Yessenia, Kobo’s old survival skills teacher, dreaded having to see the arm of Ash tree in Kobo. She turned away from the window and looked down at the metal cuffs. Donavo, Agnes’ half human, half werewolf brother was sitting on the floor waiting for Nestor to awaken. “These berry tarts are fairly good. No wonder my sister made a lot of gold from them.” He ate the tart like a messy beast, leaving crumbs here and there.
Yessenia took a slip of berry juice. “I am sorry for the loss of your sister Agnes. We were close. But you shouldn’t be here. No freaks in Kobo,” Yessenia paused. “Except for Nestor here and he might be forced out soon.”
Nestor opened one eye at a time. He spotted Yessenia looking as judgmental as ever. He winked at Donavo. “No one’s forcing me out of Kobo.”
“He’s awake,” Donavo clapped. “What mayhem will you carry out today?”
Nestor ignored him. He realized that his wrists were still in the metal cuffs that were connected to a steel pole. “Why is this still necessary?”
“To keep you and Kobo out of further trouble,” Yessenia answered.
Nestor tried to stand up but couldn’t. “Is that the arm of Ash tree out there? This is Kobo right?”
Yessenia stooped down to be face to face with Nestor. “Asher has all but moved in here. Grant is too polite to send them on their way. We believe that the vamps and Mercy have returned to the Crescent.”
“They destroyed all of the garlic I suppose. I came here to warn you to get rid of it, if you had any,”Donavo stated.
Yessenia sat down. “This Declan Mortis III turned half of the Ashian people into freaks. Grant let the ones that escaped seek refuge here. You made us indebted to the Ash village when you ruined Asher’s gown. They have strange tree worshipping ceremonies. Half of the humans here are not Koboians.”
“I should have been there for them.” He failed to slide his arms out of the cuffs. “The vamps know me. I can’t help like this. Remove the cuffs!”
Yessenia sighed. “We will remove the cuffs when Grant allows it. You did kill Hettie. You could be dangerous.”
“So dangerous, that you are watching me. Yessenia, we all know that Grant can’t fix these problems. He’s not ready to lead. He said so himself. He was going to help me solve…”
“Solve what?” Donavo asked.
“Two of Mattau’s golden armed goons were here to look at the berry fields,”Nestor told them.
Yessenia started to unlock the left arm cuff. “Mislin and Bennet left after word of Glodean’s death. We have not heard from Mattau. You shouldn’t have lied to us and the village leaders in the first place. You will help clean up this mess.”
Nestor stretched his arms. He was free from the cuffs. “Thank you. For what its worth, I had nothing to do with the garlic, I knew nothing about it.”
“I better go. Don’t let Donavo get to close. He might eat you.” Yessenia exited the room. Nestor was right about Grant. His heart was too pure to protect Kobo. He had already let a werewolf into Kobo and around Nestor. What leader takes in a group of outsiders? Thankfully, a leader like Bushear did eons ago. Sandor, home of the komodos and the hottest place in the land, had reached one hundred and thirty degrees one summer. The humans there had nowhere to run from the sweltering heat. A young Yessenia and her guardians were not alone in the mass exodus out of Sandor. Claudius, the freak golden armed leader of Ondello, wouldn’t let the Sandorians in unless they gave up their gold to him. They couldn’t live in the Crescent due to the vamps, witches and trolls. Bristol was a frightening place to live because of the knights and the Punishere. The Ashians were way to extreme with their Ash tree worshipping and rituals. Her guardians accidentally passed up Flaco and Logoff on the trail and ended up at Kobo’s gate. Bushear opened the gate to the humans of Sandor. Yessenia had lived in Kobo for most of her life.
Nestor rebraided his long gray hair. “I’m glad that you are here Donavo. I could use the help. ”
“I still can’t believe that my sister is dead.”
Nestor tied a string into a knot near the end of his braid. “Donavo. I did everything that I could to protect Agnes. It has been forty years, why didn’t you come here? We didn’t know where you were. Your sister was still too afraid to look for you in the Crescent,” Nestor revealed. “You can stay here for some moments if you like. How is your past?”
Donavo slapped Nestor’s left shoulder. “I’ve done some bad things to survive. Anyway, I hear that Grant makes the decisions. I’m sure that the humans wouldn’t want to live amongst a werewolf.”
Nestor quickly put on his shoes. “True. I haven’t had any visions yet. I wonder where the wicked Declan Mortis III is.”
“I spoke with him. He wanted to protect the vamps against the garlic. He feared their total annihilation. The funny thing is I decided to come here to warn you about their arrival. If I had stayed with Declan and Mercy I could have saved my sister from them.”
“You were not the cause of any of this.” Nestor hugged Donavo. “They killed Agnes and Glodean then took over a village.”
“You see how Yessenia treats me cause she knows that I am a werewolf.”
“She’s stuck in old ways. She has a piece of the treaty lodged up her bum.”
Their laughter broke when Grant stormed into the room. Nestor sat down on the floor and faked a sad face. “My leader.”
