I was exhausted and replete and, in all honesty, my ass hurt like hell. I was still unhappy about the fact that I couldn't heal just yet, but I wouldn't have changed anything we had just done for the world.

I left Kevin fast asleep, exhausted, after our third round of lovemaking. I should have been curled up beside him, but my hunger pains were screaming at me to eat or they would consume my body. I glanced in the mirror, and frowned a little. I had lost so much weight that I could see my ribs. All power has consequences and this was one of them.

I sat in the kitchen, stuffing my face with my third bowl of cereal, when dad walked through the door. He had dark patches under his eyes, and he grabbed some cereal and sat opposite me. He stared at me as I inhaled my food and went for another bowl.

"You've wasted away to skin and bones." he said.

I shrugged my shoulders, still shovelling in food. My stomach began to feel a little more satisfied. Dad looked down at his own cereal, took one bite, and placed his spoon back in the bowl. He clutched his head in his hands, and looked at the table.

He chewed his food, yet, something was awfully wrong. I had the strongest urge to ignore him, and pretend that nothing was bothering him. I didn't need to hear whatever it was that was riding him. I had done my part; I wanted to have this day of rest before I had to deal with the next dilemma.

"What is it, Dad?" I asked dejectedly.

He looked at me, and I saw the anguish in his eyes. "I'm sorry, son, you don't need to hear this until you've recovered." Turning away, he took his plate towards the sink.

"No, tell me now," I said rubbing my eyes.

His shoulders slumped. "Your sister was taken," he said quietly.

I lay my head on the table and felt like this was the last straw. Everything was piling up on me, and I didn't know if I had any more reserves to give. I closed my eyes, and felt one tear trickle down. I knew that denizens had been running rampant. But I had just awoken. More tears soon followed. I cried silently, not for just myself, but for everyone who would be dead in the streets. And for my sister; I had to be strong one last time.

"I will go and get her when my strength returns." I stood up and left the kitchen, without looking at dad. My burdens felt cumbersome and too heavy.

"I'm sorry son," dad said. He sounded old and frail.

I went back to my room. Kevin lay just as I had left him. The room reeked of sex. I inhaled strongly, memorising the smell. I hopped in bed and cuddled up to him, lifting his muscled arm and putting it around my shoulder. He raised his head, eyes closed, and tucked me under his chin. He slowly rubbed up and down my back and I was lulled into sleep, with the sound of his heart pounding against my ear. I wanted to cherish these moments because, even without precognition, I knew that where I was going, a warm heart beating could be the last thing I ever heard.

Dad drove me to Uncle George's. Leon and Kevin were in the back seat. Leon kept teasing Kevin about him being noisy this morning. I blushed, and looked at dad, horrified. His face seemed totally calm, pretending not to hear the conversation in the back. I had had two days for recovery, and sex had been much more effective than any treatment a physician could prescribe.

I turned in my seat and glared at Leon. He looked at me, and burst into laughter. I gritted my teeth, and swore I would return the favour somehow. He doubled over and laughed louder.

Faster than a striking cobra, Kevin hit him upside the head.

"Hey!" he said. "Watch the hair." He sat forward, and touched his hair, checking in the rear view mirror.

An evil smile spread across my face and my hands blurred. A second later, his hair looked like the rear end of a porcupine. His eyes dilated at the bird's nest that had once been his hair. The shock on his face had me laughing in retaliation.

"That was uncool bro; seriously, you don't mess," he stressed his point, shaking his hands, "with The Hair."

I sat in my seat, arms folded, looking content from a job well done. "Pay back is a bitch, brother; reap your reward."

He sat back in the seat, muttering under his breath. He groaned and gasped each time his hair snapped and returned to the porcupine state. He griped his hair and forcibly pulled it down. I spilled a little of my power outwards and telekinetically altered all his attempts to get his hair under control.

The growls and groans of despair had me laughing silently. I heard Kevin laughing. Dad turned and looked at me. He frowned, and I knew it was time to stop the teasing; although I did see a glint of amusement in dad's eyes. I shrugged my shoulders at dad, but left Leon's hair alone after that.

