Out of Darkness Ch. 13bylilgirlsix©
As always, a huge thank you to Archangel_M. He is my Knight in Shining Armor and pulls me out of dangerous grammar and punctuation situations at every turn.
I am beginning an intensive two week class and I'm not sure how much time I'll have to write, so I'm warning you in advance that the next chapter will be about two weeks. Please be patient with me.
Island of Sardinia, 1152 A.D.
The enormous black wolf ran through the hills, the wind in his fur. His ground-covering stride brought him to his destination in record time. He stood at the top of the hill overlooking the castle, his sides heaving. His small black eyes blinked when he realized where he was. He shook his head in disbelief. No, no, I do not want to be here.
Erobos had not set foot near the Vampire's castle in one hundred years. He had sworn to himself never to return. After coupling with the female dire wolf he had felt nothing but shame, disgust, and remorse. He had sullied his love for Leona. He had promised himself to find the she-panther and make her his mate; the thing in the castle dungeon could never be his mate. There could be no bond with it.
The wolf felt drawn to approach the castle. His nostrils flared when he caught the scent. His cock hardened, and his brain became muddled with lust. He couldn't stop himself from coming to the door, which was already swinging open. He slid to a halt with surprise.
The Vampire smiled down on the winded wolf at his front door.
"Hello my young wolf." He chuckled to himself. "Not so very young anymore, are you? She is waiting for you. I knew her scent would bring you here. She is in heat, and awaits her mate. Of course, once again, you must fight for her. You must kill for her. Follow me." He turned without another word and walked towards the staircase. He didn't have to look to know the wolf was behind him. He smiled. All was going as he'd planned. The wolf was a slave to his instincts.
The Vampire continued to speak as they wound their way into the bowels of the castle.
"As you now know, the female dire wolf goes into her heat once every one hundred years. She will draw you here." He stopped and looked behind him at the wolf that followed him closely but carefully. He bared his teeth in his evil version of a smile. "Do not fight it, my young wolf. Dire wolf instinct is strong, and you are as much one of her kind as you are a werewolf...or a vampire, for that matter." He laughed when the black eyes met his.
"She awaits the victor. Let us not keep her waiting." The Vampire continued his way into the darkness. The passageway was dimly lit with torches, but bright enough for a vampire and a werewolf.
The smell from the female assaulted Erobos' senses as he entered the dungeon. He wanted to immediately mount and plunge his cock into her, but she was already biting at the bars of her cage, snarling and baring her teeth.
Erobos heard the growling from the two males and spun around to look at the cages across the room. The dire wolves were bigger than the last ones had been. And they were black. The dire wolves he'd seen before had been grey. For a moment he wondered where they had come from, but only for a moment.
The first cage opened and the male rushed out, crashing at full speed into the surprised werewolf. They rolled on the ground, biting at each other's throats, their claws digging into the sides of their respective opponent.
Erobos struggled to take control of the fight. The dire wolf adapted quickly to each of the werewolf's moves. Erobos was surprised. It fought more like a werewolf than a mindless beast. He would have to actually put out some effort this time. The fight had been ridiculously easy the last time. Erobos tore savagely at his foe and when he had the male on its back, he slashed as its throat with his sharp teeth. Bright red blood spurted into his face, and he watched as the light went out of the dire wolf's eyes. The body lay limp on the ground.
Erobos turned just as the second cage door opened and came face to face with his second snarling rival for the female. He saw the intelligent look in its eyes, so different than the vacant eyes that had glared at him one hundred years ago.
The two animals circled the room, each waiting for an opening to dive in and tear out the belly of his enemy.
The Vampire watched from a distance. He saw the female pacing, snarling, growling. "Do not worry, my dear. Your mate will be with you soon." He leaned forward, watching with excitement as the two remaining males fought to the death. "A much better fight than last time, is it not?" Of course he didn't expect any answer from the beast caged next to him.
Erobos saw an opening and struck quickly, eviscerating the slower dire wolf. It screamed in pain as its entrails were pulled from its body. It lay on the ground, panting, howling in pain. It watched helplessly as the victor stood over it and reached down with his open mouth and ripped out its throat.
