• Her dark skin was soft beneath his lips, just as it always was.

    Silken fingers entwined with his hair as she reached back around him, her form pressing against him gently as she smiled. But it was her soft sigh that signaled the end of conscious thought and the beginning of sensation.

    Consciousness returned to him in a slow rush, the last vestiges of sleep fading quickly as light filtered in through the window beside his bed. A small purr of contentment escaping him as the soft warmth of the sun’s light played along his bare skin.

    His eyes remained closed as he cast his mind back to last night, trying to remember as much as he could and commit it all to memory. For a long moment he just lay there, absorbing what little of the night he could clearly remember.

    The soft sounds that escaped her igniting emotions in his chest that before had been but sparks.

    Silver hair spilling around him as she came in for a kiss.

    How she shivered against him when his teeth had lightly grazed the pointed tip of her jet black ear.

    A very masculine smile flitted across his face as he embedded the last memories of the night into his mind. A soft sound beside him made the smile widen for just a moment before he cracked open an eye and looked over at the source of the noise.

    A mass of near white hair took up the entire lower half of his vision, obscuring a face buried in the crook of his neck. His smile softened as he leaned his cheek against her head, earning a small growl from her at the movement.

    Even asleep she had that temper. He closed his eye and settled into her embrace, doubting his ability to get out of the bed before she awoke.

    Emeris had to restrain a soft chuckle when she shifted in response, and he gradually became more aware of his predicament. His dark beauty had was laying half on top of him, one of her arms at his chest and pinning him to the bed while her other arm was wrapped around his own and keeping it around her shoulders.

    However, this pleasant enjoyment of her presence was not to continue, soon interrupted by a knock at the door.

    Emeris winced and the woman wrapped around him growled again, louder than before. She obviously did not want to wake up just yet and he wasn’t too keen on waking her up before she was ready.

    The knock came again, louder and more insistent this time, almost waking the dark elf beside him. The first stirrings of wakefulness working through her as she scowled against his neck, moving against him slowly.

    Unwilling to wake her so soon, Emeris cast his mind out towards the door, seeking the thoughts of whoever was knocking.

    His mind latched onto a fierce mind, rolling and turbulent on the surface, and one he knew well.

    ‘Geez Dezzy, do you have to knock so loudly…? I’ll be there in a sec…’

    The answering thought was surprisingly clipped for her, ‘Well, make it snappy.’

    Startled, it took Emeris several moments to extract himself from the tangle of sheets and limbs he had been so happily resting in.

    Once free, he called his pants over to him from the other side of the room with a quick thought. He pulled them on quickly, buttoning them up as he slid through the small apartment and approached the door, a small scowl on his face.

    Dezzy had been waiting for almost a full two minutes before the door to the apartment opened, the young woman had crossed her arms and had a scowl settled fully on her face. The scowl turned into mild surprise as she registered Emeris’ state of relative undress before settling back into the scowl, “What took you? You’re usually faster than that.”

    The question was deflected with his usual pointed precision, “What’s got you so riled? You usually don’t snap at me.”

    She snorted, her piercing blue eyes drifting off to the side before returning to scowl at him, “Look… it’s Murlow…” She really didn’t want to come to him with this, but he was the only person that might understand.

    He sighed, “Again?” a brief look of irritation passed across his normally blank face as he leaned against the doorframe, “What’s he doing this time?”

    Her scowl deepened and she looked away, “It wouldn’t be all that bad if he weren’t,” she hesitated for half a second over the right word, which Emeris seized upon.

    “Telepathic… great… what exactly is it?” Normally, Dezzy’d be pissed that someone finished her sentences other than Sandra, but she knew Emeris well enough to know he was just trying to get to the heart of the issue.

    “Yeah… I know he’s just trying to helpful but…” she sighed angrily, knowing full well Emeris would jump in again.

    And he did, “He’s trying to anticipate your wants and needs by reading your mind…” Emeris sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes.

