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 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.


Interlude Four: The Darkness Thickens

Bridgeport, a few weeks after Alaric’s death


 

The city’s lights faded away in the rearview mirror of the expensive car.

Belisama Donovan sat behind the wheel, her grip on the steering wheel made her knuckles white.  She had thought about ignoring this summons.  Had actually contemplated just ignoring and doing what she wanted.  But right on the heels of that thought was the possible consequences from ignoring the summons.  Though she hated to admit it, those thoughts sent a shiver down her spine.  And so, she found herself following a winding road out of the city.

It looked like nothing more than a small stone shack on the far outskirts of the city.  But looks could be deceiving.  Bridgeport was home to one of the world’s only super, super max security prison facility.  It was the kind of place that was used to house supernaturals.  The only place that could, aside from the Netherworld, anyway.  Belisama looked disdainfully at the shack façade as she climbed out of her car.  She walked through the double doors into the barren interior.  In front of her was an elevator.

She rode it down and instinctively knew that they were several stories below the surface.  The wards, both technological and magical, made her skin crawl.  Hmph, she’s the one locked up like a rat in a cage and she has the nerve to summon me like a wayward child!

She went through the security station.  There were no guards here.  There didn’t need to be.  Those wards were more than enough to keep the inmates in line.  And if by some miracle, they managed to escape, the unseen guards would take care of them.

Another shudder ran over Belisama’s flesh, raising goosebumps along her arms.  She sauntered through the double doors in front of her.

There was almost a sucking sound, as if the next little room was some sort of a vacuum.  Then she was through the last set of double doors, a huge window looking through into a room on the other side.

The woman on the cot had been waiting for this visitor.  She didn’t need to look to know it was her.  Her energy was only too familiar.  Elvira supposed it was better late than never, though the lack of obedience would need to be dealt with.

Belisama looked around, that unmistakable sneer on her face.  “How the mighty have fallen,” she murmured, though not even she was brave enough to say it any louder.  She watched out of the corner of her eye as Elvira levered herself off the dingy cot in the corner of the small cell.

Elvira wanted to wipe the smirk off the arrogant chit’s face, but that would have to wait.  They had much to discuss first.

The elder vampire matriarch went and sat down in the small chair in the cell, steepling her hands in front of her as she rested her elbows on her knees.  “I’m glad you could finally join me,” she murmured.  She had no need to raise her voice.  She would be heard.  Belisama had gone right up to the glass, peering in.

That voice… it sent a chill down Belisama’s spine.  Her mother in law had always been able to do that.  The power seemed to roll off Elvira Slayer in waves.  One could forget it for short periods, but never when they were in her presence.  That thought of defiance, of refusing to sit, flew out of Belisama’s mind.  She took the seat, even as Elvira stood up, her arms crossed over her chest.

“Good girl,” Elvira murmured.  “Now, shall we get down to business?”

“That would be appreciated.”  Belisama managed to inject enough disdain in there to make it clear what she thought of being summoned there, yet Elvira had to admire her pluck.  At least for a short amount of time.

“Word has reached me that you plan on traveling to Monte Vista.  Didn’t I make myself clear already?  Any moves against the Wyverns are to be made only with my express permission.”

Belisama’s eyes narrowed dangerously.  “I see your network is as strong as ever.  There’s no point in lying.  Yes, I plan on going there.  I plan on ripping Luna Wyvern’s heart out of her chest while that traitor watches.”

Elvira sneered.  “Do you even have any idea who you’re dealing with?  The Wyverns are powerful.  More powerful than you can imagine.  And their home is surrounded by wards.  Wards that will turn you to dust before you could attempt to step across the threshold.”

“You’d let them get away with they have!?” Belisama hissed, clenching her hands into fists.  “They killed your son, my husband!”  Fury and what might have been grief colored her pale cheeks.

“I’m well aware of what they’ve done.”  Elvira’s voice was as cold as an Arctic wind and her eyes flashed dangerously.  “They will pay, in due time.  But touching them in their home territory is not only foolish but dangerous.  I gave those orders for a reason.  Don’t you think I would have already taken care of them by now if caution wasn’t needed?”

“I want her dead!” Belisama exploded.  “She deserves to die for what she did!  Alaric tried to protect her and it got him killed!”

She had begun to rise from her chair but then dropped back in shock as the lights all around her went out.  Elvira hadn’t moved.  But all the lights had simply died… Belisama knew fear then.  Elvira could manipulate things in this place?

“Yes, she deserves to die,” Elvira continued, as if nothing untoward had occurred.  “They all do for their interference.  I have already begun to ensure that, but the fact remains that attacking them on their home turf is out of the question.  Disobey me in this at your own peril, Belisama.  My name, nor my power can protect you in Monte Vista.”

Belisama knew a dismissal when she heard it and she was only too happy to make a beeline for the door.  She couldn’t help looking over her shoulder as if something monster was behind her.  But even as she left Elvira’s presence, fury and something akin to shame assailed her.  How dare that woman order her about like some dog.  She had a right to avenge her husband’s death.  So their home was warded.  There were other ways to get to someone.


 

Elvira watched Belisama’s retreat with the same stony expression.  Only once she could feel the girl leave the premises did she allow the malicious smile to cross her lips.  The seeds had been planted.  She knew Belisama better than the girl knew herself.  Even terrified, the girl’s rebellious streak and need to prove that she was her own boss would send her running to Monte Vista.  Elvira very much doubted Belisama would succeed in her mission, though even if the girl managed to do half of what she wanted, it would be worth it.  And Elvira had no doubt that the Wyverns would rid her of the nuisance that Belisama had become.  It was killing two birds with one stone, as far as she saw it.  And if Belisama managed to kill Luna Wyvern?  All the better.

Her eyes glowed red in the absence of light and the abyss seemed to look back.


 

Chapter 36:… Before the Dawn

A/N: Once again, huge shoutout to intl-incident and Notjustabook.  The poses are fantastic and made this chapter possible.  Also, there is certainly implied and a bit of violence in this next chapter.  So be aware of that!

Fully intending to enjoy myself, I found myself back at the penthouse.  I should have known that someone like him would work in one half of the penthouse and live in the other half, plus the next two floors.  He greeted me at the door, ushering me in with a grand gesture, directing me to the kitchen.  I had a seat at the bar, admiring the surroundings.  He smiled at me.  “What can I get ya, lovely lady?”

“I’ll take a Sapphire Samurai, I think,” I decided after a moment, thinking about it.  Getting drunk didn’t sound like an entirely bad idea, truth be told.

He smiled at me.  “Coming right up!”

“Make a tray, would you,” I told him, my voice wry.

He laughed.  “Sure, why not.  You look like you could use it.  Everything ok?  I hope I didn’t cause problems between my brother and you…”

“You weren’t the problem,” I murmured, grabbing my drink.

He frowned.  “Luna, I really didn’t mean to cause problems.”

“It’s ok, Alaric.  Really.”

His phone rang.  “Oh, excuse me.  I’ll take this and then come back, ok?”

He left and I stood up, looking around, my drink in my hand.  I’d already finished half of it just sitting there.

 By the end of my second drink, I was feeling the effects.  The room spun around me as I got up.  I stumbled around and felt a pair of strong hands grab onto my waist.  “Easy now,” Alaric whispered.  “Easy, Luna.  You ok?”

I don’t know what made me do it… one minute he’s steadying me, the next… I’m turning around in his arms and threading mine around his neck, pulling him down for a kiss.  A part of me is screaming to stop.  But it’s being drowned out by the hurt and sorrow.  I really don’t know what I was thinking other than I wanted comfort, a way to forget what happened.  Alaric was there.  And maybe Roark’s warning was running around my head as well.  Was I doing this for spite?  The little voice asking that was drowned out again.  “Kiss me back,” I whispered.  “Please, just kiss me back.”

