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|All Reece ever wanted from her life was to be a successful business woman, and maybe figure out the mystery of her past. When people start to come after her because of a mother she never knew, Reece is more determined than ever to survive and find the truth. But when it comes...cane she cope? I wrote this as a Christmas present for my mother, and it is because she asked me to that I am putting it up. I hope you enjoy it as much as she did.||
He’d wandered the Earth for so many ages he’d lost count. Immortal, made by his Master for one purpose: Death. The lives of many had met their end at his hands. He was a slave, stronger than any being on the planet, but bound to the person who wore the ring. Then, one day, in the middle of a war, he was sent to sleep. His mind was active, constantly learning new things, but his body was gone, bound somehow inside the ring. He knew he would be summoned again, but as the years grew longer, he began to hope. He slumbered, waiting for his next summons, hoping it would never come. Hoping that if it did…this time, the curse would be broken.
“Don’t you dare hit her.” The child shivered, cowering behind her mother as her father lifted a fist and slammed it into the wall near her head. She bit her lip to keep from screaming. She’d learned that the screams only made it worse.
“Why not? Think you can tell me what to do? You’re worthless; worth nothing! I can do what I want to my own daughter.” The man sneered, leaning down until his alcohol drenched breath wafted over the woman.” I can do what I want to you.” He grabbed a fistful of her long red hair and dragged her up the stairs.
A short while later, the child heard her screams. She clutched her teddy tightly against her chest and rocked, never making a sound as silent tears tracked down her cheeks.
It was early morning before her mother came back down. Her face was battered, and she moved as though every bone in her body hurt. She was crying, but determination shone in her emerald eyes. She carried a small bundle and handed it to her daughter.
“Listen to me, honey.” She whispered.” I’m getting you out of here. In that bag is three hundred dollars; it’s all I had in my account at the bank. There is also an address on a piece of paper. Go to it, and you’ll be safe. The woman there will take care of you, and monsters like this won’t harm you anymore.” She kissed her daughters cheeks and pulled her necklace off. Dangling from its chain was a delicate gold ring worked into a rope pattern.” Take this. It’s been in our family for years. And Reece…Rissi…I love you.”
She gave her one last kiss and then led her out the door. She leaned against the frame and watched the girl as she ran down the street and disappeared into the rising sun. Her face lifted to the light and, for an instant, she smiled, restoring her youthful beauty.” I did it, Momma. I’ve kept the treasure safe. They’ll never get it back now; My Rissi won’t let them have it. The Ring is never going back to those monsters. He’ll never be used to hurt anyone ever again. I know its true, Momma.” She brushed her fingers to her lips and lifted them to the sun before she turned and slowly walked back inside the building.
Reece Faith woke abruptly, covered in sweat and her heart trying to escape her chest. The alarm clock read 4:36 AM. She settled back against her covers, trying to find out what had awakened her so she could thank it.
The nightmare had returned. She was trapped in a dark room, and men, evil men, were torturing her. They kept shouting over and over’ Where is the Deathbringer! Tell us!’ But she refused to talk.
It was the seventh time she’d had the nightmare, and each time, things got clearer. Almost as if the events were getting closer to coming true in real life…Reece ran a hand over her face and blew out her breath.” Relax, girl…it’s just a crazy dream.” She muttered to herself, kicking her covers back and padding to her cottages kitchen to raid the fridge.
“Rocky Road, come here.” She said, pulling a tub of ice cream out and plopping her butt down in front of the tube with her spoon. She hit the power button and watched as the TV slowly turned on.
“…and you, to, can become rich in five days!” The salesperson was saying. Reece grimaced and changed channels
“Paid programming…paid programming…ah ha! Chick Flick. Just what I need today.” She said, dropping the remote and getting ready to weep her eyes out along with M’Lynn in Steele Magnolias.
The telephone ringing jolted her out of her weepy state. The clock now showed 5:57 AM, but none of her friends or employees would be calling her this early. Reece reached over and picked up the phone.” ‘Ello?” She mumbled.
Someone breathed heavily into the phone.” We know you have it, little Rissi. We want it back…and we’re going to get it. You thought you could hide forever…but we know. We’re going to hurt you, Rissi, and we’re going to make you writhe. We’ll get it from you soon, now veeeeery soon…” A masked voice crooned.
Reece forced herself to remain calm.” Uh hu, right, I have no clue what you’re talking about. If you need help, I’m not the person to call.” She said.
The voice laughed. ”We’re gonna hurt you like we did your Momma. She screamed, before the end. She begged us to kill her, but we didn’t. We watched her slowly-“
Click! Reeve hung up and held her stomach as the ice cream she’d been enjoying earlier turned sour and tried to come back up. She closed her eyes and fought the tears, but a few rolled down her cheeks anyway.
She had few memories of her early life. Most of them were vague and blurry, only starting to get concrete when she arrived at Mariana’s home for abused children. The one thing she did remember from before was a beautiful, tormented woman, flinging herself in front of her over and over, taking harsh beatings for her and calling her ‘my darling.’
Reece was ashamed she had so few memories of her mother, and only one of them good. Her one good memory of her mother was of her sneaking down to her and handing her a bag, telling her she loved her and leading her out the door. Reece had never seen her again, hadn’t even thought about her until she’d gotten old enough to wonder whom her parents were.
Mariana hadn’t been able to help much. All she’d been able to tell was a name, scribed on the inside of the ring Reece always wore on a chain around her neck. Gloria Faith. Research had lead her to an ancient family tree of women who looked slightly like Reece herself did.
The last woman listed, though, had been a Renee Faith. Reece had gone to the address, only to find a burnt down shack in the middle of a slum. Still, she’d gone inside and looked around. Just inside the door, on the frame, had been a childish carving of a rising sun, one Reece remembered carving. She’d come home.
After that, she’d spent every free minute trying to find out what had happened to her mother. All reports said she’d just vanished around the same time Reece had. Rissi had always dreamed that Renee had gotten way from the monster that had them and married a good man, but the phone call…
“No. Don’t let them shake you, Rissi.” Reece muttered, swallowing hard and picking up the phone. She quickly dialed her best friend’s number and waited until she picked up.
“Rachel! You’ve got to help me, I think I’m being stalked.” She said in a rush. Reece heard Rachel sit up and fumble for a light. When she turned it on, her cat, FiFi, stirred.
“What? Hold on, you’ve lost me. Aren’t you at home, in bed, like the rest of the world at six o’clock in the morning? How could someone be stalking you?” She said.
“I’ve been having these really weird dreams, and just now someone called me and said they were going to kill me.” Reece said. Rachel was wide-awake now.
“Whoa, girl, you need to be calling Sheriff Hartman, not me.” She said. ”I’m an overworked author, not a law enforcement officer.”
“Oh, but I don’t trust Hartman to do his job! Whenever we meet in town, he stares down my shirt and basically gives me the creeps.” Rissi said, feeling herself relax as she harped about the old man. He was a true sweetie, but had a tendency to like looking at woman a bit to much.
“He’ll do his job, Sugar, especially if its you being threatened. I don’t think you realize how much the men of this little town would love the chance to play Hero for you.” Rachel said.
“Hero was a
woman in Shakespeare’s plays.” Reece replied.” But
honestly, I was just freaking, nothing serious.”
Rachel’s shriek about split her ear drums.” Nothing seri- That’s it, I’m calling Hartman!” She said.” I’ll make a full report in the morning and don’t try to talk me out of it. Good night!” Rachel hung up, but Reece didn’t care. Their discussion had relaxed her. She could sleep again, she thought.
She turned off the TV and put her snack away before crawling into bed and snuggling up with her pillow. Right before she drifted off, she though she heard a light voice whispering to her.
‘Call for Vane. Demetrious Vane. Vane will protect you. Call for him…call, daughter and set us all free…’
A bell ringing over the door snapped Reece out of her book. She laid it aside and stood as a group of elderly ladies entered her book shop/café. “ Good morning, Mrs. Hardly, Mrs. Wolf, Mrs. Patterns.” She said, smiling.
“Morning, Miss Daley. How is old Mariana doing?” Mrs. Hardly asked as she settled down in an empty chair. Her friends sat beside her as Reece got their preferred drinks and laid the topic of these weeks book club discussion in the middle of the table.
“ Oh, Mariana is still rescuing children, even though she’s far to ill to be taking care of them on her own. I finally gave up and hired a woman to live in the house with her. Tania is a nurse, and also helps her with the children when Mariana…can’t.” Reece said, sighing.
“Cancer is a hard thing to beat, but I know that old girl will come through.” Mrs. Wolf said.” Now, let’s get on topic. What’s the book discussion about this week, Angela?”
“Oh, it’s this lovely book by Christine…” The ladies started chatting and Rissi left them to it. She headed to the back of the store and started to pull out her catalog when the phone rang.
She picked it up.” Hello, Midnight Candle café and book store, how may I help you?” She balanced the phone on her shoulder and started writing down what she needed to buy this week.
“Reece Faith?” An unknown female voice asked in a brusque and rough tone of voice. Reece felt her hands grow damp, but she answered.
“My last name is Daley, Ma’am. I am told that Faith was my mother’s maiden name, though. What do you need?” She asked.
“I’m Anita Faith, Miss Daley, and I’m trying to find something I believe your mother had in her possession when she was lost to us.” The woman said.
“Lost? How do you loose someone?” Reece asked.’ And why try to find her after all this time? What’s going on?”
“I cannot explain it to you, Miss Daley, but I need something your mother had. All I can tell you is that if we don’t get that object, something terrible could happen to the world.” Anita said.” Just tell me if your mother had a ring.”
Reece reached into her shirt and pulled out the chain she always wore. At the end hung a simple gold ring. She clutched it tightly.” I don’t remember my mother. Now, I’ve got a business to run, so if you’ll excuse me…” Reece started to hang up, but Anita’s next words stopped her.
“Listen to me, Miss Daley, if you hang up now, you’re sealing your own fate. I’m trying to help you, even if it doesn’t seem like it. If we don’t find that ring, they will, and they’ll hurt anyone who has it.” Anita said harshly. ”If we have to, we’ll find and hurt you, too. The ring is all that matters now. This is not time for us to be feeling family ties.”
“Well, that really inspires confidence. You and that wacko who called me last night seem to have one thing in common. You both succeeded in freaking me out!” Reece hung the phone up and leaned against the wall.
“Rissi? Are you all right, honey? I heard shouting.” Mrs. Patterns said, peaking in the door. “ We’re about ready to leave, and we’re worried about you, dear. Just the other day, these two ruffians were in Diana’s store and they were asking about you. I didn’t like the look of them. Are you in some kind of trouble?”
Reece laughed.” I’m in something, Mrs. Patterns, I just don’t know what.” She said, picking up her list.” But I’m not going to let it stop my business. You ladies get going home so I don’t worry. I’ll see you next Wednesday.”
Mrs. Patterns nodded and walked out. Only then did Reece allow herself to fall apart. She leaned against the desk and lifted the ring to her eyes. It was simple, just a little band of silver woven into an intricate braid.
“What is so special about you?” She asked softly, rubbing it between her fingers. A soft sound alerted her to another presence in her store. Before she could react, a hard hand clamped over her mouth. Reece pulled the ring close to her chest and started to struggle.
“Give us the ring and we’ll make this quick. The Deathbringer must be ours again.” The man said, squeezing Reece hard enough that her lungs struggled for air.” Hand it over, and spare this young woman pain.” Reece’s assistant, Aida, was being held against another mans chest, a knife pressed to her throat. The man holding it smiled and lovingly ran the knife up Aida’s chin. Aida shivered, her slender dancers body dwarfed by the oversized brute holding her.
“Stop dallying, Mark, and kill the chit. We’ll search everything after she’s dead, and the woman might be more cooperative if she sees this death first hand.” A second voice hissed. Reece shivered at the cold malice in the voice.
‘Call for Vane, Rissi. He will protect you. Put on the ring and call him to you.’ Rissi stiffened. That was her mother’s voice. Reece remembered it. But…it couldn’t be…could it?
She took a deep breath for courage, and, hoping she wasn’t loosing her mind, wiggled her fingers until the ring was pressed against the tip of her finger. Aida’s pale blue eyes widened as Mark brought his knife up, and she began to fight harder.
‘Now,Rissi!’ Reece jammed the ring onto her finger and screamed at the top of her lungs for Vane. A white light filled the room and pressure pushed at her till she knew no more.
It had come at last. The thing he’d been dreading and hoping for. Vane felt the magic gather around him and embraced it. He was whirled through time and space, until his feet touched the ground.
He slowly stood. He was in a small room filled with papers and books. Two men cowered in a corner, a small blonde woman held in front of them like a shield. He smelt the taint of the Master on the men and snarled. They backed up even more, the woman in their arms pale and shaking. He started forward to help her when someone whimpered at his feet. Vane looked down and stared. The silver ring on her finger glittered brilliantly for a moment, then faded to dull pewter color.
