Friday, 19 April 2013

Q is for Questions

Today on the A to Z Blogging Challenge, this is the second part of The Hidden War #3, A Fork In The Road. Part one can be found here.

Author's Note

I've been mulling over this Young Adult universe, The Hidden War, since I first adapted a Harry/Draco fanfic story premise for use in The Wittegen Press Giveaway Games. I found myself writing two stories in The Hidden War series when I'd only planned one, and then I found myself writing a drabble, It Takes Two, for FB3X Drabble Cascades as well and I finally decided that this universe is worth expanding into more stories. So, I haveam serialising story #3, A Fork In The Road, here on my blog.

The stories are based in a Great Britain where, unknown to us ordinary folk, there is a war raging, The Hidden War. The stories follow two young men thrust into the war by birth, on opposite sides: Damon Wulfres, son of one of the most powerful and ruthless demon raisers in the land; Zac Kithrall, a demon-seer and would-be slave to any raiser who can take him.

The other stories are called, The End Of The Journey and A New Path, and are available in the Giveaway Games Anthologies. The End Of The Journey is now available as a standalone eBook and A New Pat will be coming soon.

Suitable for a General Audience
A Fork In The Road
(The Hidden War #3 - Part 2)
Sophie Duncan

The smell of very good cooking hit Zac's nostrils as soon as Wynne opened the door to the old farm house and, despite having had a good breakfast only a few hours ago, his stomach reminded him that it was not only Kim who liked their host's cooking. Damon, who had been gazing slightly absently up at the sky as they walked through the farm yard, also took notice of the wonderful scents coming from inside and Zac actually heard his boyfriend's stomach gurgle. Guiltily, he realised he had been so excited that morning, he had not really noticed till after the fact that Damon hadn't eaten much breakfast.

"Wynne may be a kick-arse witch, but she cooks a hell of a good stew too," he whispered to Damon as they headed inside.

Damon hummed a vague reply, which Zac thought was an affirmative, but Damon was staring out into the yard from the hallway again when John closed the big old door on his view. Only then did Damon catch himself and blinked at Zac, before the decor behind Zac's shoulder took over and Zac grinned as Damon's eyes widened some more. He turned and looked up at the high-ceilinged beamed hallway that was host to a huge and ancient staircase. For a reason deep down inside that he was getting used to not being able to explain, the sight made Zac shiver, but that tiny tremble was drowned out by the feeling of home. Pendle had been the first place he, Rosie, Kim and Dad had been brought by the team who had rescued them from a demon-raiser attack before Zac had known of his part in the war. Those had been tough times, losing his mum and learning about a whole world of people he had never known existed, but John and Wynne had become family as they had made that transition as comfortable and supportive as possible for all of them.

"You like our house, Damon?" John asked, mostly casually as far as Zac could tell, as their host walked past, following the others who were rapidly disappearing into the large hall beyond the stairs.

"It is majestic," Damon replied quietly and walked where John led.

"Thank you," John continued, taking them through.

However, just as Zac was beginning to settle into things, Damon tensed sharply again and Zac found his hand suddenly empty again. The reason became clear as John stepped out of his way and he realised he should have guessed lunch was not going to be a small affair and he ought to have warned Damon, because as they walked in, twenty sets of eyes turned to them. Zac had never really been daunted by his friends before, but faced with all of their scrutiny, his stomach did another flip.

"We have room for thirty here, what with the main house and the converted buildings in the yard," John continued smoothly, ignoring the attention on them and leading the way round one end of the long dining table that had to have been built inside the old feasting hall, "but we normally only have twenty, so that we always have room for guests."

Damon had faltered in his step, and thus Zac had also come to a halt, but when John stopped halfway down the length of the table, turned and smiled back at them, Zac gave himself another mental kick. He knocked Damon gently with his shoulder as he walked by and then headed slowly down to where John was waiting. He nodded to everyone as he walked by and there was some response, but they clearly weren't the only ones unsure of the situation. Jenny, another demon-seer, who had taught Dark Luke his trade, was actually glowering at Damon. She'd always been a bit of an old cow, in Zac's opinion, and twice as mysterious as Luke, but her disdain was ten times worse than the sharp side of her tongue that everyone was used to.

Still, he was forced to ignore her ire, because, when he came to a halt next to the gap on the bench where he and Damon were clearly supposed to sit, he found himself standing opposite a row of awed young faces. There were six kids younger than fourteen on the compound and all of them had been seated opposite the guests. Zac knew that was significant, but the reason why eluded him, so, at a loss again, but knowing this had been worked out without him, he just sat down with Damon where John directed, right between Dark Luke and Kim.

Rosie was up the far end of the table with Michael and their dad was still standing and began talking quietly to John when Wynne led a contingent of men and women out of the other dining hall door to the kitchen. Kim began chatting to Vince, who was on the other side of him and Dark Luke just surveyed the world silently from behind his dark glasses, so that meant, when attention finally began dropping off of them and a low and perhaps slightly subdued lunchtime hum began, Zac and Damon were left facing the open stares from the compound juniors.

"Hello," Damon surprised Zac when he made their opening gambit and generated a chorus of gasps from across the table.

Zac glanced quickly at Damon's profile: his boyfriend was smiling again, but this time it was a professional gesture.

