Aspen Creek-Raised Chapter 1 – The Big Bad Wolf Finds a Girl Alone in the Woods
Disclaimer: I don't own the Alpha and Omega Series, nor do I own the Harry Potter novels, or any of the characters therein. These belong to Patricia Briggs and JK Rowling, respectively. Seriously, if I did own them, I wouldn't be desperately searching for a job to help pay for college.
Rant: Sorry about the delay on all of my other works. This story seized me by the ear and dragged me along with it. I got the idea for this story from Whitetigerwolf's Challenge: Marrok's Child. I didn't actually do the challenge, but the concept for it popped into my head while reading the challenge. So, I think I'll get another chapter of The True Power of Love in next, then maybe a chapter of Suzuran. The next chapter of this shouldn't be too far away, though.
Saying Bran Cornick was old was the equivalent of saying that the ocean was a little wet – true, but very much an understatement. In his time, he had seen the heights of human – and inhuman – depravity over the millennia. All of what he had seen weighed down on him, sometimes, especially at times like these. He was hunting in the forest about thirty miles from Aspen Creek when he found a little girl half-frozen in the frost, with nothing but a flashlight, a packet of crackers, and a halfway empty water bottle. She looked to be about five, and was asleep.
She did not stir when he approached her, nudging her in an attempt to wake her up. He found clutched in her hand a note, written in messy handwriting on a piece of lined paper, and after transforming back to human form, read the following
We have had enough of your freakish ways, and have dropped you off here where we will hopefully never see you again and then gone on to somewhere the other freaks cannot find us.
His lips thinned, and he could feel the faint stirrings of displeasure from his more primal side. He picked the child up, carrying her in his arms like the most precious of packages, and began to make way back towards the town he had helped build a century and a half ago. As he approached the town at a fast clip, he realized the Leah would likely be angry at his taking in another child. A slightly spiteful smile formed at the corners of his lips at the thought of her displeasure – she should have gotten the idea by now that he liked to take in strays. Little Octavia in his arms was merely the newest one to come into his care.
He remembered raising that little spitfire, Mercy, even if it was done so peripherally when she was raised by one of his pack. She'd been all wild and burning with the desire to truly live her life to the fullest. He thought of the fiasco between her and his son, Samuel, and snorted, his hot breath steaming the chilly Montana air. He was glad that his girl had settled with the Hauptman boy, he steadied her. Bran had taken in other strays, but secretly, Mercy had always amused him with her antics more than any of the others over the centuries.
He wondered what this girl, with her strong Roman name, would be like. He hoped she wouldn't end like the last Octavia he knew, though. Poor girl had ended up committing suicide after her husband divorced her to marry his mistress. He resolved that he would raise her, or have whoever else took her in do so, to be independent, no matter what.
Tavia woke up, and had no idea where she was. It was an all white room, and she was on a bed of some sort. A machine beeped nearby, and she had something connected to her arm on the underside of her elbow. She felt warm, so much warmer than she had when she'd fallen asleep.
A man with dark hair and a five-o-clock shadow wearing blue-green scrubs leaned over her, and, noticing she was awake, called out, "Dad, the kid's awake!" He spoke in accent she had never really heard before, other than on television. He was an American.
Another man, tall and with the same dark hair, only longer, came into the room. He kneeled down next to where she was lying, and looked her in the eyes. She shifted, uncomfortable, as she was unused to anyone really looking at her, when he said, "Hello, miss. Do you know where you are?"
"You're in a hospital, in Montana in the United States." That surprised her – she'd never been in a hospital before, after all. "Do you know how you got here?"
She shook her head. "What's you name," he asked her.
"Octavia Lilith Potter, sir."
"How old are you?"
"You guardians apparently abandoned you in forest. I was on a hike when I found you."
A bitter feeling rose up in her, but most of all, she felt relief. She'd never have to be in that cupboard again. She hoped, desperately, that they never came back for her.
"For the meantime," the man continued, snapping her out of her thoughts, "You'll be staying here in Aspen Creek. Is that okay with you?"
She nodded; somewhat surprised that she was being asked anything.
"My name is Bran Cornick. My son her, Samuel, is a doctor, and he will be looking you over and making sure you are all okay, got it?"
She nodded again, and he continued. "Do you know if you are up to date on your recent shots, or if you have any allergies?"
"No," she replied, "I have only been to the school nurse. Otherwise, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon –" she saw a brief flash of something go through his eyes as she said her relatives names "– never took me to the doctor's. They took Dudley whenever he skinned his knee, though."
"Ah… well then, looks like you will have to have a full physical, and some x-rays just to make sure you are all right."
"Will it hurt?"
"X-rays? No. If you need shots, those might hurt a bit, but otherwise the most you will experience is some discomfort during the other parts of the exam. Now, I'll leave you to Samuel here, and bid you a good day."
Outside of the hospital room, in a small alcove with a computer where he was searching the web, he met with Sage two hours later. She was a tall, slender woman with some of the most gorgeous blue eyes he had seen in centuries, and after a few polite greeting and informing her of the basics of situation – that he had found a girl in the woods – he began to speak. "The girl smells of magic, but not like any of the witches most of my wolves know about. I think she's one of the Hidden Ones."
