The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 5
BYOB (Bring Your Own Bait)

Chapter 5

 

BYOB

(Bring Your Own Bait)

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Snow was up with the dawn.  She had spent what remained of the night on the foot of Duncan’s bed.  While she drove to the lab, no matter how hard she tried to think of other things, the previous night kept returning to her mind and hammering on her thought process.

 

Max went over where they would be stationed, who would be positioned where.  Julia divulged information from her recon work.  The recruiting party appeared to be a group of six true vampires that had migrated in from Santa Carla California and belonged to an elder vampire owned by Alexander. 

 

Robert and the team had left around eleven p.m.

 

Julia stayed after the others made their exit so she could go over ground maneuvers with Snow relating to Duncan and Snow’s protecting him.  This was a new tactic they were trying, Snow was a key element in it.  She was only allowed to be a part of the hunting party because of the deal she had made, and her bond to the bait.  Werewolves always tried to protect their own and help each other survive, even abominations.

 

Julia and Snow talked into the small hours of the morning about the mission, eventually working into more personal matters.

 

Julia, Snow found out, was not mated to Christopher.  Hunters didn’t always mate with other hunters, though it was the preferred arrangement.  She was mated to a human operations agent.  The man served much in the same manner as Robert did, only not in such a high office. 

 

Her mate worked in court administration, in a state some distance from where they currently were.  His operations partner was a head nurse in a hospital that helped him arrange new birth records that would be used to produce new identities for members of the many clans.  This was just one of such arrangements in many cities across the country. 

 

Her mate’s partner would create hospital records at the hospital that would be filed with the courts, he took over from there seeing to the generation of social security numbers and other documentation, this made a firm paper trail should the records be scrutinized for some reason by regular human authorities. 

 

This conversation worked into a lengthy discussion about partners.  Christopher’s mate was a hunter.  When on an actual hunt, they would be together.  Snow asked about the relationship with partners, how Julia and her partner, who’s mate had a much different story, worked together, about Christopher and his mate partner, how they interacted on a mission. 

 

Julia referred to a partnership as a special bond between two werewolves.  It was different from a mated bond she said.  She talked about how you watched each others backs, communicated, shared things you wouldn’t share with anyone else, sometimes not even your mate if you were partnered on a job with someone other than your mate.  She said Christopher was lucky, he was paired with his mate. 

 

Snow had never been a part of an official hunt party and had never been partnered in a team manner.

 

“It has its advantages.”  Julia had said.  “Makes it a lot easier to talk about the hunt, the job in general.  Being partnered with your mate means you aren’t thinking about them and missing them when you are away for long periods of time or separated by distance.”

 

Snow could tell she was thinking about her mate now.  Show wondered if she knew how lucky she was to actually have a mate, someone who really wanted her, to be able to actually be with that someone that cared about you.

 

“So, what are the disadvantages?”  Snow had asked her.

 

Julia smiled when she answered.  “There aren’t any.”

 

Julia said she had best be going.  It was late.  That’s when Snow offered her the room upstairs for the night.  Julia asked if she was sure it would be alright with Duncan and Snow assured her he wouldn’t mind, so she accepted Snow’s invitation. 

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Duncan slept in that morning.  When he finally woke he looked to the foot of the bed finding it empty.  It was almost nine a.m., he assumed Snow had went into work.  Stretching wide and loud he reluctantly pulled back the covers and made his way to the bathroom and took an extended shower during which he contemplated working from home today. 

 

He would call Connie and see if there was anything he needed to come in for and if not have her email or fax him anything he needed for the days work.  Snow did have things well in hand and could handle any decisions needed, and he was only a phone call away should he be needed by either Snow or Connie. 

 

Working from home was looking like the best option for the day. 

 

Since he would be working from home today, he was taking his time getting dressed and made himself a small breakfast in his robe.  He was just putting the milk away when he heard footsteps from the hall coming down the stairs.  Had Snow slept upstairs?  He wondered. 

 

The footsteps were of the two legged variety, was she going to grace him with her actual human presence today?  He moved to the entry to the short hallway and was looking for Snow when a woman who was close to five foot five inches, a good four inches taller then Snow, blonde hair about twice the length of Snow’s black hair that was covering her face as she scratched her head and also one hundred percent nude.  Duncan turned from her, but not before noticing the woman was well toned, muscular and had firm C cup sized breasts.

 

“Excuse me?”  He said and turned sideways to the hall facing away from where the woman would pass if she entered the kitchen. 

 

“Oh, hello Duncan Galt.”  A very feminine and rather chipper voice chimed, almost musical.

 

“Who are you?”  Duncan asked.

 

“It’s Julia, I came with Robert and Max last night, Snow let me use her room since it was late, she insisted I stay.”  Julia said.

 

“Julia, yes, that was nice of her.  Sorry I was unaware you were here.”  Duncan said still facing towards the area by the fridge.

 

He put his hands on the sides of his eyes and looked down as Julia had come around the far side of the island and made her way to Duncan’s front.  She crouched down and was looking up at his face, she was smiling and looked puzzled.

 

“Is something wrong Duncan Galt?”  She asked trying to make eye contact.

 

Duncan turned away from her facing back to the side of the kitchen the hall was on.  He had taken his hand away now that he was facing the other direction and could see the clock in front of him. 

 

Suddenly, movement above him caught his eyes and he was able to see the woman summersault over his head and land feet first in front of him.  He blonde hair billowed out to the sides and behind her as she landed.  Duncan stared at her face, controlling his eyes.

 

“Is it some custom of humans to talk to someone with their back turned to them?  To my people this custom is known as shunning, turning ones back to a person.  Are you shunning me Duncan Galt?"  The cheery voiced blonde woman asked.

 

Duncan averted his eyes again, this time only turning his head and putting his right hand beside his eyes serving as a blinder.  “No, Julia I am not shunning you, it’s just that humans tend to wear clothes around others, especially those they don’t know well and aren’t involved with.

 

“Oh!”  Julia said and started to laugh gleefully.  “I thought with Snow around you would be used to this by now.  Werewolves are not like humans Duncan Galt, we are not ashamed of our bodies as humans are.”

 

“It’s not that we’re ashamed of our bodies, miss, it’s just considered impolite to prance around nude.”  Duncan said, his voice a bit perplexed.  “And quite honestly the only thing I have seen of Snow lately is a lot of fur, if you know what I mean.”

 

The woman laughed politely.  “I’m afraid I do not know what you mean Duncan Galt, but forgive me, I had forgotten about human customs somewhat, I haven’t spent much time around them.  Pardon me Duncan Galt, I shall dress for you.”  Julia said and Duncan heard her feet move away from him to the hall and up the stairs.

 

It was but a short minute later she returned.  She was dressed in a tight bright yellow sleeveless shirt with light colored blue jeans that had colorful embroidery on them in patterns of butterflies and flowers.  Her hair bushed out and flowed as she walked.  It was a sharp contrast from the clothes and tight pulled back hair she had the previous night.  “Is this more acceptable to you Duncan Galt?”  Julia inquired.

 

Duncan looked at her, smiled and nodded.  “Yes, that is much better, thank you, and please, just Duncan.”

 

Julia smiled and laughed again, she did have a musical laugh.  “Alright, Just Duncan.”  She said and started laughing more. 

 

“No I mean, Duncan, not Duncan Galt.”  Duncan said.  When the woman started laughing harder he realized she was messing with him.  He started to laugh with her a bit.

 

“See, that’s better.”  She said when Duncan started laughing.

 

“Would you like something to eat?”  Duncan asked politely.

 

Julia started nodding and looked over at the counter behind them. “An orange please if that would be alright.”  She asked with a smile.

 

“An orange, coming right up.”  Duncan said and turned and grabbed one from the basket on the counter.  “Anything else?  Toast, bacon, eggs?  Toaster strudel?”

 

“No, thank you, an orange is fine.  I love oranges, they’re just so… orange!”  Julia said and softly giggled.

 

Duncan nodded slowly and turned to the sink.  He was considering going into the office anyways.  Today may not be such a good day to work from home after all.  Julia peeled the orange and started humming, Duncan didn’t recognize the tune.  She pulled wedges from the orange as she walked around the living room and looked out the window.

 

“I just love mornings.”  Julia said.  She had a soft gentle voice, somewhat lower than what Duncan had imagined her with.  “They are so fresh, new, and bright.  I love the song of birds in the morning.  They sound so happy, don’t you love the morning Duncan?”  She asked turning to him as he poured coffee into an oversized cup.

 

Duncan paused to look towards the window and thought for a moment.  “Yeah, I guess mornings are alright, if you’re a morning person.”

 

Julia laughed again tossing her head back with a happy moan.  “How could anyone not be a morning person.  A whole new glorious day ahead.”  She turned back to the direction of the window and sighed pleasantly.

 

“So is your mate coming to pick you up then?”  Duncan asked, hoping she was leaving soon.

 

“Oh, no, he is over three hundred miles away at work right now.”  Julia answered taking in the morning.

 

Duncan looked around considering what he had heard.  “Christopher is three hundred miles away?”  He asked puzzled.

 

“Christopher?”  Julia said confused for a moment, then realizing what Duncan had assumed, corrected his misunderstanding.  “Christopher is not my mate, Duncan, I only work in the field with him.  My mate works in a courthouse.”  She said with a smile having turned to the kitchen and came up to the end of the island. 

 

She looked down at the floor to the left of the island where a silver colored bowl with black letters that read ‘Snow’ sat.  Her smile faded, but only for a second and she looked back to her host.

 

“Oh, so he’s your partner then.  Coffee?”  Duncan said holding up the pot.

 

“No, not my partner and no, too bitter, I never could understand how humans could drink something as bitter as coffee.”  Julia looked at Duncan’s face and took in his scent. 

 

She smiled and giggled more and started nodding, understanding something. “Werewolves that are mated Duncan are partnered with ones of their own kind if they are not with their mates.  It would be immoral to do otherwise.”  She said trying to clarify werewolf customs for Duncan.

 

“Of their own kind?”  Duncan questioned.

 

“Yes, Snow and I could be partnered for instance, Max and I could not, since we are not of the same kind, but Snow and I are, understand?”  She said trying to put it into words he would understand.

