Trust. It was a five letter word that held a lot of meaning to the Alpha of Pack Weylyn. Right now as he approached the portal with his best friend Senias and the Kennedy heir Gabriel, Devon was having a real hard time believing the world he’d left so long ago was back at war again. Derek had assured him the information was legit even though he had gotten it from the demon twins that were known to be anything but trustworthy. The only reason the big lycan was going along with this was

A.) they needed a new lycan Councilor and

B.) he trusted Derek.

But in doing this… this way… would he lose the trust of his best friend?  If he didn’t do it this way – it’d never get done proper. He had no choice.

Dressed in a loose brown shirt and jeans with his boots, Dev had made sure he left any electronics back at home since they wouldn’t work on the other side of the portal anyway. He had kissed Eva and his pups and promised he’d return soon. He’d left Derek watching over the family and Eva in charge of the Pack decisions. Sen would see to security until his return, the draconic man just didn’t know it yet. With the beads in place in his braids and his cuffs hidden beneath his shirt on his upper biceps he was ready to deal with what lay on the other side. But first they had an elf to meet.

Senias or as he was known to the rest of the world – Jean-Michel Raudine,  opened the passenger door to Dev’s big read truck and waited for Gabriel to exit. His Councilor was to meet with the newly appointed Elven Councilor and speak to her about investigations into the former Councilor’s disappearance as well as the possibility that they would need to go back through to seek a Lycan Councilor.  It was a lot, and she might well have need of arrangements before going back through. They were ready to introduce her to this world – or reintroduce her as the case might be. 

“Devon’s ahead of us,” Sen watched as their chauffeur continued onward like he had a purpose in mind.  He didn’t like the thought of that. His eyes narrowed. Devon usually acted as a guardian when they were escorting Gabriel somewhere. After all, Gabe was well known not just as a Councilor of Crimson among supernaturals, but also as a well established Fortune 500 CEO. So this kind of behavior was unusual. 

“A bit too much to ask that he wait on us was it?” Gabriel actually muttered under his breath as he stepped out of the car, adjusted his suit and closed the door before walking with his Tasker towards the front of the large building.

“I think he’s already got a plan in mind. Devon doesn’t deal well with the other side. Or let me rephrase that. He doesn’t like the idea of letting you go through there. It’s rough and dangerous right now. So, he may be setting something in motion.” Sen knew his lycan brother all too well. He was a devious shit when he needed to be, even though he acted all honorable.

Gabe’s gaze moved aside to the Tasker. If that was so – they needed to catch up.

 

Zenlial took her paperwork and placed it in the briefcase she had with her. It wasn’t the only piece of her ensemble that was more or less human. She had come through the portal after staying at one of the nicer inns on the other side. There, she had changed into a modern business elite ensemble that included these odd shoes that made her feel like she was walking on stilts. She walked in them with grace and beauty, her legs working perfectly with the knee-length skirt. She looked like she had stepped out of a GQ photo shoot, female or not. However, the elf in human clothes only had a description of the person she was supposed to meet. She looked around at the outside of the oddly appointed train station that held the underground portal beneath. This was the exit and entrance area, where people picked up new arrivals to this world or dropping off those going through to the other side; the magical world she had just come from.

Knowing that Sen and Gabe were just a few lengths behind him, Dev approached the only elf on the platform. “Believe yer waitin’ on us ma’am. Devon Weylyn at ya service.” He gave a nod of his dirty blonde head before glancing over his shoulder to see the other two climbing the steps.

“That obvious?” she asked. The elf smiled brightly at the huge man and took a small step back in the heels and bowed for him. She held her hand out then in greeting. “Zenlial Nedian. Also family kin of Minlial Nedian. I am here as the new Councilor. But, you probably know that. Sorry. I am nervous.” She was so nervous she was admitting this to someone she didn’t even know. Though, he was nicely cut as a warrior would be and seemed… lycan? He carried himself well. He wasn’t a servant, that was for sure. “Are you the new Lycan Councilor?”  

Devon looked her up and down and then glanced at the much smaller hand that she now held out to him in greeting. Taking it he shook it in human fashion as he chuckled low and answered the questions put forth, “No ma’am, I’m Alpha to Pack Weylyn and will be in charge of findin’ the new Councilor. But it’s nice to have ya on board Ms. Nedian. To answer the other question yes I know ya kin to Minlial.” Devon asked the young female elf as she looked up at him.

