Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 29

“So,” Snowhawk began as she approached Adian in his control room,”do you think Kione will ever follow through on his threat?”

“Even though its been a very quiet decade, I am not letting my guard down.”

Snowhawk took a step back. “It has been far too quiet for it to be that long.”

“Did you ever tell my brother?” Adian asked after a moment’s pause.

“About Kione’s threat to come back? No. He doesn’t need that stress as he continues to deal with Kirrian. One or other the is going to take over, and my hopes are not high for your brother. Kirrian is the slaver Janus never was, not cruel, just driven. And who he’ll decide to first take over and enslave should be obvious. He already threatened it. In a way, I don’t think I care, if that’s my only option. Kirrian doesn’t frighten me. Kione on the other hand, he only wants me dead so Emerald will live. If worse comes to worse, I’ll stay with Kirrian, if Janus can’t get past this.”

Adian was shocked at her words. He was perhaps more shocked at what he said himself. “Snowhawk, I will kill my brother before I see you in a collar or a halter of his against your will again.”

“Adi–”

“I never agreed with what our uncle did. What our family did. Why do you think I never accepted you as a gift. I had them give you to Janus.”

“I was supposed to have been yours?”

“Yes. Imagine how different that would have turned out. You probably would have killed me instead of the old man.”

“But, why did you refuse me?” she asked, almost sounding hurt.

“I refused every slave. I had no interest in slaves, even just as toys. There was a ruse; any slave you saw me with was borrowed. Hell, I secretly aided the slaves that left the estate after you.”

“But Adian…”

“I only went after your cousin after she was free, and we both know how well that went over. And now, if this Kirrian douche decides to collar or halter you, there will be hell to pay from the Delphin Empire. We can’t afford a war.”

Snowhawk had to sit down. She had never known that about Adian, especially about supposing to be a gift to him. The wolf knelt in front of her, carefully taking one of her hands in his. “Just remember that. I am your protector, and if that means I have to protect you from my idiot brother, I will.”

“What’s this about an ‘idiot brother’?” Janus commented as he turned the corner into the room.

“How much did you hear?” Adian snarked, “I’d hate to have to repeat myself.”

“More than I care to,” Janus growled, his still black tipped fur bristling. “I don’t like the idea of you making her decisions.”

“It’s not much of a decision for her if you’re just forcing her into steel.”

“I don’t see why either of you think that Kirrian is going to win over.”

“Your fur has gotten darker again. And so has your personality,” Snowhawk quietly commented.

“Yet you’re the one still wearing steel shoes. Are you sure you don’t what to be enslaved?”

Snowhawk looked at her hooves and quickly hid them under her. “I have my reasons. Besides, you never made me wear them.”

“They’re a great look. Maybe I should have,” he grinned darkly. “Now, come along, Snowhawk, we have some things to discuss,” he commanded, his grin quickly fading.

She took one last, unsure look at Adian, and received a nod to do as he says in reply, then stood from the chair and followed Janus out the door.

Once out of Adian’s line of sight and far enough away that he could no longer hear them, Janus grabbed a handful of hair at the base of Snowhawk’s neck and bent her forward, her head at his waist. “Now what’s this about a vampire, love?” Kirrian’s voice said.

“Kione. While we attempted to kill him, he swore he’d come back for me.”

“Interesting,” the wolf said, still holding an uncomfortable Snowhawk at his side.

She whined as he held her in place, growing ever more nervous. “Please let me go.”

“Why should I? You’ve been withholding information from us. I think you deserve some punishment for that.”

“You can’t do that!” she exclaimed, trying to free herself.

“Of course I can,” he stated, dragging her toward their bedroom.

“I think not, brother,” Adian growled, having suddenly appeared behind them. “Let her go.”

“Of course, the spoilsport was watching,” Kirrian grumbled as he released Snowhawk’s mane. She collapsed to her knees next to him.

“You could be a little more appreciative of her help, Janus. Once again, she’s putting her neck on the line for your sake.”

The lighter wolf growled lowly, and shook his head, trying to shake the Kirrian persona away. After a moment, he crouched down, kneeling next to Snowhawk. “Love, I’m sorry, I don’t know why he keeps coming back.”

“It’s okay, Janus. Well, not ‘okay,’ but I know it’s not really you,” she replied, giving a small smile. “I’ll send word to the Director in Juv, and see if he can offer any advice.”

*********

“Hello, Snowhawk, how have you been?” the Director began, talking to the speaker phone.

“Good, Director. Thank you for all your help,” her voice replied.

“I get the feeling this isn’t a social call, though.”

“No, sir, this is about my mate, Janus.”

“Oh, the Lupino that was bitten by the Avizon.”

“Yes. He’s still having some trouble from that.”

“Really now?” the Director replied, sounding concerned. “What’s been going on?”

“He keeps reverting back to Kirrian, and the personality is getting more and more vicious.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“It’s gotten worse in the past month. Before that, it was just rarely.”

“Forgive me if I’ve asked this before, but had he ever been bitten by an Avizon prior to his disappearance?”

Snowhawk was quiet for a moment, then replied back, “Yes, once, several weeks before.”

“I see. Snowhawk, I’m going to make a trip up there. I need to see this, and I know this city would never allow a former slaver in the walls.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’ll be there within a week’s time.”

**********

The tension of the week built upon itself, finally exploding one night in the gardens when Kirrian grabbed Snowhawk by the throat. She hesitated for only a moment before grabbing his arm and pulling his hand away, then quickly kicked herself away from him, leaving a horseshoe shaped bruise under the fur of his thigh. As the now pissed off wolf advanced toward her, she was aided by Adian who grabbed the silver-furred wolf and held him in place. “Why aren’t you fighting back, Janus?!” she yelled, tears in her eyes.

The older wolf shook his head, growling. “He can’t hear you right now,” Kirrian explained.

“Of course he can,” Adian replied, tossing his brother to the floor, away from Snowhawk. “You wouldn’t be hanging around so much if he couldn’t.”

“I’m sure you can understand I have better reasons to stick around than just pissing off that whelp.”

“’Whelp?’ That’s a pretty strong insult on your host,” the Director’s voice interrupted. As the others looked up at him, he said, “Hope you don’t mind that I let myself in. I figured I was late enough.”

“Thank you for coming,” Snowhawk said, wiping her eyes. “Sorry you had to come so far again.”

“It’s no trouble, really,” the Director said as he strode toward Kirrian. The other wolf, though slightly taller, stood and took a step back from the stouter figure of the Director. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to poke too hard,” he grinned.

“I’d rather you not poke at all,” Kirrian growled, taking another step back.

“Oh, don’t be so nervous,” the Director commented as he quickly closed the gap between himself and the other wolf. “Now, show me where this Avizon bit you the first time.” After a moment of thought, Kirrian reached up and pointed high on his neck. “Good, let’s start there.”

After several hours of tests, the Director approached Snowhawk and Adian. “I apologize for not seeing this a decade ago, but based on the few tests I can do before my team arrives, it appears that Janus is one of the Lupino who is exceptionally sensitive to Avizon venom.”

“What does that mean?” Snowhawk asked, confused.

“He’s potentially going to cycle through this his whole life, unless we can find some way to remove the residual effect. We thought he would just run the course until the venom left his system, but there appears to be a significant amount left in him. It’s possible it’s affecting his nervous system.”

“Which would explain the personality changes,” Adian responded.

“Exactly. I’m sorry I don’t have better news.”

“No, Director, it’s okay. We’ll just – have to work with what we have.”

“My team should be here very soon. They’ll do everything they can.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Please, call me Rais.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 30

Snowhawk fidgeted nervously as she waited on news from Rais and his team about Janus’ condition. Adian sat with her, one hand resting on her shoulder, trying to calm her some. It had been three months since Rais arrived. Because of Anya being long dead, the team had no way to acquire a new venom sample, and no other Avizon were known in the city. They had been experimenting with the vampiric anti-toxin to remove the residual effects. The process was slow going, slower than the original tests on Snowhawk, and seemed to be just as painful, and the results seemed mixed. While the persona of Kirrian was spending more and more time away, Janus seemed to be slowly losing his memories.

“He asked me where this came from,” Snowhawk began, pointing to the still-visible scar on her neck.

“He can’t remember?” Adian asked, concerned.

“He remembers before that night. He remembers finding me. And in the hospital afterward, and my escape and killing your uncle, but not what caused it.”

“Did you remind him?”

“Yes, but I don’t know if he’ll remember.”

“What else has he forgotten?”

“There seem to be little pockets everywhere, like your parent’s names and what a damn fork is used for.”

Adian sighed, looking toward the room’s door. About that moment, Rais walked through said doorway. “I hope I’m not interrupting.”

“No,” Snowhawk replied, “we were just discussing your patient.”

“Oh, then I won’t have to change your discussion topic,” the Director said. “I think we should reduce the treatment. Or stop it completely. I’m concerned about this memory loss he’s having.”

“That’s what we had been discussing,” Adian began, “though not about altering the treatment.”

“I believe it’s coming from the pain. His mind is shutting it out, and other things are being locked away.”

Snowhawk gave a small nod. “Understandable.”

“I have to ask you both if you feel you could live with him in this state.”

“I’ve fought too hard to give up on him now, Rais,” Snowhawk responded.

“Adian?”

“As long as he’s not attacking her on a nightly basis again.”

“Then we’ll scale down and stop treatment as soon as we can. If we had another Avizon, it might work better, but unless you know of one in the city–”

“No. We’ve looked as best we can.”

“Then you may be stuck with him like this for good. But if there’s any good news, it seems to have slowed his aging.”

Snowhawk did give a weak smile at this. She had suspected as much for Janus, but her own aging never caught up to what a normal Delphin’s should be. She would still outlive him.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more, but if you find an Avizon, and they’re not trying to kill you, please, let me know and I’ll return as soon as I can.”

“Thank you for what you have done though, Rais,” Adian said.

The other wolf bowed slightly to Snowhawk and Adian. “Just doing my job. I’ll go let Janus know what the plan is.”

*********

Across town, at Nytehawk’s home, Valerian paced in his room. He was nervous, but wasn’t quite sure why. He simply felt something to be wrong. He hadn’t been able to see his mother recently, and wondered if what he felt was in relation to her. Over the past decade, he’d seen her at least monthly, if not more often, until these past three months. The boy, now nearly an adult by Delphin standards at just over thirteen years of age, was far more keen to pick up when something was “wrong” and had been growing ever harder to keep things from.

He had learned the truth months ago about his father and mother. The whole truth, not just the sugarcoated version he’d been told as a youngster. He appreciated honesty, but understood why he’d been protected for so long.

“Still,” he said to himself, brushing his long forelock from his eyes and picking up his cellphone from the bedside table, “something is up. And I’m not sure what, but I think I need to get to my mother.” And with that, he called her.

The phone rang a half-dozen times, but then went to her voicemail. He left a short message, asking her to call him back, then dropped the phone back on the table next to his bed. He grumbled with frustration. “I guess I just have to go see for myself.”

His aunt was scheduled out for meetings the rest of the day, so he left a message with Hunter that he’d be back later. As he’d aged, he’d been allowed to roam more and more, so wandering off to visit his mom was not something he’d typically get in trouble for.

*********

Snowhawk sighed as she wandered the estates’ gardens. It had only been a couple hours since Rais left, and while things were improved over these past few months, she had this nagging feeling of dread. A feeling of being watched. No, she thought, not just watched, stalked.

Just a moment later, something rushed at her and soon had her pressed against the hedges. “Hello, dear,” Kione’s voice began, just before wrapping his hand around her muzzle to muffle any cries of help. “Did you miss me?” He grinned as she fought to pull her head away. “Oh, you’re still wearing that damned locket?” he said, taking said object into his free hand. “You won’t be needing this anymore,” the vampire continued before jerking it from her neck.

She gave a muffled cry of pain as the chain of the locket bit into her neck, then broke free, pulling some of her fur and mane with it. The wall the locket had built in her mind, protecting her from Emerald was crumbling fast and she began to hyperventilate as the panicked feeling rose at the thought of being taken over again.

Kione removed his hand from her muzzle, brushing his fingers over her cheek as he trailed them to her neck. “Don’t worry, she won’t come back yet. Just breathe.” His hand stopped high on her throat, his thumb resting under her cheekbone, while his fingers laced themselves through her hair.

“M– Mom?!” Valerian yelled, having stumbled onto the scene.

Snowhawk couldn’t move her head to look at her boy. “Run! Get help!” she screamed before being cut off by the vampire.

As the boy ran toward the house, calling for help, Kione watched him go. “Obedient young man you’ve got there.”

