Avenari - Epilogue

"If I could figure out how to do it without using signatures or having an uncanny grasp of local geography, it would have been a lot quicker just to teleport home." I couldn't stop complaining as I lugged my suitcase filled with parting gifts and Shinryu across the terminal. Quelos had insisted on us taking our weapons, which had made the baggage check people throw a proverbial fit and delay the flight for an extra hour while they tried to figure out our loyalties.

"I'm sure when you step outside, you'll be glad that we're driving back to your Manor from here." Andris was wearing an oddly excited smile, and I responded with suspicion.

"Why should I be happy? It's a seven-hour drive from Detroit to Marquette. I just want my bed, dammit!"

"Do I get a room?" Nick asked hopefully.

"We have a few guest rooms. There's plenty of space for both of you."

"Like hell I'm taking a guest room," protested Andris. "I'm staying in your room, Princess."

"Yeah, yeah. We'll see about that after I get a look at whatever it is that has you so giddy."

We exited the building and I stopped at the curb, ready to flag a taxi when Andris caught my hand and tugged me further down the walkway. I gave him a baffled look, but he just shook his head and smiled, pointing ahead.

Frowning, I glanced up to see what he was trying to tell me, and nearly tripped over the flat cement.

"My baby!" I cried ecstatically, forgetting the suitcase and zipping forward through the crowd to lay both hands on my black, beautiful, shiny M5's hood. Not a scratch marred her perfection, exactly as she had been when I watched her slide into the darkness of Andris' underground car collection.

"I thought you'd be happy," my demon chuckled as he and Nick caught up at their less erratic pace. He had brought my suitcase along. "The keys are in the glovebox. It's unlocked."

I opened the driver's door and frowned again, this time less enthusiastically. "Andris, why is my baby here, in a public place, unlocked?"

"It just arrived as we left the plane. I gave my assistant strict orders to watch it until I came out. He has already left." The smile on his face said plainly that he would be keeping his secret workforce under wraps for the time being.

Whatever. I grinned anyway at my car. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

"I was talking to my baby, but I guess it applies to you, too."

He was silent for a moment, then:

"Open the trunk, Lynn."

Snickering, I slipped in and popped the trunk, then adjusted my seat while the two of them loaded our luggage.

"It kind of pisses me off that I can't use my mom's car anymore," grumbled Nick when he got in back, behind Andris.

"Why? Just use one of my street-legal cars. Most of them are pretty flashy, but there are some normal ones I liked, too. Supra, 240Z, Civic, et cetera..."

The back seat was dead silent, and remained so until the airport had long left my rearview mirror. Only then did a strangled noise catch our attention.

"C-c-can I really...?!" the kid managed to choke out.

"Don't you dare say anything creepy," muttered Andris, who had actually been concerned for a second there. "You can't touch my funny cars, or my Shelby, the Lamborghinis...none of the really high-end models or the antiques. The rest is free for use."

"I've never been so happy!" sighed Nick. "All those cars..."

"Was that a bad idea?" Andris whispered to me, glancing between the seats in worry.

I smiled and reached over to pat his cheek before I had to shift. "You're an absolute sweetheart. Thank you for helping him. After the nightmare we've been through, it's nice that you two can get along so well."

"You're welcome to any of my cars, too...though tearing you away from this one may be a challenge. I'm allowed to drive this, too, right?" He sounded so hopeful that I nodded despite my flare of jealousy towards the fact that he looked so good in the driver's seat.

"Yeah, I guess you can drive," I sighed, grinning despite myself.

Night had already fallen by the time we reached my home. I parked my baby in the safety of its own garage and led the troop up the long gravel walk to the door.

For once, it didn't look like a prison compound. I was free at last, and as a result, the large granite structure only looked like home. Even if I left, I could always come back to my family and revisit the old days. It was a wonderful feeling, yet a kind of sadness came with it.

I had changed so much so quickly that staying home permanently again was out of the question. Andris, Nick, and I would found our own territory nearby, but those old routines I had hated so much only weeks earlier felt so nostalgic now. As much as I had wanted to escape, some part of me was sad that it was finally over.

"I'm home!" I called, throwing open the front doors after inputting the lock code.

Home. This was the scent, the warmth, the...

"Lynn!?" Jenn interrupted my reminiscing with a startled sob, and my smile quickly became a frown. She was sitting on the couch, looking surprised while fresh tears glittered on her cheeks. Mitch and Ver were on either side of her, and the twins looked up from the opposite couch, their mouths open in identical shock.

"What are you doing here? We thought you were still at the Brood Manor." Ivan quickly stood, and his brother followed suit.

"I missed you guys," I said, forcing a smile despite how awkward this was going to be. "Nick, Andris, come on in."

Nick puttered in with a spring in his step and a grin on his face, and Andris merely slinked along in uncertainty. He was looking around with a strange expression creasing his brow.

"Nick, you..." Sam gave the kid a once over, then stared at me, his mouth open while he struggled for words and explanations to rationalize the whole situation.

"He's not a Shimare," Andris muttered, looking away awkwardly. "He's my fledgling."

"What?!" The entire family was standing now, converging on Nick to pinch his cheeks and check his fangs and tousle his hair. The kid enjoyed the attention, while Andris did his best to remain invisible.

The only one who hadn't joined the frenzy was Ivan, who remained off to the side and stared hard at me. "Lynn...your signature..." he whispered.

Sam's ears picked up the words, and the younger twin suddenly appeared before me, scrutinizing me harder than he had scrutinized Nick. "He's right. Your signature's stronger...too strong..."

Then he froze, and slowly turned to glare at Andris.

"It's you, isn't it?!" he demanded, loudly enough to put an end to Nick's induction into the family.

