All seven members of the High Council of the Unseelie Dhiultadh assembled in the green room and watched the infant sleep.
They had gathered to decide the hybrid’s future, to agree upon her fate.
“It’s an abomination.” Alleena declared hottily, indignant merely to be in its presence.
“I still can’t believe he gave his life for her.” Rubin murmured, the grief apparent in his dark eyes. The youngest in the group, he was, without knowing, the only one who felt sympathy for the scion.
“What kind of bargain could he have possibly made?” Jaspion wondered aloud.
They all looked at Archer, but he didn’t answer. His shock didn’t show through his passive facade, one he had learned through mimicking his older brother, Fosch himself. He had learned plenty from him, had adored him as a child, looked for approval as a youngling, asked for opinion as a man. Even when Fosch had passed leadership on to him, it was to Fosch he had turned to when a challenge had been issued, a problem had been presented.
The news of the execution had shocked him greatly, so much that he had refused to believe the truth until he had arrived at the stone circle and watched his brother refuse to fulfill the bargain with his own two eyes, heard it with his own ears.
He recalled that year in the spring when he had miraculously recovered from the plague, the vague memory of waking up in the middle of the night to find his brother standing by his bed. He touched his forehead, the place where a dash once marked his skin for a few hours, scrubbed his index finger over the phantom mark.
“We could leave her in the wilderness.” Bebbet suggested from his right. The oldest in the entire group, Bebbet was the one who still clung to old traditions and rules with teeth and claws.
“Or send her for Cora to raise.” Jaspion said. He was one of the few who remembered to pass on the news to Fosch’s younger sister, the leader of the earth witch coven.
“Or outright kill her. She’s so tiny. She won’t put up a fight.” They sniggered in unison.
“Enough!” Archer snapped sharply. “We aren’t going to kill her. We aren’t going through all that hassle with the court to just get rid of her.”
“What do you suggest? Are you going to raise her on your own?” Alleena asked with a smirk. “You already have one incompetent hybrid. It wouldn’t be any hardship on you.” The truth was, Alleena felt entitled to Logan’s position, feeling she had been robbed from it, since she was Fosch’s stepsister and even older than Archer himself by a few years. Now, this hybrid appeared out of nowhere, and somehow, Alleena felt threatened by it.
Archer cocked his head to the side, met Alleena’s unflinching stare. He knew she coveted Logan’s position, but rules dictated he was given enough time to heel after the death of a mate, and for Arianna, Archer would give Logan – the son of Arianna’s heart – as much time as he needed.
“That incompetent hybrid you mock, Alleena, is my second, the mate of my daughter. I will make sure that once he has recovered from the shock of losing his mate, to make you the first to challenge him, if you so wish. Unless you would rather challenge me?”
Alleena looked away, as Archer knew she would. Logan was the best fighter he had, no matter if he was not a pure blood. He wasn’t a hybrid, or not a human one, but a mix between the two Dhiultadh clans, though his father – and mother – had never stepped up and assumed responsibility for him.
Archer looked around at the six faces surrounding him, met everyone’s eyes until each and everyone looked away.
“Her name is Roxanne,” He said with the authoritative tone of the clan leader. “You will call her by name, Roxanne Fosch.”
He read the defiance in everyone’s eyes and added, more softly, more deadly, “I don’t know why the bargain was struck, but that Fosch would have had a damn good reason for it. All of you have admired my brother for his cunning, followed his leadership for centuries without a doubt. One deed, and only one deed that we don’t even know the reason for and every one of you is thinking lowly of him. Which one of you has never committed a wrong, a deed to be ashamed of?”
This time, he saw shame on a few expressions before they were turned away.
“Now,” he went on, “I’m not going to throw his sacrifice away without knowing why he did what he did.” He inclined his head at the now smirking Alleena and said, “You will raise her and discover why.”
Alleena’s smirk faded. He watched as she swallowed her denial and rephrased it again. “And if there’s nothing to find?”
“The government wants her for research. You will pick up the fight in court for her as her mother’s only living relative,” he raised his voice a decibel to cut off alleena’s protest and added, “And as the clan’s only scientist, you will study her blood as the child grows.”
Alleena snapped her mouth shut, her eyes blazing with anger.
“And if there’s more to her?” Ruben asked, stepping in to save his mate from an unforgivable mistake. “Fosch had been acting recklessly –” he ignored Archer’s growl of warning and went on, “but I know for a fact he was a smart man, probably had a good reason to do what he did. Maybe there is something we’re missing.”
Archer inclined his head. “If there’s something, Roxanne will disappear before we have to fulfill the human’s verdict.”
“And if there’s nothing to find?” Alleena repeated.
Archer looked at the infant, contemplating the small bundle, remembering his own daughter. His heart iced around, hardening against the emotion that tried to well up. “If there’s nothing, we can use her to make the humans lose interest in catching one of us.” There was a tiny flicker of guilt inside him, dulled by the numbness he felt for all he had lost. He wondered, even as the other members of the council looked at one another, if he’d come to regret this decision one day, if the iciness surrounding his heart ever thawed again.
There was a shocked pause before Jaspion chuckled. “Ah, if they find that she’s no more than a lesser preternatural, than there’s no reason for their persistence.”
Bebbet nodded. “It was Fosch’s fault they got our trail in the first, it’s only fair his daughter fix his mess.”
Decision reached, everyone stood and left the council room, except for Archer and Roxanne. At the door Ruben paused, glanced at Archer.
“Sir, I’m sorry for your loss.” He said and left, and Archer recalled all he had lost these past years. A daughter, a lover, a friend and now a brother.
He frowned down at his brother’s daughter, hoped she proved to be more than she looked – for his brother’s sake, for his sacrifice. Then he called Laura, his in-house assistant and ordered her to take the hybrid upstairs, to the room across from Logan’s.
Want to know what happens next?
Coming soon HEIR OF ASHES, the first book in the ROXANNE FOSCH series.
Check out the previous chapters:
- Chapter 1 – The Secret: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/chapter-1-the-secret/
- Chapter 2 – The Ritual: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/chapter-2-the-ritual/
- Chapter 3 – The Bargain: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/chapter-3-the-bargain/
- Chapter 4 – The Awareness: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/chapter-4-the-awareness/
- Chapter 5 – The Grieving: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/chapter-5-the-grieving/
- Chapter 6 – The Plan: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/chapter-6-the-plan/
- Chapter 7 – The Second-chance: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/chapter-7-the-second-chance/
- Chapter 8 – The Vigil: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/chapter-8-the-vigil/
- Chapter 9 – The Pay-off: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/chapter-9-the-pay-off/
- Chapter 10 – The Outcome: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/chapter-10-the-outcome/