Chapter 47: Consequences

I woke up the next morning after the skit, my husband’s arm snug around my waist.  It was unusual for him not to be up before me.  The man seemed to run on very little sleep.  I could almost hate him for it at times.

But this morning, there he was.  My lips curled into a smile.  It was rare for me to catch him when he was completely unguarded.  I slowly rotated so I could face him.  I traced a finger gently over his jaw, careful not to wake him.  It hit me again, the emotion that grabbed me by the throat at the oddest moments.  He was always there for me.  Even when I didn’t want him to be.  Especially then.  And it was when I needed him the most.

“You’re thinking too loud,” he grumbled sleepily, his eyes still closed.  I had to giggle a little at the way his voice sounded when he was all cross and sleepy.

“I’m not thinking anything,” I told him, tongue-in-cheek.

“I can hear you.  Go back to sleep.  Aren’t you the night owl?”

“And aren’t you the one that’s normally downstairs by now, hitting the weight machine?”

“I’m sleeping right now, or I would be if someone would go back to sleep.”  One eye slitted open to glare at me, though I could see the way one corner of his mouth was creeping up into a grin.

“What if I don’t want to go to sleep, hm?” I murmured, leaning on one elbow as I gazed at him.

“You awake at this hour?  Just what are you gonna do, hm?” he asked.

I leaned over him and pressed my lips to his.  It was soft at first, then I took it deeper.  I could hear the groan in his throat.  He turned over onto his back, pulling me on top of him.  I broke the kiss and grinned wickedly down at him.  “Do you have an idea now?”

“Yes, I think I do.”


 

We emerged after noon, hand in hand.  I was feeling much better, my head and heart felt… lighter than they had since my little “chat” with Natalya.  Roark went immediate to go check on Ryu.  Standing there, I saw my brother sitting at the dining room table, leaning back as Calysta played with his face.

I had to grin.  I loved watching them together.  Watching my little brother’s eyes light up the way they did whenever Cali was near made me one happy big sister.  They may have been opposites, but they were perfect for each other.  My brother needed someone to get him out of himself every now and again.  Left up to his own devices, he’d barricade himself in his room, reading or writing or maybe escape to the garage to tinker on his workbench.  All of which were fine hobbies and he was pretty damn good at them.  But Cali brought out another side to him entirely.  And it warmed my heart.

“Awesome. I’ll be back right after I knock some sense into my brother.” Calysta was saying.  Then she leaned down to place a soft kiss on his forehead.  “Love you, babe.”

“I love you too, Cali.”

I slid into one of the chairs, giggling even as Calysta wheedled the keys to his motorcycle out of my brother.  Little sister certainly knew what she was doing when it came to Alduin.  I watched her skip out of the house and then I turned to my brother, grinning wickedly.  “She’s sure got your number, pal,” I told him, nudging him with my elbow.

“Yeah, guess she does,” he replied, no shame in it whatsoever.

I laughed.  “Oh yeah, you are so totally gone over her.”  I put my hand on his.  “Good, I’m glad.  You two practically give off hearts at all times, ya know.”

He winked at me.  “That’s the idea.”

Mom and Dad joined us at the table a few moments later, drawn by the sound of us picking on one another, I’m sure.  Alduin smiled at them.  “Glad you guys can join us.  There’s been something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about since I got back home.  Just haven’t been able to do it before now.”

Our parents shared a look between them and then waited for him to speak.  “I’ve already said this to Luna, but I wanted you to know before going through with it,” he swallowed a moment, “I’m planning to ask Calysta to marry me.”

They looked at one another again, then Mom told him, “You both are young yet, Alduin, but your father and I are so happy for you.  She’s a terrific girl.  You belong together.”

Dad nodded in agreement.  I could see the pride in his eyes.  “You’re a lucky man, son.  And she’s a lucky girl.  You hold onto her, ok?”

My brother nodded solemnly.  “You can count on that, Dad.  I’m not letting her go.  We belong together.”

It made my throat close up a little to hear him say that.  Knowing what they’d gone through together and knowing what that bitch Natalya had planned for them… it made my blood boil all over again.  I could see the way Mom looked at me, her eyes narrowing.  The only one I’d told so far had been Roark.  I hadn’t been able to bring myself to even tell Mom and Dad.  I may have been the impulsive one in the family, but let me tell you, I inherited my temper from my Mom.  She was just a heck of a lot better at keeping hers at bay.  But it was there.  And nothing would bring it out faster than someone messing with her baby boy.

