Thursday, March 31, 2011

Some time later, Star is suddenly uneasy and asks if Miko is around. Ob nods and sends Miko upstairs to guard the nursery door. The demifae never question Stars feelings.

Laila is visiting with her sister when a commotion at the front door catches her attention. She tries to see what is going on but Jebs body is blocking her view. He is arguing loudly with someone she cant see.

Ramji notices Laila go suddenly still and pale. “Sweetheart, what is wrong?”

“It's Rath. At the door. I know it is. I would know his voice anywhere.”

Adrian takes note of the panicked expression on her face and exchanges a glance with Ramji. “We could just get this over with since he is clamoring for entrance...”

“Shall I tell Jeb to let the vampire in?” Ob asks.

Adrian nods, “Yes, lets see what my brother has to say.”

Rath has a smug smile on his face as he enters the tavern. “I told you they would let me back in. It was entirely that servants fault to begin with. I should never have been kicked out in the first place.”

As Rath escorts the two blondes to his favorite booth he stops suddenly. Staring at him from the other side of the tavern was his brother Adrian. His glance takes in the woman sitting next to him.  

Thea... of course he would bring her just to taunt me. She should have been mine... not the incompetent younger sister... and who else but the idiot servant with her... I imagine she went crying to one or the other...

As Rath approaches Laila edges closer to Ramji and Thea closer to Laila, trying to give her some sense of security.

“Well, Adrian. Hello. And to what do I owe the umm... pleasure of your company? I hardly think you traveled all this way just to chat and catch up.”

The Tavern door opens on boisterous laughter. Several young people enter, followed by the large form of Guunnar. He bumps shoulders with Jeb, waves to the group as they find a table, and heads to the bar. Halfway there he spies the twins. The Viking bends over Laila and frowns at Tomas. The little boy scrunches up his face and glares at Guunnar. A low growl rumbles in Guunnar's chest, and Tomas snarls back. Tara peeks around Raina's neck and echoes her brother. Guunnar huffs, puffing out his mustache. The twins giggle, Tara covering her face with her hands. Tomas grabs a fist full of mustache and yanks. Guunnar winces, disentagling the little boy's hand.

"Ach Leetle Varrior, du vill vone day haff your own. Leaf mine vere it ist, ja? Unca Guunnar ask vhy du still up? Shouldst not leetle vones be abed?" He turns to Chloe. "Dat go fur du too." He bends close and kisses her nose. He grins at their parents. "I take dem up." He gives the families an innocent face, making Star and Alise laugh.

Keon's dry voice drifts from behind the big man's bulk. "I nae think that is a good idea, mate." He takes Mera from Star's arms to kiss her, handing his daughter back to Star. "Besides, an ye not be riling up the bairns, ye be hitting on the Nanny. I think ye best be letting their parents be taking them up."

Guunnar winks at the women. "Ach ist gut enuff. Dere are lovely ladies here as vell. And who ist dis?" He takes Thea's hand and kisses the fingers tips. "I am Guunnar... and du... are beautiful."

After hearing testimony from many of the regulars, Adrian sits back and closes his eyes for a moment. To one who does not know him as Thea does, it looks like he's nodded off; but Thea knows that this is his way of sorting through the mass of facts that have been presented to him this evening. He sits lost in thought for about ten minutes, then his eyes open wide, though his face remains impassive.

"There is one of whom I have heard much this evening; I would speak with this Nikolas" - pronouncing it Knee-ko-loss -  "if he is available."

Thea goes off to make inquiries; and less than five minutes later, she returns with Nick in tow. His face is hard and expressionless as he gives Adrian a quick once-over. They lock eyes and one can sense them sizing each other up; then Adrian gestures, breaking the deadlock.

"Please… sit. I would speak with you of my brother and his servant. I would know the facts about those things that you have witnessed."

Nick's voice is hard as well. "If you've spoken to more than a few people, you know what happened. I don't know that I can add much more than you already know."

"Let me hear it anyway, and I will draw my own conclusions."

Nick is uncharacteristically reticent as he describes the events of that night, so that Adrian has to ask more questions to draw him out. His skill as an interrogator is such that he soon knows that Nick never liked Rath, even before the incident of the broken glass. When the questioning is done, he has bled Nick dry of every fact and nuance of fact he has, and some that he was unaware of himself.

Adrian leans back into his chair. "Thank you for your time, sir." He smiles a little crookedly. "I like you, Nikolas. You do not like Rath, yet you - what is the phrase? ah, yes - you bent over backward to be fair to him." Then he astonishes the younger vamp by saying. "Would that Rath were more like you, or that you, and not he, were my brother."

Stoney takes Tomas from Alise and sets him on his lap. “We need to get you more than one Batman shirt, I think..”l

Tomas smiles and Alise laughs. “I am sure it would be fine with him if thats the only kind of shirt he had to wear.”

Right then Laila enters the back door with Ramji. Rowan and several of the Riders are close behind. As soon as Tomas sees her he claps his hands and laughs. “LaLa!!”

Raina, still holding Tara, hears the almost whispered 'LaLa' from her. Her voice is much quieter than her boisterous brother. Raina cuddles her and kisses a soft cheek.

Chairs are added to the table so that Laila can sit next to Thea and Ramji to Lailas side. Rowan moves to the bar to get a whiskey and speak with Traeger. As soon as Laila sits, Tomas is reaching across the table for her. Thea hugs her and says, “I think someone is quite smitten with you.”

Laila smiles and grins as Tomas is handed to her. “Hello Tomas. How are you today?”

The little boy immediately starts to babble, pointing to his papan then to Adrian as if explaining to Laila the batman conversation. He finally looks up at her, smiles and pulls at his shirt.

Alise interprets, explaining that the Batman shirt is at home. Tomas frowns and sighs. Laila hugs him, “Maybe you can wear it tomorrow, when it is clean.”

Ramji protectively drapes an arm around the back of Lailas chair, his fingers lightly caressing a bare arm.

Thea watches silently, taking in the group and the dynamics. She begins to revise the original plan she had in her mind when she came here with Lord Adrian.

I thought to ask her to return with us to Greece if the contract were to be declared void. I see now how selfish that would be. Laila seems to have good friends here, the beginnings of a romance, an opportunity for a new position with people that would care for her, a new life... I should not take those things away from her...

She glances to Alise, sitting next to her husband. She excuses herself when she gets a message from a demifae that Gracie is awake and not settling down.

“My Lord...may I join her? I have questions...”

Adrian nods and Thea joins Alise in going upstairs to the nursery.

Upstairs Alise takes Gracie from the shifter nanny and cuddles her, speaking softly to her in french.

As the baby quiets Thea runs a hand over the little ones head and smiles. “She is beautiful. And her eyes... she is a very old soul I think... I hope you dont mind if I ask you some questions about your offer for my sister.”

Alise shakes her head, “No, of course I do not mind. I would wonder if you werent concerned about her.”

Thea asks several questions about what they would expect of Laila, where she would stay, her pay, all of which Alise answered to her satisfaction. She was glad to hear she would be part of a family and stay in the house, not some shack outside as with Rath. Alise said they had rooms upstairs and there was a large one with a fireplace and its own bathroom that would be perfect for her.

“We could even add a private entrance if she wanted. We have friends skilled in carpentry..” Alises voice trails off as Stoney comes up to her and takes Gracie.

“Madame, I wanted to assure you that your sister would treated as part of our famille. She would be under our protection as well as the Riders.”

Thea nods, “I thank you. It would be wonderful for her. Have you said anything to her about it yet?”

Alise shook her head, “We have only mentioned it. We were waiting to see what happened with this other... situation..”

“Thats probably best. I do not want her with Rath. I know my sister and I know she does not lie. But my lord has to be positive before he can render a decision.”

Pandora looks Adrian straight in the eyes..."Your brother exerts his powers wherever he goes; I was always aware of him trying to hypnotize me in some way with his eyes... I could never look into them as I do yours.

I realize your line is an old and proud one, but your brother always held himself as above all who came here ; he used this as a place to find willing companions to seduce into submission. We allowed him to continue coming because this is a safe haven for all supernaturals, and as long as our rules are obeyed regarding the safety of patrons in the tavern... what they do outside it is not our responsibility. He broke that trust and we will never allow him in these doors again... what you decide is his just due is up to you; but he is evil in his intent... even if he is your brother.

Laila has spent time with our extended family here when Rath wished her away from his table and companions...and she is truly a gentle and kind woman. I know she willingly did whatever was part of her duties under her contract, although her dress and demeanor told a story of abuse by your brother.

She has become dear to some among us" ...her eyes stray to Ramjii and back again to Adrian... "Our brother and his wife have several small children and Laila is wonderful with them and an offer of a home with them as nanny has been offered. She would fare well with them; and Alise and Stoney would treat her as family. Our friend Star also has a special affinity for Laila; as if they knew each other before... she is a good woman who has been treated poorly."

Pandora looked to Ob,and he nodded his approval of her speech; she blushed a little as she looked again into Adrian's eyes... "Forgive me if I am too forward, I am used to saying what is on my mind."

Stoney and Ob slide cases of beer behind the bar. Ike begins to stow bottles in the cooler, her eyes on Alise and Raina. Stoney picks up her curiosity as Alise' mind touches his. The caress is subtle, yet urgent.

Chiot... Rath's brother is here. He wants to talk to those who saw what happened

A wash of anger flashes through the Kin. Ob starts to stride toward the vampire. Pandora intercepts him, handing their fussing daughter into his arms. Their conversation is unheard, leaking out to their family. Ob soothes his worried daughter, burying his anger for the moment.

... he only wants to hear what the witnesses have to say. He is not Rath, Ob. Chloe isn't scared near him, not like when Rath is here.

