The women are sick and tired of Lyden’s behavior, and they’re not willing to put up with it any longer. Will he be able to change their minds, or will he push them away to save them from a fate worse than death?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Chapter 25
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“The furniture is all set up, sir. I just need your signature here and here.” A large, burly man hands me a clipboard, and I pretend to look over the documentation. We still haven’t heard from Jewkes about Becky and Lisa’s place, but once the funds came through, I was easily able to sign and move into a much larger house in only a couple days.

“What’s this?” I ask the man, when I notice him staring at Brooke, lounging by the pool in a skimpy bikini in the backyard.

“Um . . . that’s the fee for having us assemble everything,” he tells me, trying to hide the fact that he was staring, and swallowing noisily as he glances at Murasame on my hip. I knew that of course, I just didn’t want him ogling one of my women. I know that seems petty, but I’m not in the mood to be generous. Angela’s leaving, and my father’s death, still weighs heavily on me.

I sign the papers quickly, and send him and his crew of two men out. As soon as they drive away, I yell, “It’s safe to get in now, Brooke.” With a squeal of delight, she rips off her skimpy bottoms, and dives into the clear water. A second later, I see her tail break the surface. Thankfully there aren’t any neighbors close enough to spy on her.

Becky and Lisa are both out of the house, the former still trying to convince her professors not to drop her from their courses, and the latter working hard at her dojo, giving free lessons to make up for the time she’s spent away. Areth is gone to Gaia’s court in order to prepare the way for us this coming weekend.

You should go join her in the pool, son. You could use the time with her, and I have a feeling she would welcome the attention.

Looking up, I can see Brooke smiling at me from the edge of the pool, and know that Shemhazau is right. Even after Areth’s attentions that first night back, I’ve been ignoring the women. I really just don’t have it in me to give them what they deserve. Yes, I’m still hurting over Angela leaving me again, but it’s more than that. I killed my own father. Sure I have him with me still in sword form and with a different name, but that will never erase the image of the two blades piercing his heart, and destroying his body.

Turning away, I head up the stairs, and flop down on the new bed. It’s bigger than a California king is, and I’d been lucky they had something this large in stock at the furniture store. The next few hours are spent with me attempting to sleep, to forget about the world around me, and failing miserably.

Someone knocks on my door, but I ignore it. They knock again, with similar results. I can hear the door open, and a moment later someone joins me on the bed, then someone else, and someone else again.

“What do you want?” I ask the three women, without opening my eyes. The old me would have suspected an attack—the me that had been influenced by Muramasa—but I know that assassins wouldn’t have knocked first.

“Some attention would be nice,” Lisa says, and I can just hear the pout in her voice. Odd to hear that from the normally upbeat woman.

“I know I’ve been unbearable, lately,” I start to say, and hear Brooke snort. “Okay, maybe a bit worse.”

“Worse?” the redheaded mermaid asks in mock surprise, and I finally open my eyes, rolling onto my back. “I don’t know why you would think that. It’s not like all you’ve done since we’ve been back is hang out in your car, or mope around all day hardly saying two words to us, or—“

“Okay, okay!” I say in defense, interrupting her. “I’m sorry, but what do you want me to do? I ki—“

“Killed your father,” Becky pipes up. “Yes, we know. And lost one of your girlfriends. If you don’t want to lose the rest of us, we could use some attention.”

“Maybe you should go,” I tell them, the words costing more than I care to admit. “You’ll be safer then, and I won’t have to worry so much about you.”

“While I’m glad you still worry about us,” Lisa says angrily, “I think we can handle ourselves. We’ve done well enough so far.”

“Well enough?” I ask, sitting up and staring at them incredulously. “Brooke, you were tortured and maimed because I asked you to warn the other Pillars. You almost died last time!”

“You didn’t ask me to,” she replies back, “and I’m fine now.”

I ignore her, talking over the top of her protestations. “Lisa and Becky, both of you have come under that monster’s control, and you can’t even go home now, because we’re afraid that Aldol might attack you there.”

