The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 9)

Mason

Lloyd was faintly aware of knocking on the door, but more aware of weight pressing against his left side. He groaned, trying to stretch, only to realize that his arm was pinned on the ground. He opened his eyes and she was there. Her eyelids were a soft pink in the sunlight that was streaming from the skylights overhead, and she was wrapped in his giant afghan his mother had given him before coming to Terminus. He smiled and twisted a lock of her hair with his free hand; whoever was at the door knocking was going to have to wait. This was something he was sure would not happen again.

He pulled her closer, their faces now only inches apart. He felt the coolness of her breath against his arm, tickling his skin. He silently wondered how long she had been here, and more importantly what had possessed her to sleep here. He traced her facial features with his eyes twenty times before deciding that he needed to see who was at the door. He was already forming a grudge for whoever could be on the other side of the door. He gently removed his arm trying desperately not to wake her. Supporting her head and knees he picked her up and gently laid her on the couch. He stretched and his back cracked and popped from another night sleeping on the floor. He realized unfortunately that it would not be long before he would have his own bed back.

Walking stiffly to the door, he rubbed his eyes noting that Susan and Aquara were waiting outside. “Come in guys.” He smiled as they glared at him. How long had he made them wait?

“Good morning Lloyd. Where is Teresa?” Aquara still hadn’t warmed up to him, but that was in her nature more than his character.

“She is asleep on the couch.” He pointed matter-of-fact to where she was still sleeping curled in the afghan. Aquara walked quickly passed him shooting him a glare he would not forget anytime soon. Susan entered afterwards smiling at him.

“Thank you for watching over her.” She patted his arm as if reassuring him that Aquara was just worried. He had to give them the benefit of the doubt that they still didn’t know that she had woken up yesterday afternoon. He had failed to mention it to anyone, so they were still assuming that she was still unconscious. He realized that made the scene look even more awkward than it actually was.

He moved hastily into the room with the others and sat on the armchair across from the couch. “She was awake yesterday afternoon for maybe ten minutes. I had her upstairs in my bed, so the fact that she had to have come downstairs in the middle of the night means she was awake for another ten minutes.” He failed to mention that they were originally on the floor, together. He smiled before continuing,“the doctor said that it would be normal for someone still trying to heal from a head injury to sleep a lot, it would only be dangerous if her brain had swollen, but he was sure it hadn’t.” Aquara tentatively put her hands around Teresa’s head. She determined the doctor was right, and silently praised Lloyd for having the good sense to console a doctor.

“Thank you Lloyd. Curran Territory extends their courtesy for taking such good care of our leader.” Aquara said silkily without making eye contact with him. She was only aware of Teresa in the room, the very person she was aware her world revolved around.

“I did what anyone else would do.” He stood moving to the kitchen, aware it was way passed his breakfast time. “Could I interest either of you in breakfast?” Aquara shook her head no, but Susan was willing. She even moved to help him in the kitchen. It would take him longer to warm up to Aquara than it should have, but she was always making it difficult on him. He knew that she could sense things inside humans that most couldn’t, and he also knew she had to sense his feelings towards Teresa. He cringed as he realized that Aquara was probably super aware of what was happening this morning, even behind a closed door.  He focused his entire attention on cooking, even though he was aware that he heard a small tinkle of laughter from Aquara at the turn of his mood, and he knew he had been right.


Teresa woke up right around the time they had finished breakfast. Aquara had laid her head in her lap and had been talking to him and Susan while they waited. Lloyd had gotten nervous, afraid that she wouldn’t wake up after sleeping on the floor. To his relief she woke up and laughed heartily as she realized who she was laying on. “Good morning Aquara.” Stretching she turned, her head swept the room stopping when she met his eyes. They sat there for a moment before her attention was pulled away by Susan.

“Teresa!” She hugged her best friend gently, but you could still see the wince as Susan had hugged just a little too hard. Lloyd immediately wanted to pull them apart, but that would be ridiculous, especially when Aquara was watching over her plenty enough.

“Why are you guys here?” She didn’t seem to be upset, genuinely curious. Lloyd had so hoped to get time alone with her, but that wasn’t looking very promising anymore.

“We almost sent a search party after you.” Aquara replied smoothly. A search party would have entailed the entire territory getting involved, and Lloyd knew that the water people were always very weary of each action they took. Unlike the Dwarves who allowed their emotion to drive their decisions. Teresa was also this way, which always confused Lloyd, because each person was matched with their ideal territory, but Teresa was almost exactly the opposite when it came to decision making. She always seemed to surprise him, especially in these types of situations. Although she seemed to be calm recently he knew she was even more hot headed than he was, and when the two of them were into it, it usually resulted in, well war.

“That was unnecessary.” Now she seemed to be on edge. It wasn’t so much that he saw it across her face, which usually was like a book to him, but that he could feel it too in his bones. “I was fine, Lloyd took great care of me.” A pang went through him as she said his name.

“We still need to know who did this to you.” He found himself saying before he thought of the consequences. Of course she wouldn’t want to talk about this so soon. She sat up on her own, proving to Aquara that she was fine no doubt. She met his gaze as she whispered.

“I don’t know who did this to me.” She was telling the truth, he knew. It unsettled him even more than if she had had a name for him. “I’ve been trying to remember, but each time I tried too hard I blacked out. It’s like whoever attacked me knew exactly where to hit me on my head so I wouldn’t remember anything.” He gritted his teeth and realized that he had dug his fingers into the arms of the chair he was sitting in. He closed his eyes breaking their eye contact. He needed to keep his emotions in check. He wasn’t used to exactly hiding them for an extended period of time. Opening his eyes as Susan spoke, he noticed she hadn’t looked away from him.

“Why were you in Lloyd’s territory in the first place?” Susan was soft spoken, but she was still just as curious as the rest of them. This question almost hurt Lloyd, but he knew that she wasn’t there to see him. She knew where he lived, and if she were coming for a visit she wouldn’t have been so far off in the forest.

“All I remember is running. I was pushing Molls to just run. I think we had walked passed Adam’s house, and the memories just choked me.” She sounded raspy as if she hadn’t had anything to drink in the past month. Lloyd moved to get her a fresh glass of water from the kitchen. He felt her eyes on him as he moved through the living area. He so desperately wanted to know what she was thinking, and wanted even more to ask her why she had joined him in the middle of the night.

“It’s okay. We will just have to double protection and stay within our borders from now on.” Aquara said reassuringly.

Lloyd returned with the glass handing it to her. Her fingers brushed against his, they were so cold. Instinctively he took her hands in his trying to warm them, forgetting for a moment that they were not alone. No longer caring he just looked up at her. She smiled down at him. “Thank you for finding me and Molls.” He knew she meant for not giving their secret away, for not making a big deal of finding her in the floor next to him.

