On the Evil Scale: Keeper of La Tecla (The Key) Book Two

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𝒞𝒽𝒶𝓅𝓉𝑒𝓇 𝟩

𝒜 week quickly rolled by and everyone seemed glad of my return, except for Leonus (of course), who avoided me like a plague. All gathered on the manors’ estate within the wall for their yearly Christmas festival. They participated in decorating efforts by hanging lights, ornaments and garland, draping them everywhere around the square, manor and homes; not to mention a lavishly decorated twelve foot artificial tree placed in the village.

All the younger children had grown excited for the presents to be handed out by Leonus, who normally dressed as Santa Claus. He skipped the celebration this year, staying home while Heather took their sons to the manor. All he’s done lately is loaf around the house, drinking more and becoming very lazy. Everyone engaged in snow ball fights, enjoying the winter snow while it lasted, including Zanz and Abraxas who accidentally melted the snow, for their hellish temperatures were warmer than normal. My mom too, enjoyed the snow for now she could wear those beautiful winter cloaks she had purchased back in Ireland. Occasionally I threw a snowball at her and laughing about it, she threw several in return making hit after hit. It was a joyous time for most.

Margaret and Belle; Katrina’s two daughter’s, babysat a group of children between the ages of 8-12 in the village square. When they became a bit wild at the manor (running around vendor displays causing too much ruckus for the sellers), they moved the children to their aunt’s house to play in the yard. Among the children was an adorable three-year-old little girl named Lucy; she was Jonathan’s little sister.

Since Leonus didn’t participate, I as the Keeper, volunteered to hand out the gifts. Asking Sarah, Erik and Jon (he didn’t mind the nickname), if they wanted to pitch in, they volunteered reluctantly. Gathering in the manor’s lounge, Jon teased as he placed his arms around Sarah’s waist,

“Are you and Sarah going to dress up like Santas’ elves?”

“Yeah...” Erik added, “and in short skirts?” he looked down at me with a sexy smile.

“Not a chance in hell.” I replied, “But nice try.”

“Me neither. Besides, it’s too cold for that!” Sarah gently pulled away, not wanting Jon’s arms around her.

Jon said nothing, noticing her mannerisms and tension.

“Why not, Keeps…you definitely have the figure for it!” Erik remarked.

“Don’t push it.” I teased as I glanced up at him.

“Sarah too…” Jon muttered.

“Buzz off!” Sarah groaned, taking a seat.

Sensing the tension between Jon and Sarah, I spoke quickly,

“Since Sarah and I aren’t dressing up like Santas’ elves, I do have these.” I handed them goofy Christmas hats, “Merry Christmas!” I chuckled then put hats on Zanz and Abraxas making them look absolutely adorable and seeing the moment while it lasted, I snapped photos of them. They shook the hats from their heads; Zanz tore it apart, while Abraxas burned it to nothing.

We laughed then gained our composure when parents began bringing their children into the lounge that was lavishly decorated with Christmas decorations and a tall tree. The four of us laid large Santa gift sacks at our feet filled with donated gifts. As Sarah and I began handing out presents, I heard Sarah say through her smile,

“Here you go…Happy Christmas, you little brats. Happy Christmas…”

“Sarah...” I commented softly nudging her slightly, “really?”

“I don’t care too much for kids. That’s why I never volunteer to babysit. I’m never having kids.”

I agree.” my voice entered her thoughts.

“Don’t feel bad.” Jon added over hearing our conversation, “The only child I can tolerate is my little sister Lucy. That’s it.. She’s the cutest little button and speaking of, the little rugrat should be here by now.” his eyes scanned the room.

“I don’t like or want kids either. Can’t have them anyway.” I revealed verbally then held back my next words as a cute little blonde girl walked up to me; hands out waiting for a present, but my bag was empty. I glanced at Jon and whispered, “I’m empty. Do you have an extra?”

He reached into his bag retrieving a beautifully dressed doll tucked away in its new packaging.

“Here you go, kid.” Jon said, gently handing it toward the child.

“No! I don’t want it from you!” the child refused in a loud bratty tone throwing the doll back at Jon, hitting him in his face, “I want a present from the Keeper, and you’re not the Keeper!”

“Hey!” I shouted firmly as I picked up the doll pushing it towards the brat, “You want it from me? Here…take it, but don’t you ever disrespect my friends or I’ll contact Krampus and you’ll get a visit from him in the long dark night! Understand?”

