Nedra happily walked hand in hand with her husband Talmadge. They were in an absolutely gorgeous place locals called The Crystal Woods. Everything shimmered here and while they weren’t actual crystals but living plants they gave the appearance they were made of crystals and this was the only place in the world, that they knew of anyway that plants looks like this. Their triplets were laughing, exploring all around them but keeping up with their mother and father. Nedra had been living such a happy life with her husband even though her parents and the doctor who realized she was pregnant told her she was making the worst mistake of her life. Talmadge wasn’t a mistake, he and having these children were the best choices she ever made.
“Someone’s daydreaming.” Talmadge said and she raised her head, smiling.
“Only good things I hope.”
“Of course, just about how happy and lucky I am.”
He chuckled and swung her into his arms, causing their little ones to giggle. “If anyone’s lucky, it’s me. I have the most gorgeous mate in the universe and she has given me three beautiful, amazing children. What more could a man ask for.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and smiled when she blushed. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“Daddy!” Their son Kael said loudly, instantly getting both of their attention. He put Nedra down and they hurried over to where their son was. They were amazed to find a couple of fox kits curled up in a ball next to their mother that both Nedra and Talmadge could tell was dead. The baby foxes moved and let out little whines and yowls.
“I think they’re hungry.” Nedra said as she reached for one. Talmadge grabbed her hand.
“Let me, just in case.”
“Alright, but I don’t think they’re dangerous.”
“You never know.” He released her then bent and lifted both of the foxes and cradled them against his chest. “Hello little ones. Are you hungry?”
“are we taking them home dad?” Daven asked and Talmadge answered “yes, first I’ll make sure they are hydrated then we’ll give the babies some fruit”
“why do we have to make sure they are hydrated first?” Tancred asked, he was always full of why questions. He seemed to need to know the reason behind everything but it didn’t bother his parents. “because it can be hard for baby animals to digest food if they are thirsty”
“I hope it wont make you three sad but we should take them back to the house. I don’t know how willing they will be to let us help them and we can’t leave them in the wild without a mother”
“what about their daddy?” Kael asked “fox’s don’t tend to stay with one mate”
“why? You and mom seem so happy. Why wouldn’t a fox want that happiness?” It was Tancred asking again. It caused his mother to smile and pat his head “I don’t know, I hope you boys find someone to mate with forever when you’re older” They began on their way home, the boys excitedly asking them question after question about the two fox kits.
Once they were home, Nedra grabbed a couple of old blankets and a clothes basket and made a bed for the kits then went and got some water and a little bit of chicken. Talmadge got the animals comfortable and their boys sat around the basket watching with keen inquisitiveness. “What should we name them?” Tancred asked.
“What do you three think?” Talmadge replied as he held a piece of chicken in front of the nose of one of them.
The boys looked at each other for a moment and then Daven said. “I think the big one should be named Chewa.” He pointed at the larger of the two. Talmadge noticed that it had a black stripe down its back. He was sure that hadn’t been there before, but then again, he had been more concerned with getting them to a warm, safe place and may not have noticed.
“What about the small one?” Nedra asked.
“Yoruba.” Kael answered. The littlest one seemed to stir a bit at this, letting out a little whine which caused the bigger one to growl.
“Why is Chewa mad?” Tancred asked.
“Probably just not feeling well. Who knows how long they were out there.” Nedra replied, but she did find the fox kits sudden change in temperament odd. She had expected it to follow its siblings example and whine for food or attention or anything.
It made Talmadge a little more nervous of the bigger one, he’d let the boys play with Yoruba but he planned to keep a close eye if they wanted to mess with Chewa. They were just babies but he would’n’t take any risks with his family. The boys all helped make sure the babies were fed. Yoruba ate as if he was starving but Chewa had to be coxed quite a bit to eat what little he did consume. Talmadge watched his boys with the little kits until Nedra announced they needed to eat. Daven lingered there, kneeling on the floor. He was obviously worried about Chewa. Talmadge picked up his son “Chewa will probably feel better tomorrow son”
“he’s so little dad”
“I know, but I’m sure if we continue to feed him, he’ll grow big and strong. We just have to be patient.”
Talmadge couldn’t help glancing at the basket every now and then and once he swore he saw Chewa staring at him through the holes in it. It was odd and such a young animal shouldn’t be able to see him nor show such intelligence. Yoruba simply slept curled in a little ball, seeming content, but Chewa was strange, wrong even. He tried to shake the feeling, thinking it was just his need to be protective of his wife and children.