I should have known.  Even as I thought it, my brother turned to me, his expression utterly serious.  “Ok, Luna.  Spill it.  What happened between you and Natalya?”

I hesitated.  He had a right to know, I knew that.  But I didn’t want to tell him.  My brother was normally very calm and collected.  But I knew that where he and Cali were concerned… something like this would set him off.  He stood up, leaning over the table, getting into my face a little.  “Luna, c’mon, tell me!”  There was a bite to his voice now, enough that my eyes narrowed as I considered him.

I tried to dredge up some anger, or at least something other than the dread that was curling around my spine and creating a shiver that ran through me.  I stared into his red eyes, eyes like my own and knew I had to tell him.  I shut my eyes and let out a breath.  As I did, Roark came out of the nursery and sat down next to me, taking my hand.

Grateful for his presence, I opened them again and looked at my brother.  Haltingly, I told him what I had learned about what the sorceress’s intentions had been for him.  How her ‘help’ would consist of her replacing the missing pieces of his soul with nothing but hate and revilement for the woman he loved.  For a moment, after I finished, my voice trailing off, he just… froze.

I could see the way the fury lit his eyes, and the tremor that ran through his arms as they held him up.  I’d never seen my brother this way.  He’d always been… gentle with a romantic side that he covered with a lot of charm and smarm.  But this… I never cowered and I didn’t now, but something about him, something about seeing him this furious broke my heart.

“Alduin,” I murmured, reaching for him.  My touch on his arm seemed to snap him out of it enough that he stumbled back, basically just falling back into the chair.

His gaze looked down at the floor.  I shoved my chair back and got down in front of him.  “Hey, hey,” I soothed.  As I touched his arm with my hand, my eyes widened.  He was ice cold.  “Alduin!”  There was no response…

I heard my mother release a whimper.  I whipped my head around and all the color had drained from her face.  “Watcher, no.  Please, no!  Not my baby!”  Her hands clutched at the table as she watched my brother, tears swimming in her eyes.  I watched her dissolve into tears.

I shook Alduin’s shoulders, even slapped him across the face, trying to get some kind of response.  But his eyes were… vacant.

“Alduin!”  My voice was sharp, made more so by fear.  Something was terribly wrong… I couldn’t read him.  At all.  There was just… nothing there.  “Damn you, Alduin!  Snap out of it!” I shouted.

Roark pulled me away, gently.  “Let me try, babe,” he murmured.  I could only nod, trying to hold in the sobs that were threatening to burst forth.  He took my place in front of Alduin and touched a hand to either side of my brother’s temple.  He closed his eyes and I could feel him extend his own senses.  But a moment later, he staggered back, shock written all over his face.  That scared me more than anything.  Roark was always certain, always… steady.  For only the second time, I saw him unsteady, even afraid.  “I-I… there’s nothing there.  It-it’s like he’s just… gone.”


I paced around the entrance to the house, wanting to hit something or rend something apart.  But all I could do was hang my head.  It had been an hour or more since I’d told Alduin what I’d learned from Natalya.  An hour that he’d gone completely unresponsive.

Dad had checked all his vitals, tried a couple tricks he’d learned.  But Alduin still hadn’t snapped out of it.  Everyone had tried.  I had, Mom had, even Roark had tried again.  But none of us had any luck.  Even Nan and Pop had tried.  We were all at a loss.  I couldn’t sit still. And I couldn’t do anything else.  I walked back inside.  Nan and Pop were leaning in the doorway, their faces unreadable, even for me.

None of us said it aloud… we didn’t have to.  We all knew this had something to do with the Netherworld.  I knew about the pain.  Mom did too.  She could feel it.  But there wasn’t anything we could about it.

Cyn had come out, and she stood there, looking a little lost as she stood next to her brother.  I looked at my husband.  He’d been silent since the last time he’d tried to reach my brother.  I knew that look.  He was thinking about Alaric.  He’d gotten close to Alduin in a short amount of time and being unable to reach Alduin, as he’d been unable to reach Alaric…  He couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Mom hadn’t been able to stop crying.  She was curled up in Dad’s lap as he held her.  None of us knew what to do.  We were at a loss.

