Missing in Action
Lei gave a loud and frustrated sigh, shutting his laptop and pushing it off to the side. Six months. Six months and not so much as a hint, a whisper towards her whereabouts. He doubted it greatly, still he does now, but his long-time friend assured him that she was alive--without proof. Still she had been right with much less, but extremely wrong with more. It is difficult to gauge in this circumstance, it was one thing to have faith in one's ability to survive, but she fell off a cliff for the love of god. Nonetheless it was while fighting an enemy in who only knows what kind of state, he was certainly beginning to doubt this and if neither of them found a lead soon he would call it as it is: Maxilyn Lykaios is dead.
Kassandra though was not one to be easily swayed, she was nearly as insistent as his friend down to being out right obnoxious. Though it was a relief to know someone had this much faith in her, as it goes, now a-days there is not enough trust between people as friends stab one another in the back, families betray one another for wealth or power and comrades? Comrades have a way of almost being expected to turn on their own. What was once a war of beliefs and morals was quickly turning into a blood conflict of racial superiority. The last of which resulted in the outright genocide of an entire race.
The warlock shuffled thru his paperwork glancing for what must be the hundredth time at geographic terrain, personnel profiles, local news and underground information collected from his new favorite informant Juliette. What she promised she delivered and there was a thieves honor with her and her guild which was a relief seeing as this guild was one of many that controlled and governed the underworld, keeping them from breaking the secrecy clause from long ago. Going thru the information once again ti would be easier to know what it is he means to search for, Maxilyn is first and foremost a Marine and more than capable of disappearing if it became necessary. That is why he finds it difficult to believe she is alive--she would have returned to Kassandra's side if that was the cause.
The aged caster frowned, perhaps he was too quick to judge her in that regard, she was indeed hiding a great and terrible secret from all those around her, it would only be natural for her to run away and hide. Still...was she truly the type to run away? To abandon those around her--no she would have a reason, a damn good one at that to cause his Little Bat this sort of heartache. Ms.Lykaios was a woman with many things dwelling on her mind, some of her doing others not, but all had an impact on those around her right down to the moment she jumped in the way to save Kassandra.
The file he had been given was the official report by the Theron Coven, but he was also given Kassandra's first-hand experience and he could tell from the beginning she was omitting something. It did not take time to assume what it was, given by her expression and her line of questioning Lykaios no doubt turned in front of her. It must have been a frightening thing--to see a being that was thought to be extinct, to cease existence, and have it be the very woman she was closet to. A surprise indeed that the Marine was put in such a position that she had no other choice. Lei made it clear he could not be fooled and that he was already aware of what the woman was, yet how she herself existed eluded him.
He imagined it had to do with her unique ability to appear completely human, that this was something inherited from her family bloodline rather than a skill or a genetic mutation. How Kassandra described her appearance however was something disturbing--she turned completely into a wolf, not a human-wolf hybrid as werecats do. The werewolves of three-hundred years ago did not have such a transformation, they were as their cousins and were a hybrid-like transformation, but to be completely wolf...Lei wondered what Lykaios truly was and if she had survived, locating her would be nearly impossible.
The thought of the wolves of three-hundred years ago made him remember a very difficult period in the supernatural world. Discontent and animosity grew within the ranks of the werewolf packs as they began to become isolated and omitted from Council decisions and development. This was after an event of questionable responsibility where an attempt at several Elder's and Coven Leaders' lives had an investigation to deduce werewolf involvement. They were then placed under supervision, without their knowledge, and over the next twenty years anger boiled beneath the surface. When the Council admitted to their 'precautions' the werewolves became outraged. They were indeed an honorable and powerful race, their packs were the raw power behind the Council's force, their enforcers of law and order. Now they were removed as the protectors of the Council replaced by those Virgil called Judges, comprised, at the time, entirely of vampires. The werewolf packs were no fools.
