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You Came Back

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Here.

Tally eyed the spot that she had seen in her vision. This was the spot.

She glanced around the area, taking in a deep breath and enjoying the smell of the forest around her. She'd been waiting more than a month for this moment. When she had seen her vision—the feelings that flooded her were nearly indescribable. She was relieved beyond belief—thrilled, nervous, excited.

She took a seat, content to wait, and hugged her backpack close to her. The sun would be setting soon, and as soon as the sun would touch the horizon line…

She released a breath as the orange glow caressed the trees.

The ground bubbled in front of her—a pile of various mushrooms rising from the soil. Tally stood quickly, watching with bated breath as the fungus began to take shape.

It melted away, revealing none other than Sarah Alder.

Her eyes glowed purple in the setting sun, orange hues dancing across her naked body, and Tally was certain that she never looked more ethereal.

Then she was falling to the ground on her knees, shaking and twitching.

"Alder," Tally breathed, rushing to her side and pulling her to her. She grabbed the blanket from her pack and brought it over the other woman, doing her best to keep her warm.

It took a few minutes but soon her shivering ceased and she sat up, eyes looking at Tally curiously. They were slow close they shared the air.

"Alder?" Tally questioned, unsure if the woman could even hear her.

A growl rumbled in the woman's throat.

That was new.

She leaned in, scenting the air by Tally before she pressed her face to her neck. Another rumble echoed in her chest, sounding like a purr to Tally's ears.

The woman nuzzled her neck, purring happily and clamoring into her lap.

Tally was blushing, unsure of what was happening. She had a very naked Alder nuzzling her and she hated that her body was responding to it when the woman was clearly not in her right mind.

"General," Tally husked.

The woman ceased. Her body tensed suddenly and she drew back, looking at Tally as if she was seeing her for the first time finally.

"Tally?" she asked, voice raspier than Tally had ever heard it.

"Hi," Tally greeted, tears clinging to her eyes. She reached up and touched Alder's cheek. "You're alive." A choked sob left her—tears falling freely as she took in the woman in her lap.

Alder frowned, adjusting herself and the blanket as she pulled Tally to her, holding her tight.

Tally hadn't watched that far into the future, and she was grateful she didn't. She was able to just enjoy the feeling of the woman of her affections—holding her carefully.

"How long?" Alder asked after Tally's cries had quieted.

Tally pulled back to look at the woman. Her voice had a rumble to it—almost animalistic.

"Just over a month," she answered.

Alder hummed. "It feels strange to be back."

"What's it feel like?"

Alder's gaze was distant. "Things look bright. I can see the energy…see signatures that all things leave behind when they move…even the leaves blowing in the breeze," she said quietly, eyes watching the trees. "I can smell everything so sharply as well. It's different than where I was before."

That explained the nuzzling. She flushed, assuming that Alder's purring meant she smelled good.

Her purple gaze turned on Tally then. "I feel strange."

Tally went to ask how so, but the woman promptly passed out in her arms.

 


 

Tally was a nervous wreck. She was pacing back and forth in front of the door to her room of the safe house they were holed up in.

She had managed to get Alder back by making a sled out of tree branches and dragging her back to the others, something that Nicte was unhappy with.

Tally didn't care. She was just glad to have her back. But it had been a few hours and the woman hadn't stirred. She paused in front of the door, peeking in and seeing Alder still sound asleep. A sigh left her and she turned on her heel to go back to the living area and discuss it with the others.

"How do we know she's actually who she says?" Nicte groused—a sneer on her face as she asked.

"Because I know her," Tally defended as she entered the room. "That's Alder. She's…different though…but she came directly from the ground from the Mycelium. Just like I saw in my visions. It's her."

Khalida nodded her agreement, offering Tally a reassuring smile. Adil and Scylla watched from the sides of their respective partners—remaining silent.

"Okay," Nicte conceded, "but how do we know she didn't come back…wrong. She was hit with the witch plague before she died."

"She has a point, Tal," Abigail agreed tiredly. "But I'm not going to turn away an ally, especially when that ally is Alder."

Nicte scoffed. "I thought by now you lot saw that she's not all butterflies and rainbows."

"Yeah well she's a hell of a lot better a person than you, Nicte, so shut it," Tally snapped angrily. She had thought a lot in the time that they had been on the run in the past month. When she saw the vision of Alder's return, she had made a vow that she would make amends and be more understanding and patient this time around. She wouldn't waste a second chance.

Nicte hummed, eyebrows arching as she pulled back in surprise. "Oh I'm sorry I didn't realize that you forgot about the witches in Liberia."

"I haven't," Tally bit back. "Just as I haven't forgotten about you killing one civilian for every dead witch. Innocent people, Nicte." Tally's mouth was pulled back in a frown.

Nicte strode toward her, a sneer on her face as she stopped a foot from the Knower.

