A small whimper of distress was the only sound Merika made as she noticed the car next to hers speed up to pass hers. The driver was exceeding the speed limit, and not being very careful about how he was maneuvering between the other cars. He swerved, as he changed lanes directly in front of her, and barely missed her front fender. Another pulled up from the other side, and a third followed the second. The last one cut her off, and the rear of his car skidded and swayed, before it was controlled. It was clear these people were racing in heavy traffic, which was illegal, but it looked like that wasn’t about to stop them. They missed hitting her car, but it was a close call. None of the drivers paid any attention to the trouble they were causing. Instead, they sped up again, to repeat their performance with other cars on either side of the highway. The recklessness of their driving forced her to move over, to narrowly miss the back bumper of a vehicle that did the same rather than cause an accident. It was an ill-fated move on her part, as she quickly noticed, she was stuck in a turn off lane. Well, she reflected, it fit in with the kind of day was she was having. Her whole week had been a total nightmare.
Merika decided there was nothing she could do about it, as she followed the heavy traffic off the turnpike. She would have to find her way back on to the freeway again, as soon as it was possible. The question was how? She had no idea where she was, and couldn’t find the on ramp. She was going to have to wing it, and hope for the best.
Merika’s mind wandered to where all her problems had started. The month before she had received a cable from her mother, telling her about a medical problem that had suddenly popped up. She immediately took a couple of weeks off from the television show she was acting in to rush to her mother’s side. As her character in the series was due for some vacation time anyway, she figured her absence wouldn’t be noticed. She knew she would be coming back to a full schedule, which meant she would have to work hard when she returned, whether she was in the mood or not. She didn’t care, her mother was more important to her than any job. She had always come first to her mother in the past, now it was her turn to show that she felt the same about her.
Merika was an actress, and for the past seven years, she had played one of the young soap opera beauties on television. Despite her great success, and mounting wealth, she failed to put down roots. At twenty-three, she had few physical possessions, other than her car, and a couple newly acquired kittens, which her mother had talked her into adopting soon after arriving. As her mother had also bought a few kittens of her own, which she had left for her to care for, she was feeling overwhelmed. She had gone from having no one in her life, except her mother, to having four furry bundles of attitude.
Often, Merika questioned what she perceived as flaws in her character. She had no close friends, though people flocked to her wherever she went. Her popularity made her feel unsafe, and that insecurity made her back away from others in ways that most people mistook for conceit. It wasn’t difficult to understand why they might think that; she was petite, blonde, blue-eyed, bright, intelligent and pretty. She realized her looks attributed to her success in the entertainment world, but there was more to it than that. It wasn’t her beauty that kept her in the show, she was a good actress, and she worked hard at her job, perhaps too hard, and that gave her little time to be with others. Her lack of interest in anyone special didn’t help. Instead, she gained a reputation of being a snob because of it. Men fawned on her to no avail and, although she smiled and was cordial to everyone, she continued to form no attachments. For the first time in her life, there was no one left in the world that meant anything to her.
As far as Merika was concerned, her mother had made a brave show of living during her last few days of life. She must have somehow known that despite her actions and appearance the end was near. They had gone shopping, and then spent hours cooking together. These were the type of things, her mother told her, that memories were made of. She explained that in her youth, they had spent a lot of time baking, and she shared all her special recipes with her. Merika found it strange that she couldn’t remember the times that her mother was talking about. In fact, she had few memories of moments spent with her mother at all. To the best of her recollection, she had spent most of her life either in boarding schools, or on a television stage set. The rest of her life was a blur.
Merika was so focused on the memories of the last days she had shared with her mother that she failed to notice when the landscape changed. The car moved onwards, traveling from paved highways, to gravel roads, and then to a dirt trail, that seemed to run into a forest. Her progress was ignored by her, until her car coasted to a stop. Merika blinked in surprise, as she looked at her surroundings, and then glanced at the gauge on the dash, that told her she had an empty fuel tank. It was then that she realized she was in trouble.
