The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 8
Across The Water

The Protectors

 

Chapter 8

 

Across the Water

 

 

Duncan and Snow didn’t have to deal with the incompetence of the bumbling keystone cops that are the TSA agents at the airport.  They had a personal CIA escort that took them past the checkpoints, onto the awaiting plane and to a private area within the first class section of the superliner.  They were to have privacy for this flight.  Snow seemed nervous.  They were seated and waiting for the rest of the people who would eventually board the plane.

 

“It’ll be fine Snow, I am sure they aren’t going to all this trouble to retire you, not after everything that has happened.  I think you may be surprised about what happens.”  Duncan told her, trying to put his own rose colored glasses on for a change.

 

Snow gave him a tenuous smile. It was clearly something other than the impending summoning that was bothering her.

 

“You’re not afraid of flying, are you?”  Duncan bluntly asked.

 

“Yes.”  Snow replied, her voice quivered as she spoke

.

Duncan looked at her a bit surprised at this revelation, which would explain her hiding in the back of the helicopter before. “Why would you be afraid, of anyone on this bird you have the greatest chance of surviving if this thing goes south.”  He said, kicking himself after he said it realizing too late that was not something you wanted to say to a person who was already having issues with flying, werewolf or not.  Snow’s face told him quite blatantly that his comments were not helping in the least.

 

“You’re not helping you know.”  Snow said reinforcing the look she gave Duncan.

 

“Yeah, I’m sorry, that sounded a lot different in my mind, it lost a lot in translation.”  Duncan said scratching his head.  “Why are you afraid of flying?”  He asked, again, this time without any commentary.

 

“We are land creatures Duncan, we aren’t made to fly.  I can’t explain it.  It just, it’s unnatural to me, I don’t know, it’s silly, I know.”  She sighed, how could she explain how she felt when she didn’t even understand it.

 

Duncan nodded to her, he understood, he remembered his first time flying.  He had been nervous too.

 

“Plus, I have about as much chance to survive as you do, if we crash, I get splattered across the countryside just like anyone else, can’t regenerate though that.  I have about as much chance of making it out as a virgin does during Mardi Gras.”  Snow said.

 

Duncan let go a large laugh at her analogy.  Snow started laughing along with him.  “Oh, you liked that one did you?”  She said to him, her mind off the impending flight for a moment.

 

“I don’t know which is funnier, your comment or the thought of a virgin actually being at Mardi Gras.”  Duncan put out between laughs.

 

Snow looked to the side.  “Oh, there are ones there, occasionally.”  Snow said, her words carrying a dark meaning that was amplified on her face.

 

This immediately killed Duncan’s laughter.  Figures, something from the job would come up.

 

“Overtly drunk humans are rather easy to get willing contracts with.”  Snow said bluntly. 

 

Duncan didn’t respond.  He looked away from her and started looking at some of the brochures around the area they were in.

 

Finally a voice came over unseen speakers and asked that all return to their seats and strap themselves to the wreckage.  Duncan helped Snow as she fumbled with the seatbelt, he withheld his normal preflight humor on her behalf.  Shortly after the announcement the landscape out the windows started to move, Duncan felt Snow’s fingers dig into his hand.

 

“It’ll be alright.”  Duncan said, he managed to stop himself before he added ‘these things rarely crash’ as he often would if he were with a new agent that had flight anxiety. 

 

When the plane began its accent into the wild blue yonder, Duncan flinched and had a pained look on his face, it had nothing to do with a fear of flying, rather, from the death grip on his hand from the lovely gothic girl next to him. 

 

He looked at her, one of her lip rings was moving back and forth at a fast pace.  He probably would have laughed had the situation been a bit better.  The look on Snow’s face bothered him, along with his fear of broken fingers. 

 

Her lips were pressed fast together and he could see the ridge formed on her bottom lip from her running her tongue back and forth across it.  Everyone had their odd quirks they did when nervous, this was the first oral fixation he had seen.  The pull against his body greatened as the plane climbed.

 

“I think I’m going to pee!”  Came from Snow’s mouth and her eyes were now peeled back and in a state of complete panic.

 

“Don’t you dare!”  Duncan replied, he had an afterthought that told him he sounded harsh.  “You’re tough, you tangled with Alexander and Prith, you didn’t piss from fear then, you won’t from this either, you’re tougher then that.”  Duncan added trying to sound like he was truly encouraging her and not that he didn’t want to have to smell urine for the rest of the flight.

 

The plane finally leveled out and smoothed.  They were still climbing, only it was the slow normal climb planes did once in the air, not the hard lift from the earth in an attempt to stay aloft.  Duncan could feel the plane turn as it got on course to their destination, a few minutes later they were told they could now move around.

 

“I’m so sorry!”  He heard Snow say.

 

Duncan feared the worst and looked at her only to find that she was looking at the armrest between them where their hands were.  When he looked down, Snow had lifted her hand and his hand beneath it was bleeding from four separate locations.  There was blood to match on the ends of each of Snows fingers that she had dug into the top of his hand.  Duncan started laughing.  He didn’t understand why, but this struck him as funny at the time.  He lifted his arm and wiggled his fingers.  At least they weren’t broken.

 

Duncan undid his seat belt and stood up.  Snow looked at him then out the window.  “Is that safe to do?”  She asked, tension was still in her voice.

 

“Perfectly.”  He said looking at their positions.  Perhaps letting the one with issues about flying have the window seat wasn’t the best idea.  He hadn’t even thought about that.

 

The cabin they were in was an executive cabin, they were separated from the other passengers and had more space just for themselves.  These tickets were the most expensive for any flight on the plane.  His team usually was put in such accommodations aboard a flight, due to the nature of their work so they would be able to talk in private, away from prying eyes. 

 

Duncan went to a small cabinet across the area they had on the plane and opened a door.  He pulled out the small first aid kit from inside and cleaned his hands down and put a piece of gauze over the spots Snow had dug her fingers, quite literally, into. 

 

“Undo your seat belt, get up, it’s fine, just think of it as… a boat in the air.  It feels very similar to walking on a yacht cutting across the water, only smoother.”  Duncan stopped there, he didn’t want to mention turbulence or air shelves at this point.  Snow stared at him, she didn’t move. 

 

She looked to scared to move.  He was surprised that someone who could do what she did, had done the things she had, was this frozen over something as simple as flying.  ‘I guess we all have our own chinks in our armor.’ He thought to himself as he moved closer to Snow. 

 

He leaned into her so he could reach her seatbelt and unclasped it.  As he did, the smell from her body slammed into his face.  He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose.  The smell from her was heavy, musky, strong.  He could smell the sweat she had produced during the takeoff. 

 

Though his eyes were closed he could see Snow, she was standing in a field, the image was a black and white one, like that of a dream.  He drew her scent in again.  The image changed, Snow became a wolf standing in a field.  She had her tongue handing down as she panted.  She was looking at him.  Then the wolf looked to the direction its body was facing and began walking along. 

 

Another wolf soon joined and the two reared up on their rear haunches and pawed at each other and licked each others faces and nipped at each other then took off side by side across the field.  The image changed again.  This time it was a wooded scene, Snow, as human, was walking away from him down an old country lane that cut through trees on either side with branches that hung low over the path of a road. 

 

She turned her head and looked back.  Her eyes looked almost black in the dim light.  She turned her head forward again and continued her slow walk.  After several steps she looked back again slowly as she had the first time, then looked back down the road still walking. 

 

Duncan’s blood felt hot in his veins.  He took in her scent again.  It was intoxicating, he wanted more and inhaled again. 

 

He saw Snow again through his closed eyes, she was standing near a lake that had a dock with a wooden boat tied to it.  She was calling to him, waving for him to come to her.  She called again, her voice sounded far more distant then it should have, she wasn’t that far away from him in his image, maybe ten feet, she called to him again.

 

“Duncan!”  Snow’s worried voice cried.

 

Duncan shook his head and opened his eyes and looked at Snow.  He realized he was breathing very fast, he was sweating, his arms burned, he felt hot all over.

 

“Duncan, are you alright?”  Snow asked, concern heavy in her voice.

 

He shook his head again and backed from Snow and stood straight. “Yeah… yes, I’m fine.”  He said and held his hand out for her to take.  “Come on, I’ll help you.” 

 

Snow took his hand and stood slowly with bent knees as he slowly pulled her up and out of the seat.  She put her other hand on his as well when he started to pull her away from standing in front of the seat, she moved one foot a short step forward then brought the other foot quickly next to the other one and stopped quick, moved her foot again, brought the other next to it and stopped quick.  Slowly she started taking regular steps and stopped bending her knees as though she were afraid of falling.

 

“See.”  He said to her and she smiled and started to laugh.

 

Snow finally let go of Duncan’s hands and started tenuously walking around the cabin.  She eventually started walking around without hesitation and started investigating the cabin.

 

‘What the hell was that?’  Duncan thought to himself trying to figure out what happened to him when he was trying to help Snow out of her seat. 

 

He rationalized what happened, that werewolf pheromones were much stronger than human and must have a hallucinatory effect on humans.  The lucid visions he had came from how he felt when Snow and Mud had ran off across the yard, how he wished he could just drop his human worries and run as a wolf through the tall grass. 

 

The effect was strengthened by Snow unwittingly as she was perspiring and pumping out pheromones by the preverbal bucket load due to her fears.  Given her sitting position, when Duncan had lowered his head to undo her belt, he put himself in the concentrated effect of her scent, a pocket of pheromones, he was just simply over whelmed by the concentration and encountered his own id is all.  Once he thought about it, it made perfect sense. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

The plane was making its descent for landing.  Duncan had offered his seat to Snow so she wouldn’t be next to the window but she had refused, saying she needed to get over her fear and the only way to do that was to confront it.  Duncan admired her for that attitude.  Though he found her with her eyes closed for most of the final approach and actual landing. 

 

Once they were in the Knock terminal they went to find their luggage.  While they waited for it to finally show, a small group consisting of two men and three women walked straight to them.  Snow had her back to them as they approached as she was watching for their bags, she raised her head and sniffed, then spun in their direction. 

 

When they were in close proximity to Duncan and Snow they let their eyes change, the wolf showing now.  Snow curtsied to the group and the greeting was returned by the group in the appropriate manner for their sex.

 

“Duncan I presume?”  One of the men said holding his hand out.

 

“Yes.”  Duncan answered as he shook hands with the man.  His eyes, like the others were back to a more human look.

 

“I am Patrick.  We have your luggage for you already, the car is waiting.”  Patrick informed them. Though they were all smiling politely, Duncan felt as though they were prisoners being escorted by the way the others surrounded them and the one introducing himself as Patrick took the lead. 

 

They left the airport and were taken to a Rolls Royce stretch limousine.  It was black and had an interesting design, the front wheel wells rose up and flared over the wheels with graceful curves and rolled down together to meet in the middle with silver trumpets for the horns. 

 

The lights were a classic old style that were mounted beside the grill in the front, the hood tapered from the full width by the windshield down to fit between the two fenders of the wheel wells.  Silver ribbed pipes came from the side of the engine compartment to give the vehicle a little extra flare.  There were spare tires mounted on either side in covers that matched the car.  An impressive ride to say the least.

 

Patrick moved them to the back of the limousine and opened the door for them.  Snow and Duncan entered first followed by the others.  The inside matched the outward appearance of the car for style and luxuries. 

