Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tara is busy in the courtyard, playing with the cats. The adults were busy with Uncle Tannr and Uncle Ob and Tara managed to slip outside with only Alise and the sylphs aware of where the little one had gone. Alise was not worried, knowing that no harm could come to her daughter at the Manse. As she is carrying an adventurous kitten back to his mother Tara feels the mental tapping of her twin...  

Is Uncle Tannr okay now? Chloe and Teri are here ... 

Rowan did a operation on him. Tante Silk says he is sleeping.

Tomas lets Tara know all that is going on at the cottage, Laila and Chiara keeping the kids busy, Monty bringing treats when he brought Chloe and Teri to stay.

Unaware of the little one kneeling near a fountain, Mortuis steps outside and walks the path through the courtyard, intending to clear his thoughts and perhaps relax. He nearly steps on the little girl, hidden by the wall of the fountain and her long dark hair.

“Oh. Please excuse me. I didnt see you there..” Mortuis speaks to the child as if she were grown and Tara frowns slightly. Mortuis sits on the stone edge.

Tara stands, holding a young calico cat. “I like your kitties.” and takes a seat next to Mortuis.

“Indeed. I am glad that you do.”

After a few moments of silence Tara asks. “Why do you hide?”


Tara taps her cheeks and then points to the hooded mask that Mortuis is never without.

“Ahh. Well, that would require a lengthy explanation and I do believe your mother is looking for you. Shall we return to the Manse?” Mortuis holds a hand out to the little girl who looks up, her expression serious at first, then she smiles and stands, letting go of the cat she had been holding.

Mortuis looks into the large lavender eyes so much like Alises and murmurs, “Ever your mothers daughter.. a rare combination of beauty and kindness...”

Raina doesnt even try to hold back the tears as she watches her brother and remembers Rowans words describing Tannrs injuries and the surgery she had performed. She looks to Tori who is crying too, big silent tears.  

Ruptured spleen, blood loss, broken bones, poison.... he should be dead already.... How is ever going to pull through all this?  

And what would Tori do? Go to that stone sleep Alise has talked about? Be a stone gargoyle forever.... Tannr would come back and haunt her, haunt all of us for letting that happen....

The thought of Tannr haunting anyone brings a small grin to Rainas face and she wipes her tears. “”Okay, enough water works. He would be kicking my butt. He is home, has survived this long, the surgery...and everything....” Her voice starts to break and she swallows hard, “He has the best care in the world. Rowan is the best and who better to care for him now, than us? No one loves him more than we do...”

Tori nods her head at Rainas words and wipes her cheeks. She cant sense any of Tannrs thoughts, his mind still dark from all the drugs and trauma. She knew rationally it was best for him to be unaware and asleep right now. She just longed to see him open his eyes, longed to hear 'hey Red', and see his grin, the one that was for her alone.

Raina stands, “I can put the cot over there..” then looks to Tori. “You dont mind if I stay do you?”

“No, of course not. Why would I mind? Help me move this love seat..” Tori and Raina arrange the room, Tori choosing to be as close to Tannr as possible, Raina closer to the door, her habit to guard and wanting to give the couple a little privacy. Alise smiles at the arrangements and sends slyphs for bedding and a meal for the group.

Pandora  hears Ob's words; and she asks for a phone to call the tavern... "Monty, can you and Jeb control things there?... Ob is in bad shape... but insists he sleep his stone sleep where I am; so I am staying here for now. Perhaps Jeb and Roxie could take the children and the nanny to Laila at Stoney and Alise's cottage?? I am sure she could use the help with everyone's attention here right now... you know where I am if you need me."

Pandora didn't want to leave the room; so she mentally soothed Obsidian... "My love, my stone dragon... I am going to stay here so you can go to sleep with the least injury and discomfort... I will be out in awhile to comfort you, I know I am your ears right now." Pandora felt his returning caress; and an echo of pain that escaped his firm control....she suppressed her urge to get up and run to him... she heard Ike's voice... "I have done what must be done for his injuries; I'll watch him for you, until you are able to come... do what needs done Pandora; that is what family does in a crisis."

Silk's voice slipped in to reassure her... "My cooza is strong. Pandora... I will see  that a bed is set up just inside the terrace door so you can see Ob while he rests; and he will know you are there beside him."

Ike's words brought me peace, and I returned to the conversations about Tanner and the fight that were weaving around the room... Rowan's eyes were shadowed; it bothered me that she seemed unsure of the outcome... but who of us had ever imagined a scorpion sting of such magnitude... such was our unsure magical world.

I sat and waited with the others; waited  for some sign that Tanner would make it... that we would not have to try and stop a grieving Tori from destroying herself .

A final check on Tannr and I head for the courtyard. Ob is sitting on a bench leaning forward across a table someone has moved in front of him. I touch his twisted horns, stroking gently.

"Cooza, are you still with us? I need to look at your back."

Ike has arrived, landing softly on the gravel drive. The sound of her step reaches Ob, making him lift his head slowly. he mutters and I realize he is talking to Pandora, telling her to stay with Tori for the moment so she can let him know Tannr's status. He nods, and there is a grinding sound. Ike frowns, stepping behind him.

Her gasp makes me aware something is definitely wrong. I watch as she slowly shifts his wing. Ob throws back his head, reptilian face clenched tight in pain. He opens his eyes, staring at nothing as Ike shifts his wing again. it comes away in her hands and she stumbles, nearly dropping it.

"No... oh Goddess bless me! No!" Her eyes are wide, panicked. "We need sand. But... I know there is no time to send someone for sand from his homeland.... not even time to send someone to the Tavern."

"How much do we need?" I shake Ike. "How much sand do we need?"

She blinks, thinning her lips. "Not much... enough to fill the cracks, then we let him go to stone and it will bind him back together." She stares at the wing in her hand. "What do you have in mind?"

I whisper a word and a gnome is suddenly at my side. I explain to them my idea. Ob nods, panting from the pain. The gnome hurries off and Ike begin to carefully collect up the stone grindings he has been losing.

The gnome returns, but he is not alone. Several of his compatriots are with him and they set about putting my plan in action. They work quickly, using chisels to chip away at Ob's curling horns. Once they have shortened them to a mere ten inches, they drop the pieces into a pile and begin to hammer the mutli-hues stone into fragments, then pebbles, finally sand and dust. Taking water from the rain barrel, we mix the sand into a slurry.

I check on Ob. He is far away, listening intently to his wife, as she listens to Rowan. We layer the thin clay into the wing cavity and slowly ease the wing back into place. Ob groans, fighting not to scream. He talks softly, using verbal words to help him focus on his link with her. I can feel him throw up a wall to hide his agony from Pandora.

 Ike leans on his back, forcing the wing deeper, making clay ooze out of the wound. I collect the excess and put it in a container, securing an airtight lid to keep it wet. The gnomes work fast, binding the outstretched wing in place. Once we are sure it will not move. Ike steps away.

"Where will you sleep Cooza? Here or at the Tavern?"

He turns his head slowly, blinking wearily. "Wherever my wife sleeps, so will I."

Hours later Rowan pulls off her gown and gloves, tossing them in a garbage bag. She stretches, the muscles in her back and neck tight and sore after the lengthy surgery.

“You should take a break. We have done all that we can.” Mortuis joins her, removing his own gown.

“Not yet. I need to make sure he is settled properly and then explain to his family......” Rowan starts ticking off things in her head that she needed to check on. Mortuis knew from the look on her face she would not rest until she felt her patient safe.

Rowan slowly climbs the stairs, in no hurry to see the pain she knew she was going to see on the faces of Tannrs loved ones.

She stops first to check on her patient. Silk was adding another bag to the IV pump and Alise was shooing the sylphs out of the room.

“I am amazed he has survived this far...” Rowan shakes her head. “If that treatment for the poison doesnt work...” Rowan shakes her head then checks all the machines, making sure all the proper medications are running and that Tannrs vital signs are stable.

Alise gently hooks her arm in Rowans. “It has to work. It just has to. I cannot bear to think what Tori would do if anything were to happen to Tannr."

Quietly opening the door to the library Rowan takes in the scene before her. Stoney and Erik were pacing and trying hard to look like they werent. Stoney would glance at his sister every few seconds, worried about her silence. Tori sat in the window sill, twisting the engagement ring Tannr had given her around her finger. Ky sat near Raina, her arm around her shoulders. Erik and Gunnar were recovering from donating more blood than they should have been allowed to.  

Goddess, give me the words to instill hope and comfort....and give us all strength to help Tannr through this...