Alaric did just that.  As we kissed, he picked me up and carried me through the penthouse toward what I found out was his bedroom.  He laid me on the bed and then slid in beside me, holding me.

Something akin to guilt swept over me as a picture of Roark flashed through my mind.  But anger welled in its place and I pulled Alaric to me, kissing him desperately, almost desperate to make it stop, to drown it out completely.  If only he’d been honest with me… It’s what I thought at the time, using my anger and hurt as an excuse.


I only remember hazy bits of that night.  Between the drinks and my mood, I was probably lucky to remember my own name at that point, truth be told.  I’m not proud of what I did that night.  To this day, it still hurts.  Knowing that I could be that spiteful, that cold haunts me.  But what happened next haunts me more…

My head was pounding when I came to.  I was curled up on the ground next to Alaric’s bed.  I could barely think straight, let alone get up.

But it cleared after a little while, cleared enough, at least for me to stumble around and find my clothes.  Once I was dressed, I looked around.  I heard Alaric’s voice outside the bedroom door.  My cheeks colored.  What had I just done?  Had I really just… had I just slept with Roark’s brother?  Mortification warred with something else, something I couldn’t have named at the time.  I think now it was a bitter shame mixed in weak attempt at justification.  Could Roark and I possibly still be a couple after what had been said between us?  But now… what now?  As I stood there, I heard Alaric’s voice again.

Something in his tone sent off glaring warning bells in my head.  Quietly, I crept to the door and listened.

“…really, Belle, do we have to go over this again?”  He sounded exasperated and not a little fed-up.  There was a different cadence to his voice too.  He didn’t sound at all like the man from before.  I frowned, continuing to listen.

“I did what I had to do!” he snarled.  “I made the call to Roark already.  He’ll be at the warehouse soon.  The Treskers are there waiting for him.  He’ll come for her!  No, I’ll keep her here.  I don’t want her to interfere.  My brother will learn he should have been loyal to his family.  Belisama, if you touch the girl, I swear to you, I will divorce you!  She’s not to be harmed!  Is that understood?  Don’t you like living as you do?  Then listen to me!”

My heart was hammering in my chest.  Oh Watcher… what had I done?  Roark… Alaric… it had been a set-up from the first.  I couldn’t breathe.  I’d walked right into a trap, the bait for someone else.  Roark… what would Alaric do to him?  And the Treskers… I knew that name.  I’d seen it often enough when I’d been at the precinct, both here and back in Monte Vista.  Their names were linked to a number of crimes, up to and including murder.  They were hired guns, though it was hard to say whether they were free-lancers or whether they had loyalties.  It was unclear.  And they were waiting for Roark… I knew I had to get out of there, to warn him!

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed his number, but it went straight to voicemail.  “Oh Watcher, no…”  I no longer heard Alaric’s voice.  I eased my way out the door.  My only thought as I ran out the door was that I had to get there… I had to save Roark…


 

The entire trip across town, my heart pounded in my head.  Would I get there in time?  How was I going to get in?  I couldn’t worry about that now.  I just had to get there and hope I wasn’t already too late.  When I got there, the place looked deserted.  In a way, it was good for me.  It allowed me to get in undetected.

I eyed the door.  I didn’t have my brother’s skills with electronics… but I had learned a thing or two during my time as a PI.  After trying a couple tricks, the door opened.

Now I could feel people.  Closing my eyes, I let my shields go down.  Not every criminal in Bridgeport was a vampire and therefor unable to be read.  Many were simple humans.  All I needed was one… Ah!  There we go.  Opening my eyes, I went down a side passageway.  And came to what appeared to be dead-end.

But it wasn’t.  It was a secret entrance to the part of the warehouse where they stored the more illegal items, guns, ammo, or anything else that they smuggled.  Any other time, I’d have been crowing.  All the evidence we needed here… but I didn’t care about that.  As I found the hidden lever that opened the door, it slid into the wall without a sound and I crept in.  The door was hidden behind a large stack of crates.  They were perfect for concealing me.  I crouched down and slowly made my way as close as I dared.  Beyond the crates, the room opened up.  I saw two figures, both big men and I could see one of them had a gun.  Blake Tresker.  I recognized him from several mug shots I’d seen.  His brother Jerome was there too.  But Roark wasn’t there yet.

I crept back a little, making sure I was hidden in the shadows.  These guys weren’t normal Sims, that I knew.  I also knew their senses would be a heck of a lot better than normal, too.  I had to maintain the element of surprise.

Without a weapon of any kind (other than my magic), I was at a disadvantage and I would more than likely be a liability unless I could figure something out.  As thoughts and plans raced through my mind, I heard a ‘swish’ and the door the two men stared at opened.  I had to swallow a cry.  It was Roark!  He’d come!

Part of me wanted to cheer.  That meant something, that he’d come for me.  And part of me wanted to rage.  The fool!  Why would he waste his time on me?  The answer, I knew was that he really did love me.  He marched in, seemingly without a care in the world that he had just entered the lion’s den.  His face was a mask of stone.  “Where is she?” he demanded.  “Where’s Luna?”

I had all I could do not to shout to him.  I cursed the fact that his own mental shields were strong enough to keep me from even “knocking”.  I’d warn him, but I couldn’t.

“Tell me where she is!” Roark snarled.  I could hear how close to snapping he was.

“Roark,” I whispered.

A laugh sounded and seemed to echo.  “Well, well.  If it isn’t my big bad brother, lookin’ to be the White Knight.”  Alaric emerged from the shadows toward the back of the room.  There was a maniacal grin on his face.

“You son of a llama!” Roark shouted.  “What have you done with her, Alaric!  I swear, if you’ve hurt her, I’ll-“  Blake, the one with the gun, brought it out, pointing it at Roark as he took a threatening step forward.

Oh Watcher, he was going to get himself killed because of me!  I didn’t think, I just react.  I crouched and then vaulted over the crates, landing in front of Roark, spreading my arms to the side, yelling, “No!  Don’t you hurt him!”

“Luna!” Roark shouted behind me.

“Luna!” Alaric stepped forward, then he snapped at Blake.  “Put the gun down, fool!  She’s not to be hurt.”  He looked at me and in his eyes, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks.  There was feeling there, almost a pleading.  It gave me a bit of hope.

I looked at him, tried to appeal to him.  “Alaric, please.  Don’t hurt him.  I-I… I love him, Alaric.”

I could hear Roark’s intact of breath and saw Alaric sag.  “Luna,” he murmured, shaking his head.  “Luna, I-“

Blake Tresker let out a bark of laughter.  “Seems Mistress was right!  You’ve gone soft, Vampire!”  He spun the gun toward Alaric.  “Yer weak!  Yer mother would be very disappointed in ya, Alaric!”

“What is this?” Alaric demanded.  “I’m your boss!”

“No, not you.  We follow Lady Elvira, not you!”  I could feel Roark behind me ready to spring.  Everything happened so fast…  He must have seen Roark beginning to move out of the corner of his eye because the gun swung back this way.  I just… reacted, grabbing for the gun, trying to twist it out of his hands.

He threw me back toward Roark and we hit and went down in a pile, then turned the gun just as Alaric growled and leapt for him.  As I tried to disentangle myself from Roark, the explosion of the gunshot echoed in the warehouse.

I saw Alaric stagger back, both hands at his chest.  They came away dark with his blood.  He fell even as Roark went after them.  Jerome and Blake took one look and they ran.  Roark snapped out, “Luna, stay with Alaric.  I’m going after them!”  I watched him go and then turned to Alaric.  He lay where he had fallen.

