Antia & Andrej 2

Chapter One

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

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

Paimon & Pellegrino

Chapter One

“Paimon, come on we should have left already.” Pellegrino said as he walked into the room Paimon was using at the castle. “What’s taking…” he froze, his heart jumping in his chest when he saw Paimon standing there naked, drying his hair. Paimon’s eyes collided with his and he swallowed. “I…sorry, I should have knocked, I…” He turned around to leave and Paimon was suddenly standing there, closing the door, the towel wrapped around his waist.

“Well hello to you too Pellegrino.” Paimon’s eyes twinkled with his trademark amusement. “Can I help you?”

“Uh, our trip…I just came to get you.” He hadn’t expected him to be completely naked. He often walked into Paimon’s house without knocking.

“Oh that’s right.” He chuckled. “I’m afraid I slept in. If you’ll just give me a moment to get dressed.”

“Of course, sorry.”

Paimon chuckled again, not seeming bothered in the slightest that Pellegrino had seen him naked. Paimon was confident in his body and if anybody was going to see him naked he wanted it to be the prince. Paimon dressed slowly, a wide smile on his face as he enjoyed teasing the very nervous Pellegrino. Once dressed he hugged Pellegrino from behind and whispered in his ear “I’m ready now” chuckling again at how he reacted. Paimon let his body go but took the prince’s hand and tugged him out. Pellegrino was once again left not knowing what to do. Paimon was a lot to be around but he enjoyed every second of it.

Paimon took a detour to the kitchen where he grabbed a bag he had packed the night before with snacks for the road. He wasn’t particularly worried about supplies, confident in his ability to easily provide for them. “ How long are we going to be gone?” Pellegrino asked.

“A few days. Why, are you scared to be alone with me? Afraid I might bite?” He chuckled at the prince’s stuttering heart. He truly did love teasing him, especially since he was so innocent.

“No, never.”

“Don’t worry, I promise to make every moment incredibly enjoyable my sweet prince.”

Paimon kept possession of prince Pellegrino’s hand even as they left the castle, wanting him to stay close. He knew the prince liked it anyway. He was often tempted to tell the prince that the feeling was mutual but Paimon enjoyed this phase far too much. They had forever so what did it matter how long they were here. Eventually the prince would admit their feelings and they’d still have eternity together. Right now, things were adorable but a part of him did hope maybe this trip would be what got Pellegrino to admit he wanted to be in a relationship with him.

“What are we going to be doing exactly?” Pellegrino asked.

“It’s a surprise my prince, or perhaps you’d like me to spoil it for you?”

“No, well maybe a hint?”

“Hmmm.” Paimon tapped his chin. “It’s fun and interesting and you get me all to yourself.” He teased and Pellegrino’s cheeks flushed. “It’ll just be you and me.”

“Oh, I see.”

“There’s going to be hot springs.”

“Really?”

“Mmhmm and you’ll love it there, I promise.”

“I’m surprised you’re not dragging me off to mess with someone.” Pellegrino said with a nervous chuckle.

“I’m not all tricks, my prince, sometimes I like to unwind and be “normal” for awhile.”

“so did anything keep you up last night?”

“Not really, It was just one of those nights I fell asleep particularly hard” Pellegrino didn’t say anything back so Paimon asked “what have you done this morning?”

“talked to some friends who stopped me on the way to your home”

“Oh, which friends?”

“Míos, Enfulid and Enfulid’s most recent fling.”

“He never does stay with anyone more than a few months. Were they just saying goodbye?”

“Mostly, Mios also decided to bring up again why we don’t just teleport where we are going.”

“Part of the fun is traveling there”

“That’s what I told him. He said if he had that ability its all he would do”

“That’s what you think but its not as fun when you’ve been able to do it all your life”

“Says the guy who likes to sneak up on people, me included, and scare them.”

“I prefer the term surprise and don’t pretend you don’t enjoy it.”

“I admit life would be boring without you.”

“True, I’m pretty amazing.”

“You are, I mean it.” He felt embarrassed so he cleared his throat and focused on the road ahead. Even so, he could see Paimon smiling out of the corner of his eye. It wasn’t fair how beautiful he was, how easily he wrapped people around his little finger. He had been captivated from the moment they had met.

Paimon couldn’t get over how sweet Pellegrino was and how adorable he was in his obliviousness. He was so innocent in comparison to himself, he wondered how he would react to being seduced. “Oh, would you mind if we took a little detour? It’s a shortcut, but I think you’ll like it.”

“Okay, whatever you want.”

“Keep saying that and I might just collect.” He winked and then chuckled when he heard Pellegrino’s heart quicken.

They were soon turning where the detour began, walking silently side by side due to the fact Paimon was now hooked into the idea of suddenly seducing him at some point during this journey. He just had to plan how and when. He didn’t mind this phase but the urge to actually mate with him grew stronger and stronger every time they hung out. If he kept just teasing Pellegrino and waiting for him to confess he didn’t know how much longer he was going to have to wait for sex, possibly years and that tipped the scales a little into how much fun it would be to seduce such a sweet, innocent man.

Pellegrino noticed small changes starting to occur as they walked. The grass was growing more vibrant but the trees, once green and full bodied were starting to look more like they belonged to fall weather. He began looking more intently at everything which Paimon noticed “Of course, he’s thinking of nature and I’m thinking about making love to him” he thought to himself.

“What happened here?” He pointed. “There’s snow back there.”

“My theory is a magic user may have been practicing changing the weather and it got out of hand. I call it the Forest of Seasons.”

“It’s magnificent.”

“You’re better.” He gently bumped into him.

“You’re teasing.”

“Am I? I think I’m being incredibly honest. If I had to choose between you and this place, I’d definitely choose you. You’re far to entertaining and pure to pass up.” He teased.

“I’m not pure.”

“Oh? Do tell sweet prince.”

“I…well…” he rubbed the back of his neck, “okay, so maybe I am more pure than I thought.”

Paimon chuckled. “That’s okay, it’s actually quite adorable.” He grinned. “Besides, I have enough experience for both of us.”

“Paimon, come on.” He looked away. “So, tell me more about this place? Are there any animals or anything?”

He really wanted to talk about anything other than Paimons previous exploits with lovers. He knew he meant that in other ways too but it still made him uncomfortable. Paimon easily transitioned over to a new topic, always feeling it was a subject that did nothing but make his mate uncomfortable. He had hoped at first it might interest him but it never so much as slightly peaked his interest though he couldn’t blame him. He knew from experience with others who had slept around just because someone had sex a lot didn’t mean they were good at it. When you get people in bed they don’t get a preview of how good you are so your skill in bed has nothing to do with how many you’ve been with.

He wasn’t sure how that idea even got started. Sometimes having a multitude of partners actually meant you were pretty bad at it, as in, beings weren’t coming back for more after they had you once so you had to bed someone new. “there’s actually an amazing variety of animals this way. Since there are so many seasons a lot can live in different areas of this place”

“Thanks for bringing me this way” Paimon smiled, charming as always “things like this is precisely why I enjoy walking with you instead of teleporting”

“can we stay for the night when we’re about halfway through? I don’t want to rush through here”

“That’s fine with me, just gives us more time together”

Pellegrino wanted to explore the different parts of the forest and Paimon happily followed, even pelting him with a snowball at one point. When Pellegrino went to retaliate, he was suddenly behind him and smashing another over his head. “That’s so unfair.” Pellegrino said with a laugh.

“The look on your face is always priceless though, I can’t help it.” He helped dust Pellegrino off. “Come on, we’ll stay in Spring.”

“Alright.”

He took Pellegrino’s hand again and pulled him through the woods, moving out of the snow to a more warm and vibrant area. He marveled at how brightly colored the plants were and also at the heat radiating from the area. It was like both Spring and Summer had taken up residence here and it was amazing. “This is perfect.”

“There’s no need for a fire when it’s like this.” He dropped his pack in the grass and stretched. “So, what do you think so far? Good trip? Bad?”

“It’s perfect.” Pellegrino sat down and leaned back against a tree. “So, have you come here often?”

“Of course, I love it here, why?”

“No reason.”

Paimon could see the question in his eyes. He was wondering if he had brought anyone else here. “You know, I used to travel alone, mostly following Jarius and making him angry. I spent time with others of course, but I never brought them to my favorite places.” He went and sat down in front of Pellegrino, taking his hand. “You’re the only one.”

He could see how much that meant to Pellegrino, the look he had on his face was so adorable he kissed his forehead. “You hungry?” he asked before Pellegrino could say anything. “It probably would be good to hunt before we’re too hungry” he semi stuttered and Paimon chuckled, come, lets hunt together. Paimon knew the area so Pellegrino followed his lead. They didn’t end up too far before nabbing and quickly killing an animal. They prepared it together, it producing so much they could eat off it for days if they kept it stored properly but Paimon had magic for that.

“Let me cook it, I found this particularly good way to use this meat”

“alright” Pellegrino watched Paimon, always eager to learn.

“How did you get it to taste so good?” Pelligrino asked when they were finally eating. “I watched you and I don’t remember you putting much on there.”

Paimon shrugged. “It’s a secret.”

“Come on, I want to be able to make it too.”

Paimon shook his head. “You’ll just have to visit me as often as possible to eat it. It’s a good excuse to have you over.”

“Alright, fine, I guess I can deal with it.”

“How else am I to entice you over?”

“By asking?”

“But food is an added bonus.”

Pellegrino chuckled. “I’ll give you that.”

They continued to make small talk as they ate, Paimon teasing Pellegrino at every opportunity and Pellegrino unable to hide his embarrassment or the fact he actually enjoyed it. He could see why so many found him charming and even loved him. He couldn’t help but feel a slight stab of jealousy and he hated it. Paimon paid more attention to him than anyone else and he knew he should be happy about it. “You’re making a face my sweet Pellegrino.” Paimon jerked him out of his thoughts. “Want to talk about it?”

“No, I’m fine, thank you for bringing me here and for dinner.”

“Well be prepared to be spoiled the whole time. I have a lot planned for when we get there.”

 

Final Chapter

Pellegrino smiled, snapping out of it. The past didn’t matter, just them, right now mattered. It felt good to know that he was the only one Paimon had brought here. Paimon got Pellegrino blushing again when they laid down for the night. Instead of just laying across from him Paimon pulled Pellegrino into his arms and almost instantly fell asleep, not giving Pellegrino much of a chance to say anything. Pellegrino swallowed down how nervous this made him and allowed himself to slowly drift to sleep. In the morning Paimon had such a smug smile on his face that had Pellegrinos heart racing. “good morning”

“good morning” Pellegrino quickly sat up and Paimon chuckled, happily starting to get breakfast going. Pellegrino still didn’t know what to say about Paimon holding him last night so ended up not mentioning it. He liked it and still couldn’t tell Paimon how he felt so he decided nothing was best unless he was ready to tell him he wanted to be with him.

“Do you think we’ll get to where we’re going today?” Pellegrino asked once they were on their way again.

“Tonight, that’s why I went this way. It takes us up and over instead of around.” He took Pellegrino’s hand. “Luckily, because of all this magic, it stays fairly warm on the way up. Are you excited?”

“Very.” And nervous, he thought. Paimon had such a way of throwing him for a loop. He was so forward and absolutely shameless.

Paimon could hear how hard his heart was beating and pulled him a little closer. He took them up at a leisurely pace, not wanting to rush his time with Pellegrino. A warm breeze blew through the forest, kicking up flurries of snow. When they crested the hill, Paimon pointed. “We’re going way over there where that clearing is.” He explained. “See the sun hitting the water?”

“This is amazing.”

“You need to travel more, my prince. I may just have to take you on a new adventure every couple of weeks.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“No, but I want to.”

“alright then, that sounds fun”

“as long as I’m with you I’m doing something I want to do” Paimon always teased but not this way. Was he trying to kill him? His heart going like this couldn’t be healthy. Paimon kept on the entire way, building up to what he was planning to do as soon as they reached their destination. It was amusing in itself that Pellegrino still wasn’t getting it. He was far too innocent and sweet. When they arrived that evening Paimon didn’t even give him time to finish talking about how much he liked this place too. Paimon pulled the prince into a hungry kiss. He couldn’t take it slow, he wanted this too bad and the shock value would be too amusing. Besides, he knew for a fact Pellegrino did want him.

Pellegrino was so shocked he couldn’t even kiss back at first but shyly, he did eventually start to. Paimon started feeling him, desiring all of him more than ever but Pellegrino pushed his hands away. Paimon groaned, pulling away completely “Too much then?”

“ye…yeah”

“I love you and I want you. I’ve been teasing you long enough”

“So all this time you’ve actually been flirting with me…”

“You mean more to me than anybody ever has”

“and this isn’t a joke? You’re serious”

“wasn’t that kiss serious?”

“It’s just, I’m not exactly, you know and you do enjoy messing with me so…”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course.”

“Then trust that I’m being serious.” He pressed a light kiss to his lips. “I want you and only you, no one else, and I have for awhile.” He grinned as he leaned in, his lips close to Pellegrino’s ear. “Don’t you want me too, my prince.”

Pellegrino swallowed, his heart hammering in his chest, the tickle of Paimon’s breath sending desire dancing through him. “I do, it’s just…I may disappoint.”

Paimon pulled back, the look on his face surprisingly serious. “Let me tell you something, Pellegrino. The amount of people I have been with doesn’t matter, there is no comparison to be made between you and them. I love you and anything I do with you will be more enjoyable because I love you. There is nothing you could do to disappoint me. I am yours to do with what you wish, nothing will change that.” He smiled warmly. “You’re my first love, Pellegrino, my only love.”

“I am?”

“Yes and it’s something I never thought I would have or even want.”

Pellegrino didn’t know if it was foolishness, hopefulness or the way Paimon was looking at him but he believed him. He kissed Paimon, not half as sure of himself as Paimon. Soon he wasn’t thinking at all, just one with the moment they were sharing. “I love you too” Pellegrino said softly when their lips parted again. Paimon grinned “well lets stop this before I have you right now. You’re probably tired”

“tired? Right now?” The look Pellegrino gave him as he said those words made Paimon chuckle “so I can have you then?”

“yeah”

“don’t be so nervous, I mean it. I love you and that alone will make it amazing. People from my past should never bother you because they never meant a thing to me. You have chemistry in bed or you don’t and most the time how you feel about eachother determines that. Its like how mortals will sometimes act like sex in their marriage was suddenly terrible. Their sex life wasn’t different, how they felt was. Mates enjoy sex far more than people who whore themselves because we love eachother.” Paimons lust was getting harder to control but he didn’t want Pellegrino to be so nervous.

“I just don’t know what to do.”

Paimon smiled as he pressed another seductive kiss to Pellegrino’s lips, eliciting a little moan that sent a thrill of excitement through him. “Let me show you my love.” He kissed his chin, nibbled his way down to his neck where he gave him a gentle bite.

“Paimon.” He sounded breathless, needy, and maybe even a little scared, but he wasn’t pulling away.

He pushed at his shirt, lifting it up and off, allowed his hands to slide over his torso. “Can I have you, Pellegrino?”

“Yes.”

Paimon found his lips again as he pulled him down to the soft grass. They pulled at each other’s clothes, both if them letting out a sigh of pleasure at being skin to skin. He coaxed Pellegrino into touching him, enjoying the shy way he explored him. He rolled Pellegrino beneath him, his lips moving down the center of his body, his teeth biting down to mark him.

Each time Paimon bit down on Pellegrinos flesh to mark him Pellegrino moaned. When Paimon reached just above his length he began to lick up Pellegrinos body, stopping at his neck to gently nibble and suck. Pellegrino began touching Paimon again, feeling him, causing goosebumps to show up all over Paimons skin. This truly was better than any encounter he had ever had before. He hadn’t known if all that talk from Jarius was true but right now, he knew it definitely was. Sex was a million times better with someone you loved.

Paimon moaned loudly when Pellegrino nibbled at his ear then licked just behind it, something nobody had actually done to him before so he hadn’t known how sensitive he was to something like that. Pellegrinos heart flipped in his chest that he could cause such a reaction from him. It gave him a little more confidence already since he could sense how much Paimon was enjoying this in general.