The Ward opens for Gareth seconds before they would have been fried. Ob is aware, yet can't find it in himself to truly care. He feels himself lowered to the ground, pain lancing through his shoulder at ever movement. He hears Silk, not quite sure what she is saying. Finally things sink in.

"Cooza... You are injured, but not beyond help. Tannr's self walks a thin wire. Can you stay living stone? Do not go solid... Hang on Cooza, hang on..."

Pandora's mind touches his, caressing softly. Ob holds tight, refusing to drop into stone sleep. He knows something is definitely wrong, but also knows if Tannr crosses over, so will Tori.

Fortunate it is that Tannr's captain had the foresight to bring the stinger he removed from the monster; there were some half-dozen drops of venom still within, and I used these for my analysis.

The venom bears resemblance to both Androctonus Australis, the Fat-Tailed Scorpion, and Leiurus quinquestriatus, the Deathstalker Scorpion - two of the deadliest scorpions on earth.

It is similar, as I say, but not the same. Most perplexing is the presence of a strong concentration of iron in the venom. It would seem to serve no purpose... perhaps this is how the creature excretes the excess iron in its blood?

I call the Apothecary for massive amounts of antivenin for both the scorpion species, and I send a pair of sylphs to accept delivery. Being creatures of Air, they can move with the swiftness of the wind.

In the meantime, Rowan has drained off as much of the venom as still remained and the bleeding has stopped. We wait now for the antivenin to arrive, for it will be risky to begin surgery while it yet retains its effect. Against that, we have little time; and it may be needful to begin at any moment, antivenin or no antivenin.

Rowan hits the ground running as soon as Stoney lands with her. She shouts back over her shoulder, “Bring Tori and Tannr right to the operating suite...”

Mortuis is waiting, starting the water in the sink for Rowan to scrub in as soon as he sees her.

“I assume this is not a best case scenario...?”

Rowan shakes her head, “You would be assuming correctly, my friend. I will need your help, if you dont mind. And this may take awhile...”

“We will do what we can. Is there anything else we need to see to before we start?”

“We are going to need blood. Erik and Gunnar are on their way. If Silk and maybe one of the sylphs wouldnt mind setting that all up? It would save us some time...”

Mortuis nods and steps into the hall to explain to a sylph what was required and runs into Alise, just arriving with Raina. Alise nods her understanding and with Silk they start assembling the supplies they will need.

Tori is watching Tannr as he lays on the operating table, her face almost as colorless as Tannrs, her eyes betraying her devastation at the extent of the injuries.

Rowan takes a deep breath, pulls on a gown and tells Stoney and Tori to wait upstairs. “This isnt going to be a short procedure I'm afraid... But there is something for you to work with when we are done. Somehow during the battle Marc managed to grab part of a stinger and it looks to have some venom in it...”

Time is of the essence and Keon nods to Stoney as he flips open his cell. The call is short, the phone snapping shut mere moments later. The Dark Lord approaches the women as they work, waiting for the spell to complete.

"Ladies... We need to move Tannr now. if I may offer suggestions? Tori, of course, will carry Tannr. That way she can keep channeling the spell. Stoney will carry Rowan. They can wing the three most crucial people to the infirmary. Star and Pandora, if you will permit K'thyri and myself to follow on our mounts? We will be but moments behind the others."

Keon glances at Ky. "Twill. Give her your tunic. Last thing we need is someone thinking K'thyri needs to be strapped to a gurney too. Let's not upset Mortuis' people more than necessary." He turns to Stoney. "M'Lady Leather has alerted the staff and Gnimaor will be waiting for us. All of Us."  


Stoney answers, not even bothering to recognize the voice. Silk. The Riders call her Mistress Leather. Old habits...

The mental chuckle is weak and Stoney realizes it is Tannr, still linked in Tori's mind. He motions to the women to stand back and helps Tori to her feet. Taking a blanket from supplies one of the wom,en brought, he fashions a sling and uses it to secure Tannr in Tori's arms. He turns to Rowan.

"If you will accept a lift?" The Healer steps close and Stoney scoops her up in his arms. With a great sweep of their wings, and a powerful thrust from their legs, the pair is airborne. Keon holds back a laugh as he turns to hand Star up behind Ky.

Twillon's shirt hangs on the Wyldfae like a short dress. Keon thinks it best not to point that out. Mounting his own steed, Keon offers a hand to Pandora, helping her to swing up behind him. He nods to Twillon, knowing the fair-haired Sidhe would clean up the clearing, leaving no signs of it having been used as a trauma center. He feels the beginning of a spell to erase blood residue as the Fae horses race after the Gargoyles.

Pandora's hand trembles as she tries  to concentrate with Tori on Tanner's bleeding...she is catching glimpses from Ob; but they are distorted and filled with pain.

She focuses and returns her concentration to Tanner... she knows that no matter how badly Ob is injured... it is not grievous like what Tanner has sustained... she must help Tori now; and ignore her yearning to know more about Obsidian....

Between the two of them; Tori and Pandora have produced an aura... it hovers over the wound... and they press down, forcing the magick into the gaping wound....

Images speed by, blurred by pain and the tight control. Every movement of the horse's haunches jolts pain up his back. Good arm wrapped around Gareth's waist, Ob holds on as best he can. An errant thought drifts by, proving to Ob that he is not as in control as he thought.

I am stone... how is the horse taking my weight?

Another jolt has him wincing as he tries to get a better grip. The horse veers on the trail, nearly brushing a tree. Ob shifts his balance and nearly screams as his injured wing is pulled hard. His grip slips and he scrabbles to keep his balance nearly pulling Gareth off his mount. A spell snaps around the Gargoyle. Ob finds himself held, carried along as if cuddled in a soft net. He thanks the Goddess for Fae and their strange magic, letting his mind sink into oblivion.

Ky breaks into the clearing, her horse skidding, mud flying as she pulls on the reins. Star gasps, horrified at the amount of blood she sees. Tannr is barely recognizable, slumped over Ky, his clothes dark and wet, face ashen, the horse covered with blood and dripping into the new spring grass of the clearing.

Erik, Ke and Ramji rush forward and get Tannr off the horse. Ky slides off an instant after. Her clothes are soaked too but she doesnt notice. She looks at the group and asks “Wheres Tori?”

“On her way...” Star immediately trying to assess where all the blood is coming from as soon as Tannr is laid on the ground.

Tannr grabs her hand, “Leave it...useless...Tori...”

“I will not leave it....Listen.....” Star pauses for less than a second, “I can hear the wings, she's coming....”

Rowan races from the cabin where she had to leave the van to the group gathered at the far end of the clearing. She swallows hard at the sight of Tannr, barely breathing, skin almost grey in color.

“Sweet Goddess...what happened?” Rowan and Star moving quickly, packing the wound with towels.

Ob explains briefly, telling how big the spider/scorpion was and that is was more than likely poisonous.

“We need to get him to the manse, immediately. And we need donors....”

Tori lands and runs, changing forms as she moves. As she kneels by Tannr her face reveals her shock and anguish.

“Tannr....I'm here....”

Tannr turns his head, his eyes glassy and vision starting to blur, but he tries to focus on the sound of Toris voice. “Love much...” Tannr tries to reach for Toris hand.

Toris voice breaks, her reply whispered, sobs threatening but her voice full of love, tears streaming.

Suddenly Star grabs one of Toris shoulders her eyes bright with excitement. 'You have magic... make the bleeding slow long enough to get him to the sorcerers... Erik...GO....He will need your blood.....take Gunnaar...his too....”

“But...I dont.... Star...” Toris voice breaks.

“You can....I know you can....just do it....” Star sees the desperate pain in Toris face and takes her hand, covered in Tannrs blood. “Do is no time to waste...”

Pandora kneels next to Tori and takes her hand, “We can do this...we'll do it together. Its a simple spell, but we have to hurry...”

Tori swallows hard and tries to stop the tears so she can concentrate.

Pandora squeezes her hand, “Just try to open yourself to the magic, like when you channel elemental energy....”

Alise breathes a sigh of relief as she watches Raina with her daughter. Raina had carried Tara over to the fire and curled up with her in a large chair. Alise couldnt hear what was said, but Tara slowly relaxed and stopped screaming. Tears still slipped down her cheeks but not as furiously as before. Raina cuddled the little one and tried to explain, then show her how to block the worst of what she was sensing.

Stoney excuses himself and steps out of the room.. When he returns his face was grave, his thoughts blocked. He leans close to Alise and whispers, “Chaton, I have to go with Tori to the clearing. Ask Laila to watch the children and bring Raina to the manse. Star will be bringing her children here to Laila.”

