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Shona Macdonald waited somewhat impatiently for her daughter to get off the bus. She didn’t get to see enough of her only child. There wasn’t that much of a geographical difference between Edinburgh and Perth but it was far enough that Brina came home for the odd weekend.

Shona was appalled when Brina got off the bus. Had she lost weight again? She looked perfectly healthy but there were shadows in the dark eyes that hadn’t been there the last time she had come home.

Brina hugged her mother gently and kissed her cheek. “Hi Mum.” She swung her rucksack onto her back and slipped her arm through her mother’s as they began to make their way home.

“You’re not eating enough” Shona chided gently.

Brina chuckled. “I’m eating plenty. I just burn it off. Must be my good genes” she winked at her mother.

Indeed Shona could not deny that her daughter had a good appetite. She took Brina out for dinner and wasn’t at all surprised when Brina ordered a large steak.

“You remind me of your father so much at times.”

Brina looked up and chewed the piece of steak which suddenly was tasteless in her mouth. She swallowed and took a sip of her water.

“How d’you mean, Mum?”

“You’re so focussed on your work. Your Dad was like that.”

Tears filled Brina’s eyes and she let her mother think it was the continual grief that they had both lived with since Aidan had walked out on them over a decade ago.

Inside, however, she was grieving for another reason. She had just found out that one of the Wolves of Steel in the New Forest was her half-brother. And she had vowed that her mother would never know. It was far kinder to let her mother think that her father had just died somewhere and the police had never found the body.

It was entirely possible that her father was still alive and running around the country somewhere still fathering children as and when he felt like it.

Brina laid her hand lightly over her mother’s. “We’ll talk about this at home.”

Back in the house, Brina studied her father’s photos with fresh eyes. She could see herself reflected in his features. She could also see hints of her half-brother.

She slipped out into the large back garden and made her way to the small gazebo her mother loved. Brina let the tears fall unchecked. She wept for that brave warrior newly lost, Harm. She wept for Sheena again, safe with Luna but still sorely missed. She wept for her Alpha, Feisal, who had lost both sisters within months of each other. She wept for her mother who could never know the truth. And she wept for the father who had never told her the truth.

The Herd Must Not Know.

Never had that felt so bitter on her tongue. But for once she wasn’t inclined to argue.

Her mother must never know the truth.

Positive Emotions - October Writing Challenge
Saffron smiled happily at her next patient’s human family. The puppy had made a complete recovery from his cut paw and would be just fine. He wasn’t the prettiest of dogs but that didn’t matter. He was a valued and valuable member of his family and his humans were so looking forward to taking him home.

“How is he?” the mother asked, her gaze conveying messages to Saffron over the excited children’s heads.

Saffron beamed at the woman whose whole posture relaxed at that smile.

“You can take him home with you tonight.”

The three children cheered and Saffron had to swallow back a giggle. The puppy had been with another family who had found him to be too much of a handful and he had needed to be rehomed. Saffron had worked with the PDSA to ensure that he got the best care possible to ensure he hadn’t taken any psychological damage from his unsettling early start in life. The little fellow had such a lovely warm and engaging nature that he had found a new home two days after he had been brought into the rehoming centre. The cut paw had happened when he had been playing with the children and they hadn’t noticed the glass from a broken lightbulb until the puppy began to cry…

She carefully brought the puppy through to the room where the family were waiting and gave the parents gentle instructions as to his continued care. He would want to run and play but was to be supervised for another few days until they were sure that he was fully comfortable. If he showed any distress he was to be brought back immediately.

Saffron sighed in contentment as the family left with the pup.

There was nothing like the joy of seeing a family reunited with their beloved pet. And that joy had extra benefits as far as she was concerned.

Others might earn their Glamour through fear or the pursuit of justice.

She had just earned a little of hers through love...

Mekhet musings
Eliza sighed, stretched, and took another look at her notes.

She didn’t like what she was reading. Not one little bit. This wasn’t … nice. This wasn’t anything she was comfortable with. But, given what seemed to be going on, she wasn’t sure that hiding away in the shadows would actually achieve anything.