When a diplomatic solution could not be reached between them, the wolves revolted, violently. Civil War broke out, the wolves called many to their aid, casters and werecats in particular fearing that if the wolves lost their battle then their own races would soon be repressed and be forced to wither away under the growing power and influence of the Council. Lei remembered being an adviser to the original Council, but when the war broke out he stepped away from politics, mainly because he saw the reason in both parties and wanted no part in picking sides and risking his neck at the chance of losing. And lose did the wolves. It was then that Virgil had the captives killed and the survivors hunted, to make an example of any who would defy the Council and aim for his life. It seemed his Judges were trained specifically for this task and carried it out flawlessly, eradicating the entire race, but now it seems one had a knack, for escape.
He thought to research more of the woman now classified as 'Missing in Action', but he felt that any research, if she was alive, would place her in danger. If she was alive, if she was not imprisoned, she was no doubt meaning to hide and remain hidden. She would not though, not forever either she would come further of her own accord or sooner or later someone would find her for nothing remains hidden forever. Lei shut the file and placed it to the side, removing himself from his desk, he took the glass of whiskey and went to the window, the rain pouring down on the city this night.
"Wherever you are my dear...may you be well." He said aloud as the charm on his wrist glowed.
With a sigh the warlock left the window and entered the other room, greeting the shadowed figure who leaned against the table across from the crystal ball.
"I was just thinking about you." The warlock chuckled leaning against the door frame.
The feminine shadow tilted her head, "Something is on your mind other than me--you never drink this much unless there is."
"You are neither my mama nor baba, I think I am more than old enough to drink as much as I please without a particular reason." Rolled the eyes of the warlock, "Now what do I owe the pleasure?"
The woman was less than convinced, but continued anyway, "The evidence you have been requesting..." The last word she emphasized enough to annoy the warlock, "There is a community, in an isolated part of Alaska, where a report of a child had gone missing during the winter--"
"An unfortunate ordeal really, but people go missing in the wilderness quite often." The warlock huffed as the shadow folded her arms.
"The child was missing for two nights and three days and on the third day was find unharmed at her parent's front door. The only tracks authorities found were paw prints of what they say is an extremely large dog."
The warlock rose a brow, "And you think this large dog is a wolf who so happens to be the one we are looking for?"
The shadow nodded.
Lei was less than convinced as well as thinking perhaps his friend is far more emotionally invested in the welfare of the woman than she admits. Whatever their connection it is unlike her to have such...attachment, but then again he recalled who is was he was speaking to. An Elder of the original Council and the oldest thing to walk this world currently. He did not want to give her an indication of his belief that Lykaios was truly alive, but he was indeed willing to appease her request of further investigation. A portal to this community would be of no challenge he daresay he would be back before breakfast--Lei looked at the time, they were at the very least three hours behind in time and it would be more beneficial to arrive and investigate in the day.
"Very well I will look into the matter for you, but my dear..." He looked at her in contemplation, "You have not been able to reach her for months, you said yourself if telepathy cannot be linked then it often is because the other is often deceased--"
"I know what it is I said Lei." She snapped, "We also both know that a connection can be disrupted if there a great shift in the brainwaves of the individual."
The warlock knew he must speak his mind now, for her own good, "Yes, but the chances are significantly less than simply accepting that Maxilyn is indeed dead--"
He expected her to be angry, to threaten him with never again uttering such nonsense to her, but she was calmer and more composed than he expected. Her shadowed figure remained motionless, still where it leaned against on the table. How could she have such faith in the woman's survival? Supernatural or not, surviving a fall into sharpened rocks in a raging icy-cold river was simply too great of odds to have such high hope. Lei knew that his friend's knowledge of many events far exceeded his own and for many reasons he did not question where or how this knowledge came about--he did not care, not for three-hundred years.
Finally he aged man let out a long sigh and held his hands up in surrender, "I will go tomorrow morning, but I have need of something of you."
"I will do what I can." She said relaxing her posture.
