Scene 6 Director Wynn Greenbough aka Moonclaw, Atlanta Georgia
I caught myself wondering exactly how I ended up with this onerous task of dealing with three US Senators, two of which, according to my brother, would just as soon take knives to each other and not without good reason. Senator Murphy is a local Senator, and lives over in Loganville just outside of the city. He is also the father of one of my brother's best friends, Gates Murphy of Murphy's Law. He is a tall man who is in surprisingly good shape for someone in their seventies.
Senator Edmund Cranston on the other hand was a short balding man with tiny gray eyes and somewhat heavy set. He was a Senator from California, and was a first class slime ball. I say that not because he wants to have all the transhumans in the US turned over to the UN, but because I know he impregnated a fourteen year old girl when he was in his thirties. This of course isn't exactly common knowledge, and only a few people know it. Mainly because that fourteen year old girl was the aforementioned Gates' Murphy.
Lastly of course is the great Lion of the Left, Senator Theodore Kelledy. Kelledy is the man who along with the current Secretary of State and former First Lady who actually led the political charge against transhumans during the Transhuman War. He is also the architect of the modern education movement that teaches hatred of all things American, and all things transhuman in our schools, and is trying to shut down the various transhuman academies across the country.
I of course have to meet with them to discuss the vampiric riots that nearly destroyed Atlanta six months ago, but this was more like a witch hunt- literally than a status meeting. Kelledy and Cranston were looking for a way to blame all of the nocturnal community- which I'll be the first to admit that it was nocturnals who caused the problems- for the rioting of a few. Ironically enough, it was part of Kelledy's and Cranston's favorite victim groups that got themselves turned and caused the riots.
“Exactly what are you doing to bring the monster or monsters responsible for this mess to justice?” Cranston asked me from across the small table of my office where we were all seated having coffee.
“What Senator Cranston means,” Senator Kelledy said carefully, “is that we're concerned about the safety and well being of the minority population in the city. We've heard reports of werewolves attacking the locals.”
I frowned. I knew where he was digging, but he didn't understand the situation. “First off, the monster as you called him, and I think that's about a good a term as any for his deeds, has paid for his crimes through the final death. He picked the wrong children to attack and one of them was a bit more than he could handle. As for the situation in Chamblee, I am aware of it. The local Chancellor is refusing to allow gangs to bring drugs and prostitution back into the city. The werewolves were reminding certain illegal gangs that they aren't welcome in the city.”
“That is the job of law enforcement, not some shadow government working behind the scenes,” Cranston protested.
“Perhaps so,” I told the man. “But whereas a drug cartel may intimidate or even pay off a police officer, it's a bit less effective against four hundred pounds of snarling anthropomorphic lupine. It's even less effective against a pack.”
“Still, we worry about the civil rights of undocumented workers in the area,” Senator Kelledy said.
“And I'm worried about the safety and lives of the citizens being shot up in a drug war. I'll take the werewolves over your drug cartels any day,” I told him.
“That's hardly diplomatic, Mr. Greenbough. You were hired to keep any more incidences like the one that happened this Spring from reoccurring,” Cranston said.
“And that's what I'm doing Senator. If you don't like the way I'm doing it, you can ask Director Kirk to remove me from office. I'll keep busting heads in the nocturnal community, I just won't be doing it for you.”
“There's no need for that,” Murphy interjected. “Being as there has been no more rioting, I'd have to say you're doing a bang up job of it. I'm far less concerned about the rights of illegal invaders in our country than I am in the safety of the citizens in MY district.” It was a subtle reminder to both the Senator from Massachusetts and the Senator from California that he was far more invested in my success than they were.
Switching tactics Senator Kelledy asked, “What have you heard from the nocturnal community about the President's offer to recognize their identities throughout history in return for registration?”
I raised an eyebrow and asked, “Most of them see it as a hollow offer. If we're forced to register, then the government would have no recourse but to recognize our identities and our holdings throughout history. It's a non-starter.”
“Don't you think that the government has the right to know what kinds of beings with terrible powers inhabit its border?” Senator Cranston asked.
“The government isn't interested in knowing how many illegal aliens are in its borders, Senator. Why should it care how many vampires and werewolves are here? I'm afraid you're going to have to come up with something far more interesting than rubber coated chains to entice the nocturnal community to come out and be registered,” I said.
“That's hardly fair, Mr. Greenbough,” Senator Kelledy protested.
“It's accurate,” I told him. “We've existed long before this government came into being, and we'll be here after it has gone. My mother alone has seen every administration that has ruled this continent since Leif Erikson left. We tend to see the long picture, Senator. When people started talking about this back before the Dragon War, about a third of the vampires began the process necessary to change identities.”