Paimon hadn’t planned this but was always preparred, producing some lube so he wouldn’t hurt Pellegrino during their first time. Before he used it he checked again, his words husky with desire “are you ready for me to be inside you? I…don’t know how slow you need me to be…if I have to stop now it’s alright but I will need to go masturbate if I do have to stop”

“You can”

Paimon kissed him as he loosened him, excited by Pellegrino’s heavy breathing. He rubbed some lube on himself and slowly began to push into him. Pellegrino clung to him, his moan somewhere between a yell and a whimper. He could see he was slightly overwhelmed and paused, giving him a moment to breathe. “You okay?” It was a struggle to stay still, to not completely bury himself, but he managed, not wanting to hurt or scare him. Pellegrino nodded and he continued, letting out a relieved moan once he was all the way in.

“Paimon.” He gasped for breath, clinging tightly to him.

“It’s okay, relax, breathe.” He braced himself on his elbows, withdrawing and sinking back into him, his hips taking on a gentle, rocking rhythm. Pellegrino’s back arched and Paimon thrust into him a little harder, pushing him over the edge. He picked up the pace, unable to hold back any longer. A loud moan was wrenched from his throat as he flowed into him and he pressed his forehead into Pellegrino’s, the only sounds their labored breathes and thundering hearts.

Pellegrino’s eyes were damp with tears and Paimon pressed loving kisses to his lips, his fingers running through his hair and brushing back pieces that clung to his sweat damp skin. “Are you okay?” He asked.

“Yeah…just…wow.”

Paimon smiled. “Good then?” Pellegrino nodded and Paimon rubbed their noses together. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Pellegrino would have never believed when he was invited on this trip they’d end up like this. Kissing, exchanging I love yous and cuddling. Paimon barely seemed like the kind of man to be so sweet but Pellegrino couldn’t be happier. They were actually together now and if their first time together was any indication they were going to have amazing sexual chemistry. They made a long trip of things but nobody had worried when they came back. Everyone knew how capable they both were and were instantly elated for them anyway when they told everyone they were together.

~ The End

Gaspare & Iom 2

Chapter One

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

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

“Just be careful.”

“But then it wouldn’t be any fun.”

“Iom.”

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

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

“I love you and I’ll be back soon.”

“I love you too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’ll find him.” Alvah said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t, if he found out…”

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

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

“why don’t you know what she is?”

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

“Oh”

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

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

“It’s Iom.” Alvah said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The hounds.”

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

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

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

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

“Just long enough to eat.” Alvah replied.

“We can’t, we have to find him.”

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

“But…”

“Just for a bit.”

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

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

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

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

 

Chapter Two

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

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

“No”

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

“Oh?”

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

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

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

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

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

“And what happens if I refuse?”

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

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

“depends?”

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

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

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

“I see.”

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

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

“We’ll have to change that then.”

“Perhaps I prefer vanilla.”

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

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

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

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

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

“With what?” Gaspare asked.

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

“So which way do we go?”

“I’m not sure, give me a moment.”

“Uncle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Final Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Agreed.”

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

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

“Can you carry him?”

“Of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I love you Gaspare”

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

~ The End

Violet & Dian

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No ma’am, sorry ma’am.”

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

“Yes Miss Violet.”

“Where is this dragon then?”

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

“How cliche.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait, who are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I stole this.”

“Why?”

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

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

“But you don’t know me”

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

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

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

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

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

“And where is he?”

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

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

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

“What are you going to do now?”

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

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

“wow, that easily?”

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

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

“Goodnight Violet”

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

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

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

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

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

She shook her head. “I can manage.”

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

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

He chuckled. “Do I?”

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

 

Chapter Two

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

“could we bring them all?”

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

“why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They’re just some old clothes.”

“They suit you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course.”

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

“Then we’ll wait.”

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

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

“You…how much did you see?”

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

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

“Have you seen many dragons?”

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

“wow”

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

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

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

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

“I’m sure they will.”

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

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

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

“alright, I trust you”

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

“Like you?”

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

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

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

“And I’ll help you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Final Chapter

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

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

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

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

“No, still have my eyebrows.”

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

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

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

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

“You’re tired right?”

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

“I’ll be fine, I promise.”

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

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

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

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

“that or were killed”

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

“theres nothing there”

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

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

“You don’t have to be sorry.”

“I should be more aware.”

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

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

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

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

“That’s good.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s this way.”

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

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

“well”

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

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

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

He smiled. “Define something else.”

“Well, maybe settle down or something?”

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

“You would want to live there?”

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

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

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

“I like you a lot too”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was worried about you”

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

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

“Yeah and I love the clothes.”

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

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

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

“You’re so sweet, Dian.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~The End

Ambrose & Demeter 2

Chapter One

Ambrose sat there drinking some water, sweat running down his face as he took a break and watched Demeter practicing. There was something wrong, he could tell, and there had been for a few days. She slashed and blocked, spun and ducked, but she seemed exhausted, her form off and it worried him. He could even hear that her breathing was off, like she was struggling. It was when the other soldier knocked her sword out of her hand, shocking the both of them, that he stood and went over to her. Demeter was gripping her wrist and the young man was apologizing.

“Are you alright?” Ambrose asked as he took her hand.

“I’m fine,” she turned to the soldier, “it’s fine, really, I was careless. Why don’t you go and practice with one of the others for a bit.”

“Yes ma’am.” He hurried off and Demeter retrieved her sword, slipping it into its sheath.

“Demeter, love, what’s wrong? You haven’t been acting like yourself lately.”

“I don’t know, I’ve just been so tired and…and I can’t focus.”

“Maybe you’ve been overworking yourself?”

“I’ve worked a lot harder than this.”

He smiled, pressing their foreheads together. “Just because you’re a mighty warrior woman, doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself too hard.”

“I’m alright.”

“How about we ask for some time off, I’m sure my cousin would let us.”

She sighed, “It does seem like I need it.”

“Then let’s see if she has time to talk to us.” As always Cantaly was more than happy to talk to them and didn’t mind them leaving for a bit in the slightest.

“Thankfully I don’t think anything or anybody is foolish enough to mess with our kingdom at this point so always feel free to take breaks. I never want you pushing yourself too hard Demeter.”

“I really enjoy what I do.”

“I know, but taking care of yourself is important. Besides, who else could put up with my cousin Ambrose if you pushed yourself too far?” She said with a grin.

“Hey.” Ambrose said with mock annoyance.

Cantaly laughed, causing her husband whom was standing beside her to smile. “Go on you two, take as long of a vacation as you need. We can handle things around here.” With her blessing they left hand in hand.

“First off let’s just finish our day at home. I could cook for you and maybe give you a massage.”

Demeter kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

Demeter was relieved to get home and remove what armor she was wearing. She dropped down on the couch and Ambrose sat down next to her, lifting her feet into his lap and removing her boots. “You don’t have to do that.”

“Sure I do.” He rubbed her feet and she let out a little sigh as she moved to lay back on the arm of the couch. “You okay?”

“Yeah, just exhausted.”

“Want me to get my uncle to come check you? You know he will if I ask.”

“No, Irim’s probably busy or spending time with his family.”

“As long as you’re sure.”

“I am, thank you.”

He leaned over her, giving her a kiss then got up to make her something to eat. He was worried about her, but didn’t want to be too pushy and upset her. He hoped it was just fatigue from overworking and that once she had time to recharge, she would be back to herself. He peeked in at her, seeing she had fallen asleep. He decided to just let her nap until he finished cooking.

Ambrose kept telling himself that Demeter was okay and would be just fine. He had to think positively or he knew he’d ruin their time together. He was going to make her an incredible meal then rub out her tense muscles more. Those things combined with rest had to get her feeling better again. He tried to focus on other meals he could make for her during her time off so he wouldn’t get any more anxious than he already was. He wanted them to taste amazing but also be good for her.

When he was finally finished cooking he made them each a plate and set the table before going to gently wake Demeter. She woke easily, rubbing her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, the point is for you to relax.”

The smell of dinner hit her nose. “Let’s eat what you made before it gets cold…thank you for making it by yourself.”

He kissed her head as he took Demeter in his arms to carry her to the table. “You deserve a little spoiling Demeter.”

Ambrose’s cooking was delicious as always and when they were finished eating, he refused to let her help him clean up, carrying her to their bedroom instead and asking her to wait. He quickly cleaned up then came back to her, crawling over her and pressing a kiss to her lips, his hands pushing at her clothes. “Ambrose.”

“It’ll be easier to rub you my love.”

“Oh sure.”

“I mean it, I promise to be good, you need to rest, husband’s orders.” He added with a smile.

“Yes boss.”

He chuckled. “Be careful, I might start liking the sound of that.” His heart fluttered when she laughed and he continued pulling her clothes off. He moved her onto her stomach and let his hands run over her, savoring the softness of her skin. She let out a little moan as her muscles loosened and he felt the stirring of desire. “You make it hard to be good.”

“I can’t help it.” She let out a contented sigh and he pressed a kiss to her shoulder then moved next to her, pulling her close. “What should we do with our time off?”

“Stay home and have lots of sex?”

“Ambrose.” Her skin warmed.

“Alright, go out and have…” she put her hand over his mouth and he laughed. He pulled her hand down to press it against his chest. “I’ll talk to my dad, he knows about a lot of fun places. You just have to promise me if you start to feel too sick, you’ll tell me.”

“I promise.”

“Alright, we can go over to their home in the morning after breakfast. We haven’t spent any real time with my parents in a long time so I guess we can hangout there until we have lunch with them.”

“I’m excited, your mom is so sweet. She also always seems to have cures for everything so maybe she can send us with something that will help me feel better.”

“She’s certainly raised enough children to know remedies to everything.”

Demeter laughed at his words. “Your dad certainly can’t keep his hands off of her…they really are so sweet. I hope we’re together as long as they’ve been together.”

She blushed as she said those words and Ambrose smiled, moving to kiss her again. “You’re not getting rid of me, no matter what. I love you every bit as much as my dad loves my mom.”

“I love you too.”

Demeter fell asleep snuggled against him and he just laid there brushing his fingers through her hair. He was truly lucky to have her and still didn’t know how he had got so lucky. He didn’t deserve her at all. He turned a little, pressing his forehead against hers and closing his eyes, letting himself drift off. Demeter woke a couple of hours later, her movement stirring him and he smiled lovingly at her. “Good nap?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“It’s okay. Still feel like crap?”

“Fatigued, a little sick to my stomach, but other than that I’m alright.”

“Tell me if it gets worse.”

“I will.” They spent the rest of the day relaxing together, Ambrose fussing over her, making sure she didn’t do to much. She couldn’t help but smile at how adamant he was about her just relaxing.

The next day they were both up early, so much so Zane and Belle hadn’t even finished breakfast when they arrived but Belle was over joyed to see them when Zane brought the couple to the table. She quickly got up, hugging each one of them “How are you two?”

“We’re okay, myself more so than Demeter. She’s been incredibly fatigued lately. She’s taking some time off work so we wanted to spend the day with you guys and I wanted to talk to dad about possible places to take Demeter.”

“Oh no.” Belle said and Zane put a hand on her shoulder. “Demeter just works hard is all. She’ll be fine with rest. Come sit with us, are you two hungry?” He asked and Demeter answered, “We already ate. I feel bad about interrupting your own breakfast though.”

“It’s no trouble, just sit with us and we will all talk.”

“How long have you been feeling off?” Belle asked.

“About a week, just tired, felt a little sick to my stomach yesterday, but nothing really serious. It’s been making training the recruits hard.”

“Why don’t I make you something to help settle your stomach.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s no problem, you know that.”

“Do you know any good places we can relax?” Ambrose asked his father. “Hopefully somewhere we won’t be bothered.” He took Demeter’s hand. “I really want her to rest.”

“You could spend time in the Shadow Wood. There’s a cave there Irim helped me fix up. It’s protected by magic. There’s also the place I sent your brother and Tawny.” He named off a few more and Belle soon returned with a cup of ginger tea, handing it to Demeter.

“That should help.” She said with a warm smile.

“Thank you so much.” Demeter said then took a small sip. It was hot, but she was ready for any kind of relief.

“Why don’t we let them plan. I have a few things I want to show you around here. Zane and I have been busy again redoing a few things.”

“Sure.”

Belle looked at her son and said, “You know if she gets too tired I’ll bring her back here.” Demeter smiled as her husband blushed. Taking her drink she followed Belle out of the kitchen. They were in a newly renovated guest room when Belle spoke again, “So there really are things to show you, but are you sure you’re not pregnant?” Belle looked so eager. Even all these children and grandchildren later she was still all about babies.

Demeter almost laughed. “I didn’t even think about that.”

“You’re an incredibly fit woman and obviously not actually sick so that’s the only explanation to me.”

“I mean, if you’d like me to take a pregnancy test I will.”

“I’d love that.”

“That’s the first thing that came to your mind isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but what’s the point in working up Ambrose if you’re not. If you’re not though you should really let someone look at you because I can’t imagine why else you’d be getting exhausted when you’re used to a lot of physical activity.”

 

Chapter Two

Demeter didn’t know why she was suddenly so nervous now that she was about to take a pregnancy test, but she let Belle stay with her as she did, her mind racing as she sat the stick on the counter and waited. “It’s going to be okay.” Belle said.

“I know, it’s just do you think Ambrose will want kids?”

“He’s grown a lot since he was a kid, I think he’ll be worried, but happy.”

“Worried because of what happened between you two?”

“Yeah, I think he’ll be scared of a child winding up like how he was.”

“I don’t think that would happen, he’s been so sweet.”

“I know and you have no idea how happy Zane and I are.”

They continued to chat until Demeter had to check the test and her heart jumped when she saw it was positive. Belle had to cover her mouth to keep from screaming with happiness. She wanted Demeter to tell Ambrose in her own time. “I…I’m pregnant.” She rested her other hand on her abdomen. “Do you think that baby’s okay, I mean with all the physical activity?”

“Of course, it takes more than wrestling and sword fighting to hurt a fetus and you probably haven’t been pregnant that long.” Belle whispered. “I’m so excited, another grandbaby.”

“I think I should wait until we’re gone to tell Ambrose, he’ll start to fuss about us traveling is I don’t. Could you wait to tell everyone until we get back, except for Zane I mean?”

“Of course sweetie.” She hugged Demeter. “Are you happy?”

“Yeah, just surprised.”

“It’s amazing being a mother, it really is” Demeter smiled with both amusement and warmth. “I’m so glad just to know whats going on with me.”

“Yeah, it can be scary the first time but you can talk to me anytime about it and I can teach you how to make drinks and things like that to keep yourself feeling good.”

“Thank you so much.”

Belle hugged her. “Thank you for marrying my son and for now giving me another grandchild.” Belle let go then continued, “We should finish up this tour and get back before we seem suspicious.”

“Good thinking.” Belle showed Demeter a few more things around the house then they rejoined Zane and Ambrose

“He’s decided on a place.” Zane announced when they came in and Demeter said, “Let me guess, it’s a surprise?”

Ambrose smiled. “Well you know if you hadn’t run off with my mom it wouldn’t be a surprise. So you’ll have to deal.” Demeter smiled then kissed his cheek.

They spent most of the day with Belle and Zane and when they finally left, Zane pulled Belle into him, smiling at her excited face. “She’s pregnant isn’t she?”

“How did you know?”

“Because you always make that face when you find out about another baby.”

Ambrose insisted on carrying Demeter home even though she said she felt better. She relented and rested her head on his shoulder and he pressed a kiss to her forehead which made her heart flutter. “I love you Demeter.”

“I love you too.” And she couldn’t wait to tell him the news. “When are we leaving?”

“As soon as we’re packed, my dad said the place I picked is the prettiest at night and if I fly fast, I’ll get us there in no time.”

“I take it you plan on carrying me there?” She said in an amused tone.

“I can tell you’re still tired, just let me fuss, it’ll make me worry less.”

Her heart warmed as she looked up at her mate. “Alright, I’m so happy we’re getting away together.”

“Me too, we should make time for trips more like my parents do.”

“We really should, at least once a year.”

“We’ll do it, I promise. I won’t have you getting this tired again.” Her grin widened as she thought this may just happen a few more times. She hadn’t spent a great deal of time thinking about kids but the few times she had she felt four would be a good number for her. She even hoped that she would be lucky enough to enjoy two girls and two boys, in any order. She’d love whatever the universe granted her though even if she had all of one gender. They were soon home and packed with a few changes of clothes along with essentials before locking up and heading outside so Ambrose could shift.