“Then you can call me Zenlial or Zen. I would be more comfortable with that. We elves aren’t much on all the names listing and titles. Might I call you Devon? I kind of hate being so formal all of the time. It makes me feel like I… I’m being condescending. I do not mean to ever do that.” She even spoke with some contractions – a habit she had gathered from being a liaison between humans and elves.

“I don’t see why ya can’t call me Devon, ma’am it is my given name.” One dimple showed as he gave a partial grin to her, “Trust me the day ya come off soundin’ condescendin’ I’ll be the first to tell ya about it.” He chuckled a little more. It wasn’t hard for Devon to strike up conversation with the new Councilor seeing as he’d had a few elven lovers in his time before Eva. Elves had a certain shine to their personality that made them appealing and very interesting. They were longer lived even than lycan – and yet they usually were as exuberant about life as humans were. He actually liked their spirit, it was their culture’s ideas where other races were concerned that he didn’t care for much.

“Oh good, believe me, I’d want you to tell me!” she was smiling brightly now, quite happy to be accepted well. “And I was supposed to be meeting a Councilor? Not that I mind looking at you. But what with the doppelganger situation being so soon in passing, I want to be sure of everything. I want to do this correctly.”  She took a deep breath, but then coughed. The oxygen levels here were a bit low compared to what she was accustomed to.  

“Catch ya breath he’ll be here in a minute.” Feeling Sen and Gabe right behind him, Dev took a deep breath and stepped aside, “Small breaths till ya get used to the difference. Tasker Raudine and Councilor Kennedy meet Councilor Nedian.”

Gabriel moved forward and offered his hand, “Welcome Councilor Nedian, forgive the last minute arrival, but we just received your information this morning.”

“Oh dear. Apologies for that,” she smiled and took Gabriel’s hand. “I’m afraid the Elven High Confederation is slow to make decisions about their relationship with their Earthly comrades and when they do, they finish off quickly and expect everyone else to do so.” She was nothing if not honest and a realist. “Please call me Zenlial. My other name is a shared name with many people. But I am the only Zenlial you’ll find.”  

“Very well Zenlial, you may call me Gabriel, most do.” Gabe was surprised by this elf. Up to this point almost every elf he’d conversed with had felt themselves superior to all others and looked down their noses at those that weren’t elven. “This is my Tasker, he’ll be helping you until another can be found for you. As you know Lady Minlial’s own was a doppel which is how they were able to get to her. Replacements are being screened now.”

“Yes. So disheartening,” she hated hearing that the elf had not made it.

Raudine stood back and was not offering his hand at the moment, but the elf had other plans. She moved forward to him and tilted her head slightly. She held out her hand.

“Honored. You go by Tasker Raudine or something easier to say?” she asked.

“Uh…” he took her hand, but he felt uncomfortable in doing so. Both of his compatriots would see this. “If we go by the rules, Tasker Raudine or Raudine. But if you want easy – Jean-Michel is the first name. Jean for short.”

“That’s not true,” her gaze narrowed.

The Tasker’s gaze narrowed in turn. Did she have magic he didn’t see? 

“Oh, wait…of course. Jean. Apologies. I was confused for a moment. Perhaps the difference in atmosphere?” she smiled and then turned to look at the other two gentlemen. “So, is there a place for food nearby? I’m famished. And then we can speak about what you need my help with? I refuse to be just a holder of votes. If you need help, I wish to make myself useful.”

She took a step and her ankle wobbled just a bit in those high heels that her fashion consultant had given her. Zen was about ready to tuck and roll like a true warrior would.

Quick on his feet and fast with his hands, Dev was reaching out to catch the petite female at her waist and steady her as she wobbled and nearly fell off her heels. “Easy there gal. Bit unsteady in those aren’t ya?”

Raudine chuckled and whispered, “Good catch.”

Zenlial was looking up at the big lycan instead of letting herself fall and roll. His eyes were beautiful. She swallowed and placed her hands on his forearms. “How do humans walk in these things?”  

“Hm yes good catch indeed.” Gabriel lifted a brow knowing what Eva would call it.

