The frigid air surged through Kallista making her shiver even more as she stepped out of Israel’s van. Hesitantly she snuck a glance at her comrades but no one else seemed bothered about the growing chill in the air, each lost in his or her own thoughts. Even though it was close to December, the snows had not arrived yet. Still, the promise of snow lingered, posed to come at any moment. Kallista shivered again and pulled her once proud coat, now in tatters, closer to her. Taking a brief glance at Israel’s face she was not sure what was colder, the weather or his silent anger towards her. Sighing inwardly she knew she would soon hear all to well his anger at her disobeying his orders.
Grim faced at the disturbing events that had taken place at the village and the mysterious events similarly happening at various other places everyone trudged into the gleaming brightly lit foyer. Lucky Jack met them there and in silence helped everyone out of their jackets. When she got to Kallista however it was as if she was not there. Lucky swept by her without a word and began hanging up the coats that she had gathered.
In fact, no one talked to Kallista as they made their way to the first cozy room in sight that had a blazing fire glowing cheerfully in its hearth. All were quiet as they plunked down their weary bodies anywhere that was soft, not wanting to move ever again. That changed the moment the sweetest sound that anyone had heard in a while drifted down into their ears from above.
“Israel? Are you back yet?” Little Quinnera Elviana’s voice sounded with a quizzical eager ring.
Instantly everyone’s eyes brightened at the sound of the Manor’s youngest resident.
“Aha!” Leo cried out as he pulled out a lollipop. ”I have just the thing!”
Skylara and Nicolette groaned when they realized that they had forgotten to bring Quinn’s favorite treat.
“We are screwed.” Skylara said grimly to her friend.
“Indeed.” Was Nicolette’s sour faced reply.
Leo laughed in delight. “SCORE FOR ME!” He shouted as he headed towards the stairs.
“Wait!” Sarthacus interrupted. “I have a lollipop for Quinn too. Her FAVORITE lollipop to be exact.”
He looked smugly at Leo who saw for the first time that he had a grape lollipop in his hands, not a strawberry one.
Leo leaned silently against the wall, eyeballing Sarthacus as he walked towards him, on his way to the stairs, with a smug expression on his face. Just as Sarth passed by, Leo made his move and snatched the lollipop out of Sarthacus' hand.
Triumphantly he dashed for the stairs, holding the prized lollipop high.
“Oh, Quinn!' He called. “Your Uncle Sarthacus is coming!”
He made it only to the first step before he was tackled by Leo.
“That's MINE to give!” Leo grunted as he made an attempt to grab the lollipop from Sarthacus' flailing hand. “HEY! Give it back!”
Israel bowed his head and shook it at the antics of his so called professional comrades. Time and time a gain he was amazed his large home survived the visits of his over zealous colleagues.
Quinn stood at the top of the steps looking down with glee. Giggling she clapped her hands. It was always more fun in the big house when everyone was home.
A strong smell of the sea and of fish then Kallista was there brushing airily by them.
“Amateurs.” She muttered superiority. “The both of you have it wrong. What my Quinn likes best is not just any ordinary lollipop. But one that is from Hestia's Sweet Shop.”
Kallista made her way up the stairs to the wide eyed girl who looked on with anticipation, confident she would be enjoying plenty of Quinn hugs soon. Leo and Sarth made a desperate grab for Kallista's lollipop but she neatly sidestepped them and continued up the stairs.
Then a sudden burst of wind, a swirl of purple robes and Octaboona Ambrosius entered in the foyer. Behind him Pyro the young musician with flaming hair came in looking bored.
Striding confidently forward Octaboona took to the steps two at a time, spry for an old man. Smirking he passed the small rag tag group vying for Quinn's affection. In his hand he held a bouquet of Hestia's finest strawberry lollipops with a few purple roses tucked in. Kallista felt her jaw drop in disbelief and watched as her chances with Quinn were over. Quinn squealed and leaped into the old man's arms.
“Oh, Octaboona! You CAME!” She cried out joyfully in her little sweet voice.
“Only for you, Quinn.” He said as he hugged her.
Kallista eyed them both in a mild state of confusion.
“Wait. You KNOW him?” She asked Quinn in astonishment.
“Of course I know him, silly Kallie!” Quinn laughed. “Why would I hug a stranger?”
“Well, he DID have your favorite candy in his hands.” Kallista muttered then eyed Israel. “You know him too then?”
“Nothing gets by you does it Kallista?“ Israel sighed and poured himself a drink. “I'm a high ranking sanctuary official. It's my job to know people such as this.”
Israel turned and gave a dry look over to Octaboona then turned his gaze back to Kallista.
“We can talk about this later. Right now I need to talk to you about your actions during the last few days.”
“Umm, I have an apportionment!” Kallista gulped as she begin backing away.
“Oh REALLY?” Israel raised an eyebrow at her. “For what, Kallista?”
