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Macon & Alosa 2

Chapter One

“Macon.” Alosa said as she stood behind him while he piloted his ship. “Macon.” She touched his shoulder and he blinked, looking up at her.

“Sorry, is everything alright?”

“Where are we going? We changed course, I could feel it.”

“A planet pinged on my radar and I wanted to check it out. I should have asked first, sorry.” read more

Mered & Ella

Chapter One

Ella punched her assailant in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him and feeling accomplished. He had went limp for just a moment and in that moment she felt she had just won but she soon felt razor sharp pain as he slashed at her, suddenly forming claws. Her scream was cut off as Mered startled her, pouncing on the man. He had been out with her brother, Nigel and Cadoc but she supposed now he was back. She could feel the anger coming off of him in waves and a new scream came from her lungs when the man she had been fighting cut his head clean off with his claws “Mered!” Tears streamed down her face even when she saw his body still moving. He simply picked up his head and it went right back on his body, his skin connecting with eachother again like it was a completely natural thing to happen.

He had told her he was impossible to kill but she had never seen anything like that before. The reality of her mate being basically indestructible was sinking in watching him fight this thing. Mered brought the man near death, wishing he could snuff out his miserable life but Ella was right there and he had promised both her and his daughter he’d never take a life again unless he had to. Angrily he spat his words at the man “I wish I could kill you, I want to so badly for hurting her but she wouldn’t want me to. If you so much as look at her again though you will be dead before you even realize what happened. Go! Get the hell away from her before I can’t keep myself from killing you”

The man limped and stumbled away fearfully as Mered walked over to Ella and lifted her up. She could see the worry in his face as he carried her back to their house and inside. Mered cleaned her wounds, waiting to ask her what happened until after he had bandaged her up. “You know how young male demons are. He saw me and wanted sex or a fight. I wanted neither but again, you know how young male demons are”

“This is why I shouldn’t leave you alone”

“I would have been okay”

“Your wounds say otherwise”

“says the man that got his head cut off”

“Almost anything can happen to me and I’d be okay. My body just puts itself back together unless you do it a certain way. I hope me loseing my head didn’t scare you”

“It did but you telling me and me seeing it are two different things. I mean wow, your head really did just go right back on”

“I’m sorry you had to see it. I hoped you’d never have to see anything close to that.”

She had a sudden thought and giggled a little. He gave her a questioning look and she said, “Losing your head.”

He huffed. “You mean like my temper.”

“Yeah, sorry, I think I needed the humor.”

He pressed his forehead against hers. “I’m just glad you’re safe. He didn’t do anything else before I got there did he?”

“No, I promise.”

“Thank goodness.” He was also relieved he really hadn’t had to shed blood in front of her. There would have been no way for him to hold back if he had raped or attempted to rape her. “Now I’m going to have to lock you up to keep you safe.”

“You better not.” She said with a laugh. She then reached up and ran her fingers along his throat. “I’m so relieved you didn’t die.”

He kissed her then cradled Ella in his arms to take her to their couch. It had terrified him to stumble upon her fighting something and he wanted her close. He knew all mates worried about each other but more terror than most gripped him when it came to Ella due to how he used to be. Anything could just come and try to kill her simply because it was fun. “How I wish you were basically impossible to kill like me”

“I am, just in a different way. My parents are amazing and taught me everything they know”

“Still, I’m keeping you close for awhile”

“You’re so sweet Mered” He ran his fingers through her hair “I’m so lucky…you’re irreplaceable Ella” He spoke softly, making sure she heard how deeply he meant them. “did you have fun at least”

“always Cadoc gave me a little too much information about him and my daughter but it was still fun” Ella giggled “He makes her so happy”

“Just like you make me Ella” He held her tightly against him, still trying to relax and stop worrying about her safety.

“How about I make us some tea and cookies.” Ella wanted him to relax, especially since she was okay.

“I can do it.”

She laughed, smiling lovingly at him. “Mered, I’m alright baby.”

“At least let me stay with you.” He brushed his nose over her cheek then pressed a kiss to her neck.

“Alright.”

He reluctantly let her go and followed her into the kitchen, letting her grab everything she needed and get the water boiling, then wrapping his arms around her from behind as she made the cookie dough. She hummed softly, the sound helping to relax him. She couldn’t help but smile at how protective he was, reminding her of a guard dog. Whether he believed it or not, he could be quite adorable.

She wanted to keep the conversation going as she got everything ready so Mered’s mind wouldn’t dwell “so besides Cadoc talking too much, what did you talk about with my brother and Nigel”

“Vina is repainting their home and your brother mentioned us all going to Porthcawl but I definitely don’t want to do that now” she giggled “Mered, I seriously would have been fine and if we go you’ll be glued to my side, I have no fear of that”

“mm, well it wouldn’t be just yet anyway so lets not discuss it for now. My heart stopped when I saw that man trying to hurt you…I just think of the things I’m capable of and so many scenarios went through my head even in the few seconds it took me to close the distance between us. I was such a horrible man and I pay the price now with worry”

“I understand Mered, we’ll relax for the rest of the day and talk about it tomorrow”

Mered managed to relax a little more once they were cuddled up on the couch enjoying the tea she had made. The smell of cookies started to fill the house and he had to resist the urge to follow her into the kitchen when she went to pull the first batch out. He knew he had to be smothering her and he would hate for her to get upset over it. He could still hear her and stayed alert until she came back with a plate of cookies. “Calm down, baby, eat some cookies. Your heart’s beating so fast.” Her gentle, loving tone made his heart stutter.

“Sorry, thank you for putting up with me.”

“There is no, putting up with, it makes me happy you love me so much. My brother would do the same thing you know, he’d follow me everywhere until he was absolutely sure I was safe, so don’t feel bad.”

“I feel like a child. I keep thinking karma is going to come back and tear me to pieces.”

“I have a feeling you’d bite back.”

He huffed out a laugh and pulled her into him, kissing her. “You really know how to make everything better. Thank you, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

The next morning as they sat down for breakfast she brought up her brothers suggestion “you know, I would love to go with him to Porthcawl. He’ll be there and you’ll be there so nothing can possibly happen to me, you know that”

“I suppose it would be a fruitless effort to try and keep you inside” she smiled and he leaned over to kiss her. As he sat back straight she said “I’ll call him after breakfast and see who all is going and when”

“what is it with you and Atticus with your need to travel all the time”

“We grew up going places a lot, fighting evils and what not with our parents or just traveling to travel and we always came home just fine. Maybe Gregory will come, you’ve never seen him fight but he is amazing and his wife is a fairy”

“Gregory is the vampire isn’t he?”

“Yeah.”

“What a dangerous match.”

“Not for them, he’s never had an issue with taking her blood.”

“I see. I look forward to meeting them then.”

She took his hand, smiling. “Everything’s going to be fine, you’ll see. We’re going to have fun.”

“I know and I’ll try to lay off the worrying if I can.” They finished eating, Mered going through every scenario he could think of that could possibly put Ella in danger. He knew he was being ridiculous, but he wanted an out just in case.

Before he knew it the day was upon him, he was walking to Porthcawl with Ella, Atticus, Tamlin, Gregory and their youngest child, a teenager whom he had learned went by the name Taarmun. He felt a little more comfortable meeting them all in person. Time and time again it was confirmed in him his mate came form a fierce family. He felt he could count on them in any sort of fight, especially if she inspired even half the love in them that she inspired within him. “so is it true? You really have to be killed a certain way to die?” Taarmun asked and Ella answered “I actually just saw his head get completely cut off and it just went back on like it was a perfectly normal thing to do”

“Thats pretty cool, how did you learn you had that ability?”

“Its one thats run in my family quite some time”

“That’s lucky.”

“It’s more irritating than anything, especially if I have to search for a limb.”

Taarum started laughing, the sound contagiously moving through all of them, it taking longer for Mered to realize the humor in it. “Does that happen often?” Taarum managed to ask.

“A few times, but I managed.”

“I can just imagine the face you were making.” Ella said, her laughter starting once again. “I bet you were mumbling and cursing.”

“I think the most frustrating time was when an arm flew into a swamp, I seriously considered just leaving it it took so long to find my arm”

“well hopefully you wont lost anything this trip…even though I know you’ll be okay it still hurts to see you like that”

“Normally I wouldn’t let that happen, its rare when something can get the better of me. I was just so blinded by rage to see that thing hurting you” She grabbed onto his arm affectionately, giving him a loving smile that tugged at his heart. He was never going to let anything happen to her, he absolutely couldn’t lose Ella. Questions continued to flow back and forth, everyone seeming to be getting along well but Ella had expected as much. Mered truly wasn’t as bad as he felt he was and her family knew how happy she was with him.

Chapter Two

Taarum asked more question as they walked, his curiosity getting the best of him. Ella enjoyed their back and forth while she visited with her brothers. Mered split his focus between Taarum and Ella, answering questions as he let her scent curl around him and relax him. “So are you two planning on having any kids?” Atticus asked and Mered heard her heart skip a beat.

“We haven’t really discussed it. That eager to be an uncle again?”

“Of course. I need more nieces and nephews to spoil.”

Ella laughed. “Awe, how cute.”

“Children are a wonderful thing.” Gregory added. “Watching them grow into amazing adults is so rewarding.”

“I agree.” Mered said. “Raising Tahairah was something else.”

Now her mind was consumed with children, she hadn’t realized she wanted any until her brother brought it up. Her life stayed so busy, especially with all their friends and the daughter Mered already had it simply hadn’t crossed her mind but now, she really wanted that but she was a little embarrassed to actually say as much. At least for now, she’d wait until they were alone to see if Mered would want to have children with her. She loved having four siblings so she wanted to have at least three children. She felt she was getting a bit ahead of herself since they hadn’t had a real discussion yet so she decided to bring up another topic.

It was their second night out when clicks and sucking noises startled Ella out of her sleep. She sat up, her eyes locking with a volucrix. They were disgusting creatures, with large, flat heads that resembled cockroach’s with spikes covering it. Their body’s were thin, sickly thin and their arms were more like scythes. Its long, spiked tail drug behind it and thats when she noticed it was a group. “Mer” she had started to say her mates name but almost in that very second they all lay dead, Mered covered in blood.

Ella stared up at him, shocked for a moment. For just a moment she could see that darkness slipping through and then it was gone as he crouched down to check on her, his eyes instantly warming. “Are you alright, my love?” His voice woke the others and they were all surprised by the carnage.

“I’m fine, just surprised.”

“I’m sorry.” He looked her over, making sure she didn’t have any wounds.

“We’re sorry sister.” Gregory said. “We should have been more alert.”

“It’s alright, Mered killed them before I even had time to scream.”

“Thank goodness.” Atticus said as he examined the ripped apart creatures.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up, Mered, we’ll get rid of these.” Gregory said.

“I’ll go with him.” Ella said.

“I won’t be long baby, you can stay.” Mered worried what she must be thinking, that she would start to have doubts about him if he kept showing that side of himself.

“I want to.”

