“I pride myself on my ability to hate indiscriminately. Truly, I look at the world from a view point of total equality when it comes to the depths of my abhorrence. If life were fair, I would be honored for my impartial treatment and lack of favoritism. But life isn’t fair. Life is cruel and dysfunctional. It kicks you in the ass and then laughs as you crash into others, taking them down with you as you fall. And that is why I love to be alive. It means I get to watch all you suckers go down and rest assured, I will wish equal amounts of pain and disfigurement on each of you. If I’m lucky; I will get to be the cause.” ~Desdemona
“Tell me why I should believe that you are willing to betray your race? Why should I trust a Fae?” Mona glared at the cloaked figure that stood across from her.
“Perizada has been a thorn in my side for too many centuries. I am done standing in her shadow. I am done taking orders from a god that cares only for wolves and has no respect for my people. She expects us to jump up and rescue her weak children and it is time for someone to do something about it.”
“And that someone is you?” Mona crossed her arms. “If you are so brave, then why won’t you reveal yourself to me?”
The Fae laughed. “You honestly believe that I will show you all of my cards at once? I am no fool. Think about what I have told you and decide quickly. You are not my only option.” And then the Fae was gone.
Mona closed her eyes and reached out with her will attempting to follow the path that the Fae had taken but there was no trace left. From the moment the person had appeared in the cloaked guise Mona had been subtly attempting to unmask her. But this was one of great power, able to block her attempts. That in itself told her something very important. If one so high up in the Fae council was seeking her out; there was no doubt dissention among the Fae. A weakness had been exposed and it was only a matter of time before that weakness brought everything crashing down.
Mona laughed out loud, “I don’t even need to lift another finger to destroy my foe. They are going to do it for me with their lack of loyalty.” If there was one thing Mona knew it was even the strongest defense could fall if a tiny crack emerged.
Costin closed his eyes and reached for Sally; his Sally, not the imitation that sat before him, broken and afraid. He didn’t know how long he and his pack mates had been in their own personal hell, but it was getting harder and harder to have moments of clarity like the brief glimpse that he was experiencing now. The only thing that had allowed him to gain this insight was remembering the first moment in which he had felt her. It had been like a drink of water in a dry, parched land and it had brought him a minuscule amount of relief. Then it was gone. With every moment that he felt the unrelenting torture of watching his mate die, be tortured, raped, ripped apart and taken from him, he prayed for one second of his real mate’s presence. He knew that he was fighting not only for his life, but for hers as well. It was a fight he refused to lose.
He pushed out with everything in him, reaching through the bond, thin though it was, to draw her to him. He held his breath as he waited for her to answer him. One beat, two beats, his heart pumped in his chest and then, she was there. His brown eyed gypsy and all the gentleness that she possessed.
“Sally mine,” he whispered through cracked lips.
For a moment he imagined that he could hear her calling out his name. He strained his ears, listening for the sound of her voice.
There it was.
“I’m here Sally,” he spoke even though he knew it was an impossibility that he was truly speaking to her. If this was all he could have, then he would take it and run as far as he could.
“How can I hear you?” She asked him.
“You’re not real,” Costin answered.
He heard the Sally before him, the one he knew to be false scream. He squeezed his eyes closed and clenched his jaw as he tried to focus on his mate’s, calm, un-tortured voice.
“I am real my love; real, and scared and so empty without you.” He sounded desperate even to his own ears, but to hell with his pride. He was scared and empty, it was futile to deny it.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to get you all out and we’re doing it as quickly as we can. I love you Costin. I love you and I need you to fight.” Sally pled with her mate, though she knew that she might be asking the impossible.
Costin struggled to hold onto the connection between them but it grew ever weaker. The tortured Sally lying before him once again began to take over his reality and his Sally, his whole, sweet Sally was slipping away.
