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Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 2

Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 2

Автор Paul Green

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Tales From Camelot Series 12: QUEST Part 2

Автор Paul Green

Длина:
1 280 страниц
16 часов
Издатель:
Издано:
27 дек. 2020 г.
ISBN:
9781005943134
Формат:
Книга

Описание

Well ... gosh. This story. My estimations kept getting obliterated as the story kept progressing and trampling all over them. If you've seen the announcements then you already know that QUEST has now swelled beyond two parts and will now be released in three parts; just because of the overall magnitude of this story. And at 157 chapters in this release version of Part 2, it is already bigger than any previous book I have written to date. (Introductory Part 1 was a mere 61 chapters by comparison, which is the typical, standard length of most novels). Part 3 - the conclusion, which is forthcoming, will also be fairly large in its own right.

I have told you before, this one is a BIG story - my biggest story of all. You were starting to get an idea of how big in Part 1, and here in Part 2 you are going to be astounded by how much bigger it gets.

But not just big, it has also been my heart's desire for QUEST to be the BEST of all of my stories to date. Because we are nearing the end of the Camelot series, it really needs a big finish, and I really wanted to do the series proper justice. I think in this Part 2 alone, you ... will ... be ... blown ... away. Lol. That's the intent anyway. If you thought Part 1 which set this all up was out of this world, you haven't seen anything yet. And if you thought we had larger than life characters before? Well ... we've only gotten started. :)

And of course all of our favorite characters whom we have come to know and love are ALL here, too. We've got everybody in this one.

This one is going to be surprise after surprise and twists and turns galore, with never a dull moment. Even as long as this one is at 157 chapters, it's gonna be a wild ride page turner from the start which will last all the way to the end. ;)

Enter once again, into the amazing world of Camelot.

Издатель:
Издано:
27 дек. 2020 г.
ISBN:
9781005943134
Формат:
Книга

Об авторе

Winner of the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Paul Green (1894-1981) taught philosophy and drama at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a native of Harnett County, North Carolina.


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Tales From Camelot Series 12 - Paul Green

Tales From Camelot Series • Book Twelve

QUEST

Part Two

paul green

Copyright Notice

www.PaulGreenAuthor.com

Copyright 2019 Paul Green All Rights Reserved.

First Printing: August 2019

Revision A7

Printed in the United States of America. No part of this work may be used or reproduced, transmitted, stored or used in any form or by any means graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, scanning, digitizing, tapping, Web distribution, information networks or information storage and retrieval systems, or in any manner whatsoever without the express written approval of the author, except by reviewers who may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.

For further information, contact info@paulgreenauthor.com

United States laws and regulations are public domain and not subject to copyright. Any unauthorized copying, reproduction, translation, or distribution of any part of this material without permission by the author is prohibited and against the law.

Table of Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Tales From Camelot Series

From the author ...

Map of Pretania

~ Prologue ~

~ Sacrifice ~

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Music Track #20: Never Meant to Hurt You

Chapter 8

~ Shadows of Gods ~

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

~ Reformation ~

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Map of Pretania

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

~ Altered Paths ~

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

~ Gods and Monsters ~

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Map of Pretania

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

~ Forces of Will ~

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

~ Reunions ~

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

~ Forces of Nature ~

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Reader side note

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

~ A Long Journey's End ~

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Chapter 90

Chapter 91

Chapter 92

~ Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here ~

Chapter 93

Chapter 94

Chapter 95

Chapter 96

Chapter 97

Chapter 98

Chapter 99

Chapter 100

~ A World Without ~

Chapter 101

Chapter 102

Chapter 103

Chapter 104

Chapter 105

Chapter 106

Chapter 107

Chapter 108

Chapter 109

Chapter 110

Chapter 111

Chapter 112

Chapter 113

~ A New Beginning ~

Chapter 114

Chapter 115

Chapter 116

Chapter 117

Chapter 118

Chapter 119

~ Transitions ~

Chapter 120

Chapter 121

Chapter 122

Chapter 123

Chapter 124

Chapter 125

Chapter 126

Chapter 127

Chapter 128

Chapter 129

Chapter 130

Chapter 131

Chapter 132

Chapter 133

Chapter 134

Chapter 135

~ Crossroads ~

Chapter 136

Chapter 137

Chapter 138

Chapter 139

Chapter 140

Chapter 141

Chapter 142

~ Hello Again ~

Chapter 143

Chapter 144

Chapter 145

Chapter 146

Chapter 147

Chapter 148

Chapter 149

Chapter 150

Chapter 151

Chapter 152

Chapter 153

Chapter 154

Chapter 155

Chapter 156

Chapter 157

Notes to the reader ...

Tales From Camelot Series

About the Author . . .

Tales From Camelot Series

Part One

Book 1: PENDRAGON

Book 2: CAMELOT

Book 3: CHAMPION

Book 4: SORCERESS

Part Two

Book 5: ROYALS

Book 6: EXCALIBUR

Book 7: CURSED

Book 8: LADY Part 1

Book 8: LADY Part 2

Part Three

Book 9: WARLORD

Book 10: MIRROR

Book 11: WYVERN

Book 12: QUEST Part 1

Book 12: QUEST Part 2

Book 12: QUEST Part 3

Book 12: QUEST Part 4

Book 12: QUEST Part 5

www.PaulGreenAuthor.com

From the author ...

Well ... gosh. This story. My estimations kept getting obliterated as the story kept progressing and trampling all over them. If you've seen the announcements then you already know that QUEST has now swelled beyond two parts and will now be released in five parts; just because of the overall magnitude of this story. And at 157 chapters in this release version of Part 2, it is already bigger than any previous book I have written to date. (Introductory Part 1 was a mere 61 chapters by comparison, which is the typical, standard length of most novels). Part 5 - the conclusion, will also be fairly large in its own right.