Obsidian hands Chloe back to Pandora, kissing his wife, holding both of them close. "I won't kill him, Bruha. But I also won't let his brother pull his crap here again."

Pandora follows him to Adrian's table. He holds out a chair for her, watching the vampire lord. "I hear you want to talk to all of us. I am Obsidian Heart. This is my wife Pandora, and our daughter. I won't judge you by your brother, but I am going to start with a warning. There are house rules here. My wife runs a haven to many races. No biting the guests. Not even if they consent. There is fresh beef blood available upon request. No mesmerizing anyone. Take someone's will away from them and I will personally boot your ass out the door.There are others, but these are the most pertinent to Vampires in general."

He smiles, the pale blue of his eyes surrounding slit pupils. "That said, Your brother was on thin ice before the incident with the glass. We had reports of him mesmerizing at least two women on the premises. But it was a questionable report, so he was reminded about the rules. He tried to do it to Pandora, but I interfered. That one was actually witnessed, by Me. I will not let that happen again." Pandora's hand rests on her husband's arm. Ob takes a breath, letting her calm wash over his anger, keeping the dragon and demon sides leashed. "That said, your brother lost his temper with his servant, squeezed her hand hard enough to break a glass with HER hand. He could have started a blood frenzy in here. The place was packed with Shifters and Others."

Adrian listens with a bemused smile. "You do not know me, sir, and if your opinion of vampires in general has been based upon my brother, then I forgive your presumption. I am not in the habit of taking blood from the unwilling, nor of mesmerizing them to take away their will - only to lessen the inevitable pain that comes from satisfying my thirst. I will abide by your - rules - because they coincide with my own code of conduct in any case." His smile becomes wintry. "But beware of attempting to prove your - equipment - is more impressive than mine. We should both be losers in such a case."

Ob smiles. His accent thickens, r's rolling, ee's extending. "You're right. I don't know you from the Pack's Alpha. You may be a stand up guy, but that warning goes to all unknown vampires. The locals know the rules. That girl lost enough blood to leave a puddle on the floor at her feet before my brother carried her out of here. Your brother didn't even seem to care that she was losing enough to die."

Adrian smiles, recognizing another Alpha Male when he sees one. "As a member of my Clan, my brother is subject to Clan discipline. I am here to speak with those who witnessed the incident and to determine just what discipline should be imposed. There will be punishment, of that you may be sure. It remains only to determine his degree of culpability and how severe the resultant discipline will be."

Stoney lays an arm across his brother's shoulders. "Forgive my brother. He defends Our home and people to the last breath, and with a passion that has given him the nickname Barbare."

Alise smiles up at her husband, noting the small smile on his face. For once it is Stoney who banters, instead of Ob, breaking the tense mood. Monty brings a round of drinks to the table, sliding a glass of warm blood before the Vampire Lord.

Pandora smiles sweetly. "On the House, and as apologies for my husband's demonic temper." She nods to Monty who asks Thea what she would like to drink. As he heads back to the bar, she adds. "Monty was here as well. As were Jeb, and the Riders, Dmitri, Guunnar, and Ramji. I'll make sure Monty makes the time to talk to you. Same with Jeb."

Adrian smiles, taken with Pandora's diplomacy. "I have already spoken with the Riders named Ramji and Dmitri."

Stoney glances around the room. The band playing is not the one that was setting up that night. His son touches his mind and Stoney chokes. Alise and Pandora try to hide smiles and Ob roars. Adrian raises a brow at the unexpected laughs. "My son wants to know if you are like our friend Nick. He wants to know if you are a Batman too."

Alise had just laid Gracie down with the nanny at the tavern and had retrieved Tomas from under a table where he had been climbing all over Panther.

Mon Dieu, what am I going to do with you? You are lucky Panther doesnt get mad and gobble you up.” Alise tickles Tomas and his happy squeals can be heard throughout the tavern.

Tara was clinging to Raina when Adrian and Thea arrived. She wasnt comfortable with strangers and vampires seemed to scare her. Raina thought maybe it was because you had to 'read' their emotions a little differently and Tara hadnt learned how to do that yet.

Adrian introduced himself and asked if the women would mind answering a few questions about his brother and Laila. He asked pretty much the same questions as he did of Rowan and Ramji, paying careful attention to Alises description of what happened the night Rath broke the glass around Lailas hand.

Alise finished with, “My husband and brother in law saw the whole thing too. Stoney carried her from this main room to a smaller private room in back. I called Rowan and she came to see to her injuries, which could not be treated here. They will be here shortly if you want to talk to them.”

As she finishes speaking Star tentatively approaches. She knew who Adrian was just as she knew he was coming in that way she had. Erik sits back and lets her approach Adrian herself. Raina was always after him to let her do things for herself. And it was true, Star did seem to be coming out of her shell more and more. He knew she wanted this opportunity to stick up for her friend.

“Ex...excuse me. You are Adrian, R..Raths brother?” At his nod she continues, “And you must be Thea. You look just like Laila.”

Star nervously adjusts Mera in her arms. “I wanted to tell you about the shack she was forced to live in. I saw it the night she was hurt. I was not here when it happened, but went to see her after. Then I went to her place to gather her clothes and things, and her kitty, Serena.”

With some gentle coaxing Star described the shack just as Ramji had but added, “He wouldnt let her use the bathroom in the house. She had to bathe and do her washing at the pump out in the yard.” Tears fill Stars eyes, her empathy for her friend very apparent to Adrian and Thea.

Thea reaches across the table and takes Stars hand, “Thank you for being a friend to her. I have brought her some things from home which we will see that she gets before we leave.”

Star smiles and nods, then returns to Erik, her eyes huge and dark.

“Whats wrong Princess? They seem nice and are trying to be fair to everyone concerned...”

“They should just stake him. He is going to cause trouble later... for everyone...”

Some thirty minutes later, Adrian calls for Laila and Thea. While Thea summarizes Rowan's testimony, Adrian speaks with Laila - with Ramji looming in the doorway. Laila's story is a bit more elaborate than she told before, but it agrees in all the salient points with Rowan's. Then the lord of Deimos gestures. "May I see your hand?"

Laila places her hand in his. His touch is gentle, but his look grows grave as he probes the damaged tissues. "My dear, may I ask you to remove the dressing? I believe it is nearly time for it to be changed in any case."

Laila nods and begins awkwardly to unwrap the dressing. One-handed - and that her non-dominant hand - it takes her time, but Adrian waits and watches impassively. He must know how much it costs her to appear helpless before others, and he would not add to it by offering to help.

His expression doesn't change when Laila's hand is laid bare before him, save perhaps for a tightening of the corners of the mouth, or a very slight narrowing of the eyes. It is enough that Thea, who knows every line of his face, can tell how deeply he is affected.

As Rowan enters with fresh supplies, he speaks. "Healer… it is my wish to pay you for your efforts on Laila's behalf. Any expenses you have incurred, or seem likely to incur, send the bill to me." Here Thea proffers a printed card with the name and address of their hotel. "Also, do not fail to charge for your time and skill. I know the value of both, and I would not have you be cheated of your due."

With that, he turns to Thea. "I believe we have learned all we may here. It is time to speak with other witnesses." He turns back to Rowan and Laila. "Should you desire to accompany us, I pledge you my protection from Rath or his followers."

The smiles between the sisters shows just how close they are. Zade lies at their feet, sprawled across one of Laila's. She watches the driveway through half-closed lids, looking like a pampered canine. Ramji knows better.

Glancing at the trees, Ramji sees more red eyes. Some are closer to the ground, others higher between the trees. Rider mounts. Zade had sent for back up. Good girl. He would have a word with Keon in her favor.

Motion by the trees catches his eyes. Two dark shadows separate, coming halfway across the yard. The two Hounds stretch out, seeming to bask in the moonlight. Their gazes roam, restless. Trooper raises his head and stares straight at Ramji. The other Hound turns his head to stare as well. A blue streak along his neck betrays his identity. Keon nods and Ramji looks back at Adrian.

His words are softly spoken, keeping them for the people in the kitchen, not those on the porch. "You do know, Lord Adrian, that Laila has befriended several Riders. Our Captain offers a resolution. If Rath is found guilty, his punishment can be put in other hands. You need only name him as Forsworn. Oathbreakers are Our prey."

His tone goes cold, and he looks at Laila. "I have seen how she lives. Nothing keeps the cold from her room. There are not enough blankets to keep her warm. She savors simple foods as if she has not eaten them in a long time. She is careful of everything she says, everything she does." He turns burning eyes to Adrian. "I will Hunt him myself if you name him Ours."

Adrian stares at him, noting the cold anger, the possessive/protective stance close enough to Laila to be wherever she needed him. He inclines his head slightly. "The word, Hunter, is IF. I understand the Huntmaster does not call a Hunt unless proof is, as the Americans say, beyond a doubt. I will remember the generous offer, but as yet am not ready to make a decision."

Ramji leans against the doorframe, arms crossed, fingers caressing the blades hidden up his sleeves. His gaze returns to outside, grim expression softening just a little as he watches the sisters catch up. On the other side of the yard, a Stallion crops at the higher grass as another Hound has wandered into the moonlit yard.

Adrian looks across the table at the redheaded healer. She meets his gaze head-on, neither defiant nor intimidated. Well, we may as well get started.

"To begin with, healer, I would know - what are the extent of Laila's injuries?"

"Well, she was very lucky that no tendons were cut. She has numerous stitches; I haven't counted them. She has a long cut across the palm of her hand - that is the worst one - two smaller ones that go up her middle and index fingers. There are several smaller cuts that did not require stitches, only cleaning and dressing. So far, it seems to be healing fine. No infection, no significant loss of movement."