Blood had soaked the front of his shirt.  When I checked, his pulse was weak and thread.  But as I pulled my phone out to make the call to 911, he opened his eyes.  “L-luna,” he whispered.  “I-I know I shouldn’t ask.”  He had to take a breath, though it was hard for him.  “H-help me s-sit up… would you?  Please?”  Tears stung my eyes.  I remember the way he’d held me just the night before.  And I saw the look in his eyes when he’d seen me in danger.  I couldn’t deny him that.  With the amount of blood there was, I knew he was hurt badly.  The only reason he wasn’t dead outright was because he was a vampire.  So I did what he asked.  I slid beneath him and held onto him.

He stared up at me for a long moment, as if memorizing my face.  Then, his hand trembling, he brought it up to my cheek.  “I-I’ve been a fool,” he whispered to me.  “I-I thought I could things… my way.  S-so angry… blamed Roark.  Wanted to hurt him, wanted to take you from him.  T-then I met you.”  Tears slid down my cheeks.

“Shhh.  Save your strength,” I told him, my voice cracking.  “It’ll be ok.”

 

The door slid open and Roark ran in.  “Help’s on its way, Luna.  They got away, but how’s-“  He stopped when he saw me with Alaric.  By the look on his face, I knew that he knew his brother wouldn’t last that long.

Roark collapsed on his knees next to me, looking down at his brother.  His voice was gruff, “Help’s on its way, little brother.  Hang on, just a little while longer.”

Alaric gave a bark of laughter, the sound turning into a violent cough.  “’Fraid that isn’t gonna happen.  Y-you know it… as well as I.  Roark…”  He had to suck in a breath which was becoming harder to do.  “I’m sorry.  I’ve spent so long… being angry.  I-I just wanted to blame you.”

“Stop, Alaric.  Stop, you don’t have to apologize,” Roark begged.  Tears swam in his eyes too.  The hand he’d put on my shoulder tightened almost painfully, but I didn’t say anything.  “Just hang on a little while.  We’ll figure all this out, ok?”

Alaric shook his head weakly.  “R-roark… Listen.  Too late.  It’s too late for you and I.  B-but not too late… for you and her.  Y-you take care of her, ok?  B-be the man… I never could.”  I was sobbing now, unable to contain it.

“I-I promise,” Roark whispered.  “But you’re wrong.  You’re already that man, Alaric.”  He was crying too.

Alaric smiled at us.  “N-never thought I’d hear ya- say that,” he whispered.  “L-luna.  Don’t-don’t forget me, ok?”  With what seemed to a last sigh, he went limp in my arms.  And I knew he was gone.

“Alaric?  Alaric!” I whispered.  I threw my head back on a howl, Roark looking lost.


Chapter 23: The Dragon’s Heir

A/N:  Hope you guys enjoy this update.  This is done almost entirely with Pose Player.  Now, I don’t plan on using it a ton because I do like letting the gameplay speak for itself.  But since I’m experimenting, I used it a lot here after I had the idea to use this storyline.  So I hope you guys enjoy it.  If you notice anything I can do differently or like something more than another, please, let me know!  Without further ado, here’s Chapter 23!

It’s amazing how time can change.  It’s only been a few hours since we arrived at the hospital in Bridgeport.  Yet it feels like days, months since we boarded the plane.  Jeff and I wait out in the waiting room with walls that are supposed to be a soothing light blue with Luna while Mom is at his bedside.  She hasn’t left since he came out of the last surgery.  I can only look through the little windows since no one is supposed to be in the room.  They made an exception for her.

“Baby, why don’t you go to the hotel, try to get some sleep?” Jeff murmured to me.

“I can’t.  I just… can’t.  I can’t leave.”

“Rora…”  He sighed and just settled back onto the couch in the waiting room.  He knew trying to argue with me was useless.  At least, about this.  I knew he was worried about me.  An empath in a hospital was bad enough, but an empath in a hospital watching her father fight for his life was excruciating.  But I couldn’t leave.

I can’t settle, no matter what I do.  Even as my daughter plays with the little dollhouse in the corner, I get up and pace, then take a seat on the floor.  Poor Jeff doesn’t know what to do.  He tries to comfort and honestly, just his presence is calming, but still…

We’ve had no word from the doctors, not since they told us that dad would need to go for another surgery, except he wasn’t strong enough, not yet.  They didn’t say that time was of the essence- they didn’t have to.  Even if I couldn’t feel it from them, it was written over their faces.  Oh Watcher… what are we going to do?

Jeff squatted down next to me, putting a hand on my shoulder.  “I’m going to run to the vending machines, grab a coffee.  Do you want anything?”

I just shook my head.  The thought of something even as simple as coffee made me ill and that is saying something.  Even as he went to leave, I could feel his gaze lingering over me.


Jeff headed out into the hallway, toward the vending machine, his hands in the pockets of his coat.  He was a doctor himself.  He knew by the snippets he’d been able to glean that it didn’t look good.  Ah Watcher… He ran a hand agitatedly through his hair.  It didn’t seem real.  He dealt with this kinda thing, day in and day out, but it was a lot different when it was one of your own.  Not Draco… Jeff hit the vending machine with the heel of his hand, letting out a curse.  Despite the somewhat rocky start to their relationship, Jeff had gotten quite close to his father-in-law.  Jeff was an orphan, spent most of his time in state run homes.  When he’d moved in with Aurora and her parents, he’d finally had a family.  And now…

His gaze sharpened as a figure in scrubs approached.  “Dr. Blakely!”  The surgeon who had spoken to them jerked and looked at Jeff, blinking.  Jeff recognized exhaustion when he saw it.  He gentled his voice.  “Dr. Blakely, I’m Dr. Jeffrey Dean.  I’m in my residency at Dr. Simano’s Sanatorium in Monte Vista.  Look, that’s my father in law in there.  What can you tell me?”

Dr. Blakely looked toward the end of the hall, into the waiting room, then he sighed.  “Doctor… I shouldn’t be speaking with you, you know that.  But I will, doctor to doctor, alright?”  Jeff swallowed.  “Mr. Wyvern– your father-in-law–  was found at least three hours after he was shot.  The fact that he survived long enough to even make it here is, in itself, a miracle.  We’ve done all we can at this point.  He’s too weak to go for another surgery, but without it… it’s only a matter of time.”

Jeff shut his eyes.  His residency involved trauma situations, and he knew the dangers of a penetrating chest wound.  “Is it a pericardial tamponade?”

The doctor nodded bleakly.  “I’m afraid so.  We tried to perform pericardiocentesis without putting him fully under for a thoracotomy.  We’ve repaired what we could in the first two surgeries, but the bullet did a tremendous amount of damage.  He’s not capable of breathing on his own, which is why he’s on a ventilator.  I’m sorry- but I wish I could give you some kind of hope.  I just… don’t see how.”

“T-thank you, for being honest with me and speaking with me.  N-now I have to find a way to tell my wife… and my daughter.  S-she’s only four.”  Jeff scrubbed his hands over his face, feeling the bite of tears in his eyes.

Dr. Blakely put a hand on his shoulder in sympathy then walked off, holding a cup of coffee.  His own coffee forgotten, Jeff stood there for a moment, feeling lost.  Knowing he had to tell Aurora, he made himself go back in.  His gaze saw his little girl, still playing quietly.  She’d been an angel this whole time.

Then he brought his gaze reluctantly to meet his wife’s.  She couldn’t read him like she could others, but she must have seen it in his eyes, the lack of hope.  She let out one little whimper.  The noise was all Luna needed.  The toddler began to cry, begging for her Pop-pop.

