THERON II

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SEVEN.

LINA

I stare at the mouth of the cave, seeing only recollections of a past I long to still live in...

I keep my focus on Theron as he squeezes his way through the small entrance of the cave. Every breath he takes is intentional, every hold is meant to make him thinner and able to move between the stone walls easier. This is one instance where being muscular and broad isn’t beneficial.

My eyes scanned the ledge before it, the same ledge where his beast yanked me out by my shirt, pulling me into his embrace and causing my skin to flush and ache for more.

“Lina,” he whined.

The exact same ledge his lycan form catapulted from in a frenzy to escape this crazy bitch’s evil, blood sucking spawn...

He flings me onto his back.

My arms immediately wrap around his neck and my legs secure tightly around his waist--the heat he radiates making my heart beat erratically and setting my core on fire.

Looking back, I thought I was brave then... valorous and audacious.

What a joke.

Understanding exactly what lay within this mountain, I know now that that courage wasn’t mine.

It was never mine.

I look to Theron for inspiration. The twinkle in his eye, the light heartedness I have been recently introduced to was completely gone. Old Theron is back, his gaze hard and steely, his lips turned downward and pressed into a thin line.

And while every fiber of my being screams at me to run and each thump of my heart does nothing to warm the blood that suddenly freezes within my veins, I don’t yield.

I don’t falter.

I do, however, grab Theron’s hand of which I am not the slightest bit ashamed. It reminds me he’s here and I’m not alone.

It was Theron who made me fearless...

Strong and fierce...

Theron, who brought out the best in me...

Theron, who wasn’t the only one that died that horrible day nearly two years ago...

Wiping spilt memories and shattered emotions from my cheeks, I move forward slowly. My timing is better this trip so I’m not in a hurry but if I am going to waste time, I would rather it not be drowning in my sorrows.

The fucking place still reeks of death and decay, the wet limestone extenuating the stench of rotting flesh and despairing tears and I no longer have Theron’s scent to latch onto for comfort.

Sifting through the distinguishing smells, I found Theron’s and chose to latch on to that.

I will never tire of forest and spice.

The coldness that suddenly consumes me isn’t only from the dropping temperature inside this death cave.

And as the ticking of her crab-like feet echo off the wet, stone walls of the deepest pit unknown to man, the evocations cannot be stopped.

Theron’s eyes turn from the comforting brown I know so well and love so much to the swirling colors I am so easily entranced by. He lifts his nose to the air and sniffs, “She knows we’re here.”

“Maiden,” she sings, sending a shiver down my spine I refuse to acknowledge as she peers at me from within her death hole. “Cat-ta-leeeen-a,” her red eyes glow in the pitch black that surrounds us. The annoyance in her voice is palpable and suddenly I recognize just how stupid I am.

“Brought treat?” She asked, hopefully.

“MINE,” Theron viciously snarled, pushing me behind him.

She giggled, “Of course...”

I really need to learn not to react solely on emotions.

I really need to learn to think logically.

I definitely need to fucking tell my friends when I decide to travel into this terrifying nightmare’s lair in search of answers.

Her head cocks to the side, curious, “Why you come?”

I could lie and say I came to extend my gratitude for her help at Superlunar but after two years of not being able to stomach this trip just for a simple thank you, it would only be empty words so I won’t bother with pleasantries, “I have questions only you can answer.”

“No worry Ancient. No hurt maiden. No. No. No... No hurt maiden. You need my help? Yes?”

“How do you know that?” Theron inquired, suspiciously.

“Know things. Lots of things. See lots of things...” she cried.

The queen laughs, almost bitterly, sending a chill down my spine like lightning to the ground, “Won’t always be key, Maiden. Won’t always need alive.” Her head bobbed up and down in affirmation, “One day, you no key no more. One day, you be food.”

One day...

But not today.

She jumps out from her hole, landing on her spindly legs with ease. They tap, clattering on the limestone as she approaches me, “Go home. Be with baby. Baby need you.”

Theon.

My heart aches at the thought of being so far away from him but this was something I had to do. I trusted Keeley to watch him... Anthony, maybe not so much as his obsessive compulsive disorder prevents him from even touching a drooling toddler but I didn’t have much choice.

The queen knows things...

Things I also need to know.

The sooner she gives me the information I seek, the sooner I can return to my son, “Is Theron alive?”

She snaps at the air around her, sharp and deadly teeth chattering. The chomp, chomp of her jowls reverberates around the cavernous space. “Baby impor-tant. Need safety,” her words slither.

Why does she keep repeating herself?

My patience is wearing thin and in doing so, I inadvertently snap. My tone is harsh, cold and curt, “He is safe!”

“You speak in circles--choppy cryptic words that give no real answers!”

Theron wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me back and trapping me between his chest and forearms.

“We did not come here to listen to your perplexing psychic bullshit! Are you going to help us or not? That’s all we need to know! Stop straying from the topic and answer the question!”

I risk only seconds to close my eyes, and take a deep breath. She wasn’t insulted by my disrespect last time, but today’s visit may be pushing it.