“I’ll always find you, Teresa.” He replied before returning to the armchair away from her, as much as he hated it.

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The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 8)

———–One Week Later———-

Curran

 

My head felt as if someone had put a large weight on top of it to keep me pressed against the earth. My eyelids fluttered open and I could tell that I was inside, but I had no recollection of where exactly I was. The ceiling was a soft beige that was patterned by the shadows of leaves outside the window on my right. By the slant in the sun it had to be late afternoon. Good, I’ve only been out for a few minutes. I could hear the voices that were muffled downstairs, but I couldn’t make out who it was. Probably my rescuers or, a shudder ran through me, my attacker. I closed my eyes trying to control the instant adrenaline rush of panic that ripped through me like forest fire. I had no idea where my weapon was, or if I would ever be able to move.

I tried to lift my head off the pillow and a heavy throbbing began as a loud ring sounded in my ears. That was definitely the wrong idea. It felt like I was submerged in water without the struggle of drowning. I had thought about meeting death the moment I hit the ground earlier in the forest. I was running from something…but it was those familiar green eyes I had seen in the distant bushes. My attacker had come up from my right flank because I never saw it coming. That was as far as my short memory could go. I gritted my teeth in frustration. If I was going to survive this I needed to at least remember who I was up against, and be able to move, even though I wasn’t very good at warding off the attacker in the first place.

Before I had known it the voices were closer to the doorway than they were a moment ago. I gripped the sheets of the bed as the footfalls got closer to the door that blocked me from whatever was keeping me hostage. I closed my eyes hoping to keep up the façade of sleeping as they entered. It was definitely two different sets of footsteps. One was normal berth and light where the other was doubled to keep up and heavier. I tried not to grin as I realized I wasn’t amongst enemies at all, well not exactly.

“It’s been a week, maybe we should call the doctor and see what our next steps should be.” I wanted so badly to give my secret away, but I so enjoyed watching this man squirm. I could hear the tension in his voice. It sounded like he had just finished crying too. What had happened. Surely I wasn’t missing a leg or worse my entire lower half. I tried not to move as Vrogen answered him curtly.

“I been tellin’ ye this fer days now. If she was goin’ to wake up she’d a done it by now.” He was gruff, but honest. It wasn’t from lack of compassion, but more like survival. Vrogen was one of the smartest dwarves that she had ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was practical in difficult situations, and if it meant sacrificing the one for the many, that’s exactly what he would be willing to do no matter who it was.

I felt Lloyd wind his fingers through mine as he knelt next to me on the floor. I could feel and hear his hot breath against my arm as he labored the thought in his head. What would they have to do with me if I wasn’t really awake. What would Lloyd be willing to do for me, how long was he going to wait before he came to any kind of decision. It took everything in me not to squeeze his hand back as he held it close to his heart. I could feel the pulse beating strong like it were my own. It was almost like he was trying to give me his own strength, unfortunately it wasn’t that easy. Even though I was aware of my surroundings I was still aware of the fact that I couldn’t move without huge complications, so my injuries were pretty extensive.

I smirked, aware that they wouldn’t be looking at me, but absorbed in each other before speaking. “You know if you wanted to get me in bed, there are way easier ways to go about it.” I tried to laugh, but the effort caused my head to throb. My voice sounded raspy and distant even to my own ears. I opened my eyes to see his absolute shock and gratitude all in one grotesque facial expression.

“Teresa…my god…how…” He stuttered and I just squeezed his hand as hard as I could, which was probably nothing in his calloused hands.

“I’m never one to give up easily.” I smiled at them both, but I could tell that Lloyd was ecstatic enough for the both of them. Vrogen was mostly a motionless observer, someone on the sidelines not trying too hard to get involved in the mess and havoc I tend to wreck on people’s lives.

“Are you hungry? How do you feel? Do you need water? What about a blanket?” I rolled my eyes at him as he went blue in the face asking me all these ridiculous questions.

“No, like I’ve been hit in the head with a club, and yes…that would be marvelous. But hold off on the blankets for now.” His fingers melted away from my hand and he went instantly downstairs to the kitchen to get me some water. I could see the big goofy grin on his face as he left, which caused a pang of guilt inside me. My hand was clammy from how hot his hands were. I wiped them on the sheet before trying to sit up again.

“Ye really shouldn’t try that.” Vrogen advised, safely tucked next to the dresser against the wall. “ye don’t know if ye’ll be dizzy er what could happen.”

“I already tried, and I obviously didn’t get very far. I just want to sit up.” The bed, although I knew it had to be Lloyd’s, was not that comfortable, and was probably stuffed with straw. Vrogen walked over to the bed and helped me into a sitting position, tucking a pillow behind my head. It was kind of him, but unusual at the same time. He had gotten close only to whisper in my ear, always a motive with him. He grabbed a hold of my upper arm and held me still so I could hear him loud and clear.

“Don’t do anything to hurt him, or you will have an entire hive of dwarves on you.” He whispered. Typical Vrogen, threatening any and all that got in his way of sucking up to Lloyd. I honestly have no clue why he would think I was capable of hurting Lloyd. Maybe physically, but I promised Mary I would never harm him, no matter what happened or how angry I got. It was literally in the treaty that the other should not fall prey to physical harm at the other’s hand. It might not seem fair at times, but it was law.

“Okay…whatever.” I sighed and patted my thigh greatful that my lower half was working and present just as it should be.

 


 

 

I must have fallen asleep before Lloyd returned with my water, because when I woke again the room was dark except for the small candle burning on the dresser. Someone had forgotten to blow it out on their way out of the room. I also noticed two extra blankets at the foot of my bead folded waiting for me to need them. I rolled my eyes at Lloyd for always being overly cautious. Suddenly I was aware of how alone I really was and shuddered. I knew I was in Lloyd’s room, and safe in his house, but all I could think of now were those two glowing green eyes that had been haunting me for the past couple of weeks.

I turned and noticed the water that had been meant for me still sitting on the night stand. I reached for it, taking a gulp and forcing it down my raspy throat. It was so warm where it had sit there for hours. I gagged momentarily before determining that I would be getting myself a fresh glass of water. I tried to swing my legs out of bed only to suddenly be struck dizzy. Instead of laying back down I planted my feet on the floor and stuck my head between my legs waiting for the floor to quit moving. I may not be very smart for pushing myself, but I had always been determined once I set my mind to something. Once the walls had stopped breathing I braced myself on the headboard of the bed and hoisted myself up. I was a bit wobbly, but I was standing. I smiled as I slowly made my way for the balcony.

You could see the entire first floor from up here. I loved Lloyd’s cottage, even though it was smaller than my home, it was much cozier. I looked around and saw the cot Lloyd was supposed to be sleeping on, only to find him splayed in the floor next to it, his arms stretched out as if he were crucified on the floor. I stifled a laugh as I made my way downstairs. I headed immediately for the kitchen, and realized with great satisfaction that only clean fresh stream water would be coming out of the spigot. I rummaged around the cabinets looking for a clean glass, but settled on my hands. Cupped under the stream I filled them several times before deciding I had drank enough.