 

“You mean a female is partnered with a female and males with males, so nothing happens between them.”  Duncan said grasping what was meant by ‘ones of their own kind’.

 

“Correct Duncan.  Even though as mated we could never allow relations, it would be inconsiderate to pair a mated female with a mated male.  It’s against our law.  All hunt parties such as ours consist of mated werewolves.  Unmated are never allowed to be part of a hunting party in the field.”  She explained.

 

“But, wasn’t Snow part of a hunting party?  She wasn’t mated then?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Different type of hunting party Duncan, we are two pairs, we hunt together with the aid of rogues and track down parties and stray vampires.  Snow was part of a raid force that would take on covens directly, she was part of a large group effort, much different then what we do.  It is in these raid forces that young werewolves learn and grow as hunters so one day they may become part of a hunting party, a team.”  Julia explained.

 

Duncan thought, remembered how Kicks had acted when he heard Snow and he were partnered, now it made sense why he reacted the way he did, an unmated pair, being cursed.  It was against their ways.  He was slowly beginning to understand his new found friends.  Well, friends was a bit of a strong word.

 

Duncan picked up the orange peels and tossed them out.  He topped off his cup and sat down, Julia was still standing at the end of the island.  She would bounce sometimes and hum or mouth some song.  She clearly was not wearing a bra.  Duncan shook his head and scolded himself for noticing.

 

“So, tell me Duncan, what about that?”  Julia said pointing to something on the other side of the island Duncan couldn’t see directly. 

 

“What about what?”  He questioned back at her.

 

She wiggled a finger telling him to come to where she was standing, reluctantly Duncan stood and walked over by her.  She pointed to the dog dish on the floor with Snow’s name on it and the water dish beside. “That.”  Julia said pointing again.

 

“Oh, that that.”  Duncan said, his voice taking on a somber sound.

 

“Yes, that that.”  Julia replied.  She wasn’t laughing but her face still had a soft smile on it, despite the demeaning nature of a dog dish for her kind with Snow’s name on it she was still cheery and upbeat. 

 

Duncan sighed and shook his head some.  He shrugged and looked exasperated.  “Snow has been, acting odd as of late.  After her cousin Kicks had come to visit her at the office, we had a bit of an altercation.  Since then she won’t show herself in human form around the house, she is always in wolf form.  I only see her cold human side at work.”  Duncan said, the hurt showed in his voice. 

 

He was feeling pretty small right now for the dish and feeding her kibble.  “I was upset with her, I didn’t understand why she was giving me the cold shoulder.”  He paused for a moment looking across the island at the dog dish.  “I should’ve just stopped at getting her the dish, that would work better on the floor, that would have been enough and a lot less messy then a plate for her.”  Duncan stopped.

 

“But?”  Julia said bending at the waist and bending in towards him with a flutter of her eyes to coax him into telling her the rest.

 

He sighed again and looked ashamed.  “I put dog kibble in the dish.”  He finished.

 

“You didn’t!”  Julia said with a shocked look on her face.

 

Duncan was expecting her to go off on him for belittling one of her kind in such a way.  Instead she slapped a hand on top of the counter and busted out laughing so hard she started to howl and snort.  Julia smacked the counter several times while she laughed uncontrollably.

 

Julian managed to collect herself long enough to say something at one point.  “That’s hilarious!”  She managed to eject.  “Kibbles and bits and bits and bits!”  She said then began laughing even harder, so hard in fact she actually fell to the floor, she kicked her feet in laughter and finally rolled to her side and started smacking the floor with one hand.

 

Duncan started to laugh with her at some point.  He didn’t know if it was from the thought of giving Snow kibble, Julia’s reaction or the kibbles and bits comment, but he did have a good laugh for a change.  ‘I guess it’s funny when it doesn’t happen to you.’ He thought to himself as he watched the blond woman sit up only to fall back laughing again, apparently from thinking about what happened to Snow.

 

It was almost ten minutes before Julia was finally able to return to a standing position and breath again.  She moved behind Duncan and pulled a stool out and sat down.  She made motions with her hands like she was pushing something away from her face.

 

“Oh goodness, I can’t look over there.  Oh my, if I do I won’t be able to stop laughing.”  She said sounding a bit winded still.

 

Finally she recovered and looked back to Duncan.  Her soft smile returned. “You mentioned an ‘altercation’ between you and Snow, the day Kicks had visited her, tell me about that Duncan, what happened, what did Snow do?”

 

Duncan looked away, it was something he really didn’t want to discuss with someone he truly didn’t know.

 

“I’m here to help as much as I can Duncan, I understand a lot of this is new, learning a new culture.  I want to help.”  Julia told him.

 

Duncan turned towards her, looked at her face, sighed and nodded. “I wasn’t told about the deal she made, what she had done, how we were… how she was bound to me.  I didn’t understand what the whole partners thing meant in werewolf culture.”

 

Duncan looked towards the refrigerator for a moment in thought.  With a heavy sigh he returned to Julia and began.

 

“When we got home that day, Snow was in a mood, I’d never seen her like this.  She was in the library, when I tried to talk to her she screamed at me.  I was about to head back to the lab and get some work done, as I reached the door, somehow she suddenly appeared in front of the door, blocking it.  She looked like a wild animal, her eyes, face.  She had her mouth open, she was breathing fast and heavy.”

 

He looked over Julia’s face, her expression was kind.  He hoped it stayed that way.  She might be the one to explain the events to him, Snow sure wouldn’t.

 

“At first, when she started towards me I was afraid of her, thought she had gone mad.  It looked like she did, I don’t know much that’s real about werewolves, thought she might have snapped or something.  I was going to try and get away, somehow I think she read that in me, I don’t know.  She charged me, before I could react, grabbing me and lifting me up and hurling me across the living room from the back of the sofa there.”  Duncan pointed. 

 

Julia didn’t look back, she kept her attention on Duncan.

 

“I landed on the loveseat that you and Christopher sat in last night.  She was on me in a second, pinned me down.  Her face was flushed, she was breathing fast and hard, she was panting like a dog, mouth open, teeth showing, the whole bit.  Her hands were hot against my arms as she held me down.  She looked crazy, mad, like she was out of her mind.  I could even feel heat from her face, not just her breath.”

 

Duncan lowered his head as an embarrassed look crossed his face.  “At one point she pissed right on me while she held me down, I don’t think she was aware of it.  Her eyes, I had never seen anything like that, the way she looked that day.  Even her voice was different.  Low, raspy, I didn’t know what was going to happen.” 

 

Duncan paused for a moment, remembering back, wondering if he had said to much.  “To make a long story short, she was just, well, you know… hot and bothered, horny.  She kissed me and told me not to expect it again.  She’s been the wolf ever since.”  Duncan finished rather embarrassed as he looked to the wall across from him.

 

“Wow, steamy stuff Duncan.”  Julia said.

 

Duncan gave a single laugh.  He looked over at her.  Her face was a bit flushed.  Her eyes had changed, he became aware, by the scent coming from her, the story aroused her.  When his eyes moved down from embarrassment again, he noticed Julia’s nipples were erect under her shirt. 

 

Duncan turned away.  The last thing he wanted was another aroused angry werewolf on his hands. Duncan stood, he started to walk away, Julia wasn’t being much help.  Time to get dressed and head to the office, maybe things would be tamer there.

 

“Duncan, please sit, I have something to tell you.”  Julia said, her voice was gentle, understanding.

 

Duncan looked at her.  He didn’t have much confidence in her right now given her comment about the story being steamy, or by being aroused by it.  He looked at her face.  She had a peaceful look about her.  Finally he decided to give her a chance, Snow sure wasn’t going to be any help, and Julia looked a bit older, maybe wiser. 

 

He moved back to the stool and sat.  Julia placed a hand on his arm.

 

When she spoke, her voice had a calming affect, smooth and kind. “What you saw, what you experienced Duncan, was the first stage of our mating ritual, our dance.  To a human it would seem very, aggressive, like you described, wild.”  Julia explained, choosing her words carefully. 

 

“This was not being ‘horny’ in any way, far from it.”  Julia went on putting air quotes in with her fingers when she said the word horny.  “This was part of the bonding process we normally go through when we choose a mate.  You were right about feeling the heat from her.  Our temperatures do rise on our skin considerably, our bodies are preparing to bind to another.”

 

Duncan’s eyes wandered as he took in what she was telling him.

 

“Most werewolves only see this form of mating once in a lifetime when they first choose a mate, alphas may experience it many times.  Alphas are far more passionate then regular werewolves, especially the strong ones, Snow is an exceptionally strong alpha.  In my three hundred plus years I have never seen one as strong as she.”

 

Duncan gawked at Julia for a moment, did she say three hundred plus years?  She looked like she was in her mid thirties at best.  Julia smiled at him, she seemed to pick up on his thoughts. 

 

“I’m middle aged for a werewolf Duncan, I come from a strong line of werewolves, so does Snow.  She is more than a hunter, she is a true warrior, a very rare breed among us.  Her lineage is a noble one.”  Julia took Duncan’s hand in hers and patted the top of his hand. 

 

“You should be honored, not offended by what happened, she has chosen you, even though she cannot fulfill her desires, of all the men in the world, she chose you, there is nothing to be ashamed of Duncan Galt, to us, to werewolves what you witnessed was pure unbridled devotion to another.  To the one single mate she would gladly choose if she could.  I hope now you understand.”  Her voice was soft and considerate.

 

Duncan’s face was thought filled, he did understand, now, what it meant.  What he didn’t get was why this made her turn into the ice queen, and there was one other minor detail.

 

“What about taking a piss on me?  Was that a sign of love and devotion too?”  His voice carried a touch of anger over that.

 

Julia laughed a soft laugh as she looked at the top of the island then to Duncan’s eyes.  “Yes,  oddly enough it was.  You have to remember, we are part wolf, she was probably unaware that this even happened until after the fact.  She was marking her territory, telling all other suitors that might have interest in you that she’s claimed you.  Telling them to stay away from the mate she’s chosen.”

 

Duncan laughed a bit, thinking about it.  He suddenly felt like Snow’s tree.  This thought made him laugh a bit more.  He shook his head and looked over to Julia. “That’s a strange way to say I love you.”  He said amused.

