Chapter 25: Unsolicited Feedback




She made me such a thing as to give you nightmares. Vlad’s words filled her fevered sleep. Alice didn’t know what they meant, only that they felt good. She wanted a nightmare at her side, which was just proof of how fucked up she was.

“Why are you still lying abed when the sun is out?”

Alice sat up and rubbed her eyes. A pale, dark-haired woman—she assumed his daughter—was standing at the foot of the bed. “Uh…good morning.”

The woman clasped her hands behind her back and tilted her head expectantly. “Good morning.”

“W-where is Vlad?” Alice’s throat felt dry, and mentally, she was still a mess, but the fever was gone.

“My father is out with Gwendolyn. He left me to see after the S-M-E he’s ostensibly in a relationship with.”


“Suspicious Magical Entity, a term I recently coined because I don’t what the fuck you are or what’s going on with that child of yours.”

Alice felt a chill that went down to her bones. “There’s nothing wrong with Gwendolyn. And Vlad knows I’m some kind of witch,” Alice glanced around the room, her panic rising, “Where did you say they went?”

“I didn’t. And you are not a witch. You reek of magic, true, but not because you’re wielding it. It’s coming from inside you. My father never mentioned it, so either his sense of smell has gone too hell—doubtful since he sussed out those fake babysitters…”

“Fake babysitters?” Alice stumbled out of bed. She was still weak. Her legs shook as she collapsed against the wall. “What do you mean fake? I picked them. I checked with the agency, and I…”

I fucked up. I made shitty choices.

Her eyes squeezed shut. When she opened them, Lilith was kneeling beside her, head tilted with an odd, gleeful sort of expression. “There are so many things you don’t know, Alice Martin—about my father, about magic, about witches. Would you like me to tell you?”




The proper way to respond to your father when he showed up unannounced after 180 years was…er…well, Caleb didn’t really know the right response. “Father?”

Vladislaus slowly lowered a toddler to the ground. “Here’s your bunny. No touching anything, and before you ask, no more snacks.” He turned his attention back to Caleb, “This won’t take long, and then you can return to the sex you were having; speaking of which, do you have condoms?”

“I…what?” It took Caleb a moment to recover. “I don’t need condoms!”

“I suppose not; you are fully dressed. Still, it’s safer. Unless you want children? Are you trying to get someone pregnant?”

Caleb could hardly keep his eyes from popping out of his head. “What the fuck are you doing here? Why are you covered in plasma? And who is this child?”

The child in question blew him a kiss and began shaking the toy bunny and waving it around. His father, meanwhile, glanced down at his shirt. 

“I’ve been to see your mother. The child is Gwendolyn. She’s off her schedule, chock full of animal crackers, and liable to start crying any second, though she likes sword fights. Do you keep weapons here? If she has a tantrum, you should be prepared to stab me.”

“Excuse me?”

But his father had already moved on to examining Caleb’s apartment. He frowned at a broken light. “It’s good you won’t have children in this place. The stairs are awful for strollers, and you haven’t repaired a single outlet. You can’t run the fridge and microwave on the same circuit.”

“I’m not worried about a stroller.“

“Obviously not; you chose this squalid shed.”

Caleb blinked. He didn’t know which feeling was worse: being insulted or confused. “You can’t just waltz in here and—“

“I’m here to tell you about a crime.”

Caleb stared at his father. Was this a dream? Or some kind of nightmare? Maybe he was high, and he just didn’t know it. “You’ve come to my house out of the blue after a century because you committed a crime?”

“Not me, mortals. Well, not mortals, exactly. It’s…I…” Vladislaus cleared his throat. “I’ve been seeing someone. Her name is Alice. Gwendolyn is her daughter and my…mine. We’re not married. I…I haven’t asked. But I do love her, and—I said no!” His father swiftly lifted a letter opener out of Gwendolyn’s tiny hands and set it on the table. He pulled out a chair, “Sit!” 

The toddler climbed up and huffed, crossing her arms and scowling. “Monster mean! Monster take my toys!”

“Monster is trying not to have your mother kill me. I’ll teach you to use a dagger when you have better motor control.” Vlad turned back to Caleb, hand massaging his brow. “Honestly, she’s a menace, and I’ve never been more proud or frustrated. Everything I read says to try gentle parenting, but I do not know if I have the patience.”

“Gentle what?”

“Parenting. It’s an accepted school of thought, and really Caleb, if you intend to have children, you should know these things.”

“I don’t want children!” 

Did he?





This is why he was unwell. His parents were insane! Why was his father nervous? What sort of mother would let him take around her toddler covered in someone else’s plasma? How did Vladislaus even know where he lived? And what was—

“Wait,” Caleb stopped spinning in his thoughts. “Did you say you were seeing Alice Martin?”

His father looked startled, “I didn’t say her last name. How did you already know it?”

Caleb filled his father in on as much as he knew, including Alice’s innocence. Not that it mattered; his father had loved far more dangerous creatures than Alice Martin. A single murder was not enough for him to even bat an eye.

