A Dangerous Legacy Pt. 16bymadam_noe©
There had been only a split second to act, and instinct had guided me. Before anyone else besides my alpha could see what I did opened the tunnel and pulled us all to it even across a distance. In the midst of the battle, the magical beings, and my other self's two powerful spells it was incredible, Valerius told me later, but adrenaline had made me do it, like a mother pulling a two-ton car off her young son.
I chased them all out, ignoring their questions. Only my pack and Malachai didn't speak, but Malachai's eyes seemed sadly knowing, pensive. Andre knew my secret but kept his mouth shut and helped me get everyone out. I promised them I was merely drained and needed rest, and we would meet soon.
Then I hugged Diego and stalked into my room pleading with one and all to leave me alone. I sat at the vanity mirror and stared at the face that looked back.
Always before the legacy had come there had been a girl who was pretty if rough. I'd had scars inside and out, and years of poverty had made me seem dulled like tarnished brass. I had been on the heavy side and my eyes had been forever tired.
Now the woman who looked back was beautiful. A beautiful shell with evil brimming behind those bright green eyes. It was the woman who had gone back in time and allowed an entire race to be slaughtered, had aided the wolves to that end. It was the woman who had set into motion the lessening of magic and the slavery of the wolves.
Magic forgotten for a moment, what little of me left still human reached out and punched the glass, shattering it. I bled, and as the crimson blood flowed down my fingers I sobbed. Good. I hoped I bled out. I hoped I weakened, that perhaps it would fade to black and I would wake to discover it all a dream.
"Anna!" Andre forced the locked door open and slammed it behind him, glaring at me. When he saw what I had done he stalked over to me and knelt at my side, pulling my hands into his.
"Heal yourself, Anna."
"No. No!" I shook my head and pulled away from him, but was too tired to stand so I merely turned to face the interior wall. "No more magic. I refuse! How can I use all that magic to kill? Children, Andre. I read a first-hand account of the battle. Children were slaughtered like all the others."
He reached out and jerked my head back so I faced him. His grip on my chin was nearly painful and his silvery hazel eyes were hard as metal. "You listen to me. You are a student of history. You are a survivor. You may not think you know why your mother left you to your life but it is most likely she knew what you would you face.
"I know you do not talk about your life before us and I know you faced many horrors, feel much guilt. But you learned how to go on, how to do what was necessary. That is what you need now."
"Why would I kill them? Why! Children, Andre, children!"
"You didn't kill them. Listen to me, Anna, you did not kill them! Wolves did! My people! It was a war and you helped them, or you will! It was not you, but a woman you will become at some point in the future, likely after you learn why you must do it. It was not you!"
I finally let the tears fall. "But it will be."
Oh, my alpha was exceedingly clever. He held me, drew me into his arms, and carried us to the chair by the window. I sat in his lap and let the tears fall feeling as if all I did lately was cry. Somewhere in the middle of it he complained I was bleeding on his shirt and without thought I closed my wounds with magic and cleansed us both.
In true wolf packs I knew the alpha was more than just a leader, he was justice. The beta of a pack was the one who nurtured and cared. But my werewolf alpha proved that little human extra to him broke the rules. He soothed me with soft words and gentle strokes of his rough hands down my hair until I at last blessedly fell asleep.
It wasn't a restful sleep. I felt as if I were shrinking and falling, and I fell into a pit I recognized as a medical exhibition hall from an early nineteenth century classroom in England.
There on the table was a body covered by a sheet. It was tall and female, proud breasts raisng the sheet higher than the nose, almost as high as the feet. Long golden hair spilled off the table...my hair.
Laughter rang out and I looked up into the seats. Seven people sat in shadow, laughing down at me.
A spotlight turned on shining down on me and my body. A smaller one turned on, shining on a tall frame and leaning into it was Sebastian.
Do you remember I told you of Kenneth:? How could I lie so well? Did I not truly know?"
"W-what?" was all I could stupidly manage in my shock. This wasn't real...was it?
"There was something at the end not at the beginning, or was it there in the beginning but not in the end?" He asked with a creepy smile. His hair suddenly pulled from his ponytail and sprang into a Mohawk, reminding me of that spitting raptor from Jurassic Park. I screamed but he just moved back from the light which shut off.