 

The car pulled out slowly. “Can I offer you anything to drink?”  Patrick asked politely.  “We have a selection of fine Irish beer, some wine, no hard alcohol I’m afraid, our kind doesn’t take to that.”  He said, his statement was aimed at Duncan as Snow knew this well.

 

“No problem there, I’m a beer man myself.”  Duncan replied. 

 

Patrick recommended a Murphy’s red, Duncan accepted the recommendation and was impressed with the brew.  Snow refused at first, then said “why not” and took one also.

 

They were now in the lush green of the Irish countryside.  The land was beautiful and Duncan and Snow both tried to enjoy the scenery as they rode.  Neither wanted to think about what might happen when they arrived.

 

“So, are you the official welcoming committee or what?”  Duncan bluntly asked after a while looking at Patrick.

 

“Well, I wouldn’t call us a committee, but that is our purpose today, we are Sadness’ escorts to the House.”  Patrick told Duncan. 

 

“This is the House of Trust?”  Duncan asked.

 

Patrick smiled.  “Yes, our House is the head of the Clan of the Moors.  It was founded by the great hunter Trust.  He was first born alpha to the patriarch and matriarch of Clan of the Moors.  You will be meeting his descendant Lord Floyd today.”

 

“Lord Floyd.”  Duncan said as he nodded.  “I thought clans and houses were named after their patriarch.”

 

Patrick smiled with a nod.  “When founding a new clan, that is typically the case.  Lord Floyd is a direct descendant of Trust himself.  House Trust is the head House in the line of the Exalted Master of Clans.  Lord Floyd is one of many whom have taken over the House in their season.  The House maintains, out of respect, the name of the founder.”

 

Duncan took this in with a nod.  He continued to look at Patrick without speaking.

 

“The first born alphas of a clan start their own clans.  Sometimes, if there is need, a clan will be declared a House.  From these houses, other clans form.  Lord Leyland, the Exalted Master of Clans, heads Clan of the Moors from House Trust.  Lord Floyd, patriarch of this House manages the affairs for his Grace and Clan of the Moors.  He is the fourth alpha born, he was chosen for this position by Lord Leyland himself.”

 

Duncan nodded, that made sense.  From his understanding, the Clan of the Moors was the second oldest Clan, the Grand Inquisitor’s clan the oldest followed by the Supreme Bishop’s clan.  Werewolves were all about lineage.  Just like humans, only they didn’t shit on their lower classes as Duncan would learn, at least not across the water.

 

The limousine pulled through an expanse of garden down a stone drive and stopped at the main entry into a small castle.  As the escorts for Snow climbed out of the back of the car, people came from the front door and lined the walkway on either side. 

 

They were all dressed the same in bright purple uniforms that had a patch similar to the one he had seen on the uniforms of the stateside werewolves, it was the crest of the House and clan Duncan assumed.  The precession of people that lined the walk resembled a formal welcome for an arriving dignitary. 

 

Snow’s escorts took their bags from the trunk and followed Snow and Duncan as they walked to the stone path leading to the main door.  Another man, who appeared to be someone of importance, was waiting for them at the top of the short set of steps to the door.  Two others stood ready to open the doors for them when they were ready to enter.

 

“Princess Snow, Noble Clan Frost,” the man said and bowed to Snow, “and honored guest.”  He finished and bowed to Duncan.  A very formal greeting. 

 

“Welcome you both to House Trust, Clan of the Moors.  Allow me to take you to his Lordship.”  The man said and turned, walking to the doors that were opened for them.

 

When they were inside the escorts hurried off with their luggage leaving Duncan and Snow with the man who was to take them to Lord Floyd. “So we will be meeting Lord Floyd now I take?”  Duncan asked the man ahead of them.

 

The man turned his head slightly to them.  “Yes, you are meeting Lord Floyd.”  He replied.

 

Once they came to the end of the room they were in the man led them through a door and hall that exited out to a wide open walkway along the outside the main building, their escort came beside them.  He walked less formally.  The greeting time had passed, they could be more casual now.

 

“Floyd, doesn’t sound like the name of a Lord does it, Lord Floyd, just doesn’t have that noble ring to it does it?”  The man said to them as they walked along, he was smiling and seemed to be enjoying himself. “How was your trip?”  He asked looking to them.

 

“Good, we had a nice flight, didn’t we Snow?”  Duncan replied.

 

“Well, the flight was ok, the takeoff and landing now, I can say, I don’t like those.”  Snow answered.

 

The man escorting them laughed loud.  “Ah Sadness, I would agree there, I never have liked flying, can’t stand it actually.”  He said.

 

“You, you, looking quite smart I see, yes, very nice.”  The man said rather loudly to a young looking woman walking near the railing of the walkway coming towards them. “Tell me Duncan, from a human eye, is this young girl here attractive to you?  Does she get your blood pumping?”  The man asked pointing at the woman still a ways from them.

 

Duncan looked at the man with a reserved look.

 

The man had a comical look in his face.  “It’s a serious question I assure you, I want your honest opinion, look at her, does she make you want to bark out and howl ‘mate with me baby!’ at all?” 

 

“I, sure yes, she is attractive.”  Duncan said reluctantly.

 

Snow was laughing at the interaction and Duncan’s reaction to being put on the spot. 

 

“That vixen has yet to choose a mate.”  The man said hanging his head down and making a noise of disgust.

 

The young girl was smiling the entire time and giggling.  The attention seemed to be something she was used to. “Oh yes, talking about you.  Strutting around.”  The man said to the young woman as they passed each other. 

 

Turning the man looked blatantly at the woman’s bottom and made a motion with his hands relating to the movement of it then while turning forward swung a hand back and smacked her on her bottom.

 

“Nice ass, now use it to catch a mate and make me some pups already will you!”  The man yelled back at the girl without turning towards her.

 

He shook his head again and made an aggravated noise again. “My youngest daughter, shakes that thing all over the place, spreading her scent around, has a pack of men chasing after her and you think she will choose one, no!”  The man said to the pair with him.

 

The man turned and was yelling in the direction of his daughter, walking backwards.  “I want to mate for love!”  He yelled then turned back to face where they were going.

 

“Ah, such a luxury to have, to mate for love, first born of the patriarch and their alphas have not such a luxury, do they Sadness?  No, we are mated for the line, the House or clan.”  He said looking over to Snow.  “She has such a line of young men interested in her, all fine young men, I swear I will have my tenth generation grand-pup before that one finally mates.”  He commented as he took them to a door and opened it for them.

 

Duncan and Snow exchanged looks as the man talked and laughed.

 

They went down another hall and to a large open staircase that descended into the main hold of the den.  They passed by living quarters and to what Duncan recognized as the main room where he had seen the clan dining together at clan Strong Oak. 

 

There was a multitude of people in the area though no meal was being served.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves as several had instruments and were singing off in one area while some danced around.  Others appeared to be playing board games or cards at other tables.

 

When they were near the middle of the chamber the man stopped and threw up his hands and spoke loudly to the room.

 

“Good people of Trust, I have with me Princess Snow, Sadness of the noble Clan Frost and…”  the man paused crouching some as he tried to make what he said next dramatic.  “A guest human!”  The man’s voice became loudest when he announced Duncan as the guest human.

 

“A human!”  Duncan heard someone say in an excited voice

 

“A real human?”

 

“What’s the human’s name sir?”  Someone asked.

 

“My name is Duncan.”  He said as the people around him closed in on him with gleeful faces.  One came up to him and sniffed him good.

 

“He’s real!  A real human here with us!  Get the pups!”  The man who sniffed him yelled.

 

Everyone wanted to shake Duncan’s hand, they all seemed excited to meet a ‘real live human’.  Snow and Duncan looked between each other in dismay.  Considering how they had been treated back home this was a pleasant surprise. 

 

Parents brought their young children up to meet him.  Duncan felt like an exhibit at a zoo, but he was enjoying the attention.

 

“If you practice hard, he is one of many you will be honored to protect.”  A woman was telling her young son who seemed more than excited to meet Duncan.

 

Duncan leaned over to the man who had brought them there. “Haven’t any of these people ever met a human before?”  He asked a bit puzzled.

 

A man that was holding a board over his shoulder answered.  “Oh no, we don’t get out much,” He pointed up towards the living quarters.  “the hunters get to meet all the humans, some of us get the privilege, but most don’t.” 

 

The man developed a depressed look  “I tried to get into human operations, but I didn’t make it.”  After he spoke again a smile broke on his face.  “I make bolts for the hunters now, so when they shoot one it’s like a part of me is killing one of them bastards!”  The man finished.

 

Duncan, Snow and the man escorting them laughed along with the man when he said this.  It was a most interesting interaction between the clan and Duncan.  It felt nice to be warmly received.  They all seemed to have a good perspective on their duties for the clan and were proud that they protected humans with the work they did.

 

The man escorting them made a flamboyant hand gesture then clapped his hands twice.  “Alright ladies and gentlemen, show time is over, I’m afraid our princess and her honored guest are expected elsewhere, we can’t keep his Lordship waiting forever, but we can try!”  Their escort said laughing. The people waved and said their goodbyes to Duncan and Snow as their escort moved them along.

 

Once on the other side of the area behind where the head table was elevated above the main area they were lead up another set of stairs.  Duncan noticed the walls around them were carved with scenes of events past and what looked to be names of people. 

 

They were traveling down another open hall inside the expanse of the den when the young woman they had passed earlier was again walking towards them, her father also again began harassing her as he had done before in his mocking chastising manner. 

 

“YOU!  Your scent fills these halls, wiggling your tail all over, no one follows you girl!”  He jetted out as she approached.  “Don’t laugh at me, how can you catch a mate if no man is around to savor your scent!  You should have your legs in the air making pups for me!”  He chastised.  “I have a pack of grandchildren, but none from you, your fifty now, you should be mated.  Get with it!”  He went on as the young woman passed. “You can’t wait much longer, you’ll be tallow and unmated!”  He continued.

 

The girl looked over at him, she had something in her hand that caught his eye as she went passed several feet. The man stopped, Duncan and Snow paused when he did. “Wait, wait, wait, wait!”  The man said getting a bit louder each time he repeated the word.

 

The young woman stopped and turned to face him, she was smiling and her eyes were sheepish. 

 

“What is that?  Bring that here right now, I must see this, this can’t be, what is this I have seen?”  The man took a piece of fabric from the woman’s hands and opened it up. 

 

It was a crest like Duncan had seen on the shirts of the other members of the clan.  The mans face lit up as he held a hand over his heart making a face of astonishment.    The woman started giggling and fussing with her long hair.

 

“This is him, his clan, this is real?  Not funnsies?”  The man said looking at the girl, waving a finger over the patch with a crest on it. The woman started nodding. “You’re going, taking this to the bishop you are?”  The man said to her with an excited disbelieving voice.

 

“Yes father, I have chosen.”  The light voice of the girl replied.

 

“Praise the Light!”  The man yelled holding his hands up and raising his face. He looked at the patch of fabric again.  “Clan Shmutz, you’re bringing noble line to clan Shmutz, good clan, this is good.”  He said making a face of approval looking the patch over again before handing it back to the young woman.

 

“Be gone with you child, run, run like the wind to the bishop before you waver, run, I will have the elders approve this mating by tomorrow I swear!”  He announced with flamboyance.

 

The young woman took off running as she was told.

 

“Do I know this salvation of mine?  What is his name?”  He yelled at the girl as she ran.

 

Without turning the young woman yelled back.  “Yes, his name is Joshua."