I have told you before, this one is a BIG story - my biggest story of all. You were starting to get an idea of how big in Part 1, and here in Part 2 you are going to be astounded by how much bigger it gets. (Am I saying 'big' too much?)

But not just big, it has also been my heart's desire for QUEST to be the BEST of all of my stories to date. Because we are nearing the end of the Camelot series, it really needs a big finish, and I really wanted to do the series proper justice. I think in this Part 2 alone, you ... will ... be ... blown ... away. Lol. That's the intent anyway. If you thought Part 1 which set this all up was out of this world, you haven't seen anything yet. And if you thought we had larger than life characters before? Well ... we've only gotten started. :)

And of course all of our favorite characters whom we have come to know and love are all here, too. We've got everybody in this one.

I'll say one last thing and then I'll let you get into it. It's gonna be surprise after surprise and twists and turns galore, with never a dull moment. Even as long as this one is at 157 chapters, it's gonna be a wild ride page turner from the start which will last all the way to the end - so plan on not getting any sleep for a few weeks. Mwahaha.

You may have noticed I haven't given away any specific clues or spoilers of any kind as what to expect for what lies ahead. So yea. Nada.

And of course as always, don't you dare peek ahead to the end or God won't love you anymore.

Let's get to it, shall we? Buckle up for another amazing ride into the wonderful world of Camelot.

Paul

~ Prologue ~

Southwest Coast

Cornwall Undercity Ruins

Lilith's Personal Apartment Suite

It was evening, and Team Ben was still in Lilith's luxurious hideaway apartment suite below Cornwall, where faithful Keeper Cornelius was seeing to their personal needs. Ben and Susan, Michael and Alana, Stuart and Zagnut, and Frances and Running Star were planning to leave the following morning to return to Camelot to report in their findings. Their team hadn't found the Holy Grail of course, but what their team did find was something else extraordinary and of profound significance. Hidden behind a floor-to-ceiling tarp they had discovered a painting - the artist being Susan's ancient ancestor, depicting herself as a fallen Angel.

At the moment, while Ben and Susan and the others were still out in the front room, Alana was alone in their assigned personal quarters where she was turning down hers and Michael's bed. When suddenly! She felt the air stir behind her...

Mother.

Alana spun around in surprise at the unexpected voice. LANI!?

Alana couldn't believe her eyes at who was standing before her.

LANI! Where have you been all this time!? We have not seen you since since that hurricane hit back in Sterlingshire! That was weeks ago! We have all been so worried about you! Hawk and everybody else has been looking for you ... every ... where... Then upon closer scrutiny, Alana's breath caught in her throat. Wait! You're not Lani!

I am her. Just in a different ... form; from a different time and place.

Then Alana gasped in shock. White Heaven!

I am home, Mother. If ... if you will have me.

All manner of grief at learning of Kea'Lani's loss filled her broken mother's heart. But at the same time her heart was filled with joy and confusion and gratefulness and thanksgiving - flooding Alana's soul, washing over her as a powerful tide. She instantly burst into tears, and rushed forward to throw her arms around her shoulders as she wept, My baby. And she continued to weep...

...for a very ... long ... time.

~ Sacrifice ~

Chapter 1

Castle of Shadows - Sixth Palace

Up on the topmost level in highest suite of the castle, there was a loud banging on the Mistresses' door.

POUND. POUND. POUND. POUND.

SARA! I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE! OPEN UP!

Sara didn't answer.

POUND. POUND. POUND. POUND.

And then Georgina's voice angrily threatened, SARA! SO HELP ME TO GOD, IF YOU DON'T OPEN BY THE TIME I COUNT TO TEN I'M KICKING THIS DOOR OPEN! ONE...

And then from inside a voice replied, I'm not in here, Georgina.

Georgina rolled her eyes. Sara, I'm not fooling around. Open it.

Now isn't a good time. I'm a little busy at the moment.

And then, without further warning, almost as if she was impatient or something, Georgina did indeed slam the heel of her boot into the door's lock and kicked open the door.

TEN. she then added with a glare at the diminutive auburn-haired Knight casually seated at the far side of the spacious bedroom suite behind a large desk.

Sara groaned as she looked up from the scroll she was studying. I told you, now wasn't a good time. I don't mean to be rude but I'm kinda not myself today. Right now I need to give my full attention to all this unfettered access that Lilith gave me to her personal library, and I can't tell you how much incredible stuff there is in here! Did you know that Lilith actually reveres the Line of the Seed as being Holy? But she considers herself profane? That says a lot about her if you stop and think about it. Anyway, I'm trying to soak it all in and my mind is going a thousand miles a second as I am learning all kinds of amazing things about her in these ancient scrolls and it's making my head spin like crazy and I DEFINITELY need to revise my initial theory about what she is as I underestimated the possibilities and you guys are NOT going to believe it and ... uh ... sorry, am I talking too fast?

But before Georgina could respond with her furious retort, her eyes suddenly widened as she instantly took in the sight.

Moments later, Adrien's and Julian's eyes also widened in horror.

Oh gawd. Georgina groaned as she put her hand over her eyes. I'm too late. Sara you're white as a freakin' ghost.

Sara sighed. I was going to explain what happened to you guys. When ... I, uh ... figured out how I was going to explain it.

Adrien gasped in shock. My wife is a vampire!!?

And Julian echoed, Sara! You're a vampire!?

Georgina then turned and looked at the two of them incredulously and snarled, What is it about male idiots that they always have to state the obvious before their brains can engage?

Sara then pleaded, You guys need to hear me out.

Georgina then turned back and sneered at her saying, When I get my hands on Lilith I swear I'm going to wring her sorry profane neck!

She's not profane, she just thinks she is. And Georgina? I don't know how to break this to you, but I don't think that's very likely to happen. She's kinda out of your league. Actually, I think she's even out of Nimue's league. Not that it matters anymore, with Nimue being gone and all ... am I starting to ramble like Marcy?