"She's selfish and all she will do is use you like she does everyone. You think you mean something to her? You don't mean anything. She'd sacrifice you without a second thought. I'm surprised that you can't see that. But maybe you're not as gifted as you think. Surely she'll discard you then." Nicte flashed a cruel smile.

Tally felt something in her break. What if Nicte was right…

"Batan!" Abigail yelled in warning.

A moment later and Nicte was hurled across the room—starling everyone.

They turned, eyes landing on Sarah Alder standing in the entrance of the room—eyes glowing purple with mycelial threads etching her under eye. Tally would've laughed if she didn't look so menacing—she was clad in a pair of shorts that barely peeked beneath the oversized t-shirt Tally had put on her.

A growl rumbled in the room as she advanced, stopping and placing herself between Nicte and Tally.

"Alder?" Collar broached hesitantly.

Tally was looking between Nicte, who was slowly getting to her feet, and the back of the woman that was in front of her.

"Good to see you too, Sarah," Nicte said through gritted teeth. She finally stood, straightening her posture and looking the woman up and down.

Another growl rumbled from her.

"Is…she growling?" Abigail asked, thoroughly confused.

Tally nodded. "This happened earlier too. I'm not sure why."

"Didn't realize you had such a soft spot for Red," Nicte commented, walking toward them.

Alder's teeth bared and she released another warning growl at Nicte.

"Stay there," Tally told her, voice leaving no room for argument. She stepped around Alder, standing in front of her. She reached up, carefully cupping her cheek and drawing her eyes to her own, away from Nicte.

Alder's face turned to nuzzle Tally's palm, a purr rumbling in the room as her nose brushed it.

"What the fuck…" Raelle muttered to Abigail.

"Sarah," Tally said, hoping that her first name would reach her.

Her purple eyes found brown—slowly changing back to their normal blue. She blinked rapidly, clearly confused as she took in her surroundings.

"What…" she started, not understanding how she had gotten to the house she was in…let alone how she was standing in front of Tally—her hand still on her cheek as everyone stared.

"What do you remember?" Tally asked gently.

"I remember you finding me." She released a breath. "I remember…feeling concerned and then…"

Tally nodded encouragingly.

"Protective. I remember feeling terribly protective," Alder murmured. She closed her eyes, sifting through her memories and hoping they would clear.

She remembered that the first thing she saw when she rose from the ground was Tally Craven. She had shone so brightly in the setting sun—a sun in her own right. She remembered feeling terribly cold and shaky…Tally pulling her into her arms and covering her with a blanket…her smell wrapping around her.

Sarah's nostrils flared as she recalled the scent. It made her soul sing. A mate. A partner. That was what she recognized Tally as. Hers. She released a shaky breath, allowing her mind to continue to take her. She remembered nuzzling her—feeling her cheeks flush—but knew she had heard the quickening of Tally's heart and the change of her scent to something heady and filled with want. She'd wanted her. She thought about their brief conversation and then her feeling as though she was going to faint…and presumed she did seeing as she was somewhere new with no memory of how she got there.

Then she had heard voices rising—had felt something in the air that left a bad taste in her mouth. She felt immense sadness—but knew it wasn't her own. She rose from the bed to follow the aura streak she knew was Tally's until she saw that Tally was upset.

She had sent Nicte flying—feelings of protectiveness and a possessiveness she was unsurprised by rose in her. All she cared about was protecting Tally. Her Tally.

Her eyes fluttered open. "I remember everything."

Tally nodded. "You should rest more. Come on." She led her from the room, back into the one she was previously in.

When the door shut behind them, Tally turned and sat on the bed—brown eyes shimmering with unshed tears.

"Tally," Sarah said softly, approaching the redhead and taking a seat next to her at the edge of the bed. "What's wrong?"

"What Nicte said…" she sniffled. "And just having you back. I'm so glad you came back." She shook her head.

Alder took her in her arms, holding her close and stroking her hair.

"The Mother has a purpose for my resurrection. I need to wipe out the Camarilla and find pieces of what is called The First Song," she told her as she played with her hair. "The Mother says it is the only way to end this eternal war."

Tally turned to gaze up at her slightly. "Do you know where you have to go?"

"I have a few leads. I must also find the stewards that carry these pieces," she explained. "Other than that I do not know more. She does not tell me everything."

Tally nodded and wiped her eyes. "So if you remember everything…" she trailed off, already feeling a blush across her cheek.

"I am unsure if it is a permanent change or a temporary one until I am acclimated to being back in my body…" she sighed. "But I do know I can see things differently. I assume it is similar to your Sight."

Tally hummed.

"But my sense of smell is enhanced, and I have always felt protective of you but now it is…much stronger. A threat to you…I know I would destroy anyone who did so."

Tally sat back, taking her hand in her own. "But why?"

Alder sighed. "I don't know how to explain it, Tally." She met her questioning gaze. "It's inappropriate." She looked away.

Tally shook her head. "I can judge that."

"Tally," Sarah sighed. "I…"

"Please be honest with me?" Tally pleaded, eyes searching Sarah's face.

