Monday, July 23, 2012

Rowan sits in the sunny kitchen holding her coffee cup, stunned. Her hands started to shake and she quickly hid them under the table even though there was no one to see other than the sylphs who were bustling around the kitchen.

Well, what did you expect? Not many would even consider a relationship with someone who has so little time to devote to it...

Raina enters the kitchen and sends the sylphs scattering. “Creepy little shits. I dont know how the Sorcerer and Silk can stand having them underfoot all the time. Worse than kids...or puppies...or...” She falls silent when she notices the haunted look on Rowans face, the trembling hands as she brings them out from under the table to her mug of coffee. Raina silently pours her coffee and joins Rowan at the table.

“Whats wrong? Tannr and Ob seem to be doing better....” Raina knew Rowan would never hide anything about her brothers condition from her, unless of course Tannr asked her to. In which case I will be beating his ass as soon as he is better....

Rowan turns her face to the window and takes a deep ragged breath trying desperately to check the tears she feels threatening.

Reaching across the table Raina takes one of Rowans hands and opens herself to feel the emotions. Sadness, regret, loneliness, a jumble of conflicting feelings, Raina knew immediately what the problem was.


Rowan nods and the tears slip down her cheeks.

Raina grabs a clean kitchen towel from the rack and hands it Rowan. She sits silently, not sure if the healer would want to talk to her or not.

 “Thank you...” Rowan wipes her cheeks and tries to smile. “I really should have seen this coming. I have no time to devote myself as completely as I should to a man or a relationship. I just hope he doesnt think I took advantage of him...or anything like that. I dont think I mislead him in any way, but he seemed in so much pain when he left. I wonder if he has spoken to Pandora...”

The tears start again and Raina isnt sure what to say, knowing that sometimes there just arent the right words no matter how hard one wishes there was.

Traeger had been staying in touch with Pandora and Rowan by phone; prepared to go and join his magick with theirs if needed. When Pandora called to tell him Ob was feeling better, and Tanner was moving a little, he breathed a sigh of relief...Pandora's assurance that everything was under control cemented an idea that had been going through his mind.

He loved Rowan, but realized as much as they enjoyed each other; she was never going to commit to a relationship with any man on a long term basis.

He had been thinking that it would be good to have clay from the gargoyles homeland's for emergencies, just as they had just experienced with Ob....and it would put some distance between him and Rowan.

If he was going to move on in life he needed to find his kindred spirit, he had never enjoyed solitude... having been married to Pandy's mother from an early age he was used to having a companion to talk with... to just know was there with him.

He decided to take the plunge and called and got his tickets laid out for the following week; Ob and Tanner should be out of danger by then. Roxi was in the shop and he called her in.... "Roxi; I have been really pleased with your work,and your dedication to the shop and the people we hold dear as friends and family." Roxi stammered... "Thank you, I love it here, its home," she blushed furiously at his compliment.

"Glad you feel that way, because I am going out of country to visit the gargoyles homelands and send back clay to be stored for emergencies... Obsidian's injuries and the ones Tori has had made me aware we are not prepared as we should be... so I am leaving you in charge while I'm gone." Roxi's mouth opened, but no words came out... "I know you can handle it," Traeger continued, "and you have Pandora and Jeb for backup if you need them."

Roxi stammered... "Thank you for your confidence in me; I'll not let you down." Traeger walked over and hugged her... "You're like another daughter to me, I know you won't, and I can walk away without a care."

Once Roxi left, Traeger got in his vehicle to visit the manse. He was waved through the wards and paused to put his hand on a sleeping dragon's shoulder as he passed into the house; he wanted to talk to Rowan before he started packing for his trip.

Traeger found Rowan in the kitchen drinking a much needed cup of coffee; and sat with her to hear her update on the two injured men. "Rowan, I have been thinking about going abroad to get clay from the gargoyles homelands and send it back; this last incident with Ob made me aware we don't have everything we need to handle injuries to our loved ones."

Traeger was pleased Rowan agreed it was necessary...  "I am also going because I need to put some distance between us, I have feelings for you I can't overcome with you around; and I know your dedication to your work will never let you commit to a companion in life.  Our lovemaking is fantastic, but there is more for some people...I need more; I need someone that needs me."

Traeger looked into Rowan's eyes;and the compassion in them told him she understood... but she couldn't be that woman for him. Traeger continued... "We will always be friends, and maybe more on occasion as we have been; but I have no hold on you.

I am leaving in a few days; just waiting for Ob to waken before I leave... if there is anything you need brought back let me know." He bent and kissed her as he got up to leave; feeling a tug at his heart as he let go of his dreams with her.

Ryan puts down his sandwich and gazes at the dragon gargoyle where he lies on a stone bench. He chews slowly, listening to the others chatter away. Gracie watches as he stands and walks over to examine the stone creature. Pandora looks up from her book and smiles at the little boy. His hands begin to move in a dance of motion, moving faster than Pandora can follow.

 "Ryan, you are going too fast for me. Can you slow down?"

He nods, thinking a moment. He turns and looks at the group still sitting on the blanket. Gracie is watching them, her sandwich forgotten. She smiles broadly and runs across the grass to join her friend and aunt.

"Tante Pandy, I can tell you what Ry says."

The boy nods emphatically. His hands begin to dance again and Gracie watches them closely.

"He is askin if Chloe's papan is awake in there, or is he sleeping. Why isn't Oncle Ob waking up? Oncle Tannr has been out of bed. Why are his horns broken? Did that happen in his fight with the scorpionman? Why hasn't he healed himself?" Gracie pauses, putting her hands over Ryan's to stop his questions.

"What do you mean Ry? Oncle Ob can't heal himself." Her eyes turned to Pandora. "Can he?"

 Ob is suddenly aware of the touch of the little ones. Pandora is also there. Every one of them has the same thought.

