“Come on. We need to be out of here,” Largros motioned for them to get out of the door and down the hall in the opposite direction of the half-demon.  

~ Gabriel, do me a favor and instead of using the name of the organization, when we discuss it, speak of something else. Come up with a name. Or just directly speak to me as you would Senias. It will be a bit more difficult, but if you focus, it can happen. ~ Inea settled into pace next to the young man. Largros was behind them as they made their way out of the detention area of the Crimson HQ.  

He’d only learned mental talk with Senias, so it was odd to talk to her this way.

~ Why not just call them the sect? No one will know who we are talking about. I mean if it really is such a bad thing to say it’s true name. ~ Gabriel walked and talked to her which caused him to nearly trip over his own shoes at one point. He nodded towards agents and taskers alike as they passed them on the way out.

~ Sounds good enough. Where are we going after this? ~ she asked as they reached the exit.  ~ I can contact Darius, but we need to be in a secure area. I’m not exactly sure how it will work. ~

~ I’m not sure yet, I have so many things I need to look into. Let me check a few things before we call on the demon lord. ~ Gabriel had to blink a few times to adjust to the brightness of the day on the outside of the building.

“You needed to speak to the elf?” Largros asked quietly from behind them. He was squinting at the brightness of the sun.

“Zenlial was going to the Chamber to sign in and let the others know she is now in position to answer anything necessary for the elves.” Gabriel had pulled out his phone to text the elf for a meeting. “I’m reaching out to her to get her to meet up with us so we can work more of this out.”

“Wherever it is, we need to be somewhere safe, so you can sleep, Largros,” Inea put her palm on the man’s cheek, and he pulled away from her, a bit of a growl under his breath.

“I’ll be fine.” His temper was coming back, that was for sure.

Catching what had just occurred Gabriel narrowed his gaze at the dragon, “That isn’t what I see. You both need to rest and before you argue that isn’t a request Largros. That’s an order. So let’s agree on a place so that both of you can rest and we can talk further.” Gabriel stood his ground and wasn’t about to back down from his Tasker.

“Of course, Gabriel.” Largros was actually much more amenable than Senias had ever thought of being. His gaze moved to Inea.  “Most of my hauntings are very far south of here. Do you have something more convenient?” 

“I can portal to all sorts of places in this world. Largros wouldn’t be allowed in my actual lair, but I do have some places I know of both near and far that are secured.” Inea whispered as they moved further away from the building and into a park. The dragoness had the energy to do so thanks to being able to have her connection, even for the briefest moments to her kindred.  She supposed this would be a learning experience for them all – in kindred bonds.

“It doesn’t matter as long as we can secure it as we need to.” Gabriel was willing to be compromising in this knowing that the two dragons would rest best in their natural forms. “You’ll have to pick up Zenlial, though, unless you wish to give her exact coordinates.” He knew the answer to that even before he spoke it.

“Let me take you both to it and then I’ll go fetch the elf.” They rounded the corner into a park that was specifically designed to help with magical teleportation. Inea, however, moved past it to the next set of buildings. There were no cameras here and the place was safe for making a portal.  She made sure there were no others around them before pushing her energy toward a locked doorway. The portal opened within it and she motioned for them to go on through. Doing so, they stepped through to a nice quiet forest, overlooking a field of green. The sky was cloudy and the air was cool, but not cold.  

“Walk directly back for a quarter of a mile and you’ll see a cave entrance. Once you go in, you’ll notice its floor is tiled flag stone. Keep going in and the lighting in the cave will react to you and my wards will be triggered. But, I’m the only one that’ll know. There is human furniture in there for you and the elf when I retrieve her. There’s also aurumn for the both of us,” Inea looked at Largros.  He nodded.

Inea immediately turned and cast another portal from her palm and walked through it.  

“She’s going to be as tired as me when she’s done,” the dragon Tasker pointed out.  He looked over at Gabriel and motioned for him to go in at his side.

“I know but I’m hoping this won’t last,” Gabriel muttered offhandedly. He let his gaze move aside to Largros before asking, “Now, tell me what has your mood so sour that you practically snapped at Inea back there?” Gabriel had noticed the irritation and moodiness from the dragon but hadn’t had the opportunity to call him on it.

“It’s just weariness,” Largros played off.

“Let me rephrase the question: What has my cousin done this time?” Gabriel asked as he looked back to the path ahead.

The dragon looked at Gabriel, startled and answered immediately, “Nothing. She’s just wanting someone that’s apparently not me. And that’s not her fault.”  He took a deep breath and continued to walk with the man.

“Why do you say that?”

