Thanks guys for the great comments!!
So here's the next part of the story. Leetah helps Beareclaw who has a dream and Skywise finally gets away from the mansion...
[u:d68233fc7f][b:d68233fc7f]Part Five ”“ A look behind the veil.[/b:d68233fc7f][/u:d68233fc7f]
“How is he Leetah?”
Joyleaf’s question nudged the healer turned actress out of her trance as she used her healing magic to examine Bearclaw, it had been sometime since Leetah had used her healing powers this much, taken them this far. She looked up into the older elf’s eyes and smiled warmly. “He will be fine, just needs to rest.”
The healer watched as Joyleaf lovingly stroked her lifemate’s face, the fingers tracing through the thick brown beard, what they used to call face fur. A lot of things had new names now she thought, and yet a lot of things stayed the same. The elves still mated for life with recognition, pushed together sometimes by more than love before letting the emotion inn to grow. She and Cutter were the same, bound by recognition long before there was any true love between them. Recognition used to rule they’re lives, choosing who would be with who with only one couple she knew of not succumbing to its effects, Redlance and Nightfall. The pair had never experienced it and never will Leetah thought stepping away from the cot. They chose each other and nothing has ever come between them. The young ones in the mansion, still called cubs by the older generation and children by the rest, looked to them as an example. Leetah wondered how long before Recognition would merely be something one had to deal with, like a skirt that needed mending or a hurt that needed healing.
“How long do you think he’ll be down?” Treestump asked as she approached.
Leetah shook her head looking back once to see Joyleaf putting the wet cloth back on her lifemate’s head tenderly before answering. “With Bearclaw, not long, I think by tomorrow afternoon he’ll be up and moving.”
“That means we’ll have to keep o’ eye on em’” One-Eye remarked.
“You don’t like playing she-wolf and cub?” Treestump laughed.
“Maybe with Clearbrook, not as much face fur!” One-Eye joked.
Leetah only smiled before responding. “You two”¦do you think Bearclaw will be okay here with Cam?”
“He’ll have to be lass. We can’t take him back to the mansion.” One-Eye answered.
“Cam ”˜ill take care of him, just like he’s done before.” Joyleaf added while brushing a strand of his dark hair out her lifemate’s face.
The scene was touching, to the point of almost bringing a tear to Leetah’s eyes. Joyleaf and Bearclaw had been separated for years now, another new word, because of the former chief’s”¦colorful past. Oh Joyleaf had tried to contact him after he was banished from the mansion, pleaded to see him, but Bearclaw was stubborn and never agreed to a face to face. He never told her why but Leetah had long ago assumed why the former chief kept his distance from the one he loved, even from Cutter. It was simple to understand, easy to see that he was protecting them both from”¦him. It was sad really because he didn’t need to stay away from them or protect them. In the end it wasn’t necessary and was just adding to the pain.
The sound of the door to the backroom opening broke Leetah’s thought as Cam stepped in quickly and closed the entrance just as fast. “Is he gonna be okay?”
“Yes Cam, he’ll be fine now. I healed the internal injuries and given him the energy to speed along the recovery.”
“That’s good”¦real good.” The street preacher smiled.
“Well, we better get you two back home before you go missing.” Treestump whispered.
“I’m staying.” Joyleaf stated flatly, as if it would take more then the three of them to move her.
The detective sighed figuring his sister would give him a fight. She was in love with Bearclaw, more than that really, and it was too damn bad he was such a stubborn ass when it came to walking the straight and narrow. It was too bad for her in fact. He started to say something to convince her that leaving her lifemate here was for the best”¦for everyone. The problems that would come up if the Elders, especially Haken, learned they used magic to help Bearclaw”¦the mess would be deep. Yet it was Leetah who stepped up and took Joyleaf’s hand. It was the healer who spoke to her.
“We have to go back Joyleaf. Timmain and the others will know where we are and what we have done. Haken will use it to hurt Cutter and You.”
“I don’t care. I can’t leave him again.” Cutter’s mother whispered.
“I know you would face the Elders for him, and so will I, stand by your side gladly my friend. But not now, not like this. We need to have Cutter and the others on our side to persuade them to let Bearclaw back.”
