The SUV pulled into the Daniels estate, passing the sign that was newer than the one they'd originally had when Lavinia was younger. The five of them were eating ice cream, well Demetrius was drinking a milkshake, as the car came to a stop, the five of them were no longer crying but laughing and appearing to have a generally good time. Lavinia was happy that her siblings now knew about her injuries and what happened to her, she still didn't want them to know the detail and they were okay with that. While they had waited for their ice cream Lavinia had done her stretches and taken her medications. Her body no longer ached nearly as much as it had been, now it was just enough that it was a reminder not to overdo it or she'd for sure be in extreme pain.
"And then Jason landed on top of the ball!" Lex said excitedly as they exited the car, he was telling them about him and one of the other members on the football team who was a Fae playing around after dark on the football field.
"Don't be doing that stuff during actual games. It won't be a week without your powers. It will be life and everyone's memories that witnessed wiped away." Lavinia said, warning her brother as she pointed a finger at him.
"Listen to your sister, Alexander." William said, making himself known from the porch.
Lavinia looked to the porch to find her father and mother standing there, watching the five of them. She noted the solemn look on her mother's face, and that her father had his serious face on as well. Carefully breathing and exhaling Lavinia let her brother grab her stuff, and after they promised to put it on her bed she watched as all of her siblings disappeared into the house. Leaving Lavinia outside with her parents, and after looking over she noticed Gran sitting and rocking on the porch swing.
"Your Grandmother would like to speak with you." William said with a slightly nervous sigh.
"We'll be getting ready for dinner. Eleanora made one of your favorites, and Cinnamon cake for dessert. It won't be done for a while yet, so you should be hungry by then." Alexandria said before glancing at Gran and heading back inside the house, followed by William.
"Sit or stand but come over here," Gran said waving Lavinia over to the side of the porch she was sitting on.
As Lavinia moved, she took in her Gran. None of them looked like Gran, and Lavinia was always confused, growing up at why they didn't know which parent they were related to Gran through. It wasn't until Lavinia was enlisting that she discovered that Gran was not in fact her grandmother, just an elder witch who accepted Alexandria and William who ran from their own warring covens to be together and found Gran who welcomed them with open arms. Gran still looked pretty much the same as she had when Lavinia was a teen. That is what the powerful could do, they started to appear young, when they were actually ancient.
"Hello Gran," Lavinia said as she moved and very carefully leaned down to hug the elderly woman. In return Gran hug Lavinia gently. Maybe she noticed just how Lavinia favored her side and moved just slower than normal.
"You need to eat more, you're losing weight." Gran said taping Lavinia on her left cheek as Lavinia pulled back to a standing position.
Lavinia laughed slightly, before remembering that she hadn't been eating well for the last few months, and then her medicine also had a side effect of making people lose weight. Add on that she'd been taken prisoner and tortured it wasn't strange that yes, she'd lost weight. But she wasn't going to tell Gran that, not if she could avoid it.
"What would you like to talk with me about? Not that wouldn't be nice to just talk with you., Bit I have a feeling you want to have an important conversation." Lavinia said as she moved and leaned against the porch railing facing Gran.
"The elders," Gran gave a sigh before continuing, "The Elders have summoned you before us. You are to stand before the Elders of the fifteen Covens of the Great Lakes."
"It isn't a request, is it? I'm to go whether I refuse or not. What about what happened the last time that I stood before the elders? Or even in the presence of the elders?" Lavinia said turning herself to lean her forearms on the porch banister. Looking out into the yard, and not looking back at her grandmother eyes cast slightly down.
Gran chuckled a little, moments later Lavinia could hear Gran getting up from her seat and moving to stand against the porch banister herself. They were silent for a few minutes before Gran chuckled again, this caused Lavinia to turn her head to look at Gran.
"No one blames you for what you did back then. If anything, you've fully repented, you've barely used magic since, you went off and joined the army. Something happened to you while you were gone, not that long ago, I don't know what but from how Cassandra has been acting she knows, and it isn't good." Gran said slightly shaking her head, "The elders are scared of you. Don't get me wrong about that, but no one blames you more like they have a greater respect for you now."
Taking a deep breath, as deep as she could with her injuries, before exhaling slowly Lavinia went over what Gran had just told her. Lavinia wasn't in trouble per-say, but that didn't mean that what the elders have to say will be good or in her favor. Lavinia just needed to be hopeful that it wouldn't be the end of her.
The next morning found Lavinia waking after a night filled with family and laughter, she'd gone to bed only five hours before. But she'd been told to try and develop a schedule for herself as fast a possible and stick as close to a schedule as she's known to help ease her back into regular life. She'd been gone and on the schedule of the army since she left at eighteen that she knew it would be a process. And Lavinia hadn't a clue what she was going to do now that she'd been discharged. She'd managed to get a degree while in the army, not the easy task but she managed to get an associate degree.
