“Twilight. Twilight!” Someone was calling my name.
Someone was shaking me awake. I opened my eyes and bolted up. Somehow, I had ended up on the floor beside the altar. The Demon King was bent over me with Erac’Laun and Kell standing next to him. “What is going on?”
He knelt down next to me and pressed his hand to my neck, “You are bleeding. I thought I had taken the knife away before it touched your skin.”
I put my hand to my neck and felt the warm liquid seep onto my fingertips. I pressed my fingers to the cut, determined to make the bleeding stop. “Kell, can you heal it?”
She came over to me, “Demons are not supposed to be healers.”
“You were able to with the human knights.”
She put her hand onto my neck, “I will try, I guess.” I felt heat go from her hand into my skin. “That should do it.” She removed her hand, but the heat lingered. She looked at her hand then at me. She shook her head, “Somehow your healing magick transferred into me when we healed the soldiers.”
The King helped me up and inspected my body. He saw the cut on my hand and Kell healed it as well. “Now, what happened, Twilight?”
I had no idea, so I told them about the dream I had, from the first voice to the feathers, the shadows and to the Lord of Oblivion. They all listened carefully to every word I said. “And that is what happened. I did not know I was sleep walking nor did I know I was picking up a knife and getting my throat with it.”
The King sighed, “Well, at least we were able to prevent a bleed out. But if what you say is true, then I know who was trying to lure you to use an altar.”
We all looked to him, “Who?” I asked the question on all of our minds.
“There is only one Demon who uses shadows in his magick.”
Kell shook her head, “It cannot be him. We have not heard from him since he was exiled to the Hills.”
“It is the only lead we have. We have to find Dante.”
I heard Erac’Laun growl loudly, before she howled. I went over to her, “What is wrong?”
She answered me, “The kits are coming.”
I turned to Kell and the King, “The kits are on their way. Out!” Kell and the King looked to one another and left the room. I turned back to Erac’Laun, “What do you need me to do?”
“Grab towels and just be ready for them. When they start coming out, you will know what to do.” She laid on her side, her back to her pillow. I watched as the King came in with a basket for the kits, before bolting out the door.
I ran into the next room and found towels. I grabbed as many as I could and ran back to Erac’Laun. I saw a kit’s head start to come out of her birthing canal. I gently pushed on her uterus, helping to guide the kit along. Within the next few clicks, the kit popped out of her birthing canal. I cleaned it off, while she took a break. The kit was male and I had to be sure I was not tagged by its mantis claws or serpent tail. I set him into the basket, being as gentle as possible.
I turned back to Erac’Laun to help with the next kit, doing the same as I did before. As the hour progressed, I helped her deliver six kits, four males and two females, before she told me, “There is one more, a small one.”
I nodded to her, “What do I need to do?”
She grimaced, “Very carefully, reach your hand in and while pressing like you did before, pull it out.”
My eyes widened, “Will it hurt you?”
“Yes, but it is the only way to get it out.”
I closed my eyes, “I will be gentle.” I opened my eyes, positioned my hand and slipped it inside of Erac’Laun.
She howled loudly, as I gently coaxed the runt out of her uterus. I was able to locate the kit, and with my hand that was outside her body, I gently pushed it towards my hand on the inside. I was able to get a hold of the kit’s body and I very carefully and slowly started to pull it out.
She howled for fifteen clicks, as I helped pull the kit out. When my wrist reached the birthing canal, I told her, “Brace yourself. I am about to pull it out.” With absolute care, I pulled the kit’s head out of the canal, followed by my hand, still holding its slippery body. After my hand was outside of her Erac’Laun collapsed from the long birthing process.
As I cleaned the kit, I realized it was not breathing. I felt my heart fall, the poor runt did not survive. I held onto the little runt, a female with different coloration from the rest of the family. I held it close to my body, crying onto its partially dried fur. The words formed in my mind, “Please, let her live… Evil reh tel esaelp.” I felt her rustle against my breast, as she took her first breath of air. I looked at her, as she started to move next to me. I smiled and set her down into the basket with the others.
I went over to Erac’Laun, “Are you alright?”
She said breathlessly, “Just tired. Did the little one survive?”
She smiled to her, “Yes, she was just a little late on the breathing thing.”