Raina looked up and asks simply, “Tannr?”

Nodding Stoney tells her he will bring him to the Manse. “We will meet you there, it will be faster..”

In seconds they can hear the beating of his large wings as he and Tori take flight and speed away. Raina and Alise exchange a worried glance and begin to get ready. Raina takes a deep breath, preparing herself for the worst and Alise explains to Laila and the children.

Tara looks stricken at the thought of her parents leaving her behind to go to Tannr. Tears fill her eyes again and her gaze moves from her mother to Raina, begging not to be left behind. ...Please maman...

Raina can see that her and Tomas are 'speaking'. Suddenly Tomas wrinkles his brow and shoots up the stairs, wings open wide.

He returns moments later carrying Taras doll, a small bundle and her scarf. “Take her maman. I help Lala...”

Marc and his crew - now depleted by one - hang back, letting the injured go first. Once Tannr and Ob are out of Underdark, he gives the signal and his remaining men move forward. Andy and Addley share the weight of Hugh's body between them. It would be folly to leave it behind; Ardara might well be able to make the corpse speak; and even if that is beyond her powers, Underdark's network of spies and informants is well known. Give them a body to work with, and this night's work would inevitably be laid at the Ravens' door.

They can hear the sounds of pursuit close on their heels and they make a desperate sprint for the Gate. Suddenly the sounds of the mortal plane supervene; Marc can hear Lily - "Moveitmoveitmoveit!" - and the Ravens throw themselves recklessly through the magical portal, following the prearranged path. He hears Lily snarl a savage laugh and turns to look back at the Gate.

For a moment there is nothing; then a heavily-armed group of warriors burst through the Gate, ravening for blood.

Marc claps his hands to his ears just in time. There is a thunderous roar and the first of Ardara's army, some ten or twenty warriors, are trapped in the murderous crossfire between the three Claymores. Sleeted through and through with Cold Iron, they come apart like a beef carcass fed through a meat grinder - but much quicker and far messier. For a moment they hang there suspended, like raw hamburger in the approximate shape of men; then they drop to the ground in a steaming, bleeding mass.

Marc spares another glance at Lily. She's swaying unsteadily on her feet, absorbing the raging energies of the explosion. He's seen this before; she'll be giddy, nearly drunk till she can assimilate it all. Even as he watches, she clicks a handheld switch, then drops it, goes to her knees, still swaying.

Another group of the Drow come through the rapidly destabilizing Gate. It shudders, its energies nearly spent, on the point of collapse. Seeing the reeking mess in their path, the Drow move to either side, flanking the bodies of their former comrades. They march with cold deliberation toward the Ravens, blades drawn.

There is another explosion, and then another. Warriors disintegrate into bloody sacks of meat as Lily's secondary trap is activated - land mines, activated by pressure plates. Step on it, it's armed; step off, and it explodes. And since this is a scrap yard, most of the shrapnel is various types of steel or iron....

Ardara's warriors seem to stagger in mid-air, held up only by the force of the explosions, and Lily sways back and forth with more abandon than ever. The Gate suddenly collapses in on itself, and the last of the Drow fall, dead or dying, their bodies perforated by the death metal.

Lily is out of it, so Marc himself detonates the final blast - a combination of thermite and napalm. By the time the fire department gets here - it's well outside the city limits, and the fire departments of city and county argue constantly over whose responsibility it is - there will be nothing left to find. Not that either city or county will be in any real hurry to put out a fire at a scrap yard....

Star had been feeling uneasy and agitated all day, the feelings only increasing with the waning day. After supper she left Erk and Keon talking and had stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air feeling closed in and trapped inside the cabin. She scans the treeline and suddenly sees a small shape detach itself from the darkening forest and head quickly towards her.

Ever alert to those evil goblins Star takes a step backwards before she realizes the figure is a demifae, not a goblin.

“Erik!” she calls out as she recognizes Imp. The little fae is exhausted and falls at Stars feet. Erik exits the cabin as Star gently scoops Imp up in her hands.

“Whats happened?” Erik asks, worry plain in his voice.

Imp gasps and takes a few deep breaths. “Tannr. Ky bringing him, not far behind me. Call healer, condition is grave.” Imp pauses, taking another breath then says, “ not let the children see..”

Eriks face goes pale and he races for the phone.

K'thyri and I are ahorse and riding for the Gate when I remember that Keon reset it. I slow just long enough to set it back to the correct destination, then we gallop through. The miasma of Underdark passes by in a blur, which is perhaps just as well... We see vague shapes through the ever-present mist, but whatever they are, they get out of our way. Elven silver may not be the same as Cold Iron, but even the monsters of Underdark don't want a silver horseshoe in their skulls. Assuming they have actual bones....

We nearly come to blows with the Ravens before they realize who we are. No words are needed; in a trice Tannr is lashed to Ky - we can't risk having him fall off, not at this speed - and I take charge of a groggy Ob.

"Get them to a healer as quick as you can," Marc says. "We'll remain behind to delay pursuit. Be sure to reset the Gate once you're past."

I nod and we spur our mounts into a sure-footed gallop that covers leagues in what seems moments. We encounter no opposition on our way - fortunately for the opposition. Ky's eyes are hot with fury; I don't envy any creature who meets her in this mood.

We're through the Gate now. I stop just long enough to reroute it to the alternate location and then we're in motion again. I flip open my phone and speed-dial.


"Gareth. We have two seriously-injured patients for you. Have the mage lower the wards, we're on our way."

"No, just meet us at the clearing, we have everything we need."

The connection is severed and we thunder through the night, trying to outrace Death....

The sound of pounding hooves draws the attention of the sunblonde Sidhe guarding the Crossing. As two riders streak into the clearing there is a prickle of energy as the Gating Spell activates. Twillon has time to see Ob and Tannr down, another propped against a tree, and the remaining Ravens fight. Arrows fill the air, all focused away from the Gate.

Twillon barely has time to react, diving to the side as horses bear down on his position. The riders never stop, jumping their mounts into the other clearing as it appears before them. Once past, he recognizes K'thyri and Gareth. The spell wavers as the sprite holding it is struck. Twillon grasps control, keeping it open as the rescuers vault from their still moving mounts.

Pandora has gathered whatever herbs and salves she thinks might help with the mens injuries..knowing that  Rowan has a complete layout in her van. She is trying to concentrate on her spells and amulets, gathering as she walks through the room upstairs... her mind tuned to Ob... anguish in her heart that he is injured... and she has no idea how badly. The children are aware papa is hurt; and she is trying to down play her feelings so they remain calm.

Chloe wanted to accompany her to Star's cabin; but she didn't know what she would face when the men arrived. Monty assured her that Ike would be rising soon and they would watch the children; promising Chloe she could be in charge of creating ice cream sundaes for dessert.

"You need to grow stronger from all this good dinner I'm cooking, so you can help your papa heal."..Monty told her. Chloe decided she would have her auntie Ike help her to find magic that might help her daddy when he returned.

Teri was very quiet; but you could see the wheels turning as he listened and felt the things his father could not conceal from him...his expression was one of impatience...he wanted his papa now...

Pandora had Jeb help her load the jeep, extra clothing for Ob, blankets, and her magickal supplies....she kissed the children and headed out to the woods...her heart thumping with dread; she knew something bad had happened...she was getting it from Ob; but it wasn't himself he worried about...Tannr...something had happened to Tannr....

Raina was pacing in the kitchen watching Gareth and Ky playing some strange fae version of grab ass around the pool table.

“What the hell are they doing?” she asks Nick with a smile.

“Damned if I know, but they seem to be enjoying themselves...” Nicks words trail off as Raina starts to move back and forth again.

“Whats wrong Rain? You've been antsy all day...”

“I dont know for sure. Just a weird feeling, like somethings wrong, but I cant quite...” Raina pauses as the phone starts to ring.

Raina walks over to the counter where she left it. “I bet its a wrong number, pretty late for anyone to be calling...” Her eyes widen in surprise and she smiles as she answers the phone. Nick watches as her face turns ashen and smile quickly fades. Ky and Gareth see the concern on Nicks face and approach slowly wondering whats happened.

When Raina holds the phone out from her ear the group can hear Alise, and screaming in the background. “What the hell is going on?” Nick takes a few steps closer to Raina who holds out her free hand. Nick takes it and can see that Raina is holding back tears as she tries to calm Alise and get her to speak in English.

On the other end Alise takes a deep breath, struggling not to cry. “Its Tara...she can feel something with Tannr and nothing we do calms her. Please Raina can you come over? I wouldnt ask, but even Stoney cannot seem to get through to her. He was speaking to Tori....her screams scared him half to death...we are afraid Tori will go after Tannr, and she must not....and we think Ob is injured too....” Her voice breaks and Raina can hear her sobs.