My lips were still chapped and I missed my favorite balm made from the plants of Lake Cymantilis at home. Another wave of dizziness seemed to whirl around me, but I held my weight against the island for a moment before I thought it would be safe for me to venture into the small living area. I pulled the afghan off the back of the small couch and laid in the floor across from Lloyd. I watched him breath softly and steadily as if untouched by time. He looked so young and innocent here in this moment. I knew a different side of this man from the others because of our past, but I felt as if this was a new side to even me. I finally rested my head on his outstretched arm, falling asleep to the steady beat of his heart in my ear, calming my nerves and warding off the inevitable nightmares.

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 7)

Davidson

 

Susan sat atop one of Teresa’s black stallion’s Lagrimear. He was one of her most pretentious horses, but he was the only horse that had responded to her when trying to saddle one for the search party. Even though he was the only one to respond to her, it still took her half an hour to get him to come out of the stall. She rolled her eyes as she mounted him slowly. He was a mountain compared to her shorter frame, she had no idea how Teresa even managed this without a step-stool.

Grudgingly she exited the barn slowly, because Lagrimear was only concerned that he needed to stretch his legs rather than get her somewhere. She swore under her breath as she tried to dig in her heels, which also didn’t work. Momentarily giving up she saw Aquara laughing at her from across the field. She sighed and pulled on the reigns, which much to her surprise made him pick up the pace to a trot. It wasn’t much, but they were at least getting somewhere.

Once she had caught up to Aquara she pretended she hadn’t notice her mockery earlier. “Where exactly are we supposed to search first?” Holding tightly onto the reigns, she squinted over to Aquara who looked lost in her own thoughts.

“I hate to even mention it, but Mary’s territory.” Aquara looked away from Susan’s questioning gaze. “I just have a feeling, and I’m never wrong.” Nodding Susan allowed her to lead as the rest of their search party arrived. It was a small band of five, including herself and Aquara. There was a guy susan barely recognized as one of Teresa’s stable hands, the guy who replaced Adam, she thought. Next to him on two beautiful water horses were two Water People that Susan did recognize, Aquara’s own parents, the leaders of their tribe. Smiling hesitantly at them Susan felt an immense amount of tension amongst the small group. It was apparent that Aquara had meant for more than only five to join in on the search, but this seemed to be the only group brave enough to look for Teresa. As sad as it was for Susan to admit, it was probably the only five people that liked her enough to go looking for her.

“Let’s get going, it will be dark in a few hours.” Aquara’s father, Imber, said solemnly. He strode forward leading the group towards Mary’s territory.

 

 


 

 

After a long and excruciatingly silent ride to Mary’s territory, the sun was just starting to set in the west. Susan squinted as a dark figure was approaching them from the left. She pointed out the shadow to Aquara and Unda, Aquara’s mother, their gaze followed her gesture and they halted. Waiting for the figure to approach made Susan’s skin begin to crawl. She knew that Aquara and her parents’ sight was ten times better than her own, but there is no way they would be able to tell who was approaching from this far away. The five of them stood in a small broken triangle with Imber at the head.

Digging her nails into her palms clutching the reigns as tightly as she could, Susan watched as the figure approached close enough for her to distinguish who it was. She was atop Velox the beautiful dusty grey mare that she only rode when she needed to be somewhere quickly. Mary’s hair was whipping out from behind her as she approached the group, if she was surprised to see them she did not show it at all as she neared them. Her hand was raised, the traditional Terminus salute whenever approaching in peace.

“Imber, I am Mary Moore coming to you with urgent news.” She looked at the five of them before continuing. “Teresa has been found in Lloyd’s territory overnight. She has sustained a head and leg injury. It was determined by the doctor that she was not thrown from her horse, but dragged and beaten. We are still waiting for her to wake up, but Lloyd had her up in her room. He has taken very good care of her and has the doctor checking on her regularly. I’m sure if you wanted to visit. . .”
“Mary, we have heard enough. Thank you for delivering this news to us.” Imber spoke in a very resonate bass as he and Unda turned their horses around. Aquara watched after them before she spoke.

“She’s okay?!” She half yelled once her parents were out of hearing range. Hydra whinnied, Susan observed as one of those mind connected side effects.

Mary nodded. “You can come with me if you want, I’m sure Lloyd won’t mind if you guys camp out at his house.” Susan frowned at the thought of spending even one night with Lloyd. It wasn’t that she loathed him like her best friend so publically did, she just didn’t really trust him as much as she should. It wasn’t as if any guys in their lives had betrayed them recently or anything.

“I think I should stay here to watch over the people, Teresa would understand and probably even insist that I stay here instead of waste my time pacing.” Aquara said without really meaning it. Susan knew that inner conflict well, because it was going on inside her too.

“I have so much to do with Isky, but I would love to see her.” Susan looked at Mary for the answer, as if she would have one.

“I can send after you once she has finally come out of this.” Aquara nodded as did Susan agreeing. They would be more help in their own territories, keeping the peace than they would pacing Lloyd’s small cottage floor, that would no doubt be crowded.

“It’s settled then.” Susan said before turning in the direction of her territory. Lagrimear had no problem moving now that he had gotten used to Susan at the reigns. He probably wasn’t used to someone as easy to push over as her, after all he did belong to Teresa.

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 6)

Moore

 

There was one thing Mary did not understand, how something could go from worse to even worse. They were all trying to move on from everything that had happened. Forgetting seemed to make things bearable, but it was hard to forget whenever he was still around seeking revenge on her friends. She wrung her hands together before facing Lloyd. They had found themselves outside again so they wouldn’t disturb Teresa upstairs. She watched him as he paced back and forth in front of her anxious to hear what her theory was. He looked terrified, but how could he not. Someone he cared about was harmed further than he was even able to help last night. She sighed because she was suddenly so exhausted. She felt as if she had aged ten years overnight. It seems like everyone has been so concerned about moving on that no one has stopped to pick Teresa up from dragging behind.

“Well?” He looked at her sternly; his blonde beard had begun to grow out again. The rugged mountain life had really engrained itself into him. He too looked like he had aged a decade in the past ten minutes.

“I don’t know how true this is, but he did stop at my house last night. He wanted to tell me something, but I didn’t want to listen to him.” She rubbed her hands together nervously. She was being vague because she wasn’t entirely sure how he was going to take her news. Lloyd had always been someone that couldn’t take news too well. Leading with his temper rather than sound logic, he and Teresa had that in common.

“Mary, please. . .” He shuffled his weight from his right foot to his left and buried his hands in the pockets of his pants.

