Saturday, November 26, 2011

As the night wore on, the drinks flowed freely, everyone celebrating and happy to be all together again. Alise was dancing, Stoney admiring the short skirt and spiky heeled boots she was wearing. Alise had been unsure of herself when she got ready for the evening. She rarely wore short skirts or even shorts, feeling more comfortable with her legs covered. But tonight she had decided to be a bit daring, at least for her. The short black leather skirt and lavender sweater fit perfectly, the V neck showing just a hint of cleavage. The boots matched the sweater and added a good three inches to her petite frame. She left her hair hanging loose, something else she rarely did. Stoney had quickly drawn in his breath when he saw her.

Mon chaton...I wont be able to keep my hands off you...

Good....I like your hands on me... she had replied with a saucy grin that earned her a swat on the behind. will pay later for your teasing...

Taking a break from dancing, Alise and Stoney head for the family table and run into Raina and Gareth. Gareth trying unsuccessfully to talk Raina into another dance.

“No Gareth. Give me a break, I need a drink and a chair to park my ass on for a few minutes....” She pauses as Alise smiles and shoves Gareth towards her. “Take her out for a dance...” Raina plops in a chair and turns it facing the dance floor so she can watch.

“Ohh...all right...” Alise looks to Stoney who nods and grins. Gareth takes her hand but Alise stops suddenly. “Just a moment, this sweater is getting too hot...”

Rainas eyes go wide at the sight of Alise pulling off her sweater and then pulling her hair through it. Underneath it she had on a darker lavender tank top, skin tight and low cut, the red lace of her bra barely peeking out. Alise tosses the sweater to Raina. “Here, hold this for me...” and her and Gareth hit the dance floor.

Rainas eyes were hot watching Alise dance. Stoney was torn between watching his wifes suggestive moves and the expressions crossing Rainas features. Raina tosses her long black mane behind her, one hand gripping the arm of the chair and the other holding Alises sweater.

Ob sends to Stoney, How much has mon fluer had to drink?? I think you will have your hands full...

Stoney grins and keeps watching.

When the music ends Gareth tries to keep Alise on the dance floor, but she shakes her head and heads towards Raina. She approaches Raina and bends down, thinking Raina wont hear her otherwise, the music loud.

Raina feels the softness of Alises cheek, her breath hot on her face. Her bending had afforded Raina a glimpse of a red bra and cleavage and the scent of sweat, wild flowers. Alises hair draped over Rainas lap causing her to force back a sudden wave of desire.

“Thank you....I did not mean for you to sit alone....”

“Its fine...” With the words Raina had turned her face to Alises. Before she could think or try and stop herself, Raina captured Alises lips with her own. The kiss was slow, tender and Raina could feel Alise responding, passion rising.

Stoney watched and saw that the hand gripping the arm of the chair was white, Raina obviously struggling to control herself.

“Your lips are so much softer than a mans....” Alise whispered, pulling away only far enough to speak.

Raina smiles, “I would hope so... Gods.... Is your husband going to kill me? I'm sorry... well .. not really, I just dont want to cause a problem for you...”

“Non, its fine. He is enjoying looking I think. He cant decide if he should watch us or my skirt riding up...” Alise giggles and Raina knows she has had a bit too much to drink. Alises modesty seems to have flown out a window.

Alise presses her lips to Raina and Raina lets her hand slowly slide up Alises thigh. Alise shivers but doesnt pull away, so Raina lets her hand slip higher and under the skirt, feeling the soft smooth skin of a hip. Raina stops when she hears a small soft gasp from Alise.

“Are you okay?” Raina asks, but doesnt move her hand.

“Oh yes. But we shouldnt do this here...” Alise let her hand trail over Rainas chest and up her neck as she stood up. “I think this is not the end of this thing between us...”

As Raina watches Alise walk over to Stoney, Gareth brings her a tall cold glass of beer. Raina smiles gratefully and takes a large drink.

“Thanks, I needed that...”

Nodding Gareth says, “I could tell. Its a wonder the place didnt catch on fire.....”

Pandora watched Ob as the song ended between him and Nick; she rose and crossed the floor to him as if transfixed... he met her as she crossed the room and swept her into his arms, his grip so tight they were molded together as if one. Ahhh, she sighed mentally as she felt him and the sexual tension he tried to hold in check... this magnificent male creature was hers, heart and soul... and she was his; she raised her eyes to him and he lowered his mouth to capture her in a savage kiss that acknowledged all she thought was true.

The children had been sent up to the nursery to play quietly for awhile before sleep; and the atmosphere of the room had changed subtly after the young ones were gone. Pandora knew all this energy charging the room would lead to a fantastic night of lovemaking... and she ground herself closer to tell Ob she was surrendering to the feelings.

Glimpses of the room's occupants told her that couples were pairing up; she could feel and hear the mental murmurs among the family members as Stoney and Alise, Eric and Star, and the others began thinking about their own private celebrations. Rowan was relaxing in her father's arms and she knew Traeger would draw her away to spend the night with him... so seldom did she have a night without a patient to attend.

Soon it would be time to decorate for Yule; Pandora knew Tori needed to take it easy, but she had always been part of planning the festive decorations for the tavern and she didn't want this year to be any different... she could handle many things on the computer while her body built its strength back.

The dance ended and Ob reluctantly released her,keeping a grip on her waist as they walked to the family table. "Eric,do you think as it grows closer to Yule it would be safe to take the children to find a Yule log in the woods near your home?

Pandora knew they would need an armed group... with remnants of Drow still alive to serve the evil priestess.

They talked among the family, putting a loose plan together.

"Wow. I didn't know Nick was such a showman. We should have gotten him onstage long ago."

Stoney grinned at his sister through his long dark hair. "I do not Nikolas would have taken the stage if someone asked. Ob said Nick called and asked to sing."

Her pale green eyes widened. Moments later she was spinning in her chair to stare up at the stage. "He WHAT?"

Alise laughed. "He asked to sing, mon ami."

The fiery redhead shakes her head, shock evident in her expression. "Have I been gone that long?"

Tannr's arms tighten around her waist. His mind brushes Tori's. Fordæmdur langur nógur. The meaning, (Damned long enough) flows with it, proving the link has merged tighter. Tori blinks away tears and shifts onto his lap, bringing her body as close to his as possible.

Stoney frowns and sends privately to Pandora and Alise. She has been traumatized more than we knew. It is not like Tori to be so.... He watches his sister from hooded eyes. Hésitantes, émotionnel. Not herself. Thank the gods Tannr loves her for herself.

A slow song fills the floor with moving couples and Stoney puts on a long suffering attitude. "Go dance. Grind against each other until he makes you see that you are the only star in his sky."

A sound escapes from where Erik sits with his arm around Star. Her eyes are a brilliant bright blue as she stifles a giggle behind her hand. Erik looks like he is trying not to choke.

Laughing, Tori rises and pulls Tannr out on the dance floor. As his arms slide around her, and she presses close, Stoney scans her. Green eyes meet his dark gaze. Tannr says something to her and Tori looks at her lover instead of her brother.

With a sigh, Stoney sits back. "She slammed a door on me." A grim smile twists his lips, leaving his eyes sad. "But not before I got a little look at her memories." A growl rumbles.

"There is a Drow guard who needs to go the way of Jean-Marc."

Nick starts to leave the stage and Ob lays a hand on his shoulder. The words are quick, followed by the Gargoyle's wicked wink. At Nick's grin and nod, Ob again leans close to the mike. His voice is low, a murmur of sound as Nick says something to the band. The sound of a lone church bell tolls behind his words.

"We ask you now to take a little ride with us...."

The guitar riff slides in and Ob hands Nick a cordless mike as he takes another. The downbeat taps in, a low heartbeat thud that kicks up as people begin to recognize the song.

Ob tosses his multi-hued hair and pulls on his Bohemian Barbarian attitude like a second skin. He feels Pandora's shudder as he sends her a slow wicked lick that only she can sense.

I'm rolling thunder, pouring rain,
I'm comin' on like a hurricane,
My lightnins' flashing across the sky,
You're only young but you're gonna die.

