Mira, for once, had held to her word. The night before, Inea had seen to Gabriel and Senias. Then, she had delivered the very precious slaying sword to the demoness. Inea wasn’t certain that the sword was a dragon slayer, though it definitely had a slaying magic cast upon it of some sort. There had been some talk between the two. Mostly, Mira reminded Inea that if any harm came to either Derek or Dante – she would use said sword on the dragoness. The sorceress had given Mira the time to make her opinion known and threaten. If it made the girl feel better, so be it. There were more important things to attend to. 

By the time Inea had things settled for the world she was from, and had gathered her fellow adventurers, a day had passed.  Inea portalled Derek and Largros, neither of whom were overly fond of each other to the lower floor of the very same parking garage that held Dante’s Inferno.  She could tell by the way her skin tingled that her lover had reassessed and reappointed the magical wards and security in the area.  That’s why she couldn’t portal directly inside of the underground club. Ahhh well. She made her way to the side entry off of the alley. 

“Yeah, well, I don’t see why you can’t comprehend the sport of it. You fight each other in rings for gods’ sakes,” the dragon rolled his eyes at the lycan.

“I mean, I suppose there is some sport to fighting in a ring, but what the humans do in football or boxing is nothing like what we do. And they do it solely for greed, not for any practical purpose. They aren’t fighting for their lives,” Derek countered.

“Nor are you.”

“We’re learning to fight for our lives if we ever had to,” the lycan pointed out.

“What would you say if I told you a lot of these players come from places where they would be struggling to find food to eat and they do this to support their families and make a better life for themselves in taking part in the sport?” Largros asked.

“See, that makes it more pathetic, not the same,” Dare remarked.

Largros growled.

“Enough…enough… we’re here. They should be, too.” Inea was impatient.  She made the appropriate knock on the dark, reinforced glass of the outside door. Devon had been a very important part of her past life and it bothered her as much if not more so that he had done this stupid, honorable thing. She had managed to keep the facade of a removed friend of a friend this entire time.  Of course she was taking a chance that Derek would say something. She hoped not. Inea still liked her secrets. But the longer they waited, the less daylight they would have in the other side to figure out the next move. These portals that were non-sanctioned never let out in a nice area. It wasn’t like they would walk out and immediately find a lovely chateau to stay in.  

One of the bouncers opened the door to let them into the storage area of the club. He motioned for them all to follow him through to the main floor.

Derek looked around, sniffed the air, and then smiled. His lady was near.  

“We are here.” Mira stepped out of the side stairwell on her brother’s arm, but quickly left it to rush over to Dare and with a smile greeted him properly. “Hey you, fancy seeing you here.”

“Hey! Pretty lady, you know me. I always make sure I’m where you’ll turn up. I’m your official stalker, remember?” Derek chuckled. “Or was that the other way around?” He unashamedly hugged the lovely vixen and twirled her around. “I heard you’ve been naughty,” he whispered in her ear. He’d definitely be talking to her when he got back.

“Careful wolf, don’t overstep yourself. I’m feeling generous at the moment.” Unlike his sister, Dante didn’t rush as he made his way the few feet to join them. He was dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt given where they were going. He made sure the clothing was nothing spectacular. His amber gaze moved over the lycan that his sister was currently fawning over, his own lover Inea and then last but not least the only unfamiliar one of the group. “Who’s this?” the demon asked as he slid an arm around Inea’s waist.

The younger man with the obvious Creole complexion and odd blonde hair and blue eyes looked over at him.  He didn’t say anything, because this was Inea’s mission and as such she did the introducing.

Inea leaned into Dante and held her hand out for the other man to come over to her.  She took his hand and held it by the palm in front of her demonic lover.  

“This is Largros of Findias. He is the Lordling to Uscias of Findias. I don’t believe you’ve met either. Uscias is the only dragon to be elder of Morfesa.” It was a tidbit of information she knew would pique Dante’s interest, considering he wanted to have ground over Morfesa and the hidden cabal the dragon was part of.

