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Nelly & Peadair

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

Aurelia & Rees 2

He couldn’t believe it, she was really pregnant “and you think it’s been two months?”

“Yeah and…I’ve been suspicious for about a month now so I’ve had a lot of time to think. I really want to seek out my parents. I’ve wanted so badly to introduce them to you, Pretoria and Brynmor anyway and now that they’ll have, well, sort of their first grandchild it’s time. I know you’re scared for me to leave but you three will be right with me Rees” She had returned to him almost three years ago and as frightening as it truly was she was right so he fought down his protective instincts and agreed they should journey to find her parents. “How will we find them though” she walked over to a nearby drawer and pulled out a necklace. read more

Aurelia & Rees

Chapter One

She hobbled as she ran but she went as fast as she could away from her attackers. As far as she knew she had killed them but she couldn’t be sure enough not to run. Two human men had tried to rape her, probably thinking she was a human woman since only her ears would give away she was an elf. It had still been difficult to get away, they had been so crazed and hungry to take her. She wondered while she ran if they had been on some type of drugs. Thunder crashed and rain poured, making it hard to know where she was going but she kept on until she saw a castle. She ran to the door, desperate for help.

Aurelia pounded and begged for help despite knowing the loud storm outside probably hid her wails. She choked on blood that was begging to pool in her mouth, her vision growing faint just as the door opened. She couldn’t make the being out at all but she could have sworn she heard the girl exclaim “mom!?” Rees Practically knocked over the table as he got up to rush to the door. His dates heart stuttered, it couldn’t be, his mate was dead, had been dead for a few hundred years. Brynmor has come running too, having heard his sister Pretoria yell.

He had already picked Aurelia off the ground when his father arrived at the door “It’s…” he looked like he might cry “It’s obviously not actually mom dad but we need to help her. She’s hurt really bad” Brynmor took her to the nearest bed while Pretoria grabbed a few things. Rees and even his date began helping her and a few hours later they knew she was going to make it through her injuries. It was then the woman that had been with Rees pulled him out the room and said “That’s your wifes reincarnation. She looks just like her and I may have just been her friend but even I can feel that that IS Amelia” Emotion played through his eyes “I know, I knew from the second I saw her in my sons arms”

She crossed her arms, not knowing what to do with them “It’s okay Rees, thats your soulmate in there…even before she showed up tonight I knew we were not that serious. I mean we’ve been dating a few years and I stay a night at most with you three. I mean, you were sweet and I when we began dating by taking down the family pictures with her in it and putting them in the basement but I know about that one in your nightstand. I’ve caught you staring at it with tears running down your face many times. She’s your soulmate, not me and I’m going to bow out gracefully okay. You two were so happy together, you had the kind of happiness you can only have with a soulmate and maybe this frees me back up to find mine.”

Rees hugged her “I’m sorry”

“It’s okay, I hurt right now but I’ll be fine. Even if we had been anything near serious I would have bowed out tonight. I always wanted what you two had. You need to focus on her, you need to help her remember you or atleast get her to fall in love again. She’s an elf this time, she wont have that intuition that tells some beings your soulmates but her soul has already found you once. It’ll know, even if its deep down, some part of her will know you guys” As she left Rees cried but not over the ex that was leaving It was over how emotionally charged he was and grateful to the universe it saw fit to give Amelia back to him.

Aurelia woke slowly, her body thrumming with pain as she blinked her eyes open. She could feel she was laying in a bed in a dimly lit room, that she was covered and warm. It took a moment for her ears to focus, but when they did, she picked up the sound of soft, rhythmic breathing. She wasn’t alone. She turned her head, groaning as she did and it woke the person sitting in the chair next to the bed. “You’re awake.” He said as he moved to sit next to her, his hand taking hers gently. She watched a myriad of emotions play across his face; sadness and joy, but mostly relief.

“Where am I?” She asked softly.

“In my home.” He let his fingers brush over her forehead, pushing some strands of her hair back. She felt herself warm at his tenderness and wondered if it was because he seemed to be the exact opposite of her attackers.

“You heard me.” She felt herself tearing up and he gently shushed her.

“My daughter did.”

“Thank goodness, I was so scared.”

Rees started to pull his hand away, wondering if him touching her was making everything worse, but she actually held onto him. “You’re safe here, I promise.”

She felt safe here, especially now that she was holding his hand in return. It was odd to her since she didn’t really know these beings but she felt in her heart she truly was safe as long as she was here in this castle. Rees’s heart was racing and it made him grateful she had come back as an elf. If she could sense how she effected him it would probably be scary, especially after being attacked since she had no idea she was a reincarnation. It was near impossible to resist the urge to lean down and kiss her but he fought it, telling himself he had one chance to do this right. If he scared her and she ran out of his castle he may never find her again. Elves were smart and incredibly resourceful. If she decided she wanted to hide from him she just might be successful at that. She was smart in her past life too and he wondered if that had effected what the gods chose for her to be in this life.

When she let him go he forced himself to pull his hand away, she probably needed to eat anyway. “I can make you a salad if you’re hungry. You were in rough shape and will still need to rest a day or two more. I think it would be smart to take it easy on your stomach”

“That sounds really nice. Thank you so much. Thank you for helping me. I promise, I’ll figure out something to do to thank you when I’m better” He stood “I’m going to call my daughter to sit in here while I’m gone.” he couldn’t risk her being alone so injured, he couldn’t lose her again. His heart barely made it through the first time. If they didn’t have two children he probably wouldn’t have. He had muddled through his pain for them, knowing she’d have wanted him to.

When Pretoria entered the room Aurelia was sitting up causing Pretoria to gasp “you should be laying down, your injuries” she seemed embarrassed “I just wanted less work for you when you came in here…I…well I have to pee and I wanted to ask you instead of one of the men here. I could barely force myself to run when I got here. I’m not sure how well I’m going to be able to walk”

“Just let me help you up next time okay. You’re no trouble, I’m a vampire. I can lift you and much more without struggle” Elves didn’t tend to hold any racial grudges so Pretoria felt it was safe to let her mother know what they were, even if she couldn’t quite tell her yet she used to be a vampire. Pretoria helped her mother to the nearest bathroom “there wouldn’t be any shame in it if you wanted me to come in with you”

“I don’t think I could go with anybody in there”

“alright then, I’ll be right outside the door” She couldn’t believe what good vampires she had stumbled upon. This woman had looked near panicked for a total stranger when she went in the room and her deep worry right now was obvious on her face. Aurelia went into the bathroom and shut the door. She realized it was a good choice to ask for help because she felt even more pain now than when she was laying down. It was hard not to make any sounds indicating how much she hurt but she managed, not wanting the female vampire to burst in here to help her. When she came out Pretoria looked just about as relieved as the male vampire had when she woke up.

Once back in bed she decided to ask your names “what’s your name?”

“Pretoria”

“Thats so beautiful”

“My mother picked it, it was her absolute favorite girls name”

“I think it’s mine too” Pretoria grinned with both amusement and sadness. “My fathers name is Rees and my brothers name is Brynmor” she felt emotion tug at her heart. She was about to speak again but a massive headache cut her off “are you okay?”

“My head” Pretorias mind was going a million miles a second with panic but she hoped maybe her soul was trying to tell her something, to remind her of who she once was. She had picked the name for her brother too. He was named after one of her mothers Uncles. He had raised her and died a few years before Brynmor was born so she had wanted to honor her Uncle by naming her son after him.

“How is she?” Brynmor asked his father as he helped him chop vegetables.

“Good, I think.”

“Is it really her?” Brynmor was hopeful that this wasn’t some fluke.

Rees nodded. “Yeah, it really is, I can feel it. Even if she didn’t look like her, I would know, it’s your mother.”

Brynmor swallowed and Rees put his knife down to hug his son. “I’m sorry, it’s just, she’s really back.”

“It’s okay, I feel the same.” He let him go and patted his shoulder. “We have to remember to be patient with her and give her time.”

“I know.” Rees wanted desperately for her to remember, but he knew he couldn’t push her to hard to fast or she might run. They put everything is a big bowl then he made one for Aurelia while Brynmor covered the bowl and put it away.

Chapter Two

When he returned to the room Rees could see Aurelia was in pain “what happened?”

“we were just talking, I think shes okay”

“I’ll be fine, its getting better. My head just really hurt for a moment”

“maybe we need someone more skilled at medical care to come here”

“No, please don’t do that. I couldn’t put you all through more trouble. It passed, I’m alright” They were talking, Rees too thought that pain might be her soul trying to tell her brain something so he didn’t push it further. Brynmor came in a few moments after his father, just wanting to see her “Hey. Brynmor right?” Aurelia asked, setting her fork down “yeah, um…what’s your name?”

“Aurelia”

“where did you come from?” Now he just wanted to hear her voice. It was slightly different but it was still his mothers voice. “son, she’s recovering. We need to let her eat” Rees said, trying not to sound too stern and make her uncomfortable.

“Oh…I’m sorry, yeah, I’m being rude sorry” he walked out too quickly for her to stop him. Aurelia looked at Rees “he was alright”

“You really should finish eating. I’ll go get him back when you’re done” Pretoria said. Aurelia picked her fork back up and finished her salad. Just as she said she would Pretoria took the dish’s, promising she’d get her brother as soon as they were in the sink. Meanwhile, Aurelia laid back down. “so whose room is this? I’m not taking one of theirs am I?” she asked Rees.

“No, this room actually hasn’t been used in an incredibly long time. The kids mother…well…she was very close to her an Uncle of hers. She even named our son after him which was fine with me. I didn’t care what we called our children and the names she picked meant a lot to her. He would come to see us so much we gave him his own room, which is this one. We didn’t put anybody else in it after he died, you’re the first”

She was curious about the kids mother. The way he said was had so much pain in it so she knew she had passed, not left. She wouldn’t hurt him by asking, it would be selfish. “what made her so close to him? What was he like?”

“He raised her. Amelia’s father didn’t treat her very well. When Brynmor realized she was being abused he took her in and told her father if he so much as looked at you ever” He noticed her weird expression and he realized he had said you “sorry, I meant her obviously. I’m tired”

“Oh my gosh yeah, you were sleeping when I woke. I’m sorry, we can talk later. Go to bed. Your son wanted to talk to me anyway”

“it’s alright”

“No, I feel so bad keeping you all up…you’ve done so much for me” The thought of leaving her side mangled in his heart “I’ll go to bed when Pretoria fetches my son.”

“are you sure?”

“yes…anyway…he told Amelias father he’d kill him if he looked at her again. He let her mother see her from time to time but when she finally left Amelias father she quit coming to see Amelia too. She was only seven when her mother completely left her life so Amelia didn’t remember much”

“That was really sweet of her Uncle, to protect her”

“He was a good vampire. I wouldn’t say he had lived a perfect life, before raising Amelia anyway but he had a good heart”

“different creatures have their own struggles.” Pretoria and Brymor entered the room and Rees stood, leaving as he said he would. Brynmor sat on the bed and Pretoria took the chair. “so, where are you from”

“My parents are nomads, I’m not really from anywhere.”

“why weren’t they with you when you were attacked?”

“well, you might think I’m crazy but one morning, a few years ago I woke up before my parents and saw a couple standing beside me. I jumped up and was about to yell but the woman shushed me. I don’t know, she looked so kind I just stood up, deciding not to wake my parents. She touched my heart, well, my chest above where it is and said “you need to listen to your heart sweetheart. You should go, see where it leads you. It’s been trying to take you somwhere a very long time but your parents always get you offtrack. Leave your parents and follow your heart. You’ll be so happy you did”

She sighed “I don’t know, my heart raced and all of me was ready to go. I know it’s nuts, they were two complete strangers but I felt like I had been ignoring my heart as soon as she said that to me. I made my parents breakfast then while they ate I told them I needed to have my own adventure for awhile. They weren’t for it at first, especially my dad. He was so worried about me traveling alone but they eventually saw I needed to do this…you know, because two strangers told me to” she sighed “and look where it got me, hurt and bothering you kind people. I was probably being dumb but I’ve had a great adventure coming here.”

“That doesn’t sound dumb at all.” Brynmor said. “They always say the heart wants what the heart wants.”

“Brynmor’s right.” Pretoria said with a warm smile.

Aurelia smiled back. “I guess you’re right. I’m just sorry we had to meet like this.”

“We’re just glad you’re alright and as soon as you’re feeling up to it, I’m sure our father would love to show you around.”

“I’d really like that, thank you.”

They continued to talk to her for awhile longer, doing their best not to give away who she was. They told her a couple more stories from their childhood then decided she needed to rest. She had been through a lot and they didn’t want to exhaust her. They both jumped a little when Rees opened his door and he called them over. “How is she?” He asked.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping dad and she’s good.” Pretoria answered.

“I know, but I wanted to talk to both of you first. Brynmor, tomorrow you and I are going out to try and find the men who did that to her. I want to make sure they can’t attack anyone else.” He then looked to Pretoria. “I want you to spend time with your mother,” he sighed, “with Aurelia I mean.” They both nodded. “You two get some rest, okay?”

“You too dad.” Brynmor said.

Rees was eager to get out and start hunting the men that hurt Aurelia so he barely waited for the sun to come up before waking his son. Brynmor didn’t have to be urged awake long before he was up and ready to go out with his father. Rees was an incredibly old vampire but he had long since went through grueling trial and error to make his body able to roam around in sunlight. Amelia had been able to do it and loved being out during the day so they hadn’t been together long before he wanted to be able to do the same thing. He wasn’t sure what happened but evolution seemed to still be taking place since the younger vampires were almost all born able to be in the sun.

“I think it’s important after what you did to the group that killed mom in her past life to ask what we intend to do with them? I mean I want to scare these guys but…you may have taken things a little too far in the past dad”

“I wont be burning any homes or anything like that. Even I know I went too far, had too many casualties of my anger. I turned into a monster when I lost your mother…I’m just glad Pretoria talked sense into me. I was still a father and I needed to get a hold of myself. I haven’t lost your mother this time so no, I wont be be turning back into that monster I regret you and Pretoria saw…I’m more thankful than ever she got me to stop…going down that path I would have ended up with every vampire hunter in existence after me…I may have died too then I wouldn’t still be here for your mothers rebirth.”

Brynmor made a face and his father sighed “don’t you think for a second I’m also not still around because of you two. Now that she’s back I know it wont alarm you to say this but you and Pretoria are the only reasons I raged instead of killing myself. I need you three, I mean it” Brynmor decided to tell his father what Aurelia had told them about her journey here then added “I think she’ll stay too. Her soul remembers enough it guided her back to us”

It was the smell of blood that brought them to where one of the men lay dead. This is where it had happened. They could smell Aurelia’s scent all over and around him. “She killed him.” Brynmor said.

“The other left him to die.” Rees replied as he followed more drops of blood into the forest. “He was wounded though, your mother made sure of that.”

“What should we do with this one?”

“Leave him, after what he did, just leave him. I want to find the other one.”

“Alright.” They continued on, leaving the first man’s body for the animals and the earth.

“Aurelia?” Pretoria said softly as she opened her mother’s door.

“Hmm?” Aurelia jerked away, disoriented and confused for a moment until she remembered where she was. She let her eyes move to Pretoria and for a moment, seeing the young woman’s smiling face, had her heart aching.

“Sorry, I just thought maybe you were hungry.” Pretoria said as she nudged the door all the way open and stepped in with a breakfast tray.

“Oh, sure.” She started pushing herself up and Pretoria quickly sat the tray on top of the chest of drawers and went over to help her. “Thank you.”

“I’m happy to help”

“I’m feeling better this morning”

“That’s good to hear, please eat. I know it will help you even more” Aurelia slowly ate her breakfast, enjoying it. “Have you already eaten?”

“Hopefully it doesn’t make you uncomfortable but I had blood this morning so I’ll be fine for awhile”

“animal or do you have someone to feed off of?”

“a friend of mine allows me to feed on him from time to time but I had animal this morning. Just to put it out there since some of our kind makes it so it has to be said but my father, brother and I don’t feed on anybody unwillingly”

“I wasn’t worried…I’m so thankful for you three. I would have died if not for you. Jeez if you wanted blood it would be the least I could do” Pretoria smiled “we truly expect nothing in return but getting to know you. You seem so interesting. Once you’re better are you going to stay a bit”

“If I’m welcome, your father would like me here?”

“He wants to get to know you too”

“where is he now” she felt this tug on her heart, like she needed to know. “He’s out making sure those men that hurt you are really dead or not going to do such a thing again”

“They were so crazed, especially for human men.”

“well my father and brother will see to it no other woman has to worry about them.” Aurelia finished her breakfast and Pretoria took her plate. When Pretoria came back she asked “why did you pick your tattoos?”

“I adore bees and I just thought it would be pretty to have the flowers going up my sides.”

“I didn’t get a good look at the flowers but I love the bee”

“well there aren’t any men here if you’d like to see them” Pretoria helped Aurelia with her shirt “wow, they are really pretty. You must have paid a lot to have them done”

“I didn’t pay with anything but my time. This particular tattoo artist needed help with his children. You see as I was wandering I ended up staying in this town awhile just because I thought it was beautiful. I became friends with him and learned, like your father, he was raising kids on his own. He wanted to go study under an artist a few towns away but he couldn’t take his children. He asked me to watch over them and that he’d pay me whatever I wanted when he returned. He also had more than enough money in his basement for me to take care of them so it truly only took my time. They were sweet girls. When he returned I asked he put that skill to work and give me flowers up my sides. I hung around a few more weeks then went on my way”

“what’s his name, I might want some one day. I’ve never thought about tattoos before but these are so pretty. It was well worth it for him to go study with someone”

“yeah, his name is Jolduc Khiz. His girls, should they still be at home when you go are Esmeralda and Prim”

“cute, did he tell you why he was alone?”

“she left him and the girls for another man.”

“aw”

“yeah, the biggest shame about it is she doesnt want to see her girls…I don’t have children so maybe I cant judge but how can anybody just leave their children”

“I know my mom would have never left us if she hadn’t been taken away”

“would it hurt too much to tell me what happened to her Pretoria?” Pretoria took a long breath in then let it go, looking uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, that was so rude”

“No, no its fine. It’s just still hard to talk about it. You’d think time would make it easier but…” There was a long, sorrow filled pause from Pretoria before she began her story “We were all always together besides my moms walks. She had been taking long walks alone since she was little. She needed that peaceful time to herself. I mean we would all go sometimes but every now and then she still wanted to go alone. It would always be a few hours but that day she had left right after breakfast and we still hadn’t seen her after lunch. Dad got worried, he told us to stay incase she came back but he was going to look for her for awhile.”

Pretoria tried to discreetly brush a tear away “then dad didn’t come home so Brynmor and I left…I wish we hadn’t” Pretoria couldn’t talk anymore as she could once again envision her dead mother”

“I’m so sorry, you don’t have to tell me” Pretoria clung to Aurelia, happy that they had atleast saved her in this life. She was back and she knew her dad would probably never let her out of at least one of their sights ever again if he could help it. “Theres this particularly nasty group of vampire hunters that aren’t just happy with killing vampires. They often humiliate and torture them. We don’t know what she went through but by the time we had went looking for her she was cut up. They had hung her body parts from different trees”

“Oh jesus…where was your father”

“He was on a murder spree. My dad, as most of the original vampires, have states similar to demons where they lose their mind to rage. Every man that had touched my mother died and sadly, so did their families. It was all Brynmor and I could do to get him back to normal…he did a lot of things I know he regrets” Pretoria could see a bit of concern on Aurelias face “don’t worry, only the men that hurt you will answer to my father today, You’re alive and I think it was pure grief and sorrow that drove him into that state…he did and still does love my mother immensely. They were together thousands of years and they were a pretty sweet couple. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two beings near that happy with eachother”

Chapter Three

The man panicked the moment he looked over his shoulder and spotted Rees and Brynmor. Both of them could see and smell it and Rees directed Brynmor forward. His son put on a burst of speed that had him suddenly standing in front of the man and as he skidded to a halt, Rees grabbed him from behind and slammed him to the ground. “Please.” He screamed. “Please, please, I’m sorry.” He was covering his head and crying his entire body shaking.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Rees snapped.

“No, please, I just woke up and…and Eli was…he was and I was covered in blood. Please, I’m sorry.”

“Dad?” Brynmor grabbed his shoulder. “I don’t think he’s lying.”

Rees let out a sigh as he pulled the man up. “Look at me.” He ordered and the man forced himself to look into Rees’s eyes. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“I…we…” he swallowed. “Walking through the woods with Eli, we…we took a shortcut and then…nothing. Eli…did I kill him?”

Rees stood in thoughtful silence for a moment before saying “my wife killed your friend. You two tried to rape her. Maybe you walked into an enchantment and didn’t realize or any number of things but I can tell you aren’t lieing. You’re going to take me to the last spot you remember”

“what if something happens again”

“My son and I would never fall into something like that. I’ve trained him well and only the smart live as long as I have”

“I’m…I’m sorry for what we did to her…normally we’re nothing like that”

“you two didn’t get anywhere with her. She’s tough” Rees let the human man go “show me”

“I’m…I’m hurt badly too. Could I get tended to first?”

“so you can tell the other humans vampires are bullying you?”

“No, no I swear…we obviously hurt someone you love…I wont try anything funny…I just…I”

“dad” Brynmor said and Rees sighed “My son will go with you and I’ll wait here” He could tell the human wanted to ask why but held his tongue. It suited Rees, telling him honestly why might scare him into not cooperating and he didn’t want something else losing its senses and trying to hurt Aurelia or anybody else again. Brynmore wasn’t sure why his dad didn’t want to go into the humans village. Surely nobody was alive anymore who would remember him.

Rees decided to lay down and think up as many possibilities as he could. He wanted to go home, he wanted to be near Aurelia again. He was so lost in his head it seemed like no time atall had passed when Brynmor returned with the human male. Rees stood, staring the man down until the human moved to show them where to go. He took them to the last point he remembered “this is it. I hope I’m remembering right…I cant imagine what would make us dumb enough to mess with a vampire woman”

“She’s an elf” Brynmor said and the man said “I’m sorry”

“don’t be so scared. I’m sure she’ll even feel sad for your friend once she learns you two weren’t in control. A lot of mistakes were made…we’re just glad she found her way home” The man glanced over at Rees who wasn’t paying attention to them. He was absorbed in the environment as he careful studied his surroundings.

Rees could see where the two men had passed through and he squatted down, picking up the crushed cap of a mushroom. He sighed as he stood and held it out. “Do you know what this is?” He asked the man.

“No, I’ve never seen it before.”

“Brynmor. ”

“It’s an otrova mushroom.”

“The spot where you and your friend walked is covered in them. They’re an invasive species and incredibly dangerous.” He tossed the broken mushroom. “When they feel threatened, they release spores into the air and cause a temporary insanity in anyone who inhales it.”

“We didn’t know.” He dropped his head into his hands. “We always go out together, we have been since we were kids, but we didn’t know.” He swallowed then took a deep breath. “I have to bury Eli, I can’t leave him in the woods.”

“I will be able to get rid of these but it will take time. Brynmor, you may help the human while I do this”

“He…he doesn’t have to” The mans voice trembled. Brynmor said “I’d be happy to, we know it wasn’t his fault and my mother isnt a murderous monster either just so you know. She was terrified and just trying to” The man shook his head “I understand, really, I wont go telling anybody anything negative. We…we tried to rape her…I understand…I’m not sure what I’m going to say about his death to his family but I don’t blame her” Brynmor walked away with the human, hoping to get the burial done quickly so he could help his father.

When they were out of earshot the man asked “how can your father be sure he wont go mad with them”

“If he says he knows what he’s doing he knows.”

Rees had to burn them, all while being careful with the rest of the forest. He couldn’t risk anyone else happening upon them, not even one. He wanted to take the time to scour the rest of the forest, but he knew that would take ages and he wanted to get back to Aurelia and explain what had happened. He would have Brynmor accompany him of regular trips to scour the woods once everything was settled. He found his anger dissipating as he watched the fire burn out and when he finally caught up with his son and the man, he was calmer than he had been. They had just finished burying Eli and Brynmor was doing his best to comfort him.

“So what now?” He wiped at his face.

“First, can I have your name?”

“Oh, it’s Oliver, sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Rees sighed. “I cannot hold what happened against you, Oliver, it wasn’t your’s or Eli’s fault.”

“What do I do?”

Rees looked to Brynmor who answered, “Come back with us, talk to the woman you attacked, we’ll explain everything.”

“wont I just upset her…I” he didn’t know what to add, he seemed to be having an internal struggle so Brnymor spoke again “you didn’t manage to rape her. She’s hurt and might be a bit startled when she sees you but I have a feeling that once she knows your side of things she’d want to see you again anyway to tell you herself not to feel guilty” Oliver swallowed “alright, I will come. I still don’t know what I’m going to say to everybody anyway. I don’t want to give you three any more problems. I’ve seen in my village before the fact we tried to rape her which caused her reaction will mean little”

Rees and Brynmor took Oliver to their home where they found Pretoria and Aurelia in the living room, sitting down and talking. “she’s doing so much better” Pretoria said excitedly but her expression changed when she noticed the man “that scent” she said softly. “allow me to explain” Rees started then explained to them why the men had attacked Aurelia. Aurelia’s eyes dampened “oh my…I’m so sorry. I was so scared and you two wouldn’t let me get away…I killed him because I felt I had to in the moment. I’m sorry”

“I understand, I’m horrified about what we tried to do…that that could be in me at all, weird mushrooms or not”

“some things have great power. The mushrooms turned you two into something you weren’t. Don’t feel guilty”

“I’m just glad you’re okay”

“I know you don’t feel I have anything to make up for but I feel bad about your friend. I owe you, anytime you need something, please come back to us so I can repent for his death. I mean it, I really want to”

Chapter Four

He held up his hands. “Please don’t, no one would ever blame you, truly. You were alone, against two of us, it was justified. Eli wouldn’t blame you, he wasn’t like that, he was a good man, kind and honest, he would want you to know it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t know, we didn’t know. So please.”

Rees could see how heartbroken Aurelia was for him and he gently placed a hand on Oliver’s shoulder. “How about you at least come by then, as often as you like, we’ll get to know each other and move past this.”

“I’d like that, thank you.” Oliver took a deep breath. “I just don’t know what to tell everyone back home.”

“I’ll go with you and explain.” Brynmor volunteered. “I’m sure I can hide the fact I’m a vampire.”

“You don’t have to hide, no one would bother you, they know better than that.” He nodded. “I would appreciate your help, I just don’t want them to think Eli was a monster.”

“You should rest.” Aurelia said. “You spent all night in the woods and you’re wounded.” She looked to Rees whose heart jumped in his chest. “He can stay right? He shouldn’t travel until he’s better.”

“Of course.” He sat down next to her, gently taking her hand.

“Thank you.”

He wanted to tell her anything she wanted was his command but he knew how weird that would sound. “don’t scare her” he thought to himself. “it’s the right thing to do” He held her hand a few more moments before getting up “let me show him to a room” Rees knew he needed to speak to Oliver about their situation with her. Not only to let him know he had helped guide his mate back to him but so he didn’t say something he shouldnt since Brynmor had repeatedly refereed to Aurelia as his mother.

Rees walked the man to a room in another hall then said “this is where you can stay but we need to talk about something important if you’re going to be interacting with her”

“yeah?”

“she’s a reincarnation…my wife…Aurelia has no idea about her past with us and it shouldn’t come from you. If we as a family decide to tell her it should come from us”

“Oh…that must be hard”

“Immensely”

“maybe if you told her it would help her remember…I mean there’s things that can be done”

“what if I scare her, she might not believe me and think me crazy”

“that woman in there? She’s no coward, she just invited a man who tried to rape her to stay in the same castle as her. I mean, I think she’d face the possibility head on” Rees gave him a long look that semi frightened Oliver. He finally said “thanks for the input, will you be needing anything?”

“I just want a bath” Rees pointed a few rooms away “theres a bath in there. I’ll tell Brynmor to bring you clothing”

“Thank you” Rees left the man without another word, pondering what he had said. HIs Amelia…his Aurelia had never been a coward a moment in her life. Maybe he was over worrying but with something as important as having her in his life again he wasn’t sure that was possible. He wanted her back, in any way he could have her and he knew the kids felt the same. If he handled this wrong, if he made the wrong choices he’d be breaking their hearts all over again as well. He had more than just his own heart to consider in all this.

When he came back to the room Aurelia was happily talking with her two kids “Hey Rees” his heart stuttered at the sound of his name coming from her. “He’s settled…what did you and my daughter do today?”

“talked mostly, I’m eager to be shown around though…would you mind doing that tomorrow? She said it would be best if you did” he smiled gently “if you still feel up to it yes”

“I want to know everything about this place. I’ve never been in a castle before. How did you build this or did you find it?”

“I built this, most vampires lived in castles in my time. It was the thing to do” She smiled ‘you do look like a classic” she said it with so much affection it even surprised her. “I’m sorry, was that…weird” he nervously chuckled “never be sorry, I know I haven’t updated my style…ever…my wife didn’t mind though”

“You all seem so wonderful, I’m sure she just felt lucky”

“I have something to take care of” Pretoria said to excuse herself and her brother followed suit, leaving their parents alone. “you don’t have to stay with me if you want to rest or something. You’ve done so much for me. I mean, you were out all this time because of me” he gently smiled again “I want to get to know you. Thank me by telling me more about your life Aurelia”

“when do you want me to start?”

