Timeline: November 8th, 2007.
John approached Lyla the morning after they returned from the Concilium at Concord. “I need to talk to you,” he told her.
Lyla was recently up from a nap. It had been a long night searching for the cause of Daniel’s visions and it hadn’t been very fruitful. Still, the energetic werewolves seemed to be up and about after what only seemed a short nap.
“Sure, John,” Lyla said. The smile was matched by her eyes. She wouldn’t soon forget that it was in large part John’s actions that kept her alive long enough to be transported to the hospital. She hadn’t thanked him for that yet, but it had been on her mind.
“I don’t know if you know or not but I can read minds, it started after that thing in the caverns took over over Chaska.”
Lyla looked thoughtful but she nodded, encouraging him to continue.
“I have been practicing and I have been getting better and stronger.
“When you were in the hospital last time I was in your head quite a bit because I was so worried about you. I know that you and Daniel talk and it didn’t go so well, thanks for not killing him by the way. I know he can be an ass but I still think we need him and that we were all brought together for a reason, ‘n’ that reason isn’t to kill each other. Call it fate or a higher power but it doesn’t seem to be random to me.
“And well if you want to talk about him and what happened I would be willing to listen… for some reason I get along with him better than everyone, maybe its because I don’t have such good social skills myself.”
Lyla opened her mouth with some surprise, but couldn’t come up with the words right away. Mercifully, John continued.
“Anyway I didn’t really come here to talk about Daniel. I want to learn more about the pack. Now I could just take the information slowly from their minds and no one would know. I’ve already picked up, quite a lot just from reading surface thoughts. But its draining and it takes me a long time and I would rather just talk to you or one of the pack. All that mind reading stuff doesn’t really bring you together when you are the only one that can do it, it just makes other people treat you different.”
Lyla put her hands up. “Okay, first thing; Whoa! Slow down. I’m still processing the first part.” She waited moment, then said, “Okay done. Now what? You wanted to learn about werewolves. Okay that’s good. And you asked me — that’s very good, but word of advice? Don’t tell the others you can read minds. In my pack, that is. In fact, don’t tell anybody if you don’t have to. Believe me, it’s for the best. I don’t mind because I kind of get it. And plus … well honestly maybe I don’t read minds, but I really can –” She cut herself off. “Well, never mind that. What is it you’d really like to know most, John?”
“Well it’s a little late to keep it a secret from everyone in the pack… I told Selene at the Dinner one day. I don’t think she believed me though.
“I think Michael and Rey were there at the time but now I don’t remember. I’m not going to hide from my friends what I can do. Part of that is because when they find out later they will feel betrayed and wonder what all I have been finding out that I shouldn’t. I have told all our group now, Daniel has asked me not to look. But if he keeps acting strangely I am going to make sure he is ok the best way I know how.
“You have lost it haven’t you? You can’t do it any more, not since your change. Now you probably, smell it or something like that.
“I guess what I want to know most about the pack is how to interact without being labeled prey but without having to accept contempt either.
“Unarmed they can take me apart, armed they can still take me apart but they will have to work at it and they will know that they have been in a fight.
“How does Rey fit in? How is Ramiel supposed to fit in? I know the pack will never need my services like you did. So I guess I am trying to say that I don’t think I will fit in and that makes me sad its like even though our group is here were drifting apart.”
Lyla broke in on his monologue here to answer his questions. “Rey is a member of the pack and Ramiel is my mate, which makes him sort of an extended family member. Not regarded as a werewolf and doesn’t share in the blessings of our totem spirit, but a member nonetheless.”
John continued, “Ramiel and Michael are mages off doing mage stuff and you and Chaska are with your new family, that what pack is isn’t it family. Home and safety and security. Then there’s Daniel who doesn’t even consider us friends just associates on a common hunt to stop and kill the dark man. I don’t know if he meant it when he said that but … it hurt you know what I mean but he has a point. Its not like we have all that much in common.
“Now I sound all whiny… sorry.” John sighed deeply. “I am not good with this touchy feely emotional stuff.
You guys are part of my family, if I had kids I would want them to be like you, Ramiel, Rey and Michael.
I would probably end up with some like Daniel but even that wouldn’t be all bad.”
Lyla smiled at the kind words and flattery.
“I know you all have done things you aren’t proud of. The thing that amazes me is that you think I would think any less of you for it. It’s not like I have finger pointing room. Ramiel was going on about he had killed people, so serious, talk about how I thought he was going to hell. Lyla girl it was all I could do to keep from laughing in his face. You have been a naughty girl too. Michael’s hands aren’t exactly pristine or at least not in his own mind.
“And Rey, there are times I wish I could take memories away, or at least help with the pain. If you see her back sometime, well those are the lesser scars, she can live with those, its what’s inside that killing her and I can’t reach her. You and Ramiel could and maybe one other, if she can let him in, well two others if you count Hamilton.
“Great now I am rambling.” John gripped his hair in frustration and then lowered his head and fell silent, trying to put his thoughts in order.
“Sometimes,” Lyla said thoughtfully, “we need our scars. It helps us become the people we need to be. But I guess that depends on the individual and how they handle them. When you are hurt, you can choose to be a victim and lash out or allow yourself to be hurt again and again because you don’t know anything else. And sometimes, you can take a bad experience and make yourself stronger.
“I’m not a psychologist, but I think Rey is going to be all right.” She smiled to reassure him. “But say, didn’t you mention there was something about the pack that you wanted to know? You said something about how we’re family, that is those of us who are in the pack. That’s true. But as with any family there are different goals and limitations there.