Ryan pulls his hands away from Gracie's. They begin to move again. Gracie translates for her aunt. "Ry's maman told him a story. It was about a stone dragon who came to their homeland to hunt an Unseelie Sidhe. She did some bad things... broke the Queens' laws, came to this world to steal children, hurt lots of people. There was a big battle. Many warriors became heroes. Many warriors were dying. Then the stone dragon brought his sword of light and song among those hurt. He sang a song of comfort. The notes danced among the moans and screams of pain, pulling them into the song. Those he touched with the light began to heal.Those about to die got better. He didn't completely heal them. He gave them a chance."

Her lips purse and Gracie shrugs at Ryan. "He says his maman told him that Oncle Ob is the stone dragon in the story. She told him that Lord Keon is the Dark Sidhe the story talks about. Is it true Tante Pandy?"

Before Pandora can respond, Ob touches the little one's thoughts. It wasn't that glorious. It was... Yes, I did help heal the people in the hospital. His mind touches the children, finding he can reach Mera, Ryan, and Ru through his kin. Bruha... I have not felt the sword pulling at me, but... Sing with me?

The words roll through his mind, touching Pandora's. She begins to sing, echoing his undulating notes. The children listen, soon singing along. Ryan's hands dance, mimicking the rise and fall of the music. Magic begins to gather, flowing between Pandora and her daughter, Teri reaches upwards. tracing the magic with his little hands. Ru croons softly The others raise their voices, singing to the trees and sunshine.

A warmth builds in Ob's chest, pulsing in time with the music. It grows, absorbing the magic that Pandora directs toward it. a soft gleam shines between Ob and the bench. The soft light ripples, growing brighter as it moves through Ob's stone form. The jewel like flecks in Ob's stone form glow from within, glittering in the sunlight. Dust shifts from his wings as they moves slowly. They unfurl to their full length, then slowly close, settling evenly over his scaled back.

The magical light reverses, creeping back along Ob's stone form until it settles in his chest. The song drifts away on an errant breeze. Ob sighs softly, as the glow ebbs. Pandora caresses his mind, her fingers stroking over his broken horns. Chloe's hand slips into hers. Ob's mind is somnolent, drifting without the constant background pain.

"Is Pa'pa better?"

Pandora smiles at her daughter, gives her smile to the other children. "We will see if he wakes tonight."

Eira takes her seat on the plane and sends a text to Jack before they take off..

Only another 3 hours, I cant wait to see you, among other things...

As the flight attendant instructs everyone to fasten seat belts and the engines roar to life, Eiras mind is elsewhere. She gazes out the window and tears fill her eyes. Saying goodbye to Sybil and Saint was so much harder than she thought it would be. The medium had arranged a going away dinner for her which Jeanette attended. The evening had been fun, the women talking of other things that were important to them, not just Eiras studies. Saint had taken a spot near Eiras feet and stayed there most of the evening.

When Jeanette got ready to leave, she gave Eira a long hug and pressed a small cloth bag into her hand. “You keep this close to you. Inside is powerful magic, special stones, powders, it will protect you and allow you to contact your guardian angel.”

Eiras eyes went wide, “Did you make it?”

Jeanette nodded, her expression serious at first, then her face split in a wide grin. “I want to hear all about your first night back home. Call me... love you...” and she was gone.

Saying goodbye to Sybil and Saint proved much more difficult and Eira couldnt stop the tears. Sybil hugged her, kissed her head, and told her to stop, which had Eira smiling through the tears.

Sybil handed Eira a card. “Here are my numbers, the house phone and my private cell. Call me any time with any questions or problems. I will do my best to help you. Enjoy your young man. Bring him to meet me sometime...”

“I will..” Eira promised. She hugged the woman who started as her teacher and ended up her friend then hugged Saint, took a deep breath and headed for her plane.

Her thoughts coming back to the present, Eira sighs. This is going to be the longest flight in history....

"Ït looks like it might take a long time, but Tannr's gonna be fine."

You have to know these men to notice the signs of relief. The loss of Hugh hit everyone hard; for all that he was a taciturn sort, he was kind to his friends and well-liked. Tannr was a popular leader and a hell of a soldier. Losing him might have shut down the mens' will to fight; they all know that being a merc means you come with an expiration date. Mostly you try not to think about it, just focus on the mission at hand. Some deaths, though, aren't so easy to get past....

Marc sits and drops into a reverie. He wonders if the redheaded healer will call him. He wonders if he has anything to offer such a woman. He's a plain blunt man, not overly handsome or eloquent, and his manners have been shaped by the harsh realities of war. Where did he get the balls to think a woman like that might take an interest in him?

Andy walks by and notices Marc's absorption. The con artist can read people; it's part of his line, and he knows Marc very well indeed. He sidles up with a grin, speaking, "Thinking about the healer? Fine figure of a woman, that one, and looks to be as fiery as our own little firecracker."

From across the room, Lily hears and flips him off.

Tori returns to the room after her meal and shower to find Tannr standing by the window. Marc sees the storm brewing in her eyes and says his goodbyes, saying he would be back and bring Lily to visit.

As the door closes Tori moves towards the window. “Tannr, what the hell are you doing? Please let me help. You knew I would be right back...”

“I can manage Red.” Tannr grabs the back of a chair for balance.

“But I want to help. You helped me when I needed it.”

“I know...but I can manage..” Tannr wobbles a bit as he lets go of the chair and heads for a nearby couch.

“You damn stubborn Viking... Dont be an idiot, you need to rest and heal..” Tori stamps her foot. “I hate this..”

“Oh great... I risk my life and now you hate me...” Tannr says, only half teasing.

“Nooo... I love you... I hate this... this... situation. I hate that you got hurt because of me... I hate not sharing a bed...” Toris voice cracks and Tannr sees the tears gathering in her green eyes.

“Come here Red..” Tannr stands and pulls her close. “We are both exhausted, frustrated.. I'll go back to bed if you come with me...” Tannr kisses Toris neck slowly, taking in her scent, the feel of her skin under his lips.

“I shouldnt, your wound..”

“Damn the wound! I dont care. What I care about is us.. and I need you next to me...”

Sometime later Rowan starts to enter the room and then stops. Tori is curled up in bed with Tannr, her head resting on his shoulder, Tannrs arms around her. She smiles as she backs out of the room... she mutters softly to herself, "Another step in the if we can just get the iron and venom under better control..."

