It was near evening when Darius was declared to be in good health.  However, since night was falling, they didn’t release him until the next morning.  The first thing he did after he was released was track down Sofia.  Like him, the antivenin had cured her condition.

“Sofia,” he called, as he came up behind her.  She stopped at the exit of the clinic and he slowed his steps as he joined her.  Then, they walked out together.  He took a deep breath and sighed.  “Nora and Timo went home.”

She nodded.  “I guess I should be glad that they waited until they knew I was safe and… well, recovering anyway, before they split,” she said.  She frowned slightly and looked at him.  “Where were you?”

“I got bitten too,” Darius said, shrugging.  She nodded, accepting his words and he said, “Are you going to return to the States now?”

“What’s to keep the person who kidnapped us from doing it again?” she replied, shaking her head.  “Either to us or to someone else that he thinks was cowardly at some point?”  She heaved a sigh.  “No, I’m not going anywhere until I find out who was behind this whole thing and… why?  Why kidnap four people and leave them in the forest like that?”

Darius nodded.  “Even if we assume it was because he figured we were cowards because of what happened at each of our Havens,” he said, his voice soft, “Even if we assume he either figured we’d be killed or prove our bravery by facing the vampires… Why us?”

“Right,” Sofia said, nodding.  “I mean, that’s exactly what I mean!  Timo and Nora knew each other, but I hadn’t met either of them or you and… you didn’t know them, right?”

“Never seen them before,” Darius said, shaking his head.  “Who would have known our background?”

“The elders of our Havens,” Sofia said, shrugging.

Darius frowned.  “The Elders…” he started, but then he trailed off.  Turning to Sofia, he said, “Did your elders survive the massacre?”  Only the elder lance of Havensburg had survived.  He had no idea what had become of the woman.  It hadn’t mattered after that, because the village had been abandoned.  He’d relocated to a new Haven community, with a different set of elders.

“The elder lance wasn’t in town when the attack happened,” Sofia said, shaking her head.

Gasping, Darius stopped dead in his tracks.  He caught Sofia by the hand.  “Elder Kyander,” he said, his voice soft.  When her eyes widened, he nodded.  “She was the only elder to survive the massacre at Havensburg.”

Sofia set off once again, almost dragging Darius with her.  She had a determined expression on her face.  “We need to get in touch with Timo and Nora,” she said.  “That might be our connection, but there’s no way to know unless we ask them if she was the elder in their village too.”

“How are we going to find them?” Darius asked, shaking his head.  “They might be on a flight back to the States by now.”

“They might,” she said, nodding.  “They would have to get in touch with their current elders, though.  They’ve got no money right now.  I’d be willing to bet that they stayed at a hotel over night while the elders made their travel arrangements.”

“We don’t have any travel papers,” Darius realized.  “They’d have to get in touch with their elders before they’d be allowed on a plane back to the States.”  He’d have to do the same, in fact.  Actually, he was pretty sure that his brothers would take care of that detail, once he called them.

In a matter of hours, they were arriving in Alleman.  It was shocking how easy it was to find the hotel into which the pair had spent the night.  Sofia went to the front desk of each hotel and asked the manager to call Timo Koskinen’s room.  The first few times, they were politely informed that no one by that name was checked in there.  Finally, the manager looked up a phone number and dialed it.

“There is a young woman at the front desk who wishes to speak with you, sir,” the manager said in a polite tone.  Nodding, he looked at Sofia.  “Could I have your name, please?”

“Sofia Skalas,” she said, her voice soft.  “Tell him that Darius Balchunas is with me.  We have news for him and a couple of questions.”

Nodding, the manager dutifully repeated the message.  Finally, he nodded and returned the telephone to the handset.  Turning to Sofia, he said, “He and Miss Hagen will be down directly.  You are welcome to wait for them in the lounge area.”

“Thank you,” Sofia said.  Then, she headed over to a gathering of sofas and chairs in a corner of the lobby.  They only had to wait for a few minutes before Timo and Nora arrived.  Darius touched Sofia on the arm and they both stood as the pair approached them.

“It’s good to see you both well,” Nora said, giving them each a faint smile.  “What’s up?”

“Was Elder Kyander a survivor of your village?” Darius asked, his voice soft.

Timo blinked and Nora frowned.  “Ingrid Kyander,” Nora said.

“She wasn’t an elder at the time,” Timo said, his voice soft.  “She was… just one more lance.  Her family was killed and… she went to where other family members were living, since they’d inherited the gifts.”

“She was an elder when the massacre took place at Havensburg,” Darius said, frowning.  “She was the only elder to have survived.  I… didn’t hear what happened to her family.”  He realized now that the woman may well have been the lone survivor of her family a second time.  When it happened, he’d been focused on his cousins and brothers and burying their mother and the rest of their family members who had died.

“Her family’s gifts were lost after the massacre in North Pass-Haven,” Sofia said, her voice strained.  “It was the last generation that the Council of Elders had on record.”


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