The Children of Lilith (Chapters 1-3)

The Children of Lilith

By Daughter of Theon
 
All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy:-Anna Karenina

Chapter 1

 

“Now tell me girl, why I shouldn’t let him kill you?” My uncle demanded in a tone that mere weeks ago would have had me trembling.  My cousin though had pushed me to my limits and even my uncle’s anger did nothing to cool my own.  There was silence from the others scattered around the great hall that served as a court for the anachronism that was my uncle’s house.  I knew I had allies amongst those here, but none would voice their support. He may have been an anachronism but that did not make him less dangerous to his kin.

 

“No reason at all Uncle, but I doubt you wish to lose a son who as yet may have potential...” I replied standing tall and proud before his son.  Though I may be a mere cousin, my name and his were still the same and only he stood before me to take my uncle’s place.

 

“You think you’re that good?” he roared trying to scare me into submission.  I however didn’t flinch.

 

“When it comes to my own skills I do not presume to think.  Deeds are the only currency worth anything in matters of honour,” I snapped back.  “If he has the balls, let him try to take me and I even promise to hand them back afterwards.”

 

“Well Andrew you have been challenged, what are you going to do about it?” Uncle demanded with amusement in his voice.  I could see that Andrew was unsure.  He wanted to prove once and for all that he could best me, but I was still an unknown quantity to him.

 

“You would allow this?” Andrew asked, his face almost pleading with his father to say no.

 

“Not to the death, but to blood yes,” my uncle replied much to my disgust. 

 

“If my blade must be unsheathed let it at least be in anger rather than sport,” I protested.

 

“No, you will not take the life of one of your own kin in my house,” my uncle replied his hand falling to the automatic pistol that he wore openly.

 

“You would champion the boy then?” I asked and I watched my Uncle tense and his face flicker before his hand moved away from his weapon with a most positive action.

 

“You have much of your father in you child,” he said with real hatred in his voice.  “For him that proved to be a fatal condition, you should be more like your mother, more malleable...more accommodating...”

 

“The only kinship I claim from her is the fact that she bore me, I claim nothing else and ask for nothing from her.  I am my fathers’ daughter and kin to you,” I replied as I could see that the quarrel between Andrew and myself was rapidly being forgotten.

 

“You should know your place...girl...” he replied with all the weight on the word ‘girl’.

 

“Please tell me uncle, what was Lilith’s Sin?” I asked in a voice that was all sweetness and light, and watched the anger flash across his face.  “Are we not far beyond the petty ignorance of the Children of Eve?  Are we not the Children of Lilith?  Am I not the equal of Adam or of you?”

 

I watched as he raised his hand, ready for the blow that I was sure would follow.  I also had my eye on the large Browning; this man might be my kin but in no way was I safe here.  I reached inside the pocket of my skirt, my hand resting on the blade there and his hand dropped.

 

“There will be no challenge of me here today; this is not a quarrel between uncle and niece.  This is a matter of cousins, if you wish to fight then fight, but only to the blood,” my uncle said his hand dropping.  “To the blood girl,” he repeated his hand pausing to tap the pistol and emphasise his point.

 

“My name is Anita,” I shouted, removing the twelve-inch blade from the sheath on my leg through the carefully prepared pocket.  “I am the daughter of Jacob of the house of Fairbourne and I claim my right of battle.”

 

“You dare come into my presence armed?” my uncle screamed as the blade emerged.

 

“Why Uncle, as a Daughter of Lilith I depend on no man to protect my virtue,” I replied.

 

“Virtue?”

 

“Do you question it?” I demanded making eye contact with him.

 

“Of course not niece of mine,” he replied with as much sarcasm as he could put into his voice, the inflection turning it from a statement into a question.  His words though were the things that mattered and again he had prevented me openly challenging him.  “You can fight for a token,” he said removing the scarf from around his neck.  “The one who retains my scarf retains my favour.”

 

I caught it in the air and wrapped it around my hand; this was another of uncle’s little games.  In this contest, Andrew’s reach and strength would be in his favour, but unlike his father he was stupid with his cruel streak.  I offered the other end of the scarf to Andrew he took it in his clumsy fist and pulled, trying to put me off balance from the start.  I was ready for this I had seen him fight four times since I came to this house six weeks ago and he had used this trick every time.  He was a creature of habit and his habits included goading those who stood no chance of matching him into challenging him.  One of the four had died, a distant cousin, but a pleasant lad with no malice in him.  As he pulled, I stepped forward and he nearly started the duel on his arse.

 

“It would have been far more pleasant for you if you’d accepted my offer,” Andrew whispered.  I responded by bringing my blade up swiftly across his body, he only just stepped back in time, the ceramic blade just touched the denim of his jeans and the fabric parted at even this gentle caress.

 

“Have you been circumcised Andrew?” I whispered and I watched the colour drain from his face.  He was realising he was stupid to force a duel with someone he knew nothing of.

 

“What’s that thing,” he demanded loudly and with more than a little fear in his voice.  “It’s no knife.”

 

“It is,” I answered.  “This is my blade given to me by my father, crafted by one whose family has made our blades for generations.  Just because he is keen to embrace a new technology does not make it any less of a knife or any more than a mere blade.”

 

“Halt,” my uncle shouted.  “Let me see the blade, girl.”

 

I held it up in the air, keeping my eyes on Andrew and my uncle stepped forward.  For a second or two I thought he was going to ask me to relinquish it, but instead he just looked it over.

 

“It’s just a blade,” he announced loudly.  “No matter what it’s made of.”

 

As I expected Andrew slashed with his blade, the moment my uncle finished speaking and I dropped.  Andrew was not after my blood he was after my life and had I remained standing it would have taken his blade across my throat.  I slashed again at his groin, he was expecting it after my comment about circumcision and he backed away giving me the room to duck under his arm that held the scarf.  He slashed downwards and I rolled forwards, possibly giving him a view of that to which he was not entitled thanks to my skirt, but that was a minor concern.  I slashed upwards again, making him think that I was aiming again for his groin and as I expected he bent double, sticking his rear-end out in his reflexive move.  On the backstroke, my blade bit deep into his buttock and he screamed, dropping the scarf.

 

“I have your scarf and now I have your favour uncle,” I said sweetly as he looked at Andrew with disgust.

 

“Not now girl, I have important matters at hand, far more important than the demands of a child,” he replied.

 

“I am not a child,” I shouted walking towards him, my hand with the scarf outstretched.  “I am Anita and I have proved myself in this your house and in this my family seat.  I demand the recognition that my birth and my deeds deserve.”

 

He backhanded me across the face without a second thought sending me tumbling to the floor my blade slicing through my skirt deep into my upper thigh.  I stood again feeling the blood trickling down my face and down my leg.

 

“There girl, I have recognised you and you also have my favour...you still live.  You have both and both of which you do not deserve,” he screamed, the scar of the bullet wound normally hidden by his scarf now a livid red colour. 