He didn’t want to argue with her about it so he let her come with him, a little surprised when she took his hand “Ella I’m covered in those creatures” he said gently “I don’t care, I can clean my hand just as easily as we’ll clean you up” They walked back to a river they had seen, careful to stay alert for any more of those creatures. Mered felt relief he wasn’t forced to be the monster he hated being around her. Ella began to help Mered clean off as she said “you’ve had your work cut out for you lately. I’m sorry”

“sorry? It’s hardly your fault”

“well, I wanted to come and you wanted to stay home” He stroked the side of her face, holding her cheek a moment before realizing he was getting her messy again. He rinsed off his hand then wiped off her face which made Ella smile “I love you Mered, you’re so sweet”

“you can say that after what I just did”

“you protected me, my siblings, Tamlin and my nephew. It’s astounding and shocking at times how fast you can be and how easily you seem to kill things but you only ever hurt anything any more to protect me”

“You will always be safe with me Ella, always”

“There’s nothing I’m more sure of” she kissed him and his heart trembled. As soon as he was clean he hugged her, kissing her head before they began to go back to her family and their friend Tamlin. Things seemed to be cleaned up so they all settled down for the remainder of their night, Mered holding Ella close to him.

After they had eaten breakfast the next morning, Mered insisted on carrying her. He was going to keep her as close as possible until they made it to Porthcawl. He was happy when she let him, knowing he was probably being ridiculous, but for now he needed to make sure he could get her to safety immediately. They took a break for lunch and he sat with her in his lap as everyone talked about the trip so far. Other than the near attack, everything was going smoothly and the day was bright and beautiful.

“You doing alright?” Ella asked once they were off again.

“Yeah, sorry if you’re tired of being carried.”

She laughed, the sound causing his heart to skip a beat. “Oh yes, it’s so terrible being loved and protected. I’ll be sure to file a complaint.”

He grinned before placing a loving kiss on her forehead. She relaxed a little more in his arms, enjoying the comfort it brought her. Once again her mind drifted to children and her smile grew a bit bigger at the thought. She could imagine him carrying them around instead of her on trips and how much fun they could all have together. The question was getting hard to keep back so she decided she was going to try and find a time sooner rather than later to talk to him. All she needed was time alone since she didn’t want to spring a question like that on him in front of people.

Mered was relieved when they finally arrived in Porthcawl and were no longer on the open road. He knew cities and villages could be attacked, he had been the cause of a few, but he had to admit that it was harder to sack a city than it did to surprise someone in the middle of nowhere. “Better?” Ella asked in a teasing tone.

“Perhaps. There are a lot of people around here though.”

She laughed and he smiled. “I could scare them all away for you.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

“You two are absolutely adorable together.” Tamlin said with a chuckle.

Mered gave his friend a look that was instantly softened by Ellas kiss. He didn’t like adjectives like adorable when it came to himself but he could take it when it came to Ella. With most recent events he supposed he should take any softening of his image he could get before this beautiful, amazing woman realized he didn’t deserve her. His past had been unforgiveable, despite the fact he now had friends and a mate that seemed to think the world of him. He knew better than to ever take this all for granted, that at any point he could lose these people and he’d deserve it.

He didn’t let those thoughts darken his mood though, especially not today. Ella had been through two close encounters and he wanted to have as much fun with her as possible before that stunning smile quit shining on her face. Atticus started leading them around,having a perfect memory of this place and everything there was to do there.

They joined a few games then found a nice resturaunt to eat at before calling it a night in their own rooms. “see, we’re all alive” Ella said with a teasing look. “Hm, I suppose we are”

“I’m so happy we came”

“Me too, but I’m happy anywhere as long as you’re there.” He sighed, feeling a little exhausted.

“Thank you for coming, I know you prefer being home.”

“I would walk through hell for you.”

She smiled as she pressed a kiss to his lips. “I love you.”

“Gods know why.”

“Mered, I know what you’re thinking and it’s not true. Your past isn’t going to change the way I feel about you. You’ve done so much to redeem yourself and you’ve been so sweet and gentle with me.” She let her fingers rub gently over the back of his neck. “I love you because whether you believe it or not, the man you are now has a big heart, is kind and generous and protective.”

“You see much more than I do love.”

“And I’ll keep telling you how wonderful you are until you start believing it. Which brings me to something I wanted to talk to you about. I don’t want you to be afraid to say no or think I’ll be angry, but I was thinking about maybe you and I having a baby.”

His heart thumped a little harder, it both touched and surprised him “you’d like to have a baby with me?” She had clearly just said that but he had to be sure that’s truly what Ella had suggested. “Yeah, I really think you’d be an amazing father and I want my own little family. My parents love being parents so much they occasionally just have to do it again” she said with a breath of laughter. He lifted his hand, resting it on the side of Ellas cheek, stroking it with his thumb “Ella, if you truly want children I’d love to have children with you. We can start trying whenever you want”

“I mean…we’re alone now” she was blushing and he smiled, moving to nibble at her ear. The soft moan it inspired already sending tingles of pleasure through him. Her clothes were on the floor moments later, his soon following. All exhaustion had left his body the second she had brought up children. It meant so much to Mered that she had that much faith in him and he wasn’t sure there was a point of exhaustion he could get to where he wouldn’t want to make love to her.

She wrapped herself around him and he held her close as he pressed hungry kisses to her lips, his hands drifting over her, savoring how soft and warm she was. Their lips parted on a moan when he pushed into her, her fingers gripping his back as he withdrew and rocked back into her waiting heat. He watched the pleasure play over her face, was humbled by the love and adoration he saw in her beautiful eyes. He held her tightly to him, moving in her a little harder as she quivered around him. “Ella, I love you.”

“I love you too, so much.”

He felt himself choke up and swallowed down that sudden lump in his throat. How did she do that to him, break down his walls until every emotion he kept hidden overwhelmed him. He pressed his lips into hers, his fingers tangling in her soft hair as he picked up the pace, her little whimpers of pleasure and the feel of her dancing around him, sending him over the edge so he flowed into her. He ran his fingers through her hair, let his lips play lovingly over her face in light kisses until she captured his face in her hands and rubbed her nose against his, a bright, adoring smile pulling at her lips.

He laid down next to Ella, pulling her close. They both fell asleep deeply hoping she would become pregnant soon. Mered was a little nervous about raising a child again but he was still excited for it. Tahairah had turned into an amazing woman and he had managed that on his own. Now he’d have Ella and he was sure his daughter would want to help with her new sibling any time she could. Life was about to change but as long as Ella stayed with him he knew nothing but happiness was in his future.

~ The End

Effie & Felix

Chapter One

Effie cautiously walked the streets, wearing her four month old daughter Cori and having nine year old Hestia walk closely beside her. She only had two bullets left and she was hoping to use one of them to kill an animal to feed both her and Hestia. She couldn’t remember the last time she could find even moldy food in an abandon store or house. She couldn’t even find vegetation or even edible looking grass and while having one less bullet made them a little less safe they had to eat. She could also kill animals beating them but even after growing up in this horrible, desolate world she had never had the heart for it. Using a knife was quick enough she could bare it but Hestia had taken it with the best intentions a few months back, wanting to find them food while Effie had been sick and she lost it after being mugged by a man who spotted her.

Loseing that knife devastated Effie but it upset her more to see how bruised and bloody Hestia had been when she came back that day. She didn’t know if anybody aside from her parents had ever had souls in this damned world she lived in but she had never met a kind person since their loss. Everyone was so cruel, so selfish and mean. She’d rather run into a lion with rabies than another human being. They walked for hours but managed to find mushrooms along the highway. Effie made sure they were fine to eat then she split them between herself and Hestia. She felt relief she hadnt had to kill something. She now still had two more bullets incase another human crossed their path. Once fed they walked on to find somewhere they could rest.

They wound up taking shelter in an abandoned resturaunt. It wouldn’t do much for the cold of night coming since every window was broken and the doors were ripped off their hinges but it would protect from rain and that was the best they could hope for “you sleep Hestia”

“You should while Cori is out again. I can’t feed her like you can so you end up up anyway”

“are you sure baby?”

“Yeah, rest until she wakes, then I’ll take a turn” Effie handed Hestia the gun and gave her the reminder she gave her every night “bullets are precious. They make us safe. Only shoot before waking me if you’re taken by surprise and have absolutely no other choice. You must wake me if you can”

“yes mam, I wont shoot it” Effie kissed Hestias head “we need to find you new shoes tomorrow”

“I’m okay”

“You’re not, you’re practicly walking the ground”

“just rest MIss Effie” Hestia made the best bed she could for the baby so Effie could carefully remove her and lay her down before laying down herself. “Remember sweetheart” Hestia finished for her “trust no one and don’t waste bullets” Effie woke startled as Hestia screamed her name some time later. A man and woman stood before them but they looked so out of place. They looked so clean and their clothes were so beautiful. Effie stood up with the baby and only just then realized they had wings. Were they the creatures of fairytails? Had she finally lost her mind. The woman spoke “I am Lotus, and this si Zenon. We mean you no harm Effie, you neither Hestia’

“effie” Hestia sounded petrified. “shh now, we are angels and I have a very important job. The gods dont choose to interfere often in worlds. In fact they avoid it if its at all possible to do so. Normally by the time I am called to clean up a world there is not a soul left worth saving. This is only the second time in my life I’ve been told to spare even one being of a world lost to enough evil to call myself and the legion of angels I command. The gods tell me you two women still have a heart, that you don’t deserve to be wiped out before I repair this world and make it habitable again”

Hestia backed up into Effie “I don’t understand” Effie took the gun as she studied the woman. She didn’t look threaten but she had learned the hard way not to trust anyone “I can’t let you hurt these girls”

“Nobody will, I swear it. We are going to rehome you. There’s a world that might extinguish it’s own light because female children are being born less and less. It would be a shame to lose such a kind place. They have always been such a warm world and the imbalance didn’t really do much to change any hearts despite the panic it obviously caused. The gods don’t wish to see them die out and while they don’t interfere, if we’re going to rehome women anyway I agree with them we should put you there. We’ve already talked to a family, they are expecting you. They’ll make sure all three of you are fed, clean and safe. You three will be valued in that world because women are so few. Not a soul would dare hurt you, any of you. Let Zenon take you, please”

Effie hazarded a glance at the two children, at the two lives she had to protect. They needed something better and nothing could be worse than how they were living now. She knew that food was scarce, even wild game was getting hard to find. She also knew that sooner or later they may end up freezing to death or be killed. She swallowed, terrified of these children being harmed. “You swear they’ll be safe?”

“On our lives, we wouldn’t lie to you.”

She nodded. “Okay, but if anything bad happens…”

“It won’t, I swear the world we want you to live in is safe.”

Zenon kissed Lotus’s cheek and approached the women. Effie picked up the baby and held Hestia’s hand. He wanted to try and comfort her but he had been helping his wife when she was needed for quite some time now. He had seen how truly heinous a world had to get for Lotus and her legion to be called. There simply weren’t words to comfort somebody who had lived their life in a world this shot to hell. “I’m going to touch your shoulder and we’ll appear in the world I’m taking you too. This isn’t something I can normally do but I’ve been blessed with the ability to do this just for now to help you three” Zenon said and Lotus chimed in “he’s my husband, he’s been by my side a long time. He can be trusted as your guide. He’ll get you settled with the family.” Effie nodded and allowed him to touch her.