Ambrose held Demeter protectively in his claws as he soared through the air, keeping the wind off of her. When he glanced down at her, she was laid back with her head resting on their pack, her eyes closed and even over the wind he could hear her humming. He dipped his head down, gently nuzzling her and her laugh made his heart flutter. He hoped she was feeling better, that his mother’s tea had helped her stomach. She fell asleep halfway through their journey and he only pushed himself to go faster, wanting to get her somewhere comfortable. When his destination came into view, the top of the mountain trail breaking through the woods, he slowed and started circling. His father had told him it was easier to come down the trail than it was to try landing in the thick wood.

Demeter woke when he landed and he shifted back, taking the pack and lifting her into his arms. “You don’t have to carry me silly.” She said with a yawn.

“You know I don’t mind, I love having you close, so let me.”

She nodded and looked around. “Wow, it’s so pretty here. Where are we?”

“Silverwood, but it’s not our true destination.” He started down the trail and Demeter marveled at how truly beautiful their surroundings were.

They weren’t much further when she said “I really love this place. Can we explore a little instead of going straight through? I mean…we aren’t in a hurry right?”

“Not exactly right here because of some creatures here, but if we go a little further we can stick around here awhile.”

She kissed his cheek. “You’re the best Ambrose. What sort of creatures live here?” She asked out of both curiosity and just wanting to talk to him.

“They are a lot like bears, but curved blades come out of their bodies.”

“Really?” She asked in almost a gasp. They sounded so interesting.

“Yeah, their bodies just make them and they can send them flying at you. They are razor sharp too.”

“They don’t cut up the bears coming out?”

“Nope and few blades can harm them.”

“That’s crazy.”

“Please don’t tell me you want to see one.”

If she wasn’t pregnant she would have, but she couldn’t take that risk with a little one in her stomach. “Maybe not right now because I know I need to relax.”

He kissed her head. “I was so worried you’d ask to see them now.”

“I know how worried you are. I don’t want to make you ill now with stress.”

He gave a sigh of relief. “Sorry, I don’t mean to act this way, but…”

“It’s okay, it doesn’t bother me. It’s actually cute seeing you all worried.”

Ambrose felt his face heat and he let out a huff. “I’m not cute.”

“Just like your dad when he’s around your mom.” She rubbed her nose against his cheek and he turned his head, pressing his lips briefly against hers, causing her to flush.

“I’ll show you cute once we’re in a safe place.”

She smiled, snuggling into him. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Ambrose kept himself alert as he walked, hoping any predators could sense he was a dragon and that if they attacked them he might make an exception and eat one of them. Once they finally made it through the dangerous part of the forest, he lowered her feet to the ground and laced his fingers through hers. “Stay close please.”

She laughed. “I will, I promise.”

Ambrose was glad this trip was already getting her to relax. She seemed so happy as she walked around and took everything in. Demeter had this amazing way of appreciating everything. She wasn’t rushing through to get to their destination, she saw something beautiful and wanted to take a break and experience it as well. Ambrose knew after all the years his parents had been together they must of stopped in here a time or two but he still hoped he might find something to tell his father about in return for his father telling him about this. He had such amazing parents, willing to help whenever he asked. They were genuinely good people and sometimes the embarrassment of who he used to be was unbearable.

Thankfully nobody ever brought it up, his family wasn’t the type to hold things in the past over your head forever. The fact everybody basically acted like his youth didn’t happen was the only way he could live with himself. They ended up spending the rest of the day there. Demeter suggested sleeping where they were but he was too worried about those bears coming over here. They generally didn’t but that didn’t mean they were safe.

“I’m fine just to carry you the rest of the way.”

“I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

“Sweetheart I wont be able to sleep here and I promise I’m fine. I know I can finish the trip or at least get to a spot I could sleep in.” She took his hand

“I’m not all that tired yet so lets walk together. The sky is so beautiful here. I want to enjoy it and yes if I get too tired you can carry me.” She kissed his cheek then tugged him along.

Demeter yawned as they walked through the twilight and Ambrose pulled her closer, his arm slipping around her waist. She knew it was just the baby exhausting her and she couldn’t wait to tell Ambrose so he wouldn’t have to worry so much. She let him pick her up once the sun had completely fallen and snuggled into him, letting her eyes drift closed and her hand rested on her abdomen. Ambrose picked up the pace, wanting to get her to their destination so she could rest comfortably.

He was glad she was asleep when they arrived, thinking it would be more of a surprise this way, and gently woke her. She blinked her eyes, smiling up at him. “We’re here.” He said softly and she turned, her eyes widening and a little gasp escaping her lips when she saw the tree house. “What do you think?”

“It’s beautiful.” She gently pushed until he lowered her feet to the ground. “Did your father build it?”

“He said he repaired it. Apparently fairies and elves build them sometimes and when they move on, they leave them.”

“Can we go up?”

He chuckled. “Of course.” He laced his fingers through hers and took her up the spiral staircase to the top.

Demeter even admired the staircase as they went up. Someone or a family obviously took great time and care to build this. It was beautiful and covered in designs. It made her all the more excited to look inside. If they took this much care with just the stairs she could only imagine the care they took in there. Demeter didn’t let her eagerness make her rush. The last thing she needed was to take a tumble down the steps with a baby in her stomach. She had fast reflex’s and Ambrose was right there but she couldn’t risk it. She already loved this baby too much.

 

Final Chapter

“My dad told me there’s a special word for lighting the interior.” Ambrose said as they stepped inside.

“How did he figure that out?”

“Irim, there’s nothing he doesn’t know.”

Demeter heard him say a short phrase in a language she didn’t understand and she let out a little gasp at the little dots of light that came to life, looking almost like shimmering stars as they hovered near the ceiling. “Oh wow.” She said softly then her eyes swept down and around the room. Everything had been carefully crafted from the forest surrounding the area and she stared in awe as she turned, trying to take everything in. “Oh Ambrose, it’s so beautiful.”

He pulled her into his arms and brushed a kiss to her forehead. “I’m glad you like it.” She teared up and he leaned back to look at her. “Are you alright, my love?”

“Yeah, sorry, I love it, I promise.” She wondered if it was the baby making her emotional.

“Maybe you just need to rest.”

“I’m fine, really, let’s look around first then we can eat.”

“Alright, but you have to promise to relax while I cook for you.”

“I promise.”

He couldn’t resist kissing her again before they both started looking around this amazing tree house. Demeter was surprised it was left vacant for people to visit. Surely someone would want to claim this for their own. Then again, there were risks involved with claiming a vacant home another creature built. They could come back eventually and they may or may not be sane. One morning you could wake up with some lunatic standing over you, angry and wanting answers about why you took up residence.

As promised, when they were done Demeter relaxed in an armchair while Ambrose prepared something for them to eat. She didn’t even realize she had fallen asleep until he was waking her to eat. She wondered if it was normal to be this tired right off the bat. She’d have to ask Belle when they returned home. “Sorry.”

“I was happy to find you getting more rest my love.”

He took her hand and pulled her gently to her feet and to the kitchen table. “How are you feeling?” He asked as they ate.

“Just a little tired, but other than that I’m fine.” She wondered when would be a good time to tell him. She hated that he looked so worried. “It’s okay, I promise, I’m alright.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Ambrose. You really are the sweetest, most adorable man I’ve ever seen.” She had to tease him a little, wanting to get his mind off his concern over her sudden exhaustion.

“Be good, you know I’ll pay you back.” He replied with a grin.

“My big, sweet, strong, cute husband wouldn’t.”

“I would.”

She let out a little laugh. “Then I guess I’ll have to eat slow.”

Demeter did eat slow, smiling here and there. Ambrose finally seemed amused rather than worried which was perfect. Demeter decided she would tell him tomorrow. He was fussing over her anyway so he may as well know the real reason she was tired. As Demeter ate she thought about different ways to tell him, settling on right when he woke up. She imagined he’d wake hilariously fast but most of all she hoped he’d be just as happy and excited as she was.

After dinner Ambrose carried Demeter to the bedroom and began kissing her as he laid her down. It was slow and passionate, the entire evening was and she woke eager for him to get up as well. He slept hard, she guessed it was because of the travel here and all the worrying but Demeter enjoyed admiring him as he slept. She gently ran a hand through his hair, sometimes trailing his skin. When he woke she smiled, almost deciding not to tease him by telling Ambrose first thing in the morning.

Ambrose turned into her, his arms wrapping around her as he snuggled close. He pressed his forehead against her chest and let out a contented sigh. “What are you doing awake my love, it’s far too early?” He asked drowsily.

“It’s actually late for us.”

“How are you feeling then?”

“Happy, a little tired, pregnant.”

“Mmm, that’s good.” She waited a moment and nearly laughed when he pulled back to look at her slightly confused. “Wait, say that again.”

“I’m happy and tired.”

“Demeter.”

“Pregnant, I’m pregnant.” She said with a laugh.

He took her face in his hands. “You’re sure, really sure? I’m not just dreaming?”

“I took a test at your parents.”

He smiled then and crushed her to him, his lips excitedly meeting hers. She started laughing and he pulled back to look at her. “I can’t believe it.” His eyes suddenly flashed with concern. “You’ve been practicing with swords with a baby and then you let me fly you all the way here. Are you okay? Is the baby okay? Maybe we should…”

She kissed him, cutting him off before he got himself too worked up. “Ambrose I’m fine, we’re both fine. I’m not even that far along.”

“Still, if I had known I wouldn’t have flown so fast.” He brushed his nose against hers. “I can’t believe I’m going to be a father.”

“I take it you’re happy?”

“And nervous and terrified, but yes, incredibly happy.

“This is going to be an amazing thing in our lives, I know it. You’re going to be such a good dad and your family is amazing. Your mom is so happy.” Demeter giggled at the memory.

“I bet, I’m surprised she could keep from telling me. I know she told dad the second we left.”

“Yeah, probably, but she promised not to tell anybody else. She wanted to let me be the first to let you know.”

“I promise to be a good dad.”

“You’re a good man, I know you’ll be. Just behave if it’s a girl. I don’t put it past you to strangle some young man.”

“Now that I can’t make promises on.” They both laughed and kissed again, completely wrapped in bliss about their situation.

Just as Demeter knew he would, Ambrose fussed over her even more, often talking to the baby and making sure she was getting enough to eat. He stayed close as they explored the forest and made sure she didn’t push herself to hard. “We’re going to have to ask my mom and aunts how to get your energy back up.” Ambrose said as he carried her back after a hike through the woods. “I don’t like you being so tired all the time, it’s concerning.”

“I’m sure it just depends on the baby.”

“Sorry if I’m being ridiculous.”

“You’re not.” She pressed a kiss to his cheek.

“And what about work, would you take time off? I know you love what you do, you’re amazing at it, but I don’t want either of you getting hurt while you’re pregnant. I know you like being active, but…”

She pressed a finger against his lips. “I will.”

“Thank you. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I just know stress can cause all kinds of problem in pregnancy. I want you both to come out of this healthy.”

“You’re so sweet.” Their vacation was a peaceful one, filled with nothing but talk of the baby, wonder and laughter. They made sure they left the tree house clean, possibly cleaner than before they arrived. When they arrived home Zane and Belle arranged for a big family get together so they could easily share the news and Demeter would have a house full of experienced women to ask questions so she’d feel confident over the course of her pregnancy. Right away everyone started making their guesses about the gender of their first child. It was fun to think about not only that but what kind of personality their little one would have.

They walked home together that night, Ambrose seeming more at ease after having talked to everyone, having received a list from Irim of foods he had made for Ariel to help keep her healthy, and had been told if there were any complications to come to them right away. They didn’t want them going through anything like what Gabriel and Tawny had gone through. “So, boy or a girl?” Demeter asked and Ambrose pulled her closer.

“Healthy and ready to use a sword.” He answered, making her laugh. “I’ll have my dad teach them how to be terrifying.”

“Ambrose, be good.”

“I am, I’m going to create little warriors. They’ll be beautiful and strong like you and have my charm.” She laughed again and he picked her up and pressed a kiss to her lips. “I love you Demeter.”

“I love you too, you silly man.”

He pressed his forehead against hers. “Thank you for everything, for being my mate and for giving me the gift of a child.”

“Ambrose.” Her voice was soft and she felt herself tear up.

“I can’t wait to meet our little one.” He carried her the rest of the way home and they fell asleep that night wrapped in each others arms, both of them looking forward to this new stage of their lives.

THE END

Zinlya & Torgan 2

Chapter One

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

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

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

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

“She tried to kill Zinlya.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How was I to know”

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

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

“can I help?”

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

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

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

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

“Okay, no problem.” She replied.

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

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

“I do princess.”

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

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

“It’s alright.”

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

“I will kill you.” He threatened.

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

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

“Yes”

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

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

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

“I’m perfect, how about you?”

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

“Yeah? Sorry if it bothers you.”

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

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

“Sweet dreams.”

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

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

“Yeah, a lot of people do”

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

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

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

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

“Yet I am, even now.”

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

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

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

“Of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Two

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

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

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

“I know, just shout.”

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

“What in the hell happened?” Torgan asked.

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

“Poison?”

“And recent, that or he’s stubborn.”

“Is he going to die?”

“Without help, more than likely.”

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

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

“No, where on earth is that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He should tell her.” Amaryllis replied.

Uailean chuckled. “In time.”

“they were childhood friends weren’t they?”

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

“Uailean wanted me to make sure you were okay”

“I am, whats going on down there?”

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

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

“What is it?” Zinlya asked.

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

“How bad is that?”

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

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

“Yes sir.”

“Is he going to survive?” Zinlya asked.

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

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

“Water hemlock”

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

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

“Thank you Azalea”

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

“He wont be getting up for awhile then?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

“I’d be glad to help”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zinlya blushed. “He’s very protective.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you think Paedrus will make it?”

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

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

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

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

“Do you miss home?”

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

“Oh?”

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

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

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

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

“Uailean”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sure you have”

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

“Should I know them?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What happened to Goiridh?”

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

“But why were you poisoned?”

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

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

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

“In my lab with my own journals.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m getting better as we speak”

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

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

~ The End

Olina & Ronnie 3

Chapter One

They were eating breaking together as a family like they always did before Ronnie took the children to school when Tegin asked “may I go over to Eline’s today after homework? She wants to show me her new flowers”

“She’s expanded her garden more?”

“yeah, she says these are extra special”

“hm, how so”

“I told her I wouldn’t tell. It’s a secret class project, only shes doing it though…I guess she was picked because shes so smart” He blushed as his mother giggled. “Mom”

“what? You’re so cute, you and your little crush”

“a special project just for her? We’re your parents, tell us about it. We wont tell Eline you told” Ronnie said, seeming a little suspicious. While he seemed hesitant Tegin told them out of fear they’d say no to him going over there. “Yeah, she said one of the teachers gave her some seeds and told her to plant them without telling anybody and take care of them.”

“what do her parents think of this, a teacher just giving something to Eline”

“she hasn’t told them and she has a garden anyway so I guess they wouldn’t think anything weird of new flowers”

“Hm…well, I guess you can”

“Ronnie, it’s just flowers” Olina said and he sighed “theres magic and bad people everywhere. Little girls are more often the prey than little boys so a teacher singling her out draws concerns for me, especially since something happening to her would break Tegins heart” Tegin blushed, looking away from them and taking a bite of food. “well be vigilant when you’re over there honey, I’ll take you right after homework” his mother said with a soft smile. “thank you”

Ronnie could tell Tegin was excited as he drove, but he himself still felt wary. When he pulled up to the front of the kids school he told Tegin to hold on. “I know your mom thinks that the seed thing is innocent and I hope she’s right, but if anything happens or you notice anything weird, I want you to let me know, okay?”

“Okay dad.”

“I don’t want you to be scared, but remember you can tell your mother and I anything.”

“I know, love you dad.”

“Love you too, go on now, have a good day.” Ronnie really wanted Olina to be right as he watched his kids head up to the front door together, but he couldn’t help but shake his worries.

Tegin and Elines classes had recess at the same time so when it was finally time to go outside he instantly began looking for her. He always sought her out at recess but today he was particularly excited to since he was allowed to go to her home later “Eline” She smiled “Tegin, what did your parents say?”

