Nelly woke , lifting her head up off the window she had been resting against. She was still on the this train with a terrible feeling in her stomach that nobody but her seemed to get. The first day she had woken confused but one of her fellow passengers explained they were all going home. The explanation had settled her at the time. It wasnâ€™t until this morning, four days later that it hit her â€śgoing home from where?â€ť She decided to ask â€śWhere have we been?â€ť another question hit her and she asked it right away â€śand where is home?â€ť The question seemed to perplex the man she asked.
He was tired, especially after tonight, after he had found something far worse than he had imagined. The lamp in the living room switching on startled him and he was surprised to see Diya yawning and rubbing the sleep from her eyes. â€śDiya?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re home.â€ť She gave him a sleepy smile. She stood, stretching. â€śAre you hungry?â€ť
â€śWhy are you sleeping on the couch?â€ť He asked. Had something happened?
â€śHmm? Oh, just waiting up for you. I was worried.â€ť
She stopped in front of him, studying his face. â€śIt was a hard one, wasnâ€™t it? Harder than usual I mean.â€ť He nodded. How could she tell? â€śCould I give you a hug?â€ť
â€śIâ€¦I think I should shower first.â€ť
â€śAlright, Iâ€™ll get you something to eat.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think I can eat. I will later, just not right now. Maybe we could watch something, if youâ€™re not too tired.â€ť
Diya hated seeing such a distressed look on his face, like he was reliving everything he had ever been subjected to and she wished she knew what to say. She went into the living room and switched the TV on then clicked on Netflix. She went through the comedy section, wanting to find something to help calm him down.
Romanus wanted to hurry to Diya, to her warmth but he couldnâ€™t do anything at first but stand under the hot spray of water. Sometimes when cases ended up this horrible he was tempted to quit, especially now that he had such a wonderful life with Diya and her now seven year old daughter. He wanted to drown himself in their warmth and forget his childhood ever happened to him. He wanted to forget such horrendous things were still going on in the worlds but he couldnâ€™t. He remembered all too well what it felt like to be one of those helpless children, scared and willing to do anything to make them stop. He had to save them, he had to save as many children as he possibly could.
One of the best things to him about Diya was that she understood his need to do this and she was always here, ready to comfort him when he needed it. Finally his desire to be out there with her got him moving. He washed himself thoroughly, dried and put on something comfortable. Diya had settled on a movie and had made them both hot tea, knowing it helped. He sat down, taking a long swig of it before thanking her. â€śItâ€™s no trouble Romanus. What else can I do for you? Want to lay your head in my lap while we watch the movie and I can rub your back?â€ť
â€śHonestlyâ€¦I think I feel like having you in my lap and just clinging to youâ€ť
â€śOkayâ€ť she crawled into his lap and he wrapped his arms tightly around her, kissing her shoulder â€śthank youâ€ť She had told him countless times he didnâ€™t need to thank her so much so she just relaxed into him and pressed play on their movie.
Between the movie and Diya, he was able let go of some of the tension in his body. He never realized just how much he was holding until he was with her. â€śFeeling any better?â€ť She asked as she ran her fingers through his hair.
â€śYeah, thanks to you.â€ť
She let out a soft laugh, her breath tickling over his skin. â€śIâ€™m not doing anything.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re doing everything. Just being near you makes me feel better. I donâ€™t know what Iâ€™d do without you and Melody.â€ť He moved his head so he could press his forehead into her neck. â€śYouâ€™ve been such a gift, both of you have.â€ť
â€śWe wouldnâ€™t trade you for the world, Romanus.â€ť She kiss the top of his head. â€śI know you donâ€™t like to, but why donâ€™t you take a short break. Itâ€™s the weekend so Melody doesnâ€™t have to go to school. We could all go somewhere.â€ť
He took in her scent then breathed out â€śI think I really need one. Besides, you two are always so patient with how busy I am. You deserve my full attention for at least the weekendâ€ť
â€śYou do plenty with usâ€ť
â€śwhere would you like to take her?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know, I didnâ€™t think that far aheadâ€ť
â€śwe could ask her I suppose. Iâ€™m happy anywhere as long as Iâ€™m with you twoâ€ť
â€śare you ready to head to bed then? She gets up early, even on weekendsâ€ť
â€śYeahâ€ť he stood, still holding Diya. He carried her to their room and didnâ€™t even take the time to get undressed before settling into bed with her. She didnâ€™t mind, she preferred pajamas but she knew he had dealt with something absolutely stomach churning tonight and she was willing to do whatever he needed to heal from it. They both fell asleep fast and woke to an excited little girl â€śMom! Dad! Iâ€™m hungry! Can I help you make pancakes mom?â€ť Sleepily her mother answered â€śsure babyâ€ť
Romanus couldnâ€™t help but actually feel whole and normal in these moments with Diya and Melody. He felt love and affection warm him as he followed them and still found it hard to believe how lucky he was. â€śIâ€™ll make coffee.â€ť He said as they started pulling things out of the pantry and fridge. â€śOrange juice for the princess?â€ť He asked and Melody giggled.
â€śSo what do you think baby? Chocolate chips or blueberries?â€ť
â€śCan we do both?â€ť
Once Romanus had the coffee started and had a glass of juice on the table for Melody, he stepped up behind Diya and wrapped his arms around her. â€śI love you.â€ť He said and pressed a kiss to her temple.
â€śI love you too.â€ť She turned just enough to kiss his cheek then went back to helping make batter. â€śSo, Melody, daddy and I want to take you out somewhere this weekend, do you have anywhere youâ€™d like to go or something youâ€™d really like to do?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t knowâ€ť
â€śThink about it over breakfast.â€ť Romanus said and Melody nodded. Their seven year old happily made breakfast with her mother as she thought about something for them all to do. Meanwhile Romanus just enjoyed watching them, the only beings who had ever brought true happiness into his life. The two made far too many pancakes but Melody liked to have them as snacks anyway. Theyâ€™d just put the leftover ones in a ziplock in the fridge. They were just eating and talking when Melody said â€ścould we go to a beach?â€ť
â€śI know the perfect oneâ€ť Melody squeaked with excitement â€śwhen can we go?â€ť
â€śLets eat and then we can make a bag of things we will needâ€ť Melody began to eat just a little quicker causing her mother to laugh before she said â€śwell we might have to stop by a store. I donâ€™t know if she has a swim suit that fits herâ€ť
â€śThat can just be a part of the fun. We can let her pick oneâ€ť Romanus responded then Diya spoke again, an idea dawning on her â€śwe can have a picnic there too for lunch. You can help me decide what at the store Melodyâ€ť
Romanus helped Diya clean up and then gather things for the beach. Diya picked out an outfit for Melody and sent her to her room to get changed. They then went to get ready. He didnâ€™t know why he still found himself getting nervous when they changed together. He knew she wouldnâ€™t hurt him or force him into anything, but his heart still stuttered in his chest and he found himself looking away when she pulled her shirt off. â€śRomanus?â€ť
â€śDo you need me to change in the bathroom?â€ť
â€śNo, sorry, I want to look, but I feelâ€¦guilty I guess.â€ť And scared.
â€śRomanus, Iâ€™m gonna come closer, okay?â€ť
She moved over, one arm across her chest and gently lifted his head. â€śYou donâ€™t have to rush yourself, Iâ€™m not going anywhere, so please donâ€™t worry.â€ť
â€śOkay, I love you and youâ€™re very beautiful Diya, truly.â€ť She gave him a quick kiss then turned away from him and grabbed clean clothes out of her chest of drawers. He changed quickly and they left the room together, both of them smiling when they saw Melody waiting excitedly on the couch.
â€ścan we go now?â€ť
â€śYes baby, weâ€™re all readyâ€ť
When they arrived at the store Melody easily picked out a swim suit so picking out stuff for lunch was the only thing that took a lot of time. They ended up settling on different fruits they could keep in the small cooler they bought. â€śseems like weâ€™re readyâ€ť Melody made that excited little noise again, bouncing even as they checked out. Melody put the swim suit on under her clothes in the store bathroom since there may not be a place to change at the beach Romanus was taking them to. They didnâ€™t ask if it was in their world or another, both loving surprises.
There was one place Romanus had found after he had escaped from his father and the depraved people who had used him. It had been one of the most peaceful moments of his life until he met Diya and Melody. It was actually connected to the vortex near the actual beach and was the reason why reality sometimes seemed distorted there to the regular human. Melody gave a little squeal of delight when she saw the water, but looked at them in confusion when Romanus kept driving. â€śWeâ€™re not going here?â€ť She asked.
â€śWeâ€™re going somewhere better.â€ť Romanus said. â€śSomewhere kind of special to me.â€ť
Diya reached over and grabbed his hand when she saw the look on his face. She could always tell when he was thinking of his childhood. Even if there had been any sort of good memory after what had happened, it always came back to his childhood. â€śWhatâ€™s it like?â€ť She asked.
â€śItâ€™s peaceful and beautiful.â€ť He turned onto a side road and pulled over after a few more minutes. They all got out, grabbing things and he lead them over to the center of the vortex.
He picked them both up, not wanting to risk anything happening to them as they went through. He carried them out onto the sand then carefully put them down. The two of them were amazed at the beach they were seeing. It was a thousand times prettier here than back in their world. Diya kissed him on the cheek â€śthank youâ€ť he gave her a small smile â€śIâ€™m happy to have a family to bring hereâ€¦as a childâ€¦I didnâ€™t think Iâ€™d ever have happinessâ€ť Melody tugged on him â€ścan I run into the water? Is it safe?â€ť
â€śyes, just dont go as depe as your waste until your mother and I set up the blanket and picnic stuffâ€ť
â€śYes sirâ€ť she said excitedly then ran to the water. Diya started setting things up where they stood, glancing over at her daughter every now and then to make sure she was listening to Romanus. Once their picnic was set Diya said â€ślets go play with herâ€ť He pulled Diya into his arms â€śjust give me a few moments to hold you firstâ€ť She glanced over at her daughter again then relaxed into the hug, wondering what he must be thinking about.
â€śDiya?â€ť Romanus finally said.
â€śIâ€™m sorry Iâ€™m still so uncomfortable and nervous doing certain things. I donâ€™t deserve your patience.â€ť
â€śHush, you have every right to be and you know you didnâ€™t hurt my feelings right?â€ť
â€śI know, itâ€™s justâ€¦I mean what if you want another child or something.â€ť
Diya pulled back enough to see his face. â€śWeâ€™ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but right now you need to just take your time. It just makes me happy hearing you say you might even want to try.â€ť She gave him a kiss. â€śYouâ€™re making really good progress, you really are, so donâ€™t rush. Iâ€™m perfectly happy.â€ť
â€śI just want to give you everything, but I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll be able to.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ve given me more than you know, you saved Melody and youâ€™ve been so amazing to us. I love you, so donâ€™t worry.â€ť
Diya looked back at Melody. â€śShe looks so happy and thatâ€™s all thanks to you, baby.â€ť
She could see how much emotion that stirred up in him â€ślets go play with herâ€ť She gave Romanus another kiss and the two got up to play with Melody â€śYes!â€ť she said excitedly, instantly starting to go deeper. Diya laughed, seeing how eager her daughter had been. She went under and Diya instantly noticed how worried Romanus looked. When she popped back up Melody splashed him, he looked surprised a moment then she encouraged with a giggle â€ścome on dadâ€ť He splashed back, taking awhile to really give her a good one. It was always sweet and sad to see him interact with her.
It showed all the time he hadnâ€™t had any sort of a normal childhood. While playing at one point Romanus pulled Diya under, holding her against him then coming uip quickly â€śthrow her throw her!â€ť Melody said excitedly. Romanus looked at Diya who giggled â€śitâ€™s okayâ€ť He threw her and Melody laughed. Diya came up laughing as well and Romanus smiled. He wished he could play with them more normally but he was still learning how to play.
They splashed and played until Melody asked for a snack. Romanus made sure she was out safely before following Diya over to their stuff. They sat down together and enjoyed the warm weather as they ate. â€śWe should explore a little.â€ť Diya said. â€śIf thatâ€™s okay with you.â€ť She added.
â€śAlright, but please stay close to me. Itâ€™s not really dangerous here, but just in case.â€ť Romanus knew he probably sounded paranoid. â€śI mean feel free to explore, just donâ€™t got to far.â€ť
â€śRomanus,â€ť Diya took his hand, â€śitâ€™s okay.â€ť
â€śSorry, I know at some point Iâ€™m going to have to learn to let loose, especially as our little Melody gets older.â€ť He didnâ€™t want his little girl to hate him.
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. â€śYouâ€™re an amazing father, she wonâ€™t hold it against you.â€ť
â€śYou two never hold anything against meâ€¦â€ť
â€śI cant think of anything we should. Weâ€™re happy with you. I mean itâ€ť The couple cleaned up their picnic then walked hand in hand as they followed little Melody. He would guide since he knew the area but he wanted them to see everything they wanted to see. Melody gasped as she drew near the water again, going in just to her ankles and collecting the shells that had grabbed her attention â€śthese are so pretty. Can I take them home? Pleaseâ€ť Romanus answered â€śyes, there are many gorgeous shells in that waterâ€ť
Melody ran over to her mother â€świll you carry them please?â€ť
Romanus found himself able to relax near completely as they walked and watched Melody. It wasnâ€™t until he saw his little girl freeze that the tension came back. â€śMelody, whatâ€™s wrong?â€ť He asked as he moved up to stand behind her.
She pointed. â€śThereâ€™s a dog over there.â€ť She said and he followed her gaze.
It wasnâ€™t a dog, but a wolf, and he was surprised she had been able to see it with how well its fur allowed it to blend into the tall grass. He could tell it was young and skinnier than normal. He moved in front of her and it seemed to startle the young wolf who hadnâ€™t noticed him. â€śDiya, take Melody please.â€ť
Diya gently pulled her daughter closer, watching the wolf. â€śWhat does it want?â€ť
â€śHe and I think heâ€™s starving.â€ť Had the wolf been watching Melody because she was the weaker target?
â€śWhat should we do?â€ť Diya asked. â€śShould we feed him?â€ť
Romanus wasnâ€™t so sure, but he couldnâ€™t tell Diya no, not when he knew the creature before them was still a child, twelve at most. â€śIâ€™ll do it, you two stay back.â€ť They had plenty of snacks so he went through the bag, pulling a couple of granola bars out and and taking their wrappers off. The wolfâ€™s eyes watched the food.
It started to shift and Melody held a little tighter to her mother. They were aware of other beings but Melody had never seen an actual wolf shifter before. The young boy then cautiously came over and took the food. Melody was embarrassed looking at the naked boy so buried her face into her mother. â€śwhy are you so thin and why are you alone?â€ť Romanus asked and the boy looked up into Romanusâ€™s eyes, swallowing down his food before saying softly â€śIâ€™ve been alone as long as I can rememberâ€¦I justâ€¦I just felt like coming to the beach today and thenâ€ť he looked over at Melody again. He fell silent so Romanus gently grabbed his face, turning it back to him â€śPlease stop staring at my daughterâ€ť
â€śHer mother is my mate now so yes she is mineâ€ť The boy looked uncomfortable and Diya said â€śRomanus, we canâ€™t just leave this boy alone.â€ť
â€śwhat do you suggest we do with him?â€ť
â€śwellâ€¦our house is plenty bigâ€ť
Romanus didnâ€™t know how he felt about allowing a stranger into their home, but if he turned the boy away, then it would be a betrayal of everything he had worked for. Not only that, but he knew Diya would be disappointed. He turned his gaze back to the boy who had once again been looking at Melody. â€śSorry.â€ť The boy said.
â€śWhatâ€™s your name?â€ť
â€śTormod, do you remember how you came to be alone?â€ť
He shook his head. â€śI donâ€™t, just that I was running and then it was just me.â€ť
Romanus nodded. â€śMy mate believes that you should come home with us, would you like that?â€ť
Tormod glanced at Melody. â€śYes.â€ť
Romanus leaned closer to the boy, hearing his heart skip in his chest. â€śI am only going to ask you this once child, was it my daughter who brought you here?â€ť
â€śIâ€¦I could smell her and Iâ€¦I donâ€™t want to hurt her or anything, I just found her scent and followed it from the beach. The wolfâ€¦the wolf wanted me to.â€ť
Romanus nodded as he straightened up and released Tormod. â€śYou do know that my mate and daughter are important to me and if anything were to happen to themâ€¦â€ť
â€śI wont hurt themâ€¦I promiseâ€ť the boy seemed harmless and had a healthy fear of him so Romanus decided they could take him home. Besides, he knew about wolves.It sounded as if his daughter might very well be this boys mate. If that ended up being so he knew weather she returned the feelings or not heâ€™d be a protector for her and he still worried about Melody, about another pervert setting his sights on her. Once he got this boy healthy it would be nice to know a wolf was protecting his family and would do so even if it meant his life since he knew how serious wolves were once they found their mate.
â€ślets go ahead and get home home. Iâ€™ll bring you guys back here once heâ€™s healthyâ€ť Tormond looked at Melody again â€śIâ€™ll shift. Iâ€™m making her uncomfortable like thisâ€ť
â€śalright, first thing weâ€™ll do is get you some clothes for this formâ€ť Tormond nodded and shifted back into a wolf, following the family once they began heading back the way they came. Unsurprisingly he ended up by Melodys side but she seemed happy now. Once home Roamus mulled over how he wanted to do this trip. He couldnâ€™t take this boy to the store naked and he couldnâ€™t take a wolf into a store. He also wasnâ€™t so sure he wanted to leave him alone with his family right away despite the fact Romanus was guessing Melody would come to mean to the world to this wolf.
â€śare you trying to think about what to do when it comes to shopping?â€ť
â€śI can measure him and look up online what sizes heâ€™ll need. Then you can just go. Weâ€™ll be fine alone with him. Heâ€™s a kid, a starved child who was just given a home. I donâ€™t feel like heâ€™s going to hurt anybodyâ€ť
â€ścould you just order him clothes online?â€ť
â€śsame day shipping is expensive but yeah. I really want him to be able to shifts back into a boy when he wantsâ€ť He was curled up beside Melody who was petting him. Diya whispered â€śso scary, he totally cant be trusted if you go to the storeâ€ť
Romanus looked at Tormod and then back at Diya. She was teasing him. He let out a little sigh and she hugged him. â€śDiya.â€ť
â€śAt least get him a pair of sweats and a shirt. He needs something and it wonâ€™t take you long.â€ť
â€śAlright, alright, Iâ€™ll go.â€ť He leaned back and kissed her. â€śJust, if anything happens, call me.â€ť
â€śI will, now go, weâ€™ll be fine.â€ť
Diya got Melody to cover her eyes so Tormod could shift back long enough to be measured. The boy apologized and Diya did he rbest to reassure him it was alright. He shifted back quickly and went back to Melody, which caused Diya to let out a little laugh. She looked up his sizes and then gave them to Romanus so he could get something for him. Romanus left, knowing he shouldnâ€™t be worried, but unable to keep his mind from wandering. Logically, he knew young Tormod was practically harmless. The boy was starved, but after everything he couldnâ€™t help himself. Once he was at the store, he quickly found the right clothing and grabbed them.
He felt relieved when he finally got home and Diya gave him a hug once he was inside. â€śSorry.â€ť He said softly.
â€śHush, you know itâ€™s okay.â€ť She took the bag from him and went to Tormod. â€śHere sweetie, why donâ€™t you go put these on.â€ť
He picked up the bag with his mouth and walked off to a room. He wasnâ€™t going to shift infront of Melody any more unless he had to. When he came back he was a boy and seemed to fit perfectly in what Romanus had bought him â€śthank youâ€ť
“whatever you need will be taken care of for now on. Youâ€™re a part of this family now. Tormond walked back over to Melody who asked â€śdo you like to color?â€ť he seemed confused a few moments then said â€ścreate art?â€ť Diya smiled â€śsort of, lets go get her coloring booksâ€ť Diya quickly pulled the box she kept it all in and handed it to Tormod â€śI have to finish cooking dinner but sheâ€™ll show you what she meansâ€ť He walked back to Melody and set the box down. She grabbed a coloring book then said â€śyou pick oneâ€ť he just grabbed the top one and she pulled out the crayons. Romanus watched them a few minuets before joining his wife in the kitchen.
â€śis he taking to coloring?â€ť she asked in an amused tone and he said â€śheâ€™ll probably take to anything she wants to do with himâ€ť
â€śhe said his wolf wanted him to come to her. Most likely sheâ€™s his mate. You know about wolves right?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know what you meanâ€ť
â€śThey are one of the very few beings that know when theyâ€™ve found their soulmate. The wolf inside them guides them to whomever they are meant for. I mean I might think the wolf just knew Iâ€™d take him in because they have instincts for more than just that but the way he keeps looking at her, I just feel like itâ€™s a mate thingâ€ť
â€śHe knows sheâ€™s seven right?â€ť a small bit of her momma bear was peeking out. â€śI wouldnâ€™t have brought him home for a second if I thought he might hurt her. Heâ€™ll protect her with his life, honestly if he does anything that hurts her itâ€™ll crush him. Their mates are everything to them. Heâ€™ll protect her, always. Iâ€™m going to stay home awhile to be absolutely sure about him but if Iâ€™m right Iâ€™ll feel a lot better with him here to protect you twoâ€ť
â€śis it going to be a problem though when sheâ€™s older? I mean, will he become aggressive about it?â€ť
â€śNo, like I said, the only thing at risk with those two if sheâ€™s his mate is her breaking his heart. He wouldnâ€™t hurt her or anybody she lovesâ€ť
â€śIâ€™m really happy youâ€™re taking a break with usâ€ť he could tell any concerns were eased. He could understand how that chat at first could be alarming since he was in his early teens and their daughter hadnâ€™t even made it to double digits yet.
He set the table for her while she cooked, then looked in on Melody and Tormod. They were still coloring, Tormod going much slower than Melody and focusing much harder. He went back to Diya and wrapped his arms around her and pressed a kiss to her cheek. â€śWhat should we do for the rest of the weekend?â€ť
â€śGet Tormod completely settled in, help him get used to living a normal life.â€ť
â€śNormal, I wish I could truly give you all that.â€ť
â€śYou do just fine.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure Tormod can smell death on me, heâ€™ll want to know why at some point.â€ť
â€śTell him when youâ€™re ready, Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll understand.â€ť She let out a little laugh as she switched off the stove. â€śLooks like we donâ€™t have to worry about having a baby.â€ť
â€śDiya.â€ť She turned in his arms, smiling up at him. â€śI do want to give you children, Iâ€¦I love you.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s okay, really and I love you too.â€ť
He tucked some hair behind her ear â€śIâ€¦we should tryâ€¦to at least have sexâ€ť
â€śbut are you ready for that because I dont care. Iâ€™m happy to never have sex if you find you canâ€™tâ€ť
â€ślets try tonight okayâ€ť
â€śPlease donâ€™t do this just for meâ€ť
â€śI want to, I want to experience what enjoyableâ€¦consensual sex is likeâ€ť
â€śalright but weâ€™re taking it slow and you need to tell me right away if youâ€™re getting scared or uncomfortableâ€ť He held her tightly to him a few moments, both nervous and eager for the evening. They served the food then called Melody and Tormod in. They both came quickly, Melody holding a picture for each of her parents â€śthank you honeyâ€ť Melody sat down in her normal spot, cheerful as ever and Tormod joined her. His eyes widened a bit when he saw all the food on the table and Diya felt bad for him all over again â€śtry to take it slow Tormodâ€ť He nodded but seemed to struggle with actually following through with it as he ate.
Tormod let out a little whine after dinner and Diya realized his stomach hurt. â€śIâ€™m sorry.â€ť He said.
â€śItâ€™s okay honey, but next time try to eat slow, okay? Youâ€™ll never have to go without and no one is going to take your food from you.â€ť
She patted his back. â€śLetâ€™s get you to your room.â€ť He looked back at Melody, who was taking her plate to the sink, not wanting to leave her. â€śTormod, how about we give you the room next to Melodyâ€™s.â€ť
â€śReally?â€ť She could see him light up at the thought.
â€śOf course, that way, you know where she is.â€ť
Romanus sent Melody off to follow them and started cleaning up. As he rinsed dishes and stuck them in the dishwasher, he began to over think things. What if he hurt Diya? What if he got scared? She said it was okay, but was it? He hated he was so scared, it was ridiculous when it was Diya. He heard a cracking sound and looked down to see he had squeezed one of their glasses too hard. He took a deep breath, sighed, then threw it away.
She was still reading to Melody when he was done in the kitchen but he had heard her read this one before and knew it was nearly over so he leaned against the wall and listened. When Diya came out she smiled up at him, easing some of his nerves. She took his hand and guided him into their bedroom. Diya shut then locked the door before saying softly â€śtheres no expectation of you Romanus. Weâ€™ll do what you can handle tonight, thats it. You can even still back out if you need toâ€ť
â€śI want to tryâ€ť
â€śHow do you want to start? You can undress me or I can undress myselfâ€ť Roamnus nervously answered â€śIâ€™m too nervous to be able to undress youâ€¦could you do it slowlyâ€ť
â€śmhmâ€ť She took off her shirt first, happy when he didnâ€™t turn away from her as he often did. She then took off her pants, now standing in just her bra and underwear â€śeverything Roamnus or do you maybe want to touch me like this firstâ€ť Saying Roamnus was traumatized from being a constant sex toy in his childhood was an understatement so Diya felt she needed to be incredibly careful about this, especially since this was their first attempt at doing anything sexual.
It took him awhile but he managed to finally actually touch her bare skin. He tuned his senses into her, feeling a bit of emotion tug at his heart that she obviously like him touching her. He knew she wanted him, logically anyway. All he had known this far was rapists and it made all this hard emotionally. He was mostly touching her arms, back and stomach, seeming careful to avoid her breasts so she tried to help him â€śRoamnus, you can touch me anywhereâ€ť He blushed, seeming a little shaky as he slowly moved his hands to her breasts. She smiled at him, her expression filled with so much love and patience he had to take a moment to hold her against him which she still viewed as progress. He was actually holding her while she was nearly naked. She wondered for a moment if he realized that.
â€śAre you okay?â€ť She asked softly as she rubbed his back.
â€śYeah, sorry, I justâ€¦â€ť
â€śItâ€™s alright.â€ť He pulled back and she gently pulled him down to kiss him, her fingers running through his hair and over his neck to help calm him. â€śWould you like me to take my bra and underwear off?â€ť
â€śIâ€¦â€ť he took a deep breath to steady himself, â€śyes.â€ť
She moved back enough to remove them, going slow, watching him as he watched her. He was scared and worried, but he wasnâ€™t turning away. He reached out to her and she stepped into him, letting out a breathy moan when his hands moved over her. â€śRomanus.â€ť She slid her arms around his neck and he pressed his lips into hers, parting them so he could deepen the kiss.
His hands slid over her warm skin, his fingers moving up her spine, causing her to shiver. He was surprised to feel desire tingling over him, slowly filling him. He wanted to be brave and made himself back her onto the bed. He pulled back and she smiled up at him, so loving and trusting, so patient as she waited for him. â€śYouâ€™re so beautiful.â€ť He whispered, his voice shaking a little.
â€śand youâ€™re so handsome Romanus. I love youâ€ť His heart trembled again and he kissed her. Diya tried not to look as surprised as she was when he began taking off his own clothes, worried surprise might be mistranslated by him right now and he was doing far better than she had expected this evening. They were skin to skin and while they were now not doing anything this progress meant the world to her. Not because she wanted sex, she did but what mattered to her was what this meant for him as far as healing went. On top of that she knew how much trust it took for him to be naked and exposed like this. He didnâ€™t end up being able to do more that evening but he took her under the covers and held her skin to skin all night.
~ The End ~
The gangly, curly haired youth bursting through Violetâ€™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. â€śCan I help you?â€ť She asked and he seemed to snap out of his sudden daze.
â€śUh, maâ€™amâ€¦yes maâ€™am, sorry.â€ť He collected his thoughts, wheels turning as he put words together to form a full sentence. â€śA dragon maâ€™am, there is a dragon and the mayor asked me to get you.â€ť
She sighed, putting her book irritably down on the coffee table. â€śOf course he did.â€ť
â€śSorry Miss Violet, so sorry.â€ť He bowed and then bowed again.
â€śOh stop, how annoying, do I look like a princess to you?â€ť 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.
â€śNo maâ€™am, sorry maâ€™am.â€ť
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. â€śCome on then.â€ť She walked past the young man and he quickly followed, head down. â€śOh stop moping, I shouldnâ€™t have snapped at the messenger.â€ť
â€śYes Miss Violet.â€ť
â€śWhere is this dragon then?â€ť
â€śOutside of town maâ€™am, in that old cave maâ€™am.â€ť
She walked on, ignoring the turning heads and whispered words of â€śDo you think the witch is gonnaâ€¦â€ť 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.
â€śWhat are you going to do maâ€™am? Turn him into a toad? Kill him?â€ť
â€śHow absolutely barbarous.â€ť 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.
â€śOh shut up you annoying thing.â€ť She snapped and the creature shut its mouth, seeming shocked. â€śNow go on and get.â€ť It lowered its head and started to open its mouth when she slapped the tip of its nose. It drew back, shaking its head. â€śI donâ€™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.â€ť 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. â€śThere, now someone else can deal with him.â€ť
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. â€śSorry.â€ť He said, grabbing her to steady her. â€śAre you alright?â€ť
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. â€śUhâ€¦yeahâ€¦uhâ€¦â€ť
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. â€śHold onto this for me.â€ť He let her go and took off running.
â€śWait, who are you?â€ť
â€śDian,â€ť he called back, â€śbe sure to tell them where I went.â€ť
â€śWhat?â€ť 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 wasnâ€™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. â€śHas anybody else run by?â€ť a man with red hair and incredibly intense green eyes asked. She didnâ€™t skip a beat answering â€śNo, I have been out here awhile clearing my head and havenâ€™t seen a soul until you three.â€ť Violet didnâ€™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 werenâ€™t unattractive. In fact they probably served to get more women in his bed â€śYou wouldnâ€™t lie to me would you?â€ť
â€śWhy would I? I donâ€™t know you so Iâ€™m certain I donâ€™t know who else youâ€™re looking for. Iâ€™d like to be left aloneâ€ť
â€śwe donâ€™t have time to waste, if the broad says she ain’t seen him she ain’t seen himâ€ť the man to his left said. The word ain’t almost physically hurt to hear but while she wasnâ€™t scared of them she still didnâ€™t want to piss them off by correcting anyone. The men left her and she was glad to see they didnâ€™t go the same way Dian had. Medallion in pocket she resumed her walk, knowing if she went home now sheâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™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. â€śYouâ€™re safe, thatâ€™s good.â€ť He said.
She lowered the ax. â€śYouâ€¦how did you find my house?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s a gift.â€ť He pushed himself to his feet. â€śI hope you donâ€™t mind me resting here.â€ť He crossed over to her. â€śMay I have it back please?â€ť
She moved the ax to her other hand then reached into her pocket and pulled it out. â€śTell me why those men were after you.â€ť
â€śI stole this.â€ť
His amused smile at her questions lit up his eyes. â€śBecause Iâ€™m looking for the rightful heir to the throne.â€ť
â€śIf itâ€™s so important why did you hand it off to me? They could have taken itâ€ť His smile lifted a little again â€śI 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 doâ€ť
â€śBut you donâ€™t know meâ€ť
â€śIf you sit with me by your fire I will explain everything and answer any follow up questionsâ€ť His stomach growled and she said â€śMaybe I should feed you first. I have some leftovers that will be quick to heat upâ€ť
â€śThank youâ€ť 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 didnâ€™t want to explain she had given him a place to rest and helped him by hiding the amulet, he owed her an explanation. â€śso youâ€™re descended from a powerful witch and you read my mind earlier which is how you knew you could trust meâ€ť
â€śYes but donâ€™t worry, I have to be touching you to do itâ€ť she shrugged â€śNot worried, I donâ€™t have much to hide and nothing really embarrasses meâ€ť He looked so amused again â€śHow are you so cheerful when youâ€™re being chased and have such a big job to doâ€ť
â€śI enjoy every moment of life, always have and Iâ€™m enjoying your company. Youâ€™re a beautiful and interesting personâ€ť She seemed more surprised by his comment than anything as she asked â€śso, what gave you this job?â€ť
â€śI worked for the previous king and queen before their deaths and doing this for them is only right. Their son deserves to ruleâ€ť
â€śAnd where is he?â€ť
â€śNorth. His parents thought if heâ€™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.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t imagine going from a prince to a merchant. It must have been hard.â€ť
â€śHe was always a good boy and, much like his father, a hard worker. It may have been an adjustment, but he wouldnâ€™t have shied away from it.â€ť He sighed. â€śI thought I had thrown them off my trail, by pretending to board a ship, but I guess they caught on.â€ť
â€śWhat are you going to do now?â€ť
â€śResupply and continue my journey. I have to fulfill my duty and bring him home. If I donâ€™t things could take a turn for the worst and no one wants that.â€ť He sat his fork down and leaned back, truly exhausted. â€śThank you, Violet, truly, thank you. I promise to repay your kindness.â€ť
The words came tumbling out of her without a single thought â€śwhy donâ€™t you repay me by allowing me to come with youâ€ť 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 â€śThat works for me.â€ť
â€śwow, that easily?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™d be helpful, I can tell. Even if I didnâ€™t owe you Iâ€™d welcome you alongâ€ť
â€śThen lets both get some restâ€ť While Dian finished eating Violet brought a pillow and blanket into the living room, laying them both on the couch for him â€śgoodnight Dian, youâ€™re welcome to any food or water you need in the night. Iâ€™ll make us coffee and a descent breakfast in the morningâ€ť
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. â€śSorry, did I wake you?â€ť
â€śItâ€™s alright, you should have woke me as soon as you got up.â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t mind waiting.â€ť He let his eyes move over her. She looked quite cute disheveled as she was.
â€śI look rough donâ€™t I?â€ť She asked and his eyes jumped to her face.
â€śNot at all, quite the opposite. I apologize for staring.â€ť He cleared his throat. â€śWould you like me to help you with breakfast?â€ť
She shook her head. â€śI can manage.â€ť
â€śIâ€™d feel bad if I made you do everything.â€ť
She couldnâ€™t help but smile at him. He was far too kind and generous. â€śThen how about you read to me, you have a really nice voice.â€ť
He chuckled. â€śDo I?â€ť
She felt her cheeks heat. â€śWell, yeah, itâ€™s enjoyable enough.â€ť
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. Itâ€™s one of the odd things about me” She had been too sleepy to register what he had been reading so she asked â€śwhich book is it?â€ť he lifted it so she could see the cover â€śOh, thats actually a series. One of the villagers here writes it.â€ť
â€ścould we bring them all?â€ť
â€śYeah, if any get ruined I can always get another. She wonâ€™t even allow me to give her paymentâ€ť
â€śBecause I take care of this village. If anything bothers them they come running. Just the other day I had to chase off a dragonâ€ť
â€śHow do you think theyâ€™ll do without you?â€ť
â€śFine Iâ€™m sure, they just need to realize they donâ€™t need meâ€ť
â€śYou arenâ€™t worried about them discovering that?â€ť
â€śNo, Iâ€™ll get more time on my own and I have enough skills I donâ€™t need anything to be given to meâ€¦anyway, Iâ€™ll get the coffee started. That way itâ€™ll be ready when I amâ€ť Violet started the coffee then went back into her room to get dressed in something comfortable for the road.
â€śYou look good in that.â€ť Dian said when she came back and she couldnâ€™t help but blush.
