Authors: D.C. Akers
Cantor and Tobias slowly slid their swords back into their sheaths, but their eyes remained fixed on one another as they gradually sat down.
Tobias slowly leaned back into his chair, his snarling face fading into a roguish smile as he turned his attention to Bellisoria again.
“Yes, but of course, Bellisoria, as you wish.”
Bellisoria and Atamar stowed their wands. Seeing this, Demetrius and Vallen followed suit, lowering their staffs and stepping back into the shadows of the chamber.
“I recommend that we close the borders and ports to our domains,” Braya said, her eyes shifting back and forth between Goblin and Orc.
“I agree. We must keep travel down to a minimum,” said Elessar. “We know how they feed, so maybe we can starve them to death.”
Bellisoria winced at the memory of seeing the Vipers feeding on the flesh of the fallen soldiers in the breeding camps during the war.
“No, that will not work,” Cantor said, still glaring at Tobias. “Vipers take what they want, and we can do little to stop them.”
“How could this have happened? We were so careful!” Varah, the Northern Witch Ambassador, said.
“I don’t know, but we need to proceed cautiously,” said Bellisoria. “We still need more information.”
“Yes … we do, Bellisoria. We need the truth,” boomed a voice.
The Realm leaders sat at attention, startled by the noise that seemed to have come from all directions. The voice was ominous, yet soothing and seductive. The leaders looked around the room searching for its origin.
“I’m sorry?” Bellisoria asked apprehensively. Her eyes cautiously scanned the room with the others.
Demetrius and Vallen searched the room too, peering through the shadows of the torch light, but the voice seemed to surround them, and come from nowhere.
“Come now, you know more than you speak of, Bellisoria. Please do not insult us further. And tell us of Alisa,” the voice said. The speaker’s words seemed to roll off his tongue with a slow agonizing elegance.
Vallen’s eyes narrowed.
Alisa—what did she have to do with any of this? She was dead. She and her family had died long ago.
Vallen looked over at Demetrius, who was no longer searching for the mysterious voice but instead was focused on Bellisoria.
Bellisoria knew that voice, that regal tone, that unmistakable serene demeanor; it could be none other than Valteen, Lord of the Vampires. It had been ages since Valteen attended a Majesty Summit personally; he always sent his prelate, Kellen, and other members of the coven in his place. But now, from the dark recesses of the room, a large silhouette stretched across the fire-lit floor. In the distance Lord Valteen stood with his sword drawn. He stabbed at the glowing embers inside the handsome stone fireplace at the back of the room.
Bellisoria did not speak. Her face became flushed; not because of Valteen, but because of his line of questioning—specifically his question about Alisa. She was stunned, and she knew the look on her face betrayed her. Bellisoria searched for the right words, some quick-witted rebuttal, but none came. The rest of the Majesty looked on, staring in silence, waiting for her to answer.
“What?” she gasped. Her voice trembled slightly when she spoke and her head swam with emotion.
This is it, this is it,
she told herself. Valteen knew, somehow—he knew what it was she had been hiding all these years, and he was going to get it out of her one way or another in front of the entire Majesty.
There would be no hiding it this time. The five estates would not forgive such betrayal and the secret would destroy hundreds of years of peace between the races. It would be the last day of the alliance, the last day of the Majesty.
“What is he talking about, Bellisoria?” Elessar asked. His voice was much more urgent now. The fire roared as Valteen continued to stab into the open flame.
“If the Viper is in the Blackfoot Mountains, there is only one reason it is there. And we both know what that is, don’t we, Bellisoria?” Valteen said.
Bellisoria stood motionless. She looked down now at the table, staring into her reflection.
“Bellisoria, please say something,” Braya pleaded.
“What? No clever answer? No sarcastic reply from our high priestess?” Valteen chided, his violet gaze cutting through the darkness like the eyes of a demon.
Atamar, who was still perspiring, slid his right hand beneath his robes and slowly grasped the handle of his wand again. The Vampire King slowly emerged from the shadows. His long black hair fell past his square jaw line and violet-colored eyes shimmered like glass against his gaunt, colorless face. He was dressed in a long, black crimson-trimmed cloak, fastened by a silver chain with talon clasps. He moved gracefully, like a Wraith to its prey, his sword now sheathed. He walked behind Bellisoria and with a soft perspicacious tone whispered, “Answer the question.”
