Within the three hours of her arrival, Nytehawk noticed her cousin would half awake, then fall back to sleep every fifteen minutes or so. “I guess he does help her sleep,” she mused. Snowhawk never seemed to notice her cousin in the room. Another two hours of restless sleep passed before Snowhawk finally gave up with a disgusted sigh.
“Nytehawk,” Snowhawk quietly stated when she saw her cousin.
“Cousin,” Nytehawk smiled. “Good to see you awake.”
“Yes, now if I could only stay that way,” she half chuckled.
“Don’t force yourself. I’m sure you’re better off if you’re resting.”
Snowhawk nodded in agreement, “Better off, but I’m bored out of my damn mind.”
Nytehawk was silent for a moment, then looked down. “Why did you stay? Why did you even come in the first place? I would have gotten free.”
“Your mate missed you greatly,” Snowhawk softly replied.
“That didn’t mean you had to come after me, though.”
“I wanted to,” she shrugged.
“To what, Snowhawk?” Nytehawk asked, confused. “To put yourself in Janus’ hands?”
“That was just something I risked.”
“Is it true about Legacy leaving you alone some nights? And days?”
Snowhawk gave a slow nod in reply. “He does. I wish he wouldn’t. I mean, I don’t even know where he goes.” She propped herself upon her arms. “Nytehawk, the next five months will decide what I do. But, regardless, I want you to take my child away from this.”
“Snowhawk, are you–”
“I can’t live with uncertainty and with constant wondering and worrying.” She paused for a moment, looking down, then back to her cousin. “Go back to your mate, and let mine know what the story is. I’ll call for you when I need you.”
“Why do you stay?” Nytehawk asked, more confused than before.
“I need to rest,” she replied. “And to try and remember why I left in the first place. If I can’t, then I’ll not drag this out any longer.”
“Legacy will come after you,” Nytehawk pointed out.
“I know,” she nodded. “Legacy can’t understand. He doesn’t want to understand and will try to say I’ve been brainwashed or something.”
“Truth be told, you do sound like it.” Nytehawk shook her head and looked down. “You’re being manipulated again, Snowhawk. Janus has already hurt you once and he’s gonna do it again.”
“Did he?” she questioned, looking back down. “Or did I just overreact?”
“He did, so you got away. You made the right choice,” Nytehawk responded.
“Nytehawk, Janus never hit me. He’s never raped me. He’s never forced me into doing anything, except that last mission,” she explained.
The other responded with, “The one that nearly took your life.”
“That was not intentional. Besides, it’s not like I hadn’t been that close before,” she stated, “No one ever knew, though.” She adjusted herself in the bed, sitting up fully and hanging her legs over the edge. “Nyte, I don’t want to hurt either of them. I know it’s inevitable, but I can’t make my decision in this state. I’ll more than likely go off on my own for a little while to decide. I mean… the only being around here that can give an ‘unbiased’ opinion would be Adian. He dislikes Janus and Legacy.”
“That stupid wolf would probably say you should drop them both for him,” she commented dryly.
Snowhawk grinned a little at this. “Probably, though he seems more interested in you right now.” She paused shortly, then sighed and warned, “Be careful around him.”
“I know,” she nodded. “You know, you’re too damn confusing.”
“I get that a lot. Now, go on back to your mate. As I said, I’ll send for you when I need you.”
Another four hours of discussion passed before Nytehawk left her cousin’s room. She was more aggravated than before about how Janus was acting. She walked down the hall, her head somewhat lowered, and encountered Janus when she turned a corner. Her ears flattened back as she glared at him. “Does your offer to let me leave still stand?” she growled.
“Of course” he replied with a small nod.
“And would you allow me to return and help her should she need it?”
He again gave her an affirmative nod. “Of course. I won’t deny her help.”
Nytehawk found his emotionless responses more than frustrating. She stepped toward him, almost as if to emphasize her Delphin form’s height over him. “You realize I would rather see you dead than see her further manipulated by you?”
“I know,” he replied, looking up at her, not intimidated. “Just remember that I am not keeping her against her will, and I am not manipulating her. I have allowed her to make her own decisions. She can leave when she wishes.”
Nytehawk’s eye twitched. This last bit had sent her over the edge. For her to lose her temper and react with violence was very unusual, but she was still capable of doing so. She grabbed him by his throat, knocking him off his feet, and slammed him into the floor. She ended up straddling him. “Not manipulating her, my ass! You just want her for yourself!” As she spoke, her mane and tail darkened to black and an onyx horn spiraled in silver grew from her forehead. “You want to keep her from her family… From her own child!” she yelled as a pair of black, feathered wings with white tips grew from her back.
“Believe what you want,” Janus managed to choke out.
She glared at him for a moment as tears formed in her eyes, then closed her eyes, blinking those tears away. “You aren’t worth my time,” she growled, picking him up slightly then dropping him. She opened her eyes and stood, glaring at him. “You will regret it if you take her away from us, slaver.” She stalked off, leaving him where he was.
Once she had vanished from sight, Adian’s lupine form appeared from the shadows. “You should have fought back, Janus.”
“And like you were a big help,” he mentioned, sitting up and rubbing his neck. “How long were you hiding there?”
“Long enough,” he replied, grinning. “I was waiting for her to come this way.”
