Cyrus Delmar stares blankly into the fire, his eyes glued to the flames in an almost hypnotic trance. He feels anxious, waiting for her to arrive, but he won’t let his attachment to her interfere with his plan. As his grandfather always said, love is a liability, a weakness, and any man who suffers from the affliction deserves whatever failures life brings them.
In a cloud of dust, Isadora suddenly appears before him, coughing and sputtering as she struggles to breathe through the vapor.
“They’ve got Kieran!” she cries, her voice trembling with desperation.
Cyrus rises to his feet and slowly walks over to his lover. “Did you get it?” he demands, ignoring her frantic sobs.
Isadora nods and hands him the ring.
“And Ephraim?” he asks as he gingerly tucks the charmed object into his pocket. “Did they-”
“Atticus killed him,” she replies bitterly. “Just like I predicted he would.”
“Excellent,” Cyrus grins.
“But what about Kieran?!” she pleads. “Our son is in danger, Cyrus. We need to save him!”
Cyrus narrows his eyes and scans Isadora’s tearstained face. “Our son?” he repeats, sounding bored. “I thought he belonged to your vile excuse for a husband, my dear friend Ephraim.”
Isadora lets out an infuriated scream. “How many times do I have to explain this to you?!” she shrieks. “You are Kieran's father!”
Cyrus knows it’s the truth. He’s only met the boy a couple of times, but they have the same eyes. Yet, Isadora’s hiding something from him. He can sense it in her nervous gaze and the uneasy lilt of her voice.
“Come here, darling,” he whispers as he pulls her towards him.
Cyrus wraps his arms around Isadora’s shoulders and begins to stroke her cheek, allowing his magic to flow freely through his hand.
“Tell me about your vision,” he commands after a minute.
Isadora yawns, suddenly feeling drowsy and relaxed. “I’ve told it to you before,” she reminds him as her eyes begin to glaze over.
“I want to hear it again,” he replies tonelessly.
“I see you standing in a battlefield,” she tells him quietly. “Soaked in blood and holding a sword. You are the head of a massive army, thousands upon thousands of soldiers under your command, but they are frozen in their tracks, completely motionless. A small child kneels before you, your nemesis I believe, but just as you are preparing to administer the final, fatal blow a knife rips through your heart, mortally wounding you.”
Cyrus’ eyes flash, but he lets Isadora continue with her tale.
“Your army unfreezes as you fall to the ground, but, distracted and disoriented, no one comes to your aid. You glance up to see who holds the blade that took your life, and with your last breath you mumble the word ‘traitor’.”
“Who did it, Isa?” he presses. “Who stabbed me?”
Isadora pauses, subconsciously fighting Cyrus’ spell. Sensing her resistance, he pushes even harder.
“Tell me, Isadora,” Cyrus orders as he places both hands on her face. “Who was it?”
She takes a deep breath, feeling dizzy. “No,” she whispers. “You’ll kill him.”
“You said that Ephraim was the traitor. Were you lying, my darling?”
Unable to stop herself, she nods.
“Then it's Atticus,” he surmises.
Isadora shakes her head.
“Who, then?” he demands.
“I- I won’t-”
In a burst of rage, Cyrus forces himself into the very core of her mind, desperately searching for his answer, but the deeper he digs the more volatile and dangerous the spell becomes, until Isadora finally collapses onto the floor in a seizure.
As soon as she finishes convulsing, Cyrus numbly reaches down to check her pulse, but he struggles to locate a heartbeat. Panic immediately takes hold of the mage, and after quickly wiping away all traces of his presence he flees the library and vanishes into the night.
“Absolutely not,” Atticus declares. “It’s far too risky to leave him here with you, Maeve. No, Kieran comes back to Arundel with me.”
Maeve sighs and rolls her eyes. “Dad, we’ll be fine!” she exclaims. “He’s just a baby. What’s the worst he can do?”
Atticus glares at his daughter. “We already went through this, dear. It would have taken an enormous amount of raw magic to deflect Ephraim’s spell and shield you from that curse. A toddler of his age and size simply shouldn’t have been able to do it, especially considering his lack of training. He’s just too powerful and too unpredictable to leave in the care of an inexperienced, untrained hedge witch.”
“What do you know about babies?” Maeve demands. “Have you ever even changed a diaper?!”
“Certainly,” he nods.
“How many centuries ago?” she smirks.
Atticus turns a dull shade of red. “About four, but that’s beside the point!”
“He’s a baby, and he has the same needs as all other two year olds,” Maeve persists. “How do you expect to keep him safe if you can’t even keep him clean, fed, and rested?”
Luca places his hand on Atticus’ shoulder. “I know you’re concerned,” he tells him, looking the mage straight in the eye, “but Maeve and I can handle it. It’s only temporary after all, until you can locate his mother.”
Atticus sighs and rubs his head, feeling outnumbered. “Fine,” he concedes at last, “but I will be back as quickly as I can. I must speak with the council about everything that has happened here, and their deliberations could take months. Unfortunately, I will have to remain in Arundel until they reach a decision about how to proceed, but I will try to stay in contact. Don’t expect regular updates, however.”
