Shadow Games

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Chapter 13

Elira glanced down at the sobbing Elf at her feet. With a dismissive flick of her hand the guard disappeared. James took a breath to steady himself as she held tight to his daughter. Serina stopped herself from lashing out at him but just barely. All she could do was imagine getting her hands around Ruavia’s throat. The blessed peace that would come when she watched the life leave her. A dangerous growl rumbled up through her chest even as a smirk curled her lips.

“Let me go.” She demanded quietly, her tone deceivingly calm.

“That’s not going to happen.” James breathed as he tensed waiting for her to fight. Serina found it in her to turn and look at her father. He didn’t look away as her furious gaze bore in to him. A part of her regretted her reaction and the fact she could feel waves of hate, misplaced, but still aimed at him.

“Do you really think fate just happened to smile on you after so long?” He asked expecting an answer but when he was met with stony silence he continued.

“She was with Nicholas, and now she turns up here? Something isn’t right.”

“James,” Elira purred and drew his attention hesitantly. She crouched next to the Elf and chuckled softly as the girl coward. “Our daughter has been waiting so long for this. She isn’t the only one.” She simpered as she grasped Ruavia’s hair and yanked her head up. Ruavia cried out and Serina’s instincts fought for control over her actions.

“Elira, you know this sorry excuse for a woman was dumped on our stoop to distract us.” James pointed out exasperated and looked between mother and daughter seeing he was on the losing side of this battle.

“And it’s working like a charm.”

Serina was losing herself to whatever instinct that drove her inner animal. The need to hunt and kill that had driven her for so long was fighting to take over again. She knew James was right but the allure of finally ending her long hunt. The smell of Ruavia’s fear was driving her to the brink of madness.

“No.” She finally choked out and her parents looked at her, waiting. “Father’s right…” Serina admitted as she swallowed back the thirst that she’d suddenly developed.

“We’re being lead to look one way…” Elira murmured as she stood and kicked Ruavia. She let the rest of the thought hang in the air and looked down again. Her own vendetta against the Elf warring against reason.

“But It would be convenient to kill her now.”

“We need to keep our heads clear.” Serina said calmly, surprising herself. She looked at James when he kept quiet.

“Well?” She prompted when no one spoke. Elira crossed her arms and waited for James and her to work it out. Serina, losing her patience, could see what he was doing. She pushed his arm off her and gave him a sharp look when he didn’t move away.

“You want me to learn? You want me to take over? Well here I go. Why is she here?” Serina’s arm shot out as she pointed at Ruavia. Her new found stability of mind throwing her thought process off, she demanded the answer with a look as well as her words. Her temper was getting the best of her and not in the way she’d expected it to. She’d expected to be halfway through draining the woman but instead she’d stopped herself.

How diplomatic of me… She thought sarcastically.

“Have someone get Patrick…” She paused turning her back on Ruavia before the temptation became too much. “And Vin.” She added falling into the role easier than she’d wanted to. When James stopped and looked her over, Serina felt her jaw tighten.

“You wanted me to learn this…” She said through gritted teeth and James bit his tongue. He was not used to being ordered around but he was right, he had told her to learn to take command. He wanted her to step up now that he thought she could deal.

Serina let her muscles loosen as James rested a reassuring hand on her shoulder. He patted it gently before walking away from her, his steps measured.

“Pick her up, we’ll have her locked up.” James commanded the guard Elira had summoned back. He extended his hand for her to take. Before she did, Elira watched the guard wrench Ruavia to her feet with a cry of agony. Serina closed her eyes as she held onto the table. She wasn’t sure if it was to support herself or to keep her from attacking.

“Let me go…” Ruavia whimpered defiantly, her voice hoarse. Serina’s shoulders bunched as a fresh wave of fear hit her. Not much longer and her instincts were going to put her body on auto pilot. Elira sighed.

“Get her gone before Serina explodes…” She snapped and the sounds of struggling stopped instantly. The guard stepped through the shadows and to somewhere else. Serina didn’t care where as long as it was away, for now any way. For now she needed a clear head, she needed to think. Ruavia had been sent to distract her. Nicholas sacrificed his partner in crime for what?

