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Mar. 8th, 2014

Alternate Universes Repost 3/8/2014 IV

Alternate Universes: It’s a kind of Madness
She watched him as he huddled into Spike’s side, his face a study in sorrow and grief. The whisper in her head she’d come to associate with the dog’s mental voice was a soothing litany of reminding him he was on safe ground and in sanctuary.
Den came to stand by her side, his hand brushing against hers. She curled her fingers absently into his and felt the unvoiced question floating in his mind through their bond. Sighing heavily, she stepped forward, tugging him with her.
“I hate children.” He muttered to no one in particular but let her pull him with her as she knelt down in front of the young man who didn’t look much older than her.
Green eyes met brown and his breath hitched in his chest.
“What is your name?” She asked softly.
“Stevens.” He replied, his tone hitching on unshed tears. “Corporal Stevens.”
“No. Your name.”
He blinked at her for a moment and Spike turned to nose him gently on the cheek. The whisper in her mind was chiding and encouraging all at the same time.
“Jon.” He swallowed, eyeing her warily. “Jon Stevens.”
Den sighed heavily as she raised her hands and placed her palms against the boy’s cheeks. Jon stiffened, but Spike’s mental command to hold fast kept him still as she leaned forward to gaze deep into his eyes. A strangled noise escaped his throat as her eyes bled into a muted silver.
“Why does she want this one?” A deeply amused voice asked from her lips.
“I couldn’t tell you.” Den snorted. “May be he reminds her of someone. And her father did bind him to someone under her command, whether he realizes it or not.”
“Ah, yes. Spike. Who didn’t seem to object.”
*No, I did not.* Spike responded drily. *I did not think it would interfere in my place in our squad.*
“Ah.” The voice was, if possible, further amused and the silver eyes focused with sudden intensity on Jon’s face. “So, tell me, Boy, what do you think about this vessel?”
“Excuse me?” Jon sputtered, eyes wide. “You’re not human, are you?”
“She is. I, well, I suppose I am not. Tell me, Child, do you not know who I am?”
“I thought you’d be taller, and well, you know, not have breasts.”
Delighted, masculine laughter bubbled from her chest as in the surrounding yard excited howls and yelps of ecstasy started up again as his presence became more pronounced.
Jon took a deep shuddering breath, feeling something start to burn deep within his belly. He took a moment to really look at the girl holding his face in her hands. Almost absently he noticed she had freckles across her nose and silver streaks at her temples. What hair he could see under the hat she wore was strawberry blonde, rather like the general’s had been. He could feel the battle hardened aura that settled over her like a cloak. He tasted grief, loss and the memories of horror on the battlefield. Then, with some surprise, he tasted the familiar bond that tied her to the mage beside her. Then he felt, more than saw the outrage of Commander Canidae, felt the older man being restrained, and regarded her with puzzlement for a moment before focusing on her smiling lips. The thought zinged into his head that they looked like they might taste like strawberries and in the next moment, he’d leaned forward to see if it were true.
Dawn came back to herself, feeling his kiss on her lips. She blinked in shock, but didn’t move. She heard Den sigh in exasperation then shivered as a tongue brushed her bottom lip. She responded, then suddenly felt herself growling and pushing him back against the tree he sat against, shuddering and feeling as if she needed to devour him in some manner.
Someone roared in anger and she felt herself plucked up off his lap. Without even thinking about it, she twisted in the hold and struck out, sending the person stumbling backward. With a snarl, she started forward to subdue them, then stopped as Tremayne’s voice roared out in her mind. She snapped to attention and her vision cleared. She blinked in confusion at her father as he stood there, glaring back at her.
“Well, this is all very interesting, but do you mind explaining what the hell is going on?” Tremayne asked in a mild tone as a crowd gathered in the yard. He cocked his head at her, his gaze sweeping her from head to toe. “Dawn?”
“I don’t know.” She replied, feeling herself start to shudder and shake despite her efforts to remain at attention. She felt Jon rise to his feet and tasted the burning of an angered alpha. She heard a muted snarl and felt Den’s magic buzzing in the back of her head.
“Do find someplace where the children can go.” Den snorted in a caustic tone of voice. “I won’t be able to hold him for long and Spike will help him if you don’t do something in the next five minutes.”
“She’s too young!” Robert snarled back.
“She’s a commander in her own right and Anubis Chosen!” Den ground out in return. “Who do you think led us all that time we were coming here? She took command from the very first moment we met! Even that damned dog of yours acknowledged her as the head of our pack! She’s chosen the boy! He’s obviously agreed! Now, get the hell out of the way!”
Angel solved any further disagreement by simply appearing in front of Dawn and placing her hands on both her and Jon and then all three of them simply vanished. Tremayne slapped a palm over his face and swore.
“I am getting too old for this shit!” He yelled in frustration. “Damnit! Bella just gave birth and I’m tired. All of you go find something quiet to do or by all that is holy, I will turn the lot of you into frogs!”
Robert started to snarl, but Kara appeared and slapped him upside the back of the head. He whirled, startled. She merely raised an eyebrow at him and he glanced up to see Talsien watching him with an amused expression, arms crossed over his chest.
“She’s too young.” He stated plaintively.
“The cubling is no longer a cubling.” Talsien shrugged. “And the youngling the dragon brought back is a fitting mate for her. His alpha chose him as her successor. Did you not see this?”
“Wait, what?”
“His alpha gave him the symbol of her leadership and trusted him to make sure she did not turn. Among my tribe, this is how we let our pack know who is next in line for alpha. Your cub is a battle born alpha. He is a fit mate for her. Their cubs will be strong and fierce. Like our own will be when you sire them with Kara. Like my own is.”
Robert fisted both hands at his eyes in frustration then dropped him to find his entire troop staring at him with interest. They regarded Kara and Talsien, then him. He felt a collective wave of approval and a shifting in his awareness of them that immediately placed both Kara and Talsien at the top of their hierarchy as co-commanders with him. He groaned in exasperation and felt Tremayne’s wry amusement.
In a room in Ian’s keep, Dawn shivered as Jon pulled her down with him on the bed beneath them. She could sense his confusion as well as his overwhelming need for her. Her confusion was just as great as was her need. When he rested his forehead against hers and she felt that same pressure against her mind she had when she’d bonded with Den, she closed her eyes and let him in.
“Oh.” He said in a tone of wonder that made her eyes fly open and meet his. He smiled tentatively at her and she returned it hesitantly. “Mine?”
“Yours.” She agreed in a hoarse voice, swallowing hard.
This time, he was slower and more careful as he kissed her. And when she growled and took over, he happily complied.
In the main hall, Ian grimaced and closed off his awareness of the two younglings Angel had unceremoniously deposited into her old room. He sighed and gazed at his heir as she paced to and fro, her eyes red flames and her aura full of worry.
*They are fine.* He soothed.
“She’s only 16, Ian.” Angel replied in a weary voice. “And I’m tired of this crap. Do you know Bella gave birth to eight dogs of war today? That she is a true dog of war herself?”
*I had my suspicions when I felt her bond with Tremayne, but I couldn’t be sure.*
“And you, you idiot! You told Raphael and Murien it was ok for them to court Maeve!”
*Of course I did. They are the only ones I would trust to court her properly! Did she choose one of them?*
Angel stopped her pacing and shot him a withering look. In the back of his mind, Ian heard the delighted laughter of his long dead lover.
“She chose both of them.” She snorted. “Ian, I love you, but you are so clueless about females!”
*No dragon has ever had two mates.* He mused softly.
“I ordered them to submit to her as if they were going to be her personal royal body slaves.”
*YOU DID WHAT?*
“They didn’t seem to mind. Of course, I could have done without Mom showing me the picture of them talking dirty to her in draconic in front of her. Maeve seemed to like it, though. Mom left them to it. The Faye are making sure they are kept supplied with fresh meat as long as needed.”
Ian sank into a chair, covering his face with one hand. When he looked up again, his expression was worried.
*Angelique, there are things you need to know about Maeve.* He stated gravely.
She snorted and waved her hand at him dismissively.
“I know all about what happened.” She replied in a wry tone. “Lexxie showed me. She also showed me your sister isn’t quite as powerless as you think she is. She is her mother’s daughter in spades, save for the fact she is fiercely dedicated to the light. She loves Uncle Tremayne and thinks of my brother and sister as her own. Gabriele adores her. If she herself hadn’t sworn herself to my service, I might have been a bit worried about her mental health, with her wanting a mate and children of her own as much as she did. Donnie told me about what happened with the Original Black Dragon squad Tremayne was in and how they accidentally bonded and what happened when Caleb and Lerin were killed. That bond was fixed when my stubborn uncle bonded with Bella and they finished it properly. I’m pretty sure Maeve is finding that out right now and when they finally come up for air, she’s going to be so tickled pink it’ll get downright sickening. Dad is already making plans for a dragon nursery and more attachments to the house.”
Ian stared up at her, his mouth hanging open, then he snapped it shut as she folded her arms around herself, her face starting to crumple. He was up and enfolding her in his arms in an instant, holding her as she wept silently.
*I am so sorry.* He soothed. *I wish I could take this from you and bear it for you. My dear one, I love you as if you were my own hatchling. You will not be alone in this.*
“I know.” She sniffled against his shoulder. “Sometimes, I just wish I could be normal, you know?”
*How utterly boring life would be if you were.*
Angel choked out a watery laugh and Ian hugged her against him. He sent a mental command to his guard to notify the kitchens to prepare a meal of her favorite foods and then maneuvered her to sit with him, letting her take what comfort she could. He also sent a private notice to Kat that Angel was with him. He got back a sad, resigned acknowledgement and hoped the older woman would take care of herself properly this time.
Alternate Universes: Dark Side
She twitched and shivered, causing the fingers buried in the scruff of her neck to tighten. The hold was familiar with its iron willed strength, yet it held a deep, loving concern as well. A rumbling growl vibrated through her chest as the faint scents of death, decay and fire reached her sensitive nose. It earned her a gentle, yet commanding shake from the fingers, so she squelched the urge to let the growl grow into a full snarl. The fingers tugged on her scruff and she let them lead her quietly back to where the other ones waited.
She tried to grasp the wisping thoughts and memories that flitted through her chaotic mind as she let her gaze flit over the figures crouched in the gathering shadows of night. Part of her felt she should be able to know who they were. If she tried to concentrate on it too long, her head would begin to ache fiercely and the strange sounds would rattle in her throat, causing the fingers in her scruff to pull up and the soft, soothing voice that went with them would become anxious and the scents would change from calm confidence to tears and grief.
So, she’d learned not to think about it too much or too long. She didn’t know why, but the idea that she could cause pain to the one who’s fingers grasped her scruff was something she wanted to avoid at all costs.
The rangy dog with the others who waited watched her warily as she was urged to sit down. She squatted, still not used to the way her body felt all wrong. It was as if she knew how to sit, but something about her current form wasn’t what she was used to. Her head twinged and she sighed, letting the thought go.
She turned her head and tucked her chin over the shoulder of the dog, sighing wearily, eyes closing. She felt him tense, then slowly relax his muscles.
*…Cass?* The voice was soft, as if from far away. She opened her eyes, but didn’t move.
“Is that my name?” The guttural sounding words were foreign to her ears, but she found saying them was something of a relief.
The fingers in her scruff spasmed, tightened and then a face was peering into her own. The expression on it sent a wave of something through her and she blinked.
“Cassidy?” The voice was soft, scared and hopeful all at the same time.
Something inside her acknowledged that name so she blinked again, lifted her head and pressed her cheek against the other’s, sighing softly. The fingers in her scruff loosened their hold for a moment, then slowly began scratching behind her ears.
“Good girl, Cassidy. Good girl.” The voice was sad and full of tears again.
“She’s starting to stabilize a little bit.” Another voice was soft and encouraging. “It might just take some more time, is all.”
“Has this ever happened before?” Someone else asked in bewilderment.
*If it has, then the priests probably killed them before anyone could find out.* This voice made her snap her head around and growl.
She knew the massive dog behind her, she was sure of it. Knew him and did not like him. In an instant, she’d leapt, tearing free of the fingers at her scruff and bowling him over, teeth at his throat, snarling in rage.
He lay beneath her and made no move to fight her off of him. She stilled for a moment and he further exposed his throat to her. She tightened her hold for a moment, growling fiercely, then sat back on her haunches, staring down at him. He rolled carefully to his feet, shook himself then very carefully extended his muzzle and licked her underneath her chin. In response, she growled, but then licked him across his nose. With that, she turned her back on him and went back to the other dog, settling herself down with her chin over his shoulder again.
“What the hell was that?” Someone whispered fiercely.
*Cassidy claiming the right of Alpha.* Came the voice of the massive dog again. *Or whatever it is Cassidy has become.*
“But Ceasar, you’re the ranking dog!”
“I don’t think rank is something to be concerned about right now, Jason.” The original voice stated wearily and the fingers were back in her scruff again. “We’ve got to figure out where we are and how we’re going to survive.”
“We won’t survive long if we keep her with us.”
*Jason, I will personally rip out your throat if you try to hurt her.* The voice that had been named Caesar stated calmly. *Eowyn was my human and Cassidy is still the mother of my sons and I value her more than I do some lackey of the High Council. .*
Someone let out a snicker. The fingers in her scruff scratched and petted and something inside her was amused, but she was sure it wasn’t this Cassidy they were calling her. She sighed again and closed her eyes.
Twin flames of red filled her inner vision, filling her with longing. She sighed heavily again, letting her mind reach for them.
Inside Dragon’s Keep, Angel sat up, coming awake with a gasp. She frowned, feeling the lingering remnants of something trying to find her. It felt a lot like Kara, but it wasn’t. She felt Isis in the back of her mind, a sleepy rumble of inquiry.
*I’m not sure.* She sent back in reply as she got out of bed and reached for her clothes. *Wake Torin and Larl. I think I can find it again.*
*Mother not going to let you go running off alone.* Isis grumbled but sent her compliance.
Angel snorted as she finished pulling on her boots and crossed to the door. She opened it, only to come face to face with a frowning Dawn, a sleepy Jon behind her.
“Where are you going?” Dawn asked in a tone that reminded Angel of her uncle.
“Goddess, Ian is right, you are a mini-Tremayne.” Angel snorted and slipped past her. She was unsurprised to hear Dawn following along behind her. “If you must know, something is very near the North Woods. It’s looking for me.”
“Which doesn’t mean it’s safe. You’re going to need an escort.”
“Escort?” Jon yawned. “Where are we going?”
“The north woods.” Dawn grunted. “Full battle gear. Tell Spike to wake Den up and be ready to go. Full outfit for long scout. And see if the Black Dragons can tear themselves away from Mauve long enough for air support. Oh, and-“
Angel let out a screech of frustration and rounded on Dawn, stopping the other girl dead in her tracks. Angel glared into a calm face that regarded her with one raised eyebrow. For a moment, neither one moved, then Angel raised up to her full height, mouth firming into a stubborn line.
“You’re not to bother Mauve’s clutch right now.” She said in an even tone. “We’ll take Bridget. She’s used to working with Larl’s pack and Torin.”
“In that case, you’ll need your Sword thane, too.” Dawn replied, crossing her arms over her chest implacably. “And that horn face he’s always with. And Wiley. Those three never go anywhere without each other.”
“Q3 is not a ‘horn face’, he’s a unicorn.”
“I’m aware of that. But if he gets to call me ‘the battle axe’, I get to call him ‘the horn face’. And I’d rather have those three at my back if the shit gets hot and heavy. They can be trusted to stay calm. Den is a good medic and fits in with them. Stevens and Spike can take our flank and I can take point while your squad takes the rear.”
Angel took in a couple of deep breaths, trying to calm the urge to scream in frustration. She was vaguely aware of Ian standing behind her in the hallway and felt his amusement. She turned her head to glare at him and he smiled at her benignly.
*She is a good battle commander.* He shrugged unapologetically. *I’ve already alerted Bridget. She’s already in your mother’s courtyard waiting with Selwen.*
“Selwen?” She blinked in confusion.
*Her youngest egg mate. He’s new to hedge duty and she felt he’d benefit from some ‘field time’ as she called it.*
“Can they do that thing you do and turn into people?” Dawn asked with a frown.
*No. They are too young.* Ian shook his head.
“Hm. Well, then, they can do air support if we need them that way. Otherwise, I want them well out of range of sight to any enemy. Let’s get back and get a look at a map, then we can decide what our transport is going to be. If that’s alright with you, my Queen?”
Angel took in a deep breath and glared at Dawn once more.
“Would it matter if I said no?” She snorted and was rewarded with a shrug.
“You’re the Queen. It’s my job to protect you, even from yourself.”
Angel sighed and took the other girl’s wrist in her left hand and Jon’s in her right. She resolutely ignored Ian’s grin and concentrated on trans locating them to her mother’s kitchen.
Cassidy. One of her names was Cassidy. She awoke between one heart beat and the next with that thought firmly in her mind. It filled her with a vague happiness and she wanted to wag her tail.
In the next moment, she was sitting up and craning her head around to look down at her back, for she could not feel her tail. She stared for a moment, then reached with her hands to feel the furred yet tailless rump, stopped, then stared again, this time in shock at the fact that she had hands. A strange noise assaulted her ears and in the next moment, the fingers her back in her scruff and that face was before her own again.
“Shhh.” The voice was soft yet broken with grief. “Shhh, Mama, don’t cry. It’s ok. It’s ok. Hush now.”
Mama. That one word sent an electrifying jolt through her entire system and she froze. For a moment, she did not even blink, then her gaze focused on the features before her eyes with laser like clarity.
“Bri…anna…my..cub.” The words were almost torture to form, but she got them out. The Cassidy in her mind acknowledged them with agreement and a fierceness that let her know they loved this person and would die for her. She brought her hands up to place them on the sides of the girl’s face, calming the Cassidy’s shock and horror at the sight of fur and claws. “Love…you.”
The girl choked on a heartbroken sob, but hugged her hard. She blinked a moment, then remembered how to place her arms and hold the girl to her. A massive canine head entered her field of vision and she blinked again.
*Eowyn?* His voice was soft and hesitant and his nose cold as he touched it to hers.
“Head hurts.” She whispered, reaching fingers to touch his face. “What..happened?”
*You don’t remember?*
“No.”
Inside her mind the Cassidy rose up and growled. She sighed, struggling to focus, but Caesar nudged her gently.
*No. Cassidy is right. Not now. You need to sleep. We have a long way to go tomorrow. Rest.*
She sighed again and closed her eyes, letting the Cassidy take over.
Caesar backed away at the soft growl that vibrated through the air. He sat on his haunches as Brianna soothed the being in front of her and urged her to lie back down. When whatever it was that Cassidy and his human was becoming was calmed again, he went to Brianna and leaned against her side.
*Oh, Gods.* She sent privately. *What do I do?*
*What you have been* He sighed in reply. *You are the only one she responds to.*
*She’s my mother, Caesar! What the hell happened to her?*
*I do not know. We were separated. Her last order to me was to guard you if she couldn’t.*
*Is that why you dragged me out of Dad’s house like that?*
*Yes. She did not trust him to keep you safe.*
*And Cassidy?*
*I don’t know. Her last assignment was with the council guard and General Antilly. I knew Eowyn had found her through our bond and then there was suddenly a blankness. I could not feel her and thought she was dead, so I followed the last order I was given.*
*The others just followed you?*
*Jacks and Stanis have been with us since the start of the war. Larry lost his bonded recently and was supposed to get a new one. Jason was with the detachment of priests sent to evaluate our squad. The girl, well, I do not know where she came from. Aside from her telling us what happened to Cassidy and Eowyn, she’s not said. She seems more comfortable with you.*
*I don’t know her. She won’t even tell me her name. But she’s the one who said I needed to treat Mom like a skittish puppy. I think she’s been around a trainer. She’s good with the wounds too.*
*She can be trusted and that is what matters. We will need that if we are to survive crossing into Faye lands.*
*Are you completely sure we need to go into the woods?*
*I see no other choice. The council is dead, the army is in a complete disarray and being overwhelmed at every turn by those..things. The only safe place seems to be those woods. Those things won’t go near them.*
*But the stories…*
*Are just stories.*
*And if we run into the Faye?*
*Then, we surrender to them and beg mercy. Do you honestly believe their Queen is the monster the council said she is?*
Brianna slipped her arm over his back and hugged him to her side. He could feel her trembling.
*You said the priests probably killed anyone like my mother is now if it happened before, right?* She asked softly.
*I believe that if this has happened before, then the priests would label it an abomination and kill them outright, yes.* Caesar sighed heavily.
*And what do you think?*
*I think that something happened to make Eowyn and Cassidy bond like that. It was probably in the heat of battle and both of them did what they thought needed doing at the time. There was no right or wrong involved, just need. If Anubis allowed it, then, I do not see a problem with it. If it were an abomination, Anubis would have prevented it.*
*Then, the Red Queen is not a monster. The monster was the council.*
Caesar let out the equivalent of a saddened chuckle. In all his years of service, the rational of the young still never failed to amaze him.
*Get some rest.* He stated in a tone that brooked no disobedience. *I will stand watch.*
Brianna nodded, then shifted and crawled over to Eowyn’s side. Caesar watched her lie down by her mother’s side and carefully drape an arm over the older woman’s body. He was unsurprised to see Eowyn/Cassidy shift around and envelop the girl into her furred arms, pulling her up close and tucking her in the way a mother does a babe. He caught the faint sound of Brianna stifling a sob, then turned his attention back to his watch.