“Call Cali again,” Nan finally said softly as I stood next to her and Pop in the archway.  “Call her, get her back here.”

I swallowed and nodded.  I prayed for all I was worth as the phone rang.  It went to her voicemail.  But I kept calling.  Pick up, Cali, pick up! I ordered in my mind.  Watcher, pick up!

“Luna? What’s going on?”  I could hear the worry in her voice.

“Cali, we need you here. We’ve tried everything. Alduin…”  I couldn’t stop my voice from cracking, no matter how hard I tried.  I couldn’t hide the tears that were threatening to erupt at any moment.  “-he’s just… gone… We can’t get him to respond to anything… Please… just come here.”

I hung up and sat at the table, willing Cali to hurry.


 

Chapter 45: Her Dark Knight

The drive home was a quiet one.  Truth be told, my head was pounding fiercely and I hurt all over.  Using my abilities as I had took a tremendous toll.  I could barely concentrate on driving; my knuckles were white on the steering wheel.  I could feel her looking at me sideways.  Finally, she murmured, “Luna, thank you. For handling Natalya as you did. W-what happened? Did she do anything to you?”  She hesitated.   “You seem a bit… pale.”

I gritted my teeth and couldn’t stop the dark chuckle that escaped as images flashed through my mind again.  As I’d told Alduin, there were some things I wish I could unsee… but like watching his death, the things I’d ripped from Natalya’s mind would remain me with forever.  “No, she didn’t do anything to me.”  I paused, pulling in a deep breath. “Cali, promise me something. Don’t ever trust her. Don’t take any offers of hers to help. Promise me.”  I hoped she didn’t ask me why.  I didn’t want to have to tell her.  Calysta was so… pure, in a lot of ways.  Despite what had happened to her, she still kept an air of innocence around her.  I didn’t want to tarnish that.

“Luna, what happened? Did you find out anything that I need to know?”  I could hear her swallow hard and she visibly braced herself, holding onto the chicken stick of the car in preparation.  “Is it true? What you were suspecting she’s been doing?”

I nodded wearily.  “Yes, it’s true.  She’s the one responsible for planting doubts in your mind.  Don’t trust her, Cali.  She wants to separate you and Alduin in the worst way.”

I didn’t need to see the flash of anger in her eyes to know that the news made her furious, but I had to admire the control she displayed in keeping it at bay. “I promise then, but Luna… I hope you’re alright… I’m sorry for leaving you with her.” I felt the brush of her fingers over my elbow. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be fine. I… I went too far,” I really struggled to keep my voice under control.  Trying to concentrate on the road and talking was difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised when my voice remained mostly level.  “You did what I told you to do, there’s no need to apologize.” I needed her to change the subject, I needed to try and focus. I felt like I hadn’t slept or eaten anything in a week.  “What happened with Ashley?”

It seemed to work; Calysta shook her head and I could hear her grinding her teeth.  “I need to call my brother. He needs to know that Ashley’s here and that he has another son. Then I need to talk to Alduin. Tell him everything.” There was hesitation there; I didn’t blame her.  But I knew Cali would do the right thing, no matter how difficult it would be.

I nodded, having to grip the wheel harder to keep my hands from shaking.  My head felt like it was being ripped open. “Good. Good. Cali… you feel up to driving?” I finally asked her, knowing I could very well get us both killed if I didn’t pull over.

I could feel her eyes on me again, even as she nodded.  It didn’t take my mother the empath to know that Cali was worried. “Sure.”

I pulled the car over, barely hearing the loud blare of an angry horn from the driver behind us.  I was shaking and trying to hide it as I touched my forehead to the steering wheel and let it rest there for a long moment.  Only when I felt Cali’s touch on my shoulder did I manage to open my door and stumble out.  I slid into the passenger seat while Calysta took the wheel.

She kept shooting me worried glances during the rest of the ride home.  I concentrated on just breathing, in and out, trying to get the spikes of agony to subside.  Cali pulled the car into the garage and got out, coming to my side, she opened the door, her face full of worry.  “Luna, are you alright?  Do you need me to get Alduin?  Or Roark?”

I waved her off.  I didn’t need either of them to see me like this.  One was as bad as the other at this point.  “No, you go on ahead.  I’ll follow shortly.  I’ll be fine, I promise.  Just overdid it, that’s all.  Go on.  Go find my brother and kiss him senseless, would ya?”

