Morningstar: The Malaise - 49. The Reunion
Morningstar: The Malaise
They’d been on the move for a while, leaving ongoing though controlled chaos behind. The exodus of Vega members would soon begin, and livestock and some members had already preceded their own early morning departure. The back seat of the truck held precious cargo… yes, the usual boxes of dried plants… but more importantly, Miss Sybil’s long lost mate.
He’d been found sitting there quietly, waiting in darkness, an hour before they’d left that morning. Not complaining, and really not saying much, Arthur insisted he was fine right where he was when they tried to coax him out. By doing and saying nothing, he’d succeeded in getting them to leave hours earlier than originally planned. Their breakfast ended up being consumed in the truck, after they set out on the journey to Morningstar.
Kellar, driving this time, was beginning to suspect despite having to relearn a number of skills, Miss Sybil’s mate was never to be underestimated. He was both determined and clever, and those attributes were an absolute joy to the healer in him. Arthur might have proven to be an irascible handful, but he had grown immensely fond of the man.
They’d taken the new route given them by Clarence, and it did cut, at the least, a full hour from their drive. Hutch had used it on the way to Vega, and warned them in accurate detail of where the sharper curves were. Warning signs weren’t required on an unassumed road the municipality took no responsibility for. Still, the road was exceptionally well maintained by the logging companies who utilized it.
Watching Hutch and Delia’s inseparable interaction yesterday had been another source of absolute joy… not just for him and Tobyn… the whole pack appeared lifted up by the new couple. They represented a tangible symbol of a different and welcomed future.
Kellar was strongly tempted to pull into the cabin’s driveway as they neared it, but he didn’t want to cause Arthur any more irritation. He did slow down and point it out when they were going by, but the backseat passenger had no response. His focus was on the highway ahead—the road to his mate—and nothing else appeared to matter. He wasn’t interested in small talk either.
Tobyn had to coerce the man to eat a sandwich from the cooler by threatening they would stop for lunch at a roadside restaurant if he didn’t. Only then did he comply. Even on the stops to relieve themselves, Arthur got antsy, and didn’t calm until they were on the move again.
The entrance to Morningstar was fast approaching, and Kellar saw his own Dodge truck parked at the garage as they passed. He was reminded in that moment just how important his brother had become in his life. Glancing over at Tobyn, he smiled.
“I knew you were missing your bro.”
“Yeah. He’s definitely grown on me.”
“I wonder what he’s been up to.”
“Knowing Warren, he’s wrapped more people around his fingers.”
Kellar chuckled. “I had no idea in all those years Warren Apsley could be charming.”
“There’s definitely something about him, but don’t worry. You’re the way hotter brother.”
“I think Adelin would disagree, babe.”
"True, but she’d be wrong.”
It was coming up to three in the afternoon on the warm and sunny day when Kellar flicked on his signal for the turn into pack grounds.
“Sybil,” was uttered quietly from the backseat.
Looking in the rearview mirror, Kellar noticed Arthur was now leaning forward, but he appeared calm. “Yes… Sybil. We’ll take you straight to her house like we promised.” No response came from the man as he continued to stare intently out the front window.
A jam-packed car ahead of them, with American license plates, turned down the marina road. Definitely tourists, and a reminder the summer vacation season was in full swing. It felt a trifle strange not to pull up in front of the lodge on their return, but Kellar didn’t want Arthur running off, no matter how much his health and mobility had improved. It was also unusual there was no sign of activity in the area, but Hutch, Delia, Ian, Dot, and Percy’s arrival with three trailers of livestock probably had much to do with that fact.
“I guess everyone’s over at the farm division. They’d want those animals off the trailers as soon as possible.”
“That’s my guess too. They should have arrived at least an hour ago with leaving two hours before we did. I’m sure that’s where Joanne and Ingram are,” Kellar said with a grin. “I’d liked to have seen them meet their mates.”
“Me too, but we’re going to witness the best reunion possible, aren’t we Arthur?” Tobyn asked, glancing behind him. Again, no response.
“This is it. I hope she’s there.” Kellar turned onto the school road that took them to their destination. Seconds later, he was relieved to see Miss Sybil standing like a statue in front of her pretty home, eyes searching the truck as it approached. “Looks like she knew we were coming, babe.”