    “Yeah,” Dezzy scowled at the floor some more, “He’s trying to be nice and all… but he’s getting in my head and you know I don’t like that…”

    “’Kay… but what do you want me to do about it? I can’t just cut him off. We need his power.” Dezzy had hoped Emeris would disregard that and just cut Murlow off from his telepathy, but she had known Emeris long enough that it was a feeble hope at best.

    Dezzy sighed again, brushing her hair behind her right ear, “I was kinda hoping you’d talk to him about it and get him to stop…”

    That earned her a blatantly surprised look, “Oookay… why do you think that me talking to him is better than you telling him to stop…?”

    She’d been afraid he wouldn’t get it, “Well… he doesn’t do it to anyone else and… well… he’s got a crush on me…”

    Emeris’ lips pressed together and his eyes drooped just a bit, she knew that look meant ‘I repeat, why is me telling him to stop better than you?’

    With a sigh, she met his eyes, “Look, he respects you… a lot. He doesn’t know just how strong you are, but he suspects, and he practically reveres you for it.” He snorted, an unusually strong show of emotion from him, mirroring his distaste at any admiration directed at him.

    Her face softened, the slightest bit of pleading in her eyes, “Seriously Emmy, he likes me, but he worships you. If you tell him to stop he’d probably never even think of doing it again…”

    “Why do you not simply whip the male for his insolence?” Dezzy’s face contorted back into a scowl, ‘What in the nine hells is she doing in Emmy’s room?!’

    Dezzy swung her gaze past Emeris and into his apartment, her glare soon landing upon the source of the voice. The exceedingly curvy drow sauntered over to the door with only a soft white bed sheet wrapped around her, her crimson eyes half-lidded as they roved over both Dezzy and Emeris.

    Dezzy scowled at the drowess as she leaned against the doorframe opposite Emeris, “Why the hell would I whip him Veldra? He hasn’t done anything against our rules to warrant a beating.”

    The drow actually looked surprised, and the b***h still managed to look sultry while she did, “But has he not invaded the privacy of your mind? I know it is different on the surface, but in the Underdark it would warrant his death, or at very least severe torture if the male was useful.”

    It took a supreme amount of effort for Dezzy to keep herself from snapping at the drow, even so, her words came out in a low growl, “Look, we don’t do that kind of s**t around here, we have set rules and I’m not going to punish someone just because they did something I didn’t like.”

    Veldra scowled, easily picking up on who the phrase was truly directed at, “Then you are failing to establish your dominance over these weaker fools. You rule here, your word should be law.”

    “And what is the point of it if my law becomes just as corrupt as the very thing I am fighting against?” Dezzy snarled, her fangs flashing in the morning light.

    Veldra’s low and husky voice was mocking when she replied, “What is the point if you fail to obtain your goal, hmmm?” sneering at the larger woman.

    A sharp inhale almost preluded Veldra losing her throat, but a soft touch on both the shoulders turned their attentions to a scowling Emeris, “Ladies, that’s enough.” His voice was soft, but the tone of command was definitely there, earning him a scowl from both women.

    “Vel, go get dressed.”


    “Vel. Go get dressed.”

    Their eyes met harshly, but after a moment a form of understanding passed between them, and the drow slipped back into the room. Leaving Emeris to turn back to Dezzy, staying silent until the door to his bedroom closed behind them.

    He met her gaze evenly, “Okay Dezzy, I’ll be honest with you; give it another shot at getting him to stop yourself. Really give it a shot. And if that doesn’t get him to stop, I’ll talk to him.” His face became even more serious, “But only if you give it another try yourself.”

    She glared at him, her eyes flashing red for just a moment, “You’re not saying this just because she doesn’t want you to do it are you?”

    “No, but she does have a point.” He met her glare with a blank look, “Murlow might not, but some of those in the Ravens will turn against you if you show any sign of weakness… such as by relying on me too heavily. You’d lose their loyalty, or worse, try and take the command from you.”

    Dezzy scowled at him, their gazes locked for a long moment, a proverbial battle of wills. One that Emeris won.

    “Alright, I’ll give it one more shot, but I won’t like it,” with that, she turned from the door and stomped down the hall, calling over her shoulder, “And put on a damn shirt!”