The next thing she knew she was standing in what seemed like a forest for a second, right outside what she supposed was a town, a real, organized and beautiful town. “Are you three okay?” Hestia nodded but Effie just clung to the baby, still obviously scared and overwhelmed. “come with me, your host family is excitedly awaiting your arrivals” Effie allowed him to guide her into town. It would normally be busy this time of day but the town had had many meetings about the arrival of these women and they agreed it might be easier for them if they didn’t have to walk through a crowd of people the second they came. They were staying in but most were looking out their windows at them.

“So who will we be staying with?” Effie asked nervously.

“A family whose daughter moved out not long ago, she got married so her room is free. They’ve made sure everything is comfortable for all of you, they even got a crib for the baby.”

“You said women are protected here?”

“In this world marriages are arranged between men and women, parents do their best to choose a husband that matches their daughters personality, that will love and cherish them for who they are. If either is displeased then they can back out without argument. If there are any signs of abuse or violence from either party then the couple is separated and the abuser punished. Even though the hope is that a woman will bear female children, that doesn’t change their attitude towards each other.”

“And they’re married just like that?”

“Well not exactly, they have to run in the Great Hunt.”

“What’s that?”

He smiled. “It’s like a competition to see if the man is good enough to wed the woman. He has to catch her. I hear couples often bond during and form lasting relationships with one another. You’ll find that most of the couples you encounter are part of an arranged marriage.”

“so the marriage doesn’t have to be arranged”

“Oh no, it’s all choice. If a woman doesn’t want an arranged marriage or the great hunt she is free to choose that” Hearing none of that would be mandatory for her and her girls made her more comfortable. She didn’t want these men forcing themselves on little Hestia or Cori when she was older. All of this was still so scary but things looked so clean and beautiful here. Hestia and Cori wouldn’t have to go hungry anymore, they might not have to live in fear either if these people really were good.

A family came into view and when they were close Zenon introduced them “Effie, Hestia, this is the Rose family. Their sons name is Felix, this man here is Zed and his wife is Braith.”

“It’s wonderful to meet you Effie” Braith said with a smile.

“Nice to meet you too, um thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank us dear, we’re happy to help.” Zed replied. “You’ll have everything you need and we promise to make you feel safe.”

“See, they’re good people.” Zenon said with a warm smile. “Now I must get back to Lotus, will you be alright without me?”

“We’ve managed this long, I think we’ll be okay. Thank you and please thank your wife.”

“I will.” Zenon left them and Effie turned back to their host family.

“So, how about we get you three home so you can get warm and clean, we’ve already made breakfast so you can eat as soon as you get out.” Braith said as she placed a gentle hand on Effie’s back. “You made their beds right Felix?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, everything’s ready, even the crib.” Felix was embarrassed that he had actually been staring at Effie, but she hadn’t seemed to notice so he played it off.

Effie felt a tug at her heart thinking her daughter would actually have a crib to sleep in. Up until this point they all just had to sleep wherever they could but now these girls would have a roof over their heads and the same bed every night. Braith ran a hot bath and set out some rags and towels. “I can stay and help if you’d like Effie. Maybe I can wash the baby for you so we can get you three fed sooner. ” This womans face was so kind. She had welcomed them into her home not knowing them atall so Effie decided to let her wash little Cori. “Thank you” Effie handed her baby over. Effie couldn’t help but keep glancing at Braith to make sure her daughter was okay while she washed.

Braith noticed but didn’t take any offense. When she was done cleaning the baby Braith wrapped her in a soft towel and asked “Could I walk out with her. I’m going to finish drying her and then I’ll put some new clothes on her. I still have all my daughters clothes in my attic, from the time she was born until the last one she grew out of before she left”

Effie was a little more fearful of Braith being out of her sight with Cori but if this woman wanted to hurt her baby she could have already done it by now. “Um…okay…just…be careful with her please”

“Of course Effie, thank you for letting me.”

Chapter Two

“The water’s so warm.” Hestia said. “I never knew it could be so warm.”

“From now on you’ll always be warm sweetie.”

“How long do you think they’ll let us stay? Do you think they’ll ask for anything?”

“I don’t know and I don’t think so, but no matter what I’ll always protect you two.” Hestia nodded then relaxed in the water. Effie did her best to stay positive, not wanting to offend these people with her suspicion. She was going to work hard to show trust.

“Felix dear would you hold the baby for me while I get the girls plates?” Braith said to her son.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, it’ll only be for a moment.”

Felix gently took the baby and cradled her to his chest. She was so little, he couldn’t imagine how she had survived. He could only imagine how determined Effie had been. “Hey little one, how are you?” He said softly.

He smiled at the sweet little noises she made. He was doing so well with the little girl his mother just let him keep holding her so she could bring Effie and Hestia clothes. “I hope these will be comfortable”

“It’ll just be nice to have something decent to wear. Thank you so much. I appreciate this”

“we’re glad to help.”

“where’s my baby?” Effie had to ask “my son is holding her. Cori seems to like him. I had initially only given her to him to make your plates but he was doing so well with her I had him keep holding her while I brought you clothes. Is that alright?”

“Yes, I just had to ask..I’m sorry”

“You don’t need to apologize. I don’t expect you to feel safe or comfortable with us just yet. The angels told us quite a bit of the world you’ve lived in. We understand” Effie nodded and Braith walked out so they could dry and dress alone. When Braith sat at the table her husband kissed her head “relax honey, you’re stressing”

“I know, it’s silly. I just want to make them comfortable. I hate how sad and scared Hestia and Effie look. Plus the gods themselves trusted us, the Roses to help them. That’s such an honor they’d pick our family”

“You’re doing amazing and look, she trusted you enough to take her daughter. That has to mean something Braith”

Effie couldn’t help but stop and look at herself in the mirror before leaving the bathroom. She was clean, completely clean and warm. Her hair was brushed and her lips weren’t blue. She almost didn’t recognize herself. “Come on Effie, I’m starving.” Hestia said.

“Sorry, sweetie.”

She and Hestia left the bathroom and the smell of food once again hit their noses. Effie’s stomach grumbled, begging for a taste of what had to be something delicious. The first thing Effie noticed upon entering the living room was Felix walking around with Cori, rocking her and talking softly to her. She actually paused, her heart dancing at how gentle he was being. “Hey little one,” he said, “are you hungry?” He smiled at her when she made a cooing noise. “How about we see if your mommy is up to feeding you.” He looked up from the baby, his eyes immediately meeting hers and she felt heat in her cheeks. “Oh, hello, I think she might be hungry.”

“Oh, yes, should I take her somewhere?”

“Why don’t you sit here on the couch and I’ll get your plate that way you can both eat.”

“Okay.” She sat down, feeling a little nervous and he handed her Cori before going into the kitchen. She cradled her close and lifted her shirt, getting her latched on just as Felix came back with two plates.

“I hope chicken’s okay.”

“Anything is okay.”

He chuckled, putting her plate on the coffee table. “Would it be okay if I kept you company? If you don’t want me to because your feeding the baby, I can sit at the table with the others.”

“No, it’s fine please sit. Is Hestia okay?”

Felix sat next to her, making sure to give her space. “Oh yeah, she’s stuffing her face as we speak, but don’t worry, my parents won’t let her eat until she’s sick.”

She was so taken by his violet eyes she had to ask “do a lot of men in your world have such pretty violet eyes?” He smiled “Not really”

“I like them a lot. I didn’t know eyes could be violet”

“My sister is hoping one of her kids has violet eyes”

“How long has she been married?”

“a few months but they started trying right away. It’s pretty important to start trying once you’re married. We’re all hoping whatever went wrong is fixed or figured out soon. They are both excited though, regardless of gender they both want to be parents. When she sees your adorable little girl I know she’ll want to hold her” Effie looked down at her daughter with complete admiration “she is beautiful isn’t she? I’m so happy she’ll have a crib now and I don’t have to worry about her as much. I also hope now that I’ll have steady food I can make more milk for her. I know she shouldn’t still be so tiny but..I do my best for her”

“the fact you’ve kept her alive shows what a good mom you are. I know I don’t know everything but the angels explained a lot to us as my mom said. It sounded like a horrible place to live”

“It was” She looked a bit sad thinking about it so he tried to salvage the conversation and make her happy again. “Um, have you ever seen horses before?”

“I’ve seen dead ones”

“how about I take you to see some of the horses when you and Cori finish eating?”

“Just us?”

“My mom will watch Hestia but she can come too if you don’t want to leave her”

“I’ll let her decide.”

They ate their breakfast, making small talk, Felix trying not to ask too many uncomfortable questions. When they were finished, Felix took both plates to the kitchen while Effie changed Cori’s diaper. Hestia was sitting there talking to his parents and gave him a nervous smile when he came in. “I’m going to take Effie and the baby out to see the horses, would you like to come Hestia?”

She seemed to think about it for a bit and Felix waited patiently. “I’m a little tired, I think I’ll take a nap and you can take me later.”

“Are you sure? It won’t be an issue.”

“Yeah, you can just take Effie and Cori, I’ll be fine.”

“Alright and if you get worried, my dad can bring you to where we are.”

“Take good care of them”

“I will” He excitedly walked back into the living room where Effie was just standing there, cradling and talking to Cori about going out. “Is Hestia coming?” Effie asked and he said “No, are you two ready to go?”

“yeah” She seemed to get a little more nervous when they were outside the house “Nobody will hurt you. It’s okay, it’s very peaceful here” She nodded and tried to be a bit more confident as she walked with him. He was now noticing how torn up her diaper bag looked. He decided to mention it to his mother so they could get her a new one for Cori’s things. “what?” Effie asked and he said “sorry, just thinking about your diaper bag. I’ll have my parents get you a new one”

“Oh…thank you”

Cori deserves the best so she’ll get the best. Do you have a color you prefer, an animal?”

“I never really thought about it.”

“I’ll make it a surprise then.”

His smile made her heart stutter. “Sounds good.” She cleared her throat. “How far are we going?”

“Not far, I promise. Would you like me to carry the baby or your bag?”

“No, it’s fine, thank you.”

“Well tell me if you get tired.” The stable was on the other side of the village and Effie’s eyes were drawn to the horses walking around the corral. Her mouth dropped open slightly and her eyes widened and Felix let out an amused chuckle that had her blushing.

“They are truly beautiful. I didn’t know a horse could be so pretty”

“when you’re more comfortable here with my family you should let my mom watch the baby too so I can take you riding”

“Riding?”

“Yep, it’s a lot of fun” Effie nodded “I’d like that at somepoint” She wanted to trust them wholly, to not hurt their feelings but she had just gotten there and couldn’t leave little Cori alone with them yet. She was glad that Felix seemed to understand that and hadn’t asked that of her yet. They were welcomed into the stables by the people who tended to the horses. Effie was glad they seemed just as friendly as the Rose family was. They looked at, talked about and stroked many of the horses. Little Cori even got to feel the impressive and beautiful animals.