I turned to see how Leon and Kevin were doing. Leon was sitting back, with his arms crossed, pouting. Kevin was trying to stifle his laughter, and failing miserably. He looked at me, with a smirk on his face, and winked before turning his head towards the window. My heart did somersaults. I got the message. Even though he was uncomfortable from the teasing, he wouldn't change a thing.

We drove up to Uncle George's sprawling house. As soon as the car stopped, I felt the energy surrounding it. It smelled of sea breezes and power, as potent as fertile soil. The circle was still up.

My feet touched the concrete, and the sensation of power tripled its intensity upon me. That power felt alive, as if it were conscious and aware. Words were not spoken, but that energy welcomed me. It seemed to confirm my theory. There certainly was something `alive' about this circle.

Uncle George met us at the door. He gripped dad's hand with a manly shake, put one arm around Leon in a hug, and nodded at Kevin. His eyes came to rest on me, and he smiled fondly. I looked at him, and sighed with envy. He was a male, chiselled version of mum. The same hazel eyes and reddish brown hair, and even the same wide smile; just packaged in a masculine body.

"You've certainly grown up James. Or is it Guardian now?"

I smiled shyly. "How are you, uncle?"

"Relieved that you're awake, with more colour to you than when I last saw you, passed out on the floor."

I took a deep breath. "How many denizens do we have on this side of the barrier?"

"We'll get to that but, right now; you need to take control of the circle."

I nodded my head and motioned for him to lead. "How many denizens were you able to contain within the circle?"

He turned and looked at me. "All, except three. They were too strong."

"Grams" I thought mentally, "I need your help."

I felt her presence beside me as I walked into the living room. Three of my cousins had their eyes closed, hands linked. They sat in a circle, legs folded underneath them. In the middle sat a delicate jade chalice. It was shaped like a wine glass and had gold dragons embossed on the outside. I walked over and saw blood swirling around, inside the cup.

My three other uncles were sitting on the chaise. We all greeted each other with nods, trying not to disturb the three holding the circle. Uncle George had explained, on the phone, that the family was taking turns, holding the circle for an hour before rotating. We had many volunteers. Most of my cousins had been aware that Grams was special. In hindsight, it was Dad's reticence, and mum's, that had kept my two siblings and me unaware of our history.

Grams gave me a running commentary. Using three people at a time, reduced the stress and strain of holding a circle. Especially when none of them had active or even latent abilities. When I took control, I would need to use the power of the barrier to anchor the circle. That way, I could force the denizens back where they belonged. I knew I could destroy them, but I wouldn't.

I could not afford to get comfortable about killing. Each killing reduced my ability to experience love and I really, really didn't want that to happen. I refused to allow my heart to harden too much. I knew I couldn't avoid all of it, but I wouldn't allow my responsibilities as a guardian to be the overriding factor in my life. I had a possible future with Kevin and I intended to grab every moment of joy with both hands and hold on, tightly. But my heart had to be open for that to happen.

I slid into meditation, grabbed the power of the barrier, and sent it into the chalice. This talisman was a family heirloom. It was steeped in ancient power. I opened my eyes with shock. The stone cup was alive!

It...he? chuckled in my mind. "Welcome, Guardian James." I slipped back into a meditative trance to commune with this being.

I saw Grams in my mind's eye, and she smiled. "You don't need me now; the cup," she stressed, "will be able to explain better than I." I heard the `cup' mutter at grams' impertinence, and she smiled mischievously before fading.

"My name is Pounamu," the chalice said, "I am one of the building blocks of the world."

"Wow," I said, sounding unimpressed. "So what am I supposed to do with the circle?"

Pounamu began to mutter to himself, as I secretly smiled. I was, actually, very impressed, but I was taking a leaf out of grams' book, and treating him according to her style.

"Nothing," he said grumpily. "Think of me as your security system. Now that I have the power of the barrier, I can monitor the gateway between our world and the netherworlds. I can also act as a tracking system on the three missing denizens."