They scooped her up together, holding her between them, trying to comfort her, but it was hard, so very hard when the grief was already beginning to swamp them.

As they held their child to them, a wail rose from the next room.  Jeff took Luna as Aurora ran to the door.  Sophia’s wail fell off, the shrill whine of the EKG machine droning on.  “Daddy!” Aurora sobbed out, falling to her knees, holding her head in her hands.

Luna’s wail joined hers even as the child buried her head in the crook of her father’s neck.  As Jeff reached down, wanting to comfort his wife, something happened.  Aurora threw her head back, a golden glow of light surrounding her.  Her red eyes glowed as well.  Jeff could only stand there, slack-jawed as a wind sprang up around his wife.  Slowly, she rose into the air, that glow intensifying.

Even as she began to glow, Draco did as well.  Sophia raised her head in shock even as the EKG machine seemed to spark and then go utterly blank.

Jeff could only stare in shock and amazement even as the glow vanished from his wife and then she dropped to the ground, still.  Voices shouted as doctors and nurses came running in.  Luna cocked her head uncertainly.  “P-pop-pop.  Mama,” she murmured, her cheek against her father’s.  But she was no longer crying.


Jeff ran his hand through his wife’s hair, his eyes closed.  He, Dr. Blakely and several nurses had been checking on her the last several hours.  She was just sleeping, exhausted from whatever had happened.  Still, he couldn’t help but want to be near her right now, just to reassure himself that there were no ill effects from… whatever that was that she had done.

But the doors from the other room opened and Dr. Blakely stepped out.  He turned and then saw Jeff and Aurora, a small smile forming on his face.

“He’s awake.  You can go in and see him now.”

Jeff stood up, being careful to lay Aurora’s head down gently, and then shook the doctor’s hand.  “Thank you, for everything.”

Dr. Blakely grinned.  “This has been… enlightening.  This is certainly a rotation I won’t soon forget.”  Jeff gave him a half smile and then he walked through the door, into the room.  The sight he saw had him stop for a moment.

“This-this is a sight for sore eyes,” Jeff murmured, his voice cracking just a bit.

Draco, looking a little paler than normal, grinned nonetheless.  “What?  This?”  He shifted and grimaced.  “Guess I scared you guys, didn’t I?  I know Sophia couldn’t look at me without crying.”  He looked guilty at that.  “Why I told her to go and take Luna and get some sleep.”

Jeff stepped closer, just nodding, not sure if he could speak quite yet.  He did try, clearing his throat.  “Yeah, yeah you scared us a bit.  Look-“

But his eyes widened in shock and he managed to shout, “What in the Netherworld do you think you’re doing!?”  Draco had thrown his legs over the side of the bed and, arms shaking, had then stood up!

“What does it look like?” Draco asked sharply.  “Can’t a guy get out of bed?  Need to stretch-“  He let out a grunt as his legs buckled.  Jeff was there in an instant, throwing one arm around his father-in-law’s waist and slinging Draco’s arm across his own shoulders.

“Of all the hard-headed, stubborn, headstrong stunts!” Jeff grumbled as he helped Draco lay back down.

“Easy, lad!” Draco protested.  “You’re acting like I’m on my deathbed here.  Just had a bit of problems with my balance, that’s all.”

“No, that isn’t all!” Jeff exploded.  He had to take a shaky breath.  “Do you remember what happened?  At all?”

Draco frowned as tried to think back.  He lost what little color he had had as his memories solidified.  Then he looked at his son-in-law.  “H-how am I still alive, Jeff?”

“Rora,” Jeff said simply.

“What happened?” Draco asked quietly, looking down.

“I-I don’t even know.  All I know is, you should be dead, Draco.  I’m not exaggerating.  You were too weak to go through the surgery that would save your life.  Y-you flatlined and then-“  He was about to explain more when Dr. Blakely  came back in.

“What’s this now?  The patient anxious to be out of here?”

“I…”  Draco trailed off, looking out the window.

The doctor and Jeff slowly explained the rest of what happened and then Dr. Blakely told them both, “You’re still wounded.  After… we’ll call it the miracle for now, since that’s what it amounted to, but after that, we were able to go in and repair what needed to be repaired.  You’ll still be weak and your body will need time to heal.  In a few more days, I think you’ll actually be well enough to travel back home.  I think you’ll recover better in more familiar surroundings and I’m sure your family will appreciate being home as well.”

He gave Draco a gentle pat on the shoulder and then left.  “Thank you again, Dr. Blakely,” Jeff murmured, shaking his hand.


Jeff and Aurora both trudged up the stairs of the hotel, neither really noticing the lovely décor.

As they reached the landing, Aurora let out a sob and buried her head in her hands.  Jeff had been expecting it for a while and without a word, just pulled her to him and held her closely.  “That’s it now, just let it out,” he murmured, rubbing his hand over her back in gentle circles.

After a good cry, she stepped back.  “I-I thought we-we’d lost him, Jeff.  I-I don’t even know… what happened.”

“I know, baby.  I know.  C’mon, we’re all exhausted.  Your dad is gonna be fine.  Let’s go get some sleep, ok?”  They’d deal with the other thing later.  Right now, he knew they needed sleep.  Maybe a good night’s rest would make things clearer in the morning.  He took her hand and led her into their room where Sophia had already taken Luna.  Somehow, his mother-in-law had already dropped off to sleep.  Then again, she was as exhausted as they all were and as emotionally wrung out as they were, maybe more so.  Her granddaughter had brought her a little bit of comfort after the horrible grief and then the confusion.

Jeff and Aurora stood there together, watching their daughter as she looked back at them.  “/Love you, Mama.  Love you, Papa,/” she murmured sleepily, too tired to actually speak.

“We love you too, sweetheart,” Aurora whispered as she leaned back against Jeff.

She and Jeff changed and then both slid into bed.  So exhausted were they that they were asleep almost before their heads hit the pillow.  Knowing that the nightmare was over, the family slept peacefully.


 

Chapter 22: Shadows

A/N:  Ok, so I want to give a huge shoutout to Trip for all her help.  There are a few images that I’ve manipulated.  It is due to her help and a tutorial using GIMP that I was able to it.  So, Trip, thank you so very much!  You are awesome!

Ok, as I’m sure you guys have noticed, I tend to use screenshots that I’ve gotten from the game itself mainly because I find the Sims interesting enough on their own.  However, I have found the joy of Pose Player and so this chapter and later ones have utilized it quite a bit.  Now, I am an amateur at it, so please bear with me.  If you guys have any comments or tips, please feel free to give them to me.  I love to learn and any tricks or tips are greatly appreciated.  Also, RaiaDraconis was super helpful in helping me find a good majority of the poses I’ve used so far, so there’s another big shout out!

Anyway, here we go!  Enjoy this chapter guys!

I don’t even know where to begin!  I’m feeling so overwhelmed right now, I can barely focus.  Maybe writing it out will help settle me down.  First off, it’s been three days since Dad left.  He didn’t- couldn’t- tell us much, other than he hoped that things would finally be done.  None of us were happy about it, not at all.  But Mom, the unhappiest of us all, said that it was something he had to do.  She was the one who had given us the news; Dad had already left right from the station, apparently.  She had told us of the phone call that had pulled him out of the house and then the subsequent phone call she’d gotten from him a few hours later.

I haven’t been able to shake this horrible feeling that won’t leave me.  I do my best.  Poor Luna can’t figure out where her grandfather has gone.  She’ll sit on the floor and just look around, as if she were waiting for him.

