Not every romance is a fantasy, but ours are!

The Encounter

I’m so cold. Why am I so cold? The muscles in my neck screamed in agony from supporting the weight of my head as it hung limply for lord knows how long. Slowly the memory of the mess I was in came into focus. I kept my eyes shut this time and did my best to keep breathing the same. I had to reach Hue… On no, Hue! He must be terrified. Hue? My mind seemed cold and silent. Hue, please hear me? 

It started with a tingle, and then feelings of relief and panic spread through me. Mo shíorghrá?

Those two words were almost enough to make my heart stop. I’m here.

Where is “here”? he asked, trying to stay calm.

In the tower, I think. It’s a large, round stone room but I’m not alone. He has others here besides me.

Who is “he”? His frustration was rising. We went to the tower, there are no signs of you or the Gargoyles. Who is holding you?

I don’t know. From the direction of the door I heard a click. I have to go. Please, find me. I’m not sure I can save myself this time. I love you.

I love you too. Are you safe for the moment? Mo shíorghrá?… Mo shíorghrá?! I felt horrible for pushing him out of my mind, but I didn’t want him to feel my terror. A knot had been sitting in my stomach since I had woken to discover my predicament the first time. I realized that there was a very real chance I may not make it out of this. I didn’t want his last memories of me to be my terror or pain.

“I know you’re awake, little Elf,” came the cold and crackling voice of my captor. “There is no point in pretending to sleep.” I kept my eyes closed, head dangling and breathing steady. The approaching steps came to a halt. “Look at me!” he commanded. I didn’t move. My limbs, numb from bearing my weight, tingled and with each passing moment I became more and more aware of how much pain I was in. Searing, sharp pain ripped through my arm, causing me to open my eyes and look up.

My captor, who still had his face hidden from view, was dragging a sharp white blade down the length of my arm, taking care to avoid the veins and arteries there. “What are you doing, you monster?” I snapped at him.

“Ah, good, I have your full attention. You’re going to answer some questions for me now.” He withdrew the blade, dripping the blood coating it into a chalice.

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” I told him, finally rolling my head back to lean it against the wall.

He chuckled and mixed other herbs and liquids into the chalice. When he finished he returned, pouring it over my open cut. It burned and bubbled. “Every last drop,” he said as he methodically scraped the last of it into my cut. “This will ensure you only tell me the truth. Why were you are the Mage tower in Myeangdong?”

“I was there to negotiate a case on behalf of two lovers separated by their families.” I tried to will myself to stop talking and it was difficult.

My captor tilted his head to the side, considering the words. “Why would you do that?”

I had a moment to consider my words but couldn’t compel myself to lie in the least. “I am a Magistrate for the OAC. We were approached by a Unicorn and I was assigned the case.” I snapped my mouth shut, frustrated by the amount of info I was giving out.

“How old are you?” he asked all the more quickly.

“Thirty-two,” I answered.

“So young and yet you radiate power.” He paused and stared me in the eyes, looking for something. “What are you really?”

Without hesitation I said, “A Changeling.”

“When were you discovered and trained?” He was giving me no time to process his words. His tactics were ruthless, leaving me little leeway to mold my answers.

“Last year, next to no formal training with my Elven mentor.” Still, somehow I was managing to control the conversation.

“You don’t look Elven…”

“Half Elf,” I corrected him, wanting to swear under my breath.

He reached up and pushed his hood back, showing me his face. I stared at him, drinking in his grey lifeless skin, his yellow glowing eyes, and black lips that framed jagged teeth. “That explains why the Iron has less affect on you. You’re only half a Fae… and yet you radiate power. Your Fae parent must have been very powerful to pass on such traits to a half blood.”

“I wouldn’t know,” I told him. HUE!?! I did my best to try and broadcast my mental image of my captor and all I could do was hope Hue could see it and it was helpful.

“It’s unfortunate that you are only a Halfling. I might have spared your life if you were of use to me.” He turned to walk away.

“Then you plan to kill me?” I called after him.

He turned to face me, bearing an ugly smile again. “No, my dear, I mean to leave you here and watch you wither and die. It’s the perk of your Halfling blood. You will slowly die here with time and I will enjoy watching the gradual progression of it.”

“I am a Magistrate for the OAC. People WILL come looking for me. I was given a familiar. Someone will find me eventually. When they do, you will answer for your crimes against me and all the others.”

