Emily grabbed one last muffin before heading for the door. Things seemed quiet, so she wanted to go find Chevalier, to see if he was still planning on taking her into town for a while. Since her return from Island Coven, things had been going smoothly. She was busy getting ready for yet another Cavalry training, and she was also planning for Alexis and Niccolo’s wedding. At Alexis’ request, they were having a mortal ceremony instead of an immortal bonding. Emily was excited to plan an old fashioned wedding for her daughter that didn’t involve an exchange of blood.
Chevalier finally promised her a trip out when she insisted that she needed a new pair of boots, and she didn’t want the heku to get them for her.
She thought it was strange to see six guards outside of her room. She frowned slightly and looked over at Kralen. “Six?”
He nodded. “Elder’s orders.”
“You’d need to take that up with him.”
“I think I will,” Emily said, and started down the stairs to the council chambers.
Derrick watched her walk up, and then he scanned the stairs. It was unusual that he checked around her, but she shrugged it off and walked up to him.
“Do you need to see the Council?” Derrick asked, finally smiling.
“Is Chev in there?”
“Where is he?”
“You’d need to ask the Council.”
“Then yes, I do need to see them.”
Derrick whispered toward the door and then opened it. “You may go in.”
Emily turned and looked at the six guards behind her. “Seriously, this is the council chambers. I’m fine in here.”
Kralen thought for a moment and nodded to the other five guards. They hesitated and then bowed slightly and left. Emily decided not to complain that Kralen was still with her.
She noticed sourly that Kyle was gone also.
“Can we help you?” Zohn asked her.
She frowned slightly at the official tone of his voice, so she turned to Quinn. “Where’s Chev?”
“He and the Chief Enforcer have gone to Island Coven for a few hours.”
“The Elder and the Chief Enforcer, eh?” she asked sarcastically. She hated when they used their titles around her. She much preferred their names.
Quinn smiled. “Yes, he and Kyle should be back by dark.”
“Why do I have six guards?”
“That’s something you should discuss with Chevalier.”
“I’m discussing it with you. I need to go buy a new pair of Ropers, and I’m not taking six guards with me.”
“You agreed to guards.”
“I know what I agreed to. I think the agreement was for four guards, not six.”
“You simply agreed to guards,” Zohn reminded her. “That leaves us the option of adding more or taking some away if we feel it’s necessary.”
Quinn thought for a moment. “If you need new boots, we can send someone from the Cavalry to get them for you.”
“Boots don’t work like that. You have to try them on,” she told him.
“Then he will buy all of them and you can pick.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What’s going on that is so important you added two guards and don’t want me to go shopping?”
He forced a smile. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“Liar. Tell me what’s up.”
“When Chevalier returns, we will have him talk to you.”
“So there is something wrong?”
The Chief of Staff’s jaw set. “He’s already answered you. You will need to speak to Elder Chevalier.”
Her eyes ran along the Council, and Richard, the Chief Interrogator, finally spoke, “Lady Emily, I am aware that you are currently considering taking off on your own to go shopping. I beg you to hold off and speak to the Elder before making decisions to leave unprotected.”
The Chief of Staff looked at her angrily. “Is that true?”
Quinn smiled. “You can’t get by us with that, Emily. Zohn and I were both Chief Interrogators, and Richard is very good at his job.”
“Well hell! I want a pair of boots, and suddenly, I feel like I’m on house arrest.”
“Not house arrest, no. However, we would prefer if you stay here until Chevalier returns.”
Emily screamed angrily and then spun and stormed out of the room, followed by Kralen, who had stayed silent during her visit. She got angrier when she heard the other five guards fall in behind her. When she got to the front doors, they didn’t open as usual, so she reached out for the handle to open it herself.
“Wait,” Kralen said, and opened the door. He eyed the area carefully and then gave her a care-free smile. “Go on out.”
“Are you sure I’m not going to stub my toe on the way out?” she snapped.
“Nope, I can’t guarantee that,” he said with another smile.
She walked out, still shaking her head, and immediately went toward the stables. She turned when she heard someone blur up to them.
“Sir,” one of the city guards said, bowing to Kralen. He stood straight, and Emily saw his mouth move, but she didn’t hear anything.
“I don’t know. Ask her,” Kralen told him. They all turned to Emily.