“Hold your tongue, Valteen!” Atamar said.
Valteen’s head whipped around, his long white fangs exposed, “No, Atamar, it’s time—time we all know your little secret!”
“The Dalcomes are dead! Tell him, Bellisoria, tell him!” Elessar said standing to his feet.
Bellisoria looked up, her face riddled with shame.
There is no way out,
No way out.
“No Elessar,” she said taking a breath, “I cannot say that, for they are not all dead.”
Great gasps of disbelief filled the air and the Majesty began to whisper again. Vallen’s jaw dropped.
What, alive? That’s impossible,
He looked to Demetrius, expecting to see shock on his face, but to his surprise it wasn’t there. In fact, Demetrius looked sad, disappointed even.
But that couldn’t be. He was close to the Dalcomes. They were like family to him. Unless,
unless Demetrius knew she was alive and that she was hiding.
Vallen’s eyes narrowed.
Yes, that’s it. Demetrius knew—he had known all along.
Demetrius remained stoic, careful not to show any reaction to this unfortunate development.
How did the Vampires find out? Who would have divulged this information?
“What, I … I … don’t understand, Bellisoria, what are you saying?” Elessar asked.
“Isn’t it obvious, Elf? She lied to you,” Tobias said smugly.
Bellisoria tried to regain her composure. She took a deep breath and focused her attention on Elessar.
“Yes, I suppose that is one way to look at it,” she said calmly. Then she turned her attention to Valteen, who was making his way around the room to the other Vampires. “What do you want to know?” she asked.
Atamar stepped forward shaking his head. “No, No, we can’t.” But Bellisoria raised her hand, signaling for his silence.
“High Priestess, no!” Atamar pleaded. But her solemn eyes met his.
“It’s time Atamar. It’s time they knew.” Atamar opened his mouth to speak again but he abruptly stopped. He could see the conviction in her eyes and he knew there was nothing he could say to change her mind.
“It’s time,” Bellisoria said once more. This time her look was one of understanding for she knew the great lengths they had taken to keep this secret safe.
She turned and faced Valteen.
“Where is Alisa Dalcome?” Valteen snapped, his Romanian accent more apparent now.
“She is on Earth,” Bellisoria responded coldly.
The Majesty broke out in another uproar as they all stood from their seats. Even the Witches were standing now. But Bellisoria held her ground, her glare focused on Valteen. Demetrius and Vallen stepped out from the shadows once more to Bellisoria’s side as the Centurion Guards made their way into the chamber and fanned out around the perimeter of the great hall.
“Silence!” Valteen yelled, his voice reverberating off the chamber walls. He waited as the hall fell quiet once more and the Realm leaders took their seats. Once everything was quiet again, Valteen continued his line of questioning.
“And when did she travel to Earth?” he asked. Bellisoria’s eyes were still fixed on him as she answered.
“Thirteen years ago.”
Suddenly Elessar stood again. His gray eyes were like slits hidden beneath his furrowed brow. The High Elves were greatly respected, not only because of their wisdom but because of their ability to gather intelligence.
Bellisoria knew Elessar would take this information as a betrayal because of their close relationship. Over the years, Elessar had become her confidant and dear friend. Elessar had mentored Bellisoria long ago in the values of leadership. He had pressed upon her the importance of vision, principle, honor, valor, courage, and humility. All the qualities she would need to possess if she were to become the leader Haven would one day need.
What does he think of me now,
“Please Bellisoria, explain,” he said. “Explain why you have kept this from us for so long.” Elessar was trying to help her; that much she knew. He was trying to give her an opportunity to explain her bizarre behavior—to make sense of what Valteen was accusing her of, and to prove to him that he had not put his trust in the wrong person. But the truth was he had. Even though what she had done was more for the good of Haven and less for their leaders, she still had betrayed him by not being forthcoming. The leaders of the Realm tended to have their own agendas and they were not always in the best interest of the people. She had just wanted to give her friend’s family a second chance and a new life.