His smile deepened and it sickened me. “I’m counting on it. If they can catch me, maybe they will bring me something useful. After all, I am a VERY old Mage,” and with those words he was gone.

Hue? Did you see him?

I looked up at the massive white castle ahead of me. “I can do this, I can do this,” I chanted as I took a deep breath of cold air. About two hours into my cross-country hike it had begun to snow, making it hard to see the road as it was covered in powdery white snow. (Also, I HATE BEING COLD.) I pushed on despite the loss of feeling in my feet because I knew very well my friend’s life could depend on it. It’s amazing what you can overcome when someone you care about is counting on you. Now that I was here, or at least what I hoped was here, I needed to gather my resolve and prepare to beg and plead for assistance.

“Hello!” I called up at the gate in my best Elven. I heard rustling atop the watch and smiled when a set of hands followed by a head grabbed the wall to look over at me.

“Jahersh la min lay?” The guard called down to me. I blinked a few times trying to process the words. Hadn’t I kissed a guy in a town and learned the common language? I started to panic a little. What if I was in the wrong realm? What if had I studied the wrong Elvish?

I pushed the hood back from my head and frantically tried to play charades. The guard above looked confused and shrugged before ducking out of sight. “Oh no!” I yelled in English. “Please come back?” I pleaded to thin air. Just then their was a click at the lower gate. A tall man with long black hair and piercing green eyes stepped through the door. His pointed ears signaled his Elven blood. “Oh thank god,” I said, stepping forward. He took a step back and rested his hand on his sword.

“What brings you here, traveler?” he said in lightly accented English.

“You speak English!?!” I almost cried.

“Yes, my wife is half Human. I learned it not long after she arrived. State your business. The Castle is in lockdown at the moment and we don’t have time for trivial discussions or sightseeing.” His demeanor was of someone who was used to calling the shots.

“I’ve traveled from a different realm. My friend was kidnapped from the Human realm and I’ve been told Elves from your Kingdom possess a special ability to track the difficult targets.” I bit my lip, waiting.

He studied me closely. “I’m sorry to hear about your friend but at this time we cannot spare the manpower to go save a Human. I’m not sure how you found your way here, but for your own safety, leave this realm as soon as possible.” He turned to leave. Without thinking I reached and snagged the edge of his cloak to stop him. He turned on me quickly, drawing his sword. Above me on the wall appeared half a dozen archers with their arrows aimed at me. “Begone!” he snapped.

“She’s not Human,” I said, letting go of his cloak. “She is a Dragon and Elf Tempest. To me she is just a friend, but to many it’s a really big deal. Her Soul Mate is practically the prince of the Dragons. If we don’t find her in time I have no doubt he won’t make it either.” He tilted his head to the side and studied me closely. I decided if he wasn’t going to make me into a Pixie Kabob I should press on. “She is one of your people. I know that matters to you. Her father was an Elven warrior from this land.”

His eyes and nostrils flared with some level of acknowledgment of what I was saying. “Whom do you believe has taken her?”

His words sounded more like a test than a question. “We aren’t totally sure, but we have reason to believe she was taken by a Mage.” With a fluid motion he waved his hand and the archers put away their arrows. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Looking both right and left he placed a hand at the small of my back and ushered me within the castle walls. “Follow me.” With simple orders like that I was left little choice but to follow.

**********

Once inside the castle a handful of maids rushed to remove my wet cloak and bring me a warm drink. I followed the Elf who had led me in to sit beside the fire. “I am Tallyn, Prince of the realm. You are?”

Taking a seat I processed the word ‘Prince’ and sprang back to my feet. “Your highness, forgive my earlier…” He waved it away and motioned me back into the seat. “Dani, my name is Dani.” He smiled softly.

“I’m sorry for the harsh treatment at your arrival, but we’ve had a number of attacks over the last week. It has driven most of the villagers in the nearby area within our walls. In times of trouble we are always wary of those we don’t know.” His explanation made total sense.

“I’m sorry to add to the trouble and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t sure it was life or death.”

Tallyn sighed. “My father will want to speak with you when he is available. Normally with such attacks going on we wouldn’t be able to spare a single man, but I agree if she is of our blood and who you say she is we should answer the call.”

