Blood Ties: The Third - Sneak Peak
I am working hard on getting Blood Ties: The Third finished and I know a lot of people have been asking me when it will be coming out. Unfortunately, all I can say at this point is sometime later this year. However, to tide all my loyal fans over, I am posting the entire first part, Remember, here. Enjoy and please remember, this has not been edited yet and will most likely change a bit when it is finalized. As always, spread the word! I would love nothing better than to have millions of people reading my books!
Blood Ties; The Third - Part One....Remember
“How does she fare today?” Alrich asked as he glanced at his granddaughter’s bedroom door. He could hear the sounds of someone talking on the other side but it was too faint to make out.
“She’s deteriorating quickly. She barely eats or drinks and she hasn’t come out of that room in almost a month,” Deirdre informed him. She looked like a wreck. Her eyes were tired and there was an air of depression hanging over her.
Alrich knew that it was merely a watered-down version emanating from Kendra, her alpha. An alpha’s personality and emotions would oftentimes be transferred to members of their pack, especially if that alpha happened to be strong. In Kendra’s case, Alrich hasn’t seen a stronger alpha in over three centuries. He thought she could even rival his own power.
“You look exhausted. Go, get some rest. I will keep watch over Kendra,” Alrich told her.
Deirdre felt a measure of relief and nodded.
“Thank you,” she told him, bowing. She walked away and headed to her room. Then she stopped and turned around. “Oh, and Jenna’s in there. She’s been in there for almost an hour trying to get Kendra to talk.” A look of concern crossed her pretty features. “It might get...intense.”
Alrich smiled charmingly.
“I feel confident I can handle matters but I appreciate your concern. Now go. Sleep.”
Deirdre wasn’t overly convinced of that as she felt a phantom tingle of pain in her jaw from the brutal punch Jenna had landed on her the other day. The girl might look like a runway model but she threw punches like a professional boxer. She didn’t hold it against the knight, however. At the time, she had been trying to pull her and Kendra apart the last time she visited and got sucker punched for her trouble. She hesitated a moment more.
“Sleep, lady. Do not make me force you to leave. The experience might not be pleasant,” Alrich said with a smile, his eyes flashing white-blue for a moment.
“Just...,” she started. “Make sure she’s okay. Make sure she knows we’re all here for her.”
“It shall be done,” Alrich said.
Deirdre gave a last, lingering look at Kendra’s door and then turned and walked off. She headed to the room she shared with her son, Patrick.
Alrich watched Deirdre until she was gone and then turned toward the door. He didn’t open it though. Instead, he just listened for a minute or two. He heard the knight, Jenna, speaking but there was no response from Kendra. Only silence. For the most part, that was all there was from her nowadays. No matter how hard anyone tried, she would barely speak. She would almost never engage in conversation and would hardly move. Alrich was, to put it mildly, getting sick of it. He knew the pain of loss, perhaps better than anyone, but Kendra was an alpha. She was responsible for her pack and it was time she started acting like it again.
The shout was sudden and incredibly loud. It was enough to jerk him out of his own thoughts.
“You don’t care! You never cared! You hated him! You hated him being with me! You don’t have to worry anymore because he’s DEAD! He was murdered right in front of me!”
Alrich heard something crash against the wall.
“Stop, please!” He heard Jenna plead. “I’m sorry he died but you can’t keep doing this to yourself. Conor wouldn’t want that.”
“Don’t you dare use his name like that! I never want to hear you say it again! Never! Now get out!”
Kendra was crying as she yelled. Alrich could hear the despair in his granddaughter’s despair and his heart went out to her. He wanted to help but he also wanted her to be stronger. Her strength was the only thing that would allow her to survive Bendis. In fact, her strength might be enough to take the goddess down for good, something he had never been able to do himself and if he was honest with himself, he wanted that very badly. He was tired. He was tired of the goddess finding new and more painful ways of hurting him. Losing...them...had been painful enough but now she managed to take another son from him.
Anger flashed through him at the thought of Merle’s death but he pushed it down and fed it to the dull fire of the rage always simmering deep inside him.
Your time will come Bendis. You smell it too, I bet. It’s in the air. The thought was a pleasant one and he suddenly smiled.
The bedroom door suddenly opened and a disheveled Jenna appeared. Her eyes were red and tears stained her cheeks. She glanced at Alrich for a brief second before she rushed past him. He watched as she ran down the hall for a few seconds and then he walked calmly into Kendra’s room. He found her on the bed as he suspected. She looked much worse off than Deirdre had been. To put it simply, she looked like a wasted, ruined shell. Her eyes held no depth. They looked empty of everything save grief. It was so thick, he could almost physically feel it roiling through the air as he walked in. She was thin, her face gaunt and hollow, and she had pulled herself into a fetal position.
“Go away,” Kendra told him the second he walked into the room. “Now is not the time, Alrich.”
“I am afraid I have already dedicated myself to staying and even with your incredible strength and ability, I will not be dissuaded.” He smiled at her, his eyes gentle. “I have been told by nearly everyone you care about to give you space and let you grieve. I have respected their wishes but I believe it is time to take up your mantle once again and resume your duties as alpha.”
“Maybe I wasn’t clear before. I’m done. I’m finished. I’ve lost too many people and I just can’t take it anymore.” Kendra spoke earnestly, her face a mask of pain and loss.
“And yet if you continue to do nothing, more people will die. Your friend Jenna for instance. Your mother, perhaps. Maybe your brother. If there is one thing I have learned in my long life it is this. There will always be consequences for your actions, good or bad. Even giving up and doing nothing,” Alrich told her. “Are you prepared to accept that?”
Kendra shot up in her bed, her eyes flashing amber with her sudden anger. She glared at Alrich.
“What I am is because of you! The people I’ve lost. My father and mother. Conor. My pack. I lost them because of you,” Kendra yelled vehemently. “They were your choices. And now I am dealing with the consequences of your actions. Not mine. So, don’t sit there and lecture me. I don’t want or need to hear it.”
Kendra laid back down and turned her back on Alrich. Her words stung but he moved past them.
“That may be true, granddaughter,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “I fell in love. I let that blind me for a long time and when I was finally able to see again, I chose to merely walk away. That choice has had disastrous consequences. I have spent my existence trying to rectify them.”
“I hate to break it to you but you aren’t doing a very good job of it,” Kendra told him.
Alrich let the jibe pass. He wasn’t a petty man by nature, so it was easy for him to ignore Kendra’s hate-filled insults. He merely nodded his head at her in affirmation.
“She has been elusive,” he stated with a little chuckle. “You have heard the history yourself, I presume?”
“Conor told it to me,” Kendra replied flatly.
“And I am sure he was quite thorough, but history has a way of eroding over time. Its edges begin to lose definition and events that used to be so clear become blurred and foggy. Let me tell you the full story,” he told her. “Let me tell you the real truth. Maybe then, you will understand that you and I are not so different.”
“Just go away,” Kendra told him.
“I am afraid once I set my mind to a task, I can be quite stubborn about it. I will not depart. I will tell you this story and you will listen.” Alrich’s eyes flashed with white-blue light as he glanced at Kendra.
There was a spark of resentment and anger burning in her eyes. She tried to maintain it but something coming from Alrich caused it to wilt and die.
“Whatever,” she said, laying down and turning her back to him again. “Do what you want but I’m not going to listen.”
Alrich took a deep breath and began his story. He talked for a good twenty minutes, going into finer and finer details concerning what happened so long ago. His memory, unfortunately, was nearly perfect and allowed him almost total recall. Faces he almost wished he could forget surged up into the forefront of his mind and brought a tear to his eye.
Kendra saw it there but instead of empathizing with his pain, it just enraged her. It only served as a reminder of what the bitch goddess has done to not only her but her entire family.
“I tracked the dragon to its lair after it slaughtered my men and fought it there, defeating it with a thrust to its heart. That’s where I first saw Edolie,” Alrich was saying but Kendra, was so focused on her own thoughts and anger that she wasn’t paying attention.
“Most people are more impressed when you tell them you fought an actual, real dragon,” Old One said from the doorway.
Alrich turned around.
“Your input is not needed here,” he said.
“But you’re going to get it anyway. You think just telling her what happened is going to snap her out of it?” Old One asked.
“Get out. Both of you,” Kendra said. “Leave me alone.”
“I’m fine here,” Alrich replied. “I think I can get through to my granddaughter on my own.”
“You can’t, now just go!” Kendra said, exasperated.
“She doesn’t know what she's talking about,” Alrich told his friend. He grew apprehensive the more the Old One remained. He liked to “help” situations. It was something he learned about the old wizard throughout their long years together. It was true there were times where his help was invaluable, however there were other times where things ended in disaster. He didn't want to risk it when it might cause his granddaughter undue suffering.
“Yes, I do,” Kendra replied angrily. “I do know what I'm talking about and I know that I want to be left alone!”
She was yelling and as she did, tears ran down her cheeks again.
“For the last time, go away.”
“You are upsetting her,” Alrich reprimanded. “You should leave.”
“You should both leave,” Kendra said. She sounded like she was on the verge of a total emotional breakdown.
“No, no. Trust me. This will help. She doesn’t need to hear your story, although it is a good one. I keep telling you to sell it to Hollywood. They’ll eat that shi...uhh...crap up. What she needs now, though, is action! Fighting! An outlet. Here, you'll see what I mean.”
“Don't...,” Alrich tried to say but before he could even get the word out, the Old One blinked.
Kendra, who had been trying to sleep, suddenly flipped onto her back. Her body stiffened up as rigid as a board. Then her eyes snapped open. They glowed with an intense, bright light that continued to expand until there was a blinding flash that filled the entire room. Old One raised his hand to shield his eyes. When the light died down enough to where he could see again, Alrich and Kendra were gone.
He looked around in confusion.
“Uh…that wasn't supposed to happen,” he whispered to himself. “Where the hell did they go?”
He left the room and almost crashed into Deirdre.
“Apologies, Old One.” She bowed respectfully.
“Ugh. I hate that name. I honestly don’t know why Alrich kept calling me that. I mean, do I look ‘old’ to you? Just call me Merlin.” He took her hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it softly.
“M-Merlin? As in, the Merlin? King Arthur’s Merlin? The greatest wizard of all time Merlin?” Deirdre asked, shocked. She knew the man was powerful but she had no idea who he really was.
“The one and only. By the way, Arthur was an asshole. Just saying. Never really listened to a word I said. But that's beside the point. You wouldn’t happen to know where Alrich and Kendra are, would you?”
“Aren't they still in there?” Deirdre asked, confused.
“‘In there’ might be a loose term right now.” He did air quotes around “in there” and smiled innocently at her.
