Chapter 38: The Truth

The female uniforms that the maids of the Vulcan household wore were a rich navy blue colour, and for the most part made from a breathable, sturdy material. In the winter, as the head maid Marianne informed him, they would wear a thick velvet dress that was adorned with lace. Espen simply nodded his head numbly. He noticed that the male butler uniforms looked much nicer and wished that he could have worn that instead of the frilly frock-like thing he was being forced into now. But then again, he wasn't tall enough or old enough to blend in well with the butlers; most of the maids working at the manor looked around his age or older.

After breakfast, he was supposed to begin his clean up duties with another maid on his shift named Becca. She was the maid responsible for the floor that he was currently staying on, and apparently she was already informed about his predicament by Leona, and treated him in a friendly, easy-going manner.

He was given the boring task of dusting each of the guest rooms, which were all empty except for his, he later found out. He assumed that this was light work, considering that he was still sore from yesterday's activities with Lucan, but by mid-day, he was already thoroughly tired and opted to counting how many oil paintings he came across but simply gave up. He wasn't permitted to leave this floor, so he wandered aimlessly through the hallways, trying not to get lost. He wondered what Lucan was doing right now and started to get annoyed when he thought of his response when they parted ways after breakfast. 'I'll come find you when I'm done' was all Lucan had said before he went in the direction of two huge wooden doors where the meeting with the Elders was held, and he himself was being escorted to the maid headquarters. How long was a meeting supposed to take?

He was making his way to the elevator, (which he found out was only for employee use) pushing his trolley of cleaning supplies, only to see someone making their way towards him. Immediately, he froze. This floor was deserted, except for Becca and himself. As the figure approached, he realized that to his horror, it was Roy.

Espen ducked his head low and tried to turn his cart around in the opposite direction, when a firm hand grabbed his shoulder in an icy grip.

"Hey, hold it."

What should I do? He couldn't move; it was as if he suddenly forgot how. Why now, of all times?

"I knew something was up," Roy said. He released his hold on Espen, but the boy still didn't budge. "Well I have to say this sure is a fitting image."

When Espen gave no reply, he rambled on in his usual cocky, staccato voice. "Do continue. Actually, you know what? Why don't you lick my shoes while you're at it?" suggested the vampire, letting out a sharp bark of laughter.

"Did you come here just to make fun of me?" Espen asked dryly, talking to the floor.

"No, Espen," Roy said casually, coming around to observe him. Espen tightened his grip on the trolley. Hearing his name being called made all the hairs on his neck stand on end.

"I was bored and came here to have some fun," He placed a hand against the wall behind Espen and lowered his head to sniff at him. The shorter boy flinched and tried to duck away, but the vampire put another hand out to stop him. Espen gasped and without thinking, looked up.

"Finally, I can get a good look at you," said Roy, smirking at the boy's panic-ridden expression. Those soft brown human eyes reminded him of the prey he hunted. But the boy's features were no different from the last time he'd seen him. What was so special about him that made Lucan so crazy for him? He could never understand until he figured it out himself.

He slipped a hand under Espen's skirts, long fingers sliding up his smooth upper thigh. The brunette recoiled and jerked away, feeling thoroughly repulsed.

"D-Don't touch me," Espen hissed, pulling down his uniform and pushing Roy's hand off him.

"You must have some kind of cross-dressing fetish huh?" This is too funny, Roy thought as the shorter boy's look of horror replaced the look of embarrassment.

Espen found it hard to swallow and his palms were sweaty. "This wasn't my idea-"

"Even as servants, your kind are useless," Roy spat. His expression turned dark, sinister even. "You're good for nothing except sex." That must certainly be it. He stepped closer towards Espen and forced a leg between his thighs. "You have some nerve, coming back here again," he whispered into the boy's ear.

Espen's insides turned cold. Just how much does he know about me…? He gripped the front of Roy's blazer, trying desperately to pull him off, but it felt like he was pushing against stone. The vampire wouldn't budge. He was trapped, and he instinctively closed his eyes for he knew what was coming next. But when nothing happened, he forced himself to meet Roy's eye, and he was stunned at the hatred behind those pools of bluish-gray – the same eyes as Lucan's.

