1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
After JD went to sleep at night, the Major would wander the Consulate. There was something very wrong. He could hear the thin echo of a baby crying at odd hours. Things would move around the Consulate without anyone touching them. There were hot and cold spots all over the house. He could hear the occasional swear words in Italian, saw doors open and close by themselves, and could feel the intense power being generated on a unseen level. All were hallmarks of his own kind, ghosts, and guardian ones at that.
However, he didnt feel the sting of violent death that heralded such warding.
The motorcycle was suspiciously clean. Knowing that young Turnbull had spent every spare moment on it, along with his charge, didnt account for the brightness of the parts. Mirror bright. Someone was polishing them. Someone unseen.
Ignoring it all, serene in their work, the Mounties continued on the business of Canada. But it was there, thick and powerful. He was trying to get some idea of what was happening in the world, but these guardians kept distracting him. It shouldnt concern him, but he was worried about getting JD to Denver and getting him delivered to Larabee. If he remembered correctly, the previous Chris Larabee was not easily persuaded to take the young mans ancestor on. Not at all.
Yesterday, JD had spoken politely to and smiled at a lady standing in the doorway to the main office. Her short, tight, red suit had been in the fashion of some years previous. The short mane of dark hair, the bright eyes, and the solemn way shed looked at JD had been curious to the living man, but giveaways to the ghost that he was dealing with another of his kind.
Perhaps they were shy, these guardians, but why in the world would there be guardians here? The Major chased his perplexity around the Consulate. The motorbike was being worked on, but it seemed that it needed many new parts all of the sudden. He and his Charge were here, delayed, but he could not perceive a reason for the delay, but delayed they were. There was more to this than even the Major could guess at.
A familiar presence wafted across the building like a womans perfume. This ghost he knew and knew well. Not only a guardian, but a great Guardian as he was. A minute later he was able to place the others of his kind. A curious situation, indeed!
I have seen the living pretend to be the dead, and the dead pretend to be something other than what they themselves are, but never, ever in my travels have I encountered the dead pretending to be the living who are believed to be dead! he laughed. The humor of the situation struck him full force.
I have seen many things that I never thought I would see, both in life and in death, Kinsman, came an answer out of the shadows. But this thing I never thought that I would see You, my cousin, riding with the heir of the man who Unlawfully slew you. The voice was full of anger and the Major felt himself rise to the challenge. Three spirits appeared. A dark-haired man in a red uniform, another man, this one blond, and the woman JD had seen the day before. There was a heavy feeling in the air, like a storm building strength for an explosion.
Hes an innocent, the Major snapped. We have never held the innocent accountable for the mistakes of their ancestors. I will not do this. Not now, not ever!
If you take him to Larabee, the circle becomes full. Your heir will perish as you did. Murdered in the name of a false justice, the woman pleaded. Please Cousin. Think. This does not have to be!
Choose to guide another. Or Choose another path, but do not take this man to Denver! the dark-haired man commanded.
No Samuel. This must be. The Major shook his head in negation. How could Samuel of all people not understand?
Cousin. You condemn your heir to death at this young mans hand.
There it was. He could feel the pain emanating from the others and wondered what had happened in this place to cause it. The feeling of the Duty and Obligation lay heavy on the Majors head, but his promise to Rachel Dunne weighed most heavy on his heart. This young man, an innocent, might just be the death of his own heir, one who had suffered far more than any should have in life. Sheriff Dunne had been innocent too, until hed chosen to throw away his own conscience But this wasnt the young Sheriff. It was his great grandson. What had happened then might not happen this time. This time the Seven who stood for Good might overcome those Evils that had defeated the previous team.
Do you really believe that? the Major asked softly. Frowning, the red-coated man would not look him in the eyes. Behind them, the woman was weeping and trying to hide it, and the other man bowed his head towards his superior as he tried to comfort her. He seemed to want to speak, but did not. Gently, the Major continued Samuel, where is your faith? Time is not an endless repetition of situations without change. Every Choice changes the future for good or for ill. JD Dunne is not his ancestor. You must not blame him for the actions of another. That would be unjust and I know that you are not that!
