A leased life.
Marthinus stood on the fourth level of the ARCH staring not at the beautiful pieces of art around him or at the cultured, well dressed patrons walking leisurely by - he instead stared at his hands, flexing his fingers in awe. The physical changes in his body never ceased to amaze him; his wrinkled skin had tightened, the start of aged brown spots receded and the muscles that traveled up his now defined forearms were a sight he had not seen in at least ten years. Slowly he walked by an ancient vase encased in a shiny glass container but it was his reflection that caught his eye. His body had transformed, continued to transform rather and his physique was that of a athletic thirty year old.
Looking up he tried to break his obsession with his appearance and take in the surroundings as well as look for Lily. At Hammerthynn and Xeph's insistence, he had made arrangements to meet the matriarch here at the museum. She would hopefully help make the transition into his new life a little easier but he had put off this meeting for months he supposed because he did not want to transition seamlessly - he did not want to shed his old persona for this new one, new lease on life or not. It was like a lease, because his life was certainly not his own, not anymore.
Nervously Marthinus took a deep breath and smoothed the front of his tailored yet casual linen suit with his new young hands. An unwrinkled but soft light colored button up, opened at the throat with a slightly shade darker tan jacket and pants. It was spring in Nachton with the temperatures finally creeping back up into the 70's and 80's and he tried to enjoy the weather while he could. The winter had been bitter and one he wanted to forget.
Less certain was whether or not she could instill in him what being Kadzait truly meant. While not all of them had the luxury of growing up in the Pack, Marthinus was much older than any Kadzait was usually Gifted. Furthermore, she understood his previous associations had left him strong ties elsewhere, and she did not want to break those.
So she stood on the ground floor, her keener-than-average senses telling her without looking exactly where Marthinus was. Let him approach her. Let him come when he was comfortable, and if that moment did not come today, she could claim not to have seen him and let him try again another day.
They had time, after all.
He ached for familiar, for something resembling home to him. Marthinus concentrated on that feeling of warmth, letting it guide him in his daze filled wanderings. His office filled with fresh flowers, his high rise condo filled with his personal treasures, his family...how Marthinus ached to see his son, to stand side by side with Simon and the clan but instead he found himself back on the ground floor of the Arch, alone in one of the rear exhibits listening to the sound of shoes clacking on the floor and the scent of flowers beckoning him. And there she was.
Marthinus found himself looking at a woman his own age with long auburn hair and beautiful green eyes. Her entire aura was peaceful and regal. For the first time he had let his sense go, to try and capture that familiar sensation of being at home and ironically it led him to her.
'You must be Lily,' Marthinus said with a small smile.
So here he was, standing behind her as she turned to greet him. He was not unattractive. He had a rugged sort of charisma about him that she imagined must have been very appealing formerly, but months of doubt and insecurity had taken their toll on his features.
Lily smiled back, every sense taking the measure of this man, memorizing him as Pack. "Marthinus," she said with a nod. "I'm glad you came."
The sentiment was genuine. Lily was very happy to see him here. If they did nothing else today, they could enjoy each other's company. She imagined that at this point, that must be equally as important as discovering who and what he was. Lily knew Iov and Aidan could be... somewhat intense. For a man so used to being in control of everything, having to deal with those two on top of this new change must be a burden.
"What would you like to do?"
This question was important to Lily. Marthinus' answer would set the tone of their meeting and it was entirely up to him. If he preferred to view the exhibits casually, she would happily accompany him. If he wanted to get down to "business' and discuss things directly, Lily could do that as well. The ball was in his court though. She would take things as fast or as slow as he desired. This was about him.
'Well it is my understanding that you are here because of my inability to...understand...my new unique position. Any advice would be appreciated.' Marthinus paused in front of a sculpture and then added, 'This is a life I blindly chose and to say I'm not full of regrets would be an understatement.'
Laying her hand gently upon his arm she shook her head at him. "No, you misunderstand. I am not here because of inability on your part. I'm here because I have the time and the inclination to help where I can, if I can."
She didn't add that part of it was the fact that both her Alpha and his Beta were most likely trying to give her something useful to do. Since arriving in the US and becoming a widow, Lily was at loose ends. She did not want Marthinus to perceive this meeting as a result of his own inability, however.
"If you would like my advice," she said, still in the same soft tone, accentuated by her very light Scottish accent, "I would view this as an opportunity."
She watched Marthinus' face as she spoke, trying to gauge his reaction to her words. "You stand on the bridge between worlds. It is a very special position, and a very unique one, that not many people can claim to have experienced."