“It was Adam,” she whispered “he showed up at my house last night and tried to talk to me, but I didn’t want to listen to what he had to say. I told him to stay gone…but I’m not sure he will listen to me. He looked pretty banged up.” She could feel the tension from him as soon as she had said his name. She didn’t want to be the first person to break the silence that was stretching out in front of them.

Lloyd turned away from her and half ran back into the house. She followed after him afraid he was going to hurt himself, or worse. He was cursing and gathering his bow. “Vrogen it was Adam!” He was practically hysterical. Mary grabbed for his arm.

“Lloyd! Stop! You are being ridiculous. Calm down, we need to talk about this.” Mary knew they were causing a scene, but at this point she didn’t really care. He looked at her like she had two heads, and almost hissed at her. She was pretty sure he would have cut her hand off if he had a sword or knife within grabbing distance.

“Mary. Please.” He was begging her. She could see the hurt in his eyes as easily as if he had said that he was in agony. She dropped her hand breathless. How could someone be so adamant about self-destruction over someone who was clueless? She felt as if she had been physically hit by the sheer amount of torment in Lloyd’s eyes.

“Lloyd, Teresa is waitin’ for ye upstairs, are ye sure ye want ta be doin’ somethin’ this reckless?” Vrogen grumbled from behind the island in the kitchen. Mary knew their bond was strong, very much like the bond between her and Zane. She also knew that Lloyd was never going to listen to either of them.

“I know.” He hesitated at the door. He was stuck between waiting and getting her back to safety or wiping out someone who should have been wiped out long ago. Mary shuddered because she felt so helpless. “I can’t let him get away with this.” The hostility had been replaced with that hopeless need to protect someone he cared about.

“I’m not even sure it was him. I just know he stopped at my house last night begging to tell me something and then disappeared.” Mary said trying to convince Lloyd of the logical answer here. “We need to be sure he is the one that did this. For all we know Teresa is just really clumsy, or has more enemies than we know about.” She smiled softly at the last thought. Teresa was crass, and had a knack for telling everyone what she thought without a filter. It would be possible for someone to hold a grudge against their friend; it was too easy for one of them to feel angst towards her at times. She was not the easiest person to get along with, but that was no excuse for whatever had happened to her.

“We should wait and see what she has to say for herself. Only she will know the truth.” Lloyd finally said after putting his bow back on its hook. He walked over to the stairs and hesitated. “Mary, have you told Susan or Sarah about what is happening?” Even though Sarah no longer lived in Terminus, it was still important to keep her informed, but she wasn’t exactly sure where Sarah would be.

“No I haven’t. Sarah and Brooklyn will already be back home by now, and I haven’t seen Susan in a few weeks. I will send Zane after them as soon as I can get back to my territory.” She had committed him to this favor before she had realized that Zane was gone. She would have to deliver the news herself, even though she was still shy around the fair folk that Susan lived amongst. It wasn’t like the dragons she was used to, who mostly kept to themselves in the mountains.

“Thank you.” He turned and walked up the stairs with purpose set between his shoulders. No one knew when she was going to wake up, or even if she would, but they had to hold out for the possibility that she would eventually wake and tell them everything about what happened in the woods last night. It was only a matter of time before the perpetrator was brought to justice. Mary knew it would be Lloyd that would be the first to volunteer, unless Teresa beat him to the punch herself.

Mary turned and walked herself out of Lloyd’s cottage at the base of the mountains. His territory was beautiful, even if evil things did tend to happen here.

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 5)

Mason

 

Lloyd woke up to the startling jar of someone pressing on his shoulder. Vrogen’s beard had grown longer since the last time Lloyd had seen him, or it could have been that Lloyd hadn’t been this close to his beard in a while. He sat up stretching his back as it achingly popped and cracked under the pressure of the floor. “Good mornin’ Master Mason.” Vrogen grumbled pushing his breakfast onto his lap. It was the same hearty breakfast he had grown accustom to since living amongst the dwarves. Two lamb chops, fried deeply, with fresh tomatoes, peppered eggs, three biscuits and some berry jelly. He groaned because the food was a sickly reminder that he hadn’t eaten last night. He quickly began to devour the food while Vrogen droned on about last night.

“I know she had no business a bein’ in our woods…I just want to know what she was thinkin’ bein’ anywhere unfamiliar after dark.” He stiffly combed his stocky fingers through his thick red beard.

“You know..” Lloyd said through a gulp of food, “it actually sounds like you care about her well-being.” He laughed before swallowing the remnants of the third biscuit.

“Only because ye care about her so much, if it weren’t for that I wouldn’t have let her sleep here last night. What were ye thinkin’ givin’ her ye bed?” He looked Lloyd straight in the eye, something the dwarves used as a compensation mechanism for being so small. They were a tough people, ground that way by the roughness of the mountains they inhabited. He too had grown scraggly since knowing them, but he still washed his hands, something he knew he couldn’t say about his small friend.

“I care because she is a leader in this land, just like me. I would hope that the others would extend the same curtosey..” Vrogen cut him off.
“The same courteousy if ye were tah be as stupid as her?” He sniffed before returning his hands to their typical crossed position. There was almost no bargaining with Vrogen once he had set his mind to an opinion, even if it were a biased one.

“Well she needs a doctor, send for one on the hour would you?” Lloyd asked nicely before finishing his breakfast. “I have some chopping to finish.” He handed the plate back to Vrogen before he stalked upstairs. He was originally supposed to just change his clothes but he couldn’t help himself. He found himself inside his room, where Teresa was still sleeping on his bed. She hadn’t changed position in the night, so she was still unconscious from the accident. He moved closer and gently kissed her forehead, dirty where she had no doubt hit the ground. Sighing he took a clean tunic from the cupboard next to his bed. He folded it neatly across his arm before leaving the room. He turned to find Vrogen tapping his foot outside the doorway.

“She is still asleep Vrogen, Please the doctor.” Lloyd was begging now, something he did not even  recognize in his own voice. It was very unlike him to feel like he couldn’t help or control a situation.

“On their way…just stay outta there.” He replied before he stalked off downstairs. Lloyd held his breath until he could no longer hear the heavy footsteps of his friend. He changed clothes and returned outside to chopping.

 


 

 

He wiped his brow as he threw the axe back into the stump, taking the gloves off. It was now midday, and the doctor had arrived half an hour ago. He walked in the house ready for a tall glass of water when he heard voices coming from upstairs. They were both familiar and husky as he had imagined the dwarves were talking about the guest.

“She seems to be holding up fine here. It’s lucky Lloyd found her when he did. If it had been any later she wouldn’t be breathing right now.” Charin the lovable family doctor chimed as footsteps moved about the bed. Lloyd pulled out a glass, but stopped as a third voice he hadn’t noticed before began.

