Following a skiing accident in Alaska Devin is rescued by a mysterious race of people whom are like no other except one - his brother Vincent
He’d not stopped for several hours, and the grave of Travis King was far behind him. Vincent could not have shown anyone where it was had he tried. Everywhere looked the same. The mountain seemed to go on forever, and the snow was blinding beneath the sunlight. For the first time in his life, Vincent wished he were out of the sunlight and in the tunnels where it was cool and safe yet just warm enough. Here, exposed and covered in furs Vincent felt hot and cumbersome and yearned to be able to shed some of the clothing that the harsh conditions forced him to wear.
He hadn’t descended in a straight line. Not that he could have had he wanted to. For one he had to keep checking that the rock had not become dislodged from the spare set of skis, and two, the mountain had treacherous glaciers, sheets of pure ice and Vincent wasn’t sure if they would break beneath his weight so he scouted around them, descending the mountain in a curious zig zagging motion but he could see the bottom of the mountain now and he grew anxious. He had to discard the skis and poles. As much as he would have liked to keep them he had to make out as though…but wait! He had a sudden idea.
Surely if he walked about a bit, left a lot of footprints, sat down in the snow, and made it look as though he’d been resting there when Travis King arrived then this far down surely no one would go looking further up the mountain for Travis King?
Vincent swung the spare skiis from where he’d straped them around his chest and his shoulder, and sitting down in the snow he put them on. They felt awward, and his movements from hereon would attest to the fact that he had never worn skiis before.
He still had no idea why Travis had brough a spare set, but on the offchance that he’d intended Vincent to use them, this spot would be where he’d begun to do that. Vincent could argue that he had escaped and gotten ahead of Travis King and if anyone asked where Travis was, Vincent could feign ignorance.
He hated lying but he could see no other way, besides he’d done worse things.
Vincent looked back. The mountain loomed ominously above him. Somewhere up there, a body lay buried by snow and rocks, what chance would there be of anyone ever finding the body? And if they did, what was to say he had killed him? Vincent didn’t like deception, he had hated what Swallow Tail had intended to do, and this was far, far worse, still if anyone discovered that he had murdered Travis King, they would act first and ask questions afterward. It wasn’t that Vincent was unduly concerned for his own welfare it was those others that he worried about, Catherine, and the clan what would become of them if it could be proven he had killed Travis King? Or worst if it could be proven that he was indeed the city beast and had not changed one iota.
Still dragging the other skiis as he continued to descend Begguya Vincent kept his eyes open for a fissure of some kind, but the mountain was so solidly covered in ice that he hadn’t spotted one. He’d gone as close as he dared to many edges and peeked over but had deemed the drop not deep enough to conceal a body. Travis had been wearing bright clothing and if nothing else the helicopter pilot might remember that. That was another thing, where was the pilot? Had he intended to return? Was he going to winch Vincent to safety? No way! Whatever Travis had come to the mountain to do it wasn’t to rescue him that Vincent was sure of. Travis King had a change of heart? No way, impossible. No, Vincent reasoned, Travis King had come to finish him off, so in a way it was self-defence but why two sets of skis? Vincent couldn’t work that one out. It totally mystified him.
“I have to find somewhere.” Vincent spoke gruffly through a mouthful of wolf fur. Most of his face was shielded as was his body just his eyes and nose were exposed to the elements. He looked all around him, but could find no convenient spot to toss the skis and make it appear like an accident. Despondently he travelled down the mountain a bit further. Fir trees grew on the lower ranges, he thought maybe he could find something there.
Finally he did. Between the trees there was a little less snow, this afforded him the opportunity to find a few gaping cracks in the rock. Bending he picked up a stone and dropped it down a crack. It was sometime before he heard it hit the bottom. Vincent knew he had exceptional hearing. It pleased him that the crack went down so far. But was it wide enough for somebody to fall into? He thought about it long and hard. If someone were standing nearby, it was doubtful that they would slip into the crack just like that. It was jagged and as such would offer them a chance to hold on to the sides and save themselves. It was possible that their clothing would rip on the sides of the jagged rock and that too might save them. But if they were careering down the mountain at great speed, and their skis hit a rock it might be possible for the skier to be flung forward into the crack and away. It wasn’t one of his better ideas, but Vincent knew it would have to do. Before he untied the rocks from the set of skis he dragged them over his own prints careful not to allow them to go beyond the start of the crack. He was careful of how many movements he made with his own skis. He had to make it appear that he had come down ahead of Travis King and had missed falling into the crack, by careful and slow negotiating of a safe passage around it.
Next he stood one of the spare skis into the snow vertically just behind the rocks that he untied from the skiis and the other he lay horizontally upside down near the crack. That done he skied down a little way stopped and looked back. It wasn’t perfect but it would have to do and as long as he could remain mystified about the whole affair the more chance he would have of getting away with it.