Turning slightly, Lily guided Marthinus to a smaller exhibit tucked away in a side room. "This is Hecate," she said, indicating the statue that stood there. "She is a minor Greek goddess, known for such things as trivia, farsightedness, and change. In the past, people would tribute her by placing a pole at the three-way crossroad and hanging three masks from it, supposedly to ask advice in which direction to choose."
She smiled at Marthinus. "I imagine you must feel like such a one. You stand at a juncture of roads; human, vampire, Pack. As if that weren't enough, you embody past, present, and future as well."
She looked back at the statue of the goddess. "You need not choose a direction," she said. "Not if you don't wish to. But to justify your discontent by saying you regret will not move you on. What is done has been done, and while you may turn and look back down that road, you cannot make your feet travel backwards."
'I owe Hammerthynn my life and appreciate the risk he took for me - I'm just perplexed by his...demeanor. He shares very little if not nothing of himself. I understand his role is to protect the Alpha, correct? As is his cousin, Mr. Jameson? They are pack protectors?'
He wanted to understand the nature of the pack and he thought understanding Hammerthynn would help. Hopefully Lily would be able to share some insight on him.
"Iov's role as protector is largely due to my request," she admitted, "although yes, protecting the entire Pack is part of his job."
She considered her words carefully, uncertain how much Pack history Marthinus had learned in the last few months. "Previously, my husband Liam was the Alpha. Iov's line, the Hammerthynns, have long been Pack protectors, Betas, loyal friends. Iov's loyalty, and mine, came first.
"Liam was a strong leader. He was fiercely protective of his family, not just myself and Aidan, but all Kadzait."
She paused for a moment, feeling an echo of the love they had shared very early on in their marriage.
"But Liam was tied to old ways, old thoughts. Aidan learned differently. He saw humans, Illamar, as equals. Not as slaves, as previous conception had been. The Illamar were rising, ready to take their share of rights and privileges if they weren't going to be given freely. That forced Iov into the role of protector more than anything else.
"When things changed, when Aidan became Alpha, there was still a great deal of strife. The Illamar love him and respect him, as do most of the Amaroq. But there are many who are still tied to the old ways who would replace Aidan with someone more traditional, knock down the Illamar, see them as inferior once again."
She watched to make sure Marthinus was following her; it was important to inform him of the Kadzaits' history, for him to understand why Iov acted the way Iov acted.
"When Aidan left, I felt obligated to remain with Liam. He was no longer the Alpha, replaced by his own son. His pride was wounded and his mind was not as strong as it used to be. As much as I wanted to support my son, I had to remain behind while he went off to change the world. But I asked Iov to travel with him, a favor from one friend to another."
She smiled sadly. "So you see, the man you have met has been tempered as a protector by years of strife, years of civil war, and lifetimes of memories. But that is not his only role as the Beta. He upholds all the Kadzait beliefs and enforces Pack law as decreed by the Alpha. He leads in Aidan's stead when he is not able to be present."
Lily shook her head. "It is a great thing, to be Gifted by such a man. Difficult, yes, but great. Iov will not expect love from you, nor sentimentality of any kind. The greatest pupil you could be would be a loyal Pack member who will keep his Pack safe."
She let her hands fall away to her sides. "I'm not suggesting you turn yourself into such, if that isn't what you feel you can be. But if you want insight into Iov, the Pack is his life. It is my life, and it is Aidan's life. Once you become Kadzait, you become family regardless of your beginnings. We will protect you with every bit as much fervor as we hope, in time, you will wish to protect us."
'These feelings I have, these emotions around certain people...people I have known all my life and cared for. People I don't want to cut out of my life. How can I control these rages? Can I?' Marthinus stopped and faced Lily. 'I am grateful for what Hammerthynn has done. He saved my life, but what kind of life is it when I'm forced to forget every thing and every one that is true to me?
'Don't misunderstand me, I would not trade being a werewolf to being a vampire. I think I mistook immortality with just not being ready to go. My life with the vampires was a volatile and very dangerous one - but I can't let go of wanting to protect one family for another.'
Dropping his hands to his sides he sighed. 'I can't begin to learn this new life when I cannot forget the old one. When I don't wish to forget.'
Marthinus knew he wasn't worthy of this gift Hammerthynn bestowed on him. He had wanted to live, not...serve, but both lives wanted him to do just that.
'I have a son, like you. You had to let yours go to stay with one life while he forged ahead with his. You know what I'm going through. To be separated from something that made you whole - for better or for worse.'
"The emotions you feel are the result of hundreds and thousands of years of animosity towadr a single race. Vampires may have forgotten about werewolves, but we could never forget about them, not when they were the ones who forced our exile and drove us into the remote climes that have forged us into what we are today." Her voice was still soft, but there was a hint of steel beneath the silk that came from the force that inhabited every werewolf, young or old.
