Timeline: January 31st, 2009
Grey had asked Rey to meet him for a private meet at the motel down near the highway. Ironclaw also asked Ramiel and Chaska to meet with himself and Grey. Neither Grey nor Ironclaw, who’d arranged for a the largest room to be reserved, would say anything about what the meeting was about until everyone was there. And all members were asked to say nothing to anyone else about the meeting, that it was important to this be secret.
It was another cold evening in January and Rey had to leave the bar in the car of Selene and Lyla (which had a hell of a mess to clean up before they opened that evening). Snow was gently falling from a darkened sky, and the wind made the trek seem a lot longer than it should have. Yet, when they arrived, they found both Grey and Ironclaw seated in a very warm room sipping mugs of steaming beef broth as others came in. They offered each a cup if they liked.
Werewolves had a taste for beef, for sure. But also, caffeine did bad things to them given their metabolism. A young child with ADD hopped up on sugar and caffeine would be a vacation compared to a an overly anxious werewolf on hot cocoa or coffee.
Rey took her coat off and accepted a mug with thanks.
Ramiel entered the room, passing on the offered broth he found a corner and took a seat. “Where’s the hooker and rum?”
Chaska walked in saying “What’s this I hear about hookers..” When he stopped at seeing all who was there. He didn’t say another word and hesitantly walked to the table. He hadn’t wanted to talk around Rey anytime soon and was still spitting mad at Iron Claw for allowing her to be the new lupa. But he was Chaska and if there was anything he did best it was to control and hide his own feelings.
He cooly sat down and declined any drink. This was going to be interesting.
Ironclaw was silent a moment. Everyone knew he was the reason the meeting was called, that this was his show. He took a deep drink of the broth and put it aside and looked at each person who came in turn. His eyes were full of seriousness and sorrow.
“I guess I’ll just get to it,” Ironclaw said. “I asked you all here because Grey and I have learned some things that have made us realize that we are all in danger of losing two friends that are important to all of us. And maybe I’m in danger of losing the friendship of another.”
He looked to Chaska and addressed the friendship he felt was in danger first. “Chaska, I’m sorry you got caught in the crossfire last night. You’ve always been a staunch supporter of the pack. I’ve always respected your wisdom and strength, and I’m sorry I put you through what I did last night. It’s true I was upset to hear that my pack would be missing two of our strongest members for three months, asking you to break your word over it was… hard on both of us. But that was only part of the reason I did it. The other part, perhaps much more important, is that I’m trying to save Shadowclaw. Lyla.”
Rey remained silent, but looked from Ironclaw to Grey, wondering if their plan had been messed up by her becoming Lupa.
Chaska was listening to his words carefully taking them in and looking for the subtext behind them. What Iron Claw was saying was beyond the events of last night. Chaska figured that eventually they would have to hash out last night but this wasn’t a meeting about that.
Chaska looked at Iron Claw steadily. “What happened last night will be with us for awhile but it will heal… in time. So for the time being it sounds if it isn’t as important as your concerns for Lyla. Why do you say you are trying to ‘save’ her?”
Ramiel leaned back in the chair, tilting it backwards. “You have a funny way of showing your concern Ulfric.”
Grey looked at Ironclaw, ready to fill in if need be. But the Ulfric handled this one. “Because she and her mate are fated to be consumed by their demons.” His rested upon Ramiel. He could see the sadness in them. It wasn’t pity — it was the sorrow one could only feel when he knew he’d inevitably lose a friend.
“Grey and I know what happens when you and Lyla are truly aroused — angered. It is plain to see, though it’s meaning is less obvious. It’s in your eyes, my friend. The storm that roils behind your eyes comes through with blue fire and lightning. For her, we have seen the burning hellfire. We know of the demons in your blood.”
Grey took up the conversation now. “The demonic manifestations are no secret. It’s there for all to see when it happens. Fortunately, it has been rare, but it is still a warning sign that something with you, Ramiel, as well as Lyla, is waking up. So I did some research on it and I’ve discovered something you need to know.
“There is demon blood running in your veins. I believe it is inherited from your fathers, both of whom were demons. Their strength in you grows every time you succumb to vice and temptation, rage, and hate. It gains strength every time you lose yourself to these things. One day, it could consume you, destroying the person you are now with the thing that was left behind by your father.