 

“Thank you uncle,” I replied and limped away, ignoring Andrew whimpering on the floor being attended to by his mother.  My uncle might just have made the biggest mistake of his life other than killing my father, his brother.  He was the head of one of the seven families and his words carried weight even if he didn’t mean them.  He had allowed the challenge to stand and admitted that he recognised me.  That meant because there was no question of my heritage I was now only separated from direct succession by my cousin.  I was the third most important person in one of the seven families of The Children of Lilith and even in a house such as ours, fallen so far from it’s prime, that was a pretty impressive place for any fourteen-year-old girl to be in.  I knew though that now it was just a matter of time before my cousin tried to kill me and my uncle tried that bit harder.  Half the battle though is expecting the attack.  My cousin I would kill when he tried it and my uncle I would then challenge openly, I was my father’s daughter but I was not him, the good of the family meant little to me.

 

I was in this for vengeance and for me.

 

*****

 

“And what the hell do you think you were doing?” Father Dunbar demanded as he helped me back to my quarters.

 

“I didn’t want to sheathe the blade, there may have been an opportunity to take him,” I protested.

 

“If it was a mere matter of killing the man I’d have done it long ago,” he snapped back at me.  “There are the forms that must be followed.  The man must die but his death must be achieved by playing the game.  This is his house and he has set the rules as something from an earlier age, so you have to work within those rules.”

 

“I almost had him in a position where I could challenge him,” I protested.

 

“Right up until the point where you dropped Andrew he was toying with you, playing your emotions.  When the lad fell his attitude changed, but towards his son rather than you,” Dunbar replied.

 

“He recognised me,” I said gasping slightly as the pain in my leg increased for a second or two.

 

“Yes he did that and he’s not fool enough to try to deny that.  Now I’m likely to find I have to earn my money,” Dunbar said a grin cracking his stern expression.

 

“You swore an oath to protect me as my father would, for those times he was not there.  He is not here now, but the oath is fulfilled.  My father is gone as is my family, only the integrity of a certain Swiss Bank means that you are assured of your money.  Why don’t you leave?” I asked him.  I did not want this man hurt due to my own machinations.

 

“There were once over thirty in the families who called themselves Father Protector to a Daughter of Lilith,” he replied and I knew the lecture that was coming.  “It comes from a time a thousand years ago when the Christians rampaged across a continent.  In that time a son could and would fight in public, a daughter though might betray the families if she was forced to display her skills by defending herself.  When a daughter of this very house submitted to the indignations put upon her by knights who called themselves holy and gave her life for The Families it was decided that never again would this be allowed to happen.  We are not the Children of Eve, we are the Children of Lilith and our daughters have always been loved and valued as much as any male child.  So, the first Father Protector was called at that time to walk alongside another who would die rather than protect herself and betray her heritage.  He would protect her as her father would if he was there and, as she could not.  Unlike a father, he would always be there by her side close at hand.  We may be something out of time; the robes of the priest mean little in this day and age unlike the time when we first wore them, but despite our quaint appearance and outdated function none who has called himself Father Protector has ever relinquished his duty.  Only death and marriage can take me from your side Anita.”

 

“And if I never marry?” I asked him.

 

“Then so be it,” he replied with a smile.  “Despite what most members of the families would say this is not a job that we do for the money.  Twenty years of our lives we expect to give for the one in our charge; that is something that we do not do for mere financial reward.”

 

“Your services do cost a hell of a lot though,” I said with a grin.

 

“Damn right they do,” he said puffing his chest out with pride.  “I am worth every penny of my million a year and when you are married I’ll be a very rich man.  If we were cheap then we would be misused.  The great lords only tend to value that which costs them dear.”

 

“Can I misuse you please?” I asked.  “This leg is hurting like hell; can I lean on you a little?”

 

“No,” he said with a smile and suddenly scooped me up in his huge arms.  “You may have grown a little over the years, but you will never be too big for me to give you a carry.”

 

“Not even if I get as big as a whale?” I asked.

 

“Not even if you get as big as two whales,” he replied with a grin.  I admit after the tension of my Uncle’s hall it was comforting and reassuring to be in this mans arms.  This man was second only to my father in my love and sometimes, after disagreements with father, that had been a very close second.

 

Dunbar deposited me on the bed with little ceremony, though he was careful to make sure that my injured leg was uppermost.  Then for a second or two he hesitated.

 

“Do I get a doctor for this?” he asked.

 

“Why?” I replied.

 

“Well you do have a few more curves on you since the last time I tended to your scrapes,” he replied all humour gone from his voice.

 

“Does it embarrass you or upset you?” I asked, not willing to do either to this man.

 

“Oh no,” he replied with his smile returning.  “It was your modesty I was thinking of...”

 

“Well get on with it,” I said standing to drop my skirt before lying back down on the bed and rolling on my side so the wound was uppermost.  “I think this is going to hurt me far more than it does you.”

 

“Damn right it will,” he replied from behind me.  “Getting a slash is one thing, from your own blade is just damn careless.”

 

*****

 

Dunbar was gentle; he also turned the television up loud enough so the sounds of my shouts would not be heard.  My mother’s tongue was not gentle and no matter what noise was made, it echoed through the great house as she looked for me.

 

“Anita,” she demanded as she walked in, “what did you think you were doing?”

 

Then she saw Dunbar bending over my half naked body and shrieked loud enough to inform the whole house.

 

“Anita what the hell do you think you are doing with that...” she paused a second, she had always been unsure of Dunbar.  Father employed Dunbar, but his oath was to me and that even took precedence even over my father’s orders.  “With that man?” she finished.

 

“At the moment mother I’m bleeding over him, but that should soon be rectified,” I replied without turning to look at her.  I might just be in my underwear but this was Scotland, in winter, and Uncle insisted that women and girls wear skirts.  My underwear probably offered more protection than most chastity belts and was a damn sight warmer.

 

“Dunbar leave her, go get a doctor,” Mother said sharply.  Dunbar though continued cleaning the wound paying no attention at all to her.

 

“Dunbar,” she shouted slapping the huge man across the back hard to get his attention; he had turned and grabbed her hand before the second slap landed.

 

“My Lady, I attend to your daughter at her request and given the choice of my own ministrations or the ministrations of a doctor employed by your brother in law, I think she is safer risking my ministrations,” he replied standing up to his full six foot four of height and looking down at my mother.

 

“Let go of me,” my mother demanded trying to pull her hand away.

 

“Lady Fiona,” Dunbar said all the emphasis on the word lady almost questioning the title.  “It would be unfortunate if you were to be injured in your assault on me, but frankly I wouldn’t spend more than a second regretting anything that happened to you.”

 

“Do you realise what I could have done to you for this?” she demanded with venom in her voice.

 

“Yes, far more than you do,” he replied.  “Three of those who sit on the council have born the title Father Protector.  I am beyond any internal or external family squabble as is the Daughter of Lilith entrusted to my care.  Should anything happen to either of us outside the proper etiquette demanded to kill one known as kin then this house will cease to exist.  Remember the Montague’s, remember the Capulet’s, their sin was not just in bringing themselves to the notice of the world.  There was also the matter of Laurence and it was for that alone that their families are no more.”

 

“Anita we are here only at your uncle’s tolerance,” she said as Dunbar released her hand.

 

“No longer,” I replied wincing as I felt a needle bite into my flesh.  “He recognised me today, now we have rank.”