Kassandra left her office with the company of Gregory and Stephen, walking from the front door toward the black sedan. Stephan held the umbrella over her as she slipped into the vehicle, taking the front passenger seat while Gregory went around to the back seat. Silent their ride to the mansion was, the only sounds being the tapping of rain on the vehicle and the occasional shuffle of paperwork from the latest investment proposition one of the board members put out in the meeting. As they rolled up to the grounds of the mansion the rain had only grown in intensity, but that did not stop Kassandra from noticing a car that looked oddly familiar.
Paying no mind to it, she went on, entering the house and making her way to her study. Ever since the security break in California, everything has tightened within the Council. Not a single member nor their family went without protection and much of their spread out living situations quickly became condensed, something either Kassandra nor Alec approved of. It had nothing to do with their inability to get along as siblings, but their similarity on wanting to have a place of their own away from others. It was difficult to have anything private when within the Theron House.
The vampire woman entered her study, one seldom used accept as a place to hold records, however re-purposed to suit her needs. Of course having walls full of history and books brought a sense of nostalgia that made work easier. In the study however she was not alone, sitting on the couch by the fireplace was her long-time friend and mentor Wang Lei, who had a most distrusting individual watching him from the side--Maul. When Maxilyn was classified as MIA Kassandra took Maul and his belongings and relocated him to her residence. She had no care to ever have pets, but it felt wrong to let Maul be thrown into a shelter, not when he had done so much to help Maxilyn thru her nightmares and traumas. Taking care of him after she had been saved by his master so many times before...was only natural.
"Maul." Kassandra called when sitting across from her mentor, the cat slowly walked over and jumped onto her armchair and sat on the arm, vigilantly watching the warlock.
"Forgive him, he does not like strangers."
The warlock tilted his head toward the feline, "And I do not like cats so we can say he and I will not see eye to eye at any point henceforth." Lei sighed, "But I am not here to discuss your choice of pets, but in companions--I have a possible lead and your Compulsion will do nicely to aid in my investigation."
Kassandra's eyes went wide, "You may have a lead on her? How? Where?"
"Alaska." Lei stood up, searching for a bar to fix himself a stiff drink.
Forgetting her manners for a mere moment, Kassandra beckoned him to sit down and went to serve him as a gracious host should. After large gulps of Bourbon, the warlock went into details about a story from the community where a child had gone missing only three weeks after Maxilyn had and was found unharmed and alive. The only evidence were unfamiliar tracks that he trusted he did not need to go into detail of. The vampire had been depressed as of late, the inability to locate the woman she loved, the woman she was certain of to be alive--Lei sensed that she too was beginning to lose hope. It almost felt cruel to give it back, to spark hope once again within her because if they learned this trail lead them nowhere, then she would fall harder than Maxilyn. Lei has never seen Kassandra love anyone this much other than her mother until now.
"Kassandra..." He began cautiously, "I do not want to give you a false sense of hope...its been six months--"
"I must know. I must know that she is without a doubt gone because she has survived so much more its hard for me to accept that could not have been just another trail."
Lei accepted that explanation, finishing his drink he stood.
"Then I will retrieve you tomorrow, we will travel by portal."
Kassandra looked to Maul then spoke once more, "Do you think she is alive?"
For a moment the warlock paused, "No." He continued his departure, "But if she is...I hope she is well."
The next morning, when the shutters came down over the windows, Kassandra awaited Lei in her study. A large spiraling black and green hole emerges within and out appears Lei in an attire fit for a summer day in the north.
"I must voice my concern--I do not know how you expect me to assist you as you are aware vampires and sunlight are as endearing with one another as you and cats." Kassandra said slipping her pistol into her holster on her hip beneath her coat.
Lei rolled his eyes, "You ought to know me well enough Little Bat that I would not take you with me without the proper preparations."
"You'll be fine." Lei sighed in common tongue, "Now let us go."
