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Somehow despite it all, or because of it all, I managed to fall asleep. The pain medicine Gideon gave me possibly had something to do with it. I awoke feeling thirsty and slowly opened my eyes to take in my surroundings. I didn't have to turn around to know Talon was asleep besides me, as I could feel him pressed up against my back, his rhythmic breathing, his arm across my stomach as if he wasn't going to let me go. We'd both crashed on top of the covers, but during the night someone had covered us with the blanket from the other bed. On the other bed, I could see a form spread across it, lying stomach down, arm hanging off the side of the bed, also sleeping by the sounds of his soft snores. Although his face was turned away from me, I could tell by the hair it was Malachi. There was a knock at the door, and I heard a shuffling as Gideon rose from his chair and walked towards it. Out of instinct, I snapped my eyes shut.
I could feel the presence on the other side of the door, and even if I couldn't, I would've figured it out by his southern drawl.
"How is everyone holdin' up?" asked Vincent Crawford.
Vincent was in early forties, stood about six feet tall, with a bulky, muscular build, close -shaved brown grey hair, light brown eyes, and with a trimmed mustache and beard. He was a shifter I met while he was being held for interrogations by the Morgan family. It turned out he was innocent, and was captured along with another shifter named Dorian Striker. Vincent was tracking Dorian to find out the whereabouts of Vincent's sixteen-year-old daughter Sloane. She'd run off with Dorian's brother Darius. I helped convince the Morgan's to let Vincent go, a rather bold and risky move as he could've came back seeking revenge. But I'd known Vincent was not the type of shifter to do such a thing. I gave him five grand, and a tip on the latest location of his daughter back in December. I wondered if he'd found her and how he ended up on the raid in Valle Del Lagarto. Of course now I couldn't ask him that or any questions as I was pretending to be asleep.
"The kids are exhausted. Among other things," said Gideon. "Would like you to have a cup of coffee?"
"Can ya make mine hard up?" asked Vincent.
I could only imagine Gideon motioning Vincent into the room. I heard the shuffle of feet, the pouring of coffee, and the sound of the men placing themselves in the chairs around the small table. There were a few more seconds of silence and the sound of a long sip of coffee.
"How are ya holdin' up?" asked Vincent.
Gideon took a deep breath. "I have no idea what happened. I really have no words to explain what I saw. I consider myself a spiritual man..."
"Then maybe ya should just stop tryin' to 'plain it. My daddy used to say some thin's are beyond our understandin' and rightly so. But I can tell ya what I know. And then I'll tell ya what I believe. I know ya son was dead and Mera brought his life back by givin' him her own. I don't know how and neither does she. But here is what I believe, Mera is the one foretold."
I had to remind myself I was supposed to be sleeping and I managed to catch myself before I made any noises. Instead, I tried to control my breathing and be still. Even though my heart was pounding so hard I was sure Talon could probably feel it if he were awake. I was full of questions. But apparently Gideon knew about the one foretold.
"But that's just shifter folklore. Do you believe in it?" he asked
"If ya asked me that yesterday I woulda said no. After 'night I do."
Silence fell once more. Occasionally broken by the sounds of life. A door shutting somewhere. Tires against the gravel outside. The sound of a coffee mug being placed back against the table. Even Talon taking a deep breath, muttering an incomprehensible word in his sleep, and shifting even closer against me. But his movements caught the attention of the men. There was the sound of the chair moving again.
"Well it's late. I don't wanna wake up the children. But I would like to continue this conversation at a descent hour, Gideon. I guess we all could do with some rest."
"I don't think I'll be sleeping anytime soon. But thanks for stopping by. And thanks again for all your help Vincent. We couldn't have gotten them back without you."
"We're square. Ya don't owe me a thing. Mera saved me. I helped save her. We're even in my books."
I found myself in the same boat as Gideon now. Weary, but unable to sleep. The one foretold was a story told among shifters, almost like a fairytale predicting the arrival of a shifter unlike any other. With powers unseen before. The one foretold had the power to either unite shifters or divide them. To save them or damn them. Many didn't believe. Of those who did, it was divided as to whether this one foretold would be a savior to our people or like a harbinger of death to wipe us out.
I didn't believe in the one foretold. It was just a story told to shifter children at bedtime. My mother told me the story many times when I was a restless little girl, delaying sleep in the way that children do and begging "Mommy please just tell me one more time and I promise I'll close my eyes and go to sleep." She would smile and oblige me, often adding details like when I asked could the one foretold be a girl? One time my father told it to me after my mother just died, and I had cried for hours in the night keeping him awake. He'd not embellished. He just said the shifter would be a powerful man, because women were too weak to ever be granted such gifts, and what a waste it would be.
But what it my mother was right? What if it was not just a story? To me it had always seemed too Harry Potterish or Willow-esq to be real. Both movies I enjoyed in the past, and were centered around prophecies predicting the coming of a hero-like person who would defeat the evil and save their people. It was a common theme throughout history and culture or even religion. Like with the story of Moses, who survived the infanticide of his people which was meant to eliminate him before he could live long enough to bring the prophesy to pass. Instead, he grew into that man prophesied to lead his people out of the slavery of Egypt into the Promised Land. While I knew that Harry Potter and Alora Dannon,(both children who were nearly murdered to stop a prophecy) were just fiction, I did believe the story of Moses really happened. And while I wasn't convinced there was a one foretold for my people, or that I was it, it wasn't too far of a stretch for me to believe I could share a similar fate as Moses. He never got to the Promised Land himself because of his disobedience. I was not an angel. I hurt a lot of people. I had a darkness that lived inside of me. I was no one's hero. If anything, I was a harbinger of death.