Part 1
By Kim McFarland

Everywhere he looked, chaos roiled.

Lights flashed, orbiting in roughly spiral patterns in a matrix of darker colors. This was going on in every relative direction - front, back, left, right, up, and down. Outside of time and space, there was no ground to create absolute reference points.

Essobee was inside a bubble he had created, a pocket that had originally been formed just outside of a dimension. He could have returned to that dimension easily enough simply by exiting the bubble, except that would have dropped him off among a coven of enemy sorcerers, in the Posiverse no less. Rather than let them catch him he had severed his connection to that dimension. Now he was stuck here again.

This happens to me too often, Essobee thought moodily as he watched the light show.

He was safe here. Nobody stood a chance of finding him, because he was literally nowhere and nowhen. The problem would be in returning home. The first time he had cut himself away in a dimensional pocket, he had managed to find his way back two hundred years into the future and one universe to the side. But he had been foolish and inexperienced then. He had since had ten more years to learn. Not ten years' more experience, however. During all that time he had been held prisoner in Shambhala, where he could learn all he wanted from the other sorcerers and the library, but could not practice any of it because they had taken away his ability to work with mana, effectively cutting him off from magic. They had tried to reform him by giving him the chance to turn over a new leaf. Hah! And, even worse, they had tried to give him a girl friend. What was he, an experimental animal? Put another mouse in the cage and see what happens?!

Then luck had stepped in, in the form of a demon who just happened to have been his father in a previous life. It had taken Essobee out of Shambhala and removed the curse, giving Essobee back his powers. And then it had used him as a dupe, a placeholder to hide its kidnapping of Essobee's Posiverse counterpart. When the Posiverse coven had recognized the deception and trapped Essobee, the demon had abandoned him. Thanks a lot, Dad. Essobee had had to resort to his old dimensional pocket trick to escape. So, here he was.

Those goody-goodies in Shambhala had treated him like a lab rat. Then the demon had used him as a pawn. The more Essobee thought about it, the angrier he became. Like the evil djinni who'd been bottled up for too long, he wanted to burn down the next person he saw, no matter who it was. But first he had to escape.

That would take some work. Before, he had managed to find his way back to the world, but he hadn't been specific enough in either time or space. He was lucky he had come out on the right planet, let alone the right time. This time he'd focus tightly on his destination. Hopefully that would bring him back out somewhere close to his target.

Then he realized he had another problem. He couldn't think of anywhere he wanted to be. The Negaverse, his home? No - he had grown up there, and hated it heartily. With his luck, he'd come back to a time when his mother and father were both still alive. The Posiverse was no better an alternative; he was only familiar with one small part of it, and it made him ill just thinking about it. That left Shambhala.

Shambhala had a good concentration of mana, the power that fueled magic, and a population that would rather re-zone a road, if they had roads, than pave over an anthill. He stood a chance there, provided he didn't let them catch him again. Plus, since he had spent the last ten years of his life there he knew the place better than any other location in any universe.

Shambhala it was, then. He closed his eyes, shutting out the chaos all around himself. He cleared his mind, then pictured the city, hidden on a glacier surrounded by sheer-faced mountains. He imagined bright daylight reflecting off the snow. He conjured the smell of the cold, dry air and the feeling of the chill as it began to sink into his feathers. He recalled the silence of the snowscape, broken only occasionally by the soft hiss of the wind, the distant noises animals made while living their lives, and the rare sharp cracks of the glacier ice. He sensed the flow of ancient mana.

When he was there in all but body, he left the dimensional bubble.

Suddenly all the sounds and sensations that Essobee had been recreating became real, immediate. He opened his eyes and looked around, wide eyed. In every direction he saw snow plains. A quick spell blocked the cold from reaching him. He scanned the area, looking for mana concentration, and found only variations in the usual background level. Of course the Shambhalans had hidden the city's magical aura. Otherwise it would lead outsiders to them the same way a thread of smoke marked a campfire.

