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Nelly & Peadair

Nelly woke , lifting her head up off the window she had been resting against. She was still on the this train with a terrible feeling in her stomach that nobody but her seemed to get. The first day she had woken confused but one of her fellow passengers explained they were all going home. The explanation had settled her at the time. It wasn’t until this morning, four days later that it hit her “going home from where?” She decided to ask “Where have we been?” another question hit her and she asked it right away “and where is home?” The question seemed to perplex the man she asked. read more

Lievon & Amara

Chapter One

Lievon stood outside the all to familiar castle, his heart hammering in his chest, a knot forming in his throat. He couldn’t even remember how long it had been since he had been here last, but he remembered the day he had been cast out. His betrayal of his friend still twisted in his heart and he knew he had no right to be here, but he needed Chthon’s help. He forced himself to walk up to the front door and bang on it. He wasn’t expecting the beautiful young woman who answered, but he could see both Ruth and Chthon in her. read more

Antia & Andrej 2

Chapter One

“Do you think they had trouble on the road?” Antia asked as she and Andrej waited at the front door of their home for her brothers.

“I’m sure they’re fine my love.” Andrej couldn’t help but chuckle at how excited and worried she was. He could feel it. He pulled her into him and tipped her head back, adoring the blush that tinted her cheeks. “They’re grown men and I am sure capable.” read more

Gaspare & Iom 2

Chapter One

“Are you sure you have to go alone?” Gaspare asked as Iom shouldered his pack.

“This time yes.” He took Gaspare’s hands, pulling him close. “I’ll be back before you know it and I’ll make it up to you.” He leaned in, grinning as he kissed him, satisfied when Gaspare blushed.

“Just be careful.”

“But then it wouldn’t be any fun.”

“Iom.”

“Don’t worry so much, I’ve been there before. Two days there, two back, then you can do whatever you want to me.”

Gaspare’s face turned a deeper shade of red. “Stop.”

“I love you and I’ll be back soon.”

“I love you too.”

Iom left, heading away down the road. He usually brought Gaspare with him, but there was something special he wanted to get for him this time around. It was as he was as he was sleeping his first night out that he felt something cold pressing against his throat and he woke, blinking and bringing into focus the men standing over him. “Well he’s a pretty one.” The one who he was sure was the leader said.

“How much do you think that monster will pay for him?” Another asked.

“Wait.” Iom finally found his voice. “I don’t want any trouble.”

The leader kicked him in the stomach and Iom gripped his stomach as the air left his lungs. The man crouched down, gripping his hair and pulling him up so their faces were close together. “Oh it’s no trouble at all.”

Gaspare paced in the living room, worry eating at him. Iom hadn’t returned when he said he would and he knew something had to be wrong. “Gaspare?” Daray’s voice brought him up short. “Are you okay?”

“No,” he sighed, taking a seat, “it’s probably nothing and I’m probably being stupid, but Iom hasn’t come back yet. He was supposed to be back two days ago, but…”

“That doesn’t sound like Iom, he’s adventurous, but he wouldn’t make you needlessly worry.” He turned to Alvah.

“We’ll find him.” Alvah said.

Gaspare felt at least a little better knowing his Uncle would search for his mate, especially since he was doing it for Daray. Alvah had shown in multiple ways since they had been together there wasn’t anything he wasn’t willing to do or go through for him. Gaspare didn’t think anything said it more clearly than the day Alvah rushed into the sunlight knowing full well the horrendous effects it had on him because he felt Daray was in danger. No matter what it took to get Iom back he knew Alvah would help him do it.

They took only things to cook with and a single change of clothes for each of them before rushing out. They didn’t want too many things weighing them down. Gaspare took the lead since he knew the most about where Iom had been heading on his journey. Daray gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze “we’ll find him, even if he got into trouble he’s resourceful and strong”

Gaspare, trying not to get too much into his own head decided to push the conversation to Daray’s new abilities “you’re doing so well at controlling your new strength as a vampire. It takes most much longer to be so good at it”

“Alvah has been a very patient and persistent teacher but in good ways. I’m really happy with my progress too”

Iom fiddled with the collar around his neck, his fingers sliding over it, looking for any kind of line. He had been messing with it since it had been forcefully put around his neck and all he knew is it was covered in symbols and had a loop in the back for a chain. “You know, if you keep fighting, it’ll only be worse.” It was another one of the monster’s servants, a man about his age named Adan. His brown eyes were fearful, ashamed, his voice a whisper.

“I don’t care, I refuse to be his plaything. I have to get home.”

“You can’t leave, not with the collar and hounds. He’ll…he’ll punish you.”

The worst Iom had received so far was a beating, but that had been from the men who had captured him when he had tried to escape. He had managed to severely injure one of them. The monster though had only made threats and promises that Iom knew would be kept. He had seen it on the faces of the others here. When they served their master dinner, when they were forced to feed and bathe him, and when they would come back from his room. Iom shook his head, he didn’t care how much pain he was put through, he wouldn’t be that creatures toy and he wouldn’t die. “I’m getting out of here and I’ll bring help.”

Adan shook his head. “It’s no use, it’s easier if you just…”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get us out, I promise.” He turned to Adan. “I might need your help.”

“I can’t, if he found out…”

“He won’t and if anything happens I’ll tell him I forced you, so just listen to my plan.”

Adan looked like he might cry or completely shut down on him. By the looks of the poor man he had been here a long time, being abused and fearing for his life. Eventually a look of resolve came across his face “okay” His voice didn’t have the resolve his face did but Iom was glad he could get him to help. “you wont regret helping, I have an in with two pretty incredible vampires. My best friend also became one, not too long ago but he’s getting really good. Maybe we can even get Mabel to help. I don’t know what she is but she’s a woman you don’t want to cross”

“why don’t you know what she is?”

“I don’t pressure her. I think she’s embarrassed of what she is”

“Oh”

“I can tell you all about everyone I know once we’re out. I just want you to be confident in knowing that all we have to do is get to them and this monster will never have us or any of the others again. He’ll be lucky if he’s still breathing when they are done with him”

“Do you smell that?” Gaspare asked as he came to a sudden stop in the middle of the road.

“It’s Iom.” Alvah said.

“I can smell it too.” Daray added. “His soap.”

Gaspare turned towards the woods, spotting a smaller trail leading into its interior. “He went this way.” He headed off and they followed. “Why would the scent be so strong?” The thought worried him. Was he out here wounded? It was shocking finding his pack with everything turned out of it and scattered about. He bent down, picking up the book he had gifted to Gaspare. “He was here.”

“So were others.” Alvah said. “Men, four of them.”

“They took him, they had to have taken him. They can’t have…you don’t think they would…”

Alvah grabbed him by his shoulders and gently shook him. “Stop and smell the air, Gaspare, their scent heads further down the trail and there is no smell of blood or death.”

Gaspare swallow as he hugged the book to his chest. “I know, I’m sorry, I’m panicking. I just can’t lose him.”

“You won’t.” Daray said. “Iom has been to many dangerous places, he won’t let himself be killed, he’s too stubborn.”

Iom could tell that his plan terrified Adan, but it was the the best he had come up with. He knew the monster had to have some sort of key or spell for the collars. “I need you to find it for me, Adan. It must be in his room.”

“But what if he catches me going through his things? He’ll hurt me…he’ll call his friends in to hurt me.”

“I’m going to distract him. He’s had his eye on me since I’ve been here. I can keep him focused on me long enough for you to look through his things and he won’t think twice about your scent being in there so don’t worry about that. I’ll meet you in my room, get this thing off of me, and then go get help.”

“The hounds.”

“I’m a good runner, trust me. I’ll get away and I’ll come back, I swear. I won’t leave you all here. I need you to trust me.”

Adan nodded, he had already decided he was going to take this chance at freedom no matter the risk. This was such a miserable life and he knew if he let fear make him back down he’d never be able to forgive himself. Not only would he still have to deal with everything he was put through here but he’d have to feel like it was his fault for not even trying when a good chance presented himself. Iom was so confident this would work and his vampire friends would help. It was hard not to trust a man this sure of himself.

They both set the plan in motion, Adan going to their captors room and Iom actually seeking out their captor to flirt with him just enough to keep him busy awhile. If this didn’t work Iom knew this would come back to haunt him but he had faith in Adan. After however long he had been here he knew just the desperation of wanting freedom would drive him to find what they needed.

“We can’t just stop.” Gaspare argued. “He could be hurt, or…we have to keep going.”

“Just long enough to eat.” Alvah replied.

“We can’t, we have to find him.”

“Gaspare.” Daray gently interjected. “Let’s eat, okay? We haven’t had anything since we left, we’ve just been going. So let’s at least eat, then we’ll get going again. Besides, it’s night, a little break won’t hurt.”

“But…”

“Just for a bit.”

Gaspare swallowed down the lump of fear in his throat and nodded. He wasn’t hungry, but he ate what Daray made anyway. All he could think about was what Iom might be going through. Once they were finished and everything was cleaned up, they headed out again. The night was quiet as they followed Iom’s scent and that of the men who had taken him. It was the scent of blood that brought them up short a little while later and they were relieved to find it didn’t belong to Iom, but one of the men. “He must have hurt one of them.” Gaspare said.

“Pretty severely too.” Alvah added. “He must have bid his time, not revealing what he was until he attacked one of the men.”

“See? He’s alright.” Daray said as he squeezed Gaspare’s shoulder.

Iom had not slept, even though he knew he should have. Even Adan had stayed up with him, listening to him going over the plan a couple more times as if trying to hold onto his resolve. They had gone their separate ways before everyone woke and were both ready to do what they had to. The monster was outside behind the house waiting for his breakfast and Iom had volunteered to take it to him. It was still surprising how normal the creature looked and how charming he came off when he spoke, but everyone knew this was just a mask, that his human form was merely there to deceive. He could feel the creatures eyes on him as he stepped outside and he raised his own, making eye contact for a few heartbeats before looking away. The creature was more than interested in him, he could smell it.

 

Chapter Two

“I see you’re already getting used to being here. Bringing me my food, how sweet” Iom set his food in front of him and the creature took the opportunity to grab his hand “won’t you sit with me” Iom was proud of himself for not instantly jerking away. He even managed to keep the disgust off his face “sure” sure might not have been the best line but their captor might catch on that something was up if he appeared too comfortable anyway. The man smiled and kissed his hand which made Iom want to punch him. It was obvious this thing was used to being able to do whatever he wanted regardless of others feelings.

Iom sat as soon as he let him go “are you acquainted with my name yet?”

“No”

“Hm, It is Baikuntha” Iom nodded and Baikuntha began eating. Iom said “I guess I figured I may aswell get used to being here” Baikuntha swallowed “You will like me eventually”

“Oh?”

“I’m an amazing lover” Iom almost couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes.

Iom crossed his arms and legs. “You’re not the first to say something like that.”

“I am sure, but I mean it.” Iom huffed and looked away to which Baikuntha responded to by reaching over and grabbing Iom’s chin and turning his face back. Iom could feel his strength, but he wasn’t intimidated, he was irritated at being grabbed again. “I could show you.” He let his fingers slid down and hook into the collar around Iom’s neck, pulling him closer. “I’ve never had someone as beautiful as you.”

“I’m sure.” He forced an amused smile onto his face. “I don’t see a difference between me and the others you have here.”

“Then I want you in my room tonight, after all, I could have taken you the moment you arrived here.” He let Iom go, allowing him to lean back.

“And what happens if I refuse?”

Baikuntha chuckled as he took a bite of his food. “Now why would you do that? I want to see you tonight.” Iom could guess what would happen if he said no. He had a feeling this creature would lose his temper and if he wanted to escape then he couldn’t afford getting the crap beat out of him. He simply nodded and Baikuntha smiled. “Good.”

Iom wondered if Adan had found what they needed. He certainly hoped he was at least in the room searching. Iom knew Adan might need a lot of time so he needed to keep Baikuntha talking. He didn’t want to keep talking about sex, the more they talked about it the more chance he ran of giving away how repulsed he was by the idea but it was somewhere to start while he thought of something else “What sort of things are you into in bed, anything I should be worried about” Baikuntha grinned “It depends”

“depends?”

“On you, stay on my good side and it’ll be nice” He internally groaned thinking about what an asshole this man was. He couldn’t wait for Gaspare and Alvah to hand him his ass and free all these poor men being sexually abused and kept under threat of worse happening to them. Adan had even spoke of Baikuntha’s friends abusing them if they misbehaved too much and he could only imagine. Some beings could come up with some ridiculously twisted things to do to others.

“Define, being good. I mean, one man’s bad is another man’s good.”

“I think you know. You come to me when you’re called, you don’t disobey, and you don’t fight.” He shrugged. “It’s simple really. If you listen, you’ll be treated well.”

“I see.”

“You’ll be happy here as long as you follow the rules.” He smiled. “What about you? What things do you like?”

Iom shrugged. “This and that.” He didn’t really want to use the things he and Gaspare did together. “If I’m being honest, I haven’t done much.”

“We’ll have to change that then.”

“Perhaps I prefer vanilla.”

“No one prefers something so boring and lazy.” He pushed his plate away and turned more to face Iom, letting his hand rest on his knee. “There are so many exciting and new things to experience, things you couldn’t even begin to imagine. I can show you.”

Iom was hopeful this man wouldn’t have the chance to try and show him. His touch right now sent a terrible feeling through Iom. He wished there was some way to know what Adan was doing. He wanted nothing more than to get away from Baikuntha and quickly. Just in case Adan still needed time he decided to put his hand on Baikuntha’s, praying it wouldn’t push things too far forward. All he wanted was to keep his attention. Many things about Baikuntha told Iom he was growing more excited so he decided he shouldn’t touch him again once he managed to smoothly take his hand back.

Baikuntha laced their fingers but once Iom turned the conversation into something more normal he pulled away, happy Baikuntha didn’t protest. “I have things I wish to do before I see you tonight Iom. I am eager so don’t think about changing your mind.”

“I am too curious now” Baikuntha smiled, what a freaking sucker,or he was just that cocky., so used to having his way at this point.

“Someone tried to cover their tracks here.” Alvah said as he walked around the area they had come to a stop in. Iom’s scent had become weaker and it had taken him a moment to realize someone had tried to cover it up.

“With what?” Gaspare asked.

“Animal scent. Perhaps there was something they didn’t want anyone to find.”

“So which way do we go?”

“I’m not sure, give me a moment.”

“Uncle.”

“I know, trust me, I know, but if you want to find him, you must stay calm.” He squeezed Gaspare’s shoulder. “How about we branch out and see if we can pick his scent up again.

“Okay.” Alvah knew what Gaspare was going through. After nearly losing Daray, he understood that fear and desperation, but he also knew if they panicked, they might not find Iom.

Iom worked around the house, slowly making his way to the room he had been given. He could hear Adan’s quick heartbeat even before he entered and he quickly closed the door and turned to him. He looked terrified. “Are you alright, Adan?” He asked gently.

“I…I was nearly caught by one of the others, but I don’t think he saw me take anything.” He swallowed. “I…I found these.” He pulled a small book and small metal rod out of the waist of his pants. The rod was made of the same metal as the collars. “I think this is a key and the way to use it is in here.” He handed them over. “When are you leaving?”

“Tonight, as soon as everyone is sleeping. He asked me to come to his room.”

Adan’s eyes filled with concern “then you better hope you make it out…if you stand him up…he” He didn’t want Adan pulling up too many painful memories for himself so Iom said as comfortingly as he could “Hey, I’m going to make it and I’m going to bring my mate and his Uncle. Don’t worry about me. Even if I am punished, I can handle it. Just worry about you okay. Go ahead and leave my room before others start talking. I don’t want him running in here jealous because he thinks I’m flirting with everyone” Adan stood “if you end up needing help just come find me”

“Thank you Adan, I’m sure you’ve done plenty for me. Thank you for trusting my plan. If he finds this, as part of my gratitude I will not tell him who helped me, no matter what he does.” Adan shook his head “No, if he guesses you had help don’t do that…I’ll just face the music for what I’ve done.” Adan left and Iom got to reading, skimming more than anything to hurry things along.

The sun was nearly all the way down by the time Iom came across what he was looking for and his heart actually jumped in excitement as his eyes moved over the text. He wouldn’t leave his room until everyone was down. It would be better that way so none of them were hurt if worst came to worst. He read over the words again then took the rod and pressed it to the collar. There was a code phrase for each collar that he had written down and Iom said his as softly as he could. He heard the collar click and he pulled it from around his neck, looking it over for a moment before closing it and watching the seam seal completely. He hid the key and book under his mattress then went over to his door and cracked it open a little. He could hear people moving around as they got ready for bed so he stood there, listening to every creaking floorboard, breath, and heartbeat.

He knew he only had this one chance, that he would have to be sprinting the moment his feet touched outside the house. Baikuntha had three hounds as far as he knew. He took a deep breath and was relieved when the house finally fell silent. He stepped out, gently closing the door and listening. He wondered how long the monster would wait before coming to investigate. He move as quietly as possible, keeping his breathing soft as he made his way past each room.

 

Final Chapter

It was incredibly tempting to run but Iom continued to remind himself that being quite was key to getting out. Even when the door came into view he knew he wasn’t free, not yet. He had only made it through the beginning stages of getting out of this horrible place. He pushed the front door open, hating it made noise. He begged with the universe that Baikuntha hadn’t heard. If he did hopefully he continued not to suspect anything. As far as Baikuntha knew everyone was still wearing their collars which meant they could only get so far if they went outside.

Iom didn’t take the time to shut the door again. That would only add to the risk he’d be heard. He simply ran while he finally could, darting through the grass as fast as his legs would carry him. The very second he registered something slamming into his forehead he was out, not realizing what happened until he woke in what he assumed was Baikunthas bedroom “Iom, really?” It was Baikunthas voice. It was still as calm as ever but he could hear the fury underneath that tone. “what gave me away?”

“You really think you have any privacy as my new toy? You really think I’m an idiot, that I own all these men and have so many others out there collecting for me by chance?”

“you’re powerful, I can feel it coming off you. Some think they can be all brawn and no brain” Baikuntha was leaning over Iom who was chained at the wrists to his bedposts… He grinned a few moments though still, there was nothing amused about him now. “I was so looking forward to you Iom but you’ve left me with no choice but to kill you”

“You wont make me feel like anything is my fault”

“Oh? Really?” Baikuntha walked away, coming back with a severely beaten, barely even alive looking Adan. Baikuntha sucked air through his teeth “see, this is definitely your fault. I had completely broken this one. He’d do anything I asked, would endure anything at this point without a complaint and would even go out of his way to make sure I was happy…that is…until you. See, Adan is why you have to die. The fact you swayed him to do something against me tells me how dangerous you are to keep. Now Adan, Adan I’ll keep alive and he’s going to pay in so much worse ways for stealing from me than just the beating I gave him and I want you to die knowing that Iom. That you made this mans life a million times worse”

Some of the menace was seeping out, distorting that calm voice he always tried to keep. He could tell that this did infact hurt Iom and the triumph he felt was enough to make that facade falter just a bit. “why the fuck are you this way!? Its not like you’re even fucking ugly, you could have a real mate”

“I didn’t start this because I was lonely, I started this because I wanted to, because I can”

“How long has he been like that? Why did you wait so long if you knew what we were doing?”

“Why do I do this all? It can all be answered the same way, for my entertainment. It was amusing to see you think you could actually get away. To see if Adan could really go through with it, to see just how clever you would be with your break out. Even now, you aren’t dead yet because my fun would be much too short without this delicious dialogue. I’m also hoping this mate of yours finds us before I finish tonight so I can kill him in front of you” Iom laughed “You’re strong but Alvah and Gaspare could destroy you any day”

“I would love to see them try, I really, really would.”

Iom glared at him, angered that he had toyed with him and with Adan, that he had hurt Adan even though it hadn’t been his fault, and angry at himself for not thinking Baikuntha could be playing them. “Adan, I’m sorry, truly sorry for everything.” He said, his eyes never leaving the monster’s.

Adan laid curled up on the floor, his hands covering his head, his body shaking in fear, but Iom could hear him whispering, “It’s okay.” Over and over again.

“Hush now, Adan, once he’s gone, we can start your training over.”

Gaspare, Alvah, and Daray raced through the darkened woods, their noses locked on Iom’s scent. Gaspare had hated how long it had taken to pick it up again, but at least they were back on the trail and they had decided to follow it rather than rest. They were all worried about Iom and knew another delay could mean something bad might happen.

Iom thrashed and kicked, trying to use his legs to push away from the monster, but the creature kept him pinned in place by his throat, pushing down when he fought to hard. Baikuntha’s sharp nails dug into his skin, leaving rows of red, bleeding wounds. He felt one dig even deeper into his stomach and Baikuntha leaned closer. “What if I spilled your guts right now, Iom?”

Iom spit in his face. “Fuck…you.” He choked out. He knew the beast was getting off on his pain and if he could ruin it for him, he would.

Baikuntha growled at him, his eyes shifting to a bright yellow, the eyes of the monster. He started to slide the nail up and Iom’s cry of pain came out strangled. Baikuntha suddenly jerked back with a pain filled roar and it took Iom a moment to realize Adan had managed to get up and retrieve the decorative letter opener on Baikuntha’s desk. The monster spun, backhanding Adan so he flew back into the bedroom door, unconscious. Baikuntha twisted, trying to pull the letter opener out of his back.

Iom thought fast, he couldn’t break these chains but they were directly attached to the bed. He was vampire and it was just wood, strong wood but he knew if he tried hard enough he could break the bed and hopefully quickly while Baikuntha was distracted. Adan obviously couldn’t take much more abuse and that last stunt might make Baikuntha change his mind about killing him off. He wanted Adan to live for the freedom he would have as soon as they were found. He didn’t deserve to die in this place, he couldn’t let him die some monsters toy. you can do this, you have to Iom said in his head as he grabbed on to the piece of bed one of his chains was connected to and destroyed it “fuck yes” He actually said out loud.

Baikuntha growled again, lunging at him but one arm free was all Iom had needed. Iom hit him as hard as he could then used all the strength in his legs to make him stumble backward. The combination gave him enough time to break the other part of the bed. He was still attached but much more mobile and he’d use the pieces of wood instead of treating them as a hindrance.

Iom swung at him, furious, desperate swipes to keep Baikuntha at bay. He dared not turn to try and open the door so all he could do was fight him off. He wasn’t expecting the tail that came darting out from behind Baikuntha and barely manged to stumble to the side. The sharp tip scraped his side then punctured a large hole in the door. “I’m going to tear you apart mind and body.” Baikuntha growled. “By the time I’m done with you, you will be begging me to take you in.”

It was the sound of combat that grabbed their attention. The silence of the woods helped them pinpoint where it was coming from. Gaspare’s stomach dropped when he realized it was in the same direction as Iom’s scent. When they burst from the woods, they were immediately met by growling, snapping hounds, drool dripping from their mouths as they attacked the intruders. “Get to Iom.” Alvah ordered. “We’ll take care of the dogs.”

Gaspare didn’t protest, only wanting his mate back. The moment he entered the house he could smell fear, could hear the sounds of people whimpering, of their racing hearts. Most of all he could smell Iom and hear his voice and he ran towards it. He heard Iom scream as he reached the room at the end of the hall and ripped the door open. Iom was pinned face down on the floor, the tip of a tail driven through his shoulder, a man on top of him, Iom struggling and cursing at him. Gaspare saw red and was across the room, ripping the man off of his mate before he could even completely turn and look over his shoulder.

Iom quickly got up, ignoring his pain and going over to Adan to check on him. He was grateful to see Adan was still clinging to life. Iom briefly considered getting him out of the room but there was no telling when or if Baikunthas henchmen would stumble upon all this. They came at odd hours. There didn’t seem to be any kind of schedule. He could have even invited friends to come help him punish Adan so they couldn’t get far from Gaspare. He sat there, guarding Adan since his mate obviously had things under control.

This was the first time he had seen him in a fight that actually took a lot of effort for him but he was definitely winning. Soon Alvah and Daray were bursting in and Iom whispered to the still unconscious Adan “I told you they’d come. We’re going back to my home. I promise, we wont let anything else happen to you” It was almost embarrassing when Alvah destroyed the cuffs so easily they may as well have been made of paper but his mind was mostly taken with how much better it felt not to be attached to large pieces of wood. Gaspare hugged him and they both shed a few silent tears before Daray said “He looks bad, we brought some medical supplies but if theres any here we might need what we already have to tend to him on the way. Whatever he is he doesn’t seem to be healing very well right now”

Alvah spoke “He is a shifter, a Fossa to be exact and Daray is right Iom, do you know where in this house we can tend to him”

“He would have been the one to know but we need to stay and look. He’s like this because he helped me. That bastard punished him before bringing me in here. I wont leave until we know he’s stable enough to come with us. We also need to unlock everyone elses collars so they can go off where they need to go off” Alvah nodded “Gaspare, Daray, you two stay with Iom and this man. I will search the house. How is your collar off Iom?”

“Theres a book and metal key in my room.”

“I’ll grab that too” Gaspare just kept hugging Iom but that was more than fine with his mate. It felt so incredible to be in loving arms again. When Alvah came back he dropped off the supplies and asked Daray to start tending to Adan while he began freeing everyone else.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get here faster.” Gaspare said as he brushed his fingers through Iom’s hair.

