Finally a new update! Sorry it took so long, but I finally got chapter two posted. Now a word of warning, I may not be able to post for awhile longer. I got a huge project in English, I'm in my school's spring show, I've got an essay for a class to write, the other story I'm working on with my friend, and other crap happening in my life right now. I will do what I can, thank you all!
The next morning Nita was sleeping soundly when a sharp pain shot through her tail. "Yipe!" she cried and woke with a start. "Who did that?" she shouted, seemingly at the empty room.
A little voice squeaked, "I'm sorry." Nita looked down and saw little Mari looking up at her with big apologetic eyes. "I've never touched a wolf tail, and yours is so soft and furry."
"It's okay. I'm just quite proud of my tail but it hurts when someone pulls on it." Nita explained.
"Okay." the little spirit chirped. "Well, big brother wants me to give you a tour."
"Yep. Marco's daddy and my daddy is the same. Our mommy was human."
"Really?" Nita sat up and looked at Mari with concern. "You poor girl."
"If you don't know, then never mind."
"Um...okay." the little girl blinked and bounded toward the door. "Come on, big brother said to take you to your new room and then around the castle."
"Alright." Nita stood up and followed Mari down the hall. They didn't pass any people, much to Nita's relief being that she was still in the thin white gown from the previous day.
While she lead Nita down a narrow staircase from Marco's room, Mari told her, "Big brother doesn't like to be bothered a lot, that's why his room is in the tower, daddy built it for him."
"I see." Nita said as she tried to keep up with the girl's spirited speed without tripping over the dress.
"Yep." she nodded and continued on. About halfway down the steps she turned through a door in the wall that lead to a wide hallway. She skipped down the hall until she stopped at two doors that stood across from each other. "This is my room," she said and pointed toward the door on the right, "And this is your room." she pointed to the door on the left and opened it.
Nita followed Mari into the room, which was empty save for a bed, a large wardrobe, and a set of stain glass windows on the far wall. "Brother says that he wants me to show you around after you get dressed, okay?"
"Alright." Nita nodded, expecting her little guide to leave, but the child stayed, staring at her with her big blue eyes. "What?"
"Why do you hate my daddy?" she asked. "Didn't he help you?"
"He blackmailed us." Nita snapped, her ears folding down in contempt.
"What does that mean?"
Nita looked at Mari and sighed, knowing full well that there was no way to beat a child's curiosity. Taras was her father after all, and she had a right to know. "Let's sit and I'll tell you."
"Okay." Mari chirped and leapt up onto the small bed.
Nita sat next to her and began, "Your father has this cult that worships him and do bad things to good innocent people."
"I know. They gave mine and Brother's mommy to him."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Why? He loved my mommy."
"I never thought he could love." Nita thought bitterly. "Anyway, they moved to an area that was close to my village and attacked us, killing a lot of people. Taras made a deal with the Patriarch at the time that he would keep the cult out in exchange for a small sacrifice each year."
"So he helped you."
"He pretended to help us, but was only looking for personal gain, that's what blackmail is."
"So, my daddy used the people to hurt you so he could get something?"
"Oh." Mari's wings drooped in sadness. "But he was such a good daddy. He taught me how to fly and clean my wings, and played with me all the time."
"Sometimes people aren't what they seem." Nita put a hand on Mari's shoulder as she let the little girl process the information. After a moment of silence Nita stood up and said, "Now go on and let me get changed so you can show me around."
Mari jumped to her feet and said, "Okay." before bounding out of the room.
Once the little spirit was gone Nita began rummaging through the wardrobe. After looking at a few of the dresses she settled on a dark purple dress that went to her knees. Under the skirt was a petticoat that made it poof out a bit. The top of the dress looked like a corset held up by two straps. It went a bit low for Nita's comfort but she didn't mind since she didn't have to worry about it falling down. On her feet she wore a pair of black boot that hugged tightly around her calves.
"I guess it'll have to do." she said, looking in the wardrobe mirror. "At least it gives my tail so freedom." She wagged the long bushy appendage to experiment with the range of movement she had.