“My Sybil,” was whispered just before the rear door swung open. Kellar hadn’t come to a full stop, but Arthur alighted the ground effortlessly. It was hard to believe this was the elderly man who, only days ago, needed assistance getting around. He started out with sure strides, but the last two turned to faltering when he was within a few feet of his mate. He came to a halt, and froze. With the windows down, Kellar and Tobyn sat mesmerized by the scenario unfolding in front of them.
“Sybil,” was said with such drawn-out wonder Kellar felt a lump form in his throat.
“Yes, Arthur, it’s me. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“I’m late. I’m sorry… my beloved.”
“Only a little,” Sybil said, a shy smile lighting her face.
“I thought you were only in my dreams. I’m sorry I couldn’t remember things right.”
“You don’t have to explain, Arthur. I saw it all… what they did to you.”
Kellar couldn’t see his face, but he heard the confusion in the man’s voice.
“You… you were there?”
“Oh, Arthur”—Miss Sybil took a step closer—“no, I wasn’t there. I’m a seer, remember?”
After a few seconds, Arthur nodded in understanding, and he moved closer as well. “What did you see?”
“Something awful, but I also saw something that made me come alive again. My visions came last night. I saw a brave man who fought to save his friends. I saw you shift and knock two hunters flying when they tried to shoot you… I saw your wolf reach one and tear him apart. I think their gun misfired, but the other one hit you with a horrible looking weapon… the end was metal… he smashed your head again after you shifted back. You tried to crawl away, but he hit you one more time.” She shuddered. “You laid still, and then he kicked you over a ridge… you… you looked dead, my love.” Unshed tears glistened in the sunlight, poised to fall.
Kellar came close to vomiting at the picture she painted. There was a burning in his throat to go with the sting behind his eyes. He almost wished Miss Sybil hadn’t seen such a vision. It must have been horrendous to experience one of her mate’s near-death beating, but maybe there was some solace for her in knowing Arthur had gotten revenge on one of the bastards. It certainly gave him some.
“I wasn’t dead. Don’t cry, Sybil. Cahlar fixed my brain, and he says it will get better. Your ponytail’s gone.”
Sybil laughed, and wiped away the few drops of moisture that had made their way onto her cheek. “Yes, it is gone, and no you’re not dead. You are right here where you’ve always belonged.” With a blink of her eyes, more tears fell, replacing the laughter, and Arthur took the final steps, holding out arms soon filled. They weren’t just hugging… they were clinging to each other, and in that moment, Kellar could picture them as young lovers. It was an overwhelming sight to see them reconnect after a lifetime apart, and he felt incredible satisfaction for what his and Tobyn’s efforts had wrought. He ignored the soft murmurs coming from the couple, choosing to respect their privacy.
A sound from Tobyn drew Kellar’s attention. His mate was wiping away tears with his free hand. Kellar followed suit, but kept their hands clasped tightly. “Should we be watching this?” Tobyn asked with a sniffle. “That vision….”
Tobyn didn’t need to elaborate about the horror of what she’d revealed. Kellar preferred not to think or talk about it at the moment. “I don’t know. Let’s ask them. We can’t just leave with all of Arthur’s stuff,” Kellar said with an attempted grin.
At first, Tobyn appeared to balk at the idea, but then he nodded, releasing Kellar’s hand and doing a more thorough job of wiping away the evidence of his emotion.
“Come on… they won’t even notice your snot.”
“People who live in glass houses….”
“I concede you have a point, babe. Can you grab the Kleenex out of the glovebox? We both need some.”
“He called her beloved.”
“Arthur. He caller Miss Sybil his beloved. It was sweet.”
“Are you going to start crying again, babe?” Kellar teased.
“Shut up. You’ve never called me your beloved.”
“Well, am I your beloved?”
“Damn right,” Tobyn answered, finally able to smile.
The sound of their doors opening slowly diverted the older couple’s attention from each other, and they drew apart with hands clasped, both copying the cleanup Tobyn and Kellar had just gone through. Miss Sybil’s face was rife with happy emotion as she wiped away tear streaks with her free hand. Kellar stepped forward with tissues, which she accepted graciously and shared with her mate.
“I know everything you boys have done for me… for us. Kellar, you truly are a bringer of miracles, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for giving me back my Arthur." She turned her head to look up at the tall man who wore shining pride on his face.
“You just did, Miss Sybil. Seeing you together is all we needed.”
“Did Mom tell you we were on our way, ma’am?”
