Category Archives: Earthbound Monarchs

Earthbound Monarchs

Prologue:

The Announcement

It’s too much to start at the beginning, as a lot has happened in such a short time. I’ll just start where the story begins.

My name is Lady Adellandra Mout’ella Dranna Dratianos, Lady Guardian of the Realms, Lady Empress of the Dragon Nations, Queen of the Illunae, Ancient Mystic’s Goddess of Spirit, Lady Goddess of the Dragons Silver Moon, Lady Alpha SheWolf of the Mountain Wolf Forest Packs and many, many other titles. I am known by many names, I wear many faces, I travel to many Realms and Places and bare many titles. My Lord Draconis Vilinos Dratianos is my Draconian mate. His titles are as many as mine are, as he is my consort, my love, my mate, my best friend, my all. One does not go anywhere without the other.

Which was why I wasn’t astonished to hear he’d be coming with me back to the Outer Realm.

The announcement of our need to return to the Outer Realm came as a shock to Draconis. All I knew of him and the Outer Realm is that was the only Realm he hadn’t conquered yet. As far as I knew, he’d only been there once, as an Earthbound with me. How would he react to being Earthbound, with no shifting abilities, having to obey another Realm’s rules, with only Ancient Mystic/Draconian magic and his wits to work with?

I would soon find out. For Lord O’Dell, the previous Lord Guardian of the Realms came to us with shocking news.

“Something has happened to the Outer Realm and it needs to be taken care of, immediately.” He told us, his silver eyes serious.

“Maybe if you tell us what’s going on, we will know what to do about it.” Draconis smiled, trying to lighten the mood.

It didn’t work.

“There are portals around the Realm that lead to other Realms.” O’Dell told him, scowling. “I have a feeling both of you have something to do with it?”

Draconis and I looked at each other.

“You could say that, aye.” I told my friend. I then explained what we did to rebirth Ishanar a few months back.

“Do either of you have any idea what that did to the Realm?” O’Dell kept his scowl.

“Of course.” Draconis told him. “Rebirthing Ishanar will bury the new world with the old, and Dragon’s Revenge will be at hand. No longer will our kind cower in the Realm of Mortals, hiding from the human race. We will live and fly free once again.”

“That is not what I was trying to bring to your attentions, Lord Guardian.” O’Dell supplied. “There have always been portals to the many vast Realms of All the Worlds in the Outer Realm; it is what keeps them tied together to the Inner Realms. Thing was, they were always invisible to the Mortals’ eyes. Only those with magic could see and feel them. Now,” O’Dell continued, glaring at my mate, “your little stunt forced them out into the open, bringing many demons and other creatures that do not belong in the Realm of Mortals.”

“O’Dell, please, calm down.” I told him. “I’m sure we’ll be able to deal with anything that comes along.”

“Not while you are Realmbound.” O’Dell told me. “You need to be there to keep an eye on the many portals; make sure nothing that doesn’t belong creeps through them.”

“I’ll have to be Earthbound to do it.” I supplied, suppressing a sigh.

“That is correct.” O’Dell said, and looked to Draconis. “Being her consort and mate, you would wish to join her?”

“Of course.” Draconis said, frowning. “There are only a few problems.”

That’s when he told O’Dell of the children, and we discussed what would happen.

My Ancient Mystic Children were still young yet, and needed to grow up in their own Realm. My being Realmbound didn’t help them any, for they didn’t have the power or the energy to stay in the Dragon Nations as I did. They needed me to be there as a mother with them, raising them in the Outer Realm, the only Realm they knew so far. I couldn’t do to them as I’d done to my three Draconian Children, Dra’Nie (means Prince-Heir in Draconian) Kronin and his twin sisters Locarra and Locanna. It would be unfair. We weren’t fighting in any war, and I hadn’t had the Vision-Sickness as I had back then. There was no need to send them away.

This brought me to our newly-born dragonlets, our twins Arianna and Adrian. What were we going to do with them? They hadn’t the power to remain Earthbound for long, just as their older siblings hadn’t the power to remain Realmbound for long. They were still babes, and needed me, too. So, what else could I do but the same thing I have been doing all these years?

I would leave them with their Granperes and Grameres, the two sets of Draconis and my Parentada. Lady Locarra was so proud of her grandchildren, and loved looking after them with the maidens. Lord Brakkon, who himself had to travel two different Realms of the Dragon Nations and the Realm of the Epsilon, loved being a grandfather and leader once again.

As for my duo-Sita and her mate of Drakkar? They would do the same as we would. They’d live in two different Realms.

Could I handle living in two different Realms as well as I used to before I reunited with Draconis?

I would soon find out.

Chapter One:

Earthbound?

I gathered what I needed to return to my home in Hill View, Michigan. The very home Susan Woods, my Ancient Mystic-blooded mother gave to Derrick and me when we were married years ago. The house that the children were growing up in, and our Caretaker, Juliet Grey now lived in to take care of them while we were gone.

Boy is she going to get a big surprise to meet her new ‘master’, Draconis. Juliet Grey, the living sister of the Companion-Crusader Panther Grey in the Realm of Dreams, has had a crush on Derrick since they met each other in Hill View Academy. I wonder what her reaction will be to him.

I knew of Draconis’ Earthbound form; it was still intimidating, even without the wings of his dragon form. He had dark eyes and hair, stood about six-foot tall, and was muscular all-around. Draconis, who went by the name of Drake as an Earthbound, was handsome in any form. I was just glad he was already my mate.

Speaking of my mate, he gathered a few swords, knives, daggers and other smaller weapons in a satchel.

“I don’t think you’ll need those, Love.” I told him, sitting on our bed in my Immortal-Lady Guardian form.

“To fight whatever O’Dell says will come through those portals, I will; and so will you need yours.” Draconis continued to pack.

“We will have our magic, so we could always conjure them up when we need them.” I supplied, shrugging. “The only weapons I’ll be taking are my Dragon Dagger, Spiritblade, and magical potions kit. Other than that, with the Mortal Realm’s rules, we won’t need anything. As it is, the Ancient Mystics are known as devil-worshippers and devil’s children, almost as bad as Pagans and Witches.”

Draconis stopped what he was doing and stared at me. “How could that Realm have changed so much in such a short time?”

I explained to him what I last remembered about the Outer Realm, when I was still the Earthbound Young Guardian and Lady Guardian.

Draconis scowled and growled lowly. “In that case, we’ll take our two best bodyguards.”

I shook my head. “Most in Hill View already know the truth about Ancient Mystics, and even the Pagans of Hill View disbelieve rumors. We look out for each other.” I told him. “Besides, they’re needed here more.”

“Your Dratyr is still my Dratyr’s Branno, correct?” Draconis asked, and I nodded. “And your Mutyr is my Mutyr’s Lady and Blood-Sister, is that also correct?”

“Aye.” I huffed. “Your point?”

“My point is; between the four of them, and your Companion-Crusader soldiers, the entire Realm shall be fine.” Draconis said. He smiled. “Dranus and Sharra will come with us.”

I sighed. “There’s a lot more you should know about that Realm, Draconis.” I supplied. “Besides the fact you haven’t conquered it yet.”

My mate sat next to me. “By all means, tell me all you know, Adellandra.”

There was so much to explain! Between the Crusaders, Demons, Dreamers, Dominionites, Dweller-kin, Witches, Pagans, Mortals, the Agency, the children, the Earthbound Ancient Mystic family and what Adarra and I did during the War of the Realms, it would be a very complicated thing to explain. We didn’t have time for me to answer his questions about it, should he have any. So I did something I’ve only seen him do. I shared my memories with him through the link between us.

“Thank you, my beloved Empress.” He said quietly. “I can understand why you would share your memories with me instead of just telling me. That was an impressive amount of information, and incredibly hard to explain in words.”

I nodded. “Exactly. Shall we go through the portal in the Province Wood, or by magic?”

“Better to save our magical energies until we really need them.” Draconis advised me. “Let’s tell our Parentada what we’re doing and go already. I cannot wait to meet the rest of your Earthbound family.”

My thoughts exactly.

We did leave with Dranus and Sharra at our backs. As my Draconian children would stay here and we would return when it was night, we had to be sure the Realms would be fine without us. That’s what I worried about the most; the children.

In birth order came Draconis’ children; Dra’Nie Heir to the Dragon Throne, Kronin Draconis Dratianos, his twin sisters Dra’Nias Locarra, named after my Mutyrna Lady Locarra, and Locanna, named after Locarra’s own twin sister Lady Locanna. Two-hundred years after Dragon’s Fall, when I was blooded an Ancient Mystic, came Aaron Theodore’s daughter Kelina Erin. Seven years after that came my now-ex Protector Derrick Reading’s children; Andrew James, who’s known as the Mystic Wizard, and his twin brother Mark Antony, who’s known as the Mystic Knight. When Andrew and Mark were four, I had his daughter Melody Elizabeth, who is an incarnation of Melody Anne, my grand-aunt Dorianne’s older twin daughter who traded places with her own twin sister Elizabeth on her own deathbed at seventeen. Before the War of the Realms was declared, Aaron and I had an affair, and I had his son Theodore Ethan, who’s known as the Young Unicorn. When Draconis and I were reunited, I became pregnant with another set of twins, Dra’Nie Adrian Dranna Dratianos and his twin sister and Dra’Nia Arianna Mout’ella Dratianos.

As to who would do what, we worked out the details.

Kronin, Locarra, Locanna, Arianna and Adrian would stay behind; Kronin would give us full reports when we asked for them, as he was still in training for the Throne and battles, Locarra and Locanna would be earning their own titles with the Armies, Arianna and Adrian would be learning their own magic and how to be Prince and Princess of Mal’estar along with it. All five of my Draconian children would learn how to fight with both magic and might while learning their trades and special magic inside. All ten of my children would be learning and training with my own Dratyr, Sir Airemus, Mutyr Katarina, younger Bratton Sire Anton, Mutyrna Lady Locarra, Lady Queen Sibylline, and Dratyrna Lord Brakkon.

