New Kingdom: Australian Court Ch. 05byMicKay©
Thanks to TaFace for volunteering her time to edit this part of the NK series. And always, special thanks to Willie for keeping me in line and sticking w/ me through the entire saga.
The noise barely registered with the mates and guards. But Joshua and the brothers of the New Kingdom paused. Acting nonchalant was not an easy task for them, so each man dropped his gaze and focused their senses.
"We should pursue," Gabriel said to the men. "Someone powerful is close. We could take him."
"How can you be certain?" Conlaoch snapped. "How can you know that our mates and children would not die instead?"
"Whoever it was has gathered information about us," Gabriel explained. "You know that it would be poor strategy to allow him to return with a report. It's a chance we have to take."
"Sorry Gabriel," Tec added quietly, "but I'm tired of taking chances. Let's get our mates home and then we can return..."
"It will be too late."
"Let the other return to the house with our mates," Edward offered. "I'll go with you."
"It was just the boy," Heron finally offered. "I can feel him. But he was so weak that he could hardly be a threat."
"Great, Tec said looking toward Conlaoch, "we have Heron on our side."
"As disappointing as that may be, he mentioned something interesting. If this kid is weak then he's camped nearby. Gabe, we can take our mates home and return to hunt. Please, let's not be foolish."
After a few moments, Gabriel nodded but remained still. When the others had moved, he looked into the trees and searched. He felt Edward hesitate and then turn back to him.
"We should never let an enemy escape," Gabriel whispered. "We will regret this decision."
"Then let's move quickly," Edward said clasping his brother's shoulder. "We'll return and get this kid ..."
"Do you really think that I'm afraid of a child?"
Edward paused staring at his brother's face before turning toward the trees. He inhaled searching for a trace of whatever else was waiting for them. He finally shook his head.
"What's out there, Gabriel?"
"The truth," he simply stated. "And we've erred by not chasing it."
The brothers turned and walked silently behind the others. Although they had not rescued the abducted Abigail, they were returning home with her safely in tow. Gabriel purposely avoided considering the cost of that rescue. He looked forward to verify that his daughter remained close to her mother.
"Look who's now joined the party," Edward commented when another man stepped into sight. "This will be fun."
"Would it kill you to leave him alone?"
After a few seconds pause, Edward replied, "Yes it would. Sorry Gabe. Hey Antony! Was that the shortest honeymoon in history?"
"Fuck you," Antony responded.
"Maybe that's your problem. Misplaced frustration. I'm honored but not interested...."Edward started but stopped when he felt the impact of Antony's fist against his jaw.
"I'm not joking Edward."
"We shouldn't be here and wouldn't be here if you had kept your damn mouth shut."
Edward laughed as he rubbed his jaw. "Did you hear that, Gabriel? Antony can't block his mate so he wants us to be quiet. "
"You're retaliating because I teased Iona and it's in bad taste."
"You're right on both accounts."
"So you'll stop."
"Hell no," Edward answered with a laugh. "I've been looking forward to this. A little payback."
"Are you serious? Ok, maybe I teased your mates and took a few glances..."
"Mates?" Edward interrupted. "Gabe, did you hear that? He used the word 'mates.' Plural."
"Now wait a minute," Antony interrupted. "Gabe knows I enjoyed the view Alena offered....What the hell?" he demanded as he was suddenly pressed against the exterior wall with his feet dangling in the air.
"I'm not part of your childish games," Gabriel hissed. "Edward, I asked you to let this drop."
"What the hell was that about?" Antony asked after his feet hit the ground. "Jeez, he knows I wouldn't touch her. Hell, I didn't look after the first day."
"He's not happy."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"The girl was taken."
"I know that too."
"And returned as a woman."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"Do I need to draw you a fucking picture?" Edward growled. "Her innocence was compromised."
"Her what .... Oh god. By who? The human. Is he dead? No which is why Gabriel is so angry."
"Have you lost your mind or have you always been schizophrenic?"
"The conversation that you're having with yourself," Edward answered. "But then that could be caused by blue balls."
"Hey get off my balls!"
"Excuse me," Iona said suddenly appearing beside them. "I won't apologize for interrupting this conversation but are you leaving again?"
