VIEWS: 11 PAGES: 113 POSTED ON: 9/19/2011
The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 The Dragon‟s Light Prologue Far above the jagged peaks of a desolate mountain range, a strange noise caused the alpha male to come to a halt and cock his head to listen. The shrill whining was not pleasant to his ears, but it was the other sounds that drew his attention. The sounds that accompany fleeing animals, who have been spooked by fear of a predator or the unknown were the ones that drew his interest. The large silver tipped wolf was no stranger to such things, and silently took in the scene in wolfish amusement. The pickings might be good for his pack this evening if things happened the way they often did in such a panic. The silly twits would lose some to fatal falls and others to broken necks, as the herds did not even stop to use common sense. Once again his ears returned to the intruding noise. The whine had become a roar, and then a strange instant of silence. The kind of moment that is fraught with tension had not even registered with him before a large object hurtled itself into his view. It was as if a giant had thrown an oddly shaped toy box away, and the toys spilled out. Startled, he almost leaped away in panic, but there was something odd about this thing. Something pulled him back toward the box, something that urged him to investigate. He paused, uncertain of his path. Reluctantly he edged toward the strange sight in the ravine below. There was fire, an acrid odor that hurt his keen sense of smell, and the scent of humans. That stopped him cold. Humans were not his favorites. Oh, some had their uses, but for the most part they were not trustworthy. Yet, his pride was at stake here, He had always guarded his territory well. He always knew what was happening and had always kept himself informed. His scouts were the best of the packs, and that was important to the pack's supremacy. He had a prize pack, and was proud to be their leader. He shook his head and started forward again. This time the scent of death was heavy in the air. What ever this was, he knew it wasn't good. Carefully he picked his way to the first person. The body was male, and there was no sign of awareness, no signs of 1 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 the breath that was so vital to all. This one had ceased to exist. He carefully moved farther toward the large box. Typical of humans to like boxes and odd shaped things made of strange materials. He much preferred the natural caves where his pack made their homes to the strange enclosures that these humans called houses. He had seen the village and that wasn't too bad. Natural materials were used, and they blended well into the forest surroundings. He had heard tales from other packs of strange silver towers, and the descriptions made him shiver. He hoped he never encountered anything like that in his wanderings because it was just too strange. An odd noise brought him up short, the sound, a whimper...a gasp...and then a moan of great pain. Clearly there was a need, but he didn't know if there was anything he could do. With a huge sigh, he went to see if he could help. He was not prepared for what he found. There was a golden furred human female, and if his eyes were not deceiving him, she was about to whelp! He knew how his mate was at this time, so he approached with great caution. The pain on her face was evident, and it was added to by the odd way in which she was twisted. He edged around her carefully and saw a definite problem. A cloth band wrapped and tangled around her arm trapped her. It kept her arm bent at an awkward angle. He slowly reached and began to tug at the offending band when another whimper passed her lips. She began to moan in earnest, and the wolf began to tug frantically at the band. She needed to be free in order to birth her pup, and he had to help. The band finally gave way with a tearing sound, and he grabbed the back of the garment she wore and started to drag her to shelter. He needed help. There was a cave close by, but others needed to be there. He let go of her clothing, and sprinted to the top of the ravine and called out to his brothers. The answer of the pack was a welcome sound. He gave them his orders, telling them what he needed them to do. He went back to the female, once more taking hold of the garment, tugging and pulling her toward the cave and shelter. Time was passing, and he thought it might be running out for the female. Pups were precious, and that was one thing he knew without a doubt. This pup may be human, but it deserved a chance as did its dam, and he would see to it if he could. Too many things that could go wrong, but sundown would soon be here. The pack 2 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 was on the way, and maybe they could hold on to the female and her pup until the rising. The wolf certainly hoped so. 3 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter I An aura of great urgency was rising steadily when a fountain of earth burst skyward, then resettled as Andreas Justicano Pernikov Draco burst from the ground. His senses flared as he sought the disturbance that caused his early rising. Old he was, a millennium and more in age, and walking on the fine edge of destruction. Time had been more kind than usual to him, but he knew it couldn't last. His plans were made. Dragon-kind were long gone, and it was past time for him to find his rest. Greeting the dawn for the last time should be easy. However, for the Ancient One, there were still those of his kind who had turned to the darkness within them and killed the innocent indiscriminately for the feeling of power it brought. They had to be destroyed before he could seek his own peace. He made his home here, had slept in the far reaches of these mountains for centuries, far away from the cries of his people‟s ghosts. In time, he was far from the deaths of his family, his friends, and his king. The pain was still fresh, even after all these centuries. The human invaders decimated his people, slaughtering them as they slept in what should have been the safety in their homes. Andreas had fought hard for as long as he could, but there was not a lot any of them could have done. He remembered falling in battle alongside the king, only to awaken later to a scene of desolation and despair. Valcour, their king, was dead, as was his queen Annai. Andreas had been left for dead, and awakened weak and hungry, only to come face to face with the tragedy, horror, and another fight. Several of the silths, the evil of dragon-kind, and the undead known to them as vampires had come to gloat over the Dragon King‟s defeat, and were quick to attack him. Andreas had used every trick in his vast arsenal to survive. He fought off the silths, destroying them even in his weakened state, and rid himself of the vampire braggarts as well. The loss of his people devastated him, and sorrow hung around him like a heavy shroud. His people were all gone, and he was alone except for the vermin of his 4 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 kind…the silths. He went out to fight them when he sensed the evil ones stir, and only long enough to dispatch them as quickly as possible. Andreas saw fewer silths lately, and hoped it was a good sign because he was tired of his lonely existence. He hunted when he felt the need, ran with his wolf pack when he needed company, but cared little about anything else. He was one of the strongest of his kind before he was forced to the healing earth, his strength further multiplied in his many lonely centuries of life. Death would not come easy for him. As with all his kind, however, Andreas was weakened by the sun at its zenith. Prolonged exposure to bright sunlight could still poison him and put an end to this miserable life. Andreas sought out the most remote reaches of his beloved homeland, the desolate, wild, untamable reaches where even his own kind seldom would have wanted to traverse. He gathered a pack and set up his home, and there he waited until the time came when he could at last meet the sun. Andreas knew he would sense when the time was right, but he was becoming anxious. The old mental paths were almost gone, and the silths and the undead no longer sought him out. Silths were fewer in number now, and he felt his job would soon be finished. His greatest sadness came because he was the last true one of dragon-kind and it brought him the only feelings remaining to him, a sense of sadness, great loneliness and pain. He supposed it was good, because it was the only thing that kept him from turning silth, ravishing the world, and killing all he came across. He shook off his maudlin thoughts and took to the sky in search of what had awakened him. He stopped long enough in one of the remote villages which dotted the deep valleys of the mountains and fed, then launched himself skyward once again in his search. The cry of the alpha male came clearly to his ears, and in the language of their kind, Andreas answered him. Through Kylos' eyes, he saw the destruction, and the attempt he was making to get a human to the Deep Cave, one of the pack‟s high mountain shelters. He sensed the alpha's concern for pups, but couldn't connect the worry with the pictures he was getting, the large wolf was unusually panicked, and that was not a good sign. The pack was gathering, riffling a site for anything they deemed 5 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 could be useful. It struck an amusing chord with Andreas because their sense of usefulness was skewed towards wolfly concerns, but they were doing their best. ~*~*~ Andreas used other senses to guide him while he mused over his wolves. They were a hardy and loyal pack, and thanks to their trust and a few eager volunteers, a long lived group. The alterations were imprinted genetically now, and the whole pack enjoyed unusual good heath and very long lives. It all started with Kylos, and likely wouldn't end anytime soon. Kylos, mortally injured and barely out of puppy-hood, had found his way to Andreas, and begged to be released from the slow death, and horrible suffering his illness imposed. Even as young and hurt as he was at the time, Kylos sensed Andreas was special, and more than the elder wolf he appeared to be. He was also nearly mad with an infection caused by a hunter‟s spear, weakened from the loss of blood, but he took the chance Andreas would be merciful. Andreas had great compassion for the young wolf, and took it upon himself to try to help Kylos, promising mercy if the pup could not be healed. The young wolf was the only surviving pup of an aging alpha pair in a dying pack. If he succumbed to his infected wounds, the pack would lose their next leader and their only hope. Kylos was a strong and extremely smart wolf for his youth, and his pack was frantic. Their hopes for renewal and survival were pinned on the young male. Andreas‟s care for Kylos earned him their loyalty and devotion when he even gave of his own blood to help. Although he remained ill for a long while, the pup survived, and at last grew strong and healthy again. The pack was assured a chance of success, and as an honour they added Andreas, their new fur-brother, to their ranks. Over the course of the years, the wolves amused Andreas and themselves by bringing their various hurts and pains to their strange fur-brother for healing. They found him unusual, but in the way of the pack, accepted him for what he was, a most revered elder and healer. He was looked upon as a respected elder brother sometimes disguised in a human form, sometimes another. They took great delight in running with him in his furred shape, showed great awe when he assumed his dragon form, and as a human, generally regarded him as a friend and advisor. The young often brought 6 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Andreas small gifts of food and unusual things they found on their patrols. The pack even relocated, taking over a new territory to be near the "Elder Brother" as they referred to Andreas. They kept him company, and sensing his desolation, did what they could to share their joy of life. They didn't know it, but they did much toward keeping Andreas from going to the Great Desert and greeting the dawn. They were protective of him, and were also protected by him, and when threats came to the pack as a whole, he flew to their aid. It was then they saw and accepted him in his true glistening and awesome Dragon-form. It was a sight they all loved, and all agreed the first sight of his magnificent dragon was one they would never forget. Every new litter of pups introduced to his Dragon were taught the proper respect, and learned to love this mighty protector. The pack would go to great lengths to see him happy, and his home contained many treasures and gifts from his furry family. In their devotion to him, they were about to lead him to his destiny. 7 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter II The pack had gathered at the strange metal box, and they were searching through the ruins of what was once a small plane. They found three other humans, all ceased to live. Only the whelping female was still alive. Where there was life, there was hope, and the pack members were united in their cause. The female and her pup would be protected, that was their driving force. Their lives, in spite of the many gifts given by their fur-brother, were often harsh and uncertain, yet the strength of the pack was in their unity and their joy. They understood the cycle of life, the inevitability of death, and never killed frivolously. They were wolves and they revered life in general. The young and females were protected at any cost, and although the female now sheltered in the cave was not exactly like their fur-brother, they would do what they could to assure her survival and that of her pup. The mantra in their minds was clear...life is precious, protect it at all costs. This was the message that was carried in the wind as Andreas approached the cave. The source of the disturbance was clear, but not the panic. Was the pack safe? His query carried to the alpha male, yet answered by the pack. Gifts fur-brother, gifts of great value we have found, but you must hurry. The golden female, your mate is whelping fur- brother, and she is hurt. Quickly, the pup must survive. Your pup fur-brother, your mate and your pup! His attention was turned to Kylos who was looking anxiously at the form on the floor of the cave. The sight greeting him through the alpha's eyes was astounding to say the least. The creature was the most exquisite he had seen in his many years of survival, and he had seen many. A tangled fall of honey gold hair framed a face filled with delicate features that were currently too pale and drawn for his peace of mind. The dirt and leaves caught in the tangled strands added to her distress, her inability to get away from the wolves added a note of panic to the pain. She was sure she was going to die, and the tear-filled eyes raised in Kylos' direction were full of pleading. Before Andreas could send a thought, Katrina appeared with her sisters, and the 8 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 pups. Going to Kylos, she growled and then proceeded to place the pups next to the woman. With a warning yip, and a swat to the most rambunctious of her brood, Katrina settled down and placed her head gently on the woman's shoulder. The intent was to offer comfort, but the pain and fear in the woman was too great. As great shivers racked her frail body, and the contractions increased, the woman had no inkling of her true situation. Her silent cries carried on the wind, and to his surprise, Andreas found a path to her and answered. “Be calm Golden One, I come. Kylos and Katrina only wish to help you. Do not fear for I am close. Sleep ma petite, they will guard you and keep you warm. Do not fear young one, you are safe.” As the pack sensed his approach, they left off what they were doing, greeting Andreas warmly and with great enthusiasm. Each conveyed his or her part in caring for his mate, and although their assertions puzzled him, he conveyed his appreciation and gave very generously of what affection he was able among the pack members. Calling out to let Kylos know he had arrived, he was greeted by him and an enthusiastic but extremely worried flurry of greetings from his alpha female. They did all but drag Andreas into the farthest and most protected chamber of the caves. There, nested in a haphazard pile of whatever softness the pack could find, lay the exquisite beauty he had seen through Kylos' eyes. The honey blond of her hair and paleness of her skin were not something he would forget soon. She was beautiful beyond words, and his pack had claimed her as his mate. He set to work quickly, her injuries needed to be tended to if she was to survive. She had several deep wounds the wolves had attempted to cleanse, but it was evident she lost a lot of blood before they arrived. She needed blood badly, and his was all there was to replenish her loss. It was a chance he had to take, but he remembered all too clearly the results of the attacks on human women, the rogue dragon-kind and vampire attempts to turn them, and the insanity that followed. But the bright red slashes marring her body could not be tolerated, nor could her lack of colour. Swiftly he slit his wrist and forced his ancient blood into the woman, stroking her throat to ensure she swallowed enough to speed the healing of her body. She would need more later, but for now, he 9 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 had to concentrate on trying to ease her pain, seal the wounds she suffered in the crash so she would lose no more of her precious blood. In the shadowed recesses of his mind, he became aware of pleading voices crying for his attention and help. The concerns of the wolves were brought back full force when he realized the babe was in dire straights. If not brought forth soon, it would die. Andreas opened all his senses and found heart beats. To his surprise, there was not just one, but three! Her children could not be lost, that was not to be tolerated. He was brought up in the beliefs of his people, women were protected and cherished at all costs, as were their very precious offspring. He knew humans didn't have the same reverence for life, but it couldn‟t stop age old instincts from kicking in. Following tenuous threads, he gave the young assurances he would do whatever was necessary, and they had to have faith and hold on as long as they could. With a sharp order to the pack, he dissolved into a mist and sped from the shelter of the cave into the deepening twilight. The hunters never knew what happened, but they were delayed in returning home that night, as was the woodsman, and a group of merchants who happened to be returning late from a journey to another village. Thus fortified, Andreas rushed back to the cave. Lifting her gently, he brought the woman back to a semblance of wakefulness. As she came to consciousness, he seized her mind and drove into her a compulsion to feed. He delved deep into her sleep-fogged mind, as a sharpened claw sliced a gash in his chest. His ancient and powerful blood was the only thing standing between life and death for her and her babes, and if he couldn't save such precious innocence, he did not deserve to continue himself. If they perished, he would follow them into the light of the sun, and have no regrets. His dedication to them and his focus on their survival didn't register with him at all, as he felt only the showering of warmth and encouragement from the pack. When he sat back, pale from the gift of his healing blood, the strangeness of his situation hit with the force of a lightning bolt. The sensation of relief and a swirl of emotions he now felt nearly incapacitated him. Kylos and Katrina stood by watchfully and he finally felt the love they shared with him and to their surprise, for the first time he reflected it back. 10 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 “I feel fur-brothers, what gift have you brought that I feel so much? I have not felt true emotions in many hundreds of years. Ah my friends, if the total years were to be counted, upwards of two millennia have passed for me without knowing feelings such as I am experiencing at this moment.” His thoughts, filled with a sense of wonder, reflected joy and puzzlement as well. “What have you brought me, my loyal pack, what do you know? The simple statement from Kylos, and echoed by the pack, nearly floored him. “We have gifted you with your mate, fur-brother. As she whom you call Katrina is to me, so the golden fur-sister is to you. We have found your mate for you. We must see to your continuation and happiness, and to that end, we have brought to you your mate and her litter. Rejoice with us and be at ease. It is our destiny to be together always, our houses linked, our generations shall travel the paths together. She is here, the golden one is the chosen. I have seen it to be, the path is set. Rejoice fur-brother, Loki has told us, we know.” Kylos, his job done for now, closed his eyes and slept. He had a long, stressful day and the rest was welcome. The others in the pack would provide, and guard for a while. After all, the mate of the fur-brother had to be protected, and he wasn't in any shape to do it at the moment. That is truthfully, after all, the whole purpose of the pack. They had to work together for the benefit of all, and the fur-brother was an important and most revered member, they could do no less for him. 11 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter III A soft whimper and a nudge roused Andreas from a rest the likes of which he hadn't been able to take in at least a millennium. A moan brought him to full alert. Dawn was still several hours away, but the woman was rousing. The trauma had been too much, and the babes couldn't wait. Kylos was also awake, looking as though he was just waiting for instructions. That thought brought a smile to Andreas' mind and also softened the harsh lines of his face. It felt odd to smile. He had almost forgotten what it felt like and was, in truth, surprised he still knew how. The strange and curiosity filled look on Kylos' face told him the smile was truly plastered across his own, and a touch of his hand confirmed it as fact. The wolves had never seen him smile, for his emotions had been long repressed when they first met. His attention was brought back to the woman as another moan was wrenched from her. He did his best to care for the semi-conscious woman, crooning softly to her as he fed her small sips of cool water to ease the dryness of her throat. Carefully he eased her back to the bed and with a gentle compulsion sent her once again to sleep. Another examination told him he did not have a lot of time. The blood helped, her condition was better, but his preparations must be made with haste. His request brought the pack running with an assortment of dry branches and limbs which could be used for heat. With a thought and a wave he created a place to start a fire, and another wave built and lit a cozy blaze. Rattles and clinks heralded the arrival of a group of youngsters to the cavern with odd bits and pieces of metal and plastic, and among them some actually useful things. A basin shaped piece of the fuselage would do to carry more water until Andreas could take the time to fashion a better one. It was set near the spring that bubbled up at the back of the cavern. There were odd pieces of flatware from the galley, a pair of glasses of clear plastic, a couple cushions and several tasseled throw pillows that the youths had actually managed to keep in tact, and one badly chewed. From the quality of the items before him, Andreas knew the owners of the plane had not been lacking in wealth. Also 12 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 among the finds, were several very fluffy comforters, and a half dozen bed pillows which he took immediately into the inner chamber. The fleeting wish of one youngster told Andreas there was at least one mattress available, and he left quickly to see if it could be brought into the chamber. As the youngsters gamboled around him in the fading night, their high spirits gave him pause. He also took note of the darkly shaded greens, almost faded to black in the deep of night. How many years had it been since he could make such fine and subtle distinctions in color? At that realization his knees almost buckled. Appreciation of true and vibrant color had been missing in his life for so long! Once again a nudge and a soft woof brought him back to the matters at hand. Securing all the bedding he could find and transferring it to the cavern was his immediate imperative. With much playing and outright shows of sheer delight, the pack members did their best to help and were rewarded by more of the strange grins from their fur- brother that they finally and correctly interpreted as joy. At last they had gathered everything they could salvage from the wreck as far as bedding went. Three huge piles were heaped in the outer chamber, and awaited Andreas when he returned. Built for traveling in luxury, the plane contained three huge beds and several sets of linens and blankets for each. They had been lucky there had not been more damage, and everything possible was salvaged. When Andreas returned with the mattresses, the pack gathered around the chamber with looks of great satisfaction at their collection of goods. Smug satisfaction was written on every wolfish face, and Andreas experienced another long lost emotion as laughter bubbled up in a series of deep chuckles. After the best set of the mattresses were moved into the woman's chamber, Andreas brought the rest into the main cavern for the rest of his pack. He found himself chuckling again at their antics, and set to work doing his best to clean and organize their quarters. His thoughts and gestures cleaned, repaired, flipped and folded the piled bedding into neat bundles and a subtle gesture transferred them onto the natural shelves of the chamber. Sheets were chosen for the woman, and a bed made up for her. They saw her safely transferred to it, and tucked into its warmth. There was only the waiting now, and that 13 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 would be the hardest part. Andreas called to Kylos and Katrina. With a picture in his mind, he showed the pair what he still needed for the woman's comfort. He requested them to locate the items, conveying to them she must have had at least some of the belongings with her. Kylos left the chamber, and soon returned dragging a suitcase, followed by another of the pack with another case, and a third with a pair of smaller bags. Andreas gave them his thanks and gratitude, and then started to examine their findings. The small case contained the items he had been looking for, the suitcase was a bonus. Kylos had been unerringly drawn to the scent of ones belonging to the woman. Acutely aware of the passage of time, Andreas left the cavern to collect a cache of food and to feed himself. He knew he would need all the strength he could muster and sincerely hoped that the woman could or would wait until he would be able to help her through the rigors of birth. He didn't know if he could hold out during the height of the day in spite of his age, but he would do his best. Not technically a healer, Andreas took it upon himself to learn what he could of the healing arts. As the numbers of his race dwindled he had to have the knowledge for his own needs. Even now there was fleeting hope in case help was needed by others. As the years passed, he studied when and where he could, and picked up extensive knowledge of herbal lore and modern medicine. He only hoped his ability and skills were going to be enough. Though he had tried to conserve as much energy as he could, Andreas started to feel the tug of sunrise and the urge to sleep. He couldn't go home and leave the woman in the care of Katrina and Kylos. That was against his every instinct, and he sensed it was not safe to move her right now. Andreas settled on a pile of cushions and allowed his mind to drift. He lapsed into a human-like sleep, the only way he knew to fight the lethargy pulling at him. It was the best way to handle his body‟s craving for the dreamless hibernation sleep of his kind. He knew this way Kylos would be able to wake him if the need became too great. 