Ob steps back as Nick steps forward. The rasp of the vampire's voice lends an eerie, chilling thrill to the words.

I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives,
Nobody's putting up a fight,
I got my Bell, I'm gonna take you to Hell,
I'm gonna get ya, Satan get ya.
The men's voices merge on the chorus, backed by Lunar Eclipse.
Oh, Hell's Bells,
Yeah, Hell's Bells,
You got me ringing Hell's Bells,
My temperature's high, Hell's Bells.

Nick's eyes gleam in the stage lights as he watches Ky and Raina grind on Gareth right in front of the stage. Oh yes... They were going to have fun later... His voice nearly growls out the next verse.

I'll give you, black sensations up and down your spine,
If you're into evil you're a friend of mine,
See my white light flashin' as I split the night,
'cause if good's on the left, then I'm stickin' to the right.

Ob licks his lips, whispering the words what a sight.... knowing Nick would know he meant the Vampire's roomates and not the trio of girls trying to wiggle their way past them. He grins at Nick and sends a very sensual caress along Pandora's mind. His tail wraps around her leg and slides up her calf until the tip is rubbing suggestively along the apex of her thighs. His grin becomes a self satisfied smirk when he sees her shift in her seat. His voice becomes raspy, a hint of the Deamon showing.

I won't take no prisoners, won't spare no lives,
Nobody's puttin' up a fight,
I got my Bell, I'm gonna take you to Hell,
I'm gonna get ya, Satan get ya.
Hell's Bells,
OH, Hell's Bells,
You got me ringing Hell's Bells,
My temperature's high, Hell's Bells.

The band rocks in to the bridge and the duo moves with the music. Their movements aggressive and very suggestive. Their voices blend, trading lines until the end of the song, screaming out the final Hell's Bells!

Hell's Bells, Satan's comin' to you,
Hell's Bells, He's ringing them now,
Hell's Bells, the temperature's high,
Hell's Bells, across the sky,
Hell's Bells, they're takin' you down,
Hell's Bells, they're draggin' you around,
Hell's Bells, gonna split the night,
Hell's Bells, there's no way to fight, yeah!

Ow, ow, ow! YES YES!!!!!

Hell's Bells!!!!

Tannr pulls Tori close, letting her feel his thoughts. She smiles as she buries her face in his chest and wraps her arms around him.

“Really?” she asks.

“Yes, really.... and later, when we can be alone, I'm going to kiss every inch of your beautiful, sexy body and take your breath away....”

Tannr smiles as he feels Tori start to relax and sees her grin as she tips her face to look at him. Before she can say anything Tannr leans down and captures her lips with his own.

Tori pulls away from the passionate and yet tender kiss. “Stop, Coppertop! Or we are going to have to leave...”

“Okay...” Tannr laughs. “Go talk to your people, say your thank yous and whatever you need to. I'll be right here... talking to our... the families.”

Tori smiles at Tannrs correcting himself. She nods and with a light touch to his face she disappears into the crowd.

It's Miller Time!

Well, actually in my case it's A-positive time, but the same principle applies.

Business at the Tavern is booming; it seems like every "other" in town has shown up to celebrate Tori's rescue and the bloody nose we gave the Drow. The party atmosphere has rubbed off on my roomies, too, Gareth in butt-hugging jeans and a muscle shirt, Ky in something between a cropped tank and a sports bra - and tight-fitting short-shorts - and Raina... where the hell is Raina?

I focus my hearing, tuning everything else out - and I spot her a moment later, talking animatedly with Stoney and Alise. She's wearing a white gauze shirt over a satiny black bra, paired with a short black skirt and fuck-me heels. Alise is laughing and blushing and I feel sweet normality returning....

I click open my cell and speed-dial Ob... much faster than trying to wade through the mass of dancing bodies between me and the big gargoyle. We talk for a minute and a big grin splits his face. When the music stops, he whispers something to Byte; the singer nods and there's some muttered conversation with the band while Ob steps up to the mike.

"Allll riiiight! Is everybody happy?" The answer damn near blows out the walls; apparently everybody is in fact happy tonight. Ob waits for the crowd to subside to its customary dull roar before continuing. "Turns out we have a guest performer tonight. You all know him... the new and improved 'Batman' - give it up for Nick... Nekronnnn!"

I spiral up over the crowd and glide to the front, landing lightly next to Ob. The bass growls into existence like the wrath of some dark god and I feel an all-over tingle, like a mild shock, crawl over my skin.

I spit out the words like venom.

Oooohhhh yeaaahhhh!

Yeah, we're gonna fight
We do it every night
Baby, when you scratch
You know I'm gonna bite
You can make me die
I can make you cry
Opposites attract
That's the reason why

No one else could make you feel
Like I do, I do, I do
No one ever gets as deep inside you
As I do, baby
Our love is a bed of nails
Love hurts good on a bed of nails
I'll lay you down and when all else fails
I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails

Near the back, I see Ky smile - a feral grin any vamp would be proud of - and kick off her shoes. She whirls into frenetic motion, arching her back, shaking her hips, improvising as she goes; strutting, spinning, tossing her head - and somehow it all works, fuses with the music in a hot funky jungle rhythm that pulses like a frantic heartbeat. My voice tears through it like a chainsaw ripping through plywood.

First we're gonna kiss
Then we're gonna say
Dirty little words
Only lovers say
Rockin' thru the night
Rollin' on the floor
When they hear us screamin'
They'll be breakin' down the door

No one else could make you feel
Like I do, I do, I do
No one ever gets as deep inside you
As I do, baby
Our love is a bed of nails
Love hurts good on a bed of nails
I'll lay you down and when all else fails
I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails

Bed of nails, Bed of nails
I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails
Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow
Gonna drive you like a hammer
Baby, put me in your slammer, oh yeah

Ky dances her way to the front, joins us onstage, her dancing becoming ever wilder, more chaotic, a predator stalking its prey... Sweat glistens on her skin as she moves to the beat, as sinuous and graceful as a snake.

No one else could make you feel
Like I do, I do, I do
No one ever gets as deep inside you
As I do, baby
Our love is a bed of nails
Love hurts good on a bed of nails
I'll lay you down and when all else fails
I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails

Bed of nails, get on my bed of nails
I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails
Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow
Gonna drive you like a hammer
Baby, put me in your slammer, oh yeah
I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails….

Eira smiles and thanks Rowan. She looks to Jack and leaning close kisses his cheek and whispers, “Sorry, I didnt mean to laugh... but it was pretty funny...”

Jack takes a drink and tries not to choke, nods his head, but not before Eira sees the red of his cheeks.

She reaches into a back pocket and pulls out a small business card, lavender in color and embossed with silver rune stones.

“Here... my cell is on there. Call me. I can get you in for a massage...its the least I can do to make up for my teasing...” With a grin Eira returns to the dance floor.

Jack watches as one of the guys lifts her to one of the small stages set up and she starts to dance, her hips moving suggestively. Her eyes watch him, hot and full of desire.

Suddenly Jack feels a hand on his shoulder and turns his head to see Raina, her own eyes taking in the sexy moves. “I think she has the hots for you Jack. Maybe you should take her up on it....”

Eira watches Raina speaking to Jack. She had met her once before, when Raina had asked about the Runes on her business card. Eiras thoughts drift back to Jack, wondering just what it was that had so strongly attracted her to him. Her gaze moves from where Jack was standing with Raina to the booth where he always sat and the woman sitting there in the shadows.

K'thyri couldnt stop laughing from her spot on the dance floor with Gareth. “Leave it to Jack... a pretty girl comes on to him and he falls... literally...”

Leaving Gareth to the arms of a flirty shifter girl Ky approaches the couple still sitting on the floor. She extends a hand to Eira helping her up, then to Jack.

“What the hell are you trying to do Jack? Lots of rooms upstairs, most have beds, way more comfortable than the floor...”

“Like she would go with me..” Jack says under his breath, unaware that Wyldfae have extremely keen hearing.

“Maybe you should open your eyes and quit playing the fool... buy the girl a drink, since you almost squashed her...” Ky heads back to the dance floor, shaking her hips and moving to the music.

