Evan had never stepped foot inside the Council Chambers. He was here now, and without backup of any kind. He was listening in on Sebastian’s conversation on a phone with his mate right now. It frightened him. Who was Dr. Keene treating? He couldn’t make it all out.
He turned to look up at the ornate structure and swallowed. He was actually going in without a fight. The fact that he didn’t have manacles and chains on was not something he’d ever imagined. He had the vampire Councilor to thank for that. Hopefully it stayed that way. However, Evan was pragmatic; a realist. So he prepared for the worst in his mind.
“So this is it. This is what losing my freedom’s gonna be.” He shrugged. “At least it’s grand.” He watched the vampire walk up to him, very measured in his steps and proper in his stature. As much grief as he had heard the man give the human Councilor… he was very much similar in his need for control and need for being proper. At least, that was Evan’s outside perspective on Councilor Evansworth.
“Oh ye of little faith.” Sebastian stopped before Evan and looked him over. “I may not be Kennedy, but I’m still rather decent at presenting a case to Council, Evan.” Turning, Sebastian led Evan into the smaller Chamber.
“It’s not about you versus Kennedy. I…I’ve never seen either of you debate, so I have no clue how good either of you are. I just know how much I’ve done to keep myself out of here. And I have a bad feeling that some of the people in here know me and that, too.”
Sebastian motioned him towards his place before the Council as he took a stance beside him. Evan was hiding his nerves well enough. He looked around and recognized some who sat about, though he hoped they didn’t recognize him. He did his best to make eye contact with those he felt might show him compassion. The elf seemed warm hearted. But to be honest, this was about what he could offer them. And Evan had been taught by the best when it came to parleyance and deal brokering.
Ezekial Skinner took the floor first. He turned to look over the completed Council. Only one member was absent, and he knew well why Gabriel would not be joining them.
“An update for the Council, if you please.” His eyes landed on Vanishte. She had truly taken to her role in the Council and was now the unbiased Chamber Speaker. He waited for her permission per protocol.
Unlike the others, Andre of Pack Laering was temporarily acting as Councilor for the lycan while they sought out a new one to take the seat. So as the Director requested an update he sat quietly and studied the one they would be judging.
“You voted this morning before gathering. And because you acted so speedily, we at Crimson including all Taskers have been able to take all Eriksson holdings that were given to us by the one willing subject to come forward, Mr. Evan LaCroix. You will be handling judgement on him for previous crimes momentarily. That’s why I feel it necessary to give you an update on what his testimony has led to.”
Sebastian listened and would have smirked if it wouldn’t have caused further issues.
“Five full labs have been taken. Three underground markets, wherein slaves were being brought in illegally, traded, and used as entertainment, guinea pigs in experiments, and … various other sundry things have been locked down with only minimal loss of life. The main coven house was taken and 300 souls were saved before the Coven Master set it ablaze. Within that wreckage,” Skinner looked to Zenlial Nedian, “…our Taskers who are impervious to heat and fire found the evidence your previous witnesses showed you, Lady Councilor. Between their given images to your mind, your testimony and Mr. LaCroix’s guidance with the maps and his testimony, those Taskers have found the resting place of your sister-in-arms. It seems that she was truly not just taken by the doppelgangers who had previously tried to overthrow our way of governance, but then her remains were taken to be disposed of by the Eriksson Coven. As you well know, Elven remains have special qualities and well… we need not go further in explaining why these horrid creatures would take the remains. I have been given this,” Skinner walked from the center of the Chamber to Zenlial and handed her a locket. It was proof. It was what she had needed.
Zenlial took the locket and nodded a silent thanks. Skinner walked out of the center, leaving it to Sebastian and his client, now.
Sebastian’s gaze went to where Skinner was seated in the chair Gabriel usually sat in during Council sessions. Placing his hands clasped before him, the vampire spoke in his usual even tone, “Good evening Council, I stand before you to present the case of Mr. Evan LaCroix, son to the Alpha’s of Pack Weylyn.”
