Sitting on the Dock of the Bay ((Private: Dana))
Mara walked with Dana in silence; it wasn't far to the Marina. At the end of the empty dock, she stopped. The roll of the tide would conceal their words from anyone who should happen by, and they would be able to see anyone coming a long way off. At this time of the night the dock was practically empty; the few boats moored here were unoccupied and covered.
Mara sat at the end of the dock, swinging her feet in an almost childlike manner, out over the lapping waves of the ocean. Leaning back on the heels of her hands she tipped her head up at Dana, black hair fanning out behind her in the breeze.
"So you wish to know about wolves," she said speculatively. "Is there anything you know already, or is there a point you wish me to begin from?"
Here they could speak in peace, openly. It was ironic that out in the open they could say things that they could not say in the discreet darkness of the club, but such was the world they lived in.
She looked out over the bay. Mara was right, her book could be read if someone took the time. She'd make her notes, assimilate the information and destroy the book...later.
She was uncertain exactly how much Dana had read, still. Mara had been in Heolfor's library but not recently.
"There have been many successions of leadership amongst the weres. Do you not wish to begin with something more basic, though? Or was the information at Heolfor sufficient to cover things like physiology and culture?"
She smiled apologetically. "It has been some time since I perused Heolfor's offerings. Clearly I need to do so again."
She tilted her head to one side, recalling all that she had read earlier. "I was referring to the most recent, from Liam to his son. There was not much detail, I would prefer you begin there, and move forward. Please."
So Dana wanted to know about the current regime? "There are two types of wolves. The differences are both biological and cultural."
She briefly described the two wolf Packs, adding at the end, "The larger of the two, Kadzait they call themselves, are led by the Xephier family. Or have been recently. The Vyusher, they contend with a different contact. Amir has had the charge of the Kadzait for quite some time now."
She thought for a little while. "Liam died two years ago." She didn't elaborate upon the circumstances. "His son, Aidan, the man you see in the news again and again, had taken up the mantle of leadership prior to that. Under his guidance these werewolves seek to make a place for themselves in our world, in our cities."
She turned to Dana. "You see why this could be problematic. having read what you've read, you understand that the weres pollute our food supply. They must abide by the rules and stay away from our populations. But Aidan Xephier doesn't see it that way and the Pack follows him."
She tilted her head. "Part of Amir's job is to... remove Aidan. Or control him. Either one."
Mara let Dana absorb that information and said, "I am unaware of the process by which Liam passed control of the Pack to his son. Nor do I know what transpired. I do know that the previous leader was very unstable."
"I have to wonder which option would be best. It seems to me that control of the pack leader would be the better scenario. It might prove easier to keep them where they belong."
Resting her chin on her knees she let several more thoughts percolate through her mind. "Does Aidan have a mate? I have observed that a man with a woman he loves will do anything to protect her. Is mate the right word? I assume that since they fashion everything else after their wild counterparts, they do so where women are concerned as well."
She didn't expect a response. "Amir is very good at it, but he has had plenty of practice and even he has found Xephier to be a challenge. I don't doubt he's considered that it might be easier to eliminate Xephier altogether and let the Pack fight it out for Alpha. They recently changed leadership; in the last forty years or so. Not entirely new for them, but not long enough that there aren't more than a few dissenters remaining."
She had laid out the options; clearly Amir had chosen to try to maintain control over Xephier. Elimination of the Alpha was definitely a possibility. Not necessary yet, even though Mara had to wonder how much of this was Amir's pride and how much was Subira's direction.
"A mate, I imagine it's a proper enough term for animals," Mara said dismissively. "He has a girlfriend. But lately we haven't seen them together much and there are very few intelligence reports that suggest they're very serious."
Mara didn't put it past Xephier to hide an emotional attachment, but lately he hadn't seemed to be hiding much.
"I know Amir has kept Xephier busy, however. There may be no time left for such pleasures."
"Do you know this girlfriend's name? Place of work that sort of thing?"
She had an idea percolating in her head, one that she would flesh out and present to Amir later. She could only hope that this is what he had in mind for her to do with the information she gathered.
"Yes, I know who it is."
Then she lifted a shoulder. "Was, anyway. It doesn't matter," she pointed out. "The Alpha is very protective of his dogs. It is not difficult to rouse him."