"And how did she come by them? I have heard her story, but I would hear your version of the facts."

"I did not see the glass breaking incident myself, but those that told me about it, I trust implicitly."

"Does my brother commonly treat her in such a fashion - physical injury, I mean - or was this an isolated event?"

Rowan leans back and sighs. “She is covered with bruises, although those are starting to fade.  I believe he beats her when he can't force her to do what he demands."

"What have you observed of the interaction between Rath and Laila? I will not lead you in any particular direction… just speak from the heart."

"What I have seen for myself was a girl that was beaten into submission and very tired of it. She would refuse to wait on Rath's whores and he would become extremely angry with her. We were all worried, she has a bit of a temper and a mind of her own.

I have worked with enough battered women to know one when I see one. Laila would never have told any of us had he not lost his temper that night and broken the glass.”

Adrian leans back in his chair with a sigh. "What you tell me, if it be corroborated by others, is sufficient cause for voiding the contract between my brother and Laila. You can serve her well if you will tell me the names of others I may speak to regarding this matter."

Adrian smiles at Laila. “Please, there is no need for that here.” He takes in the tattered clothes, the bandaged hand. He had noticed her wince and quickly cover her expression when she straightened her blouse. So she is telling the truth about that much...

“As you know, I got your message. Very interesting delivery, by the way. I will need to speak with you about what has happened. Also any witnessws that can corroborate your story. Its not that I dont believe you, I need to have all the facts in order to make a decision.”

Laila and Ramji both nod and Lailas glance returns to the floor.

“But before we talk, I will need my scribe. Would you mind going out to the car and telling Thea to come in?” Adrian grins as Lailas head snaps up.

“My sister Thea? She is here?”

“Yes. She is waiting in the car for you. Go. Take your time. I can visit with your healer about your injury.” Adrian looks to Rowan, “If you dont mind.”

“Of course not.” Rowan takes a seat across the table.

Laila looks up to Ramji and smiles, giving his hand a quick squeeze, she is out the door and on the porch in seconds.

Zade sees her come out of the cabin and lopes across the yard to greet her. Ramji moves closer to the door where he can keep an eye on Laila and on Adrian, still not convinced he can be trusted.

Laila smiles at the hound and reaches a hand to grab a bristly ear. “Zade! Hello... my sister is here... do you know where...”

The hound looks pointedly down the driveway and Laila follows her gaze. “Oh... thank you..”

Thea steps out of the car when she sees Laila racing towards her. The huge hound gives her pause, but she remembers that Zade was the one who delivered Lailas message. Then Laila is in her arms, crying and laughing.

“Thea! I cant believe you are really here!” The girls hold each other for a few moments, overcome with joy at finally seeing each other after so long.

Finally, they walk arm in arm down the driveway to the cabin. Thea pauses when she sees Ramji watching from the doorway. “Who is that, sister?”

Pausing Laila tells her, “It is Ramji... he has been wonderful to me since all this happened. I...”

Thea smiles and hugs her sister. “You feel deeply for him, I can tell.”

Nodding as a soft blush creeps up her cheeks, “I do.”

“Well, introduce me... then Lord Adrian will want to speak with you. And I want to see your hand and speak with the healer...”

Ramji watches as the women near the porch, Zade following Laila. He smiles at the sight. Dmitri was right. Thea is a bit taller and more blonde but they do look much alike. The same mass of curls, hazel eyes and smile. Adrian would not have brought Thea if he meant any harm to Laila or didnt believe her...

Ob and Pandora sat in their room watching Chloe play with Little One; the dragon swooping just beyond Chloe's reach then soaring up, trilling her little happy sound when Chloe laughed.

Pandora glanced over and saw Ob staring into the distance... that faraway look he often got when he was receiving word from one of the other gargoyles,or picking up something too acute for human ears.

"Something weird is going on tonight"Ob said as he looked her direction... "I'm feeling something different, can't quite place it... but its powerful."

Pandora wrinkled her brow as she commented, "Perhaps it has something to do with Laila: Gunnar said Dmitri was in Greece and was taking a message to Rath's brother."

"Then I imagine we'll hear something about the outcome soon."... Ob said as he rose from the bed; giving Pandora a passionate kiss as he rose.

Ob picked up Chloe while Little One perched on his shoulder... "Speaking of Guunnar; if we don't get down soon for dinner; Monty will have nothing left in the kitchen." They laughed together as they descended the stairs....

Keon had dropped off some clothes for Ramji. He now rummages for a dark shirt. Laila watches him as he searches, finally breaking the silence with a snort.

He pauses, glancing over his shoulder. "What?"

She gestures at her own clothes. "I am going to meet a Lord in what I am wearing, and YOU are going to change?"

He grins. "It's not like that." He buttons up a black longsleeved shirt. Pulling back his hair, he ties it back in a small tail. She is smiling at him when he looks up. He takes her hand. "I am a Rider. My cloak is downstairs, so I don't have its anonymity. What I do have are these." He slides her fingertips along the markings on his face. "I was a Hunter of Monsters and Demons before I became a Rider."

There is a pride in his voice, a smile that lights his eyes. He cups her face in his sword calloused palm. "I am here to protect you. I do not know this Adrian. My Brother... Let's say he made an impression on Dmitri, and that is not easy. Even Zade likes him, which is in itself remarkable." He leans in and kisses her gently.

"He is not Rath. I know that." His voice drops and he whispers against her lips. "But if he so much as touches you in a wrong way, I will thrust a stake through his heart."

Laila strokes her uninjured palm along the roughness of Ramji's jaw. She searches his eyes, seeing the determination in his eyes, even behind his smile. "He is not his brother. Lord Adrian is well known for being fair and just. He will not harm me Ramji."

"I am what I am Laila. Let us go meet this... Undead."

An eerie baying echoes from the woods. Ramji slips a small bladed knife up each sleeve. He pauses, listening as another Hell Hound's voice joins the first. "Zade is here, and she is not alone."

Her precedes her down the stairs, schooling his features. When Laila moves past him, Ramji steps to the side, keeping his eyes on the Undead.She lays a hand on his arm, smiling up at him. He nods once, allowing her to move forward without his interference. She stops before him, absently straightening her blouse. She winces at the pull of her stitches, hiding it quickly. She curtsies, starting to take a knee and he stops her.

"Hello my Lord Adrian. I did not know you were coming."

Rowan sets down the sweet smelling herbs she was getting ready to hang up for drying when she hears a knock at the door. Opening it she is surprised to see a car parked at the end of what passes for her driveway and a very distinguished looking man standing on her front porch.

“Can I help you?”

The stranger clears his throat and in the evening light something about the man seems almost familiar to Rowan.

"You have a guest staying here, I believe? Laila? I would like to speak with her, if I may. But forgive my rudeness. My name is Adrian. To my chagrin, I am Rath's elder brother."

It was rare when anything left Rowan speechless, but this almost did. “Oh... well... please come in. My name is Rowan. Laila is here, but may I ask why you want to speak to her? She has been through enough and is finding some happiness finally. Her hand is beginning to heal and I dont want her upset.”

Adrian takes Rowans hand and kisses the knuckles lightly. “Rest assured, I have no wish to upset her. If I have been told true, his treatment of his servant and breaking his contract with her and her family should not go unpunished.”

“Laila does not lie, but I will get her for you. Please, have a seat...” Rowan gestures towards the table and chairs. “Excuse the mess, it is almost time to change her dressings..”

Laila is sitting on the floor, watching Serena clean her kittens. She gently runs a finger over the soft fur on each small body. She looks up and says "come in" when Rowan knocks.

“I hate to interrupt, but there is someone here to see Laila.”

Laila and Ramji exchange looks. Laila is instantly fearful that it is Rath, come to take her back. “Who is it?” she asks as she stands.

“Adrian, Raths brother..”

Laila is stunned into silence for a moment, her thoughts whirling. “Adrian? Is here?”

Ramji grins, “Good. Dmitri said he would come.”

“But so soon... and my clothes.... I dont look presentable... and my hand, it isnt healed yet...”

Ramji stands and pulls her close. 'You look presentable to me, more than presentable...” He tips her chin and kisses her lightly to the side of her mouth. “He should see your hand and what that bastard did to you.”

“I agree.” Rowan inclines her head towards the stairs, “Lets not keep him waiting..”

Once settled in the hotel, Adrian grabs some much-needed rest while Thea tends to other business. "It would be best," he'd told her on the plane, "if no one knows we are coming until we're actually there. I want to see things as they really are, and if I know my brother - and I do - he will do his utmost to minimize and wrongs he may have done.

Truthfully, Thea," he'd continued, "I have no doubt that your sister is telling the truth. I know Rath too well to suppose that he has changed his ways without compelling reason - and so long as he continues to receive his stipend, that will never happen. It is only that I cannot condemn any without evidence of wrongdoing."

"Which is why your people call you Adrian the Just, my Lord."

"Do they? I'd no idea." He looks thoughtful. "Then more than ever I must strive for fairness, even to one who deserves it least."

Two hours later, Thea has it all. The location of the Tavern, Rath's dwelling, and Rowan's house. Actually, the last only required local verification, since Dmitri had already told them how to reach the priestess. When Adrian wakes, Thea will be ready.

Tannr stands, shakes the dirt off, and collects his winnings. The loser shakes his hand and they thump each other on the back. Tannrs first thought is to go bathe, but he feels someone looking at him. Turning, he sees Ky standing near the stables, a cane in her hand. He notes the brace on her lower leg and wonders how she's doing.

I could just go ask her, except that she looks like she might take my head off, brace or not... I wonder if she can ride yet? Get this nonsense over with... But what if she's right? What if they are alive? Talk about eating a massive dish of crow...

