Author Topic: A Warning and An Offer  (Read 783 times)

Rhys Bristol

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A Warning and An Offer
« on: April 26, 2019, 04:05:40 PM »
Rhys had only had Micah home for twenty minutes before Natalya arrived with Ana and Amy, the two little girls apparently more delighted to be hanging out together than take part in a school holiday club. At least they all knew that the children were safe. Which was just as well, because an hour later, a familiar shimmer in the air announced Aurelia's arrival in the Bristol home. The witch offered Rhys an apologetic smile.

"Hello, Rhys."

Despite knowing she was going to show up at one point or another, Rhys found himself startled to find Aurelia suddenly showing up in their house, almost as if out of thin air. "Christ, Ree ... A little warning next time?"

"If I knock before I shimmer in, you will not appreciate it," she pointed out in amusement, though the smile didn't last long. She bit her lip. "Did Gina and Adam tell you what is happening?"

He might have argued with that, but she didn't waste any time getting straight to the point. "Yeah, they told me ... us," he said, quickly correcting himself. "I still don't get what this is all about though."

"A warning," Aurelia told him. "And an offer of allegiance. But I met with Tobias this morning, so that he could introduce me to Laurentia. She has volunteered to be the liaison purely because she can travel in daylight as well as at night. She will be arriving at my house reasonably soon."

"Allegiance," Rhys echoed dubiously. "Allegiance to what and who are Tobias and Laurentia? Vampires, I assume?" he asked, before the wheels in his head clicked regarding what she was telling him. "A daywalker? She must be the dhampir, then?" he asked, though he still wasn't sure he believed in their existence.

"Tobias is a vampire, yes," Aurelia said, carefully keeping her tone gentle as she spoke. "Laurentia is a dhampir. Neither of them have any interest in eating any of us. But they have information they think you should know about."

"It's not them eating us that I'm worried about," Rhys murmured, loud enough for her to hear him. "What kind of information?" he asked, leading the way into the kitchen so he could pour himself a cup of coffee. "You want anything?"

"They did not tell me," she said, following him into the kitchen. "The information is for you. I went because I wanted to vet them. I wanted to make it absolutely clear that if they bring harm to my friend and his family, or anyone he cares for, I have the capability to wipe them so far off this earth that it will never remember they existed."

"Good," Rhys said, with a swell of pride that her loyalty, at least, was to them and not to a group of unfamiliar vampires. He handed her a cup, without asking again, cream and sugar on the counter, before pouring one for himself. "So, they didn't tell you anything?"

"Nothing specific, no," she said thoughtfully, leaning against the counter as she wrapped her hands about the cup. "But apparently there are factions gathering information on you, and Tobias does not believe they are friendly. Apparently Laurentia will explain everything she possibly can, and she seems quite enthusiastic about meeting you."

Rhys arched a brow at something she'd said, but it came as no big surprise that he'd made some enemies. It wasn't his own safety that worried him so much as it was that of his family. "I didn't realize I was so famous," he said, with a hint of sarcasm.

She raised her brow. "A successful hunter who drew the attention of Hell's Triad and closed the gateway to Hell before becoming allied with a power very few can even put a name to?" she pointed out with a faint smile. "I'd say you are lucky this is the first time such factions have formed."

"Yeah, but no one is supposed to know that, Ree," he pointed out, taking a sip of his coffee and waving her into a chair. "Adam tell you he suspects this has something to do with my immunity?" he asked, assuming Adam had already filled her in, since it seemed he knew more about all this than he did right now.

"Yes, he did." Aurelia nodded, sipping her own coffee as she sank down into a chair at the table. "He told me to try and find out for certain, but Monsieur Acton was very guarded."

"Of course, he was. He's a vampire. They have secrets upon secrets," says the man who was secretly allied with the Lady of Avalon, of all people. "Does he know? About Avalon, I mean?" he asked, curling a hand around his cup. He didn't think the Lady would appreciate vampires knowing about her sacred home, whether they were friendly or not.

She shook her head. "No. He knows you are allied with a new power, but he has not discovered who. He did try quite hard to get me to tell him, but even I am not so foolish as to give away those secrets."