“I don’t deserve her or we simply don’t… click properly over a few key points… or both. I’m not sure. We’re an amazing team and couple for 89.9% of the time. It’s the other 10.1% that I’m having trouble with is all.  And to be honest, I suppose I’ve never been accustomed to someone caring for me as much as she seems to care. So, I knowingly crossed a line.” He shrugged. “She doesn’t even know all the lines, because I never thought there would be a relationship with her and so I never planned on being careful of lines where human culture is concerned.”  He huffed, “Human culture and expectation is so confusing to me.”

“I could say the same of dragon culture,” Gabriel admitted. “Are you saying you are going to simply give up on her, then?” Gabriel had paused in his steps to look over at the Tasker. “Or has another caught your eye?” He hadn’t missed the exchange that had occurred between the trio and knew there was more to it than it seemed.

“Just because another has caught my eye doesn’t mean I feel less for Isabel,” Largros growled under his breath.  “I would die for her, and don’t you doubt that.” A dragon didn’t often say that about anyone else. He turned to begin walking again. “But I know how she was raised. I know she may not accept a compromise on our relationship. I would rather not put her through more pain – since she takes my wandering eye as an affront to her.”  Largros sighed.

Gabriel was listening to what Largros said and watching his actions as he started walking again. “Why do you think it’s such an affront to her if I may ask?”

“Some things you cannot change. Dragons are made to create portals and bonds. It is how we survive. We mate to create life and we have a special bond to the mate but we may only be together for that simple act. We create bonds with others for various needs and sometimes, if we’re lucky, we fall in love and create a bond for that as well.”  

“And you don’t think she could accept a mating with a dragoness by you? Or is it any other type of bond that you are talking about?” Gabriel wanted to understand because he was in a relationship with a dragon himself and so knew a little of how it felt from the other side.

“It’s any kind of bond. With a mated dragon… with another who might be of help and enjoyment… I love Isabel, but she doesn’t provide all the things my body and mind crave. She definitely cannot provide me with a kitling.”  

“Have you talked to her about any of this?” Was the next important question.

“She wouldn’t allow me to talk to her about it when I came back. I had worried that she wouldn’t want me to go to the other side with Derek and Inea and Dante. So, I admit… I took the cowardly approach and left her a gift and told her I would spoil her when I returned. She didn’t exactly appreciate that. What she told me? I couldn’t deny it. I was exploring being away from her. I was looking into enjoying new sensations and experiences of all kinds while there. She’s human. Some of the things I wanted to do would be dangerous for her. Fighting lycan for instance…” he chuckled and took a deep breath. “Some things she doesn’t have the physical means to do. I saw the trip as a way to scratch itches before returning to her side.  And she didn’t appreciate that.”

Gabriel entered the cave at Largros’ side with his hand clasped before him in thought. “Sounds like you still have some oats to sow as I’ve heard it said before. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but are you angry because she didn’t accept what you did or are you angry because she was right in what she said?”

“I’m angry because I want her, adore her even, and I cannot have her and also the life I lead.” Largros sighed. “I’m afraid we’re at an impasse. I thought I was getting a person who would understand…even want to enjoy adventures of her own…after all, she wanted nothing to do with the lycan because Derek wanted to settle down into domestic life. I don’t.” Largros looked at Gabriel. “I didn’t think she wanted to settle down, either. I knew she might be a bit more strict in her ways, obviously… hence the present and not telling her up-front, but I never thought she’d be a stick in the mud.”

“Just be honest with her and tell her that you aren’t ready to settle. Take time away from her to truly figure out what you want.” Gabriel left it at that as he walked farther into the lair and activated the lights.

Largros looked down at his feet.  “If she will listen.” He soon followed Gabriel.  

“Her feelings are hurt, give her a few days more to recover. And remember your manners, my Aunt is very big on them – as am I. Call every day and ask to see her until my Aunt and Nathan consent. Respect the boundaries you are given and just talk to her. Don’t push for anything and don’t make any excuses. Isabel will get over the hurt and listen. It just takes time.” Gabriel had not stopped walking as he gave Largros the advice on how to deal with his situation, but he couldn’t force him to follow it.

The dragon listened to Gabriel as they walked forward into the quickly illuminating cavern that was apparently a hidden bunch of lairs.  The tunnel led into a huge middle area that had leading from it four other tunnels. This central area was appointed for humans – or dragons in the form of humans. He imagined the other opening led to the actual lairs with aurumn within each for comfortable sleeping and recharging of magic.  Largros yawned and turned to look at Gabriel before sitting in one of the chairs in the middle of the room. He’d not retire until the others were here.

“Seems very… strict.” the dragon looked at Gabriel. “Are you such a way?”  

“Yes, I am.” Gabriel assured as he took a seat. “it’s respectful and I’d expect that from everyone.”

“If you have so very many rules and call following them respectful – what do you think of the other cultures that would never make rules like yours? Do you think it disrespectful if someone’s opinion of the situation differs from yours? Because, I am willing to go by this respectful path to speak with Isabel. I will even apologize for not being completely open with her. However, what if then she still does not see my way of life proper? Will she be respectful or will she turn from me anyway?”  