We have watched our children and their children wiped out of existence as if they had never been. They have suffered to keep the Duty and Obligation for others, for this world. We. He gestured at the others. We have taken this place, this stand, to hide the fact of my great grandsons survival. The Fifth and Sixth generations nearly perished in this place, trapped in a web of murder and treason most foul. The darkness they faced would not be appeased without the murder of innocents! Of infants! We pretend to be them so that the Evil does not know that they live to continue the fight. But the Pain The burden they bear in surviving is almost beyond them. Kinsman. The horror of what has been is an indelible mark on this place. Here they fell, though they live. They can never be who they were born as. They will spend the rest of their lives as someone else. The fall was agony. You can not tell me that you are so ready to allow your heir to fall to suffer what must come if these men choose to fail again! Samuel looked at the Major with a look that conveyed a thought none of them dared speak. It would be kinder for them to end his heirs life than allow him to fall if this new Seven failed.
The Major buried his fury. He could understand what they meant. His death had been hideous. There was no reason for his heir to suffer the same horrific death, but the Duty and Obligation required this that the future play out according to the choices made. Unfortunately, the men were very much as the previous Seven had been. For some reason, their personalities seemed to have been duplicated exactly. Would they choose the same choices as those who went before?
From journeying with this JD, the Major had learned much about him. He was very much like the young Sheriff of Four Corners, and yet he wasnt. For all the Hell the Major had endured, he had believed in Sheriff Dunne truthfully, he still did. But John David Dunne was not Sheriff Dunne.
Samuel, these are not the same Seven as then. And even if they were. I will take the chance. I will keep the hope that burns in me. I know that they will stand.
NO! Let it be some other. Not him. Not the Sheriffs heir.
It must be. He is the strand that binds them. Seven Goods against Seven Evils. He must go if there is to be a chance! the Major cried. IT must be him and no other. No other can do it. No one.
But if he falls, it is sealed. It will always repeat. You are condemning your successors to this grisly fate. What makes you believe that this boy will choose any differently than the other one? the Blond finally spoke up. What is in them that you believe they will not fall as they did before? I want to trust this chance, but I need to understand. I need to know what it is you know.
Mikels right, Cousin. What is it that you know that you trust your charge so? How can you think that he wont make the same mistakes? Hes young and willing to be led! Hes blithely ignorant of his history and of his potential. Heaven above, Cousin! Hes all but had a chorus of Angels and a star in the sky and hes ignored every blessed thing around him! What do you know that causes you to hope for this? That the Seven can stand?
I dont know. I BELIEVE. Thats the difference. You and the others held Sheriff Dunne accountable for my death. His children have paid a high price for that Judgement. They suffered, the whole town suffered Samuel, I never wanted that!
Its your nature to forgive people, Cousin. I did my duty in Four Corners. They killed you, knowing that it was wrong. Your Sheriff Dunne, he knew what he did that day was wrong, but he silenced the voice of his conscience and did it any way. The town paid for it, yes, but they were the mob that demanded your blood for an act that you did not commit! Judgement was required of me by the Duty and the Obligation. I judged according to the Law, how could I do otherwise? You were not there to plead for them. Justice was served, Mercy could not speak. How could what happened be otherwise? He looked sternly at the Major.
It was badly woven, the Major sighed in weariness, but not defeat.
Most mistakes are, Kinsman.
No Samuel. There is much wrong with it. I do not believe that it will stand.
The choices were made. It is part of time. It can not be undone.
What choice? the Major replied stung to anger. There was more going on in that town than any could see. I feel it unfinished.
Unfinished? Samuel appeared to give it some thought. You really believe that there is a chance for the Seven to stand? Not to fail as they did before, but to Stand against the Evils that confront them? I dont believe it, Samuel. I KNOW it, the Major said with complete conviction. Whatever happens Im willing to risk everything to give them that chance.