“No dear, I saw it… clearer than I’ve ever seen anything. I’ve been waiting for you to bring me my Arthur. I also saw the healing… and my love awaken. I saw Arthur’s wolf first, days ago, but I didn’t know why until last night. I experienced the clearest visions I’ve had in fifty years, one after another, and I came out of it having no doubt you would bring me Arthur today. My vision ended with your truck driving up to my house, and my mate jumping out exactly as he did. I have been filled with a joy I didn’t want to share with anyone else until Arthur came home to me. I’ve just been keeping myself busy while I bided my time.”
“I knew it too, Sybil,” Arthur said matter-of-factly. “I knew we would see each other today.”
Kellar laughed. “If we didn’t drive him, he would have run here.”
“Yes… I would have.” Arthur said with conviction before grinning smugly, and Miss Sybil giggled.
“That smile… you’re still the same man I met all those years ago.”
“You’re not the same woman, Sybil.”
“No. You don’t have a ponytail.” His serious countenance changed to another broad grin and Miss Sybil giggled again.
“You’re still such a rascal. I’ll just have to grow a new one then.”
“Good. I miss it.”
“It will take a while, though.”
“I can wait. We have lots of time. I remember now… the last day I saw you. You had a yellow ribbon in your hair, and you are just as beautiful now as you were then.”
“Oh, my, yes. It was pale yellow and I still have it. I have reason to wear it again… yes we do have time, and you are still the dashing man you were at the conclave.”
“Conclave? I… I’ve tried, but I don’t remember much… just you….”
“That’s enough, my Arthur. You only needed to remember me.”
“I got confused, my Sybil, but I never forgot you. My wolf was gone, but he knew. Cahlar gave him back to me.”
“I’m gonna start blubbering here, doc.”
“Don’t you dare. I’m at that point too.”
“Ah, what should we do with Arthur’s stuff? There’s not that much?”
It took a while for Miss Sybil to answer Tobyn’s question, so focused was she on her mate. “Think what you will, but we won’t be separated again. Arthur will be living with me. Right, my love?”
“I belong here… with you. You said so.”
“Yes I did, and you do. Come on and I’ll show you our home. You boys can bring his stuff right on in.” Arm in arm, they turned away, two of the happiest people on this planet.
Kellar chuckled at his mate as he watched them go through the door. “That, right there, was worth everything we’ve gone through. Their color dance is spectacular.”
“Is it? With only a few ‘stolen’ kisses?”
Kellar raised an eyebrow and grinned. “They must have been amazing kisses is all I’m going to say. Let’s get this stuff unloaded. I’ll take the heavy stuff.”
Tobyn snorted. “Very funny. I hope they’re not making out when we go in there.”
Kellar’s belly laugh made an appearance. He dropped the suitcase he’d picked up and grabbed his mate in an embrace. “I love you, Tobyn Berenger.”
“You do? I didn’t realize.”
“Very funny. I’m so happy for those two. I feel like I’m floating, and it makes me appreciate you all the more. We’re two very lucky men.”
“Yup, got me a romantic one. I love you too, mountain man. Now let’s get this done before those two get up to something we don’t want to see.”
The sound of another deep belly laugh filled the air. “I’m coming, my beloved.”
It felt so good to be back in their own place. Hunger would eventually draw them to the lodge, but for now they were content to reacquaint themselves with their home. They’d just completed the storing away of Kellar’s herbs. Even though he’d needed them less lately, they were still cherished, and treated as such.
“Come here.” Kellar was sitting on the couch, and he patted the cushion beside him.
“Is that an order?” his mate asked from the doorway of the kitchen.
“Do I have permission to order you?”
Tobyn posed, as if deep in thought. His lips curled upward at the corners in the hint of a grin. “Maybe later I’ll let you order me around. For now, let’s just say I’m coming willingly.” He sank down into the couch, leaning against his mate. “This is nice”—he twiddled his toes in a shaft of sunlight that streamed across the living room floor—“finally being able to relax in our own house again.”
Kellar laid his head against short blond curls and sighed. “We weren’t gone all that long, but there’s no place like home. It was hard to drive by the cabin without stopping. It was weird, but I felt like I was being rude to her.”
“Her?” Tobyn’s lips curled in amusement again. “Honestly, it felt wrong to me too. She’s something special to both of us, but we’ll be back there soon… maybe within the week depending on what leads we might get. Arthur could remember something soon, now that he’s back with his mate. Hey, you know what I’d really like to do?”
