Monday, January 31, 2011

Raina glances at Star, concerned by the expression on her face, or lack of one. Her head is slightly bowed, her eyes changing only subtly and she is so still. Raina can feel that there is more going on under the surface than meets the eye. She catches Gunnaar's attention and he looks almost worried. Raina moves from Eriks side to Star and lets her hand slide around Stars shoulders and rest on her arm. The physical connection leads to the empathic one.

Opening herself to Stars feelings, What is she thinking? Or planning? Love mixed with revenge, anticipation, worry... the powerful emotions roll off Star making Raina gasp.

Raina pulls her away from the group, “Whats wrong? Talk to me little sister, I can tell somethings up with you. I know you must be worried, but Erik will be fine. He knows how to fight and he has no intention of losing.”

Tears start to spill from Stars eyes, her emotions on a roller coaster. Raina wraps her arms around Star and turns her away from the crowd and any prying eyes. “It's going to be alright. I know it seems insensitive, all this talk right after he proposes to you...”

Star wipes her eyes, “Its not that. I love him, Raina, so much. I see my future in his eyes, and if he isnt here than I have no future...”

Suddenly it dawns on Raina, what Star is thinking. Would she actually kill herself? Good thing I am going along, I wont leave her alone for a second. Maybe I should tell Guunnar or another of the riders to help make sure she doesnt hurt herself if things dont go well. But they will, Erik always wins, always. He has to....

A burger slides before Keon. He looks up, surprised. Tori cocks a hip and nods in Guunnar's direction.

"You didn't even have half your burger gone before that OAF ate it. Enjoy Keon."

Tori nods to them both and swats a shifter who reaches out to grab her butt. The can hear her "Don't make me kill you." as she slides past the table of guys.

Keon grins, then laughs outright.

"There is a woman who will be quite the handful for the man who truly loves her."

Monty brings Keon one of his blades. Keon nods his thenks and moves so Star can see what happens. Pricking the tip of his finger with the sharp point, Keon squeezes his finger, expressing three drops of blood onto the blade. Writing Twill's name, Keon then blows over the slick red. The blood seems to seep into the polished surface.

A grim faced, pale blond Sidhe appears in the surface, his voice sounding as if he were right there.

"Lord Blackthorn, Do we move now? The Hounds are pacing the..." He stops suddenly, spying Star. "Goddess... This is the Lady Star? Blessings and Salutations, Fair Maiden."

His eyes shifted back to Keon. "What say you, Lord Blackthorn?"

Keon grins. "Acquisition is today. No Justice. The Viking Warrior has decided on Duel. I agreed to be his Second."

Twill's eyes widen. "I thought he mistrusts us?" At Keon's nod, Twill continues. "No matter. Where do we bring the Targets, and have you another need?"

Keon taps his lip. "Keep them at the usual detention center. I will let you know where the Duel will take place. I need a list of weaponry in the Cache'"

"As you will. An hour too long?"

"No, that is fine. I have shadows behind me. Have it brought? It is a safe  place for our kind to be seen."

He raises the blade, letting Twill see what is around him. Twill nods and the blade goes blank. Keon wipes his hand across the blade.

There's nothing more I can do here for the moment. I let my eyes move over the taproom and discover Raina talking with Traeger. I move in that direction, leaving Star grinning at Guunnar.

The conversation stops abruptly when I get near and Raina looks up almost guiltily. Oh-ho, what have we here? But I say only, "Excuse me, I need to speak with my sister for a moment."

We walk a few steps away and Raina asks, "What's up?"

"Keon has found the Fae who raped Star. All things being equal, I'm going to be fighting one of them tomorrow, to the death. Star will be there, and I'd like for you to be there, too. If anything happens to me, I charge you to take care of Star for me. Will you accept this charge?"

"Don’t be silly, Erik, you know I will. You do what you have to do and come back to us in one piece."

"That, my sister, depends on the Norns as much as upon me…."

In the act of sitting down, Keon stops dead. He looks at Erik, trying to make sure he actually heard what he thought he had. Leaving his plate, Keon resumes his seat across from Erik and Star. He stares into Erik's eyes, saying nothing for a few moments.

"You surprise me. I did not think you trusted the Fae kind, at least not the Unseelie." A slow twist of the lips brings a wicked smile. His eyes seem to glow darkly.  He smiles, teeth bright in the near pitch of his features. "If I am to be your second, call me Keon. Or Ke."

He glances past Erik, standing. "Guunnar, put my burger DOWN. NOW!" He watches until Guunnar puts the food back, then turns to Erik and Star. "I apologize for the outburst. Leave food unattended near Guunnar and it is likely to be eaten."

Settling back into his chair, Keon smiles at the couple. "You honor me Erik. Allow me to give a little advice? Do not tell your opponents they will be allowed free if they defeat you. Tell them instead that the Dark Lords will let them leave." He leans close. "We will let them go. For the moment. Trust me, it will be for just a moment."

Keon sits back, watching past Erik. His face grows grim for a moment. Star looks over her shoulder just in time to see Guunnar swallow. Keon's plate is empty. Guunnar shrugs, giving an innocent face.

Keon shakes his head. "Let me have Twill send a list of the available weapons. As for the Sidhe, when would you like them rounded up? Perhaps the shifters would give us the loan of their combat field..."

I start to protest, but then I look at Star again. She may look fragile, but there's steel beneath the lace, and I could wear myself out trying to wear it away. I nod instead, walk over to Keon's table.

"I want to fight them, blade against blade. If they can kill me, they can go free; if they can't, I will kill them. Nothing less will satisfy either of us.

You have done so much already, Lord Blackthorne, yet I ask another boon. I can only fight one of these criminals at a time. Can you insure the second doesn't interfere while I fight the first? - or " - I look him full in the eyes - "would you consent to be my second, to fight by my side?"

Star leans against Erik, closing her eyes and calming her thoughts. A plan of sorts starts to unfold in her mind. She is certain that Erik will kill the fae but in case he doesnt, in case there is a chance that one of them could trick him or cheat and kill him she wants to be there. She doesnt want to live without Erik, it would be more than she can bear. If the worst happens and Erik is slain she will try to kill the fae or die trying. And if she succeeds she will turn the knife on herself....

“I ww...want to come with you...”

"You wish to think on your choices?"

Keon's soft voice is gentle. So many emotions cross Star's face. Horror intermingles with anger, indecision, and resolution. She nods, her small hand gripping Erik's arm. Keon rises, bowing to the couple.

"Again, I give you my congratulations on your betrothal. You deserve happiness."

Picking up his plate, Keon moves to join Guunnar and his young women. As he takes a seat among the youngsters, he watches Star rest her head on Erik's arm. What a terrible set of choices I have given such a rare young woman and her mate slides through his mind.

Raina heads down the stairs after taking a quick shower. Nick was right behind her, playfully grabbing her ass, making her laugh. As she reaches the bottom of the stairs she shakes out her still damp hair. Turning to Nick she says, “Hey, I need to ask Traeger something. Wanna grab a table and I'll be with you in a minute..”

Raina speaks to Traeger about the things she needs for Eriks wedding. She wants to give him a new sword, one just like their fathers. “I can try to draw a picture of it, or maybe I can get Star to draw it if I tell her what it looked like. I also need a circlet for her, something with some pink stones and not very tall, maybe an inch. And a cup, similar to a loving cup... bowl shaped with handles on either side, decorated with the forms of birds... is it too much? Do we have enough time? Maybe I could find something that would serve as the loving cup...”

As Traeger is taking notes, Raina notices Alise on the other side of Rowan. She smiles a greeting and Alise asks her if she can give her and the twins a ride to see Rowan tomorrow. Raina is puzzled, Rowan would go to Alise if needed, even just to check the babies.

“Sure, I can take you. But whats going on? Rowan usually just goes to your house...”

Alise says, “Its nothing. Tara needs to be weighed and measured and I want to get out of the house for a bit. I will see then. Thank you.” And she heads back to Stoney, who also has a puzzled expression on his face.

Raina looks at Rowan, “Well, that was weird. Whats going on with her?”

Rowan shrugs, “I guess we will find out tomorrow...”

