A Dangerous Legacy Pt. 17bymadam_noe©
Telling everyone I had been hoarding secrets for several hours that could affect us all seemed daunting, but it seemed most understood. We were all high on the aristocratic food chain, even our lovers, so that wasn't that hardest part.
No, it was keeping the secret of my future son's coloring to myself. Saying it now would only hurt my wolves and Malachai's dragons. It was going to bad enough when it happened, but I could only pray that at that future date no wolves or dragons killed either one of us.
Everyone wanted a private conference. Val wanted to talk to me alone, so did Marcus, but Shin-0Zan wanted a private meeting between me and the council, while Malachai wanted me to meet with him, his advisors, and the council, after we met alone.
I insisted on some privacy and after a brief discussion with my wolves I thought Valerius might be the best one to approach. Pierre once more accompanied me and I was glad for it. I knew Andre had Julian doing research on the computer he'd made me summon after lunch. I hated to admit it, but in these tensest of moments I liked having Pierre with me. I had no doubt that he could be the fiercest warrior on the battlefield, but there was that sunshine to him that attracted me like a sunflower.
We found the council member in his suite and he invited us in, fairly hopping on his bare feet. Val's Hawaiian shirt that day was blue mostly, and open revealing a sculpted chest that belonged on a runway model, not what I considered a grandparent of sorts.
"Uh, can you button that up? Having an ancestor around looking like you is kind of disturbing. I hadn't realized it because the wierding-me-out-scale is awfully full as of late."
"I'm sorry," Val apologized qiuickly, fixing his shirt and hiking his jeans up comically high. "Is that better?"
I smiled, not quite able to laugh. "Nice, gramps."
"Have a seat. I'm brimming with ideas, theories, guesses."
"It's too early for that, Val."
He sat down and raised a dark eyebrow. "Then why did you come?"
"Well I guess starting at what are the terms of the current truce with sorcerers is as good a place to start as any."
"Uh...you saw yourself travel through time and work magic you don't even yet understand to kill the vampires and then later you have a baby despite all your protestations and you want to know what?"
"I'm not just figuring out why I will fuck with the timeline, but what this new world is like. I have a long way to go. I mean, for all I know I will go back and help kill the vampires, but I'm not the one fucking with the timeline. In order to know exactly what it is I will do, I need to know why, which means I need to know a hell of a lot more than what I do."
"What made you think the two things were linked in the first place?"
"Uh, Pierre, do you remember that fainting spell I had in our suite?" I waited for his nod. "Aggie, the first witch, my first ancestor, she called me back to her time. She told me the answer to what I sought was at Chengzhou, and to ask Shin-Zan about it."
Val stared at me for a long moment, clearly puzzled. "She...spoke to you?"
"Pulled my consciousness back to the good ol' hunter-gatherer days."
"My god! To my knowledge no other queen has ever visited with her! It has never been allowed, the most powerful ward prevents us from going back that far."
I couldn't help but blush, and think on an old Japanese saying: the nail that sticks out the most is hammered the hardest. Most people assumed it enforced conformity, but what I had always assumed it meant was that being special was never going to be a good time. "Shit."
"It's amazing! We have to tell the council, you need to recall every-"
"Val," I said firmly, "Later. For now give me some good groundwork of understanding our world."
He sat back, still dazed and excited. "You want to know about the balance of magic then. It's better I start at the beginning."
"Oh goodie, story time," Pierre whispered in my ear and I stifled a giggle.
"From the records we know that it was roughly twelve thousand years ago somehow, the magic in the world came into contact with wandering humans. There is a place where magic began, the place modern religions believe humans began, the place in the middle east where a war of minds still rages to lay claim.
"Once it was a lush oasis, one that beckoned a tribe from modern Europe long lost from home, escaping a famine. The stories of that time are now merely legend, there are no facts here, only beliefs of a thousand colors woven together to form the tapestry we now teach our children."
"You know Val, you could have been a poet."
He half smiled. "I published three volumes in the eighteenth century alone. Now, the magic was wild and free then, almost a living thing, and it was most curious about the humans. It chose two, twins. The boy was dark of coloring, mischievous as a child, for parsimony let us just call him the classic bad-boy as a man. The girl was fair, all dreams and hopes and cheer, and that sweet sunshine, our...Aggie.