You risk more than your life, Samuel answered gravely.
You dont think I know that! the Major hissed in despair. I know the possible cost. How could I not of all people. He hid his face in his hands trying to overcome the pain that he was feeling. He felt a gentle hand on his arm. Looking up he saw Samuel staring at him with compassion.
There must be more going on here than even we know, if you feel this so strongly. I trusted your insights when we lived, they never failed me. Though you always believed the worst of yourself, Samuel paused and looked closely at his two companions. I think that Mikel feels some of what you do. Hes been working on that great mechanical beast at all hours.
Id wondered about that. It was far too shiny to be the work of young Renfield. Hes pushed to his limits, poor lad, the Major said, trying to lighten this difficult situation.
Mechanical things have always fascinated him, the woman laughed. Perhaps he should have been born in this time
Now, Madam. The blond flushed.
Its probably true, Samuel said. You have gifts that could have been of great use in this time and place, but Im grateful that it was chosen for you to spend your mortal life in our time, Mikel. Though I wish the end had been better.
Na, my Commander, Mikel said flushing again. His accent was more pronounced now. I would not have chosen otherwise. I stood for the Duty and Obligation in the time given to me. I stood with you, even when you were taken from us. I would pay that price again, a thousand times if they asked it of me. He looked at the Major. Thats it isnt it. The Commander here feels that its going to fail as our stand did so long ago. That it was in its own way a hopeless duty. Thats not so, and it probably isnt for your heir or for you. You perished believing in the Seven, and for some reason its been brought to happen again. Theres something more going on, and it must be.
The Major nodded. For an instant he broke away from the conversation to listen to his charge as he slept. JD was restless, but safe. Nothing could harm him in this place. A little sheepishly he returned to the conversation to find the others looking at him knowingly.
I promised his mother that hed make it safely to Denver. I will not break my word. He will be safe and that wandering corpse will not have him! I can not see clearly what is to come. Not even now! Its not part of the gift granted me, but I will keep my word both with the Duty and with the Obligation. I will keep true to the word that I gave to Rachel Dunne! The faith of the Traviner will not fail!
It seems we have been of little faith, Cousin. The woman kissed him gently on the cheek. Samuel and I have grieved for our children, Mikel for his. There is a pattern here than none of us can see clearly. I will keep my hope, which I thought long ago lost, in this journey of yours. I will ask blessings on another Rachels child. Mine is gone from me, a guardian as well, bound to the place of his murder. He fell doing his Duty, trusting in the faith that has been our bulwark for so long. Perhaps it is not as dark as we fear it to be.
Rachelle, Samuel said gently reaching an arm out for his wife. She patted the Majors cheek and slipped into her husbands arms. He whispered into his wifes ear and finally she smiled.
You were quite lucky in love, the Major said with a grin.
It took time for me to be. Frasers are always unlucky in love the first time, Samuel laughed remembering. But none have been as unlucky as my great-grandson was. He looked darkly at the wall. She nearly destroyed him.
Peace Kinsman. She will pay in the time appointed, the Major said. At least he found his heart again after she wounded it.
Dont think that talking about the St. Germain girl is going to get you out of this, Cousin. Its long past time that we Kinsmen have a little council.
The Major sighed. Dont you think it might be a good idea to warn young Renfield? Hes a member of the Order and can see us. Having all Four Kinsmen at once, especially four who are dead, could cause all manner of problems.
Mikel and Rachelle laughed as Samuels expression showed that he hadnt thought of that.
A week in Chicago, building the new Consulate from the ashes of the old helped JD put his life into some perspective. Hed grown to like all of the Mounties, but he was closer to Turnbull than any of them. The goofy Mountie made time in what had to be a severely overworked schedule to talk to JD. Sometimes he thought that hed give up and stay in Chicago without Renfields urging. Somehow all the paperwork that JD needed to fill out miraculously ended up on the Constables desk.
