves there.”

Marcus sneered. “I wonder at your devotion to a world that views our kind so poorly. And at the wisdom of looking to you when you play for both sides.”

“There is only one side, Marcus. We all stand against the evil one. I was his first creation, the first of many that he’d enslaved. I will not have you or any of my people enslaved again.”

Before Delgarias teleported outside, he saw that rather than his words reassuring Marcus, the hostility on the ancient Roman’s face seemed to increase.

That one would have to be watched.

When he was certain that no witnesses or drones were near, Delgarias took to the air. The closest portal was outside of Haarlem, thankfully in a shielded copse of trees at the edge of a meadow. He hadn’t told the Elders about this portal. Not until he was certain all could be trusted.

Once through the portal, Delgarias approached the castle in Niji, where the King and Queen of Aisthanesthai had moved their seat for as long as the war lasted.

After he was admitted entry into the receiving room, the queen ran to him and exclaimed with delight before throwing her arms around his waist. “Uncle Del!”

Uncle Del. His throat tightened at the name as he returned the embrace. Xochitl had called him that ever since she could form words, never knowing how the double blow those two words impacted his heart.

Before Kerainne Leonine’s daughter came into the world, only one person had called him Del. And he would have given anything for the chance to wed her, which would have made him Xochitl’s uncle in truth.

Nikkita, his mind whispered. He touched the pendant that remained against his chest, concealed beneath his robes.

The rest of the universe knew him by other names. To the mages of Aisthanesthai, he was the Keeper of the Prophecy and addressed as “revered one.” To his faelin kin in Shellandria, he was “the outcast” or “the abomination.” To the vampires of Earth, he was The Thirteenth Elder. In both worlds he was feared and obeyed.

For over two millennia, Delgarias had trekked back and forth between Earth and Aisthanesthai, never fully belonging to either, never living for himself, but for his seemingly endless quest at redemption. His pride had cost him his love and brought undeserved power to his enemy and thus cost his world.

He may have been Mephistopheles’s first vampire, but Delgarias had quickly learned the error of his ways and had since made it his life’s mission to destroy the would-be god.

And to stop anyone who would interfere.

The King cleared his throat, making Xochitl step back. “We are honored with your visit, Revered One.” Delgarias blinked in surprise that Zareth had reverted back to the old title. After discovering that Delgarias was a vampire, the King had begun addressing him by his name only. “What news do you bring us?”

“Very little, I’m afraid. Cells of the Order of Eternal Night are sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain, but the ones we’ve infiltrated thus far haven’t seen any sign of Mephistopheles. Instead, I’ve come to inform you that I will be occupied on Earth with a rogue who is taking the law into her own hands. She’s been plaguing me on and off for centuries, but I’m closing in on her trail at last.”

“She must be very clever to elude you for so long.”

Delgarias shrugged. “Not really. Her mischief has honestly aided the Elders more than hindered, and her meddling has been sporadic enough to make her a low priority. Until now.”

“Oh?” Zareth prodded lightly.

“The rogue is planning another attack on a very large cell of the Order of Eternal Night. A cell who we believe is in direct contact with Mephistopheles. I need that cult alive and infiltrated, but if this Annarkie and her band of rogues has their way, a bevy of mutilated cultists would be dropped on the doorstop of the Motherhouse instead.”

“Badass!” Xochitl grinned up at him. “An assassin named Annarkie?”

“A misguided vigilante.” Delgarias corrected, not admitting that up until recently, he’d assumed said vigilante to be male and the spelling of his alias to be “Anarchy.” To discover that it had been a female tweaking his nose this whole time had been humbling. “And though the vampires she’s killed were all guilty of their crimes, she is still violating our laws by denying those she kills their rights to a fair trial.”

Zareth nodded. “And if you do not stop her, you could risk the stability of law and order amongst your people.”

“It’s a shame.” Delgarias didn’t mention the risk Annarkie also presented to the vampire integration efforts in Aisthanesthai. “Had she presented herself the first time she’d killed a wrongdoer, she could have become one of our most valued assets, earning a high position as a spy or enforcer for the Elders. Hell, maybe even the third time. But it is too late for her. She’s flouted the law long enough.” To his surprise, regret tugged his chest at the thought of the rogue’s impending capture and execution. “Enough about my vigilante, what news have you of Aisthanesthai?”

“Things are too quiet. I don’t like it.”

“Mephistopheles’s attacks have always been sporadic and far apart,” Delgarias reminded him.

“Yes, but now he knows about Xochitl.” Worry shone in Zareth’s eyes. “I’d think that he’ll want to move faster now that the one foretold to defeat him is here.”

“The Prophecy doesn’t say if she defeats him.” Delgarias reminded the king. “Only that she will battle him.”