“According to previous testimony, and what I have seen, myself, Evan is part of the reason this Council approved the judgement against Coven Eriksson. He was not only a witness, but living proof of that coven’s wrongdoing.” Andre Laering both asked and pointed out.
“It’s true that he was a product of the Eriksson coven as were his two siblings – Dr. Avery LaCroix and their sister Rebecca LaCroix. Evan was raised as many within that coven were; to hunt, to kill, and to do only as their Coven Master bade them to,” Sebastian slowly moved on his feet to face each Councilor while he spoke, “…regardless of the laws broken in the process.” His fingers steepled, “He eventually broke away from the Coven and made a life outside, on his own. It is those years that were are here to discuss today.” The vampire’s gaze moved over each present Councilor and he paused on Zenlial, “He has willingly come to the Council and has put up no fight to stand before you. As you see he wears no restraints because when ordered to return to this location he did so without force.”
“That speaks well of his character,” the elf said quietly, her fingers moving over the locket she had been given.
“Or he could be confident in his release, due to the information he has given us for the previous judgement. We do not hold such deals as guarantees, young sir,” Joseph Iscariot warned the young man in the hot seat.
Evan nodded and cleared his throat. That hurt. But he didn’t run for the door. Not that he could.
“At this time we will listen to the crimes that Mr. LaCroix is currently being judged for and then he will answer for each before questions ensue.” Sebastian nodded towards Skinner in a show of respect to the position he held and gave the man the floor.
“To have him answer to all of the counts against him would be comical,” Ezekial stated as he rose. “This man has used his abilities to move between the vampiric nations, the lycan nations, and the human nations for his long life. Others have profited from it as well. He has been a smuggler, a pirate, a mercenary for hire, an information broker…among other things.” Skinner didn’t bother with moving toward the main floor. “You helped incite small wars. You smuggled known criminals away from Crimson’s grasp. You not only worked with Black Beard, back in the day, but it’s a reasonable assumption that you continue to know him and those tied to the man… a traitor to Crimson.”
Evan looked from Skinner to Sebastian. ~ What am I supposed to say? I can’t deny things. Not all of them. ~
“I’ve lived longer than most. My mama had me when she was like… 14… before she was even turned. But Eriksson found her because she had the genetics they needed. So they started early and back then… that age was considered adult anyway, right? It was… what?” He shook his head. “Late 1600s? I lost track. I lost track, because I just lived my life day to day. The coven kept me moving, so I couldn’t exactly have a normal, stationary life. You ask anybody that’s escaped that place if they could have a normal, quiet life… at least one that they made on their own? And they’ll tell you right off that it can’t be done. Those bastards always found me. And I’d have to move on. I’d have to destroy all evidence of who I was and where I was going. That way, I’d get a reprieve for a time.”
“Pirating?” Iscariot asked. Skinner was taking his seat again, and watching, waiting to add more fuel to the fire. But he could let the Councilors have at for now.
“Blackbeard is known as the gentleman’s pirate. He did his best not to end lives. It was a good move for me. It got me peace of mind for a while. And it taught me sailing, a benefit. I could take on multiple, necessary roles for captains that sailed the Atlantic and the Caribbean.” He shrugged, “If you’re old enough and have lived on this side long enough, you know that pirating was quite the game back in the day. You can’t deny the allure and the practicality of it. At least, before the technological advances of today.”
“You still know this… why is BlackBeard a traitor again?” Zenlial asked.
“He was a Tasker and he left Crimson to become a law breaker,” Skinner explained curtly.
~ I’ll not give them up. ~ Evan told Sebastian immediately. ~ Wasn’t part of the deal. ~
“Do not use mindspeak in this Chamber.” Skinner’s voice had been very deep and serious when he spoke this time. He’d not even looked up from the clipboard he had in his hand where he sat. Everyone was quiet and looked at the man in the main chair.
Evan swallowed slowly. “Apologies. But I told Councilor Evansworth that I would not give you information beyond my own past in this judgement. If you want information on Blackbeard, you find him. I agreed to be witness to Eriksson judgement despite what I might face. That is all.”