Tara slips out of her chair in the large kitchen of the manse where she had been nibbling on some strawberries that one of the gnomes had brought in from the garden. She grabs her doll and heads upstairs, just missing Rowan and Tori. She slips quietly into Tannrs room and comes to a dead stop when she sees Marc.

No one sees her at first and she hears Marc telling Tannr in a hushed voice about the battle, who was injured, and something about someone being buried. She can feel Tannrs sadness when the men were talking about someone named Hugh. Her lavender eyes huge she clutches her doll closer. Tannr catches sight of the small movement and smiles.

Following Tannrs gaze, Marc watches as Tara comes closer to the bed and he asks, *“Petit bonjour. Comment vas-tu?

 **“Je vais bien. Je suis venu pour voir mon oncle.” Tara sits on the bed, between the two men who exchange a grin at her possessiveness with her uncle.

She looks from one to the other, “I'm sorry about your friend. So's Tomi and the other kids.”

“Thank you Sweetness.” Tannr pulls the little girl close for a hug. “Do you know where your Tante Tori is?” “Rowans making her eat and take a bath.” Tara wrinkles her nose and the men arent sure if she disapproves of taking baths or thinks her aunt was in dire need of one.

“I have to go. Papan is taking me home soon.” Another hug for her Uncle and she turns to Marc. “Adieu..”

As Tara stands there is a soft knock at the door and Alise enters. “There you are. Papan is almost ready. Your brother is about to burst, he has missed you.” Alsie looks to Tannr and Marc. “I hope she isnt bothering you. Can I get you anything?”

“Shes no bother at all and I am fine. Just tired of this bed.... Tara, will you bring the other kids next time you come to visit?”

Tara nods and giggles. “They all want to see you too, 'specially Tomi...” She looks to her mother as they head towards the door, “Maman, can Uncle Tannrs friend turn into a cat? Uncle Keon can turn into a hound..”

Alise had to stifle the giggle she feels especially after hearing the choking sound coming from Marc as he chokes down laughter. “I dont know ma petite. Lets go ask papan...”

*Hello little one. How are you?

**I am fine. I have come to see my Uncle

A knock draws Tori's attention from fussing over Tannr. She finishes adjusting his blanket and crosses the room to open the door. She isn't surprised to see Marc standing behind Rowan. The healer steps past Tori as she tells her "Tannr just fell asleep."

Rowan nods and starts checking tubes. Tori motions for Marc to come further into the room. The Gargoyle looks paler than usual, thinner. Her eyes seem larger and almost haunted. A greyness tinges her pale skin and there are dark smudges beneath her eyes.

"How's Tannr?" Marc looks past her to where his Commander lay sleeping.

Tori looks at the bed, sighing deeply. "Better..."

Marc follows her as she drifts back to Tannr's bedside. He watches as she gently strokes her fingers over the blanket.


He moves closer as Tori makes room for him. She looks up at the monitors and shakes her head. "Rowan is better to ask. Tannr is better, but not making as much progress as they hoped." She looks at Marc. "How is everyone else? Tannr will want to know."

Something flits through Marc's eyes and Tori half smiles. She has seen that expression many times in the past. Before marc can say anything, she waves a hand. "Better to report to Tannr. If you wait just a bit, he will wake up. He never sleeps long..." Her words taper off as Tannr groans.

"Like I said, if you are willing to wait, he will wake up soon."

Rowan calls her name and Tori sighs. "I am about to be scolded."

The healer picks up a sandwich that hasn't been touched and shows it to the gargoyle. Tori shrugs. "I'm fine. I am just not hungry."

Rowan looks at Tannr. She takes Tori by the arm and escorts her to the door, saying. "We are going to the kitchen and you are going to eat something more than coffee and toast." When Tori opens her mouth to argue, Rowan cuts her off. "First, If you don't, I will get Stoney to carry you down and sit on you until you eat. Second, Marc is here." She looks meaningfully at Marc as she scolds Tori. "I understand you have not left this room for more than ten minutes at a time. Marc will make sure Tannr does not fall out of bed, or try to walk without help. And third... you need a bath... when was the last time you did more than wash in the sink."

As she pushes a reluctant Tori out the door, she nods to Marc. "I think I can keep her out of here for maybe half an hour. If you need us, just shout. We'll know."
"I'll be fine."

"You're an idiot. That wound is more than a week old and it just keeps bleeding. Where it's located, something could have punctured a kidney or angled down and hit your guts. I'm just a field medic, you need to see a real sawbones." Lily planted her feet and glared. "Or you can do nothing and drop over dead a month from now. Cause of death - stupidity."

Marc turns to glare at Addley, encountering nothing more than a raised eyebrow. He switches to Andy. "Don't look at me, bro, she's the closest thing we have to a doctor. If she says you need to see a doctor, see a doctor."

"Look, we can do this one of two ways," Lily says, eyes hot. "You can either go to the doctor or I can beat the hell out of you and make you go to the doctor. Your call."

Marc's lips twitch and Lily glares back. It's not an idle threat - for all that Lily is five-foot-nothing and probably weighs less than a hundred pounds, her strength is augmented by chaos energy and she's a helluva lot stronger than she looks. As the only woman in the group, she could make his life miserable by passing him over when she chooses her sex partners. After a month, he'd do anything she asks, just to get back in her bed.

So he might as well do what she says now and spare himself a beating and enforced celibacy.

"Fine." He glares, making it clear he's doing this under duress. "Find out who Ob and his people use and set me up an appointment."

Rowan is still up at the Manse, caring for Tannr and Ob. That night Marc makes his first visit to the gloomy old pile, escorted by Stoney. Gnimaor is playing doorman tonight and he lowers the wards when they're within half a dozen steps of the gate. A sylph takes over then, leading the two to the infirmary.

Rowan is there, already gloved, with a lab coat over her jeans and tee. "Take off your shirt and have a seat,"she says without preamble. "I'll be with you in just a minute."