 

“Joshua!”  The man yelled then turned and started leading Duncan and Snow down the hall again.

 

The two couldn’t help but laughing between themselves at the interactions between the man and his daughter.  The way he amplified his emotions and the humorous manner he did it.  Playful yet communicating his desire for his daughter to mate. 

 

“Joshua,”  He said again then turned his head back over his shoulder and yelled, “he’s not the one that smells of fish is he?”  Though the woman was long gone now. “No, she wouldn’t pick him, Joshua…”  The man mused as he walked them down the hall. 

 

They were at another set of doors where two men opened them for the party to enter.

 

“Joshua, the grinder yes, NOW I remember, thinks he’s Elvis or something, dances most strangely.”  The man said to them as though they should know who he was talking about. “Clan Shmutz,” he went on, “sounds like something you would say to describe stepping on something squishy, I stepped on a grape, it went Shmutz!”   He finished with a flamboyant gesture from his outstretched hand.

 

Through the door was a large room where a man sat in a chair that could only be described as a thrown. “My Lordship, I present Princess Snow of the line of the Exalted Master of Clans, Noble Clan Frost, and Duncan Galt… ah… of the, humans.”  The man introduced, not quite sure how to follow Snow’s introduction with Duncan’s.

 

The man turned and left them with the Lord.

 

The man looked about fifty, in good health and very fit.  He waited for the doors to close before he spoke. “I am the head of the House of the great hunter Trust, welcome Duncan, Sadness.”  The Lord said as he stood and came to them.

 

“It is I who summoned you Sadness, Duncan, you are not of our kind, I thank you for honoring my request of you.”  The man’s strong but kind voice said.

 

“Snow, Sadness, is my partner, I wouldn’t leave her to deal with whatever this is about alone.”  Duncan said to the Lord.

 

“It pleases me to hear this, though I must admit, from you sir, I have come to expect nothing less than acts of honor.”  He responded with a firm face and an accepting nod.

 

The Lord of the House turned from them and took his seat and pointed to the front of the platform the chair sat on.  Snow glanced at Duncan as she stepped up before the Lord.  Duncan followed her lead.  Once on the edge of the platform Snow knelt, again Duncan did the same, even though he didn’t have to, he wasn’t about to do anything that might affect the outcome of whatever was happening for Snow.

 

“You have been summoned Princess Snow of the line of the House of the great hunter Trust, Clan of the Moors, Clan Frost, to be judged.”  The Lord of the House informed Snow.  “The charges against you are that of blasphemy by mutilation in the form of piercing yourself for the dead.  I am informing you now so when you are called before the Grand Inquisitor and the Clan of High Elders you may be prepared for your statements.”

 

His eyes moved to Duncan.  “You Duncan Galt, I have nothing for.  You both may leave now.”  The Lord of the House finished,  Duncan and Snow rose and left the audience chamber.

 

When they exited the chamber, the man who had escorted them was waiting. “Come, Sadness, Duncan, to your rooms I shall take you.”  The man said with a grand bow. 

 

Neither Duncan nor Snow were in any mood for even the lightest of humor.  They followed the man in silence. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

The rooms they were taken to referenced the quarters they would be staying in together, until the judgment.  To best describe the rooms, Duncan would have called them VIP quarters.  They were most majestic, only the occupants could not truly be happy in them.  They were, a gilded cage.

 

“If there is anything you need, please let someone know, we will try and see to it that it is gotten for you.”  The man told them, then he started for the door.

 

“A law library.”  Duncan said.

 

“Excuse me, a what?”  The man asked confused by the question Duncan asked.

 

“A law library.”  Duncan repeated.  “Your people must have some sort of reference library with all your laws, history and such for matters relating to a trial.”  He explained.

 

“Yes, I understand now, you’re in luck, our House happens to be the scholars of the clan of the Moors, we house the main hall of knowledge and history for the clans.”  The man looked cautiously at Duncan, considering him for a moment.  “I shall make arrangements for you to be taken there.”  The man said and bowed then headed for the door once more. 

 

He paused before he left and turned back.  “Will there be anything else?”  He asked looking between Duncan and Snow.

 

Duncan looked at Snow, she returned his look with a long face.  “No.”  She said to the man who had escorted them.

 

Once they were alone Snow came to Duncan and he put his arms around her, she buried her face in his chest. 

 

Duncan waited a bit before he spoke.  “Snow, I have so much I want to ask right now, I don’t know where to begin.”  He began.  He shook his head, trying to decide where he would start.  He figured from where they were at now and work his way backwards was the best approach.

 

“This judgment, you mentioned your jewelry before, you called it a, defilement or something, why can’t you just remove it?”  He asked.  “If you did, wouldn’t that satisfy their claim against you?”

 

Snow shook her head and moved to a chair.  Duncan followed and sat next to her. “It goes deeper than that, for reasons I cannot explain now.  But even if I did remove them, there is the fact that I did the act.  I would still face judgment because of that.”  She explained.

 

“Alright, I can understand that, but how long have you had these piercings?  I had assumed you had had them a while.”  Duncan asked.

 

“I have, some are over twenty-three years old, the last is about nine years old.  As to why now, that I do not know.  Someone has to have made accusation against me.  It could be any of the clans or hunters I have encountered.  Even Robert of the Clay, he would be my first guess.”  Snow reasoned.

 

Duncan thought about this.  He was as in the dark as Snow was he felt, if she had any idea she would have told him. He resisted on his next question, it almost seemed trivial at this point.

 

“Snow,” He started then paused until she looked at him, “this, princess thing, it’s, well, a bit hard to swallow, I don’t get it.  If you are disavowed and an outcast as you have said, why is it everyone state side always called you Sadness and now they call you Princess Snow?”  Duncan floundered to find the right words to say what he meant.

 

Snow actually found a smile for him.  “It’s because I come from a noble line directly from the three great clans, those are the clans of the Exalted Master of Clans, The Grand Inquisitor and the Supreme Bishop of Clans.  Since I’m from those lines and am an unmated matriarch, my title is princess.  A male would thus be a prince.  Once I am mated I’m officially a matriarch, then that becomes my title.” 

 

“Since Snow is my matriarchal name, I am Princess Snow.  The title is bestowed upon a first born noble alpha on their twentieth season, as that is when we may choose a mate, it is then, if we so desired, that we could take our place at the head of our line, that being House Trust, Clan of the Moors for me.  We can be in wait at our noble head until we are mated and serve in the court there as nobles of the clan.  Most do not, as they are often set to be mated so there would be no need.”  Snow explained. 

 

Duncan considered what he just learned.  He mulled it over and held a question until he was sure he wanted to know the answer. “Okay, since no one would take you as a mate, why didn’t you come here then?”  He finally asked.

 

She smiled sadly this time. “Honestly, if I had known what the clans here were like, how different they were from ours, I would have.”  She answered. It was Snow’s turn to ask a question. “Why do you want to go to the hall of knowledge?”  She asked.

 

There was a knock on the door.  Duncan looked up at the door. “How else am I going to find a way to help defend you?”  He replied.  “Yes, come in.”

 

The door opened and a very elderly woman slowly moved into the room.

“Duncan Galt?”  The woman asked, her voice barely audible apparently from extreme age.

 

“Yes, that’s me, how can I help you miss?”  He asked the woman.

 

A feeble laugh came from the woman.  “Miss, kind sir, I am the head bastion of the hall of knowledge, I have been instructed to take you to the hall and assist you in any way I can.”  The woman informed him.  “My name is Sophia.” 

 

The woman turned and exited the room, leaving the door open.  Duncan looked at Snow and shrugged. “Guess I’m supposed to follow.”  He said with a light laugh of his own.

 

Outside the door was a small open carriage with two wolves in front with miniature tack that bound them to the small carriage.  The woman was already getting in it and pointed for Duncan to sit next to her.  The carriage creaked under Duncan’s weight and he sat.  The woman placed her hands on the rail at the front of the carriage for support.

 

“Flicks, Flax, to the hall please.”  She said to the two wolves that propelled the carriage.  They started off and accelerated to a modest speed down the halls. The woman looked over to Duncan.  “They’re twins you know.”  She stated then looked forward again.

 

The carriage had both slides and wheels and traversed the halls and stairs with ease.  It only took about ten minutes and they entered through two very tall doors, at least fifty foot in height. 

 

Inside the room, it was more fair to say building even though it was part of the monstrous den, there were row upon row upon row of books, scrolls and tomes of all sizes and shapes, even carved stone tablets.  As the carriage passed through the main entry area it went into a low unlit tunnel. 

 

From there they wound through several narrow halls, all lined with more books, scrolls and tomes until they stopped in front of a door in the wall that had two small windows on either side, beside the door was a chair with two polls mounted on either side.

 

The woman dismounted the carriage, Duncan followed.  The wolves at the front changed into human form then after the woman sat in the litter, they picked her up and led Duncan into the door.  They passed several more doors into other rooms, some had people working in them and finally they stopped at one of the doors. 

 

The woman got out of the chair, thanked the two men and motioned for Duncan to follow her.  They went into the room.  The entire den was carved from stone, even the desk in the woman’s office was from the same stone.  On the desk, several monitors and her mouse and keyboard.  Duncan started to laugh at the clash of appearances.  The last thing he was expecting was computers in the den after all that he had seen.

 

After Duncan explained what it was he was interested in researching the woman typed fast on the keyboard.  She made several entries and listed subjects to him that came up.  She finally listed one that Duncan thought might be what he wanted and asked about that.  Sophia informed him that the information was in a separate area and that though the hall may look disorganized, it was quite the opposite.  She felt positive that anything Duncan wanted was within this room.

 

The woman reached into her pocket and pulled out a smart phone, again to the chagrin of Duncan.  She spoke to someone and shortly a much younger woman came to the door.  Sophia explained to the new woman where to take Duncan and that she was to stay with him and assist him as much as she could.

 

This woman introduced herself as Beth the seeker and led Duncan out of Sophia’s office.  This time they walked.  They ended up in a fairly small room that had three parts, filled with shelves filled with books.  Duncan asked for specific information and Beth the seeker brought him books. 

 

Duncan spent the rest of the day reading, he was allowed to take as many books to their room as he wanted, so he did just that.  Beth the seeker would be at his beck and call should he need her he was told.  He did make use of her service.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Many of the books were in English, some where not.  That is where Beth the seeker became of great service.  Snow had left him to his dusty books and was in another room through most of Duncan’s education into werewolf history and ‘legal’ definitions. 

 

Duncan had a notebook with a growing list of notes.  Beth the seeker had returned with more books he had asked for to cross reference various things with.  It was a very tedious process digging though all the old books, his research was slowed because many of the books he was getting into he needed Beth the seeker to read to him.  She was more than willing to help, but kept looking at him oddly. 

 

He wasn’t sure if any of what he was doing would be of any help.  He had asked if during the judgment Snow would be allowed council, this was apparently allowed, though it was limited.  He wasn’t quite sure what this meant as far as how much he would be allowed to help, he was only told the Grand Inquisitor would make that determination.  

 

From what information he had been able to gather on the type of charge, though the specifics were hard to follow, Snow could remove her piercings and then proceed to making atonements for her defilements.  It appeared this would be needed for each of the piercings and actually could involve many years.  Years spent in penance, years in solitude.  The time seemed to range from as short as three years to as long as fifty. 

