“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 the portal to the other side – away from the human dominated world and into the world where magic still held sway and humans were a commodity and not free. 

“After this last 48 hours, I will not argue with that plan in the least.” Zen closed her eyes for the moment as they walked through the magical energy. She found that doing so right when she stepped into the portal kept her from having the dizzying effects of it on the other side. She opened her eyes and she could already see the shadows of people and buildings on the other side. She could still feel Devon’s hand on her back. The Elven Leadership had sent her through quickly enough to replace Minlial and figure out where she had gone. But they didn’t expect to hear anything back from her for weeks. Zenlial felt that would give her enough time to go incognito and help both herself and Devon. As her vision cleared, she slowed just a bit to give a cart time to cut their path. And then, they were truly in the other world.

“Didn’t think ya would.” Devon paused a moment to get his bearings as the cart ambled past them. The queasy feeling quickly vanished from his stomach as he took a breath of air. After so many years away he had to cough a few times until his system regulated and adjusted itself to the oxygen rich air. “Come on, there’s a decent inn at the north end of town that’s away from all this noise.”

Devon led Zenlial through the market and past several merchant shops. The streets were packed earth for the most part or at least they were in this section of the city. The Alpha made as little eye contact as possible as he led the way past three bars and at least two cafes. For humans that came here as guests, Zen found that they usually likened the other side to market places in Asia, Indonesia, India, and the quieter sides of towns to Europe of older history perhaps some were even modern-esque in some features. They had good plumbing on this side, sure… that had been accomplished in response to disease. However, most energy was not based on fossil fuel here. It was based on magic or renewable energy sources.  There were very few steam powered constructs, and no internal combustion engines allowed. What humans had been allowed to do on the other side of the portal had taught those on this side.

The pace quickened as they moved past the brothels and that was because the last thing Devon needed his mate thinking was that he was prowling around on her. It was still habit of an honor bound lycan. Only when the packed earth gave way to brick did Devon slow his steps down.  They were now in the middle to upper class part of the city which was obvious by the parks, greenery and lack of noise. Here the houses were freshly painted or scrubbed often, the windows were clean and the traffic was less. The horse drawn coaches and buggies were present but of much higher quality than the carts and wagons they’d passed just a short time ago. It was amazing to Devon how just a few feet made so much difference.

Reaching the white picket fence of the “Sweet Lamb” Inn, Devon held open the small gate and gave a slow grin as he recalled the story behind the name while Zenlial stepped through. The scent of fresh cooked food wafted through the air and it actually made the big man sigh; his mouth watered. It wasn’t home cooked Eva meals but it’d do the job. The inn was of modest size with at least eight rooms upstairs for guests and the dining area in the bottom floor with enough room to seat at least twelve to fifteen comfortably. Devon pulled out his coin pouch and waited at the front desk for the matron of the place to greet them and sign them in. He paid the lady for two rooms with baths and meals included.

“Care to eat down here with the rest of us or just together upstairs in one of your rooms?” The middle aged blonde human asked as she looked from the familiar lycan to the unfamiliar elf. Made no difference to her, she just needed to know what to tell her husband, the cook.

“I believe having the meals in our rooms would be preferable, madame. Thank you.” Zenlial knew that Devon really didn’t want to have people know he was here until he could find out more about the warring factions. Zen preferred privacy in all things. She was supposed to be on the other side. Having an elven scout happen to find her might not be a good thing. She waited on Devon to finish the appropriate transactions so she could get the room key.  She wasn’t sure if she had information that would be helpful to him. He had seemed a bit taken aback when she mentioned his father’s name.

Once they were alone in one of the rooms upstairs, Devon looked to the elf. “What all do ya know of the lycan issues and what exactly have ya heard about Kieran?” He pulled a chair out from the small table, spun it around and straddled it to be face to face with Zen.  

Zenlial placed her case down on the chest of drawers nearby and then turned to Devon.

“The elves were forced by revolution to release all slaves that were of lycan decent. As you well know, the history between the Elven Nation and the Lycan Prides and Packs has never been exceptional. That revolution was led by a displaced lycan Alpha turned lone wolf. He took command of many a renegade and led them against the elves to help incite and free the slaves still found in the Northern Regions. He has his own army, now.  Rumor has it, he wants his pack back. He has been making a trail of carnage over the lands, either engulfing other packs to his desires or defeating them.” Zenlial knew Devon wasn’t a dolt. He knew who she was speaking of.

“He can want all he likes but that ain’t gettin’ him shit.” Devon rumbled as he tapped his fingers on the back of the chair. “I’m not sure he deserves even a chance at leadin’ the Pack again.” The big lycan was tense with the irritation he felt at what Zenlial had just said. Kieran had steadily gone down hill from a stern demanding Alpha to an Alpha who didn’t give a shit about anything or anyone.

“Your opinion may not matter. He is leading a pack nearly as large as your own right now, they simply are made up of all kinds. They’ve got their own set of rules. Those rules aren’t so honorable all of the time, from what I have been made to understand. Thus far he has remained North of your pack’s territory. But there are other packs and prides who are defending the borderlands, now. And just beyond the borderlands is where three non-Crimson portals are. Therefore, trade is impacted. It is like your father is the stone that was dropped in the center of a still pond, Devon. He is making waves all around him. My people were the first affected. Minlial would have been speaking about it before the Council had she not disappeared.”  The elf commented. “It is an item that is on my listing of situations to report on. He has made clear through captured envoys that he wants Pack Weylyn. He even calls this new pack of his by that name.”

