Author's Note: Woo! Happy, happy, happy, happy loooore chapter! My favorite kind! I'll be using my handmade map of the world for this one to help people piece together the different regions being talked about. I have a bit more information here, but it's a little bit sparser than I'd like. I, unfortunately, lack the time to fill it out, so it mostly get neglected until I have an ample amount of time on my hands. But should you ever want to refer back to the map again: it's here, and it's interactive, too!
Professor Luken ushered him forward with a wave of his hand and they went through the double doors at the end of the hallway into a massive room. Magic tingled against Robert’s skin and his eyes had to have doubled in size. “Woah…”
Professor Luken grinned at him, “welcome to the Library, Robert.”
Robert immediately looked to his professor. “Lord Aadish’s Library?” Home of the Knowledge Circles and all research there was and ever will be.
Professor Luken nodded.
Robert shook his head and realized Professor Luken was starting to walk away down the hallway, “come Robert, this way.”
He ran to catch up, “what are we doing here, professor?”
Professor Luken opened the doors to another hallway and motioned Robert inside. “We’re going to sort through this mess of a situation as cleanly as we possibly can.”
Robert felt satisfied with this answer. They were in a god’s realm… perhaps that’s why they were here, to appeal to the Lord Aadish for help.
A god to deal with another god, Robert mused, that had to be enough.
They walked into a unfamiliar office.
“Is this yours?” Robert gaped. He figured that Professor Luken had worked for the God of Knowledge, but he never would’ve imagined it would’ve looked like this.
“Indeed, though I don’t use it very often. I prefer my other offices. They’re… quieter. Anyways-” Professor Luken tapped on his desk before looking to Robert. “What would you like to know first?”
“Why them? Why Stefan’s family?”
“Now… that’s a question, but not the right one. You’re not looking at the full picture, Robert.” Professor Luken nodded solemnly, “how far did you get in that book I gave you to study on the gods?”
How was that not the right question? Robert pursed his lips with a hint of guilt. “About… halfway. It’s… kind of a brick.”
Professor Luken chuckled in response that, “but that means you read about the territories, correct?” He stepped forward to a circular table in the room and gestured over it. “I’m going to say a god’s name and I want you to tell me which area encompasses the land they own, ok?”
This wasn’t what he’d asked, but he nodded. “What does-”
Professor Luken cut off his question. “We’ll start with an easy one: Lord Aadish.”
Robert glanced at the once-empty map that had been filled in with script and scrawl before pointing.
“The library is off the coast here…” He wondered if it was a trick question. They were in the God of Knowledge’s realm, after all. Had he missed something?
“Is that all?” Luken’s voice was skeptical.
“No… he also holds most of France.”
Robert’s brow furrowed, worried he would answer incorrectly. “Because… uh… the Academy is there?”
“Very good. Now what about Lady Calypso.”
Goddess of the Ocean, that one was easy. Robert pointed, “up here… this island chain. It’s called… Siren’s Cove!”
Professor Luken was nodding and it made Robert feel lifted as he realized he was doing something right. “Yes exactly, Robert. No one is permitted to sail through those waters without her permission, so it makes getting to and from certain areas, like Aurora Skies, quite an arduous task. Keep going, Robert and tell me… where is Lord Malice’s territory?”
“All of Bridgeport… and some of the surrounding areas!” Robert gestured with confidence.
“Perfect.” Professor Luken’s voice had grown a little darker and he finally leaned over the table, looking Robert dead in the eyes. “Now where is Lord Majnun’s Territory?”
That made Robert freeze. How does he answer this? “Uh… well… he… doesn’t have any, sir.” He looked hesitantly at the map, “I think.”
Yet Professor Luken nodded, “no, you’re right. He doesn’t… yet.”
“He’s planning to take Midnight Hollow, it's been in the works for the past several years but only recently took off.” Professor Luken stated, his voice unwavering.
Robert frowned. “But… why? What does that have to do with Stefan?”
“What do you know of the history of the Lord Malice?” Professor Luken steered the conversation away as he moved to sit in one of his arm chairs.
“I know that he…” Robert scrambled to recall the information. “He’s the God of Night… and vampires… and there’s a Vampiric Court he answers to. I know that the courts are very sexist…?”
The professor pursed his lips and brought his body to lean forward onto his knees. “Yes that’s all true, but it’s not everything. Though, I don’t expect you to know this, I wanted to know how much you did know. Come!” He patted the arm of the chair next to his.