14 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter IV A nudge and a yip brought Andreas out of his sleep. Although his body felt heavy and told him the sun was just past its peak, the urgency in the alpha female's voice told him the time had come, and the woman could wait no longer. A moan followed by a cry of intense pain let him know she was fighting to wake. She writhed in her bed for the agony of her labor was riding her hard. She fought even the light blanket covering her nakedness as her back arched with the contractions. A hand on her distended belly told him the babes were still all right, but they had to be born now. Slowly Andreas slipped through the pain and into her thoughts, and merging his mind with hers sought out her name. Illana Whitney, the name suited her well for it was exotic and unique, just as she was becoming very special to him. Crooning to her in his native tongue he attempted to draw some of the pain from her. As he knelt beside her, he left his body and using his essence, entered her body and did what he could to ease the small beings fighting to be born. Carefully he inspected each of them and shared with them the joy he felt in their existence. He gave them the beautiful images of places he had been, things he had done, and the sights he had seen. He showed them their mother and assured them they were most welcome in his world and they would be safe and well loved. He gave generously of his thoughts and hopes, showing them his most cherished dreams of a happy home and large family. As gently as he could he left them, telling them that he would see them soon. Their mother needed him right now. As he withdrew, he gently pinched a nerve bringing temporary relief to the straining woman. Illana, his Illana. That thought nearly struck him down. She was a human and not one of his kind. She lived in the light, while he was relegated to the darkness and the shadows. What kind of a life could they have together? How could they be mates? The women he had seen vampires attempt to turn were deranged and suffered horribly, those attempted by his kind suffered similar fates. They had to be destroyed, and that 15 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 went against his every instinct. There was no way he could or would subject her to that fate. He would rather burn in light than have to destroy this golden beauty. A startled gasp brought him back to himself, and he snapped his eyes up to a pair that were pain glazed and china blue in color. He could tell she was trying to focus, but the effort was taking a toll on her already taxed body. Andreas knew she couldn't go anywhere for she did not possess the strength but having her go into an unnecessary panic was to be avoided at all costs. He needed a distraction, and it had to be a good one. Using a simple child's trick and the cooperation of one of Katrina's pups, Andreas set up his distraction in moments. As the pup yipped and gamboled into the chamber, Andreas spoke to Illana in soothing tones in her mind, and asked her how she was feeling. The tactic seemed to avert the panic as confusion clouded eyes finally turned in his direction. ~*~*~ "Where?" The voice rasped painfully from Illana's parched throat followed by another throaty moan as once again her body struggled to cope with the heavy contractions. “Where am I? The others…” Illana Whitney did not feel dead. There was a lot of hurt, and because she didn't think there would be any feelings in death, and there was some heavy duty pain here and now, she came to the conclusion she had some how survived the plane crash. As another contraction shook her, she knew she was in a world of trouble. She vividly remembered the plane stalling out, the nose dipping, and then feeling it spiraling down toward the desolate wooded peaks below. She also remembered the fear and the panic she experienced when she thought of the twins she carried. Never, not by any stretch of imagination, would she have thought she could ever survive a crash into those formidable mountains. Neither did she give great odds on her chance for survival now. Damn Brant and Shelly for dying on her and leaving her to give birth to, and raise their children alone. And on that thought she once again gave herself over to the pain radiating through her lower body. As the contraction eased, she was able to take in some of her surroundings. She was hallucinating for certain because it appeared she was in a cave being cared for by the 16 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 most incredibly beautiful angel. A glass was tipped to her lips, the cool water easing the dryness as a deep velvet voice coaxed her to take small sips only. She wanted to hear him speak again, and strained toward him as a flower seeks the sun. The purity in the rich tones was enough to take her mind off the pain that wracked her sore and abused body. She didn't fully understand it, but the sound of his voice brought her a kind of peace, an easing of her labor. The angel was another puzzling story, however, for she had never seen such a beautiful man anywhere in the real world. Hair the color of the best and richest ebony was drawn back from a wide forehead, gathered haphazardly into a leather thong at the nape of his neck, and hung down well past a set of broad shoulders. Eyes of a deep piercing blue were set beneath finely arched masculine brows which served as accents to the slim aristocratic blade of a nose and full sculptured lips. A firmly and arrogantly set jaw gave one no doubts that this was a man very used to command. A shirt of the whitest silk was stretched over his massive shoulders and an incredible expanse of chest. It was left almost carelessly open at the throat, and in spite of the fact they were obviously in a cave of some sort, it bore not a trace of dirt. A pair of immaculate gray wool slacks hugged lean hips and disappeared into a pair of highly polished Hessians. He was the epitome of masculine beauty and authority mixed with the lethal grace of a predator. Her surroundings were lit by a fire set in one wall and a dozen or so candles set on stone shelves and niches along the cavern walls. As another contraction started, a slight movement in the far corner caught her eye. It couldn't be a wolf, not here, not now...that had only been a dream...she would not panic...and with that thought clasped tightly in her mind she once again gave over to the pain and the strange but soothing chant that seemed to echo in the recesses of her mind. Strangely, it allowed the discomfort to flow over her easily, easing the pain of the contractions, and calming her badly frayed nerves. 17 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter V Andreas sat patiently waiting for the end of the contraction. He began to take stock of what was happening within himself, and was a bit confused. He was feeling a bit shredded right now, and was not sure he could deal easily with everything in this current situation. Nothing in the pair of millennia he had existed had prepared him for this particular experience, let alone the shattering of his muted world with the suddenly bright swirling colors and turbulent emotions. There was no handbook on how to handle strange situations like this one. A renewed longing, as sharp as a well honed knife, sliced through him as he realized once again his own people were gone. As the full impact of the lonely reality hit anew, a cry of pure pain and extreme anguish echoed in his mind alone for there were none of his kind left to hear his agony. Please stop! Who are you? Where are you? We feel your pain! Let us help. The reply brought a startled gasp. It came from the almost forgotten path, the common one greatly eroded from lack of use. It had to be a trick but his curiosity was aroused. Were they dragon-kind or faerie-kin, Silth or vampire? Not knowing the source, Andreas slammed down barriers and marked the path for exploration later. His instincts to protect went into full alert, and he scanned the area very carefully and very thoroughly. He felt a bit foolish, for certainly this had to be only the imaginings of a very lonely and finally delusional mind. He set the foolish feelings aside as he was driven to be certain of Illana's safety. "Please, make them stop!" The distressed pleas from Illana brought him up short. His attention focused on the woman, barely more than a girl, who was now in his care. "They are making my head hurt, must they shout so loud?" "Illana, focus for me if you can, I will help you. The babes are coming, can you push for me?" The mesmerizing velvet tones of the angel caught and held her attention. His voice temporarily blocked the babble and cacophony in her mind, forcing her to listen to him and him alone. Compulsion for her to comply, the need to do whatever her angel asked in the hopes that he would speak again. Dutifully and instinctually she 18 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 complied and the real chore began. A gesture brought the makeshift basin within Andreas' reach, another warmed and scented the water and provided a cloth for his use. He bathed her perspiring brow while crooning encouragements and endearments, the latter he was not aware of, but those endearments settled deep within Illana's mind to be taken out and looked at later. The voice alone was compelling, the attraction she was feeling was stranger still. It had to be a mixture of gratitude and pain making her feel so odd and hallucinate so badly. She had given up on the 'being dead' idea, because this hurt just entirely too much. She had a vague impression the angel had done something or given her something to ease her pain, but at this point, she was not sure of anything but the terrible pressure cramping in her abdomen. "Push Illana, push hard now!" there was no mistaking the command, and she felt as though strong hands were helping her in the effort. "Again sweetheart, once more" the angel prompted. She moaned as she felt as though she was being torn in half. With a scream, she was barely able to bear down as the first new life slipped into Andreas' world. "It is a boy, Illana, a beautiful male child," she heard her angel say over a very tiny but lusty howl. "No." she corrected with a firm shake of her head and the hint of a smile. "The twins are girls, the sonogram said so, and the tests done confirmed it." The thought was lost as another contraction took her breath. Her angel chuckled as he replied, "the healer and the sonogram were wrong, Illana. We shall argue about this later, but for now, I want you to push again on the next hard contraction. Can you do that for me? I shall try to ease your discomfort. Try to relax a bit, do you feel the warmth?" ~*~*~ Illana closed her eyes as warmth actually did spread through her easing some of the pain from her body, the confusion from mind. It was comforting she knew she had never felt so cherished in her whole life. It was hard enough being pregnant and left on her own, but the tragedy that had taken her brother and his wife still brought great pain to 19 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Illana‟s heart. Death was not at all fair, taking them just as they were getting the children they wanted. And why she had agreed to take the additional trip to Romania in the first place when she was so close to term....a really stupid move on her part. She should have stayed at the chalet near Innsbruck, the last piece of her family's life that remained. Her musings were cut short by the start of another contraction and her angel‟s demands for her to push. With a mind completely clouded in hazy warmth which dulled her thoughts, Illana barely noticed the directions being given or the pains suffered as she brought forth her twin girls. There were questions in her mind, answers she felt she needed, but she did not have the stamina to think about them or ask them at this time. She only knew she hurt, knew her children were being born, and sensed they survived even against the odds. They were too early, instinct told her this, but she was in no shape to question anything, was not strong or lucid enough to get the answers she wanted. Hurt, worry, and the labor had taken their toll, and yet Illana felt safe and protected as she drifted off into her first sound sleep since the crash. Andreas was successful in blocking her conscious mind, sending her to sleep. Only later when he had her cleaned and settled once again would she be brought back to full awareness. Then she would begin to question the meaning of her life, her situation, and then they would have to deal with the realities together. For Andreas, this was important, and he would have it no other way. 20 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter VI Illana awoke to the delicious aroma of hot food, a savory soup maybe or a stew. Her stomach immediately growled, protesting indignantly about its sadly neglected state, yowling loudly to be fed. A warm, deep, and very masculine chuckle brought her head up, the sight meeting her eyes astonished her. The most amazing man was standing there in the cave of her dreams. Her angel wasn't a dream! Suddenly the reality hit her head- on with its full impact and Illana felt a mixture of gratitude and embarrassment. She had not the slightest idea of who this man happened to be, where she was, or how she got to this place. Hazy bits of dream-like memory filtered into her head, her hands reached for her once swollen stomach. Panic flared briefly as she felt the now relatively flat plane that had been so hugely rounded. The sharp wail of a hungry infant sent her eyes skittering around the chamber, and a soft yip drew here gaze to what appeared to be a makeshift crib. As if sensing her concern and fear, her dream man went to the crib, returning to her side with a tiny bundle wrapped in a blue blanket. The blanket wasn't one of hers because it was the wrong colour. The silly thought registered only briefly. Her doctor had told them she would be having twins, and they were girls. As a result, she and her sister-in-law had bought two of everything in pink, lavender, and pastel rainbow colors. All her things were at home anyway, but she was grateful he had found blankets for her babies. Taking the sleeping infant, she felt as though the man was judging her fitness to be a mother, but he had already gone back to the crib again. He returned with a second infant, this one wrapped in pink and also sound asleep. There was something odd here, something she wasn't able to fully understand about her situation as a hazy memory surfaced, and the wail grew louder and more insistent. As he turned with a third bundle, this one also wrapped in pink, and crying for all she was worth, Illana‟s remembered his angel‟s voice. He had told her the doctor had been wrong. Andreas reached out with his mind and sent waves of warmth washing over Illana. 21 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 He felt the panic try to rise at the thought of three infants and her questions of how she would care for them alone. He felt the pull of the hungry infant's cry at her mother's heart, and sensed her body preparing itself to feed the now squalling child. Being at a loss about the care and feeding of infants, he had gone to the village to ask the village wise woman what he could feed the hungry newborns. Fortified with her knowledge, and a bit more skillfully plucked from her mind, he headed back to the tired mother and her hungry babes. The first feeding was accomplished by hit and miss because Illana needed rest and healing. He had put her into a deep restful sleep while he struggled to follow the instructions given and fed the hungry triplets. Now he placed the hungry baby into her arms and reluctantly walked from the chamber. He knew her modesty demanded privacy, and he also knew she was disturbed on some level by his presence. She was an enigma, this delicate and very injured woman, and he felt his instincts rise. He had to protect her and the children at all costs, but he didn‟t to know from what, or from whom. There was something there, he had seen it in her mind when he was trying to comfort her and ease her pain, but he did not pry. It would be best for healthy relationship for her to trust him, and tell him willingly. That thought made him pause. What ever made him think she would want or consider a relationship with him? Illana watched her dream man leave. There was a sense of loneliness about him and a pervasive sadness in the depths of those piercing eyes. The thought suddenly struck her with a terrible sense of shame...she had not thanked him nor even asked his name! Was she so selfish and self-centered that she forgot common courtesy? The man definitely saved her life, AND delivered her babies safely. What he had done for her went far beyond 'the call of duty' and then some. If he left her right now, she wouldn't blame him one bit. How totally thoughtless....the sharp crack of a breaking stick caused her head to swing around, and her shrill scream to split the stillness. A huge silver-tipped wolf stood not three feet from her and her newborns! ~*~*~ The next flurry of activity had the chamber in total uproar. All of a sudden the chamber was filled with wolves bristling, growling, searching for something and acting 22 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 like they were ready to tear whatever was handy apart while pandemonium reigned until a deep commanding voice brought everything to a sudden halt. Animals and humans alike froze at the sound of the single sternly uttered command, "ENOUGH!" The silence that followed was absolute. It was almost as if everyone and everything in the chamber was afraid to breathe or move a muscle. If Illana hadn't been so frightened, she might have found it funny, but as things stood, all she could do was shake with fright. The command in that one word was enough to send a chill down the spine, and the disapproval in those eyes could probably freeze a person to death. Pinning a look on his pack and on Kylos in particular, Andreas asked, "Would any of you like to explain what is going on in here? Do you want to scare Illana out of her wits? Please, I believe you all owe her and Katrina an apology. You have greatly upset the ladies, and new mothers need their rest." ~*~*~ If Illana hadn't seen and experienced the event first hand, she wouldn't have believed what happened next. With a bowed head, tail between his legs, and a look of abject sorrow in his eyes, the silver tipped wolf crawled toward her with a whine. Inching closer, he nudged the hand she'd dropped in her surprise as if begging to be petted. When she tentatively patted his head, he gave a lick and then went through the same process with the smaller black wolf. She had come flying out from under the crib holding the infants. With the apology accepted, he pranced back and stood proudly beside the man and watched as the rest of the wolves went through the same motions. As each was forgiven, they paused before the man, and after receiving a nod, silently left the chamber. As the last one left, a whole new flurry of activity started. A new group entered the chamber flitting to and fro, appearing to tidy up the mess that the others had made. A yip from the black female, and they too left as silently as the first. At the soft masculine chuckle, Illana brought her incredulous gaze to the man. Remembering her shame and resolve to repair her mistakes, and remember her manners, she tried to speak, but found no words would come. She had never been so scared or awestruck in her life, nor had she been subject to or experienced the roller-coaster of emotions which changed so 23 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 quickly. This couldn‟t be real, things like this only happened in fairy tales, romances, or other stories. Far be it from her to put down other‟s imaginations, but at this point, Illana though surely she had gone off the deep end. She was surely hallucinating due to the ill effects of the crash, giving birth, and reacting badly to the shock of those combined events. Let‟s see, what did the doctors call it? Oh yeah, Post-Partum Psychosis that was her problem. Now that the mystery was solved, she lay back down and closed her eyes. When she opened them, all would be better, she would be back to reality she was certain. 24 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter VII If life were fair, Illana would never be in this position in the first place. But life is not fair and she decided long ago one must suffer its vagaries and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and, as Hamlet did, ask the question. In this case, however, Illana didn't know if she really wanted an answer. Her eyes were open, and things were the same. She had always prided herself in her strength, but now that her family was gone, she was alone and hoped her mental strength and physical stamina would see her through. If she could only get through whatever lay ahead, maybe....just maybe she would survive. Of one thing she had no illusions, the being, thing, angel, person that stood in this cavern chamber, along a desolate stretch of very wild mountains (the gods only knew where), could not possibly be real. If he was, she didn't think he was human. She needed information, and she needed it now. She also realized she had very few options open to her. There was one doubt she did not have. She knew she was in deep, deep trouble. Now might be a very good time to take stock of the situation. The fact that she had given birth to triplets was something she couldn't ignore. It was plain by now this wasn't a dream and she had to deal with her new reality, the sooner the better. Her mind was really struggling to come to terms with what had just occurred. Nothing she knew could be twisted to fit these particular facts, and her thoughts were quickly becoming erratic and heading once more toward full-blown panic. The first order of business might be to find out where she was at the moment. Any name would give here a sense of being somewhere on a map of earth, and would mean there was hope for rescue. It would also mean that she could be found, and maybe it wasn‟t a horrible nightmare from which she couldn't wake up. Her mind was teetering on the edge of a scream. Before her body could react to what her brain was thinking, waves of warmth, reassurance, and something more washed over her. Her gaze flew to the man standing just inside the entrance...he was exuding power and masculinity, yet he was stillness personified... ~*~*~ 25 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Andreas had been monitoring her thoughts for any signs of panic to appear. It was not good for his Golden One, his Illana to be upset. Her feelings telegraphed to the infants and made them restless and afraid. Already he had soothed them back to sleep three times. The tiny infants had to eat, rest, and grow strong. Although they were not his natural offspring, he was already attached to them mentally, and already his lonely Draconian soul cared deeply for them. He had been able to see how they came to be and was impressed his Illana would have taken such a burden on herself. He had seen the love she had for her brother and his new wife, shared the grief Illana felt at the inability of the couple to have the children they so desperately wanted. He saw her generosity in carrying the babes and the tragedy of her brother's murder. He also saw and felt her horror when she found her sister-in-law's badly mutilated body several weeks later. Her indignation at how the authorities had wanted to blame stray dogs in the neighborhood made his anger rise and want to bubble to the surface. That he could not afford to let happen. Now he felt amusement curl the corners of his mouth as this incredible woman, his incredible woman, tried to scare herself silly! He was very uncertain though about the fairness of claiming her. She was right in her assumption that he wasn't human, but as for the rest...his warm chuckle interrupted her suddenly panic-prone brain. ~*~*~ The sound of his muffled laughter flowed over her like warm honey, settling peacefully in her soul. It was a truly comforting feeling, and she let it wrap around her and ease her badly frayed nerves and horribly tattered mind. She didn't fully understand how, but she knew the man was easing her anxiety. She also felt she was missing something, a vital piece of information that was of great importance. It remained elusive and just out of reach, her exhaustion, however, did not and pounded her relentlessly into submission. Even her hunger had a hard time competing as the heavy wash of lethargy threatened to overwhelm her again. ~*~*~ Andreas felt all these feelings, and heard the thoughts running through her mind. His amusement grew. He was truly surprised at the strength of the link he could establish 26 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 with her mind, and yet he wished for something more, a greater bond with her. The closeness he shared with her would be perfect if it was in a mate-bond. But that was not possible, she was human after all, and he was Dragon-born. Time would come later for recriminations to set in and the loneliness too. But he had to get things in order, put important things first. Soon Illana would be strong enough, and then he might be able to examine the other pathway he had discovered tucked deep in her mind. First he had to see to her comfort and safety. In order to do that she had to know something about him, about his life, his people.... Turning with a sigh of resignation and yet daring to nurture a spark of hope, Andreas left the chamber to collect some of the furnishings he had made, and the light but filling meal he„d prepared. ~*~*~ Illana had no idea her emotions and her hunger beat at her angel, and wondered where he went. She had no idea he had gone to the get food he had prepared for her before the ruckus began, no idea how busy he had been since helping with the triplet's births. She was unaware he‟d used his many skills, assuring all slept soundly until late afternoon. Illana didn‟t know the evening‟s rising star found him making another trip to the village to secure a better supply of food for them. She was unaware of the measures he took to protect her and to assure himself of her safety and well-being. Instead, her thoughts turned to the eventualities, and to how, and even more to the point if she would be able to leave this strange place. She was filled with uncertainties, but there were a few truths and things she did know. She was in a cave, most likely a wolf‟s den with a strange but kind man and a group of possibly dangerous, definitely very strange animals. All other considerations aside, confusion reigned and she was at a total loss as to what to make of her situation or her rescuers. There was a small comfort in her babes peace, they seemed to be in excellent health, clean and well fed, but then what did she know. They were small, but Illana did have to admit her children looked good, tiny yet almost robust. She also noticed they did not appear upset by their surroundings, and for all intents and purposes seemed very much at home. 27 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 With these things in mind, she tried to relax, closed her eyes, and wondered when the man would come back. As her stomach gave another rumble of discontent, Illana also tried to work up the courage and the nerve to ask him if he had anything for her to eat. ~*~*~ In the usual meticulous Draconian fashion, Andreas had thoroughly cleansed and repaired what he could of the salvage brought from the plane. While Illana and her children slept, he‟d cleaned the mountain side and destroyed every trace of the rest. Although not large, the private