She waited for the guard to ask her something, and she realized that he assumed she’d heard his question to Kralen. “Ask me what?”
“What color, ma’am?” he said nervously.
“What color of what?”
“Boots, ma’am. I’m to pick up 100 pair of boots in your size and bring them back here.”
“No,” she said, heading for the stables.
“Ma’am? The Council ordered me to.”
“Tell them I said no.”
“I can’t tell the Council no!”
She turned to him. “What exactly were your orders?”
“To establish your size and preferred color, and then to return with every pair of boots I can find with those specifications. They want 100 pair but said 50 would suffice if I cannot locate more.”
“Fine, I wear a size 15 boot. I want green leather with beaded fringe, Ropers only, and the beads have to be sparkly orange.”
He frowned slightly, bowed, and left.
“Em, he’ll never find those, and you asked for boots that would be too big even for me,” Kralen told her.
“I know he won’t find them. They don’t exist,” she said, and headed back to the stables. She was relieved when four of the guards stayed outside to watch the entrances to the stables, leaving only two to follow her around.
“So what’s the plan for today?” Kralen asked her.
She looked at the other guard for a moment. “Can you leave us alone?”
“Just for a minute.”
“I can’t, ma’am.”
“What’s up?” Kralen asked curiously.
“Silas?” Emily called out.
It was only a few minutes before he arrived. “You called for me?”
Emily turned to the strange guard. “I have two guards, now go wait by the door.”
He glanced at Kralen and then bowed and returned to the door.
“What are you up to?” Silas asked her.
“Come here,” she whispered, and walked to the overseer’s room. The three stepped inside, and she shut the door. “Spill it.”
“What are we spilling, exactly?” Silas asked.
“She wants to know why the six guards,” Kralen explained.
“Oh, that. You’ll need to talk to…”
“No!” Emily yelled. “I’m not waiting to talk to the Elder. I want to know what’s going on. Everyone’s grouchy, I have extra guards, and I’m not allowed to go buy myself a pair of boots. I want to know what’s going on.”
“We can’t tell you.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“I doubt that,” she said, huffing slightly.
“We aren’t going to risk getting punished by telling you something we’ve been instructed not to,” Kralen told her. “Chevalier will be back soon, and I’m sure he’ll fill you in.”
“I won’t tell if you just give me a hint.”
“I’m starting to panic though.”
“Don’t panic,” Kralen said, smiling. “We’re here.”
“Is my life in danger or something?”
Silas chuckled. “Your life is always in danger.”
She rolled her eyes and went to her horse’s stall.
“We can’t go out riding,” Kralen said, taking a step back. He knew this was going to draw out her anger.
“Do what?” Emily asked him.
“Don’t make this difficult for us, please,” Silas said. “I’m asking you nicely to just wait until the Elder gets back.”
She put her hands on her hips. “What’s going on!? Why can’t I go riding?”
“We’re to keep you in the city walls for now.”
“So you can go riding if you want?”
“Well, yes. We’re still patrolling.”
Emily slammed the stall door shut, causing her horse to whinny angrily. “Fine!”
“That’s it? Fine?” Silas asked suspiciously. “You’re going to stay in the city?”
She walked out of the stables, mumbling to herself. “How bad can agreeing to guards be, Emily? Not bad, not bad.”
Silas smiled and watched as Kralen caught up with her, followed by the other five guards.
“How bad was it?” Zohn asked when Chevalier and Kyle returned to their seats.
“Nothing that can’t be fixed,” Chevalier said angrily. “He’s going out of his way this time, and I’m going to put a stop to it.”
“Was anyone injured?”
Kyle finally answered, “We had two heku burned in the fire, but they are recovering.”
“How did he get onto the island?”
“We haven’t figured that out yet. Someone had to have smuggled him in, so Chevalier’s put a halt to the ferry, and no one’s to enter or leave Island Coven until he’s found.”
“Someone needs to explain to Emily what’s going on,” Quinn said after a few tense minutes. “She’s confused why she has six guards, and she can’t figure out why she can’t go into town.”
“As soon as I calm down, I’ll tell her,” Chevalier hissed.
“Do you think that he’s still on the island?” the Chief Investigator asked.
“No, I don’t.”
