Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ardara ignores the screams and steps into the room. After all, the heretics need to be convinced of the error of their ways, one way or another...

Malkuth raises an eyebrow at her question. “Gargoyles? I know enough and I know there arent any in Underdark...”

Moving silently to a window, Ardara glances out over the towers of the Monastery, the dark mists swirling below. She sees men scurrying, servants probably, between the buildings. She gives a slight shrug and turns back to Malkuth.

“I want to capture one... to present to Lolth. It would be a magnificent 'gift', dont you agree?”

Malkuth watches Ardara carefully. He knew from experience one did not mock or chide Priestess Ardara, unless one wanted to be sacrificed or enslaved. Neither idea appealed to the Loremaster and he framed his questions carefully.

“Where did you see this gargoyle? Have you seen it in human and stone form?”

“I saw her in the woods, near the cabin Nathlyn and his men are watching, the one where the supposed savior warrior resides..” Ardara sneered at these last words, not believing in prophecy from any other race.

Malkuth nods and asks a few more questions before retrieving a large dusty book from one of the many shelves in his cell. He dusts it off carefully and flips through a few pages before finding the one he wants.

“You do realize she would be almost impossible to move in stone form? Your plan will have to be to capture her at night and get her in some kind of cell that she cannot turn back to stone and smash her way out of... Hmmm... they are elemental creatures, I am not sure if bringing her to Underdark would keep her in human form or not. And I dont imagine she will just offer up such information, not without considerable... persausion... Let me consult with another of our brethren. Please... make yourself at home. I will send a servant with food and drink and return shortly with the information that you need.” He turns back to Ardara before he steps through the doorway and asks, “How soon were you planning this?”

Smiling evilly Ardara replies, “During the next eclipse, the day without a night and the night without day.. a perfect omen... And then there is the small matter of revenge...”

“Revenge, my Priestess?”

“Yes. You remember my half sister Morgan?” At Malkuths nod, Ardara continues. “It seems this particular family of gargoyles was instrumental in her death. It is only fitting that they should pay with one of their own...”
Malkuth raises his eyes from the scroll he’s translating and peers into the dimness of his cell. Something has broken the rhythms of this place, even though the chanting of the monks – and the screams of the heretics – goes on as usual. He listens with more than his ears and then whirls around.

Lady Ardara stands framed in the doorway, a shadow among shadows.

The scholar goes to a knee. “Forgive me, my Priestess. I knew not of your coming.”

“I chose not to announce it.” A small cruel smile plays about her lips, there and gone so quickly it might almost have been imagined. “Tell me, Loremaster, what do you know of gargoyles?”

Deep in the woods Ardara stops at a large outcropping of rock. With an intricate wave of her fingers a shimmering spot appears in the stone. She watches as it grows large enough for her to step through. As she enters the darkness she turns the gate closes behind her. She breathes deeply of the dark, dirt, decay, rotted vegetation, the scent of creatures that were old when Man was young. The ever present mists hide the creatures of the dark, strange breeds of snakes and spiders and other things unknown to the dwellers of the light. The air is hot and musty and Ardara smiles. Several pairs of red eyes watch her warily from the hazy mists. The path she takes travels around stones, large and small and she sees lights in the distance, stone houses and small shrines to Lolth which dot the grey landscape.

The path leads to Kudarne, one of the larger cities of Underdark and home to the Loremasters. Ardara pulls the hood of her cloak up. The silver web embroidered on the back of the hood and the purple and silver spider on the back of the cloak show her as Priestess and give her safe passage throughout the dark realm.The path takes her past one of the open air shrines to Lolth, the stones saturated with centuries of blood and other fluids best not thought of. Ardara pauses, whispering a prayer and continues on her way. In an hour or so the gates of Kudarne are in front of her. Massive stone guard towers and walls protect the city, dwarfing every creature with their massive size. Ardara enters unmolested and goes directly to the Monastery in search of Malkuth.

Tomas slowly opens his eyes and looks around. His limbs are losing the heavy feeling and he can stretch his arms out. His skin still looks pale, but not really like stone, like papans does when he sleeps. He turns his head and is met face to face with black fur, large green eyes and a face full of ticklish whiskers.

Panther nudges and licks the little boys face, causing a peal of squeals and giggles to ring out.

In the kitchen Alise hears the sound and drops the spoon she was stirring batter with into the bowl and she hurries into the bedroom. She smiles as she sees Rainas panther playing with her son, the girls still sleeping on the large bed.

Tomas sees her and holds his arms out, “Maman!”

Alise goes to him and lifts him into her lap and she wraps her arms around him. “ brave boy...How are you feeling?”

Alise gently holds him, afraid of hurting his back with the newly emerged wings.

Tomas sends his thoughts to her, Tomas gargoyle, like Papan.... He flaps his wings making Alise laugh.

“Yes, just like papan...”

His expression turns suddenly serious and Tomas looks around the room. Lala? Where is Lala?

“She is fine, upstairs resting, waiting for you to wake up. Should we invite her and Ramji to supper? I am making your favorite...”

Tomas sends a picture of tacos and french fries and Alise starts to laugh. “Yes, that is what I am making... and sugar cookies....”

Stoney appears in the doorway and Alise smiles. Tomas' head snaps up at sound of his fathers voice greeting his mother. He scrambles off Alises lap and turns so his father can plainly see the wings.

Regardez! Les ailes!”*

*Look! Wings!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The rising sun has finally breached the treetops. The light now bathes the rooftops in golden light. Tori can feel it sliding along the edge of her half furled wings, warming the smooth line of her viper's skull. The smells of breakfast have long drifted away, replaced by the scent of fresh hay as Erik and Tannr worked in the stalls below. To her internal clock, it is about midmorning, probably 10 am.

Star's soft voice carries across the yard. Mera is singing to herself, the words are meaningless, but the sound is sweet. Tannr's voice and her sudden screams of laughter would bring a smile if a stone snake could move its visage. The clear sound of the word UP leaves an after image of Tannr holding the little girl in his strong arms. Something clenches deep inside Tori's heart, but she brushes it away, not willing to dwell on the thought of children.

Instead she turns her thoughts to a very frustrated little hero. The feel of Tomas' mind is sleepy, yet she can tell he is pouting. Tommi? He jerks, drawing back from listening to the world around his stone form. There is the sensation of near tears. What is wrong Tommi?

He reaches for her thoughts like a lifeline. Maman won't let Tara and Gracie play near me. She say they will hurt me and I need a nap. Tante Tor, I tired of sleepin'. The feeling of a pout increases.

I will talk to Maman, ok?

His relief pours through their link. No promises Tommi. But you are still sleeping the Stone Sleep. They will not hurt you in that form. But I bet you are bored, aren't you? She feels his frustration again and touches his mind gently, smoothing his thoughts like she would smooth back a stray lock of hair. Try to rest hon. I'll talk to Maman.

She gently slides from his mind and Touches Alise. The worry there is nearly overwhelming. She feels Alise jump as she calls out to her. Yo, sistah! What's going on in your corner of the morning. How's everyone holding up?

Tori hides her amusement as Alise assures her everything is fine, just fine. The haze of concern that blankets her thoughts wouldn't have fooled even the hatchlings. Tori gives her a mental hug and tells her that Tomas is bored. The room is too quiet. She assures her his body is healing and his mind is sharp. Alise agrees to let the girls play in the room as long as Tori is certain it is alright. Tori laughs. Alise, why don't you get the girls to curl up there for their naps? read the three of them a story? Hell Tomas is already sleepy, but he can't sleep. Don't the three of them nap together? The sound of something normal will probably help him sleep more easily...

Alise seems to breathe a little easier and breaks off as Tara asks for a story. Tori knows Tomas was listening to them and relaying things to his twin. She hides a half wish, drawing back into herself. The sounds of laughter and rough play has Tori listening even closer. Tannr is wrestling with one of the animals, much to Mera's delight. A soft voice touches her mind, a nearly wordless whisper. Something to think about...

She can feel her brothers and sister tune into the words. They heard it as well. Ike's mind slides along hers, seeking the owner of the voice. It seemed to be within Tori, yet without. Ob seeks anything unusual in Tori's essence. He finds nothing. Ike pronounces the voice gone. They each touch the others and slip back to themselves. Once they are gone Tori returns the words over in her mind. Keon's words come back to her.

"Where Wyldfae roam, be careful what you wish for. One never knows what will be granted."

