Disclaimers: see Chapter 1
Chapter 7 Hallowed Pains
Cerys found her mother practicing object levitation with a small group of Mages in the garden. The small group were mixed with males and females and ranged in all ages from small children to ancient sages.
The young Warder was managing to maintain her energy with daily workings with several Healer Mages. They tried to explain her rapid decline after leaving Annie and the Terrain realm but Cerys had merely shrugged the explanations off. She didn't need explanations; she needed answers.
The two weeks Terrain time Cerys and her mother had spent among the Scribes and Mages still hadn't produced any answers. Cerys appreciated the help and the time to rest to regain her strength but she was getting restless. There was only four weeks until the next set of portals would open to the Terrain Realm, opening to her next and maybe last chance to see Annie.
Cerys wanted to be out doing her job, training fighters and getting things ready to fight her brother. She should be working to prevent his crossing into the Terrain Realm. The Warder should be fighting her brother, not her own body and grief. The last thing she should be dealing with was heartache and emotions over a Terrain, or even her lost mate.
Cerys smiled as her mother broke out of the circle and approached her daughter.
"I know that look, daughter," Janska said softly as they began to walk away so they wouldn't disturb the circle.
"What, Mom?" Cerys asked, instantly feeling calm around her mother.
"I know that impatience," Janska smiled. "You never could sit still in one place for long. You have to stay, you know that."
"I know. If I leave I fall apart again before I can cross back over."
"What are you planning?"
"I have to get back to her, Mom," Cerys said softly. "I can't spend the rest of my life in a library castle letting Healers keep me balanced. Even if it means being a vampire for eternity, then that's what I have to do."
"I know, we'll find a way," Janska said softly, her expression very worried.
Annie felt a small hand on her shoulder and tried to smile at Travis' worried expression.
"Hey, kiddo," she said softly.
"Mom, why are you so sick?" Travis asked in a small voice.
Annie let him crawl into her lap and gently began rocking him.
"We don't know, Trav," she said, holding him close.
It wasn't the truth but Annie didn't think Travis could understand the reason. Especially since Annie didn't totally understand it either.
The Rrom gypsy woman, Tshaya Grekinna Denisovkoff, had been helpful but vague at the same time. The main problem was she told Annie exactly what Jeannie had been afraid of.
Tshaya had meditated, poured herbs onto a charcoal, held Annie's hands and gave the writer some herb steeped tea. Whatever was in the tea sent Annie's head spinning and into some radical hallucinations.
At least Annie was trying to convince herself that they were hallucinations and not actual visions.
Annie saw Cerys, but the land was all wrong, the colors were brighter and sharper. There were two suns and there was a woman with Cerys who looked very much like an older Cerys.
What had worried Annie was Cerys, herself. The Warder looked worse than she when she was a vampire and almost near death. She looked horrible and Annie hadn't been surprised when Cerys had collapsed in her vision and several women appeared with a stretcher to carry her away. The vision then switched to Cerys thrashing on a cot, sweating, moaning and whimpering.
When she started coming out of it, Annie found Jeannie talking with Tshaya in some foreign language. Not quite German, Annie decided, and it definitely wasn't Spanish. After a few moments of lying on the small cot they had placed her on, Annie figured it sound Russian. She regretted being a typical Californian and having passed up the chance to learn a foreign language other than two years of mandatory Spanish. Annie made a mental note to encourage Travis to explore languages, science, math.
The two women noticed Annie was finally coherent and Jeannie crossed over and sat down on the edge of the cot.
"You're one of them, aren't you?" Annie asked softly.
"Not quite," Jeannie grinned. "Because my mother married a Gadjo, a non Rrom male, I'm not considered Rrom. Some of them are kind to me and treat me okay."
"What's wrong with me and what's wrong with Cerys? I saw her didn't I? That wasn't a dream," Annie demanded.