Speaking of smoke, he saw some in the distance. There was a village not far away. There was only one town within sight of Shambhala - Lo Sepa, a tiny, painfully quaint little place - but what the heck, it was civilization. Essobee rose into the air and began skimming above the ice toward the city.

Just outside the city, he lowered himself to the ground. He magically created a set of traveling clothes from memory, then shapeshifted into the form of a young, slender Avian woman. Her long, straight black hair shortened and turned white, with a black streak to one side. Hah, she thought to herself. Let anyone guess who I am now. She had copied a form she had seen in the Posiverse - in fact, the sister (or sisters, since they were a pair of identical twins) of her Posiverse counterpart. In this universe neither Essobee nor her brother or sisters had been born, so she was safe in this guise.

She walked into the village on foot. People looked at her with the polite curiosity customarily exhibited toward newcomers, but did not question her. She listened to their talk; it was a rougher form of the language spoken in Shambhala. Good, that was one less thing to worry about.

Of course she couldn't find anything as simple as a newspaper to help her orient herself. It wasn't that they couldn't have newspapers if they had wanted to; they simply didn't want to. In a place like this, Essobee thought, there was nothing happening locally that was interesting enough to print, and they were too dull to fathom the existence of an outside world.

Fine, then. She shaped the next part of her plan as she meandered about the streets, getting her bearings. She stopped one of the inhabitants and asked in exaggeratedly halting speech where she could find an inn. He directed her to one, The Valley Lodge, which was just on the edge of town.

After locking herself into a room, which she had paid for with some money she had magically pickpocketed along the way, she dropped her coat into a chair and looked at herself in a mirror. She smiled. She liked this disguise. She'd keep it; it'd come in handy. The hair was a bit unruly, being wavy and wooly looking, but it was attractive in its own way.

She took off her boots and got into the bed. Instead of relaxing to go to sleep, however, she lay on her back, closed her eyes, and began concentrating.

It took a while for her to accomplish what she was trying to do. She had never attempted it herself; she had only read about it in the libraries at Shambhala. But after over an an hour of intense concentration she found herself staring down at her body from a vantage point somewhere near the ceiling.

She was surprised at having succeeded on her first try. Separating your viewpoint from your body was more difficult than traveling in astral form. An astral presence could be easily detected by anyone who knew what to look for, whereas since a viewpoint was only a passive force, receiving information without any actual physical presence, it was nearly impossible to detect.

She turned her focus away, and concentrated on the city of Shambhala. She knew where it was now, since Lo Sepa was only a few miles southwest of the hidden city. She traveled quickly up onto the glacier and looked for a concentration of mana which would mark the area where she and Miyu had, in the process of marking the boundaries of a concentration of wild mana, nearly torched the place. She found, instead of a spotty concentration marking the cleanup he had expected, a large area that was completely dead to magic. Essobee was surprised; she hadn't expected the Shambhalans to use scorched-earth tactics. Some of the city's inhabitants were magic-dependant people - the Vampires especially - and a large dead area right by their front door was as dangerous to them as a Burmese tiger trap.

She couldn't see the city, but she knew its location relative to the spill. She moved forward until the scenery jumped disorientingly from snowy landscape to the interior of the city, signaling that her viewpoint had passed through both the walls and spells without difficulty.

She smirked to herself. They weren't prepared for an invasion of this kind, of course. They simply trusted that it wouldn't happen. Well, Essobee planned to make a good many things that they didn't anticipate happen.

She prowled about, her viewpoint at the same level her eyes would have been on if she had been walking normally. Things were the same as they had always been. Which wasn't surprising; in this town changes happened at approximately the same rate as continental drift. Her viewpoint roamed, unseen and undetected, allowing her to gather inspiration for her immediate plans, now that she was free of the Vampires' curse.

The obvious course of action would be to wreak some havoc. Most of the buildings were at least partially wood, and some even had thatched roofs. Those would burn beautifully. She had been silly to try to storm this place with a demon earlier; she could cause serious destruction without anybody's help.