He watches as Drai approaches Ky and they talk for a few minutes. He turns in surprise to see Marc, a good friend and his current commander, just in from the fighting and they clasp hands. They greet each other and exchange news about the battles.

Marc nods his head towards the stable, “A looker, that wyldfae. Bet she can ride like nobodies business... in more ways than one...”

“I wouldnt know...” and Tannr explains to his friend about helping her to the medical tent and the things Ky told him.

Marc gives a low whistle, “Damn. Thats quite a story. You sound like you dont believe her..”

Tannr shrugs, “I dont know what to believe, to tell you the truth. I just thought I was long lived because I was here...” He holds his hands out, “I suppose it could be otherwise, I just dont know. She did tell me some things... things that I dont know how else she would have known.”

Nodding, Marc claps Tannr on the back. “Well, lets go to the canteen, grab a some of that stale piss that passes for beer in this shithole. We can talk about it there. Thats if whatever females are hanging around leave you alone long enough...”

Tannr rolls his eyes. “I cant tell whats female and whats not around here. Everyone looks the same... dirty, pissed off, and smells worse... Gods, I am weary of it.”

“Then go with her. Check it out. Do you even remember the last time you took a break?”

As Tannr starts to nod his head, Marc continues, “And by break I mean more than 20 minutes with one of the camp whores...”

Ky frowns as she watches the two men head to the canteen. She hobbles back to Horse, Drai right behind her. “What are you doing? You cant ride yet. Ky! Damn it!”

“Just help me up. I am just going to walk him around, no saddle or anything. It wont hurt my leg.” I hope it wont hurt...

“And how often do you use a saddle? If you do more than walk I am beating the crap outta you..” Drai gives her a boost up.

Ky holds her breath and grits her teeth against the pain. A couple more days, no more. I want to see Gareth... and get Tannr to Raina, so he can stop looking at me like I am some kind of criminal, making up stories for whatever crazy reason is in his head.

"You will forgive me, Rider, but you will understand that we cannot take this at face value, even from such a source, sent in such a way. These are serious charges; they must be verified. Thea," - he speaks without turning - "make arrangements for us to visit this 'Exton'. I leave all travel arrangements in your hands. In our absence, Erasmus will administer the estate."

"Our absence, my Lord?"

"Of course. You are coming with me."

He beckons a man forward, one whose erect carriage and bearing proclaim him a soldier, at least once. His right hand has been replaced by a prosthetic hook. "Erasmus, old friend - you will take care of things for me, yes? My trust in you and your ability is complete, so do what you think needful while I am gone."

"My Lord," the grizzled veteran returns. "You will find all prospering when you return, exactly as you left it."

"I know that to be so." He raises his voice to take in the entire hall. "Hear me, people of Deimos. I go to the United States on a matter of honor and justice, one that concerns our House. While I am gone, Erasmus Ironhand has my voice. He is your liege lord until my return."
Dmitri watches the crowd. No one seems worried, or afraid, being among so many undead. The woman returns, motioning for him to follow. he estimates that she hasn't been among the Undead long. She looks very healthy, but that is deceiving. Being reborn among them heals many things, like the cause of death. She seems nervous. When Zade paces a little close, the woman hurries onward, putting more distance between them. He hides his smile in the shadows of his hood.
She leads them through the crowd, directly before Lord Adrian. The Rider bows from the waist. The Vampire leader watches him with an interested expression. eyes. There is no mistaking woman beside him. The resemblance to Laila is incredible.

"Férno̱ Chairetísmata ston Lórdo Adrian tou Deimos. Af̱tí̱ eínai i̱ ef̱chí̱ Kyríou Herne óti éna mí̱nyma prépei na títhentai ypópsi̱ tou. Écho̱ ti̱n timí̱ ti̱s parousías tou Kyríou Adrian tou?"

(I bring Greetings to Lord Adrian of Deimos. It is Lord Herne's wish that a message be brought to His attention. Do I have the honor of Lord Adrian's presence?)

Adrian leans forward slightly. He did not expect diplomacy. It brings a tight lipped smile and a nod for the courtesy.

"Échete, Rider ti̱s Herne. Ti mí̱nyma eínai tóso si̱mantikó to gegonósóti i̱ Huntsman tha steílei énan apestalméno gia na me dei?"

(You have, Rider of Herne. What message is so important that The Huntsman would send an emissary to see me?)

The Hell Hounds step forward, sitting on the floor between Dmitri and Adrian. The Rider shifts slightly, easing his stance from warrior to messenger. It is a subtle thing, but not missed by Adrian's sharp eyes.

"Férnoume éna mí̱nyma óchi apó ton Kýrió Herne, allá, me ti̱n ev̱logía Tou, gia logariasmó állou. To ónomá ti̱s eínai Laila kai échei symvólaio gia éna vampír pou onomázetai Rath. Eínai af̱tí̱ pou eínai gno̱stó óti af̱tó to dikastí̱rio?"

(We bring a message not from Lord Herne but, with His blessing, on behalf of another. Her name is Laila and she is Contracted to a vampire called Rath. Is she known to this Court?)

The woman beside Adrian lifts her head from her writing. The Vampire Lord glances at her, then back at Dmitri. At his nod, the Rider tells of Laila's ill treatment, her befriending of a Rider, finally ending with the injuries to her hand. There is a noise from the crowd. A young seeming undead male steps forward. He speaks not in Greek, but English.

"You must be lying! Rath is of the Noble House. He would not break the Contract!"

Lord Adrian shifts to English. His words are clear, colored with a heavy Greek accent. "Hold your tongue James. Have you proof of such, Rider?"

"I have the lady's own words, if You would dare to allow a Hell Hound to touch Your mind."

Without pause Adrian rises from his chair and steps off the dais. His scribe follows him, standing just behind and to his left. Adrian asks Dmitri what he must do. The Rider directs him to sit on the bottom step and allow the Hound to come to him. Zade rises and pads across the few feet between them, Tao on her heels. She stops out of arm's reach and stares at Thea.

"It seems this message is meant for Your servent as well, My Lord, if she is Thea, sister to Laila."

"Come Thea, sit beside me this once."

There is a slight hesitation, but Thea, settles on the step. Zade goes to her and sniffs. She turns her head and growls at Tao as he hovers close. The bigger Hound edges back, but not far. Satisfied, Zade turns her attention to the pair before her.

"Touch her. Lay your hand against her skin. She will do the rest."

They touch her and Zade looks first to one, then the other. Her eyes deepen to the color of old blood as tears slip down Thea's cheeks. Adrian grows grim as he stares at nothing. What they see is Laila, sending the message in her own words. They feel her rage, her impotence, her dispair. When the Hound's eyes return to their normal red, Zade steps back, out of their reach. Thea gathers up her notebook and quickly stands.

Dmitri hands her a square of black cloth. She looks at it puzzlement.

"Tears shed for another are precious. Zade will take them to Laila as proof you have not forgotten her."

Shock widens Thea's eyes as she takes the black handkerchief. "She is my sister,"

"Who has been alone with an abuser for several years, and has just recently learned of her parents' deaths. She is surrounded by people she just met, in a land not of her birth. One would think she is feeling adrift."

When she hands back the cloth, damp with her tears, Dmitri folds it and tucks it into a small pouch in a cloak pocket. "I promise this will reach her by morning. Exton is not far by the Hell Hound's runs."

Lord Adrian's people come and go freely through the gates. It is obvious that the humans do not fear him, but instead seek his input in important matters. A few of his Nest carry clipboards, noting names and grievances being brought for decision. Dmitri stands among the shadows, listening.

Zade cocks her head. Her muzzle wrinkles, as if to growl, but no sound emerges. Tao lifts his impressive bulk from where he sprawls and lowers his head. Their eyes gleam red in warning. The woman approaching has her head bent over her board, looking up at the last moment. She smiles at Dmitri, revealing slightly sharp teeth.

*"Eísai edó̱ gia na deíte Kýrio Adrian?" She glances at the black dogs, then does a double take. ^"Échete tétoies endiaférouses skyliá. Ti rátsa ... O̱!" She takes a step back, bowing to the Rider. ~"Pó̱s boroúme na sas voi̱thí̱soume Hunter? Den échoume spásei symvólaio me tous anthró̱pous mas. Den boreíte na eíste edó̱ gia Adri ... " Dmitri cuts her off, holding up a black gloved hand. Instantly her words stop and she glances around.

Several others approach, a mixture of humans and undead, at her unvoiced signal. Within the darkness of his hood, Dmitri smiles. The Hounds stiffen, falling into an attack stance. He waits for them to get closer before he speaks.

His words have a hollow sound, an effect of the hood.

"**Férno̱ éna mí̱nyma se Adrian, o Lórdos tou laoú tou, apó Laila, éna paidí ti̱s Sýmvasi̱s. Eíte prókeitai gia to théli̱má Tou na akoúsei af̱tó to mí̱nyma stous anthró̱pous tou í̱ gia ta af̱tiá tou kai móno, Anaménoume ef̱charísti̱si̱ Tou."

The woman turns and motions the others away. She glides out of sight, more quickly than any human could possibly move. The Rider smiles, feeling the eyes of many watching. Some hold curiosity, others wariness. Zade lowers herself to sprawl at his feet as Tao paces before dropping beside his mate. Another Hound appears from the shadows and touches Dmitri's glove. heads turn, then quickly look away. Dmitri opens the palm flap of his glove and touches his bared skin to the Hound's neck. message received, the creature bounds back into the shadows and is gone.

Dmitri leans against a tree, tugging his hood lower, and settles in to wait.

*Are you here to see Lord Adrian?