“Interesting,” he spoke softly. His eyes remained on Largros the entire time. “I’m Dante and this is my sister Mira.” He gave a slow grin showing his double fangs as he took the draconic man’s hand and shook it. ~ Quite the little minx today aren’t you lover.~ As he let go of Largros’ hand, he held his gaze a moment longer because he was of interest.

“Well met,” his voice was a bit lower than expected considering his young body. Largros looked from brother reluctantly to sister.

“We need to be off, my dear.” Inea’s proclamation might as well have said she was ready to go. They had wasted enough time.

The incubus walked past them all with Inea tucked at his side, “Gather close; this could be a bumpy ride.” Dante’s amber eyes gave a soft glow as his skin paled out to it’s natural ashen gray tinge. “Say farewell sister and let’s get things going before Crimson gets wise. Derek and Largros to my left. Largros put your hand on my arm, Derek do the same to him and we’ll be off. I need to take you to our portal.”

Derek looked over at the demon and moved forward to steal a kiss from his sister. Then, he was ready to go. Largros had already grasped the demon’s arm and then Derek looped theirs.

“Feel like we ought to start some sorta dance any minute,” he joked.  

When orders were followed, Dante pulled the darkness in around them as if it were a warm blanket. When the same blanket unfurled, they were in a large cave. The nearly blinding blue light came from a swirling portal set in the back of that cave. There were voices around them, but Derek, nor Largros could make out where they were coming from. Dante continued to walk them all forward until the portal swallowed them. The explorers started walking forward until they walked right out of the darkness and into the other world. All of the supernatural beings had a difficult time with the scents that immediately assailed them.

“Inea love, be a dear and get our locale for us. How far away from Iona are we and how far from your friend?” If anything the demon respected his lover’s skills with directionality. She needed to get them out of the open. This was an unscheduled trip through their portal and as such, there were no guardians here. If they remained, it wouldn’t be long until someone noticed them and that probably wouldn’t go very well.

Inea moved her hands outward, creating a box with her fingers and thumbs. Looking through it, her eyes colored green and she could see her targets.  She began moving herself in a circle, looking in every direction.  

“We’re on the borderlands of the Weylyn Pack and the Cuther Pack. Iona is 20 miles east of us. The Weylyn seat is 20 miles west. 15 miles west is a Weylyn Royal. And only 8 miles southwest, is also a Weylyn Royal.” Inea stopped the scanning divination and moved to adjust her compass on her wrist appropriately to the new directionality and magnetic poles of this world.   That way she wouldn’t have to use magic each time.

“Once the darkness fades from your vision, you might feel a little queasy. It tends to happen when you breeze through realms and what not like we just did. Give it a moment and it will pass with no latent side effects.” Pulling a pocket watch from his jeans Dante looked at it and sighed as Inea laid it all out for them. “Any chance that the one south of us is your friend?”

“Devon would go to the palace or be going there. These are the borderlands. If war’s afoot, Kieran’s gonna be right in the middle of it. The one we’re closest to? That’d be Kieran. I’d bet my best luck on it.”  

“The city will be closed by this time and magically entering will set off alarms that none of us really care to. So Derek, being the lycan of the group why don’t you decide which royal we should go towards?” Dante tucked the watch back in its place.

“We wanted to back Devon up, didn’t we?” Derek asked. He was confused.

“Yes. But backing him up might be easier if his troops know he’s here. Or if we know ahead of time what has happened and what we’re getting into.” Inea crossed her arms over her chest as she considered the possibilities.

“It looks like we may not have time to make a decision. One is made for us,” Derek nodded toward the south.  His senses were alight and he could tell there was a troop in lycan form coming this way, even through the wind of the night.  

“Do we …” Largros began to ask if they were needed in dragon form.  