Joyleaf smiled. It was the kind that said I know you’re lying to just sway me to your side, and spoke. “They won’t let him back Leetah, no matter the persuading we do the Elders won’t let him back. You know that and you know I’m no fool.”
She was right”¦sort of. Leetah leaned closer, her brown dress that clung at just the right spots to accent her hourglass shape rustling a bit. “I think we can convince Timmain to let him back and she will persuade the others. Haken will have no choice once he sees he is alone. All we need is time and a safe place for Bearclaw to stay until we do. I have a human friend who may help, when we get back to the mansion I’ll call him and make arrangements.”
“You would do that?” Joyleaf asked with a small gleam of hope in her eyes.
“Oh yes, and I’ll even get Cutter to help.”
“And I’ll look after him until then ma’am.” Cam added.
“Like you always have Cam, you promise?” Joyleaf asked quietly, giving in slowly.
“Yes ma’am, like I always have.” He promised with a gentle smile.
And that was it, no more talking and no more debating the one thing Joyleaf could have used to stay at his side. She knew the Elders would find out somehow she had come to visit him, which wasn’t allowed, but they would sure frown on her and Leetah helping him. So Joyleaf leaned over and kissed Bearclaw’s forehead before standing up form beside the cot. Her dress, just like Leetah’s, cut Joyleaf’s slim figure a perfect hour glass with an imported brown silk as she walked toward the group and the door. Treestump smiled and took his sister’s hand.
“Now let’s get you two back.”
“Okay.” Joyleaf whispered.
“Come on, we’ll use the backdoor to get you ladies home.” Cam smiled turning to the door but stopping suddenly as Leetah exclaimed with surprise.
“Yes ma’am,” Cam replied with a nod and a wink, “Two beautiful elves such as you and Mrs. Joyleaf will certainly be remembered if you leave by the front door.”
“What about when we came in?” Joyleaf asked.
“A man remembers a shake from the rear more then the front ma’am.” Cam explained with a grin.
Joyleaf only smiled and blushed as Leetah tried to keep her grin hidden but failing miserably. “Oh Cam!”
They left the small room, Joyleaf stealing one last look at her lifemate before stepping out, and then it was quiet for a second after the door closed. Then Bearclaw’s head moved, jerked like someone slapped him, and his dream kept rolling on.
[i:d68233fc7f]He was crazy. The kind you could sense, smell, and see all at once and from a hell of a long way away. His name was easy to say and hard to forget once you met him.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]The stories were all around Two-Moons about him. How he did the ”˜jobs’ no one else in the ”˜families’ wanted done, and he did them with a smile. He’d rob the trolls down in Trolltown and the humans in the city. He’d rob a made man in a minute and laugh when someone would tell him there was a hit out on him for doing it. The elf knew no sense of fear people said, and no common sense. Two-Spear ran with his gang, crew, and even thy were crazy to run with him, it was required. He was on his way to the bottom of Thornwood Lake and anyone with him the people on the streets said.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]And here was Two-Spear leaning up against the jam in the doorway to the locker room for the fighters. He was dressed in a black suit pants, white shirt, and black leather shoes that shined. His jacket was off white, the color of bone, with a dark red kerchief in the pocket. It was typical Two-Spear, hide out in plain sight.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]That was a hell of a fight Bear”¦old Remmy never stood a chance he called out. Even his voice was tinged with crazy.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Remmy’s a good fighter, just leads with the left too much.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Bearclaw kept his eyes down tearing the tape off his hands with his teeth, refusing to make eye contact with the gangster. He didn’t want to get involved with Two-Spear, hell even have a causal ”˜run-in’ with the elf. Yet Two-Spear had other things in mind.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Remmy’s a loser who needs to help out at the kitchen down the street. He ain’t no real fighter, probably be just as bad as a cook.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Maybe, then maybe you don’t see it like a boxer Bearclaw shrugged ripping the last of the tape off his hands.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]The leather shoes creaked as he leaned away form the door jam and walked in. The others in the room stopped cold, as if moving would catch Two-Spear’s attention and no one wanted that.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]You know Bearclaw, I get the impression your trying to ignore me Two-Spear said stopping just a foot away or so. This time his voice was lower, almost threatening, and that wasn’t welcomed.