Chapter Six

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Erika's head bobs in understanding, absorbing my calculated speech with far more intrigue than the careful words are due. Her replies have been sparingly tight-lipped, mostly only spoken when necessary. I made sure we'd be the only two seated at the council table, locking down the Great Hall in order to find a private moment to offer her an impossible job.

"Maybe once I was meant for this, Erika, but I'm needed elsewhere now. I've given all I can to this organization. I must go to Hunan with Cassandra, and if we manage to succeed in this, I plan to start a life with her away from this politics, strive to give her what she deserves. A home. Some normalcy."

She rolls the stem of her glass, absorbed by the ripples of the bloody liquid within. The hundred-year-old candle, one of many stored in the bowels of this museum, leaks wax onto the table. The dripping scent continuously transports me to a monastery in Spain. El Escorial. The holy halls would reek of this scent on dewy summer nights.

"I never pegged you a picketed-fence kind of vampire."

"I doubt either of us wishes to seclude ourselves into a suburb."

"Maybe Russia? You were happy there before."

"A region where she could survive, perhaps. She's mentioned St. Clare more than once recently."

"Oh right. I forgot. You own a castle in England. I'd want to live there too, probably."

It's difficult to turn my back on everything I've ever known, ever cared about. Throughout the centuries of my existence, there was nothing more imperative than this council, my ruinous kind. My duty was my purpose. I was the executioner, the creature with a black heart capable of carrying out monstrosities on traitors deserving of the council's wrath. A leader, always called upon to cast a final vote or indite a new law. The years I've had without Cassandra were years spent imagining the life I could have provided for her, regretting the moments I'd enforce seriousness when I could have been making her laugh.

"So, you understand then... what I'm asking?"

"You're asking me to lead the council."


"You're asking to be free."

"That too."

She looks down at her lap, and anticipating a refusal, I leap into explanations.

"You've already been bearing the weight of this, Erika. You've just been denied the title."

"It's not that I don't want it. I want it more than anything, Elijah, but they won't follow me. This organization is severely outdated. They followed Achille and then you. My point is they followed vampires that have survived longer than any of us."

"We live in a new age. Adjustments are being made amongst all species. Human and vampire alike. They will accept you if you continue to prove your worth. You have been leading them for years, and we exist because of it."

"What are Paris and Damien's views on remaining?"

"They're not impartial to a small position that allows living away from Italy. They have a home they'd like to return to, tenants that they'd wish to see again."

"I understand. Of course I do. It just feels like our entire party is breaking up."

"It's not. We five understand aspects of this planet and it's existence more than any other beings on earth. We know what reigns beyond this place, what judgment awaits. One of us must remain to ensure the leadership cannot be swayed again. You always wanted a place on the council."

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