It took a whole days's drive to reach what seemed to be a gated community. One glance from Elijah made the two guards on post rush to open the gates for us. Elijah nods at them before driving through. The street was no longer paved as we drove through a small forest. It was all stones and pebbles causing the car to slightly shake as we drove on.
Elijah had yet to tell me where we are and why it was so secluded. He didn't even bother to tell me who we were staying with. He only told me to trust him on this and so blindly I did. It wasn't comfortable putting my life in his hands but after everything we went through, everything that we are, I didn't really have much of a choice. If I had to trust my life with someone Elijah had to be that choice. So I kept the questions to myself until the trees cleared and showed vast green pastures that led to a giant castle.
"Jesus Christ," I whisper. "You weren't kidding about the castle."
"I told you I have a friend who owns one." Elijah replies with a smile as we drove up to the front.
"I thought you were partially kidding," I answer. "So who lives here? Some royal member from abroad seas? One of those high society, tea-drinking families? Maybe the President's mistress?"
Elijah just chuckles at my questions as he parks the car. I hadn't even unbuckled my seat before some random vampire was opening the door for me and helping me out. I turn to Elijah in confusion but he was simply waiting for me. I uneasily give a glance to the other vampires that were unloading the car for us before turning back to Elijah.
"Don't worry about them," Elijah tells me. "That's part of their duties."
"Where the hell are we Elijah?" I ask him as I take his arm, allowing him to escort me in. "And why am I the only human here?"
"You'll know soon enough," Elijah replies as we make our way in. Vampires were already waiting for us to open the doors and a vampire butler quickly comes and greets us. He takes our coats and my purse before addressing us.
"Mr. Mikaelson it's such a pleasure to see you again," he tells him. "Lord Tristan and the Lady Aya are so glad to hear of your return. They are waiting for you in the main room. Shall I lead you?"
"No need Aaron," Elijah tells him. "I know my way around."
Aaron the butler nods at this and allows Elijah to pass through. As we walked down the hallways, I took notice of the high quality art and sculptures. I didn't need to ask Elijah to confirm that these weren't knock offs but the real thing.
"Lord Tristan? Lady Aya?" I ask him. "Real Monet paintings and Michelangelo sculptures? Who are these people Elijah and how are you...?"
"My dear, Elijah." a man with a deep accent says as we step into the room. "You dare call us to house you and your lady companion and you didn't tell her about us?"
"You're not ashamed of us, are you?" A beautiful woman seated beside the man asks as well as she catches sight of us. "That's quite insulting if you are."
"It was a last minute plan," Elijah answers calmly. "And this isn't a conversation one has on a long car drive."
"Do you care to have this conversation with me now then?" I ask, gaining all of their attention. "Because I am quite confused here."
"I like her," the woman comments. She stands up and walks over to me, offering me her hand. "My name is Aya and this is my husband, Tristan de Martel."
I shake her hand and smile at her.
"Griselda Saltzman." I introduce myself.
Aya's eyebrows shoot up as she hears this and her husband clears his throat uncomfortably.
"How lovely," Tristan comments. "My sire brings a renown vampire hunter into a home full of vampires."
"You know who I am?" I ask them.
"We know what you do," Aya states unhappily.
"Hold your judgements." Elijah intervenes. "She's not who you think she is."
"Then who is she?" Tristan asks.
"She's my soulmate." Elijah answers. "My Marked Soul and you will treat her with the uttermost respect."
Hearing this, Aya and Tristen straighten themselves up.
"We didn't know," Tristan responds.
"Clearly..." Elijah sneers. I grab a hold of his hand and assure him that I was fine. I knew how to handle vampires and these didn't scare me.
"Vampires hate vampire hunters. Vampire hunters hate vampires. It's the way of life." I state. "Your treatment of me doesn't really matter to me. What matters is that I still don't know who you are and what all of this is? What is going on here?"
"Shall I tell her or should I?" Aya asks Tristan, who contemplates it. Before any of them could begin, Elijah interrupts them.