The next day saw them at the border of the Northern Faye held lands. The faint sounds of gunfire and battle could be heard even before they topped the ridge. Brianna was hard pressed to hold Eowyn/Cassidy as they came to a halt to stare down at the carnage below them. Caesar barked an order to stand fast even as Jacks and Stanis called his attention to the fact that there were dog soldiers below them, fighting in a combined melee with the walking dead things and what looked to be remains of the council’s army.
“Those are Dragon’s reach troops!” Jason squealed out with hatred. “I order you to go annihilate them!”
Caesar watched the battle for a moment, marking who was giving orders to the dog soldiers and the Dragon’s reach troops.
*Brianna, let your mother go.* Caesar ordered softly, then gave Jacks and Stanis a look. Without a word, they flowed forward even as Brianna let go of the hold she had on Eowyn/Cassidy. He then flicked an ear at Larry, who, without a word, drew his knife, grabbed Jason’s forehead and drew the blade across the younger man’s throat. Caesar expected the other girl to perhaps scream, but all she did was disdainfully step to one side as the man’s body hit the ground. She wiped at the spray of blood on her face, flicked her fingers and stepped forward to Brianna’s side.
“Good riddance.” She snorted and placed her arm around a trembling and white faced Brianna. “My name’s Karen. Come on. They’ll need medics when they are done.”
Caesar watched them for a moment, then flowed down the ridge to join his squad.
“Damnit!” Dawn roared out as she shot an incoming enemy in the face with her pistol. “Stevens! Close that gap! If any of these idiots get to Angel I will personally flay you alive! And where the fuck is our air support?”
“She won’t stay put!” He roared back at her. “And the dragons are busy on our flank!”
Dawn swore again, roared out another order, felt Den’s magic crawl over her skin and looked up to see him and the little slip of a woman Tremayne had said was a guardian, hands joined, surrounded by the rock wolves that had insisted on coming with Angel. She felt his intent and swore as the feeling of being jerked off her feet washed over her. She hit her knees in reality, but still managed to bring her weapon up and fire at the deviant lurching toward her. The crack boom she associated with a gate being brought into being rattled her teeth and she knew they would have reinforcements coming through within minutes. She fought the nausea threatening to overwhelm her and climbed back to her feet. She swore again at the sight of Angel, surrounded by fighting, a shield of black something on one arm and a sword of burning white hot flames in the other, eyes twin pillars of eerie red, Torin at her back in his elven form, holding a shield around them that kept the bullets being fired at them out. Her eyes fell upon the one enemy soldier she marked as the leader.
“Sandberg!” She roared out both verbally and mentally to the sniper her father had insisted she take along if he wasn’t allowed to go. “Take that fucker out!”
She watched Sandberg start to comply, then her breath caught in her throat at what came leaping through the air toward the target.
“Sandberg! CHECK FIRE! CHECK FIRE!” She screamed out, knowing she’d be too late.
The fingers had let go of her scruff. With an almost insane roar, she was off like a shot down the ridge, instinctively knowing where she had to go. Her body didn’t seem so awkward anymore as she charged down the hill in leaps and bounds, her focus on the malignant energy she could literally taste coming from the right flank of the battle. Hatred welled up inside her like a hot boiling tide as she saw his face. Memory flooded her brain and she howled her fury as she leapt for his throat. She saw the recognition on his horror stricken face, saw the gun he tried to bring to bear, and then her teeth had ripped his throat out.
Blood sprayed her fur, but she didn’t stop or try to check her momentum as she fisted her hands in his hair and literally ripped his head from his body. She howled again, centering her focus on the rest of the malignant energy she could feel and began ripping into it. She could feel Caesar at her side and when they came to the last of the malignancy, he surged forward ahead of her, roaring out a command for her to fall back. She hesitated, seeing the human go down beneath his snapping, snarling fangs. The Eowyn recoiled in horror and the Cassidy took full control.
She turned on the remaining soldiers, human and dog alike and roared out a ringing order in the voice of an Alpha. The dogs all fell back cowering while their partners lowered their weapons. One or two of the full human soldiers looked like they would disobey her direct order, and she saw Stanis calmly shoot them in the back of the head.
She roared out a challenge and was not surprised when no one stepped forward to dispute her claiming full command of the troops before her. She waited until Stanis came to stand beside her with Jacks and a blood spattered Caesar, then turned her back on them to face the line of Dragon’s Reach troops that now stood at the ready, weapons drawn and pointed at her. Her eyes swept them, then came to rest upon the one she’d sought only in her dreams.
Her breath caught in her throat. The girl wasn’t much older than her cub, but she was every inch a magnificent queen, and her flaming red eyes were the most beautiful thing Eowyn/Cassidy had ever seen.
Pain rippled through her then, and she looked down at her belly in surprise. She pressed her hand to the wound and it came away bloody.
“Well, spit.” She muttered in a hoarse voice, sinking to her knees. “I am sorry, my Queen.”
Someone was at her side then, holding her in their arms while someone else barked out commands for the medics. She sighed softly and in her mind the Cassidy acknowledged they’d completed their mission. She let the blackness edging her vision encompass her.
“Goddamnit!” Dawn swore, pressing her hand down upon the wound on the were’s belly. “DEN!”
“He’s out cold.” Angel’s voice hovered above her and she looked up into red eyes.
“Well, she’s going to bleed out if you don’t do something.”
“No, she’s not.” A voice stated firmly and someone else’s hands were shoving Dawn out of the way. “Bri, come on, my kit!”
Dawn blinked and stared at a face she thought long dead.
“Karen?” She said in a near whisper.
“Hi, Dawn.” Karen acknowledged grimly. “I don’t have time for you right now. You’re in my way. Go find me someone who can seal this wound while I stop the bleeding. I’m not strong enough to yet.”
Without a word, Angel knelt down and covered Karen’s hands with her own, red eyes meeting green.
“Take what you need.” She commanded.
Karen hesitated for a moment, then nodded.
“I have to weave part of us into her.” She muttered, staring down. “I saw them merge into one being. I don’t quite know what it’s called, but I know I can do the same thing with us to save them. Is that ok?”
Angel gave her a sad smile, closed her eyes and inhaled.
“Khan, if you wouldn’t mind showing this one how to weave into our pack?” She stated out loud.
*Of course, my Queen.* Came Khan’s voice across mental ears. Karen let out a gasp then frowned in concentration and focused on the task at hand.
Later, when two camps had been set up, the dead dealt with and the wounded seen to, Dawn watched as Angel took the oaths of those who had chosen to come back to Dragon’s Reach with them. The rest who were electing to stay in the former council lands were sitting to one side with Larl, Rhia, Kat and Ian, drafting out a treaty. She saw her father talking with the squad of dog soldiers that had come with the were currently being looked after by the medics as well as the ones they’d been fighting. She looked over to the edge of camp near the medical tent and saw Karen with the younger girl, Brianna. Both of them looked to be in some sort of shock.
*The cubling is. The weaver not so much.* Spike said into her mind with a shrug.
“She’s the one we left at your mother’s clinic, isn’t she?” Den asked quietly.
“Yeah. That’s Karen.” Dawn acknowledged. “I thought for sure she was dead.”
“It would seem the clinic staff that survived put her to work.”
“Yeah.”
With that Dawn crossed over to where the two girls were, intending to debrief them. Karen saw her coming and slipped a protective arm around Brianna’s shoulders.
“I thought you were dead.” Dawn stated without preamble.
“I thought you were, too.” Karen responded evenly. “You left me.”
“I tried to get you to come with us. It wasn’t safe to stay there.”
“No kidding. But, looks like we both made it.”
“Yeah. So, you said you saw them merge. What happened?”
Karen hesitated, looking down at Brianna, who merely nodded.
“I told Bri.” She stated quietly. “One minute, I was with the medical staff that was being assigned to what remained of the council, the next all hell broke loose. An explosion went off in the main compound. When we could get back on our feet, the council building was leveled and it was chaos. The team I was on was scattered. I went toward the worst of the damage, where I figured they’d be. I saw three of the high command leaving. They were shooting the medics so I hid. When they were gone, I went to see if there were any survivors. I found General Antilly’s aide and this big wolf dog all curled up together, like they’d been trying to protect someone else. She was muttering something about it had to be their choice and it was the only way they could complete their mission. She was mortally wounded, the dog looked like it was ok, just knocked around pretty good. I heard someone say yes and then the next thing I knew, it looked like this silver fog came up out of the aide’s body and wrapped around the dog. The dog started howling like crazy and turned into that…being..but it was like in slow motion and sounded like wood breaking. It didn’t even see me there when it was done. It took off and I figured my best chance was to follow it, so I grabbed what I could and ran after it…her. Not long after that, it found Brianna and the soldiers with her, so I stayed with them. Going with them was better than not.”
Without a word, Dawn reached out and pulled Karen into a hard hug. Karen let out a squawk of surprise, pulling Brianna with her. At first, she stiffened, then found herself relaxing into her former best friend’s embrace and slipping her own arms up around leather clad shoulders. She found herself beginning to shake and cry silently.
Dawn placed her forehead against Karen’s, feeling tears trickle down her own cheeks. The tingling feeling she was beginning to associate with being an avatar of Anubis swept over her and she brought her hands up to cup Karen’s cheeks.
“Child, look at me.” The voice coming from Dawn’s lips was masculine and Karen could only stare in shocked wonder at the muted silver gaze that locked on her own. “She would not have left you if you had given her a choice. She loved you. Can you forgive her? Can you love her again, even with her dark side?”
“I never stopped.” Karen whispered in reply, her fingers tracing a line on Dawn’s cheek. “She’s my best friend, my sister I never had.”
“Then, Child, I give you a task. You are to go with them and learn their ways. You are to care for Brianna and what her mother has become. You are to submit to my chosen and the War Queen. You will find they care deeply for those they mark as pack. Can you do this?”
“Yes, I can.”
Karen watched as amusement seemed to flicker in the silver gaze and was unsurprised when cool lips touched hers in a chaste kiss. She let out a squeak as a zing of electricity went through her, stinging. Then she was looking into Dawn’s normal gaze once more.
“I really hate it when he does that.” She sighed, resting her forehead against Karen’s again for a moment before stepping back. She tilted her head to one side, then gave a rueful snort of laughter and touched a finger to Karen’s chin. “I hope you like silver.”
“”What?” Karen blinked.
“Wow.” Brianna stated in a quiet voice of awe. “You’ve got a silver heart right under your lip. That’s kinda cool looking. Can I have one too?”
Dawn groaned as she felt a wave of amusement wash over her. When she could blink and was in control again, she felt like slapping a palm over her face as Brianna now had a silver rune on her chin in the exact same spot as Karen.
“It means strength.” She sighed out, watching Karen trace a finger over it.
“I see you’ve been busy.” Angel’s voice was amused as she came up behind them. “Gathering a pack of your own, are we?”
“More like Anubis is recruiting into yours.” Dawn snorted, crossing her arms over her chest. “Dad is about to implode. Did you do something about the dog soldiers we came in contact with today?”
“Your dad is upset? How can you tell?”
“Watch his left hand. When he twitches his thumb a lot, he’s about 5 seconds away from a meltdown. It’s been going at top speed for the last half hour.”
“Hunh. So that’s why Talsien is shadowing him like that and why Kara seems like she’s trying hard not to laugh.”
“I don’t want to know.”
“I suppose not. I need you and Spike and Den.”
“What are we doing?”
“We’re going to fix the Were bond between Cassidy and Eowyn. But, I figured it would be better if there was someone neutral in the mix they could identify with as a dog soldier squad.”
“Uh-hunh. And you picked me why?”
“That nifty little thing where Anubis likes to use you to come visit.”
“Joy. Well, come on then. I’m not getting any younger.”
Angel snorted, casually reached out and took Brianna’s hand in hers and then led them off toward the medical tent. Dawn was unsurprised when Donnie ghosted out of the darkness to fall in beside them with Wiley and Q3. She got a brief nudge from the unicorn and gave him a gentle pat on his nose in return. She could feel Karen’s muted awe at the knowledge that kin clan were members of the War Queen’s entourage and Brianna’s fascination with Wiley. She marked the way Donnie’s eyes tracked the younger girl and felt another wave of amusement as something in her stated they would partner each other perfectly.
*Anubis likes to play matchmaker, doesn’t he?* Angel’s wry sending was private for her alone. She sent back the mental equivalent of a shrug, focusing instead on the being lying between Kat and Rhia. Den and Spike were already there, as well, Jon hovering in the background.
“Babygirl, I don’t like this.” Kat stated with a frown.
“You don’t have to like it, Mom.” Angel sighed out. “You just have to stay out of it.”
“Ouch.” Rhia stated with a sad smirk. “I think that means we get to keep our noses out of this one.”
“I’m not leaving.”
“I don’t want you to, mama.” Angel sighed. “But, I’m the one who has to do this. She was focused on me, not you.”
“And what about them?” Kat gestured to Dawn, Karen and Brianna, as well as the others behind them.
“Dog soldiers need dog soldiers.” Dawn shrugged. “They need to see that the War Queen will be a good commander.”
Kat frowned even more at that, but subsided as Rhia touched her arm and pulled her off to one side to watch.
Angel knelt down above the were’s head. Dawn watched as Den and the little soldier, Neville, flanked her, their hands going out to settle on her shoulders. Donnie moved to one side with Wiley as Q3 merely poked a nose into the tent to observe. Stevens moved to the other side with Spike and without even being asked, Dawn knelt at the feet of the Cassidy/Eowyn, placing her hands on furry ankles.
In the next instant, she found herself in a landscape of swirling mists. She stood there for a moment, listening for any sounds whatsoever and looking around for Angel.
A low snarl was her only warning. She caught the ruff of the wolf dog that leapt out of the mist as it went for her throat. They went down in a tangle of limbs and snapping, snarling teeth. A second later, a booted foot slammed into her ribs.
“Get off of her!” A woman snarled out and another kick caught her in the back as Dawn brought up a leather clad forearm for the wolf dog to clamp down on. She grunted in pain, but rolled with the hit, only to get another kick to the ribs again.
“Damnit! SpIke! Stevens!” She roared. “Get this crazy bitch off me!”
A wave of exasperated amusement rolled through her mental awareness and suddenly the enraged woman was busy with Stevens as Spike hit the wolf dog from the side.
Cassidy grunted in surprise as the huge German Shepard bowled her off her legs. She lost her hold on the strange female and turned to deal with the other dog. She let out a a yelp of surprise and mild pain as a strong hand caught her scruff and slammed her into the ground hard. In the next instant, an iron grip held her down by the throat and a warning snarl sent shivers up her spine as she tried to scrabble for a way to fight back.
“I don’t think my chosen is in the mood for your stubbornness, Cubling.” An amused masculine voice froze her struggles cold.
She rolled her eyes to the side and saw that Eowyn was pinned on her belly, the larger male soldier holding her in place with a hard knee to her back. Another male stood to one side, head tilted, regarding the scene with burning silver eyes. A younger female with flaming red eyes stepped gracefully out of the mist to stand beside him. A frightened whine escaped her throat then.
“I’m fucking hot, tired, and sore and I need a damned bath.” Dawn snarked, giving Cassidy a rough shake. “I’ve got zombie goo in places I didn’t know it could go and blood all over my leathers. You biting first and asking questions never is going to snap my last nerve, so behave or else!”
“A bit cranky, are we, then, Commander?” Stevens grunted as he leaned even harder on Eowyn’s back. “Guess we’ll have to fix that with some hot chow and the river after we’re done here.”
Eowyn went still, then turned her head to look at Dawn, wide eyed.
“Commander?” She asked hoarsely. “You’re dog soldiers?”
“Yeah.” Stevens replied cheerfully. “Commander Canidae gets a bit cranky after a battle if we don’t feed her.”
“Her? Commander Canidae is a man!”
“He’s my dad.” Dawn snorted, staring down at Cassidy. “And he made General. I got a battlefield command. The queen decided I’d keep it and my squad.”
*Queen? You serve the Queen?* Cassidy sent in a strong tone.
“Yes, they do.” Angel’s voice was gentle as she glided forward through the mist. “And, if I am not mistaken, you were searching for me. You’ve found me.”
*The mission! Did we finish the mission?* Cassidy’s voice was urgent and she began to struggle again.
“If you mean did you finish killing the last of the human council that was corrupted, yes, you did.”
“Caesar killed Henry.” Eowyn’s voice was subdued and full of pain.
Cassidy relaxed beneath Dawn’s fingers then, shuddering in relief.
*Then we are done.* She sighed in relief.
“Well, no, not quite.” Angel sighed and gestured for Dawn to release the dog. Stevens took that as his cue to let Eowyn go and back off to stand next to them. “You were wounded and we bonded you into my pack in order to heal you.”
“There is no healing what we did.” Eowyn snorted. “I am dead. Cassidy agreed to join with my spirit so we could finish our mission. It’s just a matter of time before she dies, too.”
“No, it’s not.”
A sudden vision of Torin and Donovan played out in the mists and Dawn felt a certain satisfaction as Eowyn’s jaw dropped in shock as Cassidy tucked her tail under her tightly, her ears flattening. Visions of Kara, Talsien and the others from Dog Valley played out as well. Cassidy slunk over to huddle into Eowyn’s side.
“The priests were full of shit.” Dawn stated bluntly. “If you don’t fight the merging of your souls, you’ll both survive. It’s not an abomination. I am Anubis’ avatar on this earth and I say it is a blessing of our God that you were allowed to even do it in the first place. Anubis heard your prayers, even if you did not know you were praying at the time.”
“Brianna has been chosen to serve Anubis as well.” Angel stated softly. A vision of Brianna appeared, complete with the silver rune on her chin. Eowyn gasped out loud, then began weeping softly. “She will need her mother. She will need Cassidy as well. The choice is yours to make. Merge and come home to Dragon’s reach or continue to fight it and die.”
Cassidy shivered and whined as Eowyn knelt down beside her. Anubis stepped forward then and placed one hand on Cassidy’s head and one on Eowyn’s. Silver light snaked down and around them both and flared up brightly.
Dawn came back to herself, blinking and shivering with reaction. She fell back onto her rump, breathing hard as if she’d been running for miles. A mug of hot something was pressed into her hands and she looked up into Larl’s concerned face.
“Drink it all down, kid.” Larl said softly. “It’ll taste vile, but you need it.”
Dawn drank and nearly choked. It was vile, but she drank it all, then held out the mug again. Someone laughed but it was refilled and she drank the second mug down just as quick, feeling her strength return. She looked up with a scowl as she heard “Tremayne Jr.” and was met with Rhia sticking her tongue out at her. She snorted and turned her attention to the were in front of her.
A lovely wolf dog lay before her, shuddering and whining piteously. Angel was slumped back in her mother’s arms, unconscious. Den and Neville were collapsed beside them. Wiley lay with his nose pressed against the wolf dog’s and Dawn could hear the snatches of soothing mental voices in the back of her head. Donnie was kneeling beside them, breathing hard and shaking, drinking his own mug of whatever the vile brew was she’d just downed. Stevens and Spike were holding each other up and both of them shot her looks of exhaustion.
“She’s got a silver mask around her eyes.” Donnie stated hoarsely.
“Yeah. Anubis blessed them.” Dawn grunted.
“We were in there a long time. It’s second watch already.” Stevens said quietly.
Dawn grunted and shoved herself to her feet. She waved off concerned protests and all but staggered out of the tent, nearly running into Brianna and Karen. She held the tent flap open and was unsurprised when both girls darted right in. She shook her head and headed for the fire at the center of the encampment.
Tremayne was there, talking quietly with her father. He broke off when he spotted her. He regarded her with a measuring look, then reached down and pulled a pot off its warmer and poured the liquid into the cup he was holding then stretched it out to her. She took it and then drank a long sip, savoring the bitter flavor of the coffee.
“You look like a hippogriff yakked all over you.” He stated without preamble, then sniffed disparagingly. “Smell like it too.”
“Thank you.” Dawn replied wryly, noting the way her father seemed to be holding his tongue while his thumb began twitching.
“Wasn’t a compliment.”
“I’m aware. But since everyone keeps calling me ‘Tremayne Jr.’, I find it amusing to think that in order for you to know what being yakked on by a hippogriff looks and smells like, you’ve had an up close and personal experience with it and gotten caught at it.”
“You know, you’re starting to get a little too cheeky. I liked it better when you were quiet and just followed orders.”
“You said that was boring.”
“I may rethink that.”
Dawn snorted, then gazed pointedly at her dad’s twitching fingers.
“Well, General?” She stated mildly, meeting his gaze with steady look of her own.
“What the hell were you thinking?!” He bawled out in a tone of strident anger. “You went into a battle with no intel, no reconnaissance and no plan! You could have gotten everyone under your command killed! You could have gotten killed!”
Dawn noted Tremayne merely crossed his arms over his chest, watching intently. She heard snatches of exasperation from Stevens and Spike and ignored them, focusing on her father.
“Sir, with all due respect, we had intel and reconnaissance from the dragons.” She began, then held up a hand when he would have burst out with another comment. He subsided with a glare. “The intel was such that we had to make a hard decision right then and there. Go in and face possible hostilities from our own or let them get overwhelmed by the deviants. My Queen chose to go in and I saw the right of her orders. The dog soldiers recognized us as Dragon’s reach troops and thought we were attacking them, not reinforcing them. When we tried to remedy that misunderstanding, their command structure ordered them to kill the Queen. We were not about to let that happen so we called down a gate for emergency reinforcements. Then another squad came in from the ridge with an alpha that eliminated the high council’s command structure and took command of the remaining dog soldiers. Hostilities ceased between us and the dog soldiers and we were able to mop up the remaining deviants. I stand by my decision to support the orders of my Queen in this, Sir. And, with all due respect, I am under General Tremayne’s command, not yours, so if you have an issue with my performance of my duties, you will need to take it up with him. Sir. Now, if that is all, I still have my troops and myself to see to.”
With that, Dawn turned and looked at Tremayne questioningly. He shrugged and then waved her away. She shot him a salute then turned on her heel and stalked away towards the other camp fires where she knew the rest of the people and kin clan she’d commanded earlier would be. She rolled her eyes at the parting shot Tremayne sent to her.
*Welcome to the dark side, Commander.*