Senator Kelledy grinned at me and asked, “You mean like that Kevin Murphy kid out in California?”
I gave him a hard look and let the tiger in my soul surface just a bit, “No. Kevin Murphy is not a nocturnal. He is however under the protection of the Wrought. Molest him at your own peril, Senator.”
“Are you threatening a US Senator?” Kelledy asked.
I shook my head and said, “No sir. I'm giving you some very good advice. There are people who are beyond your ability to touch. If you bother them, then you will be dealt with with accordingly. Kevin Murphy's protectors are likely to take extreme action to protect him.”
“And why is that?” Senator Cranston asked.
“Because they have invested a huge amount of resources into his well-being- especially the Wrought. Those four are literally the children of Gods. They don't see things the same way you and I do,” I told him. “Life Force alone is likely to manipulate your body in such a way that it'll take decades for you to die a slow and excruciating death. And she will make it look perfectly normal. They are very protective of their young friend.”
“Be that as it may,” Senator Murphy said, “We're interested in what kind of progress you're making with the nocturnals of this city.”
I smiled at him and said, “The local Chancellor and I have been in contact and have reached an understanding. He will prevent any more incidences like the riots in Atlanta, and I'll keep the federal government informed about problems that may be building.”
“And are there problems?” Senator Kelledy asked.
With a nod, I said, “They're always problems building, Senator. Right now, the main problem is a dumb law that is being pushed in congress to register not only the nocturnals, but it's so broad it'll affect even some transhumans.”
“Why is it you people don't want to register? What have you got to hide, Mr. Greenbough?” Senator Kelledy asked.
I smirked, “What are you talking about Senator? Every member of my family is registered. My dad was working with the Department of Nocturnal Affairs under General Presley back in the fifties and sixties. I believe that was about the same time they were fishing one of your aids out a lake in Massachusetts. My brother has served in the US Navy, in the DNA, and as a member of Shadow Force. My sister-in-law is an agent of both the DNA, and Ministry 13 in Britain as well as a member of Shadow Force. I've worked with the DNA since the Battle of Wolf Creek. We're not,.. I'm..., not the one with anything to hide.”
I knew my words had hit him hard. I could see his face turn bright red and he sputtered, “That's not what I mean..., How dare you?...”
I laughed and said, “I'm an honest man Senator. I speak my mind. Don't impugn my honor with blood on your hands.”
“I think that's probably enough, Assistant Director Greenbough,” Senator Murphy intervened again. “So you are saying that there are problems building?”
I shrugged and said, “There's a power vacuum in the city right now. The new chancellor is filling it slowly with people he trusts. That means that there are going to have to be some heads knocked together, both physically, and metaphorically. But I don't think the city is in any real danger. I think things are already settling down.”
“That's good to hear, Director Greenbough,” Senator Cranston said with an enigmatic smile. For some reason his assurances had me worried. Scene 7 Merrick Bishop Atlanta, Georgia
I'd had these offices refurbished into something a bit more comfortable. According to my contacts in the nocturnal community, Chancellors usually operate their cities very much like the court of a baron or a count of old. Personally, I'd much rather operate like it like a business but for the moment, I got the feeling I was going to have to bow to custom for a while longer- but I was still going to do it my way. Some people had to be drug kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.
So, I basically had a large room set aside with a conference table and several chairs. There was sort of a petitioner's gallery at the back of the room with more not-quite-as-comfortable chairs in rows. Currently I had most of my advisers sitting at the table with me and we were discussing the problems we were facing with all the vampires being blamed for what Todeshaus did. There were still a lot of hard feelings and some of the werewolves weren't making it any easier with their persecution of any vampire they came across. Add into it the recent problems with a certain Mexican gang trying to move back into the city and things were actually rather tense.
It was in the middle of yet another justification for an attack on a vampire's bolt hole by a rogue pack of werewolves that the door to the conference room blew open with a bang and with the accompanying winds, in strode a little blond boy of about ten or eleven. He was dressed in jeans, a blue polo shirt, and high top tennis shoes and was wearing a leather backpack. He was dragging a struggling form twice his size in each hand and he did not look happy. In a clear voice that I knew would never change and an upper class English accent the boy said, “I was under the impression that neither I nor the zoo were going to be disturbed by this unpleasantness, Chancellor Merrick.”
At my side, Doctor Tiffani Sherman, physician, and the leader of the local mages leaned in and said, “Christopher Milne, the keeper of the zoo.”
Understanding with whom I was dealing, I raised an eyebrow and said, “I gave instructions that you and yours were to be left alone, Master Milne.”