“Don’t you touch him,” she choked out.

“Oh, he’s far too young for me right now. I don’t turn children. Their mothers on the other hand,” Kione grinned, “are fair game. And this time, I’ll make sure they don’t find you prematurely.”

“No!” she cried, striking out at him with a hoof.

Kione easily dodged her still shod hoof. “As much as I love the fight you have now, this is not going to make life easier for you.” He grabbed her curved horn, pulling her head down with it. “Fight too much and this lovely horn is gone.” Knowing the consequences, she stopped struggling, dropping to one knee. “That’s a good girl,” he grinned, then easily picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder.

“Stop right there, you son of a bitch!” Janus yelled, having been led to his mate by Valerian. Adian followed close behind.

“Oh, it appears I’ve overstayed my welcome. No matter, I have what I came for.” And with that, he seemingly vanished from view, leaving the two wolves and young Delphin with only a breeze ruffling their hair and clothes.

“Shit!” Adian cursed, then took off to the garage to grab his truck, then head in what he believed to be the vampire’s direction: east to the sea shore north of Di’aru.

But he would be off. The vampire no longer resided in the castle by the sea, but instead found his refuge in the city of Di’aru. The high population of the city gave him not only a large food supply, but plenty of faces to blend with. By the time he reached the city with Snowhawk, night was well underway, and he encountered little hassle from the local slavers about the Delphin prize slung over his shoulder. He soon reached his new home, a large house on the sea-side of the city, just south of the main port.

“Welcome to your new home,” Kione began, tossing her unceremoniously onto a bed. “Get used to it, because we aren’t leaving for a long time. And if you step out into that city with no protections,” he paused, “let’s say there are worse fates than becoming a vampire.”

“You wouldn’t dare collar me,” she growled.

“I have once before and I will again, for your safety.”

“Don’t remind me,” Snowhawk glared, as the vampire rummaged through a box.

“Oh, I’ll do more than remind you,” he grinned, pulling out what appeared to be the same wide band of steel as he’d placed on her over a decade ago. He set the band on the dresser, then walked to the bed where the other Delphin sat. “But first, we need to get this out of the way,” he grinned as he leaned in toward her.

“I said no!” she yelled, kicking him squarely in the chest, then rolling backwards off the bed, only to find her back literally to the wall.

“You have to learn to watch where you go,” he growled, mostly unphased by her kick and continuing to advance toward her.

“No,” she whispered. “Not again.”

“Yes again, and for good this time. No one will save you now.”

*********

“Son of a bitch!” howled Adian as he ran from Kione’s former home. “I should have know he’d have moved. But where?” Every second he lost was one less Snowhawk would have. Suddenly, the thought struck him. If he were to hide somewhere, it’d be easiest to hide in plain sight, and the city of Di’aru was so close. “I’ll start there.”

*********

Kione pulled away from Snowhawk’s neck, letting her bright red blood trail down it and to her chest before he grinned and closed the wound with a lick. She’d not passed out this time around, and though she was woozy, and nearly unable to sit up on her own, she shot him a glare that could have killed anyone else. Her look of utter displeasure just made him laugh. “You are certainly stronger, but you can’t resist this.”

“Watch me,” she defiantly whispered, then finally collapsed to the side, breathing heavily as the vampire’s venom ran through her body.

“It’s easier on us both if you just give in.”

“No.”

“There will be no wolf or doctor to save you this time.”

“I won’t need them,” she weakly replied.

“You are just prolonging the inevitable.”

“No, I won’t let you w–” she began, but finally passed out before she could finish her thought.

*********

Adian wandered the city for hours, asking anyone if they had seen either the vampire or Snowhawk. Several recalled seeing her, but it would only be a single Lupino adolescent that could point to the house she thought she remembered seeing the pale Delphin disappear into. Adian carefully approached the house, unsure if the vampire knew he was there yet. Through all the other scents of the city overwhelming his nose, he could faintly pick up Snowhawk’s, so he at least knew the kid had been right.

He tested the door, and found it unlocked, which would be strange for this city. He carefully entered the building, keeping himself on guard as he followed Snowhawk’s scent. Adian soon found himself at a door where her scent seemed to come from strongest. He also smelled Kione. His fur bristled thinking about what had probably been done to her in the hours past.

He quickly opened the door and burst into the room, seeing the vampire sitting on the bed next to the still unconscious Snowhawk. “You’re far too late, wolf.” Kione grinned.

“Never too late.”

“It’s been nearly twelve hours since I bit her. She’s fought it, but I’m sure she’ll be awake soon.”

“It will never be too late as long as–” Adian began to growl, but was cut off.

“As long as what? You live? There’s a cure? You wouldn’t take that cure yourself because you know that this is inevitable for her.”

“No, because I knew I’d have to protect her from you.”

“You can’t protect her forever if you won’t take her from your brother. And it’s such a pity for you, I’m just going to take her from you both so I can have my mate back.”

“Never,” Adian growled and advanced toward them.

“Oh, Adian, we’ve had this discussion before. You’re always going to be a third wheel, at least until he’s dead, and things will just end badly. You know how it goes.”

“Move.”

“No, Adian, I think not.”

“Give her up, damn you.”

Kione smirked. “I’m not letting her get away this time.” He lifted his hand to reveal a heavy steel chain, attached to the same wide steel collar he’d removed from it’s box earlier.

“You. Son of a bitch,” Adian growled again, narrowing his eyes at the vampire. “How dare you collar her.”

“In this city? It’s better protection than either of us could offer.”

“No!” he howled, then lunged at the vampire.

Kione was honestly surprised by the attack and took the full force of Adian’s lunge. “What’s wrong, wolf? Did I strike a nerve?” he chuckled as he easily pushed the younger vampire off him. Adian hopped up to try and reach the bed to grab Snowhawk, but found himself blocked by Kione. “You’re still too slow, Adian.”

“Move, damn you!” he yelled as he threw a punch at the vampire. Kione simply caught his fist and pushed it out of the way.

“Watch where you fight,” Kione warned, nodding back to the still unconscious Delphin.

“Then get away from her, you prick!”

“That’s too easy.”

Adian looked helplessly at Snowhawk. He didn’t know if she was able to hear what was going on or not, but he swore he saw her mouth “Save me.” With one last burst of energy, he lunged for the vampire, grabbing his shoulders, falling backwards with him, and vaulting him backwards, away from Snowhawk. Once the vampire was away, Adian rushed to the Delphin’s side. What appeared to be peaceful from a distance was quite distressing to actually see. Tiny twitches wracked her small body, strange for this long after being envenomed. “She’s still fighting,” he whispered, then quickly scooped her into his arms.

“You can take her now, Adian, but you’ll never get her back.”

“We’ll see about that,” the wolf growled, then ran from the house.

*********

Adian couldn’t risk being seen biting Snowhawk as soon as he got her back to his truck, so he had to simply load her into the passenger seat and drive far outside of the city. Another two hours would pass before he looked to the passenger seat to see her waking up. He quickly pulled over so his attention could be focused on her. “Snowhawk?”

“Adian,” she quietly began, “How did I get here? What happened?”

“I fought Kione away from you. Don’t you remember him biting you?”

“Vaguely. I’m so tired, though.”

“Stay awake, dear. Tired is a good thing, it means his venom didn’t work.”

“I fought it off?” she said with a small smile.

“Most of it at least, apparently. Let’s get you back home and in the mean time, I’ll get in contact with Rais again.”

*********

“You’re incredibly strong, Ms. Alyandra. Very few folks could ever even think to fight off a vampire’s venom. Yet you beat it almost completely,” Rais complimented.

“Thank you, Rais,” Snowhawk returned.

“I have to ask, though,” Adian began, “have you felt any hint of Emerald?”

“No, none at all. Its like she’s completely gone from my head.”

“Its possible the anti-venom has removed her ability to communicate with you. It would be a long shot, but that seems most likely,” the Director commented.

“That, combined with wearing that locket for a decade,” the chocolate wolf suggested.

“Very possible as well.”

Snowhawk sighed and looked down. “I’m almost more afraid now, knowing she’s probably gone. Kione was pissed enough last time, and she was just hidden then.”

“Then we have to get rid of him, once and for all.”

“As interesting as studying an elder vampire would be, I’m inclined to agree. I don’t know the long-term effects of using the anti-venom multiple times. It’s possible the effects will lessen with each use, until there comes a point where even it wouldn’t be able to bring you back.”

“But,” Snowhawk began, looking up, “how are we supposed to do that? We couldn’t before.”

“We hesitated then. We won’t this time.”

Snowhawk just nodded slowly, unsure of Adian’s plan. “Thank you again, Rais. I think I’m going to go and rest.”

“You’re quite welcome, Ms. Alyandra.”

As she left the room, Snowhawk was greeted by Janus and quickly pulled into a hug. “So glad you’ve returned.”

“Glad to be back,” she whispered, giving him a soft nuzzle. “Where did my son get off too?”

“He’s sleeping right now. Your cousin knows he’s here, and safe.”

“Good. And I think sleep sounds like a wonderful idea.”

“Then we should rest,” Janus smiled, then led her away to their room.

*********

Kione was fuming. Not only had Snowhawk managed to mostly fight off his venom, but that thrice-damned anti-venom had obliterated any that remained in her system. “But it can’t work forever, and if I bide my time, she’ll eventually succumb.”

But he was also concerned. At no point had he felt Emerald’s presence in her mind. This was the part that infuriated him the most. He’d made sure to remove the locket specifically so Emerald could contact him, but there had been nothing.

He stared into a viewing orb, looking at the sleeping Snowhawk, and as he tried to get some reaction from her, he found she was oblivious to his presence. “Son of a bitch,” he quietly cursed, tossing the orb aside, barely noting the sound of it shattering. He loved a challenge, but this was a bit much. He would have to find some other leverage over her.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 31

The city of Di’aru was always a haven for slavers. Part of the slave trade includes hunting down and retrieving lost or stolen slaves, and the business over the past few years was very lucrative, especially since the slave uprising in Ametition, over sixteen years ago. In Juv, one pair of Delphin half-brothers were the beings to go to if you needed a slave returned.

These two were born slaves who freed themselves using their skills at tracking other slaves. They felt no remorse for what they did, they simply viewed it as returning property to it’s rightful owner. They did their jobs, no questions asked.

When they met with another Delphin one evening about retrieving a stolen slave of his, they had no idea the slave they would be retrieving would be their mother. But the silver-haired Delphin did. He was quite pleased to find these two, as they would provide his much-needed extra leverage over Snowhawk.

“She’ll probably resist,” Kione warned the two. “And she can be a vicious little bitch when she’s not getting her way,” he continued, thinking of her feline form’s needle-like fangs.

“We can handle her,” the younger brother commented.

“Do you know where she may be?” the older asked.

“Hiding with her former owner. She always seems to run back to him. But he has no claim to her,” Kione said, sliding them a piece of paper with an address scrawled on it. “She’s also possibly using the Delphin Society as a shield, so watch out while you’re there.”

“Well, brother,” the older began, “this seems like quite the challenge.”

“Indeed. But we’ll be back with her soon enough. We’ve never missed a mark.”

As the pair left, Kione mused to himself. This will be good enough to watch, he grinned. I’ll have to follow them. I can’t want to see her reaction when she finds out her oldest sons are slave hunters.

The brothers also mused, though openly, about their latest client as they drove to Ametition. “He’s a bit of a creep, isn’t he, Cody?” the younger brother asked.

“Yeah, he is Jesse. I’m not sure about him, but his offer is too good to pass up.” He frowned a bit at he thought and drove. “Something about this slave seems familiar though. I know the story about her, but beyond that.”

“I know what you mean. I was thinking the same thing.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing. I’ll shut up so you can rest and we’ll trade off halfway.”

Cody nodded and leaned back his seat slightly and closed his eyes.

*********

Late the following day in Ametition, Snowhawk sat in a study in the estate with Valerian, explaining to him some of the history she knew of their kind, as well as teaching him a bit more about the Delphin language.

Janus was in the room with the two, listening to the history and language lessons. Snowhawk was the better teacher between her and her cousin. She knew more about Delphin history, in part from her connection to Emerald, and had been better trained in their language. He was fascinated, as always, to hear the Delphin language spoken.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t around to speak this to you as a child,” Snowhawk told the young man, in their language.

“Nytehawk taught me what she knew,” he replied, slower than his mother.

“And for that I am grateful. Having to start from scratch when you’re almost an adult would be much more difficult.”

Adian interrupted the group, sticking his head in the door. “Sorry to bother you, but we have company.”

