Chapter 5 Family—The Lighter Side of Death
Jon held her that much tighter. Afraid to let go. Afraid not to. Now knowing that his mother’s death was imminent his thoughts became clearer. This insanity had to stop somewhere. And Ellen was now that defining moment.
There were truths he knew about his family. One being that Gilly did not go on a killing rampage when there was a moon. Especially a full moon, eclipse or no. His insanity was manifested when there was no moon. Then it was bar-the-door and sit and wait on that sick bastard to show up while you counted your arsenal and prayed it was enough.
Was Ellen now in danger, probably…but not from his baby brother.
“We need to talk,” he sighed as he took a deep whiff of her hair.
Kissing her on the nose, he swept her up into his arms and then put both of them on the couch where he pulled her in even closer.
“I like you Ellen,” he began by saying, holding both of her hands, his eyes searching her face. “And not just because you look like my wife, Drust.”
Thoughtfully she regarded him. “Do I look as much like her as you do Charles?” her voice was low, her hands squeezing his.
“Yes,” he nodded. “And hell yes and fuck yes and yes on top of yes. Yes,” he said with conviction.
“Well, alright then,” she sighed. “So what happened to her? Your mate?”
Sorrow crossed his face. “You need to know what I am capable of,” he withdrew into himself. “I told you about the brands and their purpose.”
“Yes,” she nodded….and then whispered, “no…no…
Oh Jon…” as her voice choked. The past, it was an ugly bitch on a good day.
His eyes were vacant. “When I woke as vampire, raging with hunger, she was there.” Tears spilled over from his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. “She knew…of course she knew. She was older than me…she had seen just how seriously evil those fuckers who sat on the council could be.
She was so…” he sobbed, his voice caught. “She was so calm. And…and…loving. ‘I do not want to live without you,’ she whispered to me. ‘Please Jon, do this. As the law stands, as vampire, you cannot be with me and I do not wish to be by myself.’
All I could do, Ellen, was stand there and rage at the universe. Which only fueled my hunger.” He sat back and drew deeper into the couch. “That perfect being walked towards me, telling me that she loved me and how honored she was that a bit of her would live on inside of me.
They had cut her,” he hissed. “And all I could smell was her blood. She pulled my head down for one last kiss. And…” he fought for control, “and they had sliced open her tongue…”
Ellen held him while he cried. And then while he howled with a forlornness that she recognized inside herself and had never expressed.
“With my bloodied mouth I attached my fangs to her neck and she wrapped herself around me, telling me that she loved me until there were no words left in her…no life…no blood. I had drained her completely.”
Wiping his eyes, he let out a deep sigh.
“So there, in the throne room, with everyone watching as I killed that which I held most dear, I ascended to The Throne of Blood. And as king, my first official act was to drain the council. I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed that. The chase, the challenge, the cursing and me bringing them to their knees while I howled in triumph and satisfied my blood lust.”
Ellen chuckled. “It is good to be king.”
“Yes it is,” he pulled her into him. “Gawd, I hate them. I hate them all.”
They sat quietly for several minutes. Her hands massaging the tops of his until she felt Jon’s strength of spirit return to him.
“How did you meet her?” she asked. “Drust?”
“Since I was the bastard child of The House of Twillard and I had no magic to speak of, it was thought best that I be apprenticed to a healer.
So at the age of five I was bundled up and shipped off to study with those who had the gift of healing. When I was about eighteen, in your years, I advanced to the next higher level and Drust taught that level.
For two years I absorbed all she had to say. At that point, I was twenty and she was thirty-five and I was smitten.
One summer’s day, the call came that a healer was needed and so we went. We were out in a meadow; there was a patch of brown that was spreading out from the center. We had made a brew to pour onto the area…she said what was killing the grass was a brown fungus and what we were administering would kill the fungus and bring back the grass. It started to rain. Gently. And it rained in a circle around us, but not on us. A true fairy ring. We were both delighted as we watched the rainbows dance around us.
She quoted an old nursery rhyme:
A ring of water,
A ring of fire,
A ring around the moon.
A ring of laughter,
A ring of dryer,
Say it now and I will grant your boon.
And the words just came out of my mouth. ‘Please be my mate.’
She watched me for a long time. Minutes or centuries…I still cannot distinguish which it was…her silence was consuming me and I started to get nervous. Wondering from where I had gotten the balls to say that to her.
To save myself, I told her ‘I have no name,’ hoping to give her an easy out.
‘Then we shall use mine,’ she tiptoed up and kissed me. ‘Bed me, Jon Irving and make me your own.’
And so I did,” he smiled at Ellen, feeling sheepish and embarrassed and proud.