“Evidently, your instructions were not properly delivered,” he said slinging the two forms forward in front of him. For the first time I could see what had become of the the bodies. They were of obvious Latin descent with black hair and dark eyes. Their flesh was a rich brown and it had on it the sheen of sweat. Their mouths were gone, in their place was a blank sheet of flesh. Their arms and legs were fused together at their sides, like a pair of great earthworms. Milne's victims could wriggle and moan grotesquely upon the floor, but could not in any other way act. “These two along with some of their companions thought they would invade my home, and drive me from it.”
“Companions?” Sherman asked. “Where are they?”
The kid smiled and said, “I fed them to my tigers.”
I raised an eyebrow at the casualness of the reply. “Exactly who are these men?” I asked.
Milne looked down in disgust and said, “Werejaguars.” His voice dripped in contempt, and I got the feeling that not a little of it was racial. From what I'd been able to ascertain about this vampire was that he'd been born in the height of Victorian era and there were certain prejudices that he'd yet to shake.
“That's a rather effective way of dealing with shifters,” I said.
Milne smiled and said, “It's and effective way of dealing with almost anybody. It's something an old friend from Eastern Europe taught me.”
I stood and walked around the table to the two struggling worm-like creatures. Raising an eyebrow I said, “It's a little difficult for me to get answers from them with their mouths as they are.”
Milne nodded, bent and touched each man none-to-gently. I watched as the flesh over their mouths split into a wide gash and returned to the general shape of a bloody toothless mouth.
“What were you doing at the zoo?” I asked.
They looked up at me in terrified eyes and said, “No hable Ingles.”
I shook my head and refrained from a comment about trying to take over an area where one does not speak the language. I asked again, this time in Spanish, “What were you doing at the zoo?”
“None of your business, Anglo!” the larger one said.
I raised an eyebrow and told him, “I was born a Roman fool. Now answer the question.”
“We were only going to the zoo! We have as much right to visit as anybody else!” he said.
“In the middle of the night?” I asked. “The zoo closes at five. What were you doing there?”
“We don't have to answer to you!” the smaller man said.
I turned to Milne and asked, “Where did you find them?”
“They were coming out of the Veterinarian’s office,” he said. He tossed down the backpack. “They had this.”
I reached down and picked it up. There were several vials in it. I handed it over to Sherman who went through it. Raising an eyebrow, the woman said, “These are some pretty heavy duty sedatives. Some of them would literally knock out a rhino.”
Rolling my eyes, I said, “Drugs. Why does that not surprise me?” Walking back around to my side of the table, I said, “I thought I warned everyone what would happen if I caught any nocturnal in the city dealing in illegal drugs. I'm afraid I'm going to have make an object lesson of you two.”
“You cannot kill us,” the smaller man said. “Will will heal. We are the Jaguarundi!”
“You are mortal and are made of the base elements of the Earth,” I said releasing my own mien so they could feel the full force of my will- so they could feel the dragon facing them. “I am dragon black and master of all the elements and void. You will not regenerate.” I directed my will toward the the speaker's companion. Suddenly he exploded into a shower of shadows as he was reduced to his component elements. “However, I need to send a message to your masters back in Mexico. Tell them that this city is mine. Stay out of it, or become one with the Earth that spawned you.”
Turning to Milne I asked, “Can you leave him thus?”
The boy smiled and nodded. “Of course.”
Turning back to Sherman I said, “Would you arrange for this piece of filth to find its way to its own people so he can deliver my message?”
In awe, and not a small amount of fear in her mind, the small woman gestured toward two of the larger werewolves in the room to bring him along behind her. One of the werewolves looked to his pack leader who looked to me. I nodded. He nodded, and the two werewolves drug the worm-like man from the room. Nocturnal politics could be prickly at times.
Sitting back down at the table I asked, “Does anyone else have any questions about the no drug policy for nocturnals? I will not let this city become another Chicago cess-pool.” Seeing that I'd made my point I turned to Milne and asked, “Does that satisfy you that I mean business.”
The boy smiled and nodded. Then to my surprise he bowed at the waist and said, “It does sir. It does.” Standing back up, he turned on his heel and skipped from the room.
I could feel everyone in the chambers sigh in relief. Milne scared a lot of nocturnals. He was a wild card that had managed to remain hidden from the rest of the community for almost a hundred years, living quietly beneath their radar. How he survived the wave of phyre I sent across the city six months ago is a question nobody dared ask him. He made people very nervous.Scene 8 Lorna Grimwauld aka Life Force Las Vegas, NV
I gently ran my hands over Corbin's bare torso, feeling for the damage done to him by that woman on the video. His own healing factor along with the spell he cast had done a good job of healing it, but I still felt better checking it out myself. He was going to be sore for a few days, but it was nothing that was going to seriously affect him. I just wish we'd been there for the fight.
