Thinking Out Loud

There has been a lot of thought lately about life. And death. With these thoughts, come a roller coaster of ideas and wondering about what I would say to Rich and my kids if I had only a short amount of time left.

I hope that if I get the chance to tell them anything, it’s at least something worth its grain. I hope it makes sense. I hope the love and wonder and worry come across as it should, as I hope it would.

So, what would I say to them? How would I say it? I would tell them:

I’ve made mistakes in life. A lot of them. If there were areas of your life that you felt I was too hard, I probably was. But that is only because I’ve probably made the same mistakes, and learned from them. I’ve only ever wanted to teach you love, compassion, reality, hard work and dedication, and empathy. If I’ve ever overreacted about something, it’s because it is that important.

I have worked hard to give the life that I didn’t have. I may not have nailed it, but, I have tried harder on the family that I grew than anything I have ever wanted to try at.

My first lesson I want to give you is love. Without it, you will never be truely happy. Love even when you can’t. Love when you don’t want to. Love, and life will love you back.

Forgive. Forgiveness is key to a happy heart. Not everyone is nice. And not everyone deserves forgiveness. But to forgive means love yourself enough. And that is all that really matters.

Compassion. Without it, you wont be able to love, or forgive. To have compassion is to see the world through multiple eyes. Compassion is to love yourself enough to be able to maybe see things differently.

Family. Family is not everything. Cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins-Unfortunate as it is, family will sometimes stab you in the back faster than a stranger. But when I talk about family, I am talking about US. Your sisters, father, children (when you have them). That is family. People who will come running in the middle of the night without a second thought, who love you JUST. AS. YOU. ARE, that is family. Just because you’re related does not mean that you’re family. And just because you’re not blood doesn’t mean you’re not family. Have an open heart and you will have everyone you need in your life.

HONESTY. Honesty is KEY to any relationship. Sure, someone may not ever know that you lied about something. But you will. And it will eat at you and end up making you feel like you don’t deserve. Even when it hurts to your very core, be honest.

Never EVER take those you love for granted. They will eventually get tired of it and be done. I’m not talking about hurt, or sad. I’m talking about d.o.n.e. done.

Above all else, love each other. Be each others best friend. Be there for each other because at some point, they will be all you have.

And last but not least, just be a good person. If you follow your conscience, you will know how to be a good person. Don’t do drugs. Don’t  fall into bad habits, and be happy.

I love you.

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Red’s Blood Preface

The real story…..

Once, there was a young woman. Cursed with beauty that should have been inhuman, she lived a quiet life with her Mother on the farthest edge of a forest. She would sometimes visit with her Grandmother, who the townsfolk had labeled a witch, though nobody ever give the old Woman any trouble. For she was the one the townsfolk would go to when something ailed them. Some had even said that the Grandmother had woven her most powerful spell on her own Daughter when she became pregnant, making the unborn child a Goddess. Some had even said that her beauty could awaken the dead with her tears, for when they fell, it was Heavens rain falling to the earth.

One day, the Young Lady and her Mother churned sweet butter for the week ahead. The birds, butterflies, and bees were busy outside making their music that would always lull Mother into a mystical trance. She would see the future when the animals outside would sing their songs. As she fell deeper into trance, Bilja, the Young Lady knew what was happening.

“You must make haste, Bilja. Your Grandmother has fallen ill. Take her a small pot of sweet butter, and a helping of soup so she may feel well.”

As Bilja gathered her Grandmothers goodies that she needed, her mother fastened a red cloak around her shoulders, “Mother, it is barely Autumn. I don’t need this cloak.”

Mother looked sternly to Bilja and said, “Ah, that may be so, my dear Bilja, but as you know, your Grandmother wove this cloak of Magic. It is a protection from evil. And there are many evils that lurk in the woods come night fall. You must wear it to be safe, my beautiful daughter.”

Bilja smiled at her Mother as she grabbed a basket to pack the food for Grandmother. “Fine, I will do as you wish. But what am I to do if I become warm?”

Mother smiled a warm smile, “You shall run then!”

As Bilja headed down the small path from the small cottage, she heard her Mother yell out, “And Bilja, make haste. There are nasty, and evil things that lurk in the woods at night.”

“Yes Mother.” Bilja chimed back as she waved good-bye

As Bilja walked deeper into the woods, a feeling of dread swept over her. She could feel eyes peering out from a thicket of bush just to her left. Wiping sweat from the back of her neck, she hurried her pace, trying to get out of the thickest parts of the woods as fast as she can.

Thinking that she had heard a scream from not far away, Bilja turned to go back to the safety of her home, where her mother surely was going about the daily chores. Taking one step toward home, she stopped as several birds went flying from branches high in trees . Thinking it must have been their call, she turned back around and continued on to her Grandmothers house.

As Bilja came to another path that would take her out of the woods and safely to her Grandmothers house, she noticed a man napping under a big Oak tree. His jaw was hard-lined, and a hat covered dark greasy hair that fell just above his shoulders. The clothes he was dressed in looked old and was tattered, giving him an ominous air about him. Making sure to stay on the path, and not get too close to the stranger, Bilja slipped on a branch that was laying in the middle of the narrow walkway and almost lost her footing. “Well, Hello Little Red Riding Hood. Where are you heading so hastily this fine lazy day?” The man said from under his hat.

“I-um..I’m going to my Grandmothers.” she stammered.

“I shall accompany you then. To make sure you get to her safely.” The man said as he bounced up from his spot under the tree.

“Thank you, Sir. But that is not necessary. I must apologize, but I bid you farewell. For I am not allowed to speak to strangers. It is not appropriate for a girl to speak to a man she does not know. Good day to you.”

The strange man stood up, towering Bilja in height, and doubling her in size. “I was on my way to your Grandmothers house as well, and thought we could use each others company for the remainder of this short quest.”

Bilja became quickly on edge. Something was off about this strange Man. With questioning eyes, she looked at the Man, “You know my Grandmother?”

He tilted his hat, showing Bilja warm eyes that looked no more menacing than a puppies.

“Of course, silly little girl. She is the witch. Everyone knows the witch.”

“Oh.” Was all that Bilja could muster to say. Something was definitely off about this man, but she didn’t know what.

“Ah, I see, young girl. You still do not trust so easily. So beautiful and smart, you are. I will tell you what. We are both on our way to your Grandmothers, correct?”

“Yes.” Answered Bilja as she took a step back.

“Well then, you shall go on your path that you seem to have been taking, and I will go on this path.” He said as he pointed to the path opposite to the one Bilja was taking. “We can run, and see who gets to your Old Grandmothers first. A race of sorts.”

The path that the strange man would be on went through the thickest part of the woods. It would be hard for him to get through, and surely She would beat him to her Grandmothers house. Then she could warn her dear Grandma that a strange man was lurking in the woods.

The man stood up smiling as Bilja nodded her head, agreeing to the race. “Ok,” said the man, “Straight there. Do not wander from your path, for you may get lost…or lose the race.” he said as he smirked.

Bilja’s heart started to pound so hard in her ears that she almost couldn’t hear him. But she didn’t know if it was from the thrill of a race, or if it was from fear of this man. “I should warn you, Sir, that I am a very fast runner. On your word then?” she said, allowing her voice to sound more sure than she really was.

The man lobbed his head up and down as he said, “Ready…..steady…..GO!”

Before Bilja made her first pace, the man was gone. She set off running as fast as her legs would allow, pushing air through her lungs, making them burn for more. Trees and flowers whizzed past in a colorful blur. As she pumped her legs harder and harder, she ran faster and faster. Coming up to a fork in the road, Bilja knew that she had to take the left of the two paths. Eyeing a broken branch that had fallen directly in her path, she sprinted forward, hurdling it with ease. With her speed, she would be at Grandma’s in just a few more minutes, and surely would beat the strange man from just a moment ago.

She had been running for almost ten minutes non-stop by the time she got to Grandmas house. When she finally skidded to a stop at the door, her legs almost gave out. Grasping at a stitch in her side, and trying to catch her breath, she knocked at the door.

“Who is knocking at my door?” came a deep throaty voice.

That did not sound like Bilja’s Grandma at all. She must have a wretched cold to sound so feverish, Bilja thought. “It is your Loving Granddaughter, Bilja. Mother has sent me to you to bring you a basket of goodies.” Bilja said through deep breaths.

“Well then, open the latch Dear, and the hook will fly in.” Groaned the voice from inside.

As Bilja opened the door, darkness assaulted her vision. The only light that came from the room was from a single candle on the far end of the wall, and that was almost spent. As she walked inside, her eyes adjusted to the dark as much as they could, and she saw a rather large lump laying in the middle of the bed. Something didn’t set well with Bilja, but she shrugged it off as her adrenalin was still pumping from the run, and maybe Grandma had extra covers on. She was sick after all.

When Bilja didn’t move to get any closer to the bed, ’Grandmas’ voice came out huskier than she thought it should, “Come closer sweet Granddaughter. Set the basket down on the table, and crawl in bed. You must need a rest from your trip. Yes?”

Taking a step to the side, so she could be a little closer to the door, Bilja said, “I am young. And the exercise is good for me.” Bilja stood there eyeing the lump in the bed. The covers pulled up to his nose, the man pretending to be Grandma said, “Well, you might as well stay anyway. Tis a full moon out tonight, and I would dread for you to get caught by one of the many creatures that lurk in the full moon’s light.” He patted the bed, “Now, come rest, and be a Dear and check if I may be fevered.”

As Bilja walked to the foot of the bed, she saw big eyes unlike her Grandmothers. As she reached for the blanket that always laid at the foot of Grandma’s bed, Bilja knew that this was her only chance. She grasped the blanket in her hand and hesitated to go any further. “What is it, Dear child?” the Man asked. Bilja knew she only had one chance, and better get it right. She could hear blows from an ax echoing outside. It wasn’t far away. Maybe she could get to the woodsman before the man caught her. Taking a deep breath in, and making sure that she wouldn’t lose her legs, she said, “But Grandmother, my cloak. Has it lost its magic?”

The mans eyes grew confused. “Magic?” he asked. “Silly Grandmother. You still love to jest even though you are not well. Of course magic! Did you not tell me to wear the red hood and cloak each and every time I traveled into the woods?” The mans eyes narrowed on the cloak that Bilja still wore. “Ahh. You know old women and their stories, Young one. Now, be a dear and take that dreaded cloak off and climb into bed with me.”

Bilja took a step back, “No ‘Grandmother’. I don’t think I shall.” Anger flashed in the strangers eyes. “Get in this damned bed now!” He bellowed so loud that Bilja jumped. In one fluid movement, she flung the blanket over his head and ran out the door.

If she could only get to the woodsman, she may be safe. Almost to the gate. A hard hit to the middle of her back had her flying to the ground. Before she knew what was happening, red filled her sight. Hot liquid seeped from her leg, cooling almost instantly as the air hit it. A mans screams rang in her ears, but she couldn’t understand the words. He was trying to take off her cloak. Each time he tried to untie the hood, shocks bit into his skin making him howl in pain.

Feeling her flesh rip from her throat made Bilja want to wretch. But she laid perfectly still. She knew she wouldn’t die from this, but that didn’t mean that he had the same knowledge. New pain had been felt. Never before had Bilja felt her life’s blood seep away. As much as she wanted to open her eyes, she had to lay perfectly still because he was an arms reach away.

His gruff voice came low in her ear, “You will die knowing nothing else but the echoing of my name. Fenris.” His foot shuffled in the dirt before he started to walk away. As Bilja imagined that this Fenris was taking his leave, she heard two distinct thuds, and what sounded like men grappling, followed by grunting and growling.

And then…silence.

A crack of sunlight filtered through a window across the room, illuminating dancing specks of dust that floated in the small room. “Good. You’re awake.” came a gruff voice from a dark corner. Bilja sat up, “Who is that? Who is there?” panic rising with each word.

“Don’t worry. I killed him, Miss. I must to say, he did do a number on you though. I thought we would lose you…more than once.” The man said.

“Come closer; so I may see you better.” said Bilja, though she could see just fine.

She knew almost instantly that she was different. She knew that there was something wrong. Was it from something the man had done to her? Or was it the stranger and what he had done to her? She had to know. “What happened?” she asked the man. He was double her size, but she knew that he could not harm her, nor would he.

“You have slumbered for many days, Miss. It is no wonder that you do not remember. That monster must have knocked your memory right out!” He said as he slipped into the chair that sat next to the fragile looking bed. “Monster?” she asked.

“Yes, Miss! He was horrible! I have never in all of my forty-five years seen anything like him before. Grotesque! He was a mangy looking dog that stood on his hind legs! I…I was so shocked that I just swung my-” a trembling hand reached into his pocket and pulled a cloth to wipe beads of sweat that had started to form on his forehead.

Bilja’s eyes went wide. Thinking about the strange man from the woods sent chills up her spine, but the words that this man spoke sent vivid pictures flying to her mind that scared her to the bone. Staring straight ahead, she said nothing.

Bilja wouldn’t have noticed the Man standing had it not been for the glint of light that reflected off the silver ax that came swinging wildly toward her.

Jumping from the bed, she sprinted out the door as the man yelled after her, “The monster bit you! You will turn to be just as he was! Come back so I may save your soul!”