Andris glanced at me, then at Ivan, then said firmly to Sam, "Lynn is my blood partner now, and there is nothing you can do or say to change the fact."

Sam jerked back as though he'd been punched in the face. His jaw moved but the words couldn't seem to find purchase on his tongue. Eventually, he just turned away, dropping his head in both hands and groaning.

"Lynn, is this true?" Ivan asked, looking even more hurt than what I had been prepared to face.

I had no excuses, no real explanations to make his pain stop, but even if I had, I couldn't allow him to hold that false hope any longer.

"I...I love Andris, and he feels the same," I answered softly. "I love you, too, Ivan, but not like this. I'm sorry."

He blinked slowly, clearly shocked, then closed his eyes. "I see." When he opened them again he looked over to Andris, who stood as still as a rock. "If you love her as much as I do, then you will be the one to comfort her, not me. Her pain will be yours. However, as her best friend, I also have things to offer which you can't. I hope you'll be understanding towards the history we share as a family, and allow me to play a part in her life."

Andris was stunned, to say the least. It took a few tries, but he did finally manage to respond.

"Of course," he said haltingly.

I had known this would happen, that Ivan would step down without the slightest hint of resistance. It tore at my conscience, but Andris and I would be together for as long as we existed in this world, and nothing could change it. My only hope now was that Andris could get along as well with Ivan as he had managed to get along with Nick. I didn't expect it to be instantaneous, but I still held out that hope.

The other twin, however…

"Well, I guess the one good thing to come out of this whole shitty ordeal is that Ivan won't have to cope with the fallout," growled Sam.

"Sam, no!" Ivan tried to stop him, but the rougher brother shot him a dark look and forced him to back off.

"What ordeal?" I looked to the others, but they just stared at the ground, avoiding my eyes.

Only Sam met my questioning gaze, and for the first time since I had met him, there were tears in his bronze eyes.

In an instant, I realized what had been missing from this warm welcome, why Jenn had really been crying, why the twins had said such odd things to Andris.

"He's gone," Sam barely whispered, his voice trembling when he finally turned away. "Lynn, Simone's dead."

Ah, I thought briefly, right before the full impact hit me. So he was the one in the dream...

"Wait. That can't be true," I muttered, laughing nervously. "Don't play stupid games." I turned to Jenn and the others, but their faces held no teasing. Nothing but sadness and pain.

"Oh, God," Nick murmured in shock.

"Lynn, are you okay?" Andris carefully touched my shoulder, and I winced, then slowly looked up at him after making a quick sweep of the entire area with my spatial sense.

"He's not in the manor. Andris, can you sense him anywhere?" I was shivering. I couldn't stop it.

He shook his head. "Not a trace. Nothing more recent than two weeks ago, by my guess."

"We found his ashes on the evening of your birthday," Jenn said carefully, trying to keep it together for my sake. "There was no note—the Elders we contacted said that…" She took a breath and closed her eyes. "They said that it might have been murder, considering the state of things between the East and the West right now."

It was like getting stabbed all over again.

"Somebody...somebody killed..." I suddenly felt dizzy, and flashes of memory accosted me, reminding me that this same scenario had happened twice before. First, my mom, then my dad...

...and now Simone.

"Princess, please say something," Andris fretted, forgetting that he was supposed to care that people were watching. He took my face gently in his hands, making me look up into his crystalline, violet eyes.

I reached up and traced his eyelids with a fingertip. "You're sad, too?" I murmured hazily, losing focus on the real world as memories swallowed my mind. "Don't let me sleep. I can't go back to that place."

"What? Lynn?"

I was crying, but this time I couldn't hold the tears back. I was reliving the pain I knew so intimately. The gaping wounds in my heart became a torture beyond anything the fire poison could have done to me. I said goodbye to my mother again, and cried in the rain beside my father's body, and now I crawled inside my own mind to mourn my Maker, my blood father, the one who had given me this wonderful new life. He was the one who had saved me and recreated me.

Without him, I was an orphan again. I would always be an orphan.

I fell so far, so deep into myself. I felt the light brush of wind, saw smoky tendrils reaching out to catch me and lay me gently onto the cold, cold floor.

My power core echoed with silent sobs, became an ocean of tears. Just behind a pillar, I felt Rubeo watching over me. Vaguely, on the outside, I felt Andris carry me to warm sheets and heavy black curtains as my family gathered around.

The evil cage was closing around me again, shrinking my world again. I felt the gaps slide shut, felt the stillness, the Silence. I wasn't strong enough yet to smash the walls down. Maybe I never would be. I had fought so hard to gain freedom, only to lose something else just as precious.

This pain...this familiar ache…it was like a friend I had come to hate. It made its home in my wounds, fed from my sadness, drank my tears as its water. It bound me in darkness with chains of ice.

Death was a part of me now. There would be no escape.



Cyh Scaevola ©2001

This edit: 06/19/2013 2:40AM

(A/N: There you go. That was longer than the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire. You've just read over 300,000 words of absolute drivel, and there's still more to come.

If you liked it, let me know - if you hate me, also let me know. You've just experienced ten years of my life; the least you could do is drop me a review. ^_^

The next book in this series, Ambri-Qis, is now being posted. It's told from Andris' POV. You can find it on my profile. I hope you enjoy it! I'm also posting a mostly-unrelated book called NOCTIS, for those of you who want something with a slightly different tone. It's "mostly-unrelated" because it has different characters, but the universe is the same as Avenari's.

Also, PLEASE don't spoil the ending or any plot twists in a review. Be as vague as you can about it. Future readers will thank you, especially since I can't remove signed reviews, even if you want me to.)