Monday, February 28, 2011

We stop for a rest and I slip from Ranger's back, then help Inari from her horse. One hand glides from her waist up her back; she shivers and turns to look at me.

"I didn't really need the help - but thank you."

We lead the horses for a while, not speaking... her hand clasped in mine, and I wonder if this - all of this - is a dream. Her eyes are downcast, impossible to read, but there's an almost shy smile on her face.

Suddenly I turn and drop to one knee before her, still holding her hand. My heart is pounding so hard it hurts. "Milady Inari," I say, pressing my lips to her palm, "I - I scarcely know how to ask. You have a reputation that can be intimidating, especially to a common soldier, and a mercenary at that."

"Torin," she says, smiling. "Don't you know by now that rank means nothing to me? As far as I am concerned, you are Torin, I am Inari, and everything else is meaningless. Now stand up, for gods' sake, you look ridiculous."

I rise slowly and the back of one hand lightly caresses her neck and face.

She sucks in her breath sharply. "Gods, Torin…." She grabs my hand and I notice she's shaking, just slightly….

"Inari…" My voice sounds rough and hoarse in my ears. I can say no more, but I lean in and brush my lips against hers. She moans and her hand cups the back of my neck, holding me close. The kiss deepens, firms; her mouth is fierce and hot on mine and she grips my hand tightly. "More." The word is a groan and a demand. Our tongues duel, tasting one another, hunger rising, hands now caressing, bodies pressing tight, grinding into each other. Unmindful of the openness of our surroundings, we touch and kiss and bite, caresses becoming hotter, more intimate, till we're shaking with need.

"Here, Torin," she moans. "Right here, right now. I want you inside me."

That's all it takes. Clothing is tugged aside, discarded, skin finding skin, hot and pulsing. Her hands grips me, squeezes hard, wringing a gasp from me. I suck a hardened nipple, nipping fiercely, one hand moving between her legs, two fingers thrusting deep, feeling the heat and wetness of her. There's no need for foreplay, not now, there is only this primal need that threatens to consume us both. Inari lies back on the springy grass, feet planted firmly on the ground, knees spread wide.

"Gods, Torin, take me - take me!"

I go to my knees, grasp her hips and thrust deep. Gods…! She's so hot, so tight! The last barrier falls - no longer soldier and ambassador, merely man and woman and this sublime, intoxicating madness….

We pound into each other, taking what we want, hard and animalistic. Dimly I can understand - now - that this isn't all me, that she needs this too, this passion, this release… and then I cease to think, merely acting, slamming deep, moaning and gasping, sweating and groaning, writhing and screaming until the orgasm roars through us, making us shake and jerk and cum, over and over and over, bodies entangled… gods! like a hot wind….

We lie there for several moments, catching our breath, content in each others' arms…. Rationality slowly returns and we realize that we're naked in the middle of the Unformed Plane, one of the most dangerous places in a dozen worlds or more, and we get dressed, keeping a wary eye on our surroundings.

Dressed and armed again, Inari arches an eyebrow at me and smiles. "I think we need to find a more private place next time - but I'm not sorry." Her hand reaches to cup my neck and she kisses me hard. "And we'd better find a place soon…."

The band of Shifters is playing the last song of the night, a slow song that closes their show. The dance floor barely has room to move. There is an air of celebration, the feeling that a great weight has been lifted. It isn't just her own feelings, but the essence of the magic around her as well. It's almost as if people know that Morgan is dead.

Tori is in the room they have been using as an office, typing up a note to Mortuis about the change in the energy and the fact that two of Morgan's creeps were put down in the back alley earlier in the evening. A Hell Hound had walked out of the corner shadow and nudged Torrent. The Brownie put a hand on its head, looked in its eyes, then rose and walked out with the creature, Guunnar and Twillon on his heels.

Ike had gone over to take plates, but Twillon's demifae friend had stopped her from clearing the table, saying they would be back to finish. She had refreshed their beers, and talked to Monty about the fae's request for a sliver of raw steak. He had merely nodded and cut it from a fresh steak, taking it to her himself.

The men returned in about twenty minutes, asking Tori to join them. She had sat with them for a few minutes, and then motioned for Patti, Monty and Ike to follow her to the office. When Tori told them about the two Fae, she asked them to keep it under wraps. Ike knew none of them had betrayed the confidence. The two had claimed they were coming for a reckoning. Well, they reckoned wrong.

Ike listens as Twillon talks to Monty about a new diet for his friend Weebit. It looks like she needs proteins, not just from fruits and nuts, but from meat as well. Something about the grafts and her lack of proper nourishment when she was captive on the Unformed Plane.

Suddenly the lights come up and people start gathering their things to go. Twillon cradles his friend, mounting the stairs deep in conversation with Torrent. Guunnar heads out the door with a group of young women. She doesn't miss the look he throws to the office door. Ike smiles and begins helping Patti and the two waitresses clean tables as Monty starts washing glasses.

The Unformed Plane - Day Six

Drai has been following the beast's spoor for the last three hours. That's what he calls it, "spoor". I dunno... sounds kinda nasty to me. "Excuse me, sir, are you aware you're leaking spoor?" "I am? Eeewwww, gross!"

Anyway, whatever it is, he's following it....

And then - HOLY SHIT! - it's right in front of us. Eight feet tall, covered with coarse orange - ORANGE! - fur, with a ring of bony protrusions encircling its neck. Massive lower jaw studded with fangs, piggy little eyes ringed with what looks like - I shit you not - aquamarine eye shadow, and smelling like a randy polecat that just rolled in a nice fresh pile of coyote shit. (Thank you, Stephen King!)

It crouches and roars, looking like a cross between the wolfman and a pissed-off Wookie, except Chewie never had an eighteen-inch hard-on as thick as my bicep. I fight back my first impulse (to scream like a little girl and run like hell in any direction, so long as it's AWAY) and bring the shotgun to my shoulder, sighting on the massive chest. The gun kicks and roars and the thing bellows as the iron eats into its flesh. I follow up with a second shot while my ears are still ringing from the first. It hits in the same place and blood explodes from deep within - the candy-apple red of heart's blood - drenching the orange pelt. It sways on its feet, trying to find the breath to roar defiance, and I ready the gun for another shot; but the iron made cheesecloth of its lungs, and it crumples without uttering a sound.

For a moment there's dead silence; then a great swelling roar goes up from the whole safari and I'm being passed overhead from hand to hand like a box of Cracker Jacks, feeling faint and trying really hard not to puke on the nice people....

Pandora sinks against Ob's chest as he holds them tight against him... he's okay; he woke and talked to them... Chloe coos softly to her father... not aware yet that he has drifted off again. Pandora finally lets go... there has been a tension in her shoulders that she could not free till she knew her husband was really himself. She surrenders to the sleep that has been evading her, her last glance of her sleeping daughter with her hand resting on her fathers chest... tomorrow we go HOME.....

The door opens slowly, barely letting in light from the hall. Tara and Tomas move in their sleep as their mother smooths their blanket. Stoney watches, concerned at the fatigue in her mind, the droop of her shoulders. He rises quietly and wraps his arms around her from behind. Alise leans back into his embrace closing her eyes.

"You need to rest Mon Chaton. It is not good for you or Sarah to be so exhausted. Now that Raina is doing better, it is time to take care of yourself and the baby."

He helps her undress, tucking her in bed and curling around her. His body slowly warms hers. "Ob is resting, no longer beyond our touch. He plans on taking his family back to the Tavern tomorrow night. Voulez-vous rentrer à la
maison, retour à la petit maison?"

Alise snuggles back against her husband, wriggling for a better position. He groans as she rubs her shapely bottom across his growing hardness. Alise reaches between her legs and eases him inside, moaning softly. The rhythm of their bodies is slow and gentle, his fingers teasing her wet lips and taut bud until she whimpers for more. He brings her to a peak, rocking as she whispers for more. He rubs her clit between his thumb and finger until she bucks, exploding around him. Pressing deep, he groans, fighting for quiet. Still shuddering, they drift, enjoying each others touch.

*Do you want to go home, back to the cottage?

The Unformed Plane - Day Five.

Okay, fuck this shit. I'm tired, I'm sore, my feet hurt and anyone with any sense is staying well downwind of me. The fucking monster, whatever it is, shows every sign of leading us in circles for forty days and forty nights - or until we drop from exhaustion, whichever comes first.

Thank the Powers for Drai. I swear, I think he's part bloodhound - he'll come upon some spot that looks no different than eleventy billion other spots we've been and say, without a flicker of hesitation, "It came through here." And off he'll go with me following in his wake like a septuagenarian with lumbago in pursuit of God knows what.

