The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 7
The Lonely Princess

Author’s Note:

 

I am re-editing the chapters as I post the final chapters, now that I know how the story ends.  I had broke chapters into parts, I may be removing some of those. 

With this in mind, if you get ahead of my re-editing, you may get some parts that don’t mesh well.  I’m working on that, okay?  :)

 

Chapter 7 

The Lonely Princess


Duncan closed the door to the vault in the basement after the others had ran through.  He knew the door wouldn’t stop Alexander, but it should slow him down, and hopefully give the team enough time to make it to the garage.  What they didn’t know is what they would do once they were there.  Max was babbling now, Meadow was trying to get him back to reality as they moved along, he was slowing them down some but he had started moving on his own at least.

 

When they reached the far side of the tank room Duncan tried to undo the wing bolts that held the door of the tunnel closed.  It was part of the original construction and he had never used it.  The last time it was open was when he looked the tunnel over and walked it to find the other end.  After that, he had sealed it up.  That was shortly after he and his wife had bought the place.  He couldn’t get them to budge.

 

“Here, let me try.”  Christopher said, Duncan moved out of his way so he could try and loosen the eight bolts that secured the bulkhead door.

 

Duncan hoped the damn thing hadn’t collapsed over the decades.  Duncan went over to Meadow who was looking at the face of her mate.  Sunny and Mud had gone up to try and help Christopher. 

 

Julia came up to Duncan.  She could read the question on his face as he looked at Max in his practically fetal state.  He kept repeating “It’s Alexander.”

 

“He was a trainer, his experience was from raiding parties, he was trained to be a commander of raiding parties.  He’s never faced anything out in the field until after he was put out from the clan.”  Julia told Duncan.  “He wasn’t very good at commanding on raids, so he was put in charge of teaching others our methods and what to do.  This is the first real team he has ever led.”

 

Julia wanted to say something about Snow, but she held back.  She could see the rage building in his face, smell it in his scent.  Duncan was the team leader now.  No matter what Robert or anyone else said, they would follow his lead now.

 

“Got it!”  Christopher yelled back at the rest of the team as the sound of time and age came from the hinges of the door that was being pulled open.

 

Duncan came up to the long dark tunnel.  He remembered there being a light switch on the inside of the door on the right, he didn’t know if the circuit had been tied into the house batteries when he added them.  Checking the tunnel lights never entered his mind back then. 

 

He reached in and tried the switch.  There was a flash somewhere down the tunnel as one of the decades old lights burned out.  The others burned to life.  The others wouldn’t need the light, but he would.  The tunnel was still sound, wasn’t even wet.

 

“Ok, down the tunnel, Moon Current, see if you can secure the door behind us somehow.  Anything we can do to slow him down.”  Duncan said.  His look was all he needed, nothing more was to be said on the matter.

 

“On it.”  Christopher replied.

 

Issue two with the tunnel was that since Duncan had never used it, nor intended to, he hadn’t tried to keep the door at the top clear.  He tried to remember what was in front of the door.  If it was the sedan, that would be a hard item to push through. 

 

There were stairs that led up to the garage.  They exited in the middle of the back wall of the garage into a short hall that had a door into the garage at the far end.  Duncan tried opening the door, it wouldn’t move, he tried ramming it with his body to no avail.  The others joined in the attempt but the thick metal door would not move. 

 

He looked back when he heard someone coming up the stairs, it was Christopher.  Duncan was cussing in the hall lit by a single bulb as the others still tried to force the door open.  He was staring at the studs that formed the back wall of the garage when he realized, the door may be solid, but the wall that made the hall was two by fours and sheetrock with a workbench along part of it.  Duncan moved to just before the stairs leading back down. 

 

That would be about the end of the workbench. “Moon Current.”  He called out looking over at him as he tried to help the others force the door open.  “Forget that, bust this wall open right here.” Duncan looked the wall over, he could see the nails from the pegboard above the bench and where they stopped.

 

“Right here?”  Christopher asked.

 

“Yes, right between these two studs, give it a good kick.”  Duncan instructed Christopher.

 

Christopher almost landed on his butt when he did so, the wall gave easier than Duncan expected and the force of his kick almost carried him through.  The two of them came together and busted the sheetrock out, there was nothing on the other side but open space at the end of the bench.  His truck and Snow’s car sat on either side of where they were coming out, the sedan was to the right, tucked in tight against the outside wall and back against the door they were trying to get out of.

 

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Snow looked down at the island in the kitchen after Duncan charged down the stairs, a blinking red light caught her eye.  It was Christopher’s smart phone, the red light was from the beacon being turned on, it was a GPS locator that any help that might be coming would use to locate their position.  She picked it up wondering why he had left it behind. 

 

She pushed the button on the front to activate the screen and slid the touch slider that unlocked it.  The text messenger was still up.  He had used the emergency text setting which would repeat the text every 30 seconds until answered to whomever he had sent it to.  The text had one word on it, Alexander.  Christopher wanted it up here where the signal wouldn’t be blocked.

 

Snow brought her sword out from her body with her left hand, the blade coming to full length as she did.  Large red hands were reaching into the house and grabbing the ceiling.  The claws dug into the ceiling as the hands thrust upwards, separating the living room roof from the house, the metal curtains ripping as the monster on the other side roared as he forced his way into the house. 

 

She took several running steps as the roof revealed the body on the other side giving her room to jump into the air with her sword in both hands, arms raised high above her head and the sword pointing straight out.

 

Though Alexander was able to deflect her strike from its original target, that being his heart, he was not able to avoid the sword diving into his chest just to the other side off center.  Snow’s sword penetrated to the hilt, an eight inch wide blade was sticking out the other side of his body when he struck her, sending her flying into the yard. 

 

Snow had a firm grip on her sword, when she flew across the yard from the force of the blow, the sword followed with her, cutting Alexander’s torso as she did.  The blade, due to its location, cut a through gash in nearly half his torso, and dug deep into the other side from the cantilever action cause by his blow and Snow’s unyielding grasp on the hilt.  He roared as a thick black ooze seeped from the half torso gash in his body.  Several large vampires turned to engage Snow while Alexander recovered himself and turned towards her.

 

Snow placed the tip of her sword on the ground, her hands flat on the top and bottom sides of the hilt, her fingers together and aimed down the length of the sword.  She uttered some words that were lost in the sounds of the roars and screeches around her and coming her direction.  She slid her hands in opposite directions from each other towards the sides of the hilt, a sword hilt followed each hand and Snow gripped them and pulled her hands up. 

 

Now a sword was in each of her hands, identical to the original.  She transformed into werewolf form, and as she did, finger holes formed on the sword hilts, they were specific to accommodate the fingers and claws of a werewolf.  Snow stood fully erect and wielded her swords, they no longer looked disproportionately large in her current form. 

 

The first sword connected solidly with the neck of one vampire charging her, while the second plunged into the chest of the one beside it.  She jumped back and away as the first one exploded, the second was injured from the blast, but did not relent and came fully after her.  As she landed she again wielded against another but was slammed to the ground by a large fisted blow. 

 

This vampire pulled its own long slender silver sword and lunged at Snow with it while she lay on the ground.  Her arm flailed a sword around as the silver werewolf slayer came down on its target, Snow’s sword passed through it, sending part of the blade flying.  Her arm that was wielding the sword that cut off the attack followed to behind her head, matching her other hand.  She used her positioning to thrust her legs at the midriff of the vampire who was still bringing the remains of its sword down at her sending the creature plummeting backwards and ending the attack.

 

A sword plunged through Snow from behind, she lost her strength from the silver of its blade, she fell to her knees, Alexander was heading towards her.  She was finished.  Her head fell forward, arms at her sides unable to lift them from the effects of the silver blade sticking out the front of her chest, she was unable to regenerate.  Her eyes made out a form coming at her from the front.  She prepared herself for the end.  She saw a sword swinging from her peripheral vision.  Snow let her last breath out waiting for the sword to take her head. 

 

The sword did not hit her, instead it moved over her.  The screech of a vampire in pain came loud from behind her, she felt the sword pulled from her and a clawed hand pick her up and toss her.  She landed a safe distance away as the vampire blew, her strength returned.  Raising her head and looking back, another werewolf had come to her rescue.  Snow rose to her full upright stance.  The wound from the sword was closed, she was ready for battle again. 

 

Spinning around she saw several other werewolves in the combat, none she recognized as members of her team, help had arrived after all, but they were seriously outnumbered still.  There was no sign of her team, she figured they must still be trying to reach the garage, which now was almost a moot effort considering the number of enemies they were facing. 

 

Snow charged into the middle of the mix, giving aid to another werewolf that had several vampires on her, Alexander followed.  His fist slammed into Snow, she was able to bite down onto his hand, brining a sword around and removing a finger from the massive beast.  He swung his arm forward tossing Snow across the front yard, landing across the end of the driveway.  He lowered his head and charged at her. 

 

Snow rebounded and returned the charge, when the two collided both her swords drove deep into Alexander’s chest, one through the heart.  His wound from Snow’s first attack had regenerated but still slowed him down, the wound had been clean through his entire torso on almost half, regeneration would take a bit longer for a wound that bad.  Snow was trying to use this to her advantage. 

 

Alexander grabbed Snow with one clawed hand and pulled her from him, removing the swords that were locked onto her paws from him and threw her at the ground and raised a leg and brought his foot down on her body.  Blood shot from Snow’s mouth and nose from the force of the blow, her insides hemorrhaging. 

 

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Duncan unlocked the sedan, he had the foresight to grab the keys before they exited the house.  Christopher grabbed the crossbow and quiver and tossed it at Mud, she quickly cocked the weapon and loaded a bolt.  He then distributed anything else they had in the sedan to the rest of the team, there wasn’t much to work with. 

 

Duncan went to the door of the garage, it wasn’t equipped with a control panel for the doors and armament as the house was, he never anticipated fighting from it.  He pulled a crank handle out from beside the door and put it into a quarter sized hole in the wall next to the door and started cranking.  The pins that secured the door pulled back.  The door was layers of plate steel, it had no window so there was no curtain that dropped into the floor and locked.

 

“The door is unlocked.”  Duncan said looking back to the team.  Max was back in the real world again, though not in any condition to fight. 

 

Christopher and Julia joined Duncan at the door, he slowly opened the door so they could view out into the yard and analyze the situation, hopefully without being noticed.  The yard was filled with vampires in the protective suits. 

 

Alexander was turning away from the house bellowing.  All the telephone polls looked to be on the ground, the orbs ripped from them.  The fire from the generators was almost out now.  One of the cars the team had driven here was on its side.  The vampires seemed to be centering in on one location.  Duncan figured he knew what that location was.  Alexander was looking to his people, some moved back and made a perimeter near where they had centered in.  It looked as though Alexander wanted this kill for himself.

 

Duncan looked back into the garage.  He ran up to a locked heavy metal cabinet.  He didn’t have the key for the lock. “Moon, can you twist this lock off?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Without a problem.”  He replied and removed the lock.

 

Duncan pulled open the cabinet, inside was explosives, more specifically specialized C-4 charges.  Duncan grabbed several charges and the needed wire and detonators and handed them to Christopher.  He took them without saying anything. 

 

Then Duncan ran over to the side of the garage the lawn mower was on and picked up a chainsaw.  He quickly filled the saw with gas and bar and chain oil, spilling from the effort.  The others watched but didn’t say anything.  Duncan put the saw near the hole in the wall then moved back to the others near the door.

 

“Ok, Moon and Meadow, you’re coming with me, we’re going back thru the tunnel.  Julia, Mud, give us three minutes and start firing bolts at the nearest sucker.”  Duncan instructed.  He eased the door open again.  A moment of hope hit him.  Duncan looked back to his team. “We’ve got help, not much, but we have some.” 

 

Christopher looked through the gap in the door, at least three other werewolves had come to help, though he knew as well as any there, they were in a very bad way.  Christopher looked at Duncan who started towards the hole in the wall, he followed.  Duncan grabbed the saw as he ran through the hole and yelled back to the others.

