The wind threatened to tear right through her wings, but Mariah welcomed the pain. She welcomed anything that would drive Kievos’s hurt eyes from her mind. He told her that he still loved her, but she would not believe that. How could she when he had abandoned her.

Through the long months of her mother’s trial, she had been alone. He claimed that his duty kept him from her, but she knew his words for lies as soon as he spoke them. How many times had he demonstrated to her that he could be in many places at once? Kievos also told her that she had never been far from his thoughts. Another lie. If he loved her as he said he did, nothing would have kept him from her. Nothing could have kept her from him.

Kievos said, “I love you.”

Mariah spat, “I hate you.”

And then he left. He left her wanting to take back her hateful words, and she did try, but her apologies were lost in the howling of the wind.

Now, that wind threatened to rip her apart as Mariah tried to land in front of her home. She knew that a safe landing was out of the question, so she arced her wings to the raging wind to slow her descent. Hitting the ground hard, she growled as she tumbled over the mud and grass. The house was dark; all of the windows had been boarded up. She kept her wings close to her body as she stumbled towards it.

Waiting until she reached the porch before retaking her humanoid form, Mariah more hauled herself up the steps than climbed them. The ends of her hair slashed at her face like tiny whips carried by the wind. Finally, she opened the door and fell inside, kicking it shut behind her.

Pen helped her to stand. He told her that he had to take care of a few business matters before the brunt of the storm hit. The children were all in bed, but neither Beth nor Daffydd was home. Mariah watched from the door as the Drow walked into the storm. His clothing and hair fell prey to the wind, but his stride was steady. She closed the door and threw the heavy bolt down before she went to the bathing room to wash the mud from her.

It was nearly dawn when a young tree was plucked up by the wind and dragged over the roof of the house. Mariah stared wide eyed at the ceiling; her fingers clutched at the cushions of the couch. She was frightened. For the first time in her life, she was frightened. The noise woke the children and they came running into the living room. Heather was crying, demanding her mother as the boys stared at her with large, terrified eyes.

Picking Heather up, Mariah held the child to her chest and vainly tried to quiet her. Heather wanted Beth, and if the truth were told, so did Mariah. Osiris began to pace the floor, stopping occasionally as the wind caused the house to make some new and horrific noise. Lei just stood there silently, his small body trembled.

There was a thunderous crash as the gardening shed shattered against the house. Lei screamed for Beth and ran down the hall. Mariah set Heather on the couch; before she could turn around, she heard the door to the courtyard open. The house seemed to be living, shaking with fear as the monstrous wind howled in the hallways.

As Mariah reached the courtyard, she saw Lei scramble beneath the house. She muttered a curse and took off after him. She never realized her six year old brother could move so fast. He emerged from beneath the house and was running towards the woods. The wind slowed just enough to let the boy pass, but by the time Mariah crawled from the cover of the house, the tempest was raging once more.

Roaring in red eyed fury, Mariah took her draconic form and set off after her brother. She heard a shriek behind her and turned to see Heather being lifted by the wind. Damn it all! Osiris and Heather had followed her! Turning against the wind, the dragoness pushed herself beyond what even she had thought possible. Heather was spinning in the wind like a rag doll.

Ebony talons that were powerful enough to cleave an elk in two, plucked the three year old from the air with the gentleness of a lamb. Mariah held the child to her chest and wrapped her wings around her. By sheer force of will, the dragoness forced herself to turn her massive body in the face of the screaming wind. Her back hit the tree with enough force to topple it, but Heather was safe.

Keeping one wing around the child, Mariah stumbled into the wind. Because she was only able to use three legs, it took her more than twenty minutes to travel the one hundred yards back to the house. As she crawled beneath the house, she found Osiris curled up against Wang’s statue. She reverted to her humanoid form and pulled both children to her.

Heather was badly frightened, but otherwise unharmed. Mariah could not say as much for herself. Her back felt as if a thousand red hot spears were being jabbed into it. Dismissing the pain, she got to her feet and led the children to the courtyard and into the house. Once she had them both on the living room couch, she knelt down in front of them. “I must go find Lei. I want you both to stay right here until I return.”

“No! I want to go with you. I want to find my brother,” Osiris screamed.

Heather wrapped her arms around Mariah’s neck. “Don’t leave ‘Riah. I scared. Please don’t leave.”

Mariah felt the warmth of the child’s tears on her neck. The look in Osiris’s eyes left no doubt that the boy would follow her if she left. She sighed and pulled her brother to her. The three of them clung to each other as Mariah whispered the first prayer she had ever uttered in her life. A prayer for the safety of Lei.