Cordin considered all that he'd said. It was wrong to leave anyone to die of wounds, even the enemy. It was also terrible to leave children behind. Perhaps Liking wasn't so terrible.
The absurdity of it made Cordin laugh. If ever irony had dealt one man a cruel blow, it had been this. Liking had ignored his desire to marry Anzele because she wasn't a pure blood. Later he'd criticized her for wanting a human mate. The Liking of last year was a prejudice fool, finding fault with all but the flyers.
"What is so funny?" Liking raised an eyebrow. "Come on."
"Mixed children and a siren wife. It seems Liking matured after all. Love doesn't know a race, does it?"
"Shut up." Liking smiled, and seemed to understand the implication. "I learn a little slower than others.
Maybe a lot slower in some instances."
Cordin laughed until he slid off the log and onto the ground. The tough and determined Liking had learned
much. The once ambitious flyer who'd married, hoping to become an elder, had found the greatest rewards were in family, not t.i.tle.
Another, grimmer thought silenced is revelry. These woods weren't safe. Even if the witches weren't
conjuring to the west, Lynn would hunt down Liking for his desertion.
"You know when Lynn is well, she will find you and the babies."
Liking looked at the star filled sky. "I would die a thousand times for those children and if the fates allow
it, I'll gladly destroy Lynn."
Those were strong words coming from a man who had lived with a s.h.i.+fter for so long. The pain in Liking's eyes spoke more than his words. Lynn may not have been his unta but he loved her. More than
likely, he could've killed Lynn many times before today. Liking was a powerful flyer. If he'd taken her by surprise, she would've died. That meant that it took his children to push him.
"Will you return to the village now?"
"They wouldn't care for s.h.i.+fter babies. Faller looks like a flyer but Elise is the exact likeness of her mother
and Celia is the perfect blend of us. There's no telling what powers she'll inherit."
"Don't use your children as an excuse to hide. Be logical. The flyers will never turn their backs on children and they'll be safer."
Liking looked at the cabin then back at Cordin. "Sarah is truly wonderful. I've never felt this way about
"Not even Anzele?"
The statement made Liking blush. "I still care for her, but Sarah is different. From the first moment I
found her, she stayed in my thoughts. After we made love, I found out she was my unta." He hesitated then continued. "I guess what I did to Anzele and Vincent was a greater crime than I'd realized."
"It was, but these days have grown strange and we all make mistakes."
The question startled Cordin. He had expected Liking to stay lost in his own problems, not remembering the lady who'd betrayed the village. Cordin supposed it bothered him because Marabeth haunted him.
Even his dreams were filled with her image.
"Yes. I'm hoping to steal the star from her as she sleeps."
Liking touched his arm. "Be careful. Those witches have been conjuring. I saw them make something awful. It was a living shadow. The thing stepped from the pot on smoky legs."
"I'm not sure why they're making them but I fear they will create an army." Liking bit his bottom lip as if
unsure how much to say. "I saw Tara with one. They were joining, like living men and women do. It was strange, unnatural."
Cordin considered this. He supposed the star had enough power to create life. It was better suited to destroy. Then again what better way to make a killing machine than to produce new life? If anything, humans had taught them the havoc one breed could create.
"If you retrieve the star, may I borrow it?" Liking's eyes narrowed and his gaze focused on the ground. "I'll return it. I swear."
"Liking, you don't want to kill Lynn. I know you would if you had to, but there is a sliver of love left for her." He sighed. "I don't want to kill Marabeth either. That means if I get the star and leave it with you, you'll have more than an upset s.h.i.+fter; you'll have two murderous witches. You'd be wise to take your family to the safety of the flyer village."
"I will consider it." Liking touched the marks on his chest. "Lynn is a formidable adversary." He took a deep breath. "I will help you retrieve the star. Two witches won't be easy to take on alone."
"Another flyer will arouse their suspicions. I'd better do this. In fact, I should go to their camp now."
"Are you certain? I can be of some help."
"I know Liking. You are very brave and have always been a good warrior. I'm hoping to avoid any altercation though. Honestly, I don't think I could fight Marabeth. I spied on her earlier and the feelings are still there. No matter what her crimes, the emotion never goes away."
"Very well. Come back here after you've retrieved the star so I know you're safe. If you're not back by sunrise, then I'll come for you."