Georgina's eyes narrowed at her. Sara, without rambling, you are going to tell me how it happened, you're going to tell me what's going on, and you are going to tell me now.

Georgina I'm serious, you guys really shouldn't be here, it's not safe for you. Where are all the guards, anyway? They were supposed to be guarding this whole upper level, keeping you away from me.

They're all taking naps. Sara, I'm done being put off. Talk to me.

You knocked out all the guards!? Even Ishmael!?

Sara...

Sara sighed once again. Okay fine, but can you at least send the guys out? I really don't trust myself right now. Especially around Adrien.

Georgina then turned and looked at the two men standing in the doorway behind her. And then promptly shoved them both backwards and slammed the door in their faces. STAY! she ordered.

But... Adrien began to protest from the other side of the door - a broken door which was no longer even capable of being closed all the way.

Just give me a minute with her, boys. Georgina ordered. This isn't my first time dealing with something like this.

Oh alright. Adrien sighed dejectedly. We'll wait out here; but I'm not going anywhere until I can talk to Sara.

With the door now closed behind her, Georgina then turned back around to face Sara with a stern look.

And from across the room Sara asked, What is it with you and doors, anyway? Is there ANY door you haven't knocked down or smashed to smithereens?

In response, Georgina angrily crossed her arms at her and began tapping her foot irritably, waiting for Sara to begin.

Fine. Sara replied. Okay, so here's the deal. First, let me just start off saying that Lilith isn't as bad you think she is. In fact, she's a really good person.

Good person my eye. Have you looked in a mirror lately? Oh wait ... I guess you can't.

Sara groaned. Georgina you really need to stop interrupting me and hear me out. We don't have a lot of time.

Because...

Because ... I'm getting really hungry right now, just looking at you.

Georgina raised her eyebrow.

I swear I was doing totally fine, until you guys showed up. She warned me this would happen, and she was right. I wasn't even thinking about it until...

You seriously want to bite me? Me? Do you realize who you are talking to?

I can't help it! All of a sudden I'm being overcome by all these compulsions and desires! They're hard to describe except they're overwhelming like you would not BELIEVE!

Georgina arched her eyebrow at her. Desire? Did I just hear you right?

Okay, so you know the word 'bloodlust'? You do realize that 'lust' is part of that word, right?

Then Georgina wrinkled her nose at her. Really? It's affecting you that way, too?

ALL of my senses are heightened and working in overdrive. Yes, even those senses. That's why I needed Adrien to leave ASAP because the temptation to pounce on my husband and have my way with him right here right now is overWHELMING!!! And I wouldn't even care who would be watching. It's all part of the whole package! And it didn't really hit me until just now when you all walked in.

And me?

Oh yea, you too. Because what I really want to do right now is have my way with your neck. And trust me, I've got the fangs to do it.

Sara... Georgina sighed, putting her hand over her eyes.

It's insane, Georgina. Like I said, all my normal natural instincts and senses are in overdrive - such as sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. But not just those - ALL of my heightened senses are on a racetrack! When you guys walked in I went from 0 to 100 in a split second. It's like a powerful controlling aphrodisiac and I am its love slave. Lemme tell you, this whole Cursed thing really plays mind games with you. You're not in control of anything! It wrecks havoc with the two desire centers of the brain. The insula is a portion of the cerebral cortex folded deep within an area between the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe, while the striatum is located nearby, inside the forebrain; but it's the striatum region specifically where drug addiction and sexual pleasure both take place, and that's the place where I'm noticing the greatest concentration of...

Sara...

It's really interesting when you stop and analyze it.

Sara...

Sorry. Anyway, the point is...

The point is, you've been turned and it's affecting you in all kinds of ways such that you are no longer in control of yourself. And SHE did this to you.

But it wasn't her fault! Honest! I could have left any time I wanted and she even encouraged me to leave, but ... I chose to stay.

You let her turn you? Knowing full well in advance what it would do to you?

Uhm ... kinda sorta maybe?

You said she warned you. Why didn't you leave when you could have?

Because she needs our help. And that's what we do, isn't it? Knights of Camelot; we help people in need, right? And she really needs my help. Like majorly needs my help. And believe me when I say, she is every bit worthy of any help we can offer. Personally I think she's a major game changer. She's not a monster, Georgina; she's amazing.

Georgina sighed. Okay, start over at the beginning. How is it that she turned you in the first place? You're saying she didn't touch you or force it on you?

It has to with close proximity and the length of time spent in her presence; especially for those of us who are her blood-related descendants where the effect is significantly more effecting. Anyone will succumb to her thrall; that's part of her curse. And it really is a curse, because she really hates that about herself. Normal people will become her slaves; but it turns out that every one of us 'Daughters' have the same recessive mutant gene latent in our bloodstream that she passed onto us, with the end result that it will flip the switch in our blood and we will in fact be turned into the real deal 'V' word. It's a family thing.

Georgina looked at her in surprise. All of you? Even Susan?

Even my mom has it, yes. She is as susceptible as the rest of us. Except she doesn't know it yet.

Uh oh.

Right? The potential is there for her to be turned as well. BUT ... I know Lilith; she would never force it on my mom or anyone else. If they were to ever meet, Lilith would warn her early enough to prevent it from happening.

Georgina shook her head. Sorry Sara, but I can't trust your judgment any more. You are clearly under her thrall.

True. At least as it relates to her will superseding mine. But I can still think straight. My mind still works, I just have to be careful when I'm around other people, because ... you know ... everybody is a snack to me, now.

When you say 'snack'...

We're not zombie flesh-eaters, that would be gross; we're only into the blood. And ... anything involving the senses. Even licking your face sounds appealing. Uh ... forget I just said that.

You've been compromised, Sara; you can't even trust your own urges, senses or logic any more. Georgina then paused and narrowed her eyes at her. Wait, did you say 'lick my face?'

Georgina, you still have a bunch of smudges and grime on your face and I am DYING to lick it clean. And ... that's just for starters. Ahem.