“Do you want to just sit on one a few moments? I’ll hold Cori”

“Yeah, I can saddle him up easy. This is a good horse” The man who had been following them said

“O…okay.” She waited until the horse was saddled before handing him Cori and letting the stableband help her up. She was amazed at how high up she was and gripped the saddle horn until her knuckles turned white. “You okay?” Felix asked as he swayed with Cori.

“Yeah, just…wow.”

He smiled. “You’ll get better the more time you spend in the saddle. Once you’re ready I’ll take you as much as you want.”

“I’d really like that.”

She sat there for a little longer, soaking up this experience. She couldn’t believe she was actually on the back of a horse, that she could feel the creature living and breathing. She finally asked the stable hand to help her down and thanked him. “You’re a natural.” Felix said as he handed her Cori.

“Really?”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to take you riding and Hestia as well and Cori too when she’s old enough.”

Chapter Three

They went back home and found Hestia in the living room with his parents, his sister and her husband Icarus. They were playing a card game “Effie!” Hestia got up and ran to hug her “Having fun?”

“Yeah, these two are Icarus and Alecto. Alecto is their daughter” Alecto came over “It’s nice to meet you”

“It’s nice to meet you too”

“May I hold your baby?”

“Okay” Alecto could hear the nervousness in her voice so she took the baby as gently as she could and they all sat down. “did you enjoy the horses?” Braith asked. “They are gorgeous” Effie answered with aw in her voice. “I told her she should come alone with me one day so we could go riding” Cori began crying and Effie excused herself to go feed her in Alectos old room. Hestia followed, she had been having fun but after being around eachother twenty four seven for over a year it was hard to be apart.

“They seem like sweethearts” Alecto said and her mother answered “Yeah, it’s going to be nice having them in our home.”

“holding her baby makes me want one even more”

“Hopefully soon” Effie and the two younger girls soon came back and they spent the rest of the day hanging out. After a few weeks Felix was finally able to convince Effie to let his mother babysit while they went out riding. They were at the door but Effie hadn’t passed the baby off yet. “I’m sorry” she said softly when she finally let Braith have her “have fun, I have formula if she gets hungry” Effie nodded “thank you…for everything”

When they were gone Zed pointed out “did you see how thrilled our son was to get her out of this house alone?”

“I know, he has a pretty major crush on her. He was attracted when he first saw her, I could tell but his feelings for her are growing”

“Maybe when she’s been here a bit longer we can talk to them about getting married”

“You don’t think that will scare her?”

“we can just make sure she knows it’s a choice and theres no pressure. We wont hold her saying no against her or the girls”

“I don’t know”

“lets just see how things are in a month or two”

“Okay” Felix had Effie sit in front of him so he could hold her for her first ride. After awhile of this, if she wasn’t tired of being up on a horse he would let her practice riding her own. “Oh my gosh” she said when the mare started moving and he laughed “we’ll be fine” he said comfortingly. He enjoyed riding horses but this was especially nice because he got to be so close to her. He was happy she seemed so comfortable in his arms. He could tell any nervousness had to do with this being her first real ride on a horse.

“I can have her go faster”

“Okay” He nudged the horse a bit and she went faster, giving him an excuse to hold Effie a little more tightly to him. Eventually she felt at complete ease and began to fully enjoy the experience with him. They took a break at lunch. He set up a little picnic for them by a little pond. “This is amazing…one of the best days of my life…thank you”

“you don’t have to thank me. I’m having a really good time with you” Effie blushed, this felt so much like a date though she knew it wasn’t. Felix was incredibly handsome and sweet, there were probably lots of other girls he’d pick over her if he were ready to be with someone. She couldn’t imagine woman not wanting him or to be a part of his amazing family.

“Would you like to ride some more?” He asked when they finished eating and picking up.

“Sure.”

“Are you sure? We could just relax if you like.”

“I really want to.”

He smiled. “Okay, I have somewhere amazing to take you if you’d like to go.”

“I’d love too.”

He helped her back into the saddle and climbed up behind her, his arm wrapping tightly around her as he tapped his heels against the horse. He took her through the woods and up to a cliff that overlooked the village. She was amazed by the view and sat there staring. “Beautiful isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I love it here.” They stayed there, talking for awhile and admiring the beauty below before heading back. Effie had been excited to hold her little girl again but when they returned she was sleeping soundly in her crib “she was an angel. Any time you want to go out I don’t mind keeping her.”

“I’m so glad, is Hestia gone again?”

“Yes, the other kids around here adore her. They came asking her to play again” Effie hugged Braith which surprised her a little but she happily hugged her back. Effie didn’t explain and Braith didn’t ask. Effie was just so grateful to them. Because of their willingness to take them in they had a life, the two little girls who meant everything to her had a life, would have a normal, peaceful life. She owed this family so much.

A few months passed and Felix’s father, Zed took him on a walk to talk to him about Effie “Before we try to talk to her I wanted to see how you felt first. Do you like her? As in do you have feelings for her?”

“Yeah, she’s amazing. What do you want to talk to her about?”

“Marrying you” He stopped walking, feeling a mix of happiness and surprise. His father chuckled “your mother and I noticed how you feel and while we don’t know her that well we think she likes you too. If you’d like us to we wanted to see if she’d agree to marry you. You’d have to do it the normal way despite the fact she’ll know who is chasing her but we’d like to arrange for you two to be together. Maybe the two of you will have more girl children. With her already having one there’s a pretty good chance.”

“Please talk to her dad. I want that so much. I care about her tremendously”

“then lets head home and we’ll talk to Effie”

She was sitting on the couch reading when they arrived, little Cori asleep in her arms. She looked up and smiled, making his heart dance. “Effie, can we talk to you?” Zed asked.

“Of course.” She said as she sat her book down and shifted Cori over. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all, we just had something we wanted to ask you.”

“Okay, let me put Cori in her crib, I’ll just be a minute.” She slowly stood and Felix felt more nervous as he waited. When she came back, she could see he was thinking really hard about something. “So? What’s going on?”

“Effie, as you know here we often arrange marriages here between men and women and we believe we have found someone suitable for you.” He looked at Felix and Felix took a calming breath.

“It’s not the traditional way of asking, but I wanted to know if you would marry me. We would have to go through with the hunt, but I love you, I love the kids and I want to be with you. If you say no, I’ll understand, I want only your happiness.”

“You’d really want me? Me and my girls?”

“Of course, you’re beautiful and little Cori is so sweet and Hestia is a good girl too.”

“um, just out of curiosity why would we still do the hunt?”

“It’s fun for the people. I suppose you don’t actually HAVE to but most still do it”

“It does sound like fun. I’d…I’d love to marry you Felix..I’m” her face near overheated and he went over and hugged her. Zed stood “I’ll start getting everything arranged” Braith was so happy and excited she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was glad Effie had said yes and she could tell it wasn’t out of some feeling of obligation, she loved Felix too and Braith felt lucky both her kids would get to be married. She knew everything would work out for Alecto but with so few girls she didn’t know if Felix would ever get chosen for the hunt.

“What kind of mask do you want, Effie?” Zed asked. “I’ll have to get them made.”

“Mask?”

“During the Hunt, we wear masks. My sister and Icarus wore a fox and wolf mask.” Felix explained. “It’s generally so they can’t judge each other by looks, but even though we’ve already seen each other, I think it would be a wonderful memento to have.”

“Oh, well I…I guess a horse, is that good?”

“That suits you, love.” Felix said as he gently stroked her cheek. “You’ll be so beautiful in it.”

“What about you?” She asked, her cheeks warming.

“Dad already knows what I want.”

“Just like his sister, he favors the fox.”

“I think you’ll look handsome in that mask”‘ Felix’s parents took care of all the arrangements and in a little over a months time the town was ready for the hunt and the celebration that would follow. Even Hestia was excited for Effie as she stood watching, holding baby Cori. “so I’ll be doing this one day?” Hestia asked Braith when both Effie and Felix had run off. “Yep, when Effie and Felix feel like they’ve found the right man for you”

“Huh”

“what?”

“I don’t know, just interesting”

“It;s the easiest way. The elders thinks it helps to keep things normal and calm. Women don’t get hurt this way. Theres nobody brawling over them or trying to kidnap them because they know they just have to wait for their chance to be chosen by the parents of a girl and be set up with one.” They continued talking about this and the worlds other traditions, new and old until Effie returned with in Felix’s arms. Hestia had passed the baby to Zed when her arms tired so was now able to clap.

Effie giggled as he set her down to walk hand in hand “that was exhilarating”

“I loved it, just as I love you Effie” Alecto ran up and hugged her, soon followed by Icarus. Effie had grown very close to Felix’s sister in this time as well. “I’m so happy you’re marrying my brother Effie! This is going to be amazing. Where’s Cori and Hestia? I can’t find them and our parents”

“They were worried the excitement might be too loud for Cori so they stayed a ways back, by the tree we often used as a base for tag as children”

“I’m going to go love on her” Alectos kissed Effie’s cheek “My brother is a sweetie and I’m not just saying that blindly because I’m related to him, he really is a good man.” The two ran off, leaving Effie with a huge smile. The celebration afterwards drew tears from Effies eyes and when she began to near sob Felix took her away, back to his home where they could be alone “you okay? Are…are you regretting marrying me?”

“No, not at all…I’m just so happy. This….I never thought my life would be anything like this…that I could live anywhere near normal and happy” Felix felt relieved and just held her “I’ll always make you happy. I’ll do my best anyway”

“are we going to start on babies?” she asked a bit nervously. She wasn’t a virgin anymore but she had only had sex that one time with Hestia’s brother and she hadn’t wanted it. It was just worth going through to save her. It would be completely different with Felix. “when you’re ready”

“I’m ready for a kid again…I’m just nervous about sex”

“we can go slow”

“That wont frustrate you? It’s not like I’m a virgin”

“doesn’t mean you can’t be nervous.”

“You really are a good guy Felix”

“and you are an amazing woman Effie. Lets not over think, lets just let things happen how they happen. Cori will be one before long so if you want a sort of time line maybe we can just sort of heavily make out and feel eachother a bit up until that point. After her first birthday party I mean. We have months until then so not only is there no pressure you have a timeline because from getting to know you I know you’re going to worry about upsetting me so you can just tell yourself he’s not wanting anything more until Cori is one”

Effie didn’t know if she wanted to laugh, smile or cry. He was completely adorable and she kissed him. “I love you Felix”

“I love you too Effie. Lets go back to celebrating with the town and my family” she nodded and back out they went. Effie couldn’t help but be nervous about many many things despite the fact she knew most of what she worried about didn’t bother Felix. She just loved him so incredibly much and appreciated his familys help beyond measure and she never wanted to mess any of this up for her or her girls. The future held so much and she promised herself she’d be the best wife she could possibly be for Felix.