Sarah licked her lips. "I feel like you're mine. You're mine to protect…mine to care for…a mate…a partner…that's how it felt when I came back and had scented you and nuzzled you. It seems that the resurrection brought me back with some more…primal tendencies."

Tally couldn't help but grin at the slight blush across Alder's cheeks.

"This amuses you?"

Tally bit her lip shyly. "A little. But mainly I think it's sweet. I can't believe you feel that way for me…after everything I did."

Alder shook her head. "It is a new start, Tally. It no longer matters. What is passed is passed." She took her hand. "We must focus on the now and what needs to be done."

"Do we count as the now?" Tally broached. She hoped so. Desperately.

Alder looked at their entwined hands. "Even if I could resist, I don't believe I would want to." She glanced up. "But I ask you the same…"

"I'd like us to count as the now." Tally squeezed her hand.

"Then we shall be," Alder replied easily, unable to stop the gentle smile on her face. It fell a moment later. "Tally, I'm unsure of how deep this protectiveness and…possessiveness runs. Please know I don't believe you're an object or something to own. I just…"

"Want to protect me." Tally blushed. "But on a more animalistic level?"

Alder nodded, clearly embarrassed by it. She wasn't sure why she'd come back like this.

"I'm okay with that," Tally breathed—wide eyed and reminding Alder of when she had been de-biddied.

Alder looked down at their entwined hands again. "While I don't want to waste time, I also don't want us to rush this between us." Her eyes flickered back to Tally's soulful brown. Goddess had she missed that look in her eyes. "Relationships forged in war are complex and often end in tragedy. I do not wish for that to be our story."

"I'm okay with that too," she replied sincerely. "I don't want you to ever wonder if I only chose you because of everything that is happening. I want you to know that I choose you because of who you are…enhancements included."

Alder chuckled melodically—the sound reverberating in the room. "These new urges are interesting. It's…" she trailed off, searching for the words to explain how she felt. "It feels earthy. Almost…wolf-like I imagine."

"A predator."

Alder couldn't help but smirk. "Was I not before?"

Tally laughed. "Yes, but now if you happened to rip someone's throat out with your teeth I don't think I would be surprised."

Alder's eyes darkened at the thought. Goddess she wanted to end the Camarilla like that. They wanted to believe witches to be a subspecies—to be less than them. She wanted to show them everything she was capable of now that her chains were broken.

"Hey, where'd you go?" Tally urged, reaching up to tilt Sarah's face toward her.

Alder blinked, chasing the thoughts away. "I was thinking about killing the Camarilla."

Tally nodded encouragingly.

"This doesn't…disturb you?"

Tally bit her lip. "On one hand, the amount of violence I know we are capable of as witches does disturb me…but after seeing everything the Camarilla have done and are doing…I can't say I would be able to do it myself but I definitely can't fault you for wanting to."

Tally closed her eyes, thinking back on the centuries of persecution Alder had faced—all of the hatred and violence that she had grown up surrounded by and on the run from…and then her own part in all of the wars she fought in for the government.

"I think you deserve some bloodshed on your terms for once," Tally settled on. "I may wish that it was different…that we could be the better people…but that isn't the case. I see that now." She met Alder's questing gaze. "So I support whatever amount of bloodshed you need to heal."

Alder pulled her in, touching their foreheads together and releasing a breath. The gratefulness she felt at Tally's words had blossomed in her chest—blooming into something warm and comforting that she hadn't felt in centuries.

She rubbed their noses together, a purr rumbling in her throat. Tally's smell was wrapping around her senses again—and the amount of affection she felt for the younger woman was overwhelming her in the best way.

Tally's fingers threaded in her hair, keeping her close as they basked in each other.

"You really should rest more," Tally murmured.

Alder hummed her agreement, but didn't pull away. She didn't want the redhead to leave.

"And you? Have you rested?" she questioned.

Tally didn't reply right away—because no, she hadn't rested. She had been so set on finding Alder and then fretting after she passed out that she couldn't remember the last time she slept for more than a couple hours.

Alder pulled back, and nodded to the bed. "Come. We should sleep."

"You don't mind sharing a bed with me?" Tally asked carefully.

Alder arched an eyebrow. "Tally, what part of me feeling like you are my mate have you not understood?"

Tally blushed—the tips of her ears reddening as she scrambled up the bed and kicked her shoes off. She scurried under the covers—blushing more at Alder's chuckle at her eagerness.

Alder joined her, sliding beneath the blankets and pulling Tally against her. She spooned her from behind, wrapping her entire body around her with a pleased rumble in her chest. She buried her face in auburn strands, inhaling deeply as her body relaxed.

They drifted off together—content to be joined in such a way.

 


 

Tally awoke to her name being called. She blinked rapidly, eyes focusing slowly as the room came into view. She heard the door open and tilted her head up—seeing Abigail and Raelle enter.

Their eyebrows were raised—and both witches wore satisfied smirks on their faces.