A stubborn line appeared on her forehead and I mentally kicked myself.  “I’m gonna get Roark…” she told me, her voice holding worry and some of that stubborn she obviously learned from my brother.  “If you need anything let me know. And don’t worry. Your brother won’t know what hit him.”

That last part brought a smile to my face, but the last thing I wanted was for her to get Roark.  I loved him with all my heart.  But I needed to get myself straight first.  I didn’t want him to see me like this.  I shook my head.  “Cali, please.  I’ll be ok.  I just need a little time.”  I was appalled to hear my voice crack; it sounded too much like I was begging.  “Please, Cali?”

The way she looked at me, with such worry almost had me capitulating, but finally, she nodded.  “Ok.  Just… if you need anything, please tell me, alright?”  After I nodded, she left, still looking back at me until she was out of the garage.

I finally stumbled out of the car and made it as far as the door before I had to stop and lean against the wall.

It really felt like my head was going to explode.  Leaning against the cool stone wall alleviated the worst of it for a few moments.  But I didn’t move quite yet.  I remained there for a little bit longer.

I figured it had been enough time for Calysta to distract my brother.  I didn’t even have the energy- or the ability- at that moment to try to pinpoint where my husband or the rest of my family was.  So I stole into the house like a thief.

I somehow managed to make it into my room without meeting anyone.  I figured Mom and Dad were in their room or out and about.  Nan and Pop were probably upstairs in their room.  I wasn’t sure where Roark was; probably with our son for which I was grateful.  Some of the pain had subsided.  I decided that I’d take a page out of my husband and brother’s books and try to work it off.

So I changed into some workout clothes and once again, tried to steal out of the house without anyone the wiser.  I should have known better, though.  As I got to the kitchen, I froze.  Roark stood there, just watching me.

“Baby,” he murmured.  That was all he had to do to have me squeezing my eyes shut to block the tears that threatened to spill over.

“Roark,” I whispered brokenly.

He gently brought a hand to my cheek.  “You’re so tired, baby.  And in pain.”

I let out a choked sob, even as I took a stumbling step forward.  “It hurts, Roark.  It hurts.”  He steadied me, his hands warm.  I felt so cold.

“Shhh,” he whispered.  “I know.  It’s ok, baby.  You’re home now.  You’re home.”

He enfolded me in his arms.  I was shaking badly.  “C’mon, we’ll go to our room and you can tell me about it.  You’ll feel better.”  I nodded numbly.  As I went to take a step, I could feel my eyes roll up into the back of my head and I fell back.  I wasn’t unconscious, not really.  I could actually hear the vicious curse my husband let out as he caught me in his arms.

“Luna?  Luna?”  I could hear the strain and worry in his voice.

My eyes fluttered open and I shook my head.  “I’m ok, sorry.  Sorry.  Just let me go.  I can walk.”  With great reluctance, Roark did as I asked, though he didn’t budge an inch.  His hands hovered close in case he needed to catch me again.

“Luna, you need to go to the hospital.  You’re freezing,” he whispered.

“No!”  I swallowed, shaking my head.  “Please, Roark.  I-I don’t want to go.  J-just let me stay here, with you, alright?”  He searched my eyes for a long moment; I could feel the caress of his mind against my own.

Finally, he nodded.  “Alright.  But you’re going to lay down, Luna.”  I might have bristled at that commanding tone if I had had the energy.  But when all I did was bob my head in acquiescence, he must have known I wasn’t as fine as I pretended to be.  So he led me to our room, his arm securely around my waist.

He helped me lay down on the bed, then slid in next to me, not bothering with the covers.  His back pressed close to mine, he held me against him.  He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask questions.  He’d wait for me to talk when I was ready.

I lay there for a long moment, just listening to us both breathing.  I let out a shuddering breath and began to talk, not even bothering to open my eyes.

In a voice I barely recognized as my own, I told him what happened in town.  About my meeting with Natalya and what I had done.  He just held me, and let me get it out.  I didn’t realize it for a while, but tears had been falling silently down my cheeks since I had begun the story.  I could feel it as he pressed his lips to my hair in a quiet gesture of comfort.

Once I had gotten the story out, I turned around in his arms, burying my head against his shoulder as the sobs wracked my body.