Moments later two spritely forms stretch out on the barn roof, soaking up the rays, as Tori's body sings with the magic that seeps into her stone form.

Keon breathes the night air deep into his lungs. There is a crispness to it that only happens in the first blush of dawn. Movement to his extreme right turns into Pike as he stretches out against the post. Pike nods in the direction of the woods. A Hell Hound moves in and out of the shadows of the treeline, nose to the ground, eyes glowing softly.

The words are spoken softly, the Wyldfae's brogue blurring his words. "One watched, mayhap more. No glamour found, so blended naturally. Who an' what..." he shrugs, barely moving his shoulders.

"No strong scents?" The slight hand motion is a negative. "Masked?" Again the slight motion. Keon frowns. "Pike, what have you found?"

"Nae much, Dark Lord. They carried something o' here ta mask their own. The trail they left is crossed o'er many times... rabbit, cat, deer. Hard to track with the recent scents. Whoe'er they are, twere still enow to nae draw mine own eye."

Keon steps to the edge of the porch, the early morning light pulls sparkles from the straight fall of his midnight dark hair. The streak of blue catches sunlight. A breeze teases a few strands across his shadowed features. A small smile touches his lips as he gently strokes them back in place. His words are nothing but the movement of his lips. *Is fada liom uaim tú ró, Mo Gealach.

Pike calls from his perch. "Where do ye wander, Lord Assassin?"

Keon stares out at the trees. "I have an errand to attend to. I know this place to be in good hands, Pike. Trooper and I will return soon."

One last look around the clearing and Keon calls the dark mists. Trooper stretches, rising from his spot in the porch's shadows. Moments later a large Hell Hound shakes he last of the mists from its scaly hide and fur. Red eyes gleaming, it nods to Pike. Trooper joins it and Keon leads the way into the tree.

Pike closes his eyes, reaching out to check over the Magicks he and Wish had danced into the trees many times over.

The scent of water fills Keon's lungs like a welcome balm. The scent of fox is also welcome. Trooper huffs as a familiar redhead waves from the deck. The mists come again, and Keon is soon standing tall, bared in all his glory to the brilliant sun. He begins to run, long loping strides taking him to the end of the pier. Without breaking stride, Keon launches himself into the air, cleaving the water effortlessly. Swimming back to the dock, Keon heaves himself out of the water. The familiar scent of dark water fills his senses.

"Hello Mer Cronigh... Have you news?"

The Crone cackles. "Ye have the nose of a Hound, Dealg Drubh. Alas, yer ghouls are nae located near water. Either they be a bit mer smart than we think, or tis naught but dumb luck. When will ye bring ta wee one to swim?"

He nods, lost in thought. "Soon. I promise. The weather is warming..."

She grins at him, sharp teeth bared in a broad smile. "I like yer young friend. The maids keep trying to get him to come swim, but he will nae. Assure him that they will nae keep him. They know he is one of yer guardians." She sighs. "Watch him... he has an air of melancholly. Playing with the maids may raise his spirits."

Keon nods. "Ron has had several hard blows. Tell the mermaids to be kind."

Rising from the planks, Keon bows to Fea and strides to the boat. Ron tosses him a towel as his feet hit the deck. Keon heads inside, motioning for Ron to join him.

Ardara watches curiously from the edge of the woods. She had been watching the gargoyle as she took a place on top of the stables when a man dressed in black catches her eye. She watches motionless as he approaches what had to be a ward wall of some kind and steps right through it.

Curious.... did he set that ward of protection or is he powerful enough to step through that? What kind of wizard is he?

After the man enters the cabin, Ardara steps close to the spot where she saw him pass through the ward. She holds her hands up, feeling the power in the ward. As she moves closer the palm of her upheld hands and fingers start to tingle. When the tingling starts to sting and moves down her wrists she lowers her hands and moves no closer.

Fascinating.... and stronger than any I have encountered or set myself.... Why does he visit the foretold Warrior at this hour?

Her gaze returns to Tori, her stone form almost shimmering in the early morning sun.

Let someone else worry about the Warrior. Nathlyn or one of the others can deal with a squalling brat... I have other things to do... I wonder if a Loremaster would know of the gargoyles? Maybe Malkuth....its not all that far to Kudarne...

She fades behind a tree as the sorcerer in black leaves the cabin and moves towards the woods. As Mortuis heads towards the Manse, Ardara heads to Underdark and the city where she will find the Loremaster.

Pandora is up early; she barely slept; the implications of what could have happened to her friends and family haunt her thoughts. Ob held her in his arms through the night till the coming dawn forced him to stone sleep... he changed beside the bed after gathering a sleeping Chloe and placing her next to her mother. Absynthe perched above them on the headboard to keep a watchful eye.

Chloe seemed especially sleepy in the morning and she cuddled back in her own bed in the nursery when Pandora went down for breakfast; the nanny stroking the little dragon's head as she left the room.

Roxi was sitting at a table with coffee; waiting on one of Monty's omelets... and Pandora crossed the room to join her. Patti brought her  one precious cup of coffee she allowed herself each day, one small concession to pregnancy... her other beverages being healthy herbal teas and plenty of water.

"Well, how was sleeping in your own little place?... are you feeling at home here?' Roxi smiled shyly and replied... "Its really a great place, and I can sit and look down at the activities on the street below. "... she looked Pandora straight in the eye and said.."I was worried for your friends last night too, Jeb filled me in; does that sort of thing happen often here?"

Pandora gave a little laugh... "No, its usually pretty calm, but we do have a couple of issues we are dealing with as a community. I want you to know it is NOT safe to travel or walk around town alone at night; if you must go out take Jeb or my father with you." Monty came with breakfast and Pandora and Roxi talked about their lives; filling each other in on how they came to be in this place.

Roxi  was astonished at the story of Traeger being assumed dead for years, and his recovery and reconnecting with Pandora. She thought of her own parents and knew that was not true for them, their fate was sealed; but they had been together.

She thought the meeting between Ob and Pandora very romantic... and the tale of star crossed lovers Alise and Stoney more romantic still; she understood the deep devotion the group had to each other and why they were all so closely bound.

When Roxi left to go to the shop and join Traeger for the day's work; she and Pandora parted fast friends.

It's way earlier in the morning than I like - it was, after all, a late night - when there's a series of brisk raps on the door. I come awake on the instant; nothing and no one should be able to pass the wards the sorcerer has woven about this place. If there's someone out there that can ignore them... it doesn't bear thinking about.

Getting into a pair of pants and t-shirt damn near defeats me and watching Star giggle at the spectacle doesn't really help; but finally I make it to the door and open it the half-inch the chain will allow.

"A good morning to you, Master Erik. May I come in?"

I feel distinctly scruffy compared to the sorcerer, resplendent in his cape, gloves and ever-present hood, but I let him in. "If you'll excuse me for a minute...."

When I come back, I'm less scruffy and the sorcerer is still standing there impassively. "Have a seat, make yourself at home." He sits and leans back. His cold gray eyes fasten on Star.

"Milady Star," he says finally, "your loyalty to your friends does you much credit, but" - he holds up a finger - "as a Warrior, you are woefully underqualified." Her lips tighten, but she remains silent. "Last night, your actions endangered your husband, your friends and your children." The black hood leans forward. "Milady, you can no longer afford to act on impulse. Each action must be considered before it is enacted - or those you love may well pay a fearful price for it."

Star is pale to the lips and her eyes wet with the onset of tears; seeing this, the hooded man continues in a kinder tone.

"I would not cause you pain, milady. I speak of such things only because I would spare you greater pain, which perhaps forethought may avoid. As the mother of the Warrior, your peril is already great. I beseech you, therefore - do not make it greater. Your husband, your friends, your servitors - these protect you, perhaps better than you know; but nothing can protect you from folly."

I know what he says is right, but part of me wants to leap to Star's defense. The other part - the part that agrees with him, even if I don't agree with the way he expresses it - keeps me mute. Star hesitantly raises her eyes to meet his. Her voice catches, just once.

"You're ri..right. I'm sorry. It won't ha..happen again."

To my amazement, he goes down to one knee before her, his voice as gentle as it was stern moments before. "Forgive me, milady. Sometimes it is necessary that I be cruel to be kind."

He rises, gives us a bow and leaves as he came.

Pike watches Wish from the edge of his sight. The colors of her hair seem dulled, even in the bright moonlight. He edges closer to feel her energies. He sprawls beside her, sending a few prayers to the Goddess. He has never seen his lifelong love so depleted.