“It isn’t disrespectful to have differing opinions Largros.” Gabriel crossed his legs at the knee and relaxed into the chair. “I cannot speak for what Isabel will do. As she has shown in the past, she can be very independent with her choices and actions. I can say regardless of the choice she makes, her response will be a great deal more respectful than if you tried simply barging in and demanding she hear you.”

The dragon thought on that morsel of information silently before nodding. And then, Inea walked in with Zenlial by her side.  

“Oh my! This place looks beautiful!” the elf seemed a bit in-awe as she turned while walking to see the extent of the cavern.  The walls were colorful and the pools of water further out seemed to be colored and mirrored the beauty of the natural ceiling. 

Gabriel looked up at the arrival of Inea and Zenlial. It was time to change the subject.

“Hello ladies. Zenlial, shall you and I talk while Inea and Largros rest? They can join us when they awaken.” It was his way of hinting that the dragons needed to sleep and leave them to their own conversation.

“Oh, yes! Absolutely!” Zenlial turned to look at Inea. “Thank you, Lady Inea.”

“It was nothing.” Inea walked past and motioned for Largros to take one corridor while she took another. They both needed to sleep and recharge after that meeting.  Largros did as he was told. Soon, Gabe and Zen were alone, sitting in the main room, facing one another. 

“Tell me what is needed.” Zenlial was sitting with her legs in a pretzel in the big seat.  

When Gabriel was sure the dragons were off to their slumber, he grinned at the elf in a way that would tell her that the human Councilor was up to some mischief. “You and I are going to play some cat and mouse. It won’t be without it’s risks, but I believe that if we play it right we will be well rewarded in the end.”

“What happens if we do not play it right? What happens if we do not do all of this?” Zenlial asked quietly.

“If we don’t play it right then Director Skinner will win and not only with Dante be imprisoned as well as that Councilor from France, Petrard,  but I’ll lose my tasker permanently and we may very well lose our seats at the Council. Are you sure you’re willing to risk it? The winning side is that we may get answers to your relation’s disappearance, solve the demon dilemma as well as get Raudine back where he belongs.” Gabriel wouldn’t say more until Zenlial either agreed or stated that she was out and wanted no part of what was going on. It was her choice either way and he would not hold it against her no matter how she chose.

“I do not know you very well, nor do I know your Tasker. But, the demon Dante and his mate, Lady Inea helped selflessly to rid my friend’s pack of the villains that were harming it.  Lady Inea helped me heal people. I have studied records that were written by Minlial, whom I call sister – as we were both born Avar and destined to be Councilors and Diplomats. She has told me through her writing that she trusted you and your grandfather and great-great uncle before you. She has also written about flashes of darkness surrounding this Director Skinner, and that can never be a good thing.”  She took a very deep breath. “The sooner I solve the mystery of what has happened to my sister in duty, the sooner I will be able to resume my promised life on the other side. Since you plan to help me, Minlial trusted you, and there are so many reasons to help the others – I see no reason not to help you.”  

“Then madam we are in this together.” Gabriel went on to explain in detail what he needed Zenlial to do for her part.  He didn’t give her every tiny detail, because if things went bad she could only be held accountable for her part and not be charged with conspiring. Gabriel was determined to make it so with everyone involved in his plan. In the elf’s case he needed her to be present when they met with the demon lord. One Councilor could be discredited, but two would be more difficult to prove false. Especially, considering there was not true connection between himself and Zenlial. Gabriel watched the female’s reactions to just one tiny part of a well laid plan. The less that each knew the better chance there was of no slips. The last thing he needed was Skinner knowing anything.

However, Skinner knowing enough to make him nervous and possibly trip up?

That would be priceless.

 

*******************************

 

For almost three hours Gabriel and Zenlial exchanged polite conversations and even discussed what had occurred with the lycan through the portal. It was obvious that the elf wanted to go back and Gabriel assumed it was more a someone rather than a something that had her so very intoxicated by the magical world.  He could respect that and would make the necessary arrangements for her when the time came.

Once she woke and was refreshed, Inea rejoined Gabriel and Zenlial. The Councilor was quick to bring up their next portion of the plan.

“I know Dante doesn’t want his father involved Inea, but I really believe it is necessary and that we should speak with him before presenting this case to Council. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Darius knows if something is amiss, usually – from what Dante has told me. But he may not realize what is truly happening with his children. Perhaps if he realizes the importance of this witch hunt, he will be forthcoming,” Inea replied. “I agree. And I want my demon out of there. I don’t care if there’s a bad relationship or whatever between them. I want Dante safe.”  

“This place is secure enough for such a meeting isn’t it? Or would you prefer to use another location?” Gabriel was leaving the locale to her judgement while also letting the dragoness know he wasn’t changing his mind.