â€śTheyâ€™re just some old clothes.â€ť
â€śThey suit you.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť He smiled and her heart jumped, causing her to look away in embarrassment and head into the kitchen to make breakfast.
â€śSorry, I didnâ€™t mean to make you uncomfortable.â€ť
Violet shook her head. â€śYou didnâ€™t, I promise, just not used to someone saying something like that to me.â€ť
â€śWell if they havenâ€™t, they are obviously blind.â€ť He sat down at the table, flipping the book open. â€śMay I still read?â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť 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 â€śthat was incredible. Iâ€™ll be glad to read to you while you cook on the tripâ€ť she smiled â€śthatâ€™ll work amazing for both of usâ€ť She got up almost too quickly, not used to interactions like this at all.
Dian didnâ€™t say anything, her nerves only gave him hope. People who didnâ€™t react to your flirting werenâ€™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 didnâ€™t put up too much of a fight having realized how heavy they would probably be after awhile.
â€śSo, whatâ€™s your plan?â€ť She asked as she shouldered the small pack she had made up with food and water in it.
â€śMake it to a bigger city and rent a horse and also buy warmer clothes. I wouldnâ€™t want you to freeze to death.â€ť
â€śWell I have you to make sure I stay warm, so Iâ€™m sure I wonâ€™t.â€ť He grinned and she blushed. â€śI mean, with your magic. You can make fire right?â€ť
She swallowed and he chuckled. â€śSo, what if he isnâ€™t there?â€ť
â€śThen weâ€™ll wait.â€ť
â€śIt must have been awful for him, being forced to stay in hiding even after his parents died. I donâ€™t know if I could have stayed, I think I would have raced home, heâ€™s definitely stronger than me.â€ť
â€śNow thatâ€™s not true, Iâ€™ve seen it in your head. That dragon didnâ€™t know who he was dealing with.â€ť
â€śYouâ€¦how much did you see?â€ť
â€śI didnâ€™t have time for much, I just saw the past few days. I wont look at anymore unless you say itâ€™s okay though. I just had to know if I could trust you and if you were up to facing those men should they comeâ€ť She could understand that. He did have a huge responsibility on his shoulders. â€śIâ€™ve found with most creatures all it takes is being brave. In our world you canâ€™t judge a book by its cover so they probably think Iâ€™m more than just humanâ€ť
â€śProbably, non magical beings do tend to just run or cower, especially in the presence of dragonsâ€ť
â€śHave you seen many dragons?â€ť
â€śI met a shifter once. He was a cool guy and as a dragon, well, he probably could have swallowed that dragon you met wholeâ€ť
â€śYeah, maybe I can introduce you two one dayâ€ť
â€śI would like that, maybe once weâ€™ve brought the prince home.â€ť
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 couldnâ€™t. â€śIf you wish to turn back, now is the time.â€ť Dian said and she turned to him, smiling.
â€śNo going back until weâ€™ve finished this. Besides, itâ€™ll give them time to find their own courage and strength. Theyâ€™ll have to rely on each other if another dragon shows up.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure they will.â€ť
â€śAnd I get to go somewhere new thanks to you, even if it is dangerous and cold.â€ť
â€śSpeaking of dangerous,â€ť He reached over, taking her hand, â€śallow me to give you a little protection.â€ť He said a few words in a language she didnâ€™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. â€śThere, a ward of protection, just in case.â€ť
â€śThank youâ€ť Violet was surprised when he didnâ€™t let go but she didnâ€™t complain. She hadnâ€™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 didnâ€™t mind. â€śAre you truly staying out of my head?â€ť She had to ask. He smiled again â€śYesâ€ť
â€śalright, I trust youâ€ť
â€śwhat would we have to talk about anyway if I went and looked at everything?â€ť
â€śTrue, I mean, the books are only going to last us so longâ€ť
â€śI was trying not to think about them. I want to know what happens nextâ€ť Violet smiled, filling with amusement of her own. â€śwho is your favorite character so far?â€ť He had to think â€śCedric, Iâ€™m going to have to go with Cedricâ€ť
â€śBecause heâ€™s so relatable. Heâ€™s trying his best to do the right thing without hurting anyone, but heâ€™s realizing things arenâ€™t that simple.â€ť
Dian gave a little laugh. â€śYeah, I donâ€™t want to hurt anyone, I really donâ€™t, but I know Iâ€™ll have to and Iâ€™ve made peace with that fact. These powers were passed down to me to defend myself and others and thatâ€™s how Iâ€™ll use them.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re a good man, Dian, you really are.â€ť
â€śI owe the king and queen, they were good people and my friends. I couldnâ€™t save them, even with all my power, so now Iâ€™ll bring their son home and help him take back the throne.â€ť
â€śAnd Iâ€™ll help you.â€ť
â€śAre you sure, you know there are bound to be swords and ill tempered mercenaries.â€ť
She smiled, making his heart dance. â€śIâ€™m sure, besides, you have my back.â€ť
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 wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 Violetâ€™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.
â€śViolet,â€ť he said softly, â€ścover your ears, close your eyes and scoot back away from the fire.â€ť
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.
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. â€śfuckâ€ť 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 couldnâ€™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 couldnâ€™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. â€śOh crap our stuffâ€ť Violet realized they had the bag of books but not their items. He sighed â€śwe have whatâ€™s important, our lives and the medallion. We can make due along the wayâ€ť
â€śIt’s good you keep it on you constantlyâ€ť
â€śYou didnâ€™t get scorched or anything did you?â€ť
â€śNo, still have my eyebrows.â€ť
He chuckled as he stopped and took her face in his hands. â€śYeah, they look even to me.â€ť
She blushed. â€śUm, yourâ€™s do too. You were closer than me so, thatâ€™s surprising.â€ť
â€śTrust me, Iâ€™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.â€ť She laughed and he smiled back. â€śIâ€™m glad you got to keep yours though, itâ€™s too beautiful to burn.â€ť He let her face go and took her hand instead. â€śCome on, letâ€™s keep moving.â€ť
Violet wasnâ€™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. â€śWhat are you doing?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re tired right?â€ť
â€śWell yeah, but youâ€™re already carrying the books.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be fine, I promise.â€ť
â€śIf Iâ€™m not walking I could read to you so you can learn what happens nextâ€ť He smiled again, it lighting up his face â€śthats a perfect ideaâ€ť he set her down long enough to grab the book they were on and give it to her. â€śAre you sure this is enough sun for your eyes not to hurt?â€ť
â€śOh yeah, this is fineâ€ť 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 didnâ€™t want to roll their odds again anytime soon. Things were quite, almost concerningly so for Dian but he wouldnâ€™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 â€śwhats wrongâ€ť 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 â€śyou 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 attentionâ€ť
â€śwhatâ€™s wrong?â€ť she finally pressed, eager to know what she should be worried about. â€śI canâ€™t imagine anybody knew Iâ€™d be coming this way so this must be an old trap someone set for whatever reason and then forgot to get rid of itâ€ť
â€śthat or were killedâ€ť
â€śyeah, I suppose theyâ€™d need some kind of reason to do this but come down here, feelâ€ť She crouched down beside him and felt in front of them. Her face scrunched up”what?”
â€śtheres nothing thereâ€ť
â€śbutâ€ť she felt again â€śdear god maybe whoever set it forgot and walked right offâ€ť
â€śthat kind of karma would suck. Since we ran in the dark we must have gone the wrong way somehow. Iâ€™m normally better than that. Iâ€™m sorryâ€ť
â€śYou donâ€™t have to be sorry.â€ť
â€śI should be more aware.â€ť
â€śDian, you havenâ€™t had to worry about someone else traveling with you, so donâ€™t beat yourself up. Youâ€™re just trying to be a good protector and companion.â€ť
He sighed then gave her a smile. â€śYouâ€™re an amazing woman, Violet.â€ť They both stood. â€śIâ€™m going to disarm it just in case someone else comes around then we can get back on track.â€ť 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. â€śIs it safe now?â€ť
â€śYes, everything should be fine and no one should get hurt.â€ť
He nodded and reached over, taking her hand. His palm felt warm against hers. â€śAre you ready?â€ť
She didnâ€™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. â€śOh, yes, sorry, letâ€™s go.â€ť
“He chuckled. â€śHow cute you are my little warrior.â€ť
â€śOh hush, come one.â€ť She started to walk off and he gently pulled her back.
â€śItâ€™s this way.â€ť
She nervously chuckled, wishing her face wasnâ€™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 â€śbut we didnâ€™t turn before? Shouldn’t we still go straight?â€ť
â€śNo, itâ€™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, itâ€™s not your fault. Youâ€™re distracting but that doesnâ€™t make us getting side tracked your faultâ€ť
â€śI wont hear of it. Iâ€™m a man with a job, distracting female companion or not I should be aware of where we are goingâ€ť She gave him a small smile â€śso, can we talk?â€ť
â€śYeah, what would you like to talk about?â€ť
â€śWell, what do you plan to do, after everything? I mean are you going back home or something else?â€ť
He smiled. â€śDefine something else.â€ť
â€śWell, maybe settle down or something?â€ť
He shrugged. â€śMaybe, I havenâ€™t given it too much thought really.â€ť He chuckled. â€śOkay, thatâ€™s not entirely true, Iâ€™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?â€ť
â€śYou would want to live there?â€ť
â€śWell, 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.â€ť
â€śI think I would move if it were me, I mean it would be something new, an adventure.â€ť
Violet was startled when he said â€śwell good because you are the cause of my thinking of that recentlyâ€¦I know we just met Violet but Iâ€™d be a liar and an idiot to pretend you didnâ€™t have a pull on my heart. Youâ€™re not only beautiful but youâ€™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.â€ť She almost stuttered but managed to speak normally â€śYou canâ€™t really think Iâ€™m pretty. Iâ€™ve never felt prettyâ€ť He took her hand, causing Violet to stop so he could look into her eyes â€śYouâ€™re gorgeous Violet. I mean that. How do you feel about me?â€ť
â€śI like you a lot tooâ€ť
â€śgood, I really do hope by the end of this adventure youâ€™ll truly want to live in the castle with me. We donâ€™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 Violetâ€ť
â€śI know, Iâ€™m happy, really. Are you sure youâ€™re ready to live with me? I mean, Iâ€™m a bit hot headed sometimes.â€ť
â€śNo youâ€™re not, you just get exasperated, I saw it.â€ť He tipped her head back and bent down, his lips stopping a breath from hers. â€śYou are so noble and beautiful, a true warrior and I love you for it, Violet.â€ť
â€śDian.â€ť Her voice came out in a whisper and he smiled as he pressed his lips to hers.
He pulled back with a sigh. â€śWe should go my love. Are you ready?â€ť
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 â€śthank youâ€ť 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 didnâ€™t take long, soon they were inside and he suggested â€śwhy donâ€™t you run yourself a bath while I go out again and see if anybody around here sells clothing. Now that weâ€™ve hit a city we really need a change of clothes, something warmer since most of whats left of our journey will be coldâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™re cold too though. You donâ€™t need to get us warmer clothes right now.â€ť
â€śI 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 Iâ€™ll be back before you know itâ€ť She could see the resolve in his eyes to go so she didnâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 couldnâ€™t get over how perfect and honorable he was and she hoped she wouldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 â€śyeah? Dian?â€ť her voice sounded from the other side of the door, obviously still safely in the bath â€śdo you want me to set your new clothes in front of the door or to set them in thereâ€¦I wont go all the way inâ€ť
â€śYou can set them in here, thank youâ€ť Dian opened the door just enough to set the clothes on the counter. Violet pulled on the stopped so the tub would drain. There wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 â€śthank youâ€ť
â€śI was worried about youâ€ť
â€śJust not used to it being so cold. I mean it snows back home, but itâ€™s much colder up here.â€ť
He pulled back to look at her. â€śHow are you feeling? Warm enough?â€ť
â€śYeah and I love the clothes.â€ť
â€śThey look good on you, but I have something even better.â€ť He moved away from her and lifted the coat. â€śTo keep you extra warm.â€ť
Violet took it gently, amazed by how soft it was. â€śWow.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s made from a bear hide. The interior is sealskin, same with the boots to keep you dry.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re so sweet, Dian.â€ť
â€śI canâ€™t have my beautiful love freeze to death.â€ť He took the coat and held it open. â€śLetâ€™s go out and get something to eat, we can talk about what weâ€™re going to do while we do.â€ť
â€śOkay.â€ť She slipped the coat on and quickly buttoned it. â€śWhat do you think?â€ť
â€śYou look like you belong here, very cute.â€ť
â€śare you sure youâ€™re up to going out? You havenâ€™t had a chance to warm upâ€ť
â€śIâ€™ll be fine, just cuddle with me laterâ€ť 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. â€śthis one place smelled amazing when I passed itâ€ť Dian said as he scooped her up outside. â€śI canâ€™t waitâ€ť Violet was worried about Dian not being able to truly get warm yet so she was glad they didnâ€™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 â€śso do you need us to take a break here for more than just tonight? We can stay a day or two. Youâ€™re not used to this and I donâ€™t want to push you too hardâ€ť Dian said after his first bite. Violet finished chewing and swallowed â€śI definitively want to leave in the morning. I donâ€™t think we should take a long stop unless one of us gets sick. Youâ€™re right, Iâ€™m not used to this but Iâ€™m really fine. Besides, you keep picking me up so how can it be all that hardâ€ť
Dian smiled â€śI like being close to youâ€ť 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 â€ślets 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 moreâ€ť Violet smiled â€śIâ€™d like that tooâ€ť
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 couldnâ€™t bring herself to move, she was too scared. A hand rested on her shoulder and she flinched, whimpering. â€śRhona?â€ť She barely heard her name, but she knew that thing couldnâ€™t speak and uncovered her ears, raising her head. â€śHello Rhona.â€ť He smiled at her, his eyes warm, his tone gentle. â€śYouâ€™re safe now Rhona.â€ť
â€śWâ€¦who are you?â€ť
He picked her up off the ground, cradling her against his chest. â€śIâ€™m Antoni, a Dreamwalker.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s right, I kill nightmares.â€ť
â€śJust rest Rhona, youâ€™ll be waking soon, but if you ever need me, just call for me.â€ť
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 didnâ€™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 didnâ€™t mean he didnâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 sheâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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 wouldnâ€™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.
â€śYouâ€™ve been in your own head a lot lately.â€ť The voice pulled Antoni back to reality, but he didnâ€™t turn away from the foggy view of the island he called home.
â€śHave I?â€ť He asked as his friend Ronin came to stand behind him.
â€śYou have. Itâ€™s her, isnâ€™t it?â€ť
Antoni sighed. â€śWe should get to work.â€ť
â€śSays the man staring longingly off into space.â€ť
â€śI might shove you off this balcony.â€ť
Ronin chuckled heartily. â€śYou wouldnâ€™t, I know you wouldnâ€™t. Youâ€™re too much of a softy.â€ť Antoni still seemed annoyed so Ronin relented, â€śAlright, to work.â€ť 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 didnâ€™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.
â€śI canâ€™t believe youâ€™re leaving the country.â€ť Rhonaâ€™s friend Rose said as they ate lunch. â€śAnd alone, that just seems so dangerous.â€ť
â€śItâ€™ll be fine.â€ť
â€śBut what if someone kidnaps you, I mean youâ€™re so pretty.â€ť Her other friend Landon added.
Rhona laughed. â€śOh come on, you know Iâ€™d beat them up so bad theyâ€™d willingly let me go. Itâ€™s going to be fine. I even ordered a card so I can make calls from my phone while Iâ€™m gone. All I have to do is pick it up at the airport as soon as I land.â€ť She nudged Rose. â€śItâ€™s going to be fun, Iâ€™ll take lots of pictures.â€ť
â€śMaybe get a boyfriend.â€ť Landon teased and laughed when Rhona blushed.
â€śOh hush, Iâ€™ll be too busy studying music.â€ť
â€śCome on, we all know music is one of the most romantic things ever, wellâ€¦mostly.â€ť
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 didnâ€™t normally have secrets but this was one of those things that people just didnâ€™t understand. Explaining everything to them would only make them stress more about her trip and she didnâ€™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 didnâ€™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 couldnâ€™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.
â€śBack again?â€ť She smiled at his voice and turned.
â€śIâ€™ll be leaving soon you know.â€ť
â€śI do.â€ť He sighed. â€śRhona, you shouldnâ€™t come here, itâ€™s not a place for humans.â€ť
She moved closer to him, searching his eyes. â€śYou donâ€™t mean that. You wouldnâ€™t have given me all that information if you did.â€ť She took his hand. â€śI want to see you, the real you I mean, Iâ€™ll be careful.â€ť
â€śThis is the real me.â€ť
She laughed and his heart did a little dance. â€śYou know what I mean.â€ť
Why couldnâ€™t he say no to her? Why couldnâ€™t he look away from those beautiful eyes that reminded him of the sea? He nodded. â€śYouâ€™re so stubborn.â€ť
â€śYou made me that way. Just wait for me, okay?â€ť
â€śYou know I will be.â€ť 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 didnâ€™t know if he could handle anything happening to Rhona because she was looking for him. She was strong and undoubtedly resourceful, but he couldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 hadnâ€™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 childâ€™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. â€śCome now little one, letâ€™s get you to a better dream.â€ť
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 hadnâ€™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 sheâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™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. â€śIâ€™m surprised to see you up so early.â€ť Ronin said as Antoni walked into the kitchen. â€śCoffee?â€ť
â€śYes please and I decided to walk around for a bit.â€ť
â€śMmm, I see.â€ť He poured Antoni a cup of coffee and put sugar and cream in it then handed it over. â€śSo, how has it been so far?â€ť
â€śGood, a couple of tough ones. How about with you?â€ť
â€śSame as always.â€ť He took a sip of his coffee. â€śWhen is she supposed to be here?â€ť
Antoni looked away sheepishly a few moments before answering, â€śIt depends on how well she understood my clues.â€ť
â€śWhenâ€™s the soonest she could possibly get here?â€ť
â€śA few hours.â€ť Antoni took a nervous sip of coffee and Ronin said, â€śI suppose Iâ€™ll be getting myself up a lot then.â€ť
â€śWe canâ€™t neglect work.â€ť
â€śMmhmm, that’s all youâ€™re going to be able to do when sheâ€™s here.â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think that’s going to be a problem.â€ť Antoni nearly dropped his coffee mug at his mentors voice.
He turned, their eyes meeting. â€śIâ€¦â€ť He couldnâ€™t speak, his mind couldnâ€™t decide what to say.
â€śRelax Antoni, you really think Iâ€™ve had no idea whats going on between you and Rhona?â€ť
â€śYes, I wasnâ€™t going to let on I knew about anything, but Iâ€™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 donâ€™t know I heard this conversation. If you want to keep secrets you two should talk about them less.â€ť
“Iâ€¦I wasn’t necessarily trying to keep it a secret.”
His mentor nodded. â€śWell, you are my oldest student Antoni. If you had done this in the early years yes, I would have been mad, but youâ€™ve never broken a single rule and youâ€™ve helped countless children, countless generations even just as I have. You wouldnâ€™t have broken the rules for just anybody and I know I can count on you not giving more people information about the island. Youâ€™re allowed to find love, you all are. Just keep doing your work and weâ€™re fine.â€ť
â€śWhat he means is heâ€™s incredibly interested in meeting the young woman who managed to get his star pupil to rebel.â€ť Ronin teased.
â€śOnly someone truly extraordinary cause you to keep secrets from me.â€ť He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip.
â€śHow did you know?â€ť
â€śBesides you two talking about it in the kitchen and on the balcony?â€ť Antoni nodded. â€śIâ€™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.â€ť He slapped Antoni on the back. â€śDonâ€™t worry so much.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll try not to.â€ť
â€śYou can always wait for her to be dreaming and check in. If sheâ€™s struggling you have my permission to offer more help.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m honestly hoping she will get here in a few hours.â€ť 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 heâ€™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 wasnâ€™t sure sheâ€™d be using her room at all but she had gotten one just in case she needed it. Sheâ€™d rather have a sure place to rest than be cocky and end up not being able to find a place that wasnâ€™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 Antoniâ€™s clues. â€śHow romantic.â€ť 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 manâ€™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 sheâ€™d forget so she knew she needed to do it now or theyâ€™d end up worrying over her and sheâ€™d have to feel guilty later. Rhona was happy when Rose answered right away. â€śRhona, howâ€™re things?â€ť
â€śAmazing, I hope itâ€™s a decent hour back home.â€ť
Rose laughed. â€śDonâ€™t worry about that. Iâ€™m just glad to hear from you. Now I know you havenâ€™t been kidnapped.â€ť
Rhona grinned. â€śYeah, I just wanted to let you know Iâ€™m okay before I get too into having fun around here.â€ť
â€śAlright, text me though or something okay?â€ť
“Okay.” Short and sweet, just like Rhona hoped it would be. Now she called Landon who didnâ€™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 wasnâ€™t expecting the little girl who opened the door and it took her a moment to say anything. â€śUh, yes, hello. Is your daddy home?â€ť
â€śAre you Rhona?â€ť The girl asked.
â€śWhy yes I am, whatâ€™s your name?â€ť
â€śRosie.â€ť She looked over her shoulder. â€śDaddy, sheâ€™s here.â€ť
Her father came out of the kitchen drying his hands, a big smile on his face. â€śSorry, I was making bread, youâ€™re here a lot earlier than I expected.â€ť He held out his hand. â€śIâ€™m William, please come in.â€ť
â€śAlright, thanks.â€ť She stepped inside and Rosie closed the door. â€śSo how do you know what I look like?â€ť
â€śAntoni told me, his description was spot on.â€ť
Her cheeks flushed. â€śHeâ€¦he told you I was coming?â€ť
â€śTheyâ€™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.â€ť Her heart fluttered, emotion rushing through her giving her a tingling sensation in her body. He really did want to meet her. He wouldnâ€™t have made sure like this otherwise.
â€śSince you’re busy taking me can waitâ€¦please donâ€™t feel rushed.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ll just finish this bread and we will be off.â€ť
The little girl grabbed her hand. â€śWill you play with me? Please?â€ť
â€śSure.â€ť 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. â€śThen weâ€™ll be seeing you soon, yes of course, thank you and be careful.â€ť He hung up, giving another amused laugh. â€śEavesdropping, Antoni?â€ť
â€śNo, not at all, just concerned is all. The phone woke me.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sorry, but it was actually something very important.â€ť He turned. â€śSheâ€™s at Williamâ€™s.â€ť
Antoniâ€™s heart stuttered. â€śShe is? Really? Already?â€ť
â€śYes, theyâ€™ll be heading this way soon. You should get ready.â€ť
â€śI still have work.â€ť
He waved his hand. â€śIâ€™ll take the rest of your shift.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť Antoni didnâ€™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 couldnâ€™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.
â€śI hope youâ€™re okay with being on a boat.â€ť William said when they finally locked up and left with little Rosie in tow.
â€śEven if Iâ€™m not, I just want to get to Antoni.â€ť
William chuckled as they got in his car. â€śI was pretty surprised when he called and told me about you. Antoni is the last person to break the rules.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s not going to be in trouble is he?â€ť
â€śNo, teased maybe, but not in trouble. Itâ€™s not like he did it on a whim, he probably debated with himself over it. Besides, his mentor is pretty forgiving.â€ť
â€śHe told me there were six of them total, but some of them donâ€™t live in the main house.â€ť
William nodded. â€śThey 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 Phobetorâ€™s newest apprentice Shona. Sheâ€™s the youngest at twelve. She goes between the two houses.â€ť
â€śWow, so young to be fighting nightmares.â€ť
â€śShe doesnâ€™t have any family and when Phobetor discovered her talent for dreaming, he adopted her. Now she has everyone on the island.â€ť
â€śThats so sweet, they all seem to have good heartsâ€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll like them, every generation of my family has. One day it will be little Rosie here making this trip. Itâ€™s an honor.â€ť
â€śAre you excited to do this yourself one day?â€ť Rhona asked the little girl who nodded with a smile.
â€śWait until you see the island.â€ť
â€śWhen did you first start going with your dad?â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve been going as long as I can remember.â€ť
Her father was now speaking again, â€śYep, our family tends to start bringing the young ones as early as they can be trusted on the ride.â€ť
â€śThat must be fun, is it hard to keep the secret?â€ť
â€śNot at all, as I said, itâ€™s an honor.â€ť
Antoniâ€™s heart gave a leap when he heard the sound of the boatâ€™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 Williamâ€™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. â€śYou made it.â€ť He said as he tied the boat off.
â€śWe did and even managed to pick up a passenger.â€ť
Antoniâ€™s eyes were already riveted to Rhona and hers on him. He held out his hand and Rhonaâ€™s cheeks warmed as she took it. â€śItâ€™s really you.â€ť She said as he helped her up onto the dock.
â€śAnd you.â€ť 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. â€śWilliam, would you and Rosie like to go see the others?â€ť
William tried not to grin too much as he and his daughter walked away from the two of them. â€śIt really is good to see you Rhona.â€ť Antoni said softly.
â€śThankfully people were kind and helpful along the way. Your hints were really good too.â€ť
â€śSorry I wasnâ€™t just straightforward with how to get here.â€ť
â€śOh, donâ€™t worry about that. It was kind of fun.â€ť
â€śI was mostly worried my mentor would be upset with me for inviting you, but heâ€™s actually eager to meet you.â€ť
Rhona smiled. â€śThen let’s go in, Iâ€™d love to see everyone.â€ť
Antoni cleared his throat out of nervousness. â€śMay I take your hand again as we walk inside?â€ť 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. â€śMiss Rhona, so nice to finally meet you.â€ť
Rhona took his hand, shaking it. â€śUm, you too.â€ť
â€śNo reason to me nervous, youâ€™re very welcome here.â€ť He turned his attention to Antoni. â€śI wanted to greet her before I went to work, please introduce her to everyone and give her a tour.â€ť
â€śI will, thank you.â€ť 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 couldnâ€™t imagine how hard her childhood would have been if Antoni hadnâ€™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 couldnâ€™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 wasnâ€™t much. All he could think of right now was that she was here on his island.
â€śI can see why he broke the rules.â€ť Alec teased.
â€śItâ€™s because sheâ€™s so pretty.â€ť Claire added with a wink to Antoni that had his heart skipping.
â€śThatâ€™s not true.â€ť Antoni replied. â€śI wanted her to find me because Iâ€¦because I wanted to see her, really see her.â€ť
â€śI bet youâ€™re clues were even that hard.â€ť Ronin added. â€śGo left at the bakery and youâ€™ll find William who will bring you right to me?â€ť
Rhona couldnâ€™t help but laugh. â€śIt 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.â€ť
â€śMaybe heâ€™ll have to ask Phobetor to let him leave the island to give you a real tour. Like a date.â€ť Ronin threw out, trying to sound nonchalant about it, but chuckling when Antoni gave him a look.
â€śYou really think he wouldnâ€™t mind?â€ť She asked and Antoni said, â€śI doubt he would.â€ť
â€śHe doesnâ€™t expect us not to have social lives,â€ť Ronin added.
â€śIâ€™ll ask him when heâ€™s done working.â€ť 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 wasnâ€™t something he did often. He hadnâ€™t had much of a reason to until now.
When Phobetor was coming in for a coffee break he spoke without being prompted, â€śYou can have all the time off you want.â€ť
Antoni nearly blushed. â€śI…â€ť He started and Phobetor shook his head. â€śGo on, take her somewhere. Iâ€™m very old and I get more and more observant with time. Plus it would be common sense youâ€™d want to be able to do something with her since she came all this way. Go on, I donâ€™t want to hear anything about work. We all have things taken care of.â€ť
â€śAlright, thank you.â€ť
Phobetor waved him off. â€śWhen we start a relationship, itâ€™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. Iâ€™m sure William and Rosie will bring you back when youâ€™re ready.â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť William said. â€śYou know I donâ€™t mind.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť He turned to Rhona. â€śWould you mind waiting here with the others while I get ready and gather some clothes? It is okay if I stay with you while Iâ€™m away right?â€ť
â€śOf course.â€ť Rhonaâ€™s face warmed and he gave her a warm, adoring smile.
â€śGo on, we want to tell her about all of your most embarrassing moments.â€ť 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 didnâ€™t even want to ask what they had just been telling her. â€śIf you two are ready I can go ahead and take you.â€ť William offered and Antoni looked to Rhona who said, â€śYeah, Iâ€™m ready.â€ť
â€śMake sure to bring her back sometime.â€ť Ronin insisted as they got on the boat with William and his daughter.
â€śIâ€™d love that.â€ť 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 didnâ€™t waste time leaving William and his daughter to their own lives. â€śSoâ€¦umâ€¦â€ť she started.
â€śBy first impressions am I what you expected?â€ť
He smiled. â€śYouâ€™re just as pretty in person as you are when I see you in your dreams.â€ť
â€śYeah, youâ€™re perfect, of course you would be no matter what?â€ť
She giggled. â€śWhat if I had actually been a man?â€ť
He shrugged. â€śI like to believe Iâ€™d still love you, though it might be kind of surprising. I mean Iâ€™ve known you since you were little.â€ť He rubbed the back of his neck. â€śWhat about me? Not nearly as cool without the guns huh?â€ť
Rhona took his hand. â€śEven cooler.â€ť
â€śThatâ€™s a relief. Iâ€™m really happy youâ€™re here, that you were able to decipher all my clues.â€ť
â€śWell, I wanted to meet my hero and thank you. You kept me safe my whole childhood.â€ť
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 didnâ€™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.
â€śRhona?â€ť Antoni said as they walked through the city.
â€śYeah?â€ť She looked up at him and he found himself frozen by her beautiful blue green eyes. It was like he was being hypnotized. â€śAntoni?â€ť
He blinked, his face warming. â€śUm, I was wondering, when do you have to leave?â€ť
â€śThe end of next week.â€ť
â€śI see.â€ť He reached out and took her hand, pulling her to a stop. â€śDo you have too?â€ť He swallowed. â€śI mean, Iâ€™m sure you want to go home, but Iâ€¦I want you to stay, or maybe I could go with you.â€ť
Rhonaâ€™s heart danced and she almost couldnâ€™t believe what he had said. â€śYou want to go back with me?â€ť
â€śOf course, I donâ€™t want to be without you and if you canâ€™t stay here then Iâ€™ll leave. I donâ€™t think Phobetor would mind.â€ť
â€śBut this is your home.â€ť
He moved closer to her, lifting his other hand to stroke her cheek. â€śItâ€™s not home if youâ€™re not here. I love this place, but I want to be with you.â€ť
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 â€śIf I didnâ€™t have school I wouldnâ€™t ask you to leave butâ€¦my career means a lot to meâ€¦â€ť
He kissed her forehead. â€śDonâ€™t feel bad about me leaving. Iâ€™m happy to, I truly mean that. Why donâ€™t we go back to my island so I can talk to my mentor and the rest of the group.â€ť
â€śThey really wont hate me?â€ť
â€śNot at all.â€ť 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 wasnâ€™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. â€śNow who am I going to tease?â€ť Ronin asked.
â€śBut he doesnâ€™t have anyone to stare longingly out into the distance for.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ll figure something out.â€ť
â€śAnd I promise weâ€™ll be back.â€ť Rhona said. â€śI really want to get to know all of you more and it wouldnâ€™t be fair to keep Antoni away, youâ€™re his family, so weâ€™ll be back.â€ť
â€śDonâ€™t rush, weâ€™re not going anywhere.â€ť Phobetor replied. He then placed a hand on Antoniâ€™s shoulder. â€śIâ€™m proud of you, Antoni and if you should ever need us, you know youâ€™ll find us in dream.â€ť
â€śI know, and Iâ€™ll keep helping children as much as I can.â€ť
â€śI know, how much longer can she stay? Weâ€™d love to spend some time with her before you are off.â€ť
â€śI have to leave the end of next week. I was actually hoping I would get to know you all too.â€ť
â€śThen that settles things, you can stay in Antonis room the rest of your trip.â€ť
â€śWould you like me to check out of your hotel room for you and collect your things?â€ť William offered and Rhona said, â€śOh 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.â€ť
â€śThat’s fine with me, my daughter loves coming out here.â€ť
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. â€śI promise weâ€™ll be back as soon as possible.â€ť
â€śI know, itâ€™s just strange to be going away for so long.â€ť
â€śAre you okay? I mean, really?â€ť
He turned to her, smiling. â€śOf course, I love you and I donâ€™t regret leaving. Iâ€™m happy you came to me, that you found me, and Iâ€™ll be happy no matter where I go as long as I have you.â€ť
Her heart danced and she smiled lovingly back. â€śI love you too, my hero.â€ť They hugged each other then relaxed for the rest of the ride, looking forward to their future together.
The journey to the crypt had been a long one. Desert sand clung to her eyelashes and dusted her clothing, making them look like ruddy copper rather than the bright red and gold they had been. She reached out a hand, her fingers splaying over the smooth stone of the entrance, her eyes closing as pale blue light traveled from her to the locked door. â€śBatsâ€™yek.â€ť Open. She said and heard the sound of creaking gears and straining ropes. There was a thunk and then the doors slid open, grinding against the floor before sticking. Darkness greeted her and she slipped through and whispered a command so an orb appeared before her then floated slowly down the shadowed hallway. Dust had long settled here on the coffins set in alcoves along the walls and the subtle scent of long dried up oils permeated the air. This crypt housed many a long dead warrior, buried with their most prized possessions, but the thing she sought was in the room at the end, the thing they supposedly guarded even in death, the one she needed.
The crypt went down, down, down into more darkness and the air grew cooler with each step, causing goosebumps to rise on her flesh. It was almost frighteningly silent, yet she persisted, undeterred. She only paused when she came across bones and upon examination realized that they belonged to others who had come here and died after springing traps. She said a small prayer over them then moved on. The orb paused at the ornately decorated door, the light causing the silver emblems to shimmer. This was the place, his prison. She took a deep breath and placed both hands against it, feeling a shiver run up her spine at how cold the metal was. She commanded it to open and then pushed with all her might, relieved when it gave way and freezing on the threshold at the sleeping warrior. He was bound and gagged on his knees, his head ducked down so dark hair obscured his features. It wasnâ€™t the fact that he was so well preserved that astounded her, but the fact that he had two sharp spikes driven through his back, that crossed and exited at his ribs, holding him there. Here was the one who could save her people from the undead horde coming their way. Some called him the Betrayer, others the Wraith King, but she knew him as Actaeon the Immortal. He had been imprisoned here so long ago that he was nearly a myth, but she had dared to hope he was real.
He began to stir, bringing his head slowly up as though it took tremendous effort. His intense, grey eyes met hers but she couldnâ€™t pin an emotion in them. He had been here so long by himself, an absolutely cruel amount of time to be alone and in the dark. She just hoped he hadnâ€™t lost his mind and therefore, his ability to help her. She spoke before she moved, â€śIâ€™m going to take that gag out alright?â€ť His eyes stayed locked with hers, not giving any indication that he even heard, but when she took it out she finally saw some emotion. Unsurprisingly he seemed relieved, working his jaw so that it popped a few times.
â€śAm I finally to be free?â€ť
â€śYesâ€¦and Iâ€™d beg of you to help me.â€ť
â€śAre you the only one asking?â€ť
â€śNot truly, Iâ€™ll explain everything and while I know you canâ€™t be controlled once youâ€™re let go Iâ€™d feel too badly making you stay like that much longer while we spoke. Please, if I let you go listen to me.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s the least I could doâ€¦thank youâ€¦â€ť she could tell he wanted her name.