I started to ask him a question but before I could a small woman with a rounded belly appeared beside him, touching his shoulder. They gazed deeply into each other’s eyes for a moment before Tallyn turned to me. “Lady Dani, this is my wife and Soul Mate, Princess Lily.” Once again I tried to hop to my feet but Lily quickly caught me by the arm and urged me to sit. “Please rest and regain your strength, Lady Dani. It may be a while before the King is available to meet with you.”

I would have felt guilty eating dinner at the castle if I wasn’t waiting on the King. The food tasted to die for, but it could also have been the fact that I had eaten next to nothing for a week now. Since Kat had gone missing none of us had done anything but focus on getting her back. When the meal was finished and plates were being cleared, a young man dressed in the colors of the royal guard appeared at my side. He tapped my shoulder, and as I turned he leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. I pushed against his chest but he held me in place for a moment. The kissed felt as awkward and uncomfortable for him as it was for me.

When I leaned back to give him a piece of my mind I noticed he was blushing red to the very tips of his ears. “Forgive me, Lady Dani, for being so forward. We wanted to make sure there would be no language barrier between you and the King. If you do not plan on killing me, I can take you to his Majesty.”

I started to say something snide, but with an explanation like that what was there to really say? “Thank you, please lead the way.”

He made quick eye contact and seemed to relax just a bit when he realized I really had no intention of harming him. We made our way to what I believe was called the King’s Solar. The young Elf announced my arrival and I stepped into the chambers. I curtseyed… poorly… and kept my gaze down as I had seen done in dozens of movies. “Come in, Lady Dani,” called Tallyn’s familiar voice. When I looked up he motioned to a chair near the end of the table. As I drew the chair to sit an older man stepped around to help me have a seat. It was only once we were all sitting and Tallyn called the man father I realized the King had seated me.

“Greetings, your Majesty. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me at a time of such conflict.” I waited patiently as the King looked me over.

“Part Pixie?” he asked. I blinked a few times and nodded. “Ha, I knew I still had it.” Leaning back in his chair he considered me for a moment. “Do you know the name of the Elven Warrior who is the father of the girl? Having someone of her bloodline available may allow us to track her across realms.”

I dug frantically through the bundle in my bag, hoping that magically I had remembered my notebook with such details in it. When I had confirmed my fears I shook my head. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name. I can tell you what I know about him. He would have left this realm roughly thirty-three years ago and chosen a high born Dragon for a mate. She and her sister were held prisoner by a Mage that the warrior later defeated to win their freedom. He was killed trying to slay an Itheaga…” I dug through the recesses of my mind for any other details I may have picked up. “Oh, his sister is a member of the high council in the Human realm. Her name is Alathea.”

King Naelym and Tallyn exchanged looks with one another. I looked hopeful when the King nodded in his son’s direction before returning his attention to me. “We know of a blood relation and will make arrangements. Tallyn and two of his men will assist you in tracking the girl and making sure she is safely returned to us.” He smiled warmly and I was tempted to launch myself into a hug.

“Thank you, your Majesty. If it’s too much trouble to send Prince Tallyn along, we would be truly grateful even for just one Elf capable of tracking.” I watched as he stood and whispered something in Tallyn’s ear. Lily, who had sat quietly throughout the entire meeting, looked stunned.

Prince Tallyn looked at me. “No, this is of the utmost importance. I will bring two of my best men. We leave first thing in the morning.” He turned on his heel and followed his father out. Only Lily and two of her maids stayed behind.

“Lady Dani, Jess will take you to a chamber where you can bathe and sleep for the night. If I know my husband, and what little I know of the situation, he will want to leave early.” I didn’t argue. I followed the maid to the most beautiful room I had ever seen, which housed the most amazing tub ever. I questioned if I was in heaven, but after a pinch decided that a bath then bed was the only correct answer.

I sat on Lady Jura’s bed patting her hand. She had seemed distant ever since she suggested Kat may be being held by a Mage. I had helped her back to her room that night, but before leaving asked why she thought it was a Mage and not a Gargoyle.

“When my sister and I were held all those years ago, the Mage who captured us used Gargoyle venom to control us. On Fae it’s highly effective, but on Darklings it can be broken down and metabolized. It will work for a little while but wears off quickly. Besides, the Gargoyles have treaties with the Dragons and have for a thousand years… even in the Human realm. Taking Alizeyah, who is widely recognized as Hudraer’s Mate, guarantees war.”

“Wouldn’t a Mage be afraid of attracting the wrath of the Dragons?” I asked.