^You have such interesting dogs. What breed... Oh!

~How may we help you Hunter? We have not broken contract with our people. You cannot be here for Adri..."

**I bring a message to Adrian, Lord of His People, from Laila, a child of the Contract. Be it His will to hear this message among His people or for His ear alone, We await His pleasure.

Lord Adrian sits smiling in his mansion, his servant Thea by his side. It is eight o' clock, the hour that he mediates disputes between his people. It is entirely voluntary to bring a case before His Lordship; but his judgment is final. It is a testament to his fairness and wisdom that so many choose this method of resolving their disagreements.

"Andreas, it is your land; therefore it is your right to deny access to it. Still… it is a long way for your neighbors, to go around your property. Cannot you permit an area, say, wide enough for a wagon, where they may pass unimpeded?"

"I have done so, my Lord, many times already; but there are those who will stray from the path into my fields and who do much damage before they go on their way."

"So it is not the right-of-way that troubles you, but the damage that is inflicted on your property when others fail to respect it." He leans forward, steepling his chin in his hands. "Then this is my judgment. You will permit access by such means as you have before. If any stray from the path and damage your crops, that person will make good the damage, not with money, but by repairing the damage he has done with his own hands, until all is as it was before. Does this satisfy you?"

"Aye, my Lord, it does."

Lord Adrian turns to Thea. "Let it be so recorded."

Ky stood up slowly, letting her leg stretch, trying to get used to the brace around her ankle. It felt awkward and clumsy but she was standing on her own.

I guess thats something....

She hobbled over to the tent entrance and looked out. The camp was busy as usual, lots of people coming and going. One of the healers assistants came to her and offered her a pair of crutches. She laughed and shook her head.

“Maybe a cane for balance, but no crutches.” Goddess, this is bad enough. Everyone will treat me like an invalid...

The assistant returns with a cane, which Ky grudgingly takes. She makes her way to the stables and finds Horse. He makes quick work of the carrot she had saved for him, munching happily then nuzzling her in thanks. Ky laughs and strokes the big head until her attention is caught by some yelling outside.

She pauses in the doorway of the stables. A group of men is laughing and shoving each other, placing bets and from the looks of it, more than a little drunk. Two men separate themselves from the group and start to wrestle, both intent on taking the other down. The group cheers for their favorite. Ky's eyes widen as she realizes one of the contestants is Tannr.

She smiles, then sighs. Like anyone is going to take him down. They would have to cheat. I should try to get to know him better, Raina loves him dearly, but he is so damn unapproachable. Raina said Erik used to be like that, until he met Star and fell in love with her. But this one is so... infuriating.... and why so touchy about the dead sister? Raina has explained the whole story to me, she made no mention of Tannr in it. Is there more to it?

The sun hadn't cleared the trees completely. Shadow still drapes across more than half the clearing. The Lord of the Hounds pauses, his brush dripping paint back onto the tray he holds. Trooper rises, grudgingly giving up his place on the porch, as a pair of red eyes gleam in the treeline. Moments later his cell phone rings.

He says nothing, listening to the voice on the other end. Putting down the tray, he nods to Erik and points to his phone. As he heads for the front door he stops to kiss the top of Mera's head. Cereal is smeared across her face and she gurgles, reaching for her da, as Star tries to keep her focused on eating. He backs out of reach, grinning.

"Yes. I am here."

Trooper trots to his side, followed by another Hound. It sits, waiting for his attention. Keon looks down, nodding to the newcomer. It lays down, pillowing its hoary jaw on scaley paws.

"I will call ye back. I see no problem with that. I just need to find who has the link with Dmitri."

The phone clicks shut and Keon folds his lean frame onto the porch. The Hounds crawl closer as a dark mist envelopes the Dark Lord. It drifts away, revealing a large red eyed Hell Hound in Keon's place. The ensuing conversation consists of canine growls and yips, reptilian hisses and rumbles. Trooper shakes his grizzled head and trots into the shortening shadows. The visitor follows, while mist coalesces around the remaining beast. Keon stands and heads for the house, mist trailing like the train of a wedding gown, in his wake.

He slips past Mera as Star cleans her face, picking up his discarded paint tray as he enters the addition.

"Looks like Rath ticked off the wrong people.... And I thought ye Vikings were tough. Never piss off a woman. Woe betide ye an she be Greek as well."

Trooper steps from the Shadow Paths. He pauses, scenting the air, then trots into a patch of sun, his companion following in his steps. Throwing back his head, he howls. The eerie sound is disturbing, even in the light of day. Ramji snags a pair of doughnuts and heads outside. He lowers himself to the ground and offers the Hounds breakfast.

The visitor lays its head in Ramji's lap. His hand caresses the bristly fur while the Rider's gaze grows distant. Laila moves onto the porch, watching. Ramji's eyes capture hers and he smiles. He motions for her to join them. Her footsteps are hesitant. Settling on the grass, Trooper edges close to her. He cocks his ear, then suddenly drops his ugly head in her lap.

"It is alright, touch him. He won't bite. Neither will she." Her hand touches the scaly flesh. It is dry, lizard like and covered in wiry fur. Trooper rolls his eyes up, then closes them as if content. "That is Trooper. This is Scheherazade. They are elite corps Hounds. Zade will carry your message for Lord Adrian. Her mate is already with Dmitri. tell her what you want him to know and she will let him see it directly from your lips."

She takes a deep breath and thinks. "Rath broke the Contract. My parents are dead two years and he never told me. He forced my hand around a glass until it crushed, just because I refused to slave for his current favorites." Tears well in her eyes. "I have stitches and can barely move my hand." She sits taller, shaking off her depression. "He treats me like a slave, not like a servant. My room has no insulation, cracks between the boards." Her tone changes, becoming angry. "I have three sets of clothes. What I wear in public has been mended many times. He lavishes his toys, his female lovers, with gifts and keeps them enthralled. The males he drains. What he does with the bodies, I don't know. I do know that no one has found them."

Her hands plays with one of Trooper's ears. "The Hell Hounds have shown me the visitors he has had while I am here at a healer's. I cannot see them clearly. I wish I could add more, but I am sorry Lord Adrian. I am tired, so very tired. The healer said to expect that."

Zade raises her head and looks to the porch. The Hounds rise and turn, trotting into the dense trees. The shadows swallow them as if they were never there. Ramji smiles and helps her to her feet.

"Message sent."

Ramji watches Jack, as still as if he were on a Hunt. When Laila looks in his eyes she sees darkness, a fierceness that terrified her the first time they had met.

His words are soft, but intense. "Jack is right. What Rath has done is wrong. He has broken contract with your family. That your family is no longer here to address the issue left it a moot point to him." He steeples his fingers, tapping them against his lips for a moment. His tone becomes thoughtful, his eyes softening to someone she recognizes.

"You have family. Your sister. And did you not say she is bound to Rath's brother? Does he honor the Contract? Would he be open to a messenger?"

Laila nods. "Lord Adrian is a man of honor. He would not punish a messenger for the news they bring." She frowns. "Who would willingly take a message to the Undead?"

Ramji's lips twitch. A slow grin spreads, reaching his eyes and setting off a devious glimmer. "Dimitri. He is in Greece right now. Anything that needs to be told, can be sent by HellHound. And, if he runs true to form, he will arrive on Lord Adrian's doorstep just before sunset with a cadre of HellHounds at his heels. My brother knows how to make an entrance."

Rowan opens the door at my knock, still in her robe and looking muzzy-headed.

"Jack? What are you doing here at this ungodly hour?"

"I come bearing gifts," I say, profferring two large flat boxes. "Doughnuts."

"Oh, goddess… do you know how bad these things are for you?"

"Nah, I'm healthy enough to live forever. Besides, these are no ordinary doughnuts." I bend close to her ear and whisper conspiratorially, "These are Krispy Kreme."

"Good gods. You know you're setting my diet plan back a year?"

"Live a little, Priestess. Life is for the living, money for the spending. No pockets in a shroud."

"Well… when you put it like that… what do you have here?"

I switch to the singsong delivery of a carnival barker. "I have plain glazed, crullers, cake doughnuts of various flavors; doughnuts filled with raspberry, blueberry, apple, lemon, chocolate and Bavarian Cream; an Epicurean delight for every palate. Come one, come all! Get 'em while they're hot!"

At this point, Laila shows up, barefoot and in her robe, looking (if possible) even more muzzy-headed than Rowan. "Do I smell" - her eyes go wide - "doughnuts?!" she exclaims delightedly.

I seize a Bavarian Crème before they can all be gobbled and for the next few minutes we're all engrossed in deep-fried, melted-sugar-glazed goodness. When I produce a large carafe of hot coffee, the joy is complete.

I see Ramji leaning in the doorway, watching the ladies choose their sugared delight like they're making a choice between the Hope diamond or the Koh-i-noor.

After setting four mugs on the table, he waits until no one is reaching in the box, then quickly takes a doughnut at random. Rowan and Laila stare unbelievingly as he slips into a chair next to Laila.


Eyes wide and round, Laila asks, "Don't you have a favorite?"

He grins. "It is a fried pastry. In my mind, it is all good."

When all are sated and gooey glaze has been wiped from sticky faces, Rowan gives me a cool appraising look. "So, Jack… did you come here to feed the starving, or did you have some other motive?"

"What other motive? Apart, that is, from trying to catch you in your jammies."

"I don't wear jammies," Rowan says pointedly and smiles sweetly as my eyes cross.

"That's not fair," I complain mildly. "I'm too old for such revelations."

"Hey, you said it yourself - you're healthy enough to live forever. So what's up?"