    Barely restraining her anger, Dezzy strode down the halls. She could barely believe that Emeris, of all people, would fall for that blasted drow’s charms!

    The drow was a slut! It wasn’t an insult, it was fact! Almost all drow were like that, a great lay but horrible in relationships. Emeris himself had said that the drow had become a race genetically predisposed to evil, not simply culturally so. They were backstabbers, deceivers, and harlots by nature. Usually, Dezzy got along swimmingly with the dark elves, but usually they left her friends alone!

    When that b***h Veldra had first come along there hadn’t been any real problems. She had gracefully (for a drow) accepted that Dezzy was in charge, and had only played around with the younger men in their bar. Then she had set her crimson sights on Emeris.

    Dezzy paused in her stalking of the halls at the bottom of the large shaft that led to the surface. She wasn’t in the mood to climb the ladder that was the only route between the underground dorms and the Raven’s headquarters.

    With a small growl she crouched, the muscles in her legs surging with the inhuman power that ran through her veins, and with ease she leapt over halfway up the shaft, her feet pressed against the packed dirt wall and her legs launched her up off the wall, easily propelling her the last twenty feet up the wide shaft.

    She stopped once she landed, taking a deep breath and forcing her roiling emotions down. As little as Dezzy liked it, the Raven’s needed to see her as a strong and indomitable leader, unfazed even by personal issues… not the young woman that she was.

    Taking a second to straighten out her shirt and light Kevlar vest, Dezzy strode confidently out of the small shack that covered the conspicuous hole in the ground to the dorms hidden there.

    Head held high, she walked through the slowly awakening camp. Nodding to the few people walking around as she headed to the main command cabin, knowing it would be another slow day running the little rebellion she called her own.

    Dezzy sighed as the last team left the room, slumping into her chair in her office. As per usual, a headache was building behind her temples after a long day of viewing facts and figures, analyzing news reports, tracking the movements of key figures, and then synthesizing all of the information into the respective assignments of her various teams of Raven’s.

    She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, it was just the usual bull that came with being the appointed leader of their little band, not that she could really call the Raven’s ‘little’.

    They had stopped being little somewhere around the five hundred mark.

    The thought brought a tired smile to her lips, because, in many ways, they were her Raven’s. It had only been a week since her official ‘promotion’, but everyone had known she had always been in charge. They had always been her Raven’s. She had been brought them together, it had been her idea, and it had been her that first fought against Kevyns budding tyranny.

    Dezzy hadn’t liked taking this position, but someone had to. The original set-up just wouldn’t work anymore, now there were just too many people in the Ravens for them all to gather up and agree on what need to be done. To be honest, they were too big and had too many internal issues for even the squad commanders to even really try at democracy any more.

    A familiar scent caught her attention and her blue eyes opened, not really surprised to find Emeris sitting in one of the chairs opposite her desk.

    She smiled, settling into the chair, this was the part of her day she didn’t mind.

    “Should I let in Drevyll now?” a small smile graced his usually blank face.

    Dezzy shook her head, a similar smile on her face, “No, not yet,” the smile fell away, “We need to talk first.”

    This had quickly become a habit, at the end of her more tedious work of the day Emeris would slip into her room and he’d calm her down, let her vent, and then let in her boyfriend to really calm her down.

    But right now, there were more important things to discuss.

    Outwardly, her friend didn’t change in the slightest. But Dezzy had learned to feel for that brief static at the base of her skull that signaled any psychic ‘turning it on’. She caught the slightest dilation of his gray-green eyes, he knew what she meant by ‘talk’.

    It took several seconds of riffling through the mess of papers on her desk for her to pull out a small folder, “High-n-mighty’s moving the werewolf freaks. Tonight.”

    If Dezzy had his attention before, now he was riveted. His eyes narrowed, the visible extent of his surprise and suspicion, “Tonight…?” Taking the folder from her carefully and flipping through it quickly, he still murmured a soft, “What’s so special about tonight…?”