My Ancient Mystic children: Kelly, Andrew, Mark, Melody and Theodore, would grow up in two different worlds, the Outer Realm and the Mystic Realms. I had faith in all of them; they had both their bloods from their fathers and me. They would be fine.

It would certainly prove interesting to see how it would all work out.

When we were ready, we both shifted to our Immortal forms, the forms that we usually used as Dweller-kin and Earthbound, said our heart-felt goodbyes to the family, gave our instructions to those that needed them, and headed to the Province Wood. It was a short walk, but refreshing. Being that Mal’estar was now settled on the Border itself thanks to both Draconis and I converging both the Mystic Realms and the Dragon Nations together, we didn’t have that far to go to the portal.

With hearts full of hope and wonder, worry and confidence, we stepped through and arrived in the Outer Realm. More precisely, we arrived in the back of the barn of the Catz Mansion.

“What is that I sense?” Draconis asked, looking around as he ran a hand through his mane of jet-black hair.

I opened my Empathy and smiled. “The Catz Mansion and its barn are haunted by the ghosts of the Catz family. The living relatives, who you’ll meet at another time, reside in the Mansion itself and know of its legends.”

“I see.” Draconis replied.

I looked around me. “Where are Dranus and Sharra?”

My mate pointed up. “They’ve found places to hide in their own Immortal forms. If you open your empathic ears, you’ll be able to tell where they are.”

I smiled, believing him without doing what he told me to do. “That’s good to know. Always in mind’s reach away from the prying eyes of the Realm. I like that.”

“I knew you would.” Draconis said. He smiled when he glanced into my silver-blue eyes. “I see you have your beautiful silver-blue eyes back.”

“Part of the Earthbound Ancient Mystic charm.” I told him.

He played with my hair. “Charming. Then again, you’re beautiful to me in any Realm and any form.”

I blushed, clearing my throat. “Follow me; we need to go across the street to the Richardson’s.”

Being I already explained to him who was who and what was what, I didn’t need to tell him who the Richardsons were.

My younger Ancient Mystic sister, Claudia, answered the door.

“Ariana!” She cried, hugging me. “What a surprise? I was worried about you. We thought you were lost for good.”

“Sulheya to you, too, Claudia.” I told her. I saw her dark red hair was curly and up in a lazy French braid. “Only, I’ve changed my name. I’m now Adellandra or Adella Dratianos.”

“Dratianos.” Claudia’s silver-blues went to Draconis. “Lord Draconis?” She put a fist to her heart and nodded her head, not meeting his dark eyes. “A pleasure to see you in this Realm, my Lord.”

Draconis smiled, kissing her hand. “The pleasure is all mine, M’Lady Claudia, but do call me Draconis or Drake, as we’re family.”

Claudia stammered. “Uh, yeah, I guess.” Her face shone a brilliant shade of bright red. She turned back to me after he released her hand. “I would ask if you’d like to come in, but I have a feeling you both have more important tasks to attend to.”

“In one way, you’re right.” I told her. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore family.”

“The opening portals are more important than family right now, Adellandra.” Claudia said seriously. “I suppose that’s what you’re here for?”

“That would be correct.” Draconis supplied. “O’Dell let us know what was going on, and that the new portals needed watching.”

“Hence us being Earthbound, instead of Realmbound.” I continued. “I was looking for your oldest niece.”

“Oh, Kelly’s not here. She’s at the house on Grosset and Sycamore.” Claudia told me, “with a much frazzled Juliet Grey. Good thing you have Aaron and Aimee to help out.”

“That bad, huh?” I asked her.

Claudia nodded her head. “Worse. Go check it out for yourself if you don’t believe me.”

I placed a hand up in surrender. “No, I believe you.”

“Go home, and tell us what happens, ok?”

“I’ll do one better than that.” I told her. “Have the Earthbound Crusaders and their families join us for a homecoming barbecue later tonight. That way, they’ll all have a chance to catch up with each other and meet Draconis at the same time.”

“Everyone in the family already knows Draconis.” Claudia supplied. “He’s the Lord Emperor and Guardian of the Realms. It’s hard not to know him. It’s the fact you’re not married to Derrick anymore, and mated to him instead that they don’t know.”

“That’s true.” I told her, and gave her a hug. “In that case, let’s go home to Grosset and Sycamore road and tell them. I’ll talk to you later, Claud.”

“Later, Sis.” Claudia shut the door on us after that, and we headed to the house a few blocks away.

“I wish we could shift and fly here.” Draconis muttered under his breath. “You did say we still had our magic, right?”

I nodded. “I also told you there’re rules and laws in this Realm. The laws tell us we can’t shift and fly, for there’s gravity here.”

Draconis laughed. “We’re gods; what do we need with laws?”

I shook my head. “Never mind, let’s just get this over with.”

I stood at the sidewalk in front of the house for a few minutes, trying to catch my breath. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I was scared shiftless.

I felt Draconis’ hand squeezing mine, and a whisper of a kiss on my cheek. “We need to do this, lanta. You know this as well as anyone.”

I sighed and kissed his lips. “Aye, I do. What would I ever do without you, mia
fridishda?”

“All Creation will cease to exist, as balance between light and dark will be gone and Darkness will reign.” Draconis told me, kissing me once again. “Now then, shall we?”

I nodded. “We shall.” I climbed the porch steps and tried the door. Once I walked inside, I called. “Hello! Anybody here? Kelly? Juliet?”

“Momma!” Kelly cried as she came and gave me a hug. “You’re back!” She saw Draconis and looked into his eyes. “Lord Dratyr?”

Draconis grinned, hugging her as well. “That’s me.”

“Welcome to our home, Lord Draconis.” I heard my older son Andrew say as he came from the kitchen.

“Stop being so dramatic, my Andrew James.” I told him, hugging him. “Where’s Juliet? She has to meet your new stepfather.”

“Out by the pool, watching Theo and Melody with Aunt Aimee and Uncle Aaron.” Andrew said. He disappeared back upstairs to his room.

“How are you going to explain Derrick’s absence and Draconis’ appearance?” Kelly asked.

“I’ll think of something.” I said.

We’ll think of something.” Draconis replied. “Derrick is Karrath, correct?” I nodded. “Good.”

“You’d both better think fast because I’m sure Juliet is going to be plenty confused.” Kelly said. “By the way, why are you here? I thought you were Realmbound?”

“Have you noticed any strange portals in the city lately?” Draconis asked her before I could say anything. She nodded and gasped. “You got it, kid.”

Kelly sighed and shrugged. “I’ll catch up with you later; I’ve got homework to do.” She hugged us both before leaving.

“Are your children always like that in this Realm?”

“How?”

“Quick to get away from you.”

I shook my head. “Not really; they sense what’s going on, and know more than they should.” I shrugged. “They are my children.”

Draconis laughed as I opened the sliding door to the backyard. I surveyed and saw our Caretaker Juliet talking with Aaron and Aimee as she fed Theodore. Melody was at the picnic table with Aimee’s adopted daughter Angel and Aaron’s adopted son Bradley Allen.

Aaron sensed me and looked up. He gave me a quizzical look when he came up to me, hugging me. “Welcome back!”

“Thanks.” I introduced Aaron to Draconis.

“Are you home to stay?” Aaron asked, eyeing Draconis.

I nodded. “How’re Airmed and the Fire-Archer?”

Aaron smiled, stepping away from me. He caught the silent hint I gave him. “Airmed is slowly learning her newer powers, thanks to Dracora and Ramon, and the Fire-Archer is still hopelessly in love with Aimee.”

“What does my Brattona have to do with your mate?” Draconis asked.

“If ‘Brattona’ means ‘sister,’ then you should already know.” Aaron told him. “My Bondmate Airmed and I are Dweller-kin; Dracora is our Queen.”

“My sister isn’t Queen of anything, only a Countess. Our father named her so many years ago, when he gave her Monarch’s Glen.” Draconis shook his head. “Who is the Fire-Archer?”

“That would be my mate, Scott Archer.” I heard Aimee’s voice peep up behind us.

Draconis turned. “You are Aimee he spoke of?”

“That I am, Lord.” Aimee supplied. “Amethyst Theresa Archer, also known in the Inner Realms as the Amethyst Fairy. My mate, Scott, is known as the Fire-Archer because he carries wild Dragon Magic within.”

Draconis was interested, as I thought he would be. I smiled as he looked at me. He turned back to Aimee. “Your mate is Draconian?”

My almost-sister shrugged. “That I don’t know, Lord.”

“You’ll meet him later.” I told him. I turned back to Aimee. “Listen, sis, I have a job for you. Summon all Crusaders for a barbecue tonight. Drake and I have a lot of explaining to do, and don’t want to repeat ourselves.”

“Does it have anything to do with why you’re here instead in Mal’estar?” She asked.

“We’ll explain everything later, I promise.” I told her. “Right now, will you gather them?”

She playfully saluted. “Aye, Lady.”

I hugged her. “Thank you, sister.”

“No problem. Should we tell them to meet you here?” Aimee asked.

I nodded, and she was off.

Draconis stared after her, confused. “That was interesting. You call her your sister? She looks nothing like you.”

“Aimee and her brother Aaron were the other two Musketeers.” I told him. I grabbed his arm. “Come on, love. I can’t wait to see Juliet’s face when I introduce you.”

As we expected, she was confused and surprised. Juliet has always been shy around us, especially around our magic. To ease her mind and emotions, Draconis and I assured her everything was fine and we’d always be there should she have any questions or concerns.

