November 19, 2010
Artwork by Anna Marie Petroff Byers
wo hours away from what was to have been their best hope for refuge beyond the ever-watchful eye of Argus, Anna brought the SUV to a stop in the middle of the road. Lewis in the SUV behind pulled up along side. None of the immortals had slept in days. They needed to find a place beyond his vision, until then all they could do was try and block him from their thoughts consciously. Anna was beginning to feel the pull of sleep beckoning her and hoped that it was because of the extra life she was supporting and that Ashe and Meline were fairing better than her.
"We need a plan," Anna said.
"Undisclosed location," Lewis offered. "We've been talking about it for the last hundred miles or so. We can find a location, and bring the others in unconscious or at least sensory deprived. He may be able to see some of what's going on now and then, but he won't know where."
Anna nodded. "That may be our best option, do you-" she stopped mid sentence. "Do you hear that?"
The others strained to listen.
"It's a helicopter," Anna said.
"A helicopter in the middle of nowhere at three thirty in the morning. That's normal," Lewis sighed. "How do you want to play it?"
The satellite phone rang before she had time to answer. She gave Lewis a nod and he answered it. The volume level made it easy to hear the other side of the conversation. "If you still wish for sanctuary, stop your vehicles and leave your Sovereign on the road to talk with me, to discuss terms," said a female voice. "The rest of your party will drive on at least a mile."
"No good." Lewis said. "I have sworn to protect her. I will not leave her side."
There was a pause and then, "You may accompany her but no one else," the voice said.
"Agreed," Anna said.
The line disconnected before Lewis could relay.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Ashe asked.
Anna shrugged and got out of the car. Lewis stepped out next to her and Wendy climbed into the driver's seat. "One mile," she said giving them both a reassuring nod.
"I think I can hear the helicopter now," Lewis said, as the SUV's rounded a turn up ahead.
"Sworn to protect me?" Anna said. "Did your father put you up to that?"
Lewis laughed. "Other way around," he said. "I think he wanted to see us all settled down and normal, thought that would make us happy. It made him happy. Diana and Steve wanted that life and it works for them. Wendy and I... we just aren't made that way. I tried to be. All I got out of it was two kids and an ex-wife who all hate me."
"Your kids don't hate you," Anna said.
"It's the secrets," Lewis shrugged. "Heather was never up for any of it. She flat out told me she preferred not knowing. So they're still not sure if I'm one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. I kept waiting for the right time, the right age to tell the kids, but the older they get the more they become like their mother and the less they want to know. In the end, it's all a matter of fences. They like their white picket lifestyle and I'm chain link. Wendy was lucky she found Taylor."
"Chain link?" Anna asked. "I always envisioned us more as wrought iron with scroll-work and keep out signs."
The helicopter touched down on a grassy hilltop about fifty yards away. Two women, identically dressed redheads with long curls secured in braids, jumped out and started in their direction.
"Is one of them their Sovereign?" Lewis asked as the helicopter took to the air.
"We'll know soon enough," Anna said.
As they came within ten yards Anna knew which woman was Juno and not just from the shimmer in her eyes. She recognized her from the visions she'd had of Argus's life. She took hold of Lewis's hand as they both bent down on one knee.
"Stand," Juno ordered. She stared at Anna for a moment then extended her hand palm side up to her.
Anna stepped forward and placed her hand in Juno's. "My name is Anna Victoria," she said. "This is my friend and familiar, Lewis Parker."
"I am the called by many names," Juno said. "As you know of me as Juno, I will leave it at that. This is my attendant Cora. You are indeed a Sovereign, why then do you kneel before an equal?" she asked.
Anna shook her head. "That I am a Sovereign does not make me an equal to one of your stature. I am but a fascination. You on the other hand are a goddess."
"I see," Juno eyed her then turned Anna's hand over in hers and traced her palm with her forefinger before letting it go. "You are indeed a fascination," she said. "What is it you want from me?"
"A refuge beyond the sight of Argus."
"You intend to start a war," Juno said.
"The war has already begun," Anna said. "My King has officially declared that he will not involve himself in these matters, but I am already involved. I have not come to start a war but I will not turn my back on those held hostage by the rogues. Those who were never given a choice to declare their allegiance and those too afraid to leave for fear that they will not be granted amnesty."
"You've come offering amnesty in exchange for surrender," Juno surmised. "How very na´ve."
"It's not a blanket offer," Anna said. "I am on a rescue mission for the few who lie in wait for the day the Army of Argus descends upon the rogues so that they could stand at their aid and betray their captors."
Juno did not look convinced.
"Rogue activity has not gone unnoticed by mortals. These experiences portray our kind as a threat to humanity, and Argus will not intervene. In fact he intends to let the mortals stand alone and unknowing against the rogues; an act that endangers us all. I have not come to war. I have come to sabotage."
Juno considered for a moment then turned to Lewis. "Would you speak for humanity?"
Lewis laughed nervously. "Humanity isn't too keen on the idea of people who elect themselves to speak for everyone else." Anna scowled at him. "But, I'll give it my best shot."
"Would you ask for sanctuary to stand against the rogues?"
"Why?" Juno countered.
"Because I am a child of both worlds."
"Continue," Juno said.
"Well," Lewis thought as he took a breath. "Humanity at large sees immortals as something unnatural. Add fangs and they see monsters. In certain instances they're right. But good and evil cannot be defined in terms as simple as that. Unfortunately most don't have the knowledge to know the difference. Others just don't care. Being different is enough to decide something is a threat. I have a unique relationship with the immortal world, different than most. My best friend in the whole world is an immortal."
"We grew up together," Lewis continued, ignoring her.
Alarm traced across Juno and Cora's faces. "A new immortal?" Juno asked.
"A born immortal," Lewis said.
Juno's eyes darted toward Anna.
"I knew him as my cousin," Lewis continued. "But we are as close as brothers. I would stand without question to defend him or to fight along side him, just as he would do for me," Lewis insisted.
Juno considered for a moment. "Very well," she said. "I hereby grant you and your company refuge from the Immortal Sovereign King Argus."
"Thank you, My Lady," Lewis bowed.
"We are in your debt," Anna said.
"No," Juno shook her head. "You must know that I will betray you to him."
Lewis shook his head and huffed with dismay.
"I know," Anna said. "It's why I came to you. You have always been a good friend."
"We will prepare for your return." Juno nodded then she and her attendant took their leave.
Lewis eyed Anna as he pulled his radio from his belt. "Ready for pick-up," he said into the radio then secured it back on his belt. "What is that all about?" he asked.
"Argus is not our enemy," Anna said.
Lewis offered a sharp laugh. "Yeah well, he's not exactly on our side right now either."
"You have no need to fear Argus, Lewis. He will not view your stand with me as an act of defiance against him."
"It's not me I'm worried about," Lewis said.
"The others know the risk they take and we are on plan," Anna said. "Besides that, I trust him."
"I've read the histories Anna. You're dancing on the edge of a knife," Lewis said.
"And my love holds the handle of the blade."
"Love," Lewis scoffed. "Anna, I love Josh and Kayla and maybe somewhere deep down they still love me. Hell, I still love Heather in the rare moments I don't hate her entirely, so I guess anything's possible but love doesn't just magically fix everything, Anna."
"I know," she replied. "But you must trust me. It had to be this way."
Lewis let out a long breath of air as he searched her eyes, deliberating. "Okay," he said after a moment, "Okay."
Chapter 47 - Edge Of A Knife
Artwork by Jack Robbins
(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart