"Derik did his best to save us from the bloodsucker threat but he was only one wolf. He refused to put any of his kin in danger. Refused to let us help," Costel sighed. "Those of us who were around back then tried. We begged him but he was adamant. We were not to start a war with the vampirul. We were not to bring danger to the doorsteps of the humans living amongst us. What he refused to admit was that we already had brought danger, with our existence.
"As you know, Derik and Anabella, had many children but only their first daughter, Sabina, could transform into the pure white werewolf. Do you know what that signifies?"
I shook my head. We all knew our history but only as much as we were allowed to know and nothing more. I had a feeling that what I was about to hear was so much more.
Petrus snorted. "These children know nothing of Derik. They idolize him, make him our fearless hero."
Frowning, I turned to look at Petrus. "I don't idolize anyone but the man who took me in and acted like a father to me."
Costel sighed, looking from Petrus to me. "The pure white werewolf is not just a symbol, Antoanetta. There have only ever been two in the history of our line: Derik and Sabina. They were the strongest of our kind but they also had the special ability to withstand a vampirul's poisonous blood, taking the strength but none of the sickness, the madness.
"At the time, King Kristof was at the head of the vampirul and he refused to allow the spread of werewolves into his lands. There were some clashes but Derik fought them alone. During the Era of the Half-Wolves, Derik said he was going to meet with King Kristof on a peace mission. He took only his daughter Sabina with him and was gone for some days. He later explained that they had come to a tentative peace which would be broken by any act of one against the other. We lived a few years in peace but one day, we heard news of King Kristof's death and his son, Marius, having been named King. Marius had evidence that one of our kind had killed Kristof and we feared we would enter into a true war. Derik knew we were in a difficult situation. The delicate peace was broken. Yet…the vampirul army did not invade."
I cleared my throat. "We were taught that Derik defeated the vampirul armies and stopped their invasion before our kind could be slaughtered."
"Yes, yes, we know what you are taught. You are taught wrong," Petrus spit. "But what can we do? The Council has full leeway over what can and cannot be said."
I raised an eyebrow at him. "Then why are you telling me all this now?"
Petrus snorted. "Because the Council knows nothing of the prophecy. Of you. You are a blank spot to them, something they cannot control because they cannot see," Petrus explained. "You are here for a reason, whether any of us like it or not." He turned to look at Costel. "Can you still tell me in good faith that I was wrong all those years ago?"
Costel sighed and I noticed how sad his eyes looked, how pronounced the lines on his face were. He looked exhausted. "Alright Petrus. Alright. I'll admit that you were correct in wanting to do something about this sooner. But how were we to know who she was?"
Petrus rolled his eyes and murmured something under this breath before waving at Costel to keep going.
"As Petrus said, what you know of our history is incorrect. At the time that Derik went to speak to Kristof, he also met Marius. And Marius met Sabina. What none of us knew at the time was that Marius had fallen in love with Sabina during those few days. King Marius sent word to Derik that he would not seek retribution for his father's death if Sabina were sent to his land and became his bride, his queen. You must understand that Derik's decision was not an easy one; it has always been our ways for a pure white werewolf to become our next leader and thus, Sabina was to be next-in-line to Derik for ruling the vârcolac. So you see, Marius was trading the promise of peace with the threat of leaving our kind without an heir. And Derik without his first child and his first grandchild."
I had to take a moment and try to make sense of what Costel was telling me. "I have never heard of a King Marius," I whispered. "And Artur is not a pure white werewolf yet he leads our people."
"Yes, well…" Costel said, exchanging a weighted look with Petrus. "Derik went for a run to clear his mind and try to make a very difficult decision when he came to a clearing and saw a doe grazing. He chased her in the midst of a hunt but once he had caught her, he could not bring himself to kill the doe and let her go. Instead of running away, this doe transformed into a maiden, shifting in the manner of the vârcolac. She told Derik that his kindness would be repaid with a prophecy which she had seen of him and his kind. Sabina and the King of the vampirul, Marius, would have a child and this child would be a hybrid of the two species unlike any ever existing before. Yet, this child would bring an end to one. Then the maiden shifted back into a doe, and disappeared before Derik could ask which of the two species the child would bring an end to.