Before Jack can say anything Rowan is there, a drink in each hand. “Here, one for each of you...” She hands Eira a tall glass of something pink and then with a saucy grin she hands Jack a glass of whiskey. “You look like you might need this...” As she starts to walk back to Traeger she says quietly over her shoulder, “Maybe you two should sit down and get to know each other...”

There's a human hummingbird moving across the dance floor like she has springs in her hips - young, maybe mid-20s, blonde, short skirt, tank top, big smile, legs up to her neck. I've never seen her before; I would have noticed. I wonder who she is?

The dance she's doing is hard to describe. It looks to be part belly dancing, part bump and grind, part improvised. It's clear she's having a blast, though; if that grin got any wider, the whole top of her head would come off. She's a sassy little flirt; she's noticed the guys noticing her and she's playing to them. Could be she needs the reassurance of knowing that guys - and some girls - are ogling her ass, or maybe she just likes giving them a thrill. Flip a coin, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

She sees me sitting in the back and moves on, her hips moving like Jello on a washing machine on spin cycle. A moment later she's back, giving me an odd look. Well, that's fairly common; I get lots of odd looks. But then -

Oh fuck, don't let her be coming back here, don't let her, don't let her....

She comes right up to my table and says "hi". Thanks ever so much... "Hi."

"I'm Eira."

"Jack Stone, pleased to meet you."

"I saw you watching me dance out there."

"Everyone with testosterone was watching you out there; some with estrogen, too."

She grins hugely and I wait breathlessly for the separation. "You say the sweetest things..."

Mental eye roll. What the hell was sweet about that? No matter how long I live, I will never understand women....

"Come dance with me."

Fuck, not again.... "Look over there. You see that girl over there, the one that looks like her hair is on fire? Go ask her about dancing with me...."

"What's the matter, you scared?"


She smiles. Pepsodent should know about this girl.... "Dance with me." She grins. "You don't know what you're missing...."

"Yeah, I do, and I know what you're missing, too."

"Oh? What would that be?"

"Severe and permanent damage to the metatarsal region."

She grins. "I'll chance it."

I sigh. Fools rush in.... "Okay, but there's someone you should meet first. Come with me."

Eira follows in my wake as I head toward Rowan's table. She raises an elegant eyebrow at my approach. "Hi, Jack. Who's your new friend?"

"Rowan, this is Eira. Eira... Rowan. She's our local sawbones." Rowan's mouth twitches a little at that. "Keep an eye on us, will you? Eira wants to dance with me and I want first aid to be close by."

Rowan rolls her eyes. "You're not that bad, Jack."

"You've never danced with me. How would you know?"

Rowan waves a hand. "Go. Dance. I'll be by later to pick up the pieces. Come back without major injury and I'll buy you both a drink."

I give Eira my patented I-told-you-so look and lead her out on the dance floor.

It's as bad as I feared. Eira moves like she has no bones and I dance like a spastic kangaroo. It's enough to embarrass Rick Moranis.

"Now I know why you were worried. You need to relax, Jack. Look, come here. Put your arms around me."

The girl is crazed. I do as she says. Might as well get it over with....

"You can hold me closer than that. Come on, relax. I won't bite."

I obediently draw her nearer till I can feel her breath warm on my cheek. "That;'s better. Close your eyes, feel the way I move and follow me."

And we're headed for major embarrassment faster than the Wabash Cannonball....

Eira is soft and warm next to me and she snuggles in closer still - close enough to cause a definite reaction. She grins lasciviously. "Well, hello Jack! I was afraid you weren't going to make it...."

I hold my breath; and after an age I manage to gain control of my breathing.

"Mmmmm, this feels nice. See, you can dance, you just need a little incentive."

It does feel good... well, Eira feels good, anyway, soft and yielding and curvy in all the right places. My mind, wayward little scamp that it is, starts imagining her skin against mine... and that's it. My hard-won coordination goes straight to hell and suddenly it's like I'm on a roller rink. It ends with me falling flat on my ass and pulling Eira down on top of me. She giggles maniacally, then whispers, "Well, as long as we're here...." The kiss is pure nitroglycerin and it's hard to decide whether we should stand up or not. If I stand, my problem will be readily apparent to all; if I don't, it's just going to get worse.

Mental head scratch....

"Do I know you from somewhere, or did one of the people here put you up to this?"

Once the children are upstairs and settled Alise returns to the tavern and pauses as she watches the college kids. They had taken over the Karaoke and Marc was singing something with a strong Latin beat. But it wasnt the singing that had Alises attention, it was Eira, dancing on one of the small stages set to either side of the singer.

Her gasp got the attention of those sitting closest to her. “Mon Dieu! How does she move her derriere like that?”

Raina tries hard to choke down the laughter but in the end couldnt help herself. Stoney was chuckling and Ky jumps up.

“Its not that hard, I can show you...”

Alise was blushing, then laughing with the group, “No, dont show me. I cant do that, I think something in me would break, although I am not quite sure what...”

Laila was also smiling, trying hard not to laugh. “I can teach you how to dance like that sometime...”

Turning to Gunnaar Ramji sighs, “If Laila starts dancing like that here and now we will have to leave...”

The only one not laughing was Tori. She watched as Eira had taken the stage. She had smiled at Tannr and waved and even though Tori sensed nothing but friendliness in the gesture she was jealous. Her eyes flashed and she looked down.

Sensing the sudden change in mood, Tannr looks to Tori. “Whats wrong Red?”

Shrugging Tori glances at Eira again, moving provocatively, her tank top and short skirt tight, obviously flirting with some of the college shifters.

“She's so... so curvy... and beautiful...”

“What? Who? Oh...” Tannr glances over in the direction Tori had been looking. “Yeah, she is pretty...”

Tori starts to slide off Tannrs lap, annoyed with him and herself, but Tannr grabs her arm stopping her. His other hand slides gently over her face and tips her chin so that he can see her eyes.

“She is pretty. But Tori, my beautiful Rose, its you who take my breath away...”

From across the room Ike's eyes meet Ob's. She hadn't heard the conversation, but she did pick up the flash of jealousy, and the subsequent self rejection. She resolves to talk to Rowan. Her sister always had a small dissatisfaction with her lean body, but not like this.

Monty catches her gaze, His expression asks his question for him.

"Tori is not her usual self. We can all feel Tannr's love for her. It... If she can't feel it, I think I need to slap some gravel out of her brains."

Ike's eyes spark with the fire of her emotions. Monty nods, sliding a drink to a patron. His hand covers hers. "*Novio...Your sister was held against her will, tortured by a maniac, and now... I can understand, Remember my love. I was in a child's form for more years than I care to count." He gives her a cocky grin. "You saw beyond that. It is why I now walk in this age." He nods towards the family group. Tannr still held Tori close. "He will get through to her. Have faith. She'll find herself again."

A strikingly beautiful female walks past the table. Tanner never even notices. Monty smirks. "And that, my granite sex kitten, will help even more."

Another singer takes the stage as Byte and his band begin to set up. The soundman looks up as a waitress brings over their customary pre-gig beers. he gives Ike and Monty a thumbs up and turns back to plugging in amps. By the time Byte leans against the bar, another singer is behind the mike. Unfortunately This one is destroying the song.

"Karaoke... I think he needs another drink." The shifter groans as the song ends. Ike laughs. "Sorry mate. He hasn't been drinking."

The were shakes his head. "Well damn... send him something... QUICK!"


After dessert Stoney and Ob played a couple of songs that had the children laughing uproariously and the rest of the family laughing with them.

Star leans towards Rowan and says, “That song that you used to sing to me... the one when I was...  mean when I stayed with you... sing that one for the little ones.”

All eyes in the group turned to Rowan and she starts to laugh. “All right... let me see if Stoney or Ob know it...”

When Rowan started to sing a hush fell on the entire room. Her voice was pure, untrained and perfectly suited to the 'old songs'. The children listened intently, the girls especially enjoying the song “Faeirie Queen”.