â€śSemele, I presume you know who I am?â€ť
â€śI am sure the stories about me are less than favorable.â€ť
He nodded. â€śOnly some, that is surprising.â€ť
She swallowed. â€śSo, how do I get these out?â€ť She pointed at the metal rods.
â€śTheyâ€™re enchanted, the spell is old.â€ť
â€śI can reverse itâ€¦at least I can try.â€ť
She saw amusement fill his eyes and it amazed her how he could even think to laugh when he had been locked away for so long. She knew if it had been her, rage and madness would have taken her. â€śThen release me.â€ť
She stood, letting her fingers slide over the rods, feeling the magic dance against her skin. She closed her eyes, finding the path to reversing the spell. She began to speak, her voice commanding and confident as she erased the magic that held him. Actaeon could feel the binding unravel and he couldnâ€™t help but turn his head so he could watch her. Sweat dotted her brow, sand dusted her skin and clothes, and she was both powerful and beautiful. She stepped back, her hands moving away. â€śWhat now?â€ť
â€śUntie my hands and I will do the rest.â€ť
She made quick work of the knots then watched in amazement as he got himself free and began mending his wounds. â€śLet me help with that.â€ť
â€śThank you.â€ť As she began healing him he urged, â€śPlease tell me why you came here.â€ť
â€śMy people are in danger of being wiped out. My father and the emperor didnâ€™t think it was wise to come here for you butâ€¦something has always told me the bad stories about you arenâ€™t true, that you were noble until the end. It just doesnâ€™t make sense after a lifetime of being nothing but noble and honest that youâ€™d turn on the man you served.â€ť
â€śI was put in here to make sure I never told my side of the tale. Thank you for believing in me. Even without further explanation Iâ€™ll help. I owe you my life now.â€ť
â€śJust help us protect ourselves and I wont ask you anything again.â€ť
â€śI have no reason to hide anything from you. Ask what you wish, Iâ€™ll answer honestly.â€ť
â€śAlright, thank you. Is there anything else you need before we leave?â€ť
â€śNo, my sword is not here, the emperor in my time locked it up in his armory as a trophy. I want it back, it was a gift.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m sure it wonâ€™t be hard to get it back if I ask.â€ť
He nodded. â€śThen we should go.â€ť Actaeon had to shield his eyes upon exiting, the sun was so bright, brighter than he remembered, but beautiful all the same. He closed his eyes, inhaling the fresh air, feeling the warmth on his skin. â€śThis, I remember. Itâ€™s still just as hot and dusty, still just as wild.â€ť He let out a chuckle as he opened his eyes and Semele thought she saw a flicker of sadness there for just a moment.
â€śSome things have changed, the city for one. My emperor is an elf so some of the architecture is moreâ€¦â€ť
â€śElegant?â€ť She nodded. â€śI remember the desert clans, I never thought they would take over an empire though. They kept to themselves for the most part. I must have been here longer than I thought, but then again it all becomes one long day when youâ€™re locked in darkness.â€ť
“How did you manage to stay so sane? I mean, you hardly seem like someone who has been locked up with nobody to talk to and in utter darkness.”
â€śI lived a long time before I became theÂ betrayer. I had many memories to fall back on to keep me going. I also held on to hope someone would finally free me. Iâ€™d imagine different ways it might happen. Someone needing my help actually was one. For all the bad stories I knew there still had to be stories of my abilities in battle.â€ť
â€śWhat actually happened all that time ago?â€ť
â€śI discovered how the prisoners of war were being treated. There are certain things you shouldnâ€™t do, even to an enemy. He was cruel and callous under that mask of civility. Then there were his slavesâ€¦its still hard to think about the things I discovered he was doing.â€ť She truly believed him, every word. Her father and the current emperor might find her naive but she hoped when he told his story to them they would be able to look into his eyes and see he was telling the truth.
Semele was amazed at how easily he moved over the sand. It was as if he hadnâ€™t just been locked away, like even though his muscles and joints were stiff from lack of use, they still remembered. He didnâ€™t even pause when sweat began to dot his brow, simply removed the coat he wore and slung it over his shoulder. She studied him as they walked, his face set in a mask of determination, his too old eyes that had seen much more than she could begin to imagine. Dark hair hung messily down his back, having grown long after years of not being trimmed. â€śI know I need a haircut.â€ť He said as he looked at her and she felt a blush of embarrassment heat her cheeks.
â€śSorry, I didnâ€™t mean to stare.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re a mage, itâ€™s what you do. You study and I must be quite the specimen.â€ť His eyes seemed to see right through her, cutting straight to the heart of things like a sharpened blade. â€śI admit, you are intriguing as well.â€ť
â€śYou follow your convictions even if they lead you nowhere. What if I had been nothing but a myth? What if you had found only bones?â€ť
â€śI would have found another way to save everyone.â€ť
â€śYou are as admirable as you are beautiful. Men must not know what to make of you. I bet you surprise them with the power you wield.â€ť
She couldnâ€™t help but smile. â€śPerhaps.â€ť
He chuckled. â€śI think I may like you.â€ť
â€śGood because I already like you. Itâ€™s admirable that youâ€™re truly coming with me, that bitterness didnâ€™t consume you and make you utterly selfish.â€ť
â€śAll that time didnâ€™t break me of the fact that you hurt yourself more being angry than you do anybody else. Iâ€™m not saying there wasnâ€™t times it was hard not to be bitter but I never let it take me.â€ť
“Well, I can cut your hair for you when we get to where we are going.”
â€śAre you sure?â€ť
â€śI know you feel indebted to me for releasing you from the bounds of your prison, but I feel a debt too that canâ€™t be repaid simply by righting a wrong that was done to you. Besides, cutting hair is a simple task, Iâ€™m good at it.â€ť
â€śThank you then, I like it about here.â€ť He held his hand about halfway down his face.
â€śShort for safety?â€ť
He smiled. â€śAbsolutely. Short hair is harder to grab, something some of my opponents learned the hard way.â€ť
â€śA legend using underhanded methods? How surprising.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s not always bad to be a little underhanded.â€ť
They ate as they walked, Semele asking more questions about him and trying to avoid the circumstances of his imprisonment. He seemed alright talking about them, but she felt rude bringing it up too much. Instead she asked about his childhood and why he had decided to become a soldier. He explained that warriors ran in his family and that he had been trained from a young age how to use a sword, how to move with speed and efficiency almost like an acrobat. He told her how immortality had granted him the time to further perfect his technique and learn some new ones. He had even learned a few languages along the way.
She enjoyed hearing about all of it so time flew as they traveled. She was surprised by how fast they made it back to her people when the trip to find him had felt so long. It made sense though, she had been stressed and worried the whole way there and Actaeon was a better travel companion than she could have ever imagined. â€śBefore we find my father and the emperor lets get you cleaned up and your hair cut. We might all get right to work and you deserve to be comfortable first. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™d even like a nice bath.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m that smelly?â€ť He asked with a grin, causing her to lightly laugh as she blushed.
â€śDonâ€™t be, I know youâ€™re just trying to be kind. Please, all that sounds wonderful.â€ť
Semele took him to her living quarters and through to the adjoining bathroom. â€śThis is new.â€ť He said as he looked around.
â€śYeah, the previous emperor preferred copper tubs, but the one now liked the bathhouse look so he had everything torn out and replaced the tubs with stone pools.â€ť
â€śHot spring water?â€ť
â€śYes and filters out to let clean water in.â€ť
â€śAmazing, thank you.â€ť He pulled his shirt off and her eyes were drawn to his torso. He was well lean of build and surprisingly well muscled for a man who had been locked away for so long. She noticed a few scars here and there, some across his back, one up high that looked like a sword had pierced him. He also had a few on his arms. â€śFrom training.â€ť His voice startled her and a blush crawled up her neck as she met his gaze. â€śThe ones on my arms are from training.â€ť
â€śOh, I see.â€ť She swallowed.
â€śIt happens when youâ€™re first learning how to block.â€ť He smiled. â€śSo, ready to cut my hair?â€ť
â€śYeah.â€ť He took a seat on the lid of her toilet as she looked in a drawer for Scissors, taking the time to calm herself down. As she grabbed a pair she promised to herself that she would quit being rude. Staring at him and bringing up what he just went through was out of the question, even if she was dying to know how he still looked so good. Was his magic truly that powerful? Her ever curious mind was begging to know, to learn from such an obviously skilled man. She began cutting, silence hanging between them until she finished. â€śTake your time getting cleaned up.â€ť
He walked over to the mirror, a smile adorning his face yet again. â€śThank you so much Semele.â€ť
Semele left him alone and he quickly stripped off his remaining clothes and stepped into the hot water and sank down into its waiting heat. He let out a sigh of relief as aching muscles began to relax. He had not realized how sore he really was until now. He allowed his head to rest back on the edge of the pool and closed his eyes, enjoying this moment, knowing it may not last if they tried to lock him up again.
Semele was surprised by her father as she left her room, running right into him, her heart stuttering in her chest. â€śDaddy, you scared me.â€ť
â€śI was informed you returned with a guest.â€ť
â€śYes, I did.â€ť She finally said, feeling suddenly nervous.
â€śIs it him?â€ť She nodded. â€śIs he in there?â€ť He nodded at her door.
â€śYes.â€ť He started past her and she quickly stopped him. He arched an eyebrow at her, looking slightly amused. â€śSorry, itâ€™s just heâ€™s bathing. I was going to get him clothes.â€ť Her face felt suddenly very hot.
â€śI see.â€ť He sighed. â€śCome then, he can borrow some of mine.â€ť
â€śHe must be here to help if he came all this way. Iâ€™m still unsure but he obviously hasnâ€™t hurt you and as you said when you left, we need all the help we can get.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re a smart girl Semele. Just because we are unsure about how you want to help doesnâ€™t make it fair to discount it. Donâ€™t thank me, youâ€™ve earned the right to have your ideas and opinions heard and given a fair chance. How does he seem so far by the way?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™d never know now that Iâ€™ve cut his hair he had been locked away so long. He could walk here just fine and is still fit somehow. He told me his side of the story too and I believe it. He truly wasnâ€™t in the wrong. The emperor in his time was doing bad things, torturing people. Actaeon stood up for what was right. I feel it in my heart now more than ever. You know the stories of him before he betrayed his emperor. It never made sense to me how he could change for no reason.â€ť Her father nodded and soon they entered his room, collected some clothes then brought them back to her room. â€śIâ€™m leaving the clothes on my bed. I wont be in here, Iâ€™m going with my dad to talk to the emperor.â€ť
Actaeon washed his skin and scrubbed his hair, letting out a sigh of relief as he rinsed. He got out and dried then wrapped the towel around his waist just in case. The clothes Semele had brought for him were comfortable, made for easy movement and the hot weather. He would have to consider having some tailored for his stay. He opted out wearing his boots. Even though he wanted to look proper, he knew they needed to be cleaned. He headed out, not wanting to leave Semele, her father, and the emperor waiting.
â€śYou are sure he doesnâ€™t hold any bitterness towards us?â€ť Emperor Sgaire asked.
â€śI am, he traveled here willingly and didnâ€™t so much as raise his voice at me. I know youâ€™re worried, especially with everything thatâ€™s happening, but he wants to help us.â€ť
â€śAnd you are sure you can trust him?â€ť
â€śI do owe her my life.â€ť Actaeonâ€™s voice startled her and she turned as he stepped fully into the throne room and crossed over to them. â€śIf it makes you feel any better, I shall swear fealty to her.â€ť
Sgaire actually cracked a smile. â€śBut not to me?â€ť
â€śIf you can prove you are better than the one before you then I may consider it, but Semele came for me on her own, she rescued me, and I owe her everything.â€ť
His smile rose again. “I suppose swearing to her is just as good since I know I can trust Semele every bit as much as I trust her father. We have much to talk about. Iâ€™m sure she wasnâ€™t able to go over everything with you on the way here. I have the plans and a few maps I want to show you in my study. I think a few things have changed since your time.”Actaeon followed Sgaire, Semele and her father, paying close attention as the emperor brought him up to speed on their situation.
â€śNo wonder you were desperate youâ€™d let her come to find me. When did the Ettins and Hybrid Sentinelâ€™s get so close and when did they become so volatile?â€ť
â€śThey first became close when an Ettin female and male Sentinel mated about fifty years back. We arenâ€™t sure precisely when they started becoming so hateful though. Weâ€™ve tried speaking with them but they arenâ€™t interested in much discussion.â€ť
â€śI know how they got the flying wolves on board though, do you?â€ť
â€śThe emperor of my time was also involved in the trade of selling their paws and wings.â€ť The three of them looked horrified.
â€śNo.â€ť Semele half gasped.
Actaeon nodded â€śI canâ€™t imagine there will ever be any bringing them back to peace with us. Wolves donâ€™t often forgive such heinous crimes against their packs.â€ť
â€śWhat do we do? How do we stop them without completely wiping them out?â€ť
Actaeon pulled one of the maps over. â€śYou say they are here, but the Sentinels and the wolves have wings. If you can get enough mages, we can put a magical net in the air. It should be invisible of course. Once they fall to earth, they can all be restrained. As for the Ettins, we dig a pit fall deep enough to catch them, but shallow enough they wonâ€™t come to any real harm.â€ť
â€śHow are we going to draw them in?â€ť
â€śWeâ€™ll start the battle here, get the Ettins invested in attacking then we retreat. If we dig a trench here and place planks across for bridges, then your men can escape without falling in.â€ť He looked to Semele. â€śI want you to hold the net up against those in the air once itâ€™s in place.â€ť
â€śBecause you are the most powerful person magically in this room and I believe you can do it.â€ť
She was surprised at his words, giving a smile and nod. Her father nor the emperor were shocked, it was something they had already felt too. â€śIâ€™ll gather the ones bravely going into battle with us and inform them of the new plan. Thank you Actaeon. If you truly stay on our side through this I will make sure something is done to thank you and apologize for the wrongs of the previous emperor.â€ť Sgaire said then walked out of the room.
â€śI should go with him, get some rest before this all starts Actaeon. You seem in good condition but I canâ€™t imagine youâ€™re truly completely alright.â€ť
â€śYeah, do you want something to eat?â€ť Semele asked and that charming smile about stopped her heart.
â€śPlease, something light though.â€ť
â€śOf course. Oh, I almost forgot, your sword. Come with me.â€ť Her fingers wrapped gently around his wrist and his heart skipped a beat at her touch. She took him to the old armory where the previous emperor had kept his most prized possessions. There were swords and bows, books, and even enchanted jewelry. Actaeonâ€™s sword rested in the center of the room, proudly displayed as a trophy.
Semele released him and he stepped up to it, reaching shakily out, letting his fingers wrap around the sheathe. He swallowed as he pulled the blade free. â€śI never thought to see it again.â€ť
She touched his shoulder and he quickly sheathed his weapon and wiped at his face. â€śForgive me. It was a gift from my father.â€ť He chuckled. â€śSuch a stupid thing to get so emotional over.â€ť
â€śYou getting emotional is anything but stupidâ€¦would you like a hug?â€ť He gently took her in his arms, surprised at how good it felt to hold her and have her hold him back. She held him until he let go. She couldnâ€™t imagine all the emotional pain he had gone through. Semele was happy he had finally let a little of it out instead of keeping it inside. Semele knew he might not even realize how much pain he was holding back, for anybody that would have been a tortured existence, essentially being buried alive when you had done no wrong. â€śBetter?â€ť she asked softly.
â€śYes, I needed that.â€ť
â€śLet’s get you some food now.â€ť She had salad and soup prepared then walked him back to her bedroom. â€śLay down for a bit aright?â€ť
â€śSleep laying down would be welcome. Please donâ€™t hesitate to wake me when Iâ€™m needed Semele.â€ť
â€śAs long as you relax until then we have a deal.â€ť He nodded then hugged her again, hoping it was alright to hug her without asking. She instantly hugged back so he relaxed, happy to know he could do this anytime he needed. Once in the room he settled underneath her blanket, laying his sword at his side. Half to protect himself in case the enemy forces surprised them and half because he worried about losing it again.
Semele found her father and Sgaire out in the courtyard talking to a group of five mages. They were telling them to gather those with combat experience and a high affinity for magic. They wanted them to not only be able to cast such a large spell as the net, but also to defend the city if anyone should break through. The mages headed out and both her father and the emperor turned to her. â€śHow is our guest?â€ť Sgaire asked.
â€śSleeping, I think he was more exhausted than he was letting on.â€ť
â€śGood, your father and I were about to head over to the barracks and speak to the soldiers. Would you like to join us? Actaeon has given you a huge responsibility and you should know the men and women you will be working with.â€ť
They started walking across the courtyard and Sgaire said. â€śI would like you to stick with him, Semele since he seems to trust you the most.â€ť
She blushed. â€śI planned on it.â€ť
â€śHe does seem quite attached to you.â€ť He chuckled. â€śTo swear his loyalty to you alone, such a bold move.â€ť
â€śI almost feel like he was testing you.â€ť Semeleâ€™s father said.
â€śMore than likely.”
They arrived at the barracks where introduction after introduction took place. Semele made special effort to remember them all and hoped they didnâ€™t lose a single one of them though she knew that was high hopes. Problems like this seldom ended without someone loseing their life. She listened as Her father and the emperor spoke of their plans and precisely what they would be expected to do. They all seemed enthused, completely confident in the strategy they were going with. She thought to herself, â€śgood, confident soldiers always do betterâ€ť. Once Semele found herself alone with her father she asked, â€śDo you think Sgaire plans to clear Actaeon’s name after this?â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s already mentioned it.â€ť
â€śWhen you were tending to Actaeon.â€ť
â€śHe deserves it more than anyone. Itâ€™s unfair and cruel how quickly his reputation was tarnished.â€ť
Her father chuckled. â€śYou really like him donâ€™t you?â€ť
She blushed. â€śWellâ€¦I mean heâ€™s so fascinating and kind and heâ€™s helping us when he doesnâ€™t have too. Heâ€™s so honorable.â€ť
He nodded. â€śAlright, you have my blessing.â€ť
He hugged her, laughing. â€śIâ€™m so proud of you, Semele. Proud of you for sticking to your convictions and proving us wrong.â€ť He pulled back to look at her. â€śYou should go to him, see if heâ€™s still sleeping and prepare yourself. We donâ€™t know how long this fight is going to take and I need to get the mages to help dig the trench. Magic is faster.â€ť
â€śAlright.â€ť She honestly felt happy to have a reason to check on him. Actaeon walked back to her room then quietly entered, smiling when she saw him resting still, he deserved to. She couldnâ€™t help but walk closer, standing there a few moments until she felt like a creeper and began to exit her room.
â€śSemele?â€ť She suddenly heard him say softly.
â€śIâ€™m sorry, did I wake you?â€ť
â€śIs everything alright?â€ť
â€śI was just checking on you.”
He sat up. â€śLet me get up.â€ť
â€śNo, itâ€™s okay, really.â€ť She felt bad he felt so compelled but he gave her such a reassuring smile.
â€śI feel much better, Iâ€™m glad you came in here so I didnâ€™t sleep all our peaceful time away.â€ť
â€śDid you have any dreams?â€ť She inquired, still curious about him in general.
He blushed. â€śNo.â€ť It felt like the first time he lied to her but she didnâ€™t push it. He could have countless reasons not to bring up whatever his dream was about.
â€śYou really can go back to sleep.â€ť
He shook his head as he stretched his arms above his head then got up. â€śHas anything happened?â€ť
â€śNo, daddy and the other mages are going out to dig the trench and the soldiers are ready to help.â€ť
â€śGood, how are you feeling?â€ť
â€śReady to get this over with, maybe a little nervous.â€ť
He nodded as he lifted his sword from the covers and her eyes followed it. He gave a sheepish smile, rubbing the back of his neck. â€śI wanted to keep it close.â€ť
She had to admit his unexpected embarrassment was adorable. â€śThatâ€™s okay, I understand. Would you like to go on a walk with me or something since youâ€™re up? We could get some tea if you donâ€™t want to.â€ť
â€śIâ€™d love to, we can talk. Iâ€™m sure you have many questions and I want to get to know you better.â€ť
Semele waited for Actaeon to put his boots back on then they headed for a path Semele knew was safe and had taken many times. She told Actaeon as much, not wanting him to worry about an ambush of any sort. â€śRegardless, I have my sword back on my hip, I wouldnâ€™t let anything happen to either of us. Weâ€™re quite the pair, you with your magic and me with my sword. She blushed again though she could see he wasnâ€™t trying to flirt. He truly had that much faith in their abilities.
â€śSo, when this is all over, whatâ€™s the first thing you want to do?â€ť She wanted to have a positive conversation with him.
“To continue spending time with you like this.â€ť He answered honestly.
â€śAs Iâ€™ve said, I find you very intriguing. I very much like being around you Semele.â€ť
Her face heated. â€śI very much like being around you too.â€ť
His smile, the smile that made him look years younger, that lit up his eyes and chased away the shadows lurking there, had her heart racing. â€śAn old man like me?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re not that old.â€ť
â€śI have centuries on you.â€ť
â€śIâ€¦I donâ€™t mind.â€ť He looked at her questioningly. â€śI meanâ€¦â€ť she cleared her throat. â€śSo what do you think of the changes?â€ť
He stared into her eyes for a moment, searching her gaze with his. She forced herself not to look away. â€śTheyâ€™re welcome.â€ť He finally answered. â€śI should thank your emperor. If he had not taken the throne, I would have never met you, I would have never been saved.â€ť He let his hand slip gently over hers and pulled her to a stop. â€śI am truly lucky.â€ť He brought her fingers to his lips. â€śYou are an amazing woman, Semele.â€ť
She was frozen, her whole body seeming to react to him. She had been so eager to find him, to learn about him but he was so much more captivating than she could have ever imagined heâ€™d be. He had this pull and she wondered if he had it with everyone. He smiled again, letting her hand go just as slowly and carefully as he had taken it. They spent all the time they had until the battle at eachothers side, neither wanting to part. There was so much determination from everyone to finish this and while Semele thought sheâ€™d be more nervous about going into battle she was ready, calm, cool and collected. Every one had faith that she could do her part so sheâ€™d honor them by having faith in herself.
Semele asked him a few questions about his past, about the different people he knew and how many wars he had been in. She was amazed to find he had served more than one emperor in his time and he admired most of them. He talked about his childhood, about how hard his father had trained him, and about how wonderful both of his parents were. They walked in silence for a few moments until they came to a stop next to a tree. They stared out at the moonlit sand. â€śWould you like to know about my time in my prison, about why I still look like this?â€ť He suddenly asked and her heart stuttered.
â€śI do, butâ€¦â€ť
He looked into her eyes, smiling. â€śYouâ€™re afraid youâ€™ll upset me?â€ť
â€śI want to tell you.â€ť
â€śIf youâ€™re sure you want to, you truly donâ€™t owe me any kind of explanation.â€ť His smile only grew more amused, still shocking her he could be so jovial. â€śRest assured Semele I know you, you are an amazing, incredibly giving woman. Iâ€™m sure no matter what you do for others you expect nothing in return but I find myself wanting to know everything about you so itâ€™s only fair you know everything about me. So I will tell you about my time down there.â€ť He took her hand, finding it harder and harder not to touch her, especially since she never rested or seemed like it bothered her. â€śPain has never been a big problem to me so I moved as much as I could. Even before being put down there I knew I couldnâ€™t starve to death so while I didnâ€™t know how long Iâ€™d be there I knew that one day, somehow Iâ€™d be free so I needed to keep my muscle mass.â€ť
â€śDoes not needing to eat run in your family?â€ť
â€śYeah, I mean, its uncomfortable to be hungry but for whatever reason we donâ€™t actually have to eat anything. Thankfully I discovered down there that even the discomfort eventually goes away. I do enjoy food though so Iâ€™m happy to have it again.â€ť
â€śDid the previous emperor know you wouldnâ€™t die?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think so, that was so long ago Iâ€™m not sure what all he knew about me though. I retreated to my memories frequently but I chose ones that made me happy, he obviously wasnâ€™t someone I wanted to think about.â€ť
â€śDid you do anything else to keep sane?â€ť
â€śBugs would come in and sometimes underground animals would tunnel their way down there and mess around. Iâ€™d just listen to them, sometimes create my own little story of their lives to amuse myself.â€ť
Semele felt her chest grow tight and a lump form in her throat. â€śWow, I canâ€™t imagine.â€ť She swallowed. â€śHow cruel, to leave you there.â€ť
Actaeon could hear the sadness and anger in her voice and he once again pulled her gently to a stop, only this time he drew her into his arms. â€śDonâ€™t be sad for me, Semele, I wallowed enough the first few days I was locked away and I made peace with it.â€ť
He leaned back and lifted her head. â€śBesides, I may never have met you, so please donâ€™t be sad.â€ť
She let out a little laugh and he smiled. â€śIf I had been there, there would have been no way they would have locked you up. Iâ€™d have made the emperor apologize and step down.â€ť
â€śI bet you would have.â€ť He chuckled. â€śNo more tears. Smile for me, itâ€™s makes every single moment locked in that place worth it.â€ť
She couldnâ€™t imagine how that could be true, how knowing her could possibly make all that misery worth it, but she could tell he meant those words. She gave him the best smile she could and it warmed his heart. â€śAs I understand it war will be upon us in the morning. We should rest. I have absolute faith in you tomorrow, have faith in me too.â€ť He didnâ€™t want her laying her head down tonight with any anxieties. She already meant too much to him to let anything in the world happen to her or the people she cared most about. She wasnâ€™t sure she wanted to rest but tomorrow was possibly one of the most important days of their life. How well they performed would mean everything.
Actaeon walked her back to her room and lifted her knuckles to his lips again. â€śSweet dreams, Semele. I know tomorrow is a big day, but I want you to sleep well.â€ť
â€śYou too and if you need me for anything, please come get me. I donâ€™t know if you have nightmares, butâ€¦â€ť
He chuckled. â€śOnly a brief moment of confusion waking up here. Iâ€™m sure it will take a little while for me to get used to being free. Go rest now, Iâ€™ll see you in the morning.â€ť
He left her there in front of her door, finding himself wanting to stay, but knowing it would be inappropriate. They hardly knew each other, but she had stolen his heart anyway. Semele went to bed that night thinking about Actaeon. She planned to make everyday new and exciting for him, hoping his time spent in that place would fade to a distant memory after awhile. She closed her eyes, making herself go to sleep so she wouldnâ€™t be exhausted in the morning.
Everyone was up with the sun and on their way as quickly as possible. Actaeon walked at her side, looking a little different than the previous days. She knew most warriors, especially as skilled as he was often were like completely different people when they were in battle. His amused, soft features were now serious, determined. He was obviously ready to do whatever needed to be done. She almost wanted to admire him but this wasnâ€™t the time. She needed to stay focused as well, she needed to do her job correctly to spare as many lives as possible. The day was particularly warm but it did nothing to slow or distract anybody, they were used to the heat and the people her father and Sgaire picked were better than letting elements get to them.
Actaeon stood at the head of the soldiers, the emperor by his side. He found his respect for Sgaire growing. Sgaire called the charge forward and their enemy rushed at them, growling and bellowing their hate. Soldiers and Ettins slammed into each other, but Actaeon kept it brief, calling a retreat so every soldier spun around and raced away, the creatures giving chase as planned. Actaeon glanced up at the sky, seeing the Sentinels and wolves drawing closer, readying to dive. He had complete faith in Semele, knew that she could hold the net and keep the creatures out of the sky once they hit it. He felt his feet hit one of the wood planks and turned his gaze forward. The moment he felt sand again, the planks were pulled away and the Ettins in their rage fell into the pit before they could stop.
Semele was amazed at how easily Actaeon carried out his plan and she barely felt the exhaustion of her magic being drained as she watched him. The Sentinels and wolves hit the net the mages had cast and many fell as if shocked. Those that managed to stay low enough were taken down by her father and the other mages. She held the net in place until the last of the winged creatures fell to earth and collapsed back onto the ground when she finally released her hold on it. She laid there for a moment staring up at the sky, panting and sweating.
She knew this wasnâ€™t over quite yet. They had gotten this under control but their anger would forever hold if they didnâ€™t talk sense into them. The wolves had indeed been wronged and maybe that was irreversible but they had to try and maybe if the other beings would just talk this out with them they could work out whatever had made them so angry as well. Emperor Sgaire ordered the Sentinel that was obviously their leader be released to stand on his own. â€śWhat do you expect?â€ť He snapped bitterly.
â€śTo talk, please, you and your people keep refusing but I want to end this peacefully.â€ť
â€śYour kind canâ€™t be peaceful.â€ť
â€śWe can, I swear it, I am not like the emperors of the pastâ€¦I know why the wolves hate us but please, tell me why you and the Ettins do.â€ť
â€śWe were driven out of our homes, treated like unintelligent animals, many of us were killed. We did nothing wrong, we hurt no one, yet we were treated as lesser.â€ť
â€śDo you believe you are the only one who has ever been wronged?â€ť Actaeon asked before Sgaire could voice anything further. â€śDo you think youâ€™re the only one who has felt the cruel sting of betrayal? I spent centuries locked in a tomb, my name and reputation slandered because I stood up and revolted against the emperor I served at the time, but these people,â€ť Actaeon waved his hand to encompass the soldiers and mages and Sgaire, â€śthese are good people, this emperor is a good and honorable man. Let him make amends.â€ť
The Sentinel studied him. â€śYou are familiar.â€ť
â€śI am Actaeon the Immortal and this is my home. We can all work together if you will speak to Sgaire.â€ť
â€śActaeon,â€ť the Sentinel nodded, â€śI see. I will speak to him then, without bloodshed.â€ť
Sgaire wasnâ€™t even shocked Actaeons name carried such weight, not every race had been foolish enough to believe that Actaeon had been turned. He was embarrassed himself he once believed the slanderous stories that were spread. Sgaire was soon sitting and talking with the leader Sentinel and a few others from the group. They found reconciliation out on that field and began the journey back to the palace to make some changes official, to begin righting past wrongs. The wolves even tagged along though they seemed the most untrusting of this truce. Sgaire, Semele and her father were simply grateful they too were willing to bring this war to an end. Sgaire didnâ€™t rest until all the paperwork was done and stamped, ready to put into motion the next day.
â€śI thought Iâ€™d find you here.â€ť Semeleâ€™s voice brought Actaeon out of his thoughts and he turned, smiling at her and holding out his hand. She took it and he pulled her to stand next to them under the tree.
â€śJust thinking and waiting. Sgaire makes everything official tomorrow and the wolves are still incredibly restless.â€ť
â€śDo you think theyâ€™ll attack?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t know, but thereâ€™s no harm in making sure. What about you, what are you doing wandering around?â€ť
She blushed. â€śLooking for you.â€ť
He smiled. â€śWell Iâ€™m glad you did.â€ť He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, making her heart stutter.
â€śWho wouldnâ€™t want to spend time with the goddess who rescued them?â€ť
He sighed out a laugh and ran his fingers nervously through his hair. â€śIâ€¦Semele, Iâ€™ve grown quite attached to you, you are so amazing and beautiful. You probably think Iâ€™m crazy, but I really like you, adore you even.â€ť
She wasnâ€™t going to play coy and ask him if he was serious. She knew he wouldnâ€™t say something like that unless he absolutely meant it. â€śItâ€™s not so crazyâ€¦I adore you too. Youâ€™re so handsome and strong willed. Iâ€™ve never met such an unbreakable spirit.â€ť
He tucked her hair behind her left ear. â€śDoes that mean we could be more than just friends?â€ť She could feel her face heating, her pulse picking up. She moved to kiss him and he smiled briefly before kissing her back. It was short and said everything she needed to say. Actaeon pulled her into him, feeling lucky and brimming with hope of a peaceful, happy future.
~ The End
Zeric and his father laughed happily as they walked back home “I can’t believe you turned eighteen last week son”
“that’s all you’ve been able to talk about”
“you’ll understand when you’re a parent…it’s weird to have your child become an adult” Zeric decided this was a good time to ask his father “can my girlfriend stay the night tonight?”
“makes sense for her to since she’s joining us on our family vacation. Want to go get her by yourself or do you want me to walk with you?”
“I’ll get her by myself, I know moms waiting on you”
“That she is, she’s a good woman” They parted ways when they came upon the path that would lead to Amorie’s home and as soon as he couldn’t see his father he ran towards her home, eager to see her. He banged on her door excitedly and her parents let Amorie answer since only her boyfriend knocked so franticly. “Hey!” she exclaimed as they hugged “hey baby, my dad says you can spend the night”
“great!” she grabbed her already made bag and told her parents goodbye. “I’m so glad your dad said yes” Amorie expressed once they were on the road ‘I figured he would”
“you’re lucky to have such an awesome step dad” she blushed “oh sorry, I don’t know why I keep calling him that since you only ever call him your dad”
“it doesnt make me mad when you call him my step dad. I mean he is so that would be unreasonable of me. He’s just the only dad I’ve ever had so personally, I feel he deserves to just be called dad” she blushed “I guess it’s just on my mind he is your step dad lately since you’ve been looking into who your bio dad was”
“Yeah, I get that, don’t worry babe” Zeric took her hand, bringing it to his lips to kiss it. When they arrived at his home his mother had dinner ready and they all ate until they couldn’t fit another bite in their bellies. That night Amorie and Zeric were up late, fooling around with eachother when his mothers scream filled his ears. They both gasped, Amorie sliding off of him and hastily grabbing clothes. Now they could hear the screams of his older siblings which had Zeric rushing out of his room wearing nothing but underwear. Blood was everywhere they looked, sliding down the walls and pooling out on the floor. “Mother!” Zeric yelled in horror at the sight of her lifeless body.
The man in their home was fast and merciless, killing his entire family right before his eyes. Zeric couldn’t think of anything else to do but hold Amorie until the man started walking towards them “Please, please if anything spare her, spare my girlfriend please” he begged, tears cascading. The assassin put his sword away, smiling as if there were anything to smile about in this once happy house. “I was not sent for her or you so quit your blubbering child. I was ordered to kill your mother for not sharing you with your father, I was ordered to kill your siblings because they belonged to a man that dared let you call him father when you had a real one out there. Your father is a bit disgusted now that he knows your alive, especially finding out that you don’t even know what you are”
“My….my mother didn’t know who my father was”
“still her fault for being a whore in her youth”
“don’t talk about her that way…my mom”
“my mom” the assassin mocked him in a whiney voice.
“Shut up you…you bastard.”
The grin left the assassin’s face and he lifted Zeric by his throat and punched him in the abdomen. “Watch your mouth you little half blood brat.” He let his eyes flick to Amorie. “Or I’ll really hurt her and make you watch.”
Zeric whimpered and the assassin threw him down. Amorie pulled him to her and wrapped her arms protectively around him. “You monster.”
“Thank you child.” He turned and started away then paused. “Disappear boy, you’re nothing but a mistake and a nuisance.”
Then he was gone and Zeric was clinging tightly to Amorie, unable to stop the tears that welled up with his despair. He found himself pushing out of her arms and crawling away to throw up. Why was this happening? He asked himself. Why now? “Zeric?” Amorie said as she ran her hand up and down his back. “Zeric, we need to get help.” Her voice was full of tears.
“That bastard.” He said. “That evil, monstrous bastard. He killed them. Why? Why would…they hadn’t done anything wrong.”
“I know baby, I know.”
He forced himself to get up, hoping if he got help for them now somebody would be able to do something. He had to cling to hope, he loved his family too much to accept too readily they were dead. They went to the home of the most powerful healer in their village and Amorie filled him in. He left with them right then and there, rushing back to their home in hopes there was anything he could do for the family. The healer tried and tried despite the fact they were all obviously gone, eventually sighing in defeat “Zeric” he started, struggling to announce his friends dead “No! NO! no no no” Zeric started bawling and Amorie held him, crying herself. “I’m so sorry” Kennett said somberly as he looked at the floor.