He held me like that for a long time until the sobs finally died down.

But as I stopped crying, nausea slammed into me and I had to jolt away from him, my heart beating a staccato rhythm against my rib cage even as I fought the bile that was threatening to rise into my throat.

Roark had gotten up and come to my side of the bed.  I tried batting at his hands as he grabbed for me, but it was a half-hearted attempt at best.  He still grabbed me in his arms and just picked me up as if I were a feather.  He set me on his lap as he sat on the corner of the bed and he crushed his mouth to mine.

I may have tried to deny it, but this was what I needed.  I needed him.  I could forget as I sank into the kiss.  I could forget what I had done, the pain, the blood, all of it as I drowned in my husband, felt his strong arms around me, supporting me, as he always did.  Roark was my rock; I could always count on him to know, to care, and to not take my crap when I was being impossible.

The kiss ended and I just sat there on his lap for a long time, my ear pressed to his chest so I could listen to the steady beat of his heart.  He pressed gentle kisses to my forehead and to my cheek.  After a while, he said, “Why don’t you change into some P.J.’s and then crawl into bed?”

I swallowed and nodded.  “W-will you sleep with me?” I asked him, my voice sounding pathetic to my own ears.  But I didn’t think I could sleep without him.  I was afraid what would chase me in my dreams.  Is it bad that, even now, I’m afraid to appear weak to Roark?  I know it won’t matter to him.  He loves me.  I know that… and yet, I can’t help it.

“Do you even have to ask that?” he scolded gently.  I gave him a watery smile, then stood up.  I should have been mortified when he helped peel off my shirt, and helped dress me as if I were a child.  But I wasn’t.  I was grateful to him.  Once I was dressed in a simple t-shirt and sweats, he carried me to the bed, lay me down, then climbed in once again.  He held my hand in his, his other arm wrapped around behind my shoulders.

“Sleep now, baby,” he murmured soothingly.  Even as I closed my eyes, his beautiful voice began to sing.  He didn’t do it often; he wasn’t a fan of his own voice, but I loved it.  With the sound of his voice singing softly in my ear, tears slid down my cheeks.

There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea.

You became the light on the dark side of me.

Love remained a drug that’s the high and not the pill.

But did you know,

That when it snows,

My eyes become large and

The light that you shine can be seen.

Baby,

I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray.

Ooh,

The more I get of you,

The stranger it feels, yeah.

And now that your rose is in bloom.

A light hits the gloom on the gray…

He sang the entire song to me.  As his voice faded at the end of the song, I let myself go, finally allowing sleep to take me.  Just as the darkness closed over me, I heard him whisper, “I love you, my Moonlight.  Don’t be afraid, your Knight is here.”  Yes, he was my Knight, my Dark Knight.  I was safe with him, always.


 

Chapter 44: The Wrath of a Wyvern

Shopping was very therapeutic.  Normally, when I mentioned shopping, everyone in the house disappeared.  Including my oh-so courageous husband.  I’d see nothing but his back in full retreat.  “Hey, who’s going to go with me?”

“Baby, I love you with all my heart, but nowhere in our vows did I say that I would brave what you call shopping.  Rather go through a full blown fire fight, my darling Moonlight,” Roark would tell me, grinning like a fool.  Apparently, I can be a bit of a whirlwind when it comes to shopping.  After the first time, my husband refuses to go anymore.

However, now I have a little sister who loves it just as much as I do.  Which is awesome!  It was great getting to show Cali around Monte Vista.

Chap 44-1

It was even better getting to watch the cloud that had settled behind her eyes slowly dissipate.  The more time I spent with her, the more I knew someone was tampering with her thoughts.  It wasn’t anything overt.  In fact, that was what made it so dangerous.  Insidious thoughts, playing upon natural fears.  Cali didn’t strike me as a weak-willed girl, but most anyone would be nervous meeting their boyfriend’s family for the first time.  And we are certainly a bit different than most families.  So it was only natural that she’d harbor some doubts.  And that’s what these thoughts preyed upon.

They twisted them, made them worse.  I hadn’t tried to block them yet.  I had to be careful there.  The mind is a delicate thing.  And I hadn’t broached the subject yet with Cali.  Today would be a perfect time to do that.

But first, there was a lot of shopping to do.  And of course, that meant shoe shopping!