After reintroducing the children and our families to him, I took Draconis upstairs to what used to be Derrick’s and my room.

It was hard not to see us together in that room. We’d just won the War of the Realms, battled with the likes of the Dominionite Shenara, great magic almost stole our sanities and a little gem called the Black-as-Night Crystal nearly ruined us all. When the war was over, our lives began to drastically change.

I no longer felt the true-love Derrick and I had with one another, nor did he for me. My feelings were waning, thanks to my mate Draconis. Once he was captured by Dominick and Damian in Dracora’s own dungeons, Derrick’s feelings for me were waning and growing for her. It worked out in the end; Derrick and Draconis talked, Draconis gave Derrick a new name of “Sir Karrath” and we both declared him the “Champion of the Realms.” I was happy for them both, as I’d never seen Dracora so lively before, not even when I was her Advisor, Feeling a certain connection between her and the Mortallan King, Yorn.

I hardly felt strong arms wrap themselves around me, forcing me out of my depressive gaze.

“I know what you’re thinking, Lanta.” Draconis whispered in my ear, kissing it. “We can make this nest our own.”

I grinned and kissed him on the lips. “That we can, and will.” My eyes went to the Mystic Mirror Vanity I’d received when I was first married to Derrick. The reflection swirled as never before, the colors changing from pastels to dark rainbows.

“What is that?” Draconis was interested, reaching to feel the glass.

I stopped him. “It’s the Mystic Mirror Vanity; with a spell, or even a thought, it can transport us anywhere in the Inner Realms. Be careful not to touch the glass, for you’ll disappear through it.”

“Very interesting.” Draconis supplied. “That could prove handy one day.”

“It already has, on more than one occasion.” I told him. I stared at the bed that reminded me of so many days and nights with Derrick. “Do you have enough magical energy to make this room our own?”

“With your help, we should be able to.” Draconis held me.

“That’s good.” I told him. “It’s going to take a lot of energy and magic in this Realm to do what must be done.”

Draconis agreed.

It didn’t take long for us to set up the room. We even set up the adjoining guest bedrooms for our Branno and Lady Guard. Finally, we heard the doorbell ring and were reminded of our All-Realm Crusader guests.

“Are you sure you’re up to it?” I asked him.

“It must be done; you know that.” Draconis supplied. “This Realm must see me for who and what I am to this House. We might as well get it over with.”

Chapter Two:

A Gathering of Crusaders

Pretty soon, the Earthbound All-Realm Crusaders had arrived; either by magic or walking over.

Shannon Ryan-McNathaniels and her mate of Nick were there with the 1st Generation team: Big Guy, Cool Cat, Love Joy and Chips. Shannon’s twin Julie followed the last member of their team, her Earthly Protector Jammins. Shadow, and Aluna-now-Adarramena were with the 2nd Generation team: Aimee, Aaron, Airmed, Scott, Julie’s daughter TJ and her Earthly Protector Charlie. Even Kelly’s team was there: Bradley, Cara, Kirsten, Steven, Josh, and their Over-Seer Samantha.

Knowing how many people would take up so much room, Aimee and I decided to take down the fence between our houses. It opened the yard up a lot more, which was good.

Juliet helped Adarra take care of Adarra’s children of Caleb, Meredith and Logan with my own Mark Antony, Andrew James, the ever-silent Melody and Theodore. Angel was all too eager to help. She was the only child besides Bradley that didn’t have the Mystic Magic.

The only people that were missing were Draconis’ twin Drakkar, who was Adarra’s first-mate, and Derrick himself. I sent a message to both of them. Drakkar was brooding in their Quarters at Mal’estar, as usual since the three of them moved in. Derrick “Karrath” was forced by Dracora to join in, as part of his Champion duties.

“I can see why you wanted everyone together at once, love.” Draconis laughed, looking around the yard at the Crusaders. “That’s a lot of people!”

“They’re All-Realm Crusaders, Drake.” I supplied, using his now-Earthbound name. “It would’ve been hell to repeat everything individually.”

“I bet. Let’s do this then, shall we?” Draconis asked before he whistled to get the Crusaders’ attentions.

For the better half of the night, we had fun, just relaxing and talking. The Earthbound Crusaders and family members getting to know Draconis as not only their Lord Guardian and Emperor, but my mate and ‘husband.’ Juliet sent the children to bed at their bedtimes before heading to bed. Soon, all that were left in our backyard were Draconis, Drakkar, Dracora, Karrath (who was still going by the name Derrick in this Realm), Shadow, Adarra, Jammins, Julie, Aaron, Airmed, Aimee, Scott and me. With the exceptions of the Dratianos siblings, we were all All-Realm Crusaders who’d fought in the War of the Realms.

“My question is this,” Scott supplied. We were gathered at the picnic table. “How are you supposed to do what you have to do while you’re in both realms?”

“The same as I’ve always done as Lady Guardian.” I told him.

“At the same time though? How are you going to manage it?” Aimee asked. “Ruling the Inner Realms and living in this Realm to Guard the portals? It’s a bit much if you ask me.”

“We didn’t ask you.” Draconis joked. “But since you did, we’ll explain. Have you ever noticed your form in the Dream Realm is sometimes different from the form you take here?”

Aimee nodded. “I’m a Healing Fairy.”

“Have you also noticed that when you were at Mal’estar, Melody was not only able to speak, but she looked and sounded much older?” I countered. “Theodore may only be a toddler in this Rea    lm but he’s a young adult there.”

“It’s not only because of how old your soul is, but because of the time difference.” Draconis explained.

“The Dweller-kin have noticed another thing as well, Bratton.” Dracora supplied. “Draconians, Dweller-kin, all who live mostly in the Inner Realms, use more energy; physical, magical, and psychic energies here than the Inner Realms.”

“We’ve known about that for generations.” Adarra told her. “The Ancient Mystics knew, that is.” She turned to Shane and Drakkar. “It’s still hard for me to get used to the fact I’m now both Ancient Mystic and a Dragonwolf.”

“You and me both.” Shane nodded.

“The Ancient Mystic has been part of you since the Blood-binding long ago.” Drakkar said. “The Dragonwolf has been hidden from this Immortal form since then. The Ancient Mystic will remain a part of you until you pass to the Summerlands in either Realm.”

Adarra shook her head.

“Looks like we’ve got a lot to learn,” Aaron announced, finally speaking up. His own Bondmate Airmed nodded after him.

“It’s a good thing we’re in this together, isn’t it?” I grinned.

“This portal thing is really too creepy for me.” Julie said. “I don’t think I can handle it being right under my nose every day. I’m still getting used to the fact I’m an Ancient Mystic with special Gifts.”

“We could always go to the Agency.” Jammins suggested. “Don’t get me wrong.” He supplied, looking at us and raising his hands in surrender. “I love it here in Hill View, but Intelligence just isn’t the same as the System.”

“Why would it be?” Shane said. “They’re two different places.”

“Not to mention the System is more like a family than a job or career.” Derrick supplied after him.

“If you moved, who would you sell your house to?” Shane asked. “What about the family? TJ and Charlie are still in school, and you’re bursting with your own twins Jules.”

“We’ll figure it out.” Julie yawned, touching her enlarged stomach. She rose. “For now, I need my beauty sleep.” She kissed Jammins. “Try not to be too long, okay Jamie?”

“Oh, I won’t.” Jammins told her.

“I’ll help you home,” Dracora announced, startling us.

I shared a look with my Blu-Sita, who just smiled back.

“Ok, that was curiously odd of her.” Derrick supplied.

“That’s ‘Cora, Karrath.” Drakkar said and Draconis smiled.

“I swear she’s got a plan up her sleeve.” I told them. Then I shook my head, “I’m just paranoid, I guess.”

“No, you’re not.” Draconis kissed me. “I feel it too, and I bet ‘Karr does as well; don’t you?”

Drakkar was still staring after his Sita. “Aye.”

“It’s a Dratianos thing isn’t it?” Derrick asked them.

“No, it’s a sibling thing.” Draconis supplied. “Don’t you have brothers and sisters?”

“Three brothers and one sister.” Derrick told him. “Jake, who’s married to Aria – I mean, Adellandra’s Ancient Mystic sister Anna. Then there’s me, Kendra; we call her Kenny, since she’s the only girl in a set of five.”

“Kenny’s madly in love with Anton.” I told him. “Did you know that?”

“I had a suspicion.” Derrick said. “Does she know about his true-self?”

I shrugged. “That’s up to them. Anyway, go on.”

“Thank you.” He said. “Okay, after Kenny come Brian and young Alexander, also known as AJ.”

“Alexander is a year older than Kelly.” I said with a smile. “They both think it’s cool that she has an ‘uncle’ her age.”

“Speaking of age, I’m curious.” Scott asked. He was staring at Draconis and Drakkar. “How old are you anyway?”

“Our race is as old as time, but we are before that.” Drakkar said seriously. “For this Realm’s definition of time is different than our own.”

“I’ve noticed that, too.” Derrick said. “Remember when you first ‘ran into’ Dracora in the Dragon Nations in this form?”

“I was her advisor for delegations between the Nations and the man who once thought of himself as the Mortallan King, Yorn.” I supplied. “So?”

“How long were you in those delegations?” Derrick pressed.

“For nearly a month.” I told him.

“Yet, when you returned, it had only been an afternoon.” Derrick pointed out. “That’s why I found it hard to believe when you told me all about it.”

“Told you time was different here than there.”

“So, life goes on without you for a month worth of time there while here, it’s only a few hours?” Jamie asked. “I’ve been Crusading a long time, but I’ve never noticed how long I was on a Crusade.”

“Yeah, what’s goin’ on there while you’re gone?” Derrick asked.

“Life, as it does, when we Rest here.” Draconis supplied. “What you do not understand is that we are magical beings.”