A woman had summoned him. Never before had this happened. Her wine red hair spilled over her alabaster skin and shone with deeper undertones. Large purple eyes fluttered open and stared up at him. They blinked, and then she shoved a hand through her hair and sat up.
“Where’d you come from?” She demanded. Vane could only stare. No one, not even the Master, had dared to talk to him that way.” Well? Are you with the two wackos over there, or no?”
Vane stiffened. “ I am not with them.” He insisted, insulted she would even think such a thing. The woman was nodding.
“Alright, then. Um…can you get them to let Aida go?” She asked. “You look capable of wresting her away from them. But be easy!” Vane shrugged and walked over to the men. He towered over them at six foot seven inches of well-muscled strength.
“Let the girl go, slaves,” He ordered lowly, lifting a long knife he had strapped to his waist,” And I might make this painless.”
One of the men worked up the courage to talk back to him.” It is not like you have any right at all to call us slaves, Deathbringer. The Master wants you back, and he will find you. Our corruption has grown wide and not even that group of women who call themselves the Daughters of Faith can protect you. We can infiltrate any coven on this earth, and they are no exception.”
Vane snarled and lashed out, quickly and efficiently cutting the man’s jugular vein. The girl being held screamed as she slipped from his grasp. Vane reached out to help, but she fell to the floor, white and still.
“Oh, no!” The woman cried, kneeling beside the girl. Vane paid her no mind, focused on the other man. He was staring at Vane, murder in his eyes.
“Do it and I shall send you to met your maker.” Vane hissed softly, raising his hand to brush it across the hilt of the broadsword strapped to his broad back. Screaming his rage, the man lifted a gun and fired.
Vane jerked as the projectile slammed into his chest. He’d learned of such things during his sleep-he didn’t know how-but never had he felt the impact before. Swords had cut his flesh many times, and he was no stranger to arrows. Even the axes and flails had had a chance to break his immortal life, but nothing had prepared him for this.
It felt as though a bear had punched him in the gut at the same time another person dug a knife into him. He pushed past the pain and freed the sword. It sang as it whistled free of its sheath, hungry again for blood. A swift swipe and the mans head rolled across the floor.
He turned to his new master. She was kneeling beside the girl he’d saved, staring up at him. Vane leaned heavily on his sword, the point digging into the wood of the floor.” Anything else you want of me, Mistress?” He bit out, determined not to show pain. They always lived off of his pain, which was why he taught himself not to feel it.
She moved her mouth, but nothing came out. She took a deep breath and slowly climbed to her feet. Standing, she barely came to Vane’s sternum. Still, she stared him down like no other had ever dared to do.
“What the Hell is going on?” She demanded. “And why aren’t you dead? That man just shot you threw the heart!”
Reece tried not to let the stranger intimidate her, but it wasn’t easy and she feared she was failing. It wasn’t so much the mans size as his appearance, even though his size was pretty big. It wasn’t even the fact the man was still stranding after getting shot point blank with a pistol. And the fact that he had just killed two guys in front of her hardly registered. Those men had had it coming. It was, Reece was ashamed to admit, the fact that the man was drop dead gorgeous!!
Tied back from his face was a waist length fall of multi-colored blond hair, which left his sculpted face in relief. Sharp, almond shaped jade eyes watched her every move without reveling a thing. His nose was sharp, but not hawkish, and his lips were perfection.
She watched them as he spoke, marveling as to how a man could be so well put together. “Do you not know the Curse of the Ring?” He asked, his deep, rumbling voice sending small shivers of delight through her.
“Does it look like I know what it is? I don’t even know what just happened…or why you murdered those creeps, though I can’t really be sorry for that…and Aida won’t wake up!” Rissi exclaimed, throwing her arms wide. The giant knelt and laid gentle fingers against Aida’s neck.
“She is alright, just passed out. How can you not know of the Curse? Even if I’ve been gone for thousands of years, someone should have informed the keeper of the treasure they carried.” He said.
“Look, mister, I got this ring from my mother. She gave it to me when she sent me away from the man who abused us both. She never told me it had any special properties, and it wasn’t until this month that people began to show an interest in it!” Reece snapped.
“Ah.” He said, standing again.” I think I understand.” He walked away from her, to stare at the papers spread out on her desk.” To protect you from those who hunt us, I must tell you the tale, but it is long and not pretty. Where may we go to speak privately?”
“Uh…no where. I’m not going anywhere with you. I thank you for helping me, but I’d rather you go back where you came from now.” Reece said firmly, hiding her shaking hands under her sweater.
The man laughed lowly, a mocking sound.” I’m afraid that’s impossible, my lady. I cannot leave you until the curse is lifted…or until the ring is removed from your dead finger.”
Reece stared at him. He didn’t break her gaze, and didn’t crack a smile. This guy was being serious.” Holy crap-ola.” She squeaked. “There is no way this is happening to me. I’m going to wake up in my bed any second now and admit myself to the hysteric ward.”
Aida stirred, moaning and trying to sit up. Rissi knelt and put her arms around her.” Don’t push yourself, Aida. You might have hit your head when you fell.” She said. Aida started to answer, then looked up and saw the man.
“Reece! Oh my God, what’s going on? Where are the police? This guys a killer!” She cried, clinging to Reece. The man sat in one of her chairs, but it didn’t make him seem any smaller.
“I am that, my lady, but only to protect my owner. There are some people out front, and they will break in in a moment if you don’t go speak with them. I will await your return here. And say nothing of me to them. I will…dispose of these remains while you do this.” He said. Reece started to walk out backwards, pushing Aida out behind her. The man bowed.” And Mistress Reece? To command me, say’ Vane, thou shalt.’”
Rissi turned and slammed the door, leaning back against it. ”Aida…I don’t know if I can handle this! I don’t even want to know how he’s going to get rid of those two bodies.” She drew in a shuddering breath and clung to her sanity by her fingernails. “Oh, God! I’ve got two maniacs after me because of a mother I never knew! And now this man shows up and…”
Reece stuffed her hand into her mouth to stop her ramblings from turning into sobs. Aida hugged her.
“I think, Reece, that the only thing we can do is what he said. Who would believe us anyway?” She pointed out. Reece took another breath and nodded. She pushed away from the door and sedately walked back out to the main part of the store.
Sheriff Hartman was there, along with Rachel. “My word, Rissi, what have you been doing? You’ve got blood on you!” Rachel cried, running forward to inspect her. Reece laughed and gently pushed her away.
“You’re imagination is running away again, Rachie. I’m fine. This isn’t like your books, where people only get hurt when something horrible is about to happen. People get hurt all the time in real life.” She said, trying to remain calm when she was screaming inside.
Rachel smiled, shoving a hand back through her wild auburn hair.” Yeah, I do spend way too much time in my head. I was on my way over and ran into Officer Hartman, so I asked him to come along and take your report for the stalker you claim to have.” Rachel said.
“The weird thing is, I think I have more than one. Last night I received a call from an unknown persons and he wanted the usual creepy stuff. Today, I got a call from a woman claiming to be a relation of mine, and she wanted something my mother supposedly had.” Reece shuddered, but quickly hide it when Officer Hartman’s keen gaze narrowed on her.
“Anyway, these guys scared me, but I’m sure its nothing serious. Just some teenagers messing with me, or something. It just freaked me out, late at night, ya know? And since Rachel lives in her head, she started imagining al sorts of nastiness lurking outside my window.” Rissi flashed a false smile and shrugged.
Hartman tapped his foot.” Are you sure you don’t want me to go in and take a look around?” He prodded. Something was wrong, and all his senses were shrieking at him, but he couldn’t do anything if Rissi didn’t give him permission.
Aida stepped forward and bounced on her heels. ”Yeah. Miss Daley told me about her call, and about killed herself when the phone in her office rang. She smashed her thumb, bled pretty badly. It was actually quite funny, when it was done and over.” She also forced a false smile.
Rachel was fooled.” Oh, well, you know me. I’m just a crazy author who spends waaaaay to much time in my head. Any strange noise creeps me out.” She waved and got back into the flashy little car. ”I’ll see you later in the week, Reece, for our little jaunt to town.” Tires squealed and she pulled away.
“Well, Reece, if you don’t need me…I’ll be going now.” Officer Hartman cast one last, careful look inside the bookstore, then sauntered off. Aida fell back against the café wall and breathed deep.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life. I was so sure I was going to screw it up, with Officer Hartman looking at me…” She trailed off and shivered. Reece stared off into the distance.
“This is so bizarre. I just…just keep hoping I’m going to wake up, but I know I’m not going to.” She smiled weakly at Aida.” At least you’re in it with me.”
They both turned slowly and headed back inside to face Vane.
Vane was reading a book. He wanted to know how much he’d missed during his long sleep, so he went out into the store and found a history book. He couldn’t believe what he read. “So many years…how could this be?” He asked, putting the book back and picking up the next one.
“Okay…you’ve got some explaining to do.” He jerked back and whirled around as Reece walked back in. Her eyes were flashing at him, and her vivid red hair wind-blown.
“Tis a long story. Are you sure we can talk here safely?” Vane asked. Aida flipped a sign on the door and pulled the drapes.
“Now it is. Sit and talk.” Reece snapped, pushing Vane back into a chair. He blinked up at her, then sighed. Rissi knew when she won, and grinned.
Vane cleared his throat and slowly began to speak, forcing himself to remain calm as the harsh realities of his past were brought into the present. To spare his mind, he turned his emotions off and related the tale in a deep monotone.
“I was born in the ancient times, back when magic still reined. My race was respected, revered…and feared. We were protectors of the weaker races, even though they feared us. It was a duty we were honored to uphold, and never did we abuse it. In fact, we saw it as our job. The stronger watched over the weaker. As shape-shifters, we had control over the wild magic. The wizard envies our strength of body and mind. Over the years, some of the Warlocks, evil and powerful wizards, used that fear the lesser races had for us to slowly turn the people against us. I was tricked into answering a false alarm in the middle of the night, far away from my people. They…restrained me with old poisons.”
“The Master was the strongest warlock alive, and he was my first master. The cult he ran was trying to take control of the world my people guarded, and to do that he needed to destroy us. My race cannot be killed by anyone other than another from the race. So, he ordered me to kill the others, and I did. I couldn’t fight it, even though I tried to. For days, all I did was lay in my cell, twitching and moaning. The compulsion he had used to control me caused unbearable pain if I didn’t follow it. Finally, when I was to weak to fight, I walked out into the night and called some of my friends to me. They were horrified, seeing their prince forced kill them. Some tried to free me, only to be enslaved and killed later in battles made for the Master’s amusement.”
“At first, they used the old herbal medicines to control me, but my kind have a natural ability to become immune to any substance, if exposed often enough. I escaped from them once, and managed to free many of my enslaved brethren before the Master caught me with the ring.”
Vane’s jade eyes closed, and he took a deep breath.” I woke up three months later, shaking and naked in my cell. The rest of my people were dead, they informed me, killed when they tried to rescue me. I was all that was left. The Master was dying, so he passed the ring which I was now bound by to his eldest son, also a strong warlock.”
“That’s how it went for eons. I was passed from one Master of the warlock’s cult to the next. They ruled over the people I was sworn to protect, using me to cow them. I tried to help as many as I could, but the people’s trust in my kind had failed the day the Master took control of the city. Most of them blamed me for what happened. But, I had one friend. Mistress Faith, an herbal Witch.”
“ The Witches of the world were in small, scattered groups. At my suggestion, they began to gather together to overthrow the Master. Together, they had enough power to challenge even the strongest of the warlocks. I started going into the city at night, teaching them what I knew of the palace. When the Master discovered my little city jaunts, he quickly locked me inside his palace. Then the Witches rose up in revolt. I was locked away for years as the war raised the city to the ground. It took me a couple of weeks after that, but I eventually found out that the curse could be broken if a witch could find it in her soul to love me. That’s why they hid me.”
“After that, I did all in my power to help the witches into the city, smuggling them to the palace where the Warlocks lived. Many unsuspecting warlocks took the witches as lovers and they spied on them. Then, one day, the Master’s mistress reveled herself as a witch and they began to battle.”
“I was summoned to help. Just as I burst into the room, the witch drove her blade into her heart. As always, I started to fade as the life in the Master died. Before I vanished, the witch picked up the ring and held it to her heart. ’We will protect you, Deathbringer, and help you end this curse as a payment for your help.’ She said. I never knew more after that, until I was brought here.”
Vane lifted his eyes to the women’s, now wide and glistening with tears.” I think your people have been keeping me safe for all these years, not using me, but harboring me.” He finished, then dropped his gaze to his hands.
Reece opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She swallowed hard and tried again. ”How…how did you survive?” She asked softly. Vane lifted blank eyes to hers.
“How do you think, Mistress? If I felt nothing, then nothing would hurt me. I became as cold as the ring on your finger.” He shrugged. ”Does my explanation make sense?”