jet had been roomy and richly appointed. Much of the contents were made of expensive natural materials, they appeared to be of the best materials that were available. To Andreas, this was a marvel, for it had been a long time since he had seen such an abundance of natural materials, let alone so much of such good quality. With such a fine base to work with, Andreas was assured of good results and a pleasant outcome form his efforts. As it was easier to convert than create, the magical energy he needed to expend was minimal. Before long, he had produced tapestries, furniture, rugs, and all the various and sundry things that would help make these caverns more of a home. Even though this was temporary, he wanted Illana to feel as comfortable as possible. ~*~*~ Needless to say, his pack watched all of his preparations, and his results with a great deal of interest. A few even offered their own creations of chewed wood, as well as decorating suggestions involving colored rocks and bits of moss and plant life. All-in-all, it was a project closely watched and quietly supervised by Katrina and the other females. They had no intention of letting the males loose with decorating ideas, or who knew what the place would look like. The ever curious Katrina had looked into human dens when they were away and had some ideas of how the den should look. She did her best to guide Andreas. She felt it was her duty as she was more familiar with the human ways than Andreas was, and she wanted to see it was done in such a manner as befitted her new sister, mate to Andreas. In Katrina‟s reasoning, nothing was too good for the one who saved their pack 28 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 from the hungers of the great winters, cured their illnesses, healed their injuries, and called them family. They owed a lot to the Dragon Master, and so they would also include, protect, and cherish his mate, and his pack of younglings. After all, the Dragon Master was their fur-brother, friend, and protector and so she would do what she could to assist him. She let her glance roam the now decorated room, the new four poster bed upon which Andreas-fur-brother‟s new mate rested, the coverings newly made for the floors and walls, and the other furniture made to her specifications. Katrina was very pleased at what she saw in the room, pleased the mate was now situated in the comfort that was her due. She turned and went back to her pups who were settled under the new youngling‟s crib. She was well satisfied for now. 29 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter VIII With tray in hand, Andreas quietly approached Illana's bed. Even though the mouthwatering smells preceded him, he still cleared his throat to get her attention. Surprise registered as she caught a glimpse of the contents of the large, exquisitely carved tray. A loaf of warm freshly baked bread was placed on it, and contained in beautifully decorated earthen ware there was a hearty looking soup, a platter of fresh fruits and nuts, a pot of honey, and one of freshly churned butter. What appeared to be a steaming and aromatic herbal tea filled a matching mug. The fact that there was also a matching vase filled with the remnants of late season wildflowers almost caused Illana to cry. It was another whiff of the rich aromas which stimulated the memory of her hunger, and caused her stomach to growl again in complaint. She couldn‟t quite remember when she ate last and just stared for a moment at the abundance on the bed tray. If she wanted to be totally truthful, she could not ever remember a time when anyone had brought her flowers, let alone a meal in bed. "Eat, little one, your body cries out for nourishment. You need to keep your strength as you are now responsible for four...at least for a while." The rich, deep velvet voice was just as she remembered. "I need to apologize to you, sir, I quite forgot my manners. I am sorry..." A gesture brought her apology to a halt. "Please think nothing of it, Illana. You are safe here," Andreas carefully studied her face as he continued. "The circumstances of our meeting have not been the sweetest nor have they been trauma free. You have been under great stress the past day and a half, and for that I am sorry. My name is Andreas Justicano Pernikov Draco and you are under my protection." Once again his velvet voice worked its magic, soothing away fears she didn't realize were present. Something in his...Andreas' manner was touching a chord of familiarity. Again it slid frustratingly just out of reach. Illana shrugged and her hunger forced her attention back to the tray. The enticing smells were wafting to her and giving her a 30 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 nudge, a reminder that she was very hungry and there was food waiting for her to dig into it and satisfy her appetite. As the aromas suggested, the delightful meal was indeed delicious. She ate heartily in comfortable silence until a small movement at the corner of the carved bedpost caught her eye. Her startled gasp brought Andreas‟ attention, and in a blink, he had the curious little miscreant collared. Looking between the wolf pup and the man brought more pieces of Illana's disjointed memories into play. One quiet word whispered from her lips, "Wolves." ~*~*~ Andreas looked at her with concern and trepidation. There was something in her manner that indicated a subtle shifting in her outlook, something going on in Illana's mind. As he had done so often in the previous days, his mind reached out to hers, ready to subtly slip in and ease her fear, but this time he was blocked, he could not get in to soothe her. She had blocked him out. Whether it was done consciously or not, he didn't know. He was absolutely certain that at this moment he shouldn't move a muscle. The air around him seemed to crackle with tension. The predator in him was awake and watching for movement, the protector was in a full alert status and wary. He had to fight the beast that roared awake within and wanted to grab and claim its mate, and he fought hard to control the urges riding him unmercifully. His beast roared its rage. If he lost her, the world would not be safe for anyone. She would not be there to hold him back. He could sense something was connecting in Illana‟s head, her thoughts were coalescing. He knew she was walking a fine line between realization and panic, logic and hysteria. At this point instinct told him it was a decision about him, on his role, his status. She was deciding on acceptance or rejection, and he was hoping against the latter. He was stillness personified. Not even his shallow breathing disturbed the air. When she spoke, there was nothing in all Andreas' centuries that could have prepared him for her words. "You are Draconian, aren't you Andreas? Why are you here so far from your people? What has taken you so far from your Prince and the others?" And then a puzzled look crossed her face. "Andreas, are you all right?" 31 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter IX To Andreas it seemed as though the words were like bolts of blinding light to his dark and blackened soul. Were there really others? How had Illana, a human woman, come by this startling knowledge? If this was true, his life mate, for he was certain she was meant to be his, had brought him hope on more than one level. At this point, there were several things to take into consideration. Although he had hoped for the survival of his species, his memories were damaged, very fractured and incomplete at best. He needed to ascertain what she knew quickly, because her very words gave him joy, yet came as a great shock. He was very tempted to be his usual imperious self, but as he probed her mind, and gently breached unusual the barriers she had erected, something told him this would not be a good idea. For now, a distraction was again in order until he could determine his plan of action. She was still hurting mentally and physically even though she put up a brave front. The pain was still there, he could feel her physical aches and her sense of loss and heartache. Mentally Andreas was on high alert. Emotionally he gave a warily resigned, yet very male shrug. Socially he had become very inept. He realized he was quite out of practice, and now was not a good time to hone his flagging skills. He guessed that would have to come later, and if he were any judge of character, it would be much later. ~*~*~ Illana's gaze roamed her beautiful angel from head to foot as though she could not see him enough. Andreas. Somehow he and the sound of his name brought serenity, peace, and completeness to her soul. Though it was very comforting, she thought it rather odd. “Illana, are you well? Where are you?” The echoes were very far away. Though familiar to Illana, she was too absorbed in musing about her present circumstances and the way things were going in the here and now. She took little notice of the faint but insistent voices. She had never felt so safe 32 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 and comfortable with any man, with the exception her brother and a few of his friends. Something, a stray thought perhaps nudged her further, as memories from the past leaked into her present. She was generally extremely shy and uncomfortable with men, and the severity of her reactions to strange males had always distressed her family, and really worried her few friends. They wanted Illana to find a mate, and happiness like they had in their marriages. Her ruminations took her ultimately to her bother. Brant Leland Whitney had often despaired of his sister ever finding a husband and the happiness he shared with his new wife Shelly. He had been blissfully single for what seemed like forever, but once he married, Brant had become a most ardent proponent of the matrimonial state of being. He had been forever on her case to join him in marital bliss. To Illana‟s abject horror, Shelly readily agreed. Toward that end, she‟d received a succession of invitations to their home for dinners and picnics, where a plethora of single male friends, co-workers and acquaintances were paraded before Illana for her perusal. At first she had been a bit frightened but amused. After a pair of years, their blatant and not so blatant attempts at matchmaking had quickly become embarrassing. A soft smile slightly curled her lip at the remembrance of the love that she had shared with Brant and Shelly in spite of their attempted match-making and meddling in her life. She was quite distracted and never felt the slight nudge to her memories, or the gentle prodding presence of another mind merging ever so gently with hers. In truth, it was much like a warm caress and she leaned into it eagerly as her memories drifted back a few years to the events that precipitously changed her brother's life, and consequently her own. Lost in a haze of seductive warmth, love, and the safety of her pleasant memories, the presence of Andreas' soothing and questioning voice was barely noted, but did bring her back to the present. "I'm sorry Andreas," Illana apologized, "I was woolgathering. Did you say something?" A rich deep chuckle rumbled through him as he reached out, smoothing an errant strand of honey blond hair from her face. "I asked if you were going to name your babes or number them," he replied with a smile that lit her heart afire. 33 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 "I guess it would only be right to give them names," she replied. "I have a son. He will be called Brant, after my brother." "And your daughters? What would you name them?" Andreas quietly voiced the question to Illana. "They are beautiful children Illana, and yes, regardless of what you are thinking, they are your children. You carried them, and they are blood of your blood.” "I never thought of names, Andreas, and Brant and Shelly never mentioned any of which I am aware. I never gave it any thought," Illana said as a sad sigh shook her now slender frame. "Will you help me think of names for them, Andreas?" He could not believe his ears, she was giving him a great honour by asking his help to name her children. Please, he thought, if this is a test let me pass. "What was your mother's name, Illana? Would it not be an honour to name one daughter after her?" A sad and wistful smile curved her delicate pink lips. "Elise, my mother's name was Elise. Andreas, what was your mother's name? Please tell me." "Rowena," the name left his lips like a prayer. "She was killed in a terrible war, along with my father and most of the rest of my people. I am the last of my line, and when I am gone, there will be none left." "Then you shall have Rowena, Andreas. Even if she is not truly from your family line, she can bear one of your family names." A ghost of a smile flitted across her face as she raised her eyes to Andreas' face as if she searched for approval and said, "Is it not appropriate that we name these children after loved ones who are no longer with us? After all we have survived, would it not be an appropriate remembrance of them, a tribute to our survival as well? Besides, I like these names, Brant, Elise, and Rowena." “You do me and my line a great honour, Illana, and I make you this pledge: As long as I am around, I pledge you and your children my protection. You are precious to me and I can do no other than protect you all and see to your health and happiness." And as if on cue, three little cries drifted into the night and Andreas and his Golden One were soon busy tending to the needs of their newly named children. 34 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter X With the newly named trio bathed, diapered, fed, and tucked in again, Andreas sat on the edge of the bed with Illana. They really needed to talk, he had to have answers to the questions swimming in his mind, to know if his kind truly survived. He may have two millennia behind him, but he felt like an untried youth facing his first trial. The air shimmered around him as tension once again surfaced within. A soft whine distracted him from dwelling on his case of nerves and also served to draw Illana's attention as well. Kylos stood at the entrance to the chamber with a large piece of wood and again uttered a low pleading whine. With a slight nod, Andreas tried to return his attention to Illana when another pair of wood-bearing pack members whined at the entrance. With a huge sigh of resignation, he realized it was going to be not only a night of revelations, but also story time. He recognized the signs quite well by now. Finally, when all was said and done, but not without many chuckles from Illana and heavy sighs from Andreas, a whole new pile of wood was stacked by the fire, and the better part of a dozen rather large wolves had taken places on the rug-strewn floor of the chamber. Like children waiting for a bedtime story, their faces were turned to the couple on the bed, heads cocked in anticipation. As the older members of the pack settled in, the younger group had filtered in as well, each bearing a piece of wood to add to the growing pile. Even the youngest came bounding in with twigs gripped between sharp puppy teeth. For Illana, the sight was almost more than she could handle. She was not sure whether to laugh, cry, or run screaming into the night, so she settled on the oddity of the situation and decided humour was the better part of valor in this case, and broke into giggles. The sparkling sound of her laughter was a wonder to behold. None of those present had ever heard such a warm and beautiful sound in their lives. Andreas was by turns stunned and amused by the impact that Illana had on the wolves. It had been all he could do to keep the fur balls contained in the outer 35 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 chambers during his waking hours. During the daylight hours when he most often slept, he knew they checked often on Illana and her children. He would not go to ground or to the deep caves with the children and Illana depending on him, and if luck blessed him, he might never wish to go to ground again. Andreas stayed alert and wary for he had been getting some very strange and worrisome feelings lately. Someone or something was hunting near his territory, a territory that had, until the plane carrying Illana crashed, remained largely inviolate. Ancient silths, vampires, and other malevolent creatures avoided this desolate place, but the wolves had been a bit on edge recently. He gave note that Kylos had become even more protective since her arrival. They displayed a longing to be in Illana's presence, and Andreas didn't blame them one bit for he felt the same. This was, however, the first time the whole pack had been together in her sight. He was proud of his pack, they were a formidable sight. Kylos and the pack were a strong, faithful, and powerful protective force. He knew he would need their help as Illana gained strength and became more mobile. Andreas trusted them with her life and that of her babes, and knew they would fight to the death for her, as would he. Another giggle escaped from Illana as she turned to Andreas with a question in her eyes. "And to what do I owe the honour of this esteemed gathering," she quipped as the giggles threatened to let loose again. Never had she seen such a sight in all her twenty two years. It was truly awesome, and a little bit scary. "At the risk of sounding insane, I would hazard a guess they are curious and wish to know more about you," Andreas quipped back. "After all, you sort of came tumbling into our lives unannounced and upset the normal routines around here." As he looked into Illana's sparkling eyes, he felt totally lost and he found he almost couldn't remember what else he‟d meant to say. If she had that effect on his wolves, they would surely all be awestruck. A very disdainful snort was heard from the crib area, and Andreas' eyes connected briefly with Katrina's. Her haughty look, accompanied by a mental picture quickly flashed, told him she thought him quite silly and totally besotted with his mate, and he should get on with things before the pups got restless. They wanted the story from their fur-sister Golden Fur, and fur-brother Sky Eyes had best get 36 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 her started on the storytelling. "Illana, what brings you to Romania, to these mountains?" Andreas asked when it seemed all were settled. "I was headed for Suceava, where I was to be met by a friend and taken to Durau. I have a friend named Sarai. She wanted us to be closer together because our dates to birth our babies were around the same time. She has an excellent doctor who was willing to help me out in case of trouble." Illana's eyes sparkled with unshed tears, "I guess I didn't make it there, did I?" "No, dearling, you did not. But you did give birth to three beautiful and healthy children, Illana," Andreas prompted. "Can you tell me how you met this friend? I would be interested to know how it all came about." Andreas sensed there was something important here, just out of his reach. There was information he desperately needed somewhere inside Illana, but he didn't want to push her too hard. She had been through so much, spent a lot of her strength so she was still rather fragile. "I met Sarai Colicos and her husband Edouard, through my brother Brant and his wife. Brant was a specialist in electronic and tactical security. He lost his job when the company he worked for as a Computer Security Analyst failed and went out of business. He was looking for another job when he was drawn to an ad for a similar position at a large international pharmaceutical company called DraCon Research Laboratories. Brant applied for the security job at DraCon Labs, thinking he would have to start again at the bottom, but it would at least be good job.. They do a lot of medical research, make pharmaceuticals, and study old homeopathic medicines among other things. He was a genius when it came to computer security and as a technician, one of the tops in his field. Fortunately DraCon wanted another experienced security specialist, and definitely wanted Brant. When he got the position, he met Edouard.” A fleeting look of pain flashed across Illana‟s very expressive face, but she grabbed a shaky breath and continued. “Edouard told him DraCon needed Brant‟s computer skills because they had been plagued with incursions of untraceable worms and viruses, and having hacker trouble. Edouard himself designed and implemented a new security protocol to trace their problems. They‟d already started receiving more data than one person could handle and 37 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 wanted a second person experienced in electronic surveillance and security. Brant‟s job was to oversee the unit working with the traces, and to check and adjust the security reprogramming.” Edouard had also developed a program to back-trace and infiltrate the files of the hackers in an attempt to determine who they were and how to stop them. Brant only worked a short time with him until he was given a new team of his own. They must have been impressed with his skill, and his knowledge to put a brand new team under him, at least that is what Brant thought.” Illana sighed, the memories were weighing heavily on her and she really didn‟t want to cry. She shed too many useless tears already, and she didn‟t want to appear weak in front of the man sitting beside her. Andreas, the man she felt was hearing so much more than just her words. “Under the getting to know-you-better category, Edouard started inviting him and Shelly out with Sarai and their friends. Brant told Edouard and Sarai about the problems he and Shelly had conceiving, and the recommendations the doctors had made for them. They also mentioned my part in the scheme of things. That is when Edouard and Sarai decided they wanted to meet me, the sister who had a big enough heart to carry her brother's children." 38 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XI Illana paused in the telling of her tale and gazed at the wolves around the chamber. They were still sitting there as if they were absorbing and understanding every word. She lightly shook her head at the sight, and a smile teased the corners of her mouth. She also became aware that she was getting rather thirsty, and wondered if there was anything cool to drink. Before she could ask, Andreas got up and left the chamber. Moments later, he returned with a large pitcher of tart/sweet juice, a pair of glasses, and a platter arrayed with an assortment of cheeses, and a small crusty loaf of bread wrapped in a soft cloth. "I thought you might be thirsty and possibly a bit hungry too," he said as he set the tray down and poured her a generous glass of chilled juice. "There is more here if you want, there is some fresh fruit for you as well as some bread and cheese." "Oh thank you, I am rather thirsty," Illana said as he watched her drain the glass of juice with a great deal of enthusiasm. "May I have some more please?" She held out the glass. Andreas filled it almost to the brim, then filled the other for himself. A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as she also gave evidence of renewed hunger by picking at the fresh bread, and absently nibbling at a piece of cheese. "We have several unanswered questions between us, Andreas," she said. Her eyes were firmly fixed on his face in puzzlement. "I asked if you were Draconian and why you stayed so far away from your people. You never answered me. What has taken you so far from your Prince and the others of your people?" "What do you know of my people, Illana?" Andreas was intensely curious about her knowledge, and avoiding her question yet again by asking a question of his own. "I know that Draconians are an exceptional race of beings and have lived in the Black Forest and Transylvanian regions of Europe for a long time. I know the women are very beautiful and the men are extremely handsome. Sarai is psychic, and she says true Draconians all have psychic abilities even stronger than hers. That is why she said I would probably feel at home among them." Illana watched Andreas carefully. "Emilie Skovin, 39 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Sarai‟s doctor, is Draconian, and says all Draconian men tend to be terribly bossy, sometimes grumpy, and very protective. She also claims Darian Arianoff is the worst grump, but the best doctor she has ever seen, she didn't use that term though. He uses natural plants and things in his practice." ~*~*~ "I see," said Andreas, as he listened to her talk about people he thought were long gone. The names she mentioned stirred memories thought to be permanently forgotten. Old memories of the past rose up unexpectedly, and he remembered the pain of the great wounds he suffered to his mind and soul as he thought all were lost. He fought his way through silths and vampires to go to ground to heal, only rising years later to a whole new world order, a world in which he was totally cut off from his own kind. Andreas was quickly approaching an overload. So many of those he thought were lost, those he thought never to see again, and even some new ones he hadn't met were all being lined up for him. He wasn't alone. Illana had now confirmed that precious fact for him at last. Here was a remarkable woman who had just gifted Andreas with so very much that it was staggering. It would take many lifetimes to return gifts in the same measure. She brought vivid color and real emotion back into his world, light to his soul, and then returned his people too. If only she could be his in truth, but he didn't believe she could or would become as he, the dragon was for his kind alone. He had to destroy many of those depraved creatures, the result of both dragon-kind and vampire attempts to turn human women. They became deranged and preyed on children, women, and the elderly just for the rabid joy in the act of killing. He could not chance it with her...he would never take such a chance with Illana. ~*~*~ "I also know Draconians have a royal house, and a Prince from a very ancient royal line. He is proud, arrogant, handsome, and stubborn, yet wants to be treated like everyone else. There is something about him though, great power radiates from him, and you just know he is different. I mean, he would have to be, he is royalty, a prince right?" Illana paused as if in thought, "And I know you all seem to have a fondness for and a close relationship animals, some with wolves, some with large cats, bears, and other 40 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 animals." Once again her gaze was drawn to her curious audience who seemed to be hanging on her every word. Wolfish grins adorned their furry faces and they radiated pride, devotion, and love. "How did you come to be on that particular plane, Illana?" Andreas asked. His curiosity was piqued because the craft seemed unusual in its almost exclusive use of natural materials. He had been up to the crash site, had cleaned up as much as possible, but nature would have to do the rest. "Lukas sent it for me. When he found out I was alone and planning to visit Sarai until the twins were born, he sent one of his private jets for me. His crest is, well, it was on the door." Illana's gaze swung back to Andreas. 