AS.com :: Past Secrets

A man's raised voice could be heard echoing through the hospital's hallway. "I demand to see her!" he shouted, then continued, "Get out of my way! I'm her owner!" He was trying to hide his fear, but it rang clear into the room he stood outside of.

"Sir- Mr. Sinisusi, please lower your voice!" a female doctor sternly replied. "We will let you in, but only after you have composed yourself. She is not going to die."

A frustrated growl could be heard, then a loud, annoyed sigh followed. After several minutes, the slightly cracked door swung inward, and the owner of the male voice walked into the room. From the bed, a slight-framed, light lavender furred unicorn mare with a bandage wrapped around her neck looked over at him.

She knew his wolfy form well. His pale blue fur and long hair were familiar and comforting sights. Still, she wasn't sure how to respond to him, as she had gotten herself into this mess. She looked to his aqua eyes, then quickly looked away. "Janus, I'm sorry," she squeaked out, clenching her eyes shut.

Before he could respond, the bright red mare doctor, also a unicorn, trotted into the room and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I honestly shouldn't let you in here at this point, but I understand you are worried about more than her as your property." Janus quickly looked over at her, somewhat shocked she had discerned that. "I will allow it, but only if you will behave. No panicking." He nodded an affirmative response to her, and she patted him on the shoulder. "Good. If you need anything, just hit the call button. And if I hear you freaking out again, I will remove you personally."

Janus, in disbelief she could carry out such a threat, looked closer at her. She was short, especially for her species. A pair of glasses were perched high on her nose and she adjusted them, pushing then slightly upward, as he looked at her, then fluffed the bun of red mane at the back of her head and flicked her equine tail. She shifted her weight to her left leg and placed her right hand on her hip. "Well, do we have an understanding?" she asked.

Janus had seen enough of her species, the delphin, in his time to know she not only meant business, but could follow through. "Yes, doctor," he replied, nodding again.

"Good!" she replied, straightening her stance. "Just hit the button if you need me!" she reminded in a sing-song voice as she left the room.

He shuddered slightly, for reasons not entirely known to him, as the doctor shut the door behind her. He then turned his attention to the mare left in the room with him. He slowly walked toward her, as she was still looking away from him. "Snowhawk," he began once he reached the side of her bed.

She flinched at his voice.

"Dear, look at me, please," he pleaded.

She was silent for several minutes, then finally responded, "I can't."

He sighed and sat in the reclining chair next to the bed. The exposed wood frame and fake-leather cushion covers left much to be desired for comfort, but he knew he needed to be near her. He stroked her deep amethyst mane with one hand and held onto her softly furred arm with the other. "You didn't do anything wrong." He watched the silver spiral that ascended her amethyst horn glitter softly in the room's low light, shaking with her quiet sobs, and he continued to comfort her as much as she allowed.

*********

Despite what he said, Snowhawk knew she was responsible for this. She had one duty, one purpose, and she had failed it. She went over the hours before in her mind, trying to recall every detail she knew. They had arrived when they were scheduled to, they arrived shape-shifted to humans. This wasn't as important for her owner, and was expected of such a highly ranked man, but for her, it meant one less way to be recognized. She'd kept out of her human form while off the grounds of the estate for months before, just to let them forget.

Somewhere in that time period, though, someone had found her out.

She went over the night in her head once more, telling herself the story. Maybe she could figure out what the mistake was...

Their limousine pulled up to the front of the mansion, taking its place in the queue. Janus looked at her and his human form's face smiled. "This is it, the last one, then I'll take you away from all this," he said. His voice was warm and gentle. He reached out to her, and gently touched her cheek just before the limo stopped. "I promise."

His promise to her that this world of stealth and subterfuge, of lies and death would be gone. She could be free, which he had also promised, and able to just breathe. She looked into his eyes, those familiar, comforting aqua eyes, and she knew he would never lie to her. Even though she was just a slave, and he was just her owner, there was more between them. She had almost slipped into her day dream when the vehicle's door was opened. He exited, then turned, his long, pale hair trailing behind his movement, and offered her his hand to help her. She took his hand, and they made their entrance. As they walked in, she looked at his hand holding hers. She rarely saw his human form on the grounds, and was always amused that this form that was rarely out was only slightly darker in skin tone than hers.