Zanz and Abraxas growled, as they sat beside me, leering at the little girl. She looked at them then up at me; wide eyes filled with tears, as she ran away crying back to mommy. Little cry baby. She went from cute, to spoiled little brat in minutes.

My turn! A ten year old pudgy little boy approached me wanting to know why Zanz and Abraxas were present.

“I don’t like animals!” he rudely pointed his finger in their direction, “They don’t belong here!”

Leaning in, I replied sarcastically as I reached into Jon’s bag,

“Oh, but they like little boys. But if you don’t like them, don’t look at them! Now here! Merry f*cking Christmas little piggy!” I shoved the toy into his arms, “Bye-bye, now!” Zanz growled as Abraxas hissed, adding their distaste for the child.

Jon and Erik held their heads down in their hands, laughing uncontrollably. Erik turned his head, looking at me affectionately. Shaking his head, he smiled as he continued laughing. I shrugged as I looked away, beginning to laugh myself. Sarah sat back, not thinking the moment was humorous for no one laughed at her.

After the gifts were handed out and laughing ceased, Erik announced the gift giving wasn’t quite yet finished. He walked toward the tree pulling out three large boxes beautifully wrapped. Jon and Sarah stood around as Erik handed me the boxes. They frowned, remembering what Erik proclaimed about giving their gifts in their names. Wiping the frowns from their faces replacing them with false smiles, they cheered loudly holding their arms out,

“Happy Christmas, Yza!” but Keeps was thrown into the mix.

“We bought these when you were gone, and waited for the perfect moment.” Erik said, “And well…this is it. Hope you like them, love.”

“I’m sure I will, thank you.” I smiled, “I have gifts for you too.” I reached for a bag hidden behind the tree then began handing my friends their gifts.

“Open yours first.” I urged, “Go on…”

They all sat then quickly began unwrapping their gifts.

Erik smiled, admiring a leather cuff bracelet that suited his tastes in fashion with cogwheels and studding detailing that would go with just about any outfit he wore, and could tell it was pricey.

Jonathan opened his present, holding up a mens navy blue paisley vest with silver buttons and chains. He immediately switched it out with the won he currently wore. I also handed him a doll that I had purchased for his little sister, Lucy knowing a little girls’ love for dolls.

Sarah carefully unwrapped her gift upon my instructions and laying it in her lap, was an ornate box. Opening the lid, were all sorts of hair decorations like beads, clips and ribbons. I knew she’d like that since she wore those things clipped or braided through her curly blonde hair.

Each of them gave me hugs, extremely pleased with their gifts and I didn’t hear the end of their cheer for they urged me to open my gifts from them next.

“Just so you know, Yza…” Sarah blurted sitting next to Jon, “we didn’t buy our other gifts for you. Erik bought them but is letting us take the credit. Preppy rich boy...”

“Bloody hell…” Erik snapped as he stood, “I may have purchased them, yes…but you’re forgetting why or would you like me to remind you?”

“No!” she answered bluntly.

“Alright, then! Now, if you don’t want to be here, then leave! We’re trying to make this a special moment for Yza!” Erik continued his argument.

“Am I missing something?” I mumbled but was ignored.

“Of course it is! It’s always all about Yza!” she mocked, “I call a child a brat and no one laughs at me but when she did her little…whatever it was…the two of you laughed hysterically. I mean, what makes her so bloody special!?”

“Yeah, Hi…I’m right here!” I interrupted as I stood, “If you have something to say…please say it to my face, Sarah. Now, can someone please tell me what the hell is going on or do all of you want to continue with your jealous tantrums!? And to think I wasted my money on the lot of you!”

“Who cares! They’re all from Erik, anyway!” she argued then turned away, scampering toward the dining hall carrying her ornate box, but hollered over her shoulder, “But thanks for the gift!”

“Bloody hell, Jonathan…what do you see in that human?” Erik questioned bluntly, “They’re all the bloody same with their…”

“Excuse me?” I looked at him, “I’m half human or have you forgotten that?”

“Keeps…you know I didn’t mean that. Come on, you have to see what I mean.”

“No, I don’t but a pureblood making comments about being with a human sends off all the warning signals. Don’t blow this, Erik. Remember what I told you in the study.”