“That’s not—“ Becky starts, but I don’t give her the chance to speak.

“Every time we go to the Shadow World, or up against Aldol, something bad happens. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that the only death so far has been my father. We’ve been lucky, but luck doesn’t last forever. One of these times, I’m going to lose one of you for good, and I don’t think I can live with that! I love you all too much, to risk losing you!”

Silence greets my statement, and I realize this is the first time I’ve spoken these words to Becky and Lisa.

Lisa is the first to break from her shock. “We all love you, too. I think Areth has the right of it, though. You are a dolt!” My eyes open wide in shock at her words. Not at the fact that she loves me, I think I’d already figured that out, but rather that she would call me a dolt. “Let me lay it out for you, Lyden. Aldol takes control of those around them, and removes their free will. Well, it’s our free will that says we want to be with you! We know the risks, and all of us are willing to take them. Would you control us as well?”

“No, I—“ I try to protest.

“I’ve been in danger before,” Brooke forcefully informs me, placing her hand on my leg and gripping it to emphasize her point. “What do you think it would do to us, to know you’re going into danger, and we weren’t there to help protect you or watch your back?”


“I may not have quite the fighting history as Lisa or Brooke,” Becky adds in her two cents next, “but thanks to that demon, I can handle my own with a sword now. Don’t you dare for a moment think that I’m willing to let you go into danger, without me at your side. It was you that said you needed me for my mind. Now that mind is telling you that you need us with you. I love you, Lyden, and like they said, we’re not leaving you that easily.”

“But I. . . .” I stop as I realize I have nothing to say to them. They’re right, each in their own way. I need them, each for different reasons. Lisa, because she never lets me down, and constantly pushes me forward with her can-do attitude. Becky, because of her bright intelligence and her ability to understand things with ease. And Brooke . . . my childhood protector and friend. I don’t know if I can even see my life without her in it some way. I love each of these women for diverse reasons, and each of them love me for some inexplicable reason.

Or is it just some reason?

“It’s because I’m a generator,” I say out loud, then have to clarify when they give me confused looks. “Your love for me isn’t real. It’s only the result of me being a generator.”

Call me naïve, but I don’t expect Brooke’s slap across my face or Becky’s along my opposite cheek a second later. Even Lisa’s blow to the gut catches me off guard.

“Don’t you dare trivialize our feelings like that,” Brooke demands, and there is no doubt about her anger.

“We love you,” Lisa states, and I can see her blue eyes sparkle with irritation. “You being a generator is only a part of who you are, not all of you.”

Of course, it would be Becky who puts it into terms I can’t argue with, “Does it really matter why we love you? Yes, we may be women, and constantly ruled by our emotions, but in the end, all that matters is that we love and care deeply for you. Don’t try and pretend that it’s just because of what you are. I might not be able to speak for Lisa and Becky, but I love you because of the way you’ve always treated me. When you met me in the bar, you could have had your pick of any woman, and you chose me. After that thing controlled me, and I almost killed you, you chose to not only defend me, but not push me away. You being a generator didn’t do those things. You did.”

“I’ve had my fair share of assholes,” Lisa adds in next. “I’ve seen how you treat not only Becky and I, but everyone around you. Your heart is invested in everyone, not just the three of us, but you care about everyone. People may be attracted to you because of what you are, but they follow you because of your actions. Hell, do you think Thomas follows your lead because you’re a generator? As far as I know, you’ve never swapped a portion of your soul with him.”

Thinking back to when I first met Becky and Lisa in the bar, I remember how all the women were interested in me, and the men were getting jealous. She said I attract people to me, but I think my abilities attract women, while my actions attract and keep friends.

“You were a teenager when I first realized I was falling in love with the man you were becoming, before you had any special abilities,” Brooke finally tells her side. I wish she would have told me then! “Since then, you’ve only grown into a man worth loving. You saved Ondine from a terrible fate, and at the time she could have been an enemy. You can’t help but help those who need it. Your heart is too big for your chest, Lyden, and that’s just one more thing I love about you.”

