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Friday, June 30, 2017

Before The Dawn

Bumbles open the pack that held their precious portal stones. They were running out of the hard to find commodity. He lifted one of the black stone triangles, as he shifted it back and forth in his hand, a rainbow of colors awoke within the stone teasing of the far-off destinations that awaited one if you just used the right incantations. “We need to figure out in which direction the guardians headed, otherwise the portal stones are useless. When will Diewen and Zirede be back from questioning their contacts?” he asked as he re-wrapped the stones and placed them back in his pouch.

Nilla barely glanced at him as she pulled the bandage from her sister’s wound. She did her best to cleanse the raw, infected area before placing the healing poultice they had procured from a healer on their way to Bluelyn. She said a prayer to the Goddess, before wrapping it once more. “They will be here soon. Rest while you can. We won’t be able to rest much once we get under way, have you seen the skies over the mountains? That is our master at work. The guardians are there somewhere.”

Bumbles went to the window of their small room casting his gaze toward the mountain that only the day before had been alive with summer colors. Now the only green remaining were the bahaj trees that dotted the stark landscape. A huge ominous cloud circling the peaks and obscuring the views of the farthest mountain tops. He felt a cold, shiver run down his back, ending right at the white tip on his tail. “Are you trying to tell me we are heading up into that?” Another shiver took hold. “Is the master trying to punish us or kill us? I wonder which he truly wishes to do.”

He moved away from the window and went to take a seat next to Nilla. In a rare show of friendship, Nilla leaned into his arms and he wasn’t surprised when he felt her answering shiver roll down her back.

Max had found a cave that was big enough for the gang and their horses. He had begun a fire once he had found enough timber that had found its way into the interior of the cave. He knew he would have to search for more once the others arrived, but for now, he sat and soaked up the meager warmth offered by the nascent flame.

Soon he heard the voices of the others and went outside to guide them towards where he was. As they came trudging up, he scowled at Bo as he carried CeCe inside the cave. Azereus patted him on the back, filling him in as they followed the others inside. “Miss CeCe got turned around in the blowing snow and must have tripped. We found her unconscious against a very nasty looking rock. I think in their battle, the rock won.”

Neko ran ahead of Bo to get a bedroll made out before the fire for Bo to lay CeCe on. Bo nodded at him as he bent on one knee to gently place her on the blankets. Neko went to reach to help him but withdrew quickly when Bo growled low in his throat at him. The others stopped well out of his swinging range identifying the mating growl for what it was. No one would be able to come near CeCe while she was injured, her mate would nurse her.

Dominic moved over where Neko knelt in the shadows watching his sister’s mate care for her. His claws kept opening and closing in his agitation. He had always taken care of her when she was hurt, now someone new had replaced him. He was having a hard time accepting this. Dom watched him for a couple of minutes before asking in a voice lowered so that his brother couldn’t hear. “Dude? When did the mating occur? We’ve all been stuck together like peas in a pod forever. Did you know about it?” Dom pulled in a hasty gulp at the injured, angry look turned his way.

“No! You would at least think they would warn us, you know how us guys are around our mates. Any one of us could have set off a territorial dispute for just touching innocently.” He turned to look back at the mated couple. “Why couldn’t they wait until this was all over. It was too dangerous for them to do right now. If something happens to one, it happens to both now. Their incarnations are linked.” He shook his head sadly, a huge lump forming in his chest at the thought of losing his sister.

When a Felis mated they bound their life forces together ensuring that they would incarnate through each cycle together in tandem. If one mate was killed out of their incarnation year, they were dead for all the rest. And so was their mate. Both CeCe and Bo were only in their second incarnation which in and of itself spoke of their love. Most Felis couples waited until the fourth. Neko’s concern was with the fact that Bo was a warrior born and bred if he was killed in battle, CeCe would die at the exact moment he did.

Dom listened to the concern in his friend’s voice, but he was also watching as Bo placed both of his hands on either side of CeCe’s face, and bent his head as if in prayer. Dom took that moment to look around and noticed that Az and Donny were watching him too. The only one oblivious was Neko. “Hey, bro, I understand. And I’m a bit hurt too but this makes us family in all ways now. I have a funny question. With CeCe’s healing mojo she has going on now, won’t that help them both? And doesn’t it look like Bo is offering her some of his go-go juice to heal?”

Neko’s head swung up and he watched closely for any sign that CeCe might be drawing from what her mate was offering. He saw that the rest of the gang had thought the same thing as Dominic. The only one who appeared confused was Max.

The door burst open as Zirede and Diewen came into the small room the thieves were staying in. They seemed to be in good moods, which gave Nilla hope that they had found out where the guardians were heading. She received her answer quickly. “We had to buy a few rounds but we know not only were the guardians head but that it is where we will find the master’s treasure.” Zirede boasted as he swung Nilla up and around. Obviously, he had imbibed more than just a few rounds.

“Put me down, you fool,” she said as she beat on his shoulders. “You’ll awaken your mate and that would not do either one of you any good.” Nilla threw a cuff at Zirede’s ear before he finally set her back down on her feet. “So where do we find our prey? We leave at first light. Bumbles have the Portal stone ready for our trip. So where will the portal be taking us? Where will this finally come to an end?”

Zirede sobered at the mention of his mate and went to check on her. Nilla felt sorrow for taking away his small moment of joy. She had but a moment to contemplate it before turning to Diewen, “Where is the wonderful place that holds the all-powerful Triad? Where shall we lay our heads to rest tomorrow night?” Diewen had brought a wineskin back with him, and he gathered cups for the crew. He smiled as he watched Nilla dance from foot to foot waiting for his answer.

“You may not be so excited once you learn our destination. We are headed for a very haunted place. There may be a reason that no one goes there, and why the Triad was hidden there.” He stopped to take a drink and gestured to the others that they do the same. “We will step from the portal on the cliffs that hold Black Barrow.”  He stepped away from the table just in time to save getting wine spat in his face. He was wearing a sly smile, as he caught the faint flicker of fear that crossed each of his comrade's faces.

He finished his drink and went to where he had made his bed for the night. “I suggest that you all get some sleep. Tomorrow will see the end of our quest. I think we may need to be rested against the guardians and what they bring to battle with. He then turned his back to the room and covered his head.  His mind going back to the last encounter with their adversaries. The rest of the group finished the wine, the same memories coming to plague their thoughts, as well as those of the tales of Black Barrow.

It seemed to take forever before a small glow began where Bo’s hands rested against CeCe’s cheeks. He had been rubbing her whiskers not even realizing it. He just kept repeating a litany of “please don’t leave, not so soon. Wake up my love, wake up.” His eyes were closed as if in prayer, so he was unaware until the heat he had been feeling finally penetrated his thoughts. He opened his eyes and watched as the wound on her head seemed to sew itself together. The jagged edges smoothed out before the fur once again covered it as if it had never been there. That was his last view before darkness claimed him, and he slept.

Max stood staring at what he had just witnessed, his mouth hanging open. “What- what the hell was that? Is he dead? Am I going crazy?” He just kept jabbering about it until Donny came over to him and took some pity on him.

“He’s cool, just taking a nap. You’re not any crazier now than when you hired on with us. And CeCe has a gift that heals. She just kinda borrows a bit of mojo from whoever might be touching her, that was the big guy over there snoring with his head in her lap.” Donny patted Max on the shoulder before making his way to his pack to make himself comfortable for the night. “They’ll both be fine come morning.” Were his final words before settling into sleep. Max remained where he was for a bit, before finding his own troubled sleep.

As night settled over the town of Bluelyn and the cave in the mountains, neither group knew what the new day would hold or how it would change all their lives.

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