She speaks quietly with Stoney, updating him on Ob and Tannr's conditions, then turns back to Marc. Her eyes flare briefly as she sees his naked chest. "Well," she says lightly, "this job does have some perks."

"Oh? What would that be?"

"I get to see lots of good-looking guys without their shirts." She winks. "And sometimes in less than that."

Marc stares, then laughs heartily. "Well, you have a sense of humor at least."

"Comes with the territory," she says, examining the wound first with a high-intensity lamp and then with her penlight. "Seeing people torn up inside and out, you either learn to laugh or you crack. Well, this is interesting... looks like there's something still in here."

"Can you get it out?"

"Probably. Lie down on the table, will you? Make yourself comfortable as you can... you need to lie still for me."

Marc arranges himself on the too-narrow table while Rowan busies herself with the equipment she needs. "Okay - Marc, is it? This is going to be cold and it might sting, just for a sec." There is the hiss of an aerosol and his skin goes numb. "Okay, now you shouldn't feel much more than pressure... just lie still... there!"

She leans over to look into his eyes. "How's it going? Any pain?"

"No, I'm fine."

"Good. Now we're getting to the nitty-gritty. Just lie still for me and I'll give you a lollipop when we're done." Rowan moves the lamp to focus on the affected area, a deep cut just above the kidney. "You got lucky. An inch lower...." She probes with a pair of long-handled forceps. "Okay... well, you're stuck in there good and tight, aren't you? Easy... easy...." She finds the angle she needs and slowly draws the object into the light. "Ick."

"Something the matter?"

"Just that you've got a nice little infection going where this thing was lodged." She brings the object over where he can see it. It's a steel square, rusty and grimy, garnished with blood and pus. "Want a souvenir?"

"I'll pass."

"Okay, now I need to clean this up and then the worst of it will be done. Stay still...." She cleans and irrigates the wound, repeating until she's satisfied, then packs and dresses the wound.

"You'll need to pack and dress the wound every day for about a week. Come back and see me then and I'll see how things go."

Marc tries to nod, but he's still lying flat. "Oh, sorry... you can sit up now."

By the time he's seated, she's over at the cabinets, putting together a package that rattles.

"Here," she says, handing him a bottle."One a day, every day till they're gone."

"What do I owe you?"

 "Just take better care of yourself. The man who owns this house is paying for everyone's treatment, which is mostly just the meds."

 "Damn good of him." He searches her eyes. "Are you sure there's not something I can do to repay you?"

"Actually, there is. Pull down your pants."

His eyebrows arch. "Excuse me?" She grins and holds up a hypodermic. "Tetanus shot. Drop 'em and bend over."

The injection done, Rowan tells him he can get dressed. For the first time he notices the signs of stress, the fine lines around her eyes and mouth, and he decides.

"Look, how about you let me take you to dinner sometime? No pressure... just a chance to get away from things for awhile, maybe de-stress a little."

She studies his face seriously, then one corner of her mouth quirks up. "I'll think about it."

"Okay, I'll be bunking down at the Tavern if you decide to take me up on it." He scribbles his cell number on the back of a prescription pad.

She hands him a card. "There are numbers here if you run into any complications. The phones here are manned day and night - don't hesitate to call."

He smiles when he sees that one of the numbers is written in ink - and out to the side, one word.


The food is good. At least she knew the food was good... it just tasted like cardboard in her current sensory situation. Picking at the food on the tray, Tori stares at the grey shading of her pale skin. A heavy sigh escapes her lips. She breathes deep and takes a swig of the strong coffee someone thoughtfully provided.  

I will not continue to fall apart... I will not continue to fall apart...

 Her gaze follows Rowan as she moves around Tannr until she intercepts Alise' lavender eyes. They stare at each other for a few moments until Tara reaches up to tug at her mother's hand. Tori lowers her eyes to her tray and takes another sip, making sure her shields are up tight. She feels a nudge at her walls and tightens them even more. Behind her there is a rapid exchange of French and she hides another sigh.

The weight of a hand on her shoulder doesn't surprise her. Rather, she has been expecting it.

 "I am fine."

Her brother bends his knees, lowering his long frame so he is face to face with her. His long black hair is hanging loose, a style he wore when they were nothing but four Gargoyles trying to make it in a Human world. He stares at her for a few moments, tucking it behind his ears. She closes her eyes, fighting more tears.

"You lie. And... you are doing it badly."

"Shut... up."

"Your walls are tight. Your skin is grey. There is grey in your hair spikes... and... Mon Deiu! You cried emeralds! How the hell you cried emeralds with ruby fire lines... never mind that now. But..." he shakes his head, hair slipping out from behind his ears. "You cried gemstones..."

Her gaze meets his for the first time. Stoney stares at her eyes. "Tori, your eyes have grey in them. You are trying to rein in your emotions. Don't. I remember all too well what it was like when that maniac werewolf had Alise. I could only touch her mind to mind. You have Tannr here, right in front of you. Let your human heart help you through this, don't go Gargoyle and block your emotions. True, Alise wasn't hurt as severely as Tannr is, but he is in the best hands. You know that."

He touches her cheek, cupping Tori's narrow face in his large hand. "He will not think less of you for your tears. Neither will any of us. *Petite sœur... He loves you, he needs you. Be true to both of you. Who knows... your tears may be what he needs, or perhaps knowing you cry for him will let him know the depth of your devotion."

She closes her eyes for a moment, reaching out to touch Ob for just a moment before touching Tannr's mind in a caress. "Ob is..."

"Ob lives. He has gone stone, and will probably stay that way for several days. His wing was..." He swallows. "His wing was torn from his back, but they managed to clean out anything not Ob." He grins. "He will not be sporting his long dreds when he wakes. Silk had to break them off to get enough matching gravel to make the healing mud."

Her eyes widen. "How short?" A slim hand reaches up to touch her own spiked do.

"Not as short. His horns are about ten inches long, so his hair will be maybe shoulder length. We won't know until he can change back to flesh." At her nod, Stoney stands up, towering above her. "Eat, get rest, keep yourself open to Tannr. The hell with the rest of us. Tara says... Tara knows too much for a little girl. Tannr will need you to be strong. You keep his will to live alive. Rowan and Mortuis will do their best to keep the rest of him alive."