Over on the hill
There grows a flower
Growing quicker still
More perfect by the hour
Deep within that flower
Is a tiny chair
All a-fringed with gold
The fairy queen sits there…

It is in her breath
That the wind does blow
It is in her heart
As pure as winter snow
It is in her tears
Crystal raindrops fall
And within her years
That she is in us all…

Tori sighs, her thoughts flying over the ocean and cliffs of her homeland. She doesnt object when Tannr pulls her into his lap, holding her close.

When the song ends Gracie starts to clap. “More pease...”

With a smile Rowan scoops her up and carries her on a hip. “All right. One more.” She kisses a soft cheek then looks around the room. “This is for all of you. Then enough! Its time to celebrate...”

As Rowan starts to sing, she moves around the room, touching a face here, a hand there...

Kind friends and companions, come join me in rhyme
Come lift up your voices in chorus with mine
Let us drink and be merry all grief to refrain
For we may or might never meet here again

So here’s a health to the company and one to my lass
Let us drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let us drink and be merry all grief to refrain
For we may or might never meet here again

Our ship lies at harbour she’s ready to dock
I wish her safe landing without any shock
And if we should meet again by land or by sea
I will always remember your kindness to me

Toris mind reaches for Tannrs and he feels like he is flying over the cliffs with her. The waves hitting the rocky shore glowing softly in the moonlight. He can feel the spray, smell the saltiness in the air and feel the loving acceptance of the woman in his arms.

So here’s a health to my company and one to my lass
Let us drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let us drink and be merry all grief to refrain
For we may or might never meet here again

My footsteps may falter my wit it may fail
My course may be challenged by November gale
Ere fortune shall prove to be friend or be foe
You will always be with me wherever I go

So here’s a health to the company and one to my lass
Let us drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let us drink and be merry all grief to refrain
For we may or might never meet here again

Rowan bows at the thunderous applause. Traeger stands and pulls her close. “That was beautiful... perfect...”

Shaking her head Rowan hands Gracie to her father, “Hardly... but it seemed somehow appropriate...  Now...” Monty hands her a glass of whiskey, “Cheers!”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ardara was enraged at the escape of her prisoner. Two servants had died under her hand and her receiving room was demolished. Every time a servant attempted to clean up the damage they were met with kicks and screams of rage. Every guard and servant was interrogated, every delivery person with access to the temple. No one knew how a group of humans had managed to sneak in, other than they had Ghaunts help. Ardara had Ghaunts quarters torn apart, looking for some shred of evidence.

“When I find him his head will grace the temple forever... after he has been tortured to death... and cut into very, very small pieces....”

It took several days for the rage to pass and a cold calculating hate to take its place.

She called for her scrying bowl and pointed to a table when the servant girl brought it. Ardara sent another girl to the temple for a pitcher of water blessed by Lolth.

Striking out at those nearest to her, Ardara screamed, “Get out! All of you. Stupid guards, we will be recapturing my prisoner and I dont care if you all die in the process..”

Ardaras tirade is interrupted by the girl returning with the pitcher.

“Leave it there on the table and get out.”

The girl does as she is told, never lifting her head and backs out of the room.

Ardara gazes into the still black water and smiles evilly as the main room of the tavern takes shape in the murky depths.

“We will meet again, gargoyle... after I know you a little better.... ” Her chilling laugh sent any servants listening in the hall running...

Pandora glanced down as Teri awoke; she picked him up and held him out and talked to him... but he seemed distracted... his gaze going across the table. She looked around and discovered he was looking intently at Ru in Star's arms. Kaltero had discovered his liege; the young warrior that was to fulfill the prophecy.

Teri wiggled and squirmed in Pandora's arms,and she understood he wanted to get closer... and she went over to where Star sat holding Ruarc. "I guess there is nothing for my son tonight except meeting Ru... he spotted him and raised quite a fuss till I brought him over." She sat next to Star and let her son sit in her lap next to Ru... he gazed intently at Ru's changing eyes, then let out a squeal and started a cooing gibberish that she knew was an effort to express himself... he reached out and Ru took his hand in his own... the moment seemed charged for both of them; a stillness and seriousness of expression far beyond their age on the little countenences as they seemed to understand that they would stand together one day to defend the realms from mayhem. Pandora felt her son's emotion in a wave that hit her, and she knew Ob must feel it too... Star did; for she saw it in her eyes .

These young infants were aware already that they shared a destiny in the future... and as Ruarc released Kaltero's hand they both smiled at each other... as if a bond for life had just formed between the two.

Star and Pandora exchanged glances; for they both knew that future held mystery and danger... but they had many years of growing before they reached that time in their lives, and some awesome warriors as fathers... and so many assorted warrior uncles they would grow up knowing all that was needed.

The babes were playing together now, Ru pointing at Erik and saying 'daddy". Although separated by many months...Teri's size was way beyond the mere month or so since his birth... he was growing at an astonishing rate;and appeared about the age of a 6 month old. Teri raised his arm toward Obsidian and trying frantically to form words among his gibberish, finally got out "da". He looked up at Pandora; triumph written in his expression... as if it was important that Ru knew his father too.

Pandora looked to Star... "I think these boys are destined to be friends; and from the introductions, competitors as well...." ...they laughed as the boys tugged back and forth on a small toy that Ru picked up off the table.

Inari slipped quietly into the tavern halfway through the meal. She pauses in the same spot Star did and looks for K'ythri. She was sitting with Gareth, laughing at something that Raina just said when she looked up and saw her old friend. Excusing herself she hurries over to the edge of the room and hugs Inari fiercely.

“I was wondering if you were going to show... Where have you been?”

Inari returns the hug and smiles. “We found the little ones mother...” She glances towards the boys sitting with Stoney and Alise.

“Oohh... dont tell him tonight. The kids are having a ball... Can it wait until tomorrow?””

Nodding slowly Inari says, “It can. I need to speak with Star about the burial arrangements and planned to do that tomorrow. I can tell her then.”

Before Ky can respond, Guunnar has spotted Inari and raises his glass and his voice. “To the Ambassador!”

Monty hands Inari a glass on his way by with another tray. She raises her glass and steps from the shadows. “To the Warriors...” She walks around the tables and stops behind Tannr. “All I did was keep this one from running off by himself...” She bends down, her words quiet, “Well done Tannr. If determination were all it took you could have brought her home without anyones help.” Turning to Tori she squeezes the gargoyles shoulder, “You are a lucky woman. Welcome home.”

Tales were told and various toasts were made, the group in high spirits. Erik looked at Star, seated next to him, and noticed she had barely touched her food.

“Princess... whats wrong? You usually love Montys cooking...”

“I do. .its just that...” Stars words trail off her voice quiet and close to tears. Her gaze takes in the group gathered, all Warriors in one way or another and their families. She understands the laughing and celebrating but she felt they were all forgetting something.

Scooting her chair back, Star stands slowly. Those seated near her fall silent and gradually the entire room quiets.

Taking a ragged breath Star tries to speak past her tears. “I... I think... I mean...” She closes her eyes for a second and centers herself. “I think we need to take a moment to remember those that are no longer physically here with us. Ghaunt gave his life to save ours. He was a good man, a good friend. And he taught me that there is good in all people, and to not be so quick to judge.” Star raises her glass, “To my friend, Ghaunt.”

Glasses raised high and the entire group responds in one voice, “To Ghaunt!!”

Star smiles as she sips her raspberry wine then finds herself drawn into her husbands arms.

“I am unbelievably proud of you. I love you...”

Before Star can respond she finds herself pulled close to Tori. “I wanted to tell you that I am so sorry you lost your friend. And to thank you. That sounds crazy said together..”

“No, it doesnt. I understand.” Star smiles as she is hugged again and another toast is made to her and Tori.

Tori turns to the group, her glass raised. “Thank you all. I will try to talk to each one of you at some point tonight, but there are really no words. Thank you...” tears fill her eyes as her glance takes in loved ones and friends, “from the bottom of my heart.”

As she steps back she can feel her siblings love and support. Their quiet strength has helped her many times in her life. She didnt know what she would do without them and their families. Suddenly she is wrapped in Tannrs embrace and the group cheers again. She starts to laugh, “We better get to dessert or everyone is going to be too drunk to enjoy it.”