"Oh," he said, "I thought you knew about them, because you were changed before they really went into hiding, after all. They were a group of witches that felt the need to not just hide themselves from normal humans, but to complete separate themselves from them. They used their magic to ward of huge sections of land for only them to use, or to isolate their towns and properties. Last I checked, about twenty years or so, they were still living in that time period.
They dress in robes, and don't believe that normal humans are even worth their time. In the last hundred years or so, it has gotten worse. Anybody not lily-human is considered a "dark creature" and has all of his or her rights stripped. Their treatment of non-magical folk, what they call muggles, has gone to the point where they believe them to be lower than most animals, as well as magical folk who's parents were normal humans.
Recently, there was a civil war, if you could call it that. Really, it was a group of terrorists who attacked most of Europe and scared the whole lot of them into submission. They said that muggles and "mudbloods" – those first generation witches I was telling you about – were meant only to serve and went around killing them, regardless of the fact that their population really wasn't big enough to support a lot of them getting killed in such a fashion. That side was winning, and then something happened to the leader. It's gone down since then, but the attitude is still there, and many of the terrorists in Britain bought their way out of prison and are in the hereditary government body there known as the Wizengamot. Really, the only good thing about them is that they don't need death and sacrifice to be powerful, though some of them go that route anyway."
"What does that have to do with us, though?"
"That girl there, has something on her. Samuel told me she has a portion of psychopath's soul stuck in her. He didn't know what it was at first, all he knew was that a scar that old should have healed by now, or at least have a bit. He called Charles in to check on it, thinking it was some sort of curse, and he told Samuel. It seems that he's encountered this before, about eighty years ago. It's called a Horcrux, and requires the murder of an innocent to tear one's soul in half and implant it into something. This stops the one created the horcrux from fully passing on to the afterlife by rooting them to this plane."
"And one of those is in her?"
He nodded, distaste showing faintly on his features. "Yes."
"Does he know what he can do to get rid of it?"
"Alistaire Beauclaire owes him a few favors for trying to help find his daughter's killer, even if the bastard got away with killing her like that before he beheaded the little blackguard. He'll be able to get rid of it."
"Otherwise, her human relatives seem to have systematically abused her. Malnutrition, the girl is underweight and her ribs are showing in a very unhealthy way. Several of her bones have been broken, and only healed and barely kept together due to her magic. Not to mention, she's practically blind, and with normal reading glasses only. Added with the fact that she's never been to the doctor's, nor does any online search seem to have any records of her, beyond a birth certificate, I'd say the kid wasn't treated so well."
"What does that have to do with me?'
"When she gets out of the hospital, I want you to take care of her for a few weeks while I get the adoption papers to go through. I'll take her in if needs be, but I think you'll be best for getting her used to normal, or mostly normal, interactions. However, after a few months, and you get to know her enough, if you want to adopt her, I'll step aside."
It was a lot to take in for Sage, but after a few moments, she nodded.
Miss Sage's home was two stories tall, and comfortable. It was built to look like the stereotypical log cabin, unassuming but beautiful in its stoic resilience – at least on the outside. Inside, though, it was elegance incarnate. The wooden floors were polished and gleaming, and when Miss Sage wasn't home, Tavia found that she truly enjoyed running in her socks to gain speed and then sliding the rest of the way down one of the hallways. She had cool furniture, and an actual crystal chandelier that gleamed in the firelight of the blaze that was devouring logs in the fireplace of the living room. She had paintings on the walls, landscapes mostly, and they fit well with the house while adding a dash of the exotic.
In later years, Tavia would come to think of the house as being a representation of Miss Sage herself, only in reverse. Miss sage was sophisticated, and graceful and lovely, but her real beauty was on the inside, where her iron will and strength of character lay. She would one day tell this to Bran, not knowing that Sage had been in the next room, and for the rest of the day, Miss Sage had blushed whenever she saw her.
The first time she walked into Miss Sage's home, everything was so beautiful to her that she was scared of touching anything for fear of breaking something, let alone fear of what would happen to her if she broke anything. In those first few weeks, she didn't talk much, even if she slowly got more accustomed to such lavish accommodations to the point where she started sliding in the hallways for fun. It was odd, this town, at least to her. She had people who would actually listen to what she would say, whenever she talked, at least. It was nice – being heard… it made her feel like what she said mattered, and that she was important. It was why she didn't talk much, even though she now, tentatively, knew she could talk as much as she wished. She wanted her words to always carry that weight, that when she spoke, it would be something that was paid attention to, weighed, and considered with respect.
About three weeks in, Miss Sage had said that she was going to be going to be starting at the local school. She liked it, there was no Dudley to lie about her, or make her do his homework for him, the teachers didn't look down on her due to unsubstantiated rumors, and she could actually do her best without having to worry about getting in trouble for doing better than her cousin. She liked English, especially poetry, where she learned how to make just a few words resonate with meaning and purpose. Otherwise, she enjoyed all of her subjects, but most especially she loved math. It didn't matter that she didn't always quite understand the different parts of things and how they interacted, like in a lot of her sciences – though she liked them, too – but in math, as long as she knew the formula, it felt as though she could figure out any problem, no matter the difficulty. That dependability felt very good to her.