“No! If they’re my pack… I need to meet them. Be at my back, just in case this doesn’t go well.” If they weren’t his pack, he’d know soon enough. With that, Derek took off running forward and shifted smoothly into the huge wolf nearly twice the size of a normal wolf from the other side. He stood and smelled the air, and then, he sat down and raised his head in a heavy, long howl.  

In the distance came a light, short howl and it was followed by the appearance of the somewhat smaller, lean built white wolf. Bright blue eyes narrowed. Teeth were bared as the female circled the stranger. She was staking claim and was not backing down from this intruder.

Derek immediately stood and faced the obvious leader in this grouping of wolves. It was a female – a… an Alpha? She definitely had the rest of them treating her like an Alpha and not lower tier of their kind.  He growled and huffed, but he didn’t show aggression. That would have been all she wrote!  

The other wolves with her created a larger circle around the two in the middle. Others trickled up from all sides around the other intruders.

“They don’t see us, yet…” Dante whispered to the other two. He wondered if and when they should intervene. His sister’s paramore was playing a dangerous game. The demon wondered if he would be able to get to Derek in time should this go sideways.

The white-colored female snapped at him several times in a way that said he’d either fight in this form or change forms and face her that way. He’d come to their lands and she was going to remind him of that fact. Derek hopped and moved, but he only turned to face her, he refused to budge from his chosen spot. He would not be backed down. If she wanted to communicate, fine, but he’d not let himself be placed in a bad position; a weak one. When she tried to snap the next time, she was met with his responding teeth, letting her know he was not going to take that shit from her again. He was the adopted son of the Alpha of Weylyn, dammit!  

Staying back from the lycans, Dante looked towards Inea to ask, “Just how well trained is your lycan there, lover?” The demon wondered if this lycan knew what he was doing right then. He really hoped so.

“He’s been in a war and been trained by Devon and Senias alike.”  Inea moved her arm out to her side and held her hand as if she had something there. She waited for a second and the staff she had called into this reality appeared for her. “Just in case, though…”

Derek and the white wolf went into a spin, holding each other by the jaws, before he jerked and sent her flying to the side. He tasted his own blood, but that was fine. It gave him a moment to shift into his hybrid form. He’d need to shift completely to talk so that everyone understood him, but like this, he could still communicate with the lycan… maybe.  It’d been years, after all.  

When she hit the ground it was to roll and come back on all fours. He shifted forms and she was fine with doing the same. Her shoulders rolled and popped as they adjusted and her legs followed suit. When she stood up on two legs her spine adjusted and her face took on some of its human features. If he thought that he’d get the upper hand in front of her Pack, he was sadly mistaken. With a snarl she went after him – only this time she wouldn’t give him time to think out his moves.

The male lycan didn’t have time to try and communicate! He was being attacked immediately. Derek could feel his skin rip and then heal and it was itchy and painful. He had to get her to stop. How? He grabbed and tried to hold on, but she was lithe and easily out-maneuvered him at every turn and tackle.  Derek didn’t want to fight his own. He hated it before and he hated it now! But he damn sure would defend himself.

Her form being smaller made it easier for the female lycan to dodge her opponent’s grasp, while delivering light scratches that healed as fast as they were received. She wasn’t going for the win just yet, she was intent on wearing him down first. He gave some good shots of his own, though seemed reluctant to do so. It wasn’t until she felt the split in her bottom lip that things got serious.

Spitting blood off to the side, she rolled her jaw and it popped with a nasty cracking sound, blue eyes glittered dangerously at him. In the old language she called him out as her claws spread out ready for the next round.

That’s when Derek stopped and just looked at her. Was it really her? That voice… In his hybrid form, he spoke, “Twi?”

At the call of her name she paused and glared at the one across from her. How did he know her name?!

Derek shifted to his human form and took a knee, letting her know that he wasn’t going for an attack. “Twilight? It’s me.. Derek.” What was she doing out here leading a bunch of warriors?