 

“Anita please for me, don’t pursue this matter,” Mother replied.

 

“I don’t do this for you or even for father,” I said through gritted teeth.  “I do this for me.  It is a matter of honour.”

 

“What did honour get your father other than an early death?” she demanded.

 

“Respect,” I answered.  “Respect of others and self respect, neither of which you have in his bed.”

 

Mother didn’t reply she just slammed the door on her way out.

 

“Dunbar, I think you better sew quickly,” I said through my teeth as his suturing became particularly painful.  “I think the shit’s about to hit the fan.”

 

“Far better to be throwing the shit than accepting a life living in it,” Dunbar replied.  “Where do we go?”

 

“To the council,” I said.  “We go to Geneva.”

 

“And you think the shit has hit the fan here,” he said with a chuckle.  “You aint seen nothing yet kid.”

 

 

Chapter 2

 

There is a strange dichotomy within the families, the strange yet successful merging of the old and the new.  It seems to be something that is only found in a few of the royal families that are still allowed to exist.  Our family seat was on the west coast of Scotland, far enough north to be off the tourist trail and thanks to the island and the narrowness of the causeway, which was only exposed at low tide, it had for centuries been considered one of the most defensible of the Great Houses.

 

The nature of warfare though had changed and though we have no need of weapons to defend ourselves, we did need to know what threatened us.  The equipment in our home meant that we knew everything that was in the air over northwest Europe, if we were threatened we would know well in advance.  We are a feudal society within a modern social world.  We are ten thousand Children of Lilith amongst billions of the Children of Eve.  We need our security.  I do not doubt that if it ever came to open warfare we would lose, but the losses would make all the wars in history pale to insignificance.  We might be outnumbered, but we are far from weak.

 

Conflict with our cousins who dominate this world is something we do not seek.  The earth is theirs and as long as they don’t bugger it up for us, we care little what they do with it.  We play them at their own games, working the stock and money markets to our own ends and often dropping new ideas and occasionally technology into the world at the right time.  Other than that which makes our lives comfortable we seek nothing of the Children of Eve, the humans. 

 

We have enough problems between and within the seven houses to occupy us.

 

I had no illusions of privacy within my own rooms, though etiquette would have demanded it.  I knew that my every conversation would be reported to my uncle by the time I finished it.  He knew of the argument between mother and I he also knew of my plan to go to Geneva.  There was only one way he could stop that, by allowing me to participate in the schooling here at my family home.  At the moment fifty of our house were educated here.  I myself had done eighteen months here before relations between my uncle and my father had deteriorated to a point where my presence here was looked on as a possible hostage situation.  Students were limited in the things they were allowed to do; by the very nature of schooling limitations must be placed on students.  If he accepted me into the families educational system that itself would cause problems for him. 

 

The next generation was not that fond of my uncle or my cousin.  My own popularity could be seen as a direct threat to his position.  Kept out of the system, unrecognised, I was a problem he considered safely defanged.  While here as a guest, rather than a student, he had no hold over me except for following the house rules, rules that must apply to all who dwell here.  While he wouldn’t school me, I was free to leave and go where I wished.

 

Dunbar drove the Range Rover as we headed down to Prestwick.  My uncle used Glasgow as his base of operations for his aircraft; I was unwilling to share even an airport with him.  I was glad to be out of the house, I had pride in the house as the seat of my family but as a place to live it was unpleasant, not least due to my cousin and my uncle, though my mother did much to make the situation worse.  As we started driving, I stripped of the stupid clothes that my uncle insisted on and made myself comfortable tatty jeans and a jumper and trainers rather than those stupid things that most women call shoes.  Uncle was around eighty years behind the times when it came to women’s clothing and it was all intended to keep us mere women in our place.  When changed I slipped between the seats to sit besides Dunbar in the front.

 

“Seatbelt,” he said without even looking at me.

 

“Do I have to?” I asked.  “I’ve only just got out of those stupid clothes, now I have to strap myself into a car?”

 

“Too bloody right you do,” he said.  “This once I’ll let you ride up front, but seeing the present situation you should be in the back and sitting the other side from me.”

 

“Why?” I asked.

 

“Because if they tried to take me out, then you’re not in the firing line,” he said gently.  “Without me an attack on you would be a very different proposition, physically and politically.”

 

I fastened the seatbelt without further argument.  No matter what he said I had never questioned Dunbar’s loyalties.  Nothing he ever did was for his benefit, it was always for my safety and that gave me a sense of security, even now when the world was so hostile.

 

*****

 

“And where exactly do you think you two are going?” the security man demanded as we began to make our way through the quiet airport.  It was now late at night and it seemed that the airport was mainly a daytime operation.  We seemed to have gone right through the majority of the small airport before we met anyone.

 

“I don’t think anything.  I know I’m going to Geneva,” I replied.

 

“Can I see your tickets, boarding cards?” he asked looking at Dunbar as he spoke.  I tugged on his sleeve to get his attention.

 

“We don’t need boarding cards and tickets,” I said.

 

“Oh yes you do young lady,” he replied turning back to Dunbar.  This was the first time I had used Prestwick and one of the first times I had flown without father.  Protocols and procedures were something I had heard of but never encountered. 

 

“And what exactly are you supposed to be in that get up?” he asked.  Dunbar was silent, it was not his place to speak in public; it was his place to defend me.  It was up to me to deal with the speaking.

 

“He is my protector,” I said firmly.

 

“Looks more like a monk to me, you don’t do Kung Fu do you?” the man asked Dunbar, not a flicker of emotion crossed his hooded face.

 

“We are going to Geneva,” I repeated, the man’s attitude irritating me.

 

“No flights from here to Geneva,” the man said dismissively, whilst still talking directly to Dunbar.  “Perhaps it’s Glasgow you need and some tickets.”

 

“Will you shut up for a moment and listen to what I’m saying you idiot?” I shouted.

 

“And who the hell do you think you are?” he demanded.  “Talking to me like that.”

 

“I’m the Lady Anita and that Lear you can hear on the hard-standing, wasting fuel, is my aircraft.  If we miss our slot because of you I guarantee that you’ll be paying for it for a hell of a long time,” I snarled.

 

“Oh I might have known, bloody aristocracy,” he replied.  “Daddy has a lot of money does he?  Well that doesn’t give you the right to treat people like dirt.”

 

I was stunned by this accusation for a moment.  Treating people like dirt, in particular me, was what this man, this petty official, seemed to be doing for a living.

 

“And what in hell do you think you were doing moments ago?” I demanded poking him in the chest with my finger to punctuate my question.  “Moments ago we were scum sneaking into this place where we shouldn’t be.  Now all of a sudden it’s me who’s being the snob.  Daddy as you put it is dead, murdered.  That aircraft out there is mine and should you or any of your colleagues treat me or anyone with me with any less respect than you would give for someone older than me again, I will make sure that I take an interest in whatever company runs the security for this piddling little piss hole of an airport.”

 

He reached to grab my hand that was still poking him, but was intercepted by Dunbar who grabbed the man’s hand as shook his head slowly.

 

“That,” he said, “would be an incredibly bad idea.”

 

“Why?” the man asked.

