Sunday, October 18, 2015

Stoney watches his wife as she moves among their friends and family. His mind touches hers gently and he asks her to come sit beside him at the keyboard. She smiles and moves in his direction. The sight of her takes away his breath. His long fingers stroke over the ivories, picking out notes.

Alise smiles at him as he shakes his hair forward. She knows that move. He is hiding his face so she doesn't see, or perhaps others won't see, the emotions he can't hide.

What would I do without your smart mouth
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
Got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind

I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright
My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

Tori smiles as Tannr draws her into his lap. He whispers in her ear.
"I heard Stoney working on this a few weeks ago. It fits us too."

Stoney turns his head slightly, looking at Alise through a fall of his hair. She smiles and tucks it out of the way so she can kiss his cheek.

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning

'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you oh.

Tannr's hand follows Tori's spare curves, teasing along her ribs. He hums in her ear, nipping it gently. "I do loves those curves and edges."

She moves back, glaring at him. "Whose curves?"

He pulls her back against his chest. "Yours, Red. Every muscular, limber..." She raises a fist and he laughs. "My feisty wench..." As she swings, he moves forward, suddenly kissing her. With a sigh, her arm drapes around hisshoulders. "All of me... Red.. all of" She shuts him up with another kiss.

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every move
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse

My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing, in my head for you

Laila watches the couple on the stage. She glances toward the back hall. Still no Ramji. Worry weighs heavy as she thinks over what Guunnar said. He didn't see him. What did that mean?

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

Keon leans close to Eite, summarizing Stoney and Alise' trials for their love. He tells her of the decades spent believing she was not lost to Stoney, of his faith he would find her one day, and when he finally did it was to find she was a ghost. They had found a spell, bringing her back among the living.Then they nearly lost each other again. Laila had heard the stories, but hearing them again as the man spills his love into a song for his beloved has her bowing her head to wipe away tears.

'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning

'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you
Give me all of you oh

Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it’s hard
'Cause all of me
Loves all of you

Voices join Stoney's. Alise looks around, seeing so many holding others close. Theirs is not an easy life, so many dangers being just who, what, they were.Yet.... She turns back to her husband. Her mind strokes his gently, letting him feel the strength of her love.

Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning

'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

I give you all, all of me
And you give me all of you oh

The last of the notes drift away in a gentle silence. Laila opens her eyes, having closed them to better listen to the song. The soft stroke of fingers in her hair startles her and Laila jerks away from the unexpected touch. She nearly knocks Ramji over with her chair as she tries to stand. She grabs his arm, to keep herself from falling and flinches away when he curses. It is only then her mind registers the sling and bandages on his neck and face.

"I am sorry I am late, *moja slatka janjetina. Can you forgive..." He never finishes his sentence. Ramji finds himself pushed into her chair as Laila tries to inspect the bruises on his face. He captures her hands in his one good hand. He raises them to his lips.

"I am fine. Laila.. I am fine. Bruised and a few broken bones. But if Guunnar hadn't tripped over me, we'd both be worse." She tries to free her hands. Ramji holds on a little longer, pressing them to his cheek. He breathes deep, a peaceful smile dispelling some of his lines of pain. "^Bosiljak i menta, You are still using the lotion..."

*my sweet lamb

^Basil and mint

Delphine watches her submissives mingle with the Taverners. She smiles to herself. Nothing is regular about these people, even the Humsns are more, definitely not your average everyday mortal. She, Herself, may be the only "non-gifted one here. Then again, considering this is Exton, should she be surprised?

The atmosphere is relaxed.  There is no air of discomfort, and she knows she would be able to tell if there was, afterall reading levels of discomfort is all part of her business. She watches the snow fall through the magical wall. Two men mount the porch steps, both shrouded in dark cloaks and scarves. Behind them  comes a motley crew. The cloaked men move, stepping aside to watch the night as the group passes between them. The cold blast from the open door turns heads.

The werewolf bouncer is suddenly there, holding a crate. Delphine blinks. She never saw the man move. His appearance is not unexpected though. The group moves aside to allow their last members inside as they divest themselves of weapons and outerwear. The two cloaked men wait until everyone else has moved to the bar before they place their own weapons in the crate and push back their hoods. Only then is one revealed to be a woman. Cloaks hung by the door, the pair makes their way to where the Dark Elf sits with a large man, his fair-haired Fae wife, and a striking woman with blue tinged hair.

The Dark Elf rises from his chair, only to instantly drop to one knee. Delphine watches with interest as the woman murrmurrs a few words and the Elf rises to his full height. He kisses the woman's hand and motions to two others who are getting ready to head out into the storm. There is a short conversation and the newy cloaked pair joins a group heading out into the storm. The Dark Elf holds a chair for the woman and her companion heads to the bar for refreshments. The woman says something to the people at her table and Pandora's husband is quickly on his feet, laughing as he offers the woman his hand. She shoos him away, calling him a fool, and the gargoyle drops into his chair with a grin.

Maxwell bows before his Mistress, holding a pot of coffee. She nods and he fills her mug.


She watches him lower his eyes and she smiles, turning her attention to the group at the family table.

"The dark haired woman with the exotic eyes is Lady Silk, or to the warriors here, Mistress Leather. She is..." He presses his lips together, thinking for a moment. "She is a cousin Mistress Pandora's husband, but not a Gargoyle. She is a respected fighter and extremely skilled. The people where we are sitting say she is Domme, but plays with few. She has deep ties to Lord Keon of the Unseelie Courts and her chosen mate whom they would only call "The Good Doctor".

Delphine raises an eyebrow slightly. "Hmmmmm. So the dark elf is a true Sidhe, interesting that he bows to one not of his race." Maxwell glances up at his Mistress and she frowns. He quickly lowers his eyes. "Thanks you Maxwell. That will be all for now. You may go... socialize."

As he turns to go, she calls his name. "Maxwell, one more thing." The young man bows slightly in her direction, eyes averted but listening intently. "The group of people who just left, and the group that came in earlier.... what is that about?"

The young man swallows hard before answering. "A patrol of some type Mistress. I.. I did not think to ask..."

"You know how best to ask, Maxwell. I really do not like unanswered questions you know."

"Yes Mistress."

She makes a small shooing motion with her fingers and the man disappears among the patrons. Feeling eyes on her, Delphine glances up, meeting the gaze of the woman. The appraise each other and Lady Silk nods and raises her mug. Delphine does the same. Only one word comes to mind as Delphine turns back to her list of phone numbers.


Quiet time.

At least... quieter than the Tavern usually is at this hour. Technically the place is closed, but a few intrepid souls, or perhaps idiots? have ventured out in the storm. Stoney picks out the notes of a half forgotten song as he listens to the sound of soft conversations. A cold blast washes across his back as Jeb opens the door. Feet stomp and there is the rustle of coats as they are removed and hung on the rack.

The awed “WOW… Cool effect!” brings a smile to his lips. He knows that voice. Ron. The Fox calls a hello to Stoney as he and his friends grab a table. “Pandora’s doing?” Stoney nods. Monty stops by their table to direct the guys to the bar. He also offers the shivering Ty a blanket. The Tiger accepts gratefully.

Monty had set up platters of food and carafes of hot drinks after a discussion  with Pandora and Ob. More people had ventured out in the storm than expected, and so many were ending up on their doorstep. The Tavern was fast becoming a welcome stop before people ventured on to their destination.

The crisp click of heels draws eyes to the back hallway. A petite woman strides to a booth, a long red nailed finger tapping the bluetooth in her left ear as she scrolls through an electronic appointment book. It isn't until she slides into the end of a privacy booth that anyone notices the couple who follow her, quiet as shadows. When she motions to the other bench, the pair slips onto the seat. They fold their hands and keep their eyes downcast as she speaks to them. Pandora touches Ob's hand and leaves the family table. The woman smiles at the Witch's approach and rises to shake hands.

Ob grins and raises a glass in the woman's direction. She nods back and speaks to the young man when Pandora points at the layout on the bar. As the couple glides to the food, Pandora brings the woman to meet the others at the table.

"Mistress, You remember my husband from our visit to Your Domain. You also know Ike, Patti, and Monty. Everyone else here is Kith and Kin, as my husband says. This lovely Lady is Mistress Delphine, our downstairs tenant. Her domain is the Dungeon. Maxwell and Julia are her inhouse submissives."

After a round of introductions, Delphine and her people are invited to sit with the family. With a small smile the woman declines. "I am afraid I have client calls to return, but after W/we eat, I will allow the children to socialize." She bows her head and returns to the booth where Maxwell and Julia have laid out food and drink. They wait until she is seated and then serve their Mistress before sitting down to their own plates.