All of the other wolves paused, they kept their stances ready to attack and defend, but something unexpected was happening. Largros and Inea watched, both cautious and taking in where each pack member was – just in case.

“That’s impossible.” She walked closer to the male, and her form shifted from hybrid to human. Even with the painful noise of it, she never missed a step and made it all seem fluid-like in the shifting grace.

“Why is it impossible?” Derek asked, his hands at the ready, in case he had to defend his life. She was actually questioning who he was? His own sister?

“It’s impossible because my brother is on the other side.” Dark hair was braided several times to each side of her face yet more was in wild curls at the back. She had on what amounted to the remains of a brown halter top and loose fitting pants which seemed to survive the changes better. Like the male Alphas, she had beads in her hair that signified her status and the battles she’d fought in. “So who are you?” She placed several sharp nails beneath his chin as her blue gaze narrowed on him.

“I’m Derek of Weylyn. Adopted son of Devon of Pack Weylyn, Alpha of the Pack. We’ve lived on the other side for over a century. But as soon as I heard about war having come back to the packs, I told Devon and he came over. I’m here now with my comrades. One is a dragoness that fought with pack Weylyn in the last two wars we were in against the elves and then helped us treaty with Iona and the dragons there.” Derek looked into her eyes.  

“Well, he doesn’t seem to know much about the strategy of keeping your weapons a secret…” Largros muttered.

Inea sighed. She watched as the group of lycan immediately sent out scouts to look for them.

“Twi, Daddy died in the last war. Mama lost it. You said you’d stay here with her because you didn’t think she could make it on the other side.  You embroidered a handkerchief for me. You hated doing stuff like that. You were always more of a warrior than a lady, but mama made you do it and you did, just the once – to please her. I kept it. It’s in my favorite book, back on the other side.”  He knew telling her something that only they would know as siblings might actually help her believe him. Obviously she didn’t trust her senses for it right now.  “Call off the others. We’re all here to help you.”

Withdrawing her nails from his skin, Twilight rumbled low to let the others know to stand down and pull back. The three that had found his group remained in wolf form, but remained out of reach.

“Lovely,” Largros muttered. It seemed they had their own trio of guards. 

“Quiet,” Inea warned the younger dragon. “It’s fine. Being underestimated is a good position to be in.” She took the lead to walk forward to join with Derek and the apparent leader of this group.

 “We need to get back. Your group should come with us. We have things to talk about, brother.” Twilight held her hand out to him to help him to his feet. Glancing back to gauge the others he had mentioned, she then walked at Derek’s side. At least this way she could keep a watchful eye on them.

Derek looked back at them and motioned for them to come on.  

“Well then. Seems we’re at least not to be ripped apart tonight.” Inea joked. She moved, keeping her staff at the ready and took Dante’s arm. Largros walked on the half-demon’s other side.  

Twilight and Derek led the way with his companions behind them and the rest of the lycan falling in at the rear with only the scouts spread out ahead and to the sides. She was far different than the girl that he had left behind with their mama. It would be obvious to them all that she was a warrior and to Derek that she was a leader. The other warriors respected her and none stepped out of line no matter how curious they may be of the otherworlders. It wasn’t normal on this side that a lycan traveled with such a mixed lot, especially if that lycan were seen as an equal to them.

“What has happened? How was it no one got word to us as was arranged? Ethan has a fucking magical item that’s keyed to the one Devon has on the other side. He was supposed to let us know as soon as trouble began happening. And it looks like trouble has been a permanent resident around here for at least a year!” Derek was none too pleased by this.  He wasn’t angry with her, that was obvious. But he needed answers.

“Ethan is a snake. That’s what has happened. Devon left him in charge and it went to his head.” She pushed a fingertip against her own temple for emphasis. “Devon chose a greedy, sniveling coward and now his own sister is reaping that reward. They’ll be lucky if her or the pups survive this.” Twilight was being honest with Derek as it seemed by his reaction that he didn’t even know what had really been going on since he’d left.