Sighing Raina turns back to Traeger. She knows there is no point in asking Rowan anything else. Nothing on earth would make her break a confidence with a patient.

I look around as I wander in and head for my usual booth. Damned place is swarming with demifae. They're well behaved enough, but it makes me itchy to have so many small people hanging around; I'm afraid I might sit on them or something.

I sigh as Patti brings my usual. I collect a kiss along with my Corona and lean back to wind down. From the corner of my eye, I see a movement. Startled - it might be a pixie or something - I start upright again - but it's Alise, waving me over. I groan and move over to her table. I see Stoney at the bar and wave. I make bold to snatch a kiss in passing and collect a hug in the bargain - from Alise, not Stoney.

"Jack, its good to see you. Please, sit. I need to ask you about something."

"Anytime, gorgeous. How're the little ones?"

"They are wonderful." She beams, talking about them. "I needed to ask about the earthbound spirits. Have you ever encountered any that do not speak to you? Should one try to make them talk or do you always wait until they approach you first?"

"There's no hard and fast rule, hon. Fact is, I can't make 'em talk, so I just have to wait." I shrug. "I mean, sometimes I'll try to strike up a conversation, but if they don't want to talk, they don't talk. What, Stoney's so boring you feel the need to talk to the dead now?

Well… do you have any reason to suppose Star might be in danger, anything like that?"

"Well...I don't know...I don't think so... I could ask Erik or Raina.…"

"You're a pretty good judge, Alise. I don't know," I shake my head, working loose the tenseness as Stoney joins us. "Sometimes the dead will hang around the people they cared about in life, just because they feel good being near them. Sometimes they stay to try to protect them from danger. There's really no way to be sure unless they talk to someone."

"But...should I try to talk to her? But then I will have to tell Star that I see her or… I dont want to hurt Star with this... what if it isn't her maman but someone else?"

I smile and take her hand. "Don't make everything so complicated, darling. Trust in this." I take her hand and lay it over her heart. "You have a good heart, Alise, the best and truest I've ever known. Trust your heart; it'll never lead you astray."

Stoney pulls her close.."You do, mon amour. Believe in yourself. You will know what to do when the time is right."

Alise nods, "I am glad you both are so confident. I am not so sure, but like you said, maybe it will just come to me, what I am suppose to do and when...

Thank you Jack. If you both will excuse me for a moment, I need to speak to Rowan before she leaves.."

"That is Lady Star's choice, little cousin. The Hounds would cheerfully rend these two." He folds his hands on the table, giving Star his attention. "Firstly, do you truly want to hear the choices?"

Star nods, her eyes slowly leaking black through the central color changes. Keon nods slowly, then continues. "There are several choices, all to be decided by yourself and Erik. We do not yet have the Sidhe in custody, but that is mere toying. They cannot pass through the Veils. Those paths are closed to them. I can have them brought to you, or disposed of, at any time."

He drums his fingertips lightly and the small demifae flits to the bonsai. She settles back on the bench, swinging a dainty foot. Keon is well aware of Erik's sudden tension. He settles himself, relaxing back against his own seat.

"We could give them to the Hell Hounds. Trooper heads the pack that is, pardon the pun, hounding them. He would be happy to rend them. He did not like the scents and energy they left behind.

I can give them to the Dark Lords. My Court would try them for their crimes, then give them the deaths they deserve. We do release the truly innocent, but these men... they have talked about what they did. They bragged to their friends in the wrong places. Their whereabouts and spoutings were leaked to us by those creatures we trust. One thing to remember in the Faery realm... The trees truly do have ears."

Keon watched her eyes shift to icy white, as if all color had drained from them, right before she dropped her face in her hands. "H-hh-how many kn-nn-now..."

"Rest assured, Lady Star, those cronies have had their own... accidents. Save the two who brought word to our ears. The Forests do not take kindly to an Earth Fae being harmed. Many of our nature fae took homes in the Human realm. The Forest will have new wind chimes soon enough."

She nods, leaning into Erik's strong embrace. When she glances at Keon, he continues more softly.

"There are always the Goblins. Many there that would appreciate a meal of Sidhe flesh. Of course they play with their food before they make a feast. And, if they were told what crimes were committed... well, let's just say they would reap what they had sown."

Erik's eyes are hard. Keon can almost see the need to hurt these men in his warrior's demeanor.

"If it is a more personal vengeance you wish... One on one battle. Much as I would love to weight the battle in human favor, I can not give two different metalled blades. It would have to be a fair match of arms."

The demifae who took his message to Gareth alights on Keon's shoulder. It whispers something in his ear. Keon nods, smiling as the little creature laughs like a tinkling of windchimes.

"I did not think of that, my little friend. How very... fae.. of you."

Keon leans closer to Erik, smiling, as the demifae struts across the table to where Star's little female stands. It bows to the fae, then zips away.

"The battleswords need to be of like materials... A Sidhe has inherent magic. A human does not. We could even the odds if the blades were both Cold Iron. There is a dueling set in the Dark Lords' armoury. Silver hilted, but Iron bladed. The Iron would inhibit the bearers ability to wield magic. The blade would also be a weight not unlike to the blades you wear now. A silver blade would be a bit lighter. You, my human friend, would die as easily from either blade. They would not take mortal wound as easily from Silver. I fear their ability to wield such a blade would not be fair, even if their magic is inhibited by collars."

Keon sits back, laughing.

"A demifae... I had to be reminded of them by... no matter, I had truly forgotten those blades. There is a matched pair of Silver blades in the cache' as well. The fae's reminder brings something else to mind.

My Lady, if it is vengeance by your own hand you wish, and I have seen Sidhe more frail seeming than yourself exact revenge, I am sure I could find something as deadly as a Widow's Sting. The blade is almost frail, but it needs only pierce their skin for the poison to do its work. The tip is covered in a retractable sheathe, which moves back when pushed against the flesh. The needle like point slides in effortlessly. With this weapon, a Goblin met its death at the hand of a Pisky for her tainted innocence. She was not much slighter than yourself."

As I sweep through the hallway, I seek the telltale energy of the shadow. It had a sorcerous taste, necromantic, and it was NOT Magnus. I touch his mind, alerting him to the presence and my inability to catch up with it. His hunter insitncts will follow my movements. I also let him feel that my cousins are not unwilling for his added protection. I will give him a verbal confirmation when I reach the taproom.

I pause outside one door. Passion. I recognize the Shaman and Vampire's energies. So this is what caused the shadow to speed onward. It cannot fathom true love and affection. I smile. Well that is one weapon this crowd has at its disposal. Genuine love.

I move on, picking up the trail. The shadow slipped through the rails and down the wall. It hovered in the shadows near Keon's table, then slipped out the door. I catch Keon's eye, motioning him to stay seated. I open the front door and step outside. The shadow is gone, the echo of its energy lost in the trails of those who came and went. I return to the tavern and join Magnus.

He has been watching me, knowing I was tracking. At his raised eyebrow I shake my head. "Lost it. Whatever, whoever it was... Theirs was a distinct interest in the going-ons in Pandora and Ob's room. They are grateful for your offer, and wish both us and Keon present when the demifae give their blessings."

Ob kisses the top of her head.

"You, mi amor, are not leaving this suite for a while. Your body needs rest, and we need bonding time with Chloe." The baby beams at her parents. "Also, the Tavern is well in hand. Patti and Ike as management, Monty there to back them up. We have so many friends among the regulars, no one will dare cause trouble. Hell, we have RIDERS as regulars. Guunnar alone could defend us against a Barbarian Horde."

They grin. Just the image of Guunnar standing there, battle axe in one hand, sword in another... Someone would have to think twice about invading.

"Then of course there are my sisters. Don't piss off the Gargoyles." As the image flits through their minds, Chloe giggles, startling both her parents. "I think we have approval to stay where we are, mi amor."

Pandora sighs,as she looks down at Chloe... "Who would think we would have so many anxious to help us,and so caring. I worry about the shadow... do you thinkit is the fae bitch?"... Worry clouds her face; "I don't think we should leave Chloe alone at all for now... I can make an area in the tavern where she can be watched by many eyes... I would feel better if we did that, we will think on it, yes?"