Bellisoria sighed. She looked at Elessar, her remorseful eyes catching his, as if to convey how deeply sorry she was for keeping this from him. But it was something that had to be done.
“Alisa was sent to Earth thirteen years ago as a sleeper agent. She went with the keys to all four portals.” Her eyes moved around the room as the Majesty leaders looked on in disbelief.
“But you said that the other three were destroyed! You said there was only one that remained, and it was no longer functional,” Elessar said.
“You don’t understand. It was not safe to keep the keys here. It was not safe for any of us,” Bellisoria pleaded.
“But that was a decision that should have been made by the Majesty!” said Kellen.
“No!” she said abruptly. “It was a decision I had to make alone. Only I know where the other portals lead. They lead to worlds far worse than we can imagine. They are inhabited by monstrous fiends capable of unspeakable evil and destruction like nothing we have ever seen before. No, I could not leave it up to the Majesty to vote. It was my burden to bear, it was my decision to make, and I did.”
“What did you do, Bellisoria?” Valteen interjected. His voice was cold and his glare unrelenting.
Bellisoria swallowed hard and continued her story.
“After the death of Rylan Dalcome, we approached Alisa with the opportunity to travel to Earth as a sleeper agent. It would also provide a new start for her and her family. It was obvious, considering her vital role in the downfall of Cyrus Kan’s army, that she and her children would be a target for future attacks. At that time, we explained to her that she had only one mission, and that was to hide and protect the portal keys. She left with her children and the eleven portal keys.”
"Eleven? Why eleven? That seems like an odd number,” Tobias prodded. He was sitting up straight now, his interest peeked.
Bellisoria turned to Tobias, knowing what his true intentions were. He was like the rest of Realm leaders, with the exception of the Witches and perhaps the Elves, whom she trusted. All the others wanted the gate keys for themselves. They wanted the opportunity to do what Bellisoria had done, to discover an uninhabited world and rule it for themselves. But Bellisoria could not let that happen. She had been to both the Air and Fire worlds and she had barely made it back alive. Haven, the Water world, and Earth were the only two of the elemental planets safe enough to colonize.
“Each portal creates a time rift that requires three keys to operate it; one to travel through, and two to return,” she explained.
“So, where is the missing key? There should be twelve,” Alexandria said.
“The last key is safe. We use it to send scrolls to Earth though the portal; this is how we communicate with Alisa. It is not possible to send a scroll to another planet without opening a portal.”
Valteen was pacing back and forth as he listened to Bellisoria intently. Then he stopped and turned to the Witch.
“So, what has our sleeper agent been up to for the last thirteen years?” he asked. His tone oozed with arrogance. Bellisoria’s glare returned to Valteen. She hated the self-righteous Vampire, and hated him even more for taking pleasure at her expense.
“She and her family are well,” she said indignantly. “She has settled into a normal human life. Her days of the Majesty are all but over.”
“And the keys—what of the keys?” asked Tobias.
“They are safe, as safe as they have been for thirteen long years,” Bellisoria replied.
“This is an outrage! You have lied to us, Bellisoria, and you have lied to the Realms!” Cantor said. His accusation cut deeply, but Bellisoria knew it was true. Cantor was right. She had lied, but there had been no other way.
“Cantor, you must understand it was for our own good. I did it to protect us,” she said, trying desperately to make her point.
“No, it was good for you, the Witches and your select few, but not for us!” he replied. “You wanted the other worlds for yourself as you did with Haven!”
“That is not true! I brought you here!” she exclaimed.
“You brought us here to rule over us!”
He turned to his second-in-command. “Come,” he said. “I’ve heard enough. We leave!” The group of massive Orcs stood, pushing over their chairs, and stormed out of the Majesty chamber.
Elessar was next to stand, his regal features more apparent now in his anger. He stared at Bellisoria as if he were looking at her for the first time. It made her feel small, like a child about to be scolded.
“Bellisoria, we trusted you and you betrayed us. You betrayed me,” he said. Bellisoria could hear not only the disappointment in his voice, but the pain as well. She had hurt Elessar; she had hurt her dear friend with her lies and deception.