She finally let go of the table and huffed out a frustrated breath. She needed to be doing something, to take action. Anything to keep her mind off ordering the guard to serve Ruavia up to her. It would too easy, completely uncomplicated. Just to close the book on that chapter of her life forever would be an immense weight off her mind. Serina sighed and started pacing, wondering how James could stand the waiting. She guessed that was why he was so eager to hand over the reins. Another exasperated breath and she flopped down into a chair to impatiently wait. Her fingers drummed the arm and she could imagine James doing the same. With a quirk of her brow she realized she’d sat in James’ chair without thinking and shook her head as she shrugged.

Might as well get used to it…


Vin pushed up from the floor suddenly and threw Persephone off balance. He wasn’t sure what he was doing or where he was going. All he knew was that sitting there was going to drive him crazy. Well crazier than he already was becoming. Friends and family seemed to keep him balanced even if it was a hell of a balancing act. Persephone stood and straightened her jacket. Even in his preoccupied state he knew she was assessing how she could help him. Guilt laid heavy on him as he sighed. Even in her bruised and battered state she was still looking for a way to save his sorry ass. He couldn’t imagine what it took just to be inside her head some days. Her timid personality was a way to get people to warm up to her as much as it was Sephie being Sephie. She had had a difficult time in her life but instead of being bitter and withdrawn she was one of the warmest people he knew. Another wave of guilt rolled over him and he looked away. Vin knew she could feel what he was feeling but he couldn’t help it. He couldn’t even save her from the deluge of feelings that he’d been drowning himself in.

“Stop it.” Persephone demanded her small voice strong. Vin spun around and looked down at her his brows furrowing in a question he already knew the answer to. She was a spectator to his pity party, if only the feeling of it.

“I can’t help it.” He muttered as he rubbed a hand over his mouth. He pulled it back when he felt the stubble and it made him want to scratch his face. Even if he didn’t care much about anything else, he’d be damned if he had to put up with the god damned itchiness. The random thought made him chuckle and he shrugged at Persephone’s quirked brow.

“Madness almost suits you.” She said quietly and shook her head in mock disapproval.

“I always felt my personality needed a little more spice. Thought I’d try this on for size.” Vin laughed and sighed as his thoughts turned dark again.

“It’ll get better.” Persephone interjected between depressing thoughts. Vin gave her a tired look, knowing that she was offering to help again. She knew he wasn’t going to accept help willingly and it was ok with her, she would try to do it anyways. Anger sparked in Vin and his look turned dark.

“You’ve no idea what I’ve lost. How could you.” He growled and was sorry for his temper as Persephone’s gaze turned hurt.

“No, I’ve never lost a child, that’s true. But you of all people should know better than to tell me what I know and what I feel. Even if they weren’t my losses I’ve felt them all. I felt the loss of Vincent, Sam and even strangers.” She exclaimed, her voice steadily becoming heated as she went on. Vin bowed his head knowing she was right and feeling like an ass for snapping at her.

“Even when I shut it out I can still feel it to a degree.” She admitted quietly and sighed. Her temper was cooling as quickly as it flared and Vin admired that about her. She could rage and scream with the best of them but at the end of the day she held none of it in. That was a talent to be coveted in his eyes.

“I’m sorry.” He said depressed. Again she was feeling what he was putting out there but this time she wasn’t harping on him about it. For that he was thankful.

“I know…” She breathed then a grin curled her lips. She could even joke after being huffy, there were so many qualities he coveted it was sick.

“I just need to put time and space between me and…” Vin started before getting frustrated when the words didn’t come.

“You and your son.” Persephone finished with a wince and he nodded.

Of course he hadn’t meant literally but give himself time to distance himself from the memory. He needed to live life and try to heal. Any parent that had lost a child will tell you that’s a ridiculous notion, there is no going back after a loss like that. It only gets a little more bearable as the days grind on. Maybe the agony a little less as time separates you. Vin didn’t believe it, he knew from the day Vincent died till the day he himself died he’d feel the stabbing pain of loss that was currently shredding his soul. He was indefinitely changed, and couldn’t see any amount of her power fixing that. Unless of course she could turn back time, which he knew was impossible for anyone. Vin needed to get some air, he was letting too much weigh on him at once and if he wasn’t careful he was going to break. Not that the thought was all that troubling in general, if he were on his own. But now with Sephie and Serina… and everyone here… he couldn’t. Too many people needed him to be there. Too many needed him period. He pondered that notion for a moment and if it weren’t so damn serious he’d find it laughable. No one should depend on him, he felt he was well… undependable.