 

Snow emerged from the room she had sequestered herself into.  She had a paper in her hand and brought it Duncan.  “I found this, I don’t know if you have come across this yet, thought it might help.”  She said to him.

 

He took the freshly printed document and looked at it.  “Yes, I can use this, where did you get this information from?”   His face held confusion, Snow hadn’t taken any books with her, and this page looked as though it had just come from a modern ink printer.

 

Snow gave a light shrug while looking at Duncan.  “I just printed it from the Hall’s database.  Why?”

 

Duncan blinked, his confusion grew.  “Wait, what?  You printed it from the Hall of Knowledge database?  The same hall I have been getting all these books from?”  He asked.

 

“Yes.”  Snow started, reading the look on his face.  “Everything in the books is on the database, translated into all of the seven languages.” 

 

He shook his head and looked exasperated.  “You mean to tell me, everything I have been looking for, digging through these books for is available online?”  Duncan looked between Beth the seeker and Snow.

 

“Yes.  I thought you knew this.”  Beth the seeker said looking at him a bit surprised.

 

“Yeah Duncan, I was wondering why you asked to see the actual books when it was all available on the computers in our room here.”  Snow said.

 

“I thought there was something specific you wanted to see in the original tomes.”  Beth the seeker said to him.  “I was wondering the same as Sadness.”

 

The two women with him looked at each other, they started laughing as they thought about what had happened, realizing that when Duncan had said he wanted to go through the books, that he wanted to look at books, he was unaware that the contents had already been archived.  Everyone assumed he wanted the original text.  No one had questioned his intentions.

 

Duncan shook his head slowly coming to his own realization, he had said books, asked about books, never asked if the information was available in any form other than books.  The cues were in front of him, Sophia had looked information up on a computer.  He had just never made the connection.  He joined in the laughing realizing his own stupidity.

 

Snow came to him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “Duncan, Duncan, I thought you would have known, I did tell you that I studied all the new technology and trained others on how to use it, you saw my house and what we had there, what did you think?  That we learned the technology and never used it?”  She asked him.

 

Duncan sighed.  “I don’t know what I was thinking, out in the field, smart phones, other things, yes, but when we got into the dens, everything looked so… medieval, I never really thought about it.  I assumed everything was done old school.  I should have asked.”  He said, feeling embarrassed. 

 

“Come with me.”  Snow said to him and she led him into another room, the one she had been working in.

 

From the wall he saw a desk extended with a monitor and keyboard sitting on it.  From another alcove a printer stuck out.  Snow took him to another area in the room a couple steps from where she was working and pointed to three small indents in the wall. 

 

She placed her hand on the center one and held it there but a second.  The wall opened and another desk with the same setup as hers slid out and set itself down, ready for use. Duncan smacked his forehead.  He looked at the desk, reached under it and pulled the accompanying chair out.

 

He looked at the small oval indentations in the wall, he placed his fingers in the top one and held them there as Snow looked on.  A large section of the marble on the adjacent wall eased out from the rest of the wall then lifted into the air and up towards the ceiling, stopping with the bottom edge about seven feet in the air and forming an overhang in front of the bar behind. 

 

“Now that’s what I’m talking about!”  Duncan said as he made his way to the bar and went behind.

 

There were wines along the wall, glasses that hung from railings above and below the bar a flat topped fridge with sliding doors on the top, inside, beer.  He pulled one from the cooler and looked at it, then opened it and returned to the desk.

 

He looked at the third oval, there were markings near that looked like they indicated what the oval was for just as the others, but he couldn’t read werewolf so he reached out to try that one, Snow stopped him by gently grabbing his hand.

 

“That one, is for later.”  She said with a mischievous smile.

 

Snow showed him how to navigate the network available to him. “This, is going to make things so much easier.”  He said.

 

“I know, why do you think my kind has taken the time to put everything in here.”  She said giving him a look.

 

Duncan sent Beth the seeker on her merry way, he wouldn’t need her help nearly as much now.  Though he did ask to see one specific actual book, he most willingly moved all his work to the computer.

 

A noon meal had been brought to them, only this time it was out of respect.  They were told that unless they wanted to join the others in the main dining hall, they were welcome to eat in their room.  They thanked the people who brought in the food and were told that they would be expected to dine with the nobles for supper.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

The evening meal was a most festive event.  Snow was seated next to the Lord they had been introduced to with Duncan at her side in the place of honor.  Beside Duncan was the man who had escorted them to the Lord’s chambers, though he had never been formally introduce to either Duncan or Snow. 

 

When they were brought up to the table, Snow was introduced to the house and clan members in attendance, along with her honored human guest.  The crowed cheered for them as they were seated. 

 

Following this was a short announcement regarding an upcoming mating celebration, the young woman their escort had accosted about choosing a mate stood, beside her a very handsome young man.  The crowed again cheered, some with shouts of it being about time and having children. 

 

Food was accompanied with much song and other entertainment.  Even the occasional food fight broke out on the main floor, Duncan was somewhat amused at how they all, even the old among them, seemed to act like oversized kids at times.  They were a festive people.

 

The dishes from the main course were being removed by servants from their table as well as those on the main floor.  Though they sat at the head table that was elevated above the others, thus it also was called the high table, all were served the same food and treated equally.  Only the settings and decorations on the high table were more eloquent. 

 

Someone started making an announcement as large hoops were being lowered from above.  There was the sound of a drum roll and people were moving around on the main floor setting items up for a performance of some kind.

 

The man that had escorted them leaned over to Duncan.  “You’ll like this, Smokey fancies himself a bit of a circus performer.  This is a stunt he has been working on, well, you’ll see.”  The man said to him, then returned to looking out onto the floor and laughing for no reason.

 

The room darkened.  The hoops burst into rings of fire.  The barker came to a spotlight and announced that the magnificent daredevil Smokey would be attempting to jump through fives blazing rings of inferno tonight.  

 

The man next to Duncan wiggled in his seat with his arms at his sides, bent up at the elbows making an excited sound that matched his eager expression. A large werewolf, with mostly light gray fur came and stood next to the barker and raised his arms in the air and pumped them up and down like a prize fighter before a match.  The crowd applauded and cheered for Smokey.

 

The werewolf then charged away from the center, leaping into the air and took to running along the wall that separated two floors above them.  He was cruising very fast as he would have to in order to be able to run sideways on the wall; he appeared to be picking up the needed speed to make the jump. 

 

On his final lap, right above and behind where the high table was, he thrust himself off the wall, over the table and the crowed started chanting his name.  He raced for the platforms that led to the rings and hurled himself into the air and into the middle of the rings. 

 

He cleared ring one, the crowed cheered, ring two, more cheering, ring three the room got louder, ring four, people at the table and on the floor started standing.  Ring five was a hit.  Quite literally as Smokey collided with the bottom of it and fell to the floor on fire.  Several people ran up and dosed him with water extinguishing his flaming fur. 

 

The man next to Duncan leaned over to him again.  “Well, there’s a reason we call him Smokey!”  He said and burst into laughter, slamming a hand onto the top of the table.

 

As the props for Smokey’s performance were removed the servants returned with carts and started distributing dessert.  Pies with a white whipped topping were placed in abundance down the high table as were at all the tables.

 

“Oh, Boston cream pie!”  The man next to Duncan ejected, the tone of his voice made Duncan look over. “I told them no more cream pies!”  The man sounded slightly angry. 

 

Duncan was pondering what the man had against Boston cream pie as he reached to take one of the pies in front of himself and Snow.  He had the pie in hand and looked over to Snow to ask if she wanted any, She was staring in horror at the row of pies in front of them down the center of the table.

 

Duncan’s brow crunched down in puzzlement over her expression, Snow suddenly stood pushing her chair back and ducked under the table. “What the hell?”  He said looking up to see if anyone else was acting oddly when a pie flew across the table on the side the man who had escorted them sat, connecting fully with the young woman who’s mating had just been announced. 

 

Duncan looked out onto the main floor, pies were being thrown at others, some people had pies in hand and were using them on others faces. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  Duncan ejected.

 

“This happens every time we have cream pies!”  The man who had objected to the pies first said. 

 

Though he spoke in anger, Duncan could tell it was an act. “No, no, no, no you don’t!”  The man started saying as someone came up holding a pie, standing across the table from him, clearly ready to launch the dessert at the man.  Duncan leaned away and tried to avoid the splatter from the pie that exploded on the mans face.

 

“You could have warned me!”  Duncan yelled under the table, though he still made no attempt to get under it himself.  “It’s like Blazing Saddles in here.”  He finished looking up to see a smiling young girl across from him, pie in hand. “NO!”  He said firmly to the girl. 

 

She looked down and made a pouting face, her eyes looked sadly at Duncan, she was giving him the puppy dog eyes.

 

“Not me, I want no part of this.”  He said to her in a serious tone.  Duncan decided it was a good time to join Snow under the table, then he heard Snow’s laugh and turned, she plowed the pie in his hands into his face.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

“You still could have warned me.”  Duncan was saying to Snow as they walked back to their room.  Flicking the remains of dessert from his clothes.  Snow was laughing rather hard still, trying to remove remains from her clothes as well.  Both were covered in pie.

 

“You never, never serve any type of cream pie to a group of more than four werewolves, ever!”  She informed him.  “Even then you are taking your chances.”  She flipped some of the pie from her clothes at Duncan’s face.

 

“Oh thanks.”  He said when the pie she flipped hit him.  He flicked his hand at her spraying her with some of the remains he was trying to remove from himself.

 

“Why did you think I got under the table?  That should have been a hint right there.”  She laughed.

 

“Well you still could’ve said something, how was I to know pie and werewolves don’t mix?”  He retorted.

 

“Well, what would happen if you put a big box of water balloons in a yard full of kids?  You’d end up with a bunch of wet kids, same difference here.”  She told him.

 

“Yeah, you could’ve still said get down, you guys did Mel Brooks proud, I’ll give you that.”  Duncan said as they reached the door to their room.

 

Inside they removed their clothes and put them in a basket that was near the door.  It hadn’t been there when they left, apparently the staff knew what was coming and had the foresight to put a laundry basket near the door.  Duncan appeared to be the only one in the blind.

 

“Come with me.”  Snow said in a soft voice as she motioned to him with a come hither finger.

 

They walked into the room with the computers and bar. “Now it’s time for this.”  She said as she reached for the oval she’d stopped Duncan from using earlier.  “Come, stand by me.”  She said and he moved beside her.

 

Duncan was more interested in looking her over then watching what she was doing.  He was thinking she had perfect breasts and a fantastic body when a grinding from behind him broke his concentration. 

 

He looked back as the furniture was moved by disks in the floor that turned and took the furniture into the walls, the desks also went back into their hiding.  The floor in the center of the room had a circular part that dropped down and split in two sections and pulled back under the floor. 

 

Once they were gone, a platform raised from the opening.  In the middle was a large tub and to one side was a showerhead on a long goose necked pipe coming from the floor with two handles midway up for turning the shower on.  The doorways had a ridge that lifted up and there were several floor drains on the platform, under the shower and several that revealed themselves in the other parts of the floor. 

 

Snow led Duncan to the shower, he looked into the large tub in the middle and seeing the controls on the side as they passed acknowledged it to be a hot tub.

 

Snow turned on the shower and they washed the last remnants of the pie from themselves, then accessed the hot tub via the steps that were on the back side. “Oh man this is great, I needed this.”  Duncan stated as he settled into the hot water and turned on the jets that would massage their bodies.

