The Eternity War
They passed into the deepest sanctions of de Luca territory with no problem.
After Myrrh, it was either the de Lucas were too frightened of losing or they really didn't care. Most likely the latter. It was hard to fear a nameless child and her guard.
"Do you know where he lives?" asked Heroin.
"No, I've never gone further than the Moonstone. Ardent's orders."
Jason grimaced. "Another reason for him to hate my guts. Turn right here."
Heroin acquiesced and found herself faced with a house. It wasn't a nice house, overgrown with shrubs and abandoned, but Heroin felt oddly at peace. There was a warmth in the air, along with the eerie supernatural sensation that here was a place of importance.
Jason answered the unspoken question. "Yeah, Carlotta de Luca lived here for nine years until she lost her parents. That's why this place is special to Dominick."
He opened the door. The lock was broken, had long since stopped working. The inside was dark, no electricity. The stairs, made of dark mahogany, had faded into shadows, bleached by time and despair.
"Give him a while," advised Jason. "And try not to touch anything."
Sixty seconds, sixty minutes, one hour.
"There he is. Careful not to upset him, Heroin. He's known to be a bit…unstable."
Dominick de Luca was in his late twenties, with pale skin and dark hair. His face was shadowed and his eyes haunted. Heroin recalled Peril reporting he had been kidnapped. The fight at the Ching compound for the prisoners had ended in the de Lucas' favor, but the ordeal had left its mark on the de Luca heir.
"There were complaints that Genevra's house was being…ransacked," began Dominick. His voice, rough, grew gentle at the mention of his sister.
Genevra de Luca.
De Luca's daughter. Dominick's sister. Carlotta's mother.
Dominick's mouth twisted into a mocking sneer. Bitter. "But it seems they were wrong. You were waiting for me. You, you're a supplier, and you…"
Silence, as he inspected Heroin's face. She curled her fingers. Did she look so much like Carlotta that it rendered Dominick silent? "You…you are Avarett," he said with forced finality, suffocating the choke that bubbled up in his throat.
"You know of Maude?" Heroin asked. She pointedly ignored Jason's stare.
"Maude. I was a child when I last heard that name, from my father's lips." Dominick stepped inside the house, his posture slumping casually. Like Nelson Ching, once he had identified Heroin, he found no danger in her presence. "Yes, you have her eyes."
Heroin slowly raised a hand to touch the iris of her eyes but withdrew before her fingers made contact. She'd heard it all before. Maude Avarett's famed gray eyes. Ardent and Adry, and countless other relatives, bore the same trait.
"I am a descendant of Maude Avarett. You're from Diane's line. You're the heir, but I've come to ask if you're…the true heir. The real heir."
The request didn't faze him. He stared steadily ahead. He didn't ask why, just…
"Are you trying to end the conflict?"
"For my own self-interest and curiosity."
This time, his words held meaning. "I can tell you that I don't fight because of Diane and Marisol. I fight because I hate the Chings, and because it was what I was born to do."
Jason had already suspected that, already warned Heroin not to pin her hopes too high. The girl held herself admirably, not faltering. "Please."
After all, Dominick de Luca had not guess the true reason for her questions.
Dominick hesitated. "Genevra de Luca was my older sister. Carlotta should be…"
"Carlotta is the eldest child, yes, but you know," interrupted Jason. "She's…she's… Would that matter?"
"It is why Carlotta will never inherit leadership," said Dominick solemnly. "But, for whatever you wish to do with this information, I do not know."
Heroin touched Jason's arm, eyes fixed on the de Luca heir. "What is it?"
Jason looked at Dominick. He wasn't the kind to intrude into others' family business, but the older man didn't appear to mind.
"Genevra de Luca and Carlotta's father never…married. And when he died, nine years later, there had been no talk of marriage between the two."
What would Nelson think? No. Of course he already knew. Was this what he meant by pasts tangling? Did he think an illegitimate child could be the heir?
She had no idea, and Jason offered no further explanation. If she guessed, she'd have a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right. A fifty-fifty chance of dying. Along with Marisol and Maude's heirs…the odds were even greater.
Heroin didn't know. Her hand had fallen to her side, playing with the hemline of her shirt. It was comforting how straight the edge was, how the fabric bent under her fingers, calming her nerves without ever solving the problem.
"You should talk to Carlotta," said Dominick. "Maybe it will help. Maybe not."
"Alright," complied Heroin tonelessly.
"Is that it?"
"That is all I had to ask, yes."
He turned around to walk away. "Please don't take anything from this house. I have no doubt we'll meet again…Avarett."
"Wait," said Jason. Dominick stopped. "One last question. Who does Myrrh Fabloue answer to?"
Dominick gave a bark of laughter as he stuffed his fists into his pockets. He didn't look back. "Myrrh Fabloue… Where'd you meet him?"
"Outside the Sunstone."
