She had been watching him for days, trying to find some way of making the lands he came to less desolate. He had uncovered the old … well, what might have been a palace at one time. She had watched him shed tears when he had visited what looked like a group of monuments in the rain, on the second day. Was this truly the one she was sent to help? Vash wasn’t sure. He moved around the lands on four legs at night, touching on the old fences and finding the lakes and places that were still growing. He stayed out til sunrise in those places where there was yet life. Not all of the land was barren – just the hundreds of acres surrounding the old palace. It was a curse and a horrid thing conquerors did to those they wanted to insure lost hope. For once a people lost hope, they could easily lose everything. And these people? Whoever had lived here? They had definitely lost everything.

By the fourth day, he had met someone on the main road to barter services. Then on the fifth day, the same man brought lumber onto the old courtyard that the lycan had cleared out on the first and third days. He was definitely a hard worker. And stubborn. Those were qualities that she recognized as something her mother would like. Perhaps he was the one she was to be looking after…

“I don’t know. He looks kind of grizzled, don’t you think?” the elf woman had brown hair with streaks of pure raven running through it. Her eyes were crystalline and there were light scales of iridescent black and brown just over her cheeks and surrounding those eyes.

Next to her stood an equally handsome male elf, his features almost exactly the same as hers, save for the hair. His hair was raven with streaks of golden blonde running through it.

“He’s not been away from the pack in quite some time. Maybe he isn’t used to this sort of life?” He looked to his sister and then to their hooded counterpart.

Vash pushed back her hood, revealing a face that was mostly scaled. Her eyes were also crystalline in color, but unlike her siblings, the pupils were slitted, draconic, not rounded like normal elven eyes held. They were all quite exotic to look upon, no matter which world they stood on. She began using hand signing to them. The other, quieter one amongst the 4 cleared his throat. He was not robed like Vash, nor was he dressed in a warrior’s clothing like the other two. He looked truly elven, with no outer signs at all of being anything but. His dark brown hair was pulled back into a braid.

“He is the one. I have heard someone speak the name Wulf while talking to him. He is alone out here. I know that there are others of his pack, but not many are close by, and those I have encountered do not know he’s here.” He translated for his sister.

“Funny name,” Neilan whispered. He looked over at Sasha.

“The name of someone who doesn’t want to stand out.” The fairer haired half elf sighed. “If mother cares for him, then he is the one she wishes us to help. But would he know of us? Would he accept help?”

“Why wouldn’t he?” the male asked before Vash had a chance to finish signing.

“Is that a question you’re asking Xian or Vash?” Sasha looked between them. Vash signed as Xian replied easily enough.

“Both.”

“Lycan are prideful, just as much as the high elves who rule our people over here,” the voice came from the side. All of the siblings turned to see a taller version of them step from the forested shadows. He had the same mask as the others over his crystalline eyes, his pale hair hung down only to the tops of his pointed ears, unlike the others. He kept his hair short for a reason.

“Wolian… ama contacted you, too?” Sash was kind of astonished by that.

“Yep,” he let the “p” pop on his lips. He turned and began through the trees toward the salted, scorched earth not far away. “Maybe she knew one of us needed to be here that wouldn’t just talk and spy.”

Vash looked between her siblings. She then pulled the hood over her better and ran to catch up, the others following close behind.

“At least let us get to defensive positions…”

“Where, Sash? He’s at the palace grounds. There are no trees and no cover there except the buildings themselves. Besides, he’s probably already sniffed you at some point. I swear, you guys need to be out in the world more and not stuck in some elven guardian mission. You need to remember what the other people of this world are like.”

Wolian got a scouring look from Sasha, but she then got an elbow from her twin brother, Neilan.

“He’s right.”

“Silence, traitor.”

Neil shrugged off his sister’s frustration.

“Vash says we compromise. Let the twins move outward to get vantage points and the rest of us go with you, Wolian. Agreeable?” Xian hoped it would be. Wolian could be very single minded and too forward for some people’s tastes.