He leans down to hug her tight. whispering. "And you know we are only a thought away if you need the family's support."

She nods and pushes the tray away. Stoney scoops up Tara and kisses the very tired little girl before taking her from the room. Tori watches them go, then crosses to Tannr's bedside. She leans close, kissing him just below the ear. "Coppertop... you better..." Her voice breaks and a tear slips down her cheek. It makes a pinking sound as it drops to the floor.

He looks up at her, eyes slightly unfocused. "Red... Why are you so... grey?"

His eyes drift shut and Tori kisses his jaw. "Because you are tearing my heart out, you ass. That, and it is getting closer to sunrise. Sleep. rest. When I go stone, I will only be a thought away."

Pandora had awakened when she heard Chloe's chanting start; startled that she was awake... then smiling as she felt the spell and saw the circle of children through her daughter's eyes. A sense of pride swelled in her at her daughter's progress in the magickal arts... and that Chloe and the children had drawn together to weave the healing spell. There was no more gifted group of children in the world than the little ones seated on the floor of the cottage... each with gifts of their own; but also all able to combine their shared love for their family to send forth magick.

Pandora heard Ob's sigh as he felt the spell, and she padded out in her bare feet to sit beside him... her head leaning against his thigh as she relaxed her earlier fears; feeling Ob gathering strength.... feeling the children's spell help relax Tanner's pain.

Pandora sensed another outside in the garden... but far removed; and knew it was someone else seeking solace... she felt better beside her husband, and got up to go inside for her pillow and a blanket. Pandora gently kissed the sleeping dragon's face and laid herself at his feet... her back against his scaled talons as she pulled the blanket around herself and fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow... greatly comforted by the children's spell.

Rowan asked Tannr a few questions, checked the machines and vital signs. An injection of pain killer into the IV port and she was ready to start

Raina was watching as Erik turned Tannr a bit to his side so that Rowan could get to the dressings. Tannr moaned and quickly tried to stifle it seeing the look on Toris face. Star and Rowan started to remove the dressings and when the wounds were exposed Raina gasped at the extent of the damage. Tori stood and leaning over Tannr looked too. More tears slipped down her face and Raina took her arm.

“Hey. Its bad, but I have seen worse...” Raina lifts the side of her shirt and tugs her pants past her waist. “You should have seen this, and it's okay now..”

Tori nods, trying to stop the tears, trying to not fall completely to pieces in front of people. She sits and Tara takes her hand, letting her feel the energies and the spell. She watches as between that and the pain medication Tannrs face slowly relaxes and the pain seems to ease. Tori hardly notices when Tara starts picking up emeralds and placing them in a dish she found on a table.

Tannr reaches a hand towards Tori, “Come here Red.”

Tori kneels on the floor, laying her head next to Tannrs on the pillow. Tannr wipes her cheeks and whispers to her. “Shh... this will be fine... we'll be fine... okay? Dont cry, sweetie....”

“Just dont die on me... or anything like that...” Tori tries to smile.

“I wont... remember our date... cant miss that...” Tannr kisses her gently then relaxes and closes his eyes.

Tori has a split second of panic then realizes he has drifted off, the spell and the medication doing its job.

Rowan looks up from her work and smiles at Tori. “While we are here why dont you go wash up and take a little break? This wont take too much longer and I am sure he is going to be asleep for awhile, which is a good thing at this point.”

As if on cue, Alise taps on the door and enters with a tray for Tori. “I brought you some food and do not argue with me or I will get your brother. He is checking on Ob and will be here to see you after a bit. Go clean up and I will set this up...”

With a look at Tannr and a kiss to his forehead Tori does as she told, knowing she would sense any change in her beloved's condition.

Alise sets her tray down on a small table that she could push close to Tori when she returned. As she makes a cup of tea Tara approaches with her dish.

Regardez Maman...” Tara lifts her dish to show Alise.

 “Mon Dieu! Where did you find a bowl of emeralds?”

“They are Tante Toris. She cried them, like Papan...”

Alise's eyes go wide. “Lets set them up and show papa when he gets here...”

Tomas opens his eyes, looking around the room. He nudges Ryan, nearly pushing him out of the bed they share. Gracie rubs her eyes, as does Chloe. The girls wake Mera as Ryan peeks out in the hall and looks back, shaking his head. They tiptoe into the room where the two youngest boys are sleeping. Both boys are already awake and waiting for their cousins.

Tomas speaks softly. "We gots to be quiet. No wake up Lala and Ramji..."

The oldest girls pick up the infants and the children sit on the floor in a loose circle. Chloe instructs them to hold hands. She tells Mera and Ryan about opening their minds and letting the others help them with their mission. Ru holds tight to Mera and Tomas' hands, eyes wide and solemn. Teri offers his hand to Ryan, taking Gracie's hand as well. Once all have been seated, Chloe begins a chant of healing. She opens her mind, linking with Gracie and Tomas, then Teri, picking up and directing the energy through the others.

Fae magic merges with Chloe's casting as the others begin to chant with her. Light flares and magic surges. This time, instead of bouncing off the walls, the energy shimmers and slips through the wall like water through cloth. They feel the spell tough the Manse's wards, but as the Wards recognize the children's personal energies. the spell drifts where intended. Tannr and Ob both feel the warmth of children's smiles and the ache of little hearts. As the spell settles, a lullaby runs through their minds.

*Codladh, mo chodladh álainn. 
An póga Ghealach amach gach ngortú, 
mar na carraigeacha oíche tú réidh .... 

Codladh, mo chodladh álainn. 
Mo ghrá comforts tú 
mar na carraigeacha oíche tú réidh .... 

The spell wanders, touching others that the children love. In a circle of pavingstones, Keon raises his head in wonder as he hears his daughter's voice singing  the lullaby he taught to her mother as they awaited her birth.

