𝒟uring the days that were given, everyone involved in the rescue efforts trained extensively keeping our bodies limber and battle ready for what laid in waiting for us all. These days also gave me the chance to show my friends the new skills I had acquired in Ireland. All were impressed, especially Erik’s father Hiromi, who decided to join in on the practice time even though he wouldn’t be joining us, upon Erik’s pleas. He convinced his father that his skills would be needed on the Isle. Hiromi grew pleased after watching my training style, inquiring about my techniques mentioning they were quite unique and ancient in style.
However Erik stood aside watching his on and off girlfriend spar with his father, when Nick appeared next to him and together, they observed the training yard.
“Wow…she learned a lot during her stay in Ireland. Must be proud.” Nick admired.
“Yeah, bloody proud. Except…I’m not the one who trained her.” Erik muttered his complaint, thinking Nick couldn’t hear him but he caught the words and tone.
“Trained her? You make it sound like she’s a dog learning new tricks.” Nick frowned, “And why do you sound so disappointed and jealous?”
“Nick, mate…don’t get me wrong, I’m proud yes, but I didn’t help her learn these new skills so I can’t take credit for any of it!”
“So what? Erik, listen…I don’t know what’s going on between the two of you, but everyone here can see there’s trouble brewing. We were all glad to see the two of you were seeing each other, but now…if your pot of jealousy overflows, there’s going to be one hell of a mess to clean up and it’ll be all your doing. I’m just voicing my opinion.”
“Well, I didn’t ask for it!” Erik snapped, leering into Nick’s brown eyes.
Nick bit his lower lip, containing his next remark as he glanced toward Hiromi and their Keeper. He released a grunt, strolling toward them leaving Erik standing there to realize he was acting like a total a**! He closed his eyes, pushing aside his feelings. He too, approached listening as I told my tale, pertaining to my training and teacher, Shung-Lee. I turned to Hiromi asking if maybe he knew the man or name, but he didn’t know who I referred to. He complimented me again on my techniques. As he stood there, he said softly,
“You’re an excellent warrior. I can see why Erik talks about you so much.”
“Good things I hope.” I muttered, “But thank you.”
“You’re quite welcome. And good things, of course.” Hiromi smiled, “But I must say, it takes years for someone to learn all that you’ve learned. Are you sure you’re not more than just a halfbreed?”
“Nope. Just a halfbreed like some, if not most, here.” I gestured around, “But if I had to categorize it I guess, I’d say I’m more of a natural Pyrokinetic than those here. I’m more of a fire Demon actually in simple terms.”
“That’s very intriguing.” Hiromi admired.
“That explains a lot. Particularly your fiery persona that comes and goes at times.” an Italian voice spoke from behind me and turning around, Anthony approached from the training yards’ direction, with a smile and sword in hand; clean and handsome as ever.
Anthony, oh Anthony. I know I have feelings for Erik but if I hadn’t, I’d probably jump at the chance to open my heart to Anthony but then again, men with his reputation, I’d be just another woman in his life and I didn’t want to go down that road. I’m loyal...to my friends and if it’s steady, a relationship but he’s tempting, very tempting with his dark hair and eyes, sharp features and charm. Anthony Giovanni is quite the catch I’ll never get...and keep.
“This is a private conversation, mutt.” Erik stepped forward.
“Erik…” Hiromi argued, “he’s a friend.”
“I bet he is, but he’s not mine!” Erik answered then glanced at me.
“Do you need something Anthony?” I asked, trying to break the tension.
“Just couldn’t help but overhear. Sometimes people, no matter who they are, have loud mouths.” Anthony sarcastically aimed his remark toward Erik, “That’s all.” then he turned glancing back toward the training yard, “Although, I’d like to see what it is you’ve learned, if that’s alright?”
“She’s busy.” Erik barked.
“Oh, my god…” Nick muttered then approached whispering in my ear, “Do you want me to take care of Erik?”
“No. He’s doing that himself.” I answered then stepped forward, “No, I’m not busy at all” I smiled, “I was done here anyway. Nick, if you’re done training...please get back to work and Hiromi, always a pleasure.” I nodded in respect.
