Destroyer(Legend of the Ir'Indicti,Book 5)(26) by Connie Suttle
"Sure." Sali, Jeff and Larry took seats at the kitchen island while Ashe went to the fridge and pulled three bottles of cola out.
"This okay?" Ashe asked as he set the bottles down on the island.
"This is good," Larry nodded.
"School just isn't the same, Ashe," Jeff said, twisting the cap off his soda and drinking.
"Yeah. Not much is, nowadays," Ashe agreed, taking his seat beside Sali.
"Where do you think Mrs. Smith might be?" Sali asked.
"No idea," Ashe mumbled.
"You don't know?" Sali stared at Ashe in disbelief.
"Long story, Sal," Ashe replied, bitterness in his voice.
"Ashe?" Wynn and Dori walked in. "How's your mom?"
* * *
"Case in point," Kerry Slater, physician and shapeshifting lion, nodded his agreement. "The werewolves will dispense justice in this case, if they can track the Smith woman down. This should be shapeshifter justice. We should have our own trackers, and a team in place to make judgments. I've watched too many shifters go down in the past three centuries. Most of them victims of vampires or werewolves. They generally took those they could easily kill, since we're so varied in our animals."
"We only have a temporary truce with both vamps and wolves," Thurmon Novak pointed out. Thurmon was a polar bear shifter, and as such had been friends with Bear Wright for a long time. "I was hoping it might become permanent when the vamps approached us about having kids with some of theirs. Turns out the vamps had their own agenda, and when things didn't turn out exactly like they hoped, they shut down the program and we're back on tenuous ground."
Midmorning sunlight made Thurmon's pale blond hair appear even lighter, and glinted off the gold watch on his wrist. Thurmon owned an alternative energy company, and made important advancements in the solar and wind energy business.
"I'm with Thurmon on this," Bear's third visitor spoke up. "The vamps always seem to have an agenda. We need our own council, our own trackers, our own justice system. Keep this in mind, though—we still need the vamps and the wolves. Sure, we have a few shifters who might take a werewolf down. Maybe. We don't have anybody who can take a vamp down, unless it's daylight and they're sleeping. The rule has always been that they deal out their own justice. What we need is a joint council or judiciary, with two or three members from each race, to make sure justice is done across the board. This will ensure a balance of power, with each race having an equal say if one race is involved in crimes against another."
Bear nodded at Opal Tadewi. Opal was the oldest among the known Old Ones, at four hundred. Born to a Native American shapeshifter mother, Opal had endured the most difficult times as a velociraptor. Not many shapeshifters survived who became an extinct animal when they turned. Opal was one of those few.
"You're right as usual, Opal," Kerry agreed. "We do need that joint justice council. I like the idea of two or three members from each race presiding in cross-species judgments."
"That's the best suggestion I've heard all morning," Bear agreed. "Anybody want more coffee or a snack?"
* * *
"Mom's asleep again. Dr. Slater came in after she ate, gave her something to make her drowsy and said it was best if she slept most of the day. He went back to Principal Wright's house after that. I figure they're working on a shifter council," Ashe said.
Dori and Wynn had stayed with Ashe while Sali, Jeff and Larry went out again to patrol the community. "I think the carpet truck is here," Wynn half-rose from her barstool to peer out the kitchen window.
"Yeah, I heard," Ashe slipped off his stool and shuffled toward the front door.
* * *
"That looks like something we need to take care of," the werewolf nodded as he examined the bloodstains covering the carpet. "Got a call from the Grand Master early this morning. I take it this isn't shifter or wolf blood?"
"Nope," Ashe shook his head.
"Great. We'll have this outta here in no time, with new carpet laid before dinner."
"That sounds great," Ashe said. "Thanks for coming on short notice."
"Oh, that's no problem. The Grand Master says jump, we jump. Doesn't hurt that Mr. Winkler is paying us double, either."
"Do you need anything from me?" Ashe asked politely. "There are sodas and bottled water in the fridge, and we can get lunch for you if you want."
"Lunch would be welcome," the carpet tech motioned for his two helpers to come inside. "Around twelve or one, maybe?"
"I can arrange that," Ashe said.
* * *
"I'll bring lunch for them when Amos and I head that way," Flossie Thompson promised Winkler over the phone. "For three, you say?"
"Bring enough for the kid, too. Trajan and I can eat with Marcus and Denise; we're still trying to figure out Dawn's next moves."
"I can't believe she did that," Flossie muttered. "Amos almost had a fit when he found out."