 

“Yes, it is isn’t it.”  Julia confirmed. 

 

“Thanks,”  Duncan said to her.  “You have helped me.”

 

Julia smiled back at him.  He was starting to not only see another world and its customs, he was beginning to understand and accept them.  This was a good thing too, there was much more he would need to learn and accept. 

 

Werewolf customs ran deep, far deeper than most human ones.  There was meaning in everything.  Though their ways were deep, they were also rather simple when viewed properly.  And they made sense, strange sense at times, but the reasons were actually easy to understand when someone took the time to not only explain them, but to listen to them too.

 

“So, bearing all this in mind, why the wolf routine?”  Duncan asked Julia.

 

She smiled, Duncan was actually looking at her, focusing on her face.  He finally saw the fine lines in her face, tiny wrinkles, the age in her eyes. “Honestly Duncan, I don’t know, only Snow can answer that.”  She said.

 

Duncan looked away and Julia removed her hand.  They sat there, side by side, now two friends. 

 

Though they may look exactly like humans, they acted completely different.  Duncan was starting to see what Snow meant when she said werewolves were almost a festive people.  They did seem to have a playfulness about them, until it was time for business. 

 

He witnessed that last night, the obnoxious Max of the day, was a well trained hunter by night.  Maybe that’s how the two sides balanced out, compensation for the slaughter and dark side of their duty as protectors.

 

Duncan looked back at Julia, when he thought about Max, he remembered something Kicks had said, something about all the other werewolves he had encountered. “You call her Snow, not Sadness.  Kicks, Max, everyone else always calls her Sadness, her clan name, you don’t.”  Duncan pointed out.

 

Julia sighed, her eyes went distant.  Slowly her smile was wiped away, looking at her now, she reminded him of Snow. “Because Duncan Galt, I don’t follow the rules of any clan.”  Her voice had changed with her face.  It held a story of loss and suffering.  “I am a renegade.” 

 

Duncan looked at her, renegade, Duncan remembered what Snow had said about renegades, about not making deals with them.  Her warning didn’t seem to fit with the woman he was speaking to.  “Snow told me never to make a deal with a renegade.”  Duncan bluntly said.

 

“Wise advise Duncan Galt, wise advise.”  Julia said.

 

“You don’t seem like the renegade type from what I have been told of renegades.  What’s your story?”  Duncan asked with honest interest.

 

Julia sighed and looked up, her hands dropping to her lap. “What is my story Duncan Galt, it’s a tale of a promising alpha hunter, on her way to becoming a matriarch only to have her dreams dashed upon the rocks because she acted in passion and rage Duncan Galt, passion and rage.” 

 

She stood and walked to the living room and took a seat in the recliner Snow had sat in the night before, Duncan followed.

 

“Times were different back then, but the rules were the same.”  Julia began with her hands on her knees, looking out the window and staring off as though she were traveling back in time and watching what happened.

 

“I was about Snow’s age then, I was to choose a human mate to turn for mine.  I was across the water then, no ambition to travel to the colonies, I was quite content in my English countryside.  There was a young man who took my fancy, handsome was he, funny and proper.  His eyes would dance as we would sing and walk in the English rain, holding hands and making merry.”

 

Julia gave a glum smile as she told her story.  “Like I, he too enjoyed the rain, no parasol would we carry, the rain felt good on our faces.  I chose him, but, the rules demanded my mate willingly accept the mating.  If he did the clan would look him over, hopefully approve our mating.  Our fist bite on each others flesh, binding us together for life.” 

 

Julia was off in another land, her eyes sparkled as she remembered back, she was looking on his face and remembering the rain.

 

“When I made my proposal, he moved from me, we were sitting in his flat, warming ourselves by the open hearth fire.  I tried to explain to him how we weren’t the vicious creatures of lore, that we protected humankind from the creatures of dark.  He asked if this was some poorly made prank or had I gone mad.”

 

Duncan could see hurt in her eyes now.

 

“He demanded I leave, said he didn’t want to see me ever again after I showed him my wolf form.  He made the sign of the cross at me, called me a daemon, ‘be gone witch’ he shouted at me, my heart was breaking, my desire burned hot.  My loins took over, I pinned him to the wall.  ‘It’s a wonderful thing’ I said to him, I told him I loved him and would prove my love for him.  He was taller than I, so I used my strength so I could bring his shoulder down, and I bit him.”

 

Julia shuttered when she took her next breath.  “A werewolf’s bite acts fast, I held him there until it took effect, was only a few seconds, he was turned.  I told him to bite me like I had done with him, he was barely turned.”

 

Her face held rejection.  “No you foul creature, you shall not have me for your dark deeds!  He shouted, he pushed me away with his new strength.  He was screaming, scared by the new sensations he was having, I acted quickly, grabbing him I forced his mouth onto my shoulder while he was screaming, forcing him to take my blood.  We were mated, but I had defiled myself and he, by the manner in which I consummated our mating.”

 

Julia looked down in shame.  “My clan was unforgiving for the atrocity I had done, I was cast aside as a potential matriarch but not disavowed.  My family had status among the clans, they covered what I had done and made it hush.  Very few knew the filthy details, my mate and I were kept, and in time he came to accept what I made him, he even came to love me again.  Whatever choice did he really have?” 

 

Julia’s face showed her pain, her regret for what she had done.

 

“I was put on a raiding party, I was pared with a young one, she had just completed her training and would take her mate soon, I was a seasoned hunter by then.  I was to help her learn the ways of the hunt so soon she would be ready to join her mate and partner on her own in hunts with her mate.  The two had already chosen each other, she was a turned, he a born.”

 

A distant look came to Julia’s eyes.  “She had promise of being a decent hunter, she would have done well in a raiding party, her mate too.  I didn’t see them as being good enough to hunt with a small party like what we are, but raids they would be fine for.”

 

Julia shook her head and scoffed in silent thought for a moment then continued.  Duncan took in the emotions she conveyed with her story. 

 

“We had gotten separated, chasing down some vampires that had escaped from the coven hold when we attacked.  She caught up to one of the loose vampires in a back street, he had grabbed a man that was walking the dim lit street and pulled the creature from this man and taken his head.  I heard a gunshot from a flintlock pistol, I ran in the direction of the sound, only to find that this man was a self proclaimed werewolf hunter and had shot her in the chest with a silver musket ball.”

 

Her face flinched.  “This wouldn’t have killed her, she was knocked to the ground.  I heard her plead with the man, she told him she had saved him from true evil, but the man didn’t listen.  He called her the true evil and pulled a silver headed smiths hammer from his jacket, he started swinging it into her head again and again until her brains were covering his face and the cobblestones around.”

 

Julia’s eyes widened now.  “My sword came up and around, taking his hand off and stopping the blows from the hammer, the sword continued on its path as the man stood and screamed in agony from the loss of his hand, my sword cut his torso in half.  It was then, my good Duncan Galt, I was made renegade, for I had forced my mate and killed an innocent.”

 

Duncan was lost for words, it was both a horrible and beautiful story all at the same time.  He felt for her, understood her pain, he wished he had words to comfort her as she had had for him, but there was nothing he could say.

 

Julia looked at him with a sullen face.  “That is what you have for a hunting party Duncan Galt, rogues. renegades, misfits and outcasts.  We are your support, your protectors, the worst of werewolf society.  Robert put us together, we are the best he could find of our kind.”

 

Her eyes fell to the top of the island.  “With the exception of Max, we are all disavowed, it is by Robert’s special arrangement that we are allowed to work together, he chose those of us who still had living mates so we could stand to be around one another.  He calls us the black wolf squadron.  He said we are like the misfits that formed a fighter squadron during world war II, therefore the name befits us.” 

 

Julia looked back to Duncan when she finished.  “Now, see what you’ve done, gotten me all serious in the middle of the day.”  Julia said in a quiet voice then forced a feigned laugh.

 

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Snow arrived at the office just after six a.m.  Duncan had had a sign made for the parking spot next to his, across on the other side of the door in, where she now parked her jalopy.  Connie’s car was already in its usual place beside Duncan’s spot.  Snow stared at Connie’s vehicle.  She had wanted to get in early, possibly avoid interacting with the woman first thing in the morning, apparently six in the morning wasn’t early enough to beat Connie in.

 

Snow pulled the lever that unlatched her door and it creaked open and sagged a bit.  Grabbing her briefcase she climbed out and started for the door into her day.  She sighed to herself as she went up the stairs, she would just go in and not even look in Connie’s direction and go straight to her office. 

 

Snow hurried through the main office door and charged the hall at a fast pace.  She heard Connie’s voice but gave it no heed and went in through the door of her office and turned on the lights.  As the florescent bulbs snapped to life and made a soft buzz as they warmed Snow sat down.  She stowed the soft leather bag that was her briefcase under he desk and powered the monitor on.  She was so intent on avoiding Connie she just now noticed her desk.

 

The desk was no longer the mess it had been when she left it last.  The papers that usually covered the top were no longer there, and in a neat pile in the middle of her desk sat her mail. 

 

Snow looked around, sniffed the air.  She smelt the lingering odor of burnt rubber, the smell left behind after the vacuum was used.  He trashcan was empty and clean, the small counter behind her was organized, no longer a shamble of papers and work.  The side of the desk to her left was cleared of junk and also neatly organized, her paperclips and cup of pens and pencils, now with the items actually in them, were arranged in a neat row, ready for use. 

 

There was a couple new additions to this part of the desk.  A small electric teapot and a cup warmer sat on the far side.  The teapot had a red light that glowed showing it was plugged in and a black cup was on the warming plate.  A tag and string hung down the side of the cup and a box of herbal tea was tucked in the corner by the teapot with a small black ceramic covered bowl that sat in the center of a matching saucer with a spoon and small tongs on it. 

 

Near the end of the main part of her desk was a plate.  Snow moved the plate towards her, she looked down at the cookies on the plate and gave them a sniff.  The smell of fresh fig came from them, buried inside the sweet smell of the light brown cake around the filled center. 

 

Snow moved over to the black bowl and removed the cover to see inside.  Sugar cubes had been placed inside. 