“What are you talking about? you had perfect timing. I had him right where I wanted him.” He let out an exhausted sigh. “I can’t wait to get out of this place, to get Adan and the others out of this place.”

Gaspare hugged him a little tighter. “Did he…?”

“No, not that he wouldn’t have, but no, he didn’t.”

“Please never leave without me again or at least don’t sleep on the road.”

“Agreed.”

Alvah came back with the other men who all couldn’t believe they were actually free and some of them started crying when it set in they would be leaving. “I told them to come back with us and we would get them home.” Alvah said. “How is he?” He gestured to Adan.

“Still alive.” Daray said. “We’re going to have to go really slow with all of them, especially Adan.”

“Can you carry him?”

“Of course.”

“What about you Iom, are you okay to travel?”

“Even if I wasn’t, I would still insist we go. None of them need to stay here any longer.” He raised his head to look at the other men. “You should all grab as much as you can; food, clothes, water, even jewelry and money. That monster owes you everything, so take what you can for the trip.”

They all began to gather what they could and were soon off. If Baikuntha had called for others they made it out before they arrived. At home Alvah and Daray allowed Gaspare and Iom to go straight to their room while they took care of settling in their new guests. Gaspare and Iom were soaking their sore muscles in the tub when Iom said “I guess you can’t tease Alvah about this castle anymore. It came in handy, I’m glad we had space for everyone”

“I probably wont tease him about anything for awhile. I’m so glad he and Daray helped me get you back”

“Maybe after all these men are looked after you and I can both go where I was headed…I wanted to get you something special”

“We will definitely go, it’ll still be special even if you didn’t travel to get it alone.”

“I love you Gaspare”

“I love you too Iom” Gaspare held Iom a little tighter, his wounds were mostly healed and he was still struggling emotionally from everything. Gaspare had come much too close to loseing Iom and his only comfort was that Iom was willing not to leave his side for awhile.

~ The End

Violet & Dian

Chapter One

The gangly, curly haired youth bursting through Violet’s door nearly made her drop her book. She glared at the boy, telling him with her eyes that it was more than a bit rude to walk into a house uninvited and to do it in a way that nearly knocked pictures off the wall was even more reprehensible. The look took him by such surprise that he seemed to forget what he had been going to say and stood there frozen for a moment opening and closing his mouth like a fish on the bank of a pond.

Violet marked her place, closed her book, then took a deep breath to calm herself. “Can I help you?” She asked and he seemed to snap out of his sudden daze.

“Uh, ma’am…yes ma’am, sorry.” He collected his thoughts, wheels turning as he put words together to form a full sentence. “A dragon ma’am, there is a dragon and the mayor asked me to get you.”

She sighed, putting her book irritably down on the coffee table. “Of course he did.”

“Sorry Miss Violet, so sorry.” He bowed and then bowed again.

“Oh stop, how annoying, do I look like a princess to you?” She stood, straightening her dress. No, she thought as she moved around the coffee table to the coat closet, rather I look like someone took a witch and a librarian and mashed them together.

“No ma’am, sorry ma’am.”

She rolled her eyes. It was hopeless after all. She yanked open the door and pulled out her cloak and boots, shaking them both out before putting them on. “Come on then.” She walked past the young man and he quickly followed, head down. “Oh stop moping, I shouldn’t have snapped at the messenger.”

“Yes Miss Violet.”

“Where is this dragon then?”

“Outside of town ma’am, in that old cave ma’am.”

“How cliche.”

She walked on, ignoring the turning heads and whispered words of “Do you think the witch is gonna…” and made her way out of town and over rolling hills to the now occupied cave. She knew it was occupied because she could hear the breathing of the beast and noticed faint smears of blood here and there.

“What are you going to do ma’am? Turn him into a toad? Kill him?”

“How absolutely barbarous.” She said and picked up a large rock. When would they learn that she had as much magic as a thimble, unless the thimble had been enchanted, then that was a whole other story. She pulled back and threw the stone as hard as she could into the cave, hearing it make contact with something and then the breathing stopped. The boy cowered behind her as a roar echoed out from the cave, the ground shook dramatically and a red wedge shaped head detached itself from the darkness soon followed by a large scaled body.

“Oh shut up you annoying thing.” She snapped and the creature shut its mouth, seeming shocked. “Now go on and get.” It lowered its head and started to open its mouth when she slapped the tip of its nose. It drew back, shaking its head. “I don’t think so you very bad dragon. Go! Now! Find another place of residence and stop scaring the villagers. They come to me when things like you turn up and it can be quite nerve racking so go on, find sheep or cows elsewhere.” It opened its mouth again as if to protest and she planted her hands on her hips, glaring at it with death in her eyes. Its jaws shut and it launched itself into the sky, kicking up dust and knocking the young messenger boy over with the force of its wind. “There, now someone else can deal with him.”

The messenger looked in awe of her and she sighed. No matter how often they saw her handle things without any magic at all they still thought her a mystical being. If the others were braver they could handle these situations too. Violet walked away, happy she was successful again and not that dragons snack. Violet hoped that maybe she could finally finish this book when she arrived home. Maybe this town and the magical creatures around it could afford her the hours needed because she was incredibly into this book. Once inside her shoes were off again and she lifted her book before settling back into her chair. She was instantly taken right back in, not coming back to reality at all until she closed it.

Upon looking up she noticed it was night and smiled thinking this was the perfect time to get a walk in. The sky would be gorgeous and the villagers would all be resting. Gleefully she set her book back down and slipped back into her cloak and boots before going off into the cool night air.

It was always so peaceful at night, as if the countryside itself decided to relax. She breathed in deeply and let her breath out in a sigh. Even with all the trouble, she still loved it here. The road branched and she turned off onto the left path just as someone came tumbling out of the woods and into her. “Sorry.” He said, grabbing her to steady her. “Are you alright?”

It took her a moment to regain her equilibrium, but when she did, she looked up at him. He was tall, really tall and his eyes were a shocking shade of blue. “Uh…yeah…uh…”

His head suddenly jerked up and he looked at the woods then back down at her, his eyes searching hers for a moment. He then lifted her hand and smiled at her. “Hold onto this for me.” He let her go and took off running.

“Wait, who are you?”

“Dian,” he called back, “be sure to tell them where I went.”

“What?” She was confused and it took her a moment to realize she was holding something. She opened her palm, studying the silver medallion that rested there. It had beautiful, intricate designs carved into it inlaid with blue and gold. She had never seen anything like it before. The sound of snapping twigs pulled her back to reality and she turned to face the woods, her hand sliding into the pocket of her cloak as three more men came stumbling out of the woods.

Violet wondered what problem she had gotten herself involved in now but she wasn’t worried, even as she realized how tall these men also were. She faced down dragons, trolls and many more much more formidable creatures than simple men. “Has anybody else run by?” a man with red hair and incredibly intense green eyes asked. She didn’t skip a beat answering “No, I have been out here awhile clearing my head and haven’t seen a soul until you three.” Violet didn’t know who the unsavory party was yet but going by gut feeling she trusted the man who had given her medallion.

The man looked at her a short while, long enough for her to take in more of his face. He had light scars but they weren’t unattractive. In fact they probably served to get more women in his bed “You wouldn’t lie to me would you?”

“Why would I? I don’t know you so I’m certain I don’t know who else you’re looking for. I’d like to be left alone”

“we don’t have time to waste, if the broad says she ain’t seen him she ain’t seen him” the man to his left said. The word ain’t almost physically hurt to hear but while she wasn’t scared of them she still didn’t want to piss them off by correcting anyone. The men left her and she was glad to see they didn’t go the same way Dian had. Medallion in pocket she resumed her walk, knowing if she went home now she’d only pace anyway.

She turned back around when she reached the end of her walk, her eyes and ears open, listening for anyone approaching. When her home came into view, she was surprised to find that there was a soft orange light coming from inside. From the way it danced, she was sure it was from the fireplace. Someone was in her home. She approached as quietly as she could, moving around the back of the house and grabbing the wood ax propped against the wall there. She knew it wasn’t one of the villagers, they would have just left. She moved over to the back door, being careful not to stomp on the back porch. She gripped the door handle and pushed it slowly, glad when it didn’t squeak. She listened, not hearing anything but the crackling of the fire. She gripped the ax as she stepped in and gently closed the door.

She readied herself as she came closer to the living room, the ax pulled back, ready to strike if someone attacked her. She froze when she saw him, Dian, sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. He gave her an exhausted smile. “You’re safe, that’s good.” He said.

She lowered the ax. “You…how did you find my house?”

“It’s a gift.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I hope you don’t mind me resting here.” He crossed over to her. “May I have it back please?”

She moved the ax to her other hand then reached into her pocket and pulled it out. “Tell me why those men were after you.”

“I stole this.”

“Why?”

His amused smile at her questions lit up his eyes. “Because I’m looking for the rightful heir to the throne.”

“If it’s so important why did you hand it off to me? They could have taken it” His smile lifted a little again “I knew you were too intelligent and brave for them to figure out you had it. I was worried they would catch up so handing it to you was the safest thing to do”

“But you don’t know me”

“If you sit with me by your fire I will explain everything and answer any follow up questions” His stomach growled and she said “Maybe I should feed you first. I have some leftovers that will be quick to heat up”

“Thank you” He began explaining as she heated up food. He was exhausted, would have been able to fall asleep that second if he laid down but he wanted to explain everything to her. Even if he didn’t want to explain she had given him a place to rest and helped him by hiding the amulet, he owed her an explanation. “so you’re descended from a powerful witch and you read my mind earlier which is how you knew you could trust me”

“Yes but don’t worry, I have to be touching you to do it” she shrugged “Not worried, I don’t have much to hide and nothing really embarrasses me” He looked so amused again “How are you so cheerful when you’re being chased and have such a big job to do”

“I enjoy every moment of life, always have and I’m enjoying your company. You’re a beautiful and interesting person” She seemed more surprised by his comment than anything as she asked “so, what gave you this job?”

“I worked for the previous king and queen before their deaths and doing this for them is only right. Their son deserves to rule”

“And where is he?”

“North. His parents thought if he’s in the snowy, icy reaches then it would give people less of a reason to go after him. He was put on a ship and put under the care of a merchant and his family.”

“I can’t imagine going from a prince to a merchant. It must have been hard.”

“He was always a good boy and, much like his father, a hard worker. It may have been an adjustment, but he wouldn’t have shied away from it.” He sighed. “I thought I had thrown them off my trail, by pretending to board a ship, but I guess they caught on.”

“What are you going to do now?”

“Resupply and continue my journey. I have to fulfill my duty and bring him home. If I don’t things could take a turn for the worst and no one wants that.” He sat his fork down and leaned back, truly exhausted. “Thank you, Violet, truly, thank you. I promise to repay your kindness.”

The words came tumbling out of her without a single thought “why don’t you repay me by allowing me to come with you” Despite the fact those words came unbidden she meant them. She had been tired of being here and maybe if she left the people would learn to take care of themselves. Dian sat upright, amusement playing over his exhausted face “That works for me.”

“wow, that easily?”

“You’d be helpful, I can tell. Even if I didn’t owe you I’d welcome you along”

“Then lets both get some rest” While Dian finished eating Violet brought a pillow and blanket into the living room, laying them both on the couch for him “goodnight Dian, you’re welcome to any food or water you need in the night. I’ll make us coffee and a descent breakfast in the morning”

“Goodnight Violet”

That night Violet slept with her ax near her bed, just in case the men who had been chasing him managed to find her home. She woke the next morning to the sound of footsteps and someone talking. It took a moment to realize it was Dian, already awake, and she wondered who he was talking to. She yawned as she got up and made her way into the living room, seeing him pacing back and forth and reading out loud from one of her books. He smiled as he turned, closing the book. “Sorry, did I wake you?”

“It’s alright, you should have woke me as soon as you got up.”

“I didn’t mind waiting.” He let his eyes move over her. She looked quite cute disheveled as she was.

“I look rough don’t I?” She asked and his eyes jumped to her face.

“Not at all, quite the opposite. I apologize for staring.” He cleared his throat. “Would you like me to help you with breakfast?”

She shook her head. “I can manage.”

“I’d feel bad if I made you do everything.”

She couldn’t help but smile at him. He was far too kind and generous. “Then how about you read to me, you have a really nice voice.”

He chuckled. “Do I?”

She felt her cheeks heat. “Well, yeah, it’s enjoyable enough.”

 

Chapter Two

He grinned again ‘well I was enjoying this book anyway, we will have to bring it on the journey so I can read aloud for you in the evenings. I always read out loud. It’s one of the odd things about me” She had been too sleepy to register what he had been reading so she asked “which book is it?” he lifted it so she could see the cover “Oh, thats actually a series. One of the villagers here writes it.”

“could we bring them all?”

“Yeah, if any get ruined I can always get another. She won’t even allow me to give her payment”

“why?”

“Because I take care of this village. If anything bothers them they come running. Just the other day I had to chase off a dragon”

“How do you think they’ll do without you?”

“Fine I’m sure, they just need to realize they don’t need me”

“You aren’t worried about them discovering that?”

“No, I’ll get more time on my own and I have enough skills I don’t need anything to be given to me…anyway, I’ll get the coffee started. That way it’ll be ready when I am” Violet started the coffee then went back into her room to get dressed in something comfortable for the road.

“You look good in that.” Dian said when she came back and she couldn’t help but blush.

“They’re just some old clothes.”

“They suit you.”

“Thank you.” He smiled and her heart jumped, causing her to look away in embarrassment and head into the kitchen to make breakfast.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

Violet shook her head. “You didn’t, I promise, just not used to someone saying something like that to me.”

“Well if they haven’t, they are obviously blind.” He sat down at the table, flipping the book open. “May I still read?”

“Of course.” She had to admit to herself once again that she really enjoyed his voice. It was surprisingly smooth and had an unexpected deep timbre to it. She could honestly listen to it all day.

The smooth way he read along with how skilled this author was at showing the reader a scene had her mind clearly seeing what was happening in the story within her mind as she prepared breakfast and enjoyed her black coffee. Violet was almost disappointed as she sat down with their plates and he stopped but her mind quickly reminded her that he planned on reading throughout their trip. They ate silently but when Dian was finished he said “that was incredible. I’ll be glad to read to you while you cook on the trip” she smiled “that’ll work amazing for both of us” She got up almost too quickly, not used to interactions like this at all.

Dian didn’t say anything, her nerves only gave him hope. People who didn’t react to your flirting weren’t interested and he was incredibly interested in Violet. She was beautiful, an a amazing cook, had a mind of her own and was brave. He could only imagine what else he might find to like about her during their journey to collect the prince. When she gathered the series together Dian insisted he carried it since he was the one who had wanted it. She didn’t put up too much of a fight having realized how heavy they would probably be after awhile.

“So, what’s your plan?” She asked as she shouldered the small pack she had made up with food and water in it.

“Make it to a bigger city and rent a horse and also buy warmer clothes. I wouldn’t want you to freeze to death.”

“Well I have you to make sure I stay warm, so I’m sure I won’t.” He grinned and she blushed. “I mean, with your magic. You can make fire right?”

“Of course.”

She swallowed and he chuckled. “So, what if he isn’t there?”

“Then we’ll wait.”

“It must have been awful for him, being forced to stay in hiding even after his parents died. I don’t know if I could have stayed, I think I would have raced home, he’s definitely stronger than me.”

“Now that’s not true, I’ve seen it in your head. That dragon didn’t know who he was dealing with.”

“You…how much did you see?”

“I didn’t have time for much, I just saw the past few days. I wont look at anymore unless you say it’s okay though. I just had to know if I could trust you and if you were up to facing those men should they come” She could understand that. He did have a huge responsibility on his shoulders. “I’ve found with most creatures all it takes is being brave. In our world you can’t judge a book by its cover so they probably think I’m more than just human”

“Probably, non magical beings do tend to just run or cower, especially in the presence of dragons”

“Have you seen many dragons?”

“I met a shifter once. He was a cool guy and as a dragon, well, he probably could have swallowed that dragon you met whole”

“wow”

“Yeah, maybe I can introduce you two one day”

“I would like that, maybe once we’ve brought the prince home.”

He nodded and they continued down the road, Violet looking back at her home as they got further and further away. She wondered how everyone would react once they realized she had left. She could only imagine. It was better not to tell them she was leaving, they would just try to make up excuses for why she couldn’t. “If you wish to turn back, now is the time.” Dian said and she turned to him, smiling.

“No going back until we’ve finished this. Besides, it’ll give them time to find their own courage and strength. They’ll have to rely on each other if another dragon shows up.”

“I’m sure they will.”

“And I get to go somewhere new thanks to you, even if it is dangerous and cold.”

“Speaking of dangerous,” He reached over, taking her hand, “allow me to give you a little protection.” He said a few words in a language she didn’t know and she felt warmth move from his hand to hers, up her arm, and into her chest. He smiled and let her go. “There, a ward of protection, just in case.”

“Thank you” Violet was surprised when he didn’t let go but she didn’t complain. She hadn’t held hands with someone since she was a little girl and the fact he was so handsome along with nice definitely contributed to the fact she didn’t mind. “Are you truly staying out of my head?” She had to ask. He smiled again “Yes”

“alright, I trust you”

“what would we have to talk about anyway if I went and looked at everything?”

“True, I mean, the books are only going to last us so long”

“I was trying not to think about them. I want to know what happens next” Violet smiled, filling with amusement of her own. “who is your favorite character so far?” He had to think “Cedric, I’m going to have to go with Cedric”

“Why?”

“Because he’s so relatable. He’s trying his best to do the right thing without hurting anyone, but he’s realizing things aren’t that simple.”

“Like you?”

Dian gave a little laugh. “Yeah, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I really don’t, but I know I’ll have to and I’ve made peace with that fact. These powers were passed down to me to defend myself and others and that’s how I’ll use them.”

“You’re a good man, Dian, you really are.”

“I owe the king and queen, they were good people and my friends. I couldn’t save them, even with all my power, so now I’ll bring their son home and help him take back the throne.”

“And I’ll help you.”

“Are you sure, you know there are bound to be swords and ill tempered mercenaries.”

She smiled, making his heart dance. “I’m sure, besides, you have my back.”

They chatted happily about their lives, Dian telling her stories of what it was like serving the previous king and queen, of how his magic worked. She felt her face heat as she asked if he had a wife or kids and her heart fluttered when he smiled in amusement and told her no.

Despite how embarrassing it was to ask him, Violet had to know. It came as a relief to know that her attraction to him could be felt without guilt. She wasn’t ready to confess to anything yet, it was much too soon and they had too far of a journey ahead of them but it was incredibly nice to know that if she fell completely in love it would be okay. The terrain they were currently in was perfect for getting to know one another. The path was smooth and there didn’t seem to be a wild animal with the mildest interest in them. They were able just to talk until lunch when Dian kept to his word and read to Violet while she heated up their food.

They were back on the road as soon as they finished eating and cleaning up and Dian decided to continue reading as they walked, even acting out some of the scenes much to Violet’s amusement. He grinned every time he got her to laugh and teased her when she blushed. Their first day passed without trouble and Dian started another fire when night fell so Violet could warm their food and to keep them warm. They settled in for the night after he finished reading and he was relieved she could so easily sleep outside. It was some time after midnight when they were woke by the sound of footsteps and whispered voices. Their eyes met past the fire and they both lay there as still as possible.

“Violet,” he said softly, “cover your ears, close your eyes and scoot back away from the fire.”

She nodded and squeezed her eyes shut, pretending to roll in her sleep, bringing her hands up to her ears as she did so. Dian could hear the men in the woods. They thought they were being stealthy, that he and Violet had not heard them, but they had been wrong. He heard them step out of the treeline and readied himself. One approached him from behind and he could see in the firelight another heading straight for Violet. He heard the whispered command of their leader and just as the one near Violet reached for her, he closed his eyes, covered his ears, and caused the fire to explode up into a bright pillar of blinding light.

 

Final Chapter

They groaned loudly and Dian quickly rose, punching the man who had been previously in position to grab Violet. They both heard bone crunch and knew the mans nose was going to be gushing blood. “fuck” Violet got up too, ready to fight alongside Dian but instead he grabbed her wrist along with the bag of books and began running, pulling her away. Dian knew this journey would require violence but he wanted to use as little of it as possible. The only reason he punched the man so near Violet was to make sure he couldn’t find his senses and grab her when she stood and if he was being truly honest with himself, he also did it because she was coming to mean a lot to him.

Violet couldn’t quite keep pace with Dian but she did her best. The two kept at it until they were both panting and sure those men were far behind them. “Oh crap our stuff” Violet realized they had the bag of books but not their items. He sighed “we have what’s important, our lives and the medallion. We can make due along the way”

“It’s good you keep it on you constantly”

“You didn’t get scorched or anything did you?”

“No, still have my eyebrows.”

He chuckled as he stopped and took her face in his hands. “Yeah, they look even to me.”

She blushed. “Um, your’s do too. You were closer than me so, that’s surprising.”

“Trust me, I’ve burned mine off a few times, back when I was first learning. There was a time I had to keep my hair extremely short because I kept burning it.” She laughed and he smiled back. “I’m glad you got to keep yours though, it’s too beautiful to burn.” He let her face go and took her hand instead. “Come on, let’s keep moving.”

Violet wasn’t sure how long they kept walking, only that the sun was suddenly starting to rise and she was getting tired. She was about to ask for a breather when Dian scooped her up into his arms. “What are you doing?”

“You’re tired right?”

“Well yeah, but you’re already carrying the books.”

“I’ll be fine, I promise.”

“If I’m not walking I could read to you so you can learn what happens next” He smiled again, it lighting up his face “thats a perfect idea” he set her down long enough to grab the book they were on and give it to her. “Are you sure this is enough sun for your eyes not to hurt?”

“Oh yeah, this is fine” Violet relaxed in his arms and began quietly reading, semi worried there might be others near who could be drawn by her voice. They had been lucky to get away from their last situation so easily. She didn’t want to roll their odds again anytime soon. Things were quite, almost concerningly so for Dian but he wouldn’t worry about it. He was finding he liked her reading voice too. Dian suddenly stopped a few chapters later, causing Violet to look up at him “whats wrong” he set her down so he could touch the ground. Violet stood there silently, gripping her book. He took her hand, still not offering any sort of explanation. She supposed they either needed to be quite or this was just a result of traveling by himself up until now. He might just not be used to explaining anything to someone else.

Either way she began looking around, only seeing different kinds of bugs exploring this place they called home. He was crouching again, feeling the ground. He looked up at her “you know I almost fell for it listening to you read. It might be dangerous for you to read while I hold you. I might not pay close enough attention”

“what’s wrong?” she finally pressed, eager to know what she should be worried about. “I can’t imagine anybody knew I’d be coming this way so this must be an old trap someone set for whatever reason and then forgot to get rid of it”

“that or were killed”

“yeah, I suppose they’d need some kind of reason to do this but come down here, feel” She crouched down beside him and felt in front of them. Her face scrunched up”what?”

“theres nothing there”

“but” she felt again “dear god maybe whoever set it forgot and walked right off”

“that kind of karma would suck. Since we ran in the dark we must have gone the wrong way somehow. I’m normally better than that. I’m sorry”

“You don’t have to be sorry.”

“I should be more aware.”

“Dian, you haven’t had to worry about someone else traveling with you, so don’t beat yourself up. You’re just trying to be a good protector and companion.”

He sighed then gave her a smile. “You’re an amazing woman, Violet.” They both stood. “I’m going to disarm it just in case someone else comes around then we can get back on track.” He had her step back and he held his hands out, closing his eyes, and whispering a spell.

Violet was amazed when his palms began glowing with pale light. Her heart danced in her chest as his voice became a little louder and more impassioned. She could feel his magic as it spread out around them and tingled over her skin. The light faded and he let out a soft sigh and opened his eyes. “Is it safe now?”

“Yes, everything should be fine and no one should get hurt.”

“That’s good.”

He nodded and reached over, taking her hand. His palm felt warm against hers. “Are you ready?”

She didn’t realize she was just staring at him until he cocked his head to the side and gave her questioning look. Her face flushed in embarrassment. “Oh, yes, sorry, let’s go.”

“He chuckled. “How cute you are my little warrior.”

“Oh hush, come one.” She started to walk off and he gently pulled her back.

“It’s this way.”

She nervously chuckled, wishing her face wasn’t so warm. People around her had always looked up to her back home but Dian was the first man to make her feel seen as a woman. He was so flirtatious and sweet. Her thoughts soon turned more serious as they walked back the way they came. She knew the two of them had gone far and wasted hours of time in a situation where every bit of time was precious. When he began guiding them to the left she grew concerned they were going the wrong way again “but we didn’t turn before? Shouldn’t we still go straight?”

“No, it’ll be quicker to get back on course this way. I know this area pretty well which makes it all the more ridiculous I did that and I see that face, it’s not your fault. You’re distracting but that doesn’t make us getting side tracked your fault”

“well”

“I wont hear of it. I’m a man with a job, distracting female companion or not I should be aware of where we are going” She gave him a small smile “so, can we talk?”