Erac’Laun smiled her Skadi smile, “I heard what you did. You did not want her to die… You brought her from the brink of death back to life. Thank you…”
I shook my head, “I did nothing of the sort. Her own will to live saved her. But she looks different from the others.”
Erac’Laun did not answer me, but I watched her fall asleep in exhaustion. I went to the basket and found the kits all mewling lightly. I picked them up, went to the door and opened it. I found the King and Kell standing there, both looking very stressed. “She gave birth to seven kits, four males and three females.”
The King looked into the basket at the kits. “The runt is imprinted with magick. What happened?”
I looked at the littlest girl and shrugged, “When I pulled her out, she was not breathing and so I held her. Within a few ticks, she was breathing and doing just as the others are.”
Kell and the King looked to one another, knowing what had happened. Kell took the basket from me, walking into the room. “Looks like we have a full pack of Skae, but I do not think the runt could survive in the wild.” She pulled it out of the basket and held it gently.
The King looked to me and pulled me to the side. “We have to get rid of her.”
“What?!” I yelled in shock.
“If she cannot survive in the wild, then it is best if she is killed now than die later in life.” He bent down to my level, “We have to kill her.”
I burst passed him and grabbed the kit from Kell. They looked like they had no idea what happened, but knew I had her. “If she cannot survive in the wild, then I will take care of her.”
The King shook his head, “You cannot keep her. She is most likely sickly and would not survive passed her mewling stages.”
“Then let her at least try. If she looks like she is suffering dies, then I will make it painless myself. Please, I am begging you, just let me try.”
He looked to Kell, who shrugged, to Erac’Laun who was out like a light from the birthing. “Fine, but if you make her suffer, I will make sure you know how much pain she is in.”
I did not even have to think about my answer to him. “Deal.” I held her close to my chest and a small mew came from her lips. “When will they be able to talk?” I asked as I set her back in with her brothers and sisters. They all fell asleep and Kell put the basket next to Erac’Laun.
“Within the next few days.” She answered me, before bowing to the King, “Sir, I take my leave.”
“Thank you, Lady Kell.” He spoke to her before she glided out the door.
I went over to the basket and looked at the seven sleeping kits. I stroked their fur gently, getting a little mew from the runt, when I touched her.
The King sat next to me, “Happy now? Even Lady Kell has seen you as insubordinate.”
I did not look up at him, “It is not in my nature to kill one that did not even have the chance to try. Think of the runt like Erac’Laun; if her family had killed her off, then we would not have another pack of Skae running around. Even then, who am I to decide who should die and who should live? It is not my place.”
He thought about my words, before speaking, “Joy, I am stuck with a bleeding heart.”
I sat up, leaving the kits to rest, “It is okay. I still do not know your name.”
He smiled, “How rude of me. I guess all this excitement from the last few days has made my manners disappear. It is better than being a Lady who has none.”
“Hey! That was a cheap shot. I do too have manners, they just differ from what royalty would prefer.”
“Well, I cannot not give you my real name. If I do, we will have to be married, because Demon names hold power.”
“Then why did Kell tell me hers?”
He smiled at me, “Lady Kell is just a shortened version of her name. But I guess I can give you that. You may call me King Lumin.” He sat down at the head of the bed.
“Lumin? What the hell kind of a name is that?” I snickered at him, sitting at the edge of the bed.
“It is better than ‘Twilight Dawn,’ which I might add is not a good name.”
I stuck my tongue out at him, before yawning, “Fine then, Lumin.” I laid my head on his shoulder, tired from lack of recuperative sleep and from the birthing.
“King Lumin.” He corrected me, as I drifted into the darkness.
Someone gently nudged me, waking me up. I saw that I had fallen off Lumin’s shoulder and into his lap. I looked up at him and he pressed his finger to his lips. He pointed over me and I turned to follow his finger to the basket of kits. I looked down to watch Erac’Laun lick her kits. Soft mews came from the basket, as each kit was cleaned from the night before. I thought I had done a good enough job, but then again, it was a bonding time.
We waited until Erac’Laun was finished before moving. Being very careful, she pulled the kits out of the basket with her teeth. Once all of the kits were out of the basket, they suckled on her tits, getting the warm milk. She looked at us and I saw her give her cat smile. “It is not nice to watch a mother breast feed her children.”
