Faced with no alternative, he took a seat at the table. His glass was already filled with Stefan’s favourite wine and the runner drank deeply to fortify himself for supper with his mother. Like himself, she hadn’t aged and still looked like the same mother he remembered, occasionally with fondness, from his childhood. It also struck him that he couldn’t see any sign of wings….
“Well, this is the last place I thought I’d be sharing a meal with my son,” she commented brusquely. “All those years trying to protect you, shelter you from this life and you are stupid enough to end up in this mess.”
“As loving and caring as ever, Mother,” he replied, staring her straight in the eye.
“You have no idea, child!”
“Well, how about you explain it to me?” he suggested, his tone acid filled.
“I was born to this life,” she revealed calmly. “When you were born, I went to great lengths to hide you from this existence. I sacrificed my wings for you among other things. There’s too much of your father in you. You’re too gentle in nature to survive successfully as a vampire. Too easily led.”
“Bit late for that lecture,” he commented. “About thirty years too late, Mother.”
“And don’t I know it,” she said with a sigh. “And I blame myself. Your father wanted a son. I’d have done anything for him then. I risked everything giving birth to you and when you arrived, you were perfect and human. All the pain I put myself through to ensure of that had worked. NO blood for over seven months. Can you imagine how much of a challenge that was?”
“I explained my absences to you as business trips,” she continued, her food growing cold on the plate in front of her. “I tried to be gone no more than a week or two at a time as you grew up. Once you were older and I’d divorced your father, life became easier. You could stay with him while I attended to things. Allowed me to earn back my place at court.”
“Do you expect me to thank you?”
“No!” she snapped. “I expect you to listen. Listen well and understand. You’re set to appear before the Court of Elders in the morning. Do not play games with them. No bargains. No deals. Just do as they ask, and you’ll be able to live out your days in that beach hut of yours if that’s what you desire.”
“But I’ve already made the deal, Mother.”
“Fool! You made your bargain void when you agreed to learn our ways from Stefan. He has played you. Played to your youth and your weaknesses and he’ll do it again tomorrow. No more games.”
“So, what would you have me do, Mother darling?” he spat, his blood rage simmering inside him.
“Just agree to kill the bitch for them then agree to return here when summoned.”
“And if I still want Stefan to keep his end of the bargain?”
“If you expect that to happen then you’re a bigger fool than I thought you were,” she hissed as she got to her feet. “For once in your life, listen to me and do as I ask, son!”
Without a further word, she swept out of the room.
Next morning, her words were echoing in his mind as he stood outside the Court of Elders beside Trine waiting to be summoned inside. With a smile, she took his hand and said, “Be sensible in your choice of words in there, Son of Perran.”
Rolling his dark brown eyes, he said with a smile, “You sound like my mother.”
Before either of them could continue the conversation, the large oak door swung open, inviting him to step inside.
As before, the room was lit by flaming sconces and candelabra and was dominated by the large intricately carved table. For the first time, he noticed the pattern on the floor – runes- and took note that the table was in a different position in the large circular room.
“Welcome, Son of Perran,” greeted Stefan warmly. “Step closer, please.”
Instead of four seats, there were now seven seats behind the table. As before, Stefan, Michael and Alessandro were seated but to either side of them were two more seats. Three of those were occupied by women, one of whom was his mother. The last seat was occupied by a child of no more than ten or twelve.
“We’ve called the full court together,” explained Stefan as if reading his mind. “Last time we only afforded you a partial hearing, so all agreements struck on that date are void now that you have voluntarily appeared before a full court. Do you understand me?”
“Perfectly,” replied the runner, realising his mother had been correct and that Stefan had been humouring him.
“We’ve invited you back to discuss our request that you kill the dark angel who broke our code when she created you. Over the years, she has repeatedly broken the golden rules of our code of conduct but so far, we have been unable to catch her. Will you do as we ask, Son of Perran?”
“I will,” replied the runner, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt.
“No conditions this time?” quizzed Stefan raising one eyebrow.
“Only that I be allowed to return home.”
“That we can agree to on one condition,” replied Stefan. “My daughter accompanies you to continue your education. Is that agreeable to you?”
The runner nodded.
“Then we have reached an accord, Son of Perran. You may leave.”
With a last glance across at his mother, the runner turned and left the room.