Alternate Universes Repost 3/8/2014 III

Alternate Universes: Loose the Dogs of War
She woke with a dull yet familiar ache deep within her belly. For a moment, she lay still, letting the sensation of it spread through her being, acknowledging the pang of anxiety it sparked. She was not young any more.
A soft sigh from beside her made her raise her head up so that she could gaze down at the child that slept curled up against her. A warm swell of what she now knew was affection rose up within her and she allowed herself to feel a spark of hope.
This time it was different. She was not in the fighting pens nor the birthing dens. She was in a place where she was cared for, even loved. She was safe. She was content. She looked up to see Spike regarding her with an alert watchfulness, his entire posture that of a respectful beta awaiting her command.
*Bella?* Her bond mate’s voice was soft in her mind, husky even, and laced with a heavy weariness. She sent back the equivalent of a loving nuzzle and was met with a semi-surprised grunt. *Okay. Who are you and what have you done with Bella?*
*You are annoying me.* She sent back without rancor. *I may have to forget that I promised not to bite you.*
*Uh-hunh.*
*Will you be returning today?*
*I don’t know. Depends on if these youngsters can be moved.*
*You will return today, Son of the Wolf.*
*Uh-hunh. Why is that, Bella?*
*My time has come. And I will not have my first born draw the first breath of life without you to bear witness. You will return. Today.*
It amused her that she could feel him cursing. Through their link, she felt his panic grow into worry that grew into a fierceness that grew into a very commanding surge of emotion. She felt the other 14 bondings tied to him snap into alert wakefulness, felt his sudden consternation and more cursing.
She snorted in her amusement, turning her head to see her bonded’s mate standing in the doorway of the kitchen, shadowed by the war queen and her young sibling. She felt their amusement and their concern. Above all, she felt their affection enveloping her like the warmth of mother’s milk.
Her tail thumped gently against the side of her box.
“Well, then, Sister, blessings of the day to you.” Quineld murmured softly. “And a lovely day it is going to be to welcome your children. I do hope, however, that you realize you are going to have quite the audience.”
*I will try not to bite any of our new pack.* Bella replied wryly, heaving a sigh as a contraction rippled through her belly. *There is time yet.*
She heaved herself to her feet as both Quineld and Angel came to stand beside her. She carefully stepped out of her box, allowing Spike to move to provide a steadying presence at her side. The touches she received from the humans filled her with confidence and reassurance where once they would have filled her with loathing. Instead of snarls and snapping teeth, she met them with a gently wagging tail and a brief swipe of her tongue.
She made her way out to the garden area to relieve her full bladder then begin the ritual of walking to alleviate the aches her labor was bringing, flanked by Spike and the queen. It was not long before the dragon female, Maeve, joined them, the small girl child that would be bonded with her first born pup riding her hip. Time passed and others joined them. Bella found herself more comforted than annoyed, especially when the midwife of Khan’s pack came to pace with her. She felt her bonded’s surprise at that bit of information and was amused that none of the humans had realized the little Sheppard bitch was of shaman blood.
And then her contractions were coming closer and she was no longer amused, but becoming annoyed, as her bonded was not at her side yet. When a powerful contraction stopped her in her tracks and had her panting harshly with the urge to vomit, she sent a mental snarl down the link to Tremayne. She was rewarded with 14 minds answering her as if called to battle and Tremayne’s consternation. She heard Quineld’s soft huff of laughter and felt gentle hands at her flank.
“Come, Sister, time to go lie down.” Quineld urged, fingers gently caressing her muzzle.
Once, she would have torn those fingers off the hand of any human foolish enough to touch her. Now, she welcomed the touch with relief and allowed herself to be herded back into the box in the kitchen.
Tremayne’s day was not going well. He’d been awakened with the dawn with the mental equivalent of a cold nose in his ear and his tired brain had recognized Bella almost immediately. He was still trying to shake off the heavy sleepy feeling he had when she informed him she was in labor. His mind had instantly gone back to the memory of the day Kat had been born and how they’d not been sure his step-mother could birth her at all. He found himself fighting down a sudden fear with grim determination that he would not lose this bond mate too. In his mind, he began cursing in every language he knew and sat up.
Something surged across his mental awareness and he suddenly found himself surrounded by 14 dogs and 14 soldiers. He paused in the middle of rising to one knee, blinking in consternation as he realized they were responding as if battle ready and waiting to be told what the enemy was. As if that weren’t bad enough, Raphael and Murien were standing to one side, harnesses at the ready, wearing identical expressions of gleeful anticipation. The ones that had bonded with the dog soldiers were also at the ready. He ran a palm over his face in muted frustration.
“Well, Fuck.” He muttered to no one in particular and rose to his feet.
“Tremayne?” Kat’s voice was weary yet full of concern. “What is it?”
“Bella’s pups are coming. I’ve got to get back to Dragon’s Reach.”
“How much time do we have?”
“She says it’ll be a while yet.”
“Alright. Then, we get everyone fed and oriented before we try to build a gate. I don’t want any mistakes.”
It was a sound theory. In practice, it all seemed to go downhill from there. Three hours later, they were still going getting everyone settled with the idea of what they were about to do and he was growing even more cranky.
Bella’s mental snarl caught him by surprise. The reactions of the dog soldiers nearly unnerved him and set him to cursing again.
The dogs surrounded him in a circle, heads down and noses touching him while their human partners surrounded them, backs to him, weapons at the ready. He felt them all ground into the earth and a shield encompass them all.
*Fascinating.* Raphael stated in wonder to Murien as the rest of the camp froze. *Do you suppose they know the same drinking tricks Tremayne does?*
Tremayne just started cursing harder.
Bella was panting hard against the contraction that gripped her middle. Grace sat by her head, hands stroking her back while Lady sniffed her over carefully. A soft, low groan was coming from Grace, causing both Quineld and Angel to gaze at each other in concern.
*The child feels her pain.* Maeve sent calmly. *Bella cannot voice her discomfort, so the child does it for her.*
“They had to be quiet in the pits.” Grace’s voice was eerily detached. “Sometimes the more insane males would get loose and kill the birthing mothers and pups before the overseers knew she was in labor.”
“Oh my goddess.” Quineld gasped softly, tears springing to her eyes.
“That won’t happen here.” Angel replied firmly, her jaw set.
Bella would have rolled her eyes if she could have. She felt Spike outside the kitchen door. His anxiousness confused her a bit. She caught bits and pieces of him in her awareness, as well as the queen’s beta telling him he would be a good father. Her ears swept back in shock, then pricked forward as she growled in soft fierceness. She felt Spike freeze and then his tentative query.
*They have no sire here. * He sent to her carefully. *I would stand as their protector as a sire should. Is that not acceptable?*
*Sires kill their pups* Bella growled in return and then lost her anger at the horrified feeling of shock she felt from him. A moment later, he was standing in the kitchen doorway, his entire posture affronted.
*SIRES DO NOT KILL THEIR PUPPIES!* His mental voice was a howl of pain and fury. *SIRES LIVE AND DIE FOR THEIR PUPPIES! SIRES LOVE THEIR PUPPIES!*
Everyone in the kitchen had stopped and stared at the normally mellow German Sheppard that was practically vibrating in the doorway.
*She does not know the ways of our pack.* Khan’s voice was calm and soothing from the doorway. *Nor does she know the way of your dog soldiers. Give her time, Brother.*
*I will stand as their protector!* Spike growled out, his ruff standing straight up. *I will do what her mate should have done and protect her and OUR pups!*
With that he turned and stalked back out into the yard. Bella could only stare, feeling his outrage. She tilted her head up at Angel, noting the queen was watching after the other dog with a speculative look on her face.
“Did he just claim Bella as his mate?” Quineld was amused.
“I think so.” Angel nodded, then looked down at Bella with a concerned expression. “He claimed her pups as well. Khan seems to be handling it.”
*You will explain this to me.* Bella grunted on a contraction. *Now.*
Lady’s nose was suddenly against hers. She stared into the mismatched eyes of the little shaman in fascination. She felt a gentle brush of warmth, not unlike the one she’d felt when she first met Grace. She knew now what it meant and granted her permission.
The images flowed through her mind like gentle spring rains. She saw Lady and another larger dog running side by side, their court ship, loving and welcomed, not forced. She saw Lady’s pregnancy and the male dog’s hovering protectiveness and tender care. She saw his anxiousness during the birth and the way the human females with Lady brought him in to reassure him she was fine. She saw his proud strutting and wagging tail when the pups were presented for him to sniff and how he bathed each one’s face with a gentle loving tongue, then bathed Lady’s face with the same gentle loving tongue. She felt his love and affection as he guarded the puppies’ first curious explorations out of the nesting box. She watched him teach them how to play with sticks and balls and the beginnings of how to herd animals and what it meant to be kin clan. She felt Lady’s grief over the loss of her life mate.
When Lady withdrew, she found that Grace was weeping against her neck and knew the child was crying for her because she could not. She noted absently that Angel and Quineld were also weeping. Maeve was gently stroking her head, a serene expression on her face as always.
*They grieve for the monstrousness that was done to you and your pack.* She sent to Bella privately. *Do you understand now?*
*Yes.* Bella sent quietly.
*And will you accept the male’s claim?*
*I..do not know. For my pups, yes. But I do not know if I can ever accept another mating.*
*He does not care about that. He has never cared about mating.*
*We will see.*
Maeve merely smiled. Another contraction gripped Bella and from somewhere came a deep, booming crackle that resonated through her very soul.
“Tremayne is here.” Angel remarked, looking out the open kitchen door, then a slow smirk crossed her face. “Oh, now that is funny. I bet that gave Mom conniptions trying to hold a gate while they came through.”
Quineld crossed the space between them, took one look at the shielded knot of human and canine bodies surrounding her scowling husband, snorted on a laugh and turned back to Bella. Lady was once again sniffing her over gently.
*The first comes.* She stated firmly.
*Get the girl sib of the Beagle child.* Bella grunted. *Best get the others, too.*
Angel closed her eyes and sent out a mental call to Rhia, Larl, Donnie and her mother as Maeve went to go get Lexxie. She opened them again to meet those of her Uncle’s as he stood at the doorway.
“They can’t all come in.” She stated in amusement. “There isn’t room.”
“They won’t drop the shield.” He growled back in frustration.
Angel tilted her head at them for a moment, then straightened to her full height, letting her eyes bleed into red fire.
“Do you acknowledge me as your Queen?” She intoned in an echoing voice.
To the last one, the dog soldiers all trembled, but made the appropriate affirmations that yes, they did.
“Then, as your Queen, I say to you that this is safe ground and there is no threat to worry about.” She stated. “You are among pack. An alpha gives birth this day. You may stand witness with the one who claims the right of sire, but Tremayne must come to me.”
She watched as Robert Canidae regarded her and the kitchen with the assessing glance of a battle commander and marked the way the others glanced around as well. Tremayne merely looked more frustrated.
“Yes, Sinclair, you can come with me.” He growled out.
Angel watched as the one who would be bonded to Lexxie came forward and stood fidgeting beside her uncle, her hand resting on the head of the dog with her. The shield around them faded away and the rest of them melted out into the yard. She felt her sister come into the kitchen and then stop dead in her tracks.
Lexxie stared up at the woman and dog with her Uncle. A moment later, Dougal appeared in the kitchen at her mental call, Gabriele with him.
“She’s ours.” Lexxie stated in a soft voice, twining her fingers into her brother’s. He gripped her hand firmly and they walked forward without hesitation, Gabriele following. They stopped a pace in front of the girl and waited.
Reggie gasped as the change rippled over her, but didn’t fight it. She dropped to one knee, breathing hard and shuddering, Alvin pressed hard against her leg in support. She lifted her head and met the eyes of the little girl before her.
*OURS!* Roared out in strong mental tones, mingled with the sweet baritone bell of a hound. She felt a strong tug and a click and the bonding snapped into place. Without reservation, she reached forward and pulled both children into her arms, burying her nose into their scent.
*Come, Child.* Bella crooned out through a pant. *Come. Quickly now.*
Reggie scooped them booth up and rose to her feet, crossing to the box in one smooth stride. She knelt and placed Lexxie on the floor, still in her were form. Tremayne moved to kneel at Bella’s head, one hand going to touch her, the other going to take Grace’s.
“You must be the one to catch him.” Reggie stated in a husky voice that she knew was Dylan. “Your touch must be the first he feels.”
Lexxie nodded vigorously and watched in rapt fascination as Bella strained and grunted. A small nose appeared first, swiftly followed by the head. Lexxie reached down and as Bella pushed, the pup slid into her waiting hands. From outside, exultant howls and cackles started up from the wolves and rock wolves, quickly joined in by the dog soldiers.
“Oh.” She whispered, eyes widening.
“He feels like Khan.” Dougal whispered back as Lexxie placed him at Bella’s front for her to clean.
“I’m naming him Leonidas, for his grandfather. He’ll be Leo for short.”
Bella thumped her tail and continued cleaning her newborn son.
*The red haired one and the wolf child, quickly.* She grunted and set to work on cleaning up after his birth. *And the others. It will go faster now.*
The kitchen got a little crowded. As each pup came into the world, caught by the hands of the one he or she was meant to be bonded with, the howls from outside rang out along with whoops and cheers from the humans and elves present. When the seventh pup was born and cleaned up, everyone thought they were finally done.
A surprised grunt from Bella froze Tremayne in the act of getting to his feet.
“Bella?” He sent worriedly.
*It seems there was one hidden from me.* She replied mildly, then turned her head to the doorway to watch the white lion cub sauntering toward her, growling in a sing song voice, eyes slitted in ecstasy. *A guardian of Bastet? Here?*
*HE COMES!* Bastet sent in ringing tones that made everyone wince. *HE WHO WILL BE THE CONSCIENCE OF THE WEAVER AND BELOVED OF ANUBIS!*
“Aw fuck.” Tremayne sighed wearily and sat back down. Someone snickered and he was pretty sure it was his sister. Bella merely growled in annoyance.
*Cats annoy me.* She sent. *Can I bite her?*
Bastet chuckled and placed her nose against Bella’s.
*YOU ARE WELCOME TO TRY, DOG.* She purred then rubbed her cheek against Bella’s face before settling down at her flank.
Bella merely grunted and pushed and strained. She was unsurprised when the last pup presented his hind quarters first. She was further unsurprised when Bastet reached forward and closed careful teeth on his tail and, with the next contraction, pulled.
An outraged yelping cut across everyone’s mental ears followed by disgruntled growling and snarling. Bastet’s amusement rippled over it as she began cleaning him. Bella watched, sweeping her ears back and forth in consternation. She stared down at the almost white color of the pup, broken only by the solid black stripe down the middle of his back over his spine.
*Impossible.* She stated softly.
“What, Bella?” Tremayne asked tiredly.
*That is what Aries looked like.*
“Who is Aries?”
*The male who tried to help me protect my mother the day she died. The overseers would have killed me too, save for Aries drove me into the fighting pits and told me to kill the other dogs. I did, and then he turned on me and told me I would have to kill him as well to live. I did not want to, but he compelled me to do so. It saved my life, for the overseers prized killers above all other dogs.*
There was a sudden heavy feeling to the air in the kitchen and in the next instant, another man crouched beside Bastet, his hand fondling her ears as she finished cleaning the pup and rolled him to Bella’s belly for his first meal. He grinned up at Tremayne unrepentantly as the other began swearing.
“Aries was a noble soul.” He nodded gravely at Bella. “He was the lore speaker of your pack and Ariel’s brother. He kept the old ways alive for the ones he could. He also kept the more gifted members of your pack from being discovered at my command. Unfortunately, it meant killing them before or as they were born. I had to promise him that each and every soul he caused the insane males to murder would be re-born in loving packs before he would agree to my commands. The day your mother died, your gifts manifested, Bella. I had no idea until then. Your mother had bound you at birth. Aries saw in that moment what would happen if you did not live and he *demanded* I give him the means to save you. I told him he would pay the price and he agreed. I never told him the price would be service to the War Queen. I think he got the better end of the deal, if you ask me. It’s going to be awfully boring around the house without my favorite dog of war. Ah, well, I suppose I shall just have to visit often.”
With that, he reached out and trailed one finger down over Bella’s muzzle, leaving a silver streak down over the scars. Then he winked at Tremayne and simply disappeared while outside howls and whoops of ecstasy rose to deafening levels.
Bella laid her ears back in annoyance then met Tremayne’s eyes as he cupped one hand under her muzzle and moved her head around to him.
“Gifts, Bella?” He inquired mildly.
*I do not know.* She snorted. *I fought in the pits for a long time. I never lost.*
“A true dog of war.” Reggie breathed out in wonder. “They’re supposed to be a myth. Oh, sweet Anubis! COMMANDER CANIDAE!”
Robert appeared in the doorway, his face a study of serene happiness. Reggie snorted and rose to her feet, crossing to him. At her touch, he gave himself a visible shake and focused on her face intently. His eyebrows rose in surprise, but he came carefully to the birthing box.
Everyone stared as he bowed to Bella deeply.
“Madam, with your permission, may I examine your pups?” He asked softly.
Bella agreed warily, keeping her eyes on him as he knelt. She tensed as he extended his hand palm up, but suffered his touch. A soft growl escaped her as he touched each and every pup at her breast. It faltered as he sat back on his heels, tears trickling from his eyes.
“I never thought I’d live to see this day.” He whispered reverently. “The priests told me such dogs were possible with careful breeding, but they were never able to produce one. They showed me what one felt like. I prayed they never would succeed in their efforts to breed one. Each dog they found with what they thought were the marks failed the tests. I was supposed to kill them. I snuck them out of Temple Square instead to families I knew could be trusted. Spike was the last one I could save before someone told them what I was doing. I didn’t have time to get him out of the city before I was sent back into the field.”
“You’re not making sense.” Tremayne stated in exasperation.