Once satisfied she went into the hallway where Mari was waiting for her. "Pretty." the girl said regarding the dress, and, grabbing the older girl's hand, pulled Nita back to the stairs they were descending earlier. "This side of the castle is where everyone sleeps. The other side is where the fun stuff is. Come on." With that said, she continued pulling Nita down the stairs and toward the rest of the building. "We can't go into the main hall because big brother is talking with the other spirits now and he needs everything to be quiet. So I'll take you to the library."
"Alright." Nita said. "But, Mari, can you let go of my hand? I'm not as little as you and I have to bend over to hold you hand which hurts my back."
"Oh, okay." Mari released Nita's hand. "But you have to keep up."
"I'll try." Nita giggled and followed after the little girl.
All the while this was happening Marco sat in council with the other spirit leaders, waiting silently as they berated him about taking Nita. "Please understand she insisted in order to maintain the contract."
"You could have kept it without a sacrifice." Phana, the spirit of farming said.
"You don't understand the concept of a contract, do you?"
"You mean blackmail." came a growl. All eyes looked at Erik, the leader of the wolf spirits and Nita's father.
"Erik please-" Phana tried to calm him only to be cut off.
"My daughter offered herself so you would keep your little entourage away from the people she cared about."
"Exactly! This contract protects the village!"
"From your own cult!"
"I have nothing to do with them!"
"It's you they worship!" the elder snapped, silencing the younger. "How can you honestly say that you have nothing to do with them when you let them do the things they do? You only care about yourself, not the humans, just like you father."
"My father did care about the humans!" Marco yelled back. "Or have you all forgotten he was the only one who took pity on them when all of you forced the humans to work constantly? Shall I remind you all that he created night to give the humans time to rest from their labors and bury their dead when you turned your backs?"
The other spirits were silent, having been reminded of the suffering they put the humans through. It was not a time in history the spirits were proud of. They had created humans for the sole purpose of tilling the ground and offering up their labor as sacrifices. The spirits' orders were carried out without question from the creatures whose lives meant next to nothing. It wasn't until a spirit named Taras committed a taboo that forced the sun out of the sky each day that the humans could rest. For his gift to humanity he was banished from the spirit's domain and driven into the underworld.
Having realized his victory Marco continued, "As for the tradition, I refuse to go through with it and let you old geezers antagonize me further for harming her. Nita is still a girl, and, though not unattractive, the human blood that flows through me won't let me treat her as no more than an object. She and I are equals in that we are both half-blooded, and I intend to treat her as such. Now if that is all you wished to speak with me about, I kindly ask you to leave my domain. I have work to do." With a snap of his finger the images of his colleagues disappeared.
All of them willingly left the discussion, except Erik. "Listen, boy." he growled at Marco. "I don't care how young you are or how powerful and important you think you are, if you so much as lay a finger on my daughter I will not hesitate to rip you apart."
"If you love Nita so much, then why did you abandon her and her mother?" Marco inquired.
"I have responsibilities-"
"So did my father, and yet he still had time to raise two children and care for his wife as she lay dying from an illness." Marco retorted. "You may claim to be a good spirit, but you are a lousy father. My father was both a good spirit- despite what you think- and a good father."
"I don't care how you saw your father, but this isn't about him." Erik looked Marco straight in the eye. "I'm warning you don't hurt my daughter or there will be consequences." With that he disappeared.
Mari lead Nita to a pair of large wooden doors. Carved on them were four images of a woman with a book. The two carvings on the left door showed her reading with a child: on the top with a little boy, and with a little girl on the bottom. In the bottom right panel she was reading with an image of Taras, and the top showed just the woman herself curled up with a book. "That's my mommy." Mari said, noticing that Nita was staring at the doors. "Daddy made the library for her so she wouldn't get bored. Let's go inside." She pushed the doors open and gently pulled Nita inside.
The older girl's jaw dropped at the sight before her. Though it wasn't very big, there were more books in that single library than Nita had seen in her entire life. The ceiling was fairly high, with books fitted into every available space; even the staircase that lead to a second level had books tucked into it. The only place that wasn't riddled with books was a small area with two couches and a small table. "Wow." Nita said.
"This is my second favorite room."
"Really? Only second? What's your first."
"The star room. It's where big brother makes people's souls into stars and puts them in the sky." Mari sighed. "But I can't go in there. Daddy used to let me, but I broke something and he wouldn't let me in anymore."