41 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XII Andreas looked at Illana as if taking her measure. If the truth were told, he thought she was missing quite a bit of the most important information. Did she know the true measure of the Draconian nature and power? Some how he doubted it. From what she had told him, she knew the basic truths, but it was only a small part of the whole. They were life mates, there was no other explanation. No other reason for the return of such vivid color, the renewed emotions, and the feeling of life pouring into his previously drab, gray-washed, and dully coloured world so traumatically. There could be no lies between them either. She needed to know, but her reaction was in question. Oh yes, and there was the small problem of his near immortality and her finite humanity. His love of nights and hers of days presented a minor problem, but she was the light to his dark and they were destined to join. Andreas realized at this point he could no longer survive without her. Already she was in his blood, and he had yet to taste of her. He had replenished her losses from the crash, but he had not dared to take even a sip from her for fear of initiating a mating bond. Still, his blood ran in her veins, calling to him, and he had a limited access to her mind. She had natural shields, but he could not and would not chance battering his way through. He had already slipped inside, delicate forays meant to help sooth and heal but nothing more. Careful explorations were attempted, but often she seemed to sense his presence, and he stilled or backed out slowly. There were differences in her mind, but their significance had no meaning to him. He felt only the wonder that this beautiful woman was meant for him. Now all he had to do was convince her of the fact she and she alone was made for him. Illana looked at Andreas in anticipation and asked, "Will you tell me how you come to live in a cave that is more lushly decorated than some of the best hotels in the world? I would be curious to know how you got it all up here." There was a curious light in her eyes and she truly looked like a puzzled kitten. Andreas tilted his head slightly and asked a question in return. 42 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 "Are you sure you want the answer to your questions, Illana? You may wish you hadn't asked. Of course, you may not believe me either." "Why would I not believe you, Andreas? You haven't lied to me that I know of, and you have been nothing but hospitable to me. I am truly a burden. I have done nothing but impose on your hospitality and probably get on your nerves. I have even taken your bed and you have said nothing." Illana studied the man who sat at her side, her Andreas. "When I first saw you, I thought I‟d died and you were an angel,” Illana‟s soft voice continued. “That you are one would not surprise me, for you have helped me give birth to my children, clothed them, and helped me name them. You have helped me and given me more in the past few days than others have in my whole life time. As he returned her gentle scrutiny, he felt a fleeting touch in his mind, and was surprised. He had not felt her try to enter before, and wasn't even sure she was fully aware of her talents in that respect. It was his very lonely soul that cried out to Illana, and his mind followed suit before he could censor the thoughts. “Illana, do you believe in yourself and your judgment? Can you believe in your heart and in your soul?” "I have never had a reason not to trust my own judgment. I‟ve had sound reasons for my decisions, and a wicked sense of intuition. I know my heart, and I never questioned it, not once." She looked at Andreas who had a strange look on his face. "As for my soul, sometimes I feel as if a piece is missing, but that‟s just my imagination. I guess I get a bit lonely sometimes, and my mind plays tricks on me." Illana glanced around the chamber again with an odd feeling of trepidation. She could find no reason for the unease she was feeling, but she was more alert now, and sensed there was something here she was missing. She was startled when Andreas got up and started pacing the floor. His restlessness was telegraphed to the wolves and they shifted nervously. Kylos was up and pacing, keeping stride with Andreas, noting the mounting tension in the chamber and the effects it was having on everyone. He watched as Katrina appeared with the brood of pups, and jumped to the bed with Illana. A soft huff and a 43 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 few of the young females in the pack helped the youngsters to the top of the bed. The older females formed a perimeter around it and the crib where the babies slept on unaware of the newly building tensions. Something was not right with his fur-brother and his mate, but he couldn't put a paw on it, and neither could Katrina. That was plain in the look she cast his way. He returned it with a sigh and kept pacing. Katrina was puzzled to say the least. Her fur-sister seemed on edge, poised ready to flee. At the same time, she sensed confusion in Illana, and Katrina‟s instincts told her things would get worse before they got better. She insisted that the pack's pups be put on the bed, and set up a perimeter as a protection against any fracas that might break out. She wanted no accidents, no one hurt. The males were so silly and she just knew they would probably end up doing something totally stupid. That is the way it always was with the pack males. She also knew that she would have to be disgusted with them, and then she supposed she would have to forgive them yet again! With a huge sigh she settled and waited for their silliness to begin. She didn't think it would be a very long wait. Neither Katrina nor Kylos could guess or were expecting the direction from which the disturbance would come. 44 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XIII "I am Draconian, Illana, but the truth is not exactly as you think," Andreas weighed his words carefully. He knew he was walking a fine edge here, but he did not want to rush her or her mind. She was fragile at best, and had not even had time to think about, question, or deal with the deaths of her three companions on the plane. Her resilience was truly remarkable, but he did not want her to break. "I see," she said. Illana thought she understood, but suddenly had the feeling she really didn't 'see' at all. The persistent feeling of something being here she definitely wasn't getting grew stronger, and for the first time she started to panic. She had been afraid before when the creature came out of the night and killed her brother, but nothing like the fear she was beginning to feel now. For some reason, a full-blown panic attack was rising to the surface, and she struggled futilely against its undertow. Images replayed in her mind of the gruesome visage of a vampire, the grating voice with its vicious threats as it murdered her beloved brother in front of her and Shelly before being driven away by Emilie‟s husband Ravel. Fear and sheer terror at the image now shimmering in her mind caused her petite frame to shake. The attack of the other, the slimy beast that swept down and tried to snatch her and Shelly a few days later, was suddenly real again and superimposed on the man standing before her. She remembered little after the attempt, except waking up to Sarai's worried voice calling to her trying to be sure she was alright. There was also the stubborn insistence of Shelly‟s need to return to her own home. Illana experienced the premonition of danger to her, and the horror revealed as truth shortly thereafter. The gruesome sight brought home the senseless death she had foreseen. Several weeks later Shelly failed to show up for a promised lunch meet, and she went to her apartment to find her. The terrible memories bloomed vividly again in her mind, and all but swamped her now. The days after Shelly's death had been filled with untold sorrow, and she still hadn't gotten over the strangeness of the situation, the kindness of Sarai and Edouard. She had lost her brother and sister-in-law within a period of a few weeks. Brant and Shelly had 45 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 been her anchor in the storm. Now she didn't have them to steady her, calm her, and provide the badly needed reality check for her. Panic was definitely waiting in the wings, ready, willing and able to burst onto the stage and take over her frayed and tattered mind. "I don't think you do." Andreas' deep velvet voice rolled over her. "We are a species apart from humans with different needs and different ways. We are similar, but we have many gifts and talents that exact a price. Full daylight is not tolerated, and we cannot eat well-cooked meat easily. We have an affinity for animals and are very close to nature. We are an old species, creatures who came into being before history, and have survived alongside humans since their earliest beginnings. Draconians are of the earth and sky, and in our deepest sleep, we are able to seek its depths and the curative powers of its caves and its soil. I thought I was the last of my kind, yet you say that my prince, Lukas and his brothers survive." Andreas kept pacing, aware of her turmoil, but unable to help due to his burgeoning feelings overwhelming him. His frustration at his inability to control these new renegade emotions radiated around him and telegraphed to the wolves. “Draconians are elementals, Illana. We are beings of myth and legend, and one of several species who don‟t particularly want to make themselves well known to humans. We are predators, who also need blood to survive along with our other food. We mate for life, and are always looking for the one who will complete us. We must find our other-half, our life mate is our soul mate. We have only one chance, only one life mate born just for us, and we must find our soul mate to achieve true happiness. "I am incomplete as an individual, and survival requires, no demands I find my life mate. The blood bonds forged between life mates are strong, and made stronger by each willing exchange of blood. I never thought to find a life mate. I have looked far longer than I care to think about, and was convinced I would eventually have to go to the Great Desert and greet the sun. That option is no longer open to me, Illana." Andreas paused and a sigh escaped as he slowly turned toward her. "You are here. Whether you accept me or not, you are my life mate and I must protect you and your babes. You are precious, you are my life. If I were to lose you 46 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 now, the world would be in grave danger. True emotion, and the vibrant colours of life have returned to me, and it was because of your existence. If I am to understand you correctly the dragon-kind, my people, have survived as well. Before you crashed into my world, there were centuries of nothing but muted feelings, some dull colours but mostly black and white and shades of gray. I thought I was alone except for the vermin silths, the turned ones." Illana never got past the life mate and blood exchange. Panic she had been holding back broke over her like a flood and her whole being cried out in denial. A scream filled with soul deep fear reverberated in the chamber sending the wolves into a flurry of activity. They perceived a threat to the fur-sister, sensed danger, but couldn't find it anywhere. Confusion reigned in the cavern and Illana's tortured and confused mind hunted for comfort, reaching out along her mental paths to find the warmth she had sensed before. A faint disturbance and the voices were there, beckoning. “Illana, what is wrong? Where are you? Illana are you all right? Illana!” The last was an imperious command that brought her back from the edge she nearly slipped over. “NO, DAMMIT! I am NOT all right! I am lost in these mountains, stuck in a cave with a friggin' vampire or something, and surrounded by a pack of crazy wolves. And who the hell are you and how did you get into my head?” With that, Illana passed out, never feeling the gentle hands easing her back on the pillow. The path was there, now clearly marked as Illana inadvertently broadcast her fear and distress. It hurled through his thoughts and jolted him back into control. The trail to Illana was cleared, and Andreas was able to lock on to her with his mind and follow the strange trail back to those who also seemed to be connected to his life mate. He sensed desperation, a great fear, and much anger radiating from several sources but didn't linger. Long unused in his own mind, this pathway was at once strange yet familiar. The differences here were subtle, but the feel was familiar enough that he sent a tentative call for help. He was unsure of the response, and was thoroughly stymied when a soft and definitively feminine touch reached out for him. “You have Illana.” It was a calm and soothing feminine voice, and a statement not 47 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 the question he was expecting. She went on with a note of puzzlement in her voice, “I sense her presence near you. You are a part of her, and reside in her. Has she undergone the conversion?” Andreas was shocked by this, and almost lost the path. The soothing voice was a strong contact and never wavered as it continued. “I need to know this for the babes she carries must be saved. They could be important to the survival of the Draconian race. You are unknown to them. Will you give me a name that I may give to the others? They are frantic for news of her and Darian, the Great Protector is almost beside himself in rage. I cannot hold him back much longer.” He heard the touch of fear in her voice, and the true protective nature of the male Draconian rose up in him. He sent his own brand of comfort coursing down the path as he replied, “I am Andreas, son of Anthony Julius Pernikov Draco and Rowena Darsi Karamastov, last of the Dragon's Blood Hunters to survive the invader‟s attack on our homeland. May I inquire as to your name?” 48 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XIV The information flowed to Andreas in a strong and smooth stream. This was a new path and not one familiar to him. This was Sarai, Illana's friend. She was a strong psychic, and it explained the oddness of the path for it was not Draconian, it was a totally human one. The bond that the two women shared was great, and very similar to ones shared by the Draconian's own common path. He did what he could to allay her fears for Illana, surprising her with the news of the births, and assuring her the babies were alive and well, and at the moment, sleeping peacefully. Andreas also thought he felt another presence in her mind as he reached out. He decided to ask. “You are not Draconian, yet I sense the presence of another, a Draconian on this pathway. Can you explain this to me?” You feel my friend Jules presence? Even from this distance? I am impressed.” The last was delivered with a note of humour. His curiosity was piqued now and Andreas had to ask, “Could that possibly be one of the Stolinov‟s pups? They were always an unruly pair of scoundrels. It is good to see they, too, have survived.” He chuckled when he felt a growl reverberate along the path. The woman's laughter lightened his heart and he chuckled again at the surprise he felt coming from the male at the other end. None of them were prepared for what happened next. The interruption hit with great force, like the power of lightning out of the blue, and almost knocked Andreas over with its compulsion and its beauty. “Enough! Where is the woman? Release her and come now to your judgment, evil one! Come now and I shall be merciful, quick to give you the peace you seek.” Before Andreas could think, his own laughter burst like a chime through the cavern, and as a shining ray along the path. This strange, heartfelt laughter echoed through the chamber, and the rich deep alien sound caused all to stop and listen. Memories, once pain shrouded and almost lost to Andreas, began coming back in a rush. The voice that carried the imperious command was familiar. Even as a youngster, Darian Arianoff carried the mark of the house of Dark Guard Protectors. A serious and 49 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 brooding line, they were the closest to the ruling house, the Catarinsky‟s. There had always been an Arianoff at the right hand of the Catarinsky Princes and Kings to serve as the keepers of justice and to provide protection. Never in all the ages, the countless centuries of existence was their loyalty questioned, or their place been challenged. Andreas remembered seeing Ernst Arianoff fall defending the weakened and dying king and queen, before he too fell and remembered no more until nightfall. Now here was Ernst's last surviving son at his young prince's side. The family‟s mark and power appeared to sit comfortably on his shoulders from the way Darian wielded it. Andreas could mark its signature anywhere. “Darian the healer, right? Only an Arianoff could manage such a feat and with such arrogance! Where are you young one? Come, I have a surprise for you. The children are here. Bring news of the woman named Sarai, for my life mate frets about her wellbeing, and it is causing her anxiety. Come to us Darian, come now!” And with that, and another burst of genuine rolling laughter, Andreas broke the connection. Relief flooded through him knowing help was definitely on its way for Illana. ~*~*~ In the village of Durau, life went on without a hitch, only the suddenly inclement weather gave rise to any speculation of trouble anywhere. The fact was noted by few, but the Draconians in the area knew something was up, and someone was not happy. High in one of the mountain's remote valleys, Darian Arianoff fumed and stormed inside Lukas Ostagov Catarinsky's gated home. The Draconian compound consisted of many homes of friends and family. These heavily fortified residences were scattered throughout the wooded valley and mountainside. The strongest of shield spells over the secluded well hidden glen insured their protection as well. There was even a small human village that sprang up at the edge of the valley‟s meadow in the shadow of the mighty peaks. The families from their previous village had asked to move with the prince when the threat from the crazed dragon and vampire hunters had almost taken his life mate from him. They honoured Dragon-kind and gave their fealty freely, and had tremendous faith and trust in the Prince and his protection. The villagers had always done what they could to protect the secrets of the Draconian lines, and held loyalty as 50 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 well as love for Lukas, their acknowledged monarch. There was safety here, and all were welcomed with open arms. There was a school, a hospital, and an orphanage open to all in the valley. No fees were asked, and none were turned away. A couple of churches served the spiritual needs of the thriving population, and the prince provided for them as well. The village businesses prospered, as did a small tourist trade. It was also home to DraCon Labs, and the beautiful complex provided jobs for all those in the valley who wanted and needed them, as well to some from outside. This was definitely a place as close to paradise as one could get, and the Draconians and their people guarded their existence jealously. Now, however, paradise was getting stormed on in a big way. Darian was in a real tizzy and almost foaming at the mouth. Lightning and thunder flew, shards and splinters of ice tinkled with reckless abandon, and small tremors shook the earth. Zarria's appearance brought them a semblance of peace, but the air continued humming with Darian‟s distress. A call went out to the hunters in the vicinity, and within moments a sizeable force had gathered. The humour of the situation did not escape Lukas, especially when a small, very pregnant figure flew into the room and started pummeling a darkly scowling Darian. "You big brat! You Bully! You should have your wings clipped! You should be shot or staked or drawn and quartered or...or...or something," Sarai sputtered as Lukas and Georg burst into laughter. "You two didn't help matters, and then there is Jules! Where is he? I know he is here somewhere. Delphina just left for town with Emilie and Justin." Her eyes darted around the room as she looked for her quarry. The near panic in Sarai's voice finally brought Darian's attention to her in full, and went farther than almost anything else could to calm his own tirade. The edge of fear he heard brought out the protector in him, and gripping her gently but firmly, he turned her in his direction. "Explain yourself in this ma petite," his honey rich voice commanded. "Explain myself? Oh no Mr. Arrogance, you explain yourself. This brother dragon, Andreas, has Illana and her babies. You do remember that much don't you? Do you also remember he laughed with true joy? Are you so dense the fact that he didn't turn and has a life mate did only a fly-by of what ever mind you claim to possess?" A pause 51 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 for a breath and Sarai's tirade continued. "Did it ever occur to you to ask him a few questions before you got all hostile and jiggy with him? I may never see Illana again, and you act like some Neolithic mental Rambo, busting in where you have no business being! How can you be so stupid?" And with that, tears started flowing down her face again. Sarai truly was devastated for the young woman radiated a horrible sadness. Great sobs tore through her and wracked her frame as she cried out her anger and frustration. Puzzlement clearly showed in Darian's silver eyes as he lifted one elegant brow in Sarai's direction. He truly did not understand why the little one was so very upset. His only thought was to protect Illana and the unborn twins she carried. He also knew Emilie thought there was something very wrong, and that worried him too. Illana was psychic and it also made her a treasure beyond measure, for there was always the chance that she was a life mate to one of their unattached males. Potential and possibility existed with the babes she carried. The little girls could grow up to be life mates, and Dragon-kind could not afford to lose any of them. "You dope, Darian!" Sarai's tear-filled voice broke into his musings. "You broke my connection with Illana and threatened her life mate! What in the world were you thinking of, huh? NO! Not a word! You weren't thinking you idiot! Oh I hate arrogant men!!" And as is typical for a woman in her condition, she once again pounded on Darian I a futile attempt relieve at least some of her frustration. Darian said, "Ow!" 52 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XV Lukas‟ mate Ronnie came in and took a still upset Sarai into the parlor while the men convened their meeting in Lukas's library. Brows were raised at Darian, and he was asked to explain what Sarai was talking about. As he was ready to begin his explanation, Jules came sauntering into the room, a decidedly smug grin on his face. His twin Justin entered at his side. Both men loved to tease their too solemn and staid Healer, and even though he was life mated to the vivacious and fun-loving princess Zaria, he remained aloof, seldom joining in the fun and hilarity around him. Darian chose to ignore them and proceeded with his explanation. "That is all well and good as far as you went, Darian, but you missed a very important part of the story," Jules said when Darian had finished his tale. "You know Sarai and I formed an unusual bond, and she has from time to time been able to let me 'see' into her mind. We thought it might be useful to see if such a 'shadowing' could be done with a psychic who was not a life mate. We had been practicing when Illana called out in panic. When you broke her link, I was able to maintain mine with Andreas Pernikov Draco. He is an ancient Darian, Of the Justicano line and possibly only a couple of centuries either way in age from Elliot and Gaston Karikos." Lukas looked at Jules and asked the question that was on everyone's mind, "What are we missing, Jules? Has he turned?" "No, Lukas, there is no sense of evil there. As a matter of fact, before Darian broke in on the link, Andreas said the babies are here, and there are three, not two." Jules gave Darian a pointed look and said, "It also appears that Illana is his life mate." The stillness in the room was complete. Elliot, Gaston, and Flan were the only old ones thought to be alive of the illustrious band called The Dragon‟s Blood Hunters. They were strongest, and the most powerful of the Royal Order of the Dragon‟s Blood Knights, and charged with the protection of all Dragon-kind and human-kind alike. Another of the ancient hunters had surfaced! With him, a possibility even more of the lost knowledge could be recovered. The time around the death of Lukas's father was 53 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 shadowed. They knew he was killed, but their knowledge was incomplete. They were looking for anything that might protect them from such devastation in the future, and this dragon-lord might hold another precious clue. Running his hand through his hair, Lukas looked at Jules. What was going through his mind was a need for speed, but common sense said that caution was called for too. They needed a plan, a way to search out this place without drawing a lot of attention to their movements. They didn't need any unannounced visits from silths or the undead, especially if Jules was correct, and there were three newly born children involved. All of the previous searches for the overdue plane had been futile, and now the reason for that could be explained. The worry radiated off the women though, and the men had been hard pressed to reassure them. Only Sarai, Edouard's mate and friend of the missing girl, was certain of the young woman's survival. She had been right. They laid a careful plan, and went over everything Darian and Jules said. They had an area in which to look now. Jules thought that it would not be very hard to find them. He relayed the short conversation he had with Andreas, and thought they would be expected, and very much welcomed. Darian didn't agree. As with everything else, Darian looked at Andreas as a challenge and an enemy until he knew better. It was an integral part of his nature, and an innate caution that was a hallmark of the Arianoff line. Elliot and Gaston Karikos were brought up in the Arianoff line before Darian, but the cousins did not possess the healer‟s skills. They joined the King‟s elite knights and were among the first chosen of the Dragon‟s Blood Hunters. Dante Cristoff, Darian‟s assistant, watched the group closely with fresh eyes. He‟d been lost to the family for centuries, bound and chained in his dragon form till Georg Colicos found him while spelunking and released him. Now he sensed there was something important here, and needed to help in whatever way he could. He knew his family owed a large debt to Edouard and Georg‟s family because of him, and it would be the Draconians as a whole who would owe Edouard and Sarai an even more. Not only had they brought Illana into their circle, but the child Sarai now carried was a female, and a possible psychic and mate for one of his people. ~*~*~ 54 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Tierov Rovonosk was closing in on his quarry. He was flying high in the night sky and scouring the mountains for the woman with the pale hair, and musing on his good fortune. She had broadcast distress, and he knew she was isolated and frightened. The small illusion had worked, but she was farther away than he had at first thought. He knew she survived, just as he knew the others did not. She would be grateful for his rescue and would come to him willingly. The plan was perfect. He really needed to find her quickly though. He sensed time was running out for him, and dropped closer to the mountain for a better look. Tierov looked down on humans, and always had done so which brought him into conflict with the thoughts of the rest of his kind. Humans, as a whole, were weak and didn't deserve to be anything more than playthings or cattle for him. The woman he hunted now was different. She may be human, but she was going to be his, and she was going to give his soul back to him when he claimed her. His total focus was on the pale- haired woman and he missed the first ripples of power he passed through in his search. Hmmm...maybe the next mountain over.... He had heard rumours about psychic human females, and hadn't believed them until he had seen Flan's life mate. He recognized her as a familiar figure, and finally remembered he had seen her in Bulgaria some years before. A furtive figure, she had kept to the shadows, and fought like a demon. She had been very human then, and damn near staked him when he tried to