They needed to return to the Chamber the following day.  Gabriel received a call advising him that breakfast would be at 6:30 AM in the garden area and that Councilor Petrard would be joining him. So after rousing an irritated Senias and getting them both dressed, Gabriel had taken the wheel to get them both here despite his dragon’s grumbling. Now he sighed as he looked at Sen, “Any thoughts before we go into this?” It wasn’t uncommon for him to ask the Tasker for his opinion on something as he did it all the time.

They were standing in front of the hotel, Sen was still adjusting his cuff with the barely noticable link. He turned a sharp gaze to the Councilor and said, “I’m not sure what to think of what is being said about the man. He’s a mage that’s been around since the second world war. He has an extended life because of his use of magic. I know some of it has bound to be dark, because the extended life without the touch of a dragon or a vampire is in the field of necromancy. It is a very guarded art.”  He growled low as the cufflink fell to the ground. Did he break it?

“Very guarded and very watched by Crimson. Which would mean he’s practicing without permission.” Gabriel calmly bent to pick the cufflink up and as he stood he looked Sen over. “What’s gotten into you this morning?” He looked the piece over as he took in his lovers appearance. They were familiar to him, like his own they had the Kennedy Crest within them.

“We barely got sleep and I’ve not yet had coffee. You insisted we get dressed and on our way immediately. As you can tell, my head’s not truly on straight yet this morning. But I’m doing the best I can. Now, if you could fix this damned thing? Please?”  He didn’t like wearing suits, little on cufflinks with them.

Reaching for Sen’s wrist Gabriel adjusted the material until it was proper and slid the small piece of gold into place. One more tug for a final adjustment and Gabriel let the wrist go. He didn’t stop there though, he lifted the wrinkled collar, adjusted the tie properly and flipped the collar back down to smooth it. Gabriel correctly buttoned two buttons on Sen’s shirt and smoothed out his jacket at correct the lapels. “You were very close to him weren’t you?” Assured that Sen was as proper as he could get him, Gabriel stepped back to a proper distance.

Senias was actually enjoying the fuss. He’d probably never admit it, but having your lover fuss over you like this was endearing. It made him want to carry Gabriel back upstairs. Alas… duty.  And then the question. The dragon hadn’t caught on because he was so enthralled by the thought of, well – upstairs. “Him?” he asked.

“My grandfather.” Gabriel brushed his finger over the cuff link again.

His eyes moved to the cuff links. Ahhh…  

“We were best friends, so to speak. He gave me these because I wouldn’t have bought any for myself. Still the only pair I have. I like to believe I saved his life after Amelia passed. But I believe you may have been responsible for that as well.”  Senias watched Gabe.

His brows drew together in the perfect point to show his confusion. He recalled the passing of his grandmother. It had been a hard time for the family in general, but his grandfather had been unconsolable.  He had drowned in grief and Gabriel had only seen him on breaks from the academy when he’d returned to the estate. He wasn’t sure how Sen thought he’d helped, he didn’t recall doing much aside from spending time with him. “So why keep them now?”

“I’d give them to you, but I can’t give them away. It’s part of the enchantment.” he shrugged. “They always reappear in their original case the next morning.” He lifted a brow, “And you thought you were pushy and proper? Heh… you must not remember your grandfather as well as I thought you did.”   

“I remember him, suits and ties and polished black shoes. I don’t remember such pushiness from him. We spent our time in the library and I remember walking the grounds with him. He seemed to enjoy that.” Gabriel was giving his grandfather serious thought then as he tried to recall the elders quirks.

“Why am I craving a cigarette?” Sen moved to look down the street. He’d seen lights turning, but apparently it wasn’t their car.  

The question caught him off guard and blinking, Gabriel glanced at his watch, “I don’t know, but if you are going to smoke now would be the time.” It wasn’t a habit that Gabriel enjoyed, but he’d not refuse Sen one if it were needed, especially if it would help the man’s mood.

“I shouldn’t stink myself up. Besides, you prefer sweet tobacco. I can compromise that. A small cigar won’t be hard to come by once the shoppes open.” Senias let his lover see a wicked grin before another car turned on their street and this time, came their way.  Gabriel had often enjoyed his grandfather’s company while the old man smoked his pipe. Senias remembered that.