“Great, just great.” Merika talked to herself, a habit she had gotten into years before. She always used this method to memorize her lines and to make decisions. For her, the verbalizing of any situation gave it clarity.
Getting out of the car, Merika looked around, pulled her suitcase and the kitten carrier out of the back seat, and continued to go in the direction she had been driving. She didn’t know why she was going there, but for some reason, she seemed to be drawn in that direction. She hoped there would be someone further up the road that had a phone, because hers wasn’t working. In her grief, she had forgotten to recharge her cell phone. There had to be some form of civilization nearby, after all, she was on a road, and all trails led somewhere. Right?
The matriarch of the homestead could feel a trace of power heading towards them from across the distance, and she knew someone was coming. She decided they had the time to finish what they had started. Whoever she was feeling had not entered the valley yet. She studied the essence of the signals and could sense a feminine signature. There was something about this woman’s power that made her think that the peaceful existence they were enjoying in the clearing was about to come to a temporary end. It wasn’t a malicious spirit; it was more of a restless one, which was looking for its roots. She was curious to see where that would lead.
“Sephra!” The matriarch looked up at his mate as his thoughts touched hers. “Should I be able to feel her this soon?”
“No, my love, she has not entered the valley,” Sephera answered
“She is powerful!” The thought reflected the Patriarch’s awe.
“I noticed, and I have a feeling our lives are about to become very interesting. We are going to be very busy for a while. Tara, set the table, the meal is almost ready.” Sephera noted, as she turned to pass on her next order.
The sound of voices floated from the household kitchen, followed soon after by the clink and clatter of dishes and cutlery. In only minutes, the table would be set and ready for the steaming platters of food that were sure to follow.
“The meal is ready,” a voice replied from the kitchen area, and within five minutes, those not serving the meal were washed up and seated in their places at the table.
Sephra was pleased at how orderly everything was working out. It had only been a few months since she had turned over the running of her home to her daughter, Serena. It was all a part of Serena’s formal training, for every girl in the valley was expected to be able to run a household properly. Young ladies with higher evolved powers were expected to be able to handle jobs better than the others. Serena had taken to the task as if born to it, which was a very good thing because she was expected to make a very good match, as she was very powerful.
“Father, you may say grace,” Sephra spoke in unhurried tones. She was the ancestral head of this particular homestead as her family had lived here as long as anyone could find recorded information. She met her mate at a gathering, much like what would happen when their new member arrived. She wondered if any of her sons would catch the young lady’s interest, then decided that was unlikely. None of them had the kind of power it would take to match the strength the woman who was coming exhibited.
After the prayers had been spoken, and the meal had been set upon the table, they sat and began to eat. It wasn’t long after when Serena jumped to her feet with a gasp, knocking over her chair as she did. “We are going to need Rodan, mother,” and her face reflected her fear.
Sephra, in contrast, was the picture of tranquility. She continued to eat calmly as she responded. “Rodan’s power is but a myth. You are right about one thing though, Serena. We will need a serious counter force to face this young woman, because, whomever she is, she does not come without a form of protection, for she brings the storm.”
“Are you sure, Sephra?” Her mate asked, more for the benefit of their offspring than his own. He knew that if Sephra said so, then it was real. In matters like this, Sephra was never wrong.
Their children, however, were still learning. Serena was young in her knowledge of the recognition of the power of their people, and their sons still needed direction. The Matriarch’s mate followed up his question with an order directed at his sons.
“You are familiar with the routine by now. The circle will need to be struck around the stones and the fire needs to be lit, to create a focus.”
“I will lead the focus,” one of the twins spoke.
Looking to Serena’s fear filled face, Sephra spoke as she heaved a sigh of resignation. “You will never manage to hold it against the power that comes. We will have to use extreme caution this time, or things could turn ugly. The person who is approaching us has not been trained to harness it as we have. Simply put my son, you do not have the strength it will take to control her. You will find that few have the talent to do this.”
