Quinlan handed the note Josep had given him to Fane, who seemed to be just as overcome with both a mixture of grief and happiness as Quinlan himself was. He was glad Talon and Javier were tending to the man because right now his thoughts were focused on his own war waging inside of him. Grabbing Josep’s arm he walked over to Ingrid and the others. Quinlan looked into the sea green eyes of Josep and asked, “Is he truly safe?”
“He is… or at least he was when I left him. I’ve left men that I trust completely to keep watch over them both.”
Ingrid stood beside him and Quinlan smiled when she spoke. “Tell the rest of you men to come into the open. If what you’re telling us is true than they have nothing to fear.”
Josep cupped his hands to his mouth, let out a whistle making the perfect echo of the Nightjar’s call, it wasn’t long before the three other men in question walked out of the darkness.
“My men are Conner, Vayne & Andrej. They come with me only as protection. Once I’ve established the note is truly from Consort Brayden, and you will cause me no harm they’ll head back and help our friends look after your kin.”
Ingrid tapped Quinlan’s hand and he got the message. His royal bodyguard believed them, nodding he spoke. “We’ll not harm you. I want my husband back and you are the one who knows his exact whereabouts. Will you and your men help us rescue him?”
“Yes, that’s the reason I’ve come, but we do have conditions.” Josep sounded nervous. “When all is said and done, then me and my men—all of my men will be returning to the High City of Panthea with you. We have all sworn to protect and serve the old ones. All three known to us, and the others who will come to us for protection.”
“Others?” Quinlan asked. He couldn’t even begin to fathom there were more shifters out there among them. How had he not known this?
Josep smiled and nodded, “We were once the children of Varnuse. We studied the ancient ways of how life was before everything changed and our histories were forgotten. There’s more than just the shifters of this family line. There are five in total: cat, which is in the Caldwell lineage. There are also wolves belonging to the Wharden lineage. Avian shifters who were born into to the Aarondyte lineage. Sea creatures belonging to the Waterford lineage. The fifth is a rare lineage who can take the form of anything.”
“And which lineage do they come from?” Quinlan asked. All of this was news to him. Once home he was going to make sure he was brought up to date on everything. Right now he’d have to settle for the crash course on the species he never knew about.
“I do not know,” Josep answered, “we never did work out just who they belong to. Al we do know is they exist. I can’t even tell you how many they even number.”
Talon stepped forward. “Is there a way of finding out?”
Josep shrugged, “Through study.”
Quinlan groaned in frustration. “So you’re basically telling me we need to find these other lines of old ones and bring them in under our protection.”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Once we’ve rescued your kin, and return them safely home you’ll need to search out the others who’ll eventually need your protection. It was once said long ago the sentinels of the high city would be the ones to mate and protect the old ones. So for every sentinel you have, I can guarantee there’s an equal number of old ones out there in hiding and waiting to be found.”
“Shit!” Quinlan scrubbed a hand over his face I have twenty-four…”
Fane interrupted, “Twenty-five… I was a sentinel when Thayer was king.”
Josep, Vayne and Andrej all nodded. “Five sentinels for each sect of old ones.”
“So that means there’s still two more of my kin out there somewhere.” Javier looked in shock.
“I wonder who your mate is.” Talon asked sadly. When Quinlan turned and stared at him he continued. “It can’t be me because I’m not a sentinel. I’m just a palace guard.”
“No! Talon you’re my mate. We’ve bonded, it cannot be anyone else” Javier grabbed his arm, pleading with his strange eyes. “I only want you.”
“Then I guess that throws out your theory,” Quinlan turned to Josep.
“No, my theory holds true. King Thayer belongs to the last generation of old ones. So that means that you have twenty-four sentinel plus Talon who is apparently meant to be one.”
“But I’m the king and no longer a sentinel. So your theory is still wrong.” This was all making Quinlan’s head spin. And right now they didn’t have time to debate this. He had a mate to rescue.
Andrej coughed and said, “That’s because you’ll recruit yet another sentinel who will mate with your son… I think.”
Fury rushed through Quinlan at the man’s words. “No one will be touching my son.”
This brought a snicker from some of his own men. And Quinlan knew he was being an arse, but just the thought of someone laying claim to one of his children was ludicrous.
“King Quinlan, we need to get you hidden before Tondran finds this place.” Ingid urged.
Quinlan shook his head. “I hide from no one.”
“Master Brayden.” Brayden came awake to someone shaking his shoulder. His mind was fuzzy and it took him a moment to realise Lucas was talking to him. “Wake up Brayden. Tondran and Ormand are back in the compound. Vayne just got back with a message from Josep. King Quinlan and his men are getting ready to come and rescue you, but for now it would be wiser if we spirit you away from here.”
Brayden pushed himself into a sitting position. His stomach ached at the thought of Quinlan coming here. Josep had been gone for just on two weeks. More than once it had crossed his mind the man had been killed, but Lucas’s words gave him new hope.
“Where are you taking me?” he reached for his father’s unconscious body. “I can’t leave my father behind.”
“Your father is also one of ours to protect. The children of Varnuse will hide you well until we can take you to your rightful home.” He smiled, “Now come. We need to be away before Tondran decides to follow through on the execution of King Thayer.”
They were the exact words needed to get Brayden moving. His distended stomach no longer fit in his clothes so he welcomed the robe one of the men held out to cover his nakedness. “Thank-you.”
The young man smiled and bowed in his direction while he took a careful hold of Brayden’s arm to steady him. Brayden watched as another man gently picked up his father, and led them from the room. He wasn’t going to look back on what had been his home for the past few months. Leaving behind the confines of this cell was the first step in the rest of his life. A life he so desperately wanted to share with Quinlan.
As they stole along the corridor a thought struck him. “Lucas, who are the children of Varnuse?”