Renfield helped JD figure out the complicated application, spending time teaching the younger man about the intricacies of paperwork and bureaucracy. JD absorbed everything presented to him with a fascinating intensity. The young man applied himself to every task with his whole heart, working long hours to understand. Eventually they let him help with the paperwork for the current cases of the border defense groups.
At first Monson and Tusswell were skeptical, but JDs constant and unwavering help slowly won them over. They treated him like furniture for the first day or so, but JD didnt take offense. He listened carefully. When the two agents had gone, JD applied himself to helping to organize the information that the three men came up with. Borrowing a computer from an amused Turnbull, JD was able to make some connections. His research began to thaw the feelings of both of the other men. After a couple of days they were cracking jokes that included the young man, and then treating him as a serious part of the investigation.
Monsons reluctant support grew more active when JD presented him with a map of the likeliest locations in Chicago for the type of contraband that they were currently on the look out for. The kid had made strides in fleshing out the profiles of the various smugglers, bringing previously unknown connections to light. Tusswell just watched his partner with an amused smirk. He winked at JD and Dunne began to relax around him.
Soon the two agents were acting as if JD had always been part of their investigation. Turnbull often watched them with a cat ate canary look. Monson began to push ways to advance JD in the ranks of those applying to be part of RMETF Seven.
The mans an idiot if he doesnt, Monson was caught yelling at his partner.
Who is an Idiot, Phillip? Turnbull asked, all innocence.
I wasnt aware that you were speaking with Agent Larabee, Phillip. Whats he done?
Nothing, Charles cut in. Yet . Phillips worrying about things that are not ever going to happen. I swear, Ren! You and only you could do it. You bring a bedraggled cat into this situation and old Stoneheart Phil will tell you to send it to the pound. But if you keep it around long enough to worm its way into the mans affections, hell buy it a bell, dress it up and put it in the biggest show out there. He smirked at JD to show that there wasnt a sting meant at him. And Heaven forbid that someone at that show doesnt think its the best little kitty out there, much less the poor judge who hasnt even seen the thing yet. Phils all but ready to punch Larabee out and the man hasnt even met JD yet. He hasnt even gotten back to Denver to look at the paperwork, Charles laughed. The mans been busy trying to recover enough to get back on track. He sent two men out to Shackelton. That team of his broke a couple of small things open this week and they arent even officially active yet. Phil here has it in his head that Larabee is not going to be ready to accept JD as soon as he arrives. Anything less than the full red carpet treatment is not enough.
Phillip looked a little sheepish, but Turnbull smiled a small secretive smile.
Mona Lisa here knows more than hes telling, Phillip complained.
He always does, Charles laughed.
JD caught Renfield cleaning the Consulate with a desperate air. The Mountie wouldnt tell him why, but gave him a grateful look as JD got down and started to clean as well. He cleaned so hard that he slept deeply that night. Turnbull tucked him in and mumbled something about a meeting. Must be the Agents, JD thought sleepily.
Turnbull brushed his uniform to a polished perfection. Everything was in proper order, even Her Majesty would not find a thing out of place. The Four Kinsmen were coming. Renfield shook himself a little. They were coming, here. Although they had died almost a century ago, none of them were any less dangerous for that.
Very Nice, Constable, Samuel said as he appeared beside Turnbull. Renfield hid the near heart attack well, but Samuel noticed. Sorry, Lad. Sometimes we forget that we are no longer mortal and no longer expected, he laughed ruefully. I didnt mean to make you jump, Lad.
Quite all right, Sir, Turnbull replied, trying to regain his balance. Is there anything else that I can do for you. Sir?
Smiling slightly to reassure the stressed young man, Samuel gave him a second pat on the back. No Lad, alls well. He winked. Though I think that Mikkel is eating up the tarts.
