Raven Shadow took her tray of breakfast food out onto the balcony that overlooked the Ohio River. She’d had a late night working at the coffee shop so she had gotten little sleep. She normally didn’t need a lot of sleep but she hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the week before. She needed to average about two hours a night and lately she hadn’t been able to get even half an hour.
There was a folder of paperwork on the table. She had set it there before she had gone down to make breakfast and had just ended up making up a fruit plate from the left over fruit from the meeting she had the night before. The sound of her housemate drifted up to where she was. Charity Shadow was her sister by blood and a bite. A companion for over the ages. Charity had been gone when the disasters had happened. As a new vampire she had balked at the pressure of what she had to do to maintain the Shadow name and had run as soon as she could. For the past hundred years though, she had stayed by Raven in thick and thin.
After the death of their parents, Charity had taken to schooling. With the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth, Charity had gone to college to be a lawyer. She had a hard road but she had prevailed and had started to take care of the Shadow estates. She was a bloodthirsty lawyer and a wonderful woman.
“Morning, sister,” Charity said as she dropped into the chair opposite Raven but she didn’t block Raven’s view of the river. It wasn’t much of a view given that it was January and all the trees were dead looking.
“Morning. You didn’t have to get up with me. The sun isn’t fully up.”
“I want to get to Athens and start filing the papers we need. The humans are receptive and there are a few who aren’t but the money that you are offering is worth it to them.”
“Make sure that there is enough for them to move. Remember that if they want their house, we can get it moved for them.” Raven sipped at her tea and looked at the list with sixteen names on it. Fourteen of the names had already signed contracts to leave their land and move elsewhere. At nearly an average of two million per person is wasn’t that bad of a cost. The last two names were playing hard to get and while Raven was willing to pay them ten million each to get off the land, she didn’t want to.
“I know. I know.” Charity stuck her tongue out as she plopped a chunk of pineapple in her mouth.
Raven giggled at the antics of her sister. She was stoic in the court room and dealing with anything legal but like Raven she sometimes just needed to let go. Raven moved the list of names and then looked at the aerial shot of the land she was trying to purchase. It was around eight square miles of land that was mostly uninhabited. The humans that did live there were farmers and isolationists but it was the only place that Raven liked. The Mid-Ohio Valley was the perfect place for the Mystics to call home. There was no way that all the Mystics of the world would fit, living there but it would be good enough to settle a capital there.
“He’s here,” Charity said, in a low voice.
Raven turned her head to look away from the paper and to look at her sister. She gave her a look to tell her to continue. He was a very vague term that could be used to describe so many in her life.
“You’ve not been out and about as anyone other than Rae. You may not look like Rae but you are Rae and you protect your nose from the smells of the humans. You didn’t notice but I did. That wolf of yours, Elian Coats, is back in town.”
Raven stopped, dropping her fork as she did. She looked up at Charity with a startled look in her eye. Charity pulled a piece of paper from the bottom of a stack of papers that had been hers the night before. She handed it over. It was a copy of a driver’s license.
“I went to the courthouse yesterday. This was on file as well as the copy of the change.”
The license looked like any normal Ohio driver’s license. Raven looked it over several times before the change caught her eye. Elian Darkan.
“Yes, the court did. I contacted Lady Lake myself. They are aware but are keeping it under wraps. Lady Lake is making sure that no one who could make issues knows. Given the nature of what happened with his mother and father, Lady Lake is saying that as far as she is concerned he filed the papers with them.”
“What is Atrian doing?” Raven took more papers that Charity handed her. She looked all of them over. It was the copy of the name change and everything to do with the human aspect of Elian’s life but there was nothing for the Mystic side of his life.
“It’s a tactic that I am well aware of. Elian would not take the fall for it. He’s a child, Raven. The court won’t punish him. I think that he is playing a game of cat and mouse with the rest of the Matians. As long as he doesn’t exist for the courts, then the Matians can’t go after him that way. They have to use brute force. If they do, the Matians look like bullies. They attacked a poor little baby who had no way of knowing that he needed to register with the courts. Hell, you’ve not told them either.”
“That’s because I am in no power to do that. I have played my own game like that. Raven Shadow exists as a bitten on paper. Atrian knows, you know, Elian knows and that’s it. I am a nobody who spends money like humans drink water. I am a petulant child who doesn’t respect the legacy I was left. The courts look down on me and never think twice about me.”