"I'm not sure I'd call it new," Rhys remarked. He didn't really want to get into a debate about which factions were older and more powerful than others. He wasn't really aware of the origins of vampires, nor did he care. If they all died tomorrow, it would be one less threat to worry about. "What did you think of them?" he asked, trusting her opinion, even if he didn't trust the vampires.

Leaning onto her elbows, Aurelia considered the question for a long moment. "I do not believe they lied to me," she told him confidently.  "And there was no sense of evil about them. Tobias is a vampire; he has that sense of darkness about him, but he also has a keen mind and a sharp intellect, and he invited me into his home, knowing that I could destroy both it and him if I saw fit. There is nothing evil about Lauren at all. You will see what I mean when she gets here."

"I don't know much about dhampirs," Rhys admitted. There wasn't much lore about them, and what there was didn't make much sense. "I assume they're rare." Though maybe not as rare as an incarnated angel. Fallen angels were another matter entirely

"Apparently there are only four in the world at this moment," Aurelia said, glad she had thought to ask in the first place. "Two of them are her sisters. She was reluctant to speak about the fourth."

"Understandable," Rhys admitted, considering who he was. He was likely to hunt them, if he considered them a threat, but he'd at least hold off judging them until he knew what this was all about. "So, when do I meet her?"

"As soon as we hear her motorcycle arrive?" Aurelia suggested. "I asked her to come to my home - it is fairly neutral ground. I did not think you would want to invite her into your own home just yet."

"Where's Morgan?" Rhys asked, assuming she was with Ian, though he wasn't too sure. If Aurelia felt safe - felt her daughter was safe - around this dhampir, then who was he to argue? Aurelia was more than capable of taking care of herself and her family, after all.
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re:
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2019, 04:05:57 PM »
"She is on Avalon with Ian," she confirmed. "And if I feel concerned, I will shrive and ward the house before they come home. I did not want her here, because she has an annoying habit of shimmering away from her father and into my arms, and that might have upset our expected guest."

"Right. I knew that!" Rhys said, remembering what Adam had told him. "Why do you think her shimmering would upset a dhampir?" he asked, furrowing his brows. Just what was a dhampir capable of?

"She and I, we are unique on this Earth with our abilities," Aurelia reminded him gently. "No one else can shimmer. No one else can wield magic the way we can. If you did not know me, if we were meeting for the first time, and a small child just appeared in my arms ... how would you react?"

"Startled?" he guessed. "I would probably want to know what was going on," he admitted, and that was putting it mildly. He'd want to know what the child was and how she was managing to do that. "But a child is still a child, Ree. An innocent, no matter their bloodline."

"It would derail the conversation," she agreed. "I chose my words poorly - I do not think Morgan would cause upset, but that she would upset the course of the topic at hand." She frowned, scratching her head for a moment. "Does that make sense?"

"Well, she is a little charmer," Rhys admitted with a warm smile. He'd known Aurelia a long time and considered her a close friend. He spoke true, not only about her daughter, but about any child. He didn't believe children were capable of being inherently evil, no matter their bloodline.

"I cannot believe she is going to be four this year," Aurelia said with a low laugh. "It does not seem so very long ago that she was so small and such an unexpected surprise for us."

"Tell me about it," he replied with a chuckle of his own. Ana was going to be five already, and Micah was going on two. "Time flies. I'm sure Tristan will enjoy the company anyway," he remarked of his nephew, who was only a year younger than Morgan and lived with Rhys' sister and brother-in-law in Avalon.

"Oh, I agree." Aurelia laughed, shaking her head at the thought of Morgan and Tristan running Ian, Rachel, and Zachariah all over Avalon trying to contain the pair of them. The sound of an approaching motorcycle caught her attention, her head rising as she listened to it drive up the road and stop not too far away. "I do believe our visitor has arrived. Would you like to walk or shimmer?"

"I think you know the answer to that," Rhys replied, a smirk on his face. If given the choice, he'd always choose to walk, unsure if he'd ever really get used to traveling via magical means, despite all their trips to Avalon. He took another swallow of coffee before setting his cup down and moving to his feet.

