I carried Chris upstairs and waited for Drake to return from seeing Karver.
“He had a big day,” he said behind me.
“Yeah, he went through something I never want him to have to do again, Drake. He’s a child! A baby! And he just experienced a war! This is not the life I want for him and it’s not something I will allow to happen again.”
“I mean it Drake. Whatever you’ve done with Karver is now between the two of you. I won’t allow him to use my son again…EVER!”
“Karver just needs to secure his throne for another 100 years and we’re done.” He felt Karver’s pull and looked at me.
“No. Please, just stay with me.”
He leaned against the wall before making the decision not to abandon Chris and me tonight.
Moments later, Karver was walking through the door.
“When I call for you I expect you to answer!”
“I asked for him to stay, Karver. We just finished fighting your war. I wanted my husband home with me and our son!”
He glared at me and stepped closer. “Christopher is pivotal for my continuing as Liege in the Pit. I told you to make sure he is prepared because when the time comes, I will need his strength to ensure this is secured. If you want me out of your life, you will do what I say and when I say it.”
“You’ve used my child to keep your throne! You got what you wanted and he defeated the men that were after you! What more is there?”
“Watch,” he said as he tried transforming. His entire body began shaking as his face fleshed out and his hands became bones.
He started flickering before he returned to his previous state. “I’m human again; weakened. I placed the traits in your son because I needed him to replenish my powers. I’ve done this by having Drake grow and cultivate him for me. And that wasn’t all of them, there are more. Right now I just need what Chris has, otherwise you’ll never be done.”
“But the traits are in my son, how is that going to help you?”
“They have to be extracted through a ritual summoning and bloodletting.”
I took in his words before realizing what he meant. “You’re not cutting my child for some sacrificial ceremony, Karver!”
“You don’t get it do you? Those powers have to come out of him or you can say goodbye to him now because you’ll never see him again.”
“What do you mean?”
“Every 100 years, I have to replenish and strengthen myself. In doing so, it ensures I’ll rule for another century unrivaled. If you don’t let this happen, Chris will be the new ruler of the Pit and once those powers consume him, making his soul a bottomless and darkened well of evil, your precious little Christopher will cease to exist!”
I turned to Drake with anger in my eyes, “How could you do this? How could you let this happen to your son?”
“I didn’t know, Zoe! I’d have never agreed to this!”
“No, which is why I let you believe your family was in trouble. I knew otherwise you wouldn’t have made a deal with me and in that case, I would not get what I needed to continue my reign,” he smiled wickedly and I sank in the chair near Chris’ crib.
“I can’t…I won’t let you harm him.”
“And I won’t let you stop me from getting what I want!”
“Except you made a mistake of telling me you’re weakened. Come after my son and you won’t have to worry about your reign.”
I stood and pushed out of the room gripping CJ tight in my arms. Drake was fast on my trail. “We’ll figure this out,” he said grabbing my arm.
“‘We’? Drake I’m not so sure how much of a ‘we’ there is!”
“Zoe what does that mean?”
“It means let go of my arm,” I glared at him as tears began welling up in my eyes. “Christopher can’t do this.”
“You heard Karver. If we don’t get them out of him, he’ll become the new King and we’ll lose him completely, Zoe!”
“Drake, you and I are not done here!” Karver said behind him.
He turned and glowered at him before turning back to me. “I have to go. I’ll be home soon. Chris will be fine, I promise.”
Drake’s words offered little comfort to me. I paced the length of the room upset and unable to control my emotions. My hands grew hotter as I thought about everything that had taken place throughout the day and every dark deed I’d been forced to witness the previous week.
Christopher watched me closely, smiling in my direction whenever our eyes met. Every time I looked at him I became bitter knowing what was in store for him. He yawned and his beautiful blue eyes began to close.
I scooped him up and walked him to the tub. His eyes instantly popped open as the water ran for a bath. “You didn’t think you were getting away from me that easy did you?”