“No!” Zeric was still repeating it like his denial could save them. “You two shouldn’t stay here Amorie. We need to take him to your home, to your parents” Amorie nodded, trying to get her boyfriend up again but he wouldn’t budge “I can’t” she wasn’t sure what he was saying he cant to but her best guess it was him saying he couldn’t leave his parents “Zeric, we have to, come on” She kept trying but Zeric was understandably lost to grief so Kennett went to get her parents himself to help.
When her family arrived Amorie’s dad lifted Zeric “you shouldn’t be sitting here with their dead bodies”
“I can’t leave them! No!”
“You’re just a boy, you need time to process this without staring at their bodies” Amories mother hugged her “baby are you okay?”
“I think Zerics dad found out about Zeric since he’s been asking around…I don’t know how but his dad knows about him now”
“the entire village will rally and keep you two safe”
Zeric wanted to go back, but Amorie’s father had a hold of his shoulders and he knew no matter how much he struggled, he wouldn’t be able to escape. He fell into a silent melancholy, his head hanging down as he walked. He felt fingers slip through his and it took him a moment to realize it was Amorie. He squeezed her hand, another knot forming in his throat. It was like a slow moving nightmare and he would give anything to wake up to his family. When they got to Amorie’s home, her parents let her take him upstairs and get him into bed. She hated the look of hopelessness on his face, but didn’t know what to say. What could she say? She would be torn apart if anything happened to her parents. All she could do was pull him into her arms, his head pillowed on her chest and hope that she was able to bring him some comfort.
“I love you, Zeric, I hope you know that.” He didn’t say anything back, but his arms wrapped tightly around her.
The sun was barely making it’s way up when they held a service for Zerics family. It meant the world to him the entire village was there. They had been such good people and Zeric felt himself become even more consumed with rage. How dare his father do this, how dare he judge his mother. Seeing the kind of man he was Zeric could see why she hadn’t tried to figure out who the father was and just raised him herself until his step dad came along. The only thing he cared about his biological father now was what he was since the assassin mentioned part of his rage was the fact he had no idea he was half of something that wasn’t human. He cared about that because he was going to avenge his family, no matter what it took and if he had some kind of abilities he didn’t know about all the better to get vengeance with.
When the service was over their village leader approached Zeric “we have a lot to talk about Zeric, come with me. I’m taking you to your home” Amorie looked a bit startled at the idea “but..it’s”
“last night a bunch of us worked to clean things up for Zeric. He needs to come with me for now. You go along with your parents young Amorie”
“can’t she come with us?” The elder looked at her parents who nodded “alright then, she can come with us” Zeric took her hand, just to make sure she was safe and right there with him. He could have so easily lost her last night too. All he had done was whimper and beg and among his anger was shame for not being braver. Walking in his home was hard but he knew the elder must have a good reason. He guided Zeric into his parents bedroom then went to a floor board and yanked it up. It came up with a few other planks, obviously made to do so. “look” The village leader urged so Zeric and Amorie came closer to look inside “what?” Zeric could barely believe how much money was down there. They weren’t poor but they hadn’t lived a particularly wealthy life style either.
“Given the world we live in they let me know this was here for you children. You parents were saving, intending to have this split between you all when they passed. It’s apparently something your mother started when she found out she was pregnant then your step father helped her along with when they got together. They’ve always added what they could. This and all their belongings are yours now. I know you might not be able to live here right now but we’ll keep this home vacant for you unless you tell me otherwise okay and if you want to store the money here it’s only the three of us that know it exists.
“I guess this is why you didn’t want me to bring Amorie?”
“yes but I know she’s a trustworthy girl. I was just considering your privacy”
“I’d never want to hide anything from Amorie” Their leader nodded and closed up the floor “what do you want to do Zeric? Your parents…” he began to choke up “your parents were amazing people and your siblings…they didn’t deserve to have their lives cut short…they were among the last people in the world that would deserve such a thing… I can see vengeance in your face, I’m old enough to recognize it even when it’s buried in such sorrow”
“I want to figure out what I am. The assassin…he mentioned I didn’t know what I was”
“I see..your mother..you should have seen her in her youth. Anything that scared her was something she wanted to be around. She had amazing stories and was always on some sort of adventure. Your father could be anything. I will put my son in charge of things so I can devote my time to helping you and Amorie. I may be older but I believe even you’ve seen I still have a lot of fight left in me. The healer who assisted you last night also wants to help if you want to set out anywhere.”
“I want to talk to my moms best friend again….she’s the one who apparently got me close to finding him….maybe if I talk to her more it’ll help”
Zeric and Amorie headed over to his mother’s friends house, while the village leader went to inform the healer that they would be packing to leave as soon as Zeric was ready. Amorie held tightly to his hand, worrying about him. “Zeric, promise me you won’t do anything reckless.” She said.
“Amorie, I…I have to hunt him down.”
“But what if he kills you?”
“He won’t, at least, I hope he won’t.” He sighed. “This is something I have to do and I’m scared too, I really am, but he…and I…I couldn’t do anything. I’m such a weak coward. Maybe if I find out what I am…”
“No you’re not Zeric. You put yourself between that assassin and me without hesitation, that’s brave.”
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “I won’t die, I promise, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
“are you wanting to come on this journey with me?”
“Yes but I dont know if my parents will let me. Unlike you I’m still technically a child”
“To be honest I’d feel better with you home. I’d miss you but…he’s already taken my family. If he would have taken you too…I dont know if I’d be together enough to go after him…I can’t take losing you too but I’ll never try to tell you what you can and can’t do, even if I’m worried”
“I can’t wait to marry you Zeric”
“Hurry and turn eighteen then” she laughed, surprised she could “Just a few more months dork”
“I am still going to be ready to marry you if you’re wondering”
“well, you can let me know closer to time if it’s too hard”
“My parents were so happy when I told them we planned to get married soon after you turned eighteen. I want to still do it, I’d like to think they’ll be watching us”
“Then, I’ll go with you, but I promise not to get in the way. I’ll help the healer if anyone gets injured. I know how to stitch, so I can sew up wounds and wrapping is easy.”
“As long as you stick close.”
“I promise. I really don’t think I could sit here and worry, wondering if you’re coming back.”
He nodded. “I understand, I’m sure we can convince your parents if you’re sure.”
“I am.” She squeezed his hand. “It’s my duty as your wife to be sure and stand by your side, no matter what.”
He actually chuckled. “You really are the most amazing thing in the world. Thank you for holding me together.”
When they arrived at his mother’s friends home, they could see Aurora had been crying and both of them hugged her. Zeric told himself not to cry, he had to be strong if he was going to avenge his family, he couldn’t fall apart now, he could do that later when there was so much at stake. “I am so sorry, Zeric.” Aurora said.
“Me too, I wish…” he shook his head, “I need your help.”
“Anything, come in.”
They took a seat on her couch while she sat in the same blue and white chair she always did. “out of the men you told me about…who would do something like that?”
“The only one I think capable of that sort of heartlessness would be Fion”
“But…you were so certain it couldn’t be him”
“who knows..I mean….your mother wasn’t one to over share…maybe something happened…maybe something she never told me about and he ended up fathering you. Your mother had quite a few sexual partners in her time but she was never a whore. Especially to the point she truly wouldn’t know who the father was. I’m wondering if maybe something happened and she protected herself from the memory of it by convincing herself she didn’t know. Maybe something she wouldn’t want to talk about after..” He didn’t like what it sounded like she was hinting at.
“You think he may have raped her or something”
“It wouldn’t be below him I don’t think. I just…she didn’t always pick the best men but I just cant see any other man from your mothers young life doing this”
“How would he have found out?”
“You’ve tried to contact some of the men we’ve talked about right?”
“well yeah but why would they tell someone like that?”
“if your mother didn’t share it with me she didn’t share it with anybody, I thought I knew everything there was to know about her. I may still be wrong but I just don’t see any other man capable of killing her and the rest of your family”
“If he’s my father…what am I then?” she sighed “if he is your father then you are half Callicantzaros”
“the best I can describe is that they are considered a type of vampire. Their behavior is manic and their nails are something you really have to watch for. They are known to rip beings to shreds. He would live in the netherworld most of the time but he does come up for more than just the time most people consider they are limited to. I think some people add facts to creatures to comfort themselves, especially when it comes to creatures like Fion”
Zeric looked at his hands. “Do you think…do you think I could ever turn out like that? A monster?”
“No, of course not sweetie. He chose to be a monster. There are plenty of other beings, demons, dragons, vampire, and so on who live good lives. Being genetically related to him doesn’t make you a monster.”
“Never think that.” Amorie added.
“I just never want to hurt you.”
“You won’t, you’re far too sweet and gentle.”
“But I might not be able to be anymore. He…Fion…he deserves to die. I hate how blood thirsty that sounds, but I have to find him and stop him. What if he does this to someone else just for being his child? He…he had them murdered like they were nothing. I wish I could forgive that, but I can’t.”
“That doesn’t make you bad.” Amorie said as she gently stroked his hand. “You’re only trying to do what’s right.”
“She’s right, don’t let what he’s done define who you are.”
“do you think I could do some of the things he can do so I stand a chance against him?”
“I’m sure you could, you just didn’t know you should be trying. I’ve noticed you’re stronger than most boys your age”
“and he doesn’t even work out” Amorie added, causing Aurora to nod “yes, I think you did inherit some of the abilities Zeric. I think if you started trying you could face him with help”
“Our leader and Kennett are coming”
“If you’ll wait for me to talk to Winton I can arrange for him to help you. He feels he owes me his life, I’ll tell him if he protects you on this journey the debt will be fully repaid as far as I’m concerned”
“and he’s a Tarbh Uisge?”
“yes, he is powerful and I can trust him to take care of you two”
“thank you….I can use any help I can get since I still don’t really know what I can do against him. Amorie wants to come and I can’t risk loseing her”
“That’s very brave of you, Amorie.”
“I love him, even if his biological father is terrifying, I wouldn’t leave his side.”
She smiled. “You two really are meant to be.” She stood. “Just wait here, it won’t take me long.”
“Stay safe.” Zeric said.
Zeric sighed once she was gone and Amorie hugged him. “We’ll be on the road before you know it.”
“I know I shouldn’t be impatient, it’s just…I really need to do this. I’m scared, but if I don’t stop him then who will?”
“I know.” She kissed his cheek then pulled back to look at him. “You’re like one of those heroes we used to read about, off to fight the monster.”
“I don’t feel like one. They’re never scared.”
“I bet they were, but they fought anyway, because that’s what heroes do.”
He smiled, feeling his mood lighten. “You’re such a gift, thank you.”
“You are too Zeric. I truly do feel like the luckiest day of my life was when you asked me to be your girlfriend.” Zeric held Amorie, doing his best not to cry. He couldn’t stop hearing the sounds from last night, the screams of his family. HIs parents and siblings were gone and to his knowledge there was nothing he could do to bring them back. When Aurora returned Winton gave a slight bow “I’m completely at your service. I don’t know if she told you how much I owe her but I’m happy to finally have a way to show her my gratitude”
“shall we go?”
“we need to talk to Amories parents”
“I see, she is a child?”
“I’m seventeen” she answered and Winton nodded “lets go talk to her parents then. Be well Aurora” were Wintons last words before leaving Auroras home. “she’s told me where I’m most likely to find this father of yours if you’re wondering” Zeric blushed, feeling immature for not thinking of that before they left “Okay, good”
“How old are you?”
“and you want to take on a task like this?”
“my family didn’t deserve to die. I can’t just let him get away with it”
“I understand, sorry, I just want to get to know who I’m accompanying better” When they arrived at Amories parents home she gave them a long speech punctuated with “I know I’ll always be your little girl but I need to go. I’m going to marry Zeric, I’d marry him now if I wasn’t too young but this is something I should be at his side for. I promise to be careful and to rely on Winton, Kennett, Zeric and our leader Achilleo”
Her father sighed, conflict and worry making his expression heavy “it seems you’ve made up your mind..” he said and Amorie answered “I have dad” her mother hugged her “I’ve always loved how brave and hard headed you’ve grown to be but be smart aswell on this journey. You are just a human girl. If there is any sign of trouble you hide behind this horned fellow or our leader”
“I promise to not be dangerously stubborn mom”
“then go sweetheart, who am I to say you can’t follow your husband.” her father said sadly then hugged her himself.
They left once Amorie had everything she would need and found Kennett and Achilleo waiting at the village center. “Everything in order?” Achilleo asked. Both Zeric and Amorie couldn’t help but be amazed at how different he looked. He was actually wearing a breastplate and had an ax strapped to his back.
“Yeah.” Zeric finally said. “Um, where did you get those sir?”
“Oh this old stuff?” He patted the breastplate. “Back in my younger years, I was quite the fighter. I’m a bit rusty, but I think I’ll pick it all up again while we’re out.”
“That’s pretty amazing.”
“Don’t let this rickety old body fool you.”
“I’ll try not to. Thank you for coming with us.”
“I couldn’t just let you go it alone, what kind of leader would I be if I did?”
“How does your son feel about running things?” Amorie asked as they began walking together “I think if it weren’t for his sorrow over the loss of the Charmian family he’d be excited. I give him a lot of responsibility so he wont be new to anything if something should happen to me but this is the first time he’s the one solely at the helm of our village”
“He’ll be good when it’s his turn to be leader but we wont need a new one anytime soon” Kennett said as he gave Achilleo two solid pats on the back. Achilleo chuckled, that deep and somehow warm laugh he had brought comfort even in the hardest of times. He was actually the first in his family line to be village leader. The family before his that had passed down the leadership role had become corrupt and untrustworty. After one particularly bad event the town voted for someone new and it was almost unanimous that they wanted Achilleo. He had been much younger back then. From what Zeric knew the man had been in his early twenties but he lived up to everyone’s dreams and fixed everything the previous family had ruined within their village.
He didn’t know a lot about the Achilleo’s son but Zeric only ever heard his parents say good things so Zeric felt this family would control their village for many generations to come. ‘Yes, I don’t plan on leaving this world any time soon and with a group like this I’m certainly in no danger of it today. Zeric, we will find this man and he will pay for what he did, I mean it.”
“I have faith in that sir”
“Zeric, you’re a man now so lets dispense with the sir. Anyway, who is leading?”
“I know the way” Winton announced so Achilleo asked “Have I seen you before?”
“I am a friend of Auroras. I come to visit her now and then. I am here to repay a debt I owe her”
“Oh, oh yes I know where I know you from. Huh, look at you now, all healthy, you’re barely recognizable.”
“Yes, she helped me, nursed me back to health when she didn’t have to…when she didn’t know me at all. I literally owe that woman my life so if she wants me to protect these two I will do it”
“where is it you live normally?”
“Not really anywhere. I can’t stand to be in one place”
“That must be hard. You never make any friends.” Amorie said.
“I’ve never had a need until I met Aurora. She has been very kind to me, even knowing what I am.”
“You never hurt anyone, Aurora would have said so.” Zeric replied.
“True, but I tend to make people uncomfortable. She doesn’t look at me like I am strange or a monster.”
“That’s because she has a big heart.”
Winton nodded. “Yes, she is.” He cleared his throat. “So, Aurora told me that you are half callicantzaros.”
“She said Fion, my biological father, is one.”
“They can be quite dangerous, but I believe you will be able to control any gifts passed on to you.”
“How do I figure out what?”
“we’re bound to encounter something on the way to him. We don’t live in the calmest of worlds” It was the next day that gave them their chance to test out Zeric. “You all stay back. I wont let him get hurt too much.” Winton said and they all listened. Amorie tried to hide her worry as she kept telling herself Winton wouldn’t let things get too far if Zeric couldn’t do anything. The beast snapped, beginning to snarl at them. “Aurora told you about some of your dads abilities right? Try to use them Zeric, try with all you have while you have me as a safety net and such a weak adversary”
The beast came at Zeric, mouth open, drool dripping onto the ground and he barely managed to get out of the way. His heart hammered against his chest and he swallowed nervously as he glanced at Winton. “You’re faster than that.” Winton said. “And stronger.”
That’s right. He told himself. He was panicking because he was being attacked. Even Amorie had said she had noticed his strength. The beast came at him again and this time he moved quickly away as he punched at it, catching it in the side of the head. It snarled, enraged that its prey was getting away and gave chase, wanting to kill, to eat. Zeric made himself think. His biological father had sharp nails, almost like claws or talons that he could deal damage with. He focused as he backpedaled away from the beast, but nothing happened. He looked down at his hands for just a moment and the beast pounced, landing on top of him. He managed to grab it by the throat and hold it back, its teeth mere inches from his face. “Winton!”
“You can do this, Zeric. What if that thing were trying to kill Amorie? Focus.”
Amories heart was racing but she just stood there, trying not to beg Winton to help Zeric. She knew if she couldn’t handle this she wouldn’t be able to handle it when they found Zerics dad. Winton giving Zeric the image of this thing trying to hurt Amorie was all he needed to fight this thing. She was all he had and even if she wasn’t he loved her too much to let her get hurt. He kept seeing this thing trying to take her away and it woke something up within him. He felt something in his hands, heard and felt his bones changing until he had claws. He slashed at it, instinct taking over. When the thing lay dead he was glad he also had natural instinct because the human part of him could barely believe what had just happened.
His hands went back to normal as Amorie ran to hug him “very good, I knew if I let it go you could do it.” Winton noted then looked at the village leader “thank you for allowing me to teach him. I half worried you would interfere”
“I knew you wouldn’t break your promise. It was obviously under control”
“Lets eat off of this then save what we dont finish. No sense in letting this creature die for nothing” Winton suggested. “those taste really good, I’m in” Kennett remarked as he knelt down to begin getting the beast ready. Amorie was still hugging Zeric “Hey, I’m okay”
“I know but I was so worried”
“Because you’re sweet and amazing. I have abilities, you don’t need to worry”
“I can’t help it” They ate, staying there longer than Winton might have if only adults were present. He was worried about over working the younger two, especially the girl who truly was only human. The leader was human as well but Winton could see in the mans eyes he had been through quite a bit. He looked like he had been on many journeys and faced multiple trials in his life. Kennett wasn’t only human, wasn’t even half but Winton wanted to figure out what he was rather than ask. It was like a puzzle, a game and he wouldn’t spoil it by simply asking.
They had spent so much time eating they didn’t get much farther that day “we sleep in the trees tonight” Achilleo stated and Winton nodded “yes, it would be foolish to sleep on the ground here”
“I can hide us” Kennett interjected and Winton looked at him “oh?”
“yeah, where do you guys want to lay down. I can make a circle around us that both protects us and makes it to where nothing can see we are here. They’ll only know anything is up at all if they run into the barrier” Winton smiled, eager to see this “alright” they found a place to rest then let Kennett get to work. “there we go” Kennett said proudly as he went to lay down. Achilleo touched it “well I’ll be damned.”
“I’m more than just a talented healer” Kennett said sleepily, seeming to doze off mere seconds later. They all laid down, Wintons mind busy trying to guess what Kennett was, Achilleo just happy to be on the road again and the two teens just cuddling while they could. They had always been an affectionate couple and right now they both really needed some comfort. They stayed safe all through the night thanks to Kennett “was that taxing?” Amorie asked over breakfast, they were eating the last of the animal they had killed “Not really, it’s pretty easy”
“I haven’t been useful yet so I’m glad I could do something”
“What other things can you do?” Amorie asked.
“Mostly healing and defensive magic. Here, let me show you.” He took Amorie’s hand and drew a symbol on her palm with his finger then held his own hand above hers. She felt warmth move up her arm and the once invisible symbol glowed for a moment before fading.
“What did you do?” Zeric asked.
“It’s a light spell. All she has to do is hold her hand up and say ‘light’ and her palm will glow.”
“That’s amazing.” Amorie said as she studied her hand.
“If you ever feel scared or get lost in the dark, use it. Night time predators will also run from it.”
“Will it work on my fa…on Fion?” Zeric asked.
“It would definitely blind him for a bit. It’s very bright.”
“good, that’s one more thing we will have working for us” The following days of their journey anytime they encountered anything it was a lesson for Zeric. Winton was always making the others stay away so Zeric could work on his skills before they faced his father. When they finally arrived about where Fion was known to be they were all on high alert, not knowing what forces Fion might have on his side. Winton apparently noticed Fion before anybody else did and protectivly moved in front of Zeric. Laughter filled the air “you think you can protect him?”
“stop being such a coward, sending an assassin and now hiding.”
“why would you come here boy? Another mans raised you, you’re probably pathetic and worthless”
“I’m here to avenge my mom” Now Fion laughed harder, like it was the most ridiculous thing he had heard in his life. “stop laughing!” Zeric screamed angrily. His whole body was nearly shaking with rage. Fion instantly quited and next thing they knew Winton and Fion were fighting.
They had never seen any other creature move the way Winton and Fion were. They were both fast, dodging and jumping away from each other even as they inflicted damage. Winton’s blood soaked into his clothes, a deep blue rather than red, as Fion’s claws tore at him. Fion laughed as he broke through Winton’s guard, his fingers going around the man’s throat as he slammed him down. Achilleo ran past Zeric and Amorie as Kennett drew a circle of protection around them then put himself between them. Fion caught Achilleo’s ax as it swung down and growled as he turned his gaze on the older man. He kicked out, catching Achilleo in the stomach and sending him sliding back, but surprisingly not knocking him down.
“What’s this, too stubborn to go down?”
“I’ve fought stronger.” Achilleo replied.
“Truly? How interesting?” He stood and Winton started to get up. Fion whistled and an arrow struck the ground near Winton. Their gazes followed where it had come from and they all saw the assassin.
“Coward.” Winton said.
“Take care of that creature.” Fion ordered the assassin.
“I expect double pay.” The assassin replied. “Creatures like him don’t die easy.”
“Just get it done then bring me the boy and the little bitch he brought with him.”
Zeric wasn’t about to stand back and watch other people fight his battles a second longer. His father wasn’t going to talk about the love of his life that way/ He had no right, especially after taking away his family, his mother who had so lovingly raised him. Zeric left the circle of protection that had been formed for them and ran straight for his father, confident in himself that he could fight him. Amorie saw Fion go to slash Zeric and just in time to keep Zeric from getting clawed she held her hand up and screamed light. Fion was in searing pain and unable to even think. He was used to living in the netherworld so even being out in regular daylight was hard. It was the advantage they needed.
Zeric showed no mercy as his own claws formed. He tore into his father, pouring all his anger for his family and his need to protect his future wife into his attack. Achilleo was almost dumbfounded to see such a young boy fight like this but Zeric obviously didn’t need him so he went to help Winton with the assassin. Just when Fion could think straight Kennett threw another light spell out, a stronger one from within him. That was it, the end, at least of Fion. His father laid dead and while it didn’t erase Zeric’s pain he cried out of relief he never had to worry about this man and the fact he had actually managed to avenge his family.
The assassins death soon followed but Kennett had to get to work fast to heal their comrades injuries. Kennett and Amorie started on burying the bodies while the others rested, Zeric being the first to end up helping. Amorie tried to stop him “honey, it’s okay…you’re hurting. Just go sit”
“The sooner I don’t have to look at these two the better”
“are you sure?” He kissed her head “let me help”
“Winton and Achilleo are lucky you jumped in.” Kennett said.
“We were doing fine.” Achilleo said.
“That bruise says otherwise. If you had not had your armor and if Winton didn’t heal so fast, you could have been seriously injured.”
“You do not have to worry about me.” Winton said.
“It’s the healer in him, he can’t help it.” Achilleo replied. “Thank you Kennett, I was only teasing.”
“I’m just relieved we all made it.”
“Zeric did very well.” Winton said. “Your family would be proud.”
“Thank you, but I have no idea what to do now.” Zeric replied.
“What do you mean?” Achilleo asked.
“I mean I lost my family and now Fion’s dead.”
“You could always get married, have a few kids, maybe grow a garden.”
“I’m still too young.” Amorie said.
Achilleo waved his hand. “You’ve both been through enough to show me you’re very much an adult. We’ll talk to your parents when we get home. I can make an exception after all that’s happened.” Zeric and Amorie were both just standing there staring at him. “You have your whole life ahead of you now Zeric, no monsters to worry about, just you and Amorie and tomorrow.”
“thank you” Zeric said then happily hugged Amorie. He still had a lot of pain and sadness dwelling inside him but if he could marry Amorie now and start his life with her he had something to be happy about and live for. When they made it home the first thing they did was go to Amories parents, their leader Achilleo with them. Her parents didn’t hesitate, feeling there wasn’t much of a difference between her getting married now and waiting a few more months. Their village needed something happy after their loss so everyone wanted to help. Since there wasn’t a soul in the village not contributing their wedding took place a week later. It was a gorgeous ceremony and they hadn’t missed a single thing the couple had wanted for their big day. Zeric knew the loss of his family would be a wound that might not ever truly heal but looking into Amories eyes at that alter he knew he had so much to be happy and grateful for in life and he wouldn’t waste a second of it being lost to melancholy.
~ The End
She slowly raised the hose up her calf, over her knee, and up her thigh. She repeated the motion with the other foot, moving mechanically, lost in thought. She focused on the way her fingers felt on her flesh and wished they were another’s. She closed her eyes and envisioned the perfect body before her. He was lean, with his skin tight over his muscles. His skin was naturally tanned, his hair course and dark. As he towered over her, slowly leaning in she could feel the heat from his body coming closer and closer. All she wanted was to feel his touch.
Beep Beep Beep!
Shit. She had lost track of time dreaming of the impossible and was now behind. She quickly pulled up her skirt and tucked her shirt in. She looked in the mirror at her plain face and her long plain hair. There was nothing special about her, she thought. Nothing for daydreams and fantasies. She pulled her hair up in a quick bun and ran out the door, hopping on one foot as she fixed her heel. She wasn’t looking forward to the wrath her boss was going to impose on her for being late. He was such a prick, but her boss nonetheless. Her mind flitted back to that hot blooded fantasy that she desperately craved which only led her to drop her keys.
“I swear Marissa, pull yourself together!” she scolded herself. It was only 7:30AM and already a hell of a day.
She pulled out into the New York traffic, already swearing at her untimeliness this morning. She was bumper to bumper and wasn’t going anywhere fast. She turned the radio up and the AC on and looked over to her right. A couple was swooning, locked in a passionate kiss that never seemed to end. Marissa watched in envy, wishing someone would grab her like that, laugh with her, look into her eyes the way the couple was looking at each other. The woman looked over and caught Marissa’s eyes. Marissa turned away, red and embarrassed at being caught witnessing their intimacy. The worse part was she couldn’t even get away from the couple, so she focused on the radio and let her mind drift off once more to Mr.Right.
This habit of daydreaming had been getting worse and worse in the past weeks but she had been single for quiet awhile at this point. She just wasn’t made for being single. She loved herself and could live a fulfilling life on her own as well as take care of herself but there just wasn’t anything like having a partner at your side to face the days with. There was just something about having a special someone to wrap you in passion that made life better. Sure she could go to a bar and pick up somebody, getting someone in bed for a night was nothing. She didn’t often do that but it’s basic knowledge that getting someone, if you’re not too picky, to sleep with you wasn’t too big of a challenge. Keeping someone meant something though, having someone choose to be at your side day in and day out was amazing, having someone who was invested in you was amazing and she hoped she’d find that soon.
After her last relationship crashed and burned so horribly she was surprised that she even wanted another so soon. Granted it had been two years already but the pain was still there. Coming home to find who you thought to be the love of you life cheating on you in your own bed was, well, to say the least, irrevocable. Not to mention it was with another man, there wasn’t even a more beautiful woman with long legs and big tits to make it feel like it wasn’t her. She sighed and brought herself back to the task at hand. She needed to get this portfolio done before 5:30 and time was running out. She worked tirelessly, as she always did, and finished it by her deadline. The only great part of the day was handing her boss the finished product as he arrived at her desk to yell at her for not finishing it. He hated it when she bested him but nothing made her day better.
Marissa’s phone rang and she saw it was her best friend Ashley. She had already text her three times today, urging her to get her homebody self out for a drink. God knew she needed it. Marissa always avoided crowds, she found people awkward and looking like bumbling idiots during their mating calls. On the other hand, maybe she could spruce herself up to the best of her ability and go home with a buzz and a couple of compliments to make her feel better. She answered the phone and solidified their plans. Ashley was ecstatic that she was finally getting her out of the house and Marissa could barely get her off the phone.
She stood there, looking through her closet, depressed at her selection. She settled for a little black dress that always made her feel confident. She slid the dress on and put on a little more makeup than usual. As she looked at herself she decided she wasn’t half bad with the right makeup on and her hair laying loose with curls around her shoulders. She wasn’t looking for anyone tonight but she still wanted to feel sexy. She knew there was no such thing as a mister right, at least not the type she has imagined in her mind. Mr.Tall Dark and Handsome didn’t exist and if he did she had no shot. “Speaking of shots” she thought to herself. She walked to the kitchen and pulled down her stash of tequila. Might as well get a head start and calm her nerves before Ashley arrives to pick her up.
Marissa took two shots before just sitting down in front of her television to wait. Thankfully Ashley didn’t keep her waiting too long so she wouldn’t have to go for the third shot to keep her nerves in check. Inside her head she reminded herself she was strong, beautiful and intelligent and she deserved love. She didn’t want to go out down on herself and end up doing something she regretted. Marissa slid into the passenger seat and hugged her friend “hey girl’ Ashley said cheerfully “Hey” they let go and Ashley started pulling out of the driveway “you ready to let loose?”
“Oh yeah, I need it”
“You look really pretty tonight”
“Thank you, don’t think less of me but I just really want to be flirted with” Ashley laughed “girl you know I’m the least judgmental person you know” It was true, part of what made things comfortable with Ashley is she loved you for you. She felt your life was your own and she didn’t have the right to judge. “Yeah, thanks for bugging me to come out”
“I knew you just needed a push or two”
Do you have to work tomorrow?”
“Nope, I’m all yours as long as you want to be out”
Ashley turned up one of their favorite songs and started singing along. Marissa could tell that she was ready to go out and didn’t have any inhibitions. No reason for her to have any. She was beautiful and full of life. People always flocked to her, brought in by her personality. Marissa always wished she was more like Ashley but there was no point in wishing for the impossible. She had to admit though, after a few drinks and hanging around Ashley, she always started to let loose more than normal and her smiles always seemed to come easier. That was another one of the reason’s that she loved her, she always found the best versions of herself around her.
Marissa smiled to herself and admitted she was really looking forward to tonight, man or no man. The next thought on her mind was the impending hangover but she quickly shoved those thoughts aside and decided to let nothing stop her from having a good time. They found a parking deck a few blocks from the bar they were planning on trying first and snapped a picture of it’s location on their phones in case they got too drunk and couldn’t remember where they parked the next day. They had already decided on a taxi home and Ashley was fine with leaving her car. Marissa’s nerves started to climb the closer they got to the bar. She felt her chest tightening and it became steadily harder to breathe. Ashley noticed and stopped.
“Hey, let it all go! There’s no reason to be nervous, we are just here for a good time, right? You’re beautiful and I’m sure you’ll get those compliments you want.” She winked at Marissa and Marissa cracked a smile. She always knew how to calm her down and make her feel better. They got to the door and Marissa took a deep breath. “Shot’s?” asked Ashley. “You know it.” replied Marissa.
They downed their first one and ordered another, Marissa now taking time to scan the crowd of people there. There were quite a few attractive faces, both men and women. That could be good and bad, good because it would feel even better being hit on by someone incredibly hot but maybe bad because the hotties might flock to fellow hotties instead of her. She mentally kicked herself for what she just did. She struggled not to put herself down after being cheated on and she needed to stop. Cheaters were cheaters and thats all there was to it. Sure some people liked to say people cheated because they werent happy in bed at home but the truth was someone who would cheat tended to cheat on most the people they ever dated, it had nothing to do with satisfaction, some just struggled to commit to one person in bed.
She couldn’t always keep that in mind but she tried to because it was true. It really wasn’t her fault her husband cheated. She repeated that to herself a few more times as they took their next shot. “wooo!” Ashley already yelled making Marissa giggle, she really was an incredible light in her life. “Oh I’m so glad you got me out here”
“what should we do girl?”
“The only thing left to do! Let’s dance!”
Marissa grabbed Ashley’s hand and led her to the dance floor. She had enough shots in her to hardly care what anyone thought. She just wanted to let herself get caught up in the dancing bodies around her, all of them blissful and free of thought. She closed her eyes and let herself feel the music surrounding her. She started to dance to the rhythm, letting herself get carried away. She didn’t notice the man behind her at first. When she felt someone dancing with her she had assumed that it was Ashley. When she was grabbed by the waist she knew it wasn’t her friend. She spun around to see who her assailant was. He was handsome, but had that drunken smug smirk on his face that made her turn back around. She would let him dance with her for entertainment but she definitely wasn’t interested. Ashley came up from her own dancing and get in between them. She could tell Marissa wasn’t 100% in to the dance and came to save the day.
“There’s plenty of hot guys in here! No need to waste your time on him!” Ashley shouted above the music. Marissa smiled at her and started dancing again. She couldn’t care less about men anymore, she was too drunk to care. The hours passed and before they knew it, it was closing time, their feet were killing them, they couldn’t stop laughing, and they had to ask for the taxi number three times before they remembered it. The two girls walked outside to wait for their cab and enjoy the fresh air. Suddenly, two drunk men were arguing loudly at each other in front of Marissa and she strained to get a better view. One of them must have swung because before she knew it the other drunk had been knocked into the guy standing in front of Marissa. He fell backwards, barely turning in time to stop the majority of his fall, which would have seriously crushed the much smaller Marissa.
“Are you alright?” he asked, still on top of her and out of breath. Marissa opened her eyes and almost choked on her words. Mr.Tall Dark and Handsome was real and he laying right on top of her. She barely even heard the words coming out of his mouth she was so surprised. Suddenly Ashley was pulling him off of her trying desperately to make sure she wasn’t injured. “OMG Marissa! Are you ok? Are you hurt?”
“No, no I’m fine.” she responded. The man looked genuinely concerned for her well-being, which made since because he was a hell of a man who had to weigh no less than 230lbs. Marissa found herself staring and unable to look away. They both just stood there for what felt like an hour’s time, looking at each other. The man’s friend came up to him asking if he was alright about the same time that their taxi arrived and Ashley practically hauled her into the car. Marissa didn’t know if it was the booze or her imagination but she felt like she was just torn away from her soulmate, which was silly seeing as how she had never even met the man before. Now she didn’t even know if she would ever see him again and there was no way of finding him. There was only one option, she would have to come back to that bar until she saw him again, no matter how long it took.
When they arrived at Marissa’s Ashley paid the cab driver then began helping her friend out of the car “I’m going to stay the night okay?”
“yeah, that sounds good”
“You sound distant, you sure you are alright?”
“what is it?” Ashley urged, really concerned about her “Its stupid and I’m drunk” Ashley cracked a small smile “come on, lets get you in something comfortable”
“I don’t want pajamas, lets just take our clothes off and relax in our underwear: Marissa suggested so once inside they made sure the windows were closed then flopped down on Marissa’s couch in their bra and panty sets. This was another amazing thing about their friendship, they were comfortable no matter what with eachother. They didn’t stay up too much longer that night, just long enough to get some food in their system and talk about the nights events. Ashley set herself up on the fold out couch while Marissa went to her room.