Her thoughts moved away from her work to thinking about those she knew outside of her Covenant. She smiled as she thought of her grandsire, William Drake. Cal … he was her hero. She adored him and wanted to make him proud of her. Another smile was for Charlie. Many other Kindred spoke somewhat negatively of Ana and Eliza had to recognise that their opinions might carry some degree of validity – but still, she had a lot of respect for Ana.

She mused over her friends in Cambridge. The Cambridge Dragons were an interesting lot and a very handy group to have around. They felt like friends rather than anything else, if it were possible to consider other Kindred friends. And the last time she had been down there she had had the pleasure of a brief chat with Lady Catherine Moore and Madam Darcy Blake. Eliza considered Lady Catherine and made a note to herself to try to talk more with the other Kindred when she next got the chance to do so. And Madam Blake – there was so much more going on there than met the eye. Eliza had learned of late that there was so much more to certain Daeva than just how pretty they were and was very sure that Madam Blake was also someone to reckon with.

It was times like this that Eliza really wanted a comforting mug of hot chocolate. Technically there was nothing stopping her – apart, of course, from the fact she would end up having to vomit it up later on which would be a waste. Her meals were safe and she was careful never to overfeed.

She checked her ‘sent’ emails and ticked another one off her ‘to-do’ list. The problem was that her ‘to-do’ list kept on getting longer and longer. And some of it wasn’t exactly stuff she could simply delegate to just anyone. In actual fact, some if it just wasn’t something she could delegate at all…

Oh, to hell with it. She needed a walk.

Eliza made her way to the Necropolis and to her family’s tomb where her parents’ remains had been buried. As always she took some flowers and disposed of the old ones. This was a time for her, a time to remind herself of who she had been.

She didn’t want to lose sight of that.

After a while, Eliza returned to her little place and considered the next stage of her plans. She wrote another email and sent it in the hope of getting a response.

Being Kindred was … complicated. She only hoped she didn’t mess up.

Snowflake – clouds, leaves, cutlery – for the lovely faerierhona
It was a slightly cooler day today, Snowflake mused, as she looked up to see the clouds scudding by way up high. The weather was due to get warmer again later in the week but for today a warmer jacket was a good idea.

She heard the leaves crisp under her boots as she slipped out to post a couple of letters before returning to the comforts of the flat. The laptop was ready now and she opened her email account to check on the latest gossip.

Who in the hells was Chalkwell? The man sounded like a blithering idiot. Snowflake sniffed, not impressed. She had some fondness for one or two Beasts although not for *that rabbit*. It might pretend it was a Fairest but it would never *be* a Fairest. It had never been through the ordeals that any Fairest had endured.

Snowflake laid the table for dinner neatly. Since Eli’s death she had struggled to find any interest in food but had to eat for Gwin’s sake. The cutlery was clean and polished and laid exactly where it needed to be. Dinner wouldn’t be for a couple of hours yet but she wanted to be organised. She had tonight off and wanted to spend it curled up on the sofa. A book, a warm fire and Gwin snuggled around her shoulders… lovely.

After dinner she briefly went online. There was an email from Drago that sounded like he had a problem of some sort. She snorted. Of course he had a problem – he’d married Ella-ra. Fool.

Her lips tightened and she looked over at one of her favourite photos of herself and Eli. “He doesn’t sound like he’s learned anything, darling.”

Then something else caught her gaze and she opened her eyes wide.

Ella-ra was dead, and at Drago’s hand?

The Shadowsoul read and re-read ‘The witch’s tale’ several times before hot tears began to fall down her face. She rejoiced that Ella was dead and it was poetic justice that Drago had been the one to kill her. She only regretted that she hadn’t been able to kill Ella herself. That would have been too easy, of course.

But why couldn’t it have happened sooner? Like… October last year when Drago had kidnapped the rabbit? Ella should have died then. Memories of a day in Kent flashed across Snowflake’s mind and her face darkened with fury. The rabbit would still pay for her crimes. She was determined on that.

Snowflake shut the computer off and hurried down to Eli’s grave. She settled beside where his head would be and traced her fingers lightly over that area.

“So, darling love, what shall we get Drago as a thank-you?”

Gwin sighed as he watched over Snowflake worriedly. She was getting worse, not better.

The small hedge-beast huffed to himself as he watched the grieving Shadowsoul talking to the remains of the man who had betrayed her love. Technically she wasn’t Eli’s widow as whatever it was that Eli had done to betray the Oath he had sworn with Snowflake had happened prior to his death – but that made no difference to the Fairest. And, truth be told, he wasn’t going to rub that in.

