Actions

Work Header

Oaths

Chapter Text

Varga enjoyed nights like these, spent up on the ramparts with his best friend, watching the world below with the clear vision their vampirism granted them. A cool breeze ruffled the leaves of a nearby stand of trees, carrying the scent of a baker’s first offerings of the day. It was one of the few things he missed about being human, food.

Hesper, having never been mortal, tilted her head as she inhaled. Her eyes closed as a small smile formed on her dark lips. Lips Varga had only recently gotten the nerve to greet with his own.

“Hess?”

She looked up at him, her usual smirk back in place. No matter what was going on, Hesper was always in good spirits. It almost seemed an odd contradiction, for a death dealer, quartermaster, trap-maker, defense-strategist, and born-vampire to be so cheerful and warm by nature.

“Do you ever wish you’d been human?”

She looked back towards where the bakery likely was, her eyes closing as she gave another sniff of the air.

“Sometimes. Do you ever miss it?”

“Sometimes.”

“But you prefer this.”, a statement, not a question.

“Most definitely.”

Hesper nodded, smiling a little.

“It is good you were turned. The human world has no need of someone so loyal. For them, pledges are something to be taken to join a club in school, forgotten after you leave the school. They are trivial. But for vampires… we survive by them. Our whole world turns by an oath.”

While he was aware how deeply an oath went in the vampiric world, he had never once stopped to ponder over it. They lived and died by oaths, centuries-old loyalties, pledges made during marriages and alliances.

“I hear the new Council member, Semira, intends to send a few of us to the Western Coven, to defend it.”

Varga sighed. He had met the woman twice, so far. He did not much care for her. She was cold, even for their kind. Worse, she seemed to enjoy the pain and discomfort of others. Varga was a predator, with the teeth to prove it, yet he took no pleasure in causing pain. It was not natural to enjoy the pain of others. Even of lesser beings.

“Maybe we’ll both get assigned to the western coven, then we can work in all new safe houses! I can design some new traps, maybe work on those tired, rusty old doors!”

Smiling, Varga leaned to bump his shoulder against hers.

“You really are incapable of being glum, aren’t you?”

Her grin was almost spilling over to a real smile. Her plump cheeks would have reddened like apples if she were human. Even as a vampire, it looked like her face had a faint glow to it.

“I can’t help it. I’ve always been cheerful.”

“An optimist to the core.”

Hesper shook her head, her smile deflating a bit. Varga caught a brief flash of sadness in her eyes. A darkness so quick, he nearly missed it.

“I’m a realist, though I see no need to worry. Worrying doesn’t change anything. Looking at how bad it can be is my job, preparing for the absolute worst-case. It would be too much, with all of that, to also worry and be glum over losses or what the future may hold. Besides,”, she added before leaning in to whisper almost conspiratorially, “with friends like you and Sven, how could I possibly stay sad for more than a second or two?”

The faint whistle blew, reminding them of the rising sun’s schedule. He began moving, turning to offer a hand to Hesper, only to find her backflipping from their former spot to the landing in front of the door. She shot him a cocky grin before diving past the door, and rushing down the stairs below.

Vargo followed, intent on catching her and perhaps talking her into a sparring session. They were well-matched, each with different strengths and weaknesses, both adept at reading the other. What he lacked in speed, he made up for in brute strength. What Hesper lacked in ruthlessness, she made up for in cunning.

Varga had barely caught up when he slammed right into Hesper’s back, nearly knocking her from her feet. When they both straightened, he found the reason for Hesper’s lead feet. Semira. Clad in a revealing, overly tight black gown, her hair and make-up as severe as an ice storm.

Varga bowed, Hesper mirroring the action on his left. He heard Semira’s sigh well enough to imagine she was rolling her eyes at them.

“Too busy acting like children to take care of our Coven, I see. A good thing the two of you will not be up to these silly antics for much longer.”

The Council woman walked off, leaving them dumb in her wake. Both turned on their heels, heading back to their rooms, rather than off to the sparring rings as they might have. Turning, Varga watched Hesper’s face. Anger, embarrassment, pride, and a flicker of fear.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t think she’s going to send us both away, carraig.”

If she was using her old nickname for him, derived from an accident during their first mission together, then something had her rattled. He didn’t think he had heard her use the name, outside of a battlefield or mission, in over a decade.

“What makes you think so?”

“The way she said we wouldn’t be up to our usual silly games. I think that,” she paused for second, then turned her head glance his way before double-timing it forward to her apartments, “she means to send only one of us. Probably me.”

“Why send you? You’re the weapons master, you’re the one they ought to keep here, protecting this coven from the Lykan threat.”

She did not speak or make to answer him at all, until they were inside her apartment. Thanks to being Death Dealers, they were both afforded small spaces of their own. A born vampire with great skill, education, and usefulness, Hesper had a bedroom with its own tiny bathroom, a sitting area, and a small study. Varga’s apartment was a room with thin wall jutting out about half the width of the whole apartment to separate the bed from the sitting area, and sharing a bathroom with another Death Dealer whose apartment was on the other side of Varga’s bedroom wall.

“I think she’s got intentions, and she thinks I’m competition.”

Varga chuckled. She turned, looking at him incredulously.

“It isn’t funny, Varga!”

Reaching, he caught her wrist to pull her closer, kissing her lips with a quick peck. Then another. Then a full, long, slow kiss. They were both relatively new to this, especially Varga. Though when he felt her long, soft fingers in his hair, he figured he must have been doing something right. Coming up for air they didn’t really need, he smiled as he nudged his nose against the tip of hers.

“I think you’re imagining things, Hess. I’m a lowly, mortal-born Death Dealer and she is a Council member, who has spent years tending to the needs of the Nordic coven. I doubt she has noticed I exist, aside from nearly knocking you into her, just now.”

Hesper shook her head.

“Trust me, she has intentions.”

Varga pulled her closer yet, resting his forehead against hers.

“I’m all yours, Hess. Even if she wanted me, she couldn’t have me. I’m spoken for, and happily so.”

She smiled up at him, one hand turning to intertwine their fingers together, palm to palm as they stood, breathing in co-mingled air.

“I’ll come back. No matter where she sends me to, I’ll get back.”

“I’ll be here.”

vVvVvVv   vVvVvVv   vVvVvVv

Varga read the message again. There had to have been a mistake. Surely, someone had gotten it wrong. Hesper was the most skilled fighter and weapons master in their coven. Born to be a Death Dealer. She could not have perished on the walls, beating back a small pack of Lykans.

Sinking back against the wall, Varga felt as if he had been ripped open, and everything vital spilled out. Hesper was gone. He recalled their parting words, an oath that she would return, met with a a long, slow kiss. A kiss interrupted by Semira's right-hand man, Neil. Hesper had been ordered to join her unit. Their car awaited and there was no time if they were to beat the sunrise, to the halfway point between their own coven and Thomas's. Varga began to shake as he thought of Hesper looking back and winking at him before she slid into the sleek black car.

Had he known it would be the last time he would see her, he would have told her the full truth. The depth of his feelings. His dreams of escaping their world of constantly battling Lykans, to live peacefully somewhere untouched by the ages-old war. He would have begged her to leave it behind then and there, and join him in self-imposed exile, where they could live out their immortality in peace, sharing a simple life together. He would have promised her anything to keep her from going, had he known.

For hours, Varga did not move. He did not cry. He did not stir. He not acknowledge those who passed him nor those brave enough to address him. Sven, his most loyal lieutenant and friend to both Varga and Hesper, found him there at the bottom of the stairwell, still clutching the status report so tightly that he had cut his own palm with his fingernails that were also preventing full healing. Carefully, Sven dislodged the status report and balled it in his meaty hand before tossing it aside. Word had spread through the coven, over the past few hours, of the falling of Thomas's coven and that only Thomas and his son survived. Of the number of Death Dealers and foot soldiers killed trying to defend the sinking ship. It had been a lost cause and yet the Elders sent the best of their Death Dealers and fighters to die anyway.

Sven helped Varga to his feet, steadying his friend. In the past, it had been Sven who went into shock at hearing news of death tolls, leaving Varga or Hesper to guide him to his shared rooms and tend to him. This time, there would be no help from Hesper and Varga would be alone, to grieve the loss of one of the few he had left whom he cherished. Mortal-born, Varga had long outlived anyone he had loved in his mortal life. He had a few friends with whom he was close, his Sire had been killed by Lykans more than a decade ago, and now he had lost Hesper. Sven worried for his friends. Vampires could grieve themselves to death, much like elephants and dogs. He would need to be vigilant if he intended to protect his friend.