I stare from one to another, as their words sink in. They really do love me for me, I think. I might not be the biggest or strongest person around, but that doesn’t mean anything to them. Even more than becoming more attractive to the opposite sex after being with Angela, they want to be with me because of who I am, not what I am.

“I can’t promise to keep you safe,” I say, then hurry when I see anger flashing in their eyes, “but I won’t send you away again. You’re correct in that I have no right to take away your choices. I love each of you, no matter what kind of a pervert that makes me. If you want to stay with me, then all I can say is: I love you, and losing even one of you will be too much.”

Prepared to be attacked again, I’m pleasantly surprised when all three women hug me instead.

“Does this mean you’ll stop ignoring us?” Becky asks, her head nuzzled against my neck.

“I’ll try,” I state. They all make a great point, but that doesn’t touch the issue with my father.

Get over it, he tells me. You’re not to blame, and you really had no choice in the matter. I don’t blame you for my death, and I’m not truly gone, either. You need to get on with your life, son, and not dwell on what you had no say in.

Words aren’t enough to assuage that pain, but I recognize he has a point.

“Prove it,” Lisa’s words reach my ears a moment before her lips reach mine, and I mentally stumble as I have to remember what I’d said to them a moment before. The dirty-blonde’s tongue presses against my teeth, and I don’t have to think long. Opening up, I let her in, and realize I’m letting them all in, in a way that is irrevocable. I’m more comforted by that thought than anything else. My arms go around the three women with me, but my heart goes out around all of them, Arethusa, Angela, Sheila, and even Ondine, Jennifer, and everyone else who’s helped me over the last couple months. With faithful friends like them on my side, Aldol really doesn’t stand a chance.

My mind comes back to the present as I feel two sets of hands go for my crotch. They battle for dominance for only a moment, before one moves for the zipper and the other goes in to fondle my nutsack. A moan burbles from my chest as the second hand gets a firm grip on my hardening rod.

Lisa pulls away from me, and I can see that it’s Becky who has her hands deeper in my pants. The martial artist grabs the hem of her shirt, and pulls it up over her head, then reaches behind her, undoing her bra and releasing her beautiful breasts to the open air.

“Hold him still, girls,” she tells the other two women, then grips the bottom of my shorts, and pulls them off while Becky and Brooke hold my arms above my head.

Lisa trails her fingertips back up the insides of my legs, but her eyes are locked on mine. A small portion of my brain notices that they’re clear of any external influence, but the majority of my focus is absorbed into their desire filled blue depths. Her soft lips turn up in a delicious looking smile as she slowly brings her lips to my rod, and then open as she takes me into her mouth. Her eyes never leave mine as she slowly takes my conforming pecker deep into her throat, until her chin rests on my scrotum.

“That is so hot, the way she’s looking at you,” Becky whispers into my ear.

“I agree,” Brooke says on my other side. “It’s getting me wet just watching her.”

Both women are still holding my arms down, but right now I don’t have any desire to break free. Lisa lifts her blonde head up slowly, and I moan again as I feel her esophagus sliding up my length. When just my head is still in her mouth, she slurps noisily, until I audibly pop out of her lips. She opens her mouth, and sucks in a deep breath, letting drool dribble down and coat my schlong. Her hand moves up and down, rubbing her lubricating saliva in, and still her eyes are locked on mine.

“Mmm, I’d almost forgotten how good you taste,” she tells me, then finally breaks eye contact, and swallows me whole in one quick movement, going at it with gusto.

Released from the spell of her eyes, I let my head loll back and moan at the pleasure she’s giving me. I hear moans on either side of me, and open my eyes to see that my arms had been released, and my hands are between the women’s legs, rubbing their crotches through their clothing. When had that happened?

Moving my hands up on each woman, I move them under the hem of their clothing—a skirt on Brooke and pants on Becky—and into their panties. Brooke leans over and claims my lips for her own, while I feel the short brunette undo and remove her lower garments. I slip my middle two fingers into Becky and a couple seconds later feel Lisa’s hand join mine, and she starts to go wild as we both finger her wet pussy.