“I'll be right, its fine. Nick can bring me...okay....see you in a few.”

The second Raina hangs up she starts to cry. “I have to go. Something has happened to Tannr, but Tara... well.... I am sure you could hear her. I feel so torn...I …...I dont know what I should be doing....I always block my brothers feelings...I guess I shouldnt......” She wipes her eyes and looks to Nick.

Nick wraps his arms around her and holds her close. “I'll get the bike out of the garage...You should call Erik.....”

Ky steps forward and hugs Raina. “Go to Tara. I'll go see if I can find out whats happened to Tannr...and to Ob”

“You dont have to do that...” Raina starts.

“I know I dont, but I will. You need to be with Tara, you are the only one that understands what she is going through. Gareth and I can move fast if its just the two of us.....” Ky mentally starts making notes and she turns to Gareth, “Coming fairy boy?”

In a matter of minutes Raina is ready and heading towards the bike parked in the drive. Ky and Gareth head to the stables. Gareth pauses, “You think its bad dont you?”, not fooled by her teasing tone in front of Raina and Nick.

“You heard the kid crying and screaming. Sounded like her heart was being ripped out. Its not good whatever it is...”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The scream isn't physical. It starts deep, soul deep, welling up until it echoes across the psychic bridge between worlds. Tomas runs for his father as soon as the sound starts, scared for his aunt. Stone grinds as Tori rises, dust sifting as her wings begin to unfurl. It is still too early for Tori to regain her flesh, being younger than her brothers.Another hour, maybe two and she would have woken as woman instead of gargoyle.

Stoney is suddenly there before her, flesh becoming granite. He grapples with her as she hisses, stone fangs flashing as she struggles in his grip.  

Enough! Roisin Sky Tavisham! Enough! Think! Mon Deiu! You can not go to him this way! They are bringing him home. He needs you calm. He will need your strength as you needed his! Listen to me!

Slitted marbles of emerald green focus slowly on his mastiff features. lids blink slowly, grinding small bits of dust which fall, shifting, to leave dots of wet on grey stone scale. Her head hangs forward as a great sob, racks her body. Stoney shakes her once, getting her attention again.

...grip. Do you hear me? They are on their way back. Tannr and Ob are going to need our help. Can you... Tori... Focus!

She blinks. Movement brings her gaze downward. Tomas stands by her side, small wings spread wide, a grim expression across his small face. Ryan stands ready, large stones gripped in his small hands. She blinks again and stone dust turns to tears. She nods to her brother.

"I am good." The sound of her voice grates, harsh with pain. "Tannr and Ob are coming home, injured. I... Pan... I need to let Pan know."

Stoney nods, glancing at the boys. "Ob hasn't told us how bad he is, Tannr is worse, Ob is up and moving."

Tomas blinks up at his father. "Chloe says her daddy is hurting. He won't let them think to him. I tol' her he's comin home."

Stoney nods. Tori closes her eyes, wrapping taloned fingers around her arms, fighting for calm. Pan... Ob and Tannr are on their way... Will let you know as soon as there is anything to know. I promise.

She can feel the strength in Pandora's quiet acceptance. A small smile settles in the back of Tori's mind as she feels Pandora gathering magic. The moments build into a solid power. Pandora turns her thoughts back to Tori, assuring her that any spell she has is ready and waiting for their call. And, she was on her way to the Cabin.

Tannr shakes himself, trying to wake, trying to shake the pain, the confusion when he hears Tori scream his name. He looks around, expecting to see her, not the dismal landscape of Underdark. The pain is almost unbearable making each movement agony. He closes his eyes tight, fighting for control of his thoughts.

Marc leans close, worry for his friend and comrade creasing his brow.

“We haf to get 'im outta here. No help to be had for 'im here...” Addley starts to stash his gear and picks up Tannrs sword and axe.

Tannr hears Ob's voice and he mentally clings to the sound, it reminding him of Tori. “Ob... please....” Ob leans closer and Tannr tries to grab the gargoyle but cant raise his arm far enough. “Stop...Tori...dont let her...come here.....” The effort exhausting what little strength Tannr had left, he passes out.

Ob stands with effort, blocking the pain in his shoulder and sends to Stoney... Bro...listen to me....

Frontal attacks and brute force has not worked. Tannr is down. Hugh is down. At the rate things are going, it could take them all out. Marc took out one tail, leaving five still flailing. The men move quickly, dragging Hugh and Tannr out of reach. Both men are pale, barely standing, although Hugh keeps trying to go back into the fray.

As the creature takes another swipe at Marc, Addley twists, barely dodging one of the tails. Another tail dives for Addley's back and Allah's Light leaves a trail of light as it slashes, lobbing off the stinger before the mercenary is struck.

A scream pierces the air and Ob launches himself upward. Tannr is writhing on the ground as Marc works at removing the barb. Claw like hands snap at Addley as he throws one of his blades. It strikes just above an eye, bouncing off the tough shell. The creature opens its mouth and screams again, the sound reverberating in his skull. Ob shakes his head, fighting off whipping tails that try to knock him from the air.

Allah's Light takes another tail. this time cutting through shell and not joint. It takes Ob a moment to realise its signifigance. He spies Hugh back among the slashing tails and calls to the giant.

 "Can you catch the tails? Give me space!"

Hugh bellows, the words unintelligible. He grapples for a few moments as Ob climbs higher, gaining a bit more altitude. Two tails are still free, but they are striking at Hugh as Ob points Allah's light straight down and draws in his feet. The gargoyle folds his wings tight and drops from the sky, becoming nothing more than dead stone. The force of his fall displaces enough air to make the creature look up. It moves, but not quite fast enough. The gargoyle lands on its back, knocking it flat as Allah's light shears through the back of its skull.

It bucks, twisting even as Ob pulls his blade free. Clawed hands grasp a wing, trying to pull Ob off its back. Ob jerks, slipping on the carapace. He locks his legs as best he can and beats his wings. The creature lifts slightly from the ground, twisting even harder. Sharp teeth scrape over stone scale, leaving ragged gouges in his arm. Ob jabs Allah's light again, this time through the side of its head, pinning it to the ground.

It screams, thrashing wildly. Ob tries to lift, but is pulled to one side as the body tries to roll. His wing is still clasped tight in the creature's death grip. It convulses again and Ob screams, Pain lancing through his back and down his arm. Stumbling away, Ob feels Pandora pushing at the wall between them.

He feels her worry, even as she sheilds the children from his pain. Tori plunges into his mind and quickly away as she sees Tannr's fall. Ob touches Pandora, telling her he is fine, even though she can tell something is not right. He gently pushes her out of his mind, telling her he loves her, that he will be home soon as they can. As soon as he can focus, Ob turns his attention to the rest of the team.

Tannr is down, twitching and muttering as Marc tries to staunch his wounds. Addley and Andy are busy trying to move the dead mass of tails. Left arm limp at his side, Ob stumbles to the pair.

"Where's Hugh?"

Both men look at Ob, then back at the tails. Ob can just see the man's body. He tries to lift Allah's Light but his arm refuses to lift. Sheathing his borrowed blade, Ob shift's the sword to his right hand. He swings the blade, hacking into the tails. As they seperate, the Ravens shove them off Hugh. His body is a mass of wounds, limbs lying at awkward angles. Andy leans over and slowly closes his friend's eyes. They grasp his arms, pulling the giant's body away from the creature's. As they stoop beside him, Ob stumbles, nearly falling.

Andy helps Ob kneel. It is only then that he sees the odd position of the gargoyle's wing. Ob leans on his good hand, focusing past the pain, listening to the forest. He looks at the two Ravens.

"We can't stay here. We've got to move."

He tries to stand, listing to the left. He winces as he moves his left wing, feeling something grind. His arm refuses to cooperate.

"I think I am... un poco herido." At the raised eyebrows he repeats himself in English. "I think I am a little hurt..."

The men look over his back. He feels fingers trace along the base of his wing. One of the men mutters, then asks, "Does a little hurt mean deep cracks on each side of your wing... stone dust grinding out everytime you move it?"

Ob sighs. "No, mi amigo... It means my wife is going to be *muy enojado... more than angry, with me." He grins as the men step back around him. "Mi Bruha will not let me come play with you boys anymore."

Sobering, he watches Marc finish binding Tannr's wounds. Addley and Andy begin to gather discarded weapons. Every man watches the trees, listening carefully. They all know the Drow can't be too far behind. Tannr moans softly, one word slips from his lips, "Red..."

and Ob feels Tori's scream.