Vincent drew in a deep breath, realised he was shaking and knew he had to pull himself together. He was about a half mile from the bottom of the mountain and the weather was frigid. Freezing fog was setting in on the summit, by nightfall it would likely be down in the valley, that at least was to his advantage, but not until he was off the mountain. He began to ski onward, descending the mountain slowly at first and then a little faster, picking up the ability and enjoying it now that he had everything as safe as could be behind him.
*** *** ***
He was nearing the bottom when coming at speed from beneath a canopy of trees he slammed into something hard yet soft enough that it fell over. A cry of annoyance met his ears and Vincent stopped dead sending up a spray of snow in a huge arc around him.
“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” Will asked scrambling to his feet. Vincent would have laughed had he not noticed Prowling Cat at ‘ole Will’s side and lending him a hand to get up.
“I’m just so pleased to see you.” Vincent stated at last with a grin.
“Like Bruno you mean?” Will laughed then strode to Vincent’s side. “Man its good to see you safe and well, Vincent. We’ve been so worried.” He looked toward the group of trees. “Travis not with you?”
The question posed many more. Vincent’s mind raced. The foremost thought being, ‘Will expects Travis King to be with me?’ He said the first thing that came into his head. “We’re racing. Looks like I won.” He grinned and stood looking back hoping that he had a suitable look of expectation on his face, as one would when expecting a friend to suddenly burst from beneath the canopy of trees.
Standing, looking up the mountain toward the copse of fir trees the three waited. Two expected to see Travis King burst from beneath them any moment. One knew he never would.
“Better go back up”. Prowling Cat announced at length. “He might be in trouble.” Just about to step forward, Prowling Cat frowned and looked towards his son. “Tell me?” he asked in true Vincent fashion. “Tell me what troubles you.”
“Troubles me?” Vincent asked bewildered.
“Yes, you, my son. For your heart races at such an alarming rate I feel sure it will jump right out of your chest.”
Crestfallen, Vincent looked down at the snow at his feet, and then up into his father’s eyes. He could no more lie to him than he could pull the sun from the sky.
“I killed him.” He whispered.
Prowling Cat gasped. Will just nodded. “Swallow Tail feared that might be the case. It’s my fault. I just didn’t stop to think when I made Travis King go up to rescue you. Naturally you would think the man had come to finish you off after what he did.”
Vincent affirmed, “Yes I did. I didn’t give him a chance to explain anything. I’m so sorry. I acted on impulse. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“So where is he?” Prowling Cat asked still looking up at the mountain as if Travis might still surprise them all and burst from beneath the canopy of trees.
Will listened and rubbed his beard thoughtfully until the sorry tale was told.
“You’re sure you buried him deep enough?”
“Could you smell his blood when you’d done?”
“I could, but it was spilled on the snow. I covered it with fresh snow, I couldn’t see any when I left.”
“But you could still smell it?”
“Carrion…wolves…need I say more?”
Vincent faltered. “I…I…never thought…didn’t think…” His gaze followed that of Prowling Cat’s.
“Show us how you hoped to fool the search party. Is it far?” Will eyed the blanket of fog it was halfway down the mountain and swirling lower as he looked.
“No not far, a half mile perhaps.” Vincent turned and the two older men followed him. Going up the mountain proved more difficult than going down, all had to use their ski poles to advantage until even they weren’t enough.
“We can’t go any further with these.” Will motioned to his skis. He bent to take his off. “Is it much further?”
“Just beyond the trees.” Vincent replied. A thicket of trees was before them. There was no telling how far back they went, to a newcomer but Will knew the mountain well. “We can do it, using the trees to get there. Come, leave the skis here, and take the poles, they still may be useful. Pity I didn’t think to bring snow shoes with me. Still I didn’t think for one moment that I would be going up a mountain today.”
They rested the skis against tree trunks standing them upright in the snow, so that they were not a hindrance to any skier who may be coming down. This was something everyone did, just in case and they did it as a matter of course.
Then they began the hard trek through the trees and ever upward toward the spot where Vincent hoped he could fool any rescue party.
The moment they broke through the trees and reached the spot, Will knew at once that no member of a rescue team would have been fooled by what had been presented. Will and Prowling Cat had seen enough skiing accidents to know that this one was suspicious, if it were maintained someone had disappeared there. It looked like a prank.
Looking at the scene Will had to try hard to refrain from laughing, then a sombre expression crossed his face. How did Vincent disguise his killings in the city? He knew better than to ask. Of course this wasn’t a disguise. This was a ruse, but one to fool a rescue team. Will knew it would never have done that in a month of Sundays.
He scanned the mountain with a hand held to his brow, noticing the two sets of ski tracks that probably were ingenious. It did look and possibly could pass for two skiers coming down the mountain either together or one after the other with a fair amount of time in-between, but the way Vincent had left the skis positioned…well…there was no way on this planet that anyone would have come off them at that spot and been catapulted into the fissure, even if it was wide enough for anyone to fall into.