"All right, I will see you over there, then." Aurelia winked at him, shimmering out of sight.

A minute later, Nat's voice called through the house. "Rhys! Aurelia is home - are you going across to see her?"

"Uh, yeah ..." Rhys replied, brows furrowing as he looked to the coffee cup Aurelia had just been sipping from. How had Nat not known she was just here? He shook his head and got up to rinse the cups out in the sink. "I'll, uh, just go see Aurelia," he murmured.

To be fair, Nat was upstairs with Micah right now while the girls were squealing with laughter in the living room. "Do you want me to come with you?" his wife called out to him again.

"No, I'll be okay. You stay with the kids," he called back, peeking in on the girls in the living room. "I'm going across the street to talk to Auntie Ree. Be good, okay? I won't be long."

Ana and Amy looked up from their various charming arts and crafts, offering Rhys identical grins that declared they were having far too much fun together to worry about where he was going for the time being. That wouldn't last, of course, but right now, boys were surplus to requirements. "M'kay, papa!"

He needn't say more, nor did he want to interrupt their fun or do anything that might give the children cause to worry. Everything was business as usual, as far as they were concerned. Satisfied Nat was capable of taking care of things here, he threw his jacket on and headed out the door on his way across the street to meet a creature he'd always believed was no more than a myth.

What he saw, on leaving his house, was a slender woman in biking leathers, helmet under her arm, leaning on her motorcycle and chatting to Aurelia as though there was nothing unusual about this meeting at all. It was only as he got closer that his senses were likely to pick up the indescribable feeling of being in the presence of a predator, however warm she was. When she turned to look at him, her eyes were pale, pale green, and far older than he might have expected to find them.

Aurelia glanced between them. "Rhys, this is Laurentia Van Arkle," she introduced him. "Lauren ... Rhys Bristol."

Even her name sounded like old blood. Though his angelic soul had been made at Creation, his mortal brain remembered nothing before this one lifetime. Should he throw his angelic name out there, just to impress her? No, he didn't think this one impressed easily. He wasn't sure if he should offer a smile or a handshake, so he offered neither.

"I'd like to say nice to meet you, but I have a feeling this isn't a social call."

"I don't go by Laurentia anymore," the dhampir assured him, her own smile rising easily. There were no obvious points to her canines, but then, she was a perfect predator. "Most people call me Lauren. Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Mr. Bristol."

"Would it have really mattered if I'd agreed or not?" he asked. There was no malice in his words, though he was clearly suspicious. He had a feeling they wanted something from him - something that would benefit them more than it would him, which left him holding the cards.

"Yes, it would," Lauren promised him. "We're not monsters, Mr. Bristol. Toby's been debating whether or not to reach out to you for years. The last thing we want is to make an enemy of you - if you tell us to get lost, we're gone. You'll never hear from us again."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re:
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2019, 04:06:24 PM »
Aurelia glanced between them. "Shall we take this inside?" she suggested.

Rhys arched a brow at something she'd said, mostly at the knowledge that they'd been aware of him for years. The question was how many years? What did they want from him, and why had it taken so long to approach him? "We could have used a little help taking Abaddon down, but I guess vampires don't really mess with demons."

"Would you have accepted our help at that time?" Lauren asked, raising her brows pointedly at him. "Before you closed Hell, you had something of a reputation for attacking before thinking or speaking. Forgive us for not wanting to die on your blade for no reason."

"Are you kidding? I was engaged to a were-panther," Rhys pointed out, a touch defensively. Then again, he hadn't been too happy when he'd found out about that either, and he was somewhat prejudiced when it came to vampires, lycanthropes, and demons, even still. Witches were another matter.

"Who also had a bit of a reputation for trying to kill or bury anything or anyone who didn't conform to her preconceived ideas," Lauren pointed out. "I think you and the thief are a much better match," she added with playful mischief. "You got her out of Russia for a start."

"Yeah, well ... No argument there," Rhys remarked with a shrug. He had few regrets regarding the past anymore. He'd learned it was better to leave the past where it was and move on. That didn't mean he didn't still bear grudges against those who'd hurt those he'd loved.