D'fen and I had only gotten back from dealing with the mess in Australia a couple of hours ago, and that was because it was either leave or turn Sentinel and his team into birds to feed to Leif's cats. Actually, it was starting to look like that the clone they'd made of Shift was totally nutters. Evidently the UN's brain-taping wasn't nearly as effective as the Shan.
Leif still wasn't back from that meeting of the other magecats. I really sort of wondered what was going on there. The idea of all nine magecats meeting somewhere to discuss their Lady's mission was intriguing to say the least. D'fen was in his own quarters, probably contacting the Shan home computer to find out what some of the things UNIPACT Prime called him meant.
I knew there was something going on with Murphy and Doctor's Stevens and Adams. The government had gone out of its way to cause problems for the two scientists in an attempt to get back at Murphy for what happened at Mount Charleston, even going so far as to suggest that the men had had a sexual relationship with Kymbrall FeyStone. That was going entirely too far, and I got the feeling that when the various victims of this particular piece of government interference were finished, there would be some bureaucratic careers in ruin.
Corbin, Aerin, and I were in our quarters, and I'll admit to more than just a little arousal in my examination. However, just as I was about to suggest something, the intercom rang. Reaching over to the table, I hit the control and said, “Corbin, Aerin, and Lorna.”
“You guys need to come down to the main conference room. There's been some media contact from those assholes Corbin and Aerin fought earlier today.”
“On our way,” Corbin said buttoning his shirt.
Five minutes later the three of us plus Defender were settling into our seats in the conference room. I could see the wet sheen on D'fen's hair where his quarters were flooded. “What do we know about the attackers?” he was asking.
Cassidy, Murphy's personal assistant smiled and said, “A lot more than we did earlier. They're actually a competitor corporation.”
“What?” Murphy asked. “I'm not the only one doing this anymore?”
Cassidy smiled and shook her head, her short bobbed blonde hair twisting with her face. She hit the control on the screen and it flared to life. I watched as a picture of the four attackers standing in front of a large screen with the words “The Called: God's Law”
behind them came on up. The anchor's voice was saying, “This afternoon the four transhumans that first interfered with and then attacked Murphy's Law as they attempted to stop Hardcase and three of her Blaster allies from robbing the MGM Grand Hotel made an official statement to the press.”
The scene switched to a short woman with her hair in a bun and wearing a smart business suit stepped in front of the image and began, “Today we are announcing that Las Vegas no longer has to turn to sexual deviants and servants of defeated pagan gods for transhuman protection. The team known as “The Called” is made up entirely of Christian heroes who will stand between humanity and those that would destroy and pervert our Christian Nation. Today there are four heroes to whom families can point to without reservation as being positive influences.”
“Does Leif know that they've perverted his Lady's Commission?” Corbin asked.
“Shhh...,” Aerin said the white fire beginning to dance in her eyes.
The woman on the screen continued, “... the leader of the team is Golgotha, a powerhouse who can go toe to toe with an armored car, and dedicated to seeing the influence of dark forces expunged from our society.” An image of the large middle-aged black woman standing with her feet apart and her hands on her hips. She had an almost motherly aura to her. She was wearing a green and black costume and behind her a white cross was shining in the sky.
“Next is the team's warrior spirit. A man known for his power of flight, and unwavering dedication to spreading the good news of our Savior: Evangel.” The scene switched to the guy with white wings and a sword strapped between them on his back. He was wearing a scarlet tunic over black leggings. “Those that would fight for the forces of darkness beware his ever-sharp blade.”
“Accompanying him as part of his team's aerial forces is the golden skinned hero, Spike.” The image switched to a guy with metallic coppery gold skin and wings. He was wearing a green bodysuit. I can see where in the heat of battle, someone might mistake him for Razorwing, but like Corbin said. Razorwing wouldn't be caught dead in that shade of green.
“Last but not least is the team's transport specialist and ranged firepower: Brimstone.” The image switched to another male, this one with maroon skin and bald. He was wearing a silver bodysuit with fuchsia trim and fire was dancing around his body. “Remember folks, these heroes are here to protect you, not push deviant and alternative lifestyles to your children.”
The scene cut back to the anchor who said, “The Called refused to take any questions and when asked if the team had recovered from the fight with Murphy's Law, all they would say was...,”
The scene switched back to the woman in the business suit as she said, “The Called were not there to fight Murphy's Law. They were there to bring in Hardcase and the remaining members of the Blasters. The fact that one of Ms. Murphy's employees was about to use magic against Hardcase, imperiling not only his soul, but Hardcase's as well cannot be stressed enough. Even the villains we fight must be afforded their rights to be free of the evil taint of magic.” She then turned and left the room without acknowledging any more questions.
