Preparing for War

Erik sighed and said, "It may take Antony a long time to make up his mind, but once he does, there is no changing it. You can't force a mule to work, and you can't force a male to abandon his lifemate. Do you believe that Michael would do so? And whether you say it or not, you and all these people will be welcomed until you make us an enemy. Because Antony is in the ground and I am his second, the whole of the Carpathian people are already preparing for this war. I act in his stead. Therefore, I can use a portion of his abilities as prince in times of great need. We only want to free everyone, you as well, from your uncle. So, sisar, hundreds of people will wait for your signal. We will start with the lower levels, and work our way to you, Anastasia, and River." He turned to leave. "You may not claim us, but we claim you. Red Mage or not, we won't give up on you so easily. Like River, we will call upon you only in emergencies so that you have your privacy."

“I warned you that whoever is involved in this war besides the people I have already said should be will die, you will learn how your stubbornness and ego will be the ruin of your people. Since you have chosen not to listen to me the blood of your people will be on your hands” she said in a cold tone “also I’m not River, River is merely a lost child, do not call upon me or my own, I will kill whoever does” she said sitting down behind her desk and a book floated to her from the bookshelf

"That statement shows you do not know the Carpathian people or your own lifemate," said Erik. "Tell me, does he look like the type of person that would let an innocent suffer because he is afraid to be around others?"

Before she could answer Erik left.

-------

"We will talk later," Nicanu said. "Your precognition is astounding. For now, let's get you to the healing caves. You will be safe there."

She went to stand up and her face made a expression of being uncomfortable “um can on stay here? I have class later anyways” she said

"With everything that is happening," Nicanu said, "classes will have been canceled. Your safety is priority. All the other students are heading to the caves. There is a garden there. You might like it. I'm sure Emily will be there." The growl in his voice said he didn't have a high opinion of the woman Megan called friend. "I heard that she and Ambrose are now bonded, though we almost lost a good man."

She smiled softly yet there was sadness there too “I’m happy for them, though I’m sure she will give him trouble “ she said in a soft joking tone “I’m not ready to see her...I would rather be alone until you return “ she said getting dressed

"Megan, hiding won't make things easier," he said. "I need you safe. If things get dangerous, knowing you are protected will help me keep my mind clear. Besides, you will only be asked to help in the most dire of situations, since you still have much to learn about your abilities. I'm sure you can stay in your own little chamber in the healing caves, if you must hide."

She flinched at that, she hated feeling useless but he was right " i want to help...if i can...no matter what it is, ill do labor if i have too i just....im not ready to be around everyone yet...i dont feel like im one of you yet, like im a impostor and i guess im not ready to be judge" she said in a honest tone

"That is not the Carpathians I know," he said as they finished dressing and started to leave. "The Carpathians I grew up with and the people I have protected all my life have already accepted you. You will find no judgment from them towards you. Me on the other hand, not that's different." He laughed. "Anastasia made sure they gave me a hard time when I came back. But it was a lesson, not a judgement. Still, you are their sister-kin, and I am a brother in battle. Gagno genere. You are already loved by every Carpathian, Megan. When you are needed, do what you can. That is all they will ask of you. If you do not know something, they will instruct you. And they hope you will do the same for others in return. Understand?"

She didnt answer or look at him but just nodded, her eyes told him she was off somewhere in thought

He stopped their walk and tipped her head to look up at him, saying, "Where do you go when you stay silent? I want to look, but I want you to tell me more than me just taking it from you. What is wrong?"

She smiled at him sadly "im ok just...tired and there is a lot to think about" she said in a soft tone "i dont really want to be seen or meet anyone right now, is that ok?"

"That's fine," he said. "We are almost there. Many of the women want to be alone as well, worried about their lifemates." He hugged her to him as he floated them up to the cave entrance. "Go in, get comfortable, and I'll return as soon as I can. If I cut myself off from you, that means I'm going in for the kill. I'll call on you to aid me if I need you. But my plans rarely fail. I will be fine."

She moved away from him "dont worry about me....and just come back safely" SHe said going to walk inside

He took hold of her hand and pulled her back to him, kissing her deeply. It was his promise to return, but also a way to get her out of her own head. When he pulled back to let her come up for air, he put his forehead to hers.

Then he said, "That's the plan, Megan. Get inside before I find a reason to skip work again."

Her face turned red and her arousal filled his nose and she bit her lip and looked away shyly

Nicanu went to kiss her again when a young male said, "Geez, teach! Get a room!"

A group of fledglings high fived each other as he turned with a growl. He was livid. Not only did these children intrude, but they had the gall to speak in such a manner. He hid Megan behind him, his eyes like daggers and his face like stone. The five boys seemed to shrink under his gaze as a cold blast of wind hit the mountainside. Everything about Nicanu screamed "dangerous" in that moment.

She touched his arm its ok, save that for your battle, ill go inside he felt her forehead rest on his back and her grip on his arm tightened

He moved her so that she wouldn't be seen by the other males. He growled when one of the boys moved, going into a fighting stance. Get inside and stay away from other men once in there, Nicanu ordered. You will be safe, but I do not want to come to find other males stalking my woman when she wants to be alone. And these boys... I will be providing special training for them when the school reopens.