The knife she had taken from Star's kitchen lies within reach, separate from her body to let her drink down the moon. Pike concentrates for a moment then touches her hand. Her eyes open slowly and she turns her head to look at him. Her eyes are dark pits and he grips her hand.

"I wish..."

She gives him a half smile and raises his fingers to her lips. "So do I, *crio mhionn. Let me lie beneath the Mother's blessing just a little longer. I used more of myself to raise the ^Tire Crann. Lie with me?"

Pike slides her sheathed blade within reach of her other hand and entwines his fingers in hers. "Sleep ~Freuddwyd Gollwyd. I will keep watch until the sun chases our Mother from the sky."

*heart sworn

^Tree Folk

~Lost Dream

Alise slips her hand into Stoneys large one. “I let that monster in here. Tomas could have been killed.... and Laila too...”

Raina steps out onto the porch, “Its not your fault. That would have fooled most anyone. Cant say that I would have checked under the jeep as it was coming in. I didnt think ghouls were that smart...”

Alise nods, still feeling at fault. “I am going to check on Tomas.” She turns and goes back into her home, one that she had felt so secure in until this had happened. Laila is visiting quietly with Ramji in the kitchen, Alise can see them as she crosses the living room to the bedroom she shares with Stoney. The door is open a crack and she can hear someone whispering. Mon Dieu, who is that now?

Pushing the door open slowly, she sees Nick, sitting on the edge of the bed, talking softly to Tomas. The girls have curled up near their brother, all sound asleep in the large bed. Alise smiles at the sight, knowing they have nothing to fear from the vampire. Nick hears her enter and looks up. “He's still sleeping and feels like stone...”

“Tori said that is good and he will heal faster this way. By tomorrow evening he should be good as new... and proud as a peacock I imagine..” Alise smiles at her son, understanding the reasons for his going to stone but still wanting to hold him and comfort him.

“He should be proud. He is a brave little guy.”

“Raina is going to stay the night with us, we will be up all night. You are most welcome Nicholas, if you care to stay also..”

Nick nods, “I would... and thank you.”

Stoney enters the room and runs a large hand down the length of the little boys back. “He is a good boy, a son to be proud of. His first thoughts were to protect the girls...” Stoney stands straight, “I think we should all take Rowans advice. I have a fine bottle of brandy....”

Moving to the kitchen Alise sees that Laila had set out the shot glasses and was cutting cheese and placing the slices in a serving plate with crackers. Stoney took a bottle of brandy out of the cupboard and a bottle of wine and wine glasses were also set out.

Stoney toasts to good friends and family. Raina downs her shot and laughs as Alise struggles with hers.

“A glass of wine I think... stop laughing at me Raina.”

Raina pulls Alise close and hugs her, “Its only because I love you, you know that...”

The night is spent visiting and reminiscing, Laila finally hearing the whole story of Alise's capture and how she and Raina became such close friends. Panther shows up, howling at the door until Raina lets her in. She goes right to the bedroom, jumps on the bed and lays between the children.

Its very late when Raina and Nick leave, promising to return the next evening to check on Tomas.

After Mera and Ruarc are settled for the night and everyone has a nightcap or two, Tannr and Tori head over to the stables. They enter the loft and Tannr moves to the window, pulling back the curtains and opening it wide, letting the warm breeze and soft moonlight in.

As Tannr gazes at the moon, Tori steps into his arms and he pulls her close.

“Whats wrong? You seem lost in thought, Coppertop...”

Tannr nods, “Just thinking about Tomas. Alise was so scared for him... are you sure he'll be fine?”

“Yeah, he just needs to rest... Stoney can calm Alise. She worries for her children as any mother would.”

“Are all her kids going to be gargoyle or just Tomas?” Tannr asks, not thinking of how Tori might take the question.

“Why? Does it matter?” Tori is instantly defensive, catching Tannr off guard.

Recognizing 'the look' and the tone Tannr replies, “No... not at all. I just wondered...”

“Afraid of having a 'little monster' of your own?” Her words are sharp with a tinge of bitterness and she takes a step away from Tannr.

“What? Tori... no... I...” Tannr takes a deep breath and sighs, his frustration quickly fading as he realizes now the reasons for much of Toris defensiveness. Tannr grabs her hand and pulls her back into his arms.

“Such a Spitfire... Monster? Is that how you see yourself?”

Tori sighs and plops her head against Tannrs chest. “I'm sorry... old habits, I guess...”

Tannr holds her close and smiles. “And as far as having 'a little monster of my own', its not something I am afraid of... not with you...”

Tori tips her head up to look into his eyes, and she senses only honesty from his words. Tannr continues, “I really was only curious... Red, anyone would be...”

Nodding Tori says, “The girls dont show any sign of being gar... I think its a 50/50 thing with mixed races...”

“Okay...I just wondered...”

“I'm sorry... I dont mean to be so... I dont know... I'm really afraid of screwing this up....” Tori reaches for Tannrs hair, running her hand slowly through the burnished locks.

“You wont ....”

Tori smiles and Tannr sits in the windowsill and pulls her into his lap. For a time both are lost in thought watching the moon. Soon the touches turn passionate and Tannr kisses her deeply, leaving no doubt what his thoughts have turned to.

“Take your clothes off....” Tannr helps her start unbuttoning her shirt. His hands wander over her breasts, lightly teasing as she stands and slips out of her pants. “Sit here...” Tannr gently pushes her into the old worn chair that is placed near the window.

Tori sits and watches Tannr, her eyes raking over his chest as he tosses off the shirt. Her hands start to reach for him when his jeans are added to the pile of clothes.

He gently pushes her hands away and kneels in front of the chair. He pushes her legs apart and leans in, his cock already hard and Toris leans back, gasping at the feel of it against her stomach. Tannr kisses her neck and whispers, “I love you Baby....” trailing kisses down her neck, then taking a firm pink nipple in his mouth and sucking slowly. He moves lower, letting his tongue trail over her stomach, licking and gently nipping at her skin. He leans back, looking at Tori, sprawled in the chair, moonlight turning her skin to alabaster, her legs splayed over the arms of the chair, her smooth lips already wet and beckoning. Forcing back the urge to slam his cock into that wetness he smiles and lowers his head, his tongue barely touching her clit. Tori bucks and gasps and Tannr increases the pressure of his tongue slightly, making her crazy with desire. When Tannr starts to suck, she moans and buries her hands in his long copper hair.

“Fuck me... please Tannr... I'm sooo close....”

Tannr stops, leans back and runs a finger over the swollen nub, slowly moving in circles as Tori's legs start to tremble. He slowly inserts his finger, raking over her g-spot, watching the look of passion and pleasure on her face.

When she starts to buck hard against his hand and her ragged breathing turns to moans, he knows she wont last much longer. He lowers his mouth to her clit and starts to suck as his finger slides in and out of her hot channel.

When her whole body is shaking and trembling, Tannr stops suddenly.

Tori moans, “Nooo... please... damn it Coppertop...”

Tannr grins, “Turn over Red. I'm going to fuck you senseless...”

As soon as Erik and Star had soared out of sight, Wish returned to speaking with the usual inhabitants of the woods surrounding the cottage. What was told is pieced together, bit by bit. None had sensed the ghoul. Its malice was masked by the feel of cold iron. Wish nods slowly, thoughts whirling.

Voices intrude on her ponderings and she turns to see Tannr and Tori saying goodnight to the household. Alise and Stoney stand on their porch talking to the couple. Wish motions to a pixie and it zips away. It flits around them until attracting attention. Soon the foursome is following the pixie back to where the Wyldfae stands, staring at the jeep.

Wish turns old eyes upon the group. "It came masked by the harsh metal scent of cold iron. Where was your... transport... before here?"

Alise's eyes widen, filling with horror. "Mon dieu! I opened the wards for the mechanic. The jeep was returned just tonight."

Wish watches her reaction. Her small hand touches Alise's arm. "You cannot scent them if they hide under another scent. Even the Fae of this Realm did not know it was here until your son alerted them. That creature was well hidden. Trixie it was, as I said afore."

She turns her eyes to Stoney. "My magic has no power over iron and steel. 'Twould be well thought to make sure no surprises are left within, above, below, or betwixt the spaces of your vehicle."