“You, General Wolfson, your dog soldier is a true dog of war. Her puppies are all true dogs of war as well. They will never fall in battle and they will never lose. Blessed by Anubis, any enemy they face will fall. Any army they serve would be unstoppable.”
An ominous silence fell over the kitchen.
“Ah, shit. Baby girl, it’s alright.” Kat’s voice was full of sorrow and concern.
Angel stood in the middle of the kitchen, her eyes twin flames of red and tears streaming down her face. In the next instant, Kat had her in a tight embrace, rocking her gently as she cried. Her father was quietly rummaging through the cabinets with a grim frown. Rhia merely sighed and crossed to the breakfast bar and pulled two bottles out from under it.
“She moved it so it would be easier to find.” She remarked wryly and his confused look. He stared at them for a moment, then started pulling glasses down and setting them on the counter.
“I do not understand, General.” Robert blinked, watching as the queen he had pledged to serve wept. “This is joyous news indeed. Why does she cry?”
Tremayne sighed heavily as he got to his feet and dragged Robert with him.
“First of all, we’ve got to get you past this notion of calling me a general.” He grumped and dragged the other man over to where Talsien had already poured three generous glasses of whiskey. “Second of all, she’s upset because she hates being a war mage sometimes. She’s 17. She’d rather be doing normal things, not being stuck with all this responsibility. Third, we don’t like the ideas of the high human council that say kin clan are tools or servants or slaves. Magic isn’t something to be used for selfish reasons. We’re supposed to be guardians and stewards of the land and all creatures in it. That means we’re supposed to serve it and them, not that they serve us. Fourth, how would you like it if you got told your newborn baby girl was supposed to go do battle with some evil monster?”
“I see.” Robert replied quietly, his eyes on his daughter as she entered into the kitchen, making a beeline for Angel with a thunderous expression on her face. He watched as Dawn spoke to her, then blinked as Angel let out a wet laugh and left her mother’s embrace to hug the startled girl.
*She just promised that whatever it was, she, Den and Spike would kill them all for her and the black dragons would help.* Bella snorted in amusement.
Tremayne merely sighed and held out his glass for Devin to refill as did Robert.
“Lo and do I lose the dogs of war upon mine enemies in defense of the innocent” Robert stated softly. “Let them tremble in their terror.”
“You people are a wee bit strange.” Devin grunted.
“It’s something from the Dog Soldier’s original honor code that the priests banned. My predecessor was retired because he tried to instill a code of protecting the weak and innocent instead of upholding the idea that the high council was superior to all others.”
“And you?”
“Me? I kept my mouth shut. I did my best to save the ones I could. I couldn’t trust anyone to help me.”
“Things are different here, Boyo.”
Robert nodded, his hand dropping down to where Star appeared at his side. He eyed the third shot of whiskey Devin pushed his way, sighed and sank his connection into the earth. He would need to keep a clear head. He looked up as Devin roared with delighted laughter and Tremayne gave a disgruntled snort.
“What?” He asked in mild confusion but Devin merely shook his head and poured him more whiskey, laughing harder. “What?”
“Never mind. Just drink.” Tremayne sighed raising his own glass.
Robert shrugged and complied.
Alternate Universes: Beautiful Monster Part II
It started with tiny, small things. A fragrant flower here, a scrap of brightly colored fabric there. Things only a dragon would notice as treasure. At first, she tried not to notice, but as time went on, the tiny small things turned into a jewel or some intricately crafted piece of precious metal that called to her instinctive need to hoard.
It lit a spark of resentment down deep within her belly, for not once in her nearly two thousand years had any male dragon ever courted her as anything but in jest. Her longing for eggs of her own had been dulled by her continuing care of the twin egg mates of the War Queen and her work with the other younglings and now with helping to oversee Bella’s pups, but with the continuing reminders of the “gifts” left for her, that longing came back with a ferocity that hurt.
The last straw for her was a bright spring morning nearly a month after Bella’s pups were born. She’d risen early and walked the garden as she always did with Gabrielle, enjoying the quiet solitude and the chance to be herself without having to hide. She marked Raphael and Murien winging through the sky in the distance, but did not give it a second thought. She sat at her customary bench, Gabrielle laying his head in her lap, and they sat that way, watching the rest of the sunrise together before making their way back to the small cottage addition the elves had built for her after she’d come to watch the twins.
The sight that greeted her made her stop dead in her tracks and the resentment in her belly flared into anger. Gabrielle merely cocked his head in confusion at the skinned and dressed Elk hanging from the porch of her new home.
*I do not understand* He sent in a hesitant tone. *It smells perfectly fine.*
Maeve did not and could not answer him as the anger in her gut flared into straight outrage. In the blink of an eye, she’d changed into her dragon form, tearing the carcass from its mooring and throwing it onto the dirt. Gabrielle let out a startled howl and barely jumped out of the way as she let out a blast of fire, burning the elk to an instant cinder. In the next instant, she was springing up into the air and flying toward the human held lands, intending to loose her temper on more deserving targets.
Angel came striding out of the house, her eyes blazing red fire and sending out a ringing mental command that had every being present scrambling to answer. She sent an even more strident command for Ian and the dragons. Five minutes after her summons, there was the crack boom of a gate coming into existence behind the house and Quineld and half of her coven rushed through anxiously followed by an irritated Tremayne.
*YOU WILL TELL ME WHO HAS BEEN HURTING ONE OF MINE!* Angel’s mental roar shook through everyone and only Kat and Kara did not wince from the force of it.
“Angel, it would help if we knew what was going on.” Kat stated mildly.
*Someone has hurt Maeve.* Lexxie’s softer voice answered her even as Angel roared the answer for all to hear.
Raphael and Murien stepped forward, both their expressions grim.
*We did not mean to hurt her, my Queen* they said in unison. *We wish her to choose one of us as a mate. We have been courting her.*
Tremayne let out a soft curse and slapped his palm over his face with a groan. They glanced at him quizzically.
“I don’t suppose it occurred to you two twits to ask Ian first?” He sighed in frustration.
*We did.* They shrugged. *He had no objections.*
Angel hissed out an even more vile curse than the one Tremayne was thinking and with two swift strides, was in front of them both, a hand at each of their throats. Their eyes widened, but they submitted to her hold meekly. A moment later, she cocked her head and smiled ferally.
“Very well.” She stated softly. “I see the truth of the matter now. If Maeve will have you, you both will be her life mates.”
*But, no dragon has more than one mate!* Murien sputtered.
*I would not mind, Brother.* Raphael shrugged. *We could do better protecting her together than separate.*
“What if she doesn’t need your protection?” Angel asked in a deadly tone.
*Then we stand at her side. We would not presume to tell the King’s sister she must have defenders.*
Angel nodded, and then her smile grew even more feral.
“You will submit yourselves to Maeve as if she were your queen and you her personal body servants.” She commanded and let out a low chuckle as they both blanched. “Weren’t expecting that, were you? Consider it your punishment for not thinking more carefully about how Maeve might feel about your courtship, given what other dragons think of her.”
*I have the feeling we may have missed something important, Brother.* Raphael stated to Murien, blinking owlishly.
*We were asleep a long time, according to Tremayne.* Murien agreed. *And we were gone on two tours in the black dragon squad. We did not pay much attention to females or home after we retired, either. What did we miss?*
Tremayne groaned and rubbed a palm over his face again as Angel commanded everyone else to disperse and went back into the house. Quineld merely scowled at the protests the members of her coven started in with, then began listing all the ways an enraged dragon could be a danger to everyone’s safety. No one noticed Lexxie, Dougal and Gabrielle as the three went to Raphael and Murien’s side, closely shadowed by Reggie and Alvin.
Raphael gave a startled grunt as a shield snapped into place around Murien and himself. He glanced down and saw two dogs, noses on a youngling’s legs and the war queen’s egg mates before them, hands clasped. Two small hands reached up and without hesitation, both he and Murine took the offered touch. He was vaguely aware of Tremayne swearing, and he smiled toothily at the query he felt in his mind. He dropped his shields and felt Murien do the same. A moment later, a feeling of profound affection washed over them both.
Miles and miles Eastward, Maeve roared and laid another blast of white hot flame down upon the field she’d found full of deviants. It was the third such group she’d unleashed her rage on and it still was not enough. She banked hard, hearing an unfamiliar sound and winged toward it.
Her whirling orange eyes caught sight of something that gave her anger pause. It was then she realized she’d come further than she’d intended.
Below her, 2 humans stood back to back, firing weapons at the deviants surrounding them. She could see in an instant that it was hopeless and they would be overwhelmed in a matter of seconds. For a moment, she considered leaving them to their fate. But only for a moment and then their aura’s burst over her sight.
She dove straight down and landed with a sweep of her forelegs, clearing the deviants from their flank. They gave her a startled glance that bespoke of desperate terror.
*If you wish to live, come with me!* She commanded. *Hurry!*
The older female grabbed the male by the scruff of his neck and shoved him toward her, then turned back and continued firing her weapon. Maeve read her intention to die giving him time to escape. With a snort of exasperation, she snatched the male in one forepaw, then reached and snatched the female, breathing out fire over her head. She heard the outraged screech as the human’s hair was singed to the scalp.
*Better than being dead at the hands of those things.* Maeve snorted and launched herself awkwardly into the air. She snorted as the male screamed like Lexxie in the midst of a full blown tantrum and marked that the female was quiet.
She got them to the hedge marking the border of Dragon’s Reach before she landed and released them. The male stumbled away from her, dropping to his knees and heaving. The female kept her feet, even though she looked just as unsteady.
“You should have left me.” The female stated in a gravelly voice, staring straight into Maeve’s eyes.
“A bloody fucking dragon!” The male bawled, fingers curled in the dirt. “Jesus! The stories are true! What’s it going to do with us now?”
“Shut up, Stevens.”
Maeve swept her gaze over the female, her eyes coming to rest on the bite mark on her wrist. Her eyes flashed amber then deep green.
*I am sorry. I can save him, though.* She stated softly. The female nodded, and then turned to her companion.
“Stevens.” She said forcefully, then reached out and smacked him upside the head. “Stevens! Pay attention!”
“Ma’am, yes ma’am!” He squawked and clambered to his feet to attention.
“This dragon is going to take you to sanctuary. There will be people there who can help you. You’re going to go with it. That’s an order.”
*My name is Maeve.* She snorted and earned a look from the female that reminded her of Tremayne.
“It's..Her name is Maeve.” The female continued then placed both palms on Steven’s face. “She’ll take you someplace safe. “
“But, Ma’am, what about you?” He asked in a bewildered tone. “You’re coming too, right?”
“No, Corporal, I’m not. I got bit. You know what that means.”
“But may be they have a cure! No, General! I can’t leave you!”
“Stevens! Damnit, Boy! You will leave me! You will go with Maeve! That’s an order!”
“But they might have a cure!”
Maeve sighed and shook her head. There was no cure for the deviant infection. It was something they had discovered early on. Those bitten were doomed to turn unless given a humane end.
“There is no cure. You know that Stevens.” The female said gently, giving the youngling a shake. “I won’t ask you to kill me. Not after what we’ve both lost. But, I am ordering you to go with the dragon. And I am so proud of you, Son. I could not have asked for a better dog soldier under my command than you. Serve the war queen with the same loyalty.”
With that the female stepped back and reached up to remove an insignia from her collar. She pressed it into the youngling’s hand, then gave him a shove back toward Maeve. He was openly weeping and Maeve took care to curl her talons gently around him. He looked up at her, his eyes stricken.
*Don’t leave her like this!* He wept into her mind.
Maeve sighed softly, but sent her acknowledgement. She waited until the older female turned her back, then, with her free fore talon, struck swiftly. She watched as the human’s head was separated from her shoulders, felt the surprise and relief in that last moment of life, then launched herself upward. She felt the human male’s grief and arched her head down, letting out a blast of fire to burn the corpse.
As she crossed back into Dragon’s Reach, she felt Lexxie and Dougal’s relief, then admonishment, then surprised curiosity over the human male she carried in her talons. She felt her own surprised curiosity over the knowledge they then shared with her regarding what had sent her into her earlier rage. She suppressed her sudden giddiness and told them to make ready for her return.
Angel’s head came up from the book she was reading, her eyes bleeding into fire. Kat sighed heavily and placed a hand on her arm.
“What now?” She asked quietly.
“Maeve is coming back.” Angel stated. “She’s not alone. Get Dawn and her father. Uncle Tremayne, too.”
Kat sighed, but rose to do as she was bid. They waited in the garden courtyard. They did not have long.
Maeve landed carefully, coming down first on her hindquarters, then resting her free forepaw down on the ground in front of her. She curled the one holding the young human male closer to her breast protectively, feeling his grief pouring out of him like a river. His weeping both grated on her nerves and aroused her protective instincts.
*I had to kill his commander.* She stated without preamble. *She was bitten. She said they were dog soldiers.*
“Where is his bonded?” Robert asked on a blink and crossed to peer at the youngster despite the warning growl Maeve let loose.
“Dead. All dead.” Came the harsh sobbing. “The General and I were the last of our brigade. We killed the last of the council and then we ran. One by one, they got us. She and I were the last. We got surrounded by those..things. Then the dragon came and saved us. The general ordered me…She ordered me…”
“General Antilly? Boy, look at me! General Antilly?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“Commander Robert Canidae.”
The boy in Maeve’s talons went dead still for a moment and she felt his desperate relief even as his sobs broke out anew. Reluctantly, sensing his need, she released him and watched him stumble into Robert’s waiting arms. She watched as Spike came forward as if called. She watched Robert pull the boy to his knees with him and gesture Spike forward. The Shepard’s nose touched the young human’s and with a hoarse cry, the youngling threw his arms around Spike, burying his face in the fur and weeping harshly. The rest of the remaining dog soldiers came trickling forward, two and four legged, along with various others, surrounding the pair. Angel came out into the middle of them, stopping to nod to Maeve briefly before going to the young man.
*He’ll be ok now.* Kat sent softly as she came to a halt beside Maeve. “I have something for you, but you may want to change first, you won’t fit otherwise.”
Maeve snorted, but melted back into her humanoid form and followed Kat back to her cottage. She paused at the sight of vining flowers snaking up around the porch posts along with two fresh elk carcasses.
“Please do not incinerate these.” Kat stated with wry amusement and took the dragon’s hand. “And please understand that what you are about to see and hear is the complete truth and that it is wholly your choice. “
Maeve nearly held her breath as Kat led her into the interior of the cottage.
There, in the center of the front room, stood both Raphael and Murien, stripped of any kind of human clothing, wearing only matching gold neck torques and wrist guards, the symbol of the personal servants of Royalty. As one, they both sank to one knee, bowing their heads and extending crossed wrists.
*My Queen. We are yours.* Came the voices in unison.
*They are the ones who have been leaving the courting gifts?* Maeve gasped, her fingers griping Kat’s hand hard.
“It’s my understanding that the Dog Valley clan has a tradition of marriages with multiple spouses.” Kat whispered to Maeve gently. “It ensures a great number of things, mostly that younglings will never want for a parent. These two would mate with you. They seem to be bond brothers with my brother. If they are anything like him, then I’d say they’ll probably make you want to scream on a daily basis, but Quineld seems to think he’s worth it. Personally, I’d make them work for it.”
*But…I’m a monster!*
Both male’s heads snapped up at that blurted comment and Kat went still, waiting.
Raphael was first to his feet, gliding forward with predatory grace, his eyes glowing hot amber. Murien joined him a moment later and they gracefully circled Maeve, growling in deep draconic. Maeve’s eyes went wide and her breath quickened.
“Oh, my.” Kat breathed, her face growing hot. “I think that’s my cue to leave now. Have fun with that. I’ll make sure fresh meat is kept handy. “
She gently extracted her hand from Maeve’s hold and literally fled the cottage. She didn’t stop until she reached her kitchen. She snatched the glass Devin was about to drink and downed it in one gulp over his yelp of protest.
“Mom!” Angel snarked. “Not until after the baby!”
“Shut up or I will teach you draconic in five seconds or less then replay what those two idiots just said in front of me.” Kat gasped over the burning of the whiskey.
“Ian already taught me draconic.”
Kat eyed her daughter with a measuring look then stepped forward even as Devin and Tremayne gave each other knowing looks. She brought her palms up and settled them against a puzzled Angel’s face then closed her eyes. A few seconds later, Angel’s face flamed bright red and she leapt for the bottle in front of her father. He prudently moved it out of her reach with a gleeful grin.
“Now, now, you’re too young.” He snickered.
“But, Dad, Dragon porn!” She yelped.
“Oh, Jesus.” Tremayne snorted and grabbed the bottle. He took a deep swig then passed it to his niece. “That will leave scars. It’s even worse if you happen to see it, not just get it described. I remember this one time I was lost in the keep when…”
“Oh, my Goddess! I don’t want to know!” Angel all but shrieked.
Tremayne grinned unrepentantly and took the bottle back.
“I guess we’d better see to making that cottage a little bigger.” He sighed to Devin. “Pretty soon, you’re going to be overrun.”
“Ach, I don’t mind.” Devin shrugged. “I’m getting used to it. I was talking to some of the Morgan’s men about building some sort of barracks housing attached to the main house anyway. We’ve got the land and it doesn’t seem fair to make them sleep in tents all the time. I was thinking of modeling it after your own keep, with a few minor tweaks. After all, you don’t house unicorns and dragons or wolves and war dogs. “
“No, thank the gods. But I may have to make some changes. I can’t have Grace not being able to have her friends over when she wants. Quineld tells me girls like sleep overs.”
“As long as they are girl only sleep overs.”
“Over my dead body will she have a boy over. Well, may be when she’s thirty, but not a day younger.”
Kat sighed as the two men continued their conversation and pulled a gaping Angel away with her to go see about something to eat for lunch and how the newest arrival to their growing enclave was doing.