Upstairs, Semira watched as the beefy, brawny soldier with the striking white hair, dragged the blond Death Dealer up the stairs. It seemed the pretty Dealer had not taken well the news of his little girlfriend dying. Semira watched, seeing the hollow shell of what had been one of the coven's best, being hauled like an oversized ragdoll. She wondered briefly if he would still be of use. Then again, she found the broken toys often made the most loyal pets. Loyal and blind. This would be too easy, and she knew she would grow bored of him quickly. Yet, he was so pretty and he did cut such a pleasing picture in his uniform.

She would wait a few days, to make sure he would not be too damaged to be of use, then she would begin sending him out on the worst missions. With the rage he would most likely develop in response to his grief, he would be of great use to her in the coming weeks. She intended to rule this coven, and all the other remaining covens. She had waited long enough, she would wait no more. It was time for a new age for the immortal vampires, where the world would tremble at their feet once more and the lykans a distant memory.

Chapter Text

Hesper heard her fellow Death Dealers shouting, while bullets were flying through the air as they exchanged fire with Selene. The Western Coven had sent them after her, and Hesper was sure they had been sent to the slaughter. Selene was powerful, age-old, and she was determined. They were relatively young and inexperienced against anything but a pack of rogue Lykans. They knew nothing of fighting someone with the blood of an Original-Elder or who had been killing anyone who stepped in her way, for hundreds of years.

And that had been before a small pack of Lykans had joined in on things, seemingly intent on getting Selene after she finished killing the Death Dealers sent to retrieve her. Hesper was facing off against two of them. The stragglers. They had mostly cornered her until she ripped the one’s arm off.

Now, the one lay on the ground writhing in pain and waling loudly, while the other stood intent on her. Hesper readied her blade. Silver-tipped and perfectly balanced, a perfect gift for a Death Dealer. She had exhausted her bullets trying to keep them back from her fellows, leaving only her knife.

He dove at her and she side-stepped, still catching the tips of his claws across her back, rending her jacket. She spun, making sure she kept him in her sights. She could hear the other one still screaming in pain, the direction suggesting he was still on the ground.

The uninjured one dove at her again and she sliced him, opening up his ribcage well enough to see some of his organs. Before she could act on it, a new set of screams filled the air. Children. Human.

The Lykans both turned their attention to a van that had been smashed into, at some point in the fracas. Two little girls, both with wide eyes and anchored to the vehicle by their seat belts. Hesper didn’t hesitate. She flipped up and over the Lykan, making sure to place herself between him and the children. If he wanted their blood, he would have to come through her to get it.

More bullets flew, more blood was spilled, and once more, Selene stood in the middle of a pile of bodies. Death Dealers, Lykans, and two unfortunate human bystanders. An old woman who had been trying to get into her little car and a middle-aged guy too busy looking at his phone to realize he was walking into a battlefield. Selene almost missed the smell before she realized what it was. Living humans. Little girls, not old enough yet to have the hormones in their scent the way adolescent or adult females would. They smelled of hand sanitizer, cotton, and fear.

Selene took off like a shot, heading for the sound of the screaming children and the roar of a Lykan. Selene had always tried to keep human bystanders from being killed, and it weighed heavily on her when she failed. Hopefully, the children would be unharmed.

One Lykan lay missing both arms and with a ruined foot that would take expert care to heal. His companion had a clawed hand through the ribcage of a tall, dark-haired Death Dealer. The vampire, despite her likely fatal injury, pulled a knife and quickly tore through the throat of the Lykan. As she fell, the girl turned to check on the children. For a moment, Selene feared the injured vampire intended to snack upon them. Instead, the vampire held a blood finger to her lips, trying to quiet the girls’ screaming. Even with the pain of her ruined ribcage, the young woman offered a tired, kind smile to the girls.

Selene rushed over, making sure to put two rounds into the forehead of the first Lykan before pulling the clawed hand of the second from the vampire girl’s chest. Next, she went to check on the human children. They appeared unharmed, though frightened out of their wits. Turning back to the injured vampire, she saw the girl was fading.

“Are they alright?”, she rasped to Selene.

Selene was taken aback. Then, she thought about the location of the injured vampire when Selene first got there. She had been standing between the Lykans and the children, using her own body to shield them from the two Lykans. That decided Selene’s next move for her.

Hauling the injured vampire up onto the hood of a nearby car, Selene took a knife from her boot, slicing deeply into her own palm. Reaching into the opening of the girl’s chest, Selene felt for the heart. The way blood was gushing from it, the girl clearly had it torn badly by the Lykan, in such a way that she could not heal fast enough in her depleted state.

Selene messaged the girl’s heart, allowing her own blood to flow over the wounds, before pulling it back out. It was much the same as what she had done for David, after he was killed protecting Eve. While these children hadn’t been her own, she still felt something was owed to a vampire who would put herself in an impossible situation, to try to protect them, even if it meant ignoring the reason for her mission.

“When you recover, do not tell anyone where I went.”, Selene barked.

“If you go East, I will tell them you went North. If you go South, I will tell them you went West.”

“What do they call you?”

“Hesper.”

Selene nodded. She had never heard the name before, so the girl was either fairly recently turned or quite young. She showed promise, both in intelligence and fighting. Selene would have known the name if the girl had any age on her.

“You will heal, and when you do, remember your promise. You will mislead them as your thanks to me for saving your life.”

“Yes.”

With that, Selene was gone. Hesper waited, in no hurry to get up and move, still feeling that clawed hand through her chest, despite how most of the wound had closed within a few seconds of Selene’s intervention. She checked on the kids once more, before hauling herself to her feet. Sighing, she went to a nearby business, breaking the door down to get inside. She needed the basement of someplace nearby for when the sun rose, and she needed to call some help for those two poor girls in the van.

Chapter Text

Varga and three others were assigned to make sure the Lykans who had attacked the coven, did indeed get off someplace where they would not be a problem any time soon. The battle within their coven house had been a devastating one. Had it not been for Selene and the Nordic coven, they might all have perished.

Now, the stragglers and trouble-makers were to be pushed back out beyond the bounds of the city. David, new leader of the Eastern Coven, had ordered the team of six to make sure the city was rid of Marius’s forces. Varga, the most-senior of the group, had ordered the three new Death Dealers to handle the west, the two somewhat older, more experienced Death Dealers were ordered to the east. Varga had gone south, knowing the north was being looked after by two men Lena had assigned to watch the coven house’s back. They had let the Lykans have the hours of the day to disperse, any left were to be pushed out.

Varga was tailing one Lykan in particular. With a red scarf tied around his thick neck, the Lykan was not hard to spot. For several minutes, Varga easily kept the straggler in his sights, almost leisurely walking through the twists and turns of the city streets. Then, as they went around one more turn, there were three more Lykans waiting.

One to four. Hardly good odds, even for an experienced Death Dealer. Varga was depleted, he could still feel the burns on his shoulder healing from when the sunlight had hit him earlier in the battle. He was alone and he had only a simple Glock and a few knives. Some back up or a better arsenal would have been preferable. Readying, Varga stood with his knife in his left hand and pistol in the right.

The first one, a slimmer man with his face beginning to shift, dove for Varga. Varga ducked him, spinning away without making contact. They turned to face off again, diving at each other while the other three Lykans watched. The Lykan swiped at Varga with his deadly claws. Varga hissed lowly between his teeth before flipping into the air, then coming down blade-first into the space between two of the Lykan’s ribs. Twisting the blade, he split the area open enough to shove his hand inside and rip out the Lykan’s heart. The Lykan fell, his body returning to the human form it had once been. Varga threw the heart away as it began to shrivel.

“Who’s next?”

A rather cocky attitude, for someone about to die. Something he figured he should have thought of before he said it, as it seemed to spur all three of the others to attack him at once. He ducked, dived, spun, and twisted to avoid their claws and teeth. It did little to save him. His arms were covered in slashes, claws raked down his back twice, his knee was broken, and he nearly lost his left ear when one slash got a little close to his face.

Then, suddenly, two shots rang out. One Lykan went down, his head splattered beyond recognition. Another set of shots took down the second Lykan. Varga went to slash the third across the neck, but only managed to get close enough for the Lykan to grab Varga’s throat, shaking him like a ragdoll.

Varga could feel something beyond his pain and the pressure around his throat. The slight itch under his skin, developed after decades spent shying away from the sun’s touch. Night was coming to a close. If they did not finish soon, the sun would finish this Lykan’s job for him.

Suddenly, the pressure disappeared as the ground began flying up at Varga. Then, as suddenly as he had begun to fall, he stopped. Two strong hands held his shoulders, a pair of black boots being all he could see besides the ground that was rapidly lighting up as the sun threatened to erupt into the sky.

The two hands brought Varga onto unstable feet, helping keep him righted. He managed to raise his head and, squinting against the light, he saw a familiar face. The face of a dead woman.

“Hess?”

She smiled.

“Come on.”

“Are you real?”

Semira had reported to him, weeks after sending Hesper and her team to defend their brethren, that the whole group had been killed. By Selene.

