“You know that it is not the only veil that exists in this world, correct?” Mona raised a single brow, testing the honesty of the King.
Cypher answered slowly, cautiously. “I know of another veil.”
“I need that veil opened,” Mona said flatly.
Cypher sat up straighter as his eyes widened. “Why would you possibly want that veil opened? Do you understand the repercussions of such an action?”
Mona waved her hand as if to brush away his worry. “They can be controlled. I know you know this. You know how. Don’t you, wise King?”
“Flattery will not get you far with me, Desdemona.”
“Fine, no flattery, whatever. Do you know how to open the veil?” Her patience was wearing thin.
“Yes,” he answered shortly.
Mona waited for him to elaborate and when he didn’t she huffed, “Are you willing to do the trade?”
“A mate for the knowledge of how to open the veil to the underworld?” The skepticism in his voice made Mona think for a moment that he was ready to toss her out of his mountain.
“Yes,” she answered eagerly.
“Where is this mate? Who is she? What species?”
Mona chuckled. “Eager, are we? She is beautiful. Unfortunately, she is kind, so I apologize for that in advance. And I suppose I must also apologize for the fact that she is human. But I know that is not a problem for your species.”
“Human,” Cypher muttered.
He hadn’t even considered that the witch would bring a human into the mix. It was true, his species was compatible with humans, but it was a rare pairing.
“Does she know anything of the supernatural world?” he asked.
Mona knew she needed to tread carefully here, not wanting to reveal too much too soon.
“She is aware of our world,” she responded. Mona didn’t mention the fact that the human had no clue that warlocks existed. But that was just a minor detail. No biggie.
“So she isn’t going fall apart when she meets me, right?”
“Warlock King, she will be apprehensive, but I’m sure you have charm enough to bend her to your will. Have faith in yourself, Cypher. Surely you can handle one little human.” Mona was growing tired of the conversation and wanted Cypher to hurry and accept. She would demand a blood oath from him. She wasn’t stupid; she would not simply take his word for it.
“I want the human before I open the veil,” he demanded.
Mona tapped her chin with her index finger as she thought about his request.
“Fine,” she answered briskly. “I will bring her to you in a few days. Now, of course, I require a blood oath.”
Cypher stood abruptly. Fury rolled off of him.
“You dare to ask ME, King of the warlocks, to share blood with you?” He spat out the last word as if it were dirt on his tongue. If water had dripped on his skin in that moment it would have sizzled as the anger flushed his flesh.
Mona stood and, though she was not as tall as Cypher, nor as large in build, she refused to be intimidated.
“I am no fool, King. How am I to know that once you get the female you will follow through with your end of the bargain?”
“I do not break my word.” His words were a near growl.
“Well, forgive me if I don’t trust the word of a warlock King who’s consumed with darkness. One whose people are dwindling in number and whose magic is waning. Desperate people cannot be trusted, Cypher. And though it may loath you to think it, great King, you are desperate.” Mona’s words, though somewhat true, did not make the decision to perform a blood oath any easier.
Cypher knew all the consequences of a blood oath; if he broke the bargain, then Mona would not only have the right to punish him, she would also have the right to take two of his people and make them suffer in the In Between. That was a fate worse than death. Of course, there was a way to get out of the blood oath. If he took the witch's life he would not have to fulfill the bargain. He made his choice and before he could change his mind a knife materialized from thin air into his hand. He quickly drew a deep line across his palm. Mona smiled and it made his skin crawl. She too had a knife and cut her own palm. They grasped each other’s cut hand and Mona spoke as their blood mingled.
“On this day, I, Desdemona, last of the witches, hold you to a blood oath. The bargain is thus: I will provide a human female suitable for you to take as a mate. If it is possible to collect the stones without causing harm to myself, then I will assist you. In return for my services, you, Cypher, King of the warlocks, will open the veil to the underworld. You will give me the knowledge to control the hoard and then close the veil once they have served my purpose. Do we have a deal?”
Mona met the King’s stare, not flinching when she felt him tighten his large hand around hers.
“I make this deal with you this day. Bound by the blood oath, I will agree to your terms.” With one last painful squeeze by Cypher, they released each other’s hands, both abruptly stepping back to a safe distance from the other.
“I will return in two days’ time with your female,” Mona told him as she turned to go.
“When am I to perform this task?” he asked, his face a mask of calmness that barely cloaked the rage beneath.
“I will give you ample notice when the time comes.” That was the only answer he received before Desdemona exited his home at an inhuman speed.
Cypher closed his eyes as he fell back onto the couch.
“What have I done?” he whispered into the large, empty room. He had allowed his own desire for a mate to put the lives of his species at risk. And for what? For a woman who may never love him and never forgive him for allowing Desdemona to take her from her human life. What’s done is done, he thought. I must simply do what I can to make it work.
Adam and Elle watched as Mona fled from the warlock King’s mountain. They had heard all they needed to hear and it wasn’t good. Peri had told them to continue their recon and then to split up. Elle was to be with Decebel’s group and Adam was to go to the Carpathian Mountains and meet up with Vasile’s group.
“I know Peri told us to leave once we had this information, but perhaps we should follow the witch for just a while longer,” Adam suggested. “Maybe then we can find out the identity of the human she is bringing to King Cypher.”
Elle nodded and began to climb down the mountain. They both moved soundlessly as they maneuvered across the rocks, bushes, and crevices. They quickly caught up to Desdemona and used their magic to cloak themselves from her. Elle ran alongside the steed’s right side about 50 yards away while Adam mirrored her on the left side of the beast. They ran fluidly, swiftly dodging trees, jumping soundlessly over fallen trunks. The leaves and plants around them were left undisturbed, never revealing that the Fae that had run past.