"You wanted to go inside?" he reminded Aurelia. The street wasn't really the place for a discussion of this kind. She was right about him and Nat, but he didn't bother to remark on it.

"Yes, I did," Aurelia agreed, turning to usher them both into her house.

While the Evans' house was the same layout as Rhys', the decor was very different, showing off the two personalities that made up the pair who lived there. There were clean lines interspersed with nature motifs and moons and stars; modern furniture standing next to an enormous rocking chair padded with many cushions; a door open to a study that was clearly Ian's work space; another door open to a workshop holding many, many bottles and dried plants and a cauldron that had to be Aurelia's place. And she drew them both past all this and into the kitchen, which was quite clearly neutral territory and very child friendly.

Rhys followed Aurelia into the house, past all the familiar spaces and on to the kitchen. As friends of the family, he and Nat were no strangers here, nor were Ian and Aurelia strangers to the Bristol's house. Though he hid it well, he was feeling a little tense. This dhampir knew a lot about him - why?

Lauren glanced around with curious eyes, following them both into the kitchen. "You weren't lying about being a witch, were you?" she asked, more amused than anything.

Aurelia raised a brow. "I am like no witch you have ever met," she said with pointed accuracy, turning to turn on the coffee pot.

"Why would she lie about it?" Rhys asked, wondering if the dhampir was just being sarcastic or trying to make idle conversation. He assumed the vampires had approached Aurelia because she was a neutral third party, but Rhys had a feeling that if her loyalty was even in question, she'd side with him. "And how do you know so much about me?"

"We can sense no magic from her," Lauren told him, clarifying her comment. "Magic users gain their power from contracts with demons or gods, that leaves a mark. She has no mark."

Aurelia smirked to herself, turning away to collect cups.

"As to how I know so much about you?" Lauren went on. "Tobias did a little digging when he caught wind of something unusual about your blood. But he only shared that information with me once Aurelia had agreed to sound you out, because I volunteered to do the talking. He doesn't share personal information about anyone lightly."

There was a good reason Aurelia had no mark - Rhys had helped her get rid of her demon. She was her own person now, and answered to no one.

"And he got wind how? As I understand it, someone blabbed. I'd like to know who," he said, though he had no idea if she or Tobias was aware of the source of their information. News traveled fast in the preternatural world, but that news came from somewhere. Rhys knew Adam had done his best to cover up any leaks, but he might have missed something.

"All I know is that it came from a hospital in Flagstaff," Lauren told him honestly. "Toby doesn't give up his sources; he knows it's dangerous for anyone to be outed as passing on information, no matter their race. And the only reason the information came to him is because of his research. You don't gotta worry about us doing anything with your info."

"I worry about anyone who's poking their nose into my private life," Rhys countered. "Do you have any idea what would happen if any of this got out? It wouldn't just be my life in danger, but that of my wife, my kids. But apparently, it's already out, so now I have to worry about who has this information and what they're going to do with it."

"And you would not know that this information was out without our having reached out to you," Lauren pointed out. "We have made contact primarily to make sure you are aware that certain factions are beginning to make noise about moving on this information, and to offer our help in dealing with them."

Rhys arched a brow. Talking to the dhampir was like playing a game of chess. She made a move, and he made a counter move. If they really were on the same side, they were going to have to stop acting like enemies and start trying to find common ground.

"Okay, you've made me aware. Care to tell me what factions we're talking about here, and why you want to help?" he asked, still suspicious, but willing to hear her out.

And it was at this point that Lauren dropped the diplomatic facade, meeting his gaze head on.

"There are two factions within the vampires that are interested in you, with two separate goals. One of those factions we believe we can talk down; the other, we don't think we can. The one we are in talks with would like a sample of your blood that they can experiment on, to develop a cure to vampirism, and most recently one voice among them has floated the idea of kidnapping one of your children to act as that sample. Toby has influence with them; he's been very clear about making the consequences of them even attempting that blazing bright in their minds' eyes. The other faction wants you and your family dead, to kill any hope of a cure for vampirism entirely."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re:
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2019, 04:06:42 PM »
Rhys' eyes widened at the dhampir's very blunt explanation, before his expression hardened. Though he appreciated her candor, the thought of anyone getting anywhere near his kids for any reason was enough to make his blood boil. The knowledge that one faction wanted them dead made him see red.