 

Snow laughed then submerged her head in the tub and popped her head out flipping her hair back then moved in closer to face Duncan.  Joy glowed from her face. Duncan welcomed her to him by placing his hands on her hips, she giggled some as his touch tickled. 

 

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”  He began, his voice sounding serious now.  A bit of Snow’s happiness faded from her face though she was still smiling.  “The night at my place, when you had me hostage on the love seat.”  Duncan said looking into Snow’s eyes.  “When you kissed me, you told me not to expect that again, are you still standing by that?”  He asked.

 

Snow answered his question, though she didn’t use words.

 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

 

 

The Reckoning

 

 

“Bzzzzztt!”  The sound repeated again.  Duncan snapped out of bed flying from Snow’s arms and landing four point on the end bed looking towards the sound.

 

“Bzzzzztt!”  There it was again, he got off the bed and walked over to the sound.  He put a finger in a small oval next to a small screened area in the wall.  “Speak and be spoken to.”  He said removing his finger.

 

“Good! Morning!  Is this our guest human I am speaking with?”  The voice on the other end of the intercom asked in way to chipper of a voice.

 

“The one and only.”  Duncan replied.

 

“Margaret the fair, here, I am to ask if you will be having breakfast with the clan or are you to be eating in, kind sir?”  Margaret asked.

 

“Ah, well, probably eating in if that’s alright.”  He replied.

 

“Very good sir, and what of our princess, shall she be eating in also or will she be attending the morning meal with the clan?”  Margaret the fair asked.

 

Duncan had thought that they would be together whenever they ventured out of the rooms, apparently he was as welcome as Snow. “I will eat with my, partner.  Thank you Margaret.”  Snow said as she leaned against Duncan, rubbing his back.

 

“Excellent then, about half an hour, see you then.”  Margaret replied.

 

Duncan put his finger back in the oval to turn the intercom off and turned to Snow.  He was stroking the back of her head enjoying their embrace.  He liked the warmth of her breath against his skin.

 

“I wish we could have finished what we started last night.”  She said softly.

 

“You and me both.”  He said in a sigh.  “I don’t understand that, if your mated to me, even though I’m not bound to you, why can’t you have sex with me?”

 

Snow looked up into Duncan’s eyes.  Her chin resting on his chest.  “Because, you do not have me within you, no chemical change, my body knows this.  What you did with your tongue was fine, it was amazing,”  Snow laughed, “but we aren’t human.  Our bodies, our reproductive systems, are completely different.  For a reason.”

 

“What about using a condom?”  Duncan asked without embarrassment. 

 

Snow moved her head back and forth, the action made her chin on his chest hurt slightly.  “Again, my body isn’t like a humans, the mating process hasn’t been completed, my body knows and hasn’t allowed me to open, no admittance for you.”

 

Duncan laughed at her statement.  “Very interesting.  No loop holes.”

 

Snow chuckled and backed from him with her hands on his hips.  “No holes period.”  She said with a laugh, covering her despair over her lost desire.  She walked over to the bed.  “Half an hour, join me?”  She asked him.

 

Duncan smiled and nodded.  “Half an hour it is.”  And went and laid down beside Snow on top of the covers. 

 

Each could see the thoughts on the others face.  Today Snow was to be called before the Lord of the House and the collection of the various elders to be judged.  She would have to give an accounting of her reasoning behind her piercings.  An official charged had been levied against her, they were soon to find out by whom.

 

They had laid in bed for a little while when Duncan looked over to her.  “We’ve been talking about this ‘trial’ that you are going though today.  But you have never told me your logic behind why you have them?  Will you tell me that much, or must I wait until the trial and lean at the same time as everyone else?”  He asked.

 

Snow sighed as she fiddled with the hair on his chest.  “I would like to, I really would, but as I said before, it is more complicated than you realize, the issue is that of honor.  If I told you, I would not be acting in honor of my kind.  It must be declared before the judgment.  There are deep and ancient reasons behind this Duncan, please understand.”  She explained, smelling in his scent he was worried for her.

 

“Bzzzzztt!”  Came again.

 

“That was no half hour.”  Duncan said as he sprung out of bed and answered the intercom. “You said half an hour.”  He told the intercom.

 

“Duncan Galt, may I have a word with you, inside please?”  A mans voice that sounded familiar asked.

 

“Yeah, sure.”  He answered then walked through the rooms to the door and answered it.  The man with the suit was on the other side.  He was in a different suit now, but equally as expensive. “Come in.”  Duncan said. 

 

“You’re injured?”  The man asked as he pointed to Duncan’s chest.

 

Duncan looked down at his chest, there were five scabbed over fingernail marks on his chest.  “Ah no, um, Snow, ah...”  He stammered

 

The man held his hand up indicating him to stop. “I understand Duncan.”  The man actually smiled slightly.  “I came to ask that we have a meeting you and I, at my clan house, it’s a couple hour drive from here.  I have some things I would like to speak with you about.”  The man asked.

 

“Duncan!”  Snow’s urgent voice said from the doorway leading back into the living area of their rooms. 

 

Duncan looked over at Snow, she was holding up a black robe and looking at him with raised eyebrows.  He looked down.  He was completely naked, he hadn’t even realized this when the man pointed out the marks on his chest.

 

“Oh, oops, excuse me.”  Duncan said to the man, turned and walked over to Snow to retrieve the robe. 

 

When he put the robe on he could feel it touch more marks on his back.  He became slightly embarrassed realizing the man behind him also now knew of those as well.

 

Duncan cleared his throat.  “I asked you this at my house, you never answered, you keep popping up.  Who are you?”  He asked, his voice a bit agitated. 

 

“You may call me Sebastian, Duncan.”  The man answered.

 

Duncan was still next to Snow, his face gave a twitch when the man said his name.  He thought hard for a moment before speaking again.  “Sebastian, how do you spell that, exactly?”  He asked, Snow’s eyebrows moved showing her question over what Duncan asked.

 

“Excuse me?”  The man asked, also wondering what Duncan had asked.

 

“Your name, it’s a simple question, how do you spell your name?”  Duncan asked again.

 

The man in the suit’s face said he did not like what Duncan was asking, He’d figured something out, but not answering Duncan’s question wouldn’t change that any.  Duncan knew him now, he would announce that fact to Snow regardless of his answer, and he would be unable to deny it.

 

“S-s-e-b-a-s-t-e-o-n, Ssebasteon.”  The man spelled and said.  Then he stood waiting.

 

“Ssebasteon, two S’s, very uncommon spelling of the name, that is an old world spelling.”  Duncan said.  “I read that name recently, in an old book.”  He stated, then held out his arm and hand, palm up and said in a grandiose voice of introduction,  “Snow, I give you the Grand Inquisitor, Night Harvest himself.”

 

Snow recoiled from in front of the man, moving behind Duncan as though to hide.  She flared her teeth at him and gave a growl.  She quickly composed herself but didn’t return forward.  Duncan could smell Snow in the air now, very strong, she was ready to fight.

 

“Sadness, I am not here for you, I do more than, retirements.  You know who I am, I have other matters to attend to currently, business with your partner.”  Night Harvest said looking around Duncan at Snow. 

 

He had his hands behind his back, his face said, though he understood her initial reaction, her current standing would not be tolerated for long.  Snow stepped forward to stand beside Duncan.

 

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance Grand Inquisitor Night Harvest.  Forgive my outburst, I make no excuses.”  Snow said politely and humbly.  Despite his job, and her feelings at the moment, he was the head of an original clan, respect was demanded.

 

Duncan had called for Beth the seeker to bring him a very ancient tome, one that came from back long before the time of Christ, before the great flood, back to the first lines of the werewolves and mankind.  Before the clans had their current names, before the great migration when they left the holy lands and went to live among the humans of the then new world. 

 

Back to when the Light held the trials to select those who would stand through time and be the governors of the clans and all of werewolf kind.  Many had tried, but they had to be of the purest heart, without greed, without lust, they must have no imperfections whatsoever. 

 

Duncan had to have the actual tome as there was no direct translation for part of the book, only images of the hieroglyphics and what they stood for.  Duncan had translated the writing by hand. 

 

The three that passed the trials formed the three lines, from where all current werewolves descend from.  They sacrificed their mortality for the Light.  They would lead the werewolves until the Light said they could finally rest.  They were made immortal, they could not be wounded in any manner, they would not age, they would not ever become sick, they could never take a mate, nor sleep.  They would never have their season to lay down and sleep eternal. 

 

It was a sacrifice of the highest kind, both blessing and curse.  It was in this book Duncan had read the birth name of the one who would become the Grand Inquisitor, Ssebasteon.  Each of the three original lines were continued from the siblings of the original heads of the high clans, their siblings now gone, but they remained.

 

Snow talked with Night Harvest while Duncan showered and dressed.  Their food had arrived but neither could eat.  Night Harvest had said he would wait for them, it was not a problem, but Duncan said he was fine, to get this over with.  He wanted to return before Snow was put to judgment.  Night Harvest assured him that he would be there as the judgment was part of his duty to oversee. 

 

Duncan kissed Snow goodbye and left with the Grand Inquisitor on the two hour drive to the House of his clan.

 

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The Grand Inquisitor’s car matched his dress style.  He had no driver, he took the drivers seat of the Rolls Royce Wraith convertible as Duncan took the passenger side.  They drove off from the clan House of Trust and passed through a small town about half an hour later. 

 

Duncan was trying to enjoy the beauty of the land around him, trying to keep his mind from wondering what the second in command of all clans wanted with him, about Snow’s impending judgment and his ill feelings about the outcome.  It seemed the more he tried to concentrate on not thinking about the available topics, the more he thought about them. 

 

They were about hour out from the town.

 

“You and Snow.”  Night Harvest said looking over to Duncan getting his attention.

Duncan looked back at him.

 

“Getting along smartly.”  Night Harvest said.

 

“I guess.”  Duncan replied, small talk, he hardly thought it necessary.

 

“I’m glad.  The two of you should get along.  It is best.”  Night Harvest said nodding his approval.

 

They drove on, the wind from the open car seemed to help Duncan in his efforts not to think of the reasons.  He didn’t really care what Night Harvest thought of Snow and his relationship he told himself, but inside he felt something that was good about the fact that the man approved of their relationship.  Though he was part of the reason that Snow was an abomination. 

 

Robert had said the agreement was approved from across the water, Night Harvest may not have been part of that decision, but more than likely was.  Considering what Duncan had read of the man and his duties, he would have been the one to suggest the deal, and approve it, without involving the Exalted Master of Clans.  And he was at Duncan’s house the night the deal was made.

 

“You have a gift of deduction Duncan.”  Night Harvest said a few minutes later catching Duncan’s attention once again.

 

Duncan looked over but didn’t respond.  Like himself, Night Harvest had reasons for saying small things.  He would wait him out.  Shouldn’t take long.

 

Night Harvest turned off onto another road and opened the Rolls up some.  The wind made it hard to hear, but Night Harvest’s voice came through the interference clear. 

 

“Not many who see my face, know exactly who I am, I use my birth name, Ssebasteon.  Non have ever asked me to spell it though.  They assume I’m a representative direct from the Grand Inquisitor.  I send word that Sebastian will be visiting them to conduct the business of the Grand Inquisitor, no one has ever questioned that.”  Night Harvest said looking over at Duncan.