"Well… if you recall - not to bring back bad memories, hon," I say, nodding to Laila, "Thaddeus recommended that you tell Rath's brother what he's been doing. I'm here to remind you of that, and to help if I can."

Drai, on his way to bring K'thyri her supper, watches as the Viking leaves the medical tent and heads towards the canteen. He goes to see Ky who is still fuming.

“Calm down. What did he say to you to make you so mad?”

Ky glares, still angry by the encounter. “He doesnt believe me. I hate being called a liar. I am not lying.”

Drai nods and smiles. He knows Ky well and knows she will calm down shortly. “I know. But it is hard to believe. Would you believe it were the tables turned?”

Shrugging her shoulders as she watches her brother set up a tray for her food, her stomach starts to growl, making her smile. “That smells good. I dont know if I would believe it. But as soon as my leg is better I am going to knock him on his know-it-all little ass.”

Drai laughs and enjoys the time with his sister. “I would pay to see that sister.” But I am glad I wont be on that trip to the human realm. I hope they both make it there without killing each other...

Ky takes a deep breath, This wasnt quite the way she imagined this working out. She definitely felt at a disadvantage being stuck in a cot with her leg pretty much immobile. And how to explain about her and Raina? She couldnt imagine any sibling of hers being a prude and not one that looked this good, but you never knew about people.

“Well.... for starters, you have a sister, not had. She's a really close friend of mine, in the human realm. She was here a while back, when Morgan was captured and killed, you may have heard about that...”

The stranger nods and opens his mouth to ask another question but Ky beats him to it. “Is your name Tannr?”

“Yes, but a lot of people know my name. Raina cannot still be alive, its just not possible.”

Ky raises an eyebrow, “You're still alive. Why couldnt she be?”

“But I live here, the Unformed Plane. Time isnt like it should be or like it is in other places. It must be another girl named Raina..”

Shaking her head Ky says, “No, I dont think so. Shes about as tall as me, straight black hair, emerald green eyes, just like yours and your brothers.”

“My brother?! Which one? How hard did you hit your head when you got hurt?”

Trying not to laugh at the look on Tannrs face, “I didnt hit my head at all. Erik. Your brother Erik. He has the same eyes, although not quite as bright a color...”

Tannr shakes his head. 'You must be a crazy person. A crazy Wyldfae. There is no way they are alive. And I would like to know how you know about them in the first place.”

K'thyri sighs, not sure what to say to convince him. “When I can ride, you can come with me. I can prove it to you. I am not making this up or lying to you. What reason would I have for that?”

With a look that tells Ky he still isnt convinced he says, “I dont know. Maybe its some kind of a trap. Although I dont know what the Wyldfae would want with me...”

Ky, who doesnt have a lot of patience to begin with, is starting to lose her temper and her fists hit the side of the cot. “Damn it! The Wyldfae dont want you. I dont want you. I have lovers, what would I do with you? And dont say ransom, you know how often that happens out here.”

Tannr laughs, “You dont know what to do with me? Are your lovers eunuchs then?”

“You fool. You are entirely too young...” Ky has to fight an overwhelming urge to throw something at his smug head.

“Too young? You arent exactly an old woman. This is ridiculous. I know when I am being lied to.” Tannr turns to leave the tent.

'Wait! Please. Your sister, she has lots of tattoos, a dragon on her back, a panther on one arm, a snake that is usually on her neck, but he seems to be wherever depending on his mood. Sometimes they are tattoos... and sometimes they are not. I know you understand what I am talking about..”

Tannr pauses, How in Hel does she know that?

Ky continues, “Your brother, he has a phoenix on his back, who is rarely off his back for some reason. A tiger on his arm and a wolf on his chest. Wolf is usually running around. They told me you always followed them around, that you got in a lot of trouble and burned down a barn or something... not on purpose though... Raina left home when your sister Tara was killed, she blamed herself for years...."

Tannr is at the side of the cot in two strides and leans close to Ky. “Do not speak of my sister Tara. Do not. I swear I will strangle you..”

Ky's eyes go hard and cold. “If you touch me you will regret it.”

Something in her voice and eyes or what she has told him makes Tannr pause. “I will go with you. If nothing else to shove your lying words down your throat.” He turns and quickly vanishes into the night.

Alise was curled up in Stoneys lap. They had moved the large comfortable chair close to the window where they could see the moon, big and bright outside the window. She smiles as she thinks back to the past couple of hours, Stoneys mouth ravishing her until she screamed in pleasure and release. Pulling him to this very chair and kneeling between his legs, licking and sucking until he begged her to stop, but she didnt, until he pulled her up to his lap and impaled her on his hardness. The look on his face when he exploded in her, his hands buried in her hair, my god, Allie...

She sighs softly and nuzzles Stoneys neck, her lips leaving a hot trail up to his jaw.

Pushing the hair away from her face he kisses her gently. “ *à quoi pensez-vous?, mon amour...

“I was thinking that I must be the luckiest person in the world..”

Stoney laughs, “No, I am the luckiest person. To have you and our family. Who could ask for anything more?”

Alise laughs, “A shower, mon amour. I must smell and I wont have you changing your mind about your luck.”

“Well...” Stoney sets her gently off his lap, “I do have one more surprise for you...” He goes to his pants he left on the floor near the bed and rummages in the pockets. He grins as he pulls out a key. “I have the key to the private hot tub room. Just for you and me...”

“Oohhh...I have the best husband...Let me find a robe...”

*a penny for your thoughts, my love

I wait for Mya to return to her perch by the ceiling, then turn to my friends. "I'm sure that Mya is telling the truth as she knows it, but it's not the whole truth. I think it's more serious than she says; at least, that's the sense I get from this 'link' thing.

Against that, I have no experience yet with how this works. I don't know if the link is exaggerating things for effect, or if I'm just overestimating it. I don't think it's anything life-threatening, but I can't be sure of anything at this point."

Mya listens to the message and heads straight to Raina, who is sitting with Nick and Gareth. She lands next to a tall glass and raps loudly on it to get Rainas attention.

“Mya has message from friend, Wyldfae with hair like..” She mimes hair that writhes like flames, trying to conjure the color of K'thyri's hair. "Is hurt, not serious. Need to rest, to heal, then will come home to you. Okay?”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keon accompanies Star and myself back to the Tavern, where people are in high spirits indeed. I listen to the talk around me, and eventually I piece together that Jack put on a performance for the preacher. I'm not clear on exactly what that performance was, but it seems that it rid us of the sour wretch for the night. I'd buy Jack a drink, but it seems that Tori already took care of that. I marvel at the gargoyles sometimes - musicians, warriors, artists - is there no end to their talents? I settle for raising my glass to Jack and receive a sheepish grin in return.

From the corner of my eye I see it, a streak of light that shoots straight up into the rafters and hovers there, revealing itself as a demifae. The light it gives shows Mya sitting comfortably in the ever-present greenery - though at this distance it's hard to be sure it's her. Message delivered - I assume - the demifae streaks back out into the night; and then Mya hurls herself from the rafters, straight for Raina's table.

Oho! I wonder what's up now….

As much as he tries to control his own urges, Stoney groans as Alise clamps hard. She grinds against him, accepting every inch, amazing him with every stroke. He groans again as he feels his tip bang into the end of her channel. Alise writhes on the bed, panting.

"Oooh mon amour! Please Remi.... hard, fast..."

Her nails scrape down his sides as he leans over her. Stoney arches at their biting sting, slamming deep again. Alise moans and grinds hard. it is too much. Gritting his teeth, Stoney slams deep and fights the impending eruption with everything at his command, but it is too late.

His cock pulses, throbbing as it begins to jet, each burst making Alise moan and writhe. Suddenly she stiffens, muscles clamping tight. Her hands catch in the long length of his hair, yanking hard as she explodes around him. He growls softly, shuddering as she milks him dry. Too soon, he is supporting himself on his hands, angled over her as her breasts heave from release. Her eyes are closed and he leans forward to kiss her forehead.

His words are soft, barely spoken. "*Je suis désolé, mon amour. Je ne pouvais m'arrêter."

She laughs, opening lavender eyes gone darker with passion. A delicate hand strokes the damp strands of his hair that dangle over her. "Remi..." She is breathless and licks her lips, trying again. "Remi, we have all night, oui?" She grins up at him. "Do you... Do you think you can do that again?"

He groans as she clamps her muscles around him. His manhood stirs, thickening quickly within her "Mon amour... Chaton... I don't think that," He rocks, thrusting deep to make her writhe. "will be a problem."

Her arms slide around his neck and he complies, leaning closer as he thrusts. His mouth finds hers, teasing until she parts her lips. He whispers against her lips. "Tell me if it hurts..."

She laughs and urges him on, bucking into each thrust. "You haven't yet. ^Mon Dieu! Juste comme ça ...."

*I am sorry, my love. I couldn't stop.

^My God! Just like that.....

Alise smiles slowly, mmmm... yes... a children for a little while....

Stoney takes her by the hand and pulls her to her feet and they head upstairs. As soon as they are out of sight of the customers, Stoney pins her up against a wall and grabs a leg, wrapping it around him. He rubs himself against her, already hard and wanting.

Alise wraps her arms around his neck and moans softly. “Chiot, you said something about a room....”

Without a moments hesitation Stoney sweeps Alise up in his arms and carries her to their old room. He lowers Alise enough so that she can reach the doorknob and she giggles as he gives the door a kick as soon as the latch is free. Stoney pauses just inside the door and kicks it shut, letting Alise see the room.

“Oh... Stoney... you planned this....” Her eyes are wide at the sight of several lit candles, flowers and the bed turned down.

Grinning Stoney asks, “You like it? I thought it would be nice for you. You work so hard with the little ones...”