Chap 44-2After we staggered out of the last shop with our spoils, we dropped off the bags at my car.  I surveyed the car, pursing my lips.  “Hm… well, we can always make a run back home, drop off then come back,” I mused.  Perhaps we’d gone just a little bit overboard.  Nan’s car was full.  There wasn’t a space left in the trunk or in the back seat.  Maybe my family was right… Nah!  I grinned at Cali.  “C’mon, let’s go find us something to eat.  There’s a couple different bistros around.  The food is to die for!”

I lead her through the streets, enjoying listening to her chatter.  I also enjoyed talking with her.  My past wasn’t necessarily a secret, but I hadn’t told anyone outside the family about my time in Bridgeport.  It was almost a bit of a relief.

Chap 44-3And her reaction just made me love her more.  She was such a hopeless romantic.  She was perfect for my brother.  So when I caught that last thought… my eyes narrowed dangerously.  Now was the time.

“Cali… why would you think he deserves better than you?  He loves you.  You’re so good for him.”  I’d put my hand on her shoulder, wanting to comfort her.

Chap 44-4She looked surprised. “I-I didn’t say anything-“  She stopped, blushing a little, remembering I was a telepath.  Then it all came out, like a torrent.  These thoughts of being worthy, of being a liability to Alduin.  How she was determined to remain with him at any cost, then wondering if he would be safer if she left him.  Her mind was a confusing miasma of conflicting thoughts.  Not all of those thoughts were hers.  The fact that she’d been in such turmoil made my blood boil.  But I kept my tone even, letting the rage cool.

“Cali,” I told her slowly.   “I think someone’s been projecting thoughts – doubts – in your mind. Do you know anyone who would do that?”

Chap 44-5“That’s possible? Someone can actually do that?”  Though she seemed genuinely shocked, I could tell by the way she said it that a part of her hadn’t at least wondered.  She hadn’t known it was possible, but she had known that these thoughts weren’t normal.

I nodded slowly.  “Yes, very possible.” I told her a bit about myself, how my own powers worked, even about my mother and her deplorable shields.  “…Sweetie, you’re actually very susceptible to something like that,” I finished seriously.

Chap 44-6I could see the wheels turning as much as I could actually hear her thoughts.  “Natalya?  But why would she… I don’t understand.”

I’d been thinking exactly the same thing.  There was something there.  With what little I’d been able to glean about the Guardians and the Caste, I knew that both sides were ruthless.  Why they would bother trying to break Calysta and my brother up, I didn’t have an answer, though I had a couple theories, but nothing concrete.  That wasn’t important at that moment.  What was important though, was making sure those thoughts stopped.


For lunch, I took Calysta to one of my favorite pizzerias in town and we took a corner booth.  She told me everything she knew of this ‘Natalya’.  I was silent for a moment.  “I’ll work with Roark.  As a vampire, his shielding is second to none.  With him helping, we can make a shield that no one can penetrate.  They’ll never be able to implant another thought in your mind again.”

“I would love that. Sometimes, I think I’m going mad. One minute I’m determined never to let go of Alduin, then the next minute, I feel like I have to leave him to protect him. If someone’s really messing with my brain, I want it to stop.”

I nodded.  “It will, I promise.”  It was good to see that her spirits were lifting.  We finished our lunch and decided to just walk around the town a bit before returning home.

Chap 44-7

“Are you going to tell Alduin about all of this, Calysta?” I asked her, genuinely curious.

“Should I?”

I had to grin at that.  “What do you think?”

It faded a little though when she voiced her concerns about my brother’s state of mind.  I’d noticed a few things about him, as well.  But not even I’d picked up on all of it.  I had known that transversing the barrier between life and death wouldn’t be easy.  From what I’d been able to find, there had only been a handful able to do it in tact before.  I knew pain went with the territory.  But hearing Cali talk about it made me both proud and worried at the same time.  Still, she needed assurances.

Chap 44-8

So I gave her the advice that it had taken me a while to learn.  And truth be told, sometimes I still had to remember it myself: “One thing I’ve learned. As hard as it is and as hard-headed as we Wyverns can be, it’s easier when we share our burdens. I think you should talk to him, Cali. He obviously doesn’t need a reminder. It might help him to talk to you. He’s always been private. And knowing him, he’s trying to spare you. So talk to him. You can’t help him if you don’t ask.”