“I despised Johnny when Alice mentioned him,” his father said. “So he killed your werewolves and the one in San Myshuno?”

“No,” Caleb sighed, “Mother killed Nina. She wasn’t particularly forthcoming about why. And as for the Netherwand, it looks to be a death relic, though the Queen of the Fae said even she is too young to know much about its making.”

His father perked up, the look on his face delighted. “Right. Yes. So you’re courting Titania?”

“I am not courting her.”

“But you just said you took her to the museum so she could retrieve her stolen artifacts. You invited her on a trip to lift classified information from a military compound. You stalked and slaughtered Darrel Charm together,” Vladislaus looked confused, “Is that not dating?”  

“No!” Caleb threw up his arms to emphasize his point and ward off the suspicion creeping up his spine. “It’s not! Dates are movies and dinner and taking long walks in the park!”

Some dates,” his father corrected, “How does Titania feel about the woman in the back room? I can’t imagine she’s thrilled since Oberon fucked everyone from her advisory council to the Moon. Or do you two have some sort of arrangement?”

“I know about Oberon; I confronted him when he insulted her because I…” Caleb trailed off as the realization hit. He was courting a queen whose last lover had broken her heart, and when she asked him what came next, he’d reeled off a list of things to do for Bella and the case. “We don’t need an arrangement,” he declared hotly, “Because I haven’t done anything, and she isn’t mad at me.”

The look Vladislaus gave him was pitying. “Have you considered groveling? Or a gift? The Fae like gifts. I have a set of blades that William won off a dryad in 1683. You can have them if you want.”

“Why would you still have blades from a bet you didn’t even win? And I don’t need to buy her affection. We had a small misunderstanding which I will simply remedy by talking to her.” Caleb rubbed his eyes tiredly. “Can we just get back to the Netherwand? You said Alice touched it?”

Thankfully, his father let the topic drop. “Yes, and the wand altered her. She sees ghosts, but I don’t know if she has any other powers. Lilith says she is teeming with magic, and so is Gwendolyn.”

Caleb bit his lip. “We don’t know who Johnny was supposed to get the wand for, but as much as I dislike Salim, I doubt it was him. Alice is his ex-girlfriend and co-parent; he could go straight to source without bothering to kill the comedian.”

Vladislaus’s eyes blazed. “I’d use the term ‘co-parent’ very, very loosely. Besides, they were there to get a space artifact—something called the Ascension Container. Alice had no intention of helping Johnny. She only grabbed the wand because it called to her. Salim could still be the killer.”

Caleb pinched his lips together. After almost a year of working on this case, all he had were answers that didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things—Johnny slaughtered the werewolves, his mother killed Nina, and Eliza accidentally killed herself. “There are too many unanswered questions. I…I need your help,” he blurted out, surprising himself. “The Landgraabs must have a connection that Johnny exploited; there’s no way he got a buyer for the wand alone. The military wouldn’t be involved if Alice wasn’t somehow valuable to them. I don’t trust Clive Beeden.”

“You shouldn’t.”

Caleb nodded. “If Salim hasn’t already fled town, he will. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he heads to Windenburg.”

“Then I will be happy to welcome him.”

The look on his father’s face was terrifying, but Caleb found it only made him angry.  “Are you not listening? I just said I need your help in Oasis Springs, where everything is going down! I need Salim alive until I figure out what’s going on.” He rubbed his temples again, “What am I even saying? Of course, you won’t help. There is always something and someone else before me.” 

“I’m sorry.”

Caleb’s head whipped up. “What?”

“I’m a very good warlord, excellent gardener, but not a particularly good father,” he shifted uncomfortably. “Gwendolyn and Alice are a package deal. And even if they weren’t, I’m trying not to make the same mistakes.”

Caleb swallowed, resentment nipping at his heels. He told himself that Gwendolyn didn’t choose for her mother to be his father’s current hyperfixation. “So you’ll help?”

“Of course,” Vladislaus replied. Like it was easy, like being there for Caleb was second nature. He glanced back at Gwendolyn, who had given up her tantrum in favor of a nap. “I should get her home. Tell me the details, and I’ll be there. I’ll call Morgyn about the wand. They’re likely to have some sense of how it works and how worried we should be.”

“Let me check into that,” Caleb said, ignoring his father’s knowing look. Yes, it was an excuse to call Titania again, but he didn’t have to admit that. “I’ll tell you what I find and if we need to connect with Morgyn.” 

Vladislaus picked the sleeping toddler up and smoothed her hair. “Your mother’s reasons for killing Nina may yet be callous, but she is sane. She is not me.”

With that, his father strapped Gwendolyn into the stroller and headed down the steps, his words a subtle reminder that Caleb had never feared Vladislaus’s cruelty.

Only his madness.

And the beast that came with it.