Tori had stared after the petite woman as she walked away. She sighs. At glances from the others she shrugs. "What? I mean look at her. So self possessed, straight dark brown hair pulled back tight in a bun. The perfect "vampire" widow's peak. Perfect bow shaped mouth. Short stature, but a full figure with a narrow waist." She grins. "Is it just me, or does she remind anyone else of a modern Lily Munster?"

Dinner was done, plates cleared away, and surprisingly, Monty was free to have time with Kith and Kin of the Tavern. Tori's street kids had insisted on cleaning up in return for warm rooms. As warm as the Warehouse was, it was still chilly when the temperatures dipped below freezing. He sat with Ike, chatting with Family as they watched the snow fall.

Sometime during the meal, the fine snow had turned into large fluffy clusters of snowflakes. Pandora had cast a spell to turn a small portion of the front wall into a one way mirror. It worked, but not quite as expected. The group was discussing what made the spell turn the whole front wall into a window and not just a small section. The most probable reason seemed to be the possible inadvertent channeling of the casting by all four Gargoyles and their offspring.

Ob rests his arm across the back of Pandora's chair. "Mi amor, Bruha. Stop. All it has done is given us a beautiful view of the storm. It is... It is like watching a giant snowball."

Pandora frowns. He shakes his head and looks at the others. "Por favor... someone tell her."

Tori leans back laughing. "Good Lord and Lady! Pandora, look around you. People are fascinated and that isn't part of the spell. Look at the kids. Hell, look at Keon."

Keon had flipped a table on its side and piled pillows against it. More pillows were scattered on the blanket on which he sat. Leaning against the tabletop, Keon talks quietly with Eite. The woman had finally relaxed, helped by the fact that they could see out, but no one could see in. Mera lay beside her, cuddled between the pair with her head on her father's leg. The Dark Lord strokes his daughter's blueblack curls as she dozes. Gracie, Ru, and Teri are curled among the pillows, eyes nearly closed as they watched the drifting snow.

Laila sighs as she looks to the back hallway. Still no Ramji. She rises from her seat and speaks quietly to Tara and Chloe, suggesting bedtime. The girls pout, but their mothers agree and send the girls to the Nursery.

Tomas and Ryan were last seen listening to stories from Guunnar and Dmitri. Both the boys and Guunnar are missing, at least until Dmitri points out the giant's feet sticking out from behind Keon's tipped table. Laughter and smiles are difficult to suppress when they find all three fast asleep under another blanket. As the boys are lifted, Guunnar surges awake, fists raised.

Dmitri hushes the Viking. "SSSSHHHHH, *Parakaló_, Guunnar. The boys are sleeping. They are only being taken to bed."

The giant blinks several times, finally focusing on his friend. "Ach... gut... Ja, gut. I tink.. I tink must geh alzo."

"Yes my friend. You need to go to bed as well. Come, leave the boys to there family. I will get you settled for the night." Dmitri smiles at the others. "He has not slept much since..." Dmitri shakes his head. "The children have been good for him tonight." He leads the big man toward the stairs.

Guunnar follows, obviously asleep on his feet. "Dmi... tell Ram... am sorry... ^mir lied... didn't see him..." His words were mumbled but loud enough to stir worry in Laila's mind.

The children are gathered and tucked in their beds in the nursery. Nanny settles in the glider with Nadia. Star kisses the baby's nose and she smiles. When Nadia reaches for Erik, he kisses one of her small hands and tells her it is time to sleep. The baby sniffles and Erik leans close to kiss her forehead. He whispers something and the baby yawns. The adults slip from the room as Nanny sings softly to Nadia.


^am sorry

The snow is a curtain of small furious flakes. The houseboat rocks gently, safely moored in place. There is no fear of damage thanks to Ron and his friends. The four Weres had spent a great amount of time readying the boat for Winter. The dock itself had been buffered to keep the hull safe. Of course it wasn't for nothing, Keon had paid the boys well for their efforts. Eite sighs, Wondering how long the storm would last. She sips from the steaming mug she holds cupped in her hands. Tao raises his grizzled head and cocks an ear. When she merely sips her tea, the HellHound drops his head on his paws and closes his eyes.

Moments later Tao slips from the couch and pads to through the kitchen. The sound of his nails clicking on the pale blue tile floor suddenly stops. Eite sets her mug on the small side table and slips her feet into a pair of fluffy slippers. Her steps are quiet as she moves into the kitchen. She glances back at the couch once, regretting the fact she had not grabbed the knife hidden under the throw pillow. Keeping out of sight, Eite eases a knife from the block on the counter. She watches Tao, readying the blade. She hears voices, but the sounds are muffled. Tao cocks his ears forward. But it isn't until the HellHound's tail begins a slow sweep of the floor that the Half-Drow Siren breathes easier. Knife still held at ready, she moves door, crouching next to a cabinet.

Tao huffs, raising his head to turn it into a full throated howl. He is answered in kind. A familiar voice calls out, "*Dia duit an bád! Tao, Eite! Dinner at the Tavern?"

Keon. Tao moves back from the door letting it open. Trooper greets his packmate as the Dark Lord slips inside, Mera in his arms. Keon quickly closes the door, leaning against it with a merry laugh. "'Tis a right frigid blast out there. Star says to pack a bag, we'll be staying for a few days." He helps Mera take off her coat."Monty says dinner is soon. So hurry, less ye want ta stay here." He turns at her silence. A puzzled expression meets his gaze. "Ach lass... I dinna think ye might... Eite, what is wrong?"

She stares at him, then looks out the window, then back at the Unseelie Sidhe. "You want to... You brought Mera out in..." She glances at the pair of HellHounds. Both had lain down, waiting patiently. She hesitates a moment more.

His voice is gentle as he takes the knife from Eite's hand. "'Tis safe enow here, but twill be safer among others. Between the Mer and me own spells, naught will befall what is left here. Pack a bag lass. an we'll be off. Will take but a wee bit ta get ta the Tavern, so dress warmly. I promise ye, an ye know We nae make promises easily... Come with us ta the tavern." Mera takes her hand, tugging until Eite looks down. "Please Eite? Everyone will be there."

Eite smile hesitantly at the little girl. "There's lots of room."

The woman sighs and lets the little girl follow her to her room. Mera chatters away the whole time Eite puts clothes in a bag. Keon pops his head in the door to see if she is ready. She has almost no time to breathe as he whisks her out the door to a waiting sleigh. As he tosses her bag in, Eite turns back to the houseboat. He helps her onto the bench seat beside Mera and tucks a blanket around their legs. He smiles at her as he climbs in and takes up the reigns.

"Relax Eite. Yer mug was rinsed and is in ta sink. Lights are on a timer. Windows and doors are warded. Trooper and Tao are coming w' us, Twillon and Weebit are waiting on ta Path."

As Eite settles back against the cushions, Keon nods to the Hounds. With a flick of his wrists, the group is off. As they pass through the Veil, Eite glances back one last time, sure she felt someone watching. They are on the Shadow Path in the next moment.

Hood back, Twillon stands next to his mount, laughing up at Weebit and Tork. As Keon's sleigh slides onto Path, the Blonde Sidhe surges up into his saddle. "About time!" He calls. "Monty said dinner would be soon? Well, let's get there before Guunnar eats it all!"

In no time at all, the group gallops through a Gate into the back lot of the Twisted Tit Tavern. Weebit flits to Twillon's shoulder, burying herself beneath his hair against the warmth of her lover's neck. Tork lands on the Sidhe's other shoulder. Keon unharnesses the horse, covers the sleigh with a tarp from the and ushers everyone through the backdoor of the Tavern. He turns back once, casting a spell to protect the sleigh and to watch the horses slip back through the Gate. As the door closes behind him, the comfort of the Tavern settles around him. He inhales deeply and smiles. The aromas of Monty's cooking, the sound of music and happy voices help him  drop the protective air that he kept in place on the ride here. He too had felt as if the boat were being watched.

*Hello the boat!

An hour later Monty announces dinner will be served in a little bit. Parents corral their offspring, getting them to settle a bit before making them sit down. Stoney promises them more music after dinner, but only if they are good. Gracie pulls herself up straight and looks solemnly at her father. "Papa', you told Mama' we are always good. That it is... rel-uh-tif."

A booming voice echoes up the hallway. "Ja, Kinder sind alvays gut. Eben ven nicht so gut. Ist chust deir vay."

"UNCLE GUNNAR!" The children rush enmass to the giant as he hangs up his dark cloak. Mera wraps her arms around a leg and hugs him, but peers past him down the hall. The Viking lays a hand on her head, tousling her blue black curls.