It would make Cordin feel better to know someone was waiting for him. Odds were the witches would kill him but maybe Marabeth's heart hadn't grown so cold. At least if they took him hostage, there was a chance for an escape.
"That would be comforting. Be careful, though. Tara is a killer." Cordin stood. "On second thought, give me longer than sunrise. My timing will have to be perfect to sneak into their camp."
Cordin flew again, leaving Liking and his family. It was good to see Liking again. Before Liking's betrayal, they'd been friends. It was nice to consider him in that light again. Old friends were valuable things, especially when they'd finally become decent flyers. Perhaps it was Liking's l.u.s.ts that had corrupted him so. Either way Cordin had to give him another chance.
He skirted the edge of the witch camp, making sure to keep his distance. Below Tara was busy conjuring while Marabeth sat at the side, looking more annoyed than anything. As he approached, he saw why. Tara had two shadow creatures rising from the cauldron. It was just as Liking said. They were shadows, gaining substance as they rose from the pot.
He went to the trees, watching from a safe distance. The star was in Tara's hand. She swirled it in the air as she chanted and the blade glowed with the power flowing through them. He didn't recognize the words, but the creatures grew tall and stepped free of the cauldron. Both of the witch's creatures bowed low and stared at her. Their eyes seemed focused on her dress or lack thereof. Tara's nipples showed through the thin material, as well as every curve of her body. They seemed aroused by her, one daring to touch the thatch of hair at her slit, which poked from the gauzy fabric she wore.
Marabeth watched them. Cordin couldn't see her expression clearly but he felt the hate radiating off her. Even with the unta blocked, the emotion came through in angry waves.
"Are you trying to breed abomination?"
"Shut up sister." Tara eased the edge of her dress up granting the creation access to her mound. "I conjured two. Take him and play. It might make you nicer. Besides these are hardier than the last I made. They should survive the sunrise." Doubt filled her voice. "I hope they'll survive."
Cordin didn't want to watch Marabeth with that thing and fortunately she didn't seem interested. There was no argument. Marabeth simply summoned her enchanted branch then flew into the sky.
That was for the best. Now there was only one witch to deal with and one he didn't care for. Besides, her lovers seemed more interested in servicing her than taking over the world. They also provided a perfect distraction. Tara tossed the star to the ground, not caring for anything but the black mouth devouring her slit.
The creatures stripped her naked. Her white flesh was a strange contrast to the creatures whose bodies had grown thicker, gaining substance, appearing like black quartz. The moonlight glinted off the smooth sides. They'd gained muscular form and managed to grow sizeable c.o.c.ks. One lay on the ground while the other pushed Tara onto him. The one on the bottom slid her onto his shaft while the other got behind her, easing against, then into her a.s.s.
The three became one ent.i.ty. Tara let out a small scream of pain as the creature sank himself into her a.n.u.s. The motion pushed her body forward, sheathing herself on the man beneath. There was nowhere for Tara to go. She was skewered from both ends with the creatures behaving like they shared a single mind. The one from behind toyed with one breast while the other leaned up enough to suckle the other.
Tara's pain seemed to subside and she actively pressed her body between the two. She began moving back and forth, mouth open, body shaking. She gripped the one below her, moaning as she did. Her o.r.g.a.s.m was loud and didn't deter the men probing her body. From the look of things, Tara was in for a long night.
Cordin dropped from the tree. The scene, however interesting, wasn't the reason for his visit. He eased behind the mating trio and s.n.a.t.c.hed the blade from the ground, then took flight. He flew fifty yards away then landed in the tree.
There he sat very still. He had to know if Tara had become aware of his theft. Cordin left the star hidden in the branches then flew back to his original roost. Below Tara was still at it. The creature on the bottom looked slick from what Cordin could only guess were her fluids.
Satisfied that he wouldn't be followed, he started back to the tree. He'd been flying slowly, trying to hide but a large gust caught his attention. Cordin turned, but no one was there. He was alone flying through the night; at least he hoped so.
He went back to his tree and sat there a moment. Something was wrong. He couldn't put his finger on it, but danger lurked close. Perhaps he wasn't alone in the night. He searched the darkness, listening for anything out of place. In the distance, he could only hear Tara's cries of pleasure and pain. She seemed to enjoy each in equal measure.
