Elian woke up still sitting on the couch where he had been reading the night before. He shifted and a loud thump told him that he hadn’t put the book he was reading up. It had been in his lap and now it was on the floor. Forgoing picking up the book, Elian just stepped around it to get away from the couch. He was so stiff that he figured the only way to fix it was to stretch.
Running up the stairs, taking two at a time, Elian changed into a pair of sweats and moved to the garden. He spent an hour fixing every single thing that was kinked up on his body and when he was done, he was better for it. He figured he hadn’t been a run yet. He’d been spending too much time working on getting his affairs straightened out and the destruction of the Belrock diner was nearly complete. January had been a busy month and so far February wasn’t going to be any slower.
The spaces in Washington Square were being remodeled at the current moment and when those were done, the businesses that were in there were going to move into them temporarily and then back to their original spots. The only place that was opting to work around the remodel was the pet store. There was way too much to move for them to move back and forth. James was becoming a friend despite how much he knew the wolf was keeping from him. He understood it all. If Elian needed to know, James told him. If it was best saved for a later day, James wouldn’t tell him.
The trust he had in his lawyer was strange given that the man sometimes treated him like a child but after his disappearing act, Elian agreed that he had acted a little bit like a child. He was dropped into a world that was so strange that having anyone that he could cling to made his life better.
Running always cleared Elian’s mind and when he got back from his run he made himself a promise to take a run at night in the woods in the next week in his wolf form. He could feel the wolf inside of him wanting to be let out. When he rounded the corner that gave him the view of his house, he smiled. While he had been gone he had really let himself miss his home. He’d never felt truly at home anywhere and with Caleb’s pack, he had figured out what home was.
It wasn’t until he was nearer the property that he noticed there was something taped to his front door. He picked up the pace but still had to wait for a car to pass before he could cross the street safely. He had brought no weapon with him. His dagger that Caleb had given him was up in the house. That’s when he noticed something new on his porch other than the letter. There was a wall decoration that had a dagger worked into it. The symbol of the house Darkan was on the hilt of the dagger. He reached up for it and found that it slipped out easy. There was a note tucked in the sheath of the dagger. He pulled it out and read it.
For those things that you will want to touch but shouldn’t. This dagger served your ancestors well. I hope it serves you well.
Elian crumpled the note and then turned back to the door. He used the tip of the dagger to cut the tape that was on his door. Nothing happened but still he used the tip again to lift the envelope up. Nothing happened this time either. He quickly cut a slit in the top of the envelope and let the letter drop out. It was thick parchment, not anything like what humans used now. That’s when he saw the name on the envelope. Elian Darkan. Someone knew who he was. There was no smell around the house. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.
His gaze moved to the letter on the ground and he reached down to grab it and read it. The writing was thick and flowing like it wasn’t done with a pen but something else that. There were globs of ink in pausing points on the paper. It had to have been wrote with a quill.
Lord Elian Darkan,
We are the Mystic’s Court and we congratulate you on finding out your heritage. Your name changed was registered with us and we are happy to the Darkan’s once again among the influential of the Mystics.
The Matian Family Line has accused you of stealing that which is not yours when it comes to the inheritance of their daughter Gail Matian-Coats. We are calling this to matter on the date of April 6th in year of 2015. The court will be arriving before that date and the location of the court setting will be revealed to you then.
Have a Good Day,
The Mystic Court
Elian stared at the letter as he pulled his cell phone out of his pants pocket. He looked away from the letter to make sure that he was calling the correct person. Holding the phone to his ear, he waited while it dialed, reading the letter again.
“Atrian Law Offices.”
“I need to speak to James, please.”
“May I ask who is calling?”
Elian snorted. “Elian Darkan.”
“Lord Darkan, Mr. Atrian left a note to tell you that he would be back in town in three days that he is unavailable even by cell phone. Would you like to leave a message?”
“NO.” Elian hung up looking at the phone in disgust. He threw the phone onto the couch and leaned back reading the letter again. There was so much in that little letter. Both James and Raven hadn’t told him a thing about the Mystic Court. He had no clue what it was or who it was.
Grabbing the book on werewolf law that he had found in Raven’s library, he started to flip through it. There was no index. He ran his eyes over each page looking for the word court. It was nowhere on any of the pages. He stopped about thirty pages in and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed Raven’s number just to be sent straight to voice mail. Her phone was off.