"What happened to the denizens that were contained?"

"Eight of them went up in smoke the moment you erected the barrier. We have two that are contained, and trapped in the basement. They were too strong to be destroyed, and no one else in the family has the power to move them behind the barrier. Now that I have the barrier, I can eliminate them for you, if you wish?"

"No," I said, "can you send them back?"

"I suppose I can," he said. There was surprise in his voice.

"I'm tired of killing; I have to start somewhere." He remained silent. "Can you track down the three missing denizens, please?"

"Way ahead of you," he said.

"You know, for an ancient entity, you sure are pretty savvy?"

I sensed him smile. "This cup is merely a vessel, or an anchor for my corporeal form. I travel and like to get around, too. After all, I have to keep up with the times to prepare for the next guardian."

Speaking of guardians, I thought back to Grams and frowned. "I never saw you around the house when I was staying with grams; where were you?"

He remained silent so long I thought he wasn't going to answer. "She sent me here to George. Told me that her time was coming, and I would be needed here."

"So..." I frowned, gathering my thoughts. "Were you acting as the security system, for Grams, from here?"

"No, Ilene held the barrier by herself."

Facts and impressions began racing through my head, as I started to fit the pieces together. Things were starting to make much more sense.

"How long ago were you placed in Uncle George's care?"

"In human time... nineteen years, thirty six days, seventeen hours, twenty two minutes and 44 seconds. It was very inappropriate for her to break procedure," he added.

The jigsaw came together. "Oh, Grams," I said with a sigh. "Last question, Pounamu...Did Grams foresee all this?"

"She thought it was the only future alternative that had any chance of destroying the Lord of Darkness. All of her visions saw him coming into this world. It was inevitable. But, everything that happened to you were necessary evils. They helped shape you into what you needed to be, to save this world. The Lord of Darkness, had he been here in his full potential and not as a shade, would have been everyone's downfall. Frankly, I had to agree with Ilene's reasoning."

"So, I was just a puppet," I said bitterly. "Or a pawn on a chess board."

"No, my dear boy, you were the king piece. Without you, we all would have fallen."

I didn't know what to think about all of this. But one thing was certain. I couldn't change things now. As much as I would love to go back to being an ordinary sixteen year old, that possibility was long gone. I had power and, even with the tragedies that I had endured, I didn't think I could give up my abilities.

"Release my cousins from the circle, and send the denizens back to the nether realms. At least, then, they may have some choice in their destinies. Even if I don't." I felt a shift as my instructions were obeyed.

"Done," he said. "Ilene didn't foresee everything about you, James. For example, her future sight had always shown that a girl would be born. You were not what she had planned. She was so fixed on the child being a girl that, when your mother died in the car accident...she thought that the prophesied child would not be born."

"Oh, poor grams," I said snidely.

"Don't judge her too harshly, James. Remember, she gave up her security net, me, for nearly twenty years. She sacrificed so much to make sure that the future would be a better world. As an empath you, of all people, should understand compassion."

I felt a blush flood my cheeks as I sat communing with him.

"Besides," he said, "Your mother's essence lives on inside you. So, in a way, Ilene was right."

"But, I'm not a girl," I said. He detected the note of annoyance and old anger behind my words.

"I'm not saying you are; I am just saying that your energies are evenly balanced. That is the reason your powers are as potent as they are. And, that balance produces one of the most beautifully designed and complex structures I have ever seen."

Pounamu was an enigma. One minute he was telling me off and, the next thing, he would compliment me.

"Thank you...I think? Wait a minute, isn't this, the same barrier that grams used?" I asked.

"No; each guardian has his or her own characteristics and strengths. It influences how the barrier will be structured." He paused, before continuing. "I have located the three remaining denizens."

I opened my eyes. My cousins were still sitting around Pounamu smiling at me.

Theresa and Jessie were Uncle George's eldest. They were twins. Henry, the remaining cousin, was Uncle Colin's second youngest son. It was Henry that spoke up first.