I thought I was pissed at this thing before, friends and neighbors, but now - remember Bruce Willis, in the first Die Hard? "I'm gonna fuckin' kill ya, I'm gonna fuckin' cook ya, and I'm gonna fucking eat ya!"

I'm just about at that point....

And what the hell is Drai made of, anyway? He still looks fresh as a fucking daisy and I feel like hammered shit. More than once I've looked into those goddamn mists and considered visualizing a Taco Bell - but with my luck, the fucking tacos would try to eat me.

You lousy motherfucker... When I get my hands on you....

Gods, I'm tired....

Warmth seeps into the chilled darkness. Pandora's voice echos in his mind. Soft, gentle kisses urged him to "come back". Come back... from where? A smile touch follows Pandora's, like a tug in his hair. Papapapapapapapapapapa. Ob clutches at their voices, hanging on to the lifeline. His eyes slowly open, feeling the press of night edging into morning.

Pandora is watching him, tears slipping from her eyes as as he smiles. A small hand grips, catching in the scattering of hairs on his chest. He looks down with a wince. His fingertips stroke the multihued mop of curls, smiling down into pale blue eyes. His voice is hoarse as he whispers.

"*Buenas mañanas, mis amores."

He takes Pandora's hand, pulling it up to brush his lips across her palm. "I love you Bruha. I had to help. I had to answer the sword's pull, so I could come home to you both."  He looks around the room, noting the furnishings. "We are at the Manse?" Pandora nods, stroking his face and tangled mass of hair. " Mi amor... Tomorrow night when I wake, we leave, go home. I will thank mi cooza and her sorcerer for their hospitality. Then, Mujer... then we go home."

He sighs, holding them in his arms. "Just a few more hours, then I go to stone for the day. Goddess... I..." His eyes close, dropping him into a light, dreamless sleep.

*Good morning, my darlings.

The night is fast passing. Weebit is resting in their room and Twillon sits in the taproom, catching up with Torrent and Guunnar. He shakes his head over the news of Mera's birth and Cassie's murder.

"Weebit will be upset. She liked Cassandra. Couldn't get over the fact that Keon had found someone who wasn't afraid of him, besides Silk of course."

He swirls the amber liquid, tipping the pilsner to take a drink. "Well Morgan is dead. Her minions are being hunted throughout Faerie. Herne has Hunters tracking here as well. Goddess knows, there has been enough pain in the lives of people here."

Ike brings another beer, topping off Guunnar's mug. His eyes follow Tori as she talks to the current band's soundman. They are arguing about something. "Du tink I need to gib Tori help?"

Ike shakes her head. "Do that Guunnar and she will hurt you."

The big man nods, watching Tori. "She ist... Ach, she ist fire to mein ice. Ve vould not be gut for each oder."

Twillon laughs as Ike hands Torrent a note. The Brownie smiles, thin lips pulled tight in a grin.

"Grace is returning to the Gallery tomorrow."

Pandora played quietly with her daughter as time passed and Obsidian slept on... finally after nursing again, Chloe drifted to sleep with her head nestled against her father's neck.

Pandora watched their quiet breathing until she was convinced that Ob was indeed just sleeping; and not in any grave danger... she drew a blanket up over them and nestled beneath it herself, before gently kissing her daughter's brow and stroking her husband's cheek she drifted to sleep....

Keon isn't sure what woke him. The night was clear and still, the only sound the waves lapping on the shore. Ron was sleeping, his breathing even and quiet. Keon shivers, the night suddenly seems cold.

His eyes move to the edge of the dock. A blue mist is slowly swirling and seems to be beckoning. He sits up and watches for a moment, then stands and moves towards the blue haze. At times it seems to be taking form then dissolves again, ever swirling and moving. He approaches slowly, not daring to hope, but barely breathing, anticipation making his heart beat faster.

When he stops close to the mist Cassie steps out of it. Her smile is wondrous, and Keon breathes in her scent, Cassandra....

“Ke, my love, how are you? Sleeping with shifters now?” She asks teasingly, looking past him to Ron curled up in his blankets.

“Goddess lass, I miss ye so much. I hae nae a moon in my night now...”

“I miss you too and you have Mera, who will be beautiful as the stars.”

Keon chokes at Mera's name, his heart filled with love for his little one. “Have ye seen her Cassie? Such a sweet lass she is. So much her ma, with a wee bit of me.”

“She is. You picked the best person to care for her. Star loves her as she would her own.” Cassie looks over her shoulder, “I have to go. I'll be with you always Ke. When you have need, beloved, call to me and I will come.....I love you Ke. Stay in Meras life, no matter what you decide. She will be a great joy to you...”

“Cassie, mela, *Is tú mo ghrá...” Keon closed his eyes and let the warm loving feelings from Cassie surround and caress him. He could smell the fresh water scent of her, hear her soft voice.

When he opened his eyes Cassie and the blue mist was gone.

"^Mo ghrá ... mo ghealach ... Tá mé caillte gan tú sa dorchadas."

Her voice is soft, barely heard. "There is a Star in the night, and her reflection is in the heart of our daughter. There are worse guardians than Star and Erik."

There is the slightest touch, faintest scent of fresh water. Keon bows his head and lets the tears fall.

The Unformed Plane - Day Three

My sojourn with the people of this strange region continues. Having failed in my attempt to capture or destroy Morgan (though that later came to pass without my personal intervention), I am now intent on coming to grips with the creature that wounded Raina. The wily beast has eluded me for the better part of two days, but the Wildfae are famous trackers, and I make no doubt but that the time will come....

In the interim, my stay here has not been too onerous. Several of the locals have condescended to serve as beaters and gunbearers; and not a few of the women here have been good enough to demonstrate for me, once we were encamped for the night, why their people are referred to as the "Wildfae".

One, in fact, waits upon my leisure even as I pen these words by one of the strange witch-lights that these people seem able to produce at will....

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more... for England, for Harry, and for St. George!

Hours later Raina opens her eyes and looks up at Nick.

“Hi...” she whispers.

Nick kisses her forehead and runs a hand over through her hair. “Hi... how are you feeling? You've been sleeping for awhile now.”

“My leg aches... and I'm thirsty. Whats this?” She lifts her arm and her gaze follows the tubing from her hand to the IV pump and the bags hanging above that.

Alise wanders over from the chair she had been dozing in. She takes Rainas hand and says, “Good... you're awake. I will go get you something to drink from the kitchen.”

Raina nods and watches as Alise leaves the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. “I take it we are back at the Manse.” Nick nods and she continues, “The last thing I remember is riding and thinking the horse was going too fast for some reason..”

“Well, he wasnt and you passed out and fell off. Ky tried to catch you... Apparently you picked up some infection in the gash on your leg. Rowan cleaned it out and started all that...” he points to IV pump. “You look better though. You were really sick when we got you here. Rowan said you would need that for a day or two....”

Raina nods, “Okay. You dont have to stay with me. Must be pretty dull watching me sleep.”

“You stayed with me when I was poisoned. I'm not going anywhere and you arent dull, even sleeping.”

Smiling sleepily Raina asks, “Is everyone back from Faerie? Anyone else hurt?”

“Everyone is back. Ob is suffering from exhaustion but no other injuries that I have heard of. Gareth talked to the old man and has K'thyri staying with him. And Alise wouldnt leave until she felt you were all right. Thats all the news I have.” Nick grins and grabs a calloused hand, needing to feel her close.

“Ky is with Gareth? I think there might be more going on with those two than just fuck buddies.”

Nick nods, “I agree. I cant believe he asked Mortuis if she could stay...”

Right then Alise knocks softly on the door and comes in carrying a small tray. She sets it near the bed and hands Nick a mug of hot chicken broth. “Help her with this. The other one has apple juice. Rowan said if this stays down you can have real food in the morning. I am going to bed now..”

Raina laughs quietly, “Now that you are convinced I am not dying?”

“You tease even when you are sick. What am I to do with you?” Alise kisses Rainas cheek, “Je taime ma souer. We can talk tomorrow.” She leans over Raina and kisses Nick on the cheek, “Bon soir.”

Slipping into the darkness, he closes his eyes and wills another shape. Moments later a large Hell Hound trots into the deeper shadows and is gone.

The boathouse is much as it has been. Nothing is out of place, but there is the pervasive scent of Morgan in the bedroom and other rooms, clear evidence that she was there. Keon throws open the windows and door to let in the night breeze. There is a scratch at the door and he watches as Ron peeks around it. At his nod, the werefox slips inside.

"You aren't sleeping here, are you?"