“As real as that car I’m about to borrow. Here, stay still till I get it.”

She propped him against a lamp post, then took off towards a line of cars parked on the side of the street. He could feel his body trying to weave itself back together, all the while the itch beneath his skin began to burn as he realized the sun would be up in a matter of minutes. Then, a silver car flew up to stop just in front of him.

Hesper came out, running around the back of the car to Varga’s side. He had to have been in bad shape if she was being this easy on him, gently guiding him to lay down in the back seat. He hoped they could make it back before dawn. No average car had enough tint in the windows to protect them from the celestial ball of fire.

“Come on, let’s get back to the coven.”

Varga nodded in the back, doing his best to stay conscious. He needed blood. Lots of it. Soon.

“Lots of changes.”, he muttered.

“Changes?”

“New leaders. New Council. David, son of Amelia.”

Varga swallowed thickly, tasting his own blood.

“Lena, daughter of the Nordic coven leader, and… Selene.”

“Good. ‘Bout time they got some new blood. Now come no, just hang in there for me."

He could hear the worry in her voice. She hadn’t previously been given to worry. Something he had teased her about on a few occasions. He tried to focus on staying still and staying awake. He hoped both would help with his staying alive. Or as alive as a member of the undead could be, if you believed Vampires to be undead. They were really just mutated.

“Varga?”

She sounded a million miles away.

“Varga!”

vVvVvVv   vVvVvVv   vVvVvVv

The first thing he noticed, upon opening his eyes and gasping as his body flew forward, was that he was in an infirmary. And he didn’t hurt anywhere. His burns and slashes all healed. Even his throat seemed to be completely healed. He tried to think how he had gotten back. First, he had fought a quartet of Lykans. Then someone started shooting them, a pressure at his neck, then a dead friend.

“You awake?”

He spun, casting his eyes to find Hesper. He found her looking just as he would have expected in the past, while she had wandered the halls of the coven house. An oversized sweater in emerald, a pair of cotton skintight pants, and bare feet. Her dark hair was loose over her shoulders, a strand falling into her face, just like it always had when it was shorter.

“You’re alive?”, he asked, still totally in disbelief.

She smiled as she answered, “Very much so.”

Striding over, she came to stand next to his cot. He swung his legs over the edge in order to face her. Reaching tentatively, he let his hand up to cup her cheek. Tilting her head, she nuzzled into his palm, her eyes sliding closed.

“I missed this.”, she whispered.

That was all it took. He couldn’t take it anymore and tugged her into his arms, almost crushing her. Rather than complaining, she returned the gesture, holding his shoulders and head close to her middle. And so they stayed, holding each other tight.

“Where were you? Semira said you had died and I heard nothing to contradict her. Where were you hiding? Were you captured?”

Hesper shook her head against his shoulder.

“Not captured. First, I was nearly killed by a Lykan while on a fool’s errand. Selene saved me.”

He leaned back, looking at incredulously.

“We were told she killed you.”

“Quite the opposite. Short version, I went out with some others and the Lykans slaughtered us before Selene could finish disabling us. When she found me, I had a Lykan’s claws wrapped around my heart, so she had to give me a jump start. I agreed to lie about where she was going. On my way back to the coven house, I saw where it was already too late, and that my journey to find Selene had kept us away long enough for the coven house to be destroyed. Everyone Thomas had been hiding, they were all gone as far as I could tell and the few others who had hidden nearby, were also gone. I decided to travel a bit, to see if I could find anyone at other safe houses and such. Ended up meeting some people that Selene, David, and Lena want to have a chat about, and staying with them for a while after I left the Nordic coven’s protection. They kept me for a little while, letting me get used to the new world order.”

Varga held her a little tighter, still convincing himself this was real. He felt her hands tracing patterns against his back. He breathed in her scent, leather, gun powder, cotton from her sweaters, and fresh air.

When she moved back, he almost kept tucked against her. She looked him over with a soft smile. Glancing down, he realized he was in a white set of scrubs.

“Guess my gear was beyond repair.”

“Nearly beyond holding together at all. I think there were pieces of it trailing behind us as we dragged you in.”

Hesper reached forward, holding his hand.

“I’m heading back to my old room. Seems it wasn’t ever occupied while I was gone. I could walk you back to yours on my way.”

“I’d like that.”

Sliding down from the cot, he let her keep hold of his hand, squeezing it back a little as they headed out. Neither spoke much as they walked, only meeting a few people. Most who passed them made no attempt to disguise their disgust at Varga’s still being alive and welcome in the coven.

Looking about, he was sure some of the damage done during the battle, had been mostly repaired. Of course, the holes in the walls and ceiling had to be fixed straight away. They could not allow light from the sun to stream in. Yet, it seemed as if the repairs were old enough to collect dust- if the air filtering system would have permitted dust. Varga began to wonder how long he had been out, though he never asked. Someone would tell him eventually.

When they got to the hallway where his room was located, he slowed a little, not wishing for the scene when they arrived. If Hesper saw inside, she might get an idea of what Semira had expected of her Death Dealers, and of Varga especially.

“When is your meeting with the new Council of Elders?”

She smiled, amused by his turn of phrase.

“In an hour.”

“After, do you want to go for a walk?”

“It’s daytime. How about I come swing by your room and we go back to mine to hang out a little? I don’t think you’re up to a sparring match just yet.”

He nudged her shoulder.

“I’m not that delicate.”

“Didn’t say you were, but I’m tired and you were almost dead, so I think more relaxing, less robust entertainment is called for.”

“Sounds good.”

Varga watched her walk off towards her own room, before slipping into his own. Due to his rank, he had a simple room with a half-wall that stood roughly waist-high, separating the Living Room space from the Bedroom space. Spartan to the point of looking as if it were unoccupied, it was exactly what Semira demanded of the Death Dealers. There would be no personal touches, no books, no art, and no photos.

Every Death Dealer’s room was searched regularly, then Semira would also check them at random. If her rules were broken, serious punishment was meted out. There had been two who were reduced to the lowest of ranks among the soldier class of the Coven, forced to live in large community rooms, and both were killed quickly in ill-planned missions shortly after displeasing Semira. Varga had been no idiot. He had known what the penalties were for upsetting the Queen Bee.

The reason given for her rules, had been that it was to protect the Death Dealers from any and all distractions. To allow only room for discipline, work, and rest. The truth was that she feared rebellion, and the searches were to ensure that there were no notes of any sort being passed around. The more utilitarian the rooms, the quicker and easier it was to search them. And it was far more effective for picking out that one thing that stood out, if the Death Dealers were inclined to keep something Semira deemed they could not have.

Varga, despite the danger and despite having never been known for his talents at subterfuge, had hidden one item from Semira and her goon squad. A small pewter pin with a Gaelic inscription. It was precious to him. Worth risking Semira’s ire. There may have been times when he wished that Semira’s goons would find it, allowing him to be pressed into service where he was useful, yet as far from Semira as possible. Semira would not have called him to her bed chamber and ordered him to her pleasure, if he was off being cannon fodder on the front lines of their eternal battle against the Lykans.

Turning the pin over, he smiled. It was beautifully crafted. Hesper had given it to him a couple years before Semira sent her away, long before he and Hesper had worked up the courage to do more toe the line between Friend and More. A present to commemorate the date he had sworn his oath to protect the Coven and its leadership. Their celebration had been cut short due to an attack by some humans. Yet still, Varga remembered the night as if it had been yesterday, and this keepsake was treasured and hidden away so that no one else knew of it but himself and Hesper.

With the new leadership, David over Varga’s coven, Lena leading the Nordic coven, and Selene to lead the scattered remains of two fallen covens, Varga hoped that the new Council of Elders would bring about a golden age for Vampire-kind. From what he saw on the battlefield, he had great faith in David’s leadership and dedication. Lena was a force to be reckoned with. Selene, she was as powerful as the original Corvinus, and ten times as deadly. But she was a mother who sought to protect her daughter, whom it was believed was the most powerful hybrid to ever exist.

For now, Varga simply had to wait to see how they would handle him. He had been Semira’s right hand, reluctant though he was, and he had been instrumental in the deaths of a dozen Death Dealers-in-training, for Thomas’s death, and for framing Selene. Turning on Semira just before the final battle, did not automatically put him in the clear. The Council of Elders would have every right to destroy him for his crimes, and Varga could not argue that they would be wrong for it. He had followed Semira’s orders. The faces of those he killed would haunt him all of his years, regardless of if he were permitted to stay or banished, as they should be. Varga did not believe he was worthy of the second chance fate seemed to have arranged for him.