“This the best you could do?” Will finally spoke holding back laughter. It was no laughing matter, he knew that but it was difficult not to laugh.
Vincent bristled. “In the circumstances, yes.”
“I’m sorry. Forgive me. Only I’ve seen enough skiing accidents to know this would fool no one.”
“Except him.” Prowling Cat grinned and thumped his son on the back. “City kid, you have much to learn.”
“I knew it wasn’t perfect, but what else could I do?” Vincent lamented.
Will and Prowling Cat looked on and nodded. “Well…” Prowling Cat began at length, “First we need to take those skis away. No one is going to be fooled by them. They may be mystified but fooled never. Now where’s that rock you tied to them?” He scouted around till he saw a likely candidate.
“All for one and one for all.” Will announced gruffly, slapping Vincent on the back. “We’re in this together now, Vincent. None of us would want anyone to know what happened to Travis King, and as soon as possible some of the clan and I will go to the summit and make sure all is well up there with the grave site. The helicopter pilot will know where he was dropped off, and though the wind may have blown him off course a little, the general area would be much the same and the rescue team would begin there for sure starting from the top and going down and not as you hoped from the other way around.
“Now, we have to make up a convincing story,” Will began, “and one that will stick, so this is what we have to do…”
It was night when they left Travis King’s house. Neither of them enjoyed what they did, and only necessity drove them to do it. It wasn’t just Vincent’s neck that was at stake, the whole clan would have to suffer in one way or another if people knew what really had happened, plus the whole International Clan might come under speculation too, and no one would feel safe around them. It was hard enough as it was for humankind to accept these fearsome looking people in their midst without knowing for a certainty that they were or had the potential to be, killers.
*** *** ***
No, Travis Kind had brought it all on himself, and they had to keep telling themselves this as they entered his house, and with gloved hands washed and polished his skis, prepared a meal ate some of it and opened a few beers, drank a little by pouring the beer into their open mouths thus avoiding their lips touching the cans at all, felt terrible because it felt like they were toasting his death, and then crumpled his bedding to make it look as though he’d slept there and bundled a few items of clothing into the washing machine and programmed it to come on in seven hours, when its cycle would last a further two. Will knew of old that Travis King was generally up and about before dawn and if late at the airfield one of his pilots would first call and then come looking for him. At this point Will froze. “His cell phone. Vincent what did you do with his cell phone?”
Vincent froze. “Nothing.”
In a flash the three realised the enormity of that situation.
“I’ll do it,” Will announced. “You return with Prowling Cat to Denali. Say nothing to anyone. There will be no suspicion if I do not go back with you as no one is expecting me to. I’ll make the trip at first light. It’ll take me several days. No one is going to start looking for Travis King up at the summit with all these clues making it appear that he came down safely, had dinner, and settled down for the evening. If there are to be any search parties arranged it’ll be on ground level first. Should give me time and then some to get up to the summit and do what has to be done.”
“I’m sorry,” Vincent stammered. “This is all my fault.”
“No, son it isn’t.” Prowling Cat reminded him. “Travis King took it upon himself to leave you and Swallow Tail up on those mountains. Had he not done that he would still be with us. So don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. You did only what you thought you needed to do. In your shoes we’d all do the same.”
“I doubt that, but thank you.” Vincent whispered. He turned to Will. “Thank you. Please be safe. How long will you be gone?”
“It will take several days to get up there, and a couple to come down. It won’t be the first time, so try not to worry, however there’s just one thing you must promise me.”
“If I don’t return don’t send up a rescue party. At least not any human rescue party. We wouldn’t want them stumbling on anyone but me up there, would we?”
“Good. I’ll go well stocked. Its fortunate that we don’t need oxygen up there like the humanoids do, so that’s one less thing to carry. I’ll also take the dogs and a sledge as well as skis, and enough food and water…oh, you know the usual stuff, Prowling Cat, just convince this one I’m going to be alright, will you? I know that mountain like the back of my hand, and I did know where Travis was dropped off after all, so I have an advantage on any rescue team in the first instance.”
“Except for the pilot.”
“True, but like I say, he’ll be by in the morning when Travis King doesn’t answer his phone, and then no one is going to think anything untoward until Travis is missing for a day or two, and even then the signs we’ve left will be enough that the mountain should be the last place they’ll look.”
“Then why go at all?” Vincent asked.
“Because, dear fellow, when they do start looking for him the first thing they’ll do is keep calling his cell. That alone should drain the battery enough so that eventually no one will hear it ring even if they were up there to do so, but until that battery is completely dead it can be used to track him. And that’s why I must go up there and prevent that happening, as well as make sure that he can’t be found. Try not to worry. I know what I’m doing. Now is that everything?”