Taking the vampire by the hand they walked thru appearing on an old dirt road overlooking a small community beside a river. The sun would not rise for another two hours, but they needed less to tend to the problem at hand--vampires and the sunlight are a deadly combination. Lei looked to the sky, and uttered a strong yet simple spell that concealed the entire sky in thickened clouds that made sunlight's hand unable to reach the vampire. For this she was significantly grateful for seeing as this would be one of the rare times she has been able to walk out during the day without fear of being burnt.
"You cease to amaze me, the power to control the skies beneath your fingertips and you prefer to brew alcohol." Kassandra said with amusement.
Lei shrugged, "There was a time I did things of greater significance, greater impact, but those times are long gone. I much prefer a quieter life. Not that I have had one as of late."
Kassandra smiled as she followed behind him descending into the village below. Despite the early hours of the day the roads were bustling with people--running errands, working, preparing for the next season to come. It was a different life than the lower forty-nine, many had to hunt for the dinner table, have built their home by their own hands or the hands of their parents and their parents' parents. Generations of homesteaders, natives and migrates all living, surviving; together as close a family as a community can get. Where one family cannot pride another will aid them and in the wilderness a community is only as strong as its weakest link.
Their first stop was to the sheriff's office, Kassandra's Compulsion worked flawlessly to 'persuade' the elder gentlemen the identity and address of the family from the story. He was also gracious enough to drive them toward the outskirts of town in his old beat-up pickup truck thru numerous dirt roads before they pulled up to an opening near the river where a four-thousand-square-foot, two-story log house stood happily among the trees. A woman with a little girl nearly glued to her side happily came around the house, both holding baskets full of herbs and berries for later canning and use.
"Hey dad what brings you here?" She asked merrily, noticing the two strangers that left his truck.
The sheriff cleared his throat, hiding his redness, making faces as the toddler when explaining, "Ah, I told yeah to call me Sheriff! Anyway, these two are from the lower forty-eight. They apparently heard about Anne's story and came to investigate or some sorts."
Unsure the woman address the Asian gentlemen and the extremely pale woman who could very well be from around here given how much she needs the sun.
"What would you like to know? The mother asked.
Kassandra spoke first, without Compulsion, "The news report we saw mentioned that your daughter was found on your porch and the only evidence found were unusual tracks?"
"Weren't unusual tracks, they were wolf, a big one for that matter, biggest I'd ever seen." The Sheriff interrupted.
The mother disagreed, "Dad honestly, if it was a wolf it would have tried to eat Anne and you know it--it was the dead of winter, a well-fed dog could have been the only way."
Lei addressed the Sheriff, "Why do you believe it was a wolf?"
"I saw her."
"Lone wolf, white as snow, nearly missed her. Only didn't cause she stood beside a raven, like they were talking to each other." His daughter tried to interrupt him, but his continued, "I've lived in these woods all my life, I know a wolf when I see one, but this one didn't act like any wolf I'd ever seen!"
The two supernaturals glanced at one another. It still could be coincidence, that a friendly wolf happen to come along hell at this point Lei might even be willing to believe it was a forest spirit--it would not be the first time he has come across one. Rare as it is, certain forests do have enough magic to conjure a type of personification in physical form. What if hopes were risen only to fall hard? There were a few ways to clarify the situation, Lei spoke to the Sheriff and the mother while Kassandra followed the small child as she walked to a nearby tree grabbing leaves and putting them in her basket. The vampire played along, lowering herself to the child’s level she picked up leaves and held them out to the human girl to grab and put in her basket.
“I’m looking for the big doggy that brought you home.” The adult smiled small, careful not to display her fangs and frighten the child.
Little Anne, perhaps four or five years old continued to gather leaves, “Not a doggy.” She whispered quietly, “Mommy says she was a doggy, but grandpa doesn’t think so.”
Kassandra sat down, taking some nearby twigs, twisting and turning them into a circular shape.
