Author Topic: Lost and Found  (Read 130 times)

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Lost and Found
« on: March 07, 2021, 02:48:56 PM »
It was an ordinary day at the cabin that Marissa and Emrys called home just outside the city, except for the fact that Marissa had been called away to help someone who was feeling poorly. Word of her skill as an herbalist had gotten around, and every now and then, she received a summons of help from those who called the outskirts of Rhy'Din home. Today was one of those days, which left Emrys home alone to tend to the children on his own.

Thankfully, Bevan and Cerys were big enough now to help with some of the chores around the little homestead, though Dai was still only just big enough to toddle around behind them as they fed the pigs and chickens. Emrys kept a wary eye on the little ones as they pottered around the snowy yard, himself fixing a fence that had inexplicably collapsed in on itself last night.

It was a quiet day, for the most part, and Marissa had strengthened the wards she had placed around the homestead and surroundings so that no one who was unfamiliar could get past them. It was probably a little strange then for Emrys to sense a scent wafting on the wind that was both familiar and unfamiliar.

His head snapped up as soon as the scent reached him, eyes turning in the direction it wafted from. It was familiar, yes, but it was not a scent he was intimately familiar with. It was not Marissa, but it smelled a little like her. Still, better to be safe than sorry. With axe in hand, he moved out into the middle of the yard in front of the house, facing in the direction from which the scent came. There was no need to alarm the children. Yet.

The scent was coming from the direction of the woods, and it wasn't too long after Emrys caught the first hint of that scent that a pair of figures emerged from the woods. One appeared human, though from this distance, he wouldn't be able to tell if the figure was male or female, and loping along beside him or her was the shaggy, furred figure of either a wolf or a large dog, both heading in the direction of the homestead.

"Bevan, Cerys," Emrys called over his shoulder. "Stay close to the house. Keep your brother with you."

It wasn't often he used that tone, but he knew it would be obeyed. He hadn't taken his eyes off the visitors as he spoke, letting the axe drop to the snow beside him as he loosened his shoulders. If he had to fight, he would, but against two, he would have to shift. It would be a damned shame if he did; he liked this coat.

"I'd stop there and introduce yourselves, if I were you."

The pair halted a short distance from the cabin, close enough to talk without shouting, but not close enough to pose any threat just yet. The human whispered something to the other, which Emrys could now tell was obviously a wolf. The wolf, in turn, lifted his head as if to scent the air and then went down on his haunches beside his companion. The human figure pulled back the hood of their jacket, revealing short red hair and distinctively female features. There was something familiar in those features and in the pair's scent, but nothing distinctive. She lifted her hands as if to show they meant no harm, her gaze flickering briefly to the axe before looking the man over. Or what appeared to be a man. There was obviously more to him than that. She could tell that much.

"We mean you no harm. We're looking for someone named Marissa."

Emrys nodded slowly, appreciating the display of peacefulness. "You're in the right place," he told the girl, his gaze flickering to the wolf curiously. There was something there ... Ah. Like Astra, but not quite. He looked back to the girl once again. "She's not here at the moment. Mind if I ask who you are?"

"I'd like to ask you the same," the woman who wasn't too much older than a girl replied. From the looks of her, she was a few years younger than Marissa, just out of her teens. Her gaze flickered briefly to the trio of children huddled near the cabin she had once called home. It was so long ago, she barely remembered, but it seemed bigger now. Familiar and yet different.

"Are those her children?" she asked, with a nod of her head in that direction. Her fingers reached for the wolf's head, idly ruffling his fur, almost as if by habit.

He eyed the girl for a moment, taking one step back and turning his body just enough to make it clear that the children were not to be threatened in any way if these visitors wanted to leave unharmed.

"I'm Emrys," he said, doing his best to keep his hackles down. He didn't think Marissa would appreciate him going full protective Alpha on people who were looking for her. "I'm her mate, and yes, these are our children. Your turn."

But if he was looking for a sign of aggression, there was none. The girl only smiled, something about her again reminiscent of Marissa. Maybe it was the eyes. "I thought as much," she said. "I'm Skylar, and this is Dante. Maybe she's mentioned us? She's our sister," the girl explained.

For a long moment, Emrys studied both of them, using every sense he had to make certain of these people he did not know on his mate's land. Then he, too, smiled, relaxing his shoulders as he bent to pick up the axe. "She's mentioned you," he said, gesturing to them. "Come on in. She should be back eventually."

"She hasn't mentioned you," Skylar murmured under her breath. Or at least, her sister had never mentioned that her mate was so ... what was the word? Scrummy? She seemed more amused than anything else by this thought, gesturing for the wolf to follow along, as she started toward the man. "Might want to leave the axe there," she warned. "He doesn't like axes."

Emrys' smile turned a little lopsided, understanding that feeling. He lowered to his knee, setting his eyeline on a par with the wolf, and made deliberate eye contact. "It's just a tool," he said. "I'm putting it away. Pups and cubs have a bad habit of finding everything that might possibly hurt them the second you're not looking. And if I wanted to do you harm, I wouldn't use a man-made weapon."

For his part, the wolf seemed to consider this a moment, as if he almost understood the words the man was imparting to him. Instead of backing away, he loped forward, lifting his snout again as if to catch the man's scent, meeting his gaze eye to eye.

"Don't worry," the girl said. "If he wanted to hurt you, he would have by now, too."

Slowly, Emrys held out his hand, fingers curled in, palm open, to let the wolf take his scent. "I figured," he answered Skylar with a gentle nod, before meeting Dante's eyes again. "We'll talk later," he promised the wolf. "I don't generally like to change in front of the little ones."

Whether the wolf understood the man's words or not, he snuffled Emrys' palm to take in his scent and then moved closer to touch his nose to his before backing away. It wasn't so much a show of affection as it was a greeting.
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2021, 02:49:12 PM »
"You're a shifter," Skylar said, as if she was just realizing this.