“Umm...tobuymoresocks!” Kallista couldn't think of anything else to say as she turned to flee from Israel's presence.
“Socks? REALLY?” Israel's exasperated voice followed her up the stairs. “Don't think I'm done with you Kallista!”
“It's best to face your problems now rather then run away.” Octaboona spoke quietly to her as she passed him on the stairs.
Kallista hesitated then stopped knowing he was right but not wanting to deal with it. Resting a hand on the bannister she fought with herself and to do what was right.
“OK. I'll talk with you Israel. But you should know I didn't run off just on a whim.” Kallista looked down at her friend sadly. “I met my brother and all I could think about was him and my family. I'm going to take a shower now. When I come back down I will talk.”
Israel walked wearily back into the living room where his friends all sat watching him uneasily.
“Brother or not you never should have ran off without checking.“ He murmured under his breath, dark thoughts directed towards this brother.
“Kallista has family living?” Nicolette broke the silence as she sat up in her chair, confused. “I thought they were all dead.”
“Me too.” Skylara nodded and looked to Israel.
Octaboona walked back into the room with Quinn on his back and Pyro followed looking around nervously, not liking being in an unfamiliar place.
“So we all thought when we first found Kallista a few years ago.” Israel said grimly as he moved to stand before the fireplace. “It troubles me that after all this time a family member steps forward only now.”
He stared at the flames for a few moments before speaking again. “So much is happening at once. Villages being destroyed, people disappearing, sightings of magical beings from another realm, the threats on Kallista's life, the Gathering of Nations for the International Magical Summit, and now her brother appearing. I've already checked into it once Florence called to alert me what was happening. It was just before our battle with the hounds of hell. He does check out.”
“Does not sound like a coincidence does it. “ Octaboona remarked mildly as he busied himself retying Quinn's purple ribbons.
“Kallista has been giving me nightmares.” Quinn spoke up frowning, her little forehead wrinkled with worry.
“What is this Quinn?” Concerned, Skylara got up and knelt before Quinn taking one of her little hands in her own.”Have you had some vision's again?”
Quinn nodded and bravely tried to keep from crying. “For a while now. It's always the same thing.”
“Is Bryony around ?“ Octaboona asked softly over Quinn's head as he hugged the little girl. “Her dreams have been getting more intense. I think it would help if Bryony were nearby for a while.”
Israel shook his head grimly. “She is off on assignment.”
“I can take over her mission Israel, if needed. “ Nicolette said as she got up from the couch. Israel agreed. “Great! Let me call her and give her the message.”
Halfway through her call, Nicolette was interrupted by a rambunctious greeting from a wild red haired lady.
“Oh WHERE is my darling Israel?” She yodeled through the great hall.
Israel stood transfixed and pale-faced at the sight that came before him. Dressed in a winter wedding gown all poofy with millions of rhinestones twinkling, she wore a matching veil that did nothing to hide her wild mane of hair. In her hand she held a bouquet of flowers.
“THERE you are my darling boy!” Happily she strolled into the room.
Then she stopped abruptly as she spotted Quinn and Octa.
“SPLENDID! All of my family are here We can have our wedding TODAY in the chapel, Israel!”
Hestia Honeysuckle paused only long enough to hug Quinn and Octaboona then sailed over to her intended.
Except he was not there anymore. Quinn could not stifle a giggle as Hestia swung her head left and right searching for her “groom”, completely missing him as he was down on all fours and scrambling from the couch to the hallway that led to the game room.
In fact no one could keep a straight face as Hestia spotted his tail end just disappearing around the corner.
“Oh! THERE you are!” Hestia called out happily and waved her little hankie as she hurried to catch up to her beloved. “Oh, Love! You are going the wrong way! The Chapel is the OTHER way!”
Lucky Jack grinned as she leaned against the wall, watching as her boss dashed back down the hallway again with his “bride” hot on his heels.
“Traitor!” He snapped, panicked as he passed her. “Why did you not TELL me she was here?”
Lucky shrugged smiling, unconcerned. Then she grinned wickedly and whispered loudly, just enough so only he could hear as he dashed up the stairs. “Why did you FORGET my birthday?”
“It was your birthday?” He stopped long enough with a bewildered expression only to get a shoe thrown at him a moment later.
“WOMEN!” He glared back rubbing his face then continued his accent to the second level, Hestia just having spotted him again.
Bad dreams momentarily forgotten, Quinn clapped her hands happily. “YAY!”
She hopped down off of Octaboona, grabbed a lollipop then dashed upstairs to follow the commotion giggling the whole way.
Hidden in the doorway of her room, Kallista watched satisfied as the small parade of people followed Hestia who was diligently searching for her groom.
“DAMMIT!” Israels' voice sounded from a distance away and the sound of something breaking followed.