For the morning though she'd try and think the best way she could. That meant running. Using running to think over decisions hadn't started when she'd joined the army, it had started when she was a child. So that is what Lavinia planned to do as she crawled out of bed, her alarm clock blinking 5:00 AM back at her.
Moving silently Lavinia moved around her room, pulling clothes from her dresser or duffel when needed. Taking her medications and checking that any bandages where clean and placed correctly. She was quickly dressed in active leggings, sports bra, and sweater jacket that matched her leggings. She easily pulled on a pair of running shoes. They'd been in a box when she'd entered the room the night before. William said he figured a brand-new pair of Running shoes would be good for her. Her pair before she'd left had basically been destroyed from her running every single day. She glanced in a mirror above her vanity and noted that none of her bandages where visible and if someone wasn't looking for them, she didn't think anyone would notice.
Lavinia quickly laced her shoes up and made her way out of her room quietly shutting her door before making her way to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water to take with her on her run. Once in the kitchen she did the stretches she'd normally do before a run, as well as some of the stretches the doctors had told her to do to help keep her from becoming too sore, especially since she'd been on an airplane for 13 hours the day before. Once she'd finished her stretches it was nearing on six AM.
Once outside Lavinia took a small drink of her water, closed it, and started at a slow jogging pace towards the woods. She'd been in a hospital bed for a while so this was her first run since before, she'd been captured. So, Lavinia slowly eased herself into a faster speed, running on a path her family had made through the woods over the time that'd she'd lived there.
As she ran Lavinia started to think about what had been going on in her life. She wasn't sure what she was doing or was supposed to be doing now that she was home. Or even if the Daniels Estate was even still home to her, she'd been gone for years, and it didn't truly feel like home anymore. As she thought about all of that, she noticed movement in the corner of her eye.
"What the?" Lavinia said whispering to herself, quickly bringing her running body to a stop.
"Who's There?" Lavinia said at a normal volume, she could feel her magic pulse around her slightly trying to protect her against any possible attacks, now that it was allowed out again it didn't want anything to happen.
Finding no one around her, Lavinia started running back to the house, constantly monitoring her surroundings as she ran. A few brave strands of her magic moved around her and checked for threats as well. It was as Lavinia broke the tree line and was almost back to the house that she felt a slight pain in her side, and from one of her legs. Groaning slightly Lavinia realized she'd definitely overdone it and she wouldn't be able to hide injures now.
Begrudgingly Lavinia made her way inside, doing her best to hide she was feeling pain in her side or her leg. she now realized maybe she shouldn't have even gone for a run by herself, maybe she should have taken some D with her, waited for somebody else to get up. Her injuries from previously right now causing her to grimace pain in the slightest movement.
Lavinia barely made it into the kitchen before her mother, Alexandria, noticed her. Alexandria's head and immediately tells him slightly to the side probably noticing that Lavinia had her arm tightly clutch to her side and that she was walking with a very slight limp. There was no way 11:00 yet hide any of her pain.
" Are you hurt? "Send Alexandria stepping forward towards her daughter, having set the coffee she was holding on the counter. " Did you get hurt on your run? "
"No, Mom don't worry I'm fine. I just need to get up to my room "said Lavinia, doing her best to avoid her mother.
Heather Alexandria was looking at Lavinia, living you noticed her mother's eyes darting to spots that were only noticeable if someone was actually looking. Alexandria was seeing all of the spots in which living you had bandages wrapped to either cheap is closed, or two help with knee pain and they live in Lavinia's ribs.
"You are extremely hurt aren't you. Were you hurt yesterday, when I hugged you? Is that why your father loosens the hug I was giving you. Why didn't you say anything?" said Alexandria.
"Vinny are you all right what's going on?" said Demetrius as he entered into the kitchen, seeing his mother carefully holding her hand away from touching Lavinia.
It appeared that Alexandria was afraid to touch Lavinia and feared that she didn't know what Lavinia's injuries were or if touching her would cause her any more pain or injury.
"Demetrius, did you know that Lavinia was injured?" said Alexandria and she turned to look at her son. looking at him in the face that Demetrius made Alexandria appeared to realize that living I had told her brother but not her parents that she was injured. " Do any of the others know? "
"Yes, everyone except you and dad knew. Grand figured out when I was talking to her on the porch last night." said Lavinia as she made her way over to a stool at the counter and carefully sat herself down. within that moment that Demetrius and Alexandria truly see how much pain living he was actually in, especially with change contorting Lavinia's face she sat.