Your Mujer is not mad at you, cooza.

Ob's eyes meet Silk's and he sighs, pulling Pandora closer. Chloe's eyes follow everything, even tracking something in the shadows. He feels her unease and sends her comfort. Pandora's brow wrinkles.

"What is it Ob?"

"I am not sure Bruha. Chloe is not liking the feel of something. Silk? You ride in the shadows. What do you feel?"

Chloe's eyes have tracked to the shadows near the door. Silk's gaze follows her eyes and she pulls Ob into her mind, Chloe and Pandora are soon connected as well.

That is not a regular shadow. It has sentience. I am not liking that it has made it this far into the inner sanctums. Her mind traces it to the hallways next level down, only to lose it when it passes through the fringe of a couples passion. Ob ,I have something about which to speak with you. In light of this... intrusion into your lives, I think you should think about Magnus' offer.

Ob can tell the standing is beginning to take its toll on Pandora. He gets her settled in a cushioned chair and takes Chloe from Silk, settling her in her mother's arms. Silk pulls a desk chair closer and leans her elbows on her knees. Miko and Rachal have perch themselves close, knowing the Deamoness would not deny them the right to listen.

"Magnus... Mortuis, if you will... would like to extend his protection to Chloe, as he has to Tara and Tomas. There are things in the world that, unfortunately, would prey on the innocent. Being a Gargoyle and Witch make you formidable foes, mi coozi, but being stone half the time, or human..." She nods to first Ob then Pandora, "Well... none of us are able to be there a hundred percent, are we?"

Ob nods somberly. Silk can feel his mind working over his worry for Pandora when he rests. He never thought of his time as stone as a prison, but now he sees those times as being unable to care for his Mujer and child. Chloe reaches up and tugs at an errant lock of his hair. Her tug becomes insistent and he looks down into his little one's eyes. She catches Pandora's gaze and grips her finger, then looks at Silk.

Pandora's voice is quiet, thoughtful as she speaks. "He doesn't offer this type of thing lightly, does he? I mean, I've seen him in action." Silk smiles fondly, having seen her love in action in so many ways. Ob laughs, bringing a true smile to Pandora's face.

"Cooza, tell the Sorcerer we accept." As she rises to go, Ob stops her. "We would like him present when the demifae give their gifts. Keon, too."

She nods and sweeps from the room.

Alise and Stoney sit close to one another listening to the music and talking. Alise was torn between wanting to get home to the twins and wanting to talk to Jack if he showed up.

“What if he doesnt show up tonight?” Stoney pulls her close to him, kissing the top of her head.

“Then I will have to call him or something. I dont think theres a rush. Stars maman hasnt tried to say anything. She just seems to want to be close to Star. I cant blame her. I wouldnt want to be parted from our little ones… even in death.” Alise shakes her head and lowers it, “What a horrible thought..”

Stoney tips her head up and kisses her. “Star seems happy now, with Rainas brother...”

“She does, and she deserves it. She is so sweet, the twins adore her, you can feel it whenever she is near them.”

Stoney feels Ob's curiosity as to the bedding that was piled in the cradle. Pandora is amazed at the workmanship of the cradle and its contents, the intricate embroidery on all the bedding has them stumped as to has given them the gift. Stoney smiles, remembering the hours Alise spent working on it, even though two of her fingers never healed quite right and gave her some pain, especially in this cold weather. Stoney relays the info to his brother.

Mon Fleur did this? For us? But her fingers...

Bro, she wanted to... for you and Chloe...

Tell her our thanks, it is a beautiful gift, and we will thank her properly when we see her next..

Stoney smiles, closing the connection, letting the family have this time to bond. He tells Alise what Ob has said and she grins, happy that they are pleased with the gift.

Stoney stands, “The waitresses all look busy. Let me get you a glass of wine while we wait for Jack.”

Grabbing his hand Alise says, “No, just get me a glass of stomach is a little upset.”

“Are you all right? Are you getting sick?” Stoney is immediately concerned.

“No, no, I think it must be all the excitement. Ob's baby, a wedding... Mon Dieu, there is never a dull moment around here. And look, there is Mortuis. We should say hello, he is seldom here these days.”

Stoney nods and heads to the bar....

Morgan sits in the park across the street from the tavern. The parking lot isnt quite full and she has a good view of the front door. She is waiting for the human she bespelled to go in and ask a few questions. She doesnt notice the cold or the snow, her heart is frozen and full of hate. Her plans swirling in her mind. Plots to kidnap the witch's child and revenge against Gareth and Inari are foremost in her mind.

The man returns and relays some information to Morgan. She smiles and tells him to go back to the tavern. As he turns and walks away she snaps her fingers, canceling the spell. The man shakes his head a bit and continues on his way.

Another spell said and Morgans shadow leaves her and attaches itself to a group of college kids going into the tavern. Morgan smiles evilly. They thought to keep me out, but I have my ways. Looks like the usual crowd. Same bartender, traitor to his kind. Working for the cattle, what a fool.

Her shadow keeps close to the dark areas in the tavern, away from any lights and watches everything.

What an awful band. They smell horrible and screech like barn owls. The Viking is sitting with that scrawny little slut... and talking to a rider... I wonder what that's about?

Moving silently up the stairs the shadow finds the witch's room. She slips under the door and looks around, keeping to the floor to remain unnoticed. The baby has been born! Finally, something going my way. But how to swap the child? Would they immediately notice a changeling? Gargoyles... uugg... hopefully the baby is more like the mother... no one will want a child that turns to stone...

Under the door again and back out to the hallway. Passing by Nick's room the shadow hears the passion and whispered words. Outside Morgan sneers, Slut... stupid humans, fucking at any time of the day or night... no morals at all.. animals are better behaved...

As the shadow heads down the stairs and ducks into the darkness of the tavern she sees Star, looking out at the crowd. Her eyes are changing color, orange to yellow and then grey. She turns back to Keon and says something to him. The shadow hurriedly exits the tavern and takes it place by Morgans side. Morgan is full of conniving evil plans.

Could that old prophecy possibly be true? No one could have eyes like that... I thought it was just the ramblings of a crazy old man when grandfather talked about it... Ret'skir'a? I think that was it... But if its true, and she is the one, how much would I get from the highest bidder for her? It would be a fortune... Oberon himself might want her... and a witch's child too... I may have to stay here for awhile...

Morgan turns and walks down the street, her long red hair blowing back in the wind. Her eyes look evil, green and poisonous, her laugh without humor as she continues on her way to her rented apartment.

Pandora watched Silk singing to Chloe... a desert song, her heritage... she was sure she wanted Silk to teach her all of the Romanovich traditions... tell her of her dragon shapeshifter roots.... "Silk... would you honor us by being one of Chloe's godparents? I want you to teach Chloe all of her heritage, help her to shapeshift when it is time...teach her to understand the deamon she must learn to control."

She looked to Ob and saw approval in his eyes... and more... she was sore and tired from Chloe's birth; but seeing Ob standing there in his native robes, every inch the warrior... made her love and lust for him right now. She looked into his eyes and saw he reciprocated her feelings, her figure lush with motherhood was more alluring than ever to him. She longed for them to make love... to join as they did in that moment that made them one. He had claimed her this day as his... in all ways that were important to him; giving her the earrings and bracelet of obsidian; Chloe the earrings, claiming her as his child... were as close to marriage as they got in the Romanavich traditions... and she knew he was hers forever... for her heart held him dear and she knew she would never tire of him.

She rushed to his side, drawing his head down to kiss him with passion. "You have given me today my heart's desires... a child, and a love that is true. I am the happiest woman alive." She leaned into him... basking in his strength and love... watching their child study Silk with her icy blue eyes as she tugs again at Silk's hair.

“Kkk..Keon... you said something about jj..justice. What cc..choices are there? They deserve to die for what they did to” Star is nervous talking about the red-headed fae. She doesnt know how much Keon has been told but the idea that anyone knew the details about what happened to her was horribly embarrassing. A red flush crept up her neck and cheeks and her eyes were shifting from yellow to orange, rimmed with black from her anger.