"Are you really Damon Wulfres?" Claire, always the boldest of the kids finally spoke up, albeit in little more than a whisper and Zac couldn't help it, he noticed her mum, Emily, bristle protectively a few seats away.

"Yes," Damon replied, inclining his head almost regally.

"But you're not going to hurt us?" Gregory, Claire's little brother joined her, but he sounded doubtful and maybe a little hostile.

"No, I won't hurt anyone," Damon continued just as smoothly as he had begun, but Zac heard the promise in his tone.

"Do they hurt?" Jemima, the youngest at five, scrunched up her face and waggled her finger at the runes that nobody was mentioning.

The kids were on a roll now, and Zac was beginning to see the strategy John was running as he was well aware a lot of ears were listening in. This time, Damon only shook his head and it didn't take a genius to sense trepidation.

"Nah!" Zac leapt in with his own wave of a hand. "Can't even feel them, see," he glossed over the details.

Partially standing, he then leant right over the table to where Jem was sitting and rubbed his own forehead. That was all the encouragement the little girl needed and she reached innocently out after his lead. Her small finger poked him in the third eye a couple of times and then she sat back, positively disappointed. Zac sat quickly back down after that, since there were quite a few parents who had various brands of defensive magic watching him closely. He grinned at Jem and winked. Jem crossed her arms and huffed.

"What did you feel?" Claire nudged her little friend jealously.

"Not there," Jem replied grumpily.

"Can I try?" Claire jumped in with both feet then and bounced in her chair.

"Be careful, we don't want to send the cutlery flying," Emily quickly interjected and Zac knew it had nothing to do with cutlery: like Emily, Claire was a witch and, being nearly eleven, was coming into her talents.

"Here," Damon caught Zac unawares again and held out his many-runed hand over the table.

"D-," Zac laid a hand on Damon's leg discretely under the table and tried to intervene before things got messy, but as he made contact, something not unlike a swift mental kick hit him and he sat back rapidly, the shock silencing him.

Damon showed no sign of the shared moment at all, in fact, on the surface he had completely ignored Zac, smiling warmly instead at Claire and was maintaining the offering of his hand for examination. Claire looked down at the patterns swirling all over Damon's skin, her eyes going rounder than they had been before, and she bit her lip. Then, she glanced down the row to her mother. Damon followed the girl's attention and thus, so did Zac, because he had no idea how this was going to go.

Emily had a consternated expression on her face when Zac checked and it was aimed firmly at his boyfriend, which did not make him any happier. However, as he watched, he recognised a decision being made and he had no idea what passed between shadow-hunter and witch, but eventually, Emily turned back to Claire and, although her face was serious, she nodded to her daughter. Instantly, Zac jumped his attention back to Claire, and the girl was already looking back up at Damon, lip still between her teeth, but buoyed by her mother's support. Damon, when Zac checked, was still smiling professionally.

Slowly, Claire reached out and, in tandem, Zac slipped his hand back onto Damon's leg. He was not hit with anything big this time, but a small ripple of energy flushed through him and he couldn't help smiling as their connection slotted into place. Claire brushed her fingers lightly over the back of Damon's hand, and, for a moment, there was nothing as she held back with more than just her touch. However, like a child testing fire, when she was not burnt, Claire settled her hand on Damon's and then, for the first time, Zac felt his young friend's developing skills. Even second hand, the natural power dared him not to respect it. Claire gasped as power met power, shifting in her seat and looking up into Damon's steady gaze, but Zac admired her bravery as she refused to pull away. A tightness in his belly told him Damon was battening down on whatever defences were threatening to rise from the runes and so he too tried to make sure he stayed as controlled as possible, even though he still wasn't totally sure what that meant.

Mind and body quiet, Zac was therefore surprised when, after a few moments of exchange, Claire suddenly fixed him with her deep, green gaze. Her eyes were damp and she was breathing fast and he was very much aware of the age gap between them. He had been here seven years ago, a child learning about power and he remembered how marvellous and strange and frightening it had been all at the same time. Supportively, he smiled and his own tensions settled as well.

"Claire, what can you feel?" Gregory broke the moment and his single voice made Zac realise the whole table was once again focused silently on them.

Claire drew her hand away, glaring at her brother, and the ripples of disquiet in Zac's body disappeared into the background awareness he now always had for Damon's ancient inheritance. He relaxed, but kept his hand on Damon's leg and squeezed in appreciation of what his boyfriend had just achieved. As Damon laid his palm down on the table, where all could still see it, the whole room felt like it was relaxing. However, Damon wasn't finished.

"Well done, Claire," he praised gently, his smile no longer quite so professional.

The girl half smiled back, but her wonder was mostly holding sway, despite Gregory's interruption.

"What did you feel?" Damon asked a question of his own.

Claire's cheeks coloured and she glanced between Zac and Damon as if something was beginning to make sense.

"Are you one?" the young witch almost believed her own instincts, but she asked the question of Zac, not quite brave enough to ask Damon.

After the empty hell of the weeks when Damon had disappeared on him, Zac was not going to deny what he knew at a fundamental level and so, rather proud of Claire's assessment, he grinned at her and just nodded.


P.S. Check out other folk doing the A to Z April Challenge.

And if you want to see my other posts:

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