Alise wiggles out of his arms and moves to pull a white rose out of a vase. “Its perfect, more than perfect.” She sets the rose back in its place and turns to Stoney. Slowly unbuttoning her blouse she gives him a little grin, “I love you, Remi...”

Stoney swallows hard as the top hits the floor and Alise reaches around and undoes her lacy black bra. She tosses that on the blouse as she moves closer to the bed. Her breasts are full and inviting, the nipples dark and hard with desire, causing Stoney to go hard almost instantly. As she reaches the bed she slips her skirt down over her hips and lets it fall to the floor. She reaches up to take the clips out of her hair, letting the golden tresses fall around her. Hooking her thumbs in her sheer black panties she gazes at her husband. His eyes are dark, watching her every move.

“Shall I take these off, Chiot?” she asks teasingly.

“You better or I am going to rip them off...' Stoney starts to pull his shirt off.

Slowly slipping the panties down, Alise stands, then sits on the bed. She pushes her self back, legs spread invitingly. “Werent you showing me something with your tongue and my legs?” Alise strokes the insides of her thighs, spreading her legs even further.

Stoney growls and tears his pants off. Kneeling at the foot of the bed he takes in the sight of his wife, spread wantonly before him. Her lips were already wet and glistening, her hands so close....

Alise picks up on his thoughts and starts to stroke herself, her clit going hard at the touch. She moans at the feel and the look in Stoneys eyes as he watches her.

Unable to take any more teasing Stoney kneels between her legs and captures her hands in his. Pulling her arms up over her head, he teases her with his cock, barely entering, then rubbing over her clit. “Is this what you want Chaton? See what you get for your teasing?”

Alise laughs, and pouts. “I am sorry. Now fuck me husband, or do you want me to beg?”

“As you wish...” He enters her slowly, feeling her wet and tight. Alise moans, head thrown back, body shaking. Stoney can feel her trembling and her pussy grabbing his cock and knows she wont last. He starts to thrust into her. “Cum bebe, cum... I am so close....”

When Fisher leaves, Guunnar works his way through the tables to meet the Gothi. He accepts a chair and is soon deep in conversation. The sound of their laughter rings above all other noise.

Tori stops at the sound board to talk to Byte while Ike takes a tray from Monty. She stops by Rowan and slides a glass in front of her. "On the house." Moments later she is gone, taking drinks to Raina's table after sliding a complimentary Corona in front of Jack.

Ob grins as he wraps his arms around Pandora's waist from behind. He nuzzles the back of her neck, nipping lightly. I am very glad Nanny has the children settled upstairs. She feels his tail slide along her leg, and she stiffens to keep her knees from buckling as the tip of his tail presses against the crotch of her panties. he feels the moan in her mind and smiles genially at the people she had been talking to. "Forgive me for intruding, but I have need of my wife."

He leads her to the Tavern's office, his tailtip stroking over her crotch again and again. he locks the door behind them and pushes her against it. His lips find hers as he pins her to the door. The soft sounds she makes brings a grin and he drops to his knees, hiking her skirt. Before she can do more than gasp, he forces her legs apart and thrusts his long tongue into her wet channel. He pulls back when her hands sink in his hair. He looks up at her, then stands and swings her up. his tail clears the desk top and he almost drops her on it, pushing her legs up and back. He exposes her wet pussy to his gaze and licks his lips.

"Hold your ankles, Mujer." Pandora complies and Ob's thumbs caress along her nether lips, opening them wide. His tongue follows, lapping slowly, teasingly, until she begins to whimper. He lifts his head, face wet from her juices.

"Cum for me this way Bruha... let me drink you down before I fuck you over your own desk."

She watches his mouth lower over her as his fingers explore, thrusting deep, then withdrawing. His eyes roll upward, capturing her gaze and he grins as a finger forces its way wetly through the tight ring of her ass. She bucks and screams as he clamps his mouth over her, tongue and teeth toying with her clit.

Stoney slides into a chair next to Alise and brings her hand to his lips. He raises his eyes to her soft lavender gaze, a wicked gleam in his dark stare. She shivers as he slides his mind into hers, making her feel his tongue exploring between her thighs, as he flicks it innocently over the top of her hand. He opens the link in their minds, letting her capture a glimpse of a busy mouth and whimpers of pleasure.

He leans close and whispers in her ear. "*Allons-nous trouver une chambre, ma séductrice? It has been awhile since we dallied without worrying the children would wake or hear."

*Shall we get a room, my seductress?

Ky wakes up slowly and lets her eyes adjust to the dim light and her unfamiliar surroundings.

Where am I? Wheres Horse? I was on my horse.... then not on the horse, on the ground...

She tries to sit up and is stopped by two strong, yet gentle hands. She focuses her eyes and sees her brother, Drai.

“Hey sleepyhead. You need to stay put for now. The healers need to put a brace on that ankle before you can start moving around. I hope you dont mind using crutches...”

“I dont need crutches. What are you doing here? Oh...” Her mind starts to clear. “I'm in the Unformed Plane. I was fighting, and I remember a hellcat, a huge one. Then falling off Horse... and not much else. I take it this is a medical tent...”

Drai nods. “Yes. And you need to listen for once in your life. You have stitches and a dislocated ankle. No fighting for you for awhile.”

Ky immediately starts to protest but Drai is having none of it. “I will tie you to that bunk if I have to. Do you want to have a permanent limp?”

She slowly shakes her head. “No, of course not. But I told Raina I would find her brother. So I have to at least be able to ride.”

“Her brother? Would that be the Viking that brought you to the tent here? The healers said he carried you in after you collapsed.”

“He hasnt left has he? I have to talk to him.” Ky struggles to sit up.

“Will you just lay still? He hasnt left. The healers said he has stopped here a couple of times to see if you were awake. I just got here an hour or so ago. You have been out of it for about a day and a half.” Ky's stomach starts to growl, making Drai laugh. “I'll go see about some food. And I can get one of the healers to speak to you about the brace. Horse is fine. He is stabled with mine. Does that cover everything?”

Ky nods, “Yes, for now anyway...”

Ky lays back and lets her thought drift. Her mind goes to Gareth, then Raina, and of course, Nick. The way he kissed her when she was ready to leave left no doubt in her mind that he wanted more, a lot more.

She sighs softly. And now this... gazing at the bandage on her lower leg and foot. I wonder if its really as bad as Drai says. He is full of shit on a good day...

An attempt to bring her knee up brings excruciating pain to the lower limb and leaves Ky gasping. Okay... maybe it is bad. I'll just lay here for awhile....

Her thoughts return once again to her new family. Gareth had wanted her to think about what she wanted while she was away from them. She knew he was worried that she wouldnt approve of his and Nicks relationship. It wasnt that she disapproved of anything, after all, Gareth didnt mind when she preferred to spend time with Raina. Thinking back to the night she watched through the spy holes she wasnt shocked or disgusted by any of it. It just didnt turn her on either.

I wonder if thats good enough? I miss them all, especially Gareth....

Her thoughts are interrupted by a large man standing at the foot of her cot clearing his throat to get her attention.

As she looks up she has to stop herself from gasping out loud. That has to be Rainas brother. He looks just like Erik, only younger... now that I can see him better without all his battle gear...

“I hope you are feeling better... you didnt look so hot when I brought you here.”

Ky nods, 'Yeah, well, not one of my smarter moves.”

The stranger grins, “It happens to the best of us. The cats are hard to kill. Anyway, I wanted to ask you something.”

“Sure, shoot..” Ky sits up a bit more.

“How do you know I had a sister named Raina?”

Keon and Erik had finally come in for a late supper. Star went to get Mera to see her Da before she fell too soundly asleep. As she neared the crib she could see a bluish haze beginning to fade. Bending over Mera, Star could see the happiness in the little girls eyes. She picks her up and snuggles with her a moment before she notices the light pink pearls nestled in a sea shell on the babies dresser.

“Oh Mera....look what your mommy left for you. Arent they pretty? I bet we can find someone to make you a necklace...”

Star carries the baby into the kitchen and shows the pearls in the shell to Erik and Keon. “Cassie must leave them for Mera. I dont know where else they would come from...”

She notices the sadness in Keons eyes as his gaze takes in the sea shell and his baby daughter. Handing Mera to him she asks “Do you know of anyone who could make a necklace out of them?”

“Oh aye, I'll see to it. I am sure tis why Cassie left them.” Keon holds his daughter close, running a large hand over the baby's soft curls. “Has she left anything else?”

“Just some funny looking coins. I can get them for you.” Star moves out of the kitchen when she hears Erik ask, “Princess, what color are the coins?”

“A funny dark gold color. Why?”

Erik lowers his head into his hands and chuckles. “What am I going to do with her?”

“She doesnt ken about the value of money?” Keon asks.

“No, she doesnt. And she doesnt care. Rowan said she tried to teach her too, but Star is fairly stubborn about it and Rowan didnt get very far with it.”

Star returns to the men with a small box in her hand. “Here. I have been saving the things she leaves for Mera..”

She pushes the box towards Keon. Leaving it sit on the table he uses his free hand to open it. Inside are several gold doubloons and sea shells of various colors.

Erik looks and asks, “What do you suppose those coins are worth?”

“I hae no idea, but I can find out.” Keon takes a small coin from the box, “May I?”

“Of course. They arent mine.” Star pushes the box even closer towards Keon.

“No lass. You go right on saving these things for Mera for now. We may want to move the coins to a safe, but you keep them for now.”

Star smiles and takes the box back to Meras dresser.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch….

I'm sitting in my usual booth with my usual Corona, trying to relax. Last night took something out of me… it's never easy to be a middleman between the living and the dead - and especially in a case like Laila's, where she didn't know her parents were dead.

Well, look who's here!