She'd start with the bloodsuckers, of course. Morgana and Marius, the vampires who had watched over her for those ten years, holding her captive in that poisonously polite way of theirs. They had treated her like a child, one who could be molded to their specifications if treated nicely enough. They would learn otherwise! She would wait until high noon, then tear the roof off of their house, exposing them to sunlight. They would burn to death in minutes while she watched and laughed!

She saw the library. Before she destroyed the city, she'd raid that place. There was too much there that she wanted; she couldn't bear the thought of destroying its books. And there were other tools that she could salvage as well. She would postpone her plans for that.

She began by prowling around in the Vampires' house. Marius was one of the chief sorcerers in Shambhala. In the two thousand years he had been practicing sorcery he had accumulated some very rare, potent artifacts. The Warlock's Wheel alone... Essobee saw that it was still "hidden" behind a chest in his lab, the first place anyone would look. At a glance, everything was where Essobee remembered it. That figured. When you're a couple of thousand years old, you do fall into a rut. Essobee's old room was unchanged as well - tidied up, but that was all. There were a few things there that she would have liked to salvage, but nothing she couldn't live without. The bloodsuckers were in their coffin, of course. Well, if you could call a box close to the size of a piano case a coffin.

One room, which she remembered as a spare workroom, caught her attention. When she had lived there, the door had nearly always been shut, as the room had rarely been used. The door was now ajar, and the workroom had been converted into a bedroom. After she had disappeared, Essobee surmised, the bloodsuckers had taken in some other fool to be their pet mortal. That figured. Probably one of the sicko vampire groupies who let them suck their blood.

Her viewpoint passed through a wall and into the sunlit garden outside. People meandered about, quietly living their boring lives. Most of them were not worth bothering with. This place was overrun with philosophical types trying to discover the meaning of life by contemplating their navels.

She found that she had wandered to the lodging used by the female students who did not live in Shambhala full-time. Was Miyu still here? Essobee might have come back days or years away from her target date, in either direction; she was lucky that she had turned up later, because if she looped back on herself things could get messy. It was nearly always disastrous to cross your own path.

She looked in Miyu's room. It was empty, cleared out. Essobee paused, just looking around the bare room. She had left Shambhala? Not that Essobee cared, of course. It was just surprising, that was all. She'd probably been too humiliated by the debacle and her association with Essobee to stay.

Essobee wandered through the city, spying on people. This was fun! What would they think if they knew that the helpless duck they had grudgingly tolerated for ten years had his powers back and was walking among them - in a manner of speaking- and planning their destruction?

A concentration of magic drew her to the healer's building. She had the largest dwelling in Shambhala, but much of it served as a hospital. Most of the time she just cured colds and mended sprains; only occasionally did people from the outside bring in tougher cases.

Essobee slipped in through the wall. Like the library, it was still and quiet inside. Essobee traveled though the hall, which was lined with framed bits of paper and parchment in faded script. One room she looked into was the pharmacy, full of herbs, chemicals, and tools for making powders, infusions, and other messy stuff. Another held books and less frequently used tools.

The third room she looked in was occupied. The healer, an elderly white fox named Anusuya, sitting in a chair pulled up to the side of a bed, watching a ragged-looking cat.

As Essobee watched, the feline in the bed stirred. Her eyes opened blearily. "What..." she rasped.

Essobee startled mentally. She had not recognized her, not in her current sorry state, but the voice was unmistakable. Miyu?!

The healer asked, "How do you feel?"

Miyu blinked groggily, and shifted her legs. "I don't feel anything. Am I still numbed?"

"Yes, you are. I'll remove the anesthesia gradually."

The healer spoke slowly, loosening the spell that blocked all sensation of pain. Towards the end Miyu gritted her teeth, but said nothing. When the healer finished she asked, "How is it?"