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Chapter 14

 As Billie came skidding to a halt on the gravelled driveway, she noticed that the old women standing with Marie and Serenity in a circle formation. In the middle of the circle stood Saba. His skin was pulsing from a dark metallic, back to it’s normal Caribbean looking complexion. His panic could be felt in Billie’s core. She slowly moved forward as she heard the thrum of a low hum coming from each woman. The energy was potent, almost making Billie drunk with the electricity that it brought. Mason came bustling out of the woods with Dvalin hot on his heals. Saba wasn’t a werewolf. But he definitely wasn’t Saba, the ‘Man’ either. Something other shown from the depths of his eyes. Billie didn’t know what it was. Mason was edging his way closer to the circle that seemed to be keeping Saba from leaving, not to mention it was keeping the others safe from whatever magick was possessing him. “What do I do?” Billie asked the circle of women at large. “Use your Alpha to calm him, Bil.” Serenity offered. Billie had only done it once before, and that was just moments ago. Would she be lucky enough to be successful at it again? So soon? She had to try. Mason knew what she was going to try. He gently laid a hand on her shoulder and breathed into her ear, “be completely calm before you go in. And don’t feel bad if it takes a couple of tries, Love. We are all pretty new at this.” Billie looked at Mason, “Thanks. I feel so much better now.” Mason shrunk back, looking sullen, “Sorry.” he mumbled. Billie stole a glance behind her and saw that Dvalin and John were watching her, judging her every move. As she let a deep breath fill her lungs, she was conscious of her lungs expanding. Slowly letting the breath out through her mouth, she concentrated on calming every part of herself. As Billie walked into the center of the circle where Saba was, she could feel the pulsating anger that emanated from deep within Saba’s core. Everyone that held the circle could hear Billie making calming sounds as she tried to soothe Saba. She was well aware of what was about to happen. As She inched closer to him, never breaking eye contact, Saba lowered his head as he peered from at her. She could feel it coming. His anger was explosive, and more geared toward her than any of the others were aware. Within the smallest measurement of time, Saba leaped and grabbed Billie’s shoulder with his now gnarled mouth that was somewhere in between transition from man to beast. Billie screeched in pain. In that same instant, Mason tried to enter the circle. Marie pushed him back with a giant force. He flew in the air and landed somewhere near the half way point from the circle to the woods. Marie never broke eye contact with the circle. Even though Billie was in pain, she noted the older woman’s strength. Even in pain, Billie continued to keep eye contact with Saba. As she tried to use her alpha calming effect on him, he let out several gasps of air and whimpered. Mason stayed on the outer edge of the circle, his eyes feral looking. Billie used her free hand to stroke Saba’s jet black hair. “It’s okay, Saba. No one will hurt you. Calm…calm…” she said in a soft whisper. Saba looked from Billie to the witches who were keeping him inside the circle. He was confused and scared. Billie stole a glance to Mason, beckoning him to join her and Saba. As Mason made his way to the middle of the circle, he could feel Billie’s Alpha pressing down on him. The further inside he got, the harder it was for him to walk. The weight of the Alpha was a curious sensation, giving him the feeling of being weighted down and at the same time forcing him closer and closer to the center of the circle; closer to Billie. Under her spell, Mason dropped to his knees, glancing up to Saba. As he elongated his neck, letting Saba know that Mason saw him as superior, Saba loosened his grip. “That’s good, Saba. That’s it.” Billie cooed Marie and the others were constantly humming something that sounded Native American. As Saba completely let go of Billie’s arm, Mason inconspicuously wriggled in between Billie and Saba. He continued to show Saba that he was submitting. Time dragged on forever in the course of a few moments. Mason was protecting Billie as he offered himself to Saba. He was showing a part of his own Alpha; one that he did not know existed. Marie’s eyes grew wider as she watched everything play out in front of her. Billie wasted no time in taking up the lead role that Saba had at first gained. Letting out a feral bark and commanding him, “Saba! Still!” even the air stopped circulating. She was getting more and more aggravated. Every time she thought she was gaining a foothold, something else would happen and make Billie rethink everything from her first step, to her last. She was growing tired, and just wanted it to end already. As she looked down at Mason’s exposed neck, her mind slipped back to a time long ago. The same faces shown in the ghosts of her memories past, she was witnessing Mason, hundreds of years earlier. He struggled against a hooded figure as the unknown murderer struggled to get Mason to lay his head on the old tree stump. Someone standing close to the assassin came forth and bound Masons hands behind his back. Shoving him down, a nameless face grabbed Mason by the hair and smacked his face on the old stump. A glimmer of light reflected off of something sharp. With a loud thud, Billie was watching Mason’s head roll away from his body. Everyone was watching Billie with curiosity as she allowed the flashback to play out. The ghosts that only she could see were imbedded in the back of her eyelids, like the flicker of a flame after being watched. When she opened her eyes again, Billie felt a pulsating growing from her hands. Looking down, she was shocked to see that her hands were balled into tight fists. It took only a second to find Serenity’s face. One glance and Billie knew that Serenity had witnessed everything she had just seen in her mind. She looked for Marie and saw the same look that Serenity had given. It was too late now. They knew her secret; one of them at least. Noting that the danger had passed, Billie loosened her posture a little. Saba stood there, half-formed, not quite a man, not quite a beast. He slunk over to Billie’s side and sat, looking at Mason. “Do you mind telling me what the fuck is going on?!” Billie spat out. Marie flinched back, looking bitten, “No need in using that disgusting language, Dear. I have a suspicion of what is going on though, and, well, to be quite honest, I don’t think you will be too happy about it.” Marie answered Serenity stepped inside of the circle. Her eyes wore dark, baggy circles from sleepless nights; pining over the loss of Agmund. She looked sallow, her clothes hung loosely from her, giving her a disheveled look. But she was here. She was participating. And that was by leaps and bounds better than the days past. As she put a hand lightly on Saba’s shoulder, everyone could instantly feel the calm. He let out a sigh as Serenity helped him up and away from Billie. Mason slowly stood up. He was a head taller than Billie, but somehow looked smaller; less important. “Bil, love. Calm down. Saba needs your calmness right now, and uhh, frankly, so do we.” Mason said softly. Billie’s rage was at the surface. Her eyes danced from wolf-like back to her beautiful green as she said with a constricted voice, “I don’t give a damn who needs my calmness right now, Mason! What I need right now are those …. things to make that leash thing for that mutt! Because guess what?! If you are unaware of this little tidbit, I have one of two choices! I can either, A: be his bitch. Which I’m sure that would sound lovely if I were to want to be mounted by a monster. Or B: I let him kill me. Which I am positive that would be a rather exciting fight to the finish, but seeing as he is oh, I don’t know? Ancient?!! He has a helluva’ lot more experience with this than I do. I am sure it would be finished rather quickly. So, no, I do not really think I care too much who needs my calmness right now when I’m freaking the fuck out!” She said in a huff. Billie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Not looking at anyone, she walked out of the circle. “Saba will be fine until I get back.” One of the old women asked as Billie continued to walk, “Why hasn’t he fully changed though?” Not looking back, Billie answered, “He hasn’t accepted the change. It will come regardless. He’s just fighting a lost cause at this point.” She yelled back as she continued to walk toward the woods. Glancing at Dvalin was all he needed. He looked around before ducking into the line of trees. The crunch of the forest floor happily welcomed Billie and Dvalin as they quietly walked in succession toward the middle of the woods. Slowing down several times so Dvalin could catch back up, Billie’s patience was wearing thin. She didn’t say anything. That suited Dvalin just fine, because she wasn’t his prime candidate for company anyway. They seemed to have a mutual understanding about John though. They both wanted to keep him safe. Though for different reasons, Billie accepted that as a sort of truce. But that was the only thing she had to work with, and gritted her teeth as she decided that that would be the reason she would try to keep the peace with Dvalin. She had a feeling that he would be helping her with gathering some of the things she needed. And right now, that was her main objective. She couldn’t keep allowing herself to be distracted because of Mason, or Serenity, or even Marie for that matter. What seemed like hours later, Dvalin pointed a thick, dirty finger to a rather large tree; perhaps the same one he was sitting at earlier, Billie thought. With a stiff lip, she nodded as she followed him to the base. Watching him scratch his nail in an intricate pattern on the trunk, the design that he was drawing with his fingernail started to glow a golden light and the soft ground started to vibrate. Billie hadn’t been ready to watch a tree lift up it’s gnarled roots high enough for someone to slip underneath it. Dvalin laid on the ground and rolled inside of the tree. Billie’s eye’s went wide when she saw his finger peek out and summon her to follow suit. The smell of the dirt floor gave Billie a shiver. She thought about the moon and how the forest floor felt under her padded feet. Shaking her head she shoved off and rolled inside the tree. The smell was almost overpowering with a dank rotting earthy smell. Billie wrinkled her nose as she looked around. The space she and Dvalin was in was lit by a small torch. Knotted tree roots and clumps of dirt hung haphazardly over their heads. Shadows danced around them, giving a cramped feeling. Billie heard muffled noises. She turned to Dvalin, “What is that?” she asked. “Tis’ the Gnomes of the Mother Earth, Miss.” He said, his voice softer than usual. “Gnomes? They live down here?” Nodding his head once, “Yes, Miss. Where else do you think they would be? They have to tend to the life that comes from underneath, don’t they?…” Billie didn’t say anything, but her expression was all Dvalin needed. “Hmm.” he growled as he turned to head down a narrow passageway. Billie followed quietly. After a very uncomfortable trek through the passageway, they came to an opening. It was a cavern illuminated by not only torches, but hundreds of thousands of jewels that were inlaid in the thick walls. It sparkled and shone and gave the illusion that there were thousands of stars to help light the area. As Billie’s eyes adjusted to the lighting, she noticed dozens, maybe hundreds of gnomes all running around working at different stations, doing whatever it was that they were doing. They were all dressed similarly with muddy brown clothes, bare feet, and they all wore the same sour expression. None seemed to notice the newcomers, so Billie tried to take in as much as she could before Dvalin grabbed her wrist firmly and drug her to the right. Ushering Billie toward another tight opening, Dvalin lead Billie down another corridor that seemed to be taking them deeper into whatever it was they were in. As the corridor opened up, Billie noticed a throne made of roots and dirt. Intricate patterns emerged on either side of what looked like Celtic knot work. Another Gnome sat at the height of this ornate chair. From the looks of it, Billie couldn’t tell if the gnome was male or female. It’s filthy hair hung in it’s face, threatening to obstruct it’s sight. “Dvalin!” screeched the gnome that sat on the throne. “Come here boy.” she said with a menacing tone. Billie looked to Dvalin, and thought that he looked the same as he usually did. She wished she could read his expression like she could most other people. But with Dvalin, that wasn’t the case. He always looked the same. As Dvalin started toward the one who summoned him, Billie grabbed his stubby hand and tried to keep close. He glanced back at her, and quickly stuck his chest out to give the impression that he was her protector. “Is this she?” asked the gnome that Billie now knew was female. “Yes, Mother” answered Dvalin “Ahh. I see. Very good; very good indeed! You did well, my son. Maybe all is not lost after all.” she said as a coy smile stretched across her wide face. “Indeed, all is not lost, Mother.” Dvalin said as he gave a curt nod. Billie looked from one to the other. “Why do I feel like you’re talking about me?” The female answered, “Because we are.” She blankly stared at Billie for a moment before turning back to Dvalin. “Is she always this dim?” Dvalin put his head down to look at the floor, his foot nudging dirt around as though it was instantly more interesting than their exchange. “Uhh, yes, Mother. She has not had formal training and does not know much. And even though John has been above, trying to nudge her to a knowledgeable point, I am afraid his attempts were not successful.” “I see.” said the female as she pursed her lips together. Billie stood as straight as she could, “Hello?! I’m standing right here. You wanna’ not pretend like I am not standing in the same room as you while you have a little chat about me?” Billie said, aggravation tipping her anger. Dvalin and the female looked at her, and then back again and continued their conversation. “But, there has been progress. She has found out about the tether, as well as the fey have come out and offered their prize.” “Really now?” said the female who was now sitting up in her chair. Dvalin nodded his head in a pleased sort of way, “Yes. Things are looking up now I think.” “And what about John’s wounds?” “They are healing now thanks to the witches.” The female sat thoughtful for a moment. A thought occurred to her as she sat back in her chair, “Very well then. Give the item to her. She is closer than I thought.” Two new gnomes brought a glass jar that was filled with something that looked stringy and muddy. Upon closer inspection, Billie noticed that whatever was in the jar was moving like tentacles. Taking the jar, she asked, “What is it?” The female laughed as she waved a stubby hand at Billie, “My dear it is one of the items you so desperately need for our people to make the tether, to make your life easier.” Billie blinked, not understanding, “But what is it exactly?” “What this jar contains is a very powerful item. One of which cannot be taken by anyone other than our people. It is the roots of a mountain that you seek. And it is roots of a mountain that fills that jar you hold. Now, go. I believe that you are needed above.” Dvalin ushered Billie back the way they came as quickly as he could. The trek back above ground seemed shorter than their decent underground. Within minutes, fresh air filled Billie’s lungs, and the full moon overhead made her instantly start to transfigure.

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Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Billie knew that she loved Mason with every fiber of her being, but it didn’t change the fact that she was old. She wouldn’t admit that she was set in her ways, but pride kept her from reaching out to him. As the days grew, their bond faded. A distant memory it seemed one day when Billie allowed herself to think about what seemed too few a stolen moments between them. Her heart ached. Had she not been so miserable with her own pain, she would have noticed that his heart ached just as badly as hers did.

On the upside, she did have one of the unattainable. But she knew that she had no idea where to find the rest. Shoving off of the lounge chair to find Marie, Mason walked into the room. Bowing her head so she didn’t have to look at him, she headed for the door. As she walked past Mason she couldn’t help but to stop for the smallest amount of time to drink in his scent; a woodsy, earthy scent with a hint of something musky perhaps? Mason noticed the pause and grabbed her arm.

Billie’s head shot up , her eyes wide. His eyes seemed to be dancing from blue to green; animalistic almost. “I love you” he whispered. A deep thrumming ran down her body like electricity. Until now, she had ignored the deep yearning to be close to him. Shaking her head, trying to make it clear, all those days came flooding to the front of her memory. A deep threatening growl escaped from deep in her throat. Mason’s eyes shot wide with shock. “Bil, Love, don’t be angry. I-…” his words faded as Billie cut in, “Bil, Love-NO! You hurt me Mason. I mean really, really hurt me. Marie’s right. I am a monster. And almost from the very beginning you knew that.”

Mason tried to speak, “But Bil,”

Billie turned her back, “No! You don’t get to apologize. I want you to hurt! I want you to hurt the same way I have hurt! I want you to feel like an animal, like I do. Why do I have to do this alone? Why do you get the option of staying or leaving after I have been honest with you? Answer me that, Mason!”