“I think I’m going to get some more rest.” Persephone finally said after their long silence, each lost in their own head. Vin looked up and nodded.

“You should too.” She added as she gave him a one armed hug. Vin chuckled and gave her shoulders a light squeeze.

“No rest for the wicked.” He said and smiled as she gave him a sarcastic smile in return and disappeared into Kylia’s room. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to think about that later but right now it was whatever. Not that Persephone having a female lover was anything, but to have someone that had suffered so much was going to be a task and a half to undertake. That girl was probably broken in more ways than there were words for and Persephone was going to spend a long time making her feel right again. It was a sure bet that it was going to be a work in progress.

Vin turned and looked back the way he came down the hallway. Not entirely sure what he was going to do with himself he headed back at a slower pace. Sometimes when he felt lost in his own head he found that wandering aimlessly helped him work things out. Mostly he circled round and round the same things but when he was tired of thinking over every scenario that coulda, shoulda, woulda been had played out and his mind was thoroughly exhausted. Before when he was on his rampage that’s how he’d ended up in populated areas. He’d wandered aimlessly until his mind was too tired to think any more and he thoughtlessly killed and ate his fill. A single minded killing machine had no room for painful memories. All it did was kill and eat, there was no more it needed. Vin almost longed for the instinct driven version of himself. The animalistic urges piloting his body rather than rational choices was unimaginably freeing. Sometimes it seemed like a better idea to be a homicidal maniac than a rational thought driven being, but it wasn’t as if he was really given a choice.

He slowed as he came to the main entrance and looked around. He wasn’t sure where he was going but he looked at the stairs then down another hall that would lead to the big conference room. Serina always called it a conference room but Vin always thought of it more of a great hall where kings would hold court, if this were medieval times. Surely now that the sun was up most if not all the family would either be getting ready to turn in or already fast asleep. Honestly he found it a peaceful time of day around the estate. There were barely any servants to speak of roaming around and if there were any guests to the estate they would try their hardest to keep the same hours as those that lived here. In all it was a quiet time and Vin thought that was just what he needed… quiet. Instead of going anywhere, Vin opted to sit on the stairs and listen to the noises of the house. He wasn’t in a rush to be anywhere and he was far from being tired due to his unintentional nap. The fact that the house had maintained exactly as it always had in his absence was both comforting and depressing. Comforting in the fact that it was a norm for him to come back to and depressing that nothing depended on him being here. Nothing would stop just because he was gone. The thought came and passed and he decided it wasn’t worth more exploration. Of course they’d keep going, they had to. No one person outside the family would bring the kingdom to a screeching halt.

Vin sat back resting his elbows on the stairs and looked up at the vaulted ceiling. His mind blissfully blank he closed his eyes and soaked in the comforting noises of this familiar place. Without realizing it he was listening to a far off conversation and recognized the voices. Blinx was coming closer talking in hushed tones with his brother. Vin thought about disappearing just to keep the illusion of having peace of mind. He sighed and opened his eyes deciding it wasn’t worth the hassle playing pretend. He sat up and rested his forearms on his knees as he laced his fingers together.

“I don’t understand. Where’s father?” Blinx sighed as they rounded the corner and Vin looked up.

“With my mother apparently.” Patrick added sounding as confused as he looked. Vin looked up at the men. Both brothers stopped their conversation to politely acknowledge Vin. He raised an eyebrow at their formality and stood, a sinking feeling settling into his stomach.

“What’s up?” He asked as she joined them.

“We’ve been summoned, officially, by Seri.” Patrick answered slowly, the confusion plain in his eyes.

“Officially?” Vin asked as his eyebrows rose higher. It was odd that Serina would do anything so formal, let alone officially. Something was going on and Vin’s sinking feeling grew. Blinx shrugged a shoulder.

“When he says ‘we’ he means you and him. I was just going to bed.” He said sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his head reminding Vin of a time when Blinx was younger. The memory flitted away as quickly as it came and Vin crossed his arms.