“They said I could come over after homework. I’m going to try to get any done before I go home today so maybe I can come straight over.”

“Okay, I will too then. I’m so excited. The flowers aren’t much yet but they are already pretty. I told my mom you might be coming over. She said if you could you could stay for dinner. It would be cool if you could have sleepovers with me like Mildrene. If she stays for dinner as you know she normally gets to stay the night. I brought it up to my parents again when mom said you could stay but of course my dad was like no way in heck is a boy spending the night. It’s stupid, I mean, we’re just friends”

“Yeah, it’s okay though. We still hangout a lot and who knows if my parents would even be okay with that.”

“yeah, Some of my friends from class want to play freeze tag, you in?”

“yeah”

Ronnie could barely concentrate as he worked on his newest little invention. He couldn’t focus as he thought about what his son had told him of that teacher. It just didn’t set right with him, but he also worried it was just his need to protect his children. If anything happened to them, it would kill him and if anything happened to Eline, he knew it would devastate his son and he couldn’t stand to see his son hurt in any way. “Not going anywhere?” Olina’s voice still made his heart stutter and he put down the tools he was using and turned to face her as she crossed over to him with a cup of coffee.

“No, unfortunately.” He gave her a smile as he took the coffee and sat it down then pulled her into his lap. “When do you have to leave for work?”

“In a couple of hours.”

“Good, you can sit here and tell me I’m be over protective and crazy.”

She let out a little laugh. “You’re not being over protective and crazy, you’re being a good dad.”

“Am I?”

She nodded. “Yes, but I don’t think the plants are dangerous.”

“Yeah, I guess there’s no reason to worry too much. If our son notices anything off he will tell us”

“exactly and I’m sure if the teacher has gross motives she wouldn’t be naive enough to go anywhere alone with him. Most predators that would go about it that way wait until they can get the child to go willingly with them.”

“yeah” When Ronnie picked up the kids from school Tegin said “I already finished my homework and Eline says she has to. I promise, can you just take me now”

“okay, when should I come get you or are they bringing you home?”

“they said I could stay for dinner. I’m sure one of her parents will just bring me home again”

“Okay, have fun. I’m sorry about worrying so much.”

“I know you just love me dad.” Ronnie smiled and said to his other children “do you guys feel like going anywhere after I drop him off? Once we’re over that way we may aswell do something” Osyei and Ankha started suggesting things excitedly. Their day sounded fun but Tegin felt his day would be better.

Ronnie watched as Tegin excitedly headed for Eline’s front porch once he’d dropped him off, giving a smile when he saw the front door open and Eline come out to greet him. His son turned and waved and Ronnie and Tegin’s siblings waved back as he pulled away. “So, you want to hang out for awhile or show me your new flowers first?” Tegin asked as he stepped in after Eline.

“You’re the guest.” Eline replied with her usual bright smile.

“Yeah, but you invited me.”

She giggled and he felt himself blush. “Alright, then we’ll hang out for a bit. I don’t want to bore you with just flowers.”

“That’s impossible, you could never be boring.”

“You’re such a dork.” She grabbed his hand. “Come on.”
Ronnie enjoyed the afternoon with his other two children, managing not to worry. They walked around toy stores then found a nice place to have ice cream together. It was about the time he took the other two children to the park that Eline brought Tegin to her garden “They aren’t much yet but he says they are going to be gorgeous” They knelt down next to the small flower buds among her fully blossomed flower garden. “is there anything special you need to do to them or are they pretty easy to take care of?”

“They needed something special at first but they are no trouble now. I had to rub them in some of my blood before I planted them”

“what”

“don’t sound so alarmed. I mean, thats the weirdest thing I’ve ever had to do for my special flowers but some flowers just take extra care”

“so…do you think its weird you’re not even supposed to tell your parents” she shrugged “I didn’t think about it”

“Maybe you should so they can talk to…which teacher was it?”

“Mr Kelman and I kind of want to surprise them with these. He says they are really special. I mean, I only told you right away because you’re my best friend and we tell eachother everything” He smiled “well, I can’t wait to see them. Just the buds seem pretty”

“Yeah, once I’m done with these I’m going to ask my parents to help me make my garden bigger. Maybe they will get me a bunch more things to put in it for my birthday in a few months”

“You could theme your party that way. Just have your parents tell everyone elses parents you want plants”

“Thats such a good idea”

Tegin smiled. “Before long your whole yard will be a garden. You’ll look like a fairy princess in here.”

She laughed, gently nudging him. “Silly.”

“They really are pretty.” Tegin reached out, letting his finger lightly brush one of the buds. He felt pain stab up his arm and into his chest and he gasped as he pulled away, his stomach twisting and he had to slap his hand over his mouth to keep himself from throwing up.

“Tegin? What’s wrong?” He was so shocked he couldn’t answer. “Tegin?”

Chapter Two

Her face was growing more concerned as she said his name a few more times, eventually asking “Are you sick? I can tell my parents to go ahead and take you home”

“Have you touched them since you planted them?”

“No” she moved to touch them but she already was by the time he said “Eline don’t!” The buds surprised him again when they didn’t seem to bother Eline “Maybe you are just sick. They aren’t doing anything to me” she lowered her voice to hardly a whisper “Maybe the Pixiu are just allergic to this kind of flowers.” he had told her last year and she had believed him without a seconds hesitation. Eline was the sweetest, most trusting girl he had ever known and now Tegin was actually worried his dad might be on to something. “I don’t think we’re allergic to anything…what are these called Eline?”

“He didn’t say”

“will you ask him”

“yeah, I’ll ask when I see him Monday. I’m sorry they hurt you”

“don’t be sorry” she looked so sad he had to hug her. “I’m glad you showed me” Tegin said softly, soon blood red when he saw her dad come out “come eat you two”

Tegin couldn’t shake the feeling in his gut as he ate, but he forced himself to hide it for Eline. He would talk to his dad about it when he got home. He called home once dinner was over and his mom let him know she was on her way. “Are you sure you’re alright?” Eline asked as they sat on the front porch together, waiting.

“Yeah, sorry if I freaked you out.”

“Nah, I just don’t want you to get hurt or something. If it turns out you’re allergic I can always get rid of them.”

He wanted to tell her that was a good idea, but what if it wasn’t as serious as he thought. He would feel like he was forcing her to get rid of the plants she loved so much over his overactive imagination. “It’s okay, don’t worry about it, I just won’t touch them again.”

“Maybe we can hangout outside of school again soon. Tomorrow some of my cousins will be coming over. I don’t know if they are staying yet though”

“Well ask your parents after your cousins leave and just let me know”

“Do you want to play anything online together tonight?”

“Sure, we could work more in our world on minecraft” Eline smiled “Yeah, that sounds awesome. Make sure you wear your headset so we can talk” Tegin gave her a tight hug when his mothers car pulled up “I have to do something when I get home but I wont forgetto get on Minecraft”

“Bye Tegin”

“Bye Eline” Tegin ran to the car then waved at Eline who waved back as Olina drove away “so, how was your afternoon with Eline?”

“It was good until she showed me the flowers”

“was there actually something wrong with them?”

“well for starters she told me she had to rub them in her blood before she planted them”

“I know nothing about flowers but that doesnt sound normal”

“yeah, I mean she says some flowers just have special needs but that got me worried dad might be right and that was even before I touched them. They hurt me, I felt this sharp pain travel up my arm and into my chest. My stomach twisted too but she touched them right after and they didn’t hurt her…I don’t know. She thought maybe I was allergic to them so I guess I’ll have to talk to dad”

“yeah…I’m kind of worried about her now. You’ll really hate me if I talk to her mother?”

“she wont trust me anymore. I wasn’t supposed to tell you. Besides, if I told her they were dangerous she’d probably get rid of them. She wants to just because she thinks I’m allergic but I told her it was okay. She really likes them and they might be fine. Maybe she had to rub them in her blood so they wouldn’t hurt her”

“still, why on earth would a teacher give her something like that. She’s an amazing little gardener but she’s still eleven.” A thought crossed Olina’s mind “baby, did you ask her when and where her teacher gave her those flowers”

“why does that matter”

“well, if it wasn’t at school or super early or maybe after school it may have not been her teacher. Some beings can masquerade as other people and Eline wouldn’t know the difference”

Olina didn’t like the look of worry on her son’s face and she hope Ronnie had some answers. She would hate to see Tegin heartbroken. Ronnie was sitting in the living room reading when they came in and he went from smiling to concerned when his eyes met his son’s. “What happened?” He asked as he marked his place and put the book down.

“Um…something weird happened at Eline’s.”

“Like what?” He patted the couch and Tegin dropped down next to him, his mother taking the spot on his other side.

“Are we allergic to anything?”

“No.”

Tegin’s frown deepened as his worry increased. “I think there’s something wrong with Eline’s new flowers.” He explained everything that had happened and what Eline had told him, about the blood and how sick he had felt after touching them. He hated he was breaking Eline’s trust, but he didn’t want to lose her because he didn’t say anything.
“I think I should see these flowers. Maybe I can get Adelram to sneak over there late tonight and take a picture. They’ve never met him so if they catch him there it wont be an awkward conversation. I’ll call him” Ronnie pulled his phone out of his pocket sighing when his friend didn’t answer. He typed out a message, knowing his friend would call back as soon as possible “I will start researching anyway and talking to some of my other friends about what this could possibly be.” Olina spoke “I’m also wondering if her teacher really gave her those flowers. I mean, all the teachers at that school are human and those flowers aren’t a gift I think a human would give”

Ronnie nodded “did you two make any more plans?”

“I’m supposed to play minecraft with her tonight”

“get more of the story on how she received the flowers alright?”

“Okay” They watched their son go to his room then Ronnie hugged Olina “it’ll be okay”

“Eline is such a sweet little girl. I hate the thought of something hurting her”

“Nothings going to happen to her, I’ll make sure of that” Olina sat with Ronnie as he began trying to figure out what these flowers were. Adelram never did call back that night but Ronnie just opted not to sleep, worried he found his answer around two in the morning. Ronnie went to his sons room, not surprised he was sleeping at his computer with his headset on “Tegin” Ronnie said urgently as he shook his son “dad?”

“did she tell you how she got the flowers?” Tegin rubbed his face and slid the headphones off “Apparently one afternoon her mom happened to fall asleep and slept through pick up time. Eline doesn’t have a cellphone yet so she was left sitting there a long time. At one point he walked up to her and gave her the project”

“Like your mother, I don’t believe that was her teacher. I don’t want to scare you but I know you want to remain informed”

“are they going to hurt her?”

“If we let them keep growing but”

“then lets just dig them out” Tegin interrupted “it’s not that simple and I need to see them to be entirely sure. Maybe I’m wrong and everything is okay. I’m going to go over to her home and check them out’

“Adelram can’t?”

“He never called back”

“what if they see you”

“I’ll just go into their yard as a true Pixiu. They will think they are just seeing things”

“I just want her safe dad.”

Ronnie patted his head. “I know and I promise everything’s going to be okay. Why don’t you get in bed, I promise to let you know what’s going on as soon as I can.”

“Alright.”

Ronnie didn’t like leaving his son worried, but he knew there was nothing he could say to truly reassure him. After what had happened to Olina, he understood that uncertainty and fear. He left his son’s room and went back to Olina, letting her know he was leaving and giving her a kiss. He shifted the moment he was outside and let his wings lift him off the ground. Having wings gave him the advantage of stealth and it was much faster than driving.

Olina couldn’t sleep after Ronnie left and wound up getting out of bed and checking on Tegin. He was laying in bed staring at the ceiling when she pushed the door open, but sat up when she stuck her head in. “Hey sweetie, you okay?”

“I’m scared.” He answered and she went to sit on his bed, pulling him into a hug.

“I know honey, but your daddy’s on it.”

When Ronnie made it to Eline’s neighborhood he was relieved that all the houses were dark save for a light or two in some houses that were probably just nightlights. He landed carefully and slowly approached the flower bed. He couldn’t help but growl a little, these were just what he thought but they were also something else, he could feel it. Like someone had altered them for another purpose but what. They were already sinister so he didn’t look forward to having to share with his son that they not only possessed the drive to eventually seek Eline out, paralyze and consume her but the gifter of these had something else in mind.

He couldn’t imagine what it was. They would need blood and much more than even an adult could give without dying to thrive into what they were meant to be so why change the magic of them. He asked himself again what could the being possibly want and why would they do this to Eline. He wondered if they might just be there to capture and paralyze her eventually. Eline was a beautiful little girl, it was why his mind jumped so quick from the start to the teacher having immoral reason for giving her the flowers.

Ronnie decided to check on her while he was here anyway so he’d be able to tell his son that she was safely sleeping in bed tonight, the danger not quite here yet. He soundlessly went behind the home and flew up to her bedroom, getting close so he could listen but it wasn’t just a sleeping little girl he heard, there was some weird noise and if the kids had fallen asleep talking the sound couldn’t be coming from her tv or computer. He kept listening, unsure of what to do.

The parents didn’t know about them or anything magical. If he went in there he’d sound like a raving lunatic. The sound kept happening and he kept trying to place it. He eventually decided to go to the door and claim his son had been woken up by an alarming sound in the headphones and asked him to go check on her. Elines father answered, his hair tussled from sleep and his pajamas obviously hastily put on to answer the door “Ronnie?” Elines father looked confused to see him but this was a weird time to be at the door.

“Our kids fell asleep talking to eachother while playing Minecraft. My son woke me up saying some man on his headphones woke him up. I rushed right over to make sure Eline was okay and nobody had broken in” That had her father awake and rushing with Ronnie to Elines room. She was in bed but laying on top of her covers, a hairbrush beside her and then he could place that noise. Somebody had been brushing her hair and that chilled him to the bone. Eline’s father shut the door and it took all of Ronnie’s self control not to ask him to check her bedroom.

Someone had been there, Ronnie could smell it. “he must of had a nightmare but thank you for checking”

“does she always sleep with a hairbrush?”

“She’s been sleepwalking the past two months. Nothing harmful, she actually mostly just takes care of herself at night. She paints her nails, brushes her hair, stuff like that. Her pediatrician says it happens and she might grow out of it. If she starts doing things that could hurt her he says he’ll put her on something so she can’t get up at night so we’re not worried”

Chapter Three

“I see, well it’s a relief everything’s okay on this end.”

“I’m glad Tegin said something to you and didn’t just write it off as background noise. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Ronnie nodded. “Sorry to wake you like that.”

“It’s fine, seriously, thanks for checking. Let Tegin know she’s safe for me, I know how much he cares about her.”

“I will, see you around.” Ronnie didn’t want to leave their home, not after knowing someone had just been in there with Eline. His phone vibrated as he started down the block and he quickly answered when he saw it was Adelram. “It’s about time.”

“Whoa, easy, what’s going on? I was out, I left my phone.”

Ronnie sighed. “Sorry, I need you to do something for me. There’s something going on with Tegin’s friend Eline, something’s after her, something dangerous and I need you to stake out her house for me for the rest of the night.”

“Sure, no problem. I’ll head over now.”

“Thank you and call me if you notice anything strange.”
“I will” Ronnie felt a bulk of the weight leave his shoulders now that he knew Adelram would watch her. He was Incubus, elf and vampire, Adelram could probably do a better job of protecting her than he even could. Now Ronnie just hoped her parents were too sleepy to notice he hadn’t come there in a car. When Ronnie arrived home he almost instantly got a hug from his mate whom had been pacing “Is she alright? Is it what you thought?”

“It is and possibly worse”

“worse than the flowers killing her”

“They’ve been changed. I don’t know how but I could feel the magic and worse…whatever gave her those was in her room tonight. I woke her parents up and it either fled or hid in her room but something was there, brushing her hair”

“Brushing her hair?”

“Her father thinks shes been sleep walking but when he told me what shes doing at night…I think something is visiting her”

“Oh my god, what can we do? We must be able to do something”

“Adelram is watching her home tonight. Maybe he’ll spot it and bring him, her or whatever here to talk to me”

“Tegin’s already worried enough and now this.”

“Is he asleep?”

“He wasn’t when I left his room.”