“It’s not my fault!” Jon argued, “It’s Sarah’s…it’s Erik’s…it’s…”

“Don’t you dare add me to that equation.” I ordered, “You know what…this whole thing…” I gestured around the lounge and toward the gifts, “started out perfect, but now it’s just a pile of bullsh*t! And on Christmas for god sake! So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to stay here and open these. If you want to leave and fight among yourselves…then please do it elsewhere!” then I sat, blinking away tears that stung my eyes.

Jon nodded as he backed away, searching for Sarah leaving Erik behind. He stood there, looking down at me then quickly whispered as he sat on the arm of one of the chairs,

“Would you…like something cold or hot to drink?”

“No, I’m fine. Thank you.” I replied.

“Alright, then. I’ll, uh…” then he leaned in, giving a quick kiss that I didn’t return. He remained silent as he turned away. I watched as he left the lounge, mumbling to myself,

“Maybe it is my fault.” I turned my head; Zanz and Abraxas approaching sensing my sadness, “Some Keeper, huh?” I petted them, “I’m losing myself and it’s not a good thing.” I sighed deeply then tried focusing on other things such as the gifts before me. I opened the largest gift first revealing a beautiful jacket. Holding it up, I was speechless as I grew a wide smile. “Wow...” I admired its tailored detailing. Laying the box on the table in front of me, I removed my current jacket then tried it on with a perfect fit. I sat back down opening the others, revealing the boots, scarf and gloves as well as Erik’s picture frame with an envelope full of pictures. I quickly changed my boots and together, they matched perfectly. I searched for a reflective surface then admired how the jacket and boots matched.

Erik stood in the doorway, overlooking the lounge watching as I paced around wearing my new jacket and boots, skimming through the photos. He grew another smile as he remarked,

“The jacket looks better than I imagined it would. Boots too.”

I looked up, watching as he stepped closer carrying a cup.

“That cup better have a lid.” I turned, “If not…don’t bump into me with it. For this time, if you ruin this jacket…” I patted the lapels, “I’ll have to kill you.”

“Ooo…we wouldn’t want to do that.” he teased, “Because if you do…then you’ll miss all of this.” he gestured at himself.

“True, but seriously…please put that down.”

He smiled, placing the cup on the table.

Putting aside the misunderstanding that took place minutes ago, I pushed them from my mind as I stepped toward him, staring into his handsome face. Hugging him for the gifts, I leaned in, kissing him.

“There’s my second gift to you.” I said softly, “Merry Christmas.”

“And it is merry.” he replied as he leaned in, returning it passionately.

“You have to tell me what all that was about?” I asked, “I feel like sh*t, thinking maybe I started all of that.”

Placing his hands gently on my face raising my gaze to his, Erik revealed softly,

“Keeps…don’t feel that way. None of that had anything to do with you. I warned Jonathan about dating a Lycynian’s sibling, but he didn’t listen. You know the tension between Wraiths, Demons and Lycynians already. It would never work, but it’s his choice and as far as this whole gift giving fiasco…yes, I purchased them and put their names on it. Why? Because the day we went shopping, they eyed those items for you. It’s a long story, but let’s not worry about it now. That’s the past. But I know they’re jealous of me…” he glanced at his feet, “I’ve known that jealousy all my life.”

“To think you know those closest to you.” I muttered, “I’m sorry you have to deal with that. Believe me…I deal with it everyday.” then I changed the subject, “Now, I’m sure my mom’s wondering where I am, so why don’t we clean up and join her in the hall, yeah?”

“Sounds good.”

We returned everything to their place before putting my gifts aside. Suddenly Zanz and Abraxas released threatening growls. Abruptly, a male’s voice spoke in a familiar English accent behind us. Knowing there was only one species Zanz couldn’t stand other than Wraiths I rolled my eyes,

“Look what we have here. Does Santa’s little elf have a gift for me?”

Erik and I turned, observed Nathan standing there; cigarette in his mouth. This was the first time I really took notice of Nathan. Both his nails and eyebrows were perfectly manicured and shaped; more feminine than a woman’s and he’s not a true blonde for dark roots were beginning to show.

“Not you again.” I groaned, “And you’re not supposed to smoke in doors.”

“Really?” he mocked, “Must have missed that memo.” he blew the smoke in my direction, deliberately ignoring Erik’s presence.