She had never been to this estate before, and it was one of the more grand ones. Large, white marble tiles lined the way to the ballroom, and she still found it amusing to hear her high heels click on them. It reminded her of the sound of her hooves on such surfaces in her delphin form, though smaller. Various rooms along the hallway were open to guests, though in these types of events, guests would first go to the ballroom to be announced, then they would have free rein of the guest areas. She made mental notes of the rooms she saw, and where each was located in reference to others, as she would need to explore them later.

Snow moved somewhat slower than she could have, extending the time it would have normally taken to reach the ballroom. Had anyone asked, she would have blamed it on her shoes, but it was simply to better take in her surroundings. Heels were not an issue. She had done this many times before. But this is the last, she told herself. I won't have to do this again.

She realized something now she hadn't at the time. There were many paid servants, not slaves, who were at this party not in their human forms. This was a break from tradition, as human forms were much like equalizing masks among the slavers. While slaves would be expected to remain as their animal morph forms, any paid servants would be encouraged to shift to their human selves. Additionally, all the servants she saw were lupino, like Janus.

Janus gave her hand a slight squeeze as they reached the ballroom and stood outside of the doors they would pass through. She looked to him, smiling serenely. When it was their turn to be announced, Janus gave the feline slave at the door his name and invitation, then the pseudonym they had decided for her. Her real name was known too well to be used, so she had taken to using false names as necessary for such missions. The feln, probably a lower slave of the rankings of this estate, but still literate, thanked them as he wrote her name under Janus's, then turned to the paid servant to transfer the invitation. He was a small, grey tabby cat, and stood significantly shorter than the wolf servant. He stretched his arms out and bowed his head, passing the invitation to the grey wolf.

The wolf took the invitation from the slave with little thought or acknowledgment of the feline. He looked at the names on the thick paper, then confirmed the proper pronunciation of Janus's family name. This was just a formality. The Sinisusi name was well known throughout the cities of this part of continent, be that good or bad. The servant stepped forward, and began his announcement. "The Boyce estate welcomes Mister Janus Sinisusi, and his companion Eira Castiel," his clear voice rang out. While many would normally have ignored her master's name, several turned to see this announced companion. Janus would typically not arrive with any companions, or he would bring her as his pet, her name was never announced and she was usually in her delphin form. Slaves don't get announcements.

As they descended the staircase, she could see people whispering to each other, and could only give a slight smirk. "If they wanted to keep secrets, they would be less obvious," she softly commented to Janus.

He chuckled and let go of her hand to move his to rest on her far shoulder. "You know all about that, don't you?"

"Indeed." Her expression turned slightly worried as they left the staircase. "Do you think the name was too much?"

Janus glanced at her, giving his own smirk. "In this crowd? No, not in the least. We probably could have embellished more and they wouldn't have blinked. They're just murmuring because no one ever sees me with anyone but you."

He was right, of course. As long as she had been his, he had never arrived to a party with anyone else. After a half hour of Janus socializing, she excused herself. She had a mission to do tonight, and a specific person to find. The sooner this job was done, the sooner they could be gone.

She positioned herself to listen to conversations. The more the guests drank, the more they would talk and reveal. She drifted about the ballroom for a time, eavesdropping on conversations that were more and more open. She would sneak in seemingly innocent questions to the slaves who wandered the ballroom with trays of drink and hors d'oeuvres. They were worlds more helpful than a room of inebriated slavers. She finally had enough of a lead, and slipped out of the ballroom and into the estate itself. The rooms she had passed on the way in contained far fewer drunks, though some of the guests were trying to make up for that. Still, the tighter lips on these slavers meant her search had to be on a more visual note, and with more sober minds about, asking the slaves was more difficult. Proper folk didn't converse with slaves. She slowly moved from room to room, looking for her target.

She eventually found him outside, in the front garden. There were very few guests around, possibly due to the chill in the night air. It was late in Octu'bar, after all.

But, was that really it? she thought to herself. Or had they already figured it out and had him wait in the garden for me? She continued to replay the events of just a few hours before in her mind.

The sandy blond man in her sights was not a morph of any species, just a human in the service of Janus's uncle's biggest rivals. He wasn't exceptional in that, but he had the clearance she would need to get the information they came for.

She thought for a moment how best to make the meeting seem accidental. She ducked out his line of sight and discarded the wrap she wore around her shoulders, kicking it behind a bench. She didn't wear this shiny, slinky dress for nothing. The night air's chill bit at her skin. It was colder than she had realized, so she would need to make this quick. Despite her name, she was not built for the cold. She walked in his direction, stopping every so often to "look" for her missing shrug and make frustrated noises at not being able to find it. "Ooh, where could it be?" she whined, in a louder voice than one would typically use for speaking to themselves. "If I lose that shawl, my grandmother will kill me!"