“What you are forgetting is that Adarra, my siblings, Adellandra, and I are not from this Realm.” Drakkar announced. “We were born in the Inner Realms of the Dragon Nations.”

We nodded after him. He continued. “Time is a Mortal concept. They were frightened, and needed some control over their lives. They noticed the seasons changed, the moon above them changed, and they started to set their lives by them.”

“Meanwhile, what you call time is just series of moments running together and forming lifetimes.” Draconis explained. “To a Draconian, an hour here is merely a blink. I’ve even been through time before, plenty of times actually.”

“Slowing time being one of your specialties.” We heard Dracora’s voice joke as she returned and sat next to Derrick. “I remember Dranus and Sharra telling me all about that day in the marketplace.”

My eyes widened. “I remember that, too. I was there, and it was funny.”

“For you.” We heard a voice above us. When we looked, Dranus himself was jumping down from the tree. “You embarrassed me, Brattonata.”

I giggled. “Sorry.”

“I want to hear this.” Shane supplied, smiling. “What happened?”

I looked to my mate. “Well? You want to tell it or should I?”

“I’ll tell it.” Draconis grinned. “It was our first morning as Emperor and Empress. Dranus and Sharra were following along, as usual.” Dranus rolled his eyes. Sharra, who’d snuck in behind him, just smiled. Draconis continued. “I wanted to impress my new Lady, so I slowed time to a near-halt. I took Dranus’ weapon while she took her cue to do the same with Sharra’s.”

“We stepped back and he released time, returning it to normal.” I grinned.

“Once he found me holding a weapon, his hand automatically went for his sheath.” Draconis said. “Sharra was good natured about it, but Dranus is still wary.”

“Am not.” Dranus supplied.

“Before you start another playful argument, Brattons, I have an announcement to make.” Dracora supplied. She turned to Jammins. “Within the month, you will be returning to your real home of the System Agency with your blushing bride and two stepchildren.”

“I wish Jules would talk to me about it.”

“You just said you missed the System.” I pointed out. “What a perfect opportunity?”

“It was not her idea, Jammins.” Dracora supplied. “It was mine.” She looked to her mate. “Beloved, I wanted to make up for the way things worked out. You have a life here, but I also wanted you to have it with me in Monarch’s Glen. I came up with an idea.” She started. “We help you move to the System and we take the house. I’ll start going by my Earthbound name during our waking hours, just as I used to when I first escaped here. You can still work at the department with Shane and be there for your children as they grow.”

Derrick blinked. “Really? You’d give up being in the Inner Realms for me?”

“I’m giving up nothing.” Dracora supplied. “I will still be Queen of the Dweller-kin and Countess of the Dragon Nations, as I always have been. I will just be here in our waking hours and there when we Rest.”

“Great idea!” Adarra cried. “You can help them with the Portals.”

“I was hoping you would, too, ‘Darra.” I supplied.

“Oh, you know I will. We’re a team.” My twin winked. “We’ll do the same; go to Mal’estar when we Rest here and return each morning to live our lives in our Immortal forms. It’s brilliant! Shane, you can still work at the department too, so no one suspects anything out of place.”

“I’m thinking they’ll have more to worry about than a few individuals.” Draconis announced. “Like what’s coming out of those Portals for instance?”

We turned to Scott when he held his palm up and started playing with a small ball of fire.

“Put that out!” Aimee whispered, “Before you hurt someone!”

“Oh, sorry love.” Scott shook out of his reverie, closing his hand. “I was just thinking; that’s all.”

“Mind sharing or is it personal?” Adarra asked.

Scott shook his head. “I’m still wondering about the Fire-starter power of mine. Cyrix and I have taken it to its extremes, but I believe there’s always more for me to learn.”

“Of course there is.” Dracora supplied, grinning. “One can never stop learning. Take this fact for example. Did you know Cyrix is my son?”

Scott blinked. “Really?”

“Aye.” Dracora answered. “His true-name is Kra’tath Starchaser.”

Airmed gasped. “Another Starchaser!”

Dracora nodded. “When I was first Earthbound to save a handful of my people from the Dragon’s Fall, Sheman comforted me and showed me love. Next I knew, I was pregnant with Cyrix. In those days, I was constantly missing my home of the Nations, but knew I had to stay with the Dweller-kin to keep them in line.” She looked at Karrath, “Darling, don’t be mad; please.”

Derrick even surprised me. “I’m not mad, Shylee.” He kissed her.

Dracora hugged him, and both of them rose. “I’m afraid we must be going.” She supplied, eyeing her mate. “We’ll speak more about the moves when we return in the late afternoon. Good Night everyone.”

“‘Night ‘Cora.” Draconis and Drakkar chorused.

Jammins stood as well. “I guess I ought to be headed home as well.”

We wished him good night as well.

“You don’t need me anymore, do you Bratton?” Drakkar asked, eyeing the way Adarra was sitting close to Shane.

Draconis shook his head. “You’re excused.”

I stared at Adarra, who took that as a hint to go with him. Of course, wherever she goes, Shane follows.

“Down to the Three Musketeers and their mates.” I supplied, smiling at Aaron, Aimee, Airmed and Scott.

Aimee grinned, blushing. “Sounds so other-worldly and hard-to-believe, doesn’t it?”

“What’s that?” Draconis asked. “The word ‘mate’?”

Aimee shook her head. “Not only that, but our lives. I mean, really! Think about it.” She looked at us individually. “Who would believe you’re the Lord and Lady Guardian of the Realms, Emperor and Empress of the Dragon Nations, Crusading from Realm to Realm?”

“We’ve been ‘Crusading’, as you call it, for hundreds of years.” Draconis supplied.

“We meant this life.” Scott said. “I’m still new to the Ancient Mystic stuff, which I’m sure Sierra is as well. Almost as soon as we arrive, we’re caught up in a War of the Realms against evil of the worst kind.”

Draconis lowered his eyebrows. “Sierra?”

Airmed raised her hand. “Yeah, that’s my given name. My Pagan name is Airmed Starchaser.”

Draconis nodded. “Is it common practice for the Starchaser family to keep their surname?”

“You should know.” Airmed supplied. “We first thought it was the name of our Coven, but that was before I found out what I was.”

“Which is?”

“A Watcher-kin Sun-dancer.” Airmed told him. “Did she tell you what I had to do to Aaron in the War?”

He nodded his head. “She told me everything; and I mean, everything.”

I blushed. “Ah, hales.”

Aimee giggled. “Scott is right, though. Who would have thought we would find our true-mates and win a war, thus changing our lives forever?”

“You’d be surprised.” I told her. I looked to her mate of Scott. “So, Fire-Archer, would you allow us to probe your mind and soul to see if you are indeed Draconian as well?”

“I don’t know.” Scott supplied. He played with his Protectors’ Pendant. “That stuff’s pretty personal.”

“How about if we just read your palms and search your eyes?” Draconis asked, looking to me. I nodded.

It was another way to tell who a person really was; whether they knew about it or not. With the use of Advanced Empathy, a kind of mind-soul reading through the aura, we’re able to See and Feel a person’s true-self or what they were hiding, if anything.

“It won’t hurt, and it’ll only take a moment or two.” I assured him, smiling.

After a moment, Scott stuck out both his palms, one to each of us, and sighed. “Go ahead.”

“Is it your will?” Draconis asked, using the preferred phrase for asking permission into another’s mind. If it truly was their will, they would repeat it.

Scott nodded, taking a breath. “It is my will, my Lord and Lady.”

For someone who was new to the Ancient Mystics and magic of the Realms, he sure took to it easily. He even knew the right titles to call us, which confused me.

Sure, I’d been the same way during the War, thinking the Dweller-kin being around was natural, as well as their abilities. Ramon and the kin-Clans had introduced themselves in my mind in less than a moment, and their presences didn’t irk me the way they did the other Crusaders.

Now to find out why Scott was the same way.

I took one hand and closed my eyes while I let Draconis take the other of his hands, as well as the free one of my own. This formed a three-person circle. Draconis would read from Scott and share with me what he read.

This ought to be interesting.

It didn’t take long for us to read and share what he read in Scott’s Aura and soul.

“Interesting indeed.” Draconis announced, releasing Scott’s hand. I did the same and kept my mouth shut. He was better at explaining his Gifts more than I was. “Have you ever felt ‘lost’ in this Realm? As if you didn’t belong?”

“Since I was born; why?” Scott asked, amazed.

“I’m sure my mate will agree with me on this, but you’re right; you don’t belong here. You were sent here as a sentry to watch for her and report to O’Dell how she was doing.” Draconis supplied. “You were drawn to the Musketeers, weren’t you?”

Scott nodded.

“You mean to tell me he’s a Draconian trapped in this Realm?” Aimee asked. “How can that be? We’ve known him for years, and he’s never said anything about it. I didn’t even sense anything out of the ordinary, well, mortal, about him. He sheltered us while we were in the Orphanage.”

“Exactly.” Draconis went on.

“Could you read his Draconian name?” Airmed asked, interested.

Draconis and I nodded. He answered. “Only the Familia is to know.”

“Familia?” Aaron interrupted to ask.

“The Earthbound Ancient Mystics and Draconians.” I told him before Draconis could scowl and scold him for interrupting. “Familia is the Ancient Wolf-Speak word for ‘Family’.” I turned back to my mate. “Go ahead, dearest.”

He eyed Aaron yet he continued, addressing Scott. “You were known as Xavier of the Flames. Oddly enough, your nickname was DragonFlame.”

“Why don’t I remember any of that?” Scott asked.

“For the same reason I didn’t remember anything of my former life as Adellandra.” I told him. “Two different realms, two different sets of rules, two different lives altogether. Your memories of being a sentry were in your soul, yet not your mind, so you wouldn’t remember them.”

“How do we know you’re not making it up?” Aaron dared to ask.