She could only guess that Dana's thoughts were headed in that direction. Blackmail was nothing new to Mara, but it was something they didn't often use in this particular battle.
"There are any number of people we could use to hold sway over Xephier."
Mara paused for a moment. "I should point out that this task is Amir's. When he asks for our assistance we answer him, but in this none of us answer to Subira."
It was something that made Amir's creator very wary, Mara supposed. Just because Amir remained Subira's didn't mean Amir's children did. Of course they respected her and usually did what she asked, since her desires and Amir's generally ran in similar directions. But if push came to shove, Amir's children would take his side and follow his commands alone.
"If you really want to join this cause, you can ask Subira to accept you, or you can remain unofficial, as we are, and be slightly limited."
Mara made a distasteful face. "I recommend the latter."
She let one shoulder lift in a shrug. "You can keep it to yourself if you choose, I can go elsewhere."
At this she turned and looked fully at Mara. "My involvement here extends as far as Amir and his need of my particular set of skills. He sent me to you Mara, with the surety that you would answer my questions, not give me thinly veiled threats. I know what my role is and I will not go beyond it until asked."
She had no wish to be harsh with Mara, not really, but she'd pushed a button in Dana. She did not need to be protected, especially not with passive aggressive threats. Not a stupid woman, Dana did not enjoy being spoken to as one. It was an issue she knew, but Mara did not know her well enough to know better, or to earn the right of intimacy that would prevent Dana from reacting harshly.
Mara had intended to give her advice, information she knew Dana needed, as Dana did not.
"You're so certain of yourself," she said a little bitterly, "that you presume to know better than I, what you should know and what you shouldn't? My intent was simply to inform you of the politics behind the curtains on our side, which you cannot possibly know of unless you had lived with us, worked with us, for far longer than a night or two."
Mara found herself angry, annoyed, and uncertain why. Normally Dana's, or anyone's, presumptuous attitude wouldn't have bothered her. Feeling petty, she allowed herself a snipe or two.
"You are here because Amir wanted you to learn about werewolves, and you cannot learn enough about them in such a short period to jump feet first into this mess. You may share his bed, but do not think that gives you the same rights to demand of me what my creator would."
Her pale eyes were cold, angry. How dare Dana order her about as if she spoke with Amir's voice, used his words? She bit back more angry words, upset beyond reason, her dislike of conflict helping her retrain her unreasonable emotions.
Amir would be unhappy with her for this. She shouldn't have spoken to Dana like that... but augh! What a mess! Mara's eyes bore into Dana's for a moment longer, but she took a deep breath and composed herself.
When she spoke again her voice was calm. She didn't ask forgiveness for her sharp words; her apology would be tendered to Amir, not to this demanding child.
"I don't know why he didn't see fit to deliver this information to you himself," she said suddenly. "Books and secondhand information are not his style."
Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully and she tapped her fingernail against her bottom lip thoughtfully.
Amir had asked her to learn about the wolves. Read the books and seek out Mara. He did not say don't ask questions; don't expect details; don't ask for more than she tells you the first time around. What did Mara expect? That she would be satisfied with ambiguous non-information? That telling her to steer clear of Subria was news to her?
She was an intelligent woman with a quick mind that assimilated and processed information easily and quickly. Dana was perfectly capable of taking the small amount of information she'd been given, and expand it into something useful and more complete.
Mara's question caught her off guard and she answered it first. "Perhaps because Subria sent him out to take care of something tonight. What, I do not know, he chose to keep that to himself."
She sighed softly, her heart still very much afraid for Amir's safety. "I have never in my lifetime been accused of what you accuse me of. Amir sent me out to amass knowledge. You have told me very little more than the books did, and you threatened me with someone I know very well to stay away from. Amir does not caution lightly and it should have occurred to you that he would have given me sufficient warning."
Her lilting voice, was soft as she spoke. She was stung my Mara's words and worried for Amir. She was not prone to petulance, but she felt it just a little when she spoke again. "I may not know a great deal about hand to hand combat, but I am a trained assassin, and I can hide well. He should have taken me with him. I think that perhaps I have not shown him enough of myself to be trusted."
Heavy-hearted she turned her face back to the ocean, and watched the water lap at the distant shore.