She thanked me, promising to tell him.  I wasn’t quite through yet.  “Oh?  And Cali?  Don’t keep apologizing. It will just make him feel guilty. He has a tendency to take on the world’s problems. He came back for you. And ya know what? He told me he’d do it a hundred times over if it meant being with you.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have told her that, but somehow, I didn’t think Alduin would mind in this case.  And the smile it brought to her face was well worth it.

I was about to reply when my eyes widened as my gaze saw something on the other side of the street.

Chap 44-9

Cairo Moretti.  He’d been the subject of my latest case.  He’d proven to be quite elusive, which for me, is saying something.  I wasn’t going to get the opportunity again, so I held up a hand.  “Hold that thought, Cali.  There’s someone I need to talk to. This’ll be real quick. I’ll get right back to you, okay?”

I dashed across the street as Calysta murmured, “Oh sure, I’ll wait right here.”

Chap 44-10

My conversation with Mr. Moretti didn’t last long.  Truth be told, the case was an easy one.  Cairo has some information I needed in locating a certain item.  But it all flew out of my head when I felt something.  A presence.  I snapped my head around and saw Cali talking to someone.

Chap 44-11

Based on the descriptions that I’d been given by Calysta, I could only assume the woman was the infamous Natalya.  One corner of my mouth curled up.  Well, well.  I’d wanted to have a “chat” with her.  Now was my chance.  I dashed back across the street.

Chap 44-12

“…want to be with Alduin, then I won’t stop you. I’m even here to offer my help, and after you’ve seen what I can do, you know I’m capable of helping him.”

I had all I could do not to sneer as I reached them.  “Is there a problem here?” I asked, my fangs bared in what might be called a smile… or a snarl, depending.

The relief in Cali’s voice as she introduced me to the woman was more than evident.  It tickled me to no end when I caught the thought of These dragons are quickly becoming the bane of my existence.  I took that as a compliment.  In my line of work, I consider it a good day’s work if at least one person would love my head a platter.  Looks like today was going to be a good day.

Chap 44-13

So she was going to be polite, was she?  I saw no reason to be polite.  In fact, I kept my perusal of her deliberately insulting, a head to toe examination, my lip slightly curled as if I found her lacking.  Which, I did, in fact.  I brushed a hand over Cali’s elbow.  You okay? I asked her.  Calysta was a smart girl, but she was still too trusting, even after everything that had happened to her.  And if what I heard Natalya say was any indication, she knew just what to say.  Offering her a way to help my brother was the surest way to gain Calysta’s cooperation.  Then Natalya could name any price and I knew her well enough to know that Cali would pay it.  Not while I was around, she wouldn’t.

I made sure that the sorceress could see that promise in my eyes.

Chap 44-14

While we had a bit of a stare-down, Cali stiffened beside me and I could hear the whirlwind of thoughts.  She’d seen someone else, someone named Ashley.  I knew Ashley was the woman her brother Allen had fallen in love with.  But she’d left Allen and had supposedly left Monte Vista.  Yet, here she was.  Go, Cali.  Go to her.I can handle Natalya.  Truth be told, I was looking forward to this.  And it would be much easier without Calysta there.  I wouldn’t have to pull any punches, so to speak.  Natalya tried to stop her, but Calysta blew her off and told her to speak with me.  Just how I wanted it.  And the death glare I was getting from the sorceress made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Chap 44-15

I waited for Cali to dash off.  Then I turned to the little witch with an insolent grin.  It was time to give her a taste of her own medicine.  I dropped my shields, letting my senses extend outward.  When it touched Natalya’s mind, I added a little something extra, something that would slip right past her shields.

I’ll never get in Alduin and Calysta’s way again.  It was only appropriate, after all.

Chap 44-16

“Get out of my mind!”

“Just a taste of what you’ve been putting my little sister through,” I told her nonchalantly, looking at my finger nails as if they were more interesting than her.  Which… they were.  But knowing what she’d been up to, that darkness reared up.  I took a step toward her, my red eyes flashing.  “Understand this, sorceress. If you ever even think of touching any of my family – and that includes Calysta now – I am going to make you pay. You hear me? And you heard Cali. She wants nothing to do with you. From now on, when it comes to her, you answer to me.”

“I answer to no one!”