“Of course.” they respectfully bowed then backed away.
Erik growled as he kicked the ground then glanced at his father who expressed a look of utter disappointment; Nick too, shook his head before heading to the wall for his shift.
“What!?” Erik argued; shoulders shrugging.
“Who are you?” Hiromi questioned.
“ I’m your son.”
“No, you’re not! The man standing before me, is not my son and I don’t recognize him!” Hiromi shamefully stated then strolled away leaving Erik there with himself.
No one truly knew why Erik had suddenly shown this act of jealousy or lashing out. That’s something he needed to figure out. He closed his eyes, breathing deeply then he too, returned to the yard where he too, continued his workouts, viciously taking out his frustrations with the practice dummies.
Leonus stood near the cabinet watching as I demonstrated the skills I had acquired. His impressive smirk faded when his companions approached returning their weapons. They laughed, mocking the warriors as they showed their skills but then the laughter ceased when Zanz slowly approached the yard after his nearby run around the estate.
“Jesus…god in heaven! Did that mutt get bigger since last year!?” one of the men cursed.
“Yes…yes he has.” Leonus answered.
“What the f*ck is it?” another wondered.
“I don’t know what he is, but one day…his fur will hang on my walls.” Leonus threatened sneering in Zanzs’ direction, but then his sneer faded, replaced with surprise as Zanz paused in place, turning his head toward the Lycynians.
“I think he heard you, you crazy bastard.” another whispered watching as the large hound’s golden eyes continued his piercing stare before slowly approaching in a hunters’ stalking stance.
“Time to go.” Leonus commanded then quietly and slowly, the men sprinted toward the gates.
Zanz stood there in all his magnificence watching as they disappeared through the tunnel then turned his head at the sound of my voice calling out his name. Abraxas perched himself on the fence; wings occasionally twitching as he observed the training. He raised his gaze toward the skies; Ravens flying from the wall to return to their aviary. He released a low purr-like roar then nestled against the fence post.
After exiting the gates and sprinting down the road before slowing his pace, Leonus returned to his home with loyal comrades, even inviting Nathan with two of his misfit friends. They drank, smoked and laughed loudly, even managing a game of cards. Heather took the children to a neighbors home staying there for a while, to get out of the house. She gave up arguing about his smoking in their home. As they sat there, their conversation turned from one thing to another. First they spoke of the upcoming rescue then their conversation abruptly switched completely to their hatred for the Wraiths and Demons.
Nathan abruptly spoke as he laid his hand of cards down on the table with his cigarette in the ashtray,
“Hey, I happen to know everyone in this room despises the Wraiths and Demons, yes? Especially that egotistical Erik, hmm? He’s nothing more than a spoiled rich-boy-know-it-all-goody-two shoes-a**hole.” all the men laughed, “I think I know of a way we can dispose of him somehow, so he won’t be around to protect the little bird of a Keeper...permanently. Besides, have you noticed there’s a bit of tension between them?”
“Yeah, so?” Leonus mocked, “What are you saying?”
“What I’m saying, Leonus...is wouldn’t it be a tragedy if something should happen to our Keeper in the Boar-wolf cave? Without her protectors?” he looked around deviously, “Maybe the creatures will kill her and bye-bye, Keeper!”
“But which protector? The hound or dragon?” Leonus scoffed with sarcasm as he reached for his pipe.
“Perhaps both.” Nathan shrugged leaning back in the chair.
“And what of Erik?” another man groaned.
“We can blame him for something that’ll lock him away in the prisons.” Nathan added, “Perhaps put the blame of killing Beth’s cat on his hands. Her cat’s been missing for a few weeks so if we time it right, find the cat and put it in a place where Erik just so happened to be, then…” he leaned back fidgeting in his chair, “there you go.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Leonus objected as he leaned back against his chair, “No one will ever believe that! He’s been here for six years now, and hasn’t done something like that then, so what makes you think everyone would believe he’ll do it now. Besides, he likes animals.”