Lady Jura shrugged at me. “Mages can be very self-centered and focused. Often they lose track of time … years at a time. They wouldn’t care about Dragon or Elf politics because they can move between realms effortlessly.”

“Is there anyway to track them?” I held my breath. I knew her past was painful but anything she knew could help us find her daughter.

She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “Alizeyah’s father was able to track Mages. I believe the Elves have a magic that would grant them that ability.”

I stood up. “Great, I’ll get in touch with Marthailain and have him get us an Elf to track.” My hope took a nosedive as she shook her head.

“Her father was from a Kingdom that was sealed off from the Human world. Chances are you would need to go there to find someone able to track a Mage.” She paused. “You can get there through our realm, and I have heard rumors the gates have been unlocked from the Human realm as well. Elves are suspicious creatures, though. They aren’t likely to welcome a Human they don’t know, and certainly not a Dragon.”

I heaved a heavy sigh. “Oh well, then they are just going to have to deal with a cranky Pixie.” I stood and excused myself from her chamber.

Moments later I found myself searching the faces in the hall for Lord Vallen. I caught sight of him at the hearth with Young, Hudraer and Geren. I marched across the hall and reached out to tug on Vallen’s elbow. “Can I talk to you?”

He searched my eyes then excused himself from the group. I urged him to follow me towards a quiet corner. When I believed we were out of earshot I turned towards him. “Lady Jura has very valid reasons for believing a Mage may have taken Alizeyah. I want to go to the realm of her father and see if I can recruit an Elven tracker.”

“I’ll gather my things and we can leave at once,” he said, starting to turn.

Quickly I grabbed his arm and spun him around. “Lady Jura doesn’t believe that a Dragon would be welcomed. I stand the best chance as a Pixie. I need supplies and a way to get there.”

He was already shaking his head before I finished. “I can’t let you go alone. That realm, while peaceful, is not without its dangers.”

“This isn’t open for discussions. I will stay safe. I just need supplies.” He wanted to argue with me but he ultimately nodded in agreement.

“When do you wish to leave?”

“As soon as possible.” I started to turn so I could prepare then stopped. “If I give you a letter can you make sure Oliver gets it?”

He raised a brow but didn’t disagree before turning to prepare what I hoped was a bag with the supplies I would need. I found a pen and quickly wrote a letter.

Dear Oliver,

     I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you before I left but I know you would never let me go alone. I’m following a lead to see if I can find a tracker that can help find Kat. Her father had the ability to track Mages, which is who we now suspect may be behind her disappearance. If I am not back in three days’ time, assume the worst, but keep searching for for Kat. Please.

All my Love,

Dani

I saw Vallen’s cue directing me to meet him upstairs. I did my best to slip away without Hue noticing and joined him in the cave above. Once I was there he held out a pack and cloak in his hands. “Thank you,” I said as I approached. He helped me slide the pack on my back then draped the heavy wool cloak around my shoulders. I started to say something but he held up a hand to cut me off.

“There are conditions to you going by yourself.” His tone was deadly serious. I nodded and he continued. “First…” he grabbed a dagger from his belt and slashed across his hand. “Drink,” he ordered as a red line of blood bubbled to the surface. I shook my head and took a step back.

“I’m dating Oliver,” I argued.

“That’s all well and good, but a blood exchange guarantees I can find you, and more importantly you can find your way back here on your own.” I looked at the line of blood. His palm was already sealing the wound.

“Ewwwh,” I squicked before licking the small pool of red hot liquid away. It burned its way down my throat. With shocking speed he used the nail on his thumb to press into my own palm and then drew it to his mouth. I started to fight and pull it away but he held it in place and drank it in. For a split second his eyes narrowed and shifted into something glowing and far more dangerous than I had seen from him before. “That’s enough,” I said, tugging on my hand again. This time he released it. “Was that really necessary?”

He shrugged. “We are not Soul Mates, so you will need a strong connection to come back here.” He then handed me the dagger he had used on himself and his sword. “Take these. Put the dagger in your boot. They are sharp enough to cut through a Dragon’s hide. They should slice though anyone in your way.” I gulped and slid the sword carefully into the slot on my pack meant to carry a tool. Then with a deep breath he reached up and pulled a leather band from his neck. Suspended on it was a silver and black bead. “This is on loan only.” Before handing it to me he grabbed me, pulling me close and the world shifted around us.

