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“Doctor Poppet! Doctor Poppet!” ***tori’s*** cries startle me awake.
I jump up unceremoniously dumping Anabel and Birch.
Running into the hospital, I call “what’s wrong?”
I stop dead. Grim is sitting in front of her laptop with the screens furiously changing. My fear is confirmed. Jenny has failed. I wonder what went wrong. I check Grim carefully. She’s still exceedingly weak but in good health so something went right.
“***tori***, it looks like Grim is here to stay. Hopefully she’ll communicate with us through her laptop and we’ll be able to meet her needs.”
Eyes are boring into my back. Anabel and Birch are staring at me in disgust. “Sorry guys. We’ll do more lap time in a few minutes.”
***tori*** and I watch as Grim shows us what she can eat and other items she needs. ***tori*** tells her to order the items and starts prepping food. It feels good to be taking care of an old friend.
I scoop up Birch and Anabel on my way outside and slam into Grey Nightwalker as I stand up. I almost drop the cats with the shock of seeing the pups.
“The pups no longer need to guard the nexus. Jenny Wren has been returned to Alpha realm in corporeal form completing the permanent closure of Alpha realm. There is no access from Alpha realm to any other realm and the evil that dwells there is frozen in time,” Grey Nightwalker explains.
“What about the Black Magic Sorcerer?”
“He and his clan are still a threat. There is always evil to counterbalance good.”
Sadly acknowledging this truth, I return to the peace of the patio.
Lucius talked to Salty while he tried to get useful information but “I don’t know what happened, Lucius. Everyone was just gone one day and no one has been back.” He went back to wiping mugs and tending his bar.
Lucius stuck around for a few hours but the only talk was the usual drunk boasting so he left. Taking his dragon form he takes to the sky and flies over the Elvyn Sanctuary.
From the sky, it appears empty but he gets the feeling it isn’t. He circles, flies low and spots Poppet and company napping. Not wanting to disturb them, he flies on.
A shadow blocks the warmth of the sun on my face. My mind is screaming “***tori*** protect Grim” but the scream is replaced by butterflies and a beautiful mating dance. I relax again - the shadow is just Lucius flying overhead and not evil invading the Elven Sanctuary.
Antheia is giving birth and the room is filled with dragon queens. I’m surprised to learn that the firstborn daughter is not automatically the next queen. She must prove that she can love deeply and completely; that she’ll sacrifice everything, including her life, for that love; and that she’ll risk that love for her country and its people. I understand why Ame gave her life but not why this repeatedly invades both my consciousness and unconsciousness.
Birch hooks a claw in my nose waking me.
Lucius heads for the Elvyn Military Base to find Galen in the hopes that they can figure out what has happened.
In the meantime, I wake to the cry of my boys. I look at the time and realize that they slept through the night. Time to get up and feed them.
A while later, boys fed, changed, dressed and in their playpen, it is time for me to see to my breakfast.
While I eat, I notice that Lady seems to be pacing and Buddy is watching her carefully. After cleaning up, “Lady, come here.” I kneel down to her “come on, girl” and she comes over. While I pet her, I feel around her stomach and feel the puppies moving around. When I stand up, Lady walks away and disappears behind the couch. Buddy comes over for a bit of attention. “Looks like you are going to be a father soon.” He gives a yip and licks my cheek before taking up a place near the boys.
Lucius found Galen out at the archery field teaching a class of recruits. He stands off to side and watches until the class ends. Galen notices him and gives a wave then walks over to Lucius after class. The shake hands and “Hello, Lucius.”
”Galen. We need to talk.”
”First, answer a question for me. Has Myelle lost contact with the lodge?”
”Yes and we can’t figure out why. What is going on?”
”The lodge is closed up, everyone is gone. There isn’t any activity from the castle and all of the animals are gone. Something happened while we have been gone and we need to figure out what happened.”
”This doesn’t sound good. Any idea where to start?” Galen asks.
”I guess we could ask around the village.”
”Perhaps we should take a look around the lodge and the castle; there may be some one who can provide information.”
”Maybe. I certainly hope we can solve this.” Lucius answers.
“I need to get clearance to do this. Come, let’s go see my C.O.”
They head for the main building and chat as they go.
When they get to his office, they are admitted. Galen and Lucius explain what is going on and what they intend to do. The C.O. “You may go investigate this issue but you don’t need to take leave. Galen, consider this a mission. Take as much time as you need but keep me informed.”
”Thank you, sir.”
”Dismissed.” The C.O. Says. Lucius and Galen leave the office and begin planning.
While I am cleaning house, I check on Lady. She is curled up napping behind the couch. It looks so cramped back there, I move it away from the wall a few inches. She wakes and looks up at me and I smile at her.
I check on the boys who are napping as well then pet Buddy. I get an idea, go to the desk for paper and pencil but don’t get to write. I answer a knock at the door instead.
”Hello, Baldor. Come in.”
I step aside and he enters saying “Hello, Myelle.” We hug then I close the door.
”The boys are asleep.”
”I can see that. How are you all doing?”
“We are good. How have you and Issa been?”
”We are doing good as well.”