“I have something to add...” Tannr steps forward and addresses the group. “Something I think we are all guilty of from time to time. The fallacies of bigotry. I hated the Drow. Hated all of them and everything they stood for. There were reasons for that...good reasons... but it blinded me to the good Star saw in Ghaunt. I hated him at first and I didnt want my sister to be anywhere near him. But in the end he helped us save Tori... he saved us all. I could no more live without this woman than the air I breathe. I owe a debt that can never be repaid and I wasted precious time that could have been spent getting to know the man my sister knew instead of hating someone that did not deserve it. May we never be so quick to judge another...” Tannr raises his glass high, “and to Ghaunt... the bravest man I have ever known.”

As the group cheers and drinks Tannr can feel Toris love and pride. He turns and takes her in his arms, then leads her back to their places at the table.

Tomas perks up “Now dessert?”

Laughing Alise says, “Yes, there is dessert. If you two can sit still long enough to eat it... and do not feed any more of your food to Wolf and Lobo.”

Tomas and Robin exchange glances that tell everyone sitting close enough that they were indeed guilty of feeding Stars wolves.

The sound of the jukebox can be heard as soon as Tori and Tannr begin to mount the steps. Tannr laughs at the mental howl when Tomas realizes they are almost at the main entrance.

Even with all the noise, Tomas' screech turns heads as he barrels for the main door, Robin right on his heels. The little Gargoyle takes to the air as Robin darts past Jeb.

"You take high, I take low?"

He grins as Tori nods consent. She pulls the door open and Tannr crouches to intercept the incoming. Tomas screams with glee as Tori catches him, rocking slightly on the spiked heels of her boots. Robin nearly eludes Tannr's arms, only to find himself snatched from the floor and thrown upwards. Tori plucks him from the air and the little boy yelps, then erupts into his whispery giggle.

Finally catching his breath, Tomas hugs his aunt. She hugs both boys tightly. Tannr lets the door drift shut behind them and guides the trio farther inside. Alise and Stoney meet them, disentangling Tori from her nephew and his friend.

"*Mon dieu, je suis désolé! Tomas let go of your aunt!"

Alise scolds her son as Stoney tries hard to hide his smile. Robin blushes, shaking his mop of shaggy hair over his eyes. The gesture startles Tori at first. It takes a moment for her to recognize it as Stoney's old habit. He hadn't done it much in the last few years, not since he had found his beloved Alise. The dark hair isn't long enough to hide his pale brown eyes, and he buries his head in Stoney's shoulder. The pointed tips of his pale ears peek out of the dark mop. Tori's eyes widen slightly and she sends a thought to the couple.


Stoney glances at Star, where she sits among the family, Ru nestled in her arms. Star brought him out of that... ~la terre sous le coup de fidèles d'araignée.

Alise strokes the boy's back. She shakes her head at Stoney, although she knows he is already shielding their conversation from the kids. Robin raises his head and peeks out at Tori, grinning unrepentently. Star said his mother was found. Tomas will be heartbroken when she comes for him. But for now... "They are inseparable. And sometimes drive me ^hors de mon esprit."

Tori laughs, small flames flickering in her deep green eyes. "They are little boys, Alise. If they were not keeping you on your toes you would worry."

A small quiet voice echoes through Tori's thoughts, You will feel the same when your own run you ragged...

Tannr's eyes meet hers, heat flaring as he sends a small caress along the personal path they have formed in the seclusion of the last few days.The kitchen doors swing open. There is a round of cheers as Ramji and Monty emerge with trays of food. The aroma wends its way through the crowded room, setting stomachs rumbling. Stoney and Alise set the boys down and they scamper to their chairs. The couples laugh and join their families as the food is served.

*My god, I am sorry!

~foul land of spider worshippers

^out of my mind.

A few days later preparations are underway at the tavern for a celebration. The family is coming together for a celebratory meal in honor of Toris safe return and Teris birth. The kitchen is full of enticing smells, Ramji lending a hand in making some traditional Greek dishes. Ob and Stoney are helping set up for the karaoke stage for the college kids. The brothers have guitars and tambourines so the family can enjoy some music but have not set up the whole band. Their plan is to keep Tori from overdoing if at all possible. She has been well though and spending time with Tannr, her happiness and love for the Viking very apparent to the siblings.

Family starts to arrive and greetings all around are happy and boisterous.

Star and her family arrive and Robin makes a beeline for Tomas. Star smiles sadly, knowing Robins mother is coming soon. Inari will bring her in a day or two. Inari was also planning on attending the party but no one has seen her yet.

Star leans back against a wall, her form in the shadows as she holds Ruarc and watches the family, her family now too. Erik and Tannr smile, clapping each other on the back. Gracie and Mera greet each other and move to a small table, set up for the girls and their dolls.

Whispering to Ru Star tells him what all the people are doing and how much the family cares for and watches out for one another. He watches Stars face intently, blue going dark, taking in all that she says. Then Ru lays his head on Stars shoulder and points to Erik. “Daddy...”

Star kisses the soft blonde hair and smiles. My life is so perfect now, and so different from what it was before Erik came here...

“What are you doing hiding here in the shadows?” Star is startled out of thoughts by Rowan who has just arrived.

Star smiles a greeting and tells Rowan, “I was just thinking. I have a large family now. For so long I had no one, and then you took me in. And for a long time it was just you... and then I started helping you with the women and the babies. And then Erik came here....”

Putting her arms around Star and Ru Rowan grins. “Its amazing isnt it? How fast our lives can change? In the space of a breath, a stolen moment, the entire track of our lives can be tossed in a different direction.”

Looking over at Erik, Stars eyes turn pink with shades of purple around the edges. “I wouldnt change a thing if it meant getting to this point, being here with everyone, and Ru...”

A sudden commotion from under the tables startles both Rowan and Star but makes Ru laugh and squirm. Lobo and Wolf had been let in and were chasing Tomas and Robin. Somehow the entire group had gotten stuck under a table. Alise was grabbing a hold of some small feet and pulling, muttering in French. Raina started to laugh and said she could get panther to get them out. “Mon Dieu! Raina, dont you dare!”

Nick wandered over as Tomas and Robin were pulled out and his normally pale face went a little paler ant the sight of the boys t-shirts. Tomas was sporting a new Batman shirt of course Robin had a new one of his own, his namesake blazoned across the front.

“Is Jack here? This has to be his idea..” Nick looks around and finds Jack, sitting in a booth, Corona in hand.

“Lets join the group... this is a celebration after all...” Rowan leads Star into the light and towards the family.

The familiar sights of her neighborhood bring a bit of peace to Tori. As Tannr drives, she scans the streets watching for the familiar faces of her "kids".  Her heart lightens whenever she catches a glimpse. Tannr touches her mind, concerned at her heavy sigh.

I didn't realize how worried I was about the Streeters. It's not like they weren't taking care of themselves long before I met them.

Tannr reminds her that they are as much her Kin as any, since she took them in. She smiles. As they stop for a light, Tannr leans in to kiss her. Both jump at the light tap on her window. A face is pressed against the glass, framed by a pair of hands. Laughing, Tori unzips down the window, The minute the window is down, She is hugged fiercely. The streetkid bounds away, hand gesturing in the air. Tori smiles and zips the window back up.

"I expect Ike told them to watch for me."

Tannr grins and pulls out, only three more blocks and Tori is home.

She directs him to pull into the warehouse to park. As they pull up to the bay doors, one opens and a figure waves before it disappears from sight. In the dim light, Tori can see about a dozen figures waiting. As Tannr helps her from the Jeep, a young girl steps forward. She waits until Tori has her feet before moving closer. She sniffs the area around Tori, working closer as the gargoyle waits. Finally standing toe to toe, the girl grins a sharp toothed smile. There is a fluttering from the rafters. Three crows drift down, changing to human form as they land. Tannr watches as her "kids" come out of the dimness to welcome her home.

It is about a half hour later that they open the connecting door to her apartment.