On a stone bench a stone dragon feels the touch of the children and sighs softly as he feels the proud and awed touch of his Witchwife at the children's gift.

Tori looks at Tannr's strained face and cries, knowing Rowan was searching for the cause of his pain. Tara takes her hand and smiles, opeing herself to the spell, sharing with the others how bad their uncle is truly hurt. A fresh surge of power sweeps through and then tapers off.

Chloe has learned much about controlling her magic and the others have learned as well. Tori can feel their touch in any mind that can reach hers. Silently she watches Rowan work, tears slipping down her cheeks, but these tears are of raw emotions instead of fear.

Fire emeralds begin to collect in her lap. Tara picks up one of the stones and hands it to her.

"Tante Tori? You cry tears like my Pa'pan?"

Tori looks at her in surprise. "No, Tara. I am not full gargoyle."

Tara nods slowly, thinking. "Maybe it is only the sadness coming out because of the spell. Better put them in something before they melt."

*Sleep, my lovely sleep.
The Moon kisses away each hurt,
as the night rocks you gently....

Sleep, my lovely sleep.
My love comforts you
as the night rocks you gently....

Tannr tries to open his eyes. They feel like they have been glued shut and when he finally gets them open wide enough to see, the room is dark and his vision is blurry. He tries to blink and focus, and a small lamp comes into his vision. He turns his head slightly taking in the IV pump with several tubes coming out of it, small lights blinking and a soft humming sound coming from it. Leaning his head the other way he can barely make out a form in the dim light, hunched over in a large chair.

One or two people? Damn eyes.... cant see... Where ...? a bed?....

Tara notices the movement and silently slips off Toris lap. She stands right by Tannrs head and leans close.

“Hi Unca Tannr. Waking up now?”

“Hello Sweetness. Where... am I?” Tannrs voice is slow and thick, matching the speed of his thoughts.

“Tante Silks house... you got hurted..”

Tori slips off the chair at the sound of voices and leans close to Tannr, her voice a whisper. “Hey... I'm here...” She runs the back of her hand softly down the side of Tannrs face. “Raina is here too and your brother..”

Tannr tries to nod. “Okay... love you...”

The tears start again and Tori lays her head next to his. “I love you too.”

“Wha... happened? My men?”

Erik, hearing the whispering moves to the bed. He moves a chair over and lowers his body into it. He explains to Tannr that one of the largest creatures in Underdark attacked him. Ob killed it, but was injured. The Ravens had lost one man. Hugh, when he tried to kill the spider.

“One... too many....” Tannrs voice chokes, emotions close to the surface and guilt flooding his thoughts.

Tara feels under the sheet and takes Tannrs big hand in her tiny one. She sends her thoughts, telling her uncle she loves him and so do the other kids. She lets him know that they are all at mamans and papans house, safe behind the wards.

Tannr sends to her, Thank you little one. Love you all too.. 

Raina, awakened by the noises comes to sit next to Tori on the floor. Tannr tries to smile but is overtaken by a sharp pain and squeezes his eyes shut, fighting for control, not wanting to scare Tara and worry Tori.

“Pain?” Raina asks. Tannr whispers “Yes..”


“Yes...” Raina and Tori exchange a glance and Raina stands, “I'll get Rowan...”

Escaping the house itself was easy. Most guests were sleeping, and the servants were being their usual unobtrusive selves. A Gnome bows to him as Keon slips through the shadows cast by moonlight, pointing to an area of pavestones ringed with benches. It is almost as if the creature knew exactly what Keon was seeking. Then again, the blade at his hip and the way he moved could have given it an idea. The Dark Lord was quite sure Mortuis and Silk needed somewhere to sword dance, and knowing Silk, it had to be away from their living quarters. The Gods alone knew what she can do when lost in the Dance.

Standing in the center of the design, Keon takes a moment to gather himself. He eyes the pattern below his feet, noting the five elements of life weaving a great celtic knot. There are stones of green and brown for earth, red and orange for fire, white and pale blues for air, deeper blues and mixed green/blues for water. The spirit stones of black and white marbling are what draw his eyes. He kneels in the center where solid stones of black and white pick out a symbol he has never seen before. Dark fingers trace the image and a sense of stability encompasses his mind.

Rising to his full height with a grace that would take the breath of any watching, Keon draws his blade smoothly. His stance changes slightly, balance shifting to compensate for the added weight of his sword. The Dance begins. His feet slide over the stones, creating a pattern of their own, as his blade moves effortlessly through the air. Moonlight and the subdued focus lighting makes the silver shimmer as if alive. His dark eyes close as he listens to the rhythm of his heart and the quiet sounds of the surrounding night. He cocks his head as he hears a step, then the soft sigh of something ethereal passing. His long dark hair flares out as he turns, adding another soft sound to the night, and another color as the blue strands catch the light. The Dark Sidhe hears the melodies of Nature and Self, embracing them and using them to guide his movements. His final steps bring him to one knee, sword upraised and offered to the Gods.

He opens his eyes to find himself alone, yet feeling as if he had the total attention of someone. Bowing his head, Keon lowers the sword to the stones and weeps, knowing that it is time to mourn the injuries to close friends, and the passing of one of Tannr's true friends.

His words, spoken softly, seem to ripple in the night's stillness.

"Bandia, cabhrú linn ...."

(Goddess, help us....)

May 28, 2:12 a.m. Alex Jeffreys couldn't believe his luck; he'd just left The Brass Ring with the hottest little nymphet in town. She looked almost too young to be legal, but he'd seen her ID, and kids don't have the money for a fake ID that good. He'd started out leading, but now he was following that tight little ass in the Catholic schoolgirl miniskirt. Damn, the girl couldn't be more than a college freshman...! could she?

The drinks he'd had and the sight of her ass bouncing along ahead of him conspired to make him stop thinking almost entirely; Little Head had taken command, Big Head nowhere to be found. She turned back and giggled, her Pepsodent smile inviting. "C'mon, Alex, it's not that much farther." She put an extra swing into her step somehow, the skirt flipping up now and again to show off her thong. Damn, her ass looked good enough to eat!