Keon looks around, and steps outside. "I guess nae. I intended to."

Keon leans on the railing, watching the small swells in the lake. Ron leaves the boat, returning moments later with two bedrolls.

"I've been sleeping in the woods, watching for any return of her people. So have some of the others. A few came looking for her, but left real quick... or not at all." The young man smiles, a slow vicious grin.

Ron busies himself unrolling the bags. "I figured we could sleep out here and get a start on cleaning in the morning. What do you say? You look beat, man." Keon stares out at the lake and nods. "By the way, the old sea hag came by. She said she would return."

Keon nods and lays down on one of the sleeping bags, his gaze never leaving the waters. Ron turns to watch the woods, knowing there were others out there, watching the shadows. In moments the two men slip into dreams.

When Keon and Stoney have left ; Pandora takes Chloe and places her in the middle of the bed next to Ob; and then lays down beside her... her hand caressing Obsidian's face. He stirs in his sleep and Chloe coos and touches his face with her small hand...he sighs; as if knowing his girls are beside him, and a wave of love sweeps over them... Chloe squeals... "shhh chica, you will wake papa..and he is very tired"... Pandora touches her daughter's face and she quiets and turns to her mother, eyes intent as she reads her mother's concern over Ob.

One would have to have the heart of a troll not to feel for Keon. The man is trying to put aside his personal feelings and do what's best for his daughter. I wonder... Gods forbid, but if I ever had to make such a nightmarish choice, could I do as much?

"Keon - may I see you out?" He nods and I fall into step beside him. "I know you need time to yourself now - time to grieve for your loss; time to take thought for the future. Take as long as you will, my friend. We will care for Mera for as long as you like; I think you know she will be well-treated. And if there's anything else either of us can do to help, you have only to ask."

He nods heavily, his footsteps leaden. At the door he stops, his eyes wet, and clasps my hand. "May the gods smile upon yerself for what ye hae already done, Erik."

As he turns to leave, Keon pauses. "She is a lass of many gifts, Erik, an she wears her heart in her eyes." His gaze drifts back up the hall. "Bright blue and pink are colors I hae nae seen afore. What do they mean?"

"Blue means she's happy," I say softly. "Pink is for love."

"Lady Star...?"

His voice is soft, although his eyes are fixed on his daughter. "Do nae get her things. I fear I am in nae shape to care for her as well as ye can. If it would be no bother, can ye watch her for a few more days? I have a few things to do at the houseboat."

He raises his gaze to Erik and Star. There is a lost look to his eyes, pain that is not hidden as well as he would like. "I am nae sure... I need to..." He lowers his eyes to Mera, rocking her gently in his arms. Star stares at him for a moment, eyes flashing as they swirl with her emotions. Bright blue surprise melts to affectionate pink as she looks at Mera. She nods slowly.

Keon lays Mera gently in her cradle. Head held straight, Keon nods to the couple, then walks out, closing the door quietly behind him. He leans against the wall and silently curses at himself for the pain he strives to overcome.

Star looks serious when she tells Keon that Raina would be fine. “Rowan is here and started treatment for her. She is sleeping now...”

“And how has Mera been? She hasna been a problem?”

Star smiles, “Oh no. She's been fine, perfect. She's so sweet....” Star opens the door and leads Keon to the cradle.

Keon takes in the surroundings in a glance. Star had moved the cradle right by her bed. There was a small table on the other side of the cradle. A few baby things, a nightlight shaped like a crescent moon sat on top of a lacy doily. But it was the small painting that caught his eye. He stills, face going blank as he picks up the small portrait. Star must have painted it, no other he knew of had such talent. It was Cassie, sitting on the dock in the moonlight holding Mera close to her. Star had captured that look of wonder and love on Cassies face perfectly, it was as if she had been there to see it.

Star sees the pain in Keons eyes as he stares at the painting. “I'm ss...sorry. I could only imagine how much Cassie loved her, how could she not? Mera is so precious. I didnt want Mera to forget her... so I painted that. I am sorry if I over-stepped... I didnt mean....”

Her words are stopped by Keon placing a hand on her shoulder and shaking his head. "Ye did better than ye think. 'Tis perfection."

Star gently scoops Mera up, lifting her out of the cradle. The little one stretches in Stars arms and snuggles close to her not wanting to wake up.

“Mera, sweetie. Your da is here. He wants to see you...” Stars eyes fill with tears as she hands Mera to Keon.

“I can get her things together for you. I made her formula too...” Star tries to busy herself, not wanting Keon to see her tears. She knew it was going to be hard when Keon came to get Mera but she didnt expect to feel like her heart was breaking.

Erik steps in the door and greets Keon with a hand to the shoulder. He nods to the little one in Keons arms, “She's a sweetheart, Keon.”

Star looks up at Eriks voice and quickly looks away, but not before Erik sees the tears gathering in the soft gray eyes. He takes a step forward and pulls her into his arms and kisses the top of her head. “Pað vilja vera ágætur. þess ekki eins og þú vani sjá hana aftur.”*

Star nods, pulls away and starts to fold Meras blankets.

* It will be all right. its not like you wont see her again.

"Chloe,did you hear... papa is coming home"... the little girl in her arms coos and reaches up to her mother.

Pandora passes along to the others that Keon and Ob will be along shortly; it seems like forever since she has beheld Obsidian... and Twillon's remark about Ob sleeping disturbed her; he was not one to rest when he was on the verge of being home.

She knew from what the others said that he had indeed been the warrior he was meant to be... Allah's Light tight in his hand. That he had stayed behind with Keon to heal with the blade told her the grievous fighting that must have occurred before Morgan's demise. She was proud he could help others with his gift... but had it taken a toll on him, other than just exhaustion?

She knew her questions would be answered soon; but she listened with the others at the doorway... anxious to know what Raina's wound would take to heal. Knowing that Chloe would pick up on Ob as soon as he was close enough to connect with her... and she would sense him shortly after; but she was hesitant to leave until that time, lending her support to Alise and the others.

One of Mortuis' people opens the gates as the truck stops. Keon drives through, keeping half an eye on Ob. He is out cold, not stirring at all since they dropped Twillon off at the Tavern. If it weren't for his chest moving, Keon would have wondered if the man had passed away.

Keon nudges Ob awake. Pandora waits by the door, Chloe in her arms. They are both quiet, watching as Stoney lifts his brother from the seat to bring him inside. She holds the door wide, worry plain on her face. Keon follows, nodding to Pandora as he takes the door to let her follow the Gargoyles.

Star is in the hallway with Erik. Keon pauses in a shadow, waiting for them to pass him by. He has made a few decisions about what would be best for his Mera. Now he wonders if his plans are truly best for her. They head for the stairs, talking about Raina's condition.

He follows slowly, keeping well back. Pandora's door is open, and he slips inside, watching Stoney telling Pandora it is a mixture of exhaustion and the Fae Realm's natural magic messing with his body's normal schedule.

Jet Lag... Gargoyle style.

Keon tells Pandora how Ob spent his time among the wounded, being pulled from one bed to another, following the sword's lead. Ob had felt compelled to finish what he could, leaving the infections to the Healers. He had wanted to help Raina, but the crossing took what little energy he had.

Slipping out of Pandora's room, Keon is lost in thoughts about Mera. He leans against the wall, closing his eyes and breathing deep. An image of Cassandra standing on the docks, Mera nestled in her arms, flashes into his mind. He forces the rest of the memory away before it can go any further. Opening his eyes, he comes face to face with Star.

"Ye startled me, lass. Ye have a soft step. How is Mera, and Raina?"

This is a little unnerving. The black hood does little to inspire confidence in the wearer, and then no one seems to know much about him. I've heard him described as a sorcerer... Nick calls him "the old man", which means than he's older than Nick himself, at nearly 150 years old… and the shifters call him "The Right Hand of Death". Is it any wonder I'm nervous?

On the other hand, he's never-failingly courteous, his courage is beyond dispute, and his knowledge of esoteric matters seems to be encyclopedic.

And so far as I know, he's never killed and eaten an elf.


He stands at the gate, looking as casual as I suspect he's capable of looking. A rapier hangs at his hip, but his hand isn't near the hilt. I drop to one knee as I approach.

"Sieur Mortuis," I begin. "I crave the boon of hospitality, for myself and my companion, K'thyri."

The eyes behind the hood show a hint of sardonic amusement. "Companion, is it? Still… granted, sir, for as long as it may be required."

The ride back is not easy. Ob barely sat his mount, looking as if he would fall off any minute. A pair of fighters escort them to the Crossing, ready to take the borrowed mounts back with them once Ob and Keon were safely across the Veil.