"How about I do it?" Elijah asks. "I did create this brotherhood."
"And you also abandoned it." Aya answers.
"For rightful reasons in which you two understood." Elijah replies.
"Doesn't mean we were happy about them." Aya states.
Elijah sighs at this and I turn to him.
"Brotherhood?" I ask him. "Is this like some elite vampire fraternity? You turn 750 years old and now you're in the club kind of thing?"
"Of course not," Elijah answers. "It goes beyond that."
"Then explain," I tell him. "Because I'm very lost here."
"We're called the Strix," Elijah states. "A brotherhood that I assembled with members with minds filled with curiosity about the world and eager to improve it, along with the time and circumstance to do so. An elite brotherhood devoted to a new, better civilization."
"Our work has ranged from aiding third world countries to researching cures for cancer." Tristan pipes in. "Anything the world has a problem with the Strix is an organization that attempts to solve them which in exchange betters the world. We've been doing this for a thousand years."
"If you've been at it this long, how come this is the first time I'm hearing about you?" I ask them.
"Because we are sworn to secrecy," Aya responds. "We're not an organization that prides themselves in their accomplishments, not when the world still needs our help."
"That's... amazing," I state as I glance over to Elijah. "Why didn't you tell me about this?"
"We were too focused on tracking Klaus," Elijah answers. "There wasn't time."
He clears his throat and nods towards Tristan.
"I believe a tour of the castle would please Griselda." Elijah states. "She enjoyed the artwork on display when we were on our way here. I know Aya's exquisite art taste are located in other places of your home."
Elijah turns to leave and I immediately stop him.
"Where do you think you're going?" I ask him.
"I have some matters to discuss with Tristan," Elijah tells me. "Aya will take good care of you. I'll see you at dinner."
"Elijah, I..." I start to say before stopping. He had already left the room with Tristan by his side. I sigh at this before turning to Aya who was just watching me.
"Shall we go?" she asks me.
"Lead the way," I answer as I step aside and let her through. Aya smiles at me before stepping out of the room and leading me down the hallway to a set of elegant stairs. More servants pass us, not sparing a glance at Aya or me. From the warmth of my ring, I could sense they were vampires too.
"Not a lot of humans around here," I state.
"Don't worry," Aya tells me as she glances over to me. "I assure you that you are not the only human here."
"I would guess that since you still need to feed." I state. "Unless you run like a human farm or something horrible like that..."
"Do you always think the worst of vampires?" Aya asks me in return.
"I can't easily trust them," I answer. "Not after what I've been through. Elijah is the exception though."
"Love conquers all doesn't it?" Aya asks amused before leading me further down another hallway filled with high class art. She stops and opens the door, showing me a room filled with lab equipment, doctors, nurses, and patients.
"We run a free clinic for those in need here," Aya tells me. "For any social class, for any race, for any part of the world. This wing also serves as a blood donation clinic in which our patients voluntarily donate blood for us to feed on."
Aya then closes the door and leads me further down the hall revealing the storages of blood and the different types of clinics. Having seen it all from this wing, Aya takes me across, to the other side of the castle. The first door she opens reveals what seems to be a music room. An array of instruments were around, sheet music shelved on a nearby bookcase, and a small separate studio by the side.
"Elijah told us you had an interest in the musical department." Aya tells me. "He says you play the violin quite lovely. Perhaps you'll play for us at some point in your stay."
"Perhaps..." I whisper as Aya closes the door.
"The rest of the rooms in this wing are for the arts. There's an art studio on the right, a library further down on the left, and a stage at the very end." This wing had another hallway and Aya takes me through it. I could distantly hear laughter and happy squeals. The door was already open as we came to it and I took notice of the kids running around, playing or drawing.
"You have a child day care?" I ask her surprised.
"All of the Strix members are vampires but after a thousand years the desire of a family transpires. They adopt and raise their kids. Some have very demanding jobs and therefore the daycare was created."