“Go for a run?”
“Exactly. Say hello to Morningstar the right way. Did you get a whiff of Fendral?”
“Only the slightest. I wasn’t sure because it was so weak. It was probably a few days old.”
“Or, he’s very far away.”
“Or that, but the scent didn’t smell fresh to me. We are obligated to go to the lodge soon, though, so I think we’ll have to put off the run,” Kellar said regretfully.
“I know. More and more Vega members are going to be showing up. We have a role to play in making everyone comfortable. It’ll help for them to see their Cahlar.”
Kellar rolled his eyes, and then groaned. “Tilly. She must be going crazy. Logan thought he might not be able to get away today with all the stuff still to be done. He’s taken on a lot of responsibility.”
“Are you worried about him?”
“Oh no. He’s fine. I’m worried about Tilly.”
Tobyn snickered. “You mean you’re afraid of her, just like I am. She probably expected we’d bring Logan back with us.”
“Expected could be an understatement. You know, I believe the earth mother knew what she was doing with those two after all. She’s exactly what he needs, and he’s exactly what she needs. There’s a lot to respect about Logan.”
“There was a time I wouldn’t have said this, not about him anyway, but I can see those two being important to our future… it’s just a feeling I have. In a way, Tilly reminds me of Mom, and the more I see of Logan, the more I see his father, in how he thinks and acts.”
Kellar chuckled. “A real power couple, eh? But I agree you’re right on. They could make great leaders someday.”
“Ah. Speak of the devil. The lady comes. Actually, I can hear her now… the lady stomps.”
“We’re screwed,” Tobyn said, feigning terror.
“Aw, she’s not that bad. Let’s meet her outside so she can’t break anything,” Kellar said with a smirk.
They were sitting on the back picnic table when Tilly came into sight. She changed course and headed for the sun-dappled yard.
“Hey, Till. We missed you. How are you?”
“Where is he?”
“I will smack you, Tobyn Berenger… don’t think I won’t.”
“Aww, where’s your sense of humor, Till?”
Tilly sighed, and slumped down beside Tobyn. “Sorry. I’m a mess okay? Just tell me he’s all right. Why didn’t you bring him with you?”
“He’s fine… better than fine. It turns out he’s a responsible guy, and he’s running around making sure everything at Vega is taken care of.”
“What do you mean, it turns out, and why is he running around? Your mom said he’s been ill.”
Tobyn looked to Kellar for assistance.
“Tilly, we know what you’re going through, and Logan is in great health… now.” Kellar held up his hand to stop the outburst he could see coming. “Calm down, and let me speak, okay?”
“What are you talking about? I’m calm. Go ahead.”
“I guess Elinor didn’t get into it fully, but he had a brain tumor that caused quite a personality change. It was a healing comparable to Adelin’s, but like her, he’s completely recovered and back to normal. Tobyn and I really like him, and we wanted nothing more than deliver him straight to you, but we couldn’t wait any longer. Miss Sybil’s mate wasn’t doing so well once he remembered her. His patience was wearing thin, to put it mildly.”
“I… yes, Elinor mentioned you’d found her mate, but that’s all she said, other than to make sure I keep it quiet.”
“Trust us, Tilly. We had to get the man here. They’re together now, and it was the right thing to do. Logan could still show up today, or tonight. He’s pretty torn, but he has to do what he thinks is right. He feels Vega needs him, and he doesn’t want to leave it all to his father.”
“I do trust you guys, you know that, and I’m so thankful… I’m just… all the other mates are here and… sorry… I’m all screwed up. I don’t even know what he looks like.”
Tobyn winked at Kellar before he spoke. “You’ll like the way he looks. He’s a handsome dude, but don’t tell my mate I said that. Tilly? The way you feel right now?”
“It’s nothing compared to being apart after you’ve actually met.” He grinned. “Trust me on that too. And Dirk is in the same boat you are because his mate isn’t here yet either.”
“Yes, she is. Sarah, right?”
“That’s right. So, she made it? That’s great… sorry, Till,” Tobyn said soothingly. “It doesn’t seem fair, but I promise you he’ll be worth the wait. Kellar and I have decided he’s good enough for you, and we wouldn’t think that about just anyone.”