“Well, do you have a better idea, Leonus? Because I’m sure we’d all love to hear it.”
“Why don’t you shoot him?” another muttered before taking a sip from his drink, “That should kill him, eh? An iron bullet should do the trick nicely!” he lowered his cups then belched loudly.
Leonus rubbed his right hand along his red beard deep in thought and as one melded into a solid idea, he revealed it. Glancing around at the men sitting around him, some nodded while others thought it sounded too easy.
“Yeah, sure and how are you going to do that?” Nathan argued, “Just walk up to him and say HEY, ERIK...give him a bloody tap on the shoulder then pull the trigger when he turns to you? Good luck with that!”
“There’s always a time, Nathan.” Leonus smirked as he slowly stood, “But before we do this...I need to see someone who has an experienced military background.”
Later that evening, he located his new acquaintance Derek in the training yard, shooting a few rounds aiming between the eyes and in the heart, never missing.
“Impressive.” Leonus remarked, “Very impressive.”
“What do you want, Leonus?” Derek questioned, reloading the guns.
Leonus grinned, examining the target dummies, then proposed his plan; Derek just stood there listening to the Scotsman explain.
“Surely anyone from your pack can do this, so why are you coming to me?” Derek questioned, lowering his guns.
“Despite knowing most of them for years, I don’t trust any of them with this...particular deed.” Leonus answered bluntly.
“And what makes you think you can trust me?”
“You’re a mercenary, aren’t you? Leonus inquired, “That is your background, right?”
“It used to be.” Derek turned away to aim toward the dummies.
“How much then?” Leonus stood in his line of shot, “How much would it cost?”
Derek lowered his guns then stared into the mans’ blue eyes, observing how the man just spews words from his mouth without thinking about the consequences. Derek had met Leonus before; five years ago to be precise when Derek and his unit of loyal friends and fellow soldiers were sent out to the Scottish Highlands to investigate reports of men or a creature that wiped previous units. They had tracked down the men, discovering them hiding away in a cave but they weren’t men; not that night when they entered the cave. They had morphed into massive beasts that wiped out Derek and his team in less than a few minutes. Guns were fired and some were killed; whether they were beast or soldier. Dawn had approached and the beasts had returned to their human counterpart. Derek lay injured, almost on the brink of death when his brown eyes flickered open toward the cave’s entrance where a tall man with scraggly red hair and beard stood. That day, Derek was made Lycynian and promised not only to himself, but to friends that survived, that if he had ever found the man, he’d kill him. However, he never stopped searching until two and a half years ago, fate played their hand and Derek had found the Scotsman at a pub on the mainland, befriended the man and convinced him to allow him to return to the Isle where he in a way, spewed the lie that he too, sought safety considering his Lycynian nature.
“I don’t kill for hire.” Derek argued, “Not anymore. But fine. I’ll do this.” then he quickly raised his guns before Leonus could react and shot them; the bullets just missed the Scotsman’s ear in a swift heavy breeze.
Leonus stepped aside quickly, placing his fingers against his ears making sure blood wasn’t drawn. Leering at the tall Samoan soldier, Leonus nodded then backed away springing toward the Lycynian dwelling leaving Derek standing there to continue his shooting practice.
Late morning the next day, I sat behind the desk feeling all the pressure of the situation with Lucy when it finally hit me. I glanced down at my hands; trembling in fear and stress. Zanz and Abraxas approached, trying to offer their support.
Appearing by the door invisible from sight, stood Molock, watching as the young woman felt the weight of the world on her petite shoulders. He tilted his head studying her, growing a faint grin then took on Marxus’ appearance revealing his presence.
“My lovely...calm down.” he spoke softly.
Looking up, there Marxus stood by the door, hands down at his sides.
“What am I going to do, Marxus?” I stood.
He gestured toward the chairs and replied,
“Right now, you think you’re not strong enough or that others are thinking you’re a weak little girl but I know you’re capable of many powerful things. Probably even more than I in some ways.”
“That’s impossible. I’m not you. I’m a half-breed or a freak to some.” I mumbled, looking down at my hands that laid in my lap.