Snowflake was under enough pressure as it was.

Gwin knew of her sleepless nights, of the pacing up and down while she fretted over what she would have to do.

He also knew something that only a few did. Gwin hoped that that something was enough to stabilise her. If, indeed, anything could.

She had spoken openly and honestly to Gwin. He only hoped that what she would have to do would be enough.

For her sake, he truly hoped so.

She hadn’t seen the day’s post. Not that it would bring her anything of interest, it never did. What is always brought was junk mail and bills. Snowflake had a very environmentally friendly recycling capability in her home. That hedgebeast came trotting towards her with an envelope held lightly in his mouth.

Gwin offered her the envelope and cocked his head to one side as she took it. She was partly ready to go out to the Autumn Market being held in Oldcastle but had not yet done her make-up. That was always the last to be done.

It felt like a card of some sort. Oh. Maybe someone had heard about Eli and was sending her a sympathy card.

Snowflake slit the envelope carefully and drew the card inside out. Gwin hopped up on the counter beside her. She didn’t know for sure if he could read or not but his presence was comforting.

The Shadowsoul went sheet-white as she read the words within and for a moment it looked like she had stopped breathing. Gwin could scent fear on her. Then he ran to the other end of the flat and hid. Even he who had been with Eli ran from Snowflake when she looked like this…

Fury had gripped Snowflake. Fury and fear combined into one.

This – this was Too Much. It was bad enough that the Lady of Blissful Dreams seemed to know where she lived, that she knew about Eli’s death.

Snowflake stared down at the words again.

“You think you’re on to me, bitch? I know someone you don’t.”

That evening she had no qualms about requesting a private discussion with Lord Galtharion.

Eliza read the various emails between Peter Graham and Elijah Loken with a growing sense of frustration. To her it looked like some sort of testosterone-based pissing contest – if male Kindred still had testosterone, that is. She had no idea and didn’t care one way or the other. The comments on the diatribe between the two Gangrel reminded her of exchanges between small children on the playground.

Quite frankly given the way certain Kindred seemed to be behaving these days she was sorely tempted to bash heads together and try to get them to think. Calm and rational common sense seemed to have left the Ordo Dracul and Eliza was none too impressed.

Besides which, she had far too much work to do. There were any number of matters requiring her time and attention and not least of these was her Great Work. Eliza sighed and picked up the latest set of print-outs she had got from her local internet café. Between these, a certain book and several DVDs she had a busy night ahead of her. It was time she got some work done.

grey, fire, hate - Nicky
Grey, fire, hate – Nicky

The leaden skies reflected Nicky’s mood as she peered out of her office windows. While her job wasn’t the most exciting thing on the face of the planet this wasn’t such a bad thing given what she found herself doing outside of work.

The inane chatter of her work colleagues soothed her. As long as people found interest in things like the X-factor and football then nothing too drastic was going on in the real world. Which suited her fine. The last thing she needed was for anyone in her office to find out what she was. One or two of them knew of her interest in the spiritual churches around Southampton but she had left it as vague as she could. Being accused of witchcraft and being told you were destined for eternal hellfire really got boring after a while.

And it wasn’t like she couldn’t make a guess as to the reality of hell and hellfire. She would just as sooner not have to know it personally and intimately any time soon. Nicky had been born psychic and had been the focus of hate before on the part of bigots and people who had been scared of her abilities.

Why did the word ‘different’ have to equal ‘wrong’ and ‘evil’?

Succubi, careen, flexible
Eliza cursed under her breath in a mixture of languages. She had sought the internet café in order to catch up with emails and read up on what was going on with the world. The group of teenagers in a corner giggling their heads off over the latest heartthrob in a cult horror-type movie made her roll her eyes in sheer annoyance.

‘Demons exist, you stupid girls. And monsters.’ Eliza’s eyes flashed for a moment as she turned her attention back to her work. She was in no mood for stupidity. She was far too busy for fools. Between her recent investigations and some new studies, her upcoming visit to the Underworld and local work in Glasgow she had very little time for anything.