Alternate Universes Repost 3/8/2014 II

Alternate Universes: How to save a Life
Silver loped beside the horse that carried her human litter mate, feeling the anxious fear increasing with every step. He felt it, too, she could tell by the grim set of his mouth and the way he urged his mount to go faster. They were already ahead of the rest of the contingent from the high Rocky reaches and Silver had heard Bastet tell Eric the Red to let them go, that they were needed.
Silver was unsurprised when another horse, this one with a small girl on his back and a half grown lion cub held against her, broke through the trees and foliage ahead of them. They merely adjusted their pace to keep up.
They halted as one at the entrance to a clearing. Silver could scent the Mackenzie as well as strangers. She stood, panting with weariness as her sib slid down from his horse. The girl on the horse before them was stroking the shuddering neck before her, her face full of sympathy and concern. Silver caught the tickling of a mental conversation and then the girl very carefully held the lion cub and slid to the ground. Green eyes pinned first Silver then her sib.
*Can you help take the packs off so he can change back?* Came the firm voice. *I can’t undo the straps by myself.*
Her sib didn’t say a word, just stepped forward as the girl put the cub down and helped her unbuckle the pack straps on the horse. Once they were done and the packs removed, the horse stepped forward, shuddered and changed into a young man. Silver felt her ears flatten with momentary shock, but her sib didn’t even bat an eye.
“Jason, from the High Rocky reaches.” He stated, extending a hand. The other man looked at it for a second, then took it.
“Kevan, from Dog Valley.” Came out on a grunt, then he looked down at the girl. “This is Jaycee, my alpha’s cub. Jaycee, stay here until we know it’s safe.”
The girl shot him a look of pure exasperation and turned on her heel, flouncing forward into the clearing. Silver felt a faint surge of amusement before the anxious fear returned. She followed the other lion, leaving the two males to stand glaring after them, before they too, followed.
Silver ignored the cries of surprise and made a beeline for the source of the anxious fear gnawing at her heart. Her eyes registered the form of a small Australian Shepard female dog, but her heart told her frightened, half grown cub. Beside the dog crouched a shivering human male not much older than her human sib, his aura full of fear and despair. His hand was just reaching for the knife at his side, his intent to kill his bonded then himself, he was so frightened.
*No, Youngling!* Silver sent and struck the knife from his hand with a paw, her claws still sheathed. *I am here now! It will be fine! Look at me, Youngling! Look in my eyes! My mind to yours, my heart to yours, my soul sings to you!*
Wide blue eyes slammed into hot amber. Silver felt his mind latch onto hers desperately and opened for him despite the pain it caused. She registered Jason beside her, holding the little shepherd, felt him opening for a bond with the dog along their sib link. She felt him reach for her along their link, crying out and without hesitation, opened their sibling bond to encompass both the little dog and the human before her. Somewhere, someone was snarling and a howl of answering fury cut across her physical ears.
Jaycee stared in exasperation and laid her hand on Morgana’s head. She projected calm so hard at the knot of strangers and the others, they fairly froze in place. She concentrated on them while Morgana tried to reach Kevan.
Kevan, for his part, was concentrating on keeping both the human female and the huge shepherd dog from either cutting him with a knife or biting him. All the while, he was keeping his body between them and the pair from the high reaches. Two pairs of furious brown eyes slammed into his own green ones and he felt the battering demand swell against his own mind.
*My mind to yours, my heart to yours, my soul sings to you!* He roared at them and opened his mind. The three of them went down in a tangled heap not two feet away from Jason and Silver.
Kevan tried to ignore the blinding pain as two minds wrapped around his. Their memories flowed through him just as his flowed back to them. He latched onto their names; Sandberg and Saber and sent his in return. He wasn’t sure how, but it was like he was being so closely intertwined with the two that it felt much the way it had when Patches had first chosen him.
He came back to full awareness, his forehead firmly against Sandberg’s, Saber lying half on top of them, half in between them. He sucked in harsh, panting breaths, staring into her very wide eyes. She was breathing just as hard, and tears were starting to gather at the corners of her eyes. He sensed the sorrow beginning to pour out of her. As if he’d been doing it all his life, he kissed her gently on the mouth, sending soothing waves of comfort along their newly established bond.
*It’s alright.* He sent gently, mouth still pressed to hers. A low, soft whine of pain and he brought one hand up to sink his fingers into Saber’s ruff. *It’s alright. I’m here now. I will protect you both with my life. I am yours.*
Her hand joined his on Saber’s ruff, her fingers twining with his. He felt her lips return his kiss hesitantly, then they were back to foreheads pressed tightly together, staring at each other.
*I don’t suppose we can just knock the whole lot of them out?* Came a voice Kevan recognized as the dragon Ian. *And would someone please explain to the little hatchling she can stop now?*
Kevan held Sanberg’s eyes with his own, telling her to stay still, that it was safe and to move now would hurt Saber worse than he already was. She blinked, the tears spilling over, but lay there, not moving.
*I only wanted to protect Mitchell and Rose.* She sent in a shivering tone. *They’re not fighters, not really.*
*No, Girly, Shamans generally aren’t.* Came Tremayne’s weary voice. *They’re healers. Kat, are those two with you?*
*Yes.* Came the soft voice. *Jason and Silver nursed from the Jason’s mother. They’re like sister and brother, and probably the gentlest, strongest souls I’ve ever met. *
*Jaycee, release them.* Came her father’s firm voice.
*Yes, Papa.* Jaycee replied.
And just like, the camp was free to move again.
Kevan felt Sandberg tense up as footsteps came closer and gave the fingers in his a gentle squeeze. He slid his eyes sideways to see Talsien gazing down at him in mild exasperation. He let a small grin tug at his lips, then flicked his gaze to the woman that squatted next to Sandberg’s side.
“How in the Goddess’ name did they manage this?” Kat sighed with faint amusement as she tracked the were’s stallion spirit wrapped around all three.
“Couldn’t tell you.” Talsien replied with a shrug and a grunt. “Probably should leave them be for a bit. It will hurt less if they separate on their own. They need to be kept warm, though.”
Blankets were brought and settled over them. Kevan very gently shifted his legs so that Saber shifted to lie between him and Sandberg, sending comfort and apologies as the dog whined with the pain of moving. Saber heaved a sigh of relief when it was all done, tucking his head down into Sandberg’s chest.
Meanwhile, Silver was sitting placidly flicking her ears and purring while the human called Mitchell buried his face in the fur of her neck, silently weeping. Next to him sat Jason with one arm slung across his shoulder protectively and the little shepherd, Rose, huddled in his lap. Along the new, intertwined sibling link and the bond mate link, Silver could catch snatches of muffled babbling from both the human and the little dog. She didn’t have to make sense of it, she’d seen their memories and knew it was them purging their horror, fear and despair. She merely sat, solid and purring, listening, while Jason acted as a human security blanket, wrapping the two in warmth and comfort.
When Bastet arrived with the rest of both contingents, Kat’s and Kara’s, Silver merely remained where she was, still solid and purring. Mitchell and Rose had long since fallen silent and Mitchell now held Jason’s arm in a near death grip. Bastet came to her, nosed her gently, then Jason, then settled her nose against Rose’s still shivering side. Silver caught a tickle against her mental ears and Rose stopped shivering, tucking her head into the crook of Mitchell’s arm with a deep sigh. Mitchell stared at the rangy cub, and very hesitantly let go of Jason’s arm to reach his fingers toward her face. Bastet nudged her head under them and he scratched behind her ears with a trembling smile. Then she turned away from them and sauntered back toward the central fire and Kat.
*Tremayne, we almost lost those two.* Kat sent softly.
*I know that.* He sent back crankily. *I’m a bit overwhelmed here. I have no fucking clue what the hell I’m supposed to do to keep them all stable.*
*We need to get them to Dragon’s Reach as soon as possible.*
*Let them rest.* Ian broke in quietly. *We can build a gate tomorrow. For now, just concentrate on how to save the lives of all of them. I suggest settling the little hatchling and her bond mate in the center of them, if her sire has no objections.*
*I think he’s a bit too busy trying to figure out how his father’s bond mate had cubs with a high reaches lion.* Kat sent back wryly. *And why he never knew.*
*Wonderful.* Tremayne sighed.
“Ach, cheer up, Tremayne!” Devin called from across the camp, pulling Eric along with him. “This laddie thought to bring a bottle of Meade in his pack!”
Kat sighed as Tremayne eyed the two and swore softly to himself.

Alternate Universes: Not Afraid
The chaos had settled into a peaceful, if somewhat wary, evening routine for them. Guards had been set, food had been cooked, introductions made. It could have been a scene from a meeting between two phalanxes in the field, all things considered.
For Frank Dawson, it was a world shattering type of surreal he’d only ever experienced once; the day his canine partner, Logan, had shown him that the High Council was wrong and magic wasn’t reserved for their special “Master Race”. At first, Dawson had thought it was some sort of nightmare, until Logan pithily told him to stop yelping like a spoiled puppy and then went back to healing the wound on Dawson’s leg; one severe enough that he would have either bled to death in the field or had it amputated at a forward med site. Logan had fully expected him to tell the commander exactly how he’d survived a mortar blast with only minor scratches, but Dawson had merely shrugged and gone to get rations for them both. Later that night, he’d sworn to Logan he’d never say a word, that despite having 4 legs instead of 2, Logan was his brother and one didn’t betray a brother. Logan had regarded him with measuring eyes, and then had very quietly explained how it was he could heal when the priests said the canines in the Dog Soldier partner pairs were merely batteries for enhancing the human’s fighting skills. That had been 4 years ago. Logan was now nearing 6. At 7, canines were “retired” from the Dog Soldiers, and new ones bonded to the human half of the former partnership. If no new bond could be established, the human soldier was “retired” as well.
Dawson thought nothing could surprise or terrify him anymore. The day’s events had proven him wrong on both counts. Even Logan, normally stolid and unflappable, was shaken to the core. It didn’t help that every move they made was being shadowed by a slender lion and a young woman with a scar running down over one eye. At first, he thought they were watching out of some sort of suspicion, but Dawson caught the deep blush that had stained the girl’s face when he managed to catch and hold her gaze.
It confused him. It was grating on Logan’s nerves, and it took a lot to make Logan edgy.
*I’m tired of it.* Logan whispered in his mind.
*I don’t want to start trouble.* Dawson sent back quietly, turning to look his huge husky-malamute hybrid partner in his mismatched eyes.
*We won’t.*
Dawson shrugged and got to his feet, following after Logan. They disappeared behind a tree and Logan instructed him to be still. It suddenly felt like warm Jell-O was surrounding them, but Dawson didn’t move a muscle.

Lauren flowed around the trees, followed by Gavin, her new friend from the high reaches and came to a surprised halt.
*Interesting.* Gavin remarked quietly, ears flicking. *I can still smell them, though. We should just talk to them, Lauren.*
“Like he’s going to want to talk to someone who looks like me.” She snorted with soft bitterness. “Much less bond with me. I can just see it now ‘Hi, I’m Lauren. I can turn into a mutt and I look like a dragon chew toy. I’d like to bond with you.’ That’ll go like a fox in a hen house.”
*You think too little of yourself.*
“Yeah, so how come you won’t just go talk to the dog, then?”
Gavin flattened his ears momentarily, then sighed heavily.
*I’m not really fond of most canines. They tend to attack first and ask questions later. That and they can be a bit stupid.*
Lauren stared at him for a moment, then dissolved into soft snorts of laughter. A moment later, she rippled and turned into a wiry haired, medium sized male dog that looked to be some sort of cross between a cattle dog and a terrier. He then did a half bow with his forelegs down in front of him and his hind end up, tail wagging mischievously. Gavin sat back on his haunches with an eye roll.
*And now you are making my point for me, Buster.* He remarked drily.
The dog opened his mouth in an obvious laugh and bounced forward playfully. Gavin opened his mouth in a mild hiss. The dog yipped, danced back, then quick as lightening, bounded forward to playfully tag Gavin in the side before running off. Gavin gave a hissing growl and leapt to give chase. In short order, they were streaking in and out of the trees, unaware of their cloaked and shielded audience that was stealthily following them. Gavin finally caught him in a pouncing leap, but his gloating hiss turned into a yowl of surprise as he reverted back into Lauren’s human form and caught him, rolling around in the leaves and foliage on the ground with him while being careful to protect him from harm.
*Ahhh! That tickles!* He yelped as her fingers found the sensitive spots on his hips. He brought his back feet up into her belly, careful not to scratch her, and shoved.
Lauren flopped away from Gavin, rolling onto her back and laughing uncontrollably. Gavin sat next to her, eyes narrowed, tail lashing. He glared down at her for a moment, then lay down next to her and began washing her face with a rough tongue.
*How in the world the Goddess thought it was a good idea to pair you two pranksters together is beyond me.* He sighed in mock consternation, then stilled as Lauren’s face went solemn.
“I wasn’t always a prankster.” She replied quietly. “I went into the woods to die a year ago. Buster followed me. He was my best friend’s dog and the two of them were always trying to cheer me up. My dad beat me, you see. But, my best friend died and Buster was grieving. My dad was getting worse. The night I got the scar on my face, I decided I’d rather be dead than live. I went hunting a deviant. Found one, too. Then, at the last second, changed my mind and fought it. I was going to lose when Buster joined in. We killed the thing, but it cost Buster his life. It was my fault he died, and when he asked if I would accept him, I just said yes. I didn’t think about it. When Demonsbane found me the next morning, I thought he’d beat me like my dad would. He didn’t. He just picked me up like I was something precious and took me back to the Were’s barracks. I learned how to fight for real and Buster kept talking me into some rather silly things that made people smile, so I learned how to play pranks, too.”
*I will kill your father for you, if you like.* Logan suddenly sent, dropping the shield that had hidden him and Dawson from sight as the two of them crept within two feet of Lauren’s position.
Lauren eeped and rolled to her feet, taking up a defensive position right in front of Gavin. She stared first at Logan, then at Dawson and flushed bright red.
Dawson didn’t hesitate; he stepped right up into her personal space, looking deep into her suddenly wide, blue eyes. His eyes took in every aspect of her face and then it suddenly seemed as if his vision shifted and he could see the swirls of green, silver, gold and pink that floated all around her. He felt a slow smile spread over his lips, the first in nearly two years.
“Beautiful.” He whispered right before he claimed her mouth in a gentle kiss. He felt her shock and surprise, but kissed her again, his hands coming up to tangle in her wild, leaf tangled dark hair. The moment she got over her hesitation and tentatively returned the kiss, he deepened it, feeling an urgent hunger sweep through his blood that sent tingling fire all through his body. In two long, careful strides, he had her backed up against a tree, a sensual growl vibrating from his throat. A moaned word of permission and his hands were at the fastenings of her shirt.
Logan blinked at his human partner in mild consternation; thinking now was not the time to think of mating. Then a pair of green eyes blocked his vision and the lion was in front of him.
*It’s a life mate bonding.* Gavin explained carefully. *Neither one of them will be coming up for air anytime soon. I suggest we go back to camp and see if there is any more deer.*
Logan regarded the big cat steadily, feeling a tickle at the back of his mind. He watched the cat’s ears flick back and forth as if trying to shake off a fly, but no insects were present.
*Does this bonding happen only in humans?* Logan asked in a wry tone.
*Sometimes.* Gavin replied in a hesitant tone, as if there were more he would say.
*Spit it out, Cat. I detest puzzles.*
*I believe you are a compatible life bonded for myself. *
*I see.*
*It’s rare, but not unheard of for brother bonds to happen between those of different species.*
*I see.*
Gavin sat back on his haunches once more, trying to curb his irritation and not listen to the sounds going on behind him. Logan regarded him steadily and Gavin could feel the urge to complete the bond nearly overwhelming him. He was trying to think of a way to better explain it when the dog stepped forward and placed his cold nose on Gavin’s.
*I am neither stupid nor do I ever attack anything or anyone without thoroughly knowing the layout of the battlefield or thoroughly knowing everything I can about my enemy.* Logan stated calmly then opened his mind.
Gavin let out a startled grunt as the dog’s mind seemed to reach for his with the same hunger a newborn cub had for its mother’s breast. He quickly dropped his shields and let the dog in, wrapping his own mind around the other’s, closing his eyes in eager relief. Part of him was surprised at how easily the bond snapped into place, as if they actually had been born brothers.
When Logan sat back with a soft, low whine, Gavin opened his eyes and instantly stepped forward to place himself against the dog’s side in a steadying manner. He turned his head back to look at the dog who was staring at the two humans that now lay on the ground a few feet away.
*I need bleach for my brain, now.* Logan remarked drily and stood to his feet, giving himself a shake. *I could have done without ever seeing just exactly how it is humans mate.*
*I’m sure they feel the same way about us, Brother.* Gavin replied with faint amusement. *Come on, they’ll be at it for hours. Let’s go see if there’s any deer left.*
*Agreed.*
Gavin led the way back to the camp and ignored the general wave of amusement from the rest of the lions as he procured a lightly seared deer steak and laid it down in front of Logan before getting his own. He lay down near the central fire, ignoring the stares of Logan’s comrades and began eating his steak. Logan lay down next to him; his side pressed against Gavin’s and began eating his own meat.
*Logan, report.* Commander Canidae’s voice was weary yet gently firm. *Where is Dawson?*
*Commander, Dawson is further negotiating for asylum with one of Commander Demonsbane’s personnel.* Logan responded drolly.
*Sergeant Logan, explain, please.*
Logan heaved a sigh and looked up across the fire at his commander. He could feel Gavin’s amusement and the confusion from his pack mates.
“Master Sergeant Dawson is currently bonding with Lady Lauren and Buster.* He stated evenly.
He sensed confusion from his commander but then Lauren’s commander suddenly stepped forward from somewhere, leaned down and whispered in his commander’s ear. He watched in fascination as Commander Canidae spewed out the water he was drinking, then looked up at Commander Demonsbane with an expression he’d seen only when the commander was yelling at a new recruit for doing something stupid. He tilted his head in curiosity.
*Don’t think about it too much.* Gavin advised. *It will make your head numb. Just eat your steak.*
Logan gave the mental equivalent of a shrug and did just that. The edginess he’d been feeling over the day’s events was starting to calm down and for once, the idea of a full belly and not thinking about survival won out over all else.
For once in the last 5 years, he was not afraid.

