Hunter’s Challenge – Chapter I

Copyright 2015





Adele whirled around in circles, as she finished putting the finishing touch to her rooms in Mitchel and Karia’s Aerie. Her mother had stipulated her move into their home as the only place she would allow her to settle in the upper atmosphere of the planet. Cara had assumed Terec was still in recovery in the infirmary, under the doctor’s care. She thought her daughter’s move was the perfect way to keep the young couple apart, which would allow Adele the chance to rethink her attraction to Terec. She was sure that if Adele had something constructive to focus on, she would forget about the young Tantalarian. As no one shared her view on the matter, they didn’t bother to tell Cara, Terec had been released on the day of the attack.


The moment Adele heard someone at the doorway to her rooms, she stopped dancing long enough to see Karia watching her. Karia smiled, as she watched her guest with great curiosity. She had never seen anyone act like that before, but figured it must be fun, because Adele looked so happy.


“Haven’t you ever seen anyone dance before?” Adele wondered.


“Not like that, we do our celebrating in the skies, where there is more room. It is very exhilarating and probably equivalent to how you are feeling. That isn’t why I am here though; I have a surprise for you. I have brought you company.” Karia informed her.


Terec stepped out from behind Karia and smiled widely at Adele, as he teased. “I was told that you had moved into an Aerie and wanted to be the first to welcome you to our part of the world. I hadn’t expected to find you in such exalted company though.”


Adele gave an excited little squeak, before she catapulted herself into Terec’s arms, and gave him a welcoming hug.


“I heard the Doctor released you from his care, but wasn’t sure that you would look me up. It is so good to see you on your feet and to know you are capable of flying again.” Adele admitted.


Terec laughed happily and replied. “This is one of the first places I came, after I checked things out below. It is very calm there at the moment.”


“That is a switch and after all that has happened since we arrived, it is almost scary. The peace is misleading though, and it makes a person wonder what is going to happen next.” Adele admitted.


“How are you enjoying life in the clouds?” Terec asked, as he continued to hold Adele. He was reluctant to let her go. He knew she had undergone extensive testing after the Phoenix had chosen her to see how that would affect her, along with what could still happen. He also knew no one had brought her the results yet, and he thought she might need a little moral support while she waited.


Adele didn’t need to be told what Terec was doing and she appreciated his thoughtfulness. He was putting his own concerns aside to give her support through a tense time. She had been trying to act bravely, to convince everyone that she wasn’t nervous that the Phoenix had singled her out, but in the end, it seemed like she was fooling no one. She wondered what had given her away.


“You did nothing to make anyone believe you were nervous about the outcome of the tests they took, Adele.” Terec assured her. “It is, however, common sense to assume you would be concerned.”


Adele wrapped her arms around Terec’s torso and pressed her face against his chest, as she confessed. “I am terrified of what they might find. I don’t know what to expect. They are even checking my DNA to see if anything has changed, or if there is a tie to your people that might have attracted the firebird. That would be something no one could have been aware of.”


“I personally think it is the red hair,” Terec joked.


Adele chuckled, even as she admonished him, “Get serious, Terec.”


“I am serious,” Terec, continued to tease, before he returned to his serious self. “How would they know if there is a change in your DNA?”


“Our Doctor has everyone’s DNA catalogued in special files in his office, it was one of the things they did when we were accepted into the program. They are going to do a comparison. At first, they questioned how they would handle that, but things are working out. Actually, I laughed at how surprised the Tribunal Elder was when he noticed that some of our technology matched his. I am expecting the results from that testing at any time now.” Adele commented.


“And they are here,” Cara informed them, as she walked into Adele’s rooms. She took one look at the way Terec was holding her daughter, and warned him. “If I were you, I would consider getting your hands off of my daughter. What are you doing here anyway? I thought you were still residing in the infirmary.”


“I was released days ago.” Terec admitted, though he made no move to release Adele. He didn’t think it would be right to hide his attraction to Adele from Cara. He also wasn’t about to hide the truth of his release from her. He believed she deserved more respect from him than that. After all, she was the mother of the woman he hoped to settle down with one day.


Cara noticed how Terec disregarded her suggestion immediately and, because there was nothing she could actually do about it, she picked on Adele.


“Either keep your distance from that man or I will get the Tribunal Elder to return you home.”


“You can’t do that,” Adele retorted. “I won’t go. I need the knowledge they are willing to teach me. Things are changing mother, and there is nothing anyone can do to change that.”


“You are my daughter and you will do what I tell you,” Cara insisted.


Adele would have debated that statement, but the Tribunal Elder chose that moment to enter the room. Martin, Mitchel and Tribune Sterling followed him. Instead of doing as she had been ordered, she wound her arms tighter around Terec and shook in apprehension. She wasn’t afraid of the people, but learning what awaited her in the future terrified her.


Terec immediately tightened his wings around Adele’s shaking body as he cooed comforting words into her mind. The Tribunal Elder cleared his throat to catch everyone’s attention and motioned for Tribune Sterling to begin. Cara’s disapproval was etched on her face. She wasn’t very pleased with the way her daughter was reacting to Terec and her attention needed to be diverted.


Tribune Sterling knew what the Tribunal Elder was doing, he had also seen Terec’s actions and Adele’s reactions. If those two young adults were not involved at this point, it wouldn’t be long before they were. The attraction was there, and it was strong, but that wasn’t what he had come to discuss, so he got straight to the point.