"Thus, he made his decision. He would allow King Marius to have Sabina, his beloved daughter on the condition that their child would be given to the vârcolac to raise. Marius reluctantly agreed and there was peace. At the time, Marius' second, Ambrus, and his son, Rex, started slaughtering our kind."
I shifted in my seat at the mention of Rex slaughtering vârcolac. It was not the first time I had heard of his past cruelty and was beginning to think the Rex I met was not the same Rex he used to be.
"The boy was yet young," Costel continued, "and we believed Ambrus was forcing him into it. Marius assured Derik he would handle it. I know Marius had a soft spot for Rex, seeing him as a son. Ambrus disappeared but Marius took Rex under his wing, teaching him. Vampirul are and always will be our enemy but I will be first to admit that Marius had a kind soul and his love for Sabina was true. As time passed, he earned her love and there was true peace for the first time. Many years passed. One day, Derik simply disappeared."
"Disappeared? Wasn't he killed in the war?" I asked, not knowing which parts of what we were taught were truth and which were fabrication.
Costel shook his head. "Disappeared. To this day, we don't know what happened to him."
"Despite Derik no longer being around to lead, the peace continued. Then, we heard news that Queen Sabina was near birth," Petrus said, arms crossed and looking across towards where Master Tensei sat. "The news came from a spy we had at the vampirul castle. The King and Queen had hidden her pregnancy from those around them. You see, while Marius and Sabina knew nothing of the prophecy, Sabina told Marius she could not bear to part with her child, begging him to leave his station and live within our lands with her and their child. Though he loved Sabina with all his being, Marius' duty to his people wouldn't allow him to leave them. Not even for the woman he loved and the love he had for his unborn child. We demanded the child and the tentative peace that had formed with Marius and Sabina's union became shaky. The threat of war loomed over us all. Queen Sabina felt that Marius had betrayed her, their child, and her brethren by his refusal to leave. That is when she disappeared, taking the prophecy child with her."
As Petrus paused in his story, I remembered what Rex had been telling me during his engagement party, right before I was dragged back home.
His eyes caught on a particularly peaceful mosaic, my favorite. It showed the calm before the storm. A pure white werewolf, the ancestor of my kind, standing regally with a lifetime of despair apparent in its eyes but undetectable in its stance. Derik Albescu. Rex saw me looking at the mosaic and smiled slightly.
"Beautiful, wasn't she?"
I startled. Turned to look at him. "What do you mean she?"
His eyebrows furrowed. "Don't werewolves know anything of their history? That is Sabina Albescu, daughter of Derik and Anabella, and the last of the pure-white werewolves." His expression was heavy as he examined it. I turned my attention back to the mosaic.
"She looks so sad."
Rex nodded. "She was betrayed by the one she loved the most. He betrayed her, her family, her brethren."
Oblivious to the memories raging through my mind, Costel picked up the story.
"When Sabina disappeared, the vârcolac became suspicious and we started preparing for war. Marius' second, Ambrus, accused Marius of helping Sabina disappear with their child and thereby, causing an end to the peace between the vampirul and the vârcolac. The Royal Court could not find evidence to the contrary. The Tribunal that was held condemned Marius to the end of his existence and as he had no other heirs, Ambrus took over. To save our people as well as the humans, Anabella, the only person Derik had told of the prophecy, met with Ambrus and told him of the prophecy. For fear of the end, both sides called for peace until the prophecy presented itself. Only then, they said, would there be a war.
"Though he loved Anabella, Derik did not have another pure white werewolf child with her. Or with anyone else, for that matter. We held onto our tentative peace, overlooking the death of our kind at the hands of the vampirul, but being wary at all times. With Derik's disappearance, his second, Artur, became leader de facto."
Costel stopped speaking, steepling his hands together. His glance moved up from me, to behind me. To Master Tensei. I turned in my seat to face him and dread pooled in my stomach as Master Tensei started speaking.