The three looked around the cabin. Each felt sad that Travis King would never again return there, they felt like criminals when they left and many would argue that they were, but they did only what they knew to be right for the greater good of the clan and they each consoled themselves with that fact as they parted company, with a few heartfelt hugs, Vincent and Prowling Cat headed toward Denali and Will toward his home.
Two days from the summit a familiar sight, scent and feeling had Will hesitate. He looked up unsurprised to see a long thin line of dappled shadows moving across the glacier above. He knew them instantly. Wolves! And they were headed the way of his intent, and so many could mean only one thing.
*** *** ***
This was both good and bad. That the wolves were homing in on Travis King’s split blood could go either way for Vincent’s alibi. If they could dig the body from beneath the rock before any rescue team in a helicopter flew over, all well and good…if they couldn’t then that was a different matter entirely. He was grateful that he’d not taken dogs with him after all.
However there was something else to consider that was very worrying.
The last couple of days the weather had turned a few degrees warmer. Will knew it wasn’t just the strenuous climb that made him feel overly warm. The air that he breathed didn’t sear his lungs as it first had when he started the climb and going ever upward it ought to have done. It was colder, frigid nearer the summit. But no, the air that he breathed had certainly turned warmer, just a degree or two, no more but enough that the heavy overhangs would be dripping, melting and the baying of the ravenous wolves was causing echoes to rebound.
From of old, Will knew it the moment the avalanche began. Standing several miles from where it began he could feel the mountain tremor when the impact of deep, think snow collapsed and caused movement beneath it. The snow began to slide. First he saw a frenzy of movement, the wolf pack breaking apart and running in all directions, a cloud of snow crystals obliterating the summit from view, and then the steady rumble signifying the descent of hundreds of tons of snow and ice.
He’d survived avalanches before, he could do so again, by the grace of God he could do so…but Will held a secret that only two people knew, and one of those were dead. And when he had learned of Travis King’s death, Will had been torn between what he should do and what he would do, knowing that whatever he decided he would feel guilt.
To help the living or avenge the dead, which was it to be? And why? Where should his loyalty lay? He may be ostracised from the clan but they were still clan, and The International Year of the Beast meant more to the clan now, this time than at any other. They needed people now. They would not survive much longer without people. Indeed their habitat was widely being encroached, for how much longer could they hide anyway?
And what was done was done there was no going back. The International Year of the Beast had unveiled a species that had only ever been considered figments of over active imagination before, nothing ever concrete to support it. Well now there was, people had seen the clan, and people all over the world were accepting the clan as peaceful gentle giants, accepting them among them, now that the first flow of fear and anxiety had diminished. If they were ever to contemplate for one moment the sheer power and strength of these giants among them, the sheer magnitude of what could be unleashed when riled, they would surely not be so peaceable toward them. And be in one among thousands, that one had by all accounts killed so many times, been labelled a beast for so long, it would be detrimental to the whole clan, to the whole cause of their ‘coming out and of their kind being made known.’
So…Will weighed all this up when he heard that Vincent had killed Travis King. Another clan member would not have acted so hastily, would not have struck another without first seeing if that one delivered the first blow. For what Travis King would know and Vincent would not consider was that Travis could not use a firearm up there on the summit for fear of causing an avalanche, therefore any weapons to be used would be the knife and Vincent would likely have seen and smelt that coming. It wasn’t Vincent’s fault that he acted hastily, he had been shot in the city when faced with danger, he would take it for granted that an enemy would use that method again. He had acted impulsively, yes but he had acted to protect his life, and he could not be blamed for that.
If anything, it was Travis King that was to take the blame. Had he not placed Vincent and Swallow Tail in that predicament, likely he would still be alive, but Will still bore some of that guilt. He should have known, should have realised that Vincent would think Travis King had come to finish him off but Will had not considered this when he had forced Travis King into the helicopter and had him jump out over Begguya. In a way he had pitted two innocent men against one another, two men that would each consider the other to be hostile.
So what should he do? Avenge Travis King by turning Vincent in, or stay loyal to the clan by keeping that fact quiet? He knew that Prowling Cat would say nothing. He wasn’t quite so sure Vincent wouldn’t, but likely he would only confine in those he could trust.
All these thoughts had gone through Will’s mind as he had made the steep climb up Begguya and now it looked as though he would not make the summit at all.
The avalanche was enroute to him, he had nowhere to hide this time. No outcrop of rock to shelter beneath, no cave, no snow den, not that he would consider that safe in an avalanche anyway, but at such times any slim chance would have been better than nothing. Here he had nothing, and perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps it was right, fitting that this should be the way of things, perhaps Travis King had instigated all of this.
Will stood proud and tall watching the massive bank of snow hurtle toward him. It would take at least seven minutes to pass him by. He wondered if he would feel much of it. He thought about the blast of ice cold snow hitting his face, he imagined the feel of a thousand tons of snow and ice suffocating him, he imagined being buried beneath it for all time, to be mummified on Begguya and his body not found for thousands of years. What would they make of him then? Would the clan still be in existence? Would his body end up in some museum?