 

“Three minutes starting now!”  He yelled as Meadow moved to go with them.

 

The three of them charged through the tunnel, opened the vault door and into the house.  Duncan led them away from the wide open front of the house to the back door, the lights were flickering.  Duncan prayed the power to the back door was still connected, else this would be a short attempt. 

 

The panel was still lit up, but flickering like the rest of the lights in the house.  He pressed the button that unsecured the door.  The locks let go and the curtain struggled to remove itself, it moved slow, but it worked.

 

When they cleared the side of the house and had a clear view of the front yard; a dozen or more werewolves were visible.  Still on the short end of the stick, and the vampires that had taken perimeter around their target were now engaging the werewolves.  Alexander was coming towards them but not looking in there direction.  Duncan could see a werewolf on the ground with a vampire holding what looked like a sword over who he now realized was Snow.  He saw her sword cross the path of the sword being plunged towards her, cutting it in half.  He turned away to concentrate on his plan.

 

“Meadow, I need you as a werewolf, dig an angled hole facing into the yard, make it wide enough so we have room to get an attack angle with one of these telephone poles.  Moon, I need you to grab that poll behind us and lift it up high enough I can cut on it.”  Duncan pointed back to a poll, Meadow was already digging.

 

Christopher did as Duncan asked as he fired the saw.  The noise of the saw was drowned out in the mayhem of noise from the battle not far away.  Duncan made four cuts with the saw as fast as he could forming a crude but hopefully effective point on the end of the pole and Christopher moved it into position.

 

Duncan planted the charges in the back of the hole at the end of the pole.  The charges were shaped charges designed to throw the blast in one direction, again he prayed this would work.

 

“Ok Meadow, on all fours, you’re going to be the aiming device, get near the end of the telephone poll.  Moon, you sight her in.  Tell me when you have the target.”  Duncan said and moved to connect the detonator to the wires from the charges and took his position.

 

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Snow gasped for air.  Alexander had injured her bad.  Just as his wounds would take a while to fully regenerate, so would hers, but she didn’t think he was about to give her that luxury.  From her vantage point she saw the bodies of at least five other werewolves on the ground, seriously injured.  She recognized one of them.  It was Golden Sunrise.  She could see a sword stuck through her head. 

 

She moved her eyes in the direction of a yelp she knew as that of a werewolf, though she did not recognize the form she saw, she witnessed the claws of Alexander cut the protector practically in half, the claws had ripped across the werewolf’s chest and face, it’s guts were spilling out onto the ground. 

 

She heard a voice she knew.  Mud was charging in from the direction of the garage and firing Snow’s crossbow.  Her team had made it, apparently in time to die along with her.  She turned her head and looked up at Alexander.  He was laughing at her, he had a large werewolf slayer in his claws and was lifting his foot and the sword was coming fast at her.

 

Suddenly there was a loud explosion noise.  The sword was on its way.

 

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“Good, hold it right there Meadow.”  Christopher told his mate.  “Now Duncan, fire it now!”  He yelled.

 

Duncan pressed the button on the detonator.  The charge blew launching the telephone pole across the yard.  It was flying straight then started to turn sideways, it hit the target lengthways instead of driving itself into it.

 

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Before the sword connected with Snow’s head, Alexander was suddenly thrown away from her, he was flung a good twenty feet across the yard, Snow saw a large log go flying by her and land nearby, she looked back up and was relieved, a few more minutes of life.  She was trying to right herself, her body wracked with pain, her legs broken, she couldn’t stand.  She only had one arm that worked.  She fell back down and looked over at the lights approaching in the sky, she saw the fire come from the direction of the lights. 

 

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“Frell!”  Christopher and Duncan yelled in unison when they saw the pole hit Alexander sideways.  They were both glad the pole missed Snow when it landed, but Alexander was only knocked back, he would be back to Snow, and when he was finished with her, Duncan was next on his to do list.

 

A rocket struck the ground not far from Snow, followed by another that connected with its target, this one detonated taking the vampire with it.  Duncan, Christopher and Meadow turned and looked in the direction the rockets had come from.  Lights were approaching fast. 

 

More rockets fired into the largest group of vampires taking several out, then the black helicopters were over them and people were jumping from them, turning into werewolf form before they landed on the ground and engaging the enemy.  The Calvary had arrived after all.

 

Duncan looked over at Snow, he started to run to her.  Another vampire was headed her direction and Alexander was getting up as a rocket connected with him.  He roared but did not go down. 

 

Duncan made it to Snow before the vampire and he did a tumbling roll and grabbed for one of Snow’s swords on the ground next to her.  He thought he heard her scream ‘no’ just before he grabbed the hilt intending to swing it on the vampire that was now on Snow.

 

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Duncan’s head hurt, his body tingled through numbness.  He tried to open his eyes, lifting his eyelids even hurt, when they started to open, his eyes burned. 

 

“Mr. Galt, good to see you are back with us.”  A feminine voice that he didn’t recognize said.

 

Duncan’s eyes closed in a burning squint.  He felt his eyes water.  He tried again to open them.  When he finally was able to push his eyes open the image was very blurry.  He tried to focus and failed.  His eyes would not cooperate.  He could make out movement in front of him that moved to his side.  He felt he was no longer outside his house.  By the white of the indecipherable images he assumed he was in a clinic or hospital.  He sniffed the air, it smelt like a hospital. 

 

He felt something cold and wet on his right arm, the motions of a scrubbing in one small spot.  Then the burn of a needle being stuck in the center of the cleaned area.  Duncan blinked and tried to focus again.

 

“That should help with the headache and body pain Mr. Galt.  Trying to grab a werewolf’s sword, not a good idea Mr. Galt.  You’ll be fine.  I’ll be back in a minute.”  The female voice said kindly.

 

Duncan rubbed his eyes, that only seemed to make things worse.  He laid back into the bed.  He didn’t know what the woman had given him, he was in no condition to ask, even though her voice was soft and gentle, even the slightest sound caused his throbbing head to hurt more.  The sound of her voice even seemed to hurt his limbs. 

 

Whatever was in the shot seemed to be helping, and working fast.  It seemed about a minute later he tried to open his eyes again, his vision was still blurry, but this time it cleared as he looked around.  His headache was almost gone and could feel his limbs again, he tried to sit up.  He had to stabilize himself with his hands at his sides but he managed to sit up. 

 

Looking around he confirmed he was in a hospital room, though he didn’t know where and the room had no windows.  He was in a flat bed with an off beige footboard that was a metal pipe that wrapped from side to side of the end of the bed with smaller round metal pipes that ran up and down.  It looked like an inexpensive boarding room bed frame from the nineteen fifties. 

 

There were two pictures on the wall across from him.  One was a picture of a wolf that appeared to be holding it’s head in the air, mouth open slightly, as though it were howling.  The other was a picture of a lone tree on a hill with what gave Duncan the thought of a setting sun off in the distance out of view of the image of the tree.  He thought the tree looked like an oak.  The top was a vast expanse of branches and leaves, the trunk was very large and it looked like a wind was blowing.

 

Duncan looked to his right, the side the door of the room was on.  He grabbed the corner of the sheet on that side of the bed and pulled it diagonally down and away from him removing the coverings over his body and part of his legs.  He swung his legs over to the edge of the bed and sat there for a second.  He still felt a touch wobbly, but he was coming around, he wanted to see if he could stand. 

 

Next to him on the side of the bed he was about to try and stand on was a small white wall mounted sink with a faucet with hospital handles for the taps along the wall that the headboard was at.  Across from him were two large metal framed chairs that matched the color of the bed frame. 

 

While he was deciding if he was going to stand or just remain sitting, he wondered about his team, Snow.  The last thing he remembered was a vampire bearing down on Snow, and himself trying to pick up her sword. 

 

Now, he felt that was a dumb move.  He didn’t have the strength of a werewolf and the sword was seven foot in length, not including the heavy hilt, and a good eight inches wide.  He would have never been able to lift such a massive weapon.  He only had human strength.  He now considered what the woman who had given him the shot had said, that grabbing a werewolf’s sword wasn’t such a bright idea.  He didn’t think she meant anything about the size and weight of the item, he remembered feeling like he was hit by lightning. 

 

He guessed the sword had some sort of properties that would only allow the owner, or maybe another werewolf to wield it and that was why he was in the condition he was.  The sword must have shocked the ever loving snot out of him, that’s the only thing Duncan could think of.

 

“Are we ready for a visitor?  I see we can sit up now.”  The female voice he heard from before said.

 

Duncan looked up towards the door.  An attractive woman that looked to be in her mid fifties was standing in the doorway.  She was dressed in white with a strip of black fabric draped over her left shoulder, about three inches wide, and down about half the length of her torso.  Her head had a hat on it, it was white and made him think of a nun the way it covered all of her hair and was a layer of fabric that went back covering her head and ending just below her shoulders down her back. 

 

Duncan thought the hospital smelt odd, it had the normal smells of a hospital, there was just something different about it.  He hadn’t seen anything that made him think he was in a Catholic hospital, even though the woman he assumed was a nurse seemed to be dressed like it was. 

 

“Visitor?”  Duncan asked stopping his mind for a moment to acknowledge the woman’s question.

 

“Yes Mr. Galt, you have someone here to see you, if you are feeling up to it.”  She politely said.  Duncan couldn’t help but notice, despite the woman’s kind disposition, her voice seemed sad.

 

“Who is it?”  He asked, he didn’t want to see Robert right now.

 

The woman smiled.  Her eyes didn’t match her face.  Her eyes were sad.  She backed out of the room and turned out of his sight.  He saw feet coming in the room, they were on the pads of a wheelchair and the woman was pushing his visitor into the room.  Duncan smiled as he finally was able to see Snow’s face. 

 

One of Snow’s eyes was puffed up, and she now had scars that started at the top left side of her face into her hairline, and extended diagonally down across her face and to her chin.  She was wearing a white hospital robe, though it looked to be better than the typical hospital robe.  He noticed she had the same black sash the nurse had on her left shoulder. 

 

“Hey partner, good to see you’re awake.  I’m in good shape, regenerating fine, all my broken bones have mended, still a bit sore though, should be back to normal by tomorrow, before you ask.  How about you?”  Snow said, seeing the concern on Duncan’s face and knowing fully well he was more concerned about her than himself, that was a sentiment she fully understood.  She felt the same way.

 

Duncan stood, finding the wall with his right hand to steady himself for a few seconds, then he adjusted his position and moved to Snow, leaned forward putting his arms around her neck and his lips to hers.  Then he put his forehead on hers and simply held her.  No words were said, there was no need.  Snow’s heart heard Duncan’s heart say how overjoyed it was that she still lived.

 

After Duncan sat down in one of the chairs, Snow got out of the wheelchair and sat next to him and they both sat quietly in the chairs resting.  Duncan had a lot of questions running through his mind.  Did they win?  Was Alexander finished?  How did they get to the hospital? 

 

He was assuming more help arrived, why?  Too many questions and not knowing where to start.  He felt it wasn’t fair to start asking Snow so many questions after the ordeal she just went through.  Eventually Snow rolled her head over towards Duncan.

 

“Just for future reference bro-ha,” Snow began with a small sad smile mimicking Max’s lingo, “don’t try and grab my sword, or anyone else’s, unless you enjoy feeling like you do.  Our swords have a defense in them, it stuns a non-werewolf hard, that’s what happened to you.”

 

Duncan nodded.  His head was clear now.  “No, I think I learned my lesson, once down that avenue is more than enough.”  He assured Snow.

 

“I’m actually amazed you were able to get it off the ground and even swing it.”  Snow said in a distant voice, something was preoccupying her thoughts.

 

“I did?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Yeah, connected with a vampire even, cut it good before you hit the ground.”  Snow said, her voice still said her mind was far off.

 

He was about to ask her what was wrong when there was a knock on the open door.  Duncan and Snow had their heads resting on the wall behind the chairs and rolled their heads over towards the door, Robert walked in.

