Chapter Sixteen -
Aidan paced with this hands clasped firmly behind his back, anxious to get this night over with. Mostly, he wanted this foolish Gideon to fail the challenge so he could break every bone in his hands, his arms, hell his body! He thought back to the day the package was left for him by his servant Connor. He sat in shock as he read the declarations of this foolish creature. How dare he declare his love for Lisbeth, admit to spying on her, thus spying on him, and then expect to be sworn as an ally? "Seriously, the boy must have been a knight in his human existence to act this way." Aidan thought to himself with a grin growing across his face, he had to laugh at the idea of calling a 600 year old vampire a boy.
The moment passed as he resumed his nervous pacing. As much as he was shocked by the contents of the letter, he was in no way prepared for the words written in the journal found wrapped in tissue within the package. Lisbeth's words, her recollections of their times together, their many firsts. The link he had built with her gave him access to her many thoughts, her feelings, but those pages contained her heart, open and unabashed. The contents of that journal soothed him, tormented him, and gave him purpose. Her last few words are the only reason he had not sought this Gideon out and snapped his neck weeks ago.
"I love him, my dear little journal, my heart will always beat in time to his own. I only pray he can defeat the things that chase him in his own dreams and in his life so he kind find the faith to come for me."
Aidan had to face reality as those words haunted him night after night. He will not find peace on his own. He will never be free from fearing his enemy if stood on his own, he had to find allies, he had to build relationships that had long ago died as he rotted on the grounds of his Keep. For her, for his little bird, his Lisbeth, he would give this Gideon a chance, but he is no fool, he will have to pass the challenge first.
He made arrangements with the reigning faerie Queen to conduct the ceremony. With the help of magik the room will be sealed. The seal will hide the ceremony from those who can sense magik, but it will also keep the ceremony from being interrupted. The Queen Uonaidh will put Gideon to the test and if he is found to be true of heart, he will be marked and their alliance will be sealed with each taking the blood of the other. Aidan smiled as one image floated into his mind's eye, "but if he should be found wanting….then it will be my turn to play."
"Aidan!" Constantine called out from the entry of the room, "Welcome old friend, welcome to my home." He smiled as he crossed the room, hand outstretched. "It is good to see you again, alive and well."
"I agree, Constantine, I thank you again for playing host."
"Of course, it is my pleasure," He replied, the smile leaving his face, "I hope you know Gideon is a good man. He may be insane for suggesting this audience with you, but he has a good heart, I can promise you this Aidon."
"Thank you for your words, and I wish I could rely on them alone, but you will understand if I require more."
"Yes, sir, absolutely," Constantine answered the natural joy in his eyes returning as Aidan's words registered.
"So the plan is that we allow the crowd to converge, mingle a little with the humans and Fey. The costume theme will allow them to mix without the Humans realizing what is in their mists. If nothing else were to be happening tonight, the sight alone would be something to enjoy."
"Human and Fey, still hiding from each other, I had hoped things would have changed for the better by now." Aidan stated sadly.
"Well, let's not lose hope my lord, at least they stopped hunting and burning witches, it's only been about 200 years but hey progress right?" Connie offered with a smile and light pat on the back, attempting to lift Aidan's humor.
"You were always one to see the better side of things." Aidan smiled back.
"Connie, I am here" a voice boomed from the entry hall. Aidan tensed, his hands snapping back into place as he watched the tall man cross into the ballroom. Gideon Talbot strode towards the two men in long easy strides. He wore a tuxedo but the collar of his white dress shirt was open to the second button and he carried the jacket hooked on his long fingers casually over his shoulder. His blonde hair was cut short the slight curl gave the appearance of being unkempt.
Aidan studied him carefully trying to assess his fighting ability. His carried himself in an easy fluid manner, his lean muscular torso balanced perfectly on his long strong legs, he walked with ease and finesse.
Aidan considered Gideon imagining how he would have appeared if they were still locked in Gideon's time. He considered his strong jaw and soft lines that hinted at an easy smile and a calm disposition. He thought about how he must have looked weighted down by chain mail, long sword moving effortlessly over his head. Aidan smiled to himself as he realized he would probably always see this man as a knight and not a modern person.
"Aodhan Ollpheist, meet Gideon Talbot," Constantine guided Gideon to Aidan, introducing him with his original given name; trying with all his might to keep a smile on his face and the mood as light as possible.
"Aidan," Aidan said coldly as Gideon offered his hand, shoulders straight, his grip firm, appearing as though he could spring into a full fight at a seconds notice.
"Okay you two, let's take the tension down a notch or two. This is supposed to be a party, remember? Laughter, dancing, drinking, maybe even a little fucking by night's end? I mean the theme is mid-summer nights dream, right?" Constantine laughed trying to break the tension between the two.
Aidan broke first, knowing his actions would set the tone for the evening, "Constantine is right, we should at least appear to relax and sit back and watch the festivities."