She leaned up and kissed the back of his neck, she held it there and in the pit of her stomach she knew she didnt want him to go. slowly she stepped back, she knew if she didnt leave now she wouldnt be able too

He didn't move until he sensed she was well into the caves. Then, he moved aside to let the boys in. They shivered, a sense of foreboding hitting them. Nicanu left to join the others who would be in battle.

------

Bethany paced up and down her home. Adam was kind enough to give her a place within his pack, and Rasputin was allowed to live with her to get to know her. But she couldn't help pacing. After Rasputin told her what happened to Anastasia, she felt uneasy.

"Any updates?" Bethany asked for the tenth time in the last hour. "She's okay, right?"

She still kept some distance between her and her lifemate, who had yet to claim her. She didn't know if she wanted him to do that. But seeing him play with their daughter, Adamina, she couldn't help but see him in a different light.

“Nothing yet, I told you the moment I hear something I will tell you” he said lifting the little girl up and playing with her

"I know," she said, sitting for only a moment before she started pacing again. "I hate the thought of her being hurt or tortured again. Anastasia has suffered so much, and now..." She looked at Rasputin. "Can't we go save her? I could sneak in with your help and we could rescue her."

She saw the look on his face. He didn't like the idea of her in danger, so he was angry, but he was also sad because he knew that, while it would have worked for a rescue from human butchers, it would not work here. Bethany teared up.

"It's not right that she is suffering so much," she said. "'Stasia protects everyone, but when she needs it the most, no one protects her. Antony is in the ground healing, and she went to a monster by herself. It's not fair for her to take so much on her own. She has so many people that would bend over backwards for her if she would only rely on us."

He looked at her “you know her well, she will not do so” he said “the best we can do now is make sure we are safe so she does not worry”

Bethany nodded and hugged herself. She felt Rasputin's arms around her, though she knew he was still in the rocking chair with Adamina. He comforted her even though she was still scared of him. When he did things like that, she could almost see them as a real family.

A knock came, causing Bethany to jump. She went to the door and saw Adam there.

"Anastasia hasn't contacted anyone," she said, knowing why he was there. "Rasputin has been keeping tabs for me, but... nothing." She then saw the look in his eyes. "You're going, aren't you? The whole pack? Even when you know I can't leave Anastasia? I thought this was her old pack! Are all of you really going to abandon her?!"

Anger boiled up. The leaders of the pack had been talking ever since they heard about Anastasia being claimed by Antony. Bethany knew that Rasputin and she had been allowed to stay as friends to Adam, but also because they could give the pack information. But they talked about leaving for the pack's safety, with the number of children dwindling, they would do what is best for their families. Still, Bethany hated it.

Adam sighed "it was Ana who wanted us to leave Beth , you know this, and we trust her, if she thinks we should then we will head her warnings" he said in a serious bitter sweet tone "we are not abandoning her" he said sternly

"So Maxwell wanting to stay out of the battle is what?" she asked. "Because I heard him early this morning, outside our cabin, thinking of ways to not take part!" She felt something in her mind and turned to Rasputin. "Don't try to get me to stop! I know what I heard! He doesn't want to aid in the battle to come!"

Adam looked at her disappointed "i thought you were better then that....to speak of things you didn't know so carelessly and judge people unfairly " he said and left the room. Rasputin sighed behind her

Bethany growled and said, "I know what I heard! My best friend is in the hands of a monster, and I can't do anything to help!" She picked up a pillow and threw it at the door. "I hate this! I'm useless to save her!" She fell to the floor. "Why... why is this happening? I thought we were safe... that everything would get better and be alright. Why can't they just leave us alone?"

He didnt move but she felt his hands on her shoulders in a comforting way "for all that we have we fight for it" he said putting their child into her bed

"Why can't we just have a moment where there isn't death looming over us?" she asked, looking back at him. "Why do monsters even exist? I want years, a lifetime of peace just so that Adamina won't have to fear for her life. I want Stasia to be with her family. I want..."

"things you will have to work for" he said finishing her sentence "without good there cannot be evil and without evil there cannot be good. Yet evil and good are so close together that barely nothing separates them. the choices we make are and our hearts decide what is good and evil" he said

Bethany looked at him and, with a sad smile, said, "You like to take the scenic route to get to the point, don't you? Just say it. I'm afraid. I know I am. I just... I'm tired of being afraid."

He chuckled softly "being afraid is ok, its how you react to that fear that matters" he said gesturing towards the door where adam left

Bethany stood up and went to the door. She saw Adam slowly gathering a few things. She cleared her throat.

"I'm sorry," she said.

Adam kept packing but smile d"i know...we are all worried right now and stressed" he said softly

"I feel like I should be doing something," Bethany said. "I may be human, but I can do something, can't I? I want to go save Stasia."

"she will need a place to rest when she comes home, im sure you know what she would like" he said with a encouraging tone "the healing is just as important as the fight" he said

"She will be taken to the caves," said Bethany, "and her family will be near her. The Carpathians will take care of her. Me? I'm not allowed there because I will get hurt from the heat. And I'm not bonded with Rasputin yet, so there is that problem as well. I'm stuck on the outside."