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]That’s when the old Bearclaw came out, the one where he didn’t have a sense of fear and no common sense. It was the Bearclaw that ended up in the caves with the trolls back in the old days throwing six-sided dice and drinking dreamberry wine till he passed out”¦which took a long time. This was the Bearclaw that just might equal Two-Spear when it came to destruction.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]You’d be right Bearclaw snarled turning away from the locker.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]He got maybe two steps before Two-Spear called out, the tone of his voice back to being crazy. You ain’t scared of me one bit are you Bear[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Bearclaw turned and shook his head. Nope, I’ve heard so many stories about you that I just can’t work up the feeling to be afraid.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]The room went silent for a minute. One of the other boxers in the back swallowed hard, loud enough for everyone to hear. He was probably thinking of which way to run when the bullets started flying. Bearclaw wasn’t thinking that though. He was staring back at the gangster waiting for a reply. Finally, when the tension couldn’t get any thicker, Two-Spear threw back his head and roared with laughter.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]I knew you were a hardass! I could see it a mile away![/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Yeah, well, from one hardass to another why are you here?[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Two-Spear walked over and grinned, the evil kind where the left corner went up exposing a large white canine while the eyes gleamed with a mean disposition. You’ll have to come to dinner if you want to find out.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Bearclaw’s eyebrow rose just a bit as he cocked his head. I don’t know...you seem like the kind of fella who buys a gal a drink and then expects some fun for his money.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]Yeah, but I promise my kind-of-fun is worth it.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]He should have said no right then and there. Maybe it was not having Joyleaf’s influence and soft talk that made him agree or maybe it was he curious to see if Two-Spear was as bad as everyone said. Whatever it was Bearclaw agreed to dinner”¦and it had been all downhill ever since.[/i:d68233fc7f]
The lunch was nice, delicious, and always in the back of his mind. Skywise acted like his usual jovial self having way too much fun talking with Cutter and Nightfall and Ember and Sunstream that they didn’t catch him checking his watch. The food and the company took a backseat, and it pained him greatly to push it away, as he kept the girl’s face fresh in his memory. He focused on the image, her eyes looking up at him from the bottom of the tub through the water, the shape of her cheeks and lips, and the color of her hair. Skywise couldn’t let her face fade from his mind’s eye, he wouldn’t dare. She was killed for some reason and he had to know why”¦had to know if it was because of him. There would be a lot of sleepless nights ahead Skywise thought, a lot until he found out why she was killed.
And what if it was because of him? What would he do then?
The stargazer shook his head to clear out the thought, hiding it with a loud laugh from a small joke by Sunstream. He didn’t want to cross that bridge until he had too”¦until the very last second. Right now hew just wanted to get back to town and to Shuna’s. Not the same Shuna from so long ago, this was her great-great-great-however many greats-daughter and she was a damn good painter. She could sketch the girl in the bath tub’s face and then he could start the job of finding out just who she was, but first he had to get away from here.
Soon enough, and with a few silent curses, the lunch came to an end and he was able to say his goodbyes. He shook Sunstream’s hand and hugged Ember giving her a small kiss on the cheek. Skywise asked Adar to call him a cab, no need to have it come all the way up the drive, he’d just meet it at the gate. Better for the clean getaway”¦that’s if Cutter would have let him. His brother growled a bit, shot him a hard eye, and demanded they walk out together. It was the polite thing to do dammit.
Skywise just swallowed and nodded knowing the walk would be a little cold, and not because of the temperature outside. Sure enough Cutter waited until they were away from the mansion and down the driveway before he finally spoke up. “Why are you in such a hurry to get back to town?”
“The girl Cutter,” he answered knowing better then lying to his brother in all but blood, “I have to know who she is”¦why she was murdered?”
“Don’t you think you should let the police figure that out?”
“No, the TMPD won’t care”¦she’s just another cone to them. I need to know Cutter. I need to know she wasn’t killed because of me.”
Cutter nodded putting his hands in the pockets of his white pants as he walked. “You think someone’s sending you a message for a job your doing?”
“Maybe”¦I have to run it down and I need to be in town for that.” Skywise replied putting his hands in his pockets.