In the morning Marissas head ached so she went straight for her coffee pot then began a pot of cream of white for them to eat. Ashley groaned on the couch at all the noise Marissa made getting the pot out so she yelled “come on, it’s time to get up. Coffee will be ready soon” Ashley wordlessly got off the couch but she wasn’t coming to the kitchen, she was going to get in Marissa’s bed to sleep a bit longer.
“Hey, if I have to be miserable you do too.”
“No way, too tired, just ten more minutes.”
“Fine, but if you don’t get up I’m dumping ice water on you.”
It didn’t stop her from going into Marissa’s room and flopping down on the bed though and Marissa let out a small laugh. Her mind drifted back to him as she finished making breakfast, She tried to remember what he had said, had he been surprised or was he simply apologizing. The way his eyes had stared into hers, the recognition. She shook her head. It had to have been her imagination, but it pulled at her, tugged at her entire being, drew her in like a moth to a flame. She sighed. She had been burned before. She ate slowly, her stomach grumbling the entire time in protest, but she knew it would make her feel better. She went and made Ashley get up ten minutes later and had her eat. She protested, saying she would puke if she tried, but wound up doing it anyway.
“Oh, are you sure you’re okay after last night? That guy looked heavy.” Ashley said.
“Yeah, I think he actually managed to keep some of his weight off of me so nothing broke. He was all muscle, it was like someone dropped a bunch of rocks on top of me.”
“You probably liked it” teased Ashley.
“Yeah, you’re right” Marissa laughed, “did you see him! There was something about him.” Marissa’s mind started to wander and Ashley had to snap her back to reality.
“Hellloo?” Ashley smiled “I agree there was something about him, he was smoking hot!”
Marissa laughed and decided to keep their eye contact just between them. She didn’t want Ashley to think she was crazy or love sick even though she knew she wouldn’t judge her.
“What do you want to do today? It needs to be quiet to save my head and maybe a mimosa is in order” said Ashley.
“You just said you were going to puke before you ate. How in the world can you think about drinking” Marissa laughed.
“Hair of the dog!” replied Ashley. It was going to be an interesting day.
Everything was dark. It was warm and everything seemed to feel amazing. Marissa opened her eyes and there he was, staring at her. His body was surrounded by a soft glow, making him look almost as if he was from Heaven itself. She reached her arm out, wanting nothing more than to touch him.The more she reached the farther he seemed to get. “No! Come back!” she shouted, hoping he would hear. The harder she strained to see him the more he seemed to fade away in the background. She had to find him.
Beep Beep Beep
Shit, back to Monday.
Traffic, why did traffic always have to pull her out of her fantasies? Yesterday she didn’t think her dream man was real but last night she had actually seen him, he had fallen right on top of her with that perfect, sculpted body. She was practically wet just thinking about him, just remembering their brief interaction. She sighed, wishing Ashley hadn’t rushed her away like that. She knew Ashley had only been worried but it could take months for her mystery man to return to that bar, if he ever did. With her luck he might decide to quit drinking and she’d lose her chance forever.
He was on her mind more than ever at work today but she still managed to get everything she needed to done. After work she picked up some fast food so she could go straight home and dress for returning to that bar. Looking at her disappointing wardrobe again she decided if she was going to hunt him she needed much better clothes. She was over due to spoil herself anyway so she sat down at her computer and browsed a few of her favorite online shops for some nice, new clothes. She spent a little too much, knowing she’d have to dip into her savings to get to next check but she felt her future happiness was at stake with this man, as ridiculous as she knew that sounded. She had paid for next day shipping on everything so she was less worried about finding him tonight. If she didn’t that meant he’d see her in something incredibly cute tomorrow night. She would still try the bar this evening anyway though, she wanted to see him again far more badly than she wanted to see him again in pretty clothing.
She knew her legs were her best chance at getting noticed so she pulled out a tight skirt and a long sleeve off the shoulder floral print. She decided to put more effort into her hair and makeup and even watched youtube video’s for desperate help. She wanted to look her absolute best and couldn’t imagine being caught dead by this mystery man any way else. He deserved the very best. She almost hated him for being so perfect, not even having to try. He probably just woke up and smiled and was ready to go.” Lucky sexy bastard” Marissa thought to herself. She paused a moment and remembered the way his skin felt hot against hers. He was so much warmer than she would’ve imagined. “God, those eyes. What I would give to just look into them one more time.” Marissa then began to get very nervous. “What if he has a girlfriend?” she thought. She hadn’t seen him with anyone but it was a possibility.
One that she would rather not think about. “Will he even be out on a Monday?” the chances were slim but they were chances she was willing to take. Her body started to heat up the more she thought of him and she noticed she was blushing. How was she going to talk to him if she was blushing before she even saw him? What would she even say? “Hey, so I felt we had a deep connection because you stared at me and I think we are soul mates”? Probably wouldn’t go over very well. She would sound like a nut. She could play hard to get, but if he wasn’t hunting then it would be pointless. She decided to stop thinking about it and just to do it and see what happens. She was going to go alone this time, she didn’t want to admit to Ashley why she was uncharacteristically going out on a Monday. As soon as she even told her she was going Ashley would figure it out. She is as smart as she is beautiful.
After she was done getting ready she took a mental toll of herself in the mirror. The youtube video’s on her makeup had done her justice and for once she didn’t feel so plain. She actually felt beautiful, which made her even more anxious to see him. All she wanted to do was to go up to him, grab him by the back of the neck and pull his lips to hers. She wanted to taste him so bad, to feel him against her one more time. She was getting turned on already so snapped herself back to reality. She decided to drive since she hadn’t planned on drinking that much. She wasn’t going to get drunk but just to find her mystery man. She stepped into her car and prayed he was there.
Ashley ended up calling and con-ing the information out of her anyways and stated she was coming. Even though Marissa hadn’t wanted Ashley to go, she decided it was probably better that she was going. She wouldn’t look so awkward sitting at a bar alone barely drinking. She hadn’t really thought her plan through and was thankful that, once again, Ashley had saved the day. They met in front of the bar and walked in. There was a decent crowd for it being Monday so Marissa didn’t feel so different. She decided that one shot wouldn’t hurt and ordered her usual as Ashley joined in on the festivities. Ashley was ready any night of the week and could make any night fun. At least if Mr.Right didn’t show she would still have a good time. An hour or two passed and there was still no sight of him. Marissa began to become discouraged and told herself to stop searching. It only made the night go by so much slower.
It was tormenting her at this point and she was having a hard time enjoying herself. Ashley kept noticing her less than enthusiastic mood and continued to bring her shots. Marissa hadn’t planned on getting drunk but her mood was pushing her towards the inevitable. She told Ashley she was heading to the ladies room to touch up her makeup. She was still surprised when she walked in and looked in the mirror that it was her staring back. Oh, the wonders of makeup. It was a shame that she had spent so much time on getting ready all for him not to show up. She scolded herself for getting her hopes up. It was Monday for God sake. She walked out of the bathroom and looked up just as someone knocked into her. She was so caught up in her thoughts she hadn’t even bothered to pay attention to where she was going. “Could this night get any worse?” she thought to herself. She looked up and froze. She didn’t know if it was the tequila or real life but he seemed even more beautiful than yesterday. At some point she remembered to breath in the midst of her apologies but he just looked at her and smiled. His smile was radiant and he had the perfect dimples to match. She had thought his eyes were brown but they were a dark hazel that she hadn’t noticed before. She caught herself staring again and quickly looked away.
“I’m sorry” she said again.
“It’s alright, we seemed to be meant to run into each other like this” he chuckled. “Can I buy you a drink?”
Marissa’s heart thudded in her chest, she couldn’t believe this was actually happening. For the moment she forgot how to speak. She wished Ashley was here to save her and come up with something charming and witty to say like always.
“I’d love that” was all she could muster. Her dream man was real and he was buying her a drink. She silently pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. The indication of pain under her arm let her know that she was in fact about to have a drink with him. Hallelujah.
She followed him back over to the bartender where he spoke again “what would you like?”
“a happy colada” he ordered two, she wondered if he liked it or if he was just trying it because she liked it. Though she might not admit it to most others than Ashley she mostly liked it’s color. It was such a pretty drink and it of course tasted amazing. Truly anything with coconut rum was amazing to her. For a few seconds Marissa had completely forgotten Ashley was there but her thinking about the drink reminded her. Marissa blushed, feeling like an ass. She waved Ashley over “My friends here too” Marissa said bashfully and he gave her a charming smile before ordering one more for her friend. Marissa thought that was incredibly sweet, how many men bought drinks for the friend too?
“so this is Ashley, Ashley this is?”
“Nick” oh god she had just repeated his name dreamily like some sort of school girl. She wanted to die right there, especially when he obviously suppressed a chuckle. Atleast he had been kind and tried to keep it down completely. “Nice to meet you” Ashley said, offering her hand. She planned to stay just long enough to see if he was cool or not, if he was she was going to go home before she cock blocked her bestie.
“So, what do you do, Nick?” Ashley asked.
“Why don’t you guess.” He replied with a big smile. “If you can guess right within three tries, I will pay for every drink you and Marissa want.”
“Football star.” He shook his head. “Bodyguard for a mob boss.”
“As interesting as that sounds, no.”
He chuckled. “That’s three strikes.” He turned his gaze back to Marissa and she swallowed. “How about you?”
“Um…well, I mean you’re really muscular and strong, so I’m going to say cage fighting? I mean you look like you could knock someone’s head clean off.” Their drinks showed up and she picked hers up, taking a nervous sip. His eyes twinkled with amusement and she asked, “Well was I right or are you going to leave me hanging?”
He smiled at her and shook his head.
“Not a cage fighter either” he laughed “I actually own this bar, opened it up a couple of years ago. I didn’t need the income but it helps fund my interests.”
His answer only aroused more questions in Marissa. It was definitely a popular bar so his interests had to be pricey. She also wondered what he meant about not needing the income. She felt it would be too rude to pry on such things so decided to choose the topic of his interests to talk about instead.
“What exactly are your interests that have you opening bars to support it?” she smiled coyly at him. The drinks were making her feel brave and the shyness was slowly seeping away.
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you” he looked at her very solemnly, then busted out with laughter. For a moment she had believed him and hadn’t known what to say. She playfully hit him in the arm. “Actually, I collect art. This city is full of such wonderful artists, it’s practically a gold mine for collectors. It does come at it’s price though.”
Handsome, sweet, and tasteful. Marissa wondered how he could be any more perfect. Ashley lightly nudged her and she realized she was daydreaming again. There was no need to daydream when the dream was standing right in front of you.
“It’s getting late” said Ashley, “I think i’m going to head in so I’m not shot for work tomorrow.” Ashley hugged Marissa and gave her a sly smile and a wink. Marissa could’ve kicked her for being so obvious. At least she knew that Ashley approved and was giving her the go ahead. The only question left was the go ahead for what. Was he really interested or was he just being polite for their continuous run-ins? Doubts started to flood her mind so she finished off her drink to help with her nerves. She wasn’t in to random hook ups but Nick felt anything but random. She felt like she had known him for years and that this wasn’t their first official night meeting each other. She decided she would keep up the conversation and the drinks and just see where the night took her. She did look marvelous tonight and the look in his eye told her that he was interested in more than just an apology.
“I forgot to ask, but I didn’t hurt you or anything last night did I?”
“Hmm, oh no, I mean it hurt, but you didn’t break anything.”
“Good.” He looked and sounded relieved and took her hand gently in his to guide her away from the bar and to a quiet little corner where they could be alone. “May I also say that you look incredibly beautiful tonight. I mean you did last night as well, but wow.”
She giggled, a blush creeping up her neck. “Thank you, you don’t look to bad yourself.”
He smiled and her heart nearly stopped. His fingers slid up, gently running across her wrist so goosebumps formed on her skin then back down over her palm and along her ring finger. A light shiver ran up her spine and he gave her an amused, yet pleased grin. He was teasing her.
It was weird, even he acted like they knew eachother. It could be a major amount of confidence but would somebody really be this bold? “so are you here a lot of nights?” she asked, wanting to keep talking. “Yeah but if you ever want to do anything I don’t have to be here”
“maybe i want to see your art collection”
“wow, really?” he chuckled “you don’t seem like the type of woman I should waste any time wooing. I’d happily show you my art collection tonight”
“Um, I’ve had a bit to drink”
“I wont take advantage” she might be being stupid because she was so lovestruck but she allowed him to lead her out of the bar. He proved to be a gentleman when he held the car door open for her “thank you”
“You’re a lady, I’ll treat you as such” she smiled, feeling completely secure in the choice she was making. He was obviously a nice man and truly would be a gentleman this evening. It was a bit of a drive but he took her to a beautiful home that took her breath away “this is where you live?”
The house was so intricate and beautiful. It was also bold, it reminded Marissa of Nick. It fit him well. She was a little nervous but he had said he wouldn’t take advantage. To be honest, she was more worried about her taking advantage than him. It had been a while now and everything about Nick aroused her constantly. The more she talked to him and the closer they got the more heightened her senses became. With every touch she felt chills run up her spine but felt her flesh on fire at the same time, leaving her emotions smoldering. They walked inside, up the stairs and into an open room. The art was exquisite, so beautiful it took her breath away. She couldn’t believe this man collected such magnificent pieces.
“Do you like them?” he asked her.
“They are wonderful, Nick. It’s some of the most beautiful art I think I’ve ever seen!” She was being genuine and he knew that she meant it. As he watched her admire his collection he couldn’t help but feel himself getting closer to her. His arm was around her waist before either one of them realized it. She turned to him, startled.
“I am a man of my word and would never take advantage of you, but I can’t help but want to kiss you. May I?”
She nodded her head yes but couldn’t manage to make the words come out of her mouth. Her mind went blank as he bend down to her lips. While one hand held her waist the other came up softly to tilt her chin towards him. He kissed her softly, as to not alarm her. He wanted to take her furiously and madly but maintained his restraint. He wanted to keep his word to her. He wanted her to trust him more than anything, this beautiful stranger. Marissa was in complete bliss. She couldn’t imagine a better moment than the one she was having right now. His kiss was everything she thought it would be and more. He was gentle and kind and she couldn’t wait to know more of him, body and mind. She pulled away as to save her virtue and smiled at him. He smiled back at her and they once again locked eyes and stared at each other, as if looking deeper into each other’s souls. She didn’t want this moment to end but it was getting late and she knew if she stayed any longer she wouldn’t be able to control herself around him. It was already maddening keeping herself off of him. Everything about him screamed sex and it drove her crazy.
“It’s getting late, I should probably go.”
“When can I see you again?” she was pleased he had asked because she didn’t want to be the one who did.”Can I pick you up for dinner this weekend?”
“I would love that” Marissa responded. She looked down at her feet as she felt her cheeks flush, this was really happening.
He brushed his fingers over her cheek, giving her goosebumps. “Let me call you a cab then.”
“I’ll have someone drop it off if you give me your address. I promise it’ll arrive there safely.”
He smiled, leaning down to brush another kiss across her lips. It was barely a ghost of a touch, but it sent little shocks of pleasure dancing over her skin. He kept her pressed against him as he fished his cell out of his pocket and called the cab company and she rested her head against his chest, enjoying the sound of his voice and the steady beat of his heart. “Are you falling asleep on me beautiful?” He asked and she looked up at him, another blush crawling up her neck.
“No, I um…I just feel surprisingly comfortable in your arms” The smile that stretched across his face was endearing and made him all the more kissable but she knew if they kissed any more things would end up going much further tonight and she didn’t want to seem easy. When the cab came she felt the slightest tug of sadness but left with a smile. They had plans for next weekend and she could wait until then. She seemed to need a cold shower anyway with how quickly such innocent contact had heated her up. Once home she started stripping then laid on the bed to call Ashley.
“How did it go?” were the first words out of her mouth “His house is beautiful”
“ohhhhh his house” she said suggestively, causing Marissa to laugh “we didn’t have sex but we did kiss”
“is he a good kisser?”
“Oh yes, I wanted him right then and there but I didn’t want to be easy. Most men like to work for it even though they wont admit it”
“I’m really glad you found him”
“we’re going for dinner this weekend”
“did he ask or did you”
“damn girl, got him around your finger”
“still, I think it looks good for you.”
“me too, I’m going to get some sleep though”
“alright, goodnight girl”
“goodnight” They hungup and Marissa took that much needed shower before settling into bed so she could be well rested for work. The week droned by but she made it to the weekend, happy when he arrived at her house she was slightly embarrassed because his was so much nicer but he didn’t seem like the type to look down on her for it so she decided not to worry too much.
She smoothed her skirt against her body and tucked her hair behind her ear. She had bought another brand new outfit for tonight and even new jewelry. He made her feel like a new woman so she didn’t feel she had any other choice. Plus, he was always dressed so nicely. she didn’t want to feel like a slob next to him.
“You look lovely, Marissa” his voice was husky yet smooth as he said her name.
“Thank you” she looked down at her feet but he tilted her chin so her eyes would meet his.
“You don’t have to do that you know, you don’t have to look down every time I compliment you. I admit, it’s adorable but you should take more pride in yourself. You are beautiful, you have to know that, right?”
Instead of answering him she took his hand and started walking towards his car. She was eager for the night to begin, she had waited all week to see him again and it had almost been her defeat. He opened the car door for her and she slid into the passenger seat. She caught him looking at her legs once she was settled in and he quickly looked away. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks and let her hair down from behind her ear to hide it.
“Where to first?” she inquired.
“It’s a surprise” he answered with a sly smile. She loved surprises and was glad that he was taking the chance. The drove for about 20 minutes, traffic being light for the weekend in the city. They arrived at a elegant restaurant and he pulled up to the front of the building. He walked to her door and opened it, offering her his hand. He handed the keys to the valet and took her hand. The staff opened the doors for them and told them to follow. Marissa was quite confused as they walked in and instead of being seated, they were walked up a beautiful winding staircase.
“Close your eyes” he said. She laughed nervously and did as he requested.
“What could he possibly have in mind?” she wondered.
He placed his hands on her shoulders, the feel of them causing goosebumps to cover her skin as he gently guided her. She could hear a door being opened, the smell of food hitting her nose. Soft music played around her and she couldn’t help but get lost in the lilting tune. She heard him thank someone and then the door closed. “Can I look now?” She asked.
“Yeah, go ahead and open your eyes.”
She slowly opened them, gasping when she saw the beautifully decorated room. There was a lot of art on the walls, old and expensive looking that she knew she could admire for days if given the chance. All artificial light had been turned off and was replaced by the soft glow of candles positioned around the room for the best effect. A table stood in the middle, recently plated food still steaming and a bottle of champagne chilling next to it. “Wow.” She finally managed to say.
“I was hoping you would like it.” He guided her over to the table and pulled out her chair. Once she was settled he went over to the far wall and pulled back a pair of large curtains. “The view is pretty spectacular too, though it’s much better now that you’re here.”
“You’re so sweet” she said with a ridiculous smile she was trying to force down. Nobody had ever done anything remotely like this for her before so she felt incredibly happy but she definitely didn’t want to be wearing a smile so big it looked ridiculous. He sat down, grinning confidently, not seeming to have a single worry in the world. She would do anything for a life like his. So far he seemed like he had everything a man could want, good looks, money, any girl he wanted, surrounded by things he enjoyed and she thought once more about the good looks part. He opened the bottle with ease and soon poured them each a glass of wine “I have others if you hate it. This one is my favorite.”
“I’m yet to find a wine I dont like” she answered then took a sip to try it. “wow, that is really good” he smiled happily “good, I can tell you mean that.”
“worried I’d lie?”
“I take you for the type who worries about being rude. Normally people like that will say they like something just because it was served to them, to spare feeling”
“I’ll be honest, don’t worry”
“good, I’d prefer that. You’re sweet but I’d rather know if you don’t like something” she noticed the candles were scented “wow, what is that smell coming off them?”
“try and guess, I’ll give you the answer but it’s fun to have people guess”
She was surrounded by scents of lavender and spice but couldn’t quite get it right. They decided to eat and she was nervous to eat in front of him.
“Please stop looking down Marissa, I love looking into your eyes.”
Marissa looked up at him and could tell he was being sincere. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why he was so intrigued by her. She didn’t feel exceptionally special yet he made her feel so. She giggled as she felt the champagne lift her spirits up. She felt unusually open and free to be herself.
“What is it about me that you find so interesting Nick? I cannot figure out why a man of your stature would be interested in someone as simple as me.”
Nick looked at her, he seemed troubled as clouds rumbled in his eyes. She had upset him and quickly regretted asking.
“You do not give yourself enough credit. You are a beautiful, sweet and sincere person and I need you to see that. I cannot bare you to think so little of yourself. It upsets me that you do not see why I need you.”
“Need me?” Marissa asked, becoming confused. Nick stood up from his chair and walked to her. He knelt down to eye level and wouldn’t take his gaze away.
“Marissa, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you the truth but yes. I need you. I know that you just met me but we have belonged together since the beginning of time. I’m asking you to just trust me, be with me. You are so beautiful, I cannot bare the thought of not having you in my life.”
Marissa drew in a sharp breath. Her head was spinning trying to comprehend what was happening. She had just met this man. Yes, she could agree that she instantly felt connected to him but she wondered what his words meant.
“I don’t understand Nick, but I trust you.” She felt that she had to. She had to find out more, find out everything. There was so much going on and she couldn’t wrap her head around it but she knew that she belonged here. She had never felt something so strongly. He rose up, placing his hands on her face, reaching down and kissing her. It was different than before. Before it had been soft, inviting, but now there was passion, a need for her. She couldn’t help but be sucked in and her body followed.
“Shall we take our night else where?” Nick asked.
“I would like that very much” Marissa blushed. She knew what was meant by his invitation. He wanted to take her to bed and she couldn’t deny that she wanted to go with him. Her body was already screaming at her, blood hot and rushing throughout her entire body. She knew she was wet and was embarrassed for being so ready. She couldn’t help it, there was something about him that she wanted so badly. Nick’s car was brought around and he opened the door for her, as always. He got in and kissed her once more before starting the drive to his home. As he drove his hand rested on her leg, stroking her soft skin. His fingers trailed unknown marks and she could feel the immense heat coming from him. All she wanted was for him to touch her, for his fingers to rise up her thigh slowly, feeling his way to her. She kept her desires at bay, not wanting to seem to eager. She wanted to play it right with him, she wanted everything to be perfect.
She didn’t remember the drive to his place, too focused on him, she only knew that they were there and he was getting out to come around and open her door. He handed her out and guided her through the front door. The moment it was closed his lips were against hers, his hands sliding down to her bottom and lifting her so she wrapped her legs around his waist. Her back being pressed against the wall brought her back to her senses and she gently pushed him back. “Too fast.” She managed to say. “Slower, please, just a little slower.”
He chuckled. “Sorry, I can’t help myself.” He brushed more kisses onto her lips, making her shiver. “I can go as slow as you need me too.” He teased as he turned away from the wall and carried her upstairs. His lips worked their way over her chin to her neck, his teeth nipping, his tongue caressing until a little moan slipped out of her mouth.
This only fueled his desire more. He gripped her tighter into his body, he could feel himself getting hard against her. He wanted her so badly, he had to have her, at any cost. He just couldn’t afford to let her into his secret just yet. He didn’t want to frighten her away. He knew that if he could just get her to feel the same way about him as he felt for her then his secret won’t seem so daunting. He knew he was being selfish by including her into his world but he couldn’t resist. She was the spitting image of Adeline, his one true love. He hadn’t seen or touched her in more years than he cared to count. He would make sure that the same thing that happened to Adeline wouldn’t happen to Marissa. He would protect her no matter what. She was his now and he was hers. He laid her gently on the bed, his hands running down her side, down her thigh, slowly lifting up her tight skirt.
She started to unbutton his shirt, kissing his neck and trailing her soft lips down his chest. He had the perfect body, he was lean and strong and she could feel his muscles rippling under her lips. Her skirt was off now and he was kissing her stomach as she lifted her shirt above her head. She closed her eyes and reveled in the feel of his hot kiss on her body. His kisses trailed up from her stomach to her breasts. She reached back and unclasped her bra, letting her breasts lay thick and heavy on her chest. He nuzzled between them, kissing more passionately the closer he got to her breasts. She threw her head back and let out a moan. She had been waiting for this for so long, just to feel his body against hers.
As he suckled her breasts he slid her panties down her legs, off her ankles. He lifted her up onto him, easing her as he went slow. She had never felt such bliss and pure ecstasy. He was like nothing she had ever experienced before, every nerve in her body was igniting like electricity. He filled her completely and it wasn’t long before she was exploding in pleasure, screaming out. They were completely in sync, their rhythm their breath. Everything they did, they did it together. They thrashed in passion, exploring each other’s bodies completely, Marissa had never felt so vulnerable. She shared every inch of herself with him, feeling no shame, only pure joy. They came together, clutching each other’s bodies as close as they could possibly be without becoming one. They moaned together, climaxing together at the same time. Everything in this moment was perfect. There was nothing that could ruin this breathtaking moment.
When they both were spent he held her tightly, raining kisses over her cheek and across her shoulder, hoping this wasn’t too much. Not all woman enjoyed an affectionate man, especially if they barely knew him but he just couldn’t help himself. He knew this, no matter what happened between them would be a memory he held on to for eternity.Her breath slowly returned to normal as she laid there. He was making her feel so cared about with his affectionate kisses. She felt like this was more than a hookup to him, like he felt this amazing connection she did somehow. She wanted to say something but no words could do this moment or what just happened any justice.
“are you satisfied?” He rolled his eyes inwardly “are you satisfied? what sort of stupid question was that? Now she probably really would think he was weird.
“Absolutely, that was…well it was magical. What about you?”
He smiled as he pressed another kiss to those soft lips. “More than satisfied, I’m in absolute bliss.”
Marissa felt a blush creep up her neck and into her face which she quickly hid behind her hands. “You’re so unfair, everything about you is just so, so unfair.”
He moved to lay beside her, his arms pulling her close. “Come on now, look at me.” She shook her head and he kissed her fingers. “Please?”
She slowly moved them and the way his eyes seemed to shimmer with love took her breath away. Her heart ached for him. She didn’t understand this, this intense need for him. She felt so safe in his arms, her entire body relaxing completely against the heat of his. She felt a little sadness start to creep in and he gently stroked her cheek, seeming to read her. His eyes questioned and she took a deep breath and asked, “Could I stay?”
“I would love nothing more, in fact it would make me very happy.”
She laid there, so happy. She couldn’t wait to tell Ashley everything that had happened. Marissa knew you shouldn’t kiss and tell but who could resist when the story is this good? She snuggled in tighter against him, feeling his heat started to make her throb but she didn’t want to go again quite yet. She just wanted to lay next to him and enjoy his presence. She took a deep breath in a smelled his scent, it was intoxicating. She closed her eyes and slowly drifted to sleep.
Marissa opens her eyes, not recognizing where she is. She seems to be in an old cabin somewhere. She rolls over and see’s Nick sleeping soundly, only he looks different. His hair is longer and his beard is grown out but he is still as handsome as ever. Pulling off the covers she stands up, looking around. “Everything looks so, , out of date” she thinks to herself. Peering out a window she see’s a beautiful field of lavender surrounded by dense woodlands. She had no idea where she was but for some reason she felt at peace, at home.
“Adeline, come lay with me for just a while longer. I can never have enough of your love.” Nick chuckles and pats playfully on the bed.
“Adeline?” she wonders to herself. She finds herself walking over to him but she doesn’t know why. She crawls into bed, locking eyes with her lover as he kisses her gently.
“I love you Adeline. I love you and our unborn child.” He gazes at her lovingly, full of admiration.
Marissa looks down quickly and is stunned by what she see’s. She is pregnant, carrying child and has to be at least 7 months along.
“I don’t understand” she says to him, still confused. He looks at her puzzled, and grabs her hand.
“It will be alright, I will protect you for all of eternity.”
“HEY!” Marissa’s eye’s fly open. She collects her bearings, trying to figure out where she was. She didn’t recognize the ceiling but the voice next to her set her fears to bed.
“I didn’t think you would ever wake up, I started to worry.” Nick says to her, “It’s nearly noon.”
“I’m so sorry, I was having the strangest dream.”
“Was I in it?” he plays coyly.
Marissa smiles and blushes nodding yes. She didn’t want to go into details with him, embarrassed about having family dreams with him when they only just met. Nick grabs her waist and pulls her on top of him. She leans down to kiss him, her hair cascading around his face. They stay locked in that embrace for what feels like an eternity.
“I do not want to leave you but I must be getting home.” She feels disappointed that she has to leave but knows she shouldn’t lurk around too much. She didn’t want it to get awkward and loved how things are coming together.
“I’ll call you a cab then. When will I see you again?” She notices a hint of desperation in her voice and finds it strange.
“I’d love to have you over for dinner tomorrow night, although my house is nothing compared to yours.”
“I would love to come for dinner Marissa.” She smiled, knowing that she would see him soon.
He felt sadness flowing through him as he watched her get ready to leave. When the cab came they pressed their lips into one another one more time before he let her leave. He remarked to himself again how similar he was to his Adeline. Having this woman, having Marissa was like having a second chance. He didn’t know if that was an insult to Adelines memory or if it was unfair to Marissa but he needed this, he needed her. He couldn’t be alone any longer, he couldn’t mourn the rest of his life. He had already been mourning so many years.
He didnt’ know what to do with himself while he waited to see her again so he decided to take advantage of an open invitation he always had to one of his friends houses. He didn’t get out much but Nick didn’t care. It was nice to have somewhere he could go at the drop of a hat. He called to be sure then went over to waste with a good friend. Marissa was texting Ashley all that morning, giving her what might be too much detail to most but between them nothing was really too much information.
When Marissa wasn’t working she went to the store in hopes something would inspire her. She had no idea what to cook and she often found her best inspiration for meals while walking around the store. It was a half hour later when she finally started throwing things in the buggy and walking around with purpose. She had the perfect idea and hoped he’d love it. When she made it to check out she had a huge smile, a slight tint in her cheeks since their night of passion was never far from her mind.
Nick called when she started cooking and her heart did a little flip as she answered and cradled the phone between her shoulder and head. “Hey.” She said, unable to keep the smile out of her voice.
“Hello gorgeous, I was heading over and wanted to know if I should grab anything.”
“Maybe some wine?”
“Surprise me, you have such good taste.”
He chuckled. “I’ll be there soon then.” Nick hung up before he told her he loved her. He didn’t want to push to hard, not after the wonderful night he had had with her. He didn’t even know if she felt the same in this life. He wanted to give her time to say it first.
He arrived with a dated Cabernet and a smile. Marissa opened the door, still slightly embarrassed by her, in comparison, much smaller home. He saw the look in her eyes.
“You have a beautiful home” he said to her, genuinely meaning every word.
“Thank you Nick, you don’t have to be so kind.”
“Of course I do” and he planted a kiss on her forehead. Their relationship felt much like months rather than days and Marissa didn’t know if she should be anxious about this fact or thankful. She thought about the last time she saw him and the blood rushed to her cheeks. He noticed her blushing and chuckled. Grabbing her waist, he playfully lifted her to wrap her legs around him.
“Thinking about this?” he teased. She kissed him long and hard with no shame and then suddenly smelled smoke.
“Shit!” she shrieked frantically. She ran to the oven and pulled out her white wine roast which was a little too crisp.
“Well, do you like Chinese?”
Nick started laughing. “You never could cook Adeline.”
They both froze. He realized what he had just done and was kicking himself as hard as he mentally could. She probably thought Adeline was his last girlfriend and he had just ruined everything. He didn’t know about the dream.
Her mind was whirling. He had called her Adeline. Something about that name sounded so familiar. “Wait!” she thought. Adeline was the name he called her in her dream. “But how could that be?” she wondered frantically.
“Why did you call me Adeline?” she asked cautiously. She was more scared than she was upset. How had he known, after all? He was at a lose for words.
“Please say something, I need you to explain to me why you called me that? H..how did you know about my dream?”
“your dream” the fact she had a dream about it made him able to speak “Isn’t that why you called me that? I had a dream…your hair was longer and your beard, we were obviously together. It was set back a long time ago though I’m not really sure when” He took a shaky inhale at the realization, at the knowing this really was Adeline. Marissa was without a doubt now her reincarnation. It explained everything to him, how he was finally able to love again, how he felt such strong emotion for her so quickly “Adeline” he said more emotionally “that may have been a dream but it was a memory”
“yes, we were together in your past life. We were married and happy. I’ve been so broken without you.” everything was just spilling out, he had no control or even a desire to stop. She had to know everything, she had to be with him again now that he knew without a doubt who she was. “You are just like you were baby, down to how adorably inept you are at cooking. I haven’t stopped loving you” He may as well say it now, now that everything else had spilled from him.
He couldn’t tell what she was thinking, especially now that she was shocked into silence, obviously mulling over everything he said and possibly the dream she had. He couldn’t be lieing, how could he have really known about her dream and she felt it too, this connection like they were meant for one another. She had a soulmate, one so meant for her that they found each other in her next life but that meant something else entirely. He looked the same age as her. If this was her second life and he was still in the previous one, how in the hell did he look so young.
” I don’t understand, if it was a memory, how are you still here? Are you reincarnated also?”
Nick thought for a moment on how to answer her without setting alarm. He started slowly, cautiously, telling her the tale of how he came to be who he is.
” It all started long ago, back in 1885. We were together, we were happy. You were with child and our lives couldn’t have been more perfect if we had planned it ourselves. We were nestled on the edge of town, away from everyone, far from harms way. It couldn’t stop it though, the plague. You went to town for toys for the baby, not knowing that would be the last trip you would ever take. You contracted the plague and grew deathly ill.”
Marissa slowly sat down, listening incredulously to everything Nick was telling her. You couldn’t make this up.
“I searched far and wide for a cure for you and was told of a witch. It was my only option to save you and the baby. I was desperate. I left you in our home to find her. When I reached her I begged her to save you. She agreed but told me there would be a price. I told her I would pay anything and everything that I had. She accepted without naming what the price exactly was and we were on our way back to you. I was overcome with joy that I was successful at finding a cure. Our family could finally be whole again. I wouldn’t have to lose you, I couldn’t bare the thought. But I was too late. When we reached the cabin you were already gone, if only just for minutes. I was distraught but pleaded with her to save the child and so she did. She held the child in her arms and I knew that I could survive this tragic lose. When she turned to go, still clutching our child, I was confused.
I shouted, demanded she explain herself. She told me there was a price and that my first born was it. I was enraged and fought her to claim our precious daughter back. She was infuriated and put a curse on me to live the rest of my life left to watch everything that I love grow old and die before me. She escaped with the child and I was left alone and broken. I never found her again, when I went to her cabin, it was bare, she stole our baby girl and disappeared. I have searched for her ever since and to this day. I have followed rumor after rumor only to be lead to dead ends. When I first saw you I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought I had finally died and passed over into your arms. You are my Adeline and I cannot bare to lose you again.”
Nick stared at Marissa, begging her to say something, to express what she was thinking or feeling. She looked up to him and was only able to mutter two words.
“Marissa, you must believe me. I know it’s a lot to take in, but it’s true.” She really looked terrified as she stood there, one hand pressed tightly to her stomach, seemingly remembering the child that had been there. “Marissa would you look at me please?” He reached for her slowly, his fingers gently tipping her head back. A myriad of emotions played across her face, fear, confusion, recognition and he couldn’t blame her, he knew how this sounded. “I’m sorry to put all of this on you, but I love you.”
“Me or Adeline?”
“You, always you, no matter where you go you are the other half of my heart.” He lifted her hand and pressed her palm against his chest. “It beats only because of you. It’s like the missing parts of my soul have been put back and I am whole once again.”