Brooke loudly mewls her pleasure as I find her clit, and rub it in time with Lisa’s bobbing head, until she grips my wrist and shudders in orgasmic delight, biting my lip almost painfully in the process. Becky cums a second later, gripping the headboard and shoving herself hard against the two invading hands.

Lisa pulls up as the two orgasms’ power begins to wash over me, and pinches me off almost painfully at the base of my phallus. “Not yet,” she tells me. “You have some time to make up with each of us.”

I can only nod, knowing that she’s right. They all deserve better than I’d been giving them, and silently I vow to do better. With the new strength in me from Becky and Brooke, I can hold off my own orgasm, but decide not to tell her that.

“Brooke, you’ve known him longest, so I think you should go first,” Lisa announces, and for a moment I’m shocked I get no say, but keep my mouth shut. They deserve this, and I’m really in no position to argue.

The redhead nods, her curls bobbing as she gets up and strips off her clothing. She straddles me, facing me, but Becky stops her. “Turn around. We can turn and face him when we’ve forgiven him for the way he’s been acting lately.”

My longtime companion looks at me, and I can see that a portion of her wants to argue, but then she nods and turns away. I feel hurt at this, but understand that I’m going to have to earn their forgiveness one by one, that it won’t just be handed to me. How well Becky knows me, though! With her freckled back to me, I can’t see her small breasts, my favorite physical part of any woman. Becky gives me a sad look with her dark brown eyes, and I nod that I understand what she’s doing.

It wouldn’t matter anyway, for a couple seconds later Lisa sits on my face, and all I can see is her back and bum as she leans forward toward Brooke.

I can feel Lisa’s hands help guide my dick into the mermaid’s ready slit, and moan into the wet lips on my tongue as she slowly slides her tight hole down onto me.

I move my hands up to Lisa’s chest, but she pushes my hands away, and I can only guess that Becky takes my right hand. Lisa twists on top of me, keeping my left hand in hers, and grinds herself against my face.

Well, if they want me to prove myself, then by golly, I’ll do it! Swiveling my hips, I continue to work my way into Brooke, while simultaneously sucking in Lisa’s labia, and swallowing her tangy juices as they pour out of her.

I can feel something slip around my wrists, and a second too late I realize what’s happening. My whole body freezes as the women tie my arms to the bed, and it takes a great will of effort to relax. Their eyes had been clear, and I know this isn’t a trap, but I still have nightmares about my incarceration with TanaVesta.

Once my hands are completely secure, I can feel Becky looping a soft cloth around my separated ankles, and tying them down as well. Remembering the bonds TanaVesta had tied me down with, and how easily I’d broken those chains, I’m not too worried about these flimsy constraints, but if it helps them, then I’m willing to put up with it.

Brooke’s cunt tightens around my tool about the same time I feel something brushing my balls.

“Oh, that feels great, Becky. Mmm, he feels so good in me while you lick me. Oh, yes, right there. Yes, keep twisting my nipples, Lisa. Oh, YES!”

Her coochy clamps down on me as she cums, and I can feel her wet fluids soaking my balls as her orgasm washes over me, and I feel myself getting stronger.

I begin to nibble on Lisa’s nether lips, occasionally nipping at her clit, as Brooke climbs off me. A moment later I can feel Becky’s tongue cleaning me up, licking Brooke’s juices from my still rock hard member. Part of me wants to cum, to shoot my load all over her face, but I concentrate on keeping it in. My work isn’t done yet.

“Your turn, Becky,” I hear above me, and a moment later I can feel the woman’s feet on either side of my hips. Once more, Lisa helps guide me into the other woman, and part of me can’t help but notice the difference between Brooke and Becky. Both are tight, but Brooke is definitely the wetter one, while Becky feels hotter inside.

“I love you,” Brooke’s voice whispers close to my head, and then I can feel her curls tickling my chest before her tongue joins mine. Lisa doesn’t stand a chance against our combined onslaught, and it only takes a few seconds before her fluids are dribbling down my chin and neck. Neither of us let up, however, and soon she’s coming again.