As soon as the car was before them, Sen went round it to be sure it was proper, then opened the door for Gabriel.  He got in on the other side.

Settling in for the ride, Gabriel made sure the window between the driver and themselves was all the way up. They didn’t have complete privacy, but it was enough to have at least some small talk along the way.

“He enjoyed walking the grounds with you, because you are both very well connected to the nature of the place. Places all have magic, most humans overlook that. Indigenous peoples are the ones who understand that best. They do not even refer to time as a construct, rather most tribes refer to places – that’s how important they are in history. But, your grandfather… once he got his head back from wanting to join your grandmother… he wanted to make sure you appreciated even that which you could not see.”

“I don’t remember all of that..” Gabriel adjusted his suit and eased back in the seat. “Tell me.”

“Well, I remember you being sick and feverish and he got fed up with your father ignoring it. So he grabbed you, covers and all and took you to the streams out back. Eva spoke words of healing over you while the cool water shocked your system back into good. You absorbed some of that natural magic that day. First time you had ever done so, I think.”

His eyes closed and Gabriel swallowed hard, “I don’t feel that, and I’m not sure I want to.” Gabriel looked over at the dragon, “I’m perfectly fine being a simple human, are you not fine with it that way?”

This was not a question he had ever thought to face. How had things gotten to this question? And before he’d truly gotten properly awake and caffeinated? Was it coffee he needed now, or a good stout? Perhaps whiskey? He was taking too long to respond. He could see that for a fact in Gabriel’s eyes.  

“That’s a very difficult question that requires much more than one answer, Gabriel,” Sen whispered. How did he even begin? He paused to see if his kindred had more to ask or say…

The fact that Sen could have given a straightforward answer of yes or no – but didn’t – was actually an answer in and of itself.

“Fair enough, for another time then.” His jaw was tense as his teeth clenched together. The relaxed ease was no longer there as he mentally shoved his emotions behind a door and slammed it shut.

“I didn’t mean I wouldn’t answer that.” He looked forward, now a bit of a roll to his half-lidded eyes that he couldn’t help. Seemed that he might have already given the wrong answer. Lovely! A reminder of one of the many reasons he gave for not getting entangled in relationships… handed to him by the person he currently had a relationship with.

The soft spoken words and the way Sen was going told Gabriel the dragon was taking this serious. It also told the Councilor that the dragon wasn’t at all comfortable with the subject at hand.

“No it’s fine, no need to expand further at this point. Perhaps later when the place is more suitable. Besides it won’t be long before we’re at the Chamber.” Gabriel was giving Sen the opportunity to get out of the conversation by not pushing the subject further.

“Well, practicality saves the ass of the beast. Look at that,” Senias chuckled. He didn’t care that Gabriel might get his tie in a tighter knot for the words. He was being honest. And there was a lot to talk about regarding his opinion and desires where Gabriel was concerned than needed to be delved into in the back seat of a car driven by someone they didn’t know who might be able to hear more than he needed to hear.  

Gabriel took a deep breath as his chin went up just a slight bit in response to the brash response.

“What else you want to talk about? Maybe something practical yet again? Our meeting? Do you have questions? What can I tell you?” Sen tapped his fingers on his thigh as he considered these questions himself.

“The meeting will suffice. What can you tell me about Councilor Petrard?” He was damned near immaculate from his attire to his cool attitude right then. At that point no one would think there was anything more than a Councilor/Tasker relationship between the two.

“You know he likes liquor in everything? So he’ll reek of it by the afternoon. But don’t let that make you think he doesn’t have a clear mind.”  The Tasker’s brow furrowed as he tried to think of other information Gabriel might need. Alcohol can be a drug that is used to help enhance magical auras. Remember – he’s a mage.” 

“Duly noted. Our job will be to find out if he is indeed dabbling around with demons.” Gabriel glanced out the window a moment and then back at Senias, “Any suggestion how we may do such during this meeting?”

“I stand as guard and can be prepared to see shifts and smell what I can. I don’t know if it’ll be good enough. I may need to compensate. If you had more control, you’d be able to tell quicker than I could.”

Gabriel’s brow lifted into a high arch on the left side in response to what he said. He’d thought they were done with that for the moment but apparently not.