Every time I go to get her from the crib, she looks at me and asks hopefully, “/Pop-pop?/”

It breaks my heart when I have to tell her that, no, he wasn’t home yet.  Though he’s been gone this long before, the fact that we haven’t heard anything yet is very upsetting and it makes this terrible foreboding I have even worse.  Mom won’t admit it, but she has a similar feeling.  She’s been trying to clear her mind using meditation, but I don’t think that’s helping her much.

If that wasn’t bad enough in and of itself, earlier today was just a nightmare.  After Jeff and I got married, Mom and Dad insisted I get my furniture out of storage, start making my mark on the house.  I finally did and with it, we had a fireplace installed in the living room, something I’d always wanted.  Boy am I regretting that now.

Jeff had just lit a fire in it.

I was in the nursery with Luna, trying to get her settled down for her afternoon nap.  Without her grandfather, it was harder to get her to go to sleep.  Jeff had gone back to our room to get dressed.  Suddenly, I heard my mother yelling.  I came running out of the nursery to see what the matter was and this was what I saw:

Jeff and I both ran out to do what we could to help Mom battle the blaze at first.

We had mostly gotten it all out when this happened…

Luckily, he made it into the shower.  He only got a little singed, though his pants were a dead-loss and his nice jacket was damaged.  But that was a small price to pay.  After I and my mother looked him over and made sure he was ok, he went immediately into Luna’s nursery and held her close.

She must have heard the yelling because it had taken quite a while for him to get her settled down again.  As he turned away from her crib, I had come in and I wrapped my arms around him, burying my head against him.

I had been so frightened.  I couldn’t stop the tears that slowly slid down my cheeks.  He held me for a long moment, then put me at arms’ length.

“We’re ok, love.  I’m fine.  A little singed, but I’m ok.”

“I-I know.  Just scared me.”

He pulled me close again.  “It’ll be ok.  C’mon, let’s try and go get some sleep, alright?”  I nodded.  I was exhausted; between the worry about Dad, the terrible feeling of impending doom that wouldn’t leave, and now the fire, I was a wreck.  “Yeah, a nap would be great right about now.”

So Jeff and I headed to our room and slid into bed.  I curled up next to my husband and closed my eyes.  But as I slid into sleep, my dreams were not easy.


Draco waited in the elevator, nonchalantly leaning against the  wall as the too-cheerful music played.  Why did elevator music sound like that?  Whose bright idea was that anyway?  Chuckling to himself, he crossed his legs, watching the floor indicator.  If everything had gone to plan, he’d get into the office, find what they needed, then get out.  And since he hadn’t gotten the abort signal, everything should have gone to plan.

As the little bell dinged to indicate they had made it to the top floor, Draco nodded.  He looked sharp in his tuxedo.  It paid to appear as someone important when needing to get into a building such as this.  He’d been able to steamroll across the receptionist that had tried to stop him on the way up.  As the doors slid open, he stepped out into an elegantly furnished office that spanned the entire half of this floor of the building.  Being the boss must have paid quite well.  He walked in and then stopped abruptly when he saw someone sitting behind the giant mahogany desk.

The images of the dream were distorted, hazy, not very clear.  But even in sleep, Aurora knew them to be real.  She whimpered, wanting to scream for her father to get out of there, to run away.  She could only watch it unfold, however, as if she were the only witness to what would come.

The figure behind the desk smiled at him, showing pointed canine fangs.  “Welcome, Mr. Wyvern.  Do you mind if I call you, Draco?”  The smile fell away in a split second.  “You’ve become a very big problem in the last few years, you know.”

His expression had gone utterly blank, but now he grinned, making it as insolent as he could while his mind raced.  “I’ll take that as a compliment, Slayer.  Or should I call you Elvira?  Since you want to get cozy.”  His voice was calm, almost as insolent as his smile.  His blood was ice and his head was cool as he considered his options.  He knew Elvira to be fairly old by vampire standards and knew she was dangerous.  But he hadn’t gotten to where he was by being stupid, either and he knew what he was doing.

Elvira Slayer continued to glare at him for a long moment, but again, that same vicious smile curled the corners of her mouth upward.  “I applaud your courage, I truly do.  But since I’ve received enough information on you to know that you are far too honorable to work for me, I’m afraid that leaves me with only one option.”  She stood up and looked to her left, to a small alcove that hid something… or someone.  “My dear, if you would come and dispose of our guest, please?”

Draco braced as a figure stepped out into view.  Anger suddenly boiled up within him.  “You!” he snarled, stepping forward.  “Traitor!”

Elvira laughed and William just grinned.  “Oh, poor boy.  William has been mine from the beginning.  It’s very useful to have someone who knows and understands the inner workings of the police force, wouldn’t you say?”

”I won’t let you get away with this!” Draco snarled, that anger sizzling through his blood.  He braced himself for a fight.

Elvira rolled her eyes.  “William?  If you would dear?”  Draco was strong, and smart, and he’d trained for a long time.  But he still hadn’t quite recovered from his last assignment and he was getting older.  Despite his powers, he hadn’t seen this betrayal, probably due to a vampire’s superior mental shields.  He just wasn’t prepared as William seemed to come flying at him, his knee connecting with Draco’s solar plexus.

As if played out, Aurora tossed and turned, tears beginning to slowly slide down her cheeks.
Draco’s breath exploded out even as he was tossed against the reinforced glass of the windows behind him.  When he hit, he just slid down onto the floor, stunned.  It was long enough for William to bring up the gun he held in his hand.  Elvira threw back her head, laughing.  “Kill him, William.”

”S-sophia,” Draco whispered, fighting to get his breath back.  But staring down the barrel of the gun, he knew his luck had run out.

As the sound of a gunshot exploded and then echoed through her brain, Aurora awoke, screaming.  “D-daddy,” she whispered, a burning sensation spreading out from her chest.

Her eyes rolled into her head even as Jeff jerked awake.  As Aurora slid into darkness, she heard her daughter’s piercing cry of anguish.


 

Chapter 21: The Calm Before the Storm

I’ve spent the last day reading over the book my father gave to me.  I always knew there was a family history: I remember watching my grandmother writing in it.  Then she turned it over to him and now it’s my turn.  I think it will be different than keeping my own journal, which was mostly a way to help cope with what I feel, every day.  I will forever feel things that are not mine.  For the most part, I have developed a shield of sorts, though things get through.  Jeff is my anchor when things become too much.

Speaking of Jeff (before I treat this too much like my own journal)… our daughter is quite the daddy’s girl.  As soon as Jeff comes home from the hospital, she crawls to him and begs to be picked up.  She’s so smug once he scoops her up.  He dotes on her so.

She insists that he be the one to put her to bed, as well.  And when he leaves, she gives him such a pathetic face.

I can see and feel the calculation once he leaves the room.

When her and I began to work on skills such as talking and walking, even potty training, this is the look I get:

I can’t help but be entertained by this.  I know for a fact it’s not because of malicious intent.  She just loves her father.  Actually, she’s not just a daddy’s girl.  Her grandfather is just as taken with her, and she with him.

Watching her with them makes my heart melt.  Jeff and Dad are both so good with her.  The little imp knows just how to get to them too.  With me, it is not so easy.  Even her grandmother is held under her sway.

But I suppose that is as it should be.  After all, I was much the same.  So it could be said that she takes after her mother the most.  And she does love me, that I know.  Just as I always loved my mother, but I felt closer to my father, to my grandfather.  Maybe that is just the way it goes.  When she is in a good mood, happy, she wants her grandfather or father.  But when she is feeling down or a little colicky as she was the other night, her mother’s arms are the only thing that will satisfy her.