Buddy comes over and greets Baldor but Lady watches from behind the couch. Baldor gives him a pet then Buddy takes his favorite spot next to the playpen.
”What brings you here?” I ask.
”Do I need a reason?”
”No. Please, sit. Can I get you something?”
”No, thanks,” he says sitting on the couch. “I was hoping to spend some time with my grandchildren.”
”When they wake up, you can do just that. In the meantime, can you do something for me?” I explain that I want to give the dogs their own space. We figure out what to do and he goes to get the supplies.
A couple of hours later, accompanied by my father, he returns with the supplies. Together, they build a small room for the dogs in an unused space in the front room.
I get their dog bed and blanket and put them in there. Buddy investigates it then gives a bark. He goes to Lady but she refuses to leave the couch.
The 3 of us head into the kitchen.
Lady has finally taken to using the indoor dog house. It took her a couple of days to warm up to it. Buddy helped with the problem. Every time Lady would take an interest in a toy, he took it away and put it into the house. Lady watched would go to the entry and only put her head inside to grab the toy. I don’t know why she was weary of it, but eventually she figured out it was safe.
The boys are now sleeping through the night and so am I but was Buddy who woke me this morning. He lead me to their house. Inside, Lady was whimpering. When I crawled inside I could see why, she was whelping. I crawled out and quietly shut the door most of the way so she could have her privacy.
Just in time as I can hear the boys crying. I head upstairs to see to them.
Galen and Lucius have taken advantage of the house in the village and are staying there as they investigate the missing persons and misplaced animals dilemma. They have been asking around but no one seems to know anything.
Over breakfast, “This aimless wandering and asking people is getting us nowhere. We need to get into the Lodge and go through the employment records. We can get contact information from that and start knocking on those doors.”
”It seems like we have knocked n every door here, Galen. It is as if every one of them never existed.”
Galen looks up from his plate with a look of a look of having a scary thought. “Oh, no.”
”What if this is the work of dark sorcery? Some sort of revenge for loosing?”
”I hope you aren’t right. Let’s finish and head to the lodge. We will start over there.”
It is a new day and Antheia has risen early. Her children are peacefully asleep in the adjoining room so she puts on a robe and heads out into the balcony. Looking around, she can see the snow covered peaks in the distance and her village in the lower part of the valley. She can feel the sun rising and something stirs within her. Suddenly she is overwhelmed by a need to hunt and eat her prey.
But then her children wake and her maternal instincts take over and her inner dragon quiets; it will wait for a better time. She heads into their room, picks up Celine to feed her. She sits in her favorite rocking chair and nurses Celine. In his dragon form, Alexander toddles over and tries to climb into her lap but he is too big for that now and turns back into his Elvyn form.
”Mama” he says and lifts his arms.”
”You are going to have to wait until your sister is done.” She answers smiling down at him.
The nurse quietly enters the room with Alexander’s breakfast of warm cereal for the elf and raw meat strips for the dragon. She puts him into his special chair and feeds him. As soon as the cereal is gone, he turns dragon and is fed again then the nurse takes him to get cleaned up and dressed.
Antheia, despite missing her mate, sighs contentedly. Something about being with her children like this always brings her peace.
When the nurse returns with Alexander, it is time to get Celine cleaned up and dressed as well. The nurse takes her and Antheia turns her attention to her son who climbs into his mother’s lap. He takes a nipple before she can cover herself, sighs contentedly just like his mother did a moment ago and begins to suckle.
”You know, Alex, you won’t be able to do this much longer. It is time you only ate the food you are brought.” But she knows he doesn’t understand yet and wonders what will happen when she cuts him off and hopes she doesn’t have to.
Galen and Lucius stopped in long enough to fill me in, get supplies, and fill their stomachs. That was days ago and I haven’t heard from them. I am worried that something may have gone wrong. Of course, it could just be my imagination working overtime. I miss Galen and I suspect that he will be unhappy that he has missed this.
In other news, I have checked on Lady. There are 5 puppies and it looks like there will soon be another. She growled at me and I talked to her softly, reassuring her that all was okay.
The boys are napping and Buddy has cuddled up to me on the couch. He has stayed close to the dog house practically keeping guard.
Galen and Lucius find themselves locked out of the lodge so they search for a way in. They check all of the doors but none are unlocked. At the door that leads into the kitchen, Lucius manifests a key and tries it. It opens the door but not without a lot of wiggling and turning of the knob.
“Smells musty in here” Galen says as they enter. Galen goes for the light switch while Lucius pulls the shade on the single window.
”It smells like it has been empty for a long time.” Lucius answers as the darkness goes away. “Let’s try the office first.”
”Then we can take a look around.” As they cross the kitchen, “Looks like it was cleaned up before everyone left.”
”Then again, maybe not.” They find piles of dirty laundry along the wall leading into the office and the musty smell worsens there. “Smells like this is the source of that musty smell.” Lucius says.
Inside of the office, all seems to be in order. Galen goes to the file cabinet to find the employee files but all of the drawers are empty. He checks the desk but there is nothing there either. Without a word, he quickly heads to the lobby to use that computer, but it too is missing.
”What do we do now?” Lucius asks.
Stunned, Galen has no answer for him.