"Not as bad as it was," the cat, now fully alert, answered.


"How is Susan?"

"She's fine. She's doing as well as you - needing care, but she'll pull through, don't worry."

Susan? Who was that?

Miyu sighed and slumped back. The fox said, "Let me get in your mind again."

Miyu nodded assent and lay back down. The healer closed her eyes. Miyu began moving slowly, turning on her side, bending her legs gingerly. Essobee recognized what they were doing - the healer was putting her body through some simple tests, and listening empathically so she could feel the result. It was a lot more accurate than trying to get information out of a patient about exactly what hurt, and how. It was disturbing to watch, though.

What had happened to Miyu? If Essobee had dared, she would have tried to pierce the cat's mind telepathically. The cat looked weak enough not to notice, let alone put up any resistance. However, that would run too much risk of attracting attention. Whatever had happened, it seemed to have damaged her legs. Maybe she had taken a fall off the glacier face.

Essobee continued watching while the two women exchanged a few more sentences, and the healer put her to sleep again. They didn't even have the courtesy to draw back the covers or give Essobee any other kind of clue as to what had happened to her.

Essobee thought several expletives to herself. Why did she care? Answer: she didn't, she had just let curiosity get the better of her for a moment. She turned her attention to the fox.

Anysuya walked directly to another room. Essobee followed her. Unlike the clean, polished wood of the rest of the building, the walls of this room were painted in a light green. It wasn't exactly an ugly color, but it sure was sissyish.

The fox went to a smaller bed, the kind with railings to keep its occupant from falling out. However, instead of being institutional metal, it was made of carved wood. In the middle of the bed, tiny in its swaddling bundle, was an infant lying on its back. Its bare, reddish skin showed through the patches of a coat just beginning to come in. Carefully the healer picked the creature up. It made a thin complaining sound and waved a scrawny arm.

If Essobee had been there physically, she would have shaken her head in disgust. So that was what Miyu had been up to. That figured. Well, it was Miyu's problem, not Essobee's.

The healer took a baby's bottle out of a pan of warm water and offered it to the child, which accepted it eagerly. Its eyes were shut and its ears folded tightly against its head. Its mouth was oddly shaped, pushed forward-

No. Its mouth was a bill.

Essobee sat up, eyes wide. The shock had snapped her back to her own body.

Regular hybrids were rare. Even if two close species, like feline and canine, had children, they always took after one parent or the other, not both. And if the species weren't close - like an avian and a mammal - they simply couldn't breed. Everyone knew that it was impossible.

Try telling that to a tiny creature with cat ears and a duck bill.

Of course. Essobee and Miyu had been trapped together by a storm of wild magic. Both of them had been exposed to it for several days beforehand. And wild magic loved to generate life; they had found worms made of snow while marking off the area.

Essobee stared at the wall opposite the bed.

The shadows lengthened, and the sun sank beneath the mountains. Soon after the stars appeared in the sky, the door to the healer's abode creaked open. Marius stepped in and walked down the silent hallway.

Anusuya was in Miyu's room, asleep in a chair. She blinked awake when she heard the vampire. He asked, "How are they?"

"Same as usual," she answered, looking at the bed. The baby was beside Miyu, bundled up in her swaddling in the crook of her mother's arm. "Recovering slowly but surely. And Susan's still fighting."

"She will live," Marius stated quietly.

"I know. But..."

But it won't be easy, the Vampire finished mentally. The poor thing had been in trouble from the beginning. Miyu, being feline, was not capable of carrying a part-avian child to term. Because of that it had been born early, in an egg so thin-shelled that it had torn apart immediately. They were keeping her daughter alive with a lot of magic, and constant attention. The child was growing and gaining strength, but it would be at least a month before it could survive without magical aid.

It had been hard on Miyu. But, like her daughter, she was recovering. Thank heavens Anusuya had no other charges right now; this delicate task demanded most of her time and power. It would take more if she did not keep them both under a sleep spell most of the time to allow them to use their energy toward healing.