"It is an ancient war, one that the Kadzait would very much like to put behind us. But like any emotion you must learn to understand it for what it is... a gut feeling, a knee-jerk reaction. And like any emotion, you must use your mind and your will to overcome it and understand that emotion does not need to rule you."
Pressing her hand upon Marthinus' arm once more, Lily corrected him gently. "It is you who misunderstands us," she said. "I don't think it necessary for you to turn your back on your family, forget them, leave them. No one would ask that of you. Family is important."
Smiling now, she gestured to herself with her free hand. "You just have more family than you did last year, and they are depending upon you to help them do the most basic of feats - live."
How to explain herself to Marthinus without frightening him off though? Lily was silent for a few moments while she considered her choice of words.
"You need not order a uniform and sign on for the Kadzait militia," she said with a slight air of mischief, "but by respecting our family and our Pack's right to coexist peacefully with our neighbors, vampire, human, or otherwise, you will be doing your part."
As she spoke, her lighthearted air diminished and her face became grave. "I cannot tell you what the future holds. If your two families decide to war with each other, I can't guide your heart to choose one side over the other. I can sympathize, oh yes. I was there. I stayed where I needed to be, watched Aidan do amazing things that I would have loved to take part in to show him I loved him, to show him I was proud of him..."
She broke off, emotional, and shook her head before squeezing Marthinus' arm. "I stayed where I was needed most, and fulfilled my duty to the Pack as the wife of the former Alpha. That duty has ended, and I am now free to choose another path."
Where would Marthinus' path take him from here? "You may not need to choose, Marthinus. As I said before, you are at a crossroads. You have the power within you to unite three races, three ancient adversaries, or at the very least to promote a peaceful coexistence. For our parts, that is all the Kadzait require. We do not wish to be forced back into the cold north, cut off from the world. I cannot speak as the Pack Alpha, but I can promise you that unless provoked, there will be no aggression from the Kadzait. Our goal is simply to live."
The discussion had taken a considerably darker path than Marthinus had intended, but after living the life of a captive familiar, he of all people would know what was coming.
'So now I have to decide - which side will I be on?' And this led to many nights full of suicidal thoughts but he neglected to tell Lily that, although she probably already suspected. He was just too old to adjust to this new life. Too old to do anything to stop what was coming.
'I respect what the pack, what our pack wants here in Nachton. I do. But I know there are those that look at me with resentment, knowing exactly where I came from. I can't live either life without the other tainting it.' Marthinus took Lily's hand and patted it gently. 'I do thank you for this. I hope we do get to talk again, very soon.'
Trying to smile Marthinus cleared his throat and changed the subject. 'So - what was Mr. Hammerthynn like as a young man? I'm anxious to know what my gifter was like before...he started eating little children.'
She knew very little of vampires, it was true, and with that statement she had pretty much reached the extent of her knowledge.
"There must always be hope. Not all werewolves feel the same, and I must believe that therefore not all vampires feel the same. We will reach a common ground."
Or die trying, was the unspoken completion of that statement. The Kadzait and yes, even the Vyusher, had been in exile long enough. There would be no more hiding. It was simply do or die.
"Perhaps you will not have to choose a side," she said. "Maybe you will learn to walk that line without falilng either way. The choice, the motivation, they're yours and yours alone." She repeated her words with conviction, "You have the ability to be something, someone, none of us have ever seen before. And you have the strength to do it."
She shook her head. "We must all weather the storms ahead. No boat sails smoothly and our journey has been rough since the beginning. But we will live. We are resilient. We will survive. And we will help you survive it, Marthinus. The Pack will not abandon one of its own, regardless of how torn your loyalties may be."
It was spoken with all the fierce conviction of a she-wolf, albeit in Lily's soft, gentle tones. No matter how anyone looked at him, when it came down to it the Pack would support Marthinus, because that was how it worked. In the wild, perhaps, a loner might become an outcast if he couldn't fit in, but that did not happen with the Kadzait. Their wolfish personalities were tempered by more rational thinking human sides, and in the Kadzait that created a system where the Pack was only as strong as its weakest member. You didn't cut the weakest member out - you helped bolster him to make him stronger. Marthinus would learn, in time.
Seeing that a change of subject was at hand, Lily went along with it. They'd had enough heavy conversation for one afternoon, and she was pleasantly surprised to be enjoying Marthinus' company. He was intelligent and pleasant to talk to, and Lily had rarely had the opportunity to freely converse with any man, Pack or not, regardless of how simple the topic.
"Iov was weaned on little children," she returned to Marthinus with a carefree smile. "He didn't have to start."