“I’m not picking, I’m…” Senias turned so his knee was in the seat so he could really face his Councilor.  “Look, what I’m saying is that he’s a known alcoholic for a reason. You may take pride in your refrain from magic and from vices such as too much alcohol, but amongst the supernaturals, there are reasons for these things.” Sen’s hand moved between them, palm up in a cup formation as he tried to explain. He had always talked better with his hands – especially when sleepy and cranky, and well, annoyed. “I cannot smell the use of magic when covered by alcohol or say – diabetes for instance. It’s in the blood. The smell gets lost between the smells of liquor or the overproduction of sugars to the bloodstream. I’ve used the alcohol before to avoid notice, not just in acting.”

“That’s a lot to say on a subject.” Gabriel crossed his hands in his lap and took in breath, “I’m still not interested. I’m fine as I am.”

“Also, I say the sight would be good for you to have control on,  ~ as you finally were able to see my lair door upstairs? ~  because as I…am..?” His eyebrows raised as he tried to say it without saying it, “As I am, I would need several drinks of liquor to feel tipsy enough to see what you can, while sober.”  

“Quite determined in this matter aren’t you?”

“I’m giving you the facts, Gabriel. I know you for some reason find magic distasteful, but it’s useful.”

“Let me ask you something.” Gabriel leaned just a little forward and his brown eyes were focused on Sen, “Have I ever forced you into anything?”

“No.” Sen would never have allowed it. Or he would have allowed it, but been pretty pissed about it. He’d been forced to do things by others in the Kennedy family.

“Then please stop trying to force this on me.” As the car came to a stop Gabriel climbed out of it before Sen even had a chance to reach for the door.  First Eva and now Senias! Why was just being human so terrible? He’d never shown the slightest interest in magic for himself and wasn’t sure if he ever would. If not would that mean the dragon would lose interest in him?

“Oh for the love of all that’s sane!” Senias growled and slammed his fist into the plush seat that Gabriel had just departed. WHY… did people have to be so stubborn? WHY did everything have to be stood on for principle?

“Tu bien, monsieur?” the driver spoke, out of nowhere. He had thought both men were out and had engaged the window back down. Considering he’d not heard a peep out of his passengers for the entire journey until this one started yelling, he was a bit startled.

“Oui, uh… pardon.” He shook his head and grunted. The Tasker got out of the car on his own side and walked around the back as it drove off.  This time, the Tasker readjusted his coat and sleeves before moving to join Gabriel as the man walked up the steps in front of the Paris Council Chambers.   

“Fine, figure it out your way, human.” the dragon stated simply before snatching the heavy door in front of them and opening it for Gabriel, despite his Councilor’s wanting to do things for himself.

Gabriel refused to respond to that final scathing retort by his lover. If he did it would cause a scene and that was the last thing he needed right now. Instead he silently stepped through the door and approached the security check. He presented their ID’s and let them scan his things.

They followed their guide through the halls and out to the garden where a table was set and waiting for them. “Coffee.” It was a short and to the point request as Gabriel took his seat to await the other Councilors arrival.

Senias didn’t ask. He saw the coffee on a table nearby, took up two cups to fill. When the server gave him a stern look, he ignored it. Walking the coffee to the side table, he began pouring in milk and sugar for his own. Then, he moved to the table and placed Gabriel’s black coffee in front of him, while he sat near and sipped his. He’d move once they were joined. Right now… coffee.  

“They have ham, prosciutto and cheeses along with grains and pastries also some eggs. What would you prefer? No need to be on an empty stomach when such good food is nearby, Councilor.” He sipped his coffee again and watched as two papers were handed to Gabriel. Even though they were hardly seeing eye to eye, he’d not let his lover starve.

“Toast will be fine.” Gabriel answered without thought. He sipped from his cup before opening the first paper to the business section.   

“Well you heard the man. You seem bored. Get to it. I’ll have the prosciutto and cheese, by the way.”  the dragon watched the server do as he was asked and sipped more of his coffee. Soon enough, there were two pieces of toast, cut diagonally and served with pats of butter and fruit compote between them in front of Gabriel and the meat and cheese on a plate next to the Tasker.

“So, how long before the meeting begins? You said 6:30AM, and we’re here.”