    “I’m not sure yet… he knows we want them out of his hands, but I don’t get what makes him think they’ll be safe tonight over any other…”

    A brief scowl flashed across Emeris’ face as he finished skimming the reports, “He’s no fool, and this has Kevyn written all over it…” he looked up, their eyes locking for a moment, and she gave him the slight nod to continue. She had already figured that much out, and probably the next bit as well, but he would take it further.

    “The odds of this being a trap are far too high to send in a rookie team, there’ll be legal surveillance so we can’t send in anyone clean…” he closed the file and set it back on her desk, Dezzy knew he'd already memorized it and wouldn’t need to look at it again.

    His eyes darted back and forth, as if seeing things that weren’t there, and he was. Dezzy had been in his head a couple times when he had done this, information would be flying in front of his minds eye, possibilities and probabilities and predictions the majority of humans couldn’t hope to calculate.

    Then again, no one in the Ravens could be considered part of the majority, let alone Emeris.

    His eyes met hers again, “If the info is accurate, they’ll have to move mostly through populated areas between the labs. There will be only two small areas that a team will be able to ambush them safely. The highway; and a small back road that goes across the river to the second lab…”

    “Then we’ll need a fast team… Look, Emm… we need more pure power in the Ravens. We’ve got a lot of subtlety, but few heavy hitters like were-creatures. The Ravens can’t let this opportunity pass, trap or not. I need a team Emm.”

    They shared a scowl at that.

    Dezzy could practically feel the risk in this mission and Emeris could probably give her some exact figures. But it didn’t change the facts. So, with a sigh, Emeris continued.

    “Alright, those wolves won’t be in full control of themselves, they’ll be dangerous to handle, let alone cart all the way back here for treatment… we’ll need heavy hitters…” Dezzy nodded, agreeing grudgingly.

    “But, we don’t want to give them the time to get the whole military on us. Especially not when the mutated werewolves could just as easily kill us… the team will have to be capable of disappearing into the night if things start to go to hell.”

    Emeris’ hands came up to massage his temples slowly, the barest of grimaces on his face.

    Dezzy sighed, running her fingers through her soft brown hair, “I was thinking it’d be us on the mission too.”

    Her friend winced at being read so easily, but Dezzy wasn’t about to tell him she had been thinking almost the exact same things.

    Across from her, he scowled, his hands dropping to his lap, “We’ll need a cleric.”

    Mouth half-way opened in agreement, Dezzy froze, “W-wait. What?”

    “Werewolves can actually hurt you, as in possibly permanent hurt. And the military containing them will have silver bullets, which I shouldn’t have to remind you, silver can really mess with your healing.” He met her gaze evenly, “We’ll need a cleric, not my paltry healing abilities.”

    Several stunned seconds passed between them before Dezzy shook her head, “Em… you’ll be with me, I won’t get hit by bullets-”

    “I can only do so much, and all it takes is one lucky shot.”

    “-That and a cleric would be almost useless in this kind of fight aside from their healing abilities-”

    “A cleric’s spells are primarily defensive in nature. A cleric would free up some of my power to use on the enemy.”

    A cross between growl and a snarl escaped her before she cut it off, taking a deep breath to calm herself. Emeris was no fool, he would know exactly why she was hesitant to bring along a third member.

    Dezzy had always enjoyed her time alone with Emeris, he was just a calming influence on her and made life more bearable. That and the two of them had been on plenty of missions together, they could work together seamlessly. There was no chance of him getting in her way or holding her back, but throwing someone else into the mix, someone new, could easily screw up their teamwork.

    Then Dezzy’s mind latched onto something, something that insured that they wouldn’t have to drag along another Raven, especially a cleric.

    A smile crossed her face, “Even so, none of our clerics are actually stealthy and heavy hitters. They all wear heavy armor or are physically incapable of standing up to what we’ll be up against.”

    “Dezzy, the Ravens have a powerful and stealthy cleric.”

    Her smile disappeared, “What… who?”

    The subtle look on his face told her she wasn’t going to like the answer, “Veldra.”

    She was right.

    Dezzy really didn’t like that answer.