Chapter Text

Hesper stood before the double doors, awaiting her cue to stand before the new Council. She had stood before the former Council on a few occasions. The swearing in of new Death Dealers, the promotion of a replacement Council member a few decades ago, when Varga swore his oath to the Coven, and when she had been promoted to her position as not just a Death Dealer, but a Weapons Master. All of those had made her somewhat nervous and jittery. All of those encounters combined would have been nothing to the case of nerves she currently was feeling. Hesper tried to remind herself that this was merely a post-mission report. This was not something that called for any more than the Elders and a few guards, to be present for.

A guard came out, standing a full head taller than Hesper's own fairly impressive height. His shaved head and bushy eyebrows were a very comical combination to Hesper, though she refrained from permitting even a smile to show. The guard stood directly in front of her as he spoke in a thickly accented voice.

"The Elders will see you now."

She nodded in acknowledgement, then stood straight and walked forward through the doors that were being pulled open for her. At the other end of the large hall, the formerly raised dais with a curved line of high-backed chairs, now sat a barely raised dais with three ancient wooden chairs that looked more like something from an old King Arthur film than the wrought iron monstrosities that had been there. And in those three seats the new Elders waited. Selene, at the right in a black shirt, pants, and duster, a knife clearly tucked into her left boot. She looked no less deadly than when in full Death Dealer attire. To the left, David sat less rigidly than Selene, wearing the same simple attire he had been known to wear, his silver sword within arm's reach in the scabbard with the belt looped over one corner of the chair's back. He would be able to defend himself in a blink if there were a threat. And in the center with perfect poise and posture sat Lena, in a shimmering white gown with a silver-toned vambraces on each forearm, and both her sword and shield close at hand. 

These were not the Elders of old, nor the Council who ruled in the gaps. These Elders had battled for their position and ruled as a cohesive unit, by the accounts Hesper had heard of the four days they had been in charge. She feared for Varga, when he eventually was brought to stand in front of them and knew she had to make the most of her appearance in front of them if she intended to have any ability to speak in Varga's favor when his trial eventually came.

Hesper came to stand in front of the dais, stopping some 10 feet from the edge of it, to bend knee in reverence to the Elders. Her head bowed, she waited to be recognized and told to rise. This had been beaten into her for years by her former mentor and uncle, until she swore she could have conducted herself before the Council and any Elder, while drugged and asleep.

"Rise, Hesper."

Lena's voice had been kind, but firm enough to suggest she was aware that she needed to make it be a command. Hesper stood and looked up, making eye contact with each of the Elders in turn. Selene was an impassive mask, David looked uncomfortable and impatient, while Lena looked almost serene. Hesper envied Lena's calm. Perhaps she would visit the Northern Coven someday and see if they had some sort of program to help you learn that calm.

"It has been reported to us that you have word of a group of Lykans who are... unique. Please, tell us of these Lykans, and of your journey home since Selene left you?"

Hesper nodded, letting out a slow breath out of habit, before speaking.

"After Selene revived me, I could not return to the Coven house straight away, as the sun had risen and I felt that I needed to hide."

She noticed David's eyebrows shoot up a bit at the mention of Selene's saving her. Hesper had heard the whispers, that Selene had done the same for David some years ago, which made Hesper wonder what David might have as insights to the changes that had brought.

"In the night, I left my shelter and ventured out. I intended to try to make my way back to whatever was left of the Coven stronghold. I returned to find ruins, soot, and the bodies of a few Lykans and Vampires who had escaped the flames but perished on each other's blades. I decided to come back here. I then was delayed when I encountered some of Marius's forces. While hiding from them, I met an unlikely ally. A Lykan from a group who were as different from Marius and his ilk as day to night. They were peaceful and reclusive, wishing only to live without constant battles, without war, without fear of the Vampires or Humans. They wish for a peaceful co-existence."

David seemed surprised at first, then to be mulling over what she had said. Lena had been rapt on Hesper's every word, while Selene seemed vaguely pleased. With a child who was one-quarter Lykan and a deceased lover who had been a Lykan-hybrid turned by the Great Lucien and a direct descendant of the first Lykan- William Corvinus, it would make sense that Selene would be glad to hear there were some Lykans who preferred a truce over war, to live without wanting the blood of their mutated cousins.

"They sheltered me for several weeks, allowing me to see them as they are, rather than through the eyes of a Death Dealer more accustomed to fighting a Lykan than simply sharing a conversation with one. I watched their children at play, I saw their elders telling stories, their women dancing, the men working whatever jobs they could find that did not require the kind of ID that we make for ourselves when we have need of them in the human's realm. They were not perfect, there were a few squabbles between neighbors or family members, but they were not settled with beastly fighting. They were settled with mediators and words. These are not the Lykans we have feared, these Lykans are... like our Nordic Coven."

Lena beamed, turning first to Selene with a smile and then to David with concern touching her eyes. David nodded quickly. Lena then turned back to Hesper, the smile no lesser than a moment ago.

"Did they say why they sheltered you?"

"They had noticed I was a Death Dealer, but I did not immediately attack one of them when I saw her. She spoke with me, noting the time and the lack of night left. She offered to shelter me for one day, in return for my being open-minded about what I would see, and promising not to turn over their location to Marius. I agreed to her terms. We went back, and they offered to let me stay as I learned more and more about them, while Marius tried to rally more to his cause in that area. It was to our mutual benefit for me not to be out there where I could be captured and my blood memories used against this group. Once Marius and his number were gone, I left with their blessing and their request that when I returned, I would present their case of my Council, asking for a meeting. They wish to make some pact with you, agreeing to be your allies instead of your sworn enemies, to back you against any Lykan threat, to be backed by us against any Lykan retaliation towards them, and to work with us to protect both species. They want peace."

David stood, coming down to stand directly in front of her. He seemed to be taking her measure. Only a little bit taller than Hesper, he was not as intimidating as his father would have been. Hesper figured his more relaxed, less imposing manner would serve him well once the chip on his shoulder had been worked out a bit more. His dark eyes found hers and locked for a moment.

"Would you recommend this union?"

"Yes."

"Without hesitation, you give such an answer."

"Indeed. They could have killed me at any point, they were only ever kind to me. I saw four generations of them there, and I believe the adults are willing to make this work to protect their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to allow them to grow up, to have their own families, to have full lives. The Elders among them wish for a peace to outlast the living memory of those just recently born."

David nodded, then returned to his chair. Lena seemed still intrigued.

"Would you be willing to be the ambassador and envoy, who will go with whomever is sent to arrange this pact?"

"I would be honored, Elder Lena."

"Then when we are ready, we will have you lead the way. And Hesper?"

She looked up at the pale Elder.

"Thank you."

Hesper bowed her head with a smile. The sound of leather rustling drew Hesper's attention back to the dais. Selene had leaned forward, her focus on Hesper with a look similar to the one she had given Hesper when she realized why Hesper had been between the Lykans and the children in that van. Tilting her head, Selene seemed almost like a bird.

"Was there a girl there, with dark hair and sparkling, large blue eyes? She would be small, finely built."

Eve, if Hesper had to guess. Daughter of Selene and the late Michael Corvin of the Corvinus line.

"No, Elder Selene. I saw none there who were not fully Lykan, except for two children who were human. Her mother was turned, by one of Marius's men during a robbery almost a year ago. The group found her trying to live in secret, and offered she and her daughters shelter. They said that, when they are of age, the two children will be given the option to join the Lykan ranks or to remain human. I have known of Covens to shelter those turned by accident or recklessly by rogues, but I had not heard of sheltering and caring for the children who were still human."

Selene sat back in her chair, seeming a bit sunken in on herself. David looked over to her, his concern evident, his hand seeming to itch to stretch out to her if Lena did not sit between them.

"Thank you, Hesper. Please, return to your rooms or wherever you will take your leave. We have much to consider."

"I have not yet finished my report, Elder Lena. If it pleases you, I would prefer to finish it before I leave you."

Lena nodded, waving a hand for Hesper to do as she asked.

"On my way back, I was pursued by one of Marius's scouts. He had me cornered. I was injured, the sun was to rise in mere minutes, and I was cornered. I had found a place to hide, away from him and the sun, then he lunged at me and I fell back. We both lay on the ground, his hand around my throat, and the sun streaming over us both. I used his surprise at my survival, to plunge my knife into his throat and decapitate him."

Ducking her head, Hesper continued.

"I believe Selene's gift did more than restore me to health. I believe I am now a day-walker, as the Elders of old and Selene are."

"And so am I.", David quietly added. 

Chapter Text

Varga rose from his bed at the sound of someone knocking. They were insistent. He had barely gotten to the door when it burst open, knocking him back so that all he could see was the ceiling before the blinding light from the hall left him disoriented. 

"Ah, pet."

Semira!

"We begin.", she almost hissed as she yanked him up by his throat and shoved him against a wall as her goon, Neil, searched Varga's room. His bed was torn apart to check any possible hole to hide something in. The shelves were checked to ensure all he had were weapons, his armor, and his clothes. Everything in black. Utilitarian. 