"Can I come watch you kick ass?"

"I'm not sure that's safe," I replied.

"I'll protect him," Pounamu said.

I glared at the chalice, fuming, as delight lit up Henry's eyes.

Theresa and Jessie nodded their heads. "We're coming, too," they said in unison.

I mentally projected to Pounamu, "What would be the purpose in bringing them?"

I watched as the cup turned a bright fluorescent green, before transforming into a man in his early thirties. His voice had a clipped English, accent, and he was dressed in an impeccably tailored suit. He moved toward me. I heard gasps from those gathered.

"Two reasons," he said. "First, these three have the most potent blood, and they volunteered to hold the circle more often. Second, you have to go through the nether realms to find your sister. I'm coming along; those three have already offered to hold the circle until we get back."

I stared at my three cousins with heartfelt gratitude showing in my eyes. I shuffled over and sat beside them in the circle they had created. I grabbed hands, with Henry to my left and Jessie on my right. Theresa completed the circle by grabbing their other hands. I projected my gratitude to them through our link.

Their smiles were beatific. I pushed joy into them, and watched as they laughed freely. Lastly, I sent love. They all looked at me, and tears blurred my eyes as I saw them smiling at each other and at me. No words were needed.

Later, we had dinner. It was quiet, but filled with a closeness I had never truly experienced, or expected. I didn't want to ruin it but I needed answers. After dinner, Uncle George and I went into his study to talk. I needed to get updated on how things were when I was out of action. I hadn't asked anyone for information while I was recovering. Now, I couldn't delay any longer.

Uncle George sat at his desk, opened a side drawer and pulled out a glass and a bottle of scotch. Half filling his glass, he downed it in one gulp, and refilled it before speaking. This was obviously going to be bad.

"We were able to prevent them from attacking here in Australia, soThe denizens went to America where our influence was weaker and distorted. That country is a den full of so much negative energy; it drew most of the denizens there. They spread all across the world in a matter of minutes, leaving dead bodies in their wake." He gulped down his drink, and was about to refill once more. I touched his hand and sent soothing calm into him. He gripped my hand gratefully, put the bottle back down, and continued. "The Media went into a frenzy, saying some kind of epidemic was racing throughout the world. It took the minions only twenty minutes to travel world wide. So much havoc in such a small amount of time." His hands began to tremble, and I kept rubbing them, sending comfort and support.

He looked into my eyes, self blame evident, before he continued. "I barely had enough time to rally everyone for support. Mum had told me this would be coming a week ago. I didn't listen."

"You got the circle up, did you not?" I asked.

"But not in time," he said, clenching his fists.

I pulled away from him, and turned to stare at a picture he had on the wall. It was of him and his son Andre. They were smiling back at me with a fish dangling beside them.

"I might be young, uncle, but I have gone through some harsh and trying trials that most grown men never have to face." I turned to stare back at him. "The biggest lesson I learned was this. Part of my life will be devoted to protecting people from demons, or other such creatures. I have had doubts and fears plague and cripple me, sometimes, until they became my own personal demons." I leaned forward to capture his eyes. "Don't let self-blame become your personal demon, uncle. You did the best you possibly could; rehashing the past, will only make your inner Demon more powerful. You're our family's rock. We need you."

He stared back at me. "Your mother once said those exact words...I was the family rock. It's heartening to know that she lives on in you." When he said that, I looked down. He lifted my chin. "Let me finish. I was told that a part of her is within you. But, you have a depth of wisdom that she never had. It is more evident because you are wise at such a young age. None of us, growing up, had your wisdom so young."

"But how do I know that what I say is really me and not mum's experiences?"

He smiled at me, shaking his head. "When you were talking to me, just now, was it your mother who had gone through those `harsh and trying trials,' you just mentioned...or you?"

"Me."

"Then I shall return some wise advice that was given to me. Don't let your self doubts become an inner demon. And besides, you may well end up becoming the rock for the next generation."