Alternate Universes: Secrets
She wasn’t sure exactly when she decided society as a whole was wrong, just that one day, she realized how utterly irrelevant the values advertised by the high council were.
It had started as a small thing. Her 18th birthday and her grandmother’s noticeable absence from the small celebration her parents had thrown. She’d been marginally unconcerned until she’d overheard a conversation between two of her cousins in which her apparent lack of magical talent had been disparaged. Her father had made light of it, but she’d been more observant of the reactions of others after that.
A short, disastrous marriage had followed between her 19th and 23rd year. Her husband had divorced her when their firstborn child, a girl, had proven to be completely devoid of any magical talent whatsoever. Suddenly on her own and desperate to provide a living not only for herself but for a newborn infant, she’d joined the army in the hopes of obtaining stability. He parents had cared for her daughter during her initial training. When she’d proven to have a required talent for the dog soldiers, she’d applied without a second thought.
Her first partner had been a rangy mutt of indeterminate origins. When the priest had set their bond in place, she’d caught a glimpse of a kind and loving presence that was quickly suppressed. She’d filed it away in a corner of her mind and hadn’t mentioned it.
When Dylan had taken a mortal wound in a battle she thought too stupid to name, she’d heard him voice a question in her mind that she hadn’t hesitated to answer. A piece of him had come to reside in her mind, hidden from the probing of the priests and she fiercely guarded it with every fiber of her being from that moment onward. Not even her second partner had known of it, despite the fact that the bonding required total merging of spirits between human and canine.
When commander Canidae had ordered them into the scorched woods of the Fey, Dylan’s aspect had awoken, warning her to be on her guard. Al, her current canine partner, had merely stated they ought to be observant and hadn’t said much else.
She’d watched in a detached sort of manner as Mitchell and Rose were chosen by strangers and then Sandberg and Saber fought with the one that was like her but not. Their bonding was nearly her undoing.
She’d stood fast, watching and observing and marking who she could most likely trust and who might be a problem as the evening wore on. She acknowledged the bonding to the war queen almost as an afterthought. Dylan had wryly remarked that it would be interesting to see if the war queen c could accept what the high human council considered an abomination of the worst order.
Al had regarded her with steady honey brown eyes, as if waiting for something. She’d tamped down the sensations of feeling as if she’d burst out of her own skin and stood fast, taking her cue from the commander.
So when the strange gray eyed female had come to stand before her with a gentle smirk, she’d felt a pang of sudden fear.
In the next instant, she’d been standing in the middle of a silver mist, Dylan and Al behind her as she confronted the being in front of her, a snarl of defiance bubbling in her throat.
“Oh, my.” The gentle voice state in absolute wonder. “She’s so beautiful. Do you think she’d make a good guardian for my brother and sister?”
“Her aura is primarily gold and black” Another more masculine voice answered. “Loyalty and courage. She would die for those she loves.”
“I don’t want her to die. I want her to be loved and know family. “
“Then you must instruct her, Daughter.”
“Very well.”
And then she was shown a scene with a girl no older than her baby daughter, trying to close the breach between hell and the world as she knew it. She heard the question clearly “Would you die for her? To seal the breach and save humanity, would you die for her>”
Without hesitation, she’d answered. Of course she would die to ensure the ultimate salvation of not only her daughter, but everyone she’d ever known and then some.
In her mind’s eye, she felt Dylan wrap around her soul and she leapt to defend the child before her from the monsters emerging from the hellish portal. Her own war cry rang out, along with Al’s full throated battle roar. She tackled the being, bearing it back through the portal even as her hand scrabbled for the knife she wore at her side. Al was right there with her, snarling teeth closing upon whatever he could reach.
In the next instant, the monsters were gone and she stood over an exhausted girl in a defensive stance. When she saw there were no more threats, she immediately drew off her jacket and drew it over the girl’s shoulders, pulling her up into a protective embrace.
“This is no place for you.” She heard herself saying. “Where are your guardians?”
“I am the guardian.” The girl answered her, emerald green eyes boring into her own as strong hands came up to clamp around her forearms. She felt her world tilt on its axis and fear snaked through her veins.
She couldn’t control it. Her bones snapped, crackled and changed without warning. She howled with the agony of it even as Dylan howled in fury in her mind. She heard Al’s startled yip, then felt him leaning against her legs, snarling in a protective rage of his own. She tried to pull away from the hold the other girl had on her, but couldn’t. She screamed in primal fury and fear.
And came back to herself, the gray eyed woman holding her wrists in a strong grip, someone else at her back, keeping her in position.
“Shhhh, my beauty.” A musical voice crooned in her ear as she whimpered and struggled. “Hush, now, hush. ‘Tis a lovely, lovely creature ye are an’ a fit watcher for my trouble maker of a daughter. She’ll love ye something fierce, she will. Hush, now. Shhhh.”
“Kara.” The gray eyed woman’s voice was calm and controlled; totally at odds with the situation. She struggled harder, but the arms holding her were unyielding.
Another set of grey eyes entered her vision and she paused for an instant, for the eyes were set in a face that was both human and not. She froze, staring in disbelief.
The face was a mixture of human and beast. In her mind, she heard Dylan give a snort of shock. Through the link she shared with Al, she felt surprise and relief.
“What are you?” She growled out on a gasp.
“I’m not a what.” The answer was laced with faint amusement and tasted of sadness. “I’m a who. My name is Kara. Kara McLaren. What’s your name?”
“Reggie.” She whispered in return. “Regina Sinclair.”
“Hi, Reggie. I’m Kara. This is Kat. The gentleman making sure you don’t completely implode is Devin McKenzie. He’s Kat’s, by the way. Can you tell me the name of the one you bonded with that lets you be furry like me?”
*She’s like us.* Came Dylan’s wondering voice inside her mind. *I did not think there were others.*
“Dylan.” Reggie Sobbed out and felt Al leaning hard against her legs. She looked down at him and was amazed to see that he was unrestrained, his focus solely on her face. “Oh, my god. Al.”
*It is alright. I knew.* His voice was strained inside her mind. *I’ve always known. You are my chosen. I do not care what the priests said or believed. Tell me what to do.*
“I don’t know!” She moaned out in defeat.
*Well, for starters, you trust my mother.* Came a wry, feminine voice that sparked a warmth in her belly she’d never felt before. *Next, you can get yourself a decent meal. Lexxie thinks you’re too skinny and I have to agree. *
*My Queen?* Al’s mental voice was reverent and almost frightened.
*Yes?* Came the wry voice again.
*We will be welcome and safe within your borders?*
*Alvin, I promise you, you will have sanctuary. All of you. You are already tied to me. I know all of your secrets. I’m gonna give all my secrets away to you. You are mine and I am yours. Is this not enough?*
*Our kind are considered abomination.*
*Not by me. Not by my allies. And, most especially, not by my Life Mates.*
A glimpse of a horse creature that shimmered and melted into a being much like the Fey in the camp with them and Al’s entire frame shook with relief.
Reggie took a deep breath and took back control, raising her gaze to the eyes of the woman in front of her.
“We’re Alexandria’s.” She gasped out. “Please.”
She watched as the tears welled and spilled out of the first woman’s gray eyes and felt a momentary pang of confusion. The strong masculine arms keeping her in place tightened briefly and the one called Kara merely tilted her head, a slight smile twitching at her lips.
“I think you and I have a lot to talk about.” Kara informed her and with a nod, Regina found herself free. “Come on. Let’s go get you three something to eat and I’ll explain things to you.”
Reggie let herself be led away, willing herself not to turn at the sound of quiet tears behind her, nor the sounds of a masculine voice whispering soothingly.
“Ah, donna cry my wee little witch.” His voice sent shivers up her spine. “’Tis a fine, fine guardian our Angel has caught for our Lexxie. Wait and see, ‘twill be fine.”
Reggie certainly hoped so.

Alternate Universes Repost 3/8/2014 I

Alternate Universes: New Divide

She knew she was dreaming when she saw Michael standing not three yards in front of her, his back turned to her. She inhaled deeply, smelling some sort of floral scent heavy in the air. She took a step forward and he turned around.
“Kara!” He called with that same mischievous grin he’d always worn when he was about to talk her into going to some party or function with his family. He started forward, only to stop dead as the earth between them suddenly opened up in a wide, gaping chasm. He looked at it for a moment, the back up at her, his face solemn and sad. “You have to find a way to bridge the gap.”
“You’re dead, Mikey.” She replied in a soft voice, letting her were form flow over her. “And I’m not the same anymore.”
“Still the same old Kara. Thinking I can’t see what’s under the scary. I’ve always seen. You have to find a way, Kara. It’s the only way to heal both of you.”
“You’re not making sense, Mikey.”
She watched as a man and a woman appeared behind him to lay their hands on his shoulders. He looked at them and smiled softly, before turning back to her.
“Bridge the divide, Kara.” He said softly, his eyes beginning to glow softly. “Start with the Dog Soldiers coming down the mountains in the north. I love you, Little Sister of my heart.”
She woke his name a dying scream in her throat. Talsien held her fast; calling out to someone she couldn’t see. In the next moment, Moon’s Daughter had her nose pressed to Kara’s.
Kara hiccupped on a sob and threw her arms around both the lion and Talsien. She got a surprised grunt from one and a soft sigh from the other.
“I have to go north.” She finally got out in a hoarse voice.
*Jenna said as much.* Moon’s Daughter replied wryly. *I am not fond of dogs, but Jenna says these are no ordinary dogs.*
“I have to go to Dragon’s Reach with them.”
“Then we will all go.” Talsien growled out, his eyes flashing amber. “All of us, Jaycee and Morgana included.”
Moon’s Daughter hesitated a moment before sitting back on her haunches.
*Are you prepared for the possibility of never returning to Dog Valley?* She asked carefully.
“Where my mate goes, I go.” He shrugged. “If that means we do not come back here, then one of the others can be chieftain.”
Moon’s Daughter closed her eyes for a moment, and when they opened again, there was a look of resignation in them.
*Very well.* She stated and lay down upon the bed. *I have communicated this to Jenna. She is speaking with the rest of the clan. Go back to sleep. You will need the rest.*
Kara just stared at her for a moment, noting that Esme was in the corner of her mind with a satisfied expression. She decided she really didn’t want to know more before coffee and lay back down, pillowing her head on Talsien’s chest.

At the same time, Kat stood outside the lion pride cave, looking out over the sleeping village. She could smell honeysuckle and lilac again. It had been a month since the incident in the clearing and her homesickness was gnawing at her. However, that’s not what had awoken her.
*We are here.* Came Precious’ soft lilting voice in her mind. *Take what you need. We are grounded and ready.*
Kat hesitated, then felt a tendril of something flow into her directly from Precious. Her eyes widened and she felt tears prick.
*You’ve awakened.* She sent in a voice full of pride.
*I have kittens to protect. Of course I’ve awakened.* Came the wry response. Kat caught the mental picture of Gabriel and the twins and let out a shaky laugh.
*Then, let us see what walks the land and makes me so restless.*
A snort answered her and Kat reached out mental tendrils of her magic, linking with Precious, Silky and Dar. A small nudge and she let Tom in. Metal grumbling and a nudge at her leg and she opened for Cricket. Then, she sank it deep into the earth and let it snake north, the direction she felt pinging her senses.
Whatever they were, they were skirting across the border out of the Northern Fey lands. She let her magic filter up to the surface so she could get a feel for what their intent was. Then frowned in mild confusion and halted the magic tendril a few inches above ground. Then, in her head, the Morrigan sighed in exasperation and took over.

Northern Fey Border.
Saber halted abruptly In front of his human partner, head going down in the signal for “hold”. His partner froze, holding up a fist and making the entire phalanx stop in complete silence.
*What is it?* Came the voice of their commander over the mental link.
*Something is coming toward us.* Saber sent in reply. *I cannot tell what it is or if it is hostile, Sir.*
*Formation and shield! Now!*
Silently, the humans formed a tightly woven circle, the dogs inside. The dogs turned to face each other, foreheads touching. One of the humans detached from the circle and limped forward, his rifle at the ready.
*Commander!* Came a protest, but he held his fist up in a silent command.
A tendril of silver mist rose sinuously from the ground several feet in front of him and he flicked the safety off his rifle. The mist curled up and around, forming the body of a woman, then a face he knew all too well from briefings.
“Interesting.” She said in a hollow echoing voice. He fired his weapon once, aiming for her head. “Oh, do stop that. I’m not here to fight.”
“What do you want?” He asked roughly. “Going to finish the job now that you know where we are?”
One of the dogs detached from the others and slipped out of the circle to come and stand at the man’s side, head down and staring with a half snarl on her face.
*I will protect him with my life!* The Shepard sent defiantly.
“I’ve no doubt of that, Sister.” The ghost form shrugged. “I’m not here to fight. Tell me, you came through the woods, yes?”
“What’s it to you?” The man sighed wearily.
“The Northern Fey would have killed you if your intent was evil or suspect. They let you through.”
*Not all of us.* The dog sent on a soft snarl. *We lost 7 partner pairs.*
The ghost form turned a suddenly black and silver gaze onto the dog.
“And if your pack mates had not tried to save them from judgment, they would be amongst you still. You, above all others, should know this.” Was said in a cold tone of reprimand in a man’s voice that made the rangy Shepard instantly flatten to the earth. Then the ghost form’s eyes turned to her commander. “You will be given a choice, Commander. When you come to the crossroads of that choice, choose wisely. Anubis be with you.”
With that, the ghost form dissipated and they were alone once more. The man sighed heavily and looked down at his partner who was still flattened on the ground, quivering.
*Star?* He sent gently.
*She was right.* Star whimpered quietly. *My pack mates knew their partners were being judged, yet still fought for them. If they had only stood aside, they would not have died.*
*Star, you know when the High Council priests bind us to each other, it is for life or until death comes and we will fight to our last breath for each other because of it. There is no standing aside.*
*Perhaps not, Commander Canidae. But they were given the choice, all the same. Just as we will be. I do not think it would be wise to present a hostile presence to any of the War Queen’s soldiers we may meet on the way to Dragon’s Reach.*
*I don’t want a fight, Star. I want sanctuary for the rest of you. Then, I want to find my daughter.*
*We’ll be branded as deserters and traitors.*
*We already are, Star. But, sometimes, you have to do what you know is right, not what you are ordered to. Anubis willing, we will see sanctuary at Dragon’s Reach.*
He raised his hand in the forward signal and they continued carefully, never seeing the figures in the trees behind them, watching.