She still wasn’t saying much so he said “let me order that food. What would you like?”
“shrimp lo mein” an answer, it was so good to hear her voice again. He got on the phone and ordered two of that since food wasn’t what he cared about right now. This was a pivotal moment. How she reacted would decide his entire future. Would he have to continue suffering alone or would he get to be with her. He just wanted to hold her. He wanted to protect her this time around. They ate in relative silence but she did eventually say “I believe you”
“yes, I feel it’s true. I’m sure now that I know it will all come back to me. I mean, that dream”
“even if it doesn’t it doesn;t matter to me”
“but you want her”
“I told you sweetheart, I want you”
“would you kiss me again?” she wanted to feel that connection now that she knew. She wondered if it would help more memories flood in. He was more than happy to oblige and met their lips. They both let out a small moan and just as she hoped her mind started filling with memory after memory. Her eyes grew damp and he stopped kissing her to wipe away the tears “Marissa” he said softly “are you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry, this is just all so overwhelming.” Her hands framed his face and he closed his eyes as he relaxed into her touch. “You’re really real, you’re not just a dream.”
He smiled as he pressed their foreheads together. “You too, I’m glad I found you again. I’m going to find a way to keep you forever or break this spell. I can’t watch you grow old, I won’t.” He pulled back and smiled at her, the look in his eyes so warm and loving it nearly overwhelmed her. “Would you consider marrying me again?”
“You don’t have to answer now, just consider it. I want you to be sure. I love you immensely and if you want to keep things as they are, I won’t argue with you. Just having you here and your willingness to believe me are enough. So please think about it, about us.”
“This is all so much to take in Nick. I don’t think I can answer that right now. Please, I’m not saying no, I just need time to think. I just found out that you are immortal and I’m reincarnate of your one true love. I need to wrap my head around what that means. It explains so much about you and about our connection, even why I never felt close to anyone until I met you.”
Nick’s face grew solom but he understood. He felt foolish for asking her during all of this mess. He wanted to hold her but didn’t know if it was what she wanted. He decided it was worth the risk. He walked next to her, pushing the Chinese out of the way, and just held her. He never wanted to let go.
“Yes dear, anything.”
“Make love to me.”
Without another word he picked her up and carried her upstairs. He found her room and laid her gently on the bed. This wasn’t like before, it was softer, more compassionate. She was the one who was desperate for his touch this time. She wanted to feel their connection and know that what he told her was true.
They laid together after they made love, holding each other without a word. She took this time to take everything in, to comprehend what he had told her. Even though she knew it to be true she still had a hard time believing everything. “Witches, immortal men, curses?” she thought to herself. Everything she expected in a fairy tale was true. It was incredulous.
“Tell me the story of our love Nick, I want to hear everything.” and so he did.
As he told her everything so much emotion tore through her that it strengthened her belief this is all true, everything he said. What he was saying inspired strong feelings, the kind of feelings you’d only have if they were your own memories. She listened intently, eager for every sentence he said to her. She not only wanted to know more, her very soul begged for more knowledge of them, of their happy life before it was all torn away by illness and that wretched witch. He was still talking to her late in the night, there was so much to tell after all. He finally decided to suggest rest “you need sleep” he kissed her cheek “I’ll tell you more tomorrow’
She knew he was right and she wanted toi be fully awake so she wouldn’t miss a single detail. It was easy to fall asleep, his stories had been so comforting and uplifting. They seemed to truly have an amazing and healthy relationship last time around. Sure he could just be making it all up, how perfect it was but her could felt it was true. He wasn’t exaggerating anything, it was all really that wonderful.
She fell asleep and the last thought running through her mind were “Maybe I will marry him”.
When she woke up, Nick wasn’t by her side. She was alarmed at first but told herself that was silly, he was probably in the kitchen getting something to eat. She stood and got dressed, eager to see him. She wanted to know more about their past. She wandered downstairs and heard Nick speaking with someone on the phone. He sounded upset and she didn’t want to disturb him.
“Just find out if it’s her!” he raised his voice but she could tell he was trying to be quiet so that she wouldn’t here. He must be talking about the witch! Could he really have found her after 132 years? She didn’t want to get her hope up. He had told her that every time he found a lead it ended up being false or she was already gone. Suddenly he came around the corner and bumped right into Marissa.
“I’m sorry” she stammered “I didn’t mean to listen in. I didn’t want to interrupt you. Is it true? Do you have a lead on the witch?”
“I do, but my heart refuses to have hope. I have failed so many times before. I will look for her with this lead but I’m not expecting anything, she always seems to know when I am coming. I don’t understand how but it seems true. They say she isn’t alone, that there is a woman with her. I have heard this before but one hundred years ago. Is this the same woman or is she trapping other helpless souls. I have to admit Marissa, if this is the same woman, I wonder if it is our daughter, forced to wander the Earth with her doing her bidding.”
“Oh Nick! It can’t be! Do you really think that our daughter is still alive? Could it be?”
“It could be Marissa, she has the power. She must have spelled her the same as me, but it may not be her. We mustn’t get our hopes up.”
Marissa couldn’t help but get her hopes up. She had always wanted a child, never knowing that she had already had one in a past life. Nick’s lead was in Germany so he booked his flight right away. Marissa begged to come with but he forced her to stay. He knew it wasn’t safe and could never bear losing her again. He would go on this lead alone, in hopes of finding not only the witch but the daughter that was so cruelly taken away from him and Adeline.
Marissa paced in her home, struggling with the fact he had made her stay behind. If that witch did have their daughter what might their daughter think? How would she feel about the fact her mother didn’t come for her aswell but waited a safe distance away. She didn’t want to start their relationship out on the wrong foot and she was starting to regret allowing a man, even one she loved to force her into anything. What was being safe here if anything happened to Nick or their daughter. What was being safe here if her daughter felt Nick loved her more because he braved the witch. She was starting to feel tempted to book tickets and just follow him.
If they were going to be together he wouldn’t be her boss anyway so if he over reacted to her coming, even out of concern for her safety should she even be with him again. She sighed, hating feeling this conflicted and this unsure about her choice to allow Nick to make her stay. She ended up booking a ticket, the consequences would be the consequences. There wasn’t another flight available until the next day but at least she was going, at least she could look her daughter in the eye and say she was willing to come and risk it all too because she loved her.
Even though Marissa carried fear in her heart, she knew she was doing the right thing. She didn’t care if Nick yelled at her or hated her for it, she had to do this. She packed light, not knowing what the future held for her. She arrived at the airport early, her anxiety taking over. Even when she got there ,she had no idea where to go next. She had a few clues from evesdropping on Nick’s phone calls but that was it. It was a start though and a start was all that she needed. She had over heard Nick talking about the Hotel Torbraeu in Munich. It was pricey and almost out of her range but she scrounged up her last few dollars in her oh crap fund and hoped she could find him before having to book a room. Her thoughts were racing and her stomach felt like there was a thousand wings fluttering at the same time. At one point she thought she might get sick but she sat down and focused on her breathing to calm herself down. She had never actually been on a plane before for the sole reason of being too afraid to board one. She didn’t see any way around it this time though if she wanted to be there for her daughter, if it even was her daughter. Even though they weren’t sure, she felt as if it was true in her heart. She heard the load booming voice over the intercom calling her flight number and allowing passengers to board. She boarded her flight, buckled herself in, and closed her eyes. She hoped she could sleep the whole trip, for fear that she might not be able to keep from getting sick the next time. Before she knew it, they were landing in Munich and a flight attendant was gently nudging her shoulder to wake her. She breathed a sigh of relief for making it without any trouble. She exited the airport and went to flag a taxi. She suddenly panicked. She never considered the fact that they might not speak English and she didn’t know a single word of German. She flagged down a taxi anyways and crossed her fingers. She quickly pulled out her phone and pulled up the quickest translator. She was slightly embarrassed, knowing that she was butchering the language but she tried anyways.
“Wohin sehen sie?” the taxi driver asked.
Marissa cleared her throat and read from her phone. “Spechen sie Englisch?
The taxi driver laughed. “Yes ma’am, the majority of us do speak English.”
She sighed a breath of relief, at least things were going right so far.
“Can you take me to Hotel Torbraeu?”
“Of course Madame.”
They arrived at the hotel about 15 minutes later and she had taxi driver help her with converting the money. She had gotten Euros at the airport but couldn’t remember the conversion rate. He was a kind man though and helped her through it. She grabbed her bag and walked up to the counter.
“How can I help you Miss?” the nice attendant asked her. Marissa realized at that point that she had been holding her breath and suddenly felt light headed.
“I’m here to join Nick Abrams please.” She made sure to speak confidently so that there was no suspicion. She didn’t know the rules in Germany and wasn’t so sure they would give her the information.
“I’m sorry, Mr.Abrams didn’t mention he had another guest joining him. His room only fits two.”
“Two?” She thought to herself. “Who else is with him?”
“Can you please provide me his room number so that I can unload my things. I’ve had a long flight and would like to rest.”
The attendant looked at her apprehensively and picked up the phone.
“Excuse me Mr. Abrams, I do not mean to disturb you. There is a, ” She paused, “What was your name Miss?”
“Marissa Knowles” she responded.
“There’s a Miss Marissa Knowles at the desk stating that she is joining you? Ok, I understand. Will you be needing another bed? Ok, sir. Right away sir. ” She hung up the phone and smiled at Marissa. “He stated that he must have forgot to mention your arrival. I am truly sorry Miss. Here is your room key and the information you requested.”
Marissa was relieved but was still nervous of Nick’s reaction. She knew he must be furious with her but she didn’t care. She boarded the elevator and pushed the number 3 for their floor. She arrived at the door numbered 348 which matched her hotel key, and hesitated. She prayed that he would understand. Before she even knocked, Nick opened the door. Marissa was ready for a full on fight but the first thing he did was swoop her into his arms and kiss the side of her head. Marissa was surprised as this was not the reaction that she suspected.
“What in the world are you doing here Marissa?”
“I had to be here Nick, I wanted our daughter to know that I fought for her too and that I didn’t abandon her.”
There were tears in her eyes begging to flow over but she quickly wiped them away. Nick’s face softened and he pulled her into his arms once more. She hugged him, feeling relieved that he wasn’t going to yell at her. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and that’s when she spotted Nick’s other guest. Marissa froze, she was absolutely beautiful. Magnificent even. Marissa was so confused. Nick noticed the sudden change in mood and followed her gaze.
“Oh, Marissa this is Natalia. She is the woman who had been helping me track the witch for the past 5 years. We met in Prague and she has been helping me ever since.”
Marissa could tell that Nick was nervous and there was a slight tint to his cheeks. What was their relationship? Marissa started to wonder if Nick was cheating on her but then remembered that there were already two beds. She quickly threw those thoughts away and shunned herself for letting past relationships affect new.
“It’s, It’s nice to meet you Natalia.” She stammered. She couldn’t help it, she was so stunning. Let the adventure begin.
“It’s nice to meet you too.” reading teh feeling in the room easily she assured Marissa “there has never been anything romantic between us and he’s been telling me about you since he arrived, I promise you that. Men are stupid as I’m sure you’ve already learned. He just didn’t have the brain to tell you I’d be here”
“Oh” came stammering out and they both blushed more. Natalia ndged him “tell her you’re sorry Nick, damn, she should have known I’d be here, especially since you insisted she not come. You look like a dog right now and I know you love her so apologize like you should”
“sorry Marissa” he said, looking worried he might have messed things up already after missing her for so long.
“It’s alright, I’m sorry I worried. How stupid of me.”
“Not stupid at all, if you like I can slap him for being inconsiderate.” Natalia said.
“No, it’s fine really.”
“I was in such a hurry to get here, I didn’t think my love.” Nick brought her fingers to his lips and pressed a gentle kiss to them.
“You should get you two your own room, we really don’t need the staff talking.” Natalia said. “Afterwards come back and we’ll explain things more thoroughly.”
“Of course, I’ll only be a moment, would you like to come with me Marissa or stay here with Natalia?”
“I’ll stay, I’d like to get to know her.”
“Alright.” He kissed her lips then left the two women alone.
Natalia sighed. “So inconsiderate. I am truly sorry, he’s nice but can be a real meat head sometimes. I’m truly happy he finally found you.”
“It’s truly a miracle” Natalia said. “Who would have thought that he would get another chance?”
Marissa smiled, looking down. She was still processing everything that was going on, even though it felt natural to her.
“Please, Natalia, tell me how you two met.”
Natalia thought about where to begin for a moment and then started.
“I was only 18 when we met. It was by chance really. My family has been tracking the witch for generations, never able to keep up. She wronged a family member of mine over one hundred years ago and my family has never let it go. It’s almost our life mission, I guess you could say. We have a gift in our family that she took from one of my ancestors for fear that it would be her undoing. She failed to know about his kin. We are able to sense magic. We know when it is near, we dream about it, premonitions if you will. If have been so close, but her magic is ancient and magnificent. She is the strongest witch in existence and we must find her. She is here, I can feel it. I have seen her in my dreams with another woman. To be honest, she looks a lot like you, I just never realized it until I saw you. This may actually be your daughter, tragically taken from you so many years ago. I’m so happy that Nick found you. I hope you can forgive him, he may be extraordinary, but in the end, he is still just a man, and men are very forgetful.”
They chuckled together and Marissa’s heart was set at ease. She knew she already loved Nick, even though it had been such a short amount of time. She was born to love him and she knew he loved her as well. Her heart was almost exploding in her chest of the realization that the woman with the witch was probably her daughter that she never knew she had. What an interesting world she lived in.
When Nick returned Marissa hugged him to make sure he knew they were okay, especially since he still looked incredibly embarrassed and worried. He relaxed in her arms, placing a gentle kiss on her head. He had wanted her safely back in her home but he had to admit to himself it was nice to have her close. He started missing her from teh second he left her home. It hadn’t been that long but it felt to him he hadn’t seen her in weeks. He knew one thing for sure now. On any future trip Marissa was coming no matter the danger, especially since she would just follow anyway, “How much have you explained?” He asked “all the basics. Want to know more Marissa?”
“anything you want to tell me but I understand how you came to work together”
“good” he couldn’t help but run his knuckles softly down her soft cheek.She smiled at him and Natalie laughed, thinking they were adorable.
They ate a great meal and rested up for the trials ahead. Marissa didn’t know what to expect and felt a little behind since Nick and Natalia had done these hunts many times.
“Natalia, we will follow your senses, you will be our guide. Marissa, please stay in the middle while we hunt. I want protection all around you. I will not let anything happen to you again. ” He stroked her cheek and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
They packed light and headed out to the last place that Natalia felt the witches magic the strongest. Natalia knew that she hadn’t been here long and left hours ago. She cursed herself for not going out at night but knew at the same time that going out alone would have been suicide.
“She was here not too long ago Nick. I can feel her. ” She felt confident that she could track her but knew she would need all of her strength. She closed her eyes and felt for the magic. It wasn’t like normal magic that Natalia could feel on occasions, it was dark, heavy and full of dismay. She opened her eyes and started walking, without saying a word. Nick and Marissa followed without disturbing her concentration. They walked for what seemed like hours and Marissa didn’t know how much longer she could keep going. She was too embarrassed to say anything so she just kept walking, keeping her eyes out for anything strange even though she didn’t even know who or what she was looking for. Suddenly Natalia stopped. She was concentrating harder than ever and almost seemed to be shaking.
“She is close Nick, I can feel her. It’s almost as if she is watching us. She knows we are here yet does nothing. I don’t understand.”
“We have to keep our eyes open and our guards up” said Nick. “She could be anywhere”
They continued to walk, but slower this time. Natalia’s face was distorted and she seemed confused as she came to a halt.
“Nick” she spoke softly, ” we are not following her”.
“What do you mean Natalia, what do you mean we are not following her? I thought that was what we have been doing for the last five hours!”
Natalia turned around and looked straight into Nick’s eyes. Marissa froze as she didn’t know what else to do.
“We are not following her. … She is following us Nick.”
Marissa’s skin covered in goosebumps from fear and she could see Nick was equally terrified. “what…how” was all he could say. Was this all just more torment, was she following them, making them feel like they were hunting her only to continue to torture and toy with him. Could this witch really be so evil? He wondered if her game all along was to wait for him to finally find Marissa again, maybe her game was to take her to hurt him further.. he wouldn’t allow that. Marissa was too precious to him to lose, no other woman could replace her.
Suddenly that evil cackle he remembered all too well filled the room. He instinctively grabbed Marissa while Natalia readied herself for her own revenge and to help her now close friend Nick. She came into view, almost making Marissa nauseous. The witch looked as ugly as she undoubtedly was inside but when she saw who came besides her, all the nausea fled. That beautiful young woman at her side, that was her daughter and nobody could tell her different now that she could see her.
Tears filled her eyes “my baby” Marissa said softly.
The young woman looked oddly at Marissa. The look on her face was confusion and hatred. She didn’t know that Nick and Marissa were her parents, she had been taken at birth and never knew anything other than the sound of her mother’s voice in the womb. Marissa suddenly worried that the evil witch had turned her evil. Her chest swelled with sorrow at the thought. She didn’t believe it was possible. The witch took a step forward towards Nick and Nick instinctively stepped backwards.
“I have been waiting for you Nicholas. You have been hunting me for many years, I grow weary of the trouble and wish to end it. I would suggest you say your goodbye’s to your precious as I order your own daughter to kill you!” She cackled and laughed with joy as she told the young woman to kill them all.
The young woman didn’t move. “Kill them now Julissa! Do not disobey me!”
Julissa looked at the group, and then back at the witch. “You just said I was their daughter. What do you mean? How can this be?” She looked lost and afraid.
Marissa knew then in her heart that her daughter was not evil. If she was she would have killed them all already. Marissa wondered how the witch expected this girl to kill three adults. “Had the evil witch taught her magic? Was that even possible?” Marissa pondered.
“Julissa, you don’t have to listen to her anymore” Marissa shouted. “You can come with us, come home. She stole you as a baby and we never got to know you. We never gave up on you Julissa, you must know that. ”
“Stop this nonsense!” yelled the witch. “If you won’t kill them, I will!”
The witch came forward and Marissa saw panic on Julissa’s face “No! NO!” Julissa yelled and moments later it became apparent the witch had taught their daughter magic. Julissa attacked the cruel woman who had raised her, feeling deep within her Marissa really was her mother. She would give anything for the chance at a loving home, even her life. Either way she would be done with the long, miserable life she had lead so far. “You little brat!” the witch practically growled out. The woman truly seemed more demon or animal than a human who ended up dabbling in magic. Evil had taken over her heart, changing her forever. Natalia and Nick went for the witch at the same time, one hungry for revenge while the other just wanted to protect his family and get his daughter back.
The witch surged what simply looked like blue energy into Julissa until Nicks weight knocked her down. Julissa fell to the floor, blood pouring from her ears and mouth. Marissa felt anger and sorrow swirl within her, her baby couldn’t be dead. She couldn’t have come all this way just to see her beloved daughter die. “Julissa!” Marissa sobbed, running to her before her mind even knew what she was doing. It was her instinct as a mother kicking in, that need to tend to her baby. “Julissa” she said weakly from the heartache. The witch’s attention was solely on Natalia and Nick now. They weren’t giving her the option to go after Marissa and Julissa again.
To Marissa’s surprise her daughter slowly began moving when just moments ago she looked like she was dead “fuck…you” Julissa said slowly, each word filled with heated anger. “Julissa” Marissa said her name again as her daughter slowly stood. Their daughter cast something back, her magic royal purple as it collided on teh witch. Natalia and Nick jumped back, not sure what Julissa was doing. When it came to magic if you weren’t sure good rule of thumb was to back away.
The witch shrieked and the whole building began to shake and crumble. Nicks heart went into panic, something could fall and hit Marissa or his daughter. He tried to get back over to Marissa but debris landed on him, sending him straight to the floor. The noise he made was a mixture of a yell and a groan as he got right back up, nothing was going to stop him from protecting them, absolutely nothing.
He stumbled to the rubble, determined to find them. He saw no sign of the witch. He felt a sharp pain in his side but paid it no mind, knowing that soon enough, he would heal. He heard soft groans and ran to the noise. There was a rock on Marissa’s leg that kept her from moving. Without even seeing the damage he knew it wasn’t good. He sighed a breath of relief though as he knew she wasn’t fatally injured. He tried to find Julissa but worried less, knowing that she would have the same healing ability as he. He used all of his might to lift the fallen debris off of Marissa’s thigh and pushed it successfully aside. It was bloody but he felt it wasn’t broken, thank God. All of a sudden to his left he saw debris start to move and he readied himself for battle with the witch again. To his surprise and joy it was Julissa that came from the rubble. Underneath her, shielded, was Natalia. He was so relieved to see her face that he ran to her and hugged her. She was stiff and of course didn’t know what to do, this was so new to her. How, after all this time, could she still have a father. He hugged Natalia next and thanked Julissa for shielding her from the fallen rocks.
“Where is the witch?” Nick said to her.
“I don’t know, it’s hard to say. She could be caught underneath the rubble or she could be gone. If we have the ability to heal I’m sure that she does too. It would take strong magic to destroy her and I have no idea if my magic was that strong. I don’t even know the spell that I cast, it just came out in my panic and rage.” Julissa looked concerned and ready to run.
“Please, help us, stay with us. We will make sure that she is gone for good. We need to start by searching through this rubble.”
“Okay but stay alert. I can’t imagine she has gone far and if she has gone away, she’ll be back. She is not capable of giving up, she’s too vindictive” Marissa’s heart sank a little, thinking again about the horrible life her daughter must have been living all this time. She almost felt guilty for being reborn, for living such an amazing, ignorant life of all this misery. It wasn’t fair, to Julissa or Nick that she had gotten to be happy while they continued on suffering. She put on a brave face and got up, standing though it was incredibly painful. She wouldn’t mope and she wouldn’t become a burden, she was going to help. Nick rushed back over to her, feeling stupid for leaving her but he had simply had to hug his daughter.
“Be careful” he said and she shook her head “I’m going to help look”
“you’re human Marissa, please, I don’t want you to over do it” Julissa came over, healing her mothers leg “there, now she’s fine”
Marissa was in awe of the magic that her daughter possessed. A month prior, she didn’t even know such things existed!. Now she was completely healed. She stood up and looked at Nick. She knew that he wanted her behind but she hated the thought of not helping. She knew that if she stayed she would just be another person they had to account for so resolved to go back to the hotel.
“Natalia, will you take me back while Nick and Julissa search for the witch. I don’t want to be a burden any more. ”
“Marissa, you are far from a burden, but I agree, you should go back with Natalia and wait for us there.” Nick responded. He grabbed her and kissed her with more love than she’d ever experienced.
Natalia gave her a nod and she followed behind. Nick and Julissa started through the ruble. Stone by stone they searched for the witch until every last stone was turned and she was no where in sight.
“How can this be?” shouted Nick angrily.
“She has her ways Nick, she is very powerful and you would be a fool to underestimate her. We have not seen the last of her yet, I can promise you that. She will be back as soon as she heals and it will be for the last time. Either we take her down or she will kill us all.”
Nick studied the somber expression on Julissa’s face and knew that what she said was true. He had no idea where to start and felt hopeless but then realized that Julissa had lived with her for a better part of 100 years. She would be quite knowledgeable in the witches patterns and behaviors.
“Tell me Julissa, where would she go? A secret lair or location?”
“She has many places and can hide in plain sight but i feel that i know where she has returned to. She has no idea that I know the location so she will never predict our appearance.”
That was it. They now had a plan but Nick knew that he would need Natalia to be with them. That meant leaving Marissa alone. Unfortunately, it was a risk he would have to take.
They went back to the room, surprising Natalia and Marissa. “what’s going on?” Marissa asked and he said “I’m sorry baby but our daughter has an idea. I need Natalia to come with us”
“and leave her alone?” Natalias question stung a bit, he could hear how confused she was and how much she didn’t understand his choices. “yeah, she could get hurt if she came with us’
“alright” she looked at Marissa “Please don’t chase after us this time. I know you want to help your daughter hands on but this is getting really dangerous okay” Marissa nodded and Nick hugged her “I love you, I can’t wait for this all to be over so we can just be a happy couple’ Julissa came over too “thank you for coming. It’s nice to know both my parents care”
“I’d come for this too if I were stronger”
“I know” They left and Natalia said “I know we have to think of her safety but you better hope you still have her when this is all over. I mean first you come here without telling her about me WHILE insisting she stay home and now you take every opportunity to leave her behind and take me. I know it’s because you want her safe but it can be taken another way. If you had started better and told her everything it would be fine now but I know what she means to you and I worry you’re screwing things up”
“I can’t let her get hurt. I know she understands”
“Okay” was the last thing Natalia said on the subject. They let Julissa guide them, staying close and clearing their minds. They couldn’t think about anything else now but this, their lives depended on that with such a hateful witch.
Julissa led them for what seemed like hours on end in no direction. Nick was growing weary but trusted in his daughters knowledge and abilities. They had abandoned the car three miles ago and where now drudging the dense forest.
“We are getting close” Natalia claimed “I can feel her presence. It is weak but it is there.”
“We are almost to our destination so if the link you feel is weak then I believe she must have been wounded in our last battle.” Julissa stopped and turned to each of them. “I need you to be prepared, in body and in mind. This is our one and only chance at ridding the world of this wicked once and for all. I’m afraid that if we are not successful and triumph today that we will have lost our chance forever. We will never again gain the upper hand. She has no idea that I am aware of this location but she is sure to feel us the closer that we get. She will be ready but we will still have a momentary advantage so we must be swift in action. ”
Julissa bent down and started tearing at the earth.
“What are you doing Julissa?” Nick asked.
“Ssshhhh.” she replied.
The then uncovered an oak chest, unearthed it and opened to reveal it’s treasures. There was a single blade and nothing more hidden inside.
“This and only this can kill her for sure. I knew in our previous battle that she would not be killed but I feared if you knew you wouldn’t have the reserve to weaken her the way that you have. We will rush her as quickly as we can and I will try to immobilize her with all of my might. That will be your one and only shot. You must go for her heart and her heart alone. Anywhere else will not be effective. This is the only blade spelled strong enough to defeat her. I hid this here years ago in the hope that one day I would be strong enough to use it but that day never came. I am thankful for your arrival for many reasons and this day will be the greatest day of my life. Are you ready?”
He was more than ready “lets go” They walked at a determined pace, all three of them wanting this over with once and for all. Nick just kept thinking of the wonderful life he could now live with Marissa and his daughter if he could just get rid of this wretched woman. Just as Julissa warned the witch was ready when they broke into the building she was in. She had long since sensed their presence drawing near and had been waiting with a weapon of her own. It gashed into Julissa, the witch was obviously angry at her for joining their side and was attacking with emotion rather than her brain. Nick jerked the witch off, slamming her to the floor. He went for her but the witch was much too fast and moved away. Julissa tried to offer her aide again but her magic wasn’t anywhere near the witch they now fought.
Nick feared for Julissa because he knew the witch was the only one who could take her immortal life. He senses his opportunity though as the wicked witch was so focused on Julissa that she barely gave him any thought. She surely didn’t realize that he alone wielded the only weapon that could be his downfall. Natalia had been knocked out cold but he could see her steady breathing so focused on his final move. At a particularly powerful spell cast at Julissa she seemed weakened by the amount of energy put forth. He knew this was the time. He lunged behind the witch and thrust the blade with all of his might into her back, praying that it hit it’s target and didn’t fail him. He knew that if this didn’t work that they were all dead and Marissa would be alone to deal with the witch herself. A piercing shriek shot through the rotting house louder than anyone could imagine. Nick knew he had been on point. He expected to watch her writhe in pain and see the fear in her eyes but before him erupted a tremendous amount of ash bursting into the air and slowly floating down to the Earth. She was gone. It was just like that, in a blink of an eye. He couldn’t believe that they had won, that they had defeated her once and for all. He suddenly felt his body tingling all over as if a spell had been cast upon him, but it was not a spell cast but a spell released. He knew in that moment that the magic that had cursed him had died with the witch and he would now live a normal, human life, and so would his daughter. He rushed to Natalia as she stirred and cradled her head.
“Are you hurt?” he spoke softly.
“No, I think I’m fine. I’m so sorry Nick.”
“It’s fine, she’s gone, we did it.” the incredulous amount of awe in his voice reassured her that it was true.
He couldn’t wait to tell Marissa it was all over. He could finally live a normal life with her without the fear of watching her grow old by his side. He suddenly felt the impatient urge to get to her as quickly as he possibly could.
The three of them returned to Marissa as quickly as they could, finding her sleeping safely in their hotel room. The fact it was over was almost too good to be true so he had been half worried he’d find Marissa in the witch’s clutches but no, there she was, beautiful as ever and all his. Julissa and Natalia were in another room. He had told his daughter she was welcome but she had felt it was best if her father checked on her alone. Nick didn’t push it, he knew it might be nerves. She didn’t know them at all and on top of that she had been raised by a truly terrible being. Nick laid down with Marissa, pulling her close and kissing her. They had a long way to go when it came to connecting to their little girl but the witch was gone, they had their daughter and they had all pulled through alive. That was all he needed, a peaceful life with his little family, the one he should have had all those years ago.
~ The End
Leevo had about enough of this nightmare or whatever the hell this was. Everything felt weird as he looked for his fiance. He couldn’t quite pinpoint what he was feeling, simply everything felt wrong. Even his own body felt wrong, different. He finally saw someone he knew, his best friend “Hey!” his friend looked at him confused “hey” he spoke it as though it was a question rather than a greeting “where is Brynlyn” Now his best friend was looking at him like he was crazy but that wasn’t his concern right now. Brynlyn hadn’t been answering his texts and when he called her the number was invalid. He had gone everywhere she liked to go and not a sign of her “where is she?” he prompted again
His friend spoke almost angrily “she’s dead you jackass! Look, we haven’t spoken in years and I know her death was an accident but I’m not going to talk to you about her, I’m not going to comfort you. It may have been an accident but it could have been prevented so I still blame you. You just had to play with that gun, no matter how uncomfortable it made her you’d mess around with it like you were a fucking child. You shot her, she’s dead and the day I found out what happened is the day I quit talking to you. You’ve always been childish and I’ve always over looked it but now…after that…. get out of my damn face and you better not ever fucking ask me about her again you piece of shit”
Leevo couldn’t believe his ears but he couldn’t question him anymore, his best friend had stormed off. Brynlyn was dead? They hadn’t spoken in years? What kind of fucked up dream was this? He felt a hand touch his shoulder and yelped in fear “shhh, you need to stop talking to people. This has already gotten so far out of hand” He felt like this was going to be more nonsense he just wasn’t ready for as the person continued to speak “Look, there are multiple timelines, different versions of the world playing all at once. They are created here and there for reasons I just don’t have the time to explain but the you in this reality, he’s done something abominable and not just killing his wife, your Brylyn. He learned of the fact there are different time lines because he’s always been into things like that, anything odd or supernatural, I need to fix this as fast as possible, that I cannot stress to you enough. He thought he was going to just jump into a different reality, but what he ended up doing was switching souls with you. He dragged your soul here and he’s now in your body and that mean Brynlyn is in danger again…I’m sorry to scare you but this must be said. You’ll want to trust yourself, to believe it was an accident because I know the you from your timeline. You DO love Brynlyn but the Leevo from this one….he killed her on purpose….he managed to sell to his lawyer and the jury it was an accident, just the result of his normal childish ways but it wasn’t…he meant to kill her, the you from this time and when he sees he’s with Brynlyn again….who knows what might happen to her
“Get me back now then.”
“It’s not that simple, it could…”
“I don’t care the risk to me, even if it tears me to pieces.” He felt panic setting in. “Fuck, this can’t be happening can it?”
“No, I can’t be crazy, this is real, I can feel everything. Just get me back, I need to get back to her, to save her, I can’t let him…me…do that to her.”
“You need to calm down first, I know it’s hard, but you need to breathe. I’m going to get you back, but it’s going to take a bit of preparation. Switching souls is not child’s play, it’s dangerous and not only souls, but getting you back to your timeline so we can protect Brynlyn.”
“How did he do it then?”
“H’e been dabbling in magic since he was a young child. Honestly it was the dark magic he got so into the corrupted his soul so much”
“How could I ever hurt Brynlyn though…I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Even if I was bad how could I hurt Brylyn…”
“Magic is your true love in this life but we’re wasting time talking. I’m only using this time at all because we can’t get anything done until you calm down a bit”
“That’s easy for you to say when it’s not the woman you love in danger…” tears started to fall, making it hard to talk “if I go back and she’s dead…”
“You can’t think about that Leevo”
Brynlyn was preparing her lunch for work when Leevo entered the kitchen. She turned, ready to run over and hug him but the look on his face, that creepy smile made her freeze in place. He stepped closer, slowly, like a predator that had cornered it’s prey, or at least that’s what it felt like to her. She was scared and didn’t know why. Normally nobody made her feel more secure than Leevo “baby?” she asked, trying not to sound as afraid as she felt. “what’re you doing?” he asked, now right in front of her “Making my lunch for work”
“Yeah” Brynlyn didn’t have a job in his timeline, he would have never allowed it. Just learning she had one in this timeline made him furious. “You’re not going anywhere” he said and she gave him a confused look “I am going to work”
“I said you aren’t”
“what is wrong with you this morning?”
His hand shot out, going around her neck and her eyes widened in shock and fear. “You little bitch.” He squeezed and she gagged. “Don’t think you can talk back to me.”
“Of course I am, sweetheart.” He spat out.
“No…who…” He squeezed harder and her vision started to blur. Leevo would never do something like this, he would call her names. He wasn’t that kind of person. Something was wrong, she could feel it. She brought her knee up hard between his legs. He grunted and let her go and she took the opportunity to shove him and run for the front door
She managed to get out, mostly because he wasn’t used to Brylyn fighting back, at least not anymore. Before her death she had become easy to control, broken down since he had been beating her down mentally for as long as he had known her. This Brylyn was much different but that was no matter. He’d put her in her place and then get the satisfaction of accidentally killing her again one day. Though he was in pain he smiled at this opportunity. It had been so satisfying to take her life the first time and he now could feel that same rush again.
Brylyn got into her car, feeling thankful she had already put her keys in her pocket to leave before she started making her lunch. She went to work and right away one of her coworkers could tell something was wrong “Bryn? Are you okay?”
“Not really, there’s something wrong with Leevo. He’s like a completely different person this morning. Before he even said anything I could feel a difference. Leevo has always been my safe place but from the second he entered the kitchen I was afraid”
“he didn’t hurt you did he?” she asked, anger rising in her inquisitive voice. He put his hands around my neck…he was mad I was going to work for some reason…but that’s not like him, there’s something wrong. Leevo would never hurt me. Somethings off but I just don’t know what it is. I just got out of there”
“Bryn that’s really serious. Do you want to stay with me? I can’t as your friend let you go home to something like that”
“I don’t want him to follow me there. I would hate for you to get hurt too.”
“Screw it just come here and we’ll call the cops.”
“Don’t, please. Something’s really wrong, more than a change of character. It’s like I was looking into the eyes of another man.”
“Maybe he’s just a good liar.”
“I don’t believe that for a second. He’s always been honest and kind, the most genuine person I know. Just…I’ll come over, but I want to hold off on calling the cops for now.”
“I will, but don’t think I won’t kick his ass if he tries anything else.”
“I know, thank you.”
