Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nathlyn stands in the darkness, brooding, smarting from the lash of the Priestess' words.

"You are an incompetent fool, Nathlyn, and your followers are equally incompetent. I ask you to find a way to re-acquire that gargoyle bitch and to get me a gargoyle child - and all you can bring me are your pathetic excuses! 'They are too closely watched.' 'She is never alone' Is this the best that the goddess can inspire in you, Nathlyn?" Her lip curls scornfully. "Well, I promise you that you will serve the goddess - whether as servitor or sacrifice; the choice is yours." She turns her back and walks out. "Don't make me wait, Nathlyn."

She knows nothing. She sits safe and aloof in her inner chambers and she does not see the difficulties that such an action entail. She has not seen their patrols, she knows nothing of the beings that we face. This obsession with the gargoyles will come to no good end, but it is suicide to tell her so. She is convinced of her own rightness and she is blind to all the facts that would contradict her pleasant, self-centered fantasies. He pauses, considering. Can I use that? Can I show that she does this, not for the glory of the goddess, but for her own personal glory? He scowls. And if you could, fool, who is there who would stand with you? Who would dare testify against Lolth's Priestess? They are all terrified of her....

His thoughts go round and round, and he can find no way out of this predicament - save possibly one. It is fraught with danger, but it can hardly be more dangerous than waiting for Ardara's patience to wear thin.

If something were to happen to the Priestess - something incapacitating, or Lolth forbid, fatal - there would be a new Priestess, one without this particular obsession. He considers it, his face giving away nothing. His smile, though, is unpleasant to behold....

Pandora moved around the kitchen area helping Monty with his dishes... he cooked up some vegan foods for those that preferred them... and a few of the spicy side dishes the warriors and gars always asked for.

Tonight was usually a light night for the tavern; so Patty was going to run the bar with a couple of the college waitresses running tables... they were keeping the menu to the lighter items like burgers and fries; so it was an easy night for them.

Pandora was looking forward to leaving the tavern for the woods; she loved the outdoors... and the roof top garden just wasn't enough space some days... Chloe wanted a chance to fly with her father; and Ob had promised her some air time with Tomas and Stoney... she was dressing her in one of her outfits designed with space for her wings to come through.

Ob had told her to go ahead in the vehicle with the kids and dishes; and he would come as soon as he rose... he knew the children would play till they fell from exhaustion....

"Thats the last of it Pan"... Jeb came in the door after putting the food securely in the back of the vehicle. Pandora replied, "Okay, gathering the kids and belting them in is the last thing... the duffel with spare clothes, blankets, etc. is already secured; grab a kid and lets go"... She picked up Teri and Jeb took a giggling Chloe, doll clutched in her hands; Absynthe flew beside them and perched on Chloe's neckrest.. and Pandora and the kids were off to Star and Eric's, Jeb waving at them as they pulled out of the alley.

A pickup truck slowly rumbles up the drive, Ramji's car right behind it. Laila waves as she steps out of the car, turning to pull out a box as Ramji opens the trunk. Dmitri drops from the truck as Guunnar ambles across the yard. The Viking giant drops three shovels beside the pit and puffs through his mustache.

"Ist gut start. Ve here now to hilfe. Vill make gut pit!"

Laila shakes her head at the man as she follows Ramji to the porch. Her arms are laden with bags with paper goods. "Eric, please put him to work? He just WON'T shut up!"

Dmitri snickers and moves to the back of the truck. Star opens the door as Ramji mounts the steps. She directs him where to put down the box he is carrying and helps Laila with her bags. Ramji grins at the surprised look and swirling colors of her eyes.

"Stoney thought it might be a good idea if we came ahead. There are potato salad, pasta salad, crudites... I don't know what all Alise and Laila put together...." He shrugs helplessly. "There are picnic tables and a barbecue spit in the back of the truck..."

"Keon ist brinking food as vell. He and Eite vent fishing dis morning." The big man shakes his head.

His usually shaggy hair is pulled back tight in a long braid which slithers along his back as he moves his head. That, along with his thick mustache, tight t-shirt, tight jeans, and engineer boots gives a very different image than the usual black gear. In fact all the Riders are similar in dress. Ramji tugs off his purple t-shirt and tosses it inside the cab of the truck. He pushes past Guunnar and picks up a shovel and shoves it into the big man's hands.

"Laila's right. You haven't stopped talking since we picked up Ike's truck. Time to exercize some muscles other than the ones attached to your jaws." He turns to Eric and Tannr. "So... how big do you want this? Oh, by the way. Ike bought toys for the kids to play in the dirt pile. They are in the back of the truck as well."