“What did you do?” she asked, her voice tinged with anger.
“You know, I really don’t like your assumption that it was my fault,” he told her.
“Was it?” she asked.
“Well, yeah, but I still don’t like you assuming it was me,” he replied. “Honestly, that’s a bit rude, don’t you think?”
Deirdre ignored him and went inside the room. The bed Kendra had been living on for almost a month was now empty. She whirled on Merlin.
“What happened? Where are they?”
“You see, here's the thing. I don’t know. I tried to connect her to Alrich's memories to show her the awesome fights he got in when he was first turned, then the next thing I know, she's flipped onto her back and her eyes are glowing white. There was a flash of light and bam…gone. Both of them,” Merlin explained.
“Kendra. Her power must have warped your spell somehow,” Deirdre said, mostly to herself.
“Her power? What power would that be exactly?”
“I don’t know. No one does. She hasn’t exactly told anyone about it. She's our alpha though, so we can feel it flowing into us at times.” Deirdre looked thoughtful.
“What does it feel like?”
“It feels like...like...control, I guess. Like my mind can fly out and overwhelm another’s.” Deirdre looked almost scared. “I cannot really do it though. It just feels like I can.”
“That’s the most interesting thing I've heard in a long time,” Merlin responded. “So she has a power not connected to either her being a werewolf or magic. And an incredibly strong power at that.”
“Ok well that’s great you find it interesting but where the hell is she?” Deirdre asked. “The vampires could attack at any moment.”
“I don’t have the slightest clue, tbh.” He shrugged. “I used that correctly, right? Tbh means to be honest? The whole acronym thing is both annoying and really fun to use.”
“Tell me you're joking,” Deirdre practically yelled. She restrained a very strong urge to punch him in the face. “You just magicked our alpha and your friend away and you’re hung up on acronyms?”
“Why would I joke about something like accidentally making your alpha disappear? That would be rude, don’t you think?” Merlin looked frustratingly calm. “I’m sure they’ll turn up somewhere, safe and sound.”
“How do you know for sure?”
“Because, they’re werewolves, duh. Also, Alrich’s immortal anyway.”
“He is? And you didn’t think to say anything before now?” Deirdre asked through gritted teeth.
“Naturally. And I just assumed you all figured that part out for yourselves. I mean, he is really, really old, even for a werewolf. But that’s besides the point. It’s an insignificant fact. What I want to know is what that power was. That is something useful. I’m sure of it. If I can just figure out what it is, it might be able to take even Bendis by surprise. Gotta use the good ol’ noggin again.” He tapped the side of his head and smiled broadly but Deirdre didn’t smile back.
“What about Bendis? If she finds Kendra now, with her like...like she is, she won’t be able to defend herself.”
“No need to worry. I doubt Bendis wants to tangle directly with Kendra. I’m sure she’s aware of our girl’s weird power and besides, she can’t directly kill a Bane-blood.” Merlin started walking down the hall and Deirdre walked next to him. There was a look of confusion on her face.
“I remember Kendra saying something to that effect during the cafeteria raid but I didn’t know what she meant,” she said. “Why can’t Bendis kill a Bane? She’s a goddess.”
“Sorry. She can kill a Bane, she’ll just die too. The magical curse she placed on Alrich was tethered to her pretty strongly. When I changed the curse, that tether became attached to the Bane family line. If she did anything to them, the effect would bounce back and hurt or kill her too.”
“Even though she’s an immortal goddess?”
“Especially because she's a goddess. Think about the recoil of a gun. The smaller the gun, the less recoil it has. The bigger the gun, the stronger that recoil is. Well, a god or goddess is one huge ass gun. Their own power bouncing back onto themselves is like getting blown up with about two dozen nukes. Can you withstand two dozen nukes?”
“Ok. that makes sense,” Deirdre replied. “So how do we find them?”
“I’m sure she’s fine. It appears her power was subconsciously activated when my magic was brought forth. She didn’t look as if she intended to do what she did so that’s the only conclusion I can draw. The most important thing to remember now is this. It wasn’t my fault.” Merlin smiled cheerily.
“I really want to hurt you right now.”
“I get that a lot,” he replied.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
Kendra was in a dark place, cold and completely alone. She didn’t want to use that word because all it seemed to do was remind her that Conor was gone, but it was the only word that would do. His face flashed inside her mind, over and over again. His smiling face. His angry face. His goofy face. His sad face. All of them flitted across her mind’s eye so rapidly, she barely had time to process them. But it was time enough for them to hurt her deeply. Each one was like a cut to her soul that wouldn’t heal and just bled and bled and bled. She had been struggling to her feet but her strength suddenly went out of her and she fell to her knees, tears streaming from her eyes. She hated that she was crying but she couldn’t stop herself either.
She had not been able to stop herself for almost a month now.
Weak! Quit being such a girl! You need to be strong now. You need to be strong so you can kill Drake and his vampires and bring Bendis down. Sobbing like this is not going to help!
The words inside her head were harsh but she couldn't deny their truths either. No matter how harsh they were, however, she just couldn’t bring herself to get out of her bed. Whenever she tried, she would see his face again, or remember his voice, or remember the way his hand felt when it caressed her bare skin, or how his lips felt against hers. Then the despair, sadness, and pain would all come rushing back in, overwhelming her with ridiculous ease. She had to hand it to the goddess, she supposed. Despite not being able to harm her directly, she knew how to make her hurt.
She is a goddess. She’s had plenty of time over the millenia to figure it out.
And hurt her she did.
Conor’s face, his loving, sweet face, was there again and again she felt the pain like a dagger to her heart. It smiled at her and she saw the love in his eyes, so clear there like it had been in life. She’d never had anyone look at her with such undying, unyielding love before and the thought of not seeing it ever again was like a new wound the dagger had opened up in her soul. She collapsed all the way to the ground and just laid there, not wanting to move or do anything at all.
“What’s this now?”
The voice was so clear. So present.
She jerked up at once, her heart hammering inside her chest like a war drum.
It was impossible but at the same time it was his voice. She would know it anywhere.
Then a light flicked on and she flinched away from the sudden brightness and pain in her head. She threw an elbow across her face and forced herself to sit up.
“Ms. Henner?” The voice was tentative and slightly weary.
At first, Kendra couldn’t place it. The voice was familiar but at the same time not. Then it clicked and she made herself get to her feet.
“Pope,” she said. Her eyes had finally adjusted to the light and she lowered her arm. In front of her, giving her a somewhat weird, confused look, was the man she had rescued from the blood hunger and taken into her pack.
“Is there something you need?” he asked. “I wasn’t aware that you would be coming. After, uhh...after everything that happened I thought you might need some time.”
“N-no. No, sorry. I..uh...I just wanted to check in on you.” That was, of course, a lie. She had no idea how she got to her father’s tattoo shop but she guessed it made some kind of sense. Whatever the Old One had done to her, something inside her had twisted it and taken her to a place she had always regarded as safe.
“I can assure you there are no pro…”
He was interrupted by a sudden, loud and coughing whoompf! A second later, the whole building shook.
Pope whirled around, his face a mask of shock and a grim determination. Then his wolf exploded out of him and he ran into the shop’s main lobby. Kendra took a second to gather her own wits and when she got some measure of composure back, she let her own wolf explode out of her. She rushed into the lobby, following on the heels of Pope, and ran right into a cloud of smoke and fire. She could hear Pope snarling and growling at...something...near the front of the shop. A few of the other wolves living at Bendis Tattoos had come down when they heard the explosion and joined Pope in fighting whatever it was he was fighting. She couldn’t really see anything with all the smoke but she could smell it.
It smelled of smoke and fire, whatever the thing was.
“밖에 나오지 않으면 모두 죽는다!” a voice shouted.
The person shouting was outside on the street in front of the shop. Kendra wanted to focus on the person controlling the thing attacking her father’s shop first. She even started running toward the source of that voice but something large and seemingly made of fire suddenly got in her way. It looked like a medium-to-large size dog but flickering, orange-yellow flames were erupting out of its fur. Its eyes were a blazing eruption of yellow flames that tinged toward red in their centers.
“겁쟁이! 너 자신을 보여주기 전에이 친구들을 죽게 놔둘거야?” the voice screamed from outside. “좋아. 모두 살아서 불 태워라.”
Kendra watched the fiery dog whimper again, its fiery eyes dulling somewhat for a second or two before bursting into even brighter flames.
I get it, Kendra thought.
The fire dog wasn’t the real threat. It was being used and judging by the pain it was obviously in, not by its choice.
Kendra growled at the fire dog and bared her teeth. The fire dog did the same to her and then it charged at her. The fire was intense, hot, and immediately painful but she ignored it as she swiped one of her giant paws at it. She connected but the blow was a weak one only meant to shove the creature to the side. Even so, it hurt. Its fiery fur was ridiculously hot but she bore the pain so she could create the opening she needed. Once she had it, she took off for the front door and burst through its shattered remains to stand on the sidewalk outside. As expected, her wolves were helping to keep the fire creature preoccupied while she dealt with the real threat.
It was a man or woman of slim build, wearing a long cloak with a hood that mostly obscured their face. They floated maybe a foot above the ground and confirmed her suspicion that some kind of mage was behind the attack. No doubt another one of Bendis’ pawns.
That thought just…
She shifted back into her human form, her eyes glowing with white light.
“I am getting sick and tired of Bendis’ little puppets always coming to fuck up my life and my shit!” Her voice was a loud, booming sound that hurt the ears of the person attacking them. “You really made the wrong choice in backing her!’
Kendra’s words were twisted and corrupted as her alpha state transformed into a monstrous wolf/human creature out of a twisted nightmare. She ran full out at the mage standing in front of her, hell bent on really tearing into them and hurting someone else for a change. Her focus was entirely on the mage so it was a shock when something rammed into her side and sent her tumbling off to the side and rolling across ground. She slowed her momentum by reaching out a hand letting her claws scrape into the asphalt.
She let out a loud roar at whatever hit her but it died in her throat a second later.
The attack had come from one of her own wolves.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
Alrich was disoriented at first as the effects of the Old One’s magic wore off. When he could focus again, he found himself in front of an old, crumbling mausoleum. A name was written on the outside and it said simply, Bane. He put a hand up to its door as memories swirled inside him, threatening to undo the careful grip he had on his emotions. Faces of his beloved wife, daughters, and son from a life he remembered all too well. He let out a somewhat sad sigh, took out the cell phone still in his pocket and dialed a number.
The person he called picked up almost immediately.
“Yo! Where the hell are you?” Merlin asked.
“You sent me to them,” Alrich answered, his voice gruff and angry. “What would possess you to send me here?”