"No, it wasn't a dream. It was a way to see into the other realm," Jeannie said softly. "Tshaya says that you both are suffering a true binding of the soul."
Jeannie looked thoughtful. "The term 'soul mates' gets tossed around a lot these days but it's really very rare. We find people we've been with in other lives but not like this. This is where two souls have found each other time and time again as lovers or extremely close friends until they have bonded so closely that they can't exist without the other once they meet."
"Come on, Jeannie!" Annie protested. "Soul mates? Isn't that a little sappy? I don't do sappy."
"You do now," Jeannie grinned and then looked serious again. "Soul mates do exist in both realms. What is amazing is that soul mates don't cross the realms."
"What do you mean?"
"You've discovered how difficult it is to cross into each other's realm," Jeannie said calmly. "It's a nightmare on both sides. A Terrain in Altercauff becomes a ghoul, an Alterian becomes a vampire in our realm."
"So, Alters and Terrains don't mix," Annie concluded bitterly.
"No, we're both humanoid but there are some minute differences and apparently some DNA differences between the races. It's like gorillas and chimps are primates but can't mate with each other and are different."
"It's never happened before?" Annie frowned as she sat up, the old Rrom woman watching her closely.
"No, never in all the oral traditions of the Rrom and never that I can find in the records of the Watchers," Jeannie said softly.
"And no Warder has ever stayed here?"
"Yes, they have," Jeannie corrected. "Likes Cerys' ex, they turned to evil and they were treated like any other vampire: hunted down and killed."
"There has to be a way," Annie complained.
"There are some problems that don't have solutions," Jeannie warned.
"I don't believe that," Annie grumbled.
"And you said you weren't a romantic," Jeannie teased but with a worried glance.
* * *
Now Annie was sicker than ever and there didn't seem to be a solution. Cases of Coke Classic soda weren't helping and no combination of drugs seemed to be easing the decline.
Cerys walked into the meeting hall slowly. The air felt stiff and oppressing. The fireplaces and center fireplace were blazing, adding to the shadows thrown across the wooden and stone walls along with the heat.
The Warder was told by a messenger to attend a meeting of the highest level of Scribes and Mages later that day and Cerys had been unable to find her mother before this either. Cerys was told that Janska was tied up in meetings all day until the main meeting.
Scribes that Cerys had been working with were suddenly in those same meetings or not to be found. Mages that had been studying the Warder and helping her maintain her balance were also among the missing.
Now as her name was called by two of the guards standing outside the meeting hall, Cerys found she was nervous. The experienced Warder walked through the doors with apparent confidence but inside Cerys felt the "fight or flight" energy hitting her.
The hall was bigger than any of the others Cerys had seen, aside from the eating hall, and it was filled. The Warder had no idea that there were so many people at the Library castle until she walked into the room. At the far end of the hall were a series of tables on a platform set in a semi-circle. Behind the tables sat Mages and Scribes of all levels, ages, and ranks.
The other people filling the hall appeared to be more Mages, Scribes, and high-ranking Royals from the surrounding kingdoms. Sitting at a table facing the raised tables was Janska and Rysla. They motioned for Cerys to join them.
The Warder, with the grace and strength of a warrior, walked down the middle aisle and stood beside the table with Janska and Rysla. She stood facing the raised tables of Mages and Scribes.
"Warder Cer Cerys of the House of Albrecht, daughter of Warder Janska," one of the Scribes intoned, rising to his feet. "Please sit with your mother."
Cerys momentarily debated about standing in defiance but sat down next to Janska. The Warder had no idea what was going on and being defensive from the beginning might not be wise.
"Your mother brought you here seeking answers to your mysterious illness," the Scribe began. "Rysla, please talk on this."
Cerys frowned at the formality of this meeting. She hated royal functions: parties, receiving lines; presentations to courts; all of it drove her crazy. Cerys was the type that preferred a sword in her hand and at least two challenging vampires in front of her.