Directly across from him I heard another snap of a light and whirled around. Now it was Marcus in the light. "Is the truth always shaded by feelings? Is the truth neutral? Can the truth be an emotion itself?"
"Stop it! Make sense, you're not making any sense!" I yelled.
Marcus gave me a sad smile. "If truth is bitter and truth is freedom, is freedom bitter?"
"What the hell!?"
As soon as his light shut off another came on to my right, way back in the stands. Valerius now sat forward. "Who but a queen could conceal knowledge from the queen?"
"What the hell are you talking about!?"
But he silently drew back and behind me another snap. I whirled so fast I nearly fell, and my hand reached out to steady myself on my body. It was warm, and it moved slightly. I screamed again but a loud "Shhhh" silenced me.
It was Aggie, the first of us. "What does mother mean to you?"
I thought of the two I'd had, one I had never known, the other completely disinterested in me unless I could serve as a punching bag. "B-bitch," I said, and I meant it. It was a truth, my truth. Mother was a dirty word to me, it always had been, and it was why I so feared ever having it applied to me.
Aggie smiled piteously. "In animals the mother abandons or eats the weak. She trains the strong. She pushes the young from the nest or turns them loose on stronger prey. Mother is many things but a warrior first and foremost training the next generation. And mother is a person you choose, not always who births you."
I heard rustling on the table behind me, and fear shot through my entire being. It was me there and not me, and I didn't want it to wake up. I couldn't let it wake up.
"Anna!" A voice shouted and I turned to my right to see Alessandra, standing in her light, hands gripping the railing that surrounded my pit. "It is not yet time. Oh, I love to see you suffer. You cause so much suffering of your own."
"No! That wasn't me! It wasn't me!"
"We'll see." She held out a hand and another shadow came to her side. Kenneth.
"Anna, do not listen to them!" A shadow near them cried. There was no light but I knew it was Jericho. "Anna, we cannot escape time. And when you live long enough if you let guilt and grief and regret rule you you will fade. Don't let her make you fade now."
Alessandra whipped her other hand and Jericho went sprawling, knocking chairs aside.
"Jerry!" I cried, and suddenly I heard the sheet fall to the floor behind me.
"Mother, that should be me," Kenneth said blandly.
Alessandra growled. "Wait your turn. Don't be useless!"
Kenneth turned to me and looked suddenly so incredibly sad I couldn't help but recall his sad tale of abuse over centuries. "See, Anna? Mother means to you what it means to me. We'll never belong."
"Oh, but she does," Alessandra said. "She belongs to her time, to her fate. She has so much left to do, so many people to kill."
At her taunting laugh I felt my face mottle with rage. "It wasn't me! It doesn't have to be me!"
A hand landed on my shoulder and my heart stopped. Turning slowly, trembling in fear, I face myself pale and naked, a reanimated corpse walking. She gave me no expression at all when she spoke. "Oh, but it will be."
Waking from a nightmare is nothing like the movies. You don't scream or shoot upright. Instead you wake, eyes opening rapidly, your heart hammering, feeling your seat cooling.
Somehow Andre had placed me on the bed while I slept without waking me, and I was still dressed albeit shoeless beneath the covers. The smaller fireplace in the bedroom was lit, warding off the chill but I was hesitant to move from the warmth of the thick down comforter as I remembered the dream in excruciating detail.
Never had I recalled so many details of a dream before. Perhaps it was a vision.
Sebastian's history of Kenneth was naught but lies, so had Valerius' and and Marcus'. It was likely because Kenneth, being a halfling as it had been put, was not welcomed in either world. But still...
I shot up to a sitting position. When Sebastian had begun his history of Kenneth he had started by telling me his mother was a witch of another line, and then ended saying he didn't know who Kenneth's mother was.
Something there in the beginning and not the ending, he had said in the dream.
In the middle of our talk, something in the timeline had changed. Something important had altered, and it was centered on Kenneth. But I was willing to bet if I wanted any real information, I had to go to Alessandra.
I used magic to transport myself to Alessandra, and linking my destination to a person and not a place and time was difficult, but I managed. I'd always had to be a fast learner in my life, living to see the next dawn often depended on it.