I coughed, waving it from my personal space. I frowned as I stepped toward him then paused inches away. Folding my arms and making eye contact, I flickered my left eyebrow and as I did, the end of his cigarette burst into flames. He shrieked as the flames burnt his fingers as he dropped the nicotine stick to his feet of which I quickly stomped out. Once extinguished leaving behind a faint burn mark on the ground I leered at him, hearing a low growl emanate from his foul mouth.

“Still fiery, I see.” Nathan charmed, “I like that…” he grinned.

“Bloody hell...” Erik glared, “I can’t believe the women around here fall for your sh*t!”

“Nathan, give it up! I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole.” I snapped as Zanz released another low growl; giving a warning to stand back, “And by the way, teen-wolf…your true colors are showing.” I gestured at my head, letting him know his roots were showing.

He grimaced as he backed away and before replying, Jon and Sarah snuck up from behind him.

“Everything okay?” Jon asked.

“Just hanging out.” Nathan smugly replied.

“Well, then…go hang it somewhere else!” I remarked, “Before it’s hung over a fireplace.”

“Hey…this is Christmas. Everyone’s invited” Nathan mocked examining everyone up and down, “No harm in mingling, right? Besides...you’re looking very pretty, little bird.” his eyes scanned my appearance, “Love your curves and the jacket. Looks expensive. Your lover here, must have bought it for you I’m guessing.”

“That’s none of your business!” I warned then mocked, “And not everyone’s invited. I say who is and isn’t allowed, so that means mutts aren’t allowed inside the manor without supervision.”

“Alright, that’s enough!” Sarah stepped forward standing between us, “It’s Christmas so let’s just...try to get along and then afterwards, we can go back to hating one another.” then she turned to her brother, “Nathan, please...not now. You’re ruining the holiday. Again. Enough…” he pressed a small gift box against his chest then backed away, standing next to Jon.

“Alright.” Nathan nodded then backed away, “See you around, love…” he eyed Sarah and I then exited the lounge making his way toward the dining hall but paused within its doorway, opening the gift his sister had bought for him; a steampunk watch with studding around the band was tucked inside. He studied it momentarily then let out a slight HMM then placed it on his right wrist. He liked it and would thank Sarah for it later, if she’d talk to him. A card was hidden under the watch. Unfolding it, it read:

“Love you, Nathan. -☺♥”

He smiled tucking the note in the box, which he hid away in his pocket.

After gaining our composure, my friends and I joined everyone in the dining hall for Christmas dinner. We sat with my mom telling her what just happened and she joked, saying she’d concoct a potion, turning him into an insect then stomping on him. Sounded good and I knew she’d do it too. My mom gave me her gift; a bottle of my favorite perfume. I also gave her her gift; the last in my bag. She laid it on the table before her revealing a gorgeous dark purple and black dress made of velvet with flowing sleeves, lacing and stitching along the neckline and sleeves, along with a matching lace duster that tied at the waist with a satin ribbon. She gushed over the dress and stated she’d wear it as soon as possible. We shared hugs then enjoyed the food laid spread on the tables.

Erik exchanged his gift with his father Hiromi, giving him a beautiful new blade-care kit, with new oils, cloths and sword stones. Something he cherished. In return, Erik was given a pair of black Asian silk p.j.’s with red dragons embroidered down the front of the shirt and right pant leg. They were gorgeous, and too, they were expensive.

Margaret and Belle sat outside their Aunt’s home, watching as the children played. Lucy, Jon’s little sister, ventured outside the homes’ gate, fetching a ball the other children kicked over the high fence. However, she returned with an escort; Caleb carried her back to the fenced property. Margaret glanced up, hearing Caleb’s charming laugh approach. She smiled then worried, seeing he carried Lucy who looked so small in his arms. Margaret frowned as she scampered toward them, watching as Caleb gently placed Lucy’s small feet on the snow covered ground.

“Lucy…what did I tell you!?” Margaret knelt before the tiny child, “Don’t venture outside the gate, alright? You know the dangers out there!” she gently touched her round face.

“Sorry.” Lucy’s heart-melting voice squeaked in her Australian accent as she held onto the ball in her arms.