 

“Sadness, Duncan.”  He said.  His voice and face reflected a deep sorrow that Duncan didn’t understand.  Something was wrong, and he hadn’t been told yet.  Duncan braced himself, Robert was here to give the bad news.

 

“Glad to see you up Duncan, Sadness, you look better.”  Robert said looking between the two of them and nodding, his face grim. 

 

Duncan noticed on his black suit, he had a black sash on his left shoulder also.  His heart sank, it wasn’t just something the hospital had on their clothing.  Robert wasn’t in hospital clothes.  Duncan began questioning the sash when he saw Snow with it, but had put it to the back of his mind since she was in a hospital robe.  So was he, but there was no black sash.

 

Robert reached into his pocket.  He reached out his hand with something rolled up in it and extended his hand to Duncan. “We lost Golden Sunshine last night.”  Robert said to Duncan as he took the black sash from his hand. 

 

Duncan felt the hit inside.  He stood and unrolled the sash and placed it over his left shoulder.  He was no stranger to this, though with the company, they wore black armbands.  The meaning was the same.  Any good feelings he may have had were torn from him.  He understood why Snow was distant, why the nurse was so glum.  The scent he couldn’t make out in the hospital became clear to him as to what it was.  He was in a werewolf hospital, they were underground someplace.  A flood of thoughts came to mind.

 

“Moon Current?”  Duncan asked looking towards Robert who himself was lost in thoughts of the sad events. 

 

There was no division between the team and Robert now, no hard feelings from himself and Snow.  A comrade had fallen, this was no time for triteness.  Robert was taking it hard.  His face showed he felt responsible, the loss was personal to him.  He had lost a member of his family, that was how he felt about his teams, they were more than just people he commanded, they were his family.

 

Robert looked over to Duncan.  “He is holding on, the light has given him time.  He is asking, Duncan, for you.  We need to go now.”

 

Snow stood, her head down.  Duncan followed her lead, the three of them walked out, Snow let Duncan go before her. 

 

They walked across the hall to the room directly across from Duncan’s.  Inside were Mud, Max and Meadow along with another nurse, all had black sashes on their shoulders.  The faces of his friends were hard to look at, they were all hurting.  Moon Current lay in the bed.  He didn’t look injured, but his mate was dead. 

 

“Noble Duncan, waiting for you I have been, granted by the Light, the time till you arrived.”  He said in a faint weak voice. He looked away from the others, looked at something they couldn’t see. “I’ll be along directly my lover.”  He said to what he was looking at.

 

“Noble Duncan.”  Moon said.  Duncan came to the side of his bed.  “Your calling will be soon, the Light has spoken to me of it.  Brave you are, my friend.  I accept you into my family, with honor.”  Moon said to Him, he was smiling, his voice almost a whisper. 

 

He seemed to be delusional to Duncan, the dying often were, he spoke strangely, not like himself.  He was at peace and accepted his own passing.  Duncan could see that in his face, he was waiting to be with Golden Sunrise. 

 

Moon Current reached next to himself on the side away from Duncan where a black soft leather wrapping was.  He picked it up and held it out to Duncan.  It was somewhat narrow and about four foot in length.  Duncan held out his hands flat so Moon could place the item in his hands.  Once it was in his hands Moon lifted a part of the black leather.  Under it was a sword, Moon Current’s sword.

 

“Moon Current...”  Duncan said and stopped, he had no words and this was something important to werewolves, he felt the emotion in the room.  Everyone was watching.  The nurse near Moon Current stopped, they all lowered their heads and clasp their hands in front of them.

 

“Though you cannot hold her, she is yours now.”  Moon said to Duncan.  Moon’s arms fell limp by his side.  His breathing stuttered and his eyes drifted shut.  He was with Golden Sunrise now.

 

Mud began to cry, she let out a yell of sorrow.  Robert turned from the others and stepped from the room.  Max threw back his head and gave his own yell, tears pouring down his face.  Snow reached up and pulled the leather back over the sword then looked into Duncan eyes.  When she turned to leave, Duncan followed. 

 

They stood out in the hallway.  No one spoke.  Duncan looked around, not wanting to look in any of the faces around him.  This was something he was not good at. 

 

The hall was fairly short.  There was a small nurse’s station to his left, and four other doors down from where they stood.  He watched as a nurse came out of the room that was just down from his, Robert was near it and the nurse talked to him briefly.  Robert walked back in their direction then passed them to the front and out of view as he went around the nurse’s station. 

 

Shortly after a small man who looked around seventy came from the area Robert had left in.  He was dressed in a light blue robe and had the black sash across his shoulder.  When he approached the group they parted to let him pass between them, Duncan backed with Snow. 

 

As he passed between the group they all bowed from the waist partially to the man.  Duncan watched him.  When they bowed he closed his eyes and bowed his head to them.  He had slowed his steps.  Raising his head he went into the room Moon Current’s body was in, he closed the door behind him.  The others moved away and towards the end of the hall where the nurse’s station was and took seats there. 

 

Duncan saw Doctor River Stone come from around the corner at the opposite end of the hall with a woman in white with him, River Stone was in a suit.  They went into the room down from Duncan’s.

 

Standing with a questioning face, Duncan walked down towards the door.  When he looked into the room he could see River Stone standing at the end of the bed in the room while the woman was attending to the person in the bed that Duncan couldn’t see.  When River Stone saw Duncan his face flashed in anger and he came to the door and blocked Duncan’s view. 

 

Duncan looked into the man’s eyes.  River Stone’s face dropped its hard expression, he backed against the door and bowed his head.  Duncan was wondering what was going on, River Stone was allowing him to enter.

 

Julia was unconscious in the bed.  Her face was deeply scarred.  He walked to the foot of the bed and looked at his friend, River Stone moved beside him.  She had tubes running into her nose, a respirator was helping her breath.  There were several tubes running from bags hung by her bed into her arms.  Werewolves regenerated, whatever was wrong with Julia was very serious.

 

“My youngest sister.”  River Stone said, his voice low and sad.

 

Duncan stood and looked at Julia for a few minutes with River Stone beside him, then he turned to go, walking behind her brother.  Duncan stopped just before he passed River Stone and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.  Then he let his hand fall and walked to where the others were.

 

Duncan sat down next to Snow and placed the sword Christopher had given him in his lap, his sword now.  “Where are we?”  Duncan asked looking to Snow.  Snow looked up at Duncan, then past him.

 

“Duncan Galt.”  A woman’s voice said. Duncan turned and looked, the doctor that had been with Julia was standing beside him, her arm outstretched down the hall.  Apparently it was his time to be checked over. 

 

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Duncan walked with the doctor to his room.  Once in he sat on the bed.

 

“Duncan Galt, I am Doctor Silvertail.  Please stand and take off your robe, I would like to have a look at your back.”  She said to him.

 

Duncan did as she asked.  She pulled away the bandages and he felt her touching his back, inspecting the wounds. “These seem to be coming along good.  Looks like you have been following Doctor River Stone’s recommended treatment.”  Doctor Silvertail said as she poked around his back some more.

 

“Yes, I have.”  Duncan affirmed.  “Where exactly am I Doc?”  Duncan asked as no one had bothered to tell him, and given the recent events, he wasn’t about to ask his friends again.

 

“You are in a hospital Duncan Galt.”  The doctor said.  He turned around and looked her in the eyes, his face told her to cut the bullshit. 

 

The woman sighed.  “You are within the den of Clan Strong Oak.  You were brought here for your safety.”  She Informed him.  Duncan had the feeling she had been told not to tell him this information, however, she felt otherwise. 

 

“Thank you.”  He replied, letting his expression change to a more grateful one.

 

“You were flown here to get you away from, danger.”  She added.

 

“Flown?  Where exactly am I?”  He asked, they weren’t near where they had fought, he was assuming by her tone, they were some distance away.

 

Silvertail had her hands clasped, she was defying orders, Duncan could read that on her face.  She was a doctor, not a politician. “Wisconsin.”  She answered.

 

“And how long was I out?”  Duncan inquired.

 

“The effects of the stun from a sword usually last about eight hours, though you weren’t out nearly that long, you seem to have a very hearty constitution Duncan Galt.”  She told him. 

 

Then she walked to the door, leaving Duncan alone with his sword to put his robe back on.

“There are clothes for you in the closet.”  Silvertail said without looking back as she cleared the door.

 

Duncan opened the armoire that set in the corner opposite the door and head of the bed.  Inside was a suit, light in color and pants that matched.  Shoes, socks and underwear were also sitting on the bottom.  Duncan shook his head, they weren’t what he came in, but they looked the right size. 

 

He dressed and went back to the others.  As he left the room a man entered with a cart that held cleaning supplies and fresh linens.  He was apparently released. 

 

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Robert returned and met up with the team as they sat waiting near the nurse’s station.  He had a black leather sheath with him and a small leather bag. Robert came up to Duncan and handed him the sheath. “Keep the leather over the hilt and slide the sword in this.”  Robert told Him.

 

Duncan did as He suggested, he didn’t want to have a repeat of what happened with Snow’s sword.  Once the sword was in the sheath Duncan held it by that.  Robert pulled a long soft black leather strip from the bag and handed it to Snow.

 

“Help him wrap the hilt Sadness, wrap it good, we don’t want his sword putting him down.”  Robert said to her.

 

He looked back to Duncan.  “I have no idea why he passed it on to you, someone who can never wield it, we are the closest to the Light when we are in passing as Moon Current was when he gave this to you Duncan.  I have to believe there is a reason to this, and I hope you understand the honor that has been given you.”  He said to him as Snow wrapped the hilt of Duncan’s sword. 

 

Duncan nodded his head.  His eyes went distant for a moment then he returned to Robert.  “I do.”  He said looking into Robert’s eyes.  Even in the human world, this passing of an honored item to another on ones deathbed was fully understood. 

 

Robert shook his head looking at Duncan, his face looked like he felt insulted that Duncan had been given the sword.  Once the hilt was wrapped Snow helped Duncan place the sheath on his back so he could carry it easily.  Duncan was actually amazed at how light it was.  Robert turned and walked away towards where Julia was. 

 

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River Stone came from Julia’s room a short time later.  He stood in the hall near where the others sat nearest to the nurse’s station with his hands clasped in front of him as though he were waiting for something.  His eyes held to the front, never looking around. 

 

He was only there a few minutes when from the other side of the nurse’s station people approached. 

 

Duncan watched as a man dressed in a brilliant yellow robe came towards them.  Behind him, with one to the left and one to the right, were a man and woman who’s robes matched the older man’s in front of them in design but were brilliant white instead.  Each carried an old looking brown leather bound hard case in front of them. 

 

Duncan’s team stood as they approached and lowered their heads with their hands clasped in front.  The man in yellow came up to River Stone and nodded to him, he said nothing.  River Stone bowed his head to the man and the man continued down the hall. 

 

River Stone was standing sideways facing Duncan’s team as the man passed, he nodded to them and they filed off to follow the man.  Duncan was still sitting and watched as they moved away.

 

“Please, you are her friend, she would want you to be a part of this, I know my sister.”  River Stone said to Duncan.

 

When they entered Julia’s room everyone had lined up around the bed except for the man in yellow and his two assistants.  They were standing at the foot of the bed, with an assistant on either side of the brightly dressed man.  Snow was on the far side away from the door, Duncan went to her side.

 

The two chairs had been moved and placed beside where the assistants stood.  The man in yellow held his hands out in front of him palms up and out towards Julia.  While he did this he took a step forward then turned around.  The two assistants turned to face their respective outside directions and placed the cases they still held on the chairs and opened the front of the cases.  Inside, one held an ancient looking bowl, the other looking of equal age, a pitcher. 

 

The assistant with the bowl went to the sink and filled it almost to the top then returned and stood in front of the man in yellow, holding the bowl that Duncan noticed had a small divot in it that made a pouring spout. 

 

The man in yellow dipped his fingers into the water and while holding them there groaned some words that Duncan did not understand.  The water seemed to sparkle.  Duncan could swear it almost glowed. 