"You are correct, brother" Gideon answered, a visible release of tension in his shoulders.
The lights dimmed as music began to drift across room and the guests started entering Constantine's marbled lined great hall. Aidan put on his mask, which was modeled after the upper face of a dragon, with small horns, and glittering red scales. The cut of the mask enhanced his normally strong jaw causing it to appear far more angular. The red of the mask enhanced the green of his eyes in a way that would leave a person to wonder if they were actually glowing.
"Listen," Gideon spoke quietly his eyes tied to the floor, trying to figure out the right words while he played nervously with the buttons on his dress shirt, "Connie told me about how you were… well you know.. how they tricked you." Finally looking up to meet his seething eyes, he regretted his words almost immediately. "What I mean is, I know how much courage it would take to meet a stranger like this." He tried to relay to the dragon-masked man that he was sincere, hoping to ease the tension between them.
Aidan considered the man's words, his shy countenance, his humble attempts to explain his position. He could not help but think back to that last night so many centuries ago. The sound of his wife screaming for mercy has Aeron and the others violated her body, breaking her spirit, before finally staking her and severing her head and placing on his plate, her dead eyes haunting him, the poison keeping him frozen unable to move or speak or scream. He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, forcing the images from his mind, letting the energy of the young humans filling in around them to calm his nerve and give him strength. He could see the empathy in the man's eyes, even a hint of regret.
"I wish I could change things," Gideon mumbled softly, "If I could have been there, perhaps…."
"Gideon, if you had been there you would be dead, long removed from this world. I understand what you are saying, I hear you." Aidan stated as he reached out and placed a hand on Gideon's shoulder.
"Well, I am glad to see you two getting along, I was worried for a moment," Constantine smiled as he returned to the two men, handing them crystal glasses with dark amber drink.
"Here is to new beginnings." Gideon said loudly over the music holding his class up.
"New beginnings" Aidan and Constantine repeated. Before he brought his drink to his mouth, Aidan's smile slowly faded as he tilted his head slightly. The look in his eyes and the strange way he held his head reminded Gideon of a dog that could hear a noise others were unable to register. Suddenly his inquisitive look became full of white-hot anger. Gideon looked up to Constantine to see if he had any idea of what was happening but he could tell by his friend's mirrored reaction, Constantine was just as confused.
"What is she doing here? What kind of trick are trying to pull?" He growled between gritted teeth, he was about to run only stopped by the defensive posturing of Gideon and Constantine who had a hand on each shoulder.
"Who, who is here? "
"There is no trick!" both men speaking over each other in utter confusion. The two friends both turned at the same time scanning the crowd without letting go of Aidan's shoulders.
"Lisbeth, why is she here? Why would you bring her here?" He responded reaching up to grab both hands and fully prepared to rip them off the bodies of these two infuriating men.
"Connie, is she here, did you really bring her here?" Gideon turned briefly in hurt shock before resuming his scan of the crowd.
"I don't even know what she looks like brother, I didn't invite her!" Constantine answered bringing his hands up defensively, suddenly faced with two very angry vampires. "I swear it!"
"I should have fucking known better!" Aidan spit ready to break away and call the whole night a disaster, "I should kill…." He halted mid-sentence forced by an involuntary intake of air.
Gideon registered a slight change in the mood of the room, it seemed as if the crowd all inhaled at the same time. Gideon and Constantine both turned at the same time to face what had frozen Aidan in place. The crowd instinctively parted revealing three women dressed as fearies. Lisbeth led the group walking slightly ahead of her two friends, the lights from the dance floor reflecting and refracting across the scale like shapes of her dress. Gideon relaxed his stance; dropping his hand from Aidan's shoulder so he could turn and take in the full sight of the woman he was about to swear his life to protect.
Gideon studied her as she looked around the room taking in the grandeur of the great halls decorations. Smiling to her friends, tilting her head back to release that beautiful laugh. He watched as her hair swayed, the deep red tresses woven with silver and gold, her long unruly curls bouncing down her back, covering an elegant set of wings. His eye was caught by bits of light sparkling on her arm and shoulder. On closer inspection he could see the design and scenes playing out on her body, small gems glued within the design to accentuate the magical scenes playing out on her pale skin. Although the dress only added to her beauty it was her smile that held his heart. Looking over at Aidan he saw that his fear and anger were gone, breathless at the sight of her. It suddenly occurred to Gideon that although Aidan had been with her, visited her in her dreams, knew her thoughts and desires; he had never actually seen her with other people. He had never had the pleasure of watching her light up the room. "This is why I am going to fight with you. So you can see her outside of your walls, see how she can bring such joy to others, how she shines even in a dark room." Gideon said, Aidan turning to him a new respect in his eyes. "I hope you appreciate her. I pray I am making the right decision, because if you hurt her… Not even hell could keep me from killing you."