“Yeah, what would you like to talk about?”

“Well, what do you plan to do, after everything? I mean are you going back home or something else?”

He smiled. “Define something else.”

“Well, maybe settle down or something?”

He shrugged. “Maybe, I haven’t given it too much thought really.” He chuckled. “Okay, that’s not entirely true, I’ve been thinking about it more recently. I mean, what if I died never falling in love? What if I never had the chance to have kids and raise them around the castle and show them magic?”

“You would want to live there?”

“Well, I feel an obligation to continue my job, not just for the prince, but for his parents, my friends. However, if she wished to stay where she was then I would have no choice but to travel back and forth.”

“I think I would move if it were me, I mean it would be something new, an adventure.”

Violet was startled when he said “well good because you are the cause of my thinking of that recently…I know we just met Violet but I’d be a liar and an idiot to pretend you didn’t have a pull on my heart. You’re not only beautiful but you’re incredibly brave. That brief glimpse I saw into your history made me want to know so much more about you. You also have impeccable tastes in books apparently.” She almost stuttered but managed to speak normally “You can’t really think I’m pretty. I’ve never felt pretty” He took her hand, causing Violet to stop so he could look into her eyes “You’re gorgeous Violet. I mean that. How do you feel about me?”

“I like you a lot too”

“good, I really do hope by the end of this adventure you’ll truly want to live in the castle with me. We don’t have to rush into marriage or kids or anything. I was just being honest about the kind of thoughts you draw out of me Violet”

“I know, I’m happy, really. Are you sure you’re ready to live with me? I mean, I’m a bit hot headed sometimes.”

“No you’re not, you just get exasperated, I saw it.” He tipped her head back and bent down, his lips stopping a breath from hers. “You are so noble and beautiful, a true warrior and I love you for it, Violet.”

“Dian.” Her voice came out in a whisper and he smiled as he pressed his lips to hers.

He pulled back with a sigh. “We should go my love. Are you ready?”

“Yeah.”

Dian decided to take as many shortcuts as he could as they headed further North, wanting to stay as far ahead of the men chasing him as he could. He knew the journey back might be harder than the journey there while they were being followed. He could feel that it was starting to become colder the further they went and was relieved when the city came into view. Violet was shivering and he picked her up, hoping his own warmth would keep the cold at bay.

She snuggled into him “thank you” her voice was a whisper which concerned him even more. Dian picked up his pace, wanting to get her inside somewhere before she became sick. Dian walked into the first in, only setting her down to pay for a room. It didn’t take long, soon they were inside and he suggested “why don’t you run yourself a bath while I go out again and see if anybody around here sells clothing. Now that we’ve hit a city we really need a change of clothes, something warmer since most of whats left of our journey will be cold”

“You’re cold too though. You don’t need to get us warmer clothes right now.”

“I really want to, I can probably just ask the man at the front desk so I wont be outside long. Just relax here, warm up and I’ll be back before you know it” She could see the resolve in his eyes to go so she didn’t argue it any further. Besides, her body longed to be in a warm bath. Dian left as Violet entered the bathroom, making sure to lock the door so she wouldn’t get any surprise visitors. Just as he thought the man at the front desk knew a good place to go clothes shopping for them both so he didn’t have to wander to locate one.

Violet let out a sigh of relief once she was sitting in the tub and she was grateful that it was so big so the water rose up to her chin and covered everything. She rested her neck against the edge, just soaking up the soothing warmth. She hummed softly to herself, thinking of Dian and how much had happened in just the short time they had known each other. After everything she had had to face and scare away, falling in love with someone like Dian had been the most unexpected. She couldn’t get over how perfect and honorable he was and she hoped she wouldn’t suddenly wake up asleep on one of her books.

Dian bought clothes as quickly as possible, thanking the woman running the store for helping him find something suitable for Violet. He spent extra on a coat and boots for her, wanting her to be as warm as possible while they traveled North. He made a stop at another store to buy dry kindling, a small ax, and ask where the best firewood could be found in the direction they were going. He wasn’t going to make Violet travel through the night in the snow. He thanked the man there and hurried back to the inn.

The bathroom door was still closed when he entered the room so he knocked on the door, both to make sure she was really still in there and to let her know he was back “yeah? Dian?” her voice sounded from the other side of the door, obviously still safely in the bath “do you want me to set your new clothes in front of the door or to set them in there…I wont go all the way in”

“You can set them in here, thank you” Dian opened the door just enough to set the clothes on the counter. Violet pulled on the stopped so the tub would drain. There wasn’t a lot of heat left in it anyway and she was sure Dian needed a turn to warm his body. Violet was a little nervous about the clothes fitting since he didn’t know her measurements but to her glee they fit perfectly and were incredibly comfortable. As she looked in the mirror she decided they were even cute, he had good tastes, another thing to love about him.

The first thing Violet did upon leaving the bathroom was hug him. He just smiled, holding her tight “thank you”

“I was worried about you”

“Just not used to it being so cold. I mean it snows back home, but it’s much colder up here.”

He pulled back to look at her. “How are you feeling? Warm enough?”

“Yeah and I love the clothes.”

“They look good on you, but I have something even better.” He moved away from her and lifted the coat. “To keep you extra warm.”

Violet took it gently, amazed by how soft it was. “Wow.”

“It’s made from a bear hide. The interior is sealskin, same with the boots to keep you dry.”

“You’re so sweet, Dian.”

“I can’t have my beautiful love freeze to death.” He took the coat and held it open. “Let’s go out and get something to eat, we can talk about what we’re going to do while we do.”

“Okay.” She slipped the coat on and quickly buttoned it. “What do you think?”

“You look like you belong here, very cute.”

“are you sure you’re up to going out? You haven’t had a chance to warm up”

“I’ll be fine, just cuddle with me later” Dian said, bringing her hand to his lips to kiss it. The difference in their temperatures was clearly evident but he insisted he was fine so they left together. “this one place smelled amazing when I passed it” Dian said as he scooped her up outside. “I can’t wait” Violet was worried about Dian not being able to truly get warm yet so she was glad they didn’t have to go far to reach the place he was talking about.

Violet agreed, the smells coming from this place were amazing. They talked about the restaurant until their food actually came “so do you need us to take a break here for more than just tonight? We can stay a day or two. You’re not used to this and I don’t want to push you too hard” Dian said after his first bite. Violet finished chewing and swallowed “I definitively want to leave in the morning. I don’t think we should take a long stop unless one of us gets sick. You’re right, I’m not used to this but I’m really fine. Besides, you keep picking me up so how can it be all that hard”

Dian smiled “I like being close to you” Violet blushed and he was just happy she was warm enough to. She found herself thinking about how sweet and caring he was again. Traveling together was one of those things that could make or break relationships so she felt it showed how much promise this thing between them had that she felt this happy. They talked about where they needed to go and the best ways to get there until their food was gone. After Dian paid he took Violets hand and said “lets just enjoy eachother for the rest of the night okay? If we talk I just want it to be about normal life things, I want to get to know you more” Violet smiled “I’d like that too”

~The End

Zinlya & Torgan 2

Chapter One

Zinlya was by herself in a pond bathing when a woman came flying out of nowhere, obviously ready to kill Zinlya. Zinlya ran to her sword, getting it just in time to block the womans blow. The metal meeting caught Torgan and Uailean’s ears so they rushed to help her, abandoning the meat Torgan had been preparing and the fire Uailean had been working up. “Please stop” Zinlya urged “stop? What’re you doing here! What evil deeds are you carrying out for your wicked mother!”

“I’m not doing anything for her, please listen” Their swords continued to clash, Zinlya expertly blocking the womans every advance. Her frustration grew so much she cast her sword away, ready for a magic battle with the princess. “get out of our territory” Zinlya cast a defensive spell so when a harmful one hit the angry fairy she was shocked, who would defend the daughter of the cruel Queen Isranthae. Zinlya rushed for her clothes, embarrassed that both Torgan and Uailean were here.

Torgan rushed the fairy as she was recovering and she tried launching herself into the air to avoid him, but he grabbed her ankle and slammed her into the ground. One hand went around her throat, pinning her down while the other conjured fire close to her face. “If you move, I will burn you.” He warned.

“Torgan, calm down.” Uailean said, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“She tried to kill Zinlya.”

“But she didn’t, let her up so I can talk to her and take care of Zinlya.”

Torgan glared at the woman. “You try anything stupid and you are ash.” He pushed off of her, extinguishing his flame and turning to Zinlya who had her clothes clutched against her, her skin flushed red in embarrassment. He pulled his shirt off and walked over to her, looking away as he handed it to her. “You can put this on and find somewhere to get dressed.”

“Thank you.” Zinlya said as she took his shirt, noticing he was blushing too.

She tugged it on and ran off to hide behind something and put her clothes on. Uailean spoke to the woman “Zinlya is here because I asked her to come with me. She’s as interested in clearing our kingdoms name as we are. How old are you? Are you really so young you don’t know of how good the previous king and his daughter were. Her mother is the only one who has lost her mind. I’m vouching for her, though, I don’t know if you know of who I am”

“Of course I know who you are and no I’m not some child but how can you trust her? What if she agreed to help to spy”

“My word she is on our side is good enough for our king and prince. Are you saying they are not of sound minds?” she gave an annoyed sigh “I suppose she only tried to defend herself when I attacked…her mother with how she is now would have tried to kill me”

“exactly, in my travels with her so far she does everything in her power not to kill others, even when they are trying to kill her”

“How was I to know”

“well you know now. Keep this a secret.Her mother doesn’t know anything about her being with us and I don’t want her having any clues to our whereabouts” They were still talking when Zinlya returned to them and the fairy sheepishly said “I am sorry”

“I understand…I know what my mom has put this kingdom through but I really am trying to right this”

“can I help?”

“You can’t be serious” Torgan said and Uailean interjected “you felt her power Torgan, she could be of use if something happens along the way. How do you feel accepting that offer Zinlya?”

“she definitely has spirit. I’m fine with her coming” Uailean’s tone became more serious again “You are welcome to tag along but if there is a second you do something that makes me question your loyalty to this mission…lets just say I wont stop Torgan next time.” She nodded then moved closer to Zinlya to shake her hand “You’ve already gained a lot of respect with me by letting me come along”

“Hopefully this will all be over before long. Uailean has very good leads on who may have killed my father or had him killed” Uailean spoke again “feel free to talk to her princess but it would be in our best interest if we don’t give her any more details than she needs for now” Zinlya nodded then asked “can I help with dinner now?”

“maybe our new member should earn her forgiveness by finishing up dinner” Uailean suggested.

“Okay, no problem.” She replied.

Torgan made sure he was between Zinlya and their new companion, who called herself Amaryllis. He wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but she had attacked Zinlya. When they made it back to camp, Amaryllis started on dinner, Zinlya once again offering her help, but was quickly waved off. “Why don’t you come relax.” Torgan said.

“Alright, if you insist.” She said with a smile as she dropped down next to him.

“I do princess.”

“Thank you for helping me earlier.” Her cheeks flushed.

“I could tell you were uncomfortable, sorry I saw.”

“It’s alright.”

Uailean couldn’t help but chuckle at how embarrassed they both were. “How cute, you act like you’ve never seen a naked woman.” He had to tease, just a little. They both turned bright red and Torgan glared at him.

“I will kill you.” He threatened.

“Sorry, but you were both acting so awkward.”

Zinlya laughed at the exchange, managing to relax about the fact Torgan had just briefly seen her naked. Uailean waited until the meal was ready to begin his interrogation but he wanted to be sure they could trust this woman to tag along. He started asked her a multitude of questions and she answered them promptly, not shying away from one. Eventually she said “It’s getting late, have I answered enough for us all to rest?”

“Yes”

“You should sleep near me Zinlya, just to be sure” Torgan suggested, earning a grin from Uailean. Torgan almost thought he wouldn’t add anything but Uailean said “Maybe you should even hold her. I mean, can we be too careful with the princess’s life? Two royals did and there will truly be no stopping Isranthae. The other kingdoms might actually start to believe her too should Zinlyas life end in this territory.”

Zinlya was blood red as she said “I…I wouldn’t be opposed to sleeping close enough for you to hold me” Torgans urge to punch Uailean subsided with Zinlyas willingness to do it “You…well you could lay your head on my chest if you’d be comfortable” Uailean laid down and so did Amaryllis. She could see now why Torgan had looked so angry about earlier. She didn’t think she was going to be in good graces with him for a long time.

Torgan made himself comfortable then reached for Zinlya who moved into his arms, situating herself and snuggling close, her entire body warming. “Is this okay?” She asked. “You’re not uncomfortable?”

“I’m perfect, how about you?”

“Me too.” She let out a little sigh as she closed her eyes. “You’re heart’s beating really fast.”

“Yeah? Sorry if it bothers you.”

“No, it’s nice, very calming.” In truth hers was beating just as hard. “I like it.”

He held her a little tighter. “Sweet dreams, Zinlya.”

“Sweet dreams.”

In the morning Zinlya woke to Amaryllis and Uailean talking. It was Uailean who apologized “sorry, we didn’t mean to disturb you two” Zinlya sat up which woke Torgan since his arm had been on her “it’s alright, we have important work to do and it’s timed. You know as well as I do my mother has fairies looking for me” He nodded and said “well we’ve already made breakfast so eat up you two and lets get going” Breakfast was a little awkward since they were both embarrassed about cuddling last night but they fell back into their comfortable grove about an hour into traveling.

“so Zin…can I call you Zin?” Amaryllis asked.

“Yeah, a lot of people do”

“Uailean told me this morning that you’re even more impressive than I saw fighting you”

“My father had been training me since I was young. Even before he decided I would be queen we had matches. Its just the training got much more serious when he decided he wanted me to rule”

“Uailean thinks you could beat the queen if it came to it” Zins expression grew sad “Maybe…I hope it doesn’t come to that. If I can present her with the real culprit maybe she will go back to being my mother. She has to be in there somewhere…the woman I grew up with. I’d like to think even if I don’t she wouldn’t be able to truly fight me. Maybe that alone could wake her up but then again…she’s become such a monster…I’m sorry by the way…for whatever specifically she did to make you so angry when you saw me”

“In truth, her actions shouldn’t matter when it comes to you. I should have thought before I attacked, but instead I pushed your mother’s crimes off on you. No one should have to pay for the sins of their parents.”

“Yet I am, even now.”

“Even so, I should have shown understanding rather than rage. We have all lost loved ones and friends in this war and you are not to blame.”

Zinlya reached over and patted her back, giving her a warm smile. “We’ll all have to work hard to fix this land and bring peace to the people in it.”

“And I will.” She smiled back. “Thank you for listening.”

“Of course.”

“Perhaps when we get the time, you could show me how well you fight when you’re not naked and being ambushed.”

Zinlya’s cheeks flushed. “Sure, that sounds fun.”

“we need to turn left once we get to the dense trees. I doubt there will be enough space for the two of you to do any fighting until after we question Peadrus MacGill’Eòin”

“and I still can’t know anything about why we need to talk to him?” She asked and Uailean said “you seem nice enough but this is too important to take risks. When I trust you enough to have more information I’ll let you know” Amaryllis seemed to accept that as the final word on the matter. They turned when they were supposed to and started their journey through the dense trees. It made going forward much more difficult, especially since they stepped on large roots far more than solid ground but they made good time anyway, all determined to get to the bottom of who killed the king before things got worse.

Zinlya knocked but no answer came. She looked back at Uailean since he was the lead on all this and he said “try knocking louder. We cant possibly be unlucky enough that he isn’t home” She took a deep breath in then let it out slowly to calm her nerves before trying again. She knocked forecefully and this time heard a groan from the other side of the door.

Chapter Two

“That doesn’t sound good.” Zinlya said and Uailean moved up and banged on the door. There was no more noise so he drew his sword and gestured for Zinlya to step back.

He kicked the door in and headed slowly inside, followed by Torgan and then Zinlya and Amaryllis. Peadrus was laying in the middle of the floor, a glass next to his left hand, and vomit on the floor next to his head. He was pale, his veins prominent against his skin. “Amaryllis search the house, see if anyone else was here, look for any clues.”

“I’ll help her.” Zinlya said and Torgan started to open his mouth, but stopped and just nodded. “Don’t worry, I’ll be alright.”

“I know, just shout.”

She and Amaryllis drew their weapons and moved off into the back of the house. Uailean rolled Peadrus onto his side. “Peadrus, can you hear me?” He let out another small groan, but other than that, remained near lifeless.

“What in the hell happened?” Torgan asked.

“From the looks of it?” He glanced around, seeing an open bottle on a table. “Poison.”

“Poison?”

“And recent, that or he’s stubborn.”

“Is he going to die?”

“Without help, more than likely.”

The girls carefully walked through the small home, each ready to fight the second anybody jumped out at them. Nothing obviously said someone else had been here but then again, the only fairy here that knew this man was Uailean so they could be missing something. At the very least the two concluded nobody else was still there so they returned to Torgan and Uailean “we didn’t see anything that seemed odd”

“were you able to find the entrance to his basement”

“No, where on earth is that?”

“Torgan, watch over him. I need to know what this poison is to help him and I can get that answer downstairs. Our friend here is a bit of a chemist. He’ll have what I need to solve that mystery” Uailean grabbed the bottle then asked the girls to follow him. He pushed what looked like solid floor and there laid an entrance “wow” Amaryllis said softly as they descended. Zinlya could tell Uailean was stressed so she stayed quiet, waiting on his next command.

She and Amaryllis looked around while Uailean worked. Neither of them had ever seen anything like this. Zinlya knew her mother employed a chemist, but she never spent time in his lab, just knew of its existence. “This is going to take a few minutes to process.” Uailean suddenly said and they both turned to him.

“Do you think he poisoned himself?” Amaryllis asked.

“No, he would have just drank it straight away, not put it in wine and he would have made something that actually killed him. Whoever did this was a bad chemist or bought a dud.” He sighed as he rubbed his temples. “Someone was trying to stop us, I can feel it, someone doesn’t want us to know.”

“But how would they know we were coming here?” Zinlya asked.

Uailean sighed. “A spy perhaps back at camp. They could have slipped in as one of ours and found us out. You know how insane things are right now, it would have been easy.”

“So you think whoever did this, also orchestrated my father’s murder.”

“Yes, but we’re going to stop them, we’re going to end this war.” He let out another sigh. He turned back to the test he was running. “We have to end this.”

“We will, you know Torgan, me, and even Amaryllis will fight for it no matter what.”

Uailean nodded. “I know, thank you. Could you go and check on them for me? I’m afraid if Torgan started yelling we might not hear him down here.”

“Of course.” She gave his shoulder and squeeze before leaving and he gave her a smile in return.

“Togan’s a lucky man.” He said once she was gone.

“He should tell her.” Amaryllis replied.

Uailean chuckled. “In time.”

“they were childhood friends weren’t they?”

“yes but Zinlya’s responsibilities eventually took her away from play. Her father had high hopes for her rule. They only just returned to eachother company when we started this endeavor. If I’m confident in anything though, Torgan wont let her slip through his fingers again. Weather on this journey or at its end he will tell her” When she stepped into the room Torgans hand caught fire but quickly went out “sorry to startle you” Zinlya apologized and Torgan said “No, I’m glad you came back”

“Uailean wanted me to make sure you were okay”

“I am, whats going on down there?”

“Hes running a test, he says it will be awhile” Torgan looked down at Peadrus “You hear that, Uailean is running a test, just hang on for us. You’re so important to us figuring this out. We’re here on a mission to figure out who truly killed King Thane.” Torgan kept talking to him, trying to keep him as alert as possible. Zinlya decided to stay with Torgan, knowing if Uailean needed her he’d send Amaryllis up.

Uailean was shocked at the test’s result and he and Amaryllis rushed back up and to Zinlya and Torgan. “We need to get him to a healer now.”

“What is it?” Zinlya asked.

“Water hemlock. Torgan help me with him.” He and Torgan pulled him up and between them.

“How bad is that?”

“Really bad.” Torgan answered. “Like surprised he’s not dead bad.”

“Amaryllis, you and the princess are going to have to be our guards just in cast.” Uailean said.

“Yes sir.”

“Is he going to survive?” Zinlya asked.

“If we get him help.” They started to leave and Zinlya thought to grab the bottle and dump it out in the dirt as they left. She didn’t want someone breaking in and thinking it was alright to drink it. She disposed of the bottle then they were hurrying away from Peadrus’s home.

It was even harder getting though the dense forest carrying Peadrus through but they made it out in half the time it had taken them to reach his home. The group didn’t dare stop for anything, even when they began to ache. Finally they arrived where Uailean was taking them. A house came into view with a woman standing outside. There was a toddler on her hip that she quickly set down “what’s the matter?”

“Water hemlock”

“Bring him inside, lay him anywhere” they ran in, startling a man who Zinlya assumed must be her husband. He just walked away, scooping up the toddler who had been following their mother. It was impressive watching her work. Zinlya found herself wanting to get to know this healer. If they didn’t have such pressing matters she’d want to know about her life and how her skills were honed but she knew if they managed to save Paedrus they had to get back to business.

She sighed “I’ve done all I can do now. I know this old sod has the will to pull through though so don’t worry”

“Thank you Azalea”

“You all look worn, you’re welcome to take a proper bath and rest. My husband and I can cook you something when you’re all refreshed”

“He wont be getting up for awhile then?”

“No, I need one of you to help me move him to a couch so he can rest more comfortably” As Uailean and Torgan moved Paedrus Azalea said “why don’t you go first princess, take a nice shower then you can take mine and my husbands bed. You’ll have to share with your friend here when shes clean though”

“thank you” This woman was surprisingly not hostile with her in the slightest so she guessed like Torgan, the kind and Uailean she knew she wasn’t like her mother. Zinlya was quick in the shower, only taking as long as she had to to get clean then let Amaryllis jump in. When they entered her room Azalea said “I’m sorry if my daughter disturbs you. I’m going to try to keep her out”

“Don’t worry too much, this is your home after all. She wont annoy me”

“You have important work ahead of you. Uailean has done nothing but think how to end this war so if he’s with you I know you’re doing something important. Thank you…I can’t imagine how hard it must be to go against your mother…I dont know if my heart could take being at odds with my mother”

“I’m ready, that woman in the castle isn’t my mom anymore…not to me. The woman she was died with my father” Azalea gave her a sympathetic look before leaving the room. Zinlya slipped under the covers and didn’t even wake when Amaryllis joined her.
Torgan and Uailean stayed with Paedrus, both of then wanting to be there should he wake. They talked softly, trying to deduce why he had been poisoned. Had he helped with the murder of Zinlya’s father or had he been told about it? Perhaps he had been a consultant to the person without knowing. It was hard to tell and only Paedrus could tell them for sure. His breathing was shallow and pained, but at least he was alive and hopefully he would pull through. They were both woke early the next morning by whispered mumbling. Both of their eyes flew open and it took them a moment to realize it was Paedrus and he sounded distressed.

“Paedrus?” Torgan said as he shook him. “Can you hear me?” The man’s eyes flew open and he gripped onto Torgan’s arm and he stared fearfully up at him for a moment before falling back into unconsciousness, his body going limp, his breathing evening out.

“Looks like he was having a nightmare.” Uailean said as he swept his hair back.

“He looked right at me, he was terrified.”

“He was looking through you at someone else, I don’t even think he knew you were there.”

Chapter Three

“Thank heavens we made it to him when we did . Any more delays and he may have perished”

“I’m still worried about loseing him yet. I have a plan b if he doesnt pull through but he’s vital.Things will be a lot harder if we don’t get the opportunity to talk to him” In the morning Azalea tended to Peadrus a little more but he still looked rough. Zinlya came down just as she was finishing “how is he?”

“better, he’s doing well considering” Azalea turned and continued speaking “do you feel like helping me cook for everyone? My husband is busy with our little one”

“I’d be glad to help”

“Is there anything you would like us to do?” Uailean asked.

“Just keep an eye on him and let me know if anything changes.”

“Could we borrow some clothes, to change him?” Torgan asked.

“Of course.” Azalea went and retrieved some of her husband’s clothes and handed them off, knowing he wouldn’t mind.

They got to work changing Paedrus, then made sure he was comfortable. They could feel that he was feverish and Torgan went and found a rag, quickly wetting it in cold water then taking it back place on his forehead. He groaned in his sleep, shivering, and mumbling to himself at whatever nightmare haunted him. “At least he made it through the night.” He said as he sat down.

“I’m hoping he wakes soon, even if it’s for a moment.” Uailean said.

“So how has it been traveling, princess?” Azalea asked.

“It’s been good, Torgan and Uailean have been making sure I’m comfortable, even though they don’t have too and now we have Amaryllis too.”

Azalea smiled. “I would say Torgan thinks he absolutely believes he has to take care of you.”

Zinlya blushed. “He’s very protective.”

Azaleas smile only grew bigger which embarrassed Zinlya more. “well Torgan is a very caring man, especially with people who mean something to him. Did you two click again when you started traveling? As in is it more like you’re friends?”

“yeah, I…I don’t know how I ever forgot about him or how I even let a distance start between us.”

“I’m sure you’ve been told by the two of them it’s understandable.”