 

It was then Snow became aware of a new sound in her office, she looked down beside her in the direction of this humming and took note of a small black cube on the floor under the counter behind where she would sit.  She opened the door of the miniature refrigerator and looked inside.  On the shelf were several bottles of water and in the door, a small bottle of lemon juice.

 

Snow pulled the teapot back and put her nose near the spout, steam wafted up, the water was hot already. 

 

She took the cup and looked at the teabag inside, the fresh smell of the tea greeted her nose and tickled her senses.  She took the teapot in hand and slowly poured from it into the cup covering the teabag in the hot liquid and watched it float up.  She bobbed the bag in the cup and moved it around for several minutes, enjoying the smell it produced while it brewed. 

 

She pulled the bag to the side of the cup and pressed the water from it with the spoon, two lumps of sugar and a squirt of lemon.  On the front of the cup in wispy letters her name was embossed.  Snow took a sip from the cup and placed it on the warmer and turned to her computer, a cookie in hand.

 

When she moved the mouse that took the screen saver away she was greeted by a page that had a note from Connie.  The letter explained that all her papers had been scanned and were available on her desktop and indicated the folder they were in.  The originals, the letter informed her, were filed at the reception desk, should she need them.  Snow opened the folder that she was told contained her work, and found all the pages neatly arranged and in order in PDF format for easy access.

 

“Excellent.”  Snow said as she flipped through the pages on her computer. 

 

Every document was plainly labeled as to what it was, apparently Connie understood more about the schematics and what was on them than she let on.  Any documentation and notes each design page needed were also attached to every file, even cross referenced. 

 

Snow was smiling.  It was good to be part of the team again, at least as far a Connie was concerned.  Duncan on the other hand, she still didn’t know what she was going to do with the mess she had created there.

 

Snow arranged the documents she would be working with on the desktop of the monitor.  Pulling a yellow notepad from her desk she made some notes while eating a cookie and enjoying her tea.  She figured she had waited long enough, now that she had things organized to start her day and rose from her chair and went to the door.

 

As she approached the reception desk, Connie turned around. “Good morning Snow.”  Connie’s cheery voice said as she smiled at Snow.

 

“Good morning Connie, I just wanted to say thank you.”  Snow said and managed a smile back.

 

Connie bowed her head at Snow, she said nothing but held her smile.  Snow was about to turn and leave when Connie cleared her throat.

 

“Snow,”  She began, “I have made arrangements to have your computer upgraded, a tech will be coming in from Graphic Effects Computers to install a new CPU and two new monitors.  I took it upon myself to also see to it that you have updated drafting software and several other packages that should make your work a bit easier.  I tried to arrange this around noon.  The tech will also transfer all your files from your old hard drive to the new one in an archive so you can work them in where you want them.  He will also help you so you can bring your old drafts into the new software.”  Connie informed Snow.

 

Snow smiled at Connie, her eyes lit up, this was good news, working on a single monitor as she had been slowed things down, and Duncan did seriously need to update software, not just the drafting ones that were used by herself and R & D but most everything he had, which was mostly the same as when Galt Labs opened its doors.

 

“Wonderful!”  Snow said as Connie turned around and went back to work.  This time she wasn’t snubbing Snow.

 

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The tech arrived at 11:30, Snow made room for him and told Connie she was going to take lunch early so the man could work.

 

“Good idea Snow, oh and Duncan called, he’s working from home today.  So he won’t be in.”  Connie said.

 

Snow nodded and walked out, she figured she would see what today’s special was at Olivia’s. Snow fired up her car and fogged for bugs.  She pulled out of the lot and drove into town.  The radio was an after market one that had a CD player and new speakers, she just didn’t have any CD’s and the local station was an old country format.  She was alright with country, some of it, their format was not to her liking. 

 

She could tune in a classic rock station from a nearby town, but it was more corny jokes and lame conversation than anything.  Then there was a station that seemed to favor Barry Manilow; she felt his music caused suicides among laboratory rats that were made to listen to it, so she decided her own singing was probably the safest to drive to.

 

Once in town she was able to find a parking spot right in front of the cafe, normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but around lunch time the street in front of the cafe did fill up; it was the only time the small town saw a significant number of cars on the street.  Snow walked in and was looking around when someone called her name; she turned and saw Duncan who’s face said he was sorry she was here and Julia’s smile as she called to her again.

 

“Snow dear, please, join us wont you?”  Julia asked.

 

“Oh, no I can’t really, I’m just getting something to go.  I have someone working on my computer, I’m getting a new drafting one and another monitor, I need to be there so the tech can teach me how to use the new software.”  Snow said, dancing around with her words, trying to keep the truth she had to tell sound plausible for her inability to stay.

 

“Are you sure?  Duncan and I just ordered; I would love to have you at least join us while you wait.”  Julia said.  She didn’t try to hide her happiness that Snow was here.

 

It was nice that Julia really wanted her to join them, Duncan on the other hand, though nothing even close to werewolf, was just as honest.  His face saw to that.

 

“Thank you Julia, but I have some things I want to pickup in town while I am here, I was going to get them done while I waited for my order to be made.”  Snow said.  It wasn’t an untruth, seeing Duncan here she had changed her mind to getting an order to go, and there were things she had intended to pickup, just the order of events had changed now. 

 

Julia looked over at Duncan who was looking at his coffee cup.  She had a thought about how the bitterness of the brew he drank displayed itself in his manners. 

 

Looking back at Snow she smiled understandingly. “Well then, I will be seeing you tomorrow night then Snow.  Be safe.”  Julia said as Snow turned to the counter and put in her order, then left the café to shop.  She returned to pick up her order without looking over to where her two counterparts sat, paid and left.

 

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Duncan moved the living room furniture around.  He pushed the recliners near to where the loveseat was and put some folding chairs from the basement beside them in the area they had been and along the windows that looked out onto the yard.  Being the TV was mounted to the wall it made it easy to make room for the people that would be joining them tonight. 

 

He was expecting nine, Julia and her partner, Christopher and his mate, Max and his along with Robert plus himself and Snow.  He had made arrangements in town that morning with an attorney.  When he found out what his mission was, what he would be doing, he went in to have a will drawn up. 

 

Today he read it over and enacted it.  Should he not make it through tonight, Connie would have his business along with Snow if for some reason she managed to live if he did not.  It did happen on rare occasions, though something inside him said this wouldn’t be one of those rare events, regardless of how strong Snow was.

 

Nightfall was getting earlier and earlier with the onset of fall, winters embrace would soon follow.  Duncan had just place bottles of water in a tub of ice for his guests, he still wanted to be a good host, even if this might be his last night on earth, when the doorbell chimed.  Duncan looked at the clock, straight up six p.m.

 

When he answered the door the gentle face of Julia greeted him, with her was a brown haired girl, with eyes that matched her hair.  She was even shorter then Snow, but through the tight colorful clothes, Duncan could tell she was also very muscular.

 

“Julia, welcome.”  Duncan said with a reserved smile.  “Please come in, the others haven’t arrived yet.”

 

Julia entered without a word, she managed a smile, Duncan could tell it took some effort.  The browned haired girl though beamed a smile at him when he turned his attention to her after Julia entered.  She stuck out her hand exaggeratedly to shake hands. Her voice was rather shrill when she spoke.

 

“Good afternoon sir, I’m Mud.”  She said as Duncan shook her hand.

 

“Mud?”  Duncan said trying not to offend the young woman.

 

Duncan had gathered werewolf names were arrived at different means then human names, but still, to name a person Mud, and she wasn’t hard to look at either.  Duncan closed the door after her as she went to the living room with a skip in her step. 

 

“Oh good, you’ve got water, I am so thirsty.”  Mud was saying as she looked back at Duncan.  “The air, it’s rather dry today.”  She said while smiling the entire time.  She took one of the bottles and bounced to a chair, sat and politely waited.  Julia was in the kitchen.

 

Duncan walked into the kitchen where Julia stood. “She’s a renegade?”  Duncan asked her as he took to roost on a stood. 

 

She nodded and looked back at Duncan.  “Her mate was a clan bishop’s son, he was to take over in time for his father.”  Julia looked over at her partner as she spoke.

 

“Mud was to assist him in their duties to the clans.  She was unable to bear offspring to him.  Because of this, his brother, the next in line, took his place since his mate could bear offspring and continue the line.  Her mate took this personal.  Typically when this happens the mated pair will willingly step aside in honor.  Mud’s mate would not.  Her mate publically disgraced her before the clans.  They weren’t happy about this and Mud’s heart was broken.”  Julia looked back to Duncan.

 

“He tried to use his position as a bishops assistant after his brother took on the roll that had been his and was being trained to be bishop of the clan to put his mate in unsavory situations; he was trying to get her disavowed to rogue.  The clan elders caught wind of this and interrogated her mate on this, he couldn’t lie, so because of his actions he was exiled, that left his mate to be disavowed to renegade.  Though she herself had done nothing wrong, she was bound to him and had to share in his disgrace.  It was out of kindness that they let her become renegade over exile.”

 

Duncan looked back at the young woman, his heart went out to her, he understood what it was like to be betrayed by someone you care about, to feel their cold side.  He looked back to Julia. “How long ago did this happen?”  He asked.

 

“Hm, well she is two hundred and thirty-two now, they were mated when she was in her twenty-third season, and her mate was exiled in their second season together.” 

 

“Two hundred and seven years then.”  Duncan said, doing the math in his head.

 

“Yes, long time to be alone isn’t it?”  She said, though it wasn’t a question.

 

Duncan stood.  “I’m going to see what’s up with Snow.”  He said to Julia and went off upstairs. 

 

Snow’s door was closed and Duncan knocked on it.  Snow opened the door several inches and looked out, she wasn’t really expecting anyone else, but on the off chance Robert or someone else had come to speak with her she looked instead of just telling the person at the door to enter. 

 

Seeing Duncan she backed away from the door and swung it open. “May I come in?”  He asked.  Her face didn’t show any displeasure that he had come to her, didn’t show that she liked he was there either.  Snow didn’t speak, only held her arm out indicating he was allowed in. 

 

He walked into the room, Snow’s uniform was hanging on a hanger that was hooked on top of the molding that framed the closet door.  He reached out and touched it.  The fabric felt strange, it was cool to the touch and seemed electrified.  His fingers tingled as he moved them over the fabric.  He looked at the patch on the front.

