Interlued...


Josef and Rayne flew over the familiar jungle in the familiar night of Northern Korea together. They had taken human means to South Korea and drifted over no man's land wrapped up in each other's arms, not in any shape but their true shape, and shielding themselves from any forlorn eyes that turned up to the starry skies.

As they got closer to the village, Josef reached out to all the blood bonds that he had created only to find nothing there. Concern and a little fear prickled down his spine and he put on a burst of speed even as he held his lifemate tighter. When they were a few miles from the village, their heightened senses of smell picked up a bouquet of scents that turned their stomachs. Fire and smoke. Burned and rotting bodys. Death. Fear. Despair. And lots of blood.

They landed in the center of what had been the village. The building had been burned several days earlier. Charred corpses cast shadows in the moonlight. Surveying the damage, both young carpathians wept openly at the pointless loss of life. Josef felt shaken to his core. These were his people, under his protection. They weren't even the high-profile dependants that some of the other Carpathians took under their wings. These were poor farmers, most of them illiterate, all of them worn into submission to the government and their terrorist soldiers. Who would do this?

Another, careful examination of the village revealed the answer: a vampire.

Somehow, a vampire had found his village and had put it to the torch as a message to him. Josef was certain of it. There was no other explanation; he had brought the vampire here.

Rayne, ever a shadow in his thoughts put a comforting hand against his cheek and whiped away his blood red tears. It could have equally been my doing, she insisted. It came right after I did. You were with these people, fighting the vampire behind the scenes for over a year and nothing came then. It only came after I drew you away.

It is not your fault, either, Josef insisted, pulling her close and burring his face in her hair. He took comfort in her smell, in this last good thing. Something evil came here with no other purpose than doing evil. We were just the excuse.

Let's go home, she insisted. Let's figure it out in the comfort of home.

Josef nodded his agreement and launched them both into the air. In a few moments, they landed in his garden. The warehouse was oddly untouched. Josef tested his defenses and found them strong. Apparently, his grief over Rayne had amplified his power when he had set the safeguards just before he left to reclaim her. As his senses explored every nook and cranny of his haven before he physically entered it, he found three people.

Three survivors of the tragedy.

They were huddled together just inside his front door, their hearts laboring under the forbidding oppression of his safeguards. One was Lieu. The other was so small it must be her baby. The third was unknown, but looking through Lieu's eyes, he saw the man that he had healed for her sake, Bae. As soon as he was aware of them, he shifted his spells to exclude them.

"Someone survived," he whispered to Rayne, relaying their identities in a flash of thought. "Let's greet them and find out how this happened."

They found the three of them, huddled against the wall. Bae held Lieu close and stroked her hair with a fumbling hand, his eyes glazed with fatigue and extreme hunger. Lieu clutched her babe to her chest, as if she didn't have the strength to detach him from her breast. Even Cais was alarmingly quiet for a babe on the brink of starvation.

"Oh my goodness!" Rayne cried and rushed forward. Josef was right behind her and carefully they helped the pair to their feet, Josef helping Bae with his bandaged leg and Rayne carrying Cais for Lieu, even as she helped the girl lean on her shoulder. Together, they lead them towards the stairwell.

"No!" Leiu protested, her speech slurred. "Evil...evil lurks..."

"It is nothing," Josef assured her. He knew she was wary only of his banished safeguards and not from some cloaked malevolence. He had triple checked his underground chamber and all the earth around his warehouse, all too aware that a vampire or one of their minions could be hiding near his haven. Lieu didn't have the strength to fight anymore, and Rayne and Josef managed to get them to the large queen bed in the basement bedroom.

"Go get the medical kit and all the saline you can carry," he instructed Rayne. "They need fluids and they need them fast."

She nodded and ran upstairs to the storage room as fast as a wind. Neither Carpathian bothered concealing who they were. They had received extensive mental training while in the Mountains about how to manipulate human minds. Some of the ancients didn't believe that the youngest mated pair should be allowed such unchecked freedom, but ultimately it wasn't their choice, so they had compensated for their uncertainty with a plethora of knowledge. Rayne was back quickly, carrying the medical kit and a large box full of bags of saline solution.

Kneeling beside their patients, Josef let Rayne see the directions for setting up the IV in his mind. Rayne inserted the needle into Lieu's arm and set up the IV drip. She did the same for little Cais, who, even though he was large for a poor Korean baby was still only a year old and very vulnerable. Josef took care of Bae's IV and added pain and antibiotic medication to the mixture. Bae's leg had been repairing, but the movement during his flight had taken its tole and infection had set in. After the IV was set up, Josef freed his spirit from his body and entered Bae's to burn away the worst of the infection with healing light. After ensuring that Bae didn't have gangrene or blood poisoning, his spirit skipped to Cais and then to Lieu to make sure that dehydration was the worst of their troubles.

Finally, he settled back in his own body and sat back on his heels. All three were on the road to recovery. It would be at least five hours until they were fully hydrated again, and longer before they could be debriefed. But he had to find out who had attacked his village, and then he would make them pay.