“Look there is no love lost between me and the elven race. There have been times when we have gotten along just fine. Other times not so fine and we find ourselves on the outs. My ole man has gone after ‘em for the right reasons in this case. I don’t condone slavery and fight it every chance I get. As to the Pack… well that is different. That wasn’t the first time I’d traded words and fists with my sire, but it was the moment that I wasn’t about to back down or walk away. I took control over of the Pack because he was no longer able enough to run it properly.”

“And you have been in the other world for at least most of a century of years. You have no idea how your pack is being run and what is happening, do you?” Zen asked.

“No Zenlial, I haven’t been in contact for a few months.” Rising from the chair Devon slowly made his way to the window to look out of it towards the park close by. He watched children playing in it as their parents watched and he thought of his own family on the other side. “My sister is on this side with her family and her mate. They watch the Pack and let me know if things come up that I need to see to. The fact that I haven’t heard from her tells me things have been alright or at least I hope so. But that is why I am here. I want to visit and see for myself if things are okay. After that I’ll see what I can find out about my ole man and his activities. Seem fair?”

“It does. I cannot provide you with details concerning your pack. My role was pushed upon me and I did not get to ask my scouts about further information because of the quickness with which the Elven Nation promoted me and reassigned me.” She smiled a bit sadly. “However,  from my own experience in things such as relationships between siblings and also mates of siblings – I can speak to the fact that no news does not necessarily mean good news. Sometimes omissions are stronger deceptions than lies.”

Devon didn’t want to agree. He really didn’t want to think badly of his sister or her mate. He didn’t want to think he had made the wrong choice by giving them the pack.

“I can try to reach out to the scouts under my care previously. They are very loyal to me.” She moved her hands over her shoulders as she looked upon the strong lycan in the window’s light.  “It is only by your request.”

His golden gaze moved from the children at play to the elven female standing in the center of the room, “Then reach out to them please, madam. See what they find out. Let ‘em know that we can be found on the trail to the Pack lands in the East. We’ll eat and rest here, then first thing in the mornin’ I’ll get supplies for the travel. If all goes well, we could reach my sister in three days, that is – if your scouts get us word that it’s safe to go in. Otherwise I’ll have ya scouts guide ya back here and you can go through portal with a message to that dragon that saw us off and to my mate.”

“Why would I not simply send one of my scouts through the portal for the sake of being a messenger and join you on the journey?” Zenlial asked, her dark haired brow knitting.

“Trust me, Jean-Michel ,as he introduced himself,  will know what to do and who to bring over. Safe or not, I gotta get in and see to my family and my Pack. I’m safer amongst lycan alone and besides, no offense but with what ya just told me of Kieran… well ya wouldn’t be safe at all if his men have taken it.” Devon was brave, but he wasn’t foolhardy or stupid and he wouldn’t get her killed or worse.

“I am more resourceful than you give credit for, Devon. You would not have a worry over me. But perhaps we could argue the point after our dinner is delivered?” She looked toward the door and then within five seconds, there was a knock.  

“Your food?!” called the voice outside the door.  There had been no way she could have heard them, for Devon hadn’t heard them.  She let that sink in.  

Walking to the door Devon opened it up to allow the entry of their food. He remained silent until the food was laid out and the server left. He stayed at the door watching through a crack of an opening until the male was down the hall and heading down the stairs. Only then did he close the door all the way and turn to her again, “Have a seat and while we eat you can tell me how long ya been clairvoyant.” His mate sometimes had visions or had a sense of things so such things didn’t surprise him. Not to mention she was an elf and they were known to be highly magical creatures.

“Clairsentient, too. I have been since I came of age. I also used to be a healer.” She sat down to her vegetarian meal and began cutting up the long green beans.  

“Why do ya think I wouldn’t have to worry over ya? Your gift of sight is wonderful, but have ya ever dealt with aggressive lycan on a war high in Pack lands?” Dev cut up his meat and took a bite to chew while listening to her responses.

“I still practice my particular martial art form whenever I have the chance. I believe I could go up against one. I could at least hold my own, for a lycan who has lost his wits to the adrenaline of the fight is strong, but easily thwarted. It’d be those with their wits fully intact that I would need to be careful of. I’ve seen both in action and I did outwit both before. Granted… I had a dragon on my side when I went up against the one who came out of his berserker raging and still engaged me.” She took a bite of her greens.  She liked bragging and having someone to actually share things with. It had been quite some time.  

There was a slow lift at the corners of his mouth and he gave an equally low chuckle, “Dragons are handy just don’t fully depend on ‘em. They can be taken down too by one who knows how to and trust me, my ole man knows how to. But ya are correct that a lycan with his wits is more dangerous than one with out ‘em. Though I will tell ya from experience that ya never wanna truly believe ya got the upper hand on either one.” Dev’s canines showed as he took a bite of greens and they scraped against the metal of the utensil. “Anywhere particular I gotta get ya to meet up with those scouts and get ‘em scoutin’ ?”

“Oh, no worries. My scouts are already on this particular mission. I, uh… I have a bond to them and can mind speak even in long distances.”  

Devon visibly shivered at the mention of mental bonds. “Have all that ya like. My brother talks that way to me when he really needs to but honestly we lycan don’t care for it. Nobody should be messin’ around up there in my head like that.” He took a drink from his glass and explained a little better, “When I was an unwilling guest of the elves durin’ the second race war they liked to pull the mind stuff on us. I found out then that I really don’t like others fuckin’ around with my noggin’.”

“You had no need to explain it to me. But I appreciate it. I’ll only reach out to you in such a way if it’s absolutely necessary. Besides, you’d have to actually allow it to happen for it to. And I doubt I’ve earned that kind of trust” Zenlial smiled before adding, “…yet.”  

 

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