“Raven, it’s me. Elian. I…I need help with something. Please call me as soon as you get this. It’s really important.” Hanging up, Elian just stared at his phone. He didn’t want to mention the court over the phone. He’d give her an hour and then he was going to go over to her house.
That hour was spent looking through all the books he had brought home. He called Raven again and this time it rang a few times before it went to voicemail. He sent a text message off and then left his house. It would only take a minute or so to get there while running. His running speed was a little more than normal human speed but there were few people around. It was a normal workday and most people were at work, there were not a lot to catch him.
Raven’s house stood at the edge of the hill leading down to the Ohio River. Elian moved up to the door and entered his code in to enter the house. He opened the door as soon as the device lit up green to tell him it was safe. The smell of cinnamon, ozone, and metal was faint. Like they had both been gone a few hours as the minimum. Still, he went to every single room and checked it. There was only one room that was locked and Elian didn’t want to invade her privacy. He could hear that a window was cracked and no other sounds in the room. He was pretty sure that it was empty and moved on. When he was sure that she wasn’t in a room on any floor in the place, Elian moved to the outside of the house in the back.
The shift was easy. He had gone between his forms enough to where his wolf form was just as familiar as his human skin. He found a trace of Raven at the edge of the river. There was a scent in the middle of her smell but he wasn’t sure what it was. He knew that the panther form that she took didn’t smell any different than her Vampire form so he knew it wasn’t that. He had no clue what the smell was.
Following her trail, Elian tracked her to the edge of town where she moved away from the river to the edge of the highway and into the woods of the Vincent area. He thought that it was odd. She never ever talked about anything in that area and he knew that she wasn’t hunting. Raven preferred to hunt at night and it wasn’t night. Night was a while away. Hours away.
Raven’s scent led him to the Coolville. It ended there. He was used to tracking a smell and it disappearing but this was different. The smell diffused like it hit a wall and nothing was on the other side of it. He stepped back and found that the scent was just as strong as he thought it was and then another step forward and it seemed to diffuse over a nearly ten square feet up area.
The mystery of tracking Raven would have to wait because there was so much else that he needed to do. The run back to his house was quick. It was a Sunday so Jess wasn’t at work and he had no clue where she lived. If he hadn’t heard from Raven or James by the morning, he would visit Jess at the library.
Stress wore Elian out so that when night fell, he was asleep in the garden when Raven called. The sound of his cell phone ringing inside the house pulled him from a dream. He could barely remember the dream at all but waking from it felt off. It wasn’t like his other dreams this dream had felt wonderful. Like he was being pulled from heaven.
The ringing phone stopped and the silence drew Elian’s gaze to the inside of the house where a few seconds later a beep let Elian know that he had a voicemail. Cursing, Elian jumped up from the bench in the gazebo and ran into the house. He grabbed his cell phone and looked at who called and it was Raven. He quickly pressed the button for his voicemail and then waited. When it prompted he dialed his pin and then was rewarded with Raven’s voice.
“Elian, I can tell you are upset. Please call me back. I’m sorry I was out of range all day and I just got to an area where there is cell service. I am on my way back to Belpre. I’ll be at your house in about thirty minutes but please call me back.” The message ended and Elian hung up so that he could call her back. She answered before the ring was fully finished. There was a strange noise on her end of the call. “Elian?”
“Raven, what is the Mystic Court?”
At first, Elian thought that she wasn’t going to answer. There was the noise that had been there and then it was gone. It was like she had stopped doing everything. He couldn’t even hear her breathing. Then the engine of a vehicle roared like it had been pumped. The engine drowned out every other single thing in Elian’s mind and then Raven took a breath.
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. I want to see the summons and don’t touch it any more than you have to. Charity will be there in two minutes, she at the house. Bring your laptop down so we can talk to James.”
“I tried to get ahold of him. His office said he wasn’t in and I…”
“Elian, I’ll get a hold of him.” The sound cut out and Elian looked at his phone. She had hung up on him. He just stared at his phone in shock but after a minute he did run up and grab his laptop which he hadn’t used for over a week. He set it up on the coffee table in his living room and moved to the kitchen to start a kettle of water.
A knock on his door pulled Elian from filling of the kettle. He finished it and turned on the stove before he moved to the door. He opened it and there stood a woman who he was shocked to be looking at. She looked stunning in a red evening gown and her hair in curls that draped around her face.