“James has made it very clear to me,” she said, “that the primary focus of his pack will always be to protect the territory. That means protecting it from nasty things that come out of Shadow to hurt living creatures including people. It also means protecting it from rival packs, rogue spirits, and Hosts such as the spider host we found in Saratoga Springs. It does not mean that the pack will be allowed to run up and down the east coast tracking the Dark Man and thwarting him. Fortunately, I managed to persuade him that Chaska and I need to do this. He’s allowed that because he knows this matter could divide the pack and he feels he can’t afford that. Not and keep hold of this territory.”
She smiled. “So don’t worry too much, John. Chaska and I are still with you guys. You are still our strongest and oldest allies. Yes, if James needs us, we’ll heed his call — if we are here.”
“Did you have to say oldest, you see this head of grey hair… It was solid brown before I met you have Ramiel.”
Lyla chuckled softly at that. “But that little bit of silver makes you look so distinguished! Like um, Pierce Brosnan!”
John glanced upward in a ‘give me strenght look’ but smiled and then said, “It works both ways kiddo, you need help I better hear from you. You aren’t too old or big to put across my knee.”
Lyla raised an eyebrow, the broke out into a grin. “Mm. Don’t tempt me, old man. I’d hate to give you a heart attack!”
“Thanks for talking, and think about Daniel. You might want to get those papers you signed for him or get another lawyer to be your agent if you don’t trust him to not stir up trouble. I don’t think he will though. I think he’s coming to realize that he can’t do as much on his own. I think he had some plan to get a new team together but something drew him back to us. We need to pull him closer to make him see up as people and friends even if we aren’t all human.”
She smiled. “Okay John. I’ll back off on my little plans for Daniel, give him more of a chance. But if he talks like that to me like that again, I reserve the right to slap him. He needs to learn it isn’t safe to torment werewolves unless he wants lots of practice at bleeding. I’ll let the thing with the papers go, too. It’s only provoke him, and besides as I understand it, a client can fire a lawyer any time they want if they feel they aren’t representing their best interests.”
“You can bitch slap him anytime you want, might even do some good but I doubt it. Just keep in mind that any holes you make I have to patch back up. From what I gather, he was planning on an anonymous tip, to the local county prosecutor, which would keep it out of his hands. I don’t think he’s planning that anymore. I think he understands what happened, maybe better than I do, he is a lawyer after all sort of a predator himself.”
“Maybe he foresaw what would happen to him if he did that,” Lyla stated. “I don’t think there there is a jail that could really hold any of us for long — that includes you, too. All he’d accomplish is to make himself a target of a lot of very angry people. Maybe he finally got wise enough to realize he was heading for a fight he couldn’t win and cut his losses. We can only hope.
“But maybe we should get back to your earlier questions,” Lyla suggested. “You asked if I could still read minds. I can’t. And I don’t necessarily always ‘smell’ stuff. I read souls now. It’s a gift I received from a knowledge spirit I tracked down back in July and it let’s me find out their fears, sins and most importantly — their secrets. Handy, huh? It’s not mind reading, but it gets me information that’s just as useful starting with the worst or biggest secrets to the least.
“What I do ‘scent’ are beings that aren’t human. I can tell is something supernatural is nearby, usually. I can also sense weaknesses people might have — the better to hit a spirit where it hurts, or at least take away some of its teeth.
“I can do a whole lot of other stuff, too. All gifts from spirits I’ve helped, fought, captured or negotiated with. Are you really interested in that?”
This brought many questions to John’s mind. “So when you read a soul is there some absolute soul scale or does it depend on the individual? I mean if two people did something… Lets say break into a locked supply room to steal medicine for needy children and one feels really bad about it committing a sin and the other feels good about it because it helped needy children. Does it show up differently on the two different souls?”
“It’s all from my own personal point of view,” Lyla explained. “See, if I already know a thing about somebody, then when I read their souls, it is no longer a secret so I sort of skip that. Likewise, since it’s based on my own perception, then the things that stand out, the things I really notice, have to be first something they have been concealing and second something I would consider to be a secret, a sin, or fear.”
“Wait different spirits you mean they aren’t all the same? What’s a knowledge spirit? I can imagine spirits that feed on emotions, Love, lust, war, fear but how the heck do you feed on knowledge? On second thought maybe those are questions for another day and yes I am interested in the things you can do… Even if its just to say wow that is neat. Like me I can sense what plants are feeling and they grow really well for me. Its useless fighting the dark man, probably won’t ever impact our lives in big way but you have a sick plant let me know. You know.
“From what I can tell about Ramiel and Michael if they can envision it they can do it. There are different spheres of influence, Time, Matter, Life, Death and some others I don’t remember right now. They seem to have an affinity for several spheres. The more visible the result the more likely it is that bad things happen.
“Right,” agreed Lyla. “Although I’m getting that there are some consequences. They can do whatever they like — but it’s like there is some kind of price and sometimes that price means they lose control of their powers. Ramiel has mentioned a couple of times where that has happened to him. So, they still have to be very careful of what they do. They have to be prepared to pay the consequences should something go wrong.”
“Everyone seems to be trying to find the Dark Man their own way. I am wondering if there is someway to bring us all together and gestalt our powers and do it together. Maybe we can get everyone together and talk about it.”
Lyla nodded. “It might turn out that’s the only way to really beat him.”