“And you aren’t being asked to give up anything.” Andre added as he looked towards the Director with a raised brow. He didn’t know much about this particular Council, but he did know his duty was to assure that the one being judged got a fair trial.
“When was the last time you participated in piracy or trading illegal information?” Varick asked. Representing demons was no easy task and yet right now it seemed like cake compared to this case.
“Three days ago. Oh, and if you count selling out my own coven – less than 24 hours ago.” Evan just told the truth. Why not?
“Would it matter?” Sebastian did chuckle then as he paced before the Council. “We have all committed our fair share of illegal or disgraceful acts. I don’t see but maybe one or two of us that have not done at least half if not all of the things that he has.” The vampire lord grinned, “Information bartering is something demons are rather fond of. Smuggling others around is one humans take interest in. Piracy is one that every race has enjoyed.”
“I’m bringing him forward because of Crimson rules and chain of procedure,” Skinner pointed out. “I and mine have been after him and his for some time. They help people get ahead of us. That can be annoying and it can at worse – cost time, money, and has cost us lives before.”
“Then what we need isn’t persay to punish him, but to keep him and his from continuing to put Crimson officers and guardians in danger.” Zenlial looked to Evan and set the papers in front of her back down that she had picked up. “You bartered information to us, just now… so that you could help your pack and your family. In doing, you saved countless lives in that coven and in Crimson. You also … your information will put others like me at ease. We will finally be able to let the souls of our loved ones go to rest, now. For that, I am willing to overlook many of these charges. You are no longer looking to escape and prolong your own life. You are helping others. That is growth.”
Taking Sebastian’s words into account, I have to agree. We all have dabbled here and there.” Iscariot sighed. He looked over to the Elemental Councilor and asked, “Have you anything at all to add?”
“No.” Sheroff Sorcelle was a creature of few words. He was sticking to that today.
“If he’s so skilled why not hire him to work with Crimson and Council as an advisor?” Andre suggested when it seemed everyone else had spoken.
“It wouldn’t exactly be a precedent. Look at yourself, Sebastian,” Zenlial pointed out.
“Oh, I’m not actually looking for a job, yet…” Evan wasn’t sure what to think about that. He preferred being completely free… but if this was the only way to get that freedom back? He looked at Sebastian and his eyes were definitely saying – please, no. “I needed to be sure everyone was safe, first. That seemed appropriate. And right now, I should be helping find my brother. He wasn’t so lucky as those lives you’re saying were saved. It was because of his and Lady Matthews’ kidnapping that we’re here – that the coven was done for and that I needed to be here for this in the first place!” For the first time, Evan broke with his calm. His eyes glowed as Sebastian had seen them do before as the man grew agitated.
“You are rightfully concerned, but I assure you, that this judgement is what we must deal with first and foremost – and what future lies ahead for you in this world,” Joseph pointed out.
“All due respect, but you should put yourself in my shoes and understand that I’m still looking for my missing sister, I’ve got a mother who I just reunited with after all of these years – she was injured in the attack on our packlands, and my brother and a family friend were taken to the other side and I find this entire judgement to be short sighted and a waste of my time.” the low growl was barely perceptible. But Sebastian could see the slight bulge under the lips of fangs.
“While I understand your desire to be elsewhere attending to other pressing needs, this must be settled so that it does not rear up and cause you trouble later.” The lycan Councilor knew that such agitation would not bode well for any of them. It was better to handle this entire matter calmly if possible.
“Evan, let me handle this..” Sebastian caught the young man’s gaze and held it. He had promised Raven and he was determined to keep his word. Looking back at Skinner, Sebastian stood proper and proud as the Coven Master that he was. “I have a better suggestion.”
“Go on,” Skinner motioned with his hand. Vanishte gave him a glare, but the Director just shrugged and bowed his head slightly toward her. It’s not like he had allowed anything she would refuse.