“Uh…sure. I’m still confused. Aida, did you understand that?” Reece asked. Vane decided he liked her voice. It was slightly husky, and had a silky edge to it. Vane shook his head and leaned back. He had no right to be hearing her voice in any way other than the thing that controlled him.
“Some. Apparently, he was made the last of his race so he would have no hope, and then was used as a killer for this sect of wizards until your family set him free.” Aida said.
“Um…right. How are you able to speak and read English?” Reece asked. Vane shrugged.
“I’ve always had the ability to speak or read whatever language was being used around me. It is not a natural ability to my race, but I was always different from them.” He said. Aida slowly sat down and held her head. ”This is so weird…”
“Ditto! Vane, do you think I’m a witch?” Reece asked. Vane nodded.” I’m not. I don’t know how I got your little ring, but I’m not magical. If I was, or if my mother was, I think she would have used her magic to free herself from the monster who had her in his grip.”
“You are a Faith. Gloria looked like you, and the same scent of power clings to your skin. You may not know you are a Witch, but trust me when I tell you that you are one.” Vane said, standing and grabbing a rag from Rissi’s desk. He quickly wiped the broad sword clean, then cleaned up what he could of the blood. A wave of his hand made the bloody rag and what was left of the mess on the floor disappear.
He turned around and saw Reece staring at him. She gaped like a fish for a few seconds, then shook her head and sat heavily beside Aida. “Holy Mackerel…”
“We cannot stay here. The Master’s puppets are still alive, and I doubt they’ll rest until they find me. Do you have a way to contact your family, Mistress Faith?” Vane asked, pacing around the room like a caged animal.
Reece shook her head.” I told you, I don’t know my family! I was adopted when I was five, and I have little memory of my birth mother. And from the call I got today, I don’t think I want to have anything to do with my so called family!” She snapped.
“They have contacted you?” Vane asked.” How?” Reece threw her hands up and turned, grabbing the phone off her desk and throwing it at him. He caught it automatically, but then just stared at the device in his hands.
“With a phone! How else did you expect them to contact me? If I hadn’t seen you poof into being with my own eyes, I be thinking you were an insane idiot, or something! As it is, I’m questioning my own sanity. Aida, I really need a drink.” Rissi said, sinking back into her chair and resting her head on her hands.
Aida jumped to her feet.” What do you want? A mocha float, or regular coffee?” She asked, going to the beaded curtain that separated Reece’s office from the rest of the store.
“I was thinking more along the lines of a nice red wine, down at June’s.” Reece muttered.” Maybe if I get pickled enough, this will all go away.” She lifted her head and looked up at Vane.” Is there anyway to get you to disappear?”
Vane slowly nodded.” I…can go unseen, when I wish it.” He said softly.” But if you want me to, you shall have to command me.” His face became even colder, and all traces of emotion vanished.
Reece knew why he did it. He was trying the only way he could to be independent. She didn’t have the time to spare, doing things his way, but Rissi couldn’t find it within herself to order him to obey her. It wasn’t right.
She sighed. “How about this, Vane. Would you please go invisible, or shape-shift into something less noticeable as a six foot six giant?” Reece asked. Vane stared at her for a moment, a look of wonder briefly crossing his face, then he bowed from the waist.
“Six foot seven.” He corrected gently, stepping back and closing his eyes. Rissi shrieked when his formed shimmered into transparency, and then re-formed into a…a huge Bengal tiger.
“Holy…wow…oh, man…” She muttered, staring in awe. The cat before her tilted its head and studied her.” Vane, that’s not what I meant.”
The sound of crashing glass had them both whirling around. Aida stood there, staring at the cat. Her mouth moved, but nothing came out. A crystal glass lay shattered at her feet, a pool of wine spreading across the floor. “Aida? Are you okay?” Reece asked. That made her friend laugh.
“Oh, sure! There’s just a Bengal Tiger standing in your study. Happens everyday. I’m fine.” Aida managed to say. She collapsed against the wall and shrank back when Vane walked up to her.
He sniffed her hair and sneeze, shaking his great head. Timidly, Aida reached up a hand and rested her fingers in his fur. Vane stretched under her palm, and purred once. Then he stalked over to where Reece stood.
She jumped when he shoved his nose into her palm. “Okay…this is cool…scary as Hell, but cool.” Rissi said, patting a man-creature/shape-shifter on the nose. He licked her wrist and little lights gathered around his body, growing brighter and brighter until she had to close her eyes. When she opened them, Vane was standing before her.
“If that form will not do, what one will?” He asked formally, but with less starch than he’d previously shown. Reece shook herself mentally, and found her voice.
“You have more than one?” She asked, amazed. Turing into a giant tiger was a neat enough feat, but to be able to turn into a giant tiger, a mountain lion and a falcon would be even better.
“I am a feline of my race. Any type of feline I have seen with my own eyes, or interacted with, I can take the form of. Then there is my true animal form, that of the great snow panther.” Vane said, studying the wound on his chest.
“There aren’t any cats called snow panthers.” Aida said suddenly, pushing away from the wall and walking over to Reece. She grabbed a rag from behind her and knelt, cleaning the spilt wine.” Snow Leopards, yes, but panthers are limited to the deep recesses of the South American Forests, and the Amazonian region.”
“I would prove it to you, but I don not have the reserves of power I normally would have. What form will you have me take, Mistress, to avoid detection?” Vane asked again.
Rissi pursed her lips and thought, then hurried out into her store and found a picture book. “This one, Vane.” She said, showing him a picture of a fluffy white hair-ball of a house cat. He looked at the cat, then at her and back again.
“This is not a feline, unless they’ve really digressed these last couple hundred of years.” Vane said, looking like someone had told him he had to kiss a toad to get what he wanted. Aida snorted, and then quickly hid it behind her hand Vane looked over at her.
“Is this truly the form I will have to take to travel safely to the location the Mistress wishes to sojourn to?” He asked her. She cracked up even more, and Rissi snorted.
“Your age is showing. No one uses sojourn any more. I doubt many people know what it means. And to answer your question, yes, you have to become a little fur ball. Can you or can’t you do it?” She asked, watching with amusement as Vane studied the little kitten with dismay. Who knew it was possible to have fun when your life was getting turned upside down. Reece was enjoying tormenting him a little bit too much, but it was in a good way.
Vane looked up at her and sighed.” Yes, I can assume this form. I hope your domicile is close; I do not wish to be in this form for any longer than necessary.” He said, backing up and closing his eyes once more. His form began to shimmer again, but instead of reshaping, it got smaller and smaller, then faded into little lights that gathered back into the form…of a blond little fluff ball of a cat.
“Ah, he’s so cute!” Aida exclaimed, looking Vane over with a fond little smile. Reece laughed and went to pick him up. Vane jumped back and hissed at her. “Whoa, easy, killer! I was just going to carry you; nothing else. It’s quite a walk for little legs.” Rissi tried to pick him up again, only to jump back when he swiped at her.
“I don’t think he wants you to carry him, Reece.” Aida said softly, watching as the shifter settled his fur and jumped up onto the table so he was almost level with them. “Did your previous Master’s hurt you when you went into your cat form? Is that why you don’t want Reece to pick you up?”
Vane hissed again and jumped off the table, going over to the door and sitting. His tale swished back and forth in agitation. Reece frowned. “Maybe he’s just really impatient.” She said, opening the door and letting everyone out before she locked up the store. It was a good thing it was Monday, a day she usually closed early. Otherwise, someone…namely Sheriff Hartman…might have noticed a change in her habits and investigated. That was so not what she needed right now.
Aida walked ahead of her, keeping pace with Vane, who moved rather fast for a little fur ball. Rissi had to rush to keep up with him. “I’ve got to go home and baby-sit my nephew, Miss Daley. I’ll call you later so we can…discuss everything.” Aida said as she paused before her street. Reece nodded and watched as she hurried home.
“Well, come on little fluffy.” Rissi said, sighing as she turned down her lane and hurried down the street. Vane kept leaping in front of her, hurrying to get to her home where they could figure out what they were going to do.
They finally arrived, and Reece pulled out her keys. “Vane, you’ll have to go into the kitchen to…” She trailed off as she opened the door. Her living room was a mess. The couch was overturned, and the bookshelf had been ripped apart.
Vane rushed by her, changing as he did so. Before she could blink, Vane had jumped over the couch and skidded into the kitchen. Reece heard a muffled thump and came to her senses, jerking the door closed and hurrying into the kitchen.
“Let me go!” Vane held a young red haired woman in his arms, his face once more a mask. “You aren’t to be released yet, Deathbringer!”
“A relation.” He said softly, keeping his knife pressed to her fair throat. She still struggled and spat foul words at him. Finally she stilled, glaring at Reece.
“You! You ruined this, just like your mother always did! The Deathbringer is ours! We were chosen to protect him, and we now want to use him to bring about the change this world badly needs.” She spat, looking at Reece with such hatred she backed up.
“I do believe that Mistress Daley is one of your line as well and far more deserving of my gifts than you.” Vane hissed in her ear, holding that knife rock steady. “And you are forsaking your vows to protect me, if you desire my power as your own.”
“To do good! We want to use you to set up our rule. We can govern this miserable world far better than these current morons can! We have no desire to enslave you, Demetrious Vane! You will be as free as any, only answerable to the Queen of Faith! Until the curse is broken, that is. And then you will, of course, serve us.” The woman said, sounding all important and fluttering her eyes at Vane.
Rissi lost her temper then. “Oh, yeah, that doesn’t sound at all bad! He’ll be a salve, just as he was before, only this time, his cage will be gilded and not harsh. You women have lost the core of strength that allowed you to overthrow a Warlock empire. You guys are making me ill.”
“You have no room to talk! You aren’t even a true Faith!” The woman shouted, managing to get one hand free and shoving her palm at Reece. Some unseen force lifted Reece off her feet, slamming her into the cabinet.
She slid down the wall and sat there, dazed. Vane roared and slammed the Witch into the marble counter behind her. Rissi sat up. “Vane, don’t kill her!” She shouted, seeing the knife start to press deeper.
“And why not? My duty is to protect you, and yet you’ve gotten hurt twice when I’ve been around. I am failing in my duty to you.” He said through gritted teeth.
“I won’t have anymore deaths on my hands today! I can’t take anymore of it! No more weirdness, or magic, of mumbo jumbo, or whatever it is you do. I’m done! Take her outside, and deal with her there, but don’t kill her!” Reece shouted, turning on her heel and fleeing up the stairs.
She grabbed a bag and started throwing cloths in.
Vane picked the girl up easily, carrying her outside to Reece’s secluded garden. “What are you going to do to me, Deathbringer? Your Mistress has forbade my death by your hands.” She said, sneering at him. “She is weak. You can be so much better, if only you destroy her. I will summon you then, and we will rule as we are meant to.”
“Reece is not weak, Faith. You are. I can smell now the stench of the Master upon you. They have infiltrated your family honor and the faith upon which it was based. I am in a true Faith’s hands, and there I will stay until my curse is broken.” Vane said, tossing the girl to the ground. Before she could stand up and attack him, Vane tossed a small forgetting spell over her. Most of his magics were based in the warrior arts, or in the shifting of the body, but he had enough skill to do this.
Her face instantly blanked and he leaned closer to plant a suggestion in her mind. “You will go home and report that you couldn’t find anything. Then you will leave the Faith home and join a convent somewhere. You will not remember us, or ever think of us again.” He said, letting her fall to the ground. Then he hurried inside.
Reece was upstairs, throwing her cloths into a small bag. “I am happy you realized we cannot stay here.” He said, standing by her door and watching her throw things about.
“We? There is no we. I am done with this. I can’t take any more of this gobblygook! My mind is spinning, and I can’t stop myself from thinking about those men…and now my own family seems to be part of the problem!” Reece shouted.
“I cannot leave you. I am tied to you for life, or until the curse is lifted.” Vane said, holding onto his temper. It was understandable for a woman who hadn’t even known about magic about five minutes ago.
“There, then! How do we lift this little curse? I can fix you, and then we’ll be on our way.” Reece said, jumping on that idea like a drowning man onto a raft.
“The Master said that only a woman’s love would be able to break the spell he put on me, so unless you intend to fall in love with me, we are stuck. Where are we going to go?” He asked.
Rissi could only stare at him. “No! You have to be lying! I refuse to be stuck with you for the rest of my life. I won’t be falling for you, but I’m certain I can find a woman who will. In the meantime… let’s go to the hotel in town.”
Vane nodded and backed out of the way as Reece slung the bag over her shoulder and walked towards him. “Oh, and by the way…you’ll have to go as a cat. If I’m going to be living out of a hotel room for a while, I can’t let it be known I have a man there if I want to keep my job. Now, come help me flood the house.”
“Flood the house? Why?” Vane asked, following her to the basement.