Mason ran a hand down his face as he tried to keep calm. Raising his hands in submission, his eyes welled with tears, “Look, I didn’t know that you were….were…” he shook his head. “But what I do know is this: I fell in love with the woman you are! Not the animal you become every full moon. Yeah, ok! I got really freaked out when you…well…you know. But don’t you see? I just needed a little time is all. It’s not every day that your girlfriend…well…you know. And then I just didn’t know how to respond to that properly. Give me a break Billie! I’m only human.” Billie crossed her arms, “Human?” she said with much sarcasm, “No. Not even close. Did you forget that you had a bushy little tail that night? Did you forget that you had a werewolf between some very pointy K9 teeth?” Mason looked like he had been slapped. Billie could see the sting of her words so she decided to back down a little. “Listen, Fenris took my humanity. When I met you I…it felt like I got it back. But I can’t be with you if every time I do something you get grossed out about it. This is who I am; what I am. And if you can’t accept every part of me, human and animal, than I think it would be best if I left.”

Mason looked as though Billie had just threw ice water on him. “No. You can’t leave.” He had closed the gap between them in a few short strides and grabbed her arms. He knew he couldn’t hurt her, and even if he could he wouldn’t have tried. “I’m trying to apologize to you, but you are making it very difficult, Love.” Billie’s heart almost leaped out of her chest. She pondered his words for a moment. With great difficulty, she fought a lump in her throat as she asked “Ok, so the next time I do something that is…unsavory, how do I know you wont act like this again? Because honestly Mason, I don’t think I can take another round of this again. Do you know that you are the first person in a long time that I’ve let in? Can you honestly comprehend how absolutely vulnerable I feel right now?” Mason grabbed her around her waste, “No. I wont pretend to know, or to understand. But I do know this, Love. I love you so much that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” Billie’s breath caught in her throat. Her jaw dropping, she couldn’t hide her surprise. “Mason, are you?…Are you asking me to?…” she questioned with a shaky voice. Mason’s eyes lit up, “Yeah. Yeah I guess I am.” he stammered as he started to blush, “I mean…unless you don’t want to, then uhh…” Billie’s face lit up brighter than it had in a long time; never like that in front of Mason. Jumping into his arms, “Of course I do!” she squealed, not hiding her elation at all. Questions started burning in her mind. “So,” Billie asked with a mile wide grin, “Where do we go from here?”

Marie bustled into the room, stopping dead in her tracks. “Marie!” Billie’s sing-song voice exclaimed “You’ll never guess what!”

Marie looked from Billie to Mason and back again as she set a rather heavy load of books on the coffee table, “Yes, yes you two lovebirds finally made up. Splendid! Grand even…now we need to talk. There are a few things that we need to prepare for, and it just cannot wait I am afraid.” Mason and Billie exchanged quick glances as Marie shuffled through a stack of papers as thick as a phone book until she came across a sheaf of parchment. “Ah, here we are. Now then, you two take a seat.” she pointed with a free hand, “We need to make a plan. Billie’s grandmother was very thorough in her notes and I’m afraid I have wasted a bit more time with my research than I probably should have.”

Billie could feel the seriousness that Marie was emanating and sat down without question. Mason looked at Billie and sat next to her without a word. Marie’s blouse was haphazardly buttoned, the cloth puckered out where a button had been missed. She quietly perched a pair of wire rimmed glasses on the bridge of her nose, instantly magnifying the dark, puffy circles that encompassed her eyes. Her skin had a sallow sort of glow that was reminiscent of someone dead.

Clearing her throat, Marie held the sheaf of parchment gently and said, “This page is very interesting, Dears. It seems to be your family tree, Billie.” Billie gave a quizzical look, “Okay…but how is that supposed to help us in finding the things for the tether?”

“In my experiences, I have found that the things we need always seem to find a way to those who need it most. And I think that you will find this information very useful in your quest to defeat Fenris.”

Mason looked confused, “Marie, just spill it. You said yourself that we are running out of time, so lets not do a word waltz today, okay?”

Marie gave a short nod, “You are quite right, Nephew. So I will just explain it like this: Back in the days of the Gods and Goddesses, they would mate with each other, trying to join all of each half’s best qualities into a God or Goddess to make them unconquerable. And for a time, that worked well. Until the Godly bloodline became so tangled that they started to produce something other than new, stronger Gods. In their long standing close mating, the fruits became crab apples; monsters. Things that the Gods of the time found difficult, if not impossible to control, or direct. One of these such beings was known by several names, but you know him best as Fenris.”

“The father of Fenris had quite the reputation for wanting human lovers. He figured out that by mating with humans, he could produce a mini-god of sorts, a demi-God if you will. After seeking out such a human that could carry a god-like child, he wooed her, entrancing her to believe that he truly loved her, and she him. Once the baby was born, he had a very powerful spell put on her to believe that a sweet old woman was her mother. In fact, the sweet old woman was a Goddess, that some have read about and know her as ‘Grandmother Spider’. She spins her web of love, or deceit, and then the fates are sealed. She has very powerful magick, and when called back, sits in the kingdom of the Gods. Grandmother Spider was your Grandmother, Bil. The human was your mother. And that is why you are a part of this fantasy world that everyone believe are tales and myth.” Billie couldn’t speak. The noticeable lump in her throat was so big she could hardly breathe.

Mason’s mouth hung open; he had caught the bit of information that Marie was telling Billie. “That just can’t be true, Marie. It’s…” Marie interrupted, “I am afraid that every bit is true. Billie, Fenris is your half brother.”

Trying not to wretch, Billie breathed heavily until the feeling of getting sick passed. “That is disgusting. Are you trying to tell me that my…my brother wants to mate with me?”

Marie closed her eyes and nodded heavily, “Yes.” she sighed, “But you have to understand that he does not think in the same ways you or I do. He is from a world of Gods’. He thinks as they do. Mating with another who holds specific power, or attributes, for them is the only way to ensure that their race continues to thrive. Our morals or laws of what is or is not right doesn’t apply to them. He sees you as a means to get what he needs; what he wants; what will keep his race, as well as his agenda alive.”

Since Marie had started, Mason turned about three different shades of green. He put his arm protectively around Billie, “So I don’t expect a nice silver bullet would work, would it?”

Marie gave a hearty chuckle, “No, I’m afraid not.”

Billie straightened up, “So how does this information help us to get any closer to any of the things that we need to find?” she thought out loud.

Marie thoughtfully said, “I suppose if you were to think about it for a moment, you can learn a lot from the enemy just by piecing together their motivation. But please, bear in mind that there is such a thing as ’over-thinking’ too.” she shrugged as though the answers were clearly written. That being said, we know that you and he share a part of the same blood line. We know that whether his intention is to try to woo you, or use you, either way, he is a man. Men are such possessive, jealous creatures naturally that I think it is safe to ascertain that he is, or will be jealous of Mason. That could have the potential to be dangerous I think. But it is a start none the less.” she smiled a coy smile.

Marie’s expression reminded Billie of a cat that ate the canary. She was intrigued. “Just because Fenris has the potential to be ’jealous’, I don’t see how that would help us to get any closer to finding the unattainable.” Billie said

This time, Mason smiled. His was big and genuine. He understood what Marie was saying, and couldn’t believe that Billie had missed it. “Love, I think what Aunt is trying to say is that since Fenris uhh wants you, he will almost undeniably be jealous. And jealousy has brought many people down in the past. How can he be so different? His jealousy will give us a map of his actions before he even thinks them…hopefully.”

Billie sat thoughtful for a moment. She had a sickening feeling in her stomach that what Marie and Mason had deduced was not going to be a good and fool-proof plan. The walls felt closer. A tightening in her chest almost made Billie want to scream. Thinking back, she realized she hadn’t left Mason’s house since the attack on John and Saba. “I have to think. I need a walk.” Billie finally said as she got up to walk out the back door.

Once Billie was outside, Marie looked at Mason in an all business sort of way, “You do realize that the full moon is two days away?”

“No. I didn’t”

“Well, I don’t think she does either. Fenris will be on the prowl for her. Not that you can do much to fight him off. But your animal may.”

Mason blinked like she had just thrown ice water on him. He knew she was right, and without another word, he got up and quietly walked out the door, walking toward his soul mate. Walking toward his destiny.

The crunch of the leaves were a love song to Billie’s ears. She allowed the cool, crisp air to nip at her. It was a welcomed feeling; one that she couldn’t wait to experience. She was always more at peace when Fall threatened to turn to winter, and let a calm that she hadn’t felt in a long time, wash over her and envelope her. Stopping for a moment on the edge of the woods, Billie peered through the trees. Was she sensing something, or was that just an over active imagination that had her nerves standing on edge? Someone was behind her, lurking. Her heart starting to race, her breathing becoming shallower, she stood there for a moment, waiting for the slightest sign that her assailant came closer.

It only took about a half a minute for the snap of a twig coming from behind Billie for her to turn on her heal ready to fight. Her wolf form dangerously close to coming out, her eyes gleaned the same glean that could only be seen when looking at her animal. Mason jumped back, his hands up in surrender, “Whoa, Bil! S’just me, Love.” Billie sighed and let her guard down, “Shit Mason! You scared me half to death!” though her sigh of relief was audible as her shoulders sank down to their normal position.

“So,” Mason asked, “Where ya’ off to?” Billie plunged her hands into her jeans pockets, “Nowhere in particular. Just trying to gather my thoughts. And you thought you’d tag along?” Mason smirked as he raised his eyebrows, “Sure. If you don’t mind that is.” Billie shrugged her shoulders as they walked for some time.

Walking toward the middle of the woods, Mason said, “I’ve never been in this far.” Billie could feel the tension that he was trying to hide. She thought for only a moment when she came to an idea. ‘Wolves can share their calm with their pack. If Marie is right than I should be able to share my calm with Mason.’ she thought. Not sure how exactly to do it, she thought of a time when someone is so happy that everyone around them becomes happy too. In theory, it sounded good. But Billie had magick that she had never even tried to share with anyone and if she boggled it up, she may make matters worse for him. “Hey, I want to try something with you, ok?” she asked. Mason stopped walking and looked at her. “Close your eyes.” she said quietly. Before he knew what she was going to try to do, he felt a warm gust of air blow between them. The air felt warm and sweet, reminding him of a warm spring day that promised summer momentarily. His chest loosened, and his muscles relaxed. A shy grin spread across his face, “How did you do that?”

Billie’s eyes smiled, “I don’t really know how to explain it. But it worked?”

“Yeah” he answered, smiling.

“Good. I need you to be calm right now. The pull of the moon is getting really hard, so I need you to be calm too. Otherwise, no one would like my wolf this time round.” Her words were light, but something about her annunciation, her body language, her core, threatened violence and pain. It made Mason want to wince and shy away. But the magick that Billie threw on him worked well. He was nothing but calm. He thought to himself that he should be a nervous wreck. The attack never strayed far from his thoughts when he was in the woods, and by now, he should probably be having a nervous breakdown. But he wasn’t; he walked in the depths of the woods, hand in hand with a beautiful woman whom he loved so deep that even he couldn’t understand.

He feasted on the beauty of Billie, not saying anything but allowing her to lead him to wherever they were to go. Almost in a trance, he stumbled when she came to a halt. Billie’s voice came out in a rush, “Dvalin! What are you doing here?”

Dvalin was lazing at the bottom of what was probably the biggest oak in the woods. The trunk of the massive tree supported his wide back and shoulders as gnarled roots twined and twisted around his legs. He always wore an unreadable expression, so neither Billie nor Mason could figure out his mood. But Dvalin was a lot like a pickled egg. It was there and everyone wanted to experience it, but no one wanted to take that first bite to see how sour it is. “I might ask you the same thing, Miss.” he answered in a gruff voice.

Mason answered, “Just taking a walk, Dvalin. You?”

Dvalin looked from his right to his left, “I, uhh, just taking a rest. John?” Billie smiled at the thought of a creature being so hard to everything, still wanting to check on his brother. “He’s fine, Dvalin. He was going to come looking for you yesterday, but he is still healing, so I thought it best that he stayed close to the house and rest.”

Dvalin’s expression was unfaltering, but his anger was unmistakable, “Yes, Goddess. Because you did such a fine job in keeping brother safe from harm last time.” He stood up to show his full height, which would have been laughable, except for the sheer devastation he could cause if provoked. Billie stood there, blinking back tears that instantly came flooding, almost spilling over. Mason’s jaw clenched and released several times. Dvalin’s black eyes gave a threatening glare, “Yes. You did wondrous things that night, did you not? To say that you will protect my brother is akin to me saying that I would protect you. And I’m sure we both know that would never happen. You, ‘My Lady’ are no Goddess. You just happened across ancient magick that affected you. Nothing more. You are nothing more than a human with a few slightly…less human characteristics.” Mason looked like he wanted to beat Dvalin to a bloody pulp, but knew somehow that would be detrimental. “How dare you say that to her! You have no idea what she has been through, Dvalin! None! And yet you berate her like…like she is some sort of common dog? How dare you?!”

Dvalin’s skin started to take on the look of the earth, rich browns and tans, his eyes turned green like the color of the leaves, his hair a lush dark green like a meadow. The stench of rotting earth arose from his body. “DO. NOT. TELL. ME. What I can or cannot say, or do in regards to her.” He pointed a stubby dirty finger toward Billie as she winced back. Her voice was thick, “What have I ever done to you? You have no reason to treat me like this. And I-”

“Because you spilled blood! You spilled it right in front of me, Miss! Didn’t you?!”

“What?…what does me killing that monster have to do with anything, Dvalin? I don’t understand!”

“You don’t understand? You do-” he stopped and looked around for a moment, Mason thought it was because he was trying to calm himself. “You honestly have no idea? No inkling of what you almost did? Of what almost happened that night?”

“No.” Billie said sharply.

“Honestly, woman!” he yelled in a half growl.

Mason stepped in between Billie and Dvalin. “Who do you think you are playing with? If there was anything that she did wrong, it was unknowingly. You seem to not understand that Billie was not privy to the rules and regulations of the supernatural world, unlike yourself. She had to go it alone, didn’t she?! For hundreds of years, she wandered this world completely alone. Completely clueless. And like a cruel joke, she was thrust into this world by a twist of fate accidental meeting with the beast that did this to her!” he yelled as he pointed a stiff finger at Billie.