  • Snow ~
    Jun 28, 2023

    Loved Vlad at the interrogation XD Alice VLAD IS THE LAST PERSON WHO WOULD CARE IF YOU WERE GUILTY OR NOT. Better not have a rice bath Alice, Vlad might try to count all of the grains. XD IDK if Lilith or Caleb will ever truly come to get along with Vlad again.

    And once again I love Anastasia. Next time my dad asks me for constant favours I know what I’m gonna do. XD Ooooohohoh YOU KNOW why I’m excited about Alice’s magic being brought up again. Also IDK why but I love these ‘there’s so much you don’t know about what you’re getting into’ scenes.

    NO Vlad, that’s YOUR idea of a date, not quite Caleb’s XD Awww Gwen has a toy bnuuy! I shouldn’t be laughing at this mess of Vlad / Caleb / Lilith family, lmao, but sometimes it’s funny. OOF at Caleb knowing Alice’s surname despite Vlad not mentioning it, this should get interesting…

    • feroshgirl
      Jun 30, 2023

      Lololol 200000/10 to this comment for the Eleanor Rigsby reference.

      You know, I think we’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out with Lilith and/or Caleb. They’ve definitely got a complicated relationship, but they’ve been through cycles of this before so we shall see. I would never create a situation that would force them to confront all of their family trauma together in one place ::cue evil laughter::

      FINALLY, SOMEONE ELSE WHO LOVES ANASTASIA! Truly though, she is one of my fave characters and I love her too.

      Oh, Alice’s magic? Hmmm…I’m sure there is nothing to see there. No big deal hehe.

      gwendolyn loves bunnies (sob).

  • Yimiki
    Jul 2, 2023

    Whoa, is that Ana crying? I don’t think we’ve ever seen her cry. Gods I hope Penny comes back after her rampage fizzles out, and they have an open and honest conversation… seeing Ana of all people break hurts way more than I thought it would 😣

    Oh no, miss, Vlad did not mean a lawsuit. He meant he’d raze the place to the ground. 🤣 I love how caring and considerate he is – Alice absolutely needs it right now. Oh geez, that’s right, it was Miko that kept him prisoner in that dungeon for so long wasn’t it? So maybe she did do the same thing to Akira and Vlad. For what purpose, I wonder? Vlad’s description of Miko torturing is horrific and yet it put Alice right to sleep omg 😆

    Of course Lilith casually killed the babysitters 😆 Ben and Grim won’t be gone for long.

    Ouch. Lilith is hitting Vlad right where it hurts, there. I understand why he’s so angry over Lilith remembering Ethren as her dad that cares for her. She’s also right, though. The vampire in her, she can only get a handle on with Vlad and Ana’s help. But her witch side is something that Vlad simply cannot do anything with. Having Ethren there to teach her, yeah, of course that would create a bond. And if Vlad denies that, it’s the same as denying half of his own daughter.

    Oooh, Lilith has a point there. Caleb can help free Alice from suspicion and Ana can absolutely get them a lawyer to defend her until then. Come on, Vlad. Swallow your pride and suspicion and do it.

    [The proper way to respond to your ex-husband when he showed up after 180 years demanding a favor was to run him through with a sword. Unfortunately, it was hard to do that when he was pushing a stroller.] 😆😂🤣
    WTH Matilda, how dare you! Penny is rampaging and you know it! That’s it, one exploding potato for you 🤬🥔

    YES THANK YOU VLAD for pointing out the obvious and making Caleb realise what an idiot he was with Titania 🤣 Oh, Caleb. I know that feeling. Trying not to begrudge the kid for your father suddenly deciding to be a better parent, while knowing they did not do that for you.

    Oh my gods, Bella. You ended things with him. You guys decided to stop messing around, remember? She’s so quick to jump to conclusions in the worst way. This is exactly what led to her accusing Alice. And it’s her that’s using Caleb as a distraction from her life, not the other way around. 😠

    Man, look at this comment waterfall. I’m completely invested LOL

    • feroshgirl
      Jul 9, 2023

      YASSSS SOMEONE TO JOIN ME ON THE “JUSTICE FOR ANA TRAIN!” lololol yeah, it’s sort of jarring to see Miss Hell herself hurt and falling apart, right?

      Ha! Yeah, um, anyone who knows Vlad knows he makes very literal threats.

      Oh man, I want to tell you all my Miko plans so badly but I will resist! You are on the right track though, I swear there will be answers this time 😈

      I’m glad you have some empathy for Lilith. I was hoping this scene wouldn’t read just as her being a monster (though to be clear, she is being pretty damn terrible).

      MATILDA GETS AN EXPLODING POTATO OMFG YESSSSSS. Like, homegirl has made this situation so much worse (though to be fair Anastasia did murder a member of her pack and force her into training Penny so I guess you get what you pay for?)


      But also, so is Caleb. Vlad might be out of his mind, but even he understands why Titania was upset lololol that scene between them was so much fun to write <3

      Haha buckle up, the first part of the ride is careening towards the finish line (I clearly do not know how to avoid mixing metaphors jfc)

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