Grant stared at Nestor’s free limbs. “Let me guess, Sam took off your cuffs?”
“No, but I hear that when you exile someone you don’t allow them to come back to your village on the same day.” Nestor threw a tart into his mouth and chewed loudly.
“I let him back into Kobo because a man-eating fish killed Rebe here and Oberlyn out there! I wasn’t going to leave him out there. He was shaking and with the children.” Grant raised his voice.
“If he was exiled, he wasn’t a Koboian anymore. You don’t have the stomach to be the leader, Grant.”
Donavo felt his tail start to sprout out of his lower back. “Oh, I hate to miss this fight of yours but my tail is making my back itch.”
“More information than was needed, Donavo,” Nestor cracked his knuckles and glared at Grant. Donavo planned on questioning Asher about the whole garlic situation if he could get her alone.
Nestor stood up. “Since he is gone we can have it out, like men.”
Nestor stood close to Grant’s face. “I understand that you thought you were protecting Kobo from me. I’ve done some questionable things. I’ve lied. I’ve killed. I’ve stolen. I get it. But you denied my attendance at Oberlyn and Rebe’s funeral. Missa left and you didn’t let her say goodbye to me. You haven’t brought Malta by to see me and I’m her guardian. She must be hysterical about that fish.”
“I was going to bring her by so she could see you all chained up? We all know that you are not the guardian type. You kill Hettie then you are Malta’s guardian. You kill Bushear then you are the leader of Kobo. What’s next for you? Missa didn’t want to stay in the village where her twin died. She’s on her way to Bristol.”
“To live in Bristol with the Punisheres!” Nestor exclaimed.”
“I asked her. She didn’t want to see you.”
Nestor wiped away his tears. “Story of my life. A woman not wanting to see me. All I wanted was peace here in Kobo. Peace for the humans like Bushear instructed. And Asher she hasn’t come to see me either.”
“She came when you were still unconscious. She’s been busy consoling her people. Half of them were turned into vamps.”
Nestor threw the metal cuffs out of the window. They landed in a bush just missing the head of a frazzled looking black cat. “What do you want Grant? You are not going to chain me up again.”
“I’ve been so angry. The most angry that I’ve ever been in my life. I let Yessenia talk me into chaining you up, my closest friend. I lost Hettie, Glodean, Rebe, Oberlyn and Agnes. Missa has left us. I exiled Sam and unexiled Sam. I can’t ask Asher to leave. I let a werewolf stay in Kobo. I’m not sure if Magnus will be a good enough goldkeeper. For all I know, the Black Rip Sea could be full of man-eating fish created by this warlock Zee. I truly think you were right.”
“Of course I was?” Nestor was happy to be able to scratch his own head again. Donavo would try to help him but his sharp-pointy nails were like knives to his scalp. “Right about what Grant?”
Grant handed Bushear’s copy of the eight village’s treaty to Nestor. “You are the leader of Kobo, not me.”
Nestor for once didn’t know what to say. He unrolled the scroll and pretended to read it. They both knew that not a word had changed. Grant decided to leave just in case Nestor wanted to refuse the position. Nestor walked slowly to his residence. He laid across his comfy bed and thought about the undeniable words of the treaty. He had to get his unrequited flame Asher, that arm of Ash tree abomination and the Ashian people out of Kobo and back into their proper village.
Even though her conversation with Donavo felt almost like an interrogation, Asher enjoyed every moment of it. Or she enjoyed looking at him. Nestor and Grant would always be eye tarts but their bodies didn’t house the strength of a beast. Donavo had a nice muscular build, a hairy beard and the deepest voice that she had ever heard. Her mind frolicked in and out of fantasties. She could tame the beast if she was given the chance. Nestor surely wouldn’t like her becoming the flame of his oldest friend. Plus her people would never accept such a romance. There was a soothing breeze outside. Soft footsteps approached as something followed behind her. A black cat purred at her and then wildly lunged at her berry stained gown. It hung onto the end of her gown’s short train. She flung the end of her gown unto a tree, causing the cat to hit the tree and then fall to the ground. Asher ran from the black cat as fast as she could. It was dark out but luckily the path was even. The cat licked its paws twice and then chased after her. Asher ran into the nearest home and slammed the door shut.
Nestor realized that he forgot to put a stick in his door. “No guests tonight. I’ve just been released from my cage. I’m very reckless, they say.” He exited his bed and headed for the front door. His heart skipped a beat as always. “Asher?” Her berry stained gown was ripped throughout the back. “Are you alright?” He walked closer to her. Silently praying that she wasn’t a witch.
“There was this black cat outside. It tried to attack me. Does it belong to someone here, Nestor?”
Nestor shook his head. “No, we wouldn’t let one through the gate, they are evil. Are you sure it wasn’t hairy ol Donavo?”
“Not funny. I told you, it was a cat, a black cat. I know what I saw.”
“Okay,” he kept his voice low. “Stay here tonight. Get some rest. Tomorrow after first meal we will look for any man-eating fish and this black cat that you say attacked you. Alright?”