"What?" Tally asked, voice husky with sleep. She was still feeling groggy, and blinked a few more times before she rubbed her eyes.

"We figured you two should eat something. You've been asleep for more than twelve hours," Abigail explained as they rounded the bed to Tally's side. Her eyes drifted to Alder. "But it seems that food isn't your priority." She smirked.

Tally blushed, realizing that Alder was still protectively wrapped around her. Both Sarah's arms rested beneath Tally's armpits, wrapped around her chest and midsection in a bear hug. Her face was still buried in Tally's hair, and one long leg was hooked over Tally's.

She smiled sheepishly up at her sisters.

"So…" Collar started. She wiggled her eyebrows. "What's going on between you two?"

"Well," Tally started, feeling her face grow hot. "We are figuring it out. Not rushing anything."

Abigail and Raelle hummed together.

"Guys," Tally groaned, able to tell they were teasing her with no words.

Sarah grumbled behind her—nuzzling her head and pushing the hair away from her witch mark.

Tally was sure she had to be red as a tomato at Sarah's affection at this moment.

Her sisters were wearing smug smiles.

Then Alder nosed her witch mark, releasing a deep rumble in her chest as she pressed her face against it before her breathing evened out again.

"Uh huh," Abigail commented. "So, what's with the growling and purring and shit?"

Tally calmed at the question, glad to have something more analytical to focus on. "She's not sure. She said that she feels more…grounded I guess? It's more primal and animalistic. Her vision and smell are heightened and she compared it to being sort of…wolf-like I guess? In the sense of being really protective and…" she trailed off, blushing again.

"And?" Raelle urged, grinning ear to ear.

"She said she feels like I'm her mate…" Tally said quietly.

Abigail whistled lowly.

"Mate, huh?" Raelle teased. "Kinky."

"Rae," Tally groaned.

"Wonder if she has a breeding kink too," Raelle continued, unperturbed.

Tally wished she was able to bury her face in Sarah's hair to hide her embarrassment…but also the fact that the thought definitely did something for her. She wanted to be claimed by Sarah—completely. But she wanted to make sure that she was actually who Sarah wanted…her own insecurities rising suddenly.

Her sisters saw the shift in her eyes…but it was Sarah that picked up on it the most.

The older woman had tightened her hold on Tally—and placed a gentle kiss to her witch mark while still asleep.

"Are we eating or what?" Nicte's voice rang outside of the room. She entered a moment later—eyebrows reaching her hairline as she saw the state of Tally and Sarah in the bed.

Sarah's nose twitched—brow crinkling.

A low growl echoed in the room, and Tally felt the woman's head finally leave its resting place.

Sarah had awoken—the new scent kicking her protectiveness in…especially at a scent she recognized and associated with hurting Tally.

She snarled—eyes purple and glowing in the room; arms still wrapped around Tally protectively.

"Sarah," Tally urged, turning in the woman's arms to bury her face in Alder's neck. She knew her smell would calm her, so she did what Sarah would do to her—she nosed her neck, breathing in the smell of woods and spice. She was surprised how much that calmed herself—almost making her feel hazy.

Alder's growl simmered to a purr—and she blinked a few times as her eyes returned to their usual blue.

She was confused for a moment—seeing three additional women in the room. But she still had Tally wrapped in her arms and the redhead was snuggled into her neck. She found she didn't care too much.

"Why are you all in here?" she husked.

Nicte sneered. "Why are you so chummy with Red?"

Her jaw clenched—the muscle jumping as her nose crinkled in a snarl.

"Sarah, ignore her," Tally whispered in her ear—hand pressing into Sarah's chest to feel the strong thumping of her heart.

"I see no reason for it to be a concern of yours," she sniped back.

"Maybe because she's been a part of the little rag-tag group for the better part of a month and you just showed up and now she's all wrapped up in you…literally." Nicte's flickered between the two of them with disgust.

Something clicked for Sarah then.

Tally hadn't mentioned there being anything between her and Nicte…but the way Nicte was acting seemed jealous. It made her angry and filled her with a cold dread.

And Tally—as if sensing exactly where Sarah's mind had gone in that moment, pressed her face against her jaw and placed a soft kiss there. "No. Never. Yours."

She said it so softly that Sarah was unsure if she had actually heard it. But, it served its purpose—washing away the insecurity and ice in her stomach, leaving only the anger and a primal need to lay claim.

Her growl echoed in the small room—eyes flashing again. "She is mine, Batan."

The simple act of Tally uttering that single word seemed to provide a clarity to her in this state that she hadn't had before. She was highly aware now of the protectiveness and possessiveness that consumed her. Her eyes could see the aura surrounding the dark woman—the red and black tendrils of it flickering around her. She could practically smell the envy wafting off her—hear the rapid beats of her heart.

"Oh so you think you own her?" Batan asked with a disbelieving laugh.

"Own?" Alder snarled. "Never. My soul is hers and hers is mine."

She wasn't even sure where that had come from—but she felt a thrum in the connection she had shared with Tally, knowing it to be the truth.