Marxus2 frowned then leaned forward, gently lifting my chain to raise my gaze.
“I don’t ever want to hear you say that about yourself, ever! Do you understand!?” he watched as she nodded, “Good.” he grinned, “Now, I’m far from perfect and have made many mistakes I’m not proud of and one of them, is the consequence that unfortunately you and Ravenstone are having to face now. But, look at all you’ve accomplished in the short time you’ve been here. It took me years to learn my magic and fighting techniques, where as you, have learned so much in just two years. Give or take a few months. You can thank your demonic origins for that and I think that shows true strength because you have the perseverance to overcome obstacles that fall in your path. Plus…you have a loving heart and I’m sure you’ve heard that love does conquer everything. But sometimes you need to put that aside and stand up to those who want to oppose and knock you down. Like I said before, my lovely…you’re not alone. You have very powerful allies. You have Axeon who is a celestial dragon. You have Zanzabarr; your Hellhound who’s the most loyal creature anyone could have and share a special bond with you. And as far as Abraxas is concerned, he’s a very powerful little Zyphyn, and could take the form of whatever you wish. He too, is from…” he paused.
“What?” I asked, “He’s what?”
“Never mind.” he dismissed the topic, “They’re just very special little creatures.”
I studied the man sitting before me and there it was. My face turned pale and my demeanor tensed. Clearing my throat I glanced around then muttered cautiously,
“Yes, they’re very special and I’m fortunate.”
“Indeed you are.” Marxus2 nodded then took notice of the young woman’s tense mannerisms, “Is there something wrong, my lovely?”
“No. Not at all.” I smiled but my eyes didn’t share that smile.
Knowing the half-breed must have taken notice he wasn’t the real Marxus, he too cleared his throat as he quickly stood revealing he had to take his leave.
“Of course you do.” I too stood.
The man standing before me approached, holding his arms out for a brief embrace and although reluctant, I accepted but holding onto his corporeal form, I felt a powerful electric surge that touched every fiber of my DNA. I gently pulled away gazing into Marxus’ hazel-brown eyes but they weren’t hazel-brown in color; not this time. Red Demon eyes gazed down at me, filled with warmth and mischief.
“You’re not Marxus...are you!?” I questioned, backing away.
“No…” the imposter spoke with an underlying chuckle, “I am not.” then he disappeared in a fading mist like Marxus would have done.
“Wait!” I called out but he had vanished, “Who are you!?” I continued, realizing all those times I had spoken to Marxus must have been with his imposter. I glanced toward Zanz and Abraxas; their eyes fixed toward the desk and following their gaze, there sat Marxus2. I clenched my fists engulfing in my Aura as I proclaimed firmly, “I don’t know who you are, or what you want…” I finished as I cautiously approached the desk, “but if you’re here for sinister purposes, then…”
“Relax, my lovely. I’m not here to harm anyone.” he answered in a deep sexy tone with perfect diction and it was no longer Marxus’ persona he portrayed; he was someone else in Marxus’ skin, “I’m just waiting for things to fall into place before it all begins.”
“Before what begins? Who are you!?” I demanded reaching for the desks’ letter opener but this man pulled it toward him without touching the blade; landing in his palm, “What are you?” my voice quivered cautiously.
“You’re not quite ready to know that.” he smiled pointing the blade toward me, “But soon.” he again vanished.
Zanz grew alert standing to his feet, waiting for the presence to reveal itself once more. Abraxas hovered, landing on the back of the couch searching the study with his dragon eyes. Glancing at them then around at my surroundings I called out,
“I’m growing tired of these games! Who are you and what do you want!?”
The man laughed, and such a nice laugh it was, then answered as his form appeared behind me, whispering in my ear,
“Timing is everything, my lovely demoness.” and raising the letter opener before me, he plunged the blade deep into the desks’ surface; his right hand sensually caressed the hilt before pulling his hand away.