Casually Kallista walked towards the overly excited Hestia then whispered in her ear when she was close enough.
“Israel has a hidden compartment in his sitting room, in the bar area.” Kallista spoke slyly as she slipped passed. “You will find him hiding in there. Look for the little round button underneath the counter. It is the release botton for the door”
“Oh THANK you Kallista, dear.” Hestia gushed out. “And as promised, here is the gift certificate for my store.”
“Thank YOU, Hestia.” Kallista responded then added with a wink. “Don't forget about the Dignitary's Ball that is happening tomorrow night. Israel is required to be there and he does not have a date yet.”
Hestia's face lit up even more as she handed Kallista the certificate. Grinning smugly Kallista narrowed her eyes, dreams of showering Quinn with all sorts of candy including strawberry lollipops. She would show Octaboona how it was done!
Seeing as everyone was distracted she hurried down the stairs grabbing her coat on the way out. In her one hand was the certificate that she had earned. In her other hand was her echo stone. Armed with only these two items, she left the Mansion on a quest of her own.
Footsteps pounded unsteadily on the empty streets, the noise echoing eerily through the dark night. The feet, bare and bloody left a trail of where the hunted one had once been as wild blue green eyes marked with fear and madness searched desperately for an escape that was not there.
Trembling the young girl paused long enough from her flight to turn and look back down the the street. At first she saw nothing except the blankets of mist that drifted and obscured the surroundings. Even though she saw nothing, she knew they were there. They were coming. The oppressive presence of the evil bore down on her slender shoulders like a crushing weight. Clad only in a thin white shift, stained with blood she felt the chill of their presence rushing before them. Hopelessness filled the void that loomed before her as she wearily pushed the long sweaty damp strands of black hair from her face looking once more for a means of escape.
Silent houses lined the street and proved to be no source of help for the hunted girl. For as she went stumbling from one house to the other, pounding with bruised fists and crying out her plea for sanctuary, no one opened the doors of their home. No one wanted to invite the attention of the Wild Hunt on themselves. Wordlessly the inhabitants of the homes sat huddled together and hoped the sacrifice would leave them alone. In their thoughts they reasoned that the girl had brought it on herself. It was her fate to be taken by the dark faerie. Someone had to be taken. Why should it be them? They were the innocent ones. It was the girl who had brought this dread upon them all. Let HER be the sacrifice to rid them of this menace.
With a cry of despair when she saw that no one would help her, the girl continued to flee down the street towards the mansion that sat on the outskirts of town. It was her last hope.
Not a moment later the Wild Hunt appeared, their wicked cackling of delight only a mere distant echo of sound in the mortal ears who tossed and turned fitfully in their sleep, unaware of the unholy ancient power that raced by. But for those with magic in their blood, they heard every gleeful scream the unholy ones howled at the doomed girl. Terrible in their beauty and might, the cruel smiling faces of the dark faerie blurred past the homes of both mortal and magician alike. The few who braved a peek from a window to see the sight of the unholy as they rode by would never forget, hearts chilled forever at the memory.
The girl reached the gates of Elysium Manor but found them closed and barred against entry. Crying out in despair she shook the gates franticly. But the heavy gates were spelled shut and locked tight against her.
Inside the darkened mansion Israel sat stiff in his chair, stoney faced at the plight of the one at his gates.
Surrounding him were is friends and fellow comrades who's faces mirrored his own. No one moved even as they sensed the dark forces of the faerie descended upon the girl.
Her fate set, she turned to face the horde with a look of horror and doom , her back pressed hard against the gates, still hoping for that one chance to be saved. For a brief pause the dark faerie stood before her, drawing out every last bit of anguish from the girl and fed upon it. Then as one they fell upon her. Feeble arms raised uselessly as the girl sank unto the minions of the Wild Hunt. Her final screams rang out, tortured. Then that sound fades and the girl and the Wild Hunt disappeared. All was as it had been before. With the heavy dreaded oppression gone, Israel relaxed a bit.
“It is done.” He stated. “Now onto the next problem.”
All eyes turned to the sword that sat forlorn in the corner. Kallista's sword. Hatred built up in him fiercely. Never had he hated something as he did that sword. It was what had started the beginning of the end.
There was blackness then Israel woke up with a start. The remnants of the dream staying with him, weighing him down heavily. The sword. Kallista. He did not recognize the sword. A sound to his right gave him pause and he turned to see Quinn standing there in her nightgown with tears in her eyes. He knew then without a shadow of a doubt it was no dream he had seen, but the future.
“I had that nightmare again.” Quinn sobbed as she ran into his arms.
“I had that nightmare again.” Quinn sobbed as she ran into his arms.
He held onto her tightly knowing that somehow he had seen the same dark vision little Quinn had been haunted with for the last few nights.
“Damn Kallista.” He muttered. “What have you done?”