“Where are we?” I asked as things came back into focus.

“About a half a day’s walk from the Elven Palace. This is as close as I can get you.” He looped the necklace over my head and without invitation dropped the bead under the neckline of my shirt. “When you are ready to return back to the cave, grab hold of your Elf, close your eyes and focus on me. You share my blood now, and I yours. We are connected. Then just will the bead to take you to me.” He paused. “Also, while we cannot share thoughts like Soul Mates, if you focus on me I will feel you and will be able to find you. Come back safe.” He took a step back.

“How will you get back?” I asked.

Flashing the big smile that I knew melted knees, he tilted his head to the side. “I can fly back to a portal in a couple of hours. I’ll get home just fine.”

“Which way?” He pointed in a direction.

“Just keep walking east. I put a compass in your pack if you need it. Good luck.”

I thanked him again and turned to head East before stopping suddenly. “Wait, my note!” He rolled his eyes but accepted it as I shoved it into his hands.

 

Young poured over the books in front of him. He sat at a table with Dani, who seemed engrossed in what she was reading. Every so often he would venture a glance at her. She wore strange devices on her ears that would occasionally grant her the ability to turn sound off and focus. Looking at her it was hard to believe she had “enjoyed Vallen’s company”. She was so nice and smart and… normal. What the hell did she see in Vallen? Young knew his brother’s game wasn’t good enough to have won over Dani’s affection. Then again she wasn’t with his brother. She was courting a Vampire, after all.

Dani looked up to find Young staring at her. She had felt his gaze drilling into her head. “Yes?”

“I’m sorry, I’m just struggling with something,” Young explained.

“What’s that? I don’t read Old Dragon, but my Elven is improving.” She reached across the table to take the book in front of Young.

“No,” he said putting a hand down on the manuscript. “You’re so pretty, sweet, funny and, well, normal. How is it my brother managed to gain your affection for a short period of time?”

Dani blushed brightly. “He was lucky I guess,” she shrugged. “There will be more time to contemplate this after we find and rescue Alizeyah though.” Her gaze returned to the text in front of her. Young sank back on his chair and continued to read the manuscripts.

Vallen marched around the nest ordering armor checked and gathered. He was preparing for all-out war if that was what it would take to return Lady Alizeyah. Hue sat staring at the fire, empty. He had been sitting there for two days, only moving when needed. That was why everyone jumped in surprise when he sprang to his feet, only to fall to his knees before the fire. “Alizeyah, Mo shíorghrá! I hear you, I will find you and come for you. I promise.”

Young looked at his brother and exchanged looks. Vallen rushed to his friend, sinking to the ground beside him. “Shhh, Hudraer, my brother you are dreaming,” he attempted to console him.

Hue turned, grabbing Vallen by the front of his shirt. “No, she spoke with me. We were briefly connected. She is alive and she’s being held. She’s cold and in danger. Someone is using Gargoyle venom on her. We must find her before she ends up dead.”

Dani joined the Dragons by the fire. “Did she tell you where she was? Or who holds her? Anything to help us find her?” She knelt down “Oliver said there haven’t been Gargoyles in a long time. Is she sure it’s a Gargoyle?”

Hue turned fire-filled eyes in her direction. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to have an in depth conversation with her before she disappeared again. I don’t care who has her. When I find them I will decorate this nest with their entrails.” Dani leaned back, giving him a bit more space.

Jura’s voice startled the entire group. “It could be a Gargoyle, … or it could be a Mage.” Her eyes were wide and though she spoke it was apparent she wasn’t totally there.

 

I slowly became aware of my own existence. My whole body ached and I was cold. Possibly colder than I had ever been, but I just couldn’t seem to go numb. Ignoring the pain throbbing in my head I willed my eyes to open. At first my body wouldn’t do as I commanded, but as I continued to try eventually the world shifted into focus.

I was in a round stone room. Around me I could make out the forms of other beings held tightly against the walls, their heads dipped forward as if they were asleep. It was then I noticed I too was bound to the walls. Tight Iron manacles bit into my skin and if I tried to move they hissed and burned at my raw skin. My body began to panic even as I tried to will myself to stay calm. I was a prisoner.

A slow, cold chuckle from deep in the shadows drew my attention from my current predicament. “You’re awake. How very peculiar. Normally Gargoyle venom is very effective. It would appear another dose is in order. I do hope it doesn’t turn you to stone like a few of my earlier experiments.”

My eyes narrowed in the direction of the voice, trying to focus on its source. “Who are you? Why are you holding me?” My voice cracked painfully. My throat was dry, causing my tongue to feel two sizes too big for my mouth. A shadowy form slid from the darkness. He moved slowly with a slight hobble towards me. A heavy cloak obscured my view of him.

Another crackle of laughter and he grew closer. When he got close enough, all I could see under the hood were two glowing eyes – with my irises. “What’s wrong Magistrate, cat got your tongue?”

My head snapped back to look around the room. “Mac Flurry? Where are you?” A pitiful mew sounded close to me. “If you’ve hurt my kitten I will personally rip your ugly yellow eyes out.”

“Your familiar is alive. After all, he can’t be killed unless you are, but I can torture him if I like.” The shadowy figure turned his attention towards the little bundle of fur on the ground beside me. I tugged hard at the bindings on my wrists, causing the Iron to bite in deeper and burn me. He stopped and stared at my injuries. “Interesting. Most Fae would scream in agony when faced with those raw iron restraints. I knew when I smelled you that you were special. What type of Fae are you that my restraints buckle under your strength?”

Is it possible he hasn’t realized I’m a Darkling yet? I thought to myself. “Elven,” I said flatly.

“Hmmmm, I have another Elf. A warrior I picked up a couple decades ago. He’s stone now and doesn’t say much.” The figure motioned towards a darkened doorway.

Hue! Hue help me, he has Gargoyle venom. There was a sharp pain in my bicep and I felt myself growing colder. Hurry Hue, please help me. My only hope was that Hue could hear and sense me before my world went dark for good.

I watched as Hue sat pale and lifeless on the couch. Every so often he would get up long enough to yell, pound on the walls, sob and sink to the floor before Oliver, Ian, or I would encourage him to sit back down on the couch. My heart lurched a little more each time. It had been twenty-four hours since Kat went missing and she went silent on Hue’s mental link.

“Anything?” I asked hopefully.

Hue’s eyes had deep black circles under them when he looked up at me. “Sometimes I think I am getting something but when I try and focus she’s not there. What if she’s…?”

“Don’t say it!” Ian snapped loudly. “If you think you can sense her you probably can. She’s alive. I swear she is.”

I looked across the room to Oliver. He grimaced and continued to talk on the phone. Yesterday afternoon Hue left us all messages in an absolute panic. He said his connection with Kat had gone dead and he couldn’t reach her. It was only after a few hours of hysterics we figured out that he meant the mental link and not the phone.

“Yes, I understand, thank you,” Oliver said as he clicked the end button with an air of finality. We all looked up at him expectantly. “Nobody in the OAC has had any contact with her. I checked out Myeongdong’s Cathedral and Fae Tower last night and it was empty. It looked abandoned.” He looked at Ian “Did you notice anything today?”

Ian shook his head. “Her scent was barely there and there was no trace or scent of her inside at all. Nothing from MacFlurry either.”

I reached over and squeezed Hue’s hand. “She’s out there and we’ll find her. She’s a tough cookie. She slays Dragons, tackles Werewolves and is fearless in the face of Vampires. If I had to put my money on someone it would be her.”

He tried to lift the corners of his mouth at my words but was to exhausted with worry to succeed. “She was nervous and apprehensive about the meeting yesterday. I thought it was just because she was new to being a Magistrate. What if she knew something wasn’t right?” Tears streamed down his face. “I feel hollow inside.”

“She’s going to come back to us,” Ian said flatly.

It was all Hue needed to spring to his feet again. “How?!” he yelled. “How do you know that? You have no clue what it’s like to lose your Soul Mate! You couldn’t begin to fathom what I am feeling right now.”

Ian took a deep breath and looked like he was counting backwards from ten. “You’re right. I didn’t lose a Soul Mate, but I did lose my mate and both of my sons. I also had to watch as the first person to bring me happiness in a long time found her Soul Mate and grew more and more distant from me. I may not know firsthand what you are feeling, but I know what it would mean to me if I lost Kat. You may not be able to feel her but every atom of me believes she is out there and still alive. I don’t know why, but I just know!” His hands were shaking as he snapped off the last of his words and for the first time in months many of us remembered what had been between Ian and Kat. He turned on his heel to face Oliver. “Who knows how long she’ll stay that way if we don’t find her. What can you tell us about her assignment?”