 

“When the tragic Business of retirement of a non-alpha firstborn is my reason for coming, I am always cloaked, my face not seen.  This gives me some anonymity among the clans and their houses.”  Night Harvest continued. 

 

Duncan was reading him loud and clear now, he had called him out in front of Snow, he accepted that.  Those in the immediate houses and the three head clans would know who he was, that was unavoidable, outside of that, unless summoned, other clans and houses wouldn’t know him by face.  He wanted Duncan to keep this information to himself so the Grand Inquisitor could move through the clans unnoticed. 

 

His job was more than the retirement facet, he was also the chief investigator, responsible for divining the facts in whatever matter was before him.  Not being known made the job easier when people weren’t trying to promenade before a high noble.  When people aren’t aware they are being investigated, it’s easier to gather information, this is something Duncan understood very well.

 

“Understood.”  Duncan said.  The matter dropped.

 

They pulled into the well kept yard of a house, it was much the size of Snow’s, nothing like what the den house for House Trust had been.  Night Harvest parked in front of the house, the drive came right up to it, there was but a ten foot long stepping stone walkway to the ground level door. 

 

The house was modest looking.  A short distance away was a matching garage, people were coming out from it and getting into a vehicle parked near the garage door side of the building.  One of the people waved to Night Harvest before they drove off.

 

“We don’t get visitors here as does House Trust, much more quiet here.  Most den houses are rather simple, as to not draw attention.  This is House Mort.  One of the houses of my clan, I stay here when not in London.”  Night Harvest told Duncan.  “Awful place.”

 

Duncan looked around the landscape, he couldn’t see what was so awful about it.

 

Night Harvest read the expression on his face.  “London I mean, too crowded, noisy.”  He clarified.  “The castle House Trust has gives tours during the tourist season, part of the deal made with the government when they took possession of the castle.  Works well for them, no one thinks anything about the amount of traffic.  Clans travel there for schooling and research.  Very busy there.  Tours turn some revenue.”  He went on to say as they were looking across the small garden of lawn. 

 

Night Harvest seemed to be filling the void with conversation while he thought.  Finally he turned back to the door and led them inside.  The furniture was modern, nothing antique like the other den houses he’d been in were stocked with.  The house looked very respectable but not lavish. 

 

Night Harvest was leading them upstairs when they came across a somewhat plump fellow with a grape vine crown on his head and wearing white robes. “Ah, Ssebasteon, come join us, relax for a while, enjoy some of the day!”  The man said with a blissful canter in his voice.

 

“Mort, I think you do enough relaxing for the both of us.”  Night Harvest said to the man Duncan now knew was the patriarch of the house.”

 

“Always business, business, business with you my good man, you should join us for once, we’re doing a Greek theme today, come to the pool, grapes and wine, bring your guest, we have toga’s enough for all!”  Mort encouraged him.

 

Mort walked on down the stairs without waiting for a response from Night Harvest, Duncan felt this interaction had happened many times and Mort knew the answer all to well.  He simply still gave the invitations with hope.

 

Night Harvest led Duncan to a dark mahogany door that had a plaque on it that bore a crest like what the members of the various clans wore on their clothes.  He assumed this represented Night Harvest’s clan and his office in the house.  Inside the room there were several large shelves filled with books.  A handsome desk sat in front of the windows that looked out over lawns and the pool below. 

 

Night harvest went to a table along the wall beside the desk and took up a decanter and poured from it into two glasses, the liquid was a dark crimson.  He took the glasses to the desk and set one in front of the chair Duncan was to sit at and took one with him behind the desk and motioned for Duncan to sit.  He took the glass and sampled the bouquet of the wine.

 

“Nineteen thirty-two.”  Night Harvest said.

 

Each of the men drank from their glasses then set them down, looking at each other.

 

“I must apologize for the treatment of recent, by Robert of the Clay clan.  I can assure you that the high clans in no way approve of his actions, nor the irresponsibility of the Clay clan as a whole.”  Night Harvest began, putting his arms on the desk and pressing his fingers, spread apart, together at the fingertips.

 

“Robert revealed information that was not for general knowledge, that being of yours and Sadness’s, arrangement.  There are other aspects that were not to be discussed openly as well, these are currently being dealt with and my staff is investigating this matter thoroughly.”  Night Harvest paused.

 

He looked down as his expression displayed his dislike of the situations he spoke of.  “I trust you have been treated better by the houses here.  Clan Clay has tried to maintain order in the states, sadly, that has also become an issue of arrogance with them.  Many of the clans have forgotten their place, put themselves above the ones they are to protect.  This is never a good situation.”  He told Duncan.

 

Duncan didn’t know why he was telling him of the politics of the clans, outside of to fill in the reason for his apology.  There was a noticeable, considerable, difference between the attitudes of the werewolves he had interacted with back home and the ones he had met since his arrival.  Though both still played their own games of smoke and mirrors. 

 

Night Harvest drank some more wine before continuing. “I want you to know, I did not call for Sadness’s inquisition of judgment, charges and claims were levied, the elders deemed an investigation be conducted and from the evidence and based on the charges deemed the proceedings to take place.” 

 

He looked to Duncan, his face emotionless, he only wanted Duncan to know the truth for whatever his reasoning might be.  “Now then, we have much to discuss you and I, things solely for you only, you will keep them to yourself.”  Night Harvest instructed Duncan.

 

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The attendant who brought her the dress uniform of her clan and House was helping Snow dress.  She had never worn one before, she did like that since she was a hunter, everything was in black.  “It’s not to tight is it Princess Snow?”  Shell asked her. 

 

“No, Shell, it fits fine.  I just don’t know what to do with all the sashes.  How do you keep them in place?”  Snow asked looking at her right shoulder where the various braded cords that were in color wrapped from her shoulder, under her arm to connect to the uniform in the back.

 

Shell smiled up at her and lifted Snow’s arm.  She pulled a thin cord that was attached under the arm of the uniform, around the sashes and hooked it into a loop that held them in place.  The cord was elastic and gripped them tight.

 

Now fully adorned, Snow looked at herself in the mirror.  There had to be at least eight of the sashes around her arm which made it feel a bit uncomfortable with her arms at her sides plus the left side of her chest under the crest had a multitude of small patches that represented various medals received and ribbons for other achievements.   She was fully decked out.

 

“You look great!”  Shell said to her looking at her in the uniform. Snow just stared at the mirror.  She didn’t feel right in the full dress uniform.  But she would be before the Council of High Elders for her judgment, and the Grand Inquisitor.  The judgment would start just after nightfall. 

 

Shell had left and Snow was sitting in a chair in the foyer to their rooms waiting when Duncan walked in.  He also was dressed to the hilt in a suit and tie, his shoes gleamed in the light.  The suit looked of the quality the Grand Inquisitor wore. 

 

“Night Harvest, he said since I was to stand beside you, he felt it fitting I be dressed for the part.”  He said with a grim face and a shrug. 

 

Snow could tell he felt the same way as she did about all the fancy dress, but understood the significance.  He took a seat next to her and took her hand and simply held it while the two of them sat in silence waiting.  The buzz of the intercom sounded, the wait was ended.

 

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They were escorted into a large room with a high bench and a chair in the center with two areas to each side behind the larger chair that held more seats.  The Grand Inquisitor would sit in the large seat in the middle and the High Elders would take the other seats. 

 

In front of the judgment bench was a railing that was maybe three and a half feet high supported on each end by a round column.  This is where the accused would stand facing the Grand Inquisitor.  Duncan and Snow were seated behind thinner railing that circled the outside of the chamber where rows of elevated benches like bleachers ran along the walls and high up.  There were several levels above with doors that granted access to the next level of benches for spectators to view from. 

 

The room was filled to capacity, word of Princess Snow being judged had spread like wildfire and the clans traveled here to witness her trial.  Every room the den had was filled, some had to stay at nearby dens for the days they had waited for the judgment. 

 

Snow had no idea until recently that the name Sadness of Clan Frost was so well known. 

 

Everyone stood as from the back of the auditorium the Grand Inquisitor, himself fully dressed in the robes of his office, his face mostly hid by the hood that came from the robes making him look like a monk of sorts, and the members of the Council of High Elders came forward and climbed the steps to their box seats. 

 

There was a single table that set out in front of the railing that all others were seated behind, Duncan recognized one of the people as the man whom had escorted himself and Snow to meet the Lord of the House who was sitting at the center of the table, with him were several other men and women.  Duncan wasn’t sure, but they had to be Lords and their Ladies. 

 

A man dressed in an all black suit came from around the back of the high bench to the front, he had his hands pressed together in front of himself about mid chest, he raised his head up and spoke. “Lords, Ladies, Nobles, attendees, I give you, from the Clan of the Highland Citadel, Grand Inquisitor Night Harvest.”  The man turned and walked back behind the high bench after making his announcement.

 

The man Duncan had spent the day with stood from his center seat and came forward resting his hands on the railing in front of the bench. “Bring forward the accused for judgment.”  He said solemnly and a woman came beside Duncan and Snow and stood waiting for them.  They both rose and went to the rail in front of the high bench.

 

“Declare yourselves before the Grand Inquisitor and the Council of High Elders, before all witnesses present.”  Night Harvest instructed.

 

“Princess Snow, in the line of House Trust, the great hunter, Exalted Master of Clans, Lord Leyland of the Moor, Clan of the Moors.  Sadness of the Noble Clan Frost, Valiant Knight of huntsman.”  She declared.

 

Night Harvest’s eyes turned to Duncan.

 

“Duncan Galt, the protected, assigned partnership to the Princess Snow in the line of House Trust, the great hunter, Exalted Master of Clans, Lord Leyland of the Moor, Clan of the Moors, Sadness of the Nobel Clan Frost, Valiant Knight of huntsman, and my friend.”  He declared as he had been tutored, with his own addition her Snow being his friend. 

 

The Grand Inquisitor spoke next.  “Sadness of the Noble Clan of Frost, you have been summoned for judgment.  That levied against you is a claim blasphemy of piercing yourself for the dead, an act of mutilation.  If the levied claim is found in truth, you will be retied.”  Night Harvest looked up from Snow.

 

“I invoke the right to decree, as is my right as Grand Inquisitor.”  Night Harvest said looking around to the audience and the table of people set out from them.

 

The men behind Night Harvest looked between each other, whispers could be heard, Night Harvest’s action was apparently not on the agenda.

 

Night Harvest looked back to Snow.  “Sadness the dishonorable among clans and disgraced outcast of Clan Frost, though we do not require this title or status be declared, it is yours.  It is by my decree, before you are judged, that I removed from you the title of dishonorable and bestow upon you the return of your title as Lady.  It is my wish, to honor you with this title for your scars you have received in battle against the arch daemon of Prith, Alexander.”  He looked around then focused on the table with the nobles set out from the others.

 

All at the table lowered their eyes and their heads.  With a nod to them, Night Harvest returned to his seat.

 

A young man that was sitting between the two sides of elders behind the Grand Inquisitor stood and brought a paper to the Grand Inquisitor after one of the men motioned for him to do so.

 

Night Harvest read the paper then stood and faced the members of the Council of High Elders. “I have the allegations for judgment, does the Council wish to proceed with the judgment against the declared before us?”  The Grand Inquisitor asked.

 

The men replied in unison, “We do.”

 

“Is there anyone among you who does not consent?”  The Grand Inquisitor asked.  No one spoke.