He smiled again and kissed my cheek. We sat in the tub together and he played with the rubber duck and splashed water at me. CJ really enjoyed bath time and I loved seeing his bubbly spirit as he enjoyed his time with me. Again my thoughts moved to the words Karver spoke of him.
I couldn’t imagine my beautiful baby boy becoming some twisted and malicious demon king. I wouldn’t allow it. No way could I lose his precious nature to some dark evils unspoken of.
“Mah mah,” he said grabbing my attention as he sent a spray of water to my face. He laughed hysterically as I wiped the soap from my eyes.
“You little rascal!” I laughed. His face lit up and delighted me more. CJ could sense my fears and he wanted to make me smile. There was no evil in him, and I wasn’t going to let it manifest.
“Bath time?” Drake asked stepping into the room. He kneeled at the tub and kissed CJ on the head before turning to me.
“It has to happen, Zoe. We have a small window of opportunity to give those powers to someone else before they consume him.”
“I can’t watch Karver cut my baby, Drake! I won’t! And I can’t understand how you can be ok with this.”
“I’m not ok with it, Zoe! Not by a long shot. But it has to be done if you want him to remain your son.”
We climbed out of the tub and I changed him into a fresh diaper and laid him down.
I watched Chris all night afraid of seeing him become the monster Karver described. I couldn’t imagine losing my little boy to some evil magics, I didn’t want to just as much as I didn’t want to see him bleed for that demon.
“Zoe? I never meant for this. I didn’t know this would happen.”
“You made a deal with the devil, Drake. You couldn’t really expect rainbows and sunshine!”
“I really believed Chris was in trouble; that you were in trouble. Karver did a great job convincing me of that!”
“Drake I understand you wanted to come home, I get that…”
“No, Zoe, it was way more than that. I missed you the moment I was taken to that place. The moment I woke up and knew that you were not with me, I was crushed but I stayed. I knew trying to leave would mean trouble. When Karver told me you were pregnant, I sank.”
“I was depressed and he saw that; he played on my emotions. Even hearing and knowing Chris was on the way I stayed. I wouldn’t make his deal. That was until he told me about Zavier and him using you and how it was havoc on my unborn child. I couldn’t bear the thought. You’re my weakness, Zoe, you’ve always been. There was no way I could allow Zavier to hurt you or Chris!”
“And instead Karver is doing it!” I dropped to my knees clutching at my face and trying to drown out the sounds of my tears so as not to disturb Chris.
Drake knelt down and gripped me in his arms. He held me as my tears soaked his shoulders and he soothed me until my tears subsided. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Zoe. Had I known, I would have never come back. I don’t want this for you or him. Please, don’t cry, there’s a way out.”
“Yeah, I let him hurt Chris or I let Chris become some all powerful demon ruler!”
I stood and stormed out the room and again Drake was right behind me. “I can’t keep doing this Drake. Something has got to change.”
“You promised me you wouldn’t let it get far; we can’t go any farther than this!”
“You’re right Zoe, and it’s killing me knowing all of this is because of me. I only wanted to protect you and Chris. I’d never intentionally place this kind of harm on us.”
I shrugged back tears watching the man I’ve known as my protector kick himself again because of this deal. “You can’t feel pity right now. You have to remain strong for Chris and for me.”
“Where do we start? What do we have to do?”
The next night we waited inside of the throne room for Karver. Evelyn was smiling at me as she smelled my fear and apprehension about everything taking place; she reveled in it.
“Are we ready?” Karver’s voice echoed in the hall as he entered into the room accompanied by three druids. “We’re going to the Alter. There are three hours remaining and everything has to be done precisely.”
I shrugged and we followed him to the location.
There was a statue of a dark figure in the center of the field and we were surrounded by a blood red lake and obelisks.
“Chris must lay here; I’ll be on the other side. My summoners will begin the ceremony, once the sacrifice is called, the pigs behind you will be drained and Chris’ blood must be added to the pool below to seal the pact.”
I nodded and handed Chris to one of the druids. He placed him on the slab and they took positions.