Oliver handed Hue a dark substance in a glass and took a deep breath. “Kat had picked up a case about two lovers being kept from binding because of family and species ties. She researched the local gargoyle clan and went to go meet with them at the tower. When I went to check it out it didn’t look like the clan had been there in over a decade. What is more interesting is that no one at the OAC has seen or been able to get a lead on Lord Jellenaine since the day he came in. Birda can’t even really remember his face. She just knows he was a Unicorn.”

“That seems really odd,” I told the group. “You would think a six hundred year old virgin would remember a Unicorn.” They all nodded. “Is it the result of some sort of magic?” I asked.

“Most likely,” answered Oliver.

“What sort of creature would do this?” I asked. “Why would they want Kat?” I stopped for a moment and thought about how to clarify the statement. “I mean, we want her and all, but why would someone target her?”

Ian quirked a brow. “She’s a Fae and Darkling hybrid who happens to also be a Tempest. On the rarity scale… she’s up there.” Ian turned his attention to Hue. “Have you told Lady Jura yet? If not, I can do it. Maybe she will have some insight on what’s going on.”

I stood up. “Actually, I should go. Ian, you have muscle and tracking skills I don’t, but if Lady Jura has any leads or Vallen has any books that could prove useful, my strength is researching.” I realized what I was saying as the words came out of my mouth. Everyone looked as shocked as I was. I straightened my shirt and raised my chin. “She’s my friend, I have to help if I can.”

Hue stood up and walked over to stand in front of me. “I should be the one to tell Lady Jura, but I do agree you may be the best one to comb libraries. Chances are my vault will hold the books you really need.” With that the world swirled around us and we were standing alone in the great hall of the nest.

 

I looked up at the menacing tower hidden behind Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul’s very own Gothic cathedral built between 1892 and 1898. Fae glamour kept the tower hidden from the eyes of Humans. MacFlurry pressed his small warm body into my ankles as I felt frozen from a mixture of cold and fear. Gargoyles were not exactly know for their hospitality.

Did I tell you I love you this morning? I waited for Hue’s reassuring presence to brush against my mind.

Yes. Three time before you left and once when you arrived in Myeongdong. If you are this frightened then perhaps I should come meet with you and we can do this together. I wished with all my heart I could agree to that but as the Magistrate this was my job.

No, I got this. I didn’t got this.

There was silence, but I could feel he was surveying my emotions. If you say so. But if you need me, just call.

“Will you knock on the damn door already?” came a squeaky voice from around my feet. I looked down at my furry little familiar.

“Cool it! I will when I’m ready. If you don’t want to wait, go home and wait there.” His little folded ears seemed to droop and I resisted the urge to apologize to the kitten. Taking my courage in hand I knocked on the wooden door. I stood patiently waiting for any sound of movement within to indicate my knock had been heard. When a few moments passed without any signs of response I knocked again. Still no answer.

“Knock louder… harder,” chirped MacFlurry.

“Shhh, I will.” This time I raised my fist and pounded with the side of my hand. The vibrations shook the heavy door and seemed to rattle even a few of the surrounding stones. I looked down to ask MacFlurry if he thought they heard that but before I could, there was a rustling behind the door. With a rusty-sounding creak it opened about six inches. Two large yellow glowing eyes without irises stared down at me.

“What do you want?” growled a voice from within.

Clearing my throat and hoping to sound confident I opened my mouth and hope I sounded convincing. “I am Lady Alizeyah, Magistrate for the OAC. I am here on behalf of Lord Jellenaine and Master Gromy. It is my understanding that Master Gromy is being held against his will as a way of preventing the two from binding.”

“Go away!” The door slammed and reverberated through the old stone. I stared at it blinking for a moment.

“Did he just slam the door in my face?!” I asked, outraged by the rude treatment.

“It would seem that way,” said the furball hidden behind me.

I sighed deeply before pounding on the door again. There was shuffling inside again but no answer. “You can speak with me now or I can come back later with Enforcers. Then we can ALL talk about lots and lots of paperwork involving a Vampire who hates missing date nights.” There was whispering within. I crossed my arms over my chest and felt rather smug. Then the door was flung open and two large grey arms attached to something menacing looking grabbed me by the shoulders and dragged me into the darkness. There was a flash of white light and the world went dark and silent around me.

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