I smiled gently. "I think you have that all wrong, uncle. Leon or Leila have far more charisma and leadership skill than I. Besides, there are far older cousins that could take that mantle and make better use of it. I really don't want it."

He laughed quietly. "It's not for you to decide. The family will turn to whom ever they feel will give them the most security. As a guardian, you will be their first choice, regardless of what you think."

I snarled, and muttered to myself about the unfairness and silliness of family. Uncle George just kept chuckling. We were interrupted by Pounamu, knocking on the door.

"Sorry to interrupt, but we really must be going." He said.

The round up of the three denizens began. One was in England, one in China, and the last in a small country called New Zealand. The closest country to us, and one we had a friendly rivalry with. Pounamu came in handy here. He had the ability to teleport. One moment we were in Uncle George's house, the next, England.

The first denizen had taken on the visage of an elderly woman. She hunted near Stonehenge, and mum's memories knew why. It was a source of great power. There were many sites, like this one, scattered all around the world. The Stonehenge acted as a doorway to other realms. And, with the right sequence and someone with our bloodline activating it, they could open to the nether realms.

I saw the denizen, dozing in the sunshine. This one had eaten long, and well. She sat beside one of the monoliths. Yet, I saw through the illusion, using my inner eye. Its true form towered 14 feet into the sky. Six heads sprouted from a serpentine body. And each head held power over an element. Shiny, brown, diamond shaped heads all showed fangs in my direction. All six throats looked as if something humanoid was stuck in them. With my inner eyes, I saw all six heads lunge towards me.

I lashed out and held them in a telekinetic lock. The heads screamed. The old woman visage faded, to be replaced by its true form. Henry and my two cousins gasped.

"Now!" I shouted. Pounamu wrapped the barrier around it, to prevent escape, and teleported the denizen to the other side. One down, two to go. I was going to hold onto my rule of less killing.

"You know, saving them might hurt you in the long run." Pounamu said inside my head.

I ignored him, and looked at my cousins to judge how they were handling everything. Jessie spoke. "Was that a Hydra?"

Mum's memories came to my rescue. "Actually," I said, "yeah; your right. Back in ancient Greece, the Hydra had crossed over from the nether realms, and it was one of our ancestors who got rid of him. Today, in many stories, our ancestor was known as Herakles, or more commonly, as Hercules."

Looks of wonder and amazement spread across their faces. "Are you saying that the Walt Disney movie, Hercules, was really an ancestor!?" Henry asked excitedly.

I smiled at him. "Every myth has a basis of truth in it."

"How do you know all this?" Theresa asked.

"Mum told me," I said. I mentally asked Pounamu to take us to the next place, to avoid any more questions.

We ended up in a heavily built up area. Small apartment blocks, one atop the other, very nearly cut off any sunlight. What sun we could see shone through smog, giving it a golden hue. It was pretty, if you didn't think about the global consequences.

Jessie began coughing, and put her hand over her mouth. "Take shallow breaths," I warned. "Where are we?" I asked Pounamu.

"Beijing," he replied.

I sent out a psychic feeler, to see how close the denizen was. He was fast, very fast. I felt him move from one location to another in the blink of an eye. He was either pulling in and out of time, or he could teleport like Pounamu. Getting a lock on him was proving difficult. However, the death rate in China had gone up three hundred percent since he had been here. The streets were as empty as they were ever going to get, since people were trying to stay indoors.

"Can you get me closer?" I asked Pounamu.

His eyes glazed over. "I can try. Just be ready to strike when we move."

I nodded my agreement, blinked, and felt momentary vertigo as we teleported. I locked on our target, just as he was ready to change locations again, and gripped him hard with telekinesis. He squealed, and tried teleporting. When that failed, I felt him trying to pull out of time. I grimaced and kept a firm hold on him. He wasn't going anywhere.

We heard the sounds of people screaming and car horns blaring. We raced around the corner. There, in the middle of a busy intersection, was our denizen. He kept appearing and disappearing as traffic tried to avoid crashing into him. My hold on him must have affected his cloaking skills. The more he struggled, and the harder I held him, the weaker his invisibility cloak became.