Rev. Fisher doesn't see me, concealed within the dark booth - but I see him. I grin and flip open my cell and send a pre-prepared text to three friends. Then I lean back, sip and wait….

It's maybe half an hour later that Rowan shows up. I watch Fisher as she enters. He sits up straighter, watching her intently. I wave Patti over and pass a note to her. She reads it and grins. Her hips twitch invitingly as she flounces back to the bar. She goes first to Ob, passes him the note and watches while he reads; then retrieves it and goes to Byte, who leads the shifter band - which still has no name.

It's intriguing to see how well-rehearsed our people are - especially given that they've never done this before. Without a hitch, the two bands join forces on the stage - and then Yours Truly struts boldly to the microphone and speaks.

"Good evening, ladies and gents, and welcome to the Twisted Tit Tavern! We've got a special show for you tonight, which I'm sure you noticed, since I'm not usually up here." (Laughter) "The fact is, we have a special guest tonight, a man we all know, a pillar of the community and an outspoken foe of all that is wicked and perverse - ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Reverend Matthew Fisher! Give the man a hand!"

A blue spot comes up and catches the startled minister, pins him like a butterfly on a corkboard.

"Welcome, Your Holiness, to the Twisted Tit Tavern. I hope you enjoy our show tonight as much as some of us have enjoyed yours.

We have other guests tonight, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me to introduce them as well. You all know our friend Rowan" - another spot comes up to find her; she smiles and waves - "well, she has a male counterpart. From the Silver Moon Coven of Exton, this is the high priest to Rowan's high priestess - Cathbad!" The spot moves from Rowan to focus on a guy in camo fatigues, sitting just to the right of the main door. He has a pleasant, friendly face, with brown eyes and brown shoulder-length hair. He waves briefly, smiling.

"Rev, Rowan and Cathbad have told me how you disrupted their Beltane service last May, showing up with a fleet of cars playing hymns full blast." I make a sorrowful face. "That wasn't nice… how'd you like it if they showed up in church some Sunday and started singing 'Play Dat Funky Music' during the collection?

For those who don't know, the Coven has just purchased its own Covenstead - some twenty acres of unspoiled woodland on the outskirts of Exton. It's private property - posted as such - which means that anyone who enters uninvited can be arrested for trespassing. That's assuming, of course, that the Coven doesn't choose to shoot first.

Speaking of shooting… Cathbad here is a veteran of Desert Storm, a Marine Corps sniper during that conflict. I had the privilege to be invited into his home recently, and let me tell you, folks, this man has some serious ordnance tucked away! We talked about the Burning Times while I was there, the bad old days when the Church murdered hundreds of Pagans for having the audacity to believe something different. Let me tell you, if those days come again, Cathbad is ready! I won't give away his secrets, but let's just say that if someone steps onto Coven land looking for trouble, they'd better have God on their side, because Cathbad has some mega-firepower on his!

Oh - let me tell you about just one thing. Is this okay, Cathbad?" He smiles and nods. "See? He knows what I'm talking about.

Cathbad here has an antique weapon… a Weatherby Mark V Magnum sniper rifle. They used 'em in Vietnam… and now they call it an antique. And he also has one of those super-duper sniperscopes, so if he ever gets bored some sunny summer afternoon, he can zoom in and castrate a few horseflies." (Laughter.) "Now that's assuming that he uses one of those little tiny bullets." I shake my head solemnly. "Uh-uh… he showed me the bullets for this thing, and they're huge - and to add insult to injury, he's cross-filed the damn things. Two words, ladies and gentlemen - mush room. These things will make a hole the size of a nickel going in and a hole the size of a basketball coming out.

Our other guest tonight is gothi - high priest, if you will - of the local Asatru kindred. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Harald Grettirson!" Now the spotlight picks up a big burly guy, sitting to the left of the door - red-headed, full beard, looks like a cross between a French-Canadian lumberjack and Guunnar. He smiles affably and waves.

"Seems Harald and his people have some history with you and yours, too, Rev. He tells me that you broke up their Midwinter Blot last holiday season. Yeah, 'peace on earth, goodwill to men'… way to go, Rev.

Harald tells me that the Kindred intend to take a page from the Coven and purchase a tract of - wait for it - private land. Same deal with trespassing.

Now, never having been to Harald's place, I wouldn't know if he has, say, an M-16 or a whole bunch of Claymores; but let's face it - these guys are honest-to-Odin Vikings! These guys are tough! A Viking, you sever his head and he just duct-tapes it back in place! 'Verdammter Kopf kam ab.'* You cut off his hand - go ahead, try it! He'll just blind you with the blood spurting out of his wrist, cut you long - and wide - and frequently… and reach for the duct tape." Guunnar bellows with laughter while Erik and Raina try unsuccessfully to hide their grins; but I'm on a roll, I keep going. "And a longsword or battle-axe, I'm told, kills you just as dead as a bazooka. Besides - I don't know for sure that they don't have a whole modern arsenal stashed away someplace

* "Damn head came off."

Well,  anyway, Rev… we were hoping you'd show, to be honest. We've prepared a special show for you tonight."

Now the music starts, something like old-fashioned gospel and I start to talk.

Talking blues, that is….

Welcome, friends! Welcome once again to the Atheist/Agnostic/Humanist/Realist Olde-Time Down-Home Gospel Hour!
My friends, I am here to bring to you the GOOD NEWS.
That this is a beautiful and dangerous and mysterious world we live in.
That there's a lot we don't know.
A lot we may NEVER know.
There may be a heaven --
There may be a hell --
There may be a devil --
There may be a GOD --
But there ain't no PROOF.

No hard-core science.
No Road Map of the Stars to the Pearly Gates.
No interview with Gabriel in Hot Archangels Monthly.
We've got to take it all on faith.
And that's a little difficult for some of us.
You hear about free will, you hear about making your own choice... and you'd like just a little bit o' proof.
And at some point, you realize there may not be no proof a-comin'.

And at that point, you realize...
There may NOT be a heaven.
There may NOT be a hell.
There may NOT be a Devil.
There may NOT BE A GOD!
And you say to yourself, "Well, what am I doin' here?
If there ain't a god, what am I doin' here?
What is my purpose in life?"
And I am here to tell you that your purpose in life Is EXACTLY THE SAME either way.
If there's a God, your purpose is to LIVE. To help people. To make the world a better place.
And if there's NOT a God... your purpose is to LIVE! To help people! To make the world a better place!

Now, I know that some of you out there want there to be a God for a very different reason.
Because you feel alone.
Because without God, it's a big, bad, scary, random universe out there.
Let me tell you right now --
it's a big, bad, scary, random universe out there WITH God!
Bad stuff happens.
Good stuff happens.
Stuff happens!
If it doesn't happen, you're DEAD!

But here's the important part:
You are not alone.
You've got a family of SIX BILLION right here with you.
You think they don't know your troubles?
You think they don't know your heart?
They know yours as well as they know their own.
You think the world ain't a scary place for them?
It's a scary place for everybody!
But it's also a fantastically beautiful place.
And it's the only place we know for sure we've got.
So it is our DUTY, our PURPOSE IN LIFE, our REASON TO BE,
Lemme tell ya....

God made the world, so they say,
And he did it in only seven days,
But they can't tell you if those days were short or long,
And they think their God is threatened if the dates are wrong.

God made Adam, God made Eve,
Kicked 'em out of Eden 'cause they were deceived,
They had children; one was good, one scum,
Cain killed Abel, then got married -- where'd his wife come from?

There's all those little problems where the story doesn't jibe,
If God created all of us, why single out one tribe?

Why weren't there any dinosaurs on Noah's floating zoo?
Why tell us all these fairy tales when we've got stuff to do?

We've got the world, the here and now,
Things happen, it's only natural to ask how

But there's no reason to trust mythology,
The world right here and now's enough for me.

God made Commandments, God made rules,
God said "to build a better life, these are the tools",
He said the first four are to worship me,
If you don't, you will be tortured for eternity.

But what if this world is all there is,
What if, when you die, there ain't no final quiz,
No hell or heaven? Well, that's all right with me
We'll make it heaven here on earth, just wait and see.

Why punish us forever for an arbitrary rule?
Why set us up for failure? Does God have to be so cruel?
Why give us all these instincts for committing mortal sins?
Why give us all these ways to lose before the game begins?

We've got the world, the here and now,
There may be nothing, al-Akhirah, or the Tao

But I've got present responsibility,
The world right here and now's enough for me.

We've got the world, the here and now,
And you know we're gonna make it somehow 

But I ain't countin' on eternity,
The world right here and now's enough for me.

There may be God, and there may not
The world we're livin' in might just be all we've got
That ain't no problem, 'cause whether spawned or made,
The only way to live is not to be afraid.

We've got our minds, we've got our hearts,
We've got our souls and they're the most important parts,
We don't need threatenin' to tell what's right from wrong
Just mind your business, clean things up, and get along.

The world is filled with wonderment and beauty near and far,
And trying to understand it is just being who we are,
If there's a God, he told us that the world he made was ours,
We're almost done exploring here, the next stop is the stars.

We've got the world, the here and now,
And we're gonna reach the heavens somehow

It's up to us to fulfill our destiny,
The world right here and now's enough for me.

We've got the world, the here and now,
And you know we're gonna make it somehow

Find God within you -- the rest comes naturally,
The world right here and now's enough for me.
I say, the world right here and now's enough for me.
That's right, the world right here and now's enough for me.
Ohhhhh... yeahhhh!

The Tavern explodes with applause, people standing and screaming and pumping their fists - and Fisher slinks out the front door, right between Cathbad and Harald, who just sit there smiling….

Thang yew. Thang yew very much….