I blushed and looked down at the floor, “Sorry, we will take our leave then.”
She answered, “Do not worry about it; I need to get up anyways. I am starved and I cannot leave them here alone. Will you stay with them?”
“Sure, but are not the males poisonous?”
“Not yet, they do not develop their poison until maturity. The worst you will get from them are small cuts and maybe a bite or two.”
“I will stay,” I looked up to Lumin, “If it is okay with you, of course.”
He grinned, “‘Tis fine with me, and anyways, Erac’Laun and I need to talk about what we are going to do with her kits.”
I tilted my head to the side, “What do you mean?”
“Well, we need to figure out a time schedule of when we can start feeding them normal food, when they mature into their poison and when we can let them free into the wild.”
“But if they are released into the wild, will they not live too well? I mean if they are given food for most of their life, they would not know how to hunt for it.”
“We never said we would actually hand feed them. We would let Erac’Laun, with her kits, leave the castle and she would teach them to hunt.”
“Will the little one be okay?”
“We shall see.” He tousled my hair and looked to Erac’Laun, as she stood up, the kits full of milk. “Will you be okay to walk?”
She stood up and stretched, “Would not you like to know, old man.”
I giggled, before sitting up. I asked her, “Would there be a way for him to learn your language?”
“He knows what I say, because I tell him mentally as you and I speak.”
“Ah, makes sense then.” I hopped off the bed and sat next to the mewling kits. I watched them, as Erac’Laun and Lumin walked out the door. After they shut it behind them, I got down eye level to them and listened to the kittens.
Mommy! I heard the littlest kit shout to my mind.
“No, no, no… I am not your mommy. Erac’Laun is your mother.”
She crawled over to me and nuzzled against my nose. I giggled as her soft downy fur went into my nose. I knew it. She went to my neck and curled up into a little ball of fur under my chin. I watched as the other kits followed her and soon, all the kits were fast asleep next to me.
I heard the little one purr under my chin and I could not help but smile. I knew that there was no way I was going to let this one die.
I laid there for what seemed like forever, carefully petting each of their heads. Erac’Laun and Lumin walked back into the room, saw me stuck because of the kits and both laughed at me.
“Comfortable?” Lumin asked.
“Very, actually.” I shot back without thinking.
Erac’Laun went over to me and licked her kits. They woke up and mewed at her, before all but the runt went to lay with her. The runt did not move from her spot but she mewed softly, telling us not to bug her. I set her on the ground next to me, waking her up a little more.
I sat up and stretched my arms above my head. I stood up and went to the bed, sore from laying on the floor. We all watched as she crawled over to my foot and laid back down.
“It is like a little chickadee.” Erac’Laun commented.
“She seems to have it in her head that I am her mother.”
Erac’Laun laughed, “Maybe it is because you saved her life.”
“But she was not awake when I pulled her out.”
“Scent is a powerful thing when it comes to a Ska and Skadi.” Lumin explained. “I guess that means, if it is fine with Erac’Laun, she is yours.”
Erac’Laun thought about it for a tick, “We will see about that later, depending on what the future holds.”
I nodded and picked the little one up gently. She mewed in my hand and crawled up my arm onto my shoulder. She curled up into a ball underneath my jaw line. “So when will their eyes open?”
“Within the next few days. And they will be matured within the next few weeks.”
“They are faster than the felines in Ancial.” I pulled the little one off my shoulder, though she dug her claws in to stay. I spoke quietly to her, “Do not worry, little one. I am going to put you with your brothers and sisters. I will not leave you, I promise.”
She mewed softly, her voice in my head again, Oki, mommy. She stopped fighting me and I set her with her real family.
“So… What is for breakfast?”
“You slept all day, Twilight.”
I thought to myself and saw a window, “No.” I walked over to it and opened it, the sun glaring in my eyes, “You liar.”
He smiled, “Well, it is passed breakfast. Can you wait a little bit because dinner is soon?”
I sighed, “I guess. But what do we have to do today?”
He thought for a tick, “Well, I have to see the demonic council and I am sure they would want to see you.”
“Joy, oh joy.” I really did not wish to wear another dress. “Can I meet them in riding clothes?”