“Yes. But remember, we have to cross over to him or meet through a scrying. He cannot step foot into this realm. So…” Inea raised her brows. She was already thinking of ways around the banishment situation. 

There was a slow steady rubbing of his knuckles along his jaw as Gabriel thought this new problem over. “We know a good scryer or another way over to that realm?” This might be quite the roadblock if a solution wasn’t found soon.

“If you think the other side of those portals your group controls is dangerous, you’ve not seen anything. It’s much worse in the Abyssal Plane, Gabriel.” Inea was thinking. The elf watched this and then cleared her throat.  

“I, I suppose you could construct a pocket dimension in which both the abyssal energy and the energy of this realm can mingle. It would not be in this world and yet it would not be in that world. But you must communicate such to someone of your level of sorcery on the other side for this to happen properly. If you have the means by which to communicate with Lord Darius, he most assuredly has that power.”

Largros came out from the lair he had been in. He looked a bit scruffy, but he was energized from his sleep.  

Inea held the magical summoning device in her hand. “Time to try it.” She closed her eyes and held the onyx in her hands in front of her. Her magic moved from her body and into it and then, there was nothing but silence.   

It seemed like forever from the time Inea activated the small onyx stone to the time she actually heard a strong, deep baritone voice in her head.  ~ You are most assuredly not my son. Tell me, Lady Inea, what has you using the amulet? ~ The sound held a touch of family resemblance that gave her an idea of what Dante would sound like many years down the road.

~ Your son is in Crimson custody, awaiting judgement, Darius. His assigned defender is here with us. We need to meet with you so that we can clear up what is happening so that he can be free once again, ~ She knew there would be more questions, she just wasn’t sure what they would be. She hoped he wouldn’t try and look down on Dante for allowing her this artifact.  

~Surprises never cease to amaze me. Was contacting me his idea or someone else’s?~ In all the years since he’d found them, His son add never asked for his help like this. Mira had always done the asking and begging.

~ Someone else’s… mine to be exact. But he gave the jewel to me freely.  I am trusted by him. I would not contact you if it were not a situation that could lead to much damage. ~

~ What exactly are you asking me to do about the situation, madam? Not like I can put myself in his place. There’s the pesky banishment that prevents such actions if you’ll recall. ~ Darius was at least intrigued by this turn of events in his children’s lives, though he never got involved unless the need was true.

~ I have an elven associate, a Councilor for Crimson who has suggested that you and I create a pocket dimension, part abyssal and part of this world. That way we can share things, visually and auditory with one another and with them, those that will defend your son. ~

“Anything yet?” Gabriel asked as he impatiently waited for Inea’s answer. Dante had said he’d respond so if it isn’t working does that mean something happened to the demon lord? If so they were screwed.

“Gabriel,” Zenlial shook her head ‘no’…  Inea needed to concentrate.

Largros was curious, but remained silent. He wasn’t sure he had a say in it. He just hoped that Inea could get through to Darius. The dragon couldn’t imagine not being close to children. Darius was in another world… how would that feel?

When it looked as if Inea was tiring Gabriel would have ended it all, but then something started happening and he was forced to step back and away from the dragoness. There seemed to be a soft fountain of energy moving off of her body, now. 

~What ails you child? I feel it rolling from you in waves. What are you not telling me that I should know?~ Darius’ voice seemed less irritated, now and more… concerned. 

~ Apologies, Lord Darius, but I am suffering the loss of his presence with me. From what he has told me, he suffers as much, if not more. Much has changed since last you were updated on their lives. Both of your children have found love. Mirandra with a lycan named Derek and Angelus, with me. So you see, I understand the importance of contacting you. I understand he would never do so, but I feel like this situation has gone from frustrating to serious. We need your help. ~  The fact that she had used his children’s given names would tell him much as well. ~ I offer this, one of my lairs, as the secure place in this realm for us to create the dimension together. I simply need to know when to begin so that we may work in concert.  You would know if I meant you harm by now. I am not trying to deceive you. I respect you and I respect my kindred too much to do so. ~

There was a long silence.

~ Then let us get to work and speak properly. ~ His voice began speaking unrecognizable words as he led her through the incantation. Darius used the connection to mentally showed her the demonic runes that she needed to use to create the seal.

Gabriel, Largros, and Zenlial didn’t know what was going on, until Inea backed up from them and began weaving magic in the air around her, still completely unaware of their presence and placement around her. They had wanted this and said it was the only way. She had concurred and so, now they would all wind up sealed in a dimension unknown to anyone… and be faced with a demon lord.  

The air around them was humming with the heavy magic that was being used. The last visual she was given was how to activate the runes. Humans had long been used by demons for their spells and vise versa. It wouldn’t take much but it was necessary.