A moment later as she leaned over to look behind another bench, she felt a coat draped around her, and a pair of hands on her shoulders. "You seem cold," a man's voice said.

She looked up, seeing the sandy blond hair and hazel eyes of her chosen target. A small scar over his left eyebrow confirmed it. Jackpot, she thought. "I've lost my grandmother's shawl!" she blurted out, trying to muster up her best, most pitiful expression.

The man chuckled, "Shall I help you look?"

"Oh, please! It's an heirloom from her grandmother and I know she'll just kill me if I've lost it."

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Then let's find it. Where did you last see it?"

While she had thought Gotcha, sucker, at the time, she wondered now if, perhaps, it was the other way around.

Of course, he "found" her shawl behind the very bench where she had kicked it. He dusted it off and handed it to her.

"I'm going to have to clean this before I return it to my dear grandmother," she pouted. "But thank you... Oh my, I never got your name!" She did know it, but he didn't know that. She hoped.

He grinned and gave a small bow. "I am Christopher North. And you, dear lady?"

"Eira Castiel," she returned with a small curtsey.

"Shall we go inside and get out of this cold then, Ms. Castiel?"

"Please, just call me Eira, Sir North, but I would love to go back inside."

"If we're going to be on a first name basis then, Eira, then please, call me Chris."

He placed his arm back around her shoulders, and walked her inside the estate.

What followed over the next hour was Chris's lackluster attempts at seduction. Snow needed to at least get into his room, so she played along, almost feeling sorry for how bad he was at this. But had that been an act? She was so confused. She could usually read deception in people, since most were so bad at hiding it. But now, she had to question everything. Perhaps his awkwardness was planned to get her to drop her guard.

The two walked the estate for some time, growing further and further away from the guest areas. Eventually, he walked her into a bedroom in a building far from the ballroom. She assumed then it was housing for the lower ranked officers. The room was not overly large, having a bed just large enough for two people, a short couch, a small table covered in papers with two chairs, one of which was pulled out, a slightly beat-up wardrobe, a desk with a computer sitting on it, and a filing cabinet. There was also a fireplace in the wall furthest from the door, though it was apparently no longer used except as a safe space to place an electric heater.

"This is my room, I thought we could talk more... privately here." He took the shawl from her, draping it over the back of the pulled out chair, then placing his coat over it. He gestured to the couch for her to sit, then walked to the heater and crouched to turn it on. "They keep this place so damn cold. Some of the guys don't mind, but the rest of us..." She could smell burning dust when the heater was turned on. He went to the wardrobe and removed a blanket, then walked to the couch and unfolded the blanket to drape around her shoulders.

She gave him a warm smile as he sat next to her. "I want to thank you again for finding that shawl for me."

He shrugged, grinning. "It was nothing!" Then he leaned in closer to her resting a hand on her thigh and stroking the thin fabric of her dress with his thumb. "So," he began, wrapping his other arm around her once more, "What brought you to this party?"

"Oh," she blushed, "you know, business matters." She felt strange. Her head was aching and her vision was starting to swim.

"Business perhaps involving Boyce's interests? Or business of your owner's interests?"

She shook her head, trying to clear it. Everything was feeling fuzzy. "Owner? What do you me- "

She couldn't react fast enough to what happened next. In what was a blur to her eyes, he lunged at her, pinning her back against the arm of the couch. The arm that had been around her shoulders now forcefully held her down. He straddled her, his weight on her legs so she couldn't use them as leverage to fight him away. The hand that had rested on her thigh a half moment earlier now had a knife in it, and the blade was near her throat. She couldn't get both her hands to his, her body was refusing to listen to her.

"I know who you are and what your game is, you little bitch. You aren't going to leave here alive."

That wasn't dust, Snow realized as she lay in the hospital bed. There was a paralytic poison that came in a powder form, and one could build up tolerance to it. Smelling it as it burned could trigger the effects, and even small amounts could weaken one enough to render them unable to fight. Slavers often used it to capture new prey. It smelled like ordinary dust when burned. She had fallen for it.