He shook his head, “No, you have to wear a dress and actually pretend to be a Lady.”
“I hate you.” I growled under my breath, but I knew it was hopeless to fight it. “Is there a way I can have help?”
“I already requested someone to be sent down here and they should be arriving-” There was a knock at the door. “Now, I guess.” He walked over to it and opened it.
Two bubbly lady Demons bounced into the room, followed by a third who held a dress. “So this is the new human girl.” One of the she-Demons said as she circled me.
“She is a bit on the fat side. I hope the dress fits her.” The third one said as she draped the dress over the bed railing.
“Thanks.” I groaned dismally. I looked to Lumin and mouthed, “Help me.”
He smiled and shook his head. He turned to the second one, who looked like she was in charge of the posse. “I will be waiting for her at noon down by the end of the staircase to the lower levels. She needs to look like a Lady and please be sure that she actually makes it to where I am, fully clothed. She has a habit of disappearing and somehow getting rid of clothing.”
The lady Demon nodded to him, “As you wish, your highness.”
I heard Erac’Laun growl loudly at the she-Demons. “What is wrong?”
“I do not trust them.” She answered me.
“Have you told Lumin?”
“No, because I have no proof nor anyway of explaining it to him. Call it woman’s intuition.”
The she-Demon turned to Lumin, “Please remove her.”
Lumin had no choice, these were the only ladies qualified for what he needed to do with me. “Let us go, Erac’Laun.”
I watched Erac’Laun pick up the kits and placed them into the basket. One of the ladies smiled and reached for the basket, “Do not worry, we will not let anything happen to your precious kits.”
Erac’Laun roared at the woman but held into the basket with her bottom teeth.
Lumin reached over to her, calmly scratching her. I heard him whisper into her ear, “We need to leave, milady. But we cannot take the kits into the chambers with us. You know that they need to stay here.”
I heard her give a sort of whimper, knowing she was trapped between protocol and motherhood. She carefully put the basket onto the ground and the she-Demon picked it up and set it on the bed. I made a mental note that protocol was important around here.
They left the room, leaving me with the she-Demons and the kits. As soon as the door shut, the she-Demons looked at me with sneering faces, twisted with hatred. “So you are the bitch that came to take him away from me.” The leader of the group growled at me.
“I did nothing of the sort. The only reason I came here was to save my brother and get him home.” I growled back at her.
They surrounded me and I lost sight of one of them. The other one whispered to herself and a ball of light began to glow in her hands. She threw it at the door and it stayed there.
The one I lost sight of was closest to the bed, but it was the leader I was most worried about. I heard the rustling of the dress and turned to face the one by the bed throwing a rope around me. I felt it tighten around me as she pulled on it hard, pulling me to the ground. I tried to pull the rope off, but she was on top on me before I ever had a chance. She bound my wrists and ankles together before getting off me.
I yelled as loud as I could, “Lumin! Erac’Laun! Somebody!”
They just cackled at me, as the leader bent down to my level. “No one can hear you. Sybil put a silencing spell on the door. Anyways, it is not like anyone would come to help a worthless human like you.” She smiled, “Sybil, Lush, what should we do with our prisoner?”
The one who bound me, Lush, just grinned devilishly. “I do not know, Gleaning. Maybe we should let her watch us kill the kits.”
Sybil just shrugged, giving them the answer they needed. They went over to the basket of kits and Gleaning lifted up the littlest one first.
“I hate these creatures. They are so ugly and I do not see why the King keeps them.” Lush grumbled as she poked at the other ones.
Gleaning held the smallest one and I felt ice-cold hatred well up inside of me. She started to strangle the little one and the kit mewed loudly, her voice penetrating my soul, Mommy! Help m-
My body went cold, as I heard Gleaning snap her neck. The little one went limp in her hands. She dropped the kit onto the floor and reached for the next one, but she was not given the chance to hurt another.
Cold fire erupted around us, as I felt the rope melt off my skin. I stood up, knowing my eyes held the fire I felt grow around me. The room went cold, allow me to see their breathing. “Put him down.” My voice sounded older and more mature to my ears.
They were frozen in fear as I took a step towards them. She dropped the kit into the basket, as it erupted in another fire. The basket vanished from the room to just outside the door, where I know someone would find it.