“About that,” Merlin responded. “You can blame your granddaughter for that. I’m not sure of the particulars but she has a power inside her that twisted my magic and made it do what it wanted to. Judging by where you ended up, I’m assuming a place where you both felt safe or some shit like that.” “My granddaughter’s power?” Alrich asked, confused. “What does that mean?”
“She’s got something inside her that’s insanely powerful, perhaps more so than my own magic considering it was able to warp it the way it did.” Merlin’s voice was, as usual, irritatingly calm and without concern.
“I don’t understand any of this,” Alrich said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Just send for me and hurry up about it. There’s no telling when Bendis will strike again and if my granddaughter is alone and unprotected, I doubt highly that she will waste the opportunity.”
“Yeah, that’s tr…,” Merlin was saying but then a bunch of noise and shouting drowned him out. Then he started talking to someone else. “What’s going on? Seriously? Damnit!”
“What has happened?” Alrich asked.
Merlin didn’t answer him. Instead, a circle of glowing light suddenly erupted underneath Alrich’s feet. Then he was falling through an empty space Merlin called the world between worlds. It was, for the most part, an empty, white place. He wasn’t in there for long, barely even a second, and then he was on solid ground again. There was a moment of disorientation but it only lasted for a little while. His eyes were able to focus again and he was staring at Merlin’s obnoxiously cocky face. Around them, things were in chaos. People were rushing around and the yelling and shouting was getting out of hand.
Ian suddenly ran past them and Alrich reached out a hand to stop him.
“What’s happened?” he asked.
“There’s a fire at the tattoo shop. We think Bendis is targeting it,” Ian explained, his deep voice gruff. Then he ran off, following after four or five other wolves that appeared to all be heading for the front doors or the door leading to the garage.
“You think we should help out?” Merlin asked, his voice heavy with humorous sarcasm.
“You tax my patience, wizard,” Alrich replied back, but he did so with a small smile. “Come on, old friend. Let’s go.”
Merlin smiled back and then gestured at the ground. The same circle of light appeared and they both stepped into it. When they came back out, they were in front of Bendis Tattoo. Both of them were blasted by a wave of heat so intense, they had to shield their faces. Merlin whispered a word and then the heat suddenly disappeared. He took down his hand and there, in front of him was an invisible wall that was holding back the worst of the flames and heat.
Alrich took one second to assess the situation and then the wolf inside exploded out of him in a massive wave of magical energy that pulsed out of him in a glowing, white-blue ring. Then a massive, white-furred wolf with icy blue eyes was standing there with teeth bared, looking around and assessing the situation.
Everyone and everything suddenly froze as they stopped to stare in wonder at the huge wolf standing in front of them. Just to ensure everyone got the message, Alrich roared so loudly that the ground and buildings actually shook.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
Kendra got back up, shocked at first that one of her own would attack her. She thought she must have been mistaken but no, there was the wolf, putting themselves directly between her and the hooded person. The wolf was a smaller one with glossy, black fur and luminous amber eyes that stared at Kendra with regret and shame. She knew the wolf. His name was Ye-Jun and she thought him loyal like the others but obviously, she had been wrong. He was a betrayer and obviously just another one of Bendis’ puppets.
She stalked toward the black-furred wolf, her huge, clawed fists clenching and unclenching as she did. Behind her, dimly, she could feel the heat of the fire dog but it was a minor thing and it barely even registered on her consciousness.
Ye-Jun shifted back into his human form but completely ignored Kendra, focusing instead on the shadowy form of the hooded figure. His slender, naked body was bathed in the red/orange light from the fire dog. He stood firm and unyielding, his face looking solemn. Almost sad. The other members of the beta pack were fully awake now but like everything else, he ignored them. They had come down and burst out onto the street in their wolf forms. There were four of them, their large heads swinging back and forth, trying to figure out what was going on. One of them had to roll around on the ground because the fire dog had set her fur on fire.
“Go! Put out the fire!” Kendra commanded, gesturing at the wolf on fire. The other wolves rushed to obey and soon it was put out. The wolf was okay and quietly regenerating her singed skin and burnt fur.
“나는 당신과 함께 갈 것입니다. 그냥 내버려 두세요.” Ye-Jun suddenly asked.
“나는 당신을 위해 여기에 왔습니다. 아니에요. 지금 나와 함께 가면 괜찮을 것입니다,” the hooded figure responded. Their voice was soft and decidedly feminine.
Kendra had no idea what language they were speaking but if she had to guess, it was something Asian. Japanese or Korean, she thought. The two continued talking, their words coming out fast and heated. There was a lot of arguing and the fire dog had broken away from the wolves it was fighting to try and attack her lone wolf again. It was a foot or two away from him but before it could attack, one of the betas suddenly flew out from the side and batted the fire dog away. Then all four of them went racing after it again. To Kendra, it looked like they were playing with a toy. She turned her attention away from the wolves and the fire dog and back on her lone beta.
What the hell is going on? What are they saying?
Seconds after she had that thought, her eyes glowed white and the words the two were saying started twisting and morphing until they weren’t the Asian language anymore but English. She marveled inwardly at the new and interesting application of her powers.
“After what you’ve done, this is what you deserve,” the hooded figure shouted. There was an intense, burning hatred in that voice.
That statement and the depth of hatred she heard gave Kendra pause. She stopped on the street, wanting to listen more to what was happening between the two.
“I understand,” the wolf returned, his voice full of the sadness she could plainly see in his eyes. “Do what you must but do not punish my friends. They had nothing to do with my actions.”
Kendra was starting to get a better understanding of what was going on now. Her anger melted away and concern took its place. There was a past between the hooded figure and her wolf and judging by the wanton destruction going on, it wasn’t a pleasant one. This was about revenge and about satiating someone's desire for it.
“What is this about?” Kendra asked with her alpha state’s gruff voice, applying her power to make it seem like she was speaking their language. Or at least, she hoped that’s what she made it do. She was still so new to it and controlling it seemed more unconscious than anything else. She walked toward them, ignoring the fire dog completely and stood in both their way.
The hooded figure turned toward her. If she was surprised to find her speaking their language, she did not show it.
Kendra’s wolf turned around, his face a mask of sorrow. He was handsome with black hair and exotic, Asian features. An elaborate, orange and black tiger was tattooed on the right side of his neck. He turned his dark eyes on Kendra and locked gazes with her.
“Please, leave us,” he said. “This is my fault and I must accept the consequences, alone.”
“You know I can’t do that. You are my wolf, Ye-jun. I am your alpha.” She turned to the hooded figure. “You hear that? He’s mine.”
“This does not concern you, Kendra,” the figure responded. She said her name with such familiarity that it threw Kendra off.
“Who are you? How do you know me?” Kendra asked.
The figure threw back its hood and a pretty Asian girl was revealed. She had shorter hair and wore glasses. Her eyes were narrowed in anger at the Ye-jun. Except that was not quite right. It wasn’t just simple anger, it was pure and absolute hatred.
It took her a minute to place the woman but after prodding her memory a little, she finally did. She was a mage from the Defaeco Order. She’d seen her maybe three or four times over the last couple of months.
“You’re Mina, right?” she asked. The girl nodded. “This attack breaches the treaty with your Order. Do you know what you’ve done?”
“Please,” Ye-Jun said. He looked at her with quiet pleading. “This has nothing to do with you or the rest of the pack. Leave me to my fate.”
But Kendra wouldn’t accept that. She couldn’t accept it. There was so much loss already she had to deal with, she wasn’t about to add Ye-Jun to the list. The despair and depression that had overwhelmed her for the last month was abruptly burned away by white hot rage. Her eyes glowed bright amber and she turned her terrifying gaze on Mina.
“Ye-Jun is of the Bane Pack. Leave now and I will forgive you your trespass and the damage you’ve done to my property,” Kendra explained. The words came out harshly as they worked past her alpha state’s gruff throat. She didn’t like using force to get her way but she would do anything to protect her pack.
Images of Conor streamed past her mind again and the hurt was nearly enough to bring her to her knees. The last one she saw was a grim, nearly perfect picture of his death. She worked hard to push them out of her head and it was one of the hardest things she had to do.
Be careful, a voice whispered inside her head.
Her eyes widened in shock.
“Conor?” she said, her voice so low the others couldn’t hear her. She looked around but, of course, he wasn’t there.
She shook her head to clear, tried to control her rising emotions, and then turned her attention back to the mage.
“You need to listen to Ye-Jun,” Mina said. There was so much hate in her eyes that Kendra found it hard to look at her.
“This is insane. You would put the entire peace we have in jeopardy for what? Revenge? What’s Ye-Jun to you?” Kendra asked.
“He’s my brother!” Mina screamed, tears streaming down her face. “And he murdered our family!”
“W-what?” Kendra stammered. She looked at Ye-Jun for confirmation but he just hung his head in shame. He couldn’t even bring himself to look at his alpha. “Is this true?”
He didn’t say anything and that was enough for her. If she wanted to, she could pluck the information from his mind like a ripe fruit but that would’ve been overkill. She had no need to go that far.
Ye-Jun looked at his sister.
“Trying to control a fire creature must be hurting you, sister. It goes against your nature. Release the bul-gae and leave the rest alone. Once done, I will go with you.” He turned to Kendra again. “Let her take me. It’s what I deserve.”
Before anyone could responde, however, there was a bright flash of light and then the largest werewolf anyone had ever seen was suddenly there. Its fur was purest white and it looked down on everyone with icy, white-blue eyes. Standing next to it, looking like a child’s toy compared to the wolf’s sheer size, was the Old One. There was a cocky smile on his face and amusement in his faded green eyes.
The big wolf roared loudly. The ground and buildings shook lightly.
There was a second, maybe more, when nothing happened. Then the bul-gae let out a couple of yipping barks and actively tried to attack Alrich. To his credit, Alrich didn’t bat the little creature away even though it would’ve been very easy. The fire dog’s flames were too weak to do him any serious harm. Instead, he simply laid a paw on the fire dog’s tail and pinned it in place. Merlin stared at the whole process and then yawned, as if bored.
“That about do it?” he asked everyone and then yawned again.
“What are you doing here?” Kendra growled. “I can handle this, Old One.”
Merlin made a show of looking around. There were flames everywhere and Bendis Tattoos was smoking horribly. It billowed out of the open front door and the shop’s broken windows. The smell of burning wood was heavy on the air and it was thick enough to make those present choke on it.
“You look like you’re doing a bang up job of that,” Merlin said.
“Just go away, both of you. I think you’ve done enough,” she shot back right before a band of smoke overwhelmed her and made her start coughing.