“Me?” He asked wondering how badly things had to be for someone to call on the injured crazy man. Patrick extended his arm to motion where they were to go. The conference room, of course. Vin shrugged his shoulders knowing he looked as worried as the other two.

“Well might as well go then.” Vin sighed and followed Patrick as he lead the way. Though the formalities around the house were rarely observed in down time, Vin folded his arms loosely behind his back and walked behind and slightly to Patrick’s right. He almost laughed when he realized he slid right into the old habits of his job. Patrick looked over his shoulder and paused. Blinx hadn’t moved, standing there looking indecisive.

“What’s wrong?” Patrick asked his brother. The younger man looked hesitant as if voicing his thoughts would breathe life into them.

“I think I’ll go catch up with father.” Blinx said thoughtfully. Patrick nodded his agreement and turned to leave. With a grim expression the memory of the child Vin took under his wing completely vanished.

Vin lowered his eyes at the thought of how time had passed so quickly. He was sure it was only a few weeks ago he was teaching Blinx how to hold a sword, even if it may have been heavier than he was. Again he pushed at the thought as he took measured steps, keeping Patrick only a short distance ahead of him. He wasn’t sure why he was being so nostalgic but the memory of Blinx as a child reminded him of Vincent. That wasn’t something so easily shaken off. Patrick paused at Vin’s silence and drew to a stop.

“If you’re not feeling up to it I can tell Seri you were still sleeping.” He offered as he turned. His eyes were intense, so like his sister’s. There was a lack of the usual good natured glint to his eyes and the sinking feeling made his stomach twist.

“I’m fine.” He muttered and Patrick nodded.


Serina twirled the silver pen again as she waited. Finally tossing it on the table she stood and stretched her arms. The tension in her shoulders was threatening to give her a migraine. She’d been sitting there trying not to search out Ruavia and she was becoming dangerously close to blowing off any form of plan. She huffed out a breath and paced in front of the table her arms crossed over her chest.

What am I going to do?

She thought as she scuffed her boot on the floor. The dull thud barely intruded on her thoughts. It was annoying her to no end, all the waiting was going to drive her insane. No wonder her father was incredibly short tempered when it came to waiting on his family and the like. It was amazingly tedious. She walked toward the windows and looked at the edges where you’d expect light to be seeping in at this time of the morning. Thankfully there were light tight precautions that the servants put in place well before they were needed for sunrise. Serina had barely noticed them coming in to do it, then again she’d been in a heated debate with James at the time.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The depth of the utter silence was, in its own way, peaceful. In a better situation the solitude might have been just what Serina wanted. At the moment it was just pissing her off.

Where the hell is everyone?

She thought as her eyes came open again. Apparently self-reflection wasn’t going to help her pass the time.

“Planning…” She muttered as she snatched up James’ forgotten pen, flipped over his notes and made a few bullet points. A moment passed as she stared at the marks she’d made. Serina had been logical and had planned many things before but found it impossible anymore. Her mind seemed to wander in a million different directions these days, it made it difficult to focus.

Serina skipped down to the last mark on the page and scratched a note with a sarcastic smile. As she pushed the papers away the door swung open for Vin and Patrick.

“Bout time…” Serina muttered and Patrick’s eyebrows rose. Vin ducked his head with a smile.

“Two seconds in the door and I already feel I’m talking to father. I think it’s that chair, it’s cursed.” Patrick murmured with a smirk. Vin silently followed Patrick up to the table his face dutifully down cast. Serina’s eyes met her brother’s. Where his playfully glinted hers shone hard.

“We’ll just say I have better understanding of why he’s so grouchy.”

“Is that so?” Patrick asked, a hint of impatience tightening his voice.

“Now, now children.” Vin said as he leaned on the table. “What’s this about summoning people? Like you’re all in charge or something.” He tried to keep his tone light. Serina gave him a flat look.

“Because, apparently I am.” She muttered and looked anywhere but at the men that were staring at her openly.

Vin opened his mouth to say something but stopped when Patrick almost imperceptibly raised a hand to stop him. The knowing look in Patrick’s eyes told Vin that this wasn’t as unexpected as it seemed.