A memory flashed behind her eyes, quick, but no less real.

She had been healing in the Mycelium when the Mother had told her as much.

"You will return to the world soon, Sarah. There, your mate will be."

"Mate?"

"Your soulmate. Your other half. She will be there when you rise."

Then it was gone, and she was once again in the room with the other women.

Tally had gasped against her—feeling the light that seemed to burst within their connection at such an admittance. Hers. It felt right, and she knew that if she had an issue with anything Sarah said—the older woman would understand. But there was no such qualms.

"Mine," Tally found herself pressing the words to Sarah's throat, a sigh leaving her lips after.

Abigail and Raelle were standing completely still as they watched the exchange. They trusted that Tally would keep Alder at bay—from doing something rash like killing Nicte in one swoop. However, they weren't exactly sure about Nicte's intentions at the moment.

"Let's just leave them to get sorted and we can all eat?" Raelle suggested. She knew Scylla, Adil, and Khalida were waiting for them all in the kitchen.

Abigail moved quickly, approaching Batan and grabbing her arm. "Let's go."

She practically dragged her from the room.

"Five minutes," Raelle called back at them before skirting out of the door and shutting it behind her.

Alder's shoulders sagged immediately.

"There's been absolutely nothing between us," Tally said hurriedly.

Alder's blue eyes turned to look at her.

"Like…I guess Nicte might have some feelings for me but they're one-sided. I've been," Tally rambled, "I-I've been mourning you and when I saw you appear in a vision I just…that's all that mattered to me. You. It's…it's always been you, Sarah."

Alder pulled her close, touching their foreheads again. "Breathe, darling."

Tally sucked in a breath, forcing herself to calm—especially at the way the term of endearment made her feel.

"Thank you for reassuring me," Sarah told her. She stroked her hair, smiling against the younger woman. "I appreciate it…and appreciate you calming me."

Tally sighed and nodded. She smiled in return, tilting her head slightly to press a soft kiss to Alder's chin.

The older woman's breath caught in her throat.

"We should go join them before they send another search party."

 


 

Things were tense for the next few days as Alder acclimated to her newer instincts. Tally and she kept their distance from Nicte as much as possible—the dark woman got under Sarah's skin too easily, and they were trying to make sure Alder could control.

It was going fairly well…and then the Camarilla appeared on their doorstep.

Alder had left to collect one of the Stewards—leaving the unit to defend themselves. Which, would not have been an issue had the Camarilla not brought a small army.

Tally was watching the group with a narrowed gaze—furious that they even thought to come here.

Kara Brandt was standing at the forefront—an arrogant smile on her face with her puppet Blanton Silver on her right, and a small army of Camarilla behind her. They were all equipped with breastplates that Tally knew were meant to circumvent their Work, and recreate it.

It made her sick. The amount of hatred that they possessed. Tally never knew how someone could hate another that much.

"I highly recommend surrendering now," Kara spoke up, grinning wickedly. "I'm sure it will…go much smoother if you do."

"Surrendering ourselves and allowing the world to think we are guilty for protecting our home?" Abigail spat. "Our friends and family?"

"You killed my daughter," Blanton spoke up.

"You signed her death sentence when you allowed one of your lackies to poison her with an incurable plague," Raelle growled out. "You are guilty. Penelope's death is on your hands."

"He doesn't care," Tally deadpanned. "All he cares about is power." She eyed the man a moment. "Tell me, did you ever know your wife was a witch? What do you think she would say about what you did to Penelope?"

Raelle hummed thoughtfully. "You know, I bet the Mother would know the answer to that. I wonder if I could summon your dead wife, Silver. Maybe you can ask her yourself."

Blanton was seething—eyes wide with fury. "You little bitch," he seethed, spit flying as he bit out the words.

"Now now," Kara interjected, her hand raising to order him to stand down.

"Aww look at that," Tally cooed, "you follow all her orders like a good little soldier."

Tally's eyes caught sight of Nicte creeping through the ranks in the very back. She was sneaking up on them, slicing their throats from behind in quick succession before the others noticed. Her heart was pounding, worried about what would befall their ally should she be caught.

"Blanton," Kara warned, eyes remaining trained on the group in front of her. "Stand down. Don't allow them to get to you."

"Yeah, Blanton," Scylla chimed in with a smug grin. "Don't think for yourself. You might get hurt."

He sneered with blazing eyes, and Tally was certain that if he possessed one of the pieces of armor, they would all have been windstruck through the house by now.

Sarah, where are you? Tally thought fearfully. She worried about the other woman. She was grateful she wasn't here to watch whatever would unfold…but she wished she could see the woman one last time before things escalated.

She used her Sight, trying to find a weakness in the ranks—someway to exploit their armor with a dispelling frequency. She didn't see anything yet. She would need one of them to use their armor.

"I need to see the frequency," Tally murmured.