"Warders Janska and Cerys came to us with Cerys hurting badly from a decline. It was determined that she was suffering from a soul separation from a mate," Rysla said. "We were puzzled by this."
"Why?" another Scribe at the high table asked.
"We learned that Warder Cerys was severed from her Warder mate a full turn of seasons," Rysla continued. "Her mate, Arekla, was corrupted by the darkness and stayed in the Terrain Realm as a vampire. It didn't make sense for Warder Cerys to be suffering from that loss."
"The explanation?" a Mage questioned and Cerys had a feeling those at the High Tables already knew the answers and that the questioning was part of the formality of whatever was happening.
"The Healers and Seers investigated and determined that Warder Cerys had met her true mate and, because they have been separated, she is suffering from a soul rendering," Rysla said.
"A true soul bonding?" a Mage asked.
"Yes, true soul mating," Rysla responded.
"The problem that concerns the Mages and Scribes?" the first Scribe asked. "Why isn't she with her mate?"
"They are separated not by war, distance of our lands, family feuds or the Dark Lords," Rysla continued. "They are separated by Realms."
Cerys resisted turning and looking at the crowd as a low hum filled the hall. Sounds of questioning, whispering, and noises of surprise.
The lead Scribe held up his hand for silence.
"If Warder Cerys' mate is another Warder, then bring her mate back to this realm and have done with it," a Mage suggested.
Cerys felt like she was in the middle of a play written in ancient languages and form and was getting irritable with it. Like someone into action movies sitting through a lecture in Old English on Old English drama plays.
"Cerys' true mate isn't a Warder," Rysla said slowly and Cerys resisted growling, she sensed that Rysla was enjoying dragging out the drama and the tension.
"You said that her mate is in the Terrain Realm," one of the scribes repeated and Rysla nodded.
"Yes," she said standing and half faced the audience and the High Table Scribes and Mages. "The true mate of Warder Cerys, honored warrior and fighter of the Light, is a Terrain."
Cerys winced and reached for her absent sword as the Hall erupted into pandemonium. Everyone was on their feet, shouting and waving their fists in surprise, protest, disbelief or anger.
Rysla and Janska were on their feet and standing in front of Cerys. The young Warder looked around and saw three Scribe guards standing near her table as well. Cerys was well aware of how the majority of Alterains felt about Terrains but was surprised by the intensity of the reaction. Cerys wasn't sure if she was about to be mobbed for going against the "natural" order of life in Altercauff.
Cerys was glad that the Scribes and Mages had the foresight to remove everyone's swords and daggers before entering the hall. The only ones armed in the Hall were the guards with spears, swords, daggers and shields.
It took fifteen minutes until the hall was calm enough for everyone to sit back down at the repeated pounding of a sword hilt on the table by the lead Scribe. Cerys' heart was pounding and her head was swimming. One of the Healer Mages moved over to the Wader quickly and put her hand over Cerys' forehead. Cerys felt her head clearing as the magickal energy swept through her. She nodded as the Healer removed her hand.
The Warder blushed when she looked up and found the Scribes and Mages at the High Tables watching her closely.
"Now!" the head Scribe shouted. "We have examined the evidence and have questioned the Healers and Seers who have worked with both Warders Cerys and Janska. We are satisfied that what Mage Rysla says is true: Warder Cerys has found the soul she is meant to bind with for eternity and that this soul belongs to a Terrain."
Again voices erupted and were angry and defiant. The lead Scribe pounded his dagger hilt on the table. Cerys wondered if the rest of the High Scribes and Mages had daggers concealed on their bodies.
"Enough!" the lead Scribe shouted. "Now, the problem is what to be done about it."
"Let her die!" someone shouted from the crowd. "No Alterain mates with a Terrain!"
Shouts of agreement followed and Cerys flinched.
"Cerys has been a dedicated Warder," one of the head Mages shouted back. "There aren't many who even volunteer to be a Warder and even fewer who make it through the training. We then lose many of them in the Terrain realm. She is worthy of our thanks and honor."