"I almost had a fit when I found out," Winkler agreed. "Thanks for your help, Florence. You're making things easier for us."
"No problem, Mr. Winkler. Take care of Ashe. He's having a hard time."
* * *
"I don't know what happened," Ashe sighed. "I walked in behind Mr. Winkler and Trajan, thinking she wouldn't recognize me or would just ignore me. When she said my name, I felt dizzy. It's almost too much to understand."
"Beyond comprehension," Dori agreed with a nod. Ashe was wedged between Dori and Wynn on the back deck of his house. They'd left the carpet layers inside, ripping up bloodied carpet and padding.
Ashe propped wrists on his knees as he stared at the back fence surrounding the yard. "When Mom asked where Dad was, I knew something had happened," Ashe continued. "I just don't know what it was."
"At least your mom seems normal, now. You don't think it's because she almost died, do you? And there's still that whole thing about the light," Wynn huffed.
"Light?" Ashe jerked his head toward Wynn.
"Yeah. Ace told me. Said Nathan told Marcus, who told Mr. Winkler. Nathan said there was a bright light that came when he and the other vamps were taking out the Elemaiya who showed up. Ace says that Nathan swears he saw a shining woman."
"What?" Ashe goggled at Wynn. "That's just, that's, I don't know." Ashe tossed up a hand in exasperation. Memories flooded his mind, however. Memories of a shining woman, standing at a gate while Edward and the other half-Elemaiyan children escaped through it.
He still didn't have any idea where they'd gone, he only had Ren's assurances that they would be safe. He had the memory of a second woman, too, who'd stood on the opposite side of the gate. A beautiful woman, with black hair and piercing blue eyes. She had mindspeech. Had told Ashe she loved him. He still hadn't sorted that out. Was afraid to, if he were honest with himself. Her image infiltrated his dreams at times, when he imagined himself older than he was.
"I need to run home; I only told Mom I'd be gone an hour," Dori rose and dusted off her shorts.
"I'll go, too. Ace had to go to Marcus' with Mr. Winkler, but they may be done, now."
"Ace is a good guy," Ashe rose and helped Wynn stand.
"Yeah. I know," Wynn nodded shyly. "Call us if you need anything."
"I will." Ashe walked them down the deck's steps and saw them through the side gate in the fence before climbing onto the deck again.
"I suppose you'd like to know what happened last night." Griffin settled onto a chair and blinked at Ashe.
"Yeah. I do want to know what happened last night," Ashe sat on a deck chair opposite Griffin's.
"It's called Changing What Was," Griffin sighed. "Six Larentii can do it, but only on a small scale. As in individual cases. There's only one who can Change What Was on a larger scale. The fact that this is what happened worries me."
"Why? And you know about the Larentii?" Ashe didn't mean to sound as incredulous as he did, but he couldn't hold it back.
"I'm surprised you know about the Larentii," Griffin half-smiled. "Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised. If I didn't have us so tightly shielded at the moment, we could expect a visit the moment I say Pheligar's name."
"Pheligar?" Ashe asked.
"Pheligar is the Larentii Liaison for my race. He acts as a go-between for us and those who created us. He can be quite irascible at times. If he were here, I imagine he would remain standing so as to intimidate us with his eight-and-a-half feet of blue-skinned grumpiness, and ask me what I might think to accomplish by being here."
"Do all their names end in gar?" Ashe didn't want to bring up his friendship with Ren, who'd been decidedly ungrumpy.
"The male's names. The female Larentii names ended in lar. Too bad there aren't any female Larentii at the moment. Don't ask," Griffin held up a hand to keep Ashe's curiosity from erupting. "It's too long a tale. Perhaps someday, you'll know it."
"Back to Changing What Was," Ashe said, frowning at Griffin.
"Yes. Well, do you know the Legend of the Three?" Griffin asked.
"It goes like this—in the beginning, the One created the Three. Only the One was more powerful than the Three. They were named Wisdom, Strength and Love. Those Three are more commonly known as the Mighty Mind, the Mighty Hand and the Mighty Heart." Griffin's eyes became unfocused as he gazed into the distance. Ashe watched him carefully—he imagined he might hear something few had ever heard before.
"Eventually," Griffin continued, "others were made, with varying degrees of power, who served under the One and the Three. The worlds were made, both Light and Dark, and those worlds were populated with all manner of races and creatures." Griffin's fingers tapped his knees unconsciously as Ashe watched.
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