"He ist coming little vone. He hast missed his *kleine monde. Ach, vho ist diss strapping jung man!" He raises Ryan up to his shoulder, settling the little fae on the broad perch. "Kviet Ryan. OY, Du hast grown little varrior!." He slaps a large hand to his forehead and huffs through his bushy moustache. "Nein, nicht kinder! Ist such a handsome band uf Varrior Lads and Shield Maidens." He leans down, balancing Ryan easily, and whispers loudly, knowing all the parents will hear him. "Vat say du. Ve pester deine parents und you feast mit Oncle Gunnar tonight?"

The children put hands over their mouths and nod ecstatically, all except Mera who watches down the back hall. A cloaked figure emerges and the little girl's eyes light up, only to sadden when Dmitri pushes back his hood. The Greek smiles at her and winks. Mera sighs and Graci takes her hand, tugging her along with the others to ask their parents' permission. Gunnar commandeers a table and gets Monty's attention.

"A round uf chiuce und milch for my Varriors, mein gut man!"

Mera climbs into a chair and bites her lip, eyes still on the hallway. Gracie touches Mera's hand and tara's voice murrmurrs softly in the little halffae's mind. Oncle Gunnar said he's coming. Don't cry Merri. She nods and takes a sip of her juice.

Large hands cup her shoulders and a soft voice whispers in her ear."Did ye miss yer old Da, Little Moon?"

Mera scrambles out of the chair, nearly spilling her cup. Keon scoops her up in his arms, wincing slightly under the force of her hug. "I'll take that as an Aye."

With the kids occupied, Stoney and Tori pull the draping covers from their keyboards.They turn on switches, checking over the long neglected instruments. The electricity hums bringing alive lights. Their eyes gleam as keys easily move and notes echo over the sounds of playing children. It isn't until they hit the rythem switches that the little ones come running.

Stoney pulls the tie from his hair, shaking the mane loose around his shoulders. He grins at his sister from under his long dark bangs.


She grimaces, wrinkling her nose. "Dead Mau5."

He sticks his tongue out at her. "Tech Jukebox."

A shudder and sigh. "Beethoven would be better, anything but TJ."

The dark haired gargoyle bends under his keyboard, checking a connection. "T.S.O."

The redhead laughs, green eyes flashing. "Ok, Trans Siberian Orchestra. But I get to pick the first song."

She flicks a few switches, setting the beat and tone. "Flight of the Bumblebee."

Stoney laughs. "Fine, then Lauper's She Bops."

Tori frowns. "Lauper is not techno."

Stoney winks, "Will be when we play her stuff."

The sudden draft of frigid air heralds the opening of the Tavern door. Heads turn to the figures in the door. The squeals of excitement send Demifae flying for cover as the children converge on the new arrivals. Tannr finds himself tugged toward the makeshift fort before he can even take off his coat. He laughs, and sends Tori a rueful smile.

I warned you. The boys couldn't wait for you to get here.

He winks at his wife and lets the little ones wrestle him to the ground, as he clasps hands in greeting with Drai. Tori grins, holding her laptop high above young hands as the girls escort her to the family table. They babble, telling her in high pitched tones about all the plans. Tori looks over the young ones heads and grimaces at Pandora. "Now I know why the Demifae took to the rafters."

At her words, Gracie covers her mouth, eyes wide. She touches Mera's arm and the other girl falls quiet as well. Chloe turns to Gracie as Tara looks up, closing her eyes as she sends feelings of remorse toward the hiding Fae. The little one nods and chirps a few times. Miko and Rachel drift slowly downward, followed by Mya. Landing on the family table, they listen and nod slowly. Their words are rapid, and even though Miko is frowning and Mya stands with hands on her hips, the tone is not angry. Rachel looks back and forth, worry obvious in her stance. After a few moments Gracie nods and Rachel relaxes. Her usual smile returns and Rachel flits to Pandora's shoulder. Miko returns to the rafters as Mya gives her wings a final flick before walking over to settle on the edge of a cookie plate. She swings her feet as she picks up a crumb and nibbles at the sweet tidbit.

Chloe looks up at her parents, aunts and uncles. The self appointed spokesman presses her lips together for a few moments. It is obvious that all the girls are talking through their link, Mera using Gracie's touch to hear and talk to the others. It is only a few moments before Chloe nods and tells the adults they are sorry. "Miko reminded us we is inside and sounds are different for their ears." She looks at the petite warrior as he settles on the table top. He nods as she continues. "We can be loud, scream, laugh... but no screeching." She looks down at him and he nods. "We..." she pauses a moment, trying to remember the words he told Gracie. "We are little girls, not shrieking banshees or..." she makes a face trying to say a word, "chit..." She looks quickly at her father, then lowers her eyes. "demons."

Ob laughs, quickly choking it back and failing miserably. "*Si Gitanilla, mis piedras preciosas. If you get too... If you reach "demonic" tones again, I will have Miko chase you all down for punishment." The warrior salutes him with the tip of his sword, flourishing a dramatic bow. When the winged man turns to the girls, they glance at Ob, then run screaming for the private room where Pandora has laid out paper and every crafting supply she could find. Laughter erupts as the children vanish behind closed doors. Miko zips into the air and winks at Ob before flying off to watch over the girls. Pandora shakes her head and Mya looks up curiously.

Alise leans close to Pandora. "Does Miko know about the demon blood?" Pandora grins. "Yes. I don't know what creature he called them, but at least it wasn't Chupacabra." At the confused expression on Alise and Star's faces, Monty, who was setting a pot of coffee and mugs on the table, coughed and explained. "Teri and Chloe were using Tori's laptop to look for my race in Spanish myths and came across that. Teri thought it was a gargoyle and wanted to know if it was related. When Ob told him it wasn't, he wanted to know if it was demon and when we could invite one to dinner. I said it wasn't a very good idea." Monty rolls his eyes. "Then he wanted to know if they were good to eat."

Pandora crosses her arms, cocks her head at her husband and heaves a dramatic sigh. "He is definitely his father's son."

*Yes Little Gypsy, my precious gems

Smiling as she packed things Star turns to Wish and asks if her and Pike would be able to watch the animals until the family returns.

“It's only for the weekend Princess. Wont the animals be fine....?” Erik asks only to kick himself mentally, knowing his wife would just “know' what was needed.

“The weather is going to change....” Stars words are interrupted by Meras shriek of “Da!”

Star gives Erik a saucy grin, “I hope we can have our old room again, the one with that big cushy chair...”

Erik returns the grin and pulls Star into his arms. As he buries his face in her silver blond tresses and breathes deep of her woodsy scent, he thinks to himself for the thousandth time how lucky he is.

Had they known Pandora was busy making plans there would be no question as to what room they were in. Pan made sure everyone had “their old room” and had planned activities for the kids, stocked up on food and drink and agreed to book the new band that Ob had thought everyone would enjoy. She was in her element, planning for her guests when Rowan comes in the front door. Chloe and Teri race to see their grandma Rowan, excitedly telling her of the families plan for a weekend get together at the Tavern.

Laughing Rowan takes a seat and pulls Teri onto her lap as Chloe climbs onto the stool next to her.

“Mama says all the kids are coming to stay and we gets a sled ride with a horse!”

“ohh what fun!” Rowan grins at the childrens excitement. “A sleigh ride.. I cant remember the last time I did that....”

The sudden squeals of delight and Teri slipping off her lap has Rowan laughing at the children. Alise and Stoney have arrived with their brood and Laila just as Drai arrives from the back escorting Chiara and Ryan. The boys are immediately off to make a fort under one of the tables, Ryan scooping up Teri, much to the little ones delight. The girls congregate at the family table, as Chloe excitedly tells them all her mother has planned.

Alise grins and joins Rowan while Stoney takes their bags upstairs to the rooms the family will occupy during their stay. She sighs loudly, feeling relaxed and happy to be among friends. “This will be so nice for all of us I think. The little ones have not seen each other for so long.... Rowan, have you heard about the weather? Star seems to think we will be here longer than just the weekend....”

Rowan nods, “Well, she might be right. A possibility of blizzard conditions late Sunday afternoon. I have spent my day making rounds of all my patients, just in case.”

As the women talk Laila glances around the Tavern. Only the families and a few patrons at the bar. Drai notices the sigh and the look of disappointment and joins her.

“The one you are looking for... he will be here shortly... “ Drai smiles at the light that comes to Lailas eyes and turns to join the boys in their game. He leaps onto the table supporting the fort with a battle cry that startles the entire room but had the boys laughing like hyenas and running out from under the blanket walls, toy swords in hand, ready to do battle with the demon attacking their fort.

