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|Noah(Nightwalkers #5) by Jacquelyn Frank|
"Legna is a Mind Demon. We are brother and sister. We have always had a strong connection. Though I admit I am impressed as well. I do not even know what my intentions were at the time, Gideon. I was acting purely on instinct."
"And your instincts are like nothing any of us can imagine," the medic said. "Even you do not understand the full scope of your abilities. You have been King since a fairly young age. You have lived a life of restraint, as your position requires. Perhaps…" Again a significant pause. "I am grateful you have found your mate, but I believe it would be wise for you to truly examine the scope of your power, Noah. The tie to your emotions is too great, the potential for harm to others equally great if you do not examine and adjust to the ways your power has grown. You have worried too long about things other than yourself. Take this time of adjustment to your mate to find your own depths. Only then can you truly control them."
"Gideon, you sound strangely like my Siddah," Noah said quietly, no humor in the statement at all.
"I am your Siddah. I will be Siddah to you until the day I leave this plane of existence. No matter how many centuries pass, that bond is never broken. When I see my fosterlings floundering, it does not matter to me their age and their position in this society. I taught you to embrace your power, to always plumb its depths for your best abilities, and you have always done so…up until I believe the moment your own power began to intimidate you."
Noah's eyes clouded with an ominous darkness, his expression and stance turning to stone.
"Kes is here now. If I were intimidated, as you say, then you know it will end with the balance she will bring me. You waste your conjecture and worry on me, Ancient One."
"Do I?" Gideon raised a silvered brow. "Tell me this, Noah. When your uncontrolled power strikes your Druid mate, what consequence do you suppose it will have?" Gideon moved so that he was side by side with the Demon King against the edge of his desk. He leaned in to speak softly to him. "I have complete control over every nuance of my own power, Noah. This alone makes me the most powerful Demon in history. That management includes the ways in which my abilities link to my emotions.
"You have seen how your sister has been affected by the connection we have. It has been over two years since we fully Imprinted. She is still growing in leaps, still struggling to compensate for this growth. Isabella," he cited further, taking no apparent note of the King's flinch, "became an incredible Druid under Jacob's immense power, but even now she cannot fully control it. In the beginning she was bludgeoned by her abilities. It will take her decades to understand how to tone down her premonitions alone.
"When your mate looked into my eyes the other day, she whipped through my entire essence in a heartbeat, without even knowing what she was doing. It was pure instinct. What followed after her initial summary was an ability I have never seen before, and I will be much surprised should I ever see it again. You and your Fire can draw on power and energy, you can even take its quantitative measure by reading a power aura, but no one can map out a precise schematic of another being's powers and weaknesses like Kestra can now do. Untrained, I might add, yet with full comprehension of what she is studying all the same. What was more, your newly fledged mate reached inside me and unearthed the path necessary for me to heal others while in astral form. She showed it to me, and I have already begun to examine it. She was not only accurate, but chillingly so for one who had only learned of our existence shortly before. Information, I am assuming, that was responsible for her panic attack."
"No," Noah said numbly. "It was something else. Though perhaps this was partly an exacerbating factor," he admitted. Then he focused on the Ancient fully. "I knew something was happening between you. I even understood she was caught up in a reflexive use of her new power, and that taking the measure of a power was a part of that ability. But I never suspected anything like this talent to lead even you to an undiscovered resource within yourself." The King looked across to Kestra. "I could not touch her mind while she was seeking so deeply within you."
"The communication between you is young yet. Already stronger than it was then, I am assuming. And here we come back to my point," Gideon pointed out quietly. "Great power requires more than just great control, Noah. It requires understanding and management. You would put a cork into the mouth of a volcano and expect the pressure to never seek relief? Stop merely controlling what you fear in yourself. Do this before you lose the opportunity to manage yourself with knowledge and the same wisdom which you use in all other things. Be aware that there is an inevitability here. You have your mate to help you now, and you will help her as well, but do not allow it to come to the point that she taps into a part of you that you cannot help her understand because-"
"Because I do not understand it myself," Noah finished softly for him. The monarch reached to rub the back of his neck as tension pooled there in a dull, twisting ache of clenching muscles. He looked over at Kestra and Elijah, and found her breathtaking blue eyes fixed squarely on him, her concern clear on her face, a small frown pulling on her pretty lips as she flicked a wary, assessing gaze at Gideon. For the second time that day he found himself relaxing under the balm of her concern and giving her a calming smile. Noah looked into Gideon's expectant gaze. "Thank you, Siddah," he said, nodding his head in a rather formal bow of respect for his old mentor. The King had a sudden thought that sent shadows over his features. "Gideon, is there something you are not telling me? Something I should know?"
Gideon knew he could not hesitate and sound truthful. He wasn't one to lie, and he would never betray Legna's heartfelt request to spare Noah the truth about how he had hurt her. So he gave the question his own interpretation in order to satisfy all conditions.
"I believe I have told you everything I needed to impart to you," he said easily. "Now, if you will forgive me, your sister is rather adamantly requesting my attendance, as well as the Captain's, at Siena's festivities for the night."
"I will miss you here this year," Noah found himself saying suddenly. He instantly chided himself for it. Holidays had paled for him since his closest friends and family had scattered across the lands to do their duties as mates and ambassadors, duties he had often asked them to take on as their King. He had been determined never to show his personal feelings on such subjects, so he would not make others feel conflict with their other lives. "But next year," he added with quick ease, "Seth will be older and perhaps I will host a multicultural Samhain or Beltane, bringing all my distant emissaries home and their foreign friends and courts with them."
