Death Becomes Him

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Fall had bowed to winter in the hours Raven spent in the cabin and Ty met him at the door with a lined leather duster and riding gloves.

"I know how you prefer to be warm," the Toad smiled.

"Thanks." Raven grinned back, donning the coat before making his way to the bar again. He counted the prayers of one-hundred thousand Souls and Essences as soon as he reached the road. Hours had not seemed so large the night before.

Snow piled around the parking lot in a two feet high barrier, leaving the black pavement beneath. The majick sparkled above the snow in a prism of colors that arced above the property and joined where the back door should have been. A wall of shimmery white fell from the joining point and Raven frowned at the majick signature of his Uncle Noir.

The soft purr of Drake's MKZ distracted Raven from his examination and he waited until the car parked. Drake's surprise over seeing him slammed through the colors but did not show on the man's face as he joined Raven by the door.

"Crow said to be here early. Didn't know why." Drake frowned, rubbing his temples. Raven reached for the knob but Drake knocked his hand out of the way. "That's what I'm here for."

"Opening the door?" Raven raised his eyebrows.

"I'm the Gatekeeper." Drake nodded, placed his hand on the metal, and the majick sparkled around the black wood. The hinges creaked in protest but relented. Like the night before, music reigned once Raven crossed the threshold but did not breach the silence of the parking lot. Drake muttered to himself about being here at seven every night to let the new bartender in. He also referred to Raven as a 'damned Order Uppity'.

Crow emerged from the darkness that surrounded the walls, stepping into the halo of light for the bar.

"Brother, never drink with gods. Forgive him, Rave. He's nursing a hangover and is grumpy on a good night."

"Not a problem. Why does he have to open the door for me?" Raven asked, but the question went unanswered.

"The Humans'll start showin' up by eight," Crow said as a man stepped out of another darkened corner. "Already?" Crow whispered.

Pale, bloody, and gaunt, Ceael Felins stumbled once on his way to a bar stool. His skin stretched over his bones in a long since dead way and his Tiger's fangs were over pronounced. Cradled to the man's chest was a long-limbed male, whose long blond hair was soaked crimson.

"He doesn't fight," Ceael rasped out and tears streaked the blood on his cheeks.

"Is that my brother?" Raven frowned, stepping forward and scenting the bundle. Gaia bore three sets of twins and Raven and Scot were the youngest, so to speak. Catori and Caroleen were the oldest, leaving Claud and Maya. Claud was known as the beauty, and a demigod. How many times had their enemies tried to kill Claud? The colors answered that this was the third, but Raven could heal him.

"Put him on the bar," Crow murmured and Ceael glared at him.

Raven, however, ignored Ceael's anguish over Claud's death and turned Claud's head so he could see his face. Claud's mouth was open and dried blood coated his lips and chin. Raven tore his wrist open, holding it over his brother's mouth.

"I tried that, dammit!" Ceael roared, but Raven watched Claud. Raven's blood dripped to the parched tongue and pink blossomed. Claud's throat worked as he swallowed and his long lashes parted. Crimson filled in the glassy-eyed stare as the pupils contracted to black points. At the first intake of breath, Raven pulled his wrist away.

"Feed, brother."

Ceael winced when Claud's fangs pushed into his flesh, but the man tightened his hold.

"What brought you here?" Crow asked as Raven walked behind the bar to wash his wrist in hopes the blood would clot.

"No, where were you?" Raven asked and Ceael answered him.

"In the battle. That damned thing went on for days, Rave. We'd die and wake up again the morning before it started. This time Claud didn't."

"Now, can I ask?" Crow arched a brow and Raven laughed. "What brought you here?"

"The spell to come to The Veil," Ceael answered. "It was the only way I could think of to bring him back."

Crow frowned, but Raven understood. The Elders had been in the planes and were given a spell to change outcomes when the final battle was over. They couldn't live anywhere but The Veil.

"There's a spell to bring you back?" Crow asked. "Noir didn't say that."

"Because Ceael should have gone home, Crow." Raven sighed. "Where is home?"

"Juniper's Folly," Ceael said.

"Which doesn't exist," Drake said, joining the conversation. "What would be the beacon?"

"Raven," Claud whispered. "Thank you, brother."

"You're welcome. You can't die, you know. Mom would be sad." Raven gave him a crooked smile. Oh, Claud and Raven rarely agreed on anything, but they were brothers and family mattered most.

"Raven's blood isn't part of the majick for Last Spirits." Crow shook his head.

"He's here. Gemini had to come home for the battle to be truly over." Claud sighed. "I really want a bath."

"Ceael, I live in a cabin a mile behind this bar. Ty and his brothers are there. Ty will let you in," Raven said. "Have him find you some food. I didn't get that far."

"Drake, let them out," Crow said.

"I'll drive them," Drake said, ushering Ceael out of the building.

"Well, that answers why Connor is coming here," Crow said when the door closed.

"Only part of it. Claud is Ceael's raison d'être. I want to know what Lucah took from Connor to make him want to die."

"So, why Ceael? Connor's been showing up every night for a week, aside from last night." Crow frowned.

"Ceael is the youngest Elder. Caleb will be next. Connor should be after, but if the battle was on some sort of loop, then Connor arrived too soon. Was he aware while he was here?" Raven asked.

"Connor? Now that you say that, no. He did the same things every time. Like his actions were scripted."

"Did he try to walk through the door that doesn't lead to the outside?" Raven raised his eyebrows.

"Yeah. After he said he was going to bed." Crow nodded and Raven looked around the bar again, noting the bathrooms, the bar placement, and the door from the parking lot.

"Well, hell, Crow." Raven frowned. "This is the barn from Alpha. Who designed this?"

"It came this way, Rave. I just set the wards and used Noir's blood for Death's Door. What are you saying?"

"Connor isn't trying to die, but he does need to be stopped. Home on Alpha is the barn, and Connor went home, but that's here."

"Rave, what's the spell?" Crow asked after he thought about it.

"What is The Veil?" Raven countered.

"For the Elders, it's home."

"Nah, think, Harbinger. What don't we do?"

"Die," Crow whispered. "Holy hell! They have to pray for death?"

Raven nodded, which had been a mistake. The colors sloshed against the inside of his skull and he grabbed the counter to stay standing.

"Rave, you really need to feed, you know." Crow wrapped a clean bar towel around Raven's wrist.

"From who?" Raven laughed.

Find me, ma Lueur, swam through the colors in large bubble letters.

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