A tear slides slowly down her face and her eyes turn to grey as her gaze shifts to Erik. “They tt...took from me what I would have given to you. I want this settled before we marry, if tt..that is possible.”

"It will be, my love. We'll have to wait until the human resurfaces, but I assume we can deal with these two right now." Erik turns to Keon. "Perhaps I should not assume... am I correct, Lord Blackthorne? I can settle scores with these vermin now, or very soon?"

As Keon starts to answer he is distracted by Mya. She has gone to Stars cheek and is trying to wipe her tears and is making little sympathetic sounds. When Mya sees Keon looking at her she flies down to the table and in a very angry voice says, “Lord Keon. Bad men hurt Star. Let the hounds eat them, bones and all.”

"Allow me to apologize for the interruption..." Keon resumes his seat and motions to the waitress ordering refills of their drinks. "Are either of you acquainted with Gareth?"

Erik shakes his head. "I've heard the name, but I don't think I've met him."

Keon taps a finger to his lips, debating which messenger would be best. A small demifae buzzes the bonsai, only to be intercepted by Mya. She shakes her finger at it and the smaller zips upwards. Keon smiles. He opens his palm offering a perch to the rebuffed fae.

"A message I want taken, an ye will. Payment be a bit of honey."

The fae nods and lands. As soon as it delivers the message to Gareth, it may return for the honey. Keon watches it zip away, darting over the crowd to hover just out of easy reach of the Sidhe. Once it gains his attention and is beckoned close, the creature lands on Gareth's shoulder and leans in to whisper in his ear. That quickly, it is airborne and darting back for its honey.

"An what say he?"

The creature balls its fists on its hips.

"Ah no ye don't Lord Keon... I took a message for honey, an he not offer a message or payment, I have none ta give."

Keon nods, "True my friend. I did not ask for a return message."

He shifts the plate closer so the fae can dip up a handful. He feels eyes upon him and glances up, noting Gareth watching from across the room.

My warm cloak hangs next to Magnus' in the common room. Heads turn as I ascend the stairs. A few know me, many here have only seen the Dragoness. I see Keon rise and kneel as I stride past. Although his head remains bent, his eyes follow.

My abaya flows in the breeze of my passing and when I stop to motion him to approach, it swings onward, then stills. He kisses the top of my hand, whispering a welcome. I smile, nodding, and watch him return to the table he shares with a striking couple. There is a scent of happiness, and passion. I control the urge to drink deep, knowing I will be sated later. It is good to be myself again. I sweep up the stairs in the soft chime of metal and susurrus of silks.

The bedroom door opens at my knock and I see Pandora bending over the cradle. Ob relaxes against the bed's headboard, fully supporting their sleeping child.

"Already you have Pandora dressing as one of Us?"

Pandora glances up and smiles a welcome.

"Your kaftan is lovely Pandora, It suits your coloring well."

The lavender silk drapes gracefully over her body, showing the lush curves of her breasts and hips. Ob's lust rises and I can taste the wonderful passion between them. I smile and he shifts to hand me their infant.

"I need my robes. Be back in a minute."

He slips from the room and I look down at the cherubic face. Ice pale eyes stare up at me. She reaches out, and I lean closer. Her hand tangles in my hair and she grips, tugging hard. I raise her higher and she bats her eyes at me.

There is a slight sheen to her skin and I feel the folds on her back through the blanket.

"Welcome to the world little deamon. What part of Our Peoples shall you take after? I see your father in you and I see the promise of your mother. Whose temper shall you hold?"

I let the baby play with my hair and turn to Pandora.

"Ob has birthing gifts for the two of you."

He laughs as he comes back, I have not seen him in traditional clothes in a long time. He does truly look as if he sprang from the desert. His robes are the dusky purple of twilight, embroidered in dawn's rising.

"Did you bring the CD?"

I nod and slip it from my pouch. Soon the sounds of desert rhythms softly fill the room.

Ob sets a box on the dresser and gently removes a pair of obsidian earrings. The dangling obsidian and silver glitter as he slips them into Pandora's ears. He takes her right wrist and kisses the pulse. A bracelet to match the earrings clasps shut around her fair skin. He hands Pandora two obsidian rings.

"These are for my ears, mi Bruha." He winces as the rings clip into long unused piercings.

"Cooza, if you will do the honors?"

Ob takes their daughter from my arms and lays her in Pandora's, gently untangling her tight grip. She pouts and he murmurs to her. He begins to speak the words of gifting as I sort for the smallest of needles.

Created by love
Born into love
Romanavich child
We honor thee.

My fingertips pinch her earlobes, numbing them for a few moments. The needles pierce quickly and the small black obsidian posts are set in place. Chloe's eyes are round, her fear and pain kept distant by Ob's control. It is a few moments before she whimpers and tries to reach for her ears. Ob catches her hands and kisses them gently.

"Nonono chica. They are signs of who you are. Let them be." She gazes up at him, eyes swimming with tears. I can feel how upset she is and hold out my hands for her. Ob nods to Pandora and she settles Chloe in my arms.

I begin to dance, crooning in Romanavich. There is still a feeling of upset to her and I reach out to touch as I would any of my Kin. There is a slap of power against my mind and I laugh. It is not yet strong, but I grin at Ob.

"You have bred true Cooza... We have an angry little dragonchild here." I nuzzle her nose with mine and she tugs my hair. "I am sorry *puchica, but it is a Romanavich thing. One day your beloved will gift you with his name in jewels, as your papa has just done your mamacita."

*small beauty
The snake nods to Mortuis as he spins Tori out for another dance. This one is slower, another Monster themed fun song. He pulls her close, hissing a warning in her ear.

"Be careful with him. That is Dr. Mortuis. He is someone powerful and just damn scary."

Tori knows he cannot see her face and she stifles a grin.

"My Cousin Mortuis? Don't be silly. He'd kill anyone who broke my heart..." She bats her eyes sweetly and the snake backs off, just a little.

Raina sighs, “Damn, Nick... what the hell was that? I've never cum so hard in my life...”

Nick is grinning as she sits up and leans over his prone body. Her rising sets the small pool of blood collecting in her collarbone to moving. Nicks eyes are hot as he watches the crimson trail wind its way from the base of her throat, down a breast and staining a pink nipple darker. A bead gathers, ready to drop. The glistening ruby, glowing softly in the candle light, drops on Nicks chest. Another drop starts to form and Nick groans, hunger and desire almost overtaking common sense. His tongue laps at Rainas breast, the drops coming faster, his desire increasing apace.

Raina straddles him, taking him in to the hilt. His hands on her breasts, the crimson flow slowly increasing as she rocks. Nick looks in her eyes and sees only love and acceptance there and he is overcome with the feelings he has for her. Gently pulling her down, he kisses her, his thrusts slow and deep, her moans telling him how close she is. When she starts to shake Nick lets go, filling her and feeling her shatter around him, her pussy grabbing tight and milking him.

Later, laying in his arms Nick feels a tear on his shoulder and turns a startled gaze to Raina.

She looks him in the eyes and says simply “I love you...” and he understands, remembering Stars words, She loves and hates and feels more deeply than the rest of us... and he holds her close....

The wind has a bite as we move from the car to the tavern and I am forced to lower my head against its chill. My cape flaps like a great wing until we push the door open and step into light and warmth.

There is a sudden hush when some recognize me - there always is - then the nervousness shatters like fine glass and all things are as they were. I turn to Silk. "Pay my respects to Pandora and your cousin and tell them I will be up presently. If you will bring that matter we spoke of earlier to Obsidian's attention - I think he may take it better coming from you than from myself. Be certain that he knows that the choice lies with him and with Lady Pandora, and we will speak further when I arrive. I would have words with Tourmaline - if I can find her in this crowd… Ah! There she is!"