“Well, sis…” He started and Serina looked up at him finally. “What’s up?” He finished and rounded the table to take his place at her left in his usual chair. Serina made a face at the formality and turned the heavy chair to sit catty-corner, being able to see both Vin and her brother. It gave her an odd sense of satisfaction to de-formalize their meeting. Serina hated all the formal bullshit. Patrick raised an eyebrow with a smile, moving his seat to mirror hers. Serina composed herself and looked between them.

“We had a present dumped on our doorstep earlier tonight.” She said glancing over the fact that James had quietly let her handle this. It was the final chapter in the story of her past and he was going to let her write it.

“Oh?” Vin breathed as he took a glance around the room.

“Mhm…” Serina nodded as she drummed her fingers aggressively. “Nicholas dumped a bruised and battered Ruavia for us to clean up.” The tension that one name brought out in both of her most trusted advisers told her how she’d been regarded. She’d been seen as delicate, obsessive and of course crazy. The fact that James believed she could make a good ruler seemed even more ludicrous. She gritted her teeth and took another breath. Serina knew certain people were going to either bulk at the decision or walk on eggshells around her. It was just incredibly frustrating to witness.

“Why?” Patrick asked as his eyes pinched in confusion, he steepled his fingers in front of him. Serina made a helpless gesture and let her hands drop to her lap.

“Distraction? I’ve been thinking it over and I guess that’s what makes sense.” In reality she was trying to make any sort of sense of it all. Vin and Patrick went quiet in thought before Vin looked up.

“She was basically in charge of keeping the help in line in his home.” He muttered voicing his train of thought.

“What do you mean?” Patrick asked quietly. Vin stood and shrugged a shoulder.

“Ru, she kept servants in line with orders of punishments. She was basically the unofficial mistress of his household.”

Serina kept quiet as she tried to make sense of it.

“Sephie.” She stated plainly and Vin nodded.

“She escaped under signed contract. Either one, Ruavia was sent to collect them or two, Nicholas handed her over to those who’d kill her as punishment.” Vin summarized and leaned on the table. Serina looked up at him silently relieved she had these two to help her think.

“Either could be possible, but both have caused us to pause. Now what?” Serina asked trying to act her new part but felt ill equipped. She felt she’d been thrown in the deep end by her father without swimming lessons. She was going to have a chat with James once this was all over.

“Feels a little too easy to me.” Patrick admitted. “I mean it doesn’t seem right.” Serina nodded and sat forward.

“Well do we have any other options right now?” Kill Ruavia? She thought hopefully to herself and her muscles tensed. God how she wanted to kill the Elf.

“I’m guessing by the lack of blood and gore…” Vin said softly interrupting her thoughts. “That James and Elira are actually questioning her in person.”

“Yeah.” Serina said her throat suddenly dry and she ran her fingers through her hair. “I guess, they went off after the guard that took Ruavia.” Her stomach clenched as she tried to reign in her instincts. She didn’t want to look up and meet her brother’s eyes, he’d see her inner battle in her eyes. Keeping her movements as even as possible, Serina pulled her hair from her shoulders in to a loose pony tail before letting it drop down her back again.

“Seri…” The words were soft and pleading but they were from Vin and not Patrick. Patrick had turned away his arms crossed, lost in thought. Apparently he’d read Serina’s mood as he sat silently listening. For a moment she played with the idea of ignoring him but she knew that wouldn’t do much to fool him. Taking a deep breath she looked up to meet his eyes.

“Yes?” She prompted when he didn’t say anything. The edge in her voice was lost at the concern in his eyes.

“I’d like to take over my old position…” He murmured with a pleadingly embarrassed slant to his gaze. For a moment Serina couldn’t understand why he was asking her and her brow furrowed. His eyebrows went up, as he waited for her to piece it together. Realization dawned on her and she closed her eyes as she sat back again resting her head in her hand.

“Oh yeah.” She muttered caustically, the venom not directed at the present company. “Um, yeah. I figured you would eventually… if you’d planned to stay around.” She said absently as she looked at him again. Serina realized too late how her comment sounded as she watched his lips pressed together in a thin line.

“Yeah...” Vin bit back as he stood, his shoulders hunched uncomfortably. Serina sighed softly as she rubbed her fingers across her brow.

“Vin...” She started but with his sharp look she stopped, dropping her eyes. There was a growing frustrated awkward silence but before it time to grow there was a boom that rattled the windows. Serina and Patrick shot to their feet as Vin spun around to face the door.