Neil left a moment later and Varga was alone with Semira. She dropped him. A sickening smile grew across her sharp features. Varga felt his stomach turn. Whatever turned in her mind, he knew deep in his marrow that it was nothing good. Then she reached out and touched him. It was a gross imitation of the gentle caress Hesper might once have given him. His skin crawled and he felt bile rise in his throat.

"You'll do as I say."

Semira shoved his shoulder to put him a bit off-balance. It was nothing new.

"Kneel."

He began to kneel and she issued her next order as she opened her dress.

"Bow your head, cur." 

He did as he was bid.

"Now, make use of yourself, pet."

Just as he raised his chin, he heard a scream. Varga jumped, reaching for his weapons as he felt something slam hard against his face. Something cold, and hard. He opened his eyes. He was on the floor. Groaning as realization dawned, Varga rolled onto his back.

Every since Semira's death, his few hours of sleep had been plagued with particularly vivid memories of his encounters with the Council member and traitor. Even now, awake and have fallen from his bed, he could feel her icy fingers on his person. Invading his space and his mind even. He had woken early this time. Usually it seemed that, as it had been before her death, he did not wake until after reliving the worst of her invasions.

Varga forced himself up to his feet, then to the small shower in the shared bathroom. The other Death Dealer with whom he shared the bathroom, had been killed in the attack by Marius's forces. No one would yell at Varga for his midday shower. He felt guilty for the thought as soon as it flitted through his mind. He simply had to get to the shower and wash the smell of Semira out of his skin. She had been dead nearly a month and yet he had been unable to wash all of her away.

There was a quiet knocking at his door as Varga exited the shower. He let out a sigh and put a robe on overtop the towel at his hips. It took him almost to the door before he caught the smell of the guest. Hesper.

Opening the door, Varga took in the welcome sight of his dearest friend, love of his second life. She wore her baggy cable knit sweater over skintight pants, her pale feet poking out and her long hair  in a simple braid over one shoulder. She was lovely. Her worried expression showed that she had seen too much.

"Hess?"

She smiled.

"I was going to ask if you would like company, though it seems I've interrupted your shower."

"I was finishing when I heard the knocking. Give me a few minutes, I will come meet you in your chamber?"

Hesper nodded with a smile, before walking off. He hated how his dreams had made him so jumpy. How they brought back the fear of letting anyone into his room, the discomfort at being touched. For so long, he had mourned not only Hesper but all the lost chances and unshared moments. Now, miracle of miracles, he had her back yet he could not bring himself to do much beyond holding her hand or occasionally letting her hold him close as they stood on the roof together.

Varga moved to his small closet, retrieving a simple hooded sweatshirt, slacks, and his boots. It was something he was learning to be comfortable in again. His uniform had been so displeasing to Semira that he often took to wearing it all night to try to psyche her into backing off from him. It had offered limited success. Varga let out a couple slow breaths, then moved to get dressed. Hesper was waiting and he did not want to waste any more time this evening on Semira, than he already had.

vVvvVv   vVvvVv   vVvvVv

David watched as Selene stared out the same window she had been hovering by a few times a night, every night, since they had become the Elder Council. Each night, she looked for Eve. There had been whispers. A small girl with bright, large blue eyes. A hybrid of great power though small in stature. Enough detail to make Selene's ears perk, not enough to track down the girl.

David moved to a seat against the opposite wall, a glass of blood held loosely in his right hand. He had brought it up for Selene, after noticing she had not fed since the aftermath of the fight against Marius. Due to her gifted blood, she did not require the same amount of sustenance as most vampires. Still, David feared she was pushing herself too had.

"Has there been any word of Laerta and his family?"

"None."

Selene sighed.

"I've given an order that should anyone spot Eve, or anyone they think might be Eve, they are to connect with us here and alert us to the place, time, and any other relevant details. We will find her, Selene."

Her hint of a smile was soft but so sad that David fought the desire to pull her close and lock the world away from her. From what his father had said, her life had not been a fairytale throughout. However, to be in an explosion with your lover at your side, then wake in a science lab alone, over a decade of time having passed since the explosion, learning you had a child that had been raised by the same people who kept you captive with the intention of harvesting your child's organs, then losing your lover to a madman bent on domination and ruin, and your daughter disappearing, all in the span of a couple years, was too much for anyone. Even the hybrid, day-walking Death Dealer.

"Selene?"

She turned, looking at him with her dark eyes meeting his own. There was a defiance in them that always drew him in. Rising, David moved to slip the cup into her smaller hands.

"Drink up. You need to replenish yourself. Council Elder or not."

A small smile flickered on her lips before she took a small sip. Again, David fought the urge to pull her close and hold her to him. Even if they were to enter some sort of relationship, he doubted his affection or feeble attempts at protecting her, would be welcome. Selene did not need him.

"What troubles you, David?"

"Shouldn't I be asking you that question?"

"My daughter has disappeared, Michael is gone, and now I am on the new Council of Elders when I only ever meant to be a Death Dealer. There is no mystery as to why my mind wanders or where it goes to."

He nodded, looking away from her. She glanced, not-missing the flex and fisting motion of David's one hand. The same one that had brushed her fingers as he handed her the glass, that had been offered to her for blood once.

"It is nothing."

"I doubt that."

He looked off, trying to dodge her knowing eyes.

"Nothing of consequence, Selene."

She shook her head slightly, then turned back to the window.

"Anything that bothers you that much, could not be of no consequence."

Time to screw his courage to the sticking place, he decided.

"MY LORDS! MY LORDS! An envoy seeks to speak with the three of you!", a guardsman shouted from outside.

David wished to groan, watching as Selene pulled herself up and moved to the double-doors to wait for David. And so, for the next three hours they listened to an envoy from one of the strongholds too small to be a true coven but large enough to protect dozens of their kind, as they laid out how they might be of help and how they wished to bring the whole number to swear allegiance to the new Council. Once they were gone, Lena stood, walking off the little dais before turning to face Selene with a grin of a shared secret. Once Selene made an irritated face, Lena walked off.

A moment later, David found himself alone in the main hall with Selene. No guards, no envoy, no Lena. Everything was still for a long moment. 

"David, Lena has shared something with me. Something she glimpsed when she fought beside us."

Now he was worried. Had Lena seen some small glimpse of their future? Perhaps something catastrophic involving Eve? He turned to look at Selene. She sat staring straight ahead, seemingly a statue if not for the slight movement of her eyes. As if she fought the urge to look over at David.

"I had not thought to share a life with anyone. I existed to be an instrument of Viktor's will and to protect those few friends I had made in my immortal existence. Then I met Michael, I learned the truth of my Sire, of our two races, and then I was on the run. For years, always running, always hiding, often fighting. Michael was my only companion and... the only companion I desired. Until he was gone. In his place stood a girl with his eyes and his keen ability for getting into trouble. Then she too, was gone. Left to find herself. I had thought I would be alone, except I was not."

She let out a long breath, falling silent for a long moment after.

"Lena saw my horror at thinking you were soon to perish and she saw the terror you felt when you believed me dead."

Selene glanced over at him quickly, then returned her gaze to a spot in front of her. David let it all sink in.

"And?"

"I do not know."

Reaching over Lena's empty chair, David gently clasped Selene's hand in his own. He felt a small squeeze on his fingers as she continued to stare ahead, neither knowing what to say or do next.

"I'm not going anywhere."

"Nor am I.", she confessed.

"We have time. We needn't move on this tonight. Or tomorrow."

Her grasp on his hand tightened.

"I do not take my next breath for granted, David. Let alone tomorrow."

Before he could blink, she was facing him. David tilted up in his chair as she leaned down, their lips almost meeting.

"I am not good at this.", Selene whispered.

"Neither am I.", he countered, reaching up to cup her cheek gently in one hand as he looked her in the eyes.

"We'll muddle through it together.", he added, before standing in order to allow their lips to meet, slowly and softly at first. Tentative. Unsure. As far as he knew, Selene had not done this since before she went into cold storage, and David had not had much experience at all with such things, as many feared his father too much to triffle with David.

"Selene?"

"Yes?"

"I've got you."

She kissed him more forcefully, before murmuring, "And I, you."

 

Chapter Text

Varga sat on the roof alone, awaiting Hesper's return from her meeting with the new Council of Elders. Any time now, he expected to be called before them to answer for his crimes committed under Semira's orders. Until then, he intended to enjoy whatever time he had left. What he had done was treason. And murder. They would certainly have him executed, Varga was sure.

A noise drew his attention to the door. Two younger vampires, turned only weeks before the battle against Marius's forces, came onto the rooftop. They were giddy, smelling of wine and sex, laughing with each other. Then they saw him. Instantly, the sobered. Then they moved backward, nearly toppling over in their haste to get away from Varga. Another thing he was learning to get accustomed to. 