"Even your blood tastes disgusting," he continued. Espen glared at him unblinkingly. "Yeah, that's right. Especially your friend, that glasses kid. He was awful."

"Then why'd you do it?" Espen wriggled to the side, exposing his neck, but he didn't care. He wanted to be far away from Roy as possible. "What's your problem, anyway?"

The vampire wrinkled his nose, as if extremely turned off by his question. "My problem is you. You come here and ruin everything. You have no idea what it's costing the Clan to smuggle you in, do you?"

Espen blinked in surprise. "What?"

"Oh, don't tell me Mister Charming Prince Lucan hasn't told his princess the news," Roy laughed fakely. What a joke. "It doesn't matter what kind of costume you're in. The fact is you'll never be able to produce us a dhampir. You're absolutely fucking useless." Roy pressed his body close again and reached beneath Espen's skirts to squeeze his left butt cheek. "Well, except for this."

The contact seemed to set off a spark in him and Espen thrust out both his arms, his palms colliding with Roy's jaw. The vampire reeled and that split second was all he needed to make an escape. He sprinted towards the elevator as fast as he could and pressed the button frantically, but before he knew it, a shadow was looming over him.

"I'm not letting you leave this floor."

He turned to see Roy rubbing his jaw, looking more furious than ever. Espen clenched his fists together to stop himself from trembling.

"You don't know anything about us," he said quietly. "Lucan loves me not for my body, or for my blood."

"There you go again!" Roy shouted, a manic anger suddenly alight in his eyes. "So fucking selfish and arrogant! They should've killed you off along with your parents. Maybe I should just teach you a lesson-"

At that moment, the elevator door opened, and Roy lunged, knocking Espen off his feet. They landed in a heap on the elevator floor, but there was already someone inside.

"Sorry, I'm late, I-" Reza blinked and immediately pulled Espen free and put his body between vampire and human.

Espen got up to find Reza at Roy's throat.

"What… did you say about my parents?" Espen asked, his voice hollow. He approached Roy. Reza's question from yesterday suddenly came floating back into his mind. His parents… It couldn't be true… could it?

"You don't know?" Roy gasped as Reza's grip on his throat tightened. He was confused by all of this, but he had a feeling Roy was about to say something dangerous.

"The bastard… never told you?"

"Tell me what happened…to my parents," the brunette asked slowly, trying to stop his voice from shaking.

"Don't listen to him, Espen," Reza hissed, his eyes glowing with rage. "He's a liar." But there was an air of uncertainty to his words that made him believe that he wanted to know what Roy had to say also, for he didn't increase the strength of his grip.

Roy grinned devilishly, sensing the hesitation. "Vampires killed them. Tain's very own clan, as a matter of fact. They just covered everything up 'til now. Guess you're all too dumb to figure out the truth," he laughed.

Espen was stunned into silence by what he'd just heard. It was all too much to take in. He simply stood there, feeling empty and void of emotion.

"That's impossible," scoffed Reza. "I've never heard of anything like that before."

"Of course not, it's restricted information that only those who were at the scene know, and reinforced by memory modifications for all the humans involved."

Reza stiffened, a look of disbelief upon his face, and his grip on Roy slackened. The raven haired vampire grinned widely. "You guys know full well that a sexual relationship between a human and vampire outside the sole purpose of producing dhampirs is strictly forbidden, yet you risk so much to keep this boy alive. Obviously they feel badly for their grave mistake. The Oris Clan may be weak, but we aren't stupid, you know."

It was all too much. Espen turned and stepped out of the elevator, watching the doors close behind him.

"Espen, wait, listen to me-!" He heard Reza shout after him as he tried to hold Roy back. He stood there in the hallway, completely alone again. He waited a few seconds before sprinting down the opposite direction. He felt like he was flying down the flights of stairs, his feet carried him so fast he didn't know how it was possible, but he didn't care – he was desperate for the truth.

He skidded to a halt in front of the two huge ornately carved doors in the grand entrance hall, catching his breath. He stood in the very spot where he parted ways with Lucan that very morning.