    To be honest, she was really proud of herself for just glaring at Emeris intensely; she really wanted to explode on him for even suggesting something like that.

    “Emm…” she kept her voice as controlled as possible, though she would be willing to bet her eyes had shifted to a blood red by this point.

    He didn’t back down, “Dez, it’s an official military movement. There’ll be at least two, possibly three tanks with the werewolves; four to five squads of black-ops soldiers,” then he laid down the trump, “And our intelligence isn’t sure, but there might be a war Basilisk. Dez, that’s too much for you and me alone, we’re going to get hurt.”

    She still didn’t like it, “Then why not bring along a sniper or a wizard?”

    “All of the ones capable of keeping up with us are already on assignment and you know it.”

    “But why a cleric?” A snarl escaped her before she reigned it in, “Why her?!”

    This was the point where most people would back down, or if they were certain of their decision, try to placate her with soothing tones and apologetic movements. Most people, even the best the Ravens had to offer, were intimidated by her when she was calm, let alone barely containing her anger.

    She couldn’t blame them, at 5’6” with a sword as large as her on her back, she cut an imposing figure. But being made of almost solid muscle yet still having all the curves of a woman, Dezzy wasn’t exactly approachable for most people.

    But Emeris didn’t fall anywhere under the category of ‘most people’.

    Though his eyes were intense, his tone remained flat as he explained, “We’re going to get hurt Dez, it’s a fact. We need more power and we’ll need healing. A cleric covers both of those bases. Veldra is the only cleric we’ve got that can be stealthy, let alone keep up with the two of us.”

    Dezzy huffed, slumping back into her chair. She might be the leader of the Ravens, both officially and not, but if push came to shove in an argument between Emeris and her, he would win. Usually she was good enough at this leadership stuff that when he advised her is was just to confirm her decisions or add something here or there. Even when they did disagree, it was usually over little stuff. Sometimes though…

    A sigh escaped her, her eyes squeezing shut.

    She hated it, but he was right. He usually was when he bothered to argue with her.

    “All right, I don’t like it, but all right.” She huffed, pushing her personal feelings away as best she could while opening her eyes to glare at Emeris, “We’ll move out at nine. She’d better be ready.”

    Her friend nodded curtly, standing smoothly and heading for the door. He paused when his hand touched the door handle, turning to look at her, “Should I let Drevyll in now?”

    Dezzy actually thought about that for a moment. Did she really want to be showered with affection and kisses before a potentially dangerous assignment like this?

    Considering who she would have to work with, “Yeah, let him in.”

    Emeris gave her a small nod of acknowledgement before slipping out the door.
    Dezzy took the moment of silence to berate herself for being so stupidly emotional over something so small.

    Yes, she didn’t like Veldra. Yes, she thought she was being a horrible b***h and would hurt Emeris’ surprisingly fragile heart. Yes, she wanted to rip the disrespectful b***h’s throat out.

    But Dezzy knew that Emeris, of all the Ravens, had his priorities straight. He was the most analytical and logical of all her Ravens, but he also took into account personal disputes. If he had thought of a way to avoid teaming up Veldra and herself, he would’ve used it.

    It was at that moment that her boyfriend entered the room, bringing a small smile to Dezzy’s face.

    Drevyll practically sauntered over to her desk, sitting on it and grinning down at her, “You look like crap.”

    Dezzy smiled some more, she couldn’t help it, “Yeah, I probably do.”


    She chuckled, “Yeah, among other things.”

    “Want me to… make it go away?” he leaned over her just a bit, his fingers trailing along the papers on her desk, small sparks following his hand.

    Playfully, she slapped away his hand, “Bad pyro, bad,” even though she knew he wouldn’t really catch her things on fire.

    “Hey, I’m a pyrokinetic, I heat things up… it’s what I do.” The suggestion was obvious, and it sent a small tingle through her for a number of reasons. She wanted to forget things, if just for a moment.

    She wanted to forget that she was going to risk her life later that night. She wanted to forget that she had to trust her life with a naturally evil being. She wanted to forget that a tramp was sleeping with her best friend.

    And she wanted to forget that she was slowly falling in love with that very same friend.