 

When the man in yellow removed his fingers from the water the assistant holding the pitcher moved it towards the assistant with the bowl and she turned it so the pour spout was over the pitcher and carefully poured the water into the pitcher. 

 

The man in yellow held his hands out again and nodded to the two nurses that were standing, one on either side of Julia near her head.  They carefully folded the covers over Julia down until they were neatly folded at the foot of the bed, then they each took a side and folded the coverings together and again then one nurse took the covers and both left together leaving Julia’s naked body exposed. 

 

Duncan looked at Julia.  The tube had been removed from her nose, all the IVs were gone too.  Her body was red from damage, there were fresh scars across her abdomen and legs.  Duncan was wondering what damage had been done that her regeneration had not fixed.  Snow had been more seriously injured then Julia he thought. 

 

That’s when he noticed the marks that were above her breasts, near the insides of her shoulders, they were not like the claw slashes that were on the rest of her body.  They were two large round holes that still festered and wept.  Between the two holes were different marks, Duncan thought they looked like teeth marks.  Though they extended across her as the claw marks did, they were each their own scar that formed a line across Julia’s body just below her neck. 

 

That was when Duncan realized what happened and looked down to Julia’s pelvic area.  He felt as though he were about to throw up when he saw similar marks just below where her navel was, he realized what they were and what had happened.  Alexander had bit her. 

 

The holes that festered were from his large fangs.  The marks between the two holes on either end of her body were his teeth, he was the only vampire there that was big enough to have left such a massive bite mark.

 

The man in yellow took the pitcher from the assistant and moved beside Julia’s head.  He poured the water from the pitcher onto her face then moved down her body pouring as he went until he arrived to where her hips were.  Duncan watched as the water hit her body, but it didn’t run off, it went into Julia, the sheets below her were completely dry.

 

The man in yellow went back between his two assistants and faced Julia again and held his hands out as he had done before.  The assistant with the bowl filled it again and the ritual was repeated.  The nurses were standing at the door and the man in yellow held a hand out to them.  They entered and took position by Julia, this time one was near her shoulders and the other was near her middle on the other side.  They turned Julia over so her back was up.  Duncan could see two holes near her shoulders. 

 

Alexander’s fangs had gone clear through Julia.  There were two gashes in her buttocks that were festering and two holes above them in her back that also festered.  Duncan thought it odd if Alexander had bit her from the front that the two marks were on her buttocks. 

 

The only way he could see that the injuries on her bottom could have happened was that she was either bit there first and then turned to face Alexander and was then bit from the front, or after she had been bitten from the front she was freed somehow and turned to run.  Whichever situation was the real one, the only thing that was certain was that Julia had been bitten twice by a major servant of the darkness. 

 

The taint in her from the bites had to be great.  Duncan knew she could not be turned, but if the taint remained in her much longer, she would join Christopher and his mate.  Duncan didn’t take Julia for someone who’d run.

 

The man in yellow poured the blessed water over Julia again, he poured out the last of the pitcher over her buttocks then handed the pitcher to the assistant who returned it to the case.  The nurses returned and turned Julia so she was again face up.  Then the two assistants moved off to the side, one still held the bowl. 

 

The man in yellow faced the foot of the bed and stood back a bit.  He unclasped the robe he wore from the front and let it fall to the floor and took a single step forward.  The assistant who’s hands were empty moved forward, retrieved the garment, then returned to the side of the other assistant. 

 

The man who had been in yellow put his hands together in front of his face and crouched.  He was soon in werewolf form, his body reached the ceiling and he was curled up to fit into the height of the room.  He was a very large werewolf.  Duncan looked at the face of the werewolf. 

 

Though it was the face of a werewolf, it had a kind and gentle face with soft eyes.  He looked down on Julia and a soft low grumble came from his throat.  Holding his clawed arms out to the side just wider then the bed he bent towards Julia and curled his chin down and touched his forehead to the middle of her chest. 

 

As Duncan watched, a ring of blue sparkling particles formed where the werewolf’s head touched Julia.  They glowed bright as the werewolf made another low soft sound then lifted its head and turned towards the door backing up.  The assistant with the bowl came forward in front of the werewolf who bent its head down, putting its mouth near the bowl.  It vomited up a thick black syrup until the bowl was nearly full.  The creature was coughing.  Its face showed pain. 

 

The other assistant moved to the bowl and placed his fingers into the blackness in the bowl.  Duncan heard him say words, he still couldn’t understand them.  He watched as the black syrup cleared and became pure water again. 

 

The werewolf was starting to gag and choke.  The girl holding the bowl moved to the sink and dumped its contents into it.  Then she again held the bowl so the werewolf could vomit into it again.  This time the bowl was not quite as full as before.  When the other assistant moved forward to place his fingers in the bowl Duncan thought he looked weak. 

 

Duncan remembered what Snow had said when he had her bless the water passing through the pipe when he turned the sprinklers on the vampires at the house, blessing takes a lot out of you she had said. 

 

The werewolf spat into the bowl the last of the taint from its mouth.  The contents were again purified and disposed of.  The boy doing the blessing passed out.  The man who was the werewolf before them returned to his human form and the assistant that had held the bowl brought the brilliant yellow robe back to him and helped him put it on.  The man in yellow looked weak also, he looked as though he had aged during the ritual. 

 

The nurses brought the covers back to the bed and covered Julia again.  The man in yellow went up to Julia’s face and placed a hand on her forehead.

 

“Return to us.”  He said, then turned and walked from the room and his assistants followed.  Robert of the Clay stepped forward from the side opposite Duncan and placed a hand on Julia’s forehead.

 

“Return to us.”  He said and followed out of the room. 

 

One by one those on the side by the door followed and did the same.  Then the ones on Duncan’s side started, River Stone was the first from their side, he stopped at the foot of the bed though, and faced his sister.

 

“Return to us. . . please.”  Snow said when it was her turn.

 

Duncan was next, and the last.  He took her hand in his and kissed the back of her hand, then placed his hand on her forehead. “Return to us, we need you, return to us, my friend.”  Duncan said softly, then followed towards the door.

 

“Thank you.”  He heard River Stone whisper as Duncan passed him, he didn’t stop, he moved on, giving him time alone with his sister.

 

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When Duncan exited the room he saw Robert near the nurses station, the others were still near the door to Julia’s room.  Robert was talking to a man Duncan recognized, it was the man with the expensive suit.  He was handing something to Robert as he spoke. 

 

Robert turned to face the team’s direction when the man in the suit turned and left.  Duncan could see the serious expression on his face.  More good news was to come it seemed.  He was placing what the man had handed him into the pocket on the inside of his suit coat as he walked up to the team who were standing there silently. 

 

“I have made arrangements with Clan Strong Oak for you to be kept in safety here.  The Exalted Master of Clans has ordered that they give shelter to you all.  Strong Oak has been more then willing to accept you within their den.  You will be their guests until you choose to leave.  For now, you are all on official leave.”  Robert said to the group.  “There is someone coming soon to show you to your den homes.”

 

Robert faced Duncan and Snow.  “If you two will follow me, I will take you to where you will be spending the night.”  He informed to them. 

 

Duncan didn’t like the look on Robert’s face, or the fact that they were apparently only welcome to stay a night.  He wondered if that was because he was human, that Snow was mated to him, and an abomination. 

 

As they walked Duncan asked Robert about where they were, who they were with.  Robert explained he had flown them here to get them far from Alexander, they were out of Prith’s area, he held no claim here.  Thus, Alexander would have no help here and would be attacked by the covens here if he showed.  So they were safe here from him. 

 

He told Duncan that they were at the den of Clan Strong Oak, that they came from another stateside clan as part of their expansion; the clan had no noble lines, they were a servant clan because of this.  After he explained this they continued on in silence.  Robert was not in a mood to talk, there was something heavy on his shoulders, Snow and Duncan could both see that and felt it best if they didn’t agitate the man further. 

 

“We’re here.”  Robert said as he opened a small door off in a remote area of the den. 

 

The den was under a house that provided access between the outside world and the clan living area deep within the earth.  Clan Strong Oak was a fairly small clan with only some 500 members but they maintained a top rate hospital where many other clans came when they needed attention.  Snow would tell Duncan this about the clan after Robert left them alone.

 

The room was very small, it held a single twin bed and two chairs.  There was another door that provided access to a bathroom that only had a toilet.  Duncan looked at the room and suddenly didn’t feel so much a guest of the clan.  The three entered the tight room.  Duncan hoped there was enough air in it for all three of them.

 

“You have been summoned.”  Robert told Snow, pulling an envelope from his inside coat pocket and handing it to her, he had another matching envelope still in his hand and looked at Duncan. “Apparently you too, Galt.”  He said, there was a bitterness in his voice when he talked to Duncan. 

 

Being summoned was a werewolf thing.  Duncan knew Robert had never been summoned.  It could be a matter of honor, or, something you didn’t want, either way it was blatantly evident that Robert resented Duncan because he had been summoned.

 

“What does this mean?”  Duncan asked.  Snow was quiet.

 

“It means dumbass that one of the Houses of the Immortals wants to meet your frelling ass.”  Robert said angrily.

 

“Robert of the Clay, you don’t need to speak in such a manner, despite his being human, he has done nothing to earn your disrespect.”  Snow suddenly snapped.

 

Robert looked at her sharply.  The two exchanged looks, Robert relented.  Whatever it was that Snow was standing on for a reason to reprimand Robert, he understood it all to well.

 

“You will be taken back to your home, during daylight hours, you will have three hours to get what you want, then you will be taken to Sadness’s den house.  From there you are going to Ireland, the Noble House of Trust, the great hunter, Clan of the Moors line of the Exalted Master of Clans has summoned you, they will meet you at the airport and take over from there.”  Robert informed them. 

 

Though he did not speak as he did before, his eyes burned at Duncan.  His loathing for the man at this point clearly visible in them.  Robert turned to leave and opened the door.

 

Duncan put out his hand and shoved the door closed before Robert could finish opening it.  Robert looked at Duncan, his eyes fierce. 

 

“You’re the one who frelled up.”  Duncan said to Robert, his voice carried accusation.  

 

“What are you talking about?  I had my people near your house, we knew Alexander was going to move on you, I didn’t frell up, I saved your asses.”  Robert defended.

 

“The trap Bucky, the one we walked into, where the kids got sacrificed, we walked into that trap because of your mistake, you frelled up there.”  He said to Robert, clarifying himself.

 

Robert looked at Duncan, his face confused, he couldn’t see anything that Duncan could take as his mistake, he told them what happened, their security had been compromised.  He had no way of knowing that at the time.

 

“I explained what happened, had I known it was a trap, that the message was fake, I never would have sent the team in there!”  Robert was angry at Duncan for his accusation.

 

“It was fake, you should have known it was fake, you frelled up.”  Duncan stated, his voice was calm and cold.

 

“Bullshit, you would have done the same in my position.”  Robert affirmed.

 

Duncan was shaking his head, his eyes filled with condemnation for Robert. “No, I wouldn’t have, I knew the text was fake when you told me what it said, a better agent then you would have caught it, you didn’t.”  Duncan charged, Snow tucked in close to Duncan, her eyes locked on Robert.

 

“You think you’re so much better than me?  Then tell me, what made you think the message was fake?  Come on, tell me if you’re so damn positive I frelled up.”  Robert blasted at Duncan.

 

“You said the text said we needed to move that night, the harvest party was flighty, that they would be holding the harvest party that night, right?”  Duncan posed.

 

“Yes, that’s what it said, that’s why we moved.”  Robert answered, there was nothing in the message that tipped off it was fake, Duncan was grasping at straws trying his human tricks to make him to blame.

 

Duncan smirked with knowing.  “Harvest parties withhold feeding the night of the harvest party and don’t feed the recruits until the end of the harvest party so they are hungry and willing to feed from animals.  They wouldn’t have been out at all that night.”  He reasoned, his accusation now fully out.

 

Snow’s eyes were wide, Duncan had nailed it, Robert’s face said he knew he had too. “A good agent would have caught that.”  Duncan said and pulled the door open.

