Timeline: February 17th, 2008
Ramiel had been quiet but around the house more for the next few days after his return. He had gone to see Ariyah and held her for hours while she cried. Aubry and Tara had discussed things with him and he agreed with their choice. It would take time, but Ariyah would heal.
Ramiel had made sure to give Lyla the attention she needed as well. He held her hiar in the mornings when she could barely get out of bed to puke. Even overstocked the pantry with anything she wanted.
He had even managed to get the first leg of the nursery done. Little paw prints lined the walls. The ceiling was a field of stars from the summer sky. One wall was a forest, and the floor was solid black. Another wall held a scene of more fantasy than reality. But Lyla knew he had painted what he saw when he Awakened.
It was here that Lyla found him, asleep on the floor with three books near him. One was the album he had started for his daughter. The name Serena had been added to the cover. The other album was new; Lyla could see in the first pages pics of her, and her belly, and lists of things she has had cravings for. Simple things. The other was his journal he was always carrying around. Though she could not manage to get the strap off. Lyla suspected it was no ordinary strap and no ordinary journal, in the way that those cuffs they had so much fun with were far from ordinary cuffs.
But Lyla was willing to let him have his privacy. Since December, she had even been avoiding reading his soul because frankly, she was afraid of what she might find there. She had an image of Ramiel in her mind, a Ramiel made up of many heroic rescues, of him holding her, of all their nights along together against the world on the Appalachian Trail. It was an idealized image, she knew, but she it was, she felt, the real Ramiel, the one who loved her.
Times had been hard for him, she knew, ever since the death of that hunter, and the suicide of Abigail Braff. For her and the rest of the pack the human werewolf-hunters had simply been threats efficiently and permanently removed. But she knew it was more than that for Ramiel. It was a little bit of sadness that she recalled at time when it should have meant something more to her, too. Her concern remained solely for his well being.
She sat down upon the floor next to him and gently ran her hand along the side of his body. Sleeping here would make him stiff; she hoped she could get him moved to a bed or perhaps tell him she really liked what he’d done with the room.
He stirred beneath her touch. As he rolled over to look up at her she noticed he had fallen asleep on a photo of them together. It was stuck to his face. “Hey..” he said sleepily.
She smiled and slowly peeled the photo from his cheek and laid it down. She continued to stroke his side gently. “It looks wonderful in here already.”
“mm..wha…” He mumbled as he shifted so his head was in her lap. As he rubbed his cheek where the photo had been, he looked around. “Not too bad. It wouldn’t be this far if I didn’t have help from higher planes.”
Ramiel had been working pretty much non-stop for the last couple days, taking only cat naps from time to time.
“Well, where ever the inspiration came from, I like it. I think it will work well no matter if we have a girl or a boy,” Lyla said with a smile as she gazed at the forest section.
“You don’t know?” He stood and staggered to the forest wall. It was mostly outlines and blocking. “Here is the woods and the pack will be here. I hope to get pics of you guys in wolf form. I am also hoping someone in the pack or John, maybe Michael has an artistic side. Oh waite. Wasn’t the vamp a painter?” He stared off a moment then moved on. “Above is the sky, that is obvious. But I was thinking we could have jumping wolves transforming into birds that fly past the watchtowers, here on this wall. That is what this is. What I saw when I awakened. Now I am not going to put the tower itself but the outline in the background.
“I want our baby to know about us and where he comes from. That plus I want him and the others to know they are family right, he will never be alone in this life. We are not going to leave him, oh I guess or her.”
Lyla smiled widely. “I think it’s wonderful! Our child is going to have a very unique childhood but it’s also going to be the best a kid could hope for. That’s my goal, and you’re obviously outdoing yourself.” She got up and hugged him. “Thank you, Ramiel. Thank you for being so interested in all of this. You’re going to be an awesome father for our child.”
“No.” He said. “But I will be a father and that is something I can hold onto when I start slipping further off the edge.”
“By the way, I asked Ironclaw to be the godfather. I am thinking maybe Michael and John should be asked as well. I don’t know if Ironclaw will accept. But I let him know he is part of the family.”