He fumbled with the small knife in his hands. A gift from Hesper that he woke up to find pinned to his desk in the war room. The note had explained that he had given her a knife when she rose to the rank of Death Dealer, that was well balanced, fitted perfectly to her hand, with a silver tip. That his gift had saved her life many times and she wished to return the favor. Ever since she had learned from Sven, of the spartan ways Semira required of the Death Dealers, it seemed that she had been gifting both himself and Sven with little things to make their rooms more personal. Sven had gotten a map of his homeland and then a small coin with his favorite animal on the back of it. Varga had gotten a small sketch of a sunrise and now the knife. At the rate she was going, they would need spare rooms for the gifts by the end of the year.

Another noise, this time from the door being slowly opened. He checked over his shoulder to find Hesper. She smiled brightly at him as she approached. If he lived to be 1,000 years of age, he would not ever tire of that smile. Especially not when it was directed to him.

"I see you found my present."

"I did."

She moved to sit beside him, her manner still happy enough for him to guess she had good news to share. He need only wait a moment for her to burst.

"I am to lead an envoy to meet with the Lykans I told you about, the ones I met who sheltered me those first days after Selene saved me and I found the minor coven in ruins. Elder Lena pronounced that I would lead it. Now they will plan, after sending a messenger to allow the Lykans to know we wish a meeting, and once the time and place are set, I will lead the envoy and be part of the talks."

He smiled, taking it all in. She looked so excited, almost like a child at Christmas. Bright and alive. He could have watched her all the night as she animatedly spoke of her plans and hopes for the meeting.

"Do you suppose they will let me take you with me? I'd love for you to be there to see this."

Varga shrugged, sitting back against the grotesque he had been using as a backrest. He recalled once referring to them as Gargoyles and Hesper giving him a twenty-minute architecture lecture about the differences between Grotesque and Gargoyle.

"I doubt it. I would be surprised if I'm still a Death Dealer by then, Hess."

"Why?"

He let out a slow breath. While he was sure that Hesper had heard what had transpired, they had not directly spoken of it. He had wished to put it off longer. Forever, if he could have.

"I killed twelve of my own kind, for her."

There was no need to say the name. They both knew. He could not bear to look at Hesper's face, to see the horror spread across it at the realization of what a monster she had called friend. The man she had saved.

"She wished to frame Selene, but in such a way that she could get ahold of Selene's blood to make herself a stronger, day-walking vampire as Selene was. She wanted the gift of the Pure Source blood to run through her own veins, with an intent to take over all of the coven and any outlying groups, making herself the supreme leader of the vampires. She had me first poison Selene, then kill the twelve student-Death Dealers with Selene's weapons, before taking Selene away to slowly drain her essence."

Varga waited. Hesper would leave him. Even Sven had been somewhat distant since learning of Varga's part in the deaths. Instead, Varga felt a soft touch on his arm. He flinched. Unexpected touches often left him flinching these days.

"Varga?"

He waited.

"Varga?"

His eyes moved up a bit, curious despite his desire to avoid seeing her horror.

"Varga?", she whispered.

He fought no more, looking up at her. Her dark eyes were soft.

"Whatever she made you do, whatever she forced, tricked, or commanded from you, the blame is hers."

"I am the one who pulled the trigger. Twelve times."

"Not of your own free will."

"I could have fought. Should have."

"Varga, I never told you of what I knew of her before I was ordered away. Why I feared her so. I should have, lest you would have been more prepared to face her in my absence."

Hesper looked away from him, out into the shrouded, starless night.

"When I was sent as a messenger, before I became a Death Dealer or a Master of Arms, I encountered her on several occasions. Twice, when I was sent to the Nordic Coven with messages from Amelia's former lieutenant. Another three times when I was sent to another coven with messages from the outpost I had been stationed in. In all of those places, I met men she had twisted, bent against their own interests, torn by her greed for power. Some had even been made to turn against their own siblings, parents, sires. All for her pleasure and her gathering of power. All three times that I encountered her at the Southern Coven, I was sent to her rooms to deliver my messages and walked in to find her with her latest conquest between her legs as she stood facing a mirror to admire herself. She ordered me to stand and wait until she was done, then she would roughly shove the man away from her and call him some manner of name that made it clear she considered him beneath her, as she strutted over to me and ordered me to deliver my message I had been sent with. If ever there were someone not wired right in the head, Varga - it was her. She broke other people and took pleasure from it. She enjoyed tormenting others."

Looking over, Hesper reached once more to take hold of Varga's hand gently.

"As wide as your shoulders are, carraig, do not put the results of her misdeeds, greed, and twisted machinations on your shoulders. The weight of her crimes is not your burden to bear."

"I was her instrument, Hess."

"If I use a car to run someone over, is it the fault of the car or myself? You could not fight her."

Varga whispered something, so low that she struggled to hear it at all. Leaning, she asked him to repeat himself.

"I did."

"Fight her?"

"In a way. I could not take her on directly, my oath of servitude and loyalty to the Coven and the Leader of the House, prevented any such action. I... I did as you say, 'Throw monkey wrenches' so she could not move as smoothly or swiftly as she wished."

Hesper watched, Varga's eyes downcast and his shoulders pulled in, as if he were trying to shrink inward. If the villain Semira had still drawn breath, Hesper surely would have hunted her down and killed her in the slowest, most anguishing manner she could think of to do so.

"She wanted Selene's blood, but Selene was nearly as old as Semira and turned by an Elder, she was powerful before the Source blood coursed through her to make her on par with an Elder or even a Corvinus. I figured she could survive a higher concentration of poison than Semira, so I over-dosed her. It would take longer for the poison to filter out, before Semira could drink it... I turned the drains down. Semira would have drained Selene so quickly that she would certainly have died within hours. I came back and turned them back to less than a quarter of the speed Semira had them set to. I figured... if Selene were as powerful as promised... she would wake and... free herself. But David and his father intervened and were able to save her, at a cost. I could have turned on Semira then, though I... I stayed. I could have helped David in getting Selene free. Then I slowed the clensing process, trying to buy Selene and David time for... whatever they had planned, to fight Semira."

Hesper moved a bit closer, but Varga moved back, away, looking more pitiful than she ever thought possible. The anger at Semira rose up in her and Hesper had never wanted to murder someone more than she did in that moment. However, Varga did not need her fiery anger. He needed her patience.

"It will be light soon. Let's go to the library? It will be quiet there."

He nodded numbly. Hesper loosely held his hand in hers as they got down, then walked from the roof to the ground floor, and back towards the library. For the first time since her return, she made a point to take note of how everyone looked at Varga. She saw the lips roll back, the sneers, the narrowed eyes, even a few turn to change direction so they could avoid him. She wanted to throttle them all. They did not see Varga's pain, then or now, only the crimes Semira forced from his hand.

As they continued to walk, Hesper made sure to stand tall as she walked beside Varga. Someone needed to make sure everyone knew that Varga had a defender. If anyone were to threaten him or mess with him, they would answer directly to her for it. And when they did, she would show the same lack of mercy that they showed Varga.

vVvvVv   vVvvVv   vVvvVv

David listened to Selene. She had been pacing outside his chamber for nearly twenty minutes. Just as she would stop, she would begin again. He knew that soon she would either come in or leave. He would leave the decision up to her. He had no intention to rush her. If it had been official business that brought her to his door, she would not have hesitated for a second. She probably would have walked in three seconds after knocking on the door, without regard for his possibly being asleep or undressed. Personal reasons, however, left her less forceful and direct, he had learned.

David waited. And his patience was rewarded as Selene knocked with two quick raps. David moved swiftly, opening the door to Selene. She did not stand there in her Death Dealer uniform or the garb she had taken to wearing as the Elder with a long white coat over a black velvet top and less form-fitting slacks, and instead stood in a gray robe and dark blue nightgown. It was simple but elegant. It fitted her. He watched her face, still learning the movements of it, just as he was still learning to adjust his image of her to include the white tips of her raven hair since her time with Lena in the waters of the Nordic Coven's most sacred space.

"David.", she started.

He waited a beat. She did not continue.

"Would you like to come in?"

She nodded, though she made no move to come forward.

"Selene, I've no real experience in courtship.  Most were too afraid of my father to trifle with me. I was not worth his wrath. I am more than willing to wait, if you are not ready yet."

She shook her head, a strand of hair falling into her face. David reached, without thought, pushing the strand back to allow a full view of her face. Her emotions passed quickly over her face and eyes, and he needed the best view possible to have any chance of following her mind.

"I have not been with anyone since Michael, and no one before him for a long while. I was a weapon, an instrument of Viktor's will. There was no time, or inclination, for the frivolities of romantic entanglement."