 

“What is this for?”  He asked looking back at Snow.

 

“That was my clan crest, the writing on the side would indicate my position in the clan, the bottom would be my clans status among clans, the top would tell what I did.  Now, the emblem in the center is that of an outcast, the writing on the side states that I am a free hunter, the bottom means disavowed.”  Snow said, her voice soft and low.

 

Duncan looked at her face.  She had removed her jewelry. “I need to get ready.”  She said looking Duncan in the eyes.

 

He stepped aside clearing her path to her uniform.  He didn’t leave.  Seeing that he intended on staying Snow took off her clothes and walked over to the uniform.  Duncan looked at her back, it was covered in scars.  He looked down while she dressed.  Like the scars on her face, only the wounds from a minion of darkness would leave scars that wouldn’t heal. 

 

He wanted to tell her some things, from deep inside, tell her he was starting to understand what she had done meant.  When she turned around and he looked at her cold face, he no longer wanted to.  He had propped himself up against the end of her bed on the round scrolled footboard.  Snow stood and stared at him.  Not knowing why he was there anymore, Duncan righted himself and came up to Snow.

 

“Snow,”  he began, paused and reconsidered what he was going to say to her, “keep me alive please.”  He finally said then turned and left. 

 

When he came to the living room, Julia had joined Mud and Max had just arrived.  They were sitting together having light conversation and Max was again the obnoxious man from the cafe.  Mud would laugh along with his bad jokes, Julia would merely smile.

 

“Dunc-ster, bait-man, dude!”  Max greeted him as he walked in.  “Come on bro, sit on in, the funs just starting dude!”

 

Duncan forced a smile and entered the living room and took to one of the folding chairs by the window. Mud as it turned out was as obnoxious as Max, they both made comments that they seemed to perceive as funny, laugh at each other and at times rise and smack hands in the air. 

 

Julia would softly laugh with them sometimes and shake her head, making a comment that they were silly or something.  Duncan sat with his arms extended across his knees, fingers in front of him pressed together looking down.  He could tell Julia looked at him several times.

 

Snow came down while the boisterous pair hammed it up and took her seat next to Duncan.  Julia joined in some of the jocularity mildly, nothing like Max and Mud were doing, Duncan couldn’t help but feeling she was actually trying to be a part of the antics. 

 

This continued for about fifteen more minutes then the doorbell chimed.  Duncan started to rise but Max was quicker and sped to the door to answer it. “Robert, bro, come on in, join the party dude!”  He said as he opened the door.

 

Robert Clay walked in, followed by two others.  Robert’s face, though it had a mild smile, was mostly set in a business look.  The two that followed exchanged corny greetings with Max then they joined the others in the living room, grabbed water bottles and entered into the rounds of bad jokes and outrageous statements that all laughed at, overtly loud. 

 

Robert stood by where the end of the island in the kitchen was, watching the others joke, he had a slight smile still and shook his head a bit.  Then his eyes fell to Snow and he motioned for her to come to him. 

 

Robert set his briefcase on the end of the island and took something out as Snow came over.  It was a shirt like the one Snow was wearing.  Robert was holding it so the front was facing Snow.  He said something to her that Duncan couldn’t hear over the noise of the others. 

 

Snow nodded and took the shirt she was wearing off, Robert stood by as she changed shirts and took the shirt she took off from her and put it in his briefcase while she put the new one on.  Once she had it on, he shook her hand and said something else and nodded.  Snow turned, still no emotion in her face, and walked back towards Duncan. 

 

He looked at the shirt, the patch above her breast was different now.  He still had no idea what the writing said, but there were two insignias in the center now, one he recognized as the one Snow had said meant outcast with another one down and beside it.  The two markings were kitty corner from each other and both smaller than the original had been.  The outcast one sat higher and to the inside while the other sat lower and to the outside.  Snow sat down beside Duncan.

 

A woman had joined Max, Duncan assumed this was his mate.  She was of lean build and about five foot four with brownish read hair.  Christopher and another woman took places together in other chairs, Robert came and sat next to Snow with Max’s mate on the other side.   He held his briefcase upright on his lap, hands on top gripping the handle. 

 

Duncan thought he looked as though he were waiting on a bus.  He looked at his watch several times, a patient look on his face.  The others continued with their festive behavior, only Snow, Duncan and Robert looked out of place with their game faces on.  Julia, though she did not take part in making jokes anymore, laughed mildly with the others.

 

Duncan could tell by the light coming from the windows the sun was starting to set, nightfall would be soon.  There was no talk of the mission they were about to embark on, no talk of anything related to what was about to happen, only loud laughter and jokes. 

 

The people around him were dressed in nice clothes, not the black garb they had been in when they first visited Duncan’s home.  He questioned in his mind if they were only going to have another meeting instead of actually going out on this hunt that Robert had said was the mission for tonight. 

 

Duncan was lost in thought, not paying attention to the group that seemed to be in more of a party mood than anything.  His stomach churned as he thought about being the bait for a recruiting party.  Then, as though someone had flipped a switch, the laughter stopped. 

 

Duncan looked up, the fading orange light of the sunset was filling the room.  The faces of the people in the room no longer had any humor in them.  Their faces now looked like Duncan, Snow and Robert’s.  They all stood at the same time and went to the front door and picked up the black duffels they had dropped there when they entered. 

 

They came back, no one spoke, sat and removed their shoes, then stood and began to disrobe.  They pulled clothes from their respective duffels.  Duncan watched the strange ritual before him.  Soon everyone had changed into clothes that matched what Snow was wearing and were placing the clothes removed into the duffels.  Sitting, each put on heavy black boots to replace the shoes they had been wearing.  Nightfall was upon them.

 

“Alright, “Robert said once all had been seated, his briefcase now on the floor beside him, “does anyone have and new information before we begin?”  He asked.

 

Julia pulled out a paper from her duffel by her feet, opened it up revealing the map it was, and spread it out on the open area of the table in the center of the room.  Max’s mate picked up the tub of water and ice and moved it to the island in the kitchen making more room for Julia’s map. 

 

“The harvesters have been working from this area here,” Julia said, indicating an area on the map, “and have hunted in these areas.”  She moved her finger to several other locations.  “If their pattern continues, we are fairly confident we can intercept them if we set up here.”  Julia’s finger stopped on an area she had put a red circle on. 

 

She moved her finger around as she spoke explaining what she thought they should do. “If we set our bait up in this area, and have the ground teams here and over here, with Sadness positioned on this side near the bait, the other teams should be able to have a clear shot from their vantage points here and here.”  Julia said.  Duncan looked at the map as she laid out her strategy.

 

Robert nodded while he looked at the map. “Any objections?”  Julia asked looking at Max.

 

“That is if, they don’t backtrack and cruise areas they have covered already hoping to catch another stray in the areas they were successful in prior.  We don’t know the exact location of their hiding place, we can’t be absolutely sure they’ll approach from this direction.”  Max said as he pointed at the map. 

 

“We should pull the bait tighter to this area over here, near the trees, there is a small river that runs along this ridge here, we will want to stay away from that in case the bait needs to make a run for it, we want him to have a clear shot to drive out from should he need to.”  Max said.

 

Mud glanced at Max as she spoke.  “True, but if we move closer to the trees, wont that cut down the range we have on knowing their approach?  This area is more sandy too.  That could cause the car to become stuck, should the bait need to run.”  Mud said as she looked over the map.

 

Max raised a finger as he responded.  “Sand wont be a problem, the car we have looks just like a sedan, but is actually an all wheel drive frame.  As far as tracking, we move your team over here in this clearing beyond the trees, if they approach from here, then we have you for advanced warning, and keep Moon Current’s team where Field Grass originally said for coverage from that side.” 

 

Max looked up at the room.  “Myself and Meadow will take position on the other end of the clearing and cut the harvesting party off from moving that way when they take the bait.  Snow will be at our three hidden over here, in bolt range of the bait.”  Max finished.

 

Robert cleared his throat.  “What do you have planned should any of the harvesters make it past your people in the gap over here?”  He asked pointing to the area that Duncan would have open if he needed to drive out.

 

Max answered.  “That’s a blank area, Meadow will be responsible for keeping watch on that, with Field Grass flanking on this side and Moon Current flanking from the other they will only have two routes from their perspective, Meadow will try and make the forward route look closed leaving the only other viable means to escape backwards.  Coming from behind, we have options.  If they do break for the front, I have one cover from options.  It’s the best I can come up with.”  Max said looking up at Robert.

 

“And these options?  How reliable are they.”  Robert asked.

 

Max took his hand, open palm and placed it on his face next to his ear and slid it down the length of his face to his chin, then he pulled it away and made a fist and kissed the end of his closed hand where his thumb and index finger were.

 

Robert nodded.  Duncan had no idea what the gesture meant, but from Robert’s nodding he felt it was some kind of assurance that the options he spoke of were solid.

 

Julia talked more about what was known of the party they would be hunting.  When she finished with her information and all questions answered, it was dark outside.

 

“Alright people, you have your plans, you know what we are up against, we have just less than an hour before its go time, the harvesters will be moving soon.”  Robert said.

 

The group got up and moved to the door and walked out.  Snow and Duncan were left behind.  Duncan didn’t like how he was referred to as ‘the bait’, but he understood from their reasoning, that was all he was.

 

“You good to go Duncan?”  Robert asked him

 

“Yeah, the bait is fine, I don’t feel too much a part of the team though, feel like the odd man out.”  He said and stood up.

 

“You are.”  Robert responded then moved towards the door.  “Sadness.”  He said as he passed Snow and held out a set of keys to her.  Snow took them and started for the door, Duncan sighed and followed her.

 

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Out in the yard of Duncan and Snow’s house, the others had pulled out, heading to the rendezvous point.  A black sedan sat alone near the front door of the house.  Beyond Robert walked to a black Suburban and entered the back of it. Duncan looked back to the sedan.

 

“Get in.”  Snow said to him, her voice said she was in charge now.

 

Duncan gave her a sideways look and moved to the passenger side of the sedan, pulled the latch and climbed in. 

