Authors: Scarlet Hyacinth
Their lips met in a sweet kiss, one that was nothing like the ones they’d shared earlier. It was a kiss of promise, of relief, and of recognition. Through it, they wordlessly told each other that they would not allow anyone to separate them, not even each other. And when Roarke came to them and hugged Quinn’s back, Quinn knew that if any of them lost their way, the others would be there to guide him back home.
When the kiss broke, the sun was shining brightly once again. G’aladon beamed at Quinn. “I love you, too,” the other man whispered. “I always have.”
“I suppose this is where I say I love you both,” Roarke muttered.
Quinn laughed, happily elbowing the feral in the stomach. “You mood killer. You’re supposed to be romantic, gaze at me soulfully, and declare your undying devotion.”
Roarke snorted. “G’aladon already did that. I can’t hope to even come close to his confession of love.”
In truth, Quinn didn’t need fancy words from either of his men. Their bond overflowed with emotion, and Quinn berated himself for forgetting that, even for a minute.
Sadly, they couldn’t stay there to explore their connection further. If Quinn had his way, he’d never step out of Roarke and G’aladon’s embrace, but they had a task that needed to be completed. In spite of the fear still bubbling deep within him, Quinn wanted to get it over with so that they could begin their life together, with no threat looming over them.
With that in mind, Quinn pressed another kiss to G’aladon’s lips and slipped away. “Okay. I think we really are ready now.”
“That you are.” The Spirit Mother appeared to be satisfied. “You might want to put some clothes on first, though.”
Quinn realized for the first time that they were naked and had been so for the past several minutes, shamelessly exposing themselves to the Spirit Mother. Honestly, he couldn’t bring himself to be embarrassed. Instead, he closed his eyes and summoned clothing for both himself and his mates. “There.”
The Spirit Mother’s lighthearted comment and the light flirtation with his mates lifted some of the burden off Quinn’s heart. Still, as the white wolf opened the rift between realms once again, Quinn couldn’t help but wonder what they were getting themselves into.
Quinn took Roarke’s right hand and G’aladon’s left. As the Spirit Mother disappeared, the three of them stepped together through the gap.
At first, he felt both Roarke and G’aladon through their shared bond, there with him, loving him. But then, all of a sudden, G’aladon pulled away from him. It hit him like a physical blow, so hard that when he landed outside, he fell on his knees. His mind was invaded with a flurry of confusion and mixed emotions.
A wave of power washed over him, wild, familiar, yet not. Quinn somehow managed to gather his bearings, understanding that his mates desperately needed him. As he struggled to his feet, he saw G’aladon facing the Spirit Mother and her panther companion, spine ramrod straight, magic emanating from him.
“See?” the panther asked the Spirit Mother. “I told you it was a bad idea.”
The Spirit Mother ignored him. “Come now, child,” she told G’aladon. “Stop this folly. It isn’t what you really want.”
“What could you possibly know about what I want?” G’aladon laughed, and he didn’t sound like the man Quinn knew and loved at all. “You’re only an animal.”
The white wolf ignored the taunting words. “You might not care much about me, but what of your mates? What of Roarke and Quinn? Is your power more important than them?”
G’aladon shrugged. “There’s no reason why I can’t have both. They’re smart men. Surely they realize how much better I am now than before.”
“Do they?” The Spirit Mother’s voice dripped with disdain. “Perhaps you should ask them instead of drawing your own misguided conclusions.”
G’aladon snorted. “And turn my back on you two? Yeah right. You’ll just take advantage of my distraction and try to steal my powers.”
Quinn had heard enough. It was time for him and Roarke to intervene. “Stop, G’aladon,” he said. “This isn’t you. Remember what you said earlier? Remember how much we wanted to be together?”
The witch stole a look at Quinn. “Nothing has changed, beloved,” G’aladon told Quinn. “But I can give you and Roarke so much more now. I can give you the world. Together, we can rule the entire planet. Nothing can stop us.”
“What about the orcs, then?” Roarke asked. “You wanted to help them.”
G’aladon shrugged dismissively. “It was a horrible idea. Being inside the astral realm must have addled my mind. The Spirit Mother said it herself. They are not used to having souls. Why should they get one?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” Quinn replied. “Please, G’aladon. You must remember who you truly are.”