The larger of them all stopped and turned to look over his heavily cloaked shoulder. “Very well.” he watched the two move off and paused, waiting to give them some moments before heading back toward the palace area, where Wulf was working.

*****

Wulf had just cut the edge on the third piece of wood when he felt the change in the area around him. He grinned slowly and wiped sweat from his face with his discarded shirt before setting it aside and picking his hammer up. Grabbing the cut wood, the big lycan went to put it into its place.

As he was nailing the second board into place he paused and gauged the whereabouts of his observers. They’d been watching him for days and now it seemed they were becoming brave enough to venture closer. He was nailing the third one into place when he felt several of them finally get the nerve to approach him.

Climbing down from his perch Wulf dropped his hammer with his things and reached for his canteen to take a long drink as he took a break. “I have lunch cooking, you should call the others down from their perch to join us, I’m not going to attack. If I was going to I would have days ago.”

“Damn! I would’ve missed it then and I suppose I’ll still miss it now. You look like you could give a good fight,” Wolian smiled, his jagged teeth usually the first thing to turn someone off. He held out his arm in the lycan way to greet the man. “Wolian. And you must be Wulf… the famous one, that is.”

With a chuckle and grin of his own, Wulf took the offered forearm on a good grasp to shake. “I can hold my own, and yes I’m Wulf though I don’t know anything about the famous part. It’s nice to meet you Wolian.” Releasing Wolian’s forearm, hw made sure to look the others over as well. Their appearance didn’t repulse him one bit. “And who is this with you?”

“We were the lone ones here for that long. And I felt my sister and I should not approach you, without some discretion,” Xian felt awkward, now. Had they really been known all along? He looked to Vash, who, in her customary way, shrugged her shoulders.

“It’s alright,” he smiled, “I am just trained to be very alert and so I was on to you.” He offered his forearm to them both.

“This is Vash, she’s never been able to talk. And Xian, who sometimes talks for her.” Wolian introduced before taking a couple of steps back and yelling, “”Neil! Sash! Get down here!”

“Nice to meet you both.” As it seemed that Woilan was the spokesman for the group, Wulf looked to the taller elf, “While I’ll enjoy the company I am curious what brings all of you out here?” He let Xian’s forearm go and watched the descent of the final two members.

“Well, our mother told us to introduce ourselves and help you with anything you need. And we do what our mother says, you see…” Wolian arched his back a bit and Wulf could hear the popping of bones. “How much of this is yours?”

“Zen?” Thinking about her made his heart ache. “How is she?” There was only one mother he could be speaking about and Wulf was very fond of the petite beauty. After all, he was here because of Zenlial. If not for her, he wouldn’t be within the palace walls facing his painful memories. “And to answer your question, the entire place is mine.”

“Well,” Wolian said in awe as he turned and looked around at the place and took some steps off.

Vash signed something to Xian and then walked over to the barren earth her taller brother was meandering into.

“She says, she has not heard anything from our mother in some time. Apologies. It has just taken us a very long time to get here.” Xian watched his siblings move outward while two more came up from the sides. “We were spread to the far corners. We’re still missing one. Perhaps she would know more of our mother’s situation. She is the true magic blessed of us. We’re just druids and warriors.” Xian moved off.

“Greetings,” the female twin whispered. She didn’t offer her hand.

The male came to her side and added, “I’m Neilan and this is Sasha. We are pleased to know you are the one we were told to find.”

“Pleasure to meet you both.” It was amazing to see them all. Zenlial had told him that she was a mother and that her previous mate had been a dragon. He just hadn’t expected so many and for each of them to look so very unique. There was Wolian who appeared more draconic than the others and Xian,Vasha, Neilan and Sasha with their scaling that was patterned in such a fashion to make them even more breathtaking when combined with their elven features.

“So tell me what all can you do?” he asked, deciding that he best be learning about these…kids… at least. Kids? They were obviously all older than him.

“Well, we can’t do a lot, nothing spectacular – but we’re hard workers and craftsworking is a hobby for both of us.” Neil replied. “Now, those two? That’s another story.”