The distraction that Alrich and Merlin caused was enough for Mina to grab Ye-Jun and teleport away, leaving the bul-gae behind for the rest of them to deal with. After awhile, the fire dog seemed to calm itself and its flames died down completely. What was left was what looked like a normal, run of the mill dog with tan and white fur. It stared at everyone with its tongue lolling out, then trotted up to Kendra with its tail wagging. It sat on its haunches and looked up at her, tilting its head to the side in curiosity like every other dog on the planet and not one that was made of fire that burned everything it touched.
Kendra shifted back, petted the dog’s head, and then turned all her fury on Alrich and Merlin.
“What the fuck?” she yelled.
The four remaining members of her pack fell in behind her, half of them back in their human forms while the other two remained wolves. Each one had a grim, determined look on their face and stared hard at the newcomers. Even the ex-fire dog had a fierce, protective look on its face and placed itself in front of Kendra. For whatever reason, the little creature seemed to like her.
“Now the mage took Ye-Jun and I have no idea where he is. I’m sick and tired of losing people!” She stormed up to Alrich, who was still in his massive wolf form. She grabbed the fur on the side of his face and yanked it down toward hers so she could look him in the eyes. She ignored the sudden gasps of shock from her wolves when she manhandled the Prime Alpha so disrespectfully. Apparently, his reputation was well known even to them. “Go back where you came from! I don’t want you here. I don’t need you here.”
She released Alrich’s face and turned away from him to stand with her pack. Her grandfather’s head drooped somewhat but then he turned and nodded to Merlin. The circle of light reappeared underneath them after a bright flash of light, they disappeared. She turned around and walked back over to the bul-gae and her wolves. They were all looking at her expectantly, as if waiting for instructions. In the distance, sirens could be heard and cars coming their way. Within a few moments, about half a dozen other members of her pack were coming to a stop in various vehicles. The first one out was Ian and he came rushing over to her, his head darting everywhere, trying to find the source of the threat. His eyes went right over the bul-gae the first few times. Then he sniffed, finding an unfamiliar scent and glanced down at the dog.
“A bul-gae?” he asked, somewhat shocked. He leaned down at the fire dog with an interested look as Kendra accepted a long coat from one of her betas and covered up. “These are very rare. How did you get one?”
“She was led here by a rogue mage,” Kendra explained. “Mina Pak. She’s with the order.”
“What? Why would the order attack us now?” Grady asked.
“We didn’t,” a voice suddenly said from behind them. “We’ve actually been tracking her for a few days now.”
Kendra turned around and saw Elijah standing there, his stocky frame backlit by the flickering flames still eating away at Bendis Tattoos. Abraham was next to him but he turned away and focused his attention on all the fire. His palms suddenly lifted and glowed with soft, green light the color of spring grass. The ground around their feet abruptly rumbled with soft tremors and then a cloud of sand and grit suddenly lifted into the air and then flowed around and into Bendis Tattoos. A few seconds later and the fires were all out. Abraham lifted his palms again and all the sand and grit he used to suffocate the flames came flying out again and settled back where it came from.
“We apologize, Kendra,” Abraham said. “We do not know what Mina’s end goal is. She hasn’t been the same since the attack at Bishop Media and the mansion. She became distant and her partner, Willie, expressed concerns.”
“I know why she came here,” Kendra said. She walked over to Elijah. “She came here for Ye-Jun Pak. He’s one of my betas and he’s Mina’s brother.”
Elijah’s eyes widened.
“No,” he whispered.
“What do you know?” Kendra asked.
“We don’t know a lot about what happened to her. Mina hasn’t provided much in the way of details or motivation for joining the order but over the years, I’ve done some digging. The order needs to know as much about our members as possible. It helps us avoid those with less than ideal motives,” Elijah explained. “We investigated before her she allowed in and found out that her entire family was slaughtered by a creature. She wanted to help protect people and when her magical powers manifested, we found her. But I suspected she wasn’t entirely honest. I fear that she has found the true cause of her family’s demise and wants her vengeance.”
“You could say that. According to Mina, it was Ye-Jun that killed their family,” Kendra said. “She abducted him to kill him and I swear Elijah, if that happens, you can consider the truce between us over. You’re lucky I don’t end it here and now. She’s one of yours, after all, and she attacked one of mine. That’s in direct conflict with the treaty we worked out.”
“Kendra, be reasonable. You know Mina is not working under the Defaeco’s direction. She’s gone rogue. Besides, with everything going on right now, you can’t afford to lose any allies.” Elijah didn’t mean the words to come out as a threat, but it hung there nonetheless.
“Be careful what you say,” Kendra warned. “I don’t respond well to threats. Just ask your old friend Jonah.”
Elijah let that slide past without comment. There was nothing he could say or do that would allow her to forgive him for Jonah’s sins. There was nothing he could do that allowed him to forgive himself either. What Jonah did to him and to his...well, he should have seen it and stopped it but Jonah had thoroughly fooled him. That was his shame and he would have to live with that for the rest of his life.
“I’m not threatening you Kendra. I would never do that,” Elijah tried. There was something different about her. Something that he didn’t quite like. There was a dangerous sense of anger and an edge of harsh brutality to her that wasn’t present before. He wasn’t sure what that would mean for the future of the Defaeco or her own pack, but he knew it couldn’t be good.
“Well here’s a threat for you then,” Kendra said, her voice harsh and unyielding. “Find Mina and bring me back my wolf or we go to war again.”
“No one wants justice for Conor’s death more than us, Kendra, but you can’t be serious,” Ian asked, grabbing her arm gently. “This is not the answer.”
Kendra yanked her arm out of Ian’s grip, her rage blossoming like an explosion behind her eyes. With it, images of Conor’s death came too and that just stoked the fires of her hatred more. The last image she saw was of Drake Harper, the vampire king, and the look in his eyes as he murdered the love of her life.
Anger is poison Kendra. It is toxic and will only corrupt you. The voice whispering inside her mind was Conor’s again.
“Stop it!” she suddenly screamed, tears at her eyes. “Leave me alone! You died! You left me!”
Everyone present suddenly stopped to stare at her, some with open shock and others with nervous, uncertain gazes.
“Are you okay?” Anya Kors asked her. She came up to Kendra’s side, clearly worried.
Kendra shrugged her off as well and just walked away, realizing what she must look like to them.
“Just find your water mage and my wolf Elijah, and things won’t need to escalate.” Kendra didn’t even turn around as she said this. At her heels was the bul-gae, its tongue lolling out and its tail wagging happily.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
“What are you doing?” Pope asked Kendra.
She turned to look at Pope, the dark, raven tattoos on the sides of his head seemed to shimmer in the light coming from overhead. And he was also still naked from the fight. Embarrassingly naked.
“Don’t question me. Ever.” She glanced at...all...of him but showed nothing on her face but irritation, despite the more awkward feelings she might be burying at the current time. “And go put something on.”
Pope nodded once and then left her.
Kendra didn’t have any clothes at her father’s old tattoo shop but she borrowed some from one of the betas, a girl named Amara. She was a bit larger on top which made the shirt she wore tight and uncomfortable, but it was better than roaming the city wearing only a coat and nothing else. She glanced around, waited to make sure she was alone, and then picked the wedgie out of her butt. Unfortunately, the shorts she had to borrow were also a little too small for her...assets.
She left the shop and started walking, not sure where to go first. Ye-Jun and Mina’s scents had vanished when the water mage teleported away. Fortunately, a scent wasn’t the only trick up her sleeve. With her powers awakened, she can use those instead. She was bonded with the members of her pack and the betas more than the others. What she did to free them of their blood hunger had created a stronger bond than she realized at the time. Finding Ye-Jun should be simple if she just concentrated but she needed a quiet place where she could get some measure of peace. She walked for a long time until she came to a small park a block or two away from the shop. It was dark and empty. The night air was cold too but she wasn’t affected by it too much. She went to a small gazebo in the middle of the park and sat down in it. After she got comfortable, she closed her eyes and let out a slow breath. She concentrated on what she wanted and reached for the power inside her. It was different than the power of her wolf. This power was much stronger and colder, somehow. It felt like the cold depths of a massive ocean.
Ever since the incident at Bishop Media, she’d felt that massive ocean underneath the surface of her conscious mind like a living thing and it scared her. It was deeply routed and hard to ignore but she forced herself to shove it aside regardless. Once that was done, she felt the power rising up. The placid depths suddenly roiled and frothed until she could feel their waves pushing back at her. Her eyes snapped open, pouring white light that was pure and bright. The world around her fell away and darkness surrounded her. Pulses of that same, white light radiated out of her like the ripples of a pond. They flew through the entire city, edge to edge. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the city but to her, they were just pinpricks of light so she ignored them and continued her search. In total, it took about twenty minutes to finally get a sense of Ye-Jun. He was on the west side of the city being held in the basement of what looked like an old school.
The light faded from her eyes and she slowly got up. She slipped out of her borrowed clothes and set them on the ground. Then she shifted into her wolf form. She gingerly grabbed the clothes in her mouth and then loped off. She raced through the city, keeping to the side streets and the areas of the city that were mostly deserted at that time of night. Within fifteen minutes, she was standing in a shadowed area across the street from the old school. It was a crumbling, old building that had a rusted, chain link fence circling it with signs reading “CONDEMNED” every few feet. Inside, she could feel Ye-Jun, she was sure of it. He wasn’t doing good either. She could feel his pain like it was her own but for her, it was just a dim echo. She was able to brush aside that pain and focus on getting him out of there. Mina was a strong mage and it was going to be hard to take her down long enough to get Ye-Jun out but she was going to do it.
And she needed to be quick about it.
The threat she leveled at Elijah was an empty one. He was not a stupid man but he was also a cautious man. He would try to find Ye-Jun himself at some point but not before he went through an hour or so of deliberations with the higher ranking knights and mages of the Defaeco Order. Which should give her just enough time to get Ye-Jun back without the Order’s interference.
She focused on the building again and concentrated her power on it. Ye-Jun was still in the basement but she was having trouble pinning down Mina’s presence. The water mage didn’t appear to be in the building with her brother.
“You couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you?” Mina suddenly asked from directly behind her.
Kendra whirled around, her giant wolfs’ paws splashing in several puddles. She growled low in her throat. It was a menacing, rumbling thing that would’ve terrified an ordinary person. But Mina was not ordinary. She was a water mage and a part of the Order. She knew about monsters and dangerous creatures and other things straight out of a nightmare. And she was a mage on top of everything else.
Kendra shifted back and faced Mina as a human.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
Mina didn’t answer at first. But she was crying. Kendra could see the woman’s tears. Then she started talking.