Guunnar grins. "I take Ike shopping. Ve got trucks, shovels, buckets... all kindt friendly!"

Laila leans close to Star and whispers. "I don't know who is worse in the stores... Shopaholic Ike, or the little boy who pretends to be a Viking Warrior."

Guunnar turns to the pretty woman. His full lower lip protrudes in a childish pout.

"Ich nicht pretend. Ich bin ein great Varrior!"

Laila and Star giggle. The Nanny can't help herself. "See... just like Tomas..."

We're up early the next morning, digging the firepit. I was a little staggered when I found out how many people we'll be hosting tonight, and I'm wondering if we have enough food and drink for them all. So far we have the gars and their partners; several of Herne's Riders, including Guunnar; and Tannr tells me that his second-in-command from his merc days may show up as well.

"His name is Marc," he told me, "but the men call him le chat noir."

"The black cat?" He nods. "Dare I ask why?"

"Because he's bad luck if you cross his path."

I roll my eyes. "We better go easy on the booze, brother. I can see a free-for-all looking for a place to happen here...."

About this time, the Shadowcat pops into existence in front of us like a soap bubble popping. It took us a while to get used to the fact that our cat can teleport into any dark space. He seems to enjoy the discomfiture his sudden appearances cause - he's always grinning in a catly fashion when he shows up.

I reach down to scoop him up and he folds himself into me, purring like a furry dynamo. His fur has the prickly feeling of static cling and his grin is all over his face now. Gods, that freaks me out...! If the grin gets any wider, the top of his head is gonna come off...

Damn cat.

Star comes outside with cold water in a pitcher and claims the cat. I remind her to check the freezer to make sure we have enough food for the evening, and to order up anything we're lacking. Vikings are big on hospitality and it won't do to be caught short.

Pandora watched Obsidian fly off the rooftop garden with great relief... he would at last get to speak with the others about their new threat.

 He had been more than gentle since the night the daemon overtook him... Pandora knew his heart was heavy with the pain of hurting her, she had recovered... but he was insistent in his demands to care for her needs... tonight she was happy to see him off to visit the warriors.

She awoke with the thought in her head that elemental magick might work well for Ike... and was busy searching through her mother's books for information. Ike had become frustrated with some of the other magicks that Chloe seemed to master; that never seemed to turn out for her. Pandora knew she had powers... they just needed to figure how to channel them.

Absynthe fluttered around the room... settling on her shoulder and rubbing against her cheek; she stopped and set down her book to pet the small dragon... Absynthe was purring much like a cat, but a throatier sound. She had been acting a little different..Pandora had noticed her paying attention to Weebit's dragon... was she ready to mate?.. would she nest and present them with hatchlings? Alise had mentioned one of the children wanting a pet like Chloe's... perhaps Absynthe would present them with the little ones. She determined to talk with Weebit about the possibility; for she knew little of dragons.

Tannr and Tori had finished feeding all the animals their evening meal when the sound of horses alerted them to the groups return. Tannr approached in time to greet his sister and say goodby and invite her for supper the following evening.

“I thought we could dig a pit, do some roasting the old fashioned way....”

“Hell yes! That sounds great... call me tomorrow...” and Raina was off with her family.

Gunnaar clapped Tannr on the back, “I come and help mit digging...”

Tori grins and adds, “Do you know how much he eats? Better dig two pits...”

Inari moves to Star to say goodbye. “I wont be able to come tomorrow night, I have duties to attend to. You can send a demifae to find Imp if you need to get a message to me. If you need Tychus one will carry a message directly to him. Let him know what Alise thinks and any ideas you may have.” Inari wraps her arms around Star, “I'm so proud of you. ..”

Star returns the hug, her eyes going to a soft brown color. “We wont see you for awhile, will we?”

“I am not sure..” Inari replies.

Goodbyes and thank yous are exchanged and Inari and the Nighthawks disappear back through the gate.

Drai watches, his eyes never stray far from Chiara, who is trying to contain her sons excitement at the possibility of seeing Tomas.

Tannr approaches and tells Drai he is welcome to stay the night.

“I would rather sleep in the woods.”

Nodding, Tannr is not offended at the bluntness. He had fought with the Wyldfae many times and knew their ways. “You are welcome to share our meal tomorrow evening. And I would ask a favor. I have messages that need to get my men...”

Drai nods curtly, cutting Tannr off. “I will be here... and will take the messages.”