“Because I just can’t get up and move into the hotel without reason! I need to have a lot of damage done to my house so that it is required that I leave. Flooding the basement and then getting severe water damage will do the work. Of course, the bill will be awful, but…” Reece shrugged and headed for the water pump at the end of the basement.
“Wait. How about I ransack your home a little more, and then stash some expensive things. That is what I used to do fro my past Master’s when they wanted to get enemies out of their homes.” Vane suggested.
Reece nodded. “I like that better, as long as you don’t ruin my things and remember where you hide them.”
Vane hurried throughout the house, gathering up the things that seemed to have the most importance. To make it more believable, he dub gouges into some of the china cabinets, like a thief had had to force the thing open.
Then he ran out into the woods running parallel to the garden and stashed them in protected areas there. To confuse scent animals, he changed forms multiple times and rubbed up against the areas and then ran through the woods for a while.
When Vane came back, Reece had pulled her car out of the garage and was waiting for him. “Where’s my fluffy kitten?” She asked archly, glaring at him. Vane sighed and shrank his form again, making himself on to the fluffy blond fur ball she wanted. Then he hopped into her car and sat, deliberately digging his claws into the upholstery.
“Watch it, or I’ll have you de-clawed.” She said tartly, pulling out of the lane and heading for the edge of town where the little hotel was.
Reece studied the little cat out of the corner of her eye as she drove. She was fed up with all of the magic and deaths and craziness. She was going to shuck Vane off on some deserving woman who would adore him, help him bring down those nasty Masters so she didn’t get hurt, and then she was getting the hell out of dodge.
She pulled into the parking lot and got out her cell phone. Quickly, she called Sheriff Hartman. “Sheriff? It’s Reece Daley. Yes, I am fine. I just went home, and my place has been totally trashed. No, I’m not there now, do you think I’m dumb? I’m at the hotel. Yes, I’ll stay here until you give the okay. No. Okay. Thanks. Uh hu. Good night.” Reece hung up and then dialed Rachel.
“Hello!” Rachel shouted into her phone. There was a ton of noise in the background, which she quickly muted. “Sorry about that, Reece! I was brainstorming, and I must have music when I’m brainstorming. My poor I pod is about to go on strike. What do you need?” She asked, I heard her chair squeal as she spun it around.
“Nothing, I just wanted you to know that I’ve temporarily moved into the hotel. My house was trashed while I was at work, so Sheriff Hartman asked me to stay out of his way.” Rissi said, preparing herself for the outburst. She didn’t have long to wait.
“WHAT?! ARE YOU NUTS! WHY ARE YOU SO CALM ABOUT THIS? SOMEONE JUST ROBBED YOUR HOUSE, AND YOU GOT THOSE CREEPY CALLS LAST NIGHT….OH, GOD, I BET IT’S THE SAME PEOPLE, REECE!” Rachel shouted in one breath. As she drew breath to start again, Rissi interrupted her.
“Hey, Rachel, calm down. I’m fine, and Sheriff Hartman will find everything.” Reece looked over at Vane and silently added ‘he’d better not’, then continued “And I will be perfectly safe while he does. Don’t freak out, I just wanted to let you know where I was so you can pick me up on Thursday, to go shopping!” Reece sang that last part, to put Rachel’s mind at ease.
She sighed. “Okay, okay…I won’t freak out. But if you so much as think someone is out to get you, call someone, alright? Oh, look gotta go. I just had a really good idea for this fight scene I’m working one. If Jonathan hits Thomas with a hammer, his head will go flying…” Rachel’s voice trailed off and she hung up.
Reece laughed and looked over at Vane. “That girl is always good to give you a laugh. I’ll introduce you later. Aida’s next.” She quickly dialed Aida’s cell phone and waited. Aida answered on the third ring, shouting to be heard over the screaming of her nephew.
“I was just going to call you, Rissi! Hold on.” Aida set the phone down and Reece heard her cooing to the baby boy until he stopped screaming. Then she changed his damper and settled him down to play. “Okay, we’re good now. Poor baby was muddy. What’s new?”
“Well, my crazy family found me at my home, so Vane trashed the place so I have a reason to move into the hotel. We’re getting ready to go check in now. Just thought I’d let you know. Have fun!” Reece said. Aida said good-bye and hung up.
Reece grabbed her bag and opened the door for Vane. He hopped out and they hurried up to the door. Before she went in, the doorman stopped her.
“Excuse me miss, but no animals allowed.” He said in a rather snooty voice. Reece grinned and looked down at Vane. He looked back up and hissed. She laughed.
“Poor little booby! He doesn’t want to be away from me, and I have nowhere left to leave him…oh well. Stay here, little booby.” Reece said, making Vane hissed again. She knelt beside him.
“I’ll open my window for you to crawl in, but make sure no one sees you.” Rissi whispered. He meowed and trotted off. Reece whipped at imaginary tears. “Poor booby.”
“If I may take your bag, Miss.” The Doorman said. She handed it to him and followed him in. Quickly, she booked a room and was escorted up. Once she was inside, she dropped her bags and opened the window.
Vane jumped in and changed before it was all the way open. “Booby? What kind of name is booby?” He demanded, looking a little peeved. Reece gave him the sweetest smile she could.
“I think it’s an adorable name. Maybe I’ll call you booby all the time. Anyway…You’re not staying here. We’re going to talk this thing out, and then we’re going to part ways for a while. I’ve decided to help you break the curse, bring down the Master’s, and then we’ll be done with each other.” Reece said.
“Love is not something you can command a woman to feel for me, Reece! I have been around enough to know that! When did this hatred towards me start?” Vane demanded.
“Let me think…when you popped into my store and killed those men! When my supposed family tried to exhort a ring from me! When a giant pussy cat popped out of said ring and changed my life without an ‘as you please’!” Reece shouted, letting all her anger out.
“I had no choice!” Vane shouted right back. “Do you think I enjoy enduring forever, knowing that as soon as you die, I will go back into the ring and remain there until summoned again? Do you think I enjoy being a slave? Do think, even for a second, that I like being the last of my kind, doomed for an eternity of servitude?” He asked, voice cracking. He turned away from Reece and leaned his arm and head against the window frame.
His words caused Reece pause, reminding her off all the pain he’d suffered through. She was being unfair, and she knew it. Sure, her life was being turned upside down, but his had been destroyed.
Reece walked to him and put her arm on his bicep. It tensed under her hand, but she didn’t move her hand, even when he shook his arm to throw her off. “ No, I don’t believe it. I know your life has been Hell since your capture, and I’m sorry I’m freaking out over my little change in life style. I’ll…help you as best I can. I can’t promise to love you, but I’ll try to find a woman who can. And I won’t try to get rid of you. We’ll be friends. Okay?” Reece held out her hand.
After a moment, Vane caught it and brought it to his lips, kissing the backs of her fingers. “Agreed.” He rumbled in his deep voice. Then he released her hand and looked out again. “I must go out and learn the grounds. I will not be far, but I ask you not to leave this room while I’m gone.” Vane said. Reece shrugged.
“Okay, no problem.” She said. He gave her a hard look, then jumped out the window, going Fluffy as he did so. “Maybe I should call him Fluffy…” She muttered, settling down for a night of reading.
As she sat, the remote got squished und her weight and the TV came on. “Ooooh, baby! Viggo, Viggo…And Hugh’s on next? Hunk night for me! Screw reading, I’m going to drool all over this lovely floor.” She said, settling back to enjoy.
Vane crept quietly through the shrubs surrounding the hotel, scanning the area with all of his senses. Something had struck him as off about the place when he’d first gotten out of the car, but then Reece’s ‘booby’ comment had chased that thought from his mind, and now the wrongness was gone. He was going to find it.
Letting is magic flow over his body, he set his nose to the ground and searched for the disturbance. He turned in a slow circle, then froze as the scent reached his nose. Looking up, he beheld the back door of the hotel, which was slightly ajar. The wrongness was in there, he was certain of it. Lifting his lips in a snarl, he slunk inside and began to search.
Rissi was just in danger of drowning in her own drool when the phone rang. Hopping onto the bed, she rolled over and answered it. “Hallo, Reece Daley here, what can I do for you?” She sang, rolling again to keep Viggo in view.
“This is the front desk, Miss Daley. There is a Sheriff here to see you.” A stuffy man said, hanging up. Reece sighed and reluctantly turned off the TV. “I’ll be back, Viggo. Oh, wait, that’s Arnie. Oh well, he’s hot, too!” Giggling like an insane college girl, she turned the TV off.
She locked her door and hurried downstairs. When she got to the lobby, she couldn’t see Sheriff Hartman anywhere. “Excuse me, but where is the Sheriff?” She asked the man at the front desk. He looked down his nose at her and pointed outside. She rolled her eyes and was just opening the door when heat spread over her back. A second later, vane’s big arm pushed her aside.
“It is not your friend out there. It could be a trap. Let me go out first, and I will be nearby to help you. Be careful.” He said, going out. Reece gave him a moment, then followed him outside.
The Sheriff outside wasn’t Sheriff Hartman, but she still knew who he was. It was Sheriff Doyle, the Sheriff of the county. Hartman often asked him to help in major crimes.
“Mr. Doyle, what a pleasure. Has Sheriff Hartman asked you to help with the investigation into my robbery?” Reece asked, looking around for anything off. The Sheriff smiled coolly at her and grabbed her arm. Instantly, her alarm bells went off and she twisted free on the pretense of getting her phone free.
“You could…say something like that. Miss Daley, I would like you to come to my office…so we can discuss things.” Sheriff Doyle said, grabbing her arm once again, as soon as she had her phone free from her pocket and had opened it.
Reece though fast, going over her options. She didn’t want to go with Doyle; Her gut was telling her that it would be bad idea. On the other hand, Reece needed to know what was going on, who was after her. Maybe she could find out more, and help Vane narrow down his search.
Thinking fast, She smiled at Doyle. “Well…may I go get my purse before we go?” She asked, making sure she spoke louder than normal so Vane might hear, wherever he was.
“Oh, no need. We won’t be gone that long, so we’ll just go and I’ll have you back before dark. Get in the car.” Sheriff Doyle opened the door to his patrol car, and gave her a little shove towards the portal. Behind her, she heard a hissing growl. Doyle whirled around and fired something, using a silencer. Reece turned and started, seeing a large cheetah looking cat lying senseless on the pavement.
Doyle turned back to her, raising the gun. “This is an elephant tranquilizer. He will be out for a few minutes. You…I don’t know how long you’d be out. Get in, or I’ll shoot.”
Reece took a deep breath and climbed in. As she did, she slid her open phone out of view and sent a text message to Aida.
Vane was waiting when Aida showed up. “Where’d she go?” She exclaimed as soon as she saw him. Him put a finger to his lips and led her up to Rissi’s room. “Vane! Let me know what’s going on!”
“Reece was approached by a member of one of the two factions after me. She agreed to go with him to get information, or at least that’s what I have been led to believe. The only thing I can tell you is that she is alive and well, and somewhere to the west of where we are now. I don’t know where she is at, exactly.” Vane said, pulling his knives out and pacing the small room.
“You…you don’t know? Then what are we going to do?” Aida cried, wringing her hands and getting up to pace with him. Her phone chirped, making her jump. Vane cast her an irritated look and paced over to the window, peering out.
Aida pulled her phone out and answered it without looking at the caller ID. “Hello? Really, can I…who is this? May I ask your name?” Her sudden tension had Vane whirling around and walking over to her, kneeling so his face was level to her.
He could barely hear the voice on the other end of the line, “Someone you really want to talk to. I know where they’ve taken Miss Reece Daley. Meet me at her shop, Midnight. Come alone. Then we’ll talk.” The person speaking hung up and Aida stared at her phone, shaken.
“Let’s go. You know the way to the shop.” Vane said, going for the door. Aida jumped up and blocked him.
“Wait, Vane! T-they said that I should come alone, so…maybe you should-“ Vane cut her off with a quick gesture of his hand. Aida squeaked and jumped back.
“No! My job has always been protection, and I will not fail the first people it has meant anything to me to protect! I will go with you, and we will find Reece.” Vane snapped, strapping those wicked blades back on.
“But you can’t-wait a moment! You called her Reece, twice! When’d you stop calling her Mistress?” Aida asked, eyes lighting up. “Ooh you like her, don’t you? When we get her back, we’ll-“
“Reece is the first one to see me as a living being, not a thing to be owned. Forgive me if I see a little over protective of her. I’ll meet you outside.” Vane said quietly, leaving. Aida stared after him.
Reece lifted her head and looked around. “At least you could have untied my hands.” She muttered, glaring at the silent sentinel standing outside the car, back to the window. “A good sheriff would have.”
“Shut up.” Doyle snapped, peering around the corner at her store. She’d heard him making that call to Aida, and she knew Aida would come, alone or with Vane. She really hoped it was with Vane, since they had a trap set up for her. He seemed like a very capable guy to have around during these kinds of things. All those rippling muscles, you know?