“I know but there is so much that could fuck us.”
“What are the Matians going to do? If they attack, James will escalate it. James has not kept me in the loop and I’ve not really asked to be kept in the loop. Elian made it clear that he wants nothing to do with me anymore. I’m surprised he came back.” Raven picked up her empty plate and moved to the exit of the room, going down into the kitchen. She quickly rinsed her plate and put it up. Charity was right behind her just staring at her. “If you aren’t going to do anything constructive here, leave please.”
Charity stuck her tongue out at Raven before she turned with a swirl of his skirt and left the room. Raven laughed a little and set up cleaning up the kitchen a little. Her work for the day was all paper work. The school was getting ready to open in the fall and she had to fill out more checks for the Rockland Foundation and the Fae who was overseeing the majority of it. That would take her just minutes.
The files she needed for the important work were in her living room, laid out and ready to fill out. Moving to sit at the small desk, Raven quickly signed the checks, put them in the envelopes, and sealed them. Later, she would take them to the post office and have them dropped off.
Raven never set her security system when she was home. If anyone ever made it in and had hostile intent, she was pretty sure that she would be able to take care of them. She even left her front door unlocked most of the time. Her father had always told her not to fear the people who kept themselves locked up tight. It was those would enter a room and not look around, those were the ones to be feared. Those who were so sure of themselves that they did not need to check to see who would or could be coming up against them.
Raven was used to smell town life and she didn’t miss the bustle of the cities she had lived in before she had moved to Belpre to start the community college and other things. The people in Belpre didn’t shove themselves into other business that much. She carried herself as standoffish enough that men didn’t come calling nor did they try and hit on her when she was out.
Weekly rituals kept her mind sane and the fresh game in the area kept her well fed. Hiding the bodies wasn’t that hard of a task. There was a butcher in Barlow who knew of the Mystics, even though he was human, and the man would take the carcasses and cut them up to sell. It was an easy process and it gained Raven some money that wasn’t from the Shadow Family holdings. Charity lived mainly off the money that she earned as a lawyer except for when she moved to a new house. She was the one that handled the money for the holdings but she kept Raven up to date. Raven knew within a million or two what was in the bank at all times and what was in the holdings and properties and all the other things that Charity invested the money in.
Raven’s bedroom was her getaway. It took over nearly the entire upper floor of the house. It had been an attic at some point but Raven had loved the view and had taken out an entire wall and put up glass. To the outer part she added her balcony. It had taken nearly a million dollars to make the house what she wanted but for her it was worth it. It was the first place she had called home since she had left her castle in Scotland. Everywhere else was just a place to stay.
The smell of a Mystic beats a Mystic to where they actually are if that Mystic is upset. The smell of water rushed over Raven and she knew that he was inside because she had closed up the house. She was going to make phone calls and hadn’t wanted the sound to go outside at all.
Raven wasn’t ready for the sight of Elian. He entered her bedroom and seemed to stop when he saw that she was up. He looked surprised to see her awake. She laughed to herself. He looked like he wanted to wake her and see what happened due to it.
Elian had changed in his months away from Belpre. His height hadn’t changed but instead of looking like a too skinny guy he had filled out. He looked like all the other werewolves that Raven dealt with. His entire body was ripped with muscles from running in his wolf form. Raven knew those muscles well. Her’s were smaller and well hidden with her clothes. He was beautiful to her but she knew that she couldn’t let that show. The balance of the relationship had to be maintained. He wasn’t ready for a lover or anything close to it.
“Good morning, Elian,” Raven said as she closed up the folder on the table. She capped her pen and turned to fully face him. He looked at the folder like he wanted to look inside but then he shifted back to just be standing there.
“Good morning, Raven. I…” Elian seemed to hesitate. He looked around the room and took a sniff before he looked at her. “Cinnamon? Ozone? Metal? Make up your mind what you want to smell like!”
“I have. I smell like cinnamon. It’s my sister, Charity that smells like ozone and metal. I still hide the roses but that is my business and not yours.” Grabbing her files, Raven stood up and placed them in the open safe before she closed it. Elian seemed to step forward but he stopped and then backed up. He didn’t move much past a few steps into her bedroom. “I won’t do anything but we can move back downstairs if you will be more comfortable about it.”