“Then it will have to be Daffyd. He is the male Alpha of the family after father.” The twin answered.
Serena interrupted. “I think we need Rodan, and yes I know you have doubts about the full extent of his talents, but I believe in him. I also have a very bad feeling about what is going to happen here tonight.”
Daffyd, who had been concentrating more on the food that was cooling before them, then the subject being discussed, spoke. “I am able to sense this woman’s strength just as well as you can, Serena. She is half the night away, so we have time to eat and do whatever needs doing before she arrives. So, with this in mind, I suggest we eat before Angela’s culinary efforts go to waste. As Angela is the best cook in the family, it would be a shame to let something like that happen. Right Nigel?”
Nigel tossed his brother a smug, self-satisfied grin, and replied. “You are just jealous. Admit it, I married a great cook, not just a beautiful woman.”
Angela, who had been sitting before a huge platter of lamb chops decided that this was her time to intercede. “Would you mind if I asked Taylor to reheat the food, or would it be a waste of energy that would be needed later?”
Sephra paused to consider the matter, then replied: “Warm up the food, Taylor. We will eat and everyone can help clean up after. Tara, you will stay as far away from this matter as possible. We want nothing to affect the child you are carrying. You are too close to your delivery time to chance an accident.”
Serena sniped back, “This is not an accident that is coming at us, mother. It is a runaway freight train. I have never felt anything like it in my lifetime.”
“Considering the fact that you are barely out of childhood, that says nothing for your experience.” Serena’s father spoke up.
“Father,” Serena’s voice grew whinny, and Sephra spoke, to put an end to it.
“That is more than enough, Serena. There is enough unrest surrounding us for tonight, without your causing more. Let us eat in peace.”
To show that she had some use, Tara warmed the food and everyone ate.
They were a striking looking family; the men were all handsome, their hair color in various shades of brunette, and they were robust in physique. The women were feminine, beautiful and graceful as butterflies, being blonde, brunette and redheads. Only one of the young women wasn’t married. The single female was sister to the horde of men assembled about them.
The women, who had married into the family, had come into the valley in much the same way as the stranger was now. They had made their choice of mate from the men who had greeted them upon entry, and none had found reason to regret their decision. Each girl felt they had made the right choice and was pleased with their lives. They were a family, and each and every one of them felt loved, supported, needed, wanted, cherished, and complete. They belonged, and were happier than they had been in the outside world. Each and every one of them had their own talents and powers, and felt themselves growing and expanding every day.
For Sephra and her husband, it had been love at first sight and, even as the years had passed, their relationship had remained froth with passion. Rayjan had been the first of their sons to be born, a mere ten months after they had met and wed. Daffyd had come second, then Nigel, Taylor and Anton, Everitt and Devlin. Terrance and Gerald had followed four years later. When they had thought that there would be no more children, Serena had come into their world. Serena was the only daughter, the family sweetheart. Each and every child was made to feel special, the pride and joy of their parents and siblings, and each knew the strengths and weaknesses of the other and had learned to compensate for one another. As a family unit, they made a formidable team. That they were able to work well together boded well for the area where they lived, for their home was not far from the outside edge of the Valley. Anyone, who entered their world had to go through them to gain full entry.
As the family had grown and matured, there had been warnings of other people of power stumbling into their world. Angela had come from the outside world. She had been lost and scared, as most were when they first arrived. She had taken one look at Nigel and fallen in love. They had gotten married two weeks later. Tara had arrived a few months later, acting as if she had known what to expect. She was a born flirt and, as she was a female of above average looks and power, her presence had brought several interested suitors to their homestead. It hadn’t taken her long to decide that Taylor was whom she wanted and needed.
Several other people had arrived since, both male and female. Each showed signs of developing various stages of strength and power. Merydith had powers so weak it was questionable whether she belonged in this world. It had taken a while, but Sephra had taught her how to direct those she had, and eventually her talents grew. Even after she had been trained, it had taken their Alpha to determine that her specialty was in blocking. It was the sole reason they had trouble discerning what she was. Alycia had followed so close behind Merydith that the family had wondered if they might have been traveling together.