Robert hesitantly walked over and sat.
“Do you remember when he rose - Malice that is?”
“Uh…” Robert scrambled, “eop 660s?”
“Eop 677.” The professor affirmed. “Very close, and all very trivial in the end, I promise. That makes Malice very young.”
“He’s over a century old…” Robert was confused by the professor’s wording.
“Ah, yes, he is, but by the standard of gods… that’s very young. The God of Magic is nearing 1600 years, and the God of Order is just over 1800.”
“So how old is the Lord Aadish?” Robert scrambled to remember, but he actually hadn’t gotten to that part in the book yet.
This made Professor Luken choke on a laugh, “ancient and it shows sometimes.”
Robert laughed with him. “Is he out of touch, then?”
The professor rolled his eyes to the ceiling with an amused shake of his head. “He tries not to be.”
Robert laughed a little harder. “It must be difficult to not be when you’re a god. Will we ask him for help with Stefan?”
The professor finally snorted a laugh once more, “oh right, I was telling a story. The point of it is, Malice is very, very young by our standards - the only one younger is Harkon, and he's still getting settled. Malice, however, has always had a lot he feels the need to prove. As such, he’s taken to ‘butting heads with the big boys’ to win favor in his own courts.”
“Why would he need to win favor in his own courts?”
“Because the courts didn’t start existing the second he rose to godhood, Robert. No, no, they were there long before, and it shows. The Vampire Lords that rule that roost do not like newcomers, and they especially did not like Malice. He was young, and not even pure-blooded.” The professor adjusted himself in his seat.
“Pure-blooded?” Robert was trying to absorb everything he could. He loved getting Professor Luken off on a tangent on a good day, but he had to try and stay focused. As much as he wanted to dig so much deeper into this, he needed answers regarding Stefan. Yet something in him was reassured that this had to be related.
“Yes, born a vampire. That’s what it is to be pure-blooded in those circles. Malice was born human, and he was turned when the artifact that was storing the dormant godhood of the God of Night came into contact with him.”
It was like Professor Luken could read Robert’s confusion and curiosity right off his face, so he held up his hand to stop any questions and outright explain. “When a god dies before their… “time” we’ll say… the powers of the god will seek out a temporary replacement until their rightful wielder comes into contact with them. However, if that’s in another human, the human will have to die to get the power out, so usually the God of Magic or the God of Order will take the powers of the deceased god and store them in an object for temporary keeping until the rightful wielder makes themselves known. That was the case with Malice."
"Majnun had taken the previous God of Night’s powers and stored them in an object. When the divination cards revealed the appropriate source to receive it, Majnun bestowed the object onto the boy who became Malice. Malice was only sixteen at the time, and he’s the youngest known god to ever rise.”
“Wow… that is young.” That was his age, though Robert would be seventeen soon. “I can’t even imagine being a god right now.”
“Yes, it’s a very difficult thing I imagine Malice had to endure at such a young age. It ended up causing a massive rift between him and the Lord Majnun, which has caused several near-wars and two actual wars over various things because of this rivalry.”
“So you’d say Lord Malice is being… unreasonable?”
Yet the professor shook his head, “I would say that I don’t like dealing with either of them, personally. They’re both wrong at the same time as they’re both right - all for different reasons, and none of them particularly matter, but that’s what brings us back to your first question.”
Robert made a face. “The wrong one?”
“Don’t get too caught on my words, Robert. I’m trying to get you thinking deeper… so… what do you make of all that I’ve told you?”
Robert looked back over at the round table. “Lord Malice and Lord Majnun have a rivalry-”
“You don’t need to be so formal, my boy, they’re not here to watch us talk - just like I said you don’t need to call me sir or professor when we’re outside of school.” Luken gently cut him off before signaling him to continue.
Robert nodded. “Malice and Majnun have a rivalry. Majnun suddenly wants to claim territory in Midnight Hollow…”
“Yes…” The professor leaned forward, a gleam of intent shining in his eyes as he drew the word out. “Go on…”
“Midnight Hollow is…” Robert stood up and approached the table again. “It shares a border with Bridgeport.”
“Exactly.” Professor Luken shot up from his seat. “So tell me, Robert… why does this matter to Stefan?”