Lyla hugged him again, clinging to him. “Well, I think you are awesome. As for godparents… I’m not sure. I’m fine with Ironclaw, but we should have a female godparent for the other one, not another male. After all, their role is to raise the child in the event of our deaths, right? Since we aren’t religious? So I would want our child to have both male and female role models. So if Ironclaw is the godfather, I would like to ask Rey to be the godmother.”
“I’m fine with that. I just want to make sure there is someone to take care of him or her. And all of our friends are in the same risk category as we are.”
She nodded. “Yup.”
A thought occurred to her and she let go of him, then turned around so he couldn’t see her face. “Of course… our mother’s might think they should have some say in what happens to our baby.”
He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her.” My mother is dead Lyla.” He nestled into her neck. “I dreamt about it. I thought you might like to know. The others to. I was not gone for Millenia, but it was a couple months.”
Lyla felt suddenly very distressed about Melisande and her mother. She fought back the tears, though, and took strength in his embrace. “But she isn’t, Ramiel. I saw her. And my mom, too. They brought Ariyah back and… and we talked. They said I have to decide what to do about my baby. They seemed to think the Brotherhood cronies will want to take our baby away. But I’ll fight them, Ramiel. I’ll fight them and the pack will fight them and you’ll fight them to keep our baby. I know this, but still our mothers were… I don’t know. They aren’t telling us something. But I know one thing. Melisande is alive and she is a powerful Mage. And so is my mother, and she’s the most powerful werewolf I have ever seen.”
“Melisande may be alive. But my mother is dead. I don’t care about who they were and what they are. If they think they have any kind of say in our lives or that of our child they’re wrong. I don’t care if they are as strong as gods, they haven’t earned that right. They lost it the day they decided to walk out of our lives and throw us to the wilds. My mother died the day she lied to me and left me to become this monster!” He had moved away form her as he spoke. His voice raised and the anger flared through his eyes.
Lyla turned around and slapped him across the cheek. Her eyes flared a wolfish yellow for a moment as her anger showed. “You can be mad at her — hell I sure am. But you had better take responsibility for your own actions instead of blaming someone else! You can be anything you choose to be, if you’d stop moping about and just do it!”
Epiphany is when a sudden realization hits you, and everything if even for the briefest moments makes sense. Lyla had not argued the fact that he was a monster. Did she believe it herself, did she care. He knew there was fear i her eyes sometimes when she looked at him.
“What you call moping is my attempts not o go serial. But that is fine, it’s not easy Lyla and I don’t expect you to understand. Just to point out I am not blaming her for my actions. I am saying she is not here to make a difference and help not be that way. I am saying that the woman who was my mother who loved me is dead.”
At that moment he really wished he could walk through space. It is one thing to know that you are on the verge of something. Entirely different though that the one who cares about you the most thinks that of you. Some how it just makes it worse.
Lyla sighed. “You have the hardest head of anyone I know. You are perfectly capable of making better decisions. Anyway, this crap you’re dishing out about me not understanding is exactly that. We both killed our own kind that night. Both of us. I chose to deal with what I did and make something of it. You don’t have to let it eat you alive.”
Michael could hear the yelling going on upstairs, as he was walking up to the house. Out of curiousity, he made his way upstairs, following the load voices. As he was walking down the hall, he could see Lyla and Ramiel argueing amongst themselves. Not really wanting to know what it was about, but out of a civic duty to keep the noises down, he approached the room.
When he got to the room, he pounded on the door frame to get their attention. “Would you guys mind keeping it down? I swear I could hear you about half a block away.” Looking a Ramiel, he said, “And I know that you can make this room soundproof for awhile. So why don’t you do that, if you guys plan to keep yelling at each other.”
“No need I was thinking I should go.” Ramiel looked at Lyla. “Why did someone complain about the noise?”
“Yeah, I just did.”
“Yeah, because walking away is what you do so you don’t have to deal,” Lyla said. “Take some responsibility for your actions, Ramiel. That’s all I’m saying. You aren’t a victim here.”
“No but I want victims Lyla. It has nothing to do with that night. I enjoyed what happened that night. It has everything to do with that. So excuse me if I put distance between those I care about when I am in a dark place so nothing happens to them.”
“Ramiel, you were blaming Mom for ‘becoming a monster’ because she wasn’t around.” Lyla added gently, “And when you are in a dark place is precisely when you need to be with friends, the very most.”