It seemed interesting that everyone who came to the valley seemed young, alone, gifted, and destined to form an attachment to a member of the Valley population. Once they gained confidence, they moved deeper into the valley, where they found the one they were meant to be with.
What Sephra’s family was about to face now, however, was beyond the realm of their collective experience. This young woman was broadcasting a power so strong that they were surprised everyone in the valley hadn’t heard her approach. With that in mind, they wondered how many of the community would respond to the possible danger, for most of the men who were present had felt that Serena’s comment had been quite accurate. The newcomer had gifts that were not under control, and that could create total devastation, unless someone could get her to settle down.
Their evening meal had been eaten, and then cleared away in uncustomary silence. Everyone had done their part, working as a unit, to save as much collective energy as they could. When everything had been cleared away, the men had gone to the standing stones near the entrance of the Valley to form their circle of power.
Serena had watched the men go about their task with a frown and a sad sigh. It hardly seemed fair to her. She was every bit as powerful as any of her brothers, being the known female Alpha of the area, but because of her gender, she was expected to stay home. To be fair, she knew that if the men needed back up power, they were only minutes away, but it was not the same as being in the front line.
Merydith walked up to Serena’s side, and grinned as she commented, “For a person who is more than five hours away, she sure is coming in loud and clear.” Then, to change the subject, she added, “We have finally decided where our house is going to stand. I can see it in my mind already.”
“We will all miss you when your home is finished and you leave us,” Sephra replied as she walked over to Merydith to give her a hug. ” But, we will still get to see you every day.” She paused with her head cocked to one side for a moment as if listening to something for a moment, then added, “We are about to get some unsolicited help from the neighbor. Antoine and Andre are on their way. They say that they have also alerted Kodac by wind carrier.” She seemed to think that amusing as she smiled.
Serena tossed a look of awe at her mother and quizzed. “Do you really think he will come? Kodac goes nowhere!”
“Kodac goes where he knows he is needed. He has just never had reason to come here before.” Sephra answered.
“I heard he became a recluse since his wife died, when she gave birth to Rodan. It is one of the reasons he is reputed to be so obscure.” Angela relayed, only to get a frown from Sephra for her pains.
“Repeating such rumors gives them credence. You know better than to listen to what gossip other people spread. Kodac has so many responsibilities, he needs to pick and choose whether something deserves his attention or not. He tends to the things he knows only he can do.”
“I hear he has another son besides Rodan, although I have never been given a name. People don’t talk about him. He is supposed to have dark hair, while Rodan’s is so fair that he is compared to a living, breathing Adonis. Rodan is so powerful and talented that he shines like the sun.” Merydith breathed in awe and wonder.
“The name of Kodac’s other son is Tyrus, and I have seen him myself. In fact, there was a time when I thought he was interested in me. I, however, only had eyes for my Taylor.” Tara purred as she preened.
Angela just sniffed in disbelief and exchanged a look with Serena, who appeared wide eyed at the thought that someone she knew might know all the premier Alphas in the Valley. She had heard things, and in her mind, she had romanticized about the stories people talked about the most. Steeped in mystery and awe, she, like most of the other girls her age in the valley, could only fantasize about the fair Rodan. That her mother knew she had placed Rodan on a pedestal to worship meant she must agree with her analysis, and approve. What she didn’t realize, was that her mother thought that if her daughter ever met the man, reality would knock him from his post and give him that much further to fall.
Sephra tilted her head as if to listen closer to something then interrupted the girls’ chatter.
“Pull up your blocks tighter girls, things are about to get worse. Whomever sent the warning to Kodac, also touched a part of our visitor’s psychic makeup. She is reacting out of fear and doesn’t realize what she has called upon in her subconscious search for protection from what she thinks is danger. Remember the storm I spoke of? Look at the sky. The clouds continue to darken even further. If there is no major lightning strike before this all comes together, I will never know what saved us.”
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