David smiled, despite himself. Sometimes hearing her speak was like listening to an old, male warrior attempting to sound too tough for emotions or sweetness. Though Selene need not pretend her hardiness, she was without equal in that regard, among others. Stepping closer, David reached to take her hand again.

"I do not expect Shakespeare."

"Good. What do you expect?"

He shrugged one shoulder.

"To earn your trust."

"You have it."

"Then to earn your affections."

"I am not affectionate."

He smiled.

"I would have whatever you will give, Selene. I do not have blinders on, I know you are first and foremost a warrior. You are not a poet or love-sick child. Now, Selene,", he asked as he stepped forward again, into her personal space, "what do you expect?"

Her dark eyes moved to meet his, her face unreadable.

"I do not know. All that I have ever had that was good, has been unexpected. Including you."

He smiled, leaning slowly enough to give her more than enough chance to stop him or move away. She did neither. Their lips met, softly and gently. Exploring. Getting acquainted. Then he felt Selene's hand move to his neck, pulling him closer and angling his head slightly to allow her to deepen the kiss. David smiled as he kissed her. His wildest dreams were not nearly so sweet as this.

They broke the kiss, both panting despite not needing air as mortals did. Selene's eyes shifted blue-white for a moment, then back to their black-brown hue. David decided to take that as a compliment.

"Would you like to come in?", he asked for the second time.

She nodded. David stepped back, still holding her hand to guide her inside. Once they were in, she used her heel to close the door behind her. 

"I make no promises."

He nodded, still smiling.

"I do not ask for any."

vVvvVv   vVvvVv   vVvvVv

Hesper sat on the edge of Varga's bed, beside him. With only the wooden-framed bed, a small table, and an empty built-in bookshelf, there was not much choice of seating. He had not spoken since they left the roof to go to the library, where several gossips sat staring and whispering, till Hesper knew there would be no getting rid of them and no way Varga would talk with them about. She had guided him back to his room, hoping that he would open up again once there, in the secluded safety of the four walls of his own chamber.

"You don't have to stay with me, Hess."

"I feel you should not be alone right now."

"Afraid I'll do something stupid?"

"No."

He nodded. They sat a while longer before he spoke again.

"I don't want you to speak on my behalf to the Elders. Sven said you had plans for it."

"I won't allow them to judge you with no witnesses on your behalf. Sven already said you told him not to speak for you, and you were never one to make a ton of friends. You were too focused on protecting us all. Sven and I had to work very hard to become your friends. Neither of us intend to throw that, or you, away. Not now."

"What did I do to earn such friends?", he asked, trying to remind her of a joke she once made.

Hesper smiled over at him, seemingly glad to hear him joking again.

"It must have been good, maybe you saved a kitten in a tree?"

He let out a breathy chuckle. That was what Sven used to tell her when she asked what she did to deserve their friendship. Varga had always accused her of offing a Lykan with bad breath. Varga bumped his shoulder against hers in a familiar gesture of affection. She bumped his back a second later, a smirk on her lips.

"I don't want you to ruin your chances here, over me, Hess. Please?"

"I'm not ruining a thing. You're my oldest and dearest friend. I don't want to be a muckity-muck in a palace, if you are made to sleep outside with the pigs."

Varga thought of times when they had toed the line between Friends and More. In some ways, it felt as if they had gone right back to that since her return. He reached, intertwining their fingers. She reciprocated. 

"There was a time when we were more than simple friends."

"Still are, if you wish it."

"I wish it. I long for it."

She turned to face him, smiling softly, her dark-olive eyes looking him over.

"Are you sure?"

He nodded. She waited.

"I'm sure."

With that, she leaned forward to press the most tender and lightest of kisses on his lips. He sucked in a breath. How he had forgotten what it felt like to have her close again. Moving forward, he chased her lips to kiss her, this time leaving no room for her to doubt he meant it. That he still cared for her, more deeply than he could say. Her free hand not currently holding his, moved to cup his jaw softly, almost delicately. For a long while, they sat that way, kissing, holding hands, staying close. When they split apart, she seemed to search his face. He hoped she found what she sought.

"I never stopped dreaming about you, while I was gone. I had terrible nightmares that Lykans ate you, once I even dreamed you became a hybrid to be hunted as Selene and her lover. But sometimes they were good dreams, where we held each other all the day long and whispered jokes and secrets."

He smiled.

"They sound lovely."

"What did you dream?"

"Of before you left."

She kissed him gently, letting her forehead rest against his after.

"I'm sorry I left."

"If you hadn't, Semira would have found a way to kill you off, for sport or for seeing through her. Then we would not have this Lykan peace pact coming, Selene would be dead, I would be dead, Marius would have this coven for his own, and David would either be dead or hiding out in the Nordic Coven."

"You are saying it worked out for the best?"

"No matter how painful the journey."

She nodded, then Varga surprised her with another kiss. And another. In the past, Hesper had often been the instigator of their kisses. Varga was surprised that she was letting him lead. He moved a hand lower, resting on the small of her back as he deepened his kiss, feeling her smile against his lips as his hand felt the play of muscle below her skin. He then moved to kiss along her neck gently, his second hand moving the loose collar of her shirt out of his path. Her hand found it's way to the collar of his zip-up jacket.

"May I?", she asked.

He nodded. Her eyes on his, she pulled the zipper down slowly, but not as if she meant to tease him.

"Semira said I was rather lacking, are you sure you still want to try it?"

"She liked pain and dominating other people, what would she know of pleasure and caring?"

He felt her hand move to his shoulder, stopping before she could peel the outermost layer from him.

"May I?"

He smiled at her, the purpose and manner becoming clear to him. Semira had forced him, ordered him, pulled what she wished from him without any regard for his comfort or feelings. Hesper was letting him dictate what was permitted.

"You may."

She pressed a light kiss to the corner of his mouth as she pushed the jacket from his shoulders gently, then left her hands to rest on his back, deepening the kiss a little. He pulled her close to his chest, tilting his head to get a better angle. Then he whispered to her in her ear.

"Hesper, you have my permission to touch me however, and wherever, you please."

"The same is granted to you, Varga."

He grinned down at her, determined not to let Semira steal even a moment more of his happiness with Hesper.

"In that case, less talking and more kissing."

She returned his grin.

"Yes, sir." 

Chapter Text

David smiled a bit, despite the seriousness of the occasion. Selene had stayed. They had not made love or even talked all that much. She had stayed, seated beside him, allowing him to be close, to hold her, as they looked out the window at the sunlight their brethren could not enjoy as they did.

She had stayed and shared something far more precious to him than simple pleasures. Intimacy. David hadn't much experience with lovers, though he had enough to know the basics and to have an appreciation for real intimacy. To know that Selene trusted him and cared for him enough to share that with him, to give him the gifts of her trust and vulnerability, had been a greater gift than daywalking. The woman who had brought him back to life had truly awakened him.

He forced himself to concentrate, however, on the matter at hand. Planning the envoy for the official peace talks with this new coven-pack of Lykans. The peace-loving Lykans of the East, as some called them in whispers about the mansion. The messenger had returned earlier in the evening with the response from this coven-pack and now it was up to the Elders to deal with the plan for it.

"Ezmira, their pack-leader, assured me that they are happy to meet in either a mutually agreed upon, neutral location, or for them to host our envoy in their home village they have set up outside of Rome."

David nodded, considering the young vampire's words. Eirah was a good soldier, in a tight spot. David would trust her with his life. She had been one of the few to survive the attack that had claimed David's life as he tried to protect Eve. Eirah was originally from a nation in the continent of Africa, and though that nation nolonger existed and was largely forgotten by history, the woman had remained a proud, powerful warrior. She was also a scholar and storyteller. 

"I think we should allow them to host.", Lena suggested to Selene and David.

"We would be putting a lot of faith in them.", David added, somewhat unsure of which way they ought to go.

Selene looked over to he and Lena for a moment, before looking back at Eirah. Eirah had a son who had nearly died several times when he tried to go make a name for himself a couple centuries back. As such, she was one of the few who seemed to truly empathize with Selene rather than being totally awed by or fearful of Selene.

"What do you think, Eirah?", Selene asked.

The proud warrior let out a slow breath, showing that this would not be a snap decision.

"I believe they genuinely mean us no harm, Elder Selene. I believe that they would defend any members of our group as they would defend their own, should other Lykans attack or a group of rogues of our own kin, try to cause issue. We should take them up on their offer."

Selene considered. Eirah was like her, a fighter first and foremost, who had learned a great deal in the centuries afforded her by her skill and vampiric-existence. And, more importantly to Selene, Eirah had been entirely loyal to David and his father, without being blindly following them. The warrior would not have risked the coven lightly.

"I agree.", Selene pronounced.

Lena smiled.

"Eirah,", she started, "please alert the Eastern coven-pack that we will be glad to accept their invitation to host these talks. We will bring a half dozen to protect our envoy."