Georgina raised her eyebrow.

I told you it's potent! I don't have control over it! It's giving me ideas that are not me.

Sara I get it, but I need you to focus. Stay with me; I don't want to lose you.

I am focused. My base urges might be wonky, but my mind is still sharp.

I don't think it is.

I'm telling you, I have not been compromised. I am still Sara. My only issue now is ... I just really ... want... Sara then began licking her lips as she looked hungrily at Georgina's neck.

Sara, stop looking at me that way; it's freaking me out.

You're telling me? It's freaking me out, too. It's a drug controlling both the pleasure and stimulation centers of my brain and my libido is OFF the charts. We may have to send Adrien to the next county; as I'm about ready to leap through that door and jump those delicious sexy bones of his. And then after I'm done with Adrien, who knows what I'll do next.

Georgina sighed. Sara...

And not only do I want to have him in that way, I am also terrified that I'm going to hurt him! Like in really bad ways.

Sara...

My GOSH what poor Valeria must have to endure. How does she even cope with all this? And for all these years!? Although ... the more I am learning about Valeria's exploits in these scrolls, the less I want to know. Yeesh. Even I'm not old enough to be reading some of this stuff. And you know what else I think? I think it was originally Valeria leading the charge into decadentville, not Lilith; she was just going along with it because she might have been feeling a little guilty about what she did to her.

Valeria? Who the hell is Valeria?

Her Homie. But honestly, I don't think we have the time for me to get into Valeria. I don't how else to say this, but you are looking more yummy by the second. With that ... pulsating heartbeat ...thump thump ... thump thump... Sara paused and shook her head to clear her thoughts. I'm serious, Georgina; I don't know how much longer I can hold out before I jump up out of this seat and do something we will both regret.

Sara?

What?

Where's your backpack?

My ... what?

You brought it with you; you didn't leave it with us when you ran off with Lilith.

Oh, that backpack. Uhm... Sara then turned and looked over by the wall near the window. I think I left it over there where she and I were talking.

Get it. Open it. Take out your medicine, and drink it.

Sara gasped. OH MY GOSH!! Willow's Gruel! I totally forgot all about that!!

Georgina crossed her arms and replied, Uh huh. And you still want to claim you're thinking clearly?

Be right back!

And with that, Sara leaped up out of her chair and raced across the room and ripped open her backpack. Without wasting a precious second she uncorked the stopper and downed the entire contents in a single gulp.

And then began to gag. Ugh. Eww. Gross! That stuff is disGUSTING! It is like drinking bitter-tasting motor oil. She choked and shivered and grimaced as she wiped her mouth.

Georgina nodded at her. And then as she turned to open the door to leave, she said, Lemme know when the cravings start to pass. Then we'll continue this discussion when you are more ... sane. I'll be right outside the door.

Standing at the window, Sara closed her eyes and nodded in agreement. Thank you, Georgina. I guess maybe I'm not thinking as clearly as I thought I was.

Ya think? Just let me know when you've got it all under control.

Okay. Thanks again. Sorry.

Georgina sighed, and gave her one more disapproving look as she shook her head at her. And then turned and disappeared out the door, closing it once more behind her.

And Sara groaned as she slid down the wall to the floor to wait for the symptoms to pass.

Chapter 2

Dark City - Third Palace

Upper Bedroom Suite

Valeria yawned and stretched out languidly as she laid back in naked comfort atop the luxurious silk sheets in Lilith's large canopy bed. That was a nice bath, Love. You have the magic touch. I am so-o-o-o relaxed.

Unlike Valeria who had a lifetime habit of sleeping naked, Lilith approached the bed wearing a more conservative and customary long silk nightshirt the color of dark teal blue. She gave her lifetime companion a smirk as she replied, It was only a bath, Val. All I did was wash your hair and back.

Doesn't mean my mind didn't go elsewhere.

Lilith chuckled. That much was evident. But I am glad you are relaxed. Lilith then smiled as she climbed into the bed beside her and slid beneath the sheets. I can still smell the jasmine oil on you. I take it you are not sleeping in your own suite tonight?

Now what kind of friend would I be if I did that? Valeria teased. You know I prefer your bed when you come to visit. Besides, you said we are leaving at first light.

And you know I do not mind when you share my bed; that too is what friends are for.

After they were both settled and lying in the dark in their respective positions - on their backs with their heads resting comfortably upon soft goose down pillows, Lilith then asked How are the cravings?

The same as the last time you asked me, Love. And the time before that. And the time before that. At the moment, my thirst for blood does indeed seem to be abated. I am oddly content. She then grinned over at Lilith. Of course, you giving me a bath might've had something to do with it, too.

Then it is working?

The bath?

Val...

Valeria chuckled. Sorry Love. Yes, for the moment, that foul-tasting elixir given to us by those delectable Knights of Camelot does seem to be helping. Pity we had to let them go.

This is excellent news. In fact it is more than excellent; there is now hope!

Perhaps. But will it last?

Time will tell. But if it does indeed help bring your bloodlust under control, then I intend to pay a visit to Camelot to obtain the secrets of making this remarkable elixir.

It is not a cure. I am still what I am.

But it gives us the promise of hope that things can get better for you. Even the smallest sliver of hope is worth pursuing.

We shall see. I am not as optimistic as you. I have lived with these ravenous cravings for so ... long. It is hard to envision myself being free of them.

I am just grateful that for the first time, you are experiencing some respite from your insatiable appetite.

Valeria turned over on her side and gave her a wicked grin. My bloodlust may be abated; but I still have an insatiable appetite.

Val...

If I were to lose that, then I really would be cursed.

Lilith laughed. You are hopeless.

This new elixir discovery makes you happy, doesn't it?

Of course it does. Lilith answered. Anything I can do to improve your life will always make me happy.

After all these centuries, you are as determined as ever - to never cease feeling guilty about me.