 

“Because I am sworn to protect the Lady Anita and I have made no such vow about you,” he replied.  “Now the Lady has an aircraft waiting for her, go and find someone who can see us through, before she becomes irritated.  She is far less tolerant and forgiving than I.”

 

The man spoke into his radio and within moments we had an apologetic airport official with us.  Unknowingly we had entered the wrong part of the airport for private aircraft but we were shown through to the aircraft with a minimum of fuss.

 

I admit it was nice to be on familiar territory.  Not that I had often travelled with father, but here I was not on my uncle’s ground.  Here it was my word alone that carried weight.  Here I was amongst friends.

 

“Lady Anita it is good to see you,” Simon the senior pilot said as we boarded.  “I am sorry about your father.”

 

“Thank you,” I said feeling the grief take hold of me.  I had not mourned him yet, my grief was held tight deep inside me.  I would not let my uncle see I had been affected by it and I would never let him see me cry.

 

“And thank you for letting us serve you as we did him,” Michael the junior pilot said.  I saw a look of displeasure from Simon at mention of this but I smiled reassuringly.

 

“You flew my father from place to place around this planet, who else would I choose?  Who else could I trust other than those he trusted?”  I said.

 

“Thank you,” Simon said.  “Your trust in us will never be misplaced.”

 

“Was I lucky to catch you here today?” I asked.

 

“Oh no My Lady,” Simon replied.  “The aircraft has been here waiting for you since your father was taken from us.”

 

“No charters?” I said with some surprise.

 

“We would never presume,” Simon said.  I was surprised at this; much of their earnings came from private charters of the jet.  My father had a deal that maintenance came out of their profits as did fuel and Simon and Mathew paid rental on the aircraft for the time it was actually used.  The only other condition was with forty-eight hours notice he expected the aircraft at any airport he decided on.  The couple of times this had conflicted with a prior charter arrangement my father, Simon and Mathew had split the cost of chartering another aircraft between them.  It seemed a strange arrangement but as father said, they were pilots because they loved to fly.  The more they flew the better pilots they were and with this arrangement he wasn’t paying for them to keep up their hours and he was making on the deal with the rental of the aircraft.

 

“Let me make this clear,” I said.  “I am my father’s daughter and any deal you had with him you now have with me.  Take all the charters you want.”

 

“Thank you,” Simon replied.

 

“How much out of pocket are you since my father died?”  I asked.

 

“No My Lady, that isn’t necessary,” Simon said.

 

“It is,” I told him.  “It is my negligence that’s meant you’ve been tied here, I want to see your books and we can talk about compensation.  Even if it’s just a case that I waive the rental on the aircraft for a while.”

 

“It isn’t necessary,” Simon repeated gently.

 

“It is,” I said.  “At the end of the day loyalty and service were always rewarded by my father and I intend to do the same.”

 

Both men nodded their appreciation.

 

“Shall we go then?” I asked with a smile.

 

“Yes My Lady,” both men replied.

 

Within minutes, we were in the air and climbing rapidly and after such a long period of tension, both Dunbar and I relaxed.

 

“Would you like a drink?” I asked after we were able to unfasten our seatbelts.

 

“Yes,” he said with a smile after a second or two’s hesitation.  “Just a coke.”

 

“Ooh how daring,” I said teasing him.  For the time he was my protector he would not drink alcohol and despite my teasing, I matched him and pulled out two cans of coke before wandering forwards to the flight deck. 

 

“Do you want anything to drink you two?” I asked.

 

“One of us should do that My Lady,” Simon protested.

 

“Listen, you fly the plane and while my arms and legs work I’ll get the drinks,” I said smiling.  “Is there any chance at least here, far away from everyone else, you could drop the ‘My Lady’?  You never used to use it when you let me sit on your knee to see the clouds.”

 

“You remember that?” Simon said with a smile at the memory.

 

“Oh yes, I was most upset when my father said that my rank would forbid me being a full time pilot,” I told him.  “Though he did promise when I was sixteen I could try and talk you into teaching me, at my expense.”

 

“Do you still want to fly...Anita?” he asked, now so very hesitant over using my name.

 

“Oh yes,” I told him.  “Father made me promise not to pester you until it was nearer the time, now though he is not here to forbid it and it is far nearer the time.  Will you teach me to fly when that time comes?”

 

“I don’t know,” he said with a grin.  “If you learn to fly it might just put me out of a job.”

 

“Where does the might come into the equation?” I asked seeing Mathew’s surprise at this relaxed conversation.  Mathew had only been in my father’s service a couple of years and most of my flying had been long before that.  The world had become too unsafe for Anita to wander the world as her father’s shadow.

 

“I have the younger model here to replace you already,” I told Simon as I placed my hand on Mathew’s shoulder.  “What do you say Mathew, if I get trained up do you fancy being senior pilot if I take your chair?”

 

“My Lady,” Mathew stammered, unsure of who he was going to upset.

 

“Anita please,” I said gently while giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.  “We can put both the old men together in the back, I’m sure they will keep each other entertained.”

 

“Less of the old,” Dunbar shouted back in a mock scolding tone.  “Thirty six is not old...”

 

“Thirty six,” I replied, “that’s worse than old.  When you’re old you know it, thirty-six is too old yet your brain hasn’t realised it.”

 

“Tell me when we are over the North Sea,” Dunbar said.  “This child tests my vows to the limits and beyond.  We can dump her body in the sea and make for somewhere with no extradition treaty.  I’m damn sure we would make enough to live for many years if we sold the plane.”

 

“You aren’t selling my plane,” Simon shouted back to him.  “You can starve or work for us.  How would you look in a prettier dress than the one you’ve got on, we’ll need a stewardess?”  This was what I missed in my Uncle’s house; this bantering was absent as fear ruled there.  My father used to do this with drivers, pilots and even household servants.  They may work for us, but there was no reason why they should be miserable while they did.

 

“Anita has a better figure than I do,” Dunbar said sadly.  “I just haven’t got the legs for the short skirts.”

 

“So we dump you in the North Sea and keep the one with the looks,” Simon told him.  Which I must admit had me confused, as what was the point of running for a country with no extradition treaty if they hadn’t bothered to kill me.  By the time we crossed the coast of Scotland and were over the North Sea, Dunbar and I were going to accompany them on a rampage of airborne piracy and I was going to use my feminine charms to entrap men.  Personally, I felt my charms still had to grow a little before they did more than attract boys, like Andrew.

 

“Is she always like this?” Simon asked Dunbar after a good ten minutes of this fun.

 

“She’s amongst friends,” Dunbar replied with a serious tone.

 

“Friend, yes that is a title I accept willingly,” Simon replied just as seriously.  “When you’re ready, you come to me, we’ll get you flying even better than Mathew here, and he isn’t half bad.”

 

There was a loud bang and the aircraft suddenly shuddered.

 

“Sit down,” Simon screamed, but Dunbar was already dragging me to a seat and throwing me in it, with little regard for my injured leg.  I pulled the belt as tight as it would go and felt my stomach lurch as the aircraft dropped.

