“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.”
“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.”
“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.”