As soon as Tori steps through the doorway, she breathes deeply. Tannr pulls the door shut behind them and Tori moves into the center of the living room. Tannr's arms slip around her from behind. Tori leans into his embrace, snuggling against his body. There is an instant reaction and she smiles at his groan.

"I promised no dancing on tabletops, no swinging from a chandelier." She looks up at the simple globe on the ceiling. "I don't have a chandelier." Tannr chuckles in her ear. "But I do have tables in a few rooms, and a bed," She laughs as Tannr sweeps her up in his arms.

The look on his face is intent. The heat in his eyes sending a shiver through her. As he lays her on the bed she cuos his face. "Remember, Rowan said to take it easy."

Tannr's lips twist into a wicked grin. "Oh I intend to take it slow." He kisses her gently. "Just lie still. I will undress you." It takes Tori a moment to realize he has already untied her sweatpants and is pulling them gently down her legs. Once removed, his hands slowly caress each leg, massaging her feet and the firm muscles of her calves before moving up her thighs. He teases, caresses, until Tori closes her eyes and relaxes. Her thighs drift open and Tannr lowers her head to slowly lick the tender flesh.

A sigh escapes Tori's lips as Tannr blows across her sex. Her hips lift on their own, offering her to him. His hands push her legs wider. Tori moans at the feel of his beard stubble as it scrapes across sensitized skin. Tannr holds her legs wide, keeping her captive as he explores her with lips, tongue, and teeth. Only when Tori is begging, does he slide a finger deep. His teeth, scrape along her clit as his finger explores her now well lubricated channel. Tori bucks, whimpering. He lifts his head, watching her writhe. Forcing a second finger into her clenching channel, his thumb rubs over her clit, nail flicking. Tori bucks again and Tannr laughs again. This time it is that low chuckle that means a man knows he is doing something they will both be enjoying. He lowers his mouth to her clit, sucking, nipping, teasing, as his fingers twist and thrust. He can feel her building as her body tightens, vaginal muscles clamping down.

Her breathing is shallow pants and whimpers. Tannr slows, lapping lightly at her clit. The motion of his fingers become lazy slides. Tori moans, trying to writhe and buck. Tannr holds her lower body still by moving his free hand across her pelvis and holding her down. Tori whimpers.

"Tannr... oh goddess... Tannr... please"

He growls something, the vibration against her clit sending tremors through her body.

"Please Tannr... so close!"

With a final kiss to her wet slit, Tannr slowly pulls his fingers from her soaked sex. Tori moans in frustration. Keeping himself out of reach, Tannr pulls his jeans and shorts down to his thighs, not bothering to remove anything else. He lifts Tori's legs, placing her calves on his shoulders. Keeping her lifted, Tannr leans forward, brushing the head of his cock against her slit. Tori hisses and tries to buck. Tannr presses forward, guiding himself inside. Tori writhes, wanting more.

"Please Tannr... fuck me..." her words turn to moans as Tannr slowly sheathes himself in her body. Tannr moans as her muscles pulse around him. He watches her eyes as he slowly strokes in and out. When he see the telltale flames flicker, he knows she is hovering on the edge. Bracing a hand on each side of her, he slowly withdraws. Bent as she is, Tori can only twist slightly, or rock her hips a small bit. She whimpers, opening her mouth to beg once more, and Tannr SLAMS deep. She screams, body bowing, and Tannr slams again. Her body explodes around him. her muscles clench tight as heat and wetness bathes his cock on each thrust. Tannr fucks her through the orgasm, only halting when she begs him to stop.

He grins, pausing to lower her legs. Tannr leans in, slowly stroking himself deeper again. He kisses Tori slowly, feeling her writhe around him. His lips follow her jaw line until he is whispering in her ear.

"Easy, Red... This is just the beginning."

Tori moans and grinds against him. "Damn Coppertop... You did miss me."

Tannr thrusts his hips again. "Mmmhmmmm, and we still have a few hours until dawn."

Tori grins, arching her back. Tannr slides his arms around her waist and rolls, bringing her up on top. She gasps as he pushes her upright. he bucks and her gasp turns into a moan.

"Ride me, Red"

The fires in Tori's eyes flare as she shifts her legs. Tannr moans as she moves, sucking in his breath when her hand closes around his balls. He moans softly. "Easy Red... We want me to last all night, right?"

A wicked grin makes his cock throb even harder. "No. I want to feel you explode in me. Then I'll just have to lick and suck until you are ready again. Think you can handle that Viking?"

Tannr arches his body, eyes closed as he thrusts up hard.

"Fuck yeah....."

Dawn finds them in the shower, Tori screaming through one last orgasm. Wrapped in towels, they move onto the enclosed balcony. Tori drops her towel and climbs up on her pedestal. One last kiss and Tannr steps back to watch as stone transforms her into his beloved chimera gargoyle. At the last moment, she turns her head to look at him. Her voice is low, a gravelly version of her normal low alto.

"See you tonight Mo Chroi"

Stone takes her, head turned toward him. He strokes her jaw, neck, and the outline of the viper on its chain.

"I'll be here."

The Manse was quiet, the Riders leaving one by one as they healed. The kids were all sleeping, the halls quiet after so much laughter and rowdiness. Rowan knew the families were making plans to head home now that Tori was on the mend and wanting to go home herself.

Sometime around midnight Rowan stops in to check on her patient knowing that Tori was anxious to get back to her own place.

She finds Tori curled up with Tannr resting but obviously very much awake. She smiles at Rowan and the first thing she says is “Can I go home?”

Rowan laughs, “Tired of me and the Manse already?”

“No, not really. I just want to be in my own place. It seems like ages after all the... well... you know....”

“I can imagine...” Rowan takes out a stethoscope and starts her exam. She cant find anything seriously wrong at this point. Tori seems pale and tired but nothing unexpected. Tannr watches closely obviously still worried.

“Well, I think you can go. Is he going to be around to help?” Rowan nods towards Tannr who grins from ear to ear.

“I wont let her out of my sight, I promise.” Tannr and Tori exchange smiles and both look anxiously to Rowan.

“Okay then... just take it easy for a couple days.. No dancing on the tabletops or swinging from the chandeliers... I'll stop by tomorrow evening if thats all right.”

Rowan excuses herself with the thought of joining Mortuis for a drink before she heads out herself. A drink with an old colleague and the rest of the evening spent with Traeger... her thoughts bring a smile to her face.

Back in Toris room Tannr has gathered up the few belongings they had there. He asks a sylph to show them where Toris jeep is, knowing that Stoney had made sure it was here in case they needed it. He turns to Tori and pulls her into his arms. “Lets get you home Red...”

Alise excuses herself to go help Stoney with the children. Laila was still with Ramji and Alise wanted to give her this time with him.

Erik joins Star with Ru and spends some time visiting with his brother and Tori. He smiles at the looks exchanged between the pair, the small touches, as if Tannr were afraid to let her go.

A tap at the door and Alise enters, holding a small hand in each of hers. Tomas pulls forward in his excitement but Alise does not let go. She kneels and says, “Remember what we talked about Tomas? No rowdiness..”

Tomas nods and approaches Tori more slowly. Tori holds back a laugh, Tomas in his Batman pj's and Stars foundling dressed identically. Tomas crawls into Tori's lap and wraps his arms around her neck. Tori kisses the gold curls, so much like his mothers.

“Better Tante Tori? We missed you.”

“Much better Tomas... so much better now.. Who is your new friend?” Tori asks.

“Robin... him my friend... Star say his mommy looking for him... and has to go home soon...”

Tori can feel how sad this makes Tomas and hugs him again. “I am sure his mom will let him come and play. Dont you think mama and papa will try to figure something out?”

The little boy nods and grins as Stoney ushers the girls into the room. The girls are all in their nightgowns, their dolls in matching ones and Tori is soon covered with hugs and kisses. Robin hangs back a bit and Star pulls him into her lap and whispers, “Its okay, she doesnt bite.”

Tori hears and grins. Tomas slips from her lap and tugs at his friend's hand, bringing him to meet Tori. The boy looks up shyly. She grins at him, her fangs just showing. The boy's eyes widen. Tori leans close and whispers, "I like your ears."