The younger vampire blinked, his mixed colored eyes, eyes that exactly mirrored those of his own adopted daughter, trusting Sebastian with his future. He took slow breaths, trying to relax.
“When something of valid importance comes to his attention he will report it to me as my personal informant. This way he isn’t endangered by actually being on the payroll for Crimson or this Council. It would also mean that the only ones that were aware of his informant status would be those present in this room right now. To the rest of the world he’d be a criminal that Crimson fined for his crimes. We fine others and so it wouldn’t be odd to do so now given he has already proven his worth.” If need be Sebastian already had Cody lined up to testify. The ursa wasn’t thrilled but had agreed since it was Becca’s own brother on trial. The bear had become partial to her.
Varick narrowed his gaze on the mix breed, “What’s to assure he does such?”
“Let me worry about that. Let’s just agree to a fine and his informant status so that he can go and help his family. We don’t always have to be cold calloused beings.” He looked directly at Skinner for that last bit.
Ezekial placed his hand over his chest as if to say, “Who me?”
“No.” All of the Councilors turned to look at the normally very quiet Elemental Councilor. The man who looked like a normal human, with raven black hair and oddly iridescent eyes looked at the rest of the Councilors and then stood to look at the Councilor with the floor.
“Councilor Sorcelle?” Vanishte gave him the floor for now.
“It would be improper to simply trust a single Councilor with the knowledge and control of the informant, if he has enough knowledge to cause you all pause. I do not mind signing off on the paperwork and permissions for making the gentleman an informat to Crimson and the Council via Councilor Evansworth. However, not knowing what would hold the informant to his vows is not acceptable.”
The fact that such a question was being brought forth was actually quite irritating to the vampire and yet it was one he would ask if he were acting Councilor of the matter. “Why does this particular individual bring around such a question?”
“The Director of Crimson has made notice of how difficult it is to capture this man. He was obviously difficult for his own coven to find. He is only here because of an extreme incident. Otherwise, he would still be evading everyone. And you believe that allowing him to go free without any sort of binding vow or tracking mechanism would be wise? If so, I would question your placement upon this Council.”
Now Sebastian lifted his brow in that perfect arch as his head tipped to the side.”Question my position all you like, but I’d like to point out that I never said I had no way to track and find him if the need to arose for such”
“You have all pointed out the fact that none of you can be trusted to not break your own laws, so I would question any of your characters and abilities to keep this gentleman in check at this point. Am I the only person who has never broken a Crimson law?” The elemental was startled by what he heard them saying, though he only showed such through his words. “He needs to be tracked and he needs to have some sort of binding upon him… something that will keep him from simply disappearing once again.” He looked to Sebastian in particular. “I await your information and suggestions on such things, Councilor Evansworth…for we are all in this together. Tell us how this will be done and I may say proceed…” The Councilor sat back down.
Evan was looking at the floor. Sebastian knew from their earlier conversation that he would never just disappear again. But it wasn’t anyone else’s business as to why that was so. He had not yet been welcomed with open arms into anything with Raven and her Chosen. It was just his heart that would not allow him to treat her father disrespectfully.
“Tell me something first and if you can answer me sufficiently then I’ll gladly answer you.” His gaze moved over all the Council, “This is for all of you, not just Councilor Sorcelle.” Sebastian clasped his hands behind him and slowly paced, “Each of you have informants of your own and have particular ways or means to find each of them. Will each of you share with the entire Council how you find each of them and who they are? I mean you already know he will be my informant and that I will be able to find him. You are demanding I tell you my way of doing so and so I request the same of each of you.” Perhaps a couple might do so but the others would see his point. What would keep them from using his way to get Evan? It was why their informants remained anonymous.
“It’s my understanding,” Zenlial stood and looked to Vanishte, who nodded a bow to her. “…that if a Councilor has informants, and a lot of you, do, right?” She looked around at those that did nod. “Anyway, if you do, you are also then responsible for their actions, should those actions lead to more issues for Crimson, the Council, or innocent people.”
“This is true,” Councilor Sorcelle replied.