Dvalin looked from one to the other, “Doesn’t matter.” he said pointedly, his face contorted as if he smelled something foul. “People have accidentally been thrust into this world of existence for a thousand years and have never done something so stupid and reckless as she did!”

Mason took a deep breath, “Ok Dvalin. What exactly did she do?”

Dvalin stood straight, giving the illusion that he was taller than he actually was, “By her spilling blood in front of me, she almost bound me to her! And make no mistake, Sir! I shall not be bound by any creature. And certainly not by the likes of her!”

Mason and Billie both blinked and instantly gave a blank look. Dvalin knew that they were telling the truth by their reaction. He sighed as he pressed his shoulder to the rough surface of the large tree. “Some of us; some dwarves have been known to be enslaved by what they covet most. I may be of the earth, but Millennia ago, the earth was bathed in blood. I was there. The smell, the taste, the feel of the warm and sticky and wet gave me a hunger. A hunger for more. Quickly I was at the center of much blood spilling. And for longer than I care to remember, I was a servant, a prisoner of the blood. It was like gold to me. When the great mother and father realized that I stood in the center of all the war, and murder and death, they cast me into what you might consider exile. But I would consider the bowels of Hell. I was locked in the core of the Earth to do it’s bidding and so I would be away from any who may…tempt me with their red gold. If I were to be enticed by the blood that someone else unknowingly spilled, I would be thrust into servitude to them for the rest of their life. That is not something that I am willing to chance.” Dvalin said as he tried to look anywhere but where Billie and Mason stood.

In the distance came a weak howl. Billie stilled. Rustling leaves and twigs snapped and shook a short distance away. Billie heard the call of Marie and Serenity in her mind; ’Saba has transformed. Come home dear sister.’ Billie looked up to the sky where there was a break in the trees. The silver light was weak, but shone. In a blur, she bolted in the direction of the house.

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Chapter 12

Chapter 12

It had been several days since the baby had died. To say that Serenity was devastated was an understatement. Marie and the old women kept vigil over her day and night. Billie was lost without her, and Mason was acting very odd since that night. Dvalin had slipped out the night that Scott died because he couldn’t be around all that blood. The scent of all that blood reminded him of iron, which gave him a case of Closter phobia, and he had not been seen since. John and the chandelier twins had however, stuck around. Without them, Billie thought, she might have went mad with having no one to talk to. She had spent a lot longer than she cared to remember; years of having no one to talk to, no companionship to really speak of. The thought forced a shudder and she cared to forget all together.

The day dredged on. Each time Billie walked into a room, Mason walked out, saying nothing, not even sparing Billie a glance. On a trip to the kitchen to fill a pitcher of water and to get some crackers, Marie had noticed. She was not one to mince words, so she confronted Mason. “Why avoid her like a plague, Nephew?” she asked. Mason looked stunned at Maries blunt question. She read his silence and tsk’d at him while pointing a gnarled, aged finger. “You, my dear nephew are behaving in a shameful manner! Look at you Mister high and mighty. You fall in love with a beautiful woman? And then you turn your back on her when she acts in such a way that reminds us of her nature? Are you so self centered that you was not aware that because of her affliction she is first and foremost -a monster?” Mason stood there, unable to respond.

Billie stood in the doorway, unnoticed by Mason or Marie. For a moment she couldn’t find her voice. “You…think I’m a monster?” Marie whipped her head around to face Billie, Mason’s face frozen like stone. Marie’s eyes were wide, as though she was shocked that Billie had to ask such a question, “Why yes Dear. That is exactly what you are.” Billie’s eyes instantly filled with tears, “I’ll-I’ll just go then.” She had been struggling with what she had done. Each time the memory snuck up, she had to run outside and would violently get sick. Everyone in the house was well aware that Billie was struggling with what she had done. Each of them aware that the effects of what she had done were so reprehensible, so unspeakable that, had she been left alone, they were all aware that she would not make it through. And now, on top of such a heavy load, she was facing her own demon of being a true monster. She was nothing more than a pawn in Fenris’s game that he plaid. She was no better than he.

Now, in front of those she held most dear, she was pushed out of the cloak of what was so apparent, no one had thought of it. She was a monster. A monster who stepped right out of fairytales and lore. Even in the face of grappling with her own identity, Mason did not flinch. His back stiff, his jaw clenched, and for a moment, Billie thought he was going to speak, but he stayed silent. Marie rolled her eyes and took a deep breath, “Billie, if you are going to leave, I cannot force you to stay. My nephew has behaved in a most embarrassing manner, and for that I offer my apologies as his elder. But none can force you to stay. Though I am sure I know what would help you to want to stay. Come.” she said as she headed for the stairs.

Billie said nothing, but followed Marie to the hallway upstairs to the room that Serenity was in. The walls were covered in a wallpaper that resembled parchment. The floors were a heavy oak with a carpet runner that gave the hall an old world charm. Billie was about six feet behind Marie when she slowly and quietly opened the door. The scent of lavender wafted lightly through the hall as Serenity’s voice floated through the air, accompanying the lavender and filling Billie with an instant calm.

“A mother bore her child as midnight drew night. And she sang to her baby a soft lullaby…” Serenity’s voice carried, amplified in Billie’s head. As she continued to walk through the doorway of the bedroom, Billie thought her legs somehow had turned to lead. Slowly, she made her way into the room. A simple loveseat sat diagonally at the foot of the bed where the three old women sat; their same posture, their handbags sitting on the floor next to their right foot. The room was dimly lit with only a small side table lamp. Serenity stopped humming as she looked up and smiled at Billie. Dark circled encompassed her eyes. “Bil, come look.” she said softly. Billie’s eyes had not yet adjusted to the dark of the room, but walked closer as her best friend had requested. She couldn’t believe it. In Serenity’s arms lay a small translucent baby who soundly slept.

Gasping at the sight, Billie took a step back, looking from Serenity to Marie, and back again. The sisters all exclaimed “Oh she does see him!” Billie looked over her shoulder at them, “How? How can I see him when he is..” she trailed off as she nervously looked back to Serenity. Serenity smiled warmly, “Bil, it’s magick! Oh I know he’s not real. But Marie and the witch sisters did this magick thingie and, well…poof! He appeared.” Her eyes smiled as she explained. Billie looked to Marie, worried for Serenity. Marie closed her eyes and sighed, she was tired, but fought to stay ‘available’ for Serenity’s sake. Billie wondered how much Marie was giving, and how much more she could take before collapsing from sheer exhaustion. Looking to Marie with wide eyes, Billie’s unasked questions were heard loud and clear. Marie had no qualms about answering them. She began by reaching over and lightly patting the bed. She wanted Billie to sit next to Serenity and her ghost baby.

She didn’t want to, but Billie gingerly sat on the bed next to Serenity and her ‘ghost child’. A tidal wave of anxiety came over Billie, and as she tried to tamp it down before anyone could notice, Marie cleared her throat,

“The magick that you see before you is an ancient sort. There are no known records of the use, or karma of this working magick. And it is because of this unknown work, that you see Agmund before you. It is because of this magick that Serenity is allowed to spend a few stolen moments that she would otherwise not have with her dead son.”

Billie looked down at her hands because she wasn’t sure where else to look. Looking at Agmund and Serenity made her feel uneasy, and the three old ladies made her feel like she was being observed. As she continued to keep her eyes averted, Marie continued, “The sisters are here to help me in the magicks that you cannot. But first, you need explanations to things that are so obvious, they couldn’t be more so if they were etched on your face.”

Marie bent over to pick the book up from the side table. Billie stole a glance, noticing that the lines on Marie’s head were more pronounced: she was worried. Pausing for a moment, Marie rubbed her hand tiredly over her face and sighed. Billie had a feeling that she wouldn’t like what she was about to hear.

“When Mason was a small boy, my brother; his father, packed up house and moved to Australia. That was where Mason’s mother was from. She had been away from her family for quite some time and wanted Mason to experience her home land. They lived in a quaint little cottage on the edge of a heavily wooded area. And for some time, most people would agree that theirs was the picture of a perfect life. When Mason was, oh I’d say five or six, he wandered into the woods quite a ways. And before anyone knew it, night had fallen, and no one could find him. A search team was immediately formed after yells from Mason’s mother went unanswered. What those men found in the woods was not what Mason was before he went in. Such a happy and charming boy before. After…he was more on the eccentric side I guess you’d say. But I guess I’m jumping ahead of myself. Mason had been attacked by…something. No one knew what it was, and he was just so small. I guess from the trauma of it all, all he could say was the big bad doggie. He just repeated it over and over again. Such a heartbreak. He went from being this vibrant little boy who loved everything and everyone, suddenly to this little boy, who, for the longest time, would only say was those three words.”

Billie’s mouth was agape. Naturally, her first thought was that Fenris had gotten him. She didn’t want to interrupt, so she continued to listen to Marie’s story, “Oh I know what you are thinking. It was not Fenris who attacked Mason. It was something not quite that ancient. Honestly, I’m not too sure of who or what it was, even to this day. But I do know this: whatever it was had a magick that was able to change Mason from the depths of his ethereal self. And everyone knew it; that he had changed somehow. And it was an odd occurrence wasn’t it? Him getting attacked so viciously what with all that blood. And the only thing on him was the scar that he carries to this day. It made no sense at all. Still doesn’t. And if I were to take a guess, whatever that was that attacked him all those years ago was a shape shifter of some sort.”

Billie sat thoughtful for some moments before she could muster the strength to speak out loud. She used all she had to tamp down the sick churning feeling in the pit of her stomach to form her sentences, “If that is the case Marie, than why has it taken so long for him to transform?” she asked as she unconsciously looked at Agmund and smiled. “That is a question I can only guess at.” Marie answered simply. Billie blinked her eyes repetitively as though she was trying to get her thoughts right, “Well, take that guess.” she said. Billie could feel the closeness to some of the answers that had been gnawing at her for days, and somehow, she knew that these were the answers that would bring her the answers that she had looked for for years. Everything was finally starting to fall into place and her life led her here. These people, this semblance of family, they were where she was supposed to be.

“Well,” started Marie, “What I think is that Fenris has a family. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and well…cousins. What I think is that the dig species, wolfs being at the patriarchy of that chain, evolve and shift. Mason changed into a red fox, which is to say, a cousin of the wolf. The same, yet different. And Mason was such a positive person before the attack that, and I am only guessing here Dear, he had enough magick within to keep the dark magick contained. Since you are higher up on that chain, transforming into a wolf, so to speak, your animal or whatever you want to call it subconsciously called to his animal. And it had to listen because you are, more or less, his matriarch.”

Billie didn’t know what to say. It couldn’t be, she thought. She had been around for months before he transformed and nothing had ever happened. Just like Marie picked out Billie’s thoughts, she answered, “You were very careful; before. You hid your true identity well. But when things got to a place where you could no longer shield who, or what you were, within weeks, Mason’s second skin came to him.” She smiled softly. Dark circles encompassed her eyes, giving Marie’s face an almost sickening pallid glow.

The sisters and Serenity had not spoken. It was almost like they were not present in the room with Marie and Billie. When the sister with the blue hair spoke, Billie slightly jumped. “Dear Sister, it is almost time. You are spent, and we are losing our hold as well.” With these words Serenity’s eyes welled with tears as she whispered, “My darling little love. It is time for us to part ways for now. But no worries my little angel. We will see each other again. Soon, my only child. Very soon.” she lightly kissed Agmund’s forehead. In that moment, he seemed palpable, real, even enchanting to Billie. But she stayed glued to her spot, only allowing herself to look out of the corner of her eyes at the small ghost baby that laid in Serenity’s lap.

The baby opened his eyes and gave a genuine smile, as if to say ‘see you soon’, and within a fraction of a second, he started to fade. A warm breeze filled the room as Serenity allowed a tear to escape. The sisters all seemed to shift simultaneously as a audible sigh unanimously escaped, as though they had just put down a heavy load they had carried.

Marie closed her eyes for a long moment. Billie looked over the room, trying to memorize everything about this moment that felt like it was a gift of peace given in the midst of war. A small knock brought everyone back to the present. When Serenity summoned the new visitors in with a small voice, the chandelier twins quietly walked in. Billie had not moved from the bed since she had sat down, and consciously moved closer to Serenity. These beings made Billie feel like her skin was crawling. Try as she might, they looked at her in unison, nodding their head once as if to say ’we know we creep you out.’

“Mothers. Our deepest sympathies for the loss of our prince.” chimed the taller one. Her voice just then reminded Billie of glass wind chimes. Something ethereal and beautiful, but at the same time, you couldn’t put your finger on something that just wasn’t quite right. Their big saucer eyes looked expectantly to Marie. She gave a small smile and gently nodded her head once. Pleased with themselves, they smiled widely, showing rows of deadly pointy teeth. “We remember you, Mother. Yes we do!” exclaimed the smaller one. “You are the one who will take the doggie and put his leash back on him. And then we will have fun!” said the taller one. Billie’s forehead furrowed as she shook her head, “No. I’m sorry. But I am afraid that I haven’t gotten anywhere in getting the things that I need for his tether to be made again.” Billie said apologetically.

The twins looked thoughtful for a moment before one of them asked, “What is it that you are in need of, Mother?” Billie started to get off of the bed as she answered, “It doesn’t matter. The list; these things…they are impossible to get. Besides, even if I could get all of these things, I have no idea where to start!” The twins looked at each other and started to shyly walk toward Marie, “Mother? What are the things that are needed? Maybe we can be of help to Mothers?” Marie shook her head, “The first thing on the list is noted as ‘the footfalls of a cat’, and unless you kn-” the shorter twin interrupted Marie, “We have it! Oh, Mother! We have the footfalls of a cat!”

All five women sat up in attention. Billie asked, “What do you mean you have it?” The twins took several small steps back, “Well…ah…we…took them.” They said, trying not to look at anyone. Marie stood up, “Took them from where?” she asked, demand threatening her voice. “Oh it was so very long ago. And we didn’t think any would mind. That is what helps the fey people move silently. You see, humans never hear us walk, they never hear our wings flutter; they never hear us because there is no sound to hear. We needed it because the humans tried to imprison us, and it didn’t work out so well for any of us, the fey or human alike.”