"No one is getting anywhere near my family. If anyone so much as looks at them the wrong way ..." He trailed off, the cold hand of fear clutching his heart, despite his rage. "What do I need to do?" he asked her, equally bluntly. He'd send them to Avalon permanently, if he had to, or at least, until the threat had passed. And it would pass. He'd make sure of that, if he had to personally decapitate every vampire in Brooklyn.

Lauren let him take control of his emotions before she answered. "We would like to help you wipe that faction out," she said calmly. "It's a lesson that has to be learned, and we have the backing of the council to offer our support to you in this. We will find out where they are meeting, and we will help you kill them. But you also need to be aware that if the vampires know about your immunity, then the doggies do, too."

He hadn't even give his brain a chance to consider the ramifications of a cure to vampirism. His first thoughts were for the safety of his family. "The doggies," Rhys echoed, struggling to keep calm so that he could think this through. "Werewolves. Yeah, they can go to hell, too."

"In their case, it's exiles from packs and clans as far as we know," Lauren told him. "But we don't know the ins and outs of the animal world." Apparently the vampire sense of superiority when it came to lycanthropes was also present in dhampirs.

"Rogue wolves," Rhys murmured with a nod. "I haven't heard of any werewolf attacks in a while. Everything got kind of quiet after I put Abaddon down." Or maybe he'd just been too busy with raising a family and serving Avalon to pay much attention to hunting anymore. "Adam said there was a big power struggle between vampires a few years ago. That didn't have anything to do with this?"

Lauren tensed ever so slightly at the reminder of that fight. "No, that was ... that was a pair of rogues that needed to be put down," she said quietly. "We dealt with it." She looked down at her hands, remembering the sensation of tearing Josef to pieces with her bare hands. "It was personal, you might say. One of them was after good friends and a very special child, and the other was tearing her bloodline apart with jealousy."

A special child. Rhys arched his brow again, a few pieces of the puzzle sliding together. "A child like you?" he asked, taking a stab in the dark.

Lauren's gaze was absolutely blank as she met his eyes. She didn't know enough about him, about how he was reacting to all this, to give away that information. "Did I say child? I must have been mistaken."

Rhys frowned, his expression softening. He'd already read her body language, heard the tone of protectiveness in her voice. "Look, I'm not interested in hurting kids - anyone's kids. Preternatural or otherwise. If you're protecting an innocent, you have nothing to fear from me."

"I'm protecting my family, Mr. Bristol," she said quietly. "I may not share blood with any of them, but I would die for them. We're not power hungry. We just want to live our lives, and maybe help others where we can. How many monsters would close ranks to protect a child that many of their own kind would kill on sight?"

Rhys shrugged. "I can't answer that. My only experience with vampires didn't leave a good impression," he told her, without going into details. "I do know that evil comes in many forms. I know that not all vampires or lycans chose to be what they are. It's what they choose to do after they've been turned that determines whether they need to be put down or not. I'm protecting my family, too, Miss Van Arkle." He paused a moment to consider her, studying her quietly. "A friend of mine once said that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Or at least, ally. It seems we want the same things. If you're telling me the truth, then maybe we can form an alliance."

"That is why I'm here," Lauren agreed. "You have your own sources of information; I'm sure they will have picked up some of this. Mrs. Evans knows how to contact us, so when you decide which direction this will go in, you let us know. I, uh ..." She glanced at the window. "I have to get back before my fiance wakes up. He wanted me to wait until after dark to come here, but that's because he understands just how many beings want my race dead just for existing. I have put my life in your hands by letting you know what I am. I am trusting you, but I will not demand that you trust me. Not until you have all the information you need from sources you do trust."

Sources he trusted. She meant Avalon, but whether she was aware of its existence or not, he wasn't sure. There went his brow again, as he glanced to the window. If she was waiting for her fiance to wake up and it was nearing dusk, it seemed logical to assume he was a vampire. Vampires living in peace in Brooklyn, right under his damned nose.