Tilly finally smiled. “You guys are the best,” she said with downcast eyes and pink cheeks, “I’m just being whiny. You know how impatient I can be, and I got my hopes up too high for today.”
“It’s exactly what we expected,” Kellar said.
“What does that mean?”
Kellar sputtered. “Nothing… I….”
“Oh, jeez… I’m doing it again,” Tilly said meekly. “I’m sorry, Kellar. Let’s start over. Thank you for finding my mate and healing him. You guys are awesome friends and I’ll do my best to be patient….”
“You don’t have to be patient. He’s on his way… yup, that’s him,” Tobyn verified with nostrils flared.
“On his way? On his way where?”
“Here, it appears.”
”Here, as in he’s at the lodge?”
“No, Tilly. Here, meaning he’s on our street. He must have got everything cleared up enough he could come today, and he obviously knows where you are… or he’s searching.”
“Oh….” Tilly stood up, and turned back toward the road. After a few seconds hesitation, she began to move forward.
“See, it was too hard for him to wait another day,” Kellar called out, but Tilly didn’t respond.
A moment later, a solitary figure… Logan… came into view. He stopped dead upon seeing his mate for the first time. “Uh… hi. I’m Logan Stanley. I’m….” A hand slowly rose and waved at Tobyn and Kellar. They waved back at a man who only had eyes for Tilly. Kellar had a strong urge to laugh at Logan’s goofy expression, but stayed quiet. He didn’t want to incur the wrath of their friend.
“Hello. I’m Tilly… Martel. Welcome to Morningstar.” She took a few more steps forward.
“Beautiful. Ah… yes, it’s beautiful… thank you… and I haven’t even seen the lake yet.”
“Oh, you have to see the lake, Mr. Stanley. I’ll give you a tour if you’d like.”
“Mr. Stanley? Seriously?”
“Shush, doc. I’m watching this, so get out of my head.”
“I would like that very much, and please, call me Logan.” He seemed to have regained his composure.
“It’s a bit of a walk from here.”
“I’ve been in a truck for hours and hours with unattractive men. I’d welcome a stroll with… with you.” Gravitating towards each other, they were now only a couple of feet apart.
“All right, then.” When she turned her head in profile, Kellar saw her face was lit up with a glowing smile. “We’ll see you boys later,” she said without looking. “Maybe in the dining room for supper… in an hour or so?”
“We’ll be there, Till.”
“Can I take your hand, Tilly?”
“Yes, that would be fine, Logan,” she allowed, glancing quickly back at Kellar and Tobyn, winking as the new couple began their stroll.
Kellar waited until they were well out of sight, the sounds of their voices fading, before he burst out laughing. “Oh my God, that was hilarious,” he sputtered out once he regained some control. “Gotta hand it to that girl. One second she’s a mess, and the next she’s completely composed. Unbelievable.”
Tobyn was grinning from ear to ear. “That’s our Tilly. I’ve got to hand it to Logan too. He seemed to read her like a book.”
“Come to think of it, babe, you’re right. When I think about Warren, and how I practically had to throw him down the aisle of that diner to keep him away from Adelin… Logan was in pretty good control of himself. But then, so were we.”
“That might have had to do with me cracking my skull open,” Tobyn joked.
“Yeah, there is that.”
“Yup, but Logan did surprise me. He sure kept his wits about him… impressive.”
“You don’t think we scared him when we warned him about her, do you?”
Tobyn laughed. “You know… we probably did. We laid it on thick with the ‘yes dear’ stuff, but he obviously listened.”
“Perfect couple, I’d say.”
“Feels good, doesn’t it?”
“It sure does. We’ve come full circle from where we started. You and me, Mom and Denver, Warren and Adelin, Sybil and Arthur, and now Tilly and Logan. Our family.”
“I like that… our family, and now there’s all these new pack members. Speaking of which, we should head to the dining room soon so we can be part of the welcoming committee.”
“We should, but… Mom doesn’t need us… she’s good at that stuff.”
“My point is we’re home, Tilly’s happy, and I want to go for a run with my mate. We can spare an hour just for us, if you’re game?”
“Always… always game.” Kellar grinned.
Tobyn’s face took on a challenging look just before his clothes hit the ground. “Come on. I’ll race you.”
“Hey, not fair,” Kellar called to a disappearing tail.
Thanks to my editor, Tim, and to all those who follow this story. Please leave a comment if you can.
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