approach her. She had seen through his illusion with ease back then, and completely disappeared. He lost track of her, but she was dangerous to him, and at the time he didn't think the rumours were true. He soared higher again as he moved on in his search.... Since Tierov found out the truth, he had searched long and hard for a special woman, and had trailed this new woman and her man halfway around the world to his homeland. Getting rid of the man proved to be dangerous and a bit tricky, but in the 55 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 end he got it done. The other woman had been a snap to dispose of, and he was proud of the method of her demise. Those people who believed they hunted vampires had been quite easily manipulated. They eagerly rid him of the clinging woman, leaving the pale haired one alone and lonely. The plane that had come and took his Pale Hair carried a symbol on its door that was vaguely familiar, but the illusion had worked and downed it the mountains of his homeland. Personally, he thought it quite appropriate she come to his land, and the Draconian Mountains to greet her mate. Now if only he could find her before those other blasted Dragons did.... 56 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XVI “You know, if men could only learn when to keep quiet and when to give in gracefully, the world would be a much better place. Unfortunately for our heroes, they are Draconian, so that multiplies the fault by at least a factor of ten! Macho is a concept that pales next to the arrogance of the Draconian male, and being extremely hardheaded, they don't learn very fast or very well,” Zaria sighed. She was sensing trouble ahead in Lukas‟ gaze. Ronnie's excitement was palpable as she made plans for an excursion to get Illana, and began to make and pack things she thought might be needed. Lukas looked at her with fondness and proceeded to be really dumb. "What are you doing love? You cannot go anywhere now." Lukas's puzzlement was real and he continued. "We will be bringing the woman back, and you must be here to greet her!" When one considered how long Ronnie and Lukas have been mated, an observer would think he would have learned something by now. "No" in any form was not acceptable, and so chaos reigned in his house whenever the word was used in relationship to his otherwise calm and demure mate. And sure enough, the pattern was carried on throughout the rest of the Draconian homes that rising. The men puffed up like so many banty roosters, gave their orders and left, honestly expecting their women to fall in line and obey. The women, life mates, sisters, and cousins, narrowed their eyes and bided their time. Emilie sought Jean-Paul‟s counsel. “Jean-Paul, can't you change Lukas's mind about this? Shouldn't I go along as a familiar face, especially if she is as frightened and distressed as Sarai thinks?” “You might think so, my sweet. You might also think that this intrepid 'rescue' party would want at least one person along who knew the woman in question,” he replied with a huge sigh. “I will stay in contact with you, and if needed you can use my eyes.” Emilie knew the women would have no such luck, because once again male logic 57 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 precluded that prospect, and Georg, Eduard, and Emilie, the only three besides Sarai who knew Illana were left at home. They were to keep an eye on 'Sarai's delicate condition', while the remainder of the men stood guard for the women and the villagers. Emilie's pleas had fallen on deaf ears, as Lukas's mind was made up. Dante had been lying low, accepting assignments without a complaint. Even though he was still a strong hunter, he knew his limits and his horrific experience had damaged him. In depending on Emilie, he has also come to see things from another perspective as well, hers. He always had an odd sense of humour, but since his recovery, it had definitely taken a quirky turn. Yep, there was definitely mischief in the air, and those left behind, and even some in the village below, felt something brewing. There were some very upset women who were almost foaming at the mouth in their anger, and the fact that Dante‟s life mate was one of them didn't help. Ronnie, Zarria, Sarai, and Emilie chaffed at the bit, and at the wards that confined them to Ronnie's home. There were a few older women present who were definitely amused by the antics of the youngest ones. For the most part, they didn't mind the 'stay here' command that had so enraged this younger group. Their kind had always been cautious, had lived through wars and killing times when no one went anywhere unescorted for fear of attack. The women's safety had always been paramount, and their survival in peril during those dark and hunted times. They understood what was behind the men's obsession. The younger women had no true idea of the threats the older women had faced in the centuries before. "OH! OH! OHHH!" a sputtering Ronnie enter the parlor where Emilie was helping Sarai to calm down. The pregnancy was her first, and although it was progressing well, the baby wasn't very active and had Emilie worried. Sarai was upset and depressed on two accounts now, and Ronnie was in total sympathy. "What gives them the right, Emilie? This is NOT acceptable. And another thing, this insufferable arrogance has got to stop! We are not in the Middle Ages, and we do have talents of our own. Don't you think that all this crap just has to stop?" Of course Ronnie was on a real tear, and wouldn't be stopped now. "For heavens sake, I want to know what happened to the life mate‟s happiness and stuff. Right now I am DEFINITELY NOT 58 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 HAPPY!" Emilie really did have to try very hard not to laugh. Although she and Adriana, Justin‟s wife, were in full agreement with her, Ronnie in a full-blown tantrum was an awfully amusing sight. It was all they could do to keep from laughing out loud. “And Lukas, don't think you have heard the last of this, cause you haven't. What happened to the „I can do no other that see to your happiness‟ crap? Did you happen to notice that I AM NOT HAPPY?” And with that and other mumblings shot Lukas's way, Ronnie let him know exactly how she felt. You had better have a darn good excuse for this Your High and Mightiness. “I think this is really unforgivable. What are you going to do hero? Bust in unannounced, interfere between life mates? You know that is a no-no unless there is abuse. You are in big trouble bucko!” “Dante, do you hear Ronnie? She is very upset, and it is not good. Sarai is still agitated about Illana, and Ronnie's ranting isn't helping. She is so angry that she is almost in tears. Isn't there anything you can do?” Emilie sent the plea to Dante. “Emilie, you know there is nothing I can do directly, but if there is anyway I can help, tell me. I agree with you, but I can see my cousin's point as well. He is concerned with Illana's safety, and Andreas is an unknown.” Dante knew that Emilie was becoming upset, and it had him agitated as well. “You realize that for me to disobey Lukas directly would cause dissention and shame us both in the eyes of our people. Lukas won't stop me from helping you if you can manage to break the safeguards. I know it seems high- handed, but he is truly worried about this, Emilie. He is usually more clear-headed, but he seems to agree with Darian‟s concerns.” A mental snort from Emilie, and her feelings of helplessness in the face of the circumstances forced him to try to ease her frustrations. “I can feel Ronnie's distress from here. Delphina will be back soon also and may have some ideas. I am so sorry, Emilie!” Delphina had escaped this confinement. Emilie thought the manufactured errands she contrived a brilliant stroke. It was to their advantage. Fortunately, Jules and Justin had pretty much given up telling Delphina and Adriana what to do, as most of the time it did no good anyway. Earlier Delly had a convenient excuse, and with a wink at Justin and Dante, she went to run errands for Sarai and Edouard. When the command was 59 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 given and the wards set, Adriana let her know it was safe to return and she started to make her way back to the valley. The car pulled over to the side of the road, and a huge wolf bounded in through the open door, shifting into Dante as it hit the seat. "Well, they are really pissed just as you predicted, Delphina," he said with a chuckle in his voice. "Did you get what Edouard and Sarai needed?" Delphina arched a brow at him and laughed. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. I also know you are going to help Emilie and the rest after they break out, and yes I will help! You know how I feel about this imperious streak in you males," and punched him on the arm. "Never let it be said that I was one to stand in the way when there was a lesson to be delivered. I think Lukas is about to get a special delivery that he isn't expecting." Her laughter was music that carried light into some of the remaining dark bits of residue in Dante's battered mind, and a little more healing with each note. Ever aware of his constant contact with Emilie, Delphina laid out the plan, and the stirring she felt as the information was transferred, assured her the plans were being implemented. The male arrogance of the species was going to be the method of freedom to their mates. The guys were oblivious in their smug self-importance and totally unaware of this fact, except for Dante, Jules, and a few of the others who were a bit more enlightened. He chuckled to himself as Emilie and the rest went to work. Emilie and Zarria set about collecting what they needed, and Ronnie sneaked into and rummaged around Lukas's mind for the means to remove or weaken the safeguard. Under other circumstances, she might not feel so angry, but she could not sense any danger or evil now. Her particular gift for finding tracking evil had grown after her conversion, and found to come in handy a few times. Sarai's friend was out there with three newborns, if she had heard right, and those bullies were just going to barrel into the situation blind. She couldn't believe the silly plan they‟d come up with, and was determined to head them off. „I got it Emilie,” was the only warning Lukas was to have that something was not going quite as he decreed. As for Emilie, she was upset and concerned for Illana. She knew from brushing against her mind, that Illana did not know or understand the whole truth about the 60 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 nature of Draconians. Emilie also knew the creature of Illana‟s nightmares was indeed a vampire, and not a silth, and they did exist. Through Sarai, she had been able to gain a bit of access into Illana's mind, and was able to extract the fact Illana might have been or might still be hunted by a vampire. Dante knew of these concerns, and that is why they had Lukas send the plane for Illana. Something had gone very wrong, and thus Illana ws in her current situation. Emilie was very determined to be there in case Illana and her children needed help and a friendly face. She wanted to be there as a reassurance for Sarai‟s friend, and the newborns who might have need of her as well. What were Lukas and Darian thinking? They had no idea of what, if anything, might be needed. They didn't know how Illana would react to a group of strangers wanting to take her away. They also seemed to ignore the fact Andreas had claimed Illana as a life mate. If that was true, the men could be making a huge mistake. In this, Dante was in total agreement with her. As Georg had the limo pull in front of Lukas's home, Dante delayed Delphina's exit from the car. "We are here in time for the breakout," Dante said as his face lit with a huge grin. "Are you two ready to go?" A loud crack reverberated like thunder across the sheltered valley, as the safeguards were breeched from within. Georg could not contain his laughter as four smiling women came dancing down the drive looking like a group of preppie hikers, complete with Gucci back packs and hiking boots. They were apparently well prepared, and with huge grins, ready to pile into the back of the limousine with Dante after Georg and Delphina got out. 61 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XVII With a thought, Dante dressed in a tux and a black satin cape. Bowing formally to the giggling group before him, he declared, "Igor at your service ladies!" And then waggled his eyebrows and bared his fangs. All he got for all his trouble was a wallop from Emilie and a bout of laughter from the rest. "Delphina, aren't you going with us?" Zarria asked her sister-in-law. "This was your idea after all, and I would have thought that you would want to see the outcome." The laughter that pealed from Delphina was as beautiful as the voice that enchanted so many humans and Draconians alike. "I would love to, but I think that I would be of more help here at the moment, Emilie. Is Sarai still so very upset? Maybe there is something I can do to help." She threw a measured look at the little group. "I will stay here with Sarai and Edouard. If something happens, you can always send for me, and if something happens here...I can always call you back. Go to Illana or those cavemen will only make a mess. You can take the limo as far as the foot of the Barren Mountains, but hurry." Not a word Jules. I know you were listening to this, and I repeat, NOT A WORD! Delphina threw at her mate as she heard the snickering in her head. Oh my love, I wouldn't spoil this surprise for all the world. Justin and I also happen to agree with you, and I will keep silent. Tell them to hurry, Delphina. Jules could hardly keep from laughing. Does Georg know where we are headed? He says he does, and asks if you are going the long way, you are, aren't you? He said there is a shorter way that Dante and the women will take that will get you both there about the same time. Delphina was still a bit surprised that Jules had not given them away. He seemed to be far too serious at times, but she had to admit that he had come a long way since he had first laid claim to her. The little group left the car, giving the driver instructions to head back to the compound. Dante contacted Delphina, and after getting the directions from Georg, changed swiftly. He and the girls left in a flash and flurry of feathers. The lightweight 62 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 packs remained attached to the backs of the dragon-birds as they flew swiftly toward the distant mountains. Two over and one up, and they would be on approach to the barren lands. For as long as Dante could remember, his people had stayed away from that particular section of forbidding mountains. There were people who lived there, but there was also an unhealthy miasma that hung over the area. He now suspected that Andreas had a little something to do with that particular nasty piece of work, and wondered why they hadn‟t noticed the power before... ~*~*~ Tierov winged his way over the mountains looking for the downed plane. He sensed that he was drawing near, but couldn't pin point his objective. He was still high from earlier kills and was feeling very powerful and confident. It had been three days, and she would be very ripe for the picking! All he had to do was swoop in and save her and she would be his...his new soul, and then he really would be all powerful! In his distraction, Tierov again missed the ripples of power he passed through. So sure of himself was he that he ignored the warnings of the trouble heading his way. He thought he was too ancient and powerful, and once he had the woman, not even Lukas, the Dragon Prince would be able to stand up to him. As he continued on, his thoughts were going ahead of him, broadcasting themselves for all to hear, but in his distraction, he didn't care. The Woman was close, she had to be around here somewhere. Pale Hair would soon be his and the world would pay for what it had done to him and his kind. Lukas and his Lackeys would pay too. After all these years of hoarding all the women to themselves, Dragon-kind would pay. He would make the women his slaves and keep their men in chains to keep them in line. He was old and ancient, and he could do those things. His evil chuckle reverberated across the sky. ~*~*~ Well it took some doing, but the pack was finally settled. Andreas turned his worried attention to Illana. While Katrina was trying to get the pack to clean up the mess, Kylos was also trying to bring order to the chaos. They suddenly found their ears assaulted by the cries of hungry, frightened infants. 63 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Illana was still unconscious on the bed with Katrina now standing guard. Katrina didn't know what had happened exactly, but she thought that Sky Eyes had been bad, and wasn't sure if she should let him near her fur-sister or not. She did give in to his pleading, sensing his great worry, and moved to check on her fur-sisters funny looking but noisy pups. Andreas moved to check Illana, her unmoving state a grave concern. Slipping into her mind, he found her huddled there as a myriad of nightmare images swirled out of her control. Everything she had ever read about vampires had been brought to life in vivid and horrifying images. He saw everything her mind had previously dampened of its own accord and lived through the events that now sent her conscious mind into hiding and screaming in terror. He discovered the many misconceptions she harbored that stood in their way, yet he could not approach her in her present state. He felt the remnants of another in her mind, her sharper memories had been dulled as only one of his kind could do. It was a male touch, and it made him curious as to who had helped her. And while he sent waves of warmth through her to try and ease her whirling thoughts, he examined her relationships and ties with this couple who seemed to know so much about his people. So great was his concentration on his life mate, he never felt the ripple of power in the air. A whimper and a nudge from Kylos was his first indication there was something wrong or unusual happening. When the ripple‟s surge was felt again, Andreas went still. He checked the safeguards and found them in tact, but in the recesses of his mind, he thought he heard the ancient healing chant. Never once did it occur to him he was still strongly and completely merged with Illana. Never once did he think about shielding her from the possible danger. This was automatic, the instinct of the Draconian male kicked in with the full force of his age and power. And Andreas was working on instinct alone. In this mode he was extremely dangerous, and the low growl that emitted from his throat was echoed in the throats of the pack. "Hello! Hello is anybody home? Hello?" The cheery feminine voice was the last thing that he expected to hear. "Hello? Andreas are you here? Illana? Would someone 64 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 please remove these safeguards? I hear a baby crying! Illana are you all right? Would you stop grumbling Dante, and just do this now?" The last brought a low growl from Kylos, but brought a stunned Andreas back from the brink. A thought broke the safeguards, and he hurried to the front of the cavern complex with Kylos close on his heels. As he appeared in the main chamber, Kylos gave a low growl Andreas quickly quieted. The astounding sight that met Andreas' eyes was one he would never have thought to see no matter how long his life. Standing in the entry chamber were four of the most beautiful women he had ever seen as well and one extremely wary and protective and somehow familiar male. They were true Dragons, his people, and they were here. 65 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XVIII The wolf's soft growl brought the five Draconians to a halt, and five sets of eyes searched the shadows. With a thought and a wave, Andreas lit candles to send a welcoming glow to his anxious visitors. He slowly stepped forward, and made a deep bow. "Welcome to my temporary and most humble home." Andreas greeted them as he carefully studied the little group. The male was radiating caution, from the beautiful red haired woman he sensed worry, but the other three radiated a lot of excitement and an almost overwhelming sense of mischief. "I am Andreas Justicano Pernikov Draco at your service. I am sorry that I cannot offer you much in the way of amenities, but the accommodations here are limited at this time." "Oh, thank you, but we don't need amenities Andreas. We came for Illana and the children." The petite black-haired woman's happiness and excitement was almost infectious as she continued. "We wanted to make sure they were all right and that you had everything you need. Emilie came along as she was Illana's doctor. Where is she, may we see her?" He blinked owlishly at the petite woman who seemed to be in charge of the group. First, he was startled she would address a strange male in this manner, and second was the fact she used his name with certainty and a sense of authority. He shook his head at the compulsion laced words, and the ease with which she applied it. Andreas could not easily refuse a woman anything, but there were things he had to know, and the first and foremost was that Illana would be safe and well. He shook off the compulsion with a shrug and turned his attention to the red-haired woman. "You are Emilie, her doctor? You are the one who was going to help her deliver her children? You are the healer her friend Sarai trusts?" The questions came rapid fire and Emilie had only time to nod. "Will you examine Illana before the others try to go to her? She is unconscious, and has retreated from conjured horrors she does not understand. She shares my blood, but I don‟t have a bond strong enough to reach her. I would be in your 66 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 debt if you could please help her." The anguish and hope in the rich voice erased all doubts any of the group might have held about the state Andreas was in at the moment…the one they faced was a Draconian male of great age and probably very great power, for he had not turned. The tension and caution radiating from the male was almost visibly reduced, but the worry all around escalated. Low growls came from the shadows once again warned everyone they were not alone. As their eyes searched the shadows, Dante and the girls were surprised at the number of creatures inhabiting the cave. Just at a glance it seemed as though there were at least twenty of the largest wolves any of them had ever seen. The huge silver tipped one stayed close by Andreas' side, and was very interested in Dante. His eyes never left him for a moment and Dante got the definite impression that he was being judged, and possibly found lacking. The tension was broken by an imperious snort, as a petite black wolf entered the chamber. With a woof and deliberate pushes, the female shoved her way to Emilie's side and peered up at the woman with an unusual intensity. The wily animal's gaze was mesmerizing, and Emilie almost felt herself falling into its depths. Quick as a flash Katrina gently but firmly grabbed the flame-haired healer‟s wrist and started pulling her away from the others. Before Dante could move, the huge silver wolf was in front of him challenging him with raised hackles and barred teeth. Andreas held up a hand trying to signal everyone to stay, but found he couldn't speak. For the first time in well over a thousand years, Andreas was almost totally immobilized with laughter. The look on the male's face as Kylos challenged him was enough to force a stuttering giggle from the woman as she was gently but insistently pulled into the darkness. Andreas nearly doubled over with laughter, the other three women burst into giggles and guffaws as well. "Oh come now little brother!" Ronnie taunted Dante between giggles. "Are you going to let the big bad wolf take your mate away?" "Dearest Dante, do you want us to go to your mate‟s rescue?" asked Zarria in her sweetest and most beguiling voice, while all Adriana could do was hold her sides and 67 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 laugh until tears spilled down her cheeks. "Enough Kylos, behave yourself. Go get the children. Tell them we have company and they may come and visit." The command was hoarsely given as Andreas pulled himself together, but it was sufficient to send Kylos and several others off in the same direction Emilie was dragged. Dante looked at Andreas with a renewed respect and promised himself he would somehow get even with the wolf. Don't count on it my friend. I have been trying to get even with Kylos for more years that you can imagine. The path was almost forgotten from disuse, but the message got through causing Dante to raise his brow in the older male‟s direction. Andreas turned to the women and issued his invitation. "I know it is hard to convince them to keep the place tidy, but if you would come in, we can talk more comfortably in the meeting room. The foyer is rather bereft of the usual amenities, but Katrina wouldn't have it any other way." Andreas was able to catch a question as the unused path became stronger and familiar once again. "Yes, it was Katrina who dragged Emilie away. She doesn't put up with very much nonsense, and she has been worried about Illana too. As you may have noticed she runs a tight den, tighter than some people run their households. She knows. Katrina has spent a lot of time watching the humans so she can run my houses as well as any human housekeeper." A wave and a thought illuminated candles that were strategically positioned along the short passageway. They bloomed like stars against the darkness and lit the archway leading to a rather large room. It was occupied by some unusual furnishings consisting of an odd assortment of pillows, mattresses, and amazingly enough a half a dozen or more chairs that looked suspiciously like airplane seats. "Please make yourselves at home. I know Katrina found a tea service that was relatively undamaged, and a large supply of a herbal tea and other goodies. If you can give me a few moments, I can get you some refreshments. If you will, excuse me please." And with that, Andreas left the room to check on Illana, and ask Katrina where the tea service was taken. Dante closed his eyes and left out a huge sigh. He could tell from his connection with Emilie that Illana was in pretty rough shape mentally, but otherwise doing well. He 68 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 knew what had occurred was not anyone's fault, but he sensed that Andreas blamed himself for her condition. He reached out along the common path to try to connect with Andreas' mind and felt him start in surprise. It was you who dulled the horror in Illana's mind. I recognize your touch. Thank you for what you did for her. I only wish I didn't have to tell her the truth. It was Illana's misunderstanding of my existence that caused this state. I wish I had known more but I could not force a stronger bond. There was a great sorrow there, and it vibrated across the path so long unused. Dante, however, understood. Maybe better than anyone, Dante understood. 