“If Devon made a mistake, he’s going to correct it. He’s come back to do so, but according to my friend, Inea, he was a lot closer to home than to here. Which means he may be in trouble.” He didn’t like that.  “I don’t remember Ethan being a villain. He was fun-loving and honorable. Did… did I not know him? How could he have fooled Devon?”  Derek was dumbfounded. “What has he done, Twilight? What all do I need to know? Or should we wait until we can stop and let them all know?” He motioned with his head back over his shoulders toward the trio behind them.

Pausing a moment Twi tilted her head and looked up at her brother. “Are ya so sure that Devon will correct it? He fooled your Alpha because Devon was too concerned with getting his mate and the Pack through the portal.” She started walking again, “Don’t worry he fooled Neala all these years too. But a bunch of us know he’s doing business with the elves. Lycan from all over are missing.  Packs like Simoan and Cuther caught on to it. They’re out for Weylyn blood over it. They blame all of us.”

Derek felt suddenly sick to his stomach. Even if they could stop this, Pack Weylyn would owe retribution. It was their fault. All of this… because they left. The big male was very quiet as they continued.

Largros had been delivering a somewhat constant inner growl. It was low and difficult for the most of them to hear. But he was nervous and ready for anything with these creatures.

“This your first time around a bunch of lycan, Largros?” Dante figured if they had a long stretch ahead of them, he might as well get to know the new guy.

“Not entirely. There’s a pack in the swamps. New Moon. But I’ve only ever been surrounded by ‘em once. That turned into quite a fight, to be sure.  Me and the Alpha there became friends. We’re at peace. In this world, I begin wondering if they even understand what that word means.” Largros sniffed the air.  “The fires are not just for meals.” he could smell the pyre flames all around them. It was the leavings of war…

“Right now? I believe you may be right. I don’t think this part of the land does know peace. It did at one time, but honestly this part of the world is constantly in and out of wars.” Dante watched the lycan ahead of him as his fingers caressed over Inea’s knuckles. “When you get up north where it’s colder, there isn’t as much fighting. The elves actually get along with the shifters. Then again, they have a mutual distaste for vampires and so watch each other’s backs. To the East and along the small coastline you find more dragons, which have humans that work the boats and trade for them. So see in this area it’s always been about a power struggle. The West is known for its dry desert terrain, thriving cities of auction houses and commerce, lycan by the droves and war.”

“There is fertile land in the west and even here, where we’re walking… if they’d just let it be,” Largros pointed out.  The younger dragon kept his eyes opened and kept looking around them.  “This place needs to be healed. Do you think they could ever stop fighting long enough to realize that?”  

“Maybe one day, but not right now and doubtful anytime soon.” Dante watched the others and when they paused he bent down to scoop up soil with his free hand. As he stood back up and started walking again he sifted the dirt in his hand and between his fingers. “See they don’t really get what they don’t visibly see right in front of their faces.” Expending just a little bit of energy worked the dirt into it had been hardened and molded into an odd small dark colored stone. This he placed in Largros’ hand, “Until they see it nothing will really change in this world.”

Largros took the stone into his palm and looked it over as he walked. They could be made to see it. And if they had the proper help, they could repair this land quicker than if they just tried to repair it all by themselves.  He moved the smooth piece of stone in his palm and across his fingers, showing his sleight of hand movements that he had learned in his younger years getting accustomed to a human body. Then, he simply let the stone disappear into one of his pockets.  

Dante smiled at the little trick. So the boy had some talents. He might need them over here. They had come a long way and gotten very lucky with meeting an ally from the very pack they were here to help. The half-demon wondered if that luck would hold up.

 

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

(photograph – Mexican Gray Wolves Running – two sources: https://mexicanwolves.org and https://howlingforjustice.wordpress.com)