A cu' sith trots down a converging path. It sniffs once, turns and yips. A thud of hooves announces another rider. Pale hair flowing, Twillon canters his mount out of the trees. The green hound shakes his shaggy head and barks once. In moments it is gone, blending with the dark foliage. Twillon grips Keon's hand in greeting.

"My Brother... What can..."

Keon shakes his head. "There is nothing to do Twillon. Cassie is gone. My Moon was taken, and Morgan has paid." His voice is quiet, very controlled.

"What about," Twillon stops at a look from Keon. "What about Obsidian? He looks ready to pass out."

Keon smiles. "He did his Race proud. His wielding of Allah's Light has saved many who would be meeting the Gods, and gave a chance to many who were almost naught but Spirit." He looks at Gateway. "What say you, Twill? Ready to return to the Human Realm?"

Twillon opens the basket mounted before him. Tork blinks up at the light, opening his wings to shelter Weebit. "Ready to go back to the Tavern, Honey Girl?" Weebit nods. "Aye. I think we are."

The Veil shimmers and they slip through into early evening. The borrowed Fae horses cross back and Ob is helped into the passenger's side of Ike's truck. Twillon stows the basket in the rear seat of the cab, speaking quietly to his mount. It drifts into the shadows and is gone. Twillon slides into the back seat and takes Ob's cell, calling Pandora as the truck rolls along the gravel road.

"Ob and Keon are on their way. They are dropping me off at the Tavern first. I need to get Weebit settled comfortably. No... Ob is asleep. They will see you all soon."

The Infirmary tent is filled to capacity. A second tent is set off to the side. Worst cases, acording to a healer, are there. Keon holds the flap aside, and as Ob steps in a Brownie moves in front of him. She tries to force the pair out, but a Healer whispers to her. The woman stares first at Ob, then at Keon, and bows out of the way.

"Apologies, Lord Blackthorn, I did not know you bring a Healer from the other side of the Veil."

Keon looks at her and nods slightly. She moves backwards, scuttling out of the way. Ob drifts into the tent. His eyes are vacant as he sings softly. Allah's Light glows softly in his hand. He pauses by one bed. On the bed is one of the Wyldfae. Ob touches the tip of his sword to the worst of the man's wounds. It begins to knit closed. He touches other wounds, then drifts to another bed as the first man's wounds softly glow. He bypasses three beds in the whole tent, then moves past the medical staff who have gathered to watch.

The main tent holds fighters less seriously wounded. Ob drifts through the tent, touching someone here and there. One man draws away, but Keon whispers in his ear. The man stills, gripping the edge of his bed until Ob moves away. He pants, then touches the fresh skin over his abdomen, staring after Ob with wide eyes. Another warrior kneels beside a bed, watching as Ob approaches. When he turns away from the female fighter, he shouts at Ob to help her. Voice distant, Ob sings softly that the infection is not something he can help. The shallow wounds will heal, but the infection is what holds her just this side of death. He drifts away as the man breaks into sobs. A fae rushes out of the tent, seeking the Chief Healer.

Keon helps Ob from the tent. His body sags, blade now nothing more than steel. Keon wipes the blade carefully and sheathes it as Ob rests, head in hands. Once the blade is put away. Keon waits for Ob to breathe easier.

"My friend... Your blade is steel, yet it healed..."

Ob raises his head slowly. "It healed mortal wounds, not infection. It can knit flesh and bone, but it was meant to heal shapeshifters. We heal infections on our own. Our bodies burn them out. As for the steel but making the wounds worse? I leave that up to the Gods. Maybe Lord Herne understands it. I don't. Allah gives what He gives. I am but the Minstrel who does His will." He sighs deeply. "Let's go home Keon. Let's go see our girls."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rowan pulls into the manse and as she shuts off the engine the old van makes a horrible bang and smoke rolls out from under the hood.

Ah hell. At least I got here before it died. I will have to beg a ride home...

She opens the back door and takes out the plastic tote with supplies and a small cooler that she had placed the bags of IV antibiotics in. It was a good thing they had thought to send Miko ahead. He had given Mortuis a detailed description of the wound giving everyone some time to prepare.

A sylph leads her upstairs and everyone has gathered in the hall. Silk has wisely kept the women and babies out until Rowan has seen the patient and determined what they are dealing with. Star is in Eriks arms, Mera napping at the moment and Pandora is holding Chloe. Alise, on the other hand, is mad as hell and demanding to see Raina. Stoney stands to one side with both his wide-eyed little ones.

Rowan sets her totes down and pulls Alise into her arms. “Stop it now. You are upsetting yourself and the baby you carry for no good reason.... You know I will let you in as soon as I can. It sounds like just an infection of the wound, just let me make sure...”

Alise starts to cry but agrees. She moves a chair near the door. “I am not going anywhere until I can see her.”

Rowan looks at Stoney and mouths the word 'hormones'. Stoney grins and sings to the twins, covering his thoughts from Alise.

Rowan enters the room and greets Mortuis and Silk. Nick is sitting next to Rainas bed, his forehead wrinkled, concern for her condition very evident in his posture. Rowan lifts the towel covering the wound. Silk had already removed the old dressings and laid a towel under the leg and one on top.

Rowan wrinkles her nose up at the smell and the sight of the gash on Rainas calf. “Oh! This does look nasty. Lets get the IV started with some antibiotics and something for the pain. We will need to open that up and clean it out again. I hope you all have strong stomachs.”

Fortunate it is that I had posted some of the elementals on the gate, for had Miko flown into the wards at full strength, the world had known him no more. I was informed of his presence bare minutes before his arrival and reduced the "voltage" to a less-than-fatal level. Even so, I think it scorched his wings briefly….

I send a sylph ahead of me with word to Rowan to expect Raina shortly, and told her where to find us. Nekron lifts her as though she were the veriest of infants and bears her into the Manse, following my lead. Once we have her well bestowed, I examine the wound. It's bad, but I have seen worse. With proper care, it may even heal without leaving a scar. Still, those red streaks of infection… it is as well that they made haste.

Ky had been lost in thought as they headed through the realm and back to the gate. The day had turned dark with ominous clouds overhead threatening rain. She had been torn at first about what to do. She wanted to stay with Drai and she wanted to go with Inari, but something drew her to Gareth. Her brother would be fine and she always knew where to find him. Inari was going with Torin and Ky thought maybe if they were left alone they would get together. It was obvious they wanted each other. So she felt free to hang out with Gareth for awhile and she could lead them through the forest.

Her and Raina had ridden a bit ahead, the men talking about the battle and Morgans end. Ky was keeping a close eye on Raina, who was looking more ill as the day wore on.

Raina cant remember how long she has been in the saddle Her thoughts are scattered and unfocused, the horses movements causing endless pain. Water.. .I need a drink of water... why are we moving so fast... so fast....

Ky sees Raina nodding and looking like she is going to throw up. Her face was pale, and almost looked green. She was mumbling and starting to lean in the saddle when Ky pulled her horse next to Rainas.

“Hey! Are you all right?”

All Raina can do is shake her head. Before Ky has a chance to signal anyone Raina starts to lean dangerously off to one side. Ky tries to support her but Raina suddenly loses consciousness and her dead weight knocks them both off the horses and onto the ground.

Ky's horse, being well trained, stops immediately. Nick pulls up and leaps off his mount. “What the hell happened?”

“She passed out. I tried to catch her and pull her onto my horse... Damn, Nick, shes burning up. Feel...” Ky takes Nicks hand and places it on Rainas cheek.

“Fuck!” Nicks hands shake just slightly, he has never seen Raina sick. Upset, crying, drunk, mad as hell and ready to choke the life out of someone, but never ill and certainly not like this. “I can take her on my horse...” and as he moves to pick her up he sees the gash on her leg. Fire red and swollen, green and yellow pus dripping down her leg from a spot where a few of the stitches have torn open. He swallows hard, “When did this get so bad? Is it because we let her up for the gauntlet?”

Ky shrugs,“Infections caught in the Unformed Plane often come on fast and virulent. Where is the demifae? We need to send him ahead of us.”

Erik and Gareth pull their horses to a stop. Miko flits down to Raina and wrinkles his nose when he sees the wound. Gareth takes off a shirt and binds it over the dressings that have come loose from the fall.

Erik tells Miko, “Can you fly ahead? Tell Mortuis what has happened and tell him to send for Rowan.”

Miko nods and starts to lift but Erik stops him. “Miko... be sure to tell him that Ky is with us. I dont want her to get fried at the gates...”