“However long you have, we don’t know. It could be a long, long time. You have somehow managed not to indulge your baser instincts.”
“You lack ambition,” Ironclaw said with a grin. “Turns out that’s your greatest asset.”
Grey snorted and went on. “But for Lyla, we fear perhaps not so long if things are left as they are. She is succumbing to her darker nature. Ambition, the lust for power. She may even begin to submerge herself in other forms of lust as well — blood… sex… violence… You’ll know it when you see it. But of course, this is exactly what we do not want. If Lyla does not give up her dark urges, she will soon be consumed by the evil power within her. “
Ironclaw spoke again. “I wanted to speak with Lyla about it right away. Be direct. Tell her to back down, get rid of her extracurricular activities and cut out these incessant trips to Boston.”
“Have you figured out what she does on these trips?” Rey asked.
The chair creaked as it moved forward. “It’s really none of your business what she does or does not do in Boston.”
He glanced sideways at Rey, then looks at grey eventually turning his gaze to Ironclaw. “So tell me, is turning the pack on her the best way you could think of helping her?” Ramiel did his best to mirror the calm that Chaska manages to keep so often.
“We know about the demon blood, and the changes. I would have preferred that you had made this meeting a bit more private. I don’t see how this is any business of theirs.” Ramiel glanced at the others. Of course he knew what Ironclaw would say. Lyla was pack and so are they. But to him his heritage was a matter of family, not pack.
Chaska could feel the controlled anger coming from Ramiel but he kept quiet. Iron Claws revelation about this demon blood might have seemed absurd a few months ago but not anymore. The events of the night before and Lyla’s behavior afterwards began to make some sense. Ramiel was right about two things, however, this should have been a much more private meeting and they picked a lowsy way to broach the subject. But what was done was done. There was only going forward.
“Do the spirits confirm this?” Chaska inquired. He was trying to keep the meeting on task. Ramiel would likely take the meeting where Chaska himself wanted to take it but it wasn’t going to be productive at the moment.
“It’s the business of everyone who cares what happens to you, Ramiel,” said Ironclaw.
“Lyla would not give up her position willingly,” Grey said. “And there is no female in the pack who could take her position through challenge. I advised the Ulfric he must take action when we had the opportunity and remove her from it.” In a softer tone, Grey added, “No one liked to see Lyla punished. But you would have been proud of her, Ramiel. It was a close thing. She might have instead punished the entire pack. But this only proves my point that we had to remove her as lupa now, not later. She is very strong, and may hide powers yet we know nothing about.”
Ironclaw sighed and addressed Rey’s question. “We don’t know what she’s up to in Boston, but given the sorts of people she has meeting her here it can’t be good. We’d hoped you would be able to tell us what she’s doing, Rey.”
“Funny,” Ramiel scoffed, “I thought you valued strength in a lupa.”
“Do the spirits confirm this?” Chaska inquired. He was trying to keep the meeting on task. Ramiel would likely take the meeting where Chaska himself wanted to take it but it wasn’t going to be productive at the moment.
Grey said, “It was the spirits that gave us this information about the demons. It was to certain information spirits I turned and bargained with to learn of his and her fathers.”
Ironclaw said, “Ramiel, we value strength. Lyla is strong. We value her. That’s why I did what I did. I don’t want to see her consumed by her ambition. I don’t want her to be destroyed by the thing inside her. I know you’re angry that I set all the females on her. But there was no other way for me to get her to step down. I had to use the pretext of disobedience to punish her. It is painful, but it is better than losing her. Do you not agree?”
“No I don’t.” Ramiel managed a neutral tone as he spoke.”We value you by stripping you of all you have earned, by humiliating you and making you the lowest of our pack. That is what you have shown her. What do you think she is going to do now? Sit still and contemplate her inner demon for five months? Did you even think it through? Why didn’t you come to me first? She may be pack but this is a family matter, hers and mine and we deserve the respect of not having it aired out to everyone. Angry does not begin to describe what I am feeling right now.”
Chaska could see where this was going but something was happening. The revelation was growing in Chaska’s mind. Ramiel seemed to know all about whatever it was that was going on but didn’t seem to care about it but Iron Claw and Grey were concerned enough to risk a fight that they might have even lost. Lyla was his friend and pack mate but he wasn’t the only one in the room that cared for her. They all did and none more so than Ramiel but his judgment now appeared clouded. He looked at Ramiel wondering what he was thinking beyond his anger. Was his anger only about what happened to Lyla or was it because something became known that he didn’t want to be known?