Feeling out of the loop, Michael asked, “What night are you guys talking about?”
“Sorry, Michael,” Lyla said. “Ramiel is feeling like he’s losing control and my temperamental nature isn’t helping. Maybe you can help?”
Ramiel paced around the room. “This is fucking great. here I was trying to make a god place for the baby and we are fighting in it. The only thing I am blaming her for is leaving us. I know what I have done.” He emphasized the I part.
“What kind of help are you wanting? I am not a shrink, so I can’t do that psycho babble stuff.”
Lyla told him, “Help me get Ramiel to see he’s not a monster and he’s not going to be one if he’ll just make some different choices than he’s been making recently.”
“It’s not that easy Lyla!” was all he said.
“What’s not that easy, Ramiel?” Michael asked.
“Ignoring the power. You will see one day. You are very close to that edge Michael. Very close.”
Michael chuckled as he said, “What makes you think I’m not already there?”
“Maybe you are. But you don’t act like it. But then I have more than just the power. I have the..” He cut himself off. “How did this get about me. I was in here working on the baby’s room then you made me mad talking about how my mother is alive and all that shit.”
“Because you were moaning about she died on you,” Lyla reminded him. “What I was trying to tell you — which I hadn’t brought before but had wanted to — was that our mothers might have plans for our baby and I don’t like that one bit.”
“You have what?”, Michael asked. “As for your mother, I don’t know anything about that topic. I just came up here ’cause I could hear you guys yelling on my way up the street to the house and I was just wanting you guys to quiet down before some else calls the police. You know what I mean?”
“Police, Police, don’t make me come up there.” John said from the front room, “unless you need a referee. What’s all the commotion about?”
“Nothing!” He yelled back down the stairs from the door. “This is over.” Ramiel went back to his books and scooped them up. “Look you want to talk about those women fine. Don’t expect me to call her mother. I will ask this again, if they want our child it is a fight they will get and nothing else. Even if I have to bargan with the devil to do it I will protect our child.”
He paced around the room and inhaled slowly. His mind was back at the ledge of the cliff looking down. He felt the strength of Ironclaws hands on his shoulders steadying him. [You are going to be a father, hold onto that,] echoed in his mind. There was more behind those words Ramiel thought. Because it is not just the child that will depend on him, but Lyla. More than ever she will need him to be what he once was, or was trying to be. A good man.
“Okay. Okay. I am a hollow reed. Ooohm and some shit. We can talk about this civil right? I can stop yelling and get my temper in check. After we talk maybe Michael would like to have athrow down and work off some energy. Who knows? I have a spell I have been itching to try out. Wizard Duels really exsist.
“So what do you say we go downstairs and discuss things?”
Lyla gave him a hug. “Yes! I think the others should know what I saw when Ariyah came back, if they don’t already. It’s pretty important.” She smiled up at him, relieved he’d managed to calm down. Her own emotional state reflected his; she became more calm even as he did.
The group of four re-assembled downstairs, even taking time to get those who wanted something a drink. Lyla gave them all a brief but thorough run-down of what had transpired between herself, Melisande and Lilly when they returned Ariyah. Lyla didn’t tell them exactly what happened to Ariyah and her baby; she really didn’t have all the facts for that, but simply told them what Melisdande had told her would be best for Ariyah’s mental health.
“And this is why I’m worried,” she said. “Lilly — my birth mother — said that I had to make a decision regarding my baby. I don’t want to end up like Ariyah, guys,” she told them. “And I don’t want someone to take my baby from me. Ramiel and I are both committed to really fight for keeping our child and … I’d like to ask you both to help.”
“I’m in,”John said, “Ramiel, Micheal is there anyway to stop people from teleporting in or out of a place? Because if all they have to do is teleport into the babies room and then out again, there’s no way we can stop them. Unless we can be there and kill them before they can get back out again. Is there any way to track Ariyah’s baby and get him or her back? or at least track her so we can deal with the people that took her.”
Lyla eyes widened. “Teleport? Like in the comic books? Is that possible?” She looked to Ramiel for answers to that one.