"I see. He's mine, but I didn't order him to meet you. He must have had his own agenda." Dominick left, his mind humming. Myrrh must have had a reason… He wasn't the type to create extra work. There was something else driving him, and Dominick didn't like anything that screwed with his subordinates…
"You've been quiet," commented Jason as they left the de Luca boundary. The sun was setting. Their pace was quick as they vied to reach home before Ardent grew suspicious.
"I…I've never been attacked before." Though her voice was steady and her form never trembled, her words bled her emotions. For as long as Jason had known her, Heroin had pursued the de Luca and Ching legacy, and never had she relented. She'd been frightened a lot more, recently. Something had changed to make the unrestricted, determined little girl grow older and thoughtful. Only time would tell whether that transformation was good. "I've been threatened and people have pointed guns at me, but… Jason, I'm a kid. I know." Her lips were chapped. She licked them, struggling to go on. "No one has come close to…"
Heroin brought a hand to her cheek. "I've never come so close to…" she finished lamely.
She meant both the incident with Myrrh and Nelson Ching's threat. It occurred to Jason that Heroin hadn't thought out the consequences of her actions. She rarely did, and now it was too late. A run in with death had shattered the glass walls of her ideal world – one where family was most important – and Heroin was simply not ready.
She hadn't been babied. Hadn't been spoiled. Hadn't been shielded.
The flaw in her upbringing was that she'd believed in too much.
"Don't worry, you'll be fine," said Jason. It wasn't like him to be soft, but something stirred inside of him. Heroin was fragile. "We'll figure this out. Ardent'll skin me if anything happens."
Ardent wasn't home, but Jason had the keys. He dug them out of his pocket to unlock the front door. The house was unusually quiet, and the kitchen buzzer rang seven o'clock as they stepped inside.
"He's not home. He should be home by now," muttered Jason. As Heroin became frantic, he added hastily, "I mean, it's odd, but not unheard of. He probably go caught up with work."
"Right," said a dubious Heroin.
Time to change the subject, he thought awkwardly.
"Anyways, what you went through today," Jason said just as it struck him that the day's events might have been a touchy topic for Heroin. The girl gave him undeterred attention, however, so he continued. "What you went through today was nothing. Now, the search really begins. Finding Carlotta will be twice – no, three times – as difficult as finding her uncle. Remember what that detective, Peril, said. She's hanging around the police now."
"Oh, can't we just ask Ar…" She trailed off. Her brother wasn't there. Heroin looked down at her toes. "Well, it's not like I'm a criminal or anything, and your criminal identity is presumably dead. I think…the hardest part will be keeping her entertained. I mean, Carlotta's supposed to be…"
Jason nodded. His memories of the de Luca girl were none too pleasant. Hers was a tragic tale that ended with a monster of a child. No, monster was too harsh. If Heroin was childish for her age, Carlotta was mature in a sense that even adults should never be. Savagely mature. Sadistically.
"Hm, I suggest you take the Karmts boy," he suggested.
Heroin looked at him, appalled. "Ethan? Why? I don't want him involved anymore."
"And why not? Carlotta's more likely to let down her guard with children her age." He didn't add that the experience would be beneficial to everyone else as well. "Carlotta…has never known many kids her age. The closest would be Will and Lena, and those two lost their parents – my sister and her husband – to the conflict. She's only just learning to open up."
Heroin bit her lip. Carlotta had never been a subject of pity to her; no, Carlotta's name was just another name. Now, the more she learned about the girl, the more she seemed human. Meeting Ethan could change them both, but…
Heroin wasn't ready yet. She knew Ethan hated the fights, hated de Lucas and Chings and anything to do with them. He wasn't interested, and he never would be. Heroin wanted so much to respect his wishes, especially because last time, it almost didn't work out.
And she hadn't seen him outside of school since.
Anything else might upset the precarious balance of their emotions, of their friendship. She didn't want that bond to crumble.
Ethan had woken up some portion of her soul and forced her to think. Forced her to care. Heroin almost choked when she realized what she was doing, merely putting someone else before herself. She cared about what Ethan wanted, and she wanted him to be happy.
When had that happened?
Jason watched as a turmoil of expressions fluttered around Heroin's face. It was easy to tell what she was thinking.
That alone stood unchallenged in Heroin's mind. He would be angry. He would want to leave. He would hate her.
And she wasn't ready to lose him yet.
But that was her heart speaking, and her mind still argued self-preservation. This was her life on the line. Had she already forgotten the fear of dying? Of course not. Never.
"I'm so sorry, Ethan," she wanted to say, but Ethan wasn't there.
And the words that she formed weren't an apology.
The winner and riddle answers are on my profile.
Alright, I'm going to try and start something new. Every time the review count hits 100 (200, 300, etc…), I'll post a related one-shot about the past of a character. This is obviously a ploy for more reviews, buuuuut…please? :D I honestly have no idea how I'm doing and/or if people are reading this.
Disclaimer: All characters used with permission.