She had had to choose a foreign language, too, even though she was just a kid. Apparently, learning other languages was easier to do when you were young, or something like that, and really… she liked it. She had chosen French for her language, remembering a beautiful French family she had once seen in a museum during a field trip back in England. She liked it even more than the dependability of math, because it was words, and words had meaning, and power, even in another language. Perhaps, especially in another language. She had to talk a lot more in her French class, though. Once she got better at it, she didn't have to talk nearly as much, but she always practiced it on her own, in addition to what she had in class, so those words would stick with her.
Possibly, amidst all of this newness and excitement, the most powerful thing she had ever experienced happened. Even with all these novel concepts such as self-worth, freedom to do and to learn, the thing that would always stick with Tavia for the rest of her life was when Miss Sage had hugged her. She had felt so warm and alive, and it was amazing. She felt, for the first time in her life, loved and cared for. She had blushed and cried a bit when Miss Sage had hugged her, causing her to squeeze all the tighter. That tightness had been wonderful, and all the more precious for the concern the woman had felt for her.
It was two weeks after she had gotten out of the hospital and begun living within Aspen Creek when Tavia found out that some of the residents living in the town were real werewolves. She saw Bran's wife's – Leah was her name – change, and had curled into a ball. She stayed that way until she realized that Leah would not hurt her, and then began to slowly uncurl. Tavia then just watched the honey-colored wolf as it paced around the area. Leah looked back at her, and Tavia was only able to see a complete and utter indifference, before getting up and trotting off to the forests around the town.
She'd gone and asked Miss Sage about it, and the reply, "Yeah, this is a big werewolf village. If your not a werewolf, your married or related to one. That's most of the residents, anyway. A few were friends with werewolves and have come here to support their friends, or their ancestors did."
It was an interesting paradigm shift for Tavia. The supernatural was real, and there was nothing "freakish" about it. In fact, supernatural stuff was actually rooted far more in the realm of "natural" than technological things like cars and such were. A few weeks after that point, after she'd come to terms with the supernatural, she learned that the doctors had found that she had magic, and she finally found out just why Petunia had insisted she was a freak. The Marrok, Bran Cornick – and far more importantly to her, the man who rescued her from freezing to death in the American wilds – had come to her after she got used to the idea that she had magic, and told her what else the doctor had found.
Apparently some rather evil person had split his soul through an malevolent ritual so many times in an effort to gain immortality that a fragment of his tattered soul had apparently come off and taken root within her. Her odd, lightning-shaped scar apparently contained a soul fragment, and, as Bran calmly and seriously informed her, if it was not removed soon, it would either come to posses her completely, or make the person who had done such a thing unable to die until she did. She had turned green at the very thought, and asked him shakily if there was anything she could do about it.
"Not directly, but I know a Grey Lord that owes my family a few favors, and I can call one in for this." A Grey Lord, or so she had learned, was a Faerie King, or as close to it as Faeries got. They had immense power, and this one was apparently the one who ordered the Fae to retreat to their reserves after the gross prejudice caused his daughters death to go unpunished. "His name, or at least the one that people use commonly – as true names have power – is Alistair Beauclaire. He will be able to remove it, but you'll have to come with me to the Fae Reservation, is that okay with you?"
She nodded, because really, what other choice was there?
The Fae lands were beautiful and lovely, with a side of creepy in the background. Flowers bloomed, everywhere, both native and foreign, as well as those that looked like they didn't belong anywhere on Earth. At first glance, where they were walking seemed to be a field, but out of the corner of her eyes she saw a huge stone castle with delicate towers and a huge outer bailey with armed and guarded battlements. The next moment she saw a tranquil lake with figures on the far side watching them. Then, she perceived the entrance to a deep and endlessly dark cave, which seemed to suck in all the light in the area.
She brought it up with the Marrok, all the different things that she saw, and he got an odd look in his eyes and said that she probably had a premature form of the Sight, or one of her distant ancestors had some faerie blood in them. Then he told her "The reality of this place is sort of like an onion, various layers occupying the same place, and you must know that your ability to perceive so many different layers is impressive. Most normal people, even witches and werewolves, would just see sparkling lights and illusions designed to completely relax to the point of carelessness any and all trespassers."
She saw cute little winged pixies fluttering about some of the flowers, and she thought they were lovely. She still thought they were lovely, even when she noticed the reddish-brown of splatters of dried blood dotting some of their flowing white clothes. She felt something was wrong with her at that thought, but still… they were gorgeous.
It was another fifteen minutes of walking before they arrived at what looked to her to be a small pond with a glass table and three delicately carved wooden chairs set around it. One of the chairs was filled with a tall man, thin and impossibly beautiful, with chestnut hair and gray eyes that seemed to shift and flow like the waters of lake on a cloudy day. He smelled like the freshwater lake that she'd seen near Aspen Creek, when she had gone to it early in the morning when the world was new once more.
He glanced at her and then at the Marrok, his eyes lingering on her forehead as he did so. She shifted uncomfortably, and remembered what she'd been told by Miss Sage. "It's impossibly easy to offend many of the fae, so unless your spoken to, don't say much. Remember, don't thank this Gray Lord after he helps you, either, that infuriates them, or worse, makes them feel as if you owe them – and a faerie always collects its due."
"Bran," the Gray Lord began, "You do realize that this will have consequences for the child, right?"
"What kind of consequences?"