“This had better be worth it Darkan, I was probably going to get laid by a man who is hung like a horse tonight.” She moved right past him and sat down on his couch without even a by your leave or anything. He closed the door, still in shock as he watched her pull out papers from a case he hadn’t noticed. She looked at the computer and then pulled up Skype. She started to type in a few things, logging him out of his account and then into hers. It was seconds later and James’s face was filling up the screen.
“What in the ever loving hell is worth getting me up at one am after I had drinks with Russians, Charity?” James leaned back and he could be seen in his bed at a very posh looking hotel. He was keeping the camera away from the other side of the bed and Elian thought for sure that he had someone with him. Then he shifted and the camera went wonky and Elian could see the other side was empty.
“Little puppy Darkan got a letter from the Court. I haven’t looked at it yet but I am sure that it’s not good. Raven is minutes out and she wants your help.”
“Let me know when she gets there. I’ll start sending messages and be leaving in the morning. The Verdan boy is in town with his jet. I am owed a favor and I can be in Columbus in a few hours and inside Belpre an hour after that.” The window minimized and the rustle of bedclothes could be heard. A curse from the computer told them that he was having trouble getting dressed.
The front door slammed and Elian turned with his dagger in his hand and Raven just stood there laughing at him. She took a step back and looked out on the porch where the dagger had been. She pulled another dagger from a pocket on her light coat and put it in the sheath there.
“I’ll bring the other three later. I had that one with me to drop off tonight.” Raven moved over to where Charity was and Elian saw that she had the envelope in her hand. He had left it on the porch and Elian cursed himself for that.
Charity pulled a small leather bound case from inside her larger case and opened it up. Inside were vials of things. Elian moved closer to see what they were. Every single vial was clear like there was water inside. She pulled a vial and something else that was behind the vial. She unstoppered the vial and a small prong came out with the lid. There was a clasp on the device she had pulled and she opened it and dropped three drops of the liquid off the prong into it and then closed it. The envelope was laid on the table and the device sprayed a fine mist over the paper. If he had been human, he would have never seen it. She set the envelope down and then turned to Elian.
“Where’s the letter?” Charity’s hand was out and he could tell she was impatient.
“Here.” Elian picked it up from where he had set it on the kitchen counter and started to walk it to the girls. As soon as it was in reach, she had pulled it from his hand and the spray was applied to it as well.
“When was it put there?”
“Sometime this morning. I was out. I tried to get ahold of James as soon as I found it and then you.”
“It’s a good thing that you got ahold of her,” James said as his window on the computer opened back up to full size. Charity held up the envelope up to the camera. “Shit.”
Raven started to read the letter aloud and Elian felt the dread fall over him again. It sounded worse being read aloud and with Raven’s voice. He let himself drop into a chair that was in James’s line of sight.
“I don’t understand this,” James said. The rustle of papers came loud over the speaker.
“I don’t either,” Charity answered as she took looked over papers.
“What I don’t understand is what the Mystic Court is and that I have family out there?”
“I’ve been over the Matians with you, Elian. They are not your family,” Raven sounded mad but Elian wasn’t sure if it was at him or not. She sighed and turned to fully face him. “Digging into the Matian family line, I’ve found that you are the grandson of the current Patriarch of the family. Zain Matian is a man who used his own daughter to try and destroy the Darkan family line. I found out that your mother was supposed to kill you in the womb and then stay with your father until he died, faking being able to have any more children.”
“When were you going to tell me this?” Elian asked. He stood up and moved closer to the Vampire but she quickly countered him by standing as well.
“When I had proof which I got today. Would you like to see the report from the private investigator that Charity hired?” Raven’s eyes were so bright with anger that they shone a light purple. Elian took a step back.
“Elian, just calm down. Raven and I are both to blame for the thing with the Mystic Court. I figured I could fly you under the radar for a while longer. I asked her not to tell you about it unless you asked first. Please just calm down. We will go over all of this.”
“There are Mystics that go their entire life and never even see any member of the Court.” Charity gives Elian a smile.
“As Raven has told you, the Mystics prefer to govern themselves. The only time the Court steps in and takes over something is if the humans start to notice.”
“What about the death of my parents?”
“That’s taking time to trace back to Zain,” Charity admitted and Elian could tell that she didn’t like to admit it.