She rested her head back against the upholstered chair of Doyle’s patrol car. “I can’t get out, dummy; there are no handles on the inside of the backseat of squad cards.” Reece continued, determined to annoy Doyle so much that he lost his watch on her building.
“Daley, if you don’t shut up…” Doyle trailed off and jerked out his little elephant tranquilizer gun. “This goes right through your heart.”
“How did they buy you, Doyle? I always thought you a dirty cop, but this is beyond even you. So, what did they offer you to get you to join them?” Rissi asked, trying to twist her wrists free from the cuffs holding her. After this was over, she was so joining the gym, so she could squeeze her way out of this little conundrum.
“Its none of your business. Now shut up so I can watch your damn store!” He shouted, then swore softly and clamped his hand over his mouth. “Dammed woman, you might have made me give my cover away!”
“You’re sweating pretty hard there, Sheriff Doyle. Cat’s aren’t known for their sense of smell, but I bet Vane could find you.” Rissi continued.
“He won’t be here. I told you little text message receiver to come alone. And why a woman, I must ask? You women are weak.” Doyle snarled.
“We women have more strength than you’d guess. Plus…you never know what we have in our purses.” Reece smiled sweetly and sat back. Before Doyle could react, Rachel came up behind him and hit him on top of his head with her five-pound purse as hard as she could. He fell like a log. “Never thought there would come a day I’d be happy you carry around a freaking brick.” Rissi said, getting out when Rachel opened the door.
“Me either, but why are you in Sheriff Doyle’s car? And why does he have all these guns? I mean, I know cops have more guns than most people, but surly eighteen is way to many. And they’re all different, so that has to mean something. Reece, what’s going on? Are you in some kind of trouble? Did I just break the law? Oh my God, I just hit a law enforcement officer! That’s got to be assault and battery!”
Rissi laughed and fished the cuff key out of Doyle’s cloths.” Hey, calm down, Rachie! I won’t let anything happen to you. It’s kind of a long story, though. I’ll explain everything, but first we need to get back to my hotel room. Hey, what time is it?” Reece asked as she freed her hands.
Rachel checked her phone; The girl could never remember to wear a watch. “ Uh, eleven fifty seven.” She said. Reece swore. “What? What did I do?”
“Nothing, but they should be here!” She said, pushing past Rachel and going out into the alley. As she went to peer around the corner, large hands caught her around the waist and pulled her forward, under the lamplight.
“Rissi!” Aida cried, rushing forward and grabbing Reece by the waist, holding her tightly. Reece looked over her shoulder and stared at Vane. He was studying the area around them, a look of pain on his face.
“Vane? What’s wrong? Are you alright?” She asked, brushing away from Aida to go to him. He shook his head and looked into the alley just as Rachel came out. They stared at each other, then Rachel whistled.
“Where have you been hiding him, Rissi?” She asked, staring hard at Vane. He rolled his eyes and walked into the alley.
“It’s a long story, Rachie, and one I can’t tell right now. I’m just helping Vane do what has to be done.” She paused for a moment, then sucked in a breath and asked the question. “Do you love him?”
“Who, the giant guy? No! I don’t even know him. And even if he is more attractive then a thousand Sean Bean’s, I’m not even sure I’d sleep with him. He scares me for some reason.” Rachel said.
“You are right to fear me, Miss Rachel.” Vane said as he walked back out, dragging the stirring Sheriff Doyle after him. “What do you wish me to do with this man, Reece? He stinks of the Master’s people.” He said.
Rissi bit her lip, thinking. She wasn’t use to having to make life or death situations on the fly. Matter of fact, she wasn’t use to making them at all. Reece couldn’t even balance her ledgers half the time!
“Um… Let’s take him somewhere safe and try to get some information out of him, without killing him.” She finally said, Vane nodded.
“And where will this safe place be? Your domicile is out, as they will look there first.” He pointed out, catching Doyle in both hands as he started to struggle. “I doubt they will allow us to bring unconscious men into the hotel any more than they would allow cats into it.”
“Funny.” Reece said dryly, looking around. Her gaze landed on Rachel, who was biting on her finger in agitation as she stared about her in bewilderment. “Rachel, honey…care to lone us that huge house you occupy by yourself? Oh, and with that fur ball you call a cat.” She asked.
Rachel jumped, then stared at Reece. “M..my house? I don’t know, Reece…It’s a rather big place; He could escape and get away to warn whoever you don’t want warned.” She muttered, shuffling her feet.
“Pretty please, with sugar on top?” Aida asked, batting her eyes at Rachel. Rachel could never resist puppy dog eyes, and she threw up her hands in annoyance. “Fine! You guys win, even though I think you cheated!” She cried, going over to her flashy little sports car and yanking the door open. “I don’t think we’ll all fit, especially if Mr. Giant wants a ride.”
Vane shook his head. “I will be following you. You three just lead me.” He said. Before they could say anything, the lights signifying change gathered around his body. They all had to close their eyes, and when they opened them again, a sleek gray and black spotted cat about the size of a tiger was standing before them, Doyle trapped under the large body. The muscles of the cat were made for speed, much like that of panthers.
“Ooh, so that’s a snow panther.” Aida said as she helped Rachel heave Doyle into the backseat of the car. They tied him up with the seat belts and Reece’s belt. “Pretty kitty.”
Vane yowled, showing off an impressive set of sharp fangs, then nosed everyone into the car. “Alright! Pushy guys; I hate them.” Rachel muttered, starting her car.” Hope that cat can go fast.”
She pressed down on the accelerator and the car shot forward. Rachel laughed and zipped around the corner. “Eat my dust, kitty!” She screeched as the tires squealed. She about died when Vane jumped around the corner and skidded right beside her.
Reece laughed. “Ha! He’s a quick little sucker. Onward and upward, Rach! We’ve got a lot to do tonight.”
Getting Doyle into the house was a lot harder than getting him into the car had been. Reece jerked back and narrowly avoided getting her nose smashed in. “Hey! I would like it if you refrained from rearranging my face.” She snapped.
“Let go of me!” Doyle growled, swinging at Aida with his free hand and catching her lip. She gasped and jumped away, hand going to the bloody split in her lip. “I’ll do more if you don’t let me go!”
“Enough!” Vane snapped, striding forward from securing a room in the house. “Or I will break all of the bones in you body slowly.” He growled, swinging Doyle up in his arms and carrying him into the house as if he was an annoying fly.
Reece snorted and shook her head.” Macho man. That’s so typical. How ya feeling Aida?” She asked, Aida pulled the Kleenex she was using away from her face. Her lip was swollen up pretty big.
“Bo I book obay?” She asked, wincing as she spoke.” Bis hurbs! Rable, Bo you gob ice?” Rachel nodded and ushered Aida into her kitchen. Reece closed the car up and headed upstairs to see if Vane needed help.
She froze when she heard something crash up against the wall. Then she rushed into the room. Vane was crouched in the corner, shattered grass laying around and on him. Doyle stood across the room, picking up another vase.
“You will never win this battle you fight, Deathbringer. Do you honestly think the one you fear would let you win? There is no way for you to destroy that which binds you, and you shall be his slave forever.” He said gleefully, tossing the vase up and down in his hand.
Vane stood slowly, brushing the glass shards off. “Not his slave. Never his. Maybe I am a slave to the magic of the ring, but I have never been a slave to him.” He said in a low growl. Reece stepped into the room and went to Vane’s side.
“He’s right, Doyle; He’s never been a slave to the Warlock who enslaved him. His spirit has always been free.” She snapped. Doyle began to laugh, first softly, them holding onto the wall to stay up.
“You don’t know, either one of you?” He asked. “This is to rich. The women, they try to hide their corruption under noble excuses, and the Master’s servants are a shadow of what they once were, no longer worthy to serve him. But we, we know the truth.” Doyle said, laughing hysterically.
“Who knows the truth?” Vane asked, keeping a hand on Rissi’s arm to keep her back when she tried to go forward. “Tell us, and I might be persuaded to spare you.”
“Vane, I don’t-“ Reece’s words were cut short when Vane put his large hand over her mouth. She stilled instantly, and Vane dropped his hand.
“Spare me? DO you honestly think I fear for my life? I know I am doomed anyway, even if I get away, for He will never believe I didn’t betray the Brotherhood.” Doyle said, shaking his head.” No, I do not fear my death.”
“Brotherhood? I have never hood of any brotherhood associated with the Master.” Vane said softly, idly resting against the wall, lounging like a lazy cat. When Reece realized the simile she’d used, she giggled.
“That is because we were a secrete society the Master himself formed. We were a safety net, incase his lineage should fail and loose the ring. When the Faith’s got the ring, we began to work, slowly getting people in place to do what needed to be done. Over the years, we’ve infiltrated every organization, searching…for you, Deathbringer.” Doyle fell back onto the bed, laughing. “And we’ve got you. We’ve finally done our Master proud.”
Vane drew Reece out of the room, carefully barring the door. Vane ran his hand back through his hair, making it disheveled and mused. “Vane, are you alright?” Reece asked, putting a hand on his arm. He shook her off.
“I don’t know what to think, Reece! All my life, I have known what the good and evil were. The Warlocks were evil, and the Faith witches good, but now….if what Doyle tells us is true, then that’s a lie! I don’t want to believe him, but…this is just the kind of thing the Master would do, making a safety net.” He rested his head against the wall. “I will never be free of him. Never…”
The utter defeat on his face touched Reece as nothing else ever could. She pulled him around to face her and forced his face around. “Listen to me, Vane. Really listen to me.” She ordered. “ That Master can’t hold you forever, Vane. You are much to powerful for that. And there is a way to break that curse. All we have to do id find it. And we will. I promise you that.” She said, smiling at him.
Vane took a deep breath and nodded. “If you deem it so, I have no choice but to believe it.” He said, smiling gently at her before sliding his hand down his hair to put it back in place. “We will work this out. At least we know who is trying to kill you now. Go to your friends; They’re calling for you.” He turned and walked up the stairs.
Reece turned and ran down to the kitchen. Aida was putting ice on her lip while Rachel went about the kitchen, getting drinks together for everyone. She was a homebody at heart.
“How’s your lip, Aida?” Rissi asked, dancing in and picking up a mug of hot chocolate. She sipped and rolled her eyes. “Gosh, Rachel, this has to be Godiva hot chocolate! My taste buds are rejoicing.”
“Of course it is! I drink only the best hot chocolate, the best money can buy.” Rachel said, pulling the ice away from Aida’s lip to put antiseptic on the cut. “You’re going to have a fat lip for a few days, but it shouldn’t be to bad.”
“Spoiled rich girl. Can you work tomorrow, Aida? You’ll have to run the store on your own. I don’t want to leave Vane here by himself. Oh, Rachel, I need to call Sheriff Hartman, let him know that I’m staying with you now.” Reece said, putting her mug down and picking up the kitchen phone.
Rachel got out the phone book and dropped it on the counter, making the mug jump onto the floor. Aida jumped up and grabbed the broom while Reece rolled her eyes and ran with the phone. As she shut the door to the study, she could hear shrieks coming from the kitchen. “Kids.” She muttered.
She quickly called Sheriff Hartman’s home phone. He answered on the third ring, brusque voice sounding tired. Reece felt bad for calling him at home, but he had told her to let him know if anything happened…
“Hello, Sheriff, this is Reece Daley. I had another incident, and have moved in with Rachel. She says she doesn’t mind, but I wanted to know if you have had any leads at all.” Rissi said, cradling the phone between her ear and shoulder as she began to flip through things on Rachel’s desk. She knew the brunette wouldn’t mind; Rachel always encouraged people to go through her stuff and read the notes on her stories.
“I had the boys come in and dust for fingerprints. They got nothing. Then we went over every square inch, looking for any marks. Still nothing. I finally had Davis bring the dogs out; They wouldn’t even step out of the car. I found some animal hair, but we can’t match it. I’ve called in the state boys, but even they can’t identify the animal. We’ve got a zoologist coming up from Dansville.” Hartman said.
Reece felt her heart jump. “An un-identifiable animal? What type of creature do you think it is?” She asked, swallowing hard. What if they managed to track it to Vane, somehow?
“I don’t know, but if I had to take an educated guess, I’d say a feline of some sort did it. The fur is think and springy, which is commonly seen in cats, but I can’t understand why a cat large enough to deposit that much fur would be at your house.” Hartman mused, the sound of paper coming over the phone. “I will let you know if anything comes us, Miss Daley. Good night.” He hung up.
Rissi dropped the phone and rubbed her head. “Oh, boy. How did this become my life?” She muttered, lifting another piece of paper. She looked at it briefly, then stared. She lifted her hand, the ring glittering on her finger. She looked between the paper and the ring, unable to believe her eyes. She got up and ran into the kitchen.