Turnbull grinned, remembering the first time hed encountered the other Phantom Major from the nineteenth Century. Mikkel had a sense of humor almost as twisted as his descendant had had. How he missed Benton Fraser and the rest. His partner Meg most of all. Feeling a little melancholy, Turnbull went back to his desk and continued on the business of Canada. The Kinsmen didnt need his input on whatever situation they were discussing; though he did hope that young Mr. Dunne would stay asleep upstairs. The boy had taken the Cross-Border Patrol well, but he wasnt certain how hed react to Guardian Ghosts and the like.
Straightening out the errors that Corporal Allingham had made would take a little time. In a couple of months hed have the good Corporal and the rest of the lot back up to speed on their paperwork. Maybe later theyd manage more. His own Commander, Dashfield, was concerned about how soon they might be able to resume full Consulate Functions. It was irritating to have to rely on the Americans for information about a Traitor in both Nations. Whoever it was on the Canadian side was doomed as soon as they had the name. Too many good men and women dead or lost.
For a moment Turnbull paused and looked at the tiny photo he kept in his pocket, Benton Frasers shy smile was eclipsed by the light in his blue eyes as he looked at his bride. For her part, Turnbull thought his Permafrost Princess had never looked more beautiful. Ray Vecchio and his family as well as the very strange but fascinating Ray K gathered around the couple, looking little the worse for wear from the mayhem that had preceded the ceremony. Turnbull felt himself smile as he remembered his part in it. They had been the best team out there Once the problems with the American Cops had been sorted out. They had been the best.
But that was then and this was now. He drew his attention back to the minutia that made up his duty. Turnbull found his attention drawn to more of the paperwork that Charles and Phillip had left for JD. It wouldnt hurt to get a little more of it done. Mr. Dunne needed to get back to his journey. Larabee and Denver wouldnt wait forever.
The Major turned from checking on his sleeping charge. He hesitated wanting to brush the unruly dark hair out of the boys eyes. For some reason he found himself wanting to comfort the young man as if he was a child. Rachel Dunne had sacrificed all for her child. He couldnt let faith that pure be swept aside. This JD wasnt the JD from before. He wasnt Sheriff Dunne.
John David Dunne deserved a chance. Even if it meant the risk of his heirs life.
Sometimes the Duty and Obligation was a real nightmare.
He could do this. He had to try.
Did it have to happen again? Was there no choice?
Grimacing, the Major recalled that he didnt believe that Sheriff Dunne had had a choice either. He had to take the risk, to gamble it, even though he couldnt see the ending.
With a last delicate brush of the boys bangs, the Major slipped downstairs to face his fellow Kinsmen.
The argument had been heated. So many options boiled down to just two. The Major bit his lip. Either they could let the boy go and make his choices, even if those choices damned the living Kinsmen, or they could stop him here in Chicago.
JD could find a new home here. Everyone the boy touched was willing, eager even, to help him find his way.
Did his way have to bring death and devastation to all the Major loved?
For a few minutes the Major watched Turnbull at his desk. He wasnt as familiar with the Mounties, only having met his Cousin and his men in 1882. The Northwest Mounted had been founded in 1873 to take care of a frontier. He could relate. Wasnt that what they were doing? The frontier they defended was much larger, but still an unknown in spite of maps.
His mind wandering, the Major considered the problem. What would he do if he were still encased in living flesh? They were the Kinsmen in life, but the extent of their understanding had been limited by being alive. Even in death they sometimes couldnt see what the Creator was willing to happen. From pain and suffering much greatness had been born. Was this another of those instances? Did they have to lose to win?
Guardians that they were, losing was not something they handled well. Four Kinsman still waiting for their orders. The Duty and Obligation still heavy. The Major sighed.
Samuel still spoke as the leader of their group. Firm and unshakable. One could feel the strength of his position, his understanding of Justice. Few could understand Justice in purity. The Young Commander of the Lost Fort was all for stopping JD here. He didnt wish harm to the boy, but he wanted to prevent the weaving from brining the Seven into existence this time. Destiny had no right to demand a repeat of what had happened in that town.