The blood-matted scarecrow that staggers toward me is barely recognizable as Morgan Bloodmane, my living nightmare. I almost feel pity for her… almost, but Conal's face rises up before my eyes, demanding justice. My blade flickers out, just once… one quick slice across the throat, and Morgan falls, to rise nevermore.

"Let her lie where she fell," comes the Huntsman's voice. "Let the scavengers remove all trace of her wickedness from this world, that it may be seen no more. You have done well this day, avengers and justiciars in one. Let no lingering doubt taint your triumph; you have merely cut out a cancer, so that it spread no farther. I say you have done well; are there any who would dispute with me?"

He stands tall, holding his great spear, one hand resting casually on the hilt of his sword; and when there is no response, he begins to fade, until at last it is as though he was never there at all.

Ob wipes Silk's blade, then slowly sheathes it.

"I need to do something." He touches Allah's Light. "I need..." His gaze wanders, watching as fighters walk past.

Keon touches his arm. "Come Obsidian. I think there is some healing that needs your touch. I will escort you back when you are done, take a few ways that will cut a little of the time difference."

Miko hovers, staring at Ob's lost look. "What is wrong amigo?"

Herne answers, his voice is distant, fading as if the Hunt Lord has not completely left. "He feels the sword's pull. It is telling him that it has work to do."

Miko's wings stutter, causing him to dip in the air. Keon sees Miko's indecision.

"Miko, go back with the others. Let Pandora know Ob will return soon, and why. I promise to bring him back to her. I promise, we will both be back."

The demifae flits to Raina as Ob leaves. "He should work here. The others can wait."

Raina shakes her head. "There are others hurt much worse in the infirmary. I'll live. Let's go the hell home."

Two vials of blood. Fea had handed them to him as the Merkind took Cassie's body to the depths. Keon breaks the seal on one, coating his finger with the dark blue fluid. He slides the blood along the edge of his shortsword, watching it glisten in the sunlight. His Moon, his heart. Morgan will die with Cassie's blood burning in hers.

Morgan stumbles toward him, bloody and beaten by the hands and weapons of the others she has wronged. She recognizes him and shrieks, attacking, nails clawing for his eyes. He never moves, watching her from the cold void where he waits. She falters for a moment, but agony drives her as much as hatred and she launches towards him. His blade flashes, opening a gash across her waistline. She stops,looking down as blood drips from the wound.

"That is for my Mera, whose mother you took, and for every other child you stole from their parents."

She makes a sound, half snarl, half laugh. She raises a hand and takes another step towards the Dark Lord. Keon steps closer, driving his blade deep until he feels her body stop the hilt. He wraps an arm around her, ignoring her nails as they rake at his back and shoulders. His hand twists and he jerks the sword upwards. She gasps and he whispers in her ear.

"And this... this is for me... For taking the Moon from my Night Sky... For taking my Heart's blood, I give you a taste of my lover's."

Morgan stares at him then shudders as the bloods mingle. Her eyes glaze as her own blood begins to burn acid harsh in her veins. Keon steps back slowly, pulling the blade from her. He shoves her away and moves aside.

"Sir Gareth... She is yours."

One day I'm gonna have to pound Jack, just on general principles....

I extend a hand to Raina, help her get up without making her look weak; I know how she hates to feel helpless, and looking helpless would be nearly as bad. I get her into the line, then move to my position and call Johnny to my hand. K'thyri comes to stand by Raina, ostensibly just chatting but also providing needed support. Good girl.

I spare a glance for Morgan. She's made some effort toward cleaning herself up, gods know why. I wish I could read her face, but the expressions are too fast, too fleeting. Does she regret, I wonder, the actions that brought her to this place? Or does she only regret getting caught?

I look away with an effort. She's a predator; so am I. It took becoming a vampire to show me what I had been all along. I was never much of a one for regrets, though there are some; it always made sense to me to prey on those that wouldn't be missed, the rogues that would be culled from the herd anyway, if human society worked in any sane fashion.

Today we cull another, and good damn riddance….


Someone gives Morgan a shove and she begins to stagger-run between the lines of sudden death. Miko takes flight, his steel pin jabbing fiercely, over and over. Ob waits until Morgan is even with him and slashes Silk's scimitar across the backs of Morgan's legs. She stumbles, screaming at the burn of steel. Raina takes a swing and almost overbalances; K'thyri steadies her and Raina's backhanded cut takes Morgan across the chest, cutting deep, almost certainly nicking the pericardium. Erik hits somewhere between shoulder and neck and a great gout of blood goes up. Probably broke the collarbone, too…. I go with one quick surgical cut along the thigh, slashing the femoral artery.

There is a knock on the infirmary's door. A Healer peeks in and motions to Nyr.

"My Lord, a messenger comes from the Unformed Plane. The Sidhe, Morgan, has been captured."

The Healer closes the door, returning the room to quiet. Twillon looks up from his chair, blinking wearily. Nyr rests a hand on his shoulder.

"I thought you were sleeping, Ra'."

Twillon sighs, his voice stays soft as not to wake the sleeping Weebit. "Dozing. She is not having an easy time. The grafts aren't taking as well as the Healers expected." He shifts in his chair, avoiding Tork's tail. "There are rumors that a group from the Human Realm joined the battle." Nyr nods. "Any word who?"

Nyr settles in another chair, stretching his feet before him. "A Gargoyle. A Vampyre. Two Warriors, one a male, one female. They are brother and sister, I hear."

Twillon nods slowly, knowing who three of the four definitely were. The Gargoyle could be any one of the four sibs. "A demifae... it is said he is armed with a steel pin of some sort."

Twillon begins to laugh. "Miko."

Nyr raises a brow. "I gather you know him?"

Twillon laughs. "You could say that. We know all of the people you have mentioned so far."

"The rumors also say that they are in the company of two Sidhe. Both are looking for Bloodmane."

Twillon turns to look at Nyr. "Two? I know one would be Sir Gareth. He would want Bloodmane for his companions death. Any idea what they look like?"

"Sir Gareth? We thought he... What of young Conal?" Twillon shakes his head. "That is who Gareth would want..." Twillon nods. "Damn." Nyr sighs. "That would explain part of the rumor. One is a Bright Knight they say. The other is as dark as an Unseelie can be. There is speculation the other is the Dealg Drubh. This one hunts for the death of his lover." Twillon sits up, turning to face Nyr in shock.

"Cassandra is... dead?"

There is a gasp from the bed. Weebit is sitting up, hands covering her mouth.

"Twilllon, we have to go. We have to go back. Or go to Keon. Or, or..." Her almond eyes fill with tears.

Allah's Light rides comfotably in his large hand. His form wavers and soon the stone dragon is gone. In its place stands the tall, lean muscled, bohemian drummer that fell for the Tavern's keeper. He stands before The Lord of The Hunt, face grim, sword easily balanced.

"A boon, Lord Herne. That's all I ask. I will give up my place among the line if I can give her one cut before she is let loose. She is in so much pain now that no matter what any one does, she won't feel it. With Allah's Light I can heal her, just enough to let her feel what is coming her way."

The Hooded Lord nods slowly, His antlers rattle against a few low hung branches. He taps his fingers on the staff in his grip.

"Master Minstrel, could you heal her enough to give her, shall we say, almost perfect health? Return her beauty to her."

Ob peers into the shadowed hood. "Why? I mean I can, but why?"

Herne chuckles. "As you said young Gargoyle, so she can feel the full effect of her punishments."

The smile that creeps across Ob's features is dark and dangerous. "It will take a while, and I need her held or tied down. It will hurt."

Herne nods to his Riders. They follow the pair to where Morgan is being held. Her fight is short-lived and soon she finds herself bound to an overhanging branch. Herne has the clothes she has been wearing cut off her body. She begins to twist, snarling savagely as Ob eyes her wounds. He sings softly, the Romanavich words gathering strength, powering the healing properties of the sword. It glows and he touches its tip to her rotting flesh. Morgan howls as it burns. When he removes the blade, the flesh is whole, showing only the pale shininess of new skin.

The sun is just cresting the horizon as Ob finishes with the final wounds. Morgan sags in her bonds, panting from the pain. Herne's voice is cold as he talks to her.

"You have been healed for one reason only. So you will feel your punishment. Your beauty is returned, but it will not help you here." He turns to a Rider. "Find something to cover the Sidhe bitch. It is soon time to begin."

The day dawns bright and clear and I'm creaking in every joint. Thank the Powers this will be my last night of sleeping on the ground…. There's an impromptu breakfast, partly from the Nighthawks' rations, partly from things I don't want to think too closely on….