Pain filled Ramiel’s face as he spoke. “There is a way to stop teleporting, I think. If we are strong enough I don’t know.” He paused trying to regain himself. “No there is no way of finding Serena. I couldn’t manage in two months with the help of the Dark Men. This Brotherhood is far superior in number and power. I don’t think I will ever see my daughter again.”
“From what Daniel said and the clues we found at Ariyah’s they appeared out of nowhere and left the same way, so they were either invisible or teleported. I was just hoping that we could use Ariyah and you to perform some sort of dousing like we did for Lyla when we were hunting her. Any sort of magical tag we could put on the baby?” John got a far distant look in his eye for a second. “Ramiel don’t take this the wrong way but what makes you so special? They took your and Ariyah’s baby and you have been warned that they may take yours and Lyla’s baby so what gives? Why your kids?”
“How the FU…” He ran his fingers across his forhead. “How should I know. Maybe it has somethignto do with the glowing eyes that mysteriously appeared one night. Maybe its a sick joke. Maybe I’m cursed.. why anything.
“What I do know is if I was going to be able to find Serena I would have two months ago. Either I am not strong enough to do it, or they are just that powerful.
“My money is on power because there were two dark men with me the entire time and they could not pin-point anything either.”
“You keep talking these Dark Men is that any connection to the Dark Man and are they opposed to the — What were they called Children of the Light? No, Brotherhood of the light?”
“The same as what we have been chasing. The rest I don’t know. They weren’t saying and I wasn’t asking. They saved me and helped out. It took all of us to get out of that place, wherever it was.
“All I know is that I have a new focus. The Brotherhood has made my top priority from now on. Oh I’ll keep looking for the Dark Men, as there seems to be more than one. When they hurt others or step out of line I will act on it. But I am not sure they are my enemy. Or at least they are the lesser of two evils right now. Not that I am one to talk.”
“So we know a couple basic facts about the Dark Men,” Lyla said. “And that’s a lot more than we had before. We also know they seem to work against this Brotherhood of Light. They’re the ones that took Ariyah’s child, and the ones with whom Lilly Montclair has allied. Maybe we should try tracking Montclair? That could lead us to the Brotherhood — and Serena.”
“Just to clarify here, Serena is my child as well. I will fight just as hard to get her back. Especially since if we do Ariyah can’t know.”
“Ramiel you keep saying stuff like that, ‘I’m a monster, I’m not one to talk’. I maybe missing something, but for what its worth I have faith in you. I have never know you to harm the innocent or stab someone in the back. The forces of light need the dark knights too you know, even if sometimes they fear their power. We all have a dark side. Some people hide theirs better and in some people its more grey and some people dance on the edge of a cliff knowing that if they slip to far its all downhill until the splat at the bottom. I’ve seen a lot of dark old son, but you have to remember that if you were all black it wouldn’t bother you. All of us are here for you, because we see in you something that right now you can’t see in yourself. Don’t give up the dance, Ramiel. If you need help let us know. If there is anything I can do to help your baby, let me know that too.”
Ramiel went quiet and very still.
“About Ariyah, if we should get her child back, what do you tell her then? Oops it was all a mistake those memories weren’t real memories? I get the feeling that something like that has been done to us and that’s why we can’t remember our last fight with the Dark Man. I hope I’m wrong cause I don’t like that feeling very much.”
“Well, I think it’s likely,” said Lyla. “So we deal. As for Ariyah’s baby, if we get her back, then we’ll find some way to find Melisande and get her to undo whatever she did.”
Michael looked at Lyla, the said, “I think you need to give Ramiel the card I gave you. He may learn something from it, and possible the words will help him focus his thoughts.”
Michael then turned and walked out of the room.
Lyla looked startled and for a moment, didn’t know what he’d meant. Then her eyes widened. “The card! I’ll be right back. Don’t go away, Ramiel!” She disappeared up the stairs.
“Ramiel, there are some things that you have to do for yourself, and some fights that only you can fight. I know that. I’ve been there myself, just remember that we are pulling for you and if you need us we are here. I will put my mind to what we can do to keep your child safe. You need anything, anything at all either of you. Let me know and I will do what I can.” John sits there, trying to figure out if he should go or stay.
“Great I bring us down here to discuss what to do about the Brotherhood and everything. So everyone leaves. I don’t care if we talk let’s just drop me as the subject ok.