Chris was pressing down on her as she struggled. She couldn't move him, and she could feel the pressure of the knife on her throat. She had one option left, and she could only hope the poison hadn't affected her enough to be unable to shift forms. She closed her eyes, and found she had to concentrate more than usual to become her delphin self. The change in size from human to equine, and the pressure he exerted on her neck, however, meant the sharp blade sunk into her flesh. She screamed and bucked, using the leverage of her now longer legs to disrupt his balance. She rolled toward the edge of the couch, striking him in the head with the flat of her forearm.

Her attacker hit the floor with a thud. He was shocked at her suddenly fighting back. She stood, wobbly, from the couch. Her added size would delay the effects of the poison, so she had to make it count. Chris had dropped his knife as he fell, so she picked it up. The wound on her neck was not life threatening on its own, but combined with the effects of the poison, it could become fatal. She took in a deep breath and bushed her long mane away from her new wound, standing straight and towering over the human at her hooves. "Well, this was not how it was supposed to happen. But, I guess you are going to die after all."

Snow couldn't remember much after that, and even that line didn't feel like she had said it. It didn't sound like her voice. She felt like she was watching someone else's memories. She lunged at Chris, returning the favor and pinning him to cut his throat. She watched him for a moment to make sure he was on his way out, then stood and quickly rifled through the papers on his table and desk, then looked through the top drawers of the file cabinet. She vaguely remembered finding several sheets that had some information on them that Janus needed, so she folded them and hid them in the bodice of her dress. She couldn't change back to a human, but needed to get back to Janus. This wound was going to blow her cover anyway, so she left the room of the dead man, and stumbled back toward the ballroom.

Her memory became sharper here, but she had not gone far when a guard spotted her, probably more concerned with the fact a slave was apparently out of her place. The guard then saw the blood. She knew she couldn't go further, her legs were giving out. She collapsed in front of the guard, and managed to get out "Find Janus," before her memory went black.

But where was the screw up? she asked herself. Did we really walk into a trap? She didn't know, and not knowing was frustrating. She didn't even know if Janus had gotten the papers she'd stolen.

*********

Snowhawk stayed in the hospital for five days, both to make sure her neck wound was healing well and to be certain she was sufficiently recovered from the poison. On the evening of that day, Janus pushed Snow, in a wheelchair, out to his waiting vehicle, then helped her inside of the car. The hospital's valet took the chair back into the building, and Janus jogged to the driver's side and sat down. He looked over to her, but she was staring at her hands, which she had folded into her lap.

"Snow," he began. "Please talk to me, love."

She didn't move.

He sighed and started the car, then pulled away from the hospital.

The drive home was roughly a half hour, and filled with an uncomfortable silence. As they neared the estate, Janus commented, "You're going to have to tell me what else is going on, Snow."

She shook her head in disagreement, not intending to tell him anything.

He sighed and stopped the car in front of the house, turning the engine off, then exited and walked around to the passenger side. He opened the door, and crouched next to her. "I can't help you if you won't talk to me."

She again stared at her hands on her lap for a moment, then finally gave a small nod. "Okay, but inside."

Janus helped her from his vehicle and led her inside, through the estate, and to her room on the second floor. Someone had already turned the bedspread down for her. She walked to her bed and sat on the edge, then after a moment doubled over and cried. He approached her slowly, kneeling in front of her and taking her hands in his. "Love..."

"I failed!" she finally exclaimed through her sobs. "I don't know what happened or where it went wrong, but I failed!"

Janus canted his head to the side, confused at what she was saying. "What? How did you fail?"

"I didn't complete the mission! I don't even know if what I found got to you or if it was enough!"

Janus sighed and brought his muzzle near hers, and nuzzled her gently. "You didn't fail."

"What if your uncle makes me go back out?" she asked, quieter. "This is far from the first time someone has tried to kill me."

"He won't. What you found did get to where it needed to go, and it was enough."

"But, what if it's not?!" She was growing more agitated. "You told me that you can't just defy him!"

Janus shook his head. "No, love, I can't, not right now. But I'll think of something."

She was quiet for several moments, her thoughts racing. Janus was stroking her mane as she looked up to him, her tears having stopped. "What if he wasn't in the picture anymore?" she softly said.

Janus leaned back in shock. This was not something she would have said. It didn't even sound like her voice. "Snow, what are you talking about?"

"If he's gone, then you don't have to answer to him."

"Snow, you can't--"

"The hell I can't!" she snapped.

"No, you can't! This is not you, what's going on?"

"Are you defending the wolf who has made my life hell?" she asked, accusingly, sitting up. "And you promised me over a year ago we would be done and gone, but here we are!" she continued, gesturing to not only to room, but the estate itself.