He then looks straight at her, and his gaze alone catches her in place, like a rabbit frozen in fear from a predator – only instead of fear, its plain awe of the sheer power of the being before her. The knowledge of her powerlessness nearly consumes her in that endless moment, before he speaks again and breath returns to her in a swift inhalation that is so strong it hurts. "This horcrux has been sustaining itself on your magic, growing stronger as you do, keeping itself alive by utilizing a large portion of your magical core. Such an amount of magic being taken from you has forced your body to produce even more magic in an attempt to keep you alive. When the horcrux is removed, all of that power is going to come rushing back to you at once. This may force any dormant traits or abilities to fore, be they positive or negative.
Moreover, once you have settled, your body will continue to produce the same amount of magic as it always has, further increasing your power, as you get older. Little girl, you are going to be a veritable monster of a magical powerhouse."
He cuts a glance at the Marrok once more, and continues, "Marrok, the girl will be unable to control many of her gifts at first, and you need to realize that accidental magic from her is going to be a nightmare. If you want her to get any sort of control over it at all, you're going to have to hire a tutor. She could harm herself or others, if the situation is left as is."
The Marrok nodded, and the faerie looked at her once more, asking if she was ready. Tavia acquiesced, and his hand moved towards her face, and a single, slender pianist finger extended. He touched her scar, and –
The sky turned crimson and burned her with all of the fires of the Christian damnation. Her mouth could only taste the sickly sweetness of rot, and her nose was assaulted with the scent of decay. Endless voices whispered in her ear, indistinct but cutting, carrying all of the tones of fury and rage, of playfulness, of calm, of joy and flirting, of pain. Her body spasmed, and it felt as if her nerves were short circuiting, and she had the most disturbing sensation: it was as if something or someone was caressing her heart, and then, moving lower, to other organs in her gut, and began rifling through them.
She woke up, her throat feeling raw and her eyes burned as she opened them. A low moan came from her, and she winced in pain as it escaped through her damaged esophagus.
"How do you feel, Octavia," a familiar voice inquired. Turning her head slightly, she saw the Marrok leaning casually against the table. His muscled arms were crossed casually over his chest, and one of his eyebrows was quirked.
"I feel like all the werewolves in Aspen Creek used me as a football."
"Other than that, I mean."
She blinked, and tried to think past the pain. "I feel… lighter? I guess that describes it, like something was holding me back, and now I am free. I seem to be thinking a bit faster, too. I don't know why, though."
"Well, you might want to look at your reflection over in the lake – you'll be surprised."
"Just do it."
With a groan of discomfort, she turned over and pushed herself up, shaking slightly at the exertion. When she had pushed as high as she could go, she froze, and with a sharp intake of breath, she began noticing something different. Her fingers were slightly longer, a bit more slender, and her nails had turned black. Her knuckles, which had been dry and a bit cracked with cold, were as smooth as the polished floors of Miss Sage's home. She got up, slowly making her way to the lake, filled with some trepidation over the changes.
She leaned over the edge of the pond, and glanced at herself, doing her best to connect her current form with what she used to look like. Before, she had had short, ratty black hair that came messily down to the base of her neck, her eyes had been the green, with a bit of hazel thrown in, and she had a dusting of freckles upon her cheeks. Now, her hair came just past her shoulders in an obsidian wave, lustrous and defined, and for some odd reason, she had a white fedora perched on the top of her head. It seemed to be softer, as well, when she ran her fingers through it. Her eyes were now slanted slightly, and colored an unnaturally pure and uniform green, like fresh leaves in spring. Tavia's skin was flawless alabaster, and the horrible scar was now merely a tracery upon her forehead. Her lips were as black as her fingernails, and so was the inside of her mouth. Her teeth seemed to be a bit sharper, as well.
She had no idea how long she had been staring at her reflection when the face of Lord Beauclaire appeared beside her own reflexion. "It seems as if one of your grandparents was a faerie, a redcap if I don't miss my guess. Your mother must have been a pure human, at least in appearance and nature, but it seems your blood runs true, manifested in you now that the horcrux was removed."
"What's different about me? I don't know what a redcap is… my aunt never let me out of my cupboard under the stairs except for school and chores, and she hated anything to do with magic or the supernatural, so I don't what a redcap is."
His eyes tightened and his lip curled ever so slightly in disdain or contempt, though she had a feeling it wasn't directed at her. "Redcaps were some of the greatest warriors amongst the faerie. They loved battle so much that the caps they manifested as children had to be died crimson with the blood of their enemies to be considered an adult. They were vicious and cruel, and skilled with blades of all sorts. After they reach their majority, they had to kill so often to die their hats a fresh crimson." He tapped her fedora with a single finger as he said this.
"Does that mean they were always in battle, because blood dries in just a few hours."
"No, their innate magic kept the color fresh for months or sometimes years at a time. This effect will be on you, as well. Once you go through puberty, you'll have to keep killing, because if you don't keep the blood fresh… well, if you hat ever dries out completely, you will die. Your nature is going to slowly change – and the blood lust will rise within you. I advise you have someone teach you how to fight so when puberty sets in, you'll have some idea what your doing when you go to kill."
She blinked, glancing sharply at his reflection. "Do you mean I'll have no choice?"