Marius gently picked up the blanket. It was much lighter than it should have been. Surprised, he looked at it with his magic sense, then removed the spell he found, revealing an empty blanket.

He turned looked at the healer, who was as surprised as he was. "She's not here."

"What happened?"

"There was a spell on the blanket, a disguise spell to make it appear as if Susan was in it."

"What?" she exclaimed, alarmed.

"Who was here?"

She put a hand to her forehead and looked downward. "After I put Miyu and Susan to sleep in the chair, I renewed the healing spells on them. That was early evening. Then I got dinner, and came back here and fell asleep. When would anyone have had time to come in and..."

"And take her." Marius finished when the fox let the sentence trail off. "Who would do that? Nobody within Shambhala."

"Nobody who's here now."

The Vampire did not answer. He looked around the room with unfocused eyes, searching in the magic spectrum. After a minute of this he said, "The disguise spell was cast in this room. It was the only spell cast here besides yours. There was other magic in use, however, that must have enabled someone to slip in unnoticed." Then he looked at the healer. "Do you have any fragments of her shell?"

"I saved them, of course." Relieved to be able to do something, she hustled out the door to her pharmacy, with Marius trailing behind. She chattered nervously, "I didn't have anything in mind for them, but they have power, like a caul, and I wouldn't dispose of the pieces without Miyu's say in the matter. And she's been, you know, so I didn't bother her with it."

"Very good," he said when she took a nondescript box off a shelf and set it on the table between them. Inside were several paper-wrapped packets of various sizes, with protection and containment ideograms brushed on in thick brown ink. She took the top one out and put it on the table. He watched as she took out a brush and ink and carefully painted countersymbols by each of the runes, making the package safe to open. Then she unfolded the paper. Inside was a collection of off-white eggshell fragments.

He picked one up and set it on his palm. The shell had been too flimsy; it had never had the chance to dry into a hard, protective barrier. Marius put the bit down, and picked up a number of smaller fragments. "I'll need these to make something to find her. Do you have anything else from her?"

"No." She shook her head. "She had barely started growing her feathers or hair yet. The only other thing is diapers."

"These shells will do."

"About her-" The healer nodded in the direction of Miyu's room. "I won't wake her. If we can find Susan quickly enough, then I don't think she need know anything ever happened. She has enough to deal with as it is."


Marius paused, then walked back into Miyu's room. He looked around again, then stepped to the wall opposite her bed. He looked from the doorway to the bed, and back again, concentrating hard. At length he said, "I don't recognize the caster."

Anusuya nodded. She was nowhere near as adept as Marius in this department, but she knew that different people cast spells in different ways, and if you knew how to look their spells were as different as their signatures.

Musing to himself again, he said, "The spell was tightly controlled, even overcontrolled, but there was some slippage. It couldn't have been a master, or it would have been harder to find. But the residue is not obvious either. The caster is much more advanced than an apprentice, although the particular spell was probably new to him."

"Do you know anybody like that?"

"Oh, of course, some of the trainees who have passed their apprenticeship and settled into real learning. However, there are none I could believe would do this."

Someone had to have, she thought, but did not say it.

When Marius arrived at home, Morgana was not there. He had all the items he needed on hand, so he set to work in his laboratory.

He put the shell fragments into a polished stone bowl. With a pestle he ground them into a powder, then activated the bowl's enchantment, causing it to heat up. As the shards began to smoke he took a small blown glass sphere from a cabinet and inspected it for cracks and scratches.

Soon the shell had burned to ashes. He caused the bowl to cool down again. Then he held the sphere in one hand and the bowl in the other, and looked at the bubble. The ashes appeared inside it. He set the bowl aside and concentrated on the sphere.

Morgana walked in to see Marius staring at a point of light inside a glass ball. When he broke his concentration he turned the item about in his hands. The spark inside was off center, nearly touching one of the walls, and remained pointing in the same direction as he turned the glass in his hands, like a compass needle pointing north.