"Holy fuck...." Hugh's gravelly, seldom-used voice is low, almost reverential, and the others turn to see

a creature, seven feet high, standing in kind of a half-crouch, arms spread wide apart for balance. The head resembles an elongated skull, bristling with jagged teeth. The elbows bear wickedly curved spikes and it has three - no, five - no, six scorpionlike tails. The skin is a deep coppery brown, but the firelight paints it with gold. The eyes glow with sulfurous light and it shuffles forward with a kind of murderous confidence.

No defense like a good offense... Marc strides forward to meet the thing, mindful of the effect of Cold Iron on the fae. No matter how big and tough this thing is, it'll be a little pussy once it meets my axe....

The tails unfurl like so many whips, snapping at him from all directions. He bats them aside with his axe, but the glancing blows seem to disturb the thing not at all. Meanwhile, the wickedly curved barbs come too close for comfort, going for his eyes and belly. One skitters off his back and only his backplate saves him from having a chunk of meat gouged out of his shoulder.  

Okay, wrong proverb. Discretion is the better part of valor....

Marc backs slowly away, and now the others join in, keeping the thing off-balance. This thing seems resistant to the effects of iron - no sizzling, no smoking. Hell, maybe it's not Fae at all, just some kind of local animal.... The tails appear to be prehensile, as though they operate independent of the thing's eyes. Again and again they lash out; again and again they're just barely deflected, and now the reason for the thing's resistance becomes clear; what appeared at first to be skin now seems to be something akin to an insect's exoskeleton, a smooth shell with few joints to exploit. Blades bounce off or are turned aside, and the damned tails are in perpetual motion, seeking, questing....

Tannr roars as a barb bites deep into his hip. The thing throws its head back and the tail seems to pulse, pumping venom into the wound; but now the giant Hugh makes his move, grappling with the monster from behind, locking the tails down. Marc's axe flashes, severing the barb lodged in Tannr's flesh; fortunately there's a joint just where the barb joins the tail. Hugh roars, trying to crush the beast, but even his prodigious strength is unequal to the task; it's all he can do to restrain the death-dealing appendages, even with his mates striking a blow when and where they can. The cords in his neck stand out in hard relief and his muscles swell and then one of the tails whips free. It digs into his back, stabbing deep, and he gasps with the pain of it. Another breaks free, and then another; and then Hugh is lost, buried in lashing, flailing barbed tails....

The archers cover their backs as the team cuts their way through Underdark. passing into the woods seems to give them some breathing room. As the group moves cautiously forward, the child slips from Ob's back.

Feeling the slight weight gone, the gargoyle turns and holds out his hand. The child shakes its head.

"You can't stay here."

The child smiles. "I won't. I am going home."

"What do you mean?"

The child looks around. "I mean, I can go home now. The Priest and Guard kept me from using my magic. Now I can help others escape these people. I can find Ghaunt and..."

Ob touches the child's hair. "I am sorry. Ghaunt is gone. When we recued my sister, Ghaunt gave his life to help us."

Tears well in the child's eyes. A dark fleshed hand settles on the little one's shoulder. Ob looks up to find the pair from the dining hall. The child looks up, then smiles sadly at Ob.

"Then we will do what Ghaunt would have. We will help others get away." The small hand curls around Ob's finger. "Thank you Stone Dragon. May we meet again in better times."

The child looks up to the pair waiting behind it. "When you are ready, I will send you home."

They nod and Ob calls out to stop them. "Wait! Do you have a name?"

The child smiles, "Call me Link."

"You are male?"

The child laughs. "I can be whatever I want to be now. I am an elemental."

At Ob's confused expression the child begins to shimmer. "Right now... I am a Gate."

The shimmer broadens, engulfing the child and growing larger. The waiting pair clasps hands and runs through. The shimmer fades, shrinking until Link stands before them again. He grins at Ob. "Tell your sister, Bal-Char kills many things. For me, it... freed me. You gave me the freedom to use my true abilities. Tell her... I thank her."

The child begins to fade, becoming mist and then nothing. A soft voice sighs through the dead treetrunks.

be safe...

Three guards are down. Four more are trying to get around Ob when the door behind him opens. A knife whizzes past, burying itself in the throat of one guard, as a sword hacks through another. Ob roars again. the sound loud enough to shake walls.

His mind touches Tannr's. Bout time, hermano! Thought your amigos would like a little fun, so I didn't kill them all. Left some for the rest of you.

There is a whistle from behind them, A piping voice calls, "Draco! Draco! This way! Quickly!"

Ob edges backwards as Tannr's team pick off the guards, There is the sound of more feet in the hall. The child pulls a door wide. "This way. Leads out, can be locked from inside only. Priests use it on secret trips."

Ob looks down at the child. "I told you to get out." The kid grins. "I did. Then the Priest's personal servants came out and ran. I saw more guards come, I come back for you. Come! Hurry!"

Ob slips through, finding the hidden passage more than wide enough. He waits until the others have slipped past him, guards fast on their heels. Andy leans past and tosses something into the hall. He pulls the door shut and the child snaps a lock. There is banging on the other side and he begins to yell.

"Move! Move!"

They are a dozen running steps down the passage when something goes BOOM and the walls shake. Andy laughs merrily as Ob shakes his head.The mercenary shakes dust out of his hair, huge grin on his handsome face.

"One of Lilly's toys?"

The man shakes his head. "Nope. U. S. Military surplus. Good ol' frag grenades. Lilly wouldn't be thrilled if I brought one of her toys without her being here to watch it go boom."

The child moves through the group and shuffles down the hall. it isn't long before a small hand is pressing against the wall. There is a click and something moves. The child peeks out and motions, a finger to its lips signalling silence.

"Clear, but we are just past the Guard's Barracks."

As the others move past, a small hands reaches up and touches Ob's hand.

"I am glad you are real. Now I can die knowing Ghaunt's stories are real."

"You knew Ghaunt?"

The child nods. Ob watches the curly head bob, thinking of Chloe's glistening head of hair.

"Where will you go?"

"Home." The child smiles. "Death always takes you home."

Ob's eyes widen. "You want to die?"

The child's head shakes. The door eases closed behind them with a soft click. Ob looks around, then grabs the child and tosses it onto his back. "Hold tight to my spines." There is the sudden sound of fighting and Ob spreads his wings wide. With a shove from his back legs and a hard sweep of wings, Ob leaps skyward, drawing Allah's Light and his borrowed machete in one smooth move.

Tannr's men move into the guards with practiced ease. Ob watches from above, diving down to give aid where needed. The child yanks on his spines and Ob glances back, seeing guards emerging from the barracks. He lands with a thud, praying his little rider stays safe on his back. One face draws his eyes. With a growl, Ob begins to mow down the Drow in his way. Another sword fights by his side. Which of Tannr's men, he doesn't even look to see. His target is suddenly before him.

The guard looks up at him and laughs. His blade begins to dance, weaving before the dragon. He strikes once, twice, causing sparks to fly. The laughter dies as he strikes again, doing nothing more than chipping away stone dust. Ob flaps his wings, buffeting the guard backwards. Another guard catches him as he nearly trips. Ob smiles.

"I know you, *cabrĂ³n. You tortured my seester every time you could."

The guard narrows his eyes. "The redhaired bitch? I would have given that piece of Human Realm trash the best fuck of her life if the Priestess hadn't wanted her for Lolth. I would have made her scream." He smiles at the thought.

Ob's eyes glitter with ice. "She wouldn't scream for the likes of you. But you... you will scream for me."

A small voice wavers over his shoulder. "He... he was the Priest's favorite. He would force us while the Priest watched. The more we screamed, the more they both liked it..."

Ob growls and begins to sing softly. The tune is guttural and Allah's light begins to glow with a sickly light. Ob thrusts it through the guard's chest as he slices the machete through the other guard's throat. Allah's Light flares and the guard screams. Ob twists the blade. The child on his back shudders, but whispers more of what the guard had done in the Priest's name. Ob slowly withdraws Allah's Light. The guard crumples to the ground, and the child sings.

Magic gathers in a thick cloud. The Other guards fall back, watching not Ob, but the child on his back. The stone dragon backs away, Tannr's man keeping step. Something whips over his head, diving at the guards.

The child calls to Ob. "Go, Go... They will not follow right away. They see ghosts from their pasts... "

Arrows begin to rain among the fighters. Not one of Tannr's men are struck, while Drow fall around them by either stroke of sword or feathered flight. The way is suddenly clear and the team takes advantage of the opening.