"They were consumed with their new powers, it was too much. The twins were forced apart, the tribe split into two, and he wandered east, she wandered west. Still, the magic filled them overmuch, and soon they knew they had to share it.
"Our first queen devised a series of tests, the same kinds of tests we now each face. She tested their ability to know their place in the world, their ability to understand the world and magic at large, and the ability to control their appetites and let love rule. Ten women of her tribe passed the tests, and beneath the burning sun at midday, she gave them equal shares of her magic, her own remained at thrice what they held.
"Light magic found balance, and in balance there is strength. Legga, also known as Lee, the first king, felt this. IN a dream he knew what our great queen had done and so he sought to find his own heirs. He chose poorly, at random, a total of fifteen of his favorites.
"They were weak, so dark magic was weak, unbalanced. But dark thrives on chaos and disorder, and it flourished despite this. Our queen decreed that the first child born of her ten would be the next in line. If it was a boy, then for all future generations the heir would be male, the same for female. Balance and order, eleven lines, and this would continue for a thousand years.
"Dark was different. It was the strongest child of each sorcerer who inherited the magic, but at the first new generation yielded only ten. Dark found balance and peace reigned between both sides for a millennia. They did not mingle but traveled, explored the world, learned of their powers.
"At first witches sought to protect humans, but that is a fool's folly if ever there was one. So the witches turned away from humans and sought other magical creatures. There really were none, so Aggie combined her beloved wolves and humans and made werewolves. She called only men and women who volunteered, who passed their own tests.
"Aligned to us, our magic grew, and the eleven lines had to split into thirty to handle the load. Magic became horrible imbalanced. Aggie made a grievous error and decided that her brother would simply know and understand and do the same.
"The increase in light magic called the magic of night, of things dark to the king. He responded by making his ten lines more powerful, and himself. He knew less of the nature of magic, given to more sensual pleasures. There is nothing wrong with that...on paper. Sometimes humans find their own magic and all too often it is with blood, sex, death, the things night rules over. Love, earth, and the places in between are our magic, and because we are more tied to the earth we understand it better.
"Lee's mistake was not understanding why magic was still unbalanced. He could have consulted his sister, divined what had happened, but instead he learned she now commanded thirty lines, and a war began.
"Both sides believed it was over balance. That has been the only time it was about balance, Anna, make no mistake. For nearly seventeen hundred years they fought, many died. Witches were called and tested at unseemly ages, our tests were greatly modified, of course," Val added eyeing the way Pierre and I held hands.
"Peace came only when Aggie was killed by her own brother. Sheer terror that all magic would end was a pall cast upon all, and the great fraternity of all magic bearers began. It was her descended, living in what is today France, that became the next queen. It was Lee himself who found her, and he molded her in his image, making her his puppet.
"In peace time he too made his creatures, vampires and dragons. Peace began and it lasted until Chengzhou. With new queens it became a cold war more than a peace, but it was a peaceful time. Each side grew to one hundred lines, then five hundred, and we scattered.
"Then the wolves killed the vampires and once more we worked together to bind the loosened magic. Kit was an arduous process, lasting nearly one hundred years, but it worked. However, territory became an issue with so many wandering souls. That was what caused the second war.
"Another chill to the war came just six hundred years ago, when we had to band together and allow dragons to harness magic in order to travel time. They alone can go back far enough they can fly free and unnoticed.
"By the time Sigrid came along another war had begun over population. Witches numbered twenty-five hundred lines and sorcerers almost three thousand. Pierre here and I both know all the details of that, but all that is pertinent is that it ended by just seventeen fifty-seven and both sides of magic stand at twelve hundred strong, give or take as many as seven lines as long as it can be corrected by the next generation.
"What we have now is animosity. With such a long absence of a queen Malachai grows more powerful. Not in magic but in human holdings, land, money, stature. In short, sorcerers are much better at fitting in with our surroundings. Malachai has been smart enough to tie their holdings up under one umbrella corporation, publicly traded, guarded by fine human and sorcerer minds as well as magic.