He stifles a laugh, clapping his hands over his mouth. He runs back to Star and climbs in her lap.

Tori settles on her bed and the children all crawl around her, finding spots. Robin watches silently, sadness stealing into his eyes.

Star pulls him close and whispers, “We will find your mother soon. And you can come back and play...”

Once settled, the group begin pestering Tannr for a bedtime story.

Tannr nods to the children, telling them to decide what kind of story they would like to hear. He stands and goes to Star and kneels in front of her and Robin.

“Come join us little man. We cant have a story with one of us sitting out on the sidelines...” Tannr holds out his hands and Robin looks to Star who grins and nods. Robin looks back to Tannr and with a small grin of his own raises his arms and lets Tannr lift him out of Stars lap.

Tori watches as Tannr returns with Robin and Tomas scoots over to make room for his friend. Gracie finds her way into Tannrs lap and he leans down with a kiss to the girls soft brown curls. Tori soon loses herself in Tannrs story, his words bringing other Realms and creatures to life for the listeners.

She watches him surrounded with children and swallows a pang of regret. A voice whispers in the back of her mind. He is not your past. He is your present. Just be glad you haven't taken him home. So many others would see his promise.

Tori begins to answer the voice, catching herself. Who are you?

Tannr's eyes meet hers. He doesn't stop the story, but sends her a trick he learned from her brothers. His mind slides along hers in a long caress, and the girls giggle. His eyes widen as Tomas says "Ewwww!"

Robin looks confused and Tomas whispers loudly. "Tannr kissed Tante Tori with his mind." The little Fae boys wrinkles his nose and stares at Tannr.

The Viking laughs and grins at the kids. "Okay, Okay! Back to the story". He picks up where he stopped and touches Tori's mind with his. I am the man who wants to be here whenever you need me. He raises a brow at Tori as she shakes her head. Not you, mo chroí. The... I keep hearing someone... nevermind. We can talk about this later. Best to concentrate on our, I mean, the wee ones

There is nothing to say. Tori stares at the small snake, emerald eyes glittering with tears. Her legs are unsteady as she stands, still staring at the pendant in her hand. The metal bites into the flesh of her palm as Tori grips it tightly. Her arms wrap around the delicate half fae, shaking with both relief and gratitude.

"I don't know if I should kill you for risking yourself, or thank you for helping to save my life." She swallows hard before continuing. "and this... this means... Star, she would have used it to find me. Not just me, all of us." Her voice drops to a whisper, the next words just for Star's ears. "Thank you Star. It was breaking my heart. It's the first thing Tannr gave me."

Her arms tighten, squeezing the breath from Star's lungs. Mya is suddenly there, kicking Tori in the forehead.

"'Nuff! You breakin' Star!"

Tori blinks. Star turns her head to spy Mya hovering just over her shoulder. She grins at the demifae's aggressive stance.

"She wasn't hurting me Mya. Tori is just not aware of her returning strength."

The fae purses her lips, looking the Gargoyle up and down. "Gettin' better, Rowan says, but still lookin like - "

Star cuts off the demifae.

"Tori can go home tonight if she keeps the food down."

A smile twists Tori's lips. Tannr takes the necklace from her and fastens it around her neck. Alise perches on the end of the bed. "Stoney says the street kids are waiting for Viper to come home. The Crows have been keeping an eye on everything for you, and one of the techies has been keeping the website going." She grins at Tori.

"They miss their... momma."

Tori shakes her head. "Stoney or Ob said that, right." Alise grins even harder.

Tannr's arm slides around Tori's waist as he helps her sit back down. "As much as I need to thank Mortuis and Silk for," Her hand gestures, taking in the room. "everything. I just want to go back home. I want..." She stops, looking around. Her hand slips into Tannr's and grips tight. "I need to be in my own space."

Alise and Star both nod. They have their own memories of being helpless. There is nothing like being surrounded by what is familiar to help overcome the fears that have made a home deep inside where no one else can see.

Alise gathers the tray and summons a sylph. The dishes are gone and the talk turns to catching up Tori on the children's antics, and messages from her people. Her brothers touch her mind. Ob and Pandora send her images of their little ones, helping them reach their aunt. Stoney lets her see the clay sculpting that was currently occupying the rest of the older children. She watches the little Fae boy as he fashions a rose. He looks at Tomas' sculpture and quickly squashes his own, quickly changing his into a small dog. She frowns, letting Stoney see what she saw.

"Star... who is the new child?"

The Fae woman smiles, telling her of bringing him out of Underdark. Tori shakes her head.

"Already you are becoming the mother of many stars..."

Star laughs and Alise winces. "Tomas caught your quick visit. He is pestering to come see you and has rallied the others. Now they figured out we were blocking you from them." She laughs. "Poor Re'mi."

Tori listens in, a smile spreading as her eyes flicker. "Let him bring them up... Um... make him wash then first?"

Pandora stretched... her movements sensual and meant to draw Obsidian's eyes to her. They had been finding time to mesh their lives back together since the rescue; time enough had passed for Pandora's delivery injuries to heal... and they were making up for lost time.

Pandora had just fed their son, and he lay sleeping in his cradle across the room... she had dropped her robe on the floor and moved toward her husband. Ob reached out and tweaked her nipple... it was still distended from his son's nursing; and she moaned as he cupped her breast in his hand... rubbing the nipple's surface with his thumb. Ob's manipulation brought drops of milk to the surface... and he licked it from her; murmuring... "Nectar of the gods."

It was still the early part of the evening, and Chloe was downstairs having her dinner and entertaining the riders that always sought the tavern after their rounds were done. Monty and Patti were trying to give the couple a respite from parenthood for at least a few brief hours. Ike was glad to help with Chloe... they had a strong bond; with Ike spending so much time at the tavern with Monty.

Pandora leaned into Ob... and he took her nipple in his mouth, gently circling his tongue around the tender surface.Pandora slid her hands down her husband's chest, she felt his manhood and took his cock in her hand... moving gently up and down she heard him draw his breath in as she caressed his balls. He sat up, twisting his hand in her hair and kissing her deeply "Mi Bruha... I didn't think it was possible to spin a spell stronger than you already have around my heart, but you have... I love you with all my being."

Pandora sighed and placed kisses down his chest as she pushed him back on the bed and trailed her hands down to again capture his manhood. Her mouth followed her hands and she licked around his cock, taking the head in her mouth and tasting him... sinking more of him down her throat as he moaned and sank a hand in her tresses. She felt his excitement grow as her hands caressed his balls and she quickened her pace... and soon he gave a guttural growl as his semen filled her mouth, Pandora licking it from his shaft as she withdrew her mouth.

Ob reached down and drew her up to him... kissing her deeply, tasting his seed on her lips as he flipped her on her back and rose above her.Pandora smiled a wicked smile and thanked the gods for his virility... for already he had a hard shaft twitching in anticipation as he stroked her pussy, his thumb rubbing her clit as he pushed a finger into her moist opening. Pandora moaned and said.. "Now my love... now, don't make me wait."... Ob chuckled at her discomfort and holding her legs up and away he thrust deep... holding still for a moment to feel her thrust up seeking more of him... and then he gave in to their mutual lust and began to fuck the hell out of her to her panting moans for more....

Tannr holds Tori close and lets her cry, murmuring words of reassurance. No one was taking her away from him again if he had anything to say about it.

After a few minutes Tannr scoops her up and heads inside and towards the bathroom. Tori lifts her head and with a small grin asks, “Do I smell that bad?”

“It will help you feel better...” Tannr carries her into the large shower and sits her in one of the seats built into the sides. He quickly strips off his clothes and grabs the soap and shampoo that Ike had left. After adjusting the waters temperature and spray he lifts Tori again and sits with her in his lap. He gently soaps her hair and spikes and Tori sighs, “You're right Coppertop...” and she relaxes and lets Tannr care for her.

As he soaps her body Tannr is worried about how thin she seems, her normally lanky body even thinner and her color pale. He soaps her feet and legs and notices her watching. “I dont think anyone has ever done this for me...”

Smiling, Tannr replies, “Thats okay. I dont think I have ever washed anyone, except myself of course...”

