Wonderland Ch. 07byLillithArchivist©
Author's Note: I want to thank everyone for their encouragement and feedback. I know this story isn't the norm for the Nonhuman posts on this site, and I appreciate all of you sticking around to get a better idea of Wonderland and the characters in the story. So as fair warning: no sex yet.
This chapter is devoted entirely to the back story. It goes into detail about the beginning of the four species, why the Great Battle begins, and my ever-elusive answer to "Where's Talon?" BTW, to those who asked the question why Talon never told Tempest where he was going and why he has not yet made an effort to: Talon's on a mission, plain and simple. Also, he's not used to having to explain to others about his absence or his whereabouts. Relationships for Talon, as you discovered, don't usually get that far. His bond to Tempest is something entirely different.
Anyway, enough rambling. As promised, I posted Chapter Seven early (I'm leaving for Austin to visit the folks and to indulge in my craving for Torchy's Tacos) and to those curious about the next submission of The Coffee Shop, it will be posted within the next week.
This is a bit of a long one guys, and kinda full of info. Hope y'all enjoy it! xo-LilyArc.
"This is it?" Talon asked, his grey eyes wandering over the jagged rock before slowly tracing up the mountain face to the towering snow-capped peak above. The forest around them was absolutely silent and still, save for the tiniest breeze that ruffled the flyaway strands of Talon's braid.
"It is," Damien answered in a tone just as hushed as Talon's. Something about this place required such solemnity...and it made Talon's teeth ache.
Ruffling his wings slightly to dispel the growing uncertainty in his heart, Talon walked forward and through the yawning open cavern carved into the mountainside. With his back turned, he had missed the exchange of astonished looks between the six young trackers behind him.
Unknowingly, he had breached a powerful protection spell, cast by the Ancients themselves in the aftermath of the Great Battle. Without the permission of the Elders, walking into the entrance of the Final Eden should've killed him, but yet, he was still standing.
"Are you coming?" Talon asked the group, his low voice managing to echo. When none of them said a word, he looked over his shoulder to see six stricken faces staring back at him.
In that moment, a cloying smell of rotten fruit greeted his nostrils, the air thickening with the scent and coating his lungs as Talon took a deep breath.
The stricken looks on the tracker's faces slipped into ones of horror as the source of the rotten stench stepped out of the darkness of the cavern.
Talon faced forward again and stared into the cold black eyes of the Raspan King, the gargantuan male's thin lips pulled back to reveal a razor-sharp smile. Two scouts flanked the king in their natural Raspan forms, flashing yellowing teeth at the group at Talon's back. The smell of fresh blood began to overpower that of the rot and Talon felt his heart clench with agony, though his expressionless face revealed nothing of the torment within.
The Final Eden, the Queensland hideout, the Elder's sanctuary...it was gone. The overpowering wave of death and blood radiating from the tunnel at the Raspan King's back foretold of what would be gathered inside.
Not for the first time since Talon's awakening, he was reminded of the grim reality that faced him.
He was the last of the Ancients. He was the last of the Tze'hoc Clan. And all he had at his disposal to face the rapidly breeding menace that was his enemy were six weak-blooded Gargoyles and a snarky Drul.
The Raspan King, Fuyher-se, chuckled low in his massive throat before straightening up to his full height.
"Tze'sic. We meet again," the Raspan King rumbled from low in his broad, muscled chest, amusement twisting the features of his face until they were far more grotesque than normal.
Talon smiled coldly. "That we have," he answered quietly, his silver eyes glowing in the darkness of the cave, his magic coursing strong through his veins. He would not die in this cave, not when he still had his mate to go to, brood to raise, and a mass of people who he needed to protect. He would fight, albeit alone or with an army at his side.
Fuyher-se would not leave this cave unharmed.
Talon would make sure of that.
The king, well aware of the Gargoyle's intentions, chuckled. But he was no fool. A thousand years of rest and of unreleased magic made the slimmer male Gargoyle in front of him a dangerous enemy. But he would leave this cave alive. His scouts would make sure of that.
Fuyher-se smiled, his eyes turning a deep glowing crimson. "KILL THEM!" he commanded, his roar ringing in Talon's ears.
The cavern became a battlefield within seconds.