Cerys blushed and felt her mother squeeze her shoulder in support.
"We know that Warder Cerys has lost a mate to the Dark Lords and still did her duty as a Warder," another Scribe continued. "Those duties included taking on her own father in the Terrain Realm and trying to kill him. At the very least, he is contained and can be handled by future Warders."
"What is the High Council suggesting?" one of the Royals demanded.
"That the Scribes and Mages work on finding a way to sever their soul bonding, the spell to take place at the next High Holiday crossing," the head Scribe said.
Cerys felt like she had been hit between the eyes with the butt of a spear and felt her body sagging in defeat.
"And the Terrain?" someone in the crowd demanded.
"To keep our peace with the Terrains, and to protect their continued aid in fighting Dark Lords," the Head Scribe declared, "We will sever the soul bonding of these two and if that fails and both continue to suffer, they will both be terminated."
Cerys saw her mother's eyes flashing with anger and Rysla reaching across Cerys to hold Janska's hand, trying to calm the older Warder.
"You aren't suggesting to break the traditional neutrality of the Scribes and Mages?" a Royal demanded.
"No," the High Scribe responded. "We don't view this as a problem between the Light and the Dark. It is a unique problem that will be handled."
Rysla stood up quickly. "May I address the High Council?"
The Council frowned as one but nodded.
"The High Scribe said that this problem is 'unique,' correct?" Rysla asked.
"Yes," the Scribe nodded.
"Has this ever happened in all of our known history?" Rysla asked.
"No, we haven't found a single reference to it," one of the High Scribes said.
"There are no known spells or magicks dealing with this," a High Mage confirmed.
"Then how does the High Council explain it?" Rysla demanded.
"We don't pretend to know the will of the Creators," one answered in a sullen voice.
"Yet you are saying you know where they wish this to end?" Rysla demanded.
"What?" the High Scribe shouted. "How dare you question us?"
"I dare because this is something new, it should be explored, not squashed," Rysla insisted, apparently unfazed by the shouting. "The Makers and the gods of the Terrains Realm have done something unheard of! They have joined a Terrain and a Warder together at the soul; shouldn't we try to join them physically?"
"You would suggest that we threaten the treaty with the Terrains for a Terrain and a Warder?" a Scribe asked.
"I thought the High Council was going to stay neutral," Rysla snapped. "By helping hold the treaty, does that not put you on the side of Light against the Dark Lords?"
Cerys heard the crowd behind her shifting uncomfortably; knowing many of them were on the side of power and dark.
The High Council looked confused and thoughtful.
"I suggest that we work on finding a solution and following all possibilities the Makers have given us," Rysla said calmly. "All the possibilities, including finding a way to get the Terrain and our Warder together, either in this realm or the other."
The High Council members looked at each other and slowly got to their feet. The crowd hummed with low conversation as the High Council gathered around in a small group behind the High Tables.
It was at least fifteen minutes of debate, discussion, argument, and shouting before the High Council returned to their chairs.
The High Scribe stood up and faced the Warders and the crowd.
"We feel Rysla has been correct in questioning our decision and we hereby amend it," the Scribe intoned. "We will investigate all possibilities with no promises either way."
"What does that mean to Altercaulf?" someone in the crowd demanded. "If souls from the two realms are meant to be together, what does it mean?"
"We don't know," the Scribe admitted. "That's something we will be trying to figure out with the Priests, both light and dark."
Annie muttered and pulled the covers over her head, trying to ignore the pounding on the door. A glance at the clock told her that Travis would be at school and Jeannie wasn't due for another two hours.
Annie growled when the pounding didn't go away. The writer swung her feet over the side of the bed and stumbled into the living room, holding onto the wall as she walked.
The pounding was even louder in this part of the apartment and Annie winced against the noise.