He nodded, "That's right. If you try to put it off, the lust for blood will become so powerful, you'll attack in a mindless frenzy, unable to control yourself whatsoever."
Her left incisor poked sharply into her bottom lip as she thought of that, and she nodded, too. "You are lucky in that redcaps don't have much sensitivity to iron at all, and you'll probably none, either. In fact, you might find yourself with a preference for iron or steel-toed boots."
"Redcaps used to run around in iron-shod boots, and you'll probably get that predilection, too. Anyway, you probably are going to be a bit more nocturnal than most humans, but there's not much else to say." Then the water rippled, stirring up their reflections, and he was gone.
Turning to see the Marrok, who was still leaning against the table staring at the differences in her, she stepped towards him slowly, body still in pain. "Come on," he said in his oh-so-melodious voice, "Let's go back home."
The Marrok whisked her away from the Faerie Reservation and took them straight back to Aspen Creek. Upon arrival, Miss Sage hadn't recognized her for a second, which had terrified Tavia beyond anything she had ever felt before. Then, the woman rushed towards her, squeezing her tightly in an embrace. Tavia could feel all the love and protectiveness pouring through the woman during the hug, and she cried, just a little, in relief – she was so happy to still be loved, even if she wasn't' normal.
That was the beginning of the shift in her worldview that viewed the normal and mundane as nothing particularly worthwhile. It was also benefit, in her mind, by being the absolute opposite of what the Dursley family hoped and strived for.
Bran, who had apparently overheard the conversation she had had for Lord Beauclaire – since the change, she had possessed an inclination towards being far more respectful to him and the other Gray Lords. The Marrok had said that as her Fae ancestry came to the fore, so did many of their behavioral habits. She was apparently seeing the Water fae like many werewolves viewed their Alpha – and had introduced her to a werewolf named Asil. Asil was cool, and Miss Sage liked him a lot. He was going to teach her how to use a sword, so when she went through puberty and her desire to dye her hat red with the blood of her enemies or prey arose, she would know what she was doing.
Speaking of the fedora, it never really left her side. It was always perched on her head, lying on her chest or over her eyes while she napped, or by her bedside while she slept through the night. She even placed it on a towel hook right outside the shower every time she went inside the restroom.
Asil taught her how to use a sword, specifically a scimitar, as that was what he was most familiar with himself. Many knew him simply as "The Moor" like many people called Bran "The Marrok," as he had been with the Moors when they came and invaded Spain. He was a werewolf of such age and power that the only reason he served under Bran was because he wished to, as no one could truly force him to do otherwise.
"Faster," he said, his musical accent sharp as he spoke the command. Tavia had been learning swordsmanship under his tutelage for five months, and he said she wasn't too bad. With a swift slash, he said, "Your left side is open, and you are too slow. In my day, anyone who was moving that sluggishly would have been gutted by the enemy in a heartbeat, if his own side hadn't offed him for being a liability."
She panted, sweat pouring down her features as she brought the sword up once more, deflecting the shining scimitar as it dove towards her. The blades were dulled, to prevent an accident, but were weighed down with an extra ten pounds, and it was a challenge to keep going. She persevered, though, because having a sword in her hand felt like breathing. A necessity, almost. She craved this feeling, even when her teacher was nearly demolishing her; feeling its weight in her palm, and feeling the possibility for danger filling the air, it was just that good.
What she didn't know, and what Asil would never tell her, was that she truly was amazing with a sword in her hand. He didn't want her to get a big head after all, but he relished teaching a student such as she. She had talent, true, but she didn't rest on her laurels. She worked so hard, and strove to constantly improve. She took criticism well, too, and would do her best to fix whatever she did wrong as soon as possible. The way she would glow at even the faintest praise was also very good on his ego.
She countered, somewhat gracefully, and missed him by a centimeter. Scowling, she shifted her blade back to a defensive position as he returned with his own slash. This continued for another thirty minutes before he sheathed his sword, motioning for her to do the same. "Walk about the dojo, girl. Cool down slowly, it's better for you."
He walked over to the side of the training room, grabbed a bottle of water, and threw it at her. She shifted swiftly and caught it from thin air, a look of slight displeasure on her face. He smirked, his own water bottle at his lips, before saying, "Your reflexes are still good, even after such a long bout. Good. Drink that up, and we'll walk back to Sage's house."
Her blush at the praise gave him a sense of amused satisfaction.
Miss Sage and five other werewolves, plus Bran, had all gone to Washington DC for some sort of werewolf Public Relations event. Asil, who she would normally have stayed with when Miss Sage left for a few days, had gone off to Europe to meet with an old friend who was getting married in two weeks. So, she was being sent off to the home of Bran's former ward Mercy's home. Nobody thought it was a good idea to leave her alone with Leah. Mercy lived with her husband, Adam Hauptman – the Alpha of the Columbian Basin Pack – and his daughter, Jessie. Jessie was staying with them during the summer, taking a season's break from University.
Charles's mate, Anna, was driving her there to the Tri-Cities. She had a cool jazzy number playing on her stereo, and she talked easily with Tavia. She liked Anna, a woman who always felt safe and non-threatening. They'd stopped for a chicken sandwich and lemonade once on the way, and by the time they made it to Mercy's home, Tavia was sleepy. She'd dozed off and didn't realize that they had arrived until she felt herself being lifted up and carried. Rubbing her eyes, she looked around. "We're here," Anna said, her voice sweet and kind.