I found her in a large house in what I guessed was Evanston, the first suburb immediately north of Chicago. Though it was already March a snowstorm was hitting the city and outside the sky was nearly white, the lake stormy.
Alessandra sat in a chair by her own fireplace, swirling wine around in a glass. She wore a long skirt and a droopy retro seventies cardigan over a t-shirt, her own golden hair messy and loose. Her feet were encased in ratty old penguin slippers.
"Which one of you is it?" She asked when she saw me.
"Ah, the new witch, full of questions. You warned me this day would come."
"You're not making any sense."
She downed her wine and stood, crossing to a bar. I tensed, but she kept away from me, even turning her back as she poured more. "You're a witch who can travel time. Stop trying to figure things out and just go with it."
"Is that a free lesson?" I asked bitterly.
She turned and leaned against the bar, her eyes suddenly limpid. "I have to tell you my story now so you know why I hate you. I hate you Anna, with every fiber of my being. I will hate you until the end of my days, but you are my queen so I will do as ordered. I even did as you bade when you were not yet my queen."
In that moment I knew that as soon as we fixed the timeline I would plead with Malachai to help me rest the wards to end time travel if for no other reason than it gave me a migraine trying to figure things out. "Talk."
"Pour yourself a drink if you like," she said dismissively and drifted back to her chair. "Don't you find that doing things without magic is kind of soothing?"
I didn't answer her but did find scotch and soda water, but the ice in the bucket was melted. I simply watered down my scotch and then sat on the couch opposite her chair. "You know why I am here? Tell me."
"My story. There is a puzzle you must make and solve all at once and I can only give you one piece, my piece. You must be content with that."
"And why should I trust you?"
She looked at me over the rim of her glass as she took another long swallow. "I am forbidden to ever hurt you, but I won't lie. If you were dying and I could save you I wouldn't, even now, even knowing it's too late for me. But I can swear on our line if it makes you happy."
The shot of honesty somehow made me relax. It was always good to know where you stood with an enemy. "Not necessary. Talk."
She set her glass down and looked at the shadowed walls where photos hung. "I am Sigrid's sister, I was born just nine months after her. They call that Irish twins nowadays. I was a good Viking maiden, I helped mother keep the house clean, I cooked, I oversaw the slaves, but Sigrid was different. We knew of the legacy and she knew no harm would come to her by providence until she had children. She was a wild thing, disguising herself as a boy to go off on raids with our brother Sven. My birth name was Freyja, like the goddess. My mother had just made an offering to her when I was conceived.
"She became a witch at twenty-five. You're a little late for the party, they always go for twenty-five when the line is empty, held by a guardian. My sister came back from the tests, shaken. I asked her for days what had caused it, but she was readying to go live with the Council for a month. Finally as I said goodbye, she leaned over and whispered in my ear that the guardian of our line was me.
"I was human then, such things seemed impossible. I convinced myself she was mistaken by a strong resemblance. I'll come back to that. What you really want to know is my son's story. Why I abandoned him. Well, I did it because every time I looked at him I remembered what made him. I remembered being raped."
I flinched at the word as I'm sure every woman does. All too common a horror it is beyond ugly, and those that survive it have my undying admiration, for I feel there are no stronger people in the world to come through that and learn to live again. I doubted I would ever be that strong, I had once fought so hard and faced near-certain death to escape such a fate.
"I was raped just over four hundred years ago. I didn't know to expect it. I went where I was needed, where I was told to go. I was alone in the woods, communing with nature. I used to be such a gentle soul, before such ugliness touched me.
He was passing through with his dragon bitches, seeking a place for them to change on the full moon. When he saw me he knew who I was, what I was. He called me guardian, didn't even say my name.
"It was awful. I'll spare you the ugly details but he left me wounded, bleeding inside and out, too weak to move. I saw guilt on his face where moments before he had been a monster ands somehow it made it worse. I screamed and he disappeared, the magic suppressing mine disappeared too.
"I used magic to heal myself and I went home. I was going to tell my sister, demand retribution, but then you came. You!" She hurled her now-empty glass into the fire. Finally she turned to face me. "You came and told me of the soul growing inside of me, a child of a sorcerer and a witch guardian. You came and told me I could not rid myself of the babe. You told me it was why you had come to me as a human and sent me back one thousand years to be the guardian of our line. It was why you gave me magic so that even when there was a queen I would not be defenseless, or so you said. But that day I was.