Prepared for his fate, he did not hear any other sound than the approaching avalanche so jumped when he felt something against his back. He turned surprised to fnd a rope ladder suspended from above and looking up saw the underbelly of a helicopter with a man leaning out waving one of his arms. Likely he was shouting too but Will heard nothing over the rumble of snow hurtling toward him.
Instinct had him reach for the rope ladder and wrap his arms around it. There was no time to make the climb. The moment those above him felt he was secure enough they winched him away off of the mountain and to safety. Will watched the avalanche sweep past the spot where he had been standing minutes later. He knew he would not have survived it.
Higher and higher the helicopter rose, and thankfully over the point where days earlier he had dropped Travis King. The wolves were back again milling around sniffing and finding nothing. The body that had been so tantilising to them a few moments ago was now buried beneath tons of snow and ice. It would be a long time till it were discovered and by then the wolves would get there first.
And the cell phone…Will gave up worrying. Whatever Gods had saved him that day as good as said he had nothing to worry about, yet that didn’t make him feel any less sad. Now he thought about it, never seeing Travis King again brought him great sorrow. Though since they were grown they had little to do with one another, both of them knew, both of them held onto a secret that neither wished to bear.
Now Will had other things to worry about. Why was he half way up Begguya anyway? What business did he have up there? The clan would want no one to know Vincent was up there in the first instance…and all would be so easy to hide if it were not for the pilot. The same one that had gone with Travis King to drop Vincent and Swallow Tail off initially had been the same one that had dropped him and Travis King off a day late and it would likely be the same one from whose helicopter he hung suspended now.
The signs they had left at Travis King’s home would be enough to thwart that particular problem, but why was he, Will, found climbing halfway up Begguya when he had no reason and wasn’t fully equipped to do so, and more importantly had let no one know of his intent to go? None of it would make sense…unless…
On the way to Denali Vincent and his true father Prowling Cat spoke at length and for what seemed the first time each listened to the other. Truly listened. The journey afforded them time to get to know one another and speak of their lives. Vincent spoke of Catherine often, of Father and Mary, of Devin and the tunnel children. Prowling Cat’s eyes filled with tears when Vincent related the experience of his first sight of the moon.
“So many things have been denied you, my son.” Prowling Cat placed a firm arm around Vincent’s shoulders.
“This is true, yet I have been blessed. Father…that is Jacob Wells who raised me as his own couldn’t have been a better father, no offence intented. And it has always amazed me how so many people have readily accepted me and treated me with kindness and friendship. But Catherine…” Vincent’s eye’s softened with love as he thought of his wife, “Catherine is…like no other.”
“I should like to meet her.” Prowling Cat confessed. “And I’m sure your mother would also.”
“That would be wonderful.”
They continued talking all the way back to Denali, discussing much on equal terms. When they reached the foot of the mountain, Prowling Cat told Vincent. “Swallow Tail is staying at Will’s cabin and awaiting her husband there. I believe she was dubious of returning to her family. Your brother and Darren were visiting the clan, I do not know where they may be now. What would you prefer to do, my son go to Will’s or accompany me back to your mother?”
“No disrespect, father but I should like to go to Will’s. I have been away long enough and Catherine will be anxious. But we will visit soon, I promise. I shall bring Catherine and our daughter with me.”
Prowling Cat nodded his acceptance and hugged his son farewell. Then after Prowling Cat had outlined the way to Will’s cabin they parted company each to his own way.
“Prepare the fatted calf, the prodicals have returned!” Such were the words announced over the pipes as first Devin, then Vincent followed by Darren and Swallow Tail entered the tunnels several days later.
Catherine fairly flew into her husband’s arms, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks. “Oh Vincent, Vincent!” She buried her face against the wolf furs that he still wore. In fact he had brought several garmets of wolf fur for his family. In the tunnels such garb would be lovely to wear, though travelling from chamber to chamber might prove too bulky, but sitting, reading or reciting and teaching then certainly the furs would keep every wearer toasty warm.
“Catherine.” Vincent whispered tilting her face for a kiss. His mouth moved across her lips in the way that she loved and she clung to him craving his touch further with every nerve in her body.
“I have missed you so much!” Vincent admonished.
”As I have you, dear heart.”
They walked arm in arm to Father’s chamber, where seated and with refreshments Vincent related everything that had happened.
Father listened without comment one gloved hand brushing his jaw thoughtfully, his eyes filled with a light of pride, then misgivings, then love and joy as Vincent related all that had happened while the four had been away. Darren and Swallow Tail added some narrative, Devin remained almost silent.
“So what now?” Father asked finally.
“Well I have promised Prowling Cat that I would take Catherine and our daughter to visit them, but that won’t be yet awhile. I think I need a long rest and here’s the very place I want to take it.”
“And what of Will? Did he find Travis’s grave?”