Adil heard her, nodded, and stepped forward and slammed his hands into the earth—a Seed ripping through the air as the ground rumbled and soared at the group. It sent most of the army flying backward—leaving Blanton and Kara untouched for the moment.

Kara was seething, she nodded her head—ordering their troops to unleash their bastardized Work.

Tally could see the frequency immediately and released a few Seeds—attempting to find the correct one. She watched in amazement as the body armor sparked, short circuiting.

"What are you waiting for?" Kara roared angrily.

"She's done something to our armor!"

"Nothing is working!"

"Fucking idiots," Kara growled. "Shoot them."

The soldiers grabbed behind themselves, pulling forward guns and taking aim.

Dread flooded Tally. This was it. They were about to be gunned down, and all she could think of was how she hadn't gotten to say goodbye to Sarah.

Then, as if summoned from Tally's sheer hope, the troops screamed in anguish as they were suddenly being pulled down into the earth by colonies of blooming mushrooms.

"Sarah," Tally breathed.

"That's so cool," Raelle said grinning. "I have got to have her teach me that."

A column of mushrooms began to rise in front of the unit, taking on a form and revealing Sarah in all of her glory.

"Blanton Silver. I wish I could say it was good to see you," Sarah commented with purple blazed eyes. She tilted her head to the side, scenting the air. "I thought I smelled your stench."

"You should be dead." Blanton took a step back, and Kara rolled her eyes.

She waved a hand—and more troops appeared from the shadows.

Tally could see Nicte slink back into the trees, not wanting to be spotted by the reinforced troops.

"Should, being the keyword," Sarah retorted. She shrugged. "But I am not. Fret not, Blanton, you'll see your daughter once before you die. In fact, I'm going to allow that honor to go to her."

Blanton's face paled. "Pen…she-she's alive?"

"Oh yes," Sarah told him with a sinister smile. Her nose crinkled in disgust. "As much as I want to be the one to end your pathetic life, I will allow my daughter to have her revenge."

"She's my daughter!"

"No!" Sarah roared. The ground rumbled beneath her feet with her anger. "She is one of my daughter's. You forfeited that right when you infected her with that bastard plague."

"Enough of this," Kara called out, waving her hand.

Gunfire rang out, and Sarah hissed—the bullets turning to dust before they hit anyone in the group.

The soldiers stopped as soon as they realized they had no effect.

"Keep your windshears up," Alder murmured to them. She reached back, taking Tally's hand in her own. "Are you alright?"

"Yes," Tally whispered—watching Alder's shoulders sag with slight relief.

"You all should look away," Alder told them.

Tally was about to ask why—but the woman disappeared before their eyes.

She reappeared a moment later—multiples of herself exploding from the insides of the Camarilla members.

Kara and Blanton spun around—terrified by what they saw.

Alder's eyes blazed in the night—mycelial threads rippling underneath her eyes as she licked a spot of blood from her lips. She growled—low and threatening before she caught the scourge that Nicte had thrown to her from the shadows.

She spun, slicing through the necks of three of the soldiers in one go. She twirled the scourge—the sound whistling in the air before it came down with a resounding crack on the head of another soldier. The bone split and blood spilled onto the ground. A roar left Alder as she turned—the Seed turning them to nothing but blood and guts before she danced around the gunfire that range out.

The bullets didn't touch her, and she flung her scourge out to wrap around one Camarilla soldier's neck. She pulled him in, her nails hardening into sharp Mycelial roots as she sliced him open.

"You have no idea what I am capable of," she spat as she tossed his lifeless body aside. She dodged a punch and dove forward, slamming her head into the soldiers before her hand penetrated his chest cavity. She grasped his beating heart in her hand. "You have underestimated me all these years…not realizing that I was chained." She wrenched her hand back, coated with blood as she held up the organ in triumph.

The pure terror on Kara Brandt's face sent a thrill through Alder's body. She was relishing in the carnage she was creating. Finally, after centuries of persecution…

"It feels so good to see the blood of the Camarilla coat the ground instead of my sisters and daughters," she rumbled. Her voice was gravelly and low as she slowly began to stalk around the remaining soldiers that had huddled closer to Silver and Brandt.

"You're a monster," Kara spat.

Alder merely smirked. "I guess it does take one to know one." Her nose crinkled in a snarl. "The difference between us though, is only one of us is a predator. And I assure you, it is not you."

She twisted her hand—mushrooms rising and holding onto the remaining soldiers feet to keep them from running.

They screamed in terror, unable to break free of their bindings.

"Scream all you like," Alder told them with a laugh. "No one is going to help you."

She continued to circle them.

"The United States Army will come for us," Blanton declared.

Alder knew he had tried to sound confident…but the slight warble in his voice indicated that he didn't believe his own words.

"Oh, Blanton," Alder tutted. She chuckled darkly. "I am the Army."

She surged forward with a speed that was inhuman—nails slicing through the remaining soldiers. Some she ripped their guts from their abdomens—the stench permeating the air and leaving steaming piles in the crisp night. Others, she ripped their vocal cords from them, like they had done to so many witches…

Until only Blanton and Kara remained.