"Do you and Tristan have...?" I begin to ask but Aya answers quickly, a small smile forming on her lips.
"We adopted a child 20 years ago." she tells me. "He's currently an undergrad in Yale."
"That's wonderful," I answer before turning my attention back to the daycare. "So all of these kids are adopted?"
"Most of them. Some are just taken care of here while their parents are getting treatments...except for one," Aya answers. "We have one orphan here. A product from a supernatural incident."
"What do you mean?" I ask her.
"As we offer human rehabilitation, we also offer supernatural rehab." Aya explains to me. "Vampires and their bloodlust, werewolves and their anger management, witches consumed by dark magic..."
I look around the smiling kids and take notice of how one was separate from the rest. Aya realizes that I've caught sight of the orphan and she sighs tiredly.
"His name is Carter," she tells me. "Both of his parents came to us. They wanted to get rid of their dark impulses in magic. They wanted to get better for their son, but... but they were too consumed by it. When we attempted to cleanse them, it weakened them too much and they both passed away. Carter was left to us, there's no other family he has."
"So he's a witch?" I ask her as I looked at the silent, quiet boy. His eyes meet mine for a split second before looking immediately back down.
"Yes and by luck he is still young enough to not have developed his magic." Aya responds. "His magic will develop purely and untainted."
"That's good," I tell her. "So what's going to happen to him?"
"We've tried to find him a family," Aya explains to me. "But he doesn't speak to anyone. Makes it hard for interested couples to find an appeal to him."
"The trauma for both parents being dead will do that to a child," I tell her. "I can't blame him."
"Well until he starts communicating with anyone, the Strix will take care of him." Aya tells me. "Though his isolation is concerning, especially as he ages."
"Time heals all wounds," I state. "I just hope he isn't too scarred."
Aya starts to lead me away, but I spare one more glance at Carter who was still staring mindlessly at the wall. We walk in silence for a while as she shows me different wings and what they were used for. At some point we make it to the garden outside in which contained countless plants, herbs, and other rare flowers.
"So Elijah abandoned the Strix to you and Tristan," I state in which Aya nods to. "Why?"
"We're a peaceful society," Aya answers. "Violence is not tolerated."
"What do you mean?" I ask her. "Elijah isn't violent. He's a gentleman."
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Aya simply states.
"But in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king." Elijah responds behind us.
"Elijah," I call out, relieved to see him.
"Dinner is ready," he tells Aya. "Griselda and I will soon be there."
Aya nods at this and walks out of the garden, leaving Elijah and I alone. I couldn't help but smile at him as I made my way to him.
"So desperate to get me alone?" I ask him.
"It's always nice seeing you without an audience," Elijah says as he takes a hold of both of my hands placing a kiss on both of them. "Did Aya treat you nicely?"
"She's a great hostess," I tell him. "I love this place and I love what's being done here."
"It's the only thing I'm proud of after centuries of being alive." Elijah tells me.
"That can't be true," I state.
"But it is," Elijah answers as he admires the castle.
"Then why did you leave it?" I ask him. "Aya didn't really specify..."
"Aya and Tristan aren't entirely happy about why I left," Elijah tells me. "My vendetta against Klaus goes against what the Strix believe in keeping the peace. Going after Klaus meant that I had to abandon my peaceful beliefs and so I did."
"Is it worth it though?" I ask him. "I know he took away your family but is that enough reason for Klaus to take the Strix away from you too?"
"Would you abandon your vendetta for your ex-fiance?" Elijah answers with instead.
I remain silent and look away from his serious gaze, letting my head rest on his chest.
"That's what I thought," Elijah answers as he embraces me tighter, placing a kiss on the top of my head.
"When we take care of Klaus, will you come back here?" I ask him.
"Will you come with me?" Elijah asks me instead.
"I would love to," I answer as I smile up to him.
Elijah smiled at that and kissed my forehead.
"We should go," he tells me. "I believe we've kept Tristan and Aya waiting far too long."
Elijah, being the ever gentleman, offers me his arm and I take it. He escorts me out of the garden and back into the castle.