The she-Demons’ hatred towards me broke their fear. They came towards me, claws ready to strike at my skin. The world slowed down around us, becoming black and white, as I felt myself grow colder than their hearts. They lunged at me, all at once. I felt their claws dig into my skin and clothing. They ripped the clothes I wore to shreds. They continued to claw at me, tearing at my skin, but with every bite of their claws, I felt myself plunge deeper into the ice.
I looked at the tiny body on the ground and the world exploded in a red flash. I watched the she-Demons’ bodies twist and contort. I felt their pain and reveled in it, enjoying the taste of it in the air.
The door exploded open, as guards, the King, Erac’Laun and Demons dressed in black appeared in the doorway, all looking to the she-Demons. I turned to face them, as Lumin yelled, “What is the meaning of this?” Everyone turned to me for may answer,
I did not hear him, but instead read his lips and his mind. I spoke, my voice still sounding mature and older, “They killed an innocent life and so they are being judged for their place in the Depths.”
Everyone looked back to the she-Demons, as did I. I heard Lumin speak directly to my mind, Release them, or I will have you killed.
I looked back to him and saw the anger in his eyes, “Why should I let them go when they were going to kill the kits?”
I heard Erac’Laun roar loudly, “Let them go; they are my kits and I will deal with these bitches as I see fit.”
I nodded to her, accepting her deal. The world burst into color as the she-Demons fell to the ground, their bodies no longer contorting to fit their souls. The guards looked to the King who shook his head. The guards left, leaving me with the King, Erac’Laun and the Demons in black.
I dropped to my knees and looked to the little limp kit on the ground. The ice-cold air warmed up, quickly as the magick receded from the room. I scooped the dead kit up and ran to the door. “Please… Let me go…” My voice was back to normal. I looked up the King’s eyes and saw a mean look or what I saw as hatred emit from them. Erac’Laun allowed me to pass, before going into the room.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I ran through the castle, holding the limp body to my chest. I found the door into the garden and bolted out of it, slamming it behind me. I ran into the labyrinth, not caring about the sharp rocks that cut into my feet. I reached the fountain and sat on it.
I cried as I looked to the dead kit, my dead kit. I held her close to my chest, crying silently, as I had always been taught. I did not stop crying until I realized I had no tears left. I looked at the kit again, “I am so sorry… I could not protect you from them… I saved the others, but I could not save you…” I looked into the fountain and placed the kit into the cool water. “May you rest in peace and find the light…” I placed my left hand across my chest to my right shoulder, a sign of respect for the dead.
I heard footsteps behind me, and I did not even need to turn to see who it was. “I will not apologize for what I did.”
“Then you remember it all.” The King’s voice spoke softly behind me.
“Yes… I do not know how I did it, but yes, I remember using magick.”
“You do know you could have killed them, do you not?”
I looked into the water at the dead kit, “I wanted to kill them, to taste their pain on my lips, to feel their life end in my soul.”
“I was told I should get rid of you, for what you did.” His voice was angry, but I really did not care.
“Then do it…” I stood up and turned to face him, “Then be rid of me for saving innocence.”
“They were the daughters of three council members.” He did not meet my eyes, looking down.
I lifted his head up, forcing him to meet my eyes, “I do not care. They killed her, they were going to kill the rest of them and I would not allow it.”
He yelled at me, “What in the seven hells were you thinking?! They wanted me to get rid of you! Do you not know what that means?!”
“I do not really give a second thought to it! If you were told to get rid of me, fine then, do it!”
“It means I let you walk from the castle into the wilderness and maybe if you survive you could make it back to Ancial!”
“Then get rid of me! I do not feel sorry for those bitches, nor do I for their parents! Their parents should have taught them mercy towards innocent! I know what is like to lose a child and I did not want Erac’Laun to go through the pain of losing all of hers.”
His face softened, “You lost a child?”
I backed away from him, turned and picked up the kit from the water. I did not turn back to him, instead, I stroked the kit’s fur gently. “I told you I took care of the waifs of the town. One year there was a bad blizzard, three children did not make it. The waifs were my children, the only ones I truly loved and cared for, besides Hiku and Dyne.” I walked around the fountain, trying to get further away from him. “Leave me be. I came here to find peace.”