"We no longer openly kill one another, but they do so delight in needling us. However all such intrigues have been put aside now that we know the timeline has been altered and we are to work together to divine why."
It sure sounded like all our little "wars" were about balance. Perhaps Leanne the sorcerer was right after all. I wasn't sure how much it helped the puzzle of time, but at least I had gotten the Cliffs Notes of our history. It only served to be a scant frame around the giant canvas I still knew nothing of.
"I don't know," I said with a sigh, leaning back on the couch. "It just seems to me Chengzhou was a turning point. For many reasons, I am beginning to think it shaped our world in hidden ways."
Valerius thought for a long moment. The bedroom door opened behind him and his wolf Anna popped out offering us smiles. "Sorry to listen in, can't help it, wolf hearing. My love, what about The Book of Shadows?"
"Come again?" I asked them both.
"How do you even know about it? It's in the Council's private library."
Anna sat on the arm of his chair and kissed his forehead. "You talk in your sleep, darling. Tell her about it."
Val blushed at her comment, but then covered it by clearing his throat and sitting up straighter. The Roman general was back, even if he wore a novelty shirt. "There is a book written in only by queens, read only by queens. The council holds it secret until a new queen is ready for it.
"You alone of all the witches can divine prophecy. Each queen does, and what you see of the possible lines of fate is recorded. If Chengzhou did indeed impact the future, it is possible a former queen forsaw. My Anna is right, and I should have thought of it."
"You were too busy geeking out over Aggie!" a voice called from the bedroom and then Io's head popped into the doorway, all smiles. "Hey all."
I waved and Pierre smiled.
Val sighed and with a wave of magic a large book appeared in his hand. It was thick leather filled with pages that seemed odd. When he handed it over I felt it weighed nearly forty pounds despite being the size of a common Webster's Dictionary. Inside the first pages were thin chiseled stone, animal skins, what I recognized as vellum, then finally papers of all kinds.
"It predates that story by many millennia. I would suggest you work backwards from Quinlain, the second queen after Chengzhou. But be forewarned the most powerful of queen could see far into the future. You may read things you do not want, terrible things yet to come. Perhaps your own death."
"Gee, gramps, ever think of working as a book crfitic?"
"Be careful, Anna. Now, may I tell the others about your trip back to the beginning?"
"Sure thing, saves me some time."
"You need to do some reading, but I would suggest you meet privately with the council before dinner."
"Shin-Zan's rooms. He has no wolves, ergo he has more room."
"Sounds like a plan." Val and I nodded to each other and then both moved to pop out by magic.
I zapped Pierre and I back to our rooms. Valerius had made it back but Andre was still out exploring, and Julian sat at a computer looking nearly cross-eyed with boredom. "Finally! A reasonable distraction. Please tell me you want snacks ordered ujp, a good brunch, something I have to assemble."
I walked to him and kissed him softly. "Sounds great." I dumped the book on the dining table Andre had commandeered as a desk.
"Book of Doom. What are you working on?"
"Almost every queen had several children, multiple human lines. Andre has me locating them all. He got a list of the sorcerers picked off, many of them pretty damn old. He's working on their lines but he's not as patient as I am, hence wandering in a Swiss winter."
"Pierre, what would you like to eat?" I asked and flopped on the couch, eyeing the book warily. Something about it terrified me and I wasn't ready to open it.
"I'm thinking bacon. Lots of it, and seafood crepes. A little taste of home."
Julian smiled. "Anna, hungry at all?"
I wasn't, but I wanted something to do while they ate. "Just coffee, lots of it, and maybe a Danish."
"It's Vienna Bread in this part of the world, love," Julian said with a smile. He reached over and picked up the room phone then set to ordering.
Pierre sat with me on the couch and pulled me into his arms. While Julian meticulously directed the cooks like only a Frenchman could, Pierre kissed my hair. "It's going to be okay, Anna."
I thought of that baby and its coloring, and guilt filled me. "Is it?"
"What you did you had good reason. Without you, perhaps the vampires would have lived, the world would be completely different."
"But better or worse?"
"You may only know by reading that book."
"I don't know, Pierre. What if it tells me something horrible, like the world ends in three years? Or worse, the Cubs win a world series."