The sandy waste that was now the salted and cursed range around the old Rourke Palace was a sad thing to look upon for the druids. Both of them looked to one another and then squatted and placed their bare hands and feet to the ground. From there… it was like a miracle in the making. Plants that had lain dormant sprouted from the earth and began to grow with a quickness. The sandy ground took in immediately dying and rotting vegetation and turned as if helped on by an invisible plowing, a refreshed, darker and more fertile ground was left.

Wulf was amazed at what he saw and he even took a step back in his surprise. “That’s …” He chuckled and rubbed a hand over his damp head of hair. Looking at the others he was still smiling, “I thought it’d take years to get the land back proper. Druids, huh?” He shook his head.

“Well, first…” Neilan and Sasha both moved forward quickly to catch the two younger ones as they fell backward. They were obviously used to their siblings putting their all into something.

“They gonna be okay?” Wulf asked as the twins helped with their drunken druidic counterparts.

“They just overdid it. They’ll be fine,” Wolian chuckled and watched the two small druids walk drunkenly around with the twins.

Clapping his hands together, Wulf got all of their attentions. All five half-dragons looked his way. Wulf inhaled deeply and rumbled pleasantly, “I appreciate what you’ve done, but by tradition, we’ve just met. Before anything else, let’s fill our stomachs. it’ll keep your strength up.” He had venison cooking with some root veggies he’d found after taking down the deer. “Hope you like deer.”

“We love deer!” they all yelled back at him, except Vash, who nodded with gleeful delight. They made their way back over to where Wulf had set up his household. Most elves were vegetarians, but these were half- dragons. Meat was something they loved.

Neil and Sasha settled Vash and Xian against a low wall and then sat on each side of the druids. The two were speaking to one another using sign language. Wolian was watching Wulf more than paying attention to the others. But he went to each of them and got their travel dishes from them so he could get them some food.

“Did you add savor-root? It makes the vegetables take on more of the meaty flavor.”

“Best way to flavor it “ Wulf was turning the spit in the old fireplace of the kitchen area. He pulled his knife and began filling the plates before slicing up the veggies and adding those as well. There was a brief pause by the big lycan as he sniffed the air without making any odd movements. Once he was satisfied, Wulf went back to his job.

The scent of magic and incense was on the breeze. Even the half-dragon looked up and sniffed. Well, this was a surprise.

“Our elder sister, Eddara. She’s probably being cautious, like the others were. If I can smell her, I know you can,” Wolian whispered to the lycan as he.

“I smell her, but didn’t want to spook her any more than I wanted to spook your other siblings.” Pulling his extra plate he filled it and set it aside for the new arrival for when she decided to join them. He then filled his own plate and moved to take a seat with Zenlial’s children.

“Between all of our strengths, I’m sure we can help him have this place livable this season. And by next season, the crops will be able to once again thrive,” Xian said to the others before taking a good bite of his food.

Neilan had both his and his sister’s packs over to one side and then came to join the rest of them. Sasha handed him his plate that she’d been holding.

“If Neil and I use our bond together, we can move the larger things. It may be tedious, but much less tedious than physically moving them. I suppose this is all why ama told us to come here. She is hoping for a new home with…” Sasha looked up as Wolian and Wulf came to sit with them. “…with you.”

“Where is the rest of your pack? Don’t your people live and work by pack rule?” Wolian asked before he chomped down on one of the chunks of meat he had.

“I’m wantin’ your ama and all of you to make this place your home with me too.” Wulf’s smile was warm and then softened as he thought over Wolian’s question, “They did… not much of my Pack left. They were killed out during the wars and then elves raided the place as we were finally recovering and worked on wiping the rest out. They killed my parents and my sister in an attempt to claim the land to mine. They ruined the land around this place to keep everyone out.” He was seated near Sasha and attempting to eat his food and paused to stare down at the ground, “They hid me and everyone thought I was dead. I hadn’t returned until now.”

Vash signed while looking to him and Xian quickly swallowed his mouthful.