"That day I was violated in the worst way anyone can be. And not just by rape, but by betrayal; yours!"
She was shaking now, so angry, and I was speechless.
Oh, God, what kind of monster was I? How could I do these things!? The dream came back to me, and it had to be wrong. I couldn't be that monster, I could never become that demon!
"Go! Just go! You have made me into a horrible creature, incapable of true love, one who hurts everyone around her. The only small measure of happiness I have felt in my long life was torturing the wolves I knew you would one day love, and even then I couldn't make them hate you!" She took a deep, shuddering breath and stilled herself. "And I tried, oh, how I tried. But you're stronger, always so much stronger.
"So if you're not here to kill me, to end my misery, go!"
Her magic flung out and I let it hit me, miserably expecting death. Instead I found myself outside, in the cold snow.
Suddenly my mind went back to a similar day. I wore just my father's boots and a torn dress, stumbling through the bitter snow of a northern Minnesota winter. It was ten miles to Duluth from our little trailer and I ran them all. My lips were so chapped the split and bled, and I had to keep stopping to piss on my hands so my fingers didn't get frostbitten beyond repair.
All the while I cried and screamed, utterly abandoned, alone in the world, terrified.
But this injustice now was my own, and I had magic to protect me. It didn't seem right, but I didn't know how to fix it.
A puzzle, she had said. Well, the dream had told me the next piece, and even knowing seething hatred awaited me, I knew in that moment I deserved every abuse that might be hurtled my way.
Once more into the tunnels of time and space I went and when I landed I was back on the damned island. I knew I should have come to the transport room, if I'd only know, but if Malachai knew about Thunder Island there was no real reason to keep it secret.
I found Kenneth sitting in his simple suite, alone. He was dressed for dinner, his bow tie undone and loose, the top two buttons of his crisp white shirt undone. His blonde hair, a shade darker than mine, was ruffled and loose, short but in bad need of a trim if it was going to be properly styled.
Dark blue eyes met mine and he slammed his own drink to the table and rose.
"Well, well, well, here without your bodyguards."
"And where are yours?"
"They volunteered for wolf chess." His tone revealed hurt, and I had to wonder if they had rejected him in spirit of not body the way Malachai's chosen dragons had once rejected him.
"I came to talk."
"I think not." As he spoke a gorgeous cat came out of the bedroom, a Maine Coon that wound around his ankles. "I have my familiar, where is yours?"
"I don't need him."
"Yes, you do." He flung the spell at me and just as Valerius had taught me I shielded.
He was shockingly strong, stronger than Valerius, but unlike my greater-than-great gramps Kenneth didn't pull his punches. Bolts of magic came again and again and again and one hit. It was a pain spell, not a death spell, but countering cost me a chance for offense and back into bolt-shield, bolt-shield we went.
With one burst of magic I used my shield to push him back and he stumbled, breaking contact with his cat. I used that precious second to call Diego to me, startled, but as soon as the next bolt came for my head he pushed against me, all business.
My magic swelled and I did what I had been taught and tried to pull Kenneth's magic from him. To my shock he did the same and our spells hit one another, dancing like to strangers on the street trying to figure out how to pass one another.
I heard a warning growl and then Diego launched himself at the cat. The cat screeched but Diego got her between his teeth and began to shake. Kenneth immediately stopped.
"Stop him! Don't let him kill her!"
"Diego, heel! Leave her!" Magic aided my commands and Diego did, trotting back to me he glanced over his shoulder with a warning growl.
Kenneth fell to his knees and gathered his familiar close, cradling her. I felt his magic heel her and then she hissed, batted at his face and streaked into the bedroom. I held Diego's collar and stopped him from giving chase.
Kenneth warily stood.
"Seems the positions are reversed now. I came to talk, let's can the petty shit and talk, all right?"
"I have nothing to say to you."
"If I have to I will remind you that I am your queen and you are my subject, but for now let's just leave it at you want me dead to prove your magic can sustain the witches, so I believe that means we have plenty to discuss."