“You know I honestly admire you, Kendra. I believe in everything you stand for but in this, you cannot interfere. Did you know that Ye-Jun was my favorite brother? He is only a year older than me so we would play a lot together. He even fought a guy that was bullying me. I loved him so much.” She stopped talking when her voice hitched. “But then he was turned by our father to fight as a wolf. I would have followed but my magical abilities manifested first and you can’t be a wolf if you are a mage. We were proud of Ye-Jun though. He fought for humanity with all his strength. He believed in the fight. Believed in it like you do. Then...then…”
For a few moments, Mina couldn’t go on but she screwed up her face and forced herself to anyway.
“Then one day I came home from college and they were all dead, slashed and brutally savaged. Among the dead bodies was Ye-Jun, crazed and covered in blood.” Mina couldn’t stop the tears flowing freely from her eyes and didn’t even bother.
“You don’t know the full story,” Kendra said.
“What does that even mean?” Mina asked.
“It’s not my place to explain. You need to talk to your brother. Ask him to tell his story. Once you hear it, then you can decide what you want to do. But as his alpha, I cannot let you kill him,” Kendra told her.
Mina apparently didn’t like that notion. Without warning, she attacked. All the water around them whirled and flew up into the air in mini-cyclones of devastating power. There were four of them and Mina sent them all at Kendra at the same time. They gouged furrows out of the asphalt and sent chips of rock and dirt at her.
Kendra had to jump back and away, otherwise she would’ve been blasted by the force of the cyclones. She shifted into her wolf and raced around them, trying to find an opening and a chance to incapacitate Mina. The water mage was difficult though. She moved around like she was water. Her moves were fluid, graceful even. Whenever she got close, Mina would just dodge and whirl away. On one such occasion, she left her flank open and Mina blasted her in the side and sent her flying away.
Kendra was fast though. She was back on her feet in an instant and already coming for Mina, but she was gone. Even though Kendra had recovered quickly, it still wasn’t fast enough to stop her from teleporting.
Fuck, she cursed inwardly.
She turned around and ran for the school building, plowing completely through the old fence, across the school’s weed-choked grounds, and completely through its dilapidated doors. She already knew where Ye-Jun was, so she found the stairs leading down and headed to him. She just hoped she would get there in time. Whatever Mina intended to do to her brother, it wasn’t going to be pleasant for him. She couldn’t stop the anger surging up in her. It was like a raging river, swollen with flood waters and it was all she could do to not completely lose herself to it. It was hard though. All she wanted was to let that anger and rage wash over her and consume every part of her. She imagined what it would feel like sometimes, when she was alone in her room and there was no company for her except the dark and her own thoughts.
Most times, she thought giving into the rage would feel like freedom.
It was the voice again. His voice. Conor’s voice.
Instead of focusing on that voice, she ignored it. All it could do was reopen the devastating wound that still festered inside her and bring more pain and misery. Her eyes stung, even in her wolf form, as the tears started. They blurred her amber-colored vision but that did nothing to slow her down.
Not going to lose another one, she told herself. She repeated it over and over again, reinforcing those words in her own mind and giving her the motivation to fight.
She ran down the stairs, as fast as a bullet shot from a gun, and raced through the halls until she found the room where Mina was keeping Ye-Jun. Over his head was a bubble of water that was clearly drowning him, his legs kicking and jerking. The tips of his shoes were scraping across the floor and fat droplets of water dropped from the bubble.
Kendra ran straight for Mina, dodging the water mage’s various assaults with ease, and collided with her head on. With her attention diverted, the bubble around Ye-Jun’s head fell in a wash of water that puddled and splashed at his feet. He collapsed on the ground, coughing wretchedly and half-vomiting on the floor. His eyes were rimmed and red and he could barely speak.
But he did speak.
“St-stop!” Ye-Jun coraked out. “Please. Just stop. Both of you!”
Kendra could hear the desperate, pleading tones to his voice. It was so earnest that she backed off and shifted back into her human form and glared at him, furious.
“I am here to rescue you, idiot,” she snarled.
Mina looked about to attack Kendra with a blast of rushing water, but Ye-Jun stopped her as well.
“Just stop, sister,” Ye-Jun told her. “No one needs to get hurt or die here except me.”
“It’s what you deserve!” Mina said, sobbing. “After what you did.”
“He didn’t have a choice!” Kendra screamed, sick of Mina’s stubbornness. “You know that! Your family comes from werewolves, right? That’s what you said.”
She stared questioningly at Mina until the mage nodded her head in agreement.
“Then you know about the blood hunger. You know what it can do,” Kendra said. “But I took that part away from your brother. I shoved it out. He’s not that person anymore.”
Mina looked shocked by that. She turned to Ye-Jun.
“What is she talking about?” she asked, confused.
“I cannot tell you. I do not know,” he replied, his voice still hoarse and slightly cracked. “The blood hunger was there, a monster that chained me, body and soul. All I wanted was blood and flesh. If I didn’t get it, I would go half-mad with the need for it. But then we attacked Kendra and her pack and lost. Instead of killing us, she...she did something.”
Ye-Jun stopped talking and looked at Kendra for help.
“It’s complicated,” Kendra supplied. “I was able to remove the blood hunger from not only Ye-Jun, but the rest of his pack too. I don’t really know how or why it happened but it did.”
“I don’t understand what that means,” Mina replied, her voice so sad and full of such grief. “He m-murdered...them...my family.”
She seemed to deflate then and all she could was cry. The tears flowed freely and she didn’t even bother trying to wipe them away. Ye-Jun clearly wanted to embrace his sister, to comfort her, but he knew she would never accept him. Not unless she knew the whole truth.
“Tell her,” Kendra said to Ye-Jun. “Tell her the whole truth.”
“I cannot,” he replied. “It will sound like an excuse and I will not accept that. There is no forgiveness for my crimes. No matter what the circumstances were. I will accept my punishment and you must let it be. This is what I want.”
Mina looked at her brother.
“Then I will hear the truth of what happened to you,” she whispered. She was still crying and the words came out so softly that they could barely be heard. “What is Kendra talking about?”
“This will not change any…”
“Tell me! Tell me now.” Mina’s shout was sudden and loud. It echoed throughout the dirty, water-stained room. “I will know the truth about why you murdered our family.”
“I-I c-cannot…” Ye-Jun tried to say.
“Please,” Mina begged. “Tell me why my family had to die.”
Ye-Jun looked at Kendra for help but the alpha would say nothing.
“This truth will only bring you more pain. Are you sure?” he asked, hoping Mina would tell him not to go on but his sister was relentless.
“Ever since I saw you on the security footage from the Bishop Media attack, I’ve wanted nothing else. So do it. Tell me the truth. All of it.” Mina said.
“It was father,” Ye-Jun said, his voice so full of old pain that his words were thick and barely recognizable. “He...uh...he lost his mind to...to...the.”
He stopped talking, unable to go on. Kendra, of course, knew the whole story already. She had forced each of her new wolves to tell her exactly how and why they succumbed to the blood hunger. She commanded every detail, small or large, and forced them to tell the story to her over and over again. It was one of the prices she exacted in order for them to join the Bane Pack. After Drake’s betrayal, she didn’t want another of her wolves to die because she was careless. It had been hard. All she wanted to do was stay in her bed and let her depression sweep over her until nothing was left but darkness. But before that depression could wholly cling to her, she’d at least been smart enough to get the full story out of each of the betas. Ye-Jun’s had been particularly...hard...to hear.
“...the blood hunger,” he finally managed. The words were almost too soft to hear. “I don’t know how or why. Shortly after my tattoo, I started to suspect something was wrong with him. There were times where I kept smelling blood on him. Human blood. I tried to talk to mom about it but she warned me not to say anything. I wish now that I would have listened to her but I was a wolf. I was bound to protect humanity. It was our purpose.”
He looked up at Mina with eyes bright with unshed tears.
“I tried to stop him but I failed. I failed and because of my failure, he forced me to..to..kill Ok-Young first. He bled her and forced it down my throat. After that, I wanted...more.” The tears finally dropped from his eyes. “I can still hear her screams in my dreams as I ripped her apart. The others died quickly after, falling to my teeth and claws. They tried to fight back but I was stronger. In the end, they all died.”
Mina was shaking her head back and forth, not wanting to believe him. Her breath hitched in her throat and it looked like she was going to physically choke on her sobs.
“What about...about...father?” she managed to get out.
“Him too,” Ye-Jun replied, his head hanging down. He couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eyes. “After Ok-Young, I went after him first. Most of me was gone by that point but even so, I was able to turn my blood hunger on him. He tried to fight me off, tried to shift too, but I bit into his neck first. He couldn’t shift after that and I tore him apart until nothing recognizable was left.”
He said this last part with an intense but distant rage in his eyes. Kendra was perhaps the only one that could really understand what he’d gone through. Her own mother had tried to kill her. It’s true that she had been under the control of a rogue fire mage, but she hadn’t known that growing up. She only found out the truth seven or eight months ago. Ye-Jun must have harbored many of the same feelings she’d had growing up. Of course, he was lost to the blood hunger for most of those years so she wasn’t really sure how much of Ye-Jun had really been there to do any actual thinking.
“I promise you, that is the whole truth,” Kendra said. “I have seen it.”
“How? How can you say that?” Mina asked.
“That’s complicated.” Kendra replied. “Very complicated.”
“Ye-Jun, I-I’m so sorry,” Mina said. Then she went to her brother and gave him a hug. “I’m sorry father did that to you.”
As they were embracing, about ten mages teleported into the basement room they were in, including Jenna and Felix.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
“Where are you going?” Felix asked, scratching nervously at the bottom of his shirt. He was doing whatever he could to not look directly at Kendra’s nakedness.
The two of them were outside now. The air was cool against her skin. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, relishing the scents of the city around her. In her despair, she’d forgotten how much she enjoyed being outside at night.
“Back to the mansion. I have an old wizard that really needs a lesson in manners.” Kendra opened her eyes again and walked away. She managed to find the clothes she’d brought in her mouth near the destroyed section of fencing and put them on. They were a little torn here and there but mostly ok. She turned on Felix after she was done. “What are you doing here?”
“We got a call from Ian. He said there was some trouble with one of our mages and that we needed to take care of it.” Felix looked at the devastation, from the wrecked fencing to the caved in front doors. “I guess you took care of things first then?”
“It was a misunderstanding,” Kendra said. She was being snippish and wouldn’t really look him in the eyes. If she looked him in the eyes, he would see her pain and then she would see his sympathy. His pity. She didn’t want that. She couldn’t handle that.
“What about Mina? Is she...uh...ok?” Felix rubbed at the back of his head, messing up his dark hair.
Kendra did look at him this time, her eyes narrowed with indignation and anger.
“Are you serious?” She snarled the words at him and Felix flinched nervously. “Just who do you think I am?”