"Wait a minute! I'm coming!" she shouted, reaching for the peephole. It took Annie a few moments to recognize Watcher Gregor Weist. Annie didn't recognize the other man with the old Holocaust survivor.
The blonde was frowning as she unlocked the door.
"Mr. Weist? What can I do for you?" she asked.
"Still not feeling well, Ms. Cooper?" Gregor asked.
"No, not really," Annie admitted. "Would be best if we could do whatever another time."
"The Watcher Council is worried and wishes a report, Annie," Gregor said softly, putting his foot in the door, literally.
Annie's eyes narrowed. She resisted snapping at him, fighting to keep her temper down. The writer knew she was sick and tired. So was also sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Annie thought about it and remembered Jeannie wanting both of them to keep on good terms with the Watchers and not let them suspect anything.
The writer opened the door and motioned for the men to enter. "Come in, gentlemen."
Annie moved to an easy chair and wrapped a quilt around her as the two men settled in on the sofa. The writer quickly took note of the stranger: about 40 years old, tall, lean and very distinguished looking with black hair and gray at the temple. He had a hawk-like appearance that Annie found slightly disturbing, as if he could see right through brick walls.
"I'm Jason Richards," the man said in a deep voice. "I'm an Elder with the Watcher Council."
"Okay, what's up?" Annie asked bluntly.
"Jeannie has informed us about your illness and we've been concerned at how long it's holding on," Jason said but Annie wasn't reassured. Something about him made her skin crawl.
"Bad case of the flu, I guess," Annie shrugged. "And trying to write this book you want and I've got in my head."
"We understand that it's making your Watching training a little difficult," Gregor said calmly.
"Put it on hold is more like it," Annie said easily. "I figure a few more days and I can really get into the writing. After a good first draft I can start researching and making decisions as to what type of Watcher I want to be."
Gregor and Jason's eyes bored into hers.
"What about the Solstice?" Gregor asked slowly. "Wasn't Cerys coming back on the Solstice?"
"Was she?" Annie asked, sounding surprised. "Let me see, the Solstice is before Christmas, right?"
Jason's eyes reminded Annie of a lizard. No, a snake, she corrected, a snake looking at potential prey.
"Yes, on the 21st, the portals will be open for three nights, the 20th, 21st, and 22nd," Jason said. "Was Cerys coming back through?"
"She wasn't sure," Annie said. "Warder Cerys said that she had been here too long and there was a danger of getting trapped on this side."
"Watcher Gregor thought you had gotten attached to the vampire," Jason commented.
Annie blinked, trying to stay focused.
"What, I'm sorry," she mumbled. "Cerys, yeah, it was an intense situation and we had to depend on each other. I found her fascinating. I do wish we had more time to talk about her realm."
Annie kept her tone wistful and casual.
"You have no plans to meet up with her at Solstice?" Gregor demanded.
"I wouldn't mind seeing her again," Annie admitted. "There was an attraction between us but she was worried about her family and I've got Travis and my writing to focus on."
"Well," Gregor hesitated and looked over at Jason.
"I'm glad to hear that you have your writing to focus on," Jason jumped in. "With your illness, we weren't sure where your focus could be."
"Well, it has dropped me back from my usually obsessive schedule," Annie shrugged.
"The Solstice is just a week away, you probably won't be up to meeting the new Warder coming through the nearest portal," Gregor commented, watching Annie closely.
"No," Annie said easily. "I haven't even done my Christmas shopping for Trav yet. Jeannie said she'd help me this weekend. I'm sorry, where are my manners? Can I get you something?"
"No, I think we should be going," Jason said easily, standing up.
"Can you guys see yourselves out, I'm not feeling so great," Annie asked, using her most charming but tired smile.
"Sure," Gregor agreed readily as he stood up too. "Is Jeannie coming over today?"
"Yeah, we seem to have bonded," Annie grinned. "Her new husband was getting suspicious except he's seen how sick I am."