~ The End

Nigel & Vina 3

Chapter One

Vina’s eyes snapped open, the world around her was so dark, almost pitch black. She had a feeling if she wasn’t a demon she wouldn’t be able to see at all. Her analyzation of where she was came to an abrupt halt when thousands of different types of bugs started crawling all over every inch of her body. She started to scream and some entered her mouth causing her to choke. She started to try and move but then she realized her legs and wrists were tied. She struggled, gagged and cried until suddenly she was standing, bug free and the ropes were gone. A man was before her, his expression manic she started to back up which only seemed to make the man look crazier. She was terrified of him and what he might do to her. “Nigel!” she screamed and he cackled before vanishing. “Nigel!” she screamed in absolute horror.

Vina began to run. She didn’t know where she was going but she had a deep need to run. She started hearing that mans laughter again. She covered her ears and kept running. Questions ran through her head, where was she? Was this a nightmare? Wasn’t she in Nigels arms when they fell asleep? Who was that disturbing man? Was he why she was here? Her thoughts were once again driven to a halt when she found herself surrounded by hell hounds. The cackling began again or maybe it had never stopped. The hounds attacked, ripping at her. They were ripping flesh from her body as she screamed in agony. She was on the brink of death when the man appeared again. The dogs ran away whimpering and she was suddenly healed. He squatted down, grabbing her by her rabbit ears “Welcome little bitch. You’re going to come to the brink of death many many times but I’ll never let you.” Her demon senses could pick up he had gotten aroused watching the dogs do that to her. He seemed to be getting off even now just from the look of terror in her eyes. “I know all of your worst fears little rabbit and I’m going to love torturing you with them.”

“Nigel” she whimpered even though he probably couldn’t hear her. He started laughing again even his laugh was disturbing. The deranged man spoke again “Nigel, you know he and I were once friends. We did this sort of thing together until Chthon changed him” he said Chthons name like it was vile. He chuckled “but don’t go thinking I’m doing this to cause him pain. I do this all the time, it’s the only way I can get off you see. Biches like you suffering, fearing for your lives, that delicious terror in those big eyes..It’s just that Nigel wont play with me anymore so you’re not safe. I saw you at his side and I needed you. We’ve always had the same taste in women and it seems that hasn’t changed but before I have sex with you I need to watch you suffer awhile longer. You wont survive this little bitch but I wanted you to know for my own enjoyment that your mate used to be friends with someone like me”

“Li…liar, he said…he said he never…ra…raped.”

“Oh how cute and the little bunny believed him.” He pulled her closer. “Get ready to run.”

Nigel woke feeling groggy, his stomach twisted in knots. He was laying in the grass where he and Vina and fallen asleep. He pushed himself onto his hands and knees, his head swimming. “Vina?” He called and his heart leaped when he got no answer. A light breeze blew over him and he picked up a familiar scent, a scent he had hoped to forget. “Vina!” He yelled as he stumbled to his feet. He knew this sedative, knew he had been drugged into a deeper sleep so he could stop his love from being stolen. He had to find her, to stop him before he killed her. He took a deep breath, steadying himself.

He started thinking of the multiple places his old friend used to take women to torture them. His heart wrenched again at the thought, knowing the things that were probably happening to his mate, knowing he had probably told her they were friends. He hoped he hadn’t chose to attack Vina because of him and that he wasn’t lieing to her about anything. The truth of him helping torture women was enough without any lies added about him participating in raping women. He had been telling the truth when he told Vina that and he hoped she would still believe him after coming face to face with that monster and having to endure the things Nigel just watched, offering no help to the victims. He had been such a heartless bastard and another heartless bastard who he used to call friend had his Vina.

Regardless of how Vina felt about him now or what she believed he had to hurry and get her back. He tried his old friend Ishams favorite spot first, praying that’s where she was. Vina was hyperventilating as she looked on in horror at an image of Prima being tortured. She had watched Prima be murdered and mutilated multiple times now and everytime Vina tried to help the images vanished but they would just start again at another location. Nigel had taught her a lot and she knew this was mirage magic but it was still horrible and miserable to watch. It looked and sounded just like her best friend and she couldnt’ escape the images no matter how she tried.

Everything stopped again and she started bawling as she tried to get up. “Nigel please” she cried again.

Nigel felt himself beginning to panic as he left another of his old companions haunts. It was empty, smelling of dust and mold. Each place held memories for him, memories he was ashamed of. He felt himself choking up as he racked his brain. Most of the places they had frequented were out of the way, but there was one in particular that was far more complicated to find. It rested in a place between worlds and it took some time to get to. He knew the routine, knew what Vina would be going through and he hated himself for it. He needed help, needed Chthon to help him.

Vina say shivering, her knees pulled up to her chest and hands holding her head. She heard him laughing again and he appeared before her. She scrambled away and he grabbed her by her ears. “I don’t think so.” He forced her to look at him.

“Nigel, give me back to Ni…Nigel.”

“Nigel, Nigel,” he grinned, “maybe I should use his face.” His face changed to Nigel’s and she squeezed her eyes closed.

“Not real, not real. Stop!”

He laughed that horrible, manic laugh again. In all the time she had been traveling the world with Nigel she had never heard such an unnerving sound. She didn’t understand how something like a laugh could be so demented. “Look at me” he snarled, his voice sounded the same even though he looked like Nigel. “This isn’t real” she repeated. He slammed her into the ground then held her in the air again by her long, white ears. “Look at me you damn rabbit!”

“I wont”

His other hand wrapped around her throat. “Open them or I’ll rip your pretty little rabbit ears off.”

She whimpered, but just scrunched her eye closed harder. She wasn’t going to let him taint her and Nigel’s relationship. She had faith that Nigel was looking for her, she just had to hold on. “Do…do it, I won’t look.” He growled and slammed her into the ground, both hands around her throat now as he straddled her.

“That would be too easy.” She couldn’t breathe and she kicked and fought him, her eyes snapping open in her panic. A small amount of relief flooded through her when she saw he no longer looked like Nigel. She had made him mad enough that the illusion had slipped.

Nigel didn’t know how long he ran, only that his fear was pushing him. In traveling with Vina he had managed to find a few shortcuts so he made it to Chthon’s front door much faster than if he had taken the direct route. He pushed through it, the sound of the door banging against the wall drawing the attention of everyone in the castle. “Chthon!” He yelled, the fear in his voice bringing his friend instantly to his side.

“Nigel, what happened?” He looked around. “Where is Vina?”

“I think someone I used to consider a friend has her. I recognize the drug he used on me while we were resting. Chthon, it’s too much to explain but he’s the type of demon who would have been best friends with your father. He’s torturing her, all he does is torture and rape. I don’t think he targeted her to hurt me. He doesn’t give a shit about anybody else enough for that. I think he took her because of simple attraction.” Nigel was starting to choke on his tears as he continued “Vinas too sweet and innocent for this. She can’t handle it Chthon. Please help me”

“Calm down Nigel. You need to be thinking clearly. Where do you think he has her?”

“There’s this place inbetween worlds he must have her in. Your the best I know at getting to those places”

“Okay, just help me figure out where. We’ll get Vina, she’ll be okay I swear”

“You can’t, not even you can promise me Vina will be fine. I honestly don’t know if she can handle this”

Mekhi was trying struggling to take Vinas panties off when Vinas terror stirred magic inside of her. Magic she hadn’t been aware rested within her. Suddenly he was propelled off her. He had her panties in hand but he was almost a football fields length away. Vina scrambled to her feet, baffled by what she had just done. If she hadn’t felt it come from her she might not have believed she did it. She had always lead such a peaceful life. Nothing was aggressive in the world she grew up in and at Nigels side she was always safe and without worry. Maybe she was stronger than she thought she was and just had never needed it before.

“Little bitch.” He growled as he got back to his feet. A wall appeared behind her and started pushing her towards him. She pressed her back flat against it, digging her heels into the ground and scraping them up as she was forced forward. She screamed when he reached for her and the wall behind her exploded and she pushed herself away from him. “Oh I see, you want to play, well I can play. How about a rabbit hunt?” He laughed. “I don’t even mind the dogs tearing you up, blood only makes it better.” Vina suddenly found herself standing in a forest and she glanced around then let her eyes settle back on her captor. He had the dogs again, slobbering, red eyed beasts with blood stained teeth. “I would run.”

Chthon stood next to the pond, his eyes focused on the placid water. Liquids were the best for opening doors. There was power in water. Nigel had explained the place they would be going was manipulated by ones own mental powers. You could do anything there. It was a blank slate where Mekhi liked to play his mind games, where Nigel himself had watched and done nothing to stop him. He was ashamed to be facing Vina, but he had to get her and if she chose to leave him, he would understand. Now she would know how dark he had been, now she would be disgusted. “Are you ready?” Chthon asked.

“Yes, I just want her safe. Now I see what you went through, now I understand what it feels like to have your heart ripped from your chest. I won’t let him rape and kill her, I won’t let that be her last memory.”

“She’s strong Nigel, stronger than you know. It takes a warrior to love monsters like us. We’ll get her back and end his life.” He held his hand out, manipulating the water. It swirled up in a spout and he started chanting, changing the very fabric of it to form a doorway between his world and the one Vina was being held in.

Nigel clenched his fists. “He’s mine Chthon, I have to finish him myself.” Chthon understood, this was something Nigel had to do and he wouldn’t interfere unless it was necessary

Chapter Two

Vina pushed her body as hard as she could to keep running. Sweat trailed down her body, it pouring out of every inch of her she had been running like this so long. She knew he was just waiting for her to tire out, that he simply enjoyed her running in fear of him. She now was just trying to think of what to do. She had no idea what she was capable of so it made it near impossible to decide on something. She had long since given up calling for her mate. He wasn’t here and she might not be seeing him again. Even if she survived this horrible man she could be anywhere and Vina had no idea how to travel by herself.

She might be stuck in this awful, depressing world. The sound of barking grew louder and seemed to surround her more so she glanced back, seeing there were even more dogs following her now “shit” she cursed, another thing she hadn’t done before. “You’re impressive little rabbit. Most women gave up long before now but you keep running like you really have a chance of getting away from me” it sounded like he was whispering in her ear even though he was far behind her. “I don’t give up!” she called back and he laughed again.

Nigel wasn’t surprised when they stepped through and into a forest. This was one of Mekhi’s favorite games, the hunt. “He’s using the dogs.” Nigel said as he opened up his senses, looking for Vina. His heart nearly stopped when the scent of blood hit his nose. “He hurt her.” He took off at a dead sprint, Chthon easily keeping up with him. “He hurt my sweet Vina.” Nigel’s anger far outweighed his fear and he let that old rage wash over him. It was an emotion he hadn’t felt in a long time, but he needed it. He called on dogs of his own, these much fast and sleeker than those Mekhi favored, these were sight hounds and they would easily spot Vina. He sent them out to look for her, ordering them to protect her.

“This place is strange.” Chthon stated.

“I told you, it’s a blank slate and Mekhi will try using that to his advantage.”

Vina was so tired, but she knew she had to keep going. She tried doing what she had seen Nigel and the other do and held out her hand, wanting a weapon of some kind. When she could will anything to happen, not fire or a knife she almost felt like crying. She told herself to stay calm, taking a deep breath. She had seen her pursuer manipulate this place and if he could do it, then so could she. She held out her hand again, picturing a knife and nearly jumped with joy when one actually appeared. It wasn’t much, but she could at least stab him if he got to close.