 

Robert had been called out, he was to blame.  Duncan hadn’t missed that, he had.  Robert closed the door behind him as he left Duncan and Snow alone in the small room.

 

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Duncan and Snow each stood on a side of the bed, there wasn’t much room here, it was intended for them to sleep in that night.  Duncan wondered if he was allowed to walk around the den at all.  Right now, he really didn’t care.  He wasn’t in any mood to be around anyone.  Except Snow.

 

“You have a den house?”  Duncan asked her as they sat on the bed in the tiny room.

 

“Yes, it was gifted to me after my first season, as a noble matriarch I was expected to have a clan, my mate and I would live there, its a custom millennia old, the matriarchal family provides such a house as a gift to the new clan.”  Snow told Duncan.

 

“So, this being summoned, we are going to meet the Exalted Master of Clans then?”  Duncan asked.

 

“I don’t think so, we are summoned by one of the houses of his clan, the clan is very large, we might meet with the Lord of that house, maybe some of the nobles from the Clan itself.  Not sure who exactly, never been summoned before.”

 

Snow shrugged with an exasperated expression.  “But from what I know of it we‘ll probably speak to someone high up in the ranks of the House, but probably only a Lord or Lady within the House of the Clan.  I have never heard of anyone from the states being called before the Exalted Master of Clans, well since clans were fully established here.”  Snow informed Duncan. 

 

Her face changed, a looked of despair came over her.  “The only reason we would meet with anyone higher, is if I am to be retired.”  Snow added in a solemn voice.

 

Duncan changed the subject, trying to take Snow’s mind, and his, off of the thought of the summoning.  They talked for a while then finally simply laid down on the bed and rested.  They both were still exhausted from the night before.  Then came a knock on the door.  Snow went to answer it.

 

“Good afternoon Miss Sadness, we have lunch set up for you and your… human.”  Duncan heard an old woman’s voice say.  “It’s in the room next to you here.”  The voice went on.

 

Duncan got up and joined Snow at the door, they exited the room and the elderly woman led them to a doorway without a door into a room that had a table that had three chairs on either side and one on each end, the room about twice the size of the one they were in.  No one else was in the area.

 

“You didn’t have to do this, we would have gladly joined the others to dine.”  Snow said to the woman.

 

The elderly woman made a nervous face and rolled her hands one over the other in an anxious movement. “I’m sorry, Sadness, but, that wouldn’t be allowed.”  The woman answered, glancing over at Duncan.

 

Duncan picked up on the unspoken message, a human wasn’t welcome at their table.  Werewolves were to protect humankind, they just didn’t want their business to dine with them; such a friendly crew they were.

 

“Thanks.”  Duncan said to the woman, his voice sounding a touch biting as he moved to take a seat.

 

Snow looked away from the woman and turned her back to her as she placed the food on the table.  The woman grunted at Snow’s back when she finished her work and left.

 

Duncan looked at the gelatinous mass on the plat in front of him, he sniffed it.  It looked like some kind of hot dish with rice and meat all held together with some kind of gravy.  The smell reminded him of Hamburger Helper with cheap greasy meat used in it.  Snow had turned and was looking at the plates.

 

“Well, lets hope it tastes better than it looks.”  Duncan said, picking up the fork beside his plate.

 

“Don’t eat that, please.”  Snow said in a low voice.

 

Duncan looked at her, Snows face was flushed red.  Her face held anger, her eyes, embarrassment.  Duncan set his fork back down, he was all to happy to comply with Snow’s request.  He honestly didn’t want to try what was put in front of him, he was only trying not to be rude.

 

Snow took the fork from beside her plate and set it across the end of her plate, away from where she would have sat had she taken a seat, with the handle to the right of the plate.  Then she picked up Duncan’s fork and did the same. 

 

Snow turned to leave the dinning area they had been taken to, Duncan stood and followed her back to their small room.  He looked back at the plates, the way Snow had placed the forks.  The thought crossed his mind that this custom was some sort of insult to their host.

 

“I’m up for a nap, still a bit done in from yesterday, how about you?”  Duncan asked to Snow

 

Her face still held anger, her body language spoke of the insult that Duncan didn’t fully understand, but he could tell the food they had been served was something that would be served to someone that had been put out from the clan, a prisoner maybe, if werewolves had such a thing. 

 

Snow looked to the bed, her head slowly nodded, she looked tired.  Duncan removed his clothes and Snow followed suit.  They lay together in the bed, Snow faced Duncan as he held her.  He stroked the back of her head trying to comfort her.  There was some sort of injustice here, he read that in Snow’s face, he could feel it in her body now as he held her.  Her body was tense, even her scent had a difference in it. 

 

Duncan thought back to when he and Snow had arrived back at their home from the hospital, the day they had mended the rift between them.  Snow was no longer changing into the wolf, they had talked throughout the day. 

 

That night Snow went up to her room when they went to bed.  Duncan had laid in his bed for a good ten minutes, he could tell sleep was not willing to take him.  He kept looking to the empty foot of the bed.  He missed Snow’s presence, even the wolf side of it that had resided on the foot of the bed. 

 

He tossed for another ten minutes, finally rising from the hollowness of the room and went to the stairs and up to the door with Snow’s name on it.  He lightly knocked.  If she were sleeping, he didn’t want to wake her.  When the door opened, Snow’s sad face greeted him, she was still dressed, her bed untouched.  He looked into her wolf eyes as she stood before him.

 

“I can’t sleep.”  He had said to her.  “The room it’s, too....”  Duncan let the sentence drift off, never finishing it. “I know that we can’t be together as mated, but, that doesn’t mean we can’t be together.  We can at least enjoy each others companionship.”  He had said, taking note of a flicker in Snow’s eyes.  A warmth that came to her face.  “Please come to my room, to my bed, sleep next to me Snow.” 

 

A genuine smile came to Snow’s face that night, Duncan missed her.  Her face acknowledged that she too did not desire to sleep alone, that she wanted to make the best of what had been left to them. That night he took comfort in Snow’s embrace, the naked warmth of her body as the two held each other and drifted into a deep, hard sleep.

 

A Matter Of Honor

 

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Duncan was awakened by a knocking on the door.  Snow had her arms wrapped around him, still facing his chest.  She was breathing fast in her slumber.  Duncan was pulling himself out of the dream world he was in when the knock came louder this time. 

 

Snow snapped awake. She leapt from the bed, her feet smacked on the stone floor of the room.  Duncan caught the face of an old man when Snow opened the door and moved to face the person on the other side. 

 

Duncan was admiring the view from his vantage point.  Snow’s tight round bottom, the graceful curves of her legs, the way her muscles rippled as she stood at the door.

 

“Food is ready for you two, if you want it tonight.”  The creaky voice of the man said. 

 

Snow closed the door and turned back into the room.  She moved to where her duffel had been placed by whomever brought her bag in.  She put on the uniform inside, the one she would normally wear on a hunt, then placed her sword on her back. 

 

Duncan slid his legs from the bed and quickly dressed.  It appeared whatever insult the clan of Strong Oak had sent to her, it was not going to be accepted.  The coleslaw was about to hit the fan, and that fan was on high he thought.

 

Duncan was just hurrying on his shoes skipping the socks when Snow opened the door.  The old man was still standing on the other side.  His face said he was upset that Snow had made him wait.  The man moved in the direction of the room their last meal had been served in.  Duncan followed Snow.  The man did not enter the room, he stood on the other side of the entry and pointed in.

 

“I have already placed bowls of food at the table.”  The man said.  Duncan looked over Snow at the table.  The food in the bowls looked the same as what they had been served before.  The man started to leave.

 

“Hold!”  Snow yelled at the man, her voice echoed in the empty hall and past the other doors in it. The man looked back at Snow with a shocked look.  Before he could speak, Snow went on. “I will not be served swill.”  She said to the man.

 

The mans eyes wandered around, he was lost as to what he should say. “I am sorry miss, but that is what I was given to serve you.  I could, ask if there is something else, something different that would be acceptable to feed you.”  The man replied.  Duncan could see fear in the man’s eyes as he looked Snow over. 

 

“You will take me to the patriarch of this clan.”  Snow ordered the man.

 

He looked down the hall then back to Snow.  “I am very sorry miss,”  The man lowered his head slightly, displaying the awkwardness of the situation for him, “but patriarch Strong Oak does not wish to speak with you.”  The man whimpered after he told this to Snow.

 

Duncan looked to the man to see if the floor beneath him had become wet.

 

“Since when does a servant clan deny audience to a noble line?”  Snow said harshly to the man. 

 

The man started to hyperventilate. 

 

“Take me now, nave, to the patriarch of this clan.”  She said in a metered voice that was demanding.

 

The man nodded once and turned down the hall.  “This way miss.” 

 

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The man led them through the hall to a small opening in the wall that had a set of narrow stairs leading up through the rock walls.  It was a five minute walk before they entered into another area with wider halls.  These halls were better lit and they were also cleaner Duncan noticed.  The air smelt fresher. 

 

Several people were moving about, a few in wolf form.  The doors to the rooms in this area were wider then the one Duncan and Snow’s room had, they were also of a nicer wood and were even carved.  There was no dust or trash in these halls as had been the case with the area they had been taken.  Duncan had the feeling the area they had been put in was the slum part of the den. 

 

The man led them around the halls to another staircase, this one was wide and open, its stone banisters and railing ornate.  Soon they were standing in a large ballroom.  People filled long tables and the smell of meat and roast vegetables filled the air. 

 

The scene made Duncan think of movies of medieval times where lords, ladies and kings dined in their castles.  Bright music played, there were several men and women with instruments that moved around playing and singing.  Others were tending to the people at the tables, pouring refreshments and bringing food to them. 

 

Across from where they stood was a large carved marble table where a well dressed man and woman sat at the center of, with others clearly of status sat around them.  The table was elevated above the room setting those that dined at it above everyone else.  Duncan recognized this as the head table, the man and woman in the larger chairs in the center facing out would be the matriarch and patriarch of the clan.

 

The man that had led them to the banquette hall motioned out with an arm as he stood sideways to them indicating they had arrived and the direction of the person for Snow’s request. 

 

Snow shoved the man aside with one arm nearly causing him to fall.  The room was filled with noise and festive sounds from all in attendance.  The white haired man at the head table finally saw Snow after she pushed the old man from in front of her.

 

“By what right do you treat me with such dishonor and give me swill for the vanquished?”  Snow yelled, her voice filling the hall above all the other noise, which came to an abrupt end. 

 

The man at the head table looked upon Snow, his face distressed.  The woman next to him leaned over and whispered something to him.  The others that had their back to Snow at the table turned to see what was gong on behind them. 

 

Duncan saw the faces of his team along with Robert of the Clay face them from the head table.  His blood ran cold and he took a step back from Snow.  The sounds of whispers being ushered between some at the other tables could be heard.  But they quickly died out.  Everyone sat in stone silence, all eyes were on Snow.  Her form was ridged.

 

“Patriarch of Clan Strong Oak, by what right do you dishonor and shun the first born of the patriarch of the noble line of Clan Frost?”  Snow’s voice echoed again through the dead silence of the chamber. 

 

The man Snow had called out stood from the table, his face and eyes showed he was both upset and worried.  This was a delicate matter, and Snow was engaging it with a sledgehammer.  The man was choosing what he was about to say with conscientious thought.

 

“Sadness of Clan Frost...”  The man began to say, cut off by Snow.

 

“Noble Clan Frost.”  Snow corrected him.

 

The man considered her, his eyes were nervous.  His voice wavered when he spoke again.  “Sadness of the Noble Clan Frost, you are disavowed, in dishonor and an outcast in abomination with a human, you know the ways of clans, you are not permitted to dine with honorable people.”  The man said trying to sound authoritative. 

 

Duncan took in the faces around.  Many were in a state of shock, others had their eyes cast to the ground while some showed they were afraid.  Robert stared at Snow from the head table, he wore a look of distain.  The clan of Clay looked down on the other clans, especially clan Frost.