“Ramiel,” Chaska put his hand on his shoulder, “before that anger boils over what are they talking about? What demon blood? I understand your feeling of being violated here but you seem to know all about this.”
Ramiel looked up at the big man and sighed.”I have known for some time, in fact we both have. We first noticed the change when we hunted down that pack of pure that was nearby and took the kids back. Lyla and I are demons, at least in part, inherited from our father, or father’s. I am not sure if we share a father or not. I am a true Cambion, an Incubus. Lyla is a Succubus.
“We have been learning to control this side of us for some time now, and have been doing just fine. it came to the forefront when I left to find my daughter, it was then we learned of the hunger, and how we need to feed. That is what Lyla’s trips to Boston started out as, food runs.”
He turned to face the entire room. “Am I angry? Beyond and I am trying to keep a lid on it, because it is more than sex that I feed on, more than lust that I crave. You want to know if I care about what is happening to Lyla? You should know me better than to find it necessary to ask. You went about this the wrong way.”
Chaska took his hand off of Ramiel’s shoulder. He waited to see how Iron Claw and Grey would respond. What Ramiel had just said troubled him.. greatly. What in the hell was going on? Ann-Marie was death herself and she had brought a death spirit into their world and now Lyla and Ramiel were demons. How could this be? And what in the hell do you do about something like that?
Ironclaw assured him, “Ramiel, you too are affected by the demon in your veins. You may need help handling both her and yourself. She needs your help.” Ironclaw addressed Rey and Chaska more than Ramiel directly. “Lust does seem to be the vice under which the demons operate the most. But it’s not just sex. For Lyla I think it’s clear that even not knowing exactly what she’s been doing with all these strange people she meets or where her money comes from, that her lust is not merely sexual but now also a lust for power.
“I believe you when you say that you and she have worked to control your lust. You probably have. But what about lust for power?” Ironclaw looked closely at Ramiel. “What about your lust for blood?”
He backed off. “I’m not saying that it’s gotten the better of you any more than anyone else. At least, not yet and not that I know of. But Lyla?” He shook his head. “I think we need to know, Rey. Chaska. Tell us — what is Lyla really doing? Where is her money coming from? And why is she doing it? We need to know not because we want to get in her business. It’s because we’re afraid we will lose her.”
Ramiel’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know you haven’t lost her by choosing this path?”
“Because Lyla doesn’t give up that easily,” he said simply. Ironclaw went on. “We bought time for her, and for the people that care about her to help her get some kind of control over herself and her life.”
“Up until three days ago, I was working for Lyla. Not just at the Blood & Brew, but in her other business.” Rey set down her cup. “She’d forbidden me from telling anyone about what I was doing, especially you and Grey,” she said to Ironclaw. “Since she’s no longer Lupa, I don’t have to follow that order anymore.
“Lyla has built a little criminal empire centered in Boston. It’s large enough that she has built up a measure of respect and brings in a lot of money, but not large enough that the big boys view her as a threat. She deals in drugs, weapons, and probably many other things. She’s also nominally the owner of a brothel. I’m sure there are many more things she has her fingers into, and I seriously doubt these criminal ventures are her only source of income.
“Why is she doing it? Because she wants to be in charge of herself and her own destiny, and I believe she enjoys the power it gives her. It’s something that she’s built herself, starting with the contacts she had from when Ramiel, she and myself first met. It’s something that puts her in control of everyone below her, and nobody can tell her what to do.
“She’s also being blackmailed by the FBI. An agent has enough evidence on what she’s been doing that he could put her in prison rather easily, but he will look the other way and do what he can to steer investigations away from her interests if she helps him break white slavery rings.”
‘You left out he part where she is actually helping those girls in the brothel. It is their choice to live that way, at least with Lyla running the place the girls are safe and taken care of.” Ramiel turned to face Rey,”You may be Lupa now little one, but I feel sorry for what you have coming.”