“Who are they?” Janus asked, rising from his chair.

“Two Delphin. Young, probably early 20s.”

“Find out what they want,” Janus growled, not pleased with the unexpected visitors.

“Already ahead of you,” Adian said as he ran off.

“I sense something familiar,” Snowhawk said as she stood.

“What is it?”

“I can’t tell, but I think it has to do with our visitors.” She strode from the room, following the direction Adian went.

“Does she do that a lot?” Valerian asked.

“Yes,” Janus sighed. “Come on, we should follow her.”

At the front door, Adian met with the two Delphin. “So why are you here?” he growled, also displeased with all the unexpected visitors of the past few years.

“We seek a slave,” Jesse began. “We have reason to believe she is hiding here.”

Adian laughed. “There haven’t been slaves here for over fifteen years.”

Almost on queue, the sound of Snowhawk’s shod hooves on the tiles could be heard. “Jesse? Cody?” she said, recognizing the two boys instantly.

“That’s her!” Cody exclaimed.

“Snowhawk, they’re here for you. They think you’re a slave,” Adian explained.

Her hand went immediately to the steel band on her neck, hidden behind her dress collar. “I haven’t been enslaved in sixteen years, firstly, and second, you’re hunters?!” She was exasperated.

The younger brother tried to take a step forward, but was stopped by the chocolate wolf before him. “How do you know our names?”

“Because I’m your mother!”

“They told us our mother died,” Jesse continued.

“I should have. I almost did delivering you. That’s why they sold me off.”

“Mom?” Valerian’s voice began, as he stepped behind his mother, “who are they?”

“Shit,” she sighed. “Your brothers. But they’re hunters.”

Janus folded his ears back, growling at the two. “What business do you have here?”

“We were contracted to bring her back,” Cody explained.

“We can’t take her back now,” Jesse said to his brother.

“Bullshit. A contract is a contract. Do you really want that client following you?”

Snowhawk looked back at Janus, and her youngest son, then stepped toward the two older boys. “Which client?”

“A Delphin from Juv. That’s all I’ll say.”

“Kione,” she again sighed. “Boys, you’ve gotten yourself in a world of trouble.”

“Who is he?” Jesse asked, growing more frantic.

“A very old vampire. And one that is in no way my owner.”

The younger brother was near panic. The older now seemed confused. “Then why would he contact us?”

“He thinks his dead mate can be resurrected through me. But she’s gone for good now. But, I can’t let you not go back. You’d be too much at risk.”

“Snowhawk you can’t–” Janus began.

“I have to, love, I can’t put them in danger. Contact Rais, have him ready to come back. I’ll figure out how to escape.”

“Snowhawk, you’ll never get free. Not in that city,” Adian commented.

“Then give me five days, that’s enough time after getting there to find an opening if there is one. If you have to come after me, bring my daggers. I’ll at least remind him why he left me alone for a decade.”

*********

A mid-spring rain seemed to follow the trio to Dia’ru, setting the tone of the ride. “So, how did you fall into this?” Snowhawk asked, speaking to them of their profession.

“We were raised to do it, and we purchased our freedom with it,” Cody responded, staring at the road ahead.

“Why didn’t you go to Juv?”

“They wouldn’t take us, not with what we had done,” Jesse explained. “We had nothing else we could do!”

“I see.”

Cody snorted. “It was this or starve.”

Snowhawk dropped her head. “I guess Ametition’s little revolution didn’t affect Dia’ru at all.”

“Just pushed more of the slavers there.”

Snowhawk nodded a bit and sighed, feeling responsible. “Go to my cousin, your aunt, Nytehawk, after you deliver me. Tell her I sent you, and you both need jobs.”

“The leader of the Society?”

“Yes. She’ll help you. I’ll write a letter for you.”

“You are probably going to die, and yet you still help us?”

“Of course.”

*********

At the hand off in Dia’ru, Jesse refrained from assisting his brother. Normally, one brother would deal with the money, the other with the slave, but Jesse wanted no further part in this contract. He knew they couldn’t just abandon the job, but the thought of turning his mother over to a vampire just made him sick.

Cody easily handled both transfers on his own, and as he handed his mother’s lead to Kione, he asked, “Did you know?”

“About what? Her being your mother?”

“Yes.”

“Of course.”

“And is it true?”

The vampire nodded. “Again, of course. She knew your names before you said them, didn’t she?”

“How do you know about that?”

“Oh, oops, I shouldn’t have said anything,” Kione mockingly grinned.

Cody just growled and turned to walk away, knowing he could do nothing at this point. Dia’ru’s laws were clear in protecting slave owners and not their property.

“And don’t think you’re going anywhere, you bitch,” Kione growled at Snowhawk.

“I don’t know why you’re wasting your time,” she asked as he drug her into his home. “We both know she’s gone.”

“No!” he growled, throwing her onto a couch. “She can’t be.”

“If I couldn’t sense her, then I know you wouldn’t have.”

“She can’t be gone.”

“After a decade locked away wouldn’t you get bored and move on?”

Kione grabbed Snowhawk by the throat and pressed her into the cushions. “She wouldn’t have left me, and if she has, then I will kill you and your wolves.”

“Just give up.”

“Never,” he growled, then pulled her head up with his free hand, and quickly bit her high on the neck.

For fuck’s sake, Snowhawk thought as she again had to wait through another attempt at turning her into a vampire.

*********

Hours later, Snowhawk still lay on the couch as she had been left. She was unconscious this time, having been unable to fight off the amount of venom the vampire injected into her system. Yet, there was still no sign of Emerald. Kione was beginning to worry.

“It’s impossible,” the vampire whispered as he examined the unconscious Snowhawk’s eyes. “There’s no doubt she’s a vampire, but there’s not even a glimmer of Emerald left.” Kione sat back and sighed, disgusted. “I won’t let it end like this.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 32

“It’s been almost five days,” Janus said, nervously pacing about in his study, as his brother sat across the room, staring at a laptop’s screen and watching feeds of various cameras around the estate.

“I know, brother. And I’ll be leaving for Dia’ru shortly.”

“Do you think she’s been – ” he began, trailing off as he shuddered at the thought of what may have been done to his love.

“Been what? Turned?” Adian replied, looking up from his laptop. “I’d bet money on it. If he’s trying to bring Emerald back, there’s no reason he’d wait now. Rais should arrive before I return with her.”

“You can’t help her this time, can you?”

“With as long as it’s been, probably not,” Adian replied, shaking his head and standing.

Janus sat down, holding his head in his hands. “Just get her back safely. And soon.”

The younger brother nodded, then handed his laptop off to Janus. “Keep an eye out for her from here. I’ll call once I have information to call about.”

*********

Snowhawk side-eyed the seemingly tied-up human next to her. The vampire had brought this man, supposedly a small-time, easily missed slaver, back for her to feed off of, but she still couldn’t bring herself to bite him. The thought was tempting, and she was getting pretty damned hungry, but…

“What’s wrong now?” Kione grumbled, interrupting her thoughts. Snowhawk had not been a pleasure to have around the past near week.

“You’re nuts if you think I’m feeding.”

“You’ll die if you don’t,” Kione shrugged.

Snowhawk canted her head to the side. “I thought you were going to kill me anyway. What’s the difference?”

“I have two wolves to kill before it’s your turn. Besides, if you prove useful, you may live.”

“You wouldn’t kill Adian. You’ve said so before. And if you think I’m going to let you take Janus away from me again, you have another thing coming.”

Kione growled at her. “Don’t call my bluff, Delphin, or you’ll find his head on a fucking platter. I at least need to figure out how the hell you managed to gain Emerald’s powers without her being around.”

“I do have a name, you know,” she grumbled.

“You haven’t earned your name yet. And if you aren’t going to eat, then go back to your room.”

Her expression immediately changed at the vampire’s command. He’d mostly left her with her own, stubborn, free will, but at times like this, fed up with that same stubbornness, he held his power over her. He could have forced her to feed, but past experiences led him to know what a poor idea that would turn out to be. I don’t need another prodigy to kill themselves. He heard her door click shut, then looked at the slaver sitting on his couch. The man was still under Kione’s command as well, a much stronger bond than any rope. He’d be easy enough to catch again, and any memory he had of tonight could be easily brushed off as a dream if he woke up in bed. “You there,” he said to the slaver, who in turn looked at him. “You are to go home and go to sleep. If you speak of anything you overheard tonight, I will hunt you down.” The man gave him a dazed nod and then stood and walked from the house.

Once the house was back to two occupants, Kione walked to Snowhawk’s room. Inside, she sat on the edge of the bed, making no movement as he entered. The room was windowless, and the door the heaviest of any in the rest of the home. Still, Delphin hooves had taken out greater doors than this one, and Snowhawk was still shod with steel, so Kione kept her chained away from the door, rather than keep her under his command at all times, as she was now. He grabbed the end of the chain and fastened it to the ring on her collar, then silently released her from his control.

Snowhawk shook her head, grumbling. “Shit’s getting real old, real fast.”

“If you weren’t so damn destructive with my home,” he said, pointing to hoof sized dents in the wall, “I wouldn’t need to keep doing that.”

“If you’d get over your dead mate and leave me the hell alone, I wouldn’t need to be here.”

Kione smirked. “Said by the Delphin who ran herself to exhaustion to find her dead mate.”

“I didn’t wait a thousand years to do something.”

“Once I had Adian, you were the most convenient.” Snowhawk just snorted and turned away from him. “I will have what I want.”

“Not if she’s not here anymore.”

“I’m sure she’s still there,” Kione said, turning her around to face him. “I just have to find her.”

*********

The following evening, Adian arrived in Dia’ru. He headed straight for Kione’s new home. Once again, the front door was unlocked, almost as if the elder vampire was expecting him. Inside, he sniffed about the building, searching for Snowhawk’s scent, and found her room. The door here was also unlocked, and Adian was almost afraid of what he’d find inside. He cautiously opened the door, and saw her sitting up from the bed. As she moved, he heard the sound of a heavy chain. “Snowhawk?”

“Adian?” she asked at the same time, realizing who was in the doorway.

The vampiric wolf was fuming. “Son of a bitch,” he growled as he moved toward her. He grabbed the end of the chain attached to the wall and gave it a few strong tugs. “So I see why the door was unlocked.”

“He’s out hunting.” She was growing almost frantic. “Adi, it’s not safe for you here. He’ll be back anytime and he’s already pissed enough Emerald is gone.”

“I’m not leaving here without you, Snowhawk.” Adian stated, examining the chain attached at her collar.

“So the wolf returns,” Kione said, stepping into the doorway.

“You son of a bitch,” Adian repeated, growling and bristling as he stepped between Snowhawk and the elder vampire. “How dare you.”

“No, wolf, how dare you for taking my Emerald away from me.”

“You took Snowhawk away from us first.”

“’Us’ you say, like you really have any claim to her. Like that weakling of a brother of yours does.”

“I’m hardly a weakling,” Kirrian’s voice growled. “And I don’t like sharing.”

“Janus?!” both Adian and Snowhawk said at once. The older brother stood behind the vampire, fur bristling and standing crouched, ready to pounce.

“Wonderful. Now I can kill you both and then get back to finding my mate.”

“Not likely,” Kirrian again growled, then lunged at Kione.

The speed of the older wolf caught the elder vampire off guard, and the near-feral fighting style, if it could be called a style, put him even further off guard. Fangs bared, Kirrian seemed intent on ripping the vampire’s throat out as he snapped and snarled at Kione’s head. The vampire finally managed to flip the wolf off him, about the time that Adian joined into the fight. Adian rushed in, unsheathing one of Snowhawk’s dark silver daggers, as his brother landed with a dull thud near him. The vampire scrambled to find his feet, but soon cursed loudly as the dagger found a home in his left shoulder. Kione turned his attention to Adian, backhanding the younger wolf before their fight continued.

With Kione distracted, Kirrian began pulling on the chain’s attachment to the wall. “Help me!” he told Snowhawk, who also grabbed a hold of the chain and began kicking at the wall near the anchor. With Kirrian’s extra strength, and the damage done by Snowhawk’s hooves, the anchor pulled loose from the wall, leaving them with a long length of chain attached to Snowhawk’s neck. “Perfect,” Kirrian grinned, handing the chain to Snowhawk. She at first looked confused, then shifted to her feline form, and looked at the fighting vampires.

A near white blur was all that could be made out as Snowhawk rushed into the fray. She soon had the chain wrapped around Kione and pulled taught. “I won’t let you get away this time, you bastard.”