"I can understand why." Nita said and looked back up at the books. "So is there any particular rhyme or reason to the arrangement of books here?"
"I don't know. I don't really come in here."
"Really? Why not?"
Nita looked down at the little girl. She was shifting on her feet and staring at them. "What?"
"I can't read. Mommy and daddy never never taught me."
"Oh." Nita muttered. "My father was never around. He's the wolf spirit pack leader so he didn't have the time to take care of me. My mom taught me a little, so did my grandfather." Nita scratched the back of her ears, the conversation becoming uncomfortable. "Um, maybe I could teach you some."
Her eyes lit up. "Really? You'll teach me to read?"
"Uh sure, if you want."
"Yeah! Come on let's start now!" She grabbed Nita's wrist and was about to pull the older girl farther into the library when a growling sound emanated from Nita's stomach. Her face turned red and Mari giggled. "Well maybe we can go to the kitchen first."
The kitchen was bigger Nita had thought it would be, though it was stuffed to the roof with supplies and utensils. It was loud and had a homogenized mix of many different smells that made Nita's stomach growl even louder. Mari giggled again and pulled Nita to a spirit that looked about twice her own age. She was thin and very beautiful. Her dark, straight hair was a bit messy from sweat and a lack of brushing but looked easily tamable. "Nita, this is Wynonna." Mari said. "She's the head cook here. Wynona, this is Nita; she's half spirit like me and Marco, but her daddy is a wolf spirit."
Wynonna looked at Nita and smiled. "Hello, it's nice to meet you." Nita looked at the older woman. Her face showed friendliness, but Nita saw a hint of suspicion behind her smile. The others in the room also looked at her with caution, and whispered to each other.
"Likewise." Nita responded.
Mari, oblivious to the attitude of those around her, was about to say something when the door opened again and Marco walked in. All eyes turned to him and the dark spirits in the room bowed. "Good afternoon, everyone." he said. "Go about your business."
"Hello, sir." Wynona greeted.
"Hello, Wynonna." Marco greeted. "I just need something small so I can get back to work."
"Yes, sir but um," she leaned in and whispered. "Are you aware of our...canine guest?"
"All too." he whispered back.
"You know I can hear you." Nita commented indignantly.
"I'm sure you can." he said to Nita, earning a growled, inaudible mutter in response. "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Don't patronize me." she barked.
Silence filled the room as everyone waited for Marco to reply. Nita's glare at him gave an obvious sign of hatred and animosity, and it annoyed him. He hadn't done anything wrong, yet this girl seemed to blame him for all the bad things that happened to her. Wolves were creatures of the night, weren't they? The two spirits should be getting along, more than that, there should be great camaraderie between them yet she hated him with all fiber of her being. He wanted to lash out and yell at her about how wrong she was about the night spirits, about him, and about his father, but he restrained himself. It was neither the time nor the place for the two of them to be shouting at each other. Mari was present and he didn't want to frighten her with a display of anger, and the kitchen, around so many other spirits didn't seem like an appropriate place for a heated argument. So he just sighed and said."I hope the tour went well."
"I learned a few things." she said
Mari chimed in, "Nita's gonna teach me to read!" she cheered excitedly.
"Is that so?" Marco knelt down to his sister's level and smiled. "I'm sure it'll be a lot of fun. She's lucky you're a fast learner."
"And I know the alphabet and all the sounds the letters make." she gleamed with pride. "I taught it to myself."
"Hey, I helped too." he protested, cheerfully teasing her.
Seeing the two siblings laugh together brought a sense of warmth to Nita. Being with his sister brought out a different side to Marco Nita didn't think she'd ever see in someone like him. Then again, he was half human, so he must have some sort of compassion. On the other hand, he was obviously raised by his father, being groomed to succeed the man when the time came, so he must have been taught to effectively lie to his sister in order to cover up who he really was and what he did. The warm feeling left as she thought of all the secrets that had been hidden from the innocent little girl; all the cruelties, all the crimes, all the lives affected. It sickened her, but she tried not to show it. "Well, let's grab something and go, Mari, so we can start as soon as we can."
"Right." she cheered. "Bye, Marco."