That said, Sroney and Tori nod to each other. Without a word, they grasp the jeep and LIFT. Tannr bends down to look beneath it. He moves under to touch puncture holes in the floor, proof that something had attached itself for a ride. They lower it carefully and the three begin to scrutinize the jeep's interior and engine compartment. Wish stands at ready, keeping between the car and Alise. When the seats have been locked back in place, and Tori announces no spells detected. Wish lowers her hands.

"Trixie bastard, but one no more to stalk this world. No ill will left in this place, so if I beg leave to return to my Lady."

Wish curtsies to Alise. Stoney catches her thoughts, before words escape. Do not thank her Chaton. I gathered from a discussion with Keon that she is very old Fae. Blinking, Alise nods her head to Wish. She thinks carefully on her words before replying. "You have done our family a great service. We will remember."

The Wyldfae grins and holds her hands out to her sides. A bubble of magic forms around her, remnants of the power she gathered on the path to the cottage. The small Fae turns to Tannr and Tori, her brogue thick as she has relaxed. "An ye be goin' to ta cabin, I offer a quicker pace."

Tannr grins and pulls Tori forward. He takes Wish' hand as Tori takes the other. Wish grins and winks to Alise and Stoney. The bubble fades from view, reappearing on the cabin's lawn. Pike pushes himself off the railing and meets them as the bubble dissolves.

"'Bout time ye returned. 'Twas thinking I was, that ye would be needin me to bring ye back."

Wish flips him off and grabs his hand as she dances past. Pike gives a brief bow to Tannr and Tori and trips lightly after his partner. Moments later they are gone from sight.

Not having the truck at our disposal, I set Phoenix loose and - after some preliminary flying, just to limber up - he settles down and lets us climb on. We get a good grip and he takes off, his wingbeats sounding like thunder in our ears.

The trip is short; anywhere within Exton is short where Phoenix is concerned - and we land lightly and make for the cabin. My sword is in my hand as I unlock the door and Star stands outside until I make certain we have no uninvited guests. Keon is there, and Pike, but they're supposed to be there.... I tell Phoenix to go make a night of it, but be back by morning; then I wave Star in and we lock up.

She moves into my arms and I hold her close, thinking how close we came tonight... Tomorrow I really am going to have to talk to her about acting on impulse... but tonight she needs to rest, and so do I.

"I'm sorry, Erik," she says, anguish clearly written on her face. "I was wrong to run off like that, I know that now... I scared everyone who's looking out for me, and I put you all in danger... And it didn't help Alise or her family. I was wrong, and I'm sorry."

I kiss her silver-blonde hair. "It was a mistake, Princess, and it could have been a serious one - but this time we got away with it. Next time we might not be so lucky. Tomorrow... tomorrow we'll talk more about this, but tonight I just want to go to bed holding you, and remember how lucky I am."

"I love you, Erik." Her voice is hushed. "I'm lucky, too, to have you and Mera and Ruarc... I love you all so much."

We get undressed in silence. She pulls back the covers and climbs into bed and I climb in next to her, pulling her warm little body tight against mine. Her eyes are pink now, and her mouth is wet... She kisses me with all the passion of her nature, and I respond with all the fire in mine.

It might be a while before we get to sleep after all....

After things cool down to some extent, there's a discussion, led largely by the sorcerer, trying to determine what went wrong tonight and what could be done in the future to prevent it from happening again. The results are depressingly predictable. There's not much Mortuis can do to strengthen the wards without making them even more dangerous than they are - to friend as well as foe.

Bottom line? Be careful when you lower the wards, try to think like the enemy - and if there's any doubt in your mind at all, keep 'em locked out and call for Mortuis.

It's a frustrated and watchful group that slips away by twos and threes, heading for their respective homes. Ky and I decide to walk; we can always call the elvensteeds if things get too tough. Just before we leave, I can hear Erik and Star making arrangements to head home....

 Laila slowly closes the phone and hands it back to Ramji. She wipes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She looks around the room at the people she has come to consider family. She loved all of them. Her thoughts swirling, she reaches for Ramji and he pulls her close. “I cant go. I cant be parted from you...I think I would die. I dont want to be parted from any of you...” Her gaze takes in Star, who she has come to think of as a siste,r and Stoney and Alise who have done so much for her. She looks down at Tara and picks her up, cuddling the little girl until she smiles. Laila smiles at Gracie who is clapping happily from the safety of her fathers arms.

“Can I tell Tomas?”

Alise smiles and moves to Laila, wrapping the girl in a warm embrace. “Of course you can. You need not ask.”

Star takes Tara and dances around the living room with her, the little girl delighted and giggling.

Laila slowly enters the master bedroom. The light is dim and Tori is sitting near the bed. She smiles at Laila, “You are staying arent you?”

Nodding Laila kneels at the side of the bed and gently runs a hand over Tomas' shoulder. “Can he hear me if I speak to him?”

“I think so.” Tori sends to the little boy, Wake up sleepy head, someone wants to tell you something....

Gently stroking the uninjured side of his head, Laila tells him, “Thank you Tomas. You saved me from the ghoul. You are such a brave boy, the bravest boy I have ever met. I'll be here when you wake up, with maman and papan, and Gracie and Tara. We are all waiting to see you when you wake up.”

Laila leans close and kisses the little boys forehead. Her gaze falls to the action figure that has fallen on the floor. She picks up the Batman doll and places it in the bed next to Tomas.

“Sleep tight, Little Man.”

Tori swears she sees the slightest of smiles at the corners of Tomas' mouth and then feels him slip deeper into sleep.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chloe touches her mother's cheek, eyes wide and tearful. Absynthe dips down to curl around her little mistress' shoulder. Ob flips open his cell, dialing Ramji's number. It rings and the Rider answers it, handing it to Laila after a moment.

"Obsidian wants to talk to you."

Ob waits, listening to the quiet that greets him. A moment later he hears a soft "Yes?"

"Mi amiga... is it true you wish to leave us all?"

Instead of a yes or no, Laila tells him that Tomas was hurt because of her. It surprises her that the Gargoyle laughs.

"No, he got hurt because he did NOT heed you. He is, after all, a hard headed little gargoyle. What Tomas did, is instinct. We are proud of him, and he knows it. If you leave because he got hurt, it will tear him apart. He will think he scared you by what he became.

Tori told me what was done for his injuries, and that he sleeps the Stone Sleep. I have sent a message to Maarteen, he will tell us if anything else needs to be done."

There is a moment of silence.

"Please, think of what I said Laila. Don't make a rash decision. You have a home with Our Kin. We will all feel your loss, the children most of all. You accept their differences Laila. Trust me when I say, as a child that is something that is muy importante. I wish I had someone like you when I was Tomas' age. I know I would not have felt so alone. Please stay Laila. I ask on behalf of the people who have come to love you as familia."

That said, Ob closes his phone, tucking it in his pocket. "I have pleaded our case *mis amores. Now we wait."

He wipes a tear from Pandora's cheek, raising his thumb to his lips to kiss the wetness. He lays his cheek to his daughters and strokes Absynthe's scaley hide. Stoney touches his his mind, opening for the small family to hear what transpires.

Stoney holds her to him, touching lightly along the curve of her cheek. "Chaton, shhhhh... No one will make any rash decisions." He looks at  Ramji, meeting his eyes over their women's heads.

Tara peeks from the doorway. She slips past her parents, her sister's hand in hers. Stoney watches them as he quietly talks to Alise. The girls move to Laila, looking up at her quietly. Gracie slips her thumb from her mouth just long enough to tug at Laila's skirt.

When their nanny looks down, Tara gives her a solemn look. She chooses her words carefully.

"Lai-la. You no go."

Laila stoops to look her in the eyes. "If I don't, someone else will get hurt." Her fingers stroke the little girl's midnight hair. "Tomas got hurt because of me."

The eyes stay solemn, lost in the thoughts flashing through their lavender gleam. Finally she refocuses on Laila.

"Tomi say, Laila stay. He hurt cause no lissen Lala. He do like papan, sleep make better. Gacie need Lala. Maman take care Tomi, Lala take care Gacie."  She draws herself up straighter. "Tara help Maman and Lai-la."

She stomps her foot. "Lai-la stay."

Stoney's mind touches Alise's. So much her mother's child.

Ramji hides a smile as he watches. "*Malo janje, you have just been forbidden to leave. I agree with Tara, my sweet. You are needed here to help with the children. How the ghoul got in here will be discovered, and taken care of." He helps her to stand as the little girls go to their still weeping mother.

"Besides...  if you go... you will be responsible for a much larger injury." He tilts her face up, an expression on his own that she has not seen in a long time. Mouth grim, eyes unreadable, he tells her softly.