"Who's missing?" she asked, recognizing the tool as a seeker sphere.

"Miyu's daughter."

"What? How?"

"I'm not sure. It looks as if someone came in and took her." He described what he had seen her, adding telepathic images as footnotes.

"That's... why would someone do that?"

"I have no idea," he said, shaking his head. "I will learn that when I find her."

"WE will find her," she said firmly.

Morgana had a temper, he was well aware, and this was a delicate situation. However, he also knew from her tone of voice that she would not be dissuaded from joining him on the search. They had taken Miyu in when she had learned that she was expecting, both to give her moral support and to keep watch on her during what they had anticipated - correctly - would be a difficult pregnancy. Morgana was as fond of the girl as he was. He would be wasting his time if he tried to persuade her to leave this problem to him.

He held the glass up. The spark, shining brightly, pointed roughly southwest.

"She's not far away." Morgana commented unnecessarily.

"Yes. In the direction of Lo Sepa. Would you send us there?"

Morgana nodded, closed her eyes to visualize their destination, and clapped her hands together at arms' length.

The two vampires appeared outside of the city. They could have come in closer, but the citizens often got alarmed when people appeared without warning out of thin air. Marius looked at the sphere again, then nodded to Morgana and started walking.

The sphere led them to The Valley Lodge, the inn to which most travelers gravitated. In the main room they saw two women, a duck and a wolf. The younger, unfamiliar one, who scowled at them before looking away, had wavy, black-streaked white hair. They both knew the older wolf as one of the couple who kept the inn. "Hello, Shan. We need to see someone who is staying here," Marius said in a pleasant voice.

"Oh, of course." She dug in her pockets and produced a key ring. Both Vampires had reputations as respectable sorcerers and healers; few would question their requests. They wouldn't ask if it weren't important. "Which room?"

Marius looked at the glass. "This way," he replied, and started down the hall.

Essobee sensed their approach. Vampires were inherently magical beings, and had an unmistakable presence for those who knew how to sense it. Kind of like compost has an odor, he thought.

He had not expected them to track him quite this quickly, but he wasn't surprised about it either. He knew that even though he had disguised his trail with concealment spells, they would still be able to catch up with him. He could not bluff them with a disguise spell; they'd see right through it. And, confident as he was of his own abilities, he did not want to face the kind of pyrotechnic barrage that he knew Morgana could generate when she got a full head of steam.

Gesturing one-handed, he created a small pocket just outside of this dimension, and stepped backward to enter it.

The glow in the sphere moved as he went down the hall, leading them to one specific door. Marius rapped on it. Morgana looked at him incredulously. You're knocking?! she thought to him.

Startled kidnappers react badly, and it's their victims who bear the consequences, he answered.

She gritted her teeth. He was right, of course, but the idea of asking permission to enter a kidnapper's room angered her.

No answer. "Would you open the door?" he asked Shan.

"Of course," she answered, and jingled through the ring to find the right key.

Essobee watched from his hiding place. The door opened. Marius looked in, then entered. Morgana, right behind him, glowed in the magical spectrum with the aurora of a sorcerer gathering power for a strike. Marius turned and said to the woman out in the hall, "Thank you. This must be private." The woman nodded and left.

Marius shut the door and looked at the spark. It was glowing brightly now, shining like a tiny sun in the confines of the glass. Essobee understood exactly what the seeker was, and that as long as it existed the Vampire would be able to find the baby.

Following the spark, Marius walked toward Essobee. Just when he seemed to be about to enter the pocket, he stopped, his outstretched arm disappearing from Essobee's view.

Marius waved the sphere around in the air, watching the spark. When he held it just below chest level in the middle of the room, the spark centered in the glass. He stared at it, baffled.

Morgana asked, "It's lost its direction?"

"No," he said. He waved the sphere around. The spark moved within, always pointing to one point in midair. "It thinks she's right here."