Billie’s heart sank. “So, you wont give it to me then? Even knowing that in not giving it to me could end this world as we all know it?” The twins seemed to mimic the others moves, giving them almost a singular feel, “Oh yes. We will give it to you. Your need is great. Plus we have a lot of it. There are a lot of the fey people, so we studied it and made more. Yep! We sure did.” The smaller twin took a small jar that glowed a soft gold and handed it to Billie.

Billie thoughtful as she looked at the small jar, “Th-” Marie cut her words, “ah-ah-ah….we do not speak those words to them. They will take that as you owe them, and you will be enslaved to their will.” Marie looked over to the twins where they looked disappointed, but nevertheless pleased that they could help.

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Chapter 11

Chapter 11

Mason was met at the door by Marie, Serenity, as well as John, Dvalin and two new guests. Though Mason wasn’t worried about the newcomers, he did wonder who they were and where they came from. Serenity helped Mason get Billie undressed, while Marie mixed some herbs and oils to clean Billie’s wounds. Marie tsk’d as she assessed the damages. “Scars.” she said as she shook her head, “She will have scars. A shame too. Such a pretty girl.” she explained as she furrowed her brow together. Mason looked from Marie to Serenity. He didn’t care if Billie had a couple of scars. He cared if the gashes and gnarled bits of flesh that hung would be deadly.

As Serenity stood on the side of the bed, out of the way of Marie, she watched as Marie slathered a paste thickly over the bites and slashes. Billie was still unconscious, and sweat beads sparkled in the light, making it look like she was covered in diamonds. Mason could feel Serenity go stiff. As he looked at her, her eyes glazed over with a milky white film, covering any color pigment. Marie slowly straightened from being hunched over Billie, and turned to look at Serenity. A breathy whisper escaped Serenity’s mouth, “Scott is coming. He is changed. He is coming for me, and to finish Billie off. Marie will die too if she gets in the way.”

The two unknown people came floating in as Marie’s mortar and pestle crashed to the floor. “Excuse me, Mothers, but there is a rather large and fuzzy dog outside. I do believe that it has come to eat us.” giggled the smaller of the two. “Let’s hope so, sister! They are always much more fun to play with when they are all riled up like that!” said the taller one. Mason looked at them like they were patients still wearing straight jackets that had just escaped an insane asylum, “Who are you?” he asked. “My apologies,” said the taller one as she bent into a dramatic bow, “You are the nephew-brother-lover of the Mothers. We should have introduced ourselves before the ‘danger’ started to lurk so very closely to your back door.” The smaller one raised a petite hand to her mouth to hide a coy smile, “We are the sisters of Jonathan and Dvalin. That is to say, we share the same Mothers. But sharing the same father would be forbidden because of the laws of our world. But I am positive you will learn more of this soon. But right now, I think we need to mosey downstairs because your rather beautiful door is about to get broken by the dog.” The tiny girl explained.

Mason was left with his mouth agape as a loud crash came from downstairs. Billie lay unconscious in the bed. Serenity, Marie, Dvalin and the other two flew out of the room. John looked at Mason, his eyes smiling, “Go on Mister Mason. Scott is a bad monster. I will protect Miss Billie. Do not worry about this. Go on! GO!” he yelled as he pushed Mason out of the room with one stubby little hand. Mason didn’t want to leave Billie, but John was strong. A single scream vibrated through the house. It was distinctly a woman who screamed but Mason wasn’t positive who it was. Butterflies invaded his stomach, and a pulling sensation filled him from the top of his spine, all the way down. Doubling over from a searing hot pain in the middle of his chest, he felt each rib crack and change. His skin became icy hot and he crumpled to the floor outside the bedroom where evidentially Billie was changing to her wolf form. Somewhere far away, Mason could hear John soothing Billie and small yips escaped her mouth. For a fleeting moment, Mason thought he was going insane, until he caught a glimpse of himself in the full length mirror that was in the bathroom a few feet down the hall from where he lay exhausted and gasping for air.

He knew he hadn’t been bitten. He wasn’t a werewolf. As he lay on the floor, his heart pounded in his sensitive, black tipped ears. A rather muscular red fox stared back at him. “What the hell?!!” His scream came out in a growl. John cracked the door open enough for one of his beady little eyes to show, “Oh! Mister Mason is a fuzzy little guy! I wondered-yep I sure did! Now go get the bad Scott monster Mister Mason! And rip his throat out with your little teeth!” he said in a slight whisper as John quietly clicked the door closed. Mason thought about Marie downstairs. If what the new girls said was true, he had to get downstairs and help protect her.

His house was being destroyed! Absolute anger seared through Mason’s body as he watched a rather scrawny looking wolf push Marie on the ground. The two small “unknowns” were hanging from the chandelier with a hungry glean in their eyes. Before Mason could take everything in, he watched as Scott’s wolf form stalked closer to Serenity. Instantly, Mason took off as fast as he could. His eyes were covered by Scott’s long brown-gray fur, but he could tell when it happened. Scott leaped and bit down on Serenity’s arm and flung her. Mason was holding onto Scott’s throat for dear life and clenched down harder than even he could have thought possible for a little fox. He heard a sickening thud, and the sound of the wind getting knocked out of someone. The air instantly stopped moving and everything went into a slow motion. Scott was busy as he tried to frantically shake to get Mason off of his throat. He didn’t notice Billie limping down the stairs in her rather large wolf form. A low menacing growl came out of nowhere. Everyone ceased to even breathe. Billie stalked closer to the waylay and everyone’s eyes were on her. Scott seemed to know how an order of pack came, and instantly hung his head lower than her, showing her the respect that only her eyes demanded. Billie raised her head sniffing the air and slowly turned to take in the scene. As her eyes rested on a crumpled Serenity that was laying on the floor and bleeding heavily, Billie quickly turned around to face Scott. Mason knew that if he didn’t get out of the way now he would be in a very dangerous position, being right in between two very pissed off werewolves. He let go of Scott’s throat, and tried spitting a clump of bloody fur out as he backed away. She noticed that this little dog smelled a lot like Mason, but she had other more pressing matters to attend to.

Faster than anyone could note, Billie had Scotts throat in between her massive jaws. She waited a moment, letting him feel the pressure, letting the fear envelope him. The small females that still hung from the chandelier glared at the sight, smiling an inhuman smile that had anyone noticed, would have seen a mouth full of sharp pointy teeth that gleaned with what might be a very deadly poison.

Just as Marie decided to try to talk Billie into sparing Scotts life, she clenched her massive jaws down. A sickening crushing sound filled the thick air, and Mason let a small yip escape as he twined around Marie’s legs. He had no idea that Billie could be so cold as to literally rip another living things throat out. Her muzzle was dripping wet with thick dark blood as she turned around to look at Marie and Mason. Taking a step closer, the two chandelier girls dropped down to Scotts human, naked body. Billie paid no attention to the sickening slurping sound that came from behind her. She had seen many different things in her life, and remembered the time she spent in Northern England where she met several green fairies. She was almost certain that the two who fed on Scotts body were the same.

“Now, Billie, dear…calm…calm down.” Marie soothed. Billie’s eyes were wild, unsure. Her muscles looked snake-like as her body changed course and padded over to Serenity. Nudging Serenity’s arm with her massive nose, a small whimper escaped. Her transformation back to human happened as suddenly as it did earlier when she involuntarily transformed to her wolf form. She knelt next to Serenity’s broken body, herself naked, and all she could do was cry. A gash in her head left a puddle of blood pooling around her like a halo of evil-ness, and her woman-hood poured more blood than Billie could think was safe. Marie hurried over and shook Billie by a shoulder, “Dear, I cannot move her on my own. You will have to so I can work on her.” Marie said in a very sterile tone.

“But she…she needs a hospital.” Billie said through sobs. Marie’s face lightened slightly, “My dear, I was a midwife before I retired from the medical scene. I know what needs to be done.” Neither of them gave a second notice to the chandelier fairies who were cackling gleefully as they slurped on what little was left of Scott. Marie knew that Serenity would hurt because of the loss of not only Scott, but her baby as well. She wasn’t sure how Serenity would be able to cope with needing to deliver the remains of the baby, but Marie knew that this would be a long few days for everyone. She secretly hoped that she had enough herbs to keep Serenity sedated so she could physically get through what needed to be done.

Even though the three women were the triple aspect of the Goddess incarnate, they were still human enough to be mortal, with mortal feelings and the physicality of a mortal. Marie was all too familiar with the possibility of complications of miscarriage. She had a flash of memory from years ago, when she had lost her own daughter from a miscarriage. So much blood muddled her memory that she had involuntarily froze for a moment. Mason knew what she was thinking of and trotted up to her. He whined as he lightly scratched at her leg. The lapse lasted only a moment, but in her mind, Marie had been frozen for a lifetime.

Time was of the essence, so Marie did the only thing she could think to do. Grabbing her cell phone out of a loose pocket, she flipped it open and punched a button that auto dialed a phone number.

Billie listened as a strange familiar voice answered the other line “Hello. Marie, dear, is that you?”

“Yes sister, it is. I need for you to gather up the others and come to Nephew’s home in the country as soon as you can.”

“Is something wrong, Dear?” said the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Yes. I will explain when you get here. But it is dire, so you will need to be here quickly.”

“Will we need an escort?”

Marie nodded as she answered, “Yes, that will do just fine. Make haste. Time is running out.”

The voice said, “Oh! How I do love a challenge! See you soon Dear sister.”

Marie snapped the phone closed and turned to Billie and Mason. “Help is on the way. But first thing is first. Mason, if you would be a dear and change back into your human form, so you don’t startle the sisters when they get here.” Mason answered with a growl as if to say “How in the Hell am I supposed to manage that?!”

“Billie Dear, would you be so kind as to explain to Mason how to go about changing. Remember though, he will be cranky when he transforms back, so just…be aware. Now, off you go.”

As Billie hurried up the stairs, clinking and muttering came from Marie, while ripping and tearing of flesh was still coming from the kitchen area of the house, melding together a mad sounding environment.

As Billie followed Mason into his bedroom, the door shut behind them with a soft click. “Ok Babe, I’m not sure what happened for you to turn into a, ahh….fox, but, for me, it is almost like taking off a coat. But more internally. You need to feel your human self that is still inside of your animal, and sort of slip it off from the top of your head, all the way down to the tip of your tail.” She noticed a small nod from Mason’s furry head noting that he was going to try.

It took a few tries, but soon after they started, Mason was standing in front of Billie naked. She was still shaken and upset over Serenity and the baby so Mason quickly started over toward her to comfort her. Getting used to his transformation back into human was an odd feeling that made him trip as he took his first step toward her. The embrace was rather quick, but it did help Billie to calm down enough to feel she needed to go back downstairs to help with Serenity.

‘Boy, whoever Marie had called sure did get here fast!” Billie thought as she overheard several voices coming from downstairs. Mason had threw on a pair of sweats and a tee shirt because his skin was still tingling from the transformation. They hurried downstairs to find three women sitting across from where Marie was working on a still unconscious Serenity. Two of the women looked older than Marie. Each of them sported paisley print blouses and knit pants. Each of them had an elderly hair do, complete with blue, pink and purple dye jobs set in curls close to their head. They looked like ordinary elderly grandmothers who couldn’t hurt a fly if they wanted to. But as Billie had learned over the years, looks were usually misleading to say the least.

“Hello” said Billie in a nasally voice.

The three women smiled warmly to Billie and the one with the blue hair gently patted the sofa with an arthritic hand, “Come Dear. Sit.” she said. It was more of a command than an offer, so being respectful of them, even though Billie was hundreds of years their senior, did as she was ‘asked’.

“He’s a looker, that one!” the old lady with purple hair exclaimed. She wasn’t shy about anything in the least. Mason would have probably smiled at her had he not been fetching things out of Marie’s bag that she had barked to him. His hand shook as he handed Marie a dark blackish brown root. Not even looking at him, Marie took the root and shoved it into Serenity’s mouth. The three old women sat and watched. It was odd that they had the exact same posture; each sat ramrod straight with their aged hands folded neatly in their laps, their purses sitting neatly on the floor next to their left foot.

Serenity started to gag and each of the women stood to peer over at her in succession. Billie was finding it more and more hard to keep her temper tamped down. Everything was oddly quiet. The room seemed to be filling with more and more blood. “Strip her bottom” Marie told Mason. Before Billie could go offer help, Mason had Serenity’s blood soaked pants peeled off. He froze for the smallest amount of time, trying to figure out how to take her panties off without being cold about it. Billie knew that that was an impossible feat and grabbed the red soaked panties and pulled, revealing a small fetus that had started to emerge from Serenity’s mother-hood region.

“The child will not make it, Billie.” Marie said. “It is only at the most twenty weeks gestation.” Billie was unaware of how hard she was sobbing; hard enough that her chest physically hurt. Marie pursed her lips together, “We will try to save it, but it is a grim fate for this child.” She finished as she quickly started to extricate the small, unmoving fetus. Swaying where she stood, Mason quickly grabbed Billie with a bloody hand to keep her from falling. The chandelier twins stood in a far corner away from the bloody mess, all the while leering at the unmoving little body that laid on a small area right next to Serenity’s limp body.

“Oh dear..” said one of the old women. “Is he….is he dead?”

Marie glanced over her shoulder, “Not yet. But if Serenity doesn’t wake up, there is no doubt that he will cross over without hearing his mothers voice.” In that moment, Serenity stirred. Blinking over and over again, as though she was trying to get her vision to go right, one hand went to her head, a concussion no doubt, while the other hand instinctively went to her now empty belly. As she started to wail, the chandelier twins edged their way toward where Serenity and the baby lay. The three old women looked away when his little eyes shot open as he gasped for air. Marie hurried and got a tiny oxygen mask and held it over his nose and mouth and breathed for him. Billie instinctively knew what she had to tell Serenity, “Serenity! Itty! Listen to me!” she yelled at her as Serenity’s screams filled the air in the house. “NO! My baby! My little baby! What did he do!? What did you do Scott?!!” Billie grabbed Serenity’s face and looked directly into her eyes, “Itty! You need to listen to me now! He needs a name! He needs a name now before it’s too late!” she yelled with a shaky voice as Marie worked frantically to keep the little boy breathing. “Ag….Ag….” Serenity started but couldn’t seem to finish. Billie grabbed Serenity’s face, “You have to do this! NOW!” Billie screamed so loud that it felt like the house shook. Serenity wailed out the name, “AGMUND! Agmund Frey, I am your mother!” Everything went still. The old women sat huddled closely on the couch, holding each others hand, Marie had tears in her eyes, Mason kneeled with his head bowed, and even the chandelier twins stopped. Billie and Serenity looked eye to eye as they cried. The baby went still, and the only thing that was heard, was the loudest whisper that came from Marie, “The boy is gone.”