"Guys, stay behind me and don't move," I said. I closed my eyes, created an empathic bubble of fear, and sent out a subliminal message that would keep everyone away from this area. The last thing we needed was more witnesses.

The denizen lost his ability to be invisible, and glared around itself. It was as large as a double-decker bus, and resembled a metallic horse. Where the mane should have been, there were sharp, serrated spikes. It had no tail, but whip-like metal strips in its place. Red eyes, oscillated back and forth rapidly, and sharp fangs could be seen instead of teeth. The only things that looked like real flesh were his enormous bat wings.

I watched as his nostrils flared, and he looked directly at me. He snorted, squealed once more, and opened his mouth. The ground, and everything between him and me, ripped apart as he screamed. Pounamu managed to create a barrier in front of us. The sound wave bounced against it ineffectually, and halted. Pounamu flexed once more and the barrier went racing around the denizen, wrapping him in an impenetrable bubble.

With a flash, the bubble winked out, taking the denizen back where he belonged. I telepathically scanned everyone within a one mile radius. I altered their memories, but knew some of it would still get out. Mobile phones were very tricky things. They could access the internet and take pictures or videos, which could spread all around the world in a matter of minutes. I could only do so much.

I turned back and looked at my three cousins. They seemed a little shaken, but determined to carry on. "You guys okay?" I asked.

"Scared, but, handling it," Jessie said.

I nodded my head. "And you two?"

Theresa nodded her head. I looked into her eyes, and was surprised to note that she truly meant it. Henry nodded his head much more slowly, and with a great deal more reluctance. I gave them both a quick smile before Pounamu was taking us off to the last denizen.

We ended up in a shady forest. It seemed to be early morning, and my teeth chattered with the energy I was sensing beneath my feet. The forest felt alive, and conscious. Every blade of grass, tree, and animal in this forest was connected. I tried to tap into the energy, and was rebuffed. I stood there in shock. The forest had refused me, and it saw us as intruders.

The hair rose on the back of my neck. "Where have you brought us, Pounamu?" I asked.

He looked around, wary but not frightened. "This land is part of Grandmother's. We are on soil that is older than I. We will have to remain here until someone comes for us."

I looked at him, my eyes widening. "But, you're a building block of the world?"

"That may be true, but Grandmother is Mother Earth; the first of us all."

"This is New Zealand, right?" I asked. "It's a fairly new country, is it not?"

"When you tried to tap into the energy just now, what happened?" I said nothing. He nodded his head. "The country may be new in terms of western civilisation, but its roots are much deeper than people realise."

"Why didn't you tell us this before we came here? I asked angrily.

Pounamu sighed. "When I scanned for the denizen, it was nowhere near this area. Not all of New Zealand has such a powerful pull as this place. We were brought here for a reason." I sat down on the soft grass to wait. My three cousins followed suit and, subconsciously, began huddling around me.

I sent out psychic feelers so I wouldn't be caught unawares. The energy of the land pulsed against me. My feelers began to deaden from overstimulation and I was getting dizzy. I reluctantly pulled them in. I was beginning to feel more uncomfortable as time passed.

It was cool here. Mist trailed its moist fingers against my skin. I shivered, and sank deeper into my jumper. My cousins and I had put our backs towards each other to maintain heat. Jessie and Theresa had the sense to bring jackets, and we sat upon them to keep our butts dry.

Pounamu sat a few feet away, legs folded, eyes closed in meditation. I glanced over, every so often, to keep an eye on him but he never moved. We had been sitting here for over two hours, and my patience was wearing a little thin. Chit-chat had dribbled down to uncomfortable silence. The mist was oppressive.

I was just at the end of my patience, when they came. Figures bloomed all around us. Dark smudges against a misty background. The sun burst through the forest canopy above and, for the first time, I saw rays of light burning through the mist. My heart soared and cheered at the sight.