I arched a brow at her.  I wasn’t above returning the favor to her.  Not when she was trying so hard to interfere with my brother and Cali.  So I pushed a thought at her.  Wrong. I answer to Luna.

Need I remind you, girl… You owe me your brother’s life.”

Chap 44-17

I threw my head back and laughed.  “I don’t owe you a damn thing.  Want to know why?”  My lips curled up in a vicious smile.  “Neither I, nor my brother, owe you a thing because if it weren’t for Cali ordering you to do it, you never would have done it.  That… and from what I know of, you were unable to actually bring him back without the help of…”  I pretended to have to think of the name, “I believe his name was Ettore, wasn’t it?”

Chap 44-18

The sorceress stepped forward, trying to loom over me, but I just grinned up at her.  I could almost see the wheels turning in her head, trying to figure out just the right tack to take with me.  She really must not have realized who she was dealing with.  Finally, she chose one.  An appeal to my protective nature, must be.

“I care about Calysta. I just want to keep her safe. And whether or not you admit it, her exposure to your brother – to your family in general – points every single supernatural creature out there right to her. Her best bet for survival is to stay under the radar, to be as normal as possible. Her being with your brother will only corrupt her.”

“That’s the best you can do?” I asked, rolling my eyes.  “Really?  I guess being an all powerful sorceress makes it so you don’t have to think on your feet as much, hm?  You really don’t know how to deal with people, do you, Natalya?  What happened to your offer of ‘helping’ my brother?”  My lips curled into a snarl.  I was fed up of her, fed up of her lies and machinations.  “I can only imagine what your ‘help’ would be like, you viper!”

My fury gave me power.  She couldn’t even speak, too busy was she trying to fight off my assault on her mind.  Get out…. She closed her eyes, though it didn’t do her any good.  I had too much steam and too much determination.  I was still burrowing.  Calysta can never be a Wyvern. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides and she was shaking.  Stop it. Damn you. Stop. A sound escaped her throat, something between a yell and a gasp.   I need Ettore.  I went deeper.  I wanted her secrets.  I’ll help him alright. I’ll help him fill the missing pieces of his soul with hatred for her. Alduin won’t be able to stand the sight of Calysta. 

Chap 44-19

There it was!  I knew it!  Fury swept through me.  The bitch!  I wanted to cause her pain.  I wanted her to scream for even thinking of doing that to my brother.  My brother, who loved that girl so much, he lost parts of his soul to return to her.  She would take that from him, fill him with hate.  No, no she wasn’t going to!  I wanted her to bleed, even if it was more metaphorically than actual blood.  So I went deeper.  The subconscious is an odd thing.  There are so many twists and turns.  If you are delicate and circumspect, there is no pain, no intrusion.  But I didn’t want that.  I wanted her to feel pain, I wanted her to know I was ripping out her most horrendous and painful memories.

Chap 44-20

With the subtlety of a jackhammer, I went digging.  Images and thoughts, voices and figures whirled past.  I could only guess at some of the scenes.  I thought I saw someone that resembles Cali.  I was willing to bet that was her father Adam.  But I didn’t want that.  I wanted something worse.  I ignored the fact that Natalya had fallen to the ground, her hands digging at the sides of her head.  “No, no, no , no, no!”

I watched with no emotion whatsoever as I found a particularly vile memory.  There was blood and pain, excruciating pain.  A man with white wings: Ettore stood over a young Natalya.  Her own blood covered the dagger, the bed she lay on, as well as the floor.  She was begging for it to stop.  I forced myself to watch the scene unfold.  If I interpreted what I was seeing right, this was when she came into her powers.

But there was more to learn.  I left that scene, and went deeper, further back.  I’d know what made her tick.  She’d never touch my brother when I was done with her.  “Noooooooo!” she screamed.  With a bright flash of light, I found myself alone on the street.  I had to hold my own head, sucking in a breath.  I hadn’t taken a breath since I had begun the mental assault.  I had to bend over, bringing myself under control.  I was shaking from the effort I’d had to expend.  Finally, I straightened and looked at the spot where the sorceress had been.  She’d been… butchered, for a lack of a better word.  She’d been little more than a child.  I could feel pity for the child she had been, yet I felt very little for the woman that had stood there just moments ago.  She was dangerous.  Very dangerous.  She wouldn’t touch my brother or Calysta again.  I’d see to that.