“Yes.” Elian spun on his heel and then he was gone.
Waiting a few seconds, Raven listened to him move down the stairs. He made no sound. He had been with a good pack. His human traits that were bad for a Mystic were mostly gone. The ability to move and not make a sound meant life and death to Mystics. She listened to him settle himself in the living room in one of the chairs that afforded him a view of all three entrances on the ground level. She followed him and instead of going to the living room, she went to the kitchen. There was a carafe of tea sitting on the counter and she poured herself a generous mug of it before settling on a couch in the living room that faced Elian.
“What can I do for you, Lord Darkan?” Raven kept her tone even and normal but she saw him jerk at his name.
“Charity is a lawyer. She smelled you in town and did a little digging. I was not happy with her but I can’t control her. She is the face of the Shadows and she is allowed to do what she wants.”
“I thought that you…”
“Charity is the main child. She was rebellious before our parents died but she leveled out after. I on the other hand, the other turned child, I was the one that went rebel. She is the one who get the sympathetic smiles when my name is brought up in conversation. The Matians don’t touch her but they watch her. They don’t fear her like they fear me. While she is definitely a turned Vampire where I have question to that. I was the lavished child. The Shadow line doesn’t make turned Vampires willy nilly. That my mother made two makes other question the parentage of one of us. I don’t this is why you are here though, is it?”
“No,” Elian admitted with a put upon sigh. He relaxed back in the chair and picked at a piece of invisible fluff on his pants. “I lived with a pack of wolves while I was gone. I ran through the mountains and they attacked me for being on their turf. They mainly tried to run me off but when I stood my ground, they relented to check me out. The leader of the pack said that I looked way to human. I wasn’t sure what he meant but when I got a good look at all of them…”
“They looked like physically buff men? Their muscles could kill?” Raven asked.
Elian nodded in answer. “I learned a great deal about myself and who I needed to be by being with them. I will never look bad upon my time with them but I learned something when I was with them. You knew more about werewolves than they knew about themselves. They knew nothing of their history.”
“Caleb’s pack?” Raven watched the shock jump over his face. She was well aware of the packs that could cause issues. Word of his new acquire to the pack hadn’t made it back to her but the size of the pack wasn’t the issue. His pack could quadruple in size and the impact on the land would not be felt. Caleb’s father was keeping her informed on the wolf and his pack. He was worried if Caleb decided to do anything. “I’m aware of the pack and why he and his mates split off from their parents. I am also aware of what they are lacking in history. I know a lot more than you think and don’t worry; Caleb’s pack is nowhere near a nuisance yet.”
“You were watching me!” Elian stood up and moved to loom over her.
Raven relaxed back into her chair and just stared up at him while taking a sip of her tea. “No, I wasn’t made aware of his new pack mate yet. Caleb’s father rarely cares who joins and leaves. Especially if it seems like the person isn’t a forever member. Wolf packs are usually for life but wolves who have turned and none of their immediate family is one, they take a while to find a home. Now, I would prefer if we talked like adults. I don’t appreciate you leaning over me. I am an adult as well as you. Let’s talk like adults.”
Elian at least looked ashamed as he sat down in his chair again. He didn’t lean back this time but instead put his elbows on his knees and stayed leaned forward. “I wanted to apologize for leaving like I did. It was crazy. Caleb talked to me about the love smells as his pack called them.”
“All wolves know of them. New wolves don’t last long without finding out about the love smells. It only works on unchanged wolves but ever wolf should know so that when they have children, they can recognize the scent.”
“The Matians would have killed me wouldn’t they? If I had been unaffected or if someone had broken me from it.”
“Yes.” Raven didn’t want to pull punches when it came to this. “I knew that she wouldn’t be able to kill you. To her you were human. There was no chance of you becoming a wolf. Whatever surveillance they had on you, it was wrong. They figured you for a sexually experienced young man who had no chance of turning. There was something else they wanted out of you before they killed you. I have no clue what that was. Marie was genuinely scared of you when you were turning. If I hadn’t stepped in she would have killed you.”
“I know that. Now.”