 

The Grand Inquisitor bowed to the men then turned to face Snow and Duncan again. “Before we may continue, the matter of the partnership to one not of protector kind must be addressed should the finding not be in your favor.  This is a most unique situation, only once in the last twenty thousand years has this situation arisen.  By our law, Sadness, your matriarchal house, should you be retired, is in trust to a human.  You must either declare a sibling mate for your partnered human, or relinquish.”  The Grand Inquisitor stated.  “Which do you choose?”

 

Snow looked over at Duncan.  There was no chance she would relinquish. “By our law, Grand Inquisitor, I declare a mate, that of Sea Mist, my youngest sister.”  Snow declared.

 

“Duncan Galt of the humans, it has been explained to you what this means, that you will accept being turned and mate with the alpha sister of Sadness and assume the place of patriarch and matriarch in Sadness’s stead as well as the consequences should you refuse?”  The Grand Inquisitor asked.

 

“It has and I do understand Grand Inquisitor and I accept the law of the clans.”  Duncan said, looking to Snow when he finished.

 

“You are now bound, Duncan Galt, by your commitment before us and the witnesses present.”  The Grand Inquisitor replied.

 

Duncan did have a third option, as a human, he could’ve abstained from either choice, that however, would have left Snow with only one option, relinquish, in Duncan’s heart, that meant he only had two options.  These options were a small part of the conversation between himself and Night Harvest earlier that day. 

 

Had Snow relinquished, and Duncan stood beside her in this, Snow would have to turn him should the judgment not be favorable for her and he would have suffered the same fate as she.  Her house would no longer belong in the Frost line, the ownership would be at the discretion of the Clan of the Moors. 

 

By naming her sister to mate with Duncan, Sea Mist would be given the place of first born and matriarch of the clan and expand the clan, though it would be only a den of clan Frost and not a new clan line.

 

Had Duncan refused Snow’s option of arranging his mating, by default, he would be mated to Snow prior to the judgment, thus causing Snow to be cast from the noble line and himself with her, leaving them the only option of returning to clan Strong Oak as they had no other clan to accept them, should the judgment be favorable for Snow, else it would not be an issue as when Snow was retired, he would soon follow. 

 

This is the option the Grand Inquisitor recommended for Duncan, encouraged him to take and persuade Snow to agree too, that of the arranged mating.  Snow’s advisors encouraged the same to her, when the options were explained.  Snow wanted Duncan to live.  Duncan wanted to be with Snow.  They both sacrificed their hearts for one another that day.

 

The Grand inquisitor had his own reasons for Duncan to take the option of an arranged mating, reasons that were explained in great detail to Duncan.  We know these reasons, but the Grand Inquisitor has asked we keep them to ourselves, and we shall.

 

The Grand Inquisitor started the proceedings.

 

“In the past sixty two years Sadness of the Noble Clan Frost, one hundred fifty-two claims against you have been levied.  Of those one hundred fifty-one, I have investigated and with the agreement of the Council of High Elders, dismissed everyone without judgment.  Of these claims, three have been from clan Clay, the remaining one hundred forty-eight have been from the matriarch of Clan Frost.  Your accuser in the remaining claim against you for the charge of blasphemy in piercing yourself for the dead is also the matriarch of Clan Frost.  I have investigated this claim, exhaustively, my findings submitted to the High Elders for their determination on if I am to conduct a judgment of you.  You are here today because they have found substantial reason that you have done such a reprehensible act.”  The Grand Inquisitor stated.

 

The Grand Inquisitor addressed the Council of High Elders. “Is the Council in agreement with the statement in regards to this judgment?”  He asked.

 

“We are.”  The speaker for the Council stated.

 

He returned to face the accused.  “As I look upon you Sadness, I see the evidence of this act on your face.  You have clearly mutilated your body.  I give you the option now to remove these mutilations and renounce your actions and accept the terms of penance.”  The Grand Inquisitor said to Snow.

 

“I refuse Grand Inquisitor, High Elders, but offer explanation to the counter of the claim.”  Snow answered the judgment against her with; her voice firm and head held high.

 

“I accept your refusal and grant you the right you are entitled to by our law to refute this claim against you, I will however, ask you once more, stating that should you choose to remove the mutilations, the judgment will be dropped and you will be allowed to make atonement through penance and not be retired.”  The Grand Inquisitor said to Snow.

 

Snow bowed to the Grand Inquisitor.  “I am most grateful for the opportunity presented to myself by the Grand Inquisitor, again, with respect and the offer of explanation to refute the claim, refuse and ask that the judgment against myself proceed.”

 

The Grand Inquisitor looked back to the elders.  None of them said anything. “Proceed with your explanation, Princess Snow.”  The Grand Inquisitor said, giving Snow the final honor of her title, should the decision find her guilty.

 

Snow began her accounting.  “I am a hunter, we are honored by our scars.  Even in my title, I am Valiant Knight, by my actions, and by my scars.  My piercings are not mutilations, nor are they for the dead.  They are my scars I wear for those who have lost loved ones due to my failure.  These are their battle scars.”  Snow moved from behind the railing and stood between the high bench and the railing, facing the table of nobles.

 

Snow touched one of the piercings on her left ear.  “This is for Mark Williams, survived by his wife Marry and daughter Kalie, son Mark Jr.”  The Grand Inquisitor took to his seat as he listened.

 

Snow proceeded to touch each and every piercing on both ears and recite the name of the lost, and the names of those they left behind.  When she came to the fine linked chain that went from her ear to her nose (which until she had the nose ring was worn as an ear drape) she recited the same as before for each link in the chain.  Then she touched each of her lip rings, finally reaching the ring that was in the middle of her nose.

 

Snow hesitated as she held the ring in her nose, she lowered her head slightly as she lifted the ring.  “Lisa Galt, survived by her father, Duncan Galt.”  Snow said as she looked to Duncan.  “These are their battle scars that I bear for them.”

 

The room was silent.  The Grand Inquisitor stared at her without word.  The Council of High Elders said nothing. 

 

One member of the audience stood and walked past the railing that was between the audience area and the main floor and walked to face Snow.

 

The man standing before Snow knelt and put his face to the ground with his hands beside his head.  Soon others followed suit, all lining in front of Snow and kneeling before her, face to the ground with their hands beside their heads.  The nobles at the table moved from behind the table and did the same to show their support, leaving the head of the House seated by himself as he watched. 

 

This is the highest honor one can show to another in werewolf culture, it is the highest form of respect.

 

The Council of Elders and the Grand Inquisitor looked around.  Those that could not find room on the main floor were kneeling where they had been sitting.  The chamber seated fifteen thousand, and the isles and walkways were also full when the judgment began.  How many exactly where there, we do not know.  Only the man whom Duncan and Snow had been escorted to when they arrived still sat in his chair at the center of the table.

 

He was looking at the Grand Inquisitor.  His face held no emotion.

 

The Grand Inquisitor looked back onto the masses before Snow.  Duncan, though he did not fully understand the actual meaning of the custom, had also done as the others, he knew this much, it was an expression of respect.

 

The Grand Inquisitor stood, and left the high bench, as he walked forward from behind it the people made room for him to pass.  When he reached the area where Snow was standing they cleared the area in front of her as he faced her.  He looked her in the eyes, then without anything said, knelt placing his face to the ground and his hands beside his head.  The crowd around started to rise when the Grand Inquisitor stood.  The chamber was quiet.

 

“I find no fault in you Lady Sadness.”  The Grand Inquisitor said to Snow, then he turned and faced the Council of High Elders from the floor of the chamber.  “Your decree on the judgment Council.”  Night Harvest said to those on the high bench.

 

The council members looked between themselves and whispered.  The eldest member among them stood while they whispered.  He went to the seat the Grand Inquisitor had sat in and picked up the paper the judgment allegations were written on.  He held it high for all to see, then tore the page down the middle, put the pieces together and ripped those in half, and again, and again.

 

Then the man who ripped the page up spoke.  “It is my opinion, Grand Inquisitor, that the matriarch of Clan Frost acts in vendetta, and that neither the Council nor the Grand Inquisitor should recognize any claims against Princess Snow, Lady Sadness of Clan Frost, levied by her ever again.”  The man turned towards his fellow council members.  “Is there anyone of you who disagrees?”  He asked them. 

 

Heads shook.  No one spoke.

 

The council member who had torn up the page then tossed the pieces over the edge of the high bench.

 

Duncan wormed his way to Snow and embraced her.

 

“Remember what we talked about, Duncan.”  Night Harvest said pointing a finger at him, his face had a look that said ‘it is important’ and he had a respectful smile.  Then he returned to the high bench and took his seat.

 

“The Council of High Elders has chosen to dismiss the levied claim against Lady Sadness, the Grand Inquisitor agrees.  Thank you all for coming.  Please clear the chamber now as we have a matter of closed session.  Thank you.”  The Grand Inquisitor said to the audience.  “Princess Snow, Duncan, remain please.”

 

Those that were in attendance left the chamber with smiles on their faces.  Many with a tear in their eyes.  Snow’s explanation told that the piercings were of an honorable intention, not a mutilation, no more so than a battle scar, which was a mark of honor. 

 

Each one represented a scar that could not be seen with the eyes, only with the heart, the wounds to the humans who lost loved ones to the darkness.  As protectors of humankind, and warriors against the darkness, they accepted her scars as noble battle scars and honored her willingness to defend, not the piercings, but the humans they stood for.

 

Once the chamber was empty, the nobles returned to their table with the one who escorted them and his mate to the left of the Lord whom they were introduced to sitting at the center.  He motioned to the high bench and the young man who sat between the two sides of the Council came and took a piece of paper from him and returned to the bench.

 

The Grand Inquisitor read the paper that was brought to him and nodded at the Lord then spoke to the two before him.

 

“Lady Sadness, it is in my opinion, that you have been disgraced wrongfully.  As I stated before, I have investigated every claim against you.  Though I cannot remove being disavowed to outcast by your clan, as you are not of any of my houses or clans, I can remove the disgraced status from you.  And I so do.”  Night Harvest said to Snow standing with Duncan at the rail before the bench. 

 

Then he held up the paper that had been handed to him.  “House Trust, the great hunter, has informed me they have accepted you into their clan, you will still serve in the states, but under their title.  Only the Exalted Master of Clans can restore your status from outcast among clan Frost, as he is the head of your lineage.”

 

Snow was livid, she didn’t expect this, it was beyond an honor to her.  “Thank you Grand Inquisitor, Lord Floyd.  I am truly honored.”

 

“Then we are finished here, unless you have anything for us?”  Night Harvest  asked.

 

Duncan spoke up.  “If I may, Grand Inquisitor.” 

 

Night Harvest looked at Duncan, a bit surprised.  “Yes, Duncan Galt.”

 

“I would like to thank the patriarch of the House Trust for his hospitality personally, if I may.”  Duncan requested.

 

The Grand Inquisitor shrugged, not having any objection to such a request.  “By all means.”

 

Duncan turned to the table of nobles that remained.  When he did so the man in the center spoke. “You are welcome Duncan Galt.”  The man said.

 

“I wasn’t speaking to you sir.”  Duncan said and moved to stand in front of the man who had escorted he and Snow originally. “Lord Floyd, on behalf of Princess Snow and myself, thank you sir for the kindness and hospitality you have shown us.”   Then he turned to the somewhat angered face of the man at the center of the table.  “It was a pleasure to meet you, Exalted Mater of Clans, Lord Leyland of the Moor.”  Duncan said to him and bowed.