The server simply stood by and watched the two men. Gabriel could feel his gaze on them. As he finished one page of the paper, he folded it back and neatly placed it to the side. He took a piece of the toast, “Is the Councilor on his way?”

“Which Councilor?” the server asked.

“Petrard, of course,” he slipped easily into his Tasker persona. Cold and snarky Jean-Michel Raudine was here again, in no small part due to the attitude problem on his left.

“I am here, mes amis…” the rather average looking man walked into the eating area and handed his jacket to the other server in station, before walking hurriedly over to the table.

“Pleased to see you again, Councilor Kennedy,” he took Gabriel’s hand.  

Raudine stood wiping his mouth before taking a step back from the table.  He was the Tasker and as such, had duty and shouldn’t be eating and drinking with them if they were having an official meeting.

“Non…no…if it pleases Councilor Kennedy, Jean, you do not have to stand. Join us? Yes, Gabriel?” the “elle” was pronounced in the French dialect when he spoke the name. Petrard smiled politely and waited on what his fellow Councilor would say about the Tasker joining them. That was his call – his Tasker.

“By all means Raudine, sit and join us.” Gabriel wiped his mouth and set the plate aside. “I don’t generally have meetings this early in the morning so you’ll have to forgive the slight edge to our moods.” He sipped from his cup and turned his attention to the Councilor across from him.

The Tasker resumed his seat and rolled up a bit of meat with a slice of cheese and chomped down on it. He could eat and be silent for a while.  So long as he had food and coffee, maybe he’d get out of this mood he was in.

“I would normally be running at this hour, not yet shaven or showered. It is you who sounded as though you needed an urgent meeting, so I have made the only time I had. What is it that only I can help you with, Councilor Kennedy?” Petrard was quick and to the point. He looked to the server and whispered something in French before returning his gaze to the American Councilor.

“We are here researching two demons from the states that I am seeking information on. I was told this was the best place to start and that you might have some knowledge of them.” Gabriel was very professional as he spoke to him. He knew better than to over step himself.

“Let me guess. Dante and Miranda de Salucet?” he smiled as his food was delivered to him.  

“Yes exactly, it seems you do indeed know of them.” Gabriel’s attention was caught.

“Well, they are known here and have been told not to continue business in my regions for a century. They are illegitimate children of a family’s innocent eldest daughter and a demon who seduced her. This family began dabbling in the dark arts to be rid of the demon and sanctify the children, or kill them. They, in turn,  have become a thorn in my side and Crimson’s side, now.” The server provided Petrard’s meal soon enough. His eggs over medium were on top of his toast and meat and began cutting through the stack precisely to make bite-sized pieces. He stabbed one with his fork and shoved it in his mouth before going on. “I know these you speak of very well.”

“So it seems that you do.” The Councilor watched the other as he ate. “Have you met them personally? Or perhaps one of their relatives?” Gabriel waved the server over to refill his cup. “I’ve looked through all the cases and reports that involve them and I did not see you mentioned in any of them. Nor do I recall the last name being present aside from the familial connection. Which is why I am so curious as to how you know them so well.”

Petrard chuckled as he chewed and looked over at the Tasker before swallowing and looking to his Councilor.

“We all have our secrets, young one. You know this, yes?” he was about to take another bite, even stabbed it, but held it up in front of him as he spoke “Maybe not? Are you still tres verde on the craft of subterfuge, eh?” He took the bite as he waited for Gabriel’s answer.

“Exactly what do you mean by that? If I am on a case my name is on it.” Gabriel never changed his facial expression as he replied in his usual straight forward manner

“If I put my name on every investigation against them, I would be up on harassment charges. I am also a distant relative of the de Salucet family.  So investigations into their trade can look suspiciously like …mmm… maybe I am looking into becoming involved?  That I am a conspirator?” Petrard explained.  “I am not, of course. But the implications would be there. I do not need this. If I want someone out of my country quickly, I do not give them a reason to cross challenge me and mine. Harassment would have to be investigated and would have taken too much time. So, my prosecuting Councilor advised me to use another Councilor as my go-between on charges.” He shrugged and took the bite.