Ellen leaned in and gave him a small kiss.
Taking a deep breath, he began talking again.
“She grew older and so did I, but I also grew up and perhaps wiser. She taught me the ways of nature but also the ways of politics. Who could be trusted and who could not and why. The time I spent with her was bliss.
When I was forty, they came for me…for us…we were to be in attendance at a family dinner. Malcolm made us welcome during dinner and then afterwards mother made sure we understood why we were there,” he growled.
“When I declined this great honor,” he laughed nastily, “she wished bestowed upon me, she yelled and screamed. When father suggested sending Reginald in my place that is when she called out for the King’s Guards that were there to take me away, just in case I did not wish to go willingly.
Drust knew this was coming,” he sighed. “We had been studying plants solidly for a year. It was a review of everything I had learned, starting when I was five. Taste, smell, color, forms, function, fresh, dry, and mixed with varying agents. And what they all did to the blood.”
“Blood?” she echoed.
“Yes,” he said nodding. “The King is turned by nature. The Council has an array of herbs, weeds, grasses and barks, unicorn piss, anything natural and untainted,” he shrugged, “present, to start with. Every clan brings a plant that is specific to their area. All of them are poisons. And if you don’t ingest them in the proper order, they can do any number of horrible things to you. The kindest is to kill you outright. They can leave you crippled in mind, body, and spirit. Or they can make you a king.”
His laughter filled the room. “The only thing I could think of while I stood there sorting through it all was that Drust was going to be pissed and then would kick my ass if I poisoned, myself. Especially since she told everyone I was her best student.”
Ellen was thoughtful. “So you catalogued everything and then started, counter-balancing as you went.”
“That is correct,” he smiled. “And when it was all over, out of the multitude of oldest heirs that wanted this, I was the only one left standing.” He was lost in his memories. She could see that on his face. Then his whole being changed; he grew tense, his body rigid.
“I remember the roaring of their voices in my ears. ‘Long live the King!’ All I could think was that my mate was dead, at my own hands,” his voice was full of sorrow.
“Then,” his hand became gentle on top of her, his voice softened. “The night of the first of August, my life changed,” he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. “I had just come on shift and you were causing quite a stir. Word was going around through the staff there was someone in the ER whose veins kept pushing out the needle. I am pretty good with a stick. And besides, this was now my ER. Not get a needle in? I was not having anyone snickering or making snide remarks about that.
That is when I saw you. They were banging on your left arm, trying to find a vein. Your right arm was badly bruised and riddled with needle tracks from their efforts and now your left arm was starting to look the same.
Trevor, our resident combat medic, was called for. They were all praying that he was a go.
This boy has pushed needles into blown apart veins without running lights on and going eighty miles an hour while dodging bullets. I watched him as he assessed your arm, pulled up the veinviewer, poked you, waited, shook his head and backed off.
By this time you had a green tinge about you. I thought you were going to vomit.
You looked over at one and said, ‘Look, just stick it in my hand or let me die. You are finished with my arms. They can just fucking cut me open without the CT Scan.’
I think you snarled that,” he chuckled.
“That sounds right,” she laughed. “I was not doing well at the time. You were the doc that got it in?”
He nodded yes.
“What a miserable day,” she sighed. “Gawd, I hate needles and by that time, I had my eyes closed and was breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth trying my best not to throw up and wanting a drink and being told no. I thought a couple of times I was going pass out when they would wiggle that needle around after it had popped out, hoping to pop it back in. I guess it was a good thing I was not watching when you did it. They would have locked me up when I started screaming in joy that I had died and that my dead husband was there to see me across.”
Jon smiled at her. “Well, my look-alike lover. You are still here, despite those who do not understand your veins. With the new day, we will have a chat with Gilly and then mommy dearest is out of time.”
“First of all, you say that with such calm in your voice,” she smiled at him. “Secondly, you think she is behind this?”
“M-m-m-m,” he nodded his head and then grimaced, “this particular one. Yes. Remember, evil.”
Ellen was thoughtful. “And you know where to find Gilly?”
“If Gilly is here,” Jon arched an eyebrow, “my brother is staying at one of the high-end hotels. There is nothing cheap-assed about him. First class all the way. And he wants to be found.”
“How do you know that?” she asked. “Magic?”
“No,” his voice was very serious. “Because that is where he always stays and chances are very good that Mother sent him along in case I did something to my middle brother. Reginald was her favorite and now that his body has returned to her, with a bullet in the back of his head I might add, ” he laughed out loud, “she is going to want some answers. Reginald lied about a good many things, but he knew Gilly was in the area. That I can believe.