Talking of monsters… Eliza’s thoughts drifted back to Stefan for a few moments and she gave herself a mental slap. She was *not* going there. She still wasn’t sure about anything that had happened that night. Her new friend had confirmed that sex between Kindred didn’t have to involve blood everywhere and Eliza was very much relieved by this.

The small Mekhet stretched slowly and decided she had had enough of human idiots for one night. She collected the articles she had printed out, paid for them, and then headed back to her base.

Once she was safely back in the Monastery Under Stone, Eliza’s thoughts returned unbidden to the strange experiences she had had of late. Sleeping with Stefan had been … interesting. He tasted good. Her other partner had been far more reasonable about the whole experience and had ensured that it had been a mutually satisfying encounter. Not that Eliza planned on sleeping with Stefan again anytime soon but at least she felt more confident in herself about such matters. And she was definitely *not* going to drink from another Kindred again if she could help it.

Eliza’s lips twitched. Would a certain male Daeva of her acquaintance be able to tell certain things about her now? She would need to be rather careful.

And she wasn’t really sure about talking it over with anyone, apart from the particular Kindred she had spent an interesting few days with. Eliza knew she didn’t have that Kindred’s confidence in dealing with people but she knew that she had learned a great deal from her lover. She didn’t think Ana would approve of either of the two Kindred she had now been intimate with and just hoped neither Ana nor Drake ever found out. That was *not* a conversation she wanted to have. It would be far less embarrassing talking about such matters with Ana but still…

A girl had to have some secrets, after all.

empty, glory, past
She was lying slumped on the bed when Gwin came trotting into the bedroom and jumped up onto the covers. He nudged at her gently, trying to get some sort of reaction out of her.

Snowflake lay still, staring blankly at Eli’s pillow. The gentle rise and fall of her chest was the only indication that she was still alive.

“It’s time” Gwin said, nudging again at her.

Slowly, painfully, the grieving Shadowsoul made her reluctant way out of the bedroom and into the hall. A few minutes in the bathroom and she looked stunning as always – if you ignored the emptiness in her eyes.

She put her coat on and fastened each button with painstaking care. Then she picked up her overnight bag and looked down at Gwin who simply nodded back at her.

At Waverley Station the crowds seemed to automatically leave Snowflake plenty of room to move. She didn’t even notice as she made her way to pick up her train tickets and got a coffee for the journey. Gwin was lying still in her bag and looked like a soft toy. Normally he would have scampered on ahead and found somewhere to hide but the hedgebeast was concerned enough about Snowflake that he wasn’t risking not being near her. He might not be big enough to stop her if she tried to do something dangerous or risky or … whatever, but he could at least try to get through to her. And the chances were that he was one of the few that could reach her. She had barely spoken since Eli’s death. The computer had been switched off and her mobile phone had been left lying on the coffee table when it ran out of charge a couple of weeks back.

As far as Gwin could see, Snowflake’s life seemed to have ended when Eli’s did.

Snowflake found a seat with a table on the train north and made herself comfortable. The man who tried to sit next to her found himself with an overwhelming need to go to the toilet when she turned her cold, empty gaze on him for presuming. Icy disdain was written all over her beautiful face and she was at her most forbidding.

The journey passed but Snowflake saw nothing of it. She sipped her coffee and lifted Gwin out of the bag to lie in her lap. He continued to play the role of ‘soft toy’ all the way to Inverness and Snowflake derived some degree of comfort from stroking his fur.

Arrival at Inverness was painful for Snowflake. The last time she had been here was to be with Eli just after their Heartsoath. He had met her at the station and they had had a wonderful few days together before she had reluctantly gone south again. Everywhere she looked in the station she could see him. Gwin, tucked safely away, could offer no comfort.
The Fiddlers’ Rest nearly broke her. This was where Eli had worked briefly after their marriage before the ill-fated expedition that he had gone on and from which he had returned broken. She had a single room this time and not access to the room that had been his. Gwin jumped up around her shoulders when she opened the bag to let him out and nuzzled at her gently.

Snowflake went for a walk in the grounds of the Rest with Gwin snuggled around her neck. He was partially hidden under the widow’s veil she had slipped on after the journey north. She hadn’t worn it during the train journey because she hadn’t wished people to talk to her about it all. And they would have done. And then she would have done something outrageous.

