Savitar didn’t play. If anyone breached his rules, he quickly toasted them.
And with great relish.
Some of Dante’s ire faded as he saw Fury and Vane Kattalakis in one corner, talking to each other. Dante had met the wolves years ago, but what he found odd was that they were here together. The Omegrion was a meeting where only the Regis, or head, of each animal-were branch was sent to represent all of their species.
Only one Katagaria wolf should be present.
A fierce creature like Dante, Vane had long, dark brown hair that he wore loose around his shoulders.
Fury had his blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. Like Dante, Fury was dressed all in black, while Vane wore a pair of jeans with a white T-shirt and brown leather jacket.
"Wolves," Dante said in greeting as he neared them.
Vane shook his hand first, then Fury. Dante grinned as he noted Vane had a mating mark on his palm.
"Looks like we’ve both been tagged since last we met," Vane said.
"Yeah," Dante said with a laugh. "Hell hath frozen over, eh?"
Fury laughed. "You’ve no idea."
Dante eyed the two brothers. "So how is it that the Katagaria Lykos have two reps?"
Vane gave him a sinister smile. "They don’t."
Fury’s blue eyes danced with humor. "I’m the Katagaria Regis. Vane’s the Arcadian Regis."
That news stunned Dante. It wasn’t possible. Vane was Katagaria. "No way in hell."
Vane nodded. "As you said, hell hath frozen."
Dante shook his head. "Yeah, but how is that possible?"
"Birth defect," Vane explained. "I switched from being Katagaria to Arcadian at puberty, but I never told anyone until recently."
Dante went cold as one-half of Vane’s face showed the stylized markings of an Arcadian Sentinel. They were the human soldiers sent out to murder their Katagaria cousins. As such, Dante despised them with every piece of his being.
"Easy, Dante," Fury said. "Vane grew up as one of us. As Katagaria. He’s not like the other Sentinels, who kill without reason."
"You better not be," Dante said as his humor fled. "I might run a limani, but I have no love for a Sentinel."
"That makes two of us," Vane said as the markings faded. "Believe me, I’ve lost a lot in my life to insane Sentinels and I have not taken up their crusade. Peace?" He extended his hand to Dante.
Dante hesitated before he shook it. All things considered, he did respect the wolf. "Human, huh? I’m really sorry for you."
Vane gave him a wry grin. "Yeah, me, too."
His humor restored, Dante smiled at the wolf. "Man, I have to respect you, though. Two votes in the Omegrion. That’s impressive. Maybe I’ll luck out and one of my cubs might switch to Arcadian at puberty, too, and give me another vote."
Fury arched a brow at that. "Your mate’s Arcadian? Does she know how you feel about her people?"
Dante sobered. "She knows. But the only thing that matters is how I feel about her, and that she never doubts for a minute."
Fury and Vane nodded in agreement.
Dante looked around as a couple more Katagaria flashed into the room. "Do either of you have any idea why we’re here?"
Vane sighed. "I heard it’s about a Katagari with trelosa."
Dante sucked his breath in between his teeth. Trelosa was a disease that was somewhat similar to rabies. It was a madness that infected their kind during puberty. No one was sure what caused it. But once in the blood, it consumed the host, making them an indiscriminate killer. There was no known cure. Once a Katagari or Arcadian was determined to have it, then they were hunted down and killed.
"Who’s bringing the charge?" Dante asked.
Vane indicated a tall blond man in the corner. "One of the tigers."
Dante studied the man, who was dressed in an expensive tan silk Versace suit. The tiger dripped money and sophistication from every pore.
Dante’s gaze narrowed on him. "That’s not Lysander." Lysander Stephanos was a dark-haired tiger who was about as surly as anyone Dante had ever met and wouldn’t be caught dead in tan anything, unless it was tanned black leather. "Was he replaced as the Tigarian Regis?"
"Oh, hell no," Fury said in a disbelieving tone. "I’d like to meet the tiger with the balls and skill to take down Lysander. That boy eats bear for breakfast."