“...because Malice is the God of Night… which is the… God… of Vampires?” He wasn’t certain if this was an accurate statement to make.
“Precisely...” There was a grin spreading on Luken’s face and he motioned Robert on.
“Stefan and his family are Vampires who are living in territory about to be claimed by Majnun…” Robert eyed the board below him and his eyes widened. “Oh.”
“Oh?” Professor Luken echoed it back, intrigued by Robert’s epiphany.
“It’s… it’s a powerplay, isn’t it? He wants a pocket of Midnight Hollow to be loyal to him… but… how will he get that by framing Stefan?” Robert looked up from the table to question his mentor.
This made Professor Luken clap, “I knew you’d see it! Brilliant job, Robert!” His gripped Robert’s shoulder as he beamed. Once he was finished celebrating, he settled into leaning against the table, eyeing Robert with bright eyes. “Tell me, Robert, how can you win loyalty? You’re a cut-throat god with a set of even more cut-throat people standing behind you with a knife to your back waiting for you to slip up… how do you win loyalty?”
Robert frowned, his brow furrowing as he went deep into thought. “You… can’t.”
This made his professor raise an eyebrow. “Can’t?”
Robert shook his head. “No… you can’t win loyalty in those circumstances… you have to force it.”
Professor Luken nodded firmly. “Now you’re seeing the full picture.”
“So… he’s going to… make them agree?”
“Now, I can’t say this with complete certainty… more like 98% certainty, but I believe he’s going to pull Stefan in, accuse him of a crime punishable by extreme punishment - be it death or torture - then he’ll offer him a choice.”
“Be loyal or face the punishment.”
Robert looked back to the map. “But what does that mean for Stefan and his family?”
“Unfortunately, nothing good.” Professor Luken sighed. “Malice will expect them to retaliate against Majnun which will ultimately get them killed. Or they can refuse and… be killed by Malice.”
Robert jerked his gaze to him then, “what?! That can’t be the only options!”
“It was their only options, but it’s not anymore. It’ll take a little finagling from both sides, but I’ve got a plan.”
“What can we do?”
Luken smiled at him. “Well, knowing Malice… he’ll probably want some form of… contractual proof or agreement. I’m going to have Stefan sign one first under the God of Knowledge.”
Robert nodded, the pieces clicking into place. “Stefan can’t sign up under two gods at once… yes… that would work! Well, wait! Wouldn’t Malice just…” He swallowed and his voice dropped. “Dispose of them?”
“Not necessarily. He could sign a contract with Malice, but it couldn’t be a long-term one. As for Majnun… well, that one might get a little more complicated, but I think I can pull some favors. The God of Magic is… a very unusual man. Peculiar and unpredictable… but I think I can work that to Stefan’s favor. Besides, he owes me one for all this overtime I've been pulling for him.” Professor Luken nodded.
Robert opened his mouth but was interrupted by a knock and the door swinging open. The man was tall and had a pale, gaunt face. He looked over the room, mouth open as if he were about to speak with fangs glistening in the light. One glance at Robert and back to Professor Luken had his demeanor change. He cleared his throat. “You… you called for me, my lord?”
Professor Luken shook his head. “No need for formalities, old friend. It’s true, I did. I’m in need of your help. I have a student who will be forced to endure one of Malice’s trials for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s the McNeel family. I need you to prep yourself to accompany him and help him through the trial.”
Robert stood up straighter, looking between the man in the doorway and his professor with wide eyes. “Wait… you’re not going with him professor?!”
This caused Professor Luken to look at him and smile sadly. “I’m afraid I cannot, Robert, but I’ll make sure Stefan isn’t going alone.”
“I’ll get started researching his case. Can I meet with him tomorrow?” The man in the doorway responded, but Robert was too busy trying to get a word in with his professor to really pay attention to it.
“Why can’t it be you-”
“That sounds great, Reni. You can have all the time you need with him - maybe you can reassure his mother while you're at it. She didn’t take the news well.” Professor Luken spoke over him. “Thank you, I know you’re very busy.”
The man tipped downwards towards Professor Luken. “Of course. I’ll be by your office in the Academy around one, does that work?”
Reni smiled slightly at Robert. “Is this student you've talked about?”
Professor Luken nodded back, and Robert could’ve sworn that might’ve been pride in his eyes. “Indeed. I apologize for my rudeness - hectic day it has been. Reni, this is Robert Egan, the student I’ve been training. Robert, this is Renigar Moustavous. He runs the department of Vampiric Studies here at the Library.”