"Invisible? Or immaterial?"

"Alive, in some form. If she weren't, the spark would die. In any case, this spot right here is the closest point to her." He paused, the spoke at the area the sphere indicated. "Please return the child from Shambhala. She is very weak, and needs special help to live. We will not harm you if you give her back to us. Please."

He waited. The silence stretched.

Despite knowing that they could not get to him, Essobee was still spooked. Marius, his arm reaching forward as if to touch Essobee, was speaking directly to him as if they were actually together. Or, rather, to the baby; his eyes were fixed on the glass sphere. Morgana, behind him, was keeping a poker face, but her aura was intensifying as she drew more power to herself. Marius might be serious about offering Essobee safety if he came out, but Essobee knew that once he had handed the baby to the bloodsucker Morgana would turn him into a scorch mark and some bone fragments.

They had his number, all right. If he came out later, they would know, and that glass bubble would lead them right back to him. He huddled within the pocket of safety, staring at the vampires.

Marius repeated his plea several times. Morgana watched impatiently. Like his knocking at the door earlier, this offended her dignity, but she knew that he would readily trade a little dignity for a worthy cause. She waited.

Eventually he asked her, Do you have any ideas?

None that would work.

He sighed. There's nothing more I can think of.

Except setting a snare. Something to freeze him, if he comes back out here.

He might go elsewhere. He might be in ethereal form. But, yes, please do that. I don't know what else we can do.

Morgana began casting. Mentally she created a barrier around the room, outlining the joints of the wall, ceiling, and floor, then joining the lines with panels of energy. Within those borders she cast a stasis spell, which would activate if anyone appeared within the room without coming through the door. As a final touch she added a cantrip that would alert them both if the spell was activated.

When she finished, she nodded at him. He looked sad, defeated. He exited first. Morgana started to follow him, the looked back and hissed, "You'd better think it over. If you throw yourself on his mercy, he'll let you go as long as the baby's safe. But if you don't, and I catch you, you won't live long enough to apologize!"

The door shut. Essobee shivered. He knew that she was not bluffing. He didn't doubt that she'd make a meal of him. In fact, she would if he turned himself in anyway.

The child hadn't moved since he had first taken it. He looked at it. After a worried moment he saw that it was breathing. It was still asleep. How could it have slept through everything that had happened? It hadn't awakened even when he had first taken it.

Shifting focus, he saw the reason. A sleeping spell. He canceled it. After a moment it moved, yawning and twitching its arms. Its eyes did not open. From the looks of things, they wouldn't open for some time.

It was tiny. Its head and back would fit along the length of his hand. Its skin was delicate and red, downy feathers just beginning to appear. The only time he had seen pictures of anything like this was when he'd read about an egg that had been accidentally cracked too early, months before the avian inside was ready to hatch. It had survived only because it had been rushed to the hospital.

No question about it, this creature had to be his, there was no other way it could exist. She, he corrected himself as he opened the towel he had taken from the bathroom to wrap her in. Why would Miyu want this wretched, malformed little thing? No, not malformed - though she looked wrong for either an avian or a feline, when he kept in mind that she was a hybrid between the two species she did not seem so bad.

Looking deeper, he could see that, although she was weak, she was fundamentally healthy. Her heart beat normally; her body functioned as well as it could considering the demands put on it months too early. The sleep spell had served to lighten that burden. Other spells aided her in growing and gaining her strength. She shifted restlessly in the blanket, making soft, whimpering noises.

"Cry while you can," Essobee murmured as he covered her fragile skin with the towel. "You won't always be able to."

He took out his ceremonial knife.

Marius startled. He held the glass sphere up. The glow within had disappeared. He stared at it, wide eyed. Then, against all logic, he shook it and held it up again.

Neither he nor Morgana could see any hint of light within the glass - and, being vampires, they had very good vision.

Heavily Marius said, "Poor Miyu."

Part Two