"Laila, if you go, you will break me. My heart, my soul, will go with you, although my body will stay here where I am needed."

*Little lamb

Laila silently takes the phone back and dials her sisters number. Star is seeing Rowan out since she received a call to help with a delivery. Alise stands in the doorway to her bedroom, wanting to be close to Stoney who was on the porch talking to the men but at the same time loath to leave her son.

As Star closes the door and turns back into the living room Laila bursts into tears. Stars eyes go wide wondering who she is talking to that could have upset her so badly. Through her heartbroken sobs, her words stab both Alise and Star.

“Maybe I need to leave, I am a danger to the children and I wont have them harmed or worse because of me...” The rest of her words are unintelligible, lost in tears as Laila breaks down.

Alise is distraught and sends to Stoney, NO...Stoney...come here...dont let her go..please talk to her.... and she starts to cry, overwhelmed by all that has transpired in so short a time.

Star moves to Laila and wraps her arms around her. “Sshhh... you dont have to cant leave...”

Laila shakes her head unable to speak and hands Star the phone. Star speaks with Thea briefly and hangs up. “They are coming. Thea said they will be over, we just have to let the sorcerer know... She said to tell you not to go anywhere, Lord Adrian will take care of Rath if Nicholas does not...”

Ramji had arrived and was being filled in on what happened while he was on patrol. His head snaps up when he hears the sobs and suddenly Stoney excuses himself and enters the house. Ramji follows and moves immediately to Laila, taking her in his arms and whispering to her, calming her with his touch and words.

Alise is beside herself, her hands covering her face. Dont let her go... Stoney, she is as a daughter to me, please tell her. The children would be heartbroken...Tomas will be crushed if she is gone when he awakens...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nick is quiet as Alise and Stoney relate what happened. His face is immobile as he turns to Laila.

"Laila, can you call Lord Adrian? I need to speak to him for a moment...."

The call goes through and after some preliminary back-and-forth, Laila hands the cell to Nick.

"Lord Adrian? This is Nicholas. This call is a courtesy only, to tell you that your brother has just pushed his luck too damn far. The next time I see the little sonofabitch, I'm going to kill him."

Without waiting for a response, he clicks the phone decisively shut and hands it back to Laila.

The wards at the cottage delay my passage not at all - which is as it should be. They should, however, have made short work of any being larger than a pixie; so it is a puzzle how the ghoul - now just a reeking pool of loathsome putrescence - managed to breach them.

It is a question I mean to go into ere I depart tonight; for now, a muttered "Er if ym th'gil yb abno em oc." calls fire from the earth to engulf the ghoul-that-was. I assure myself of the continued good health of all present, marveling at the courage of one small boy, gargoyle stock or no. Evidently my security procedures require review; yet I would not choose to increase the current number of individuals who can boast unfettered access to the cottage. It will require serious thought on my part to tighten security without leaving a perpetual guard in place....

The word of the attack has spread, and Lady Raina and the vampire arrive mere moments ahead of the other two members of their unusual family. Conventional wisdom has it that "two heads are better than one". Perhaps, then, I should take counsel of these younger folk in the hope that they may have fresher ideas than my own....

Raina and her family are enjoying some time spent at home. Laughing over a game of chess and the realization that no one seems to be able to beat Ky, despite the fact that they had just taught her the basics of playing. Raina is smiling when her cell rings and she sees its Erik.

“Hi Brother! Whats up?”

Nick watches as her smile fades and her eyes go wide.

“What? How can that be?” Raina pauses as she listens to Eriks explanation. “I'll be right there.... No... I am coming over to see Alise. Stop arguing.... Be there in a few...”

Ky and Gareth exchange glances and Ky asks, “Whats wrong?”

Raina starts to pace and explains, “That was Erik. Somehow a ghoul got past the wards at Stoney and Alise's. He attacked Tomas when he tried to keep the thing away from Laila. He is going to be fine, but was injured. Star felt something wrong and thought she could cut through the woods to get to Alise quicker... Tannr killed a Drow and Tiger got another one. I want to go see Alise, I am sure she is about making herself sick...” She looks to Nick, “Can you come with me?” Then to Ky and Gareth, “Maybe you guys should check out the woods by the cabin. Star will want to go home if I know her, a couple more pairs of eyes would be welcome, I am sure.”

Ky stands with a wide grin on her face. “Drow hunting... something else I am good at.” She looks at Gareth, “Come on Sobersides, we can make a game of this too. I'll even let you use some of my darts...”

Raina knew that for all of Ky's teasing her intent was deadly serious. She had sworn on her life to protect Star and she would do just that.

Nick stands, “So, are we taking the Harley?”

Roxi didn't mind being alone for awhile... she had just spent a day getting settled in her apartment and going over the basics of how Traeger ran his shop. She knew she was going to be happy there; the other young people she met that apprenticed with Traeger were just as friendly as all those she had met at the tavern.

Pandora walked over to retrieve her daughter from Ob, and it was obvious that she was with child... they looked very loving to each other; and it made Roxi sigh.  She had not been in a relationship for quite awhile... her life had been traumatic at best after her grandmother's death. The home she'd owned was heavily laden with debt; her grandmother had been in ill health for years, and she kept taking out loans to cover the mounting expenses.

Roxi had seen the attorney just the week before coming to Exton; and he had given her a check for $10,00.00... not much when her grandparents had spent their lives there, and she walked away knowing strangers would soon change the whole aura of the place.

Roxi's parents had been wanderers... they both worked for the forest service; and seemed to favor the remote wilderness areas where they were free to shift and join the other wild creatures there. When Roxi had grown old enough to know her heart wasn't there with them; they sent her to live with her grandmother to go to college, and find herself.

She had only been with her gram a year when word reached her that an avalanche had buried her parents... she knew they were together doing what pleased them, so she tried to dwell on them in Summerland, running free as the beautiful creatures they were with their furry coats glistening in the sun. Her father had been a grey fox, much larger than her mother... who was the burnished coppery color that Roxi's hair bore. They had always relished their wild side; and encouraged Roxi to do it as well.

Roxi relished the idea of running with Jeb; she had not shifted for nearly a month, and she could feel the tension building beneath her calm exterior. This was truly a new beginning in so many ways... she mused; as she watched Jeb at the door, he stole glances her direction as well when he could... and she smiled coyly as he blew her a kiss.

Jeb has his eye on the door for strangers; but all seems fairly normal for the tavern; he watches Ob's pacing and  hopes all is going well for his kin.

He looks to Roxi, and can tell she is feeling the tension, walking over he slips on a stool beside her. "I guess you can tell we're having some excitement in the family tonight; its being handled, you can relax".... Roxi smiles shyly. Jeb goes on... "You're one of the shapeshifters, aren't you?... I'm guessing canine of some sort, but not wolf."

Roxi looks up at him in surprise... "Yes, I'm fox... both my parents were shifters." Jeb crooks his head and says... "Would I be too forward if I asked if you'd like to go out with me tomorrow night for a run?... I have a place outside town where I go to shift and run the countryside."  Roxi grinned. "I'd really like that, I have no idea what the shifters do here, when and if its okay to be my other self."

Jeb slipped an arm around her shoulder... "Stick with me kid; I'll show you the ropes."  Roxi stiffened for the barest second before relaxing; she felt some sexual tension when she was dwelling on him, she decided to just relax and see where it led her... he wasn't a bad looking man....

Jeb continued... "You're part of the extended family now; you'll find yourself drawn into situations you haven't even imagined yet. Life is good here in Exton; but its also never dull." Roxi watched Patti approach and say..."Honey, I overheard Jeb, and he's right... you're part of us now; so get used to different." She laughed and turned to help a customer and Jeb said," Well princess, I need to get back to the door.. .I'll get in touch with you about tomorrow night; It'll probably be after dinner when we take our leave of town."

Tori confers quietly with Rowan as Alise and Star wash the blood gently from Tomas' head and back. Laila has the girls, sitting on a chair in the corner of the room, holding them in her lap. They refuse to leave their brother, concentrating on talking to him through their private link. Tara looks up at their nanny and nods slowly.

"Chloe say, Tommi ver brave. He like... papan and Onc' Ob." She looks at her brother proudly, "He gots wings. He now real batman."