“well, even when this is over thats never happening again”

“good, hopefully this will all be over soon. I’m doing my best to make sure you don’t lose Paedrus”

“I’m mostly just worried about him. Uailean seems to be an endless supply of plans. He’s smart and resourceful, it’s the life I’m worried about really.”

“He just wants this to stop. If he’s coming off as insensitive, I apologize.”

Azalea laughed. “Not at all, I get it. He’s not a bad man, he’s just looking at the bigger picture.”

“Do you think Paedrus will make it?”

“He’s still alive, that’s a good sign. Uailean and your Torgan are watching over him so if anything changes at least I’ll know instantly.”

They finished cooking, Azalea taking food to her husband and child while Zinlya and Amaryllis took food to Torgan and Uailean. Zinlya couldn’t help the blush that tinted her cheeks when Torgan smiled and thanked her. “Any changes?” She asked as she sat next to him.

“It’s hard to tell. He’s still breathing, he has a pulse, and he seems to be dreaming, but that’s it. What about you, how are you holding up?”

“Me? I’m fine, worried and a bit tired, but I can’t really complain.”

“Do you miss home?”

Zinlya shook her head. “Not really. It’s so cold there, like it’s dead. I prefer being out here with you.”

“Oh?”

Her heart stuttered. “And the others of course.”

Peadrus began to truly wake around two am though he still seemed incredible weak “Uailean” his name woke the commander. “Peadrus” Uailean got up and soon Torgan followed “Peadrus, we came to speak to you and found you collapsed on the floor”

“I think someone knew that…I don’t know how I could be so stupid…what is it that you need to know. I’m not sure I’m going to be okay so we need to hurry and discuss things”

“You’re in Azalea’s living room, I know you’re going to be okay but yes, we need to speak urgently. It’s about the departed king, princess Zinlya’s father”

“Uailean”

“Princess Zinlya is here with us. You don’t need to be afraid to speak. She, Torgan and I are putting an end to all this. You have to trust us. I know you’ve only just come close to losing your life but what you may know is vital, please, the princess herself will even beg if necessary”

“Queen Isranthae wont hear of it being anybody but your king. Is Zinlya sure she wants to go down this path?” Zinlya hadn’t been able to sleep so she had been listening. She came out of Azaleas room and down the stairs, having the attention of all three men “I’m sure, I’m ready to do what it takes. My father wanted me to be queen and a true queen wouldn’t cower before their mother”

“alright…but Torgan, while we begin to speak will you get me water”

“Of course’ Torgan said as he got up and left. Zinlya came closer and took Peadrus’s hand “Please speak to me”

“I’ve worked for your family a very long time. I did things here and there for your father but I’ve worked much more for your mother. I don’t really help her honestly but she trusts me because your father could trust me. I’d like to think I’ve saved lives not truly doing the things she’s requested”

“I’m sure you have”

“I’ve always thought your fathers death had something to do with the Éidich family”

“Should I know them?”

“I think there’s a lot your father wouldn’t want you to know about his time with a man named Creighton. Unknowingly your father kept bad company for a long time and I don’t think any father, however unknowingly would want their daughter knowing about some of the things that happened during that time” Torgan came back with a drink that Peadrus gratefully downed “It’s time you sat down for a story. Listen closely incase I don’t have a chance to repeat it”

Uailean found himself glad Amaryllis was sleeping for this. He still wasn’t ready to trust her with information, especially now that someone had been poisoned over their investigation. “Your father and I were friends as teenagers. Thats about a thousand stories in itself though. I was suspicious from the start when I began receiving letters about the man but you know your father. He doesn’t think ill of someone easily, no matter what anybody says. I will never say thats a bad trait…regardless of how your father ended up but…before I knew it your father was leaving that school his parents had sent him to and was following that man wherever he may lead getting real world experience were his words. Creighton promised him he’d see things few knew existed and show him wonderful magic and countless other things that would help his kingdom once he sat on the throne.”

The talking woke Azalea who was now in the room, offering him something “take it, it will help” he downed it trustingly “thank you” Peadrus said quickly before continuing his story. Zinlya had heard some of this already from Uailean but slowly they learned things about the men even Uailean hadn’t known. She wasn’t sure why he had gone so far back but she was happy to listen. Her attention became even more focused when the name finally came up “and thats when they met Goiridh Éidich, barely older than your father at the time. He was star struck, Kilead could have never happened without young Goirdh’s adoration and willingness to do anything for your father. Using Creightons own words to your devastated father when he finally saw the man for the evil he was “All you need is to deceive a king and the world is at your feet”

The sun was now coming up, beginning to fill the room with light. “He knew your father and his family had an amazing reputation and Creighton knew that in becoming such close friends with your father he could gain trust in others”

“what happened to Goiridh Éidich? Is he who poisoned you?”

“No, Goiridh Éidich has been dead for a long time” Zinlya struggled to keep composure. Another death, another familys loss, more pain caused by Creighton. More weight that had undoubtedly always hung on her fathers shoulders. He often took walks at night and now more than ever Zinlya wondered if he truly couldn’t sleep because of guilt. She knew her father hadn’t been a part of anything bad on purpose but he was too good of a man to truly live a guilt free life after everything she had been hearing.

“Creighton so easily twisted your father’s and Goiridh’s trust, it was who he was, so charming, always smiling and laughing, even going so far as to put himself between your father and another man, a man he had hired and killed to further cement his standing at your father’s side. He manipulated Goiridh, telling him how he could further win your father’s favor, that if he wanted to stay by the king’s side, all he had to do was follow orders and the king would surely love him for it. Who could say no to someone so loyal.”

“What happened to Goiridh?”

“His murder was the catalyst that started this war. Creighton meticulously planned everything, using Goiridh’s death as a way to turn the young man’s family against the late king. Even after Creighton had revealed his true nature, your father thought nothing of an Eidich coming to visit, thought nothing of the man he brought with him. He wasn’t even suspicious and only felt immense amounts of guilt over what had happened to Goiridh. His family didn’t know that it had been Creighton who had killed him, who had looked into his eyes and watched his life slip out of him. He had outlived his usefulness after all.”

“But why were you poisoned?”

“Because of Goirdh’s journal. Your father asked me to take care of it after he died, not wanting it to be burned with him. I didn’t even know it held anything vital until I was laying on the floor dying, that assassin standing over me with a message from Creighton. He asked me about the journal, but I wouldn’t tell him where it was.”

“So Creighton waited until the moment was right.” Uailean said. “He struck like a viper and used Kilead to manipulate a still grieving family. The bastard.”

“What about the journal? Where is it?” Torgan asked.

“In my lab with my own journals.”

We need to get it quickly if we can. God…we didn’t even think to leave one of us behind in case the assassin was still close, waiting for a chance to be alone in the house”

“I’ll be fine here with Azalea and her family, you all go. Assassins are crafty little bastards. The more of you the better if he’s still hanging around” Zinlya spoke after Peadrus “are you sure there’s nothing else we must know. What if we lose you while we’re gone”

“The journal is all you need” He squeezed Zinlyas hand “Good luck princess, if I can join your efforts at some point I hope I’m welcome”

“Of course you are, just find us” Peadrus looked at Uailean “would five be too big of a group for your liking?”

“Five would be just fine, don’t you dare die on us”

“I’m getting better as we speak”

“We will be off then, Azalea, if Amaryllis wakes while we are gone tell her where we went and that we will be back for her” Zinlya almost said something about them leaving her behind but she knew it was urgent they hurried if the journal was even still there. The three rushed out, Zinlya hoping Amaryllis wouldn’t be hurt by the fact they left her behind. She knew in her heart they could trust her and had seen for herself she’d be an asset if they got themselves into a fight.

They flew non stop until they reached the forest and had to run. The group was much better at getting through it this time but smoke stopped them in their tracks. It twisted around them, making their eyes water as they coughed. With horror they discovered a fire had been set, destroying Peadrus’s home. Now they not only had no way of getting his journal but they had no way of knowing if the enemy had it. What else could her father had put in there and what else might it cause.

~ The End

Zinlya & Torgan

Written for Melinda Collins

Chapter One

I’m excited, exhilarated even as I run to see my father, the king that will soon step down as I am wed in a few days. I’m ready to run into his arms and tell him all about how wonderful my day was when I’m stopped in my tracks, a gasp caught in my throat so my mouth is just gaping open at the horror before me. He lays dead, his guards all around him. I run, in absolute disbelief he is truly laying lifeless on the floor. I shake him “father! father please talk to me” He’s cold, his skin no longer warm and pink but pale. There’s so much blood on the floor and within me I know he has passed on. This was the day my world fell apart. There was no time for weddings or any type of happiness. Whomever had done this had declared war and my mother, bless her misguided soul was fast to blame a kingdom we had been having some disputes with. They denied her claim but she wouldn’t believe them so now, even years later we are stuck in a war that may or may not even be against the right people.

I’m not sure but I never married and when my dads life ended it left my mother to rule. She may have made a good queen under different circumstances but she is barely recognizable as my mother these days. She’s hateful, even cruel even at times. I often wonder if she is still my mother at all. I’m tired of all this blood, all this hate. I long for the world of my fathers rule but there may never be any going back.

My once fiance isn’t around any longer, my mother saw to that. She wants me to do nothing more with my life than to fight and scheme with her and she leaves me with no other choice but to do so. I feel as if my only escape will be my death one day but I have too much hope left that one day things can be normal again to commit suicide. I will fight and I will plan and I will do what it takes to survive all this so that one day I might find happiness again.

I haven’t yet told you what I am besides a daughter of a king and queen so I suppose I should tell you more about myself. I’m a fairy with soft blue eyes and long, flowing magenta hair. I’m not incredibly tall but most fairies aren’t. There was a time I’d tell you I often read and spent time with wildlife but you already know what my life has become. I, Zinlya, princess of a kingdom now known for its despotism invite you to learn my story.

I stand on the battlefield as smoke plumes around me, the smell of blood and burning wood permeate the air, soaking into my hair and skin. I grip the handle of the sword in my hand until my knuckles turn white and I swallow down the pain as I stare out over the scene of death. I hate it has come to this, I hate killing. I watch as my mother’s soldiers pick their way through the dead, looking for survivors from both sides. None of them want this either. I let out a shuddering sigh as I sheath my weapon and join the search. These people, both friend and and enemy deserve so much more than death. I check for people still breathing, check for heart beats, the sorrow only growing as with each passing moment I find no one.

I stop at another, dropping down and letting my ear hover near his lips. I am surprised when I feel and hear his breath. I turn to yell for help and find myself being dragged back by my hair, slammed into the mud and blood, looking up at his face. The look in his eyes is wild and furious as he presses a dagger to my throat. “Move and I will kill you.” His free hand clutches his side and I can see the blood soaking through his armor. “Just…don’t…move.”

I could find no anger in my soul for what was happening, especially if he realized who I was. He just wanted to live, just like I did and for whatever reason I felt he wouldn’t kill me. Maybe I was too dangerously close to wanting to die that I was being stupid but I felt in the pit of my stomach this man simply didn’t want the soldiers of my mothers employ coming after him. The soldiers marched on, not often worrying for my safety since I was a skilled fighter and normally wasn’t one to be caught like this. Once they were far enough away he groaned, letting me go and getting up. My gut had been right about him “don’t make me regret not taking my chance Zinlya” his words were filled with obvious pain from his wounds “let me help you. You could have taken my life and chose not to, I owe you that much”

He smiled at me and it left me confused. How could one smile in such a dismal world, especially when he should be in excruciating pain. “fine, I need it anyway” We found somewhere to huddle and he undressed enough for me to tend his wounds “so you knew who I was and didn’t kill me?”

“In my circles I hear you don’t want this, that you believe our side. If you were like your mother I would have killed you but I couldn’t having any doubt you weren’t willingly complicit in all this…besides…I may not be a person a princess would remember but I knew you before all this so I had a good feeling before hand you wouldn’t want this for our world” I blushed, I really didn’t remember him. I felt like such an asshole. “princess or not I’m sorry that I don’t remember you like you do me”

“I’ve grown a lot and am really dirty right now so” he groaned loudly but I was almost done and his wounds were worse than I had anticipated so I had been surprised he could talk and seemed to move so easily. I wanted to talk to him more, to learn how we knew each other. I wanted some normalcy in my life but I wasn’t sure how long I should be absent like this. They knew I needed no babysitter but they were bound to question my absence sooner or later when I was supposed to be with them.

“Thank you, princess.” He started to get to his feet and fell back down with a groan.

“Let me help you up.”

He waved me off with a breathy laugh. “Go, wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste should your men find me here. Go, I’m sure we’ll meet again. Another day, another battlefield.”

“You don’t have to worry about them hurting you. They’ll listen to me.” I stood then bent down and helped him stand. “Follow the river out of here.”

“I know, thank you.”

“And get rid of your colors, just in case.”

“Go, I’m a big boy, no reason to worry your sweet little head.” He reached up and tussled my hair, wincing in pain. “Sorry, go on.”

I nod and head away from him, looking over my shoulder only once. He waves, smiling and I wonder again how he manages it. I wanted to go back and make him tell me how he knew me, I wanted to meet him again somewhere other than a blood soaked battlefield.

I rejoin the soldiers without skipping a beat, they seem as if they hadn’t worried at all which I was relieved for. Another day it pays off to have never been a defenseless princess. I had always trained, my father had wanted me to take his place one day since I was twelve. I’m not sure what I did then but that was the year he had decided he wanted to train me to take his place when he felt like retiring from his post. He had told me he wanted me to marry first but that did nothing to hurt my feelings. My father had always been a romantic. He was the kind of person who thought people couldn’t live their best life until they found their partner so even if I had been a boy I’m sure he would have felt the same. I’m sure it was mostly to make sure I found the time for marriage.

Ruling, even in a peaceful world was time consuming so most likely it was the romantic in him not wanting me to ever be alone. I suppose I’m reminiscing again, I’ll try not to do that too much. It can be hard at times not to lose myself to the past, especially when memories of my father were stirred up. I wouldn’t be as strong, capable and smart in battle nor trusted as much by these soldiers if it weren’t for him so thank you dad, thank you for giving me one normal moment with that man I apparently once knew in peaceful times. Thanks for giving me that by not making these men think I need to be babysat.

None survived but that resilient man whom I know kicked myself for not asking his name. Maybe I did pick up a slight case of being self absorbed as most princess’s do. I suppose I may not be like most but nobody is perfect. We took flight, making our journey home. Soon I’d be back with my mother and who knows what crazy things she’d be talking about next. I hoped she might just let me go to my room. I didn’t want to be with her and I certainly didn’t want to go look at more dead bodies any time soon.

Chapter Two

I am exhausted by the time I make it home, so much so that I remember nearly falling right there on the front steps, wanting nothing more than to sleep, but one of the men helps steady me and I thank him. “Princess?” I sigh as I meet the eyes of my mother’s maid. She was a nice girl, sweet and kind, a bit nervous, but gentle all the same.

“Yes?”

“Your mother…”

My mother, of course. I hold up my hand and she trails off. “I understand, but I need to get clean so tell her I will come to her later.”

There was a time when I adored my mother, when I sat on her lap, when I laughed with her. To me she was the most beautiful woman in the world, but the loving light in her eyes had faded, had been replaced by hate and coldness. Her face had become ragged with it and though I regret not trying harder for her, for not forcing her to see what she had become sooner, at the time I avoided her as much as possible.

I took my time cleaning myself since rest came so rarely anymore. My mind almost drifted to the man again but I knew if I allowed my mind to wander to him again I might lose too much time in this bathroom. When my bath water felt more like melted ice than the comforting heat it had once been I dried, throwing on something loose and comfortable before going to my mothers room. I see her maid again, waiting in front of the door with an awkward smile. She bows to me then opens the door so I may step through “Zinlya” my mothers voice was far from warm but there was a difference in how she spoke to me than how she spoke to anybody else so I knew, technically, there was warmth there.

“Hello mother”

“No injuries?”

“None, I got a bit dirty though”

“How”

“I guess even the best trip sometimes”

“maybe I’ve been sending you out too much…you’re just the only one here I can fully trust to give truthful reports”

“I know, I’m fine”

“Hm, well, I have something to speak to you about then”

“yes?”

“I think it’s high time we weakened them”

“How so?”

“The river Gaila flows into the water supply they use for their main city. If we poison that, we’re sure to”

“Mother” The reprimand in my voice was clear and I didn’t care that she heard it. Poisoning people, children possible, I wasn’t going to do that, not even for my mother”

“like those pigs deserve anything more Zinlya? They took your father from us”

“Mom, children will drink that. You have to realize we’d hurt children”

“sometimes”

“No, no mother” I stood my ground, feeling proud of myself, like the queen my father had seen in me. “Zinlya you wont even listen to me”

“Mom, please listen to me. I seldom stand my ground with you but I cannot do this. I just cant, we aren’t those type of people” I wanted to ask her what father would think of her if he heard her now but even in my anger and repulsion I just couldn’t. There was a long silence between us before she finally said “fine Zinlya, have some tea with me and I’ll think of something else”

“thank you mom” she didn’t respond and I left the subject alone. I hope she hadn’t given in too easy, that she wasn’t just planning to do it behind my back.

Sitting and drinking with my mother is awkward. When I was a child, she was always so happy as we chatted. She spoke of my father, how proud of me she was, and how excited she was for me to marry. I miss those simple, sweet moments with her, I miss just being her little girl. Talk of war fills the silence, questions of our enemy, about how they moved, about how many men we lost. She speaks to me like I am a soldier, rather than the child she so loving brought into this world. I worry, about her changing her mind and poisoning innocent people, about being thrown back out onto the blood soaked battle field, about having to kill more people who hate this war as much as I, and lastly about him, about the man who says he knows me. I don’t want to fight him, I don’t want to hurt him, I want to know everything.

“Zinlya, you’re distracted.”

“Hmm? Sorry, just tired mother.” I truly am, but I want to be alone to think.

“then I will see you at breakfast tomorrow” My mother kissed my head but I still felt no love. I knew she must still care for me but it is awkward and unpleasant all the same. She has taken so much from me and this kingdom and I wish I had it in me to take more drastic measures with her. She needs to be stopped, I know that but she is my mother and not only that she is not a helpless damsel either. My father wasn’t into helpless women that needed to be protected. If I challenged my mother and she was enraged enough to kill me there would be nobody to talk her down from crazy plans like poisoning an entire water supply. Maybe I’m a coward making excuses but at the same time, what if my concerns when it comes to taking drastic measures are warranted. When I’m finally alone in my room I open my window, needing some air. I’m tired but my mind is so busy I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight.

Torgan’s Point of View

My mind is still in daydreams about my time with her when an ally finds me “fuck man, you’re alive. I knew it.” it was a joyous whisper “I am”

“you seem dazed, hurry this way. We just made something to eat and Borba can check those wounds.” I follow, excited for a meal. I sit, wanting to eat first but Borba seems to be having none of that. She begins removing clothes and I sigh “I really want to eat first”

“I’m putting ointment on it, last thing we need is you getting an infection”

“alright mom” I tried to say it teasingly, we did often call her mom since she fussed over everyone constantly but she heard my irritation “that hungry or did something happen?” I never lied, especially not to them and they knew just like me, Zinlya wasn’t like her mother “I talked to Zinlya”

“you spoke to her? How?”

“she was checking the dead and I pinned her, scared she’d call out to the men with her that I was living”

“woah…you didn’t have to…”

“no, I didn’t have to hurt her” Borba looked sympathetic now “how is she…is she like she was…”

“yeah, she actually did this original bandaging” Borba’s smile was gentle “I’m glad…” Borba’s long pause gave way to Ikkath saying “yeah, man, I know you two could have never been together but we both know how much you used to like her”

“she didn’t remember me”

“she’s been through a lot of hell…and its been years…and well…”

“I’m fine, lets just eat” Borba wrapped his wound again and they dropped the subject of Zinlya.

We made camp there that night, putting the fire out even though the night might become chilly, just in case someone spots it. I can’t sleep, so I lay there staring up at the night sky. I want to see her again, to look into her eyes, to see her smile. I frown at the look on her face when I had her pinned beneath me. So much sadness. I hate this, that she is so close, yet so far away. I want to see her and I could if I really wanted to, I could sneak away and go to her, but I don’t want to worry the others and I get caught, her mother could have me executed then we would never meet again.

“Zinlya.” I whisper her name. “Stay alive, I’ll find you again, I swear it.”

Zinlya:

I wake feeling sore and groggy, groaning as I push my covers away. I hadn’t slept until the early morning hours, my mind too focused on what my mother might do and on the man I had met. I tried to remember who he might be, where I had met him. I wished I could ask my mother, but she would tell me worrying about me right now was idiotic. I sigh as I get up, knowing if I don’t get ready now then my mother will send someone up to get me out of bed.

I’m barely down the hall when I hear commotion, it sounds like West and he doesn’t lose his cool over just anything. My heart starts racing as I rush towards his loud voice “what’s going on?”

“there was a surprise attack, a fire somehow broke loose during battle and it’s absolutely out of control. It might take down the entirety of Swaying Forest. ” Swaying Forest, my dad had taken me there many times when I was little. It was gorgeous and a neutral place before all this. We shared it with the very kingdom we were warring with now. I’d hate to see it go “mother we must stop this”

“why? Let it be there problem. They are the ones who sprung an attack there”

“Mom, dad loved it there…for him” She seemed annoyed I’d use him against her but she relented and I could see relief even on Wests face. That place meant a lot to many people for so many different reasons. My mother gave in and I rushed to help. How could she even for a second consider letting such a beautiful place burn. Then again, when it comes to my mother now, why should I be surprised.

The fire is truly out of control when I rush there with all the help the castle could spare. We try our damnedest to put it out but our efforts seem to somehow be making things worse. Just as I was thinking this might be fed by magic I feel something pierce my stomach. I look down in disbelief as I see a magical sword protruding through my stomach, covered in my blood. Suddenly electricity goes through my body and it’s then I understand. Somehow they knew I’d come and what better way to hurt the queen than to manage to take her daughter.

As the pain stops and I begin to fade I’m not fearful. I am no damsel in distress. I am a queen and I’ll for once gladly kick someones ass once I’m awake again. I wake in darkness, my wrists and ankles obviously chained. I summon my magical energy and easily break them. It’s almost insulting they didn’t use something better to contain me. Even wounded they should know that not much can truly hold me prisoner. They would have been smarter to kill me while they had the chance but thats not what they wanted. I could tell even as the sword was in my stomach they had missed vital things within me on purpose.

I get up slowly, wincing at the pain in my stomach and I lift my shirt to see it’s been bandaged. I hold out my hand, calling on my magic again, lighting up the darkness with an orb of light. I can see I’m in a small room and I stand silently for a moment, holding my breath and listening. It’s surprising quiet so I move toward the only door and peek out the small barred window. “Hello?” I say, but I don’t see or hear anyone. They must have left me here, maybe they were discussing my fate, or hadn’t expected me to wake so soon.

Torgan:

It feels good to be clean and pull on fresh clothing. I stretch, the pain in my side reminding me I am still wounded as I do. The others and I had left for the larger encampment the moment we woke and our commanding officer had ordered us to rest after what had happened. I could see the strain on his face, the worry, and even regret. I knew the orders he had to give weighed on him, sending our companions off to war, only to have them slaughtered. I step outside, letting my eyes take in the men and women milling about, large tents, and even the broken keep we had found to call our temporary home. It was old, abandoned and long forgotten.

Chapter Three

My commander seems to come out of nowhere, obviously wanting to talk to me more “How’s your side? You might should let someone look at it again. You’ve really grown to be one of the men I depend on most. Hell or high water you come back from anything”

“I’ll ask Borba again a little later. The ointment she put on me still stings a bit so I know it’s still doing what it needs to do”

“Battle blades are the worst, often filthy, especially with this constant fighting. We talked awhile and I indulged him. Not only was he my commander but I could tell he was genuinely worried about me.

Zinlya: I don’t make much effort to get out. The anger I felt when I was fading was completely changed into curiosity as to why they simply wanted to capture me. My mind had gone to hostage but if I were to be used as leverage against my mother, certainly I’d have guards. They truly couldn’t think me this weak after all these years of war. Suddenly there was light and it hurt my eyes since they had been working so hard in the dark “wow, you really are up. Things they say about you are true…” there was a long meaningful pause before he added “I hope that includes the fact you doubt we are to blame for your father”

There it was, why they had done this. They had wanted to talk to me “there are nicer ways you could have gotten me alone”

“perhaps, we also don’t know if a lot is true about you so…forgive us”

:I only see you”

“I’ll go get my commander”

“who are you?”

“his second in command”

“did your kind ask for my capture or are you two being rogues?” The fairy shrugged but I didn’t press further. Soon an incredibly tall man, at least when it came to their kind walked in. His face much more serious than the younger seeming fairy beside him “I don’t plan to torture you or any sort of nonsense. I just wanted that clear and on the table. Forcefulness and pain haven’t done a damn thing to help anybody. I’d just like to talk. He says you seem open”

“I know my mother is bat shit. We weren’t on good terms but…I just dont see your king ordering my father assassinated”

“I’m sorry for your loss…and not just out of selfishness. Your father was a good man and it seems he raised a wise daughter.”