 

“Mayday!  Mayday!  Mayday!” Mathew said his voice displaying none of the panic and frantic activity that seemed to be occurring in the cockpit.  “This is Learjet Golf-Mike-Papa-Quebec-Sierra, position fifty five degrees four minutes twenty six seconds north, four degrees twenty four minutes seventeen seconds east.  We are declaring an emergency squawking seven seven zero zero.  Explosion on board losing height rapidly.”

 

“Come on,” Simon was saying, possibly to the aircraft.  “Work with me, come on we can do this.”

 

The aircraft continued its rapid decent, occasionally taking a more violent lurch as it dropped more rapidly.

 

“Are you getting anything from the rudder?” Simon asked.

 

“Negative, we have no rudder control,” Mathew answered as another warning began shouting.  “We have a fire in number one engine, shutting down and engaging fire control systems.  Generator one is down, we’re also losing primary hydraulics.  Bollocks!”

 

“We need a field on our current course,” Simon said.  “Try to turn this bitch and she might just fall apart on us and she’s handling more than a little sloppy.”

 

“We have Schiphol one hundred and seventy nine miles bearing one seven zero degrees...” Mathew replied after a second or two.

 

“Anything closer?” Simon asked.

 

“Eelde at Groningen around a hundred and fifty nine miles, bearing one five eight degrees...” Mathew replied.

 

“We take Schiphol,” Simon announced.

 

“This is Learjet Golf-Mike-Papa-Quebec-Sierra, requesting emergency clearance for Schiphol, rudder control is limited, we are shy an engine, hydraulics are failing and we are still losing height.  We have four persons on board.  We request a direct approach eta thirty five minutes; we also request that you have fire and emergency vehicles ready on the ground.”

 

“Don’t worry, we’ll get her there,” Simon shouted back to us.  “Even if it is sheer willpower holding her together.”

 

“Will you need any help?” I asked.

 

“Normally I would suggest we contact the family and see about their intervention, somehow I don’t think it would be very well received at this time,” Simon replied.

 

“You think this is intentional?” Dunbar asked.

 

“Oh yes, we are the furthest we would be from land at any point on our journey, this is an assassination attempt,” Simon said without emotion.

 

“I need to contact my order,” Dunbar said.

 

“Sorry no can do, half the systems are dead and ATC isn’t going to patch a call through for you at this time,” Simon replied.

 

I could feel the power encircling the aircraft; it was not only their piloting skills that gained them a position on this aircraft.  They were both strong talents and this aircraft was not flying by mere aerodynamics.  I closed my eyes focusing my own strength and projecting it to the two men.  They could use my strength far better than I could.

 

“Anita no,” came Dunbar’s sharp admonishment to drag me away from my meditations.

 

“Why?” I protested.

 

“Save your strength, if they fail it will be needed,” he said gently.  “If you fall you have to slow yourself, if it is as we land you have to protect yourself.  I’ll do what I can, I’ll give you everything but it will be you who will have to use it...”

 

“What about you?” I asked.

 

“That’s not the issue,” he said firmly.  “If anything happens to me you have to get to Pisa.  You’ll have to petition for a new Father Protector.”

 

“Don’t talk like that,” I snapped at him.

 

“Listen to me Anita,” he said more sharply than I’d ever heard him speak before.  “Without me you’re no longer entitled to protection as a Daughter of Lilith, he can kill you without a second thought.  You get to Pisa before you go to the council, you can only appear before the council as a Daughter of Lilith.  The formalities must be obeyed.”

 

“Yes fine,” I said quickly.  “But if anything happens you look after yourself.”

 

“You see the head of my order, Father Protector Domingo, you tell him what happened here, you tell him that it was your uncle who did this,” Dunbar said ignoring my comments.

 

“Dunbar...” I said.

 

“No Anita,” he shouted.  “You have to promise me the first thing you’ll do is go to Pisa.”

 

“I promise, I promise,” I said trying not to let the tears betray me.  “But you have to get through this too.”

 

“Anita,” he said gently, reaching out his hand and taking mine.  “I intend to live through this, but if it is a choice of my life or yours, it will be you who survives.”

 

“Too bloody right,” came Simon’s strained voice.  “You get through this you make sure you take that bastard down big style.”

 

“I will,” I said trying to keep the emotion out of my voice.  I could feel the aircraft vibrating as it flew and I could recognise the tension in Simon’s voice, he wasn’t convinced we were going to make it.

 

“Dunbar we‘ll give you all we can, though that won’t be much.  We have another twenty minutes flying and it’s going to take damn near all our efforts to get her there.  If we get her on the field though are chances are far higher,” Simon said.

 

“How bad is it?” Dunbar asked.

 

“We are moving the control surfaces ourselves, the system is dead.  We still have throttle control on the remaining engine, as for the undercarriage...who knows?  They did a damn good job of bringing us down.”

 

The telekinetic abilities were strong in our family.  It was one of the reasons that despite our fall from grace in recent years we were still considered an important member of the seven.  To move an object with your mind comes at a price though, it takes at least as much effort to lift a rock with your mind as it does with your hands.  If these men were going to be working the controls for another twenty minutes, even working in concert, they were going to be physically exhausted by the time we touched the ground.

 

“No Anita,” Dunbar said much to my annoyance.  He knew me too well and there was little I could slip past him.

 

“When we get on the ground they are going to be in no state to get out quickly,” I said.

 

“If you’re safe, I’ll see what I can do for them,” Dunbar replied.

 

“If I promise to get well away from the aircraft, will that help?” I asked.

 

“Yes,” he said with a smile.  “You are your father’s daughter; you worry about others far more than you do yourself.”

 

“Thank you,” I said.

 

We were silent for a while; there was nothing that needed to be said between us; that which wasn’t was being said by the pressure of his hand on mine.  He was calm almost serene in his manner now that he was convinced I would do all I could to make sure I was safe.

 

“No flaps, we’re going to be coming in hot,” Simon shouted back.  The interior lights were starting to flicker, giving me a view of absolute darkness outside.

 

“How long now?” Dunbar asked calmly.

 

“Seven minutes,” Simon replied.

 

“Start relaxing your mind,” Dunbar said.  “You know all the exercises, now is the time to put it all into practice.”

 

“I know,” I whispered back, closed my eyes and began bringing my breathing and my heart under my control.  I felt the tingle of power coming to me and opened my eyes again and Dunbar nodded.

 

“Take it, capture it within your body,” he said.  I knew the theory but it was something I had never been on the receiving end of.  Twice before my uncle had called for a concerted effort from the whole family, I had given my own strength to him before, but receiving it was different.

 

“It feels strange,” I said.

 

“It will,” he said gently.  “Keep tight hold of it though; don’t let it loose until the time...”

 

“Dunbar which family do you hail from?” I asked.  It was a question that was never asked of a Father Protector.

 

“The Vail family I was born to, my allegiance is to my order and my oath is to my charge,” he said.

 

“The Vail are strong seer’s,” I said a cold chill sweeping through me as I realised why he was giving me his strength now.

 

“Yes,” he said.

 

“You have seen?” I asked and he nodded.

 

“You go to Pisa and remember that though I am not your father I do this for love, not for my oath,” he replied looking at me.

 

“You were always as a father to me,” I said squeezing his hand tighter.