“It’s not that. It’s just..um,” he finished lamely, not able to continue.
“Let’s not forget that your mage attacked my wolves, unprovoked. Even if she had been killed, we would have been completely within our rights. But did we?”
He looked confused at first when she looked at him expectantly. It was only after a few seconds did he realize she was actually expecting an answer.
“N-no?” he guessed.
“No. That’s right. Good job. Maybe if you get the next question right, you’ll get a cookie.” She looked at him, disgusted.
“He’s just asking because he has to. He didn’t exactly get a good look at what was going on in there before you took off.”
Kendra turned at the sound of the new voice and saw Jenna standing there. She was, of course, absolutely gorgeous despite the fact that she was dressed head to toe in tactical gear. Her blond hair was done up in a thick braid that fell over her left shoulder. Her bright, piercing blue eyes stabbed at Kendra’s own and her lips were pulled into a firm, humorless line.
“One of yours attacked one of mine. That’s what happened,” Kendra shot back. She didn’t bother to bite back her anger. She let it out in full force. It was a harsh, withering thing but Jenna had gotten used to it over the last month.
“Is that what it takes to get you out of that damn bed. If I’d known that, I would’ve tried it weeks ago.” Jenna was going for joking but her voice ended up sounding bitter instead.
“Shut the hell up,” Kendra hissed.
“What? Don’t like hearing the truth now?” Jenna asked, sarcastically. “I’ve been trying for weeks to get you out of bed and back in the fight but nothing worked. I’m just saying that if I’d known this was what it took, I would’ve tried it first.”
Kendra got right up in Jenna’s face, their noses almost touching.
“What’s your problem?”
“My problem?” Jenna looked at Felix and laughed. Then she whirled back on Kendra. “My problem is that while you were just sleeping the days away, our people have been out there trying to fight these fucking vampires and dying! We’ve lost two dozen more knights and five mages since you’ve been twiddling your fucking thumbs in your big ass fucking mansion behind your magical, fucking shield!”
Kendra didn’t say anything for a long time. Her rage was written in every inch of her face. For a moment, Felix thought the two of them were going to fight right then and there.
“Go...to...hell,” Kendra breathed. She said each word separately. “Who’s the dumb bitch that let Drake Harper walk right into the Defaeco Order? Who’s the dumb whore that let Drake Harper slaughter and turn dozens of knights? And who’s the one that let Drake Harper kill Conor!?”
This last one came out as a shriek that was almost unintelligible.
Jenna didn’t respond. There was a flicker of what looked like guilt in her eyes but it was gone in the next instant.
“I know there is nothing I can say to atone for what happened but you have to understand, no one knew what Drake really was. Vampires have been gone from the world for so long we had no idea. How long are you going to hate me?” Jenna’s voice lost all anger and there was only sadness left. She looked at Kendra with a desperation that was painful to see.
“I’ll forgive you when Conor walks back into my life. I’ll forgive you when he breathes again and his heart beats once more. Until then, all I want from you is silence and for you to leave me the fuck alone.”
With that, Kendra spun on her heel and left her behind. She walked over to Felix, grabbed his hand, and yanked him after her. When the two of them were far enough away from Jenna, she closed her eyes and called for Ye-Jun.
“What do you..” he tried to ask but Kendra shhed him.
After a few minutes, Ye-Jun came out of the condemned building with someone’s jacket wrapped around his waist. Mina was with him, her face worn and haggard with all the crying she’d done. When the two of them got to Kendra, Mina whispered something in her brother’s ear and then walked away. She went to the others of the Order, gave her brother a final look, and then disappeared in a wash of water.
Ye-Jun had tear stains on his cheeks but he seemed otherwise okay. He was in one piece at least, more or less.
“Are you okay?” Kendra asked.
He didn’t say anything but gave her a slight nod.
“Good. Felix, take us to the mansion,” Kendra commanded.
Felix looked at Jenna, a look of such awkwardness and discomfort on his face. Jenna gave a barely perceptible nod, giving him permission to do as Kendra asked. The next second, a whirlwind rose up around the three and then they were gone.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
Merrick was ushered into the cabin by a skinny man with light brown skin, a shaved head, and large golden hoops dangling from his ears. He was accompanied by a woman that looked so much like him that they had to be related at the very least, although he had a feeling they were actually twins. The cabin’s interior was spacious, rustic, and quite cozy. There was polished mahogany everywhere, from the tables to the beams supporting the place. Artsy, woven rugs adorned the floors and soft, dark brown sofas for people to lounge on. Mounted to the wall was a large TV and below it was a fireplace with bright, flickering flames casting dancing shadow patterns on the walls. To their right was the kitchen and in between the two was a hall that led to rooms in the back. Above them was a loft that looked down on the whole place.
Standing at the railing above them was a small, dark haired woman with eyes shining with intelligence and happiness. There was a broad smile on her matronly face.
“Merrick Bane!” the woman exclaimed. “Come up here and sit with me. Let’s talk. There is much I’d like to discuss with you. Alicia and Jonathan, you both stay there. I would like this to be a private conversation.”
The man and woman bowed slightly, burst into wolves and then trotted out the door to patrol the surrounding area.
Merrick watched them go and then he went to the stairs and climbed up them. When he got to the top of the stairs, the matronly woman’s smile had gone and a stern, almost enraged look replaced it. In her hand was a gun and she had it pointed directly at Merrick’s forehead.
“Silver bullets, boy,” the woman said, her voice hard and cold. “Steel gun.”
Her eyes glinted with amber fire for a split second before returning to normal.
“I’ve heard some things. Disturbing things,” the woman said.
“Why did you call me here, Carmen? To kill me?” Merrick asked. He was not afraid of the gun or the silver bullets.
“I’ve heard you were lost and did some terrible things,” Carmen told him. “Killed humans. Killed one of your own. Tried to kill your father. You failed in that one though, didn’t you?”
“What happened to me is a very long and very personal story. Maybe one day I will tell you what happened but today is not that day.” Merrick moved past Carmen and her gun and sat down in a recliner next to the window. “Why am I here?”
Carmen didn’t answer him. Instead, she watched him closely for a minute or two. The silence grew long and awkward but there was nothing to do but suffer through it. Carmen would answer the question when she was ready and not a second before. He knew this from experience.
She got closer to him and inhaled deeply.
“That’s reassuring,” she whispered. She put the gun away after that.
“What’s that?” Merrick asked.
“I smell no blood on you.” She sat down in a recliner next to his after that and her entire demeanor changed again. She was back to the happy, jovial person from before.
“Like I said, what happened to me is private and,” he paused, his face going sad again. “And painful.”
“Is it over?” Carmen asked simply.
“Yes,” Merrick responded. “And not likely to happen again as far as I’m concerned.”
“Fair enough,” she replied. She crossed one leg over the other. “If that’s all I am going to get, I am satisfied with it. I just had to be sure you weren’t the monster everyone was claiming you to be. At least, not anymore. Not after what I have to ask you.”
“And what is that?” he asked.
Carmen got up and lifted her shirt to bare her stomach. There was a bandage wrapping around her entire lower torso that was stained with blood and what looked like pus. She removed this as well. Merrick flinched at the site, his eyes widening in shock. To the left and slightly above her navel was a hideous wound. It looked as if some kind of creature had ripped a good sized chunk out of her. That, however, was not the worst part. The edges of the wound were starting to turn black with decay and the necrosis was clearly spreading. Whatever was happening to her, it was clearly something incurable. Not even the regenerative abilities inherent in a werewolf was able to stop the wound’s spread.
“What happened to you?” Merrick asked, gaping.
“Vampire attack. They’ve spread even here. I admit I was careless. They were not. They set a trap and I, unfortunately, walked right into it. I guess I should have listened to the other packs, especially your Bane Pack.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Too late now, I suppose. The best I can do now is make sure that my pack is led by someone that won’t get them all killed. They’ll need a strong alpha. They’ll need...you, Merrick.”
He wasn’t expecting that and the look on his face must have suggested that to Carmen. She laughed heartily but then the pain became too much and she had to stop.
“Why not pick one of your own to lead?” Merrick asked, confused. “This is not how things are done.”
“Well since the vampires have come back, I think the usual way things are done has gone completely out the window. They’re powerful and the only way we can stop them is to have packs with powerful alphas. You are of the first’s blood. There’s power in that. Just look how strong the Bane Pack is. It’s always been that way too, for centuries on centuries,” Carmen said, passionately. “They were one of the few to withstand the vampires the first time those deadbags came around. I should know, I was there.”
“Why would your pack follow me?” Merrick pressed. Flashbacks of the years he spent lost to his blood hunger came back to him, making him feel even more uncomfortable. “Would they even trust me? I assume they know my reputation.”
“Of course they do!” Carmed exclaimed, smiling. “Every pack from here to California knows your reputation.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “We’re a tight knit community, us werewolves.”
“I did not come here to be mocked,” Merrick said, his voice cold.
“Mock? Of course not. I do not mock you. I praise you Merrick Bane.” Carmen reached out and grasped his hand. The joking tone and humor on her face suddenly disappeared, replaced by stark grimness. It was only then that Merrick could see the pain she’d been hiding the whole time. She suddenly looked exhausted, more exhausted than anyone he’d ever seen before. “I do not have much time. There is no one in my pack that will take up the mantle. They do not have what it takes and they know it. Once, before the return of the vampires, they might have thought differently, but they know they do not have the strength to win this fight. You do. We all know this.”
“How much time do you have left?” Merrick asked. He knew the answer was not long. Days, maybe a week or so if she was lucky. The amount of dead tissue around the wound told him as much.
“Maybe six days. Seven if I’m lucky. But I want this to be over now,” she answered. The weariness to her eyes deepend as she said this. “I put on a brave face but the pain is...unimaginable and grows worse by the day.”
“I can’t even imagine,” Merrick told her.
She waved away his sympathies.
“Don’t bother. I didn’t bring you all the way out here for your pity. Just answer me. Yes or no?” Carmen asked. She pointed at the spot where her wound was. “And remember, my time is severely limited.”
He didn’t know what to say to her request.
“I know we are not a big pack but what we lack in numbers, we make up for with tenacity. We have taken down three nests in the last four days alone. Take them as your own and help your sister decimate the rest. With my pack, you can help her defeat them.” Carmed looked desperate now, her dark eyes filled with deep pleading. “This has to be done not only for me but for them. Without an alpha to lead them, they will each fall and I cannot take that. I cannot take knowing that my death will mean the end of theirs as well. Do this for me.”
“Are you sure the rest of your pack are fine with this?” he asked.
“Ultimately the choice is mine. But we have discussed it at length. They will not kill me themselves. They love me too much they tell me.” Carmen smiled a bit at this.