The Major grimly drew his attention back to the conversation. If Samuel still couldnt say the name Four Corners there was no chance that he was ever going to forgive it or its people, though they were long dead. That grief weighed heavy on his own soul. Samuel had severely punished the people who had taken his life that summers day so long ago. Some of them still paid a heavy price. In the corner of his sight, he could feel rather than see the shadows of those still trapped in the past. There could be no freedom for them. And if the cycle completed itself again, there never would be.
A flaw in Pure Justice. There was no room for pity or mercy. Yet Samuel felt pity for the boy upstairs. Hed felt some pity for the people of Four Corners, at least some of them. Though to the Majors mind, the innocent had suffered with the Guilty. Maybe as Samuel said, they were all guilty of something, but theyd all paid the price for the murder of a Guardian. Yet Samuel felt pity and mercy. The Major could sense it in him, could read between the lines. The problem was, Samuel was unwilling to risk Destiny.
A strange sight they must be to the living man, the Major turned his attention back to Turnbull. The living Mountie was a member of the Order of Michael, Guardian and Defender. He knew more than most of the living what sorts of things went bump out on the edges of the night. Hed chosen to stand against them for the sake of all. His living spirit burned brightly with his kept vows.
Yet here in his Consulates parlor, stood four men and two women, all long dead, and it didnt phase him in the least. Hed cleaned the place as if a monarch was coming, giving them the respect that few would grant. Most people, if they knew such Guardians stood between them and Evil, would either cower in horror or pray endlessly and aimlessly for pardon. The Four Kinsmen could inspire fear as few other Guardians could.
Samuel stood in his NWMP dress uniform at the north point, with his back to the door. He made no odd movements, no tugs at his collar. Truly he was comfortable in his Uniform as he had never been in any other clothes. The Major smiled a little remembering other days with his cousin. Had they grown so far apart or was the reasonable man still within? It seemed that he was, since he was listening, really listening instead of forcing his will on the others. Rachelle and Mikkel stood with him. They were lesser guardians, in his train, and really had no place in the argument. However, Mikkel had spoken, even opposed his Commander. Samuel had set his jaw stubbornly, but had quietly heard his subordinate out.
Mikkel was for Destiny. All the good, he argued, that the Seven had done was lost because of the murder of the Guardian. Was if fair to deny the innocent who had need of the protection and aid of this new potential Seven to be denied for the sake of their own?
On Samuels right hand, the other male Kinsman stood pondering. The Major knew that his friends words would be measured and considered. He was the most deliberate of the Four, except perhaps for the Major himself. Jacob was dressed in the finery of a nineteenth century gentleman, even wearing the double cloak that hed favored so many years ago. As a Lawyer his appearance had been of great importance to him, but the Major could remember him rolling up his sleeves and being filthy as he helped save a town from disease.
Jacob was listening to Mikkels arguments, and listening closely. Of them, he was the most inclined towards the boy. Nothing in their orders or the Duty and Obligation permitted them to deny free will to their charges, even if that will lead them to making dark choices. He was fidgeting, though. The Major tried to hide his grin as he watched those thumbs tuck themselves into the mans watch pockets. The other eight fingers brushed the embroidered brocade vest gently. Catching the Majors grin, Jacob looked severely at him, but didnt interrupt Mikkels argument.
On Samuels left hand was the only woman Kinsman of their group. Though there had been women to serve as Guardians before, there had been fewer in the generations before them. Azrael looked at all three of the men as if they were a bit crazed.
Of the Four, she would be the hardest to win over. She was the Healer of their quartet and she seemed to view the situation as a sickness. Preventing an infection seemed to be how she viewed the situation. Azrael had seen too much of mans inhumanity to allow much womanly softness. She had stood on the battlefields of both the Crimea and the American Civil War. Little upset her, but shed learned caution and a willingness to sever a limb for the good of the body.
Thought she was ever the lady, she was dressed much as he remembered her, hoops, apron and cuffs. No feminine frills there. No hint of softness, just a willingness to work. How she was able to do the task assigned to her, the Major couldnt guess. He expected softness as a part of Hope. Each of them had developed their own bad habits, all just before he died. It seemed that his dying had poisoned the progression of the others.