The kettle started to go off and Raven gave Elian a weird look before she stood up and moved to the kitchen. Elian heard his cupboards doors open and close and then one opened and didn’t shut until he heard the clink of two mugs on the counter. The stove was shut off and he heard pouring. There was another look through doors and drawers and Elian wasn’t sure what she was looking for this time. The smell of the tea was wafting through the house and Elian admitted that he was thirsty. Raven appeared seconds later with two mugs of steaming tea and a small glass of something that Elian wasn’t sure what it was. She handed a mug to Elian and set one down where she was sitting. The smaller glass she handed to Charity who took a sip that was barely enough to wet her mouth but Charity smiled at her.
“Fae whiskey. When did you get such good tastes, Elian?” Charity asked as she looked over at him with a shocked look on her face.
“I slipped it inside the house before he left. I figured he could use it if he ever got back.”
Charity smiled and she turned back to the computer and waved at James.
“So, the fact that the Matians are escalating means that they really think that they are going to win. They want the Courts to do their dirty work.”
“WHAT?” Elian asked as he set down his mug. “They want to kill me.”
“And if you are convicted of taking an inheritance that doesn’t belong to you…The Courts will kill you.” Raven moved to stand beside him. “They can’t touch the Darkan money. That passed from Dmitry directly to you with your name on it. That’s easy enough to prove. Hell, I have a copy of the papers. I am going to have James file that in the morning. Dmitry went through human banks but it’s still legal by the Court.”
“What about my name change?”
“Again, human courts but still legal with the Mystics. James will take care of that as well. James kept the estate account of your parents as it was and has just been using it. The bank account for the café is the same and we’ve not touched the money in it other than to pay bills and employees.”
“Am I going to get in trouble for keeping the business up and running?”
“No.” Charity was rifling through papers and she pulled one out. “It’s reasonable that you would keep it going during the estate phase of the human court and it’s the same with Mystic Court. We will just have to make sure that no one touches that money.”
“The café here will be fine, you are using your own money for it and we will just have to call it something else. I can file the papers in the morning. We will be fine as far as it goes.”
“What is the Court, though?”
“It’s a single person from each race. Usually chosen by a committee of that race when the other wants to step down. The five Immortals chose whoever they want to send at each summons. The Fae and the Witches have used the same person for nearly a hundred years while the Vampires and the Wolves have used the same since the death of our houses. Dmitry and my mother were the chosen for our races up until their death.”
“Why do the Immortals chose a different one each time?”
“It’s not always different but they have a meeting between the five of them and then the chosen one appears in the town usually weeks before the time of the court and they hide out.” James’s voice sounded tired and Elian felt bad about that but he needed his lawyer here.
Raven laughed a little and Elian looked at her. There was a far way look in her eye and he wasn’t sure that he liked it. “The Immortals are just the five, Elian. They are all paranoid bastards. They have been in hiding since the attack on our families. Yes, they have children who are wandering around but they are all as paranoid as their Immortal parent.”
“Who do you think is going to come?” James asked. He sighed and then rustled some papers. “Will it be Albin?”
“I don’t think so. As soon as the Matians called them to order, one of them came here and scoped out everything. Wrenwood is who normally does that. I figure that he will be the one who comes for the Court.”
“Why?” James’ voice didn’t sound normal and Elian turned to where he could see the man’s face. “He’s a bastard.”
“He also knew Amelia Cork and well…” Raven trailed off and James’ face flushed. Elian wanted to ask about it but the way that Charity leaned into her sister, the words were lost in Elian’s throat. “We have two months. The Court won’t tell us who is coming but I have a good idea on all of them. They are fair. It’s the Matians we have to worry about.”
“Am I fucked?”
“No. The Courts just need to be made aware of all that we have. Charity?”
“I’ll push my other cases off on others. This will be my main case. That way one of us can be here the entire time. James, when you get into town, we’ll talk and then I am going to London. Raven, I need Stone’s number and you need to have her let me into the castles.”
“I won’t touch her.” Charity held up her hands in supplication and then she was smiling lewdly at Raven. Elian wasn’t sure what that was about but the three of them weren’t worried. That still didn’t mean that he didn’t need to be worried. They were used to dealing with the Court. All Elian saw was another way that a family he had never known was trying to kill him. He wanted to know what the Darkan’s had done that they deserved this.
To call the Mystics isolationists is like calling all humans the same. There are Mystics who love to live among the humans. There are those that can’t stand to. Werewolves tend to like to live in packs. Fae live wherever there is forest. Witches live more among the humans. Vampires fall somewhere between Witches and Werewolves. The Immortal Five, they rarely reveal where they live but tend to have issues with Vampires, Fae, and Witches with little fanfare but it’s rarely escalated.