Renigar chuckled, “you give me too much credit, my lord. It’s a pleasure to meet you - we’ve heard a lot about you. Granted, I don’t do much digging into the Spirit Secter much, but I’ve heard that’s just the tip of the iceberg for you, isn’t it?”
Professor Luken grinned, answering for Robert. “Indeed, it is, Reni.”
Robert shrugged, “well I mean… I wouldn’t say that…”
“He’s modest, too.” Renigar shook his head. “Hard to find that in the Circles, right?”
“It’s still early, we’ll see how he is when he’s got his footing around here.” Professor Luken joked. “Anyways, Robert and I have some business to finish up, would you mind stopping by later so I can debrief you before tomorrow?”
“Absolutely. I’ll drop by after I finish writing up my lab results.”
“Oh, how’d it go? Robert, he was running tests on finding a cure for Vampire venom after lethal doses have been injected into a victim.” Professor Luken nodded to Robert.
“Purely figuratively right now, of course! I would never actually do that until I was certain I had an antidote. And it's been inconclusive,” Renigar sighed, “but I can feel I’m getting close to something. I just need some more time to parse out the different venoms.”
Professor Luken frowned, “it must be one of those off days.”
“Tell me about it.” Renigar ran a hand through his hair before bowing to them both, “I’ll leave you to it.”
The door closed and Robert frowned once again. “Is there really no way that you can go with Stefan? You know him, you could vouch for him…”
“I’m sorry, Robert, but I can’t.” Professor Luken frowned back at him. “If I go… a war could surely start.”
“But why? Is it because of the Academy?”
Professor Luken bit his cheek, “well… partially…”
“Because you’re not a Vampire?” Robert persisted.
“Not particularly… it’s just… complicated.” There was a slight strain in his voice.
Robert pushed further, “if I’m going to be in the Circles, then complicated will be my life… I just want to… I just want to understand! Why can’t it be you? You know Stefan! You clearly know Malice and understand what’s being asked of him! You’re the one helping him fill out the contracts…”
“Robert…” Professor Luken sighed finally, rubbing his hand over his face as he leaned against his desk. Robert stopped for a moment, but he couldn’t understand it. “Alright…”
Robert gave him a quizzical stare.
“Alright.” He nodded. “I normally avoid telling my students, but I guess you’re hardly just a student at the Academy anyways. So, my boy, we’ve not yet been properly introduced.”
None of this was making any sense. Robert stepped forward, closer to him, certain his face would get stuck in a perpetually confused stare.
Yet Professor Luken shrugged and let out a careful breath, bowing a little in Robert’s direction.
“Robert, my name is Professor Luken Aadish, at your service.”
~ Next Chapter ~
Author's Extra Note:
So we covered a wee bit on the Gods and what areas they hold, plus my pretty map I'm very proud of, so for those who are interested, here's a little bit more you can go off of:
This map demonstrates all of the current territories being held by gods. In order by continent:
Midnight Hollow (contended) ~ Majnun Keeper (God of Magic)
Bridgeport and Surrounding Area ~ Malice Nightmare (God of Night)
Sunset Valley ~ Adessa Tremere (Goddess of Betrayal)
Starlight Shores ~ Ambar Estonia (Goddess of Fate)
Moonlight Falls ~ Seryna Ambit (Goddess of the Moon)
Hidden Springs and Surrounding Area ~ Spinner Balatare (God of Nature)
France and Surrounding Island ~ Luken Aadish (God of Knowledge)
Egypt ~ Sanja Walle (Goddess of Dreams)
Lucky Palms ~ Vinyx Fabian (God of Debauchery)
Monte Vista (Shared Neutral Territory) ~ Agonin Madere (God of Order) and Carule Dawnmore (God of Love and Commitment)
Island off Lunar Lakes' Coast ~ Harkon Skeltor (God of Death)
Isla Paradiso ~ Eravaeral Monneseur (Goddess of Love and Beauty)
Siren's Cove ~ Calypso Asherah (Goddess of the Sea)
Aurora Skies ~ Taelagor Myst (God of Elements)
The Goddesses of Time keep their realm in another dimension.
So, there's your geography lesson for the day! They all even have their own timezones and weather patterns, but that's for another day!
Hope you enjoyed!