Dinner went by smoothly but I couldn't but notice Elijah and Tristan whispering amongst themselves. Aya didn't care much about it but I did. I didn't really get a chance to ask Elijah about it as I was introduced to other renown Strix members. An array of artists, musicians, actors, doctors, scientists, and countless more. It was overwhelming to see the variety and the influence each person had.
I easily grew tired and asked Aya to lead me to the room assigned for me. She called Aaron over to lead me and I said my goodnights, kissing Elijah on the cheek, before taking my leave. I was led upstairs to what I was told was a floor dedicated to me. Only a few were allowed to come up here. Aaron the butler led me to my designated room and was gone in a second.
I found my suitcase already there and I take out what I needed. I change into my pjs and inspect the room. There were some art on the walls but other than that the room was quite simple. It was dark but elegant. There were two large bookcases filled at the brim with books. I inspect the titles before grabbing one and slipping into bed. Turning off all the lights except for the lamp beside me.
I start to leaf through a clearly very used Pride and Prejudice book. I grew invested in the novel so quickly that I didn't realize that I was no longer alone. I probably wouldn't have noticed if Elijah hadn't cleared his throat. I look up at him and gave him a questioning look.
"Elijah... what are you doing here?" I ask him, bookmarking the book and setting it aside.
"I should be asking you that question seeing that this is my room." Elijah answers with an amused smile.
"I was told this was my room." I answer.
"Strange, since this is the presidential floor which I occupied until my departure."
I didn't know how to respond to that and he just chuckled.
"Clearly they made a mistake," Elijah answers. "They thought that we... well we are together but not in that sense yet. I'll just find myself another room to lodge in and leave you this one."
"No, that's not fair." I answer. "This is your room."
"I'm not going to kick you out of the best room in the castle," Elijah tells me. "You stay and I'll leave."
"Who says you have to leave?" I ask him.
It was Elijah's turn to give me the questioning glance.
"I mean... we're both grown adults." I tell him. "I'm sure we can share a bed. Besides, it's not the first time we've slept together."
"Are you sure?" Elijah asks me.
I simply nod and Elijah half-smiles before shrugging of his suit jacket and setting it aside. He starts to unbutton his shirt and heads towards the closet to change. I take a deep breath once he's out of my sight, not realizing that I hadn't been breathing for the past couple of minutes. I try to calm my fast beating heartbeat as I took up Pride and Prejudice again and returned to my reading.
Elijah came out after a while, changed in his sleeping attire. He gives me another questioning look as he takes the other side of the bed. Seeing that I was still ok with this, Elijah settles down. I couldn't concentrate in my reading as I could feel Elijah's stare on me. I fight back the blush and set down the book. I turn to Elijah, who as I predicted was staring at me, and raised my eyebrow questioningly.
"So..." I state as I look at Elijah. "What were you and your best friend Tristan whispering about during dinner?"
"Nothing of importance," Elijah answers. "Continue reading."
"I can't if you're just going to stare at me."
"Then let me read with you," Elijah answers.
"Grab your own book." I remark.
"If I recall that is my book," Elijah says with a grin. I let out a sigh but couldn't fight off the smile on my lips.
"Fine," I say scooting closer to him, allowing him to read from the book over my shoulder. Elijah places his arm around me, bringing me closer to him and giving him a better angle to look over the pages. I settle my head on his shoulder and raise the book.
"She longed to know what at that moment was passing in his mind; in what manner he thought of her, and whether, in defiance of everything, she was still dear to him." I read out loud.
"You are," Elijah whispers beside me. "You are dear to me. You have bewitched me body and soul and I never wish to be parted from you from this day forward."
"That's at the end of the book," I state knowing the quote by heart.
"But not in ours," Elijah tells me.
I turn to look at him to respond and he catches me by surprise and kisses me. I don't mind it though. The taste of his lips was addicting and the setting was romantic. I let myself become lost in him, the book easily discarded to the side.