Serenity didn’t allow any sound escape. Giving her head a half hearted nod, Marie looked over to Billie and before she could speak, Billie was frantically shaking her head, “No no no…I can’t. I wont! Marie…I cannot do that!” Billie whispered. Marie looked gravely at Billie, “You must. It has to be done, Dear. And you are the only one who can.” Mason looked between his aunt and the woman he loved and knew too. He turned to Marie, “You can’t expect her to do this, Aunt! You can see she will not be able to do it! Who would?!” He screeched. “It is what is written. My hands are tied. The boy is a part of the divine and so shall he return. If it is not done, havoc will reign, Fenris will win, and we all will die.”

Billie lifted her head, “What if I refuse?”

The first tear of Maries escaped, “Fenris will find him and consume him. Then he will fatefully become a part of the divine; becoming unstoppable. There can be nothing left. Not ash, nor bone. The boy has to be traceless if we are to succeed .”

Billie knew what Marie had said was true. And no matter how much she wished, she knew Marie was right and truthful. Serenity sobbed, “You can’t Bil. You just can’t. What will be left for me?” Marie walked over to Serenity’s head and stroked her hair, “He will be with us always. And in this, he will come back to us. I am so so sorry Dear.” Marie sobbed lightly as she tried to console Serenity.

Quietly, Billie stood up and grabbed the small blanket that the baby lifelessly laid on. Crying all the way, she took him outside through the side door where a sliver of the moon shone too brightly. No one heard Billie transform, but they knew that she had when they herd a few short crunches. It didn’t take long before Billie walked back into the house, shaking, crying, and her face was splattered with blood.

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Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Mason was no closer to asking Marie about questions of his own immortality. It had been days since John almost died from Fenris’s attack, and the house quietly formed its own sort of semblance. Serenity decided that everything in the kitchen needed a proper cleaning. Piles of dishes, pots, pans, and other kitchen items littered the table and counters. Marie had found Mason’s extensive library, and had added her most prized collection of books to the fray, including Billie‘s grandmothers journal. John and Dvalin had been keeping busy with tending the flowerbeds and a bit of wooded area behind the house.

And there was Billie. Sitting on the back patio; the morning sun beaming down, giving her hair the illusion of fire as it gently blew in the breeze. She sat in front of an easel, delicately holding an artists paintbrush. Her pinkie finger gently extended out, she lightly touched the tip to her canvas. The picture of her doing something she desperately loved would be etched in Mason’s memory forever. How could he not know how deep her love for art was? She would stand in front of different pieces that were on display and just get lost in the story of each piece that had drawn her to it. His noticing the tidbit of information hadn’t registered until now. Other pieces of Billie’s puzzle started to form a picture that Mason hadn’t consciously noticed until now. She lived more deeply than anyone else he had known. The way she carried herself, certain words she used, how she held a glass; it all made her what she truly was.

Mason knew somewhere in the depths of his subconscious memory how deep her love and admiration for art was. But it had never occurred to him that she was an artist too. There was so many things that he didn’t know about her; hadn’t noticed until now, and still more that he had forgotten.

“Are you going to stare at me all day? Or are you gonna’ come sit with me and enjoy the quiet while we still can?” Billie asked, a smile in her voice. He answered with a simple smile, shuffled his feet as he shyly looked up at her, embarrassed for being caught, and sauntered over to her. Her painting was simple in the way the colors played off of each other, but the strokes were intricate. A man and a woman lay naked in a meadow, their extremities entwined together like roots from a vast tree. Their eyes held so much compassion, and their touch was light, but their need for the other was intense; apparent and deep. Mason noticed that he was holding his breath. Billie quickly became self conscious of her work. She hadn’t shown anyone before, and started to worry about her abilities when Mason didn’t say anything. “It’s no Francisco De Goya, but I don’t think it’s that bad?” Her words were more of a question than a statement, and Mason herd her need for approval from him. “Bil, why didn’t you tell me, Love?” His tone came out more ‘awe-struck’ than he wanted, but it made her eyes smile in a way that melted his heart. “I didn’t know it was an important part of our relationship.” she lightly said as she shrugged. Mason straddled the seat behind her as he wrapped his arms around her and quietly said, “Every part about you is important Love.” and lightly kissed the nap of her neck.

Billie sighed and leaned back into Mason. She felt safe; she felt home. Her mind was screaming, ‘Don’t! You’re getting too close, and that is a dangerous thing! Walk away while you still can!” Stifling the alerts that were going off in her mind, she sighed contently. But Billie also knew that it was time to go back to reality, no matter how fairytale-esque it was. “Mason…” She started, but her throat squeezed closed and she couldn’t finish. “What is it?” he asked. He knew full well by now that something that was crazy was about to happen, but he needed-wanted to know. “I need to start looking for those ….umm…things.” Mason leaned back a little so he could see her better, “you’re talking about the things to make that leash?” He asked a bit more sting than he wanted in his voice. She sat straight and turned around to face him, “You didn’t think I wouldn’t, did you?”

Mason stood up and raised his shoulders, “I don’t know. But I thought that we would have a bit of …oh I don’t know, Bil….time? Normalcy?” When Billie just sat there, her eyes wide, Mason added, “Maybe even go on a ‘real’ date for once instead of chasing the big bad wolf?” Billie hung her head down. She knew he was right to feel the way he was feeling. That didn’t make it hurt any less though. How was she to know that he was waiting to court her? The problem wasn’t that she didn’t know, the problem was that she should have known. And to make matters worse, Billie knew that Serenity and Marie both knew exactly what was transpiring between Mason and herself. She sighed as she plopped the brush into a small jar of water.

Billie was tired. Tired on all counts, and this argument she just wasn’t ready or willing to have right now. As she stood to leave, Mason walked over to her, “So what? You’re leaving now?” He spat. “Mason, I cant have this argument right now. I just…look, I’ve lived for a long time and I’m tired. I didn’t think I was running, and if I don’t do something about Fenris, that is exactly what I will be doing. And I don’t run. I’m sorry if you cant understand, but that is just the way it is.”

Mason took a step back, symbolically giving her the room she needed to do what was needed. Billie dropped her head again, not wanting Mason to see that her eyes were filling with tears, and walked away. He should have went after her, he should have followed her, every fiber of his being screamed for him to go after her, but he stood rooted to where he was. He was letting her go.

Dvalin walked up and stood next to Mason, looking at the spot where Billie had disappeared around a corner. They stood there quiet for a long moment. Dvalin patted Mason on the arm, “Tis’ ok, Sir. You will be with your love again. But trust her. She needs to do this for you two to be together again.”

Masons words bored down on Dvalin like a hammer, “Oh yeah? And how in the Hell do you know this? What makes you so sure that she will ever come back?”

“I cannot foretell things, but there are others, things that is, that are written, and if it is written, it shall be. It has always been you and she. That is not something that you can change. Neither can she. Even if you wanted to. You are destined to spend eternity together. Two halves of a whole, that is what it is.”

“And how do you know what ‘was written’, Dvalin? What makes you so privy to these ‘facts’?”

“We all know. We all have another half that makes us whole. It is whether or not you chose to recognize it or not. If you do, you will be complete and your life will come full circle. If you do not, you will be alone until your next cycle.”

“Why do all you supernatural buggers have to be so cryptic all the damned time?” Mason grunted as he walked back into the house leaving Dvalin standing there.

The house seemed empty. Serenity hadn’t been talking much, and Marie kept herself locked up in the library for the most part. John and Dvalin seemed more comfortable outside, so that left the house to Mason. Alone again, he thought. Billie had taken up so much emptiness that he hadn’t noticed before, and her absence for even five minutes was dually noted, and harshly recognized. He plopped on the couch and turned on the television, but quickly hit the power button again. He knew what he had to do. The problem was, he was never one to go running to someone; especially if he felt he was in the right. Which he was….or was he? Leaning his head on the back of the couch, he growled a feral growl.

Marie was standing in front of him when he lifted his head. Her stern look bore holes right through him. “What?” he asked.

Marie pursed her lips together and crossed her arms, “You know damned well what, Nephew. And you need to do it soon, because from what I have just read in Grandmothers journal, Billie will be needing a bit of reassurance very soon.”

Mason sat up straight, “And what sort of reassurance am I supposed to give her, Marie? She has things that she has to do, and I don’t see where I fit into that equation.”

Marie sat delicately on the oversized chair before she spoke, “You, my dear, fit smack dab right in the middle of her life; just as you always have. That is how it always has been. This is how it always will be. You can either decide to break that cycle, or you can go with what is supposed to be and finish this with her, the one you are supposed to finish with.”

Mason glared at Marie for a long moment. She smiled gently, “Getting all pissy with me is not going to change the fact, Dear.” She chided as she made sure to keep her smile in place.

Marie knew that Mason would soon change. But the book was very precise in Grandmothers instructions. Mason was to learn of his change on his own, otherwise the magick that was involved would bring nothing but chaos and discord to humanity; leaving the world and all of its inhabitants completely thrust out of their own ideals. Marie wanted badly to tell him, but the price was too heavy. She had to let this one be, just this once. Her Goddess incarnate was not privy to breaking the rules. If anything, that would make the price weigh too heavily on her head. And she was never one to like things like that weigh her down.

Mason stayed sitting on the couch when Serenity came whizzing in the room. “She is going to look for the sound of a cats footfall.” she said, breathing heavily, her eyes wide. “She is going to where she is most comfortable.” She was shaking, her hand lay protectively over her slightly protruding belly. “Most comfortable?” Mason questioned. “The woods.” Marie sighed. “Nephew, you cannot go. I am afraid it is too dangerous for you to be in such close proximity right now.”

Mason looked perplexed. He needed to go. He needed to tell Billie that he was sorry. He needed to make sure that she knew that he loved her. He also knew that Marie and Serenity would not allow him to go after Billie. He would have to find another way.

Billie was barreling down interstate four-eighty sipping on a big gulp with the radio blasting to some song that the deejay had exclaimed was brand new. Bobbing her head and thrumming her hand on the steering wheel, She was almost in perfect bliss. The Full moon was not rising any time soon, she had her favorite sugar filled drink, and this was a really great song on the radio. In just thirty minutes Billie would be setting up a popup tent. From experience, She knew that if someone spotted her car and there was no tent or lodging anywhere, her car would be undoubtedly towed. And that was no fun at all. The song changed and a sultry voice bellowed from the speakers. A male voice was singing about “looking into her eyes”, and gave Billie a quick reminder of Mason and his jackass’ed-ness. Using more force than was needed, she turned the volume down, cracking the lightweight plastic volume knob. Cussing under her breath, and making matters worse than they were, She wished Mason was there right now so she could punch him in his big stupid head!

Finally finding a decent parking spot off the beaten path, Billie threw the Jeep up into neutral and stamped on the emergency break. Breathe in, and out, She said to herself in a mock calming voice. After a few repetitions of her breathing exercise, She gave up. It was almost dusk, and Billie was feeling butterflies in her stomach. Looking around and deciding on a short hike, Billie grabbed her Hide-A-Key compartment from under the back drivers side wheel. Thankfully there was only three keys on a small loop of metal, so it was a fairly easy fit. Tucking her hiding compartment back under the wheel well and dusting her hands, she set off a narrow hiking trail that was just a few feet from where she had parked. She was old, and cranky, and alone, and damned well didn’t feel like acting even her supposed age! Kicking stray rocks and twigs as she went, Billie allowed herself to sulk. She didn’t get close to people often, and by gosh, she could be upset if she wanted to. Raw emotion threatened tears to spill over. She needed a clear head and she knew it.

She had been to this part of the woods a few times before, so she knew where she wanted to go. It would take just long enough to get to the clearing to keep her busy. Billie was so lost in mind numbing thoughts of nothing-ness, which a lot of that nothing-ness was about Mason, she hadn’t noticed at first that someone was creeping in the woods just out of her sight. Sniffing the air, she knew that it wasn’t Mason, though she hoped it was. A sliver of the moon was rising, and there was some unknown person just out of her sight. Thinking that she might just call out, “Excuse me, whoever is out there, you might want to run because I’m about to turn into a scary werewolf that will eat through your chest cavity and relish in your bloody innards as you scream for mercy!”, she quietly giggled at the thought of a strangers face hearing her proclamation even though the full moon was almost two weeks away. Of course, no one would take her seriously, though probably most people would try to have her committed for even having such a thought. She just decided to shout, “Who’s out here?” and wait for an answer.

When none came, she decided that a beeline for the clearing would be best for all involved.

The name Fenris always echoed in her ears, just as it did on the eve that she was bitten by him.

The distinct sound of a deer’s heartbeat quicken as danger approached filled Billie‘s ears. Something rustled in the stretch across the river. Stopping to see if she could see anything, she listened intently. Even though Billie was by far, the biggest predator in these woods, she still needed to be on the lookout for any potential danger, or human. Humans in the woods usually had guns. And her recently being shot didn’t make her eager to repeat another bullet wound any time soon. They sucked, not to mention they hurt like seven levels of Hades! Only listening for a minute, she was content that it was probably a small animal; a squirrel, or rabbit perhaps. Just to be on the safe side, she did a slow full turn, peering everywhere her sight would reach. Nothing.

The pins and needles feeling that Billie had started to have, she decided, was from the shooting a few weeks before. Laughing at herself for being such a sissy, she inwardly shook her head at herself. Bending down to take a gulp of the cold river water, she spotted a dark silhouette on the other side of the river. The dark mass took up more space than should be allowable. Billie was in Ohio for goodness sakes! There was no huge bears, or lions that roamed these woods! She stayed still, her head bowed in drink, as she peered to the other side of the river. Whoever, or whatever this being on the other side was, was definitely bigger than she would have been had she been in her wolf form. Pacing her breath, to keep her heart from thudding loudly against her chest, she waited, weighing her fight or flight instinct. Flight was winning, but she had to stay calm, just in case she was in danger.