"I would rather not leave this city without the closest thing it has to a leader."

She looked off to the side and snorted. "That's what the slavers did to the Delphin Empire..."

Janus was confused. It wasn't that she didn't know about the history of her species, but she had never brought up their past before in that sense. "What's going on, Snow?" he repeated. She was acting very strange. "You usually talk about how their actions led to their fall."

"Why do you defend them?"

"I'm not saying that, after some two thousand years, things shouldn't change, but I don't think killing Ulmer is the way to go about it."

Snow stood, then began to walk away from the bed. Janus also stood and took a step toward her. "Stay back, wolf," she harshly warned, glancing back at him. "I don't want to be further involved with you." She quickly left the room, and one extremely confused Janus behind.

"'Wolf?' She almost never uses that term, especially with that tone." He stepped out in the hall, but she had already disappeared. He sniffed the air, trying to locate her scent, but as she was in this area often, it wasn't possible to determine which way she had gone. He decided to visit his younger brother, who had recently taken over as the estate's head of security.

The monitoring station was in a separate building from the main estate. As he hurried there, he kept looking for his lavender love, but saw no sign of her. Upon reaching the building, he tried to open the door, but found it locked. He pressed the buzzer to signal that someone was outside, but he didn't hear it sound. He pressed it several more times, then noticed the button was loose, and pulled right out of its hole. The wires had been cut. He resorted to banging on the door. "Adian! Are you there! Open the damn door!" he bellowed.

A minute later, his continuous pounding and yelling was rewarded as his brother, his short red hair disheveled like it hadn't been brushed today and chocolate fur clumped from sleep, finally greeted him. "What the hell do you want?"

"Were you sleeping?! You look like a throw rug!" Janus growled. He received a non-committal shrug in response. "Where is Ulmer?"

"Oh," his sleep-addled brother replied. "Somewhere. What does it matter where that old man is?"

"Something happened with Snow. I think she means to kill him," Janus said, pushing his way past his brother and into the building.

Adian very quickly woke up at that. "What?! I knew that mare would snap at some point," he mumbled as he followed his brother.

The building above the monitoring station was mostly storage and facilities so whoever was on duty didn't have to go too far if they needed food or a restroom. The actual monitoring area was below grade, and after descending the stairs, it was down a short, dark hallway into a room of various monitors, each slowly switching their displays of different rooms. The halls in the slave quarters and outside individual slave rooms, greeting areas, various views of the library, dining hall, and different rooms used during events. There were also views of the tall brick and iron fences around the grounds and the front and rear entrances to the estate.

"If he's in his private quarters, we won't be able to find him," Adian reminded his brother as the two forced monitors to switch their displays. The older brother nodded, he understood.

A half minute later, Adian had a thought, "Why didn't you just go tell our uncle directly?"

Janus clenched his fists. "Because he would have just killed her. You know how he is."

Adian looked at his sibling. "I know you're really attached to this slave, but--"

Janus quickly turned to his brother and snarled at him. "Don't you dare finish that fucking sentence."

"Okay, okay! Just, calm down! I get it, sensitive topic." The monitor behind Janus flipped on its own, and Adian caught sight of an amethyst tail vanishing off screen. "There!" he said, diving to the monitor to check where the camera was before it changed again. "I saw her tail, she's at the back of the property, heading into the woods."

"I'll go after her, you go find Ulmer. He must be in his quarters." Janus ran from the monitoring room and out of the building with his brother following after him. The older one sprinted toward where the camera that had last seen Snowhawk was, while Adian rushed into the main building.

The younger wolf quickly reached his uncle's quarters, and found the door ajar. "That's not right," he frowned, carefully pushing the door open. He first smelled blood, then saw his uncle's favorite chair over-turned. The family picture that normally hung over the fireplace was on the floor. The frame had been broken and the glass shattered. These were both spattered in blood. The side table that normally sat next to the chair had been reduced to a pile of splintered wood. He quickly looked around room, soon finding his uncle slumped in a corner. "Ulmer!" he exclaimed as he ran and crouched next to his uncle. His uncle didn't respond. A piece of glass from the picture had been jabbed into the side of his neck, pulled out, then stabbed back in on the other side.

Adian studied the scene for a moment, and shook his head slowly. He knew his brother's mare was trained to kill, but the excessive nature of this kill was more than he would have expected. Adian stood and left the room to find his brother. He hadn't cared for his uncle much, and certainly wouldn't shed tears over his loss, but it would be more difficult to lose Janus.