The Twisted Tit Tavern was a whirl of activity. The smells from the kitchen proved Monty had been up from early on creating culinary treats in preperation for the influx of people, especially the children. He always made treats for Chloe and Teri, but now he had the rest coming, as soon as Stoney rose in the late afternoon.

He looks over the list of things he needs and speaks to the teen now helping him in the kitchen. As the kid disappears Patti swings through the door and grins at him. She boosts herself up on the island and swings her booted feet back and forth.

"So. This should be a documentary... the Marmurr in its natural habitat."

He gives he a raised brow and bows his head slightly. "No offense Mistress Patti, but..." He flips her off and returns to measuring out cocoa powder.

Patti points her nose in the air and sniffs. "I am hurt Monty." He watches her from the corner of his eye. "And to think I came in here to talk to you about a way of freeing yourself..." Monty nearly drops the measuring cup into the bowl of batter.

He carefully places everything on the counter and turns to face her. "Mistress, a Marmurr is bound to a family, a bloodline. We can't be freed." he frowns. "Unless you plan to"

Patti laughs. "And have Ike out for my hide? Hell no! But don't you want to make choices for yourself without having to worry? I know I did. I hated being under someone else's control." She waves a hand at him, multi colored nails sparkling under the bright light. "No. I mean free you. I was thinking of asking Silk and Dr. M. if they have any ideas. Keon too." She hops off the countertop, snagging a sweetroll from where Monty wouldn't see. "And I ain't talking about tying you to someone else." She looks up and around the room, "Or somewhere. Think about it." She pushes open the kitchen door and sashays out to Monty's murrmurred. "I know you took one."

Alone, Monty opens the door to the far pantry and looks at the crawl space he used to call home. A blanket and several pillows are still tucked under the bottom shelf, along with the few treasures he had accumulated before Patti had claimed rightful ownership. He looks at his hands, large capable hands, and smiles, remembering the small childlike form he had for so many centuries. Patti had given him leave to take the form he wanted. He picks up the bowl and absently folds in the cocoa powder. A small smile curls his lips. Now she offered to find a way to free him, truly free him. He begins to whistle a lively tune, already forgiving the pilfered sweet.

The winter hit Exton with a vengeance that year leaving little time for any celebration of the Drows defeat. Even holiday celebrations had been quiet family affairs, travel made difficult by the piles of snow, dangerous icy roads and bitter cold. The gars had no trouble getting around when they changed but the cold made carrying any of the children almost impossible.

Star didnt mind all the snow and cold. She took Ru and Mera out often to play in the snow. Mera loved the cold weather and seemed to burst with energy in it, often leaving her hat and mittens to lay in the snow. The wolves also were enjoying the snowy weather as was Tannrs small fox who blended in perfectly with the white landscape. To Tannrs amazement Fox would allow Star to pick her up and carry her, rubbing her head against the faes shoulder. Erik was not surprised however, having seen Star befriend any creature she came across except for the goblins. Nadia was growing and thriving under Stars and Eriks care although she didnt like the cold and preferred to stay with her father near the fire when the rest of the family was outside. Erik didnt mind staying inside with his adopted daughter and a special bond began to form between them. On these days Mya would venture out with Star but would return to the warmth of the cabin long before anyone else was ready to come in.

At the cottage Stoney and Alises children were constantly in and out of the house, cabin fever in full swing. Plans for the school and Chiaras move had to be postponed until the weather was calmer but there wasnt much left to do to get the school ready for the children. Tomas had been frustrated at playing with his sisters and longed for Ryan to be able to join him in his games. Alise thought she would lose her mind long before spring arrived but a sudden January thaw and temperatures rising to 35 degrees for the first time since winter had hit had her on the phone with family and friends planning a weekend at the Tavern. When the kids heard of their mothers plan and realized they would be seeing Chloe, Teri, Ryan, Ru and Mera their joyful screams had Alise laughing and covering her ears.

Mon Dieu! I think Mortuis can hear this at the Manse.... Alise sends her thoughts to her resting husband.

Stoney laughs softly, I think we all need a little break, even Laila is looking worn out....

Alise nods, her thoughts moving to how long all the Riders had been gone. They seemed to disappear after the attack on the Drow. Rowan seemed to think that Marc would visit any day now and Star would only say the Riders would be back soon. Alise hoped so, she knew Laila missed Ramji more than she would let on.

Ob stands on the balcony, watching his wife sleep. She moves slightly, shifting into a shaft of moonlight. The dark hued Deamon catches his breath. His pale blue eyes gleam, the jewelled tones of his rigid mane glow from within as desire rushes through him. Even after almost a decade together, she still arouses him.

A soft stroke along his thoughts brings a smile to his scaled visage. I assume you are enjoying the view? The purr in her words rumbles through him, setting fire to his groin. Already made of rigid, Ob swallows a groan as his cock hardens even more. Will you be staying out there all night? Or shall I entice you inside?

Her hands begin a slowly carressing slide from breasts to thighs, pushing the blanket from her nude form. A slow growl escapes his lips. His forked tongue flicks out, tasting the pheromones filling the bedroom. Ob closes his eyes, concentrating on changing his form and not the erotic show of his wife's fingers dancing along her mound and teasing the dark curls framing her now glistening folds. His form ripples, shrinking in on itself as he releases the excess elements of his Deamon form. His mane softens, becoming his normal shoulder length messy waves. His hand finds his cock, seeking the spines that grace his Deamonic cock. A relieve breath escapes when he feels nothing but flesh.

Playing with yourself... soo sexy...

Ob steps through the open balcony doors, still shedding his Deamonic persona. He says nothing, eyes glued to her naked form. Her fingers slide along her slit. Raising her hips, Pandora spreads her slick folds and begins to stroke over her clit. Her fingers dance, sometimes dipping in and out, moaning softly. Ob stll says nothing, keeping his thoughts hidden as well. Pandora begins to thrust her hips, moaning as she watches him come closer. She adds another finger and begins to thrust harder. Ob reaches out and captures her wrist. He leans over her and sucks her wet fingers into his mouth. Still forked, his tongue wraps around the fingers, stroking them clean. Pandora moans softly.

Grasping her legs, Ob tugs, sliding her to the bottom of the bed. Dropping to his knees, he pulls her legs over his shoulder and presses his mouth to her wet snatch. His tongue dances over her clit, then thrusts deep. The forked tip flutters inside, making her squirm. She moans and tries to buck against his mouth. He nips at her clit and she yelps. He growls softly. Pandora moans, raising her hips. His tongue slides along her slit. As his tongue presses against the tight pucker of her ass she trembles. When his tongue slips inside, Pandora tries to lift higher. She whimpers as he slips from between her legs.

"Bruha..." His voice is low, a gravelly rumble, heavily accented, r's rolling in his need. "I have two tails rrright now." He mounts the bed, knees straddling her chest. His throbbing cock nudges her lips. Pandora eagerly sucks him deep into her mouth. Her tongue strokes along the underside of the head and he shudders. A moan of pleasure shivers through him from cock to tail tip, vibrating along her clit as he rubs the soft pointed tip of his tail through her moist heat. She moans louder as he flexes the tip, then pushes into her tight cunt. He growls, reigning in the urge to thrust both cock and tail deep.

"Arren't ye glad my tail is flexible?" He slides his tail, thrusting slowly. Her moans vibrate along his rigid length. Ob grits his teeth, fighting for control. He slowly pulls away, groaning as her teeth scrape his shaft. "Nay Bruha... I'm not cumming that way."

He helps her up, moving to lay back. "Strrraddle me. Fuck me, Bitch."

Pandora slides over him, grasping his cock to position it at her opening. He braces to push up into her, but instead shudders as she slides the broad head over her clit. She smiles down at him, black hair tumbling around her moonlit form. The contrast of his own earth toned hands cupping her full white breasts makes his cock jump, bring a soft sound from her.

"Now Brrruha. Orrr I will not be rrresponsible forrr what hole I fuck. And I WILL fuck you ha" His words are cut off as Pandora rocks over him, forcing his cock deep into her tight channel. She shudders and moves slightly, adjusting to his thick hard length. Ob growls. His large hands grip her hips and he bucks, sinking his length deep. Pandora squeals, breath coming in harsh pants. His hands slide up her back, forcing her foreward.

"Hold still. Do not move, mi amorrr, bésame...kiss me." His lips slide over hers, teeth nibbling, pulling her deeper into their kiss. He feels her relax and pulls out slightly. As she shivers in pleasure he thrusts into hard. Her groan deepens as he lifta his knees, spreading her legs wider. The tip of his tail strokes along her tight pucker. Pandora trembles, groaning into his mouth.