 

“I am in dishonor, disavowed and alleged an abomination, I am still however of a noble clan, this is a commoner’s clan, a clan of servants, by what right do you shun ANY member of a noble clan regardless of their status?”  Snow replied to the man, her voice again echoed in the silence she had created.

 

Strong Oak looked towards Robert of the Clay.  Robert was looking down at the table.  Strong Oak returned his eyes to Snow, Robert of the Clay had no help to offer him.  He was the only other member of a noble clan in attendance, but he was not from any of the lineage that would allow him to speak up.  He was a turned, mated to a family member and not in a position of authority within his clan.

 

“I am Sadness, matriarchal daughter of Clan Frost, true line of House Trust, the great hunter, Bastion of the Exalted Master of Clans, Clan of the Moors, patriarch Strong Oak, declare my title!”  Snow announced as her voiced echoed down the passageways leading from the banquette hall.

 

‘You are defiled!  An abomination!  Mated to an unturned!”  Patriarch Strong Oak yelled back, his face said he knew his argument was weak.

 

Duncan knew even in human royalty that a noble that was disgraced was still treated with respect.  The werewolf hierarchy seemed to follow much of the same format.  This was beyond Snow herself, more than just the clan rivalry between her father’s clan and clan Clay, this was about honor to her lineage and the clans above her. 

 

He could smell Robert’s hand in this, he had expected Snow to just sit and take it.  Duncan had come to understand much about how the clans operated, what things meant to werewolf kind. 

 

Snow was summoned.  Even if it was for her retirement, she was being treated with honor and held in high esteem.  Clan Clay had sought to have her shunned for her summoning.  Mud had said no clan would deny her a seat at the head table, Duncan was about to learn why this was true.

 

“I am still a maiden in the Clan of the Exalted Master of Clans, patriarch Strong Oak, declare my title!”  Snow demanded.

 

Duncan understood this now, why Snow was calling for the patriarch to declare her, this would announce her to all in attendance, they would bear witness to who she really was and the dishonorable way she had been treated.  It would be clear to all where the shame came from as Robert of the Clay clan sat at the high table.  It would be known what Clan Clay had done to a noble. 

 

Strong Oak looked down, his face held the shame that Robert had put upon him, he could not refuse the request to be recognized that Snow had made, if he did, his not being a clan from noble lines, would be dismissed, its members disassembled into other clans, the patriarch and matriarch of the clan disavowed and quite possibly subject to retirement. 

 

“Princess Sadness, matriarch Snow, of the Noble Clan Frost, in the line of House Trust of the Exalted Master of Clans, Clan of the Moors.”  Strong Oak declared.  He looked towards Robert of the Clay, his face tormented.  He looked at Snow.  “Declared Valiant Warrior for her battle and scars against the minion of the darkness Prith.”  Strong Oak added.

 

Duncan felt Strong Oak had added the last part to further shame the Clay clan.  By adding her actions to his declaration, he called honor onto Snow herself.  But there was still the matter of the dishonor shown to Snow.

 

Snow stood straight, her shoulders back, her voice steady and strong though not as loud.

 

“I invoke the right of challenge on the patriarch of Clan Strong Oak.  I do so to defend the honor of the name of the noble line of the Exalted Master of Clans, Lord Leyland of the Moor.”  Having said this, Snow pulled her sword from her back and thrust it down straight in front of her with the point striking the stone floor in front of her and sinking five inches into the stone.

 

Murmurs came from not only those around them, but from the head table as well.  Strong Oak looked as though he might faint, he was starting to shake.  Looking at the man it was easy to tell, he was not a fighter.

 

“Please!”  Strong Oak exclaimed, his mate beside him started to cry. 

 

“Present yourself, sword in hand patriarch Strong Oak.”  Snow said to the terrified man.

 

“Please, Lady Sadness, I could never stand against you!”  Strong Oak begged.

 

“I am not Lady, not anymore.”  Snow said, her voice trailed with remorse.  “Present yourself!”  Snow demanded again with force.  The sword in front of her rang from the force of her voice.

 

Duncan watched as Strong Oak reached over to console his mate who rose and embraced him, crying hard.  This was the one time, Duncan believed, that a werewolf was allowed, or could, kill another werewolf. 

 

Strong Oak made his way from the high table and came around it through those who sat below him until he was standing in front of Snow.  She put her hand on the hilt of her sword and pulled it swiftly from the floor, the blade sang as she did.  Strong Oak was shaking, he gave short breaths.

 

“You present yourself, unarmed?”  Snow said to him.  “Is it your intention patriarch Strong Oak, to stand before me and allow me to strike you down for the dishonor you have shown the Exalted Master of Clans?”  Snow asked as she lay her sword across the man’s trembling shoulder.

 

Strong Oak looked into Snow’s eyes.  He accepted his fate, his eyes said he understood what was to be done for the actions he had taken against a noble clan. “Yes… that… yes, that is my intention noble Sadness.  I have dishonored the great houses.”  Strong Oak was finally able to say.

 

Duncan silently prayed.

 

Snow lifted the sword from Strong Oak’s shoulder, raising it into the air to strike the man down.  His head lowered as she did.  The tip of the sword was touching the ground behind Snow, one long swing, and Strong Oak would be no more.  Snow let out a battle cry as her sword began its forward motion towards patriarch Strong Oak, now cresting at mid swing.

 

“Hold!”  Robert’s voice bellowed into the grand hall.

 

Snow slowed her swing bringing the blade to rest once again on Strong Oak’s shoulder.  Snow looked up at Robert of the Clay.

 

“Princess Snow, heir of the house of the Exalted Master of Clans, your dishonor is not with Clan Strong Oak, it is with myself and Clan Clay.  It was I who ordered patriarch Strong Oak to dishonor you, he is blameless.”  Robert announced to the hall.

 

Duncan could see the relief on Snow’s face.  She lifted her sword from Strong Oak’s shoulder, thrusting it into the air she stepped forward, the blade came down straight and slid perfectly into the sheath on her back as she stood straight looking at Robert of the Clay.

 

Snows voice was low, but it carried throughout the hall when she spoke.  “Remove yourself Clan Clay from this clan of honor.”  She said.  Snow turned her eyes to the patriarch of the clan.

 

He looked Snow in the eyes, then his eyes moved away in thought, his head started nodding lightly and slowly as he reasoned out the events, understood what Snow knew and had said, his eyes returning to hers. 

 

Strong Oak stood straight. “You shall always be welcome within the den of Clan Strong Oak, with us you will always have a home.”  He announced to the hall.  “Please join us at the high table, along with your guest.”  Strong Oak said to Snow and looking towards Duncan.

 

The reasoning was simple, clan Strong Oak would have never willingly snubbed any member of a noble line, theirs being a commoners clan.  The Clay clan, through Robert, had put Strong Oak up to what was done to Snow. 

 

She came from a clan that was in dishonor, Strong Oak was forced to do as the higher noble clan demanded.  The clan was powerless to refuse.  Snow was an outcast, and an abomination, there was no requirement that she be treated with honor herself.  But she held title within the head of her line, she changed the order of things when she declared the honor of the Monarch she served.  It was because of her title that no clan would refuse her, doing so would be a disgrace. 

 

Had Robert of the Clay allowed Strong Oak to fall because of his actions, clan Clay would be worse than in dishonor, they would be dissolved, Robert and the heads of the clan would be retired, all members of the clan would be exiled with the title Abhorrent. 

 

Among the clans and houses of the werewolves, there is no worse title than ‘the Abhorrent’.

 

Snow was now accepted by a clan, she had defended clan Strong Oak’s honor as well, she would not stand idly by and let Robert and the Clay clan defile clan Strong Oak.  For this, the patriarch granted her asylum within their ranks.

 

Duncan and Snow were seated on the left hand side of the Patriarch of Clan Strong Oak.  This was the place of honor at the high table.  The clan membership stood and applauded as Snow took this seat, they understood what she had done for their patriarch and the clan.

 

When the evening meal was done, a well dressed young woman with a hat came to them. “Noble Sadness, honored guest,” the woman said to the two respectively, bowing her head to them as she did so, “we have made ready a room for you, your things are waiting for you there, if you will come with me.”  The woman ended.

 

Snow and Duncan followed her, she took them up a grand staircase and through halls that were open and not enclosed as was the case when they were led to their first room.  The woman brought them to a set of double doors where a man dressed in black and gold with a cape stood, in front of the two doors. 

 

The man stood straight when they arrived, turned and opened both doors for them to enter.  The woman led them into an elaborately decorated room.  There were carved chairs with ottomans and stained glass lamps on small tables near the chairs. 

 

The floors had fine rugs on them with ornate patterns, they appeared to be handmade. “If you need anything while you are with us, please ask.”  The woman said, then bowed her head to them again and left.  The man closed the doors to the room leaving Duncan and Snow alone in the lush accommodations. 

 

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Duncan watched the people moving around on his front lawn as the chopper descended towards what remained of his house.  Snow hid in the enclosed back not wanting to look out.  Alexander had made his escape, leaving his coven members that had come with him to die.  Once they had landed a face he recognized came towards the chopper, it was Steve Rheineer.

 

Duncan joined Snow in the back and they climbed out of the back of the chopper together and moved towards Steve and the two other men standing with him.

 

“Duncan, good to see you, how you doing?”  Steve asked shaking hands with Duncan and giving Snow a smile.

 

“Well no worse for the wear, more than I can say for my house.”  He replied.

 

Duncan looked around.  Most of the telephone poles had been cleaned up, there were bulldozers and other pieces of heavy equipment cleaning up the remains of the generators.  The ground crew on the site had the house taped off, keeping any workers out of there until Duncan and Snow had retrieved anything they needed.  The garage was still intact. 

 

“So, where is Robert Clay?”  Duncan asked, he should be here since it was his mission. 

 

“I’m afraid Director Clay has been reassigned, he won’t be working in the field anymore, from what I understand he’s taken a desk job someplace.  Stress was getting to him or something.”  Steve told Duncan. “I’m being promoted, not official yet, but it’s pretty much in the bag, I’ll be field supervisor for operations.”  Steve said as they walked up to the house.

 

Duncan pulled tape away from the hole in the front of the house, part of the sheetrock from the ceiling was hanging down, light fixtures and insulation as well.  Part of the steel curtain blocked most of the access into the house.

 

“I think we should try the back door.”  Duncan said and Snow agreed. 

 

They moved around to the back, the door was still open from when they had left to try and launch a telephone poll at Alexander.  Duncan was wondering what Steve was doing there, this was supposed to be a werewolf team.  Even if Robert was reassigned, he figured their people would be filling in the gaps.  Maybe Steve’s team was just here for the cleanup effort.

 

“So Steve, what exactly do you know about the operation here?”  Duncan asked.

 

Steve looked at Duncan not quite sure what he was asking.  “You have a couple hours to get your belongings, then we’re going to run you by your lab so you can arrange things there before you leave for overseas.”  Steve replied. 

 

They were standing in the kitchen, Christopher’s smart phone was still sitting on the island where Snow had put it back down, it still had a little battery left but was beeping to be plugged in.

 

“Holly, can you come into the house please, use the back door, I’m in the kitchen.”  Steve said into the radio attached to his ear.

 

Duncan walked up and looked at the damage from the inside.  They wouldn’t be able to come back as long as Alexander lived, which is why they had to get what they wanted now and head out.  The company would pack up the rest of his house and ship it to a storage facility somewhere until he was established someplace then ship it to him. 

 

“I was wondering what you knew about what happened here Steve, what you had been debriefed on.”  Duncan asked as he moved back to the kitchen beside Snow.

 

A young golden haired woman from Steve’s team came into the room as Duncan was asking his question.  She came and stood next to Steve, facing Duncan and Snow.  Together they looked more like a couple then two CIA agents working together.

 

“Duncan, Sadness, I would like you to meet my mate, Holly, from the Westbridge clan.”  Steve said. 

 

Duncan noticed his eyes had changed, they were now the yellow grey eyes of a wolf.  “She turned me and we were mated about two weeks ago now.”

 

Duncan shook his head and laughed a touch and looked over at Snow.