Talon did not hesitate -- dodging Fuyher's downward swipe with one beefy paw he kicked up off the rocky cavern floor and dug the claws of his feet into the Raspan's thighs, gripping pure meaty muscle. Once he had a good grip he buried the claws of his hands into the Raspan's forearms. Fuyher roared in agony as Talon dislodged muscle from bone, the sound of ripping flesh and their growls a background adding to the soundtrack of the fight raging around them.
Moving fast, Talon jerked the lower half of his body to throw the Raspan off-balance, the tipped claws of his wings' forearms sinking into the king's ankles to weaken his stance further. Fuyher grimaced and surged his arms forward, pushing against Talon's strength, his fingers outstretched, hungering for the place where Talon's wings met with his back.
Cutting his losses, Talon removed his toenails from the beast and kicked up his legs to shred his chest instead, curling up his body and launching off before Fuyher could grab hold.
The Raspan King touched the clawed flesh of his exposed chest in awe, watching as small chunks of black fur and muscle fell softly to the floor, his black blood flowing freely. Talon was breathing hard already, internally swearing at his prolonged inactivity. Ripping through Fuhyer had felt as though he had been attempting to claw through this mountain. His fingers and ankles radiated pain that spoke wonders of his remissive training.
Suddenly, the king let out a roar that had Talon wincing in agony at its strength. The Raspan threw himself at Talon, both bodies falling hard to the dirt. Not making the mistake of bringing up his wings, Talon used his tail to grip the Raspan's throat then—
Talon let out a yell torn between relief and a battle cry as he maneuvered the large, fumbling Raspan King into an awkward angle on his side and sunk his teeth, fangs and all, into Fuyher's flesh.
Unlike the bites he shared with Tempest, this blood-taking was meant to inflict pain. Judging by the massive yelps and roars that escaped Fuyher's throat, Talon's venom and fangs were doing just that. Talon closed his eyes briefly as the king's magic and power flooded into his own being, the animalistic rage of the Raspan fueling his own strength and hunger.
Talon chuckled at the whimper the king released seconds later when Talon's free hand sunk into the flesh of Fuyher's back, digging through muscle, arteries, and other tissue to grab a hold of the king's spine.
The soft female whisper was his undoing.
Talon's eyes whipped open, revealing the blood red of his irises. His eyes were unseeing of the remaining Raspan scout that came to aid his fallen leader. His eyes did not see the small team of Raspan's that emerged from the forest and began to give aid to Quincy, who had been torn in half, or the female Raspan that was chasing after the scout coming towards him now.
Talon's eyes were locked on the ghostly image of the woman he had left behind, of the mate he had yet to claim as his own.
"Tempest..." he breathed, his mouth sliding from the king's neck.
He came to his senses much too late.
With a raspy roar, Fuyher whirled on Talon and gripped the Gargoyle by his neck before tossing him like a dart into the cavern wall. Talon watched in muted horror as the jagged rock drew closer and closer to his face, his wings snapping at the air to back him away from the wall...much too late.
Talon felt the impact for only a second, the crunching of his bones and muscle colliding into the rock the last thing he heard before the world went black.
A hundred miles away, Tempest Cohen shot up straight in bed, clutching her temples in agony. Her shrill scream echoed throughout the empty house and awoke the three hundred Raspan bodies beneath the Wonderland soil, plus one.
The buzz of a Kawasaki motorcycle penetrated the sound barrier soon after, the rider frantically racing through the trees towards the lone house on Bella Lane, thinking only of protecting, what he felt, was now rightfully his.
I felt like someone had just face-palmed me with a sledgehammer. Every muscle radiated in pain from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. My spine creaked and popped with every small movement, and each intake of breath was like trying to catch air as someone pierced my lungs with daggers...all at the same time. Even my eyelashes hurt.
So as I lay in bed, drowning in my own pain, in too much agony to even yell for mom, I cried. That just made things worse. The sharp inhalations were ripping me from the inside out, my face muscles aching to stay still despite my frowning and muffled yelping. Hot salty tears streamed out of my eyes and made paths by my ears, soaking the sheets below me.
I don't know for how long I lay there, minutes or hours, but through my foggy pain-induced stupor, I heard the soft click as something struck one of my bedroom windows.
Cracking open one tear-crusted eye, I waited.
"Tempest!" a husky male voice hissed.