"I am," Emrys assured her, nodding to the wolf before rising to his feet once again. "Wolf, if that helps." He pulled the leather sheath from his pocket to cover the axe blade, glancing over his shoulder to where the three toddlers were staring at the newcomers with wide eyes. Letting out a low chuckle, Emrys shook his head.

"Come on, then," he called, and the little trio started forward, carefully helping each other down from the porch onto the snow.

Skylar chuckled a little at his explanation. "Why am I not surprised?" she murmured to herself once again, for some reason. She turned her attention to the trio of children toddling toward them and smiled warmly. These were her sister's children, her nephews and niece, her own flesh and blood, and whether Emrys knew it or not, she would protect them with her life. "And who have we here?" she asked, as she went down on one knee to their level.

"M'Bev, an' s'Cezz, and s'Dai," Bevan introduced himself from somewhere within layers of wool, one hand clutching at Emrys' coat hem as Cerys and Dai crowded in behind him.

"I'm Skylar. Aunt Skylar, I guess," she corrected herself. "But that's a lot to say, so you can just call me Sky. Your mama is my sister," she explained further. "And this is Dante. He's my brother. It's very nice to meet you all," she said, offering Bevan a hand, since he seemed to be the eldest of the group.

"Sky," Bevan repeated, glancing up at his father.

Emrys smiled, nodding encouragingly. "Go on," he told all three of them, though he wasn't surprised to feel Dai wrap his arms tightly around his father's leg.

Bevan's eyes lit up with a visible grin as he gave Skylar a high five. Cerys, on the other hand, was inching closer to Dante as though he might run away if she moved any faster.

Skylar flashed a grin as she returned the high five, clearly amused by the boy's greeting, which was way better than a handshake, as far as she was concerned. "They're delightful," she said, looking from one to the other. Dante stayed where he was beside Skylar, but inched his nose closer, as curious about the children as they were about him. "Have they seen you in your wolf form?" Skylar asked of Emrys.

"Yes," Emrys answered. "And Marissa's tiger. We have a little pack; they're used to seeing some of the adults they know as wolves and tigers." As he spoke, he kept one eye on Cerys - as the only girl, she held a special place in her father's heart, after all, and she was the one who was reaching out hopefully toward Dante, wanting to pet the big wolf.

Skylar noticed how curious the little girl seemed and didn't want to discourage this first encounter with the wolf that was her uncle. "It's okay. He won't hurt you. He's a wolf, like your Papa. And he's your uncle, too," she explained gently, hoping the little girl understood at least a little of that.

"C'n I hug?" the little girl asked hopefully, finally wriggling her gloved fingers into Dante's fur with a big smile on her face. Emrys chuckled to himself, bending to lift Dai up onto his hip to keep the smallest of the children at peace.

Skylar looked from Cerys to Dante and back, as if trying to sense her brother's mood, but he seemed docile enough for now. But before she could reply, Dante turned his head toward the little girl, touched his nose to hers, and then licked her cheek in an affectionate greeting.

Skylar chuckled. "I think he'd like that actually."

Cerys squealed happily, throwing her arms around Dante's furry neck to snuggle in close to the big wolf, showing no fear at all of an animal that could easily kill her.

Bevan giggled too, looking at Skylar curiously. "Wha's arn tea?"

Skylar grinned and reached out to ruffle the boy's hair affectionately. "It just means I'm your mother's sister. That's all."

As for Dante, he didn't seem to mind the little girl's hug, giving her another lick as if in reward for her bravery.

"Mumma?" Bevan perked up, looking around expectantly, as though Marissa might walk up at any moment.

As if on cue, another scent wafted in on the breeze, one that was familiar to all of them, and one that was connected by blood to all of them but Emrys, though he probably knew that scent best. Skylar shifted her gaze as the boy's remark and at the scent that announced her sister's arrival home.

"She'll be here soon, I think," she said, looking expectantly and even a little nervously up at Emrys. "Should we wait here or ...?" she trailed off.

Emrys visibly relaxed as the familiar scent of his mate found his nose, his smile warming. He noticed Skylar's nerves, tilting his head curiously. "Let's wait out here for her," he suggested.

Skylar nodded as she rose to her feet, looking just a little bit nervous about this unscheduled reunion, but it was Dante who suddenly wriggled his way out of Cerys' embrace and took off in the direction of the woods.

"So much for a surprise," Skylar muttered with a sigh.

"It's hard to surprise Marissa," Emrys assured her, confident that his tigress of a mate could pin the big wolf with one paw if necessary. "We might as well go inside, then. She'll be grumpy if the kettle isn't on by the time she gets here."

"Where's she gone to?" Skylar asked curiously, watching as her brother disappeared into the woods to be the first to greet their sister. Her hand reached for Cerys', almost without thought, as if she needed that simple touch as much as anyone.

"One of the neighbours asked her to stop by," Emrys explained, turning toward the little house. "She's becoming quite the medicine woman around here. Cezz, why don't you bring Auntie Sky inside with us?"
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2021, 02:49:27 PM »
A moment later, Sky felt a little gloved hand creep into hers, squeezing as Cerys smiled up at her. "Gon' have cake?"

Skylar arched a brow, knowing as well as he did that there weren't any neighbors for at least a few miles - not too far for a walk, she supposed. "Has she?" she asked, a little surprised by that. Distracted by the little gloved hand that had taken hers, she turned to the girl and mirrored her smile. "I'd love some, if you have any."

"Arnie Marmar made l'mum drizz," Cerys informed her new auntie, giving her a gentle tug toward the house to follow Emrys and the other men in the family.

Skylar glanced at Emrys, a puzzled look on her face, silently indicating that she needed a translation. "Sorry, I don't understand toddler very well," she whispered in apology.

"She means one of our friends, Mara, made a lemon drizzle cake for us," Emrys translated, putting Dai back down on the porch. He opened the door, stepping aside to let Bevan and Dai toddle in first. "After you."