Gracie sucks on her thumb, eyes taking in everything, tracking to Tori and Rowan where they discuss mudpacks. Sliding from Laila's lap, she heads for her toys. She pulls out a small pail and shovel and toddles to her aunt. Tugging at the shaggy fur of Tori's goatlegs, she holds the set up. The thumb comes out of her mouth just long enough to say, "Dig? No Maman flowers. Tan' Tor? You, Gacie dig?"

Tori's eyes go vague as she talks to her brother. When she is sure that Wish has things well hidden from Gracie's eyes, she nods to her niece. A smile crosses Tannr's grim face. He offers his hand to Gracie and she looks up, but takes Tori's hand instead. She looks at him, then stares at the door, sending her thoughts to her aunt. Tori laughs.

"You need both hands free, Coppertop. Just in case something sneaks up on us as we get dirt to help Tomas."

Tannr hides a grin and precedes them out the door. Gracie leads them around the corner of the house, showing them a spot where Alise has a vegetable garden. Her thumb comes out again and she points. "Helfy. Maman say GOOD dirt."

She leans down, thumb back in her mouth and picks up a handful of dirt to put in the bucket. After a moment she looks up at Tori and sighs. She takes the hand holding the shovel and tries to help Tori dig. "Tan' Tor... dig."

Tannr turns, watching the yard, before Gracie can scold HIM for not doing his job. A few minutes later Tori rises with a full bucket and a very determined little girl leads the way back to the house. As they enter the door Tara announces, "Clean dirt, Helfy from Maman's garden. Gracie say no worms."

Alise hides a smile as she takes the bucket from Tori. She makes a point of thanking Gracie and the little girl runs back to Laila. She reaches up to be held and snuggles back into the young woman's arms, as Tara hugs her. Alise looks down at her son, relieved that the blood is not flowing as it was. Now it is little more than seeping.

Tomas' skin is grey, nearly the color of Stoney as he sleeps. He is heavier, impossible for her to pick up at this point. Tori and Rowan begin to make the mud to pack his wounds. As they begin packing the torn areas on his back, a sigh shudders through the small frame and he relaxes in a way he has not done since the painful bumps first emerged. Alise does not breathe easily until his head wound is packed, as are the small scratches they had not first seem. She brushes back still soft hair and watches him for a moment.

"You won't see him breathing, Alise. Tomas has slipped into stone sleep. In a little bit he will resemble a statue. It is best for this healing." Tori lays a comforting hand on her sister-in-law's shoulder.

Stoney's voice rumbles in their minds, echoing his canine form. Our Tomas did well Chaton. He is resting peacefully. His sisters and cousin made sure of that.

I hear a mosquite whine and turn slightly, knowing that it is not in fact a mosquito, but a sylph. So it proves to be, and a hyperactive sylph at that, so excited that she practically dances in the air. Her speech, too, is accelerated, so that it is almost gibberish. Such a state of affairs bodes ill for someone, I fear, so I cast a minor spell, the effect of which is to tranquilize her to a degree. It is not a thing I do lightly; this spell is typically reserved for those who have seen something so horrific that their mind is in danger of retreating into catatonia. I have never used it on a non-human before, but I see little in the way of options; the intelligence she brings must be of significant import to cause such anxiety.

It seems to work... though perhaps too well. A slow smile overspreads her face and she speaks more slowly now.

When all has been made clear, I reach for my cape, belt Nemesis in place and leave the Manse, my destination the cottage where Lady Alise and her gargoyle dwell.

Stoney turns his head slowly. His gaze takes in his son's condition, his wife's state, and the assembled protectors. His mind touches Alise'. Non, not yet Chaton. He got in here somehow. I intend to find out how, and who sent him.

Lids lowered, Stoney returns his gaze to the ghoul. His growl rumbles slowly, thundering in the clearing. Tori murmurs to Alise and her sister-in-law heads to the door to open it for Tannr. Star assures Alise that Rowan is on her way, and Tori chuckles. Her words are lost as the door shuts behind them.

"We need soil from outside, Need to pack the wounds with mud of his native land. His color is actually good Alise. He is part sto..."

Stoney stares into the eyes of the ghoul. "Now... how did you get in here?"

The ghoul bares its teeth. "Your gatekeeper let me in."

Stoney growls and there is a sharp crack as the Crann Tire tightens its grip. The ghoul screams at the flash of pain from a broken bone. Alise touches Stoney's mind. With a kiss, and it is alright mon amour, he gently closes her out.

"Who sent you, and why?"

The ghouls is panting from the pain. "Up yours stone," He screams again as the Crann Tire adds pressure. The scream ends on a curse. "Rath... the vampire Rath..."

"How many are inside my wards?"

The creature grins and Stoney casually reaches out and rakes his claws along the ghoul's chest. It twists, trying to escape, but there is no escape. The Crann Tire tugs on its arms, stretching tendons and muscles painfully.

"Just me... just me, I swear!"

Stoney nods and Wish hands him a sharp twig. Stoney probes the wound over the creature's heart.

"How did you get in?"

The creature balks, saying nothing, and Stoney presses the sharp point into the wound. The ghoul writhes in the tree's grip.

"How... Did... You... Get... In?" Each word is accompanied by a thrust of the  twig.

The creature screams, gibbering out about spying on the gremlin, and taking advantage of his delivering the jeep.

Stoney sits back and looks at the end of the bloodied stick. Wish steps up beside Stoney and stares at the ghoul.

"Trixies...  this one is crafty as a Piskie. Hid from sight and thought to get a free meal while you slept. Did not expect the bravery of yer git."

Stoney looks down at Wish. Wish runs her petite hand along the twig. It thickens, becoming a rough stake. The ghoul's eyes widen.

"One more question. Why does Rath want someone here harmed?"

The ghouls stares at the stake, then looks at Stoney and laughs. "You took his servant. Your family stands in his way. You embarrassed him... of course he hates you."

The creature laughs, giggling in near hysterics, sounding like a hyena.  Stoney shakes his head and raises the stake. Suddenly the creature's chest blossoms red. Wish lays a hand on the root-like leg of the Treeman. The ghoul screams once more as the wooden branch pushes deeper through creature's chest.

As the intruder's eyes glaze over, the magic leaves the Crann Tire. Twigs and vines minimize slowly, shrinking in size, twisting on itself until all that is left is a stake through the ghoul's heart.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tori, having switched to human form, approaches the group and stops, her heart constricting at the sight of the man she loves gently cradling a gargoyle child. Tannr turns to her, Tomas still unconscious, one of his wings dangling.

“Tori... how do I hold him? His wing... I dont want to hurt him...”

She smiles and carefully tucks the wing in, close to the little boys back, “Like this... just kind of fold it...”

“Okay. Can you reach him with your mind? I am sure he is fine, Star thinks so too... but Alise is having a hard time..”

Tori nods and catches Alises thoughts to her husband as she composes herself and joins them.

Just kill him Remi. How dare that creature come here and hurt our son....

Star speaks without looking, sounding all the world like Keon in his Court mode. She touches Tomas' wings, noting their positions.

"Wish, we have need of Tori. Stoney needs to be focused on the intruder."

Wish bows low and dances to a spot between the Gargoyles. She eyes the grip Tori has on the creatures shoulders. Her sharp talons pierce the muscles. Wish smiles sweetly, the power flowing through her adding a touch of insanity to her innocence.

"Let me relieve ye of that burden Mistress Viper. Yer Kin has need of ye. Give me but a moment to prepare?"

Skipping to an elm growing at the edge of the yard, Wish speaks softly to it. A branch drops, twirling as it descends. She holds out her hand and it lands gently on her palms. She bows, thanking the tree for its assistance. She bounds across the yard, spinning to a stop beneath the hovering gargoyle.

Shoving the raw end of the wood into the ground, Wish softly sings. The words are ethereal, yet a touch of malice dances within the enchanting tune. The branch grows, spreading upwards, widening its branch into a trunk. A face appears in the ridges of the bark. Eyes open and fix on the ghoul in Tori's grasp.

Tori gasps, "*Crann Tire..."

The creature nods slowly, creaking as it moves. Twisted limbs reach out, twiglike fingers wrap around the ghoul's arms as Tori lets go and drops her captive into the waiting "hands". The Crann Tire pulls, making the ghoul's arms taut. The creature screams. The Tree Man blinks, bark crinkling into a grin. It lowers the ghoul  within Stoney's reach and crackles out the words, "You have questions for this one?"

Tori turns on the wing and sweeps across the yard to where Tannr is carefully holding her nephew.