"Better bear than panther," Dante said with a sinister laugh.
Vane rolled his eyes. "That one is named Zack. He’s waiting for Lysander to show, but apparently Sander isn’t as convinced of the charge as Zack is."
"Why do you say that?"
"If Sander thought his claim had merit, I doubt Zack would be here."
That made sense to Dante. As was typical among the tiger species, Lysander was very solitary and didn’t like anyone or anything treading on his space. "Then who’s backing him?"
"I’m not sure," Vane said, "but it should be interesting."
Dante hoped so. There was nothing worse than a boring meeting.
A bright light flashed, making Dante flinch as Lysander appeared on the far side of the room. Dressed in loose black Indian silk pants and a long sleeveless black vest that was heavily embroidered in gold, the tiger was bare from the waist up. His entire right shoulder and bicep were covered with a colorful tattoo of a heart pierced by a sword. His black wavy hair fell haphazardly around his face.
The blond tiger sneered as he saw Lysander’s unorthodox appearance. "Fresh from the jungle?"
Lysander narrowed his gaze threateningly on the shorter tiger. "Don’t f**k with me, hijda. I only like human form, for one thing, and since I’m not attracted to men, I’m not happy about being here."
Dante exchanged an amused look with Vane, who had been right about Lysander not backing the other tiger. He particularly liked the Hindi insult to the tiger’s manhood that had gone over his head.
Lysander pushed past the tiger to take a seat at the large round table, but it was obvious he was as anxious to leave as the rest of them.
No sooner had Dante turned away than something flashed just to his right. Dante watched as Damos Kattalakis appeared a few feet away from them. Damos was an Arcadian Drakos. The dragon was dressed in medieval armor, which made sense, since most of the dragons lived in the past where open fields and unchartered regions made it easy for them to hide from the humans.
Like Fury and Vane, Damos was a direct descendant of the royal brothers whose father had magically created their races.
Damos inclined his head to them. "Wolves. Panther."
"Dragon," Dante said, but he didn’t offer his hand to Damos. With the exception of his wife and Vane a few seconds ago, Dante never touched an Arcadian by choice.
Damos seemed amused as he held his hand out to Vane. "Good to see you again, Cousin."
"You as well," Vane said, shaking his hand.
While Damos shook Fury’s hand, the other nine Arcadians flashed into the room and took their seats at the large round table without acknowledging any of the Katagaria.
Dante tsked at their actions. "Look at the scared little children. I’m surprised they had the balls to show before Savitar was here to protect them."
"Who says I’m not here?"
Dante jerked his head at the deep, lightly accented voice behind him. Standing at six feet eight, Savitar was an imposing sight. Not that Dante was afraid of him, but he did have a hefty amount of respect for the ancient being.
There was a mutual gleam of respect in Savitar’s black eyes. His long dark brown hair brushed his shoulders, and his skin tone was as dark as Dante’s Italian complexion. Savitar wore a small, well-trimmed goatee. No one was sure of Savitar’s heritage, but he could easily pass for either Spanish, Italian, or even Arabian.
As always, he was dressed in a long, dark blue flowing robe that reminded Dante of an ancient Egyptian design. But what stood out was the pair of dark brown Birkenstocks on his feet.
"Let me guess," Dante said with a laugh. "The big one is due in on the north shore?"
"Yes." Savitar’s tone was deadly earnest. "So let’s make this quick. I have a board, a wave, and a babe with my name on them and I would like to take advantage of all three."
Savitar left their side.
"Animals. People," he said as he strode through the room with a gait that announced him as the very top of this food chain. "Cop a squat."
Dante grimaced at Savitar’s choice of words. He really hated that expression.
Constantine, an Arcadian jackal, sneered at Savitar, which was a very bad move. "We don’t listen to-"
His words were cut off instantly as Savitar waved his hand in the jackal’s direction. The jackal began gasping for breath as if an invisible hand was choking him.