Becky has been making slow rotations on me with her pelvis, but as Lisa’s second orgasm washes through my system, I concentrate my energies on the brunette’s enjoyment. I can almost feel the energy slightly drain from me as Becky suddenly locks up tight, and my expenditure of power is returned to me with interest.

Lisa climbs off my face, as Becky topples over, still in the throes of her own climax. Brooke wastes no time in pressing her lips to mine, kissing me passionately.

“I think it’s time you’ve earned Lisa’s heart back,” Becky says as she brings her head up near mine. Her voice is a bit shaky after her powerful climax.

As the blonde martial artist straddles my hips, once again facing away from me, I watch as the two women I’ve already been inside reach for my cock, and hold it pointing to the ceiling. I watch as it slides easily into Lisa, appearing to vanish between her firm cheeks.

I want to reach down and massage her rear, or reach over and play with Brooke’s tiny nipples or Becky’s over-large ones, but my hands are tied and I’m not willing to break free yet. It doesn’t help when the two other women get on their hands and knees, pussies facing me, and tilt their heads around Lisa’s body to suck on her pert breasts. Both cunnies are slick and shiny with their cum, and I want so badly to just reach down and shove my fingers in.

No! I tell myself, instead concentrating on Lisa’s pleasure, as I begin to move my hips in counterpoint to hers. She leans back, giving the other two women easier access to her teats, and letting her hair light tickle my chest while her hands support her on either side of my chest. Remembering how Brooke had once reacted to a kiss, and how Becky had just reacted to me concentrating on her bliss, I do the same for the martial artist, throwing my hips up into her, and concentrating on driving her pleasure even higher.

“Oh damn!” she cries out suddenly, and I feel a lot more of her fluids than normal soaking my balls.

“Oh my God,” Becky says in awe. “Lisa, you just squirted!”

“I’ve . . . I’ve never cum like that before,” she says, her voice wavering.

“Am I forgiven, ladies?” I ask, hoping desperately that I am.

Becky turns her head to me slightly, and then the three of them huddle for a moment. As one they turn, facing me, and I know before they speak what their answer is.

“We do,” they say in unison, and we share a four-way kiss, Brooke on my left, Lisa on my right, and somehow Becky ends up on top.

I don’t even hesitate, before breaking my insignificant bonds, and holding the three of them against me. They squeal in surprise as I hug them tightly against me.

“You were faking!” Becky accuses me, lifting her head and looking accusingly at me. I laugh as I look into her clear brown eyes, a real laugh that isn’t tainted with any other emotion.

“You wanted me constrained,” I tell her when I calm down, “so I remained.”

“We really can’t be angry with him,” Brooke comes to my defense. “Couldn’t you tell how much he wanted to be free? But he didn’t, because it was what we wanted.”

“You’re right, of course,” Becky concedes. Then I feel her hand on my still hard phallus and she grins happily. “So, who gets to finish this off?”

I’ve held back long enough, and since she’d been the instigator to my punishment, I decide she should get the prize. With ease I reach around the other two women and slide Becky’s tiny body down. Her hand remains on me, guiding me straight for my destination. As soon as I’m fully seated within her tight crevice, I let go, firing my ejaculate against her womb, my entire body wracked with shivers of ecstasy. Somehow I encompass everyone in my bliss, wanting to share my happiness with them, creating a bubble around us and we all cum together, feeling closer than we ever have before.

* * *

I come awake as someone rings the doorbell. I don’t remember nodding off, but I feel refreshed and happy for the first time in what seems like an eternity. Getting up, I quickly find my clothing and don them. I try to be quiet, but the women wake up anyway. I head back downstairs, while the three women start getting dressed.

“Captain Jewkes!” I state in surprise as I open the door. “I didn’t expect you here. What can I do for you? Do the police want to talk to me again?”

The other man grimaces as he steps through. “Please, call me Richard, and I’m not here entirely on business.” I glance at his uniform, but say nothing. “Are Becky and Lisa here?”