*Tree Folk

Alise thought her heart had stopped when she stepped outside to see what was keeping her son and Laila. A moments hesitation, her mind not registering what her eyes were seeing, then the scream of pure fear. A mothers fear for her child. Stoney felt it instantly, the blinding fear, worse than anything he had felt from her when she had been held prisoner.

As Stoney battled the ghoul, Alise knelt by her son and cried. Her face in her hands at first, certain he was dead. “Laila, mon Dieu... what happened? How did that monster get in here? My son, theres so much blood.... and his skin is grey... like Stoneys when he....”

Suddenly Star was there, kneeling with her friends. Laila looked over and saw another gargoyle but the fact barely registered in her worry over Tomas. Tannr and Erik arrived with Wish, Erik taking a spot between the ghoul and the group with Tomas. Wish stayed closer to Star but it was obvious she was guarding her. Tannr approached the women. Star was checking Tomas for any broken bones, carefully examining his neck, then the wound to his forehead. “He has a nasty gash, but nothing broken that I can see or feel.”

She turns to Alise who cant stop crying and wraps and arm around her. “He will be fine, Alise. I know he will be. He just got knocked out...”

“But so much blood...” Alise is almost incoherent with fear.

“Head wounds do that, you know it. And his wings seem to have just popped out, so there is bleeding there too, but he's going to be fine. I will call Rowan and we will take care of him.”

Tannr kneels and runs a hand through the blond waves, so like his mothers. “He's going to be fine, Alise. Just checking out for a bit. He got knocked pretty hard I imagine.”

Star takes Alises shoulders in her hands, “Stop now. Your son needs you, and the girls too. You cannot do this now...”

Alise is startled by the firm tone Star has taken with her and her eyes go wide for an instant. She wipes the tears from her face, “You are right. This is not the time to fall to pieces...” She turns at the sound of crying and screaming from the house.. “Tara....”

Laila stands, “I”ll take care of the girls...” and heads into the house.

Mon Dieu... I cannot lift him, he must be changing....” Alise struggles to pick Tomas up.

“Let me take him Alise...” Tannr easily scoops up the little boy and stands with him cradled in his arms.

Pandora was having difficulty getting Chloe settled; and she still had that sense of dread that made her unable to relax.... Ob was pacing around trying to be patient, and she could see from the looks he exchanged with Ike ,that something was going on with their kin.

Chloe cried;."Tomas"... and she squirmed in her mother's arms; standing up she raised off the floor with her small leathery wings... "help Tomas".... Pandora tried to reach for her, but she had run farther out into the room and Pandora's ungainly figure prevented her moving as fast as she once had. Chloe  had actually risen several feet into the air as Pandora watched; when Ob reached her and captured her.

"Its okay Chloe; Stoney is there now helping Tomas, you stay here and help Papa guard the tavern." Chloe had a determined pouty look on her face as her father captured her, and her hair was vibrant with snapping filaments of color.... Pandora couldn't help admiring her little girl's courage... and how very much she looked like Ob as he held her in his arms.

Ob's glance to Pandora told her there was real danger at Stoney's; but it appeared from his stance here at the tavern he was not needed... she relaxed a little knowing that other warriors or riders were there helping Stoney. Chloe refused to return to her mother's arms; she remained on guard with her father.

Stoney stands back from his easel and stares at the gargoyle he has drawn. A soft rumble echoes in the back of his mind and he wonders at the reaction to his sketch. He can't think of a single being that it closely resembles. The soft growl comes again and Stoney closes his eyes, focusing. Tomas?

The young boy shows his father what he sees. The sound of Laila's voice filters through the boy's mind to his own. Pencil forgotten, he is out the door of his workshop, shifting on the run. Wings held low, Stoney thunders along the path, watching the proceedings through his son's eyes.  Pride and horror war within as Tomas launches himself into the ghoul's face in an attempt to divert it from his LaLa. He breaks from the trees in time to see it slap his son into a tree, thanking the Goddess that Tomas had shifted partially to stone.

The ghoul reaches for Laila. Stone jaws clamp around the wrist and the creature finds itself lifted from the ground. Stoney growls, shaking the creature as a dog worries a favorite toy. Claws scrape against his head, raking along the hard surface of Stoney's skin, seeking something to injure. Frustrated, the creature plants its feet in his chest and jerks hard.

Freeing itself, the ghoul twists away. Dodging around Stoney it heads straight for the group at the tree. Stoney roars and cuts the creature off from its goal. The canine gar rises to his full seven foot plus height, wings beating in anger. Clawed hands strike at Stoney, managing to score furrows on the stone hide. Maddened by the scent of his son's blood, Stoney snaps at the ghoul. He misses. The ghoul laughs, choking off as sharp talons grip its shoulders, nails digging in as it is lifted off the ground.

The sound of women's voices, his wife's sobbing, feed the rage burning in Stoney's eyes. The ghoul sees his end and twists frantically, trying to rip itself from its captor. The harsh sound of hissing laughter makes him redouble his efforts. There is a small ping and two figures step from a bubble. Faces grim, the warriors place themselves between the ghoul and the group at the tree. Stoney growls again, drawing the ghoul's eyes back to him.

Low and rasping, the words are slowly ground out from between canine jaws. "You made a big mistake. No one touches what is mine. So... who sent you?" When the ghoul refuses to answer Stoney raises a brow "All right... if you won't answer that, how about if I just start biting off pieces until you DO talk?"

Stoney advances slowly, licking his jaws.
Red eyes bright with excitement and curiosity, the woman raises the hood that slipped from her head while she watched the gargoyle take wing with her passenger. Her form shadowed and barely visible in the darkness of the woods.

A winged serpent? One that carries people.... What a magnificent gift for Lolth that would be..... And what status the bearer of a such a gift would enjoy....

“Did you see that my Priestess?” A tall warrior appears at the womans side.

“I did. I think we may need to find out more about this creature... Wasnt it said that the winged ones had a hand in the death of my sister?” Dark hands pull the cloak tighter, hiding the lush body and long silver white hair.

“I believe so Priestess...” answers the Warrior.

“Then we should find out all we can....” replies the woman before seemingly melting into the night.

Alise and Laila are busy cleaning up after supper. The children had played outside all afternoon and Alise would swear they had eaten at least half their weight at the meal.

Laila smiles, “Being outside has made them hungry. They use up a lot of energy, finally being able to get outside.” Laila lifts Gracie into the playpen and hands her a doll to play with. “I'll be right back Little One, as soon as the dishes are done...”

Gracie smiles, content with her dolls and toys. Tara sits nearby with a puzzle, concentrating on fitting the shapes into their proper spots. Tomas was watching and suddenly springs up, “Batman..nah nah nah....” He hums the theme as he looks around for his beloved action figure. He sends to Alise, Maman, Batman is outside...

Before Alise can respond the front door is open and Tomas has gone out. Laila sets down the plate she was rinsing and wipes her hands, “I'll get him. I think he left Batman in the sandbox....”

Alise responds “Thank you. I'll finish up in here.”

Laila heads out the front door and calls for Tomas. She sees the little boy holding his Batman, but his body is stiff, and she thinks she hears him growling.

Laila moves towards the sandbox and where she sees the little boy standing. “Tomas! What is wrong? You found Batman, come inside now, it is getting dark....” Her words choke and die in her throat at the sight before her.

A ghoul stands not twenty feet away from Tomas. Oh my god, oh crap... what to do? Laila stops several feet behind Tomas and says quietly, “Tommy, shhhhh.... dont attract his attention, please stop growling, send to your mama to call papa...”

But all Tomas is thinking is that he has to protect his mother, sisters and Laila from danger. Papa has said this is his job when he is at rest.

The ghoul turns and sniffs the air and catches sight of Tomas and Laila. He smiles and Laila is gagging from the stench of rotted flesh. The ghoul takes a step toward Tomas and the little boy roars a warning. Laughing the ghoul races towards Tomas and Laila. Laila tries to reach Tomas before the ghoul but the monster moves surprisingly fast. When it is a couple of feet in front of Tomas the little boys wings suddenly appear and he is in the ghouls face, growling and clawing.

A evil grin splits the ghouls face and he backhands Tomas, sending the boy flying into a tree. Laila screams and hears Alises echoing scream from the front door. Laila turns to run to Tomas and is knocked to the ground, not by the ghoul but by the ground shaking under her feet. What in the world....?

It is Stoney, in full gargoyle fury at what had been done to his son and the threat to his family. Laila scoots back a few feet, her eyes wide at the sight, then scrambles up and runs to Tomas and Alise.