Switching back to the anchor again, the man was said, “There you have it folks. Now we will go to our fair and balanced All American Discussion Group.” Cassidy flipped the power on the monitor and the screen went blank.
“Are they for real?” I asked.
“Real enough to nearly kill Corbin. Golgatha was not pulling her punches on him. It was clear that she saw him as big a threat as Hardcase,” Aerin said. There was an anger still smoldering deep in her eyes. “We had Hardcase, Sister Slice, and Fire Fury down for the count and then that bitch with a big ass and a bigger attitude turned on us. Evangel was trying to take Mage Light's head off. That jackass Spike hit me three times with those metal spikes he generates. Only Brimstone didn't seem to lose sight of his mission parameters. He was closing with Sister Slice when I put my foot down.” She shook her head in disgust.
“Be that as it may,” D'fen said. “Are we likely to come into conflict with them again?”
Murphy shrugged and said, “I don't know. She said that they were here to protect Las Vegas. I don't know if they have a contract with the local city government or even the County or State. I do know that the DA was pissed as hell when he called me earlier. He didn't know anything about them and wanted my input on how to deal with them.”
“And how should we deal with them?” I asked.
“From this point forward, you're to treat them as potential threats. The next time they come after you with that kind of force, do what you must to keep yourselves and civilians safe. The fact that Firefury and Hardcase escaped hasn't been lost on the locals,” Murphy told us.
“Understood,” D'fen said casually. When someone that innocent, that powerful agrees that easily, it makes me worry.
Scene 9 Nichole Bishop Atlanta, Georgia
Kym's high school counselor was a middle-aged Hispanic woman with dark eyes and what looked like a perpetual frown on her face. She was dressed in a short skirt, and a white blouse that was cut a bit too tight. Her hair was an ebony mass of curls styled to cascade down her back and framing a face that looked like nobody had ever told her that less was more when it came to make-up.
“Thanks for coming in, Mrs. Bishop,” she said to me as she gestured toward a comfortable wing back chair.
“What can I do for you Ms. Rubino?” I asked as I settled into my chair. “Is Kym in any kind of trouble?” I couldn't imagine him not telling us that there was trouble at school. But then again, Kym had barely been communicating since he came back from Las Vegas.
The woman frowned and leaned back in her chair, steepled her fingers and said, “Not really. But we are worried about him.”
I raised an eyebrow and asked, “About what?”
“He seems withdrawn. His teachers can't complain about his performance in the classroom- at least on paper- but they say getting him to talk is like pulling teeth,” she said.
“Kym has always been a quiet boy,” I said carefully.
“I've spoken with his teachers and Coach Pratchett. They all say the same thing. He does his work, he doesn't cause trouble, but at the same time he doesn't interact with the other students. He eats by himself at lunch, although he's not hostile, he scares the other students,” she told me.
“How are Kym's grades?” I asked neutrally.
Ms. Rubino frowned again, and I wondered if she knew how to smile. “He is maintaining a four point oh average so far. There are no complaints what-so-ever in that department. We're mainly concerned about his socialization.” I could tell there was an unspoken “and” there. “He just refuses to let anybody get close.”
I nodded and said, “Kym lost his parents to a home invasion a little more than a year ago. He was the one who discovered their bodies. Kym will socialize when he's ready. He's just now starting to actually grieve for them.”
Rubino nodded and I could see in her eyes where she was gathering up her courage to breach a subject. Finally she asked, “Mrs. Bishop, have you considered having your nephew tested for the transhuman gene?”
I smiled and said, “Ms. Rubino, I can guarantee you that Kym is not a transhuman.”
“The only reason I bring up the subject is because of his eyes. I've never seen anyone with golden eyes before,” she said.
“It's a genetic anomaly occurring in our family,” I said.
“You don't have them,” she countered.
“No, but his father did,” I told her. “It runs in the male side of the family.” Very carefully, I asked, “Is there another reason you might suggest having him tested again?”
“Well, you are the administrator at a transhuman school. I thought that he might be better served by your own school,” she said.
I leaned back and asked, “You have a kid who has a four point oh, who gives you no discipline problems, and you are suggesting that you he be sent to a private academy, what's up Ms. Rubino?”
“We're just worried that he doesn't fit in to our school here. We're have a very diverse and socially conscious student body, and Kym doesn't seem to appreciate it.”
I smiled and asked, “In what way?”
“Like I said, he hasn't made any friends, and I mean that literally. Nobody talks to him, nor does he talk to anybody else. His whole approach to school is that it's something to be endured. Oddly enough though, he also refuses to do less than his absolute best at anything. When he does compete, he is down right vicious. The words cooperation and shared goals are not in his vocabulary.”