"Leaving?" Antony asked his brother.
"Someone followed us through the trees. Gabriel wanted to pursue but the others voted to bring the mates to safety first. I told him that we could return but he's gone inside with the others."
"Disagreeing with Gabriel," Antony murmured. "First reaction but always the wrong choice."
"Well if you leave," Iona said to her mate, "please let me know. In person. I need a shower. And quit tormenting your brother."
"See, your mate is on my side," Antony said.
"Remember Edward," Iona continued, "Even we had some difficulties with my change."
"That's right," Antony quickly agreed.
"You were just lucky enough to still get laid every half hour," Iona added. "Antony, I'll see you later. Good luck to you and your balls."
"There's nothing wrong with my balls!" he exclaimed to her retreating back. "There's nothing wrong ...." He tried to repeat but was cut off by the sound of Edward's amused laughter as he followed his mate to her shower.
Gabriel found his family in his suite silently waiting for his return. He wondered if he should ask Alena for direction but decided that they needed to move quickly. With a nod and silent message to his mate, he turned to his children and addressed them.
"We need to talk," he said.
"Now?" Abigail asked. "Dad what do you want me to say? Josh doesn't need to be here and I'm an adult so what I did with Alex...."
Gabriel's growl silenced her. He resisted the urge to place his hands over his ears but settled for silently pleading for his mate to intervene. Seeing the small tremor at the corner of her mouth, he realized that she was struggling to hold her laughter.
"Uh, sorry?" she offered and turned to face her daughter. In that moment she saw the adult that her daughter declared herself to be. But her heart quickly reminded her of the helpless infant this same child had been only a few short years ago. Then she remembered the laughing child that played in the river with her father and brother only last year. In her heart, she knew that was the child Gabriel still saw.
"Your father is concerned about your skills," she explained. "There are certain abilities that you should have because of what you are but they should be superior to others because of who you are."
"What we are," Abigail repeated and then blinked her eyes quickly.
Gabriel watched the pain reflecting in his daughter's express and reaffirmed his dislike of the Australian human.
"Time has moved quickly," he finally said. "There are many things that I should have taught you both but unfortunately, you matured rapidly."
After a few seconds of silence, he continued, "The whiskey has been a key factor. Joshua, I assume that you have recently disobeyed my request regarding that."
"Whisky?" Alena asked her mate. "Whisky?!" she turned to her children and demanded.
"Don't be angry," Gabriel explained. "It may have saved them. In addition to physical growth, there are others abilities you should have. We may use senses similar to humans but we do not rely on them."
"Oh I understand," Abigail said. "When I was in the cave, I thought I heard you tell me to use my senses and I was able to find my way out."
"You heard me?"
"Yeah, but I thought I was hallucinating. Anyway, I couldn't see anything with my eyes open but when they were closed I could ... I don't know ... it sounds strange."
"It was very dark even with the fire."
"They had a fire?" Gabriel asked. "For you or them?"
"I couldn't say. But I heard your voice so I closed my eyes and could feel warmth and see light behind my eyes when I turned toward the exit."
"Very good," he said with pride. "What else?"
"Uh. I think that was it. Yeah, that was it."
"You can't see other's minds?"
"I can hear Josh but that's nothing new."
"Come on Abs," he brother said silently, "He's not asking about any new super sex skills you developed."
"Shut up!" she snapped at her brother. "Can we figure out how to turn that off?"
"Of course," her father said. "You should learn to use a wall considering ..... Well, let's just say that my brothers are not aware of my private life."
As Joshua and Abigail considered their father's words, they inhaled, looked at each other and then turned away blushing. Joshua cleared his throat as Abigail opened and closed her mouth silently. Apparently both had something to say but neither could form the words.
"Ok," Gabriel said, "Let's work on using the wall."
"Yes!" they both agreed loudly.
"Listen to each other," their father instructed. "Don't choose this moment to be silent. Talk. Now block it."
"How?" Joshua asked.
"Pull your thoughts within you. Push a barrier around them."
"How can I tell if it's working? Maybe she's just being quiet."
"This is Abigail we're talking about," Gabriel answered with a smile.
"Hey! Can you both hear what I'm thinking now?"