“Would you like me to go see what I can find?”
Chevalier thought for a moment and then nodded. “Yes, please do.”
“Might I see the note?”
Chevalier unfolded a paper he had in his pocket and handed it over to the Investigator.
It’s been 600 years, Chevalier. That time was spent waiting and planning your demise. I see you have a sweet little wife now too. What a fine morsel she is. I bet she tastes as pleasurable as she looks. I’d like to see her turn a heku to ash, actually. That must be quite a turn on for you. You always did like power. Let me know how you like being starved and tormented, thinking about how your decision to banish me cost Emily her life.
The Investigator read it several times and then handed it back to him. “Is there any doubt about who wrote it?”
“No, I know who wrote it,” Chevalier told him. “Gaius was banished after trying to kill me several times. He tried burning my coven to the ground, and he tried sabotaging the Council. His banishment was over last year, so I’ve been waiting to hear from him.”
“What started all of this?” Quinn asked him.
Chevalier sighed. “Gaius and I were both turned right about the same time, and we were both forced into it. We formed almost a brotherhood and stayed close for centuries. He started to veer off of the wishes of the heku though and began to follow the path of the Ancients. He hated mortals and took out his aggressions on unsuspecting villages in the South of France.”
“Were you Chief Enforcer by then?”
“Yes, I was, and it was up to me to stop him. He was banished for 400 years for his crimes. When he surfaced, he immediately began an elaborate plan to destroy me.”
“Talk about holding a long-standing grudge.”
“Oh, it went deeper than a grudge. Everything I owned, he sought to destroy. It became a weekly report on things he’d done to try to get to me. His ultimate goal is to have me banished.”
“He’s going to be hard pressed to find a Chief Enforcer to do that,” Kyle said.
“He’s convinced that burning me at the stake would have the same outcome as banishment.”
“That’s insane,” the Chief of Staff said, shocked.
“That’s what concerns me, that he’s insane. I worry about him getting to Emily.”
“She wouldn’t turn you to ash for him, even under torture.”
“I know, but if he knows how close I am to her, he can hurt me worse by getting to her.”
“Do we have a description?” Zohn asked.
“We have an artist on the way to make sketches. As soon as we have it, we’ll send it out to all covens. I’ll let the Encala and Valle know too, because Gaius is now an unfactioned and a liability as long as he’s after Emily,” Chevalier said, still angry.
“Well, if you want to keep her safe, you better tell her why we’ve upped her security,” Quinn suggested.
Chevalier nodded and stood up.
“Do you want me to go with you?” Kyle asked him.
“No, this is going to cause a fight,” Chevalier said, heading out the back exit to the council chambers.
Kyle watched him leave. “That’s why I should be there.”
“They haven’t fought physically in ages though,” Zohn said. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“We’ve always known that Emily makes the Elder more vulnerable to attacks. No one would dare attack Chevalier, but they can get to him through her,” the Chief of Finance said.
Zohn nodded. “I know.”
“She now has all three factions watching out for her though,” Quinn reminded them. “Once they hear that her life may be in danger, we’ll find Gaius.”
“I agree that the Encala will protect her, but the Valle have yet to make their stance known,” the Chief of Defense reminded him. “The last we heard, the Valle wanted her dead.”
Chevalier nodded to the six guards outside of his bedroom and then walked inside. Emily was sitting in front of the T.V., flipping through channels.
She looked up when he walked in. “Hi.”
“Hello,” he said, watching her.
She turned off the T.V. and bit her lip slightly. “Are you here to tell me what’s going on?”
“Then sit down. I’m starting to panic.”
Chevalier sat beside her and took her hand, kissing it lightly. “I’m sorry that it panicked you. I had to go to Island Coven in a hurry, and I didn’t have time to explain.”
“Did something happen?”
“Yes, someone burned some of the houses and tried to burn down the castle.”
She gasped. “What?”
“I’ll explain. Two days ago, I got a threatening letter from an old… let’s just call him an old acquaintance. He’s tried to kill me before, and he’s been banished for it twice. He came out of banishment last year, and it looks like he’s after me again.”
“How dangerous is he?” Emily asked.
“Then he could try to kill you.”
“I’m not worried about that. I’m stronger than he is, and honestly, he’s not very sane. What I’m worried about is that in the letter, he threatened you.”