“And Luca?” Maeve whispers softly. “You promised to talk to them about Luca and me…”
Atticus glances away uneasily. “I will do my best, Maeve, but there is a deep-seated fear of humans within the magical community. It’s a long shot at best.”
“Just try, okay?”
He nods, his face full of concern.
Atticus leaves that very morning, but not without first saying goodbye to Esme, Maeve’s mother. During his brief stay in Jericho, the pair rediscovered their old feelings for each other, and the abrupt separation feels heartbreaking to Atticus.
“I will return for you,” he promises as he tenderly strokes her cheek.
Esme just smiles and nods, fighting back a sudden wave of tears.
As the days turn to weeks, Maeve throws herself into her job as Kieran’s caretaker, fussing over the boy at any chance she gets. He hasn’t reached any of his major milestones yet, and so she decides to take on the monumental task of teaching him to walk.
But Kieran, for the most part, seems to shy away from the attention that she lavishes on him, and he usually prefers to play quietly by himself in the corner rather than interacting with other people. Even as he grows more familiar with Luca and Maeve, the tot remains stubbornly timid and antisocial.
However, despite her disappointing lack of progress with the boy, Maeve settles easily into her new life at the McKinley house.
One evening, a surprise visitor shows up on their doorstep. Emily Lockwood, Luca’s longtime friend and next door neighbor, seems upset tonight, so Maeve invites her inside for a chat.
“It’s about the baby,” Emily explains.
“I didn’t realize you were expecting,” Maeve answers impassively. It’s not a judgment or a criticism, merely an observation.
Emily nods. “Due in a few months. But-” she freezes, hanging her head in shame.
“Yes?” Maeve presses.
“I- I don’t want to turn into my mother,” Emily admits, letting the tears spill down her cheeks. “She had me as a teenager, and I just- I want so much more for my kid. And- And myself.”
“You have options, Emily,” Maeve tells her kindly. “Have you considered adoption?”
“Yes, but the idea of giving my baby away to a total stranger...” she trails off, carefully avoiding eye contact. “I know I’m not ready to be a mom yet, but I can’t imagine the heartbreak of never seeing my child again.”
Maeve smiles at the teenager warmly, sensing the question that is about to come. “It would be a heart wrenching decision to make,” she agrees.
“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” she says shyly. “I want my baby to grow up with the best parents possible, and frankly I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather see raise the kid than you and Luca.”
To Emily’s surprise, Maeve’s eyes light up at the prospect. “I- I don’t know what to say,” Maeve stammers, suddenly overcome with emotion. “I’m flattered, Emily, and I know Luca would be too, but… Are you sure? I don’t want you to make a choice that you are going to end up regretting.”
Emily nods enthusiastically. “Yes, I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I have a future ahead of me, Ms. Saville, and I want to make something of myself. Luca thinks that I show a lot of promise as a future doctor, and medical school just isn’t possible if I’ve got a child to look after.”
“Well, let me speak with Luc about it, but as far as I’m concerned the answer is yes.”
Emily is ecstatic. She finally has someone to share the aches and pains of pregnancy with.
The following week, Maeve brings up the adoption with Luca. Before they get a chance to really talk about it, however…
…She goes into labor.
Yeah, I’m a bitch. Sorry, I know people hate those kind of cliffhangers (and I do too!), but this was the most logical place to stop. Because… Maeve gets a haircut next chapter. Yeah, stupid reason is stupid, but I need to show some time passing and that’s easier to do with a new chapter. (Or maybe I’m just a bitch. You decide. =P)
Anyway, I really, really, REALLY hope that was all clear. I couldn’t figure out a clean way to include a more detailed recap of the events last chapter, but basically Isadora and her lover Cyrus plotted her husband Ephraim’s murder. Well, in truth, Isadora (who is a seer, in case that wasn’t obvious) had a vision of her husband’s death (unrelated to her vision of Cyrus’ death), and together she and Cyrus pulled the strings and made it happen. As in, she knew that his death involved Atticus, so she convinced Ephraim that he needed to face his old foe again in order to learn the “true” secret of immortality (versus the temporary life-extending method of the ring), and by using her visions as a guide Isadora helped her husband locate and infect Maeve, Atticus’ daughter, which she hoped would get Atticus involved. Then, once Ephraim died (she believes Atticus killed him and is unaware of her son Kieran’s involvement), she stole the ring and returned to Cyrus, and that’s where this chapter starts.
…Probably should have found some way to include that info dump in the story, but oh well. I’m a horrible writer. Sue me. However, I’m secretly hoping that you all understood this chapter before my little summary, but I know it’s been a while since my last update. If you have any other questions though, I’m more than happy to answer them! =D
Oh, also, there are two discrepancies which I want to clarify: 1) How Atticus knows Kieran's real name and 2) Why Emily isn't living in Luca's house anymore (like she was last chapter).
1) He looked at a tag inside his clothes. =P
2) It would be breaking the challenge rules. (But, story wise, I figure she made up with her mom and moved back in with her.)
And now I'm going to go read How NOT to Write a Story: 101 Common Mistakes Writers Make. (Because lord knows I need the help!)