“Yes, well he didn’t tell the rest of us that she was missing. I bet Aquara is worried sick over her, who knows what her territory is thinking right now. They are probably holding protests against the vampires because they think she has been kidnapped again. Why would he do such a thing and not tell any of us.” It was Mary. She would never understand the things he would do for Teresa. She would also never understand why he kept trying to win her over when his feelings were so obviously unrequited. But it wasn’t that easy. He gently sat the glass down on the counter so he could listen carefully without disturbing the flow of their conversation.

“Lloyd has his reasons.” Vrogen, loyal to the end.

“Yes, well I need to speak to him. Is he still out back chopping wood?” Mary asked. Lloyd froze, her voice was on the balcony now. He would be found out soon. He turned slowly, creeping out the door and walking over to the stump. He pulled his gloves out, and about that time Mary and Vrogen walked outside.

“Oh hey, didn’t expect to see you today Mary.” He said, hoping he was convincing.

“Hi, we need to talk, come inside.” She turned. Vrogen looked at him, knowing that he had been downstairs the entire time. This wasn’t as surprising as it should be. Dwarves had a way of hearing things that no one else really could, but when it came to spotting anything they were almost useless.

He followed them inside before picking up the glass he had abandoned on the counter not five minutes ago. Pouring himself some water, he offered her some, but she turned him down. Mary was always strictly business. “So…how can I help you.” He said trying not to seem too obvious as to where the conversation was likely to go.

“You can start by explaining why Teresa is unconscious in your bed, with a very badly stitched forehead.” She crossed her arms holding his gaze.

“I found her last night, by the creek. Molls had fallen,” he inwardly swore. Only Teresa called her horse by its’ nickname. “She was tangled in some vines and a fallen tree, and it looked like she had thrown Teresa several feet.” He recounted perfectly the scene in his head. How he had known who he was looking for as soon as he stabilized the mare. He ignored the goosebumps that rose on his arms.

“The doctor said someone cut her, there was a place on her leg that you didn’t see last night. Someone has attacked her Lloyd. Molly didn’t throw her, she was dragged off.” Mary looked down finally, probably with relief that it wasn’t him that attacked Teresa. He wondered why she would ever think that, and realized no one else saw what he saw. Plus that would be a direct break of the treaty that they all cherished so much, not that he paid much attention to that sort of thing. He nodded slowly, not even grasping that she was hurt further than he had examined last night until she looked back up at him. Someone has attacked her . . . she was dragged off echoed in his mind. He grasped the island in the kitchen for support, his self control slipping quickly.

“I think I know who it was.” She had lost all emotion in her eyes, and her mouth wasn’t quivering anymore. Mary knew, she had to know.

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 4)

Davidson

 

Pacing her kitchen in the bright light of morning Isky ventured for conversation. “You’ve been at it for o’while now Suzie…” She glared at him before continuing her pacing on the cold tile floor.

“She should have answered by now.” She said grumbling through her teeth before she gave up on pacing and leaned against the counter. “I left her a note after she went riding, I should have gotten something before bed, but especially now. There is something wrong Isky, I feel it.” She pushed herself off the counter before resuming her pacing back and forth across the floor. He watched her nervously as she walked roughly across the floor. It was moments like these that Isky had always wished the communication between mortals and the faerie folk was easier. Petty human issues never bothered those who had forever to experience life.

“Suzie, now…please, have a seat. I’m sure there was just somethin’ wrong with the post this mernin’” Isky said in his very heavy accent. She sighed before she sat across from him cradling her cup of coffee. Even though Isky was in the right frame of mind, it was so unlike Teresa to not answer her letters. Her messenger hadn’t even reported of any sort of acknowledgement from her that she’d read the original note. It was aggravating and time consuming to wait around for something that she was afraid may not come, and what it would mean if it never did.

Defeated she said, “I guess you’re right, or Aquara would have come by, especially if something was wrong.” She stirred in some honey before she sipped shyly at her coffee. “I’m just worried because I feel like I forced her to be in public yesterday. I knew she wasn’t ready for any kind of confrontation, even just a ride. It’s just, those water people get so restless whenever something isn’t going completely how they think it should go.” It wasn’t as if Teresa were secretly on the enemy’s side and trying to plot their demise, but since Adam had basically done that they have halted on trusting many humans including their leader.

“Which is why she belongs there, don’t ya say?” Isky shook his head before leaping down away from the counter. She watched as he left the kitchen, leaving her to her thoughts. Susan knew it was hard to like Teresa at times, but she had always been her best friend. It was harder for her to just dismiss this as some kind of coincidence. Reverting her thoughts back to Isky she thought of how lucky she was to have someone that was so understanding and patient with her.

Sometimes she was amazed at how in sync the two of them were, and other times she wanted to choke him. It came with the territory of mystical creatures. She knew she was flighty just like the rest of them, even had gypsy blood, but it wasn’t stopping her from being worried about her best friend. There was just something off about her yesterday, but there had been something off about her since Adam.

Susan pushed her chair up to the bar before dumping the rest of her coffee and honey concoction in the sink. She needed to dust off her pony, and it wasn’t going to do it itself. She would finish her chores quickly before returning to Curtis Territory to wake up her friend, just like every other day this week.


 

Once outside Susan felt like she could breathe. The mountain air was sweeter up here in Davis territory, because of the magical creatures that took up their residence here. It had taken her awhile to get used to the faeries that could fly, and the leprechauns that laughed a little too harshly at every joke she would tell. She knew they meant no harm, and were only trying to make her feel comfortable, it just wasn’t working. Most of the creatures she was supposed to live amongst kept to themselves, which was okay with her, but it still made her uneasy whenever they spoke to her as if they had been life long friends. She did enjoy the way they gracefully moved through the air like they were simply an extension of the earth itself, or a breath from a tree, maybe even a falling rain drop frozen in time suspended above the ground. She smiled at the thought of most of her friends being magical and as old as the earth itself. She always felt like she belonged whenever she thought of them in this way, mostly because of her heritage; a natural wanderer just like the rest of them.

She worked swiftly in the barn, making sure all the ponies were fed and watered at least for another day, depending on Teresa’s mood. She shut the door slowly before locking it. If she didn’t some of the wood nymphs liked to sneak in and spook the horses, so the thought it safer just to leave them locked outside. It was already noon by the sun being directly over her head, and beating down on her, but she had already decided to walk and wasn’t up for saddling her pony Ginger. It wasn’t that far to Teresa’s territory, and besides’ it was the one territory that was full of water.

