Date: Friday, May 28, 1999 3:00 PM
Niko stared into the fire, loosing his thoughts in the bright swirls of color; the hypnotic lure of rose and cobalt shades casting shadows across his face. He sat and watched the fire for a long time, wondering where things were going. He could sense the division in the pack, stronger now, but felt helpless to control it. He sighed. He was not a leader. He was a singer of songs, a teller of tales, a musician, a dancer, through the fury burned hot and fierce through his veins.
He wondered where Tamara was, though he suspected she was with Canth. A dull knot of impotent jealousy twisted his stomach, but he swallowed the desire to cry. Leaders don't cry. Leaders are strong, a foundation on which the others can safely build their towers and battlements.
Only the soft, nearly inaudible sound of his hitching breath disturbed the perfect silence surrounding him, and he was glad of that at least. Everything moving, beyond his control... Everything flowing away from him, mocking his desires for a strong pack. A strong front with which to counter Lasher.
Why had Ractamo and Mir left? Why were they shutting him out of their lives? He didn't understand, through that didn't lessen the sting of rejection. It was not just he; it was the whole pack. He wiped his nose on the back of his hand, looking up and away from the flames, trying to hold his emotions in check. Perhaps if he made her a part of the pack... officially... it might draw her back; Mir would not have left on his own, at least, he hoped Mir was not so unhappy with him.
And Mouse... she was ill. He knew she was ill, for the spark of life seemed to be disappearing right before his eyes, like St. Elmo's Fire, an illusion, there one instant, and the next... Niko breathed in sharply, appalled at the desperate hitch in his voice. He wanted to help. Mouse was his responsibility, for he had made a promise to Bingo, and he intended to keep it. He knew Mouse and the feathered pair were very close; perhaps there was a link to their continued disappearances, and Mouse? He didn't know.
And now Vanessa... It had come as a harsh blow to Shadowed Hunter, whatever he had discovered out there, in the city. Some form of operation, which had damaged her, inside. He ground his teeth in frustration, rocking as he sat. So much to do. So little time. They were all pulling away, unraveling the threads of their bound lives like so much yarn. A child's plaything, unworthy even of notice. Niko noticed. It was tearing him apart.
He sat and hummed to himself, trying to calm the all-encompassing fear suffocating him. Something bad was coming. Something that was trying to destroy them, one slice at a time. Perhaps they would be able to battle it on their own fronts, but he didn't think so. No, whatever was happening, this sharp and shattered series of events, was being carefully orchestrated by something out there... in the ether, waiting. Waiting and laughing.
It was winning. If it had not already won.
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