Aida was batting at Rachel with the broom, laughing. Rachel had a feather duster and was fighting back. They both stopped when Reece skidded into the room, the paper held in front of her. “How did you do this?” She asked, hoarsely.
On the paper was a carbon copy of the ring on Reece’s finger, drawn in charcoal. Rachel put her duster down and took the paper, frowning. “It’s a strange story. I dreamed of this ring for three nights, until I couldn’t do anything but think about it. So, I drew it as I saw it in my dreams, and now, whenever my mind starts to crave the sight of the ring, I just look at the drawing and the craving dies.” She said.
Reece held her shaking hand up by the drawing.” Look! Look, Rachel. This is my ring. I’ve kept it hidden my whole life, wearing it on a chain or not at all. How did you know to draw it like this? Why are you compelled to see it?” She demanded, leaning back against the wall.
Rachel went pale, pressing her hand to her heart.” I…I don’t know. Is something wrong with me?” She asked, backing up. Aida dropped the broom and grabbed Rachel’s arm when she looked faint.
“She might be under a compulsion to find the ring.” Vane said as he strode into the kitchen.” The Warlocks were always keen to use mind control on others. Hold still, and I will check for you.” He said, going over to Rachel and putting his hands by her temples. His eyes glowed for a moment, then he closed them and dropped his hands, turning away from them. “A Master has been near you recently, to put a compulsion this powerful on you.” He whispered.
“When did the dreams start, Rachie?” Reece asked, putting her arm around Rachel’s waist to show support. Vane walked to the other side of the kitchen and settled there, blending into the darker shadows caused by the street light outside Rachel’s house shining through her trees.
“About two weeks ago, right after…” Rachel trailed off, her green eyes narrowing.” Right after I met Jonathan.” She said.
“Didn’t you break up with him about five days ago?” Aida asked, putting more ice on her lip. Rachel nodded.
“Yeah, he started acting all weird, asking me about all my friends, who they were, what there family names were. Could he have been one of them? Why would he use me?” Rachel asked, sounding like a lost little girl.
Vane spoke.” He would have sensed the whiff of Reece’s power on you, and he would have known that you had contact with one of the Faith witches. Therefore, he would have developed a relationship with you, hoping to get close to the one with power. He also would put a compulsion on you, planning on using you to find it, should it appear when he wasn’t there. Since you broke off the relationship early, he hadn’t had time to do much more than initiate the spell.” Vane said.
“So…he was going to use me…to hurt Reece?” Rachel tugged on her hair. ”Thank God I was at a book signing all last month.” She said, jumping to her feet.” Excuse me.” She ran out of the room and pounding up the stairs.
Aida hurried after her.” I’ll make sure she doesn’t hurt herself. It’s probably best if she doesn’t see you anymore tonight, Rissi. Might make her more upset.” She said, flying up the stairs as well. Vane sank to the floor and pulled his knees up. Reece went and sat on the floor beside him, thighs touching. “Are you alright?” She was really getting tired of asking him that.
“The stench of the Master’s people is in her mind, and it brings back memories I’d rather keep hidden. It has shaken me, that is all. I will be fine in a moment.” He said, keeping his eyes closed. Suddenly, he hissed and turned his head to the right. Reece looked over just as Rachel’s giant feline, Fifi, sauntered into the kitchen.
The Huge, fluffy white fur ball jumped about sixty feet into the air and hissed. Vane hissed right back, causing Fifi to cower under the counter, tail between her legs. Reece whistled.
“I’ve seen that cat whip at Doberman. You must be scary to cow her.” She said, reaching out for the trembling cat. Fifi hissed and ran out of the room. Vane snorted.
“Disrespectful cat. She needed to learn her place. I just helped her get there.” Vane said, sighing heavily. “You must rest now, Reece.”
Rissi nodded, yawning.” Yeah, now that you mentioned it, I do. Where are you going to sleep, though? Rachel only has four bedrooms in this house, and they’re all taken.” She asked.
Vane shrugged.” I do not require sleep as of yet. I will watch our guest while you ladies find repose.” He said, getting onto his feet.” I would not want him escaping during the night and harming one of you because of my lack of attention.”
“What do you mean, you don’t sleep? You don’t need it, or you don’t get it?” Reece asked for clarification, not really sure what he meant.
“I didn’t get it, not before. My old Master’s didn’t believe an immortal creature needed sleep, or food. And I don’t, not to live, but I prefer to have it. Those things are comforting to me, and help me become stronger. It does not matter, though, as I have taught myself to survive without it. As you have need of my full attention, I will do without it for now.” He said.
Reece shook her head.” No! It’s not right at all. We will all sleep, or not at all. Take your pick.” She said. Vane shook his head.
“I have no where to rest, and I am the only one who can do the things necessary to stay up all night without repercussions. Do not trouble yourself on my account. I will be fine.” He said. Reece bit her lip and grabbed his muscled forearm when he tried to turn away.
“But…you could rest on the couch!” She cried, motioning to the dainty pink couch in Rachel’s living room. Vane turned to look at it and a small little laugh slipped out, the first one Reece had heard him give. She stared up at him, fascinated by the sound.
“Do you honestly think I could fit onto that little thing comfortably? My feet and head would be hanging over both ends.” He said, pushing a hand back through his hair. “No, I will be fine. Stop worrying about me and go rest your body, Rissi.” He leaned over and brushed a kiss across her brow. “Sleep well, Rissi.” He whispered, pulling a sword free and striding up the stairs.
Reece stared after him for a moment, then shook herself and headed towards the back bedroom Rachel had given her. She crawled into the bed and pulled the silk cover up to her chin. As she drifted off to sleep, she prayed she wouldn’t have another nightmare.
Rissi sat up in bed, sweat streaming from her body and stomach heaving. She twisted the sheets around her waist, bending over as she took a few deep breaths. She pushed her hair off of her sweaty neck. The glow from the digital clock cast a sickly green glow over the pink walls, not helping Rissi’s nausea at all.
That was one of the worst nightmares she’d ever had to suffer through. She’d seen Vane laid out on a wooden table, knives being dug into his body as he writhed in pain. Blood had been flowing over the tables and pooling onto the floor under him. Despite the severity of his wounds, he’d still been fighting.
Chained to the wall next to the table were Aida, bleeding badly from a cut on her head, and Rachel, hanging unconscious from hooks. Both women were covered in scratches and bruises. Aida in particular had been subjected to many beatings, from the state of her face. In a cage in the corner had been Reece, shouting at the top of her lungs as Vane was tortured more and more, the ring on her finger glittering.
She’d shouted until her throat had hurt, then collapsed onto the floor. There had been a knife in the cage with her. Reece had watched herself pick up the knife and…cut her own wrists. She’d woken up right before she’d died.
“That was freaky.” She muttered, dropping her arms to the side and staring at her door. She about screamed when it silently slid open and Vane stalked in.
“Reece?” He asked softly. She raised her hand and waved, but didn’t say anything. She held her hand to her head, and used the other one to hold the sheet up to her chin. Just in case, you know?
“Hey, sorry if I disturbed your vigil.” Rissi muttered, tugging on her red hair. Vane shook his head and took a deep breath.
“I smelt power, as ancient as I am. It’s coming from in here.” Vane said, walking around and sniffing at random things. Reece watching him with wide eyes, feeling her heart start to race again. He stopped in front of her and shook his head.” It’s coming from you, Reece. You were using magic.”
She shook her head right back. “Nuh uh. I wasn’t doing anything except having the mother of all nightmares.” She insisted, curling her legs under her body and pushing herself up against the headboard.
Vane spoke so quietly she almost didn’t hear him. “The ancients believed that dreams tell us what is coming, Reece. I had almost forgotten that the Faith Witches had powerful power of Sight. They could sometimes See on command, but mostly, they saw the possible futures in their dreams. What did you see?”
Reece pressed the back of her hand to her mouth and shook her head.” No! That can’t happen! It would be…awful. First the other creepy dreams and now this. This really can’t be happening to me; It’s just a hallucination, brought on by to much caffeine today. Yeah, that’s it. Caffeine.” Reece said, staring up at Vane with despair in her eyes.
He laid his sword on the bedside table and sat on the bed beside her. He brushed her wine colored hair back and stroked his fingers through her hair, trying to relax her. “You know in your heart that it is true, Rissi. Magic doesn’t lie, and those who have it can sense the truth. You have the Sight, if only you choose to use it. If you wish, you can See the truth.” Vane leaned over and kissed away a tear Reece hadn’t been aware of shedding.” It is no reason to weep. Magic has the power to heal physical and emotional wounds. It is a good thing.”
Vane coaxed her to lie back out and tucked the sheet around her. Reece grabbed a hold of his hand and wouldn’t let go of it. He pulled a chair over and sat, gently rubbing her hair back, soothing her.
“Sleep now, Reece. I will watch over you and make certain that soothing more disturbs you this night. Sleep, Rissi…Sleep…”
Reece awoke in the morning to bright sunshine and birds singing. She rolled over and pulled the covers over her head.” Gah! Why does Mother Nature have to be in such a jovial mood today?” She muttered, finally getting the courage to roll herself out of the warm cocoon of sheet she was wrapped in.
She didn’t quiet make it, though. Her legs got tangled up in the sheets, and she ended up falling flat on her face. She rapped her head smartly against the wooden floor and moaned.” I really hate mornings!”
“I noticed.” Reece squeaked when she was lifted and deposited on her feet. Vane stood over her, smiling. “Get dressed, and then come eat. It seems Aida was feeling like Mother Nature this morning; She made bacon and eggs, with toast.” He said, walking out quickly.
Reece drew in a deep breath and felt her mouth water as the smell of frying bacon reached her. Baaaacooonnn….She was a bacon monster, a fact Aida was very aware of.
“If there isn’t any bacon let when I get down there, I will be spilling blood!” She shouted as she tried to put her jeans and shirt on at the same time. Rissi ended up tripping herself again, falling onto the bed this time.
She sorted herself out quickly and rushed to the kitchen. Rachel and Aida were shoveling food into their mouths, grinning like fools, but Vane was staring at the plate in front of him like it was an alien life form. Reece frowned.” You can go ahead and eat, Vane; No one will care if you’re a pig.” She said, piling her plate high as she could.
“No…It’s not that. I’ve just…never had anyone offer me food before. I’ve always been thrown scrapes, if they gave me anything.” He said, picking up his fork and digging in. He was a surprisingly graceful man, for one so huge. “Thank you for this feast, Aida. It is fit for a king.” He said, smiling slightly as he shoveled more food in.
“You can get more.” Reece said as she sat, noting how fast he was eating and catching the way he was eying the frying pan. He nodded and quickly re-filled his plate. She reached over him to try and get some bacon. He picked a piece up and handed it to her. When their fingers touched, her world turned upside down and went psycho on her.
She saw snippets of a thousand little things, all having to do with Vane and herself. She saw them arguing and throwing things at each other. She saw them kissing and making up. She saw herself, sitting on Vane’s lap as they read aloud to a little boy with dark eyes and light hair. She saw Vane jumping in front of her and taking a bullet for her. Thousands of little imagines, she clutched at her head and screamed.
“Enough!” Vane roared, and instantly, the barrage of information died. Vane helped her to sit in her chair, making sure that their bare skin did not touch again. Aida and Rachel crouched before her chair, worried looks mirrored on their faces.
“Rissi, what was that? Are you alright, or do you need to go to the hospital?” They asked. Vane waved them off.
“Her power has been awakened and is stronger than I thought. I should have shielded myself better, and for that, I am sorry.” Vane said, looking out the window and not at the women.” Once a power is awake, it never sleeps. My being here brought her’s alive, and now she will always have a heightened awareness of other people. It will rarely be as explosive as it was with me, and there are very few pure magic creatures left with which to clash magic with.” He said.
“Whoa, hold up! Erm, back up, reverse.” Reece said, holding her hands in a ‘T’ shape. “Time out, Vane! What the hay is a pure magic creature and why does magic react so strangely to it, if I even have any. This could be brain cancer, you know.”
Vane pushed her back into her chair and leaned against the counter.” It is…complicated.” He warned, motioning both the other women back to their seats as well. He was tickled to notice that nothing had ruined these lady’s appetites.
Reece folded her arms across her chest and leveled a glare at him.” Oh, I’m sure I can keep up. Try me.’ She dared, trying really hard to keep her cool. The best way for her to do that was to challenge Vane so her mind could have something else to focus on. Vane, knowing that, allowed it.
“A pure magic creature is one that is not mortal, human, or any other living creature on the planet. We are things created by the forces of magic, good and evil, to guard it. It is our purpose in life.” Vane began.
“There are basically three categories we fall under. I am a White Creation, one created by the forces of good to watch over the weaker and help the men and women gifted with a talent for calling upon this magic in learning about its strengths and weaknesses.”