"The next question…is how to kill you," she said as she pointed a bloodied finger at Kara.

"Fucking bitch," Brandt spit.

Alder hummed thoughtfully, tapping her coated fingers against her chin as she mulled it over. Her purple eyes brightened.

"Ah yes, the Brandt line. If I recall correctly your forefathers were particularly fond of killing witches by pressing them, yes?" Alder turned and looked to Adil.

Adil watched her a moment before understanding what she was asking for. He touched his hands to the ground, a low Work spilling from him as a giant boulder began to take shape on the ground.

"Perfect," Alder quipped. She refused to meet Tally's stare—despite feeling it so hotly on her cheek. She knew the younger witch was probably disgusted with her, and she would likely never want to see her again—the thought broke her heart, but she refused to back down any longer.

She sang—forcing Kara on her back on the ground by having the mycelium hold her down.

Her hand twisted up as she sung—the boulder rising from the ground to hover over Kara. She eased it down, placing only a portion of the weight on the woman.

"You'll die for this!" Kara choked out under the weight.

"No, only you," Sarah replied easily before easing the rest of the weight down on her.

Kara began to wheeze, and they all soon heard the snapping of her ribs. Alder squatted down near her head.

"Tell me, are you enjoying understanding the pain you and your family have caused so many of my kind?" Alder asked as she listened to all the sounds. "I can hear your ribs puncturing your lungs…the sound of your blood filling them…you'll cough it up soon. I can hear the fracturing of your pelvis as it begins to fill with blood—a perfect receptacle."

Kara spluttered, pink froth leaking from her lips.

"You'll choke on your own blood, nice and slow as the weight finally settles on you," Alder continued. She hummed happily, her eyes brightening even more. "Ah, there we are. The strain of your heart. Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump." She chuckled. "It's fighting so hard to push blood to the necessary parts, unfortunately it fails to realize that it is only quickening your death."

Kara gasped—more of a gurgle and cough though with all of the blood.

"Shh shh," Alder tutted. "Fret not, it'll all be over soon." She smirked. "Well…" she twisted her hand, raising the boulder off her slightly.

Kara sucked in a ragged breath as she was able to expand her lungs a little more—immediately wincing in agony.

"Oh does that hurt?" Alder questioned—not sorry in the slightest. "Here let me fix it."

She dropped the boulder.

Kara's eyes bulged, becoming red as blood flooded to her eyes.

Then they dulled—the life leaving her as blood trickled from her orifices.

Alder hummed and stood, eyes turning on a pale and petrified Silver.

"You're coming with me," she told him as she approached. The mycelial threads wrapped around him, and they disappeared into the earth.

The unit remained—staring in awe and horror at the carnage that Alder had left behind.

Scylla broke the silence first. "So are we supposed to clean this up or?"

The ground rolled, as if it heard her question—the bodies all sinking into the earth.

"Never mind," Raelle muttered.

Nicte whistled approvingly as she approached the group. Her eyes lingered on the puddles of blood that remained.

"So that's Alder unchained," Nicte commented. "Kind of glad she was shackled all these years…"

Abigail smirked, calling on the rain to wash away the remaining evidence. Once it was cleared, the group silently went inside.

No one said anything as they all processed.

"Tal," Raelle broached gently, sitting down next to her friend. "You okay?"

"I've never seen so much blood," Tally told her honestly. She was focused on her hands—mind consumed by the image of Alder so bloodthirsty. "The worst part, Rae…I don't feel bad."

Raelle's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

"I mean…I don't feel disgusted by it. I thought I would be horrified at what she did. I should be. I should be throwing up and inconsolable…but instead I just feel relieved," she said darkly. She chuckled. "What does that say about me?"

"Tal," Abigail urged as she sat on the other side of her. "We've been in the thick of it for over a month. We've seen more violence than any of us thought we would see at this point. It changes you."

"Isn't that bad?" Tally rebutted.

"No," Nicte chimed in. She shook her head. "The fact that you're worrying over it speaks for itself. You aren't heartless, Red."

Raelle and Abigail nodded.

"None of us enjoyed what we saw," Adil began. At Nicte's scoff he corrected himself, "well, aside from Nicte. But they needed to be ended."

"I don't blame Alder for going full homicide mode," Raelle commented. "After seeing what the Camarilla did to her coven." She shuddered. "They deserved it."

Tally nodded solemnly. "After everything they've done to her for centuries…" she trailed off.

"She earned that," Abigail finished with a soft smile. "She saved our asses, took out a small army by herself…"

Nicte coughed and Abigail rolled her eyes.

"You took out like six."

"Still took 'em out," Nicte grumbled.

"She killed that psychotic bitch," Raelle continued for Abigail. "And she took Silver to Penelope…who is apparently not dead."

"Yeah, what's that about?" Abgail asked.

Raelle shrugged. "Guess we will have to ask Alder when she gets back."