I hesitated turning around because I didn’t know who or what this man was. Zanz and Abraxas too, took their stand as my protectors, snarling and growling. Taking notice the man standing behind me grew distracted by their protective approach, I pushed the man backwards then turned prepared to defend myself if needed. The man backed away as his form began fading once more bowing elegantly with a smile.
“We’ll see each other very soon, my lovely…” his voice lingered.
I breathed deeply waiting to see if he’d return but he didn’t. I glanced toward Zanz and Abraxas and their protective behavior had ceased; Zanz walking toward me and Abraxas flying into my arms. I knelt on the ground, staring at them and wondered what had just happened. I felt a shiver run down my spine but in no way, was it harmful but the opposite; there was a sensual attraction. I shook my head trying to push the thought from my mind but all I heard were my own thoughts rambling on, “WHO IS HE!? WHAT IS HE, REALLY!? A DEMON, YES BUT FAR MORE. AND HIS VOICE, OH HIS VOICE...”
I shook off the occurrence and gaining my composure, I needed to visit Axeon to find out if he knew about this man. Once reaching the bottom of the stone stairs leading into the cavern, I searched the massive space with thoughts crowding my mind. It was then I heard Axeon’s voice speak telepathically,
“I know why you are here.” and following his connection there he was standing in all his beauty.
“Do you now?” I asked verbally.
“Indeed. I sense your feelings of self doubt.” he lowered his head toward me until we were face-to-snout, “I do also know of this imposter who consumes your thoughts.”
“Do you know who he is!?” I reached out, petting his snout.
“No, I do not.” Axeon continued with disappointment, “But if he has done no harm to you, or anyone you hold dear then I can not say that he is harmful. However, I would suggest you take great caution nonetheless for if his intentions are genuine, he will reveal them in time.”
“Can you sense him? I mean, when he’s here?” I worried.
“No.” Axeon’s voice sounded worried, “I can not and it worries me greatly, for if I am to protect you and the Isle, this imposter who indeed is a powerful Demon, has ancient magic powerful enough to block my senses and foresight.”
“He’s a Demon and as you said, a powerful one.” I muttered, “He was just in the study posing as Marxus and when I touched him, I felt this...surge of electricity run through my entire body and the magical waves he sent out were…” I caught myself giving into the man’s temptation, “well, I’m sure you can see all that happened so no need to explain it.”
“Dear, child…” Axeon spoke verbally as he blinked his eyes, “I ask you to be cautious around this being for neither of us can predict his next actions and if he does mean harm, harm that I can not foresee, you must be the one to stop him. Demons are tricksters.” he raised his head looking toward the staircase, “You must go now, child. There are others looking for you and it is time for my hunt.”
“I will. I promise.” I stroked the scales that ran down the dragon’s neck then turned with Abraxas perched on my shoulder and leaving the cavern behind me, I returned to the study where a message from my mom blinked on my phone that lay on the desk.
“Mother?” Abraxas’ sweet voice verbally broke the eerie silence that lingered the room.
“Yes?” I observed him as he sat on the desk, “What is it?”
“This man that plays such trickery on you, do you have a familiarity toward him?” he inquired.
I leaned back in the chair, shocked by his question but he had a point. There was a familiarity.
“Yes, but only because he’s a Demon and well...I guess that part of me is reaching out to know more about him or the magic he yields that is.” I revealed, “Nothing more. Now…” I pushed the conversation aside, “I’m going to have lunch with my mom so if you’d like to hunt with Axeon, I’m sure he hasn’t left the cavern yet. You’re more than welcome to go with him but please, be careful.”
“As much as I would like to do so, I won’t leave your side, Mother.” he crawled across the desk climbing into my arms.
“If you change your mind, let me know.” I smiled, “Let’s go, then…” I stood then left the study; my large hound leading the way down the stairs and entering the dining hall with scattered residents waving and smiling in my direction; waves and smiles I returned, there sat my mom with Katrina and a few other Wiccans who quickly excused their presence when I approached the table. Watching as they walked away I joked while taking my seat next to her, “Something I said?”
“No.” my mom smiled, “They were on their way to the square to meet with Beth. It’s nothing personal. Now, penny for your thoughts? Something’s bothering you.”
