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40 Great Preparations

Diane was pretty chipper after school, and that mood didn't change when Alyssa told her about the meeting with the other witches. She was also informed that everyone at the meeting had agreed that she was to remain with Alyssa and Mrs. Goldman as long as her safety could be assured. Diane seemed to hang off every word as Alyssa told her what was said, and who stood up for her.

\"Gabriel's brother is very interesting,\" Diane said, \"But I sense something strange about him.\"

\"Is that so?\" Alyssa asked, \"What do you mean?\"

\"It's his eyes,\" Diane explained, \"Whenever I look into them, I get the feeling he knows a lot more than he's willing to share.\"

\"What makes you say that?\" Alyssa inquired, curious to know more.

\"Dad had the same look,\" Diane answered, \"He never wanted to tell us the details about his trips to the outside to look for supplies. I could tell whenever he was holding something back, and Gabe's brother has the same look most of the time. He's got secrets, and considering how old he is… I bet he's got oodles of them.\"

\"Yes, he is quite old.\" Alyssa agreed, \"I bet his secrets have secrets.\"

They both laughed, and as she did so there was a sound coming from Diane's coat. Alyssa stopped to check, and lying in the hood of her coat, was Smokey. The cat looked back up at her and meowed.

\"He thinks Cornelius is hiding something too,\" Diane translated.

\"Hold on,\" Alyssa said, looking back at Diane. \"Was he in your coat the whole day when you were at school?\"

\"No,\" Diane replied, \"He's only in my coat when I'm walking between school and the house. When I'm at school, he hides inside my shadow. Sometimes I have several of them hiding in there at any given time.\"

\"Oh,\" Alyssa said, looking back at her shadow. \"How does that work?\"

\"I'm not too sure,\" Diane answered, \"But it's pretty cool. They can hide rather easily and jump out at any time if I'm in danger. Pretty neat, eh?\"

\"It is,\" Alyssa confirmed, \"You an have a snack when we get back, cause we're going to have a late supper tonight, like around eight o'clock. I suggest you get your homework done before then cause you will be too distracted during and after supper.\"

\"Why so late?\" Diane asked.

\"We're having dinner with the witches,\" Alyssa answered, \"Mrs. Goldman and the other witches are going to prepare a special meal for everyone, and even the vampires are invited. We're all going to eat, be merry, and show the witches that they have nothing to fear about you staying here because we all get along, like a weird family.\"

\"That sounds like fun,\" Diane said, \"I'll get to my homework right away after we have that snack you promised.\"

When they returned to the apartment, Gabriel was there speaking with Pablo. The both looked over at Alyssa and Diane as they came in.

\"Hey guys,\" Alyssa called out, \"Everything alright.\"

\"We're okay,\" Pablo answered, \"Just talking about the meeting. I'm honestly stunned to hear how civil it was. I was under the impression that witches and vampires hated each other with a passion, and yet here we are negotiating in good faith and hours away from breaking bread. This is going to be a very interesting feast.\"

\"I'm sorry, did you say feast?\" Alyssa asked. \"Should we bring something?\"

\"Only your appetite,\" Gabriel answered, \"Witches are known for their cooking, for both good and bad reasons. I don't think anyone has anything to be afraid of. Those witches wouldn't try anything with the Prince around. They're not that crazy.\"

\"I'll be in my room,\" Diane said, after grabbing her snack. She ran off for her room and closed the door behind her.

\"Try to keep the negative stuff to a minimum,\" Alyssa said to the men, \"I'd like to keep an open mind, and let Diane get to know everyone.\"

\"I apologize,\" Pablo said, \"I'll be the first to admit that my bad thoughts about some people are changing every day. Mrs. Goldman has forced me to rethink what I thought about witches, and even Cornelius is no where near as bad as advertised.\"

\"I'd like to point out,\" Gabriel added, \"That I said nothing about my brother, as he reputation spoke quite well for itself.\"

Alyssa looked around, \"Speaking of the Dark Prince; where the hell is he?\"

\"He went to New Lycan,\" Gabriel answered.

\"What?\" Alyssa said, confused. \"But it's still daylight out.\"

\"Doesn't matter,\" Gabriel said, \"As long as he's wearing his coat, he can travel in daylight and not be harmed by the sun.\"

\"Then why can't you do it?\" Alyssa asked.

\"I can't,\" Gabriel answered, \"That coat is just too heavy for me to fly with. He loaned it to me one day, I could barely walk twenty steps without falling over. How that big bugger can even stroll around, let along fly in that thing is remarkable.\"

\"It didn't look that heavy,\" Alyssa said, thinking about it.

\"You can't even touch it,\" Pablo explained, \"The material is so dense, if you tried to carry it, your arms would break.\"

\"That's unbelievable!\" Alyssa said, rather surprised. \"What is it made out of?\"

\"Dragon hide.\" Gabriel answered.