"she will be coming here" he said without looking at her

"But, that's not what the Carpathians will want to do," Bethany said. "Rasputin told me that someone that injured goes to the healing caves."

“I meant for her mental healing, she will need a place to regain her....thoughts” he said And she felt like there was something he wasn’t telling her

"Okay, I know I'm a human and don't understand much," Bethany said, "but this is Stasia. The strongest person I know. If she needs help, she won't ask for it, but will accept it. If I'm going to be of any help to my best friend, I need to know everything. Just tell me, Adam. You and Rasputin treat me like a porciline doll and, yes, most of the time I need that, but not when it come to Stasia. So, spill it."

He sighed “I just don’t think she will come back from this as the Ana we know....the situation has took really bad turn, we were just updated by Erik when he got back” he said in a stressed tone

"And you think I'm the same Bethany I was before my ordeal?" Bethany said. "My spirit was broken. It's not whether she comes back as she was before, Adam. It's that she comes back to us healthy. I'm still... fragile after what happened to me, I know it. I will work my way to recovering in my own time and my own way. Same with Stasia. She will be fragile, too. From what Rasputin told me, as little as it is, she will need a lot of time to see the truth. I'm still working my way to Rasputin. I'm finally able to be in the same room as him without shaking." She went to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Stasia is special and will come out of this stronger than before. It's bad now, what with this monster playing with her mind, but she will come out of this a better person. She did it when Antony tried to change who she was, and she did it when Erik tortured her. She will do the same here. Being broken isn't the end." She spoke with confidence, knowing Rasputin was listening. "It's a new beginning. I may still be useless here, Adam. She and I may have been broken, but our ordeals were vastly different. It will be up to her if she wants to heal, and we can't make her do it. Just as I feel I'm learning things over again, Stasia will too. What she needs is everyone showing her what she means to us, not words. She needs our love as well as our actions. Okay? Stasia isn't going anywhere. She will come out of this stronger than ever before. No matter how low this fiend takes her."

“As a human you don’t understand dark magic and the oath she took” he said it without thinking and instantly regretted it because her reaction let him know nobody had told her

"What do you mean?" Bethany asked. "What did she do?" She turned to Rasputin, who was trying to make a quick exit. "You said you only knew she was taken! Why didn't you tell me how bad it was?! We may not be bonded but that doesn't give you the right to keep things from me!"

He sighed “what matters is like what Adam said, making sure she has a nice place to come heal” he said rubbing the back of his neck looking uncomfortable “ Eric told me only because he knew I would understand what was to come“ he said looking away from her

"You are a real bastard, you know that?!" Bethany said, going up to Rasputin and hitting his chest. "You should have told me!" She sat down in a nearby chair. "Stasia... we both know what it's like to have our very souls exposed and used against us. Coming back from that... there is no way to fully heal from that. Just as I need to know everything, yet be protected, she will need to feel loved and needed. I'm sure of it. She told me once that she never felt she belonged anywhere. I told her she belonged with me. That is still true. We need each other, Rasputin. She needs that love, one that says she is accepted for herself. If I hadn't left, if we hadn't come to this pack, maybe she would have still felt that. Of belonging." She looked up at her lifemate, tears in her eyes. "By leaving her side, I helped this monster hurt her."

“Ana never felt that way” Adam said heading towards the door “and be easy on him erik told him not to tell you” he said as he left. Rasputin looked at her “hit me if it helps but whether you knew or not doesn’t matter, I wanted you to heal and be mentally prepared for what is to come, your my first priority not Ana”

Bethany said, "I can't prepare for something without knowing about it, Rasputin. And this may be what I need to heal. Seeing her like I was... I can guide her, but healing is up to her. Just as it is for me. Remember, I could barely look at you before. Now... I'm in the same room with you, letting you comfort me." She stood up and went to him. "I even touched you. In anger, sure, but I touched you." She ran a hand over the spot she hit him. "See? I'm healing." She wanted to remove her hand, but she couldn't stop feeling his sculpted chest and a deep blush crept up her cheeks. "Did you spill glue on you? I can't seem to remove my hand."

He gently took her wrist and removed her hand from his chest and looked away from her “no I didn’t....I will let erik info you of her condition when she is back, he will be able to explain better. I should get going,I have offered my services as well” he said taking a step back from her

She said, "Wait. I have something else to say." She waited for a moment, knowing that she had his attention when he looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "The man I see in front of me, he would never hurt me, or our daughter. The vampire from my past died and you are saving me from his lingering memory. I know that to be true. He is just a bad memory. You are real. So... I'm willing to try. For Adamina and for myself. You have to come back, Rasputin Malinov. Come back to your family, and that's an order from your lifemate."

He didn’t say anything and he didn’t move for a moment, after what seemed like forever he nodded. They had been around each other long enough for her to know his body language said a lot in that moment. She had finally got through to him, even if it was just for this moment she felt that it brought them closer. Without another word her left

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