Noticing that Tannr is starting to get hard, Tori reaches out and grabs his hand, “I dont know if I'm up for much else...”

Tannr nods, “Thats fine Red. I wouldnt expect you to be. I can wait... and will wait... until you're ready.”

Rinsing and drying take only a few minutes and Tannr rubs lotion into Toris back and the places she cant quite seem to reach. She dresses in the lounge pants and tank top that Ike left for her. Adjusting the tie on the pants her stomach starts to growl loudly making Tannr laugh.

“I guess we need to feed you next.”

“I guess so..” Tori smiles. “But no broth, no matter what Rowan says. I dont want anything that resembles that shit they gave me in....”

Tannr reaches out and runs the back of his hand down the side of Toris face stopping her words. “I'll see to it Red... dont think of that place...”

“But what if they find me? What if...” Tori can barely get the words out.

“They wont.”


“No buts. They wont.” Tannrs voice is firm. “I wont let that happen. Neither will my family, or your family. Okay Red? Its not gonna happen.”

Before Tori can do more than nod her head there is soft knock at the door and Star peeks in. “Can we come in?”

“Sure..” Tannr calls from the bathroom and then helps Tori settle in on a large sofa.

Alise enters with a large tray and sets it on the coffee table in front of Tori. “Rowan said this was fine. Star told her you dont like soup... She said to eat slowly, no gobbling. Or you might get sick.”

Tori grins at the site of eggs, cheese and fresh baked bread. Her stomach growls again and she digs in, trying hard not to eat too fast. A glass of juice tops off her meal and she leans back with a satisfied sigh. “Okay. Can we talk now?” She looks to Star. “What the hell were you doing in Underdark? And Keon? You have families..” Toris voice starts to choke a bit and Tannr sits next to her pulling her close, understanding that her emotions are close to the surface after all she has been through.

Star smiles softly, “But you are our family too. And Tannr was ready to just run off on his own. I could pass for one of them with my skin colored so I could find where you were being held. We can tell you all the details later.”

“But look at your arms. Those scars wont go away... thats from that horrible acid shit isnt it?” Tori asks.

“Its fine Tori. Keon says they are the stars to the moons and its part of the prophecy.” Star reaches into her pocket, feeling for the necklace Traeger had repaired and returned just that day. “Besides, I had to get this for you. I wasnt going to let that bitch have it.” Three sets of eyes go wide, no one ever having heard Star swear before.

“Here.” Star takes Toris hand and drops the serpent necklace into her open palm.

Things at the Lodge have undergone a marked change since we brought Raina home. Her close call somehow brought it home to us; though we're all extraordinarily long-lived - and in fact will never die of "natural causes" - we are mortal; we can die. The result has been a greater, more thoughtful appreciation of what we have - and what we stand to lose. We're all warriors in our own way; we can no more change that than we can change the color of our eyes - contacts, glamours and vamping-out notwithstanding. Sure, we could leave Exton, move somewhere that the chance of an early death would be lessened; but those who remain would still have to fight, and I don't think it's too egotistical to suppose that losing our skills could make all the difference in the way the next fight comes out. Because there will be a next fight. Count on it.

So now life at the Lodge tends to resemble an extended love-in, minus the booze, drugs and dirty feet. We've kind of moved into the playroom, where Gareth and I built a corral of sorts for group sleeping - or Other. It started with a pair of wrestling mats - big ones - laid one on top of the other, with a quarter ton of pillows on top of that. We boxed it in with a framework that kind of resembles a split-rail fence, leaving just enough room to get to the bathroom or the hallway. It's like the grandaddy of all king-size beds; I'm not sure we haven't created an emperor-size bed, in fact.... We lit the room with nightlights and let it go at that. I can see in the dark as if it were midday, and I doubt anyone would choose this room to read in....

Anyway... for the last few nights we've ended up in here, lying within easy reach of each other but not crowding anyone - and we've talked. A lot. There's a certain sameness to much of it - "I love you", for instance - but it never really means quite the same thing.

Gareth, for instance. He's not just my lover... he's the light to my darkness, the calm that turns aside my rage. In a fight, he's a strategist, a planner - as opposed to me charging in where angels fear to tread. He builds things up, while I rip things apart. We're both needed to balance the other.

Or K'thyri. She's Nature untamed, Nature red in tooth and claw - like me. Beautiful and deadly, like the Morrigan. (Yes, I've been studying.) She loves a good fight, danger be damned, and she dances her way through the whole thing. Battle is where she finds her deepest self - well, that and lovemaking. She has razor-keen instincts, and she lives and loves and fights on an instinctive level; not to say that she doesn't think things through, but once her mind is made up, she acts, and that's that.

And Raina.

Raina is the love of my life - always will be. Yes, I love Gareth and Ky, and it's just as real, just as deep as my love for  Raina - but Raina is the missing piece of my soul, the sun that illuminates my darkness, yet doesn't burn me to death. She's my heart, my soul, my humanity and more - if I could only find the words to say it.

There have been a lot of things said, things we might never have said without this last incident - because we realize now that we might never get another chance, that now is all we have. It's easy to say, "I love you" unthinkingly, maybe even mechanically. It's harder to open up and say those things that you find trouble saying, that you can't find the right words for - and it helps immensely when those you love just listen and let you say it, however insufficient the words are, how far they fall short of what you feel inside. There have been a lot of tears shed, too - tears for the miracle of us finding each other, of making this very unconventional family, making it work, against all logic... Tears for how we might have missed it - but didn't. There's been laughter and smiles and warmth and love - love that fills the room and irradiates our home, makes it uniquely our place, the place where we feel welcome before we ever put the key in the lock.

The steady rise and fall of Tannr's chest is reassuring. Tori watches the stars glittering above, keeping her thoughts hidden from everyone, especially the man currently holding her close in his sleep. Her fingertips trace over the scars on her wrist, toying with the small vipers Tannr had lovingly fastened around her wrist. She blinks back tears, as she remembers how her necklace was yanked from her neck.The hitch in her breathing is enough to bring Tannr out of his slumber.

His lips graze her ear and he murmurs softly. "Tori? What is wrong Rós Himinn?"

She stares up at the sky, seeking the moon whose soft glow is hidden behind the tops of some trees. Her voice is soft with the sadness of her hidden thoughts. "I keep thinking of the cell. Ardara shoved a little boy into that acid stuff, just to show me what it did." Tears slide down her cheeks. "It happened so fast.Tannr, there was no warning. He came at her call, carrying a large stone... and she just..." Her words break on a sob. "and I couldn't do a damn thing but watch in horror. Ignoring the guards was easy, but every time I closed my eyes, I saw that boy. I still do."

Strong arms tighten, letting her know he is listening. "Then you touched me, let me know you were coming" She shakes her head. "I kept thinking I was going to get you all killed. Why the hell did everyone allow Star to infiltrate the Drow? Seeing her face was a shock. When did Keon join their Assassin's Guild?" She turns on her side, favoring her bad hip and rising up to look at him. Moonlight brought out the golden reds in his coppery mane. Her fingers stroke an errant strand from his shoulder. "That damned woman won't let this go Tannr. Ardara will try to hunt us all down." She sighs and closes her eyes. "We thought Morgan was bad... Her sister is worse. Ardara has things at her disposal that Morgan could only think of in her nastiest dreams."

Tannr slides his hand along her shoulder, calloused fingertips tracing the thin scar along the base of her throat. He frowns, wondering why it didn't heal in her sleep. He had wondered the same thing about her wrists a time or two this night. Then her words sank in. "Sister?"

Tori nods, shuddering as Tannr's warm hand gently kneads the back of her neck. "Yes. Morgan and Ardara are sisters." The look on his face says it all. She doesn't need to feel the Fuck that echoes past her personal wards. "*Mo Chroí... If she has my necklace... a simple finding spell will let her track me. She..." The tears flow as a sob takes away her breath. Tannr holds her close, letting her weep.

He kisses the top of her head. Telling her the only things he could say.

"She can't have you. By Hel's icy wastes, I'll kill her first."

*My Heart