Jason leaned forward to shake Annie's hand and she fought hard to keep any glimmer of revulsion out of her eyes.
Annie waited until she heard the door latch and their retreating steps in the hallway before she allowed herself to relax. The blonde writer fell back in the chair and wiped away weary tears.
"Oh God," she muttered and reached for the phone. Moments later she almost broke into tears when she heard Jeannie's voice. "Are you on your way over?"
"Yeah, what's up? Need me to pick up something?" Jeannie asked.
"No, just a little rattled on this end. I had some visitors," Annie said, calming down a little. "Gregor and some Elder showed up."
"Oh damn! I'm on my way," Jeannie said almost in a growl.
"Thanks," Annie said gratefully. The writer hung up the phone and leaned her head against the arm of the chair.
Janska frowned as she walked around the corner and saw her daughter sitting on a low garden wall. The mother knew her daughter's body language and crossed the space. Cerys looked up but quickly looked away.
Janska didn't say a word as she wrapped an arm around her daughter's shoulders. Cerys gave up trying to act strong and let her tears flow freely, as she leaned into her mother's arms.
"What is it, young one?" Janska asked softly.
"I don't know," Cerys complained. "I don't cry, damnit!"
Janska had to laugh softly at that one. "Seems like you're doing a good imitation of it, daughter."
"It happened so quickly, Mama," Cerys said softly. "We were fighting for our lives or I was unconscious. Then I had to leave, there wasn't time to think."
"I understand that, you were only with her for a couple of days," Janska said, her eyes reflecting her compassion and love.
"I have to let her go, don't I?" Cerys sobbed in her mother's arms.
"You may have to for the sake of both realms," Janska agreed. "We're Warders and swore that we would put everything aside for the good of the Realms, family, friends, even our lives. I'm also a mother and I want to see you happy and would do anything for that. I'm torn, daughter."
"And while I'm here relying on the Healers to even sit up, Jalek has been gathering his magickal strength and is planning on crossing, isn't he?"
"From what the messengers from our region say," Janska agreed.
"So what do we do?" Cerys asked, straightening up and wiping her eyes and face.
"The Warders are planning on crossing either ahead of him or behind him, we're not being called on this time," Janska said softly. "I guess they figure taking on your own father was enough for this family."
"I have to go back and say goodbye at least," Cerys said, her voice almost a whisper.
"That's not a good idea, Cer," Janska frowned. "We know that they probably won't find a way for you to stay with her and they won't risk that you'll voluntarily come back."
"I need to see her, Mom," Cerys insisted.
"That's the last thing you need if you're just going to leave her again," Janska grumbled. "It'll kill both of you."
"Mom," Cerys started to protest but Janska raised her hand to stop her daughter.
"It can't be done, Cer," Janska said firmly. "If you make the choice to cross again you have to be very clear in your intentions. Totally clear and determined. Take some time and think about it. We need to know what to work towards."
Cerys' head dropped as she began to cry again.
Annie barely heard Jeannie unlocking the door and rushing over to her. The writer opened her eyes and tried to smile.
"Hey! It's Watcher day at the Cooper house," Annie mumbled.
"An Elder named Jason Richards and Gregor Weist showed up," Annie muttered.
Jeannie moved to the kitchen and poured a large glass of orange juice and grabbed a candy bar from the counter. The Watcher then spent the next five minutes bullying Annie into eating all of the candy bar and drinking all of the orange juice. Jeannie then moved back into the kitchen and put on water to boil for spaghetti. As she put on the sauce to warm, she turned back to Annie and found the writer a little more coherent.
"Okay, what did Richards and Weist want?" Jeannie demanded.
"To make sure that I'm not interested in the next Solstice, seeing Cerys again or being at the nearest portal," Annie smiled ruefully.
"Oh God," Jeannie muttered. "I should have figured they'd be suspicious. Gregor was pretty sure you had fallen for Cerys."