 

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They had loaded everything they wanted with them into two of the Suburbans provided for them.  They also picked up the instruments that Max and Meadow had left behind, requesting that Steve return them to their rightful owners.  He assured them he would. 

 

Holly drove them to Duncan’s lab and waited for them outside.  Snow and Duncan walked into the office and were greeted by Connie.

 

“Welcome back you two, how are you doing?”  Connie said, rising slowly from her chair and putting her hand on her side as though she were in some pain.

 

“We’re good Connie, are you okay?”  Duncan asked watching her grasp her side then looking at her face.

 

Snow was already looking at Connie when Duncan noticed a thin white scar across the middle of her face that cut across the bridge of her nose from one side to the other.

 

“Connie, what happened to your face?”  Duncan asked, his voice telling of his shock.

 

Snow was staring at her, wide eyed and slack jawed. “I know I know you.”  She said.  “I thought I did when we first met here.”

 

“Come on now Duncan Galt, I’m sure you have figured that out by now.”  Connie replied to Duncan. 

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”  He said, his shock turning into realization.

 

“I did come highly recommended for the job here from the company, if you remember Duncan.”  Connie said with a knowing smile.

 

“Who are you, I have met you before.”  Snow said to her, seeking her answer again not yet putting the pieces of her memory together of who the woman was.

 

“You were at my house when Alexander attacked.”  Duncan said, putting his own pieces together.

 

“Yes, and on your first mission, my field handle is Squirrel Chaser.”  Connie told Duncan then turned to face Snow. “Yes Sadness, it has been, oh, probably seventy-five years ago now, at your coming of age celebration when you turned thirteen, I was there with several other clans to welcome the new matriarch to her age.”  She told Snow.

 

Snow’s eyes narrowed as she took in the woman’s face, digging back in her mind to try and pull up the image.

 

“I still had some straw in my hair then though, not quite the crop of snow I have now.”  Connie said with a laugh.

 

Suddenly Snow’s face moved to recognition, the pieces clicked. “Corn Stalk.”  She said with a stunned voice.

 

“Corn Stalk…” Duncan began, his own mind grasping at memories of what Julia had said in her story of the clans, “The matriarch of clan Westbridge?”  He came up with.

 

Connie nodded.  “In the flesh.”

 

“What is the matriarch of Westbridge doing on field duty?”  Snow asked confused.

 

Connie laughed and shook her head. “I never could take to life in the clan as a matriarch, I had been part of a hunt for so many years, before we were granted clan status.  Could never get it out of my system.  My mate understood, though he was more of the patriarch type, when we had our fourth in line and his mate trained and the others already had clans, we began readying them to take over after they were mated.”

 

She paused and looked down at her desk for a moment.  With a sigh she looked back between Snow and Duncan.  “Our time grows short, they now run the clan and my mate and I mostly oversee, so, I went back to the field for my last years.” 

 

Connie set her eyes on Duncan.  “Kind Duncan Galt, we have kept close to you, you have had many protectors watching over you.  More than just the Clay’s, their arrogant ways would have let you die long ago.  Fortunately, there are more than just them in the rank and file that make decisions, and we are under no obligation to keep clan Clay informed of our operations.”  Connie had a devious laugh then.

 

Connie looked back to Snow, a wistful expression came across her face.  “My precious Madelyn, I was there when you were born.  Such strength in this one I said, she is sure to be a warrior breed.  How right I was, how right I was, your battles aren’t over yet, dear Madelyn, far from it, and I feel you will need all the strength that is in you.”  She said to her.

 

It had been a long time since anyone had called Snow by her birth name.  She couldn’t remember the last time.  She was humbled by the faith the legendary matriarch had in her.

 

“Your business will be in good hands Duncan Galt, I promise you that.”  Connie said returning her attention to Duncan.  “But the two of you are not safe here, you must be going.  Safe travels as you journey across the water you two.”  She said to them both.

 

Duncan nodded, he had every confidence in Connie, and she was right.  They did need to get moving.  Alexander would be looking for them.  The score he had to settle with both Duncan and Snow had reached a new high, more than the two of them even knew.

 

Back at their house the two Suburbans had already pulled away and were on their way to the new location they would be staying at until they left for Ireland.  When they pulled into the yard the helicopter started the rotors turning. 

 

Snow and Duncan were taken to the craft and they climbed in, the small duffels they packed with things they would need for a few days were already inside.  The chopper lifted off, taking them to Snow’s house in Washington state while she once again hid in the enclosed rear of the chopper.

 

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The Washington coast was beautiful as they approached from the ocean side of the house they were heading to.  The pilot had come in low over the water and climbed as he reached the cliff in front of the house and landed on the southern end of the house. 

 

The house was smaller than what Duncan was expecting a matriarchal den house to be, he had envisioned something four or five stories high covering a couple acres of land.  The house was good sized, and did have two and a half stories and was built of rock and mortar with a large chimney on the end of the house they were landing at, with three stacks coming from it. 

 

There were large windows that faced the ocean but only two on the side that they landed on, the chimney that protruded from the side of the house took up most of the center of the wall and the windows were on either side of it centered on the wall that remained. 

 

The rock itself was a mixture of reds, browns and grays and had moss growing on much of the bottom of the house.  The lawn was neatly mown and the house looked solitude as it sat on the high ridge all by itself.  A heavy wind was blowing when they exited the helicopter.  The driveway was nothing more than a set of two ruts that were formed from being driven over so many times, just two strips of sand with a strip of grass down the middle. 

 

The people that had flown them here came with as they carried supplies in boxes to the house, Duncan and Snow took their duffels themselves. 

 

There were windows along the back of the house as well, though a few less than the front and not nearly as large.  The view was to the front of the house.  The entry was on the north side of the house.  The door looked to be made of thick boards with three bands of wood that tied them together with large black iron hinges and bolts keeping it together and mounted. 

 

As Snow unlocked the door, Duncan could see this was by design, the door was not as old as the house.  It may have originally looked as it did now, only this one was weather tight.  The two people from the chopper that helped carry the boxes to the house had set them by the door and left after telling Snow and Duncan about their ride to the airport. 

 

They moved the boxes in the door and went in, Snow locked the door behind them.  Now he was a guest at her place.  Duncan hoped Alexander wouldn’t find them here, though the house was solid rock, it was less protection than his house had offered against vampires other than Alexander.

 

Duncan could tell the house had been empty for many years.  There was a good layer of dust on everything.  Someone had seen to the yard, but the house remained locked until its owner came to it.  He could see paintings on the walls, they looked to be hand painted and checked with age. 

 

On a small table near them was a Victrola.  It also looked old and Duncan assumed it was not a remake from modern times but an original.  The house was decorated in a Victorian motif, all the tables and chairs he could see had carving on various parts of them, the table in what was to be the dining area had lions paw feet that came from the large center pedestal that supported it.

 

Duncan started walking around and looking at the furnishings.  There was an old black and white photograph on a table with some items Duncan didn’t recognize.  He recognized the face in the picture instantly as a very young looking Snow.

 

“That was taken at my coming of age celebration, I was thirteen.”  Snow told Duncan looking at the picture he was holding. 

 

Duncan set the picture down, he was wondering about electricity and assumed the house wasn’t even wired for it when he took in the large gas light chandelier in the middle of the dining room.  Duncan was guessing the house had been built sometime in the mid to late 1800’s.

 

One of the rooms that faced the east appeared to be a sitting room.  The chairs were covered in sheets and dust.  Duncan pulled one of the sheets off revealing the chair underneath.  He thought it a very handsome chair, the cushions were deep and plush, beside it a small table with dowel baskets on either side and a book in one. 

 

Throughout the house there were gas lights either hanging from the ceiling or mounted to the walls.  When he went back to the dining area Snow was standing barefooted on the large table she had cleaned off and had a bellows in her hands and was using it to blow off the chandelier above, dust filled the air. 

 

Duncan thought about the iPod docking station he had brought with, it didn’t look like he would be spending much time listening to that in this house. 

 

“Sure could use a vacuum cleaner, get this dust up.”  Duncan said looking around and sneezing from the flurry of dust Snow had created. 

 

He moved from the room while she finished blowing off the chandelier and blew some of the dust off of one of the lights in the other room but soon thought better of that.  He rejoined Snow in the other room, most of the dust had settled and Snow was at a small closet door in the wall. 

 

When she opened it a gas line and valve were visible along with a small wheel with a handle protruding out from the edge of it.  Snow turned on the gas valve and looked up at the chandelier.  Duncan followed her look.  It appeared all of the mantles on the lights were still intact.

 

“Alright, lets see if it fires.”  Snow said and Duncan watched.

 

Snow started cranking on the small wheel in the wall, Duncan turned and looked up when he heard snapping from the chandelier, he could faintly see the light blue flashes of the igniters in the globes of the chandelier.  Snow stopped when the lights didn’t fire and waited.

 

“I haven’t been here since I was… twenty-two I think.”  Snow said staring up at the lights, then she started cranking again.  The lights still didn’t fire but Snow kept cranking this time. 

 

It was only a couple minutes latter a pop came from one of the globes and it started to jet a flame from the mantle.  A few seconds later more pops and more flames.  The first one to light was now glowing a soft brilliant white, the others followed and Snow stopped cranking the wheel once the last one fired.

 

She snapped her head and blinked.  “There we go!”  She said.  “Still works like a dream. Come on, I’ll show you how the others work.”  She said and led Duncan to a small room off to the side of the fireplace in the main living room area, it was similarly furnished as the sitting room.  Everything still had sheets on it. 

 

The small room Duncan realized was a bathroom, the bench in it had a lid that opened up to reveal a hole that you sat over and an area for a pot to sit under to catch what fell.  Snow showed him how to turn on the gas on the wall light and where the igniter was, this one was a small button that you turned on the side of the lamp.  When it turned and clicked, it made a spark in the lamp. 

 

Snow had Duncan keep trying the light until if fired, she said she wanted to get fresh gas down here, it would be easier to get the other lights to fire that way.  Because of the heavy dust she warned him to shut it down once it fired.  Then they went upstairs and repeated the procedure starting with the large chandelier that hung over the stairs and a lamp in the far bedroom.

 

“Ok, lets get the power on and get this dust out of here.”  Snow announced after they had primed all the gas lights.

 

“You have electricity here?”  Duncan asked a bit surprised not having seen anything in the house that indicated any outlets or anything that used electricity.

 

“But of course, about thirty years ago I built a generating system here.”  Snow stated.

 

“I thought you said you hadn’t been here since you were twenty-two?”  He pointed out.

 

“Right, haven’t actually been in the house, I was down in the den.  Never came up here.”  She said to Duncan’s confused face. “Come on, I’ll show you.”  Snow headed off to the area they’d been in when they first entered.

 

Snow put her hands on either side of a decoration on the wall and moved them down along its sides, a click came from it then she turned the decoration counter clockwise.  Then she moved to another wall and pulled out on the base of the pipe of a gas lamp mounted there, it pulled out maybe half an inch an also made a click sound. 

 

Then she went to a small book case next to where the Victrola sat and looked at the books, selecting the proper two books and placing her fingers on top of them hooked over the bindings, pulled the tops forward tipping the books out.  This time he heard a loud clunk and the sound of gears clicking and moving, a groan came from the floor near them. 

 

A section of the floor started to drop, as it went down it broke into sections about three feet long and almost a foot wide as they descended down under the house and turned.  The hole in the floor was now a set of stairs that swept off to the right under the house. 

 

Snow moved to stand at the head of the stairs.  They dropped into pitch black below them. “Here, hang onto my pants, put your hands in the back, hang on and follow me.”  She told Duncan. 

 

He made an odd face then did as she asked.  Snow led them down the stairs and soon he couldn’t even see the light from the room above; after that he felt them take a turn or two after they left the stairs.

 

“Hey!”  Snow said with a bit of shock in her voice with amusement.  “I said hang onto my pants, not rub my butt!”  She said with a laugh.

 

“Well, I only need one hand to hang onto your pants with.”  Duncan said.  He was figuring he might as well make the best of the situation.