"A fine idea," Gideon agreed. "Though I doubt the xenophobic Mistrals will attend, I do not see why all the other Nightwalkers would not. I suspect it is time to engage in this manner of gathering. Peace and Destiny be with you tonight, Noah," he said in farewell, reaching to clasp arms with the King. "Legna and I are pleased to see your future happiness secured in this woman," he said, nodding toward Kestra. "She is strong and intelligent. A fit mate for you. However, she is greatly scarred on an emotional level. This will be a difficult passage for you both and we wish you luck, as well as offering any assistance you might need."
"Thank you, my friend. Give Legna and Seth my deepest love and fondest wishes to see them very soon."
"After the moon has waned some." Gideon smiled with unusually suggestive humor. "I do not think we should dare to pop in until you and Kestra are done becoming acquainted."
Noah laughed and, with a clasp of his shoulder, sent the medic across the room to fetch Elijah.
Kestra had been split between the two conversations, neither of which required much of her input. Elijah chattered a stream of amusing statements that she realized were directed at teasing Noah about her presence and the effect it promised to have on the King's bachelor lifestyle. Apparently, Noah had taken great joy in busting the chops of his newly attached attaches for the changes in their behaviors since they'd taken their women into their lives. Or so Elijah felt. She rather liked the warrior's easygoing manner, but she couldn't fully enjoy it while she was worried about what was disturbing Noah as he conversed with the healer. She felt it pulling at her skin and blood, her very heart and spirit, the urge to somehow be a part of anything troubling he faced.
She had been considering why he had so urgently called her down to him earlier. She'd thought there was something wrong, but now she understood that he'd done this so she would be at his side as he faced potentially disturbing news from his commanders. He had wanted her to be involved, if only to begin learning how his monarchy worked. If only to meet these men who meant such a great deal to him.
She leaned forward, drawing on all her grace and manners to lay a warm, elegant hand on Elijah's arm. "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but could you explain these rogues to me, the ones who killed the Shadowdweller?"
"Yes, of course," the warrior said, not even batting an eyelash before he launched into an explanation about the lawless Vampires who were killing other Nightwalkers to accumulate power through the drinking of their blood.
"I have met Jasmine briefly, but what is her role in this?"
"She's Damien's right-hand adviser. A Vampire," he said, in case she didn't know. "Recently we created a network of Nightwalkers, Vampires mostly, and spread it out across the world to catch any Vampire who thought that this would be a fun way of gathering power. It's a young network, not even complete yet. We had hoped to have it complete before anyone had enough time to think about doing this thing that was once forbidden."
"Until recently, it was forbidden for a Vampire to drink Nightwalker blood. It was mostly a mystique factor, folklore of horrors that would happen to a Vampire if they did such a thing. Wisely, it was a method of stopping this very thing from happening."
"Damien took a Lycanthrope bride and took her blood. That and we found a hidden Library of great and ancient works that showed Vampires had once married interracially, blood exchanges included. It seems they sabotaged themselves in the matter of love and soul mates in the process of reining in a threat, just like we Demons did when we slaughtered the Druids a thousand years ago."
Kes paused only a single beat before her eyes lit with comprehension.
"Druids are meant to be Imprinted with Demons. You destroyed your own soul mates?"
"Yeah. I'm thinking our ancestors weren't too clever."
"Barbaric is a better word. But"-she held up a hand-"I understand it must have been a barbaric time. So you're saying Vampires cut off access to their own soul mates when they made the taboo about taking Nightwalker blood. Damien made a choice, take his soul mate or leave the taboo intact, right?"
"And he chose Syreena, his mate." Elijah nodded and looked pleased. "We've all ditched a lot of foolish prejudices these past few years."
"But at a huge price," Kes noted.
"Anything worth having is worth paying a huge price for."
"I would have to agree."
She tapped her foot in a rare giveaway about her own high emotions on the topic. Her long glance at Noah made her equally readable. She was unaware of the genuine pleasure that shone in Elijah's eyes. It was the same for all of them, this almost heartbreaking joy they felt to know Noah had at last found the one who would save him from himself, the only one who could truly protect their King from an agonizing lifetime of loneliness and potentially endless shame and pain.
"Are you a soldier?" he asked her suddenly, startling her.
"Why would you ask that?" she asked.
Elijah tapped the side of his nose once, lightly. "Gun oil, for one. The cut of your body is extraordinary for a human woman, I know that much. And I know a fellow warrior when I see one. The way your eyes drift over the exits regularly, the way you are sitting so you can see everyone in the room, and you aren't sitting back relaxed, you're perched on the edge of your seat as if you want to fly out of it the instant you have to."
"Actually, I was a Marine once," she confessed, again surprised at her honesty. "Seemed the natural course for me after…after a childhood and college career full of athletics. I went to Annapolis."
"Really? An officer, eh?"
"Yes. I went right out of high school. My parents had died, so I was able to commit myself completely. You can go pretty far if you dedicate yourself."
"When did you opt out?"
"Now, who says I opted out?" she asked with a laugh.
"Because of how Noah found you, Kes. We all know about it. You weren't in uniform at the time."
"True," she agreed. She was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with his logic and line of questioning. Luckily, she saw Noah and Gideon break apart and head in their direction. She was on her feet instantly, wiping her hands against her short skirt before taking the one Noah offered out to her.
"Our apologies, Kes, but we must be going and will not see you at the festival," Gideon said graciously, bowing his lavender-hazed head toward her.
See through my eyes, quickly.
She felt Noah look at her, but she didn't look away from Gideon. She only strove to keep him there a moment or two longer in order to give Noah time to work his way into the front of her mind.
"I'm very glad to have met you both," she said, reaching to shake each of their hands again, making sure to look at each man distinctly before releasing them.
Kestra gasped when they both popped out of existence right before her eyes. Noah laughed softly at her surprise.