As she walked the sun only seemed to get hotter, it was no time before she was dreading her decision. She loosened the patterned scarf she wore traditionally to signify she had gypsy blood, something she couldn’t get rid of no matter how far away they were from home. As she crossed the border into Teresa’s territory it was like the wave of panic crept over her again from this morning. There was something about the way the wind felt pressed against her face that didn’t seem right. It was always windy here, and the air was salty from the lake and river. But today the winds were eerily calm, like something was happening. She ran until she reached the edge of the village beneath Teresa’s house. She could tell something was going on because everyone was gathered in the square. It was as if every water person in existence had removed themselves from the water and were somehow swarmed in the center of the village. It was no wonder the wind wasn’t blowing off the lake and river, there wasn’t any life in them when the water people were on land. Walking closer to the group that had gathered she pressed against a nearby cottage to listen to what was happening.

“She’s been missing all night. I had no idea she would go that far or I would not have let her out of my sight.” It was Aquara, who sounded broken and worried. “She was riding Molly her grey mare. She looked as if she may have headed west towards Mary’s territory, but the Dragons have been so on edge recently they are not giving us any news on her whereabouts.” Susan sighed and walked into the middle of the crowd. She knew that Mary had a tight reign on those dragons but there was something about them that always put her off. Even Isky was shy around them, and that was odd for the small leprechaun. Aquara made eye contact with Susan while speaking to the crowd. “We need to send out a search party, only one so the other territories do not become suspicious. If anyone asks, we are simply seeking a holiday from the reminder of home. The uneasiness that you feel is nothing compared to how you would feel if the other territories thought we couldn’t handle ourselves, or our leader.” She looked away from Susan before finishing. “Please, help us bring Teresa home. She knows all of you, and she loves each of you equally. Help me bring her home.” Aquara stepped down into the crowd disappearing from Susan’s direct line of sight. She knew there was something wrong and she had been right. The reason Teresa hadn’t answered her letter last night was because she had never come home.

She jumped as someone had laid their hand on her shoulder. She turned and it was just Aquara, who looked like she had aged a hundred years since she had seen her last. “Susan, I need your help.”

“You didn’t even have to ask.”

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 3)

Mason

 

Lloyd was walking through his garden when he heard the high pitched whine of a horse. He couldn’t possibly know who it could be or what had happened, hadn’t he been chopping wood the whole time? Any normal person would have realized sooner that something was off about the way the horse kept whinnying. Even though this was true, he had a way of escaping into himself. He put the axe deep into the tree stump before mounting his stocky steed Monty who had been munching on the nearby garden vegetables. He followed the whining as it grew louder along with the rush of the river from the mountain. The wind bit into him even though he had his old flannel on. He couldn’t believe that it was still summer. Squinting he could make out the back of a horse that had been trapped under something resembling a log. He rode up slowly not to startle the creature, before tying his horse to a nearby tree. He approached the horse softly cooing, as its head was writhing beneath what looked like a fallen tree and vines. Her legs had gotten snagged and no doubt thrown her rider. The poor mare was staring at him with conviction as if she knew exactly who he was. His thoughts drifted back to the rider, there had to be one because the mare was saddled. Where the rider was, was completely beyond him. He gently stroked the horses head calming it before gently moving to its legs pulling on the vines. No use, the vines were intricately wrapped around its calves.

Walking back to his pack he felt around for his carving knife. Before long he had freed the horse. Gently tying it to the tree where his stood, he moved back to find the rider. He could hardly see as the sun was already going down, but kept searching it wouldn’t be long before any effort would be a complete waste of energy. Eventually he saw something in the distance glint in the final light of the sun. He sprinted towards the faint light to find a sword laying on the ground, around the hilt was wrapped a bloody hand. He rolled the body over and recognized her at once. Rolling his eyes he thought about leaving her there for dead, but decided against it. Mary would never have forgiven him if he had. It would have only been for the sheer fact that he needed to keep up the appearance that he had no interest in her. He put her sword back in its scabbard before lifting her in his arms. He laid her gently across the saddle of her horse before mounting Molly. He would have known the mare in a field of them, because of the way she responded to her, it was something you couldn’t ignore. He held her in his lap, before tying the reigns of Monty onto Molly’s saddle. Riding slowly through the forest he knew as a second home, he set off back to the cottage at the foot of the mountain.

 

When he got back, he didn’t have time to put the horses away properly. He asked Vrogen, his dwarf friend to put them away while he put her to bed. He could smell her lemon perfume through the blood and dirt. He grimaced as he laid her on his clean sheets. He really needed to look at her wounds, but he knew that this was mostly something to do with her head. She had no business being outside of her territory so late, and she was probably riding recklessly, like Mary had said she would. Teresa was so predictable in these situations. It wasn’t as if they were all grieving too, but she would pretend only she was in pain. Granted that slime Adam had betrayed  her tenfold to everyone else, she wasn’t the only one going through this. He had seen the look on her face as he had shot that arrow. She had trusted him, as blind and ignorant as it was, she trusted him of all people. Now she regrets everything she ever had to do with him. She has been such a mess that Susan has been staying with her, beyond even Aquara’s help. Where was she now anyway? She always had a tight grip on Teresa.

He smoothed her hair back away from her face to get a closer look. There was a small gash on her eyebrow, where blood now crusted down her lid to her cheek. He quickly went into the other room and gathered a bucket of clean water. Vrogen walked up the stairs by the time he had cleaned the cut and was now attempting to sew it closed. He crossed his arms watching from the doorway. “You know she asked for this.” He said huskily in his mountain voice. It was something Lloyd had picked up from the Dwarves after living amongst them for so long. Along with their shortness and difficulty with hospitality. No matter how hard he tried to conceal it, he still cared about her.

“I know.” He kept his attention focused on the task at hand; he didn’t need Vrogen’s backwards way of fixing his brain. “She looked like she had been there for a while. If I hadn’t been chopping, I might have been able to see her. . .” he trailed off. There was nothing he could have done to prevent this, he knew that. It still didn’t help that she was lying unconscious on his bed while still hating him. He had never understood their complicated relationship, but had never questioned it. Not until he had seen the way she looked at Adam, and realized with a pang that was how he looked at her.

“Lloyd, she is going to wake up and be really pissed that she is here. She isn’t going to remember anything and accuse you of kidnapping her.” Vrogen’s disappointment was colored in his tone.

“Did you put Molly in our extra stall?” He asked the dwarf without hesitation.

“Like you asked.” Vrogen stated before he stalked back into the dark house. Lloyd stopped and looked at his half-way sew job. He knew Mary would have done a much better job, but it was already dark, and it was no telling how long she had already been laying there. He removed her boots setting them at the end of the bed before he blew out the candle in the room. He tucked her into the blankets gently knowing it was going to get cold tonight just by the crispness of the air. He hesitated in the doorway before moving downstairs.