Emily smiled. “I can handle myself against a heku.”
“He may not be sane, but he’s smart, Em. He knows about you, and he’s done his homework. He knows about your abilities.”
“So what happens now?”
He squeezed her hand tightly and smiled. “Now, you get to find out exactly how protective a heku can get.”
“I won’t let him hurt you.”
“I’m sure he can’t get to me. I have six guards on me now.”
“I need you to promise me you’ll stay on the palace grounds too. I don’t even want you out in the city.”
“Palace grounds? So does that include the stables?”
“And the pool?”
“So you’ll do as I ask? This once?”
Emily frowned. “You act like I ignore everything you say.”
One eyebrow rose. “Don’t you?”
She slapped him on the arm. “No, I’d rather not tangle with this psychopathic heku anyway.”
“Six guards can handle almost anything he can throw at us.”
“Should I go back to the island?”
“No, we still have to find out how he got in.”
Emily looked around the bedroom. “It’ll get really boring unless you catch him soon.”
“We’re doing all we can. We’re even going to alert the other factions.”
“Oh, joy. I love getting watched over by every heku on the planet.”
He kissed her lightly. “I won’t let him hurt you.”
“I know, and I’ll be good. I promise.”
“Just until we find him. He can’t avoid me for long unless he learns to back off.”
Emily was lying out on the grass of the palace, staring up at the clouds while they drifted past. She was trying to pick out pictures from the clouds. It’d been only a week since she learned that a heku was after Chevalier, and she was bored beyond her imagination.
She wasn’t allowed to go riding, she couldn’t go into town, and the six guards following her were always on high alert. She wasn’t sure what threat Chevalier gave them, but they were staunchly obeying all of the rules and staying on their toes.
Emily had faithfully stuck with her promise to Chevalier, but she’d regretted it often. She heard that the Cavalry had gone out bowling and to a movie the night before, but she wasn’t allowed to go with them. Silas brought her back a pizza, but she was still irritated that she couldn’t go. She didn’t understand how she wouldn’t be safe in public with that many of the Equites elite.
She looked up when she saw movement. Her eyes followed over to where Silas and Kralen were walking up to her.
“Did you bring me something fun to do?” she asked them.
Silas sat down on the grass. “Nope.”
“I’m so bored.”
Kralen kicked her foot lightly. “Stop pouting. There’s plenty to do around here.”
He sat down beside her. “You could go see if Hasim’s horse has colic.”
“You just think it’s funny when I stick my arm up a horse’s butt,” Emily said.
“It is quite amusing.”
“Well, next time, you get to do it.”
Kralen smiled broadly. “Not my job.”
“What’s not your job?” Mark asked, walking up to them.
“Sticking my arm up horse’s butts,” Kralen said, and fought back a smile.
“That’s what you are all doing out here? Talking about treating colicky horses?”
“No, we’re trying to entertain the mortal.”
Emily rolled her eyes. “I was doing a fairly good job of that myself.”
Out of nowhere, Kralen’s hand shot out and grabbed her arm. She started to pull away when she saw Mark crouch, and then Silas reached out and took her other arm. Seconds later, a loud explosion sounded from the front gates of Council City.
Before Emily could even figure out what the noise was, she felt herself being blurred through the trees. She looked up and saw that she was in Mark’s arms, and they were surrounded by the heku that were with her on the grass. No one was speaking, but they all blurred deeper into the woods while keeping an eye out around them.
Out in the middle of a small clearing, Emily saw Kralen reach down and open a hatch in the ground that had been covered by thick moss. Mark quickly jumped into the hole and then ran down a set of long metal steps.
Emily was watching around her. She figured that when they stopped, she could get answers. Right now, they all seemed too tense and on alert, and she didn’t want to bother them. At the bottom of the stairs, she looked up and saw the hatch close above them, shrouding them in darkness. She could tell there were heku with her still as Mark walked down a corridor and into a darkened room.
Emily was put onto her feet and guided over to a soft couch. She sat down, shivering at the cold, damp, cave-like room. She looked over when she saw light, and Kralen was kneeling beside a fireplace, lightly blowing on some kindling as it lit.
“Do I get to know what’s up?” Emily asked finally.