She was three years of age, with a darker shade of red hair that matched the mothers, big blue eyes and cute freckles around her cheeks and nose. She always wore pink ribbons in her hair. Lucy was the cutest child and everyone loved her because she was such an innocent little soul. She really liked everyone, although she didn’t understand their race or species but accepted them without judgement. Especially since her brother was a Demon. Looking into Lucy’s big blue eyes, Margaret sighed knowing her innocent actions weren’t deliberate.

“Go on, now…go play with the others but stay where we can see you, alright?” Margaret softly instructed.

“Okay…” Lucy whispered then scampered toward the large group of children waiting for the ball.

“I’m so sorry.” Margaret shyly apologized, glancing up into Caleb’s handsome face, “She’s just so young and innocent, you know?”

“Weren’t we all?” Caleb flashed a charming sexy smile, “But don’t worry about it. She’s cute as a bloody button and to be honest, love…” he leaned in, “she’s the only little bird around here I can tolerate…for a Wraith that is.”

Margaret was coming of age and she had her eyes on Caleb for quite sometime now. She smiled once more while admiring Caleb’s contagious charm being the tall, dark and handsome type with a bad-boy vibe. His Wraith age is 65 years old but looks about 27 years old. He stood at six feet in height, with natural black hair cut short in the back with fuller bangs, hanging handsomely over his forehead. Dark brown eyes complimented his fair, but not pale skin tone. His style of dress was steampunk-Gothic, but always in good taste. Guns hung in their holsters strapped around his slender thighs. And his smile? Wow! But a flirt just the same.

“Margaret.” he whispered with his elegant English accent, “You look lovely today.”

“Oh...thank you.” she shyly replied looking down at the ground then back up at him, “Um, I’ve been meaning to ask...what’s it like…up there? On the wall?”

“Oh,…it’s beautiful. I can see for miles in all directions. Would you like a look?”

“Oh...no-no. I’m afraid of heights. Besides, I can’t leave the children.” she gestured over her shoulder.

“I didn’t mean now, but no worries and if you decide to…I won’t let anything happen to you up there. Promise!” he smiled.

Margaret couldn’t help herself as she grew distracted, taking notice of Caleb’s full yet slightly floppy bangs blowing in the breeze. She blushed when he turned, looking at her. Staring into his eyes, he gave a quick wink.

“Up on the wall…it’s peaceful for us.” Caleb glanced away, “Especially if it means being away from the Lycynians.” he chuckled, “But it’s more exciting during feeding time for the Ravens when they fly from their aviary near the barn and stable.”

“Feeding time?” Margaret asked, “You feed the Ravens?”

“Of course. Cracked corn and pieces of raw meat left over from the butcher or manor’s kitchen. But you gotta be careful though or those little buggers will tear your fingers off. Got pecked a few times.”

“Is it feeding time up there now?”

“Sadly no, but next time I’ll let you know and maybe I can show you.”

“I’d like that. I love the Ravens. They’re so beautiful.” she smiled then glanced back at the children noticing Belle was distracted, attending to the other children. She turned her head, noticing Lucy wandered too close to the fence once more, “Lucy! Don’t get too close to the fence! Remember what I told you…about the monsters on the island!” she called out, “Belle...keep watch on her!”

“I’m taking you away from your brood back there, so I’ll go.” Caleb backed away.

“No, it’s okay. Belle can handle them for a bit. Please don’t go…please?” Margaret shyly flirted, reaching out to touch his arm.

Caleb nodded but knew he was on duty. Leaning in he muttered softly,

“Margaret, look…you’re a sweet bird but I’m too old for you number one and number two, I don’t think I’m the right fit for you. I know your Mum and she’s a wee-bit picky so I don’t think she’d approve of her daughter being with a Wraith that’s been out in the world.” then he paused hearing the village bell ring loudly and continuously, “Hold on…” he stepped away, speaking with his friend Justin who appeared behind him a few inches away.

Margaret listened to bits of the conversation; the weather rapidly changing as heavy winds began rolling in from around the island on all sides. Caleb nodded, ending the conversation as Justin strolled away. He apologized, excusing his presence. Margaret bit her lower lip as she turned, watching as the children ran around, building snowmen or angels, even engaging in a game of snowball fights. As Lucy ran around in the yard, she abruptly turned her head to the right. Near the fence, was a baby white fox sniffing the ground, catching the scent of food; white fur blowing from a gust of wind sweeping across the island. Stepping closer, the fox didn’t seem afraid, making it easier to approach. Lucy loved animals having a pet rabbit, so seeing a fox excited her.