“Are you forgetting who controls you, mare?” Kione warned. Kirrian snarled and growled, then again lunged at the now chained up vampire. “Before me!” Kione commanded, and Snowhawk stepped in front of him, just before Kirrian reached Kione. Kirrian’s momentum couldn’t be stopped and he crashed into both Snowhawk and Kione, knocking them to the ground. The small feline was knocked unconscious, and Kione just grinned at the wolf that now towered over him. “You make it too easy.”

Kirrian snapped at the elder vampire again, grabbing him by the throat this time.

“You can’t kill me, wolf.”

“Don’t tempt him, Kione,” Adian said, kneeling next to his sire. “Besides, I’ll finish you off if he doesn’t kill you.”

“You can’t kill me either.”

“Then I will,” said Snowhawk’s groggy voice, just before she grabbed her other dagger from it’s sheath on Adian. Kirrian’s jaws tightened on the vampire’s throat.

“Back to sleep with you,” Kirrian choked out, then Snowhawk was out again.

“Not really fair if you keep commanding her.”

“You’re next,” Kione said, then told Adian, “Move away.”

Much unlike Snowhawk, Adian had been away from Kione long enough to not immediately follow his command. “I– I think not.”

“Move. Away,” he repeated. Adian visibly resisted, then after a moment, finally moved away from his brother.

“Now what about y–” Kione was cut off by Kirrian further tightening his jaws about his throat. A moment later, Kirrian yelped and released the vampire as he felt a blade stab into his side.

He quickly lept back, and saw Snowhawk, with a dulled expression, kneeling next to the vampire, her dagger in hand. “You fucking stabbed me!” Kirrian exclaimed. Kione stood, an unwilling Snowhawk helping him remove the chain from around him. Both wolves growled and bristled at the elder vampire.

“I guess I have to move again. Pity, this was such a nice place. Come on, mare,” Kione said, then vanished with Snowhawk.

“Shit!” Adian growled. “He doesn’t have to speak to her. This is an even bigger problem then I expected.”

“How are we going to kill that?”

Adian paused for a moment. “We need to find Onyx. If he’s still alive.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 33

Kione again unceremoniously tossed the feline formed Snowhawk on the bed before him. “Well, mare, I’d guess that the wolves won’t mind if we borrow this little cabin until I find something better.” The vampiric Delphin had brought her to the small cabin in the Northern forests that once was a summer home for Janus and Adian’s family. “I highly doubt they’d even think to look here.” He regarded the female for a moment, then commanded her, “Change forms. Back to your true form.” Snowhawk complied, shifting back to her Delphin form, having no other choice. “You are so different from her. Yet in so many ways the same,” he mused as he continued to look at her. “Where are you, Emerald?” he asked, leaning closer to her.

The female Delphin’s half-closed eyes blinked shut, reopening to a cold blue, and Emerald’s voice called out “Save me…” as Snowhawk’s head went back. She again blinked, and her eyes returned to their normal magenta.

“Emerald?!” Kione called out. “Emerald, come back!” he yelled, grabbing Snowhawk’s shoulders and shaking the mare lightly. “Emerald, don’t leave me.”

The elder vampire had long forgotten how to cry, but as he looked at Snowhawk’s face, a single tear formed at the corner of her eye. “She’s not gone. She’d never leave me again.” He leaned over, gently kissing away the tear making it’s way down the side of Snowhawk’s face, hoping Emerald would feel it.

*********

A coal black shadow moved away from the window. Onyx happened to sense other Delphin nearby, and found Snowhawk under Kione’s command. I’m sure the wolves would like to know where she is, he thought, then trotted off to the city. The old Royal Guard didn’t have the ability to travel quickly like the vampires, so the trip would take him nearly three days on foot.

Three days later, Onyx arrived at the Sininensusi estate. He found Rais first, and was surprised to see the Director before the lupine brothers.

“Good to see you again, Onyx,” the Director bowed.

“And you, Rais. Have you seen the brothers?”

“They should be arriving back soon. Did you have news for them?”

“Yes. I’ve found Snowhawk and the elder vampire. I’m sure they’ll be pleased to hear that.”

“Indeed. Their attempt to rescue her didn’t go well, and it sounds like the elder brother will need some patching up before he goes anywhere.”

The pair chatted and waited for the brothers to arrive, catching up on the past decade. Their conversation would go on for two hours before the other Lupino arrived.

“Just the Delphin we needed to see,” Adian began.

“And I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know what I have to tell you as well,” Onyx replied.

“Please tell us you know where she is,” Janus pleaded.

“I do,” the Delphin responded. “I happened across her and the elder vampire as I was wandering the Northern forests.

“Is he at the old cabin?” Adian asked, canting his head to the side.

“He is.”

“Son of a bitch,” Adian growled. “We never would have thought to look up there, but it’s an obvious hiding place when I think of it.”

“Let’s go,” Janus said.

“But your wound–“ the Director began, but soon found himself cut off.

“It’s fine. Thanks to Anya’s residual venom, I heal faster than normal.”

“May I at least inspect it?”

“Of course,” Janus replied, and lifted his still blood-stained, cut shirt. The wound had indeed closed, and prodding from the Director didn’t draw out any cries of pain from the light-furred Lupino.

“Very well, you appear to be healed enough that it shouldn’t tear open. But be careful anyway.”

“Let’s go then,” Adian said to his brother and the Delphin Guard.

*********

Back at the cabin, Kione had still not released Snowhawk from his command. He hoped that her mental state in this condition would draw Emerald out, but all he’d managed to do was exhaust himself by keeping her restricted. “Emerald, where are you?” he whispered in the pale Delphin’s ear.

Save me,” she had said. But from what, Kione wondered. She should be able to take control of Snowhawk at any point. Why hasn’t she? The vampire was utterly confused.

He sat back in the chair next to the bed, watching the other Delphin. “I guess I could settle for you if we can’t get her back. But I’ll have to get the wolves out of the picture first. Or at least Janus. Adian will be easy enough to take you from.”

The female Delphin fidgeted at hearing this. Kione’s control over her was weakening the more stressed he became, and she was getting more and more able to respond to him. But he knew better than to let her free, even though he was exhausting himself. She had been able to run here as a half vampire, so running away would be no trouble for her. He’d not been able to find a suitable place to attach the chain that still hung from her collar. If he could, he could at least release her and rest. There were plenty of sturdy things to attach it to, but he had not found any tools. “I suppose I could let you go back to them and just come after you when I’m ready, or hope Emerald will bring you back before then.”

Kione thought over this for a few moments, then snapped his fingers once at Snowhawk. She blinked in response a few times, then slowly sat up.

“I’m letting you go, for now, mare.”

“Why?” she said, side eyeing him and unsure.

“Because I’m exhausted and you’re too much trouble for me right now. Go back to your wolves,” he said, reaching over to her, and releasing the lock on her collar. “Just know I’ll be back. Or Emerald will,” he grinned.

“She won’t be,” Snowhawk replied, crawling from the bed and keeping as much distance between her and the vampire as possible.

“Don’t worry, mare, I am a Delphin of my word. You can go, for now.” Not needing to be told again, Snowhawk quickly opened the door and ran from the small cabin. “Mares,” Kione sighed.

*********

Little more than a day later, Snowhawk trotted down the road leading from the cabin, still confused as to why the vampire would release her, and what he meant by Emerald being back. She didn’t remember Emerald crying out for help, and barely remembered the elder vampire’s pleading for his lost mate. The sound of a vehicle caught her attention, and she looked up to see a familiar truck driving toward her. She waved her arms, trying to catch the driver’s attention. The truck half slid to a halt near her, as Janus nearly fell trying to jump out of the still moving vehicle. The wolf ran to his mate, gathering her into his arms upon reaching her and squeezing her tightly.

“How did you escape, love?” he asked after several moments of silence.

“He let me go. Said he was exhausted and that I was too much trouble for him to deal with at this time.”

“Exhausted?” Janus asked, confused.

“There’s only so long you can keep someone controlled,” Adian explained as he walked to the pair, closely followed by Onyx. “If he kept her like that for these past days, then he’s been expending a lot of energy, and probably had little to eat. As for her being trouble, well, I’m sure you can understand that much.”

“He said Emerald may return,” Snowhawk began, folding her ears back. “I don’t remember much, but he was calling for her.”

“She may not be gone, then,” Onyx commented. “She could just be well hidden.”

Snowhawk sighed, looking down. “This is almost too much.”

“I know, love,” Janus replied, “But you’re not alone through this.”

As his brother embraced the pale Delphin, Adian looked away. He couldn’t deny the pang of jealousy he felt, but knew that he just needed to bide his time. “Let’s get back,” the younger brother said. “We don’t want to tempt fate.”

*********

Upon reaching the estate, the brothers, Onyx and Snowhawk were greeted by Director Rais. “Snowhawk, I’m glad to see you’re safe.”

“Safe, but still in need of your assistance,” she replied.

“Of course. I’ll let you settle in, then we can get started.”

“Thank you, Director.”

“I told you, please call me Rais,” the Director smiled.

“Of course,” she replied, smiling back.

As Snowhawk vanished off to her room, Rais turned to the other Lupino and the Delphin still standing. “I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure if she can be helped this time. We’ve still never tried this serum on a full vampire.”

“We have faith in you and your team, Rais. You’ve been invaluable in helping us before,” Janus responded.

“Well, it’s just me right now. My team will arrive if I need them.”

Adian nodded. “Still, you’re here to help, and we can’t thank you enough.”

Some thirty minutes later, Snowhawk returned, still drying her mane from her recent shower. “Well, I think I’m ready.”

“Very well then,” Rais nodded, “let’s get started.”

The Lupino and the Delphin vanished into the study. It would be the first trip of many over the next weeks. Each injection of the serum reduced Snowhawk’s vampiric powers, but at a slower rate than the first time. It would take twice as long, more than six months, to rid her of the vampiric toxin in her blood. And the pain was just as great as before, though it was over a longer period.

“It’s possible this will stop working in the future for you, so be careful,” the Director warned.

“Hopefully,” Snowhawk returned, “Kione won’t come back for me for another decade, if ever.”

“We need to take care of him before that,” Adian interjected.

“Last I checked, he was still creeping around your family’s old cabin, but he may not stay there forever.”

“I’d hope not,” Janus frowned.

“I’ll head back up there in a few days to check again.”

“Thank you, Onyx.”

Rais gave a small bow to the others. “I’ll head back to Juv. If you folks need me again, please don’t hesitate to call.”

“Of course. Thank you again, Rais,” Janus replied, returning the bow.

The Director left for Juv within the next hour. After he was on his way, Janus took Snowhawk back to her room. Adian clenched his fists as he watched his brother walk away with the female Delphin.

Onyx, noticing the boiling jealousy, turned to the younger brother and said, “You can’t keep up this charade forever.”

“I don’t have to wait forever,” Adian nearly growled. “Just long enough for him to be gone.”

“That might as well be forever.”

“I can wait. I’m patient. But I swear he flaunts it in my face.”

“Perhaps, but he may not even realize it.”

“Its still infuriating.”

“I can imagine. But you still can’t hide it forever.”

“No. But I have to, for her sake.”

“And your brother?”

“Very little I do anymore is for him. It’s her.”

Onyx shook his head. “You’re going to drive yourself as batty as that other vampire is.”

“No,” Adian replied. “Kione’s got a couple thousand years and a twice dead mate over me.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 34

It had been three quiet months since Snowhawk’s treatment had ended and Rais had returned to Juv. Adian sat outside, the crystal clear night bitterly cold. The wolf had a great deal on his mind, but most of it revolved around the pale Delphin he’d sworn to protect. Why can’t you be mine, Snow? he mused. He sat in the cold for hours, trying to calm his thoughts. The sky clouded up, and soon, a few flakes of snow began to fall. Perhaps he could… No. He couldn’t betray his brother, and she wouldn’t appreciate being forced to love him. He wouldn’t turn into the very vampire they were so determined to destroy. But the long years ahead looked dim.

“Adian?” Snowhawk’s voice called out. “What are you doing out in this freezing weather?” She carried a small lantern, and had a heavy cloak pulled about her.

The Lupino quickly cleared his mind and turned to see her pale form, her exposed fur glowing ever-so-slightly in the light. “Just thinking. It wasn’t snowing earlier.” She was a light to him. Despite everything, she still shone.

“Do you mind if I join you?”

“Only if my brother doesn’t.”

She smiled and walked closer to him, then sat fairly near him. She set her lantern down, and turned on the bench, pulling one leg up on it, to face him. “I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you.”

“Snowhawk, there’s no trouble I won’t go through for you. I swore to protect you, and that’s what I’ll do.”