“We brought the test results with us and, I have to admit, some are not what I expected, although most are. The blood work came as no surprise, as our species share the same blood types. The Phoenix has, however, made a few changes to the structure of your DNA. You are not going to become a blond, or experience changes in eye color, but you can expect other things to happen. This will begin with certain biological functions. I will have Karia, her mother and Grandmother explain those, as they are to do with things experienced by women. They are matters that affect your link with the Phoenix and most men are not familiar with them unless they are bonded with a woman who shares that link. I don’t expect them to affect you yet, but as you are not a true Tantalarian, I can’t say for sure. I have suggested early training, in case I am wrong. It is best that you learn everything you need to know as soon as possible, in case it is needed.”


“I insist on being present for these lessons,” Cara insisted.


“You are very welcome to attend, Cara, but I must warn you that anything you hear during those sessions must be kept in the strictest of confidence.” Karia stated, before giving Terec a pointed look and adding. “Men are not welcome at female conferences.”


Terec gave a nod of understanding, as he answered. “It will be as you command.”


Cara frowned. She was happy Terec wouldn’t be there, but not so pleased to see that he was free to visit her daughter whenever he wanted.


Martin knew what was going on in Cara’s head, he didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what was written all over her face. She wouldn’t accept what was happening easily, but this was out of their control, and there was nothing they could do about any of it. He walked to her side, wrapped an arm around her shoulders, drew her to his side and gave her a small squeeze to let her understand that he was here to support her. He didn’t think he needed tell her there were limits to which he would go.


“Now,” Tribune Sterling grew serious. “We need to discuss some of the changes your body will go through. These will affect you greatly and some are happening already. Some will take time, for they will be changes that don’t happen overnight. For obvious reasons, none of this has ever been chronicled before. We have no guidelines to work with, therefore, we have to join forces to handle the changes when they occur. Everyone will be expected to keep track of anything different they notice about Adele, until the transformation is complete.”


“What are you talking about, transformation? Just what are these things that you expect to happen to my daughter?” Cara wanted to know immediately. She didn’t wait for Adele to speak. She didn’t even notice the frown on her daughter’s face, or the frustration in her eyes.


Adele remained silent; although she didn’t approve of the way her mother just assumed she had the right to take over. Ordinarily she wouldn’t have questioned the matter, but this wasn’t about Cara’s right as a mother any longer, this was about her life, for as long as it lasted. It was her responsibility to take charge, to assert her right as an adult.


“If we were to take a skeletal scan of your daughter’s body, we would be able to tell that her bones are becoming lighter. At the same time, they are becoming much stronger. The first thing I noted was how strong the connection between her and her Phoenix is and we know it will grow more so over the years, as it does with all females.” Tribune Sterling began.


“Something tells me you are reluctant to tell us what the biggest change is going to be.” Adele noted.


“I admit I don’t know what to think about what is happening. Like I said, we have never run across anything remotely like this before. We don’t know how painful the transition will be for you, or when it will happen. We aren’t even sure it will be an uncomfortable change. The one thing we know for sure is that it will happen. We admit to being a little afraid of how you may react to the news though.” Tribune Sterling admitted.


“Has anyone ever told you that you have poor bedside manners? Why don’t you just tell me what the problem is and put us all out of our misery?” Adele asked in frustration.


Cara’s reaction surprised everyone, as she immediately took her daughter to task over her caustic remark. “Adele, I taught you better manners than that.”


Adele tossed her mother an annoyed look, but didn’t respond. She wasn’t going to apologize, the man was being annoying.   He was beating around the bush, which wasn’t going to solve anything. There was nothing anyone could do to change things, they were going to unfold the way they would, so why not just blurt it out and get it over with. The suspense was killing her.


“Very well,” Tribune Sterling agreed. He could see Adele’s point and agreed on many levels. “It is very possible you are already beginning to grow a set of wings.”


Wings! Real wings that could fly people through the air and carry her to wherever she wanted to go? Adele couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t dreamed of owning a set of wings. Her imagination took flight, as she thought about how heady that type of freedom could be. She realized, at the same time, that it could be dangerous, as well as wondrous. This wasn’t a dream; this was reality. She gave a shaky smile and admitted to being overwhelmed by the possibility.


“You are talking about a real set of wings that I would actually be able to use?”


“Most definitely, although it won’t be that simple. You will need to be taught how to use them and how not to abuse them. That will fall into the job description of your Guardian.” The Tribunal elder detailed and when he noted the frown of disapproval on Terec’s face, he quickly chastised him. “You can cease frowning at any time, Terec. None of this has anything to do with you.”


“I could teach her to fly,” Terec offered.


“Any of us could, but you won’t. Neville will, he is Adele’s Guardian and it is his place to perform this task. This is the last time we will mention anything to do with the matter. Karia will teach her whatever she needs to know about caring for her wings, that is her place, unless she passes it to another woman.” The Tribunal Elder declared.


“I will take care of it,” Karia agreed.


The only sign Terec made that he was upset over the Tribunal Elder’s edict, was the slight tightening of his arms and wings around Adele. He nodded his understanding and then dropped the matter. No one had denied him the right to see her yet, and he wasn’t about to give them a reason to do that. If Neville was the one who would teach her to fly, he would grit his teeth and accept that decision with a smile, anything to make sure he didn’t lose his right to visit.


Hunter's Challenge Book 3 of The Elven Chronicles
Hunter’s Challenge Book 3 of The Tantalus Series

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