Ellie really was an amazing friend. Truly she was just a good person in general. She’d help anybody who needed it and was one of those people that always stepped in right away if they saw something bad going on. It was funny since she was small, even for a woman. She had never outright asked her height but she couldn’t be taller than 5’2. Her build was small as well but despite all that she was a fearless woman and Brynlyn couldn’t help but look up to her. Brynlyn was glad however that Ellie was willing to give this time before she got the authorities involved. Something was up and she didn’t want things to go back to normal and her fiance snap out of it while he was sitting in a jail cell.
The heartless Leevo went through his home looking for anything that might tell him where Brynlyn works and who her friends were here. He was disgusted with the him of this place that he gave Brynlyn so much freedom. He wondered what sort of pansy he was in this life, especially since the house wasn’t spotless as it should be with a woman living in it. When Brynlyn got back first thing he was going to do was make her clean this house.
The house phone started to ring so he walked over to it “hello”
“hey man, I know this is your only day off for a bit and Brynlyn is at work so I thought we’d have a guys day” He recognized that voice, eventually realizing it was Jake. so we’re friends in this timeline…interesting “Leevo?”
“Oh sorry, yeah, sure but can you give me a ride to Brynlyns job…she left her lunch”
“Your car broken?”
“yeah, brakes are out”
“Where are we going?” Leevo asked as he followed the woman down the street. His mind was constantly being pulled back to Brynlyn and the other him.
“A Wicca store.”
“Why? I need to get back.”
“There are some things I need from there and I know the man who runs the place. His store is the same in every reality. He’s different, supernatural and he can probably help us.”
“I just want to go home. What if he’s hurt her? She’ll never believe it wasn’t me, she’ll hate me.”
“I’ll explain for you, I promise, I’ll help her understand.”
“If he’s done anything, I…I’ll kill him.”
“Listen Leevo, you should leave that for someone else to do and besides, he’s in your body. Once we get him switched back I will contact someone who will ensure he can never use his magic again.”
Leevo sighed “Thank you…I don’t know why you’re helping but thank you”
“It’s sort of my job. I keep an eye on matters like this and step in if I need to”
“I’m not trying to sound ungrateful but why did you wait until he switched”
“If I got involved every time someone tried something like this I wouldn’t have time for anything else regrettably” Leevo nodded, that made sense. “do you know how she is right now?”
“I could take the time to check on her but that would slow us down in righting this” By the time the Leevo that hoped over arrived at Brynlyns job Ellie had already talked to their boss about what happened that morning so her boss cut him off before he could go back to her desk “you’re not welcome here until you know how you’re supposed to treat a woman”
“excuse me? I’m just bringing Brynlyn her lunch?”
“the hell you are” her boss snatched the bag “I’ll give it to her, get out”
He gritted his teeth as he left and Jake gave him a questioning look when he slid into the passenger seat. “Everything alright man?”
“Hey, easy, whatever happened wasn’t my fault. Want to get coffee or something?”
“Sure.” Maybe he could get some information out of his old friend.
Brynlyn stood there with her face in her hand as she listened to her boss. Leevo had gone to her work and worse, her boss knew what had happened. “Thank you, but please just leave it alone, it’s not what you think.”
“I know, but please, everything’s fine, I promise.” She hung up and let out a sigh and went to sit on the couch with her friend. “Did you really have to tell our boss what happened? You couldn’t have made something up, like I had a family emergency and needed you or something?”
“Brynlyn, that bastard…”
“He’s not a bastard. I told you something isn’t right. You’ve met Leevo, he’s not the type to just hurt someone. It was like he had been possessed.”
“Alright, I’m sorry, I just didn’t know what else to say.”
“Now everyone’s going to look at him like he’s a monster.” She felt the sudden prick of tears. “What happened to him?”
“Oh Bryn.” Ellie hugged her and Brynlyn couldn’t help but cry. She just wanted her Leevo back.
The owner of the Wicca shop was an interesting and kind man who collected the supplies so fast it seemed he must keep them together and ready to go. “Thank you” the woman whom he had discovered was named Elena said to the owner who responded with “any time” Their voices were friendly in a way that made it seem like they were good friends. It didn’t surprise Leevo since they probably interacted quite a bit being her job was dealing with these sorts of problems. When they left the store Elena asked “so where precisely were you when you felt weird?”
“Um…I woke up feeling weird…I was” he had been stressing so much today, where he woke up had seemed completely insignificant so it took him a few moments to recall “I was in our basement…well…his basement I guess”
“you’re sure” she had to ask since it seemed so hard for him to remember “yes, I’m sure, why?”
“I’ve found it’s easiest if we can attempt sending your soul back into your body from the point where it first entered this time line”
“I just don’t understand how any of me could ever think of hurting her. Does that mean that I could?”
“Don’t start thinking like that, you’re not him. You might have the same face and the same voice, but you are far from the monster he has become. Never doubt your love for Brynlyn or you’ll begin to doubt everything. He doesn’t deserve her, not even for a moment.”
“I’m sorry, I know I sound pathetic.”
“You love her, there’s nothing pathetic about it.”
“What if he’s not in our basement? Will it still work?”
“There may be something I can try, but there’s no guarantee it would work. Do you still have your cell?” Leevo dug in his pockets and pulled out his phone, well the other him’s phone and handed it to Elena. She took it and asked for Brynlyn’s number which he knew by heart. “Don’t be mad if this doesn’t work, it takes a lot of magic.” She said a few words that he didn’t understand then hit send.
“What are you doing?”
“Trying to call outside this timeline. Maybe, if she believes us, we can get her to lead him there.”
His heart leapt with joy and hope. He desperately needed her to know that the man with her wasn’t him. Brylyn was crying again when her phone rang, she looked but no number showed. Couldn’t anything in her life make sense today? She answered, thinking why not. “Hello?” Elenas gasped with joy and a little surprise. This didn’t always work and she was glad it worked today. “Please listen, don’t hangup on me. It’s going to sound crazy but your fiance isn’t your fiance Brylyn. Someone has switched souls with him. I know that sounds” Brynlyn interrupted her “No! No I believe you!” Someone switching souls with Leevo made far more sense than him treating her this way. He was just that wonderful of a man. “good, I’m glad you believe me and I don’t have to waste valuable time explaining. Are you hurt? Where are you currently?”
“No, he tried to choke me but I got away fine. I’m at a friends house”
“I know you probably wont want to, it’s understandable if you’re scared but I need you to do soemthing for me”
“I need you to lead him into your basement. I’m trying to switch the souls back”
Brynlyn swallowed. “How? I’d be cornered.”
“Let me talk to her.” Leevo said. “Please?” He nearly jumped with joy when Elena handed him the phone. “Brynlyn, baby?”
“Yeah, it’s me, the real me. Whatever happened, I’m sorry, I hope you can forgive me. Listen, I know you must have gone to Ellie’s tell her what’s going on, she’s open minded enough to believe you, then have her call Jake and tell him too. I know they’ll help you. I promise I’m coming back and I won’t let him hurt you, neither will Ellie or Jake. Tell them to kick my ass if they have to, I’ll deal with the pain when I get back.”
“Alright, I’ll do it.” She swallowed down her fear. “What if Jake doesn’t believe us?”
“Tell him to ask the other me if he remembers where we buried our time capsule. There’s no way I would forget that.”
“Okay, just be careful. Switching souls has to be dangerous…I need you to actually make it back to me”
“Nothing in the world will keep me from getting back to you. I mean, I’ve already paid the deposit on where you want to get married. I can’t let them just keep all that money” She smiled, actually finding it within herself to laugh. Of course he’d make a joke to lighten things for her. “You’re so amazing Leevo” he smiled, glad she got that he was joking with her. He half worried as he began to say that this wasn’t the time but he had to try and make her smile. He lived for that gorgeous smile of hers. Elena held out her hand and Leevo said bye before giving it to her “You wont be able to call this number, I’m sorry”
“How will you know I got him there?”
“Leevo and I are going to wait. I should be able to feel when the souls are aligned”
“I’m sorry, I wish things like this were easier but this isn’t kids stuff. The Leevo of this world has managed to conquer some pretty serious magic. I honestly didn’t take his wicked heart seriously since he’s just human but your species has surprised me again” The woman saying that made Brynlyn wondered what exactly was with Leevo but that was hardly what mattered most at the moment so she didn’t ask.
“Just watch over him, okay?”
“Don’t worry, I will.”
They both hung up and as Leevo and Elena headed for the house, Brynlyn explained to Ellie what was going on. At first her friend looked worried, but the more she thought about what was going on, the more it started to make sense. She decided to trust Brynlyn and called Jake. “Hey, what’s up?” Jake asked upon answering.
“Where are you right now?” Ellie replied and Brynlyn waited with a worried expression.
“With Leevo, why what’s up?” Leevo looked at Jake, arching an eyebrow.
“It’s Ellie.” He mouthed. then stood up and walked a couple of feet away, smiling. Leevo wandered if maybe Jake and Ellie were together in this timeline. “What are you talking about?” Jake asked under his breath.
“Just listen, alright. That’s not Leevo, as nuts as it sounds, well it is, but…” Brynlyn asked for the phone and she handed it over.
“Jake, I need you to tell just listen and try to understand.” She explained everything Elena had told her and then went over their plan. She told him exactly what he needed to as that Leevo to prove he wasn’t theirs and begged him to believe her, for his best friend’s sake.
Jake swallowed, his heart beating fearfully. Brynlyn and Ellie were both telling him the same thing and he wasn’t sure the three of them would be making a joke like this. The fact that Leevo had been behaving so oddly today helped convince him but he still needed to ask about the time capsule, just so he wouldn’t have even an ounce of doubt in his mind. Brynlyn was right, that was a night they both held dear in their hearts, he wouldn’t forget that. “I’ll text you later okay?”
“Okay, bye” When Jake went back over to Leevo, Leevo said “You looked so happy at first. Everything okay with her?”
“what did she want?”
“Brynlyn would like to talk out what happened this morning but she’s not willing unless Ellie and I are there” just the facial expression Leevo made convinced Jake even more. He seemed so annoyed and impatient and that just wasn’t like him, not with Brynlyn. Leevo waited awhile, steering the conversation to childhood memories, waiting for a perfect moment to spring the question so it seemed natural instead of a test.
“Are you sure this is safe?” Ellie asked as Brynlyn pulled to a stop in front of her house.
“No, but I have to get Leevo back.”
“I know, I just don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“I’ll be alright, I have you and Jake.” They went inside and headed down to the basement where Brynlyn found a good place for Ellie to hide.
Leevo and Elena stood in his basement, him impatiently pacing as they waited. All the preparations had been made and now all they needed was his body. “Are they really here?”
“Brynlyn and another woman are here, Ellie.”
“I wish I could feel her, at least I’d know she’s alright.”
“You’ll be able to see her in a bit, just take a breath.”
Jake kept himself from showing any irritation as he drove Leevo home. He couldn’t believe it, he really didn’t remember the time capsule. He glanced at Leevo. It was shocking knowing this wasn’t his best friend but some impostor. When they made it there, Jake followed him inside, ready to attack him. “Brynlyn, where are you?” Leevo asked loudly. “Bryn.”
“In the basement, sorry, I’m trying to find the heating pad.” She yelled back.
“Heating pad?” Leevo mumbled to himself.
“Sounds like it’s that time of the month.” Jake replied. “That’s probably why she was in such a bad mood.”
He looked utterly disgusted again, making Jake practice self control. He’d love to punch this assholes soul out of his friend if he could but then again he knew whatever he did to this body the real Leevo would have to heal from when he got back. Leevo walked quickly down the stairs “You’re really selfish you know that Bryn? You’re supposed to be waiting for us to talk and you’re looking for a damned heating pad. On top of that you got our friends involved in something that shouldn’t be there business” his tone was already rising, he had never cared who saw him treating her badly, nobody had ever done anything about it in his timeline and they didn’t imagine these versions of the people he knew were much braver.
Elena felt the other soul “He’s in there and Jake is there too to help the girls. You wont have to worry after this okay? I’ll make sure he’s dealt with once the switch happens”
Brynlyn did her best to look calm as she rifled through the few boxes they kept in the basement. It was mostly holiday stuff and some figurines she hadn’t used. “I’m cramping, Leevo, maybe help me instead of getting snippy.” She shot back.
“Who do you think you’re talking to.” He replied as he touched down at the bottom and came across the room at her. She turned around, trying to look apologetic.
“Why are you so mad? It’s not like I can help it.”
He grabbed her and that’s when Ellie came out from behind the boxes and shoved him away from her. “Back off.” She snapped.
“Little bitch, this is my house. Get out.”
“We’re not going anywhere.” Jake said from behind him, blocking the only real exit. “And neither are you, you fake.”
Leevo looked around. “What is this?”
“I want my Leevo back.” Brynlyn replied angrily. “I want him back now.”
“fuck” he seethed “how the hell did you find out so damn fast?”
“My Leevo is already fighting to get back to me”
“Your Leevo is garbage. I can’t believe he lets you work”
“He doesn’t let me do anything, I’m a grown woman who makes her own choices.” Leevo scoffed, ready to kill her again right now. He went for her, ignoring the fact it would be three against one. His rage was all consuming and he needed to get his hands around her neck. That had been the way he wanted to kill Brynlyn in the first place, by choking the life out of her but he couldn’t think of a way to get away with that. Shooting had seemed like the only fool proof plan and it actually panned out there.
Jake was on top of him in moments and the two began tussling on the floor. When the souls switched Leevo found himself painfully pinned down by his best friend but was glad for it, especially if that meant Bryn was okay. “it’s me! It’s me I swear, The time capsule” Leevo groaned in pain then continued “we had so much fun putting stuff in it, everything meant so much to us and we even wrote out in letters where we thought we;d be in life when we opened it” Jake got off of him then helped Leevo up “thank god you’re back”
“I think you broke something.”
Brynlyn flew into his arms and he held her tightly against him, feeling so relieved she was safe. He pulled back to look at her and wiped at the tears on her face. “Hey baby.”
“I’m so glad you’re back.”
He noticed the bruising at her neck and frowned. “I’m so sorry.” He said as he traced the dark smudges.
“You couldn’t have known, none of us knew.” He crushed her back to him, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“Do you think that woman Elena took care of him?” Ellie asked.
“She said she would, I trust her. She didn’t have to help me get back here.”
Jake slapped him on the back and let out a long breath. “I’m really glad I didn’t have to beat the shit out of him, I was worried you’d come back with a few broken bones.” He sighed. “We should definitely dig that time capsule up when you get the time.”
Ellie and Jake stayed for a little while then decided to give them two of them their privacy. The separation and dealing with that horrible Leevo from another time line hadn’t gone on for long but it was still draining emotionally. Once outside Jake asked Ellie “you sure you’re okay too?”
“Yeah, I’m going to go to work and talk to our boss so he lets Leevo on the property in the future”
“did you want to do something?” she could hear his disappointment “you have something to do, it’s okay”
“don’t be stupid.”
“then want to meet me at Bovines?”
“sure” Leevo and Brynlyn laid in their bed, cuddled up to eachother under the covers. “what was it like over there?”
“what’re you talking about? It was worse for you”
“I don’t know, I still had our friends here to help me get through. You were flung into the unknown. I think we can call it even if anything”
“I’m so glad they stepped in”
“they are our best friends”
“maybe Jake and I can have another guys day out, we can plan out something then end it with our time capsule” she smiled “yeah, then I can do something with Ellie to thank her. She was going to let me stay at her place’
“were you and Jake still friends over there?”
“No, he hated me, everyone hated me but I can’t blame them”
“well just know I dont think that Leevo is inside you at all. I knew from the start you were someone else. There wasn’t a single second I thought you could treat me like that” He kissed her head again ‘I’m so glad, part of my torture was worrying I would lose you’
“well like you brought up, we’ve got too much money sunk into this wedding” he smiled “I’m so glad it’s soon. It’s going to be beautiful”
“it really is, we still need to sort out the catering though. Thankfully once thats done everything’s laid out”
“I just don’t know what we should serve” Their spirits perked up as they continued talking about their wedding day. It was nice to have something so exciting and uplifting to talk about after everything. Getting through that had been incredibly hard but now there was nothing but good times and happiness in their futures. She would soon be Mrs Aso and Brynlyn honestly couldn’t be happier.
~ The End
Maksym was almost to his brothers mansion so he decided just to relax a bit. It was time to check on him again and make sure he wasn’t doing anything he shouldn’t to anybody or to the land around him but he was tired and he wasn’t quite sure he was mentally ready yet to deal with whatever crap Lakopa was doing now. Lakopa was older by about twenty years and just like him, he looked a lot like their mother. However, he was more like their father in attitude. Maksym knew his parents never had much more than a sexual relationship but still, he wasn’t sure how his dad even ever got his mother in bed with him. He didn’t think on this too long, instead he just enjoyed how beautiful it was in this area.
It was only when the sun started threatening to go down that he forced himself to get up from his cozy spot underneath the gorgeous trees and continue on to his brothers mansion. When he arrived he walked right in, rolling his eyes when he smelled the incense in his house. Sure enough, his brother was up to something bad. “Lakopa!” Maksym called, patience already out the window. Lakopa was in front of him in mere seconds “welcome brother”
“don’t welcome brother me, I smell that”
“smell what” he punched Lakopa and Lakopa cursed “fuck, please just mind your own business”
“I wont and you know that. That’s for keeping someone knocked out so I’m especially not minding my business this time. What’re you doing and to who”
“Let me explain fully first”
“is the person wounded?”
“define not really”
“Just hurry and tell me” Maksym said with anger and disappointment “I’m lonely and I’m about as good as dad is at making people want to be around me even when I desperately want them to want to be around me well….I met this girl I really like and she hates me and well….I got tired of failing so….she’s upstairs” Maksym face palmed “I’m going to ask you a question and I will kick your ass even harder than I would if you just told me the truth so don’;t you dare lie”
“did you force yourself on her?”
“even I’m not that asinine. I just sort of…well…kidnapped her and I’ve been keeping her asleep because she’s kind of feisty. If I don’t have a plan for when she wakes up one or both of us is going to get severely hurt.”
“Lakopa, are you insane? What if her family found out it was you and hired hunters? Do you think I want to find out you have been killed because of your stupidity.”
“Shut up and take me to her now.” Lakopa let out a sigh and started upstairs. “I wish I could say I’m surprised, but this is just like you.”
He nearly hit his brother again when he saw the unconscious young woman. If it wasn’t for the fact that she looked completely unharmed he might have given him a real beating. “Happy?”
“I’m still fucking furious actually.” He went over and checked the girl. “You will wake her and you will apologize. You know how stupid and selfish this is. Maybe if you grew up and showed some compassion and sensitivity then maybe women wouldn’t hate you.”
“Ive really tried with her…”
“but you’re just like dad, if you did make any progress you just ruined it, you ruined it the second you decided to just make her do what you want”
“Truly be sorry by never doing something like this again. Now wake her up and apologize”
“she is pretty far from home. Maybe we should get her closer first?”
“It’s risky doing what you’re doing, especially since she’s a human woman. You need to wake her up and face her. If she hits you you better just take it”
“I’d never hurt her”
“I know you’re too selfish to realize it but you’ve already hurt her by doing this. You kidnapped her, you took away whatever security she may have felt. She might spend the rest of her life nervous someone might do it again” He could see how bad his brother felt but he needed to know Lakopa understood what he had done.
Lakopa sighed as he moved over to the girl and rested his hand on her forehead. “Wake up.” He stepped back as her eyes blinked open then quickly grabbed Maksym when she came furiously up off the bed at the sight of him.
“You.” she snapped, swaying a little as she picked up her pillow and threw it at him. She missed and reached for the vase on the bed side table.
Maksym moved across the room and grabbed the vase in one hand and her wrist gently in the other. “Easy.” He said.
“Let me go.” She released the vase and swung at him.
Maksym tossed the vase onto the bed and grabbed her hand. “That’s enough, you don’t want to hurt yourself. You may be feeling a little dizzy from that spell so please, calm down.”
“See, I told you.” Lakopa said.
“Oh shut up.” Maksym backed the woman over to the bed and made her sit. “Take a breath.” She glared at him, but seemed to calm a little so he let her go. “I am sorry for what my brother has done.” He snapped his fingers at Lakopa. “Beg for forgiveness, idiot.”
She glared over at Lakopa but through her anger she also saw a bit of hurt in her. Maksym wondered if he did actually have a shot with her before he became impatient and did this. Lakopa looked at the floor to the side of him as he said “I’m sorry…I just didn’t want to be alone any longer…my brother has reminded me that’s no cause for kidnapping though….if I can make it up to you…I really want to”
“Look at her damn it, face what you did. You’re still being a coward” Maksym reprimanded. Lakopa made himself look at her and felt even worse. He wasn’t sure how Maksym always brought him back to reality but he was glad he had him. He mostly thought of Maksym as a pain in the ass but he wished his brother had been there when he got this stupid idea. He really liked this girl, much more than any before and right now, he felt incredibly small and like a complete asshole.
“I’m truly sorry….it wont happen again…what can I do for you to apologize?” she let out an angry breath “first tell me how long I’ve been here”
“two days” Maksym sighed “she’s been here two days?”
“yes….” The girl spoke again “god damn it, I was doing something! My sisters been waiting for me to help her complete her journey!”
“You have a sister?”
“believe it or not I’ve told you that before asshole. Apologize by getting me back home then to her faster and then apologize by never coming anywhere near me or my family again”
Lakopa opened his mouth to protest, but Maksym shot him a glare and he shut his mouth and nodded. “Of course, as you wish.”
“I’ll come with the two of you.” Maksym said. “It would be better and safer.”
“I’m not going to do anything.” Lakopa murmured.
“If you want trust then you will show me you can be an adult, until then I will chaperone this little trip.”
“Fine, we should go then.” He turned and started out of the room and Maksym helped the woman to her feet.
“You will have to excuse him, he can be somewhat childish.”
“Yes, kidnapping is simply childish.”
“I don’t think I caught your name.”
“Nice to meet you, I am Maksym.”
“Yes, this is my brother.” Lakopa said as he made sure he had his key. “He is the adult of the family.” He couldn’t look at Theia now. He knew it was cowardly and rude not to look her in the eye when he spoke, but he thought it was for the best if he kept his gaze from her. He was sure she would feel more comfortable that way. Maksym sighed, knowing this trip was going to be more than eventful.
She walked at a determined pace right out of his home, seeming to know where she was going. It prompted Maksym to ask “have you been here before?”
“yes but I don;t feel like reminiscing on how I met your brother” she lightly scoffed “I just…I’m so freaking angry at you Lakopa…angry and disappointed..” They walked out and Lakopa almost cautiously approached her “I’m carrying you?”
“I suppose” he picked her up, holding her tightly “I’ll follow you since I don’t know where she’s from” Lakopa took off, having no doubts his brother could keep his pace. Theia kept her arms tightly crossed, having no desire to touch Lakopa any more than she had to to help her sister on her journey. She couldn’t believe this horses ass had caused her sister to be stuck up on a mountain unable to finish her journey. Poppi should have long since made it to the final trial and completed it together with her. She hoped Poppi wasn’t angry, sitting up their stewing. She hoped her sister knew she realized how important all this was to her and that she hadn’t taken her position as her partner in the journey lightly.
Maksym and Lakopa got her home in no time and she quickly gathered a few things before allowing Lakopa to lift her again. “So, what is this journey your sister is doing?” Maksym asked.
“It’s a set of trials she must complete. She’s up on that mountain.” She pointed off into the distance. “I was supposed to meet her there, but someone decided to kidnap me.”
“I already said I’m sorry, I’ll keep saying it if you need me to.” Lakopa interjected.
She crossed her arms tighter over her chest. “Anyway, it’s important I get there as quickly as possible. She’s probably mad at me.”
“I’ll tell her it’s my fault and she can take it out on me.” Lakopa said. “I mean it’s the truth and you shouldn’t get in trouble because of me.”
Theia looked up at him confused a moment. Lakopa caring if someone took the blame for him was surprising. The fact he even cared if she got yelled at was surprising. Just a few moments ago it was more obvious than ever he only thought of himself but now he sounded once again like he could be a better person. She still wanted to wash her hands of dealing with him after this though. Poppi had been telling her since the day she had started to develop feelings for Lakopa she was being an idiot and like always, her older sister was right. Even though it would explain everything she was almost embarrassed to add to the long list of things he had now kidnapped her too.
“I haven’t been this way in a long time.” Maksym said as they slowed. The woods they had to cross through had thick underbrush and drop offs into underground cavers. Even they knew when it was a good idea to be cautious. Being immortal didn’t mean you went carelessly through life, at least that is what he thought. You had to be careful and learn to move with the times.
“We used to play here as children.” Lakopa said as he stepped over a fallen tree.
“Both of you?” Theia asked. “I mean, I can see you coming here, but your brother seems so much more…mature.”
“It was a good way to develop our skills.” He replied.
“A stupid and dangerous way, but a good way nonetheless.” Maksym agreed.
“Tracking was the most fun. There are so many ways to lose someone in here.”
“Or to get lost.”
Lakopa looked embarrassed. “That only happened once.”
“You got lost?” Theia asked.
“Yes, I got turned around trying to hide from Maksym and before I knew it I was completely lost. When you’re a child, you don’t remember you have certain abilities like night vision so the woods seem even more terrifying. I could see perfectly, but my mind filled with worst case scenarios. Maksym found me of course.”
“Taking care of him even back then but believe it or not he can manage himself at times” Theia finally smiled “I’ve seen him be semi adultish at times” They continued talking about the things they had done together when they were children during those rare times they were with the same parent or their parents were together a few days. Once again Theia wondered if Lakopa would be any better as a person if he had been raised mostly by their mother like Maksym. He was just like their father and his side of the family but thats what he had grown up with. She told herself to not go down that road again, to not make excuses for him and allow herself to have romantic or sympathetic feelings. Kidnapping her had been the final straw, the wake up call that her sister was right and she hoped she could be strong enough to remember that he would be a terrible being to be with.
They heard a few twigs snap and the two vampires froze, Lakopa ready to set Theia down to fight. They couldn’t sense anything dangerous despite the fact for a few brief moments they felt an ominous presence. They went on even more careful for a time, slowly finding the confidence they had before. Lakopa felt sadness well back up inside him when he realized they were already halfway through these woods. It would be hard to never see Theia again. If he was being honest with himself it would be soul crushing because even when she said she wanted him to stay away forever he felt like his heart crumbled in his chest.
He wondered if this was love but then again he was still a selfish ass with her. It was an odd noise that caught Lakopas attention again. He had never heard such a thing before and he could tell his brother nor Theia had either “what the hell” she said and Lakopa shushed her. If there was anything she hated it was shushing but she knew it wasn’t the time to bite his head off. They felt something coming, could hear it snapping trees so Lakopa hastily set Theia down. Whatever it was wasn’t touching her, he owed her that much after her putting up with him all this time.
The being that came out almost made Theia scream. It was like something straight out of a nightmare. It seemed to float in the air, legs weren’t visible atall. It’s body length had to be at least nine feet and it’s teeth looked sharp enough to shred your skin with even a light graze. It had long horns and intensely bright white eyes. It looked out of it’s mind and any creature with long claws like it had you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near if it wasn’t being completely docile. It screeched this time, scaring Theia all over again.
“Stagger your attacks Lakopa.”
Maksym rushed in first, dodging the sharp claws and Lakopa came in right after, pushing off the ground and catching it under what he guessed was its chin. He jumped back as it came at him, only to take a blow from Maksym from behind. As Lakopa came in for another attack, the creature swung back, catching him across the chest and sending him flying back into a tree. Theia’s shocked yelp caught its attention and it turned on her. She was frozen and even as Maksym attacked it, it went for her, seeing her as the weakest target. Lakopa pushed himself up and grabbed her as it swung its claws. He felt the sting on his back, but he lifted her and bound out of the way.
“Lakopa, are you…”
“Get up that tree and don’t come down until it’s dead.”
“Just go, you can yell at me later.”
Maksym’s adrenaline rose at the sight of his wounded brother and began fighting it even harder, still making sure to fight as smart as possible. This thing was powerful and didn’t seem to care all that much when they hurt it or at least felt like they were hurting it. Theia watched in horror, wishing with all that she was she still had her sword. It was probably gone to her forever now. She had it before she blacked out from whatever magic Lakopa had used but it was obvious he just left her sword there, out in the open where anybody could have stolen it. She could buy a new one but that wasn’t going to help her right at this moment. She kept looking at Lakopa’s back, the wound he had taken for her. Why on earth did he have to be so damn confusing.
Maksym and Lakopa took turns distracting and striking at the creature, both of them ignoring the blood that had soaked into Lakopa’s shirt. He would heal, they knew this and it wouldn’t do them any good to get hung up on it now. Maksym could see that his brother was even more pale than usual and would make sure he fed before they continued on their way. He was proud of his brother today, for how he was manning up and doing the right thing, even protecting Theia. Even if things ended completely between she and Lakopa, Maksym knew it would be an experience his brother would never forget. Maksym jumped on the things back and Lakopa went for it’s head, his feet planting firmly in the lower jaw while his hands gripped the top and wrenched back. The mouth was forced wider and wider and Maksym kept the things hands from reaching for his brother until there was a resounding pop and then crack as he dislocated its jaw and then broke its neck.
Maksym made sure it was dead before saying to his brother “you need blood to properly heal”
“he’s already tired though and…well….it’s not as important I’m at my best…you can take it from me…” Lakopa was shocked as he turned to look at Theia “you don’t have to do that…I’ve put you through hell Theia, I know that…protecting you was the least you deserved” Maksym was surprised as well she was offering. He didn’t know how his brother had found this woman but he was damn lucky. Most would have rather let their kidnapper die even if they got wounded protecting them. She came down from the tree and walked over to him “it’s okay, go ahead”
He needed no more prompting, he had been desiring the taste of her blood for a long time anyway. Not only that but taking blood from another was an intimate act so there was no one on earth he had rather feed off of than her, his beautiful, much too good for him Theia. She gasped in an adorable way when his fangs first sank in and was embarrassed when she actually enjoyed the feel of him feeding. She knew he could probably tell and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to be a dick about it later.
Lakopa only took enough to bring his color back and get rid of the lightheadedness. He pulled back, healing the small wounds and turning his face away as he thanked her, not wanting to see the flush to his skin or the desire in his eyes. That would be to much for her to ignore. “Are you good now brother?” Maksym asked.
Lakopa cleared his throat. “Yes, I should much faster now.” He pulled his shirt off and frowned at it. “This was one of my favorites.”
“Well one of, is good, that means you have others.” Maksym replied.
“Yes I know.” He slipped it back on. “It’ll do for now.” He felt more in control now as he turned to Theia. “I should continue carrying you, it’s still dangerous.”
“Alright.” He lifted her, ignoring the slight burning still radiating in his back. It would fade soon. “I can’t believe you just ordered me around. Try not to make it a habit.” She wasn’t actually angry.
“I’ll try not too unless it’s to keep you safe. Stubborn woman, what did you think you were going to do?”
“Well if someone hadn’t gone and lost my sword.”
He sighed. “Shit, it’s in my house. I put it away and forgot about it. I’ll send it to you once I’m home.”
“I’m glad it’s not lost to me at least”
“I may have forgotten you have a sister but I did not forget how important that sword if to you…it’s why I put it up for you when I was panicking about what I had done”
“I didn’t think about your feelings before I took you but when I got you home what I had done sunk in…how you might feel about me after….I never intended to keep you out so long but I didn’t know what to do and I was scared….”
“You still could have taken me back home instead of keeping me”
“yes but…I was continuing to be selfish….I was scared if I took you home you’d run off or tell the other villagers…either way…there was no stopping the damage…I’ve lost you and I know it’s my fault” emotion tore at her heart, her heart getting the better of her brain. She didn’t know what to say and she certainly didn’t know what she wanted any longer.
They made it safely to the mountain and up it, now just heading in the direction her sister should be in. Poppi spotted them before her and jumped out angrily “I knew it had something to do with you Lakopa! God damn it you’re the worst thing to happen to her and this family. I’ve been up here having to worry about her you know and not only that, taking this long is going to look really bad for me!” Theia pushed out of Lakopas arms “sister please, lets just get this done”
“why are you so late?”
“I think we should talk about that after Lakopa leaves”
“what did he do?”
“Poppi…please” Poppi sighed “alright….sister….I just…I love you, you know that right?”
“I know Poppi”
“It’s my job as your big sister to lay into jerks who don’t deserve your company”
“alright alright, just get out of here you two” she said, now looking at Lakopa and Maksym. “something attacked us along the way. I think we should stay. We wont interfere, just watch over you two”
“If you wish, just don’t cause trouble.” Poppi said. Her voice was irritated, but Maksym’s heart did a little flip anyway. There was something cute about her scowling face.
“We wouldn’t dream of it.” Maksym replied with a smile and her cheeks reddened. “Lead the way ladies.”
The women turned away and the men followed, keeping their senses open. Lakopa sighed and Maksym gave him a slight nudge. “Hmm?”
“Are you alright, brother?”
“No, but it’s my own fault. I should have been more patient and understanding, but I haven’t a tender bone in my body it seems. She hasn’t even said if she forgives me.”
“I disagree with you a bit. You put yourself between her and a monster, that’s a pretty big gesture.”
“I just reacted.”
Maksym lowered his voice even more. “Sounds like love.”
“I’ve been wondering the same thing…admitting I love her is frightening though…I am our fathers son and though he loves our mother, no matter how much he wanted to he could never get better. He could never act decent enough to keep her around” Maksym began to open his mouth but Lakopa lifted a silencing finger “I know you don’t believe our father loves our mother but I lived with him, you didn’t. You know…the only woman he sleeps with is mom…he’d kill me for telling you all this because you’ve always been moms little tattle tail which is why I never have but when mom makes him leave he always cries. He loves our mother more than anything but he and I seem to be broken”
“You two can change, you just have to man up and do it. His downfall is believing he can’t be different. If you love Theia be a man that deserves to be with her. Don’t excuse your bad behavior, change it. Dad only has himself to blame for things not working with mom. I often wonder how he ever gets her to be with him at all” Lakopa looked over at Theia then nodded, determined to change for her. He loved her and he vowed to himself that he wasn’t going to be their fathers mini me any longer. Even if she rejected him now, he’d change and hopefully if he did that, maybe later in life she’d forgive him.
“So what exactly are we doing?” Maksym asked as they trekked up the rocky path, cold air tugging at their clothes.
“There’s a stone I must retrieve.” Poppi answered.
“That means we will have to careful.” Lakopa said.
“Oh really?” Poppi said in a still irritated, sarcastic tone.
“Poppi, easy.” Theia jumped in. She understood her sister’s anger, but Lakopa hadn’t said that to be malicious.
“Don’t worry about it.” Lakopa interjected. “It’s well deserved.”
Poppi sighed. “How much do you two know about magic?”
“We know enough. It’s almost cliche that vampires tend to have large libraries. Both of our parents have one as do I and Lakopa. I think it’s habit to want to collect certain items when you can live forever.” He chuckled. “It’s a bit silly, but it’s worth it.”
“I have a lot of books, though my collection probably isn’t as impressive as yours.” Poppi replied, feeling heat rise in her cheeks.
“Then you’ll have to come by some time and go through my collection, you can even take a few if you wish. You can even have Theia accompany you if it makes you feel safer.”
“I’d love to come and I wont need my sister to accompany me. I’ve never met a creature I feared”
“That’s true, Poppi will stare down anything” Theia added. Maksyms heart danced with excitement that she might come to see him sometime. He was glad he went to check on his brother even though he hadn’t felt like doing it this time. Not only to help him make the right choices with Theia but so he could meet Theias sister. Poppi was beautiful with her long hair that tumbled down to her hips and those fierce brown eyes. It was something with the men in his family, they all seemed to fall for spirited women. He decided to ask about her lion “how long have you had him?”