Mark turned away from where he’d been talking privately to Silas and the other guards in the corner. He walked over and sat down. “We aren’t really sure. There was an explosion at the front gates to the city, which killed three of the gate guards. Chevalier suspected that Gaius was behind it and told us to get you away.”
“He killed three of our guards?”
“Someone did, yes.”
“Maybe it’s time I take care of this Gaius.”
“We’d rather you left this one up to us,” Silas told her. “He has a grudge against Chevalier, and Chevalier wants to stop him, once and for all.”
“Why didn’t Chev just kill him the last time?”
“We aren’t sure. I do know they were close friends though, before the bad blood started.”
“Is Gaius an Ancient?”
“No, he’s an Old One.”
“Oh, but he’s not as strong as my Old one?” Emily asked.
Mark couldn’t help but grin. “Your Old One?”
She just watched him until Silas spoke, “No, he’s not as strong as Chevalier. He’s just cunning and elusive.”
“So how long do we have to stay down here?”
“Until we’re told otherwise. The Council will call for us when they know it’s safe for you to return.”
“What if he gets to one of the kids?”
“The Elder doesn’t think Gaius knows about the kids,” Silas explained. “However, if we leave with you and he sees the kids, he’ll put two and two together and figure it out. Right now, he’s just keeping them out of the spotlight.”
Emily laid back on the soft couch and propped her feet up on the arm rest. “Fine, so we stay here. It can’t be any more boring than the palace.”
They all looked over when they heard the hatch open. Emily started to tense but noticed that the heku didn’t seem concerned. She understood why when Derrick came into the room and moved over to talk to Mark.
Mark nodded and then looked at Emily. “It was Gaius, but they didn’t catch him. So until further notice, you have me, Derrick, Kralen, and Silas as your guards, along with two rotating members of the Cavalry.”
Emily thought for a moment while the others visited. “I think this is bigger than I thought.”
“What do you mean?” Kralen asked.
“I mean… I thought this Gaius would be caught by now and that Chevalier was just being overprotective. If he put you four on me, then he’s really worried.”
“He’s very worried,” Mark said. “It’s bad enough when something happens to you, but when it happens to you because of one of us, it’s a thousand times worse.”
“It’s not Chev’s fault.”
“That’s not the way he sees it.”
Derrick walked over to stoke the fire. “The Elder said that we may be able to take you out of the city for a while if things calm down.”
“Did he say that before or after Gaius killed three gate guards?”
“Well then, that doesn’t really help.”
“What is this place, anyway?” Emily asked, looking around. She was in a stone room that looked like it had been carved out of massive rocks far beneath the forest.
“It’s the evacuation room,” Mark told her.
He shrugged. “Anyone we need to hide.”
“So it wasn’t built just for me?” Emily asked.
“No,” he said, hiding a grin.
“When’s the last heku that hid down here?”
“I don’t think it’s ever been used, actually.”
She shook her head, frustrated.
“I hate being the wimpy mortal that has to be hidden away from the big-mean pyromaniacal heku.”
“I’d think you’d be used to it by now,” Kralen said. When she looked at him, he grinned at her.
Emily threw a couch cushion at him, but he easily caught it and tossed it onto the couch at her side.
Silas sat down beside her at the table in the bedroom and grimaced at her breakfast choice of French toast. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”
Emily nodded and dipped a piece of French toast into the steaming syrup.
“Like you’d eat it without the syrup,” she said, digging in for another bite.
“We’ve been discussing your outing to the dentist’s office,” he told her, trying not to watch her eat. The very thought was making him sick.
“And what was decided?”
“The Elder is going to post guards outside of the clinic and send four guards with you. One will stay with the car, and one has to be a ranking member.”
“Maybe, it hasn’t been decided yet for certain.”
“Well, it’s not for another week and a half anyway.”
Emily finished her breakfast and ordered sausage and bacon before heading in for a shower. Silas watched her disappear into the bathroom and shook his head.
Several minutes later, Kralen came in with a domed plate. “Who is eating all this stuff?”
“Em’s hungry,” Silas told him, taking the plate.
“I’ve never seen her eat this much.”
“Boredom, I guess.”
“Where is Emily?” Chevalier growled, appearing the room.
Silas stood suddenly, and he and Kralen bowed to him.