“I’ll go check and talk to him about what’s going on if he’s still awake.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Whatever it is, I won’t let it hurt her.”

“I know, I love you.”

“I love you too, why don’t you go back to bed.”

“I don’t think I can, I might make some cookies instead.”

He nodded as they separated and he headed to Tegin’s room. He wasn’t surprised to see his son sitting and staring out his bedroom window, a worried expression on his face. “Tegin?” His son turned and was immediately out of his bed and on his feet.

“So? Is she safe?”

“For now, yes, but it’s complicated.”

“Complicated how?”

Ronnie crossed the room and took a seat on Tegin’s bed, then patted the spot beside him. Tegin sat down, swallowing his fear. “Do you want the truth?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll start with the fact Adelram is on his way to her home to watch over her right now if he isn’t already there. I know if I ask him to he will watch her house every night”

“Okay”

“Those flowers need a lot of blood to grow. They will eventually seek out, paralyze and drain whomever planted them. I thought they weren’t in use anymore but I suppose whatever brought them here knew a human wouldn’t know what they were doing like if he had given them to someone in my home world or a place like that. There is a way, however complicated to get rid of the flowers before they are ready to take her but we will still need to contend with the being who gave them to her in the first place.”

Ronnie was having a hard time talking to his son about this, he looked so worried and upset but he continued anyway “when I was there tonight I heard something in her room…I think the being is visiting her at night…did she tell you she’s been sleep walking? ”

“well yeah but…”

“I think he’s the one moving her at night, probably using some sort of magic to keep her asleep”

“dad…” Ronnie hugged him “she will be okay son. Thankfully you two are close so she told you about all this before it got too far. We can handle this. It may not be much comfort but we still dont know precisely what its doing. If he just wanted to rape or kidnap her it could have already done it”

“Why is it doing all those things? What if it kidnaps her? Should I say something?” His voice cracked and it took everything Ronnie had not to go back to Eline’s and force that thing to show itself.

“I don’t want it to know we know, it could turn violent. For now, just act normal and if you can, gather as much information as you can.” He patted his son’s back. “We’ll protect her.”

Tegin nodded as he pulled back to wipe at the tears on his face. He hadn’t meant to start crying. “I’m going to have to tell her once you and Adelram have caught it, whatever it is. I hope she doesn’t get too mad.”

“I doubt she will Tegin, you’re just protecting her.”

“Yeah.”

“Your mom’s making cookies if you don’t think you can go back to sleep.”

“that sounds good, I dont know how I’m supposed to sleep again with this going on”

“Adelram would jump on that thing the second it even thought about hurting her and while you enjoy cookies I’m going to start getting ready to remove the flowers so we’re able to when the time comes” Ronnie hugged his son again then walked with him to his mother “oh baby” Olina said when she saw him. Ronnie kissed her cheek “I’ve got more work to do.”

“want me to bring you anything?”

“would you make more coffee?”

“sure honey” As Adelram kept a watchful eye from a tree he made sure to keep up his Incubus charms so nobody would think it was odd he was sitting there. Sometimes it really paid to have that in his bloodline. You could get away with quite a bit. The next night had hardly come when a very angry man came his way “what’re you doing here” the man snapped. “thats none of your business” Adelram retorted, knowing this was the piece of garbage bothering Eline. She had run by him and his scent had been all over her. He was suppressing the part of his scent that would give what he was away but this man wasn’t human, Adelram could just feel it.

The mans voice was low and he was obviously trying to be threatening “That child is already claimed”

“what is she claimed for?” Adelram was angry but he knew the thing might be more honest with him if he didn’t realize Adelram was there specifically to stop him. Thankfully he had taken his standing there as interest in Eline. “that’s none of your business” The man threw back at him. Adelram shrugged “you’re too chicken shit to let me know what you are. I could kill you and have her to myself but… you could convince me your needs for her are more important”

“I cant believe you go around humans like that”

“I’m not embarrassed” The man seemed to think for awhile then said “She’s going to be my new doll. I only let close friends see but I can show you my collection if you’ll leave her alone. She’ll be my prettiest one yet, I need her. You can have one of my older dolls. It’ll take a few days to wake her up if your desires call for her being awake but you can take her today regardless. I can just tell you what you need to do to bring her back”

“bring her back”

“we’ve already discussed too much here. Come to my home and we will discuss this further”

“I’m really interested in Eline, it better be soon” The man grumbled “fine, we’ll go now. Her stupid cousins are here anyway”

“you don’t want them as well?” The man laughed “I am a collector, I don’t just add any dolls. You’ll see when you get to my home. I will only trade one doll for her, I mean it.”

“fine, at least I wont have to capture her”

“precisely and I do this slowly to make sure my little dolls dont get damaged. You wont find a single mark on them.” Adelram began following the man, wishing he could message Ronnie and Olina an update but he worried that might look weird and he wanted to know where these little girls were. Adelram found his chance as the man seemed to be getting a portal ready.

Ronnie’s phone vibrating pulled him away from his preparations and he was relieved to see it was a text from Adelram until he actually read it. “Found the creature, come now, be stealthy.” He hurried to Olina and Tegin, letting them know he had to go then rushed out the door and shifted. He wasn’t going to give that thing a chance to escape.

“How long is this going to take?” Adelram asked, acting impatient.

“Be patient or I’ll change my mind.”

Adelram huffed, crossing his arms. The moment the portal was open, he picked up the sound of Ronnie’s wings and that’s when he struck, jumping on the man’s back, one hand going over his mouth as he wrestled him to the ground. He wrenched his head to the side, sinking his fangs in. He could feel the man’s strength as they wrestled and he reached up, grabbing Adelram by the back of his neck and pitching him off. “You bastard.” The man growled at him as he jumped on him and wrapped his fingers around Adelram’s neck, squeezing. “Bastard, you can’t have my dolls, you can rot here.” Adelram let his incubus powers flare out and hit the creature on top of him, causing him to loosen his grip in surprise just as Ronnie slammed in him, sending him flying.

“Go through, I’ll handle him.” Ronnie’s voice came out as a growl.

Chapter Four

Ronnie went through and was relieved when he stepped into a dining room. He heard a gasp and noticed a girl wearing a collar. “It’s okay, I’m not here to hurt anybody” she swallowed “why are you here without Cathal”

“so Cathal was his name” she nodded and asked “did you kill him or something”

“we just might, what are you doing here?”

“I don’t know because of this” she touched her collar “None of the maids know who they are. These collars not only take away any of our abilities but it makes us forget anything before this house so even if we get away we don’t know where to go. I…well…we learned that it could have also taken abilities from us because one girl he lured here on a date…and we saw her do a few things before he…well did this to her too and now she’s just like the rest of us”

She looked so scared. Adelram could tell she wasn’t sure if he was here to help them or be their new master so he cleared that up “He was after a little girl one of my best friends kids has a crush on. Thankfully I’m good at having a cool head so I was able to talk to him instead of just bashing his brains in at the start. I’m not like him, I’m here to help everyone here”

“Oh…oh goodness he was going to add another doll”

“Then I’m so glad you stopped him but how are you going to wake them up or get these collars off without him. Only he knows how to do it”

“Hopefully Ronnie hasn’t killed him off and if he has we’re both pretty intelligent. Especially Ronnie, he’ll have this all fixed in no time” He looked at her collar again “come here” she approached him cautiously but he didn’t blame her. He didn’t know what kind of sick games the kind of people Cathal brought here played. He grabbed it to feel it’s magic “I know what this is. Does he have a dagger anywhere that he keeps near him”

“Yeah, in his room”

“show me please” He asked as he let it go. She smiled, as if she might even laugh. “sorry” she started “If we just needed to cut these things off ourselves I might never recover from feeling stupid”

“I’m sure messing with them didn’t go unpunished” he said, glancing over at a healing wound on her arm “No…no it didn’t but”

“the last thing you should ever do when you leave here is look back and feel stupid. Bad things happen and they can happen to anybody and few can think straight when they live in constant fear and abuse” She sighed “well let me take you to his room” As they started walking he asked “what’s your name. Does he at least leave you with that?”

“He doesn’t so I don’t want to give you the name he gave me, I never want to have to say thats my name again. I also learned from that woman that he does rename us”

“alright, well I’m Adelram”

“thank you Adelram”

“You have nothing to thank me for”

“Of course I do” This place was amazing but most of Adelrams attention was on the maid. His heart ached for her pain and he wished he had the kind of magic that would mend her arm. When they arrived in Cathals room she walked him to his bedside table. It had a small, locked drawer but he just destroyed it, causing her to yelp and jump back. In just the time it took him to stand up she was back at the door “Hey, it’s okay. I’m sorry. I just didn’t want to waste more time looking for a key to it”

His attention went back to the drawer and there was the dagger he was looking for. It’s magic energy matched the collar “look, I can fix it” She didn’t move so he tried walking to her slowly, letting on just a little of his charm to calm her down. Her heart was beating far too fast. She didn’t look at him as he approached so he remained slow and careful as he took the collar again and cut it off.

There, see.” He tossed the collar to the floor. “You’re free.” Her eyes filled with tears and he tucked the dagger in the waist of his pants so he could hug her. “It’s okay, everything’s okay.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” He didn’t want to know what had been done to this woman to make her so fearful. “I promise we’ll get you home.” He stood there stroking her hair for a few moments, giving her time to calm down. He let her go when she pulled away and she quickly dried her face. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, thank you so much.”

“Why don’t you show me the others then we’ll see if Ronnie let that creature live so we can wake all the girls he took.”

“Okay.”

She took him to the other maids who almost immediately asked “Do you remember anything now?” She shook her head sadly. One looked sympathetic “maybe it takes a little bit”

“Yeah” another chimed in. She nodded “after he frees you guys we’re going to his friend who has Cathal”

“If you don’t mind we’re just going to take off before he comes back”

“I hope you all find your homes”

“we hope that for you too. Why don’t you come with us” As they spoke Adelram was removing collars. Another chimed in “Yeah, come on. This man will save the little girls”

“I want to stay and make sure” they all took a turn hugging her “good luck, I hope we see you again under better circumstances”

“yeah” The girls all took off running and Adelram said “thanks for staying. It’ll be good to have someone who knows the house to make sure we clear it of any bad crap he has here”

“I’ll help with anything if you can help those little girls” They returned to Ronnie who had beat Cathal bloody. “who’s this?”

“He apparently magicked himself into some maids too. He had collars on them to control them” Ronnie gave him a death look that had Cathal shaking. “I’m glad you aren’t dead you piece of shit. Come wake up those damn girls”

“Please, not my dolls. The maids, fine but not my dolls. It’s not cruel, I let them live out their fantasy in their heads. They don’t even realize they are paralyzed and unconscious” Adelram lifted Cathal by his shirt and they all went back through the portal into his home. “where are the girls?” Adelram asked surprisingly nicely. It took her a second to answer it shocked her so much since he had just moments ago sounded like he was seconds from ripping Cathals heart out “this way” She showed them to the massive room he kept them in.

Ronnie bawled his fists when he saw how many there were “what the fuck is wrong with you?”

“I told you they”

“dont you dare justify yourself again” They were actually lined up on shelves, all still as could be in their slumber. Ronnie could see he must spend a lot of time with them by the condition the little girls were in. They all looked about the same age so Ronnie had to ask “Is Eline your first human?”

“All of these girls were human. You think I want dolls with families that could bother me like this? If I had known Eline was involved with kinds such as yourselves I wouldn’t have picked her…its…she would have been such a beautiful doll…please, just let me have Eline. Your son can find”

“shut up right now, I’m still not quite sure I’m going to let you live so you better not piss me off anymore”

“How have you kept them young?”

“The spell I use to keep them out and in their fantasy world keeps them just as they were when I brought them here”

“Do you have any idea how many families you may have broken?” Adelram asked, giving Cathal a hard shake. “How long has the oldest one been missing?”

“Awhile…a long time…may forty years.”

Ronnie growled and Cathal flinched. “You bastard.”

“Wake them, now or I swear I will finish what I started outside.” Adelram snapped, showing his fangs.

“I…”

“Look away.” He said to the maid and she covered her eyes. He pulled Cathal’s head back and sank his fangs in. The man fought against him, trying his hardest to push him off.

“Please…I’ll…I’ll do it…please.”

Adelram pulled back, his eyes threatening death. “If you try anything, I’ll end you.” He dropped Cathal to the floor. “Wake them.” He wiped the blood from his face with his shirt then gently touched the maid’s shoulder. “It’s okay now.”

Now that she had his attention again he asked “why can’t she remember anything yet”

“Just like it may take the girls a few days to wake up it may take her a few days to remember who she is”

“well you know who she is, whats her actual name so I have something to call her.” Cathal sighed, frustratedly “I dont know”

“You really are an asshole. How could you not remember her name” Ronnie spoke angrily and Adelram said “I forgot to mention he renamed his maids. Thats probably fucking why”

“am I human?” she asked.

“No but let me concentrate on these girls” Cathal was uncomfortable and it made Adelram want him to answer “what is she Cathal, why don’t you want to tell her”

“I just dont want you guys to fucking hit me again”

“what is she and why don’t you want to tell her” He groaned again “she’s a pegasus” she teared up and said “you didn’t…”

“he didn’t want?”

“All his pillows are filled with pegasus feathers…those scars on my back”

“When I saw you I had no idea you were a shifter. I just wanted your wings. I spotted you trotting by my home. It took so much effort to remove your wings after I knocked you out I didn’t feel like disposing of you when I was done. I was going to do it the next day but it turns out you didn’t bleed to death from me cutting them off”

“why didn’t you just take the feathers?” she asked in horror “I didnt want to have to rush and damage the feathers. I didn’t give a fuck if you bled to death from me removing the wings from your body…anyway…you were in human form then and you were so pretty I felt I needed another maid” She still didn’t remember those days but her heart still ached with the pain of it. Her soul knew and it felt anguish over the loss of her wings and life.

Cathal went back to the task of waking up the girls, his heart thudding in his chest at the rage he felt in the room. “it’s done, I swear” Cathal said sometime later “well we’ll just keep you around to make sure they wake up” Ronnie said angrily. “but that might be days”

“you took a lot more than days from them. Are there any young enough we could take them home?” He pointed out five girls “Jesus…only five”

“yes and I suppose you’ll make me take you to their home worlds”

“yes we fucking will but first” Ronnie looked at the maid “what do you want to do in the meantime?”

“I’ll help with the girls”

“are you sure?My wife would be happy to let you just rest in our home. She’d back you something and make you any kind of drink you’d want”

“yeah, I want to help these girls. I always felt worse for them than I did any of us. I, along with the other maids got our childhoods…these girls…its always killed me to know this room exists here”

“alright, first I need to update my wife so she wisn’t worried something happened to us here”

“You go do that Ronnie, I’ll stay here” Adelram suggested.

Cathal was too afraid to dare fighting Adelram and Ronnie knew his friend could handle himself, so he stepped back through the portal and took to the sky, hurrying home. Both Olina and Tegin were on the couch, her reading a book and him asleep with his head in her lap, but he jerked awake when his mother moved. “Dad?” He said sleepily as he sat up. “Is she okay?”

“Yes, we caught the creature responsible, she’s safe.” Tegin was up and hugging his father, tears of relief filling his eyes.

“Thank you dad, thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me, you know that.” He patted his son’s back then gave him a squeeze. “Tomorrow I want you to tell Eline the flowers are dangerous so I can get rid of them, okay. I know you think she’ll be mad, but she needs to know.”

“Okay, I will.” Tegin thanked him again then headed to his room, exhausted and relieved.

“what’re you going to do with him?” Olina asked and Ronnie sighed then filled her in on everything they had learned and seen so far before saying “right now we’re going to return what girls we can then I guess Adelram and I can split the rest of the girls and raise them if you wouldn’t mind having more children around here. We can just say we adopted them because thats pretty much what we’re doing.”

“Okay, I’m good with taking them all in really if Adelram doesn’t want to raise any”

“At least you have something to do while I return the girls. Find us a bigger home regardless or a nice piece of land that can be built on. Honestly, the land might be better. I miss just being a lion at times. If we had our own property the kids and I could just be us more. I know we’ve talked about moving to a different world once the kids are out of school but we don’t have enough room for the girls here so it’s a good reason to go ahead and get out of the city”

“alright, Tegins going to hate not being in town with Eline but even if her parents wont make the drive you and I can take turns to make sure he still sees her” Ronnie gave her a long, deep kiss incase returning the girls took a long time then hurried off. Ronnie was relieved to see two of the young girls awake when he returned to Cathals home. The only hard thing about it was of course the two girls who were awake weren’t two girls who were going to be returning to their human families unless of course they came from a world that knew about magic and everything could be explained to their parents.