Erobos lifted his bloody face when he heard the final cage door open. The female crawled out of her cage, sniffing the blood soaked floor. She made her way to her waiting mate and presented herself for breeding, her haunches turned to the male who had won her.
Mindlessly, Erobos mounted the female and thrust into her in one motion, pulling her tightly into his body with his front legs. He bucked into her body, feeling his cock throbbing inside her. His knot seated and his thrusts became more frantic as he erupted deep inside her. Erobos howled loudly as he took his mate.
His lusts sated, Erobos slowly came to his senses. He remembered the last time and knew he had to move away from her before she attacked him. He backed slowly away and turned in time to see the vampire motioning him to come up the stairs. He felt his strength and reason returning as he made his way slowly up the winding staircase.
Once out of the depths of the castle, Erobos shifted and stood before the vampire, blood streaking his skin.
The vampire smiled. "Your sons fought well."
Erobos stared in disbelief. "My sons?"
"Why, of course. How else will you find dire wolves to fight each time your mate comes into her heat? There are no others. You have killed them all. So you must breed your challengers. She will not accept you without a fight for her favor." The vampire smiled smugly.
"What have you done to me? I will not come back again. I will not kill my own sons again now that I know." Erobos was confused. Werewolves mated for life. He could never have cubs with a female other than his mate.
"Then you will never breed your mate again. And you will never beget a son to be the next Alpha of your pack. You are the end of your line, Erobos."
Nevada -- Present Day
The six panthers squeezed together to gaze into the window at their newest sister. But something was wrong. Her human half was silent, gone. Could she ever be whole again?
Kelly's grandfather put himself between the menacing panther and Silvano and Carla. He spoke to them without losing eye contact with the cat. "Go, now!"
Silvano hesitated. He glanced at his son, lying on the floor, still dazed.
"I will get your son out of here, but you must go!" It was a command.
While the panther's attention was riveted to the new arrival, Silvano took Carla by the arm and backed slowly out of the room. Once they were in the hallway, he heard a loud growl behind him. He turned his head and saw the male who held his sobbing mate. The male looked like Drago's twin. Silvano's heart sank. He held Carla tighter.
Silvano could see the rage on the male's face. And from the restraining hand on his shoulder by Guillame, who he knew as the Alpha of the Bertrand/Kardos pack, Silvano knew that that was all that kept him from being killed on the spot. Drago's parents had never been dead. They were alive and well and had grieved for thirty years a son they thought dead.
I should have said something as soon as I realized. Silvano, I'm sorry.
Silvano stared into his mate's sad eyes. When did you know?
When I hunted with the panthers the betas from both the packs guarded them. I saw him. Drago looks so much like him, I knew. And his scent, it was so similar to Drago's. I should have told you, but I was afraid of losing our son. I thought if I didn't say anything, no one would know. I'd hoped that when he was well and Erobos was gone, that we would leave with Drago and Kelly, and no one would ever know.
Carla buried her head in her mate's shoulder and sobbed. His arms surrounded her in a reassuring hug.
I understand cara.
They stood silently, waiting. There were too many people crowded around the window to see anything. All they could do now was hope Drago would be out of there soon.
Inside the room, the panther twitched her tail, her ears flattened against her head. She couldn't take her eyes from the man in front of her. Her snarls quieted to growls. Her heart pounded in her chest. She must protect her mate. But she was so tired. Maybe she could rest, just for a moment. She laid down, next to her mate, her tail moving slower. She would close her eyes for just a moment.
Jenna and Katy exchanged glances. What was he doing? How did he get the feral panther to do that? They turned their attention back to the scene inside the room. Kelly had lain down and looked asleep.
Logan and Jeff watched from the doorway as Kelly's grandfather stepped over the sleeping panther and effortlessly picked up the still-dazed Drago. The doctors were waiting when Drago was carried to the door and handed off to them. They rushed him to the treatment room, blood dripping from the wound made by the catheter. It wasn't healing!
Silvano, Carla, Zsigmond, and Margareta all began to follow the doctors. The four of them stopped mid-stride, Zsigmond and Margareta growling loudly at the couple that had stolen their cub.
Alistair stepped between the couples. "Let the doctors take care of your son." He purposely didn't specify which couple he was speaking to.