Eirah bowed with her hands clasped over her sternum. A gesture of her people, Selene recalled from David's explanation. Once Eirah had left, Lena let out a sigh. Her good mood seemingly evaporated in seconds. 

"Now we must address the issue of Varga?"

Selene sat back, unsure how to proceed. Yes, he had poisoned her and helped Semira try to steal Selene's blood, frame her for murders that Varga had committed, and had a hand in the death of David's father. However, Selene had been around long enough to know how Semira twisted and broke men to her will. It gave the woman great pleasure to find strong, loyal, brave men and to shred them. And the better a man he had been before Semira got her hooks in him, the worse the breaking would be. Varga was a relatively young vampire, compared to the many Semira had warped before him. And, unlike those men, he had no sire or familial connection to cling to in any effort to keep Semira at bay. He had no defender or adviser. 

"He betrayed the Coven and killed a dozen young Death Dealers. He conspired with Semira to overturn the Council and to kill Selene, and", David interrupted Lena.

"He risked his life to defend mine, he helped get Semira jailed, he nearly died several times protecting this coven against Marius."

Lena nodded.

"Also true."

Selene waited a moment before speaking.

"There are two, who wish to speak on his behalf. I think we should listen to them before we make any decisions."

David nodded.

"Perhaps it would do us well, to hear from those who know him better than we do. I barely knew Semira, though from what Selene has said, she could rend stone to slime with her manipulations."

Looking between her fellow Elders, Lena nodded, her eyes still sad.

"I agree, we should hear from those who knew him before Semira influenced him."

 

vVvvVv   vVvvVv   vVvvVv

 

Sven exited the Great Hall and let out a long breath on the other side of the doors. He hated this. 

"Sven?"

He knew that voice. Hesper. Turning to look over at his friend, he offered a tired but warm smile. He had missed her in the time Semira had lead them to believe Hesper dead.

"Did they call you to speak on Varga's behalf?"

He nodded, his smile falling.

"How bad was it?"

"They mostly asked me to talk about him. There weren't many questions. None from Selene, few from David. They didn't ask, but I told them that Varga had asked us both not to risk our necks for him, that he wished to take on any punishment alone and not have any collateral damage."

Hesper growled a bit.

"I take it his talk was no more successful with you than I?"

"I would defend him here if he physically tried to drag me away."

Sven grinned slightly. He had always suspected that his quiet, happy, studious friend had a burning, fiery love for their loyal friend.

"They will call you next."

"Already did. I was told to wait till you had come out and I had been beckoned in."

Sven moved, offering her a hug. Hesper smiled. Her large bear of a friend had always given the most excellent hugs.

"Master Hesper?", a guard called.

"Go.", Sven whispered as he stepped away from her.

Hesper gave Sven a quick nod before following the guardsman into the Great Hall. No matter how many times she was called to this room, it would always remain a cold, intimidating place. And she thought that, despite generally loving architecture enough for the ominous effects to often be lost on her.

At the head of the room sat the three Elder Council members on the small dias that had replaced the former great stage of a place. This dias raised them only six inches from the rest of the floor and the chairs were far less grand and ornate than their predecessors. Then again, when one member was the son of an Elder and a Councilman, who had the blood of the Original Corvinus running through his veins to give him the ability to walk in daylight, the second member was a high Priestess of the Nordic Coven, and the third a Death Dealer with the blood of Alexander Corvinus in her veins and a Hybrid-Corvinus for a daughter, this Elder Council did not need any trappings to be imposing.

"Master Hesper.", Lena greeted in an almost friendly tone.

Selene was as serious as ever, and David looked almost angry. His reaction Hesper could understand, even if she wished she couldn't.

"We have been informed you wish to speak in defense of Varga."

She nodded. David asked the first question.

"What do you know of his crimes?"

"I know that it was his finger on the trigger of Selene's weapons, I know he helped fight off your father, and that he helped put Selene in the chair after poisoning her."

David nodded.

"Yet you wish to defend him?"

"Yes."

"Why?", he asked as he leaned forward a bit in his seat.

Hesper would not be intimidated. Whatever his feeling or intent, she would make him and the others see reason.

"When I came here, my family had sent me away to study under this Coven's Master at Arms. I was alone here. My new master hated that he was made to teach a woman the use of weapons or that I had been allowed to learn at all about them, there was no one I could turn to. Then I met Varga and Sven. They were good friends and when they saw me, they adopted me into their group. With them, I was heard, I was sheltered, I had a new home. In every battle, with every leadership shift, and through time, I never had any cause to doubt their loyalty or friendship. When Sven was sent away by Semira, she set her sights on Varga. Semira sent me away and told Varga that I was dead. Varga was in love with me and Semira knew it, she used it to help break him.", Hesper took a breath, knowing the next bit would be worse to think about and to recount to the Elder Council.

"She sent Sven away. Then, she began to strip Varga of everything he knew, trusted, and counted on. First it was Sven, then me. Then she began sending Death Dealers out on suicide missions and to be cannon fodder when they displeased her. She got herself put in charge of security so that she and her lackey could remove every bit of comfort from the lives of our defenders. She regularly searched their rooms, taking away any personal touches such as letters from lovers, momentos of old friends lost in battles past, favorite weapons that had not been standard issue, even maps of homelands old. They were not permitted to read, they were not permitted to talk to most of the other members of the coven. She isolated them in mind, body, and spirit. And, in Varga's case, she offered a special hell. She raped him with her bully at the door to ensure no one came to Varga's rescue. She paraded around her ill-treatment of him and let everyone believe him to be her willing pet. She bent his oath of loyalty to this coven, to suit her twisted machinations. She broke his spirit and his will. He even considered purposefully getting himself sent to be cannon fodder, to get away from her."

Hesper let it all sink in for a moment and waited. She was rewarded. Lena spoke.

"Why do you defend him so? Why not others, why you?"

"Because I have heard his full truth, Elder Lena. He knew he could not take her on directly. By his oath, and by his knowing his place- he is a new, young Death Dealer. She was nearly as old as the Elders and older than some members of the old Council, turned by Viktor himself. Between her political clout and her physical power, there was no way he could have been any more than a moment's irritation to her if he tried to take her head-on. Yet, he picked his battles. When he knew he could not stop her from her plot against Selene, he calculated that Selene could take a greater amount of that poison than Semira could and he overdosed Selene to ensure it would take longer for Semira to clear the blood she took in order to use it. He fixed the valves on the drains so they worked far slower, as the speed Semira had them at would have killed Selene in a couple hours at most. He did not fight at his best against Elder David's father, in an effort to get Semira killed as he believed your father could handle her in a fight. And when Marius came, Varga did not hesitate to protect this Coven, despite most of it's members sneering at him and whispering about him, despite how none of them came to his rescue against Semira and none spoke out against her. He would die to protect anyone in this coven."

Lena asked, "What do you think we ought to do with him, in light of the fact he did murder twelve Death Dealers and he did conspire against Elder Selene, among others?"

"I think you should consider what Semira did to him as time-served. There is nothing you could do to him that is worse than what happens in his mind every time he closes his eyes."

Unexpectedly, Selene spoke up.

"You put in a formal request to have him come with you as part of the envoy for the peace talks."

Lena and David's heads whipped first to Selene, then back to Hesper.

"I did."

"Why?"

"Because I trust him. Because I think someone needs to show the three of you, and this whole Coven, that he is still worthy of our trust."

For a tense moment, no one spoke. No one moved. No one breathed. Then, David sighed as he sank back in his chair.

"He does love you."

Hesper was taken aback by this.

"Sir?"

"I saw his face when you dragged him back here for medical attention. He was far more concerned about the possibility of you being caught in the sunlight, than of anything that might happen to him. And when he would briefly rouse, he would ask of you. Every time."

"He should go with the envoy.", Selene stated. "He has made it clear he would do anything to protect you and you are the most vital person on this mission to the Eastern Coven-Pack. I think it fitting that his new dictate in life is to be your protector, as you are already his."

Hesper was knocked back. They were going to assign Varga to be her personal guard on this mission.

"Yes, I agree. His new dictate should be, in service to his oath of loyalty to the coven and leadership, that he will be your personal bodyguard. His primary objective to protect your life, so that you may freely go about this mission and in the future, when it is time to install and upgrade our protections, he will be at your side to ensure you come back from these field missions."

Lena smiled at her fellow Elders, then over to Hesper.

"Go and tell your beloved that we have issued his new mission."

 Hesper bowed, walking backward two steps before turning to face the door.

"And Hesper?", she heard Lena.

Turning, she faced the white-haired Elder.

"We believe you."

Hesper nodded, then walked out of the Council's Great Hall. As expected, Sven stood waiting.

"Did you hear?"

He nodded, a small smile on his face.

"He will live, and he will be at your side always."

Hesper sagged with relief.

"He will live.", she echoed.