They formed a circle around Karver and CJ and began chanting:
“Let this ball of light
Empower the target with its might
In this night and in this hour.”
“We call upon the ancient power
Divide your energy and now depart
Magics in the child by way of dark.”
The ball of light the druid had summoned began growing in size above us until it reached a large state.
It exploded and rained down large bits of fire and rock.
The energies were absorbed into Karver as one of the druids chanted over his prone body.
“You’re lucky you came around,” Evelyn said. “I was more than ready to make you!”
I laughed. “Sounds like you’re forgetting about our last encounter.”
I watched as Chris’s little body levitated before relaxing back on the marble slab. Drake held my hand to calm my nerves.
“He’s fine, Zoe. He’ll be better after this.”
I nodded but didn’t look at him. I wanted to watch everything these druids were doing to my son.
The skies opened up and rain pounded the pavement around us hard. The druids continued casting and we watched as the power shifted from Chris to Karver.
One of the druids began the sacrifices, ripping into the animals and tossing them into the pool. Another took Chris’ hand and made a tiny pin prick on his finger before dripping it too into the pool.
Karver’s body floated above his slab and he became surrounded in a red light as the powers drained from CJ entered into him.
His form burst into brighter beams of red light. There were marks of the powers flowing into him and swirls of darkness forming from his core and filling his every orifice. Light shot from his eyes and he screamed a deep and echoing roar as he took in the magics.
He became lost in the swirling lights and a colony of bats formed around him, biting into his flesh and causing his blood to drip to the ground and run off into the pool.
He floated down again, stood from his position and grabbed Chris.
He handed him to me, “You’re done now. LEAVE!” his voice was bolder and deeper than I’d heard it before.
His eyes were bright and glowing and had a fury I’ve never seen. The air around him changed and an overcast with a much darker sense invaded the area.
I took this in as the Karver everyone fears; the one at full power and merciless in his reign.
Drake took my hand and we quickly headed for home.
“That child still has very powerful magics in him,” one of the druids spoke to another.
“Yes!” the second one hissed rubbing his hands together. “He’ll make the perfect weapon.”
“We just have to ensure he fights for our side and not theirs!” the last said.
I smelled the air and watched Chris and Vanessa running freely through the sand together. They really enjoyed play time and I was happy knowing everything was finally behind us.
“It’s great seeing you smile again, Zo,” Vincent’s voice broke me from my reverie.
“It’s great being able to smile again. Karver has what he wanted and I have my family back and safe.”
“So you’re sure he’s done with you?”
“He got his cultured powers from Chris. And although he still has demon blood and traits, he isn’t being threatened with becoming the ruler of all evil.”
“So where’s Drake anyway?”
“He and Monty went to do ‘guy things’ whatever that means.”
Chris and Ness were chasing butterflies and giggling. They joined one another at the activities table and played quietly with the blocks.
“Your son really likes my daughter,” Vincent observed.
“Yeah, they are becoming the best of friends. It’s nice they have each other. Neither will have to experience growing up as vampires alone.”
“They are getting to the age where we need to start considering daycare or school.”
“Please, don’t get me started. I get nervous just thinking about it and all the phone calls from his teachers and principals concerning his ‘strange behavior’.”
He laughed. “Zo, you’re such a panicky woman. Come on, he’ll be fine.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
“Of course I do. If push comes to shove, I can eat everyone in the building for you. Secrets safe,” he smiled.
This time I laughed. “Thank you. You’re a really great friend, Vinny. I appreciate that.”
“Hey, I gotta protect my girls,” he smiled.
The children played a little longer before I walked over to get CJ.
He pouted his disapproval as I separated him from Vanessa.
“You’ll see her later,” I assured him.
“Let me know what you find as far as schools, Zo. I’d feel better having them together; plus I won’t have to worry about looking for it myself.”
“What about Sarah? Isn’t she looking into this?”
“She is, but I’m sure she’d appreciate it just as much.”
“How is she anyway?”
“Fine. She’s fixing her relationship with Brad.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
He grumbled. “We’re working on it.”