“Then, my vote would be that Evan LaCroix be officially transcribed as Sebastian Evansworth’s informant – as witnessed by us all. As such, Councilor Evansworth is responsible for Mr. LaCroix. I also suggest that all of his crimes be tallied by the justice department of Crimson and he be fined for them. This is all what Councilor Evansworth has asked prior. However, we are reiterating that if this informant drops his responsibility, his Councilor will be willing to pay any prices owed. Unlike other informants, who are probably held as secrets by each of you, this informant is known. That gives him less incentive to disappear again.”
“My vote is likewise,” Vanishte added, before waiting for the others.
“Likewise,” Joseph stated.
“Abstain,” Councilor Sorcelle replied. He hadn’t gone against it at least.
“Likewise as well.” Varick acknowledged though he didn’t like the idea much.
Andre glanced left then right before nodding, “Likewise for the lycan as long as Evansworth understands he’s accountable for this one.”
“Oh I understand, trust me when I say I know more about Council punishment than you’ll ever know.” Sebastian glanced at Evan and there was understanding, he was trusting the young man to uphold his part.
“For what my words are worth, I thank the Council for allowing me this. I will not run from my responsibility to Councilor Evansworth or to my family. And I will pay my debts. I always have.” Evan waited for them to close out and he didn’t want to get up too soon or anything out of order. But he was really all nerves right then. And it wasn’t until the voices of the Council had faded that he realized … maybe it was because he hadn’t drank in so long. Ariessa had offered after the fight, but he’d declined. After meeting Raven, he didn’t want to drink from another. Not like that. And he’d been through a lot lately. Maybe it was wearing on him.
“Evan, are you alright?” Sebastian’s voice was low as he spoke to the young man while the Councilors began leaving the Chamber. “Did you hear me?”
“Huh? Sorry…” He stood up for Sebastian.
“I said you are free to go. Are you okay to travel or do I need go take you someplace?” There was actually a touch of concern in the tone as the vampire noted the look of Evan right then.
“I uh… I’m embarrassed to ask this, but I’ve gone without for too long. My supply chain isn’t available to me anymore. Do you happen to have some available blood for your newly deputized informant?” It might be embarrassing to ask, but he wasn’t ashamed to ask. He didn’t want to go back to the pack thirsty. “Then, I need to check on mama and the others. Maybe they’ve found Terry?”
With a flick of the wrist Sebastian secured the doors of the Chamber before rolling his sleeve up and offering his wrist. “They haven’t found him yet, but they are on his trail.”
Evan knelt in front of Sebastian and took his offered wrist, moving his mouth perfectly over the skin to find the proper position and then with very little force at all, and very little pain, Evan pushed his canines in and didn’t bother slipping them out, just tilted his head a bit to get the pulsing blood into his mouth.
“You should go to your mother, she could use your comfort in her mate’s absence. Samantha tells me that she is not going to be able to save the pregnancy. Eva is refusing to reach out to Devon. She says he is Terry’s best chance. Perhaps you can convince her otherwise as I believe Devon should be at her side.”
He took another gulp and then opened his mouth to remove his fangs, the skin began healing over quickly. Taking Sebastian’s other hand he let the vampire help him up.
“Enough?” Adjusting his sleeve back, Sebastian watched Evan a moment more to be assured he was good.
“I’ve taken all I need. I should be with my mother and family. But, I warn you, if she’s anything like me, she will not change her mind. If she’s already lost the little ones, there’s nothing to be done for them. But for Terry, there’s still hope. She won’t take Devon from that course.” Evan wiped his mouth, his shoulders were slumped.
“Perhaps you should rest first?”
“I have to face her. I’ve done everything I can. But I can’t bring back her little girls after I brought the villains to her doorstep.” He turned toward the door, his heart breaking a little more. “How do I get to where she is? Is she at your clinic or is she at her home?”
There was was a sad smile from the vampire. If nothing else, Evan was a truly responsible man. Perhaps he was an appropriate match for his daughter, after all?
~ Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019