"I'm not gonna lie. I'm not sure who to trust or believe right now, but if you're telling the truth, you have nothing to fear from me. I'll need to meet this Tobias," he told her, tapping a finger against the table.

"And he will be happy to meet with you," she assured him. "You decide a place and time, and he will meet you there." She might have to talk that over with Tobias herself a little later, but for now she felt confident to make that promise.

"I'll send word through Aurelia in a few days," Rhys promised. He needed time to think it through first, to talk to Nat and maybe visit Avalon. He needed to make sure he knew what he was doing before he met Tobias and agreed to an alliance.

"I get that." Lauren nodded to both of them. "I guess I've overstayed my welcome, but thank you for being reasonable and talking to me. It's been good to meet you, Mr. Bristol."

"May I ask you one question?" Rhys said, almost as an afterthought, as the dhampir moved to depart.

She paused, turning back to look at him. "Of course. I can't promise an answer until you ask, after all."

"This child ..." he started, looking for a way to ask that wouldn't immediately put her on the defensive. "Does this other faction of vampires want her dead, too?" She'd denied the child's existence, but it was too late by then. Her rush to deny it had only confirmed that existence.

"If they were certain of her existence, most vampires would want her dead," Lauren told him gravely, allowing him the confirmation reluctantly. "Just like they'd want me dead, and my sisters. Our existence is a mark of shame on vampires, and most hate us for existing. We have to hide from humans and vampires, Mr. Bristol. Dhampirs aren't welcome among either side."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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Re:
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2019, 04:07:00 PM »
"Or perhaps they're afraid of your power, Miss Van Arkle. And yet, you have friends, allies. A fiance. Not all vampires fear and hate you," he looked to Aurelia, as if to make a point. "Or all humans, it seems," he said, though he wasn't entirely sure he'd classify Aurelia as human. She was a witch, born and bred. More than human, as was he, in a way. "There was a time when the demons sought to make a hybrid. A child born of a demon and an angel. They thought that child would be the most powerful being in Creation and wanted to use it to destroy the world and enslave humanity. Why fault the child for his or her parentage? It's not about you being an anomaly or even an aberration. It's about fear. They fear you, plain and simple. They fear what you could do to them, if you wanted to. They fear what they don't understand."

"I know." Lauren nodded as he spoke. "But a child should not be defined by what they are. No one should be defined by their race and held in unchanging regard because of that. I am very lucky to have made friends among a race that would like me dead; friends who chose not to see me as a danger, but as a person. It is a lesson many people could stand to learn. Don't you think?"

Rhys smiled - actually smiled - his grin just a little mischievous. "Except for demons," he admitted, though he had not heard of any that had survived since he and Nat had closed the Gates of Hell.

"I think it depends how you classify a demon," Lauren pointed out, but her own expression had relaxed into her bright smile once more. "And my name is Lauren, Mr. Bristol. No one calls me Miss Van Arkle."

Rhys mirrored that smile, far more relaxed now than he had been a few minutes earlier, and offered her a hand. "Rhys. No one calls me Mr. Bristol," he countered.

"Rhys, then." Lauren's hand wrapped to his, displaying none of the coolness he would associate with a vampire's touch. She'd given no proof of what she was, but he seemed to believe her regardless. It was a good start. "I'll leave you to do whatever it is you need to do. Thank you, both of you."

Aurelia smiled faintly, pouring out coffee for herself and Rhys. "You are welcome, Lauren."

Rhys didn't go so far as to say that, though he was grateful for the warning. Time would tell whether they became allies or not. He only nodded a farewell, not even bothering to remind her that she'd hear from him in a few days. He waited until he heard the sound of her motorcyle fading into the distance before he turned to Aurelia and reached for a mug.

"So, tell me your thoughts. I know you want to."

Aurelia snorted with laughter, thumping down into a seat at the kitchen table and gesturing for him to do the same. "My thoughts?" She considered this for a moment. "I think ... I think they can be trusted, but that they have not shared everything just yet. I also think we need to talk to Avalon about the inherent threat to your family, because if an example needs to be made, it should be a big one that no one will be able to misconstrue."