“Doggy…doggy.” she whispered in her sweet voice as she jumped in excitement, “You’re so pretty.” then she turned for attention but Margaret and Belle were too busy breaking up a scuffle between the kids, “Doggy...” she held her thumb up to her mouth, unsure of what to do and not remembering Margaret’s warning, she stepped closer as the fox backed away, running out into the late fog and beginning blizzard winds, kicking snow around the ground in its trail. Being tiny as she was, Lucy squeezed through the iron bars of the fence, tearing one of her sleeves of her coat on the roughened edges. She wandered after the fox until coming across the animal laying dead in the snow, crushed among a cluster of trees a mile from the property homes. “Doggy…oh, doggy…” she whispered as she knelt down, “are you sleeping? Wake up, doggy. Wake up...” and at that moment, she heard howling and squealing, frightening her, “Johnny, I’m scared.” she muttered then curled herself against the base of the trees’ trunk, feeling the effects of the cold winds stinging against her little face.

Behind the tree, a heavy breathing with foul breath appeared above her. Glancing upward, she stared into the face of the Boar-wolf leader, looking down at her as it knelt before her with its red eyes squinted; teeth snarled with drool dripping from its mouth. Lucy grew tears screaming in a high pitched screech of absolute terror.

Although her screams were masked by other children playing, and the howling wind, all the Wraiths; no matter where they were on the island or what their tasks were at that moment, glanced around searching for the cause of the abnormal scream. Caleb had just returned to Margaret when he heard the scream, glancing around at his surroundings; attentive and alert.

“I’m sorry, Margaret…but time for rounds and lock down. Later.” he excused politely, then sped down the road, catching up with Nick and Justin, as they began igniting the braziers across the islands’ landscaping.

Dusk now approached; everyone prepared for lock down. The winds rapidly picked up in strength as everyone’s visibility grew clouded and unclear. Those celebrating in the village square, quickly retreated to their rooms at the Inn, after making sure their vendor stands were properly covered and stabilized to stand against the blizzard winds.

As Margaret and Belle gathered the children conducting headcount, Margaret realized Lucy was missing. Searching the yard and near the fence, she couldn’t see her small frame anywhere. In panic she called out over the loud winds trying to stay warm in the process,

“Lucy...Lucy! Where are you!? Come on, sweetie...hide-n-seek is over now!”she searched around, in and outside the house, even under the furniture, but still no sign. Margaret frantically looked around with her hands to her head then kept asking Belle where Lucy was but she too didn’t know, “Oh, no...guards! Guards!” she removed her phone from her pocket, pushing the emergency alert app that signaled the alarms on all the guards’ radio-phones, as well as pin-pointing the location of the receiving signal.

Caleb stood with Nick and Justin who heard the abnormal scream. They grew worried for the scream revealed sheer terror. Just then, Caleb received the alarm on his phone as did all the other guards on the island, which he immediately responded to. After explaining the situation, Caleb assured her the guards would search the area. Unfortunately, Belle couldn’t put the crystals (a barrier warding off the Boar-wolves) in place yet, growing terrified without their protection. Caleb turned to Demon guards standing nearby instructing them to place a temporary barrier; they nodded and magic was released from their hands creating a barrier-like dome above and around the property. Caleb held onto Margaret trying to calm her when she noticed Lucy’s footsteps in the snow through the heavy winds leading toward the fence where a piece of fabric swayed in the winds. Running over, she pulled it off then glanced out into the blurred distance calling out,

“Lucy! Lucy, sweetheart…can you hear me!?” and instead of Lucy’s voice, vicious growls answered. Staring out, Margaret and Caleb watched as an outline revealed itself in the distance, growing larger as it approached the cluster of trees nearby. The blurred figure ran toward Margaret as she continued calling out. She could hear heavy feet pounding against the snow.

As it grew closer, Caleb shouted, pulling her away,

“Margaret...get away from the fence!” and landing on the ground, they crawled backwards away from the fence, as a Boar-wolf attempted an attack.