"Oh, I see! Well, that's good because I happen to love lemon drizzle cake," she said, offering a smile to Cerys before letting go of her hand so she could follow her brothers inside.

"M'kay!" Toddling at speed into the house, Cerys could then be heard imperiously telling her brothers to take off their boots and coats, making Emrys laugh fondly. He clearly adored his children. His gaze gentled as he looked at Skylar.

"You're family," he told her quietly. "No one will harm you under our roof."

Skylar smirked as she, too, overheard that pronouncement. "She reminds me a little of myself," she confessed. "I was the eldest girl," she explained, though she appeared to be at least a few years younger than Marissa. "Thanks, I appreciate that," she said, saying nothing more of family, but already finding herself liking her sister's chosen mate.

The news that he was, technically, looking at his mate's older sister seemed to cross Emrys' eyes for a moment before he dismissed the confusion out of hand. "Well, I can't say you have a boring family," he chuckled, gesturing for her to come inside. "C'mon. I'll leave the door open, but Marissa's done something weird that means it never gets cold in here."

She chuckled at the look on his face, feeling a little sympathetic about his confusion. "No, we sure don't," she agreed. "Sometimes it even makes my head hurt." She wasn't sure how much Marissa had told him, and it wasn't her place to explain, so she left it at that. She stepped inside, pausing a moment to look around, her expression turning thoughtful. "I remember this place," she said, mostly to herself.

"We haven't changed much," he assured her. "Just added a couple of rooms, and the whole ... farm set up. Fair warning, don't even joke about eating the pigs. Your sister will bite you." He flashed her a grin of his own, toeing out of his boots as he shucked off his coat. "Hands need cleaning, sweaty kidlings!"

Skylar arched a brow at the remark about pigs. "You aren't raising them for ..." She stopped just short of finishing that thought. Slaughter? Eating? Food?

"Well, I was, but she got attached," he admitted in amusement, pulling a bench out from under the kitchen counter and lifting the children up onto it in front of the sink. "Your sister likes cuddling piglets."

Skylar wrinkled her nose at the thought of that. "But piglets grow into pigs," she pointed out. "She must have read too much Charlotte's Web as a kid," she remarked as she took off her boots and jacket and left them near the door.

"She also loves the pigs," he said, turning on the water so the three toddlers could soak themselves and everything else in the name of washing their hands. "To the point where I am not allowed to name any of them after breakfast meats."

"I'll try to remember not to make any mention of bacon," Skylar said with another smirk as she stepped further inside, chuckling a little at the kids. "They're washing more than their hands there," she warned with a nod of her head toward the sink.

"I know." Emrys grinned, letting the children keep at it as he put the kettle on to boil. "I'm not the best dad in the world, but I am the most fun."

Skylar tilted her head to regard him a moment, one brow arching upwards. "What makes you say that? Do you know any other dads you can compare yourself to?" she asked, trying to make a point as she shoved her fingers through her hair to give it a quick finger-combing.

"A few," he admitted. "Some of them are even human. I think I'm more lax with the pups than they are, but they're never in any danger with me. That's what matters the most."

"Well, for what it's worth, I think you're a great dad," Skylar said. Though she had only just met him, she had other sources to base her opinion on. "They look happy and healthy, and isn't that all that really matters?"

"Well, I can't take all the credit for that," he said laughingly. "They have an incredible mother, after all." Reaching over the heads of the children, he turned off the water and dropped a towel on top of all three heads, creating a peal of cackling laughter as little hands reached to dry off.

Skylar smiled as she watched the children, a little envious, though settling down and having children wasn't part of her future plans just yet, if ever. "I'm glad," she murmured quietly. "She deserves to be happy and so do you."

Emrys was quiet for a moment, his gaze looking past Skylar to his memories as a faint smile touched his lips. "She saved me," he said, just as softly as his newly found sister-in-law. "Without her, I would still be a wandering hermit, going mad every full moon."

She arched a brow, unsure what he meant by all that, but knowing enough to make a little sense of it. She knew what happened to lycans during a full moon, anyway. Or what was supposed to happen to them. "Have you ever considered that maybe you saved each other?" she asked. She wasn't talking in a physical sense, so much as an emotional one.

"Oh, I know," he assured her. "I'm glad to be the man she needed at the time we met, and to still be the man she needs now. If I ever fail her, I'll punish myself for it far more than anyone else ever could."
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2021, 02:49:47 PM »
"I doubt that will ever be necessary," she said, moving over to the hearth to warm up a little, though she didn't really appear to be cold. "Your lives sort of mirror that of our parents, in a way. Has she ever told you that?"

As Skylar moved toward the fireplace, there were a series of little thumps to indicate that the toddlers were coming to join her, washed and dried, and still slightly damp.

"A little," Emrys conceded. "She doesn't like to talk about the past much, and I don't press her. She'll tell me when she's ready to, someday."

"It's a little confusing if you think about it too hard," Skylar said, unsure how much she should tell him. It was her sister's place to do that, after all, but perhaps she could simplify it for him. "Our father was a ..." Here she paused, as there were so many different words for what they all were, but not all of them polite. "A wolf, like you. Our mother was a tiger. They were raising us here, in this cabin, just like you and Riss are with your children, but ..." She trailed off again, a little lost in her memories for a moment. "They were killed in an accident and ..." It was what had happened after that that was hard to explain. She seemed to remember herself suddenly, as the children joined her at the fire. "But that's all in the past," she said smiling as the children gathered round and she reached out to ruffle the hair on their heads. "What's important is the here and now."

"I won't let that happen to her," Emrys promised solemnly. "I won't let our pups and cubs be left without their parents to guide them. And now I know that it won't only be my side of the family who will be standing with us if the worst should happen."

Skylar turned to face him, smiling warmly again for this wolf her sister had chosen to be her mate. Or perhaps she hadn't chosen at all. Some people were just meant to be together. "No, I know you won't. We were separated from each other as children to keep us safe, but we're not children anymore. We're family, and family stays together." Even when they were far apart.