Rhys dropped into a seat beside her, the mug of coffee in his hand, a grim expression on his face now that it was just the two of them. There was no need to pretend, no need to lie to each other or themselves. "We definitely need to talk to Avalon and maybe send the children there for a while, until this is all over. Nat won't like it. She doesn't like to disrupt their lives, but if Lauren is telling the truth, we can't ignore the danger."

"That is true," Aurelia agreed. "But we can only take our children to Avalon. I do not know if we have permission, or can get permission, to take the Sparrowhawk children there, and if we remove our own, then they become the targets of choice."

"If it was only Joey, I think we might have managed it, but now that there's four of them, I'm not sure." Rhys frowned a moment in thought. It wasn't his place to share Adam's secret - that Avalon had recruited him, too. Still, that wasn't any guarantee that the Sparrowhawk children would be welcome in Avalon. He shrugged. "The worst they can say is no," he pointed out.

"True. And we are capable of defending all of the children together." Aurelia frowned thoughtfully. "What do you think of all this, Rhys? It is you who is at the center of it."

"Yeah, but not if they're scattered," Rhys reminded her. With some in school and daycare and home. If they wanted to protect the children, they'd either have to keep them in one place or become their shadows. "What do I think?" he asked, pausing to take a swallow of his coffee - at least, his third cup of the day. It was times like these when he thought the stuff was the only thing that kept him going. He didn't bother to tell her that if anyone dared hurt his children - or any children - he'd rip them limb from limb. No, she knew him well enough to know that already. "I think she's telling the truth," he said. He could have handed her his sword and let Caliburnus judge her for him, but he didn't think that was necessary.

"So what do you think happens next?" the witch asked him, half an ear on the sound of Nat, Ana, and Micah walking Amy home to the Sparrowhawks next door.

"I think we ensure the safety of our families, and then we talk to Tobias. See what he has to say," Rhys replied. In that order. The safety of his family - of all their families - came first, more important than anything else. "How many vampires do you think will want to give up their immortality, if given the choice?" he asked, changing the subject. If that was even possible.

"I do not know." Aurelia shrugged, taking a gulp of her coffee. "I know very little about vampirism. But I would think that having a cure for those who are turned unwillingly would be a good thing. Don't you?"

"I suppose," he admitted with a shrug of his own. "Would they start to age normally again then?" he asked, unsure how such a cure would work. "They'd be vulnerable to sickness, disease, aging again, but they'd be human. It's a trade-off, I guess. I'm not sure I'd want to trade everything it means to be human to live forever. Seems like it might become more like a curse, after a while."

"I think it depends on the circumstances," Aurelia said thoughtfully. "Elaine - the Lady - is exceptionally long-lived. She has not lost her humanity, but she seems so very weary sometimes. I think, after a point, life becomes a burden when the only guarantee is that the people you love will die."

"Unless you make them into monsters, like yourself," Rhys added. He was not talking about the Lady now, but those who were cursed to survive by drinking blood. And what about the wolves? Lauren had hinted about them, too. Rhys sighed, a worried frown on his face. "You know, I always knew they were out there. I always knew the threat was there, but I had bigger problems, and I thought I'd let well enough alone, so long as I didn't hear about any bodies drained of blood or ripped to shreds. I don't know what I was thinking. Champion of Avalon. Some Champion. While I've been doing the Lady's bidding, who's been looking after the rest of the world? Hunters? Feds? Agents of Avalon?" he asked, uncertainly. "I'm a hunter, too, Ree. I've been shirking my duty."
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith

Rhys Bristol

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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2019, 04:07:16 PM »
"Rhys, do you truly believe that you are the only hunter in the world who can hunt successfully?" Aurelia asked him in a surprisingly sharp tone. "Do you truly believe that it is appropriate for you to be walking deliberately into danger every other week when you have a young family to love and provide for? Do you honestly believe any hunter would begrudge you the peace you have found after the life you have lived thus far?"

"I don't know," he replied, as honestly as he could. "I mean, don't you think it's a little arrogant of me to think I've already done my part? That I'm no longer needed?" he asked, though he'd had his part to play, both in the past, present, and future. And he certainly couldn't be everywhere or do everything at once. She was right about that. He was only one person, and he was only human.