Inea was at first a blur of motion and then in a flash of bright light, Gabriel had Inea in front of him. His eyes were surprised, and before he could say anything, there was a pain in the palm of his hand. The Councilor looked down to see a slice through the middle of it.  The sorceress then shook the blood onto the symbols she had drawn by merely moving.

When Gabriel’s blood scattered over the symbols, everything suddenly went silent. He wrapped his handkerchief around his palm and waited with the other’s. It wasn’t every day a group like theirs went traipsing through dimensions.

It became darker and the runes were glowing a soft amber to make all of their faces visible in the inky blackness. The air thickened and became harder to breathe which caused coughing as human lungs tried to adjust to the difference. The final change was the temperature which dropped several degrees cooler.

Gabriel noted, though he had pushed his connection to Senias down to a minimum of being problematic, he suddenly felt absolutely nothing of his dragon. But he had to continue this. He was very sure of that much.

Just when things seemed unbearable – the tension, the heaviness of the air – the environment seemed to ease until it became tolerable once more. From the seemingly endless darkness walked a man that might have stepped straight out of the 1800’s with his suit, cravat, top hat and cane. He appeared to be in his late 50’s early 60’s. His goatee and mustache had a peppering of gray in the black and he was tall like his son. While not overly built, he was fit and didn’t appear to truly need the cane he was making use of. Unlike his children, Lord Darius’ eyes were a pale blue and gave off that soft glow that made them look like lovely sapphires. This would tell them that he was well fed.

He stayed to the inside area of the runes which would give the others their boundaries as well. If it became too much they could simply step outside of them and regain themselves. Darius created a table with chairs and set food and drink upon it for his guests.

“Lady Inea has told me that you require my assistance for my son. Introduce yourselves and take a seat so that we may discuss this civilly over a meal.”

“Councilor Gabriel Kennedy, I’ll be representing Dante at his judgment.” Instead of offering his hand, Gabriel gave a slow nod of his head in the demon lord’s direction before taking a seat at the table. It was still somewhat difficult to breathe but he’d manage if it meant sorting all this mess out.

“Largros of  Falias, assigned Tasker to Councilor Kennedy.” The young dragon decided not to be as brash as he normally was this time and keep his lips sealed on what his relationship was to Dante.

“Zenlial Nedian, Elven Councilor for Crimson. I was asked here to be a witness, in case it comes to that. I also fought with your son to help a friend recently, so I respect him. I want to help.” Zen bowed her head slightly before sitting down. She was not affected at all by the heaviness in the pocket dimension. 

That blue gaze moved over the human, the dragon and the elf. Each had strong life forces and put off great deals of energy. If they were fully in his realm Darius had no doubt they’d be beacons for others who’d want to devour such strong essence. There was more to each than they spoke, but he’d leave them their secrets for now. It was intriguing though that he could see his sons energy on both dragons and yet only one claimed connection to him.

Inea was not one to be as reserved. She was the eldest here and she had ties now to Darius. She let a whisper of a smile move over her features before moving forward to hold out her hand.

“Lady Inea or as my friends and comrades call me, Nea. It is a pleasure to meet you, finally. I only wish it were under happier circumstances.”

“Perhaps, once we accomplish this, those happy circumstances can be found?” Zenlial offered, as always looking to the bright side of things.  

Taking the offered hand Darius turned it palm up just as Dante always did. It seemed the son did actually get some things from his father after all. He pressed a kiss to the center and breathed her scent in. “Bonded deep with you, that foolish son of mine did, and that’s why you are both so ill.” Darius pushed his own energy into the female so that she wouldn’t feel as sick.

Inea took a deep breath and her features brightened.  ~ Thank you. And I had no say in the bonding from his side of the love we share, though I am touched that he cares about me. Perhaps we both feel we’ve found the match of our lives in the other. ~

Darius smiled. Then, he let go her hand and looked to the rest at the table.

“The wine is from the best vineyards in France, I assure you, and the food is cooked to perfection.” The mention of the vineyard was intentional and he wondered if it would be picked up.

Gabriel wouldn’t deny that he was hungry, but was it safe? He had lifted a roll to his nose to sniff as he caught what was said and paused to look at the man.

Zenlial giggled at Gabriel. She bit into her own roll with wild abandon. She could tell it wasn’t poisoned. Maybe if he saw her not holding back, he’d be less… rude?

“Mira and Dante love that country.” Inea took her seat and reached forward to push her glass toward the soon to be offered wine. She unwrapped her utensils and placed the napkin in her lap.  She felt better, though she had not asked for the help.

Largros approached but remained behind Gabriel as he was supposed to.  

“That’s right, my daughter brings me bottles every time she visits.” Darius began pouring, taking on his role of host. 

“And how often does she visit?” Gabriel asked as he watched Darius uncork a bottle, let it breathe a moment and then half fill his own glass.

He had to give a half grin at how quickly the human jumped into interrogating him. “Is he always so quick?” Darius looked from the human to each of the others as if they could answer.