 

“Fine, give me your free hand.”  She said to him as they continued down the passage that she could see, and he couldn’t.

 

Snow took his hand and found a place for it.  If she could have seen Duncan’s face, she would have seen the red in it.  She had placed his hand on her breast.  Duncan thought it didn’t matter that she couldn’t see his face, she knew what she was doing and was counting on the reaction, though he made no effort to remove his hand.  He thought to himself that he was glad she wasn’t wearing a bra.

 

Snow stopped their movement through wherever they were.  She returned both of Duncan’s hands to him and he could hear her doing things, one sound he thought was a door opening.  Then he heard more clicks and clunks, then from off ahead of them, light started in. 

 

A door lowered some twenty feet from them.  Snow started for the light at the end of the tunnel and Duncan followed.  When they got to the end, he looked out.  They were a good fifty feet above the churning surf below.  He backed away from the edge.  Snow stared out the door for a few minutes, her look was distant and sad.  She shook her head and returned to where she was now. 

 

Backing up a few steps she turned her attention to the handle of a large lever in the wall.  The handle end was a good five feet up and Snow grasped it and pulled it down hard until it stopped almost at the floor.  Next to the lever was a small panel. 

 

Snow pushed on it at both sides, it popped out and she slid it aside.  Duncan thought the needles, gauges and controls it revealed resembled that of a generator station.  As he read the labels on some of the indicators, he realized it was, some of the needles had started moving.

 

“There are, well, they are like worm gears with paddles attached, the churn moves them, and they generate electricity.  I have thousands of them out there, they’re like water fans with small generators attached, they combine to create all the power I need.”  Snow informed him.  “It just takes a bit for them to start generating once they are engaged.”  Snow said as she watched the indicators on the panel. 

 

Soon old style indicator lights that stuck out from the panel in a row began lighting up.  Snow looked at more gauges and finally put her fingers under several large switches that looked like oversized circuit breakers and pulled them up.  The sound of large switches engaging came from down the tunnel opposite the door that was over the surf.  Lights started to glow, illuminating the tunnel they were in. 

 

Snow closed the door that exited out over the water then led Duncan through a maze of tunnels finally coming to a railing that went around a large open area that was deep below them.  Duncan looked out and took in a familiar sight. 

 

It looked like a smaller version of the den that he had seen when they were in Clan Strong Oak.  There were several open halls around the outside of the open area where doors lined the halls.  Below were tables with one raised above the others.  This was where Snow was to have her clan after she was mated.  It was empty.

 

They went back up the stairs into the house and Snow raised the stairs again.  She showed Duncan how to locate and open hidden panels just off the floor that had outlets behind them.  She had him help her operate several controls in the various rooms that were also in hidden panels.  She wouldn’t tell him what they were for, only that he would have to wait and see. 

 

Once everything was set the way Snow had instructed, she removed what looked like a bizarre gas mask from a closet.  She handed one to Duncan and took one for herself.  They had been in a sealed bag so they were clean. “Put this on.”  She told him.  “Time to start my power duster.”  Snow said, her grin was cantankerous with a hint of maniacal. 

 

Duncan watched as Snow hooked her fingers behind the molding around an archway between rooms and pulled forward on it.  A door popped out from the wood that made the archway.  Behind the door, a large knife switch.  Duncan thought to himself that she had more secret panels in her house than he did, only she had a touch of Dr. Frankenstein in hers.  Snow gave a laugh and threw the switch. 

 

Duncan heard the sound of motors winding up, the air started to have a lot of static in it, the hair on his arms stood up.  Soon the room was filled with a high wind.  The sheets on the furniture were blowing towards the fireplace and he could hardly see as all the dust in the room took to the air.  Then an electric music started. 

 

Lightening came from half metal globes mounted around the top of the walls in the rooms.  The little streams of electricity filled the room, they danced over everything, including Snow and Duncan, but they didn’t hurt, only tickled a bit.  It was like being inside of a Tesla chamber.  Snow let her power duster run for about five minutes then turned it off.  All the dust was gone, even if you ran your hand over something, nothing, completely clean.

 

“I hate dusting!”  Snow said after removing her dust mask.  “This is a lot more fun!”  She said laughing hard at Duncan’s expression.

 

“I have no idea how that works so well.”  Duncan said shaking his head.  Somehow though, Snow had made it work.

 

“First time I used it here, had it installed by friends that I worked with when they stayed out here once.  I never had the chance to use it here, have in another place I lived.  Glad to see it works here.”  She commented as she looked around the cleaned rooms. 

 

Even things that were tarnished with age now were shiny.  “Why didn’t you ever market this invention?  Housewives everywhere would love you!  Bachelors too!”  Duncan said with an amazed voice.

 

Snow was shaking her head.  “Not very practical, requires a large amount of power to do this.  You may not realize it, but we just burnt about three million amps doing this, that works into a lot of kilowatts, if you did that using the commercial power grid, it would be very expensive.”  Snow stated.

 

Duncan nodded, that was more power than all of his generators combined could produce.

 

“Let get things uncovered, we still have some cleaning to do, it may eat the dust, but it doesn’t wash the dishes, and I still have to get the water running.  I may have the electricity running, but the plumbing is still a bit old school.”  Snow told Duncan.

 

“Yeah, I noticed.”  Duncan said motioning to the small room in back by the fireplace they had turned the gas light on in.

 

“Oh, I have flush toilets upstairs, you just have to pull the chain to get them to flush.”  Snow said with a smile.

 

Duncan and Snow got to work and in a few hours they had all the dishes washed and the cabinets and drawers they came from washed inside.  The refrigerator was old enough it had the compressor mounted on top and still had an area for blocks of ice to go to keep the contents cold.  It still worked though.  Only they didn’t have much food to put into it.  Most of what they had was not in need of refrigeration. 

 

They had to let the water run for a bit when Snow finally got it going, the faucets chugged out brown muck for a bit.  Soon the water ran clear and didn’t taste bad either, though Duncan decided to stick with the bottled water they had. 

 

-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-

 

By the time night fell and the gas lights filled the house they had everything in order.  Snow explained this would be their home now when, if, they returned from across the water since Duncan’s house was no longer safe and also destroyed. 

 

When Duncan asked what they would do if Alexander came for them here, Snow said he couldn’t get them here, the house was built on hallowed ground, even the stones used to build the house were from hallowed ground. 

 

Vampires couldn’t set foot on the land, couldn’t even fly over it really unless they were several hundred feet in the air.  This was a safe haven, as were all dens.  They were always built on hallowed ground.  Duncan slept well that night knowing this.

 

They were awoken early, lights were approaching down the drive and the sound of horns blasted into the house.  It was still dark outside, the vehicles had arrived with their belongs and Duncan’s truck.  They must have driven nonstop to get here by now Duncan thought. 

 

The team that drove the vehicles helped carry in their belongings.  Snow had them pile the boxes and plastic tubs they had used to pack in the dining area, and some upstairs.  It wasn’t that there was a lot of stuff, they just didn’t want to be tripping over it while they put things away.  But at least now they had transportation too, even though they were not allowed to leave until they were taken to the airport to be flown across the water.

 

“Well, do we start now or go back to bed?”  Duncan asked. 

 

The thought of laying back down with Snow had its appeal.  He also thought that since they would be leaving soon, and as Snow had indicated, may not return, at least she may not, was it really worth unpacking.  And if Snow didn’t return and he did, where did that leave him?  He surely would not be allowed to stay in the house. 

 

Snow apparently had her rose colored glasses on. “We might as well get this done now, if we do return, we don’t want this to be the first thing we have to deal with, do we?”  She said, this time she being the logical one.

 

Duncan looked at the boxes, nodded a bit then moved to face Snow, close.  “That does make sense.”  He said while he put his arm around her waist and started running his fingers though her hair, finally bringing his hand to the back of her neck and lightly caressing it.  “However, what would it matter if we were to say, lay back down for a couple hours, then get started?”  Duncan asked as he rubbed his cheek against hers.

 

A soft low growl came from Snow as she enjoyed the affection. “Duncan, you don’t play fair.”  She said while standing there letting him convince her this did not need to be accomplished now. 

 

However there was still reality to contend with.  Snow sighed and back away from him. “But we don’t know when they are going to come and tell us it’s time to leave.”  Snow said as her face dropped.

 

They looked at each other, Duncan understood she wanted to get this done now so they could enjoy the rest of the time until their ride to the airport showed, which could be today, in five minutes, or in three days.  They hadn’t been very specific, only that it would be within the next several days.  ‘Take some time, get settled in, but don’t get too comfortable.’  They had been told. 

 

Duncan sighed,  looked at one of the boxes, then picked it up and set it on the table and began unloading it. Snow followed suit and the two began the slow process of rebuilding their world. 

 

-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 had been working upstairs with some boxes, he had plugged in his docking station and put on some music from an artist he favored.  He was sitting in one of the old chairs relaxing a bit, the sun was just starting to show its intention of rising off in the east.  He was humming along with the song that was just ending when Snow walked in.

 

“Jimmy Buffett?”  She inquired with a questioning look.

 

“Yes, I have an entire collection of his music.  You actually know his work?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Yes, I have spent a lot of time sitting and listening to albums by him.  I never took you for a parrot head.”  Snow said smiling as she stood next to him.

 

“Me?  What about you, you look like you should be listening to speed metal or punk rock.”  He poked back at her as the next song came on and Snow started singing along.

 

In the shelter,

In the mornin' as the sun was brightly gleaming,

I heard her crying out, what is it all about?

I just don't know, but I can't go back home.

 

Snow’s eyes closed as she sang along, her face moved with the words she sang, when her eyes opened as she sang the next verse, she was miles away.

 

Lonely princess;

All the days out on your own are growing empty.

Nothing is going well,

If you could only tell them how you feel;

They're too real to understand.”

 

As she sang though the chorus Snow stopped swaying with the music, her face held an empty sadness, a hurt from long ago.  Duncan couldn’t help but notice the song held some deeper meaning to Snow.

 

On the street car;

To the city where she knows that she may lose it all.

Riding for just a dime, takin' her own sweet time;

And knowing well, this could be her final fall.”

 

Duncan could feel Snow’s face becoming dark.

 

Past the boutique

To the alley down the river, people pass her by...”

 

Snow had stopped actually singing the lyrics to the song, she was mouthing the words. There was a significance to them that Duncan was grasping hard to understand.

 

She sits on the big gray rocks, takes off her boots and socks,

Not knowing what she will do next just starts to cry.”

 

Snow turned fast and ran from the room, she had started crying.

 

Duncan looked at the stereo as the song went on.

 

Too many wild rejections

Endin' in angry questions from her dad,”

 

He pressed the stop button and ran out the door and down the stairs.

 

Duncan looked around to see where Snow was, there was some deep pain in her that he had missed, something the lyrics of the song had brought to Snow’s mind, something she was still battling inside herself.  He couldn’t see her anywhere, something in his senses told him the direction and he followed.

 

He ran into the sitting room, Snow was standing in the middle of the room facing away from the door.  He walked into the room, past her and turned to face her.  Tears were streaming down her face as her head hung low.  Duncan didn’t say a word.

 

Snow sobbed softly and spoke without raising her head.  “In the original version of that song…”  Snow broke off as she cried hard.  “Where he says ‘she sits on the big gray rocks, takes off her boots and socks’, he says AND instead of not, AND knowing what she will do next.”  Snow broke into a heavy sob again.

 

“Snow, you weren’t thinking about, you didn’t try…”  Duncan said understanding for the first time what the song was really about.  He didn’t know about the changes in the lyrics, one word changed the entire meaning.

 

“Yes, I thought about it.”  Snow said barely able to speak now.  She looked to Duncan’s face. “I was here, at the cliff.  I was going to run myself through with a silver dagger and fall into the churn.  I wouldn’t be able to regenerate, I would drown in the water below.”

 

Duncan took his lonely princess in his arms and held her close as through the large window of the sitting room, the morning sun was brightly gleaming.

 

 

 

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