"What we did not know was that when Sabina disappeared, she had not taken the child with her. Indeed, until you returned from the forest as vampirul, I did not know the treasure I had taken in and cared for. Loved." He sighed heavily and I saw the shine of tears in his eyes. "Let go of. And the prophecy…well, we believed it to have ended with Sabina's disappearance. You see, she made the greatest sacrifice of all, and in the end, Sabina's duty to her people won out over the love she had for her child. She gave her precious baby, the heir to both species, to the vârcolac. To me."
I sat frozen at everything that had been said. "That's…that's not possible," I whispered. Even as I said it, pieces of the puzzle started forming together in my mind. The conversation I had with Rex right after he drank my blood…
"I know what you are. I know you are vârcolac. And I know you are an important one," he whispered softly. That shocked me completely. He knew I was a werewolf. But how? How could he possibly know? That's not what I asked him.
"What do you mean by important?"
His eyes widened and he was beside me within an instant with the speed of a vampire. "You do not know?" he asked, his accent thicker and more formal with that question. I slowly shook my head and waited for him to explain what he meant.
"Then I cannot be the one to tell you. All I can say is that you cannot risk your life for ones such as me because if you do, there will never be an end to this war."
Could it be that Rex thought the same thing that the Elders were now telling me? Could there really be some truth to everything they were saying?
Master gave me a small smile, nodding. "I know it must seem impossible to you, but believe us when we say you, Antoanneta, are the firstborn child of King Marius of the vampirul and Princess Sabina of the vârcolac. This makes you hybrid, heir, and rightful ruler of both."
Petrus added, "And the prophecy which will bring an end to one."
For the first time since I'd been seated, everything was silent. All eyes were on me and for the first time since I'd been seated, I had no clue what to say. Wait, no. I did have one thing.
"How can you be so sure it's me and not Calin? He was also left with Master Tensei to raise. His parents are also nowhere to be found and unknown." It was the only thing I could think of. That the child of Marius and Sabina could not possibly be me, of all people.
"Calin?" Petrus scoffed. "That boy is not the Prophecy. Also, we do know who his parents were. Well, we know who his mother was anyway. Don't we, Tensei?"
I whipped my head back to look at Master Tensei. "What? You know?"
Master sighed, slowly shaking his head. "Yes. We know."
"Then why doesn't Calin know?"
"Because it's complicated."
I stood, not being able to stay seated any longer.
"It doesn't matter! He has lived his whole life not knowing who his parents are. So have I! Do you—do any of you have a single idea what lives we've lived not knowing who our parents were or why we were abandoned? Unwanted? Do you know what the past months have been like for me? When you've known this entire time?! How dare you!" I screamed, letting all of the pent-up rage that had built inside ever since all this started happening. Against all of them seated around me like gods. "How dare you keep this knowledge to yourselves and plot around us."
I forced myself to turn to the man I'd thought of as a father. He had tears in his eyes and I felt shame at making him sad. Then the anger beat against me, fire in my veins, ice around my heart.
"You knew," I whispered. "This whole time you knew."
He shook his head, heaving a labored sigh. "I didn't know Marius and Sabina were your parents. Not until after you came back as vampirul."
I believed him. Maybe I shouldn't, after all the lies and secrets he'd kept, but I did. No matter how betrayed I felt, I still loved Master Tensei. He said he knew when I came back changed but even then, he didn't tell me what or who I was. Who my parents were. I abandoned these thoughts for the question that still lingered on my mind.
"Calin…I don't know who his father is or was. His mother's name was Elena. She was so smart. And kind and beautiful. Soft spoken and gentle but protective of those she loved. Stubborn as all hell. Once she made up her mind, she would rail against any and all who told her no. You remind me of her. I can say with all my heart that I love you as I did her. Unfortunately, she passed away right after giving birth to Calin. Complications, they said." He took a deep breath. "Elena was my daughter and Calin is my grandson."
I'm really sorry about the long breaks between the chapters, everyone. I hope all of you who started reading this story is hanging in there with me through it. Leave a review and let me know what you all think about this shocking turn in events!