 

He put together a make-shift cot in the living room. He knew Vrogen was right, but Vrogen was also biased towards the opinions Lloyd wanted him to have. It wasn’t like Lloyd was intentionally manipulating Vrogen to believe certain things; he needed someone to talk sense into him, especially if he was going to be in close proximity with Teresa. It wasn’t always easy to keep his complicated feelings for her in check. She always struck one of his nerves, but at the same time caused his heart to race and palms to sweat. It was like she drove him crazy but happy at the same time. Not exactly the easiest thing to tell someone, especially when she held you responsible for the mess of a boyfriend she had been betrayed by. His thoughts slowly drifted back to her injuries and how she could have fallen off. He needed to call for a medic in the morning so they could look at her head. It wasn’t like her to have her sword drawn like she had, especially while riding. And what exactly was she doing in his territory this close to dark without Aquara. He flipped on the small cot before giving up and sleeping in the floor. As soon as he could drift off his dreams came seamlessly just as they had the night before.

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 2)

Moore

 

Brushing her black gelding, Mary pushed back the hair that had fallen in her eyes. Most of the day had passed as she groomed her horses, which was probably one of her favorite past times. It was past dinner time, but she hadn’t felt the urge to go in. She saw the shadow on the ground given by the soft glow of the candlelight before she had heard the footsteps. Zane had always tried not to frighten her, even though on occasion his ghostly tread left her breathless. She turned smacking the brush against the stall wall knocking free a bowl of dust as she looked at him, his face was set in a grim line. This was not going to be a good conversation, but one she had felt coming on for awhile.

“You don’t look so well.” She said as she stepped over the wash bucket dumping the water in the trough next to the wall across from his silent form. “Even for a vampire.” She smiled at him reassuringly. Whatever he had to say she almost didn’t want to hear it because of the good mood she had been in all day.

Zane sighed, still not used to Mary’s patience. “You are aware that the dragons have sent for me to return to the dark forest, they are unsettled by my presence even though you have told them a mass amount of times that I am on their side, they are still unsettled.” He had one of those slight accents that Mary had noticed after first moving to Terminus, it was a mixture of the old world and the English that she spoke. Either way his voice carried heaviness whether he meant it to or not.

Mary closed her eyes swearing under her breath as realization dawned on her. She knew that she had told the dragons several times that Zane was an ally and not part of the great war that had happened not even a month ago. She knew they were unsettled by the thought of him after the war, but simply reassuring them he was an ally was not going to work. They had given her an ultimatum, but she had ignored it on good faith that they would come around. Apparently she was wrong. She dusted her hands off throwing the bucket next to the shovel before facing Zane. How was she ever going to deliver this kind of news to someone she now considered to be a close friend, even closer than the friends she had come to Terminus with. His face hadn’t changed, and she knew he was reading her every action, but how could she tell him the truth. “Zane. . . I. . .they. . .”
“They’ve asked you to get rid of me before now haven’t they Mary.” He didn’t ask, because he already knew the answer. It was in the very way she held herself, away from him as if his gaze could melt her.

She folded her arms across her chest before answering, she chose her words carefully. “Yes, but I could never do that to you Zane. I was stalling…I was hoping I would come up with some sort of solution.”

“What solution? Were you planning on keeping me around?” He looked skeptical, but she nodded.  “Mary, It’s okay. I’m not technically needed anymore. You have a grasp on the dragons and their language. You are ally’s with them, and I would not want to come between the peace you have finally found in them. I can take Zephyr and we will be gone by dawn. It is not my duty to. . . babysit you.” He was looking at her incredulously as if this had been the most obvious option. She couldn’t think of a world without Zane, she had learned so much from him. It was he that had united Teresa and Lloyd during the great war. How could she simply see him off? It wasn’t going to be that easy, and she hoped he felt the same.

As he turned she could feel everything she had ever worked for slipping from her control. “No, Zane wait.” She ran to catch up to him, but he didn’t turn. He was gone behind the shadows before her eyes could adjust. He had to have known what the dragons had asked of her and made up his mind before he had even come to see her. It was so unlike him to ignore her. A clean break, she thought and she sighed before returning to cleaning up in the barn. After placing each horse in the appropriate stall she noticed that the sun had already set. She usually liked to be indoors before the dark, because she knew what the night brought with it.

Heading inside her small house she kicked off her boots after entering when a knock came at the door. “I knew you’d…” She cut herself off as she recognized who was standing at the door was not Zane, but Adam. “What the hell are you doing here?” She strangled. Her hands automatically going to her belt where her sword usually was, but came up short. She had left it in her bedroom this morning. Silently cursing herself she glared at him, digging her fingers into her palms from the tightness of her fists.

“Mary, I need to talk to you.” He looked scared and like he hadn’t eaten in a few days. Good, she thought. The candlelight slanted across his face in strange angles making him look innocent, but she was not about to let him fool her twice.

“I do not care to hear what you have to say Adam. Leave and stay gone.” she backed from the door slamming it in his face. She heard him put his forehead against the door and choking on a sob before turning and walking down the path. He had looked like the familiar face she had recently known to be friendly, however he was easily swayed by the vampires and had led them all into a trap. She touched the door as if by holding it tight in the frame would keep her safe. She had been stripped of her safety as soon as she had stepped off the ship that first day in Terminus.

She watched as far as the soft glow of her windows would allow before he too disappeared into the shadows. It unsettled her that he was allowed to walk around Terminus even though he had committed such a felony. The only problem was that the five of them could not come up with a reasonable punishment; therefore he was banished until they could think of something fitting for his crime. She had personally suggested equal and just punishment for him. By hanging him in the dark forest he would have no choice but to walk into the arms of his fate. Mary wasn’t normally a violent person, but she was very protective of her friends, and of all of them Teresa had been the most effected by Adam’s existence.

She walked through her dining room no longer having even a sliver of an appetite and into her living room where she stoked the already smoldering fire. She was sure it would be cold tonight so she put two logs on the fire before stalking back to her bedroom. The chill she felt in her bones was not something that would have easily gone away with a simple fire. It was too dark in her room without the candles lit, but she was so used to the set up that she could navigate its small quarters with her eyes closed. She pulled her riding clothes off and pulled on her night gown. Brushing her hair she felt the familiar wet nose press against her elbow. She grinned as Gizzy wagged his tail in the dark. He was a mutt that she had found before sailing to Terminus, and he was the one thing that she demanded she be allowed to keep with her. She pet his head before settling down beneath her covers. She was sure she wasn’t going to have a dream again tonight. It was unnerving how long she had gone without a dream, even a scary one. She was hyper-aware of the fact that Adam was still stalking around her territory, hoping he would run into Zane. It wasn’t long before the anxiety she had felt earlier during their interaction subsided and she closed her eyes, giving way to the night.

The Curran and Mason Wars. (Ch. 1)

Curran

 

Running. I could feel myself running, even though I was fully aware this was nothing but a dream. The surrounding forrest was dark making it difficult for me to successfully run without tripping. Snagging my ankle on a branch I braced myself against the dirt. I couldn’t feel it, all I could process was the heavy beating of my heart and the awareness of glaring eyes on my back. Gathering all the courage in my body I slowed my breathing enough to control the panic that was creeping up my spine. Looking back over my shoulder I saw it, the familiar green eyes glowing in the bushes behind me.