I expected Draconis to growl, but instead, he stared into Aaron’s eyes and said. “I shall never lie to any of you. Ever. That is a promise I intend to keep; not only as your Lord Guardian and Emperor but as your friend and brother.”

Aaron nodded. “Okay, I believe you.”

“Good.” I supplied. “Back to Scott; was there anything else you read about him and aren’t sharing with me?”

“Yeah, you said I was a sentry to watch over her.” Scott said. “Who sent me?”

“That I’m still trying to figure out.” Draconis supplied. “I know it wasn’t those you call the Originators; the link is faint and the trickle of magic is different from either Djinn or Ancient Mystics. It’s not one of my soldiers or generals, nor is it one of Dracora’s. In fact, it has the faint tingle of something even older than the Draconian People.” He shook his head. “We’ll figure it out. For now, the sun is rising and we need to be returning to Mal’estar and the Realms.”

“I’ll wake Juliet and tell her she’s in charge until this afternoon.” I told him. “As for you Airmed and Unicorn, Rest and we’ll see you at sunset.”

“What about Angel?” Aimee asked. “I know I’m pretty pooped, too, so I won’t be able to watch her until long after she returns from school.”

“That’s what Bradley’s for.” I smiled. “Remember, we’ve got ready-made free baby-sitters in Kelly and Bradley. I’ll write both of them a note excusing them from school for the day so they can help Juliet and baby-sit the younger children while we rest up.”

“It’s been pretty exciting, and we haven’t even tackled the Portals yet.” Draconis supplied. “I’d rather see what we’re getting into with them before we return to Mal’estar for the day.”

“We already know of one, the one in the Catz mansion’s barn.” I told him. “Since we’ve already cloaked it so only those with magical abilities can see them; it’s no longer a threat.”

“What about the others O’Dell told us about?” Draconis asked me.

“We’ve got plenty of time to investigate.” I told him. “Let’s just focus on those we can sense first, and where they lead. If we had help, we’d be able to do it quicker and live our Earthbound lives as normally as possible.”

“You have Adarra, and I’m certain Shane and Drakkar to help. Not to mention Derrick and Dracora. I don’t know about these three, but I’d like to help, too.” Aimee interrupted. “If anything comes through those portals that don’t belong here, I want to know about it and deal with it.”

“Me, too,” Scott announced. Airmed and Aaron nodded.

“We planned on having your help.” Draconis supplied.

That statement was a new one on me. I’d planned on having the Earthbound Crusaders’ help, but didn’t know how to ask. Guess my mate read my mind again, because he continued. “That’s one of the duties we will give the All-Realm Crusaders of this Realm.”

“In that case, can’t we go to bed and let them do it?” Aaron asked. “We all know how grouchy I get if I don’t get enough Rest.”

“Yeah, really grouchy.” Aimee teased.

Aaron wrapped an arm around his mate and stuck his tongue out at his sister. Scott just laughed and the four of them left after saying their Good Nights.

Draconis smiled after them and I was suspicious.

“What’s on your mind, love?” I asked, curious as I wrapped my arms around his neck and reached up to look into his eyes. They were black as onyx and just as mysterious.

He leaned down and kissed me. “You know, I think I’m going to like ruling this Realm.”

I shook my head and laughed. “We’re not here to rule it, we’re here to live our lives as Immortal Mortals and watch over the Portals.”

“One cannot be Immortal and Mortal at the same time.”

“They can if they’re trying to hide their true identities and avoid suspicion, chaos and ridicule.”

“I don’t care what they think.” He supplied.

I had to change the subject; for he’s way too personal when it came to Ruling anything. I put a hand on his cheek and purred, looking into his eyes. “Frisco…”

He closed his eyes and I could swear I felt him purr! That was my cue. I kissed him, sending him an empathic wave of love and a vision in his mind of us making love.

Let’s just say, we didn’t     rest for at least three hours that day!

Chapter Three

Dragon’s Den Portal

“Matéré, are you going to wake up or not?” I thought I heard my Draconian son Kronin’s voice over me.

I opened my eyes and found I was still in the Outer Realm, and it was Andrew that was over me. Taking my first breath of the day, I surveyed the room with empathy. “How long have I been sleeping?”

“All morning.” Andrew supplied. “It’s late afternoon, almost five o’clock now.”

I grabbed him around the waist and drug him under the covers with me. “I’ve missed you, my Andrew James.” I told him, hugging him and kissing his cheek.

“We’ve missed you, too, Matéré.” He said.

Matéré? “Since when do you call me that?”

“Since we met our new Lord Dratyr in Mal’estar and he named us his children.” Andrew supplied. He sat up. “Speaking of, he still hasn’t come back from the Inner Realms, and told me to have you meet him with the Dweller kin-Clans at sunset.”

“In Romania?”

Andrew nodded.

“How does he figure I do that?” I asked him. “Did he happen to tell you?”

My elder son nodded again and smiled as he looked behind him to the Mystic Mirror Vanity.

“Wonderful.” I mumbled unenthusiastically. I sat up and made the bed behind me. My son stood and watched, waiting. “What’s on your mind, Andrew James?”

He was shy and didn’t meet my eyes when he asked. “Are you home to stay?”

I nodded, hugging him. “Both your father and I live in two different realms now.” I told him. “While Drake and I are here for the Portals during the day, we return to Mal’estar and the Nations at night. I thought we explained this to you last night at the barbecue?”

Andrew looked to the floor. “You did, but,” he started.

“Honey, please tell me.” I tried. We sat back down on the bed and I wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “You know you can tell us anything.”

He looked at me. “Lately, you’ve been living in Mal’estar and the Inner Realms. We all miss you and want you to be our mother here as well as our Lady Guardian and Empress Matéré.”

His words echoed those of Kelly’s not five months before. So she wasn’t the only one to notice!

“Oh, Andrew, I’m here now.” I hugged him. “I’ve wanted to be in both Realms for awhile now, but we’ve been busy in Mal’estar. Both Drake and I are going to be here for you to watch you grow up. We’re not leaving anytime soon.”

“Not even when the portals close and everything’s back to normal?”

I laughed. “Darling, nothing’s ever going to be remotely normal around here!” Even Andrew laughed at that. “Listen Kano, why don’t you leave your dear old mother to dress? I’ll be down in a bit, okay?”

“Okay.” Andrew smiled, stood and left.

By the time I’d dressed the Mortal way (without magic), I made it downstairs to find Juliet setting the table for dinner.

“Evening, Ariana.” Juliet smiled.

“Evening, Juliet.” I told her. “Call me Adella or Adellandra. Remember what Drake and I told you last night?”

“You’re not who you were, yet you are.” Juliet rattled. “So, are you eating here or returning to the other realm?”

“We return to the Inner Realms and the Dragon Nations when we Rest here. We return here when we Rest there.” I explained. “Which means, until the children are grown and our lives are full here, both Drake and I will be Crusading, living in both Realms.”

“What about Mr. Reading?”

“He’s coming back within the month.” I told her. “He’ll be living across the street with his mate Dracora where Jamie and Julie live now.”

She looked into space, “Ah.”

“You’ll get it soon enough.” I tapped her shoulder. “What are we having for dinner?”

“Believe it or not, the children are cooking.” Juliet supplied. “They wanted it to be a surprise ‘Welcome Home’ dinner for you.”

“That’s sweet of them.” I replied, sniffing the air. “Whatever it is, it smells good. Did you teach them?”

Juliet shook her head. “Nope. You did.”

That was a new one on me. I shook my head and thought for a moment. “How were things today?”

“Kelly’s knee-deep in a mystery and needs your help.” Juliet told me. “The twins have been suspended for fighting on school grounds, Melody’s in her room, coloring and Theodore’s napping.”

“I’m sure she’ll figure it out for herself.” I supplied. “She’s got the sleuthing bug, just like her parents.” I grinned, then frowned. “Care to tell me about the boys?”

She placed the napkins on the table before reaching for the mail bin. “This came with them; or should I say, with Mark Antony.”

I read it and shook my head again. “No wonder Andrew was kissing up! I wonder what the fight was about.”

“Andy told me a bully was making fun of him.” Juliet said. “Mark did what he usually does and stands up for his twin. They both got into trouble.”

“I’ll bet.” I said and sighed. “I see you have it under control; Thank you, Juliet. I’m going to check up on the young ones real quick.”

Juliet nodded and went back to her household chores.

The first room I went to was Melody’s. Just as Juliet had said, she was sitting up and coloring at her child’s size wooden desk.

I closed off my empathy to hers and just stood there, watching. For a child who has never spoken in this Realm, she sure knows how to speak in other ways. She was only four, but her drawings looked as they’d been drawn by a twelve-year-old.

She was growing up very beautiful. Melody had long, red-blond hair like me, the Mystic’s silver-blue eyes that twinkled when she smiled, and a fun-loving personality to boot. Even her magic was more advanced than her brothers’ were at her age. She has the Mystic’s main Telepathy, Empathy, Telekinesis, Premonition, and Clairvoyance. All of her powers had woken up when she turned four, and she was learning how to use them.

I turned my empathy back on, letting her sense me standing there. She dropped her colored pencil and raced to give me a hug.

Mommy! She cried to me in her mind. You’re home!

“Of course I am, Sweetheart.” I told her, kissing her cheeks. It made her giggle, but no sound came out. “I’m home to stay, just as we promised last night.”

Lord Dratyr’s here, too?

I nodded. “One does not go anywhere without the other.” I hugged her again. “I’ve missed all of you darlings.”

We’ve missed you, too.

Melody was smart, I’ll give her that. She was a quick learner. Her inner-voice vocabulary was the same as Kelly’s – a young adult’s. Since she hadn’t spoken a word, yet, we didn’t know about her spoken vocabulary.