 

“Concentrate,” he said firmly.  “You have to accept all that I can give you.  When you hit the ground there’s going to be debris to contend with, fire and the ground.  That’s a lot of things to deal with at once, protect yourself first, then slow yourself.”

 

“Is it going to be bad?” I asked.

 

“I see flashes no more,” he answered.  “We will make the airport and you will live...”

 

“And you?”  I asked.

 

“Who knows? It is of no importance,” he said shrugging his huge shoulders.

 

Again, he began pouring his energy into me; again, I felt the tingle as my own strengths were magnified by his power.  I wanted to scream and release all the tension that was building up inside me.

 

“You’re doing well,” he said and I could hear the weariness in his voice.  “Far better than I imagined.  When you are head of a great house that house will be a formidable house, a house that all will respect.”

 

“Dunbar, I love you,” I said.

 

“I know you do my little one,” he replied with a smile.

 

“We are on final,” Simon shouted.  “Just before we land I’ll shout brace, brace, brace and you two get your heads down between your legs.  You know the position...you got that?”

 

“We know,” Dunbar replied.

 

“Thank you for this,” I said to all of them, “thank you for everything and good luck.”

 

“Negative wheels, we have no undercarriage,” Mathew shouted.

 

“We put her down gently on the grass then,” Simon said with confidence in his voice.  “It’s a lot softer than the runway anyway.”

 

“Schiphol tower this is Golf-Mike-Papa-Quebec-Sierra, we are negative undercarriage, negative flaps, limited rudder,” Mathew said.  “We are going to try to put her down as gently on the grass as we can.”  He paused for a few seconds then spoke again.  “I thank you for that Schiphol and we’ll try not to make too much of a mess of your lawn.”

 

I looked out of the window again; I could see lights out there now.  We were over the coast of Holland and if we hit the ground now it was going to hurt a hell of a lot more.

 

“Fifty feet,” Mathew shouted.

 

“Keep her nose up, we don’t want to land short of the field,” Simon answered.

 

“Forty feet,” Mathew called out.

 

“Hold her at that, just another twenty seconds,” Simon replied.

 

I could feel the aircraft shuddering more now, protesting about the abuse it had taken and what was being demanded now.

 

“Keep her level and don’t let her stall out on us,” Simon shouted.

 

“Thirty-five feet and doesn’t that field look pretty,” Mathew said his voice losing some of the strain.

 

“It surely does,” Simon answered.  “They have the field lit up like Christmas, all for us.  Next time we do this you can sit up front Anita, you’d love it.”

 

“I will,” I whispered.

 

“Twenty feet,” Mathew said.

 

“That’s it, let’s get her down a little more then let’s see if we can bleed a little more of this speed,” Simon told him.

 

“Ten feet,” Mathew said.

 

“BRACE, BRACE, BRACE,” Simon screamed.

 

Before I had a chance to put my head down myself, Dunbar had forced it down with little ceremony.  For the next few moments there was silence and then a rumble that became a roar.  I looked across at Dunbar who I found was looking at me and he smiled at me.  The aircraft lurched and I found myself being thrown around in my seat, I saw the fuselage rip open above me as the aircraft broke its back.  As I glanced again at Dunbar my seat launched through the gap, I could see Dunbar with his eyes closed and I could feel the power he was using.

 

I let loose the fury which was held inside me, bending jagged shards of metal as if they were paper, before they tore into me in my hasty exit.  Then I was out in the night air and my instincts took over, keeping me from slamming into the ground, slowing the seat and myself and bringing me to a halt upright on the grass.  I sat there dazed, shocked and exhausted by the power I had released.  I watched as headlights approached me, blue lights flashing.  One of the vehicles stopped mere inches from me blinding me with the lights and people were suddenly fussing around me.  I pushed a man away from me as I undid my seatbelt and stood up.  Beneath me in the seat lay my handbag, on instinct I picked it up and slung it across my shoulder and then I turned to look at the Lear.

 

There was little recognisable as an aircraft, the fuselage had folded, the fire crew was dealing with the few flames but I doubted anyone would walk out of that.  I knew Dunbar wouldn’t, he knew he wouldn’t, but he had fulfilled his oath.  I lived.

 

“May Lilith welcome you as an equal Father Protector Dunbar of the house of Vail,” I whispered.  “For never in your life was your honour questioned and you only allowed death to take you knowing your duty done.”

 

“Where are you hurt?” someone was screaming at me.

 

“Nowhere,” I said.  “I’m fine...” the man turned to a companion and said something in a language I didn’t understand.

 

“You must be hurt,” the man protested.

 

“No, I’m fine thank you,” I told him.  “See if you can help the others, three other people on board the pilots and one other passenger.”

 

“You will sit down please,” the man said indicating the ambulance.

 

“Yes,” I agreed and began walking towards the vehicle.  My foot was wet and I realised I had somehow lost one of my trainers as I left the aircraft, otherwise though I was in one piece.

 

“We’ll get you to the hospital,” the man said offering me his arm that I accepted.

 

“No,” I said firmly using all my will to influence this Child of Eve’s mind.  “Those are my friends in there, I stay here...just try and move me.”

 

 

Chapter 3

 

As the dawn approached, they actually dared to try to move the ambulance.  They thought I had dropped off to sleep and were going to do the dirty on me, sneaking me to the hospital while I slept.  I was exhausted, but I wasn’t sleeping.  The smells of the crash site would have been enough to keep me awake.  It was strange; of all the things going on the smells of the aviation fuel, burnt metal, fire retardant foam and men in their protective clothing were the things that imprinted themselves on my brain.  The sights just flickered in front of my eyes, but the smells burned deep.

 

At first light the shouts and screams of excitement had me out of the ambulance before anyone could stop me and I was running towards the wreckage.  From deep in the twisted metal, a hand was outstretched and moving.

 

“Simon,” I screamed.

 

“Anita,” came a weak voice from inside the metal, Mathew’s voice.  “He’s here, he’s still alive.”

 

“Hold on both of you,” I shouted as the medic pulled me away again.  “They’ll have you out in no time.”

 

“They will won’t they?” I asked the man who had been busy fussing over me since he found me.

 

“Oh yes, our rescue services are very good,” he replied.

 

“Your English is very good,” I said taking note of this man for the first time.

 

“Yes,” he said with a smile.  “It has to be, for your Dutch would be very bad.”

 

“Yes,” I agreed turning back to the wreckage.

 

“Will you leave here now?” he asked.  “You have been here three hours and if it was not for the fact that you scream loud enough for the whole of Amsterdam to hear, I would have taken you away long ago.”

 

“I need to know about one other person,” I told him.

 

“They didn’t want to upset you,” he said gently.  “There was a body found a few minutes ago, it will remain in the aircraft until the investigators get here.”

 

“Can I see him?” I asked.

 

“It is bad, very bad, better you remember him as he was...” the man said sadly while shaking his head.

 

“Yes, perhaps,” I said reluctantly.  The body was but an empty shell and if I couldn’t recognise that which had been Dunbar there was no point.  I wanted to see the man one more time, not whatever was left in there.  That wasn’t him he had gone.

 

“Will you come now?” the medic asked gently.