“Yes,” all three of Gabriel’s accompanying compatriots answered the demon lord’s question at one time.  

“But to be fair, he wouldn’t be the best if he did not take every opportunity he had to investigate,” Inea decided to defend Gabriel for once.  He was, however, on a thin line with her. Everyone here had something to gain or something to lose by this situation except the elf, who was enjoying her food, leaving the meat behind, but the rest, she must’ve been very hungry. She ate more like a lycan than an elf.  So, it was from her that Darius would get the easiest, most honest answers.

“And what of you little elf, what do you have to say about all of this? You say you are to be witness but what have you witnessed so far in this matter?” It wasn’t that Darius didn’t want to hear the others out, but he knew they had much to lose in this where she didn’t seem to have anything.

“While Devon, me, then Inea, Derek, Dante, and Largros were on the other side, Gabriel and his kindragon, Senias, were set up to investigate a French Councilor for having ties to a demonic entity.”

“How interesting, and who might that individual be?” Darius encouraged her while waving the others to silence or she might decide to stop.

“That human is named Councilor Petrard, and his ties seem to be to you, sir. However, there were educated theories made considering Petrard’s knowledge of an ancient prophecy that few know about and that led Director Skinner to arrest your son, because how else would you be able to directly influence a Councilor otherwise, without using Dante? It’s an easy stretch and because the touch of demonic influence can readily be seen in Petrard, it adds fuel to the fire for Crimson. I worry that the man will lie to implicate Dante so long as he can get a suspended sentence. Crimson has him over a barrel of eels. Meanwhile, because of this charge, Skinner has been allowed to ransack your childrens’ businesses and take in other possible witnesses to illegal doings while making a case against Dante. His normal Councilor would be Councilor Nelash, but from what I have seen, this Councilor is not defending Dante, rather he is trying to help see him behind bars – but that is simply my own point of view. Perhaps you know better? I understand this to be a very bold move, considering you rule the abyssal plain and not his family. I’ve been wondering if it’s a power play on his part or if there is something more sinister at work here.”  Zen swallowed. Had she just said all of that? Was it out of line? She shrugged and then her eyes got large again and she held her fork into the air to keep their attentions. “Oh and it kind of set Gabriel to be Mira’s enemy, when you think about it. Not like they were on good terms to begin with, considering the situation I found out about not long ago between his dragon and her… and their past…” Zen went back to eating. She hoped she wasn’t leaving anything out that pertained to Darius’ children.

“Thank you my dear for enlightening me to the entirety of the situation.” Darius looked at the human and his dragon guard dog. He chuckled and looked to the dragon first, “Such a noble race and yet instead of rulers you’ve been relegated to lackies. Take a seat, I assure if I meant him harm it would have already been done.”

Largros growled, but there was an answering growl and an undercurrent of draconic language that came from Inea. Being the ancient here the whelp shut the hell up and did as the demon lord requested of him. However, the young man scowled as he did so.  

Darius poured wine in all of their glasses and lifted his own to drink from. “It wasn’t my son, it was me.”  He could see that they were not understanding and so he explained. “I brought the Councilor to my realm much like I did all of you. Magic with ingenuity can accomplish wonders. It is what I have always told Mira and yet it is my son who uses it most to his advantage. Ironic is it not that a son that detests me is more like me than a daughter that adores me?” He finally sat down and held the wine glass in his hand to swirl lazily. 

“How can you influence him so much, if you are so limited?” Gabriel took a bite of the roll and sipped his wine, which he had to admit was actually quite good.

“How do you influence so many while being so limited, human?” it was a question for a question but it was also an answer. Gabriel was human and to supernaturals that made him very limited and yet he had a great deal of influence for just being human.

Gabriel really wasn’t up for games or word play. He was exhausted and worn thin by all of this. “This isn’t about me sir.”

“Isn’t it? Tell me, Mr. Kennedy, how vested in this case would you be if it did not directly impact you and Senias of Morias? How serious would you be about its judgement and fairness if not for that?” Darius looked directly at the Councilor this time and there was no smile on his face. He had been civil until the human chose to be otherwise with his bluntness.

“I would still be just as invested either way. What happened wasn’t justice nor was it fair, and I would see it righted regardless of how deeply I was involved.” Gabriel stared right back at the powerful male without blinking. This creature could literally RIP his soul from his physical body and yet he didn’t care. His mind was numb and he felt nauseated and he just wanted it all over with. He couldn’t feel Sen. Feeling his dragon normally helped him more than he liked to admit. His gaze went to Inea, then. Was this how she was feeling? This was misery and he felt sympathy for her if it was.

“Ahhh, and he even speaks truth!?” Darius slapped his free hand on the table before continuing. “Good to know your worthiness Councilor.” The demon Lord enjoyed some fruit as he went on, “It’s a skill I acquired some years back from an old sorceress that owed me.”