“I hate to go, sweetheart, but I have to wake your brother.” I told her.

Theo’s already awake; waiting for you. He’s smart, too.

I laughed. “Of course he is.” I hugged her one last time, kissed her cheek and left the room.

I made it to the nursery and slowly opened the door. Sure enough, my youngest son was sitting up in his ‘big-boy bed’, arms open wide and smiling.

“Hello to you, too, Theodore!” I picked him up and hugged him. “Did you miss me?”

He nodded his head.

I smell dinner – let Juliet take me down, please. Lord Dratyr needs you in Romania, remember?

I sighed. “How did you know?”

He told me. Theo supplied, tapping his head.

“Can I get one last hug and kiss from my favorite son?” I asked him, doing it anyway. He laughed and kissed my cheek back.

Love you, Matéré.

“I love you, too, Theodore.” I told him, returning him to his bed. I guess his memories of meeting Draconis in both realms stayed with him. Even he was calling me by the Ancient Wolf-Speak word for ‘mother.’

Hurry up and Jump already! I heard Draconis’ voice in my mind. You’ve said your goodbyes to the children; now get on with it.

Jump? I asked him, smiling as I made my way back upstairs to our room and the Vanity. It’s called Crusading, and I’ll be there in a few moments. Give me a picture of where you’re at so I can join you.

Draconis sent me a picture of a bar the Dweller-kin used to relax in after a Hunt. I recognized it from my memories.

How appropriate, the Dragon’s Den! I giggled at my reflection once I made it to the Vanity. With a hand to it, I called the Travel Spell in my mind and focused on the image of the door to the Dragon’s Den bar in Romania.

I felt the familiar rush of magic as I closed my eyes and was whisked away. When I felt safe enough to open them, I was right in front of the old hickory door to the Dragon’s Den. The sign above swayed and creaked in the wind, startling me.

I held my breath, touched the Dream Amulet and stepped inside, ready for anything. As I looked around for my mate, I sensed other Dweller-kin staring at me.

“Evenin’, Youngling.” A male came up to me and whispered, just loud enough to hear over the music.

“If you knew who you were calling ‘youngling,’ you wouldn’t.” I told him, staring at his blood-red eyes. There wasn’t much blood-lust there, for I sense he’d already Fed. I could also sense he was familiar in some way, for he reminded me of both Darlene “Red Shawl” and Airmed. I spoke again. “Kindly go away or lead me to my mate, before I have to get nasty.”

The male raised his hands in surrender. “My apologies, my Lady.” He bowed. “I am Abra Starchaser; do you not recognize me, Grand Magus?”

I smiled. No wonder he felt familiar – he was another Starchaser. This one was harmless. “Abra Starchaser, as in Watcher-kin mate to the Ancient Mystic Melinda and Granpere to Airmed?”

Abra smiled. “You do remember me.”

“Actually, no.” I supplied, smiling back. “Airmed and the Unicorn shared their Bonding with me, and told me who you were. I’m known in the Inner Realms as the Lady Guardian and Lady Empress, Adellandra.”

“My Lady Empress!” Abra cried. “My deepest of apologies for not recognizing you! Right this way then. Ramon is in conference with Daniel and Lord Emperor at this moment.”

I nodded my head. “Why, thank you, Abra.” I told him. “I didn’t mean to get nasty, but I haven’t been called Youngling in years.”

Abra grinned. We were heading to the very back of the bar, deep in the most hidden of shadows where I could sense my mate deep in conversation with the Dweller-kin leader Ramon and his second, Daniel.

Before we were in hearing and sensing range, I tapped Abra on the shoulder. He stopped and turned. “I want to thank you for what you did for Amethyst and I. I don’t know what we would’ve done had you not saved Aaron’s life.”

“I was just doing my duty as a Starchaser, my Lady.” Abra supplied. He waved me to a room behind a dark sheet. “Your Emperor waits.”

“Thanks again, Abra.” I told him.

He nodded his head and was gone in a flash.

I turned to see Draconis, Ramon, and Daniel head-to-head in thought and speaking in full Draconian language. I counted that as a bad sign.

I sat down next to him and kissed his ear. “I’m here, beloved.”

This stopped whatever conversation they were having. It silenced Draconis and made Ramon and Daniel stare at me.

“Sorry I’m late.” I told them. “I ran into a Watcher-kin by the name of Abra Starchaser.”

Ramon smiled but Draconis frowned.

“There’s nothing to worry about; he’s been mated to an Ancient Mystic named Melinda for generations now.” I told him. “At any rate, what were you three talking about before I arrived?”

“Stalkers, Dweller-kin numbers, and updating Ramon and Daniel on the events that brought us to the Outer Realm in first place.” Draconis supplied. “You know; that sort of thing.”

“Ah yes, that sort of thing.” I smiled at my cousin. “What do you make of the Portals?”

“How do you think Stalkers are now Hunting us from Realm to Realm?” Daniel asked. “We are no longer safe wherever we are!”

“Leave them to me.” Draconis supplied. I cleared my throat and frowned at him. “I mean us.” He continued. “Do you know which Portals they’re going through and where they lead?”

Ramon shook his head. “We know of only one – in the back of this bar.” He supplied. “I could sense it from miles away once they reopened for all to see. This one is in the back of the freezer, only no one knows where it leads.”

“Do you think Bernard will let us investigate so we can cloak it?” I asked him.

“You could ask; that is all I know.” Ramon shrugged. After a moment of staring into space, he supplied. “Bernard is in his office, doing paperwork. Feels to me the supplies of Bloodwine and Type A are depleting quicker than usual.”

“Stalkers.” Daniel and I chorused.

“Wait.” Draconis spoke up, looking at us. “Who is Bernard?”

“The owner of this bar.” I told him. “The only reason I know of him is because he helped me when I first returned from Monarch’s Glen.” Suddenly, I knew where the portal in the freezer of the Dragon’s Den led. “Dracora!”

“What? What is it?” Draconis supplied, with Ramon and Daniel suddenly aware.

“I know where that Portal leads.” I responded, suddenly losing myself in the vision of my memories. I stood and headed to Bernard’s office, where I met the older gentleman – older Dweller-Mortal rather – as he was putting a file back into his desk and locking it away.

I didn’t knock.

“Who do you think you are, barging into my office like that?” He spoke in rapid Romany, but I understood. He looked up and met my eyes. “Young Guardian? Is that you?”

I nodded. “I’ve taken my Ladyship Bernard.” I told him seriously in Northern. “I need to enter the back of that freezer of yours.”

Bernard knew what I wanted and nodded. “Aye, Lady. You remember the way?”

“I do now.” I commented, turning and nearly running into my mate and the two Dweller-kin.

I’d been in my vision-trance and hadn’t noticed they followed me.

“What is the matter?” Bernard asked, following us.

“Stalkers are using the now-open portals to Hunt and Destroy Dwellers.” I told him, not stopping. In less than a minute, all five of us were standing in front of the portal in the freezer. “Drake, we have to close it.”

“That portal has been open for centuries.” Bernard supplied.

“It’s now open to all who have eyes to see it.” Draconis told him softly. “We must cloak it or close it entirely, so no more Stalkers may pass through it.”

“Stalkers are not the only ones who pass through it.” Bernard supplied. “My best customers from Monarch’s Glen and the Nations use that to come here. They say my Bloodwine is the best they’ve tasted.”

I smiled. “I bet. Not to mention it actually has a taste here.” I supplied, turning to my mate. “Any suggestions?”

“We don’t want to make you lose business, but we also want to protect that business from being taken over and losing money from Stalkers.” Ramon supplied. “How did you cloak the one you passed through in Hill View?”

“With an Ancient Spell so those with magic were the only ones to see it.” I responded. “We can amend that spell so it’s cloaked from both Mortals and Stalkers, couldn’t we?”

“It should work.” Draconis shrugged. He turned to Bernard. “Keep your colleagues out of harms’ way while we cast it, please Bernard. It will not hurt anything in here, or anyone, but one can never be too careful.”

Bernard nodded. “Aye, Lord,” before leaving.

“Did you want our help, Lord Draconis?” Ramon spoke up.

“You and Daniel keep watch at the door. Shield yourselves and stay alert.” Draconis told them. Once they, too, nodded and left to guard the door from the outside, we were ready. He grasped my hand and noticed I was ice cold. “Cold, are we?”

“One of us has to assume normalcy.” I teased, using my magic to warm myself against his hand. “Ready?”

He nodded and we called the spell.

I’ll not write the spell here, for it is complicated and in the Ancient Tongue from our Havenbound lives as Draconai-named-Darkness and A’isha-named-Light, two of four Pillars of Balance.

When we were finished, I fainted, just as I had before. I had the uncanny habit of overexerting myself when it came to my Higher Ancient’s Magic in the Mortal Realm. Luckily for me, my mate was prepared for this, and has an uncanny ability to share with me memories of what I miss when I used too much magic.

When I awoke, I found myself on a bed with a hard mattress and warm goose-down blankets. I opened my eyes to find Drake smiling down at me. That’s when he shared the memory of what happened after I passed out.

I’d fainted in his arms, just as the portal in front of us shimmered out of non-magical sight. He lifted me with little effort, leaving the freezer.

“What happened to her?” Ramon had asked. “Does she need healing?”

“No, thank you anyway Ramon.” Draconis told him, looking to my closed eyes and smiling. “She just overexerted herself, that’s all. I don’t think she realized how much magic she was using in this Realm.”

“Knocked it right out of her, did it?” Daniel nodded. “I’ll alert Bernard; he’ll be willing to share his bed until she rises.”

Draconis nodded, following him. “Thank you, Daniel.”

“So, my Lord, how is the portal?”

“Cloaked and invisible to the non-magical eye.” Draconis had told him. “Completely safe for the Dragon’s Den patrons.”