“As far as when we find Serena. Ariyah can’t know. I mean her memories are gone. If I tell her that our child was stolen and we got her back that would make it worse. If Melisade took her memories that makes her of the mind Arcanum. So I will have to trust in Aubry that this was best for Ariyah.
“So when we get Serena back, we can address it then. For now I figure that I will end up with two kids to raise. In time maybe she will be strong enough to handle the truth. That is not our call.” He sat down with a huff. Lyla returned, running down the stairs. She walked over and sat down next to Ramiel on a couch, then presented him with something. “This card was really important to Michael. He says that he used to read it over and over again when he was having trouble dealing with… with life. This is what he used to hang on when things seemed to be at their worst.” Lyla gave him the card. “This is his way of trying to help you without getting all mushy and emotional like me,” Lyla said with a smile. On the card was the ranger’s creed:
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move farther, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be. One-hundred-percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.
RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!
“He wants you to have it,” Lyla said.
Ramiel silently read the card and put it in his wallet. “Okay. So where do we go from here?”
“Hey I didn’t go anywhere and Lyla’s here too,” John told him. “I will put more effort into finding out what I can about the Brotherhood. For all we really know its just the two that Lyla saw so maybe Lyla has had the best idea so far and we should try and track the people we believe to be involved. Of course, if you can’t track the child I am not sure how we are supposed to find them either.”
“Well I will more effort into finding out what I can about the Brotherhood. For all we really know its just the two that Lyla saw so maybe Lyla has had the best idea so far and we should try and track the people we beleive to be involved, of course if you can’t track the child I am not sure how we are suppoesd to find them either. Is there any way to tag the child and Lyla just in case?”
“I have what is called a sympathetic connection to them, and Serena. By blood and how close they are to me. That can be masked or rather my searching can be blocked by those who are powerful enough to do it. So that is what is happening in this case. Plus I can only deduce that wherever I was is not on this plane. I was there for two months and it was only four days here,” Ramiel said as he wrapped his arm around Lyla and pulled her close.
“So given that you could tag Lyla or her child they could still block it. 15 to 1 ratio so in a year the child would be 15 if they kept her there. Unless they just had Ariyah there to speed up the pregnancy without loosing to much time in the real world.”
Lyla rested in his arms. “Can you make a ward? Something to keep bad people out? I think my people can do something like that, but your powers seem a lot more flexible.”
“I am sure it can be done. The question is can I, at this point.” seeing the questions forming in their minds. “Clarification right? There are different areas of study. I mentioned the Mind Arcanum. See that is what Sterling is. Ariyah told me so. That is how he is controlling the vamps we negotiated to him. My primary focus is Forces, the study of energy. Second to that is Prime — the core of magic studies really. How it works, how to manipulate the source. Since we found out about Sterling I have focused on that arcanum so I can be strong enough to dispel his magic. Truthfully I am very close. Once there I will even be able to pull essence out of anything and change it into mana, the force that provides batteries for me. Like essence for Uratha and the spirits, it’s mana for mages. Funny how those games were right about life force.
“It’s pretty cool actually because I can even pull essence from mundane things like this table if needed. Well I am not there yet, but close. I have even started helping Michael in that area.” The glazed lookin their eyes told him he had been rambling. His own eyes flowed from John to Lyla then back again. “Okay so what I was saying is I will research and see what needs to be done and who can do it. Of course if Melisande and Lilly want anything to do with our baby they can just hang around and protect him. I am not saying I hate Melisande; close, but she has lost my respect until she stands before me and explains everything. And it had better be a good explanation. All I’m saying.”
“So that’s all stuff in the future and we don’t know how far into the future,” John said. “What can we do now? Should I send you and Lyla on a vacation? Can they track you? Do we need to post a guard? They took out Ms. Honeywell with one hit, granted she is old but I patched her up and they did a heck of a lot of damage.”
“I’m with you on getting an explanation from Mom. Moms, even,” Lyla stated. “Hey, Ramiel maybe you can enchant something that will nullify spells cast at it? Like a bracelet, anklet or something like that. Some kind of jewelry I can wear and that we can transfer to the baby later.”
“Whew, that is …hmm I will need to research it,” he said as he ran through books in his mind.