She yawned, stretching a bit, but making sure not to hit Anna while doing so. She didn't ask to be put down, though. She liked being carried, because it made her feel special and warm. She dozed off again, this time into a deep sleep, and did not wake up until the next morning.
Miss Mercy was cool, because when Tavia woke up, she had muffins in the oven. The smell was wonderful, and when the woman smiled at her with that slightly crooked, sly grin, she felt herself grinning back. Already at the large oak dining room table were her husband and his daughter, or so she introduced them to Tavia as, as well as two werewolves who were in Adam's Pack. One was named Warren, and the other was name Honey.
Warren looked like a cowboy, with rugged jeans tucked into brown leather boots and a cotton dress shirt with vaguely western designs embroidered on his chest. He said that he was staying here while his lover was on a big case over on the east coast, helping some socialite get away from an abusive, but very rich and famous, husband. Miss Honey had just come over to hang out, and when she gave a slightly lazy grin, Tavia felt herself blush from the bottom of her toes to the tips of her ears. Miss Honey was so pretty, and was paying attention to her!
The oven dinged, and Miss Mercy got the muffins out, while her husband grabbed the platters of bacon and eggs and brought them to the table. Having three werewolves in the house, as well as a coyote shifter, made for very large breakfast portions. Jam was also placed on the table, and was apparently there to go with the muffins. It was blackberry jam, and was supposedly very good with the blackberry muffins. After trying it herself, Tavia had to admit that they were good.
Mercy watched as the little girl used her fae magic and began to glamour herself to look more human; she did this so that she could go with her to mechanic shop that Mercy ran. Her hair became duller, and her eyes were more round. Her mouth was also pink, instead of a slightly creepy black. Her hat was still on though, and was probably going to be staying on. Bran had told them that Octavia had a redcap for a grandfather, and that removing some curse from her had brought her faerie blood out. As such, her hat was definitely not coming off, and she had noticed the girl didn't have any aversion to iron or other metals, given her steel-toed boots. As a redcap, she was a gremlin, a faerie that could be around metal without harming herself, just like Zee.
Zee, the old gremlin whom had taught her how to work with cars in the first place, had sold her the shop she now ran. He came in to visit sometimes, to tinker or to take something apart, just to see what was wrong with it. She didn't complain when he came in to do that, she liked the company and appreciated the help, and he was a friend, as was his son Tad. But she wondered if he could have any insight to how to take care of the girl, or if he could give the child any advise.
While the girl wondered off to get her iPod, Mercy took out her phone and dialed up Zee's number. He answered the phone on the third ring.
"Hey Zee, what's up?"
"Nothing much," he replied, his German accent coming clearly through the phone. His ability to touch metal let him take advantage of many modern luxuries, like cell phones. "What are you calling for, is something wrong?"
"Bran had Charles's wife Anna drop off a child one of his werewolves is raising. He apparently found her abandoned in the mountains, and one of the pack took her in. They are all off doing something in DC, so they brought her here. The thing is, she part fae – redcap I think – and she doesn't really know anything about herself or her heritage. Neither do I really. I was wondering if you could come meet her, and maybe tell me if there's anything I should or shouldn't be doing. Plus, I think the girl could use an older faerie to show her the ropes, if you catch my drift."
There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment, before the voice came back, anger stirring slightly in his tones, "Abandoned you say? Redcaps might leave a child with the other parent, but never would they leave their child alone and untutored. Their power is far too violent when it emerges to do so, and so complete abandonment never happens, unless the redcap in question is very, very stupid."
"Apparently it was her aunt and uncle who abandoned her. Her maternal grandfather was the redcap, but it skipped a generation and the mother is dead, so whoever he is, he probably doesn't know she exists."
"Yes. I'll meet you and the girl. Where do you want to meet?"
"I'm taking the kid with me into the shop. Maybe teach her how to check out an engine."
A grin could be heard in the old man's voice, "Passing knowledge along to the next generation, I see. Good for you. When you teach, its like learning al over again with the newness of it all. Anyway, I'll meet you there at about noon."
The girl came up to her, earbuds in her ears and hat at a jaunty angle. Mercy could hear the cool tones of jazz coming from the earbuds, and while the music wasn't what she or most other in Aspen Creek normally listened too, she supposed that the girl had her own tastes. "Ready?"
"Yeah. Come on kid, let's get going."
The girl nodded, and they made their way out of the house. Locking up after her, she walked over to her vehicle and started her car while Octavia buckled up. After about forty minutes of driving – traffic was unusually heavy, normally it only took her around twenty-five minutes to get their – they arrived at her shop.
The kid hung around while she got everything opened up and prepped for the rest of the day, but once that was finished, Mercy opened the hood on one of the BMW's and beckoned her over.
"Welcome to Mechanics 101," she said, a smile in her voice and on her face, "This is the radiator…"
After about an hour and a half of pointing things out, and taking things apart, she let Octavia have a go at taking something apart, and putting it back together. She watched the girl like a hawk while doing so, making sure nothing got irreparably damaged: a part of the car or the girl herself. Mercy didn't think she was clumsy, but it was always better to be safe than sorry.