He breaks the kiss, lips barely touching as he breathes in her pants. His tail presses harder and she rolls her hips. "Si orr no?"

Pandora whimpers. "Yes, si... gently?" Ob kisses her and presses harder, feeling her open slowly. With a quick thrust, he sinks the flanges tip just inside the tight grasp of her muscled ring. Pandora whimpers into his mouth, and he waits, letting her adjust. He feels her relax slightly and flexes his hips. When she moans, Ob begins a slow thrust in and out of her body. Pandora presses her hands into his chest, nails scraping. Pushing up, Pandora watches his face. She digs her nails into his chest, and smiles as his eyes slit and his chest vibrates with an unreleased groan. She begins to slide, fucking herself on his cock and tail. She rolls her hips, moaning softly as he flicks his tail deep inside her. She closes her eyes at the feeling of the pressure of her double penetration.

Ob rolls, trapping her beneath him. He rises up, pulling her legs over his shoulders. Pandora gasps as Ob takes control, raising her hips and deepening the thrusts in both her cunt and ass. Pandora writhes, tossing her head as Ob plunges in and out. A wicked grin curls his lips and Ob maneuvers a hand over her mound. His fingers find her clit and he begins to rub, pinch, and tug.

Pandora begins to thrash, bucking hard on each thrust, whimpering on each outward stroke. His mind slips into hers, stroking along her arousal, building her even higher. He can feel her on the edge, both mind and body close to shattering. He pinches her clit, rolling it between his finger and thumb as he lets her feel his own impending explosion.

"NOW mi amorr... Now!"

Pandora arches as her orgasm explodes, implodes, shatters her entire being. Just as the world begins to come back into focus, Ob thrusts deep, filling her with himself and his scalding hot need. She screams, echoing the shout that explodes from his deep chest.

Minutes later, he lets her legs slowly slide from his shoulders. He carefully pulls his tail from her and eases off her. Brushing damp hair from her face, he stretches out beside her.

"Wow... So this is what happens when you play with death magic..."

Ob's eyes widen."How..?"

"I'm a Witch. I can smell it." Pandora smirks. "and I can read your mind, butt head."

When the sorcerer approached me with what I regarded as a near-impossible task - to force-grow a hawthorn hedge to a height of six feet or more, in an area glutted with Cold Iron, all within the space of three days - I very nearly laughed in his face. Fortunately for my continued good health, I managed to stifle the impulse. I did manage, I think, to convey a sense of how difficult such an undertaking would be, whereupon the mage assured me that he was counting on just those factors to come into play when the Drow stepped into our trap. The presence of so much iron would weaken and destabilize their Gate; the hawthorne - a notoriously difficult plant to work with - would inhibit if not actually negate their magic. He listened to me very patiently and then nodded once. "Do your best." That was all he said.

Thus began three days in Hell, three days during which I battled the debilitating effects of Cold Iron to force an unnaturally rapid growth of a plant whose very nature disrupts and warps magic. I began at dawn and wended my way home at dusk, too exhausted to do more than snatch a quick meal and reel to bed.

By the end of the third day, I looked like I had been on a week-long hunger strike; but by the gods, the hedge was ready, and you have read already of the yeoman's service it gave us in our fight against the Dark Ones.

Ah, but I crave your pardon. I forget that not all are familiar with the ways of magic. Know, then, that hawthorn has for centuries been known as a spellbreaker, a protection against dark magic. A hawthorn flower carried on one's person renders that person proof against all but the most potent curses - and even these are apt to go strangely and subtly awry in the immediate neighborhood of hawthorn. Fashion a wax doll - a poppet, as we call them - in the likeness of your enemy and pierce it with a thorn from the hawthorn and your enemy will suffer injury or pain where the poppet has been pierced.

But I digress. The hedge protected our folk from the Drow's magic and the iron shot provided by Sieur Jack was more than they could withstand. (Mem. - Strive to stay on Jack's good side.)

A very little more remains to be said. In recompense for the three nights that I was incapable of even self-gratification, each of my lovers chose one night and pleasured me into near-unconsciousness - and when I recovered, they began again. Thus it is that once again I am exhausted... but in a much more pleasurable fashion.

Nathlyn comes to with a heartfelt groan, hissing with pain as he tries to sit up. For a moment he sits motionless, assessing his injuries. His collarbone is broken, as is his left arm between the shoulder and elbow. He has managed to acquire a fine collection of bruises on his trip through the Gate and he stands before he can stiffen up any further.

There! Some twenty yards away lies the unmoving form of the Priestess. Nathlyn takes a step in that direction; as little love as he has for the damned woman, his duty is clear. He has taken no more than three steps when he is hammered to the ground by an irresistible force; his teeth click together and he shrieks as the broken ends of his collarbone grind together.

When the pain becomes bearable, he looks to see what felled him - and looks into the glazed, unseeing eyes of one of his soldiers. The face is a mask of blood; Nathlyn stares, frozen - then inches out from under the corpse. The maneuver raises his eyes skyward; in an instant they widen in shock and Nathlyn throws himself face down, covering his head with his sound arm. Suddenly it's raining corpses, the bodies of his men falling to earth, landing in twisted, unnatural poses. 

The grisly bombardmemt ends as quickly as it began. Nathlyn swears fervently as he recognizes one face, then another. With sudden resolve he turns and reaches the Priestess' side. He examines her quickly and dispassionately. A broken hip, a broken forearm and wrist and what feels like a cracked skull. For just a second he considers if it might not be more merciful to end her suffering - but only for a second. She's still a priestess of Lolth and to kill her - even as an act of mercy - would be the most horrible blasphemy. They would never stop coming for him.

With the last of his fading strength, Nathlyn sends out a Call to the nearest Temple; then, thoroughly drained, he falls unconscious next to Ardara.

The Fae Lord raises another Gate, this one with less vibrant colors. The green and yellow swirling within slowly darkens. Shapes appear. Trees sway, leaves shivering in an unfelt breeze. Bodies rise, shuffling at first, then moving in a macabre dance toward the pulsing gate. They tumble through, disappearing from sight.

A trickle of bits and pieces follows the bodies, mixed with dead leaves and dry twigs. The trickle becomes a stream, flowing around the dancing Deamon and falling through the Gate. A breeze sweeps through the clearing, pushing the last fragments of torn flesh into the Gate. As the wind dies, so does the echo of Mortuis' chanted spell. Keon lets the Gate snap shut and the men turn tired eyes on each other.

Ob breathes deep. moaning softly. He drops to the ground and takes another deep breath. A groan escapes as he exhales. His great horned head hangs slowly. He looks up at the others with a crooked grin. "That felt good."

Lumbering to his feet, the Deamon concentrates. His body shivers, condensing until horns softens into a flowing jewel-toned mane and the large frame reduces to human proportions. He shivers again, a shuddering that ripples through him like a contented hound.Ob stretches, joints emitting loud pops. He breathes deep again.

"I can still scent blood, but the smell of sweet earth and leaf decay nearly covers it." He grins at the other two men. "Anymore evidence we get to destroy?"

Obsidian lands just outside the fight zone. He breathes deep and shudders. A surge of energy rushes through him and he feels the Deamon inside take notice of all the carnage. He growls softly, grinding his teeth. The pair within the zone turn their eyes on the gargoyle. His voice is gravelly due to his still stone form.

"I came," he clears his throat, the sound a harsh grinding,"I came to see if you needed any help." He licks his lips as his eyes softly glow. He flexes dark granite wings and breathes deeply. "Allah... That feels sooo good."

His skin ripples, a liquid movement of flesh. Blue infuses the dark granite and he shakes like a large dog. Scales form, shading the stone to even more shades of blue. The Gargoyle raises his head and shakes it, horntips catching, and reflecting, the light of the rising moon. He blinks Deamon slitted eyes and smiles a mouth full of pointed teeth.

"*Vamos chicos ... me deja jugar también?" A worried look crosses the Deamon's face. " Let's not tell the wife?"

Keon looks at Mortuis and quirks an eyebrow. The Sorcerer laughs, the sound both surprised and chilling.

"No fears on that point Obsidian Heart. I believe none of us would wish your wife to know of this. Keon, are you ready to open another Gate?" When the Dark Fae nods, the Sorcerer smiles even though it only shows with the glinting of his eyes. 

"I believe these warriors would best rest at Home."

*Come on guys... let me play too?

After a few moments, Keon raises his head. His breathing has returned to a steady rythm and he wipes the sweat from his brow with a steady hand. The eyes he turns on his friend are still emotionless, although small lights seem to glitter in their depths. He surveys the hacked remains of their foes and shakes his head slowly.