That night he realized his fears had been merited. He heard the youngest of their sons let out a piercing scream. It shook Nedra and Talmadge to their core as she scrambled out of bed and he darted out of their room, going as fast as he possible could so he reached their room in mere seconds. Talmadge looked in the room their kids shared in horror. It was bloody, though thankfully not too bloody for them to still be okay. However, he only saw one of his children even there any longer “it’s not a fox! It’s not a fox! It’s not a fox!” Daven kept repeating, almost like he couldn’t stop. Talmadge was going to comfort his son but even in his distress, when he actually turned his full attention to the child still in the room it hit him in the stomach like a ton of bricks. This wasn’t his son, they were all gone, not just two. The scent was wrong, his sons face wasn’t quite right. Before Talmadge could yell anything to his mate about not coming in his wife was already at his side.
Their sons normally gorgeous red eyes went dark. The red seemed to almost drain out and be replaced by dark black and the most wide, disturbing smile. It’s chuckle was deep, obviously realizing Talmadge knew he was just messing with him, trying to hurt this family more. Talmadge hated to do it but he saw the thing was about to lunge so he shoved his wife out of the room and back into the hall. She hit the opposite wall, unable to catch herself so she fell to the floor. He had to get her out quickly and hadn’t been able to be as careful as he would have wanted. He didn’t know what was happening and he’d rather her have a bruise than be lost to him like his sons.
It tried to slash at Talmadge’s chest but he caught it by the arm, breaking it out of anger and to show this creature how serious he was about anything harming his children. Not all demons cared about their little ones so before he questioned it he wanted it to know that he would torture it until he had them back. He wasn’t so heartless as to think he could simply make more. He could have a hundred more with the woman he loved and they wouldn’t be those amazing little boys. How could their ever be another Kael? Kael was the first child he ever got to hold, Kael was the child who most liked to be carried by him now. Could another little boy make his mother laugh like Kael? Could another little boy inherit the same fur pattern Kael had, that beautiful mixture of greens that made his coat? Talmadge didn’t think so at all.
How could their ever be another Tancred? Would another little boy come along and ask all the little questions you wouldn’t even think of? Would another little boy have his big heart? Could another little boy be so gentle yet so strong like his Tancred was? Once again Talmadge didn’t think so. If he lost him how could their be another Daven. Already at such a young age he was an amazing story teller. Talmadge wanted to hear the stories he’d grow to tell as an adult. No, these children weren’t replaceable and this fucker was going to give them back.
“Where are my children?” He growled, pinning it down by its throat. It laughed and he slammed its head against the floor. “Tell me now or I swear I will break every bone in your body.”
“Talmadge, the boys.” Nedra said as she pushed herself up. “The boys.”
“Stay back, Nedra.” He broke the creature’s other arm then tightened his grip around its throat as it screamed. “Tell me, now.”
“Tell me more or next it’s your eyes.”
“That little fox.” It choked as it tried to snarl. “Whining, whining, I’ll kill it for waking them.” It didn’t take Talmadge much to imagine his children sneaking the foxes into their room to cuddle with them only for one of them to morph into a literal monster. He didn’t see the other one and he wondered if one of his boys still had it.
“Where are they? How far did you take them?”
Talmadge took it’s life but he did it mercifully. It wouldn’t have even had time to register what the wolf demon had done. This was far too horrible of a creature to let it live and he didn’t trust it enough to be a guide. It could have just gone out with the children but it was so heartless it had come back to gloat and torture them instead of simply take what it had wanted. “Talmadge?” he heard his mate again and walked over to her “I’m sorry, did I hurt you?”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m fine physically, we need to find our boys. If it left them there must be other creatures like it that are with them”
“we’ll shift and follow their scents. I know they are in the woods” she shifted right there and he followed, the two of them sprinting out of their home and in the direction they could tell their boys had gone.
Tancred sat in the middle of the woods, one arm wrapped around each of his brothers as they huddled close. Daven held the little fox cub, his face buried in its fur as he cried, the wound on his arm pulsing with pain, and Kael’s eyes darted around frantically. The monsters moved around them, their eyes flashing red when they caught the moonlight. They were taunting the children, sometimes reaching a clawed hand out just to hear them scream in terror as they tried scrambling away. “I want to go home.” Daven said. “I want mommy.”
“I want mommy.” One of the creatures mocked then laughed.
“Hush.” Tancred said, his voice shaking. It was a word his mother always used. He heard laughter and then he felt something grab the back of his shirt. It tried pulling him away, but Daven and Kael held tightly to him, both boys screaming and digging their heels into the dirt until he was released.