Ramiel was beginning to pace, a sign that his temper was starting to get the best of him. “So what she has built a life for herself! Is it so big a problem that she has it, or are just pissed that it is a life outside the pack?What do you guys care if she is using mortals, your Uratha and they are of little concern to you. She has given jobs to the pack, shelter, finances. So what if she is playing on the vice on man. It’s not like they wouldn’t be doing it anyway. “
Stopping momentarily he looked to Ironclaw and Grey.”She left you out because she knew this is how you would react, you would take it away. Her biggest fear when she turned was loosing who she was. I had to watch her lament what she was becoming for so long. That changed when she started her side business, she had purpose again and desire. My Lyla was that way before we ever learned of demon blood. “
Ramiel took a deep breath. “I am going to say this before I loose my temper completely. I understand your concern, it is nothing new to me. I have been looking into things since I first figured out our heritage. I have been watching her since she first changed Ironclaw, I have been doing my best to make sure she wasn’t lost to the beast, and I don’t mean demon blood.”
Again he breathed in deeply. Ironclaw could see that Ramiel was trying to calm himself. “You’ve messed this up. You should have come to me first and talked about this. All you have done is push her further into this life. Instead of learning what we can and finding some other way to work with her to help her you have punished her. You know her better than that when has she ever reacted well to punishment? Do you recall what happened when she first joined the pack?” His gaze was steady on the big man.
“You punished her. She tried to seduce you, it was all she knew , all she had ever known. Instead of showing her why it was wrong you punished her. Then what did she do? She challenged Rose and took Lupa where she wouldn’t be punished. What do you think she will do now? Who is she going to blame on this one?”
Ramiel spun with lightning speed and hit the wall. “Damn-it why couldn’t you have just trusted me enough to talk to me!”
“Because we didn’t have the full picture,” Grey said. “We needed to know what Rey told us now, and we need to know what Chaska knows.” He paused and looked at his mate. “Thank you Rey for telling us. I know it is not easy to betray a friend’s trust.”
Grey looked around the room. “We are all friends and we can do this together. There is no other choice, Ramiel. We must work together, or your Lyla will be no more. She will be gone, leaving only a monster, combination of Beast and Demon in her skin.
“After speaking at length with the spirits, I believed that the only thing we could do was dominate her. It is a role she knows, yet… she may be too strong for us. But perhaps you could…”
Ironclaw cut off his old friend. “I still am not sure we should go there,” he said. “Perhaps there is some way for her to master her lust for power. Likewise, perhaps there is someway for Ramiel to control his bloodlust, his rage.”
Grey shook his head. “I just don’t see it. It is not the way of the Uratha. It is also not Lyla’s way. If she wished to control her ambitions and focus on what is good for the pack and for herself, she would have done so already. She should be dominated by a stronger power. It should be a werewolf, but we don’t have someone in the pack that strong. Her mother cannot be reached. We have no choice but to do this piecemeal. Rey must take control of Lyla’s criminal empire. Ramiel must conquer her physically and emotionally. And Chaska must watch her as closely as you would watch a poisonous snake. If we are successful, then yes perhaps she will be a little different person. But she will still be with us. She’ll still be with you, Ramiel.
“You can wish there was another way all you want, my Ulfric,” advised Grey. “And I do, too. But unless you find that way very soon, what the spirits have shown us will come to pass. And then the end will come for all of us, just as we saw in the smoke and fire. We must put our plan in motion now.” He stared hard at Ramiel. “And you must control your anger and help us.”
“You’ve neglected to share what the smoke showed you so I have no idea what you are talking about Grey. What I do know is that you are wrong. Rey has no business at all in Lyla’s outside life.” Ramiel looked at Rey. “She trusted you enough to let you help and this is how you repay that trust, by pissing on it.”
He shook the thought lose from his mind. Ramiel looked at Chaska and Ironclaw. “You know this is the wrong path to take. Help me find a different way. I’ll talk to her, work with her, keep her safe. You know that I will do what I feel is best for her I always have. I stayed here and gave her and her new family a home, I changed all that I was for her.”
Ramiel looked into Ironclaw’s eyes. “Please, you’re the Ulfric here. A family doesn’t betray someone like this, help me find a different way.”
“First, I think you can start by not insulting the very people you’re asking for help,” Rey said. “Did you think I liked what happened to Lyla? Do you think I like what I’ve had to do?