“Please tell me you have proof someone else did it”

“I have suspicions I wanted to speak to you about”

“I’d like to ask you something first and I’d like you to answer truthfully”

“yes?”

“how did you know I’d come to put out that fire?”

“because you and your father spent so much time there”

“How would you know that we did”

“You used to frustrate Kite, a noble boy of our kingdom. You didn’t like him but you liked his friend of less stature. Drove him mad, every time his family was at the castle we heard about it. Not that it would be your fault but their friendship did not survive you. Kite’s a little shit to be honest so it was good Torgan didn’t stick around him. Besides, with all that newfound free time he started following around the guard and he’s made quite a man of himself”

“Torgan” I can almost hear myself as a child say the name and my heart skips a beat as I remember those eyes, the way he had looked at me. That couldn’t be, no. I could remember now, playing with those two boys. More so Torgan than Kite. There was no way Torgan had grown into the man she had seen. How was it so easy to forget things from childhood like that. Those two boys hadn’t crossed her mind in such a long time.

“I see those are memories you had forgotten”

“I suppose I did…I guess my life became about getting ready to be queen and then my arranged marriage and…well…my fathers death…I just” My words stopped there and after awhile he said “your wound should heal soon. I’m sorry if it was cruel to use memories of your father but this war needs to stop. There has been too much loss on both sides” I nodded “yeah…” I couldn’t stop thinking about that man again, comparing his face to the little boy but I did my best to snap out of it. This could possibly be one of the most important conversations of my life.

I follow the commander, who I learn is named Uailean. He leads me out of the musty darkness and upstairs to a rundown keep. “I’ve never seen this place.” I say as I look around curiously.

“It’s quite old, but we are thankful for it.”

“I’m surprised I never came across it.”

“We stumbled upon it during a scouting expedition.” He leads me to what used to be the dining room and I my eyes are drawn to the maps and books covering the large table. “Please, make yourself comfortable princess, I’ll have someone get you something to eat and drink.” He gestures toward a chair. “We don’t have much I’m afraid.”

“It’s fine really.”

“before we begin talking would you like someone to look at your wound again?”

“I’m not worried about it. I could tell how careful you were not to do any fatal damage” He opens a book, flipping pages until he obviously finds what he was looking for “Did your father ever tell you anything about the years he spent away from the castle when he was a teenager?”

“Yes, he was sent to Coalfell by his parents when he was fourteen to be taught there. He met a man named Creighton who traveled the world doing various things wherever he went. The man and the lifestyle intrigued my father so he followed him a few years”

“up until he realized Creighton was bad”

“Yes, my father, especially when he was young struggled to see bad in beings. With him you were always innocent until a flashing sign said otherwise but he told me about everything. I heard every story and I honestly think, in that situation it might have taken anybody until what happened at Kilead to see what Creighton truly was. He seemed to at least try to keep his act together around the then prince”

“true, but your father remained in his company for four years. Four years very long ago but there are fairies who let things simmer within them and decide to lash out a ridiculous amount of time later so I began looking into any wrong doing Creighton did while your father was following him around, including the Kilead incident”

“you’re worried about guilt by association”

“I’m willing to look down every single avenue to clear my kingdoms name with yours so this ends. I’ve spent at least a year of this war studying your fathers life…Zinlya…I didn’t want to lead with saying this but there is more than one reason I brought you here the way I did. I want you to help me nab the real culprit. With the way I took you your mother would believe you were kidnapped if she ever caught up to us. Ive already prepared my story for her in such an event…please princess Zinlya…come with me to truly investigate my suspicions” My heart slows a bit but without skipping a beat I answer “of course I will help you but I wont allow you to take the fall in the event my mother catches up to us. My father…” sometimes I still struggled to talk about him to others “My father saw a queen in me and a queen would never allow someone else to take the fall…a good one wouldn’t anyway…I hope if I ever sit on the throne we can call our bad blood over”

Uailean stood and I soon realized he had done it just to bow “you already have my respect princess Zinlya.” I had almost forgotten anybody else was here until I noticed them bow with him. I don’t know how to feel in this moment. I do love my mother, even still but I can’t sit idly by when I have a real chance at ending this war she started. I’ve already lost her, who she was died with my father. If I lose her completely in the name of justice and bringing peace I can live with that, I know I can”

Torgan:

I strolled around the base, checking on the others, helping where I could. I went to Borba to have my wound checked, not wanting to worry anyone. “It’s seems to be healing fast.” She said. “You’ll have a scar, but as you know women love them.”

“I wonder if it will impress Zinlya.” I wanted her to know I was alive, to get the chance to give her some sort of peace of mind in these dark times.

Zinlya:

I go over the evidence with Uailean, using a pen to mark things I found interesting or suspicious. I was astounded just how much he had truly gathered on my father and it felt like I was seeing the man who had helped raise me through fresh eyes. “Should we start in Coalfell?” I asked.

“We can if you wish, perhaps there is someone still there who remembers your father and Creighton, but I would also like to visit Kilead. I feel with you with me, perhaps we will get more information.”

I nod. “I agree. When will we be leaving?”

“As soon as you are up to traveling princess. Your wound…”

I hold up my hand. “I’m fine, there’s no need to delay. We should head out as soon as possible before my mother does something horrible.” I sigh. “She threatened to poison the river.”

“What?”

“You should send someone to warn your King, tell him to keep people away from the main water source.”

“I will, thank you. I’ll do it right now then we can prepare.”

“May I ask something of you first?”

“Of course.”

“I want Torgan with us. Is that a possibility?”

I see a grin which tells me the question amuses him “Yes, I’m sure that can be arranged. He’s a bit of a trip away though. In keeping to being honest with each other he’s probably going to be pissed at me when he finds out I hurt you to bring you here but I did what I felt needed to be done to end this”

“I’ll make sure to tell him I’m happy you did. I want my old kingdom back. I want to see everyone happy again”

“well, let me make sure my king knows about the water. You just try to relax before we head out.” Uailean leaves me and I feel relieved my mother brought that up before his plan to bring me here was set in motion so I could warn them. What’s happening is bad enough. Was there truly a need to ruin an entire water supply? Her telling me that the innocent children and wildlife that would be harmed by that truly meant nothing to her was also the little nudge I needed to fully be ready to completely lose my relationship with her to end this. She had to be brought back to her senses and Uailean was my best chance.

Torgan:

It is a couple of days after returning to the base camp that a messenger from our main camp comes running up to me. He hands me a letter and I give it a questioning look when I see Uailean’s crest pressed into the bit of wax holding the envelope closed. I pop it open, wondering for a moment if I am being reprimanded. I’m surprised to find that it is orders for me to prepare myself for travel and to meet him and another at the halfway point. I read it again: he and another? It is oddly cryptic.

“Everything alright?” Ikkath’s voice pulls me out of my examination of the letter and I turn handing it to him.

“Apparently I am to head out and meet Uailean.”

“What does one other mean?”

I shrug. “I have no idea, but I should prepare, I would hate to be late.”

“You’re heading out alone? Shouldn’t I or Borba go with you?”

“Borba is needed here and it’s best you take my place while I’m gone.”

“Just dont go getting yourself killed. I expect to see you come back with all your limbs. Uailean doesn’t seem to have any sort of reasonable amount of fear in himself to keep him from anything. He’s impressive but…you know you’re like a brother to me”

“all fingers and legs and all that will be accounted for when we see eachother again. Don’t let Borba work herself too hard and you be mindful yourself” I hug my long time friend tightly. The days of brief hugs long since being over since you never knew any more when a parting would be your last with someone. I then hurry off to get ready, actually excited he has called me even though it’s confusing. At the risk of sounding immodest I am an asset to a team but I by no means see myself as high enough up there for something Uailean would handle. He’s one of the kings most trusted commanders. He goes on all the most dangerous things and nearly all he does is secretive. It’s intriguing so I quickly pack the bare essentials, pull my best boots on then find Borba to say goodbye so she isn’t angry at me.

We hug as well and exchange similar words to what I shared with Ikkath before I leave the safety of my camp to find Uailean and this mysterious person he has with him. The journey is anything but peaceful since I have to be careful not to be spotted. Even when things seemed like I could relax I didn’t, knowing it was foolish in the times we lived in. One second of allowing my mind to be in the clouds could be the one second I’m spotted by an enemy.

Zinlya:

“I hope you don’t mind walking princess.” Uailean says as we trek through the forest, taking an old deer trail.

“Not at all, it’s safer.” I respond, doing my best to ease his worry.

“Your wound…”

I wave my hand and with it push away his concern. “I barely even notice it. If I start having trouble, I won’t hesitate to say so. We should both be well rested and ready for anything.”

“Of course, thank you.”

“For what?”

“For not telling me I’m being an idiot and for being so forgiving. I expected at least a punch, though…” he rubs his jaw, “I may receive one regardless.”

“From Torgan?”

“Yes.”

“You act as though we’ve remained good friends all this time. I even forgot about our time together…I hardly deserve to be fussed over by him”

“You’re a princess, one who was training to be queen, lost her father then has had to live in the hellish place your kingdom has become. I think you can be given a break for forgetting a childhood friend. I’m sure most of your childhood hardly crosses your mind unless it’s directly related to the late king. Times like these does that to people, especially when you have to deal with it every single day. You meant a lot to Torgan and we all know you’re the being you’ve always been. If things hadn’t gotten so bad I have no doubts Torgan would have reentered your life at his earliest opportunity.”

“I’m happy I’ll be seeing him again…I’m happy both of you have survived all this”

“Hopefully with us working together this will all end soon…that fiance you had…that wont still be a thing will it?”

“No, he may have only left because of my mother but it really didn’t take much. We barely knew one another. My dad just thought we’d make a good match and I didn’t mind an arranged marriage. Especially not when my father had chosen him. All my dad ever wanted for me was happiness. Why do you ask though?” Even I felt like that was a stupid question. The clues were all over Uailean that he felt Torgan was in love with me. He may be wrong but it was clear Uailean felt we were a love connection missed. Uailean shrugged and I didn’t push for an answer I already knew.

I’m still struggling with the idea that boy was the same man I recently encountered when we arrive where we are meant to meet up with him. It was true some people changed quite a bit from child to adult but he had gone from small and rather gangly to, well, incredibly attractive, rugged and covered in muscle. Uailean checks my wound after we eat. It seems to be mostly healed so I still don’t worry. I’m not even sure Torgan will realize Uailean hurt me to get me somewhere to talk unless Uailean readily gives the information. He may be incredibly attractive but I don’t plan to just strip naked in front of him. I blush at the thought and Uailean chuckles “what’re you thinking about”

“my wound…we don’t have to tell him you know”

“I’d rather get my jaw punch out of the way. Besides, he’s going to ask how I pulled this off. There isn’t any way he isn’t. I am going to make sure I very quickly tell him though that it was in part to give you an out with your mother should she catch us”

“Still, you shouldn’t be hurt on my account.”

“It’s alright, Torgan’s nice enough not to kill his commander.”

I sigh. “Men, such a handful.”

Uailean actually laughs. “Yes we are, but you have to admit, women compliment us with their mischievousness.”

“Perhaps.” I smile, thinking back to my childhood, back to Torgan and Kite. I did have to admit, that I may have been a little mischievous when I was with them.

Torgan:

I pick up the pace as I come to the last leg of my journey, wanting to meet Uailean and his companion there as soon as possible. I wonder who it could possibly be, who was so important he couldn’t write it down. I knew sometimes information was omitted or made more cryptic just in case opposing forces managed to get their hands on correspondences between camps, but we didn’t have anyone but royalty who would be that important and the military tried to keep our king and his oldest son out of it as much as possible. It hadn’t made the prince happy, he didn’t want to sit by and watch his people be slaughtered, but the king had assured him that he felt the same, but it was important they stay safe, just in case. I hear soft chatter as I get closer and as I step into our meeting place, both Uailean and the woman with him stand. My eyes are drawn to her as if by a magnet and I feel my heart stutter when I realize it’s Zinlya.

I look to Uailean who smiles and speaks “I’ll catch you up to speed on the situation. It wasn’t safe to explain in a letter and I have to admit I wanted this to be a surprise.”

“Hey Torgan” Hearing her say my name and with such familiarity I hardly feel like a hardened fighter in a war. “do you remember me?” I had to ask. When she nodded my heart stuttered again. I wanted to hug her but it had been so many years. She’s kind and warm but I still don’t know what all is welcome. I’m eager to know how and why this is happening so I prompt Uailean to fill me in. How happy I was feeling melted away the second he told me how he got to her though I tried to understand when he explained his reasons. I wanted to scold him, to ask him what he would have done if he messed up. I knew how expertly he handled swords but still, there were so many variables. He could have killed her and not only made this worse but he could have taken the only woman from me I had ever been in love with. Zinlya owned my heart, she had from the very first time she smiled at me and at this point, I don’t think I could ever fall for another.

Zinlya: So here we are, the start of my journeys, hardships and battles with two of the most amazing living men I know. My story will be filled with pain but with Uailean and Torgan I know we can reach a happy ending if you’re willing to stick this through to the end and hear my entire tale.

~ The End ~

Tir & Lao 2

Chapter One

Lao sat on the edge of Tir’s bed, admiring the young prince as he slept. He let his fingers drift over his cheek, pushing his hair back and he leaned down to kiss him. Tir started to push him away in his half asleep state, but Lao laced their fingers together and pinned his hands next to his head. He felt Tir’s skin warm and he pulled back with a grin. “Good morning my prince.”

“Lao, what are you doing?”

“Waking you, I thought I was allowed.” He rubbed their noses together, getting a blush of embarrassment from Tir. “We’re supposed to be heading out.”

“That’s right.” Tir tried setting up, but Lao kept him in place. “Come on, you promised you would take me with you and you already let me sleep in.”

“I was honestly hoping you would forget all this assassin’s school nonsense. I am only going as a favor to my mentor.” He let his lips brush Tir’s, a barely there touch that had the younger man shivering. “I don’t like the idea of having you around all of those assassins.”

“But you’ll protect me, won’t you?”

“Of course, no one there could touch you.”

“Then let’s go.”

“I should have left while you slept, but I hate the idea of being dishonest with you.” He gave Tir another kiss then let him go. “Alright, get ready then.”

Tir found himself admiring Lao as he got out of bed. He looked so elegant and put together. His shirt hung open to his waist where it was held closed by a red sash. Lao cleared his throat and Tir blushed as he hurried to get his clothes and bathe.

Lao grinned, who didn’t love the adorable look on their significant others face when they became embarrassed? He hoped this trip went well. He’d have to kill someone in front of Tir because they dared to hurt him. He wasn’t sure why they would, but assassins work could attract some very unsound minds and sometimes it was figured out too late. Lao decided he would just concentrate on the positive so he wouldn’t ruin this trip for Tir. Since Tir was determined to go he wouldn’t have to go without him, which had been something he hadn’t been looking forward to in the slightest. He also would get to introduce his mentor to the love of his life and he enjoyed showing him off.

Tir sat with his father and Lao through breakfast, listening to his father reminding him to stick with Lao and only eat and drink what Lao had tested out first. Tir was sure none of the other assassin’s would dare cross Lao, but he understood his father’s worries. He hugged him when it was time to go and he and Lao headed out to the carriage waiting for them. “How long are we going to be there?” Tir asked as their driver let them in.

“A week, my mentor was quite insistent I give him at least that long. The old man is quite pushy.” He sat close to Tir, his arm draped over his lover’s shoulders.

“Old man? That’s a little surprising.”

Lao chuckled. “You’re thinking elderly aren’t you?” He let his nose brush over Tir’s cheek, causing goosebumps to rise on his skin.

“Well, yeah.”

“My mentor is not human. He’s been a part of the school for a long time and is one of the best.” He pressed a kiss to Tir’s temple. “I want you to stay near while I teach, don’t take anything that anyone tries to give you save for myself and my mentor, he can be trusted.”

“Okay.” Tir enjoyed the affection as his mind played through what he imagined the school and Lao’s mentor would be like. Lao’s constant touch and his imagination might have lulled him to sleep, but the occasional bump from the road kept him wide awake. It was sweet how Lao never seemed to tire of touching him. He had learned not to tease Lao about it because it only made him tease right back by getting more sexual with it. “Would you like me to tell you more about the school my love? I can tell your mind is busy.”

“Yeah.”

“Well you have to give me a kiss first.” Tir wasn’t surprised to hear that and moved happily to kiss him. Lao made the kiss long, but they had a long ride so Tir wasn’t in any rush. Who would be when they were lucky enough to have an amazingly skilled, incredibly attractive and sweet assassin in love with them who also happened to be an incredible kisser.

Lao grinned at Tir’s red face and heavy breathing when he pulled back. “Why must you be so tempting my love? If we were home…”

“Lao, stop, what if the driver hears?”

“Pretty sure I could keep you quiet, I have my ways you know.”

“Lao you…you’re supposed to be talking about assassins.”

Lao chuckled. “Alright, if you insist, but once we’re alone, you won’t be safe.” He gave him another kiss before starting. He started with the school’s history before moving onto describing the building itself. It had been built circular to accommodate the obstacle course in the middle where an assassin’s strength and agility could be honed and tested. It had a sheer cliff behind it and on the other sides a forest. Mentors encouraged their students to practice sneaking through the school itself and even trying to assassinate their teachers.

“Did you try killing your mentor?” Tir asked.

“Of course, I failed, but I tried many times.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Not for us, it helps us realize what we need to work on.”

“I don’t think I could ever do something like that. Killing the person who trained you. Are you going to let those students attack you?”

“Of course, you’ll get to see me show off for you.”

Tir was a little worried, but he didn’t voice it. Lao’s entire life was risk so he felt it would be silly to ask him not to. Lao could see the anxiety in Tir so he took his hand, knowing if he kissed him again he might lose all self control. “With you to impress and protect none of them will touch me Tir.” They continued talking the entire ride there. There was so much history when it came to the school and teachers, not to mention all his own memories. Lao could probably fill days with conversation about his time there. Before they got out Lao had to warn his love again, “Please, be careful. I don’t want you afraid but I want you mindful. This school is good at weeding out the lunatics but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for one to slip through and do something stupid.”

“I understand.”

Lao smiled. “So obedient, it’s a bit surprising.”

Tir blushed. “I just don’t want to have to take care of you because you went and got hurt on my account.”

“I think you just like me bossing you around.”

Tir crossed his arms and Lao pressed a kiss to his cheek, causing his skin to heat further. “I’ll get our things.”

Lao chuckled as Tir started pulling their bags out and reached around him to take one grinning at the heat coming off of Tir’s body. “Come on, wouldn’t want to keep my mentor waiting.”

“Yes…of course.”

Tir fought down his blush and took a couple of deep, calming breaths to get his heart under control. Nervousness replaced his embarrassment when they made their way from the front gate and past the arena. There were a few young men and women on the obstacle course and some of them had stopped to watch the two of them pass. Lao didn’t seem to notice them or maybe he was ignoring them so Tir tried his best to do the same. “Don’t worry, they’re only curious.” He gestured around. “Pretty impressive right?”

“Yeah, more than I could have imagined. So this is where all of those amazing skills were honed huh?”

Lao nodded. “There are many different kinds of classes here, ones on poisoning and stealth, ones on combat and seduction and even on the best materials for ease of movement.”

“Seduction?”

“Every assassin learns everything, but some are better at certain skills. Seduction is for those who aren’t as good at hand to hand or knife play. The ones who prefer that method often pair it with poisons.”

“And what about you?”

Lao chuckled. “You should know by now, that I am good at everything.” He winked and Tir felt his face heat again.

Lao could be intense, but it was an amazing part about being with him. Tir knew how loved he was, he could see Lao’s devotion all the time. Soon they were standing before Lao’s mentor who instantly seemed to be looking Tir over, Lao stepped a little in front of Tir, protective as always, even with his mentor. “You brought him here, he must be special. I can’t help but examine him.” Nenyo’s eyes were now on Lao. “Thank you for finally coming. Is he what’s kept you too busy for your mentor’s request? I thought you’d be eager to come back. You always were a show off.”

“Before him I would have been in a hurry, but a prince surrounded by assassins, it wasn’t something I was comfortable with.”

“If anybody can keep him safe it’s you, but I understand, come.”

The interior of the school was beautifully crafted, every pillar and mural, every statue was gorgeous. Lao gestured to the walls. “Notice anything strange?”

Tir looked around. “Not really.”

“The walls have hand and footholds built in.”

“Why?”

“Because, young prince, this is a school for assassins.” Nenyo answered. “They are always welcome to try their hands at sneaking up on and killing one of us.” He suddenly stopped and looked up at the large chandelier. “Nice try, come down young lady before I knock you down.”

Tir was surprised when someone dropped from the ceiling and rolled, coming up on their feet in front of Nenyo. The woman pulled her hood back, frowning. “Sir.” She said.

“You are still too heavy footed. I could see the chandelier shaking.”

“Yes sir, I’ll practice harder.”

“See you do.”

Lao just smiled. “Still a hard ass I see.”

“Would you like to try your hand?”

“Of course, after we’re settled in and you have introduced me to the students. I am sure fighting you would be a good way to show them what real assassins look like.”

“That eager to be beaten in front of your lover?”

“Just that eager to be admired by him.”

Nenyo grinned approvingly at his once student. He was looking forward to Lao being back around and seeing how much better he was than when he left here. Being that these were students he didn’t often get a real challenge and Lao had brought just that into the school. Tir just kept admiring everything, looking at the walls, furniture, decorations and floors for anything else out of the normal. There were some places that even looked like they might be small doors, just big enough for a fit person to get through. It made Tir slightly more nervous, but he was still more interested in all this than afraid to be here.

Nenyo lead them up to the top floor where he pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked a door. “I thought you might want your own room away from the dorms.” He pushed the door open and gestured inside.

“No secret passageways I hope.” Lao said with a chuckle.

“I didn’t think you’d appreciate it. Perhaps if you were alone. I am sure you can handle one of the students coming through the window?”

“Of course, it won’t be a problem.”

“Thank you.” Tir said with a smile.

“I hope it’s comfortable enough for you, prince.”

“I’ll be fine, I know I live in a castle, but I’m not picky and as long as I have Lao with me, anything’s fine.”

Nenyo chuckled. “I have to say, Lao, you’ve chosen well.”

“Despite his shyness, Tir is quite strong.”

“Get settled in then and meet me in the arena. I’ll gather the new students.”

 

Chapter Two

Lao gave a small nod then Nenyo left them, allowing the two to set their stuff down and have a few moments. “What do you think so far?” Lao asked and was happy to hear his love say, “It’s amazing, I’m happy you didn’t leave me.”

“If you haven’t changed your mind by the time we leave then we’ll come back more. Maybe I can come back every now and then as a visiting teacher. I know being one permanently is out of the question since you don’t have any siblings to rule after your parents.”

“Yeah, but you’re fine with that right? I’m not holding you back from anything?”

Lao grinned, moving closer. “The only thing you keep me from is making love to you as much as I want. I’m an incredibly happy and lucky man Tir, don’t ever think otherwise.”

Tir wound up having to push Lao back with one hand when he started trying to push his shirt off. He didn’t want to be rude to Nenyo and wound up using the other hand to push the bedroom door open, stumbling out and only not falling because of Lao’s quick reflexes. He found himself pulled into Lao’s arms, blushing when Lao started laughing. “That eager to get away from me huh?”

“No…not at all, I just want to see you show off is all.”

Lao gently tipped his head back, grinning at him. “Oh? Then I’ll have to make sure to put on a good show.”

“Just don’t get too hurt.”

“I have you to tend to my wounds my love, so I’m not worried.” He rubbed their noses together. “Come, let’s go down before he comes back up.”

He took Tir’s hand and they walked back down to the arena. Lao smiled when he saw Nenyo and his students, the young men and women so eager to learn seemed excited at the prospect of getting to witness their mentor fight. All of their eyes were suddenly drawn to Tir and Lao, studying both of them, perhaps even looking for weaknesses. “Took you long enough.” Nenyo said.

“Can you blame me, I mean look at him. Such an attractive distraction.” Lao shot back with a teasing smile.

“Lao, come on.” Tir said embarrassed. “Where do you want me?”

“Karthan.” Nenyo said and a young woman stepped up to stand next to him.

“Sir.”

“You are to sit with the prince and ensure his safety and comfort. He is off limits to all here. If anyone tries to lay a hand on him, you have permission to defend him.”

“Yes sir.”

Karthan’s smile was friendly. “Come along prince Tir.” She guided him to a good place to watch and soon all the others took seats, purposefully giving Tir and Karthan a lot of room to try to keep from getting into any trouble. “You’re in for a good show. We’ve been eager for this.” Karthan whispered. Tir was interested himself, interested and hopeful Lao didn’t get hurt trying to show off.

“Karthan is my best student currently so I don’t want to hear anything about being distracted with worry over Tir when I beat you.” Nenyo said confidently.

Lao lightly chuckled. “Stop stalling, are you ready?”

“Always.”