 

No dome light came on when the door opened.  This was normal for operation vehicles.  Snow started the sedan.  There was power under the hood, Duncan could hear it.  The seatbelt was not standard, it was a five point type, Duncan latched all the straps in as Snow put the car into drive and pulled out in a hurry.  She didn’t turn on any lights and when she hit the brake at the end of the drive, Duncan noticed no brake lights came on either.  Snow turned down the familiar road in complete darkness, the engine roared as she fed it.

 

“How can you see?”  Duncan asked Snow.

 

She looked over at him, her yellow eyes glowed.  Duncan realized it was a foolish question, wolves were well equipped to see at night. 

 

When they reached where the two lane tar road crossed the road they were on making a T intersection, Snow didn’t slow any, instead she accelerated.  The sedan plowed across the road and into the fields beyond the road, Snow accelerated more, the ride was rough, even more so at the elevated speed they were at. 

 

Snow turned in the field, Duncan had no idea where they were in the pitch black of the night.  The car turned suddenly, he could barely see Snow behind the wheel as they pulled out onto a road.  The only light he had was from the stars above. 

 

The engine roared again as Snow opened the throttle, Duncan felt the car change lanes, he was able to see enough to tell they were passing other vehicles, they were black and had no lights.  The rest of the team.  Snow accelerated until they were in front of the others, Duncan couldn’t see the dash to know how fast they were traveling, but he could tell from the faint star light they were traveling very fast. 

 

Snow pulled back into her lane.  They had apparently pass all of the other team members.  They turned down another road, Snow slowed only a little bit, the sedan went sideways around the turn, it had to be very heavy Duncan thought.  He had no idea of how long they traveled, he was told not to wear his watch, no jewelry, wallet, nothing, only his clothes.

 

When Snow finally slowed, they turned into a field and raced across it for a short time then stopped.  Duncan was about to open the door when Snow stopped him.

 

“The bait says in the vehicle.”  She said in a voice that almost sounded loathsome. 

 

Duncan hated her at that moment, it was bad enough the others referred to him as the bait, she didn’t need to.  He regretted his decision to join Robert in his endeavors now.  But did he really have an option?  Had he said no, what would have been the result?

 

Alexander would’ve had his time to gloat Duncan figured.  The werewolves only needed him as bait.  Snow had been placed in his path to secure that bait.  Duncan felt used.  He saw it all too clearly now, they may not be able to lie, but that didn’t stop them from manipulating people.  He wondered if it was too late to catch that plane to South America.

 

Duncan couldn’t really see, figures moved about the field, he could gather that in the faint starlight.  He saw one of the figures coming towards the sedan.  Snow climbed back in and started the car and moved to another location and turned it to face a certain direction. 

 

She separated the key ring and took the end she unclipped, leaving a key in the ignition.  She went to the trunk and opened it.  There was a knock on the window, Snow was standing there, she now had her utility belt on and Duncan could make out the hilt of a sword on her back.

 

“Keep this window down and get out.”  She said to him bluntly. 

 

Duncan did as he was told and closed the door behind him. 

 

Snow looked coldly at him.  “There’s a key in the ignition.  When they show up, you run for the car and dive into the open window, close it as fast as you can, the doors wont open now, your only access is through the open window.  Listen, there is a radio on in the car, you can hear us, listen, pay attention to what you hear, if you hear ‘get out’ start the car and drive straight forward, no, do not turn on the lights, I say again, do not turn on the lights just drive forward.  You’ll be told when to stop, until then you keep your frelling ass moving, we clear?”  Snow barked at him.

 

“Yeah, we’re clear, partner.”  Duncan said the word partner as cold and as hateful as he could.  For someone who’s life depended on his living, she sure wasn’t taking any steps to make him want to survive. 

 

“Follow me.”  Snow said without emotion.

 

Duncan tried his best, she had to redirect him once  They arrived at one of the vehicles the other team members had driven, it was a large van. 

 

Snow slid the door open.  “Get in.”  She said, pushing on his back.  He was about to tell her to knock it off, but held his tongue.  He needed these people if he were to survive, he didn’t want to violate some custom and piss them off.

 

Once inside the van Snow closed the door from the inside, lights came on.  The rest of the team was in the back of the van.  The front was blocked off and there were no windows in the part they were in.

 

Mud held up a small item.  “These are night vision contacts and they interact with the wrist system we are going to give you.  With these you will be able to see the tracking system that will tell us when they are approaching.”  Mud said to him and handed him the small contact lens case.

 

“You know how to put those in Mr. Galt?”  She asked.

 

Duncan nodded.  “Yes, I know how contacts work.”  He said coldly.

 

“Then what are you waiting for.”  She said, the others were already putting theirs in.

 

“What do werewolves need with night vision?  Thought you came with it based on the drive here.”  Duncan said.

 

Mud was about to say something to him, from the way she moved it wasn’t going to be nice.  Max cut her off.

 

“We don’t Duncan, you do, ours only lets us see the tracker.  It shows movement in an eyes up display and on the wrist computer Mud will put on you.”  Max said.

 

Duncan looked at the case again, opened the top and looked at the black contacts inside.  He looked over at Mud, then back to the case and removed one of the lenses.  When he had both of them in, he could see out of both eyes, the first one had turned his vision black in the one eye, apparently you had to have both in for them to work.  Mud grabbed his left hand and put a thin strip around his wrist, about an inch wide.  When he looked down at it there was a small screen on the paper like strip on his arm.

 

“Double tap the display to bring up the eyes up display, that will show it on your contacts.”  Mud said and did so. 

 

Duncan’s vision changed.  A computer generated display filled his vision, he could still see everything, the computer told him where there was movement, that the people near him were team member # something, the distance he was from them, and other information that would be useful.

 

“You wont need the targeting system outside of it telling you an undead is near, that will tell you where they are, and help you move in the opposite direction.  Hopefully in the direction of your car.”  Mud finished.

 

Christopher spoke next.  “You were instructed on what to do when they hit, right?”  He looked over as Snow when he finished.

 

“Yes, get in, close it up.”  Duncan replied.

 

“Stick to the plan and you may just make it to the next mission.”  Christopher said.

 

Duncan looked around the van.  Some of his team members were making final checks on there clothes, making sure all their gear was in place, one was adjusting the sword on his back.

 

“Ok, black; I’ll position the bait.”  Max said and the lights went out and Duncan could hear the door open.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

Once the lights were out, Duncan was in the dark, but only for a few seconds.  By the time Max had him climb out of the van, he could see.  His contacts were doing their job by providing him with night vision.  This wasn’t anything like the night vision goggles he had used in the company.  These were far better, the lighting they provided was far more natural.  It wasn’t quite like looking around during the day, he could still tell it was night off in the distance, it was more like a well lit city street.

 

“This night vision is exceptional.”  Duncan said to Max as they walked across the field.  Duncan heard the van start, it pulled away out of sight.  “Nothing like what we used when I was in the field.  I see they have come a long way since I left.”

 

Max was looking around the field, not paying much attention to Duncan.  Finally he looked back at him.  He was a completely different person from his day time persona. 

 

“Not for general use, our own design.  Uses ambient light that already exists.  Works best outside.  There is already a lot of light, just not in a frequency that your human eyes can pick up, the lenses change the frequency of this light so you can see it.  They only produce their own light if there is none available, then they emit it at a frequency well out of any visual range and convert it when it bounces back.”  Max told him as he led Duncan to his position, a picnic table stood at this location. 

 

Christopher approached them from the woods nearby.  “Everybody is set and in position Leader.”  Christopher said to Max when he was at the table. 

 

Duncan was looking around and remembering what Mud had said about the plastic strip around his wrist, looked at it.  It glowed like a monitor, it was easy to see.  Duncan wondered if it actually gave out light, or if his contacts made it look that way.

 

Max and Christopher were discussing contingency plans.  Duncan posed a problem he perceived to them. “It’s a moonless night.”  Duncan said looking at the two other men.

 

Christopher’s eyes moved over to Duncan briefly, a quick look of annoyance. There was no interruption in their conversation, both ignored him.  Duncan cleared his throat. 

 

He spoke much louder this time.  “I said, it’s a moonless night.”

 

Christopher snapped his head in Duncan’s direction.  “Yeah, its a moonless night, be quiet, we’re talking.”  He said to Duncan.

 

“Yeah, I know, da bait just supposed to shut it’s hole and wait to die.”  Duncan said in a mocking child like ghetto speak. 

 

The two men stopped talking and turned to look at Duncan.

 

Duncan gave them a scolding look.  “You know sparky, maybe if you stopped looking down your condescending nose at us pathetic humans and actually listened to us and tried to work with us you might have more cooperation and heaven forbid actually learn something from us that might make you more successful.”  Duncan raged, though in a restrained voice. 

 

“I spent the greater part of my working life as a CIA field agent, I may not have been a mighty vampire hunting werewolf, but I was still a field agent, just like you sparky.”  Duncan continued primarily directing his commentary at Christopher.  “I know its hard for you to fathom that a human might know something the almighty werewolves have missed, and woe be it for a werewolf to take advise from a human, we are, after all, the only reason you critters exist, right?”  Duncan finished.

 

Christopher raised a hand with a pointed finger, he was about to lash into Duncan verbally, Max raised his own hand with the palm flattened out in a stop sign.  Christopher dropped his hand and held his tongue.

 

“It’s a moonless night, what’s significant about that Duncan.”  Max asked in a calm voice.

 

“Humans can’t see in the dark like you two can, we need light, more light then what is being provided by the stars, its partially overcast tonight, that means to us it’s pretty dark out.  You want to attract the harvesters to a normal looking human situation, right?” 

 

Duncan looked between the two quickly then continued without waiting for a response.  “Humans wouldn’t be out walking in the woods alone on a dark night like this without some type of light.”

 

Max looked over at Christopher who looked to Max to see if his leader was considering what he just heard and what he thought of it.

 

“He’s right.”  Snow’s voice said from behind Duncan.  “Humans almost always have a light device of some type with them at night.  Even on city streets that are lit, they often carry a flashlight or have something to either light their way or so they can be seen by drivers of cars.”  Snow moved up and stopped by her partner.