I will never forgive myself for what I did to you, no. Not ever.

How many times have I told you that I forgave you long ago, Love?

Lilith sorrowfully replied, It does not alter the fact that I stole your life from you. Once upon a time you would have liked to have had a husband; a family; children of your own. I saw how you were with Mina back then, when she was only a babe. And I see how you are with her now. But I took all of that from you.

That dream was a long time ago, Love; in a world that no longer exists. I long ago accepted my fate and have adapted to what I am.

But you never should have had to ... 'adapt' to anything. Even though I cannot make up for what I did, I will always do whatever I can to help make your life better.

Valeria grinned at her. Funny you should put it that way. Any chance I can convince you...

Except that. Lilith smiled. Our days of being together that way are long past.

Maybe for you.

You do well enough with men yourself, Val. Or ... pretty much anyone.

Eh, I'll take anything I can get; my appetite isn't choosy.

Some things don't change. Lilith chuckled. Go to sleep, Val; it will be dawn in four hours. We have a big day tomorrow. After we check in with Mina, we shall then fly back to rejoin Sara. I am anxious to see what she has learned during my absence. But Mina is my greatest concern and I do wish to leave early.

I am sure Mina is fine. We haven't received any messages from the Temple. No news is good news.

I still worry about her. sighed Lilith. Constantly.

I don't blame you; I worry about her, too. Watching those coughing spasms of hers is still heart-wrenching, even after all these centuries.

Especially after all these centuries. It never gets any easier.

Auberon would let you know if there was a problem.

As you say, no news is good news.

I am also looking forward to meeting Sara. As far as I am concerned, any Daughter of yours is a daughter of mine.

Lilith looked at her sadly. You would have made such a good mother.

Stop it.

Lilith smiled at her. I love you so much, Val.

I love you too. So much so, I may even play nice with Sara's friends tomorrow.

I certainly hope so.

Speaking of which, any chance that one of them is a Protector? Oftentimes where there is a Daughter, a Protector is not too far away. You know I am still yearning for that big scrumptious one that you let get away this afternoon.

Actually, yes; one of her companions is indeed a Protector. I believe her name is Georgina.

A female! Can't wait to meet her.

Lilith frowned. Yes, that ... should be an interesting encounter.

I'll behave.

Glad to hear it. She does not seem the type to back off.

Unless I get hungry.

Val...

Just ... kidding.

I am serious. Unlike that reluctant male Protector today, this one won't hesitate to come at you.

Oh, now that sounds like fun.

Val, give me your word you will behave and not hurt anyone.

As much as I am able, I promise. But if this elixir wears off, you know I can't control it.

Let us hope those seven vials you drank will be enough to get you through tomorrow.

Doesn't mean I am not still hungry.

Val...

I am bored. And I am in the mood.

Lilith arched an eyebrow at her. You are always in the mood. You know that I love you and you know I would do just about anything for you. And I strive to make your life as pleasant for you as I can. But though you may not have a preference, you know my bias is towards men.

No problem, I will go find a man downstairs and invite him to join us. Then everyone wins.

Go to sleep, Val.

Awww, you're no fun.

Chapter 3

Cassiopeia was many things. Unfortunately, not all of those things were bright and glorious. There were rough edges to her character and who she was as a person. She was imperfect. She was flawed.

She had issues and problems. Physical. Mental. Psychological. And even cosmological and metaphysical - those things as they pertained to the natural order of the universe and the very nature of reality. She understood things far beyond what most people understood and could grasp.

And yet at the same time she struggled with the simplest most basic concepts - such as properly interpreting social cues and how not to the say the wrong thing at the wrong time. How to reach out to initiate new friendships and even how to see the good in herself.

Cassiopeia was a person of many flaws. And yet, it was those flaws which made her who she was; and her pain gave her strength. She had accomplished so much good, for so many people, and the personal cost to herself to perpetuate all that good was staggering. And yet she was blind to all the good she had done. She would never be capable of understanding and appreciating her achievements and the many lives she had touched. Her unique brand of autism would never permit her to comprehend. From Cassiopeia's perspective, which could only understand order, all she saw was chaos, and failure. And yet, in spite of all that, all she ever sought to do was good.

Arthur and others could see it. They had even declared her to be a 'world changer'. Georgina had seen it too; and had advised Kiana to be strong and diligent as Cassi's Protector - as even Georgina had likewise labeled Cassi as a world changer.

The ripple effects of all the things Cassi had done thus far could already be felt far and wide. Cassi would never be able to see those things, of course. She couldn't even see the good in herself in the near and immediate. But even though she was blind to the amazing person that she was, it didn't prevent the ripple effects of her actions from spreading.

Such as actions did on this particular evening - far and away from Cassiopeia, in a place she had least expected her far-reaching influence to touch. The place was the Ninth Palace of the Empress of the Netherworld. Otherwise known as the Temple of Lilith.

Auberon, Keeper of the Temple, Guardian of Mina, and King of the Alfheim. An immortal elf, whose own influence had lasted for eight thousand years, since the earliest age and the very beginning time of his people.

Auberon was the original first generation Elven king, and had been the original husband to Ey'Loi, the mother of Kiana.

Kiana had been born in a more recent age however; just a thousand years earlier from the present era, until Cassiopeia had found her, alone and isolated, and had brought her forth through a mirror to present day, ultimately rescuing her from death.

Kiana's mother had also been first generation, but it had been tragically declared that Auberon had fallen in battle against a larger Human force invading their lands. As the last of her people perished at the hands and swords of Humans, Ey'Loi had fled to the east to take refuge. It was there, where Kiana was conceived - her biological father being a Human king named Xerxes I of Persia. And it was there where Ey'Loi died a mere two years later, simply because she could no longer bear the loss of the great love of her life - her first husband Auberon.