"Do you think she'll come back?" Nicte asked with a raised eyebrow.

The group all looked at her questioningly.

Nicte rolled her eyes. "She's all smitten with Red and she just murdered a bunch of people in front of her. If I know her even a little bit, I would think she's a bit afraid to see Red think of her as a monster…"

"Yeah, you would know," Tally said with a sigh. Flashes of Liberia entered her mind—the hurt on Sarah's face at being told her heart was black…the disgust on Nicte's face when she spat it at her… "She better come back."

Tally stood then and walked back to the bathroom. She was going to shower and get the smell of death off her.

 


 

It had been nearly morning when Tally felt the bed dip slightly. She rolled over—eyes blinking rapidly as she tried to wake up.

Sarah was sitting on the edge of the bed, her back to Tally. From what the Knower could see, she was staring down at her hands.

"Hey," Tally said gently.

Alder's shoulders tensed.

"There you are," she continued, reaching out and placing a hand on her shoulder. But Sarah didn't turn around. "Look at me, please?"

Sarah turned her body slightly—just enough for Tally to see her face…and the tear streaks down her face.

"What's wrong?" She pulled the other woman to her, giving her no choice as she laid them down and wrapped herself around Sarah. She stroked her hair and pressed their foreheads together.

"Do you hate me now?" she asked softly.

Tally's forehead crinkled. "No. Never."

"I massacred them all."

"Do you regret it?" Tally asked, confused.

"Not a little."

"Why do you think I hate you?"

"Because I massacred them."

Then it clicked. Nicte was right.

"You're worried I think you're a monster and that your heart is black?"

Sarah tensed against her and Tally pressed a kiss to her forehead before placing one on the tip of her nose.

"You aren't a monster and your heart isn't black. After everything that they have done to you…what you did is still far better than they deserve," Tally told her passionately. "You would do anything to protect witchkind. I see that more than ever now." She stroked her back soothingly as Alder buried her face in Tally's neck.

A low purr rumbled in Alder's chest as she inhaled the scent of Tally. It relaxed her immediately.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't kind of hot…"

Alder chuckled against her neck—deep and throaty before she pulled back to gaze in Tally's eyes.

"There you are," the redhead murmured as she cupped Sarah's cheek. "How'd it go with Silver?"

"Penelope ripped him apart in a matter of seconds. As soon as we told her the circumstances surrounding her death—she understood why your unit had to stop her…but the fact her father had resigned her to her fate…she was displeased." Alder sighed then. "She's heartbroken…understandably so."

"Poor Pen."

Alder hummed. "Izadora is comforting her. The two of them have a motherly bond and Izadora clearly cares for her a great deal. She's the perfect foster daughter for her." She chuckled.

Tally smiled, unable to disagree with that.

"What about the First Song?" Tally asked next.

"I still need to find the Stewards and keep them safe…if we do not need to use the song then that is fine, but the Mother wants the stewards protected until this war is won."

Tally hummed in understanding. "So will you be leaving?"

A nod.

"I see," Tally murmured. She was sad that Sarah would have to leave…unhappy with being without her for the foreseeable future.

"Would you like to come with me?" Alder asked gently, pulling back to meet her eyes. "We make a good team…and I would love to have you by my side. Not to mention your Sight would be invaluable." She cupped Tally's cheek. "I am selfish and don't want to part with you."

Tally smiled brightly. "I would love to."

"Yes?" Alder matched her smile.

"Please," Tally breathed out, eyes flickering to Alder's lips.

Alder's gaze darkened, a low rumble in her chest as she leaned in and captured Tally's lips. Her hand slid into Tally's hair, keeping her pressed close as they kissed—basking in each other and their connection as it sent bolts through them both.

Alder was in a heightened state of existence—she was sure of it. She had never felt so light…never felt so much love from another.

She was unsure how long they kissed for—finally breaking when they needed to catch their breath.

"Wow," Tally murmured against her lips. "That…wow."

Alder chuckled. "Indeed."

"I can only imagine what it will be like when—" she cut herself off, cheeks turning bright red when she realized what she almost said.

Alder's smile turned sensual and her voice came out a near purr, "When what, Tally?"

"Um," Tally spluttered.

"When I make you whimper with pleasure?" Alder asked, pressing a light kiss to her jaw. "When I make you quiver with just a touch?" she licked her pulse point. "When I make you cum in my mouth with my name on your lips?" She bit down.

"Goddess," Tally cried out, her hands tangling in Alder's hair and pulling her tight against her.

Alder released a throaty laugh before pulling back and kissing Tally sweetly. "Not quite, my darling."

"You should be criminal," Tally grumbled.

Alder's hand slid from her hair down to her waist, lightly squeezing it. "I mean out of the two of us, you are technically the criminal."

Tally laughed—a bright smile on her face. "You're right…go on the run with me, Sarah?"

She kissed her again and again—smiling against her lips and purring happily.

"Tally Craven, I would follow you anywhere."