It turned out there was no such luck with these two. The maid held one as she started to cry. Ronnie didn’t know what to do until she said “you two just start on the girls that are still young enough to take back without them not aging being weird. They should wake up at home if at all possible. I have these girls”

“are you sure?” Ronnie asked and she nodded. Adelram roughly grabbed Cathal again “lets get to work asshole” Thanks to his ease with making portals they returned the first three quickly but they had a problem with the fourth girl, her parents had moved “damn it” Ronnie cursed the luck of it as he stood in front of the for sale sign. He knew he should have expected as much from at least one of the parents though. He couldn’t imagine how hard it was to go on living in the same house you once shared with a child that got stolen from you.

Adelram spoke up “we will just return the fifth girl then hunt down this ones parents. I’m sure a neighbor can help. That means actually talking to humans about this and trying to weave a good story but we can think of that while we return the other girl” Ronnie took a deep breath in then out “You’re right, lets do that” They popped back into Cathals house, switching girls, updating the maid then leaving again.

When they came back to get to work on returning the girl that would now be a challenge it wasn’t just the little girls that were weepy but the maid as well “what’s wrong?” Adelram asked and she said sadly “I remember…I…I thought things would be easier once I remembered but…it all hurts so much more now…I’m sorry. I’m going to make some tea and pull myself together for these girls”

“don’t be sorry…I’ll stay with you while Ronnie tries to take that other little girl home. We can make Cathal open the portal again easy and then I can keep an eye on him here. Wont that work Ronnie?” Adelram asked his friend who nodded “see? I’m staying here this time”

“Oh no…it’s fine, really…you” He gently began running his fingers down her hair “You’ve been through a lot. I don’t think anybody could expect you to be a rock after everything you’ve been through. It amazes me you didn’t completely fall apart upon learning you once had wings that this piece of garbage now uses as pillows. Ronnie can handle taking a little girl home, you need someone too. Not just these little girls…what’s your name”

“Dhara”

“That’s a beautiful name.”

“It’s not.”

“It is, a beautiful name for a beautiful woman.” She blushed and he gave her a smile. “Feel better?”

“Yeah, for now, thank you.”

He reached up and wiped at her tears. “You never have to thank me, I just don’t like seeing you upset. I know it’s going to take some time, but you’ll be happy again and if you want to fly again, I’ll take you up myself.”

“You don’t have to go that far.”

“Of course I do. It’ll make you happy won’t it?” She nodded. “Then I do and besides, I want to.”

“You’re far too sweet, Adelram.”

Ronnie worked tirelessly to get each girl who still had a home back where they belonged, having to force himself not to kill the sniveling Cathal. He didn’t know what possessed a being to be so selfish. What had he been thinking? Even if he wasn’t doing anything to the girls, the fact he didn’t care about what their families had gone through, was sickening. If he had had to see that look of devastation on Tegin’s face, he would have killed the man the moment he laid eyes on him.

Ronnie could tell Cathal was nervous as they walked back to a portal after returning the last returnable little girl “what’re you two going to do with me? I don’t sense you’re just going to let me go?”

“I’m going to talk it over with Adelram. I’d love to wring your pathetic neck though.”

“I gave those girls a good life in their heads”

“Yes, please keep speaking so I can honestly tell my wife I was too blinded by my rage to keep myself from killing you…what about your maids hm. Not saying what you did to those little girls was any better but you forced them to serve you, took away their memories and worse…what you took from Dahra” Cathal had the sense not to speak any longer. He could tell his attempts at getting mercy for his deeds were only making the two beings madder but he couldn’t help but try.

Dahra and Adelram were talking to one of the little girls when Ronnie stepped back through. “This cant be true” she said in anguish “I’m sorry little one but it is” She looked over at Ronnie “if you can’t take me home too what’re you going to do with us”

“I hadn’t discussed that with my friend Adelram yet but my idea was to let some of you live with my family and some of you live with him. True to vampire form Adelram has a large mansion he lives in by himself”

“He’s a vampire” the little girl seemed so wow’d, especially when Adelram added “among other things. That arrangement sits well with me. It’ll be good for me to have constant company.” Adelram looked at Dhara “you have a place with me too if you have nowhere else to go”

“I have a herd but there’s no telling where they are. Long story short Pegasus normally stick together…One day I just had this irresistible urge to go it alone for awhile. My parents didn’t want me to leave but they supported my desire. Thats why nobody has looked for me. They have no way of knowing anything went wrong since we didn’t discuss when I’d ever return to them. I want to find my herd at some point but for now, I’d just like somewhere to be”

Ronnie spoke again “now that we have those things settled we need to discuss Cathal” Adelram spoke to Darah again “talk to the girls about who they want to go with, Ronnie and his family or you and I while we discuss this outside. If it matters to you girls Ronnie and his children are Pixiu, Lions basically. His wife is a vampire like me” Adelram now looked at his friend and the two left the room, Ronnie holding tight to Cathal.

Once they were out of earshot Adelram said “You know me, I jsut want to kill him”

“Me too but we’re better than that”

“so what? We let him hurt others?”

“Of course not Adelram. I’m angry too but we need to find a solution that isn’t killing him” Adelram made a few disgruntled noises. “Lets just put a fucking collar on him and see if he likes beings a butler in my mansion”

“I know you were just being an angry smart ass but maybe a good way to get karma on him and reform him IS to put one of those collars on him. Restart him basically”

“what would we do with him?”

“I wish I knew, trying not to be a killer is a pain in the ass”

“so lets just kill him”

“Adelram” Ronnie lowered his voice even though they had stepped far enough away Dhara couldn’t hear “we’ve been friends a long time…I see you’re already taking quite the shine to Dhara, You need to calm down if you’re going to end up with a mate. How do you think she’d feel about your answer to everything being kill the person” That left Adelram speechless a few moments before he sighed “alright, lets just get one of those collars on him before he does something stupid then take whats left of the girls home”

“so you admit you like Dhara”

“we have more important things to discuss” Ronnie laughed at Adelrams growing embarrassment.
They went back to Cathal and Adelram grabbed him by the back of his neck and forced him to walk while Ronnie stooped to grab one of the collars. “Wh…what are you going to do with me?” Cathal asked in a terrified tone. Neither of them answered as they took him out of sight of Dhara and the girls. “Please, what are you going to do?”

Adelram slammed him into the ground, pinning him there. “You have no idea how much I want you dead, but that would make me a monster like you.” He flipped him over and Cathal’s eyes moved to Ronnie then the collar in his hands.

“No, please.”

“It’s the only way to show you what you put those girls through.” Ronnie said as he squatted down.

Cathal struggled, but it was no use. Adelram held him down while Ronnie put the collar around his neck. They could see the fear and shock in his eyes fade away as everything he was was taken from him. “Maybe once you’ve shown us you can be good, we’ll take it off.” Adelram said as Cathal slipped into unconsciousness.

Adelram let him go and stood, taking a deep breath and Ronnie patted him on the back. “Thank you, for not killing him.”

“I don’t want to go to them with blood on my hands, even if I do hate him.”

“do you know anybody that can deal with him while we figure out what to actually do with him?”

“yeah, someone I know should be able to help. Would you take him with you while I figure it out. You’ve been practicing self control longer than me and I don’t want to upset Dhara”

“No problem”

“Lets get out of his house?”

“whose house?” Cathal asked and Ronnie said “nobodies, just come on Cathal”

“I’m Cathal?”

“yes you are”

“who are you?”

“later, just come.” They went back to Dhara and the girls “do we all know who we want to go with” Dhara nodded “they divided themselves up about evenly and I hope I wasn’t wrong in telling them they’d get to know both of you no matter who they chose” Ronnie smiled “of course, lets leave this place alright. You just need to follow Adelram and I”The girls were obedient and soon they were all back in Ronnie and Adelrams world. The girls all seemed frightened again from the journey but Dhara took it well.

She comforted the girls, telling them they were in a much better place now. “Now how are we getting these girls to our homes? Neither of us has a big enough car and mine isn’t even here”

“You can make trips in my car and we can also call your wife. I can use my charms so nobody questions us just sitting here like this”

“your charms” Dhara said as a question. Ronnie could feel Adelrams unease and was proud of his friend for saying plainly “Part of me is Incubus, I’m vampire, Incubus and Elf”

“Oh”

“I promise, I dont use that part of me like most of my kind do. I use it for situations like this where I need people not to question what I’m doing”

“I believe that” Dhara said with a smile. “so you’ll still come home with me?” He asked and she blushed “yeah” It took a great deal of time but they managed to get the girls that were going with Adelram to his home and the girls that were going to live with Ronnie to his home. Now it was up to Adelram to find something to do with Cathal. Once Adelram was sure Dhara was comfortable he said “I need to make a few calls about Cathal. Are you good with the girls?”

“Yeah, they are little angels, just like I always thought they’d be” He smiled “you’ll have to help me get good rooms set up for them…and you…I want you all to be happy here” she blushed again, her heart tripping over herself at the way he had said that. He walked away to make his calls in private and Dhara just sat down, a hand over her beating heart.

When Olina brought the children home from school Ronnie asked his son “How did Eline take your talk”

“Thankfully she wasn’t mad at me for telling you guys. It doesn’t seem like it anyway. She’s also okay about you removing her flowers. When can you do it?”

“Hopefully tonight, I still need to prepare a few things first”

“thank you dad”

“Thank me by being a good host for Cathal…he’s here”

“You brought him here?!”

“He wont be hurting anybody. I’m using one of his own tools against him. Adelram is sorting out permanent arrangements for him.”

“what’re you using against him?”

“He had maids too and he used magical collars to make them forget everything about themselves so they’d be easy to control. Now it is him at the mercy of those collars”

“serves him right”

“Go do your homework if you have any. Then you have new sisters to meet”

“Yeah, mom told me about them in the car. Where are they?”

“Your sisters room right now”

“mom says we’re moving”

“Hopefulyl fast too. This place isn’t big enough and before you ask, yes, we will make sure no matter how far we move you’ll still get to see Eline.” Tegin seemed emotional and his father asked “are you okay son?”

“yeah” Tegin wiped his face and continued “Its just…you and mom are really the best…for doing all this for Eline and taking my feelings for her seriously…My friends parents sometime act like feelings so young are a joke but you two take me seriously and I really appreciate that. I really do love her, I know I’m eleven but I love her” Ronnie hugged his son “I know, these things dont always work out but thats no reason to make light of it. Your mom and I will always support you Tegin”

Tegin nodded, completely drying up his face before heading to his room to get started on his homework. He didn’t want to pass one of the girls and worry them. “So, introduce me to our other guest.” Olina said and Ronnie took her hand, leading her out back where Cathal was sitting and staring off into space, a confused expression his face.

“Cathal?” Ronnie called and the man looked over at them, coming to his feet when he saw Olina.

“Oh, it’s you, Ronnie right?” He said.

“That’s right and this is my wife Olina.”

“Nice to meet you.” His brow knitted together. “Are we friends? I can’t seem to remember either of your faces.”

“We’re…” Ronnie started the paused. What was he supposed to say to him. He couldn’t tell him the truth, not yet anyway.

“We’re your caretakers for now, but someone else will be coming to get you and take you to your new home.” Olina explained, her voice calm and soothing.

“Oh, did something happen to me?”

“An accident of sorts.”

“I see.” He reached up and touched the collar. “And this?”

“To keep you safe.” Ronnie answered. It wasn’t a lie. If he was still himself, Cathal would be in danger, more than likely from Adelram, but as an amnesiac, he was safe. Adelram, no matter how angry, wouldn’t kill a man who couldn’t remember anything.

“Is that how I got this?” He touched the bite mark on his neck he had received from Adelram. “Did someone try to kill me?” Olina could see a little bit of panic rising in his eyes. “Is that why I can’t remember?”

“It’s okay, Cathal, take a breath alright? You’re going to be completely safe and get a fresh start.” She rested a hand on his shoulder.

“That’s right, so try and calm down.” Ronnie added. “Why don’t you come inside, have something to eat or drink.”

“I think I want to stay here for a bit, if that’s alright.”

“Sure, just don’t wander off.”

“I won’t.”

There was a knock at Adelrams door so she answered it to find a woman about the same height as her with blood red eyes and long brown hair that flowed just past her shoulders. She smiled “You must be Dhara”

“Yeah…you’re looking for me?”

“Adelram and I are family, not blood related but his dad was with my mom a pretty long time when we were children so we’re close. He called me so I can fix that arm of yours and see if you’re hurt anywhere else”

“Oh…I thought he was calling people about Cathal”

“I think he wanted to take care of you first” Dhara blushed again as the woman stepped in “I’m Seonag by the way” she looked around “where are the girls?”

“There’s been a lot of crying over the fact they wont be with their parents again. I was singing to them and they fell asleep”

“That has to be a hard concept for them.” Dhara nodded and Seonag took her hand “come on, I want to look at you” Seonag pulled Dhara into a room and first mended her arm, causing Dhara to sigh in relief. Seonag could see on her face so much relief she had to ask “you were in a lot of pain? You have a pretty impressive pain tolerance”

“Yeah, I’ve never been a complainer but I’m so relieved. Thank you so much”

“You should have told Adelram and Ronnie you were huring that much, they would have tended to this sooner”

“I’m glad it waited, I’m so happy to know some of the girls are home and I think the other girls will start to settle better the more and more they feel at home here and at Ronnies.”

“Still, make sure you to tell Adelram if you need or even want anything. I got a feeling talking to him on the phone he’d do just about anything for you” Dharas heart stuttered again and Seonag grinned “sorry to embarrass you. I only put his feelings so plainly because I’m sure he has, even if he doesn’t realize it. You can read Adelram like a book, he doesn’t really hide anything, he’s not used to it. The Adelram you see and talk to is precisely who he is but you can tell him if he’s being too much though and he’ll stop”

“Oh…I’m…I’m sure he’s just being nice…he’s nice isn’t he…I mean, he’s worried about the girls too” Seonag giggled “He is a nice guy” She decided to go back to the reason she was invited over “can you take your clothes off so I can examine you?”

“yeah” she took them off and Seonag asked “is it okay to touch you?”

“yeah, I’m okay”

“Just making sure, Adelram said you were collard and had to serve Cathal”

“Not in that way, he was horrible at times but he was never a rapist”

“Thats a relief to hear” When she had Dhara turn she gasped a little “what did he do to you?”

“He didn’t tell you about my wings?”

“Not those scars, thats bad enough. Whats the rest of it”

“I got in trouble right before he left to visit Eline…thats also why my arm was the way it was” Dhara could feel how angry Seonag was so she said “it’s okay” that didn’t seem like the right thing to say though “Its not fucking okay, what did he do, fucking whip you?”

“at first yeah but I don’t really want to talk about it if thats okay” Seonag sighed “while I fix it may I ask why you got in trouble” Dhara already felt relief “He had found out I was feeding Beth, another maid. With the others, when they got in trouble he just wouldn’t feed them for a certain period of time or really he just declared they werent allowed to eat. I only got punished the way I did because that really didn’t deter me like it did the other girls. Well when she first went on that sort of punishment she was eating anyway when he wasnt home, just like I did when he tried to tell me that so he did what he did to me and locked her up. Well…then I started feeding her anyway and he figured it out. He let her go then told me I was going to take the rest of her punishment”

“I’m sorry”

“it’s over now”

“and you’re good as new Dhara…” Dhara pulled on her clothes then noticed how sad Seonag looked so she hugged her “I’m okay, I’m free now and there are so many out there who’ve had it harder than me. Before him I lived an amazing life. I have a wonderful herd out there. I know this will soon be a chapter of life long since forgotten and buried in better times.”