Elsewhere on the property, Janus reached the location of the security camera, and followed its line of sight to look for any tracks left. At this time of year, there was an abundance of new leaf litter, so finding her actual hoof prints would be difficult, but perhaps she had disturbed enough of the fallen leaves to mark her path. He also sniffed the air and near the ground and trees for her scent. He noticed a second smell mixed with her scent. Following these trails, he went into the woods. The brick and iron fence turned into sections of shorter iron fence, and became less and less maintained. Some were knocked free of their posts, either from vandalism or rusted fasteners. It was rare anyone was back here to check on the fence. Over the past three years, Janus had convinced his uncle to reduce the number of slaves, in part due to Snowhawk's influence, and most of the current maintenance crew was hired help.

In ten more minutes, Janus came upon Snowhawk, and the source of the second scent he had smelled: her younger cousin, Helaine. The latter had the former's hand in hers, and seemed to be wrapping it up.

Snow's ears twitched at the sound of crunching leaves and she quickly turned toward the noise. When she saw Janus, she pushed her cousin behind her.

"Snow, wait!" Janus called out as he continued toward her.

She folded her ears back, and shifted her weight backwards, then stomped the ground and snorted.

"Please, tell me what's going on!"

She stepped backwards, then turned and grabbed Helaine's arm and ran further into the woods.

He began to run after them, but soon heard someone behind him. "Janus!" Adian's voice called out.

Janus stopped and turned toward his brother. "Well?"

Adian stopped a couple feet from his brother and shook his head. "He's gone. Dead, I mean."

The older brother sighed and shook his head. "I was afraid of that. She just took off that way," he pointed, "with Helaine."

"What!" Adian began to run, but Janus grabbed his brother's arm and stopped him. "Let them go for now. If Ulmer is dead, we have bigger issues at hand."

The other sighed and nodded. "You're right," he conceded. "The fallout from this will not be pleasant."

"Depending on how the other owners react, and how we tell it. Still, this was not the catalyst I was expecting."

*********

Snowhawk pushed a section of the fence out of the way, the rusted metal screaming as it let go of the bolts holding it to the post, then offered her hand to her cousin. "Let's go, Helaine."

Her pale, blue-furred cousin timidly stretched out her hand, cautiously looking around as she left the estate's grounds for the first time in months. She brushed back her slightly darker forelock from her eyes as she stepped away from the fence. "Now what?" she asked, glancing about. "Won't they come after us?"

"I highly doubt it," Snowhawk replied, shaking her head. "Things are probably going to get hectic, to say the least. I need to find a safe place for you."

"Safe? What do you mean safe?" she questioned as her cousin began walking away. "All I know is you came into my room covered in someone's blood, a bag over your shoulder, your hand gushing your own blood, and grabbed me, and we were gone." She trotted after her.

"I don't even really remember. I was talking to Janus after we got back from the hospital, then my memory starts getting fuzzy, like I wasn't actually there. It clears up about the time I stabbed Ulmer in the throat the second time."

"You did what?!" she gasped, stopping for a moment, then running to her. "Snow, they're going to kill us! They'll track us down and that will be it!"

"You're going to be fine, Helaine. If they're coming after anyone, it will be me." She sighed and looked back at her cousin, who was walking slightly behind her, "Though, they're going to be more preoccupied with trying to explain his sudden death. Ulmer was old, but he wasn't in poor health." She stopped and turned around, placing her non-bandaged hand on the other mare's shoulder. "For now, though, let's just find a place for the next few days. We might have to move around quite a bit for the next couple weeks, but I'll make sure you're safe."

"How can we afford that?"

Snow chuckled slightly, and dropped the bag from her shoulder, then unzipped it and showed her cousin a goodly amount of cash in the bag. "Janus and I were planning on leaving. We had been storing back money, so I grabbed some of that when I was on my way to you."

"That's just 'some?'" she responded, quickly looking at her cousin's face. "Were you planning on buying your own city?"

"We wanted to build a place out in the mountains," she replied, a hint of melancholy in her voice. "He doesn't like them that much, but knows that out there it's my favorite."

"Snow..."

"That's it, though," she continued, and then turn back around and continued walking. "This will be enough to get you-- us, set up."

Helaine's ears perked at her cousin's slip of the tongue, but she continued after her as they walked into the night.