“Your first memories if you so wish”

“alright…” she paused for a time, obviously thinking “my very first memory is one with my dad. We were just running and laughing, I think maybe we were playing tag. Most of my early memories are of my dad. He was always playing around with me. My moms wonderful too but I’m extra close with him.” She had been treated well in this life and loved by her parents, he was glad to hear it. She had deserved much better from her birth parents in her past life. “so it wasn’t hard growing up as a nomad?”

“I loved every second of it”

“so…do you think you’d ever be happy staying in one place” she shrugged “I never say never, if the right situation arose I’m sure I could be happy settling somewhere”

“whats your first memory of your mom?”

“We found this bow and arrow in a shop that was made for little kids. She bought it right there and took me to a practicing arena for it. It was fun” he nearly chuckled “they sound fun”

“yeah, I’ll have to find them again one day but not soon. I mean. I don’t feel like I’ve found what I left them to look for…I think I just told Pretoria about this but” she proceeded to tell him how she came to leave her parents side.

Rees’s heart was skipping in his chest. Someone had sent her to him, he had to believe that. “That’s amazing, Aurelia, truly.” He sat down next to her. “Aurelia I…” he let out a sigh.

“What?” She could tell something was troubling him and she couldn’t stop herself from taking his hand in hopes of comforting him. “Is everything alright?”

“Yes, sorry, it’s just I’m really happy to have you here. I hope it’s okay to say that, after everything that’s happened.”

She smiled and his entire being warmed. “I’m happy too.” She said.

“Truly?”

“Yeah, you and your children have been so sweet, it’s more than I expected.”

He burned to tell her everything, but he couldn’t, not yet. He could wait until tomorrow at least. “I’m glad.” He gave her a smile. “Would you like me to get you anything? Food? Something to drink? We could have dinner together or if you haven’t eaten.”

“I imagine you must be starving, eating together would be nice. I’m feeling well enough to come to the kitchen with you” she could see the concern on his face even before he answered “you were bleeding internally from fighting those men when you arrived”

“and since then you and your children have done an amazing job of taking care of me. I really don’t want to keep you in this room. Besides, I’m dieing to even just see a little more tonight”

“well…if you start to feel weak, just let me know”

“alright” She couldn’t believe how sweet this vampire and his children were. They were constantly tugging at her heart. Rees helped her out of bed which was cute even though not needed. They walked to his kitchen where she saw they had leftovers from the salad she had been made “a salad is just fine with me again”

“I can make you something, I don’t mind. We…could even cook together”

“alright, but really let me help” Rees pulled out the last of the rabbit they had and decided to make Aurelias favorite soup in her past life. If what some people said were true and you really could make an old soul remember a past life then he wanted to try everything he could to help her soul tell her new mind what it remembered. He began, having her do the easiest steps possible. This would take awhile to cook but he wasn’t interested in resting anyway. He had lived without his wife so long, he needed to be with her as much as he could.

“I suppose as a traveler you eat rabbit a lot” he said, just wanting to hear her speak again. “yeah but I like it. This already seems so good. Where did you learn to make it?”

“My late wife” he said gently “Oh, gosh, I end up bringing her up a lot with you three. I’m sorry”

“It’s alright, she’s an incredibly pleasant memory for us all”

“It sounded from Pretoria it’s been a long time. I’m surprised you’re still single” he felt uncomfortable with what he was about to say but he wouldn’t lie to her “I ended up with someone eventually, a friend of hers…it was a bit selfish of me because most of why I was able to with her is she felt like a piece of Amelia. They hungout so much…I…I think she always knew but she just wanted affection as I did.” She didn’t ask why they parted, she supposed they just both realized they weren’t really helping eachother in being together. “well…I hope you find someone you can actually love again” his smile held so many emotions, mostly sad which made her feel bad so she changed the subject “so um, are you close to your kids…like do you do a lot together normally?”

“we’re pretty close, it’s why they still live with me even though they’ve been adults a long time”

“thats sweet”

“I wouldn’t be here without them, they saved me, even after…I don’t deserve them.”

“I’m glad you’re still here, for what that’s worth. I mean if you weren’t, we never would have met.”

Rees smiled. “I feel the same, truly.”

They continued talking, him getting to know more about her life, about her family and about her journey to him. He told her stories about his life, about their life, hoping maybe one of his fondest memories would help spark hers. Aurelia loved the smell of the soup as it boiled and when Rees finally made her a bowl and she took her first bite, she paused at the taste. She felt herself tear up and jumped when Rees touched her shoulder, a look of concern on his face. “Sorry.” She said.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, of course, this is really good.”

“Maybe we should go back to your room.”

“No, it’s fine, really.”

“Alright, but after, you should rest.”

She nodded, wondering why she suddenly felt so emotional. A lot of her emotional responses were seeming to become odd and she wondered if it was just because of her ordeal before meeting these people. She took another spoon fool and held the flavorful soup in her mouth a few moments, emotion hitting her again. It was like her soul was aching. She swallowed and looked back at Rees, her eyes meeting his for a few long moments “I’m sorry” she couldn’t help but say again, seeing how concerned she was making him. “what’re you thinking about?”

“nothing really in particular. I probably do just need more rest after this”

“Would it be alright for me to carry you back…you’re worrying me”

“that would be really kind, thank you Rees” something flashed in her mind, of hugging him and thanking him as they sat down at the table with young children, his children. At least they had looked so similar to them she thought it was. She quickly finished her soup and began to wash it “hey, you’re still getting better. Myself or the kids will get that” she was so thrown off by everything that had been happening in her mind and emotionally since eating with him she didn’t protest “alright, will you take me back to my room then”

Rees lifted her into his arms, happy to have her close, however briefly it would be. They were nearly to the room she was staying in when she asked him “do you have any pictures of your kids when they were children?”

“I’m sure I do, most of what I have are paintings. My late wife loved to have us painted. You’d like to see?”

“If I wouldn’t be bothering you”

‘not at all. I’ll go get one after I have you settled in”

“you can’t just take me to it” he couldn’t, they would be with all the pictures that had her in them. “you need to rest” she did so it wasn’t a lie. He tucked her into bed so lovingly, she couldn’t resist hugging him. It surprised Rees but his body instantly responded. He had her close once more and demanded himself not to cry. He didn’t know what to say about it so he didn’t and she didn’t say anything more as he walked out the door.It hit him once he was out he never told his son to bring Oliver clothes but knowing his children one of them had checked on the human.

He went to retrieve one of the paintings of his children, promising himself he would check on Oliver before he went to bed. He had been so wrapped up in Aurelia and everything that had happened, that he had been being a bad host. His eyes caught hers when he came back into her room and he couldn’t help but pause there for a moment. His heart thumped in his chest when she smiled and he had to force himself to move again. “Sorry.” He said as he crossed over to her.

“It’s alright.”

“I shouldn’t stare, it’s rude.”

“Then we’re both in trouble.” She teased and he couldn’t help but smile.

“I was going to bring one of the bigger ones, but I decided against it. This one though, is one of my favorites.” He sat down next to her and turned the painting so she could see it. He remembered that day very vividly because it had been so hard to get Brynmor to sit still.

Chapter Five

She tried not to let her expression change too much as she looked at this painting. She had seen those two as children. Could she have really guessed so accurately? It was weird but maybe that was all it was. Her mind just had shrunk the two down incredibly well. “they were so adorable” her eyes grew a little damp but she didn’t cry. “Yeah, Brynmor would not sit still for this picture. We almost gave up…my wife and I I mean”

“I’m glad you two got to capture it. He’s as adorable then as he is handsome now. Pretoria grew up beautiful herself.”

“They had a gorgeous mother, I guess that helped Brynmor aswell because he certainly didn’t get it from me. I just tend to scare people. I think one of the things I loved most about my late wife was that she never feared me for a moment” He noticed her gaze go from the children to him “I think you’re incredibly handsome Rees,don’t call yourself scary” she blushed, quickly looking away from him and wondering why she had said that out loud. “Um…you should get rest too Rees. You ran around all that time solving what happened and taking care of Oliver. I’m…getting tired” she felt awkward and was a bit overwhelmed with herself and thoughts in general.

“Please call me if you need anything alright”

“I will” he almost leaned down to kiss her head but managed not to “goodnight Aurelia” His voice was so loving and sad. He was such a sweet vampire, she could definitely see how someone could fall in love with him. When he shut the door she looked down at the picture again and whispered to herself “what did that couple want me to find…could it be…you three?” she almost felt stupid saying it. Amelia sounded so perfect, she could probably never fill her shoes here. She laid back against the headboard and prayed softly “Gods and goddess’s, please help me. If you can, give me some sort of sign. Is this where I was supposed to end up or am I just enamored with this family and want to think my heart was leading me here”

She looked at the picture awhile longer then settled down for the night, hoping everyone else slept well. Another violent storm woke her late in the night, just like the one she had found herself in the night she came to this castle. She gasped when she saw a figure in her room but relaxed when she saw the man who had come to her. She looked around and asked “where is the woman?”

“Humble is busy”

“are you a god, is that why you’re here again” he chuckled “No but I have a few assisting me now with my work”

“your work”

“thats not what I’m here to explain. You asked for more guidance…well, get out of bed.” she got up, hoping a head injury didn’t have her going insane. Those men had hit her quite a few times. Once they stepped out of the room he held a finger up to his mouth to tell her to keep quite so she did, following him all the way down to the final floor of the castle”why are we here?” she asked in a whisper. He started rumaging and pulled out a painting that made her legs so weak she almost fell “wha…what”

“I think you know what I’m telling you Aurelia…or should I say…Amelia”

“but…how…what”

“don’t hyperventilate on me, sit, please”

“but…thats me!”

“in your past life. You are the wife and mother they keep speaking of”

“they…do they actually know”

“They felt it, you feel it too, I know you do. That soul of yours was begging to come back. Even I felt it desperate desire to find Rees and your children as my wife and I were passing you by that night. You’ve wanted to run back to him from the moment you were born. Didn’t you used to draw a lot of vampire art Aurelia, didn’t you always make up games where you lived in a castle and wasn’t your very first make believe friend named Rees” she felt light headed as it all came rushing back. Childhood felt like so long ago but as she stood there she realized his words were true “what are you”

“what I am and the gods that help me aren’t important right now unless you don’t believe you’re Amelia” Tears started tumbling down her face “I…I think I believe you”

“Good, Humble, my wife loves a good romance story. I understand yours was particularly beautiful. You two meant the world to eachother and those kids have missed you immensely. You left a hole in their hearts and I think even if we hadn’t woken up your soul you would have never felt complete without them. The bond you all had in your previous life was much too strong”

“when she touched me…”

“she just helped you hear”

“it really lead me back here”

“You and Rees are meant for one another.”

“why didn’t they show me this”

“I dont think they want to lose you all over again. Not everyone believes souls are reincarnated. You might have thought them crazy even with these pictures. Go to Rees and I’ll return to my Humble”

“I’m grateful” she wiped her face before continuing “but you cant cliffhanger me like this. Will you two come back when you have time. I have to know more” he chuckled “well you are an elf this time, your kind is notorious for being hungry for information. Lucky for you Humble loves romances like the one you have with Rees. I’m sure she’ll lunge at the opportunity to see you two back together. She would have come now but she couldn’t”

“whats your name, I dont think you’ve told me”

“Jase” she had almost forgot about the storm until it scared her “easy now, hurt yourself again and you’ll break three hearts” Jase said in an amused voice. Aurelia ran up the stairs and Jase smiled, setting the painting back down and used the magic that brought him to return him to Humble. Suddenly Brynmor was infront of her, looking disheveled. “are you okay? I heard running. Did something happen?” he started looking her over for wounds. She hugged him “You’re my son…I cant believe it” His heart nearly stopped “Mom…do you remember”

“Not completely but…I saw that picture down stairs and…and…I dont know I feel its true. I’m your mom aren’t I” He held her crushingly tight “mom” his voice broke a little “Even without you knowing its been so good having you back. Life just hans’t been the same without you. You need to see dad.”

“I do” she was bawling and wished she wasn’t. She had always been such an ugly crier and that was the last thing she wanted to be when she made it to his room. Her emotions were just so strong right now she couldn’t help it. He was crying too adn that wasn’t helping. She felt this was her son and no loving mother wanted to see their son cry. He hugged her one more time “we’ll help you remember fully mom and even if you cant…I’m just so happy you know. We can make new memories” she nodded and he knocked on the door before leaving her.

Aurelia hastily wiped at her face, praying that she didn’t look horrible. He opened the door with confusion and concern on his face “whats happened? Why are you crying” Looking into his eyes she didn’t know what words to use so she grabbed his shirt, pulling him down to kiss her.

Rees was surprised by the sudden press of her lips and it took him a moment for his brain to register what was happening. He grabbed her shoulders and gently pushed her back. “Aurelia, what are you doing?” He wanted to keep kissing her, to pull her into him and into his bed.

Aurelia held his face in her hands, tears springing back into her eyes. “I know everything, I know why I’m here.”

His heart stuttered. “What…what are you saying?”

“I’m Amelia, I’m your wife.”

Rees swallowed, feeling a knot forming in his throat. “You remember.”

She shook her head. “I saw a picture of her and I know it’s me, I know I’m your wife, I can feel it, I’ve always felt it, I just didn’t know until I was pushed to leave.” She pulled him back down, giving him another kiss. “I’m your wife.”

His tears spilled over and he pulled her tightly against him. “Aurelia, I’ve missed you, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”

“Just the way you three talk about me…I can tell. I can’t believe how lucky I am, to not only have had you three before but that I was brought back in this life.”

“I know, I could have never met you again. I wish I could thank who sent you my way”

“You can, I saw one of the beings that told me to follow my heart tonight.” she went through every detail up until this moment “so I think he and Humble are coming back”

“Good…” he pulled her into his room and shut the door “even though you don’t have your memories…you’ll lay with me right?” she smiled as she wiped her face. Aurelia thought it was an adorable question given she had just kissed him “yeah, Id like to cuddle with you tonight” he made almost a squeaking sound due to how emotional and eager he was to keep her close. The sound and how he held her once they were laying down touched her heart again “you three are going to keep me crying constantly, in a good way” she whispered. He kissed her forehead “as long as they are good tears Aurelia…I. my heart has ached constantly for you. So has the childrens but they’ve always handled it better than me”

“well I’m here now and I wont leave you guys again” He held her a little tighter “It may be too much to ask but please, let at least one of us always be with you”

“Pretoria told me how I died…I think that need from you is understandable” he felt a little shame at the thought she might know just how insane he became for a few years. He had allowed himself to become a monster when he saw her body parts hanging from the trees and he wished he could go back and handle things more like she would have wanted him to. “did you make me that soup because it was my favorite?”

“I was trying to help you remember”

“It did stir something in me, as you heard from my story”

“is there anything you want me to tell you about Aurelia” his voice was so emotional “You can just hold me for tonight. It sounds like you need it” He gave her a long kiss to the head “thank you…I’ve missed this so much…even when I had someone else…it was never even near the same”

“can I know…if she ever lived here or anything?”

“No, she only stayed over once or twice a month for a night”

“Okay”

“I love you Aurelia”

“I love you too. She was my friend though right? Are you going to let me meet her”

“You’d want to?”

“she was my friend. I mean you two had a sort of relationship but I’m not upset at her or you. You were lonely and it sounds like she was too. I definitely don’t think if she came around you’d be doing anything with her on the side so I’d like to meet her at some point”

“Okay, but I want to be selfish with you for awhile. I’m sure the kids feel the same” she smiled “thats okay with me” The room fell silent besides a few sniffles here and there. Aurelia wasn’t sure when she fell asleep but she woke still in his arms the next morning. He had fallen asleep hard so she was able to get up without disturbing him. She wanted to see her daughter now, to embrace her as she had her son and husband. She wasn’t hard to find, it looked like she had been waiting in the hall for her to come out “Brynmor says…he”

“I know who I am, come here” Pretoria ran into her arms “Mom, its so good to have you home”

“It’s good to be home honey”

~ The End ~

Sylvie & Jarius 2

Chapter One

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

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

“I think I need to go home”

“is something wrong with Jarius?”

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

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

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

“Where is Xeja?”

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

“where?”

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

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

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

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

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

“where are we momma”

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

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

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

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

“No, not really?”

“The prince out?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy are you scared?”

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

“Even daddy?”

“Yeah.”

“And uncle Paimon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know if I can”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“you found water”

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

“can I go wash in it please?”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Two

“Are we safe?” Sylvie asked.

“Very…sit…rest?.”

“Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“do you remember the book I wrote about Casis”

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

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

“How’re we going to get there?”

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

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

“You stay here in my home”

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

“need to…stay”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

“I don’t even want it in the house.”

“Then I’ll take it.”

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

“We all make mistakes, Jarius.”

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

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

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

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

“what are we going to do now?”

“I’m going to gather firewood, make you a nice fire and we’re going to relax. You should have said something sooner baby. You look so exhausted. After the fire is made I want you just to lay down”

“okay mommy” Sylvie shifted back into a dragon and pushed over a tree to make wood small enough for their fire. Once it was burning Sylvie was in her human body again and patted her lap so Xeja would lay her head down. Sylvie hoped her following words would bring her daughter any comfort “there has to be some sort of city sweetheart. Once you’re feeling rested I will find it”

“what if it’s underground, Gazit’s home was underground”

“while you sleep I’m going to be sitting here thinking about all the ways we could possibly handle this. Don’t stress okay baby, trust your mommy and close those beautiful brown eyes”

“I’m sorry” She almost couldnt bare to hear her daughter apologize. A four year old breaking a rule shouldn’t have these type of consequences. “don’t you be sorry about anything. I’m not mad” Sylvies eyes were damp but she was still trying not to cry. She knew she needed to stay strong and she didn’t want to waste her energy crying. “I promise to always be good when we get back to daddy”

“shhh sweetheart” Sylvie began lightly rubbing her daughters face and arms, grateful when she finally went to sleep so she wouldn’t fall apart.

“You said Casis correct?” Paimon asked.

“Yes, have you found something?” Jarius moved to look over Paimon’s shoulder.

“It looks like the information is old, but old is probably good.” He tapped the part of the page he had been reading. “It looks like opening it takes a few things, namely the blood of the one opening it, but it’s not impossible.”

“I wish I could just open it damn it.”

Paimon shrugged. “So we’ll each take a part of the list and gather what we need. You might have some of it around here. Just know, I’m definitely coming with you, wouldn’t want you getting eaten before you can rescue the girls.”

“Alright, we’ll split up and try to gather everything, but hurry, I need to get to them.”

As Sylvie sat there she noticed the ring again on her daughters finger. It could obviously change in size since it still didnt’ come off when Xeja shifted into a dragon. Sylvie rubbed the hand that wore it, wishing she knew how to work this ring. She was half afraid if she tried to do something with it, without knowledge of how it worked they could end up further down the rabbit hole in a whole new place. They could end up even further from home with less hope of returning to her husband. Sylvie sighed, her eyes now going to the fire as she asked nobody in particular “what do I do” Things remained peaceful until Xeja woke.

“morning baby”

“Morning”

“you ready? I can carry you if you want to wake up more before walking”

“No, I can walk momma”

“Okay sweetheart, don’t let yourself get that tired again. I still don’t know where to begin so truly, we can rest all you need” Xeja nodded and Sylvie put out the fire before taking her daughters hand and walking on in the direction she had already determined they’d try. They found some fruit along the way and it clicked with Sylvie, she remembered eating this a lot with Jarius when they first met. She wondered what besides this he got up to in a place as odd as this one.

They couldn’t have gone another full hour before Xeja gasped “baby what” she started to ask when she saw a dart in her daughters neck and heard another coming for her. Sylvie shifted after jerking it out of her daughter , hoping her scales would be too strong for the darts to get through. She heard deranged cackling “a dragon, I can deal with you” the voice was creepy and even more startling her little girl passed out.

Sylvie roared at the top of her lungs, beyond pissed at this point. The cackling started again and in her rage she started spreading fire indiscriminately. Normally she’d care about possibly hurting things that had done nothing to her but she was scared, she was exhausted, she was hungry, and she wasn’t about to let some crazy make her feel trapped again. The fire caught quickly and Sylvie took Xeja in one of her claws for safety.

Sylvie flew straight up, glad when nothing else happened. I can deal with you she scoffed as she remembered his words. He was going to be dealing with the grim reaper if he came near her child again. It didn’t hit her until she had flown a fairly good distance the being had used English easily. Maybe some people here did speak her language. Sylvie’s current plan was to fly as long as possible so that hopefully her daughter would stay out of harms way until she woke up.

Jarius felt his wifes fury and it terrified him as to what may have caused it. She was far from an angry person so he worried what might be happening to his daughter. Suddenly it was as if she slammed into an invisible wall. It disoriented her and she slightly plummeted before lifting herself back up. “what?” she was confused, why couldn’t she fly further. She was too scared to land with her daughter still recovering from whatever drugs were in the dart so she tried to fly in another direction but to her horror she hit another wall, she was being boxed in somehow.

She roared as she hovered there. “I will burn this entire world if you don’t let us go.” It was a bluff, but she didn’t want anything else to happen to Xeja. The laughter seemed to be coming from all around her and her heart danced fearfully in her chest.

“It’s only a matter of time, dragon.” The voice said. “Aren’t you tired? I wonder how long your wings will carry you.”

“How much more do we have?” Jarius asked as he looked down at the things everyone had gathered.

“Lefan is off gathering a couple of hard to get plants and your friend went off to find this amulet.” Saeran answered.

“She’s scared uncle, angry, something bad is happening and I need to get to them.”

“I know, but you must stay calm, keep a clear head.”

“If I lost them I would go mad. Even Paimon understands.”

“Talking about me behind my back?” Paimon asked as he stepped in and Jarius shot him a glare. “I got it.” He held up the amulet.

“How did you…you know what it doesn’t matter, thank you.

Sylvie’s wings began to ache, she knew they might give out and there was obviously some sort of trap waiting below. She figured it was best to rush down and try to escape than to simply let herself get exhausted and fall right into whatevers clutches. She took a deep, mind clearing breath then said calmly to her unconscious daughter “I love you so much Xeja” before flying down. She flew straight as soon as she was able and just as she went straight a large, metal contraption tried to clamp down on her foot, almost taking off one of her toes but she had managed to evade it. The wound stung and blood poured down onto the earth but she still kept forward until something wrapped around her neck, instantly tightening so that she could barely breath. She tried to roar in fury again but it was too tight, having no give whatsoever.

Chapter Four

She wrapped herself tightly around Xeja as she hit the ground, taking trees down with her massive body and kicking up dirt. Her vision swam, her body aching all over, her blood soaking into the ground. She couldn’t breathe, but she refused to shift back to her human form. She knew if she did, they would take Xeja. Her mind was a whirlwind of emotion and Jarius could feel everyone, could feel the pain reverberating through her and he growled, wanting to kill whoever had dared touch her.

“I’m back, I’m sorry, there were…complications.” Lefan said as he came running in, one hand holding a bag, the other clutching his shoulder. He was scraped and bruised pretty bad, but he had managed to get the plants they needed.

“What happened?” Paimon asked.

“Just…it doesn’t matter.” Paimon opened his mouth to argue and Lefan interrupted, “Pellegrino’s back, he’s probably heading this way.” Paimon’s eyes went from concerned to dancing with delight in an instant, something that he quickly shoved down.

Lefan handed Jarius the bag. “Are you sure you’re alright?” Jarius asked.

“I’m fine.”

If Sylvie wasn’t obviously getting hurt he would have insisted to check his wound but Lefan felt he was fine and they needed to hurry to Sylvie. By the time Pellegrino got there they were almost done “Just in time” Paimon said “I had to finish taking care of the thing that attacked Lefan. It was a persistent son of a bitch. I’m happy I made it” Lefan looked awkwardly at the floor, hating he could seem to do nothing recently but cause trouble. What was he going to do if his carelessness cost his sister her life? He couldn’t imagine telling their parents or their other siblings or even the rest of the family.

As Sylvie’s vision began to get hazy she told herself over and over in her mind “don’t let go” hoping sheer will would keep her claws clutching her daughter when she was no longer conscious. Xeja regained consciousness as frustrated men tried to get to her “what the fuck! The damned mother passed out!” Xeja gasped, pushing herself as far away from them as he confined space allowed. They seemed to be struggling to get her mothers claws open “mommy”

“dont whine, I cant stand whining children and I’m already frustrated kid”

Though Jarius was impatient he and his uncle made sure everything was placed perfectly and that the plants they had all collected were perfectly measured and mixed. He put the amulet around his neck and sat down in front of the circle of items. The bowl was placed in the center, the book open in front of him. “Make sure you get enough in there to soak the ground up plants.” His uncle said as he handed him the dagger.

“I know.” He sliced his palm open and held it over the bowl, his eyes moving over the spell, lips speaking the words clearly as he called the doorway that would take him to his wife and child.

Xeja screamed when they managed to get one of her mother’s claws pulled back far enough that they could reach an arm in. She pressed herself further back, but one managed to snag her clothes. She bit whoever it was and they yelled as they released her. “You little bitch!” Another arm reached in and she moved away from it, crying for her mother and father.

She closed her eyes, still pushing herself back as hard as she could when suddenly she heard her father. Xejas eyes snapped open and she cried harder at the sight of not only her dad but her Uncles and Pellegrino. She knew they were safe now so she crawled out of her mothers claws and began to try to wake her “mommy” Xeja grabbed the lasso around her mothers neck and tried to break it “mommy” she whined. Paimon suddenly appeared on top of Sylvie, pulling out some sort of dagger and easily breaking the enchanted rope. Xeja noticed they had the men that were trying to hurt her unconscious on the ground so they were all coming over to help Sylvie.

Lefan lifted Xeja into his arms “they have her okay, your mom is going to be alright”

“we need to get this bleeding stopped first” Saeran said. They did their best with her toe, they could get her proper help back at home. “she’s not awake yet” Xeja whined and Lefan held her a little tighter. They took Sylvie home, they didn’t know how much blood she had lost so far and Jarius didn’t care where they landed at home. They could buy new things, he couldn’t get another Sylvie. By the time Sylvie woke days had passed and her little girl, much to her relief was the first to greet her. She had been refusing to leave her mother so Jarius was currently gone getting them something to eat. “Oh my baby”

“we’re home mom” Sylvie noticed she was in human form again “they were able to make you shift back and they got the ring off, see” Xeja wiped tears away then showed her mom her hand “Oh that’s such wonderful news honey”

“I’m sorry mommy.”

“Oh baby, it’s okay.” She hugged her daughter. “Where’s uncle Lefan?”

“He’s upset.”

Sylvie knew her brother had to be beating himself over what had happened and was probably ashamed. She wanted to see him and tell him it was alright, that she wasn’t mad. “We should go see him, let him know we’re okay.”

“You need to stay in bed, my love.” Jarius said as he stepped into their room. “You’re too weak to go wandering around. I’ll bring him here.”

“Jarius.” She could see and feel he was exhausted and scared and once Xeja had her food, she held out her arms. He said his own plate down, forgetting his food and just gathering her into his embrace. He buried his face in her hair and his relief and fear washed over her, his tears dripping onto her shoulder.

“I love you Jarius…we both missed you” Sylvie said softly, trying to bring him comfort. It only seemed to make him struggle more to keep tears at bay. “I’ve already started clearing that room…I’m so sorry I was so…something like that should have never been in there. I am so so sorry, I feel all your misery in that world is my fault” He wanted to apologize a million times over. “I was never mad at you or my brother. Neither of you would ever lead us to harm on purpose. I hope you weren’t mean to him” Jarius shook his head “as I said, I feel it’s more my fault than anybody elses. I told him as much but he’s your brother, he loves you and little Xeja immensely. I’m glad I didn’t scold him because he’s punishing himself enough as it is”

“as it seems you are Jarius. However, I’m happy to hear you’re getting rid of the dangerous things”

“it’s irresponsible until Xeja is grown. I…I can’t even think of what I was thinking…a locked door or not she was bound to get in there unattended” He held her a little tighter then made himself let go “are you hungry? I was going to eat light anyway so take my plate if you are. I’ll grab something else while I go get your brother for you”

“are you sure” with damp eyes he nodded. Jarius handed Sylvie his food, kissed her forehead then made himself leave again. He had been dyeing to talk to and hold her while she was actually conscious but she wanted to see her brother. Now, of all times, he would not be selfish. He at least knew at this point she wasn’t angry at him and that in itself lifted the weight of worlds off his shoulders. As soon as Lefan came to the door Jarius said “she’s awake and wants to see you”

“she does?”

“she’s not mad, at me or you” Lefan gave a sad sigh “still herself I guess…shes never held a grudge…I’ll get my shoes” Lefan was ready in a few moments then the two of them headed back to the waiting Sylvie.

Sylvie smiled when Lefan came in and her brother looked about ready to cry. “Come here, silly.”

He sat down on the bed and he really did start crying when she and Xeja hugged him. “I…I’m so sorry…I should have…”

“Hush now, we’re both fine and I’m not mad.”

“I should have known better.” Jarius said. “I filled my home with dangerous things and paid for it.”

“It’s really okay uncle Lefan.” Xeja said.

Once Lefan was able to calm down, he sat and chatted with them. He was relieved she was still her old self, that what had happened hadn’t traumatized her or Xeja and if it had, they weren’t showing it. He stayed until he noticed his sister getting exhausted and promised her he would stop worrying so much. “You should get some more rest, baby, both of you.” Jarius said as he sat down on their bed and gave Sylvie a kiss.

“I’m alright.”

“You need it, I can feel it. Rest, okay? I’ll stay here with you two.”

“Okay.”