“What can we do for you, Richard?” Becky asks as she comes down the stairs. Her hair is a mess, and it’s obvious she’d just come out of bed. Since it’s only late-afternoon, it’s also easy to guess why she was in bed. Lisa follows her down, hair equally mussed, and I can’t help but blush slightly when the officer whistles softly. I can’t hide my grin either, when Brooke comes down a moment later, just as rumpled as the other women, and Jewkes’s jaw drops open.

The consummate officer; he quickly regains control of himself and clears his throat. “Is there somewhere we can sit down?”

“That bad?” I ask, afraid of the answer.

He studies the floor as I lead him back to the family room, and to the new furniture there. “I have bad news, and worse news,” he says sadly as he sits down

I look at Becky and Lisa, but they wait patiently for him to continue.

“As promised, I had officers watching your place for the last few days,” he tells them, and I notice he’s unwilling to meet their eyes. “They reported that nothing appeared out of order, and so today I sent two of them in using your key.” He grows silent, and I’m shocked to see tears begin to leak down his cheeks.

Becky notices too, and I hear her gasp. Lisa goes to comfort her.

“What happened?” I ask, trying to fill my tone with comfort.

He shakes his head slowly, and for a moment I’m afraid he’s not going to answer. When he does, his voice is choked with emotion. “Approximately two minutes after they entered, the entire place went up in flames.”

“The officers?” Brooke asks, coming and sitting next to me, gripping my hand in hers.

“One is in critical condition, but isn’t expected to make it. The other. . . .” He can’t finish the sentence, and we have our answer.

Becky and Lisa break down into tears, and I wave them over to me. They collapse into my arms, sobbing.

Was it only a few moments ago we were all so happy?

“My condolences for your officer,” I say, and then stop as something occurs to me. “Do you think I can get in to see the other one?”

“Why would you. . . .” He trails off as he looks at Brooke, and then back to me. I can see hope spark in his eyes, and I hate what I’m about to say.

“I don’t know if I can help him,” my words don’t even seem to affect the other man. “I’ve never tried healing someone I don’t know.”

“A chance is more than Johnathan had a few minutes ago. Should we take my cruiser?” Richard gets to his feet and is already halfway to the door.

“The Orange Bubble will be faster,” I say as I get up and follow him out. “We’ll be more comfortable in it as well.”

“We?” The officer stops and looks at the other women. “Do you need to, um . . . I mean to say. . . .”

I know what he’s getting at. “No, I think I have enough energy to take care of him, if this works. I’m just not willing to leave anyone more alone than they have to be. Between your shades, and my colorblindness, Aldol won’t be able to affect us.”

“You think this may be a trap?” Becky asks as we lock the front door.

“One of them left alive? If so, then I want you with me,” I tell the ladies quietly. From the gratitude I can see in their eyes, I know they realize I took what they’d said earlier to heart.

“Speaking of shades,” Jewkes states as he quickly heads to his patrol car. He pulls out a bunch of small bags, and hands some to the ladies. “If that thing does show up here, put these on.”

The three beautiful ladies each pull a pair of Blublocker shades from their bags, and place them on their faces. I have to stifle a laugh in this serious situation, as they don’t do the women justice. Thankfully I’m able to hide my mirth, as I get into my old VW Beetle.

“By the way, where’s the fairy?” Jewkes asks me as he climbs into the passenger seat after the women. “I have a pair made special for her as well.”

“Setting things up with Gaia for this weekend. Which hospital?” I ask, and Jewkes guides me downtown, to the same hospital that I’d been in after my accident with Angela. Thinking back on that causes a pang in my chest. Looking around the Orange Bubble, I realize that while I may have lost a lot, but I still have a lot as well.

You’re wiser than some of the oldest beings I know. Shemhazau compliments me.

“You mentioned more than one bit of news when you first showed up,” I ask, not sure I want to know what else could be considered bad news and whether he’d given me just the bad news or the worse news.

I can tell the seasoned man becomes uncomfortable before answering. “I was hoping to get some more information before telling you, but I found out just after we got back. Agent Miranda Olsen has vanished.”