As for Auberon himself, the rumors had been true. He had indeed fallen and was in his final death throes - when he and a small band of 120 surviving elves had been discovered and rescued by Lilith and brought down below to a hidden sanctuary where they would no longer be persecuted. There he had learned that they were the last remnant of the Alfheim; that the last of his race had been slaughtered in the vicious world above. Naturally it had been assumed by all that his beloved wife had also been counted among the dead.

Sir Galahad of Camelot, already knew all of this. He had already learned much of the details even prior to departing upon their fateful Quest. And more recently the gaps which had been filled in since reaching the Temple. And so it was, that as Galahad cautiously approached the ancient legendary king from behind - within the hallways of their Holy Place, that he knew exactly who Auberon was.

Auberon knew he was being followed. And he suspected who his assailant might be. He was merely awaiting the right moment to turn and attack.

I know who you are. Galahad then spoke from ten paces behind him.

Auberon heard respect in his voice, though it didn't change his views. The Humans posed a threat and must die. Auberon stopped in place, though he didn't reply. Nor did he turn around to face him. Instead he stood in timeless patience with his back to him, waiting for Galahad to make the first move.

The young gallant Knight, who was renowned for his wisdom as well his pious, unshakable commitment to the One, had caught Auberon at an interesting time. For he happened to be on his way to the raven alcove, to send off a message he had penned - a message of dire warning to Lilith that Mina and their Temple had been invaded by Human tresspassers.

While Auberon awaited Galahad's attack, Galahad instead began speaking to the ancient king from behind.

Would you be surprised to know you are not the first Alfheim I have known?

Of course Auberon didn't respond. He wasn't there to engage in conversation, nor did he have any interest in hearing what the despicable Human had to say.

But Galahad persisted. Her name, is Kiana. Are you familiar with this name?

Still keeping his back towards Galahad and his hands inching towards the hilts of his twin swords, Auberon slowly shook his head.

She is the daughter of Ey'Loi. Is that a name familiar to you?

Auberon froze at the name.

I am unaware of how much you know, but I regret to inform you that Ey'Loi passed away a thousand years ago. But before she died, she gave birth to another daughter, and named her Kiana. That is an elven name, if I am not mistaken. And she is beautiful; just as I imagine her mother was.

Auberon didn't respond.

Galahad continued. Ey'Loi had believed you to be dead, fallen in battle. She had loved you, and had mourned your loss for many years. As I understand it, it was not her desire to be joined with another man. But her spirit had been broken and her will was no longer her own. Two years after Kiana was born, Ey'Loi died of a broken heart.

Auberon shut his eyes tightly and bowed his head.

"I have learned of these things from the Prophet Kemuel, from Kiana herself; and also from a Human woman named Cassiopeia. She and Kiana are ... bonded. I do not presume to know if you understand what a Protector of the Seed is; but as it turns out, Kiana is a Protector, and Cassiopeia is of the line of the Seed. They are closer than any other two people can be. I can confirm that Cassiopeia loves her deeply. And has sacrificed more for the sake of Kiana than you can possibly conceive. And not only that, Cassiopeia herself is also ... immortal. Just as Kiana is an immortal. Those two shall remain together down through the ages, long after I am dead and buried.

Auberon didn't reply.

I am telling you these things... Galahad continued, Because Cassiopeia is the woman I love, and whom I intend to take as my wife. Which will, in effect, make Kiana my ... family. Already, Kiana has Human friends. And she lives among Human people. I am telling you these things because Kiana loves them. And they love her. I am telling you these things to make you aware that Humans and Elves can live together in peace. Just ... as it was meant to be. Is it not written by the Creator, that there is neither male nor female in His kingdom? Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither ... Elf or Human? For they are all the same in His sight. I wished to tell you that they work together and live together, they fight together and love together. And any one of them would give their lives for one another. I am not your enemy, Auberon. If you wish to kill me, then so be it. Take it, I shall not fight you back.

Still, Auberon didn't reply, and kept his back towards Galahad.

I ... just thought you should know. Finally, Galahad had finished what he had come to say. And he turned around to walk away, back in the direction he had come to rejoin the others in the waiting room.

After he was gone, Auberon stood alone in place for a very long time.

And then ... he reached into his pocket, and pulled out the message he had intended on sending.

Auberon then tore up the message. And returned to his personal suite to pen a new message. One which was more in line with what Mina had dictated to him. That strangers had come. And they seemed to be good people.

Chapter 4

Early the next morning

It was just before dawn, when they arrived and found her asleep in the Healers ward of the temple, sleeping peacefully in a comfortable bed.

Relieved to see her breathing regularly, Lilith sat down upon the left edge of her bed, and gently took her daughter's small, slender hand in hers.

Mina awoke at the familiar touch; and greeted her visitor with delighted joy in her twinkling innocent eyes. Mother.

Returning a loving, warm smile, Lilith squeezed her hand as she replied, Save your strength, my angel. The Healers said you need more time.

I am doing a little better, Mother. Worry not for me.

Worrying about you is all I know how to do. How is the pain level?

It is ... tolerable.

Does it hurt much right now?

Not as much. It comes and goes. I am mostly just sleepy.

Lilith nodded. It is to be expected; you lost a lot of blood. Right now the most important thing is to rest. Is there anything I can get you?

Mina weakly squeezed her hand back and replied, I am just glad you are here.

We came as soon as we heard.

Mina slowly turned her head to her left to see Valeria seating herself on the other side the bed. Aunt Val. You came.

Valeria smiled at her. Always for you, Ladybug. Always for you.

You look pretty. Like you always do. I like your dress.

Valeria grinned at her. And this is why you're my favorite. Now do as your mother says. Save your strength, no more talking, and get some rest. We are not going anywhere; we will be right here.

Mina nodded. And as her eyelids began growing heavy, she turned back towards her mother and managed a few more words. I feel ... much better ... now that you are here.

Good. Sleep, my angel.

Mother?

Yes, beloved?

Do not hurt them.