 

“To the airport yes, not to the hospital,” I said firmly and I could see the disapproval on his face.  “I’m not hurt, a little shaken that’s all.  I was lucky...”

 

“No not lucky, god watches over his little children,” he said reaching in his shirt to pull out a medallion.  “He watched over you and delivered you safely to me.”

 

“Yes, someone was watching over me,” I admitted.

 

*****

 

“Is there somewhere I can clean up?” I asked as I was escorted into the Airport by the medic and a number of official looking gentlemen.

 

“Yes we find somewhere,” one of the official gentlemen said.

 

“I need shoes, I need a phone,” I told them.  “Shoes, so I can go and get some clean clothes.”

 

“Excuse me miss, we need your name and what you were doing on the aircraft,” one man said.

 

“Anita Fairbourne and that was my aircraft,” I replied sharply.  “We filed a flight-plan everything should be on that, I’ve just lost a friend and the last thing I need are questions.”

 

“One last question at this time, the dead man, do you have a name for him?” The man asked.  “His family will need to be notified.”

 

“Father Dunbar of the order of The Ever Watchful Lady in Pisa,” I said my voice betraying my emotions for a second.  “I will be informing his order.”

 

In a quiet room a phone was produced and I dialled a number that I first dialled when my father was killed.  My father had no illusions over the integrity of our family or even my mother.  All our financial dealings were with a firm of solicitors in Edinburgh who had nothing to do with our family.  Mother had an allowance, but everything else was in my name and through Uncle Hamish, as the man had always been to me, I had direct control.  He was also a man who knew some of what our family was about, though he personally was led to believe we were some sort of crime syndicate that had gone legitimate many years back.

 

“Yes what is it,” Hamish’s sleepy voice answered.  It was early, but too much had happened to let him sleep.

 

“Uncle Hamish,” I said.

 

“Anita?” the man said suddenly seeming very alert on the other end.

 

“There has been an incident,” I said trying to hold my emotions in check.  “A plane crash, Dunbar’s dead.”

 

“Jesus Christ,” he swore.  “What about you are you hurt?”

 

“No, I’m fine,” I said.  “I don’t know what to do though, I’m out of my depth here and I need to get to Pisa, now.”

 

“Where are you?”

 

“Schiphol, at the airport.  The pilots are still being got out of the wreckage,” I told him my voice breaking.  “They are leaving Dunbar there until the investigators get here.  I don’t know what to do...” I was crying now, great sobs taking hold of my body.  “I don’t want to leave him there, but if I don’t get to Pisa I’ll be as dead as he is...probably within hours.”

 

“Listen I’m getting dressed now, I’ll be there in a couple of hours.  Do you need money or anything?” he asked I could hear sounds of him getting dressed in the background.

 

“I have my bag, so I have my plastic and some cash,” I admitted.

 

“If you are ok,” he said all the emphasis on the word if, “change some of your money get a taxi to Rotterdam and fly to Pisa from there.  You might just have to slip away from the authorities there, but that shouldn’t be a problem.  I’ll be there in a matter of hours and any problems they have I’ll deal with.  You felt there had been an attempt on your life, your bodyguard had been killed and you felt vulnerable at the airport.”

 

“Yes,” I said wiping my nose unceremoniously on my dirty jumper.  “Uncle Hamish the pilots, Simon and Mathew, are to have whatever then need or want.  They kept us in the air for over half an hour after it happened.”

 

“I understand,” he said gently.  “What about you Anita are you alright?”

 

“Not a scratch,” I snuffled.

 

“That’s not what I mean,” he said tenderly.

 

“Not really,” I admitted.  “Not at all really, but for the moment I have to keep moving.  Pisa first then I’ll stop back here before hitting Geneva.”

 

“Is this ‘family’ business?” he asked.

 

“Yes very much family business,” I admitted.  “Why he wants me dead so quickly, I don’t know.  I’m no threat to him at the moment.”

 

“Your mother only inherits after you die,” Hamish said.  “As of the close trading on Friday you were worth somewhere in the region of seven hundred and fifty million.  What’s your uncle worth at the moment?”

 

“I don’t know,” I admitted.  “He wouldn’t have me killed for mere money though...”

 

“There is nothing mere about money,” Hamish replied.  “Many people have lost the shirt off their back playing the markets at the moment.  It was only your father’s insistence on overseeing everything that was done with his investments that means you are as wealthy as you are.  I’ll do a little snooping and see what I can find out, but I bet however well off he is your money would make a nice bonus.”

 

“Look,” I said unwilling to accept this and unwilling to argue at this time.  “I need to get cleaned up and then get out of here.  I should be back here by tomorrow night.”

 

“You have my mobile number?” he asked.

 

“Yes,”

 

“Ring me and I will meet you, and Anita, take care,” he said with real feeling in his voice.

 

“I will,” I promised and put the phone down.

 

I was shown to an employee changing room with a shower, where I cleaned myself up before putting back on my dirty clothes.  I still didn’t have shoes so I walked out of the room to find the medic still there.

 

“Can you go and see if you can find me some shoes?” I asked.

 

“You will stay here?” he asked.

 

“Oh yes,” I agreed.  “I just can’t walk around with no shoes.”

 

“Yes, I find some shoes for our own little miracle,” he said happily.  Once he was out of sight, I was gone.

 

Most of the shops in the airport were closed, so my clothes would have to do.  The Bureau de change was open though and using my credit card, I bought a couple of thousand pounds worth of Guilders.  Plastic money is very useful when you travel a lot, but it leaves a trail behind that a blind man could follow.  Ignoring the strange looks that I was drawing as I walked through the airport bare foot and bedraggled I made my way to the exit found a taxi and after flashing a few notes was moving.

 

*****

 

“And you want a ticket to where?” the woman behind the British Airways desk asked in a disbelieving voice.

 

“Listen to me very carefully,” I said slowly.  “I want a ticket to Pisa.”

 

“Aren’t you a little young to be travelling alone?” she asked.

 

“I wasn’t travelling alone until the Lear that I was on crashed at Schiphol,” I snapped back at her.  “Do you think I choose to be walking around barefoot and covered in shit?  Do you think I like stinking of aviation fuel?  I’m buying my ticket and then I’m going to hit the shops here and get some clean clothes.  Then maybe I can sleep on the plane and be in some sort of shape for a meeting that might just be the most important meeting of my life.”

 

“What about your parents?” she asked.

 

“I can give you my solicitors’ number if you want,” I suggested.  The woman hesitated for a moment, looking at me.

 

“Do you have your passport with you?” she asked and I dug in my bag for a moment before passing it over.

 

“What name is it please?” she asked.

 

“Lady Anita Fairbourne,” I replied using my title and her eyebrows rose for a moment.

 

“Lady Anita, oh,” she said suddenly a little flustered.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” I said with a smile.  “If I saw me walking in like this, I would be asking lots of questions too.”

 

“So a ticket to Pisa,” she said.

 

“Yes please, first class,” I said.

 

“And how will you be paying?”

 

“Cash,” I replied.