The worried look on Jeannie's face caught Annie's attention.
"They haven't told you where Cerys is coming through, have they?" Annie demanded and then sat upright. "That reminds me! I've been so stupid! How the hell do you know who is coming through where? You knew which gate Cerys would be coming through last time, how?"
Jeannie shifted on her feet and dashed back to the kitchen to attend to dinner and avoid the question.
"Jeannie! How do the Watchers know?" Annie demanded again.
"The Watcher Council has a couple of seers," Jeannie said calmly. "At an appointed time their seers contact ours and send over the game plan, so to speak."
"There's contact? I could talk with her?" Annie demanded, her eyes showing life for the first time in days.
"No, doesn't work like that," Jeannie explained as she set the noodles in the water to cook. "It's like a séance: a seer sits, meditates, and receives messages. Someone stands by and records the info. The Watchers plan around the Warders and what information they've gathered about the Mage Vampires coming through."
"Can they receive information?"
"No, our seers aren't powerful enough," Jeannie continued. "We can get information but we can't send."
"The Watchers aren't going to give us information about Cerys, are they?" Annie continued to frown.
"No, this little visit confirms that," Jeannie agreed.
"So now what? How do we know which portal she's coming through, or even if she's coming back?" Annie grumbled.
"We go back to the Rrom," Jeannie said firmly. "Tomorrow night is the contact night. What we hope for is that the seer on their side is working with Cerys."
"Okay, take it really slow and explain how the hell all of this works," Annie grumbled as Jeannie tossed a salad and dished out the spaghetti.
"Well, long story and complicated explanations," Jeannie complained. "The way it breaks down is this: we have a set time when their seers and our seers are set up to contact each other. If we're working with a Warder that has been through before, they leave something behind for our seer to connect with. It acts like a beacon to their seers."
"So if a seer on their side is working with Cerys, then we get a seer on this side with something and they'll key in on us instead of the Watchers?"
"Yeah, like that necklace Cerys gave you," Jeannie grinned at Annie's surprised expression. "I know you've kept that to yourself but remember, I've helped you in and out of bed and showers for the last month and a half."
Annie pulled at the delicate silver chain and looked at the small medallion at the end of it.
"I really didn't understand this one," Annie admitted.
"St. Jude," Jeannie nodded.
"I know Cerys isn't Catholic," Annie smirked.
"The patron saint of police and hopeless causes," Jeannie explained. "Warders seem to have adopted the idea of saints, sort of like humans who practice voodoo – the saint symbolizes what god or goddess corresponds to the cause or energy."
"She didn't say, I just found it in my backpack after she was gone," Annie said softly.
Jeannie caught Annie's frown as she looked at the food.
"You will try and eat, damnit!" Jeannie scolded.
"Okay," Annie gave in and sat down at the table. "What does your husband think of all of this?"
"We have a great relationship," Jeannie smiled. "He's a truck driver and gone most of the time. Tim isn't threatened by my paycheck and he just ignores all the Watcher stuff."
Annie laughed at Jeannie's description of her marriage. "You're lucky that works." Then she got serious again. "Will the seers working for the Watchers know if we intercept their message if Cerys tries to contact us?" Annie questioned.
"No, like I said, the information only goes one way," Jeannie explained.
"Do we go back to Tshaya Denisovkoff?"
"Yes, but I think we should do it somewhere other than the office or here," Jeannie said thoughtfully. "We know the Watchers are watching us. They'll probably expect me to start asking questions tomorrow or the next day."
"You mean like wanting to be there for the info or wanting it after the session?" Annie asked.
"Yes, exactly," Jeannie nodded. "If I don't ask questions they may ease up on the surveillance and we can get you to that portal in time if Cerys is coming back over."
"Gods, she has to come back," Annie mumbled. "I'm so tired."
"I know," Jeannie grinned and went to the door when they heard a key in the lock. "Trav, hey big guy!"