“But even before that. Because of Kione.”

“I think of it like this, if Kione hadn’t found me after Sophie tried to kill me, I probably wouldn’t be here to protect you from him. He knew who you were, and you’d honestly probably be gone by now, turned back to Emerald. Then I’d have a moping brother to have to listen to while I haunted him.”

The Delphin smiled again. “I really appreciate everything, Adi.”

They sat in silence for a few moments, then Adian asked, “How has my brother been doing when I’m not around? Has Kirrian returned?”

Snowhawk looked down, shuffling her hooves a bit. “Sometimes. I’m still not sure, some nights, if Janus will be able to fight him off.”

“Don’t hesitate to call for help if you need it, Snowhawk. Protecting you from harm means from my brother too.”

The mare give a small nod, then turned to Adian and unexpectedly hugged him. “Thank you,” she whispered. In turn, the Lupino wrapped one arm around her, simply wishing this wouldn’t stop. “I’d better go,” she said after a minute, pulling away from him. “I’m getting tired. Please don’t stay out too late. A wolf-sicle isn’t going to help me any.”

Adian couldn’t help but smile. “No, it wouldn’t.”

After she vanished back into the estate, he’d reached up to where her face had been against his chest. His shirt was damp. Had she been crying? Perhaps his brother was worse off than she let on. The Director had warned them he could have periods where he was worse than others as his body reacted to the residual effects of the Avizon venom.

Following Snowhawk leaving, Adian sat alone, in silence, for another half hour. He watched as where she’d sat and where her hooves had fallen were covered in snow. He wondered what it meant, to her, now that she’d taken her steel shoes off. Had they been a fashion statement for the past decade, or was she actually trying to fight against her nature? Either way, he was glad to see them gone.

He finally decided to go inside and go to sleep. After a short walk, he was back in his room. He undressed and laid down in bed, pulling the covers up just past his waist. He placed his hands behind his head and stared at the dark ceiling for a few moments before closing his eyes. In what seemed like just a second later, he heard his door open and quickly shut. He reached over and turned the light on, and was surprised to see Snowhawk standing in his doorway. She looked terrified. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I just –” she began, pausing to collect her thoughts. “I just can’t stay with him tonight. He’s too bad off.”

“Come here, then, dear. You don’t have to.” He knew the mare couldn’t stand to be alone. She quickly made her way to the bed, laying down next to him.

“I’m sorry, Adi.”

“Don’t be sorry. He’ll get over it soon.”

A moment later she looked up at the chocolate wolf and asked, “Will he?”

Even Adian couldn’t be sure of that, so he shut off the light, then wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close to him. “Even if he doesn’t, you’ll be safe with me.”

She sighed softly, and cuddled up to him.

What seemed like an hour later, Adian was again awoken. This time, it was by her gentle nuzzling. She said something in the Delphin language he couldn’t understand, then took one of his hands and placed it on her breast. “Snow,” he said, unsure if she was coherent enough to realize what she was doing. She soon lifted her head up, her mouth finding his, and kissed him. “Snowhawk, what are you doing?” he whispered. She responded by gently, but firmly, pulling him over her.

“Don’t let me be alone,” she whispered in reply, then kissed him again.

Adian woke up with a start. Snowhawk was with him, asleep, so that must have been a dream. How in the world would I really deal with that? he wondered. He looked at the Delphin laying next to him, then gently stroked her cheek, then lay back down, one arm around her, and went back to sleep.

The next morning, the pair was awoken by a tentative knock on the door. Adian quickly jumped out of bed and went to answer the caller. He was greeted by his brother, seemingly unaware of what ever had transpired the night before. “Have you seen Snowhawk? I think I blacked out last night. I can’t remember a thing.”

“She’s here,” Adian replied, worried about this blackout spell. “You were apparently not on your best behavior last night.”

Janus sighed. “I was afraid of that. Is she okay?”

“Come on in, brother. She was shaken, but managed to sleep through the night.”

“Thank you, Adian,” Janus said with a small bow before he stepped into the room to see his love sitting up from Adian’s bed.

She quickly hopped out of bed, trotting to him. “Oh, thank God you’re back to normal,” she said as she wrapped her arms around him.

Adian looked away, then stalked out of the room.

“Adi, where are you going?” Snowhawk called out.

“To find another Avizon. Things can’t keep going on like this between you two.”

He didn’t even know where to start, or even if another Avizon would really help. But still, he had to try, for the sake of all three of them.

Hours later, he found himself down a not so familiar street, and discovered a new bar. “How long has this place been here?” he wondered. He’d used the bars of the city to find prey when needed, he’d not had the nerve to ask Snowhawk for help with that particular problem of his. Still, something called to him about this place. He stepped inside, finding most of the chairs still up on the tables, but a friendly enough Lupino female tending the bar. She waved him over, smiling generously. As he sat down, she pushed a notepad in front of him. It simply read “What can I get you to drink?”

“You’re mute?” he asked, somewhat shocked that she wouldn’t have found help. Of course, there was help for his condition, and he’d not taken it. With a small sigh, the bartender gave a nod. “I’m sorry, that was rude of me.”

She took her notepad back, and quickly scrawled out, “It’s okay, I’m used to it.”

“I guess I’ll just have a beer,” he said with a sigh. “Unless you can help me find someone.”

She sized him up for a moment, then took a guess as to the type of beer he’d best prefer. She slid the glass in front of him, then asked, via her note pad, “Who are you looking for?”

“Its not so much a specific person as a specific species,” he replied as he took a sip. “Amazing, that’s just what I had in mind.”

She smiled broadly, another guest satisfied. She turned and went back to arranging some of the liquor bottles on the shelf behind her.

“You don’t happen to know any Avizon, do you?” the chocolate Lupino asked.

The bartender almost dropped the bottle in her hand. She quickly composed herself, placing the bottle back on the shelf, and turned to face him. She quickly wrote out a note, then slipped the pad before him. “Who wants to know?”

“My brother… He’s not doing well. He was attacked by an Avizon over a decade ago and has been having trouble dealing with the residual effects of the venom. The Avizon that attacked him is long dead, so we’re trying to find a cure in another.”

“Sounds noble.” she scribbled out, her hand still shaking.

“If it will make his mate happy, then I’ll do anything for him.”

The bartender took a few moments to think, then looked around, making doubly sure the bar was empty, then quickly rushed to the door, shutting, locking, and pulling its curtain closed. She did the same for the curtain over the large front window. Then she returned to the other wolf. “I may have an answer for you,” she wrote, “but the secret must be kept.”

“What secret?”

“Mine,” she replied on her note pad, then stepped back. Her lupine form melted away, revealing the draconic form of an Avizon.

“Holy shit!” Adian exclaimed, nearly falling off his bar stool. “How long have you been in the city?” he asked after taking a moment to compose himself.

All my life,” was the written reply. “My family owned this bar, and I took it over.”

“And you’ve been hiding as Lupino all this time?”

Yes.”

“No wonder we couldn’t find you. Would you be willing to help? All we need is a venom sample.”

Thoughts of how venom was collected from snakes ran through her head. “How would you acquire it?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. I’ll have to contact a doctor in Juv that we’ve been working with to see how he needs it.”

I don’t want my head squeezed.”

Adian laughed a bit, pulling out his phone. “I doubt they’ll do that. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure your secret is kept. I know the value of keeping secrets.”

He quickly pulled up Rais’ number, and stepped away to call. The bartender overheard his half of the conversation. “Rais, I found an Avizon.”

“Wonderful!” the director replied.

“But they don’t want to be exposed. Is there a way to collect a venom sample without anyone but me finding out about them?”

“I see. If they can collect their venom in a clean jar, that’ll give us enough to work with.”

“Good to hear.”

“Don’t have them do it yet, though. My team and I will come up there, and once we’re there and set up, we can start working. The fresher the sample the better.”

“Okay, thank you Rais. We look forward to seeing you.” Adian stuffed his phone back in his pocket, and then turned to the Avizon, who had returned to her Lupino form. “I’ll be back in a few days. The Director said it’s best if the venom sample is as fresh as possible. To collect it, it just need to be gathered in a clean jar. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how to best do that.”

As long as my head isn’t being squeezed.”

“Only if you’re the one doing the squeezing.”

And no one else will know?”

“No, I’ll come back on my own. Is it usually this quiet around this time?”

Yes.”

“Thank you so much. I don’t even know your name, but you’re about to help not just my brother, but who knows how many other beings.”

Just call me Ginia.”

“Thank you, Ginia. I’ll return in five or six days. It depends on when the Director arrives.” The wolf, feeling renewed, quickly finished the glass of beer before him.

Ginia went to unlock the door for the Lupino, and held the door open for him as he walked out. Before exiting the bar, he ran back and placed more than enough cash under his glass to cover his single beer. He bowed his head slightly to the bartender, and quickly headed back to the estate.

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 35

Janus waited impatiently for six days, hoping that the Avizon his brother discovered would indeed be his savior. The personality swings had gotten worse and his fur had once again darkened. He was in another terrifying point of this cycle. He’d again attacked Snowhawk the night before, and hadn’t seen her since. He assumed she was hiding with his brother.

Adian had proclaimed himself Snowhawk’s guardian, but his brother seemed to have an ulterior motive to protecting her. He wasn’t sure, but he felt that the chocolate furred wolf was trying to steal her away. Perhaps he hadn’t changed as much as he thought. Why else would he spend so much time with her? The mere thought of his brother and his love together made him angry.

Janus drew a deep breath. “Calm down,” he told himself. “She’d never leave you.” But the thought was still there. He could not take this out on Snowhawk again. She would eventually come to a point where she really wouldn’t be able to handle it, and in that state, may make a move he would forever regret.

But that’s not now. He needed to find her and apologize for the previous night. She meant the world to him, and to lose her to something as stupid as this other persona would be unbearable.

He left the chair he’d been sitting in, and walked out of his study. He had to find his bird.

Moments later, he softly knocked on Adian’s door. It was soon opened by his brother, and Janus could see his lightly furred love asleep in his bed. A scowl crossed his muzzle. “Behaving, I hope?” Janus asked.

“More than I could say for you,” his brother stared, returning the scowl.

“You know that wasn’t me.”

“I do. She does too,” he nodded to the sleeping female, ” but that doesn’t make it hurt any less for her.”

“What are you getting at, brother?”

“I warned you not to hurt her again, but you’re too weak to control this other persona. The only reason I don’t take her from you is it would break her heart to lose you again.”

“So just what are you getting at?”

“If things don’t improve by the time Rais leaves, don’t expect me to just give her back next time she runs to me to get away from you.”

“But you just said–!” Janus began.

“I know what I said,” Adian replied, cutting him off. “But what’s better for her? Losing you slowly, or all at once?”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t underestimate me, brother.” Adian said as he walked out of his room, roughly bumping into Janus on the way out.

Snowhawk sat up as soon as Adian was out of earshot. She looked confused.

“How much did you hear?” Janus worriedly asked, walking over to her.

“Enough,” she replied, a frown on her face. “Janus, I had no idea…”

“I know, love. I didn’t either.” Janus sat down on the edge of the bed, next to her. “I almost wish you hadn’t heard that.”

“I’m sure he’s just stressed,” she whispered. “I think we all are.”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “For everything.”

She shook her head and sighed. “Don’t be. I know you didn’t mean last night. And I know you don’t wish to be trouble for us.”

“I’m just scared,” he admitted. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“And I don’t want to lose you either,” she said with a small smile. “Things are going to be rough.”

“I know.”

“This Avizon Adian has found will hopefully make things easier. But we still need to think of what to do about your brother.”

“I’m really not sure,” Janus frowned. “He’s important to both of us, and I know his stability is important to you.”

“Jealousy is a hell of a thing to deal with,” she said as she climbed from the bed.

*********

Hours later, Rais and his team finally arrived at the estate. Adian, still not having said another word to Janus, left to find Ginia and hope she could provide a means to save his brother. He was only doing this for Snowhawk’s sake. The pale mare seemed to be the main thing on his mind lately. He’d also considered moving back into the small house on the grounds that he used to live in. Distancing himself from her and his brother might be a good thing.

He sighed as he entered the bar. Ginia’s familiar Lupino form stood behind the bar, but the place seemed otherwise empty. She waved him over and then quickly wrote out, “I have one customer here,” then discreetly pointed to a corner booth.

Adian quickly glanced over, taking note of the red and silver furred, unicorn Delphin sitting in the strangely darkened corner. He didn’t care for the feeling the equine gave off, or the feeling that he couldn’t seem to focus on him.

“We can go in the back. He’ll be okay for a few minutes,” she wrote.