Ramon breathed a sigh. “Thank the Ancients.”

“You’re welcome.” Draconis smiled. Ramon blinked at that so Draconis explained. “You know we are two of the five Pillars of Balance? Myself being Darkness while she is Light?”

“I didn’t know you were Ancients!” Ramon whispered. “My sincerest of apologies for any insolence, my Lord Emperor.”

Draconis laughed. “Please, in this Realm, do call me Drake. I may be your Lord Emperor but I’m also family, remember.”

Ramon nodded. “Your lady is my mate’s cousin, I believe.”

“Only her Ancient Mystic side, but aye. You are correct.” Draconis supplied. He turned to Daniel, who had disappeared. “Now, where did he go?”

“Right behind you, my Lord.” Daniel announced. Bernard was right beside him.

“I will show you to my personal quarters, Lord Draconis.” Bernard responded, and showed them the way.

When Draconis set my body down on the bed, he lay next to me, holding me close. He closed his eyes and drew from his own healing power within to heal me. When he was finished, he rose and stretched.

The three of them were still standing there, worried.

“Drake?” Ramon asked him timidly, unsure whether it was the right thing to call him.

“Grounding food, please Ramon.” Draconis’ voice was barely above a whisper. “For both of us.”

“Right away, my Lord.” Ramon nodded, still staring at my still body laying there next to a now-pale Draconis’ Earthbound form.

“Just tell me what is needed and I will tell Cook what to prepare.” Bernard spoke up supportively.

“You know what is needed, Ramon.” Draconis spoke up, his voice still quiet, but clear. “Go with him and hurry.”

Another nod and both Ramon and Bernard were gone.

“Daniel.” Draconis whispered.

“Aye, my Lord?” Daniel had been staring at me in silence, probably thinking of his own Bondmate, my cousin Bella’s daughter Simone. “I am here.”

“Keep watch over us until he arrives.” Draconis supplied.

“Aye.” Daniel said softly. “Will she be all right?”

Draconis sat up just enough to stare at my face. He reached to move hairs from my eyes and caress my cheek. “She will be; I promise.”

“What of the Portal?”

“It is hidden, as I told Ramon.” Draconis finally rose and looked at Daniel. “It is safe.”

“Safe to bring Simone through it?” Daniel asked.

“I would suggest another, better placed portal to travel here through, Daniel my friend.” Draconis said. “In the meantime, will you tell me about your Bonding with Simone?”

Daniel’s eyes lit and he smiled. “I am sure the Lady has already told you.”

“Nay, she has not.” Draconis lied.

Sure, I’d told him, but only what I knew. I didn’t know their side.

Daniel sat and told the story.

“She was not even conceived when I began to see and feel once more.” Daniel supplied. “I was obsessed with Bella and didn’t know the reason. She was my Blood-sister, and already mated to our leader and my Blood-brother Ramon. How could I have the same Binding feelings for her when she was already taken?

“That’s when she announced she was pregnant. Nine impatient months later, Simone was born; the first Dweller-kin live birth for at least fifty years. All Watcher-kin, Apprentice-kin and Jewel Elder-kin were anxious and protective over her as she grew. Her first year was hell, as all were afraid she would die; me, especially. Bella and Ramon fought for her, keeping her safe and loved within the Clans, but it was I who fought the hardest for her life.

“As she grew, while we were still anxious, we were less so, as she was growing beautifully and powerful. Neither of us knew what would become of her as she came of-age.

“When she was thirteen, the coming of age for Ancient Mystics, she took her Oath. Something began to change within her, and I was the only one able to help her.”

“What happened, Daniel?” Draconis asked gently. He was still holding my resting body.

Daniel took a breath, lost in his tale. “She lost control of her Blood-lust. A relative surprised her with his daughter. The smell of the girl’s blood was too much of a temptation. When she hugged her young cousin, who was a Mortal Ancient Mystic, Simone succumbed to the Call. Before she could hurt the girl and Drink her dry, I stepped in and used my power to throw her off. I immediately regretted it; for Simone fell against the wall and into a crystal lamp. The crystal shattered.”

Daniel’s voice was soft and shaking. He was trying not to lose his emotions over the memory. The Apprentice-kin’s eyes were blank and staring into space like a zombie. He stopped his story, now completely lost in the memory and not wanting to go on.

Draconis knew it was best for him to finish, so he stood and placed a hand on Daniel’s back, sending him a wave of encouragement.

It took a moment for Daniel to continue. Once his eyes returned to their hazel color, he opened his mouth to go on.

“Simone was bleeding from her neck, and I had to do something or I would lose her.” Daniel supplied softly. “I raced to her side, frantic for her safety. Holding her unconscious body, blood and all, I worked my Gift and healed her wounds. I barely noticed I had an audience. At the time, the entire world seemed to disappear and it was just me and my beloved so-called niece Simone.”

Daniel’s arms wrapped around himself, his mind and eyes still lost in the memory. Draconis continued to stay silent and listen.

“I instinctively knew what had to be done.” Daniel said. “I nipped my own wrist and held it to her mouth. As she drank my life-giving fluid, I whispered the Ancient Bonding chant both in her mind and aloud. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but it would be right in the end.”

Draconis sent a push of urgency to Daniel’s mind through his mind, silently telling him to finish the tale, or he would be lost in it for longer than was healthy.

“Five years later, when it came time for her to come-of-age in the Clans and choose a Bondmate, it was no surprise which one of us she chose.” Daniel shook out of his spell and smiled. “We have been together since.”

“That is a very touching story, Daniel.” Draconis removed his hand from Daniel’s back. “Thank you for sharing it.”

Daniel caught his eye and blushed.

“Aye, cousin; I had forgotten about her Oath-day.” Ramon’s voice spoke up from behind them both. “Then again, my daughter has always been adult, even when she was a youngling.”

Draconis turned to Ramon holding two bread bowls full of a hearty stew. It smelled like rabbit, squirrel, and steamed vegetables. Of course, the meaty chunks were half-raw, just the way Dweller-kin and Draconians alike preferred. He took one and ate from it before breaking the bowl and eating it quickly.

Ramon and Daniel watched in silence as he meditated and prepared to wake me from my slumber. He took a breath and sat back down next to me, placing a hand on my cheek and closing his eyes as he waited.

So brings us back to the present, with my mate lovingly staring into my eyes.

“How do you feel, sweetheart?” He asked, kissing my lips.

“Drained.” It was the only word I could say aloud.

He turned to Ramon, who gave him a bread bowl. I sat myself up with his and Daniel’s help so I could eat it.

“I believe we should be heading back to Hill View.” Draconis responded. “The Clans will be updated from Ramon when they Rise from their Rest. They know to mind-speak or see us should they need anything in either Realm.”

What about the Portals? I asked them all in my mind as I ate.

“I will assign teams to flush them out and Guard them.” Ramon said. “Should anything other than Stalkers pass through, we will let you know or deal with it the best we can.”

I nodded. Sounded good to me. I looked to my mate, who was also nodding.

“Sounds good to us.” Draconis supplied.

There was a knock on the door.

“It’s Bernard; and he’s worried about you.” Daniel announced.

“Tell him he can come in; it’s his room, after all.” Draconis said.

I smiled.

“Enter.”

The door opened to reveal a very frantic Bernard. “Pardon the intrusion, Lords and Lady. I was wondering if you would need a bit of my famous Bloodwine.”

“I would like to taste it, aye.” Draconis said. “How about you, darling?”

I swallowed what little I had in my mouth before speaking. “I’ve tasted it; it’s pretty good – and addicting.”

“Why do you think I sell so much of it?” Bernard teased. “I’ll fetch each of you a bottle.”

“If it’s as good as you say it is, we’ll want a case to take home with us.” Draconis supplied. He stood and kissed me. “I’ll return darling.”

I watched as he stared at Ramon and Daniel before leaving behind Bernard. The two of them nodded silently and turned back to me.

“Well?” I asked, frowning and crossing my arms.

“We’re to keep an eye on you.” Ramon supplied. “Though I don’t know why; you’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself.”

“Thank you, Ramon, but it’s a precaution he has to take.” I told him, smiling. “Especially after a magical working of that caliber.”

“Quite understandable.” Ramon announced. “Was there anything else I needed to know that Drake-” he spit out the name, uncomfortable in using it, –“didn’t tell me?”

“Depends; what else did he tell you before I showed up?”

“Only about the All-Realm Crusaders, how they would be needed to Guard the Portals once they were found.”

“Not to mention we were now to report to the two of you instead of Dracora.” Daniel said.

“Oh, and how you were both Realmbound and Earthbound at the same time, just as we Dwellers have been doing for centuries.” Ramon supplied.

“It hasn’t been that long, Ramon.” I admonished. “You don’t have to exaggerate with time the way he does sometimes.”

“It feels like it, the way time flows in the different Realms.” Daniel announced for his blood-brother.

“That I understand more than you think, Daniel.”      I nodded.

I stood and automatically made the bed behind me with telekinesis.

“Careful with that, will you?” Ramon asked. “You could overexert yourself again.”

I laughed. “Relax, Ramon. I know my limits.” I playfully tapped his cheek and immediately saw a vision.

A younger version of Ramon stood face to face with a member of the undead Stalker-kin. The difference that clued me in that it wasn’t Ramon himself was the silver-blue eyes and black hair.

The Stalker had the boy frozen in his spell, unable to move. From behind him, a brilliant swirling opalescent light I recognized as another Portal glowed.

I knew exactly who it was and what was going on.

“Stefan!” I gasped, opening my eyes to meet the now-alert and alarmed eyes of Ramon Martiya.

“What is it, Lady?” Daniel asked beside him, since he couldn’t speak.

“There’s another portal near the base of an old temple near Cairo, Egypt.” I explained. “Stefan followed a scent to it and found a male Stalker – harmless yet erratic – flying through it.”