Tancred tried not to show how terrified he was, trying to be strong for his brothers. He felt they might fall apart even more if he didn’t at least try to pretend to be brave right now. He just had to hold out until their parents came and he knew they would. Nothing could beat their father and their father wouldn’t let them hurt their mother either. They would come, they had to already know so he just kept watching beyond these creatures, into the wood where he knew he’d eventually see his mom and dad. Talmadge was watchful of everything around them as he ran with his mate. He knew he should probably be watching the path ahead but his boys had been taken right under his nose, he couldn’t handle allowing his wife to fall into any kind of trap or be stolen from his side.
Nedra noticed that he kept looking towards her so she nudged him as they ran to tell him to cut it out, she could watch herself. He whined and she wished she could tell him it wasn’t his fault. Even if he wanted to carry blame he could only carry half. She agreed to bring those kits home so she was just as responsible as him. As The scent of their boys grew stronger they picked up the pace, both eager to see their condition and get to them before they were hurt worse or killed.
Daven screamed when one of the creatures grabbed his ankle and started dragging him away. He dug at the ground with his free arm while trying to protect the fox kit with his other. His brothers scrambled after him, Tancred barely managing to grab onto his wrist and Kael wrapping his arms around Tancred’s waist to add his weight and leverage to him. Both Tancred and Kael could see the flash of eyes and did their best to keep their brother away from that thing. They had seen the sharp teeth and nails before and didn’t want him being hurt anymore. A smell hit both of their noses, the familiar scent breaking through their panic. Slender arms wrapped around both of them and pulled back as another reached past them and pulled Draven from the grasp of the monster. Tancred and Kael realized they were in their mother’s arms and Daven had been rescued by their father.
Talmadge handed his son off to Nedra who held all three of them close and gently shushed them, telling them everything was going to be alright. Talmadge opened his senses up completely and counted only four of the creatures. In the dark he imagined the boys had thought there were more. He felt rage sweep through him, hot and ugly at the sight of his terrified children and the smell of Daven’s blood. The little fox kit shivered and whined in his son’s arms and he told himself he would have to make sure it stayed home with them. If it hadn’t been for its whines, they may not have known their boys had been taken.
“Nedra, please start taking them home. They are scared enough without seeing me deal with these creatures” she gave a soft nod and started carrying them away. Even if she wasn’t holding them they were clinging to her, still terrified. “I’m sorry boys, I hoped you would be older before you had to face something like this”
“we knew you’d come mom” Tancred said and she answered “your father and I would never let anything keep you away from us. He’ll make sure those terrible things don’t come back. I know you boys are probably tired but when we get home I need to look you all over and tend to your wounds.”
“yes mam” the boys answered. They didn’t care, they were just grateful to be with their mother.
Against Talmadge, the creatures were weak and as soon as he had killed two of them, the remaining couple tried tricking him by taking on his sons shape. It further infuriated him and it startled them enough that they dropped those forms and tried to flee. Nedra was exhausted when she finally made it home and through the front door, but she took them straight to her and Talmadge’s room then went and retrieved the first aid kit. She hated how terrified they looked and nearly started crying when Daven winced as she cleaned and bandaged his wound. She checked them all, making sure not to skip their heads in case they had any wounds hidden under their hair. She even wiped the dirt from their skin and helped them into clean clothes. She then took a moment to look the little fox kit over. Yoruba seemed a lot calmer now and she was relieved the he didn’t have any wounds on him.
“When’s dad coming back?” Tancred asked.
“As soon as he’s finished dealing with those things.”
“Are they going to hurt him?”
“I don’t think they stand a chance. Daddy’s tough.” All three boys smiled. “How about I get a book and we all cuddle up together in here.”
“Okay.” They said in unison.
“Can Yoruba sleep with us?” Daven asked.
“Of course baby.”
Nedra got up and grabbed the current book she was working on with their boys. She had stopped reading them childrens books long ago, ever since they could keep up with long, chapter stories. The boys loved it and she loved sharing adventures with them through the worlds these authors created. Once she positioned herself on the bed against the headboard the boys cuddled up to her, Daven keeping Yoruba close. She was surprised they didn’t fall asleep before their father came home but she figured they had to see everyone was safe before they allowed themselves to rest. He planted a kiss on each of his boys head before kissing their mother “everyone okay?”