Burning itself against the fence’s iron alloy, it squealed as it retreated backwards. Caleb zipped to his feet, helping Margaret from the ground then ordered guards to lock down the village square immediately. He escorted Margaret to the steps of her Aunt’s home, fumbling with Lucy’s sleeve. She glanced up watching as the guards drew their weapons, searching for any more stragglers within the housing area. Faint gunshots were heard in the distance.

Margaret and Caleb arrived, standing in the doorway scanning the hall when she laid her eyes on Jon; who paced as he glanced out the windows. Glancing at her feet then up at Caleb, she mumbled,

“How am I supposed to walk over there and tell him his sister’s been taken by the Boar-wolves?”

“It’s my duty to report things, so I’ll break the news.” Caleb answered softly as he gently placed his right arm around her shoulders.

“Thank you. I can’t tell him on my own.”

He nodded with a faint smile. They slowly walked through the crowded dining hall, with saddened expressions.

I ended the call then approached Jon, ready to break the news myself then glanced over, watching as Caleb and Margaret approached, knowing the situation. Sarah, Erik and Jon followed my gaze as they too turned, seeing them walking in our direction. Margaret grew tears as she looked at me then at Jon.

“Jonathan…” she stuttered.

“Margaret, thank God!” Jonathan worried, “Where were you!? What took you so long!?”

“Jonathan…it’s Lucy. She’s...she’s been...” she solemnly commented as she stepped toward him.

“She’s been what!?” he replied frantically, “Margaret...where’s Lucy!?” he veered over their shoulders, hoping to see Lucy standing behind them, thinking that maybe it was just a little Christmas prank that Caleb was known for.

“Jon…” I urged as I stood before him, “please, give them the chance to explain.”

“Yza…you know something? What is it!?” Jon frowned with worry, “Are you in on this prank?”

Before I could reply, Caleb stepped forward adding his presence to the conversation.

“Jonathan...” Caleb added, “don’t take it out on Yza, or Margaret. It’s not their fault. It’s mine. And it’s not a prank. Lucy ventured beyond the fence and squeezed through because we found this.” he handed Jon the piece of sleeve, “We don’t know why, but please…just go easy on Margaret and Yza. I distracted Margaret’s attention from watching the children. This is the first time this has occurred and you know it. They’ve always been careful in the past many times. It was so quick, that no one noticed. Accidents happen.”

“What happened!?” Jon leered at Margaret but she didn’t answer with words just tears, “Margaret!?” his voice grew louder.

“Jonathan...” I protested firmly, “Margaret was put in a moment of misjudgment, and Caleb was on patrol. Jon, look at me…” I faced him toward me, “Nick contacted me moments before they came in, informing me of what happened but no one knows anything yet. So, please…I know this is hard for you, I do, but you need to take it easy and quit the blame game!”

Erik looked at me then at Jon, commenting,

“She’s right, Jon. Calm down. Caleb and the rest will find out further details.”

“I can’t calm down, Erik!” Jon exclaimed loudly, “That’s my baby sister out there somewhere! You wouldn’t understand the meaning of family or having siblings! Now, I have to tell my family that my sister is missing, so how do you think that makes me feel, Erik!?” he started shaking in fear.

“You’re right, Jon.” Erik revealed sternly, “I don’t have family, other than my father and you’re the closest thing to a brother I could possibly have. So, I suggest you quit taking your anger out on everyone in front of you.” he walked away standing in front of one of the windows.

“Erik!” I called out then turned to Jon, “Really, Jonathan? That’s a new low. Even for you.” I turned, walking toward Erik leaving Jon standing there, hating himself for what he had said. Placing my hands on Erik’s shoulders I whispered, “Hey.”

“Before you ask, I’m fine.” he replied as he looked down at me.

“You and I both know that’s not true.”

“Can’t lie to you, can I?” he whispered with sadness in his eyes.

“Look, don’t let what he said bother you. You’re practically brothers.” I answered ignoring that question for he had lied to me, “Family comes in many forms. Whether it’s husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, brother and sister or friends. You, Jonathan, Caleb, Nick and even Anthony and Sarah, are my family other than my mom of course. You know he didn’t mean it.”

“I know he didn’t, but it hurt nonetheless. I was bullied as a kid by others, being called an orphan or freak, but hearing him talk to me like that again, just...”

“Erik, I know. I’ve been there. Halfbreed here, remember? It doesn’t get any easier.” I whispered.

“Why does everything have to be about you!?” Erik questioned.