“I thought it was because I would make them stronger?” he smiled back at her.
“Can’t it be both?” she asked.
“I suppose.” He got up and stood by the fire, thoughts on thoughts on thoughts racing through his head. In the end it came down to one thing. Power. Carmen was right about that. Taking her pack as his own would give him more power and with that power, the ability to really help Kendra. After everything that happened and everything he put her through, he could do no less.
An image flashed through his mind. It was an image of himself attacking his father in the lobby of a Burger King. It repulsed him every time he thought of it and feelings of guilt would inevitably overwhelm him. That shame was like a living agony inside him. He detested and hated himself for what he did. He might not have finished his father off but he had been the instrument of his death nonetheless. There was no denying it. There was no living with it either. He might have been under the control of a fire mage but not when he attacked his father and sister at that restaurant. He had been himself, lost in blood hunger, but still himself. No matter how hard he tried to lie to himself about that, the truth would still stare back at him with absolutely no mercy. It was a hard-edged thing that sliced him apart as sure as any blade and it was a truth that he could never forgive. Not as long as he was alive.
But he could atone.
He turned back to Carmen, his mind made up.
“I’ll do it.”
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
Alrich stood still and watched Kendra take off after leaving Bendis Tattoos. She was dressed in ill-fitting clothes and walked as if she were on a mission. He paused on the street, still in his wolf form, just watching her. Part of him wanted to go after her but the other part knew that would be a mistake. It would only serve to push her away even more and gain him nothing. It was hard to let her go, especially with all the pain his family had gone through. First his grandson had been forced into becoming a monster. Then his son was murdered. Now his granddaughter had lost the one she loved.
Always pain. Sometimes I wonder if life has anything other than pain, he thought to himself as memories he wished would stay buried bubbled up to the surface of his mind like poison gas from the depths of hell.
“Let’s go,” Merlin said. “Nothing more we can do here and looks like the problem has been solved anyway. We need to get back to the mansion so I can maintain the spell against the vampires.”
Alrich didn’t say anything but nodded his giant, wolf’s head. He gazed toward where his granddaughter had disappeared for a second longer and then a circle of light appeared beneath him. The next second, he was standing on the manicured lawns of the Bane Pack’s large mansion. Faintly, in the distance near the estate’s large wall, was a shimmering, incandescent light that was just barely there. The shimmery light went several hundred feet into the air and encased the mansion in a dome. It was the only thing that prevented the vampires from getting in like they had the last time. The magic in the barrier prevented the undead from getting past it along with a good amount of other monsters. But it was not going to last. It was a temporary measure and not sustainable. Everyone knew that and some days, people looked as if they were just waiting for it to fall and the end to come.
Alrich and Merlin walked to the front doors and went inside. Immediately, there was a sense of depression that clung to the air. The other members of the pack they passed had their heads down and their eyes averted from them. Their shoulders were slumped and they tended to shuffle when they walked. The days when the mansion was filled with joy and happiness seemed over, at least for now.
They passed more of the Bane Pack. Deirdre and her son, Grady and Alice Colmbs, the Pendletons, Shawn, and Parker Newsome. The depression clung to them as well. It clung to them all like a noxious, foul-smelling cloud. But despite all that, Alrich thought he preferred the air of depression seeping into the Bane Pack mansion than what he feared might be coming. He was not a stupid man and he had lived for a long, long time. Over the course of his many years, he saw a great many things. And the rise and fall of wolf packs was chief among them. One of the most destructive causes of a pack’s fall is the alpha not being able to cope with the powerful emotions they were dealing with. And the worst of those emotions was, without a doubt, anger. He saw that anger in Kendra now. She was ill-tempered and short. She was prone to fits of rage and fury. She was lashing out at anyone and everyone. She was quick to yell and was starting to become not just quick to fight, but almost eager for it. It was true he didn’t know her that well, despite the fact that she was his granddaughter, but he knew enough to know that wasn’t her. Not really. She was a fair, even kind, person. Genuine. Likeable. Fair. She was losing herself to the grief and rage of Conor’s death.
And he didn’t know what he could even do to bring her back. All he could do was be there and offer guidance she clearly didn’t want. He wished, bitterly, that Merle was still alive. His son was a man with the gift to reach people, no matter how hard the task might be. He instilled loyalty and commanded respect. Kendra had the same qualities but they were being drowned out by that same anger and rage inside her. That rage was poisoning both her and the other Bane Pack wolves.
He had to do something to help her but she refused. The pain was too much for her. She had lost too much. That, however, was something he did have experience in, despite what she might choose to believe.
“You seem deep in thought,” Merlin said as they walked into the room they shared. It was one of the smaller ones but still large enough to where they were not cramped. Other than two beds and some sparse furniture, the room was bare of any kind of decoration.
Alrich went to the bed he used and sat down, staring at the floor for a moment. Then he looked up. Merlin was staring back at him, his face wearing the same expression he had most of the time. It looked like he was perpetually trying to hide a smile, like something only he knew about amused him. After several centuries of traveling with the man, the look got annoying.
“There are things that require deep thought,” Alrich replied.
“What the hell do we do now?” Merlin asked. “We have a vampire army that is only getting bigger threatening to rip this place apart. The pack you started is crumbling to dust. Your son is…”
“Enough!”Alrich shouted. “Enough already. I do not require you to keep me updated on my current failures. Trust me, they are never far from my thoughts.”
“Is that what you think?” he asked. “You think I want to rub your nose in all this? You’re my oldest and only friend, Alrich. We’ve seen much together and there is much yet to be seen, but this is threatening not just you and me but the entire world. How long do you think that king of theirs will be able to retain his control? You and I both know how unstable vampires are. They crave blood even more so than the farthest gone wolf.”
“Again, you don’t have to remind me.”Alrich got up, and stomped to the other side of the room. “Is there anything you can do to reverse Bendis’ magicks. You changed my curse, how would this one be any different?”
“That won’t work again,” Merlin said. “Bendis will take measures against that this time. I guarantee it. She’s a crafty bitch.”
“Are you able to scry for the vampires? Can you get their location or numbers? These creatures have had a little over a month to increase their army. Waiting for them to attack us is not a safe course of action,” Alrich said. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides but his gaze was directed out the window.
“I’ve already done it,” he responded.
Alrich whirled on him, his eyes glowing with intense blue-whtie light. A snarl of rage bubbled up from the depths of his throat.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. His voice was a rough growl.
“Because the information doesn’t do any of us any good. We can’t get to them and their numbers just keep growing. Is that what you wanted to hear?” If he was afraid of Alrich, he didn’t show it. “They have more than triple our numbers. With the knights and mages, maybe we stand a chance but things are not looking good on that front. All your granddaughter has been doing is pushing that particular ally further and further away. She’ll be lucky if they don’t end the truce and start hunting wolves again.”
“She’s in a delicate state,” Alrich replied. “You know that. You remember what I went through.”
“I do, but you don’t have the power she has. She’s something I’ve never seen before and she is dangerous. Look what her power did today. It sent you all the way to your fucking ancestral home! What the hell was that about?” Merlin looked Alrich in the eyes, not backing down. After a few seconds, his eyes went back to normal and he calmed down.
“Her mother,” Alrich whispered, remembering a long ago conversation he’d had with his son. He told him everything then.
“So you do know what’s going on with her,” Merlin said.
“Aye,” was all Alrich would say.
“So what is she?”
“Merle didn’t know but his wife, Helen, was like Kendra. She could do things like I’ve never heard of before. Things that had nothing to do with magic, curses, or werewolf blood. Helen believed it was a jump in human evolution. An adaptation,” Alrich explained. “She wasn’t sure if there were others like her. Merle said she wanted to find more but before she could, she lost her mind.”
“Well, despite how extremely cool that is, it is also extremely dangerous and highly volatile. Not to mention, I don’t believe she has that much control over it as yet. Not if what happened today is any indication,” Merlin said.
“I understand that, but it is also what makes her so powerful.” Alrich had gone back to looking out the window but he spoke loudly enough to still be heard. “It’s what made the Bane Pack so strong. Strong enough to defeat everything Bendis has thrown at them so far.”
Merlin just looked at him.
A knock on the door interrupted their conversation. Alrich went over and opened it. On the other side was Ian. Behind him were two other wolves. Deirdre and another one that Alrich thought was called Shawn. He couldn’t quite remember but he thought he was right.
“What can I do for you all?” he asked them.
“He’s here. At the gate,” Ian said. “Kendra hasn’t come back yet.”
“What would you have me do?” he asked them.
“She’s...she’s with him,” Deirdre added.
Alrich’s entire body tensed up and Merlin even came closer to rest a hand on his shoulder, restraining him if need be.
“She wants to see you,” Deirdre continued.
Merlin suddenly let out a cry of pain and fell to one knee. Everyone turned and looked at him, confused. He started breathing heavily and a vein bulged in the middle of his forehead. After a second or two, he started breathing normally again and was able to get back to his feet. He let out a long breath and then looked at everyone present.
“Whoo! Damn that bitch is mean,” he said, still breathing a bit heavily.
“What happened?” Alrich asked.
“She tried to punch a hole in my shield,” he replied. “Fucking hell she’s strong. Makes me glad most of the old gods and goddesses left this world. I was hoping she’d get the memo too but I don’t think she’s done playing with you, Alrich.”
“Clearly,” he responded. “You should probably stay here. I’ll go see what they want.”
He turned to the three wolves.
The contingent of four wolves made their way through the mansion to the front doors. When they were all outside, they started walking to the front gate. It was a long walk but the cool night air felt good so Alrich wasn’t complaining. He’d always enjoyed the night, ever since he was a boy. He’d scared his mother and father on numerous occasions when he snuck out to enjoy the stars and the buzzing of the insects. It felt like a different world at night and one where he always felt right at home. It was ironic that he would fall in love with the goddess of the moon.
They drew closer and closer to the wrought iron gates separating the Bane Pack mansion from the rest of the world. Now, however, there was also the faint, shimmering dome of his friend’s magical barrier. The barrier itself only kept out hostile magical forces, which, tonight, included a vengeful moon goddess and a cadre of undead vampires. Alrich could see them with no trouble, even when he was twenty or thirty yards from them. His vision, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had all been heightened drastically after Merlin changed his curse. Before, those abilities would only come out when it was getting close to or during a full moon. Afterward, however, he gained complete control over the beast inside him which had also given him the power to use its abilities whenever he saw fit.
And so he had.
He used those gifts to right the wrongs he committed when he was lost to the beast. He fought the things that preyed on humanity and even the monsters he had turned himself that continued their bloodshed even after the change. He instilled his virtues into those that followed him and before long, the Bane Pack formed with his son, Merle as their alpha. Others formed as well, but all had the same purpose.