Both ladies were respectfully oil and grease-stained by the time Zee arrived. "My," he cried as he came in, "What visions of loveliness have appeared in my former shop?"
"Hey Zee," came Mercy's somewhat absent-minded reply as she worked with a calculator and tallied up numbers.
Tavia giggled, blushing slightly as she said, "I'm not lovely; I'm all dirty!"
"Just because you're dirty, doesn't mean you're not as pretty as a peach, girl. In fact, it brings out your beauty more, showing that you aren't afraid of hard work."
The blush deepened, and Zee smiled before he excused himself to talk privately with Mercy. "You're right, the girl's definitely got redcap in her. I could tell by the feel of her glamour."
"Really? How is it different?"
"It's a bit less subtle, to fae senses anyway – like the difference between a sword and an axe. Most faeries like subtlety, especially in their glamours. They do lots of little things, layers upon layers to make it more real. The girls just got one layer, it's strong, too, but any fae could feel the glamour and be tempted to rip it off. A human magic user wouldn't be able too, though."
"Oh." She hadn't known that about faerie glamours.
"Is she getting any training in a weapon? She'll need it and the discipline it brings her not to go berserk and kill anything around her with her bare hands when she comes into her power."
"Yes," replied Mercy as she scratched the back of her head in contemplation of the image her old mentor's words brought to mind. "Apparently, the Moor has been teaching her the sword for the past few months."
Zee's eyes sharpened with delight. "Is that so? I expect she'll be good then, old Asil would never tolerate a poor pupil. I fought him once, you know. It was, oh, eight hundred years or so ago. He was magnificent. I think after I talk to the kid about her heritage and some of the rules of life amongst us, I'll give her a few lessons myself. Can't have her getting rusty, yeah?"
Mercy grinned, enjoying the vibrancy that had come into Zee's face as he spoke of this. "Sure, how about every other day at about five. Does that work for you?" She very carefully did not thank the old man for taking the girl off of her hands for a while so she could have some more alone time with Adam and Jesse this summer.
He thought for a moment, and then nodded. "I can do that. Now, I'm going to go have a chat with the girl. Octavia, was it?"
The next day, she was already implementing the advice given to her by the older gremlin. Three glamours overlapping one another made her appearance much more realistic. She'd kept dropping the fourth, but with time and practice, she knew she would get better.
Asil had been slowly teaching her Spanish during their swordsmanship lessons – not Mexican Spanish, though, which had many subtle differences from the language of his homeland. After a year of being under his tutelage, he taught her only in Spanish. After two years, she'd gotten quite good at the language, and he was starting on Arabic. The language was harder to learn than Spanish, not having any Latin roots, but it was fun. He was quizzing her in verbs at the moment, shouting out a question while sending a rather vicious slash at her midsection.
She answered, sending her own strike in swiftly. It made it past his defense, but it wasn't fast enough and he dodged. This continued back and forth for about fifty more minutes, until he signaled for her to go cool down. The girl was good, and he felt the warm glow of satisfaction while he watched her walk slowly around the dojo. Teaching was so rewarding, no matter how frustrating it could be.
On the subject of languages, his student was also learning French in the local school and had actually convinced Bran to teach her Cymraeg, the old word for Welsh. She was doing well at all of them, too. She managed to use them often enough to keep them in her mind, and she succeeded in keeping all the languages separated without mixing any of them up, for the most part.
Asil's mind wandered to days gone by, of being with his wife as she took in strays and teaching them how to live better lives. He just knew his love would be so proud of the little girl currently stretching slowly to free herself from the fatigue of the exercise. He wondered, briefly, if had she still been alive if they would have been the ones to take the girl in. If only that blasted woman hadn't….
It didn't do to dwell on such things, he knew. Besides, had his dear Sarai survived, they would still be living in Spain, enjoying life on the Iberian Peninsula.
"Come, child. I'll be taking you to the diner for dinner. Sage is off getting some more of that French perfume she likes over in the capital."
"Okay, Asil. Just let me get up." Finishing her stretch, the girl got to her feet and trailed after him, somewhat reminiscent of a puppy he'd once owned back in his childhood. A small, somewhat wry smile graced his lips at the thought. Going from the practice area and through the house, he grabbed the keys to his Subaru and opened the door for the young lady.
She smiled at his politeness, but didn't thank him. He noticed that she'd adapted to many of the rules of the faeires, but did so subtly. No "thank you's" ever graced her lips, but "I appreciate it" was often heard. Her wording, when she spoke, tended to be a bit tricksome or layered with double meanings. He suspected she did that just to amuse herself, not out of appreciation of some archaic faerie rule. However, in the time he had known her, never had a lie passed her lips. She always left a little edible something on her windowsill at night, just in case, as well.
As they exited the house, he glanced at the Spanish roses he'd been trying to regrow. They were doing well, he thought, and though he knew that it would take a while to come back fully, he so looked forward to their return.
He clicked the button on his keys to unlock his car, and after they both climbed in and buckled up, he made his way towards the center of the town. The diner appeared on their right, and he pulled into to the parking lot and found a spot. The diner, called for some godforsaken reason "Montanna Joe's" was the place to go in town. The name was odd because the guy who started it up was named Francis, and the only Joe that he really knew was a cousin who once lit his car on fire. Not exactly the sort you'd name your restaurant after. With good food, cheap drinks, and whatever backwater band that the local children had formed playing in the background – usually it was a good band, as the local werewolves would probably react violently to poorly played music being performed while they ate – the diner was one of the central hubs of Aspen Creek living.