The lady in question stands with a group of shifters, and even as I watch, she is borne away by one of them, laughing, in what appears to me to be an unnecessarily complicated dance. I kiss Silk's fingers - "I will join you presently." - then set off in pursuit, attempting to anticipate where the couple will next arrive. They lead me a merry chase, but at last I am successful and - "May I cut in?" He cedes to the lady to my grasp and I lock my eyes on his. "Do you mark where we end, young man, and I will return the lady to you when we have spoken." Then I dance her away in a simple waltz, my voice apologetic. "I fear that old joints like mine are but ill suited to modern dance. If you can endure until we reach a private booth - " She laughs and presses herself the more tightly into my arms. "First, you're not that bad; second, how many women can say they danced with The Right Hand of Death and lived to tell it?" I wince when I hear the sobriquet used again and she laughs again. "There's a booth to our right. Follow my lead for a moment, and I'll get us there."

I cede control to the lady and she brings us to the booth as promised. She settles back into the booth with a twinkle in her eye. "Whoo! You're quite the - uh - vigorous dancer, Magnus. When can I have an encore?"

"Given my skill on the dance floor, Milady, it would be perhaps better termed a rematch."

She smiles. "So - what's this 'proposition' you have for me?"

"It is this." Now the banter drops away and I am again all business. "Exton is not a large city, but it is too large for one man to know all that may be happening. I receive information from various sources, yet oftentimes I have not the time to correlate it all and thus use it to the best advantage. I'm told you are quite the - you will pardon me, I believe the term is either 'cybergeek' or 'technogeek'."

She laughs. "Guilty as charged."

"I need someone who will serve as a central repository for incoming information - someone who can perceive patterns and tie apparently unrelated events together - and then funnel that information back to me as a coherent whole. Information may come from a variety of sources - telephone, text, email or an occasional personal visit. Do not assume that all the information is accurate or trustworthy; but it may all prove to be useful at some point. I ask you to consider this position carefully, Tourmaline; it is certain to occupy much of your time, and the rewards are dubious, though I will insure that you do not lose financially from the bargain."

I stand. "You have my cell number and my email, and you may tell me of your decision in either way. Now, I believe there is a young man who wishes to dance with you - shall we get you back to him?"

I offer her my arm and dance her back to her admirer.

Pandora crooned to Chloe as she drifted off to sleep... "Ob, would you mind if I showered while Chloe sleeps?...  I feel safe with you sitting here to hold her."

Pandora slipped the sleeping babe into his arms and got to her feet..."I'm feeling better than I thought I would, but I need to bathe." She felt wonderful in the spray of warm water, the creamy soap washing away the sweat of Chloe's delivery... she brushed her hair and let it fall down on her shoulders and slipped into a caftan of lavender silk. Returning to the room she smiled at Obsidian... he was tracing the outline of her little face as his daughter slept.

Pandora went to the cradle that her father had set down next to the bed and exclaimed when she saw the beautiful linens in it. "Ob, I don't know where these came from, but its the most gorgeous linens... full of embroidery and so delicate... I know they will feel like silk against Chloe's skin... who made them?... so detailed and definitely hand done." She picked up the pillow slip and showed it to him, delicate flowered embroidery and open work... hours of detail and hundreds of stitches. "Someone gave our daughter a most special gift, it shall be treasured and handed down to Chloe's children."

The band finally finds the tavern. As somber and pale as they are, Ike raises a brow as they silently set up. Tori chats with their front and sound men, getting things up. As she heads for the bar Ike stops her.

"Um... Ghouls?"

Tori laughs. "They will surprise you little sister."

Ike glances at Monty who merely shrugs. "What are they going to play? They would remind me of fresh zombies if they smelled like roadkill. They smell.... musty... dry... like mummies."

Tori laughs and heads over to a table of friends. The snake tries to put his arm around her and she shoves him. He laughs and breathes in her ear, "I don't care what they play... dance with me..."

The frontman's voice is soft, drifting over the crowd.

"Let me introduce tonight's band. We are The Cryptkickers Five..."

There is a smattering of laughter.

"Yes.. the name came from Bobby "Boris" Pickett... We couldn't help ourselves."

There is a creek and chains, followed by the drum riff opening of Monster Mash. The crowd begins to fill the floor. The easy music segues into Purple People Eater, The Witch Doctor, then various theme songs. The Addams Family is soon followed by The Munsters, then the crazy song Eyes In The Night, theme of the new series, Demons. The band then swings into harder beat music from the 70's to 90's and Ike gives Tori a thumbs up.

Snake intrudes on Tori's personal space, pressing close as the sound of footsteps and lightening roll through the room. She grins at him and lets him back her out to the floor. A few others follow, some jumping at the caws. The music starts and they turn face to face, bodies moving in sync. Strobe lights begins to flash, giving the dancers an eerie disjointed effect.

Welcome to the place where all the creatures meet
The last building to your left on a dead-end street.
You'll find skeleton bones outside on the pavement
And torture chambers down in the basement.
Cobwebs hangin' over your head
And music bein' played by the Grateful Dead.
And spinnin' on the turntables back to back
Is no other than my main man Wolfman Jack.
The M. C. of the night rappin' to the tunes
Is the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
There's a sign on the door that can't be missed
It reads 'Enter,
but at your own risk'
'Cause people been reported goin' in the haunted house
But never again seen comin' out.
You ask me if it's true
I'll leave it up to you
Here's an invite
I hope I see you tonight.

My eyes take in the blades in the dim light of the tavern. They shine with an unnatural radiance and I'm almost afraid to touch them, lest I dim their shine. But I reach out, caressing their deadly beauty. I heft one; it fits my hand as though custom-made, and it's perfectly balanced. I could throw this straight to a target and miss no more than one time in a hundred. I hold it to the light, let it glimmer along the edge. I could shave with this blade - if I wished to perform a sacrilege.

I examine the second blade, unsurprised to find that it's equally as fine. When I look across the table to Keon, I find myself for a moment unable to speak.

"Lord Blackthorne," I say at last. "I am a soldier, not a courtier, and my words are not fine - but this is wonderful work, worthy almost of the sons of Ivaldi - and I might venture more if I did not fear to offend them. These are not merely pretty things, but forged for battle, and it shows in every line, in the perfect weight and balance, and in the keenness of their edges.

I accept these gifts in the spirit that they are given, and I thank you."

Traeger had fetched the cradle after leaving Pandora; and it sat beside them at the table... many admirers stopping to assess its beauty.Traeger told Rowan; "Lots of news today, births and more weddings... I'm going to run this up to the new parents... be right back" Rowan smiled as he left, and it was just moments before he was knocking on Pandora's door. "Its just me, little girl,"... he said as he stuck his head in; grinning at Ob. He stepped in and set the cradle on the edge of the bed where Pandora could see it without disturbing Chloe... "Ob and I finished Chloe's cradle." Pandora started crying... "It's okay, they're happy tears, I have never seen anything so intricate and beautiful; it looks like work of the fairies with its delicate blooms and jewels." The two little faes, Miko and Rachal, fairly puffed out their chests at mention of fairy beauty. Traeger kisses her cheek, and bent lower to kiss Chloe's forehead... "Nothing is too good for my little princess."

The black cloth slides across the table to Erik. Keon caresses the cloth gently, a mere kiss of the fingers. There is a sadness in his eyes as he lifts them to Erik.

"What lies within this cloth is a set of matched daggers, perfectly balanced, gifted to me in friendship and trust by someone I lost to human death a few centuries ago. Cameron was a fine smith, gifted with a talent for metal sculpting. The blades are Cold Iron, seated in hilts of Elven Wood. Silver designs chase the grip and guard. They are as beautiful as they are deadly."

He unties the cord holding the cloth closed. Erik opens them slowly, peeling back the cloth as if opening a rare treasure. The arm sheathes have the oiled sheen of well tended leather, but it is the daggers that draw the eye.

"They were Cameron's truest defense against the Realm he joined for love of Our Queen. When Mab's eyes found another more comely, he chose to return Earthwise, knowing it would be his death. He gifted these to me because I never followed another's choice of friends. He was a good man, and I miss him dearly."

He touches one of the hilts carefully.

"May they serve you, Erik, as truly as they served my friend." He gives a small twist of the lips, "As long as you don't give them a home in me, I wish them a proper fit in your hands."