Taking a deep breath, he put his hands on the door handles and forced his way inside.

Thirteen pairs of eyes seemed to stare back at him like lasers, pinning him to the spot.

The doors closed behind him with a loud slam, and for a moment, he appeared to have stepped into another world. While the rest of the mansion was lavishly decorated in a Rococo style with regal motifs and gold theme, the room he was now in looked like a set out of a horror movie. The walls and floor were made of dusty, grey stone and the ceiling was vaulted. It was dim, save only for the dim chandeliers and wall lamps which cast a dusty, eerie glow on the room's occupants.

In a way, it was like stepping into a serious scene in the movie, where vampires were having a meeting, despite the comical fact that he was the only human there and to top it all off, he was dressed in a female maid's uniform.

"How convenient. Welcome, Espen," A dry voice came from the head of the table. Espen had to squint but his eyes popped open as the figure emerged into view. It was Tain.

The comment roused a murmur of confusion and surprise among the clan members, except for one. Lucan was seated at Tain's right and his face wore a look he'd never seen before. His eyes were full of fear. Espen swallowed. The vampire tilted his head to the side ever so slightly and Espen knew instantly that he was not to move.

"Is this the young lady in question?" came a voice from the side.

"I'm not a lady... Sir," Espen said as clearly and calmly as he could, trying to address the speaker without looking. He wiped his face roughly on his apron to get rid of the makeup on his face and pulled off most of his uniform so that he stood there topless wearing nothing but his underskirts and stockings. He regretted doing that instantly for he forgot about the hoard of kiss marks Lucan left on his body the night before, but hoped that they wouldn't be too visible in the semi darkness. He told himself he had more pressing matters at the moment, like being outnumbered thirteen to one. His stomach was doing somersaults and he was sure his palms must be bruised by now after clenching his hands into fists so tightly. He felt like a fish out of water. Smart, Espen, he chided himself. Alone and half-naked in a room full of vampires.

"Such nice manners," said another, this time a female. "I don't see why we shouldn't have him stay. As a servant, perhaps."

There was a murmur of amusement mixed in with soft laughter and he could see that his appearance was more of a joke to them.

"You speak too highly of him, Amelia."

Espen's blood ran cold, and he certainly didn't attribute it to shedding his clothes in a room that felt like it suddenly dropped ten degrees in temperature. He recognized that voice – it was Nicholas. He found him sitting in the same tall-backed plush chairs as the others, and aside from Lucan, he appeared to be the second youngest of the bunch. Aside from his hair being done differently, he was still wearing that same refined and haughty expression.

"Our servants are our servants by blood. They have been part of our clans for centuries. We do not just admit them into our household," was Nicholas' winded explanation. He gave Espen a most spiteful look, which the brunette gladly returned.

"Since he is of no use to us, I suggest his memory be modified and then we can go back to discussing our more pressing matters-"

"I will not allow that," Lucan's voice rang through the room. It was the first time he'd spoken since Espen entered the room.

"I understand that he is your mate, Lucan," said Nicholas, drawing out the syllables of the name as if it were something disgusting he needed to get rid of on his tongue, "But as he is not a female, he is useless to your clan, as I'm sure you, and everyone else in this room, is aware."

"What about Kallon-" Lucan started, but Nicholas knew he was going to say this and countered swiftly.

"Kallon and I share no blood-mate bond, thus he is simply my play thing, which is also no concern of yours."

"Enough, you two," Tain interjected. He was observing the scene. "What do you have to say about this, Espen?"

Espen gave a start, shocked at being actually given a chance to speak. He took a deep breath and observed each face in the room in a circular sweep, before finally fixing his eyes on Lucan.

"I love Lucan, Sir. I want to be with him forever." He declared, feeling his face grow hot as he confessed in front of the audience. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nicholas' face contort into a grimace. "And I also have a question for you... for all of you."

He observed the faces around the table once more time. There were only three female Elders among the males, and despite being named such, many did not look old at all. Some had different eye colours, but all seemed to glow like little lights in the semi-darkness. They looked at him expectantly, curiously, eyes full of wisdom and knowledge. He shivered.