“What do you think?” She asked sweetly.
Anne picked a flower, “She's a wolf--she told me.”
Kassandra continued her calm, casual questioning. She had no desire to use Compulsion on a child, quite frankly she doubted it would even work—children don’t listen to anyone.
“You know what I think you're right. I think she’s a wolf and probably the one we’re looking for.” Kassandra continued to weave the branches together, “She’s lost and we want to find her like she found you.”
Anne shook her head, “She isn’t lost, she had to go away. Bad monsters were chasing her.”
“Monsters? What kind of monsters?”
Anne moved onto her knees and crawled toward Kassandra, she grabbed the woman’s hands and moved them over the vampire’s eyes.
“Scary monsters. She wanted me to cover my eyes and I did and I didn’t see the scary monsters.” Anne went back to her basket, “We played hide and seek for a long time. I was hungry and tired, but the wolf was very warm and let me play horsey.”
Kassandra smiled, “That sounds like a very fun wolf, did she tell you her name?”
Anne shook her head as she whispered, “It’s a secret. We pinky-promised.”
The vampire smiled, lifting her finished crown, decorated with flowers leaves and grass.
“Sounds like you’re good at keeping secrets. I am too you know, tell you what you don’t have to tell me, but if I say a name you can nod or shake your head if I’m right. That way you didn’t break your pinky-promise.”
Anne smiled, “Okay!”
Dramatically Kassandra made herself look in deep thought, “Snowball?”
Anne shook her head.
“Hmmm.” Kassandra sounded aloud, “Anne?”
“That’s my name!” The girl giggled as she shook her head.
Lei came over, looking over to see the grown upon the new princesses‘ ahead she smiled. She reminded him exactly like her mother, it truly was a blessing she inherited her mother’s heart rather than her father’s mind, let alone his ambition. The warlock said it was time they were on their way that they had to go look for their friend as handed the little girl a small rock with numerous natural holes in it. A fairy stone. The girl thanked the warlock and said goodbye asking Kassandra to tell the wolf that she wants to play again.
The two supernaturals entered the Sheriff’s truck and returned to the police station where they were off from the path of which they came.
“I apologize for what I said before.” Lei said as soon as they were out of the town limits, “I could not fathom her surviving that fall, but after what I have heard...I must say she is a remarkable individual.”
Kassandra nodded, “Anne said that Max had her cover her eyes and they were playing hide and seek from scary monsters.”
“It was not a Mort.” Lei assured, “The sheriff said there was a moose near here completely managed by some kind of big cat, but they were too far from the mountain to be certain.
“Could it be Shawn?” Kassandra said with a hint of concern.
Lei shook his head, “It has been too long for me to be certain, but I cast a spell and there were supernaturals here, but it was months ago so the trail is too cold for me to tell.”
“Then we are back where we started?” Kassandra frowned.
“Not quite, We now know she survived the fall and was alive at least five months ago which knowing her means she remains alive now. I will use my sources to find another lead, but it will be difficult without knowing where she is heading. I mean...” Lei turned around and gestured, “Why here?”
“It’s away from people." Kassandra said sadly, "She just kept running as far as she could and happened to run across Anne by chance.”
The warlock shrugged, “I knew generation after generation of werewolves and I have never come across one like herself.”
“She’s well trained.”
“Indeed.” Lei stepped back to create a space, “Werewolves were a very powerful race, brutal as they were in battle, they were honorable and loyal to their packs. Once they had a mate only death could separate the two of them. But they were also a very strict people to their laws, the punishment of which was being banished from the pack and set as an outcast. A wolf without a pack died quickly in times past because nearly none could survive without help. The fact that Lykaios has is nothing short of remarkable, but this also places her in great danger. Danger of being exploited and danger of being killed, from both the council and your father."
"Maxilyn is no threat--if I spoke to my father he would surely see--"
Lei shook his head, "He would not, he would set out to kill her. He has done it before."