“Elder, she’s just in the bathroom,” Kralen said stiffly.
Chevalier glanced toward the bathroom and lowered his voice. “There’s been another message from Gaius.”
The guards moved closer.
“This time he mentioned killing Emily after torture. He knows information he shouldn’t.”
“We can search the room for bugs,” Kralen said, his hands balling into fists.
“Not while Emily’s around. Do it when she’s not looking but watch what you say and do. I don’t need her stressing because of this.”
“Anything else in the message?”
“Just more threats that he’s going to get Emily to get to me,” Chevalier said angrily.
“Did my sausage come?” Emily asked, coming out in a fluffy pink robe.
“It and bacon, as ordered,” Silas said, pulling the dome off.
Chevalier chuckled when she sat down, dipped the sausage in syrup, and then looked up at them.
“What’s going on?” she asked, grabbing for the orange juice.
“Bored,” she said, eating a piece of bacon.
“Good. At least you’re eating,” Chevalier said, kissing the back of her head.
“Most of the time, yes.”
“Any new word from Gaius?”
She shrugged and finished the bacon on her plate while the heku watched. When done, she sat back in the chair. “Maybe he’s dead or zombies ate him or something.”
“Zombies?” Silas asked her.
“Just making sure you listen to me. Can I finally take the horses out now?”
“I’d rather you not,” Chevalier replied.
“We haven’t heard from him in weeks.”
“He could still be out there.”
“I guess I’ll stay in. I don’t want to risk being kidnapped to the underground bunker again.”
He smiled. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“I’m sorry. I told you that.”
“It just seemed excessive.”
“It was safer for you there.”
“It was cold and miserable.”
He stifled a smile. “I’m sorry again.”
Emily turned back to the orange juice when Chevalier’s phone rang.
“Chevalier here,” he answered abruptly.
There was a long pause, and Emily noticed that Kralen and Silas were both tensing.
“What’s going on?” Emily whispered.
“Shhh,” Silas told her.
She watched Chevalier and could tell he was getting angrier. “Find out and do it now. I want a report in 30 minutes.”
When he slammed his phone shut, Emily stood up. “What happened?”
Chevalier blurred from the room and Emily turned to Kralen.
He sighed. “Someone burned down Chevalier’s Colorado mansion.”
“It started part of the national forest on fire. It’s a complete loss.”
“I loved that place.”
“I’m sure he’ll rebuild,” Silas told her, trying to reassure her.
“Was it Gaius?”
“Probably. The Elder has a team heading out to make sure.”
Emily looked out the window, deep in thought.
“No,” Kralen said after a few minutes.
“What?” she asked him.
“You can’t go after Gaius.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
“Yes, you were. I can read you like a book.”
“Things look good, Emily,” the dentist said, smiling at her. He sat down and went over her chart. “No cavities. You have perfect teeth.”
Emily nodded, wringing her hands. She was always afraid to come to the dentist, fearing he may have to give her a shot.
“Okay then. I’ll see you in six months.”
Emily nodded and returned to the lobby, where Cavalry Commander Moore and two other members of the Cavalry were waiting. The fourth was waiting in the Jeep, making sure no one did anything to the car while they were away. She made the follow-up appointment and then followed the guards out to the Jeep.
She was just sitting down when she heard her name called from the door to the dentist’s office.
Emily looked back at the young woman in pink scrubs, “The dentist forgot something. Can you come back in for a second?”
“Stay here. I’ll hurry,” Emily said, and ran back to the office. She was surprised when the guards stayed with the Jeep, but they had already canvassed the dentist’s office when she first walked in.
The hygienist was waiting beside the back room in the office. Emily hadn’t been in there before. The door was marked ‘supplies’.
“What did I miss?” Emily asked as she walked in. She froze suddenly when she saw a strange man sitting up against a table. Emily turned when the door shut and locked behind her, and she saw two large men beside the door.
“Before you even try to turn me to ash, my dear Emily, I beseech you to try and turn one of them to ash,” the man at the table said. Emily studied him for a moment. He wasn’t as tall as Chevalier, but his muscles bulged in a tight black t-shirt.
Emily looked at the two men by the door. They both looked like body builders, but they weren’t nearly as tall as a heku, so she figured they were mortals.