“I’ll go to my bed. I missed my bed and my stuffed animals” Now Sylvie felt a little emotional. Her mind had definitely gone to what all that may have done to her daughter but she was still her bright, beautiful little girl “you’re welcome back in here if you need it honey.” she gave Jarius a gentle nudge “go tuck her in, she missed you singing to her. I promise to lay down” Jarius had to kiss her again before he stood and lifted his daughter. Sylvie sighed, looking around her bedroom. They were home, she was really and truly home. Paimon suddenly appeared and she smiled “Paimon”

“You doing okay?”

“Yeah, just tired”

“How’s my little niece?” Sylvie weakly giggled “you know she called you her Uncle while we were there” He smiled, it seemed to bring him immense joy “good, I love that little girl and despite what you may think I do have a heart in here”

“I know you do”

“I’ll let you rest”

“thank you”

“for?”

“talking to Lefan I learned you helped” He looked like saying this made him uncomfortable “I feel like I have a family…I wasn’t about to have that family broken up” Sylvies eyes grew even heavier as she smiled again, he could see it so he vanished, especially since he felt awkward anyway. Awkward was far from a feeling he was used to but family was far from something he was used to. Sylvie laid down, falling asleep before her husband returned. Jarius was quiet when he returned to their room,still worried over her.

He continued on clearing out the room he worked in then refilling it with treasures that were safe over the next months. He could have lost his beautiful mate and his wonderful little girl and he wasn’t sure he’d ever get over the shame of being so blind and selfish, no matter how forgiving Sylvie and Xeja was. They meant to much to him to forgive himself too quickly and no amount of time would have him forget the lesson he learned.

~ The End

Sylvie & Jarius

Chapter One

Sylvie was sitting with her brother Galt discussing the upcoming ball at their aunt and uncles castle when Jarius came into view, flying towards them. “do you need me to make him go away?” Her brother quickly asked and she answered ‘why would I need that? We’re still friends”

“you never look happy anymore when he comes around.”

“It’s just a sucky, semi awkward situation. It’ll pass and we’ll be back to normal”

“I guess I’ll leave you guys to it then. Love you, if he becomes too much and you need him dealt with remember you have three brothers”

“I’ll be fine, out of anything he may do, hurting me would never even cross his mind” he was about to say something else but Jarius landed. Galt shifted, taking to the sky himself. “Hey Jarius” she greeted softly. “Hello Sylvie, I’m sorry but I’m going to get right to the point of why I’m here…I need to know why you said yes to going on a date with me then suddenly canceled. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to ask why even though I waited so long after to do it. Please, I promise if you talk this out with me right now and you still dont want to even give me the chance to woo you into being my mate it’ll never come up again.”

“Jarius…why does why matter”

“Because I love you…I love you so much that my heart aches every time I look at you now knowing I can never have you as my mate” Her heart stuttered in her chest “You love me?”

“Yes, I’ve loved you since the day I laid eyes on you. It took me a few months to realize it but you instantly wrapped me around your beautiful fingers Sylvie.” she sighed “you truly mean that you love me?”

“why would I just say that Sylvie?” She sighed, obviously uncomfortable. He hated being the reason she was but he had to know why if he was ever going to force himself to move on and act normal around here. He wasn’t sure it was possible but this was the only step he could think of in either that direction or getting her to change her mind. “well” she started then swallowed, fidgeting because she really didn’t want to have this conversation but he did have every right to ask her why. “Thompson told me that you move around so much because…well because you like to sleep around and that you only asked me out because it would lead to me sleeping with you eventually and from what he had heard I was your last…well stop before moving on to the next place and group of girls and I’m not judging you for it I mean…look at you…you’re so handsome. Why not sleep with a bunch of girls when it comes so easy but I just can’t be with you”

She couldn’t look at him, his aura was so angry and it scared her a little. She almost wanted to call for her brother but his voice was much different than his aura. His voice was calm and sad “Sylvie…that isn’t true at all. I mean, I’m by no means a virgin but considering how long I’ve lived I truly don’t think I’ve been with an outrageous number of women sexually.” he had to pause, he was so angry at that bastard Thompson and so heartbroken by what she thought of him he was struggling to speak. He wasn’t sure if he was going to cry or take off and beat the life out of Thompson.

“I love you Sylvie, things with you could never be a one night stand. I have caves of riches that I would give up if it meant I could have you as my mate. I love you so much I am a slave to your will. No matter how ridiculous the request I’d do anything for you, absolutely anything you asked. You are my first thought every single morning and my dreams at night. As many dragons I love collecting and learning but since the day I laid eyes on you nothing else has mattered. I haven’t had the slightest desire to leave this place until you rejected me…I haven’t been with a single other woman that lives in this kingdom. I swear that to you Sylvie. You aren’t some conquest so I can move on you are my lifes goal. I want…for now I want you to please look at me Sylvie”

She slowly looked up and her heart tripped over itself again due to the way he was looking at her “I love you and you have to see that I mean that. You of all people should know that people don’t always tell the truth about others. It was you who told me the story of your aunt and uncle. How it took them a long time to get together because your father thought it would be funny to make Cantaly think he was gay. I don’t know Thompsons motives but what he said isn’t true”

She stared at him silently until a tear tumbled down his cheek and crumbled her heart. He wasn’t lieing and she felt horrible for ever believing what Thompson said “I’m sorry Jarius…”

“you still wont give me a chance?”

“I meant I’m sorry for believing him…um…” she felt nervous for a different reason now, she felt stupid. “we can go on the date you planned if you’d still want that and we can even go to my aunt and uncles ball coming up”

“Truly?”

“Yes, of course.” She took his face in her hands and wiped the tear away. “I’m truly sorry.”

“You never have to apologize to me.”

“I do, I should have come to you immediately.”

His arms wrapped around her and he hugged her to him, pressing their foreheads together. “Thank you, Sylvie. May…may I kiss you? Just one, I promise.” Sylvie nodded shyly, her cheeks tinted red as he moved slowly in and pressed their lips together. He made it brief, but hoped she could feel how much he loved her.

“I can have that date ready tonight if you haven’t got anything else going on” He tucked some hair behind her right ear and she gave him a small smile “I’d really like that” He let her go and began to walk away but soon felt her grab his hand “Hey…” he looked at her, seeing how badly she felt all over her face “It’s alright Sylvie…all that matters is that you’ll give me a chance now” He wanted to go set up their date but he wouldn’t dare tug away, not from her when she was finally letting him be so close again. “I’ve just…I’ve never seen you cry before…I’ve never felt you that mad either”

“Mad” the word almost coming out in a laugh “I’m not sure there’s a word for how I feel about Thompson right now. The only things keeping me from giving him a piece of my mind is the fact I’d rather be with you. Let me go get our date ready, I really want to take you on it…you truly are everything to me Sylvie” She hugged him again then surprised him with a kiss on the cheek “I can’t wait for our date. Should I be anywhere at a certain time?”

“I’ll find you” she smiled, her sad face seeming a little amused “you are really talented at finding me” “me neither” he stepped away from her and took off flying into the sky. She just stood there, watching him until he was out of view. Her brother returned and she blushed “that went well”

“You stayed?”

“Of course, you were so tense I wanted to be sure nothing would happen. If I had left and he hurt you…I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself”

“do you think it was a lie too?”

“Who knows, but what I do know is it is obvious he cares about you deeply, even if that did turn out to be his past.”

“He was so sad”

“I saw and thats good, it means if you do take him as your mate he’ll do anything to never lose you again”

“I just don’t understand why Thompson would lie.”

Galt shrugged. “Jealousy? Selfishness? Perhaps he just felt like being cruel.”

Sylvie sighed. “That’s so out of character.”

“Sometimes the heart makes us do crazy things. Even so, spreading rumors is wrong and even if his past is a bit colored, it’s no ones business to tell you but Jarius. I feel if there was any merit to the story, he loves you enough he would have told you when he thought it appropriate.”

Sylvie nodded. “Yeah, maybe I should talk to Thompson?”

Galt shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, just focus on your date with Jarius. You shouldn’t be thinking about something like that while you’re having fun.”

“You’re right.”

“Come on, you should start deciding what you want to wear, we both know it takes women forever to get ready.”

She shoved him, but couldn’t help but smile at his teasing. “Alright, let’s go.”

Jarius went to Sylvies favorite sushi place and asked for the owner. He came out the back “Jarius, what can I do for you?”

“could you have a Carolina Snow, Yummy and Crunch Roll ready for me in about two hours?” He smiled “For Sylvie Valdemar, you do know she can’t eat three, she can barely fit two in her”

“It’s her favorites and that way she can just have a little of all three. I don’t care about her finishing them”

“It’s no trouble, good luck tonight. I’m glad you two sorted whatever the problem was out…I heard Sylvie and her brothers talking in here about a falling out between you two but I wasn’t near the table long enough to hear the whole story”

“someone told her some things that weren’t true about me and it soured things a little bit but once she told me I cleared it all up…I just want this date to happen before anything else does so thanks for the luck, I really need it” Jarius hurried off, eager to have everything ready. He didn’t want to skip a single detail of the date he had imagined for them.

Home was next and then he had to see if his friend Stellen would still do his part of the date. They were close friends but this was still very last minute. Jarius wasted no time gathering what he had to at home then was soon flying as fast as he could yet again, hoping to find Stellen quickly. Jarius found luck shining on him when on the way to Stellens home he spotted him laying in a field. Jarius landed, catching his friends attention instantly.

“Not sullen any longer I see, things are better with Sylvie?”

“she’s willing to go on that date again” Stellen smiled “ah, I see, sure, you can count on me”

“Thank you”

“when?”

“tonight” Stellen chuckled “You don’t waste time. You were just mopeing yesterday so you had to of fixed things today”

“I did and the person responsible is lucky I don’t want to disappoint her.”

“Alright, what time then?”

“About eight.”

“I’ll be there.”

Jarius smiled. “Thank you.”

Sylvie had managed to get down to two dresses and looked back and forth between them as her brother leaned against the wall and watched her with an amused expression on his face. “I don’t know Galt, they’re both pretty.”

“Would you like my opinion?”

“Yes, please.”

“The mint green compliments your eyes and I think if you put a matching bow in your hair, you’ll look really beautiful.”

“Really?” Galt nodded. “Thank you.”

“Don’t worry so much sister. Just have a good time.”

“I will.”

Chapter Two

Before she knew it sunset had come upon them and Sylvie hoped it wasn’t Jarius who now changed his mind. She hadn’t done anything she could think of but technically, neither had he when she changed her mind so she felt it would be a bit of karma for not being more trusting. “are you okay?” Jarius’s nervous voice suddenly filled Sylvie’s ears and she stood up, having been sitting on a swing her father had made. She smiled “Now I am” he now wore such a sweet, happy smile that she had to hug him. It was when she moved to she noticed he had flowers. Not just any flowers either, her favorite. Her heart stuttered “did you already have those” they didn’t grow near where they lived so she couldn’t imagine he had gone all that way today.

“No, when motivated enough I can get anything done though and I wanted this date to be as close to what I originally planned as possible. Last time I was going to get these the day before but I just flew as fast as I could without stopping so you could still have them today” She took them, her eyes growing damp. Her heart fell in his chest, “hey, don’t cry, please”

“You’re so sweet”

“Because I want to make you happy, don’t cry” she hugged him and he held her with one arm while calmingly stroking her hair and back. “you look so beautiful Sylvie” he almost whispered to her as they stood there.

“I’m sorry, Jarius, here I am already ruining our date.”

“Nonsense, you could never ruin anything.” He pulled back to wipe her tears away. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah, where are you taking me?”

“It’s a surprise.” He lifted her and his wings unfolded behind him. He would have shifted completely, but he wanted to hold her close. He gently lifted off the ground and sailed up high.

“It’s always so beautiful up here.” Sylvie whispered as she rested her head on his shoulder.

“It is, but it pales in comparison to you.”

His words tugged at her heartstrings, causing her eyes to grow damp again. “You’re so sweet.”

He flew slowly through the cooling air. He wanted her to be able to enjoy the view since it was harder to when you were the one flying. Besides, things were already perfect. he had already touched her heart so much she had cried and now he had her close. His anxiety was also leaving him that had weighed him down as he prepared for this. She had canceled last time and a small part of him had feared all day that would occur again. Sylvie began trying to figure out where they were headed as the scenery passed below but she couldn’t for the life of her figure out where he was planning their date, even when he began to land.

He could tell she was thinking hard by her face, he knew all her expressions at this point. “You’ve never been where we are going”

“well now that makes sense” he chuckled “I adore the face you make when you’re trying hard to figure out something” she blushed “I make a face”

“to most you probably dont but…well to me I can read you fairly easy at this point” he hoped that didn’t sound stalkerish or weird but she didn’t seem bothered by it. “so are we here?”

“almost’ he held out his hand “could I still hold your hand please?”

She slid her hand into his, feeling warmth crawl up her arm, and he drew her closer, his thumb brushing over her skin. He guided her through the night, making sure she didn’t trip over anything and lifting her over any obstacle in her way. Light bloomed ahead of them and Sylvie’s eyes widened at the little orbs of light drifting around an entrance leading into the woods. She could see that it was a tunnel made by entwined tree branches and the orbs moved around inside, lighting the way for them. “Sylvie, may I cover your eyes?” He knew he sounded nervous, but he didn’t want to scare her away.

She looked into his eyes, seeing he was worried and smiled warmly up at him. “Of course, I trust you.”

“Thank you.” He gently stroked her cheek then moved behind her and covered her eyes with his hands. Her fingers wrapped around his forearms and he felt her touch to the core of his being. “I won’t let you fall or anything, I promise.”

“I know.”

He guided her slowly but she was even enjoying this part of their date. As long as she was with him she felt she could be happy doing anything now that Thompson ridiculous lie wasn’t causing awkwardness between them. Beyond just enjoying being with Jarius it was nice wherever they were. The air felt amazing and smelled so fresh, having so many beautiful scents from nature in it, absolutely uncorrupted by civilization. Even the grass that rubbed against her was a welcome feeling as she walked. When they stopped he removed his hands then moved to her side “Open your eyes please” his voice was now a mixture of nerves and hopefulness.

Her heart pattered in her chest as she took in one of the most romantic scenes she had ever seen, it was like something a prince would do for a princess in a book. There was a blanket laid out and on it sat what appeared to be a bottle of wine, her favorite juice, and water. Besides that there was a little black basket which she assumed had food in it for them. Their lighting was the moon, stars and those beautiful orbs she had seen before Jarius covered her eyes.

It surprised her when she finally noticed Stellen “hey Sylvie” he said with a kind smile “Um ,hey”

“I’m here to play my violin for you two” she might have cried again if Jarius hadn’t asked her not to. This date was so beautiful and obviously so thought out…he had really gone out of his way for her and she hadn’t trusted him, a man whom she was supposed to be close friends with and had never done anything before to make Thompsons words seem true. Her reaction to them hadn’t been fair, she had let insecurity get the better of her and even though things were fixed now she wished she could go back before she had hurt such a caring man.

“Jarius…you didn’t have to do all this”

“You deserve it, this isn’t even our whole date but…if it gets too late I promise I’ll take you home. Don’t feel self consious about telling me you’re tired”

“are you kidding? It already looks like I wont want this night to end Jarius” He took her hand, pulling her gently to the blanket and sitting down with her. Stellen grinned as he picked up his violin and began playing a soft, calming tune. He started pulling out seemingly all of her favorite things. He really had to stop being so sweet before she hated herself for all eternity. Once is was all out he said “I’d like to have some wine with you. That particularly kind is especially good but I brought other drinks if you weren’t comfortable drinking alcohol with me”

“I’d love to. I hate that—“

He brushed his fingers over her cheek, feeling her skin heat at his touch. “Please don’t let what happened upset you any longer. I may wind up finding Thompson and beating him up at this rate.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I would, especially if it makes you cry.” He leaned in, pressing their foreheads together. “Be happy my love.”

“I’ll stop worrying, thank you for being so sweet.”

“It’s easy when it’s you.” He rubbed their noses together, getting a smile from her that had his heart trippin over itself. He pulled away, grabbing glasses and the wine. He uncorked it, poured them both some and handed her her glass. “If you don’t like it, please tell me and I’ll get you something else.”

She took a small sip of it and was surprised at just how good it tasted “wow, where did you get this? It’s amazing”

“I once helped a vineyard owner find his missing daughter. He gifted me all his best wine. I have more than just what he gave me since wine has always been one of the things I like to collect but his has always been my favorite. I save it for only the most special occasions but he said I could always come back for more”

“where was she?”

“a case of mistaken identity and bad timing got the poor thing kidnapped basically. Two families had arranged a wedding and she so happened to show up where the bride was supposed to come and the grooms family had never seen the girl. They thought she was getting cold feet and forcibly took her since they had already paid her family”

“Oh my goodness, how did you fix it”

“I found the right bride, made sure she wanted to go through with it then brought her to them. Afterwards I simply took the mans daughter home”

“You’ve helped so many people, thats not the first story you’ve told me like that”

“If I can help someone, I don’t think I have it in me to ignore another struggling. That father especially, he was so broken. You’d have to be cruel to ignore someone that sorrow filled”

“How old was his daughter?”

“seventeen”

“The groom hadn’t raped her had he?”

“No, he was actually horrified at his family for forcing her to still come”

“good”

“Hopefully he and his true bride ended up happy” She ate a little of her sushi and couldn’t resist taking a bigger sip of her wine. Jarius smiled “anytime we’re together you can have some. I’ll go to where I keep the supply I’ve collected and get more”

“But it’s only for special occasion”

“at the risk of you laughing from me being so corny…any time I’m with you is a special occasion to me” she felt her entire body warm at his words. Stellen wanted to tease his friend but he’d wait until later. He didn’t want to ruin the mood by reminding them this music wasn’t coming out of thin air. He could tell that even so soon into their date they only saw eachother and he truly hoped for his friend that he could make Sylvie his mate.

“whats the longest you’ve ever lived somewhere?” Sylvie almost stuttered the question. He had to think hard about that “I’ve lived so long it’s hard to say with conviction but I think four years, if you’re counting at one time. I’ve gone back to places before”

“why did you stay in that place so long” she wanted to keep talking “there was so much to their culture and their language alone took forever to learn. Some are a lot harder than others”

“would you want to take me somewhere one day?”

“I’ll never leave this place unless you’re with me so of course.”

Chapter Three

“You don’t have to wait on me.”

“I do, Sylvie. Without you it would all be meaningless and lonely.”

“Jarius.”

“I mean it. You are my greatest treasure, more precious to me than all the gold and jewels in the world.”

Sylvie’s heart danced constantly in her chest with his every word. He looked at her so adoringly that she found herself falling even more in love with him. It was like being in a dream with the music and lights surrounding them. “Jarius?” Her voice was a shy whisper.

“Yes my love?”

“Would you kiss me?”

He seemed a little surprised and she was about to take it back when he leaned in and claimed her lips. “I really love you, Sylvie.” Jarius said when he pulled back.

“I love you too.”

He looked so incredibly touched by her saying it that he just sat there staring at her, like he couldn’t believe it. “Could you say it again please?”

Her face flushed bright red. “I…I love you.”

Stellen smiled, waiting a few moments before saying softly “I’m going to let you two be alone now. I hope the rest of your date goes well”

“thank you Stellen” Jarius said and Sylvie added “Ye…yeah, thank you” Jarius took Sylvie’s hand, happy that it was just the two of them now “are you full, do you need any more wine?”

“I don’t drink a lot so I probably shouldn’t but it is incredible. Everything is so amazing, I can’t believe this isn’t the only part of our date. All this trouble for me…” He kissed her temple, lingering there a few moments before saying “I want to spend as much of this evening making you happy as you’ll allow” They ate a little more then packed everything up “I’ll return for these things later’ he said before casting something over it “what did you do?” Sylvie inquired so he answered “I don’t want any animals getting into it and making themselves sick”

Jarius took her hand “come on, I chose this spot for more than just it’s beauty” She held firmly, not sure if she ever wanted to go home this evening. They walked slowly, talking along the way. She was so into their conversation he didn’t feel the need to cover her eyes this time. She hadn’t noticed anything when they stopped and he pointed. She directed her eyes to where he was pointing and gasped “what is happening?” she whispered in awe as she watched this small, butterfly winged monkey create beautiful, glowing colors “I can’t tell if it’s some sort of paint or magic. It’s always alone too so maybe there aren’t much left of his kind”

He loved how amazed she looked and had to resist kissing her again. She was starting to say something to him when a bad feeling crept into Jarius, she could see the look on his face shift “Jarius” He pulled her a little closer “I’m sorry, I just feel like something is wrong” she became quite, turning her own senses to the world around them. She had been so taken by that monkey she hadn’t noticed it before but now Sylvie felt it too. He lifted her, spreading his dragons wings once more “I’m sorry but I can’t keep you out here. We’ll finish this another time I promise”

“Don’t be sorry” once they were up in the air he asked “would you spend a little more time with me in my home?”

“of course” The strange feeling of foreboding didn’t rest and soon the unease increased, no matter how far he flew in the right direction they weren’t getting any closer to home. It was almost as if he were going in a circle without going in a circle.

He didn’t want to land, unsure of what was after them, but he knew he wasn’t going to get anywhere by flying. He landed, gently sitting Sylvie on her feet and draping a wing over her shoulders to keep his hands free and protect her at the same time. “What’s happening?” She asked softly, her voice shaking a little.

“I don’t know, just stay close.” His eyes searched the darkness, his other senses flared out. There was something, he could sense it, its dark intent. The monkey was gone, perhaps feeling the danger. He let out a growl, hating the feeling of being stalked. If he wasn’t so afraid of disappointing Sylvie, he would have already set the area on fire and driven the creature out. It did give him an idea. “Sylvie, I’m going to create some smoke, would you be alright with that?”

“Yeah, just be careful.”

He shifted shape, his the moon glinting on his scales. He moved her closer to him, closing his wings around her so the smoke wouldn’t bother her. He kept his head low as he breathed fire into his mouth and let the smoke puff from his nostrils and out into the surrounding area.

Sylvie kept still, trying not to worry. She had to have faith in herself and Jarius. He was an ancient dragon and she had trained with most of her family. She wasn’t helpless and this morning when he had been angry, for the first time since she had met him Sylvie had felt how powerful Jarius was. It took quite a bit of smoke to cause a reaction but then they hear something, a gargling growl. To Sylvie it was what she imagined a zombie would sound like. She had never seen one or heard of one outside of books but its what she had always imagined them to sound like.

Jarius stood his ground, refusing to try to fly again or to be the first to attack. He was going to make whatever it was come to him. He puffed out more smoke, hoping his wings were providing enough protection for Sylvie. Trees started rapidly falling down and Sylvie wondered if she should shift too before something started.

Jarius sat as still as stone, his eyes staring through the smoke, seeing the heat signatures of everything around him. He saw it then darting from tree to tree and then another and another. They were long limbed and fast, but strong as they sent trees bending and toppling. He opened his mouth letting more smoke roll our as he gave a warning growl. “Jarius?” Sylvie said softly.

“Stay there.” His voice was a rumble in his chest, but she didn’t miss the warmth there.

“Are you sure? I can help.”

“I do not doubt that my love, but please stay there. I do not know if they know what you are, you can surprise them if need be.”

“Alright.”

They came out of the forest, groaning and growling and Jarius sent fire at one as he swatted at another with his tail. He singed the first, but the second seemed to roll clumsily away. He spat curses in dragon tongue as he snapped his jaws at the third, driving it back.

Suddenly they heard normal laughter, then to shock Sylvie more, clapping. The creatures vanished but just as they did Sylvie felt someone wrap their arms around her. The voice she heard was familiar but the shock made it take a second for her to realize it was Thompson. Jarius looked ready to kill as he came back their way and Thompson let her go, holding his hands up as his features began to shift. It seemed like it should be painful but he smiled the entire time, utterly amused with possibly everything about this situation. Jarius was a man again, shaking with anger “you” he growled “good show Jarius”

“what’s going on? Who are you?” Syvlie asked. The man who she once knew as Thompon gave a theatric bow “I’m Paimon and I’ve been friends with Jarius a very long time”

“we’re not friends, especially now”

“Oh Jarius, don’t be so mean. You know I just like to play. I’d never hurt you”

“you don’t remember the last time we saw eachother”

“How was I to know the extents how noble you are go? It didnt sink in until then. I didn’t know you’d give up your own life to help another. I mean, what you did was absurd”

“It was a child”

“we were all once children Jarius, really, I dont understand the whole its a child thing. Anyway, I like you Sylvie so I’ll explain things to you. I can see you’re getting more lost by the second since we’re speaking of things that happened before you were even born. Anyway, I enjoy games, I like to see how beings will react to things so I mess with their lives”

“But…you’ve always been so nice” He shrugged “most people that have known me in my many forms would call me nice. I’m really not mean as some would say, I’m just playing”

“your games aren’t nice then”

“Hm…I suppose but back on track. I don’t normally continue to bother one being but Jarius fascinates me. He always chooses the noble path no matter what. Most people have their weakness’s but not him, no matter what game I played he would always choose to be noble and the last time I saw that he would choose to do the noble thing even if it cost his life. He’s a protector to a fault and absolutely uncorruptable…or…well…was.”

“I swear to the gods if you try to tell her one more lie.” Jarius started and Paimon chuckled “Jarius, I wasn’t going to say I’ve made you do a bad thing. I’ve just realized something”

“what” he snapped “I’ve never felt you so angry. You want to kill me, I can see it in your eyes and all I did was scare her a little bit, make you think she could be in danger. You’ve always been so pure hearted, I’ve seen you fall in love, break up, be rejected, get into trouble but the way you are with Sylvie here. You managed to find your soul mate and it would seem that is the only way to corrupt you.”

“why do you always speak such nonsense.” Jarius chastised “I’m not speaking nonsense but to be more clear I bet if I killed her you would lose that sense of nobility. I bet you could be completely corrupted by the loss of her. When I started this game by lieing to her I didn’t know what I expected. I had already seen that you cared about her more than you had ever cared about another living being which is why I wanted to see how you’d react to not being able to have her. It was an easy game to start as well because I could tell she felt you were out of her league so a lie about your intentions was an easy sell”

Jarius lunged after him but Paimon vanished, suddenly by her again and laughing “I wont hurt her, I wont go that far to play with someone. I guess I talk and think too loud much too often. I’ll stop this game and I’ll move again but this time I promise, you found me. I had already established a life here when you came to town. I think we’re soul mates too you know, destined to be best friends forever” Paimon made a little heart with his hands.

Chapter Four

“You bastard.” Jarius started toward him, but it was Sylvie who struck first, catching Paimon off guard and surprising both of them with how hard she punched him.

“You stupid, idiotic jerk. How could even think something like that is fun?!” She yelled, so upset tears sprang to her eyes. “What’s wrong with you?!” He clutched his cheek, his eyes wide. He hadn’t expected any sort of violence from her. He started to open his mouth and she took another swing at him, but this time she missed. “I don’t want to hear anything from you unless it’s sorry!”

“Sylvie, easy.” Jarius said. He didn’t know what Paimon would do if she kept trying to beat him.

“Even if you two are some kind of weird soulmates, you don’t mess with your friends like that. What if he or I had been hurt.”

Paimon finally came to his senses and smiled as he dropped his hand. “What a little hot head you’ve chosen Jarius, I’m almost jealous.” He chuckled. “I would never have let either of you get hurt little dragon, I’ve played this game for a really long time. She lunged at him and he vanished so he was behind Jarius and draped his arms over his shoulders. “What’s important to Jarius is obviously important to me.” Jarius turned with a growl and Paimon was gone again, this time leaning against a tree. “It’s just a little fun, to see what he’ll do, it’s like an experiment and his reactions are so interesting.”

“Paimon, that’s enough, you’ve had your fun.” Jarius said.

Paimon sighed. “I just want to see you lose it, just once. I want to see the beast, the real you.”

“Do yourself a favor and find a mate or something, your obsession with me is unhealthy.” He wasn’t sure Paimon turning his attention on someone else was a good idea, but it might calm him down if he found someone willing to put up with him.

Paimon laughed. “Why would I want a mate? They’re so troublesome, so much work, and they’d only end up running away. You’re the only one who has stuck.” He sighed. “I guess I’ll leave you alone for now, Jarius, but I plan on staying close, I like it here.” He was suddenly back next to Sylvie and had her hand in his. He kissed her knuckles. “It’s been fun Sylvie, do be good to Jarius, I would hate for us to become enemies.”

Just like that he was gone again and Jarius sighed in frustration. Sylvie walked over to Jarius, hugging him as soon as she was close enough “at least we were never in real danger”

“His games go too far…”

“I’m sorry”

“I still don’t want to keep you out here Sylvie. May I take you to my home where we can spend more time together?”

“I’d really like that” He kissed her forehead and this time, they actually made it back to his home. He seemed tense and though it was embarrassing to ask for, she guessed it would help him return to his normal self, the easy going Jarius she knew and loved “can…well…do you want to cuddle with me?” Just the question seemed to lift the world off his shoulders “anywhere you’d like”

“On that couch in front of the fireplace in your living room?”

“Of course.” He carried her through his home and only stopped for a moment to breath a small plume of flame into the fireplace before sitting down and hugging her to him. He pushed his nose into her hair, breathing her in and relaxing. “Sorry he ruined our date.”

“I never said it was ruined, Jarius. He surprised me. Have you really known him for a long time?”

“Yes, unfortunately. He started following me around…I’m not even sure how long ago. He was just there one day, making mischief. Even when I cornered him, had him pinned against a wall, he just smiled at me and laughed when I didn’t hurt him. He has always known what buttons to push to get me angry.”

“He certainly likes you.”

Jarius snorted. “I don’t know why. Maybe I should just beat the crap out of him next time I see him.”