It startled Tir when Nenyo moved. He was so fast, almost too fast, and he was amazed that Lao managed to block the blades in Nenyo’s hands. Lao grinned as he shoved his mentor back and struck out at him with lightening fast slashes. He looked around at the students, at their captivated gazes and then back at Lao, his heart thumping in his chest as he watched his lover’s dance like movements. “A dance of death.” Karthan said softly. “I have never see something this amazing. You are truly lucky prince, to have Lao by your side.”

“I know.” He had never seen Lao move like this since there was never anyone who dared come after either of them. He knew Lao was fast and silent like a cat, that he had been an incredibly talented assassin, but truly seeing it for the first time, was astounding. He jumped up when the tip of Nenyo’s blade nicked Lao’s cheek and had to stop himself from moving forward. He couldn’t be a distraction right now.

Everyone gasped when they both lost a blade and Lao was suddenly on his back on the ground. Nenyo’s blade pressed against his throat and the tip of Lao’s was at Nenyo’s solar plexus. Everyone was frozen as they waited to see what would happen next when Lao chuckled and Nenyo grinned, standing up and offering Lao a hand up. “Amazing as always, you actually had me.” Nenyo said.

“And you me, but…” he wiped at the blood on his cheek, “poison? Really?”

“My blades stay coated.”

“Were you testing my immunity?”

“Of course.”

“It still burns.”

“Well I’m glad you’re staying sharp in all ways. It’s nice to see students leave here and become something to be proud of.” The students all began running down in excitement, all except Karthan who took her task seriously.

“Are you ready to go down there and talk to them?” She asked Tir who answered, “Yeah, lets go.”

They walked down and Lao broke away from them to kiss Tir before he whispered in his ear, “Maybe when we are in our room next time you won’t resist me after seeing this.” Lao moved back and winked, causing Tir to blush. It really was sexy how amazing he had been out there, but it filled him with immense embarrassment that Lao knew it all too well.

“When shall my first class start?” Lao suddenly asked Nenyo who said, “You’ve had a long journey, the students got their demonstration. That will be enough for the day. Just enjoy your prince and the school until tomorrow.”

“I’ll meet you all out here straight after breakfast.” They seemed to light up and before Tir knew it Lao had lifted him off his feet. As they walked away they could hear Nenyo talking to the students about what they had just witnessed. He was walking them through every single move, every single choice that was made and could have been made instead. He seemed to be a good teacher.

“Shouldn’t we explore a little?” Tir asked and Lao let out a chuckle.

“Trying to avoid me?”

“No, it’s just um…well it’s not every day a prince just walks in here, so…I do want you, but I also want to see everything.”

Lao grinned as he pressed a kiss to Tir’s cheek then whispered in his ear, “Why don’t we have both?”

Tir swallowed. “What do you mean?”

“I have a secret place here.”

“That’s almost hard to believe.”

“I told you this place is very old and I’m sure the original architects still have many things hidden away. I just found one of them. The only one who could possibly know is Nenyo, he’s even older than the school. So, want to see?”

“Yeah.”

Lao grinned, they’d both be getting what they want. Tir could experience more of the school and he would still get to make love to Tir. It was actually an added bonus to make love to him in his old secret place. He had never brought anybody there for sex before and there was nobody he’d rather pop that places cherry with. Lao continued walking, it almost seemed like they were going to leave campus when suddenly Lao pushed into a wall that had seemed solid, but it seemed they were now inside it, walking down a flight of stairs, “Woah.”

“My thoughts precisely when I ended up finding this place.”

“How did you find it?”

“It’s a bit embarrassing.”

“What happened?”

Lao let out an exaggerated sigh as if the memory was truly that bad. “I may have happened to lean against it playing a bit of cat and mouse with another student and I may have fallen through and part way down the stairs before I could stop myself.” Tir grinned then covered his mouth as he started laughing. “See? This is why I said it was embarrassing.”

Tir took a deep breath, but couldn’t keep the smile off his face or the amusement out of his eyes. “Were you hurt?”

“Just my pride, but at least there was no one around to see how ungraceful I was.”

“I bet the look on your face was, dare I say, adorable?”

“I’m sure I could make you take that back.”

Tir’s heart felt like it was about to jump out of his chest, his skin flushing, and his mind whirling with what Lao might do to pay him back. “I’ll be good.” He knew Lao would never hurt him, but he blurted it out anyway, receiving a grin from the ex assassin.

Lao chuckled. “Too late now my sweet prince.” He let out another little laugh. “I never thought my little escape artist would be so nervous.”

They made it to a a surprisingly nice room beyond the fact it was dusty from lack of use. “It looks as if truly nobody else has found this.” Lao said as he set Tir down.

“It looks so nice.”

“I found it this way for the most part. I only brought different bedding in. I imagine an original person that used this school used this as a room and I didn’t want to be sleeping in someone else’s sheets. I might change it out again if we come here a lot.” Lao kissed Tir’s shoulder as he slid his hands up Tir’s torso. Tir blushed, this time just enjoying his lovers touch instead of trying to get away. There had been many reasons up until now to push him away, but now they could just enjoy each other.

Lao continued to slowly press feather light kisses until he had kissed across his right shoulder, all the while caressing him. Sometimes touching him could be addicting, especially after having to try so many times to get his prince to stay still long enough to let them have a moment like this. Lao licked up Tir’s neck before gently biting it. Tir moaned, his heart racing with anticipation. He could tell Lao was going to tease him more than normal and he supposed that was his punishment for laughing at him.

Lao’s hand moved to Tir’s face only to move him so they could kiss. Their tongues were soon moving against each others as Lao began to play with and rub Tir’s nipples. Lao grinned when he felt Tir harden against him. “I love you.” Lao whispered. Tir whispered it back before finally beginning to touch Lao as well. Lao began to feel his own length start to grow hard so he stripped Tir. Tir did the same so soon they were both naked, kissing and touching one another.

Lao began backing Tir up and suddenly he found himself against one of the walls, Lao licking and biting at his neck and shoulder again. “Oh god Lao.” Tir moaned, growing harder with need for release. Tir didn’t know how Lao did this for so long, especially since he was hard as well, but he almost sighed with relief when Lao began kissing down his chest then stomach, soon taking Tir in his mouth. The sucking and licking he had been experiencing before was intensified now, causing Tir to almost shake with pleasure.

Lao knew there weren’t condoms or lube in this room so he began working Tir as he sucked him, bringing the prince to the edge before stopping. Lao grabbed a piece of clothing from a nearby drawer then turned his lover so he was facing the wall and entered him. They came almost together, Lao inside Tir and Tir into the piece of clothing Lao had given him. Lao however wasn’t done with him yet and Tir didn’t suspect he’d be anytime soon.

 

Chapter Three

Lao pushed Tir far past his limit and Tir could only lay there panting and letting out little whimpering moans. He was so sensitive that he shuddered every time Lao touched him. “Lao…I…it’s too much.”

Lao leaned down, his lips pressing against Tir’s as he pushed into him a little harder, delighting in the way the prince clung to him, at the little whine that welled up in his throat. Their lips parted on a moan and Tir went limp with exhaustion, breathing heavily, his eyes damp with tears. Lao pressed kisses to his lips, smiling lovingly down at him. “Do you have any idea how much I love you?” He rubbed their noses together.

“Yeah.” He said softly. “I love you too.”

Lao nibbled at his chin, grinning when Tir let out another little whine. “I love seeing you like this, I can’t help but tease and take advantage.”

“I can’t anymore today, I’ll die.”

Lao chuckled as he moved off of him and moved Tir to lay on top of him, his head resting on his chest. He let fingers trail up and down his spine, getting a little shiver and goosebumps in response. He smiled when Tir fell asleep and let him rest for a bit. “Tir, my love?” He gently woke him a little while later and Tir let out a little groan as he opened his eyes.

“Is everything alright?” He asked sleepily.

“Of course, but we should probably get clean and find something to eat. I’m sure you’re hungry.”

Tir blushed. “It’s your fault.”

Lao tilted Tir’s head back and kissed him, grinning at how hot his skin was. “You know I can’t help myself, you’re just so hard to resist.”

Tir slowly got out of the bed then the two dressed before Lao took Tir in his arms again to carry him. Tir just relaxed into Lao’s arms, feeling both embarrassed and happy. The two returned to the room Nenyo had shown them, took a long shower then went to see what they could eat. The next morning Tir and Lao returned to the stadium for Lao’s first day of class. The students were already there, once again looking awe struck that they would soon be taught by Lao. Tir took a seat himself, but away from the students, not wanting to be in the way of anything they might do for the lesson.

Lao seemed to look them over then said, “Come here.” Tir couldn’t tell who he had said that to, but apparently to the students it was clear. A man who looked maybe a little younger than Tir stood and approached Lao. “And you.” He said to another student who got up, it was the woman who sat with him the other day. “Karthan right?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your name?” He asked the man.

“Thacese.”

“I’d like to start this class by really seeing where you all are with your skills. I’m not going to tell any of you the reasoning behind my pairings today, not yet anyway, but I’m going to have two on two matches until everyone has faced off against someone. There’s an odd number of you so whomever impresses me most will go twice.”

Tir watched as Karthan and Thacese fought, Karthan favoring the same type of blade Lao did while Thacese preferred his bare hands. Even so, he could see much of Nenyo’s style in their movements. It was the way Lao fought as well, a mix of grace and aggression. There was something else in their movements though, almost like they were playing with each other and when he looked closer he could see Thacese grinning. Lao called a stop to the fight when Karthan knocked him to his back and landed on top of him, the tip of her dagger beneath his chin. “Very good, Karthan.” Lao said and she stood, helping Thacese up.

“Thank you sir.”

“There is a problem however.”

“Sir?”

Lao grabbed her arm and held up her wrist where Thacese had scratched her. He could see her veins through her skin. “His nails are coated in poison.” She looked surprised. “You need to get the antidote, all that moving around only made it pump through your veins faster.”

“Yes sir.”

“Don’t be upset, you did incredibly well, but you must expect the unexpected from a man who uses no actual weapon. Thacese, take her to get what she needs then both of you hurry back here.”

Tir couldn’t help but smile at how amazing he was. He was so patient. He called on the next two students and Tir just admired him, unable to keep his eyes off of him. Lao’s eyes met his for just a second, a grin pulling at his lips that caused Tir to blush. “It’s quite something seeing him so captivated by another person.” Nenyo’s voice next to Tir startled him. He hadn’t even heard him.

“Uh…I…if anyone’s captivated it’s me. He’s very magnetic? Alluring?”

Nenyo chuckled. “He’s always been like that. He was a natural you know, picked up everything almost immediately.”

Tir couldn’t help but think of Lao’s fall and had to stop himself from laughing. He turned his eyes back to Lao. “He really is perfect, isn’t he?”

Nenyo chuckled. “Well thank you for coming. I can see even more now how much you mean to him so I know if you had been against it these students wouldn’t have him here. He may have learned from me, but he has picked up a few things of his own. I feel this school and it’s assassins will truly benefit from him coming to teach every now and then.”

“Well, I’d never try to tell Lao he couldn’t do something anyway.”

“I don’t think you would, but I doubt he would go do something regardless of if you actually said anything if he could tell it would upset you. He has keen senses, especially for a human. You don’t seem like the controlling type so I hope you know that is not what I meant in the slightest.” After a short pause Nenyo asked, “How is your father?”

“Well, though with how he’s always been I imagine he’s at home worried about me.”

“You’re his only child, it’s understandable. Nothing will happen to you here, not with both Lao and I watching. Besides, they idolize Lao so much I doubt they’d want to be on his bad side.”

“Are these all the students here?”

“Most.”

“Are you the only teacher?”

Nenyo shook his head. “There are others, but their classrooms are inside.”

“Lao said everyone learns how to make poisons and um…seduce people.”

Nenyo chuckled. “Are you curious about the things Lao has had to do?”

Tir blushed. “No…not really, it just explains a lot.”

“He was naturally charming when I met him, a natural at manipulation. He played the other students with ease and tried it with me, though he failed. Just to let you know, his feelings for you are genuine.”

“I know, but thank you all the same.”

They continued to watch each match, Tir noticing that both Karthan and Thacese had returned. Thacese was surprised when he was chosen to participate in the extra fight, but Lao explained it was for his trickery. Afterwards, he pointed out mistakes he had noticed or skills he thought needed improvement and things he believed certain students should focus on. They listened with rapt attention, truly absorbing everything he said.

Lao ended the day with that, wanting to give them time to absorb everything he had tried to teach them. “I’m all yours again.” Lao said with that ever charming smile.

“I’d like to grab something to eat then see more of this place if you want.” Lao kissed Tir’s forehead, causing Nenyo to chuckle and walk away. It was surprising how even here Lao acted just as he did at home, like it was just the two of them in any given room. Lao hadn’t seen his old teacher in years yet his focus seemed to still fully be on him.

“Lets go find some food then.” He turned to the assassins, “Same time tomorrow.” They nodded and Lao left with Tir, taking his hand as soon as they were out of the arena. “You liked watching me again?”

“Yeah.”

“What was my old mentor saying to you?”

“He thanked me for you being here and we talked a little about how natural this all came to you.”

“Hmm, only good things I hope.”

“He said you were quite charming.”

“Am I?”

“You know you are.” He blushed. “Especially with me.”

Lao grinned. “You like how charming I am, admit it.” He brought Tir’s fingers to his lips, kissing and then nipping at them.

“M…maybe.”

Lao grinned as he lead him through the school to the large kitchen. He was happy to see the same family still working there. The cook had been in his thirties when Lao had come to train there and was always kind to the students. His wife and children worked with him and they all smiled when they saw Lao. He hugged them then introduced Tir. “So you’re going to be a queen then?” The son said in a teasing tone.

“The most beautiful if I do say so myself.” Lao shot back.

“Make sure to buy him plenty of pretty dresses, prince.”

Tir chuckled at the banter. “You know, Lao would definitely look good in anything, even dresses.” They almost forgot they were hungry as they continued talking.

It was the cook who said, “Well you obviously came here to eat. I have the perfect recipe. I discovered it after you left and my first thought once I tasted it was how much you’d love it Lao. I can even bring it to your room so you don’t have to sit with everyone else going in and out of the dining room.”

“I’m actually enjoying getting to know everyone around here so we can sit out there.” Tir said and Lao nodded. “That’s fine with me too.”

“Alright.” The chef and his family began working and Lao guided Tir to where they could sit together. There was only one other student there reading but it wasn’t a meal time so they hadn’t expected it to be full of people.

Lao couldn’t help but flirt with and tease Tir as they ate, grinning at how red he was by the time they took their dishes back into the kitchen and left. “Enjoying yourself?” Lao asked as he laced his fingers through Tir’s.

“Of course, this place is amazing and I’m here with you, anywhere with you is perfect.”

Lao smiled as he pressed a kiss to Tir’s temple. “I’m glad, thank you for insisting I bring you. My time here would have been so boring and lonely without you.”

“You’re exaggerating.”

“I’m not, I need you with me always. Since you became mine, I can’t fall asleep without you, I feel restless.”

Tir’s heart did a little flutter. “I…I feel the same. Having you close to me, makes me feel safe and loved.”

 

Final Chapter

“You are the safest person in the world.” Lao said then gave Tir another kiss. The days flew by as Lao continued to teach the students lesson after lesson. Tir even found himself absolutely comfortable here and enjoyed watching the students slowly improve. It would be incredibly tempting to just stay here and let Lao become a permanent teacher if he didn’t have to rule. It would be nice if they were lucky enough to be immortal like Lao’s old mentor. He could be king for awhile, maybe adopt a kid with Lao and raise them to rule one day so they could come back here but they didn’t have enough life for that. Lao even had sixteen years on him. By the time their child could rule he probably wouldn’t feel like teaching. Lao may have endless energy now, but we all got old one day. It’s the curse of being a mortal.

Tir was grateful for any life with Lao though. He just couldn’t help but be a little selfish sometimes and want entire lifetimes with him like immortal beings could have with their loved ones. They could just live any kind of life then switch one day and live an entirely different one. It was endless possibilities when you weren’t racing time and your body breaking down. His mind more so drifted to them ruling together, the kind of life they would have.

After another day of lessons and once Lao had finished talking to the students, Lao headed straight to Tir. “You seem to be in deep thought lately, my love.” He said as he took Tir’s hand and pulled him close.

Tir’s heart skipped a beat. “Have I?”

Lao nodded. “Care to share?”

“Um…well…” he sighed. “I’ve just been thinking about our time together.”

Lao cocked his head to the side. “You haven’t been feeling neglected have you?”

“No, not that, I mean our lifespan. I mean you’re already so much older than me and…and we’re both human so…”

Lao smiled and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “You had me worried for a minute, I thought maybe you had been feeling lonely or something.”

“That’s impossible, you’re always so attentive.”

“Alright,” he looked over at Nenyo who was talking to his students about their lessons, “then I’ll talk to Nenyo, I’m sure he’ll help.”

Tir felt excitement rush through him. He hadn’t even thought they could ask Nenyo. He just assumed they’d be human forever since they were born that way. Nenyo could say no, but Tir’s hope burned all the same. Lao waited for Nenyo to be done with the student before asking Nenyo if they could talk alone. “Of course, where?”

“Anywhere that’s away from the students.”

“We will go to my office then. They know better than to be in there.”

Tir and Lao followed Nenyo to his office, waiting for him to lock the door before saying, “Tir has apparently been thinking about our mortality.”

“And you want my help to not be mortal?”

“Perceptive as always.”

“Hm, what would I get in return?”

“An amazing teacher that could always come back.”

Nenyo nodded. “You really would?”

“Yes, Tir seems to enjoy himself here and if we were immortal there could possibly be a day he’s not tied down to being king.”

Nenyo chuckled. “Alright, but tell me something first, you keep pairing Karthan with Thacese, is it for the reason I think it is?”

“He’s in love with her. I wanted to see if he would hesitate during training. Sometimes we’re forced to face off against people we considered our friends, you and I know that better than any of them.”

“We do.” He nodded again. “Alright, immortality it is. Do you have a preference as to what you’d like to be?”

Lao grinned. “Hmm, perhaps a vampire, so I have an excuse to nibble on Tir all the time?”

Tir went red from head to toe and grew even more embarrassed when Lao started laughing. “You’re so mean.”

Lao hugged him tightly. “Out of love.” He pulled back to look at Tir. “What do you think?”

“What choices do I have?”

“Many.” Nenyo explained. “I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve met many beings. Dragons, demons, vampires, werewolves, you name it and I’ve either spoken to it or killed it. I can give you a list and you can research in the library if you like. Living forever is a big decision.”

“Give us a list and we will probably get back to you about it soon.” Lao said then Tir added, “Thank you.”

“We need a teacher like him at this school. I was hoping he’d ask one day. It would be irresponsible of me to simply try to talk people into it I wanted around forever. The timing is perfect since he’s found his life partner.” Nenyo pulled out a clean sheet of paper and began jotting down the names of creatures that came to mind until he couldn’t pull another name off the top of his head. “If none appeal to you there are many more.” He said as he handed the note to Lao.

“I’m sure one of these will do.”

Lao and Tir left Nenyo’s office with one last thank you then headed for the library to look into them. “So this is mainly up to you Tir.”

“You’ll have to be whatever it is too.”

“I don’t care as long as we always get to be together.”

Tir blushed and nudged him. “Stop that.”

“What?”

“You’re purposefully over sappy to make me red.”

Lao chuckled. “I mean every word I say though.”

They went through the whole list together, researching each one and Tir finally settled on the kanima. He had Lao in mind when he chose it, knowing him being a jaguar would be perfect for his skill set. Plus, a feline matched him perfectly. “Are you sure?” Lao asked.

“Yeah, I think being a cat would be interesting. I could be the jaguar king.” He answered and Lao chuckled as he pressed a kiss to his lips.

“How cute. Alright, a jaguar it is then.” He rubbed their noses together. “I do have to admit, I’m glad you chose a shifter.”

“Why?”

“Oh you know.” He gave him a wink and Tir flushed.

“M…maybe something else.”

“Too late now my love, you’ve already sold me on it.” He rubbed their noses. “I love you and honestly no matter what you chose, I would still be unable to keep my hands off of you. Besides, now I’ll be even better equipped to keep you safe. More speed, more flexibility, heightened senses, I dare someone to even think of harming you.” He gave him an even bigger smile. “Or any children we may adopt.” He stood, pulling Tir with him. “Come my prince, let’s tell Nenyo.”

“You want children?”

“I want everything.”

Tir’s heart danced in his chest. This was really going to happen, they were going to live forever and have children. Nenyo smirked at their choice. “I’ll get my friend here as quickly as possible. It’s been awhile since he and I spoke but we parted on good terms. You’re not in any rush to return to your castle right prince? I’d just like to know if I need to rush him at all.”

“My father has everything, he told me to enjoy my time away and only come home when I was ready. I think he wants to pass the crown soon so wants me to get any cabin fever out.”

“Good, I’ll make sure you two know the second he is on his way here. Enjoy your final days of being humans.”

Lao lifted Tir, much to his embarrassment, thanked Nenyo and left, taking Tir up to their room. He tossed him on the bed then crawled up him and rubbed their cheeks together, then their noses, making Tir laugh. “What are you doing silly?”

“Practicing being a cat.” Tir laughed again and started to push him back, but Lao grabbed his wrists and pinned them down, grinning at him. “Everything we read said they love scenting their mates.”

“But you’re not a jaguar yet.”

“Practice makes perfect.”

Tir smiled, let out a happy little sigh and lifted his head to kiss Lao. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

The shifter came right away when Nenyo reached out. He was kind and eager to help out, even making sure to talk them about every detail so they’d be prepared for the change. Lao didn’t have a shred of nerves, he never did and it made Tir feel more confident about them going from human to jaguar. When it was all over it seemed the both took to their new form well, but Nenyo’s friend insisted they should rest their bodies anyway so they did. Lao was teaching classes again the very next day with Tir still happily watching. They would be leaving soon, they had talked about that when they went to lay down. Tir wanted to tell his father and he didn’t think this sort of thing should be shared over a letter.

On their last day, Nenyo and his class all came to see them off, the students obviously disappointed that he was leaving. “You’ll be back, right?” Nenyo asked.

Lao shrugged. “Perhaps, we’ll see.”

Nenyo chuckled. “I guess I’ll have to bother you again then until you have no choice.”

Lao held out his hand and Nenyo shook it. “Don’t worry, we’ll be back, Tir is far too interested in this place for me to stay away and I actually enjoy teaching.”

“I’ll hold you to it.”

Tir and Lao climbed into the carriage, Lao immediately wrapping him in a hug as it pulled away from the school. He pressed a kiss to his lips, causing him to blush and reveled in the fact he could heart Tir’s heart. “What do you think your father will say?”

“I think he’ll be happy because I’m happy.”

“I think so too.” He smiled as he pressed their foreheads together. “I love you, Tir, forever until the end of time.”

“Me too, forever.” They cuddled as the carriage carried them home and into a future with more possibilities than they could ever imagine.

THE END

Sylvie & Jarius 2

Chapter One

Sylvie laughed with her cousins as they continued to play their game. She was out to celebrate one of them getting married soon while Jarius was out with one of his Uncles. The old dragon had come wanting Jarius to help him with some artifacts he had found. Doing something like that was hard to do with a four year old, especially a little girl as wild as theirs so one of Sylvies brothers had offered to take care of little Xeja. Jarius had almost taken a break from working with his Uncle so Lefan wouldn’t have to watch her but at the last second changed his mind. He felt it would be better to try to finish so it wouldn’t take time from his family any more since his wife was out anyway. Lefan had watched her a few times before so they could have some time alone so they trusted him today.

Suddenly Sylvie had a bad feeling and her cousins could read it on her face “Sylvie, whats wrong?”

“I think I need to go home”

“is something wrong with Jarius?”

“No, I know it’s not that. I just, I feel like I need to check on Xeja”

“Okay, don’t ignore those mommy senses. I understand”

“I really am sorry though” her cousin waved her off “go if you feel like you need to check on her. Just find us if everything is okay” They figured it would be. It wasn’t like Sylvie spent a ton of time away from her daughter so they chalked it up to separation anxiety. Sylvie shifted, flying home as fast as she could. She burst through her door, startling Lefan who had been reading one of Jarius’s old books “woah, whats up?”

“Where is Xeja?”

“I ran her around outside, I wore her out so she’s napping”

“where?”

“em, in her room” her brother said in a confused tone then walked with Sylvie to find Xeja wasn’t in there “I swear she was just here. I’ve been checking on her every time I get to a new chapter”

“Xeja?!” Sylvie called, trying not to panic. To her horror she saw the room Jarius worked and stored things he wanted near by but Xeja couldn’t touch was opened “Lefan…”

“oh my god…I thought I locked that back I swear” Sylvie ran into the room, her brother behind her. Once inside Lefan was shocked by how far they could run in it, their home didn’t seem this big. Sylvie’s ears caught her daughter laughing and she ran to it, loseing her brother in all that was stored here. “Sylvie!” she heard her brother yell but finding Xeja was more important so she rushed on. Her daughter was messing with something on her finger “Xeja, baby” Sylvie was tearful and just as she noticed it was a ring it began to glow. She grabbed it, wanting to take it off but next thing she knew she felt twisted, sick to her stomach and then she suddenly wasn’t home anymore.