"I would like to know what happened to my parents, Jane and Taylor Morris." Saying the names of his parents made him hollow and immediately he could feel his eyes prickle with the onset of tears, but he forced himself to blink away the memories that dared to resurface. He made himself forget. He had buried it inside him all these years, but he could never, ever forget the names of his parents, let alone their faces. Anything from that fateful day where they didn't come home from work and instead, he was left waiting for them by himself, thinking he'd been abandoned. "Did they get killed by vampires?"

The coldness inside him seemed to melt slowly in the form of his tears. He wiped his face roughly to clear his vision to see the stunned faces of all the room's occupants. The room was silent except for his unsteady breathing. The look on Lucan's face told him he knew nothing of this as well. Then, slowly, as they took in the force of his words, there was a multitude of whispers.

"Does he mean...?" ... "That's impossible..."

"Correct," came Tain's voice, loud and sharp over the murmurings. Espen's eyes widened in shock. He blinked, but no tears came. Instead, a cold tightness griped his heart and he found it hard to breathe.

"It was an accident, but that is indeed the truth," Tain said. "I had all the humans involved have their memories modified... including the Headmaster of your school, who is a friend of mine."

There was sorrow in his blank eyes as he said the last part and Espen could almost feel it. But nothing could dull the blow of the truth now being thrown at him.

"Peter knew of what I was, and he suspected that we were involved in his sister's death. I couldn't let any suspicion follow through," Tain sighed, rubbing his temples. "Your parents did not die in a car accident, but the circumstances made it convenient to label it as such. One of our newborns escaped under watch and ran out onto the road in oncoming traffic. There was a dense fog that evening, and perhaps your parents didn't see it... but once they got out closer to examine what they thought they had run over, that's when it happened." Tain slowly stood up from his chair and all eyes followed his movements as he walked slowly around the room.

"Their deaths were deemed as mysterious. The police arrived before we could send backup, so in order for our secrets to be hidden, we modified their memories on the spot to say that it was a traffic accident. The newborn was obliterated."

He paused to examine one of the tapestries that lined the walls, brows knitted together.

"Roy was the one who was supposed to keep watch of the newborn, and that's why he knew everything about you," Tain explained.

Espen began to piece together the past in his mind. But something bothered him. "Was my memory modified too?"

"No. Roy was also given the task of watching over you. When the incident happened, you were too unstable and young to have your memory modified. But as it turned out, you fully accepted what had happened to your parents without much question."

Lucan's eyes widened in shock as Tain's words hit him with full force. It pained him how little he knew of his supposed soul mate, who currently wouldn't meet his eyes. Roy had been watching over Espen this whole time? How could he have let that happen? Should it not have been him in his place?

"You knew Espen was my mate," Lucan broke in, his voice dry. "Yet you kept him away from me all this time?"

"I didn't keep him away. You had to find him on your own; I had no right to interfere," Tain replied, his voice hard as ice. "It only dawned on me that Espen was the one you were searching for when I found out you were headed to Peter's school." He turned to Espen with a grave expression on his weathered face

"The death of your parents was a mistake and a travesty for us. The pact between us and humans was strongly weakened. Thus, I decided to hold yearly reunions with human and vampire couples in order to ease the tension."

"Since that incident tarnished our clan's name, it was not mentioned in any follow-up reports or documents. Any information about that night was strictly forbidden to access."

In the corner of his eye, he saw Lucan purse his lips and shake his head in disapproval. Did he try looking into it, to find out the truth?

"Why," Espen cleared his throat. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because you would have figured out sooner or later," Tain said simply. "Although I must admit I didn't anticipate it quite like this."

"One last thing is bothering me," Lucan interrupted again, and he stood up to make his way over to Espen's side. "If you knew that Espen was my mate all along, then why did you pretend not to know?" He thought of all the embarrassing things and scenarios they had been through in order to cover up their relationship and his gender.

After a brief pause, Tain said simply: "I was testing you."

Lucan frowned. Testing us? "And... did we pass?"

"Well, that's up for discussion," Tain replied, the corners of his blank white eyes wrinkling as he grinned mysteriously at them both.