“You don’t mean that.”

“No I don’t, but he’s just so infuriating.”

“Maybe he’s just lonely.”

He pulled back, eyebrow arched. “Are you making excuses for his behavior? you seemed ready to strangle him yourself.”

“No, but he seems to genuinely like you, like it’s not an act. I also didn’t mean to hit him.” She blushed. “I just reacted.”

Jarius chuckled. “It was kind of cute.”

“Oh hush, it was childish, I feel like I stooped to his level.”

“The look on his face was priceless.” He let his fingers slide through her hair. “I was shocked too, I’ve never seen you angry.” He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips, grinning at how much warmer her skin became. “I love you, Sylvie. My fierce little dragon.”

“I love you too” He would have never wished for his date to be messed up like it was but he had to admit, it was nice to have her in his home. Sylvie was in his arms and he hoped she stayed that way until she asked to leave. Their talking grew softer and softer until to his surprise she fell asleep in his arms. The warmth of the fire and the comfort of being like this, along with the increasingly late hour had taken her from the waking world. His heart stuttered, If he just slept here as well he could hold her through the night so he kissed her head one more time then moved carefully so he could lay down. Jarius made sure she was to the back of the chair so there wasn’t any chance of her falling off before completely relaxing to sleep.

When she woke in the morning she flushed instantly at the fact she had fallen asleep, causing him to have to sleep on his couch but as she took in his peaceful face she could see herself waking up like this every morning. She had already known she loved him but now, she was absolutely sure she wanted to be Jarius’s mate every bit as much as he wanted her. She gathered her courage and kissed him awake, melting at how affectionately he began to kiss her back.

“Jarius” she whispered his name and he whispered back “Yes, Sylvie?” he sounded so sleepy, so comfortable like this he could have drifted back at any moment until she said “I’d really like to be your mate…I want to always wake up like this” She could have sworn she saw the slightest twitch come from his bottom lip before he hugged her to him and whispered “I’d really like to do this the elf way if you’d be okay with that”

“I think that would make my mother incredibly happy. She’s always said she wanted that kind of marriage for me. She loves having that with my dad”

“when can we?” her heart warmed again “how about a week from now to give my family time to put together a nice ceremony”

“Thank you so much, Sylvie. You have no idea how much this means to me, especially after I nearly lost you to that idiot’s games.”

She gave a soft laugh at the bite in his voice and pulled back to look into his eyes. He really did love her, she could see that, the way he seemed to see only her. “Don’t be mad. Maybe I’ll invite him to the wedding and make him help as an apology.”

Jarius groaned. “You wouldn’t. He’d just mess with everyone.”

“You know he may show up regardless.”

Jarius sighed. “I know, he’s good at disguising himself.”

“Maybe if you forced him to promise to be good. Pulling stuff like that around my family is liable to get him more than a punch.”

“True.” He sighed again. “Alright, I’ll make him promise, I’m sure he’ll at least give me that. If he doesn’t I’ll tie him up and leave him somewhere unsavory.”

“Jarius, be nice.” She said with a laugh.

He kissed her again, his heart dancing with happiness over everything. After breakfast he walked her back to her parents home where they told them the good news. They werent even surprised, Her parents had already felt the two would make up and eventually become mates. Maybe not this fast but they felt nothing but happiness over it, especially when Sylvie added how they wanted to become mates. Dacia almost squealed as she hugged her duaghter “Oh that makes me over joyed. I feel there is no better way to become one. We have to tell everybody and get all the details worked out. Are you sure you only want a week to plan it?”

“a week will be perfect, I dont want too much” Jarius warmly said “well while you two tell everyone I’ll go find Paimon and get that hurdle over with”

“Be nice please” Sylvie urged and he closed the distance between them, hugging Sylvie tightly “I promise” He kissed her head then walked out. He could hear one of Sylvies brothers asking about Paimon and was glad he wasn’t staying for that talk, not wanting to get furstrated at him again since Sylvie wanted them to become friends or at least get on good terms.

Jarius was a little surprised to find Paimon in town buying fruits and vegetables from one of the many stands. He was even more surprised by how oddly normal he looked. His hair was tied up in a bun at the back of his head and he was smiling as he chatted with the stall owner. Paimon turned his head, grinning at Jarius as he paid the owner and started over towards him. “Hello Jarius, miss me?”

“Hardly, what were you doing?” He couldn’t help but be suspicious.

“Buying a few things I ran out of.” He held up the bag.

“With fake money?”

Paimon laughed. “Of course not, wouldn’t want to taint Thompson’s name.”

“You are Thompson.”

“And he’s incredibly honest.”

Jarius rolled his eyes. “May I speak with you please, alone?”

“Of course, you know I always have time for you.” He started walking and waved for Jarius to follow him. They walked in silence, Jarius not really sure what to say to him. Having a normal conversation with Paimon wasn’t something one did. He was even more suspicious of the little house Paimon walked up to.

“This is yours?”

“Yes, it’s nice isn’t it? I got quite the deal from the previous owner, there’s nothing this smile can’t do.” He pushed the door open and Jarius followed him inside. “Alright, what’s on your mind? Is it Sylvie? Did she make you come here?”

Jarius huffed. “I just wanted to tell you that Sylvie and I are getting married and…wanted to know…if you’d maybe come.”

Paimon chuckled. “So she did make you come then.”

“Yes.”

Paimon nodded. “Alright, I’m sure your hot headed little half dragon can make use of my talents.”

“You must promise to be good, Paimon. I won’t have you ruining her day. I will do something terrible to you if you do. If you can do this for me, then perhaps I can let everything else go.”

Paimon grinned “so we’ll be friends then?”

“It’ll be a good start”

“You know I would have fixed it if you hadn’t been able to.”

“don’t mess with what I have with her again, I mean it” a bit of anger rose back up in Jarius’s voice so Paimon didn’t say anything else about it. As many games as Paimon played he was happy to see Jarius so in love, so ready to take his head off over a woman. They stayed so busy over the following week it felt like the next day was their wedding. Even in such a short time Sylvie’s family had made it a gorgeous event and it seemed as if everyone came.

Paimon was even behaving himself which seemed almost too good to be true but he had been surprisingly helpful with the wedding. He was even creating a few illusions for it that Sylvie had asked of him. As annoying as the being was Jarius was warming up to him since Paimon seemed to really want to be their friend. It was a bit concerning that he and Pellegrino were seeming to have a good time. Jarius could see all the mischief Paimon could potentially get into with a prince.

It didn’t occupy his mind much however since his true focus was on Sylvie, his gorgeous mate. She was wearing a stunning dress that only made her harder to resist. When he could finally take her home he began kissing her the second they were alone, needing it to his core. She was the one to break the kiss so she could ask “do you…well…do you want to try to” her skin almost instantly grew warm with embarrassment. He could tell what she was getting at “Make love?” he asked gently and she nodded. He smiled, gently caressing her face. She seemed so embarrassed he had to ask “have you ever done that before?”

“No” He kissed her again, this time much more sensual “I want you to really be ready then, since it will be your first time. It’s not an obligation because we’re mates now.” she swallowed “I am ready…feeling how much you love me…I really want to” Jarius slowly took her dress off, just enjoying the feel of her warm skin. He then removed her bra and panties before simply marveling at how truly remarkable she looked.

He would have taken her in longer if the standing there hadn’t been making her more nervous. He would have forever to look at her when she was more comfortable in this way. Jarius began to press light kisses into her skin, starting at her shoulders then moving randomly about her body. He could tell by her breathing she was already growing aroused so he lifted her, taking Sylvie to what was now their bed and laying her down.

Jarius was a little shy himself as he moved his hand to slide between her legs. He watched her face and tuned into how she was feeling to be sure she was still okay and didn’t want him to stop. She was certainly nervous but was obviously fine with it so he began to rub her, all the while biting, licking and gently sucking at her neck. He wasn’t naked yet but he worried that would be enough to make her want to stop and he had been desiring to be with her like this for such a long time. He would stop for her but he deeply hoped she would let him have her if he was slow and careful enough.

Soon she was moaning and squirming beneath him so he moved to nibble at her ear “I love you” he whispered and she moaned back “I love you too” When he caused her first orgasm he grew uncomfortably hard, his length being restricted in his clothes so gave her one more long kiss before starting to take his own clothing off, still being open to how she was feeling so that he’d know to stop if she needed it. He had gotten this far with her and even if it stopped now he felt incredibly lucky and happy.

Sylvie covered her face, her heart thumping in her chest when she felt the bed shift as he moved over her. “Sylvie, look at me please.”

“I can’t.”

“Sylvie.” His lips brushed her fingers until she dropped her hands then they were against hers, slow and mindful. His hand lifted hers, pressing her palm against his chest, inviting her to touch him too. She let her hands slide nervously over him, over his chest and up his neck to play in his hair. He pulled back to look at her, his fingers sliding over her, mimicking her movements. Over her breasts and lower still, both of them gasping at each other’s touch. His lips brushed hers, her chin, her neck, his teeth lightly nipping at her. “Are you ready for me?”

She nodded, biting her lip nervously when she felt him pressing into her. His lips moved against hers, his fingers sliding through her hair as he slowly filled her, giving her time to adjust. He exhaled a shuddering breath when she completely enveloped him, telling himself to stay slow. She clung tightly to him when he moved, her eyes locked on his, a little scared, but trusting as he took on a gentle pace. “Oh Jarius.” He pushed into a little harder and her body seemed to shatter into a million pieces as she quivered around him. He lifted her, his arms wrapped tightly around her, his kiss hungry as he found his own release.

“I love you, Sylvie.”

“Me too.” She replied softly, her eyes damp with unshod tears. He laid her back down, but kept her held tightly against him, his hands running lovingly over.

Neither could believe today had actually happened. They were married and they had actually just made love. It came as a surprise a few weeks later when Sylvie realized she was pregnant and probably from that very first time. She had taken the test with her mother so it was Dacia who knew first but Sylvie swore her to secrecy “Please stay quiet about it. I want to tell Jarius myself. If you even tell dad it’s going to spread like wild fire”

“I promise but hurry, my first grandbaby…” her mother squealed and Sylvie smiled though she was filled with nerves. He obviously loved her and truly wanted forever but had he really wanted kids so fast “Sylvie, don’t over think it. Just go tell him, if he wasn’t ready for kids he should have made sure you were on something or kept his cum out of you”

“Mom” Sylvie said as she turned bright red. “go on, its going to kill me waiting to tell your father and brothers” Sylvie hurried off, knowing just where to find Jarius. He was hanging out with a few friends at a pub since Sylvie had told him she would be spending the day with her mother “you’re done with your mom?”

“Yeah, we need to talk” Those words unsettled him, especially since he could tell she was off. He could even feel her nervousness earlier but when it came to her wild family he had learned he could safely ignore it. “Okay, we’ll go right now then” Jarius paid for the few drinks he had consumed then said a quick goodbye to his friends “do you want to go home and talk or just walk?”

“we can just walk, don’t worry, I don’t think it’s bad”

“what happened?”

“I told my mom I didn’t feel good earlier and she jumped to certain conclusions and had me take a test…”

“what sort of test, are you sick? Is it serious?” He sounded so panicky but it was adorable and she couldn’t help but smile ” I’m pregnant…I think I became pregnant that first time we…” She could feel him swell with happiness “Oh Sylvie, thats wonderful! I didn’t expect that so soon but its definitely something I wanted.” She hugged him “I’m so glad you’re happy. I’m happy too”

“you really scared me Sylvie”

“I could tell, I’m sorry” he kissed her “who all knows?”

“Just you and mom. I should let her know she can now proclaim it to everyone” Jarius chuckled, allowing his wings to spread as he lifted her.

~ The End

Actaeon & Semele

Chapter One

The journey to the crypt had been a long one. Desert sand clung to her eyelashes and dusted her clothing, making them look like ruddy copper rather than the bright red and gold they had been. She reached out a hand, her fingers splaying over the smooth stone of the entrance, her eyes closing as pale blue light traveled from her to the locked door. “Bats’yek.” Open. She said and heard the sound of creaking gears and straining ropes. There was a thunk and then the doors slid open, grinding against the floor before sticking. Darkness greeted her and she slipped through and whispered a command so an orb appeared before her then floated slowly down the shadowed hallway. Dust had long settled here on the coffins set in alcoves along the walls and the subtle scent of long dried up oils permeated the air. This crypt housed many a long dead warrior, buried with their most prized possessions, but the thing she sought was in the room at the end, the thing they supposedly guarded even in death, the one she needed.

The crypt went down, down, down into more darkness and the air grew cooler with each step, causing goosebumps to rise on her flesh. It was almost frighteningly silent, yet she persisted, undeterred. She only paused when she came across bones and upon examination realized that they belonged to others who had come here and died after springing traps. She said a small prayer over them then moved on. The orb paused at the ornately decorated door, the light causing the silver emblems to shimmer. This was the place, his prison. She took a deep breath and placed both hands against it, feeling a shiver run up her spine at how cold the metal was. She commanded it to open and then pushed with all her might, relieved when it gave way and freezing on the threshold at the sleeping warrior. He was bound and gagged on his knees, his head ducked down so dark hair obscured his features. It wasn’t the fact that he was so well preserved that astounded her, but the fact that he had two sharp spikes driven through his back, that crossed and exited at his ribs, holding him there. Here was the one who could save her people from the undead horde coming their way. Some called him the Betrayer, others the Wraith King, but she knew him as Actaeon the Immortal. He had been imprisoned here so long ago that he was nearly a myth, but she had dared to hope he was real.

He began to stir, bringing his head slowly up as though it took tremendous effort. His intense, grey eyes met hers but she couldn’t pin an emotion in them. He had been here so long by himself, an absolutely cruel amount of time to be alone and in the dark. She just hoped he hadn’t lost his mind and therefore, his ability to help her. She spoke before she moved, “I’m going to take that gag out alright?” His eyes stayed locked with hers, not giving any indication that he even heard, but when she took it out she finally saw some emotion. Unsurprisingly he seemed relieved, working his jaw so that it popped a few times.

“Am I finally to be free?”

“Yes…and I’d beg of you to help me.”

“Are you the only one asking?”

“Not truly, I’ll explain everything and while I know you can’t be controlled once you’re let go I’d feel too badly making you stay like that much longer while we spoke. Please, if I let you go listen to me.”

“It’s the least I could do…thank you…” she could tell he wanted her name.

“Semele.”

“Semele, I presume you know who I am?”

“Yes.”

“I am sure the stories about me are less than favorable.”

“Some, yes.”

He nodded. “Only some, that is surprising.”

She swallowed. “So, how do I get these out?” She pointed at the metal rods.

“They’re enchanted, the spell is old.”

“I can reverse it…at least I can try.”

She saw amusement fill his eyes and it amazed her how he could even think to laugh when he had been locked away for so long. She knew if it had been her, rage and madness would have taken her. “Then release me.”

She stood, letting her fingers slide over the rods, feeling the magic dance against her skin. She closed her eyes, finding the path to reversing the spell. She began to speak, her voice commanding and confident as she erased the magic that held him. Actaeon could feel the binding unravel and he couldn’t help but turn his head so he could watch her. Sweat dotted her brow, sand dusted her skin and clothes, and she was both powerful and beautiful. She stepped back, her hands moving away. “What now?”

“Untie my hands and I will do the rest.”

She made quick work of the knots then watched in amazement as he got himself free and began mending his wounds. “Let me help with that.”

“Thank you.” As she began healing him he urged, “Please tell me why you came here.”

“My people are in danger of being wiped out. My father and the emperor didn’t think it was wise to come here for you but…something has always told me the bad stories about you aren’t true, that you were noble until the end. It just doesn’t make sense after a lifetime of being nothing but noble and honest that you’d turn on the man you served.”

“I was put in here to make sure I never told my side of the tale. Thank you for believing in me. Even without further explanation I’ll help. I owe you my life now.”

“Just help us protect ourselves and I wont ask you anything again.”

“I have no reason to hide anything from you. Ask what you wish, I’ll answer honestly.”

“Alright, thank you. Is there anything else you need before we leave?”

“No, my sword is not here, the emperor in my time locked it up in his armory as a trophy. I want it back, it was a gift.”

“I’m sure it won’t be hard to get it back if I ask.”

He nodded. “Then we should go.” Actaeon had to shield his eyes upon exiting, the sun was so bright, brighter than he remembered, but beautiful all the same. He closed his eyes, inhaling the fresh air, feeling the warmth on his skin. “This, I remember. It’s still just as hot and dusty, still just as wild.” He let out a chuckle as he opened his eyes and Semele thought she saw a flicker of sadness there for just a moment.

“Some things have changed, the city for one. My emperor is an elf so some of the architecture is more…”

“Elegant?” She nodded. “I remember the desert clans, I never thought they would take over an empire though. They kept to themselves for the most part. I must have been here longer than I thought, but then again it all becomes one long day when you’re locked in darkness.”

“How did you manage to stay so sane? I mean, you hardly seem like someone who has been locked up with nobody to talk to and in utter darkness.”

“I lived a long time before I became the betrayer. I had many memories to fall back on to keep me going. I also held on to hope someone would finally free me. I’d imagine different ways it might happen. Someone needing my help actually was one. For all the bad stories I knew there still had to be stories of my abilities in battle.”

“What actually happened all that time ago?”

“I discovered how the prisoners of war were being treated. There are certain things you shouldn’t do, even to an enemy. He was cruel and callous under that mask of civility. Then there were his slaves…its still hard to think about the things I discovered he was doing.” She truly believed him, every word. Her father and the current emperor might find her naive but she hoped when he told his story to them they would be able to look into his eyes and see he was telling the truth.

Semele was amazed at how easily he moved over the sand. It was as if he hadn’t just been locked away, like even though his muscles and joints were stiff from lack of use, they still remembered. He didn’t even pause when sweat began to dot his brow, simply removed the coat he wore and slung it over his shoulder. She studied him as they walked, his face set in a mask of determination, his too old eyes that had seen much more than she could begin to imagine. Dark hair hung messily down his back, having grown long after years of not being trimmed. “I know I need a haircut.” He said as he looked at her and she felt a blush of embarrassment heat her cheeks.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare.”

“You’re a mage, it’s what you do. You study and I must be quite the specimen.” His eyes seemed to see right through her, cutting straight to the heart of things like a sharpened blade. “I admit, you are intriguing as well.”

“I am?”

“You follow your convictions even if they lead you nowhere. What if I had been nothing but a myth? What if you had found only bones?”

“I would have found another way to save everyone.”

“You are as admirable as you are beautiful. Men must not know what to make of you. I bet you surprise them with the power you wield.”

She couldn’t help but smile. “Perhaps.”

He chuckled. “I think I may like you.”

“Good because I already like you. It’s admirable that you’re truly coming with me, that bitterness didn’t consume you and make you utterly selfish.”

“All that time didn’t break me of the fact that you hurt yourself more being angry than you do anybody else. I’m not saying there wasn’t times it was hard not to be bitter but I never let it take me.”

“Well, I can cut your hair for you when we get to where we are going.”

“Are you sure?”

“I know you feel indebted to me for releasing you from the bounds of your prison, but I feel a debt too that can’t be repaid simply by righting a wrong that was done to you. Besides, cutting hair is a simple task, I’m good at it.”

“Thank you then, I like it about here.” He held his hand about halfway down his face.

“Short for safety?”

He smiled. “Absolutely. Short hair is harder to grab, something some of my opponents learned the hard way.”

“A legend using underhanded methods? How surprising.”

“It’s not always bad to be a little underhanded.”

They ate as they walked, Semele asking more questions about him and trying to avoid the circumstances of his imprisonment. He seemed alright talking about them, but she felt rude bringing it up too much. Instead she asked about his childhood and why he had decided to become a soldier. He explained that warriors ran in his family and that he had been trained from a young age how to use a sword, how to move with speed and efficiency almost like an acrobat. He told her how immortality had granted him the time to further perfect his technique and learn some new ones. He had even learned a few languages along the way.

She enjoyed hearing about all of it so time flew as they traveled. She was surprised by how fast they made it back to her people when the trip to find him had felt so long. It made sense though, she had been stressed and worried the whole way there and Actaeon was a better travel companion than she could have ever imagined. “Before we find my father and the emperor lets get you cleaned up and your hair cut. We might all get right to work and you deserve to be comfortable first. I’m sure you’d even like a nice bath.”

“I’m that smelly?” He asked with a grin, causing her to lightly laugh as she blushed.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, I know you’re just trying to be kind. Please, all that sounds wonderful.”

 

Chapter Two

Semele took him to her living quarters and through to the adjoining bathroom. “This is new.” He said as he looked around.

“Yeah, the previous emperor preferred copper tubs, but the one now liked the bathhouse look so he had everything torn out and replaced the tubs with stone pools.”

“Hot spring water?”

“Yes and filters out to let clean water in.”

“Amazing, thank you.” He pulled his shirt off and her eyes were drawn to his torso. He was well lean of build and surprisingly well muscled for a man who had been locked away for so long. She noticed a few scars here and there, some across his back, one up high that looked like a sword had pierced him. He also had a few on his arms. “From training.” His voice startled her and a blush crawled up her neck as she met his gaze. “The ones on my arms are from training.”

“Oh, I see.” She swallowed.

“It happens when you’re first learning how to block.” He smiled. “So, ready to cut my hair?”

“Yeah.” He took a seat on the lid of her toilet as she looked in a drawer for Scissors, taking the time to calm herself down. As she grabbed a pair she promised to herself that she would quit being rude. Staring at him and bringing up what he just went through was out of the question, even if she was dying to know how he still looked so good. Was his magic truly that powerful? Her ever curious mind was begging to know, to learn from such an obviously skilled man. She began cutting, silence hanging between them until she finished. “Take your time getting cleaned up.”

He walked over to the mirror, a smile adorning his face yet again. “Thank you so much Semele.”

Semele left him alone and he quickly stripped off his remaining clothes and stepped into the hot water and sank down into its waiting heat. He let out a sigh of relief as aching muscles began to relax. He had not realized how sore he really was until now. He allowed his head to rest back on the edge of the pool and closed his eyes, enjoying this moment, knowing it may not last if they tried to lock him up again.

Semele was surprised by her father as she left her room, running right into him, her heart stuttering in her chest. “Daddy, you scared me.”

“I was informed you returned with a guest.”

“Yes, I did.” She finally said, feeling suddenly nervous.

“Is it him?” She nodded. “Is he in there?” He nodded at her door.

“Yes.” He started past her and she quickly stopped him. He arched an eyebrow at her, looking slightly amused. “Sorry, it’s just he’s bathing. I was going to get him clothes.” Her face felt suddenly very hot.

“I see.” He sighed. “Come then, he can borrow some of mine.”

“Really?”

“He must be here to help if he came all this way. I’m still unsure but he obviously hasn’t hurt you and as you said when you left, we need all the help we can get.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re a smart girl Semele. Just because we are unsure about how you want to help doesn’t make it fair to discount it. Don’t thank me, you’ve earned the right to have your ideas and opinions heard and given a fair chance. How does he seem so far by the way?”

“You’d never know now that I’ve cut his hair he had been locked away so long. He could walk here just fine and is still fit somehow. He told me his side of the story too and I believe it. He truly wasn’t in the wrong. The emperor in his time was doing bad things, torturing people. Actaeon stood up for what was right. I feel it in my heart now more than ever. You know the stories of him before he betrayed his emperor. It never made sense to me how he could change for no reason.” Her father nodded and soon they entered his room, collected some clothes then brought them back to her room. “I’m leaving the clothes on my bed. I wont be in here, I’m going with my dad to talk to the emperor.”

“Okay.”

Actaeon washed his skin and scrubbed his hair, letting out a sigh of relief as he rinsed. He got out and dried then wrapped the towel around his waist just in case. The clothes Semele had brought for him were comfortable, made for easy movement and the hot weather. He would have to consider having some tailored for his stay. He opted out wearing his boots. Even though he wanted to look proper, he knew they needed to be cleaned. He headed out, not wanting to leave Semele, her father, and the emperor waiting.

“You are sure he doesn’t hold any bitterness towards us?” Emperor Sgaire asked.

“I am, he traveled here willingly and didn’t so much as raise his voice at me. I know you’re worried, especially with everything that’s happening, but he wants to help us.”

“And you are sure you can trust him?”

“I do owe her my life.” Actaeon’s voice startled her and she turned as he stepped fully into the throne room and crossed over to them. “If it makes you feel any better, I shall swear fealty to her.”

Sgaire actually cracked a smile. “But not to me?”

“If you can prove you are better than the one before you then I may consider it, but Semele came for me on her own, she rescued me, and I owe her everything.”

His smile rose again. “I suppose swearing to her is just as good since I know I can trust Semele every bit as much as I trust her father. We have much to talk about. I’m sure she wasn’t able to go over everything with you on the way here. I have the plans and a few maps I want to show you in my study. I think a few things have changed since your time.”Actaeon followed Sgaire, Semele and her father, paying close attention as the emperor brought him up to speed on their situation.

“No wonder you were desperate you’d let her come to find me. When did the Ettins and Hybrid Sentinel’s get so close and when did they become so volatile?”

“They first became close when an Ettin female and male Sentinel mated about fifty years back. We aren’t sure precisely when they started becoming so hateful though. We’ve tried speaking with them but they aren’t interested in much discussion.”

“I know how they got the flying wolves on board though, do you?”

“No.”

“The emperor of my time was also involved in the trade of selling their paws and wings.” The three of them looked horrified.

“No.” Semele half gasped.

Actaeon nodded “I can’t imagine there will ever be any bringing them back to peace with us. Wolves don’t often forgive such heinous crimes against their packs.”

“What do we do? How do we stop them without completely wiping them out?”

Actaeon pulled one of the maps over. “You say they are here, but the Sentinels and the wolves have wings. If you can get enough mages, we can put a magical net in the air. It should be invisible of course. Once they fall to earth, they can all be restrained. As for the Ettins, we dig a pit fall deep enough to catch them, but shallow enough they won’t come to any real harm.”

“How are we going to draw them in?”

“We’ll start the battle here, get the Ettins invested in attacking then we retreat. If we dig a trench here and place planks across for bridges, then your men can escape without falling in.” He looked to Semele. “I want you to hold the net up against those in the air once it’s in place.”

“Me? Why?”

“Because you are the most powerful person magically in this room and I believe you can do it.”

She was surprised at his words, giving a smile and nod. Her father nor the emperor were shocked, it was something they had already felt too. “I’ll gather the ones bravely going into battle with us and inform them of the new plan. Thank you Actaeon. If you truly stay on our side through this I will make sure something is done to thank you and apologize for the wrongs of the previous emperor.” Sgaire said then walked out of the room.

“I should go with him, get some rest before this all starts Actaeon. You seem in good condition but I can’t imagine you’re truly completely alright.”

“Yeah, do you want something to eat?” Semele asked and that charming smile about stopped her heart.

“Please, something light though.”

“Of course. Oh, I almost forgot, your sword. Come with me.” Her fingers wrapped gently around his wrist and his heart skipped a beat at her touch. She took him to the old armory where the previous emperor had kept his most prized possessions. There were swords and bows, books, and even enchanted jewelry. Actaeon’s sword rested in the center of the room, proudly displayed as a trophy.

Semele released him and he stepped up to it, reaching shakily out, letting his fingers wrap around the sheathe. He swallowed as he pulled the blade free. “I never thought to see it again.”

“Actaeon.”

She touched his shoulder and he quickly sheathed his weapon and wiped at his face. “Forgive me. It was a gift from my father.” He chuckled. “Such a stupid thing to get so emotional over.”

“You getting emotional is anything but stupid…would you like a hug?” He gently took her in his arms, surprised at how good it felt to hold her and have her hold him back. She held him until he let go. She couldn’t imagine all the emotional pain he had gone through. Semele was happy he had finally let a little of it out instead of keeping it inside. Semele knew he might not even realize how much pain he was holding back, for anybody that would have been a tortured existence, essentially being buried alive when you had done no wrong. “Better?” she asked softly.

“Yes, I needed that.”

“Let’s get you some food now.” She had salad and soup prepared then walked him back to her bedroom. “Lay down for a bit aright?”

“Sleep laying down would be welcome. Please don’t hesitate to wake me when I’m needed Semele.”

“As long as you relax until then we have a deal.” He nodded then hugged her again, hoping it was alright to hug her without asking. She instantly hugged back so he relaxed, happy to know he could do this anytime he needed. Once in the room he settled underneath her blanket, laying his sword at his side. Half to protect himself in case the enemy forces surprised them and half because he worried about losing it again.

Semele found her father and Sgaire out in the courtyard talking to a group of five mages. They were telling them to gather those with combat experience and a high affinity for magic. They wanted them to not only be able to cast such a large spell as the net, but also to defend the city if anyone should break through. The mages headed out and both her father and the emperor turned to her. “How is our guest?” Sgaire asked.

“Sleeping, I think he was more exhausted than he was letting on.”

“Good, your father and I were about to head over to the barracks and speak to the soldiers. Would you like to join us? Actaeon has given you a huge responsibility and you should know the men and women you will be working with.”

“Alright.”

They started walking across the courtyard and Sgaire said. “I would like you to stick with him, Semele since he seems to trust you the most.”

She blushed. “I planned on it.”

“He does seem quite attached to you.” He chuckled. “To swear his loyalty to you alone, such a bold move.”

“I almost feel like he was testing you.” Semele’s father said.

“More than likely.”