“If you’re sure,” Adian replied.

Ginia gave a small nod, then turned and led Adian to the back of the bar. She disappeared behind a windowless door, and leading him down into the basement where extra alcohol was stored. Going far into the storage area, amidst specality wines and the like, she turned to face him, and her wolf form changed into a draconic one.

“Thank you for doing this,” Adian bowed as she grabbed a nearby jar and unscrewed the lid.

Having left her notepad upstairs, she simply nodded and smiled, then brought the jar to her mouth, and carefully placed her fangs over the edge, then pressed the edge into her jaw to express the venom within her. She’d practiced this a couple times in the days since his first visit. There was never much venom, but her venom sacs were on the smaller side.

After emptying the sacs, she screwed the lid on tightly, then handed the jar to the chocolate furred wolf.

“Thank you,” Adian said.

Another smile and a nod, and Ginia changed back into her Lupino form. The two left the cellar where they returned to her notepad. She quickly scrawled down “I hope everything works out for you.”

“Me too, Ginia. And thank you, again.”

“Don’t worry about thanking me,” she wrote, “just get back to your brother.”

“Heading back now,” he smiled, then left the bar, his precious cargo in hand.

*********

Returning to the estate, Adian was greeted by Rais and his brother. “Welcome back,” the former said.

Adian was almost stunned. After what he’d said and done, his brother was acting like nothing had happened? “Thank you,” he replied, then turned to Rais. “I believe this is what you need,” the chocolate wolf said as he handed the jar to the other Lupino.

“Indeed. Thank you, Adian. This should give us the insite we need into the Avizon’s venom, and it should help your brother return to normal.”

“One can certainly hope.” Adian paused, then turned to Janus. “I’ll be moving back into my little house on the property. I think I need some time away, but I know I can’t leave this place unguarded.”

Janus gave a small nod. “If you think its for the best, then I can’t stop you. But will you at least let Snowhawk know before you begin hauling your stuff back there?”

“Of course. Where is she?”

“I believe she’s still in your room. Thinking. She heard us this morning.”

Adian folded his ears back. “Oh…” The younger brother reached up and scratched his head. “Dammit, this will be awkward.”

“Maybe not. Just tell her what’s going on. She’s strong.”

Adian gave a nod and turned toward his room. As he left, Janus looked at Rais and said, “I apologize. I don’t want to get you involved in this family matter.”

“Don’t worry,” Rais smiled. “I have two boys of my own. Much younger than you two, but brothers will be brothers. Now, my team and I are going to go get started, and we’ll call for you when we’re ready.”

“Thank you, Rais.”

*********

Adian slowly stepped in his room, looking up to see Snowhawk sitting on his bed in her feline form, and wearing the green dress he gave her long ago. Her legs dangled and her paws didn’t touch the floor. The Feln-formed-Delphin looked up as Adian entered, and gave him a small smile. He could tell she had a lot on her mind. “I’m sorry you had to hear that argument this morning.”

The cat shook her head. “If that’s how you feel, then don’t apologize.”

“It is. And I don’t know if you have any idea how hard it is for me to not just take what I want.”

“I have some idea. Its been hard for me to stand by your brother while his personality has shifted so much.” Adian hadn’t considered she was ever thinking of leaving Janus. “Especially with you around.” She sighed and continued on. “You took over the role left open when Legacy died. You’ve always been there when I needed and backed off to just watch when I didn’t. You’ve been a better Guardian than I could have ever asked for. And I do deeply care about you. We both know I’m going to outlive Janus several times over, as will you. So let’s not do anything rash until then. Both of us. I’ve made a promise to your brother, and I intend to keep it.”

Adian sighed, almost in relief. “Very well. And I will remain your protector as long as you’ll have me.”

“For as long as you think I’m worth protecting.”

“Now, all that said,” he cautiously began, “I’m going to move back into the little house I have on the property, once Janus is back to normal.”

Snowhawk looked down. “I see.”

“Don’t worry. I promise I won’t go farther than that. And I’ll be in the house often enough with keeping security around here.”

She gave a small nod.

Adian smiled at her. “Now, let’s go find my brother.”

They didn’t have to search long for Janus, soon finding him in his preferred study, waiting on news from Rais. “Everything alright?” he asked the pair as they walked in.

Snowhawk gave a small nod, then quickly crossed the room to him.  She sat down in his lap, wrapping her arms around him, and hugging him tightly.

Adian looked away from the pair, still feeling jealous, even if he had made a pact with Snowhawk.

Fortunately for Adian, Rais soon called Janus and asked that he meet them. The trio walked to the appointed meeting spot, the estate’s large dining room for news about the Avizon venom.

“Well,” Rais began, “I have good news and potential bad news. The good is that we can make an anti-venom. The bad news is that it may not work.”

“That’s a risk I have to take,” Janus stated. “Things can’t keep going like they’re going.”

“Very well, but if we see side effects like we saw before, especially the memory loss, we’ll stop treatment immediately.”

Janus nodded to the other Lupino. “Understood.”

Snowhawk hopped up from Janus’ lap and the light furred wolf stood and followed the Director out. Once they were out of sight, Snowhawk sank down into the chair Janus had just been in. “I’m so scared of losing him this time,” she admitted to Adian, who kneeled next to her.

“He’s in the best hands possible. I’m sure you will be able to honor your vow to him longer than just tonight.”

“I hope so,” she said, trying to wipe the tears from her eyes.

*********

Hours later, Rais escorted Janus to his room. The pale wolf was exhausted, but felt better than he had in weeks. When they opened the door, they saw a sleeping Snowhawk. She was curled up on the bed, her back to the door, but they could tell she was clutching something tightly.

“I’ll take my leave, now. I’ll be back for you in the morning.”

“Thank you, Rais,” Janus said with a small bow. Once the Director was on his way, Janus entered the room and sat on the edge of the bed. His love was clutching his pillow, and her equine face was stained with tears. “Oh, Snowhawk,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

The mare awoke with a start. She quickly turned around and nearly hit Janus with the pillow. “Holy shit, you scared me,” she panted.

The wolf couldn’t help but laugh at her reaction. “Sorry, love.” He gently stroked her arm as she calmed herself down. “In the middle of a bad dream?”

She nodded. “I don’t really want to say what, but yes. It’s like I can’t get away from my fears.”

“Well, I do have some good news. I think the treatment is working this time. It’s just making me very tired.”

“That’s excellent news!” she exclaimed. Janus smiled broadly and leaned in to embrace her. Snowhawk in turn turned and embraced him as well. “I’m so glad,” she said, “I’ve been so afraid that I’m going to lose you.”

“You’re not going to lose me, love. I’ll beat this, I promise.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 36

It would be several weeks and many treatments before Janus was feeling close to a hundred percent. But he was much improved, so that raised a huge weight off both Snowhawk and Adian’s shoulders.

Or so it seemed.

Adian’s jealousy had not lessened any during the weeks of his brother’s treatments. If anything, the monster inside of him had grown. He finally broke down and called Jerome, hoping perhaps the Guardian could give him some advice. The two agreed to meet to discuss things face to face.

“So,” Jerome began as the two sat down at a table in Ginia’s bar some hours later, “what’s bothering you?”

“Well, I guess the easiest answer is Snowhawk.”

“Aah. She has that effect, doesn’t she?”

The wolf sighed. “Yes. I’m not sure what to do.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m jealous of my brother being the one in her heart. And not me. I went so far as to move out of the main estate building to try and distance myself from her. And I’m still not happy with the out come.”

“This is complicated, my young friend.”

“Tell me about it…”

“And I’m sure you don’t want to go too far because of who seems to keep stalking her.”

“Right. I think I worry more now that I’m moved than I did before.”

“And moving back in wouldn’t help you any.”

“No.”

Jerome sighed, then gave a small smile and laugh. “That mare is just trouble. But she never means it.”

“I know. And I think she does too.”

“Well, lets keep talking, and we might figure something out.”

*********

Elsewhere in the city, Valerian again paced in his room. The young man had barely heard from his mother over the past few months, and was beginning to worry something had happened to her. Again.

He again picked up his phone and dialed her number, hopeful for an answer. Her sleepy voice answered this time. “Oh, sorry to wake you up,” he apologized.

He heard a yawn from her end, then she replied with “Don’t worry, son. What’s up?”

“I was just worried about you. I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Everything is fine. I’ve just been… distracted with Janus going through the treatments to try and remove the remaining Avizon venom.”

“How’s that been going?”

“Quite well. There’ve been a few minor setbacks, but overall, quite well.”

His mother had a tendency to repeat herself when she was nervous. “Are you sure everything is okay?”

“Yes, just fine. How are your brothers?”

“Busy. But they’ve been showing me how to track and all kids of cool stuff when they can.”

“Good to hear.” He could picture her smile over the phone.

“So, when can I come over next?”

She paused and sighed. “Well, today if you’d like. We’d all love to see you.”

“Okay! I’ll get ready and be on my way!”

“Valerian…”

“Yes, Mom?”

“Have someone drive you. There have been reports of a certain vampire in the area and I don’t want him to hurt you.”

“Will do, Mom.”

Within two hours, a familiar truck pulled in front of the Sininensusi estate and three brothers hopped out. Snowhawk had been waiting anxiously for the youngest to arrive, but was not expecting to see her older sons.

“Jesse, Cody, how wonderful to see you again,” she smiled as she embraced each of the brothers in turn.

“When Valerian said you wanted someone to drive him, we thought we’d just make a family outing of it,” Jesse responded.

“I appreciate that.”

“Do you mind if we stay a while?” Cody asked.

“Not at all,” their mother replied.

*********

Four days later, Snowhawk semi-collapsed onto her bed, then looked at Janus. “Well, that was a pleasant visit.”

“Indeed,” he replied as he sat down on the opposite side. “Uneventful too, thankfully.”

“Very thankfully. Especially with the reports of Kione creeping around.”

“I’d say I wonder what he’s up to, but it’s not like we don’t know.”

As the wolf lay down next to his equine love, she wrapped an arm around him and cuddled close. “I’m terrified to think he’s close again.”

“I know, love, but we’ll protect you.”

“‘We?'”

“My brother and me. Neither of us want to see Kione take you away again.”

“I hate to ask anything of Adian, especially now.”

“Don’t worry, love.”

She nodded as a blanket was pulled around her, and her wolf embraced her once again. Soon after, she drifted into a restless sleep.

*********

“Can’t I at least go with you?” Janus pleaded to Snowhawk.

“I’m just going to the back of the property.” she replied as she gathered a bundle of flowers in her arms. “I’ll be gone less than an hour. I just,” she paused, looking at the flowers, “I just need to do this alone. Its been some thirteen years. I never let him know I understood. He didn’t have to do what he did to get his point across. Now he’s dead. Because of me.”

Legacy had been buried on the grounds. No one claimed his body, so Adian had taken it upon himself to give the Delphin a resting place. Janus wished he had picked a different spot, but time was at a premium. “I’m just worried about you.”

“Worry if I don’t come back in an hour, love. I’ll be fine.”

“You’ve said that before and were wrong.”

“Janus…”

“Okay, okay. I’ll worry if you’re more than an hour gone.”

She game him a small smile and left the study. Moments later, she left the relative safety of the estate and the gardens, entering into a small field. She crossed this place quickly, remembering her past here, and trotted into the wooded area behind the estate. Adian had Legacy buried near the pond she so loved. Not at, but near. Snowhawk didn’t even know about this until Adian had let it slip just a day earlier while he was talking to her older boys.

She soon found the spot where Legacy had been buried. Marked with a simple, rounded headstone, the plot would have been easy to miss. “Oh Legacy…” She whispered as she crouched down and began to remove weeds and the forest’s debris from the grave site. She talked to him as she worked, as if he could hear her, telling him about their child and how he’d grown into a handsome young man. About the turmoil that had been left in the wake of his passing and the subsequent scramble to find a new head of security, which ultimately fell to Nytehawk’s Guardian. She told him of becoming a vampire and of Kione. Of her connection with Emerald. Everything since he had died.

Then, she felt a presence near her. But before she could think, she was tackled and pinned to the ground, atop the newly cleared grave. “I should turn you right now,” Kione’s voice growled. “There’s no reason not to. And its not like anyone can save you out here.”

“What are you doing back here?” she gasped, finding it hard to breathe with the vampire’s weight on her.

“I’ve been waiting on you to fuck up. And, oh boy, did you ever this time. Its like you knew I was watching and you just wanted to deliver yourself to me.”

“Give it up, vampire. You’ll never get her back.”