A lightly tanned man, in his mid thirties, walked forwards. He had long, straight black hair, but strange dark eyes with blue flecks in them. He resembled an American Indian, except, his nose was a little broader. He was certainly sexy hot!

Pounamu stood up, and bowed at the waist. The man nodded his head. He smiled at Pounamu and glanced at the four of us, still sitting huddled on the jackets. His glance quickly skimmed over my three cousins and came to rest on me. I felt him slide against my senses, and I put up a shield.

If he thought I would just let him scan me, or even read my thoughts, he had another think coming. For extra measure, I put a shield around my three cousins. I made them as thick as my own. Let him try get past those!

His eyes lit up with amusement, but I raised my chin and stared him down. I heard chuckles all around me, and was surprised to realise there was a lot of feminine laughter mixed in. I stood up and instinctively went into a fighting stance. The man's look sharpened, as he took note of what I had done. I blushed furiously at how easy he was reading me, just by my body gestures. I relaxed my stance, and I saw his white teeth flash in a smile.

For some ungodly reason, that smile riled me. I decided he needed a taste of his own medicine. I sent out a tendril to scan what abilities he possessed. I nearly growled in frustration when I came up against a wall as impressive as my own. But I wasn't going to be deterred. I opened my inner eye and looked up at him. This was normally used to scan the body for illness, but I was going to scan his energy field and everything around him.

My face paled when I saw what stood behind him: a line of thousands, and thousands of people, mostly female, holding on to the shoulder of the one in front of them. It was a long line, which seemed to disappear in the distance. They were linked to the man standing in front of me. I closed my eyes, and shut down my inner sight.

Two other beings came up behind the long haired man. My scanning worked fine on these two, and I whimpered at what I saw. The one on the left had the power to bring death by his touch, or control the spirits from the other side. The one on the right held the power of the elements, and was the reason I couldn't tap into the earth beneath me. This forest was his, and I had no say in the matter. The trees, plants, and earth eagerly gave their essence to him. It made Simon and Kate's control over the elements seem amateurish in comparison.

Their leader walked up to me and spoke. "Welcome to New Zealand. I am what is called a `Tohunga Karouwa.' Or in the English translation, `Wise elder.' Most people call me Jay. The two guys behind me are my cousins, Robin to my left, and William on my right.

Robin nodded his head, silent and watchful. He was slender, but I sensed there was strength in that whipcord body. It was his hands that scared me. This guy could kill with a touch. I nodded my head. William walked up to me with a welcoming smile. He put his hand out, and I placed mine in his, as we shook. He eyed me lustfully, winked, and backed away while smiling teasingly at Robin. I didn't need my empathy to tell me that there was something going on between those two. However, it was of no concern to me, I wasn't going to be around long enough to figure out what it was. I needed to find my sister and removing the last threat was taking longer than I anticipated.

I watched William walk away, appreciatively. He reminded me of a panther, all grace and animal magnetism. He was golden eyed, and black haired. Kevin's face appeared in my mind, and I looked away, feeling guilty. I knew I would never actually get it on with William, but it still felt a little like cheating.

I cleared my throat, and decided to get to the matter at hand. "I thank you for allowing us on your lands. We came here to get rid of a denizen that escaped from another world." I paused, blushing. It sounded ridiculous, even to my ears. I continued on doggedly. "Once we have captured it, we will leave you in peace."

More chuckles and laughter ensued from the forest. I blushed again, feeling like the old me being ridiculed in class. I hadn't felt like that person in a long time, and I refused to be treated as such.

"We shall be on our way," I said curtly.

"Not so fast," Jay said.

I turned to him, my heart pounding. If this turned into a fight, or pissing contest, I wasn't sure I would win.

"Your monster has been contained. It has been held prisoner for three days now," Jay said. "Come, we shall take you to it."

My heart stopped its rapid pounding, and I nodded my thanks as I followed him. I looked at Pounamu accusingly. He had remained silent through the entire exchange. He would get a piece of my mind when this was over, I guaranteed.

 

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