 

Chapter Three

They arrived at the barracks where introduction after introduction took place. Semele made special effort to remember them all and hoped they didn’t lose a single one of them though she knew that was high hopes. Problems like this seldom ended without someone loseing their life. She listened as Her father and the emperor spoke of their plans and precisely what they would be expected to do. They all seemed enthused, completely confident in the strategy they were going with. She thought to herself, “good, confident soldiers always do better”. Once Semele found herself alone with her father she asked, “Do you think Sgaire plans to clear Actaeon’s name after this?”

“He’s already mentioned it.”

“When?”

“When you were tending to Actaeon.”

“He deserves it more than anyone. It’s unfair and cruel how quickly his reputation was tarnished.”

Her father chuckled. “You really like him don’t you?”

She blushed. “Well…I mean he’s so fascinating and kind and he’s helping us when he doesn’t have too. He’s so honorable.”

He nodded. “Alright, you have my blessing.”

“Daddy.”

He hugged her, laughing. “I’m so proud of you, Semele. Proud of you for sticking to your convictions and proving us wrong.” He pulled back to look at her. “You should go to him, see if he’s still sleeping and prepare yourself. We don’t know how long this fight is going to take and I need to get the mages to help dig the trench. Magic is faster.”

“Alright.” She honestly felt happy to have a reason to check on him. Actaeon walked back to her room then quietly entered, smiling when she saw him resting still, he deserved to. She couldn’t help but walk closer, standing there a few moments until she felt like a creeper and began to exit her room.

“Semele?” She suddenly heard him say softly.

“I’m sorry, did I wake you?”

“Is everything alright?”

“I was just checking on you.”

He sat up. “Let me get up.”

“No, it’s okay, really.” She felt bad he felt so compelled but he gave her such a reassuring smile.

“I feel much better, I’m glad you came in here so I didn’t sleep all our peaceful time away.”

“Did you have any dreams?” She inquired, still curious about him in general.

He blushed. “No.” It felt like the first time he lied to her but she didn’t push it. He could have countless reasons not to bring up whatever his dream was about.

“You really can go back to sleep.”

He shook his head as he stretched his arms above his head then got up. “Has anything happened?”

“No, daddy and the other mages are going out to dig the trench and the soldiers are ready to help.”

“Good, how are you feeling?”

“Ready to get this over with, maybe a little nervous.”

He nodded as he lifted his sword from the covers and her eyes followed it. He gave a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of his neck. “I wanted to keep it close.”

She had to admit his unexpected embarrassment was adorable. “That’s okay, I understand. Would you like to go on a walk with me or something since you’re up? We could get some tea if you don’t want to.”

“I’d love to, we can talk. I’m sure you have many questions and I want to get to know you better.”

Semele waited for Actaeon to put his boots back on then they headed for a path Semele knew was safe and had taken many times. She told Actaeon as much, not wanting him to worry about an ambush of any sort. “Regardless, I have my sword back on my hip, I wouldn’t let anything happen to either of us. We’re quite the pair, you with your magic and me with my sword. She blushed again though she could see he wasn’t trying to flirt. He truly had that much faith in their abilities.

“So, when this is all over, what’s the first thing you want to do?” She wanted to have a positive conversation with him.

“To continue spending time with you like this.” He answered honestly.

“Really?”

“As I’ve said, I find you very intriguing. I very much like being around you Semele.”

Her face heated. “I very much like being around you too.”

His smile, the smile that made him look years younger, that lit up his eyes and chased away the shadows lurking there, had her heart racing. “An old man like me?”

“You’re not that old.”

“I have centuries on you.”

“I…I don’t mind.” He looked at her questioningly. “I mean…” she cleared her throat. “So what do you think of the changes?”

He stared into her eyes for a moment, searching her gaze with his. She forced herself not to look away. “They’re welcome.” He finally answered. “I should thank your emperor. If he had not taken the throne, I would have never met you, I would have never been saved.” He let his hand slip gently over hers and pulled her to a stop. “I am truly lucky.” He brought her fingers to his lips. “You are an amazing woman, Semele.”

She was frozen, her whole body seeming to react to him. She had been so eager to find him, to learn about him but he was so much more captivating than she could have ever imagined he’d be. He had this pull and she wondered if he had it with everyone. He smiled again, letting her hand go just as slowly and carefully as he had taken it. They spent all the time they had until the battle at eachothers side, neither wanting to part. There was so much determination from everyone to finish this and while Semele thought she’d be more nervous about going into battle she was ready, calm, cool and collected. Every one had faith that she could do her part so she’d honor them by having faith in herself.

Semele asked him a few questions about his past, about the different people he knew and how many wars he had been in. She was amazed to find he had served more than one emperor in his time and he admired most of them. He talked about his childhood, about how hard his father had trained him, and about how wonderful both of his parents were. They walked in silence for a few moments until they came to a stop next to a tree. They stared out at the moonlit sand. “Would you like to know about my time in my prison, about why I still look like this?” He suddenly asked and her heart stuttered.

“I do, but…”

He looked into her eyes, smiling. “You’re afraid you’ll upset me?”

“Yeah.”

“I want to tell you.”

“If you’re sure you want to, you truly don’t owe me any kind of explanation.” His smile only grew more amused, still shocking her he could be so jovial. “Rest assured Semele I know you, you are an amazing, incredibly giving woman. I’m sure no matter what you do for others you expect nothing in return but I find myself wanting to know everything about you so it’s only fair you know everything about me. So I will tell you about my time down there.” He took her hand, finding it harder and harder not to touch her, especially since she never rested or seemed like it bothered her. “Pain has never been a big problem to me so I moved as much as I could. Even before being put down there I knew I couldn’t starve to death so while I didn’t know how long I’d be there I knew that one day, somehow I’d be free so I needed to keep my muscle mass.”

“Does not needing to eat run in your family?”

“Yeah, I mean, its uncomfortable to be hungry but for whatever reason we don’t actually have to eat anything. Thankfully I discovered down there that even the discomfort eventually goes away. I do enjoy food though so I’m happy to have it again.”

“Did the previous emperor know you wouldn’t die?”

“I don’t think so, that was so long ago I’m not sure what all he knew about me though. I retreated to my memories frequently but I chose ones that made me happy, he obviously wasn’t someone I wanted to think about.”

“Did you do anything else to keep sane?”

“Bugs would come in and sometimes underground animals would tunnel their way down there and mess around. I’d just listen to them, sometimes create my own little story of their lives to amuse myself.”

Semele felt her chest grow tight and a lump form in her throat. “Wow, I can’t imagine.” She swallowed. “How cruel, to leave you there.”

Actaeon could hear the sadness and anger in her voice and he once again pulled her gently to a stop, only this time he drew her into his arms. “Don’t be sad for me, Semele, I wallowed enough the first few days I was locked away and I made peace with it.”

“Still.”

He leaned back and lifted her head. “Besides, I may never have met you, so please don’t be sad.”

She let out a little laugh and he smiled. “If I had been there, there would have been no way they would have locked you up. I’d have made the emperor apologize and step down.”

“I bet you would have.” He chuckled. “No more tears. Smile for me, it’s makes every single moment locked in that place worth it.”

She couldn’t imagine how that could be true, how knowing her could possibly make all that misery worth it, but she could tell he meant those words. She gave him the best smile she could and it warmed his heart. “As I understand it war will be upon us in the morning. We should rest. I have absolute faith in you tomorrow, have faith in me too.” He didn’t want her laying her head down tonight with any anxieties. She already meant too much to him to let anything in the world happen to her or the people she cared most about. She wasn’t sure she wanted to rest but tomorrow was possibly one of the most important days of their life. How well they performed would mean everything.

Final Chapter

Actaeon walked her back to her room and lifted her knuckles to his lips again. “Sweet dreams, Semele. I know tomorrow is a big day, but I want you to sleep well.”

“You too and if you need me for anything, please come get me. I don’t know if you have nightmares, but…”

He chuckled. “Only a brief moment of confusion waking up here. I’m sure it will take a little while for me to get used to being free. Go rest now, I’ll see you in the morning.”

He left her there in front of her door, finding himself wanting to stay, but knowing it would be inappropriate. They hardly knew each other, but she had stolen his heart anyway. Semele went to bed that night thinking about Actaeon. She planned to make everyday new and exciting for him, hoping his time spent in that place would fade to a distant memory after awhile. She closed her eyes, making herself go to sleep so she wouldn’t be exhausted in the morning.

Everyone was up with the sun and on their way as quickly as possible. Actaeon walked at her side, looking a little different than the previous days. She knew most warriors, especially as skilled as he was often were like completely different people when they were in battle. His amused, soft features were now serious, determined. He was obviously ready to do whatever needed to be done. She almost wanted to admire him but this wasn’t the time. She needed to stay focused as well, she needed to do her job correctly to spare as many lives as possible. The day was particularly warm but it did nothing to slow or distract anybody, they were used to the heat and the people her father and Sgaire picked were better than letting elements get to them.

Actaeon stood at the head of the soldiers, the emperor by his side. He found his respect for Sgaire growing. Sgaire called the charge forward and their enemy rushed at them, growling and bellowing their hate. Soldiers and Ettins slammed into each other, but Actaeon kept it brief, calling a retreat so every soldier spun around and raced away, the creatures giving chase as planned. Actaeon glanced up at the sky, seeing the Sentinels and wolves drawing closer, readying to dive. He had complete faith in Semele, knew that she could hold the net and keep the creatures out of the sky once they hit it. He felt his feet hit one of the wood planks and turned his gaze forward. The moment he felt sand again, the planks were pulled away and the Ettins in their rage fell into the pit before they could stop.

Semele was amazed at how easily Actaeon carried out his plan and she barely felt the exhaustion of her magic being drained as she watched him. The Sentinels and wolves hit the net the mages had cast and many fell as if shocked. Those that managed to stay low enough were taken down by her father and the other mages. She held the net in place until the last of the winged creatures fell to earth and collapsed back onto the ground when she finally released her hold on it. She laid there for a moment staring up at the sky, panting and sweating.

She knew this wasn’t over quite yet. They had gotten this under control but their anger would forever hold if they didn’t talk sense into them. The wolves had indeed been wronged and maybe that was irreversible but they had to try and maybe if the other beings would just talk this out with them they could work out whatever had made them so angry as well. Emperor Sgaire ordered the Sentinel that was obviously their leader be released to stand on his own. “What do you expect?” He snapped bitterly.

“To talk, please, you and your people keep refusing but I want to end this peacefully.”

“Your kind can’t be peaceful.”

“We can, I swear it, I am not like the emperors of the past…I know why the wolves hate us but please, tell me why you and the Ettins do.”

“We were driven out of our homes, treated like unintelligent animals, many of us were killed. We did nothing wrong, we hurt no one, yet we were treated as lesser.”

“Do you believe you are the only one who has ever been wronged?” Actaeon asked before Sgaire could voice anything further. “Do you think you’re the only one who has felt the cruel sting of betrayal? I spent centuries locked in a tomb, my name and reputation slandered because I stood up and revolted against the emperor I served at the time, but these people,” Actaeon waved his hand to encompass the soldiers and mages and Sgaire, “these are good people, this emperor is a good and honorable man. Let him make amends.”

The Sentinel studied him. “You are familiar.”

“I am Actaeon the Immortal and this is my home. We can all work together if you will speak to Sgaire.”

“Actaeon,” the Sentinel nodded, “I see. I will speak to him then, without bloodshed.”

Sgaire wasn’t even shocked Actaeons name carried such weight, not every race had been foolish enough to believe that Actaeon had been turned. He was embarrassed himself he once believed the slanderous stories that were spread. Sgaire was soon sitting and talking with the leader Sentinel and a few others from the group. They found reconciliation out on that field and began the journey back to the palace to make some changes official, to begin righting past wrongs. The wolves even tagged along though they seemed the most untrusting of this truce. Sgaire, Semele and her father were simply grateful they too were willing to bring this war to an end. Sgaire didn’t rest until all the paperwork was done and stamped, ready to put into motion the next day.

“I thought I’d find you here.” Semele’s voice brought Actaeon out of his thoughts and he turned, smiling at her and holding out his hand. She took it and he pulled her to stand next to them under the tree.

“Just thinking and waiting. Sgaire makes everything official tomorrow and the wolves are still incredibly restless.”

“Do you think they’ll attack?”

“I don’t know, but there’s no harm in making sure. What about you, what are you doing wandering around?”

She blushed. “Looking for you.”

He smiled. “Well I’m glad you did.” He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, making her heart stutter.

“Really? Why?”

“Who wouldn’t want to spend time with the goddess who rescued them?”

“Goddess?”

He sighed out a laugh and ran his fingers nervously through his hair. “I…Semele, I’ve grown quite attached to you, you are so amazing and beautiful. You probably think I’m crazy, but I really like you, adore you even.”

She wasn’t going to play coy and ask him if he was serious. She knew he wouldn’t say something like that unless he absolutely meant it. “It’s not so crazy…I adore you too. You’re so handsome and strong willed. I’ve never met such an unbreakable spirit.”

He tucked her hair behind her left ear. “Does that mean we could be more than just friends?” She could feel her face heating, her pulse picking up. She moved to kiss him and he smiled briefly before kissing her back. It was short and said everything she needed to say. Actaeon pulled her into him, feeling lucky and brimming with hope of a peaceful, happy future.

~ The End

Seneca & Isaakios

Chapter One

Seneca almost dropped her ice cream as she laughed at Daffodils joke “Oh stop so I can eat this” her voice was strained from laughing. Daffodil giggled “sorry, oh, you haven’t been this light spirited in a long time. Couldn’t help but take full advantage. Speaking of which what’s going on?”

“Hm?”

“This day you’ve spent with me. Since the men vanished they are all you think about. I mean we’ve had good times here and there but this entire day has been nothing about fun and you haven’t been brooding a single second, something is up” She sighed “let me finish this ice cream and I’ll tell you everything alright”

“deal” they finished and she said “I just…I wanted today to be fun incase its the last time I see you”

“why would it be the last time I see you Seneca?” The worry evident in her voice made Seneca take her only remaining best friends hand “two years ago I found this room in our castle I didn’t know existed. In fact it was odd, like it hadn’t always been a part of our castle. I mean, I spent my childhood running around that castle, why would I have not stumbled upon it? Well, while I was in there I noticed these odd holes in the wall. My sister…the queen caught me in there and she was livid. She berated me, shaking in anger I was in there but only one thing she said stuck with me that day”

“what?”

“If I ever catch you in here again you’re going to disappear too…You know I have suspected from day one she did this because she couldn’t handle mom and dad picking Eero to be king over her. She did something and I think it had something to do with that room because last week I found these stones in her room that look like they can fit in those holes…I’m going to put them in. I dont know what its going to do or if shes going to catch me and make me vanish too but I have to try…for Isaakios…for all the men and for mom and dad”

“Then let me help you”

“No”

“I’m not letting you do this alone. My magic ability is far greater than yours. I wont let her stop you. If she comes in I can keep her away while you finish what needs to be done”

“But..I cant lose you too”

“nor can I lose you either. I’m helping and that’s final Seneca. When do we do this?”

“After she’s asleep”

“Then lets get to our homes. I’ll prepare myself for tonight and you do your best to act like nothing is up okay” Seneca hugged her “you’re an amazing friend”

“and you’re an amazing woman. You’re braver than most could be”

“Wait for me in the trees outside the castle alright? I’ll come for you after I’ve grabbed the stones”

“I’ll be there, I promise”

Seneca was nervous, even scared as she headed home. She knew that anything could go wrong, but if she didn’t do this now then she may never see her parents again, never see Isaakios again. She was proud of how normal she was able to act around her sister. “Where were you today?” Her sister asked her.

“Spending time with Daffodil. We got ice cream and just visited for a bit.”

“What did you talk about?”

“The usual; marriage, maybe taking a trip down to the valley for a couple of days. I haven’t been since I was a kid.”

“I see.”

“Would that be alright?”

Her sister waved her off. “Sure, whatever you want, just stay out of trouble.”

She hoped talking about a trip would help with the rouse nothing was up and her sister would take her normal sleep concoction tonight. Teeka had always struggled to sleep but it was even worse now which was another reason Seneca had suspected her. If she had even a shred of humanity in her it had to bug her, even just a small amount what she had done. If she didn’t take it it would take her forever to fall asleep and even when she did she would be easy to wake so she hoped with everything in her things were going to go as planned. She honestly picked tonight because it was the highest chance of her taking it. She had a meeting early in the morning with an official she was attracted to and had been after a long time but she had no interest in Teeka for the same reason nobody liked her, she couldn’t be with someone with such a rotten heart.

Seneca had half thought she might try to force the woman into marriage once Teeka became queen but she hadn’t. She supposed even her selfish sister realized whats the point of being with someone if they have no choice. After dinner Seneca grabbed a good book then retired to her room. It had been hard to get into the book with everything on her mind so she was glad when someone knocked on her door. When she answered it was her younger sister, Sookie. She was more like a daughter really since when her parents vanished she had been the one to take over raising her. The staff certainly helped when she needed it but she had raised Sookie and emotionally it would always be more like they were mother and daughter rather than sisters.

“what’s up?”

“Can I go on the trip with you?” Senecas heart fell a little. This was the first thing she had ever kept from Sookie. If she got caught she didn’t want her sister punished too for knowing about it and not tattling on her. “Of course you can”

“May I come in real quick?”

“Um, sure” It was late and Sookie went to bed early most nights because she liked to be up for sunrise so it was surprising she didn’t want to go back to her own room. Once the door was closed Sookie slowly moved her hand through the air and words formed. It would have been cool regardless but they were rainbow colored so it was absolutely stunning “you’re a liar, I know you’re lieing about the trip because I can see the guilt in your face. Just nod if something is up. You’ve been so weird” Just as she finished reading the words vanished. It had either been amazing timing or part of the magic.

Seneca sighed, knowing she was caught by her baby sister so she nodded “should I be worried?” The next words read so Seneca spoke “don’t worry, this trip will be absolutely safe. Just go rest and be ready right after breakfast” Sookie hugged her then backed up, waving her hand again “I love you, be careful. You know as well as I do Teeka is vengeful” Sookie could read her too well and prayed again that her elder sister couldn’t. It wasn’t likely since they hadn’t spent much time together since they were kids. Sookie only could because they were so close. Seneca kissed her head as she had countless times before, saying with her eyes how much she loved her too before Sookie left.

Once Seneca was confident her sister would be out then changed her clothes, wearing form fitting shorts and a tank top. She also put on shoes that were easy to run in and grabbed a few items and her dagger from the box she kept them in. It was for trips in case she needed to defend herself and if this didn’t go well she may very well have to defend herself against her sister tonight. She put the items in a small backpack she had and tightened the straps so it wouldn’t be slamming against her as she ran. It was also one she could simply reach into from the top so she wouldn’t have to struggle to grab anything in a hurry while she fought.

She took an incredibly deep breath and slowly let it out before stepping out of her room. Her heart was already thudding in her chest as she walked the halls she grew up in. When she got to the queens room she listened at the door. No sound was coming from the room so she ventured in “Please please please be drugged so you’ll sleep” she pleaded in her head as she approached the container she saw the stones in. Carefully she grabbed the lid and pushed it open. She could feel sweat running down with how tense and focused she was on not making noise. Her heart nearly stopped when she opened it and the stones were gone. Seneca looked over at her sleeping sister. She was drooling so Seneca felt comfortable Teeka was truly out “where would she have moved them” Seneca thought to herself.

She got down on her knees, seeing another box under the bed. It was big though and she wasn’t sure how she’d get it from under there without it being too loud but she had to try. She silently crawled towards the bed and slid under, grabbing the box and pulling it out. Moving it was even noisier than she expected but her sister still seemed to be sleeping.

She glanced at her sister as she flipped the lid open and stifled the sigh of relief at finding the stones. Underneath it she found a leather bound book and she quickly put the stones in her bag before lifting it out and flipping it open. It was in her mother’s handwriting and she realized it was her journal. She closed it and put with the stones then closed the box, deciding to leave it where it was in case pushing it back under woke her sister. She gave her sister another quick glance as she slowly got to her feet and backed toward the bedroom door. She froze when her sister rolled in her sleep, holding her breath as she waited for her to settle back down. When Teeka finally did, she left the room, closing the door behind her.

She wanted to sprint to Daffodil, but she knew she had to take her time. If she didn’t she might rouse suspicion, she might be caught by the new guards her sister had employed or she might become clumsy and noisy. She could do this, her family and Isaakios were counting on her.

It felt like it took her an eternity to get outside but she finally did but she forgot to think about the night guards in front of the castle when she asked her friend to meet her outside. “Princess Seneca, what’re you doing out here and why a backpack?” The only man amongst female guards out front asked, his name was Jude and he was her least favorite guard for reasons that just then spilled from his mouth “I like how tight that shirt is on you”

“I’m your superior, stop it”

“we’ve been through this before kitten, your sister doesn’t care how I flirt with you. I get what she needs done and thats all that matters now why are you out here in that glorious outfit”

“I don’t have to explain myself to you”

“You do when you’re walking outside at night”

“Do you really want to wake up my sister right now when she’s seeing Leera in the morning. She’ll be pissed and I will go wake her if you don’t piss off”

“Princess, your daddy would pop your mouth if he heard such language”

“You don’t know what my father would do. You didn’t work for him, he didn’t like you and it’s pretty bad to make someone hate you when you only met them twice. He shrugged “How about flash me your chest and I’ll let you leave”

“Let me leave?” she asked incredulously. She couldn’t believe this dick. Of all the men she had to bring here from a different world when all of theirs vanished it was him but once again, this was the type of people she liked to be around because she was terrible as well. Teeka found his obnoxiousness funny instead of what it was, rude and incredibly disrespectful. Obviously Daffodil had had enough “She was just coming to get me”

“You;re here?”

“Yes, I’m here a lot aren’t I”

“Not at this hour”

“Look loser, leave us alone or we seriously will wake her sister”

“she’ll be mad at you not me, nice try on the bluff” Seneca didn’t know what to do. Keep arguing and maybe wake her sister that way or just give this man what he wanted so she could help her family and the men that belonged here. She sighed, hating herself a little already but this was for her parents and for Isaakios she flashed him and there wasn’t a single face that wasn’t surprised “let my friend come inside damn it”

“yes mam” Daffodil glared at him, her eyes showing pure rage as they walked in “I” Seneca started.

“you don’t have to explain yourself, I get it, that could have gotten out of hand, it has before”

“I feel so embarrassed”

“You were trying to keep the peace” As Seneca guided her friend along she worried that might have been for nothing. She couldn’t imagine ever having to face that guard again now that she had given him what he wanted. She didn’t know what he might try and honestly she didn’t want to see the other guards either, she was almost painfully embarrassed.

Chapter Two

Seneca was relieved when they didn’t run into anyone else on the way to Teeka’s secret room. She didn’t want to have to explain herself to anyone else and even worse she was sure Jude would come running if she and Daffodil were caught. “This isn’t what I was expecting.” Daffodil said as she looked around the room. “It’s so unassuming.”

“I know, it’s strange.” Seneca reached into her bag and pulled the stones out. “Come on, we have to hurry.”

“What do you think’s going to happen? A door or something?”

“I don’t know, but I have to get everyone back, I have to know they’re alive.” Seneca found the holes on the wall while Daffodil watched the door and listened for anyone approaching. Seneca pressed each one in, her heart beating nervously in her chest.

When the final one was placed nothing happened but refused to let the feeling of defeat consume her. Maybe this was why she had their mothers diary. Maybe this was something their parents already had and how to work it was in there. She quickly pulled it out of her backpack, prompting Daffodil to ask “what’s going on?”

“I dont know, I’m just hoping this book will help” Seneca skimmed them pages as fast as she could while trying to make sure she didn’t accidentally skip information about this room. Suddenly a strange smell filled the room and she looked up from the book to see the walls were moving in an odd way. Daffodil gasped and Seneca put the book away. She needed her hands free for whatever was happening and that diary may be the only other piece of her mother she would ever have. Suddenly they were falling, both terrified. Neither screamed until they hit the floor and engulfed in pitch darkness. “Seneca, what happened?!”

“I think I broke my arm”

“shit” Daffodil summoned an orb of light so she could see her friend. She sucked air through her teeth “you must have had it in front of you when you hit. I can make it a little better but it’ll hurt like hell”

“I need as much function as possible, do what you need to do”

“I have to stop the light okay”

“I’ll be fine, I haven’t been afraid of the dark since I was a toddler” The light went out and Daffodil grabbed her arm. It hurt even worse than she expected but she tried to be as silent as possible. “I’m sorry” her friend said once she stopped “dont be sorry for helping me. Its good you came”

“I would have been so angry if I would have found out about this little adventure too late”

“bring the light back and lets figure out where we are. Maybe this is some kind of special prison…maybe…we’re near everybody”

It was cold wherever they were and both could see the walls were made of stone as they walked. “Mom, dad?” Seneca yelled. “Isaakios…anybody?”

“It’s creepy down here.” Daffodil said. “I mean it’s not just me right?”

“It’s definitely creepy.” Seneca agreed and called out again.

“Does your mom’s diary say anything about this place?” Daffodil asked and Seneca reached into her bag with her good arm and pulled it out. She flipped it open, starting at the earlier entries. Since she herself had never seen the room that stones went in, then it was possible it had been there before she was born and if Teeka had stolen their mother’s journal then chances were that’s how she had found out about it. “Wait, I think I found something.” They both paused and Daffodil drew the light closer so they could see the words clearly. “It says they sealed this place up when she was pregnant with Teeka, that it used to be for the most dangerous and violent of criminals, but it was no longer in use and she was afraid one of us might find out way in here and get hurt, like I did. It had not been in use for a long time.” She turned the page. “She did sketch the interior in case they had to re-open it.”

“Oh bless your mom. I mean look at this place. We could die of starvation from getting so lost”

“I know, I’m going to be so pissed if she put them here. Our parents, our own brother…and all the other good hearted men that lived in our kingdom all over the fact she wanted to be queen and couldn’t accept she simply wasn’t fit to rule. She’s even been proving that now. All shes done is make bad decision after bad decision because she chooses things based on what makes her happiest at the time”

“I’m so sorry she did this Seneca but karmas coming to bite her ass all because you were brave enough to try this for them” They followed the guide in her diary to where it would seem like they would all be held, calling out different names until finally “Seneca?” It was her mothers voice “Mom! Mom where are you!” Daffodil shone her light as bright as she could so they could see better. She had been trying to conserve energy up until this moment. Suddenly they could see them, what looked like everyone behind bars like they were some sort of criminals “Mom” Seneca was already crying. Half because she had missed them so much and half because of how they looked after years of living like this and obviously being neglected. If she was feeding them it must be just enough food to keep them alive with how gaunt everyone was.

“stop baby” Seneca had been running to hug them through the bars “why?”

“If you touch the bars you’ll get hurt, badly. Some elves have died through persistence trying to get us out” She knew it was a selfish thought but she hoped it was anybody but her family or Issakios. It had her eyes darting for him and soon enough there he was, another heartbreaking sight and what made it worse looking at him, she could see shame in his face. He had always been a proud man so living like this had to be hell for him. “how can we get you out? Or more so, how can I. One of Senecas arms is broken. I fixed it as best I could but I’m just not that good with bones”

“Oh sweetheart, I’ll fix it when we’re out.” Hyacinth verbally walked Daffodil through what she had to do to get them out. It was a long process but it had been made to house the worst of the worst. When the gates opened, out of respect everyone waited for her family then Isaakios to exit first. Her parents were instantly hugging Seneca and to Daffodil surprise Eero went to hug her first. She guessed it was because Senecas parents were already hugging Seneca. After the hug her mother spoke emotionally “let me fix that arm”

“Mom you can’t possibly”

“I haven’t been there for you in so long, let me fix it”

“I’ll carry her if I need to Seneca” she still didn’t want her mom to, she could take the pain but her parents weren’t going to take no for an answer. Hyacinth mended it the rest of the way which had more tears streaming down Senecas face, breaking Isaakios’s heart. He was grateful when he finally got his turn to hold her again.

“I’ve missed you.” She said and he tightened his hold around her.

“Has she done anything to you?” He asked.

“No, I managed to fool her. All I wanted was to get all of you back.”

“Thank goodness.”

She leaned back to reach up and tucked his hair back away from his face. “How about you, were you hurt?” That look of shame crossed his face again. “Isaakios.”

“They beat me up pretty bad when they forced me down here because I fought back.”

“He broke the nose of one of your sister’s guards, so they hurt him pretty bad.” Her father said.

“I should have fought harder.”

“You fought pretty damn hard. He only stopped because of the bars.”

“Oh Isaakios, I’m so sorry.” Seneca said. “Did they break anything? Are you still in pain?”

“No, it’s been long enough I’m fine.”

“I’m so sorry figuring all this out took me so long”

“what matters is you found us and set us free. Now to deal with your sister. She took us by surprise last time but we have another disadvantage now, we’re all so weak”

“all you have to do is get out and we need to let the other women know somehow what happened. Your people have missed you. The only person happy you guys have been gone is Teeka”

“I wish I knew where we went so wrong with her” Hyacinth sounded so heart broken but Seneca could only imagine what it felt like to have your own child do something like this to you. “Mom, dad, she isn’t your fault. Some people are just born broken. You guys are wonderful parents”

“Before we go I have to know, how is Sookie? How old is she? I lost track of time down here”

“she’s a teenager now..” Her mother began to sob mournfully for the years she lost so father lifted her mother “go the way you two came. I’ll tell you how we get back out from there”

“Okay” The two girls stayed close, Issakios and Eero at their sides. When they came back to the entrance Royca took over, having the girls help him here and there. Leaving was apparently as intricate as getting them out of this dark dungeon. Soon they were all going back up and cramped into that room. All the men in their world had been down there so this room wasn’t nearly big enough to hold them all so they had to squeeze out, being as quite about it as possible.