“She says, now you have elves that will bring life back to the lands the others hurt. It is healing.” He smiled and nodded to his sister before looking over at Wulf. “The elves you dealt with are very harsh. They don’t realize…” He wrinkled his nose as he tried to think of the proper words.

“They’re assholes,” Wolian input. “They’d kill me on sight for existing.”

“Well, we took care of you little bit. No worries.” Neilan smirked. He liked reminding his BIG little brother of his place. “Will you send out the call for the pack? I assume you’re , you know… an Alpha? A royal?”

“I haven’t tried to pull the pack in, but then I know that once they see that the place is recovering they will start returning to our home.” He had drawn one leg up and rested his arm on his knee as he chewed a bit of the venison.

“Will they be like you?” Sasha asked. “Will they accept us?”

“I’d like to say yes, but I haven’t been around them in many years except the random stray that’s wandered through Weylyn lands.” Wulf was straight up honest. “But if they can’t be accepting then they need to find another Pack and another place to call home.”

The adult children had very real delight in their eyes when they heard his words. They were children who were loved and adored by their parents, but they were born and lived in a time wherein they were not truly accepted anywhere they went. But this person, who barely knew them would stand up for them against his own pack?

~ Breaking bread with the others does not give you a place. Earning your place is how you lycan do things and I’ve seen no earning of my ama’s heart, ~ the mental speak came from the old road that lead from the main traveling path to their ruined palace. Wulf could tell directionality but that was all.

Like most lycan Wulf didn’t care to have someone in his head unless they were invited in. With a deep rumble Wulf rose to his feet to look around, “Big words coming from someone that won’t show themselves and say it to my face.”

There was a coalescing of energy in front of Wulf. And then, a small framed woman that was the spitting image of her mother stood in front of him instead of energy. What was very obvious a difference in this daughter and her ama were the partially scaled and partially feathered wings that were on her back.

“Fine.”

“I’m not trying to win anyone over, and if you think that, then maybe you haven’t been paying attention. I don’t owe any of you anything. You tailed me, you came to me. I’ll accept each and every one of you just as you are, but I won’t beg any of you to accept me in order to have your ama in my life. I respect her and think she is a wonderful person. She made me give a damn about life again – my own life. As soon as she comes back I want to make her my mate and I’m trying to make this place a home for our family and our Pack. It’s up to each of you to decide if that will include you or not.” Wulf had lost his appetite and that was saying a lot for a lyacn his size. “Enjoy the food.” He gave a polite bow to them all as he turned to make his way back to his work. He had a lot to do before sun down.

“Eddara,” Wolian growled at his sister. “Why are you…”

“Because she’s in pain.” Eddara handed a rolled scroll to her brother who was about to get in her face. He took the scroll and turned to give it to Neilan, who could more easily read than he could. “She’s in pain and she has no one there with her…again. How many times will she be alone and doing some ridiculous dutiful thing?”

Neil read the letter and then made a symbol with his left hand above his heart. Wulf would recognize it as a symbol of sympathy and done for those who had not made it to the other side of the great water, at least in Elven belief.

“Well, share,” Wolian whispered impatiently.

“I write to inform the Elven Forum that Lady and Councilor Minlial Nedian is dead. I am now investigating the circumstances of her death in hopes that those responsible can be held to the justice they deserve.” Neil looked up. “The rest is meandering over other official doings with the Council or Crimson. Eddara, how did you intercept this?”

“I have my ways. They’re still trying to woo me into service in the Elven Reaches. I take advantage of their desperation and need.” She took the scroll back and held it out to Wulf, now. “Would you like to see maybe smell? Since you cannot feel her.” Eddara was testing the wolf. He seemed perfectly fine, which told her that their mother had not made any bonding commitments to him, which was odd in her eyes.

Taking the scroll Wulf looked the parchment over, read what it said and then closed his eyes and he held it to his nose to breathe in deep. There was a low rumble from him as he carefully rolled the piece back up and held it in his hand.