Midway into their meals – a rare steak for Asil, and a cheeseburger with grilled onions for Octavia – a disturbance started over by the pool tables. A tall blond werewolf was arguing with a brunet one, their voices escalating over the sounds of the band playing and the ESPN reporter commenting on a football match on the television. When the brunet clonked the pool stick in his hand over the blond's head, all he accomplished was breaking the stick and the release of a low, barely contained growl. As both their eyes turned from a normal human color to a decidedly canine gold, Asil turned towards them, fork stabbed with a piece of meet in hand, and let go of all of his carefully controlled power. Force flooded the room, washing the skin-tingling, hair-raising power that was an Alpha werewolf of over a thousand years of age. The band stopped playing, the customers stopped talking, and the two fighting werewolves froze mid-lunge at each other vitals. The only sound was the commentator, announcing that one of the players had been injured.
And the two men looked at him, fear in their eyes, as he told them to pay their tab and leave. Nodding, they rushed in a somewhat bumbling fashion to do as he had said. Nodding at their departure, he leashed all of his power within him once more, and the sounds of the diner slowly returned. The music was a little shaky at first, though. Glancing at his charge to see how she'd taken it, she smiled at him and said one word.
Yep, he thought, teaching had its benefits, especially on the ego.
It was early July, and Tavia was sitting in Sage's lap watching the television when the owl came, tired and weary, and bearing the strangest of letters. They were watching a nature documentary on Ocelots, which was sort of interesting. During the visual of the South American cat launching itself at its hapless prey, the two of them could hear a somewhat tired tattoo. Glancing around, they saw, strangely enough, a brown owl pecking at their living room window.
Glancing at Miss Sage, who had an eyebrow lifted at the oddity, they glanced over at the bird, which was once more tapping at the window. At Sage's slightly perplexed nod of assent, she walked over and opened the window. The bird landed on the back of a chair, grasping firmly to the wooden frame as it held out a leg. Tid to the leg was a letter, with the words "To Ms. O. Potter, 542 Lupine Lane, Aspen Creek Montanna" written in cursive on the front. Taking the letter from the owl, the bird seemed to slump on the chair back.
She showed the letter to Miss Sage, who said, "Let me call Bran. This is weird enough that he'll probably want to know what's going on."
About seven minutes later, a knock sounded on the door, revealing a cute-looking collegian, or so it appeared. Bran liked to be unassuming, or so Tavia had observed. He did it well, too. Dark eyes, with just a hint of mischief and somehow, all the years he'd experienced were well hidden within those depths. Nice dark hair, and a cute face that wasn't overly attractive enough to truly stand out in memory, he looked as if he should be carting around a pizza for delivery. "You guys called?"
Tavia nodded, leading him into the living room where both the letter and the owl were. The moment the Marrok stepped into the room, the owl's eye's went wide open, and stared straight at the man. After a minute of staring, and after the realization that it wasn't going to be eaten, the owl closed its eyes and went to sleep once more.
"Octavia, you know how I told you that your parents were one of the Hidden Ones last year, the magic users that don't require death and sacrifice?"
"Yes, Marrok, I do."
"This is an invitation to one of the schools where they teach children with this gift how to control their powers. Unfortunately, they don't teach anything else. You're going to have to go to summer school here and cram like crazy if you want a job in the real world. They have their good points, but they won't teach you how to survive anywhere but in their little microcosm of a society. You are going to go there, because you need to control what magic you have, or it will go wild. I've seen your magic respond to your desires before, you remember when that rogue came to the town and came near you, threatening you? Do you remember how you were suddenly on the roof of the tallest building in the town? That was your magic at work, your human magic. It works completely differently from your faerie magic and glamours."
She nodded, remembering quite well the reddened eyes of the rogue wolf, his beer-stained clothing, and fingernails slowly changing into claws as he approached with that creepy smile on his face. The fear and the sheer desire to be elsewhere, and then, suddenly, she was. After a momentary feeling of being sucked through a straw, she was on the roof of the town's courthouse.
"You'll take your years text books with you, study them well, so that when you go to summer school you should be able to pass with ease. Well now, open up that letter." She did so, and it read:
HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, Grand Sorcerer, Chief Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confederation of Wizards)
Dear Ms. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins September 1st. We await your owl no later than July 31.
OF WHICHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
First-year students will require:
sets of plain work robes (black)
plain pointed hat (black) for day wear
pair of protective gloves (dragon hide or similar)
winter cloak (black, with silver fastenings)
Please note that all pupil's clothes should carry name tags.
All students should have a copy of each of the following:
The Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1)
by Miranda Goshawk
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot
Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling
A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration by Emeric Switch
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
by Phyllida Spore
Magical Drafts and Potions by Arsenius Jigger
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
by Newt Scamander
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection
by Quentin Trimble
1 cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)
1 set glass or crystal phials
1 set brass scales
Students may also bring and owl OR a cat OR a toad.
PARENTS ARE REMINDED THAT FIRST YEARS ARE NOT ALLOWED THEIR OWN BROOMSTICKS
"Wow, that's an odd list."