“Wolf packs are isolationists. I have met wolves that have no clue what I am other than that they know that I will kill them if I feel like it. Those wolf packs tend to be scared of the Mystics that they meet. Vampires, Witches, Faes, and Immortals are legends to them. In Canada, there are so many of them but they keep to the law and nothing is done about it. It’s the way they want to live and they don’t step out of line with humans.” Raven shifted in her seat, pulling her legs up under herself. She relaxed. “We are all self-policing. Sometimes those wolves in charge will ask for Vampire help in taking down packs that are becoming known to humans.”
“What about you last summer with letting your panther be seen?”
“That was a test of the humans in the area. The stories never spread that the panther took out a human. There was no escalation to the story and that will work in my favor to the time to come.”
“Except for Marie.”
“That was needed and I killed her and left no trace of my panther anywhere. The case of Marie’s death is an open case but one that you were cleared of. I made sure of that. Atrian made sure of that.”
“I talked to Caleb about history and he made mention that he didn’t listen to his father much on that but there was a huge fight in the in the early AD but that in 200BC was the first real fight between Mystics and humans. What happened?”
“Vampires. Vampires can feed on other Mystics but if we feed even once on a human… It’s the cardinal rule of Vampires to do hungry before feeding on a human.”
“What’s that different about it?”
“I don’t know. I have only ever met one crazy and I had to kill him. He was terrorizing a town in Eastern Europe a hundred years ago.”
“All the stories that humans have of Vampires come from crazies. Once the blood of a human cycles out of a Vampire, they become addicted. I only need to feed on a single animal about once a week, longer if I do little. Crazies need to feed more. It’s a drug that makes them think they can do anything, except come out in daylight. Vampires who drink human blood, think that they will catch fire and burn if they go in sunlight. Animal blood will make them puke it all back up and make the urge for human blood more.”
“Why would a Vampire do it?” Elian looked shocked and a little sick.
“Children of Vampires, whether turned or born, don’t always do as parents want. Two hundred years ago it wasn’t that odd to have the second turned or born go crazy because they didn’t think it could be as bad as their parents were making it out to be.”
“How do you turn a Vampire then? I thought that you had to drain the human and then feed them your blood?”
“No, again that something from a crazy. It’s how they turn more like them. That Vampire would be normal but the urge to do what the one who made you did, it’s strong. I only need to make a human feed off of me. My blood kills them and changes them. If I were to do it I, the process takes days. A turned Vampire, it would be instant.”
Elian nodded and set back in his chair. Raven let him take it all in. It was a lot to take in. She was sure that he had a lot of things that had changed for him. Even now, his whole life was on its end and it was going to change anytime soon. He was silent for nearly twenty minutes.
“I have another question.”
“Yes?” Raven drained her cup of tea and set it down on the end table beside her.
“What the fuck are Elves? You’ve never mentioned them at all.”
Raven giggled as she stared at him. His face was so serious but yet she wondered how he had heard of Elves. The Fae kept them tight under wraps and it wasn’t mentioned in mixed company much at all.”
“Elves are something that was whispers about before I was born. Around the time I was born, the Elves came out into the public more. Elves are the children of Fae and other Mystic relations. All are Elves they do not take on any of the characteristics of the other parent race. Fae have two forms, their Fae form and their human form. Elves are tall lithe and look human. I have books with information about them. I didn’t give them to you before because I was afraid it would over whelm you. I have a library in the basement, you are welcome to come in and look at it whenever you want. I upgraded my security while you were gone. All entrances are monitored when I want them to be. The locks are keypads outside that I give codes to people and then they use those to get inside the house. It will keep track of who comes and goes and you are allowed to come and go as you please.”
Elian nodded and stood up. He looked dazed and she was sure that it was information overload. She would make sure to pull a book on Elves and the two Mystic/Human wars so that he would not be ignorant at all. Not about those things.
The Courts on the other hand. That would have to come soon. He couldn’t hide like he was from them for long. Lady Lake would force a confrontation. The Courts used the Shadow and Darkan name for years to keep the other races in line. They would push him for that when they figured out how to approach him.
To understand the Mystics you have to think in terms of life. The Vampires and Werewolves, once turned, live forever. The Immortal Five live forever but their children and wives do not. The Fae, no one knows whether they are immortal or not. Witches, well they live about two hundred years. For a human to understand the timeline of these races, one has to think outside of human life.