“My exact polar opposites are the Dark Creations. You would call them the Lycanthropes. They were made to corrupt the users of Magic and led them towards darkness, to keep good from overruling the world. They were killed right along with my kind when the Warlock’s gained power.”
“And the third category?” Rachel asked, writing furiously in her pocket notebook. She always had one on hand, in case inspiration struck. Apparently, a large bolt had just hit her. She was writing so fast, Reece wondered why her hand didn’t cry.
Vane smiled as he answered.” The Dusk Creations. They are the balancing agent for those of neutral beliefs. They are neither good nor evil, just a little bit of both. Unfailingly just, but willing to do anything to make certain justice is served. Warlocks, too, killed them. It was a massacre. The Druids didn’t have a chance to fight at all.”
“Druids…got it! Okay, continue. This is making to be a great social structure study for my next book…” Rachel muttered, biting her lip as she scribbled down notes.
“The reason magic reacts so strongly to us is because we are vessels for it. The magic a Witch or Wizard uses is amplified if they have us around to draw from. It was for this reason that we were sought out ot be familiars for magic users. In the case of Seer’s, we allow them to ‘see’ into a person’s mind, and into their future. I’m guessing that that is what Reece experience when she touching my hand. It happened to Gloria.” Vane finished.
Aida stared at Reece. “You…you’re a witch?” She asked, continuing before Reece had a chance to answer.” That is so cool! Just think, we can go all out for Halloween now and totally justify it.”
“Aida, it isn’t cool! I felt like someone just fried my brain, and I haven’t slept well in about three weeks. This thing, whatever it is, bites and really chose an awful time to rear its ugly head.” Reece said, rubbing her neck.
Vane reached out and took over. Rissi tensed, expecting another onslaught, but she couldn’t feel anything. Vane’s voice, when he spoke, rumbled in her body. “I am blocking my thoughts and future from you.”
Rachel whistled, catching all of there attention. She slid her notebook around and pointed to the rough sketch she’d just drawn on one page. “Okay, I’m starting to get freaked out by all of this! I just had a compulsion to go seek this guy out and bring him back here. Does anyone know who he is?” She asked.
The guy in the picture was attractive and middle aged. His face was rough hewn and appealing. His nose was straight, his jaw strong. Rachel’s drawing captured an aura of masculine appeal, but also a bone chilling cold. Those eyes held no warmth.
Aida shook her head.” Nope, I’ve never seen him before. Haven’t the slightest idea who he is.” She said. Reece shook her head as well.
“No clue, although he is sort of vaguely familiar in a third cousin kind of way, if you get my meaning.” She said, tracing the man’s profile with her finger. “Creepy, though.”
“I know who it is.” Vane said lowly, voice filled with cold hate and rage.” I will never forget the face of the man who punished me, who imprisoned me. That is the face of pure evil, the face of the devil himself.” He said, voice shaking.
All three women stared at him. It was Aida who spoke.” You mean…this is…is…” She couldn’t say it, but Vane nodded.
“Yes. That is he. The Master Warlock. Rydan. My original owner and starter of this whole cycle of slavery.” Vane shook in rage.” This can only mean one thing; The wizard is sill alive.”
Vane’s words had a strange affect on the house. Everyone had to deal with shock in a different way. Rachel was holed up in her study, playing music far to loud and typing away. No one doubted that she was torturing one of her poor characters as she tried to work herself to death so she wouldn’t have to think about someone else being able to control her mind at will, from a distance.
Aida was cooking up a storm in Rachel’s kitchen, baking everything from cookie to a Belgian Chocolate cake. She made soup and had a roast in the oven before she was calm again.
Vane was outside, hacking at imaginary enemies with his broadsword. Sweat flew off of him as he practiced, hair whipping around his magnificent body, wrapping him up like a present. When he became tired of that, he went inside and took up a vigil outside Doyle’s prison.
Reece was reading. Whenever she needed to get away for a while, she grabbed a good book and curling up before a fireplace or whatever comfy chair she could find. Right at that moment, she had a copy of Rachel’s latest best seller in her hands, and was deep in the touching story of love triumphing over all, no matter how hard the bad guy tried to keep the two unlikely lovers apart.
“Hey.” Reece looked up when Aida came in with a tray of cookies. Reece took three and motioned her onto the seat opposite her. “I’ve been thinking. I wanted to know how a man could put such a complex compulsion on Rachel without her noticing. I think I’ve got the answer.” She said.
Reece plopped her bookmark into the book and left it on the side table.” Okay, I’m all ears, since I’ve come up with zip. Shoot.” She said.
Aida sat back and rubbed her ankle absently. “Well, this dude is a wizard, right? So, what’s to stop him from being able to change his facial structure a little tiny bit, so he can date anyone he wants without them knowing who he is. Rydan, or whatever his name is, might have changed himself just slightly and become Rachel’s Jonathan. Do you think it’s possible?” She asked.
Rissi jumped up and hugged Aida, “I think it’s more than possible; I think its exactly what happened! Let’s get that drawing, ad some extra paper and pencils. I’m not the artist Rachel is, but I can draw a decent picture, and Rachie described Jonny to me enough that I should be able to draw him. Also, I know where her journals are. Let’s see how many parallels we can draw, shall we?” She asked, rushing out of the room to get the supplies they would need to do a final test.
Reece came back in and slapped some white computer paper down, then dug a green colored pencil out of her pocket. Then she tossed a pink, fuzzy journal onto the table and sat, smiling.
“Journal, paper, and pencil. Open the diary and start describing.” Rissi said, pulling the paper to her and resting the pencil tip. “Okay, shoot.”
Aida flipped through the journal and stopped over halfway through. “January 31st, midnight.” She began.” Meet a guy today. He’s totally the sexiest man alive. He looks sort of like Viggo, only…less rugged. More young looking. His name is Jonathan. He has gorgeous green eyes and this thick, wavy reddish brown hair. And his eyes! He’s got dreamy eyes. I think Reece will like this one.” Aida looked up to see Reece sketching madly. “More?”
“Yeah. Keep reading.” Reece muttered, turning the page as she drew with quick, short strokes. Aida turned the page and scanned it. About halfway down the entry, she began to read.
“Met up with Jonathan again today. He looked so sexy with his hair all wind blown. I’ve always been one for tall men, but Jon is just the right height for me. Not to tall, and definitely not short. And those shoulders! Wide, wide, wide…” Aida stopped and looked over at the drawing. She sucked in a breath.” Rissi…”
Reece lifted the drawing and stared.” Well…if this is Rachel’s Jonathan, we’ve nailed it on the head. This man looks almost exactly like Vane’s Master.” She said, grabbing up the page and running for the stairs. Vane was sitting out in the hall before Doyle’s room.
He stood as she rushed up the stairs.” What is the hoopla about?” He asked. Reece stopped and stared at him, flabbergasted to hear a word like that coming out of Vane’s mouth. Then she shook herself and showed him the drawing. His features tightened.
“That is one of the guises the Master often assumed to traverse among the people without fear of getting his head hacked from his shoulders.” Vane snapped his teeth together as he spoke.
“Really? So, all we need to prove this is Rachel’s affirmation of this being her Jonathan. Come on!” Reece said, grabbing his arm and pulling him up the stairs after her.
They knocked on Rachel’s study door, but got no answer. Reece rolled her eyes. “She always plays that music so loud, it’s a wonder she doesn’t blow out her own eardrums. Come on, lets just go in.” Reece said, pushing the door open with her hip.
When she turned to face the desk, she froze. Vane, coming in behind her, grabbed Reece as he walked forward, putting her behind him as he drew his sword in one smooth motion.
Rachel stared up at them in fear as she was held in front of Jonathan, a knife pressed to her throat. Aida, coming in behind them, didn’t see. “Hey, what’s the hold up?” She asked, going around Vane before he could stop her. She stared at the man, then blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “It is the same guy!”
Jon laughed lowly in his throat, stroking the knife against Rachel’s pale throat. “Oh, how bright you are, my dear. Something I can say this beauty is not.” He said, looking down at Rachel. “I told you we would meet again, but you did not believe me. Do you now?”
“Yes.” Rachel squeaked, her eyes filling with tears she vainly tried to fight back. Jon laughed again and looked up at Reece, a smirk forming on his mouth.
“Ah, so you are the one opposing me. You are a daughter of Faith, are you? I must say, you have fallen so very low of you think to bring prey like this woman into our war.” He said. Reece straightened and pushed Vane the rest of the way out of the way.
“I am not a Faith! I’m Reece Daley. This isn’t a war at all, at least not one that I’m competing in. And Rachel isn’t prey, nor did I bring her into this; She sort of stumbled in on her own. Anyway, let her go!” Reece snapped, clenching her hands into fists.
“No, my dear, I think not. I have bigger fish to fry, and she is the bait.” Jon said, looking up at Vane. At once, his face went from smugly superior to evil, the mask slipping as he faced the being he’d imprisoned out of fear so many years ago.
“Dimitrious Vane, Prince of the Shape shifters, and last of them. My greatest creation, and the most difficult to control. How have the centuries treated you, my boy?” He asked, tilting his head to one side.
Vane glared at Jon, eyes flashing between silver and jade so fast, Reece was getting dizzy trying to watch it. So she turned her attention to the Master, instead. If she looked closely enough, she could see the signs of evil on his face. No matter ho hard he tried, if one was looking, his evil nature came through. The only reason he’d been able to trick Rachel was that she always thinks the best of everyone.
“How are you still alive, Master? I watched you die myself.” Vane said lowly, his voice little more than a growl. The Master smiled and tapped the tip of the knife against Rachel’s neck.
“I set everyone up. I was loosing power.” He said, shrugging carelessly.” I needed a way to disappear for a few years, then come back and reclaim my power. Therefore, after much research, I found a way to preserve the spirit and mind after they fled the body as it died. So, when you saw me draw my ‘last breath’, my spirit fled to the safety of my lab. I expected to be aware of the time that passed while in this state, but I was not. Something went wrong.”
Reece snorted. “Yeah, you were trying to be immortal when you were not. Duh” She muttered, leaning lazily against Vane’s side. The Master silenced her with a look.
“I spent about four hundred years in that sleeping state, and then I finally awoke to find my lab destroyed and turned into a garden. I was in a world I didn’t understand, but it didn’t disturb me. Then, I tried to find my body. It was gone, even though I had put spells and such on it so that I would have a body to return to. I had told my sons to bury me, but they had not. Answer my why, Vane. Thou shalt answer me.” He said.
Vane gave a grim smile.” Only one can command me. Your words will never control me again.” He said.” And to answer your question, because I’m feeling generous, Your wives and I burned your body after I ripped the head off and fed it to your dogs.”
“Ah, that explains it. Nevertheless, it didn’t detour me for long. You see, I had another safety net in place. If my spells should fail, I had another safeguard; All my children will produce male children, so my heirs will always be in this world. I started searching for those of my liege. But I found the world much changed and no longer was I easily able to traverse it. So, I wandered lost for millions of ages, a spirit trapped in the in-between.” He said.
Aida rolled her eyes. “Why do they always like the sound of their own voice?” She asked, yawning. Jon’s eyes flashed fire at her, and the sensation of burning was so real that Aida yelped and jumped back behind Vane, where the sensation vanished like it had never been.
“I speak as I do because I know that what I say is interesting, unlike the ramblings you spew forth. Do not interrupt me again.” He warned before turning his empty eyes back to Vane. “Where was I?”
“Lost spirit.” Vane said dryly, giving Rissi’s hand a quick squeeze, knowing she was terrified for her friend. No amount of false bravado would hide that type of fear from him. She smiled at him, grateful for the support.
“Ah, yes…As I said, I wandered for many years, trying vainly to find any of my line. Along the way, I learned as much about this new world as I could, absorbing new information as it was invented and trying to influence those in power to my way of thinking. I recognized many of my original plans being done, so I knew some of my loyal people had survived. I tracked them down.” The Master smiled coolly, tapping the knife against Rachel’s chin as he remembered.
“They were pathetic. All my fine work, wasted on the fools who tried to run it now. Sure, they got lucky when the tracked down the woman, Reene Faith, or whatever her name was, and killed her, but they let the prize slip through their fingers. And the women, the ones who were suppose to be so pure and good…they rotted from the inside out. It was surprisingly easy to corrupt them. One fixed election of Headmistress and the whole thing crumbled.”
“Of course, by now I was getting desperate to find a body to inhabit.” He stopped talking and grinned. “I forgot to tell you, didn’t I? Well, as they carry my blood, I can possess the body of my great great…however many it is, grandchildren. Anyway, I corrupted this, destroyed that, until the day I met up with a member of the Brotherhood, my elite guards of old.”
“Ah, that was a happy day. They took me in, without even knowing t’was I. I watched as they worked, and then knew when they found traces of Reece. When that happened, the called in their leader. One Jonathan King.” Jon gestured to his body. “ I took him over as soon as he stepped into the room, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Vane sighed and stepped forward.” Why? Why come back, just to find me?” He asked, pain flaring briefly on his face. Reece felt her heart going out to him, but remained hidden behind him, aware that she really didn’t want to draw attention to herself at this current moment in time.