“Which method?” Inea asked, curious.

“Astral projection with a touch of possession. I can leave this plane and travel to your own. I can only possess humans with powerful magical ties, and those are rare and usually trained to prevent such possessions. So it isn’t easy for me to do. Sometimes, there are deals made.” Darius was grinning as he enjoyed his grapes. “See? Even banishment has its loopholes.” 

It took a moment and then Gabriel lit up, “You’ve been possessing someone to meet with Petrard. Who? And that doesn’t explain how he knows about the prophecy.”

Now the demon chuckled, “I’m not telling you who. That would be counterproductive for me and unnecessary for your case. Petrard knows the prophecy because our first meeting was similar to this.” Darius raised his hand and lightened the room with a thought. They were actually within the demon lord’s throne room – or a facsimile of it within the pocket dimension. The tapestry of the dragon and half-demon was there to be seen just behind his chair on the dais as described.

Rising to his feet Gabriel slowly walked to the tapestry and moved his hand over it. At least some of the puzzle was answered and the pieces were coming together. He couldn’t help but wonder about the prophecy that went with the lovely art.

“No starry eyed fantasies there Councilor. That prophecy is older than I am and that is very damned old.” Darius warned as he leaned back in his seat.  “The half demon prince and his white dragon that would bring our realm together and bring peace.” He chuckled and drank more wine, “Demons at peace… what bullshit.” He looked to Inea, “You bring peace to my son, though, and for that I’m grateful.”

“I am not that dragon, but yes, I love bringing Dante peace. But, Darius, the prophecy itself is not fanciful. Female dragons are often born with brown to creamy scales and many, especially those of Largros’ clan, are pure white – an adaptation from the regions he is descended from.”

“True,” Largros whispered. He thought of his own clan and the females in it. One in particular held his heart. One he had not told Isabel about. His mind was a clutter of worry. 

“And a half-demon prince?” Darius chuckled.

“A half demon prince?” Inea smiled and raised her glass to toast the powerful one across from her. “One should be coming along in the next year. One descended from you.” It was information that would wet Darius’ appetite for many things. The child who adored him was already with child and she knew it, even if Mira did not.  After all, that’s what happened when you finally mated someone in your true form… especially a lycan. Those folks were quite fruitful of the loins.

This news had Darius’ brow rising. It seemed his children had indeed been very busy.

“Oh, my!” Zenlial perked up. She wiped her mouth with the napkin and set it aside her plate. “New children are always a cause for celebration.”

“Yes, but Mira will not be whole and happy if her twin brother is incarcerated, which means her child is in jeopardy. And I will not be able to continue if my kindred… my mated demon… is kept from me. Alas, if I act against Crimson and Council, I put everyone I have touched in danger.” Inea explained. Perhaps, instead of playing the fishing game, this would prompt Darius into action.  “As dragons who are on a kill listing, we have less power even than you – in our own world. Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs, lessons have been learned far too late, I’m afraid. There are very few demon slayers left that are not in your possession thanks to Mira.  But dragonslayers? Those weapons are still in abundance among the sons and daughters of the men who began the eradication of our kind. And … there aren’t many of us left. So, none of us can do anything that focuses Skinner’s light on our lives. Senias has done enough as it is. He’s now Skinner’s weapon more than anything. But, he yet defies the creature at his own risk. So it is in this light that we all ask you for your help, first. We need him freed. He plays a very important role in all of our futures,” Inea ignored the looks from the other people that were with her. Her eyes were holding Darius’ gaze. “Should you refuse? Well, I hope you will not.”

“What more do you need from me?” Darius asked.

“A way to prove all of this.” Gabriel sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

Darius turned his gaze to Inea as the human mentally strategized. His voice lowered and softened towards the dragoness.

“Is this lycan good to my daughter? Does he make her happy and give her all she desires?” Between the twins Mira had been the one who’d had it rough. Perhaps it was why once he’d found them he spoiled her.

“I have been watching from my place with Dante, and he will. He hasn’t had a lot of time to do so, but he will. He would come to her whenever he could before this adventure took us to the other side. He loves her for who she is and not what she can provide. He even tested her resolve in turn by having her come to the other world to get him. His eyes sparkle with a joy that cannot be contained when he looks at her. When he heard she needed his help with the businesses, he was immediate in his response, giving up his place among his people to help her.”

Darius liked Inea. He could see why his son had become enamored. He also wanted to meet this scruff his daughter now loved. However, if all that they were saying was truth – he had done both of his children a disservice in his meddling. Crimson would not allow them to continue with their happy lives if he didn’t prove that they were not involved. He took a deep breath and for the first time, the demon lord looked to be taking all of this seriously.

“Then it shall be done.

“But what does that mean?” Zenlial asked. The demon was being as cryptic as a dragon, now.  