"Cool, spaghetti!" the boy laughed and ran over and hugged his mom as Jeannie relocked the door, glancing out in the hall before shutting it.
"What's up, Mom?" Travis asked as he scrambled into a chair. Jeannie began dishing out food for the young boy.
Annie nodded to Jeannie and the editor took over the explanation.
"Well, we're going to sneak out tomorrow and visit a friend of mine," Jeannie said. "You know those guys who've been watching you and the apartment?"
Travis nodded around a mouthful of salad.
"Well, they've been there to protect you and your mom from the bad guys you saw on Halloween," Jeannie explained. "I figured your mom told you about them. Well, tomorrow we need to play hide n seek with them."
"Like ditching someone following you on TV?" he asked and Jeannie nodded.
"Exactly, you'll get dressed and we'll pretend we're taking you to soccer practice tomorrow and visit the zoo and then see a friend of mine. Sound like fun?" Jenanie asked.
"Yeah!" Travis agreed enthusiastically.
"Jeannie," Annie said softly. "I'm not sure…"
"Don't worry about it, I've got a wheelchair in the car for your tired body," Jeannie stopped her protest. "We need it to look like a typical Saturday to them."
"Okay," Annie agreed, almost dropping her fork.
"Come on, let's get you back into your chair," Jeannie suggested, helping Annie stand up and walk across the room. Annie quicky drifted back into an exhausted sleep.
Cerys moved her legs over the side of the bed and sat up as her mother and Rysla entered the small room.
The Warder was tired and Cerys knew she needed another treatment from the Healers. She was heading downhill again; the grieving for Annie was dragging her down.
Cerys felt her hopes crash along with her energy and body when she saw their expressions.
"Not good, is it?" she asked as Janska settled in next to her and placed her arm around her daughter's shoulders.
"No, we can't find a way," Janska admitted. "You have to let her go. Rysla thinks that if you say goodbye to Annie and come back, the Healers can break the bonding. It won't be easy and you'll always grieve for her, but you'll both live."
"How can I live without her?" Cerys demanded.
"You'll survive," Janska said, trying to reassure her. "Sometimes soul-bound mates survive the loss of their mates."
"I won't find anyone after Annie," Cerys said flatly.
"I know, young one," Janska said softly. "The life of a Warder is never easy and seldom long."
"To have any kind of life here, you need to see her and let go," Rysla urged.
"I don't know if I can do that," Cerys admitted, trying not to give in and cry. "What are my options?"
"Stay here and learn how to be a Scribe," Rysla began and smirked at Cerys' frown at that suggestion. "Cross over and say goodbye to your mate. You come back here and we do some working to break that connection. Or you can cross back over, stay there as a vampire and take your chances on the run from the Watchers, Hunters and other vampires. Or you bring Annie and her son back here and teach them how to be outcasts and ghouls."
"Fuck," Cerys grumbled and Janska's eyebrows rose in surprise at the Terrain swear word.
"You spent too much time over there," Janska scolded.
"Sorry, Mom," Cerys mumbled as she ran over her options.
"I'm a warrior, not a scribe;" Cerys thought aloud. "I don't know if I can say goodbye to her and I can't put Annie and Travis through a life on the run with a vampire."
"We need to know, Cerys," Rysla urged. "We need to tell the seer if you're crossing or not."
"If I don't cross?"
"We might be able to break the connection but it'll be harder," Rysla said.
"Why? Why do I have to say goodbye?" Cerys demanded.
"So that you've made part of the break already when you get back," Rysla explained.
"Alright, there is no answer except to say goodbye," Cerys said, her body language admitting defeat.
"Let's see the seer," Rysla said firmly. "We can only hope someone is working with your mate and she'll be there when you cross. You can only stay two nights and day without risking becoming a permanent vampire."
"After this, I'm retired. I can't send anyone else to go through this," Cerys declared.
"I understand, Warder," Rysla said calmly as mother and daughter stood up.