Looks like everybody got out his Sunday best for the execution.... Gareth is in full silver mail, with a surcoat and sword and everything. Someone found black mail for Nick, and a black surcoat with a red bat emblem on the chest. It reminds me of Hordak from the old She-Ra cartoons. I can feel a grin starting and Nick holds up a warning hand. "Not one word, Jack...."

"Who, me?," I ask indignantly. Then, under my breath as I move away, "To the Batcave, Raina...."

"I heard that."


After the meal, Herne stands and begins to outline his plans for the gauntlet. "Only those who have been directly affected by Morgan Bloodmane will take part in the gauntlet itself; the rest of you are witnesses. Gargoyle" - this to Ob - "stand you here on the right, and be the first to strike. Valkyrie - you on the left, to strike for your friend, and you, her brother, next in line, to strike for your wife. Vampire, you opposite him - and you, Master of the Hounds, and Knight of the Bright Court - you at the end, for the final strikes. You, Master Demifae - take your position where you will, and strike as often as you will. The rest of you, form a ring. Should Bloodbane attempt escape, strike at will, and you, my Riders" - this to Ramji and Dimitri - "be ready, should she break the ring, to hunt her down."

As soon as Ky gets back to camp she sees Nick and Gareth at the campfire, drinking coffee and talking with some of the other men. She decides this would be a good time to stop and see how Raina is doing.

As K'thyri enters the healers tent she sees Raina stumble and catch herself as she tries to get out of bed and get some clothes on.

She hurries to the cot and puts a supporting arm around Rainas waist. “Here, let me help. Are you sure you should be getting up? Your leg....”

Raina silences Ky with a shake of her head. “I have to be there. I promised Alise I would smack that bitch for her and her babies and I intend to keep my word.”

“Okay, but lean on me, let me help. Gods, Gareth and Nick will want to strangle us both.” Ky helps Raina pull on a long sleeveless tunic over her underwear. When she looks at the ragged gash in Rainas leg, swollen and full of stitches, she says, “I dont think we should try and get pants over that.”

“No, this is fine.” The pair head out of the tent and into the bright sunshine. Rainas face is pale, paler than Nicks and she is sweating with the effort it takes to walk. She cant put any weight on the injured leg even when assisted by K'thyri. Carrying her jian, the lightest of her swords, was an effort at this point.

Raina is leaning heavily on Ky as they walk towards the group starting to form for the gauntlet. Gareth looks up and his eyes go wide. “Damn it Raina, you shouldnt be up. Nick is gonna kick your ass...”

One great paw covers the flask. Keon watches her walk away. The Wyldfae has a natural sway to her stride that few women can learn. Dmitri squats next to his friend and murrmurs.

"Did she offer what I think? If you prefer just a companion's comfort, I am here, Ke. If you need more..." His own gaze follows the woman. "Dekára... she is enough to make me go straight for a night."

He pats Keon on the shoulder and heads to his own tent, saluting the Rider who has just relieved his shift. Laying his head on his paws, Keon watches Morgan for a few more minutes. When she seems to have fallen asleep, the great scaled head tucks in and Keon gathers himself. A darkness slides over his form and he rises to man-height, letting the Hound slip back inside.

The flask shines brightly in his hand and Keon tucks it into a hidden pocket. One last glance at Morgan and he saunters into the camp. A sentry points out which path leads to the pond. Keon glides through the shadows until he sees the water. He stares, watching the moonlight caress the surface ripples.

An image of Cassie takes his breath. Her skin glistens as she shakes water from her hair. He closes his eyes, swallowing. A sword calloused hand rests against his jaw. He opens pain filled eyes, knowing it isn't Cassie's touch. K'thyri looks at the water, then at Keon. She nods and takes his hand, leading him to the banks. It is only then that he sees she is nude. His hands stroke over her skin, calloused palms grazing lightly. She slips the cloak from his shoulders, tugging at his shirt and pants. Boots soon follow cloak, as do the rest. He stands mutely, watching moonlight play on K'thyri's skin. She touches his tattoo, tracing it through the light covering of coarse hairs on his chest.

Her fingers touch the vials he wears. Nodding, she whispers to him. "Honor her, but do not forget you are a man. Water is a place of life. Don't let that bitch taint your joy of its caress." With that she takes his hand and leads him into the water.

K'thyri moves against him, letting the water swirl around their hips. His hands slide over her skin, playing with the myriad of scars adorning her skin. She shudders under his gentle caresses, her lips kissing over his heart. His lips slide along her ear, teeth tugging at the piercings to make her shudder. He lips a piercing near the tip and her knees buckle. Her head tips back and he watches the heat rise in her eyes.

"Take what you need. I will not say you no."

He stares at her. "And what if what I need is just to feel the warmth of another body?"

A small smile curls her lips. "Then so be it."

Keon presses against her, letting her feel the want, the need to know he was still alive. Her hand slips between them. Her palm scraping lightly over sensitive flesh. Keon shudders and she begins to trail a nail along his earrings. 

"I can not give you..." Her finger presses over his lips, stilling his words. Her smile is soft.

"This is not pity, Keon. This is one fae doing what needs to be done for another. I expect nothing but to help you weather this night. Hold the pain inside, hide the needs that make you alive, and you will break like an ill-forged weapon. Temper your pain with the passion of life, and you become stronger."

Keon searches her eyes. Sidhe do not lie, Wyldfae are not Sidhe, but he believes her. His lips find hers, nipping and tugging while he cups her head. His fingers tangle in the silky strands and he tugs her head back to explore her throat with his kisses. A soft moan escapes her as the soft flesh of her inner thigh moves along his leg. His other hand slides down her back, cupping her leg and pressing her closer. Trapped between them, his manhood rubs across her mound.

His lips nibble upwards to tug at her earlobe chains. The warmth of his breath caresses gently. "Wrap your arms around my neck K'thyri. I am going to lift you."

Her hands slide around his neck and she shifts upwards as he lifts. The head of his cock slides between her legs. He can feel her heat gliding along the upper side and he shifts his hold. K'thyri laughs, then groans as he presses into her. grinding her hips, she helps him impale her on his hard shaft. he muscles grip, sucking him in, and Keon groans.

He takes slowly moves his feet, carefully placing them on the bottom of the pond. Each step rocks him in and out of K'thyri. Mounting the bank proves tricky. He slips, catching his balance. His cock slams into her and K'thyri yelps, both of them ending on a groan. Pressing harder against him causes both of them to moan.

"Do that again.... and I will not last."

Keon catches his own breath and smiles wickedly. "Promise?"

His cloak is where she dropped it and Keon spreads it out with his foot. K'thyri writhes with each movement. When he finally drops to his knees, the jolt is too much. K'thyri whimpers, squeezing her muscles around him and keon loses his control.

He pins her to the cloak, thrusting deep and hard. Both are moaning, sounds mere grunts and whimpers. The sudden explosion of heat, the tightening of her muscles as she explodes around him causes Keon to rear back one last time, and slam deep. His own release is no more exhausting than her own.

The night sky is still dark above them as Keon pulls his cloak around them. They doze, waking to the blush of dawn. Slipping into the water, they wash away the prior night's residue and dress quickly. Keon kisses her once, a light kiss of gratitude, and they slip back into camp.

Ky finishes the poteen Keon left and stares at the fire. She understands how he must be feeling. Living out here and fighting at the borders, a person lost comrades all the time. Not that it was the same as losing the love of your life, the mother of your child. But Ky had been with Inari when Rom had passed. She never wanted to see such grief again. As long as she lived she would remember the heartbroken scream, the sobs, the pleading with every god she could think of to spare his life, to bring him back. Inari would have died with him had Ky not been there to stop her, to hold her until she had some semblance of control over her emotions.

She stood up and stretched. Inari had excused herself to go check on the wounded. Gareth and Nick were with Raina who was just starting to wake up. K'thyri glances over at Keon in his hound form, watching Morgan. She walks over to him and stops, glaring at the prisoner. Morgan snarls at Ky, showing her teeth like some kind of wild animal. Ky laughs and kicks dirt at her, telling her “Get fucked bitch. If you even try to bite me I will feed you to the Hekatons myself.”

She turns her back to Morgan so that she and the other guards cant hear her. She lays the flask at Keons feet, his big head glances down at it and back up at her. “You said you wanted this back. If you need or want me... I understand Keon. I'll be up at the pond bathing....”

We have gathered on the patio, as has become our habit in the evenings. I look to Alise as I lay out my piercing kit, picking out the second smallest needle. Stoney leans against the patio railing, holding a worried Tomas. The little boy watches the shiny needles, glancing at his sister often.