Autumn in Inverness was beautiful. It was a year since she had met Eli at the September gathering in 2010. Snowflake mused on him as she walked with her hands deep in her coat pockets and her veil masking her tears. She didn’t see the colours of the leaves that had fallen and were crisp under her boots as she walked. She didn’t see the glorious sunset. All she could see – and hear – was Eli.

Reluctantly she made herself attend the Autumn gathering of Lost in Inverness. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw Tor but she was polite to him as always. Tor offered her a few words of sympathy for her loss and for him to say that almost shattered her again but she masked it. Snaggle also offered sympathy and that helped a little.

It was good to see Alex Sun again. Alex was one of the few that Snowflake considered a friend and the other’s exuberant greeting brought a half-smile to Snowflake’s lips as she said hello. Alex introduced her to the Autumn Monarch of Inverness and the Shadowsoul curtsied politely. In comparison with her own dread Monarch, Kit of Dunasheen seemed like nothing at all. She minded her manners and spoke briefly with him of Autumnal matters before slipping out to join the gathering of Lost.

Gwin nuzzled at her again as she studied the bonfire. She wasn’t sure if he thought she would throw herself on it. Silly Gwin. Why would she mark her own perfect skin?

Back home in Edinburgh, Snowflake went to sit by Eli’s grave. Gwin settled nearby and watched her. The Shadowsoul told her dead love about the visit to Inverness, about Tor and Snaggle and about seeing Alex again. Late into the night she stayed there, her dark eyes shadowed with grief and memories and loss.

It would be so easy to give into what the Lady of Blissful Dreams was offering her. She could wipe the slate clean. The past year – and all that it had brought – would never have happened.

reflecting, out-of-place, tremble.
Kirsten made herself take a long, slow, deep breath and let it out again. Her fingers trembled on the keys of her phone as she re-read Bryan's text for about the twentieth time in the past half-hour since he'd sent it.

It was a suggestion that they go away for a weekend together. Oh Gaia. Was she really ready for this?

Kirsten swallowed and put the phone down. She'd replied with a quick "Love to! When?" and only now was it beginning to sink in to her what would likely happen. She thought about it over and over again and had to mentally switch gears before her thoughts stilled and she calmed again. Thinking like this wasn't going to bring the weekend any nearer.

She nearly knocked her fruit juice over and had to stop and take a breather before she picked it up and sipped at it slowly. The cold juice was tart and clean and she swirled it around in her mouth before swallowing.

Bryan made her laugh, made her feel good. He was warm, outgoing, friendly and very easy to be with. He was pretty chilled out and comfortable in himself which meant that so far she hadn't picked up on any tensions within him being around her.

Having talked to Fists and Marina in particular Kirsten felt more settled about the whole idea of having sex. But the thinking was one thing, the doing would be another.

She shook her head. She could spend hours just thinking and reflecting on it all. She would be late if she didn't get a move on and that wasn't a good idea.

Finishing her juice, Kirsten picked up her rucksack and slipped out of the caern. She headed into Perth proper where she was to meet the band for rehearsal. As she made her way into the pub and greeted the bar staff with a smile and a 'hi', she heard Bryan's voice from behind her and turned.

He leaned down and hugged her, dropping a kiss on the end of her nose. "Hey."

"Hey yourself." Kirsten hugged back, careful as always to keep the hug light and not hint at the real strength beneath. Her long, loose t-shirt covered all the scars and bites on her arms and torso - not that there were all that many of them but in the cold light of day what they were would be readily apparent. And she wasn't ready to tell Bryan yet. She couldn't risk it just yet. She needed to be more sure of herself, of him, of them.

As they made their way to the practice room, Bryan slipped his arm around her waist. Kirsten smiled at this and let herself enjoy the warmth of him and the feelings he was making her feel when he touched her. Being alone with him, properly alone, was something she wanted so very much.

The affectionate greetings of the rest of the band brought her back down to earth and she hugged them before getting ready to warm up. Her gaze was drawn to Bryan and she watched him, her eyes darker with the hunger she felt for him. Kirsten had to drag her thoughts back from where they were going.

This was neither the time nor the place. She could think those thoughts about her boyfriend later. For now, there was work to do.

With a shake of her head and a light laugh, Kirsten strolled over to the piano and began her warm-up exercises.