Thursday, March 31, 2011

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."

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