And Gilly knows he is not supposed to be here, but Mother forced him into it. Something is foul, there. But, he cannot come forward willingly, but if I go to him, he will tell me what he knows.”
“So you trust him?” she leaned into Jon, searching his face.
“No,” Jon replied. “Not at all,” he stressed. “The House of Twillard has produced some of the most famous liars in the history of the Supernaturals. We all have the gift. And as King, I can weed out certain truths from the bullshit.”
“Useful,” she nodded and then eyed him, her squint saying much. “So that makes you an exceptional liar as well…”
“Yes,” he smiled. “But I am only half of the Twillard legacy.”
“So what is the other half?” she asked. “Any clue?”
Shrugging, he smiled at her and shook his head. “I have no idea. You get Mother drunk, enough, and she says she does not either.”
“What,” she snorted with mirth, “you were conceived during a drunken orgy…oh shit…” she back pedaled as she watched his face. “Oh Jon…I…I was kidding…” she was appalled at what she had said.
“I know,” he sighed. “But my mother was the original party girl. She invented the word bacchanal.”
“Oh shit,” she sighed. “So-o-o-o, no one through the ages has come forward to claim you?”
“No,” he shook his head. “When I was small, my grandfather would have skewered anyone who did. That a male would dare to trespass without his permission would not have ended well for my would-be father. Now that I am king…no,” he shook his head. “I would skewer him for being a coward.”
“I am attempting to digest all of this,” her voice was thoughtful. “I thought I knew fucked up and I have seen fucked up…but, every millennia or so the Supernatural world feels the need to hold a contest and kill off the oldest living heirs…” her voice trailed off.
“Yes, remarkable is it not,” Jon replied, his voice even.
“For what reason?” she asked.
“Well, it gives the second child an opportunity to become the heir. It also assures the father that a more,” he cleared his throat, “legitimate child ascends to the family name.”
Arching both eyebrows at him, he cleared his throat again. “You must understand, in the oldest, most powerful houses, the women are not known for being faithful. The first child could be a left over from a lover she had to discard to marry. The second child, well, it that is not a true heir, that is on the man she married.”
“So,” she was thoughtful, “perhaps Reggie was not Malcolm’s…” “Wow…” was a breath that barely escaped her lips.
“There is that possibility,” he responded. “Gilly looks like Malcolm. Reginald and myself, we both look like Mother’s father.”
“Wow,” she breathed out a bit louder.
“Correct,” he nodded.
“So Reginald, you think, is the child of her lover?”
“Correct,” he replied.
“So that man is going to come looking for you as well…?” her voice trailed off.
“That possibility exists,” he sighed as he brought her hand to his mouth for a kiss.
“And now that Reggie is dead, Gilly inherits…” and with that thought she frowned. “So the true heir inherits…” she was carefully following that thread. “So is it possible Malcolm was driving this all along?”
“Oh, good on you!” he chuckled. “Yes,” he smiled. “Just think of it like a far-reaching chess game…only you are playing with real lives against your relatives.”
“Oh shit…” she countered with. “And you think Malcolm suspected when…when your mother so vehemently offered you up. Because Reggie was her favorite…”
“Correct. She is completely indifferent to Gilly. Rumor has it that he is deranged during moonless nights because of something she ingested when she was pregnant with him. And then continued feeding him the poison as a child.”
“Oh…shit…” she hissed.
“Correct,” he replied.
“Do you think she has any idea who your father is?”
“Hard to say,” he responded. “I think that was one of the reasons for pushing me forward to be king. She was there, watching the crowd. Attempting to see if any male was more interested than he should be.”
“And I thought I had white trash in my family,” she stated as she shook her head in disbelief. “Sun is getting ready to come up,” she said as her attention was now diverted to the chimney and listened to Clive cawing. “I don’t know that I have anyplace light tight,” her voice was full of concern.
“Your bedroom should be fine,” he replied. “We will just sleep there.”
“What?” In her voice was concern.
“King,” he pointed to himself. “The only bearing light has on me is when is the best time to shoot my photos.”
“So you lied to me about…about the tanning booth…” she drew back from him.
“Ellen,” he sighed. “Yes. At the time I had no idea we were going down this road. Just so you know, I can also shape shift. Wolf is my go-to but any animal with fangs is welcome. I have been a parrot but it was not as fulfilling to my ego as I thought it would be.
If I drink a mixture of rosemary and pansy fermented with Mt. FitzFuller hops and powdered white rose sugar, I can eat a rare steak and have a beer. I would rather not, but it is possible.”
Thinking about that she glinted at him and her voice was accusatory. “So, do you sleep during the day?”
“Well, yes,” he smiled, “I work nights.”