“NO!” He shouted into the bleakness of the In-Between. His eyes opened and he stared at the horrific sight before him, telling himself over and over that it wasn’t real. It wasn’t enough to convince him. His wolf struggled to get free, to rescue their mate and Costin knew the battle raging inside him was becoming too much. He was losing and no matter how hard he fought, the will of his wolf was growing stronger and more insistent. He couldn’t make the wolf understand that what they were seeing wasn’t real. All that his wolf saw was their mate, broken, devastated and terrified sitting before them, reaching for them, begging them for help. He threw his head back and a soul piercing howl ripped from his chest, but there was no one to hear him.
Sally woke with a start. Her breathing was rapid and despite the cool morning air her forehead was dotted with sweat. Once again she had heard his voice, heard his desperation and once again there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.
It was several moments before she realized that it was quiet, too quiet and her vision cleared as she blinked away the painful dream.
“Good morning sleeping beauty,” Cynthia smiled over at Sally. The cool early morning air caressed her face as she tried to sort out in her mind reality and the dream. She remembered Costin’s agony and it was beginning to become her own. She looked over at Peri who was helping gather their packs so they could continue on.
“Peri, we must hurry. Wherever you are leading us, we must move more quickly.” Sally’s words were laced with desperation and resolve.
Peri led them at a brisk pace as Sally’s words repeated ominously in her mind. She had told them she had a plan, and she meant it, but she couldn’t tell them what it was. She had told them they needed the help of the Warlock King, and at that time she had believed it, but now she had a different plan. Peri knew that Alina would not approve. Her need to protect the women she no doubt now considered pack, herself included, would be too great to allow Peri to put them in such peril. But it was the only way to bring back their mates. Everything worth anything came at a price. Peri knew that all too well. She pushed on, looking back behind her to see if everyone was keeping up. Her only worry, and that alone bothered her because she never worried, was that Alina would figure out that she had been leading them in a circle for days. She had led them through the Transylvania Alps and all the way to the Carpathian Mountains and they were actually very close to their destination but she wasn’t quite ready. She didn’t yet have the bargaining chip that she needed and so she had to keep their presence unknown and keep Alina and the others from figuring out her ploy. She looked back once again and caught Alina’s eyes. Uh oh, Peri thought to herself as she saw the light bulb in Alina’s mind beginning to flicker. Peri knew that she was going to have to create a diversion. One that would hopefully take Alina’s mind off of whatever she thought she had figured out. Peri smiled to herself as she thought, it’s a damn good thing that I specialize in chaos.
Peri began to whisper under her breath, calling on the elements, drawing power to her through the life in the forest. It was harder than it should have been, but she knew that this was because of the evil that Mona had unleashed. Dark clouds began to gather overhead and they were suddenly enveloped in the murky forest with now light to show their way.
“What the heck is going on?” Cynthia yelled over the wind that had begun to whip and whirl around them.
Peri continued to chant low so that she could not be heard as she began to bring down rain. Lightning crashed all around, and thunder shook the ground beneath them. They all stumbled as they tried to stay upright and though Jacque’s magically floating cot didn’t need a steadying hand, Peri grabbed onto it anyways.
Peri called on the lighting again and sent it crashing down so close to the group that it briefly lit up the woods around them. Each saw the fear written on the faces of their friends. Peri continued to crash lighting around them lighting their way as she yelled for them to follow her. She ran through the pelting rain and tried to feel bad for scaring them, but she knew it was for their own good. She ran until she found the large rocks that she had been looking for. There was a large overhang that they could crowd under and wait out the supposed natural storm.
They all took cover and turned to watch the lighting dance and the thunder boom. The ladies shivered from the cold rain and all huddled around Jacque attempting to keep themselves and her warm. After an hour, Peri began to try to calm the storm. She immediately became worried. The storm no longer heeded her command. The thunder and lightning continued unabated. The rain continued to pelt their makeshift shelter. I swear if I think the word worry one more time I’m going to stab my own eye out with a spoon she thought to herself as she began to hunt for the magic that was thwarting her—the magic that was now controlling her storm.