"No, I do not," she said firmly. "If you were aware of hunting opportunities around you, you would deal with them, but so long as you are not aware of them, then they are being taken care of. You have a commitment to Avalon, and to your family, Rhys. No one will hold that against you, and if they do, it is more from jealousy than a desire to see you return to hunting."

"Maybe," Rhys replied, not entirely convinced, but willing to consider her words. "Doesn't solve our problem though." And it wouldn't help them decide what to do next. He didn't have time to hunt right now anyway, even if he wanted to. "So, what do you think we should do next?"

"I would ask Avalon to look into it," Aurelia suggested. "The Lady has a vast network of agents and informers, and perhaps she even has some within the preternatural communities. It would not hurt to find out."

"I was thinking the same thing. Ian is already in Avalon. Do you want to follow him there, or shall I?" he asked, giving her a choice. Someone needed to speak directly with Avalon, with Lionel or the Lady. Or he and Nat could contact the Lady directly on their own. One way or another, he needed to know where Avalon stood in all this.

"Well, Ian cannot get back without help," Aurelia pointed out with a faint smile. "Either you and Nat or myself, but I do not mind staying here if you would rather go."

"If you're giving me a choice, I think you know what I'm going to say," Rhys said, though he thought she might like to see her husband and child. "All right, you go. Nat and I can contact her from here. I'll see if Adam has dug anything up. We need to give her an answer soon. It can't wait." And before he did that, he needed to talk to Nat. This involved her, as much as him. Adam and Gina, too.

"All right." Aurelia nodded in agreement, rising to put her coffee cup in the sink. "I am sure Lauren can wait a couple of days, but this is something we need to clear up for our own sakes."

"I want to know precisely who we can trust and cannot trust. We need to know where the threat is, so that we can wipe it out." Not avoid it. Destroy it, so that it never rears its ugly head again.

"Yes, Rhys." Aurelia spoke gently. "But everyone needs to be on the same page. So you need to speak with your wife; I need to speak with my husband; we need to keep Adam informed."

"I know," he admitted, his frown deepening. He didn't want to be the bearer of bad tidings, but he had never lied to Nat before, and he wouldn't start now.

"Perhaps you should wait until the children are in bed before having that conversation," she suggested, taking his empty cup from his hand to set it in the sink beside her own.

"That's probably a good idea," he admitted, as he moved to his feet. There wasn't much more that needed to be said. "Let me know when you're back, and we'll talk," he said. They were going to have to before long, so that he could pass along word to Lauren.

"I imagine we will be staying in Avalon tonight, and be back tomorrow," Aurelia guessed, moving to collect the bag that held clean underwear for her little family among other things. She smiled as she walked Rhys to the door. "Avalon is always watching us, Rhys," she reminded him, rising onto her toes to kiss his cheek. "You are safe, even here."

"I know," he told her again, a faint smile on his face at the show of affection. He'd always liked Aurelia from the first moment he'd met her, years ago back in Rhy'Din. "We've come a long way, Ree. I'm not about to let anyone ruin it for us now." It was his way of saying he wouldn't stop fighting to protect those he loved, including her.

"It's been a while since I've fought anything," she commented, her eyes aglow for a moment. She did, after all, have certain innate abilities that were made for combat. "I'm coming with you when you go to war this time."

As much as he wanted to keep her safe - keep everyone safe - he couldn't, wouldn't, deny her this. Another smile twitched at his lips. "I'd be proud to have you by my side," he assured her.

"Good. And I will work on a few potions that you and our chosen allies will be able to throw for the same effect as a few spells." She grinned at him. "Now shoo. You have children to feed and put to bed, and a wife to talk to, and I have a house to lock up before I slip across the mists."

"Thanks, Ree. We'll see you tomorrow," he assured her, touching a rare kiss to her cheek before starting toward the door.

He didn't bother to ask her to give his regards to the Lady when it was likely he and Nat would be contacting her themselves as soon as the kids were asleep. At least they could be sure of one thing, when all else seemed fluid.

The Lady of Avalon was always with them.
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay.

"Dream On" - Aerosmith