“yeah, I told them they could stay in here”
“I don’t think I could sleep tonight if they weren’t. Maybe for the next week they sleep in here with us, the beds big enough”
Talmadge went and bathed then came back and climbed into bed. Their children and little Yoruba soon fell asleep and they both just sat there looking at their beautiful children. They had come so close to losing the three most important things in their lives. “I think we’re going to have to do something special for them.” Talmadge whispered. “Maybe a trip, something fun that will get their minds off of what happened.”
“We’ll think of something.” She felt herself choke up and Talmadge reached over and took her hand. He wanted to hold her, but he didn’t want to wake the boys by changing which side of the bed he was on. “Sorry, it’s just I was so scared.”
“Shh, I know, me too. All I could think was if I lost any of them, it would kill me. I am so lucky to have them and you, to lose any of you would take a piece of my soul.”
“I’m grateful every day I chose to have these boys and move here with you” she whispered as a few tears slid down her cheeks “Me too Nedra, You were so young, it was a selfless choice you made”
“Young and happy, I couldn’t wait to start this family.” he smiled, wanting even more to hold her but he remained on the other side of his boys. They allowed themselves to rest with them, knowing nothing could move a one of them without detection. They woke around lunch that day since it had been such a long night. “Let me hunt us something fresh to eat. I’ll make you all a nice meal” Talmadge offered then left the house. While they waited Nedra asked “is there anywhere you boys have been wanting to go? Your father and I want to take you somewhere fun”
“Can we go visit uncle Vesper?” Tancred asked.
“Yeah can we? He has horses.” Kael added.
“And I want to show him Yoruba.” Daven said, holding the little fox up.
“I’m sure daddy would love to.” Of all Talmadge’s siblings, Vesper was the sweetest and often spoiled the boys when they came over. He had insisted they learn how to ride and even taught them how to feed and brush the horses.
Nedra got them all a snack while they waited and the boys sat on the living room floor and played with Yoruba, laughing when he would lose his balance and wind up rolling completely over. When Talmadge returned, Nedra let him know what the boys wanted to do. “Sounds good, he’ll be able to get their minds off of what happened. The boys love the horses and my brother always has something new to distract them.”
They got ready and left right after their meal, everyone eager just to get away and have some fun. It was only a couple hour journey to their Uncle and the boys couldn’t wait. When they arrived Vesper was already outside to greet them. His nose had caught the fact they were coming before his home was even in view. “what brings you guys! I’ve missed you!” he hugged the boys then their mother before hugging his brother “we have quite the story for you” Talmadge said and Tancred added “these monster tried to hurt us”
“yeah but Yoruba warned us” Daven said. Vesper tilted his head, concern and confusion filling his face. “lets go sit inside and we’ll tell you everything” Nedra said and they all went into his home. When their story was over Vesper sighed “I’m just glad you are all okay. You need to work on your nose more brother”
“yeah, I never took fathers lessons seriously like you did but I could have saved my family so much trouble if I had honed my skills like you”
“well stay awhile, I’ll work with you. It’ll be better than working with our old man”
“I’ll be happy to have you all.” he looked at the boys “the horses miss you three too, want to let mommy and daddy rest from the trip while we go out to see them?”
“Yeah!” the boys said excitedly as they ran out with their Uncle.
“It looks like they’ve already forgotten.” Talmadge said as he lifted Nedra and carried her to their room.
“Horses, the cure all.” She replied, causing him to chuckle.
“How about you, how are you feeling my love?” He sat her down and pulled her shoes off then tugged his boots off and slid her up to the top of the bed.
“Are you really?”
“Exhausted, worried that the boys are going to start having nightmares, but other than that I’m alright.”
“They’re strong and they know they’re safe here. They have me and their uncle and you here. Nothing will ever get that close to them again without me knowing it. I’m going to train hard to ensure that.”
Nedra kissed his chest “I know and in the meantime the boys are going to have so much fun I suppose their minds will stay far away from what happened” They cuddled until their triplets came for them “come see this adorable new horse! One of them had a baby recently!” the boys were all talking at once which had Nedra smiling. They followed them out, spending what remained of that day doing whatever Tancred, Daven and Kael wanted to do. After breakfast the next morning, since the boys were doing so well Talmadge and his brother Vesper left them to train, not planning on going too far so they could hear if Nedra needed them. “can we go out to the horses mom?” Their eyes pleading even though they had to know she’d say yes. “Of course” Nedra soaked up how happy their boys were, amazed how they could go back to normal so easily. Talmadge was right, they were incredibly strong, even at such a young age. She knew they’d bring that strength into adulthood and live amazing lives.
~ The End