“Is it offensive to take off one’s shoes? The consultant told me that these were part of the ensemble, but I don’t see the purpose of such uncomfortable things. We elves wear shoes that are practical for our feet. These are anything but.” She was looking over her shoulders at the Councilor and his Tasker.  

Without saying another word Devon lifted the elf with one arm around her waist and plucked the shoes from her feet. As he set her back on her feet, the lycan rumbled, “Shoes like this are useless..”

Zenlial felt herself against the Alpha’s body and swallowed. When he took her shoes from her feet, she giggled just a bit. Sure, he’d been forward per her people’s customs, but she’d loved it! This assignment was going to prove so much fun! She looked up at Devon again and nodded. “I take it there is no offense taken! Good!”

Feeling the two stare at him, Dev set Zenlial back on her feet. “Better?” He stepped back and let go.

“I didn’t say a damn thing,” Raudine replied before motioning to the cars. “Shall we take Zenlial to somewhere she can get practical shoes or if she needs food, we can always go to the park and a vendor there or to the estate first before that? Then we can discuss what needs to happen next?”  

“Whatever you believe is best…” Zenlial was interrupted by Devon.

“What happens next is I leave ya’ll to tend to her and I go through for another Councilor and some answers.” Devon looked from the elf to his friend. “That’s what happens next.”

“You can’t be serious. Devon, I need to go through and select the next Councilor. That is my duty according to Crimson. And I have plans to do so after we get Zenlial settled.” Gabriel lost any signs of pleasantry. “You’re an Alpha, but not anything to Crimson or the Council. You can’t possibly…”

Devon’s gaze narrowed just a little as he looked at the human he’d helped raise.

“Don’t finish that sentence boy. I’ll remind ya I was leadin’ lycan into battle long before even your granddaddy was a twinkle in his own daddy’s eyes. I’m an Alpha not only by birth but by physical claim and I have seen you and that Tasker of yours out of more jams than you even know of. So yeah, I can be very serious and yeah I can do the job.” The way his accent changed to that of a sophisticate and the gold in his eyes could be seen would let Gabriel know to tread carefully. Devon was not in the mood to debate the issue and especially not after Gabe had come close to saying the lycan had no idea what he was doing. Kennedy security was run by the Alpha and put together by him. What qualifications did Kennedy think he lacked to make such a decision? He was an Alpha warrior and an elder lycan. There was no one better qualified to pick a new Lycan Councilor, to be honest. 

Realizing how he’d erred, Gabriel remained silent as Devon shifted his gaze from him to the dragon and let the drawl slip back over his words, “I need ya to watch things for me and handle security while I’m gone brother.” It was less asking and more informing which would tell Sen that Devon might expect trouble on the other side. He wanted his family seen to if it came to that. If lycan were indeed at war again it would be dangerous and while Devon didn’t fear danger or battle, he did fear leaving his family with only young lycan to defend them. His pups were growing up but even Derek hadn’t seen much of battle. The boy had been through the tail end of the last lycan war and that one had cost his father’s life and another brother’s humanity. That was tragedy enough for that Derek and so Devon was relying on Senias if need be. He didn’t want any of them to be sucked into this war – if it were truly a war. He hoped it didn’t come to that.

“You need someone to have your back, Dev. You’re not Alpha to all of their eyes. And if your father’s made enemies in your absence… just your name’ll have you a bunch of enemies, too. What are you thinking?” Senias growled as he moved forward to the lycan. He didn’t have Gabriel’s trepidation in calling Devon on his sudden change of plans.

“I’m thinkin’ one or two goin’ through won’t draw much attention, but three and more will surely get it. Not the first time I’ve snuck around an enemy camp brother.” The lycan stood tall and looked his best friend in the eyes. “Pulled ya outta one right beneath their noses no less. I need these answers and ya know it.” Hundreds, maybe thousands of lives depended on what he found out and they both knew that.

“You said your name was Weylyn? And that you are an Alpha in this world?” Zenlial took the moment to step closer to the lycan who had been more than kind to her. “Are your Kieran’s son?” All three of the men turned to look at the elf when she asked. 