With no fear, Quinn approached his lover. Even if G’aladon’s mind had been corrupted by the power, the bond between him, Quinn, and Roarke remained there, resisting the assault of the overwhelming magic.
Quinn stepped into G’aladon’s embrace. “You told me you loved me,” he whispered in G’aladon’s ear. “You agreed that we could do this together. Have you forgotten?”
Roarke joined them, hugging G’aladon from behind. “Weak apart and strong together, remember?”
A struggle seemed to be going on within G’aladon. “I…But the magic…I’m nothing without it.”
“You’re our mate,” Quinn corrected. “You’re G’aladon. Your powers don’t define who you are. Your choices, your emotions do.”
G’aladon trembled, his turmoil now gaining physical manifestation. The ground started to shake. Fear bubbled inside Quinn’s belly as he heard a tree collapse somewhere nearby, but he didn’t move away. “Come back to us,” he told G’aladon. “Don’t let that magic consume you.”
“You belong with us,” Roarke added. “Just let it go.”
Magic swirled around them wildly, slashing at the grass, howling and screeching. Every nerve ending in Quinn’s body became alight with awareness. G’aladon could easily crush him, but he was not afraid, at least not of dying and certainly not of his mate. What had him terrified was the idea of failing G’aladon, of not being strong enough to sustain their bond. He had to hold on, to keep G’aladon anchored, to prevent the witch from completely losing it.
G’aladon’s eyes drifted shut, and Quinn’s connection to his mates vibrated with effort and decision. The witch’s breath labored, and he seemed to be trying to absorb the power back within himself. Pain exploded in Quinn’s brain, oozing from G’aladon’s agony. In spite of it, Quinn focused every bit of his own ability and flooded their connection with it. He felt Roarke do the same, and G’aladon gasped, squeezing Quinn tightly to his chest. The pain was still there, but the wild, unleashed power began to lose ground, drawn back within G’aladon. At last, the shaking stopped, the energies that had caused it now returning into G’aladon, and through the witch, into Quinn and Roarke.
“Take it,” G’aladon shouted, addressing the Spirit Mother. “Take it now while I can still keep ahold of myself.”
He sounded like himself again, and Quinn realized they were very close to achieving their task. Their bond had been stronger than the lust for power. The Spirit Mother immediately granted his request. Her power flowed over them, more intense than Quinn had even expected.
It was like a lightning storm, a meteor crash, a supernova, all wrapped into one. Quinn felt as if he was being consumed, torn apart. And yet, he didn’t experience any pain. It should have been there, but Quinn suspected the white wolf was protecting them. The pressure might have crushed his lungs, but it seemed blocked, as if it reached Quinn through a thick veil.
Nevertheless, Quinn sensed the moment when G’aladon’s magic began to abandon him very clearly. The Spirit Mother’s spell invaded G’aladon, draining him dry, like a leech that threatened to steal G’aladon’s very life away. Quinn had the urge to stop the whole process, but he contained it. This was the only way. He loathed the pain G’aladon had to go through with all his heart, and he’d have much preferred to endure it himself in his mate’s stead. Since it wasn’t possible, he just hugged G’aladon, praying and flooding his mate with his love.
In spite of the agonizing process, G’aladon didn’t try to free himself or fight back. He allowed the Spirit Mother to sap him of his strength, shuddering, still clinging to Quinn as if his life depended on it.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, it was all over. G’aladon slumped against Quinn, breathing hard. “Thank you,” he whispered in Quinn’s ear. “For a moment there, I forgot who I was and what I really wanted.”
Quinn didn’t speak. Instead, he just caressed G’aladon’s sweaty hair, knowing that his mate already understood Quinn’s emotions.
For a few moments, he experienced a profound sense of relief. At last, they were together. It hadn’t been easy, but they’d succeeded. However, his happiness shattered abruptly. With a shout, Roarke pushed G’aladon and Quinn down and covered their bodies with his own.
Quinn watched in horror as a blast of magic struck Roarke, so powerful the feral didn’t even have time to cry out in pain. Their incipient bliss collapsed like a castle of cards. In one single instant, Quinn felt his bond with Roarke being severed by death.