“Little rabbit” the words were all around her in whispers. She got herself ready to fight him, fighting off the fear in herself. She needed to be brave, she needed to live to see her best friend Prima and her mate Nigel again. She still hadn’t even got to raise a baby with Nigel. They had been trying and talking about it so long and she just couldn’t die until she got to have a child with him. She didn’t believe this monster she was alone with. Nigel had always been honest no matter how bad the truth was. Upon meeting he had told her about his past without any sort of prompting. Nigel wasn’t a liar and a horrible man like this wasn’t going to sway her conviction in the fact Nigel was an honest man.

It was awful knowing there was a point in time he could possibly be friends with her tormentor but she wouldn’t hold that against him. He had changed, she had seen it first hand being with him all these years. He wasn’t able to change his past and she adored the man he was now. She wanted to thank Chthon again if she lived for changing Nigel.

Vina heard more dogs and managed not to whimper this time. At this point she was too determined to be terrified. Let the dogs come at her, she was ready to gut them. She was caught off guard when she noticed these dogs weren’t the same as the ones she had been seeing. She gripped her knife ready to fight but somthing told her these hounds weren’t here to hurt her, they were here to help.

“Here bunny, come out.” It sounded like he was everywhere and the dogs surrounded her, completely calm as they waited. His dogs came out before him, drool dripping from their mouths and the beautiful hounds surrounding her moved forward, teeth suddenly bared and growls rumbling in their throats. “Found you.” He was grinning and then he saw the dogs. “Where did you get those?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Don’t play with me bitch, those are Nigel’s dogs.”

She lowered the knife a little. “Nigel? Nigel’s here?”

Mekhi growled and attacked her, his dogs going for the hounds protecting her. His hand was around her throat and he slammed her against a tree, knocking the wind out of her. “I guess I should end this game then before he gets here.” He slammed her onto the ground and she kicked at him. He started unbuckling his pants when she remembered the knife in her hand. She squeezed the handle and with all of her might, she stabbed him in the shoulder, burying the blade completely. He released her and she scrambled up, sprinting away, the dogs coming with her.

When his mate came into view Nigel also saw Mekhi close behind, gripping his shoulder and looking thoroughly pissed off. “Chthon! Take Vina back to your castle where she will be safe. As long as she is in this world with him she’s in danger. I’ll follow after he’s dead”

“are you sure? You know I can keep her safe and here. I worry you wont be able to make it home if I leave you. This is a tricky place to find and leave”

“Okay, just please, protect her as you would Ruth”

“Of course, you are still one of my best friends Nigel.” Chthon went for Vina while Nigel went to face an old friend. Vina noticed her mate and stopped “Nigel!” He didn’t know what to say back. He was consumed in his rage and need to annihilate Mekhi. Vina was alive which meant she hadn’t been raped yet but this demon had been torturing his mate and that was unforgivable to Nigel. Chthon grabbed Vina “are you okay? Anything I need to tend to right this second?”

“No, what’s Nigel doing?”

“He’s going to kill Mekhi. I’ve saved a lot of demons Vina but I can already feel theres nothing but blackness in this ones heart. It’s what needs to be done. I hope knowing how many demons I’ve turned around you trust that this is true Vina”

“I trust you, I trust you both” Vina said emotionally. It caught Nigels ears and he felt some comfort. His mate still trusted him.

“Nigel, how good to see you.” Mekhi said as he wrenched the knife from his shoulder. “It’s so nice to see you again.”

Nigel punched him, sending him flying. “You bastard, how dare you touch what is mine.”

Mekhi laughed as he picked himself up. “Oh, so you’re the only one who can fuck the little bunny eared bitch?”

Nigel’s rage conjured storm clouds above them and it poured rain, soaking everything. “I’m going to kill you Mekhi.”

“Oh Nigel, how weak you have become. Letting a little whore and that new master of yours tell you how to live. Does she know how depraved you were, that she’s exactly your type. I bet you think back to all of the times you watched me every time you have sex with her. You’re just like me Nigel, don’t deny it.”

“I never got off on you raping women and you know that. Stop trying to scare her” Nigel seethed.There was that manic laugh again. It made Vina move closer to Chthon who put up a sound proof shield around them. Vina looked at Chthon in surprise “You don’t need to listen to that horrible mans taunts” he looked her in the eyes and said “looking at you it seems anything this demon may have said about Nigel hasn’t swayed you. I’m glad, Nigel is a good man now and has been since long before I even found my Ruth. He loves you massively Vina. You could so easily destroy Nigel. He’s been worried how you might feel about him now”

“He’s admitted so much to me over the years. I know Nigel would never lie. Even though he’s told me about who he used to be it’s hard to imagine he could be friends with this demon”

“Nigel was fairly close to too far gone when I met him but I still saw good in him. I knew if I worked hard enough I could save him and I turned out to be right”

“Thank you…I love him so much…he’s made me life so much better. If it weren’t for you I would have met the old Nigel and never would have known all this happiness with him”

Nigel attacked Mekhi and the demon grinned as he slashed at him with the knife, cutting Nigel’s cheek open. “You’re not as strong as I am Nigel, not even close.” The world around them began to shift and change so they were suddenly standing on a mountain. There was nothing but fog around them and sheer cliffs on all sides. It was still pouring rain and Mekhi held out the knife, willing it to lengthen into a sword. Nigel dodged the first slash of the blade, but the follow up caught him across the chest. Blood soaked his shirt and Vina wanted to run to him.

“Stay Vina.” Chthon said.

“He could die.”

“No, I know this trick. Nigel tried it with me when we first met, he’s testing Mekhi, looking for an opening. He knows he is formidable, but Mekhi’s weakness is his pride. He thinks he’s going to beat Nigel, but he doesn’t understand that Nigel wants him to attack.”

Vina watched, gripped in fear for Nigel until she finally saw him take his chance. Mekhi had gotten cocky, thinking he was just that superior to Nigel so he gave Nigel the perfect opening to kill him. Nigel snapped his old friends neck then stole the sword he had been holding to stab him in calculated places to be sure he would be dead. The rain slowed but didn’t stop as he cast away the sword angrily and turned to walk to Vina. Chthon took down the sound proof shield and allowed Vina to run to him.

Nigel didn’t really know what to do with himself as Vina ran towords him. Here he was, before her again absolutely ashamed of himself. Vina huggged him and he hugged back as he silently cried “My sweet Vina, are you okay?” he said into her hair. “You’re bleeding Nigel. We need to get home”

“Do you still love me?”

“Of course Nigel”

“I’m sorry” She took his hand and started pulling him to Chthon. “stop that, lets hurry” Chthon took them home where they healed both Nigel and Vina. Needing to talk to Vina alone the couple went to Nigels old room. Chthon always left it empty for them. Vina spoke the second they entered. She didn’t want her mate looking so heartbroken. “Nigel, I don’t for a second blame you for him hurting me”

“what did he say to you?”

“That you two were friends and he tried to convince me you raped women but I didn’t believe him. You’ve always been truthful no matter how embarrassing the truth. I’d be an idiot to trust a maniac over my loving mate. You’ve been nothing but good to me since we met in Qwerxi.

“The things I did Vina, hurting people, killing people, I regret that. I’m ashamed of my actions, ashamed of the man I was then. I hate that he hurt you and I couldn’t stop him.” Tears stung his eyes and he clenched his fists, wanting to kill Mekhi again. “If not for Chthon, that is what I would have become.”

“Nigel,” She hugged him. “I don’t believe that for a moment. I know what you’ve done, I saw the consequences with my own eyes, but there was something much darker in him. What he was doing, you would have never done.”

“You don’t know Vina, I could have stopped him anytime and I didn’t. I was a coward following in the footsteps of cowards.”

“Stop, stop talking about yourself like that.” She pulled back just enough to look into his eyes. “You are wonderful and kind and gentle, you love me and are so patient with me. You’re my hero Nigel and no matter what anyone says, I will always love you.” She reached up, her hands framing his face. He looked so broken, his eyes swimming with tears. “I know what lives in you, I know about the darkness and I’m not afraid. I don’t regret choosing you Nigel.”

“I love you Vina, so much.”

“I love you too.”

He wrapped his arms around her, his lips pushing against hers as he finally let himself cry. She soothed him as best as she could, her fingers running through his hair as she softly shushed him. He lifted her, carrying her over to the bed, just wanting to hold her and know she was okay. He was surprised when she pushed him onto his back and straddled him, knowing she had to be tired. “Vina, you’ve been through so much, you should rest.”

“Hush.” She leaned down and gave him a gentle kiss, her cheeks turning pink. “Make love to me please, I’m okay, I just want you.”

For her to want to be intimate with him after that made emotion tear through him. Vina was so sweet. She was so much more than a man like him deserved. He ravished her, soaking up her warmth, loving being able to be this close to her and hoping more than anything he would finally get her pregnant. He brought Vina to one more orgasm once he noticed her getting too tired then held her tightly in his arms. Nigel kissed her forehead, making sure to tell her again “I love you so much Vina”

“I love you too Nigel” she whispered. A couple days later Vina felt nauseous and with the aide of Chthons family they discovered she was newly pregnant with their first baby together. “Oh Nigel” she said excitedly and tackled him with a hug. He hugged her back, feeling blessed. He was finally getting his chance to actually raise a child right and best of all he was going to get to do it with Vina.

Nigel fussed over her, wanting her safe and healthy. She couldn’t help but laugh at him and he actually blushed he was so embarrassed. He thought about what they would have, hoping he would be a good role model and that his child would understand his past if it came up. He never wanted to be dishonest with them. “Stop making that face.” Vina said as they picnicked behind Chthon’s castle.

“What face?”

“The one that says you’re doubting yourself.”

“Sorry, I’m just nervous. I’m excited, but so nervous. I know I’ve been a pain.”

“You haven’t, I’m enjoying it actually.” She scooted closer to him and kissed his cheek. “I do want to talk to you about something though.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes silly, I’d tell you if there was something wrong. When Mekhi was attacking me, my powers protected me. I don’t know where they came from, but without them I wouldn’t have been able to escape. I want you and Chthon to help me learn how to use them. I think it would be good for me to learn to protect myself just in case.”

Nigel looked excited “why didn’t you bring that up before sweetheart?”

“There were so many other things to worry about and I don’t know if it was just that world that caused me to have some”

“You felt it?”

“Yeah”

“Then it came from you. We’d be more than happy to help you. I’d feel a lot better if you had some powers to rely on”

“Me too, I’ve relied on you and Prima too much” He kissed her head “we’re happy to keep you safe. You bring so much light into our lives…I think we’d both be lost without you” Vina blushed and sighed happily. Nigel started teaching her right away relying on Vina being honest with him when she needed to rest. They were able to develop quite a few abilities with her by the time their baby arrived nine months later.

“My little Panya.” Nigel said as he walked around the room with his daughter, his arms gently rocking her. Vina watched him, a smile on her face at how much he loved their little one. He was so gentle with her and had already promised to protect her. He looked up from the baby in his arms and smiled.