“What the hell was that...” Patrick exclaimed as much as his usually unruffled nature could. Which would amount to a half heard mutter.

“Vin..” Serina said, her voice containing questions and commands and with out looking he nodded silently as he pulled his swords from his back. Another rumble started from the front of the estate accompanied with the scuffle of a fight. Someone was actually attacking the estate, the seat of James’ power. Serina couldn’t wrap her head around it and she stared at the door.

“Seri?” Vin asked, his voice low. She blinked and met Vin’s gaze, wondering how this was ever going to work if she couldn’t act faster. Too many days she’d be lost in her own head. Something else crashed and Serina was jerked out of her daze and her eyes darted to her brother who was also looking to her for guidance and she nodded.

“Uh yeah, go. See what’s going on.” She answered meekly even as anger flared to life in chest. Vin nodded his expression grim and he turned, disappearing into the shadows. Serina slumped as she wrapped her arms around her middle. She didn’t know what she was going to do, she knew what she wanted to do but her feet wouldn’t move. Patrick turned and looked at his sister, ready for whatever she said.

“I...” She started but gave up and dropped her hands. Her lust for the fight was dulled by her complete lack of confidence in her decision making.

“What do you want to do?” He asked quietly, clearly wanting to investigate the rising commotion on the other side of the door. She could see his impatience and licked her lips trying to decide what to say. Again Serina was saved from speaking by the ripple of shadows and they both turned, tense. Elira stepped into the room and shuffled to a halt looking between them.

“Uh hi.” She muttered softly as she dumped the bundle she had in her arms onto the table. Elira’s expression was a mask of calm but the stress showed from from the black depths of her eyes.

“Hi...” Patrick said back as he looked to the bundle on the table then back at their mother. Serina raised an eyebrow and hooked her thumbs in the pockets of her jeans.

“What’s going on?” Elira breathed as she pushed the hair from her face. Serina breathed a sigh and made a noncommittal gesture with her hands.

“Not exactly sure yet. Vin is out there...” Another crash and this time Patrick took a hesitant step to the door.

“Well there are Darklings popping up all over the grounds.” Elira shook her head and bit her lower lip to look thoughtful but nervous.

“Where’s father?” Patrick asked distractedly as he glanced at the door again and Elira gave them a half smile.

“When Ruavia slipped from the guard he went to talk to him.” Elira have another half smile and Serina’s muscle tightened.

“Do what?” Serina exploded and Elira raised a brow.

“She got away, James and a contingent of guards are looking into it. At least until we apparently started getting invaded.” Anger flared through her eyes as she tossed the cloth off the bundle she’d tossed on the table. The light gleamed off a pair of kitana like, gently curved swords. Patrick let out a low appreciative whistle.

The cold metal gleamed with a life of their own and Serina ran her eyes over the embellishments. They weren’t human or vampire made. She reached out and ran a finger over the curve of one of the blades.

“I thought you’d like these.” Elira breathed, a satisfied smile breaking through.

“Demon made?” Serina asked quietly. Elira nodded and crossed her arms over her chest.

“Yeah, they are.” She confirmed. Demon made weapons had become more than scarce after the war ended, let alone ones in such immaculate condition.

“Where...” Patrick started then stopped when he realized who he was talking to.

“Kept them for a rainy day I suppose. They’re meant to be carried together but...” She paused and looked between her children. “A matching set for my twins.” She finished quietly.

Serina swallowed back a lump that had suddenly appeared in her throat. The beautiful swords were meant for them, then just Patrick for so long that she’d never thought the set would be split up like her children were.

“They’re beautiful.” Serina breathed as she drew her hand away again.

“Yeah, well they belong to the two of you now.” Elira murmured, giving the blades a last, memory filled look.

“I used them to protect the two of you before you were born, it seems right that you should keep up tradition.” Her smile was absent minded as she stepped away from them.

“I have to get back.” Elira muttered, suddenly impatient and looking anxious as the sound of fighting grew. Serina couldn’t blame her. She was having trouble staying put as it was.

“Go.” She breathed and Elira hesitated, unused to getting permission for anything from anyone, let alone her half mad daughter. None the less she nodded to both Patrick and Serina, a hesitation in her before she stepped into the hallway, her own wicked weapon already drawn.