"Sounds familiar," he agreed, nodding to her cheerfully. "Brace yourself, by the way."

The reason for the warning became abundantly clear when Dai, having got over his shyness, suddenly threw his arms around Skylar's leg with the full force of his weight behind the hug, bouncing on little toes happily.

Skylar arched a brow at Emrys' warning before laughing as the little boy threw his arms around her leg. "What have we here?" she asked, eyes sparkling with amusement. "Looks like someone is attached to my leg. Better hang on tight!" she warned, lifting her leg to give the little boy a ride, a little like a human see-saw.

Dai let out a joyful squeal, watched with envy by his elder brother and sister, who were apparently attempting to be well-behaved despite everything. Emrys laughed at their antics, busily putting together mugs and cups and plates for the unexpected afternoon tea.

"Would you two like a turn, too?" Skylar asked of the other pair. For a woman who didn't think she was very good with children, she seemed to be doing just fine.

Before either could answer, there was a shuffle at the door and Marissa stepped inside, the wolf that was Dante at her side. "Skylar!" she exclaimed, drawing her sister's attention.

Skylar lifted a hand to wave back. "I'd get up but I'm a little preoccupied at the moment."

"She's been captured by pirates," Emrys offered with a grin, turning his attention to Dante warmly. "How're we doing this - tea in a bowl, or water?" He concentrated for a moment, controlling just enough of his shift to be able to articulate this in wolf for his mate's brother.

"Water is fine," Skylar answered for her brother with a small frown that betrayed something was wrong, though she hadn't said what. "Pirates," Marissa echoed, chuckling. "Are the pirates so preoccupied with their auntie that they can't say hullo to their mum?"

As for Dante, he walked straight past Emrys to join his sister near the fire, curling up at her feet, as though he owned the place.

Emrys raised a brow, but passed no comment on the lack of response from the wolf, simply nodding to Skylar as he moved to serve up tea and water in various receptacles. The twins were already charging toward Marissa, arms open, yelling excitedly about having a new arnie and wolfie and cake.

Marissa laughed, flashing a wink at Emrys. "I can see you're excited, but one at a time!" she scolded playfully as she hugged them to her.

Meanwhile, Skylar's fingers sought out Dante's fur, as if to soothe and reassure him with a touch, though he seemed comfortable enough at her feet.

"Mumma, we gon' hab cake an' I hug da wolfie!" Cerys rushed to tell her mother, clinging onto Marissa affectionately as Bevan added his own comments. "We fedded da piglits an' da clucks, an' we gotta arn-tea!"

"Oh, my goodness!" Marissa exclaimed, feigning surprise at her children's claims. "How exciting! A new aunt. And an uncle, too!" she said, crouching down to gather her children close. "You see the wolf there near the fire? He's your uncle, like Uncle Dorian," she explained, trying to make the best comparison she could come up with.

"Ooooh." Two sets of wide eyes turned toward Dante, seemingly delighted with this information, though quite how he felt about being the center of that attention was anyone's guess. Dai was only just detaching himself from Skylar, used to waiting until the twins were done before claiming his own hugs.

Skylar would have taken the little boy onto her own lap, but she didn't want to interfere with this familial reunion, even if her sister had only been gone a few hours. "He won't hurt you anymore than Papa or Uncle Dorian would, but you should still be gentle. He's a real wolf, and he's not used to children," she warned gently.

"I gabe him a hug an' he licked me!" Cerys informed Marissa, perhaps just a little smug that she'd had the first interaction with their new uncle and that it had gone so well.

"See? He likes you!" she said."Now, if you want some cake, you're going to have to sit at the table," she told them, as she touched a kiss to each child's cheek.

"M'kay, mumma." Seizing his sister's hand, Bevan dragged Cerys away from Marissa bodily, chattering in their own twin nonsense briefly before reverting to very scrambled English as they went about claiming their own booster seats to decide which chair they were each going to sit on.
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2021, 02:50:03 PM »
Emrys chuckled to himself, carrying the bits and pieces over to the table in the background, as Dai shuffled up to his mother and snuggled into her affectionately.

"Hello, my darling," she murmured to her son, sweeping him up into her arms as she moved to her feet to properly greet her husband with a kiss. "I'm sorry I was away so long. Sarah was worried about her children, but thankfully, it's only chicken pox," she explained, regarding one of their neighbors.

"That's a relief," Emrys murmured, nuzzling a second kiss to her temple as he wrapped one arm about her in a tender embrace, despite their company. "If she needs anything practical doing on the farm while she's nursing them, she only needs to ask."

"That's what I told her," Marissa replied with a sigh. "I really wish people would make friends with technology. There are vaccines for these things nowadays!" she said, as she moved to set Dai in his high chair. "You will never convince them," Skylar remarked from her place near the fire.

"You convinced Duncan to get Rob and Deidre jabbed," Emrys pointed out. "I'd call that a win." He bent to lift first Bevan, then Cerys, up onto their booster seats, and grabbed a wide bench to pull it up to the table as well, setting the water bowl on one end of it so Dante could join them at the table if he chose to.

"I did!" Marissa grinned. "I'll take that as a win," she murmured, a warm smile for her hunky husband as he took care of the twins and then grabbed a bench. She might have made a remark about his muscles, but for their company. "Well, don't just sit there! If you want cake, you're going to have to join us!" she called over to her siblings. She seemed to be taking their visit in stride, but she didn't want to make too much of a fuss for her children's sakes.

"Cake! Cake ! Cake!" It appeared that Cerys was the little leader of the trio of children; her chant was picked up by both Bevan and Dai until they were all but yelling it in perfect time with one another, just about restraining themselves from banging on the table as well.

Marissa stilled, eying her children with a look on her face that told them not to push their luck. "Impatient, are we?" she asked. "How about we play a little game? Whoever can be the quietest gets the first piece of cake." On the bench, Skylar had to stifle her laughter.