I raised both eyebrows at that. I knew that Kym knew what cooperation meant. Cooperation was the difference between life and death for dragonborn- especially for Thorns; and as Merrick had once said, Kym is a Thorn from the tips of his hair to his toes. There was something else at play here.
“Please explain,” I asked “Although I don't doubt that Kym is competitive, I can't imagine him not being cooperative.”
“According to his teachers, he doesn't care how the other students see him, or how his efforts may affect others, he's interested in only scoring the highest possible score for himself,” she said.
“Is he cheating?” I asked knowing good and well that he would never do that.
She shook her head and said, “No, but he is blowing the curve for some of his classes.”
I raised an eyebrow and asked, “And you're worried about this why?”
“Because it's effecting his socialization. He needs to learn to get along and cooperate with his classmates. Surely since you're husband is the nocturnal chancellor, you understand the need for cooperation.”
“How did you know about that?” I asked carefully letting my mind slip into hers.
“One of our teachers here has a sister that is a nocturnal. He brought it to my attention,” she said.
Peering into her mind, I finally understood what this was about. They were afraid that Kym was a nocturnal too, and that he was going to “turn” a student and they were going to be held liable. “I see,” I said. “And this teacher is revealing information that should be kept private why?”
“We at the school have a right to know the legal status of everyone in our school,” she countered.
“Except for their immigration status,” I said snarkily. “Perhaps it's best if you ask this teacher in to discuss his and your concerns.”
“I don't think that will be necessary, Mrs. Bishop,” she said. “We don't want to make this a personal vendetta.”
I locked eyes with her and said, “Very well. If you won't deal with it as part of the school, my husband will be dealing with it as part of nocturnal community.” I stood and picked up my purse. “I suggest you arrange for a long term sub for your Mr. Alvarez. He's going to be leaving the city.”
“How do you know who it is?” she demanded. Then as my words sank in, she asked, “Is that some kind of threat, Mrs. Bishop?”
I smiled and said, “I have my ways, Ms. Rubino. And no it's not a threat. It's a simple statement of the fact. Mr. Alvarez is striking at my husband through his nephew. My husband and Kymbrall are not the closest of friends, but they do respect each other and they do protect one another. I'm starting to understand how certain people operate. Now it's time that those people understand what it means to meddle in the affairs of dragons Good day, Ms. Rubino. I trust I won't need to see you again unless it involves helping my nephew pick out a college.” I turned on my heel and left worrying that Kymbrall was once again going to be forced to pay the price for other people's prejudices.
Scene 10: Wildcat Mountain, Walker County Alabama Emory Greenbough aka Avalon The Sovereign Mage
The woman who stood before me was as short as even I am, barely clearing five feet. She had long angular vulpine features and tall pointed ears. Her skin was pale and her hair was opalescent white, like my own. She had a timeless beauty about her that reminded me of my own mother, which I guess was appropriate since she said she is my mother's aunt.
“We were wondering when you were going to visit your family in Avalon. You did after all call yourself that,” Great Aunt Maerwynn said.
“I was unaware that the there was an invitation,” I told her as we stood in the kitchen of mine and Trey's home. “And I know how the fey feel about their privacy.”
“You are family,” she began.
“None have ever claimed me,” I countered.
“There was a misunderstanding between your father's brother and your mother's grandfather,” she said. I began to understand. Misunderstanding meant that both disapproved of my parent's marriage. Uncle Evan had never treated me with anything but love and respect, but I knew that he and Father had disagreed about Father and Mother's marriage. Evidently it was carried on both sides. I know my mother's father was alfar, but her mother was fey making me one quarter fey, one quarter alfar, and half human. It was the only reason I could use fey magic without being burned by cold-iron.
“I see,” I said gesturing toward a chair at the table and then began to prepare tea for the two of us. I may be part fey, but I keep a heathen home and that meant hospitality to visitors. “Still, it was never made known to me that there was an opportunity to know my fey family beyond my mother teaching me the tongue.”
Maerwynn smiled and took the seat. I could tell she was definitely uncomfortable about something. “To be honest, we were unaware of your existence until recently.”
I raised an eyebrow and asked, “Unaware?”
She nodded and said, “Yes. After your parents died, none of your mother's family were ever informed of her death. Something may have been done with her spirit had your uncle not interfered. As it is, all that she was is now lost to us buried in that accursed churchyard.”
“What does where she was buried have to do with not knowing that I was born?”
“We may have been able to approach her, bring her back over had she been given back to the elements where she belongs. However the fact that she's buried on hallowed ground sealed her spirit to the land until it finally dissipated,” Maerwynn said sadly.