“I told you you’d be a good dad.” Vina said sleepily and he gently laid Panya down so he could be with his mate. He climbed in bed next to her and took her in his arms, his lips pressing to her temple.

“Thank you so much Vina, thank you for loving me and trusting me, thank you for giving me our little girl.I wonder what her siblings will think, if they’ll love her too. I want them to meet her.”

“I’m sure they’ll adore her. She’s so cute, no one could say no to that face.”

Nigel chuckled. “Just like her mother.” He tipped her head back and kissed her lips. “I’m so happy and I can never thank Chthon enough for saving me, for befriending me and giving me this chance. Sometimes I think what if he and I had never met or what if I had refused to yield when he beat me to a pulp. I wouldn’t be here with you, I would have Panya or want to be a better man.”

“The only thing that matters is that you’re a good man now and that you’re mine. When Panya is a week old we’ll travel to show her off to your older children”

“I wish they lived closer”

“Yeah, they are so spread out even if we moved we couldn’t manage to live near all of them”

“Maybe I’ll be a good enough dad this time Panya will want to stay close”

“Your children love you Nigel”

“I know, it’s just different connecting later and actually being there the first time like a dad should”

“shh, lets rest for now. I’m so tired Nigel” He kissed her head “Okay, I’ll get the baby if she cries.”

“If she’s hungry let her feed on me”

“Rest now my beautiful mate” She smiled at him again and let herself fade. They waited for Panya to be a week old then showed her off to his other children. They were all excited for the new arrival and dotted on little Panya for as long as they visited. Nigel really appreciated his children too for forgiving him and for welcome Vina like they had and for now easily accepting this new child. He was a man who got more chances than he deserved but he was a man who knew that and knew he’d never do anything to disappoint his family. Panya would be raised the way he should have raised his older children and Vina would always be loved and taken care of.

~ The End

Snow & Barnum 2

Chapter One

Snow walked cheerfully through town in the new dress Barnum had given her as an anniversary gift. Every noise was music and every bit of her being felt at peace until an elderly woman stepped on her dress and ripped it. Just like that the fiery temper that mostly rested deep within her now burst out like a volcano “what the hell old woman!” she yelled “it was an accident deary”

“senile old ladies shouldn’t be walking by themselves!”

“You best respect your elders girl” she said with cut eyes and a menacing tone. Snow scoffed “you ripped my new dress and I owe you no respect just because you are old and withered!” the old lady said a few words in a language Snow didn’t know “you don’t use your voice wisely little brat. People who don’t know how to use somthing shouldn’t have it.” Snow went to retort and found she couldn’t speak. The elderly woman cackled harder and harder as panic settled into Snow. She screamed, saying random words just to try but nothing would come out.

“I know yer a dragon girl but my magic is centuries old. I’m withered you know” she said then began cackling again as she walked away from Snow and seemed to vanish into the crowd.

Snow began to panic, her heart beating so fast she thought it might explode. She started crying and shifted, taking to the sky to get to Barnum. She nearly crashed when she landed in front of their cave and shifted on the run. Barnum could here her coming and came to greet her, his smile quickly dissolving when he saw her tear streaked face. “Baby what happened?” He asked as he grabbed her shoulders.

She tried to speak and cried even harder when nothing came out but air. She touched her throat and he just looked at her, concerned and confused. She pushed away from him and ran into the kitchen, ripping the drawers open until she found a pen. She then ran to their room, Barnum close behind and pulled the drawers open to his desk until she found a piece of paper. ‘I yelled at someone for stepping on my dress and she cursed me.’ She wrote out and held it up for him to see.

“What?” His eyes clouded over with anger.

She slapped the piece of paper back down. ‘I just lost my temper, I didn’t mean it.’ More tears fell down her face and he pulled her tightly against him, his hand stroking her hair.

“Shh, it’s okay baby, we’ll fix this.” She tried to pull back to write, but he knew she wanted to know how and said, “We’ll talk to Irim, he’ll know what to do. Throwing around curses like that just because someone made you mad is stupid and dangerous.”

She pressed the paper against his chest and wrote, ‘I shouldn’t have yelled, it’s all my fault.’

“It is not your fault. I know we’ve been working on your temper because you shouldn’t rise to anger so quickly but what this woman did was worse than just yelling. You don’t deserve to have your voice taken away Snow and I’m getting it back. Once you have it Irim and I will have a thing or two to say to her” she cried into his chest again, gripping him tightly. “maybe Ariel can mend your dress too. She’s great at sewing” Barnum whispered encouragingly. The thought made her happy yet sad at the same time. It still was frustrating to Snow she wasn’t as good at being a woman as her sisters. She had tried and tried to be good at even one thing women were supposed to be good at and nothing, no matter the effort she put into it. She would always be clumsy, foul tempered Snow.

He lifted her into his arms and carried her out of the cave, not wanting her flying in such a sad state. He didn’t want her crashing and hurting herself. He shifted shape once he was out in the open and his powerful wings pulled him skyward, kicking up rocks and dust as he pushed from the ground. She just sat cradled in his clawed hands, her heart aching more with every second she could not speak. More tears slipped down her face, only to be carried away by the wind whipping around her. She would do anything to get her voice back.

Barnum was in a rage over his mate’s suffering, but had not let on just how angry he really was. It angered him even more that he was not nearly powerful enough to break such a powerful curse. He knew he could count on Irim though, he had spent centuries researching, memorizing and perfecting different spells and concoctions. There were no limits to his abilities it seemed and he even impressed those who were older than him with his physical and mental prowess. If anyone could get Snow’s voice back, it was Irim and he would do it with the anger of a rabid dog since an attack had been launched on his family.

Barnum landed and shifted smoothly, still carrying his wife as they walked up to the entrance of Ariel and Irims home. Ariel quickly answered, at first with joy to see them but that joy drained out of her when she saw how upset her sister was “what’s wrong?”

“Is Irim home so I can explain it to him too?”

“Yes, he’s just inside playing with Amaranthi.” Barnum hurried in, finally setting down his mate so Ariel could hug her. Irim and Aranthis laughter filled the home until he saw their guests and how obviously angry Barnum was “what’s the matter?” Irim asked as he set down his daughter. “A woman ripped Snows dress and Snow lost her temper. The old woman cursed her and now she can’t speak. It’s too powerful for me to handle but I knew if anybody could fix this it would be you” Irims face grew serious “Amaranthi the adults have grown up things to deal with. Go play in your room”

“Okay dad, love you”

“Love you too princess” Amaranthi ran off and Irim studied Snow, taking her face in his hands as he stared at her silently. “Hm”

“Hm?” Barnum asked, impatient for his wife to spak again “I was just feeling the power of her curse. This old woman is powerful. It pisses me off when the powerful use their gifts so carelessly. The more power you have the more vital it becomes you don’t use it unless you have to. To go cursing people for small spats is unforgivable but I can make this right. Excuse me a few moments Snow” he said then glanced at Barnum “come with me, you will be my assistant.”

As the men walked away Ariel hugged her sister again “I’m sorry Snow” Snow just looked at the ground with the most depressed look Ariel had ever seen on her face. She sighed and grabbed her sisters hand “Irim actually made somthing for you last week. We were going to wait until your birthday but I want to give it to you now. I know he wont mind.” Snow allowed her sister to guide her to the bedroom where she opened a small wooden box, producing a large glass bottle filled with light blue liquid. Snows sad face became confused and Ariel explained “He overheard you complaining about your frizzy hair the last time we came for a visit and made that for you. He says it will make your hair just as smooth as mine. I know it doesn’t replace a voice but Irim will fix that too. I know he will.”

Snow’s lip quivered and she started crying as she took the bottle and looked at it. She didn’t deserve to have a sister like Ariel. “It’s okay Snow, don’t cry.” Ariel hugged her and rubbed her back. “Here, let’s put some in your hair.” She pulled back and took the bottle. “Turn around.” Snow did as Ariel told her and Ariel popped the bottle open and poured some into her hand, working it into Snow’s hair. “Just let it sit in you hair all day then rinse it out before bed.” She put the lid back on the bottle then sat it down and grabbed a ponytail holder off the top of her chest of drawers. She braided Snow’s hair then turned her around. “There, now you’ll have the hair you always wanted.”

Snow wanted very much to thank Ariel, but all she could do was cry. She wiped at her face and Ariel gave her a warm smile. “Come on, let me fix your dress while we wait for the guys.” Snow just nodded and let Ariel pull her away.

Barnum stood there in silence as Irim looked through a book. He wasn’t sure what to do with himself so he walked around the study, looking at all the tubes and concoctions Irim has sitting around. He also had some really strange looking devices. “Don’t touch those, you could very easily tear apart the fabric of space and time.” Irim suddenly said, making him jump.

“Really?”

“No, I was just messing with you. Ah, here it is.”

He seemed to be concentrating on the book so Barnum just stayed right where he was and waited eagerly for Irim to fix Snow. Ariel finished repairing Snow’s dress “see, good as new” she looked up at her sister with a smile. Snow hugged her again, always unbelieving of Ariel’s kindness. Snow had spent so much of their childhood trying to make sure Ariel was miserable and all it took was an I’m sorry for them to be sisters. If she had had her way from the very beginning little Ariel wouldn’t have made it past being a baby. She had unjustly blamed her sister for the loss of their mother and it was a fact she had only come to fully realize after Barnum came into her life.

Snow only let her sister go when Irim and Barnum came back out. She walked over to Irim who rested his hands on her throat and began speaking in that same language the old lady used. Snow still couldn’t understand it but she could tell it was the same. As Snow stood still and listened she realized how big and strong Irims hands were. It was somthing you couldn’t help but notice with his hands on your neck. If he wasn’t such a good dragon he could easily kill her instead of help her, had probably wanted to a few times with how protective he was of Ariel. Nobody outside of the family could have gotten away with some of the crap she pulled on Ariel after she and Irim had become mated.

As painlessly and quick as she had been cursed Irim removed his hands from her neck and returned to English commanding “speak Snow”

“Okay” she responded and her eyes grew wide “O my god! Irim!” she hugged him then ran to her husband “Oh I was so scared!” As Snow and Barnum exchanged affections Irim walked over to Ariel, that same adoring look in his eyes he always had when looking at her. Irim took her hand and kissed it before pulling her out of her seat to wrap his arms around her.

“Thank you Irim.” Ariel said softly and he kissed her forehead.

“You know I would do anything for your family.”

“So what now?” Barnum asked.

“I would like to set out on a search for this woman as soon as possible. I would not want her cursing anyone else who she takes offense too.” Irim answered.

“But I don’t even know where she went.” Snow said. “She was pretty quick walking away.”

“You just take me to where you last saw her and I can track her no matter the magic she uses to cover her tracks. Someone who throws their magic around like that does not deserve to carry such power. Who knows how many she has cursed.”

Chapter Two

“You all shouldn’t fly on empty stomachs. Let me at least make some PBJ’s” Ariel said and Irim nodded. “I’ll help Ariel” Snow said, surprising her “Okay, thanks” In the kitchen Ariel said “I’ll make Irims first since his is special”

“special?”