After telling Tannr to abort and come home if things don't go as planned, Tori closes her link to him so as not to interfere with his concentration. She lets Tomas touch her surface thoughts only, knowing all too well what happens when she sleeps. All Tomas picks up is memories of watching cartoons with his Tante Tori.

The dream begins....  

She wakes in human form, arms chained wide above her head, legs spread wide, chained to the floor. Blood drips from her cut lip. She licks at the corner of her mouth, wincing. 

"Ah, You are awake." The voice causes a twisting in her gut. The arrogance, the utter contempt mixed with speculation leaves no guessing who it is... The Head Priest. 

"I decided to speak to the Priestess. Being a sacrifice is an honor, but I think she likes my idea better. You are unique. You take soooo much punishment. I think her favorite Warriors will like you very much." 

He steps in front of her and strokes his hands over her bare breasts. She shudders, flinching away. He smiles and bends his head closer. "Fight me. You know I like that." When she turns her head away, he grabs her face and forces a kiss, thrusting his tongue down her throat. She gags and he pulls away, laughing. Tori spits in his face and he casually backhands her, drawing fresh blood. 

"That's it! Show me that spirit. I won't let them break you too soon. Most of the Warrior caste likes a fighter. Rape is so much more fun that a docile piece of ass." 

She glares at him, green eyes flaring. 

"There it is... the sign that you aren't a pitiful human. I wonder... What would happen if we bred you? Would the offspring be able to change to stone as you do?" 

As he talks, the Priest pinches her nipple. When all she does is wince, he pinches harder, twisting. She yelps and he smiles. He motions to someone behind her. A servant moves to his side and divests him of his robes. The Priest is half hard, aroused by his taunting her. Once the robes are set aside, the boy kneels and begins to stroke the Priest's erection. The man grabs the boy's hair and forces his head to the growing shaft. Once the boy opens his mouth, the Priest shoves his cock deep, making the servant gag. As the boy chokes, the Priest laughs when Tori closes her eyes. 

"You, my little changeling, will be my personal whore. You will be the mother of a whole new breed of Warrior. And in between birthing brats for the Priestess, you will be chained to my bed. I will use you when and how I like." 

He shoves the servant away and shoves two fingers up her still dry channel. The Priest smiles cruelly.

"Well... since that didn't get you ready, I think I will apply the whips and clamps while my boy services you. I will teach you to enjoy pain and pleasure together, my pet." 

The servant boy moves in, sliding his hands over her mound. She bites her lip, fighting the sensations as the boy begins to play with her. A whimper escapes and then a scream as the whip snaps across her back, drawing blood.  This goes on and on until she is shaking. The boy moves away and a Guard takes his place before her. His shaft is thick, totally engorged from watching the servant pleasure her. He grins as she screams again. The Priest has reached around from behind and closed sharp toothed clamps on her nipples. The Guard leans forward to lick at the small specks of blood around the clamps. 

He looks over her shoulder at the priest. He grins at her and grips her hips lining himself up. The Guard shifts, trying to work himself into Tori's channel. She fights him, squeezing her muscles tight. The Drow laughs. She feels hands on her ass, spreading her cheeks. 

Breath hot on her neck, she hears the Priest whisper in her ear. "That's it, fight us. I am going to fuck your ass as this Guard and several others fuck you until you pass out." His tongue licks slowly along her throat. "I love the feel of your blood. It makes me even harder." He thrusts his hips, shoving against her tight ring. 

As the Priest and Guard shove their way into her unwilling body, Tori hears Tannr's voice. 

Sleep well more nightmares...

The scene fades, slipping away into nothingness. Tori waits, shaking inside. Moments pass and she reaches out to touch Tannr. Relief floods her at the image of the dead Priest. She begins to close off the link when Ob's battle roar echoes across from Tannr's end.  

GO! That's Ob's battle roar. Get out of there! Move Coppertop!

Tannr grins as Addley locks the door on the initiates and Hugh barricades it by rolling a rock, almost a boulder, in front of it. Only a very muffled sound could be heard from inside.

When Addley and Hugh return to the group Tannr signals for the men to don the robes they had found. Ob sends to Tannr..

I will follow in the shadows and be close by...

Tannr nods as the men line up and begin to move silently down the corridor. Tannr taps on the large ornate double doors at the halls end. Decorated with spiders and strange insect-like monsters Tannr feels his anger building. The carvings remind him vividly of Ardaras temple and her treatment of Tori.

A tall thin fae opens the door slowly and only enough to peer out of the room. Tannr sighs, A young fae...obviously not a warrior. Skin is dark but not blue or grey...  

Give him a choice hermano... Tannr hears Obs voice in his head.

Quietly and quickly Tannr makes his offer. “Step out in the hallway and live. Stay inside and I cant guarantee what will happen...”

Large brown eyes blink once and the fae turns for a split second from the door. Tannr senses the fae is only hesitating and holds Addley back, who is eager to get on to the battle. Suddenly the door opens a bit further and the fae quickly passes by the group hand in hand with a young girl. Tannr can only wonder briefly if the girl was a sister, a lover, because the doors are now open and no one attending them. The men slip in and Tannr glances up from his hood. The priest he wants is sitting at a massive table, carved from stone, the same creatures decorating the legs and edges as those on the doors. The remains of a odd smelling meal still on the table, the priest sipping a glass of wine. Two other priests sitting next to him and only four guards. Only four visible in here, Ob, do you see any outside? 

Only two...they must feel safe here...but I am sure they can call an army...

The priest looks up from his wine and sees the small group approach the table. “I thought I had dismissed you. Initiates are not to speak or disobey any request made of them during this period. I thought that was made clear to you on your arrival.”

“But I have a question...” Tannr never raises his head and asks in a tightly controlled voice. Few would recognize the danger in his tone but it puts Marc on edge and ready to act.

The priest stands and grips the edge of the table, his face turning red with outrage. “You are not to ask questions. It is forbidden..”

“But it is only one question. Your spells. We have heard of the dreams you can send to others. How do you do that? Does your spell last forever?” Tannr keeps his head covered and lowered.

The priest starts to grin, thinking his reputation has spread and conceited enough to like to think he is being complimented.

 “You are not permitted even a single question, but I will answer in this case. I cannot reveal my spells to initiates. Only higher ranking priests are permitted to practice any kind of magic. Spells last until the caster removes them or with the casters death... this is something you should know by now. Now leave. And send my servants back in... I have ...need for the wench...”

Tannr slowly approaches the table, his steps deliberate, his voice filled with barely controlled rage. “Thats good information to know....priest...” Tannr spits the word out. His hood starts to slip back, revealing coppery red hair. The priests eyes go wide at the sight.

“Remember me now?” Tannr reaches for the sword under his robe. The priest suddenly yells for the guards who instead of rushing to their masters aide slide into heaps on the floor, blood pooling around them. Andy and Addley having done their jobs well.

Tannr drops the robe and with a free hand reaches for his axe. In one motion the axe leaves Tannrs hand, spinning end over end. It smacks into the priest's hateful face, splitting the skull between the eyebrows with a slight diagonal list to the left; but it doesn't end there. Skin, muscle and bone part like the flesh of a mushroom around the steel blade. There is a scent, somewhere between the sour smell of acid and the throat-catching smell of something burning; and when the inertia of the throw has spent itself, the priest's head has been split to just above the chin. The edges of the cut seem to sizzle as if touched by acid, and the smell gets worse until the men have to raise a hand to their noses to stop the worst of it. Tannrs sword easily separates the split head from the neck in a geyser of blood.

“That was easy, Captain. Now what are we gonna do for fun?” Addley asks, disappointment plain on the slight mans face.

“Too easy..” adds Marc.

Tannr retrieves his axe, wiping the bloody edge on a cloth napkin laying on the table. He sends to Tori..  

Sleep well more nightmares...

As the men look around the silence is broken by a roar from the hall that rattles the walls and Tannr grins. “Spoken too soon Addley..” and the men rush out of the dining hall.

The sound of soft shuffling steps has Ob moving to cover the sight of the crouching warriors, Still hidden in the shadows, Ob watches a small figure hurry towards them, head bent, eyes scanning constantly. The figure hurries past the hallway, then pauses. Moments later a small child with curly hair is gazing up at Ob.

Beneath the loose robe and grubby appearance, it is hard to tell if the child is a boy or girl. A small hand reaches out slowly as eyes dart up and down the other corridor. gentle fingers trace scales as the gaze takes in spiralled horns and icy blue eyes.

"You are real..." the words are little more than a whisper. "You have to go... It is not safe here for you. If She finds out... or the Priests..." The child wraps a hand around one of his clawed fingers and tugs.