The dark figure had its head bowed to the river, mocking Billie’s. She took one slow step back, inching herself as far away from the bank as she could afford before she would need to turn her back on who, or whatever it was across from her. Slowly, inch by small inch, she raised her head from the water. A twig that she hadn’t noticed behind her snapped. Whipping her head around, she caught sight of the being raising his head in succession to the small inconsequential noise. The silhouette froze as its eyes gleamed in the dark and settled on her face. Billie instantly noticed that the beings heart started to race. Shaking her thought process, she understood what it was. A werewolf. Fenris, she thought.

Understanding who it was, was the problem. Bigger than she, and startled by her presence, obviously. His body was easy to read, and Billie was taking the flight over the fight tonight. She couldn’t win. Not in her human form. Though She couldn’t believe it, here he was. Fenris stared into her eyes. And it would only take a minute for him to reach her if she didn’t move. Now!

Throwing herself into a run, she wrestled with the thicket of trees, and with the knowledge that a life span such as hers would never have prepared her for. The faster she ran, the harder her lungs pumped air in and out, the harder she sensed her pursuer hot on her heals.

The realization hit her like a boulder; there was nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Either Billie had to turn and fight, or keep running for her life. Not able to grasp the concept, she skidded to a halt at the side of a winding bike trail. Looking to her left, and then right, the woods fell eerily silent. To Billie, that was a sure sign of impending doom. Thankful that there would be no humans on the trail in the middle of the night, Billie pushed off of the hard ground, trying to get an idea of where to go next. A scent was almost immediately found, and made her heart race so fast, her human subconscious came to a skidding halt. Mason. Frantic to keep on his scent, she raced ahead and onto the bike trail. Knowing that she had to find him, had her questioning her own abilities. She thought, as long as she knew she couldn’t hurt him, it would be okay. But with Fenris out here, no doubt hunting her, she had to find Mason before he did. No one but John and Dvalin knew where she was going and why. If Fenris was out here, she thought, it had to be coincidental.

After running after Mason, his scent had taken an abrupt turn to the right. Where in the hell is he going, She thought to herself. Concentrating hard, she kept her pace. Quickly realizing that His scent was headed straight for her camp, she had a sinking feeling that that was where Mason would be. About three and a half minutes into a steady pace, she was back at camp. And right in front of her small popup tent was a silhouette of a man. Thick in build and an artistic air that only Mason could possess, he stood there completely unaware of the massive figure that loomed right behind him.

As Mason noticed Billie creeping toward him, he raised his hands in front to show Her that he wanted to make peace. His face was sad; drawn. She could hear the difference in the rhythm of his heart. Billie slowed down, cocking her head to one side and wondered why he was here too. Keeping her head down, and her eye on Fenris the whole time, a deep menacing growl was humming from deep inside her as Fenris was slowly stalking closer to Mason. If Mason took another step back, Fenris would have his mouth wrapped around His waist. Billie had to do something. Allowing the change was easier than it had ever been. She allowed a fleeting thought, maybe it’s because I’m so close to Fenris. Masons eyes grew wide as he witnessed Billie transform. The sounds of bone cracking as they reset to their new form, and a sickening crunching sound coming from new cartilage being formed with old, and heavy panting filled the air. Not thinking about consequences or control, Billie threw herself over Mason with such force that when she came down, her full weight fell onto Fenris’s chest, his ribs audibly cracking under her force.

She had never heard such a high pitched, blood curdling scream come from a man as she had from Mason at that moment. Sharp searing pain ripped through her shoulder as she was flung to the ground, the air being forced out of her lungs with un-apologizing power. Gasping, she jumped up, shaking her head as she stalked as quietly as she could toward Fenris’s back haunches as He silently stalked closer to Mason. Before Billie could allow the pain in her shoulder to register, she flung herself onto Fenris, her teeth sinking into his back as easily as a hot knife going through butter. A painful howl escaped Fenris’s mouth, abruptly halting the unnaturally quiet fight. Mason backed away from the melee of the two werewolves who were both equally bloody, and still fighting, to find his back up against the trunk of a rather large tree. As Mason watched the rather large animals in awe, he settled on the idea that he had to get away from them.

Making his way around the tree, Mason was flung to the ground by the larger, Silver animal who was backing away from the smaller red. Something made him stop and look at (what he had decided to call it) smaller red. Something about this animal reminded him of Billie. But he couldn’t think about that too long, on the account of these two massively huge beasts that were ripping each other apart right in front of him.

Within a few short minutes, Fenris had mauled Billie’s leg, and Billie had taken a chunk out of Fenris’s face. None of the attendants of the fight had any concept of time. Had it been hours? Days? It was possible that only minutes had passed. No matter what amount of time had passed, the sky was getting lighter, and only a hint of the moons light was showing in the cloudy sky. Mason quickly realized that the two beasts were slowing their pace in the fight, and decided quickly that if he was to leave, now would be a really good time to do that. Setting off at a sprint, Mason never turned around even when he heard the heavy, but fast footfalls from one of the beast. Either of them would surely get a hold of him within seconds. But he never turned around, even when he heard the unmistakable howl of the Big Silver.

As the howl faded from Big Silver, the woods grew quiet again. Shaking like a leaf, hardly able to pull his keys out of his pocket, Mason haphazardly threw himself in the front seat of his car. “What in the hell just happened?” He asked to absolutely no one. His mind was racing. He had found Billie’s camp, had accidentally found Billie, and had almost found himself on the dinner end of their night. His body ached. His head ached, and his heart ached. What if the animals had gotten to Billie? There may not be anything left of her to find. But he had to look. Deciding that he would wait until daylight was a solid plan, He thought. But when it came time, he couldn’t force himself out of the safety of his car.

As time would prove, he didn’t have to. Billie came running out of the woods, covered in blood, and in hysterics.

“Mason! Oh Mason! What are you doing here?” Billie screamed, her voice trembling from the force.

“Oh my God! Are you hurt? Where are you bleeding?” He yelled back, instantly grabbing her, his hands trembling as he scanned her battered and bloody body.

“What are you doing here?! You stupid, stupid man!” Her screams quavered in her throat as she hit her fists in his chest.

Alarm set deep in his face, Mason said, “Billie, what happened to you, Baby? What were you doing out here alone with him?”

Sobs drowned out any answer she might have given him. Her instant appearance, steadied Mason. He scooped her up and sat her in the passenger seat of his car. “I’m taking you home.” He said, as he glanced over to her. She didn’t respond, but allowed herself to look at his beautiful face. Even the thin scar that ran down his jaw line was beautiful. She shook herself, not able to understand how this man could have come out to the woods and tried to find her. She wouldn’t worry about his motives just then. She wouldn’t allow herself to worry about what could have happened. For now, she was alive. And even though Fenris was still alive, she had survived. She allowed herself to wonder how Fenris knew where the portal was that she needed to get to that would allow her to find the footfalls of a cat. She would think about the rest later. For now, she would sleep, and that was what she needed at the moment.

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Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Dvalin’s eyes glinted a deep green. A tuft of greasy hair fell in his eyes as he looked up at Mason. “ I assume you are the man of this home?” Mason looked over to Marie, nervousness threatening to out him to the impish looking Dvalin. “That’s right, mate. My name is-”

“Names are inconsequential at this juncture, Sir. See me to my brother at once!” He demanded.

Serenity stifled a small giggle. The sight of Mason of all people being ordered around by anyone had her barely holding in a fit of laughter. Marie lightly nudged her to quiet down the girl-like giggles as Mason and Billie walked Dvalin upstairs to where John was resting.

“Honestly. I can’t believe that little dwarf just waltzes in here as if he owns the place.“ Serenity let out a snort from holding in a fit of laughter. “Serenity shut up! We need to listen in and make sure that Nephew and Billie are safe.” Marie’s face was solemn. She had read in Billie’s Grandmothers book how evil and sneaky dwarves could be. Surely they have gotten sneakier since She had lived.

Serenity and Marie sat on the couch and turned toward each other. Lifting their hands and lightly touching the others, a faint light started to emanate from between them. Their connection with each other had not been honed properly yet, but Serenity and Marie could feel it growing between them. The scene came to them as though they were standing in the bedroom with Mason. They were seeing through Billie’s eyes.

The thick oak door opened and a small dark silhouette hardly filled half of the single bed in the far corner of the room. Dvalin was barely illuminated by a dusky gray as he walked briskly to the side of the bed. As Billie looked down at him, John was sweating profusely and panting in such a way that it put her in mind of a dog out on a hot summer day.

As sweat beaded and trickled down his face, Dvalin looked over to Billie who was standing only a foot or so behind him. “My Lady, you will help me to heal him.” If he had a worried look, this would be it; even though his face was contorting to almost inhuman, he was breathing deeply, intentionally as he stood at the bedside. “Me? But I don’t know how to-”

“Yes. You do.” Dvalin said. He looked to Mason, and wordlessly, Mason understood. “Bil, you can do it. You alone have the power to help Dvalin heal John. Don’t think about it. Just do what you feel…in here” He said as he lightly patted a hand over his heart.

Billie nodded her head and moved closer, laying her hand on Dvalin’s shoulder as he laid his hands on John’s wounds. His hands were huge in comparison to the rest of his body, but somehow they made him look more magical. A green light started to pulsate between Dvalin, John, and Billie. She started humming a song but didn’t know what song it was. Dvalin made a sound that put Mason in mind of what it might sound like in the woods to a dwarf. It was a low, rumbling, almost natural sound. John started to sob between gasps, and for the first time ever, Mason could see that John’s teeth were sharply pointed. Still, his heart broke for John, his special friend.

The healing took over an hour to complete. And when Dvalin started to explain that the Fenris’s bite could have poisoned John so badly that he may have died, he spat on the floor as if there was venom in his own mouth. By the time the trio made their way downstairs, allowing the healing to complete on its own, everyone was dragging their feet. The sun was rising, the birds sang in a tree close by, and the smell of morning dew was wafting through the house.

Billie sat in between Marie and Serenity. Each grabbed one of Billie’s hands, and sat in quiet contemplation for a few minutes. Their energies swept over Billie in a cloak of safety. As She allowed it to fill her, Mason and Dvalin’s eyes grew wide. A faint light started to pulsate through their interlocked fingers. “It is true. You are the triple aspect.” Dvalin gasped. Mason looked shocked and puzzled at the same time, “What do you mean, the triple aspect?” The three women looked at each other, not sure if they should speak of it out loud. Dvalin answered before they could. “The triple aspect is the matriarch of Deity.” He pointed to each of them as he spoke with intent, “The maiden, She owns herself. She is responsible for herself in ways that most males cannot fathom. She is fierce in ways that you could only imagine. The mother,” He pointed to Serenity, “Swollen belly and breasts. She is responsible for giving life that of which would not live if not for her love and nurturing. And the crone, “He stood next to Marie, giving her a slight bow, “She is the ending. She is the one who will give the last bit of love. She will be the one who stands with you in death. And She is the one who will give life back to you. She is not the end, but rather the final phase in each lifetime.”

Dvalin stood in front of Mason, “Each is unlimited in magic, power, and in love. But together, they are something much, much stronger. Something so strong, that there is no soul, nor mind alive that could understand it. And if you think you can understand it, multiply that by the most infinite number you could imagine, and then again, and again. You then, may have a slight idea.” Mason shook his head, “Wait. You are telling me that these three right here are real live Goddesses, do you?” Dvalin gave a short nod. “And these three have this magical connection or what have you?” Dvalin gave another short nod of his head. “Right. Well, umm, yeah. Thanks for coming and helping out with John there, Dvalin. I will just see you out so we can, umm-” Dvalin cut him off, “You seem to be under the assumption that I am leaving, Sir.” The three women sat there, not saying anything. Dvalin made a noise that sounded as though a scoffing laugh got caught in his throat. “I am going no where. My brother is upstairs and was almost half dead when I got here. Thankfully, Mother still has her instincts about her. Otherwise, there would have been no saving him. And I would hate to crush your hopes, but I stay as long as Brother is down.”

Mason looked like a fish out of water, his mouth opening and closing again, not sure what, or if he should say something. But he knew when to surrender. Besides, he knew it wouldn’t do any good to fight. Dwarves were not supposed to exist, along with werewolves, and other mythological beings. But here were four beings that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn’t even exist. He sighed as he heavily nodded his head, “Yeah, ok mate. You can stay in the room with John if you’d like.” Dvalin blinked. Before he started back up the stairs, He looked back at Billie, “You would do well to keep close to your human, My Lady.” Billie didn’t respond, so He headed up to the bedroom where John was resting.

Mason and Billie had both been thinking about what seemed weeks ago, when they consummated their relationship. Billie hungered for more. Mason needed to feel her skin on his. They hadn’t slept in over twenty four hours though, and before Mason could even reach around Billie, She was asleep.

The dream was vivid. She could feel the leaves flutter across her skin as She ran through the woods. The scent of a musty damp earth filled her nose. Her heart pounded against her chest as She ran from something. Stealing a glance over her shoulder, She saw Fenris. His massive wolf was running full speed toward her. The full moon shone across the blanketed forest floor. She hadn’t transformed. Trying to will the change to come so She could properly defend herself against him, nothing happened.

Pumping her legs harder, She had a flash of running through the woods that day so long ago. The day Fenris took her mortality, and her Grandmother from her. Forever lost to her, She grew maddeningly and involuntarily mad. She was a human. But She would stop running. He might kill her, but the anger coursed so wildly through her, She thought She might be able to kill him with her bare hands.

Red hair flying over to one side, in one fluid motion, She turned. Fenris had her; again. His large teeth clenched down on her throat. His drool threatened to slide down her cheek. But why was he not ripping her throat out?