Raudine finished his coffee and motioned for the server to  refill it and bring him the fixings. He tapped the the metal flask he had in his jacket on purpose and let his gaze move Gabriel’s way. If the Councilor wanted to continue in his human way to dig, so be it. If not, he’d begin drinking.

“I see, so while you may involve yourself, you aren’t always on the documentation. Would there be any reason for them to come after you personally?” If Petrard wanted to play it off the books he could do that route and just garner answers in a different approach. “They are known to take drastic measures when irritated enough and given what you tell it seems that perhaps that may be the case here.”

“Absolutment… yes absolutely. Especially the brother.” Petrard took another bite and then placed his fork down before wiping his mouth. “The brother? He is not truly Dante? You understand? He is not the weak one. He is the protector. He is resolute in his caring for the sister, even if the sister does not heed warning. She is as you say, his weakness. But, I never had to go so far in using her to get what I wanted. I used Crimson. As it should be.”  He took a good drink of his water. “But to answer your question, of course they might decide to come after me.” He sat back and tilted his head just a bit in thinking over it, “Though, eh… I would think that they would have done this long before now.” 

“I’ve been led to believe that their sire is resolved to travel once again. Do you know anything regarding him?” Being that Petrard had admitted to being related to the demons human family it seemed reasonable that he’d know of such.  His reaction would at least give them an idea as to how much he knew of the sire.

“Where have you heard these tales, Councilor Kennedy?” It was time to turn the tables and know more since this conversation had gone from the twins – an easy subject – to the sire, a more delicate one.  “And what do you already know of the father? I would hate to waste your time with information you already have.”

That turn had Sen stirring his coffee a bit louder before placing the spoon aside once more to take a sip. Petrard didn’t mind talking about the earth-bound twins, but he seemed hesitant to speak of Darius.  

Gabriel gave the dragon a look and then exactly what the man had been waiting for. Looking back at Petrard, Gabriel gave a low patient sigh, “Forgive him, he’s used to sleeping off a hangover this time of morning.”

“Truth is spoken, there. Had a bit too much fun with the mini bar last night,” the Tasker chuckled and winked at Petrard.  

“Ami… you should have called. I would have met you with some beauties and not left you lonely with the mini bar,” the Councilor chuckled before looking back to Gabriel expectantly. “So…?”

“I know he was banished by their mother’s family. I also know he is very protective of the twins which makes me wonder how he rushes to their defense if he can’t cross over. Curious isn’t it?” Gabriel drank from his cup and took up the next piece of toast.

“Perhaps, I can explain? Since you have not had as much experience with these race?” Petrard continued, “Like any prisoner, the banished demon has contacts and allies on this side and in the other worlds as well. The twins are one such set of allies.”

“Yes, I get that, but wouldn’t they be expected to be allies? They’re on Crimson radar thanks to you. It’s difficult for them to continue their trades, little on bring demonic changes into our realm. Right?” Gabriel pointed out.

“Not as difficult as you may think,” Patrard chuckled.

“If what you say is true, I would not be overly surprised should there be Councilors and Taskers that play his games,” Gabriel suggested, watching the French Councilor’s response. 

“I would put such creatures beneath the prison for their treason.” Their host replied. He took another bite. His eyes became very serious. Then he pointed his fork at Gabriel. “Dragons.”

Sen had to keep himself from spitting his coffee. He coughed.

Gabriel’s brows had drawn together listening to everything the man said, but at the mention of dragons that left brow lifted in that perfect arch that simply asked why? Or if he was irritated it meant what the hell do you want? In this case it simply meant why? And Petrard took the expression as an invitation to explain himself. 

“Dragons are some of his soldiers, to be sure. You think they are extinct, mon ami? No.  They have human skin and they are just as powerful as they ever were, and they can easily contact and even travel to his plane of existence. It’s part of why they are so dangerous, non?”

Well, now this took a turn for the entertaining, didn’t it? Senias looked to Gabriel over sipping his coffee.  He wondered what his new kindred might say to that?

“Dragons are blacklisted creatures. Take care who you say such things to, my friend. I’d hate to see you put before the Council answering questions regarding them.” Gabriel lifted his cup and sipped from it.

“Baaahh… you know better, you’re only afraid of these consequences, as I have been.”  Petrard put his fork on the plate and slid it inward on the table. “Do you buy the idea that they are extinct? Or is it much more feasible that they have found a way to survive?” 