I got quite the shock today, though in hind sight, I should have been prepared for it.  Luna’s certainly a Wyvern, alright.  I had gone to get her out of her crib to feed her.  I leaned down to her and I heard, “/Mama!  Mama, me hungi!/”  At first, I thought she was talking.  She’d been doing better with her lessons, but there had been no sound, none at all.

I stopped and just looked at her for a long moment.  “Luna?”

She looked back up at me, grinning.  “/Mama!  Baba?/”

I could only laugh a little.  “You’ll get a bottle.”  I lifted her out, mulling this over.  After I set her on the floor, giving her her bottle, I went to find my dad.

“Dad?  I need to talk to you about Luna.”

His brow furrowed when I told him.  “Hm, well, it makes sense, doesn’t it?”  He grinned a little.  “She’s definitely a Wyvern.”  He got that look in his eyes that meant he was doing some serious thinking.  “I wonder if it’s straight telepathy or more along the lines of your own abilities.”

The prospect that my daughter would have to live with what I did made me gasp.  My dad put a hand on my shoulder.  “Easy, Rora.  We don’t know that it is yet.  If it’s straight telepathy, we’ll have an easier time controlling it since it would be more in line with my own powers.  Why don’t you let me see what I can see with her, hm?  What about you?  What do you sense from her?  I know it’s harder for you to get a read on one of us, but I know you can.”

I thought about it.  “I don’t think she can do what I can because I don’t feel from her.  I can hear her thoughts.  Or at least, she can project them when she wants to.”

Dad laughed.  “Hm, yes, sounds like her.  Leave it to me.  I’ll see what I can find out from her.”

I nodded.  His clairvoyance and ability to see the truth of things would come in handy here.  “Ok.  Thanks Dad.”

“No need to thank me, Rora.”  He patted my shoulder.  “Why don’t you go spend some time with Jeff?  I’ll have a chat with my granddaughter, alright?”

I could only grin.  “Ok, dad.”  I leaned up to kiss his cheek, then went to go find my husband.


Draco carried Luna outside; the weather was gorgeous and he knew the little girl loved the outdoors.  “C’mon, lil Eclipse.”  He set her down and then leaned down.

“Pop-pop!” she babbled.

Draco smiled.  “Yup, that’s right.  It’s pop-pop.”  He went silent, but in his mind, he thought, “/Does our lil Eclipse want a special treat?/”

“/Treat, pop-pop, treat!/” Her voice in his head was at a high squeal even as she clapped her hands.

Wincing, he laughed.  “That answers that.”  Using his thoughts again, he asked, “/Luna, you can hear pop-pop can’t you?  You can hear what he’s thinking?/”

Smiling up at him, she nodded her little head.  “/Hear pop-pop,/” she murmured coyly, looking up at him with her red little eyes.

“That’s what I thought.”  He lifted her into the air, causing her to squeal with delight once more.


Aside from Luna’s normal toddler skills, we are now working on her abilities.  Like me, she automatically picks things up, though hers are thoughts, not feelings.

“Luna, sweetie, when you’re with other people, remember, you have to try to block them out, ok?”

“/Ok, mama.  Block dem./”

“Mhm.  And remember, you can talk like this to us, but when you talk with others, need to do it out loud.  What does daddy do?”

“He a docer!  He make people feel better!”


Luna and her daddy like to go out for rides in the stroller most evenings.

Mom and Dad like taking over after that, giving Jeff and I time to spend together.  With this gorgeous weather, he and I really like spending time in the hot tub.  It’s very relaxing, with the stars twinkling overhead, crickets serenading us as water swirls around us.

“Mm, this is nice,” Jeff murmured.

“Yes, yes it is.”  The sun was beginning to set as we both just lounged against the side of tub.

I could feel Jeff eyeing me sideways even as I felt him sidle closer, sliding his arm around my shoulders and pulling me close.

“So, uh,” he began, leaning in close, “I talked with Dr. Bianchi today.”  I frowned; his tone was nervous with an undercurrent of what sounded like disappointment.

“And?  I thought the lists for the accepted residents weren’t supposed to come out until next week, right?”

“Yeah, that’s true.  But, I uh… well, he called me into his office early.”

I turned to him.  “Oh Jeff, I’m sorry.  There’s always next time.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know…”  He shrugged one shoulder.  “Then again, I won’t need it for next time.  Not since I’ll be a resident starting tomorrow!”

I started at him for a moment, a blank look on my face.  Then my eyes widened in glee.

“Wait!?  Really!?”  I slapped his shoulder even as he laughed like a loon.  “You’re such a brat!”

It took him a moment to get himself under control.  He had a grin from ear to ear.  “Yes, I am.  But I couldn’t resist.  Sorry love.”  He coaxed me back over to him.  “C’mon now, where’s my celebratory kiss?”

I was still glaring at him, though I just couldn’t keep it up.  I knew how much his career meant to him.  And he’d been working so hard for the limited number of residencies that were available.  So I had to give him his kiss.  And then we really celebrated.


Draco frowned at his buzzing phone, then read the caller ID.  His frown deepened.  He looked at his wife.  “I need to head to the station, ok?  Looks like they need my assistance with something.”  He smiled down at his sleeping granddaughter, who he had just laid in her crib.

“Is everything ok?”  Sophia’s voice was sharp.  Though she had forgiven Draco for not being honest with her, the entire episode had made her bitter toward those who ran the department.

“I honestly don’t know, babe.  I wish I did.”  He smiled at her.  “Hopefully, just need my help with something.  If it’s more, I’ll call and let ya know, alright?  I promise.”

Sophia worried her bottom lip, then she firmed it up and nodded.  “Alright.  I’m holding you to it.”  She stepped to him and gave him a hard hug.

Though Draco knew she was worried (and he really couldn’t blame her), he had to go.  He took his oath very seriously.  So he left the house, wondering what was so urgent.


He walked into the precinct, barely acknowledging those still at their desks.  He headed through the long, twisty halls to what looked like a storage closet.  But looks are deceiving.  After hitting a hidden switch, he found himself in a sparse office.  There was someone standing in front of the single desk, like they had been expecting him.  “What gives, Faye?” he demanded, his voice unusually harsh as he strode right up to her.  “Why are you calling me out in the middle of the night?  I told you that the last assignment was it!  You- and the brass- agreed!”

“Draco, please have a seat, ok?” Faye murmured, indicating the chair, her face unreadable.

But Draco knew her well enough, and could sense that there was definitely something up.  Sighing, he dropped into the visitor chair as she stepped behind her desk, though she didn’t take the chair.

She turned away, looking at a spot on the wall.  “Draco, I know what you went through after the last assignment.  I was there… Look, we’re partners and I’d have told the brass to take this latest assignment and stuff it… if I didn’t know that you’d at least want to know about it.  If you decide that you don’t want it, I’ll go to them and tell them just that.  But, I know how much you hate to leave things unfinished.”

Now she did turn to face him.

Draco’s gaze sharpened.  “You found them.  You know where it was all coming from now, don’t you?”

Faye sighed.  She should have known he’d know before she could say it.  “Yes, we do.”

“Where?  Who?”

“We were finally able to track it to Bridgeport.  And it goes to the top, the cream of the crop there, Draco.”

“Slayer.  It’s Slayer!  We always suspected, but could never prove anything!”  He looked at her face.  “We still can’t prove it, can we?  Not enough to make an arrest.”

Faye shook her head.  “No.  That’s… what this assignment is for.  To get proof.  You’re the best we have, Draco.  You can get in there and get out better than anyone.”

“And you need me for another reason: I’m one of the few that might have a chance again a vampire,” he told her point blank.

“There’s that too, though frankly that’s not as important.  I want you to meet your partner for this.  He’s a LT in the Bridgeport police.”