The first thing that struck Quinn was a strong reaction of denial. This couldn’t be. They’d only just become mates. They had too much to share, to do, so many things to talk about, so much love to explore. Quinn could simply not believe that they could lose it all, just like that.
Quinn crawled from under G’aladon, reaching for Roarke, trying to convince himself that there must be some mistake. But the absence of the bond could not be confused for anything else. Roarke’s heart no longer beat, and he had stopped breathing. A thin trail of blood seeped out of his mouth, the only visible sign of an injury.
G’aladon reached for Roarke as well, all his pain and exhaustion seemingly forgotten. He took a deep breath and released a choked sob. Quinn was distantly aware of someone making a low keening noise, and he realized he himself was the source.
Tears filled Quinn’s eyes as he rocked Roarke’s body to his chest. In the background, Quinn was aware of a conversation taking place.
“You fool,” the Spirit Mother boomed. “What have you done?”
“What I had to do,” the panther replied, practically sneering. “You’ve gone soft, Shaiyta. Your people speak of peace and healing where none is possible. You indulge their ideals and their whims to the extent that you would endanger the world for them.”
“I may have gone soft, but you’ve forgotten the true power of emotion,” the Spirit Mother replied.
“There is no emotion here. G’aladon is not a person. He stopped being that a long time ago. He is a thing, and he has to be wiped out, this time, permanently.”
Cold fury filled Quinn. Kissing Roarke’s now-clammy temple, Quinn left the feral’s body on the grass. Both he and G’aladon got up, facing the rest of the people in the area, both the spirit beasts and Hewitt, Devon and Mason.
It seemed obvious to Quinn what had happened. The panther had never intended to help them. He had waited for G’aladon to willingly renounce his abilities and attacked once the witch had been weakened.
How could a supposedly godlike creature be so treacherous? How could he not even care about the destinies they shattered with their cruelty?
are a thing, a soulless, dirty creature,” Quinn told the panther. “G’aladon paid the price for what he did in the past. And you? What did you do? You killed an innocent man who only wanted to love and be the loved.”
“I will never forget or forgive this.” G’aladon growled. “You will regret the day you killed my mate instead of me.”
There was hatred in G’aladon’s voice, thick and venomous. Mere minutes before, Quinn would have been inclined to dissuade the witch from any violent course of action, but now, everything was different. The world had gone gray, and the only thing that kept Quinn from collapsing and surrendering to his own grief was G’aladon.
Their bond tightened, this time in shared fury, in desire for vengeance. New power roared around them, and for the first time, Quinn opened himself to his abilities.
There was so much magic present, though, that it almost overwhelmed Quinn. Taking a deep breath, he focused on G’aladon so that he wouldn’t lose sight of his goal. Waves of untapped psychic energy invaded Quinn, and he tamed it with his anger, with his heartbreak and grief. He could sense so many things now, things he’d been blind to before. More importantly, raw, angry power gathered within him and more. The life and beauty of the forest around them pulsed inside his heart, but it only made the sheer void and blackness of Roarke’s dead body more intense. From everyone in front of him, Quinn gathered impressions, and G’aladon’s feelings just added more fuel to the unquenchable fire. Quinn might have been unable to rescue Roarke, but he could help avenge him.
At the same time, G’aladon reached out to his creations. Quinn could almost see them in his mind, the orcs who had been recently granted souls lending their strength to their master. They cried out in anger and sorrow for G’aladon’s loss, wanting to help him, to fight back against those who’d wronged him.
Magic exploded in the grove, hitting at the panther guilty of Roarke’s murder. A thousand voices seemed to echo as Quinn and G’aladon spoke together. “You might consider yourself immune to the rules of man,” they said, “but you are not. Everything has a price, and you will pay it.”
Together, they unleashed the full extent of their emotions and abilities on the panther. Quinn’s attack held the full power of his mind, and he wielded it like a knife, molding his senses into a telekinetic weapon. Through his bond with G’aladon, he shared his power with his mate, who did the same with him. Meanwhile, G’aladon’s magic held so much intensity every nerve in Quinn’s body came into awareness, the fabric of reality twisting under G’aladon’s control. Havedok must have not expected them to possess such power, at least not after G’aladon had willingly given it up. He recoiled, pushed back by the energy. A roar of pain escaped him, and he stalked toward them, obviously meaning to dispatch them as well and finish the job.