And Theron isn’t here as a deterrent.

I have to stay calm.

I have to reign in my beast. “I need to know about Theron and only you can tell me. Tell me what happened to you... what happened with Apollo?”

She instantly hisses ferociously at the mere mention of the sun god, “DEMON!”

My muscles tense as I witness her body come alive with unbridled agitation and now she cannot remain still. She scurries up the wall and back down again, hissing, screeching and squealing like an angry raccoon. “Kill! Kill! Kill! I kill meeeeee! He not let go! Hate A-pol-lo!”

I want to leave.

I want to run and never come back--never look back.

But I can’t.

“He returned you to this realm?”

“Cursed! Cursed me! Make me this!”

“Why?”

“Ven-geanccce,” she sibilates, hate seeping and soaking her tone like liquid to cloth. Her narrowed eyes penetrate every fiber of my being leaving me feeling naked and exposed, “Mad. Very mad. No let me die in peace. Now, no die. I no die. Ever. Hate A-pol-lo.”

If this were any other being, I may feel sympathy for such a life: wanting death yet never able to quite get there and still, not able to really live either. However, I remember exactly what nasty, despicable creatures come from her womb so--

Wait.

Her body structure confuses me and now I’m wondering how in the fuck she is able to reproduce.

Asexually?

Does she have a womb?

Or does she lay eggs?

I can’t imagine some male actually sticking his co--

Nope.

I push the mental imagine into the furthest recesses of my mind and move the fuck on, “Then it is possible for a God to bring someone back from the dead?”

She freezes, studying me... sifting through my soul, “You ask for Ancient. Want know-ledge. I not know that. Not know plans this time. Go to baby. I see baby. Keep safe.”

And there it is again.

The same demand.

The exact same cryptic warning that I can no longer ignore... Though I am not entirely certain I want to explore the reasoning for her repetitive bullshit, I know I must. It’s an unwilling, almost painful question that makes me grind my teeth and force it out before I change my mind, “Why do you keep saying that?”

“You know. You feel. In-stinct.”

Feel?

Feel what?

“I don’t know what you mean,” I cross my arms over my chest, some unintentional barrier that will shield me from whatever she is about to divulge.

“You do!” She insists with a spine chilling squeal, “You feel! She coming! Keep safe!”

She.

Something is coming...

Something that starts with a “w”...

Something that ends with an “itch.”

Fear grips me tight. It hitches my breath and sends a flash of heat to the back of my neck. “Mavina?” I assume breathlessly, praying I am wrong.

“Yes,” The queen jumps up and down, “Yes! Ma-vee-na! Yes! Yes!”

My heart drops and the only thing I feel now is sick.

My stomach twists and turns in anxious knots. Bile rises in the back of my throat and I have to choke out my next question, “She’s coming for Theon?”

The queen nods, a bit too enthusiastically for my liking.

Immediately, and without warning, my beast explodes to the surface because, damnit, I am a momma bear and Mavina is going to learn real fast what will happen if she dare even think about hurting my child. “She will not touch a single hair on my baby’s head!” The roar vibrates my chest and tickles my nauseated insides, doing nothing to alleviate the trepidation that hangs above me like a dark cloud.

“Maybe,” she shrugs, her voice casual, “Maybe not.”

Her nonchalance pisses me off and yet there isn’t much I can do about it. I may be a vicious beast but I am only one... I cannot force her to tell me anything.

“Can I stop her?”

“Maybe. Maybe not,” she says once more, “Something else coming. New player. Game change-er. Need be ready.”

The vamp’s sharp look drives her point home and that fucking, aggravating curious cat pops its head out from beneath the rock it has been hiding under since Theron’s death. “What is coming? Who is coming?” Because all I need right now is something else to be wary of.

“New player,” she turns her head, chattering her hellish teeth before her attention comes back to me. “Go home. Baby need.”

But that is not enough for me or this damn cat. I curse my curious nature madly, “What do you see?”

“Male. Maybe help. Maybe not. Up to you.”

Great, like I don’t currently have enough idiotic men in my life. Lets just add more debt to that insanely high grocery bill.

“What will happen?”

“Up to you. Good or bad. Up to you,” her cryptic babble does not grant me even the slightest hint and at this point in time I just want to give up because I know she is done speaking about that particular topic. Honestly though, it isn’t the most important inquiry I have at the moment.

My priority is my son.

“What does she want Theon for?” She has to give me something. Anything. A bread crumb, a snippet, a grain of fucking rice--I. Don’t. Care! I cannot prepare for ‘keep baby safe,’ it’s nothing to go off of!

“Blood,” she sneers, her teeth assaulting the invisible prey in front of her and suddenly, I can’t remember how to breathe.

The ground beneath me tilts, spinning on its axis and it seems as if my world has been yanked out from under me.

Where would I be without Theon?

Who would I be without Theon?

He is my life; the air that keeps my lungs filling and my heart pumping.

And he is my only link to Theron.

I cannot lose him.

I will not lose him.

“Go home. Keep baby safe. Keep all safe.”

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