69 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XIX In their brief mental exchange, a wealth of information was sent between Dante and Andreas. The basics were the who, what, when, where, and how. Andreas was stunned to realize that Dante was Lukas Catarinsky's youngest cousin. The two males were more comfortable with each other, but as always with other Draconian males, still guarded. Dante knew for certain now that Illana was the true life mate to Andreas, but she remained unclaimed. This meant Andreas was still a potential threat. Darian could be forgiven for his initial reaction to a point, but in spite of the fact she hadn't been converted or formally claimed, the life mate ties were surprising and exceptionally strong. Dante sent this new information over his private pathway to Jules along with knowledge they had arrived safely, were welcomed, and the update on Illana's condition he got from Emilie. The information about Illana would be sent on to Delphina via their mate-bond to ease Sarai's worry. The disturbance in the air was very faint at first, but Andreas recognized its evil dissonance immediately. Since the others had arrived so unexpectedly and caught him almost totally off guard, Andreas had his senses more finely tuned. He had thought the silths and vampires were gone, and had been preparing to burn in light when this all started. It was strange how a small number of days could change your life. Andreas thought it even more amazing the life altering things that were occurring after his countless centuries of solitude and despair. He set his boundary guards off to warn him when the vampire drew near, and sent the younger males out to patrol and look for any other trouble headed their way. They needed to run off some of their pent up energy and this was an excellent opportunity to get them out from underfoot. The need to assure Illana's safety was as good an excuse as any and one that would ensure their complete and immediate compliance. After all, the protection of the fur-sister and her strange new pups was very important work. Andreas produced a pot of a very fragrant and familiar herbal tea when a rather large commotion caused everyone's attention to be drawn to the doorway. Nipping and 70 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 growling, a whole gaggle of pups entered and proceeded to fight for the attention of Ronnie, Zarria and Adriana. They found their favorite chewed sticks and tried their very best tricks to engage the women in play. The pup‟s antics caused smiles and chuckles all around. Even Dante and Andreas were pulled into the laughter until a small gasp from Ronnie brought all gazes up and the room stilled instantly. Kylos stood in the entrance with a small wrapped bundle from which a small fist protruded. As soon as he was sure he had everyone's attention, he marched across the chamber to Andreas. The tiny blue bundle was presented with a great show of wolfish pomp and ceremony, tail held proudly in the air and all the wolfy dignity he could muster. He gently laid the squirming infant down at Andreas' feet and with a continued show of great dignity left the room. Andreas reached down and picked up the tiny bundle and with a barely muffled chuckle handed it Ronnie. "May I introduce you to Brant, first born and son of Illana Pernikov Draco. He is the male, so of course Kylos could do nothing other than introduce the protector first", and with that, Andreas broke into a fit of chuckles at the look on the women's faces. They didn't have time to protest as Kylos had returned with another bundle, this time in pink, and dumped it very gently but with a rather marked and unceremonious disdain at Adriana's feet. No sooner had Andreas given her Rowena's name, than Kylos appeared with Elise, and repeated the obvious 'dumping' at Zarria's feet. With a look of what could only be wolfish pride, he went to sit at Andreas' side. A raised eyebrow in Dante‟s direction and the twitch at the corner of his mouth was the only sign Andreas gave of the repressed laughter he felt bubbling inside. The sigh he got in return said much the same. Neither man wanted to wound the obvious pride Kylos was showing in the newborn babes. The girls didn't notice the bonding exchange between Dante and Andreas. They were too busy fussing over and cooing to the apparently healthy and very happy babies in their arms. They inspected them from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes and reached the conclusion they were being very well cared for, and thriving in spite of the odds and their ordeal. The rest of the story would come later, because the women would make certain it was shared. 71 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 The party quickly sobered, however, as the howls of several of the pack called an obvious warning of approaching danger. Automatically linking to the young wolves was habit, and Andreas saw clearly through one of the sharp-eyed youngsters who had called. The evil was approaching slowly as if hunting or trailing something, or someone, and Andreas was willing to bet it was one woman in particular. Illana. This could be the monster of her dreams, and Andreas felt anger rise, and the urgent need to protect her at any cost. The strong emotion radiated off him and sent the pack to cave's entrance. His eyes blazed as his fangs exploded in his mouth at the thought of being able to rid Illana of her nightmare. Dante had also seen what Andreas had been shown, and informed Emilie of the vampire's approach and Andreas' conclusion. Can you shield Illana and the children, Emilie? The images present in Illana's mind match the evil one who approaches and is hunting here now. He can‟t be allowed to live, but he must be drawn to us at this point. Dante felt his mate‟s anger, her protest but continued more calmly than he felt. Emilie, I know you are not helpless, but I also know you could never take a life. Please do as I ask. The worry was evident in his voice. We will be fine Dante. There are four of us, and Zarria has learned some very good tricks from Darian. I know Andreas is an ancient, but if we would not have disobeyed his royalness, he would have been left to protect Illana and face this vermin alone. We shall be shielded well enough when we need to be, but right now you need to concentrate on the fight ahead. Assuring Dante and Andreas all would be fine in the cavern wasn‟t easy. Emilie requested the other women join her since company might be just what Illana would need. Illana is waking, Andreas. She stirs even as we speak. Dante, are the children all right? That large wolf just came and took them away! Relieved all was well, Andreas informed the others Illana was waking. Just as he told the three women Emilie said they could visit Illana, Katrina appeared at the doorway. With an imperious woof, she turned and left the room. With a shrug and a giggle, the trio followed toting their tiny gurgling charges along and into the darkness of the passageway. This was one time they wouldn't argue with the male‟s directives. It was a matter of safety and survival. 72 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Another ripple of power shimmered and was felt by the little group in the cave. It was rather unsettling to Andreas, but Dante didn't seem to mind. Andreas studied the taciturn younger man, sensing a deep rage. He wondered what could cause such a feeling in so young a dragon, but now was not the time for questions. There was trouble coming, and it was something they had to face and deal with quickly. This greater power worried him even more than the approaching vampire, and it set Andreas on edge. Dante, however, seemed to almost welcome this new source of power and its inherent danger. "I do, Andreas,” Dante answered his obvious agitation. “That is help. Lukas and the hunters come." 73 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XX Emilie, the women, and Katrina of course sat by Illana's bed carefully monitoring her condition. The overload to her mind was obvious, but Emilie eased as much as possible. It was up to Illana now, and she showed signs of finally stirring into full consciousness. She seemed to be aware of Emilie's presence, but she was still "lost", and that had Emilie worried. There was something odd, a strange and unusual awareness within Illana Emilie wished she could study more, but out of necessity had to be left for later exploration. Right now, they needed to worry about shielding Illana and the children from the menace heading their way. Illana came up suddenly, just as a shift in the atmosphere heralded the arrival of the unclean one. Glazed eyes told Emilie that Illana was still not entirely with them, and her whimpers told of an overwhelming fear. Katrina leaned against her in an attempt to comfort. Emilie tried to reach her, but Illana was too far away. There was also something blocking the way, and Emilie couldn't get past it to help her. She tried to see through Dante's eyes but he blocked her vision. What is happening Dante? Please, I know you want to shield me, but I need to know. Illana is lost somewhere, and I think she may be witnessing your battle through Andreas. Can he cut her off? Can he shield himself from her? Emilie slipped down into Dante's mind as Tierov came into view again. "Ah, two of the little Prince's slaves. Tell me little ones, does he leave you here to guard the woman so he may keep her for himself? Does he share the pale-haired one with you? Is she as sweet and delicious as I have dreamed?" The taunts rolled out of Tierov and over the waiting pair of males below. It was very disconcerting to Tierov, finding two males barring his way to the pale haired woman he figured was in the cave behind them. He tried to reach the minds of the wolves that surrounded him, but they were strangely shielded. His compulsions had no effect. They stayed just out of his reach, the darn beasts were even growling at him! "Tierov Rovonosk," Dante snorted. "Are you still trying to take what is not yours? 74 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Still trying to gain the power and glory someone else has earned? To see you like this is not a great surprise." "You know this little miscreant, Dante?" Andreas asked, both of the men were studiously appearing ignore the hissing and spitting apparition now standing at a distance in front of them. Andreas was suddenly aware of a shrill scream that echoed through the halls of his mind. The scream held not just fear, but abject terror. He knew that Illana was seeing Tierov, but he could find no way to raise a block to shield her. Blurring the image in his mind was his only recourse, but he couldn't warn Dante as to what he'd have to do. He knew a path was established between himself and Illana, but without having exchanged blood, it was difficult for him to reach her. He knew she was using the path he had given her when he replenished the blood she lost from the crash, blood he‟d been afraid to give for fear of turning her into a deranged creature. It was one of the reasons he was watching her so closely. Dante noticed Andreas' distraction. Long life and hard experience had always been a good trainer, and instinct never died. Although Andreas' eyes never strayed from the fiend they faced, and Dante knew this man would destroy the vampire or die trying, he had seen the ancient flinch. "Yeah, he is a petty and jealous little wimp with delusions of grandeur. I used to beat his scrawny butt all the time when we were younger," Dante taunted hoping to distract Tierov and play for the necessary few minutes. "He thinks he has the strength and the brains to be a leader, Andy. He is wrong. He could never accomplish for his people what my brother Flan and our prince have done for the Dragons. He is far too selfish and self-centered." The giggle in the shadows of his mind told Dante that Emilie was still there. How is Illana? I think you are right, she is in Andreas' mind. He seems a bit distracted. Dante kept his eyes pinned on Tierov, but was trying to keep an eye on Andreas as well. He knew all about the problems true emotions could cause the Draconian male at first, and wanted to be sure he had his companion‟s back protected. Andy, Dante?? The amusement in Emilie's voice bubbled like a happy stream. She 75 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 seems better, life mate. There is something unusual here, but I can't tell what it is at the moment. She is human, but there is a slight abnormality in her blood. It is almost as if she had been given a transfusion, but there has been no blood exchange in her memory. Her mind remembers nothing of the accident or receiving blood from any source. A shriek and a lunge from Tierov brought Dante's full attention back in time for him to be shoved hard into the dim expanse of the cave. The loud wail ended abruptly, and a deathly silence fell. As a very stunned Dante emerged from the cave, it was all too clear what had happened. Tierov stood in front of Andreas with his hand caught in mid air, and a look of horror on his face. Something invisible separated the two, holding Tierov immobile. But Andreas, in spite of his formidable power, had received some grave wounds. Blood flowed freely from several very deep gashes across his back, chest, and arms. He sank to his knees as Dante reached him, the poison in his wounds straining the barrier imprisoning the vampire. Illana couldn't pull her gaze from the face of the monster. This was the thing that had killed her brother, and it looked nothing like Andreas. Her mind went into a spin as she went over what he had told her. She watched and listened as Dante and Andreas bantered back and forth, and couldn't believe she ever thought Andreas such a monster. The creature they were trying so hard to distract was a hideous caricature whose features were haggard and rotted. Fangs the color of dried blood, and skin like poorly made parchment clung to its skull as though there were no flesh underneath. She followed every feint and move the creature made, and felt as though she couldn't stop screaming. Only when the view became fuzzy did she finally slip again into unconsciousness, but not before feeling terrible burning pain and seeing the blood drip from Andreas' chest and arms. Dante! Dante what is wrong? Emilie's voice echoed in his head. Please tell me because whatever is happening out there, it is affecting Illana badly. Is Andreas all right? 76 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXI Two shimmering figures coalesced in the clearing in front of the cave. As they strode forward, they barely glanced at the still swearing and spitting Tierov and went straight for Andreas. Picking up the wounded man, they strode into the cave, and back the passage towards the waiting women. Before Dante could turn to follow, several more figures appeared. A frown creased Lukas's face as he started toward Dante. He was stopped when a huge wolf with silver- tipped fur moved between them. Kylos had seen how Andreas had moved to protect this one, and he would do no less. He was determined to do a good job of it, so he barred his teeth and growled as ferociously as he could. The rest of the pack soon joined him. "Dante, will you quit playing with those wolves and tell me what is going on here?" Lukas demanded answers of his cousin as he spied Tierov's spitting and hissing self. "What IS going on here? Why is this thing not destroyed?" Dante looked at Kylos, and as Kylos flicked a brow in an almost human gesture, he burst out laughing. The laughter sent the message on more than one level that things were better, and the tension wound down a notch. "Cousin, meet Tierov Rovonosk of the Wallachia. He thinks he is bigger, smarter, and can rule his people AND our people, too. He also thinks he can do it much better than you," Dante said with a snicker in his voice and a sneer on his lips. "He is the one responsible for the death of Illana's family and from his bragging, the crash of your plane just over the rise to the north." "And the pilots and the bodyguard?" Lukas asked. "I don't know, but I think not. He is well caught in Andreas‟ web, so ask the weasel before you dust him," Dante cast over his shoulder as he went into the cave to seek his life mate and check on Andreas. A cough brought Lukas‟ attention back to the problem at hand. A look at Darian told him there was no doubt he'd better get what answers he could first. The others were 77 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 like a bunch of cats. They knew they had their prey in their hands and wanted to play with it first. To a man, they had all lost family and friends to the treachery of those Wallachians turned vampire, and Lukas knew Tierov's death would not be easy. The few questions he had were not answered to his satisfaction. Lukas stomped off into the cave, leaving a hissing and spitting Tierov to the tender mercies of Darian and the other hunters, and muttering to himself about younger cousins and disrespect. ~~**~~ He followed the sounds of conversation, but the picture Lukas saw as he entered a dimly lit inner chamber was astounding to say the least. The floor was covered with plush carpeting, and appeared to be about twice the size of his bedroom at home. A fire burned merrily in a fireplace set into a wall with a natural chimney, and close by a neatly stacked pile of wood, several pieces of which appeared to be well chewed. Natural niches in the walls held a variety of scented candles offering a soft perfumed light as they flickered in the stirring air currents of the large room. Illana lay on a large elaborately carved bed covered in plush fabrics, looking pale and drawn. Curled up next to her was a huge black wolf, who kept a wary eye on him as he gazed about the room. Turning around, he noticed about eight other large wolves sprinkled around the room as well as a healthy number of pups. A stranger, Lukas assumed it to be Andreas, lay near the bed on a pallet of boughs and leaves and draped in a much more sturdy fabric. Once again the huge wolf challenged Lukas and stopped him in his tracks. A giggle and a soft woof caused a softening of his stance, and Lukas finally got a good look at what he was protecting. Just beyond the bed, tucked into a pillow-strewn alcove sat Ronnie, Adriana, and Zarria, each woman cuddling and cooing over a very tiny infant. The first shock was realizing there were three children, the second seeing his beloved, his sister, and Justin's life mate here holding them. They had been given explicit orders to stay home. The third shock was to see a worried Emilie come briskly through the door with a basin of steaming water, a number of fresh herbs, and a pot of tea. A rustling in the shadows brought his attention to a dimly lit corner where he noticed Justin, Jules, and Dante lounging in a trio of comfortable looking chairs, and observing his reactions, along 78 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 with another group of wolves. Pinning his gaze on his wife, he asked, "Would someone like to explain to me just what you are doing here, Ronnie? Who is this man, and what is he doing here with Illana? And what is wrong with her?" "Well gee, Your Greatness," Ronnie started with a full head of steam just ready and waiting to blow, and then she let it fly. "We are here to take care of the babies and Illana. Did you stop to think what the consequences of your actions would be? NO! You did not. Illana has been through a lot lately, and she saw that abomination out there. She was pregnant, her brother was killed, and this same vampire was stalking her. Vampire hunters under his control murdered her sister-in-law, she was in a plane that crashed, delivered triplets, and faced a man whom she thinks, or at least thought was a vampire.” She drew a breath and continued before Lukas could speak. “Now you just think you are going to waltz in here and take her away from the one who saved her AND happens to be her life mate? I don‟t think so big boy! She doesn't know you or any of those you brought with you. How were you going to take her away, huh? How were you going to handle and care for three infants? And did you even stop for one minute in your high and mighty plan to consider the feelings of these two people at all? Look over there, Lukas. That is Andreas, life mate to Illana. Those injuries he received by protecting her and your cousin. Now, Your Importance, if you are quite finished, we have sick and wounded to attend to and hungry babies to feed." Lukas just stared at Ronnie‟s back as she turned and walked back to the alcove. The stunned expression on his face looked like he had been pole-axed. Dante, Jules, and Justin just snickered from their corner, their ill-contained mirth gaining them nothing but dirty looks from their life mates, and glares from their Prince and his Princess. 79 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXII A moan from the bed caused a shift in attention, for which Lukas was very grateful. The attention he was getting was not the kind he wanted from his life mate, and not the kind he was used to at all. Throwing a threatening scowl toward the corner where the smirking trio lounged wasn't enough, but it would have to do for the moment. Like the others, his gaze immediately sought out the woman lying on the bed. A sigh and a moan told them she was slowly awakening. "Emilie! I must have been having a nightmare! I saw the vampire, the one who k...killed Brant. It was going after Dante and Andreas and..." Illana's gaze skittered around the room searching the strange faces for that certain special one she wasn‟t finding. "Where is he? Where is Andreas? He saved my life! Where is he?" A cold wet nose pushed its way into her hand and a whimper sounded deep in a furry throat. Katrina pressed up tight to Illana's side, and several of the pups pressed against her as well as though looking for and trying to give comfort. Illana couldn't find the man she was seeking, and turned to Emilie in near panic. Fear radiated from her in waves causing Kylos to come flying into the chamber, growling and snapping as a result of her projections. He jumped immediately to her defense scouring the chamber for the cause of her upset. When the reason was not evident or immediately apparent, he turned and looked at her, cocking his brow in query. Katrina pushed against her hand again, and whined, drawing Illana's attention to the corner, and the trio standing there. Two of the men were strangers, the third she recognized. The bloody gash was no longer there, but the shirt he wore was bloodied and torn. "Dante? You were hurt! The other, the vampire...Andreas...where is he? Please Dante, he was hurt wasn't he?" The panic returned in Illana's voice. "He, he is so very important to me. I don't know why, but it is true." Kylos leaped down off the bed and went to where Dante was standing. Lifting his front feet off the floor, he braced against his shoulders and looked him in the eye. The 80 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 arched brow told the dragon volumes, as did the pictures that Kylos gave him. "You must know Illana, Andreas is not vampire nor will he become silth. He cannot turn now unless you reject him. He is to you as I am to Emilie...Zarria is to Darian, and Ronnie is to Lukas." Dante continued, "Andreas is very badly hurt, but we cannot reach him. Our common path is dim, and we can't connect. We need your help if we are to save him." The thunk, thunk, thunk of a tail slapping the floor drew Dante‟s attention again. "OK, I am telling her...Illana, you must also know, he needs you to survive. It is a lot to ask, but if he does not claim you, I shall have to destroy him." And with that Dante turned and walked out of the room. Illana looked at Emilie for confirmation and received a nod. When she glanced around the chamber, she saw the grim lines of fate etched into the faces awaiting her decision, and a face that was at once familiar, yet strange. "And who are you?" she queried him, and was a bit surprised at the answer. Lukas Ostagov Catarinsky, Prince of my people, brother to Zarria, and life mate to Ronnie," he replied with out missing a beat. "I see, and you and your henchmen are here for what reasons?" We came to rescue you and the twins, he replied with an air of arrogance. And you thought I was just going to go off with you just like that? Are you nuts? I don't know you from Adam. At least with Andreas I feel safe, even if I wasn't sure of who or what he was besides a very kind person." Illana's tirade continued, "And what about my children? How were you going to handle them? Were you going to tie them in a bundle or what? And another thing...Don't I rate an introduction? You were just going to come in here and cart me away without a by your leave? What if I didn't, don't want to go? Are you going to force me?" Lukas was forced to step back because of the vehemence and heat of her words. This made twice in one day...twice within an hour that some female had made mushy mincemeat of his pride. First his life mate, and now this slip of a girl. What made things even worse for him was the fact that he could swear the big silver-haired wolf was laughing right along with the snickers he heard coming from Jules 81 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 and the newly arrived Flan. In the blink of an eye, he shifted into a large black wolf, and headed out off the chamber with his tail between his legs, while their laughter echoed from the walls and in his head. As he reached the cavern entrance, a glance over his shoulder told him that the big silver one followed him. Come fur-brother, a run will make it all right, you will see, a run is huge goodness, and will make all better. Come, we will run and run. And Kylos took off into the woods followed by a much chastened and hopefully wiser Lukas... As Lukas left the chamber, the women regained their poise, and introduced Illana to Jules, Justin, and Flan. She was impressed by the trio, and when she asked some of the many questions she had, they gave her what answers they honestly could. When the babies started to cry, Katrina hustled the men out of the chamber with nips and growls, as the women helped Illana prepare to feed the children. When they were alone, Illana looked at Emilie and her new friends and asked, "Is it true what Dante said? Would they destroy...kill Andreas?" Emilie looked into Illana's eyes and answered with brutal honesty. "Yes Illana, they would have no choice. They are the darkness, and we are the light. As day is to night, we are essential to them, for we are their true mates, the other halves of their souls. There is no doubt that you are so to Andreas. He would turn into a creature as hideous as the one the hunters destroyed outside." Illana blanched. "Andreas said I was his mate, he said nothing about being killed or destroyed!" Ronnie took Illana's hand. "He did not claim you yet?" I don't know what you mean, Illana said. "What do you mean by claimed?" Ronnie looked to Emilie, got her nod, and turned back to Illana. "The bond between life mates is unbreakable. It begins with the exchange of blood in our way, and the ritual words are said. These bind and unite the two halves of our soul and we become one. The bonding is physical as well as mental, emotional, and spiritual. You have just given birth. Andreas apparently did not want to injure you, and so he refrained from the intimacy of the claiming." The tension in the air was almost palpable as the women awaited Illana's decision. 