Kat withdrew her magic, finding herself on her knees in front of the lion cave, Cricket whining anxiously beside her. She was unsurprised to feel Devin’s solid presence at her back.
“I need to go north.” She said quietly, opening her eyes to stare straight into Cloud Dreamer’s. “Soldiers of the Human lands held by the High Council came through the Northern Fey Woods. A third of their numbers died inside the woods.”
“I thought the North woods wouldn’t let anyone with ill intent out?” Devin replied while running his fingers through her hair.
“If they came out of the woods, they aren’t evil. Devin, I have to go.”
*WE WILL GO.* Came Bastet’s sleepy voice. *IN THE MORNING. NOW, IT IS TIME TO SLEEP.*
Kat let out a soft snicker at Devin’s wince and allowed him to pull her up to her feet. She sent a gentle query down her link with Angel and got a wry snort in reply. She smiled and curled up into Devin, going to sleep.
Dragon’s Reach
Angel stopped in the doorway of the kitchen, then sighed softly at the sight before her. Bella lay in the corner she’d claimed for herself, though now it held a lovingly crafted box with bedding big enough for three large dogs. In front of Bella lay the German Shepard that had come with Dawn, his posture that of a guard. Beside him, stood Dawn herself, gazing out of the window, yet by the set of her shoulders, Angel knew the other girl was perfectly aware of her presence.
“I came to make some hot chocolate.” Angel remarked casually and set about putting water on to boil. “Would you like some?”
“I’m on duty.” Dawn replied in that mild voice that made Angel’s heart ache.
“It’s not like I’m going to lace it with whiskey. It’s just hot chocolate.”
“Very well. Yes, please, I would like some.”
Angel nodded and set out two mugs while waiting. She marked Bella opening her eyes, then closing them again. She stifled the smile that threatened over the mental grumbling Bella sent to her and went about stirring the hot chocolate once the water was hot. She set one mug within reach of Dawn and then sat down at the kitchen table.
“Several soldiers came out of the North Woods tonight.” She remarked softly, watching Dawn tense up considerably. “They are traveling with a like number of dogs.”
“What will you do?” Dawn replied in that same mild tone.
“Nothing. They’ll be met by my mother and Kara, then brought here. Is there something I should be aware of, Dawn?”
Dawn hesitated, then reached out a shaking hand for the mug of chocolate. She took a long sip, then set it down again as Spike stared up at her. Angel could see some sort of conversation was taking place. A snort from Bella and more grumbling. Then Dawn turned and looked Angel dead in the eyes.
“The High Council has priests that bind certain soldiers to special dogs.” She began softly, clenching her fists. “My father was a Dog Soldier. He trained them, too. He’s supposed to cull the ones that don’t pass the final tests.”
“Cull them?” Angel queried.
“Shoot them. Instead, he was very quietly finding them homes to go to, far away from Temple Square. Spike was one of the dogs that didn’t quite pass the tests. Father swore his phalanx to secrecy, but someone told the council about it and he was sent back into the field. Then the war happened.”
“The other dogs he tried to save, they were like Spike?”
“Yes. Father told me that the priests only have a marginal success rate of binding the dogs and their human partners.”
“What happens to the humans that don’t pass the tests?”
“I’m not really sure. Father says they get sent into the field, but they’re never seen again.”
“Goddess. Please, go on.”
Dawn shot Angel a tortured look and then drank some more of her hot chocolate.
“I don’t know how it works, father wouldn’t tell me.” She shrugged helplessly. “Just that the Dog Soldiers are part of Special Operations. They were meant to combat the Fey. You’re not going to hurt them, are you?”
Angel heaved a weary sigh, toying with her mug.
“My mother is going to meet them. So is Kara. This means there will be a menagerie of others going along, too. I’m going to ask Ian if he will send Uncle Tremayne and the two Black Dragons with him. I don’t want them to come to harm, Dawn, but you must understand, I will not risk any of the High Council’s ideas to start fresh here in Dragon’s Reach or anywhere else, for that matter. Especially after you’ve told me how they treated non-gifted. Magic isn’t a sign of superiority; it is a serious responsibility to be used in service and protection of those weaker and more helpless. We serve the non-gifted, not the other way around. Do you understand?”
“I think so.” Dawn nodded. “It’s going to take me time to get used to. Commander Wolfson tells me I have a lot of things to get rid of in my head about it all. And that boy, Donnie, I think his name is, tells me I need to let Larl and Torin train me.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think that Larl scares me, but she’s been very kind to me and reminds me of my mother. Torin watches me like he expects me to go postal at any moment.”
“Actually, most of the Fey do. You’re very calm for someone who’s been through what you have.”
“Father taught me that it wastes time and energy to have hysterics or tantrums. If you cannot learn to adapt, you die.”
Angel sighed and got to her feet. Dawn watched her warily as she moved closer. Angel felt her flinch as she brought one hand up to cup it under the other’s chin. She stared into eyes that held wariness, exhaustion and a hint of fear that wasn’t for herself.
“You’re not even 17 yet.” Angel spoke softly. “Torin watches you the way he does because he cares. Sometimes, it helps to have someone who understands the insanity. “
“I killed my best friend.” The whisper was tortured as it came from Dawn’s throat.
“I know. But, ask yourself one question: Was he really your friend at that moment or an enemy?”
“An enemy.”
“Then, you did the right and honorable thing.”
When Dawn took in a shuddering breath, Angel never even hesitated; she pulled the girl into her arms and held her as she broke down into shuddering, silent sobs.
“Your father comes.” She soothed gently. “I promise you, my mother will not hurt him.”
Dawn nodded against her shoulder, but didn’t let go. Angel held her, merely smiling when the rock wolves came to surround them, pressing into them, purring loudly enough to rattle their bones.

Tremayne swore profusely as he rounded the corner of the house leading to the garden area and came face to face with a grinning Murien and Raphael.
“What have you two done now?” He grumped.
*Nothing, Brother.* Murien chuckled as they fell in beside him. He swore again as he saw Dawn standing next to his gear, her back ramrod straight, Spike in alert pose beside her. Den stood to one side, obviously disgruntled at being up so early.
“Commander, permission to accompany you.” Dawn said quietly as he came to stand in front of her.
“Denied.” He replied mildly, mentally wanting to bite Bella for ever prompting him to treat her as a soldier. “Your duty is to guard Bella. That comes first.”
“But, Sir,” She began only to fall silent at his open palmed hand signal for silence.
“I know it’s your father, Dawn. But you’re just going to have to sit this one out.”
*I don’t know.* Raphael’s voice was amused yet speculative. *It might make things easier if she were with us. First impressions and all that.*
Tremayne watched her face. By the flicker in her eyes, he knew she’d heard Raphe. He narrowed his gaze at her.
*If I take you, you will follow my orders to the letter.* He sent mentally and could have kicked Raphael when her back snapped even straighter and she nodded.
“Yes, Sir. To the letter, sir.” She replied.
*Oh, Goodie, a mini me.* Ian’s voice was droll as it cut into their mental ears. *Where’d you find her, Tremayne? She’s you all over again 40 years ago.*
“Shut up, Lizard breath.” Tremayne snorted, then pinned Spike and Den in his gaze. “You two go stay with Bella. I’m not taking all of you.”
Den nodded and rested his hand on Spike’s head as they retreated back into the house. Tremayne then turned his gaze back to Dawn, watching her face as Murien backed up into the cleared space they’d recently created and changed. He marked how her hand tightened on her rifle for a moment before relaxing. Her face remained bland and her gaze carefully neutral. Murien lowered his head to the ground, his eyes whirling a gentle blue green color.
*Tremayne will show you how to put the riding harness on.* He sent to her softly. When her hand came up to hesitantly touch his nose, he pushed gently into it. *I have an itchy spot under my chin, if you would.*
Her hand went to his chin and she scratched obediently. Then Tremayne grunted and called her to help him with the harness. Once they got it on, Murien moved aside and Raphael took his place, changing and letting them outfit him with a second harness. Dawn’s hands were visibly trembling by the time they were done.
“It’s like riding a horse.” Tremayne grunted and let Raphael help him up onto his back. Once there, he settled his feet into the stirrup like straps on the side and wound his hands in the straps over Raphael’s shoulders. “Move with him and hang on.”
“I’ve never seen a horse with wings.” Dawn replied blandly and crossed to Murien. He held out one talloned fore paw and she stepped into it, letting him hoist her up and across to his back. She settled on, hooking her feet in the straps and winding her hands in tight. She felt muscles bunch beneath her and inhaled deeply. IN the next instant, Murien launched himself skyward.
“BLOODY FUCKING HELL!” She roared as her stomach seemed to drop out of her body. Then Murien leveled out and began gliding. Her stomach returned, full of giddy butterflies.
*Wondrous, is it not?* Murien chuckled in her head.
“I’ll get back to you on that later.” She said through gritted teeth, holding on as he flapped his wings. His only answer was a chuckle.
*At least she didn’t throw up on you.* Came a droll voice from beside them and she turned her head to see another dragon, also outfitted with a harness but missing a rider. *Good Heavens, she even feels like Tremayne.*
*Leave her be, Ian.* Came Tremayne’s grumpy remark. *She’s Anubis’ Chosen.*
*Really? How fascinating. You’ll have to tell me about it. Do try to keep up. Kat is very impatient this morning.*
With that, Ian put on a burst of speed and pulled ahead of them. Dawn sighed and held on as Murien winged after him, wishing someone would take the time to explain why they were calling her a chosen of Anubis.

Kat stared at the assemblage before her. Devin merely stood to one side, smirking at her. Eric, the red head that had nearly shot them the first day they met, stood there with horses and three more scouts, four lions, Sylvie, Cricket, Bastet, Janna, Sen Demonsbane, Jasmine and Dian.
“Absolutely not!” Kat finally blurted out.
*YOU HAVE NO CHOICE IN THE MATTER, KATARINA.* Bastet sent firmly. *DIAN AND JASMINE WILL RIDE IN THE BASKETS WITH CRICKET. COME, WE ARE WASTING TIME.*
“Ian’s on his way. He was going to take me.”
*HE WILL CATCH UP.*
Kat sighed as Devin burst out laughing.
“Come, Wee Little Witch.” He snickered. “Ye’ve been given yer marching orders. Daylight’s burnin’.”
She sighed again in resignation and stepped forward to mount the horse Eric held for her. When she was settled, he handed up Cricket for her to place in the specially made basket hanging from the saddle. She noted similar baskets were outfitted on the other horses’ saddles. When everyone was mounted and settled, she took the lead, settling into a ground eating trot once they were outside the village.

Further south, Kara was staring in similar consternation at the 3 weres 2 lions, Talsien, Jaycee, Morgana and Moon’s Daughter. She merely sighed when one of the weres stepped forward and rippled into the form of a huge stallion. Jaycee gave her a delighted grin then moved forward and let one of the others lift her onto the horse’s back. Packs were settled on behind her and buckled into place. A blanket was put in front of her and Morgana handed up. Kara merely rolled her eyes at Talsien’s smirk and melted into her wolf form, loping off toward the north. The rest followed her, Jaycee giving a mental whoop of delight.

Commander Robert Canidae, formerly of the High Council’s army, squatted down beside his navigation specialist and gazed down at the map the girl was pouring over.
*I think we’re here, Sir.* She sent, pointing at a section of map. He gazed down at it, noting they’d covered an enormous amount of ground since becoming separated from the main army nearly two years ago. *We’re still several weeks away from Dragon’s reach. We’re going to run out of supplies soon.*
*We’ll have to hunt for meat, then.* He shrugged in reply. *According to the map, there’s a river nearby we can use for fresh water.*
*We’re out of sterilization tablets, Sir.*
*Then we boil it.*
*Commander!* Came a warning from the pair on point. He straightened up in time to see them bringing their rifles to bear at a trio of Northern Fey.
*HOLD FIRE!* He roared out mentally. *DO NOT ENGAGE!*
Behind him, the rest of his phalanx came together, putting the dogs behind them. The pair on point backed carefully and swiftly up to them and he stepped forward in front of them.
One of the trio, a tall blond, tilted his head at Robert as if in curiosity. Then, he gestured at the other two. They stepped forward and dropped two obviously heavy packs on the ground, then backed away. The blond knelt down on one knee and spread his hand over the packs. Beside him, he felt his navigation specialist start.
*Private?* He sent in query.
*He says there are rations in the packs, enough to last us 2 weeks if we’re careful* She replied in bemusement. *Sir, how is it I can hear him?*
*I don’t know. Star?*
The Shepard slunk forward warily toward the Fey, her lips lifted in a half snarl. The Fey merely watched her approach and did not move. Star sniffed the packs, then at him.
*I cannot smell anything bad.* She sent, eyes on the Fey. *It should be safe enough.*
She jerked backwards at the amused chuckle the blond fey let out.
*My Queen is looking forward to meeting you.* He sent in a musical voice. *She says to tell you she has something very precious to give back to you, so she wants you all whole and healthy.*
*How are you doing that?* Robert shot back.
*You will find things to be very different in these lands, Human. Be welcome.*
With that, the blond got to his feet and he and his companions melted away into the surrounding forest. Robert let out a breath and ran a hand over his face, feeling the confusion of his soldiers through their link. He sighed and straightened up.
*Alright, you heard the Fey.* He sent in a firm tone. *Things are going to be different here. We need to be careful. Dawson, Neville, go take the packs.*
*But sir!* Came the confused protest.
*If their War Queen wants us whole and healthy, as he said, I doubt she means us harm. If she did want us dead, I believe we would be already. Take the packs. Divide it between everyone and let’s get moving again. I want to make another few clicks before nightfall.*
His orders were followed without question then. They spent the next several hours in silence, alert and watchful. That night, he himself took the first watch with Star. He spent most of it praying like he hadn’t in a long, long time.
The days flowed into one another as they travelled ever southward. Often, he could feel they were being watched and in that watching was a measuring, one that made his gut tighten into knots. He was afraid for the soldiers under his command, not himself.
He’d known when he’d been sent back into the field with his entire phalanx, it was meant for them all to die for daring to defy the council over the ones who didn’t pass the tests they all went through. Robert had never agreed with the mandate that those who failed the tests needed to be killed for the good of all. He’d done his best to screen candidates, both human and dog before they were selected for testing. In the beginning, it had been hard to tell which humans had the gift for the bond and which dogs would suit each candidate. He felt each loss from those early years keenly. It wasn’t until an aging priest confided in him that it wasn’t just random, but that it came in the bloodlines along with magical gifts that it clicked in his head. He began to quietly research the bloodlines of each applicant, noting where there were mages or mage familiars. He began rejecting candidates from bloodlines with no magical gifts, human or familiar. The failure rate for the tests for the Dog Soldiers dropped dramatically. A good thing in his opinion, as it meant saving both human and canine lives. There were still failures in the final tests. He blamed himself. He was just learning about pairing dog soldiers with like personalities when it was discovered he had been quietly smuggling the failed dogs out of Temple Square and finding them homes where they would be loved and cared for. His whole unit had been recalled and all of them sent to the field immediately for close combat duty. They’d been set to perform a secondary assault on Dragon’s Reach in case the first assassination attempt of the Mckenzies failed. He’d been sick at that order. When it was learned the attempt had failed, and worse, the entire upper ranks of the High Council had been eliminated in retaliation, he’d been secretly relieved and thankful.
Then the order came down his unit was to deploy in a second attempt. They’d been in the briefing tent when the ground rumbled and shook, sending them all to the floor. He’d been the first one up and out of the tent, only to stop and stare in shock at the mushroom cloud billowing up over the council’s headquarters outside of Temple Square. He instantly knew his wife and son were both dead. His daughter, he could still feel. They were ordered to continue with their mission, so had set out. He’d had no intention of carrying out those orders and before they’d gone into the North Woods, his second had begun to suspect it. They’d been in the middle of a private, heated argument about it when they entered the woods. Not ten minutes later, his second and 6 others had suddenly been enveloped in some kind of mist. Their partners had gone to their defense. All had died within minutes. The mist had made no move upon him nor the others now with him.
He wasn’t sure when he’d decided to defect and ask for sanctuary. He’d been sickened by the High Council’s increasing mistreatment of non-gifted and their propaganda that they were the master race and all others existed to serve them for a long time. He just hoped he wasn’t trading one evil for a worse one.
They’d all heard stories of the War Queen over the past year or so. Remnants of the High Council’s army they’d run into called her a red eyed monster. Surviving villages they’d passed through all called her a heroine for cleansing the land. All whispered of her power. He wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. He knew his remaining soldiers were just as confused. He’d carefully begun suggesting to them the idea of requesting asylum and to his relief they all wanted to try. They were tired of the High Council’s precepts as well, it seemed.
So, he tried to ignore the watching, but instructed his people to be respectful and careful in every way as they travelled.
On the 8th day after receiving the supplies from the Fey, they were looking for a suitable place to camp for the night when a large shadow passed over them. Star whimpered and the other dogs all cringed.
*What was that?* He asked, thumbing the safety off his rifle.
*I don’t know!* Came her panicked sending as she pressed next to him.
The ground shuddered and he whirled around to stare.
*Holy shit! A mutant lizard!* Someone yelped in his head.
*Oh for pity’s sake!* Came a cranky voice. *I am not a mutant lizard! I’m a dragon. The king of the dragons, more specifically, and please stop that!*
Robert roared out a command to cease fire even as the soldiers opened up on the dragon. He watched as the bullets seemed to ricochet off the beast and roared out the mental command once more. Someone had pushed the dogs into the circle they’d made and their terror was a tangible thing in his mind.
*Do you think we should go down?* An amused voice cut through Robert’s mental ears.
*Bloody fucking hell! Get me down there! Now!* Came another voice, one that froze the breath in Robert’s throat.
Another beast landed next to the first even as his soldiers finally began obeying his order to cease fire. The first beast gazed the second in what could only be termed as exasperation.
*I’m going to start calling you Junior.* The first voice snorted.
*I told you not to land!* The feminine voice screeched. *What part of they’ve never seen a dragon before didn’t you understand!?!*
*You coped rather well.* Came the second male voice.
*Yeah, well, I had some warning beforehand!*
Robert laid his hand on top of Star’s trembling head and mentally sent out calm, soothing waves with the command to stand fast and hold fire. He stared as a figure slid down off the second beast’s back. In the leather coat and hat, he couldn’t make out her features, but knew she was angry. Then she turned to face them and his heart skipped a beat.
*Hi, Daddy.* She remarked casually.
His discipline deserted him then. He dropped his weapon and ran forward. She ran to meet him, crashing into him and letting him hug her hard. His soldiers stared at them and he could feel the shock and confusion coming off of them in waves.
*Oh, perfect.* Came a third male voice, this one even crankier than the first. *Just what I need, more like her.*
*I like her, Tremayne.* Came a fourth voice. *She’s like you were.*
Robert broke away from his daughter as a third beast landed, roaring out a mental command to hold fire and not to engage as he turned around and stalked back to them again. To the last one, they were white faced and trembling hard. He carefully touched each one, human and canine alike, taking the time to stabilize and ground each one before he went to the next.
*He’s a weaver.* Came the amused second voice.
*Oh, joy.* Came the voice he’d identified as Tremayne. He finished with the last one and turned in time to see a man climb down carefully from the third beast’s back. He noted that Dawn had retreated back to the second dragon and now stood at attention as the man came to stand next to her. “I thought you said he was a soldier, Dawn. That they all were.”
“He is.” She replied, her face registering mild confusion. “They are.”
“Nope. Your father’s what we call a weaver. I mark 3 witches, 2 shamans and one, well; I’ll call her a pre-guardian, as she looks to be both a shaman and a witch. And those dogs are all kin clan. That’s a bit more than just soldiers.”
*I don’t think they’re aware of it.* The first voice remarked, the tone subdued and saddened.
*Lord Ian, do you see it?* The second voice asked softly.
*Yes. Murien, Raphael, go see how far away Kat is.*
Robert watched as the third dragon launched himself skyward, then turned his wary gaze back to his daughter, the man they’d called Tremayne and the last two dragons. He stared as the first dragon seemed to shimmer and melt into a man. The man stepped out of the harness contraption weighing him down and stretched. Then he pinned Robert with a steady gaze. In a detached sort of way, Robert noticed his eyes were slitted like a cat’s and a soft amber color.
*I am Ian, King of Dragon’s Reach.* He said in a soft tone. *We bid you welcome in these lands if your intent is pure.*
*Can you offer us asylum?* Robert shot back in a suddenly bitter tone.
“Absolutely.” Tremayne nodded un crossing his arms from his chest. “Can you point the guns somewhere else besides at us?”
Robert mentally commanded his soldiers to lower their weapons and felt them comply with reluctance. He stood by, his hand resting on Star’s head, listening to her growling in his head about the man being a dark adept.
“Well, they seem a bit more disciplined than you were.” Tremayne snorted at Dawn. “What do you want to bet the witches are screaming in his head about me being a dark mage?”
“Given Den and Spike’s reactions to you, I think I’d lose that bet, Commander Wolfson.” She replied mildly, her eyes on her father. “It might take them a minute or two to get past it.”
*Do you think we could hurry it along?* Ian snorted. *I’d like to get them over the worst of it before the others get here.*
Tremayne sighed in exasperation and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Dawn watched him for a moment with a slight frown, then took a deep breath and stepped forward purposefully.
“Father, is this an acceptable location for a camp?” She asked in a firm voice, coming to a stop within arms’ reach of him.
She watched him slide his gaze sideways at the man next to him whose name patch read Dawson and felt the tickling sensation she’d come to associate with others having a more private mental conversation. She kept her face expressionless but inside felt a sense of surprise. She watched as the rest of the phalanx tensed and how a couple of them swept the clearing as if gauging defenses. She looked down at a soft growl from the Shepard at her father’s side and felt a sharp tingle go up her spine.
*Something rides the child!* Was hissed urgently. Her father’s head snapped around just as the woman beside him started to bring her rifle back up.
Dawn didn’t even hesitate when the voice rang out in her head. She snapped forward, one hand slapping the muzzle of the rifle down, the other closing over the muzzle of the dog that leapt snarling for her. An answering roar erupted from her throat and the dog dropped like a stone, instantly yelping and cringing. The rest of the dogs flattened, whimpering and shivering as she flowed through the rest of their ranks, disarming the humans and winding up with her father backed up against a tree, her hand beneath his chin, fingers curled around his throat. Ian had hold of Tremayne, keeping him back while
Murien watched, eyes whirling an anxious yellow.
*SUBMIT!* Came the mental roar.
Robert stared at his daughter, suddenly going still and forcing himself to relax into a passive stance. Her eyes were no longer brown, but burned pure, fierce silver.
“The child is my chosen.” Came the hollow male voice from Dawn’s lips. “You will not harm her. “
“Anubis.” Robert whispered reverently.
In the next instant, his little girl was staring back at him in horror. She dropped her hand and backed away swiftly, hands fisted at her sides, eyes wild and face pale.
“Do you think you could warn us next time dog breath is going to take over?” Tremayne snorted and jerked out of Ian’s hold to stalk over to her. She shot him a look of pure panic and he scowled. “Dawn! Focus!”
She snapped upright and straight backed, staring up into his eyes, breathing hard and visibly trying to control her shudders. He swore softly as her eyes flickered wildly between brown and muted silver, then stepped closer to her, his palms going to her temples.
“In and out. Just breathe.” He instructed, then looked over her shoulder at the petite girl that had caught Murien’s attention. “You, Neville, come here.”
Robert nodded to her and she came forward hesitantly. Tremayne sighed softly, but waited patiently until she stood by them then reached down and took the girl’s hand, placing it against Dawn’s temple where his had been, ignoring the flinches, then he took her free hand in his.
“I don’t have time to explain this properly, Girly.” He said carefully. “I need to borrow some of your energy. It might wake you up and for that I’m sorry. Whatever you do, do not let go, do you understand?”
“I guess so.” The girl replied in a soft whisper.
“Stand fast, Neville.” Robert instructed. “Anubis chose her.”
“Understood, Sir.” She nodded, face settling into firm lines of determination.
“Goddess save me, the lot of you are going to be a pain in my ass.” Tremayne growled, then sank his own magic into the earth to ground. With a silent apology, he then reached for what he needed to stabilize Dawn.