Zsigmond glared at Silvano, ready to tear out the Italian were's beating heart as soon as he was given the opportunity. Guillame couldn't deny him his revenge forever. Stealing a cub had been punishable by death in the old country. Zsigmond saw no reason for that to be different here and now.
Carla couldn't look at Margareta. She couldn't imagine the pain she had gone through all these years.
Carr had been watching the two couples closely and had a feeling he knew what was going on in their respective minds. Things could get ugly pretty quick if they didn't straighten things out right away. "I think we need to leave Kelly and her grandfather alone for a while. Why don't we go to the office and talk? Guillame, you good with that?"
"I think that is a wonderful idea." Guillame gestured for Zsigmond and Margareta to walk with him.
"Brett, Bryant, keep everyone away from the window. Let Kelly and her grandfather have some privacy. Who knows what she's gonna do when she wakes up and Drago is gone." Carr took one last look in the room where Kelly lay on the floor, her grandfather sitting cross-legged on the floor next to her. Carr couldn't wait to sit down and have a conversation with him.
Carr was the last to make it to Jeff's office where Drago's parents, all four of them, sat in stony silence, glaring at each other. Sandalio was there, as the closest thing Silvano and Carla had to an Alpha. Orsolya stood next to Guillame, keeping a supportive arm around Margareta, who was still recovering from her earlier outburst. Zsigmond looked like he could shift and attack at any moment. Carr couldn't remember ever seeing the big Hungarian Beta in such a rage. He had always been gruff and stoic, almost emotionless. Not anymore.
Alistair decided it was up to him to break the silence in the room. "It's time to clear the air. Zsigmond, Margareta, I am glad you have found your cub after all these years. But Silvano and Carla did not take him from you. They were told he was an orphan. They treated him as their own and raised him. They had no idea what had really happened. They had no reason to believe anything except what Erobos had told them."
Carla looked into her mate's face. He smiled and nodded at her. She turned her attention to Margareta, trembling in Zsigmond's arms. "I am so sorry. I asked Drago about his parents, but he said he remembered nothing. If I had known, I would have returned him to you. I'm so very, very sorry."
Margareta looked at Carla, really for the first time. She saw a woman as heart-broken as she. She knew Carla was speaking sincerely. Her voice was almost a whisper. "Why did you name him Drago? What does it mean?"
"It means 'strong as a bear'. I read it in a book one day. It said 'Drago is masculine, exudes power and authority, and is not without a certain amount of magnetism.' The name just seemed to fit him. I knew it was a name he would grow into." She stopped for a moment. "What is his real name?"
Margareta smiled for the first time since she'd caught the scent of her long lost cub. "His name is Arthur. It means 'bear' as well."
Zsigmond gritted his teeth in frustration. "This changes nothing! He was stolen from us, obviously by Erobos, and you kept him from us. I demand to extract my revenge!" He leaned forward and snarled menacingly at Silvano.
"You are right of course. I deserve to die in retribution. I should have, at the very least, contacted the Council here to be sure Erobos was telling the truth. Even though he was my Alpha, I knew he was lying. I just couldn't bear to believe he could steal a cub." Silvano moved in front of his mate and lifted his head to bare his neck. "I'm ready to die."
Guillame threw out his arm in front of the advancing Zsigmond. "Enough! You have both been wronged, as has Drago... or Arthur." He looked between the two males, one ready to kill, the other, willing to give his life. "Erobos is the one who should die, not Silvano. Zsigmond, Silvano raised your son, I think, the way you would have. We should stand together against our enemy, not against each other!"
Zsigmond breathed deeply, attempting to hold back the inner fury that threatened to break loose at any moment. "I will wait, for now, Guillame. But you will owe me my revenge if it is proven he helped steal my son!"
"Yes, of course, Zsigmond. I don't think anyone here would deny you that." Guillame scanned the room as each of the Council members nodded in agreement.
They were interrupted by a loud knock on the door.
Carr opened the door for Logan and watched both sets of parents whip their heads around. He could see the concern etched in their faces.
Logan wished he didn't have to be here. The tension in the room was palpable. "We had to give Drago another blood transfusion. The catheter lacerated the vein so badly it couldn't heal. And we haven't been able to figure out what's causing his mental state. He's just not 'with it'. The sooner Kelly is back with him, the better."
