Today on the A to Z Blogging Challenge, my offering is a short piece of fiction.
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 have decided to begin serialising the next story, 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, and The End Of The Journey is now available standalone, A New Path will be released soon.
|Suitable for a General Audience|
A Fork In The Road
(The Hidden War #3 - Part 1)
Damon did a lot of glaring; as far as Zac could tell, it was his boyfriend's standard response to any public situation (probably wise in demon raiser circles). Yet, over time, Zac was getting used to reading behind Damon's eyes. As he glanced across at the blond head that was turned mainly to look out of the backseat window of their Land Rover, Zac recognised that this was a nervous kind of glower. He couldn't blame Damon, really: after three months in safe houses, the powers that be had decided that Damon was safe to be allowed free access to the Pendle Compound. Still, however much Zac was looking forward to the company of others beyond his immediate family, he realised that being surrounded by one-time enemies was not going to be comfortable for Damon, especially since they could all see the deep red runes all over the new Shadow Hunter's skin. Zac had come to think of them as rather attractive, but to others they were just plain terrifying, so that would not help making friends any easier.
Zac was just letting himself become distracted by the long, elegant curl that ran down Damon's cheek bone and behind Damon's ear when a shriek and an excited bounce next to him yanked him back into reality.
"Look, there it is," Rosie exclaimed loudly, waving between Dark Luke in the front passenger seat and their father, who was driving, pointing through the windscreen at the top of a grey-stone house that was just beginning to appear between trees in the valley up ahead.
Zac felt Damon tense. Kim, however, on the other side of Rosie to Zac, was unaware of the silent trepidation and teased with just a little grumbling, "And we all know why you're so bloody excited."
Rosie, not unexpectedly for Zac, slapped Kim on the shoulder and defended herself, "It's been six months!"
"Aww," Kim was his usual unsympathetic self, "six long months without lover boy. I thought the modern woman had other solutions for that!"
"Oof! You one-tracked neanderthal!" Rosie complained and began elbowing her twin with much too much exuberance for the lack of space there was on the back seat.
"Hey, hey!" Zac complained as Kim scuffled playfully back. "Innocent victims!"
"Acceptable fallout!" Kim quipped back and then slapped Zac smartly around the back of the head for good measure.
Ordinarily, that would have been a challenge too far for Zac, but when Damon leant away from him, Zac swivelled in his seat in time to see Damon hide his face inside the deep hood of his jacket. The reason was obvious when Zac checked out of the windscreen again: they were driving up the last fifty yards towards a large gate and stone wall enclosing what had once been a farmyard and, waiting by the gate, was a welcoming party of half a dozen people. Zac reached for Damon's hand as he recognised them all: John Williams, the compound commander and his wife, and second in command, Wynne; Michael Greenfeld, Rosie's fiance, plus Matt, Vince and Emily, three other senior members of the twenty-strong compound team.
"They're good people," he leant close to Damon and whispered the only reassurance he could offer.
Damon grimaced at him once and then turned to look out of the window again, so Zac had to be content with the fact that his boyfriend's fingers entwined firmly with his. Zac was hopeful about this move, but, as the Land Rover closed on the farm, Zac was not blind to the fact that all six faces waiting for them were serious. This was something big. It was one thing to bring a cowed Demon Raiser into a compound for interrogation, the fate that would have befallen Damon once upon a time, but the powerful Shadow Hunter he had become was quite a different matter.
Their relationship, the magic they shared and what it had done to both Zac's Demon Seer skills and Damon's Shadow Hunter instincts, were still largely unknowns, despite the thorough prodding supposed experts had given them twice so far. Just a little bit of the tension from Damon seeped into Zac then and he took in a deep breath as the Land Rover pulled up at the gate.
His Dad turned off the engine and they all climbed out of the vehicle, Damon moving a good deal slower than the others. Rosie practically dived past Kim as he was trying to get out of the other side of the 4x4 and she dashed around the Land Rover and then straight at Michael. The tall, dark young man was ready for her and caught her slender frame as she leapt at him with a squeal of delight, his face breaking into a wide, rather dopey grin. The joy of the couple warmed Zac's heart for a few moments as he watched them become practically one unit as they hugged. Yet, then Damon's fingers slipped out of his as his other half stepped down from the back seat and out into the open. He quickly followed, pinning himself to Damon's side, but he knew Damon well enough that there would be no holding hands for support in front of strangers.