"Are you sure you want to use those earrings?" I get a stubborn feel from Tara. "Ah... I see how it is. Ali, are you sure there is not Romanavich in this child? She is more stubborn than Josi at her age."

Tara watches quietly. She has an image of the earrings gracing her ears planted firmly in her mother's mind. "Those are the ones she wants, Silk. It seems Chloe told her it didn't hurt at first, and then just a little later on."

The little one stares up at me with dark lavender eyes. I smile at her and she smiles back. "Alise, Re'mi, keep her mind with yours, and if possible keep Tomas out of her head. I am going to pinch her earlobes to numb them, then pierce them. It will not take long if Tara remains still."

Tara looks at Chloe who coos to her. I have no idea what she is trying to say, but the feeling is positive and supportive. I pinch quickly and Tara jerks, looking up at me. Her eyes well with tears, but she does not cry. She stiffens herself as I dot her ears with a pen to make even holes. When I am satisfied with the placements, I quickly pierce the needle. Moments later the earrings are in place.

Tara reaches up and I capture her hands. "No no, mi *pequeño tesoro. Do not play with them. I will let ma'man and pa'pan know how to take care of your ears until they heal."

Tara's gaze finds Star, then drifts to Mera. Her eyes find mine and her brow furrows, trying to put an image in my mind. I get the gist of it and laugh. "Goddess child! Mera and Tomas too? Well, you will have to talk with your parenti about Tomas, and your brother may not want earrings. As for Mera, well, we will have to talk to her papa about that, no? I do not think he would object, but we do not have earrings for them."

She holds her hands out to me, and to Pandora. We both smile, fighting back laughter. "Little one... My earrings and Aunt Pandora's are too big for such tiny ears."

*my little treasure

Alise sighs contentedly as she watches the children play in the warm afternoon sun. It was their habit now to be outside after the childrens naps. Alise and Pandora would sit on a bench, Stoney would go to the small shop where he could sculpt and Star would sit on the grass with Mera. She was always careful to include Mera in everything even if she was too young to understand.

Today Tomas was crawling slowly, trying to coordinate arms and legs to move forward. Tara would watch him, get up on her hands and knees, but just rock back and forth. Chloe sat near her mother, her attention captured by Rachel and Mya who were encouraging Tomas.

Mya was a couple of feet ahead of Tomas, “Come baby... come here....” The demifae giggle as Tomas moves forward a few inches.

Alises mind wraps around Stoneys, Tomas is going to take off one of these times, then the fun will start. He is so inquisitive. Tara is just watching but I bet she will be right behind him before we know it...

Stoney smiles, Wait until they are walking and climbing....

Silk joins the women and sits down. She sees Alise looking at Star and asks for her thoughts.

“I was just watching Star with Mera. They seem so attuned to one another. Its almost strange, like they are in their own little world, and the rest of us are outsiders. I can tell Star loves her already. I hope Keon doesnt take her to Faerie to his family, but I dont know what else he would do. Star will be heart broken to see her go.”

Silk nods, “Things have a way of working out. Right now, this is good for the both of them. And I know Keon would not take the little one to his family. He does not want her raised by them or near the court.”

“Oh. I dont know anything about his family. I suppose I worry too much.” Suddenly Alises mind is flooded with images of Chloes ears and the blue ear rings Cassie gave to Tara. Laughing she picks the little girl up, “All right, all right. We will ask Tante Silk about your ears.”

Pandora is enjoying her stay at the manse; there is an immense library with many books that have added to her knowledge, and with the babes and pleasant company the time is passing swiftly.

Alise is with her and Star; the children playing gleefully on the terrace with Lobo and some of the kittens. As she sits watching them... Chloe sitting up by herself now; she knows Ob will be surprised.

Pandora has been feeling vibes from Ob all morning, prideful exalted vibes... she says to the others... "I'm just taking a wild guess; but from the emotions I'm getting from Obsidian, I'd say they have Morgan." There was a wild light in her eyes as she imagined the redheaded bitch suffering at the hands of the group.

People were getting drunk. Keon sipped at his flask, wandering around after checking on the bitch's internment. With Morgan in hand, so many were thinking it was all over. Plans for departure were being made by some of the troops The locals seemed to know better. He had heard the Wyldfae and the Nighthawks planning on strikes to wipe out the survivors of Morgan's little war. Smart move... His eyes fall on Inari and K'thyri. He approaches soundlessly, waiting for a pause in their conversation.

He puts a hand on the bottle as it passes between the two women. "If I may?"

There is very little left. He raises it to his lips and kills off the remnants. he closes his eyes and rumbles in his chest. "Not half bad. Smooth as wild sex" Handing K'thyri his flask, he leans close and murmurs in her ear. "Enjoy... You'll love the kick."

She cocks her head and asks with a slight slur, "What is this?"

He strokes the point of one of her ears, watching the shudder that closes her eyes. Leaning close, he murmurs loud enough for the two women to hear. "Poteen, pretty lass. A Human Realm concoction. Get the flask back to me when yer done. It was a gift." He brushes a kiss along each woman's cheek and inhales deeply. "Ye both smell... intoxicating." He rises and bows elegantly before sauntering away.

Walking away, he shoves the empty bottle into a pocket of his cloak. He thinks of K'thyri's instant reaction to her ears being touched and wonders if it would be disrespectful of Cassie to take either of the two women to bed. Inari is a sensual creature as well, but a little more restrained. Among the Fae, sex is as much for another's comfort as it is for pure satisfaction and joy. He thinks of Cassie's sensual skin sliding against his own and groans as his body reacts.

It isn't long  before he recognizes the area as the one where Morgan is being held. He pauses by her enclosure and leers at her. She looks like hell. Gone was the slut who tried to entice him to steal Pandora's child. The Sidhe stares at him through the mat of her fiery hair. He grins at her, eyes dangerous as black ice.

"You look lonely Morgan. I gather you canna entice any of these gentlemen." His smile is cold, and downright mean. "I could send a Hound to pleasure you...."

Her mouth opens to reply, but one look at her guards and she says nothing. Her gaze is pure hatred and Keon blows her a kiss. He gives her a slow evil smile and changes form. Black fur and scales encompass his body, leaving him a large and lean muscled Hell Hound. He stretches out where she can see him, staring fixedly at her.

K'thyri started sipping on the whiskey after Herne left. Inari takes the bottle away, “You need to share that...”

Ky laughs, “Drai has more. Lets relax, its been a long day. Let the tavern folk decide where to keep that bitch. I dont want to look at her anymore, ugly fucking hag. I should let my horse fuck her... serve her right for hitting him...” Ky takes the bottle back from Inari and takes a long drink.

Inari tries to steer Ky away from the men. She doesnt know the riders well, but knows that Ky can be annoying to people that dont know or dont understand her ways. And with her brother here innocent flirting could turn into something deadly in short order.

“Come on Ky... lets sit over here. Leave the men to whatever it is they are talking about..”

K'thyri sighs and as she turns to leave with Inari she gives Erik a suggestive wink. Inari grabs her arm and pulls her along.

“Ky! What am I going to do with you? Erik is married, happily married.” Inari struggles not to laugh at her friend, who is more than a little tipsy by this time.

Sitting by the fire, Inari pulls Ky down so that she sits on a log next to her. The men are trying to figure out what to do with their prisoner. She needs to be locked up and watched until the gauntlet. Inari is hoping for a slow painful death, it is only right. Morgan has caused so much pain to so many...

“You know... the Vikings are kinda cute. Big... strong... slow....” and Ky is overtaken by giggles.

“And just how would you know? I have never seen you with a Viking... of course, I havent seen many of the men you have... umm... anyway....”

“Banged, screwed, fucked, did... and no, havent been with a Viking... not yet… come to think of it, I met one fighting further south. Not as big a guy as that Guunnar, but definitely a Viking. And he looks an awful lot like Erik, you know... When I met Erik, I thought he reminded me of someone, just couldnt figure out who....”

“Hmm... thats odd. And does this Viking have a name? Star never mentioned any family. I thought Raina was the only family either of them has.” Inari was trying to pay attention to what the men were saying as well as talk to Ky.

Ky is lost in thought for a minute and then brightens as she remembers the name. ”Tannr... his name is Tannr.”

"Enough." The deep voice carries throughout the camp and heads turn. The Hunter has entered all unseen - how the hell does he do that? - and now stands next to Morgan, looking down at her with dispassionate eyes.

"You stand condemned by both Courts, Morgan Bloodmane. It only remains to arrange and carry out your execution. Were you in better health, I would give you to the Hunt and let my Hounds and Riders harry you to your death. But as you are now, you would make a most disappointing quarry. I doubt you could last the quarter of an hour."