She stopped at the foot of a flight of stairs. Damn, he hoped he was sober enough to make it all the way up there.... She went up three steps and looked back down. "You comin'?"

"Not quite yet, baby," he leered. From where he stood, he could see all the way up her skirt and the view was terrific. She giggled again. "Come on up and we'll take care of that."

He stayed three steps behind her - all the better to watch her ass - and stopped while she fumbled with the lock. "C'mon in, make yourself at home while I slip into something more comfortable."

The apartment was furnished quietly, real wood furniture with a preponderance of dark nappy fabrics. It was too dark to tell the color, exactly... something like mahogany? Bookshelves covered two walls and a big-screen TV stood right in front of him. He wondered if she'd mind if he checked out the sports scores? Eh, maybe not... don't want to spoil the mood.

She came prancing in in a babydoll and he felt his cock swell and harden. She'd put her hair up in pigtails, tied off with pink ribbons and she looked good enough to eat - which was what he had in mind... very soon....

He jerked when he felt a hand on his collar. Shit, a boyfriend? He turned, ready with his apology - and stared into eyes that seemed lit from within, all yellow-green. He was hauled unceremoniously to his feet and his bladder let go when he saw the jagged bear-trap teeth. The thing had him in an armlock and it led him resistlessly to the bathroom, forced him to kneel over the tub... a quick slash of razor-edged claws and a jet of blood sprang from his throat, staining the white porcelain pink and then red. It held him there until his heart stopped, then gave a negligent wave. The others approached and bore him away to a place where he was prepared and packed away neatly in white butcher paper.


They all agreed... he was good enough to eat.

The postulate stood with his head bowed, ready to flee at the look on Ardaras face after he delivered his message. Her face contorted in rage, her color going red, then almost purple, her red eyes huge. She slams her fists down on the table, then sends her meal flying across the room, glass shattering and food staining a far wall.

“Half of my forces? Half?! How is that even possible?”

The postulate lifts his head only a fraction. Stammering and his voice barely above a whisper, he attempts to give Ardara the explanation that was given to him by the priest.

Ardara starts to pace as she hears the young Drows words, making the slaves still in the room nervous, knowing her rages and wanting to escape her wrath. She moves back and forth her anger building as she listens. Finally she stops and shrieks, kicking a young boy out of her way.

“My forces were defeated by a group of human trash?”

The postulate ducks as a chair narrowly misses his head and is reduced to kindling on the wall behind him.

“Send me whatever idiots are left that were supposed to be in charge...NOW! I want more of an explanation other than they walked into a trap... MOVE!”

Ardara screams this last word and the postulate runs as if all the demons of hell were after him.

A short time later, a commander and a lower ranking officer slowly approach Ardaras receiving room. Both stop short at the sight of Ardara, her rage palpable, the putrid air almost pulsating with her anger.

Both heads bow, “My lady...”

“Shut up! Shut the fuck up and listen to me. I dont want to hear your pathetic excuses. Our forces are severely depleted due to your incompetence. Depleted due to humans... humans....” Ardara shakes her head. “Do I have to lead the forces myself? This is not an acceptable situation...” Ardara starts to pace again.

The soldiers glance at each other, certain Ardara will order their deaths.

“This will not happen again. Or I will make walking into an explosion of iron look like a very minor training exercise. Do I make myself clear?”

Both heads nod, eager to leave before their mistress has a chance to change her mind.

“I will give you some time to rebuild the army. Then we shall speak again... And I will have a mission for you. One that you cannot fail, or you know your fate... And since it involves grabbing some children I trust you will find it easier than this last battle...” Ardara starts to laugh, an insane sound that builds and echos in the rock chamber and sends a chill down the spines of those that hear it.

(Text of an email from Eira to Jack)

Jack -

Sorry I haven't written in a while, things have been hectic here but I've been learning a lot.

From the beginning:

Sibyl realized pretty early on that she couldn't teach me much about spirit possession, so she reached out to an expert. Her name is Jeanette Duval; she's a Vodou priestess from New Orkeans. Incidentally, that is the correct spelling - "Voodoo" is something that was invented by Hollywood; Vodou is a religion.

Anyway... Jeanette is an expert on Vodou, both the Haitian version and our own homegrown flavor. She also has expertise in other Afro-Carribean religions such as Santeria, Candomble, and Palo Mayombe. You'd like her; she's really pretty and about as unpretentious as you can get. She arrived about ten days ago looking like anybody in shorts, sandals and t-shirt. She likes music and dancing - the girl can really move her ass! - ice cream and hot guys and going barefoot, and Saint's nuts about her. When you get past the surface, though, there's a kind of calm, quiet, earthy wisdom about her. She didn't say much the first couple days, just sat in on my lessons with Sibyl, taking my measure, I guess. On the third day, though, she had some specific suggestions for me. See, (I probably should have mentioned this earlier) possession is integral to Vodou, central to it, really, especially in Haiti. In Vodou, the worshipper is possessed by the loa, spirits that are less than gods but more than just human spirits. Hmmm... let me see if I can explain that.

Vodouisants believe in one supreme god that is remote and uninvolved with this world and its people. Below him are the loa, human spirits that have evolved to another, higher level - something like the saints in Christian theology, and especially Catholicism. The loa are involved with the world and its people and they use possession as the medium by which they communicate with their worshippers.

Anyway... I'd been working with Jeanette for a little less than a week. All the experts say the same thing, essentially - let go of your ego, your sense of self and just go with the flow. (I paraphrase, omitting whole volumes of pomposity.) Of course, these "experts" never tell you HOW you're supposed to do this....

Anyway, I was practicing with David (our resident ghost, remember?) and trying out some of Jeanette's suggestions - and David was suddenly inside me, smooth as silk.

 Ummm... that didn't come out quite as intended.... :-)

It was weird... It was like watching TV... I could see and hear, but it didn't seem real, like I was getting it secondhand. I nearly panicked then, but I remembered what Jeanette said, that I'm always in control. And I thought, this is David, he's my friend... and the panic just kind of melted away.