That golden gaze shifted towards Zenlial and he rumbled low, “Yes he’s my sire. Are you saying he still lives?” So many years had passed since he’d even heard the name of his father, let alone since he’d last seen him. Of course the last time he’d seen Kieran was when he’d fought his own father for claim of Alpha.

Gabriel could tell by the way the draconic man’s head fell forward and he closed his eyes, breathing out a whispered curse – that apparently the elf had hit paydirt. Gabriel had been told very little of Devon and Eva’s time in the other world.

“Please listen to your friend’s warnings, Devon. You will not find a friendly reception beyond the magic of this portal. There is war upon the lycan of the lower realm. And the name Kieran Weylyn is not considered something anyone wishes to hear. He has struck out on his own with many of the pack behind his banner. The honorable Weylyn pack… I don’t know if it still exists. Even the elves of the highlands and the northern forests stay clear of the chaos.”  

“I thank you for the warnin’, but that is even more reason for me to go over.” Devon unbuttoned the top of his shirt and reached up to pull the Alpha cuffs from his upper arms. Holding the engraved silver pieces out to Raudine, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “Take these to Eva and tell her I need to finish business with my sire. If anything happens Derek gets ‘em and leads.”

Sen took the cuffs but was ready with an argument. Unfortunately, he didn’t get word one out of his mouth.

“Not this time brother. Blood bound oath remember.” Devon’s eyes were intense when their stare met the gaze of his chosen brother. 

“I will go back with you,” Zenlial suddenly announced. She pushed her brief case toward Gabriel.

“What?” Both Gabriel and Devon asked incredulously. Senias held the cuffs in his hands as if they were precious treasure. They were. He hated the idea of handing them over to Eva. When he heard the elf’s words and they actually sunk in, he also turned to watch what was happening. 

“But you need to accomplish things here, as Councilor. There is no reason for you to go with Devon,” Gabe began.

“You have all of my information and paperwork and can begin without me. Right here,” she shoved the briefcase into Gabriel’s grasp despite him not wanting it. She was stronger than she looked, dammit.  “And yes, there is a very important reason for me to go with Devon.”

“Which is?” Senias asked.

“Because my fate is bound to his.When an elf sees where their fate is bound, they must help to follow that fate. I followed my fate to this world. Now I will follow it back there. It does not mean I shirk my duties. I will return to you with the new Lycan Councilor. Your Council can do nothing official until we are both in place, anyway, correct?” Zen looked at Gabriel.

“No they can’t but Zenlial how will you be able to help?” Gabriel asked in curiosity.

“I can get back through easily. I am not of this side and I will not be someone that makes anyone suspicious… unlike a human mage or a … dragon…” she whispered the last very quietly. “I am an Elven Councilor. I will not be questioned.”

Sen’s eyebrow rose. Could he not keep his own secrets these days?

“I can advise Devon on the new events and help him handle anything he needs help with in this mission and his own mission. I have my own contacts over there. More than even the Elven High Confederation know of.” Zenlial didn’t know these people, but her own sight never had failed her. Her heart and her soul told her that this was what needed to happen. She had no idea why, but …

“There ya go I’m not goin’ alone. She has contacts and her position; I have instinct. We’ll be fine.” Devon held his arm out towards Sen and looked the dragon in the eyes, “I’ll send word in a few days alright? I give my word brother.” Devon had never broken his word.

Senias reluctantly took his brother’s arm and hugged the big man. “Don’t make me tell Eva anything I don’t want to tell her, you fucker. Get back here. Or find a way to get me there if you need me.”

Clapping his old friend on the back Dev squeezed the clasped forearm and rumbled in the old tongue to him, “My word.” As he let go he turned to move towards the portal without another word spoken. 

“We’re just, letting this happen?” Gabriel asked his Tasker. He had Zenlial’s briefcase in his hand, now. He was watching the other two leave back toward the deeper portions of the station.

“We have no choice.”

 

This building was literally a train station that held a hub for the two local urban and rural bus lines as well as the light rail. What most people didn’t know – was that if you had the correct credentials, you could go underground to the secondary purpose of this place – a portal that ran between the worlds. It was the official portal controlled by Crimson. From that underground system, one could also make their way to the Crimson HQ that was beneath Whitley college.  Zenlial had asked to meet them on the mortal side of the portal – in the train station rather than having to deal with Crimson. Looked like trusting her “fate” was adding up. Had she come through the Crimson HQ – she wouldn’t have had this opportunity. She wondered exactly what this opportunity would turn out to be.  