I hadn't considered the idea that my mother being buried on hallowed ground would have any effect on her in the afterlife. I thought that she would simply be in Hel's halls awaiting to be reborn into our family line or serving in Frey's hall- He after all as I am personally aware jealously guards His own. I suspect that the reason I felt that way was the result of my closer contact with the fey's alfar cousins than anything else. Shaking my head I asked, “Is there anything that can be done now?”
Maerwynn frowned and shook her own head saying, “No. Far too much time has passed. What she was has passed to the god of the blood metal.”
I turned and placed the tea on the table and took my own seat. I looked deeply into my cup and asked, “When?”
“When what?” Maerwynn asked.
“When should Trey and I plan for a visit? He has certain duties to which he must see, and as the Sovereign Mage, so do I,” I explained.
“Well,” Maerwynn began somewhat subdued, “perhaps it would be best if your first visit was alone.”
I raised an eyebrow. Perhaps it was my aforementioned connection to the alfar that made me react, after all when we marry into a family, we're considered part of it. “Ah, very well.” I said nothing else.
“Don't get us wrong, Emory. We have no quarrel with your husband. We just want to get to know you first,” Maerwynn said.
I nodded and said, “I will consider it. But as I said, my schedule is very busy at the moment. The shattering of the Council of Whispers' gaes has left the country reeling. You have no idea how this has affected the country. I suspect that I will be very busy for a while.”
Maerwynn seemed to get the hint. She sighed and said, “No offense was meant, Emory. It's just that your husband has no fey blood.” She paused a moment and then added, “And there are other considerations.”
I raised and eyebrow and asked, “What considerations?”
“You've become somewhat well known among both the mortals and those on the other side of the veil. That has also attracted the attention of the Unseelie Courts. Queen Medb has taken an interest in the collapsing of the gaes, especially here in the New World. She's also taken an interest in the return of the Sovereign Mage- mainly because of your actions to assume that role.”
“The redcaps?” I asked.
Maerwynn nodded, “She does not like the fact that you called on your fey blood to convince them to stay their hand.”
“What would she have had me do, let them destroy Chicago?” I asked, and then realized what the answer would be, “Of course she would.”
“Exactly,” Maerwynn said. “Oberon would like to have you tied to the Seelie Court.”
I shook my head, “No. I can't do that. I must remain neutral in my dealings with magic. If Oberon is right then I will support him. If he's wrong I won't.”
Maerwynn nodded and sipped her tea. For long seconds she considered my words and then said, “The invitation is still open daughter of my niece. Come and visit when you will.” She set down her cup and stood. “And bring your husband. I think I would like to meet a man that can stand by your side and keep his own.” She began to fade and said, “Until then, farewell.”
She disappeared from my kitchen, but I got the feeling that things were not going to be quiet one the Greenbough farm. I also didn't realize just how important her warning would be.
Scene 11: A cabin in the woods in the Smokey Mountains; Commander Robin “Trey” Greenbough III USN Ret. aka Runeclaw
“You have to believe we are magic
Nothin' can stand in our way
You have to believe we are magic
Don't let your aim ever stray
And if all your hopes survive
Your destiny will arrive ”
“You know, Bro. Sometimes your taste in music sucks,” Wynn said from the door to the office of the cabin Emory and I own in Tennessee.
“I was raised in a different time, and a different place than you were, Wynn,” I told him coming out of the large overstuffed chair in my office at the cabin and pulling him into a huge bear hug.
“Tell me about it,” he said as he returned the hug. Then pulling away he looked me up and down. “Looking good, Bro.” He reached up and tugged at the red locks at my shoulder. “Glad to see you letting your hair grow. You don't look like a thrall anymore.” It was an old joke between us. We both had to cut our hair much shorter than tradition called for- me because of being the navy, and him because he was stuck in the late twenties to the late seventies in an alternate reality.
I pulled back and offered him a drink from the bar at the bookshelves as I gestured toward a chair. He nodded and I poured us both a scotch. “With everything going on with the school, with Junior's pack getting killed, I've sort of been nostalgic for the old days when life seemed simpler.” Turning and handing him his drink I added, “Walker County wasn't a bad place to grow up. It definitely left its mark on me.” I smiled and added, “Not all of us had the advantages of growing up around all those pliable Swedish boys and girls.”
“Not all of us started our career out deflowering the preacher's daughter either,” he chided me back.
“I didn't deflower her. Bobby Ingles did that- at least I assume it was Bobby Ingles, I'm just the one who got caught.” I grinned, sipped my drink and enjoyed the liquid fire as it slid down my throat before I continued, “Besides, you know our definition of virgin is different from most people's.”
He laughed and leaned back in his chair. “You know all things considered, it's a wonder we aren't more alike.”