"I would prefer you stop using the word 'threat,'" she said with soft vehemence. "I haven't once threatened you. All I've tried to do since you came to me was give you information that is important for you to know. Why must you persist in this idea that I'm a threat to you? I have not, nor will I, cause you harm."
Mara was irritated by Dana's continued use of the word, and her stubborn insistence that Mara was somehow threatening her.
"You seem to think that because you've read books, you know everything there is to know about werewolves. Amir gave you what you needed to begin learning, but this is a process that takes some time." Her tone took on a little echo of Dana's. "And, it 'should have' occurred to you, as well, that I am no blind lackey. Amir has known me for nearly two thousand years. I know him. And I know how far to go with one who is just learning."
As she watched Dana's pensive face, Mara had difficulty feeling sympathetic. Peace, she told herself. Why she should immediately respond to Dana with anger was unknown to her. She didn't like trying to help and being rebuked, though.
The young woman's assertions that she was a trained assassin nearly had Mara chuckling, but she caught herself. One didn't assassinate werewolves under a full moon. One...
Mara rose to her feet in one fluid motion. "Subira sent him out for what?"
She reached out and grasped Dana's shoulder, attempted to turn her away from her soulful gaze out over the water.
"Did he tell you anything else, Dana? Anything at all?"
Dana sighed again. She seemed to think her a simple child, and it was beyond irritating. She opened her mouth to speak again, when Mara stood and grabbed her shoulder. With out choice, she gave the vampire her gaze.
"He didn't tell me what she tasked him, only that it was a test of some kind to see if it was luck or skill that kept him alive the last time."
She blinked several times, and stood in a single motion. "I was right to worry, wasn't I?"
Her anger, hurt, irritation and all other thing washed away in the sudden panic that surrounded her heart and made a hard knot in her belly.
She thrust her finger up at the sky, at the pregnant moon that hung there like an omen. "Look."
Mara shook her head, her straight black hair fanning out around her shoulders. "I don't like this. They are out tonight. All over the place. Amir is no coward, but even he would think twice before venturing out alone under the full moon. The risk is greater; reason often goes by the wayside when the madness is upon them."
She pulled out her cell phone, flipped it open, and hit a single button. Turning to Dana she said, "Come along if you like. But take no risks. They are faster and more dangerous than you seem to want to give them credit for, little assassin."
Diverting her attention for a few minutes she spoke into the phone. "Bao. We have trouble, perhaps." Her pale eyes flickered to Dana. "A little bird just told me a secret."
It took but a moment to communicate with her sibling. Snapping the phone shut, Mara turned and began to jog up the dock. Dana's clothing was hardly appropriate for this occasion, but she didn't have time to change. Mara's own outfit was only slightly more sensible; a dark charcoal grey tank top with a cowl neck, paired with fitted jeans. Unlike Dana, though, Mara wore sneakers.
She turned north, toward the vast open acreage that separated the Waterfront from the werewolves' supposed territory. It would be the first place to look for them. That was where they'd gone before. It was where Amir would go tonight, most likely.
Mara didn't like it; they were unprepared for this. She wasn't completely defenseless; she wore two silver rings on each hand. Knowing what their purpose in Nachton was, she wasn't ever without some bit of the metal, but had she realized what tonight would bring, she would have had more. Amir, though, would have gone dressed for battle, she was sure.
Maybe she was worried for nothing, but her recent conversation with Bao had her paranoid. Subira was up to something and Mara didn't like the possibilities.
"I would tell you not to worry, that I can hold my own, but you wouldn't believe me and Amir told me I am not ready. I will stay out of sight, that is the best I can promise."
She listened intently to Mara's conversation with Bao, and then they were off. Her sandals slapping across the boards. She paused long enough to rip the leather from her feet and with a small sprint caught back up with Mara. Her mind went to the clothing she was wearing, inventorying with colors and their task at hand. As they ran, deft fingers ripped loose the over skirts, leaving only the brown under skirt. She shoved the fabric into a waste bin they passed, and continued to jog next to Mara. It would have to do, at least now she was no longer a glowing white beacon in the night, well except for her skin but she wasn't a cameleon.
She had no idea where they were headed, but she trusted that Mara did and so kept pace.
((Mara and Dana out with permission.))