"How am I supposed to have you try on dresses, you're injured and pay?" said Alexandria as she moved to the fridge to grab an ice pack out of the freezer. Demetrius moved over to Lavinia's side moving a chair to help her proper leg up.
" Why do I need address?" says Lavinia she accepted the ice pack her mother was handing her. Demetrius accepted an ice pack from Alexandria as well and placed it on living is label Lavinia held her ice pack to her ribs.
"For the party obviously." said Alexandria with a shrug Addison she moved to open the cupboard and start pulling spices and herbs out.
"Why are we having a party? what are we celebrating?" said Lavinia turning her head slightly avoid trying not to move her body any more than she needed to.
"For you're welcome back of course. What weren't you expecting a party?" said Alexandria as she pulled out a mini cauldron and placed it on the stove. "you've been gone for over 60 years, and we're very influential family and we're very important in our community and not just the human world but also the magical. I wouldn't mean throw a party and invite everyone when you're returning home for the first time in so long. "
"When was I going to be told about this?" said Lavinia what's an exasperated sigh before she turned her head to face her brother again. Demetrius gave Lavinia a sorry look with a shrug.
"Today, you were going to be told today. When Penelope brought you some dresses to try on. Penelope has been working very hard over the last couple years to make dresses. after all it would make sense for you to try on dresses now so any alterations can be done by the time of the party." Said Alexandria as she started to throw things into the pot.
"What are you making?" said Demetrius as the smell from the pot started to reach them.
"oh, this is just something that will help with any as wounds heal up faster or at least until the party. And then after the party I can finish healing the wounds." said Alexandria with a shrub as she continued to throw things into a potting mix it.
"It smells disgusting." said Lavinia.
"Is supposed to heal you not smell good." said Alexandria sharply.
Demetrius helped Lavinia up to her room and then promptly left the room after Alexandria said they'd need to have Lavinia more or less undress. Lavinia laughed at her brother's uncomfortable face, then groaned because laughing irritated her wounds and was causing pain to course throughout her side.
"This paste would normally work best if I'd made it yesterday, so wounds won't be healed at the best rate but you won't be in pain anymore. I'll make another batch and after the party we can finish healing your wounds." Alexandria said as she helped Lavinia remove her shirt.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but what about scars? I earned them, some days I may not want them but I think I might need them to remind myself of what I've been through." Lavinia said looking down and biting her lip slightly, as they removed her bandaging.
"I can't get rid of the scars, at least not entirely. If we'd used the salve right away, you'd have no scars at all. But since you've had the wounds, and they've healed on their own you will still most likely have scars as if you'd healed naturally." Alexandria said in explanation as she started to spread the murky brown paste onto Lavinia's arm.
The two of them worked in silence as Alexandria and Lavinia each took some of the salve and covered Lavinia's wounds and spots of pain. Eventually Alexandria helped Lavinia into a pair of shorts and the two coated her leg in the salve as well.
"Let the salve stay on for at least two hours and then take a shower." Alexandria said looking down at Lavinia with a soft smile, yet Lavinia still couldn't look her mother in the eye. "I love you, my little Vin."
After Alexandria left the room Lavinia sighed and laid out on her bed. Lavinia knew she needed to talk with her mother, but she wasn't ready, and she wasn't sure Alexandria was ready to have the conversation either. For now Lavinia would lay and let the salve work its magic, or her mother's magic, to heal her. Then she'd go to her sister to try on a dress.
Lavinia sat watching as person after person walked through the front doors of the manor, everyone was dressed in general formal wear, it wasn't a ball but it also wasn't an everyday party. It wasn't often that the eldest child of one of the most prominent families in town returned from the army. A crystal sat on her desk making her vanity mirror glow with images from downstairs. Tomorrow she'd meet with the council, and this evening she'd endure her welcome home party. The town had even put it in the paper that she was returning, Cassandra had walked into her room and handed her a stack of newspapers dating back four months all the way to the day she'd informed her family of her return date. The town paper, No One Press, had placed on the front page a spot for the countdown of her return home.
Cassandra had told Lavinia that the website had a countdown clock to her return and one for the party that evening. The thing was Lavinia wasn't sure she even wanted to step down those steps and join everyone she'd practically ran away from when she'd joined the army. No One, Michigan viewed her as a princess since she was so little. Then she joined the army, and the entire town rallied behind her after she said she wanted to help people in a way she couldn't there. Only a few knowing part of the true reason she wanted to help others in any way she can. The mayors daughter was one of her best friends and the only person she'd seen in person since leaving six years before. And she is the one person Lavinia wants to see and didn't appear to be walking through the doors. The other half of her duo, that used to be a trio.
"Lavinia, are you ready?" William asked knocking on his daughter's bedroom door.
"I look ready," Lavinia said signaling her father to enter the room.