She was nearly double-timing it to keep up with Devon, but she didn’t complain. It wasn’t like it was winding her. She probably had as many years if not more years on him and she had been a warrior and a healer and a dancer… she knew how to carry herself properly.  

They got to the line, but instead, she tugged on his arm and motioned for him to go through to a shorter line on the other side of the entry.

“The perks of being a diplomat? You’re my bodyguard. But don’t use the name Weylyn. And remember to at least act subordinate? We should be fine,” Zenlial walked in front of Devon now, purpose driven, and proud.

Not use his name and act subordinate? As she moved in front of him, Devon lifted a brow for a moment before falling in step behind her. The way parted a little faster for her with the big lycan trailing her. Amazing what size and controlled strength could gain. He didn’t have to speak a word with the way he carried himself others of lesser self confidence backed away. Of course, he noted that it might have also been the way she carried herself. She was very confident and despite her size, she carried herself with the air of an immortal being. 

 

When the elf looked back at him the lycan shrugged his broad shoulders, “Don’t look at me like that I’m not doing anything but following you.” They made their way to the guard. Her head tipped back slightly, chin up. She handed the man her papers and waited for approval.

“What of him?” he asked.

“He lost his papers protecting his ward, the Councilor I am to replace. I promised to take him back to his pack before returning through – since it was obvious you would ask such questions and would need my word to let him through.”  Zenlial hoped Devon could come up with an acceptable name.  

“Dirk Abella from Pack Abella in the north.” There was no deception and the answer rolled from his tongue as if it belonged there. But then why wouldn’t it, it was the name of his grandfather. Although he never made contact with his mother’s Pack, it didn’t mean it no longer existed. As far as Dev knew the Pack was still there in the mountains as it had been the few times he’d been to visit his grandparents. Besides, they had closer ties to the elves that lived in the same country.

The guard wrote in the name and watched as the legal and magical words moved before his eyes on the notepad. Devon had been wise to use a family name, for the magic was linked to heredity and bloodlines. He nodded. Whatever the magical pad had told the man had cleared them for passing through.

Zenlial moved with a quick, but quiet regalia through the more crowded areas of the terminal, where people from both sides were mingling. She could feel Devon’s presence behind her and it apparently helped clear the way in front of her. She smiled.

“I cannot believe we just did that. I was sent here to fill an honorable elf’s shoes and I couldn’t even stand in them. Then, instead of remaining, I am heading right back through? Oh by the leaves, this has been an insane day,” Zenlial swallowed and kept walking toward the huge portal they were about to walk through.  Many others were gathered on both sides of the portal. There were benches and vendors of course. This side was set up in a steel-sided area – more sanitized than an airport.  The other side would not be so perfect, but the security there would still definitely be looking out for anything unusual. She had to keep her resolve.

There was a low chuckle from the lycan as he slowed his long stride to keep pace with her. His deep voice had that easy, relaxed tone to it as he spoke to her, “Ya do have some tight shoes to fill.. But instead of fillin’ those shoes I’d say steer clear of ‘em and set ya own shoes in their place. Set ya standards and stick to ‘em.”

Zenlial slowed and turned to look at him.

“Ya get more respect that way and a great deal more support. Just remember that first and foremost ya in there representin’ ya people. Keep that here.” He tapped his temple and then his chest over his heart, “And here and ya will do just fine in there.” Devon’s golden eyes were warm and welcoming in that rich honeyed color as he continued on with her.

As he spoke, the elf took note of his comfort and his demeanor. Devon made her feel more comfortable than anyone save her previous mate. And his eyes were especially unique. No elves or humans had such eyes, and those were the two races she had been around most. She smiled for him.

“Thank you.” She turned to look at the blue light of the portal. “Are you ready?”  

“One can never really be ready for portalin’.” He noticed that the energy from the portal made the hair on his arms tickle as if at any moment they’d stand straight up. “Let’s get through and find a place to bunk down and eat.” Dev placed a hand at the small of Zenlial’s back to guide her through.

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2017