“I found him as a cub” she scratched his mane “he’s an absolute sweetheart but has ripped a few throats out to protect me”
“If I’m not being annoying I’d like to ask another question”
“Unless I tell you to quite yourself you can ask whatever you want, you aren’t the one I’m mad at”
“why are you doing this? Is it some sort of tradition with your village?”
“among the priestess’s yes, my life was decided at birth. One of the elders saw something in my eyes even as a newborn and I’m glad they did. I just hope me taking this long hasn’t made them think less of me…though don’t worry Theia. What’s most important to me is that you made it and are safe”
“I’m still sorry”
“Theia if you apologize again I might have to punch Lakopa so please don’t” Theia nodded. Maksym and Lakopa followed closely, ready to protect them but no trouble truly stirred up as they completed the different tasks Poppi needed to do on the mountain. At first they didn’t understand why she needed her sister but the task came upon them “are you ready Theia?”
“Of course Poppi” Theia pulled something out of her pocket and handed it to her sister. Poppi broke it, sliding her part of the item on a gold chain which she put on her wrist then did the same for her sister. Lakopa and Maksym grew nervous since they didn’t seem like they were going to explain to them what was about to happen. The two women looked so serious so they knew this was a big part of what they were doing.
They kneeled in front of eachother then held eachothers hands as they began speaking in the language of her village. Neither Maksym or Lakopa could understand but Maksym was planning on having Poppi teach him if she was willing after all this was over. Colorful circles formed all around them, on the ground, on the mountain side and in the air. It surprised Lakopa the most since he hadn’t realize Theia could do anything like this. She only ever talked about being good with her sword and hand to hand combat. Both men wondered if this was actually some magic from the mountain itself that these women were channeling.
An opening formed in the mountain and when they approached it had a long staircase going down into pitch darkness “we’re going in there?” Maksym asked and Theia quickly answered “my sister hates pointless questions, yes we are” Poppi blushed, losing a bit of her edge when it came to this incredibly handsome and seemingly kind vampire. “could I walk first then?’ he asked, hoping that didn’t count as a stupid question “this is my task, I have to go down first but Theia, you don’t have to continue on with me if you don’t want to”
“are you kidding? Of course I’m coming” Poppi smiled, hugging her sister “alright, just stay close to me”
“This place feels kind of off.” Maksym said as they traveled down.
“Like there’s something sinister waiting in the shadows.” Lakopa added.
“There’s no way it’s as easy as opening a door.”
“You two want to share your theories?” Poppi asked from the front.
“Well it’s a test, so odds are there’s something down there that’s more dangerous than a stone.” Maksym answered.
“Perhaps the door was the test.”
“That’s too easy. Anyone can open a door if they have the right key. There’s something else down there besides what you’re looking for.”
“And it has no smell.” Lakopa added.
Theia tightened her grip on her sister’s hand. “What do you think it is then? What’s waiting for us?”
“You don’t have to worry, we have your back.” Lakopa reassured her. “I know your sister has to retrieve the stone herself, but if anything tries harming either of you, Maksym and I will fight it for you.”
Poppi may have resisted their help more since this was her own task but Theia was with her and she’d never put pride before her sisters well being. She decided this was also a chance to try and see some good in Lakopa since her little sister wouldn’t heed her warnings. Theia wasn’t an idiot so there had to be something to like besides his looks. There was no telling how deep they had gone into this mountain when eerie singing filled the air around them. Theia gasped and moved closer to her sister, hating once again she was without a sword. Poppi grabbed an arrow as her lion began to lightly growl. The boys seemed to decide what to do without even talking to eachother. Lakopa stayed behind the girls while Maksym got infront of them. Whatever was singing laughed then spoke in a feminine voice “It’s rare men are in here. Normally just women are sent…another priestess I presume” her last four words menacing.
“I am” Poppi spoke with complete confidence, not willing to be intimidated by anything, especially with two vampires and her lion on her side. The air became thinner suddenly, Poppi could only think it was the creatures doing. There was enough to breath still but it didn’t feel like quite enough to her body. She had been told this trip was dangerous but she hadn’t realized how dangerous this would be. This whole time she hadn’t understood why some never come back and why the ones that come back are so hailed in the community. In this moment, she finally knew. Poppi had previously thought there was only one but five came rushing at them, one jumping on Poppi before she could fire a shot. She bucked it off, grabbing an arrow and simply stabbing the creature with it instead of fireing.
Maksym’s fist connected with another that came for her and Lakopa kept close to Theia, moving around her to fight any of the creatures that came their way. “Keep moving.” Maksym ordered as he grabbed one of the humanoid creatures and threw it up the stairs. “Go, now.”
Poppi raced down the stairs with Maksym close behind and Lakopa scooped Theia into his arms, uncaring in that moment if it angered her. “You creatures are all the same.” That voice came again. “Pathetically fighting your way to the bottom and not realizing you will have to do the same back up.”
A glow showed as they neared bottom and the creatures attacked relentlessly, the leader speaking in that sing song voice, taunting and teasing them. Maksym readied himself to grab Poppi as soon as she had the stone. He could carry her out much faster than she herself could run. There was a large pool of water at the bottom of the steps and in the center, sitting on a pedestal was a blue stone, glowing softly. There was a stone slap inlaid in the ground and Poppi knelt to read it. “It says, two can go where one cannot.”
“Put me down, Lakopa.” Theia said and Lakopa lowered her feet to the ground even though he didn’t want to. Theia approached the water and could see a narrow stone beam and on either side deep water that dropped into darkness. “I have to help you across.”
“We’ll keep them off of you.” Maksym said. “No rush.” He winked at Poppi and she blushed.
Maksym smiled, happy to see he could get a reaction out of her. He would love to dwell on her beautiful, blushing face and the possibilities of the future but he snapped himself back into the fact he needed to keep these things away from Poppi and Theia. Lakopa gave his full concentration to the humanoid monsters as well, knowing everything around here was incredibly powerful. Two began attacking Maksym, their many red eyes swirling, making the creature all the more offsetting. Lakopa helped his brother though soon found a third on his back, how many of these damned things were in here? Fire sprang forth from their hands but it didn’t matter to Maksym nor Lakopa since the girls weren’t at their side. One good thing they inherited from their father was the fact not even direct flame could burn their skin.
Meanwhile the two women had crossed and were coming back, Poppi holding tightly to the stone she needed to return to their village. Maksym and Lakopa took down the creatures and scooped the two women up, running as fast as they could back out and into the bright light of day. They didn’t stop right away however, the two vampires didn’t rest for a second until they were off the mountain. “thank you” Theai said, actually hugging Lakopa. She was grateful the two of them had come, finding forgiveness in her heart for Lakopa kidnapping her.
He hadn’t hurt her nor done anything to her she could see and now he had made sure she and her sister made it out of that place alive. Lakopas heart trembled as he hugged her back “I’m so sorry Theia…” he whispered “I forgive you” Poppi no longer had a desire to ask what transpired. She figured their help today was repentance enough. Maksym checked Poppi for wounds, relieved to see she was unharmed. “why are you checking me when you were the one doing most the fighting?” she asked and Maksym answered “I just had to know you were okay. I’m already quite fond of you Poppi” she blushed again and he grinned “you’re adorable you know”
“Me? adorable?” a man had never called her adorable before. Once they were properly rested the vampires carried the girls home. Lakopa and Theai going to her house while Poppi and Maksym went to the priestess’s. “you’re alive!” one gasped, hugging her tightly “you guys could have warned me how dangerous that was”
“I’m sorry, we all wanted to but it’s not allowed. I don’t know why it’s tradition but you were meant to go into it blind” Poppi sighed, pulling out the stone to show her “You did it” the priestess said happily then finally asked “who is this vampire?”
“You know Lakopa right?”
“Oh yes” the woman sounded pained but it didnt surprise Maksym.”this is his brother but I assure you he’s much better company”
“well I’ve never been one to judge someone on the rest of their family” she offered her hand and Maksym shook it. When everything was done and Poppi was given her official place among them Maksym offered to walk her home. He wound up spending the night there with her and then many days after. Before they knew it the two of them were a couple and Maksym couldn’t be happier. For once in his life, he was incredibly grateful for his brothers mischief.
~ The End
Most might think it was the frigid cold that would make this trek hard but it was mostly the unforgiving winds this high on the mountain. It stung any bit of exposed skin and made walking it even more tiring than it should be since they had to push against them it was so bad up here. What made it worse was knowing they weren’t even halfway to the point the reports said the three headed trolls were living. Their king and Queen had been informed a large group of giant, three headed trolls had taken over this mountain, refusing anybody entry after they destroyed the homes of the people who were daring enough to live in a place like this. They had already found the reports were true of a bloody take over on these mountains. Dead bodies laid in the snow, covering surrounding areas in crimson.
Young and old so some of the people in their group had to try not to look at the mangled children. This was a terrible scene regardless but the children made it all the worse. The giant three headed trolls were powerful and tall enough that if three of them stood on top of one another they’d be as tall as the highest tower in the castle but they normally didn’t use their size and strength like this. Azriel was eager to know the meaning of this, to talk to them first before fighting. He hoped something had happened and their hearts didn’t just become this cruel and selfish.
These people had built their lives here. They didn’t deserve to be kicked out or murdered. The trolls had no right no matter what they told him but still, he hoped this was something that could be reasoned out, that they might turn themselves over to the king and queen. Azriel hoped he could trust the men and women that followed him to let him speak to them before any fighting started. These were amazing warriors who normally weren’t fast to bloodshed either but this scene was turning out to be so grotesque he just wasn’t sure if the normal would apply. He could feel their anger and disgust welling up more within them with every step they took.
Azriel was tall, muscular and married to the man walking at his side. An amazing man who made him happier every day since they came together. Vrai was the newest member of this elite group that took care of the more life threatening jobs for the king and queen but the others listened to him just as they did Azriel since they were married. The woman to his right was Euphemia. She was about five foot seven with the intense blue eyes she could control almost anybody with. All she had to do was get you to look into them and you were putty on her hands. That was her best gift and one Azriel was proud she never abused. He realized how easy it would be to slip and use it for your own personal gain. As far as he had known her she only ever used it when they had no other choice.
Just behind strode Phelan, he was having a much easier time because he was immune to the cold. He could be walking this mountain naked right now and not shiver even once. It was amazing and a skill that didn’t seem very useful until this mission. The two women walking closer to him were Temperance and Clio, twin demon women who were incredibly impressive fighters. They had their fair share of abilities but to watch them fight was sometimes like watching art in action. They preferred not to use their gifts because they never wanted to depend on them. There were creatures who could strip you of power and if they ever met one they wanted to be able to wipe the smug look off it’s face.
The other three men holding the back of the group were Bryant, Harlem & Yoki. While they also had a multitude of strengths it seems they shared one that was vital to the group. Fear never gripped them. They could go up against anything, put themselves in any situation and fear didn’t so much as faintly visit their minds. They had impressed Azriel time and time again over the years. They had all, aside from Azriels husband Vrai been working together nearly three hundred years. In this world everyone was immortal so old age wasn’t a thing they worried about.
“Do you think we’ll be able to talk any sense into them?” Phelan asked. “The survivors didn’t believe it was a viable option.”
“I’m really hoping we can. You know trolls, they tend to keep to themselves for the most part, maybe they steal a cow or a few sheep here and there, but this sort of thing is uncharacteristic.” Azriel replied, trying to keep his teeth from chattering.
“He’s right, most of the time you can get them to offer some sort of compensation for damages done. They tend to be more stubborn than most, but after a bit of haggling you can get something they’ve made as payment.” Vrai added.
“What if this was planned?” Clio asked.
“Then we do what we have to do to stop them. We can’t risk more lives being taken.” Azriel said.
They kept trudging through the snow until Azriel saw a little cottage still mostly intact. It wouldn’t be much relief but it would protect them from the winds for a short time. He knew everybody aside from Phelan needed it if they were going to be any good with the trolls later “we’re going to rest in that cottage, maybe make a fire if we can to warm our bodies. Phelan, I know it’s been mostly pointless so far but after you’ve rested a little bit I’d like you to search the area for any survivors. If there’s anybody still clinging to life we need to help them.”
“I’d rather just go ahead and search. If someone is alive near here I don’t want them suffering in the snow any longer than they have to”
“alright then, just be mindful of yourself.”
“this mountain wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t so cold so I’m really fine since that has no affect on me” Azriel nodded so Phelan walked off to search the area while everyone else got warm. The families fire place was still intact so they got a fire roaring and huddled around, Azriel holding Vrai tightly against him. Vrai just relaxed into it, for warmth and just for the sake of being close to his husband.
“The people who live here are incredible.” Euphemia said as she rubbed her hands together. “What I wouldn’t give for Phelan’s gift right now.”
“What we wouldn’t all give. Just the way he walks through the snow like it’s a minor inconvenience. Show off.” Bryant said and everyone laughed.
The wind started picking up about an hour later and Phelan soon returned, looking slightly annoyed as he dropped down next to his companions. “Anything?” Azriel asked.
“No and there’s so much snow being kicked around now I couldn’t see.”
“You can go back out when the wind calms down, for now rest your body.” He then pressed a kiss to Vrai’s forehead. “Rest okay?”
“You too, you can’t be tired if we get into a fight.”
He smiled. “You know me, I have enough energy to fill three of me.”
“I think the world would be in trouble if there were three of you, boss.” Harlem teased.
“We’d have to hide Vrai.” Temperance added.
“That’s way too much information.” Yoki said.
A couple of them laughed while Azriel held Vrai a little tighter saying “there would be no hiding him from me” They all wound up sleeping due to how long it was taking for the winds to soften. The three headed trolls were probably all that was left on the mountain that would be aggressive and they would feel them coming. Being such massive creatures sneaking wasn’t something they were capable of. When Phelan woke to use the bathroom he noticed the winds weren’t nearly as bad but it was pitch dark outside. He knew it would be better to wait for the suns aide again. He did however stay up so he could walk out at first light. He hated to think of anybody wounded being stuck in the snow.
First light came and he woke Azriel “I’m going to seach”
“okay, I’ll get everyone else up so we can get prepared to leave” Azriel kissed Vrai awake, causing him to blush “I love you so much” Azriel said as he let his hand travel Vrais side “please don’t have sex with him right here” Bryants sleepy voice asked, causing Azriel and Vrai to chuckle. Vrai was starting to get over the embarrassment of how affectionate Azriel was in front of everyone else. It didn’t matter where they were he always seemed to need to kiss and feel him. Luckily for them, while they did tease, none of the others they worked with seemed to have a real problem. Vrai wasn’t sure Azriel would stop even if someone did though.
By the time Phelan returned empty handed again everyone was up and eating some of the food they had brought. They waited for Phelan to have his ration then they all set out again. Once again to be confronted with the sad scene this place was now. If these trolls could be reasoned with Azriel planned to recommend to the king and queen to force the trolls to help clean this up and bury the dead. They needed to take a long hard look at what they had done to these people and this once beautiful mountain.
The ground began to vibrate as they grew closer to the where the trolls had last been spotted. It was rhythmic and it didn’t take them long to realize the shaking was being caused by heavy footsteps. Azriel got low, signaling for the others to follow suit and move slow. They had no idea how many trolls there actually were and didn’t want to walk blindly into them. They came to the top of a ridge and looked down. Azriel counted twenty, male and female, all carrying weapons. He ducked back down and gestured for everyone to move closer. “Bryant, Harlem, and Yoki, I want you to head around to the right, Temperance and Clio, take Phelan and go left. Vrai, Euphemia and I will go straight down the middle. Stay out of sight until I signal for you. I don’t want them knowing there are more than three of us until I need them to.” They all nodded. “If you can, wound them, but if you have to don’t hesitate to kill them. They may not show us the same kindness.”
“And remember their reach is long.” Vrai added. “Please stay as safe as possible.”
“You three as well.” Temperance said.
“Alright go.” Azriel ordered softly.
Azriel walked with confidence with Vrai on one side and Euphemia on the other. Confidence was key when you wanted to talk someone down and avoid violence. These were massive trolls but he easily summoned up a cool composure, knowing who all he was surrounded by. In their years they had fought much worse creatures than these. When the first one noticed and turned his angry eyes to Azriel they all noticed. There was an instant shift in aggressiveness, they all seemed ready to rip him limb from limb but Euphemia, Vrai and Azriel didn’t let fear show on their face.
“we said get out!” spit flew as the troll bellowed “what right have you to kick everyone off this mountain? Three headed trolls have never lived here. You’ve chased off and murdered people who have been living here countless generations” They started surrounding them but still the three kept calm and collected. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand” another said and Azriel had to use great self restraint not to roll his eyes at the creature “well one of you needs to explain to me what is going on. I am here on the king and queens behalf”
“How do we know?”
“You’ve never heard the name Azriel and the elite group he leads?” There was a collective growl and a female answered “we have, is it really just you three then?”
“yes” He lied easily though he couldn’t tell if they believed him. He knew he needed the others to have at least some element of surprise. He, his husband and one of his group were surrounded by beings multiple times their size. Euphemia could control them with her gift but only if she could get them to look into her eyes.
How do we know that’s true?”
“You don’t, but you can either tell me what I want to know or further waste our time. What made you tear through villages of innocent men, women and children? What right did you have to leave their battered corpses in your wake?”
“We do what it tells us to do. We told them to leave, they refused, it told us to chase them away so we did.”
“Something old, under the ice and snow.”
“And “it” gives you the right to murder? You didn’t even give them a chance. You can out stride any normal human, you can reach further and hit harder. What “it” would tell you to cause such devastation?”
Harlem was tense from his vantage point. He knew why Azriel had Euphemia come with them for the initial talk but he hated being far away, he hated that those trolls who had killed everyone they saw as they came up this mountain were within reaching distance of her. He knew she still had no inkling of his feelings and he knew she may still reject him one day but he still felt protective of her. They all looked out for each other but for him, she was his everything, even now when she wasn’t giving him a second glance or thought. “don’t you dare rush out there without the signal” Bryant whispered seriously, causing Harlem to sigh.
“we will take you to it.” One of the male trolls said after a few more moments of talking. The others started to bicker but another one lifted a silencing hand “if these are messengers of the king and queen then we best take them. The being that told us to do this may be a fearsome creature but I have not forgotten the strength of those who rule our kingdom. Nor have I forgotten the penalties of taking lives without good reason. We will take these people so they can see the reason we have”
Azriel didn’t signal for them to come out so they assumed the role of following undetected. It had been awhile since they were able to put training for this to good use so Yoki actually found himself excited. Twins, Temperance and Clio, were just eager to see whatever was apparently living in this mountain. What had it said to the trolls to make them do this? How had it gone undetected for so long or at least how had it made its way on to this mountain without anybodies knowledge. They would think if a soul knew about it the king and queen would have been informed when they asked for help that something had moved in.
They could feel the creature before they could see it. It was like the air was suddenly thicker and filled with death and fear. It made Vrai feel sick to his stomach and when he glanced between Azriel and Euphemia he could see that their pupils had dilated and their noses were flaring. They were scared and trying not to show it. He actually reached over and took Azriel’s hand and this seemed to calm the sudden need to flee. “I’m okay.” He said under his breath. “Euphemia, breathe, it’s okay.”
She nodded, taking a few deep breaths to center herself. “This feels wrong?” She whispered.
When they saw the creature they were taken aback. It perched atop a platform of ice and looked down at them, it’s hungry gaze sliding over each of them. The dark feeling of dread emanated from it, seeping into the body of anything that came close to it. The only thing keeping it at bay was the ice it was encased in. “It called to us, it wants out.” The troll leader said and they could all see some of the ice had indeed been broken off.
Azriel was afraid but he dared question the creature. “why did you order everyone off the mountain before you were let out?” It stared at them and the longer it did that the more fearful they became. It did eventually speak though. “Weather they were aware of it or not they were keeping me in here” it’s voice alone was enough to make your skin crawl but they hoped they were putting up a good brave front. “The first settlers….long before kings and queens ruled, locked me in here with a spell, a spell that they told me could never be broken as long as their bloodline lived here. Each and every one of them, they fuel the spell holding me but now…now they are gone thanks to these kind trolls. Soon, I will break out completely” it laughed, it’s laughter so haunting it almost made Euphemia scream “so many will be sorry for doing this to me…they had no right”
Azriel’s hand moved to his sword, his fingers wrapping tightly around the hilt until his knuckles were white. “I can’t let them do this, I won’t.”
The creature laughed and they all fought the urge to step back. “Pathetic little human, what can you do. Look at you tremble. I will enjoy watching you die.”
Azriel drew his sword and let out a whistle which had the others breaking from cover as the creature issued an order to the trolls to kill. He hazarded a glance at the thing as he ducked under the swing of one of the trolls and could see how delighted it was at the prospect of bloodshed. He could see clawed fingers flexing, trying to break free. How would they be able to contain such a creature?
Azriel was worried for the entire kingdom now. The trolls had done something far worse than they probably understood. They had removed the only thing keeping such a terrible creature in check. He wondered if the first settlers here had stayed in sacrifice, knowing the more that lived there the stronger the containment spell was. Azriel had a much deeper respect for the people here now, especially if the current generation had known what they were doing for their land. The others had managed to stay close enough they were helping in moments “I knew there were more!” one troll yelled angrily.
Euphemia managed to get one to look her in the eyes a moment and forced her to run to the castle to turn herself in to the king and queen. She made sure to tell her she couldn’t hurt anybody along the way. She knew she could have used the female to fight but she had never had the heart to make comrades fight each other. They had done some terrible things but she never saw that as a reason for her to be terrible. Things had to follow her orders to completion before they had free will again so she knew nobody would get hurt using her skill this way.
One of the males cursed angrily “you little bitch!” he swung his mallet, managing to land a blow on her head. She started to fly but Harlem used his magic to pull her, making her land safely away from the fighting. Azriel yelled over the battle “make sure she’s okay Phelan!” They needed Harlems magic so Azriel wanted to be sure it wasn’t him running off to see how badly she was hurt. Their pain, having to wonder just how much damage had been done to their comrade only fueled them. These were incredibly strong creatures and none of them got to look at her long enough to know if she was going to be okay.
Phelan knelt by Euphemia “shit” there was so much blood and she was unconscious. He checked her pulse and sighed with relief then yelled “she’s alive!” He knew that was better than not knowing anything at all. He pulled some supplies out of a small bag at his side to tend to her. This wasn’t the best place to tend wounds but he would do what he could to keep her alive until someone better skilled could take care of her. One of the trolls tried to run at the two, preying on Euphemias weak state and the fact Phelan was busy trying to tend her wounds “No you fucking don’t” Harlem yelled and everyone felt the fury in his words.
The troll charging them was seized by a black, swirling mass that squeezed him, taking the breath out of him until he was left unconscious. He ringed Phelan and Euphemia in a wall of thick ice and reinforced it with a seal that would keep them safe. He summoned astral wolves that jumped on and tore at the trolls. Even when one went down, another soon took its place, it was like there was no end to them. Even though he was angry, he kept them from killing the trolls, only wanting to make them weak and bring them down. Azriel fought back to back with Vrai, wanting him close in case anything happened. These trolls had been driven mad by that creature, it was like a blood lust and the monster enjoyed it.
“Harlem, reinforce the ice around that thing.” Azriel yelled over the fray. Even if it was a temporary solution, at least it might buy them time to lock it away for good and keep its influence from spreading.
Harlem poured more of his power into it than he probably should since there was a lot of fighting to be done but he held more anger for the creature that started this than these trolls. If he hadn’t done this then Euphemia wouldn’t be injured. He couldn’t lose her, not before he told her how he felt. How was he supposed to keep on living without her, especially if he had wasted all the time he had to tell her. The demon screeched, hurting their ears. The trolls proved less able to take the nice than they could. It seemed the stupid beast had disoriented the beings on his own side in his anger. It was what they needed to get the upper hand in the situation.
Yoki cut himself, resorting to his blood magic. This was a more risky thing Yoki did but Azriel was proud of the choice. He was taking advantage of their upper hand. If he went ahead and brought out his most powerful magic then they might be able to get Euphemia help sooner. They didn’t love her in the way Harlem did but this team just wouldn’t be the same without her. They had all been together so long and as each year passed a loss was only more unthinkable. Yokis big gamble paid off, with his team and his blood they won despite the fact the victory caused him to collapse. Bryant was over to him in the blink of an eye. He lifted Yoki “I’ll tend to him until he wakes up Azriel”
“good” Azriel walked over angrily glareing “you hurt two of MY people”
“technically that pink haired one hurt himself” Azriel gritted his teeth so Vrai took his hand to calm him. He had always been taught it was best to keep a level head. Anger often lead people to make poor choices. “what do we do now sir?” Clio asked. “Harlem” Harlem came to his side, his voice still wroth. “I know you want to be there for Euphemia but watch this thing. Keep him in there while we tend to Euphemia and Yoki. I’ll decide what’s next when we’re sure they are through the worst of it. We need to assess how seriously Euphemia is hurt quickly. The next thing may be to have Phelan get her off this mountain. He’d be able to get back down quicker than the rest of us”
“shall I imprison the trolls too so if they wake they can’t go anywhere?”
“you still have enough in you for that and to make sure this thing can’t get out”
“I’m sure” Azriel decided to trust his judgement and gave him the okay to use his magic to imprison the trolls so they couldn’t do anything else if they woke. At full capacity ice might not do much to keep them in line but even if they did get up they’d be weak from their wounds.
“Yoki’s going to be fine.” Bryant said once he finished bandaging his companions wrist. “He used a lot of blood, but not enough for it to be dangerous. He’ll need rest and a lot of food to bring his sugar and iron levels back up.”
“What about Euphemia?” Azriel asked.
“I want to take her back down.” Phelan said. “I’m afraid she may have suffered a concussion and I think her skull was severely fractured. It would be best if I get her to a healer.”
“Let me make you something to drag her down on.” Harlem said.
“You’re going to make yourself sick if you keep going like that.” Clio said softly.
“It’s alright, I’m fine with being sick as long as she gets the help she needs.” He held up his hand, closed his eyes and started chanting. They watched as the sled came into being, real and solid. He nearly collapsed, but he forced himself to stay on his feet. He had to keep the creature locked up. Phelan lifted Euphemia onto the sled and Azriel took his cloak off and draped it over her to keep her from getting too cold.
“Stay safe and go slow. I know you want to get her help, but you don’t need to injure yourself as well.”
“Of course, all of you stay alert, I would hate to lose any of you to that thing.”
“your only concern is her. You get her to someone, please” Harlem said and Phelan nodded. Phelan took off and Azriel said “Clio is right, calm down and stop over using your magic. Euphemia is gone and will be far from this” he balled his hands into fists at his side “I shouldn’t have let her get hurt in the first place” Azriel put a hand on his shoulder “all of us get wounded badly from time to time, it’s a part of this job. Phelan will make sure she’s okay but as your leader I’m telling you. Only do what you must until I say otherwise. We are down two and are still up against the being that started this.”
“yes sir” Azriel looked at the being incased in ice. It looked far too happy about all of this. “what’re you going to do?” it asked tauntingly as if the creature was certain he was still getting out. “I wouldn’t be so smug if I were you. Harlem has been known to act foolishly when it comes to Euphemia. You keep pisisng him off and he wont listen to me any longer”
“only shows how weak you are”
“shut up!” Clio yelled and her sister grabbed her arm “Clio, Azriel, I want to talk to you but I don’t want that thing to hear. I have an idea” The being chuckled ‘go, whisper your little plans. Nothing could contain me before those people locked me here and nothing ever will again! I’m coming, that little purple haired shit will run out of energy and then I’ll go straight for Euphemia” it laughed the last few words “I’ll do it just to spite you Harlem” Harlem was shaking and Azriel rushed away with the twins. They needed to do something before it taunted Harlem into over exerting himself.
“this is going to sound crazy but Azriel you’re right. If we keep forcing Harlem to stay close to it he’s going to drive him into not listening to reason. I’m pretty sure thats what it is trying to do. Clio and I could make a devils trap symbol, a really large one. As far as history says it never fails at trapping if we can just get him into it. Then something else entirely can hold it and the creature will be exposed enough to me I can rip its heart out. It may be powerful but maybe it’ll die if I remove his heart”
“I haven’t seen you rip out a heart in some time Temperance. Are you sure of this plan? This isn’t the type of thing we can afford any slip ups with.”
“it’s the only one I have and Harlem can’t keep listening to it or using his magic. I will understand however if you want to shut it down”
“It’s the only plan on the table and you’re absolutely right.” Azriel waved over Bryant and Vrai to share the plan with them. They walked back over and the girls ran off “where do they go?” the creature asked and Azriel didn’t answer. “Nobody is to speak to it any more” Azriel commanded and they all nodded. Harlem was happy not to speak to it. He simply kept glaring in it’s direction, praying Euphemia would be alive when this was all over.
Phelan took the fast way down when he was out of Harlem’s sight, crouching on the sled and letting it slide down the mountain, guiding it with his body to keep it from turning over. He had done this a lot in his youth since he never got cold and it always fascinated the other children and scared the adults. He would be sure to not tell Harlem, not wanting him to worry. He slowed it as he came to the bottom, turning it sideways and pulling back slightly so it slid to a stop. He then got off and looped the rope around his waist to pull Euphemia the rest of the way.
The twins came back after awhile and nodded to Azriel who had Bryant take Yoki out of the cave. He was still unconscious and should anything go wrong, he didn’t want him in harms way. He then walked over and placed a hand on Harlem’s shoulder. “You can stop now and back away from it.”
“I can’t, if I do it’ll get out.”
He squeezed Harlem’s shoulder and Harlem looked at him. “Do you trust me?”
“Then you can stop, you’re drained and you need to recuperate. You know, Euphemia wouldn’t be happy if she saw you being so stubborn.”
“it said it would go after her..’
“Harlem, we’d never let anything happen to Euphemia. Besides us you wouldn’t, you’d get that thing right back here and away from her if you had to. I know you love her that much even though you’re too stupid just to tell her”
“I do tell her”
“directly, you have to notice she doesn’t get that you’re flirting with her. You have to be direct for her to know your feelings”
“I will but I wont have the chance if this takes her from me”
“just trust me, I’ve been leading you for hundreds of years.” Harlem nodded and though it was hard he let it loose. “run with me” they ran off and just as they hoped it pursued. They were careful not to bother what the girls had created as they lured it. They didn’t know if the being was just that sure he was unbeatable and had the advantage or that dull from being contained so long but it fell right into their trap. The second it was in and at their mercy Temperance swooped in, sinking her claws into his chest. It;s laugh was eerie as she pulled her hand out in shock. It spoke taking the words right out of her mouth “I don’t have a heart” It struck her, sending her flying from the circle. Temperance was almost glad Harlem didn’t catch her as he had Euphemia because she also wanted him to stop over exerting himself.
It somehow got out of the hold. This thing was ancient and this only showed it’s power further. How the hell could it just run out. They had to think of something else and fast. Harlem knew he had been told not to use any more magic but he’d take whatever punishment Azriel had to dish out. He needed to stop this thing before it got to her. He created a Soul Catcher. ancient people used these items made out of bear bones for far more powerful things than what most history had recorded. He had found out their other uses when studying old diaries of the departed. In such diaries he also learned how to destroy anything locked inside so if this worked, if he could get it in this he could destroy this being forever.
When it came to be he stabbed teh creature with it. He almost felt disbelief when it actually worked. He wasted no time once it was inside destroying what he had just made and what would have rested inside it. Azriel approached and Harlem said “I don’t care how angry you are”
“I’m not angry, good work Harlem”
“we need to return now”
“then lets get going” They hurried off the mountain, returning to their king and queen as fast as they could. When they got their audience the queen said “Phelan has already spoken to us. Just fill us in on what happened after he left with Euphemia and Harlem, she’s in the medical wing of the castle. Go to her, Azriel is the only one we really need to talk to” he was grateful for the dismissal and ran off, not worrying about disrespecting them. He knew they weren’t the type of rulers to make a big deal out of it. He got them up to speed then the king said “we’re sorry for the pain you all went through but you’ve served us well yet again. My wife and I don’t know what this kingdom would do without your group”
“you seem down but then again you always are when any you lead get hurt. You have to know that will happen. We only send you on the worst of the worst jobs because we only trust your group to handle them”
“they mean a great deal to me so no logic will help me feeling bad. How is Euphemia?”
“we have the best working with her. Only time will tell though. She was in bad shape”
“Lug head wont let us know if she wakes up so will you send a messenger to my husband and I when she does?”
“of course, go rest with you two, you deserve it for what you’ve done for the kingdom. We are making all the trolls, even the ones not involved help with cleaning the mountain and repairing homes. The ones that survived deserve that much”
“good, thank you and please, invite them to the feast you always have made for us when we complete a job”
“of course Azriel, your payments have also already been sent to your homes as we normally do. Thank you again, no amount of money can truly show you our gratitude” Azriel smirked, they had given him everything he could ever want or need when they assigned Vrai to his group. He might have never met Vrai otherwise so as far as he was concerned they didn’t have to pay him for the rest of his life if they didn’t want to. It was he who could never repay the king and queen, not when they gave him his husband.
Walking through their front door after seeing their friends off was the best feeling in the world to Azriel and Vrai. The minute they had their weapons off and hung up, Azriel lifted Vrai over his shoulder and carried him to bed. “Hey, you’re tired, stop being such a caveman.”
“I’m never tired when I have you.” He tossed him down and climbed over him, smiling at how amused Vrai looked. “That was close, if that thing had got its claws on you it would have killed me.”
“I’m just glad everyone is all right. Well…”
“Euphemia will pull through, she’s too tough to stay down.”
“I know, I’m just worried is all. How about you, any injuries?”
“Want to check?”
“You would like that, you need rest.”
“But maybe I should check you instead.”
Vrai laughed “Azriel, rest, for me. There will be a lot of time for sex after we’ve had a good sleep and a good meal at home” Azriel whined “I guess” he leaned down, rubbing their noses together “I love you so much”
“I love you too”
“I hope you never tire of me saying that. I know I tend to say it all the time. I do mean it though”
“I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t know you loved me dork”
“dork? Okay you’re really asking for me to take you” Vrai laughed “you’re looking for any excuse” Vrai pulled him, making Azriel lay down to sleep “goodnight”
“goodnight” They slept soundly in each others arms then made a huge meal for breakfast. They didn’t know when the feast would be, especially with Euphemia out. They knew the king and queen wouldn’t want to do it without her. The feast however didn’t matter, what mattered to them was her waking up, for hers and Harlems sake. Weeks passed before the king and queen finally held the feast which Harlem didn’t attend. He spent most of his days at her side waiting for her to get up. Everyone tried to get him to move but at this point they had learned it was pointless. Harlem would never leave the medical wing unless he was leaving with her.
Azriel understood though, seeing Harlem go through such pain made Azriel think of how much Vrai meant to him and he wanted to do something special but he didn’t know what he could do. They were married, he spoiled the man as much as he spoiled him so what was left? They even traveled all the time, for work but they still traveled. He decided to just take him to a nearby hot springs and spend a few days unwinding. He figured they could go there and just forget the world. When he brought it up to Vrai, Vrai said “as long as we make a pact not to talk about anything negative going on. I want us to go to that hot spring and just be us for awhile”
“Thats precisely what I want, deal” They left that same day, leaving the pain and every day troubles behind. They knew it might be a bit selfish but they had earned the right and Azriel was eager to spend a day or two simply spoiling and making love to his husband. The kingdoms troubles could be put off but Euphemia had reminded Azriel that if you put off showing someone you love them too long you might just lose your chance.
~ The End