"Vinny, you look wonderful." William smiled at his daughter pulling her to her feet.
"Thanks daddy," Lavinia whispered glancing down at her simple black and navy dress.
"If you want to leave during the party it's okay darling, I know you haven't a been dealing with these type of events since you've been gone. I appreciate that you're attempting to go, for our family." William said into her ear as he guided her to the door. The two paused so Lavinia could mutter the reverse incantation to stop the crystals spell projecting the image of downstairs before they making their way to join the rest of the family that were heading to the stairs. Everyone in the family arranged themselves so that Lavinia stood in the center at the top of the stairs, their parents bracketing her, and the rest of the siblings below on steps descending in age order. Once they were all completely in place all music ceased and everyone shift their attention to the family standing to speak.
"Welcome into our home everyone, thank you for joining us this evening. Tonight is so special to us, our eldest daughter..." William spoke pausing for his wife to speak.
"Our Eldest child," Alexandria added emphasizing eldest as she spoke.
"Has returned home. Our family for the last six years has been apart; Lavinia away with the army, Demetrius is graduating early from MIT this Fall and hasn't been home much since he went off for school this is first time he's been home since Christmas..." William said.
"Penelope has been abroad on a tour studying sewing, Cassandra started assisting at No One Press and is learning about journalism and news reporting, Alexander joined the wrestling team..." Alexandria said smoothly.
"Our nest has been feeling very empty especially these last few months. We thank you all for waiting until today to come over, I know several of you could barely contain yourselves with the return of the children. Yesterday was the first full day we've had with our children in six years, and we got that to ourselves. We learned so much about the last Six years of Lavinia's life...We almost did...didn't get to have our daughter come home again. She protected herself and her brothers and sisters in arms until rescue could get to them. Our daughter almost didn't come home, but she survived. And thanks to her, so did those she guarded and bandaged." Said William who was quickly wiping tears from his eyes.
"I speak on behalf of our town, thank you for your service Sergeant First Class Lavinia Daniels. And Welcome Home." Mayor Akron spoke stepping from the crowd.
"Welcome Home." Everyone said together raising their glasses toward the Daniels family.
As the family descended the stairs several people; Mayor, the Sheriff, teachers, police officers, Lawyers, etc. moved forward to greet and try to speak with Lavinia. They were all pushed to the side by one tiny, 4 foot 9 Inch blond haired green eyed Madeline Akron. Madeline's head brushed against Lavinia's chin as she wrapped herself around her best friend.
The party was in full swing, food had been served and now everyone was dancing and drinking and chatting away. Lavinia took that time to sneak out the back door, Madeline had gotten roped into a conversation with her future mother in-law about Madeline possibly running for mayor in a few years. So Lavinia was choosing to sneak off and get out of the crowded house. As Lavinia moved through the back yard, past the greenhouse that held mostly herbs and fruits and vegetables year round, passed the patio, the garden, she made it to the edge of the yard she started to follow a path threw the wooded area.
She walked until she arrived at a clearing she knew well, Lavinia had played there many times, only having ever brought two others with her to this spot. The clearing came with its own play mates for her and her best friends. At the center of a clearing proudly stood a weeping willow. Near the tree was a small ring of mushrooms, Lavinia knew that if you got really close and looked at the mushrooms you'd find small symbols on them.
Lavinia stops midway across the clearing, slowly her eyes sweep over the rest of the clearing, her eyes don't make out any figures. When her eyes make it back to the circle of mushrooms she moves closer at a sedate but cautious pace. 'Someone's around, watching me, but why?' Shaking her head Slightly Lavinia made it to the mushroom circle, looking for one of the mushrooms she wanted, now finding it she tapped three times while chanting:
"Friend of Fae I am"
"Guard this clearing oh Fae"
"Trust in me your Fae Friend"
Each tap alights a small burst of light from the circle; The first tap gave off a white light, the second a light green light, the last tap sends out a small ripple of magic along with a violet light. Small traces of Lavinia's magic mix with the magic the Fae have left behind, adding to the protection of the clearing. Those who are friends, are protected and safe while those who may try to hurt are expelled from the clearing and its surrounding area.
"Tell the Fae I'm sorry I was gone so long, but now the spell should be stronger. They can congregate here safely again. My mother and father believe in peace, this is their land, as long as Fae harm none they are welcome to stay." Lavinia said looking up at the willow tree.
Lavinia turns to leave when a small surge of magic sparks near her. Laying on top the mushroom sat a ring, made of silver and gold leaves. With a smile Lavinia walks back to the ring and places it on her right hand. From her wrist she places a gold bracelet with a single blue stone onto the mushroom and watches it disappear in a spark of magic.
"Have a good evening, enjoy your dance under the full moon tomorrow." Lavinia smiles walking back to the manor.