Kara heard the unearthly screaming that seemed to resonate in her very bones and without a second thought flowed into stag form, leaping ahead with incredible speed. Above her, she caught sight of a dragon and heard its roar.
*FASTER, SISTER!* Came the stridently loud voice ringing in her head and she felt her crazy take hold of her.
The scenery seemed to blur past her and in the space of a few heart beats, she burst into a clearing just in time to see a dragon landing and feel the earth shudder under her feet. In the next instant, she was in her were form and springing forward as the woman on the dragon’s back leapt to the ground. Without thinking about it, her hand slapped into the others and they ran forward as one.
Time seemed to slow down for Kara and her eyes tracked the silvery threads between the strangers and the dogs with them. They all seemed centered around one man. A man who wore Michael’s face. A silvery strand extended from him to the young girl that had been in Talsien’s village for a few days before Angel had taken her and her two companions back with her to Dragon’s Reach. She tracked what looked like a tangled knot centered around the girl, Tremayne and the other stranger standing with them. There was a sudden gaping hole in the stranger’s aura and another unholy scream filled both her physical and mental ears. This time, the other strangers also cried out and the dogs with them began to howl and yelp frantically.
*Bridge the gap!* She sent desperately and pulled the woman who held her hand toward the man the strands centered on. He had fallen to one knee, his face a mask of pain. They reached him and Lifted him to his feet. He stared up at them. *Bridge the gap! Weave a bridge!*
*I don’t know how!* He sent back desperately.
*I will show you.* The other woman sent back as they dragged him to the young woman who had the gap in her aura. Her hand covered his left and Kara’s covered his right. Gray eyes identical to her own stared over his shoulder at Kara, who took a deep breath and nodded. *Bastet!*
An impossibly loud, fierce lion’s roar answered. The coughing roar came again, then it seemed as if a multitude of singsong growls echoed all around them.
Kara watched as the man they held suddenly took a deep breath, his face going tranquil as if he were in a trance. He pulled his hands out of theirs and reached out to the tangled knot, tugging on a silvery strand. Strand by strand, he worked, untangling the knot and carefully laying the threads over his arm. When the knot was resolved, he looked down at the threads for a moment, frowning in concentration.
*You know where they must go.* Came the loving whisper in her mental ears. *Weave the bridge, My Son.*
The man nodded as if in answer and began plucking at the threads connected to himself. Kara watched, feeling the tears pool in her eyes and spill over and down her cheeks. She looked over at the other woman and noticed she, too, was weeping. She turned her attention back to what the man was doing and felt herself grin. He was making a series of interconnected knots in a manner she’d seen just once; when Michael had gotten bored one slow night shift and had produced a ball of string from somewhere in the ambulance and begun knotting it with seeming randomness. She’d rolled her eyes at first, but then, he’d finished, produced his scissors, cut the string and had handed her a neatly woven bracelet. He’d laughed at her open mouthed stare.
Now, she watched as this stranger with his face did the same thing. She felt a wave of amusement as he reached for one of the two last remaining threads, this one thicker than the others and noted the sudden look of consternation on Tremayne’s face as the thread was woven into the fabric of knots. Then, there was one last thread and he seemed to hesitate.
*You have my permission.* Angel’s voice was gentle yet firm in her mental ears and Kara looked up at the other woman’s sudden sob. *It’s alright, Mother. Go ahead, Commander Canidae.*
He nodded and took the thread, weaving in and around the girl beside Dawn, then around Dawn, Tremayne and finally, through himself before weaving it in a final knot in the piece he held. He then heaved a long heavy sigh.
The silvery threads faded out of sight and he was suddenly collapsing. Kara and the woman she now knew was Kat Mackenzie caught him, lowering him gently to the ground and cradling him in their arms. Blessed silence descended for a few moments as they regarded each other over his head. Then Tremayne began swearing as he caught both Dawn and the other girl as they collapsed.
*Well, that went well.* Ian snorted dryly and strode forward purposefully. He gently took the girl and swung her up in his arms while Tremayne did the same with Dawn. *Murien.*
*Already done, Lord Ian.* Murien replied, laying a last stick of wood down in a hastily dug fire pit. He stretched out one finger and the wood blazed with sudden fire.
Raphael came into the clearing then, followed by three of the Northern Fey who set down bedrolls and opened them up.
“I smell Le Fey behind this.” Tremayne snorted and carefully went down on one knee, laying Dawn on one of the bedrolls as Ian did the same with the girl. He caught the way Ian’s fingers lingered over her cheek. “Ian?”
*She’s so tiny.* Ian replied mournfully.
“I’m sorry. I’d hoped it wouldn’t wake her up.”
*It was bound to. They’ve all been extremely stressed and living under desperate conditions for a long time. It was just a matter of when it would happen, not if.*
“Still, you know I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
*She’s grounded now, tied to Angelique.*
“Wonderful. More familiars. Is there anything else I should know about before I go get blind stinking drunk, Ian?”
Kat smiled a sad smile at Kara, who smiled back.
“I’m pregnant.” Kat spoke up. “It’s a boy. Morrigan herself presided over the conception.”
Tremayne froze in the act of straightening up, then closed his eyes in resignation.
“I hate you.” He stated mildly then looked over at the huddled mass of 12 soldiers and 14 dogs. With another sigh, he moved carefully toward them. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Carefully, so as not to startle them, he opened up his shields to the bonds he could now feel tied to him. Still, there were a few of them that did start and looked ready to bolt. He sent soothing waves of calm out toward them and got tentative tail wags from the dogs. He reached the one called Dawson and gently reached out his hand to him. Dawson took it in a desperate grip and held on. Tremayne noticed he was breathing hard.
“Easy now.” He murmured and opened the bond even further. He could feel Bella along their link and listened to her telling him what to do, just as he had the day he’d first met Dawn.
“You have a fighting dog. I can feel her.” Dawson gasped out softly then took a deep shuddering breath. “You’re a Dog Soldier. A commander.”
And just like that, Tremayne found himself surrounded, human and canine bodies pressing close. Bella’s urgent mutterings in his head kept him still, calm and sending out waves of reassurance.
*Frightened puppies seeking protection.* She sent. *The commander is the alpha.*
*Oh, joy.* He sent back to her drily. *Like I need more ‘puppies’”
Meanwhile, Kat and Kara were steadily regarding each other over Dawn’s father while Raphael stood waiting to move the man to a bed roll.
“You’re me.” Kat said softly.
“No, not really.” Kara shook her head. “Esme says I’m a dimensional alternate of you. Sort of like a twin sister. But not you.”
“Morrigan said I disrupted the balance and it had to be fixed by bringing you here. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I killed myself there. I was older and crippled. Here, well, it’s different. I like it better.”
“Anubis sent angels to see me across the bridge.” Came a soft whisper.
Kara looked down into hazel eyes and her breath caught in her throat.
“Michael.” She said his name in a soft tone of agony. He frowned up at her, his hand coming up to cup her cheek. She didn’t resist as he exerted a gentle pressure and pulled her face down to place a hesitant kiss upon her lips.
*Are we taking this one as a mate, wife?* An amused voice had her sitting bolt upright to stare up at Talsien.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t-“ She started to stammer out, then fell silent at his laughter. He strode forward and pulled her up into his arms, settling his chin on top of her head.
“You have much to learn still, Little One.” He said soothingly. “It is not unusual for the Dog Valley clan to have multiple marriage bonds. I would still be your primary life mate, but if another fit into our bonding, he or she would be welcomed. It ensures the cubs have adequate care in case one or more parents fall in battle. This one would be most suitable, as he is already a powerful alpha.”
Robert just stared up at the largest, most scarred man he’d ever laid eyes on, blinking. Star came and pressed close to him and he absently stroked her head as he tried to sit up. The older woman helped him and he turned to look at her, then frowned when he realized she was nearly identical to the one who’d called him by his middle name.
“Don’t think about it too much right now.” She remarked in a soft voice that held a trace of amusement. “My name is Kat Mackenzie. That’s Kara McLaren. The grumpy man in the middle of your soldiers is my brother, Tremayne. Others are on the way. We came to help you.”
“We formally request asylum.” He replied gravely. “Will your queen grant it?”
*Of course I will, Commander.* Came the reply in his head. *You are very much bound to me now. Can you not feel it?*
Robert blinked, then very carefully did an internal check of the bonds that had been put in place by the priests when he’d taken command of his phalanx. He drew in a deep, shuddering breath of surprise when he found not only them, but a knotted web of others tied to them through him. He reached out a mental hand and tugged gently on the two thicker strands.
*Don’t play with it.* Tremayne’s voice was cranky. *It makes my teeth itch when you do that.*
*Poor Uncle Tremayne.* The girl’s voice was rich with laughter. *Once you get used to it, it’s actually kind of nice.*
*I don’t do nice. And your Aunt is going to have conniptions.*
More laughter and then Robert was blinking up at Kat in confusion. She merely shook her head at him and then proceeded to help him stand. He was rather nonplussed to find he felt extremely weak and fatigued.
“It will pass once you’ve eaten.” She told him, steadying him as she gently steered him toward the third bedroll. “The others will be bringing fresh meat. For now, let’s see what you have in your packs that is protein based.”
“Rhia had us pack pemmican and jerky both.” The tall blond haired elf stated as he squatted down beside Robert, holding out a piece of dried meat. “Chew it slowly, Brother.”
“Thank you, Mer.” Kat smiled and leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. “It’s very good to see you again.”
Robert stared at the mischievous grin Mer shot her, then watched as the elf went back to his companions. He frowned up at his soldiers, pressed like frightened younglings around Tremayne, but his concern soon faded as he watched the older man ground and center each one with a gentle patience he’d never seen before in anyone else. Kat patted his shoulder comfortingly and got to her feet to cross over to them carefully. Star practically laid herself in his lap as the other one, Kara came to kneel beside him, the large scarred man settling into a squat on his other side. He blinked at the tears streaking down her face. Without a thought, he reached up and wiped her cheek with his thumb, eliciting a deep chuckle from the man.
“Yes, he will do very well.” Talsien nodded firmly. “Fenrir agrees. So, Wife, we will take this Michael as a mate as well. I will go see how far the others are and let Jaycee know she will have a second father.”
Robert let out a strangled yelp as the man stood then melted into a large, grizzled wolf. Kara’s fingers on his arm kept him still and sitting. Star let out a soft whimper, but the wolf nuzzled her and her tail gave a slight wag as he turned and loped off. Kara just stared after him with a scowl on her face.
“Glad he asked me first.” She snorted then settled into a cross-legged position. Robert tilted his head at her, regarding her with interest.
“You knew my middle name.” He said softly, watching her close her eyes then open them to gaze at him sadly.
“You’re not my Michael. You wear his face, but you’re not him. In my world, he was like my big brother.”
Robert watched her face, thinking how he wasn’t having very brotherly thoughts about her at this moment. From the moment he’d tasted her lips, he’d felt a pull toward her, stronger than any pull he’d ever had towards his now deceased wife. Absently, he wondered what he was getting himself and his soldiers into, then his mind focused on what the scarred man had said, trying to make sense of it.
*He’s claimed you as a mate.* Star supplied quietly and privately. *He intends for you to father cubs with this female and be brother husband to him.*
Robert was in the process of taking a drink of water when she informed him of this. He spit it out explosively in shock all over the ground in front of him. He choked on a cough, then looked up at Kara incredulously, only to see her eyes were burning black and silver fire, her expression slightly amused.
“Commander Canidae, you will be mated to this woman and Sen Demonsbane.” Her voice had a hollow quality to it. “Try not to fight it too long or I’ll have my brother come and instruct you in the error of your ways.”
“Who are you?” He breathed hoarsely.
“Kara calls me Esme. But, you may call me Morrigan.”
With that, fingers reached up and caressed his face. A protest died on his lips as blackness claimed him.
Star let out a yip of surprise as Kara caught Robert’s torso before he could slump over. She then flattened to the ground as the presence in the woman beside her made itself known. She blinked in bemusement as a hand stroked her head gently before going back to gently push her partner back onto the bedroll. She watched the black and silver fire fade back into normal gray eyes and the woman blink down furiously.
“Damnit, Esme.” Kara whispered right before sinking down beside Robert, dead out unconscious.
Kat turned from where she was helping Tremayne finish calming the newcomers down just in time to see Kara slump down beside their commander. A whispering in her head had her staring at them speculatively, then she smiled softly and turned back to the man she was soothing.
In Dragon’s Reach, Angel stayed where she was on her knees in the middle of her mother’s garden, Torin shifted into his elven form and firmly wrapped around her from behind. She was shaking with exhaustion and emotion. The rock wolves clustered around them, purring loudly while Rhia and Larl stood hand in hand, Rhia’s left hand on Torin’s shoulder.
“Well, that was new.” Rhia remarked dryly. “I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed the awakening of a guardian quite like that. Angel, did you know this was going to happen?”
“Not really.” Angel huffed out on a weary sigh. “I suspected something was going to happen after I talked to Dawn. The high council really mind fucked the human lands’ citizens.”
“Mer said their commander acts very much like a father towards them all.” Larl spoke softly.
“He’s Dawn’s father.” Angel replied sadly. “She’s just like him. Look at what she’s been through and how she acts toward Den and Spike. Her father’s a war veteran with decades of experience.”
“Oh, Goddess. He’s going to be a mess, isn’t he?”
“Angelique Mackenzie!” Quineld’s strident voice rang out from the house and a moment later a very pale-faced witch emerged from the kitchen’s garden doorway, hanging onto Den’s arm. “What in the Goddess’ name have you done? Why do I have 13 youngsters and 14 dogs like Bella tied to me? And good lord! What has that weaver done to himself?”
Angelique dissolved into quiet, exhausted laughter, leaning back against Torin. He smoothed her hair back and placed a soft kiss on her neck, then just held her.

Aug. 2nd, 2012

update

I've been venting here:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Crash-Courses-in-Life-101-Revised-Edition/260256674044121

Dunno. It was easier. In retrospect, the easiest thing isn't always the best. Sometimes, it turns out to be a big pain in the ass.
I'm not writing much today. Just a heads up that I have been writing, just not here.
Meantime, hopefully everyone is ok.
ME

Mar. 2nd, 2012

Alternate Universes

Bella got tired of being pregnant.

Loose the Dogs of WarCollapse )

Alternate Universes

Meh. I've been blindsided by Life lately. But, my muse still rattles my skull. And I have no clue. I just write it. *SHRUG*

Alternate Universes: What Doesn't Kill youCollapse )

Dec. 30th, 2011

There's a joke in there somewhere....

I think I am the butt of some joke...
Life goes onCollapse )

Dec. 10th, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES

Happy birthday to you, awalker1829! May your day be filled with warmth, light, love and laughter!
ME

Dec. 8th, 2011

Are we there yet?

Ugh.
Profiles in insanityCollapse )

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