Ob glances behind him, then up and down the hall. He leans down, whispering to the child. "Shhhh. I will be careful. You did not see me." He can sense the others behind him. Someone is shifting slightly, moving to a better position in case the child betrays their position. As the child opens its mouth to answer, Ob touches the lips with the tip of a claw. "I will be careful. You should too. Will someone notice if you leave."

The child nods. "But I have free time once I am done."

Stroking a claw through tangled curls, Ob advises, "Get out of here as soon as you can." The child nods and hurries away. The Stone Dragon closes his eyes for a moment, casting a prayer to the Lady.  

Mother help us, and let no innocents come to harm.

He shifts slowly, moving back into place. Moments later the soft shuffle of feet is heard again, and the child is going the other way, arms laden with towels. One glance, a nod, the child mouths goodbye. Silence echoes as the shuffling steps fade away.

Ripples sparkle as the morning sun dances over the surface of the lake. Far below the surface, a slim body glides silently among freshwater seagrass. There is a pause and suddenly Eite breaches the surface, catching the edge of the dock and using it to pull herself out of the water. Ron hands her a towel as she shakes water out of her hair.

"What time is it?"

The fox grins, "Nearly eight. Want coffee?"

Eite nods. Since coming to this realm, she found herself hooked on the bitter brew. "Put a pot of water over for Keon. He'll want tea."

Ron pauses as he steps onto the houseboat's deck. "He's staying at," he pauses, looking around before continuing. "He's staying closer so he can take shifts with the other Fae."

Eite nods. Better to be cautious, one never knows. She wraps the towels around herself and follows her frequent guest. Catching the scent of fresh muffins and coffee, the half Drow's stomache growls. She laughs as Ron brings out a tray and sets it on a blanket on the deck.

"Ron... one day you will make some woman a wonderful wife."

The fox laughs, knowing she said it wrong to make him smile.

"It's ok Eite. I miss her, but I'm not... I'm ok. You do know I come here now so I can teach you how to be one of us, right?"

She grins, blinking her clear lids at him. "I'm not quite one of you." Without looking up, the redhead grins wickedly. "You better get dressed. The others are coming over to work on a project for class."

At the thought of his three best friends, Eite is up and gone, wet towel left behind. He calls after her. "Marc wouldn't care if you hung out nude, but I think Ty and Toby would be more than a little distracted."

The sound of a door slamming shut leaves him laughing.

A light touch of thought tickles Ob's mind. He knew it immediately. Tori's tap was something he had felt over many years, in many battle situations. Her touching him meant Tannr's thoughts were closed to her. The Gargoyle grins. The Human had learned fast how to throw up walls.

Ob turns his head, looking where Tannr crouches with his second. It takes a moment for him to catch the man's eye. When the red haired Viking cocks his head, Ob touches the center of his scaly forehead. Tannr nods, focusing inward. After a moment the man's lips curl into a smile and Ob slips away from Tori's touch.

The caress is warm, a kiss brushing along the side of Tannr's neck. Be safe Coppertop. Sun's up and I am going stone. Keon assured me that you will not be back while I am... unable to move. He said only an hour or two has passed for you, but the sun is high enough here I am fighting the change. There is a pause, the feeling of a laugh. Tomas says not to worry. he is watching me like he promised. I am in his backyard, where he and Ryan can watch over me. There is a brush of affection for the boys. So I am watched over by Batman and Robin, while my personal hero is risking himself for me and mine.

She sighs, a shuddering of emotion. Be safe Coppertop... If it comes down to you or him... fuck it and come home to me.

The men hunker down to wait for the initiates to return to their room. The plan was to barricade the door locking them in as soon as they returned from their meal. It was doubtful any noise they made would be heard, the walls were of thick heavy stones and brick, the door solid oak, at least a foot thick.

Marc and Tannr keep a short distance from the other men, discussing contingencies and their escape. Marc pauses for a moment then asks, “I know its not my business, but why this trip back to get the priest? It sounds like you gave them a hell of a beating when you rescued Tori..”

Tannr pauses, then nods. “Yeah, we did. But there are a couple that got away. And this particular priest...” Tannr shakes his head angrily. “If I can I will strangle him with my bare hands.” Tannr continues in a hushed voice. “Tori has been having these nightmares, not every night, but when she does its really bad. This priest..” Tannr spits the word out... “he was under orders from Ardara not to injure or mar her prisoner in any way. But he's a sadistic bastard. So he sends these 'dreams' to her. They are so realistic she thinks its happening to her, visions of torture, of degradation, of various painful and demeaning ways to die. And she cant wake up from it until the dream is over. She's terrified to sleep, never knowing if one of these dreams or visions will come to her. It needs to end...and it will end with that bastards death.”

Marc rests a hand on Tannrs shoulder, seeing how furious this made him.

“Then theres Ardaras threat to the children. A demifae saw her scrying... I just cant fathom these...these people...whatever they are. I know we have had our own run ins with them, but those were warriors, men used to fighting and torture. But their women are just as bad, if not worse. To even think about capturing women, breeding them to get more gargoyles, and the children....” Tannr shakes his head. “I know I have done things that I am not proud of, terrible things, but not to innocents...”

“You must love her a great deal. You risk much even coming here.” Marc says as he keeps an eye on the temple walkway.

Tannr nods. “I do. More than I ever thought possible. I know its a risk. Ardara would love to capture me and make me pay for rescuing Tori. But that priest has to die, even if I dont make it back out. She cant live forever with these nightmares. It will drive her insane..”

Marc glances back to his long time friend. “Do not worry mon ami. If you go down before the priest I will kill him. Just point him out...”

Addley looks over, his hearing keen, “Yeah.. .just point 'im out Capt'n. One of us will get him if you cant....”

Tannr smiles grimly at the light in Addleys eyes at the talk of killing. He knows if he doesnt make it out, the priest will die anyway, and Tori will be free of the evil that visits her in her sleep.

Eira stretches and sighs before she sits down at the desk in her room and checks her email. The message from Jack makes her smile...  

Hi, how ya doin? 

Things here in Exton remain interesting, as in "hide under the bed" interesting. As if things here aren't crazy enough, some of us are going to beard the Drow in their lair but you don't need to worry about that... 

I'm staying home, under the bed... 

How do your studies go? Have you been re-possessed? 

I don't even like the idea of someone else being in my body, let alone my head (though there is plenty of empty space up there). 

Of course, there's only one point of entry, and the bare idea makes me cringe, and then I hide under the bed some more. 

 Hurry back home so I can get out from under the bed and get into it with you. 

Love you lots, gorgeous 



Eira grins and starts to write back, excited to tell Jack that she would be home soon

Tannr and his group are barely past the Gate before Star is looking quizzically at me. "I'm surprised you're not going with him."

"My place is here, protecting my wife and children," I say firmly. "Besides, a small group can move faster and get away quicker."

She stares at me with those too-knowing eyes, eyes that peel my excuses away in layers. "You could have been part of the group if you'd wanted to. Tannr would have left one of his men behind if you'd volunteered."

"That's true - but it was Tannr who told me I needed to stay here with my family."

"There's something else, though, isn't there?" Her eyes are unnerving in their unwinking intensity.

"Well, it seems to me like Tannr is taking things to an unnecessary, even dangerous extreme. If Tannr was only risking his own life, that'd be bad enough; but he's taking five others with him to Svartalfheim - one of the most dangerous places in all the Worlds - endangering their lives as well as his own... and for what? Because this priest taunted Tori, humiliated her, he deserves to die? If I had him here, in the human realm, I'd beat him bloody, but I wouldn't kill him. I certainly wouldn't ask anyone else to risk themselves for my vengeance."

"You don't know," she says wonderingly.

 "Know what, love?"

"A sacrifice has to be perfect, undamaged. To offer the Goddess a damaged sacrifice is a terrible blasphemy - and Lolth is unforgiving. The priest couldn't harm Tori physically, but what he did might have been even worse.

He sent evil dreams to her, dreams of horrible, degrading, agonizing death in every form. There was no waking up, either - not until after the dream concluded. After just a few nights, she feared sleeping more than she feared being awake, but the stress tired her out and she'd sleep - and then she'd dream and wake up screaming. And since it wasn't doing her any real, physical harm, it wasn't breaking the rules.

But it was a form or torture - a torture of the mind and spirit instead of the body, but just as real. He deserves death for that, if for no other reason."

I stare. I've never heard my wife speak so eloquently, or so ruthlessly. "You've certainly changed," I say, trying to make a joke of it.