Chapter Three

“Where should we?” Daffodil whispered.

“If we go the long way then we can circumvent the main part of the castle and maybe take the escape route out.” Seneca said.

“What if that piece of shit Jude is waiting for us?”

Seneca glanced at Isaakios, her cheeks suddenly burning. “Then I’ll handle him…again.”

“Seneca.”

“No one else can fight right now, it’ll be fine.” She gestured for everyone to follow her. “Come on, let’s just get moving.”

“What did you mean by again?” Isaakios asked softly.

“It’s nothing and it was worth it so don’t worry about it.”

“Did he hurt you?”

“No,” she sighed, “I’ll tell you once we’re out of here okay?” She knew she should have thought of Jude and their escape. “Let’s just focus on not being caught and if we see anyone let Daffodil and I handle them.”

Seneca was obviously distressed and it bothered Isaakios. If they saw this man he didn’t know if he could hold back and let her handle it. Just like her mother he carried guilt too for leaving her to fend for herself for so long. This was the woman he loved and he had allowed himself to be captured in the night like the others. They were all quiet and careful as they made their way through the castle but soon it came time for them to come out and Teeka kept so many guards surrounding the castle they were met by a small group. It was only three at this opening and she pleaded with them silently “Please, please don’t call Jude and the others. You can’t actually like things this way. Please, she has shown us over the years she isn’t fit to rule” Seneca hoped they would grant her request and just let them get out to tell everyone what happened. So far, she couldn’t tell what they were going to do.

“Lady Seneca, you know we must do as our queen demands, but if we were to suddenly be ambushed and restrained then we wouldn’t be able to immediately call for help.” They held up their hands, after all, there are only three of us and against so many, we never stood a chance.”

“Thank you, oh thank you. Some of you bind and gag them, but don’t hurt them and hide them where they can’t be seen.”

“If you hurry princess, you can make it to the gate before the next patrol comes around.”

“Thank you.”

Seneca stood by while the guards were bound and gagged and led taken out of sight. She knew that if they were found they would raise the alarm, but hopefully by then they would all be away from the castle and alerting their people. “We should get going.” Isaakios said.

“Everyone stay as quiet as possible and move quickly. We’ll have you back to your families soon.” Seneca whispered and lead them toward the gate.

It was hard to be careful when they were all so scared but they managed to pass the gate and start for town. By the time they had gotten everyone rallied together the sun was starting over the horizon. Despite having no sleep neither Seneca nor Daffodil were tired, adrenaline was pumping too hard and their was too much on their shoulders. They had saved everyone Teeka locked below the castle but they still had to take Teeka down and all the guards that were on her side and Seneca truly had no idea which ones she could trust. They were going to bring the fight to the castle but before they got their Teeka was already coming with seemingly every guard now working for her. Seneca looked over at her parents then at Isaakios. In the light of day they looked even worse than when they first saw them below and it broke her heart to think of loseing them yet again now.

Teeka may very well just kill them this time and there was no coming back from that, at least that she knew of. Isaakios seemingly could read her mind and took her hand “almost every woman in this town has come to fight with us. We will win” she squeezed his hand and gave him a sad smile. He was confident but just incase this was the end he didn’t want to die with the same regrets he had carried below the castle “Seneca, I need to tell you something before your sister gets close enough for us to fight…” with all the courage he had he said “I love you, I’ve always loved you”

“I love you too” she said instantly, it came so naturally. She hadn’t realized it until he said those three words but she did love him, as far more than a friend. A part of her had always known she loved him. They didn’t get to say anything else before the first attack was launched, apparently Teeka wasn’t even going to talk, she had so much hate in her heart she was simply ready to eliminate them or imprison them again.

Seneca fought hard next her people and was impressed by the strength of the women. They were no dainty flowers, but strong and capable, some of them having grown up on farms and helping their fathers in butcheries and blacksmith shops. Those with medical training helped haul any wounded away, whether they be villager or guard, and any who had ever held anything heavy or sharp jumped readily into the fray without a moments hesitation. Seneca herself headed straight for Teeka, knowing that her sister’s defeat was the only way to end this. She didn’t have a real weapon and she didn’t want to kill her sister, so she opted for punch her as hard as she could. Teeka herself had never been a fighter and was blindsided by the fist connecting with her cheek. She hit the ground hard, her hand coming up to where she had been struck, a look of shock on her face as she struggled to get up.

“Stay down.” Teeka said as she kicked her sister’s feet out from under her and jumped on her, pinning her down.

“You traitor!” Seneca screamed as she wrestled her arm loose and hit Seneca in the face

“The throne always goes to the oldest! They skipped me because I’m a girl!”

“You’re not that stupid! You can’t be! Nobody here has ever been like that! You were too selfish to take the throne. Look at what you’ve done! Look at our men, look at our parents! You did that! You locked them away because you were throwing a damn tantrum! Is that really someone who should rule an entire kingdom!” Teeka screamed and Seneca wasn’t entirely sure why as they continued to fight “stop this Teeka, stop it! You’ve lost! They all know what you did so nobody will listen to you now even if you force them back down to show your so called strength!” Teeka began to cry “all I wanted was to be queen. I always thought I was going to get to rule”

“You can’t always get what you want Teeka. Life sucks sometimes but mom and dad made the right choice. Seriously, look at yourself and what you’ve done. They saw this in you and they chose their only male child because he was second oldest. You just couldn’t accept they made the right choice so you made it into a gender problem when you should know that’s absurd here” Teeka stood somberly “everyone stop!” she had to scream it a few times before the chaos died down. She was still angry but her sister had talked sense into her so shame also made it hard to know what to say “Eero is the rightful King…I step down….I….I accept defeat”

Their parents pushed through the crowd, Eero close behind to finally face her again. She didn’t look them in the eyes until Royca grabbed her chin to force her to look them in the eye “you are still our daughter but this…what you’ve done will be dealt with”

“Yes sir”

“where is Sookie?”

“I locked her in her bedroom”

“Take your mother to her, she’s been robbed of her long enough. I’ll handle things here with Eero” Seneca and Isaakios followed, Seneca wanting to be there when Sookie finally got to meet their mother. She had shown Sookie pictures and told her countless stories but it was nothing like actually having her around would be. Teeka took them right to her door, unlocking the outside lock and letting her mother rush in. Sookie seemed startled only for a moment then said “my…you’re my mother?” Hyacinth nodded “yes baby, oh my gosh you’re really that little baby I had…you look so beautiful…I’m so sorry” Sookie ran into her mothers arms and Hyacinth began sobbing into her youngest daughters hair.

“This is what your selfishness has done, Teeka.” Seneca said as she watched the emotional reunion.

“I know.” Teeka’s hands were clenched into fists, her eyes staring down at the floor.

Isaakios was relieved when Seneca finally returned. Teeka hadn’t tried anything after her loss and both Hyacinth and Sookie went straight to Royca and Eero. Teeka was taken into custody and taken to her room where she was to wait under guard. Isaakios wrapped Seneca in a hug and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Now, which one of these men is Jude?” He asked.

“Can we just let it go?”

“I can’t, not when he obviously did something to you.”

“It’s not like he touched me.” She felt embarrassment and shame creeping in. “Besides you need rest, not more fighting.”

“Then I’ll get cleaned up, rest, and then beat him up.”

She couldn’t help but crack a small smile “Isaakios”

“I don’t care if he didn’t physically harm you. He’s made you uncomfortable in your own castle and served your sister when she took over this place. Even if he hadn’t, I would never let a man get away with doing anything to you, physical or not…I love you, I meant that out there..however I do wish I could have confessed my feelings more romantically. I was just being selfish. I couldn’t pass into the afterlife without you knowing how treasured you have always been to me” He kissed her head again, deeply desiring kissing her lips but he wanted to wait for her to initiate affection like that. “when you try to wait for perfect timing sometimes things never happen. I’m sure you trying to wait for it to be perfect contributed to you not telling me before” He caressed her face, he simply couldn’t help it. He had missed Seneca so immensely. Being forced to live without her had been the greatest torture of being down there.

“Yes, well, let me get cleaned up and if it isn’t too forward this soon would you at least lay with me until I fall asleep? I’d truly just like to hold you, I swear it”

“after what you’ve been through? Of course I can lay with you” They embraced again, lingering in eachothers arms until he realized how badly he smelled. It was only that that made him pull away. Seneca watched him go then went to her brother. “Hey Eero”

“I know you’ve been thanked a million times but thank you. We may have all died down there without you. I think she was getting to the point of cruelty she was going to starve us all together”

“There wasn’t a day I didn’t miss you. I could never just forget my family”

“Or issakios” there was a hint of teasing to his voice and she punched his shoulder, like old times. His expression changed a little and she couldn’t read it. Before she could have read him like a book but he looked so different and had lived such a different life for so many years “maybe mom and dad should have made you queen instead of electing me. I failed everyone and it was you who saved us”

“Eero I’ll gut punch you and not playfully. I still need to hear the story of what precisely transpired but she played dirty, that I’m sure of. You were a good king for the brief time you were allowed to be and you’ll be a great king now. I mean she even got it over mom and dad and they ruled amazingly for centuries.”

“How were things for Daffodil?”

“she missed you too” Seneca lowered her voice to the softest whisper she could manage before saying “Isaakios wasn’t the only one who went under without telling the woman he loved how he felt was he? Thats barely even a question because I found the ring in your room when you all first went missing I’m assuming was meant for her.” he nodded “I was hopeful she’d be my queen…but..”

“You should still ask her’

“I’m pathetic now sister”

Chapter Four

Seneca grabbed his ear and pulled on it. “Either you ask her or I give her the ring and make her bring it to you.”

“Alright, alright, so pushy.”

She let him go and hugged him. “You should know that she could never see you as pathetic. You can’t control everything, Eero, so ask her.”

“I will I promise, once I look more like myself.”

She pulled back. “Just come and get the ring from me when you’re ready, I’ve managed to keep it hidden.”

“I will, now, you should catch up with your man. We’ll all talk once we’ve bathed and had something to eat.”

“I’ll let the cooks know to make something that’ll be easy on your stomachs.”

“Thank you sister.”

Seneca walked to the kitchen and helped the cooks figure out a nice meal for everyone that would be gentle with their stomachs. She knew Isaakios would come to find her when he was clean so she just helped in the kitchen since they had so many to feed. Most of the men had gone home with their families but there were some who didn’t have anywhere to go just yet. She knew her parents would let them stay until they could figure out what they were doing. She hadn’t even realized Isaakios had come in the kitchen before he scooped her up “Isaakios, you shouldn’t be carrying me”

“I want to and you know as well as I you don’t weigh much”

“We wont have terrible long to rest, maybe a half hour”

“Good, all the faster for me to talk to this Jude. You ready to tell me what he did?”

“You’ll get yourself riled and not sleep any”

“I guess that’s a good argument but after we eat I insist, please”

“okay” He took her into a room he had used a few times when they’d hang out late and set her on the bed before climbing in with her “I can still hold you?”

“Of course” he smiled before pulling her into him. He felt self conscious about how boney he was but he just kept reminding himself she didn’t care “are you comfortable?” He asked, his voice already softening with exhaustion. “yes, do you want a goodnight kiss?” her heart was pounding even as she asked and he suddenly looked more alert “a kiss?” she smiled then moved so their lips met. He placed his hand lovingly on her cheek and ran his thumb softly over her skin. When she pulled back she grabbed his hand, kissing it to “rest now okay”

“I love you so much Seneca”

“I love you too.” he closed his eyes, only taking moments to fall asleep with how comfortable and happy he was to be laying with her and receiving his first kiss from her. She woke him with another and he actually had to hold back happy tears. He was really out of their and the woman he loved truly did want to be with him too. “You were sleeping so hard.”

“I finally have a bed and I got to be close to you”

“lets go get something in your stomach” He got up and they put themselves together before lacing hands and walking to the dining room where everyone else was. Right away she noticed Sookie sitting right beside their mother and the two of them talking. The next thing she noticed was Teeka wasn’t there and she was glad for it. Finally she smiled at her brother who was talking to Daffodil, he blushed and she laughed. “hm? Isaakios asked and she said “later”

He kissed her head and soon they were all eating. After their meal she and Isaakios went outside and she knew she finally had to tell him. She walked him through the fact he had sexually harassed her the entire time he had been working at the castle and finally last night she had flashed him so he’d be quite about letting Daffodil inside. Her face was hot and she couldn’t look at him anymore. “who is this Jude?” he sounded mad “Baby, I’m sure he’s gone by now. Teeka was taken down and my dad made it clear before any of this happened he wasn’t welcome in the kingdom. I’m pretty sure Teeka brought him back to this world just to spite dad”

“I want to find him, he may be imprisoned, your father is very thorough.” He stroked her cheek. “No one ever has the right to make you feel cornered or uncomfortable. What if he had taken it a step further and hurt you? He needs to be taught a lesson.”

“Isaakios, you’ve been through so much already, your body needs time to heal, not to be getting into fist fights with jerks like Jude. I know Daffodil would tell me to just let you, she was there and I know she wanted to kill him, but you should give yourself time to get stronger then if you really want to, I’m sure my dad or my brother would help you find him.”

He sighed. “Alright, but I’m not letting it go. If I ever see him, I’m going to make him wish he had never laid eyes on you.”

She sighed, feeling a tug at her heart “I missed you like crazy”

“Thinking of you is all that kept me sane Seneca” She hugged him and they just reveled in eachothers arms until she said “Oh, and I laughed at my brother because he blushed when he realized I was looking at him and Daffodil. You see, right after you all vanished I searched everyones room for any clues, including his and I found a ring. It’s for Daffodil, apparently you weren’t the only one that had gone down there without confessing his feelings. He wants her to be his queen”

“I always did see something between them”

“Yeah, I think she’ll say yes.”

“would you say yes to me if I wanted to marry you?” her heart stuttered “what?”

“I lost so much time down there and I know what I want. I want to spend my entire life with you. If marriage is too fast I understand”

“Marrying you would be amazing, of course I will” He kissed her deeply then swept her off her feet again “can we go lay together again?”

“I want you resting anyway so thats perfect” He kissed her again before walking inside. Seneca just relaxed in his arms and they cuddled through the night. The next day her parents announced what would be done with Teeka. Royca planned to go with her to personally apologize to every man she had imprisoned down there. He would be going with her to make sure she actually apologized and heard each man out if they needed to vent about their experience down there. He hoped being forced to look at their faces and all the pain she caused might finally teach her compassion. He knew she had to have a heart buried somewhere in there that if he tried hard enough, could be dusted off and put to use within her.

After the first day of it she begged her father “dad, please, don’t make me talk to anybody else”

“You’re lucky worse isn’t happening to you Teeka”

“I can’t do it again tomorrow”

“You can and you will. I’m glad this is miserable for you and I hope it isn’t just your pride hurting, I hope it’s your heart finally warming”

“I really am so sorry”

“good, so we’ll start again tomorrow and the next day, until you’ve talked to all that suffered and their families” He stuck by that, taking her out daily until she had apologized to everyone and heard what they had to say to her. A few months later Isaakios hadn’t forgot about what he learned Seneca went through with Jude and talked to her father and brother about finding him “He is in the prison. Everyone who served Teeka knowing what she had done was put there.”

“Teeka really allowed that to go on?” Eero sounded as angry as Isaakios had when he first found out. Isaakios scoffed “yeah”

“jesus, and you wouldn’t believe the crap laws she put into motion I’ve been having to get rid of” Royca spoke now “I just can’t help but feel responsible for her. We truly don’t know why she turned out this way”

“As Seneca told you, it’s not your fault. You and mom were amazing, caring parents. She didn’t learn to be selfish from you two” They could see the guilt plainly lingering on his face but they knew it had to be hard and no amount of words could make him feel better. Teeka growing up is what Royca needed to feel better.

The Final Chapter

“I really need to see Jude.” Isaakios said.

“Let me come with you.” Seneca replied. “I don’t want you killing him.”

“I wouldn’t do that.”

“I’ll go with him.” Eero said. “You shouldn’t have to face that ass again.”

“Alright, just please don’t go crazy. I’m really fine, I promise.”

“Just stay here with Daffodil and your family, I won’t be long I promise. Besides, I kind of need to talk to your brother.”

“About what?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Okay, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Isaakios and Eero left together and Sookie grabbed onto Seneca’s arm. “Come on sis, there’s not reason to look so gloomy. You know he won’t get out of hand.”

“I know, sweetie.”

“So what did you want to talk about?” Eero asked as he walked next to Isaakios.

“I asked Seneca to marry me, but I don’t have a ring. I was wondering if you would come and help me pick one out. I also know you proposed to Daffodil.”

Eero blushed. “Seneca told you.”

“Yeah and I was thinking, maybe we could have a double wedding.”

“That would be perfect. I think they would love it since they are so close to one another”

“That’s what I was thinking” They talked about the wedding until they reached the cell Jude was in. They had guards move Jude to a more private room “we have it from here” Eero said to excuse them. They nodded “we wont be far if you need us sire” Jude just looked pissed “what do you two want” his voice dripping with bitterness. “Seneca told us how you treated her” Eero snapped angrily and Jude had the audacity to smile “she’s a sexy little thing” He obviously didn’t know what was good for his health. Isaakios punched him, busting his lip. Jude spit blood onto the floor “jesus, I didn’t touch her”

Isaakios moved closer to him “what you did was bad enough. You’re lucky she doesn’t want me killing your sorry ass because all I want to do is pummel you”

“precisely why you two dont scare me. She and her parents are too fucking soft. Only Teeka ever had any balls”

“they are good people and you are a lowly dog. I swear to you, if you’re ever get out I will beat you within an inch of your life if you harass any woman in our world like you did Seneca” he smirked again and they decided to rough him up a little. They stopped when they knew they should and called for the guards who returned him to his cell. Isaakios sighed “what a prick”

“I’m just grateful he didn’t progress things. I mean that look in his eyes. I don’t think raping her was beyond him”

“Thats why i wanted to be sure he was taught a lesson. I’m back and he needs to know I will kill him for hurting her”

“I don’t plan on letting him out anytime soon either. Everyone down here is to serve double what we did below”

“good, I dont want to look at any of them”

Both Seneca and Daffodil were on their feet the moment Isaakios and Eero were back and they hugged them tightly. “Are you alright now?” Seneca asked.

“Better than I was, but I would love nothing more than to go down there and do it again. He has zero remorse for his actions.”

“Just let it go now, okay, we’re all safe and he’s locked away.”

“You are far more forgiving than I my love.” He pressed a gentle kiss to her lips.

“Isaakios, when you’re ready to go into town, let me know. I know someone who can help us with what you need.” Eero said.

“What you need?” Seneca asked.

“Still a surprise, but know it has something to do with the double wedding we hope you and Daffodil will want to have.”

Both women blushed and he smiled “do you care if I go ahead and go with your brother”

“go ahead” They each hugged their significant other and left. “They are so sweet” Seneca remarked and Daffodil smiled “yeah, I was actually a little surprised when your brother asked me to marry him”

“He’s always had a crush on you. You’re cute and kick ass all at the same time” They began discussing what they wanted the wedding to be like, getting lost in the conversation until the men soon to be husbands were back “will you go on a walk with me Seneca?” he asked and she took his hand “of course, bye Daffodil, bye Eero”

“see you later” they both said and the two left. Isaakios took her out to a field that was known for being filled with rainbow fireflys at night. He would wait until they were out and their beautiful, multi color lights were flashing around them. Telling her he loved her hadn’t been romantic and he didn’t consider when he asked her to marry him very romantic either so when he gave her this ring, he was determined it was going to be romantic.

When they were finally surrounded by darkness, their only light the stars and fireflys he fished the ring out of one of his pockets and got down on one knee. Seneca was so entranced by the beauty of this place since it had been so long since she came here that it took her a second to notice. She gasped, both at the rings beauty and how incredibly handsome her fiancee looked in this light. “Seneca, I love you so much. I came to this kingdom with with no goal in particular. I was just a parentless teenager trying to make my way in this world. I didn’t really have a reason for anything until I met you. You gave my life meaning, you showed me what it was to be truly happy, you helped me grow up and become mature because god knows I wasn’t mature at all when you met me despite the fact I mostly raised myself”

She cracked a smile as he continued talking “Your love and life are worth more to me than anything else in the world. I truly may have just given up hope like a few others below the castle and took my own life but I knew you still lived and no matter what happens, as long as you live I have a reason to live. You’re my will, you’re my heart, you’re why I am who I am and I want to spend eternity with you if you’ll have me now that I can propose properly”

She knew if she spoke she’d just cry due to how sweet he just was so she gave him a long, passionate kiss before taking the ring and slipping it on her finger. He kissed her again, pulling her onto the ground with him where he asked “could we make love out here? It wont ruin the moment for me if you say no so don’t let it ruin this moment for you”

“Yes but..”

“I know, me too”

“Liar”

“I swear” they began kissing again and were soon losing their virginities together under the stars and surrounded by the flashing colors all around them. They only stayed conscious long enough after to dress so they could sleep without worry of anybody stumbling upon them naked. Her head rested on his chest while his arms wrapped protectively around her. Nothing would take her away and he swore to himself nothing was ever getting him away from her again.

~ The End

Milos & Huxly

Chapter One

Milos drove his motorcycle into town with a heavy heart. It had been at least thirteen years since the human he dated destroyed his heart but he was still scared to see him again. Huxly had been the first man he ever loved and Milos guessed he should have known something was up since Huxly would never be in public with him and kept their relationship a secret from his parents but he had been foolish, young and very much in love so he didn’t let himself see Huxly was ashamed. He could still remember the day he ran back into the deep woods and never looked back on the human town. The pain was still so fresh it may as well have been yesterday. It almost pissed Milos off that he still loved Huxly but he had never been able to stop. The day they broke up it had been because Milos kissed him on the cheek in front of his friends.

He hadn’t meant too, he had known Huxly preferred not to show affection in public but they had been together so long at that point it was something he did without thinking. Huxly shoved him away screaming “what the hell” and his friends began laughing “what a fucking freak”

“did he really just try and pull that?”

“oh my god he’s one of those disgusting faggots” the comments went on and on and Huxly didn’t say a thing after shoving him and yelling at him. Milos had shakily gotten up but one of Huxly’s friends shoved him back down “stay down you disgusting faggot. I can’t believe you pulled that with Huxly. Hux, do you want us to hold him down so you can teach him a lesson, show him what happens to faggots around here” Milos had cried then and was starting to cry now at the memory. He couldn’t keep recalling it, not when he was returning to that town. He had to just push it out of his head and get what needed to be done here. He was here for his sister and if he had any luck Huxly had moved somewhere else.

Milos pulled over to check the address his sister had given him again. She had moved out of her apartment some time ago and he wanted to make sure he was on the right street. He would hate to knock on some stranger’s door. He lifted his helmet off and pulled the letter out of his pocket, checking the envelope and then the street he was on. “Milos?” He froze and slowly looked back around at the man stepping out of one of the buildings.

“Oh, hey.” He said. He couldn’t remember the guys name, only that he had been there when he’d made a fool of himself.

“Bradley.”

“Right, it’s been awhile.”

“Yeah, you back in town?”

He felt awkward talking nice to this guy. “Yeah, for my sister. Anyway, I’m busy, so…”

“Yeah, uh…” he rubbed the back of his neck, “so…can I apologize for…”

“I have to go, my sister’s probably worried.”

“Sure, alright then. Huxly’s…”

“Really need to go, glad to see you’re doing good.” He tucked the letter back in his pocket and pulled his helmet on.

“See you around then.”

“Yeah.”

He wasn’t normally short and rude with people but he didn’t want to hear his apologies and he especially didn’t want to hear anything about Huxly. It had been a long time and truly Huxly should have stood up for him that day, Huxly shouldn’t have shoved him away and acted like that so really it was more of his ex’s fault than Bradleys as a simple on looker but this was his first time back in this place and he just wasn’t ready to make nice. As he continued to ride he felt worse and worse about not being able to be more mature and forgiving since Bradly had been trying to apologize for the past. He decided that next time he saw him, if there was a next time he’d open his heart and listen.

Huxly lowered the barbell back into place and sat up, removing his earbuds then switching off his ipod and stretching his arms. He looked up as the door opened and waved at Bradley who wasn’t even looking at him. In fact he looked distracted. “Brad, hey!”

“Huh?” Bradley looked up at him. “Oh, hey.”

“You alright?”

“Hmm?”

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Bradley shook his head. “I may as well have.” He headed for the locker room and Huxly followed, a little concerned. “I saw someone today I didn’t think I’d ever see again.”

“Who?”

“It doesn’t matter, man.”

“Brad.”

Bradley sighed. “It’s not like you won’t find out anyway, it’s not like I’ll be the only one to see him. You should just leave it alone.” He glanced at Huxly who had his arms crossed over his chest and an impatient look on his face. “Fuck, fine, it’s Milos.”

“Milos?” Huxly almost stuttered out his name. “yeah and what’s even crazier is he doesn’t look older at all. Seriously it’s like we never saw him again because he stepped out of that day and walked into this one.”

“what did he say?” his heart was suddenly going a million miles an hour. Excitement, worry and most of all guilt filled his mind and soul. In all these years he had never secretly dated another man, he couldn’t. Not only because he felt so guilty but because he was still deeply in love with him. He knew Milos would never believe it now, why should he? It was true all the same though. He was simply a coward, still was to this day. He had never told a single soul the truth, the reason Milos had kissed him, the fact there wasn’t an ounce of him that was straight in the slightest. Women didn’t do a thing to arouse him, not even fully nude and trying their best. He was attracted to men and more over, he knew he’d probably never get over Milos.

“He really didn’t feel like talking to me but we were a bunch of horses asses back then so I’m not surprised”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“To see his sister. That’s really all I got. He really didn’t want to hear about you.”

“Oh.”

Bradley cleared his throat. “I’m going to get changed and then get in a quick workout.”

“Yeah, sure, sorry for bothering you.”

Milos wasn’t surprised to see his sister standing on her front porch when he pulled up and she headed down to him as he got parked and pulled his helmet off. “You are so late.” She said.

“Sorry, I had to stop and check to make sure I was going in the right direction.” He got off his bike and hugged. “It’s good to see you.”

“I was worried.” She pinched him.

“I said I was sorry. I also ran into Bradley.”

“He’s surprisingly grown up. Shocking, I know.”

“Yeah…he tried to apologize and this time it was me who was childish”

“hey, what they did to you was fucked up, it took you a long time to stop crying about it. I mean, this is the first time I’ve even gotten you to come back in town which is ridiculous. Let anybody call you a faggot or something else derogatory around me, they’ll be seeing their dentist soon after. You should never be afraid to come here and you shouldn’t blame yourself for having a hard time accepting his apology” Milos smiled, always thinking his sister was adorable when she got worked up. “You’re a good sister Enid. I’m hungry, are you? If I’m going to be in this town again I’d like to go back to my favorite place to eat”

“Back and already trying to fatten me up. We’re taking my car though, not that thing.”

“Wuss.”

“I’m in a dress.”

“Alright.” He wheeled his motorcycle up into the driveway then leaned against his sister’s car to wait for her. “That only took you an hour.” He teased when she finally came out.

“I couldn’t find my shades.”

“Oh sure, probably looking at yourself in the mirror. You got a boyfriend I don’t know about?”

“No, you’d be the first to know if I did. What about you?”

He shook his head. “Not interested.”

“You can’t let what happened with Huxly make you single forever Milos” Milos didn’t say anything as he got in the car, not really knowing what to say. His sister was right but how was he supposed to move on when his head couldn’t convince his heart to stop loving Huxly. When they arrived at the place they frequented over thirteen years ago they were delighted to see their favorite table open for the taking. They sat down quickly, even already knowing what they’d order. “Milos! Hey” the perky waitress said. He remembered her right away and was surprised she still worked here. “Hey”

“Dear god I want your families genes, look at you two” Milos chuckled “Yeah, we got lucky”

“do you know what you want?” she asked so they ordered. When she was gone his sister said “you’re not off the hook”

“hm?”

“you can’t stay single for eternity, you remember we’re immortal right?”

“don’t say that so loud Enid”

“why?”

“we’re in a human town” she shrugged “I don’t really care”

“You don’t understand.”

“You mean that you’re still in love with that self loathing shit head? I get it, but it’s not your fault he’s gay, it’s not even his fault he’s gay, that’s just the way it is.” She crossed her arms. “He should be here on hands and knees begging for your forgiveness, but he’s probably at the stupid gym working out his stupid muscles. Self centered little bas…” Milos covered her mouth.

“Calm down.” He said with a chuckle. “You might explode.”

She pushed his hand away. “He’s lucky I didn’t rip him apart for what he did. He should have just dumped his friends then and there, but no he went along with it. Creep.”

Milos sighed. “I know, but that doesn’t change how I feel. My heart it just…it belongs to him. I mean how pathetic do you have to be? I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I saw him again.”

“Make him work so hard he’s begging just to kiss you?”

“Enid, be good. Stop being so devious.”

“I can’t help it, you’re my baby brother and he hurt you” Milos chuckled “I really should have seen the signs he was ashamed”

“ashamed or not he should have stuck up for you. There’s no excuse I’ll hear for it.”

“On a happier note what are you doing with your life lately?”

“I have a new job, I got bored of my last one”

“not surprising, what’re you doing here now?”

“I work at a childrens museum”

“Thats sweet”

“Yeah I like it”

“mom and dad are going to ask me if you plan on returning home any year soon”

“Nah, humans are so interesting, I love being in their towns”

“You should at least visit.”