“Vanished?” I ask, my stomach sinking at the thought of the deranged woman at large.

“You now know as much as I do,” he tells me, shaking his head. “Every time I tried to figure out what happened, someone above me put a stop to it. ‘There are more important things to spend department money on,’” he quotes to me. “There’s no surveillance or record of her ever having been in custody. She has literally vanished.”

I really don’t like the sound of that. Who has that kind of power, to tell a police captain what to investigate? “What did you tell them about your three week absence?” I ask next.

He laughs uncomfortably for a moment before responding. “I haven’t. They keep hassling me for a report on you, but every time I sit down to write it, I stop. They’ll never believe what’s really going on.”

My car stops before I can think of what to say. Getting out, I’m greeted with the sight of a towering tan building and the red ‘Emergency’ sign over the entryway.

“Will you be okay in here for a bit?” I ask my sword as I remove him and his sheath from my hip.

Just call for me if you need me, my father replies.

“He’s on the fourth floor,” Richard states, heading in.

“What are we going to do about Agent Olsen?” Brooke asks, and I can hear fear in her tone.

“I don’t know,” I tell her honestly. She’s a member of a group called the Daughters of Respite. Do they have enough pull to spring her and hide it? Or was it that other group Marchosias had mentioned, the Paladonic Knights? Either way, it doesn’t bode well for us.

The elevator dings just before the door opens, and we step out into a quiet hallway. A woman comes rushing up to us, crying, and hugs Jewkes.

The man is obviously uncomfortable, and I realize this must be the wounded officer’s wife. “There, there, Amy,” he tells her soothingly. “I’ve brought a, um, specialist to look at your husband. He might be able to help.”

The woman turns to me, mascara staining her splotchy cheeks, and her auburn hair disheveled. She gives a small self-conscious laugh, looking at me from head to toe. “You must be some kind of genius. You’re so young.”

“Where is he?” I ask, not sure how to respond, and not wanting to lie to the grieving woman.

“This way,” he says, and leads the way. I know Amy must be wondering about the three women that follow us, but she doesn’t make a comment.

Two police officers are stationed outside a door, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that Johnathan is behind this one. They are on their feet when we approach.

“How’s he doing?” Jewkes asks the one on the left.

The other officer glances my way, and I know he recognizes me. This might turn sour.

“The doctors say he only has a couple hours to live, and he’d be best served to be put down peacefully, as if he were some kind of dog.” From his tone, I know he doesn’t like the idea.

“There may be another option,” Jewkes says evenly, staring straight ahead at the door now.

Him?” the other officer snarls. Apparently he recognizes me too.

“Look at it this way, Anderson,” Richard faces him squarely, “if we help him, then all the better. If not, then he’s no worse off now than he was before.”

The two guarding officers stare at each other for a moment, before Richard pushes his way past. The two officers don’t try to stop us as we follow their captain, though they glare fiercely as the five of us head into the room.

We walk through in single file, and the captain turns back to close the door. “No one enters as long as we’re in here,” he states to the guards before turning back to face us. “Do what you need to do.”

I see so much hope in his eyes, that I’m determined not to let him down.

Turning back to the bed further in, I notice for the first time the stench laying heavily in the air. The sickly sweet scent of burned flesh. Machines beep in one corner, and the wounded man is covered in bandages from top to bottom. The news plays quietly on a small TV on the opposite wall.

Standing by his bedside, I look down, and can barely hear his rattling breath escaping around a tube in his mouth. Filling my lungs, I concentrate on the unconscious man, willing him back to health.

Nothing happens.

Placing my hands lightly on his bandaged chest, I send out my will again, but with the same results.

“What’s wrong?” Becky asks me.

“I don’t know. Nothing’s happening,” I tell her.

“What did you do when you healed me?” Brooke asks.

Thinking back, I remember holding the redhead in my arms, crying over her inert form, and bending down to kiss her.

Something tells me the kiss was merely the catalyst, and there must be something more. Thinking of how Shemhazau had healed her. . . .

Just that quickly, Murasame is on my hip.

You have to be emotionally invested, he informs me.