Darius took a deep breath as he eased back in his chair with his wine glass in his hand.

“It means call your Council together for three days hence – evening – at the Whitley Council Chamber, and the judgement against my son will be easily dismissed.”

“You want me to present the case that you – and not Dante or Mira – have been dealing with Petrard and then wait for some miraculous evidence to appear?” Gabriel wasn’t big on surprises and really wasn’t too keen on the way this might play out.

For just a moment Darius’ eyes glowed bright blue before he reigned himself in and reminded himself that he was dealing with a mortal whose entire life experience didn’t equate even one of his own year’s worth.

“You fail to see the significance and so I’ll point it out to you. You aren’t simply seeking to free my son, Mr. Kennedy, you are seeking the truth, yes? You stated so earlier. I’m offering you the truth and I can also provide you with a nail to go into the coffin that is being made for Director Skinner. You must simply have faith in me.”

“Have faith in a demon lord?” Zenlial giggled. She couldn’t help it. But when Darius looked at her, she smiled and winked. She was on board.

“I will not only give you that nail,  but I will roust out yet another snake on your Council and in doing so create a vacancy. You see, removing my advantage in France cannot stand. I still need a trade for that loss. This time, I ask that it be a proper one. The vacancy that comes available due to my involvement in this Council meeting? I very much wish to have a say in who fills it.” Darius drank from his glass and let the fragile piece dangle between his fingers, “Are you getting the entire picture now Councilor or must I paint it further for you?”

“I’m not sure where this will go, but if Inea and Zenlial are willing, I can be. If you help this case and give me the things you’ve promised? I can agree to let you have a say in the next Demon Councilors appointment.” That was fair enough considering the other races had similar individuals for such things. “I’ll get the arrangements made. I’ll also make sure one of us is at the front entrance to gain entry for you.” Gabriel was hoping this worked because if it didn’t he felt he’d have yet another enemy to watch for.

“How generous of you.” The demon was being sarcastic now but as usual it went right over Gabriel Kennedy’s head.

“Not generous or gracious of me, it’s being practical as I want no one harmed if it can be helped.” Gabriel was scowling as he looked at the wine as if it may have been spiked.

“If that is all, I’ll end this drain and remove the connection before it decides to be permanent.” Darius moved to Zenlial to kiss her palm and gave Inea the same before bowing to the men in turn. He looked at the one called Largros once more before smiling to himself as if seeing something no one else did. “Ladies and Gentlemen until three days… I bid you farewell.” 

There was a mist like fog that enveloped them all and then a swirling of wind around their bodies to clear the atmosphere. They found themselves in the same chamber they had begun in – on this world.

Once the demon was gone, Largros made no hold of growling his displeasure. He did not like Darius, that was for certain. The younger dragon made his way to Inea immediately, and saw that Gabriel was on the other side before she collapsed.

“This would not normally be the way things go. I apologize for my weakness.” Inea smiled sadly for them as they helped her to one of the chairs.   She looked to Gabriel and whispered, “Don’t keep him feeling you for long. The warmth you feel when you are returned to this world, he feels it as well. He knows not what you are doing. All he knows is he cannot feel what he once felt. It weakens you both.” It was like she knew.  

“Don’t worry so much about us, focus on keeping yourself strong so that you are there when Dante walks free.”  Gabriel kept calm as he looked at Largros, “I’m going to see Zenlial home and then grab coffee, don’t you have someone to go call?”

“Just as much as you have someone to talk to, it seems,” Largros pointed out before turning to bow to Inea. “Lady.” When Inea bowed her head slightly to the young dragon, he made his way to the front of the lair.

Zenlial sighed.

“All will be well Zenlial. You’ll see.” Inea smiled before watching the elf turn toward the door as well. She nodded to Gabriel when he bowed to her. She would soon need a good sleep, not just a nap. Knowing that, she reached out to her other trusted kindred so that she would have someone to watch over her while she was unable to defend herself. 

“As you say,” Zenlial whispered, but continued to walk with Gabriel for the doorway only a few feet behind Largros.

“What’s that about?” Gabriel asked Zenlial.

“At least you both have someone to fuss with and then hold. I fussed with mine, but I barely got to hold him. Now, I need to figure out what happened to my sister in duty before I can return to him. And though it may not sound like I find this duty to be important otherwise, that is not the case, I assure you. I am simply surrounded by people who are in love and are hurting for bad reasons and it made me think of myself. ” It was very important to Zen that she complete her assignment, not just for her own sake, but to help close a book for another elf that had been like her, lived life like her, and had been taken prematurely.  “Once this is said and done, you will help me with it? As promised?” She just wanted to be sure.

“Yes, you need not even ask. Once Dante is free we will focus on the former Councilor’s disappearance.” Gabriel assured as he walked her out of the lair. 

 

~  Rachel Diane Adams and Dawn McClellan © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2018