    Dezzy reached up, hooking her fingers in the coarse, fire-resistant fabric of Drevyll’s shirt, and pulled him in for a kiss. He went willingly, easing closer to her, as they pressed their lips together.

    And she could forget it all, if just for a little while.

    Dezzy triple-checked her armor as she waited, it never hurt to be sure in this business.

    A soft footstep behind her caught her attention, making her turn around slowly to stare blankly at the drow behind her. The drowess had slipped into similar body armor to what Dezzy wore, a near solid body-suit of Kevlar and hardened ceramic.

    Grudgingly, Dezzy had to admit that Veldra was stealthy, if only to herself. To get that close to Dezzy undetected was no small feat.

    “You’re early… I’m surprised…” Dezzy smirked at her drow companion.

    The look that crossed Veldra’s face seemed to be a cross between a scowl and a sneer, “You should know how those like the drow look upon tardiness, considering your own not so pristine kind, Halfa.”

    Dezzy drew in a harsh breath, her hands clenching into fists. Rage bubbled in her chest, threatening to spill forth through her veins.

    The drowess didn’t even flinch as Dezzy loomed over the smaller woman, and for an instant, it truly felt like she was going to rip out the elves throat.

    But, with an effort, she forced the anger down, and out.

    Releasing the breath she had been holding, Dezzy forcefully relaxed her body and leveled a glare at her antagonist. She opened her mouth to strike back at the fowl woman, but was interrupted by a soft, yet piercing voice.

    “Veldra. I told you to never insult Dezzy about being half-vampire.”

    Both women turned to the speaker, finding themselves glaring at none other than their third team member: Emeris.

    The drow sneered, “If she cannot take a simple in-”

    “Veldra.” Both women winced at the tone, and Veldra’s mouth shut tight. Dezzy always marveled at how Emeris could do that; he wasn’t physically imposing or intimidating in the least, most people could forget he was even in the room quite easily… it was just when he wanted to be heard that the steel shone through the stoic mask.

    After a long moment of silence, Emeris spoke up again, “Are we through?”

    Both women nodded, though Veldra slightly more reluctantly than Dezzy, “Good. Is everyone set?”

    It was one of the few actual regulations the Ravens had. You have a checklist of things you need for an assignment, mission, or operation. You go over it once when you thought you were ready to go, and then you went over it again when the team was gathered, just to be sure.

    Dezzy had lost count of the number of lives it had saved and the number of captures they had avoided because of it.

    So it was without the slightest resignation that the leader of the Ravens Rebellion patted herself down, going over her checklist once again, like any other rookie.

    Custom, .45 caliber automatic pistol? Check.

    Extra magazines of silver, hollow-points? Check.

    Oversized, six foot enchanted long-sword? Check.

    Armor, already checked, but was everything still in place? Another check.

    Extra knife in each boot? Check.

    And finally, her sparse toolkit. It might’ve been heavier if Emeris wasn’t tagging along, but he was a walking toolkit by himself. Hers was just an emergency supply if she got separated. But still, check.

    Having finished her own check-up, she looked back over her team. Emeris was done before her, as he usually was in this case. Due to the nature of his abilities, he needed very little aside from a box of matches, a couple silver sewing-needles, and a bullet-proof vest.

    Veldra took several more seconds, Dezzy didn’t know everything that the drow needed to be ready but she knew the basics from her file.

    The drowess favored a large enchanted war-hammer over a sword or gun and Dezzy could see the thing hooked onto her belt. It looked like little more than a block of steel at the end of a three foot stick, but Dezzy could feel the magic coming off it from several feet away. That thing could probably punch its way through enchanted steel.

    Veldra also carried a shield large enough to cover her torso, it wasn’t as powerfully enchanted as the hammer, but it was definitely bulletproof.

    With those items, her armor, and her goddess’s holy symbol to cast her spells, Veldra was ready.

    Nodding, Dezzy let herself slip into that emotionless state she associated with being a leader, “Alright, unless someone forgot their purse, let’s move out.”

    And with that, the small squad headed off towards action.