 David stayed in my head for about fifteen minutes that first time, but we kept working at it and I eventually got to where I could "host" him for about an hour. Longer than that isn't healthy; hosting a ghost burns your energy at an amazing rate. I'm always hungry and tired after a sitting.

A couple of days ago, we all went to the cemetery - Sibyl, Jeanette, David and Your Humble Servant - and I opened myself to the spirits. This is the equivalent of putting down a can of tuna in a room full of hungry cats. The dead, as it turns out, don't just want to talk to the living; they want to feel alive again, if only for a few minutes. Most of 'em are pretty nice about it, but there are always a few assholes. (If you were an asshole in life, you'll more than likely be an asshole in the afterlife - do you find that to be true?) There were a couple who didn't want to leave when I said "time's up". I finally had to boot their ethereal asses back to the Great Beyond.

On a more earthly level, I can't wait to be back home - and back in your bed - our bed. No more holding back; I want you so bad I ache with it, and my toys aren't making a dent in it. Whatever you want, lover, however you want it - just ask, and I'll do it.

 I love you, Jack, forever and ever.

Kisses -


In the darkest hours of the night, Tori sits with Tannr. The love seat is pulled as close to the bed as it can get, her head next to his on the pillow. She would have crawled right in the bed if she wasnt so afraid of hurting him further. Rowan was hesitant in her prognosis, still hopeful but she had said she had never seen anyone lose that much blood and still be alive. It was a miracle that he had survived the surgery.

Tori sighs and sits up. She runs her hand over Tannrs forehead and through the long copper strands. Suddenly she hears the bedroom door open. Tara enters, her bare feet silent on the wood floor, carrying her doll in a matching long nightgown. She pauses at the edge of the bed then looks up at Tori through her dark hair, a gesture so much like her fathers that Tori smiles for the first time in days.

Alise had told her how Tara seemed to know that Tannr was hurt and how extreme her reaction was until Raina came to help.

“Come here you...” and Tori lifts the little girl into her lap. “Cant sleep?”

Tara shakes her head and Tori smooths the dark hair away from her face. She notices the dark circles under the little ones eyes and the haunted look on her face, knowing she must look much the same.

“We'll just wait right here until he wakes up, okay?”

Later Stoney wanders in, in search of his daughter. He smiles to see her curled up with his sister, the pair seeming to find some comfort in each other while keeping their vigil.

Once Ob is safely sleeping and Ike assures Pandora that what he needs now is rest... she lets herself release the emotions she has been holding. She walks the length of the garden to get as far from Ob as she can before she drops into a bench and surrenders to the sobs she has been holding back; she cannot imagine  what Tori must be feeling with Tanner's more dreadful wounds.

Chloe touches her mind... and she assures her that her papa is going to be okay; but he will be sore for quite awhile... she is just crying because she is happy he will be well, and she misses her babies... and hopes they are being good for Laila and the others. The feel of little arms wrapped round her neck touches her heart; and she knows it is Teri... he knows words are not necessary, just letting her know he loves her is enough.

Pandora composes herself and returns to the terrace; stopping to caress the sleeping dragon and gently kiss the rough scaled face... she hears his faint "bruha" from far away... and knows his healing has begun.... she goes inside and slips off her shoes, not bothering to remove her clothes as she lays on the cot near the door; her last conscious act to gaze upon Ob's sleeping form.

The others have gone. Some to rest. Raina and Erik, she knows, are just outside in the hall. Even though Tori knows Tannr is in the best of hands with Mortuis and Rowan, she can't resist mentally touching him for confirmation.

His mind is quite, lost in a realm just beyond sleep, but not quite as close to death as when she first searched him. An image of his battered, dying body slips into her thoughts and Tori shoves it out before it can translate itself to Tannr. She smiles a little and follows his energy, seeking the work that was performed on her lover. She can feel his pain, but knows to take it away would mask things best left to be seen.

Once content to know everything that could be done has been done, the Gargoyle kisses his forehead. Murmuring against his feverish skin she whispers of her love, and that if he doesn't come back to her, she will seek him out in the Afterworlds to kick his Viking ass. Closing her eyes, a stray tear slips from her control.

Her voice cracks slightly as she observes to her comatose lover, "You know, for someone known as the Right Hand of Death, Mortuis has been working very hard to save our assorted hides..."

 "Si... He ees not quite what the world knows of heem."

Tori looks around at the voice. She has rarely seen Ob's cousin as anything but the self assured woman he looks up to. But now the signs of fatigue are unmistakable, as is the worry that adds lines around the Rom/Succubus' darkly exotic eyes. Her casual jeans and T-shirt are also something that Tori has never seen. Silk smiles tiredly.

"Mi Cooza ees resting comfortably as possible. Pandora ees weeth heem for now. She has a spot to sleep where she can see heem when she goes to her rest. We have applied more clay as the first withdrew into the wound. Perhaps another two applications will be needed as well. Malachite ees tending to heem until she weell need to rest as well."

Tori reaches out to touch her sister, her brother, and his mate as Silk checks Tannr's IV. Ob... I am... oh Goddess... I forgot to...

Her brother chuckles, a wince translating through their mental link. Don't. Tannr's care was the more immediate. 

She licks her lips, He wouldn't have this chance if it wasn't for you.  

Thank his men. They got him out, I just kept the thing occupied.

She would have argued, but she knows Ob saw it exactly as he told her. Anyone else hurt? No one else was brought to us.

Ob is silent for several long minutes. We lost Hugh. He went down fighting. They brought his body out though. Tannr has a good team. I am hoping Lily's little present did its magic. and we hear from them soon.

She feels his mind drift as Ike slips something cool along the base of a wing.  

Rest sis.. You won't do him any good if you don't.

Pandora touches Ob's mind, reminding him of the same thing. The love between them is obvious and Ob bends to his wife's will.  

Caio Tori... will look in on you when I am awake...

He fades away, leaving Tori with her thoughts. She reviews the images that were behind Ob's words, seeing the reality of the skirmish. Breathing deep. Tori fights for calm.  

I will not fall apart... I will not fall apart...