"I'm still your father and if you want to challenge that, I'm still the general of the New Kingdom."
"Sorry," she mumbled.
"Ok," Gabriel said, "Pull your thoughts in and protect them. Alena, hand me that book." Flipping through the pages, he stopped at one page. "Abigail, look at this picture, say it in your mind but hide it from Joshua."
"It's a dog," Joshua said.
"Damn," his sister grumbled.
"Try again," Gabriel ordered turning the page.
"Something black. And white," Josh said.
"It's the words," Abigail complained. "I didn't read them but I focused on the colors."
"Try again," her father repeated.
"Again? How long do we have to do this?"
"Until you get it right. Now try again."
After several moments of silence, Joshua said, "I can't hear anything."
Gabriel turned to Alena and said, "Apparently the secret to your daughter's strength is to make her pissed at me. Ok Joshua, your turn."
"I already know how."
"How do you know?" Abigail asked. "I've heard you since we got home.
"Because I knew the moment you were safe with Alex," he said to her. "And I knew the moment you decided to be reckless with him. But you never knew when I ....."
"When you what?"
"See, I finished my thought but cut you off."
Gabriel silently watched his children as they communicated. He knew they were finished when Joshua smiled and Abigail grimaced. He remained silent as she stormed off in a dramatic exit.
"That'll teach her," Joshua said with a laugh. "She told Nola that I didn't have fangs yet. Now they both know that I'm stronger than her."
Joshua yelped in surprise when he suddenly flew backwards. He landed on the couch and looked up to find his father leaning over him.
"You, son, are not stronger than me," Gabriel said. "Nor can your wall be a barrier to me. And you've acted foolishly by putting a human at risk. Twice. We vow to protect humans and a real man protects his woman. Even if I have failed in everything else as a father, I know that I have been a better example of how to treat your mate."
"What? Nothing will happen to her. I would risk my life for her."
"You have risked everyone's life for her. You will need to guard her every minute to protect her and be able to save her from any attack."
"You can't! You couldn't save your sister. Now you will need to let the army that you brought here, protect her and fight in your place."
Joshua stared in silence as his father straightened and walked away. For a fleeting moment, he wondered what his mother thought but knew that her silence signified her support of Gabriel's words. She may have used gentle words but she would have had the same message. And knowing that she agreed made Joshua consider the consequences of his actions.
"What do I need to do?" he asked his father.
"Change her," Gabriel answered returning to the couch with two glasses. Handing one to his son, he paused before drinking and asked, "Has she agreed to change?"
"Absolutely. She's impatient for it to happen but I didn't think now would be a good time."
"Now is the only time. It may not be the intimate experience that you'd prefer but her safety needs to be your top priority."
"It is. Dad, I've screwed up. Ok. I admit it. But she is everything to me."
"No," Gabriel corrected. "She is the most important part of your life but she is not everything. Concern for her can distract your attention. Love for her can cloud your judgment. Either of these weaknesses could cost you everything. Including her."
"This is too much," Joshua declared leaning back. "How do you deal with all of this responsibility?"
"Give everything proper attention. She," he said looking at Alena, "is the single most important part of my life. I would die to protect her. But I can't protect her if I do something foolish and get distracted or die. And I can't protect her if I fail to protect the New Kingdom."
"I understand," Joshua finally said.
"I lost her once while I was saving you. Because of her delay in changing, I wasn't sure that I would save her. Joshua, I will never choose another before her again."
"I understand," his son repeated.
"I had hoped to spare you that pain."
Joshua merely nodded, sat the glass on the table and quietly left the room. Moving to the couch, Alena sat in the now vacant seat and lifted the glass. Before she could taste the liquid, Gabriel pulled her close and moved the glass to his own lips. She watched him drain the contents in one easy gulp.
"Will he suffer?" she asked quietly.
"For a time. I can't eliminate the inevitable."
"We could move her closer to us. I'm sure the other mates would help me protect her."
"There is only one way to protect her."
"But Gabe, maybe she's not ready. Maybe she needs to remain human for just a little longer."
"Maybe you need to tell me what you're hiding. Your wall is only as strong as my respect for your privacy."
"Was that a threat?" she said playfully punching her elbow into his side.