Back at Ronnies they soon had their own knock at the door “Yes?” Ronnie asked and the man said “Adelram sent me. I’m going to have Cathal work for me, make an honest living for himself and an honest man out of him”

“that was fast”

“I’ve been needing more workers so I came right away. Adelram sounded impatient to get rid of him and I didn’t want him giving Cathal to someone else” Cathal was now drinking tea on the couch. He set his glass down “I’m going to be working for you? Doing what?”

“construction, come along” Cathal left without so much as another question. It was almost wild to Ronnie how innocent and trusting those collars made someone. Ronnie sent Adelram a quick text to let him know Cathal was off their hands then finished up his bag. He’d be going over tonight to Elines to remove the flowers so all that he’d have to worry about was getting a bigger home.

That night Eline’s parents going to bed couldn’t have come fast enough for Ronnie. He seized the moment as soon as it came and not only removed but successfully destroyed the flowers so they wouldn’t be able to harm Eline. Sighing with relief Ronnie returned home, happy to find his wifes arms as soon as he stepped inside “we should sleep now” Olina suggested.

“as long as I can hold you”

“I’d like that a lot” Ronnie and Olina soon cuddled up in bed together, letting the troubles of the past few days fall away. Everyone was safe now and it had felt like much longer than a few days since he had just been able to lay with his wife and enjoy her warmth.

~ The End ~

Antoni & Rhona

Chapter One

Rhona Age 8:

She ran, her hand clutching tightly to the teddy bear, her breath and the sound of her bare feet crunching on the snow beneath her the only sounds. She glanced behind her and screamed when she saw it. It was dark, like a living shadow and it was too fast. Tears stung her cheeks as they slipped from her eyes. She tripped, falling hard and flipped over to see it stalking toward, its sharp teeth dripping with saliva, its milky eyes watching her hungrily. It crouched, readying itself to pounce when a pop filled the silence and it jerked back, its screech so loud she curled into a ball and covered her ears. Please, she thought, I want my mommy, please.

There were more pops and then a sudden silence. She couldn’t bring herself to move, she was too scared. A hand rested on her shoulder and she flinched, whimpering. “Rhona?” She barely heard her name, but she knew that thing couldn’t speak and uncovered her ears, raising her head. “Hello Rhona.” He smiled at her, his eyes warm, his tone gentle. “You’re safe now Rhona.”

“W…who are you?”

He picked her up off the ground, cradling her against his chest. “I’m Antoni, a Dreamwalker.”

“Dreamwalker?”

“That’s right, I kill nightmares.”

“How?”

“Just rest Rhona, you’ll be waking soon, but if you ever need me, just call for me.”

Present Day:

She was going to see him. She had too. Kind and gentle Antoni, her guardian angel, her hero. With each passing year she had gone from a child like trust and adoration to a romantic love. The last time she had seen him, she had asked to see him, but he had told her it was impossible, that they were worlds apart, but she had begged him, maybe even to the point of whining, and he had finally relented a little, giving her hints on how to find him. They were cryptic, like riddles, but she knew she could follow them, she knew she could find him and even if he didn’t feel that same about her, she needed to see him in person and thank him for everything he had done.

Rhona knew that just because he was reluctant for them to meet didn’t mean he didn’t want to see her too. She imagined beings like him lived by rules and he could possibly get in trouble just for giving her any means to find him. She hoped he wouldn’t but still, she was filled with hope that he had fallen for her too. After all, she was hardly a child anymore at twenty and he still came to her when she had nightmares. As she understood it he was only supposed to help children. Rhona was currently attending college and when she wasn’t pursuing Antoni in her dreams or doing her school work she was pursuing a music career. She wanted it badly, but knew not everyone could make it. So she’d chase her dreams but she would have the realistic back up of being college educated while she tried to get there.

She had made sure to let her teachers know in advance so they could email her assignments while she was gone as well as her parents so they wouldn’t worry. They thought she was going abroad to study music. She had all the clues Antoni had left her written down in her tablet, every word to the letter so she wouldn’t miss anything. She was both excited and nervous, but determined to find him. She wondered what he was like in reality, if he looked the same or if he was something strange and unusual, and how he managed to traverse the dream world. She wondered if he would try avoiding her or if he would actually wait for her. She had checked and double checked everything she had packed and was ready to leave.

“You’ve been in your own head a lot lately.” The voice pulled Antoni back to reality, but he didn’t turn away from the foggy view of the island he called home.

“Have I?” He asked as his friend Ronin came to stand behind him.

“You have. It’s her, isn’t it?”

Antoni sighed. “We should get to work.”

“Says the man staring longingly off into space.”

“I might shove you off this balcony.”

Ronin chuckled heartily. “You wouldn’t, I know you wouldn’t. You’re too much of a softy.” Antoni still seemed annoyed so Ronin relented, “Alright, to work.” Ronin knew he had given Rhona hints and even though they weren’t really supposed to tell people about where they were he hoped she came. Her coming would mean their master would find out, but Ronin would be surprised if their master didn’t already know. There was very little that man missed. He was probably just keeping quiet so Antoni could talk to him about it in his own time.

“I can’t believe you’re leaving the country.” Rhona’s friend Rose said as they ate lunch. “And alone, that just seems so dangerous.”

“It’ll be fine.”

“But what if someone kidnaps you, I mean you’re so pretty.” Her other friend Landon added.

Rhona laughed. “Oh come on, you know I’d beat them up so bad they’d willingly let me go. It’s going to be fine. I even ordered a card so I can make calls from my phone while I’m gone. All I have to do is pick it up at the airport as soon as I land.” She nudged Rose. “It’s going to be fun, I’ll take lots of pictures.”

“Maybe get a boyfriend.” Landon teased and laughed when Rhona blushed.

“Oh hush, I’ll be too busy studying music.”

“Come on, we all know music is one of the most romantic things ever, well…mostly.”

Talking to them about boyfriends felt awkward since that was actually what she was hoping to get out of this trip. She wanted to tell them, they didn’t normally have secrets but this was one of those things that people just didn’t understand. Explaining everything to them would only make them stress more about her trip and she didn’t want that. It would also be harder coming back if she had to talk to other people how Antoni rejecting her. This way if he didn’t share her feelings she could come back, get over it on her own and nobody would be the wiser.

At the end of the day, after all of her school work was done and she had eaten and washed, she climbed into bed and closed her eyes, falling asleep as quickly as ever. She couldn’t believe there had been a time when she was actually afraid to close her eyes, so terrified of her nightmares she was sure she would die from exhaustion. Now, she knew he would be there, he always was, even when there was nothing waiting to torment her. She let herself drift away, falling down that dark tunnel into dreamland. She found herself standing on the edge of a body of water, the waves lapping against the shore.

“Back again?” She smiled at his voice and turned.

“I’ll be leaving soon you know.”

“I do.” He sighed. “Rhona, you shouldn’t come here, it’s not a place for humans.”

She moved closer to him, searching his eyes. “You don’t mean that. You wouldn’t have given me all that information if you did.” She took his hand. “I want to see you, the real you I mean, I’ll be careful.”

“This is the real me.”

She laughed and his heart did a little dance. “You know what I mean.”

Why couldn’t he say no to her? Why couldn’t he look away from those beautiful eyes that reminded him of the sea? He nodded. “You’re so stubborn.”

“You made me that way. Just wait for me, okay?”

“You know I will be.” He smiled, unable to help himself.

He was far more excited about seeing her than he knew he should be. Antoni just hoped she made it safely. He didn’t know if he could handle anything happening to Rhona because she was looking for him. She was strong and undoubtedly resourceful, but he couldn’t help but worry over her. Antoni stayed with Rhona until she woke, his heart aching as it always did when she left his side. Rhona got up excitedly, going straight for her car since everything was already packed.

She headed for the airport, her mind only on Antoni and what she would say once she found him. Even with all her stubborness, she was still nervous. What would he think of her? Would he think her selfish or stupid? She knew he worried, she could see it every time they met in dream. She knew he was somewhere on an island off the coast of England, but explained it wasn’t normal and was only reachable by boat. He had told her there was someone who knew of their existence, a man who brought supplies, but he hadn’t told her his name, only giving her vague directions. She was ready to search for him, even if it took her forever.

Antoni fought the giant spider that tormented the young boy huddled in the corner of his own mind. The child’t imagination ran wild with it, turning it into a hideous abomination with dripping fangs. He had encountered many fears and phobias like this and it always took a long time to get the child through them. The spider finally flopped to the ground and flailed angrily before curling up and vanishing. He turned to the boy, smiling gently and helped him to his feet. “Come now little one, let’s get you to a better dream.”

Antoni walked with the little boy until they were suddenly in a much more pleasant dream. His friends were all there, playing in their favorite park. He ran to them and Antoni just smiled, happy to help another kid. This work was incredibly fulfilling. He felt blessed to do it and hoped he hadn’t jeopardized being able to do this by giving Rhona clues. It had been hard not to simply tell her, he truly did deeply desire to be with her in person, even if they only met once. He went straight from that little boy to another child that needed him, making sure to stick to work regardless of his mind being on her.

Once Rhona found her seat she quickly stowed her carry on bag and sat down, putting in earbuds and starting her ipod so she’d have something to keep herself busy on the long flight. The music began and she gave a contented sigh as her mind drifted. Nothing worked her imagination quiet like music. It went all over the place, her minds images changing with every song. She had to skip love songs this trip since those were just making her more nervous to meet Antoni.

The flight was uneventful, with hardly any turbulence and even she was up in the air for so long, it seemed to flash by. She couldn’t believe she was so close and her heart hammered in her chest as the plane started to descend. She knew she probably looked like she was scared of landing, but she just really wanted to off so she could start her search. She forced herself not to rush once she was allowed to disembark, even taking a moment to thank the pilots and flight attendants. She made her way through the airport, grabbed her luggage, then was on her way. She wasn’t surprised that it was chilly in England since Antoni had warned her it might be and she stopped long enough to pull her sweater on. She hailed a cab and gave the driver the name of the hotel she would be staying at.

Antoni yawned as he woke and stretched his muscles from being in one position for so long. He needed to eat something and warm up his muscles. “I’m surprised to see you up so early.” Ronin said as Antoni walked into the kitchen. “Coffee?”

“Yes please and I decided to walk around for a bit.”

“Mmm, I see.” He poured Antoni a cup of coffee and put sugar and cream in it then handed it over. “So, how has it been so far?”

“Good, a couple of tough ones. How about with you?”

“Same as always.” He took a sip of his coffee. “When is she supposed to be here?”

 

Chapter Two

Antoni looked away sheepishly a few moments before answering, “It depends on how well she understood my clues.”

“When’s the soonest she could possibly get here?”

“A few hours.” Antoni took a nervous sip of coffee and Ronin said, “I suppose I’ll be getting myself up a lot then.”

“We can’t neglect work.”

“Mmhmm, that’s all you’re going to be able to do when she’s here.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.” Antoni nearly dropped his coffee mug at his mentors voice.

He turned, their eyes meeting. “I…” He couldn’t speak, his mind couldn’t decide what to say.

“Relax Antoni, you really think I’ve had no idea whats going on between you and Rhona?”

“Relax?”

“Yes, I wasn’t going to let on I knew about anything, but I’d really like to come in here and get some coffee myself. I don’t have the energy to wait until you leave so you don’t know I heard this conversation. If you want to keep secrets you two should talk about them less.”

“I…I wasn’t necessarily trying to keep it a secret.”

His mentor nodded. “Well, you are my oldest student Antoni. If you had done this in the early years yes, I would have been mad, but you’ve never broken a single rule and you’ve helped countless children, countless generations even just as I have. You wouldn’t have broken the rules for just anybody and I know I can count on you not giving more people information about the island. You’re allowed to find love, you all are. Just keep doing your work and we’re fine.”

“What he means is he’s incredibly interested in meeting the young woman who managed to get his star pupil to rebel.” Ronin teased.

“Only someone truly extraordinary cause you to keep secrets from me.” He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip.

“How did you know?”

“Besides you two talking about it in the kitchen and on the balcony?” Antoni nodded. “I’m the one who taught you how to do this work, I can feel the reverberations through dream. I knew you were hiding something so I started to get curious and then I overheard you two talking one day.” He slapped Antoni on the back. “Don’t worry so much.”

“I’ll try not to.”

“You can always wait for her to be dreaming and check in. If she’s struggling you have my permission to offer more help.”

“I’m honestly hoping she will get here in a few hours.” They drank coffee together, talking until they were all ready to help any more kids that needed them. Antoni needed to work, he had to keep busy or all he’d do is obsess about Rhona’s journey. Rhona had no trouble checking into her hotel so was already settled in and figuring out where to go next. She wasn’t sure she’d be using her room at all but she had gotten one just in case she needed it. She’d rather have a sure place to rest than be cocky and end up not being able to find a place that wasn’t booked.

One event was enough to make finding lodging impossible so if she had wasted her money she had wasted her money, but at least that was one less thing to worry over. With a fully charged phone, calling card, map and euros in her pocket Rhona was walking to find the man who could take her to the island.

She looked over the clues he had given her, the little riddles, and the answers she had found for them. She had found that each one lead to a certain building or cross street and it was almost like he was giving her a tour. She stopped when she started to get hungry and checked her route with the woman behind the counter, telling her that it was a scavenger hunt set up by her boyfriend. She blushed at the word, knowing it was stupid to get her hopes up, but thought it was the easiest way to explain why she was following all of Antoni’s clues. “How romantic.” The woman said with a big smile.

Once she was sure she was going in the right direction, she paid for her food and headed out again, her heart jumping in her chest. She was getting closer and closer to the end of his clues. She knew the man was supposed to be close to Antoni and his fellow Dreamwalkers. He had explained the man’s family had delivered supplies to their island for centuries and he knew how to safely get there.

When hunger bothered her again Rhona stopped to check in with her friends. She knew once she was with Antoni chances were high she’d forget so she knew she needed to do it now or they’d end up worrying over her and she’d have to feel guilty later. Rhona was happy when Rose answered right away. “Rhona, how’re things?”

“Amazing, I hope it’s a decent hour back home.”

Rose laughed. “Don’t worry about that. I’m just glad to hear from you. Now I know you haven’t been kidnapped.”

Rhona grinned. “Yeah, I just wanted to let you know I’m okay before I get too into having fun around here.”

“Alright, text me though or something okay?”

“Okay.” Short and sweet, just like Rhona hoped it would be. Now she called Landon who didn’t answer so she just left him a voicemail letting him know she was alright and having a good time. Slipping the phone back into her pocket she continued on, only getting nervous when she approached what should be the man’s home that could help her.

She stood on his front porch, her heart skipping in her chest as she raised her hand and knocked. She wasn’t expecting the little girl who opened the door and it took her a moment to say anything. “Uh, yes, hello. Is your daddy home?”

“Are you Rhona?” The girl asked.

“Why yes I am, what’s your name?”

“Rosie.” She looked over her shoulder. “Daddy, she’s here.”

Her father came out of the kitchen drying his hands, a big smile on his face. “Sorry, I was making bread, you’re here a lot earlier than I expected.” He held out his hand. “I’m William, please come in.”

“Alright, thanks.” She stepped inside and Rosie closed the door. “So how do you know what I look like?”

“Antoni told me, his description was spot on.”

Her cheeks flushed. “He…he told you I was coming?”

“They’d have a real problem on their hands if I believed just anybody that said they were invited. He wanted to make sure I took you.” Her heart fluttered, emotion rushing through her giving her a tingling sensation in her body. He really did want to meet her. He wouldn’t have made sure like this otherwise.

“Since you’re busy taking me can wait…please don’t feel rushed.”

“I’ll just finish this bread and we will be off.”

The little girl grabbed her hand. “Will you play with me? Please?”

“Sure.” It was the least she could do and she had always loved children.

It was the phone ringing that woke Antoni after he had finished calming an expectant mother. She had been having nightmares about losing her unborn child and it had manifested quite the creature in her head. He had reassured her that everything was going to be alright and lead her to happier thoughts. He yawned as he opened his eyes and froze when he heard the phone being picked up. There were few people who knew the number to the island and it was a little concerning. He got up, wanting to be ready just in case something had happened. He saw that it was his mentor who had answered and paused when he heard him chuckle. “Then we’ll be seeing you soon, yes of course, thank you and be careful.” He hung up, giving another amused laugh. “Eavesdropping, Antoni?”

“No, not at all, just concerned is all. The phone woke me.”