\"Excuse me?\" Alyssa asked, \"Did you say dragon?\"

\"He did,\" Pablo confirmed, \"But they haven't existed in several millennium.\"

\"I've only seen a few in my life,\" Gabriel recalled, \"Cornelius killed and skinned that bad boy himself. He was burned so badly that over half of his skin was black from the flames charring his body. It took a lot of blood and a few months to recover from that battle. Not even our father was bold enough to challenge a dragon, but Cornelius was willing to at least try.\"

\"How did he kill it?\" Alyssa asked.

\"We're not sure,\" Gabriel honestly answered, \"There were no other witnesses. He just into the mountains and returned weeks later with a charred body, pulling a wagon full of dragon skin. There was a lot of it there, so we assumed he had killed it. We asked him so many questions but he refused to answer them. He's been pretty mum about it but that's where the coat came from. For some reason, the dragon hide prevents the sun from hitting our skin so if you're strong enough to carry it.\"

\"And as far as we know,\" Pablo added, \"Only one vampire is strong enough.\"

\"Speak of the devil,\" Gabriel said, \"And he shall appear.\"

\"Greetings,\" Cornelius said, walking into the room through the front door, carrying a decent sized crate. \"I hope that I'm not interrupting anything.\"

\"Not at all,\" Alyssa said, looking at the box. \"What's in there?\"

\"I wanted to make sure dinner remained civil,\" Cornelius answered, as he opened it and pulled out a wine bottle. \"So I procured some fine wine from the wolves. They're not known for their drinking, but they sure can bottle the stuff rather well. I think their secret has to do with their advanced noses.\"

\"That makes sense,\" Pablo said as he walked over to take a look, \"That seems quite nice, a gesture I am sure they witches will appreciate.\"

\"You're coming too, aren't you?\" Cornelius asked.

\"I am?\" Pablo said, rather surprised.

\"I insist,\" Cornelius said, \"Any friend of Gabriel is one of mine.\"

\"Thank you,\" Pablo said, as he walked to the door to leave. \"I guess I better start getting ready.\"

\"Brother,\" Cornelius called out. \"I brought your dinner suit.\"

\"No,\" Gabriel said, surprised by the thought. \"No.\"

\"A dinner suit?\" Alyssa said, curious about it.

\"It's more of a uniform, actually.\" Cornelius corrected, \"We are dining with people who represent another group. To not wear them would not only upset the council, but imagine what father would say if he ever found out?\"

Gabriel looked like he wanted to say something snappy and try to talk his way out of it, but even he realized that his brother was right. \"How did you even know we'd need them?\"

\"I had a feeling,\" Cornelius said, handing it over to him.

\"I hate these things,\" Gabriel said, looking at it. \"What if we're seen by the town wearing these?\"

\"They're costumes,\" Cornelius answered, \"From an old play we used to do. They're believe anything if it's told with a good spin.\"

\"I guess,\" Gabriel said, \"But yours looks cooler than mine.\"

\"I could say it was the perks of being the Dark Prince, I suppose.\" Cornelius said, \"But that's what you get for skipping the royal fitting! Those who didn't show up had to suffer the abuse that was Father's poor fashion sense. No one to blame but yourself.\"

Alyssa could barely stifle her laugh as she watched Gabriel take his suit and walk out the main door, to return to Pablo's apartment to change. Once the door had closed, she turned to Cornelius immediately.

\"Is it really that bad looking?\" she asked him.

\"I don't think so,\" Cornelius answered, \"But mine does look better. Father is partially color blind so that didn't help either.\"

\"You can have the bathroom to change once I'm done with it,\" Alyssa informed him as she bolted off to change as well. Cornelius draped his own suit over the back of the chair, and paused for a moment.

\"I can't see you, but I know you're there.\" He called out.

Out of the shadows of the room, the small black cat emerged and jumped up into the couch to elevate his position with the vampire.

\"I assume you've come to confirm our count for dinner?\" Cornelius asked.

\"I have,\" said the black cat known as Oscar \"You know the protocol.\"

\"Indeed I do,\" Cornelius said, \"Notify your master we shall not be late and appreciate the preparations that she's undertaken for us. Also inform her that our party has five members that will be attending. Two humans, two vampires, and the young witch. I cannot speak for my brother, but I consume ordinary cuisine and look forward to sampling what your master has made great efforts to prepare.\"

\"Very good, my lord.\" The cat replied, \"Are there any other customs we should observe for yourself?\"

\"There are none that I care about,\" Cornelius confessed, \"Tell her I will be alright with whatever rituals or traditions they care to use.\"

\"I will do so,\" Oscar said, \"Dinner starts at eight thirty, which is just after sunset. Please try to be on time.\"

Cornelius didn't respond but simply nodded and then watched as the small black cat backed up and disappeared into the shadows.