Ob still sat behind Pandora as she held their daughter to her breast... the child took to it hungrily, needing no prompting. "Ob,I cannot believe this gorgeous creature was created by us"... she looks up at him as he leans forward and kisses him, "I don't know if I could ever be happier than this moment." He squeezes her and then puts his hand down to caress Chloe's cheek... her eyes holding a smile as she nurses.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keon moves the box towards Star. She tentatively takes the offered gift and slowly lifts the lid.

Star gasps when she sees the bonsai tree. Her eyes turn a bright clear blue as she lifts it carefully out of its box. She can hardly believe this is a living tree, the colors are so bright, the leaves look like emeralds and the bark doesnt look like any tree she has ever seen. But its the buds that really catch her eye. The pinks and reds her favorite colors. She runs a finger gently over a small branch, her eyes full of wonder... “Ttt...thank you, it is so very beautiful. Are all the tt...trees from the Realm like tt..this??

Smiling Keon tells her, “No, just the ones in the Enchanted Forest, they tower above the world like sentinels of crafted jewels..”

Stars smile fades and a serious expression settles on her face. She looks at Keon, her eyes solemn and grey. “ you know my father? Or anyone with eyes mine?”

Keon shakes his head, “Your eyes are rare, spoken of only in tales and legends. I know not which House carries the gene. As for your father, that I do not know. I do know of several Knights, in both Courts, who have loved human women and had to leave them. Their hearts are hollow, and they seek no others. If one is your father, I cannot say.”

Star nods, her emotions shifting. She was so happy she thought she might explode of it but she wanted a family to share it with. She loved Erik with all her heart, and Raina and Alise, but they werent her family. And if Keon didnt know anyone with her eyes, then she figured no one would.

Her eyes return to the gift, and she smiles again. Suddenly Mya flits down and walks around the tree, looking to and fro. Throwing her arms up, then resting her hands on her cheeks, her face assumes an expression of mock surprise when she sees the miniature bench that is under the tree. She sits on it, rests her elbows behind her on the backrest and starts to whistle.

Star starts to giggle at the little demifae and her antics. “Mya loves it too.” At Keons questioning gaze Star smiles, “She likes my garden in the summer. Her sisters too...”

Star reaches and out and rests her hand on top of Keons. “Thank you again. I love the tree and it will have a place of honor in our home.”

Surprised at her touch Keon tells her, "I would be honored if you would accept this as one of my sisters would. Truth to tell, I see thee more than I see them. Save for your coloring, you are much like Dell, the youngest. She has the gentlest of hearts and the chosen most strong of arm."

Keon looks at Erik. "Although I think Erik would give him a fair fight." He winks at Star, smiling

I chuckle at the question. "I guess Gareth didn't tell you everything after all. Well, maybe he didn't know; no reason he should.

Raina - I don't speak for all vampires, but for many of us, marking a lover is almost like giving someone an engagement ring. You don't do it with everyone. You only do it with that one person that means the most to you, that person that makes you feel alive again.

Now, sure, there are vamps that hand out bites like Halloween candy, just like there are humans that use engagement rings to get a girl into bed. I'm not one of them. I'm never going to mark Gareth, nor anyone else who shares our bed. Bite - yes, probably; mark, no. That's for you and only you."

I give her the best smile I can manage with a mouthful of fangs. "I love you, Raina. There may someday be others that I care about, but there's no one else like you. There never will be."

She gives me an almost-shy smile and climbs into bed, her warmth against my chill… "I love you, Nick. Always, lover, or as much of 'always' as we've got left."

Kissing is awkward with fangs, so I settle for cupping her breasts in my hands, teasing her nipples to hardness. She moans, the sound erecting the hair on the back of my neck, and her legs open. I reach down and tease her wet lips while my tongue plays with her nipples. I let the pinpoints of my fangs rest on the slope of a breast and press down. She sighs throatily, her eyes veiled and I probe deeper. She's dripping wet, ready for this. My mouth moves lower, biting frequently but not - quite - penetrating. "Oh gods, Nick," she moans, her legs scissoring. "Oh baby, please - don't tease me."

I lie between her thighs and my tongue moves to lick at her - just the inner thighs at first, but gradually going higher. My fangs trace thin red lines over her soft skin and a shudder ripples up her spine. My tongue stabs inside her, fast and hard, and she drenches my face as she wails with her first orgasm. My tongue moves inside her, fast as that of any snake, holding her hips tightly, pressing into her… She lets out a mewling cry and like a snake I strike, sinking my fangs into her inner thigh. I drink and her voice spirals up and up and up, till she screams soundlessly and cums again.

Quickly now, I lift her hips, bring her legs against my chest, and slide deep, filling her sweet hot cunt with my thick hard shaft. I can feel tremors racing up her spine as I pound into her, taking her, making her mine, mine like never before. Her legs suddenly lock around my waist and she pulls me in deeper still, fucking back at me, her lips drawn back from her teeth, snarling with lust. "Gods, Nick, fuck me, fuck me hard, make me cum like that again." I ram into her, hard - fast - deep, claiming her body, making her truly mine. Our lovemaking is hard and ruthless, but no less inspired by love. We rut like animals till Raina cums again with a scream and as I feel her spasm, my fangs pierce her throat.

She cums and cums as I explode deep inside her, giving her my hot juices, filling her as I drink from the font of her life….

I smile, seeing Mortuis waiting for me. He holds my cloak out, draping it across my shoulders. The brush of his lips across my bare cheek still startles me, in a good way of course. I smile up at him before sweeping out the door and into the chill air.

I feel his eyes upon me and smile to myself, putting a bit more roll into my hips, just for him. My jewelry chimes softly as I nearly dance to the hearse. When he slides behind the wheel, I close my eyes. I slip out his cd of Night On Bald Mountain and pop in Nox Arcana. He raises a brow and I hold up a finger.

"Say nothing My Right Hand of Death, just listen."

We ride to the Tavern listening to something a little different, settling me into the right mind for representing Our Kin.

Keon leans close over the table, his voice softer than usual.

"It seems I have two things for you. One is news of the hunt, the other pertains to glad tidings I hear. Which would you have first?"

Star's eyes flash through colors, orange to red, then back to orange. She looks up at Erik, then at the box and cloth laying on the table. Erik nods to Star, letting her answer. "D-de-depends. How b-bad is the n-n-news?"

"My lady, the ... shite have been tracked and will be brought to heel. Hounds will worry them until they have nowhere else to run. How would you have their Justice meted out?" her eyes go wide, their color shifting too fast to follow. Keon gracefully waves a hand, brushing aside the subject. "Think on it, and when you decide, I will pass the choice to Lord Twillon's ears."

Keon moves the box to the middle of the table. "Now, this is something nice, I pray. I was going to give this to you, and this" he touches the cloth, "to you, Erik, as gifts of friendship. Now, I find their is a moment of joy in your lives and pray you accept these as betrothal gifts. It is a tradition among my People to gift a sister with nature, and her betrothed with something in his interests. Would you accept such gifts from me?"

Her cell phone clicks shut as Tori opens the Tavern door. It rings again and she gives directions to the band coming to play. Damned ghouls were lost. Ike waves to her and Tori nods to the stairs. Ike shakes her head and Tori heads to the bar. Monty slides her an orange jouice and coffee.

"I put a call in to Mortuis. He doesn't know the vampire. Neither do his contacts." She watches as Stoney and Alise come down the stairs. "Monty, will you send over something to eat? I'll let Ike know what they want." He nods. "Can you join us for a bit?" Monty smiles as Tori heads for a table.

A young man stops behind her as Alise sits down and leans close. He whispers in her ear and Tori snaps around, hand striking out. He catches it and kisses her palm. Stoney raises a brow and she sends a thought. Sleep with a snake and he wants to lay claims... There is laughter behind her words and she tells him she will catch up with him later. Right now is family time.

The snake shifter heads back to his group and drapes into a chair. He smiles at Tori, then turns his attention to someone sitting next to him. Tori laughs as Stoney glares at the man.

"He is okay, Bro. A lot like Ob in fact. Puts up a player front, but is really a sweet guy. He was telling me there have been a lot of deaths among the homeless down in The Palisades. I need to let Mortuis know about that. He and Silk are coming tonight."