Magic pulses, turning heads as the tingle that washes over them intensifies. Wish stands less than a yard away, looking at the foursome. The irridescence around her flexes as if she is surrounded by a soap bubble as it floats on the air. Tori breathes deep, letting the power flow through her very being. Her head turns to the woods, Tori's gaze following. A pair of Hell Hound eyes gleam in the shadows.

Dmitri's companion Hound, Scheherazade. Gingerly she steps between the corpses, sniffing at the handle of the axe and the wounds inflicted by Tiger. She looks at the people, then turns and trots back to the shadows. With a flick of her ratlike tail, the Hell Hound steps into the trees and is gone.

"What the Hel was that all about?" Tannr's voice seems to startle everyone.

Tori's head falls back and she slaps a hand across her eyes. "Damn, Fuck, Son of a Royal Bitch."  raising her head she notices everyone just staring at her, Star's mouth open in shock. "One of my Kin picked up images... she was sent to see if we needed reinforcements."

Wish stares at Star, her eyes shining with power. "What say ye, My Lady? Does danger still bode for the cottagers?" What little color that Star was recovering drains away. She turns to bolt, and Wish stops her. "Nay Mistress. Let us get ye there faster."

Tori looks at the men and Star. "I can carry one easily. Two, if one is Star."

Wish grins. The smile is joyous, and extremely scary when combined with the violence held bound in the little Wyldfae's eyes. "One, an' yer time be quicker if that one be Lady Star. I will bring My Lord an' his brother upon My Lady's Wishing."

Star looks off through the trees, at Erik, and lastly at Tori and Tannr. Her eyes swirl, reflecting her worry, anger, fear, and determination. She nods to Wish. "I will let Tori me there. Wish, p..pu..please hurry... it is my wish for us all to get there now."

A small scream escapes her lips as Tori scoops Star up into her arms and launches them upwards with great sweeps of her demonic wings. As the women clear the trees, Wish reaches out to the men.

"Take my hands. We go."

Both Warriors step gingerly into the bubble, half expecting it to pop around them. She looks to the axe embedded in the Drow skull. It dissolves and reforms on the ground within the bubble. Wish looks up at Tannr as he stares at it.

"One would think ye nae fought wi' Fae on the Unformed Plane." She shakes her head, the vibrant dreds sparking with her contained power. "Ach lad... 'tis the same as it was, just within reach. Shoulder yer blade an' we be gone."

Tannr lifts it to his shoulder, noting the blood still on the steel. His hand absently takes offered hand as Erik clasps the other. There is a ping as the magic bubble seems to pop, the occupants disappearing. Wish's laughter, and last words, echo off the trees of the clearing.

"What? Ye expected it cleaned and polished upon return? Ach lad, I'm not yer bleedin' Mary Poppins..."

The touch on his senses is annoyed. There is the sensation of tossing a tool across a room and a few well placed explosive words of French. Nothing is wrong here that a well placed punch would not solve, *mon frère. I have been commissioned to sculpt, of all things, ^une gargouille. I have yet to make one that does not look like Kin! The last is very similar to Notre-Dame's inhabitants. Ah bien... back to the drawing board, literally.

Ob shares with Pandora, showing her there is nothing on that end to worry about. Alise touches their minds with images of the children settling in to after dinner diversions and a stack of dishes to wash. Pandora settles back in her husband's arms, Chloe quieting as she sees her cousins playing. Ike hides her concern for Tori behind her frustration with a new waitress, hoping Pandora does not pick up on it. Ob glances her way with a rueful expression.

"As for Tori... Mujer, she is a big girl, if she needs us she will shout. Ike tells me that our sister has told Tannr something that few know. She has been..." He makes a face trying to find the right word. Chloe giggles and her dragon settles onto her little mistress' lap, arching into the little girl's touch. "Quisquilloso, um... touchy? on edge? Could that be what you are feeling?"

Pandora shakes her head. "It's not just that..."

Ob kisses her forehead, looking up as Dmitri comes back in from the back. Guunnar strolls back in and settles at their table as well. "See mi amor, if Guunnar returns to his food, nothing is amiss." He strokes his hand along the side of her rounded belly. "Our boy is growing quickly, si?"

Chloe scoots as best she can to lay her cheek on her maman's tummy. Her brow furrows, then she giggles as Pandora's stomach rumbles. Ike hears it and laughs as she passes their table, taking more coffee to the Riders.

"Maman... baby love you!" She pats her mother's belly. "I love maman too. No sad now?"

Ob laughs, tousling his daughter's brilliant curls. "How can mamacita be sad when the three of us love her so much?"

As Pandora kisses the top of her daughter's head, Ike touches Ob's mind. Dmitri sent 'Zade to Keon. Tori shut me out as soon as I touched her mind. Whatever is going on, we will know soon.

*my brother

^a gargoyle

Pandora was enjoying an uninteruped meal for a change; Ob was discussing with her possible baby names..and making banter about what it would be like having their own little hellion like Stoney's son running around. Across the room they could hear Chloe entertaining the riders.

Pandora  felt a wash of emotion; and her look turned serious as she looked into Ob's eyes. 'Something is wrong Ob... I don't know exactly what, I am being torn different ways". Ob was silent as he concentrated on his siblings..."Tori; she is involved in something; shes in gargoyle mode..its really fuzzy".

Pandora had a terrible sense of dread. "Its not  just  Star's family... something else is wrong." She felt foolish as tears started down her cheeks..."This pregnancy has made me so emotional." gathering her inner witch she stopped herself, this was not the time to fall apart.

Ob had already risen and stooping to kiss Pandora he took off across the room to the riders... gathering  Chloe in his arms he told them what Pandora had felt, what he knew was happening with Tori... and said "I think you best be seeking the hell hounds out back; get in touch with Keon... something's going on... but my place is here. If I am needed I can leave Jeb in charge  and join you."

The riders moved quickly toward the back door; and Ob took a now crying Chloe to her mother, Absynthe hovering in the air above her, knowing from the tension there was danger. Pandora chided herself for not closing her emotions off sooner; now Chloe had picked it up, and she rocked her daughter and whispered soft words to comfort her. Ob had gone to talk to Jeb and alert Monty... and now returned to sit with arms around his wife and  daughter. Concealing his own sense of unrest till more was known... and wondering why Stoney had not answered.....

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I don't know magic, but I know when something feels wrong, and I feel it now. The farther I get from Keon and Pike, the colder it seems to get. The very air seems wrong, like I'm running through molasses or something. Every step is a major effort, but I keep going; what else can I do?

I explode through a tangle of bushes, sword in hand, and then fear and rage run through my veins in equal measure. Star is struggling with two dark elves, fighting like hell to get free. Her eyes go wide when she sees me, then something moves too fast to follow and suddenly one of the elves goes down with an axe in his head.

I spare a glance to the left and see Tannr, looking tough and competent and dangerous as hell, readying his second axe - and I doubt he's planning on splitting wood. His voice is level. "Walk away or die."

Just then all Hel breaks loose, and when all is said and done, the other Drow has been dispatched - by Tiger, no less. I always knew that big pussycat would come in handy…. I move to take a weeping, nearly hysterical Star in my arms, holding her close. "Shhhh, shhhh… it's okay, Princess, everything's okay…." We'll have to talk, but now is not the time.

Tannr goes silent and still at the sight of one of the Drow, flashing a knife and holding it to Stars throat. Fighting instinct takes over and in one fluid motion Tannr raises the axe, aims and releases, saying a silent prayer that Star not move.

The Drow looks up at Tannr. But there's no warning, none; suddenly the axe is just there, spinning end over end. it ends its flight in a dark elf's head, with a sound like someone splitting a pumpkin.

Tannr's voice is low and guttural, savage, scaring Star, as she has never seen Tannr like this.

“Walk away or die”, he says; the second axe in his hand is poised, ready to strike.

The Drow gives Star a hard shove, intending to make good his escape. But when he sees Star shoved, Tiger has other ideas.

As Star turns and tries to scramble to her knees she sees Tiger, crouching behind the Drow. When he turns to flee, the giant cat springs, taking the Drow down by his neck. Star gasps and turns away. The scream and crunching sounds along with a spray of blood making her cringe and gasp.

Tannr approaches and takes Star by the hand, helping her rise. “Dont waste your sympathy. If I hadnt been here, he wouldnt have thought twice about gutting you right here...”