There was instant silence, little lips pressed together so tightly that it quickly became obvious that Dai was holding his breath as well as his tongue.

"Breathe, wee man," Emrys told their youngest in amusement, tweaking the child's nose. "Can't eat cake if you're out like a light."

Marissa was trying hard not to smirk and give away her amusement. It seemed this was a game the children were well enough familiar with. "What do you think, Em?" she asked, looping an arm through her husband's. "Which one gets the first piece of cake?"

Emrys bit down on his laughter, eyeing the children as they offered up angelic expressions. "I think Uncle Dante does," he said finally, much to the toddlers' disappointment. "Because Auntie Skylar is snickering as well."

Skylar audibly gasped. "What? I was not!" she said, feigning indignation, though there was a hint of amusement sparkling in her eyes. "I was trying to stop myself from sneezing, so there!" she said, with a wink to the children.

"Poppa says if you hold in a sneeze, it comes out your bum," Bevan informed his aunt quite seriously, his sister nodding along in agreement. Unfortunately, this meant Emrys had to quickly turn his face away, fairly sure Marissa hadn't heard this bit of pigeon wisdom from a few weeks ago yet.

Marissa arched a brow. "Does he really?" she asked, eying Emrys suspiciously. "Well, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it? Papa must hold in lots of sneezes," she said, tossing Emrys under the bus, so to speak.

Skylar couldn't help snickering as she witnessed the teasing. Beside her, Dante sloshed the water as he took a drink and then plopped back onto the floor to curl up protectively beneath the twins' chairs.

"My bottom sneezes are lethal," Emrys agreed with a proud grin, the teasing finally giving the children permission to giggle and be themselves again. "But that's why I'm so good at hot-boxing my mate - she can handle it."

That got a look from Marissa. "I'm sorry?" she said, eying Emrys with that same look she'd given the children a few minutes earlier, even as she started slicing pieces of cake and transferring them onto plates.

"I'll demonstrate later," her mate promised her cheerfully, passing the laden plates across to the waiting recipients. "Ooh, pups, we get to pull out the trail bed and make it up tonight for Skylar and Dante. Sound like fun?" There was a muffled chorus of agreement offered up from mouths full of cake.

"Oh, we wouldn't want to impose," Skylar was quick to point out, knowing that was probably going to fall on deaf ears.

"Nonsense," Marissa said, licking some drizzle from a finger before finishing with the cake-cutting. "You're family."

"You think we're going to send you back out into the snow to find somewhere to sleep?" Emrys asked disbelievingly. "Not a chance. You get the warmest room in the house - you're guests."

"And which room is that?" Marissa asked her mate with a pointed look, wondering if he was planning on giving up their bed to her siblings, despite what he'd said about the trail bed.

"This one," he said innocently, gesturing to the main hearth and the space where the trail bed would be set up this evening. There was no way in hell he was giving up his big warm bed with his snuggly kitten, even for her siblings.

"It is the warmest room in the house," Marissa confirmed with the faintest hint of a smirk, obviously pleased with her mate's reply.

"Really, you don't need to go to any trouble for us," Skylar reiterated, while Dante only yawned.
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2021, 02:50:18 PM »
"Fan'ly gotta stay," Bevan declared firmly, slapping a hand on the table. "Gotta snuggle, 'cos fan'ly." Beside him, Cerys was nodding enthusiastically as she chewed her cake, face covered in frosting and crumbs.

"Well, I guess that decides it," Skylar remarked with a smirk. If the kids insisted they stayed, then they were staying. She wasn't too sure how much snuggling was going to take place though.

"I guess so," Marissa said, mirroring her sister's smirk as she passed Skylar and Emrys a slice of cake. "Cerys, try to get the cake in your mouth, instead of all over your face," she chided her daughter gently. Meanwhile, Dante was making sure the floor stayed clean by licking up the crumbs.

In his high chair next to Skylar, Dai very carefully removed the two sugar stars from on top of his slice of cake, offering one to his new auntie, and the other to his wolf uncle hopefully. He wasn't a very talkative boy yet, but he didn't need to be. Cerys grinned at her mother, scrubbing her bare hand over her face in an attempt to clean it, only to end up with a palmful of frosting. Which, of course, she then started to lick off.

Emrys bit down on a laugh, leaning backward to snag a damp cloth from the kitchen counter. "Mucky pup."

"Why, thank you, Dai. That is very generous of you," Skylar said offering the boy a smile before popping the star into her mouth, while Dante inched forward to sniff at the bit of candy in the boy's hand before licking it clean. Marissa chuckled at her daughter's attempt to clean her own face, wondering how long it would take before Dante decided to lick that clean, too, and what Cerys might think of that. "So, not to be nosy, but what makes you think she's a pup?" Skylar asked, as she took a sip of her tea.

"Force of habit," Emrys said with a beguiling shrug, reaching over to wipe his daughter's hand and face with the cloth. "I used to be one of the guardians in my pack - spent a lot of time with pups, so the word comes naturally. I know she'll probably be a tiger, like her mother."

Skylar offered an understanding smile. "Not necessarily," she said, looking from child to the other before looking back at their father. "You're not so different from our parents," she said, though their parents' genetic backgrounds had been a little more complicated than that of Emrys and Marissa. "Genetics isn't my specialty, so I'm not sure how it's determined exactly, but we aren't all wolves or tigers. I assume it's the same way human DNA will determine whether an offspring will have blue or brown eyes."

"Whatever the shift brings, they'll always have a home and a pack," Emrys said firmly. Though Skylar and Dante couldn't know it, he had good reason to be firm on that point. His own blood pack had not been kind to him or his closest littermate. He refused to let that cycle continue.

"I know," Skylar replied, that understanding smile on her face again. "I can see how you both love them," she said, even as Cerys "accidentally" flung a little frosting at Bevan.