She raises her coffee as Monty brings platters of food. As soon as he and Ike are settled, the family settles in to catching up.

Raina walks over to the bar to get Nick's blood and a drink to take upstairs with her. Her mind is racing, the thoughts coming fast. She briefly thinks about telling Erik that they are headed upstairs but he and Star look to be having a serious discussion with Keon. I wonder what thats about? The fae maybe? I hope they dont upset Star...

She watches as Nick moves up the stairs, her eyes hot with desire. Am I doing the right thing? If he really wanted to make a meal out of me, he would have a long time ago... I think... He says he loves me... I can feel he loves me when we are together, so why am I so nervous? Am I afraid he cant control the hunger when he sees and smells the blood? But he must be able to...

Monty hands her the drinks and she heads to Nicks room. She enters the room slowly, letting her eyes adjust to the dim light. There are lit candles on top of the dresser giving the room a soft diffused light. She turns and sees Nick, laying across the bed, naked and the beginnings of a nice hard-on making her smile. Her glance moves to his face and his eyes, dark red, the pupils gone, gives her a start. He smiles slowly, revealing sharp pointed fangs. His skin is pale, even paler than it usually it is when he is awake.

Raina clears her throat nervously, “You arent going to do that creepy dead thing are you?”

Nick chuckles, “No, not at all. Trust me, it gets worse than this. Nervous, lover?”

“Just a little..” and Raina starts to slip her top off, Nick admiring the hard nipples, the tats that cover most of her body, his cock getting harder at the sight.

“How many girls have you done this to? I hope they are all still walking around... alive...” and she slowly, teasingly unzips her jeans....

The new waitress comes over with a note. Eric reads it and stands abruptly. "Come on, Star, this is what we've been waiting for." Star mutters a goodbye and then they're gone, leaving us wondering what the fuck is going on.

Raina looks amused and sexy and seductive all at once. She moves so close she's practically sitting in my lap - not that I'm complaining. "Now - where were we?" she says, and nibbles at my neck.

"Damned if I remember. Does it matter?" I grin. "I'm fine with just starting from here."

"That's okay, I remember now." Her tongue laps at my throat. "Isn't here something you meant to tell me - about vampires?"

Okay, it's official. I'm confused.

"What's up with all the questions? What is it you think I haven't told you?"

"Oh, I don't know… something about… biting, maybe?"

It's not like Raina to be coy. "Biting? What about it?"

"Biting… as in marking?" She flutters her eyelashes like a Hollywood starlet. "And why didn't you tell me?"

Now I get it. "Someone has a big mouth," I growl, my voice low and dangerous.

"Yeah, well, he's pretty good with that mouth, so you'd better be nice to him."

"He shouldn't have told you."

"No, you should have. We've been together nearly a year, Nick. Did you really think I could love you if I didn't trust you?"

"You'd be trusting me with your life."

"I already have, several times. You've come through every time for me - and it's more than that." She shoves her face within an inch of mine. "I love you, you big doofus. Instead of pounding Gareth's ass, you might want to do something nice for him, because if he hadn't told me, I wouldn't be about to offer you my throat - and anything else you want."

My throat is dry. "You really mean that?"

She grabs me and kisses me hard. I can hear a smattering of laughs and applause behind us. "Get your ass back upstairs, fang-face. I'll get your blood and join you in a few." She releases me and walks to the bar, but turns back halfway. "And I want to see those fangs out when I open the door."

The violin solo from Danse Macabre alerts me to an incoming call.

"Hello?... Ah, Tourmaline, how delightful to hear from you! What may I do for you today?...A new vampire? Describe him, please. ...No, I know of no one who fits that description. ...Let me make some calls. ...Yes, I'll let you know what I've learned as soon as I may... No, not at all. It was good of you to call. Better safe... No, take no action till you hear from me. Yes. My thanks... Yes. Goodbye."

Scarcely has the first call ended before I punch in a second number. "Rufus? Magnus. ...Well, thank you, and yourself? And how is that young scamp of a niece of mine? ...Well, one is young but once. Something has just been brought to my attention. Have you made any recent additions to the clan? ...Ah. Then you should be aware that someone new is in town. ...No, to the best of my knowledge he's caused no trouble; still, I have but this moment learned of his existence. No - Dark could never pass for human, not now... You may want to be on your guard, just in case... Yes. I'll leave that to your discretion. Yes. ...Tell Angela hello for me. Thank you, I will. You, too... Goodbye."

I marvel at how long it can take to learn so little - then I punch in Tourmaline's number.

"Tourmaline? My contact knows nothing of your new vampire. Have you spoken with Nekron? He may know something of the fellow." I chuckle. "Yes, he can be somewhat intimidating to approach… perhaps you could speak to Lady Raina, then." My eyes go wide beneath the hood. "Oh, now that is good news indeed! My felicitations to Lady Pandora and your cousin. Yes. Yes, I believe I will visit, indeed. If  I may have a moment of your time while I am there, I have a proposition for you that may be to our mutual advantage. Yes. …I look forward to speaking with you then. Goodbye."

It is the work of a moment to swirl my cape into place, snatch up my cane and bellow upstairs.

"Naji, if you are ready…?"

"Raina." She turns to face Erik with a smile. "It would please me if you would marry us, sister. I'd like a traditional Viking wedding and you're the only one who'd know how - but there's more, too.

You are my sister and my friend. We searched for each other for seven hundred years. It seems right to have you bind my love and I together."

Raina swallows hard, forcing the tears back. “I would be honored, but you do realize that I am not a legal minister? You might want to ask Rowan to at least do the portion of it that makes it legal. What else do you guys want? Have you talked about anything yet?”

Noticing the blank look on Stars face Raina tries to explain some of their traditions to her. “We'll get it worked out, dont worry. And its not like everything is set in stone. Most weddings are just family and close friends with the wedding feast being quite a bit larger. Although Viking families tend to be pretty big...”

Star looks down at her hands and up at Raina, “I have family... and I want a small wedding anyway.”

“Okay, so small like the size of Alises wedding?” Raina asks, trying to get a feel for what Star wants.

Star shakes her head, “Smaller...”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure... jj..just us” and Star looks at Erik, Raina and Nick. “And Alise and Stoney. The babies if it isnt too cold.” Star starts to giggle, “And leopard, Tiger, Snake...”

Raina laughs, “There will be more animals than people...”

“Thats all right, I dont mind...”

Continuing with her questions Raina asks, “How about the wedding feast? There are a few specifics that are important, but how big do you want that to be? It is generally a bigger affair than the wedding...”

Star looks at Erik and says “I dd...dont care how big that is. However Erik wants it is fine.”

Erik and Raina smile at each other, remembering other feasts they had attended in the past. Some would last for days and end only when the mead ran out and no one could do anything but crawl for home. “So if its all the usual crowd here, the gars, the riders, shifters, thats going to be okay?”

Star nods and Raina looks at Erik. “Okay with you brother?”

Erik smiles and nods, “Remember it has to be on a Friday...”

Raina nods, “Anything else? How soon?”

'We have to wait a couple of weeks, so Pandora will feel better and at least join us to eat. If thats all right...” Star glances from Raina to Erik.

Everyone agrees that sounds perfect and glasses are raised for toasts.

Ob's anquish is not unnoticed. I can feel her contractions through Ob's connection. I send him comfort and reassurances that Pandora is not doing anything any other woman of the Romanavich has not done. I share his joy as Chloe is lain in his arms, and assure him I will be there before the night is gone. I smile and shift, rising to put my book away. Mortuis looks up from his notes.

"Mi amor..." I kiss him gently, breathing in his energy's aroma. "Pandora has brought a little girl into the world. I must attend my cooza for a bit. I also wish to see the child. If she is anything like her papa, she will be a handful."

I kiss him again. "Do you work this night? Or will you come with me?"

I blow him a kiss and head to the room where my things are stored. I do something I would not do elsewhere. I concentrate, letting my essence become mist and move into my old bottle. A feeling of apprehension rises through me and I watch the top, even though I know no one here would trap me.