“It’ll work out. We have to get home for lunch! See you later, Vincent,” I smiled as we headed for the car.
I stopped Christopher’s stroller at the backdoor of the rest area and fumbled around for my keys.
“Zoe!” the voice was instantly recognizable.
He stepped from behind the side of the building and walked towards me. “Your husband, where is he?”
“Hopefully back at the house.” I stopped and looked at him. He seemed a much darker presence and his form was menacing and intimidating. “I’m glad you’re back on your throne with the masses bowing at your feet again. I’m even happier knowing Christopher is free and my family is safe. What did you want with my husband?”
“To discuss his new role in further detail. Drake’s decided to stay on and look after the interests in the Lichhouse for me. With that remaining, it means Christopher and I will become closer, who knows, maybe he will succeed me one day.”
“Wait Drake did what?”
“He didn’t you? Maybe he was saving it as a surprise. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the future. Let him know I was looking for him.”
He turned to leave and I stopped him. “This thing with Drake…you’re not involving my son again. I had no say the last time, whatever Drake did then was set in stone before he came back. I’m telling you right now, my son is off limits, Karver! And I’ll do whatever’s necessary to keep him out of your clutches!”
He stepped towards me anger apparent in his eyes. Christopher halted his actions. He looked at CJ, trying to will him to stop. “He has full access to the source now, Karver; I trained him for just this reason, I knew it wouldn’t be over. With you being back as All Mighty ruler, I didn’t want to chance you trying to harm him! You can be Drake’s bed buddy, but we’re not having any of it.”
I pushed CJ to the car and drove off. Chris and I got back to the house. I sat him on the floor as I quickly packed us a suitcase.
I pulled out my cell and waited. The ringing was endless and with each second I heard the chime, worry set in deeper.
“Vincent, I need your help.”
“Your offer of a place to stay…”
…“I’ll be there in ten minutes…”
I placed the phone in the top of the bag and continued grabbing clothes for CJ and me. “Mommy will only be a minute baby, and then you and I are going away for a while.”
“What?” Drake’s voice resounded behind me. “You’re leaving? Where are you going?”
“Drake, I told you I couldn’t take anymore of this. Your deal with Karver is your deal. I’m not going through this again. Christopher and I are not going through this. If you want to play torture master in some dark underground basement then fine, you have all the freedom in the world to do so!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Karver came looking for you; he told me you’re staying as the operator for the Lichhouse, Drake. Is that true?”
“Yes, but Zoe, there’s a reason for that.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want to know. I just want to get my child away from you.” I took a step towards the door and he grabbed my arm.
“Zoe don’t do this. You can’t do this to me baby. I can’t do this without you, I need you, and I need Chris here with me by my side.”
I choked back tears as I reaffirmed the decision in my head.
“No Drake, what you need is to get your priorities straight. We’re your family, not pawns in some game you’re playing.” I grabbed Christopher and hurried down to meet Vincent.
He kept his distance from Drake but quickly retrieved Chris and my suitcase.
“Zoe don’t you understand? Everything I did, everything I’ve ever done was for us. I’ve lived my entire life for you; I’ve protected you since birth and beyond. I can’t live without you.”
His words tugged at my heart and froze me in my steps. I wanted to stay; to run into his arms and tell him alls forgiven. But he made his bed, and Chris and I were not his chamber maids any longer.
I turned to him, the look in his eyes made my knees weak. But I thought about Christopher and what was best for my child.
“Zoe don’t, please.”
“I’m sorry, Drake. I have to think about Christopher. He needs to be safe and I need to know that he is not being used again.”
I backed out of the yard and hopped into the car with Vincent. “You’re doing the right thing, Zo. Chris needs you more right now,” Vincent said trying to reassure me.
He pulled away from the curb and I watched in the rearview as Drake sank to the ground.
The tears came quickly and I wiped them from my eyes just as fast. I love you, Zoe, I heard him say as we turned off of our street. “And I love you Drake.”