“I told you to leave that one alone,” Janus glared.
“How often do I listen to you, though?” he smirked, offering his hand to Janus.
“Never,” he replied, taking his brother’s offered hand and standing. “I’m sure you’ll regret it if you do go after her.”
“Regret it or not,” he responded, “I’m definitely going after her now. Those feathers are kinky.” His grin, impossibly, seemed to grow.
Janus sighed and held his forehead. “Go away, Adian…”
“With pleasure,” he replied, turning and walking in the direction Nytehawk had gone.
“Idiot,” Janus mumbled, shaking his head then continuing to Snowhawk’s room. He paused for a second at her door, then slowly opened it. He was surprised to find her not only awake, but sitting on the window sill. She looked over and smiled at him when the door creaked slightly. “Good to see you up, dear,” he said, returning her smile and walking into the room.
She turned toward him as he closed and locked the door. “It’s nice to be up,” she replied.
“I was worried about you,” he stated, walking toward her. “I still am. It doesn’t seem like you should be this tired so early.”
“I shouldn’t be,” she admitted. “But, I was also unprepared for this.”
He pulled a chair next to the window, then sat down. “Were you hoping to hold onto him, Snowhawk?” he asked again, looking up at her.
“Perhaps…” she again replied, looking away from him and out the window. “Though, I don’t know if he even realized what he was doing.”
“I know he left you by yourself some days and nights,” he began, reaching out and taking one of her hands, “but was there any reason why?”
“Nothing I ever knew, other than him talking about the Empire returning,” she mentioned, looking back at him.
“As in the Delphin Empire?” he asked, confused.
She nodded an affirmative. “He despises slavers. Blames them for the fall of the Empire, which is true to an extent. But he never realizes that we, in the sense of Delphin in general, contributed to it as well. The Guardians were created to protect the nobility with some overlooking groups of ‘higher’ commoners.” She paused and sighed, looking toward the floor, then continued. “What good is a monarchy without subjects?” she asked, looking back up. “The slavers effectively removed the commoners, then began to pick at the nobility.”
“And that’s gone on for nearly three thousand years.”
Again, Snowhawk nodded to this. “When the Heiress was killed, the Guardian Counsel was established. It was also about that time that the mateship between a royal and a non-royal was accepted. It had to be since so many Guardians and their charges developed relationships. On that note, all Guardians had to at least have a mother or father of noble birth.”
Janus thought over this information for a moment. “Your Empire was a little odd.”
“The Empire was in no way mine,” she smirked.
“And I’m guessing your mate wanted to change that.”
“Yes,” she responded, nodding once.
“And, I’ll assume he wanted you at the head, taking into account your lineage and all.”
Snowhawk looked at Janus in surprise. “How did you–”
“You can’t hide where you’re from, love,” he smiled.
Nytehawk quickly made her way down the quiet street, her new wings folded back and her ears pinned flat. “That brazen son of a bitch…” she growled. “Who the hell does he think he is?”
Her grumbling thoughts were interrupted when a man, little less than six feet in height, stepped from the shadows in front of her, a wide grin on his face. “Hello, dear,” his familiar voice said.
“Who…” she asked, her ears flicking forward as she tried to recall the voice. “Adian?”
“Yes, of course,” he chuckled, stepping toward her and shifting back to his lupine form.
“Go away,” she commanded, holding her ground. “I have better things to do than deal with you.”
“I can’t imagine what. Besides, I just want,” he paused, grinning and stepping toward her, “to talk with you.”
Nytehawk was in no mood to deal with a suggestive wolf. She glared down at him for a moment, then kicked at his head. Unfortunately, Adian caught her leg just before it connected. “Dammit, you are starting to piss me off, wolf!”
“Really now? Good,” he chuckled, “I like when my prey fights back.” Instead of moving toward her, he now pulled her toward him. Once she was close enough, he wrapped his arm around her waist, keeping the other on her leg. He leaned in toward her, still grinning and chuckling softly.
“You do not scare me in the least, Adian,” she growled.
“Good,” he chuckled. His hand left her leg and went the the back of her neck. He was about to discover how much of a mistake this was. Nytehawk swiftly brought her knee up and into his crotch, sending him a half step back. The wolf yelped in pain at the contact, then fell to the ground. Once he had gone down, Nytehawk tried to run away, only to find she had not injured him as much as she would have hoped. He grabbed her leg and pulled her down, then slowly moved over her and pinned her to the ground. “Cute move, dear,” he coughed as she struggled to get away, “but you’ll have to do better than that.”
The rustling of leaves was Adian’s only warning that he and Nytehawk were not alone on this street. He only had time to glance back before a pair of black furred hands pulled him off Nytehawk, then a pair of kicks, one to his stomach, the other to his chest, incapacitated him. His assailant, who appeared to be another Delphin, then turned and trotted away.
Nytehawk stood and called out to the other’s retreating form. “I don’t know who you are but thank you!”
The figure stopped and turned around. A male voice replied, “It’s no problem. My name is Onyx and I’ll be seeing you around.” He bowed, his ruby horn glinting in the light, then vanished back into the shadows.
Nytehawk watched the shadows for a moment, then took another glance at Adian. She snorted at him, kicked him once in the side for good measure, and ran toward her home.