Sylvie felt like she couldn’t breath so she was gasping as she clutched her little girl to her chest. She wondered if she was just panicking so she concentrated on calming down and taking in her surroundings. It was dark and nothing was around besides trees and the stars above. She wondered if she was even in her world anymore because it certainly shouldn’t be night. Her daughter pushed away so Sylvie let her go, starting to apologize for possibly hurting her when her little girl began vomiting. It made her even more sure they had gone to a completely different world.

Sylvie pulled her daughters hair back, holding it until she finished. She then lifted her again, determined to find somewhere to now clean her up. Xeja began softly crying “You’ll feel better soon Xeja”

“where are we momma”

“I dont know” the girl started pulling at the ring but it wouldn’t budge “its stuck” she whined, no longer amused “then dont tug at it for now. I’m sure some being lives here. Maybe I can find someone who can help us get back to daddy and Uncle Lefan”

Lefan spun in circles, searched the room, looking under tables and behind shelves, but they were both gone. The sudden silence had been so shocking and now they were gone. He ran his fingers through his hair, starting to panic. What should he do? Jarius, he had to get Jarius.

“Well that looks pretty.” The voice startled Jarius and his uncle, causing the former to sigh a roll his eyes.

“Paimon, can I help you?” Jarius went back to the circlet he and his uncle were examining.

“No, not really?”

“The prince out?”

“What does that have to do with anything? Maybe I just missed your angry face.”

Jarius huffed. “Sure. Well if you’re here, might as well make yourself useful.” He pointed to some of the artifacts they had already examined. “Why don’t you take those and sort them onto the tables and shelves.”

Sylvie didn’t want to walk aimlessly so tried to put her nose to good use to search for water. She couldn’t smell any in any particular direction but she was determined to just keep walking and scenting the air until she found that or a person. She’d give anything right now to have wolf in her bloodline. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to find any either but they had a much better chance than her. “I can walk mom” her daughter said about a half hour later “are you sure?”

“yeah, I know you don’t mind but…if something tries to hurt us or if I really need it later I dont want to have already worn you out”

“do you promise to tell me if you need a break?”

“I promise” with that assurance Sylvie set her daughter down “stay near me okay. I know nothing about where we are”

“yes momma” Xeja took her mothers hand. Sylvie held on tightly, ready to protect her. Sylvie considered turning into a dragon so she could soar over these trees but that could potentially be risky and she certainly didn’t want to draw the wrong attention to her and her four year old.

Mommy are you scared?”

“A little, how about you?” Xeja nodded. “Well that’s okay, everyone gets scared.”

“Even daddy?”

“Yeah.”

“And uncle Paimon?”

Sylvie actually cracked a smile at Xeja calling Paimon her uncle. Jarius would probably have a heart attack. “I’m sure he does.” Sylvie wished she could discern where she was going. In this world of night everything looked the same, even the stars.

Lefan bursting into the room nearly made Paimon drop what he was holding and both Jarius and his uncle twisted around, ready to fight. All three of them became confused when they saw how terrified Lefan was. “Jarius…Jarius, my sister and…and Xeja…”

Jarius’s heart jumped in his chest as he crossed over to Lefan, grabbing his shoulders. “What happened?” Paimon was suddenly standing there next to him and Jarius’s uncle had crossed over, a mask of worry on his face.

“I’m sorry, it’s all my fault. Xeja got in your storage room and…and then they were gone, just gone.”

Fear gripped Jarius’s heart and he opened himself up to Sylvie. When he worked and felt there was no reason to worry he blocked the part of himself that could feel what she was feeling. She could so easily take his attention he normally couldn’t get anything done if he could feel her and now she was in danger and it took him however long it took her brother to come for help to be aware of it. There was a reason that room stayed constantly locked, many reasons to be more exact and there was no possible good explanation for his family vanishing in there. He could now feel her fear and worry so he said “come! I need him to show me about where they were when they vanished. I know everything in there. I just need a place to start”

They still hadn’t found a single thing by the time Xeja needed to rest. Sylvie decided just to stop for now “why don’t you take a little nap sweetie”

“I don’t know if I can”

“I’ll tell you a story like I do at home for bed time”

“But daddy isn’t here to sing to me after”

“I’ll just do the singing too” Xeja’s lower lip trembled “Baby” Sylvie said in concern. “I just miss dad”

“we’ll see your father again soon. I wont rest until we’re back with him and I bet you anything he’s already looking for us. I still feel him and I can tell he’s worried, he knows we are missing. He’s almost as old as time itself and his Uncle is even older. Between them and my side of the family they are going to figure out where we are” Sylvie began to rub her daughters face and stroke her hair to comfort her. “I’ll tell a really happy story okay?”

“Okay” Sylvie retold one of the happiest fairytails she knew and the poor thing was so exhausted from fear and the travel here she was out before Sylvie could even sing. Sylvie didn’t rest there long before carefully lifting her daughter and walking on. She didn’t think it was wise to rest any longer than she absolutely needed since she didn’t know at all where she was.

It was almost an hour later when she finally found a lake “thank god” she whispered before setting her daughter down and testing the water to make sure it was safe for Xeja. Now that she had found water and her daughter was resting anyway Sylvie took another chance to lay down and regather strength for anything that may occur. Jarius had been completely spoiling her over the years so she wasn’t as used to just walking constantly like this.

“Mom?” her daughters voice woke her some time later “yeah baby?”

“you found water”

“see, I’ll make sure we have everything we need until I figure out how to get home”

“can I go wash in it please?”

“run right in, give me your clothes and I’ll clean them” Xeja stripped down then ran into the water while Sylvie opened her senses up to any perverts or potential dangerous animals. Once their clothes and Xeja were clean they were off again, Sylvie now keeping her nose out for potential food. She could tell her little one was hungry but besides this lake there still didn’t seem to be anything. It seemed impossible that a place could truly just be trees.

It was just as those thoughts were passing through her head a womans voice caught her ears but it was obviously another language. Sylvie pulled her daughter behind her protectively and said “I’m sorry, I don’t understand” saying that may have been completely pointless but she felt it would be better than being silent or trying to run. They had been hoping to find someone after all. The woman tilted her head, seeming to think hard. Her voice came out unsure, like it took great effort but what came out this time was English “you…lost? You smell of…elsewhere”

Relief rushed through Sylvie for many reasons. Though it would be hard to talk she could in fact talk to this woman and the fact the woman was even trying made her feel more comfortable. A person trying to harm them likely wouldn’t care if they understood what they were saying. That may or may not be true but it was comforting logic “I’m very lost, I came to this world by mistake. I want to go home but I don’t know how” Xejas stomach loudly growled which had the little girl blushing, especially when it made the woman notice her. She motioned for them to come so Sylvie picked up her daughter and hoped she wasn’t making a huge mistake by following this woman. She might never get home if she didn’t put her trust in anyone here.

The woman lead them only a short ways off from where they had been headed before she stopped and held her hand in front of her, palm facing the ground. Sylvie held her daughter tighter again, wishing they could communicate more easily. Sylvie guessed the reason they had walked in complete silence was due to the fact english seemed to be hard for her to speak and Sylvie couldn’t even begin to try hers. She had learned so many from her husband but of course she didn’t know the one she needed now.

When they managed to get home she was going to have Jarius teach her more. A door appeared in the grass. The woman motioned for them to follow again as she opened it. Sylvie had expected to drop into a home but it was almost as if the world tilted so they could walk right in. It was honestly a little trippy and had Sylvie confused “My…home” The strange woman strained again. Sylvie wondered if the difficulty was from how different her home language had sounded. Her mouth and tongue were probably nowhere near used to the movements it took to speak to her.

Chapter Two

“Are we safe?” Sylvie asked.

“Very…sit…rest?.”

“Thank you.”

The woman nodded and gestured toward a pile of animal hides. Sylvie sat down with Xeja in her lap, finding the makeshift couch incredibly comfortable. The woman moved off and Sylvie heard things being moved around. “Hun…hungry?” The woman asked.

“Yes, thank you.” She didn’t know if it would be rude to say no and the woman had been so kind, she didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

The sound of sizzling and the smell of meat soon filled the silence and after a few minutes, the woman came back with some meat and steamed vegetables on a large plate. She sat down across from Sylvie and Xeja and put the plate between them. She gestured to it, then her mouth, then to all three of them. “Share?” Sylvie asked and the woman nodded. “Thank you so much.”

Jarius felt almost frantic, he couldn’t figure out what his daughter could have possibly gotten into. So much had been knocked over between Xeja getting in here and Sylvie running around that things were mixed up “Jarius, you need to breath” his Uncle Saeran said seriously “we’ve been in this room for hours, hours”

“yes we have but you need to keep a clear head. You need to think as your daughter does. Think of what she likes, colors, toys, everything and that will help you decide what is missing” as Saeran finished speaking Paimon interjected “It’s honestly a little surprising you still have this habit. I guess dragons hoarding is a thing that dies hard”

“it’s…it’s my fault…Jarius having all this hasn’t been a problem until I wanted a book from here…” Lefan said sadly, still spending most his time looking at the floor. Jarius sighed “Paimons a pain in my ass Lefan but what he’s getting at is right. I shouldn’t have something that could harm my family near our home, especially not while Xeja or any other children we may have are here. Sylvie is an intelligent woman who will listen when I tell her about things but a child can’t be expected to always do the same…you are not the only one responsible Lefan.”

“ever noble, I’ve never seen you so distressed. Others”

“Paimon not right now” Jarius cut off the speech before it got away from Paimon. He needed his family back and he feared every moment they spent gone was a moment he could lose them forever. Paimon also took Saerans advice and started thinking “Jarius, she’s been wearing rings a lot lately.” Paimon suddenly said and Jarius’s normally pale skin actually turned whiter. “No…” he walked over the area again, even looking inside things “you know what Xeja did don’t you Jarius? Just tell us and stop looking for whatever you’re looking for. We need to help your family”

Jarius held a hand over his mouth, looking as if he might cry then shook his head hard “they’re not there, they’re not there. I’ll find it and it’ll be something else”

“Jarius, you know, I know how much your family means to you and thats why you need to admit what you already know”

“do you remember the book I wrote about Casis”

“The cannibals…” Saeran said knowingly and Lefan’s horrified voice asked “what?” Jarius cried “they’re in a world of cannibals. Its so bad they actually hide from one another there. Their homes are all cleverly put into the ground and mountains and such. They seem normal when you meet them…she might follow one home…”

“why on earth would a portal to that be here Jarius” Saeran reprimanded “when I first met Sylvie I had gone on another trip there for the fruit. They have the most amazing fruit and I gave her some. She loved it … I wanted her to like me. I kept making trips back so I could give her some and I just never took it out of here…I forgot it was in here until Paimon mentioned rings”

“How’re we going to get there?”

“I dont know, thats the only portal I know of”

After they ate the kind stranger put a hand on her chest “Gazit” Sylvie felt that was her name so she touched her daughters head “Xeja” then touched her own chest “Sylvie”

“You stay here in my home”

“do you know how to get me back where I’m from?” Gazit shook her head and Sylvie slightly frowned “a little bit then, I really need to get home as soon as I can” After a few hours passed with little talking or indication this kind woman could be any more help Sylvie said “we should go, I need to find my way home”

“need to…stay”

“why?” The woman just stared at her and Sylvie felt shitty about it after she had been so kind but it creeped her out. She hoped maybe she just didn’t know how to explain and wasn’t trying to be creepy. “do you have maybe a friend I could meet? Maybe they can help” still nothing and it just made Sylvie want to leave worse. The next time Gazit went to the bathroom Sylvie picked up her daughter and walked back to the door or where the door should have been because it was gone. Dread filled her but she didn’t want to panic Xeja so she kept walking, acting like she was just toting her around until Gazit came back out. “its rest time” she informed them then motioned to her couch “Okay, thank you”

Sylvies heart was pounding but she worried if she yelled, asked about the door or did anything that let Gazit know she was panicking she might make the situation worse. She also still didn’t want her four year old to know there was any reason to be scared. Sylvie just settled down with her daughter and Gazit left them, closing herself in her bedroom. Sylvie had intended to stay awake and figure something out but it was almost if something was dragging her eyelids closed and her mind to rest. She fought the urge, she had to get out but next thing she knew Gazit was kneeling beside the couch, her face inches from Sylvies and it took every ounce of self control not to jump.

Once again she prayed this was a misunderstanding since it was hard to commuincate and they were from different worlds. For all she knew it was normal for their doors to vanish, maybe it wasn’t so weird to stare creepily here and maybe personal space wasn’t a thing here either. These among other things Sylvie kept telling herself for comfort as they sat at Gazit’s table. She had already made breakfast and was just putting in onto plates. “why lap?” Gazit asked since Sylvie was holding Xeja “she’s homesick for her dad. I’m trying to comfort her” It wasn’t a complete lie, Sylvie could see how sad her daughter was.

“I’ll be okay mommy, thank you” Xeja got out of her lap and sat on the chair next to her. Sylvie wanted her little girl as close as possible but at least she was still closer to her than their host. Sylvie went to tie up her hair with a band she had in her pocket when she noticed one strand was much shorter than the others suddenly. Maybe she shouldn’t have but her eyes went to Gazit, who the hell else woudl have cut off some of her hair. Gazit sipped from her cup, her eyes once again locked on Sylvie which now Sylvie could only see as predatory due to how scared she was. There was no door any longer, Gazit was insistent they stayed and she knew she wasn’t crazy, someone had cut off some of her hair last night.

Keeping her voice as calm as possible Sylvie said “Gazit, we really need to leave after this meal.” Gazit was silent and next time her mother spoke Xeja heard the fear in her voice”Please, I dont want to stay any more”

“Mommy, is everything okay?” Xeja asked. Gazit began eating again and that was all this panicked mother could take. Gazit’s focus seemed to be on her but if this woman was crazy she was capable of anything. Sylvie shifted into a dragon in the small home and it obviously scared the hell out of Gazit who was pale, trembling as she looked up at the crampt dragon that had destroyed multiple things in the dining room just by shifting. “we’re leaving if I have to eat you to do it” Sylvie threatened and suddenly, there was the door again. Xeja shifted too and they both left, flying away as fast as they could.

Chapter Three

Jarius had Paimon, Saeran, and Lefan help him collect all of his books from storage and take them over to one of the tables. Maybe, just maybe he could find something in them. “Paimon, take Lefan and gather all of the books from the library on other worlds and spells for making gateways.”

“Yes sir.” Paimon grabbed the dejected Lefan by his arm and pulled him out of the room. Jarius was surprised Paimon was being so helpful. He always seemed to revel in Jarius’s loss of control, but now he was working hard to help. He didn’t know what to make of it, but he wasn’t going to question it to much right now.

“Jarius, you must lock up that ring once you have it back.” Saeran said as he started going through books.

“I don’t even want it in the house.”

“Then I’ll take it.”

“I think that would be for the best. I’m such an idiot, an irresponsible idiot. I should know better at my age.”

“We all make mistakes, Jarius.”

“Not like this, not with Sylvie and Xeja.”

“Sylvie has a good head on her shoulders Jarius. You’ll see them again so stay calm. You picked an amazing mate and your daughter, I see so much promise in her future”

Sylvie and Xeja flew until Xejas little wings could carry her no further. Sylvie began to descend right away and was grateful that where ever they were now seemed nice. They shifted back into humans bodies and Xeja hugged her mother “Mom, what happened?”

“there was something off about her baby. I realized it the night before but I didn’t want to scare you”

“what are we going to do now?”

“I’m going to gather firewood, make you a nice fire and we’re going to relax. You should have said something sooner baby. You look so exhausted. After the fire is made I want you just to lay down”

“okay mommy” Sylvie shifted back into a dragon and pushed over a tree to make wood small enough for their fire. Once it was burning Sylvie was in her human body again and patted her lap so Xeja would lay her head down. Sylvie hoped her following words would bring her daughter any comfort “there has to be some sort of city sweetheart. Once you’re feeling rested I will find it”

“what if it’s underground, Gazit’s home was underground”

“while you sleep I’m going to be sitting here thinking about all the ways we could possibly handle this. Don’t stress okay baby, trust your mommy and close those beautiful brown eyes”

“I’m sorry” She almost couldnt bare to hear her daughter apologize. A four year old breaking a rule shouldn’t have these type of consequences. “don’t you be sorry about anything. I’m not mad” Sylvies eyes were damp but she was still trying not to cry. She knew she needed to stay strong and she didn’t want to waste her energy crying. “I promise to always be good when we get back to daddy”

“shhh sweetheart” Sylvie began lightly rubbing her daughters face and arms, grateful when she finally went to sleep so she wouldn’t fall apart.

“You said Casis correct?” Paimon asked.

“Yes, have you found something?” Jarius moved to look over Paimon’s shoulder.

“It looks like the information is old, but old is probably good.” He tapped the part of the page he had been reading. “It looks like opening it takes a few things, namely the blood of the one opening it, but it’s not impossible.”

“I wish I could just open it damn it.”

Paimon shrugged. “So we’ll each take a part of the list and gather what we need. You might have some of it around here. Just know, I’m definitely coming with you, wouldn’t want you getting eaten before you can rescue the girls.”

“Alright, we’ll split up and try to gather everything, but hurry, I need to get to them.”

As Sylvie sat there she noticed the ring again on her daughters finger. It could obviously change in size since it still didnt’ come off when Xeja shifted into a dragon. Sylvie rubbed the hand that wore it, wishing she knew how to work this ring. She was half afraid if she tried to do something with it, without knowledge of how it worked they could end up further down the rabbit hole in a whole new place. They could end up even further from home with less hope of returning to her husband. Sylvie sighed, her eyes now going to the fire as she asked nobody in particular “what do I do” Things remained peaceful until Xeja woke.

“morning baby”

“Morning”

“you ready? I can carry you if you want to wake up more before walking”

“No, I can walk momma”

“Okay sweetheart, don’t let yourself get that tired again. I still don’t know where to begin so truly, we can rest all you need” Xeja nodded and Sylvie put out the fire before taking her daughters hand and walking on in the direction she had already determined they’d try. They found some fruit along the way and it clicked with Sylvie, she remembered eating this a lot with Jarius when they first met. She wondered what besides this he got up to in a place as odd as this one.

They couldn’t have gone another full hour before Xeja gasped “baby what” she started to ask when she saw a dart in her daughters neck and heard another coming for her. Sylvie shifted after jerking it out of her daughter , hoping her scales would be too strong for the darts to get through. She heard deranged cackling “a dragon, I can deal with you” the voice was creepy and even more startling her little girl passed out.

Sylvie roared at the top of her lungs, beyond pissed at this point. The cackling started again and in her rage she started spreading fire indiscriminately. Normally she’d care about possibly hurting things that had done nothing to her but she was scared, she was exhausted, she was hungry, and she wasn’t about to let some crazy make her feel trapped again. The fire caught quickly and Sylvie took Xeja in one of her claws for safety.

Sylvie flew straight up, glad when nothing else happened. I can deal with you she scoffed as she remembered his words. He was going to be dealing with the grim reaper if he came near her child again. It didn’t hit her until she had flown a fairly good distance the being had used English easily. Maybe some people here did speak her language. Sylvie’s current plan was to fly as long as possible so that hopefully her daughter would stay out of harms way until she woke up.

Jarius felt his wifes fury and it terrified him as to what may have caused it. She was far from an angry person so he worried what might be happening to his daughter. Suddenly it was as if she slammed into an invisible wall. It disoriented her and she slightly plummeted before lifting herself back up. “what?” she was confused, why couldn’t she fly further. She was too scared to land with her daughter still recovering from whatever drugs were in the dart so she tried to fly in another direction but to her horror she hit another wall, she was being boxed in somehow.

She roared as she hovered there. “I will burn this entire world if you don’t let us go.” It was a bluff, but she didn’t want anything else to happen to Xeja. The laughter seemed to be coming from all around her and her heart danced fearfully in her chest.

“It’s only a matter of time, dragon.” The voice said. “Aren’t you tired? I wonder how long your wings will carry you.”

“How much more do we have?” Jarius asked as he looked down at the things everyone had gathered.

“Lefan is off gathering a couple of hard to get plants and your friend went off to find this amulet.” Saeran answered.

“She’s scared uncle, angry, something bad is happening and I need to get to them.”

“I know, but you must stay calm, keep a clear head.”

“If I lost them I would go mad. Even Paimon understands.”

“Talking about me behind my back?” Paimon asked as he stepped in and Jarius shot him a glare. “I got it.” He held up the amulet.

“How did you…you know what it doesn’t matter, thank you.

Sylvie’s wings began to ache, she knew they might give out and there was obviously some sort of trap waiting below. She figured it was best to rush down and try to escape than to simply let herself get exhausted and fall right into whatevers clutches. She took a deep, mind clearing breath then said calmly to her unconscious daughter “I love you so much Xeja” before flying down. She flew straight as soon as she was able and just as she went straight a large, metal contraption tried to clamp down on her foot, almost taking off one of her toes but she had managed to evade it. The wound stung and blood poured down onto the earth but she still kept forward until something wrapped around her neck, instantly tightening so that she could barely breath. She tried to roar in fury again but it was too tight, having no give whatsoever.

Chapter Four

She wrapped herself tightly around Xeja as she hit the ground, taking trees down with her massive body and kicking up dirt. Her vision swam, her body aching all over, her blood soaking into the ground. She couldn’t breathe, but she refused to shift back to her human form. She knew if she did, they would take Xeja. Her mind was a whirlwind of emotion and Jarius could feel everyone, could feel the pain reverberating through her and he growled, wanting to kill whoever had dared touch her.

“I’m back, I’m sorry, there were…complications.” Lefan said as he came running in, one hand holding a bag, the other clutching his shoulder. He was scraped and bruised pretty bad, but he had managed to get the plants they needed.

“What happened?” Paimon asked.

“Just…it doesn’t matter.” Paimon opened his mouth to argue and Lefan interrupted, “Pellegrino’s back, he’s probably heading this way.” Paimon’s eyes went from concerned to dancing with delight in an instant, something that he quickly shoved down.

Lefan handed Jarius the bag. “Are you sure you’re alright?” Jarius asked.

“I’m fine.”

If Sylvie wasn’t obviously getting hurt he would have insisted to check his wound but Lefan felt he was fine and they needed to hurry to Sylvie. By the time Pellegrino got there they were almost done “Just in time” Paimon said “I had to finish taking care of the thing that attacked Lefan. It was a persistent son of a bitch. I’m happy I made it” Lefan looked awkwardly at the floor, hating he could seem to do nothing recently but cause trouble. What was he going to do if his carelessness cost his sister her life? He couldn’t imagine telling their parents or their other siblings or even the rest of the family.

As Sylvie’s vision began to get hazy she told herself over and over in her mind “don’t let go” hoping sheer will would keep her claws clutching her daughter when she was no longer conscious. Xeja regained consciousness as frustrated men tried to get to her “what the fuck! The damned mother passed out!” Xeja gasped, pushing herself as far away from them as he confined space allowed. They seemed to be struggling to get her mothers claws open “mommy”

“dont whine, I cant stand whining children and I’m already frustrated kid”

Though Jarius was impatient he and his uncle made sure everything was placed perfectly and that the plants they had all collected were perfectly measured and mixed. He put the amulet around his neck and sat down in front of the circle of items. The bowl was placed in the center, the book open in front of him. “Make sure you get enough in there to soak the ground up plants.” His uncle said as he handed him the dagger.

“I know.” He sliced his palm open and held it over the bowl, his eyes moving over the spell, lips speaking the words clearly as he called the doorway that would take him to his wife and child.

Xeja screamed when they managed to get one of her mother’s claws pulled back far enough that they could reach an arm in. She pressed herself further back, but one managed to snag her clothes. She bit whoever it was and they yelled as they released her. “You little bitch!” Another arm reached in and she moved away from it, crying for her mother and father.

She closed her eyes, still pushing herself back as hard as she could when suddenly she heard her father. Xejas eyes snapped open and she cried harder at the sight of not only her dad but her Uncles and Pellegrino. She knew they were safe now so she crawled out of her mothers claws and began to try to wake her “mommy” Xeja grabbed the lasso around her mothers neck and tried to break it “mommy” she whined. Paimon suddenly appeared on top of Sylvie, pulling out some sort of dagger and easily breaking the enchanted rope. Xeja noticed they had the men that were trying to hurt her unconscious on the ground so they were all coming over to help Sylvie.

Lefan lifted Xeja into his arms “they have her okay, your mom is going to be alright”

“we need to get this bleeding stopped first” Saeran said. They did their best with her toe, they could get her proper help back at home. “she’s not awake yet” Xeja whined and Lefan held her a little tighter. They took Sylvie home, they didn’t know how much blood she had lost so far and Jarius didn’t care where they landed at home. They could buy new things, he couldn’t get another Sylvie. By the time Sylvie woke days had passed and her little girl, much to her relief was the first to greet her. She had been refusing to leave her mother so Jarius was currently gone getting them something to eat. “Oh my baby”

“we’re home mom” Sylvie noticed she was in human form again “they were able to make you shift back and they got the ring off, see” Xeja wiped tears away then showed her mom her hand “Oh that’s such wonderful news honey”

“I’m sorry mommy.”