"I've had to."

Re-grouping near an outcropping of large rocks Tannr hands out the dark robes to the group. Andy takes his, wrinkling his nose and passes one over to Hugh.

“This'll barely cover Hugh...What do we do about the dragon?”

“Smear some mud on him, will change his smell too and make him uglier...” Andy offers.

Marc adds in a hushed voice, “The mud is probably poisonous, like everything else here...”

“Or its shit...not mud but poisonous shit, probably from some fat ugly ass poisonous creature. I aint touching it..”

Tannr grins at Addley and sends to Ob, Sorry Bro.. I wont let them cover you in that crap, whatever it is...

Pandora was taking a break from the kids; sitting in her office going over the tavern books... the business was booming as usual. Having a unique place for the people of otherworlds was  not something to be found around every corner; and the tavern's reputation had spread. Monty had been interviewing people to take over doing some of the cooking... he wanted more time to spend with Ike during the hours she was awake. He would be the morning and lunch cook, and get things laid out for the night help.

Pandora was sipping tea and thinking about where Ob and the others were; when she felt a shudder of repulsion... it was from Ob !! ...immediately she started to panic, then she heard a quiet whisper from Ob. "Bruha, its okay,these damn bugs in underdark are just crawling all over and nasty... believe me; we will not tarry here any longer than we must. I am waiting for the others to return from scouting, didn't realize I was so open to you... relax my little vixen of a witch ."

Pandora felt a soft brush across her cheek as if his lips had gently kissed her.... "I'm  closing my mind tighter; others might feel me too."

With that whisper he was gone... he shut tight his mind to concentrate on the task at hand; and she understood the need... she closed the books on her desk and went downstairs to find the children busy eating fresh cut fruit at the counter. Pandora pulled up a chair to join them and Chloe swiftly fed her a piece of melon... laughing at the juice running down her mother's chin.

The mists have hidden him so far. But Ob knows, to any resident of this foul place, he obviously is an Outsider. He edges closer to the temple and hunkers down, stretching out his wings and opening his jaws wide in a fearsome display. Unlike the others, the bugs don't bother him as much. His flesh is living stone so their stings and bites don't penetrate. What does bother him is the feeling of them crawling all over his body. He represses a shudder and waits, watching silently for the others to return.

Tannr edges closer to the temple, keeping an eye on Addley, making sure he doesnt start a blood bath just for shits and giggles. He sees several Drow move down an open hallway of sorts and head inside. The smell of roasting meat makes Tannrs stomach growl before a heavy wooden door is slammed shut.

Not that I would touch anything that came from this godforsaken hell hole.... 

Watching silently Tannr starts to wonder about the room or area of the temple the men had left in their hurry to get to their meal. He gets Addleys attention and the pair moves towards the walkway. The stones are slippery and damp, like everything else in Underdark and the smell even here in a temple is almost overpowering. The added stench from incense that swirls and moves as if alive almost makes Tannr gag. The priests incense was not made to appeal to Drow or human. Spider pheromones along some other equally nasty ingredients was thought to bring favor with Lolth.

They dont meet a soul on their silent trek down the corridor and through a heavy door at the end. The room is dark and musty, like everything else. Tannr feels his way along a damp wall until his eyes grow accustomed to the dim light. He looks to Addley and sees him grin, teeth gleaming white in the darkness. Tannr follows the mans gaze to a darker spot on the far wall. Squinting, Tannr finally makes out what has Addley grinning. A row of pegs and on each peg a dark robe hanging from its hood.

There's a bit of a delay while the group gets their equipment together. Tannr turns to Keon at the last minute. "Be sure you reset the Gate after we go through. If the Drow find out we came this way, they just might decide to use the same Gate to come back here. I don't want them getting anywhere near Tori."

Keon nods. "Not to worry, laddie, I'll do my part. Now you get going and put the fear of Herne into those Drow bastards."

"Don't you mean Thor?" And with a grin and a wink, Tannr leaves to join the group.

Star's Archers scout ahead and Marc takes point behind them. The big man moves with the silence of his namesake, never putting a foot wrong. It takes about forty-five minutes to penetrate into Underdark; the change is immediately perceptible. The place is wreathed in a dank, low-lying mist; the vegetation is flabby, almost fungoid; insects are everywhere, crawling and slithering on the ground and hovering in the fetid air. The Archers provided the group with an ointment that they said would keep the worst of them at bay, for like most things in this world, the insects are all poisonous to one degree or another.

Once they're well into the noisome region, the Archers drop back to give last-minute directions to Marc and Tannr; then they vanish into the noxious mist.

The rest of the group presses forward cautiously, alert for anything. Tannr is aware that each member of the group has his own reasons to hate the Drow; he's seldom been part of a group so united in its purpose.

It seems like they've been walking for hours; the constant stench oppresses their nostrils, the omnipresent fog makes progress slow, sometimes thickening so that visibility is limited to no more than six inches in front of their noses; and there's a wearying wave of the hands to keep the bugs off. They have to shuffle along for the same reason, to sweep the loathsome creatures from their path. Let the ointment prove to be ineffective on just one creature within this place and -

Marc shakes his head. Best not to think of that.

The temple suddenly looms up at them out of the fog. Marc gives the signal to stop, then makes a cautious circuit of the place. He returns perhaps twenty minutes later.

His voice is a keen cutting whisper. "There are two guards, one on either side of the door, positioned maybe two feet from the entrance. They have spears and swords and probably knives. There are another half-dozen positioned around the temple at irregular intervals, making good use of natural cover. I think we should take the outermost guards first and work our way inward. By the time we get inside the temple, they'll have no help to call for."

Tannr nods. "Do what you have to do. Keep it quiet."

 Marc nods and motions to Andy and Addley. Addley looks dejected; he can't use his beloved knives on this mission - too great a chance that someone might cry out. Andy shows nothing at all except that same empty smile that's fooled so many. After some whispered instructions, they set out together.

Andy is the first to find a guard. He wonders bemusedly how the man would react if he stepped out and spoke to him. The temptation is great, but he squelches it; he knows too well what Marc would do to him if he fucked up this mission. He withdraws his blowpipe with agonizing slowness, inserts a dart, levels it, and -

The sound is quieter than a cough. The guard crumples without a sound, his hand going to his throat in a futile final gesture. Andy waits till all movement has ceased, then steps forward and drags the body into a swampy patch he'd noticed earlier. It sinks without a ripple upon the tarry-black surface. Andy grins and continues the hunt.

Elsewhere, Addley moves silently through the darkness, a darkness equalled only by that within his own reptilian brain. It's as though he's attuned to this darksome land, for his steps lead him unerringly to those beings that have been designated as "prey" tonight. The cool mist caresses him, the soft sucking mud is no impediment to his progress. There, to the left! His heart leaps within him, a savage grin stretching his lips as he reaches for the unaccustomed weapon. He holds it up, examining it closely. How can something this inoccuous be as lethal as they claim? He's tempted to throw it away and use one of his knives, those friends who never fail him; but in the end, his curiousity gets the better of him. The blowpipe coughs, the guard collapses. It's strangely unsatisfactory; where is the blood, the thrashing, the awareness in the eyes as the victim realizes he's dead? Where is the fading of the light that makes this whole experience so delicious? Addley is puzzled and frustrated. Death should not be this clean, this quiet....

By this time Andy has dispatched another guard, noting with grim satisfaction that the bodies do indeed shrivel up like flies sucked dry by a spider. The cadaver weighs almost nothing as he drags it to the sucking bog.

While all this is going on, Marc has taken out two guards with speed and efficiency. Andy, he muses, is an emotional black hole; he has no emotions, feels nothing whatsoever; but like any good predator, he can simulate his prey very well. Addley is a pure sociopath who is kept under control only by the fact that he gets to kill more working with the Ravens than he would if he pursued his amusements elsewhere; and he realizes that getting paid to kill adds an extra jolt of excitement to the game.

Marc is like neither of them. For him, killing is simply a matter of "the greatest good of the greatest number". He's never learned to enjoy it, but it doesn't keep him awake at nights either.

There is a strangled shriek as Addley finds his second victim. He snaps his head back and his blade bites deep, cutting back to the spinal cord, hot blood jetting over his fingers, spraying into his face. He inhales it like ambrosia, his body quivering with the ecstasy he only finds at such times. He lets the bdy slip to the ground, his body thrumming like a high-tension line, his eyes rolled up into his head.

The thrill of the kill wears off - too quickly, as always - and Addley disposes of the body in a natural sump. Between the water and the things that live here, there won't be much left come morning... or whatever passes for morning in Underdark.