 

Max looked at Snow.  She had been assigned to live among the humans, sniff out those with the smell of the darkness on them, prevent them from making an alliance with the darkness, calling in the rogues if they did, or already had.  She watched out for those that the clans believed the vampires had an interest in. 

 

She knew much about humans from her work, far more than most hunters would.  That is why Robert approached her for this mission, why she was assigned to Duncan in the first place.  She knew how to blend in.

 

“What do we do?  We don’t have a flashlight or lantern?”  Christopher said analyzing what was said and realizing Duncan and Snow were right. 

 

Wherever humans were, they brought light with them.  The vampires would be suspicious of a human this far out with no light.  Their plan might still work, but the harvesters would be suspicious, that was something they didn’t need.  They stood there thinking, they didn’t have time to go and get a light, reports of the harvesters being on the move had just come in.  They only had a few more minutes.

 

“We’ll just have to go with it and hope for the best, if they don’t by it, the operation fails and we are reassigned.”  Max said.

 

Snow didn’t like the options, being reassigned in her mind was not an option, she had given up too much to quit now.  She was bound to Duncan, nothing would change that, she intended more for her days than sitting by his side in his fortress house waiting for Alexander to show up.  That’s when a thought hit her.

 

“Our marker lights.”  Snow said.

 

They all carried a small chemical light with them that they would use to mark a location so the others would be able to find it.  They were a plastic tube that when you bent the tube it broke a pocket of reactant inside open it created a soft dim light.  She had seen humans use these while jogging at night in parks and along roads.  They didn’t provide much light, but enough so humans could avoid pitfalls while they walked or ran.  

 

She dug hers out of a pocket and handed it to Duncan.

 

They all looked at Duncan as he looked at the glow stick in his hand.  He snapped it and shook it, everyone turned away including Duncan as the light came to life, practically blinding them.

 

“This should do it, it will have to.”  Duncan said. 

 

He moved the light behind him so his contacts would work.  His wrist computer beeped in his ear, as did the others.  Duncan double tapped the display on his wrist.  Text popped up in his vision.  There was a message from Mud and someone labeled Cool Breeze.  ‘Harvesters in route, three minutes out.’  The text from the one labeled Cool Breeze said.  ‘Flyers spotted.’ Was Mud’s text.

 

Flyers, those were the party members that went ahead of the main group where the recruits would be.  They would spot a human and call the others in. Max started making hand signals, Duncan was familiar with what they meant, his men had used the same signs, they were out of time.  Duncan gave thumb up to Max and moved to his spot on the table and started singing something and dancing around on the top of the table, the others scattered. 

 

Snow hesitated and looked up at her partner.  Her eyes were hollow, then she turned and ran from him.

 

The display in his vision told him two flyers were coming fast, he turned his back in their direction and waved his arms around and started singing loud.  The only song he could think of at the time was a Beatles song, we all live in a yellow submarine and was belting out the words he could remember at the top of his lungs.

 

“We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.  We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.”  That was all he could really remember of the song and just kept repeating it over and over as the flyers passed over.  They were a good seventy feet in the air, they dropped in from above the treetops, circled around and moved away in the direction they had come from.

 

‘Flyers just past my location.  They’re getting the recruits.’  Came a text from someone labeled ‘Squirrel Chaser’.

 

Just as a text from Julia said ‘incoming’, Duncan’s eyes up display went wild, a brilliantly lit word ‘ALERT’  flashed as the tracker informed him of concentrated movement behind and above him.

 

Pain suddenly wracked his body, he felt something rip into his back as he was knocked to the ground, he managed to turn his head and see a black figure with outspread wings, the wings of a necromantic bat. 

 

The creatures eyes burned red, its mouth was wide open with sharp teeth about an inch long all in a tight row extending all the way back into its jaws.  Near the front on both the top and bottom were two sets of long slender fangs nearly three inches long.  Its breath stank of sour rotten flesh and death.  The body looked like some grotesque skeleton with black dull leather stretched over it. 

 

It screeched loudly, the sound made Duncan want to throw up.  Its head lunged forward while the end of a wing forced Duncan’s head to the side and up, giving it full access to his neck.  He heard a sound of rushing wind, the creature lost its grip on him.  Duncan snapped his head and saw Snow, her face was elongated some, it pointed out and looked like a small wolf face without the fur, he had seen it before, the night they first met.  Her sword blazed with blue fire and was finishing its stroke through the neck of the creature on top of Duncan.

 

“GO!”  He heard her raged voice shout. 

 

He pulled himself away from where he had fallen as the torso of the creature exploded from its head being removed by the thunderous blow of Snow’s sword.  Duncan ran towards the car and looked back, Snow spun and swung her sword at another creature coming for her from behind.  Her sword looked to be nearly seven feet long, and in her other hand she wielded her cross bow which she fired in the air as she finished her turn with her sword, rendering the creature into two halves.

 

Duncan was knocked to the grown as a dark wing struck him in the back.  He regained his feet and sprinted on, the creature that hit him had fallen from the night sky, a large crossbow bolt through its chest, Duncan was out of range when the creature blew.

 

He was almost to the car when he was struck from behind, knocking him again to the ground. 

 

A creature much larger than the first two Duncan had seen, rolled him over so Duncan was facing it.  Duncan’s left arm was pinned behind his back.  The creature screeched at Duncan, then turned its head and bellowed “It’s a trap!” 

 

The sound of its voice was deafening and chilled Duncan to the bone.  It quickly turned its attention back to Duncan. “You’re mine!”  It announced then extended its fangs while bringing its head back, preparing to move in for the kill.  Duncan arched his back freeing his hand.  He aimed the gun where he knew the creatures heart was, he had dealt with this type on a different front many years ago, he knew where its black dead heart was. 

 

He fired five rounds into the chest of the creature.  It stood, breaking the grip it had on Duncan, smoke poured from the holes Duncan had made in its chest and screamed in agony from the holy water he had injected into its being.

 

“Suck on that bitch!”  Duncan yelled at the vampire as he scrambled to his feet and dove into the open window of the sedan, he spun around and mashed the button to close the window.  The window snapped shut in a millisecond.  Duncan looked out the window, the creature slammed its clawed fist against the thick window. 

 

A large four legged creature that Duncan knew from Snow showing him her forms engaged the vampire from behind, its own claws striking the window Duncan was behind from through the vampire’s abdomen.  The creature turned to fight the werewolf, Duncan heard and felt something land on the roof of the sedan. 

 

He watched as another werewolf came from the roof of the sedan, its jaws wide open, and bit the head off of the vampire.  The werewolves moved away suddenly after the head was removed, then the creature exploded as had the others. 

 

The fight moved away from where Duncan was in the sedan.  He could make out at least a dozen werewolves, some in human form, most in their combat wolf form.  He wasn’t sure of the vampire numbers, he figured there were at least thirty, if you counted the growing number of dead, close to forty. 

 

He saw Snow charge in, she wielded her sword in a graceful, deadly ballet with one hand, and fired the massive crossbow with the other.  She would do a flip backwards putting the front of the crossbow on the ground and step through it and cock it, slap a bolt in and charge again.  Like the others, her mouth would open and he could tell they were giving a battle cry as they would charge in. 

 

Snow not only used the crossbow to fire bolts, she would swing it as a bludgeon knocking vampires to the ground, then grab a bolt and stake them.  She was considerably more aggressive than the others he observed.  She would cock her crossbow while progressing forward into the next conflict.  She always pressed forward.  She was never not attacking. 

 

Duncan watched her once as she was charging into the next battle, lunging high into the air.  Her feet she placed on the crossbow and thrust them down to cock it again, her sword came down as she stood in the bow, taking out the next vampire in line.  Pulling her feet from the bow she landed and wielded her sword, with a crushing blow from the bow.  She spun the sword in the air in front of her, making it hover long enough for her to put another bolt in the crossbow, then grabbing her sword charged in again.

 

At one point a vampire charged towards the sedan and Duncan.  It slammed into the side and was rearing back as to punch through the side to get at him.  He saw in the background a werewolf thrust itself into the air, Christopher landed next to the vampire, a bottle in his hand. 

 

He spun and smashed the bottle in the face of the vampire and leapt away.  Smoke poured from the area the liquid inside the bottle flowed onto, there was a flash of light and the creature exploded.  The bottle looked to be about pint sized, more than enough holy water to do the trick.

 

“Go, get out get out!”  A voice he knew as Max’s came over the speakers in the car, Duncan did not hesitate and ignited the engine, threw the vehicle into gear and jammed the throttle to the floor. 

 

He had to have crossed the road, the ride became so rough he was slamming against the steering wheel.  He hammered the break and threw on the belts then hammered the throttle again, the engine roared as he held the wheel straight as he was told to and flew into the night. 

 

He dodged trees and a fence, making his way through a small opening in the barbed wire fence that crossed the field.  His contacts were helping him see, for the most part, he was traveling too fast to see more then fifteen feet ahead of him.  Suddenly the engine cut out and stalled.  He was trying to crank the engine to life when the speakers talked to him again.

 

“Stay put, I stopped it.”  Max’s voice said to him.  Duncan stopped cranking the engine and sat.

 

He was quite a ways from the battle.  They wanted him safe but he considered one of the concerns that had been discussed, what if one of the vampires escaped.  Out here he was a sitting duck, he didn’t know if the armament of the sedan was sufficient enough to withstand an attack from a vampire for very long.  If he was attacked, it would take a while for his team to reach him.

 

Snow, she was his best hope.

 

Duncan looked around where he was, his contacts advised him of motion nearby.  He could see something coming towards him.  He gave a sigh of relief when the light showed him a timber wolf walking towards the sedan from in front of him. 

 

He looked in the direction of the other movements the contacts told him were near.  There were four wolves in all, they circled the sedan and kept a vigilance over him.  They must have been the ‘options’ Max had spoke of, it appeared they had a lot more help then Duncan had been led to believe.

 

He tried to guess how long he sat there, even the eyes up display had no clock.  It seemed about twenty minutes when suddenly the sedan started again.

 

“Galt, Duncan, you still with us?  Pull up your map, drive to the green dot.”  He thought he recognized the voice as Mud’s, though he wasn’t a hundred percent sure.  He flicked his eyes up to the map indicator and tapped the wrist control, an overlay of the area came to view.  He put the car in drive and hammered on to the location.