As if on cue, the door opened and a figure walked in.

“Draco Wyvern, this is William Fangmann,” Faye introduced the two of them.  “He’ll be your contact while in Bridgeport.”

Draco took his hand and nodded in greeting, then looked at Faye.  “Alright.  I’m in.”


A/N:  I’m setting things up for the next couple of chapters.  I used Pose Player heavily and it’s my first time experimenting.  I’m also trying to do something else that Trip is helping me with, but not sure how long it could take, just as a warning.

Interlude One: Awakening

Before Aurora becomes a young adult

Darkness.  Heavy darkness that seemed to stretch on and on.  It was a weight on my chest.  I couldn’t breathe.  Then the darkness receded and the weight lifted.  I tried to open my eyes.

A groan escaped and finally, my eyes did open, though I couldn’t see anything.  My vision was blurred; I could only see shapes and colors, nothing definite even as I struggled to rise.  The blanket hindered me.  Wait, blanket?

“There she is,” an all-too-familiar voice said from my left.  Blinking rapidly, trying to make sense of what my senses were telling me, I looked over.

“Lyall?”

“Oh aye, it’s me, sister dear.  I was wondering if you were just going to sleep forever or finally wake up.”

I held my head.  It was pounding with a vengeance.  “W-what’s going on?”

I could hear the smirk in her voice, even if I couldn’t see her.  “What’s going on is that you’ve been lounging about, Celestia.  I think it’s time you woke up, don’t you?”

Images flashed through my mind almost faster than I could comprehend.  And then I remembered…  I remembered all of it.  A snarl curled the corner of my lip upward.  “You!  You stranded me in the Sim Realm!  Y-you took my powers away!  I-I… died.”  My ire died away to be replaced by grief.  “David…”  Tears burned my throat.  “Why, Lyall?  Why?”

“Oh Celestia…”  My sister sighed.  “It wasn’t to hurt you, I promise.  I had my reasons.  We have a lot to talk about, a lot to discuss.  But first, there’s something I want to show you.  Will you come with me?  Give me a chance to explain?”

I hesitated, but there was something about Lyall, something different than I was used to.  So finally, I nodded.  She stood up.  “Follow me, then.”  My vision had been steadily improving so this time, when I went to get up, it was easier.

We were in her home, the one she had summoned me to… well, for me it was a life-time ago.  I walked through the halls, so many questions running through my mind.  I didn’t even notice that I had stopped following her and was just heading outside, toward… something.  I stepped out of the doors, onto the little patio and just stopped dead, unable to believe my eyes.

I could only stare.  It was a heartbeat, it was an eternity.  It was hard to say.  “David,” I whispered, barely able to make a sound.

He turned to face me and we could only stare at one another.

Then I was there, in his arms, my own wrapped around him.

I took one step back and could only stare into his eyes.  “I’m not dreaming, am I?”

He laughed.  The sound made my heart soar to hear it again, after what seemed like so long.  I frowned.  “How?  How are you here?”

Before he could answer, the door opened and my sister emerged.  “I’ll explain everything,” she said.  “But I thought you’d want your reunion first.”

I didn’t know what to say.  Things were so confused.  And yet… I couldn’t bring myself to care at that moment.  I was in David’s arms once again.  Yet my sister Lyall wasn’t done yet.  “Oh!  I almost forgot, before we get down to business.  There are others who were waiting for you to get up.”

As I stood there with David, our hands clasped together, neither of us wanting to break the contact, I got another shock.  The familiar bark had my goggling.  David’s words, not my own.  “Diego!?   But…”

My sister’s creation gave me a canine grin and then he spoke.  “Hello again, mistress.”  He bowed down.  Lyall grinned.  “And he’s not the only one.  His own brood is here.”

Even as I leaned down to hug Diego, two more canines came running out.  “Darcy!  And Gabe!”

Diego nuzzled his big head against my hand.  “Yes mistress.  Gage and Glenna as well.  They’ll be with us later though.  They are currently going through the debriefing.”

My sister nodded briskly.  “Yes, which it is time to debrief you.  Follow me and I will answer all your questions.  It is time you knew just what is going on.”

I had no choice but to follow, David following me, my hand still in his.


 

Prologue: Prelude to a Legacy

Special thanks to the amazingly talented intl-incident for the absolutely gorgeous Gothic stone manor that is being used for part of this chapter and that will make appearances in subsequent chapters later on.  I saw it once and fell in love.

Oh my ‘dear’ twin sister will pay dearly for this treachery, I vowed to myself as I surveyed the empty plot of land before me.

As sweet, black thoughts of the vengeance I would wreak upon her spun round and round my mind, a gruff bark had me looking down and I remembered by ‘companion’.  Despite myself and despite the situation—and my ire at said situation—I reached down to give the majestic beast a quick belly rub.  Sighing, I rose from my crouch to look around once more…

So begins the story in the tattered pages of a magnificently preserved old tome found in the basement of my ancestral home.  These are the words of the progenitor of my family, the Mother as she was called.  She went by many names, during her life.  But the one that she was first known by was the Queen of Dragons.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this all down.  Maybe it’s just something to do… as if I didn’t have enough to do already.  But despite all the time I’ve been spending searching for answers, I have yet to find any of the information that I need.  Perhaps if I record my thoughts, I might come up with something I missed before.

*****

The house was extravagant and sprawling, something that fit my sister Lyall to a T, as they say.  While my lip curled in a bit of disdain, I couldn’t help but admire the sweeping structure, the craftsmanship of the home.


It wasn’t something I often noticed.  Then again, this form was just as foreign to me.  But my sister had been adamant about it.  Some nonsense about my true form frightening the neighborhood… then again, if my sister hadn’t chosen to live among the mortals, this wouldn’t be a problem…  But I digress.  I arrived at her home quite a bit earlier than she had said, hoping to catch her unawares.  I should have known better.  Lyall didn’t do anything that she didn’t want to do.  Rather than have anyone meet me, she made sure that I had to come searching for her.

After exploring the home (simply for my own curiosity, of course), I found her in what I assumed to be some kind of work room… I believe the mortals call it an office or a study, maybe.

She was seated behind a desk and grinned at me insolently.  “Welcome to my humble home, sister dear,” she gushed, not bothering to rise to hug me.  Despite the show of opulence, and her words, we each knew where we stood with one another.

“Humble?”  My voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Well, it’s all relative, I suppose,” she replied with a shrug, though she was smirking at me.  But the smirk faded soon enough.  “Come, follow me.  We can be comfortable while we talk.”

With all that happened between my sister and I over the years, I crossed my arms over my chest.  “Why am I here, Lyall?”

“I will tell you in due time!” she snapped.  She must have seen the surprise and shock on my face because she sighed.  “I apologize.  Celestia… I know we have not always gotten along and in fact, our relationship has become strained.  But I promise you, I am not wasting your time, but what I am about to tell you is important and shouldn’t be taken lightly.  I am extending an olive branch, if you will.”  She bowed slightly, a gesture I knew to mean she was sincere.

“Alright, as you wish,” I murmured, just what could be so important.

She led me through the house to a gorgeous living room with a vaulted ceiling.  Somehow, it all seemed a bit… tame for my sister.  I took a seat on one of the small sofas and Lyall took a seat in one opposite me.  We sat in silence for a long moment, each taking a measure of the other.

We stared at one another until I felt a little laugh bubble up.  Finally, I told her, “Your choice of house surprises me, Lyall.  It seems too… tame for you.  It is gorgeous, but not quite what I pictured for you.”

“I was a bit surprised myself,” she murmured, looking down at her lap.