Well, they were strangers to Damon, but Zac knew John and Wynne very well, since he had stayed at Pendle regularly since joining the Hidden War. Still, so much had changed since he had walked out a safe house and deliberately into the clutches of Damon Wulfres, his sworn enemy. Armageddon had been averted thanks to their unlikely partnership, but things were different now and he caught himself rubbing the sigil on his forehead self-consciously.
Zac hung back with Damon as his dad, his brother and his mentor all walked up to greet the compound members, maybe not as enthusiastically as Rosie had Michael, but with as much warmth. Hands were shaken, hugs were exchanged and then Zac's heart entered his throat as everyone's attention turned to him and Damon (he could only wonder how much worse Damon was feeling).
"Hey!" Zac bit the bullet and waved pathetically at the gathered company.
Then he mentally kicked himself, knew he had to take the lead on this one and, trying to smile, walked forward. He held out his hand to John. The man took it and shook firmly, however, when Zac tried to take his hand back, he found the large grasp tightening and he looked properly into John's eyes. His stomach flipped as he realised John was focused on the only sign of his changes and, as with most people involved in the Hidden War, it was with more than human eyes that he looked with. Zac felt the vague brush of a knowing beyond normal, but then quickly, John let his hand go and smiled.
"Zacky, I always knew you'd make your mark on this bloody war, but going after the Scion? You exceeded all my expectations," John told him and patted his shoulder. "And you hook Harold Wulfres' son for our side at the same time."
John looked over Zac's head then and Zac turned. Damon took his cue smoothly and walked up to stand slightly behind Zac, face shadowed by the hood and set in non-committal blankness.
"Hello," Damon said and nodded to John.
John held out his hand to Damon and Zac held his breath. Damon's attention flicked to what would normally be seen as an offer of friendship and Zac could see the knowledge it was not behind his boyfriend's expresion. However, with only a momentary pause, Damon then reached back for the not so ordinary handshake. As soon as the two men's hands touched, Zac felt a lurch in Damon's power down the link they shared and he locked his knees as a thousand butterflies fluttered madly in his stomach. Damon flinched, but it was barely visible and John's chin raised almost as imperceptibly as the wild, Shadow Hunter magic objected to being interrogated. Thankfully, John made his decision quickly and Zac partially relaxed as examiner loosed hands with examined.
"Maybe not so much on our side," was John's thoughtful reply, but he smiled, which confused Zac.
Damon, however, visibly relaxed, which made Zac wonder even more when Damon, too, curled his lip, which was quite something in Zac's experience.
"I'm working on it," Damon replied with a small shrug, leaving Zac missing something, but something he thought had to be good.
John just nodded acceptance of the statement and soothed the rest of Zac's anxiety by offering, "Welcome to Pendle Compound, Damon. This is my wife, Wynne, and our friends, Matthew, Emily, Vince and Michael."
Damon nodded to the gathered company, but there were no more handshakes. Wynne smiled and so did Michael when Rosie, who was tucked firmly under her fiance's arm, shoved him with her hip. However, the other three, although not openly hostile, were clearly going to be taking their time making up their minds about their ex-Demon Raiser guest.
"Well," John turned his attention back to his dad and Zac relaxed a bit more, "we have lunch waiting for you inside."
"Brill!" Kim whooped and clapped his hands together, "God, have I missed your cooking, Wynne!"
That did what it was supposed to do and most people laughed, even Damon maintained the slight curve of his mouth and Zac finally relaxed properly as everyone turned to the gate. John put one hand on the post and the other on the gate itself and the shift of the protection magic around the yard slipped through Zac like a hot knife through butter. He'd never felt anything like it before and he gasped. Thankfully, only Damon seemed to notice his reaction, and Zac was grateful when a hand slipped into his.
"I am rather glad we have been made welcome," Damon whispered to him, looking up over the old farm house in awe at something that Zac couldn't see.
However, there wasn't time for him to ask what Damon was experiencing, because Kim slapped Zac round the back of the head as he walked past and announced, "Come on Zacky, some of us are starving."
Taking a deep breath and with one final glance at the gentle smile that had worked its way onto his boyfriend's face, Zac, Damon in tow, followed their hosts into the compound proper.
P.S. Check out other folk doing the A to Z April Challenge.
And if you want to see my other posts:
Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles A to Z Challenge Posts