 

It was amazing how a title and a little money changed her opinion of me.  The title was long ago recognised as important and one of my ancestors sometime just after the Norman Conquest bought himself a title.  Since then our family has made sure that enough money goes to the right places to ensure continuity of that title.  As for the money, well as many cultures know family does count at times and nepotism still works.

 

The shops weren’t great, airport shops never are, but in clean clothes I felt more human again, even if it was a skirt.  I wasn’t worried about my blade on my leg being picked up by the metal detectors; father had that in mind when it was created.  It contained no metal at all and would take a rather intimate bodily search to find it.  On the whole, they didn’t tend to mess around with young, female, first class passengers and if all else fails, you just scream rape.  I ignored the suspicious looks off business type people in the first class lounge and once on the aircraft I slept until roused at San Giusto Airport.  Bleary eyed, aching and feeling emotionally drained I changed some money, bundled my bag into the first taxi I found and sat back as the driver took me to the place Dunbar called home.

 

“You should be far more attentive at this time Lady Anita,” the driver said in heavily accented English without taking his eyes off the madness that was the roads.

 

“You know my name,” I said my hand finding my blade.  “What can I do for you?”

 

“At this time nothing, it is more a case of what I can do for you or rather what I have done,” he replied.

 

“What exactly have you done for me?” I demanded.

 

“Today I have prevented your death in a strange country and at some point in the future I expect this kindness to be repaid.”

 

“Saved my life, how?” I asked.

 

“Your movements are far from secret.  After the passing of your Father Protector, may Lilith receive him as an equal; there were two real options for you, Geneva or here.  Unfriendly eyes sought you out and their deaths will be reported back to your family seat,” he said.

 

“Where exactly to you fit into the grand scheme of things?” I demanded.

 

“I fit nowhere.  I only do this so there is a debt between us.  You shall owe me...” he replied.  I was limited with what I could see of the man.  I hadn’t actually looked at the man as I entered the car.  All I could see where disassociated glimpses in the rear view mirror.

 

“What will I have to do to repay this debt?”

 

“Nothing at the moment, but I know you are a lady of honour and will not forget this kindness,” he said.

 

“I would rather repay the debt now,”

 

“No, not at this time,” he said.  “For now Lady Anita you’re far too vulnerable.  Sometime in the future though I will remind you of this debt.”

 

“Will you at least give me a name?” I asked.

 

“I am your angelo custode, ah your guardian angel and that will have to do for the moment.  Believe in me though, we wish you no ill will,” he replied.

 

“So Angelo, there are more than just you?” I said.

 

“We are here My Lady,” he said stopping outside an ancient complex of buildings with high walls and an imposing gate.

 

“What if I just kill you now?” I asked.

 

“Then so be it, I die.  However I do not believe you would kill one who bears you no malice, you are not your uncle...” he said looking firmly ahead.  He was giving me a clear opportunity to kill him.  Someone knew me too well.

 

“You’ll live for now Angelo,” I told him.

 

“Not all who walk in the shadows are evil, some of those eyes that watch you watch in the hopes that you are your father’s daughter rather than your uncle’s niece,” he said with emotion in his voice.  “When we know what you are then we will make ourselves known, until that time, we watch, we wait and occasionally we may intervene.”

 

“Thank you,” I said sincerely.

 

“No thanks are necessary, just remember,” he said.

 

“I will,” I promised him as I got out of the taxi and barely had I closed the door before he was moving.  I hadn’t seen anything of this man, but it was obvious he was of Lilith, beyond that I knew nothing of him or the people he represented.  Family politics were always complex affairs, matters of honour complicated things further but my father always said accept a man as a friend until proved otherwise.  This man had not proved otherwise and my father was dead at the hand of a man he had accepted.

 

I needed some protection and I had come to the right place.

 

I banged on the huge wooden doors and waited patiently.  After a few minutes of waiting I banged again and still no one came.  I wondered if I had come to the right place, it seemed dead.  I felt with my mind, trying to feel the locking mechanism on the door, there was nothing intricate here no keyhole or lock.  I felt the cool texture of metal as I probed further, simply a sliding bolt kept me out.  I hesitated a second looked around me to make sure no one was watching and slid it.  It was well greased and moved with ease only the slightest touch from my mind was needed.  Then I pushed on the huge doors and entered Dunbar’s home.

 

As I entered, I came face to face with a man in the robes of a Father Protector.

 

“Sorry,” I said.  “I waited but no one came.”

 

“I was here,” he said in an American accent.

 

“Well why didn’t you open the door?” I asked.

 

“I am here to welcome all who gain entry into our home, it was for you to open the door,” he said.

 

“Oh, a test,” I suggested.

 

“No, a precaution,” he said.  “What can I do for you?”

 

“I am here to see Father Protector Domingo, the head of your order,” I told him.

 

“Why would you wish that?” he asked.

 

“Because my Father Protector, Dunbar made me promise before he died,” I said feeling the emotion within me.

 

“Did he die with honour, did he die his duty done?” the man asked shedding his casual manner.

 

“He died saving my life, he gave his life for me.  His honour was never questioned, though he said he did it for love...” my voice failed me, a few tears escaped too, betraying the composed façade that I had erected, “...not honour.”

 

“You doubt he would have done it if love hadn’t been his motive?” the man asked.

 

“Never would I have doubted him,” I snapped back.

 

“Brothers listen to me,” the man shouted loudly.  “Brothers gather and listen to me...”

 

Inside the gateway was a small courtyard, which rapidly began to fill with old men and a few youths.  When about thirty of them had arrived, the gatekeeper seemed happy and walked me forwards towards them.

 

“Brother Dunbar has gone,” he said solemnly and a there was a gasp from the assembly.  “He died with honour and one stands here who would defend his memory, his charge The Lady Anita.”

 

Everyone appeared to be looking at me, expecting me to say something.  So I did.

 

“Dunbar died saving my life, I wish he was here now, I wish it was me rather than him,” my tears began to flow properly now with the emotions being reflected in these strangers faces for the man I knew.  “I loved him and I miss him...Oh God how I wish he was here.”

 

An older man with only a few inches on my five feet nothing stepped forward towards me.  I looked at him and could see tears in his eyes too.

 

“Dunbar may have gone, but I think he has left a large part of himself in your heart, while you live he too will still live,” he said.

 

“I would rather he was still here,” I said bitterly.

 

“He would rather that you were here,” he said with a sad smile.  “For both of you it was not to be.  Those who walk this path expect many things and death is but one of them.  The thing that we cherish most is that which we don’t expect, love and that you give in abundance.  Welcome to his home Lady Anita of the Fairbourne family.  Welcome as one who was a Daughter of Lilith and welcome as one who brings us news of a brother who is lost.”

 

“I’m here at Dunbar’s insistence, his death was no accident but an attempt on my life,” I said and received gasps of disbelief.  “I come because it was only thanks to him that I live this long.  Without someone to walk alongside me my life is measured in hours.  I seek a new Father Protector.”

 

“Come with me child,” the old man said gently.  “Here you are safe and we have much to talk about.”

 

“May I have your name sir?” I asked.  “You have me at a disadvantage.”

 

“Sorry, I know your family so well I forget myself.  I am Father Protector Domingo, he who walked alongside your grandmother.”

 

 

 

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