Thinking about it, though, she continued. "He was always intense. Focused, driven. Loyal. A little bit of a ladies' man," she admitted with a laugh, "although through no conscious effort of his own. I think women wanted to crack 'the mystery' of Iov."
She shook her head, remembering with a little laugh the number of hopelessly lovelorn Amaroq who had pledged their undying love to the surly Beta and never succeeded in winning what they wanted.
"There was nothing to 'crack,'" she admitted to Marthinus, who above anyone deserved to know about Iov. "Iov is a simple man. His family have been doing what they've been doing since before memory which, as you can understand, is quite a long time for a werewolf."
Strolling out from the exhibit now, at Marthinus' side, she shrugged her shoulders slightly. "His enjoyments are plain. Books, learning, games of intelligence. Conversation, too, although it's difficult to get him started. If you can hold him long enough to gain his interest in a topic, he will enjoy a good conversation."
'I've not heard about his eye - what happened?
"A Hammerthynn tradition," she explained. "Their line is notorious for having only sons, and it is a long-standing tradition for the father rip out his son's eye at Gifting."
She couldn't help hiding a grimace. "Rather a bit of a gruesome tradition, but they maintain it further develops their skills as hunters. To learn with a handicap is to excel."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Who am I to judge. Iov is an excellent hunter, and his father before him was as well. Perhaps there's some truth to it."
'Maybe one of the Pipers?'
"No, Iov has no sons. It seems there may be a break in Hammerthynn tradition after all these years."
There was sadness in her voice, however. "I like to think he would have made an excellent father. Iov can be patient and loving, in his own way. it just takes a little extra to bring it out in him."
She let her smile drift back across her face. "But there's still time. Our lives are longer than most, and it could be Iov still has yet to meet the woman who will tame the beast, so to speak."
Continuing their relaxed pace, she searched Marthinus' face. "What of you? You have a son, what does he do? Have you any daughters?" She paused a moment, since he hadn't mentioned it, then continued, "A wife?"
Marthinus' forehead crinkled at the absurdity of that statement, but looking over at Lily's slow smile he wondered if maybe the person who cracked that vault had been her. Dismissing the thought he smoothed his forehead with his fingers and continued his slow stroll.
'My son's name is Jacob. He has taken over running Duibne Industries for me and is the acting CEO. I have no other children.' Marthinus paused and then added, 'I was not permitted.'
The truth behind that statement was a cruel one. Jacob would be the first Huntington member to have more than one child, if he was so inclined. Ellis had, in fact, chosen Jacob's mother and after a short relationship the woman had become pregnant with Marthinus' child. After Jacob's birth he never saw her again. He would learn later that she had been killed per Ellis' order. He never understood the reasoning behind killing the non-Huntington parent other than Ellis wanting to be the central focus of their life. To live was to serve, he wagered.
He was not forthcoming with this explanation.
'No wife, either. Dubine Industries was everything - there wasn't time but I suppose that's all I have now.' They crossed through to the opposite side of the ground floor and entered another group of exhibits. 'I am sorry to hear of your husband. It was a long, good life, of course?'
"It is a blessing in itself to have a child," she said. "I always wanted many, and believe me, it wasn't for lack of trying. But finally I was given Aidan, and what a child he turned out to be."
She gave Marthinus a little grin. "We all dream our sons will grow up to change the world... I didn't think mine would actually do it."
At Marthinus' expression of sympathy over Liam's death, Lily frowned. "He had a good life, yes. His later years were... difficult. Liam had many traits that made him a strong leader, but like us all he had faults as well, and as he aged he became worse and worse. Aidan's Challenge was the breaking point, I think. He was never the same again."
She shook her head, sighing at the memories that were still so fresh. "I never expected it to end up how it did. He was murdered."
She broke off there; enough said. She didn't want to burden Marthinus with this sort of thing... but he had suffered loss too, so not only would he understand, but it was something that could draw them together more.
Sad to think of Liam's death in that light, but then, Lily was growing accustomed to the frequent realization that Liam had done far more good in death than he had in th last half of his life.
'Well I don't know about you but I have enjoyed our chat. I appreciate everything. What do you say I treat us to a nice lunch over at Grand Piazzo? Fresh, but not too fresh.' With a smile Marthinus held out his arm for her to take. He did feel better about the situation and he had Lily to thank - the least he could do was take her to a nice lunch.
((ooc - Marty out pending response - LETS EAT!)
"I enjoyed sharing your time," she agreed with him. "I would be happy to join you for lunch."
She took the offered arm and walked with Marthinus toward the exit of the museum. Perhaps with faith and hope, someone to believe he really could be the man she saw the potential for, Marthinus would find the will to continue to walk the line.
((ooc: Lily out!))