“I think that if they aren’t extinct they’d have enough to deal with by keeping their own skins intact. They wouldn’t have the time to be bothered by the desires and wants of a demon.” The breath that left him almost sounded as if he were bored with the topic at hand and yet went on to appease his fellow Councilor. “Honestly Petrard, I don’t know where you come up with some of these ideas. Have you seen one first hand? If so I’d be curious to see it.”

“If Darius is as powerful a Demon Lord as is told, he could give a hiding dragon plenty of reasons to be indebted to him and his. Just as he could bribe anyone. They would be more desperate, and they can get to him easier. A demon’s strength is his transformative magic. And a dragon needs such to weave himself into our world. I don’t need to see one to know what I am talking of is truth.”

“Indeed I’d heard rumors of them as well which is another reason I am here delving into your libraries to see if the rumors held any truth.” Gabriel shrugged, “All I found was ancient history of ones that are long gone.”

“Then look to the prophecy of the Long Peace. It is written somewhere in there, I am sure. Look for the powerful demon to take the Abyssal Throne – what is his constant companion? A white dragon.” He shrugged. “It is not proof of existence or of collusion, but it would make me suspicious,” the Councilor got up from his seat. “I am afraid, if there is nothing else you wish to discuss, I must be off to my first meeting.”

Rising to his feet Gabriel took the Councilor’s hand and shook it.  “I’ll let you get to your business and give you my thanks for all of this information.” He would not discuss this meeting until they were safely back at their hotel away from ears that could hear many things even when whispered.

How did this man know about the prophecy and he knew Darius’ name?  It wasn’t worth asking, now, but Senias was intrigued. Not even many dragons knew about that old thing. The Tasker stood and waited to shake the Councilor’s hand after Gabriel had.  

Once they were alone, Gabriel and Senias made their way back to the front entrance. There, they checked out and awaited the car that would be driving up for them. “Not here.” Gabriel spoke out softly as the car pulled to a stop and he let Sen open the door. He slid inside and actually relaxed for just a moment.

The car ride to the hotel was made in silence as Gabriel mulled things over in his head and worked through all the information that Petrard gave to him while also thinking over the tiny bit he gleaned from him without the Councilor realizing he’d said them. It was only after they were in the hotel room with the door secured that Gabriel spoke out loud.

“He ended it quickly once he started talking about dragons. What do you think?” Gabriel asked.

“He’s in Darius’ pocket. How else would he know so much detail about the prophecy of the Great Peace,” The Tasker shrugged. “He got that part wrong. It’s not the Long Peace, it’s the Great Peace.”

“So, what he’s saying? It’s real?”

“It’s not something that most dragons know about. Dragon Lords or older dragons, maybe. We don’t even pass the prophecy on, because prophecies have been used against us for ages. But that’s not denying it as a real story. And Darius likes that story. He likes it so much that his throne room is decorated with tapestries depicting it.”

“How would you know that?” Gabriel asked suddenly, his eyes surprised.

“Because I’ve been in his throne room. So has Inea. We’re… kind of high ranking in the world, you know? Or we were, anyway.” Senias sighed and walked to the windows to look outside. “The point is, it isn’t like those particular bits were just laying around for anyone to see; for Petrard to see.”

Gabriel removed his jacket and neatly folded it to lay over one of the nearby chairs. He looked at Senias then, “So everything else, he might have gathered from the skewed history of humanity, but that prophecy, in your opinion, came from Darius or came from meeting Darius in his world and in his throne room.”

“Maybe… perhaps because he’s a member of the original human family – he could have picked up the name Darius.  Or, being a Councilor, he may have heard a demonic peer speak the name. It can be explained away. But what he knows of the prophecy has me intrigued. The story of a Demon Lord with a White Dragon? Not many here would know of it. The rest – yes he could have either gathered that from the very same books you’re skimming through or assumed it.” 

“When I asked about Darius in particular, he decided to change our subject matter to dragons. Other than the prophecy, is there any substance to his theory?”

Senias turned to look at Gabriel. He answered as best he could.

“It’s very easy to come up with reasons to make people you don’t understand into monsters worse than they actually are.” the Tasker looked out the window. 


~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018