“He likes honey added”

“Oh, sounds like it might be good. I’ll try that too” They finished the sandwiches then ate them in the living room. Just before leaving Irim hugged his wife and daughter tightly before shifting with Snow and Barnum. “will dad be back home today?” Amaranthi asked her mother as they watched the three fly off “I don’t know but he’ll be back as soon as he can”

“How come we can’t go?”

“Same reason we can never go when dad takes care of things like this. You’re too young just yet and I need to stay with you”

“Can I have another sandwich?”

“sure, come on” They flew quickly through the sky, Snow leading with the two men close behind. They landed a little outside of town in a large meadow, causing all the animals to flee even though they cared not for coming after them. “very far from here Snow?” Irims voice still a bit deeper from being in dragon form. “No, not at all. I was almost out and ready to fly home when she stepped on my dress.” She took them to where the curse had been cast on her and Irim seemed to concentrate a few moments before taking off at a gait.

Snow and Barnum kept up, Barnum letting a little more of how furious he was with this woman show.

“She used magic here.” Irim said as he came to a stop. “Tried covering her tracks by putting up a false trail.” He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “She went this way.”

Both Barnum and Snow had to admit to themselves that he looked scary as he followed the woman’s trail like a bloodhound. He was determined, blocking out everything else. Snow grabbed Barnum’s hand and he brought her fingers to his lips. “You okay?”

“Yeah, what if she tries cursing us?”

“You know Irim won’t let that happen. He is far more powerful than any witch.”

“Yeah.”

He tugged her closer and lifted her into his arms mid stride. “Stop looking so down Snow.”

“I’m causing so much trouble for everyone.”

“This is no trouble Snow.” Irim suddenly said. “Her overreaction to your temper was unwarranted.”

“See, everything’s going to be just fine.” Barnum added and kissed her cheek.

“she lives pretty far out” Snow said as they were now entering woods “A lot of witches who act like this one choose to live outside of town. Makes it harder for people she wrongs to find her”

“Knowing everything about everything as usual” Snow said lightly. He smiled “I live for Ariel, my children and then knowledge. Before Ariel all I ever wanted was to learn and get better”

“Might be a weird time but thank you for the stuff for my hair”

“I noticed Ariel went ahead and gave it to you. You’ll love your hair. I’m confident it will work just how I wanted it to”

“Oh so thats what’s in your hair. I smelled somthing different”

“yeah, Ariel said it was supposed to be for my birthday but she thought I needed cheering up” Irim spoke again “I’m glad she thought of it. We’ll do somthing else for your birthday”

“You two are really the best”

“you’ve always meant a lot to Ariel. I am glad you two get along so well now.” Snow looked down and Barnum kissed her head. “aha” he said and Barnum asked “what?”

“she’s even hidden her home. Good, but not good enough” He said one word in the ancient dragon language and her home came into view “woah” Snow said in a gasp. Barnum smiled “amazing again brother” He walked up to her home, deciding to give her the curtosey of a knock. She wung the door open angrily “how did” she started then backed up slightly, knowing this was the High Dragon Irim “I..Irim”

“You cursed a family member of mine today” he said as he invited himself in “BU but she yelled at me”

“You curse people for yelling? Just how careless are you?”

“What do you plan to do?”

“You aren’t responsible enough to have your power so I’m here to take it away. Thats all the punishment you’ll get if you own up to others you’ve cursed so I can mend them”

“I don’t know them all.” Irim shook his head, obviously disgusted by this woman “There are good witches out there who get horrible names because of witches like you”

“B…but…”

“No excuses, if you had harmed her I would be here to kill you.” He snapped and Snow swore she saw smoke curl from his nose and mouth and his voice took on a deep grumble.

She took another step back and whispered something, her finger pointing toward him. Her spell had no effect on him and both Snow and Barnum could see the panic in her eyes. Irim growled then began to speak in dragon tongue. His hands moved as his voice grew louder and a slight wind blew through the house. The witch clutched at her chest in fear, a look of desperation on her face. She truly feared losing her magic and Snow could feel nothing but pity for her. A thought occurred to her that she could have been this woman, bitter and alone, hurting others and she actually grabbed onto Irim, interrupting his spell.

“Stop, please stop.” Irim stared at her and Barnum felt confused. “Sorry, it’s just, isn’t stripping her of her power a bit much.”

“You don’t want me too?”

“I mean, she deserves to be punished, but not have her gift taken away. Maybe a fail safe would be better. Put a spell on her so every time she tried to do something bad it backfires on her. If she tries to blind someone she is blinded instead, if she tries to make someone mute she is made mute instead.”

“You wish to forgive her?” Barnum asked.

“Yes…Irim please. If Ariel can forgive me then I can forgive this woman. Punish her, but don’t take her power away.”

He sighed “it deeply angers me when people misuse power and you in no way deserve forgiveness but I will grant it for my sister in law, I will however make it so any curse you cast you will cast on yourself so you will only be able to use good magic for now on” Irim began speaking again, reciting the incantation from memory. When he was done he said “don’t test me you foul woman. I promise you it worked”

“yes sir”

“say you’re sorry to Snow”

“sorry Snow”

“I forgive you”

“alright, lets leave. You two can have dinner with my wife and i” Outside he said “while walking through town I saw somthing I want for Ariel. I wont be long” They followed him to the shop and waited patiently as he purchased a necklace and earrings. Not really speaking to them he said “she will look so gorgeous” They walked out of town and to the spot where they first shifted before shifting again and using their powerful wings to propel themselves into the sky.

The flight back to Ariel and Irims didn’t feel as long as it had been to reach this town again but it was still well after dark when they landed. Ariel came out to greet them with a very tired looking little girl. As Irim shifted he quickly pockets his gifts for Ariel so she wouldn’t see until he wanted her to. “Amaranthi wanted you to read to her” Irim kissed Ariel then lifted his daughter to take her to bed.

“He’s such a good dad.” Snow said as she watched Irim walk away.

“Are you two planning on having any?” Ariel asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. I mean I want them is Barnum does too, but I’m afraid I’d be a terrible mother.”

Barnum wrapped his arms around her from behind and kissed her cheek. “Don’t say such silly things Snow, you’d make a great mother.”

“Really?”

“Of course, you’re so sweet and loving to me so I know you would be even more so to our children.”

Snow felt herself choke up, but held back her tears. She felt she had cried enough today and didn’t want to worry anyone. “Come on, come eat.” Ariel said with a warm smile. “And I agree with Barnum, you’d be a great mom.”

“thanks Ariel” Ariel reheated dinner and set it out for everyone. They waited to start until Irim joined them “sorry, she wanted another after the first”

“and you can never say no” Ariel finished. He smiled at her then looked at Snow and Barnum “stay tonight if you two want”

“Oh we’ll be fine. After the day we had today I think we both need to relax” Irim nodded and began making himself a plate. They ate and lightened the evening with talk of their futures, mainly Snow and Barnum having children. It was somthing he wanted to go further into tonight or in the morning with Snow. At this point nothing would make him happier than having children. It was always so sweet watching Ariel and Irims little family grow and he knew it could be just as amazing if not more to do the same with Snow. When they were all done Irim asked again “are you two sure you don’t want to stay the night”

“We’re sure, thank you so much though.”

“Yeah, let me help Ariel with dishes before I leave” Snow said but irim shook his head “No, she isn’t even doing them tonight, especially if you two aren’t staying” Ariel blushed and Barnum almost chuckled “see you two soon” Irim picked up Ariel “Bye guys”

“bye” they called back and walked out “it’s a wonder they don’t have more children” Barnum teased and Snow laughed. Just outside Ariel and Irims home Barnum gave Snow a long, meaningful kiss “I love you Snow” he whispered and she answered ‘i love you too”

“lets get home beautiful”

“lets” Snow said with a blissful smile.

Their night flight home was quiet and peaceful, the air cool as the sped across the sky. The moment they landed and shifted, Barnum had her in his arms and was carrying her inside. He dropped her down on their bed and pulled her shoes off before crawling up her and pressing his lips into hers. “What’s got you so worked up?” Snow asked, a smile pulling at her lips.

“Babies, I think we should have a few.”

“A few?”

He kissed her again. “You know, if you’re up for it.”

“You really think I’d be a good mom?”

“An excellent mom.”

He slid his hands up her legs, pushing her dress up so her entire body grew hot. “I…if you really think that then I’d love to have children with you.”

He smiled happily. “I love you my perfect Snow.”

“I love you too” was the last words spoken before they allowed themselves to get lost in ecstasy. In the morning Snow groggily rolled out of bed and prepared a pot of coffee so she would be able to do anything today. It wasn’t until she was about halfway through her cup that she remembered that Ariel said she needed to rinse the light blue stuff out of her hair. She set her coffe down so hastily she spilled a little on the counter but that hardly mattered to her. With energy coming from the mere thought of hair like her sisters had she rushed into the bathroom and took a shower. It was the running water that woke Barnum so he pushed himself up and out of bed, heading into the kitchen to pour some of that coffee he smelled.

He noticed Snow had spilled some so he cleaned up her mess then just went back to enjoying his coffee, wondering in what cute clumsy way she had managed it. He loved how much his gifts always meant to her. This morning she was using a mug he made himself for her. He tried to be creative with his gifts and not just give something people would normally give so occasionally he would make things himself since most wouldn’t take them time to. It wasn’t anything particularly beautiful but she still used it most mornings. The only exception being if it was still dirty from the last use.

When Snow got out the shower she began furiously drying her hair. Once it felt mostly dry she brushed it out, already noticing the difference just from how her hair responded to the brushing. Looking at herself in the mirror was often somthing she hated but now she was overwhelmed with happy emotions as she stood infront of it and played with her hair. All she wanted now was to see how it was when it was fully dry.

“Good morning beautiful.” Barnum said when she came back into the kitchen and she felt a blush creep into her cheeks as his eyes moved over her.

“Morning.”

He smiled and sat his cup down, taking her in his arms and pressing his lips into hers. He could so easily get lost in the sweetness of her lips and the addictive heat of her body. He let his lips drift over her chin and to her neck, causing goosebumps to cover her skin. “I could just gobble you up.”

“Do dragons always talk about eating others?” She teased, her voice coming out breathy.

“Mmm, tasty, delicious Snow is perfect for breakfast.”

“Barnum, be good.”

He chuckled and raised his head to stare into her eyes. “It’s very hard to be good when I have my mate so close.” He brushed his fingers through her hair. “Looks different.”

“Is it bad?”

“You’re always perfect baby, no matter how you look. I just want you to be happy.”

“I am, I’m so full of joy that I’m overflowing with it. You make me so happy Barnum sometimes it’s overwhelming.”

“good, because that’s how I feel” she sighed, thinking how different her life was than she thought it would be at this age. She had a mate who adored her and could handle her temper, she was planning to have children, her siblings all actually liked her, even Ariel. She could even feel good about her hair now. It was all so amazing she couldn’t help but cry again. Barnum rubbed her back, offering her sweet words. He could tell they were happy tears which is why his mind wasn’t frantic with how to fix it. He would just hold her and reaffirm how much she was loved and how truly magnificent she was to him until she was ready to return to their bedroom and continue working on their babies.

~ The End