PART TWENTY-FOUR

Ron's grassy bonds loosened slightly, allowing him to twist and look where the voice was coming from. His fellow shifters were not so lucky; their flora straight jackets continued to hold them tightly.


Standing at the entrance to the Hall, her once wet curls now a red, fiery tangle, was Mary. She was staring daggers at Gary, the only other person in the room not bound and helpless.


Gary, towering above her, his right claw still stained with Lycanon's blood, spoke politely but forcefully. "This is Conclave business, Mary. Now release my people."


Gary's words did nothing to soften Mary's mood as the long grass tightened further, eliciting groans from many of those lying beside him.


"Our agreement with the Conclave did not include killing within her walls."


Mary's emphasis on the word "not" drew more groans, including one from Ron, who could feel his ribs on the verge of snapping.


"This is a place of peace, a place of safety. We offer sanctuary to all those that seek it. Violence is forbidden!"


Several snaps could be heard throughout the Hall, accompanied by yelps of pain. Ron felt Mary’s rage, as surely as if it were his own. He cursed Gary, himself and his whole species for desecrating this sacred space. Others around him began cursing too, and Ron remembered how Mary’s laughter had infected the patrons at the restaurant. Perhaps her rage was infectious as well?


Gary smoothly shifted back into human form, his voice softening. "Muirenne. I meant no disrespect. You and this Inn, this Ósta Mór, have been an ally of the Conclave and the Faoladh for centuries. I hope you both know that in normal times I would never dream of desecrating this sacred sanctuary, but there's nothing normal about these times. It's not just the lives of myself and my brothers and sisters at stake here; the Harmony affects the lives of all the Children Beyond the Veil, be they sprite or spirit, fairy or Faoladh.


Ron couldn't believe what he was hearing. Until now, he'd only really half-believed what the twin sisters had told him; that werewolves weren't the only magical creatures, and the world was filled with miracles. But now? If what they said was true, then maybe the mistakes he'd made, the risk he put his brothers and sisters in, would all be worth it.


Not being privy to Ron's inner thoughts, Mary seemed less moved by Gary's words, though most in the Hall found it suddenly easier to breathe. Her shoulders relaxed, and she paused for several heartbeats before she spoke. Ron also felt the rage inside him dissipate, though the embers still lingered.


"These are indeed unusual times, my friend, but when can we truly say our time is anything but? We are Children Beyond the Veil. Fate is our reflection, prophesy our shadow. Our deaths have been foretold many times, yet we are still here. We have survived through war, the inquisition, industrial revolution and now the computer age. How is this Dead Wolf Prophesy any different?"


"Because." Gary said, holding Mary's gaze.


After several more heartbeats, it was clear Gary wasn't going to elaborate further, which irritated Ron. Apparently, though, this was enough for Mary. The grass suddenly released everyone, receding into the floorboards as quickly as it had appeared. Several dozen werewolves gasped, dispelling Ron's previous assertion.


Mary walked over to Ron, the other werewolves parting before her. They looked away, not meeting her gaze. Ron's nose ticked as the air filled with the scent of anger, mixed with respect and a dash of fear.


She helped Ron to his feet."Well, that was quite a lot of excitement."


"Yes," Ron answered, the rage he felt melting away like tired muscles in a hot bath. Her smile was still as big as he remembered, though he felt it was just for him. Behind those pale green eyes, he sensed something else, something darker.


"When all the grown-ups are done with their grown-up plans, come see me."


Ron nodded dumbly.


Releasing his hand, she walked to Gary as the crowd parted again.


#


As Ron watched Mary walk away, a firm hand gripped his shoulder.


"What was all that about Nephew?" asked Brian.


Clasping his Uncle's forearm in greeting, Ron ignored the question, countering with a smile, "It's good to see you, Uncle."


Ron was pleased his Uncle was there. He still felt sick from the events of just a few moments ago. It was hard to believe it had only been hours since he barely escaped his pursuer and only a few minutes since he entered the Hall. Now, a living legend was dead, killed by his brother in ritual combat, and the woman whose smile made his knees weak had incapacitated over fifty werewolves; the strongest, smartest, most cunning shifters of all thirteen clans - with nothing but an angry lawn.


It has been quite a morning.


Brian grabbed Ron around the shoulders in a half-bear hug. Both winced as their ribs protested the effort, not yet fully recovered from their recent turf war.


"This is a proud day for our clan, Nephew. Our Alpha has solidified his authority over the Thirteen and has done so with honour. We can now unite behind his leadership, fulfil the prophesy and save our people."


"And the other Children Beyond the Veil," Ron added.


"What?"


"The other Children,” repeated Ron. “The other magical creatures. We'll save them as well, right?"


Brian studied his nephew's face, his own a mask of seriousness. “What do you know of the Children Beyond the Veil?”


Ron wasn't used to this level of scrutiny from his Uncle. Brian had been a big part of his life since his father died two years ago, but their relationship was more like a fun uncle than an actual parent. Before this, the most challenging question he had asked Ron was how much ketchup he wanted on his poutine. And that was a trick question.


Seconds passed uncomfortably until Brian's mask cracked, a wide grin splitting it down the middle.


"Sorry, Nephew. I know you don’t know anything. Your father kept those facts from you. Well, I’m glad you know now.”


"Why didn’t he want me to know, Uncle? "


“He wanted to keep you safe. I think he thought of ignorance as a shield.”


Ron jerked his shoulder from his Uncle’s grasp and turned away, kicking the grassy floor. “How does being ignorant keep me safe? Why lie to me about the world?”


At his question, Ron noticed several ears perk up around him and rotate

in his direction. He cursed himself for speaking so openly. Like all members of Canis lupus, werewolves had eighteen muscles that control their ears but only four to control their mouths, or, in Ron's case, none.


Brian lowered his voice, “Your father knew from experience that too much knowledge can be dangerous Ron. Let’s leave it at that for now.”


His uncle then turned to look at Gary, who was still speaking with Mary.


"Again, let me thank you both for your hospitality fair Muirenne. I am humbled by your generosity, and I will do everything I can to respect your rules while we're here."


Brian leaned in close to Ron. "Have you noticed how your brother continues to say "I" and not "we"?


Ron nodded, unsure of the significance.


"He's taking responsibility for the actions here today. He's telling Mary if there are consequences, they should be shouldered by him alone."


Ron was surprised, "Isn't he taking a big risk? He can't guarantee what everyone will do here."


"Yes." Brian agreed. "But if he's responsible, he's also in charge. And for this mission to succeed, we need a leader everyone will follow."

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