"She wastes her people as if they are nothing but meat."

The Sorcerer nods in agreement. "To her, they are."


The view is not unlike any other battlefield the Dark Lord had ever seen before. The smell on the other hand... The difference is the stench of Cold Iron and the burning bite of Steel. Keon closes his eyes, fighting past the pain eating through his personal magik to the blank plain deep within. A small breath of relief escapes his lips when the familiar nothingness envelopes his mind. A cold smile touches his lips, curving them slightly. 

He stretches his neck, feeling tight muscles pop. Magik floods over him in a sheen of sickly green. He opens his eyes and turns to Mortuis. Gone is the Merry Minstrel,the Boon Companion. What stands before the Good Doctor is someone few have seen and even fewer have survived. The timbre of his voice is as dead as the dark depths of the Dark Lord's eyes.

"Is all in readiness, Master Sorcerer?"

Mortuis assesses the Fae Lord. Haloed in a whirlwind of yellow-green eldritch energies, the man's flesh resembles an oily spill. His eyes are shrunken to pinpoints, upper lip curled back in a feral smile. the Minstrel is overlaid - perhaps overwhelmed? - by the Assassin, Mab's own Right Hand of Death. But, because of the bond between them, Mortuis can Feel that Keon is not utterly lost to them. He's still there, just subsumed for the moment in the rising tide of dark magic.

"The engine was backed up the tracks a good mile." He adjusts his gloves, tugging the cuffs to snug the leather encasing his hands. "Wish assured me it will not interfere with your own casting." Keon nods once. "I have picked my spot to send most of the iron. Much of it, but not all. Can you open a Gate to these coordinates?"

Mortuis rattles off longitude and latitude. Keon takes a deep breath and holds his hands outward. He moves them slowly, gracefully. The Gate that forms is unlike any the Sorcerer has seen before. An eerie mist swirls upwards. It dances, a demented flame of yellow and green, shot through with black, purple, and blood red. Keon turns his dead gaze to his companion.

"Naught and None await beyond. 'Tis clear for the nonce."

Words are muttered, head bows, arms stretch wide, and hands beckon. Loose shrapnel gathers, rising into a trembling cloud. It slowly drifts away, drawn to the swirling Gate. As the first bits of iron and steel disappear into the flames, the Magicks merge. A wind rages through the haze of metal, twisting and tugging it into a whirlwind. The metal shards disappear nearly as fast as Mortuis can collect it. Within twenty minutes only bits and pieces flash through the gate. 

The men drop their castings simultaniously. Both breathe deep, regathering their strength before the next stage.

The Gate went down after the shooting started - even I could feel it - leaving the Drow with no option but to stand and die.

Sorry, I don't feel up to quips just now. Maybe another time.

What we're doing is necessary. I keep telling myself that as I fire and fire and fire again. Inside, I understand it to be true; but I feel sick at heart as I do what I have to. I swallow it down, keep targeting, keep firing.

From the corner of one eye, I see the priestess edging toward the defunct Gate - and it starts to glow. I snap a shot in that direction, but i'm too hasty; it misses.


The hooded man raises his blade high - and lightning slashes out of the sky as the ground suddenly rumbles, thrumming with the deep-toned scream of a locomotive.

It's going to be close.

The Gate blossoms into full manifestation as the train bursts into the clearing, screaming like a banshee - tons and tons of steel, rushing right at the priestess. She throws herself at the glowing opening, but one of her men suddenly tackles her, wrapping his arms around her slender waist and hanging on for dear life.


It's anything but graceful, but somehow the pair stumble, stagger and fall through the Gate just before the train hits. The Gate winks out of existence, and we're left standing knee-deep in dead bodies.

The Drow die like anyone else.

Their situation was hopeless from the beginning. The hedge prevents escape on three sides - hawthorne is major magic-bane, I'm told - and our fire is concentrated on keeping them away from the Gate. Boxed in like they are, they can't even rush us; they'd be cut to pieces.

They die bravely, if that counts for anything after you're dead. Not one man retreats; a few tried to bring their bows into play early on, but all that meant was that we targeted the bowmen first. I'm going for mercy shots, one-hit kills; beside me, Raina is doing the same thing. Jack is like the fuckin' Terminator, but without the Schwarzeneggerian muscles. For all the emotion he displays, he might as well be playing eighteen holes of golf.

A very few of the remaining Drow make a break for it. Dragon burns two of them down in their tracks and Phoenix swoops down to snatch up a third, carries him high into the sky and ignites like a supernova.


With that single word, the glamour that kept us hidden shimmers out of existence - but it's too late, our arms are leveled and we're firing as fast as we can pull the trigger.

I would serve under Mortuis in any army. He directed the location, the tactics and the weaponry - shotguns, mostly the pump variety, with a few double-barreled shotguns in case pumps aren't fast enough. Jack ordered thousands of rounds of ammo - shells loaded with steel shot, as lethal to the Drow as their own Bal-Char. More so; even a graze begins to decay as if touched by acid.

This isn't a battle, not really. The Drow don't have a chance.

This is a massacre.

I can't find it in my heart to feel bad about it. We didn't seek them out, they came to us. Now they pay the price.

The air is full of the deadly steel shot and men die as it rips past their armor as through wet cardboard; it tears into their flesh and begins devouring them from the inside out. Nick and Raina stand side by side, firing almost as one, but it's Jack that surprises me. His face is a mask, his eyes cold and bleak and empty; he lines up each shot with care and is lining up the next before his man falls. There's no humanity in his face, no pity - no emotion of any kind. He's like a killing machine, no less than one of Lily's Claymores.

We keep pouring it on. "No survivors" is the order of the day.

Dragon swoops over the treetops and the few remaining fae pile on the cocoon. Mortuis' voice rings clearly through the commotion at the base of the tree.


Dragon does just that. A burst of flame sweeps the Drow trying to reach the boys. Their screams are enough to cover the audible POP of Wish's bubble as it whisks her charges out of the fray. Star and Alise open the cocoon and gather their boys close as Stoney blocks the battle from their minds.

I am myself again.

It has been long since a necessary adjustment to a battle plan caused me such anxiety. Perhaps it was overdue. I should have remembered the maxim, "No battle plan survives the first engagement."

I strain my eyes, but Dragon, Phoenix and Raven are too high for my vision to follow. Fox serves as our eyes on the ground. Dragon and Phoenix serve as a second wave if such is needed, or they can pick off stragglers if necessary. All is in readiness. I repeat it to myself like a mantra and after a time I even begin to believe it.

There is an upper limit to how many troops can be Gated in, and I think Ardara must be very near that limit. I have counted some forty-five soldiers, three officers, one toady, and Ardara herself. These figures agree with those provided by our other scouts. They have formed up in orderly ranks, awaiting orders - all the better for our plan.

The clearing they have chosen - though at our instigation, did they but know it - is bounded on three sides by a hawthorne hedge, some six or seven feet in height and thickly overgrown. The fourth side is where they have erected their Gate. There is room for no more than three men to pass at once. Circumstances are as nearly perfect as even I could wish.

I scan once more, carefully, to insure that none of the Fae - other than the Dark Ones - are within the area. Keon, Gareth and K'thyri will have to be content behind the lines....

I draw my blade with an audible rasp and give the order. "Fire!"

Sitting in the shade of the large tree in the small clearing, the boys look over the small pile of stones the other children have gathered. Tomi picks up one, shows it to Ru, and tells the little boy it wouldn't be big enough. Ru nods and picks another, larger, stone.

Mera and Gracie are not far away, sorting through sticks.The others are closer to the treeline, searching for fallen materials. Shadowy figures begin to appear in the gloom beneath the leafy canopy. The children seem oblivious until blue hued forms drift past clumps of thorny bushes and into the clearing from the surrounding trees. When the last figure drifts past, thin vines snake from clump to clump. The Drow, intent on the children before them, never see the openings close.

The children back away from the newcomers towards the big tree. Their small forms create a half circle around Tomi, Ru and the trunk. The children assume defensive positions as Ru slips closer to Tomi.

The young Gargoyle concentrates as he watches the approaching foe. His skin tinges grey and his small wings seem to expand a bit, becoming leathery as well. Chloe raises her hands to ready a spell, but before she can do more than flex her fingers a large blue hand encloses her wrist. He smiles at her, satisfied with her apparent shock at capture, until her soft flesh changes beneath his touch. Chloe bats her eyes and giggles, then collapses, becoming nothing more than a marionette without strings.