"Ok. Did you hear a different heartbeat when you entered the house?"
"Yes but I found that it was Nola and it's the same as Abigail's," he answered and then he turned to his mate. "Are they unwell?"
"No. Well...." She started and then let her thoughts flow to him.
With a growl, Gabriel leaned forward and dropped his head into his hands. She gently rubbed his back as the shock lessened and the impact of the information settled in his mind.
"Gabe? Are you ok?"
"I will be. As soon as I can kill someone, I will be just fine," he answered as he laid his head on her lap.
Conlaoch had just completed his tasks as king, mate and host. Now, he needed a few minutes alone in his office to quietly contemplate the changes in his life and land. Stepping through the doors, he paused, shrugged his shoulders and looked at the back of the occupied chair.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you would eventually come to see me," he said.
"I need your advice."
"I'm honored. But I can't get between you and Gabriel. Remember, I have an obligation to live so suicidal tendencies are not an option for me. Did you put this key on my desk?"
"Yes," Alex said standing so he could look at his step father. "And I'm not asking for advice regarding Gabriel. Call me a fool, but I'm taking the fact that he hasn't killed me yet as a good sign."
"You're a fool. When he realizes what you've done..."
"How could he not know?"
"Right now, it's just words. You've taken a girl's innocence. He's not happy about it but it's something we've all done."
"So when will it be a problem?"
Conlaoch sat behind his desk twirling the key between his fingers. He finally looked up and smiled at the human he regarded as his son.
"When he touches his mate, he will realize what you have done. And you alone will bear the weight of his condemnation. Not his daughter. He will see her as some innocent child, much younger than she really is. Or should I say, much younger than she appears. At that point, an intimate moment with his greatest treasure will be interrupted with the full understanding that you molested his little girl."
"That bad, huh?"
"Should I leave the country?"
"You could leave the planet and he would find you," Conlaoch said with a smile. "You could try talking with him."
"And tell him what?"
"Whatever it is you want with me concerning this key."
"Do I have any secrets from you?"
"No. I'll take care of the formalities," Conlaoch said placing the key in a drawer. "And Alex? Consider it a gift from your mother and me."
"Thank you," Alex said quietly looking away. After a few moments, he shrugged his shoulders and walked toward the door. "I'll leave you alone now."
"I'm happy for you."
"Thanks but I'm staying human."
"Excellent! She can have breakfast in bed every morning."
Alex shut the door behind him but Conlaoch's laugh followed him through the house.
Discreetly hidden in the shadows, Abigail watched her brother escort Nola through the gardens. The two lovers smiled as they whispered emphasizing their words with gentle touches. The whispers were merely for Nola's modestly because every vampire, especially Abigail, could hear their words. Eternal plans were being formed with Nola wanting more now countered with Josh's hesitancy.
Abigail clinched her fist and held it to the phantom pain in her chest. Conflicting emotions held her paralyzed in the shadows. She felt joy for her brother's happiness but an unbearable pain for her own emptiness. The sound of Nola's giggle brought her focus back to the couple as Josh spun his mate in his arms and pressed her back against his chest. As his fingers gently explored the face, neck and shoulders of the young human girl, Joshua finally cradled her in his arms with his palms resting flat against her abdomen.
Listening intently, Abigail found the same odd sound in Nola that had been echoing in her own ears all day. She had considered asking her mother about it but now thought that the sensation might be exclusively human. Placing her hands across her abdomen she smiled as the accelerated pulse raced through her veins. Was this just a lingering sensation from her night with Alex?
As she turned to leave, she caught glimpses of words from her brother. Realizing that his thoughts were not meant for her, Abigail quickly moved through the shadows toward the safety of the house. With her hands still resting across her stomach, she slid into the first chair she found and soaked in the truth of her condition. While their vampire traits had appeared predominated, she and her twin had still retained their humanity that started with a human egg.
Because she had been surrounded by vampires, she had let their lifestyles dictate her own. Now, that choice had been taken away from her. Human traits. Human mates. Human children. She decided to tip the scales and start feeding the human in her. Well, both humans now in her. Quickly standing to her feet, she paused as the room momentarily swayed. Shaking her head, Abigail moved through the hall with renewed enthusiasm.