Screaming I woke up covered in sweat. I grabbed my chest pulling my covers off searching for the floor. I knew I needed to get out, get away from these walls that only reminded me of him. Looking around my room it had to be mid-day by the way the light was streaming in through the panes. Pawing at the curtain was my grey ball of fur Norbert. He mewed as he realized I was awake, snaking his body between my legs purring for food. “No,” I panted as I crawled out of bed and stumbled down the short hallway to my living room. Opening the fridge I heard Susan getting ready upstairs. She must have already gone for a ride this morning. I poured myself some orange juice and rummaged through the old pizza box on the bottom shelf. I was trying to stop the humming inside my head from the nightmare I just woke up from, only to realize I was living in my nightmare.

Dropping a piece of ham in Norbert’s bowl I looked up as Susan entered the room. She sat across from me on the bar stool and watched me as I ate my pizza crust. “You know, staying here hasn’t gotten old, but you really need to get over him.” She said nonchalant as she took a banana from the fruit bowl on the counter. As if any of this were really that easy to forget, or overcome.

“Get over who?” I joked knowing full well who she was referring to. “Maybe he’s the one that should be getting over me.” Yeah I thought like that will ever happen. 

Susan rolled her eyes, “yes because he is the one still in his pajamas at three in the afternoon eating two-day old pizza.” She wasn’t judging me, just stating fact. I looked down at myself ignoring her.

“I had that dream again. . . It’s not like this is just going to go away any time soon. Plus having you over here is like an extended vacation for you and Isky right?” I nodded at her bracelet he had given her, it was silver with little charms of shamrocks and faeries, of home. She shuffled uncomfortably on the stool before speaking again.

“Teresa, I know it is hard for you to understand that it wasn’t your fault. He betrayed you, not the other way around. Mary has been sending Zane over here after nightfall to see how you are. Even Lloyd has asked me how you’re doing a couple of times. We are all worried about you. You are taking this harder than any of us.” I looked away from her. I couldn’t handle the pressure of her stare anymore than I could handle the pressure of our friends worrying about me.

I knew deep down that what she was saying was true. It couldn’t possibly be my fault that Adam had betrayed all of us. But I still feel like any normal person would have recognized evil, especially when it was kissing them three or four times a day. Shaking my head to clear it I walked over to the small couch jammed next to the window. The sun was shining, but that didn’t mean it was hot outside. It was almost always cold here, especially where the villagers lived right next to the lake and river. I felt a shudder run through me as I held myself trying not to pay attention to Susan.

“At least go for a ride with Aquara. The water people are starting to talk, and it isn’t good. Knowing their leader isn’t firing on all cylinders is starting to worry them.” She patted my arm as she went back outside, probably to send a letter to Isky.

I drank the last dregs of my orange juice as I watched Norbert attack the ham from his bowl repeatedly. He was oblivious to the fact that I was having an emotional crisis, let alone that the ham was already dead. I laughed softly as he pounced on the ham, finally devouring it in two gulps. Now he was padding across the floor towards me as he gauged my reaction. He was a skilled hunter, but so was I. I was Teresa Curran, leader of the water people in Curran Territory. I was the one that had won the war against the vampires not even three weeks ago. Why was I going to let a small man ruin me?

I jumped off the couch running to my room. I threw on my riding pants and a tank top. Pulling my socks on I drew my riding boots from underneath the bed. I closed my eyes as I wiggled my toes in the well-worn boots. I had fought the most unthinkable evil in these boots and won. I had helped my friends save our land of Terminus. I had also lost one of the greatest war horses of my lifetime. Her name was Niageria, and she was a water horse. Only the water people are supposed to be able to tame and ride those beautiful creatures, but she had chosen me, trusted me. I had let her down. I pushed myself off the bed and got my gloves.


 

It was like nothing had changed. Staring at my horses in the barn I heard her approach. Not because she was noisy, but because I had become accustomed to the way Aquara could walk across the earth. I smiled at her sideways as she stood next to me her blue tinted skin glowing in the sunlight. “You realize this is much harder without your help.” She nudged me with her elbow and laughed her tinkle laugh.

“No one told you to muck the stalls.” I smiled at her before I hugged her. Something she hadn’t let me do for a long time, but after she trusted in me, after she could convince her people to trust me ,she finally allowed this closeness between us. Personal affection was not something that the water people threw around lightly, every touch had a purpose and a place. It was a really romantic belief if you got to the core value of it.

“No one had to” She rubbed my back with that same fluid motion that she takes her steps. The water runs through her, keeps her alive. She even smells like fresh rain, something that I’ve always loved about her.

“Susan told me you were ready to ride again.” Looking up at her deep green eyes I am reminded of my dream and I shudder involuntarily.

“Of course, any time you are ready.” She moved inside the barn to gather my saddle. Even though we are considered equals, she is still my second in command and likes to remind me of this from time to time. Most people would have let the power overwhelm them and erode through them until there was nothing human left, but I shy away from it. Our partners were to temporarily form the bond between us and the people that resided in our territories. They were to teach us their customs and language, and sadly it is taking Aquara longer than the rest. Even though we are all friends now and no longer considered each other strangers, it is difficult to watch her do her “duty”. She brought around my trusty grey mare Molly. She whinnied as I handed her a sugar cube, gently rubbing her nose.

“I’ve missed you Molls.” I whispered as I ran my fingers through her silky mane. She nuzzled my palm for another sugar cube as I laughed petting her shoulder. “Thank you Aquara.”

“I would never stand in the way of a woman and her horse.” Laughing she got on her water horse Nympha. Watching the two of them run was incredible. It was like two bodies moving as one graceful body. Realizing that me and Molly had a pretty solid connection I mounted her and took the reigns as if I were breathing. And then we were running. I choked on the fresh air as I laughed plunging us down the hill to the village below. I couldn’t see her but I was pretty sure that Aquara was rolling her eyes behind me. I pulled hard on the reigns and Molly turned precisely where I wanted to go. It was like we were more connected than any water person and water horse.

We slowed as we got to the outside of the village and water people were roaming around the streets with baskets of seaweed and kale watching me closely. I knew they were looking for someone weak and ready to run like a wounded animal. I held my head up and smiled as I passed calling them all by name, as they, responding with head nods, watched me as I passed. I smiled as we rode passed the stables where Adam worked, the small lean-to where he lived. That small cot we had shared. Closing my eyes I let up on the reigns and Molly was running again. She could sense where we were, knew what was going through my mind. Now with my eyes wide open all I could think of was how the wind was stinging my eyes as I hovered over my other half pounding against the path.