That makes sense. He had been angry with the assassin mermaid that’d helped kill his wife when he’d restored her fingers, and I love Brooke.

But I’m neither angry, nor in love with this man.

Any emotion works. The stronger the feelings, the more powerful the healing.

“Tell me about him,” I order Jewkes, my voice growing firm again.

“What?” he asks in confusion, and I repeat myself. “Well. . . .” The police captain begins to tell me about how hard working Johnathan Stokes is, about his third wife Amy and their one child, a daughter, and other aspects of the cop’s life.

This man had been hurt while doing something for Becky and Lisa. He didn’t know who the two women were that he was checking the house out for, and was just an innocent bystander in this war Aldol instigated. He shouldn’t even be here, on the verge of death, I think. Anger at Aldol’s interference with regular mortals, and at TanaVesta, because I know she had a hand in this as well, enters me, but it’s not enough.

His wife is out there grieving, his daughter at home, wondering if she’ll ever see her father again. Sadness augments my anger, but still it’s not enough.

I feel a hand on my shoulder, and know I have Lisa’s support. Her emotions flood into me at the touch, and I can feel her grief that this officer might die because he went into her house. Becky’s hand twines her fingers between mine, and her emotions mirror her roommate’s feelings, but I can sense compassion in her as well. I can’t help but wonder if this new ability to feel their emotions is tied to how close we all became earlier.

“You can do this,” Lisa says softly, and I nod.

Wrapping all of our emotions into a tight ball, I hear the two women gasp, but pay them no mind. Brooke calls my name, but I shove her voice to the back of my mind as I concentrate. Bending forward, I press my lips against the bandages on Johnathan Stokes’s head. Simultaneously I will the bundle of our mixed emotions into the man, mentally commanding him to live.

My eyes are closed, but I can see a bright white light as my knees sag, and the three of us slump to the floor, exhausted.

Jewkes rushes over to the bed, and I open my eyes to see one of the two guards enter the room to see what the noise is.

“Captain?” A weak voice asks from the bed, and I have a feeling Johnathan Stokes is going to be alright.

The guard that’d come in, dashes from the room, screaming for the doctor, and all I want to do right now is drift off into sweet oblivion. “Thank you, ladies,” I mumble, already feeling my eyelids droop. Who cares if I’m on the floor? “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Lyden, you might want to see this,” Brooke’s voice breaks through the fog surrounding my brain with its fear.

“Can it wait?” I ask, my whole body feeling lethargic. Wool has more clarity in it than my head does right now.

“No, I think you’d better hurry.” Opening my eyes, I have to struggle to get to my feet. Healing that officer really took a lot out of me. Good thing I’d had that session with the three women earlier. I don’t know if I’d have been able to do it without that strength already in me. Becky and Lisa are snoring softly on the floor.

It takes me a second to find the mermaid, my eyes are blurry with weariness. She’s standing under the TV, raptly watching whatever is going on.

I have to lean heavily on her, as I look up at the screen. What I see brings me fully alert.

“Once again, if you are just joining us, this is the scene live from downtown. Some kind of monstrous beast is rampaging through the streets. No one knows where it came from, but so far the damage it’s caused as it breathes fire and tosses cars around keeps mounting.”

The report goes on, but already I notice something else that the news anchors seem to be missing.

The dragon, for that’s what it obviously is to me, isn’t randomly attacking the city.

It’s chasing after a tiny golden glow, trying to eat or fry it.

Areth is in trouble.

Author’s note: Okay, I know a lot of you have complained about cliff hangers, and here I go with another one. The thing is, I couldn’t resolve this one without making this chapter way too long, and cutting out this part left me feeling as though this chapter was way too bland. So, hate me if you want, but you can still go read the next chapter on my blog. If you don’t know how to get there, go to my forum: . The link to my blogspot, PleasureTrove, can be found there.

I also want to thank Garbonzo once again. He had some great advice for this chapter, that I implemented, and fixed a number of grammatical errors.

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2014-02-12 21:14:02
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2014-01-08 10:07:09
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