"Is he going to be alright?" Margareta's quiet voice broke the silence.
"I don't know. We just have to wait. I think there's a lot going on here that we've never seen before. So anything I say would be a guess."
Alistair stood up and walked the doctor back to the door. "Thank you, Logan."
Carr heard the twin voices in his head in perfect unison. He shook his head. They must have learned from their mates. Rebecca, Danielle, is it important?
Yes! It's about Drago. We think we can help him. Or rather, our panthers KNOW we can help.
As before, both voices were perfectly in unison. Rebecca and Danielle had been brought to the compound to keep them from being kidnapped by Gary and his Dire Wolf pack. Rebecca had been good friends with Katy, but after Katy met her mate, Rhys, Rebecca had been left on her own. She had almost immediately become good friends with Danielle and they were practically joined at the hip. They were nothing alike. While Rebecca was outgoing and thoughtful, Danielle was bubbly and ditzy. They were an odd couple but had bonded quickly. And then they met their mates, within seconds of each other, Trey and Troy, twin Betas in Carr's pack.
Carr filled in the rest of the group. "Rebecca and Danielle would like a chance to speak to Drago. Apparently, their panthers are telling them they can help him. One more of those 'things we've never seen before', I guess." Carr shrugged his shoulders. "What the heck. We might as well give it a try. It can't hurt, right?"
Rebecca and Danielle stood outside Drago's room, waiting for the okay to go inside. They held hands nervously. They wished their panthers could explain things a little better than "we can help him." But if that's all they were going to get, it didn't help to push. The panthers knew what they knew and there was no use asking why. But when they said they knew something, they were certain of it.
Trina opened the door and smiled at her friends. "C'mon in ladies, he's as ready as he'll ever be." She led the two women to the side of the bed. "Drago, this is Rebecca and Danielle. They're friends of mine. They're going to talk to you."
The male lay quietly in the bed, looking off into space like he hadn't heard a word. His dark eyes were lifeless.
Rebecca took a deep breath and looked at Danielle. Here goes. It was a weird feeling to talk to a stranger who looked like a carbon copy of a friend. She just expected him to act like Zsigmond. But she had to put that thought from her mind.
"Hi, Drago. Can you hear me?" Rebecca watched for any sign he even noticed she was there but saw none. I don't get it. Why doesn't he even look up?
Danielle bit her lip and then smiled. She took Rebecca's hand in hers and, together, laid their hands on Drago's forehead.
Rebecca gave her friend a quizzical look.
"My panther says it'll work. Don't ask me."
After about ten seconds, both women gasped and pulled themselves away from the bed. There was no one else present to see the startled expressions on their faces.
Alpha, they're driving him crazy, literally. He's feeling the strong emotions from all four of his parents, it's overwhelming him. He can't block them out, so his wolf is shutting everything out.
Carr cleared his throat. How do you tell worried parents to leave their cub alone? He scanned the worried faces of the four parents as he relayed the information. "Um, we need all of you to shield your thoughts from Drago. He's picking up your emotions, and it's at least part of the problem."
Zsigmond closed his eyes for a moment. If he'd known his actions were hurting Arthur he would have found a way to correct it. He hadn't even known Arthur could feel his presence. There was no bond that Zsigmond could feel. He clutched Margareta and leaned in close to her, resting his forehead on hers as he stroked the side of her face. I never meant to harm him.
Margareta looked up at the male she had loved for as long as she could remember. I know that, my dearest. I don't feel a bond either. There was no way for us to know. She reached up to grasp the hand that held her face so gently. Most thought Zsigmond was just a soldier, hard and emotionless. But she knew the real Zsigmond, who felt the need to protect those he loved. He felt he had failed his son when they lost him, and it had changed him.
Silvano and Carla held hands and sat nervously across from Drago's biological parents. If they were allowed to leave with their lives, would they ever see Drago again?
Rebecca and Dani watched, amazed, as they saw the light come back into Drago's eyes.
Drago looked around the room, bewildered, then at them. His voice was hoarse. "Where's Kelly? Where are my parents?"