Lilith looked at her daughter for a long studied moment. And then finally replied, I am not ... planning on it.

Satisfied, Mina smiled at her one last time. I love you, Mother.

I love you too. Lilith then rose up and leaned over to kiss her forehead...

...as Mina drifted off into a long deep contented sleep.

*** *** ***

With Mina now resting comfortably and in excellent hands, the two of them departed the Healers ward of the Temple compound. As of yet they hadn't run into Auberon. They were now making their way to the front Temple area where the Visitors waiting room was located; where they had some guests waiting to meet them. However, Lilith was not in a congenial or benevolent mood.

While the two walked side by side, Valeria commented on Lilith's dark visage. I know that look.

But Lilith's dark mood wasn't feeling especially conversational either.

The last time I saw that look... Valeria continued, ...was two hundred years ago - when that caravan of lost soldiers inadvertently found their way down here by unfortunate chance. They were Romans, if I recall. You didn't even bother to speak with them. Instead, with a simple gesture you formed a blazing ball of energy with the power of the sun in your hands, and flung it at them. It lit up the entire area blinding nearly everybody as it struck them, causing their Roman brains to boil inside their heads and their bodies to explode. There were over a thousand men in that caravan and they never know what hit them. It took the caretakers two months to clean up the mess. I imagine you have something similar in mind for these new intruders?

Lilith darkly replied, You know I do not tolerate trespassers.

And yet ... you let those others go free yesterday.

Lilith angrily shook her head. This is not Dark City; which is governed and protected by an intelligent, competent, powerful, invulnerable and invincible overseer. My people were never in any danger.

Valeria grinned. You forgot beautiful.

This is not your city, Val; those Knights were never a threat to you. But this is different. This is the Temple. This is where the Elves live and worship and this is their Sanctuary. They need to be protected. Auberon is good, but he is not you.

Valeria nodded. And this is where Mina lives. I know you are distressed, Love; over Mina's condition. But did Auberon not state in his message that he didn't consider these new visitors to be a threat? Valeria then began looking around. Where is Auberon, anyway? I thought he would have met us by now.

Parolling the outer perimeter, most likely. He would not have known the exact timing of our arrival. Lilith then turned her head to look at her. Why are you, of all people, defending these intruders?

Because you promised Mina.

Lilith sighed and looked ahead once more as they continued walking. She put me on the spot. How could have I answered any other way except - I was not 'planning' on hurting them? I will hear what they have to say first. And then I will kill them. I cannot afford to have Humans return to the surface and spread word of what they have seen down here.

But you promised ... Mina.

The words I chose... Lilith began to argue,...leave room for me to...

No, they don't. Valeria countered. The words you used do not matter; it is the impression you left with her, that is the only thing that matters. You have never lied to your daughter before, do not start lying to her now.

Finally Lilith relented, and nodded her head in remorseful agreement. You are right, of course. She should always be able to trust my words.

Valeria then said, Mina is a beautiful child; pure, innocent and undefiled. She is an unblemished lamb. But she is also wise. She knows you.

Lilith nodded. She knows us both.

Valeria smiled in reply, That she does. She is the bright star in our lives. Our anchor; the only thing that makes sense.

Lilith nodded again, and she closed her eyes as they filled with tears.

With a tender touch, Valeria reached over and gently touched her on the back. I know. I know.

Chapter 5

The Elven Grounds

The Healers ward was situated at the opposite side from the Visitors area of the large vast underground Elven complex, of which the Temple was the centerpiece. As they continued walking through the beautiful grounds and architecture, they passed through a popular community garden area with a central pond - containing waterfalls fed by freshwater underground springs, and all sorts of brightly colorful bioluminescent flora and plant life - natural living organisms which thrived underground and produced and emitted light across the color spectrum. The plants and organisms existed both above ground and below water, which generated mesmerizing reflections of color in the pond's crystal clear waters.

They paused for a moment to take in the beautiful sight.

This has always been my favorite place down here. smiled Valeria as she looked around at the wonder. The hues - the purples and the greens and the blues ... I know the Elves once flourished in the world above, I have seen it. But they have certainly adapted to the world below. They seem to be able to bring out beauty wherever they go. It is second nature to them.

What is equally amazing... Lilith said as she turned and smiled at her dearest friend. ...is you. I have never ceased to be awed by your sight. You see more color and beauty and detail than any of us with eyes. You were blessed with a very special gift, Val; a very unique gift. One which even the Healers cannot explain; except to attribute this remarkable gift to the One.

Valeria shrugged. I was born this way; it is all I have known; I have nothing to compare it against.

Just know that your sight is far superior to ours. If anyone is to be pitied for being blind, it is us; for being unable to see the beauty and wonders that you see. We should all be jealous of you.

Now Lilith wasn't diminutive in stature, like Sinead, Sara and Susan and all those of Lilith's line of daughters. That particular family trait hadn't first begun manifesting itself until her sixth generation daughter Sarai; whom had married Kemuel's father Jared. As for Lilith herself, at 5'8 she was actually above average in height; and Valeria stood at an even taller 5'10.

As for what was common for the Elven people, besides having a natural strong constitution built for endurance and agility, Elves were also typically on average, taller and a little more slender than the average Human. Most males were over 6' in height and Muriel was 5'7". And Kiana of course herself was a tall 6'.

Just then at that moment, a young handsome male elf with long coffee brown hair happened to be passing along a walkway through the garden area on the opposite side of the pond. And Valeria grinned. Oh yes, I see wonders alright. The scenery here is exquisite; especially the detail.

Lilith rolled her eyes. Val...

I know, Love; I know. The Elves are off limits; no-touchy the Elves. But I can still enjoy the scenery.

I have given you complete freedom in Dark City; you have your pick of anyone there.

Yes. Valeria frowned. A city filled with vile offenders, violent thieves, and murderers. Evil has its own taste; I can tell the difference. It is bitter and not all that pleasant. Dark City is a prison colony; most of whom had been destined for the gallows or the executioner's block. Instead they have me.