Tori starts to laugh at Ryans antics, trying to get his mother to call Alise. She speaks with Star and then sends to Alise.

Can Stoney bring the kids? Star says its fine for them all to come and stay the night. You are invited to supper tomorrow and can pick them up then....some of the Riders will be watching, so it will be safe for the little ones...maybe ask Ob if Chloe wants to come too...

Tori grins at Alises response. Ohhh...a night alone? Stoney did you hear that? Tell Star we will take her kids one night soon and repay the favor...

Tannr slips his arms around Tori and pulls her close. “Better let Ob and Ike know. Maybe Monty can whip up a couple meatless dishes for Star and Chiara...”

Nodding Tori looks up to the sky. She can hear Stoneys wings before she sees him. He lands in the clearing, arms full of smiling happy children and shifts as he moves towards the gathered family. Tomas runs ahead, his Batman cape blowing in the wind behind him, the girls carrying bags and their dolls.

Not far behind Ob arrives with his family and joins the group.

Tomas and Ryan laugh and greet each other and are knocked down when Wolf and Lobo decide they want to join in. The adults laugh at the high spirited play. Tannr calls the boys over and tells the wolves to settle down. “We should hear bout Meras trip...”

Everyone settles on the front porch and a few on the steps. Mera looks at her Da who smiles his encouragement and Mera tells of all that she saw. The small creatures following in their wagons made of nuts and pines, of swimming with Eite and the water creatures in the river, of seeing the Queen and the meal in the tents. She tells of Ghaunts resting place and how pretty the Grove of Tears is. When she is done she looks to her Da once again, who nods and smiles his approval.

“Well done lass, well done...”

Mera beams at her fathers approval and the group breaks out in applause, causing a rosy blush to creep up her cheeks.

Tannr lifts her, giving her a hug. “I may lose my place as the family skald...”

“No Unca Tannr. We love the stories you tell...”

Keon takes his daughter and Chiara approaches, a blueish bundle in her hands.

“May I?” At Keons nod, she hands the bundle to Mera. “I made this for you.”

Unfolding it Mera smiles her pleasure at the gift. A pale turquoise scarf with a matching one for her doll. The weave soft as down and the colors a blend of an ocean at sunrise.

“Thank you...” Mera wraps the scarf around her neck. “Look Da...”

There was a lavender one for Tara, palest pink for Gracie and emerald green for Chloe. The girls were excited and happy there was something for the dolls too.

Star takes Ru from Erik and smiles as Wish and Pike head to the roof of the cabin. She knows the children would be safe this night. And doubly so with Trooper and his companions in the woods. She ushers the children inside to figure out sleeping arrangements. Chiara joins her, leaving the men to their talk on the porch.

Jeb just couldn't settle down and sleep... he stood in the window looking down at Roxi sprawled in sleep in a most provocative way; they had made love and she fell into slumber nestled in his arms..but his mind was too busy to sleep.

Obsidian had been a caged lion pacing the tavern since they learned the Drow witch was scheming to steal a gargoyle child... he had sat with Jeb talking in some depth about added precautions they should take till they were sure any danger was past.

Jeb felt just as strongly as he did, the tavern folk were his family too..Chloe and Teri his little companions on and off when Pandora needed to do work alone; and Stoney and Alise's brood were just as familiar and precious.

Roxi moaned as she turned in her sleep and he stopped to watch her settle... he couldn't begin to understand how such a fiery little bit of girl had taken such control of his heart. He mused that perhaps her being alone in the world, as he was, had bonded them more tightly together... and ever since their first romp in the woods chasing down the deer they had shared another bond of the beast. Both acknowledged their animal side was important to them in being whole and alive... and they stole away quietly when they could to enjoy the release of running wild.

Now as he watched her sleep he felt protective; he had pretty much taken to staying with her every night at the apartment... it was their personal space where they could talk and cuddle at their leisure. Ob said he was close enough to be at the tavern in seconds if needed... and his werewolf instincts kept him tuned in to the vibes in the air around the tavern.

Ob's nightmare anger streak had put the hair on Jeb's neck up... he felt it just as heavily as the gars and Pandora had; but he also had experienced the dragon daemon in Ob before... and standing up to him trying to settle him would have led to a confrontation... and Pandora seemed to know just what she needed to do for her man.  So he had let things be, even though he sighed in the morning when Pandora had finally come down... she moved with some pain and he knew she had experienced more than she foresaw in calming Ob.  By evening when Ob appeared again; it was obvious he was the man in control again... but no less determined to fight the Drow witch as soon as the party returned from the Fae kingdom.