“Oh baby, it’s okay.” She hugged her daughter. “Where’s uncle Lefan?”

“He’s upset.”

Sylvie knew her brother had to be beating himself over what had happened and was probably ashamed. She wanted to see him and tell him it was alright, that she wasn’t mad. “We should go see him, let him know we’re okay.”

“You need to stay in bed, my love.” Jarius said as he stepped into their room. “You’re too weak to go wandering around. I’ll bring him here.”

“Jarius.” She could see and feel he was exhausted and scared and once Xeja had her food, she held out her arms. He said his own plate down, forgetting his food and just gathering her into his embrace. He buried his face in her hair and his relief and fear washed over her, his tears dripping onto her shoulder.

“I love you Jarius…we both missed you” Sylvie said softly, trying to bring him comfort. It only seemed to make him struggle more to keep tears at bay. “I’ve already started clearing that room…I’m so sorry I was so…something like that should have never been in there. I am so so sorry, I feel all your misery in that world is my fault” He wanted to apologize a million times over. “I was never mad at you or my brother. Neither of you would ever lead us to harm on purpose. I hope you weren’t mean to him” Jarius shook his head “as I said, I feel it’s more my fault than anybody elses. I told him as much but he’s your brother, he loves you and little Xeja immensely. I’m glad I didn’t scold him because he’s punishing himself enough as it is”

“as it seems you are Jarius. However, I’m happy to hear you’re getting rid of the dangerous things”

“it’s irresponsible until Xeja is grown. I…I can’t even think of what I was thinking…a locked door or not she was bound to get in there unattended” He held her a little tighter then made himself let go “are you hungry? I was going to eat light anyway so take my plate if you are. I’ll grab something else while I go get your brother for you”

“are you sure” with damp eyes he nodded. Jarius handed Sylvie his food, kissed her forehead then made himself leave again. He had been dyeing to talk to and hold her while she was actually conscious but she wanted to see her brother. Now, of all times, he would not be selfish. He at least knew at this point she wasn’t angry at him and that in itself lifted the weight of worlds off his shoulders. As soon as Lefan came to the door Jarius said “she’s awake and wants to see you”

“she does?”

“she’s not mad, at me or you” Lefan gave a sad sigh “still herself I guess…shes never held a grudge…I’ll get my shoes” Lefan was ready in a few moments then the two of them headed back to the waiting Sylvie.

Sylvie smiled when Lefan came in and her brother looked about ready to cry. “Come here, silly.”

He sat down on the bed and he really did start crying when she and Xeja hugged him. “I…I’m so sorry…I should have…”

“Hush now, we’re both fine and I’m not mad.”

“I should have known better.” Jarius said. “I filled my home with dangerous things and paid for it.”

“It’s really okay uncle Lefan.” Xeja said.

Once Lefan was able to calm down, he sat and chatted with them. He was relieved she was still her old self, that what had happened hadn’t traumatized her or Xeja and if it had, they weren’t showing it. He stayed until he noticed his sister getting exhausted and promised her he would stop worrying so much. “You should get some more rest, baby, both of you.” Jarius said as he sat down on their bed and gave Sylvie a kiss.

“I’m alright.”

“You need it, I can feel it. Rest, okay? I’ll stay here with you two.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll go to my bed. I missed my bed and my stuffed animals” Now Sylvie felt a little emotional. Her mind had definitely gone to what all that may have done to her daughter but she was still her bright, beautiful little girl “you’re welcome back in here if you need it honey.” she gave Jarius a gentle nudge “go tuck her in, she missed you singing to her. I promise to lay down” Jarius had to kiss her again before he stood and lifted his daughter. Sylvie sighed, looking around her bedroom. They were home, she was really and truly home. Paimon suddenly appeared and she smiled “Paimon”

“You doing okay?”

“Yeah, just tired”

“How’s my little niece?” Sylvie weakly giggled “you know she called you her Uncle while we were there” He smiled, it seemed to bring him immense joy “good, I love that little girl and despite what you may think I do have a heart in here”

“I know you do”

“I’ll let you rest”

“thank you”

“for?”

“talking to Lefan I learned you helped” He looked like saying this made him uncomfortable “I feel like I have a family…I wasn’t about to have that family broken up” Sylvies eyes grew even heavier as she smiled again, he could see it so he vanished, especially since he felt awkward anyway. Awkward was far from a feeling he was used to but family was far from something he was used to. Sylvie laid down, falling asleep before her husband returned. Jarius was quiet when he returned to their room,still worried over her.

He continued on clearing out the room he worked in then refilling it with treasures that were safe over the next months. He could have lost his beautiful mate and his wonderful little girl and he wasn’t sure he’d ever get over the shame of being so blind and selfish, no matter how forgiving Sylvie and Xeja was. They meant to much to him to forgive himself too quickly and no amount of time would have him forget the lesson he learned.

~ The End

Mae And Lincoln

This story was contributed to by Stacy Meyer. She also had the original concept for it 🙂

Chapter One

Mae put the key in the lock and turned it jiggling it slightly, being told my the owners that the old thing could be quite finicky. The door opened and she kicked the box of belongings inside with a smile on her face. This was going to be the prefect place to set up her law firm.

Lincoln was running down the street with police cars whirling after him sirens blaring. He ducked into an alleyway to catch his breath,trying to remember what it was that happened last night but the only thing that came into his mind was the ripped up body that he woke up beside in the mountains.

Mae proudly hung her diploma on the wall and decided it was time to take a break and go to the coffee shop down the street. Just as she gathered her purse and keys back up she heard footsteps outside the door,she opened it and looked at the blood soaked man standing there. “I need some help…people are after me…” the man said. “Well if you need legal help which it appears you just might be looking for come inside” Mae replied stepping out of the doorway of her office.

Lincoln hurried in, hoping she could help him. It seemed nothing could stop these shifts but maybe she could help people understand he truly had no control over what happened during them. Better yet maybe she had connections with people that could help contain him during the nights his wolf took over. She had him take a seat and she took her own in front of him “first off, why are you covered in blood?”

“I’m not sure what happened…I can’t remember…I just woke up next to a dead body and now the police are after me”

“were you drunk?”

“No…I’m a werewolf…the kind that can’t control themselves during a shift. I also dont retain memories from when I shift” She sighed, this was quite a case for her first real one. She had expected to start with something much smaller but she’d take it anyway “alright but you’re going to have to answer a lot more questions and we’re going to have to talk to police as well. I wont lose my license for harboring a criminal but I promise you we’ll get this figured out”

Prison terrified him but he’d end up there anyway at this rate so he agreed to talk to her and let the police come. When they arrived at her office she let them know she was his lawyer and reminded Lincoln not to answer questions unless she told him it was okay. He had already given her all the information needed and she wanted to choose what they knew until she figured out what to do for this man.

“Why don’t you go over what happened last night Mr. Storm.” The officer across from them asked and Lincoln looked at Mae who nodded.

“My memory is spotty at best. I remember I was looking for someone. I don’t know why I was out on a full moon night or what I was doing on that mountain. Maybe I was working.”

“Working?”

“My client chases demons.” Mae answered.

“And do you think the victim may have been a demon?”

“I don’t know. My senses get a little overloaded when I wake up, it’s like a shock to the system. I was dazed.”

“You saw the body, is that correct?”

“It was about a foot from me.”

“It was torn apart, claw marks, teeth marks.”

“You don’t know if my client did it.”

“With all do respect ma’am, he’s a werewolf, an out of control werewolf.”

“Who chases demons.”

“I’d give you a card if I could find my wallet.” Lincoln said then shut his mouth when Mae gave him a look.

She leaned forward, feeling her heart stutter a little. “He could have been hunting and come across that body, the victim could have been a demon who attacked him first, or it could have even been a set up.”

“He’s covered in blood.”

“Which you haven’t determined the source of. It could be his for all you know.”

The officer had hoped this would be easy since Ms Mae Anderson was a new face but it was seeming she had done well in school and was going to be one of the larger thorns in the police departments side when it came to cases but he respected good lawyers so while it was a little frustrating the officer welcomed the challenge of convicting this man while dealing with an obviously intelligent lawyer. “I suppose you’re right. We will just need a sample of the blood. I imagine you’ll let him cooperate”

“yes, you can take your sample” She was going over ideas on how to approach this no matter what the results turned up. “Thank you”

“I expect to know those results right away”

“Of course” The officer shot her an obviously flirtatious smile and Lincoln had to hold back a growl. He was shocked at himself, hopeing that wasn’t a sign he was the monster he expected himself of being. He was at least glad he caught it before the cop heard him and had more reason to think the worst.

“And I would appreciate if you would lend my client a sweat suit. I’m sure you’ll want his clothes as evidence and he needs a shower.”

“Sure.”

The officer left and Mae sighed, leaning back. “Asshole, he’s lucky I don’t have a reputation yet or I’d have slapped him.”

“He likes you.”

She huffed. “Are you alright?”

“No, you’d think I’d be used to this, but what if…”

“Don’t say anything else. Someone could be listening from the other side of the glass or something. We’ll talk once we’re out of here.”

“What if they put me in a holding cell?”

“They don’t have any proof it was you, only that you found the body. You running was stupid, but understandable.” She lowered her voice. “To be honest if I woke up next to a corpse I’d be screaming and running.”

It truly felt like this woman was on his side and it helped him not be quite so panicky about everything. She believed in him and for whatever reason that meant the world to Lincoln. They were released about an hour later and Mae asked “where do you live?”

“I suppose in a hotel for awhile so they don’t think I’m fleeing. I chased this last demon a long way”

“I’ll drive you to a good one, the one i recommend when family or friends don’t want to stay with me” Mae drove Lincoln to a nice hotel, helped him get a room then walked him to it. “I have the number to your rooms phone. If you remember anything at all or just need to talk to me please call. Don’t let the cops talk to you without me as well” He nodded and she asked “do you need anything else before I go home?”

“No, thank you”

“I guess my first case may as well be big and I know people aren’t always what they seem but you hardly seem like some crazy murderer. I’ll make sure you get more clothes too. You’ll need some nice things to wear. It shouldn’t affect anything but how you look does make things easier or harder”

“when will you come back?”

“tomorrow, we can talk more over breakfast about your life and the information you have on this demon” She waited until he was in his room to leave, going straight to a nearby clothing thrift store that always had nice clothes. She had gotten a lot of her own clothes from there.

Lincoln tried to stay awake and rack his brain for answers. He hated he couldn’t remember, hated that the memories were always so disjointed. His mind and body were so exhausted from everything, from the forced change, from the stress of thinking he may have hurt someone. He knew he had been hunting, but what had happened after the change. Had the wolf tried tracking his prey or had it found someone else wandering through the woods. He sighed as he switched on the TV and laid down, his eyes growing heavy.

Images flashed through his mind, broken into tiny, confusing bits. The smell of blood and cologne filled his nose. The flash of a grin. Screams brought sweat to his brow. He jerked away, panting, the smell still in his nose. He glanced at the clock sitting on the table next to him and saw it was three a.m. He let out a breath and draped an arm across his eyes. His wolf whined as if telling him he was missing something and it took him a moment to realize he could still smell that scent. His wolf nose had locked onto everything that night, not that it mattered, it didn’t mean he could find whoever had been out there.

The next thing he knew Mae was knocking, he must have fallen back asleep thinking. She held out two bags of clothes “they were having a sale and I went kind of crazy. ”

“I’ll find something and quickly change”

“you don’t have to rush, I have nothing else to do. You’re my only client” He hurried anyway, putting on the first outfit he saw. “perfect” she said when he came out of the bathroom. “I didnt even tell you my size, I’m surprised”

“I’ve always had a good eye for peoples sizes. Men are particularly easy”

“How much do I owe you?”

“Not a penny, I got them at this clothing thrift store I like. It’s no big dea. What do you like to eat for breakfast?” she said quickly “is there a waffle house close?”

“sure is”

“can we talk there?”

“if you’re worried we can pick up food and come back to this room. I mean you were hunting a demon so that may actually be wise”

“yeah, lets bring it back” They went to her car and soon arrived at Waffle House. It seemed busy but it was a breakfast place and it was breakfast time. “I already know what I want so just tell me when you know Lincoln”

Chapter Two

“I’ll have what you’re having, I’m not picky. Shifting makes me ravenous so anything is fine.”

“You’re so easy.” She smiled and his heart skipped a beat.

“Well, I’d rather not give you anymore trouble than I already am. Not many people would so readily take in a possible nutcase covered in blood.”

She laughed. “You’re far from crazy, I can tell.”

“Really? How?”

“It was the look on your face when you ran into my office.”

“I could have been pretending.”

“True, but you weren’t. Your shock, confusion, and fear were so genuine I could practically feel them radiating off of you.” She shrugged. “Besides, if you had wanted to kill me then that would have been the perfect time. You’re actually a really good boy.”

He chuckled. “Dog jokes?”

“Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. I’ll make that the last one, promise.”

His wolf wagged its tale, perking up. “I don’t mind.”

Mae seemed in good spirits as she ordered their food and drinks, double checking to make sure he liked orange juice “there are people who don’t like orange juice?” Lincoln asked as they walked out and she laughed “you never know, I’m sure there are” He held their to go plates in his lap and Mae set each of their cups in her cup holder before taking them back to the hotel. There was a small table in the room but only one chair “we could sit on the bed together ” Mae suggested so Lincoln put their plates down and sat with her. “so, anything come up last night?”

“I had a nightmare about what happened but nothing was clear beyond the type of cologne”

“well thats useful, let me know if you smell it again”

“It didn’t belong to the dead guy. He smelled of the woods and blood.”

“Did you get a look at what he was wearing before you ran?”

“Jeans and a t-shirt.”

She took a bite of her food. “No jacket?”

“I don’t think so, but I didn’t really stay to exam him.”

“It’s been cold out, no one would go out there without a jacket, at night, unless they were nuts. Even if it’s not cold. Getting lost up there without warm clothes is a death sentence.”

He nodded as he ate. “You’re right and I had fur.” He sighed. “What if it was me, Mae? What would you do?”

“I’d still fight for you, especially since you have no control over your shifting.” She patted his back and he felt it tingle through him. “You’re my client, Lincoln.”

He smiled. “Thank you. I’m not usually like this, but the idea of me accidentally killing someone terrifies me. It makes me feel like more of a monster than I already am.”

“It’s because you have a good heart. Anybody with a soul would be unsettled right now. Your genuine concern is part of what makes me believe in you so much. You wont be wrongfully convicted under my watch, I swear to it and that also goes for the case of your shifting, if you did do it on accident we’ll make sure the court sees that” She wanted to be sure her words sunk in. She knew he couldn’t help but be stressed but she hoped to get him as relaxed as possible. They finished their meal then cleaned up “are you going again?” he asked and she said “I need to go to my office for a bit but if you want to come please do.”

“I’ll just think everything to death sitting in here by myself” her smile was kind “please come then, that way I’ll be right there if you remember anything else and you’ll be right there if the police contact me” They left his room and headed for her office, a place he could actually take in this time. He could tell her office was new, it was one of the cleanest places he had ever seen. There wasnt even a small amount of dust on anything he took in.

“How long have you had this place?”

“a week, how does it look to you?”

“I like it, you’ve made it your own but it isn’t filled with too much”

“Just wait, I’m sure after awhile it’ll be total chaos. You won’t be able to find me in all the papers and files.”

“Of course I would,” he tapped his nose, “nothing can hide from this once I get its scent. I could find you in a mountain of papers.”

“I’m kind of curious, what do I smell like?”

“Paper, lavender and honey. Is that your body wash?”

“Yeah, that’s amazing.”

“Have you never spent time with a wolf before?”

She smiled. “Not that I know of.”

“Well, maybe once this is all over with, barring me going to prison, maybe we could hang out or something.”

Her laugh was like music to his ears and his wolf whined at him. “I’d like that. You’ll have to treat me to dinner for being such an amazing lawyer.”

“Of course, whatever you want.”

He let Mae get to work, watching her while hoping he wasn’t getting in the way at all. Everytime her phone went off he tensed. He still held worry about what the evidence was going to say since he couldn’t remember things clearly. It took a few days for the police to call them back over and while Lincoln didn’t want to be imprisoned he also was grateful to finally be one step closer to all this being over, to knowing his fate. Before they went in Mae said “don’t speak first, let them tell us what they want us to know then I’ll ask questions. I want you to cooperate but I also don’t want to give them more than they need”

“Okay” They went in and were soon back in the very same interrogation room. “the results came back on your clothes Mr Storm”

“and?” Mae inquired. “It was his own blood and someone elses but surprisingly enough, not the victims. He must have hurt whomever was killing our victim” Lincolns wolf perked up, he wasn’t a murderer after all. “I’m guessing there was no match for the other blood”

“Not in our database. Are you sure you can’t remember anything Mr Storm?”

He looked to Mae who nodded. “Just flashes. The scent of cologne, a grin, just bits and pieces.”

“That doesn’t give us much to go on.”

“You said the blood on his clothes wasn’t from the victim.” Mae interjected. “Lincoln is a wolf which means if you let him scent his clothes, then he should be able to track the killer.”

“We wouldn’t have to take him back up the mountain and there’s no guarantee he’d pick up the scent.”

“Are you saying you’re willing to let a killer get away because of a little hike and the possibility of not finding anything?”

The officer frowned. “That’s not what I said.” There was a bite to his voice that nearly had Lincoln baring his teeth.

“Then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Chapter Three

The officer seemed to be growing increasingly annoyed but by the looks of him he probably never did things like hiking by choice. In general Lincoln nor Mae imagined this was a police force to be reckoned with but she wasn’t about to let them be lazy and in consequence let the true killer run around free to strike again. Even if it was the demon Lincoln had already been after it would be killing two birds with one stone. The most recent case would be solved and Lincoln could return to where ever he would need to go after all this. The officers reluctantly retrieved the clothing evidence and handed them to Lincoln so he could take in the scent.

Lincoln took his time, making sure he really knew it before handing them back. “I’m guessing you would like us over at the mountain today?”

“Yes, as soon as possible” Mae answered and the man nodded, agreeing to meet them over there. Once they were back in Mae car she sighed “sometimes I don’t understand why people take jobs they don’t seem to want to do correctly. I mean, for a cop to be so pouty about a hike, ridiculous”

“On the bright side for people like me I wouldn’t be needed if all the police officers wanted to do their job all the time. There are a lot of beings willing to bring the particularly bad to justice when the law can’t seem to do it” Lincoln was glad when that made her smile, even if half heartedly. As a lawyer he knew there would be a lot of disappointment in her future when it came to judges, cops and others that were supposed to go above and beyond to inforce the laws.

Mae and Lincoln went straight to the mountain, not surprised in the least when the cops made them wait nearly two hours. She chided them in her head as they began the hike “I’m so glad the people’s safety means this much to you” Mae would have loved to speak those words but she reminded herself this was her first real case and it would make for a hard future if she got on their bad side right out the gate. Mae was a little relieved to see their attitude about the hike seemed at least somewhat improved from when she first brought it up at the station.

“I can’t believe you walked all the way down with nothing but torn clothes.” Mae said.

“I was pretty fresh off the change and full of adrenaline.”Lincoln replied. “Besides, I’m a wolf, we love walking and hiking.”

Mae laughed, suddenly tripping and Lincoln quickly steadied her, his arm around her waist. His heart did a flip when their eyes met and his wolf urged him to rub his scent on her. He let her go, surprised at the sudden realization. “Lincoln, are you alright?”

“Yeah, sorry, we’re almost there then I’ll see if I can follow him.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, let’s talk about it later, okay?”

“Okay.”

He was relieved she didn’t push. The last thing he wanted to confess in front of these officers was that she was his mate and on top of that he needed to focus on finding the one who had tried to frame him.

Mae kept herself from talking unless the officers spoke first. He seemed even more determined than before and she didn’t want to be a distraction. She could almost see it in his demeanor when he picked up on the scent. This demon was either cocky, wanted to be found or simply hadn’t thought of the fact Lincoln would be coming back. Maybe it had assumed they wouldn’t give Lincoln a fair shot, just assuming that of course the werewolf with hazy memory did it. Beings were railroaded all the time by lazy departments that simply wanted to shut cases. He had been lucky when he found Mae to stick up for him. He felt so terrible he may have just let them had he been caught.

“I found it, I am going to chase it down” Mae gave a small, understanding nod. They wouldn’t be able to keep up and they would probably just be in the way once Lincoln did find this demon. “He made us come up here just to leave us?” one of the men asked “well you may have been needed and this is a crime scene still”

“whatever, just let us know what happens. We will walk you back down”

“thanks” she barely attempted to sound like she meant it, she was too busy worrying now to think about her future dealing with these men. This demon was obviously capable of terrible things and Lincoln was running right for the being. She didn’t want him to die or even get hurt again and these cops still didn’t seem to care much about the situation.

Lincoln zeroed in on the scent, the smell of his prey becoming stronger and another joining it. Female and human. He wasn’t surprised to find the demon crouched over a bound and gagged woman, taunting her and he growled as he tackled the demon off of her. They rolled away, sliding down a hill and away from his next victim. The demon kicked him in the stomach so he slid away and they both came up, Lincoln crouched low to the ground as they circled each other.

“Surprised to see you free.” The demon said. “I thought for sure they would put you down like the rabid dog you are.”

“Bastard.” Lincoln snapped.

“It’s okay, I’ll just kill you myself and then the girl and maybe I’ll visit the woman who belongs to the scent on you.”

He snarled as he sprung at the demon and he felt his canines lengthen to sharp points as he grappled with the demon. His wolf came to his defense even if he couldn’t control it, jumped at the opportunity to protect its mate. The brief thought nearly distracted Lincoln, but he quickly pushed it away as he sank his teeth into the demon’s shoulder, using his weight to bear the monster down.

The demon was pissed off but he had threatened the wrong woman. Adrenaline was coursing hard through his veins and the wolf inside was lending all it’s strength with its need to protect Mae. Lincoln could feel the wolf urging him to end this creatures life but Lincoln didn’t want to become a murderer and he wanted to clear his name. He could never fully do that unless he brought this thing to the police. He just hoped they werent complete idiots and could handle maintaining him. Lincoln knocked the demon out then unbound the woman who shool as she asked “are you sure he’s out”

“yes, come with me.” he put the demon over his shoulder then continued “we’re headed to the police station. The girl was slow as she walked behind him but he knew she had probably been being tortured awhile before he got there. He was patient, ready to knock the demon out again if he came to. Once they arrived the police at the station seemed in shock he had actually brought someone back “this is your murderer” he said as he dropped the demon the the floor then added “and he was probably going to kill this poor woman too. You should take her statement”

“You actually…”

“Did my job, yes. Be sure to put him somewhere he can’t use magic or break the bars. He’s a demon, not some drunk or you regular low life.”

Two of the officers lifted the unconscious demon and a female officer guided the woman away, her arm wrapped around her shoulders as she cried. Lincoln sighed, but brightened as soon as Mae came to him. “My goodness are you okay?” She looked at his torn shirt and the blood that had dried on his face and arms.

“Yeah, just got a little scraped up, but everything’s healed.”

“He looks more than roughed up. What happened?”

Lincoln’s heart jumped. How could he tell her she was his mate? “Well he had that woman and then…well he threatened to come after you and I lost my cool.”

Mae felt her cheeks heat. “Over me?”

Lincoln rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe we should discuss this after we’ve cleared all this up.”

“Okay” she almost stuttered. She composed herself as they dealt with what little more the cops needed of them then left “where would you like to talk?” she asked, eager to hear why her safety had meant so much to him. “Your place would be fine” Lincoln answered, happy she brought up the talk since his nerves about it were rising. She drove them to her home in relative silence. Once inside she asked “so…do you want to sit on my couch?”

“yeah” They took a seat beside eachother, silence once again falling since he wasn’t sure how to tell her. “Lincoln” she urged, causing even his wolf to urge him to tell her “do you know much about my kind?” He decided was a good lead in to the conversation. To his relief she said “yeah, I took some classes in law school about different types of beings. I thought it would help me once I got into a career”

“so…you know that our wolves tell us when we’ve found the person we’re meant to be with” her heart was thumping now, slamming against her chest as she put two and two together. He was so nervous, so protective “are…are you trying to tell me I’m your mate”

“yeah, I realized it when I caught you earlier…”

“wow, I…wow”

“I dont expect you just to move or to be my girlfriend or anything but…do you think you could give me a chance?”

“of course, I’ve really liked getting to know you and…well, instead of paying for a hotel you can stay here…you can take my couch at night” Relief swept through him, clearing out how nervous he had been. “thank you, I’ll make sure to go elsewhere when the change is coming. I promise, I’ll never hurt you. ”

“I know you wont and let me look into some things that can be done okay. There must be a way to help you with that”

“could I hug you?” she smiled and moved to hug him. Lincoln held her to him, almost in disbelief he could actually feel so purely happy. His life so far had been mostly work or feeling guilty over things he had done when he wasn’t in control. He hadnt spent his life miserable but now that he was holding Mae he knew he had never felt true happiness until this moment. He hoped he didn’t mess this up because he already knew he needed to be at her side for the rest of his life.

~ The End