 

The man started to chuckle, his eyes firmly set on Duncan. “Thank you, Duncan, I see you and the Grand Inquisitor have the same knack for… sniffing things out.”  Lord Leyland said to him.

 

Duncan moved back to beside Snow and looked up to the high bench.  Night Harvest was giving Duncan a serious look, he wasn’t displeased with Duncan, he just wondered why he felt the need to call people out.

 

“Ssebasteon, I think I get what Duncan Galt has in mind.  As you said, you may not overturn the clan decision of my lineage, but I can.  I believe this is his obscure yet blunt way of asking if I would consider such an act.”   Lord Leyland of the Moor said to Night Harvest.  Lord Leyland stood.  He walked over to face Snow.  He smiled at her then looked over to Duncan.

 

“You’re a pain in the ass, you know that.”  He said to Duncan. 

 

Duncan smiled.  “I have been told that before Lord Leyland.” 

 

Lord Leyland returned his attention to Snow.  “Sadness, my kin, you truly are of the old breed, warrior to the end.  Trust was much the same way.”  Leyland said to her looking her over. 

 

“Damn fool had no fear, charge in out numbered sword in one hand, crossbow in the other, never stopping his charge.  Both of you, pains in the ass.  The best kind though, you are truly an honor to his name.  But restore you, I will not do.”  Lord Leyland said to Snow.

 

She lowered her head as she responded.  “I never would have asked such a thing of you my Lord Leyland, the honor shown to me here today is more than I deserve.”  Snow said humbly.

 

“Bullshit, you earned every bit of it, clan Strong Oak.  I am very proud of you and thank you for defending their honor.  You kept your wits about you.  A hunters cunning.”  Leyland said to her patting her on the shoulder. 

 

He gave a short glance back at Duncan.  “Your, partner, he though, admires you and as any good man would, strives for the best for you, I can see that in his eyes and in his scent, the heart he holds for you.  Though, I do not care much, Duncan Galt…”  He turned his attention towards him, “for your methods, and would caution you against such an act ever again, I can understand why.”  Lord Leyland said then looked between the two for a moment.

 

Lord Leyland turned from them and walked back towards the table the other nobles were sitting at, partway there, he turned back. “I’ll be keeping my eyes on the two of you.  Now both of you get out of here, stay the rest of the week, then get back to work.”  Leyland walked back to face the patriarch of the house.  “I’ll be leaving directly Floyd, have my driver bring the bus around.”

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Duncan and Snow were invited to stay a bit longer than the rest of the week in the end, a mating celebration was being held and Lord Floyd insisted they stay.  Duncan enjoyed seeing how werewolves committed to one another, he had read of the rituals in his studies, but seeing the event live, very impressive. 

 

The two to be mated stepped down the center of what was the main hall of the den.  Each wore long robes in the color of their clan.  Hers the royal purple of the Exalted High Master of Clans, and his the earthen brown of a commoner’s clan. 

 

The families of each lined the path they followed, each on their respective side for the intended they represented; the nobles of her clan, the elders of his with the patriarch and matriarch of their clans in the center of each line.  Had neither been children of the patriarchs and matriarchs of their clans, this is where their parents would stand. 

 

When they reached the center of the line in front of their parents, they stopped, faced each other and drew ceremonial swords, each placing the blade on the others left shoulder and spoke together the words that they were mating for the good of the clans and committed to their duty as protectors, they went on to speak of defending each other and standing beside one another through all the battles of life they would face. 

 

They lifted their swords to their faces, took one step to the side and walked past each other to the patriarch and matriarch of the others clan.  They lowered the sword and put the point to the ground and knelt on one knee, head bowed.  The patriarch and matriarch each then placed a hand on their heads and said they accepted the person before them into their line. 

 

Then the two that the ceremony was being held for stood and once again faced each other with their swords before their face, then in unison each placed their sword into the sheath on the others side.  A symbol of the two clans joining lines.

 

After this they proceeded to the high table, each walked around a separate end of the table and were seated in the chairs the patriarch and matriarch would normally occupy.  The bishop came to where they sat and placed a small plate with a small round biscuit on it. 

 

The two seated each picked up a small knife, one cut the biscuit in half, the other cut it across.  They set the knives down and each picked up the quarter nearest them and placed it in the mouth of the other.  This was symbolic of their commitment to the other, to care for the other. 

 

They each picked up one of the remaining quarters and took it in their hand, together each crumpled the biscuit in their hands and let the crumbs fall onto the plate.  This was symbolic of the two adding to the numbers of their clan. 

 

Then the two heads of the two clans stepped forward to face one another.  The two newly mated stood and also faced one another.  She of the House of Trust, took from her waist a sash in the color of her clan, that was tied to her.  The heads of her clan in the isle below did the same. 

 

She placed the sash on the shoulder of her young man, the matriarch of House Trust did the same to the matriarch of the young man’s clan and the patriarch of House Trust did the same to his counterpart. 

 

The young woman would go to live in the clan of the young man, the once commoners clan now had a noble line, their clan color would now change to that of the house they served.  House Trust grew.  The young man’s clan was now the Noble Clan Shmutz of House Trust, the great hunter, the Exalted Master of Clans, Clan of the Moors.

 

A celebration would be held that night for the two mated at the evening meal, now the two would be allowed time together in the clans version of a bridal suite, after a light snack was served ending the mating ritual. 

 

Carts were being brought out with food on them for all in attendance to enjoy, Snow and Duncan looked at each other as the carts passed and made a quick exit.  The carts were filled with Bolivarian cream pies.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Duncan and Snow were packing, they would be catching their flight soon.  Lord Floyd had stopped by to bid them farewell.  It was shortly after he left a familiar face was at the door.  Night Harvest had returned in time to see them off.

 

“Duncan, Snow.  House Trust has made arrangements for you Snow, things you will be needing back in the states.  You’ll see them when you return.”  Night Harvest started, not wasting any time.

 

“Thank you sir, thank you.”  Snow said bowing her head.

 

“As for you Mr. Galt, there are some things I must know.”  Night Harvest said to Duncan.

 

“Oh?”  He asked, suspicion in his tone.

 

“My counterpart, Lord Leyland, he’s a great hunter, that is his line, great hunters.”  Night Harvest said, looking over to Snow briefly.  “But when it comes to deductive reasoning, his skills are…”  Night Harvest held out his hand from his chest and wobbled his palm back and fourth.  “He wasn’t right about why you revealed him was he?  You weren’t making some obscure request that he restore Snow, were you?”  He asked.

 

Duncan gave a knowing smile.  He started shaking his head at Night Harvest.  “No, I wasn’t.”

 

“So why did you do it then?”  Night Harvest asked.

 

Duncan flopped his arms at his sides.  “Sometimes I just want to know I’m right.” 

 

“Now that I believe.”  Night harvest said with his own amusement.  “I like to know how people deduce things, like to know how they think, how they arrive at… knowing things.”  Night Harvest went on.  Duncan waited.  “How did you know he wasn’t Lord Floyd, what tipped you off?”

 

Duncan sighed, he understood why Night Harvest wanted to know Duncan’s logic.  Had Duncan been in his shoes, he would have wanted to know also.

 

“Well, when we were introduced to him when we first arrived, he was introduced as his Lordship the head of the House, not patriarch, the head of the House is the head of the line the house serves, Lord Leyland.”  Duncan responded.

 

“That’s a bit thin, we often refer to the head of a House or clan as the head, not by patriarch or matriarch.”  Night Harvest pried.

 

Duncan nodded and went on.  “No name was given, Lords and Ladies always like to have their names spoken, unless they are hiding for some reason, a lot of what I figured out came from reading.  He was seated alone at the high table, patriarchs and matriarch always set a place for their mate, even if they are not with them, Beth the seeker confirmed this custom still holds.  He was seated alone, no place for a mate.  Only three in the clans remain unmated, Lord Leyland, yourself and the Supreme Bishop of Clans.”  Duncan finished.

 

Night Harvest nodded accepting what Duncan said.  “What about Lord Floyd, what gave him away?”

 

Duncan smiled with a chuckle.  “That was simple actually, the girl.  He had been busting on her about getting a mate.  She passed us once coming to the den, and again when we were heading to meet Lord Leyland.  When she passed the second time, she had a clan crest from her mate in hand.  She held it so Lord Floyd would notice it.”

 

“He inspected it and sent her to the bishop.  When a child of the patriarch and matriarch of a clan choose a mate, they present the crest to their father, who either approves or disapproves the mate then, if he approves, the crest is taken by the child to the bishops to have the clan verified as an acceptable crossing of lineage.”

 

“If it passes muster, then the patriarch takes the request for approval for mating to the elders.  When the girl left he shouted after her he would have the elders approve it by tomorrow.  Only the patriarch of a house or clan ever takes such a request to the elders.”  Duncan surveyed the Grand Inquisitor.  The man was looking at him like he expected more.

 

Duncan continued.  “The crests, all members wear a crest of their clan or house, except for the patriarch and matriarch of the house or clan, and anyone above them, it is expected everyone will know who they are, even visiting patriarchs and matriarchs of equal or lesser standing were these.  Lord Floyd did not wear this, nor did Lord Leyland, this indicated he was higher than the lord of the house.”

 

“The only one that would have been higher here, was the Exalted Master of Clans, I already knew Lord Floyd was from here because of his daughter.”  Duncan gave a secure smile.  “Plus, Snow was here to be judged in a matter that had retirement for a penalty, that demanded the head of her clan line be here, along with the other two heads of each line.”  Duncan finished.

 

“So what of the third?  You identified two of us, what about the Supreme Bishop of Clans then?”  Night Harvest asked.

 

“That’s easy, surprised you even asked.”  Duncan said with mild amusement.  “The Bishop is not part of either the legislative clan, or the judicial clan, his not being a part of the governing bodies, and is the only one of the three high clans that has a seat among the Council of High Elders.  He was the one who ripped up the charges against Snow.”

 

“So why didn’t you call him out as you did myself and Lord Leyland?”  Night Harvest asked with a wondering look.

 

“Sometimes, I like to keep things to myself.”  Duncan responded with a shrug.

 

“Very good, I must say, you are rather good at catching what others miss.”  Night Harvest said to Duncan.

 

“What can I say, being a sleuth is in my blood.”  He replied.

 

“So it is.  One more thing I must know, what about me?  What tipped you off that I was the Grand Inquisitor, you didn’t just stumble onto that information in some dusty old book, you were digging, you had pegged me long before you had me spell my name.  You were just looking for confirmation of what you already thought you knew.”  Night Harvest stated.

 

Duncan smiled, he moved closer to the Grand Inquisitor.  He reached to the mans chest.  “That is a really nice tie clip, truth, judgment.”  Duncan said as he ran a finger over the words in an old text on the top and bottom of the ornately carved tie clip. 

 

“I knew I had seen this emblem before, I finally remember and looked it up in one of my books of mythology, it’s a symbol for justice used in ancient courts, who else but the judge of the clans would have such a tie clip.”  Duncan ended, letting go of the tie clip and smiling at his success.

 

Night Harvest’s face and smile said he was impressed with how Duncan made his deductions.  He turned to leave, having his answers.

 

“You came all the way back from London to ask me about this?”  Duncan asked, wanting his own answers.  It seemed odd that a man in Night Harvests position would make the effort.

 

Night Harvest looked back with his hand on the doorknob.  “Like you, I have sleuth in my blood, sometimes I just have to know if I’m right.”

 

 

 

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