“Oh, I will. But for now, you need to sleep,” he grinned, and watched as she fought his command for a moment, then passed out on the dirt below her.

He hefted her onto his shoulder, then vanished into the shadows.

*********

Back in the estate, Janus paced nervously. It had been nearly an hour since Snowhawk had left. Though the brick and iron fence surrounded the property, it had long been neglected back in the woods. Not that a fence would keep out a vampire such as Kione. Once the full hour had passed, Janus went to track down his brother.

But he was met by the very wolf he meant to search for. “Janus,” Adian began, “I think we may have a problem.”

“Snowhawk is missing. Of course we have a problem!”

“Wait, what?”

“She heard you when you let slip where Legacy was buried, so she went to ‘talk’ to him.”

“Fuck. That’s why he’s been creeping around here.”

“Please don’t tell me you mean the vampire.”

“Who else? He abandoned the cottage in the northern forest, and I think he may be gearing up to try and get Emerald back again.”

“This can’t keep happening,” Janus moaned, stumbling to a chair to sit.

“I know, brother.”

“So what now?”

“I’ve got to track him down. Find where he’s hiding this time.”

Janus just nodded, then dropped his head into his hands. His brother just walked to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll get her back.”

*********

Elsewhere in the world, near the city of Di’aru, the elder vampire gloated over his latest capture. She would be turned soon, and then he could better work to get his love back. But first, for being such a pain in his rear, he’d toy with her.

Once she was secured, he said to her “Wake up, mare!”

She slowly opened her eyes, blinking several times. She tried to stretch, but found her arms secured behind her, and her legs tied together. “What the hell…” she began, but was soon cut off by the vampire’s hand around her muzzle.

“I said wake up, not speak.”

She grumbled at this. He was treating her like a damned slave. Again. She shook her head, trying to free herself from his hand, but was unsuccessful.

“You are mine now, mare. And I will tell you when to speak.” He released her muzzle.

She glared at him. “Fuck off. I belong to no one.”

His hand was quickly on her again, this time at her throat. “Don’t think I won’t seriously harm you.”

“What are you gonna do?” she choked out. “Any mark you put on me will harm your precious Emerald.”

The vampire growled. She was correct, as the scars on her body stayed when she had transformed into Emerald. He couldn’t really hurt her, not with a blade’s edge anyway. “There are other ways to take you down a few notches.”

“Try me, vampire.”

“Oh I will, mare.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 37

Weeks would pass. The vampire had since half turned Snowhawk, again in hopes of finding his lost Emerald. And to prevent any unnecessary risk of the living mare escaping, Kione had taken to bringing her with him while he browsed the city of Di’aru for prey, and while looking for food the stubborn mare would eat. Seeing one Delphin leading another was an uncommon, but not unheard of sight in the slaver city. No one suspected the leading Delphin’s true nature, and that his leashed companion wasn’t really his slave.

While out on one of these trips, as Kione looked over a fruit stand in the marketplace, Snowhawk felt a tug at her dress. When she looked down, she saw a Lupino child, about five years old, staring up at her with a camera clutched tightly in his hands. “Can I– can I take your picture?” the boy asked.

Kione’s ear turned first then his head as he looked back to the pale Delphin. “Yes, child, you may,” he stated, then turned back to the vendor before him.

Lupino and Feln children didn’t age as fast as Delphin children, but their trade off for a longer childhood was a shorter lifespan. Snowhawk smiled at the little wolf, who was nearly the same fur color as Janus, and then crouched down to his level. A quick flash later, and the boy beamed. “Thank you!” he exclaimed. “I’ve never seen a Delphin like you before.”

“Well,” Snowhawk began, “there aren’t many colored like me.”

“But you glow too!” the child noted, having spotted the shimmer from her fur.

“Its just from the light, dear. Now, you should probably head back to your family. I think we’ll be moving on soon.”

“Thanks, lady!” the boy smiled, then ran off into the crowd.

Snowhawk’s smile faded as she stood. She dropped her head refusing to look at the vampire. “I will escape from you, Kione. And you will not survive.”

“Bold words coming from someone who can’t even escape her own bonds at night.”

“That won’t be the case for long. Once I free myself of your command, you won’t be able to stop me.”

The vampire laughed. “Foolish mare. No one can escape my command. Not even your precious wolves.”

“Just watch me, you dick. You’ll be on the floor bleeding out when I’m done with you.”

“Very bold, mare. But very foolish to think you’ll ever break free on your own. Now come!” he commanded, jerking on her leash. With half closed, dull eyes, she followed him.

*********

“Have you seen this Delphin?” Janus asked as he held a picture of Snowhawk up for what felt like the thousandth time that day.

“Actually yes,” the female Lupino replied. “My son took a picture of her earlier in the marketplace.”

“Who was she with?” Adian then asked.

“A red and white Del. With really long silver hair.”

“A unicorn?” Adian continued. The mother nodded. “Shit.”

“Is she your slave?”

Janus shook his head. “She was, but she was freed. She’s my mate.”

“I wish you luck in your search. I can tell you they headed south after leaving the market. I’m sorry I don’t know anything more.”

“No, you’ve been a great help,” Janus replied. “Thank you.”

As the brothers walked south through the city’s outskirts, still asking residents if they had seen Snowhawk, Janus turned to his brother. “Why is he taking her out with him?”

“Either he lives in a shady spot of town, or he’s trying to prevent her from escaping. If he’s turned her, or partially turned her, she would be harder to control while he’s away. She could break her bonds and be free then. ”

“It just seems like a risk to have her out. She’s still a rarity and someone might want to steal her, then we might be screwed.”

Adian nodded in agreement. Then he happened to look up to glimpse just the vampire they were looking for. “They’re still out,” he grinned.

It wasn’t long before the vampire spotted them as well. “Well, well, what do we have here?” he began as he walked toward the wolves, leading the still commanded Snowhawk behind him.

“Let her go now, Kione and there won’t be any trouble,” Adian demanded.

“Now why would I do that? I’m still trying to break through this wall she’s put up to hide Emerald from me.” Kione turned to Snowhawk and snapped his fingers in front of her face. The mare immediately woke up.

“Now where am I,” she moaned. Then she saw Janus and Adian and tried to run to them. However, Kione kept her on a short leash.

“Not this time, mare,” he grinned. “You’re lucky I even let you see them.”

Snowhawk cursed at Kione in the Delphin language. The vampire grinned once more and told her, in Delphin, that she wasn’t escaping again. She growled at him, and reminded him of the threat she made before.

Adian walked toward the arguing pair, hoping to get close enough to grab Snowhawk. However, Kione saw him and tugged the female behind him. “You’ll never have her back. Either I get Emerald back, or I have a lovely, if angry, trophy. You wolves lose regardless.”

“We will never give up on her, Kione.”

“You’re weak, Adian. You have no hope of getting her back, ever.”

As Kione was distracted by Adian, Snowhawk pondered how to break the chain that was her leash. She looked at Janus, and nodded him toward his brother and the vampire. Another distraction would be helpful. As her love joined his brother in distracting the vampire, she saw her escape: the rivet holding the leash end together was loose. A strong enough tug would break it. And she felt she had that strength as a half-vampire, or that the combination of her pulling back and Kione fighting her might do it.

She knew she could never outrun Kione, so she then had to plan out what she would do once she was free. She would have a long chain as a weapon, and while it was no dagger, it could suffice. She couldn’t flee, but she could fight. And she had her two wolves now to back her up.

Her plan set in her head, she took a quick step back to tighten the leash. The vampire began to turn around to see why she was moving away but soon found himself brought to the ground by Adian. Snowhawk wasn’t expecting this and knelt quickly when she realized Kione wasn’t releasing the leash. Once he was on the ground, she yelled “Hold him!” and quickly stood, pulling on the chain with her hands.

The pinned vampire growled. ” What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”

“Getting her away from you.”

“Sit down, mare!” Kione growled.

Snowhawk wavered a moment, then fought against the vampire’s command. “Not this time,” she growled back.

Kione was shocked. No one had ever resisted his command before, especially not one he was connected with. Undeterred, however, he again commanded, “I said down!”

This time there was no hesitation. The pale mare sank to her knees, then dropped her head to the ground.

“Dammit!” Adian howled. “Release her!” he demanded as his brother ran to her side.

“I think not,” Kione grinned.

Adian had had enough. He bit down on the back of the vampire’s neck. His top canine teeth grew into fangs and sank deep into Kione’s neck. The elder vampire cried out in pain, knowing Adian could easily bite his vertebrae into pieces. It wouldn’t kill him outright, but he would be left as the mare had warned, bleeding out into the dust of the street. Not exactly her prophecy, but there was a high chance of death if the wolf didn’t release him.

Kione growled lowly, then told Snowhawk to awaken. As the mare lifted her head, Kione dropped the leash he held.
“Will you let me go now?” he asked Adian.

The younger wolf thought for a moment, then growled at the vampire beneath him. He clamped his jaws further around the Delphin’s neck.

“I’ll leave you fools be!” Kione promised.

Adian still wasn’t convinced. He growled again. A half moment later, as Snowhawk finally shook her head clear of the last bit of Kione’s command, and she looked at the two, a sickening crunch was heard as Adian bit through the vampire’s spine.

Snowhawk suddenly shifted to Emerald. Her pale lavender fur turned grey, her mane and tail blackened and grew to an insane length, all while she shrank several inches. “No!” the grey mare called out. She scrambled to Kione’s side as a shocked Adian, blood dripping from his mouth, stood and backed away.

Kione was barely aware of Emerald’s presence, but he still managed a small smile for her. Tears were already pouring down her cheeks as she placed her small hands over as much of his wound as she could. “You can’t heal this,” he whispered.

“I must!” she cried. Her cold blue eyes closed as her spiraled green horn began to glow. The two Lupino moved away slightly, shocked at what they just saw and what they were seeing. The gaping wound beneath Emerald’s hands glowed like her horn, then began to shrink in size. Rendered bone, tendon, muscle, and flesh began to grow back.

The Delphin that could heal such a wound was rare indeed.

It took only a couple of minutes, though it seemed longer, for the wound to close. As Emerald removed her hands from Kione’s newly healed wound, she began to slowly change again. She sat back as she returned to Snowhawk, then collapsed from exhaustion once she was fully herself again.

Kione stood, slowly and wobbly, and looked at the two wolves. He had the perfect chance to grab her again and run, but he knew he couldn’t go far. He was too weak. “You win this round, wolves, but I will return. Especially now that I know she’s still there.” He gave another grin, then vanished into the shadows.

Janus rushed back to Snowhawk’s side. “Love, wake up…” he softly cried. She replied with a quiet moan, but found herself unable to wake.

“She’ll probably be out for days,” Adian commented. “Let’s just… Get her home for now.”

Janus nodded and gently picked Snowhawk up, then the two lupine brothers made their way out of the city, and back to their vehicle.

*********

Snowhawk was out of consciousness for two full days, plus several hours of the third. She gasped softly, awaking from a dream, her magenta eyes fluttering open. She slowly sat up, studying the room around her. It was familiar, comforting, and hers. As she swung her legs over the side of the bed, she thought of the events that had transpired. She stood and walked to a wardrobe near the bed. A favorite robe, fleecy and soft, if not at all fashionable, was found. She pulled it on, fumbled with the zipper, and finally zipped it closed. She grabbed the robe’s hood and pulled it up, then returned to the bed.

She sat back down on the edge, then shifted to her feline form. Her legs dangled below her, and she crossed them at the ankles, one paw’s toes grabbing the others. Her tail also wrapped around her legs, and she crossed her arms before her.

“What did I do…” she whispered to herself.

Even the comfort around her couldn’t console her. She sighed raggedly and gently rocked herself back and forth.

A moment later, Janus quietly entered the room, a steaming mug of coffee in his hand. He smiled as he saw her up. “Good to see you’re awake, love.”

She glanced over at him as he walked closer to her. “I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I?”

“No, dear, not at all. You couldn’t stop the transformation, or Emerald’s actions.”

“Still,” she began, looking back down, “I’m a liability. I can’t even take down the stupid vampire that’s made my life hell.”

Janus placed his coffee cup on the end table, then sat next to her, wrapping an arm around her. “You’re never a liability. We just need a better game plan.”

She gave a small, almost unbelieving nod.

“Should I call Rais here again?” he asked, trying to take her mind of the subject.

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No. I’ll go to Juv this time.”

“But if the Delphin there find out you’re half-vampire…”

“No one needs to know why I’m there.”

Janus sighed. “Very well.” He thought for a moment. “Take Hunter with you. Should be easier then.”