Bevan stuck his tongue out at his twin, ramming the remains of his cake into his mouth so she couldn't steal it for ammunition even as she was ruthlessly cleaned up by her father. Dai giggled quietly. "Bev an' Cezz mess."

Marissa just barely repressed a chuckle at the twins' antics. "Yes, they are," she agreed with her youngest. "But you are an angel," she said, reaching over to tousle the boy's hair. "As for you two, I see a bath in your future!" she teased the twins.

Dai beamed at the praise from his mother, preening happily under her touch to the soundtrack of Bevan's indignant squawk as Emrys moved from Cerys to her twin with the dreaded damp cloth. "You're both mucky pups, and you're going to be mucky soup in the bath tonight," the Alpha informed his children cheerfully.

"We're going to have to find a way to burn off all that sugar," Marissa said. There was no way the children were going to settle in for a nap now that they'd eaten all that sugary cake and frosting.

"They still have snow to play with," Emrys commented. "Toss 'em out the back door for an hour or so." He certainly didn't wrap their children in cotton wool.

"I was thinking the same thing," Marissa said, a soft smile for her husband. If she was honest, the visit from her siblings hadn't really upset their normal daily routine all that much, but sending the kids out in the snow would give the adults a little time to talk. "What do you say? Would you like to try and finish that snow wolf you both started yesterday?"

"Woof, woof!" It didn't take long for the enthusiastic barking to turn into inexpert howling, something Emrys did absolutely nothing to calm. He just grinned at his mate, moving to grab the various coats and boots from by the door.

"I'll be right back," Marissa told her siblings as she moved to her feet to help Emrys get the children out of their chairs and bundled up for the outdoors.

"Let me help," Skylar said, following her sister to her feet.

"Knock yourself out," Emrys agreed, tossing Skylar Dai's coat, boots, and woolly bits. He was not a squirmer when it came to getting booted and suited for the winter weather - the twins definitely were.

It was a bit of a struggle, but before long the trio was bundled up for some outdoor fun. As soon as Marissa pulled open the door, Dante was there, as if he was either eager to be out of doors again or volunteering to keep an eye on the children. It was likely a little of both.

"Don't worry," Skylar said, as Dante darted out into the snow. "He's actually very gentle."

Emrys smiled, letting the twins rush out after Dante excitedly. "Worrying never crossed my mind," he said in his gentle way, watching the playing begin. "How long has he been stuck?"

Skylar frowned at the pointed question from Emrys that was hard to avoid. After all, that was in good part why she was here. "Too long," she replied with a sigh as she watched her twin bound through the snow with the children.

"What happened?" Marissa asked quietly, a concerned expression on her face. She hadn't wanted to ask, but she'd wondered the same thing as Emrys.

With a practised hand, Emrys opened up the main shutters so they could keep an eye on the children while staying warm inside, fetching over the teapot and cups. "Let's get settled while we talk about this, shall we?"
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2021, 02:50:35 PM »
Skylar nodded, the troubled frown on her face deepening, lingering at the window a moment to watch her brother. "I'm sorry to bring this to you. I'm sure you have enough to worry about, but I didn't know what else to do and ..." She trailed off a moment before turning away from the window to face them. "It's been too long, Riss. I know Mom and Dad did what they thought was best, but we're a family. We should be together."

"Give me about four days, and we can have a couple of new rooms tacked on," Emrys commented mildly, though he knew that might well be pushing it. He just wanted his new little big sister to feel welcome enough to speak freely.

Skylar blinked in surprise at Emrys' readiness to welcome them into their family. "That's very generous of you, but that's not what I mean," she said, looking between the pair. "I mean, we've stayed apart for too long," she said, with another glance at Emrys, unsure how much he knew about his wife's past.

Marissa seemed to sense her sister's uncertainty and smiled reassuringly. "It's okay. He knows most of it," she assured her sister.

Emrys nodded encouragingly, wrapping his hands about his mug to sip his tea. "You don't need to fear any kind of judgment for your brother's difficulty, either," he added gently. "I was in a similar way for a long time. So was my sister."

"Oh?" Skylar asked, arching her brows in obvious surprise as she looked between them again. "I didn't know that."

Marissa shrugged her shoulders apologetically. "It was not my secret to tell," she said, gesturing to a chair. "Why don't you sit down and relax? We can see them from here," she told her sister.

"I was a mess," Emrys told her easily, dropping into a seat as though demonstrating how easy it was to get comfortable for this conversation. "Arguably in a much worse state than your brother seems to be."

Marissa remained quiet, allowing Emrys to tell as much of his own story as he chose.

"Worse?" Skylar echoed, brows arching upwards. "I cannot imagine ..." she said, trailing off as her imagination got away from her. There were certainly worse things than being stuck in wolf form.

Emrys' gentle smile didn't fade as he spoke. "I was born in human form, and I stayed in human form," he explained. "But every moon, my mind became a wolf's. I was a danger to everyone around me. And then I found Marissa."

Skylar looked momentarily confused, as she glanced between the pair. "But Marissa is ..." Once again she trailed off. Her sister had chosen the tiger, but the wolf lived inside her, too. She wondered if Emrys knew that.

"I still don't know how she did it," he admitted, looking fondly at his mate. "With magic and love and bloody-mindedness, I think. But your sister found the way to make my shift a true one, and I've been able to help others, thanks to her."

Marissa reached for her mate's hand to give it a tender squeeze. "I didn't really do anything. All you needed was someone to believe in you and give you a little encouragement," she said, more for Emrys' sake than her sister's.

Skylar was still frowning as she watched them. "I'm afraid it might take more than that for Dante to shift," she confessed quietly.

"What happened?" Marissa asked, looking back at her sister. "Why can't ..." She, too, trailed off a moment, as she tried to sort through her brother's problem. "Sky, where are the others?" she asked with a worried expression of her own.