“I’ll think about it.” Their food and drinks came and they thanked the waitress before digging in. “So, what are you going to do if he does find out and comes to see you?”

Milos swallowed his food. “I don’t know, panic, take a swing at him, run away again. Probably forgive him because I’m an idiot.”

“Well, if he tries anything tell me and I’ll beat him up for you.”

“I’m an adult Enid, I think I can handle myself.”

All Huxly could think about as he walked home was Milos and the last time he had seen him. He had never seen him make a face like that before, like he had ripped his heart out. He remembered the tears, how Milos had run away and disappeared. He didn’t blame him for never coming back, Huxly had helped destroy the life he had built there. He let out a sigh. He wanted to see him, but he knew he didn’t have the right to.

Chapter Two

After they ate Enid asked “want to ride by where I work so you know where it is?”

“sure sis” they got back in her car and went to her work since it wasn’t far away then went back to her place. “My home is your home baby brother so help yourself while you’re here” she showed him where everything was then suggested ‘I know it was a long trip so I wont be hurt if you go to bed”

“I’m up for a show or movie if you’d like. We don’t see eachother much anymore”

“I just started watching Bobs Burgers if you’d like to watch that”

“what’s it about?”

“this family that owns a restaurant. It’s pretty funny and there’s this girl named Louise that I absolutely adore”

“alright, lets watch then”

Huxly stared at his phone, at the number he hadn’t deleted. He wanted to message him, but he didn’t know if Milos had changed his number. He sighed. He needed to do this, even if Milos told him off afterwards. He tapped the message button and sent a text. “Hey, it’s me, I heard you were in town and I wanted to know if you would meet me somewhere.” He couldn’t take it back now and he laid back on his bed as he waited.

Milos jumped when his phone vibrated in his pocket. He forgot he had brought it with him. Enid had kept paying the bill, wanting him to be able to call if he visited the human world. He pulled it out and his eyes widened at Huxly’s name. “You alright?” Enid asked.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, I’m good.”

“Are you sure? You’re making a face, like a shocked I don’t know what to do face.”

“I’m fine, just watch your doppleganger.”

“Doppleganger?”

“Yeah, Louise, she’s you but smaller.”

Enid smiled brightly “I’ll take that as a compliment, she’s awesome” He couldn’t believe Huxly had already texted him, he hadn’t been in town a full twenty four hours yet. The hopeful side of him made him wonder if he was sorry about what happened, if Huxly wanted to make it up to him. He was glad his sister wasn’t judging him for still loving Huxly. She was in protective mode but she seemed to understand that you can’t really control your heart and Huxly really was an amazing boyfriend beyond what happened that day. Was he ready to jump into a relationship again with a man who let his friends push him around and was probably still ashamed? No, but he had missed him and meeting somewhere to talk about things was something he was scared of but he wanted.

“where would you like to meet and when?” Milos texted back. He kept the phone in his hand, hoping Huxly was as quick to respond as he used to be when they were together. Huxly had been pacing with his phone in his hand so he read it the moment it arrived. Emotion tugged at his heart that Milos actually seemed willing. It made him feel worse about what happened. Milos was such a genuinely good guy and he had allowed his friends to be so mean to him.

“My place? In the morning? It’s really up to you, Here’s my address” he typed out where he lived then sent his next message. He knew asking for the morning was probably a bit much but he was so eager to finally talk to him again. It had been so many years since the last time they saw each other. Milos wasn’t surprised he chose his house “still going to be hiding eh?” he thought to himself but decided not to get upset about it. He wanted to see Huxly and he just had to hope he had the strength once in front of him again to not let himself be some dirty little secret.

Milos sent back, “I’ll be there.” Then put his phone away. He knew if he kept talking he might get upset and he was supposed to be spending time with his sister. He also didn’t want her going and trying to kick Huxly’s ass.

Huxly’s heart skipped a beat when he saw Milos’s response and he resisted the urge to send anything back. He didn’t want to annoy or anger him. He put his phone on its charger then decided to give his place a good once over. He wasn’t an overly messy person, but he was sure he had left some dishes in the sink or clothes on the bathroom floor. It only took him about an hour and then he was left trying to fall asleep.

Milos tossed and turned that night, his thoughts constantly drifting to Huxly. He tried to think of what he was going to say and how he was going to act. He didn’t have the same temperament as Enid and had only snapped at Bradley because he was trying to avoid anything to with the past or Huxly, but he knew he had to show some force of will so he wouldn’t end up back where he had been. He was absolutely enamored with Huxly, but he had to set up conditions if they were going to get anywhere.

In the morning Milos nervously told his sister where he was going to be heading after breakfast. She sighed then got up from the table to hug him “I love you baby brother, so much. Please, know how amazing you are when you go over there. You deserve someone who is proud of you.” she let go and stood up straight “I can’t say I’m happy you’re going to see him but I understand. Please though, please demand to be treated better than last time if things become more than friends between you.”

“I will, I’ve resolved to make sure he knows I wont be anybodies dirty little secret again”

“good, I don’t know if I can keep from breaking his neck if he hurts you like that again.”

“You know you’d have to come home if you did that”

“exactly, don’t make me lose my place here baby brother because I love you and I will kill for you” Milos smiled at her and she sat back down to finish her food. He helped his sister clean up then texted Huxly to let him know he was on his way. Huxly was still struggling to figure out what to even wear today so he wasn’t going to have time to eat breakfast but he wasn’t sure he even could. His stomach was in knots with worry over how this would go. Huxly knew he was a selfish prick but he wanted Milos back in his life desperately, even as a friend.

Milos’s heart felt like it was going to explode when he finally pulled into Huxly’s driveway. He could feel himself shaking and had to take a couple of deep breaths before switching off the engine to his bike and pulling his helmet off. He could do this, it wasn’t hard. Just don’t back down, put his foot down, maybe channel a bit of his sister if he had to. He sat his helmet on his seat and tried to walk as confidently as possible up to the front door. He took another deep breath and raised his hand, knocking a little too loudly. When Huxly opened the door his stomach did a little somersault and he swallowed down the nervousness. “Um…” He said as they stared at each other. Why did he have to be so good looking.

“Come in, if you want to I mean.” Huxly replied, giving him a tentative smile.

“Sure.” Huxly stepped back and Milos stepped over the threshold. The door closed behind him and he told himself there was no going back now.

“Can I take your jacket?”

“Huh?”

“Your jacket?”

“Oh, yeah, thanks.” He slipped it off and handed it to Huxly who stuck it in the closet near the front door. “So, wow, you really haven’t aged.”

“Bradley told you.”

“Yeah, we got to the same gym.” He cleared his throat. “Would you like to sit? I can get you something to drink if you like. I have water, milk, and juice.”

Chapter Three

“Milk sounds good” Milos sat and Huxly walked out and into his kitchen. Milos glanced around the living room, at the pictures mostly. He seemed to be friends with only one or two boys he used to hangout with and he didn’t seem to be with anybody but nobody had known he was with him all those years ago and there certainly weren’t any pictures that would indicate that were together so that didn’t mean much. For all Milos knew he could have some other guy as a secret boyfriend. Huxly returned with two glasses of milk and handed one to Milos. “thank you for coming…I don’t know why you came but I’m really glad to finally have an opportunity to apologize…I tried calling after what happened”

“I turned the phone off”

“yeah…I kept getting voicemail..Milos…I’m honestly and truly sorry…I still get angry at myself for shoving you away…for not sticking up for you and for most of all,still to this day not telling anybody we were together and that I was the one in the wrong…you were my boyfriend…you had every right to kiss me”

“I wasn’t a boyfriend…I was a secret”

“you were my boyfriend. I loved you so much…I still love you Milos” Milos stood, finding courage in his hurt and anger “when you love someone you don’t let people treat them like that”

“I know, I was a stupid teenager.”

“do you still hide the fact that you aren’t straight?”

“yes” Milos scoffed as he stood “so what are you wanting from this because I need to know. I deserve better than to be some secret you’re ashamed of. I wont do it again. I love you too. I always will but you inviting me to your home tells me I’m still something you want to hide”

“I would have met you anywhere. I left it up to you at first”

“But when I put it back to you you suggested here”

“I don’t think well when I’m nervous, you know that. If you want to be seen with me hang on” he ran to his room and grabbed his phone. Milos was confused as he set it it on the mantel and returned to him. He began talking to the phone, they were live on Facebook but Milos wouldn’t have understood what he was talking about even if he explained “I’m not friends with most the assholes I was in high school but I just wanted to let everyone know of something really shitty I did in high school. This man right here, for those who don’t know is Milos Shana and I dated him” Huxlys heart hurt it was beating so hard in fear. He still didn’t want to come out but Milos did deserve better so he would do this for him. “I dated him over a year in high school but I was too ashamed to tell anybody, not because he isn’t wonderful and gorgeous but because I was ashamed of being gay. I let my friends bully him when he accidentally kissed me in front of them, I didn’t stick up for him and I’ve hated myself for so long because of it. I’m gay and I love this man. I’m sorry Milos”

Huxly was now facing him as he said again “I’m so sorry”

Milos looked at the phone and then back at Huxly. “Can…can people see us?”

“Yes.”

The shock set in as he realized Huxly had just outed himself. “Why would you do that?”

“Because you deserve it.” He reached over and took Milos’s hands in his. “Can you forgive me for what I did?”

Milos felt a lump forming in his throat and his eyes filled with tears. He wasn’t supposed to get emotional, but he couldn’t stop it. He hadn’t expected Huxly to care enough to do something like this. He couldn’t speak so he just nodded and Huxly pulled him into a tight hug. Milos started crying and hated himself for clinging so tightly to Huxly. He even tried pulling away, but Huxly held onto him. “Huxly, you should…everyone’s…”

“I love you.”

“Liar.”

“I’m not.” He released him long enough to grab his phone. “I hope you all heard that, I love him.” He shakily ended the feed, too afraid to read any comments it had received. He then went back to Milos, gently wiping away the tears on his cheeks. “I’m not lying. I love you so much.”

“I can’t believe you did that…I never expected”

“teenagers are dumb and I know even that’s no good excuse for what happend but I do love you, I’ll always love you and I’ll take you to every establishment in town and kiss you in front of everyone if that’s what you want. I’ll go to every guy that picked on you that day and beat the crap out of him then get someone to kick the crap out of me if that’s what you want. I don’t deserve you in my life Milos but I’ve missed you so much. I’d do anything for you to even be my friend again but if you’d ever take me back as your boyfriend I promise to never fail you again. I wont let embarasment be more important than you. Everyone I know knows I like men now. I don’t know if you use Facebook but if you’d like I can show you that people saw”

“I’m not sure what Facebook is” They sat down on the couch with his phone and Huxly showed him. Huxly was surprised that his fears had been unfounded, at least with everyone but the kids he hung out with back in school. It made him feel even more foolish for being afraid back then. Anybody who mattered didn’t give a crap if he liked men and were proud of him for righting what happened back then. “How do you feel now Milos” Huxly asked and Milos wiped at his face “I feel like I should have came back sooner…I’ve missed you”

“does that mean we’re friends” Milos nodded and now it was Huxlys turn to cry.

Milos did his best to comfort Huxly by hugging him and rubbing his back. He really didn’t know what else to do, he didn’t think things were going to play out like this and he was still a little surprised they had. “Sorry.” Huxly said when he managed to get himself under control. “I’m just so relieved.”

“It’s alright, you kind of got a lot off your chest today. Coming out can be a little overwhelming.”

“That’s only half of it, I’m just happy you didn’t tell me off.”

“I thought about it, but that’s more Enid’s thing.”

Huxly chuckled. “She’s a bit of a hot head.” He ran his fingers through his hair, sweeping it back away from his face. “So, want to go out or something?”

“Out? Like a date?”

“Just out. I’ll take you anywhere. How about ice cream or slushies or something?”

“Are you sure your muscles would agree?”

“You dork.”

“How about milkshakes, it’s like a slushy made out of ice cream.”

“Okay”

“want to ride on my motorcycle?’

“I heard you had one as you pulled up. I’d love to if you don’t mind” They walked out and Milos handed him a spare helmet “it’s requirement for getting on my bike” Huxly took it and put it on then they both got on Milos’s bike. Huxly loved motorcycles but most the reason he was happy to be riding with Milos was the fact he’d get to hold him. Milos drove to his favorite place to eat since they also had milkshakes “Is this fine?” he asked when he parked his bike “yeah, I’m just happy you’re willing to go anywhere with me” They put the helmets away then Huxly said “your motorcycle is really nice”

“Thanks”

“How long have you been riding it?”

“Not really sure, years now” the lady came up “what would you two like?” They ordered their milkshakes then went back to talking. It felt a bit awkward but time still flew by. Before either man knew it they had been there three hours so they left their waitress a really good tip for being so patient with them. They had discussed a park they went to a few times at night when they were dating so they decided to go there next. As they talked there Milos started thinking about the fact he was an elf. Huxly had manned up and apologized for past behavior but he felt to a certain degree he needed to apologize for hiding something like that from Huxly.

In his family he had always been taught you don’t keep secrets from people you love so he said “hey Huxly”

“yeah?”

“can we get somewhere alone so I can tell you something”

“we have to be alone?” Huxly asked nervously, still waiting to be chewed out by Milos “yeah, it’s not bad but you manned up so it’s time for me to do the same”

“O…okay” They walked over to a more secluded place in the park and Milos said “I’m going to tell you something that sounds made up but I just feel I should be honest with you”

“what is it?”

“I’m immortal, I have good genes which is why I look so young but it’s not in the way you humans are thinking. I’m an elf” Huxly was left speechless but Milos could tell his mind was just processing being told something like that. “why didn’t you say that when we were kids”

“I guess in my own way I had something I was embarrassed to share too”

“I actually heard a rumor you and your sister were elves”

“well Enid tells everyone she’s close to so I’m not surprised”

“wow…so….you’re never going to grow old”

“Nope but if you’re worried, if we did start dating again I could just make you immortal too”

“Thats a thing?”

“well…If I married you we’d be bonded…it’s a lot to explain but it would stop you from ageing because we’d basically be one”

“you…I cant believe you trust me enough to tell me all this”

“You just outed yourself for me”

“That doesn’t mean you had to tell me, but I’m glad you did. You shouldn’t be embarrassed though, I mean you still look just as hot back then.”

Milos playfully punched his shoulder. “Oh I see, it’s all about my looks.”

“It’s more than that.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Um, so can I maybe kiss you?”

“Uh…”

“Not because we’re alone, we can go back out there if you want. You don’t have to kiss me either, it’s fine if that’s too much. I mean I can’t expect you to just jump back in.” He gave a nervous laugh. “Sorry.”

This side of Huxly really surprised Milos. He had been pretty confident when they were dating, but now he acted like he was walking through a minefield. It touched Milos that he was even asking so he stepped closer and pressed his lips against Huxly’s surprising him. He was happy when his reaction wasn’t to push him away, but to stand there looking confused. It caused Milos to laugh and Huxly to blush. “Sorry, it’s just your face.”

“Y…you caught me off guard.”

“I’m sorry, are you happy though?”

“Beyond happy, thank you for kissing me…can I ask what this means…are we together or just friends or would you rather not put a name to what we are just yet”

“I’ve missed you a lot and after what you did…outing yourself to everyone for me and the time I’ve spent with you today we’re together. I love you and even if I said just friends I don’t think I could be just your friend Huxly. I love you and I want you to kiss me any time you want” Huxly’s heart stuttered but he wouldn’t let himself cry this time. He just pulled Milos in, wanting to give him a real kiss, one he was ready for. He hadn’t kissed anybody since all those years ago but he was hoping to take Milos’s breath away. Soon they were thinking of nothing else but each other as their lips moved against one anothers. Everything had felt terrible for so long but standing there in Huxlys arms with their lips together and tongues mingling everything felt right in the world. Milos truly felt happy he finally chose to come back and that he opened his heart enough to allow Huxly to talk to him. If he would have closed himself off with anger they wouldn’t be healing like this and they wouldn’t have such an amazing future ahead of them.

~ The End

Jain & Saadet

Chapter One

Jain clutched his stomach around the arrow protruding from his lower abdomen as he trudged through the snow, his sword held in his right hand. He wasn’t sure how long he had been walking; an hour? two? He had left his dead horse back there after it had been brought down by archers. The ambush had been brutal. He had watched his brothers slaughtered, their blood splattering across his face and armor as he fought to help them. He had barely escaped and even now he wasn’t sure he was going to make it. He panted, his skin dotted with sweat that the cold air turned to pinpricks of ice. The toe of his boot caught a rock hidden beneath the snow and he had to brace himself on his sword to keep from falling all the way down. He crouched their on one knee, struggling to push himself back up.

“Excuse me, are you alright?” He raised his head at the concerned, feminine voice and found himself staring at her. Snow swirled around her, pulling at her her hair and the cloak draped over her shoulders. She had a covered basket in her hands, her fingers covered with gloves to keep them from the cold. Was he hallucinating? He felt himself tip over, the snow coming up to meet him as he fell to his side. “Oh my god.” She was suddenly next to him, her fingers smoothing back his hair.

“Go.” He said weakly, not wanting her caught in any sort of crossfire if he was being pursued.

“Shh, it’s alright. Let’s get you up.” He was so exhausted, but her concern gave him strength and he helped her help him stand. She pulled his arm over her shoulder then lifted her basket and they started the slow journey to her home.

The journey felt long and his exhaustion was getting worse but he kept making himself walk. Now that this kind woman was helping him he refused to pass out, he refused to make her carry his full weight. If she was going to mend him back to health he felt the least he could do was walk himself to her residence as best he could. When they finally made it she set him on the couch since it was the nearest thing. She could tell how hard it had been for him to walk there with her. If she was stronger she would have carried him but helping him walk was the best she could do.

Saadet went to her bedroom and pulled the blanket off her bed. It was the thickest one she owned and he would need it much more than her. Another thing she could plainly see was that he had been in the snow much too long. “thank you” he said weakly, hoping he had actually looked at her when he said it. His vision was so blurry. “thank me once I get that arrow out of you and mended. I’m sorry for the pain pulling it out will cause” He laid back and she quickly pulled it out, dropping it to the floor so she could close the wound before he bled much more.

She was so fast and he was so weak and out of it Jain barely felt the pain. He hardly uttered the words thank you before he passed out right there, his body eager to rest. She had been hoping to get him in bed first but at least here he’d be near her fire. She got one going again then found another blanket to lay on him. She then picked up the arrow and took it to her kitchen to throw it away.

She managed to get his boots off and moved him into a more comfortable position. He still held onto his sword and she gently pried his fingers open and propped it against the wall. He was so pale and his lips were blue. His skin was dotted with sweat and spattered with blood that couldn’t be his. She wondered where he had come from. She went ahead and got some soup cooking, wanting him to eat something when he woke. She knew he would need it, especially after being wounded and trekking through the snow. She glanced at him when she heard him mumbling, but when she checked on him she realized he was dreaming. He sounded troubled and she ran her fingers through his hair for a few moments hoping to soothe him.

Jain was frozen as he watched the slaughter of his companions, brothers and sisters who had stood next to him in battle time after time. He called to them to turn back, but the horses were in a panic as arrows and swords penetrated their hide. He screamed and jerked awake, coming up into a sitting position as he panted. He heard footsteps and reached for his sword, but it was gone. “Whoa, easy.” The feminine voice brought him back and he found himself looking up into a pair of beautiful, bright blue eyes. “You need to relax, you’re still recovering.” She pushed him back down, smiling at him. “Do you remember me?”

“You were…in the snow.”

“Yes, I found you wandering around out there.” She pressed her palm against his forehead. “You have a fever.”

“I’m alright.”

“Shh, just relax. Let me get you something.”

He took in her worried expression. “Your name?”

“Saadet and who are you?”

“Jain.”

“Okay Jain, I’ll be right back.”

He watched her walk away, almost grateful he didn’t have his sword. If he was any more out of it he might have hurt her. He felt terrible but he laid there on her couch grateful to this woman. He knew he’d probably be dead if she hadn’t happened upon him and offered her help. She could have easily ignored his pretense and went about her day but she came up to him anyway and brought him into her home. It was for people like her he wanted peace, she deserved to live in peace. He took in more about her when Saadet reentered the room. She looked to be about average height for a woman with long white hair that only made those gorgeous blue eyes pop on her face.

He didn’t know if it was his vision tricking him or not since he knew he wasn’t well but she seemed to be an elf. Typically if a being had pointed ears like hers they were of elf descent. Her soothing voice sounded again, claiming his full attention “take this please and then I want you to eat this bowl of soup” she had both on a tray so he brought his arms out from under the warmth of the covers to take it from her. He took what she had given then began eating her soup while she moved a little, motioning to his sword “it’s right there, I want you to be comfortable and I’m sure to be so you’ll want to know where that is”

He swallowed the bit of soup that had been in his mouth before saying “thank you, until my mind is more clear I suppose it’s better it’s not on me”

“Hopefully you’ll feel a lot better next tiem you’re up. I hope your body has warmed.”

“these blankets are amazing”

“My brothers are obsessed with giving me warm blankets so you have them to thank” he chuckled, causing her to laugh at her words too and add “they are just the protective type. You could pretty much call them obsessed with anything to do with my well being”

“I don’t blame them. After all you did just let a stranger into your home.”

“A wounded stranger, better to be kind than leave someone in need. Besides, even if you had been evil, I don’t I could have left you out there.”

“Well I’m not, I can promise you that.”

“I can tell.”

He smiled. “So, how many brothers?”

“Three, two older, Simidh and Parlan, and one younger, Fionn. Simidh looks identical to our father though, black hair, grey eyes and he’s really tall. Parlan and Fionn have the same hair and eyes as me, we get it from our mother.”

“And you’re elves?”

“Yes, you wouldn’t believe it if you saw him, but Simidh is in his mid-fifties.” She smiled fondly as she talked about her siblings, playing with her hair. “So, what about you?”

“I’m human and a soldier.” He slowly sat his bowl on the small coffee table. “I will repay you for your kindness, Saadet, I swear it.” He looked out the window and could see that it was still snowing. “I need to find a way to get a message to the King and Queen of this land. We were ambushed and I’m sure they don’t know.”

“Ambushed?”

“We were delivering a peace treaty.”

“You need get better first. You can’t go out there half dressed with a fever.”

He chuckled. “On my honor, I will not leave this house until I am well. I don’t want to cause you more worry.”

“I’ll go with you to deliver the message if you want. Letting me come is how you can repay me”

“You leave me with no choice but I need you to understand it will be dangerous. Someone out there doesn’t want the message delivered. They could try again to keep the message from arriving”

“Life is always a risk, I mean look where I live. Do you take me for the cautious type?”

“hence why your brothers worry but personally, I admire bravery. They should be proud to have you as a sister”

“we should probably stop talking. You need to just be relaxing” she set the bowl back on the tray and took it to the kitchen. When she came back she said “I don’t have a spare bed but maybe you should take mine for awhile. I’m healthy so it’s better I take the couch”

“and have one of your brothers happen to stop by? They might strangle me”

“I wouldn’t let them”

“I’m pretty tough though, even in my weakened state.”

She laughed. “You’re extremely confident.”

“I have to be, I’m a soldier. I also can’t make you sleep on the couch.”

“You’re not making me, I’m telling you.”

He let out a little sigh. “You’re incredibly stubborn. Alright, but if it wouldn’t trouble you to much I’d like to take a bath.”

“Sure. You should let me help you though, you might fall down.”

“Sounds good, thank you.”

She left him long enough to get the water running then came back and sighed when she saw him already sitting up. “You need to take it slow.”

“I’m alright, I might be a bit weak, but I can stand.” He slowly got to his feet and stood still when his vision swayed a little. He took a couple of deep breaths, clearing his head. “There, see.”

She guided him to her bathroom where she started helping him undress “you don’t have to do this”

“You’re weak and healing, let me”

“I’d imagine stuff like this is also what makes your brothers worry” she smiled humorously “as cocky as you seem to be, in this state at least you couldn’t really hurt me. I’ve been living on my own a long time and I grew up with only brothers so i’m tougher than I might appear” He wanted to tell her he could be faking, that she really did need to be careful with people but he felt he might annoy her if he kept bringing such things up, especially since he himself wasn’t faking and really did need her help to get better. She helped him into the bath then said “yell for me if you need me alright? I’m serious, don’t hurt yourself”

“I’ll yell” She walked out and he let himself slide down a bit more into the comforting heat of the water. He looked around her bathroom. It was simple, you could tell it was a woman’s bathroom but it wasn’t overly girly. A beautiful hairbrush and a couple things for her hair laid on the counter. There were also a few bubble baths and scented shampoos that would also indicate a woman’s bathroom. The hairbrush is what mostly caught his eye. It was so pretty and intricate. He wondered where she got it and who made it.

He almost laughed at himself thinking so much of an item like a hairbrush but it looked more like an artist piece than something just for making your hair tangle free. His mind was soon back on the peace treaty, he hated not being able to take it right then. He hated the fact people could be so closed minded that they’d actually attack their group for trying to bring peace to the lands.

Chapter Two

A knock sounded on Saadet’s front door as she was folding the blanket Jain had used and she peeked out the window to see her brothers. She sighed, of course they would come now. She opened the door and her youngest instantly wrapped her in a hug. “Hello, Fionn.”

“Simidh said we had to come because of the storm.”

“It’s good I did, she may have wandered out on her own without being able to see.” Simidh said as they all stepped in. He held up a couple of bags. “Food, just in case.”

“And a couple of new blankets.” Parlan said, showing two tied up bundles in his arms.

“Thank you, but you really don’t have to worry.”

Simidh’s eye was immediately drawn to the sword. “Who does that belong to sister dear?”

“Listen just put everything away first, alright and then I’ll explain, but you have to promise to listen.” She grabbed Fionn’s hand. “You can help me.”

“With what?”

“Just, I think he’d be more comfortable with another man helping out, he’s more polite than our brothers.”

“Who is this he?” Parlan asked.

“Just put stuff away.” She pulled Fionn back to her bathroom and tapped on the door. “May I come in?”

“Yeah.” Jain called back and she pushed the door open.

“You have a man in your house?” Fionn asked in a shocked whisper.

“Shush, I’m thirty-three for goodness sake and it’s not like that.” She smiled apologetically at Jain. “I thought you might want my brother to help you out since you were kind of iffy on me doing it. You have the same equipment so, I hope you don’t mind.”

“Are they all three here?” Jain asked.

“Yes, sorry. Be nice, Fionn, he’s sick.”

Very protective brothers were in the house so now Jain just hoped he could convince them he meant Saadet no harm. He was confident that even now he could defend himself but he was far too grateful to her to raise a hand to them if they reacted poorly. He just hoped if they couldn’t see he was harmless when it came to their sister that at least she could stop them. Fionn helped Jain out then helped him dress before they went back to her other brothers “so guys, this is Jain. I found him out there wounded pretty badly. I’m tending to him until he is better than I’m helping him deliver something to our rulers. He was attacked because of the peace treaty they have.” She said it all as fast as she could while still speaking clearly. She knew with her brothers seeing a man here, even wounded she needed to give a quick explanation regardless of her age. She could live another fifty years and they’d still fuss over her like she was seven.

Simidh stepped closer, looking Jain over. “You’re a warrior. So the sword is not just for show.”

“I was trained by some of the best.”

“If you mean my sister any ill will you should leave now, we will not let you off if any harm should come to her.”

“I wouldn’t lay a finger on her. I owe her a great debt.” He rested a hand against his abdomen. “Without her, I would be dead.”

“Come on, you should be relaxing.” Saadet said as she gently grabbed his arm and guided him over to the couch. “Please stop worrying so much, brother, he has a fever.”

“Please, he is right to worry.”

“Still, he could wait until you’re better to try intimidating you.”

Simidh sat down on the other end of the couch, crossing his arms. “I’m you’re brother, it’s my job.”

“I don’t know Simidh, he doesn’t seem very scared of you.” Parlan said, sounding amused. “Most men would be shivering and ready to run.”

“His over protectiveness is out of love, I cannot fault him for that. Your sister is kind and beautiful, she took me at my word, brought me into her home. All three of you have every right to be suspicious of me, but I swear on my honor as a man and a warrior that I wouldn’t dream of hurting her.”

“Hush now, you don’t have to explain yourself. Let me make you some tea.”

She walked away, knowing her brothers would at worst keep questioning him. “are you sure nobody else was alive? You couldnt have been on your own” the brothers could see obvious pain on his face, making them believe in his story more. “Yes, I’m sure, even wounded myself I made sure to check. If I managed to get anywhere I needed to know if anybody needed to go back for them”

“we are sorry then” Parlan said then Simidh asked “so what’s this about our sister going with you to deliver this treaty?”

“she insisted” That all three of them believed so Simidh spoke again “we will go too. She is our sister and if you’re attacked again we will want to be there”

“alright”

“Are you boys hungry?” Saadet asked.

“We can always make something sister.” Fionn said.

“As long as you’re sure, I won’t mind.”

“Please, we’ve intruded again and you have a guest.”

She nodded as she put water on then came back and sat down on the couch between her brother and Jain. He was starting to put together a picture of who her brothers were. He already knew Simidh was the most the protective. Jain could see he took his position as eldest seriously. Saadet had not lied when she had said he was tall and he put him over six feet. Parlan was just as protective, but he had a more laid back air. He was sure the second of them teased his siblings constantly. Then there was Fionn who was equally as protective, but had a gentleness to him. Jain was sure he could fight if he needed to, but he mostly seemed to go with the flow.

“Do you remember how many men attacked you?” Simidh asked.

“It happened so fast, we barely had time to react. There were twenty of us total, but we were reduced to nothing in moments.”