He turns and the glowing eyes meet with every pair of eyes in the camp. "Let her be kept safe until the morrow. I think a gauntlet best suited to meet our needs, and by then I should have it all arranged."

Two Hounds move to sit on either side of the prisoner, and Keon finally nods….

Keon laughs. He grabs Morgan by her red hair, pulling her to her feet. She blinks at the sudden light, eyes wild, crazy. Her mouth opens and Keon's dark hand clamps over her mouth. He stares at her until Morgan's gaze fixes on his. He smiles slowly, the chill of it echoing in the bottomless depths of his cold gaze.

"One word, Morgan Abjured, and I will feed you to the Goblins. One painful piece at a time."

His gaze rakes over her, taking in the seeping wounds. The tone of his voice is courtly, meaning slightly condescending. "My, my. What a mess you are. When I told you I preferred a different type of woman, that didn't mean you should have let yourself go. Look at you... Now, I wouldn't even let you fuck my Hounds."

He shoves her away, motioning to someone. Morgan twists as she falls, surging back to her feet. Hands curled into claws, she attacks only to be brought up short by a set of fangs. The Hound growls softly and advances to each step of her retreat. She whirls to run, finding a grey and blue scaled chest baring her way.

Ob chuckles, talons closing around her upper arms. He hums softly, then licks his lips. "Can I eat this one? I didn't get to eat her witch..."

Keon shakes his head. "No, My friend. I think she would give you an upset stomach. Your witch would not be happy with me. By the way Morgan. This is the witch's husband, father of the child you wanted to steal. Gargoyles do not take kindly to someone trying to steal their offspring."

He smiles. The effect never reaches his eyes. "My gratitude to the Wyldfae. You are not something I would have liked to lose." His hand closes over Morgan's jaw and he tilts her head back. Placing a gentle kiss on her cheek, he whispers loud enough for everyone to hear. "I owe her a gift for bringing you to me. Perhaps I'll let her play with you. The Wyldfae play such..." He slides an arm around K'thyri whispering for her alone play along... and presses his cheek to hers. "wonderful games."

K'thyri wraps an arm around Keon's waist and grins happily. "I can? OOOH! can I..."

She whispers in his ear. What she says is nothing, babbling nonsense, but Keon smiles as if she is telling him some very wicked suggestions. He slides a hand along her hip and nods  as Morgan's eyes widen and she presses back towards Ob.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The fighting had gone on all day and part of the evening. It had been a desperate and intense battle, the forces determined to take Morgan and her protectors. There were few losses on the warriors side, but more than a few injuries. As they straggled back to camp they began to compare notes, figuring out how many of the creatures on the Plane had died and how many were left of Morgans forces.

Inari all but falls in front of one of the fires. She feels so cold she thinks she will never be warm. She watches as the men return, hoping to see Torin and his men. They had started out fighting side by side but were separated at some point. Please Goddess, not again, I think it would kill me...

Gareth returns, dropping next to Inari. The sentries were busy seeing to the horses and providing drinking water for the men. Gareth hands her his cup and she drinks deeply. When he takes the cup back he notices her watching all the returning men. He leans close and quietly says, “He is alive, just talking strategy with Keon.” At her surprised look he adds, “I am not blind milady, although I dont think anyone else realizes.”

Inari looks down at her hands, unable to respond to Gareth. She couldnt lie to her friend and she couldnt really put words to her feelings. Afraid that even trying would somehow damage the fragile bond forming between them.

When she looks up again she sees Torin arrive, in deep conversation with Keon, the Riders close behind them. Inari lets out a sigh of relief. Everyone was accounted for except Ky. Where could she have got to? She was always the first one to run into battle and the last to leave but she should be back by now.

Inari stands and looks around. There was no way she could have slipped by her, K'thyri was exuberant and she didnt do anything quietly or passively.

Torin notices her worried glances and asks whats wrong.

When Inari replies 'Ky', one of the soldiers, a younger man starts to laugh. “I wouldnt worry about the wyldfae. They probably switched sides halfway through the battle...”

Before the man could get another word out or before anyone could stop her, Inari has the man by the throat and slams him on the ground. “You will not speak of my friend in that manner, you swine. She is a warrior and her loyalty is past question. Yours is not. I will rip your tongue out myself and drag you before the Queen for court martial if I hear another remark from your mouth.”

Eyes wide, first with pain and then with the realization of who he had offended, the man goes to his knees and apologizes profusely. Inari walks away, fighting an overwhelming desire to kick the soldier in the face.

Inari starts to pace as a horse and rider race towards her. Several people have to move quickly to get out of the riders way. It could only be a wyldfae, riding like that, but Inari knows it isnt Ky's horse. With a skidding of hooves and a cloud of dust, the horse comes to a stop next to Inari. A wyldfae leaps off the horses saddleless back and Inari finds herself in a bear hug from an old friend.

“Inari! Ky said you were, so I had to take a break and see for myself. How are you?”

“Drai, its good to see you.” Inari returns the hug.

“You look happy... hmmm... and I know it isnt just because of me, not that I havent tried.”

Inari swats at him, the teasing had been a constant thing between them. He tried to flirt, she said no, he would launch into a tirade about his shortcomings, mainly not being civilized enough for a queens emissary and his impressions of a courtly gentleman would leave her laughing until her sides ached.

Drai was K'thyri's older brother, one of a large clan of siblings. So large Inari didnt know how many sibs she actually had, if Ky even knew herself. Drai was handsome, dark red hair framed laughing brown eyes and his muscular body was always attracting some ladies attention. He was charming according to wyldfae standards, but could be insufferably rude by anyone elses standards. His attitude really wasnt any different from most of his kind. They lived life to the fullest, taking enjoyment in whatever they were doing at the time. Never particularly worried about what anyone else thought of their behavior either. As a whole, the wyldfae reminded Inari of a group of naughty teenaged boys. Daring one another to do some stunt and then laughing and comparing injuries with one another after it all went wrong.

“Ky asked me to deliver a message if I got here first....” Drai looks around at the men, Riders, Nighthawks, Wyldfae, a few with no visible allegiance. His eyes roam and land on Keon.

“The one there, with the blue streak in his hair.”

Keon looks up, wondering what message a wyldfae could have for him.

Drai approaches, doesnt introduce himself, since he feels no need to do so for a simple message. “My sister asked me to tell you that you forgot something on the Plane and she is bringing it to you shortly.”

Only partially successful at stifling her laughter at the expressions on some of the mens faces, Inari tries to find out more from Drai.

“What could she have possibly found of Keons on the Plane? Is she joking around again?”

Drai assumes a look of pretended horror at her suggestion. “Joking? K'thyri? Ky would never make a joke about this. Seriously, you will have to wait and see. She'll be back soon...”

Keon went back to his discussion with Torin, who gave Inari a grin. He understood the wyldfae, having fought besides Drai many times in the past. Although most of them preferred to fight farther south, the realms troops were scattered thin at that point, so there were less restrictions allowing the wyldfae to fight when they wanted.

Coming into camp amidst much commotion and hollering is K'thyri. Inari wonders why she is riding so slow, she never does anything slow, always seeming to be in fast motion, especially out here in the wilds. As she gets closer, Inari can see that she is dragging something behind her horse.

Ky pulls up next to Inari and Drai. “Did you tell them?”

“No, sister. I only told the rider what you asked me to.”

Ky slips off her horse, “Good. I love surprises. Wont they be surprised brother? What fun this has been...”

Playfully grabbing Ky's arm Inari asks, “What is it... or is it a who? Quit teasing Ky, and tell us what you have bundled up in there.”

Suddenly the bundle rears up and starts trying to get out of the wrappings it is in. Screams of rage are coming from the bundle and as it makes contact with the horse, it starts to beat on the horses side.

This infuriates Ky, and her face turns almost as red as her hair. She picks up a large fat stick and strikes at the bundle in time with her words, “Do. Not. Hit. My. Horse.”

When she turns and sees the Riders and the Nighthawks staring, she says, “What? He is a good horse.”

She drops the stick and unties the now silent bundle from her horse. Ky had tied a leather strap around her horse to hold the bundle since she had no saddle to tie it to. She drags the bundle to Keon, gives it a kick so that it settles at his feet and hands him the rope that binds the bundle securely.

“You forgot this. And I found it trying to sneak out the back door, so to speak. Drai wanted to kill it immediately and I will if you wont. But I think you will....”

A stunned Keon uses his knife to slit open the fabric and ropes. Ky laughs gleefully as Morgans red hair, covered in mud and blood, tumbles out.