Billie lifted her hand to his throat, and it came flooding back to her. The cloak. She was wearing the cloak that her Grandmother had made for her protection. That was why Fenris couldn’t kill her now. But this wasn’t right, Billie thought. She reached over to pinch herself, and as She squeezed her own skin through her delicate looking fingers, She was catapulted out of her dream and right into Mason’s arms.

His shoulders were strong, and his breath steadied her. A low growl escaped from deep in Mason’s chest and startled Billie. Looking up She was startled to see his eyes glow a faint yellow. It couldn’t be, She thought. She looked again, but his eyes were now closed.

“Shh. It’s ok. It was only a dream, Love.” He cooed as he petted her hair. “You wanna tell me what it was about?”

Billie shook her head, “Just hold me? And don’t let go.” She whispered into his chest. His voice came through the dark in a velvety whisper, “Never.”

Mason had a lot of questions. But they would be for Marie to answer. She would know. And he wasn’t sure if he wanted Billie to be the one to know the answers that he needed.

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Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Billie didn’t know why she was so shocked when Mason opened his garage and she saw three very expensive looking cars. There was no time to goggle, so she followed suit and hopped into the car that Mason got into; a shiny black Jaguar XF-R. Billie didn’t know a lot about cars, but She knew fast when she saw it. This car was definitely fast.

Speeding down the two lane county road, they were on the highway within minutes. Billie looked over to see how fast Mason was driving. In a few short minutes, Mason had the speedometer pegged at the cars maximum speed. Two hundred twenty five miles per hour was what the car was maxed out to do, and it looked like the needle was going to break because it was buried under the maximum speed. The adrenalin had instantly kicked in for Mason and Billie, so a high speed chase was the farthest thing from their mind. Thankfully, there were no cops in sight, and within a few more minutes, they were screeching to a stop at Johns apartment building.

Billie took two steps at a time, getting to John’s apartment on the fifth floor in record time. She didn’t need Mason to show her. She could smell the sticky scent of Saba’s blood, mixed with a stomach turning stench of rotting earth. The smell made Billie stop in her tracks, leaving Mason running right into her at his full speed, which almost knocked Billie over. She grabbed the door frame to not only keep from getting plowed over, but also because she had almost fell at the sight in the small apartment. Trying to keep from retching and crying all at the same time, Billie stumbled over to the coffee table and sat down. Greenish yellow liquid oozed from a gash in John’s shoulder. He laid on the couch, sweat dripping from his head.

Mason stumbled over to the couch. Tears welled in his eyes. He didn’t know about Johns real identity. “Johnny, what happened, buddy?” Mason asked, his voice strained as he tried to keep from crying. “The monster got me, Mister Mason. It was the bad monster. Bit me here.” John strained as he tried to show Mason the gashes where Fenris’ large teeth ripped through his skin. Mason was concentrated on John, so Billie looked over to Saba who had righted a small arm chair to sit down.

Saba’s jeans had turned black from the blood that gushed out of a gaping bite wound on his thigh. His left arm looked mangled, though Billie couldn’t get a good look at it because he seemed to be holding his arm together with the opposite hand. “Let me see, Saba.” Billie said in a whisper. Wincing as he took his hand off his arm, Billie grabbed a towel that had been covered in blood and ripped it down the middle. She tied a makeshift tourniquet just under his elbow to try and slow the bleeding down. She used the rest of the towel to hold onto the rest of his bleeding arm. Saba’s dark brown eyes looked up at Billie, “That thing that attacked us, was it really a monster?” his breathing was shallow, and he looked chalky. Billie knew that Saba was losing a lot of blood.

When one doesn’t know what to tell another, the best thing to tell them is always the truth, “Yes. It was a monster, Saba. It was a real life fucking monster who is going to lose his head when I see him!” She growled. Saba’s eyes grew wide. Mason and John went still. Billie hadn’t realized what exactly she had said until everyone was staring at her. One point for Fenris, she thought to herself. Saba straightened up in his chair as best he could, “What do you mean ‘when you see him’ Billie?” She stopped mid-pace and turned to Saba. Did she have to tell him the “whole truth”?, she thought. No. She could skirt around it. Gathering her thoughts, she covered her slip up as best she could, “I am going to look for him. And when I see him, I am going to rip his fucking skull from his neck…after I snap him in two.” She said through deep shaking breaths.

Walking into the kitchenette area of Johns apartment, Billie flipped her cell phone open and pressed a number that automatically dialed Marie’s phone. After the third ring Maria answered, “What has happened, dear?” After Billie told Marie about the phone call and what they had walked in to at Johns apartment, and about Saba being bit by Fenris, she had to ask if Marie was still on the phone. “Yes, I’m still here. This is getting bad, Billie. You will have to bring them to your house. Scott…umm decided to leave.” Billie’s eyes creased together, “What do you mean? Who cares if he left. Marie, I don’t think that” Marie interrupted, “Dear, he took Serenity’s car. We have no way to get to you.” Billie had no idea how they would get both Saba and John to Billie’s house. “I will figure something out. Be ready and make sure everything is locked up until we get there.” Billie snapped the phone shut and walked back into the living room. “We gotta get you two to my house. Saba you can’t drive, so I will drive your car, and you can ride with Mason and John.” Mason nodded his head as he stood to pick John up. John piped up as much as he could, “The helpers will see if we go down the elevator.” Billie blinked. How could she not have thought about that. She looked at Saba. His head started to bead sweat. His color was not looking right. If they didn’t hurry, Billie knew that Saba could risk being turned. “Ok,” Billie nodded, “We’ll just have to use the stairs. Saba, do you think-”

“Yeah, I think I can make it. It’s not that bad.” He said through a strained voice. Mason looked disapprovingly but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t a small man by any means. But he also knew that he couldn’t carry two men down the stairs either.

Making their way down the stairs proved to be easier than Mason and Saba anticipated. After going down a couple of stairs Billie grabbed Saba and practically carried him the whole way down. She was stealthy, that was for sure. Within ten minutes of Billie and Mason getting to Johns apartment, they were barreling down the road again, heading toward Billie’s house. It was hard for Billie to keep up with Masons car. Saba had a very nice newer model Mustang, but the speed didn’t compare to Mason’s Jaguar. She drove at precision speed down the road. Trees and street lights whizzed past in a sea of green and gray blur.

As Mason pulled up to the house, Billie saw that Saba was in the back seat holding pressure on Johns bite. Her heart started to pound in her ears as she ran up and grabbed John from Mason and Saba. Billie‘s voice came out more of a scream than she had meant to, “Open the door!” It only took a few seconds for Marie to get the door unlocked and open. But by the time she had, Mason was speeding up to the door as fast as he could, Saba in tow.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk. This is bad, Nephew. This is very bad. Lucky for them I have some herbs that might help. But I guarantee nothing. Do you understand?” Marie said. “But can you help?” Mason asked her. “Oh, I can help. But I don’t know if my help is exactly what you are wanting. Will they live? Yes. Will they be the same as before? That remains to be seen. No matter though. We will try. And that is all one can do, yes?”

Marie instructed Mason and Billie to lay Saba and John down side by side on the floor. She rummaged through her bag and pulled out a rather large plastic bag filled with some sort of dried purple flower. Wolfs bane, Billie thought. She emptied the flowers in a large bowl, and added a liquid. Feverishly pounding the flowers, mixing them with the liquid, the contents quickly started to turn into a paste. “Fix Saba first.” John said through clenched teeth. Marie looked grimly at John, but quickly turned to Saba. As she poured some milky white liquid onto his gash on his leg Saba clenched his teeth trying to stifle a scream. A thick vein visibly pulsed in his neck. The gash almost instantly started to seep a thick pus. Marie used her steady hand to wipe away the wetness from Saba’s leg, and just as quickly slathered the grayish-purple paste into the wound. Short grunts through hard panting filled Mason’s ears. Marie silently moved up to his arm and did the same thing.

By the time she was finished with Saba, she turned to John who now had his eyes closed. When she didn’t move to do the same to him, Mason started ranting, “You need to fix him Marie!” She looked solemnly at Mason, “I can’t.” Pointing his blood stained finger at her, he demanded, “You better fix him, Marie!” She looked into Masons eyes, “I cannot fix John, Mason. It is beyond me.” Mason stumbled back a step. As Billie caught him by the elbow, he screeched, “It doesn’t seem as though you have a chance, old woman. Fix him now!” Billie had never seen Mason like this before. “Mason I-” He jerked his arm from Billie, “NO! I will do it myself then.” He went to kneel next to John who by all intense and purposes looked to be asleep. Until his words broke his quiet state, “Mister Mason. Miss Marie can’t help it. I am not what you think. The bite has to go on its own with me. I will be ok,” he reached up with a bloody hand and stroked Masons face, “I will be okay Mister Mason. I will. I just need a rest is all. I will take a nap now. Don’t worry. I will be okay.” He said sleepily as his hand thudded to the floor. He mumbled something that Mason almost didn’t catch, “Brother will be here soon.”

Billie somehow knew that John would be okay. Marie did the right thing, Billie thought. Had she used the wolfs bane on John, it would have done more damage. Billie knew it, though she didn’t know how she knew. That didn’t help Mason though. “What in the Hell is your problem?!” he yelled at Billie and Marie. “Both of you have lost your minds! What is going on here? I want some answers. And now!” He looked livid. Mason was shaking from anger, and something in his eyes shone that no one had ever seen before. Marie and Billie took several steps away from him. “Where’s Serenity?” Billie quietly asked Marie. “In her room, Dear. Maybe you should go check on her?” Mason was pacing back and forth. “No! No one is leaving this room!” He bellowed. Billie was getting pissed. Mason should know that none of them would ever not help John. He was being ridiculous, and she was about to set him straight when Serenity walked into the living room.

Her eyes were wide, and looked like they were made of glass. “Mason. John will be as okay as he can be. The wolfs bane will not help him. It has to run its course. You need to calm down.” Serenity said as she walked over and put her hands on his shoulders. Mason quickly fell quiet. His thoughts sped through his mind. As he started to form one full thought, it would fly away and another would replace it. Nothing made sense. He needed answers. No one was leaving until he got what he wanted.

Marie covered John and Saba with throw blankets and walked into the kitchen. “Tea?” She yelled out to the rest who were all standing in the middle of the living room exchanging looks of uncertainty at each other. “Yes, please. None of the baby killing stuff though.” Serenity chirped.

“I need answers. The problem is, I don’t even know the questions.” Mason said as Marie set tea cups down for all of them. Billie reached for his hand, “I wan to give you answers, Babe. Problem is, I don’t have all the answers myself.” She rubbed at her tired eyes. Her heart leaped as she thought of their love making. It had only been one hour, but it felt like it had been days. Serenity sighed, “Well, I guess we can start with what happened at your house, Mason.” With those words, Mason seemed to settle down a bit. “Okay. I’m listening.’ He said.

The three women nodded their heads at the same time. They would all tell him the truth. Everything. From the magical ritual, to Johns’ special circumstances, as well as their intimate knowledge of each other. Although it wasn’t by any means a precise science, they were linked, the three of them, separately the same. Each one wearing their own skin, yet un-whole without the other two. They were Deity living in a human capacity, with very human minds. Mason sat there and listened, not interrupting, and only asking a question here and there, to make sure that he was following them correctly. As Marie finished, she made sure to tell Mason, “I know this doesn’t make sense right now. It won’t make sense until we have all the answers, Dear. But if you have ever trusted me before, now would be a wonderful time to implement that trust on a broader spectrum.”

Mason sat back in his chair, “I wont lie about it. I don’t get it. I really don’t. But, it doesn’t seem like I’ve got a choice, eh.” Billie choked out a whisper, “You always have a choice, Mason. We could never take that from you. But I can tell you this. Every choice you have made, following up to opening the Club, employing Serenity, her introducing you and I, and everything after that, has paved the way for what is supposed to be. In regards to you, that is. I would never; could never take away your free will. That is yours.”

Mason looked at the three women. Marie, as old as anyone’s guess, Serenity, pregnant with a child who will no doubt be special, and Billie, the only love he had ever wanted. What a team. “Well, what do we do now?” Mason asked. Serenity put her tea cup down, “Nothing. We do absolutely nothing. We continue to work with our gifts, try to figure out Fenris’s next step, and prepare.” Billie snorted, “Sounds like a lot more than nothing, Itty.” Marie scolded, “Alright you all, time to figure out how to move the two Sleeping Beauties.” The three looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language. She piped up, “Well don’t look at me. I’m certainly not going to try to move either of them. We all need to get to Masons house.” Mason looked confused, “We aren’t staying here?” he asked.

Serenity explained that Scott had started to get physical, so she kicked him out. He took her car and therefore, had the keys. And with something being off about Scott, she didn’t want to risk staying there and something else happening.

Mason carried John, while Billie half carried Saba. She could smell the were on his skin. She hoped against hope that the bites had been tended to quickly enough for the venom to not make him change. Something made her skin crawl with the thought of being too late to have made a difference. She was afraid that they had been too late. She would have to wait until the next full moons pull to see if Saba was going to change.

Serenity silently hoped that all the excitement was done for a while. She wanted to veg out in Masons over-sized chair with a box of chocolate. Her mind wandered a thousand places as she thought about being able to sit and relax. Billie and Mason were full swing in the ‘honeymoon phase’, and knowing Marie, she would be nose deep in a book. She would have time all to herself to be upset over Scott. So many questions filtered through. What made him change? What made him go from being gung ho about parenthood, to teetering on domestic violence? How could it have been so easy to get him to leave? Her questions, she knew would go unanswered; for now at least.

After Mason and Billie got John and Saba settled in the guest rooms, they joined Marie and Serenity down in the living room. Billie hoped that nothing else would happen. It had been a long night, and dawn was threatening to light the sky soon. Billie plopped a leg over Mason just as a few short raps came at the French doors.

The four jumped up and looked through the glass to see Dvalin standing there. He didn’t look to thrilled. “Who in the Hell is that?” Mason questioned. “That would be Johns brother.” Serenity answered as she walked to the door. By now, Mason was used to be taken by surprise, and just answered, “Oh”.

As the short dark haired man stepped through the doors, he looked at each of them, enunciating each word “You-was-meant-to-keep-him-safe! NOW look at what your foolishness has done!”

Nope. The night surely wasn’t over yet.

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