Ramon took his hand and put it on my shoulder. “You return to Hill View; I’ll deal with the Stalker and my son.”

“Cairo, you say?”

“Very well near it. I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you.” I rushed. “I just followed the vision where it led me, that’s all.”

“You’re tuning into the Portals, I see.” It was Draconis’ voice. “Feed first, my Dweller-kin friends, then go after Stefan’s Stalker in Egypt. I’ve already sent someone to help him until you arrive.”

“You saw it, too?” I asked, almost amazed.

Draconis nodded. “Of course. I’ve always shared your visions, you know that.”

“Ah.” I said. I was curious. “Who did you send, and will Stefan know they’re not an enemy?”

“He should – it’s ‘Cora and Karrath.” Draconis grinned. “His first Stalker Hunt. This ought to be interesting.”

“Details later, after we get back to Hill View and the Stalker is Destroyed.” I commented before the playful banter could continue. “For now, I can sense something else going on at home, at it’s not going to be pretty.”

“Another premonition, I see.” Draconis kept his smile.

“No, I See.” I told him. “As for you two, you have your orders. Feed, Fight, Destroy and Report.”

“A little bossy, don’t you think?” Daniel asked, but grinning anyway.

“If you don’t go now, I will foresee something even worse.” I was serious, unknowing where the sudden urgent visions were coming from.

Perhaps it was an echo of the Ancient Magic I used as A’isha?

With a salute and a tight nod from each of them, Ramon and Daniel shifted to mist and left.

After thanking Bernard for his hospitality and warning him about the Portal in his freezer, we left the Dragon’s Den with a case of his famous Bloodwine.

Chapter Four

Mortallan Enemies

In was sunset in Hill View by the time we returned from Romania.

“Are you sure it was wise to call ‘Cora for the Stalker near Cairo?” I asked him as we settled back into our routine. We were in our new room at the house in Hill View.

“Sure – it’ll be good for him.”

“You’re not worried about your own Brattona?” I asked, amazed.

“Are you?”

“Well, sure, but I know Shylee can take care of herself.”

Draconis smiled. “Exactly why I’m not that worried.”

I rolled my eyes and frowned, sitting on the bed. He sat beside me. “Something on your mind?”

“Am I…” I paused, shaking my head. “Never mind. I’m going to check on the children before we head back to Mal’estar.”

Before I could walk out the door, he spoke up.

“You are beautiful in any world, my sweet.”

I blushed and grinned. “As you are handsome in every Realm, no matter what form you take.”

It felt weird for him to be in this realm still, helping me raise three of Derrick’s children and two of Aaron’s. He took them in as his own, even knowing the history behind them.

A lot has happened in so little time; it amazed me still that I could handle it all. Question is, would I be able to handle being Lady Guardian, Empress, and keep an eye on the Portals, all while raising five Earthbound children and five Realmbound?

Instead of one of their rooms, I found myself in Derrick’s Study. I stopped in the doorway and could imagine the Crusaders there, talking about the upcoming War of the Realms.

I walked in the Study and sat on the loveseat in the corner. I grabbed the Reading Family Quilt his mother had given us years ago and held it to my chest. Something inside me just burst and before I knew it, I was crying.

So many memories and images passed through my mind. I let them, for they gave me solace in my uncertainty.

Was I doubting my love for Draconis? No way! Was I doubting who I turned out to be? Maybe. Was I regretting my choice? Perhaps, but then, it was a tough decision. I’d loved Derrick long before I knew Draconis existed.

Derrick was my Earthly Protector, my best friend, my confidant and more. He was my Imaginary Romeo, or at least, one I thought was my Imaginary Romeo. When the Romeo turned reality, I expected a lot more from him at first.

We had a long run, and I guess we still love each other in our own ways. It was complicated, even more complicated than the love I had for Aaron.

Fridishda…I heard Draconis’ purr in my mind. It brought me back to the present.

I looked up to see my mate frowning at me. “Why do you cry, fridishda?”

I stood, dropping the quilt to the floor, and racing to his arms without saying a word.

He wrapped his arms around me as he let me cry in his chest. I felt his wings extend from his back to comfort me. My body obeyed and shifted to its DragonWolf form. There was something about those shifting forms of ours that promised peace and serenity in the toughest of times.

It was a good feeling.

When I felt safe enough to speak in my mind, I told him. So many memories surface here. Fear not, my love, for my heart and soul are eternally yours. It will take time to get over the greatest, and biggest change in my life.

You need closure from the past?

I dried my tears with a claw and nodded. We looked at each other.

“I thought you already did that by speaking with Susan Woods?” Draconis asked.

“I did; but it’s not that easy.” I supplied. “I can’t just walk away from one life and into another without leaving remnants of the old one behind.”

I turned and picked up the quilt, showing him. “Madam Reading, Derrick’s mother, gave us this as a gift. It holds pieces of Reading history, from their first steps on State soil to our family tree.”

He crossed his arms and patiently waited for me to continue.

“A lot has changed, fridishda, even if it hasn’t for you.” I told him gently. “It will take time for me to adjust to it. After all, I’m bound by Earthbound law when I’m here as –.”

As what? I wasn’t a Reading anymore, so I couldn’t say that. I was something totally different now than I was before the War began.

I never got the chance to finish my sentence. Both of us heard a loud scream from the doorway.

We looked to see the Caretaker Juliet poised in the doorway, a hand on her heart and fear in her eyes.

“Juliet, it’s just us.” I said gently, raising a hand in surrender. “Watch.” I eyed Drake and we shifted our forms back to the Immortal in front of her. “See?”

“If our true forms frighten you,” Drake began, lowering his voice to console her.

Juliet shook her head. “They don’t; not really. It’s just,” She stammered and smiled. “It was a shock. That’s all. I have only heard of you being able to shift; I didn’t believe it.”

“Now you do?” I asked her, watching her expression.

“Yes. I believe now.” Juliet remarked. “But it is going to take some time to get used to it.”

That’s just was I was thinking! I thought to him.

Relax, love. He teased back.

“Once you are used to it, there will be nothing that surprises you.” Drake assured her. “For now, was there something you wanted?”

She shook her head. “I heard noises coming from here and wanted to check it out.”

“As you see, it was only us.” I told her gently.

She relaxed and smiled. We smiled back, leaving the Study together.

I was the last to leave so I closed the door behind me.

I could sense Juliet was still scared, but she’d be fine after a good night’s rest.

“So, what do we do here anyway?”

“What do you mean, what do we do?” I asked Drake back. “We live our lives as Immortal Mortals, for lack of better terms, raise the children the best we can and return to the Inner Realms at nightfall each night. As the children are blissfully unaware of the portals, we look for and after them.”

Drake only grinned, plopping himself on the couch in the living room and closing his eyes. “This is the life.”

I rolled my eyes at him and left the room to do what I originally intended to do – look in on the children.

First, I headed to Kelly’s room. Her door was ajar and desk lamp was on. She was studying, and from the looks of it, it was driving her mad.

“Hey, Momma,” She greeted wearily, smiling.

“Hey Pumpkin,” I smiled. “May I come in?”

She nodded, turning her attention from her schoolwork. “Sure. Have a seat.”

I walked in and sat on a clear spot on the bed. It was full of papers, books, and clothes.

“Your bedding is in here somewhere, aye?” I teased her.

Kelly smiled. “Aye, somewhere.” She stood and sat next to me. “Did you need something?”

I gave in to an urge to hug her tight. “I love you, Kelina.”

“I love you, too, Momma.” Kelly said when we pulled back. She played with the end of her braid. “Are you here to stay?”

“Yes and no.” I explained once again, just in case she hadn’t heard before.

“Ah yes, the Portals.” Kelly sighed. “More work for the Lady Guardian, I guess.”

I took her chin in my hand. “That doesn’t mean less time for you and your siblings.” I let go. “I’ll be here to watch you guys grow up, and you’ll be there to help us.”

Her eyes widened. “Help you?”

I nodded, smiling. “Of course. It is your duty as an All-Realm Crusader to report anything out of the ordinary to the Guardians.”

“You and Draconis.”

I nodded. “You can call him Drake, you know.” I told her. “Don’t be afraid.”

“Oh, I’m not afraid.” Kelly said. “Um, did Juliet tell you what we were dealing with?”

“We as in who?”

“As-in Bradley, Cara, Josh, Krysti, Sam, Steve and I.”

“No, what?”

She took a deep breath and told me all about it.

The press called him the Hill View Bomber. He’s eluded police capture for years.

“You told me about him a couple of months ago.” I replied. “Are you still on the case?”

She nodded. “I’m glad you remember, and yeah, we are. Just a few more details and we can get him red-handed.”

She had a plan on her mind, I could tell. Trusting her with her Mystic’s Intuition, I let her go with it. “Do you have a plan for his capture?”

“We’re doing it in a week, I think.” Kelly told me. “If that’s okay with you?”

“You’re a regular detective; you figure it out, sweetheart.” I smiled. “Of course it’s okay. Just be sure to follow the law, be careful, and have all evidence you need to turn him in when it’s time.”

“We will, Momma.” She said. “Where did you learn about detecting?”

“You’ve known the answer to that for years now.” I replied. “Derrick and I learned it in the System Agency, remember?”

“Will I ever be inducted in the System as a Detective?”

“Maybe.” I grinned, standing. “I need to check on your siblings. Finish your homework and worry about the case afterward, okay?”

Kelly smiled. “Okay, Momma. Have fun in Mal’estar.”

“You too.” I winked.

“Wait!” She cried, standing as I passed through the doorway. She continued when I turned. “What do you mean by that?”

“Let’s just say, we’re not the only ones Crusading to the Nations when we Rest here.”

Kelly smiled at that.