There is a series of quiet pops and the glamours disappear. Wooden poppets wearing clay pendants stand between the Drow and Tomas and Ru, who remain unchanged. Tomas slips his hands under the smaller boy's arms. Ru flexes his knees surging upwards in a practiced move that lets the young gar lift them both from the ground. Tomas strains to gain the branches above their heads, fighting a dread that they wouldn't make it.

Closing his eyes, the boy surges upward, frantic at the sight of a Drow reaching for the pair. Hands close about his waist and Tomi screams in anger,lashing out with a clawed foot. It takes a moment before the boy realizes he isn't being pulled down, but passed upwards. He stops struggling, trying to see who is helping them. There is a rustle in the leaves and a small wizened face raises a gnarled finger to her lips, signalling silence. She points down. Leaves shift slightly, opening a view yet screening the boys from below.

Far below, Drow seek a way up the tree. Thrown ropes slip from limbs. Climbers find no sturdy beanches for their weight. What seems to hold, suddenly bends, giving no foot hold.

The woman grins at the boys. Her weathered face creases with her smile and she leans close to the trunk of the tree, nearly disappearing from sight. She whispers something and leaves begin to rustle. She interlaces her fingers and the sound increases. The boys look around warily. She points to a mass of vines as they writhe, weaving themselves into a tight hammock. Leaves bud, growing rapidly to fill the swinging bed. The woman motions for the boys to climb in. They look down again, seeing some Drow turn while others begin to hammer climbing spikes into the trunk. The tree shivers. The small wood brown woman motions more urgently to the boys.

A slthering draws their attention. All three watch as a glistening black diamond shaped head rises from the leaves. It flicks its tongue in greeting and nestles itself on the hammock. Ru tugs at Tomi's hand and the pair join Viper. The woman motions and two demifae dart inside as the Hammock grows into a large cocoon, closing itself tight. Insdie, Ru holds out his hand and Viper slithers up his arm. His bare hand touches Tomi's stone flesh and the boys share a thought. Trust. Viper watches the demifae as they dance among the leaves. The vines thicken, becoming wooden ropes instead of flexible vegetation. The two draw swords and disappear through the leaves to watch for the enemy.

The boys stiffen as thoughts touch their joined minds. warily they open. Alise strokes her son's mind while Stoney holds both boys in a warm mental embrace.

Where are you Tomas?

The boys try hard not to giggle. High up in the tree. He looks around. We are... A Treelady made us a nest and hid us. Viper and two winged people are here too. Ru reaches out, seeking his parents.

Your ma'man and daddy are proud of you, Ru. Just like Oncle Stoney and I are proud of you both. Now... stay put. We have someone coming to get you. Alise sends a feeling of love and pride to the boys.

The boys nod. Tomi makes a face when he realizes they cannot see them. Oui Ma'man, Pa'pan!

With the closing of the caccoon the Woodwife looks upwards. Pike has settled on the top of the pod, watching upwards as well. Wish drops down from upper branches. She motions to the pair and then scampers upwards, watching for the signal from Raina's dragon.

Pandora strokes Chloe's hair, then adjusts her pendant. She nods once and the children turn and follow Tannr. Ob pulls his wife close and kisses her.

"The bambinos will be alright Bruha. They are in good hands. Trust in the Sorcerer and our friends."

Pandora nods slowly, resting her head against her husband's firm chest. She listens to the odd pattern of his heartbeat, knowing he is close to shifting. She kisses him lightly and pulls away. 

"It is time to get out of here." 

The gargoyle concentrates, pulling atoms from things around him. Moments later a large obsidian dragon stretches out a leg. Pandora carefully mounts, settling between shorter spines. Once she is settled, Obsidian stretches out his wings and takes to the air. He circles once, letting Pandora see the children as they enter the clearing around the large tree. He nods to the dragon soaring above the tree tops and turns, catching a thermal to spiral them higher and further away.

Keon heads through the trees to "command center". The siblings had disposal of the body well in hand. Tomi and Ru were under Wish's watchful eyes. The Dark Lord smiles grimly as he seeks traces of a communication spell. None. Damn. It was just an over eager scout.

Keon senses the anger, the pure fury, as he slips past the final trees. he leans back, watching the man pacing, no... stalking, back and forth. The Dark Lord's voice is Courtly as he adresses his friend.

"It is a good thing your control is so complete. One would think a dragon paced here. So much energy..."

The masked man turns his head slowly. "This death can unravel the whole web. We will not have such a chance as this again. If the priestess suspects..."

"Nay my friend. This scout had no spell to communicate with his fellows. I would have felt such a spell." He shakes his head. "I agree Ardara is no fool, but she is arrogant. Even if, and I do mean if in the most infinitesimal way, she were to feel the fool's death, she would think it nothing more than an idiot dying to some natural danger. They come from a world where everything is deadly. The Drow are wary of much here. And yet, they are overconfident. Have no worries, my Friend. They will come. This death will mean nothing to her or her men."

Mortuis rolls his shoulders. There is a popping as he cranes his neck, to release some tension. His hand clenches the grip of his cane as he skewers Keon with his piercing stare. "She will still come." The words are a statement, with just a touch of question.

"Absolutely." The Fae's dark eyes smoulder, flashing red. "Oh yes. She will come. The bait is too much for her to resist."

Waiting for Tori and Pandora to get the golems ready Drai effortlessly swings himself into the branches of a large maple tree. As he silently scans the tree line the fine red hairs on the back of his neck rise and he breathes deep through his nose. Something wasnt right and he forces down the tingle of panic beginning in his chest.

As he calms and centers his body, his mind races, the flaws in the plan making him edgy. Ruarc and Tomas were playing in the small clearing, their ruse at escaping Chiara and the other kids would be believable to anyone who didnt know them.

They are right where they are suppose to be... The warriors are in position on the other side of the clearing... Could the Drow be moving faster than Imp thinks? Wish was close by, her energy electric to those that could feel it but still something else makes Drai uneasy. If any one of Lilys bombs explodes too early we will lose the fae warriors...and the kids...

As Drai slips from his branch to a lower one a slight movement in the trees catches his eye. Drow! Damn it! Since when did the arrogant bastards use advance scouts.....

He slips silently from the tree and starts to move towards the boys, praying the Drow was a single scout.

Across the clearing K'thyri notices the movements of her brother. What is he up to? He is supposed to stay in the tree.... She signals to Keon who nods and she moves towards the clearing.

Drai makes his way through the overgrown brush and scrub trees when he notices the scout has gotten a glimpse of the boys and starts moving faster.

Shit, shit, shit... dont alert the rest of your foul smelling companions, not yet...gods, not yet...

Meanwhile the boys were oblivious, following a caterpillar and climbing over rocks. Suddenly Tomas senses something wrong, a stillness in the air, a silence that overcomes the small creatures, and he stands, scanning the treeline, looking for Wish or one of the warriors.

Drai is approaching fast and drawing his knife as he moves and praying that Ryan has taught Tomas enough sign language so that Drai can warn him and not alert any other Drow that might be close by.

Tomas sees Drai enter the clearing the same time he smells the Drow behind him and hears the low chuckle. He stiffens but does not turn, using his body to block Ruarc from the Drows gaze and weapons. His eyes meet Drais and Drai signals Duck! And as he pulls his arm back Tomas quickly lowers his body over Ruarcs, the heavy double bladed knife whizzes right over his head and lands with a 'thunk' in the Drows throat. A geyser of foul smelling blood and the Drow seems to fall over in slow motion, almost dead as he hits the ground, unable to make a sound to alert his troop.

Ky bursts into the clearing and before she can say anything Drai holds a finger to his mouth. “Help me move the body..” he whispers. “The others will be looking for this one...”

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Dark Lord sits back and listens, quietly. Stoney is silent as well, although there is a hardening around his eyes, a greyness that only those in the know would recognize as a full-blooded Gargoyle's first stirring of rage. His wife has gone pale, sickly pale. Keon watches her, wondering idly if her edges were blurring into the ghostly, or if it was the loss of her etherial glow that is causing the effect.

Obsidian's jewel-toned hair is glittering, the multi-tones sparking as his rage builds. As he stalks the room, unintelligble words escape his lips. His hands flex, and the sheen attracts his attention. Pausing, he breathes deep, exhaling harshly. Pandora moves gracefully to his side. Magic flows in her wake, her own anger coalescing around her like a cloak. She touches his hand and Ob turns ice cold ice-blue eyes in her direction. She stokes a hand along his scaling flesh, and smiles. Her eyes snap with their shared fury. 