82 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Katrina felt the tension and Illana's upset too, and leaned into her again to try to give comfort. She laid her head over Illana's lap and heaved a huge sigh, bringing Illana's hand down to pet her head. "Emilie," Illana spoke quietly, "Can you heal me?" 83 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXIII As quickly as the quiet words were spoken, the tension left the room like air rushing from a deflating balloon. The decision was a welcome one, but the women decided she would have to know the whole story before they began. They could not leave anything to chance, nor could they leave it to the men to mess up. They would see that Illana went into this thing with her eyes wide open, and then it would be in her hands. As they talked and relaxed on the bed, Emilie sent her spirit energy off on an expedition into Illana's body. She made a thorough search, did many minor repairs to injuries left from the crash, noting that the healing was crude, but well done. She then traveled low into Illana‟s abdomen to soothe and heal the trauma from the births. Emilie wanted no impediments to the mating, future fertility, nor did she want there to be any undue pain. That would come soon enough with her conversion. There were several anomalies she stopped to examine, and discovered some of Illana's organs were changing, and being altered already. It was a puzzle to examine later, but for now, Illana could be claimed without a problem. Emilie returned to her body a bit ashen, but none the worse for wear and beamed at the other three lounging on the bed. Illana's worried expression was turned into a slight gasp as Ronnie held her wrist to Emilie. "You are too pale Emilie. Take what is freely given. You need to return to your full strength for we have work to do here," Ronnie said as Emilie's fangs sank into her wrist. Emilie closed the small wounds with a flick of her tongue, and turned to Illana with a solemn expression. "We know you still have questions, and one burns in your mind now," Ronnie said to Illana. "Yes, Sarai knows who and what we are, and loves us in spite of our peculiar needs. The daughter she carries may one day be life mate to one of our males, and she truly hopes for that outcome." "We were, with the exception of Zarria, human as you when we met our life mates for the first time. Zarria was born to Lukas and I in hopes that she could save Darian. We have lost too many to the beast, and until recently, were headed on the fast track to 84 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 extinction. Lukas made a 'mistake' with me. Until I came along, desperate males tried converting any human woman. The resulting creatures had to be destroyed for they went totally insane and preyed on the weak and helpless. My psychic talent was the key they were missing, and it opened up a whole new world of hope for our people." Emilie studied Illana carefully. "You have a psychic talent. This will enable your conversion, and pose no danger to your sanity. I believe the conversion has already begun within you," she said to Illana. "But how could this have happened?" Zarria's question hung in the air as a startled Illana gasped and blanched. "It would appear that Andreas had to give you blood in order to insure your survival. I do not know how much, nor how often, but normally three exchanges are necessary for the conversion to be complete," Emilie explained to the startled group, Illana in particular. “You have received, but have not given, yet I sense a strong bond is there between you. It may be enough.” "And yet, according to Ronnie, I have not been claimed yet...does that mean Andreas is still in danger?" Illana looked at the women around her, and almost as one, four heads nodded and confirmed her worst suspicion. "Where is he?" Her voice rang with a determination. "He saved my life, I can hardly let him lose his. What will become of him?" Emilie placed her hand on Illana's and looked into her eyes. "His fate is tied to you Illana. Even now, gravely injured, he doesn't know whether he will live or die. He has shut himself away from us and is deep within his own mind waiting for your decision. He has not even let any of us tend to his wounds, but has erected a barrier against us." Emilie gently turned Illana's head toward the corner of the room on the other side of the bed. Illana suddenly knew why her attention had been directed away from Andreas and toward her own dilemma. Andreas lay alone, unmoving, injured, and too pale and still for her comfort. She struggled to get off the bed, because even though Emilie had healed most of her injuries, she was still weak and had yet to gain any of her strength back. Adriana, with Katrina by her side, took charge of the babes as Emilie and Zarria helped Illana over to where Andreas lay, and as she kneeled by his side, the shimmering 85 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 barrier winked out. She laid her hand on his bloodied chest and felt the strong beat of his heart, and knew she could not let him die. The next words out of her lips stunned herself as well as her friends. "Can I claim him?" Emilie, Adriana, Ronnie and Zarria looked at each other and shrugged. "We don't know, but it may be possible. There must be a blood exchange though, at least that is what we think," Emilie said. Illana held her wrist up to Emilie, "Do what you need to do, and give me the words. I will not let him die or be destroyed. If it is true that he is my life mate, then we shall make do...if not, part of my great debt to him will be repaid. I do owe him my life, and the lives of my children." "If you do this, you will be bound to him for the rest of eternity," Emilie told her. "Think carefully before you choose Illana. This is for a very long time, you will not be able to be separated from him either, and conversion will be a certainty. It is more painful to go through than anything you know or can imagine." "Do it Emilie, please." 86 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXIV As Emilie's fangs pierced her wrist, Illana felt a stirring in her mind. She felt Emilie there, the quick transfer of information was astounding. She saw much, and learned even more in that brief contact. She also knew what had to be done, and she had to do it before Andreas knew what was happening. She realized she was taking a chance, but Emilie and the others were here with her, and she would have their support. "Ok, I am ready. Help me with this, please..." Illana was resolute, and Emilie read the certainty in her eyes. "I have to do this, you understand don't you Emilie?" Yes, it was hard, but Emilie understood. A fingernail lengthened and scored a small but deep gash in the muscle of Andreas' chest. Under Emilie's compulsion, Illana placed her lips to the gash and drank. She wanted to fight this, but she had to save Andreas, and could only get this done with Emilie's help. When Emilie felt she had taken in enough, she released Illana and sealed the gash. "Do you wish to continue now, little sister?" Ronnie asked the question even though she felt she knew the answer. "Yes Ronnie, lets' do this now." Illana said as a faint whisper of a smile passed her lips. Ronnie lengthened a nail, and put a slash in Illana's breast as Zarria and Emilie helped lift Andreas to the wound. Clutching him tightly to her she said the words of binding as she let her life's blood flow into Andreas' mouth. "I claim you, Andreas," Illana's voice faltered, but she was doggedly determined to save this man. "I belong to you, I offer my life for yours. You are the heart of my heart, soul of my soul, and the flame of my flame for all time. You are my life mate, my beloved bound to me in love, life, and spirit for all eternity. I live for you only, and your love and life are always in my care." She felt a shift deep inside her as she said the words, and knew what Andreas claimed was true. She felt the bonds wrap around her heart like silken threads, binding 87 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 their hearts and souls together. She was also filled with a sense of completeness she„d never felt before. Illana felt the pull at her breast become intense, as all of a sudden white-hot currents went streaking through blood that seemed to be boiling like the water in the hot springs. The feeling was of a pleasure almost too intense to bear, and she almost swooned from the effects. Her head felt light, and stars danced before her eyes as the blackness threatened to descend. "My life, Andreas, for you I give my life," the last word of the binding were only a whisper on her heart's pathway, the only thing that stood between her and death's door. The whispered promise found a home and lit the spark of consciousness in Andreas once more. His eyes snapped open, and he withdrew his fangs in horror at what he‟d done. His first and only thought, as his tongue snaked out, was to close the wound and give her blood. His mind screeched to a sudden halt and his blood froze in his veins at the thought. He had given her his blood twice and he was panicked at the thought he could lose her. In the turmoil of his thoughts, he failed to notice the four women watching him with an avid curiosity. "Well? Are you going to let her die?" Emilie asked with a sly smile tweaking the corners of her lips. "I cannot give her more blood, I may have given her too much already, and I cannot chance losing her to insanity," he replied with a quaver of panic in his voice. "Is there anything you can do to help me? I don't know if I can reach her!" Emilie scanned Illana's prone form, walked to Andreas, surprising him by making a slash across his chest. "Try, she may surprise you, but do it quickly, the conversion is already starting, and she needs to be at full volume." Andreas clutched Illana to his chest just as she had done to him only a very few moments before. Illana! Please my heart, you must drink. I cannot lose you or the world will not be safe. Please my love, for me, for the children." Much to his relief he felt a gentle pulling suction at the wound on his chest. "Is she feeding?" Emilie asked in her most clinical voice. " 88 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 "Yes, yes she is. Now if you don't mind, please call Dante and leave. I cannot have you witness our destruction," Andreas said with waves of sorrow radiating from him as though he was in the deepest of grief. "Now why would we want to do that?" The pretty brown haired woman asked as she looked to her companions for confirmation. They all looked askance at Andreas. "I fear for her sanity." The statement was made with such assurance that the women could not hold their laughter in much longer. Brows raised and lips twitched, and a sputtering giggle escaped from Ronnie as she quickly turned away. Emilie and Zarria studied the man on the floor before them. He was clutching Illana to his chest as though he was afraid she would break as he left his life giving blood flood into her system. The question they were throwing between them was an incredible one, and finally Emilie broke the silence. "Why do you fear for her sanity Andreas? I really don't understand," Emilie asked. "It is old wisdom and common knowledge that human women cannot be converted. To try is to condemn them to a life of depravity and results in the death of many innocents. As vampires or as silths they have preyed on the women, children, and old people of the towns and villages. They kill indiscriminately, and must be destroyed. She is my life mate, and to destroy her is to destroy me," Andreas said in explanation. He had a hard time believing that these women who were obviously Draconian, did not know these common facts. "I see," said Emilie and then looked to Zarria and Ronnie for support. It was, however, Zarria who chimed in with the shock to his system. "I am Zarria Arianoff, life mate to Darian the Healer, daughter to Lukas and Ronnie Catarinsky. I want you to know Andreas, that of the four of us present, I am the only true-born Draconian woman. My mother, Ronnie, our healer Emilie, and Adriana were all human women. Now Illana will join our numbers. You truly did not know this was possible?" The last was asked in absolute wonder. Their attention was turned by a low moan from Illana. Scanning her quickly, Emilie told Andreas she could handle no more and began briskly giving orders. Even Katrina 89 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 was included and the place was soon bustling with wolves and women as they readied the chamber for the upheaval of Illana's conversion. Although Zarria did not know the agonies of conversion, she had been in Adriana and Emilie's minds and the vividly remembered feelings were enough to make her cringe. She knew they would do anything to try to ease Illana through this, but it was a very personal thing, and only her connection with Andreas would be of any help. The first tremors wracked her body, and Illana shook from the force. Her muscles seemed to cramp in the most horrible ways, as it felt as though her bones were being boiled and her joints pulled apart. She tried to block the pain out, but that seemed to make it worse. A subtle shifting in her mind caused her to reach out. Andreas! Help me! she cried in her mind. Suddenly he was there folding her in warmth, acceptance, and love. I am sorry, Andreas, the words carried tears even in her mind. What are you sorry for, my love? Andreas asked her. Anything was better than this horrible pain, and any distraction would be welcomed. I am sorry I forced you into this position, that I am not strong enough to handle this on my own, that you must see me like this. The words that tumbled in her mind were a jumble that made no sense to him and worried him greatly. What are you talking about Illana my love? What did you do that has you so upset? I took your blood to start the conversion, Emilie said it had already been started, and I had to save your life. The ramblings made no sense, and he looked to Emilie for confirmation, but she and the others had left the chamber. Another spasm wracked her body and her stomach started to roll violently. She retched with Andreas holding her, offering her what comfort he could. Again, as the pain subsided, the fires still scouring her, she tried to confess her 'sin' to him. "The blood, you gave me blood to save my life. It changed me somehow inside. Emilie said it was preparing me for the conversion to start, and it was a way that I could save your life...if I was your life mate, we had to be bound or you could be lost. I...I couldn't let that happen," her voice cracked and broke off in a moan as her stomach indulged in another bout of cleansing. 90 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 As the implications of her words hit home, Andreas was shaken to his core. She willingly forced conversion on herself? Did she truly think she must save his life? What did she mean they had to be bound? These questions and more screamed through him as Illana once more doubled over in pain. The questions would have to wait, but he would have answers. Soon... 91 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXV Emilie reentered the chamber to find Andreas cuddling a wan but sleeping Illana. He was too pale for her piece of mind, there appeared to be a problem, but she had no idea of the source. She approached Andreas slowly and called softly to him. “Andreas, the conversion can be finished easier in the ground. She needs the soil and its healing properties." Emilie was worried because he showed no signs of hearing. "Andreas are you all right? Can I help?" Emilie‟s worry called out to her mate, and Dante and Flan rushed to Emilie's aid. The tone of her call had them upset, because she rarely panicked. After making sure the younger hunters were on their way home, and that everything in the valley was quiet, Darian returned to the cavern. He had disposed of Tierov and scattering his ashes to the wind, and now he was ready to face the ancient who had thrown the taunts at him. Darian followed close on their heels as Emilie's call had reached him as well. As he went through the outer chamber, he passed a very depressed looking Lukas stroking a huge and familiar looking silver wolf. Darian shook his head. He would attend to Lukas later, for a quick scan showed there were no injuries needing his attention. He wouldn't worry because Jules and Justin were there and did not seem unduly concerned about Lukas's funk. They were busy playing with several pups of the unusual pack that appeared to call this place home. What Darian was not ready for was the scene that met his eyes when he found the chamber that held the rest of his companions, the woman, and the old one. His eyes were drawn first to the large black wolf that paced restlessly from one point to the next, its eyes never leaving the corner beyond the bed. The next thing he saw was a trio women sitting in rustic yet functional rocking chairs, cuddling tiny wriggling bundles and softly crooning to them to quiet their fretting. The last was the sight of Flan, Emilie, and Dante standing quietly, and still as statues. It was almost as if they feared to break whatever spell seemed to hold them motionless. Emilie, what is wrong, what is the problem here? Suddenly Darian was not sure if 92 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 he would like the answer, but he had to ask. It is Andreas. He has shut himself off from us, and we cannot reach him. We want to put them to ground, but he has again erected a barrier. Emilie's answer was unexpected. Her question was even more astounding and shook Darian to the core. Can you talk to him, Darian? Can you reach him please? If you don't or can't, we will lose them both. Darian was humbled by her request. He had great respect for Emilie as a healer. She had learned much over the past years, but never had she run into a problem she couldn't handle. For her to request his help like this, let him know the situation was dire indeed. As he approached them, for the first time he could see the problem. The stranger sat on a bed of satin draped pine boughs, clutching a young honey blond woman to his chest, rocking as he crooned softly to her. Tears streamed unchecked down his too pale face, and the sorrow rolled off of him in almost overwhelming waves. Darian could sense he had withdrawn deep within himself, and knew that something had to be done, quickly. The shield was an ancient one, but had been customized by its user. It was a good thing this one wouldn't turn, because it would take at least two extremely experienced hunters to bring him down and accomplish the task. Flan and Dante talked with Darian and he told them what he suspected, and what they should expect. Then the three of them silently started to unravel the safeguard. As it started to give way, Flan slipped inside and snatched Illana. The method was crude but effective, and it worked. Andreas surged forward with eyes blazing and death on his mind. Timing, being the important thing that it is, was crucial to the plan's success and Emilie's was impeccable as always. Before Andreas could complete his lunge, she stepped in front of him causing him to become unbalanced and allowing Dante to knock his legs out from under him. With Dante pinning his legs down, and Darian at his chest, the fury of the moment abated and sorrow took over Andreas once more. A ragged chuckle struggled from his throat as he watched Darian examine Illana. "You are so like your father, you must be the young Protector and Healer, Darian Arianoff. Tell me, little Dragon Healer, will she have to be destroyed because of this folly? These women say they, too, were human before they met their mates. How is this 93 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 possible when all know that insanity follows conversion? Why did she risk her life for me? Can you save her young one? Can you return her to me?" The stillness in the chamber was broken only by the whimper of an infant, restless in its sleep. And it was into this silence that Darian's pure tones rang with truth and blanketing all within with calm. "You will not lose her, old man. What the women have told you this day is true. Ronnie, Emilie, and Adriana were all human at one time. Ronnie, the life mate of Lukas was the first human woman to be successfully converted. It was an accident, but a fortunate one. Emilie and Dante‟s story is different, but she was the second. Flan and Adriana have yet another, and so it goes. Illana is psychic. She is an empath of great power, and it made her a likely candidate as a life mate. We also hope the twins she carried could be possible life mates and spare two more of our males from turning or greeting the sun." Darian gave a nod of his head, and Dante moved up, tearing his wrist with his teeth, pressing the bleeding flesh to Andreas' lips. "Take what is freely given, Andreas. You need to be strong to care for your life mate," Dante said as Andreas took his wrist in shaking hands and drank. Flan then offered his. Gradually, Andreas' features tinged with color once again, he thanked them and reached for Illana. Darian gently laid her in Andreas‟ arms and sent them both into a deep Draconian stasis. Working quickly, he and Emilie healed the worst of the wounds Andreas had suffered. Then with a wave of his hand, Darian floated them down into the hole Flan and Dante had opened for them in the rich earth of the cavern floor. The dawn was approaching, and there was precious little time to accomplish everything. ~*~*~ Darian sent Jules home with news to an anxious Delphina and Sarai, and laughed at Lukas's plight. It plunged poor Lukas deeper into his blue funk. He charged Flan and Justin with finding someone to care for the children while they all rested, and set Ronnie and the other three women into a cleaning frenzy. Katrina and her pack-mates joyously joined in and threw themselves into it with great abandon. Wood was brought and stacked by the fireplace, and the Draconians shared a alugh 94 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 at the antics of the wolves as they “helped.” Clean linens were placed on the bed in readiness. Fresh herbs were gathered and spread through the chamber, and healing candles were placed in their respective holders. The babies were fed, changed, and sent to sleep, and all was in readiness when Dante and Flan walked in with their raggedy, shaking trio. 95 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXVI Annabelle was frightened out of her wits. It was not everyday a pair of really handsome strangers offered her a job...if she asked no questions. The fact that these two were able to communicate with her at all was remarkable, and the fact they could actually talk to her was astounding. After so many years of running, maybe they would finally provide some place she and her family could call home. This cave, however, did not look real promising, and the wolves looked as though they wanted to eat them alive. To be honest about it...she didn't know which would be worse...being killed by those who were hunting her, or being torn apart by wolves. Ariel was whimpering softly, and Gentian was trying her best to comfort her daughter. It was hard enough that it had taken Annabelle five years to recover her daughter, Gentian, but to find out she had been raped and had been forced to bear a child for “them” and their horrible experiments was almost too much. Gentian had been only seven when she was kidnapped, and now a new mother at only age twelve, and it was almost more than Annabelle could handle. She knew people could be cruel, but this went beyond that, and she now needed a safe place where she could hide her daughter and granddaughter from the Anti-Wallachi Society. She was really having second thoughts. She walked into the cavern on shaking legs, but leaving was definitely looking better and better all the time. She could be assured of one thing, death at the hands of the Society would be a long drawn out process. These wolves would be quick and merciful. Maybe quick and merciful was best. The Society! What do you know of them? What have they done to you? Oh my God! Are you all right? How can we help? The questions nearly bombarded Annabelle until a very imperious voice called a halt to them. Dante was radiating anger in waves. "Let off with the questions, they have been through enough!" His voice was raised, and all movement stopped. He was not easily angered, but his treatment at the hands of the ignorant Society explained the presence of the three that stood trembling before them. 96 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Emilie came forward and laid a calming hand on his chest. It is ok. Dante, we can learn their story later. Thank you for bringing them here to help us." "I am sorry for getting so upset, but after what they have been through, I know it could not have been pleasant, I..." His voice faded off and Emilie took over. Getting things organized quickly, Emilie herded the women off with Adriana and Zarria to bathe and find clean clothing. Ronnie chimed in saying she had some trunks stored in a back room, and if they would pull them out, they were sure to find enough clothing for all of them. “Emilie, I want you to see if you can do anything for Annabelle. She cannot hear or speak, but I find traces of memory that tell me she used to be able to do both. I would like to help her if we can." Dante made his request to his life mate, and Emilie heard the anger, and the desire to do something in his voice. "I will try beloved, if she will let me," Emilie replied. He then went on to fill them all in on the background he had found in Annabelle's mind as they talked, and her natural telepathic abilities that made their connection and conversation relatively easy. The fact her young daughter showed signs of having a similar psychic ability gave all reason to rejoice and wonder, hoping that the Goddess had blessed then yet again with good fortune. It seemed that this Society needed culling again, but they needed to put first things first. The first item on the agenda was waking Andreas and Illana, and then getting the rest settled. Dawn was here and the best time, and an urgent need for rest making itself known. It had been a long and hard night, and they were all tired. Emilie, Zarria, and Ronnie took the scruffy trio into a back chamber where there was a spring-fed pool of heated water. Giving them each a bar of lightly scented soap, and a washcloth, and laying huge fluffy towels out for them, they left taking the old clothes with them. Twenty minutes later they reappeared bearing shampoo, two trunks, more toweling, and a pair of shears. Setting their burdens down, they undressed, walked to the side of the pool and proceeded to join Annabelle, Gentian, and Ariel. "Oh isn't this water divine, Zarria?" Ronnie posed the question to her daughter. 97 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 "Yes, it is so relaxing, and it feels so good to just soak and enjoy this small pleasure. Illana is so fortunate to have this as a bath," Zarria replied. "I know Illana will just love having you here to help with the children," Emilie said to Annabelle and Gentian. How is it that you can talk to me? Are you telepaths too? The question was sent on a path similar to the Draconian's own. "Yes, we are telepathic, but we are also different. The Society that has been hounding and hunting for you is definitely not on our list of close friends. They are hunting us as well," replied Emilie as she stepped into the hot spring. "Oh, can I hold the baby?" she asked and held out her hands for Ariel. "Illana will be back shortly, and then we shall take you to see your charges. Until then, I have found several of our old trunks that were left here from our last stay. There should be some things in there to fit both of you, and Lukas has gone to see if he can rustle up some breakfast. We may be able to find some things for the baby too...Illana had to have quite an extensive layette for the triplets," said Ronnie. The conversation continued this way until the women were completely at ease with each other. Cleaned, dried, and decently trimmed and clothed, the little group headed back to the main cavern. The difference in the three was marked, as their beauty shone in clean faces, neatly coiffed hair, and fresh clothing. They all had to agree, Annabelle was a beautiful woman, and not nearly as old as she had first appeared. 