“They’ll want her to remain.” Xian said. He looked to Eddara and asked, “Is the sadness because of our aunt’s death?”

“No. That’s not all that I feel when I touch the scroll.” Eddara sighed. “She is sad and lonely and confused. She is also weakened, I’m not sure by what. Perhaps she is using too much of her inner soul for the others. You know she does such things for those she cares for. And she went over with friends.” When Wulf looked at her and seemed to have questions in his mind, the magical half-elf responded. “I can touch things and feel emotions from those who have previously touched it. If you were truly mated to our ama, you would feel what she feels, much like our ada did, would you not? Would you not want to be by her side?”

Now that rumble was directed towards the one they called Eddara as she dared assume things where he was concerned when she knew nothing about him! His gaze narrowed and he took a deep breath to remind himself that he was dealing with Zenlial’s children.

“But she told us, she wanted him. She did not tell us that they were mated.” Sasha put her dish aside and got up to walk to stand between the two, yet to the side. “Wulf has no commitment here, save what he has already told us – that we would be accepted as well as our ama on his lands. We do not have right to hold him to anything he has not committed to, Eddara.”

“Sister’s right.” Neilan stated before he took both their dishes to the basin Wulf had set up on one of the collapsed columns.

“If you think I wouldn’t wish to be with her, you are sorely mistaken. She made a commitment long before I made my desires clear to her. I wanted her to stay and she said she needed to see this through before returning to start anything with me.”

“And you let her go to it alone?” Eddara asked.

Tucking his braids back behind one ear, he looked at Eddara and huffed, “You don’t think I’m serious in committing to your ama because of that?” The Alpha then shared something with them that he had not shared with anyone else on this side and that few on the other side knew of. “I had my best friend take my bead to her with the message saying that when she came back I’d be waiting in this place for her to put that bead in my hair. None of you probably understand that, but its very serious for lycan. I’m telling any that see her with it that I want her as my mate. Only her. The only reason I didn’t go through with her was because I wanted to make sure she had a place to come home to. A place for all of you, too.”

“To elves, it’s just a bead.” Eddara was nothing if not very matter-of-fact.

Wulf growled.

“None of us are sure when she’ll be able to come back.” Eddara pointed out. “The Elven Council will want someone in the Crimson Council they trust, and over the years my ama, despite her turning against them when the great crossing came, has always been trustworthy and dutiful.” Eddara took a deep breath and shook her head. “If she doesn’t carry out her duties for the Elven Council and doesn’t remain until a new Councilor is found, they can once again hold her in contempt of their laws. She has kept us safe through our childhood by abiding their course. She may now feel obligated, sir. Even though, it’s obvious from what I feel on the scroll that she’s lonely, worried, and probably wants to come back, she has no choice. I can tell you, had the other elf, our distant relation, been found alive, she would have only stayed long enough to have the lady reseated as Councilor. But now?” Eddara shook her head and her eyes found the ground. It saddened her.

“Are you telling me that she wants to come back but doesn’t think she can because of the Elven Council that took her wings the first time?” Wulf was aghast. “They’re the ones demanding she stay?”

“She doesn’t want to cause trouble between the Elven Council and her children. She doesn’t want to cause trouble between the Elven Council and Pack Weylyn – who the Council already knows is part of her new influence. It’s a tumultuous political ground that we walk on, Wulf…” Neilan tried to explain.

“Deliver this scroll on to them and when you do, let them know that they need to find her replacement because she will no longer be their emissary and will no longer do their bidding,” Wulf was done letting Zenlial take on such responsibilities.

“But that is not…what…” Eddara watched as Wulf moved past her. Her wings shivered.

Wulf looked at the others as he moved to pick up his jacket, “Make yourselves at home and please don’t rush off. I’ll return soon and we can start on the repairs again.”  It’d take a while to get to the portal and then to get through and find her, but he was willing. For Zenlial, he would always be willing. it had been months and that letter made it seem like she might never get back. He couldn’t let that continue. It was obviously time for him to go and retrieve his betrothed to bring her home to their family so that life could begin again for their Pack.

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