Pandora turns her gaze on Keon. He suppresses a shudder. Her expression is not something he has ever expected to marr her features. There is a haughtiness, a coldness, that rivals the Queen of the Dark Court at her most dangerous.

"Your privacy spell is strong. I've cast too, with Ob's channeling the spell. I don't think that.... Creature... will be able to hear us." She turns to Alise. "The girls will not be in any danger. They won't be going anywhere near the planned zone. Animated dolls will instead." 

Ike nods, a slow smile twisting her lips. "A Golem spell..." A low thread of laughter drifts through the room. Ike looks at her sister. "How close to the Pygmalion spell would it be?"

Tori still laughs, "Close enough I can teach it to both of you. Also," She grins harder. "ironic. Alise was brought back by it. Hopefully that bitch will be destroyed by it." 

She grins at the group. "Here's what we need, each bairn will need a clay charm to wear, something that can be spelled to... to record them as they play. When put on the Golem, it will help make the thing more convincing." She looks at the assembled mothers, capturing all three in a wickedly conspiritorial gaze. "Sturdy playclothes that you won't mind being destroyed.. They will be the kind you would dress them in for an outing like we planned. In fact, the Golems will be dressed in them. The only two that we won't make Golems for are Tomi and Ru, but we will have safeguards in place for them."

They begin to make plans for the deception, volatile emotions held barely in check, but turned to creativity instead of destruction. Erik and Star listen closely, adding their own thoughts to the discussion. Keon hides a smile, glad his daughter would not be in the midst of a battle. He reviews his own plans to hide the children's energy and hiding place from the Drow, with Wish and Pike's help.

Bap flits into Ardaras inner chambers. The demifae was one of Ardaras trusted spies. He was very different in appearance compared to the fae that roamed fairy and the human realm. He was dark skinned and hairy with squinty red eyes and a perpetually evil grin on his face.

He sees Ardara pacing as she often does when deep in thought in front of a large window. The view was dismal, the world of Underdark always hazy with very little variation in color. If one looked closely you could pick the dots of red, some creatures eyes before they scuttled away to be lost in the miasma that floated over the entire realm.

“What do you want? Cant you see I am busy?” Ardaras snaps.

The ugly little fae stops and bows as he hovers in front of his mistress' face. “I have news... very good news.... my Priestess...”

“Well spit it out! I have a meeting with Nathlyn shortly and no time for your fawning.”

Bap looks around the room and lowers his voice, aware that the walls hide ears and not wanting any but Ardara to know of his news, ever mindful that there may be a huge reward for news such as his.

“The children you seek, they will be unattended for a time...” and Bap relays all that he overheard in the human realm.

A slow grin spreads over Ardaras face and then she starts to laugh. “Really? All of them?” The evil laugh is mirthless and soon a harsh grimace replaces the smile and her eyes flash like fire with anger. “My revenge would be complete.. a child to sacrifice, one to keep as a pet.. hmmm.. I wonder what those gargoyles would think 
of that boy living in chains, his wings clipped, unable to attack anyone ever again. The girls could become novices, or I could just sacrifice them... perhaps..." She looks thoughtful. "Perhaps I could flay the flesh from their faces, slowly... while they're still alive to appreciate it, of course... then offer them as a sacrifice to the Goddess." She smiles. "They might make most attractive masks...." The laughter turns insane, and chilling.

“You will be well rewarded for this Bap. Go now and send Nathlyn in. We have much to discuss and plan...”

A small demifae slips unseen out of the private chambers and out an open window. Imps face is grim, knowing he has to report all he has heard...

Days pass, plans finalize, or atleast they finalize as much as is possible within a group of strong willed warriors. One thing is certain. The Drow need to be where they need to be, without realizing they are walking into a trap of any kind.

Miko hovers over a spot that betrays the scent of recent Drow visitation. He tastes the air, pausing to analyze the taste of magic. He nods to himself. A listening spell... Nearly undetectable, well crafted. He motions to his co-conspirator and the pair settles on a well chosen leaf within the casting's range.

The demifae warrior begins to gently detangle his companion's long wavy locks, being careful around her wings. he whispers in her ear, making her laugh. She giggles and tugs at a bit of his multi-hued locks. He wraps his hand in a hank of her purple and brown curls, the pair acting as if they are thinking of nothing but courtship.

As he begins to groom her wings the little man glances surreptitiously around.

"So the children will be having an outing. It has been decided they need to learn some woodcraft. The only one not going is the baby." He kisses a wingtip. "Wilt thou also be in the woods next week Mya, *mi dulce?"

She shivers under his attention. "Of course. If Ruarc is there, so be Mya." She sighs, then giggles. "Mya and Miko sneak away?" She bats her eyes. 

Miko glances around and growls softly. "Si... we will find time to sneak away from the ^niños." He kisses her wingtip again. "Come mi amor, we must get back before they miss us."

The pair leap into the air, hand in hand, and flit back toward the warded land.

*my sweet.


Star hits the ground laughing as Wolf knocks her over and tickles her with his whiskers. Erik smiles at their play, it was an old game and one that the big cats seemed to enjoy too with certain people. His eyes move towards Panther, seeming to lay nonchalantly in the shade. But Erik knew better. Tara was just on the other side of the big cat and Erik knew if an enemy approached the cat would rip them to shreds before ever getting close to the little girl.

Star sits up and her eyes follow her husbands. The question she is about to ask is suddenly silenced by Alises raised voice.

“I have not berated anyone....”

Worried glances are exchanged between Star, Erik and Stoney. Stoney starts to rise but is stopped by Stars hand on his arm.

“Let them be..... Alise needs to get this out......”

Stoney slowly resumes his seat. “I hope the Sorcerer does not see fit to turn us all into frogs if she kicks him...”

The argument was heated, neither Alise nor Mortuis willing to give an inch. While Mortuis seemed quite unruffled his raised voice the only indication of his anger Alise's face was red and her lapsing into French was a sign to those that knew her of how frustrated she really was.

Across the yard Tara sits up straight, revealing her hiding spot near the big cat. Her eyes go wide and dark at hearing her mothers anger. She stands slowly and moves towards Mortuis.

By this time Alise was out of arguments, and fear has replaced the anger and frustration she had been feeling at this plan. Her voice was choked now, throat tight from holding back tears that now could not be stopped and her head bowed.

“I cannot believe you would speak to me like this... after everything we have been through.... these are my children, my life, how could you possibly understand?”

Mortuis sighs and takes Alises hands in his own, lifting his hood slightly to kiss each of her small hands in turn. No one knew that he understood all too well. "Milady, it is because of our friendship that I feel I can be honest with you. I have sworn my life, my protection to you and your offspring. Can you not trust in that if nothing else?" His voice changes; it seems charged with venom. "The bitch-priestess must be taught a lasting lesson, preferably one that insures she never makes another attempt on any of the children again."

Neither adult has noticed Tara until she reaches up and takes two of Mortuis' fingers in her tiny hand. Mortuis startles slightly not that anyone would have noticed except Alise who was close enough to see the very slight change in his eyes. He looks down at the dark haired girl who looks up with serious large violet eyes.

Tara opens her mind the way tante Raina has taught her and lets the sorcerer's feelings wash through her. Urgency, regret, love and protectiveness... and a deep, deep sorrow, very buried and hidden from the light.

The little girl gives the fingers in her hand a squeeze and the sad smile she gives Mortuis makes him pause. I would think she found my deepest secrets... How could she possibly..... If so, that would make her a more powerful empath than even Raina.... and maybe more than an empath... A feeling of absolute trust washes over the sorcerer, for some reason unknown to him he feels this small child can be trusted to keep his secrets.

Tara then turns to her mother who immediately goes to her knees to embrace her daughter. Tara speaks in French, an attempt to keep her words private.

“Maman, Uncle Mortuis really does understand about the children, he really does... please dont fight anymore...”

The simple heartfelt words from a child have more impact on Alise than all the eloquence Mortuis can muster. She sees the earnestness in Taras eyes as tears slip down her cheeks again. Rising she offers her hand to Mortuis who does not hesitate in helping her stand.

“My apologies my friend. I cannot let my fear continue to control my actions...”

"Alise... no apology is necessary. Gratefully accepted, nonetheless. My life will stand surety for the safety of your children - mine, aye, and more besides."  The cold eyes lock briefly with that of each parent, and each feels as if his or her will and determination have been strengthened by that brief contact. What he sees must satisfy him, for he suddenly raises his voice. "This must end, and I say that it shall. If we must depopulate Underdark to do it, then let it be done." A fierce light burns in his eyes now.

"Are you with me, then? Shall we take down this bitch-priestesss and her odious followers for good and all?"

The response is like living thunder. "AYE!"