98 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXVII Several hours had passed, and Dante walked into the chamber where Andreas and Illana lay in the earth. Kylos stood to attention as Darian and Justin followed and gave a mournful whine. Sensing the wolf's concern, Dante showed him pictures of Andreas and Illana resting peacefully and as Kylos gave a huge sigh of relief. Darian opened the spell shield over the ground, lifting the earth from the couple. Come on, old man, we need you to join us for a while. Your injuries are healing, but there are things you should know. Andreas, Get up! The urgent and oddly familiar voice penetrated the thick veil over his mind. Yeah, Come on, Andreas, you need to show us to the guest chambers in this rabbit warren of yours. I am sure poor Lukas wants to go to bed, maybe even to ground badly as his pride‟s been battered. It has been sorely wounded several times this rising, and the healing would be welcome to him. The second not-so-worried voice echoed in his mind. A quick scan showed him a very worried feminine presence in the chamber as well as three somewhat familiar males. Please wake Andreas, We need you, and Illana will need you shortly. The lighter feminine voice was truly spiked with worry. He noted this as he felt yet another, more gentle stirring there too, that seemed to be trying to awaken with him. Shhh, Andreas, Illana is fine. The conversion is over, but she needs to feed. You need to wake and feed so you can care for your life mate, the feminine voice prodded at him as his iced-sapphire eyes snapped open. "Take what is freely given, Andreas that you may look after your fledgling life mate," said Darian as he offered his wrist to Andreas. "She will need you greatly this next rising, and even now she begins to hunger." Andreas felt her stir as he closed the tiny wound in the healer's wrist. Immediately it was replaced with Dante‟s arm, and then with Justin‟s, then Flan's. "It is true then, what you told me?" The question was aimed at Emilie. "She will be all right in her mind?" 99 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 "Yes, Andreas, and in her body. Please allow Darian to make sure. I checked all her injuries from the crash, but I want him to make sure she did not re-injure herself." Andreas took Illana gently in his arms and floated up into the chamber. Thought was all it took to clean the remaining soil from her and make sure that she was clean and comfortably situated in the huge bed. Andreas watched as Darian, The Great Protector and Healer of the Draconians stood motionless at the bedside. Andreas felt him as he traversed the length and breadth of Illana's body. He emerged a bit pale, but the look on his face brought relief to Andreas. "She is well and whole. As Emilie would say, the patient gets a clean bill of health. Her wounds were grave Andreas, you did an amazing job to save her." Darian's praise was unexpected. "I cannot take all the credit," Andreas said as his eyes found those of the huge silver wolf. "Kylos and Katrina found her, and staunched the worst of the wounds, then brought her here till I could come. Their calls were urgent, and woke me early from my rest. They are trusted friends and have been with me for more years than you would believe. I owe them for Illana's life, and mine as well." Emilie was absently petting Katrina on the head as she watched the interaction of the men. She suddenly had the impressions of the newcomers, and knew that they were being shown to one of the smaller rooms in the cavern complex, but one that was not so far away that they would get lost. She also knew she had to get things moving. "Excuse me, fellas, but don't you think you should be waking Illana? The children are missing their mother, and there is the matter of introducing her to the woman and her daughter who will be caring for them while you sleep," Emilie said in a voice that held a vast amount of amusement. "If I am correct, there is also another little matter which she needs to discuss with you, Andreas. It is most important, and I think you will agree." Emilie turned to Dante and said, "I have found us a wonderfully cozy spot to spend the day, old man. Andreas has the most wonderfully secluded guest accommodations." With a wink in Andreas' direction, and a throaty laugh, she proceeded to drag a not totally unwilling Dante from the chamber. 100 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 With a slight clearing of his throat, Flan excused himself too, wondering what Adriana had found for them. She was being quite insistent that he see for himself, and refused him any hints at all. Darian heaved a sigh and told Andreas that he would await him in the main chamber, and then actually disappeared with a snap. Andreas returned his attention to the woman on the bed and was surprised to find her looking at him. Worry was etched in every feature as her eyes traveled over his still battered body. He watched and silently cursed as her beautiful blue eyes filled with tears. "You are still hurt! I can feel your pain, oh Andreas," Illana said as she struggled to sit up. "Is it over? I want...Oh, I am so confused!" "This rising has been hard on you, Illana. When you sleep this night, it will be the sleep of my people. For now, you need nourishment, and there is only one way to do that, you must feed," Andreas said this as a thought removed his shirt. "Do you want or need my help? Do you need me to put you under compulsion? I can you know." His lips quirked and he held out his arms. She came into them and Andreas finally held her to him. His life mate, his treasured love. A gasp was wrenched from his lips as she nuzzled into him, and her small fangs pierced his chest deeply. His blood flowed and burned like molten lava and a sense of great well being drifting over him. The words whispered in his mind, and yet they were said in her voice, Illana's voice saying the words of claiming, and when he looked he found the new bonds she had woven to tie them together. "Come to me, Andreas! I want you...I don't know much of anything else, but I want you! Illana's voice rang clearly in his mind along a shining pathway echoing with want and needs that only he could fill. I don't understand this feeling, but I need... "Close the wounds, Illana." Her tongue darted out and sealed the twin pinpricks just before his mouth came down on hers, claiming her in a kiss of fiery promise and passion. He had waited so long for this woman, so long for this light to come into his life. This incredible woman held him in the palm of her hand. She would be his anchor, and his strength. Thought willed away the rest of their clothing, and Andreas let his hands roam her 101 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 body in new ways. This time, the intent was not to soothe and caress, but to pleasure as they traversed the dips and swells that made him mad with want. Illana had given birth, yet was untried and untutored in the ways of love. He wanted only the best for her, but time was not on their side at this moment. Illana writhed beneath his questing hands, and silently begged for more. She arched into the moist heat as his mouth found and sampled one taut and swollen nipple. Gentle fingers lightly pinched and twirled the other causing heat to pool deep within her. Tension rode every nerve as she rubbed along his length and felt the heat build and swirl within them both. His firmly muscled body quaked with the excitement she was building, and she knew he waited for a signal from her. She sighed. “Come to me, Andreas,” Illana‟s consent sent a heated rush to his loins. Cool lips against heated skin, and then the sharp prick of fiery ecstasy as his fangs were buried deep in her breast. At the same time she was impaled on his turgid shaft, and he filled her heated depths precisely. Slowly he began to move within her, and as she picked up the rhythm and met his every thrust his need became more desperate. A stroke of his tongue closed the pricks, but branded her as his forever, as heat rose and the fire threatened to consume them. His need built also, and he whispered his need to her in panting breaths. "Please Illana, I need to feel all of me in you," and with those words he sent a picture of what he wanted from her. Sharp teeth once again grazed the wall of his chest and as they sank deeply, the words that he longed to say to her since the first day came pouring from him into her heart and mind. The bond meshed tighter as Andreas laid claim to his Illana and welded them together in promise and in the fires of their passion. "I claim you, Illana. I belong to you, I offer my life for yours. You are the heart of my heart, soul of my soul, and the flame of my flame for all time. You are my life mate, my beloved bound to me in love, life, and spirit for all eternity. I live for you only, and your love and life are always in my care. My life, Illana, for you I give my life." With those words still ringing in her ears, Illana soared to the stars, with Andreas following close behind. 102 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXVIII The mood in the main chamber was subdued excitement. The Draconians were aware of what had taken place, but if the humans knew, they showed no evidence. The playful yip of a pup and the quiet snuffle of a child were the only sounds that broke the otherwise peaceful atmosphere of the room. Emilie and Adriana had brought the babies out to introduce them to Annabelle and Gentian. Although little Ariel wasn't much older than the triplets, she seemed to take an interest in them as well. Ronnie, Zarria and Adriana were currently cooing and fussing over all four babies as Gentian looked on, while Emilie took the opportunity to draw Annabelle to the side. "I know this may be none of my business, Annabelle, but I would like it if you could answer some questions for me. I am curious as to how your deafness came about? I don't know for sure, but if it is possible, I would like to help you regain your hearing." Emilie made the offer carefully, knowing that pride was not a thing one should damage. Annabelle's shoulders visibly drooped as she replied, "you are welcome to try, but I have seen many specialists when I was younger, and they all told me that it was hopeless, the raging fever I had when I was a child destroyed my hearing, and no medicine can bring it back. You may look if you want, but I don't think there is anything you can do for my hearing." "I will not promise anything, but I can tell you the one you met named Darian is one of our greatest healers. He has taught me things over and above my formal training as a doctor. There is a possibility that between us, we could do something, but only if you allow it." Emilie made the proposal bluntly and without promise. She wanted Annabelle to suffer no false hopes as she had on the promises of human doctors. Damn the cock-sure attitudes of human professionals anyway! Further conversation was preempted when another striking pair entered. Andreas led Illana forward and formally introduced her to the gathered company. He watched with amusement as she was introduced to Lukas. The look she threw him made Ronnie 103 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 fight to hold back a snicker, and Adriana, Emilie, and Zarria found sleeping babies suspiciously interesting. Even Darian had a slight smirk on his face. "Ah Lukas, for once it is not me! This time you are the occupant of...the doghouse? Isn't that Ronnie's colorful phrasing?" Lukas's "Shut up Darian!" was tainted by the sound of Ronnie giggling in the background, and made Darian's smirk even bigger. Not even a growl of warning could wipe it off his face, and Lukas subsided with an inward sigh. Illana was introduced to Annabelle, and the two hit it off quite well. Illana pulled Gentian in making her feel like a much beloved younger sister, for which Annabelle was forever in her debt. Those watching had no doubts that Flan and Dante had chosen extremely well in Annabelle and her little family. The women cooed over babies and talked about raising children and fashion while the men just stood around and shook their heads. It was amazing to them that never before could they have dreamed so many males, especially MATED males, could be together in the same place without a fight breaking out. As that thought was broadcast, Flan and Andreas shared a smile. Of the group assembled, they were the only ones who could really remember how it was in the centuries of unrest that culminated in the Ottoman invasion. Both of them remembered how the petty fights of the humans pretty much passed them by. They were able to pick and choose their fights, usually not engaging in the battles unless the threat was to a population of their villages. Then all the males fought with great skill, and the fledglings fought with vigor. The skirmishes were often used to diffuse the restless energy of the young, and Andreas and Flan had both participated in many as they grew up. Their civilization was as grand as any in Europe, and had remained relatively unscathed until the 14th century and the Ottoman Turks. It was then, for the first time that any could remember, that the Draconians were truly in danger of dying out. The damage done in vicious raids took a great toll on all the peoples of the country, but most of all on the Draconians. Andreas scanned the room, and realized that he and Flan had been sharing memories of times gone by. He chuckled to Flan, and said, "The young ones will learn won't they?" 104 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 ~*~*~ This was all well and good to Kylos and Katrina, who sat in a corner and gloated. Through all the years that they had been with the fur-brother, they„d always sensed a lack of true feeling within him. When one of the pack came to him hurt, he showed concern, but it was only superficial. On an instinctual level, they knew he cared, but the actual feeling was lacking. With the coming of his mate, they could feel the difference. The Golden-Hair fur sister was good for Sky-Eyes fur brother. This made them happy, and in their own wolfly way they rejoiced. Love and happiness radiated from the alpha pair. As the rest of the pack gathered quietly in the dim recesses of the main chamber, a hum slowly filled the air. The unfamiliar sound brought the Draconians to full alert with all senses tuned to their surroundings. The unusual sound grew and swelled until they recognized the growling of the wolves. This was an odd occurrence, because the sound was more like a humming than a growl. It had a soothing, almost tuneful quality about it that seemed to soothe the restless children and caused a series of wide yawns to break out among the younger pups. As they watched, pups, babies, and even Gentian yawned and seemed to settle to sleep. The soft wolf-song lullaby continued until they were deep in dreamland, and then on quiet paws, Kylos and Katrina led the adults of the pack off to their respective resting places or pack-chores. It took several minutes before a stunned Darian cleared his throat and looked at Andreas. "Could you explain to us what just happened, and just what or should I say who these wolves are?" Andreas settled back as Illana came to sit at his side. As she snuggled into him, he began the story... 105 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXIX "It was a long time ago, after the last of the major feuds and land battles were over that I found the wolf cub. I had been hunting, and was not having any luck. My quarry had gone to ground to escape me, and my time was growing short. I was already feeling the need to take my rest when I heard a whimper. I followed the noise, and found a small wolf cub caught in a vicious trap. His leg was badly mangled and he was starting to try and chew himself free when I got to him. I released him from the trap, gave him some food, and healed his leg to the best of my ability. He stayed with me a while until he was healed, and then we parted ways. Two years passed and I was again hunting in the vicinity. I knew my time was short, and the days were numbered, but I was not looking to die that day. I was expecting the attack, but not the ferocity and not from two enemies at once. The battle was long and hard fought, and several times I thought they had me defeated. A mistake by one, led to the downfall of both, but by then I was beyond weary and wounded badly. It was all I could do to staunch the flow of blood from my wounds. To move was not an option, and I had little or no strength left. I must have passed out where I had fallen. The next thing I knew, I was waking up between two furry bodies, and my wounds had been cleaned and packed. The bed I was on was nothing more than pine boughs and over them was a rough linen sheet. There were also some herbs laid out, a rough, water filled container, and a chipped cup. If emotions would have been present, I don't know what I would have felt, but the sound of someone stirring put my senses on the alert. Nothing surprised me more than the person who appeared, and I thought I was truly dreaming. The old woman, Alda, was blind, but seemed to know her way around the cave quite well. She called out to the wolves that were still beside me, and though they were awake, seemed reluctant to move. As she came forward, she introduced herself to me, and proceeded to nudge the wolves aside and care for my wounds as though there was nothing unusual about a wounded man in a cave with a pair of 106 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 wolves. She applied fresh poultices, remarked on how fast I was healing, and then went on to tell me some of her story. Through her, I learned the wolves names, and that Alda had found Kylos soon after I had rescued him from the trap. Katrina she found later the same year. Wounded by a hunter, and bleeding badly when Kylos brought her home, Alda was able to nurse her back to health. It had been a long and painful recovery for the young female. She also told me that Kylos brought her to me. He had told her he owed me his life, and that he had honor. The debt must be repaid. Reassured that I was healing well, and that the debt was well paid, I was allowed to leave. After that, I spent a lot of time in Alda's company. She lived alone, and had no family left but the wolves. They did their best to keep her supplied with fresh meat, companionship, and protection. She provided them a warm place to stay, and cooked food if they wished it. It was a companionable relationship, and I paid special attention to their needs and did my best to supplement their supplies whenever I visited. It was not a good day when I went to Alda's cave and found her dying. It had been more than a month since I had been able to visit them last, and she had been ill, but assured me she was recovering. Too late I learned that the doctors in the nearby village had told her that she would not last the winter. The disease had eaten away at Alda's body and there wasn't enough strength left for her to fight it anymore. She wrung the promise from me to care for the wolves and she bid us farewell. She said her time had come, and that she would not see the morning. She thanked us for making her last years so happy and then closed her eyes and drifted away. We mourned her passing, and laid her to rest beside the graves of her ancestors. The fact the old witch disappeared only upset a few in the village. A few came looking for her and when they noticed the fresh grave and the marker, went away weeping. It was after that we moved to this mountain. Our home is spacious and there is room to roam. It is a good thing, because as the years have passed, the few litters that Katrina has produced have grown, but not moved away. Those two are magnets for abandoned litters, and that has also increased our furry family greatly. The latest trio of pups they found brings the total in the pack to forty-two. 107 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 With a resigned look on his face, Andreas looked at Illana and asked, "Do you think you can put up with us?" 108 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Chapter XXX As the sun rose higher in the sky, the group said goodnight to Annabelle and Gentian, kissed the babies, and made their way to the chambers they had claimed for themselves. Emilie and Dante took a detour to play in the pool before retiring. Flan and Adriana took time to decorate the chamber they chose, and by the time the finishing touches were in place, it was truly beautiful. Ronnie had already prepared a chamber for Lukas and her, but still proceeded to fuss until Lukas had to beg her to come to bed. As Andreas led her through the smaller entry chamber to what he now thought of as the master suite, Illana was struck by the small touches that had been added. Thoughtful placement of the mattresses used by the wolves and even some sheet draped pine boughs added a clean scent, and a sense of order to the room. The youngest of the pups were piled in a heap, and a few of the older daughters were slumbering nearby. Katrina was supervising something, Illana didn't know what, but she looked toward them and gave them her best 'wolfy' smile. Kylos was lying sprawled on a mattress as though he were trying to take up every inch, and that made Illana chuckle. A flood of love and warmth from Andreas washed away the hint of sadness, the wolf‟s actions reminding her of that same complaint her late sister-in-law Shelly used to voice about Brant. Andreas hoped Illana liked the new additions in their bedroom. Illana noted the changes were pronounced as a partial wall had been constructed to separate the chamber into two sections. One side held the nursery, and the other, Illana and Andreas' bedroom. They were beautifully decorated thanks to the touches added by Ronnie, Emilie, Zarria, and Adriana, with beautiful accents that made the rooms much more cozy. Even the entry chambers were also transformed and Katrina was very pleased and very grateful to the new fur-sisters. "Come Illana, It is time for us to rest," Andreas said as he swept her off her feet and into the newly walled and "remodeled" bedroom. A thought removed her clothes, and his eyes eagerly took in every plane and angle of her body. His lips crashed down on hers with a gentle urgency that spoke of love, lust, 109 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 and his need for only her that was almost staggering. Never in her life did she expect to have such feelings directed at her. Nor indeed, did Illana expect to harbor in her own mind and body those exact same feelings for someone, let alone this gorgeous creature. The depth and strength of these feelings was almost frightening, but the sense that Emilie and the others felt the same was a small comfort in the whirl of new sensations. Lips parted, and tongues dueled and Andreas‟ hands gently explored the velvet contours of her body as she reveled in the sensations Andreas caused. It was more than simple love, it was a loving, cherishing possession and a sense she was actually being worshiped. The woman in his arms, in his bed did not know the half of it. In the far corner of his mind, tucked away under a patch of rubble and dying a quiet death, was the heart of a doubt silenced by the love she brought, and the light his soul craved. The shadow could not survive, for the light infused every corner, and even as it burned, there was only joy. A tender touch here, and a stroke there, followed by several tugs caused him to will away what stood between them. His mouth and hers dueled in love‟s war as the fires of passion were stoked by the feelings of flesh rubbing against flesh. Blood seemed to be made of boiling lava and as temperatures rose, their caresses became more urgent and more intimate. Illana gently stroked the length of his hard shaft, wringing a gasp of pleasure from his lips. Bolder with each success, she learned what pleased him, and what thrilled him. His gasps and moans guided her hands on a sensual tour that had him grasping the sheets with both hands. His legs shook, sweat beaded on his brow as open mouthed he gasped for air. His fingers clawed the bed, pulling more of the covers into his straining fists. She was amazed at the silent tear rolling down the side of his face. His body was almost painfully taut with expectation as her lips traveled downward over the sculpted chest and abdomen, heading right for the swollen shaft that stood proudly waiting. Her lips teased and tasted his length from base to tip leaving a wet trail before finally taking him within her tight mouth. When her tongue touched the small cleft in the flesh, he gasped and arched off the bed, imbedding himself deep in her throat. The stroking of her tongue and her soft moans nearly sending him over the edge. 110 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 It took every ounce of his will power to pull her away. He flipped her onto the bed beside him and treated her to some of the same. Gently he dipped a finger into the liquid heat between her thighs, drawing it up and over the jewel of her delight. With patience and skill, lips, tongue and fingers played and laved, and loved until her breath came in harsh gasps, and she rode passion's razor sharp edge. Hands found the firm round globes of her bottom and lifted her into his intimate kiss. His tongue delved deep into the nectar and she shattered, rocketing skyward in passion's hot embrace. Andreas watched her, marveling in the beauty of her passion. He stroked her to soothe the quaking and then slowly nestled himself between her welcoming thighs. Entering her tight sheath with one decisive thrust, he started the fires leaping to life again. This time, they traveled passion's highway together, flying higher than even the mightiest of dragon wings could take them, attaining the heights that could only be reached on the wings of love. 111 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 Epilogue Only the occasional whimper of an infant or the soft scold of a voice broke the quiet. The only ones left at Mountain Cavern, as Gentian had named it, were Andreas and Illana, Annabelle, Gentian, and the children. Katrina and Kylos had taken the "family" hunting. The fact that it was Gentian they informed, confirmed what Darian had suspected, and it was a welcomed sign. Gentian had the ability to communicate with animals, and hopefully she would be a life mate to one of the dragon-kind. Emilie and Darian had been able to restore some of Annabelle's hearing, but they wanted to take no undue chances where she was concerned. Even at the human age of thirty-two, the possibilities of her being a life mate were not unheard of in the Draconian's new reality. Brant, Elise, Rowena, and Ariel all thrived under the tender care of Annabelle and Gentian. The triplets were growing by leaps and bounds, and the girls were showing signs of increased awareness already. Several hours after they had risen the next evening, a call was put out for Emilie and Darian to hurry back. Sarai had gone into labor earlier, and Edouard and Jules were beside themselves. Delphina reported the facts with a great deal of amusement, and reassured Emilie that there was still enough time for them to make it back. With hurried goodbyes and hugs all around, the four couples left with promises of return visit very soon. Just before midnight, the ground gently rocked as Sarai brought her daughter into the world. The tiny babe kicked and screamed at the seeming injustice of being shoved into Emilie's waiting hands, but then seemed to lapse into a state of melancholy that would continue for many years. Jules and Delphina stood proudly by, while poor Edouard had to be picked up off the floor. The greatest honour was the tiny child was to be named after Jules and be called Julia. If it weren't for Jules, Sarai and Edouard might never have met under the right circumstances to fall in love. Jules would always be special to Sarai, and Delphina was like a sister. Julia was well named, and had a 112 The Dragon‟s Light A Paranormal Fantasy 9/19/2011 strong protector in her godfather, another honour that nearly floored Jules and made Delphina smile wider, if it were possible. Word was sent to Mountain Cavern that all were fine, and the news made Illana happy and Andreas content. In the woods, just beyond the entrance to Andreas' cavern home, a young dragon stood immobile. Taylor Doboroski had been sent to get Emilie, but found he was unable to return to the valley. Barely three hundred and thirty-two years old, his life had been bleak and drab for more than a century, and he longed for the return of the remembered colours of life. Now, the vivid life colours nearly blinded him, and the returned true feelings crashed over him in waves. Finally he knew the meaning of the dichotomy that ruled Dragon-kind, the necessity of darkness and light, and the importance of one‟s personal strength and will over the beast. The chant of 'life mate, life mate, life mate' echoed in the recesses of his heart and mind as he watched the chestnut haired woman named Annabelle scold the wolf pups and send them off to play... The enD, 113
"The Dragon's Light"