"You’re a new little punk," Savitar said in a sinister tone as he neared the Were-Jackal. Savitar narrowed his eyes on him. "You’ll learn."
The jackal sat immediately… as did the others. The poor animal continued to wheeze as he rubbed his bruised throat.
Dante was a little more leisurely, but even he knew better than to test Savitar’s extremely limited patience. Savitar’s powers made a mockery of every creature here.
Savitar took his throne, which wasn’t at the table. It was off to the side, much like the seat of a lifeguard… or referee. Rather fitting, since that was why Savitar was here. To guard all their lives as well as those of the people and animals they represented.
Leaning back on his cushioned throne, Savitar passed a bored look to each of them. "Okay, folks and animals, we have exactly forty-two minutes and thirteen seconds until the next great wave comes my way, and I expect this to be finished in time for me to be on my board, waiting for it."
Savitar let out a long-suffering sigh. "But since we have several new faces among us, let me dispense with the ridiculously boring pedagogy… Hear ye, hear ye, welcome to the Omegrion Chamber. Here we gather, one representative from each branch of the Arcadian and Katagaria patrias. We come in peace to make peace." Savitar snorted as if the very thought of that made him want to laugh. "I am your mediator, Savitar. I am the summation of all that was and what will one day be again. I make order from chaos and chaos from order-"
One of the women sneered, interrupting him. "Who is this guy and why do we have to listen to him? Since when do any of us take orders from a human?"
Dante looked across the table to where a petite brunette sat in the Arcadian Litarian seat. The poor lioness had no idea what she was saying.
He half-expected Savitar to zap her into dust.
Instead, Paris Sebastienne, the Katagaria Litarian rep, leaned over and spoke to her. "Hon, he ain’t human. You see Leo over there?" He pointed to the old, gray-haired Arcadian bear who was three seats down from Dante. "He’s sat here on the council for what, Leo? Nine hundred years?"
"Nine hundred and eighty-two, to be precise."
"Yeah," Paris continued. "And Savitar predates him. He has presided over this council since the very beginning, and notice, Savitar looks about thirty. We don’t know what he is, but he ain’t one of us and he ain’t human. And trust me, you don’t want to mess with him."
"Thank you for that highly unamusing summation," Savitar said drily. "Next time I have insomnia, I know who to call. In the meantime, little lioness who would probably like to live another year, don’t interrupt me again. I don’t like it and I tend to kill the things I don’t like."
Savitar indicated the seat to her left that was empty. "That’s where the Arcadian jaguar Regis used to sit. Notice no one’s there now."
The woman frowned as she saw it. "What happened to him?"
"He pissed me off."
She looked confused by that. "Why hasn’t one of the other jaguars taken his place?"
"He pissed me off… big-time."
Paris leaned over to whisper loudly, "There aren’t any Arcadian jaguars left. Savitar destroyed their entire bloodline."
Her eyes widened as she made a large O with her mouth. She cleared her throat and made a placating gesture. "Please, Savitar, continue."
"Yeah-h-h," Savitar said, stretching the word out and inflecting it to show his agitation. He checked his watch. "We’re running out of time, kids." He pinned his stare on Nicolette Peltier. "So why was I called?"
Nicolette stood up slowly to address them all. "Forgive me for wasting your time, my lord. But I have distressing news. It appears we have a Slayer in our midst, and I need help dealing with him, since he is housed in one of our protected sanctuaries. As our laws dictate, I cannot kill him without sanction."
"We’ll be happy to care for your problem," Anelise Romano volunteered. An Arcadian Niphetos Pardalia, or snow leopard, the woman had a glint in her eye that reminded everyone there that women were far more bloodthirsty than the men.
Savitar shook his head. "And who is your Slayer, Lo?"
Savitar arched a brow at that. "Where is Wren? As the last Katagaria Niphetos Pardalia, he has a seat here in the Omegrion. Why hasn’t he taken it?"