It had had to be that way. He had chosen to make a Stand. Hed granted the Seven the ability to stand against the growing Evil, but hed been slain as the world turned upside down for them. They hadnt understood what they did, theyd suffered, Oh Heaven had they suffered for that mistake.
Could he risk that kind of suffering again?
Was there any hope that this time would be different?
He knew that the others were beginning to gather. Hed felt it. But this was the crucial moment.
With JD Dunne there would be a Seven.
Without him, there was no possibility of anything. The men would live and die, but never touch the potential greatness within themselves.
JD was required. He was the thread that bound the Seven together.
He had to make it to Denver.
Larabee had to take him.
The Seven must stand.
Turnbull could hear the argument go back and forth. He wasnt sure what it all was about, but he knew that the Major would win. JD had to go to Denver. He knew it within his very soul. So as they argued the whys and wherefores, Constable Renfield Turnbull, RCMP, prepared every piece of paper that Alex Welch, the American Federal Government, Senator Wiley Redd, and Some guy named Castor required to make JD Dunne a Federal Agent and a member of RMETF Seven.
Only Larabees signature would be left, and Turnbull had a feeling that that would be the hardest to get.
Turnbull looked up from his desk when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. There was someone in the Consulate, someone else. He turned and looked at where the Kinsmen were having their fight, it wasnt them.
His gut was warning him that there was something wrong, so he left his desk and tried to listen to where he went. Renfield was afraid, but he couldnt figure out why.
It took him some time, but he caught movement on the stair. There as a man in the Consulate, a dirty, filthy, ill-shapen man who made everyone of Turnbulls senses sound alarms. The intruder was moving with a sickening grace up the stairwell.
Up the stairwell?
Young Mr. Dunne!
Turnbull didnt know how he knew it, but he knew that this man was a threat to the boy under his protection.
Stop right there. You are trespassing in Her Majestys Dominion of Canada.
The door is open, the man replied in a slimy sort of voice that made the constables skin crawl. Anyone is welcome here. You can not keep me out, man.
In the parlor the argument halted as the Major felt the threat to his charge. Without a word the Four Kinsmen shifted into the stairwell, Mikkel following to make sure of his own charge, Renfield Turnbull.
What do you here? the Major roared out as he materialized at the top of the stairwell.
I need no mans leave to enter this place. All are welcome, the man hissed in annoyance.
You are not welcome here, Turnbull put in. Get out.
I need no mans leave to be here, Red Jacket. My Master will be pleased. There is nothing that you and your shadow friends here may do. The boy belongs to My Master. The door is open and all may enter. I need no mans welcome to take what My Master desires.
Your Master, Creature? Samuel asked sternly. All living and of good intent are welcome here. None other are. We may be shadows as
you say, but you are less than that. He drew himself up to his full height, the red uniform accentuating the paleness of his skin and the blueness of his eyes. There was something majestic about him and power gathered around him like a cloak.
You cant stop me guardian. This place is open to all. I am welcome here, I need no man to welcome me in. My Master desires his prize. You can not stop me. Not you, little toy soldier. You are nothing, the man sneered. Turnbull felt an all-consuming need to wipe that sneer off the creatures face. A hand on his arm stopped him. Mikkel shook his head, quelling Turnbulls actions.
Toy Soldier? Samuel mused. Its been a while since I was called that. Light caught on the silver medallion of the Order on Samuels chest.
Your master can do nothing to stop me. Little Raven Wings are nothing. Leave the Dead to your master. This Prize is My Masters for the Taking.
You can do nothing without the boy giving his free consent, Creature. As it always has been and always will be.
Pitiful lies your Ravenwing tells you. Free will is a joke, a flaw. What My Master wants he takes, as all of his kind do. They are the rulers of the world. Let your Ravenwing master judge the dead. We are not dead and never shall be. The earth and everything in it are ours. The boy is My Masters Prize and shall be his. You will not deny him. I will take him to My Master and be rewarded. You can not stop me. They will have what they will as they always have done. Go off and play your pitiful games. Ravenwing has no power here. The sneer became all out contempt.