To fight and protect humans to the best of their ability against all the creatures that might come to harm or kill them.
“Look at you, darling,” Bendis said with a sultry voice as the four of them got to the gates. She was standing slightly in front of the vampires she had with her. There were five of them including the vampire king, Draker Harper and the girl, Gwen Wright who had previously been a page for the Order of Defaeco Knights.
Alrich didn’t say anything at first. Instead, he just looked at her. There was virtually no change in her appearance since he’d last seen her. She was just as beautiful. Just as alluring. Forgotten, buried emotions bubbled to the surface when she looked at him. Things he thought he would never feel again. But there was something else he felt. Something stronger.
Despite how much he might have loved the fallen moon goddess, he hated her much more.
“You look positively gorgeous. It is no wonder why I fell so deeply in love.” Bendis looked toward some of the vampires with her. “Am I right?”
“Cease these foolish games, Bendis,” Alrich said, filling his voice with all the hate and anger raging inside him. “What do you want?”
“What I’ve always wanted since you left, of course. For you to suffer and suffer and suffer,” Bendis replied, smirking at him with an annoying, self-assured smile. “I do not care what it takes or even how long it takes. Your pain. Your suffering has given me life these long, long years!”
Alrich worked hard to control his anger. He didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of causing any kind of reaction but he did get closer to the shield.
“I promise you, your end is coming. And I will make sure you feel infinitely more pain and suffering than you brought to me and mine,” Alrich hissed. His voice was low and throaty, full of menacing hatred.
“That’s all well and good, but if you just came here to throw useless word vomit at this dude, save your breath,” Shawn Riker said.
Bendis’ head snapped to the young wolf with rapid, alarming speed. Her eyes narrowed and her lips pressed into a thin, firm line. The muscles of her jaw were clenched tight as well. She took a second to stare at Shawn before she spoke again.
“I would suggest you take a moment to remind your insignificant friend there of just who I am. The next time I hear words issuing from his mouth, I will rip his jaw off his head.”
Shawn was about to take an angry step forward, clearly about to say something else, but Alrich stopped him with one arm and a tense, almost fatherly look of recrimination.
“Where is Kendra?” Drake suddenly asked, breaking the tension in that was humming through the air. “Why didn’t she come out here?”
“Kendra is of no concern to you anymore, vampire,” Ian growled. His fists were clenched so tightly that blood was starting to slip between the fingers. “You’re lucky there is a wall between you and me else I would come over there and take your head for what you did to my son.”
“Your son was a murdering piece of shit that deserved what I gave him,” Drake snarled back. “Your son…” He spat the word out like it was something foul in his mouth. “Slaughtered my wife like an animal. Now I’m going to do the same to every last one of you filthy fucking wolves. All of us are.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, hundreds of shapes suddenly blurred into focus as if they’d been waiting for the cue. All of them had pale faces, blood-red eyes, and glistening, white fangs. They came out of the woods. They came down the street. They came from behind the mansion on the other side of the dome. They came from everywhere.
The Bane Pack was surrounded.
||| ||| ||| ||| |||
The last thing he heard were the words, “This is for Lucy, you murdering piece of shit.” After that, there was only blackness and the memory of a face. Her face. Kendra’s face. His beloved’s face. That face hurt him because there was so much hurt and pain on it. Her eyes had been filled with tears and she’d been pounding on some kind of glowing, semi-translucent dome of some kind. Something powerfully strong had wrapped its arms around him and no matter how hard he struggled, he wasn’t able to free himself.
The vampire! he remembered. Drake Harper.
He’d been fighting against the vampires and then right as a weird light was coming down between them, the vampire had raced forward and snatched him. Then there were those words, and pain. There had been a lot of pain. He thought he might’ve said something like “sorry” to Kendra, and then nothing. There had been nothing for a long, long time. It felt like eons in that nothingness, but then he heard screaming. It was faint, but he could still tell that whoever was speaking, they were yelling and clearly upset. He could almost hear words too. Something like “you never liked him!” Something like that anyway. He wondered what that was about for bit but mostly didn’t concern himself with afterward. Things didn’t seem very important to him anymore.
Wait. Who am I again?
That's right. I’m Conor. Conor Dewar.
The fact that he almost forgot who he was frightened him a lot. He didn’t like the notion of not knowing who he was. He already hated the fact that he had no idea where he was.
What is my purpose?
Why am I here?
What is this place?
Did I die?
How do I get back?
Can I get back?
These were all thoughts he had but in the place where he was that he had no idea what it was, the thoughts didn’t stay inside his own head. Instead, they rang out like he’d spoken them out loud. He heard them echoe several times until they quietly faded and then died off altogether.
The place where here he was just so happened to be a very peculiar sort of place. At first, there was no color but a deep, encompassing black that kind of frightened him a little. Nothing, he felt, should be as dark as where he found himself. But then, as time progressed, the black started changing colors. There were times when the world changed to a somber blue color. There were times when it changed to a red so vibrant, it was like nothing he had ever seen before. Then there were the times when all three colors would swirl around in dizzying spirals.
He thought the word because, of course, he no longer had to actually speak anything (not that he had a mouth to speak with, he realized).
Hello! Hello! Hello!
That’s all there is. It’s all just nothing. I’m really getting sick of all this nothing.
It was, in all honesty, a really boring existence. He was clearly trapped in some kind of purgatorial hell with no way of getting out. If he was being honest with himself, it was a better afterlife than he could’ve hoped for. He could still remember the things he’d done when the blood hunger had taken control. The faces of the people he killed surfaced in front of him like apparitions. He wanted to cower away from them but he didn’t let himself get off that easy. He deserved every bit of torture this place could concoct. He knew that and he accepted it with as much courage as he could.
“I miss you. I miss you so much.”
That was a voice he knew. A voice he would never be able to forget no matter how many eons he spent rotting away in his own private purgatory.
The ghostlike apparitions of the people he had murdered suddenly dissipated like so much dust in the wind. Forming in front of him instead was Kendra Henner. The love of his life. Despite his currently formless state, he could still feel a deep, aching pain in the area where he thought his heart would’ve been if he had a body still. Before Drake had killed him, he’d been alive for over 150 years. He had met many women and loved many women but none of them had been Kendra. She was something entirely different, like a diamond is different than a piece of coal. He fell for her almost the instant he saw her.
The memory of that day coalesced out of the darkness and replayed in front of him like a weird TV show. He’d been sitting outside Bishop Media, doing his best not to get noticed by the five knights he was clearly able to pick out in the lobby as they pretended to be either doorpersons, custodial workers, or actual security guards. They were easy to spot from the real doorpersons, custodial workers, and security guards because of the way they carried themselves. Their eyes never stayed in one place for very long and they were just a little bit too interested in everything going on around them. Most humans stayed in their own islands of awareness, never straying too far outside them. They would stare at their phones or talk on them. They would talk and laugh with their friends. Or they would just walk on without doing any of those things but not really focusing on anything happening around them. The knights were different. Their eyes paid attention to everything outside their islands of awareness.
Which, at that time, included a very distressed woman wearing slightly rumpled dress clothes and messy hair. Every one of the knights tracked her progress through the lobby and not one of them looked away from her until she was out of the building. She was, Conor knew, Kendra Henner, the daughter of his alpha, Merle Bane. Most in the Bane Pack knew of her although none of them had ever thought much about her. She hadn’t been raised as a wolf so in their minds, she didn’t merit much consideration. Conor had felt the same way.
Until Merle asked him to keep an eye on her, which he did (although mostly out of curiosity). He wanted to know why this daughter that Merle never talked about and barely acknowledged amongst his pack was suddenly so important that she would need a guardian. At the time, he thought Merrick had something to do with it but Merle never really confirmed that. Merrick’s fall had shattered Merle and ever since, the old man had been getting increasingly frantic, like he was running out of time. When he asked to guard his daughter, Conor did so not out of some sense of authority passed down from alpha to pack member, but because Merle had seemed truly scared for her safety.
Watching the rumpled but pretty girl running out of the big building in large, lumbering strides. She was upset. He could see tears on her face and pain in her eyes. For some, irrational reason, he was angry. The distress she was in was hard to watch. That irrational part of himself wanted to run to her, hug her, and tell her things were going to be okay. But that was dumb. He hadn’t even known her at the time but he still remembered that feeling. He remembered how frightening it was to feel that and so strongly too. 150 plus years and he’d never felt anything close to that.
The swirling, memory scanned through the rest of that day. It jumped from Kendra going to Bendis Tattoo to her heading back to her apartment. He remembered her after she got out of Merle’s tattoo shop. He remembered the shock he felt when he sniffed the change in her blood. He remembered smelling the wolf there. He looked closer and saw bandages around Kendra’s neck, confirming what he had smelled. Merle had turned her. That had been a surprise but given the increasing threat of Merrick, he could understand the man’s motivations. He’d wanted to give his daughter the tools she needed to protect herself. He wanted to give her a fighting change.
He chuckled inwardly at that thought.
Kendra’s strength was so overwhelmingly powerful that it gave her the ability to go toe to toe with everything from a rogue werewolf pack to a full on goddess. What Merle had done was turn a missile into a nuclear warhead.
The memories continued on and he watched them avidly.
This was the memory of when he saw Kendra again after she had turned. There was an obvious change in both her appearance and confidence but to him, she was still the same beautiful girl he’d seen just the day before. He remembered being happy for her though. There had been such confidence on her face. Confidence and self-assurance. He didn’t know Kendra well at that point but even so, he could tell she was not a stranger to suffering and pain. It had been clearly written on her face.
Once again, the memory shifted. This time, he found himself looking at the time he’d been sitting in a Burger King parking lot, watching the entrance in case something bad happens. Inside, he knew, Merle and Kendra were meeting. Things seemed to be going okay at first. Then there was a huge commotion. Several people came rushing out, customers and employees. Every last one of them bore looks of intense, almost mind-numbing fear.
The next set of memories he knew well. It was when he had raced into the restaurant and threw Merrick out the window.
So much changed after that, he reflected.
The memories suddenly swirled around in a kaleidoscope of color and sound that got violently worse for a few seconds until they shut off completely. Then, the only thing left was that darkness which slowly shifted from blues to reds to blacks and back again, the cycle repeating on a seemingly unending loop.
Blue. Red. Black. Red. Black. Blue. Black. Red. Blue.
On and on it went.
Over and over.
But then, one “day” something changed. The purgatory world started to evaporate around him. The darkness and color faded and faded until something weird but beautiful happened. Something he thought was lost to him forever.
He was back in the world and staring down at Kendra as she lay in her bed, crying.