“But it’s grown on me.  I enjoy the grandeur and can’t help but love it.  I know you scoff at the way I choose to live in the Sim Realm, but it suits me.”

“Hm.”  I tilted my head at her.  “Yes, your personal choices notwithstanding, I find myself curious why you’ve asked me here… and why I cannot assume my true form.”

At this, my sister narrowed her eyes at me.  “You are relegated to this so-called inferior form because you have let your own ‘children’ run amok.  This land is only just recovering from their ravages.”  Her glare found its mark and I shifted uncomfortably.

“Yes, I… suppose you have a point,” I finally admitted.  “Though, in my defense, I have been away for many years and was unaware of their rampage until it was too late.”

“Well, be that as it may, that is why you are not allowed to use your true form.  I have made my home here and would prefer not to disturb my neighbors too much.”

I settled back with a sigh.  “Fine fine, you’ve made your point there.  Now, what did you wish to discuss?”

It appeared that she wouldn’t answer me and I was about to ask again after a few moments of tense silence when she let out an explosion of breath.  “I know you prefer to be on your own, to avoid the conflicts and petty squabbles of the Court.  However, you are the most sensitive of us when it comes to the energy flows of the Realms.  Surely you have noticed the imbalance?”

I frowned.  “Yes, I have noticed a few anomalies, if you want to call them that, but-“

With an impatience I knew to be intrinsic to her character, she interrupted me with a shake of her head.  “They are far more than an anomaly.  The magic and energies of the Realms are unstable.  And it is growing worse.”

I could feel my frown worsen as I contemplated this.  Yes, now that I examined what I had been able to feel and sense, it made sense.  “What is causing it?”

“We aren’t sure, not really.  What we do know though, is that the Sim Realm is experiencing a large influx of the energy.  The balance seems to be shifting here.”

Another silence stretched between us as I absorbed the information.  Now that she pointed it out, I understood why I had felt an odd sensation when I had first arrived.  I had chalked it up to being in an unfamiliar form.  But now that I concentrated, I could feel the surplus of energy around us.  Running my tongue over my sharpened canines, I wiggled my nose.  “What do you propose we do about this?”

“Well, being that you are the best of us with the ebb and flow, it was put forth that you explore this realm and see if you can’t pinpoint where and how this shifting is occurring.”

I could only stare at her for a long moment.

She stared right back.

I couldn’t speak.  She smiled at me, obviously enjoying my reaction.  “It won’t be that bad, you know.  We will have to take some precautions though.  We wouldn’t want to endanger this Realm more than this energy influx already is.  We will have to suppress your ability to shift form, just in case.”

My mouth opened but no sound came out.  Lyall stood.  “Come, I have a place for you to get to work.  You’ll want to perform your own research, I’m sure.”  She came to me and pulled me up by my wrist.  I still couldn’t think of a single thing to say and somehow, I was following her down to the basement of the house where an area had been prepared for spells and magical research.  I still don’t know what compelled me to follow my sister’s instruction or to even contemplate going through with this insane scheme.  I was the last one who should be exploring the Sim Realm.  I made it a point to avoid it and yet… I could read between the lines.  If I went through with it, I could be here for quite some time because I would have to repress my natural power and so it would take longer.  But I had felt what Lyall had been talking about.  I was the most sensitive to energy and it made sense to send me.  As it was, I found myself pouring over volume after volume, searching for… something.

Finally, I found something that might work to help me suppress my natural power.  I was a poor potion maker however, so Lyall volunteered to make it.  Before long, she presented me with the finished product.

I looked at it for a long time, long enough to have her laughing.  “Come now, I didn’t poison it.  I know it’ll be difficult for you, but it’ll be over before you know it.  After all, we’re immortal, aren’t we?”  Eyeing her suspiciously for a moment, I finally put the bottle to my lips, and then tipped it up before downing the contents.

The taste was… awful doesn’t even cover it.  I gagged and choked for a long moment and it felt like fire licked down my throat and consumed my chest.  The room began to spin around me and I fell onto my side.  As my vision began to grey out, I saw my sister’s face above mine.  There seemed to be regret in her eyes.  “I’m sorry Celestia,” she murmured.  “This was the only way.  You’ll understand… later.  You might even thank me for it-“  That was all I heard as I lost consciousness.

*****

When I woke up, I found myself here… on this empty lot in a place I was even more unfamiliar with than the land that my sister had made her home in.  I learned later that the Sims there called it Monte Vista.  But I didn’t care about that, not then.  I was too horrified.  My sister had perpetuated the ultimate betrayal.  I was no longer Celestia, Queen of the Dragons, Lady of Air and Dusk.  I was a Sim… Lyall had turned me—mortal.  A sense of urgency drove every beat of my heart; I could feel time already beginning to ravage this inferior body I was now trapped in.

I don’t know how long I lay there, but eventually, I bounded to my feet, almost falling over onto my face, unused to moving in this body.  Only then did I hear the soft ‘chuff’ of sound next to me.  When I looked over, the creature cocked its head to the side and then gave a bark of welcome before it stretched out in a kind of bow.

A wolf… one of my sister’s.  I almost smote it then and there… but something about the look in its eyes stopped me.  When I looked closer, I noticed there was a scroll attached to the black spiked collar it wore.  Frowning, I reached for it and took the scroll and opened it.

Dearest Celestia,

First, let me apologize for my duplicity.  I should have told you the truth, but I knew you would refuse me.  I know you won’t believe me, not right now.  But please believe me when I say that I am doing this for your own good.  You are most likely cursing my name and vowing all sorts of vengeance right now, but I know that deep down, you are terrified.  Yes, I have trapped you in a mortal body.  Yes, I lied to you, or at least I was not completely honest with you about what must be done.  But I did not lie about there being a problem, nor did I lie about you being the best choice.  You are the only choice.  The truth is, you are the only one that can repair this balance for it was your own essence, in the form of your dragon children that caused the imbalance to begin with.  That is all I can say right now.  I will let you digest this information.  Knowing you, as I do, you will spend the next few days (which is foolish, since you have a limited number of days in this mortal body) trying to find a way to reverse my little potion.  I can assure you, you won’t find a way.  I would suggest you make the most of your time and for once in your life, try to enjoy yourself.  Open up… but since I know you won’t, I will just wish you well and good luck.  I will contact you again.

Love your sister,

Lyall

P.S.  This is Diego.  He is one of mine, though now he is yours, sister.  I figure you will need some companionship.  No matter how furious you are with me, I don’t see you able to harm him.  He will not resist you, regardless.  Take good care of him; he will take good care of you.[/u]

I rolled the scroll back up and then threw my head back and screamed out my frustration, Diego a bit startled at first.  Then he joined me, throwing his own head back and adding his howl to mine.  After a while, I stopped and then sat down on the ground, burying my head against my knees as I pulled them tight to my chest.  It was a long time before I could pull myself together, but I did, finally.  My sister didn’t even have the courtesy to supply a residence… though I did find what I found out to be this realm’s currency.  Diego brought me a small pouch and I found these Simoleans inside.  But it was $1300, not even enough to give me more than a hovel!  But Diego proved to be helpful in this regard; his hunting skills were exemplary and it was amazing to me what these Sims would pay money for.

So I had my hovel and was able to purchase enough components to create my own little station to begin practicing my craft once more.  At least I wasn’t completely powerless.  I still seemed to possess some rudimentary powers, though it paled in comparison to what I should have been…

Diego continued to hunt up things to sell as well as more spell and potion components for me.

I would find my way out of here and I was going to throttle my sister… that was my plan anyway.  But things changed, as they do.  Excuse me, Draco is crying.  He needs to be fed.  I will have to catch myself up after I’ve fed and changed him.