“She didn’t let me help her. She came to me and asked for my help. I wouldn’t have gotten involved in it at all if she hadn’t told me about the women she’s trying to rescue. And now? I’m her frigging partner.
“The only reason I agreed is because Lyla needs help. Not to maintain her little criminal empire, because I really couldn’t care less about the money, and I hate the fact she’s doing it. But she’s a wild child with way too much power and is on the verge of losing control.
“Did Lyla tell you she intends to punish Ironclaw for what happened? And I don’t think she’d stop with just a dominance challenge.” She looked at her Ulfric. “She’s pissed that she can’t manipulate you like she used to. I know that regardless of what I do between now and June, she’ll probably challenge me and beat me to a pulp, but I’m afraid she’s going to skip me and go straight after you.”
The Lupa turned and looked at everyone again. “But I don’t think stripping her of everything is the answer. The harder we push, the harder she’ll push back and the more violent she’s going to get and the worse it’ll be for everyone, except Ramiel.”
Ramiel looked at Rey.”It was your choice in the end little one. Your choice to say yes, your choice to pick up the gun and pull the trigger. No one can force you to do anything, and frankly we don’t like half the choices we make. So you get no pity from me, you’ve made your choice in this.”
He began pacing again.”Lyla didn’t say anything, she doesn’t have to. Honestly you are not a threat to her. The only reason you are Lupa now is because she took it easy on you, and there were three other Uratha fighting her.”
“And if you think that Lyla was manipulating Ironclaw, then you underestimate your Ulfric. She doesn’t get pissed if she can not use her feminine ways to get what she wants, she changes tactics. Lyla didn’t stay Lupa because she gets off ordering people around. She did for the same reason she has kept her brothels, she protects those she can.”
Ironclaw agreed. “That may be true. But do you have another suggestion?” He looked at both Rey and Ramiel. “I think we all would like to hear it if you do.”
“In the vision,” Grey said, “that was brought to us by the fire spirits, first Lyla and then you succumbed to this demonic power in your veins. We saw first her giving into her baser instincts. It took longer for you, but eventually the pain of her loss and the rage it made you feel caused you to fall as well. The beings you became were terrible, leaving a trail of blood and death in your wake. All who try to stop you will die. Even those you love. It seemed you were both driven in one direction, but the vision did not tell me where it was you were going. It is almost as if you and she were made for a purpose and that certain things will cause you to realize your purpose earlier than you should. This purpose will rule you both in the end. The only thing we may have control over is influencing when it happens.
“Visions granted by spirits are not always fated to come true. But they often do. I know they have not revealed all they know, even though it cost the pack dearly to bargain even for this much knowledge. All the Ulfric and I want to do is stave off what is shown in the vision, to give us time to figure out what we can do to stop it from happening. We now have five months.”
“I will do it, my friend,” said Ironclaw abruptly to Ramiel. “I will help you find another way. I want Chaska to help you in tis. I love Lyla as a pack-sister and I want her to remain as she is. But I fear that if there is another way, the pack cannot learn what it is. Not here. Find it for her — for all of us and we will help you. Rey, I need you to continue to entrench yourself as Lupa. I need everything to go as planned. But as soon as Ramiel and Chaska find a better way, we will abandon our plan. If a way is found to help her without taking away everything she is and has built, then we stop what we are doing and we prepare to make sure it is all returned to her in June.
“Are we agreed?”
Rey nodded silently.
Ramiel sighed. “Thank you. I will do what I can to buy us some more time and find another solution.” Ramiel took out his cell phone and hit the speed dial. “Yeah it’s me, we need to talk, meet me as soon as you can.” He returned the phone to his pocket.
“Are we done here?” he asked.
Chaska had remained quiet throughout choosing not to speak unless he needed to. His mind was awhirl and in a strange way he could see the problem from all sides. But the surprise was Rey. Her ambition seemed to have no limit and it was funny to him that they were worried about Lyla’s. Even if she was doing all of this for the good of Lyla, which he doubted, he could never trust her and he was sure that Lyla wouldn’t either. She seemed to speak out of both sides of her mouth with a forked tongue, ‘who was the one with demon blood, again?’ he thought. But in the end that was of no consequence to the matter at hand. Ramiel seemed to have gotten through to Iron Claw and they were at least reading the same book if not on the same page. That was a good start to figuring this all out.
Chaska sighed, “I’m in agreement.”