She knew he was not looking forward to her leaving. “It can wait a few days. I’m still exhausted.”

Janus looked relieved. “What ever you want, dear. But Adian and I will make the arrangements in the mean time.”

Snowhawk nodded and leaned against him. She was quiet for a few minutes, then looked up at Janus. “How long was I out?”

“Nearly three days.”

“Well, I hope Emerald won’t try that again anytime soon.”

Past Secrets – Version 1 – Chapter 38

Adian slowly stalked down the darkened hallway. It had been two weeks since she’d returned home. Since Snowhawk had not yet left for Juv, and would not be leaving for another few weeks, he was again tasked with keeping her vampirism to a minimum. “How many more times must I go through this?” he quietly asked himself. The jealousy had gotten worse again. If he wasn’t needed, he would just leave. He stopped at the door to Snowhawk’s room, finding it slightly ajar. Strange for her, as it was usually locked. Perhaps his brother had left it open. He cautiously opened the door, peering inside.

Snowhawk was laying across the bed, an unusual position for her. She was on her back, with her arms above her head. Her breathing sounded strange. “Snowhawk?” Adian called. The mare attempted to rise, but she seemed to be forced back down. Then he smelled her blood.

Adian finally put everything together. They were not alone in the room. He looked to the shadows, first seeing his brother’s body propped in the corner. His head hung unnaturally. Then he saw the glimmer of golden eyes.

He growled lowly as he moved to the corner. “What did you do to them?”

Kione simply chuckled, then seemed to vanish into the shadows.

Adian looked at Janus. He was beyond help now. His neck was broken. He clenched his fists in rage, then turned to Snowhawk. Kione had bitten the artery in her neck open, and left her to bleed out. Her blood ran down the side of the bed, pooling on the floor beneath her.

It was now or never.

Adian quickly placed his hand over the would on her throat, trying to stop the bleeding. The wound wouldn’t heal. He had no choice now. He leaned down to her neck, opposite the wound left by Kione, and bit into her soft flesh, then quickly injected his venom.

Time seemed to fly by, and soon she was healed, but miserable at the loss of her love. She was also unsure of her new-found status.

More time flew past, and she had recovered. And she was now his. But something still wasn’t right. Then the room around them turned into an explosion of glass, wood, and other shrapnel.

Adian awoke with a start, and immediately looked to his clock. Three am. Only a week and a couple days after Snowhawk had returned.

It had been another dream.

“I can’t deal with these much longer,” he sighed, holding his head in his hands.

He shook his head, trying to get the images out of his mind. He’d seen her near death before, another memory, real or not, wasn’t needed. Kione would turn her before he killed her, so what was that all about? With another sigh, he sat up and stood from his bed. He pulled on a pair of pants, then a shirt, and left his room. Dream or no dream, he did have to check on Snowhawk and, if necessary, do his part to keep her vampirism beaten back. The mare was something of a night owl anyway, and he’d often found her out and about much later than this.

He wanted to do more to help, but she still insisted on traveling to Juv. She was just waiting on Hunter.

Adian stopped to look through the gardens before he went to check the estate’s camera system. He unexpectedly found Snowhawk there, lying on her back and watching the sky.

“You aren’t asleep are you?” he asked.

She turned her head and smiled softly at him. “No, not this time.” She stretched and sat up with a yawn. “Janus fell asleep early, so I came out to stargaze.”

Adian sat down next to her. He was still a bit shaken from his dream, but tried to make small talk. “Its been good weather for that lately.”

She gave a slight smirk. “Small talk isn’t your thing, I know. What’s up? You seem troubled.”

“Just a bad dream that won’t leave my mind. Nothing more.”

“Dreams can be a window to the unconscious. They tell us what’s bothering us, or scares us.” She turned on the bench to face him, pulling one leg under her. “The least I can do is listen, if you think it will help.”

The wolf nodded, then relayed the details of the dream to her. “And I know,” he added, “that Kione wouldn’t leave you for dead because of Emerald, but it was still unnerving, to say the least.”

Snowhawk nodded. “Understandably so.” She looked down, and seemed to frown for a second. “But we both know he wouldn’t hesitate to kill Janus.”

“That also bothers me. I know how much he means to you, and how hard it was on you when we thought we’d lost him.”

“Let’s just pray that this was only a manifestation of your fears, and not a premonition. I know Lupino aren’t inclined to have those, not like unicorns tend to, but its not unheard of. I would think the only difference would be that you wouldn’t have a chance to turn me.”

“For everyone’s sake, I hope so too,” he sighed.

*********

Janus sighed as he looked at his brother and his love. He knew that the two had grown quite close over the past years, but he couldn’t help but feel jealous. They talked for a fair time before he decided to let his presence be known. “There you are…” he began, giving his love a small smile and striding toward them. “I was worried when I woke up and couldn’t find you.”

“Just came out to stargaze,” she replied, turning toward him. “Adian joined me a short time ago.”

The younger brother nodded at this. “I couldn’t sleep so I came to find her and see if she needed my assistance.”

“You should probably hire some help. You can’t always watch the estate alone,” Janus commented.

Adian smirked at this. His brother was right, but he’d never mentioned raising the security before. “You’re more worried than usual, Janus.”

“Damn right. I think with a pissed off vampire about we all should be.”

“If it’ll make you sleep easier, I’ll track down some help.”

“Thank you. Now, my love,” he began, turning back to Snowhawk and offering her his hand, “would you please come back to bed?”

She smiled softly at him and nodded. “I was just thinking of heading that way.” Snowhawk looked to Adian, still smiling gently, “Good night, my protector.”

Janus stiffened slightly at that. He knew Adian had proclaimed himself her protector, but she seemed too fond of him as she looked at him. His vampire brother would outlive him several times over, and even if Snowhawk managed to avoid becoming a vampire, as her fate seemed to be, she’d still probably outlive the both of them.

As they neared their room, he slowed and eventually stopped in the hallway, lost in thought. “Janus?” she said, gently nosing her muzzle under his.

“I won’t be your last love, will I?”

Snowhawk took a step back. She had wondered when this would come up. “No,” she replied with a sigh. “But you will forever be my greatest. I gave up so much to be with you, and I don’t regret a moment of it.”

“You missed out on Valerian’s childhood. Because of me. And I won’t even be around for us to grow old together. I mean,” he said, growing somewhat frantic, “I’ll be old, but you won’t be.”

“Janus, I would give up being what I am in a heart beat, if I could. But there’s no way to take that away. We may now be able to cure vampirism, but every fucking time this happens, I age a little slower. If I knew what to do, I would.”

Janus had an idea, a way to rid ones self of excess life, but he dared not speak it.

Snowhawk looked down. “I should have been born a Lupino. Then we could have been a proper couple.” She closed her eyes. “I know what you’re thinking. I could kill myself after you die. But I have more to live for, like my sons.”

“I wasn’t going to say that–”

“But you were thinking it. I know, because I thought it. Then I realized how devastated Valerian would be.”

“I just don’t want to go to my grave with the thought of you–”

“What?” she snapped, cutting him off. “Burying you, then going to sleep with Adian?”

“Yes!”

“What’s gotten into you, Janus? I thought you understood my relationship with Adian. Yet you act like I’m just waiting for you to bite it. Like I wouldn’t mourn your loss. Like I wouldn’t be crushed at losing you. Again.”

Janus took a step back at that. He’d pushed the memory of Anya taking him so far back that he’d also lost sight of how devastated Snowhawk must have been. “Snowhawk…”

“Do you really think so little of me?”

“No, love it’s n–”

Snowhawk glared at him. “Don’t call me that unless you fucking mean it.”

“But I do! Snowhawk…”

“Jealousy doesn’t suit you. Just like it doesn’t suit your brother, but I bet you have no idea what he goes through.”

“What?”

“You really never noticed? Why do you think he tries so hard to protect me? Regardless of how often I fuck it up.”

“So after I’m gone, it would be him.”

“You’re not dying anytime soon. And I will do everything I can to keep you safe. I don’t want to think of losing you again. But you act like I’m burying you tomorrow!”

Janus was silent for a moment. “There’s nothing between you two?”

“Nothing. There never has been, even when we thought you were dead. Long after you’re gone, maybe. But for now, when it’s important, no. We live long, we mourn long.”

Janus moved cautiously towards her, then wrapped his arms around her, burying his muzzle in her mane. “I just love you so much. I just…” he softly cried.

Snowhawk wrapped her arms around him in return, gently nuzzling him. “I know, love… And I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Let’s go back to bed now.”

*********

Nytehawk awoke with a start. Sharp nails were suddenly digging into her flesh and her vision was mostly consumed by a white-furred hand over her eyes.  “Unhand me, dammit!” she screamed as she felt a pair of pinpricks on her neck.

She felt nothing after that.

*********

Hunter wandered his home, looking for his mate. She had gotten up in the middle of the night, and it was now near dawn. She never came back to bed, and that wasn’t like her. He searched the entierty of the grounds, asking all of the staff if she had been seen, but soon found himself back in their bedroom, and still on square one.

“Where did you go, love?” he asked the rising sun.

*********

Deep in the forests south of Juv, Nytehawk groggily awoke. She was naked, in a strange bed, and an even stranger cabin. Blood stained the fur on her chest. She felt dizzy just from sitting up. Across from her, a strange Delphin sat. He had red and white fur, a ruby horn spiraled in silver, and long silver hair. His eyes seemed to glow gold. “Good. You’re awake.”

“Who are you?” she asked, inching backwards. She heard the rattle of a chain as she moved, then looked down to see a steel cuff fastened to her left leg, a chain running from it. “What did you do to me?”

“I gave you a gift. And you’re going to use that gift to help me kill a wolf.”

“Says who?”

“I do,” Kione commanded, grinning as her eyes half closed and she relaxed slightly. “You’re as pliable as your cousin. Perhaps more so,” he grinned.

The commanded Nytehawk made no response.

“And now, my ticket into Juv, wake up.”

Nytehawk moaned softly and lightly shook her head as she was released from the vampire’s command. “Who are you?” she repeated.

“My name is Kione. I’m sure Snowhawk mentioned me.”

“No…”

“Yes, my new friend. And you’re just like her now, though you won’t have another vampire to pull you from the edge,” he grinned.

“There’s a cure–”

“Not for long. We are going to make sure of that.”

“I won’t.”

“Yes, my pale Delphin, you will,” he said as he stood and advanced toward her.

*********

Snowhawk canted her head to the side as Hunter relayed his tale to her. “She woke up one night and then never came back to bed. It’s not like her.”

“No. That’s more of what I’d do,” Snowhawk replied, glancing to her protector and his brother, seeing both give a nod of resigned approval.

“Please, help me find her.”

“Of course.”

About that time, Hunter’s phone rang and he scrambled to answer it. “Hello?”

“Uncle?” came Valerian’s voice over the other end.

“Yes, what is it?”

“I just got a letter I think you should see. And my mom too.”

“Of course, we’ll be right there.” Hunter replaced his phone in his pocket, the looked to Snowhawk. “Care to join me?”

“Not at all.”

Valerian didn’t know his mother was there. She was stopping by for credentials from Hunter before she made her trip to Juv. Hunter was relieved to see her, as it had already been a day his mate was missing.

The two Delphin and two Lupino made their way to the front of the estate, where Valerian would be, if he had recieved a letter.

“Mom!” the young Delphin cried out as he saw Snowhawk, running to her.

“Hello, son,” she smiled. “What’s this about a letter?”

Valerian handed the letter to her as Hunter looked over her shoulder. Her face darkened and she frowned as she read. “Son of a bitch,” she cursed.

“What is it?” Janus asked.

“Kione,” she simply stated, handing the letter to Hunter. “He captured her. And he half turned her.”

“What?!” Adian said, shocked.

“Why?” Hunter replied.

“I don’t know, but it has something to do with Juv.”

“We have to get down there,” Adian said, still shocked.

Snowhawk looked down, then back up at the group after a moment. “Meet me there. I’ll run ahead.”

“You’ll never make it as a mortal!” Janus reminded.

“Right now, it doesn’t matter. She does. One of you find out where Onyx has gotten off t–”

“I know!” Valerian interrupted, then turned on his heels and ran off.

“Damn boy,” Snowhawk frowned.

“Just like his mother,” Janus grinned.

“Right. Well, once he gets back with the Guard, head to Juv. I’ll track Kione down in the mean time.”

“But, Snowhawk,” Adian frowned, “your condition–”

“I have to, Adi. Besides, what better place to go?”

“Just… Don’t exhaust yourself like last time.”

“Tell Valerian I said goodbye,” she said, then turned and began to run from the estate.