He sat down on the bench, fighting between what he thought was right and protocol. “Who was she?”
“Who was who?”
“The woman who we all saw you become when you were using the magick.”
I sighed, kind of knowing the answer, “I do not know her name, but this is not the first time that has happened. A knight tried to break me, and she came out and splattered him against the ally walls. She protects me when I cannot do it myself, but she is more than that. She is the manifestation of all the anger and hatred in me.”
“Sit by me.” He commanded.
I walked over to him, still holding the dead kit. I sat down and did not know what to do or say.
“Let me see her…” He was talking about the kit.
I handed her over to him and he looked at her closely. “Snapped, just as the kits said.”
“The kits can talk?” I was a bit shocked about that.
“Only to their mother, but she translated it to me as they spoke. They told us everything that had happened and the three were found guilty of killing a Skadi.”
“What is their punishment?” I wanted them in pain for what they did.
“It is up to the Skae, now. Erac’Laun believes you should be there for their judgment.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you remember how I said we did not give them food?”
“They are to be hunted by the kits.” It was not a question.
“Yes, Skadi have almost perfect memories, beginning from birth. They will remember the she-Demons’ scents and they will be killed.”
“Good.” I looked up to him, “When will my punishment be done?”
He looked at the kit, “It will not be done.”
I felt my jaw drop, “But you just said…”
“You did not kill them, therefore, you cannot be punished for it.”
“Will not the council members be mad?”
“Only the three who were parents to the she-Demons. The others side with me on this. Not only did you not kill them, you were doing it to protect the Skae kits which outweigh torture.”
“What is so important about the Skae?”
“They are our first defense, even though they do not think so. Skae will kill Demons if we are outside the walls. Though they are very intelligent, they are also heartless. Erac’Laun is an exception, as will be her kits, because they are raised within these walls. We are hoping that the kits will go into the Skae pride and help us make an alliance with them.”
“Ah, and if the she-Demons succeeded in killing the kits, we would not have that chance.” I understood what he meant. An alliance with the deadliest creature in the area would benefit both sides.
I looked to the kit in his hands, “I am just sorry I could not save them all…”
He wrapped his arm around me, “I am sorry too. I should have listened to my instinct and not taken Erac’Laun with me.” He set her in my lap and wrapped his other arm around me, holding me close, “Erac’Laun told me the reason the kit was attracted to you was because you gave her life. I am not sure if you could do it again, but I think I might know how to get her back again.”
“How? I will do anything!”
“I had a feeling you would say that.” He let me go, “There is a legend about a spring that can only be seen in the new moon’s light. Tonight is the new moon, if you can find the spring and dip her into it, she will live again.”
“Any idea where it is?”
“No one knows exactly where it is. The legend says that the first Demon King, Andhra, was seeking it to bring back his wife, who was poisoned. He found a woman with raven black hair and glowing white skin. She showed him where the spring was and he brought his wife to the spring. The spring was big enough to envelop her in its magick. It is said that the next day, she awoke from death and they reigned another fifty years together before she was claimed again by death.”
I thought to myself quietly, before answering, “Something is telling me I have to find this spring.” I looked at the kit in my lap, “She still has a destiny that needs to be fulfilled.”
“Then you set out at twilight.”
“You will not be coming?”
“I cannot. Only the one who wishes to find the spring and the one who needs to be brought back will be found by the Lady Light.”
“Then I guess I need to get ready…” I stood up and I felt him come up behind me.
He grabbed me around my waist, “Please be careful. I would hate to have to find a replacement for you. Anyone I would find would be much too dull for my tastes.”
I smiled, “Do not worry about me. I can take care of myself, as you saw.”
“Actually, I felt more than I saw. When we entered the room, we all felt the ice and we saw their faces twisted in pain, though they looked perfectly normal to us. That was the only reason I knew something was wrong was because I felt your magick, as did the rest of the castle.” He let me go and I turned to face him.
“At least you will know whenever I am in trouble.” I smiled as I held the kit in my hands. “I guess I need to get ready for tonight…”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you. You will not be needing supplies.”
“Joy. Anything else I need to know?”
“One more thing,” He smiled, “You will not be wearing clothes when you leave.”