Sensing the worry surging inside Marissa, Emrys twined his fingers with hers, squeezing gently. Being the Alpha of their little pack had taught him the value of understanding his pack's feelings, and knowing when and if to intervene should it get intense. She was fine for the moment, but he was ready, just in case.

Skylar frowned further, her gaze darting from one to the other. She knew precisely who her sister was referring to by that question, but wasn't sure how much she'd told her mate. Then again, she didn't think Marissa would have mentioned it if it was something she didn't want her mate to know. "Gone," Skylar replied briefly. She shook her head a moment, as if she had no words.

"Gone?" Marissa echoed, unsure what that meant exactly, glad for Emrys' reassurance. She had a feeling this was not going to be a pleasant conversation.

Skylar was still frowning, obviously uncomfortable with this conversation, but needing her sister to know what had happened. "It was hunters," she said.

Marissa mirrored her sister's frown, reaching for her hand, her other hand still held by Emrys. "Go on."

"Do you need to link together to share the story?" Emrys asked, a little hesitant to interrupt. "I can mute our link to make it easier on you both."

Skylar shook her head. "No, I need you both to hear this," she said. "I'm sorry, Riss, but ..." She looked from Marissa to Emrys again. "I didn't come here for your help, but for his."

If Emrys' eyebrows could have shot up any higher, they would have been hovering above his head. He had not expected that. "Me? What can I do?"

"This isn't just about Dante," Skylar confessed.

"What happened, Skylar?" Marissa repeated. Though she had a bad feeling about what her sister was about to tell her, she needed to know.

Skylar dropped her gaze a moment, as if she needed to gather her courage before she told the story. "I'm not sure how they found us, but they did. They must have tracked one of us back to the tribe. The cowards attacked while we were sleeping."

Marissa blinked, the color draining from her face. "The tribe?" she echoed. "But weren't you warded?"

"They had a mage with them," she said. "Have you ever known hunters to run with a mage?"
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2021, 02:50:58 PM »
As the story slowly began to come out, Emrys' expression darkened. "I have," he said quietly. "It's a small sect - they call themselves blood hunters. They use mages to break silently through wards and protections. I've known them to slaughter entire litters of pups while they restrain and then neuter the elders."

Marissa gasped in shock, her grip on her mate's hand tightening as she jerked her head his way. "Why have I never heard of this?" she asked, eyes flashing not with anger so much as with a hint of fear.

"Because they don't operate in this area," he told her gently, stroking his thumb over hers. "I would know if they came close, kitten. I was hoping I would never have to tell you."

"But if that's who attacked the tribe ..." Marissa stammered, clearly agitated by this piece of information, her gaze darting to the window, as if her children might be in danger at this very minute.

Emrys squeezed her hand gently, applying just a little of that Alpha energy to calm her fear. "They are not within a hundred miles of us here," he told her, his certainty brooking no argument. "I would know."

"This happened months ago," Skylar assured her sister, hoping Emrys was right. "We would not have come here, if we thought we were being tracked."

Marissa gave a tight nod to acknowledge them both. Still, it wouldn't hurt to check her wards and make sure they'd hold.

"There's no easy way to tell you this, so I will just say it ..." Skylar continued, a solemn look on her face.

"Sky, what happened to the others?" Marissa interrupted, needing to know. Her sister had told her they were gone, but what did that mean? Where they dead or just missing?

Skylar's expression was grim, but her sister needed to know the truth of it. "The tribe was decimated. Duncan and the others are missing. They went after them, I think. Even Dante hasn't been able to find them, but without the pack ..." Skylar glanced at Emrys, once again wondering how much he knew.

"Where is your Alpha?" Emrys asked, as gently as he could. He knew enough to know that this was a role that might not have been claimed in Marissa's blood pack, and that would certainly make finding the scattered tribe harder.

Skylar shook her head. "I'm not a wolf," she explained, glancing to the window to find her brother pouncing through the snow, looking like he was having as much fun as the children. "But I think Dante was alpha."

"Our pack is made of both wolves and tigers," Emrys told her carefully. "We are all linked. It is possible to build a pack of disparate forms." He glanced at Marissa, raising one brow curiously. Should he offer a place in their pack to her brother and sister?

Skylar couldn't help but look surprised by what Emrys was telling her. "Wolves and tigers together in one pack?" she asked, as if this was a concept she had never imagined.

Linked to Emrys as she was, Marissa could practically read her mate's thoughts from the look on his face. She answered him with a faint nod of her head and a gentle squeeze of his hand, tears filling her eyes at her mate's gesture.

"Together in one pack," he confirmed, turning his eyes back to Skylar. "Your sister and I; my sister and her mate, who are wolves; her mate's brother and his mate, who are white tigers. And all the many pups and cubs. We even have a couple of humans, one of whom is definitely Fey in bloodline, who sometimes join the link." He hesitated for a brief moment before steeling himself to go on. "If you and your brother would like it, there is a place for you in our pack. There will always be a place for you in our pack."

Marissa watched Emrys while he explained all that to her sister, all the love and affection she felt for him clear to see on her face. As for Skylar, she turned quiet a moment, as if she did not know what to say before she found her voice again.

"And you're the alpha," she said; that much seemed clear enough.

"I am," he said, just as quiet as before, just as gentle as he always was. "But I do not dominate. Not unless it is necessary to keep one of my pack from harming themselves. I have only ever had to dominate once, and that was during the initial first shift of my sister's mate."

Skylar sensed there was a story there and that she would hear it all later, but first things first. "Do you think you can help him then?" she asked, daring to hope.

"I will do what I can," he promised. "I think your pack bond may have been shattered deliberately. With a fresh pack bond, and an Alpha to guide him through the shift back to human form, I think there is every chance your brother will regain control over his form."

"You think the hunters did that?" Skylar asked, needing to know everything she could possibly tell him that would help her brother find his way back.

"I think, if they have, then it was the mages who did it," Emrys said darkly. "And if that was their means of attack, I would hazard a guess that the mages have taken over the blood hunters."