Serina took a breath and looked at Patrick who had picked up one of the swords. He rolled his wrist to make the blade arc smoothly. He was testing the balance and nodded satisfied with it.

“I’m surprised you’ve been able to stand around this long.” He murmured still examining his new sword.

“You aren’t the only one.” Serina breathed as she ran her fingers over the bound leather hilt before picking it up. In truth she was shocked that she was calm as she was.

“Isn’t that how I’m supposed to act?” She muttered more to herself than him.

“I don’t thing there’s a hand book.” He answered as he scooped up a sheath and looped the strap over his head so it slung at an angle over his back. Serina watched him as he deftly arced the sword over his shoulder and smoothly into the sheath. Serina did the same with the sheath and looked at the sword. It was designed to make a smooth transition from an upward pull to a downward slash. Serina arced it over her shoulder and it came to rest sheathed comfortably between her shoulder blades. She could feel herself slipping into a calmer frame of mind that came from a lifetime of training.

“Ready?” Patrick breathed, hand on the door. Serina hadn’t remember seeing him move but nodded as she joined him.

“As I’ll ever be.”


Another scuffle, another scream. Persephone closed her eyes. Pain, fear and anger beat at her as she tried to back herself farther into the corner. Her shaking fingers laced through her hair as she grasped it painfully, trying block out what wasn’t her. She wasn’t a warrior, the flow of emotions was too much for her to handle on a good day. Now, after everything that had happened she felt as if her head might explode. Just the brush of her clothing over her skin had her wanting to scream in agony.

“Shh...” Kylia murmured as she flinched at another shout. Her green eyes were tear filled even as she tried to stay strong.

“We just need to stay safe ok?” Kylia murmured to Persephone, her injured arm held in a sling close to her body. Persephone nodded as she shove away others emotions.

“Sounds like a plan.” She whimpered as Kylia slid up next to her, the warmth from her body making Persephone relax as she focused on the Elf. She focused on the way she held herself and how her skin was still golden after all her life spent in dark rooms. Absently she wondered if it were a natural thing rather than manufactured by the sun. With a realization so sudden it felt like a mental slap, Persephone wasn’t drowning in someone else’s emotions but what she let in. With a cry of relief that startled Kylia, she threw her arms around her, avoiding her arm and hugged her close.

Kylia went still, unsure at the sudden change in Persephone’s demeanor. Still elated Persephone pulled back, gently holding the bewildered Elf at arms length. She abandoned all pretenses and with out thinking and kissed Kylia. The girl went stiff with shock but when Persephone started to pull away in embarrassment Kylia melted into her, her good hand coming to rest on Persephone’s flushed cheek. For once the emotions cascading through her were her own and she breathed out a sigh as their lips parted. Sudden embarrassment made Persephone’s chest tighten and she didn’t know what to do with her hands.

“I...” She started but hesitated when her voice cracked. Kylia smiled as she claimed Persephone’s hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

“Don’t.” She murmured embarrassed as a flash of disappointment passed through her eyes. Kylia squashed it as fast as she could but the emotion felt like another mental slap to Persephone with it’s strength. Confused, Persephone stared at Kylia as she watched her expression become closed. She panicked at the sudden distance between them, and did the first thing she could think of. Out of desperation Persephone pulled Kylia close again and kissed her harder than she’d intended. This time Kylia pulled back and kept her eyes closed. She licked her her lips as she started to say something a dozen times but stopped with a sigh of resignation as she opened her eyes again. Persephone’s gray eyes met hers and she held her breath.

“I’m sorry.” Persephone blurted out as she backed into the corner again, drawing her knees up to her chest. In her panic some of the emotion sifting in from other rooms started pressing in at her again and she shuttered. Her fingers twined in her hair again and she stared at her knees. Kylia sat back letting out a breath still in shock and was quiet.

“We just need to stay safe...” Kylia breathed as she drew her knees up and nodded to herself. Persephone wanted to to cry in pain and frustration but mostly in fear. Fear that the fight was going to come crashing into the room, that her head was going to explode and fear that Kylia was going to go away.

“Safe...” Persephone repeated absently as a flood of savage fear flooded her before the door exploded inward.

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