Cordin didn't want to leave the dagger, nor did he want to retrieve it from the hiding spot in the leaves. He stayed motionless, waiting for someone or something to appear, knowing that every extra minute near Tara could cause her to notice the dagger was gone.
Marabeth stayed in the shadows watching Cordin. He sensed her presence but couldn't pinpoint her location. She wasn't sure what to do. She'd seen Cordin come back from Tara. It didn't look like he'd gotten the star but he hadn't lingered to watch the show either.
Cordin was beautiful. His hair was the deepest black, like all flyers. His differed in the purple highlights marking him. The strange coloration continued on his wings, tr.i.m.m.i.n.g the black feathers in purple. His eyes flared in a neon purple, making him look beautiful at night. Those eyes enchanted her, made her watch him.
He was her unta. It was a stupid flyer word which exactly meant one and only. To them it was a sacred connection with their true love. True love? It was a curse. Cordin had nothing in common with her kind. Her bright red hair was considered ugly by flyer standards. Her clothes were that of witches not the simulated hides the flyers wore. Simulated because the cloth they wove looked like leather, though a flyer would never lower themselves to consuming animal flesh. Witches dressed to show their bodies, their s.e.xuality, not hide behind brown wraps.
She was tired of Cordin. She'd woven a powerful spell to keep him out of her head. The unta gave him access to her thoughts, implying they would always be one. She wanted no part of it. Her mind should be her own and she was powerful enough to make it so. Once in a while he came through, but for the most part she was free of his flyer influence.
Looking at him now, it was a struggle to keep hatred in her heart. The last time they'd spent together was a brief moment after the battle with the s.h.i.+fters when he'd trusted her with the star. In her heart, she'd wanted to put it away in the stone building as he had instructed. Tara had appeared though, demanding they leave the cursed village.
It was a hard choice to make. Cordin wanted to bind to her, make her his bride. Her sister had no one though. She couldn't turn her back on Tara. Besides, Cordin could never accept a witch. He would spend their lifetime trying to change her. For immortals, that was a long time, too long to engage in something so tedious as protecting yourself from change.
Cordin flapped his wings slowly, as if considering taking to the air. She should approach. Surely he'd taken the star, that d.a.m.ned dagger that consumed Tara. It would be hard to live with her older sister if they lost the dagger. Of course, she didn't really care. Since Tara had created s.e.x slaves, maybe Marabeth should leave her, and start a life of her own.
She sat there a moment and saw the glint of moonlight off the dagger giving away its location. He'd placed it on the branch above, hidden in the leaves. Cordin wasn't so smart after all.
There was no point in pretending. She had to confront Cordin. It would be hard to face him after stealing the star, but she'd chosen to take it, so it was up to her to face the consequences.
"What brings you into my woods?"
Cordin jerked his head around. He couldn't see her. Marabeth knew how to hide, control the darkness to her whim. It was also fun watching him search the night for any indication that she was there.
"So you do remember me?" She loved watching him. His eyes glowed several times, flaring, trying to cut through the darkness. Flyers had wonderful sight, amazing senses. "I'd a.s.sumed you'd forgotten me by now."
"You know I could never forget you. We should be wed by now and you pregnant with my children, not playing in the forest." Cordin's voice tinged with anger, not that she blamed him. "You chose slave shadows to flyers."
"You didn't come for me. You only came for the star. Face it, love between a witch and a flyer would never work."
"What would you have me do, beg? I left you the first time when I found your true heart. You left me the last time, and in an act of theft." He breathed deeply. She wished she were close enough to feel his breath on her skin again. "If you leave with me now, we could start over."
"You'd have me or the star? If the choice was presented, which would you take from this place?" She waited but he didn't answer. "Come now Cordin. Choose one of us and have your wish."
"That's not fair. You know Tara is dangerous. She could kill us all with the star."
"That's what I thought. You've come for magical trinkets, not for love. Not once have you come for love. Tara is the only one that loves me."
"Right now Tara is preoccupied with some atrocity she created to satisfy her s.e.x drive. Tara never cared for you. If you had any sense in that fire red head of yours, you'd leave with me now."
"Do you not like my red hair?"
"You know I do." His eyes flared again. "I'd love to feel that red hair on my fingertips. Come out."
Marabeth had his attention. Flyers were interesting foes and she didn't want to fight with Cordin. It might be nice to keep him around though. At least until she'd figured out what her future would hold.
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