“You’ll need a lot of pennies.” I teased, “But it’s nothing, really.” then I changed the subject, “What have you been up to? I’ve been too busy and for us, as close as we are, that’s terrible. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, sweetheart. I understand, I do and I too, don’t like the distance between us but I get it. I’ve told you many times to take steps back before you wind up in a sh*tty mess you can’t get out of.” my mom wisely advised, “Look, my baby girl…why don’t you take a break from Keeper duty and personal relations, and come with me to the hospital. There’s an…”
“Hospital? Why? Are you alright?” I worried.
“I’m fine.” she reassured her worried daughter, “I’m fine. There’s an herbal Homeopathic clinic located within the hospital run by Beth and she needs help with handing out her tinctures to her patients. An extra pair of hands couldn’t hurt so what do you say…hmm?” she watched as her daughter nodded eagerly, “Perfect!” she tapped the table then elegantly stood, “However, Zanz might not be allowed in the clinic despite his closeness with you. Not that he carries germs but nonetheless, he has his place. Abraxas though…” she thought.
“I’ll not be left behind, witch.” Abraxas verbally spoke as he laid on the table, “If I don’t go with my Mother, then she doesn’t go at all.”
I glanced at Abraxas then back at my mom, who raised her eyebrows in shock that he spoke verbally…and with such an attitude.
“I think you just got told. By a dragon.” I teased.
Placing her hands on her hips my mom argued gently,
“I think you’re picking up on your MOTHER’S attitude a little too much, Abraxas but fair enough. I’m sure you won’t be in the way being so small and all.” she smiled, “Perhaps you can shift into a rat!”
Abraxas huffed, shaking his body as if fluffing his scales. I chuckled, as did my mom because even though he was beautiful and majestic in his small size, he was still too precious for words. We grabbed our plates, piling them on the trays at the end of the table, then ventured out into the entrance hall. I called for one of the Jeeps to be parked outside, of which I’d drive and return. Parking outside with license plate reading RAVEN 2, the driver, who wasn’t Anthony this trip, smiled departing from the driver’s seat then sprinted off toward the garage where his name was called for work. I drove to our dwelling, quickly returning Zanz to my room where he whined but took his place laying on my bed; head laid between his massive paws. I kissed his snout then tossed him a large chew bone that would keep him occupied for quite a while. I smiled, watching as he jumped off the bed, taking his bone near the fireplace. I closed the door locking it behind me then sprinted down the stairs, returning to the Jeep.
“Is he all set?” my mom asked, hearing the engine start.
“Yes. I gave him one of the new chew bones you bought him. It’s certainly big enough! He loves it.” I smiled.
“Thought he would.”
Taking the slow drive out the gates and down the paved road admiring the islands’ snow covered beauty, my mom and I talked about our activities. She explained in depth of her work with the other Wiccans; adding some complaints here and there but nonetheless, she felt at ease knowing there were other men and women, interested in her work without judgement. But for some, they insisted she followed their ways. She mentioned too, among her tale, that Freya had been in her moods, hiding under the bed but that wasn’t anything new. I smiled, hearing my mom’s affection toward the small black furry creature. A true witches familiar.
“Well, then…I’ll have to pay her a visit.” I joked, “You know…Keeper-to-cat kind of chat.”
My mom laughed then teased,
“Awe, sweetheart…you’re a poet and you don’t know it.”
We shared laughter that subsided once reaching the village square’s outer wall for the large space was immensely crowded with traffic between shoppers, vendors and shopkeepers. I know I suggested people continue with their lives during the fiasco with Lucy and continuing on with their lives they did. I parked the Jeep alongside a few other vehicles then we carefully pushed our way through the madness that occurred. Nick making his patrol rounds through the square heard our complaints. Turning his gaze, he observed as we momentarily got separated then grasped hands before we were lost. He whistled; two other Wraiths appeared next to him and together, they appeared in our proximity. They politely escorted us through the rush; crowds parting as they witnessed the guards guiding the Keeper with her mother and dragon.