King Veelka wasted no time diffusing the hostilities. He sent out his populist to encourage the rebels to rejoin the pack and offer peace to the jackals for the former king’s egregious behavior, requesting audience with a constituent of their clan to further discuss their truce. He and his new guards escorted Tomas, Jill and Layla to the holding cells to release the prisoners.
The door to the cells stood open. The chains lay in a heap on the floor and one guard lay moaning just outside.
One of Veelka’s new guards moved forward, sword at the ready and ventured through the opening. Soon they heard sounds of a struggle followed by the guard’s reappearance. He stumbled out and fell hard against the floor battered and bruised. He raised his eyes and addressed Tomas.
“Your mate is a dynamo and a very angry one.”
Tomas couldn’t help smiling. He lay a consoling hand on the guard’s shoulder, shifted his appearance to human and ventured through. After a short minute, he signaled the others to follow. Jill entered first, eager to see her mother and check on Robbie. What she encountered sent her into dry heaves. A guard she recognized from the hive room lay dead on the floor. A frozen expression of agony twisted his features. His skin looked burned and had turned a sickening shade of brownish green as if he’d been consumed by a thermonuclear blast. Tom pulled Jill away from the gruesome discovery and shielded her from the sight. Soon she felt her mother’s arms encircling her as well. Jill tried to breathe but their seemed to be a deficit of oxygen in the air.
“Breathe, baby,” Rebecca said as she rubbed Jill’s back.
“Did the wasp poison do that to him?” Jill asked in a shaky voice.
“Yes, but Robbie’s ok, dear.”
“How?” Jill asked looking up. Her mother led her to the back of the cell. Robbie lay on a bed of hay with his mother by his side. His complexion didn’t look as bad as the guard’s but she still saw the awful greenish hues on his skin. Jill dropped down beside him and lay a hand on his brow but he didn’t stir. Paloma gave her a weak smile.
“I’ve stopped the spread of the poison for now but in order to remove the rest from his body, he needs an infusion of a plant extract from our territory. It’s a ephemeral flower that blooms late in the season. I purged what I could but it continues to multiply and spread at an alarming rate. I can keep him in stasis until I get him home.”
Jill continued to rub Robbie’s forehead and smooth the fur around his ears. She thought a minute and looked up at Paloma, “You put the poison in that guard, didn’t you?”
Paloma’s face turned hard, “He deserved it! Treating my Robbie like he was already dead, an expendable casualty of war! He laughed at my son’s discomfort and told me to give up.” Her face softened as she looked back at her son and tears welled in her eyes.
It didn’t take long for Saal to arrive at the castle. He met briefly with the new King before he rushed to take Paloma and Robbie home. He returned later for Tom, Rebecca and Jill. He spoke as they followed him to a designated portal site.
“Robbie’s responding well to treatment. His mother should have him back to normal in a few days. He wants to visit when he’s well again.”
“He’s more than welcome,” Tomas said.
No one knew how Ulvarg had managed to open a portal to the human realm. It was an ability delegated to the Guardians. Saal had proved himself worthy and received this rare gift. It was a mystery that disturbed them all.
Tomas pulled his family close as they waited for the portal to appear, relieved to have them back and soon, safe in the human realm. “We should celebrate tonight. Our first night back home, what do you think? Dinner out?” he asked.
“Yes!” Jill said. “I really want a big juicy burger!”
“I could use a Chardonnay,” Rebecca said. “Maybe two.”
Tom laughed as Saal opened the portal to their home.