Zareth’s clenched fists took on a fine tremble.

Xochitl took her husband’s hand and gazed up at him. “But I will destroy him. I vow it. That fucker raped my mom and destroyed millions of lives.”

Delgarias winced at the blunt reminder of the desecration of a woman who he’d regarded as a sister. But since he could not change the past, he returned the topic to the present. “Zareth is right in that Mephistopheles will likely move faster now that he has seen his daughter.”

“But we’re not ready.” Xochitl echoed Delgarias’s earlier worries. “We haven’t even found all seven nightwalkers with their brides. As far as I’ve counted, there’s Silas and Akasha, Jayden and Razvan, Radu and Lillian, and Aurora and Tony. That’s only four. Three more need to join us. Have you determined any special names for the next Bride?”

Delgarias shook his head. “They come to me when I see them, or soon after.”

Akasha was the general, Jayden, the seeress, Lillian the engineer, Aurora the directrix, who would lead the war march to the beat of her war drum, both literally and metaphorically. What special talent would the next Bride contribute?

“Well, maybe it’s good that you’re going back to Earth and dealing with vampire business,” Xochitl gave him an encouraging smile. Never had she looked upon him with fear, and not only because she was half luminite. “Then you can find the next Bride.”

Although that was the most important person he had to locate, Delgarias was more concerned with finding the rogue and finding Nikkita.

Speaking of…

“If you’ll excuse me, my queen, I’d like to talk to your mother before I take my leave.”

Xochitl’s amber eyes glittered with smug knowledge. “She’s out back.”

He found Kerainne in the rear garden, her waist-length blonde hair covering her in a cloak that gleamed gold in the light of the two moons. Instead of tending to the flowers or reading a book, the luminite princess—no, queen, as she’d recently claimed the title—stared out past the gates at a large vacant lot behind the castle.

The site where Zareth’s half-brother, Stefan, had built a tower wrought of human sacrifice and dark blood magic during his attempt to take the throne and Xochitl. If Stefan had won the throne, Mephistopheles would have triumphed by now. In fact, Stefan would have probably delivered the entire world of Aisthanesthai to the evil one on a silver platter.

“Have you found any clues as to where my sister is?” Kerainne asked without turning around.

“No.” He’d been about to ask her the same question. “But that seeking spell you helped me with led me to the vigilante rogue vampire I’ve been pursuing for centuries.”

“I am happy I was able to help with something.” Kerainne said. “And I do hope that your capture of the vigilante is quick and your dealings with her are and humane.”

“They’ll be as humane as she’ll allow them to be.” Delgarias told her plainly. “But she has knowledge of the portals and has knowledge of the portals and has been using them to deliver the vampires she arrests. And who knows for what else. This is dangerous and—”

Kerainne turned around, making him fall silent as the sight of her beauty and resemblance to her sister made his heart constrict with agony. “You don’t have to justify your decisions to me, Del. Although it is in my nature to guide others to the path of mercy, I’m selfishly concerned with the expediency of this mission. I want my sister found. You’re not the only one hurting from her absence.”

Only last year had he learned that Nikkita had been missing from Medicia for over a thousand years. And a few months ago, Kerainne had told him part of the reason why. She was hiding from an arranged betrothal.

A small, petty part of him rejoiced at the fact that Nik didn’t want to marry another man, but the possessive glee was subdued since she clearly didn’t want to marry him either.

But… a voice whispered.

No, he silenced that usual reminder before it could resurface. That didn’t count.

As it was, Delgarias was still reeling from the revelation that Nikkita had been closer to his reach than he’d believed all this time.

And still she hadn’t sought him out.

Maybe it would be better to give her up again, as he had before. His chest tightened at the thought.

No. He needed answers. At first, he’d thought she avoided him because she was repulsed at what he’d become. But Kerainne had forgiven him and understood what had driven him down his dark path.

Surely Nik could forgive him too? And even if she couldn’t, surely, he could convince her to at least allow him to explain himself.

But now that Kerainne had confessed to giving Nik a blood vow to keep some secret, Delgarias knew the betrothal wasn’t Nik’s only reason for spending centuries in hiding. The secret had to be catastrophic as well, for Nik wouldn’t be the type to subject her own sister to risk of becoming cursed if the truth were forced from her lips.

Curiosity burned almost as deeply as his worry. Whatever it was that kept Nik in hiding, even from her own family, for over a millennium, Delgarias would do what he could to help her.

He just needed to persuade her to let him.

If only he didn’t have to waste valuable time chasing down Annarkie. Then he could focus more of his taxed time to finding the woman who still held his heart in her palm.

COLLAPSE
Brooklyn Ann

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