“Where the hell did that come from?” I frowned as I questioned, not liking the tone in his voice.

“Sarah’s bloody right!”

“About what!?”

Before he could speak, Jon approached speaking softly,

“Erik…look, mate. I’m...”

Don’t, please...just don’t.” Erik protested, “I get it.. Leave it that, yeah?”

“I’ll leave the two of you alone to talk. I need space.” I glared at Erik as I walked away.

Jon noticed the brief tension between his friends.

“What was that about?” he asked.

“Nothing.” Erik muttered, shaking his head.

“Mm.” Jon nodded, “Listen, mate..I’m sorry. I didn’t mean.”

“I said I get it.” Erik placed his right hand on Jon’s left shoulder.

“Thanks, man…” Jon grinned but his eyes didn’t share the smile, “I just...can’t believe Lucy’s gone. I’ve been through a lot lately with father’s cancer, but this just adds to it.” he glanced at his feet then turned, approaching Margaret giving her comforting hug apologizing for his earlier tone, “Tell me what happened in detail, please.”

Jon and Margaret walked over, sitting at the counter where she relayed everything that took place. Caleb too, added his tale which supported Margaret’s words, that he and other guards; whether they’re Demon or Wraith, all heard the scream. Continuing to explain, Caleb removed a pad and pen from his pocket, drawing a sketch of the creature that lunged at the fence. Excellent sketch with an anime likeness. Everyone standing near, grew horrified at the image.

“That’s just a drawing. It’s uglier up close.” Caleb revealed throwing the image away.

“I know it’s not your fault, I really do and I’m sorry I blamed you.” Jon apologized, “But how am I going to break this news to my parents? They’re going to be devastated.”

“Want company?” Erik asked.

“Yes, please.” Jon appreciated, “The more support…the better.” then he searched the hall for the petite Keeper who stood with her mother relaying what had happened, “I’ll see if Yza can come too. I think my parents will feel a bit more at ease having the Keeper there for reassurance. They talk about wanting to meet her anyway, on a more personal basis, so what’s more personal than this, right?”

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.” Erik smiled as he too searched the hall for her presence then watched as she approached with her mother.

“Jonathan, sweetie…” my mom’s voice spoke softly.

Jon turned in his chair, embracing her gently as she offered her support and comfort.

“If there’s anything I can do for you or your parents, let me know alright?” she advised.

“Thank you, Lady D.” Jon appreciated, “I’ll take you up on that.” he referred to her magical practices.

“Jonathan wants to know if you’d be willing to come with him, while he breaks the news to his parents.” Erik added.

“Of course I’ll come.” I nodded, “For once, this isn’t all about me.” I aimed those words toward Erik who sighed, knowing he f*cked up.

“What’s wrong with the two of you?” Caleb glanced between us, “Trouble in paradise already?”

“Nothing any of you have to worry about.” I answered bluntly, “Caleb…” I faced him, “please keep in touch with anything you find. Even if it’s the smallest thing.”

“Of course.” he nodded, “As a matter of fact, I’ll check in with the other guards to see if they found anything. Catch you guys later. And Jonathan, mate…I’m sorry again about Lucy. She’s a cute little button and I can’t say that about a lot of children.” Jon and Caleb exchanged a brief man-hug before Caleb turned, nodding in my direction then disappeared.

Erik, Jon and Sarah waited for me in the entrance hall, while I gave my mom a loving hug asking if she could care for Zanz while I took Abraxas. She smiled as I handed her his leash, telling him to behave. My mom was the only person he would tolerate. She waved watching as I scampered toward the foyer then glanced down at the hound that sat beside her. He raised his gaze toward her; ears perked high but tail remaining still. She petted his head then tugged on his leash to follow her.

Running out into the entrance hall and holding onto Abraxas, we teleported up to Jon’s home.

Lucy screamed as a monstrous creature of massive size carried her through darkness beneath the islands’ ruins, hidden deep within the forest behind the manor near the cliff side. She cried for her brother and mother, agitating the creature, when it suddenly dropped her on hard stone. She grunted in squeaks, sniffling and whimpering. Suddenly, hands roughly grabbed her small frame, followed by wet cold noses and sniffing sounds.

“Mommy…Johnny!” she cried; her voice echoing through the tunnels but no one; at least not human, Demon nor Wraith heard her screams.

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