“You think I suffered so just for you? No. I admit, your power was a large part of why I did it, but the main reason is, immortality calls me. I have long wanted what was not mine by right. You and your silly shape shifters had all the life you wanted, yet rarely did you allow yourselves to live beyond your fifth century. I wanted that, and so much more. And now I have found it.” The Master said, laughing manically. His eyes took on a mad glitter.
Reece looked down at her hand in horror. She wanted nothing of this crazy man touching her, afraid the filth of his spirit would sink into her soul and ruin her for the rest of her life. The ring sparkled up at her, innocent and beautiful. She wanted to rip it off, but doubted it would budge from that spot until she died. Vane hadn’t lied about anything else, so she doubted he’d lied about that.
Vane shook his head.” You know it is not possible for one outside of my kind to achieve full immortality. What you have now is only a brief possession of a life, not a true one. This body you inhabit will die, and you will be left in the in-between again.” He said. The Master grinned and nodded.
“True, but only if I only had but one body to take. You see, my curse is still alive, and Jonathan has three wives and two mistresses, all in different states and countries. Between them, he has nine male children for me to choose from. I am not afraid of ever loosing my body supply. I will continue to mill them from my line until a better solution can be found.” He shrugged and lifted his free hand, waving it towards the ceiling. “But then, all of the fun would go out of it, so I may just stay like this, a parasite, forever.”
Behind Reece, the door banged open and Doyle strutted in, looking far to smug for a man who’d just been held prisoner by three women and one large man. He walked over to Jon and knelt, laying his head by the other man’s feet.
Jonathan dropped Rachel and kicked her hard enough to have her falling back against the wall. ”I really do hate to bring our time together to a close, but I really must reclaim the power of the Deathbringer. I find myself with a host of enemies and no one to dispatch them with handy. So, my dear Faith, if you would just make this easy and hold still....” He said, charging forward. Vane rushed out to greet him.
Aida grabbed Reece by the arm and pulled her out of the room, slamming the door shut. “Come on, we’ve got to get out of here!” She cried, tugging hard on Rissi’s arm. Reece resisted. “Come on!”
“I can’t leave Rachel and Vane in there by themselves!” Reece cried, trying to go back into the room. Aida shook her head and tugged even harder. “Aida, I have to! I can’t let them get hurt, not because of me.”
“Reece, both of them would want you to get to safety. Rachel loves you like her sister, and Vane has told me that protecting you is the most important thing he has done in all his years of servitude. You can’t just ignore that type of devotion.” Aida said.
When she pulled this time, Reece followed as quickly as she could.
“Where are we going to go, Aida? We can’t tell who’s friend, or foe…Oh, I’m so confused right now!” Reece cried as they stumbled outside and rushed into the woods. She sank onto a log and covered her face.
Aida tapped the gold ring. “I bet Vane can find you anywhere you are, using this. When you were taken, he could tell what direction you were, but not exactly. Maybe he can do more, now that he really knows you!” Aida said, pulling Reece to her feet. “We can’t just roll over and die now. We’ve got to get going. Vane won’t let anything happen to Rachel if he can help it, so let’s get a move on!”
They got up and began to jog. Rachel’s house bordered a large nationally preserved forest range near the roots of the mountains. A person could easily get lost in the thick vegetation if they didn’t know where they were going, and neither one of the women had a clue as to what was going on. After running for about two hours, they called a halt.
“So…any clue as to where we’re at?” Reece asked as she flopped back onto the thick moss and listened to the little stream trickled over the rocks next to her. Aida was sucking water down, and splashing it onto her face to cool off. Remnants of her Girl Scouts days had come to their rescue.
“Nope.” She giggled. “If you had told me yesterday that today I would be running for my life in a forest far from civilization, I would of laughed. Here I am. Sucks, doesn’t it?” She asked, lounging back against a giant oak tree and staring up at the blue sky.
“We need to go towards civilization, not away from it, Aida.” Reece said dryly, standing and listening hard. She could dimly hear the sound of cars and nodded. “Highway, about…a long walk that way. We’ll follow it to town and do what we can there. Maybe get some plane tickets and fly out of the country, or something like that. Anywhere where that freak can’t use the people I love against me!” She snapped, slapping her thigh.
“Then we’ll have to go to China, practically, since you know people everywhere else.” Aida muttered, also getting to her feet. “But I doubt running is going to help us any. I mean, Jon tracked Vane through time and space and eventually found him. We’ll pose no problem.” She said.
“He didn’t track him, he tenaciously hunted him down. And Vane will be helping us as soon as he can get Rachel away from uber freak number one and get his butt up here!” Reece said, wincing as a twig got in her thick hair and pulled. “Ooow! I am sooooo not made for this type of thing; I’m a city girl, through and through.”
“But…Reece, we don’t live in a city! We live in an itty bitty town with only about four thousand people. Hardly a city.” Aida said, blinking innocently at her employer as she freed the twig from Reece’s crazy hair.
“Well, I use to live in a city, at least while I was going through college. I loved every cramped and crowded second of it, too!” Reece declared, walking into a clearing and spreading her arms wide, spinning around in a circle. “Although I have to admit, space is nice.”
“Oh, space is quite lovely.” Both women whirled around when they heard Jonathan’s voice. He was standing behind them, a calm smile in his face. “But I find it gets so lonely, being the only one around. You can’t kill if you’re the only one there to do it to.” He said, sounding reasonable.
‘I think all those years alone warped your brain.” Reece said, backing up warily. She wasn’t aware anyone was behind her until Doyle stepped out of the shadows and grabbed her. She screamed and tried to bite him. “Where’s Vane!?” She cried, squirming as hard as she could to get free.
Jon laughed. “Oh, I left him bleeding in your study, my dear. You see, unlike most, I know how to hurt an immortal so much that even their intense healing powers cannot heal them right away. I doubt he’ll be here to rescue you anytime soon.” He started forward. “It gives me all the more time to enjoy your demise at my hands. I won’t even use the knife.”
Just as the man was reaching for her, a large cat sailed over her head and barreled into the guys chest, knocking him down to the ground. They rolled as they landed, the man raising himself up onto his knees and throwing the cat hard against a tree with inhuman strength.
The cat fell to the ground and shuddered. It was then Reece noticed the whole left side of the creature was stained red. “Vane!” She cried, her heart beginning to pound painfully in her chest. Aida remained where she was as Doyle kept his gun trained on her at all times, but she was watching and waiting for the opportunity to act to arise.
Vane shook himself off and launched himself at Jonathan again. The Master caught him by the neck, but before he could wrench it to the side, Vane sunk his teeth deep into the man’s shoulder and dug in with his claws, ripping deep gouges out of the guy’s chest. He released his shoulder and jumped over his head, twisting in air to land lightly on his feet, facing his opponent.
The Master slowly stood, wincing slightly. The sight of his pain made Reece feel about two hundred times better. Served him right.
“I always knew my limits, and this is one of them. I cannot fight and hope to win against you, Vane. Your kind has always been blessed with superior fighting skills. But I do have an advantage over you. My magic’s are far more advanced than your unpredictable Wild Magic ever will be. “
So saying, the wizard pressed his bloody hands together and started chanting quickly. He raised his arms as he chanted, then quickly brought them apart and threw out one hand towards Vane as he said the final words.
“There you go, Vane. If you like being a cat so much, how would you like to be trapped in that form for a few centuries? I truly do not know how long this particular spell will last, but I know you will enjoy your time as a feline.” He smiled, grabbing Reece.
“Doyle, grab that one as well.” He ordered, motioning towards Aida. Doyle reached over and snagged Aida around the waist. She kicked and bit, screamed and spit, but Doyle proved to powerful and carried her over to Jon. The Master waved a hand and Rachel appeared at his feet, bound and gagged. Her eyes were alive with fear, which ate at Rissi’s insides like acid.
The Master leaned down and cupped her face, turning it back and forth. Tears spilled down Rachel’s pale cheeks and rolled down her face. “Beg her. Beg her to save you.” He whispered, sliding the gag off and kicking her down so her face was mashed into the dirt.
Rachel tried to push herself up, but he placed on foot on her back and held her down that way. She lifted her face to Reece and bit her lip. “Beg, or I will hurt you.” The Master said, putting more weight onto her back. Rachel jerked, but didn’t cry out. “Beg!” He shouted, putting his full weight onto her back. She jerked and screamed as her back gave a loud crack.
“Reece, help me!” She cried as she trashed about, trying to get him off of her back. Reece tried to go forward, but found that, at a wave of the Master’s hand, she couldn’t move. Rachel finally managed to get him off and curled up into a little ball, weeping. The Master took a deep breath, obviously relishing in her pain.
“Ah, listen to that sound, Doyle. Listen to the sound of human suffering. It is powerful enough that I can live off of it.” He smiled. “But I am a glutton and always I want more.”
He turned to Aida and pushed his hands out in front of him, cracking his knuckles. “Your turn my sweet. I want you to crawl and beg. If you don’t, I’ll rip your arms from your sockets.” Before Aida could do anything, Jon had grabbed her. “Too slow.”
He gave one mighty jerked and Aida blanched, her cry echoing through the woods. Jon laughed like a jackal. “Oh, this is so much fun! I love to play with the fragile lives of humans.”
All the while he’d been doing this, Vane had been lying stunned under the tree, but he suddenly jumped up and launched himself, not at Jonathan, but at Doyle, knocking the man back so his head hit the tree hard and knocked him unconscious. The man’s elephant tranquilize flew out of his hand and landed at Reece’s feet.
Vane jumped up and weaved his way over to where Rachel lay, crying. He nudged her and then hissed at The Master as he came to stand beside him. “Well, I told Reece it was stupid of her to bring others into this war. Look what happens to them. Come along, my boy, and I will spare these women anymore pain from me.” He said.
“ He’s not going anywhere with you.” Reece snapped, finding she could move again and scooping the gun up and aiming it at Jonathan. Her hand was rock steady, even though her nerved were shot and she was sliding towards sock.” Leave them alone. This is between you, me, and Vane.”
“Quite right, my dear, but you broke the rules by allowing these two into the game. Therefore, the rules have changed and they will have to pay the price for it.” Jon shrugged. “I care not, really. It is all the same to me, as I know I will win this. It is just up to you how long this game must go on.”
“And how do you know you will win? Magic crystal ball?” Reece sneered, slowly circling around so she was in a better position to protect her friends should the need arise. She was counting on Vane, but he was bleeding all over the ground. She wasn’t certain, but she thought that was bad.
“Simple logic, actually. I am far to strong magically for you to contend with, and Vane’s physical strength is greatly lessened by that fact that he is stuck in feline form. I will play this for as long as it is amusing, but when the time comes, I will be there to collect my reward.” Jon said, stepping away from Vane and walking back over to Rachel, unruffled by the gun tracking him.
Aida got to her feet and took a deep breath before slamming her shoulder against a tree. She whimpered as her arms went back to where they were suppose to go. The Master clapped slowly. “Bravo, my dear. You have strength in you. It will be fun to take your life when the time comes.” He said.
Doyle began to stir and make a little noise. The Master rolled his eyes and waved, causing Doyle to float off the ground to his side. He reached down and hooked Rachel’s arm, pulling her up against him.
“I leave you now, Faith, with this thought: Plan your moves well, because you face a master at this game, and it isn’t only your life at stake; Rachel’s is, too.” He laughed and turned to Vane, who was weaving around like a drunk. “And you, my boy…enjoy your freedom while its yours to enjoy. You will soon be tied to me again, and this time…it will be for all eternity.”
So saying, the Master lifted a hand and waved. The three forms wavered, and then vanished. Reece fell to her knees, unable to stand any longer. Aida came to her side and put her arms around her shoulders.
“He took Rachel! Oh my God, Aida…he took Rachel.” She muttered, feeling numb. She just couldn’t believe that a mad man had taken her best friend and role model away from her. Aida nodded and bit her lip.
“Reece…I know you’re worried about Rachel, but I don’t think that guy will kill her. He likes to toy with us, and anyway, we have bigger fish to fry.” She said, motioning to Vane.
The cat lay on his side, chest heaving as he tried to get enough air into his lungs.” Oh, no…” Rissi muttered, crawling over to him and touching the wound as it bleed. “Vane what can I do to help? Can’t you turn back and tell me what to do?” She asked.
The cat lifted its head and shook it twice before it collapsed back down and began to pant in short, shallow bursts. Aida took off her light windbreaker and covered Vane with it. Reece grabbed a hank of her hair in each fist and yanked, hard.
“What am I going to do?!”
|Elfling part one||Elfling Part Five|
|Elfling part four||Elfling Part Two|
|Elfling Part Three|