“Nature has a lot of depth but when nurture comes off the bench she can be powerful influence. We may share an identical genetic structure, but our lives have been completely different. On paper you're almost twenty years younger than me, but your time in that runner universe gives you more years on me.”
“And I didn't have a Night of Howls,” he said.
“Bro, I wouldn't wish the Night of Howls on anybody. Everybody always remembers the deeds done, but not the lives lost. The Night of Howls cost me part of my soul.” There weren't many people I could discuss Night of Howls with: JD and Bart because they were there- for part of it; Emory because she helped keep me sane afterward; and my brother.
He simply nodded and looked around. “Nice place you have here. Has Emory seen it?”
I grinned and said, “Yeah, she decorated it. We bought for our fifth wedding anniversary.”
“So what's this all about?” he asked.
I shrugged and said, “I don't know. Leif says that Freyja has some information for us, and that it's for Hers' ears only.”
“So why all the way up here? I don't think there's ever been a meeting of all Hers in the history of the magecats. Why not Alfheim, Folksvang, or even the Temple at Uppsala in Sweden?” he asked.
“Because those places would attract attention- especially Uppsala. I don't know if you realize it or not, but there's been quite a resurgence of the old faith. Most of them are just sensitive enough to sense something amiss around there and come looking.” With a grin I added, “Besides, here we are far enough back in the woods that nobody is going to miss a few deer that might go missing.”
“Deer are out of season, Bro,” he said with a smile.
“Deer are never out of season for claw and fang,” I told him.
Before he could reply there was the smell of ozone and magic all around us. Outside thunder rolled in a clear blue sky. I looked at him and said, “They're here.”
Heading out into the front room, I grabbed the horn and poured some mead into it. “They're quieter than you are with that spell.”
I shoved the horn into his hand said, “Just for that, you get to act as froua, baby brother.”
“Hey!” he protested, but I opened the door greet the others.
Entering first was Dane Northman, the eldest among us. He has been around for over a thousand years. He knew our mother when she was a girl, and she says that he single-handedly defeated a pack of werewolves that attacked Queen Sigrid's court. He was tall, broad, and blond. He appeared to be only in his late twenties or early thirties, but his eyes were much older. He was a were-liger, a cross between a tiger and a lion; huge and powerful. He was also probably the finest mage I've ever met.
Next was Sasha Danelton, nearly as old as Dane. He was also the rarest breed of shifter in the world. Not only was he a mage cat, he was a snow leopard. He was short with tawny blond hair, and gray eyes. He too appeared to be in his late twenties but where Dane a massive man, Sasha was thin and wiry with quick eyes and a quicker wit. According to magecat lore, Dane bought Sasha in a slave market in England sometime during the Dark Ages.
After Sasha was Roanna Svennsdottir, a tall red head from Ireland with a temper to match her hair. She'd been active across Eastern Europe for the past hundred years or so. She appeared slightly older than Dane and Sasha, but was still a very fit woman. He pale skin seemed to glow like ivory in the evening light. Supposedly she had seen to the fall of several Soviet generals who met their ends in “hunting accidents”. Like Wynn and I, she was a weretiger.
After her was the much shorter Eliza Mittlittle. She was an Englishwoman of some renown in the last century with a singular beauty and long raven hair- an oddity among us magecats. She was a bit of an eccentric and had become involved in an altercation with a damned vampire and a huntress in England in the 1890s that resulted in a particular novel being written. She operated mainly in Western Europe, India and South Africa. Some of us believed that like my wife, she had a bit of the fey blood in her. Her cat form was actually that of a leopard size housecat.
After her was our Dad. He was looking fit for a man in his eighties. Looking at him, you'd swear that he was no older than forty or so. He'd fought in World War II, and Korea. He had been with General Presley when the Department of Nocturnal Affairs had been formed and had worked for the government up until Wynn was born. To be honest, I was surprised that he was here as our Lady had given him leave to retire with Mom to Alfheim.
Finally, was Leif Hunter, our Lady's son. He was tall, broad, and had white blond hair, and body that put Chris Evans to shame. Actually we all did, he just wore it better than the rest of us. I think it is because of his divine heritage. There is something about Leif's eyes that few people can hold his gaze. He was also a former student of mine, and had been with me when Kymbrall FeyStone killed Totenhaus.
Wynn gave each of them a sip from the horn as they entered and welcomed them. I know, I know, it's not fair to make him the froua, it's technically my job, but there IS a bit of sibling rivalry between us.
We spent the next few minutes taking coats, showing our guests the cabin- actually it was more of a mountain retreat than a real cabin- and getting them settled into their rooms. I had reason to suspect that this was going to be an interesting few days. Boy was I ever right.