The Vampyres servant thought that his words would rile the shadows guarding this place of the North. He was bewildered w
en the shadows continued to look at him squarely. Even the living man, whose blood sang a siren song he could almost taste, was seemingly unmoved by his words.
Perhaps, perhaps not Creature, Azrael hissed. Shall we find out?
Ravenwing is for the dead, woman. I am not dead. You should fall down and worship me. I have defeated death. You went willingly to it like your silly sheep. You always talk about lambs. They are nice to eat and too stupid to do anything about it.
Defeated Death? the Major questioned from the top of the stairs. Are you certain that Death was not just unwilling to have anything to do with something as loathsome as you?
The servant of the Vampyre was about to reply with another sneer when he got a good look at the grey coated figure whod addressed him. His mismatched eyes widened to their full extent. No, it couldnt be, the creature told himself, but a second glance revealed no possible doubt. Slowly he began slipping back down the stairs. His Master would still reward him handsomely if he just told him where the boy was. There was no need for him to challenge that one. No need.
As he tried to slip back he caught movement to his left and right. Jacob stood on the ground floor a look of fierce determination on his face as he gripped his sliver tipped cane. On the floor above, keeping pace with the creature, Azrael stood her beautiful face as cold and solemn as a mask.
At the foot of the Stairs Samuel stood, unperturbed and unruffled. His uniform seemed brighter and the medallion glowed with a bright light. The Vampyres servant saw it and made a whimpering sound. He tried to press himself into the wall.
All My Master wants is the boy. Hes not important enough for you. Its just a boy. One boy. Arent there enough others that want you and need you? Give My Master the boy. There are millions and millions of dead that Ravenwing rules. Why cant you just give me the boy? One boy. Hes not very important. One boy, the creature whimpered.
One boy? The world may turn on One boy, the Major said. Enough. No life is so unimportant that we would willingly surrender it to such as your Master He sneered back at the creature who now cringed away. He is his own, no one may have him. Until he chooses, if he chooses Darkness, but even then there is redemption if he wills to reach for it. He is innocent now and you and your Master have no claim.
He moved forward down the stairs as Samuel moved up them. The Vampyres servant cringed further and further back against the wall. Above him he could see Azrael and below Jacob waited.
Mercy he whimpered.
The Major quirked an eyebrow. What Mercies did you grant to those unfortunate enough to cross your path? the Creature whined softly like a wounded dog. None at all. So you shall have none. Frowning the Major stepped closer.
No. You are not to act so. Ravenwing decreed it. Only the Four Riders, Only the Kinsmen.
Unfortunately that is exactly who you are dealing with As the Captain-General decreed it, the Major replied softly. Though his voice was low, the power in it was more frightening than Samuels show of force. He raised a hand and made a small gesture.
The Creature wailed for a second and reached out towards the grey figure, but suddenly shifted and became dust.
Sorry about the mess, the Major apologized to Turnbull, sheepishly. Its always dust and ashes.
Turnbull gulped and answered. Thats all right Sir. The young Mountie straightened himself. I have a vacuum and some new bags. I shall attend to it immediately.
Good Lad, Samuel said thumping Renfield on the back. Good Lad. He sent a pleased smile at the young man. Turnbull nodded and went to fetch the Vacuum.
Dont fret, Renfield. You did all that could be expected of you. The creatures of Darkness are meant to frighten the living. Thats what feeds them. Fear. You overcame yours and stood with us. Im proud of you. If itd been me Id have probably done something foolish like swoon. Mikkel comforted his charge as he went into the supply closet. In fact, the first time I met something not normal, I did do something foolish. I dropped the gingerbread. A piece of advice. Never drop gingerbread around a shifter. They cant get enough of the stuff, Mikkel rambled along until Turnbull felt calmer.