“No.” And Vincent went on to relate how Will had returned and what his experience had been.
“Yet you seem puzzled?” Father asked knowingly.
Vincent nodded. “Darren knows Will better than all of us, yet even he noticed that Will wasn’t his usual jovial self.”
Darren agreed. “Couldn’t put my finger on it. But Will seemed to want us to leave his home as soon as he discovered we were all holed up there. Oh he was polite but seemed distant somehow, a few times sharp even. He drove us to the airport, but he didn’t stay to see us off, just bid us farewell and left us standing there. It was odd, that’s all. He’s not usually like that.”
“The events of the last few days probably took their toll on him.” Father mused. “But you say he never found King’s body? Are you sure no one else will?”
“None of us can be certain of that, Father. All we know is that his body is now buried beneath several tons of snow. Will kept telling us not to worry about it and in the end we stopped doing so. In fact we found Will’s odd behaviour more mystifying and soon forgot about Travis King.”
There was a few moments silence as each contemplated many things and then Devin asked, “Anything exciting happen here while we were gone, then?”
“The papers say that the clan have been given citizenship in every country to which they reside. They are to have passports and be able to travel wherever they wish even meeting with other clan groups around the globe.” Father looked directly at Vincent when he said this.
“Don’t worry, Father. I have no plans to go anywhere. Present company excused, I have no need to meet with another clan member for a very long time!” He laughed. Swallow Tail smiled in understanding.
“So we can go out and about and not be bothered then?” Darren asked hopefully.
“Well yes, but of course as with most things, when there is something strange in their midst people can be downright horrid. You are always welcome here, and I would recommend this until a few more clan members move into New York at least.”
“Oh we don’t plan on staying in New York, Father. I want to show Swallow Tail the world!”
Father nodded in understanding. “South of Oz and North of Shangrila?”
Devin laughed and went on to explain to the couple to that which his father was referring.
They chatted long into the night, until finally tiredness drove them to their beds. Vincent had his arm protectively around his wife’s waist and led her to their chamber. Together they put their daughter to bed and then retired to their own. Their love making was sweet and tender, unrushed, it brought tears to both their eyes.
“I love you.” They chorused together as they settled down to sleep. Vincent folded Catherine close to him his large arms around her. Warm and snug and loved, they slept relaxed and safe in bliss.
*** *** ***
It must have been several weeks later when the first visitors arrived.Devin had heard of their coming and had met them at the airport. He grinned at the sight they presented and wondered if he would ever get used to seeing Vincent people walking about in the daylight. People still stared at them, and some used jibes, others though were coming round to these new citizens and would come up and talk openly with them, liking what they learned.*** *** ***
Yet if the Vincent people were now walking the streets of cities everywhere, the tunnels beneath those in New York City were still a closely guarded secret and Devin had to be cautious that they were not followed while he stowed his charges below.
Vincent had not known that they were coming, so it was a complete and utter surprise when Devin popped his head around the chamber his brother shared with Catherine and called cheerily, “Visitors for you, Bro.”
Looking up from where he sat on the bed playing with his daughter, Vincent was speechless as his eyes took in the faces of those that stepped inside his chamber. Catherine just stood and stared open mouthed.
“Father! Mother!” Vincent picked up his daughter and strode across the threadbare carpet to greet his parents. “What a joy it is to see you here!”
Meeting Vincent’s parents was a delight to Catherine, and they adored her and baby Jessica. They stayed several weeks, with promises to return often when they finally left.
Then a few more weeks lapsed and finally Swallow Tail and Darren returned after a trip home to visit her family bringing a familiar face with them.
“Will!” Vincent jumped from his seat where he was playing chess with Father and strode across to greet his old friend. He was happy to see that Will was back to his old self and greeted Vincent warmly.
“I had to come.” Will told Vincent at length after all the introductions had been made.
“You are always welcome here.” Vincent reminded him.
“I know…but…alas…sit down, Vincent there is something I have to impart.”
That sounded ominous. Vincent fumbled for his chair, his eyes wary. Father’s heart thudded painfully in his chest. Catherine stood by with baby Jessica on her hip, her eyes wide with anxiety. Devin didn’t know what to think, but he felt suddenly nervous. Mary just sat down and said nothing.
“Firstly, I owe you an apology. When we last met, I had a great deal of thinking to do. I needed time and space to do that. Finding you all at my home was simply too much. Please forgive my lack of hospitality. Know you are always welcome at my home.” He paused a little unsure how to proceed. No one spoke. All were thinking furiously. What bad news did Will have to tell them and why or how would it affect them? They waited expectantly.
“Secondly…” Will grunted and cleared his throat. “Secondly…well, there’s no easy way to say this…secondly…Travis King was my brother.”
All gasped. And the enormity of what Will said hit Vincent straight in the heart.
“Yes.” Will stated firmly and sadly. “Like you and Devin here in many respects, homo sapiens and clan, with a difference. We shared the same father.”