 

“Yeah, still breathing, on my way.”  He said to the inside of the sedan.

 

-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-The-Protectors-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-O-o-O-o-O-o-O-

 

When he pulled into the field where the mission started, Julia, Mud, Max and Meadow were standing in front of a young girl, Snow was behind her with her sword next to the girls head, resting on her shoulder.  The girls hand were not tied, but she had them clasped behind her as though they were.

 

Duncan put the sedan in park and turned off the engine.  Max looked over at him, he waved his arm for Duncan to come over.  Mud looked at Max, she was apparently questioning him on why he was having Duncan join them.  When he opened the door the comments he heard her make confirmed what he had assumed.

 

“He doesn’t have any part of this, he’s human, what reason do you have to involve him in this?”  Mud was saying.

 

Max wasn’t responding to her disapproval of his calling Duncan over, he was watching Duncan leave the sedan and walk to where they had their prisoner.

 

“He wouldn’t understand, he doesn’t have to see this, it isn’t his place.”  Mud continued.

 

Mud was staring at her leader.  Her faced showed how upset she was that Duncan had been allowed to whatever it was they were doing.

 

“Agent Galt, we have here a freshly turned vampire, she hadn’t fed yet, when her masters were killed, she reverted to human, though she is still tainted.”  Max said to Duncan.  “Robert’s orders, take it up with him.  I’m following orders.”  Max said while still looking at Duncan, his words were clearly meant for Mud.

 

Mud stood straight.  Her argument ended when Max told her it was Robert’s orders.

 

Duncan walked over by Max and looked at the girl, she was barely fourteen he figured.

 

Max looked at Duncan, his lips were pressed hard, he looked upset but the expression quickly passed.  “Agent Galt, you place is beside your partner.”  He said fairly calmly. 

 

Duncan moved to Snow’s side without a word or nod, he stood beside her and clasped his hands in front of himself and stood straight, his eyes on Max.

 

Max turned his attention to Snow.  He didn’t speak, he merely tipped his head to her, then turned and started to leave, the others followed with out a word. 

 

Snow stood with her sword at the girls neck, she was crying now.  Duncan heard the sounds of engines starting, looking over he was able to see three black vehicles pulling away, a sedan like his, a van and an SUV.  The engines roared as they left and soon could not be heard.

 

Snow reached back to a quiver on her back, it was small around and about two feet long.  She pulled out a bolt for her crossbow and handed it to Duncan.  The bolt was longer than the quiver, and considering the number of bolts she had fired, was not large enough from outside appearances to hold the number she had fired. 

 

Duncan took the bolt.  If a seven foot sword could fit in the sheath across her back, why not a stockpile of bolts in a small quiver.

 

Snow moved around to the front of the crying girl.  The tip of her sword on her shoulder the entire time.  Once in front of her she moved the sword forward a bit so the last foot or so was next to the girls head.  Duncan seeing what she was doing anticipated what was expected of him.  He held the bolt at the girls back, aimed at her heart.

 

Robert had ordered Max that Duncan be here for whatever was about to happen.  In the company, new field agents were often brought in to witness certain events so they would learn what was expected of them, what they would face. 

 

Now that he had survived his first mission, he was to learn the ways of the people he would be working with, learn how to act, what the job would fully involve so he could work with them, what was expected of him.  Duncan was about to see the dark side of the job he had accepted, this was being done so one day if needed, he would function as he should, and not be shocked by the events he would witness. 

 

The girl had her head down, sobbing. “Lux lucis ero vestri sentio”  Snow said in a quiet voice staring down at her.

 

Duncan heard the words, they were Latin again.  He knew these words, seen them someplace, he translated in his mind.  ‘The light will be your judge’ he came up with.  He had no idea what was meant by the words or what he was about to experience.  Whatever it was, he knew he would never be the same afterwards.

 

“You have a decision to make.”  Snow said to the girl. 

 

The girl looked up at Snow, tears running down her face, she smelt bad.  “A decision?”  The girl asked.

 

“Will you stand in the morning light and choose the light and be washed in the sun, or do you choose to walk forever with the darkness?”  Snow said.

 

“Please, I don’t understand, where am I, who are you, what is going on?”  The girl cried.

 

Snow’s face never changed,  she was giving the choice to the girl that she was required to do, Duncan understood what was being asked of her.  The link between her and the vampire recruiters had been broken but she hadn’t fed yet.

 

“You are no longer a creature of the darkness, that, for now, has been snatched from you, your soul remains, but the taint of the darkness is still within.”  Snow said.

 

The girl started sobbing harder.  “Billy brought me here, my boyfriend Billy, I only did it for Billy, he said we were going to have fun, I thought it was just a party!  Please, let me go, I haven’t done anything!”  The girl pleaded to Snow, then turned and looked at Duncan. “You’ve got to believe me!”  She said to him.

 

Duncan looked at her face.  She had black lipstick on and a single stud in her nose.  There was a tattoo on her right eye of a teardrop in black ink.  Below that a small spiders web.  He didn’t know what came over him, 

 

He looked at the girl, pulled his lips back, opened his mouth and snarled at her.  Snow did the same thing as he when he did it.  He didn’t know why, it just happened.  He must have done it because Snow did, but he felt something was not right here, the girl appeared scared, she surely was crying, something was missing though.

 

Snow asked the final question she would ask.  “Now is the hour before the rising sun, choose between the dark and the light, will you stand in the morning sunrise and wash the darkness from you or do you choose the dark and all it holds?”

 

The girl turned towards snow.  The crying stopped, her voice, a snarl. “I’ll never stand in the light you whore!”  She exclaimed.

 

“Then you have chosen.”  Snow said, Duncan could hear the sadness in her voice.

 

Snow pulled back the sword, placed the tip in the center of the girls chest, just below the small hollow of her neck and started pushing her back.  Duncan moved the bolt away so the girl could lay down as Snow pushed her back.  Snow gripped the hilt of her sword with her hands at the back as though she were going to lance the girl with it. 

 

Snow reached into a pocked on the side of her utility belt and pulled a plush black leather bag with a gold and black cord that cinched it shut, while holding her other hand on the hilt of the sword which seemed to adjust its length for her stance.  The blade had become narrow, about half the four inches it had been and was now only three feet in length. 

 

Duncan had moved to stand next to Snow, he somehow felt that was his place, where he belonged. 

 

Snow said nothing to him, he felt connected to her somehow. He reached out his hand, he took the bag from her.  Was this what he was supposed to do?  He undid the cord that held the bag shut, opened it and turned it over, holding the bottom, over Snow’s open gloved hand. 

 

Two silver coins fell from the bag and into her hand.

 

The girl looked up at the two of them, she had been given a chance to return to the light and walk among the living.  Instead she chose to walk into the darkness.

 

Werewolves aren’t in the business of helping the darkness harvest souls.  They protect humankind from the darkness that seeks to devour them, and this includes their souls as well.  When a recruit dies before it has signed its contract, the owner of the soul has a choice. 

 

Should they choose to return to the living, they must stand and face the rising sun.  Since they are no longer vampire, as the link has been broken and they have not fed and sealed their fate, they can stand in the sun, the morning light cleanses the taint of darkness from them and life is restored and light once again returns their soul to them, the contract is void. 

 

Though the girl herself was not slain, when the one who had turned her died, thus did the vampire inside her.  She was given her choice.  The soul cannot be allowed to go to the darkness, instead it is separated from both the light and the dark.  It is taken to a place of purgatory. 

 

The girl’s eyes turned black as she looked up at Snow and Duncan, she spit at them and cursed them by name, she seemed stuck to the ground.  Duncan watched and learned, this was a thing of another world, it was a time of judgment.

 

Snow knelt by the girl.  “I’m sorry for your soul.”  She softly said to the girl who was cursing her. 

 

Snow took one of the coins, though the girl’s eyes were still wide open, and placed the coin over her right eye.  Then, she took the second coin and did the same to her left.  Once the coins were placed, Snow stood and took Duncan’s hand.

 

The coins moved about as the girls eyes moved under them, she screamed, but was unable to move.  Snow lowered her head as she held Duncan’s hand and began to speak:

 

“Thirteen torches burn;

To light the approach.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

Twelve aside one a front.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

Along your side they come.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

 Your soul away to carry.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

In your eyes of coal.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

Among them you must stand.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

As the ferryman pushes on.

 

Thirteen torches burn;

Down the river Styx.”

 

 

Duncan became aware of a fog moving in, though the air was warm.  The fog came from the ground and soon filled the entire field, he heard the sound of water.  The land could not be seen from the density of the fog, then it slowly parted near them and pulled back though it did not leave.  Now in front of the three was a river, a dark river that smelled of death. 

 

To his left Duncan heard a sound, like water breaking on the bow of a boat and heard the splashing of an oar on the water.  Lights were coming from down the river, soon a man could be seen using a long oar to push a flat bottomed craft along the river.

 

Across from where they were on the shore of the river a short dock was now visible.  Duncan watched as the large raft came to the dock and moored.  The man that attended what Duncan realized now was a ferry, looked haggard and old.  The mans eyes spoke of age beyond age, sadness and despair. 

 

The man disembarked from the ferry and approached. 

 

He looked at Snow and with a look of recognition bowed to her.  Then he looked at Duncan.  After a moment the man bowed to him as well.  The entire time the girl lay on the ground, Snow no longer held a sword.  Duncan didn’t know when she had put it away.  The eyes still moved rapidly from under the silver coins. 

 

The man turned from them and looked down at the body on the ground, he reached down and put his hand over the girls face covering her eyes and slid his hand across her face towards himself, picking up the coins as he did so.  He held his hand out as he walked back to the ferry, holding the coins in his fingertips as he went. 

 

A delicate wisp rose from the girl, it started at her eyes now closed.  The wisp formed into a transparent ghostly image of the girl, it followed the ferryman onto the ferry.  Her face gripped with fear.  The ferryman undid the tethers that moored the ferry, then took up his oar again, and pushed the ferry on up the river.  Soon the lights from the ferry were out of sight, the fog followed the lights into nothingness. 

 

 

 

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