“You could run it down it from here in the mansion you know. You could use my office, the phones, and Adar could run down information. I’d like you to stay, keep an eye out for you, and I know Leetah would feel better.” Cutter offered with a sly grin.
Sure, Skywise wanted to say, I’d be glad to come back with you two”¦but then I’d feel trapped again brother, just like last time. I’d start to get that itch, like back at Father Tree when we were cubs, and the need to go out and see and experience this world would come back only a whole lot worse this time. So damn harder it would be impossible to ignore or hold back for long. No, he only shook his head and tried to say the words that felt like razor blades in his mouth.
“Nah Cutter, people tend to be more talkative when you’re face to face with them.”
The answer wasn’t what Cutter wanted to hear. It wasn’t what Skywise wanted to say, and it stopped the leader of the elves in midstep. Cutter looked to his brother with an expression that was half pained half angry.
“Why don’t you want to stay brother? Why huh?”
“You know why Tam,” Skywise sighed using his brother’s soul name trying to connect with him past the hurt he just caused, “I’m not”¦free in there. I feel like I’m locked in a cage when I’m in there brother.”
“That’s a load of crap Skywise and you know it!” Cutter snapped suddenly.
“It’s not Tam. Let me ask you something, why do the Elders use the incense instead of just sending with us when they’re asking questions? We can’t hide anything when we send, right? So why use the incense?”
“Some of us can, remember?” Cutter pointed out taking off down the driveway again.
“This isn’t about Winnowill or Voll or the gliders Tam. Timmain doesn’t have to use the incense on me”¦and neither do you. I’d tell you both anything you want.” Skywise countered speaking to Cutter’s back, his tone firm but loving.
It was working”¦Cutter stopped again, stared at the grass for a minute trying to hide his face and its agonizing look, but then he looked over his shoulder back to Skywise. He didn’t say anything”¦and he didn’t need to.
Skywise knew that look, knew he was getting there with Cutter finally. He took advantage of that and pressed forward carefully. “Why do Timmain and the others keep us locked away in the mansion, behind the walls and this gate? Is it because they’re still afraid of the humans? The humans out there in town, they’re not the same ones who use to kill us when they caught us so long ago. They’re not the same ones we left here that day in the Palace. They’re not even the same ones we found when we came back.”
It was true. They left so many years ago when all the elves were gathered in the Palace and tried to find their way back home, what the Elders called home, but in the end it had been too long and no one knew the way there. Not even the Masters of the Palace”¦not even Timmain herself. So they came back to Two-Moons”¦back to the Abode”¦and found a new world that seemed to welcome them. Yet for some the past was too hard to forget and for the rest this new world may have been too big. Maybe the Elders were too protective, too
“They look after us. The Elders, me, we look after the elves.” Cutter answered finally.
“Yeah, you do, at least the ones who want to stay”¦the ones like Nightfall and Redlance. To them this is all they want, you and the mansion and the Elders and in that order. Me”¦I want more and these gates and walls only hold me back. And don’t ask me about the Go-Backs.”
Cutter looked to his brother with a hard look that might have scared someone else, might have given them the impression a line was crossed. Skywise knew better, he knew Tam was just thinking and realizing what he said was for the best. “You always had your head in the sky.”
“Yep”¦and you’ve always kept me there.” The stargazer whispered back.
The two didn’t say another word, not during the walk down to the taxi at the gate, not even as Skywise opened the door to get in. It was just as he leaned in, just as he was ready to go that Cutter finally broke the silence with a loving send. The words were short, the kind his chief and blood brother always used. [i:d68233fc7f]Look out for yourself Fahr. Call me if you need anything”¦anything.[/i:d68233fc7f]
[i:d68233fc7f]I will Tam. I promise.[/i:d68233fc7f] Skywise offered with a nod.
Then he was in the backseat and the taxi was speeding away. It was just like that cold morning in the mountains after the troll war. After they won the Palace”¦after he realized he could fly and see the stars”¦after he realized Cutter would stay behind with the tribe and make a new Holt”¦after he realized they would be apart.
It was just like then, the pain in his heart. Yet Skywise knew he had to leave. He had to find out who this girl was and why she was killed and why it involved him. So he sat back in the seat, beat back the pain, and kept remembering every feature of the face that looked up at him from the bottom of the tub.