Still everyone failed to see what this revelation had to do with them. Oh obviously Vincent had killed Will’s brother there was that to it, but…
“I have wrestled with my conscience so much over the last few weeks, Vincent. I wanted so much to avenge my brother’s death. I know the reasons behind what happened of course I do, and Travis died due to his own deeds, even so…” he looked apologetically at Vincent. “I wanted to blurt out to any who would listen…here is your city beast…here is my brother’s killer… I wanted to do that so much!”
“Why didn’t you?” Devin asked coldly.
“And will you?” Vincent asked hardly daring to breathe.
Will sighed deep and heavily. “No. Oh don’t get me wrong, I want to, and I miss Travis so much, but I won’t blow your cover, Vincent. I promise.”
“You owe me nothing. If you wish to avenge your brother, you should do what you deem right out of loyalty to him not to someone you barely know. Clan laws or no clan laws.”
“It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?” Father asked exasperated.
“Because…I may be in my rights to do so, but it wouldn’t bring my brother back…still its not even that…” He paused as if for dramatic effect, though nothing was further from his mind. “I decided to pardon Vincent his error of slaying my brother…there were many things you should have done…many things had you of been a clan member you would have realised…but you weren’t and that’s the whole shame of it. You weren’t. And do you know why you weren’t?”
Vincent had a feeling he ought to know, but he didn’t say.
“Because, it was my father, mine and Travis’s father who kidnapped you from your family and brought you here.”
There was silence…and then the penny dropped!
“PARACELSUS!” Father cried rising to his feet.
Will turned to face him, nodded and said, “Yes…I heard that’s how you refered to him. I know him simply as John Pater.”
“John Pater is your father!” Vincent whispered with disbelief.
“And he was Travis King’s father too?” Devin asked mystified.
“How?” Catherine asked.
Will smiled a weary smile and another deep sigh followed. “By deception. I understand that John Pater’s wife was named Anna?” All nodded. “And she had a baby?”
“Yes!” All chorused together. The penny was dropping further.
“Travis King was that baby.”
Father shook his head…”No. No…you’re wrong. Anna’s baby died.”
“That’s what he led you to believe. John Pater fathered me some forty six years ago. He had relations with a member of the clan. I was the result. The clan never knew. I resided among them as one of them even though…” Will grimaced. ”I looked odd. I can grow a beard, shave too if I wish.” He grinned.
“Sixteen years after I was born John Pater returned. He brought a baby with him. A human baby. Said he was visiting and he wanted to see my mother. Said he had a proposition for her. We never discovered what that was, but while he was staying with us, he revealed to the elders of his relationship with my mother all those years before. They realised then why I was so different and were appalled. While they were figuring out what to do about it, John Pater helped Indigo Sky give birth to you, Vincent and we assume in a moment of madness he switched the babies, left Indigo Sky with a human child and kidnapped you.”
“Leaving your mother to raise not just you, Will but Travis too?” Devin asked.
Sadly, Will shook his head. “When the elders discovered that my mother had had relations with John Pater, her husband of twenty years was told. Together they stoned her to death.”
“NO!” Father exclaimed tears streaming down his cheeks.
“NO!” Vincent cried bereft.
“No!” Catherine gasped. Then asked softly, “And you? What of you?”
“I was expelled from the clan. I took my half brother with me. I raised him in the valley.” Will fell silent remembering many things, many days and experiences of raising his baby brother single-handedly. Bottle feeding, changing, teething…tears formed in his eyes…he had loved his brother so much! He missed him so much! He wiped tears from his eyes, and in a voice choked with emotion continued…”None of it was your fault, Vincent. You were stolen from your mother and your father and the clan. You were innocent…and now in an uncanny turnabout you have taken the life of the other innocent…and from what I have been told…my father also?”
Wide eyed, Vincent nodded. “I’m so sorry, Will.”
“I didn’t know him. Saw him only once. Have no wish to hear anything of him, what I know is too much. And though for a few days I was in danger of becoming like him, as evil as he was, I am not that way inclined. Not truly. And for that reason I could not lower myself to his level and tell anyone who you are, Vincent or what you have done. You’re an innocent, there is no blame upon you. What you did you did by second nature to protect those you love. And do you know? That was the one folly my father had. When he saw the clan, he was bowled over by how formidable they looked. He thought they were warriors, he dreamed that you would be such a warrior, and it was only after the elders put Blissfulness, my mother, to death that he learned differently. Oh yes, I know that sounds contradictory, but it isn’t so. The clan have laws, and we all abide by them, some may appear barbaric to modern society, but on the other hand such severe laws are a deterent against wrongdoing. When John Pater learned of my mother’s death, he was appalled. Oh he did not come up the mountain again, he stayed near but far enough, and when he discovered that the clan’s ways are based soley on love, he realised his mistake in snatching a child of theirs.
“Why did he not return me to my parents?” Vincent asked.