“I’m sorry, but it was actually something very important.” He turned. “She’s at William’s.”

Antoni’s heart stuttered. “She is? Really? Already?”

“Yes, they’ll be heading this way soon. You should get ready.”

“I still have work.”

He waved his hand. “I’ll take the rest of your shift.”

“Thank you.” Antoni didn’t argue another second. Instead he gratefully ran to his room to shower and get ready for her. Antoni went straight for the shower, making it quick so he could dry and pull on some clean clothes. He had realized she was an intelligent woman, but he still couldn’t believe she had already found her way to him. Once he had gotten his hair completely dry he straightened his clothes and went outside to wait for her. He wanted to be the first person she saw and he knew if he waited inside the guys would all tease him. She was so close the rest of the waiting would be agonizing enough.

“I hope you’re okay with being on a boat.” William said when they finally locked up and left with little Rosie in tow.

“Even if I’m not, I just want to get to Antoni.”

William chuckled as they got in his car. “I was pretty surprised when he called and told me about you. Antoni is the last person to break the rules.”

“He’s not going to be in trouble is he?”

“No, teased maybe, but not in trouble. It’s not like he did it on a whim, he probably debated with himself over it. Besides, his mentor is pretty forgiving.”

“He told me there were six of them total, but some of them don’t live in the main house.”

William nodded. “They got married and wanted their own space so a new one was built. Then there is Antoni of course, Ronin, their mentor Phobetor, the couple Alec and Claire, then Phobetor’s newest apprentice Shona. She’s the youngest at twelve. She goes between the two houses.”

“Wow, so young to be fighting nightmares.”

“She doesn’t have any family and when Phobetor discovered her talent for dreaming, he adopted her. Now she has everyone on the island.”

“Thats so sweet, they all seem to have good hearts”

“You’ll like them, every generation of my family has. One day it will be little Rosie here making this trip. It’s an honor.”

“Are you excited to do this yourself one day?” Rhona asked the little girl who nodded with a smile.

“Wait until you see the island.”

“When did you first start going with your dad?”

“I’ve been going as long as I can remember.”

Her father was now speaking again, “Yep, our family tends to start bringing the young ones as early as they can be trusted on the ride.”

“That must be fun, is it hard to keep the secret?”

“Not at all, as I said, it’s an honor.”

Antoni’s heart gave a leap when he heard the sound of the boat’s engine and made sure his clothes looked okay as he walked to the edge of the dock and looked off into the fog. The bell on William’s boat sounded to let him know they were close and he swallowed when the boat finally broke through the fog bank and started towards him. She was there, sitting in the seat just behind Rosie. William slowed and had Rosie grab the rope and toss it to Antoni. “You made it.” He said as he tied the boat off.

“We did and even managed to pick up a passenger.”

Antoni’s eyes were already riveted to Rhona and hers on him. He held out his hand and Rhona’s cheeks warmed as she took it. “It’s really you.” She said as he helped her up onto the dock.

“And you.” She was even more stunning in real life and he got so lost in her eyes he nearly forgot about William and Rosie. He blinked, feeling embarrassed. “William, would you and Rosie like to go see the others?”

“Of course.”

 

Final Chapter

William tried not to grin too much as he and his daughter walked away from the two of them. “It really is good to see you Rhona.” Antoni said softly.

“Thankfully people were kind and helpful along the way. Your hints were really good too.”

“Sorry I wasn’t just straightforward with how to get here.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. It was kind of fun.”

“I was mostly worried my mentor would be upset with me for inviting you, but he’s actually eager to meet you.”

Rhona smiled. “Then let’s go in, I’d love to see everyone.”

Antoni cleared his throat out of nervousness. “May I take your hand again as we walk inside?” Rhona put her hand in his and they laced fingers as they approached the home he shared with the other Dreamwalkers.

They could hear everyone talking as they entered and Antoni found himself suddenly very nervous. Rhona seemed to feel the same and squeezed his hand, helping to calm his nerves. Phobetor was surprisingly in the kitchen with Rosie and Shona who were making cookies and smiled when they walked through the door. His eyes moved over Rhona as he held out his hand to her. “Miss Rhona, so nice to finally meet you.”

Rhona took his hand, shaking it. “Um, you too.”

“No reason to me nervous, you’re very welcome here.” He turned his attention to Antoni. “I wanted to greet her before I went to work, please introduce her to everyone and give her a tour.”

“I will, thank you.” Even though Phobetor had said he was fine with Rhona coming, it was still nice to see him greet her with a smile.

Phobetor left them and while Rhona wanted to get to know him as well she understood how important their work was. She couldn’t imagine how hard her childhood would have been if Antoni hadn’t been there for her. You only slept so many hours a day, but nightmares had a way of haunting you even in your waking hours. With Antoni around she never had to worry, she knew he was always coming for her and she couldn’t take that security from another child, not when she could just talk to Phobetor later.

They spent a lot of time talking to Ronin first. He was as lively and kind natured as Antoni had depicted him. He was really the only one she knew much about so meeting the others was an extra special treat. Antoni told her as much about them as he could think of which to his dismay wasn’t much. All he could think of right now was that she was here on his island.

“I can see why he broke the rules.” Alec teased.

“It’s because she’s so pretty.” Claire added with a wink to Antoni that had his heart skipping.

“That’s not true.” Antoni replied. “I wanted her to find me because I…because I wanted to see her, really see her.”

“I bet you’re clues were even that hard.” Ronin added. “Go left at the bakery and you’ll find William who will bring you right to me?”

Rhona couldn’t help but laugh. “It was a bit challenging to be honest, but I think after getting to know him for so long, I was able to decipher everything. It was like getting a tour from him and was a lot of fun.”

“Maybe he’ll have to ask Phobetor to let him leave the island to give you a real tour. Like a date.” Ronin threw out, trying to sound nonchalant about it, but chuckling when Antoni gave him a look.

“You really think he wouldn’t mind?” She asked and Antoni said, “I doubt he would.”

“He doesn’t expect us not to have social lives,” Ronin added.

“I’ll ask him when he’s done working.” Antoni said, already trying to think of where all to take Rhona. He was devoted to his work so while he had of course left the island before it wasn’t something he did often. He hadn’t had much of a reason to until now.

When Phobetor was coming in for a coffee break he spoke without being prompted, “You can have all the time off you want.”

Antoni nearly blushed. “I…” He started and Phobetor shook his head. “Go on, take her somewhere. I’m very old and I get more and more observant with time. Plus it would be common sense you’d want to be able to do something with her since she came all this way. Go on, I don’t want to hear anything about work. We all have things taken care of.”

“Alright, thank you.”

Phobetor waved him off. “When we start a relationship, it’s important to grow it and if I forced you to always make work a priority then it would fall apart, so go and have fun. I’m sure William and Rosie will bring you back when you’re ready.”

“Of course.” William said. “You know I don’t mind.”

“Thank you.” He turned to Rhona. “Would you mind waiting here with the others while I get ready and gather some clothes? It is okay if I stay with you while I’m away right?”

“Of course.” Rhona’s face warmed and he gave her a warm, adoring smile.

“Go on, we want to tell her about all of your most embarrassing moments.” Ronin teased.

Antoni gave his friend a look before hurrying off, a bundle of nerves and excitement. When he came back everyone was laughing and he didn’t even want to ask what they had just been telling her. “If you two are ready I can go ahead and take you.” William offered and Antoni looked to Rhona who said, “Yeah, I’m ready.”

“Make sure to bring her back sometime.” Ronin insisted as they got on the boat with William and his daughter.

“I’d love that.” Rhona said as she sat down. Antoni sat close to her, his heart actually beating a little harder in his chest. They made the trip back safely and didn’t waste time leaving William and his daughter to their own lives. “So…um…” she started.

“So?”

“By first impressions am I what you expected?”

He smiled. “You’re just as pretty in person as you are when I see you in your dreams.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re perfect, of course you would be no matter what?”

She giggled. “What if I had actually been a man?”

He shrugged. “I like to believe I’d still love you, though it might be kind of surprising. I mean I’ve known you since you were little.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “What about me? Not nearly as cool without the guns huh?”

Rhona took his hand. “Even cooler.”

“That’s a relief. I’m really happy you’re here, that you were able to decipher all my clues.”

“Well, I wanted to meet my hero and thank you. You kept me safe my whole childhood.”

He blushed, wanting to respond, but feeling any way he could would sound far too sappy. He always wanted to keep her safe and wished she didn’t live so far away. As things were, he could only watch over her in the dream world unless she was visiting. The two hit it off almost surprisingly well hanging out in person over the following days. Antoni had to admit to himself that sharing a bed in her hotel was the best part for him. It was only making him care more deeply for her. She fit so perfectly in his arms and she always smelled amazing, even after long days of enjoying everything the area had to offer.

“Rhona?” Antoni said as they walked through the city.

“Yeah?” She looked up at him and he found himself frozen by her beautiful blue green eyes. It was like he was being hypnotized. “Antoni?”

He blinked, his face warming. “Um, I was wondering, when do you have to leave?”

“The end of next week.”

“I see.” He reached out and took her hand, pulling her to a stop. “Do you have too?” He swallowed. “I mean, I’m sure you want to go home, but I…I want you to stay, or maybe I could go with you.”

Rhona’s heart danced and she almost couldn’t believe what he had said. “You want to go back with me?”

“Of course, I don’t want to be without you and if you can’t stay here then I’ll leave. I don’t think Phobetor would mind.”

“But this is your home.”

He moved closer to her, lifting his other hand to stroke her cheek. “It’s not home if you’re not here. I love this place, but I want to be with you.”

Rhona’s heart stuttered in her chest. She could barely believe he was saying things like this despite how well they were connecting. She could see in his eyes he had no reservations about following her home if that’s what he needed to do “If I didn’t have school I wouldn’t ask you to leave but…my career means a lot to me…”

He kissed her forehead. “Don’t feel bad about me leaving. I’m happy to, I truly mean that. Why don’t we go back to my island so I can talk to my mentor and the rest of the group.”

“They really wont hate me?”

“Not at all.” She hugged him, feeling excitement and happiness rush through her body. He held her in return, keeping Rhona in his arms until she pulled away. They hoped William wasn’t busy but even if he was they had plenty of time to get back and talk.

William was more than happy to take them back and once they were back on the island, Antoni explained to everyone that he wanted to leave with Rhona. They all looked sad that he would be leaving, but they could both see they were happy as well. “Now who am I going to tease?” Ronin asked.

“Maybe Phobetor?”

“But he doesn’t have anyone to stare longingly out into the distance for.”

“You’ll figure something out.”

“And I promise we’ll be back.” Rhona said. “I really want to get to know all of you more and it wouldn’t be fair to keep Antoni away, you’re his family, so we’ll be back.”

“Don’t rush, we’re not going anywhere.” Phobetor replied. He then placed a hand on Antoni’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you, Antoni and if you should ever need us, you know you’ll find us in dream.”

“I know, and I’ll keep helping children as much as I can.”

“I know, how much longer can she stay? We’d love to spend some time with her before you are off.”

“I have to leave the end of next week. I was actually hoping I would get to know you all too.”

“Then that settles things, you can stay in Antonis room the rest of your trip.”

“Alright.”

“Would you like me to check out of your hotel room for you and collect your things?” William offered and Rhona said, “Oh yeah, I forgot where all my things were for a moment there. They might give you trouble for trying to check out of my room so maybe Antoni and I can go back tomorrow after breakfast, spend one more day on our own then come back here in the evening.”

“That’s fine with me, my daughter loves coming out here.”

Rhona loved the rest of their time there, becoming good friends with everyone and learning more about dreams and what Phobetor looked for in the people he chose. She loved how much Ronin teased Antoni and adored how much they all cared for Shona. It seemed like their last day came far too quickly and she was sad during their goodbyes, but promised they would be back. William picked them up and Rhona snuggled close to Antoni as they rode back through the fog, her giving his hand a squeeze when she saw him looking back toward the island. “I promise we’ll be back as soon as possible.”

“I know, it’s just strange to be going away for so long.”

“Are you okay? I mean, really?”

He turned to her, smiling. “Of course, I love you and I don’t regret leaving. I’m happy you came to me, that you found me, and I’ll be happy no matter where I go as long as I have you.”

Her heart danced and she smiled lovingly back. “I love you too, my hero.” They hugged each other then relaxed for the rest of the ride, looking forward to their future together.

THE END

Tir & Lao 2

Chapter One

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

“Lao, what are you doing?”

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

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

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

“But you’ll protect me, won’t you?”

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

“Then let’s go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, yeah.”

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

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s crazy.”

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

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

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

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

“I understand.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes…of course.”

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

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

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

“Seduction?”

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

“And what about you?”

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

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

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

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

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

Tir looked around. “Not really.”

“The walls have hand and footholds built in.”

“Why?”

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

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

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

“Yes sir, I’ll practice harder.”

“See you do.”

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

“Would you like to try your hand?”

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

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

“Just that eager to be admired by him.”

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

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

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

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

“Of course, it won’t be a problem.”

“Thank you.” Tir said with a smile.

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

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

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

“Despite his shyness, Tir is quite strong.”

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

 

Chapter Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just don’t get too hurt.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir.”

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

“Yes sir.”

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

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

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

“Always.”

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

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

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

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

“My blades stay coated.”

“Were you testing my immunity?”

“Of course.”

“It still burns.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Trying to avoid me?”

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

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

Tir swallowed. “What do you mean?”

“I have a secret place here.”

“That’s almost hard to believe.”

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

“How did you find it?”

“It’s a bit embarrassing.”

“What happened?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It looks so nice.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chapter Three

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

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

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

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

“I can’t anymore today, I’ll die.”

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

“Is everything alright?” He asked sleepily.

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

Tir blushed. “It’s your fault.”

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

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

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

“Yes.”

“What’s your name?” He asked the man.

“Thacese.”

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

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

“Thank you sir.”

“There is a problem however.”

“Sir?”

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

“Yes sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are these all the students here?”

“Most.”

“Are you the only teacher?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I know, but thank you all the same.”

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.”

“What was my old mentor saying to you?”

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

“Hmm, only good things I hope.”

“He said you were quite charming.”

“Am I?”

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

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

“M…maybe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re exaggerating.”

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

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

 

Final Chapter

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

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

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

Tir’s heart skipped a beat. “Have I?”

Lao nodded. “Care to share?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Anywhere that’s away from the students.”

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

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

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

“Perceptive as always.”

“Hm, what would I get in return?”

“An amazing teacher that could always come back.”

Nenyo nodded. “You really would?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What choices do I have?”

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

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

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

“I’m sure one of these will do.”

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

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

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

Tir blushed and nudged him. “Stop that.”

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

“M…maybe something else.”

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

“You want children?”

“I want everything.”

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

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

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

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

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

“But you’re not a jaguar yet.”

“Practice makes perfect.”

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

“I love you too.”

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

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

Lao shrugged. “Perhaps, we’ll see.”

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

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

“I’ll hold you to it.”

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

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

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

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

THE END

Sylvie & Jarius 2

Chapter One

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

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

“I think I need to go home”

“is something wrong with Jarius?”

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

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

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

“Where is Xeja?”

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

“where?”

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

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

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

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

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

“where are we momma”

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

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

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

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

“No, not really?”

“The prince out?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy are you scared?”

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

“Even daddy?”

“Yeah.”

“And uncle Paimon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know if I can”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“you found water”

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

“can I go wash in it please?”

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Two

“Are we safe?” Sylvie asked.

“Very…sit…rest?.”

“Thank you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“do you remember the book I wrote about Casis”

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

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

“How’re we going to get there?”

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

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

“You stay here in my home”

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

“need to…stay”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Three

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

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

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

“I don’t even want it in the house.”

“Then I’ll take it.”

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

“We all make mistakes, Jarius.”

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

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

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

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

“what are we going to do now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You said Casis correct?” Paimon asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“morning baby”

“Morning”

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

“No, I can walk momma”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Four

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

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

“What happened?” Paimon asked.

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

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

“I’m fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry mommy.”

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

“He’s upset.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“she does?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m alright.”

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

“Okay.”

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

“You doing okay?”

“Yeah, just tired”

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

“I know you do”

“I’ll let you rest”

“thank you”

“for?”

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

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

~ The End