“We’re going to get you where you need to be, Jain. I promise.” Saadet took his hand and he felt a calming warmth sweep through him.

They soon enjoyed tea together then her brothers left her alone with Jain to cook since they had dropped in without warning again. Their sister was always happy to cook for them but they felt it was only right to do some of the cooking too. “I think you’re winning them over” Saadet whispered to Jain. He smiled then took a sip of the small amount of tea he had left. Between the three men food was soon prepared and in front of them. “thank you guys, for everything” while she didn’t need their help she still appreciated that they cared for her like they did.

“I’ll get the blankets and pillows for you three.” Saadet said once she was finished eating.

“Thank you sister.” Fionn said.

“Where will he be sleeping?” Simidh asked.

“In my room with me.” Saadet answered before Jain could answer. She held up her hand when Simidh started to protest. “No arguing, he’s my responsibility and please don’t forget, I’m not a baby anymore. I think I’m allowed to sleep next to a man.”

“She has a point.” Parlan said with a chuckle.

Saadet took her dishes to the sink then went and retrieved all the blankets they would need for a pallet. Her brothers finished eating and washed the dishes then Simidh moved the coffee table over so Parlan and Fionn could lay out the blankets. “Are you sure this is alright?” Jain asked as he got to his feet.

“Absolutely, I trust you and you still need me to watch over you in case you get worse.”

“Could you bring my sword then? I know your brothers will be here, but I would feel more comfortable if it were nearby.”

“Of course.”

Saadet carefully lifted his sword, carrying it for him to her bedroom, placing it just as carefully by the side of the bed he’d be on “Is that a good place for it?”

“Yes, I can grab it easily if I need to” she grabbed something comfortable to sleep in while he just slipped into her bed. Once changed she came back into her bedroom then laid down at his side. “do you need anything before I let myself fall asleep?” she asked gently. “No, you just rest. If I need anything I know where to find it at this point”

“How’re you feeling?”

“Like we might be able to leave tomorrow”

“if you still feel like you can in the morning I’m happy to go ahead and leave with you”

“You’ve been a real angel, Saadet.”

“Just don’t force yourself, okay?”

“I won’t, I promise.”

She moved close to him, making his heart flip when she draped an arm over him. “You’re still warm, but I bet if you sleep tonight, your fever will break.”

“I’m sure it will.” He reached up and took the hand resting on his chest, letting his thumb stroke over her knuckles. “Thank you my beautiful goddess of the snow.”

“Goddess?”

“That’s what you looked like when I saw you, like a goddess, almost like you weren’t real. I’m glad you were. As cruel as fate is, at least I was able to meet you and your family.”

Saadet blushed. “Rest now, okay?”

Chapter Three

“Okay” In mere moments he was out, his body still tiredd from everything he had been through to get this peace treaty as far as he had. In the morning what Saadet thought proved to be true. Jain no longer had a fever and seemed ready to travel. She used a little more healing magic on him just to be sure everything inside of him was properly healed for him to be doing something as strenuous as traveling. “Now who is a worrier?” Parlan teased but it didn’t embarrass her. They set off, hoping they didn’t run into any trouble along the way. Saadet hoped whomever had attacked their group thought Jain had been eaten by something in the snow.

“We’re getting close to where we were ambushed.” Jain said, letting his hand rest on his sword.

“We’ll go around then.” Simidh said as he veered off from the road. “It will be safer since Saadet is with us and you shouldn’t have to see your friends like that.”

“Thank you.”

Saadet took Jain’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I’m sure the King and Queen would lend you some men to retrieve them. They deserve a proper burial.”

“We’ll even help.” Parlan said.

“At this rate, I’ll never be able to repay your kindness.”

“Don’t worry about it, we’re doing it for Saadet and because it’s the right thing to do.” Fionn replied.

Saadet gave him a warm smile and he felt his heart do a little flip. She deserved something from him. He thought about it as they trekked slowly through the snow, all of the men on high alert and keeping Saadet in the middle of them. Even though the goal was to deliver a treaty, to all of them she was more important. They all felt relieved when the castle walls came into view and hurried to the front gate where Jain showed the guards his credentials. Once they were let in, they were truly able to relax. The inside of the castle was warm and they were asked to wait while the King and Queen were informed.

“It’s a little sad.” Saadet said.

“What do you mean?” Jain asked.

“We only just met and now you’ll be leaving.” She felt incredibly selfish in that moment. In such a short time she had started to like him. He was so kind and selfless, it was hard not to.

“I do have to go back to return my men to their loved ones.” He took her hands in his. “If you would allow me to return, I would happily stay by your side.”

She smiled, relieved he wanted to be near her too “you can come back” Jain kept Saadet’s hand until the King and Queen entered to thank them. They discussed how to get the group he came here with back home to be buried then set the plan in motion. They wound up staying where he was from about a week for him to sort things out and watch his comrades buried but after that week they returned to Saadets home. Their feelings had grown even stronger at this point, to much more than simple like for one another and her brothers were happy. They liked Jain after getting to know him and felt he would take good care of her.

I hope you’ll be happy here.” Saadet said once they were relaxing together on her couch.

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Well you lived in the city and I’m kind of out in the middle of nowhere, plus the weather is naturally cooler even in spring and summer.”

He chuckled as he lifted her onto his lap and hugged her. “I swore to stay by you always, no matter where you go, I will follow.”

She giggled. “My goodness, you take this code of honor thing pretty seriously.”

“It’s not just that, I really and truly love you. My heart belongs to you and you alone. My love and loyalty belong to you my sweet, Saadet.”

“Jain.”

“Would you do me the honor of being mine forever? I would love to marry you if you’ll have me. I hear there is a ceremony your people perform, one that bonds the couple in every way. I want that with you.”

“really, so soon?”

“If it’s not too soon for you it’s not too soon for me” she could see no hesitation in his eyes, absolutely no fear or second thoughts. She kissed him, Jain deepening it. When they could manage to pull back from eachother she answered softly “Of course I’ll marry you. You’re an incredible man”

“when would you like to?”

“I don’t know, maybe my parents will have some ideas. I’ve never thought about marriage before” He tucked some of her hair behind her pointed ears “all that my heart needs to hear is that you’ll marry me. However long it takes to figure out how and when doesn’t matter to me”

He wanted to tell her family immediately and she couldn’t help but smile at how much energy he had. She was sure that it had something to do with his training and when he said he wanted to go into town and let them know, she didn’t protest and went with him. He scooped her up once they were on the road and didn’t put her down again until they were standing at Simidh’s door. When her brother opened the door, the first thing Jain said was, “I ask you permission to marry your sister.”

“Uh…” Simidh was taken off guard for a moment, but quickly collected himself. “Is he really asking me?” He directed the question at his sister.

“It’s just his way I guess.”

“You should probably ask our dad, not me.” He said to Jain.

“You’re her older brother, with your acceptance it will be easier. I want to be married in the way of your people, to be completely bonded with Saadet. I know you may see my question as a bit old fashioned, but I also know you only want the best for your sister.”

“Like Saadet always says, you’re adults. Besides as far as I’ve seen you’re her perfect match. She’s her and you’re incredibly level headed.”

“Hey.” Saadet said.

“I would be proud to call you brother.” He held out his hand and Jain clasped it, shaking it.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll get the other two, you go ahead and head over to our parents house.”

He seemed even more excited now that her oldest brother gave them his blessing. It was absolutely adorable, she didn’t mind at all he wanted to ask her family first. When they arrived at her parents home they were over joyed at his question. They started right away on wedding plans, her parents having hundreds of ideas when it came to everything involved, “It sounds a lot like you two have been thinking about my wedding for awhile” Saadet said teasingly and her mother replied “well of course, we always knew you would. You’re amazing so of course one day I man would want to keep you forever” Saadets cheeks lightly tinted as she smiled.

Both Jain and Saadet were grateful to her parents for having so much thought out. When the day of their wedding came, Jain stared wide eyed and open mouthed as Saadet and her father walked toward him. If it hadn’t been for Simidh grabbing his shoulder, he would have stepped down to greet her. “Patience brother.” Simidh whispered as both Parlan and Fionn let out a chuckle. He took her hands when she was given to him and smiled lovingly at her, causing her to blush.

“You’re so beautiful.” He said. He looked her over, taking in the dress her mother had had made.

“You look good too. Very aristocratic.”

His smile widened and he looked up at her mother who was performing the ceremony. “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.”

“It’s okay, we’re all happy for you.”

Jain found the ceremony to be magical. He had never witnessed it before now and absorbed every moment, every word uttered by Saadet as she made her promises of love and carefully chose his own to convey his adoration for her. Her mother cut their hands and he laced his fingers through hers, staring into her eyes as their blood mingled. Her emotions came crashing over him, her joy, her nervousness, and the he swore he could feel the stuttering of her heart. His cheeks flushed and he watched as hers did the same. They were so connected he could feel everything and it humbled him.

“Can I please kiss her?” He asked, receiving a laugh from the small group.

“Yes.” Saadet’s mother said as she wiped at the tears in her eyes.

Jain began kissing her, trying not to make it overly passionate since everyone was looking at them. It was a struggle but he managed, moving his lips sweetly against hers. They felt so much that neither of them could stop crying. After the ceremony they enjoyed a feast, socializing and soaking in the bliss of taking this step in their relationship.Kids already came up and both were up for it without the slightest hesitation. They assured everyone they’d be trying soon. That day and teh ones following were absolutely amazing and the start to what Saadet felt would be a wonderful life.

~ The End

Luthais & Saskia

Chapter One

The first time she had seen him, she was only six years old. He had been sitting in a tree and had jumped down when she wandered away from her parents. He had ushered her back, a bit irritated, but hadn’t laid a hand on her. She hadn’t gone far, but he seemed to want to keep her away from the woods. She remembered telling her parents about the man, but they had found nothing and for awhile she had thought it was nothing more than a small child’s imagination. She was seventeen now and hadn’t seen him since, but she often felt another presence close by. She sighed as she walked, getting so lost in thought she didn’t even notice the wild dogs gathered around the deer carcass at first. It had not been there when she had gone to visit her grandparents. The dirty, scarred hounds noticed her presence and turned hungry eyes on her, growling as blood and saliva dripped from their jaws. She swallowed, taking a step back and then another as they started towards her. What was she supposed to do? One lunged and she screamed, turning and running. She could hear them behind her, barking and snarling as they chased her.

She heard the snap of teeth at her heel and veered off, heading for the woods, hoping to find safety in a tree. She felt teeth clamp down on her ankle as the made it to the treeline and screamed as she was dragged back, her fingers digging in the dirt and grass in hopes she could pull herself away. They surrounded her, taking small nips at her, trying to find the best place to attack. She guarded her head and face as she kicked at the one holding her and it gave a shake of annoyance, sending more pain lancing up her leg. Another started for her and she squeezed her eyes shut, but instead of sharp teeth, she was met with the sound of yelping. She opened her eyes and they widened in shock when she saw him.

She fearfully looked to see what was going on and there he was, the man she had seen when she was a little girl. It had been years but apparently he was still looking out for her. He helped her up once the wolves were gone then began checking her for wounds, genuine concern on his face. He lifted her up “you shouldn’t walk on that…I’m so sorry it got as far as it did…of course on one of the few days I wasn’t following from the start”

“One of the few days?” He sighed, he never bothered with lieing and she was practically an adult, undoubtedly knew that her parents gave her up as offering to a bastard of a man. He had been trying since then to grow as a person, to be better so he wouldn’t cause such a terrible thing again. “I am the reason your parents gave you up…I’m that bastard” he admitted, obviously ashamed.

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

“I am sure you have asked your parents about the circumstances surrounding your adoption.”

“I did.”

“I am also sure that they told you were to be tribute for a…man.”

She swallowed. “But…then why are you here?” That came out meaner than she had meant and she quickly backpedaled when averted his gaze. “I mean, it’s just why then and why now? It really doesn’t make any sense. I’m not your responsibility.”

He huffed. “You are when I say you are and right now you are lucky I decided to hang around. If I had not come when I did, those hounds would have ripped you apart.” He sighed. “Sorry, I don’t mean to take such a tone with you, it was unkind. Let me get you home so that leg can be cleaned and healed.”

“Do my parents know you’re here?”

“No, at least I would have kept it from them until now. They don’t like me, but even so, at least you are safe.”

“My parents can be incredibly forgiving, I mean you really did just save my life” He took her up to the door of her home and knocked. He couldn’t set her down, not with her wounds. Her mother obviously recognized him when she answered the door “what have you done to her?” she asked accusingly “Mom he saved me, he didn’t do this.”

“he saved you?”

“yes so please be nice”

“I’m sorry…I guess come in” he walked in and set her down on the couch. Her father was now in the room and had heard everything. Luthais tried leaving but Saskia called to him, a call that tugged at his heart so he couldn’t ignore it “don’t leave’

“why would you want me here”

“you saved me and I remember you from when I was little, you stopped me from wandering off. You may have saved me then too”

“The forest can be dangerous for a child, it was nothing. Just don’t walk alone anymore.”

“Would you at least stay for dinner.” She looked at her parents. “He can stay for dinner right? As payment for saving me.”

Ediva and Chapin shared a look and Luthais chuckled. “You two don’t have to pretend around me, I know how you feel. I don’t blame you, I wouldn’t trust me either.”

“She’s right, stay for dinner, it’s the least we can do.” Chapin said. “Thank you for looking out for her.”

“Yes, thank you.” Ediva looked at her daughter. “What happened?”

“A pack of wild dogs brought a deer down in the road and I surprised them, I guess they thought I looked better than carcass.” She swallowed. “I…I thought I was going to die, I’ve never been that scared in my life.”

“It may be best if I hunt them down after dinner. You may be the first victim, but you won’t be the last and next time it might be someone without me watching over them.” Luthais said.

“Do you really have too?”

“He’s right sweetie, if they’re wild that means they’ve been that way for awhile and it would be extremely difficult to tame them, if at all.” Ediva said. “Just relax baby.” Ediva went and got a wet rag and Luthais finally sat down, but decided on the chair rather than the couch next to Saskia.

Chapin was actually a little impressed Luthais managed to watch her all these years without any of them noticing, especially with her grandfather Zane. He was even more relieved he gave Ediva no repercussions for slapping him back when they first met. He was obviously an incredibly talented being. Chapin decided to ask this time around “do you sorta smell like a demon but I can tell there’s something else. What are you?”

“what you’re smelling is beithir. It’s a sort of serpentine dragon with potent venom”

“so a lot like our biological children, half demon half dragon”

“Yes, but I’m not nearly as beautiful or as elegant.”

“I be that’s not true.” Saskia said. “I would love to see you some time, if that’s okay.”

“You won’t like it, but if you really want to then I’ll show you.” He rubbed the back of his neck. Why was he feeling so self conscious. Before he would have use that form to terrify people. “So, what about you? I haven’t sensed much magic on you.”

“I don’t really have much that I’ve noticed. I can call butterflies. It’s actually really cool. I can show you when my leg is better.”

“Alright. Anyway, Chapin, the beithir helps me hide my scent. I can pretty much sneak up on anyone. The only exceptions would be Zane and any of his children and grandchildren he has trained. They don’t always tend to use their noses.”

Saskia enjoyed getting to know Luthais as they waited for dinner to be ready. She felt so comfortable with him but she guessed that mostly had to do with the fact he had been hovering around all her life. When dinner was on the table her mother came back into the room “come on Luthais, you can sit by Saskia” He followed them into the kitchen, still unable to shake the nerves he felt. It was a relief to be told where to sit this time. He took the seat directly beside her but moved it just a little bit away. He wasn’t used to feeling this way and he knew Saskia was the cause

“This is really good, thank you.” He said after the first bite.

“Do you not cook?” Saskia asked.

“Nothing like this. I catch wild game and put it over a fire, there’s not much love put into it.”

“You don’t have a mate or anything who knows how to cook?”

His heart did a flip and he kept his eyes on his plate. “No, it’s just me. I’m not exactly a people person and there’s no way a woman should have to put up with me. I’m too ill tempered and selfish.”

“I don’t call watching over me my entire life selfish, it’s actually pretty sweet. You should give yourself more credit.”

He huffed out a little laugh. “Perhaps even that was for my own selfish reasons, but thank you all the same.” He cleared his throat and went back to eating.

Chapin and Ediva still couldn’t believe this was the same man they had met all those years ago. He had a bit of a grumpy air about him, but he definitely wasn’t the way he was before. He even treated Saskia with an uncharacteristic gentleness.

They let him stay even after dinner was over. He only ended up leaving when he did because he was concerned about taking care of those wild dogs that attacked Saskia. He played it as concern for others but he mostly want them taken care of to be sure they couldn’t hurt her again when he wasn’t watching out for her. He was just out the door when Saskia came after him, grabbing his hand so he felt tingles run up his arm, seemingly straight to his heart “will you come see me tomorrow?”

“what would you like to do?”

“I really wanted a walk today. Maybe with the dogs taken care of tonight you and I could walk tomorrow?”

“when is a good time to come for you?”

“Lunch? You can eat with my family again and then we can go”

“you don’t have to ask your parents first?”

“No, I’m seventeen, they tend to let me do as I please now”

Still, you should ask them first. It’ll be better that way, there’s no reason to cause drama if we can help it.” He gently pat her head. “Get some rest alright? If you’re not in top shape tomorrow, we’re not going.”

“Alright, stay safe.”

He gave her a ghost of a smile. “There’s not much that will give me trouble. Sweet dreams, Saskia.” She stood in the doorway until he was out of sight, a frown pulling at her lips. It wasn’t fair he had to stay out there all alone.

“Come on sweetie, you should get to bed.” Ediva said when she closed the door.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“You want to be able to go on that walk tomorrow right?” Chapin added and her eyes lit up.

“Really? You don’t mind?”

Chapin rubbed the back of his neck. “Look, you’re my daughter and I probably won’t trust any guy until you’ve found a mate, but he seems to have changed so we’re going to let you go. Just stick with him and stay safe.”

“I will, I promise.”

Luthais put the beasts out of their misery as quickly as possible, glad that Saskia wasn’t around to see him dispatching of them. Once they were dead, he buried them then went to clean himself of their blood. He found a river and stripped down, letting the icy water wash away every drop of blood. Once out, he shifted and shook the water from his scales then changed back and pulled his clothes on. He climbed up the nearest tree and lay there staring up at the moon. He didn’t think he would sleep tonight, not when he had practically promised to see Saskia again. He didn’t know what he was thinking, why he had grown so fond of her, but he couldn’t help himself. Even though he knew he was bad news, he couldn’t help being drawn to her.

Chapter Two

Saskia woke happier than normal the next morning, her mother knowing right away when Saskia joined her in cooking breakfast “You like him that much already?” Ediva asked with a grin “I like having a new friend and I feel close to him”

“how’s your leg?”

“I promise it’s not bothering me”

“at least while you aren’t that powerful you heal well”

“I’m really excited mom, thank you guys for letting me go”

“You’re a woman as much as we wished you would always stay little and he does seem completely different from when we last met him. Plus he was angry at your parents for what they did, he went to their home and punished them for it. That tells me we don’t have to worry about him kidnapping you or anything. Then of course I did slap him and he did nothing but walk away so it’s not like I have to worry about him hitting you”

“I really love you and dad so much. Thank you for raising me and for making me feel no different than your other children”

“You aren’t, you’re our baby. Whose blood you have couldn’t matter less to us Saskia”

Luthais felt a tingle of nervousness as he headed for Saskia’s that afternoon. What were they even supposed to talk about? He wasn’t that big of a conversationalist and he didn’t have a lot of happy memories to talk about. He sighed, how could she even want to spend time with him? He worked himself into a bad mood as he walked and knew that he should probably tell her they could go out another time, but when he got there she was waiting for him on the front porch and jumped up, smiling happily. “You made it.” She said and he took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself.

“I said I would be here. How’s your leg?”

“It’s fine, I promise.”

“Really or are you just saying that so I’ll take you?”

“I mean it. Besides, if I was still hurt my parents would make me stay.”

“Well if you feel at all like you can’t walk then tell me, I can carry you if your leg starts to hurt.”

Her smile grew “and you call yourself selfish. Thank you, I’ll let you know but I should be fine” she lit up so much, even chasing away most of the mood he had put himself in. She stepped off her porch and began walking at his side, taking the same way she had yesterday. “did the dogs give you much trouble? Did you make it quick for them?”

“They didn’t give me trouble and I didn’t make them suffer. It was as fast as I could make it”

“thank you for that”

“its amazing you care so much about a group of animals that hurt you”

“they were wild dogs, I can’t hold it against them but I do understand the need to keep people safe” He glanced at her leg, still worried about her even though she insisted she was fine “hey, none of that” she said noticing. He actually blushed “what?”

“I’m fine” she said with a little giggle.

He crossed his arms, giving a little huff. “Fine I guess.”

She hooked her arm around his. “Awe, did I embarrass you?”

“That’s not possible.”

She just smiled, deciding to lay off for now. He was actually being incredibly sweet even if he was a little rough around the edges. “So, do you keep in contact with your family?” She asked.

“No, we’re not close like you and your’s.”

“I see, bad life?”

“I survived it, that’s all that matters. Not that it did me much good I guess, it turned me into the biggest as…jerk around.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, let’s not talk about it. You wanted to have fun and my past wasn’t exactly wonderful.”

“Alright? Did you know you have really pretty hair? It’s so long and it looks really soft.”

He chuckled. “You’re teasing me, your hair is far more beautiful than mine. I mean look at it.” He raised his hand and tugged on her bangs. “It suits you.” She blushed and her heart skipped a beat, making him pull away, but grin. “Now look who’s embarrassed.”

She looked away but smiled as well. She didn’t seem to mind being embarrassed as much as he did. When her gaze returned to him he was still smiling which made her happy. She hated he hadn’t had much of a family. She knew how lucky she was to be so loved and could understand how someone without any love growing up could turn out like he did. She felt that maybe, if they kept hanging out together he would be sweet all the time and lose those rough edges. Luthais was surprised as they walked at how well Saskia could keep their conversation going. He had never talked with someone this much and even if he had nothing to say she could easily fill the silence with a story.

“Hey can you shift for me?” She suddenly asked and he felt his heart give a little jump.

“I told you I’m not as pretty as you and your family.”

“Please, you said you would if I really wanted you to.”

He cursed himself for running his mouth. Of course he had told her that, he was finding it hard to deny her anything. “Alright, but not here, we should get out of sight.”

“Okay.” She grabbed his hand, sending warmth coursing through him as she pulled him into the woods. She took him far enough in that there was no chance of someone seeing then let him go and turned expectantly.

He sighed and let go of his human form, shifting into the long serpentine dragon. Saskia stood there, eyes widening as she took him in. He was more snakelike than any of her family, a long lean body extended out between his front and back legs, a triangular head hovered just in front of her, red eyes staring at her as his tongue flicked out to taste the air. She reached out, touching his nose and running her hands up to the top of his head. “Wow, your scales are gorgeous.” They were a pearly white and banded with the most gorgeous stripes. “And you’re so warm.”

He felt happy listening to her. He could tell she meant what she was saying and it also felt nice to be touched by her like this. He wasn’t used to anybody being so kind to him or touching him this way. Even the occasional woman he was with wasn’t like this. Saskia had a softness to her, a softness he could get used to. He knew he’d probably ruin things between them but he wanted to be near her as much as he could while this friendship lasted. He didn’t shift back until Saskia stopped petting him “thank you” she said after he had his close back on and she could look at him again. “You’re welcome, normally that form scares people though”

“When you’re grandpa is Zane Koopman and you spend your whole life around dragons and demons, you don’t tend to be scared of people who are different.” She reached up and placed her hand against his cheek. “You’re perfect the way you are.”

“You’re too kind.” He slid his hand over hers, holding it there for a just a moment before finally pulling it away. “So, you said you can call butterflies, that sounds interesting.”

“Want to see?”

“I would love to.”

“There’s a grove, it’s beautiful. We might be able to go faster if you carry me.”

He couldn’t help the way his heart leaped with joy at the prospect of having her that close and he lifted her up, making her giggle. “Uh, where to?”

“It’s on the other side of the road, just beyond the tree line, you’ll love it.”

“I’m sure I will.” He took off running and she held tightly to him, laughing happily at how fast he was. As he raced back through the woods, she noticed some black markings peeking out above the collar of his shirt.

“What are those?” She asked as she pulled his shirt down a little further, causing goosebumps to form on his skin as her fingers brushed over his tattoos.

“They are given to beithir when they come of age. It’s like a right of passage. Even though I’m only a half breed, it’s still part of a long upheld tradition.”

“can you take your shirt off so I can see them better? I promise to do the butterfly thing right after” He took off his shirt, studying her face as she admired them. She started tracing the lines of his tattoos with her fingers “these are seriously cool Luthais” He had always like them too but he liked them even more now since they were causing her to touch him. Her finger tips were so gentle as they glided across his skin. He was honestly a little disappointed when she stopped. He tugged his shirt back on, assuming he should. “I made a promise so” even as she said the words she was calling them, all the beautiful butterflies around. They came to her, fluttering around. Some even landed on the two of them.

“So, what do you think?” She asked shyly.

“Your gift is truly beautiful.” He replied, smiling warmly at how cute she looked with all the butterflies on her. “It’s even more magnificent than mine.”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah, it’s soft, calming magic. I can feel it flowing off of you. It’s so warm.” He closed his eyes, savoring the sensation.

“You have quite a way with words.” He looked down at her, his heart hammering loudly in his chest. Could she hear it? Could she see the effect she was having on him? He had the sudden urge to kiss her and touch her, he craved her. He hadn’t even realized he had moved closer to her until they were practically touching. He quickly jumped back, swallowing.

“Perhaps I should take you home.”

“Why?” She moved closer and he took a step back so she grabbed onto his shirt. “Hey, please don’t run from me.”

“I’m not running.”

“Then please stop pulling away.”

“You’re far to trusting, Saskia, what if I wanted…” He let his fingers slide over her hand, stroking her skin. She was so soft, he could easily get lost in her.

“what if you wanted what Luthais? You’re not as bad as you think you are. I know I don’t have to be afraid of you”

“but I want to kiss you…”

“then kiss me”

“That would really be okay?”

“see? an absolute sweetheart, Just kiss me” He moved in slowly. He was scared and he wasn’t quite sure why since she had just told him to kiss her. He felt maybe it was because he knew getting close to her was selfish. She hadn’t known him long enough to know how selfish he could be, she hadn’t known him long enough to know the funks he got in that had him treating everyone he saw like crap. He didn’t think he could treat her like that, not with how he felt about her but still. So much was on his mind but not enough for him to resist pressing their lips together.

He felt a jolt of electricity run through him, his heart thumping excitedly in his chest as he found himself pulling her tightly against him. One hand pressed against her lower back while he tangled the fingers of his other hand in her soft hair, knocking her bandanna off in the process. The feel of her made his knees weak and he pulled her down with him, holding her in his lap as his lips moved down to play over her delicate neck. “Luthais.” She said breathlessly and he pulled back, shocked.

“Saskia I…I’m sorry, I…”

“Shh, it’s okay.” She was red and embarrassed, even nervous, but she comforted him.

“It’s not.” He rested his head against her shoulder. He could feel himself shaking. “I feel like some sort of wild animal. What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing, you’re perfect. Please don’t be upset.” She took his face in her hands and lifted his head. “I was surprised, but I’m happy. Aren’t you happy?”

“Very…as long as I didn’t go too far and mess this up”

“You stopped as soon as I asked so of course you didn’t. You can’t know what I’m okay with psychically” He looked into those beautiful amber eyes “Maybe I should take you home for now”

“you’re trying to push away again”

“I was going much too fast, I’m…” he deeply sighed “you’re amazing and I’m a mess Saskia”

“I mean it, I want you to stop putting yourself down. I like you and that kiss was earth shattering. It seems like it was for you too”

“there’s no getting you to let me walk you home is there Saskia?”

“I don’t think you actually want to walk me home”

“You just make me feel things I’ve never felt. It’s nice, you’re so sweet and beautiful and..over the years I’ve grown so attached to you. I started coming to watch over you more for me than you once you began looking like a woman” she actually noticed him blushing now.

You really are very sweet.”

“I’m not, I get jealous and can be very childish at times. I’m prone to bouts of anger and I push people away. One moment I might be close to someone and the next I might snap at them. I’m moody, and melancholic.”

She leaned forward and gave him a kiss, making his entire being tingle. “I’m not afraid, Luthais. Would I have come out here with you alone if I was scared? Would I be trusting you if I was terrified? I know how demons and dragons can be. My uncle is the great Irim, he wasn’t exactly a teddy bear when he met my aunt, but she was and still is patient with him. He’s so serious most of the time, especially when it comes to magic and using it, but he is truly kind and gentle, just like you. You have such a loving heart, even though it’s been hard, I can see how wonderful you are. I hope you will too, no matter how broody you get.”

“Saskia.”

“It’s my choice, Luthais.”

He sighed, it was so hard to fight her when she wanted to give him precisely what he wanted. He wanted her more than anything. “could I kiss you again? I wont do anything else” she smiled “I’d enjoy that” They began kissing again, him keeping to his word. They stayed out the rest of the day, just enjoying each others company. When he returned her home she let her parents know they were together now. She could tell her parents weren’t completely comfortable but they were very accepting and willing to give the relationship a chance before worrying about it. Among their first questions was if she was moving out but she assured them she wanted to stay at home for awhile and if things advanced to the point of her wanting to move out she would but for now they weren’t going to rush anything. Things were perfect as they were and while they were going to take their time Saskia saw an amazing future with Luthais.

~ The End