“Rumour has it, because we do not know for a certainty but the clan made extensive enquiries via our helpers…rumour has it that he kept you while he decided his best options…then hearing about my mother’s death he was furious with the elders and rather than retrieve his own son and return you to your parents, he whisked you away…only coming to his senses upon reaching New York. Here, he dumped you like a red hot coal, leaving you to die in the snow outside a hospital…but strange as events are…his wife desperate with grief at the loss of her child believing her husband’s story that the babe had died…and not knowing how or where it had gone…literally heard your cries and found you…and brought you here…to the exact same spot where John Pater resided. How is that for a twist of fate? Will asked sadly.
There was absolute silence in the chamber. Such a sad story, so many lives wrecked by the selfishness of one man.
“So you see…that’s why I cannot avenge my brother’s death, Vincent. There is only one to blame here, John Pater, and if you hadn’t of killed him, then I would have. I certainly thought about it often enough over the years. Obviously it was impossible, but I prayed he would return and I’d then get my chance.
“You know…” Father spoke sincerely. “When you look at it, really look at it you can see that whether you were brought up clan or brought up here among us, its been love that has been the guiding force all the way through. Not John Pater, though he did love once…he too knew love…he just let eveil corrupt him. But the clan, us, you, Vincent…all of us have been loved, have shared love have expressed love…to those less fortunate, to those that are different…yes I can see why John Pater was not impressed when he found out the clan are lovers of life rather than warriors…if you get my drift…”
“Drift…Ah!” Will took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I must return. I can see why you feel safe here, Vincent but I miss the snow and the drifts and the mountains and I long to be home. Don’t leave it too long to visit us will you? I know your siblings are excited to meet your wife and child. Prowling Cat and Indigo Sky are very proud of you, you know?”
Vincent didn’t know and he smiled. His smile brought sighs forth from his family, the story Will just related had been arduous and tragic, but it was over now, over long ago.
“Maybe…” Will spoke as he rose to leave. “Maybe…things are as they ought to be. Coming full circle. What goes around comes around. Karma has balanced the evil with the good. I’d like to make a toast though.” Will picked up Father’s half finished and now cold cup of tea. “To the continual success of the International Year of the Beast and to my brother, Travis King…” he would have said more but words failed him as tears formed in his eyes.
Vincent crossed the room and hugged Will hard. Will put his arms around Vincent and returned the embrace. “Its not your fault, brother. Its just the way of things.”
“Even so…” Vincent choked back a sob. “Had I only of known.”
Will nodded. “Aye, you have a point there. Had you of known…Travis did a lot of good in his life…that’s how he got that surname by the way…people crowned him with it years ago for all his good deeds. He will be sorely missed…”
“Talking of which?” Vincent hastened to ask.
Will shrugged. “I told everyone Travis wanted to emigrate. Told them he wanted to meet other clan around the globe. So far no one as need to doubt me. I’ll cross that bridge when and if I come to it. But never fear, Vincent. I promise I will tell no one.”
Father expelled a deep sigh of relief.
“And now I must go. My mountain and my dog is missing me.” Will headed for the entranceway. “Thank you for your hospitality.”
Will turned to find that Catherine was hurrying to him. She looked back at Vincent. “Dear Heart, let’s go now.”
“Go? Go where?”
“Back with Will. Let’s go to meet your family, on their mountain.”
“Catherine I hardly think now is the time.” Father began.
Catherine’s eyes were bright with enthusiasm. “Mary can look after Jessica. We’ll just be gone a few days.”
“Catherine’s right.” Vincent spoke at length after quickly thinking through all the possibilities. “Will would you mind?”
“Not at all.”
“Mary would you look after Jessica?”
“Just try and stop me.” Mary grinned.
“Then we’re going. Father we’ll be gone only ten days.”
“Where have I heard that before?” Devin spoke dryly and laughed.
A few days later Catherine was standing on Denali with Vincent’s arm around her waist and his parents at their side. It was early summer and the mountains were snow capped but that was all. Grass and wild flowers had sprung up everywhere. It seemed like a dream. In the sunlight Vincent’s hair rich as russet framed his leonine face and his sky blue eyes reflected that above.
“Dear Heart, you are so beautiful.” Catherine told him warmly. Hearing this, Indigo Sky and Prowling Cat thought their hearts would burst with pride.
“You are the beautiful one, my Catherine.” Vincen’t bent to brush his lips with hers. His parents looked on with love shining from their eyes.
Catherine returned his kiss, then turned to view their surroundings. “Everything is beautiful…and do you know something Vincent…” Catherine gazed adoringly up at her husband and thought her heart might burst with love for him. “Your parents named you well.“
Vincent and his parents were intrigued and waited for Catherine to explain.
“For truly, my love you are the best of everything.”
Indigo Sky laughed and linking Catherine’s arm in hers she told her happily. “My Daughter…I totally agree.”