I push down the feeling and grab the things I need. In moments I am taking my true form and stripping out of the clothes I have worn all day. My fingers trail over silk kaftan as I hang it up for a moment. Still in bra and panties, I bend over the bed, checking the silver needles and ointments in my roll. I tie it shut and move it to the dresser beside my hair clips.

The kaftan glides over my body with a feather's touch. The midnight blue silk draws out highlights in my black waves. The embroidered belt settles on my hips and I sit to tug on my boots. As I arrange my hair and put on my coin and gem jewelry, I run over any other preparations in my mind.

All I need to do is pack the small bag with the piercing kit and I will be ready to leave.

One of the demifae alights on the edge of Keon's table. It hums happily, swinging its feet. Keon continues to eat, waiting for the wee one to get to its point. Keon hides a smile, thinking about how hard it is sometimes to tell the males from the females.

"I know a secret...." The words come out singsong and Keon hides a smile.

"Demifae know many secrets."

"That we do, Dark Lord Blackthorn."

Keon watches the demifae, putting down his burger. "Is this secret related to why I enlisted your troop?" His accent is gone, lost in the sudden racing of his thoughts.

The grin disappears from the fae's face. "I know one for that too."

"Ah, so we have good news and bad news. Which would you tell to me first?"

Keon rests his elbows on the table, resting his chin on his interwoven fingers. He cocks his head to one side, watching the demifae. It flits upwards, landing on its feet. Suddenly it drops to one knee before Keon.

"Report, Lord Blackthorn..." It looks up at him and shakes its head. "I am afraid we have lost a man. Truant and two others followed the Morgan as ordered. They found where the Seelie's bones are hidden. Alas, we lost one of the three. They infiltrated the living spaces." It shakes its head. "Truant was too late to save Stinger. He got caught, by one of the Sidhe's servants. He wouldn't talk, even after She - " The small creature shudders. "She stole his wings, M'Lord. When he would not talk, she starved him, and when still he said nothing, she stole his life."

The demifae bends its head, quiet for a moment. It looks up at Keon, a fierce expression on its face. "Stinger will be avenged. Truant is having the body taken to the Glen."

It pauses a moment. "She lied to the Knight. His lover is not beneath her floor. The bones lie in a wooded space within her compound."

It looks up at Keon and grins, sharp teeth gleaming in an evil smile. "Report two, M'Lord. The ones whose faces were sketched by the fair Lady Star have had a visit from the Dark Lords. They are on the run, Hell Hounds enjoying the chase. Lord Twill wants to know if they are to bring them to... Justice, or if the Lady and her Warrior would do the meting out?"

Keon closes his eyes, thinking. "That, my wee friend, I will discuss with said Warrior and Lady." His lips twitch, creating a small smile. "And what news have you that brings gladness to the world?"

The demifae rises on a blurr of wings. "You know that the halfbreed Gargoyle and his Witch have brought their child into the world." It pouts a moment. "Miko and Rachal will let no other demifae in the room." Its wings buzz in agitation. "They say no gifting until the Romanavich Rider has come to visit."

Keon nods. "There is a tradition among the Romanavich. We will respect that. Understood?"

The fae nods, then breaks into a grin and darts closer. "Lady Star has accepted the Warrior as her own. She is going to marry the ancient human."

"Good and happy news indeed. Send word to Twill I will answer as soon as I discuss his question with those involved. Now is not the time to ask. Now is the time to honor such a binding. As for Stinger, I will send an emissary to the Glen with Our condolences. Truant is to be very careful, and scout out wards and traps around the bones."

The fae accepts honey from Keon's plate and dances away on a draft. Keon shakes his head when the new waitress offers him more coffee. he stops her as she starts to move on, asking her to let Erik and Star know he wishes a moment of their time, when they are not busy. The shifter nods, moving on.

I've been in my room waiting for Star till it feels like the walls are closing in. I need some fresh air.

I leave Star a note, then lock up the room. Maybe I'll get a beer before I come back….

Raina and Nick are lounging by the bar as I come downstairs and Raina waves me over.

"Hey, I understand congratulations are in order," Nick says. "Have a beer on me." 

This is Nick?

"Are you feeling all right?"

"Look, we had a bad night, okay? I can get past it if you can. Truce?" And he offers his hand.

I take it. "Truce."

Raina grins. "It's a start. Now, Nick, didn't you say something about a beer?"

He grins, flashing fangs. "What'll you have, bro?"

Star heads down the stairs looking for Erik. She wanted to let Pandora and Ob have some privacy with Chloe so they could bond as a family. She told Pandora she would check on her later and had her cell if they needed anything. She wanted to tell Erik that they would have to stay here tonight, in case Pandora or Ob called for her.

She moves slowly down the steps, always a little wary about who might be around. She sees Raina and Nick and Erik is sitting with them. He waves her over to their table and she sees Raina smiling ear to ear.

As she gets to the table Raina stands and grabs her, pulling her close, “Congratulations. There is no one else that I would want as my sister.”

Star returns the hug, smiling, “Thank you..I love you, Raina.”

“Same here. And if he's ever a jerk, just let me know. I'll kick his ass for you”

Star laughs, “He wont be a jj..jerk..”

“He better not” and Raina winks at her. “But there is someone you need to talk to. Rowan is sitting at the bar with Traeger. Maybe you should go tell her before someone else does. News travels fast around here and I know she thinks of you almost like a daughter. She would want to hear the news from you.”

Rowan was sitting at the bar with Traeger enjoying a whiskey and just relaxing. She had been on the run for days, her skills much in demand. It felt good to just sit back and not worry about things for a little while.

She looks over when she feels a gentle tug at her sleeve and sees Star standing next to her. “Goddess, you move so silently, I didnt know you were there. Is anything wrong?”

Star shakes her head, “No, everything is fine. I www...wanted to tell you something.”

She holds up her hand to show Rowan the ring, “Erik wants to mm..marry me..”

Full of happiness for Star, Rowan slips off her barstool and wraps Star in a huge hug. “This is such good news! I am so happy for you both. Have you guys decided when or any of the details?”

Star shakes her head, “Not yet...” and before she can lower her hand, Mya flits down from the rafters and does a little dance on top of Stars hand. Star laughs at her antics, then Mya floats up to Stars cheek and kisses her before quickly returning to her spot in the plants on the rafters.

As Stars gaze returns from the ceiling she sees Keon watching her and the little fairy, a slight smile on his face. Star returns the smile but is too shy to approach him by herself.

“Well it seems even the fairies approve.” Rowan hugs her again. “We have much to celebrate tonight. An engagement, a healthy babe. We are truly blessed by the goddess' gifts.”

After visiting for a few minutes Star excuses herself and returns to Erik. He pulls her onto his lap and wraps his arms around her. “Still happy Princess?”

Star nods and smiles, “oh yes, very, very happy...”

I'm tempted to just fly down the stairs, but so far only Raina has seen me do that, and I don't want to cause a panic; so I settle for vaulting over the banister about six steps from the bottom and touching down lightly. Raina is all smiles tonight and I think she's never looked lovelier. I gather her into my arms and kiss her soundly, to the general amusement of the taproom.

"Hello, gorgeous. What's the big grin about?"

She squeezes me hard enough to crack ribs - if I was human. "Erik's getting married! I'm going to have a new sister, and I love her already!"

I crease my brow. "Okay, don't tell me, let me guess… One of the gar girls, maybe?"

She punches my shoulder. "You wait. Some day I'll put alum in your blood and you'll starve to death."

"What, it's not one of the gar girls? Then… oh! it must be Star!"

"Brilliant. I just saw Alise and Stoney rushing upstairs. I think we may have a new addition to the family."

"Wow… we keep this up, we'll have to build a church so they'll all have a place to roost."

She punches my shoulder again.

"Ow! Easy, Supergirl! I may be dead, but I still feel pain!"

"Awwww, poor baby…" She kisses my shoulder and looks up at me with wicked eyes. "So tell me, Nick, isn't there something you need to tell me? About vampires?"

Now my look of puzzlement is real. "No… don't know of anything you'd need to know that I haven't told you."

She gives me those eyes again. "Hmmm... you sure about that?" And then she's waving. "Erik! Over here!"