Lilith sadly sighed. I know, and I am sorry and it breaks my heart that this is what we have had to resort to. But as distasteful as it may be, it is at least a solution that works.

And then a young pretty elven woman with long coral red hair passed through on another side of the pond. And Valeria licked her lips. Mmmm. But here, the scenery is so much more ... enticing.

Val...

There is not a single drop of evil blood in those ... lithe ... lean ... nubile bodies...

Val...

I am just looking, Love. she replied in defense, eyeing the young female. I am not touching.

Lilith gave her a worried look. Is the elixir still holding up? The way you were looking at that girl and at that boy...

Just hungry for their forms, Love; not their blood.

Are you certain that is all? You have given your promise that you will let me know if the effects of the elixir begins to wane. If your thirst for blood returns, then we need to return to the Healers Ward and procure some blood from their containment vaults.

Valeria once more licked her rich blood-red lips. Well now that you keep talking about it...

Lilith sighed. It's true then. It is as I feared. The elixir is starting to wear off.

At the mention of blood, I suppose I am now beginning to feel a hint of the cravings returning, yes.

Lilith looked at her sadly. It has only been twelve hours; since yesterday evening. They had told me one vial should last a day or two. You drank seven vials.

Valeria shrugged. I told you I was not as optimistic as you. That is why I did not wish to get my hopes up.

These past twelve hours have been an incredible blessing. For you to be free of your cravings for even a day....

But all good things come to an end, don't they?

You have actually enjoyed being freed from your bloodlust for a short time.

It was not ... terrible.

Lilith smiled. It was nice seeing you be content for a change.

I am always content. Valeria teased. After I have indulged myself.

But not like this. This kind of contentment was beautiful. Peaceful. I have loved seeing you like this. I know Mina could see the difference in you, too.

Really? She didn't mention anything.

When she said you were 'pretty', that is what she meant.

Aww. I thought she just meant I was pretty.

Lilith chuckled. You are always beautiful, Val. But when your bloodlust is under control, you are also pretty. It affects your entire countenance.

Valeria turned and grinned at her. Keep it up; you know how much I enjoy flattery.

We are going to get more of that blessed elixir. Perhaps a more concentrated dosage might last a little longer.

Valeria crossed her arms at her. To keep me contained? Oh, don't I feel special.

And Lilith responded by arching her eyebrow at her and teased, Don't get cross with me. I am the moody one, not you. I am the one prone to violent outbursts; whereas you are the unflappable steady one who never loses her temper. You are not allowed to get moody.

Oh, I am in the mood all right.

Val...

Oh yea. It's definitely coming back now.

Lilith sighed. Perhaps it is not such a good idea to meet those visitors just yet.

No, let's go now. I am really looking forward to meeting fresh blood.

And Lilith sighed.

*** *** ***

They had almost reached the Visitor's area when an Elven messenger with long golden blonde hair came running up to them to deliver her message. As the Elven woman approached them she stopped and respectfully bowed her head to Lilith. My Empress. Your daughter Samara from your Second Palace sends word.

While the messenger's head remained bowed, Lilith turned and flashed a sly smile at Valeria - who was looking intently at the blonde messenger with great interest. The dark haired vixen may not have had a gender preference, but she had always shown partiality to blondes. Lilith had always suspected it was because Valeria liked the lighter contrast to her own dark nature.

Being that Lilith was always open and honest with her Elves, she reached out to accept the sealed message scroll and answered, Muriel, it is a pleasure to see you again. Yes, I have been expecting word from Samara - this would be confirmation that she received my earlier message concerning some visitors coming her way. Thank you for bringing this to me.

Muriel

The messenger named Muriel raised her head and replied, Is there anything else I may do for you, Empress?

No, that is all. Lilith smiled at the pretty Elf - who happened to be dressed in a light and airy linen gown the color of golden champagne. Thank you again, Muriel; for seeking me out. Your faithful service is valued and appreciated as always.

Muriel nodded her head, and then turned toward Valeria and said in a warm greeting, Valeria, you look lovely. Is that a new dress? The reference was to the same new long black sleeveless dress that Valeria had worn the previous afternoon for the sake of welcoming Lilith back to Dark City.

Curiously enough, Valeria was struggling to find the proper words; and a snarky response was the furthest thing from her mind. Finally she replied in a slightly nervous and awkward tone, It is. Thank you for noticing. I like what you have done with your hair.

Muriel smiled at her and nodded. After their brief exchange of greetings and pleasantries, Muriel then turned around to return the way she had come - and Valeria was unable to take her eyes off of her as she walked away.

After she was gone, Lilith commented, In all these ages, she is only one of two people who has ever caused you to become tongue twisted.

I have no idea what you are talking about.

Lilith chuckled. You have had a crush on Muriel for almost a century; ever since she first matured into an adult. Do not think to deny it.

And you were once in love with King Bramwell from Stirlingshire. Look how well that turned out. Now he's your enslaved Keeper lapdog in Stonehenge.

My past feelings for Bramwell are completely irrelevant.

You keep telling yourself that. But I know you still harbor feelings for him even to this day.

Lilith looked down, unable to find a reply.

As Valeria continued looking off wistfully in the direction Muriel had gone, she then said quietly, It throws me every time I see her, I admit. As if anything could ever come of it. As with all Elven females, Muriel is only interested in males. It's a cruel world.

And Lilith found she had no reply for that either.

Has she found a mate, yet? Valeria inquired.

No. Lilith answered. Still single. You know how Elves are; being immortal they are never in a rush to establish eternal unions.

I envy the man she ends up with.

Lilith smiled. "Val, listen to me. I know you get lonely at times. And I know sometimes it hurts. Muriel may not be able to reciprocate your affections as you would like; but what you need to remain focused upon - is it is plainly obvious that you ARE capable

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