He laughed at that, but for once his eyes were serious. "You're scared, I can tell. But you have to read it, you have to know. And we will be here for you every step of the way."
"All right, food will be here in half an hour. Looks like you need a distraction," Julian said with a smile.
Pierre turned me into his kiss cutting off my words, and slick as a cat after a treat Julian's long-fingered hands stole under my shirt to tease my nipples through my bra. This was an infinitely better choice than reading the terrifying book or contemplating time.
They made it easy, although we moved faster than usual in deference to time. I don't know what I had expected, but we tangled on the couch, hot, sliding kisses, desperate hands driving us into careless sighs. Once more Julian slid into my ass with the aid of magic, stilling as Pierre took my pussy, and then it was pure, mindless madness. We finished just as the knock came and only my magic had us clothed in time.
The men seemed to have no shame, but I was still human enough to have plenty.
As the carts were wheeled in, I discovered my appetite had grown and stole a piece of bacon. "Where's Jerry and Liv?"
"Andre has them around," Julian replied. We thanked the wolves, Julian signed the bill, and when the door closed he gave a small smile. "They're snooping. Liv is following the female sorcerer and one of the other advisors, and Jerry is watching Malachai."
"Why don't we have anyone on our council?" I asked and both men froze, laden forks hanging in midair.
"Why?" Pierre asked. "They tell us all they know."
"No, they don't," Julian said. "Pierre, would you mind taking over computer work this afternoon? I think I might want to check in with Marcus for a friendly chat."
My spy had understood. I smiled and we continued to eat, though I kept to a strip of bacon and a sweet cheese Danish with two cups of coffee. I brought Julian up to date and just as I finished Andre returned and Pierre volunteered to tell the story again.
Andre kissed me and joined us, and I watched each wolf put away four crepes, ten pancakes dripping with butter and syrup, and more bacon than I could count. It wasn't much longer until we'd have lunch, and I knew werewolves needed at least four times as much food as humans, but I was still floored.
"Cripes, there's not even a crumb left," I said when they finished.
"Yes there is." Pierre grinned and picked up a piece of the frosting lattice that had fallen off my Danish, and popped it into his mouth.
"You're going to read the book, right, Anna?" Andre asked knowingly.
"Soon. I want to talk to the council, find out a bit more." I couldn't meet his eyes. Magic or plain heldover human intuition, I knew something in that book would terrify me, change everything. I wasn't strong enough to face it yet. My future self had told me I had to not only solve the puzzle but build it. It felt too much like that book was one big, bad cheat.
"We should get going. The council is expecting us." I rose and so did the men. At least chivalry made them fast to act.
Diego popped his head up from his nap. "You too, boy," I said. "All right guys, first we gotta make a bathroom stop for him."
It was uneventful but Diego didn't want to come in, too happy with the novelty of a warmth bubble and fluffy snow to romp in. I took the bubble away and finally he came in, tracking snow into the hotel.
We made it to Shin-Zan's rooms and found the crowd waiting.
Val was there in his blue Hawaiian shirt with his real wolf and three lovely werewolves, Shin-Zan wore his old-fashioned clothes but on his shoulder perched a yellow parrot of some kind, likely his familiar. Marcus was dressed a century behind the times, sitting quietly at the table with two female wolves, both brunettes, who had the exact same ram-rod straight posture and keenly focused gaze. Sitting on the table with him was a ferret on a leash, his familiar warily eyeing the two canids who sniffed one another.
"Looks like Diego and Remus are getting along well," Val said by way of greeting.
"It seems. Is that a parrot?" I asked, nodding to Shin-Zan's bird.
"Yellow mapped Amazon, annoying as hell," Val said.
The bird looked his way, cocked his head, squawked, and said "fuck you!" in a shaky high-pitched voice.
"He thinks the cursing is funny."
Maercus stood them, gathering his familiar into his arms. "Wolves, we ask you remain here, the council and queen must meet privately."
Andre gave Marcus a hard look but he nodded as did the two other alphas.
"Hey, won't it be tough to have two alphas together so long?" I asked everyone and no one in particular.
Andre smiled and leaned down to whisper in me ear, "When we all have our own packs and no claimed territory, it's easy."