Shakily I rubbed both of my eyes to rid them of gunk, flinching as skin met skin, my muscles protesting to each movement. Surely, that wasn't Thatcher?
Click! Click! CLANK!
"Shit. Kitten, wake up!"
I managed to grimace my way into a smile as I reached for my phone, grunting in pain as I stretched and pressed my fingers across the screen to open the app I wanted. Summoning up all my strength, I rolled off the bed and to the window, pressing the phone screen flat against the window pane.
Gasping against the white hot bursts of pain that radiated throughout my entire body, I waited. My blood pounded so hard in my ears that I didn't hear him at first, and it wasn't until a narrow, but firm, arm gently cradled my back that I realized I wasn't alone.
"Tempest, you look like shit," Thatcher murmured softly, his voice right by my ear. His fingers gently wove around my wrist and lowered my phone-waving hand into my lap before cutting the S.O.S. signal off. "Didn't your mom ever tell you to stay out of the liquor cabinet?"
I shook my head stiffly in response, groaning when his fingers brushed over the back of my neck.
"Thatch..." I breathed hoarsely, letting out a heavy sigh against his chest. "You remember me saying that my friend left?"
Thatcher tightened his hold on me slightly, the firm press of his chest against mine sending off muted warning bells in my head. "Yea, I remember," he replied, his voice like grinding gravel.
"I think...he's in trouble."
I dazedly looked up at him, surprised to see how close together we were. I blinked away tears of physical pain, taking in his face.
I chuckled then, surprising both Thatch and myself. Thatcher gently cradled me, his touch extremely careful, though by the time I was nestled in his lap and snug against his chest, I didn't really feel...anything.
"What are you laughing at?" he murmured, his voice still hoarse.
I weakly smiled, my fingers shakily tucking back his hair, revealing a small pierced ear. "I feel like a slice of butter melting on top of a big-ol' pile of flapjacks." Giggling now, and feeling as though I could float through the ceiling, I snuggled against Thatcher's warm body, smelling leather, pine, and male musk.
"You have cute ears," I sighed, falling into blackness.
Thatcher stared down at the unconscious mass of female in his arms, trying to figure out what in the hell was going on. First her friend was in trouble, next she's talking about flapjacks...
Thatcher reached up and cupped his left ear tentatively. He had cute ears?
Rolling his eyes, he dropped his hand back down and cradled her, watching her face for any sign of pain. But she slept soundly, her eyes not even fluttering when he lowered her back onto her bed and covered her back up.
With a mew, Tempest's fingers latched onto his shirt, tugging weakly at the collar. "S-Stay..." she shuddered, her eyes opening to slits. So much for sleeping soundly...
Thatcher swallowed hard, his unadulterated dreams spewing to the forefront. Shaking his head to clear it he sighed and kicked off his boots before lowering himself onto the bed next to her, his breath catching as she burrowed herself into him. She doesn't know what she's doing, he reminded himself. She's in pain.
With a sigh he put his arms around her and tentatively held her close, making sure his hips were a definite distance between hers. To take his mind off the girl in his arms, he tried to concentrate on what she had said.
Her "friend" was in trouble. Taking the knowledge he knew now, her "friend" was Tze'sic. Tze'sic had met with a group of trackers under the influence of the Elders and agreed to go with them to Queensland Mountains, the hideout, ironically, of both the Raspans and the Elders. Bayothet had yet to contact him to let him know if something was amiss, but...
Thatcher looked down at Tempest again, his chest tightening when she let out the softest whimper of pain. If Tempest felt this way that meant the mating bond was strong between her and Tze'sic. The Gargoyle had taken so much of her life essence into his own self that if he experienced anything so would she. If he had been attacked, or worse, Tempest would be able to feel the resonating impact as well.
After a few moments to clear his head, Thatcher closed his eyes and concentrated on a wordless spell, his mind going through Tempest's body to locate the source of the pain -- which was staggering in its intensity -- and healed what he could. Finally, only when he was too weak to heal her any further, Thatcher released the spell and watched as she drifted off into an easy sleep.
Thatcher then pulled out the cheap disposable phone from his pocket and put it alongside his leg, turning the screen into his jeans so the light wouldn't wake her as he flipped the screen up. No missed calls, no voicemails, no to-be-read text messages. Nothing.
Smothering a sigh, he pocketed the phone again, his mind whirring.