"Why would they do this?" Skylar asked, looking from one to the other. "We never hurt anyone. Yes, we hunted, but never anything but animals."

"Insanity comes in many forms," Emrys mused. "Bigotry doesn't need a reason; it thrives on fear. For whatever reason, they are afraid of our kind, and their response is to try to eliminate us."

"So, what do we do about it?" Skylar asked, clearly unsure how to proceed. It was why she'd come here in the first place. She'd had no one else to turn to anymore but her sister and her sister's mate.

Emrys looked to Marissa thoughtfully. "For now, we do what we can," he suggested. "We help you, and your brother. And I'll put out the word to some old friends to track the blood hunters. It would be good to know what they have been up to."

From the look on Marissa's face, she was in complete agreement with her mate. She turned back to Skylar and gave her hand a squeeze. "We are family, Sky. Emrys and I will do everything we can to help you and Dante. And we'll find the others, too," she promised, refusing to believe the rest of her siblings were dead. Wouldn't she feel it if they were?
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Marissa

  • Young Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 60
    • View Profile
    • Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels
Re: Lost and Found
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2021, 02:51:15 PM »
"We will," Emrys agreed. "We have a pack, and between us, we have a lot of contacts across Rhy'Din as a whole. We will find them."

"Do you really think you'll be able to help him?" Skylar asked with a glance out the window at her brother again. She was clearly worried, more than she'd ever been in her young life.

"I won't make you a promise I cannot keep," he said gently. "But I will do everything I can to help him, Skylar. It is no life, to be a shifter confined to one shape."

Skylar nodded, putting her trust in him and taking him at his word. "Thank you," she told him, a soft smile on her face before turning to Marissa. "Thank you both."

Marissa gave her sister's hand another squeeze. "No need to thank us. We're family."

Smiling gently, Emrys looked to Marissa. "Full moon isn't far off," he commented. "Before then, or during, do you think?"

"I think it should just be you," she replied without hesitation. "The rest of the pack might overwhelm him, don't you think?" Especially since Dante had never met most of them.

He nodded in agreement. "Being able to touch the link before they are all clamouring over it would certainly be less of a shock," he said with a faint chuckle. Their pack could definitely be chatty shortly after a shift.

Skylar shook her head. "I can't believe your pack is both wolves and tigers," she said, though it sort of made sense, considering how Emrys was a wolf and Marissa was a tiger.

"We aren't so different really, at least not when we're human," Marissa said, with another adoring smile at her mate.

"That's easy for you to say," Skylar murmured, getting to her feet. "If you don't mind, I'm going to show my niece and nephews how to make snow angels."

"Enjoy," Emrys said, waving a hand at the playful group outside. "Watch out for Cezz - she's worked out that people scream if you get snow down their necks."

Skylar chuckled as she made her way to the door to retrieve her boots and jacket. "Thanks for the warning!" she called back before stepping outside. Wouldn't she be surprised when she found out the children already knew how to make snow angels?

Watching the young woman slip outside for a moment, Emrys tilted his head toward Marissa. "So ... introducing her to Demi and Neville first?" he suggested. Skylar's skepticism of their mixed pack would only be eroded by experience, after all.

"That's probably a good idea," Marissa replied, once they were alone. She frowned a little, as if something else was troubling her. "I probably should have checked on them more often," she said, feeling a pang of guilt and regret.

"Kitten." He turned to face her, reaching out to draw his mate into his arms tenderly. "Don't torment yourself with what ifs and should haves. It is done. We will deal with this and move forward."

If only he knew just how much she was prone to that kind of thinking, though she was much better about it now that he was there to talk her through things that were troubling her. "I know," she admitted, more than willing to let him draw her close. "We should have never been separated," she told him, though she wasn't sure how things could have been done differently.

"They did what they thought was best," he reminded her softly. "That's all anyone can do in a time of crisis. There was no way to foresee this."

"No, I suppose not," she said. There was actually, but it was complicated and unreliable. "I wonder where they are," she murmured, mostly to herself regarding her missing siblings, drawing comfort from Emrys' embrace.

Pressing his cheek to the top of her head, he stroked her back soothingly as he held her. "We will find them," he promised her. "And if we can do it safely, without putting our pack in danger, we will end the threat as well."

She felt his hand stroking her back, the gentle pressure of his cheek against her head, his warm arms holding her close. This was the safest place in all of Rhy'Din - right here in his arms - but she knew she couldn't stay there forever. "There will always be threats, Em," she reminded him. "But yes, I think I would like nothing better than to rip them to shreds."

She couldn't see his smile, but no doubt she felt the wry amusement and silent agreement through the bond they shared. "As would I," he assured her. "But only if it can be done safely. You know I will keep every promise I make to you, but there is one I do not intend to keep for many, many years yet."

She knew exactly what the promise was, and as she lifted her gaze to his, he could see both her love for him and her determination. She was a fierce creature when she wanted to be, though she was nothing but gentle with him and their children. She slipped from the chair into his lap, cupping his cheek in her hand. "I intend to grow old with you, Emrys. Very old."

He took her onto his lap without a second thought, letting her draw his gaze to hers, sharing the same love and determination in his own eyes. "We're going to be embarrassing great-grandparents," he informed her affectionately.

Despite everything, she laughed at that. "I expect we will," she said, stopping him from saying anything further with a kiss that told him exactly how she felt about him.

Glad to have brought a laugh from her, Emrys grinned into that kiss, more than happy to reciprocate until she was truly as boneless as a happy kitten in his arms. After all, for all the tragic circumstances, their pack was getting bigger. It was cause for celebration.

The celebration might have to wait until later, but she would make it worth the wait. This was just another bump in the road of life, so to speak, and with the pack growing and Emrys by her side, she didn't need a crystal ball or a time machine to know her prediction was true. They would grow old together or die trying.
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

~ Friedrich Nietzsche