So much hell was happening, in such a short span of time. All of it drew back to Tze'sic, ultimately. Well, Tze'sic and Thatcher's own father.
Thatcher closed his eyes, blocking out the burst of anger that erupted within him each and every time his origins were hashed up. His father was nothing but a sperm donor, a raging monster that should not have been brought into existence. The beast had been created by the breeding of an ancient humanoid of infeasible size and the wild Raspans of the First Age, at a time when the first of the major clans of Gargoyles, Druls, Lunar and Raspans had been formed. Like his father before him, he created a monopoly of monstrosities, including Thatcher.
But unlike the dozen half-brothers and sisters Thatcher was related to, he wasn't controllable. He wasn't a big, hulking mass of Raspan, too mindless and loyal to the monster that had raped them into existence. His DNA had created him as one half Raspan, one fourth Drul, and one fourth Gargoyle. He was the only one of his kind. His father, Fuyher-se, the Ancient Raspan King, did not know Thatcher even existed.
"Better that way," he murmured to himself, releasing a pent-up sigh of frustration as he gave in to the thoughts of the past, his eyes drifting closed as memories long buried began to play.
"Kitten, wake up," he whispered, low and soft against the shell of my ear. "It's nearly four in the afternoon."
Groaning my rebuttal, I pulled my covers high over my head.
Thatcher sighed. "You need to talk to me about last night. You didn't look so hot, Kitten."
Opening one eye, I slowly peeled a corner of the covers back and found Thatcher staring down at me with a concerned look on his face. I opened the other eye and blinked. "Why are you in my room?" I asked softly, swallowing morning breath.
Thatcher hesitated before lowering himself down on the bed next to me, his big black eyes pleading for me to understand. But understand what?
"You're my boredom buffer," he retorted simply, shrugging for emphasis. "Anyway, I threw about a million rocks at your window before your phone started flashing at me. The front door was unlocked, so I came up here and found you sprawled under the window, moaning. You looked drunk."
I snorted and rolled my eyes. "I wasn't drunk, I was..."
I blinked, stopping short. What had happened to me last night? All I could remember was...
"Talon," I breathed, my chest squeezing tight as the empty ache came back.
"Your friend?" Thatcher asked gently. "You mentioned him last night, something about him being in trouble?"
I nodded earnestly. "That's right, I just...I just don't know why I feel that way."
Thatcher's eyes hardened for a second, but after a blink the look vanished. "You care about him a lot, huh?" he asked hesitantly. I felt the hands under my pillow tighten a little and that confused me, as did his question.
What was Talon to me?
He had taken my blood and apparently some of my soul...without permission. He had almost attacked me, got angry when I had another guy's smell on me, and had the most volatile personality of anyone I know. He was dominating, slightly cold, and breathtakingly beautiful -- in the anamorphic sense at least. Talon was...complicated.
Well that certainly doesn't clear up anything...
"I don't know," I answered finally, looking over Thatcher's face. He dropped my gaze instantly and the hands beneath my pillow where he had rest them undoubtedly turned into fists. That was interesting.
Digging under the pillow, I pried out his hands and took them in my own, squeezing gently. "You know, you kind of remind me of him," I said quietly. Something flickered across his face then, amusement, maybe? "But you're a little nicer," I admitted, chuckling a little at the thought.
Thatcher didn't seem the overbearing caveman type, but he certainly wasn't uncomfortable in his own skin either. Both men were surrounded by their own secrets. I'm sure, though, that Thatcher's secrets weren't due to his nonhuman state of being, like Talon's were.
Slowly I massaged circles in the soft pad of his palm, a little surprised at how smooth his skin felt. It was baby soft, even. I looked over at Thatcher, expecting to see a sardonic look on his face followed by an equally dry retort.
But instead he was smiling softly, his eyes on our hands. His prominent Adam's apple bobbed slightly and I smirked when he rubbed his cheek against the pillow before chuckling. "That feels really good," he admitted sheepishly, his cheekbones flushing pink soon after. "Where did you learn this?"
"My mom. I get stress headaches a lot and she taught me when I was little about pressure points and how to use them."
Thatcher chuckled slightly before his laughter grew. I gave him a look and he rolled his eyes.
"It was something you said last night. I think it's from a movie...it was something about how you felt like melting butter over flapjacks..."