The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 9
Square One

Chapter 9

 

Square One

 

 

 

“So what exactly does all this mean, with your title and removing the dishonored part, the clan, house, were does that leave you now?”  Duncan asked Snow once the plane was off the ground.  “What does all that mean?” 

 

Snow rolled her head back and forth on the back of the chair, stopping to look at Duncan. “Pretty much back to square one.”  She started.  “I am no longer in dishonor, my standing in the high houses has been restored, that was what granting me the title Lady did.  Though I was princess by lineage, had I mated, my clan would not have been a noble line.  I couldn’t serve in the Clan of the Moors as a noble either.  Why it was done before judgment, was so if I was retired, my name would be written on the walls of history within the House of the great hunter Trust.  Night Harvest didn’t want me retired in shame.”  Snow said looking down. 

 

She held for a moment before continuing.  Her face empty from the thoughts in her head.

 

“He also did it to protect my father.  Had I been deemed guilty, and retired without restoration of my nobility, Lord Floyd and Lord Leyland would have had demands from the other noble houses and clans for dismissal of clan Frost, because of my mother.  Night Harvest levied her claims against me.”

 

“They would not have stood for a Valiant Knight being retired in such a manner, by the claims of a woman of dishonor herself.  Lord Leyland would have to dissolve the clan in order to keep peace.”  Snow looked to Duncan.  “At the battle of Blood Night, I was the one who battled with Prith and sent him back into his realm through the rift of worlds he had created to come here.”

 

Snow stood and walked a few steps from her seat, staring at the wall across. “The clans in the states would have stormed my fathers den, taken him and my mother by force demanding they be declared abhorrent and my mother retired, and even though he had done nothing, he was her mate, my father’s retirement beside her.”  Snow paused and took a deep breath. “Politics in the end, to keep peace.”  Snow fell silent and took a seat at the small table in the cabin.

 

Duncan had read about Snow and the battle of Blood Night.  Had Prith been able to defeat the werewolves when he entered earth’s realm, he could have taken hundreds of thousands of people across into his world.  No contract needed.  Once they were on the other side they were separated from the light, once the rift was closed, he could kill them in his realm at his leisure and harvest the unwilling souls. 

 

Prith would have been able to maintain the rift for about an hour, maybe longer once he crossed over. And his horde would have followed, grabbing anyone they could and pulling them through the rift between our world and his. 

 

Snow had forced Prith back into his own world and destroyed the passage he had created.  Snow actually died in the process, but the Light in her brought her back.  For her deed, she was declared Valiant Knight by the three high houses.  In the history of her kind, only one other has ever been awarded this title of honor, Trust, the great hunter. 

 

Had the clans not been in a state of war, expecting other minions to try and cross over, she would have been summoned then, or the clans and their houses may have come to her clan.  The situation demanded the high houses remain and prepare for all out war against their sworn enemies. 

 

Snow moved back to where Duncan was standing, putting a hand on his shoulder.  “As to the rest of it, the only thing left is being disavowed to outcast, which Lord Leyland made effectively irrelevant, he accepted me into the House of Trust.”

 

Her eyes moved to meet his with a tired smile on her face.  “I am officially Lady Sadness of House Trust, line of the Exalted Master of Clans, Clan of the Moors.  I’m above my father’s clan now.  Though I am still outcast from clan Frost, its meaningless now, even in clan Frost.  Now, what do you think the elders of Clan Frost will do once they find out?”  She asked him.

 

Duncan took his time and thought this through. 

 

Clan Frost, which was in the line of the House Trust, was in dishonor.  Snow, having come from that clan, was dishonored, disgraced and disavowed to outcast from that dishonored clan.  The three high clans had saw fit to fully restore her honor and also to accept her as a noble member of a House above the clan that disavowed her, Lord Leyland didn’t overturn this.  He didn’t have to.

 

“I would say that the noble Clan Frost will first, shit its collective pants, then revoke the disavowed to outcast status from Lady Sadness as fast as the elders feet can carry them to meet and vote.”  Duncan said laughing at the thought about what would be the reactions of the elite within Snow’s former clan when they found out.

 

Snow smiled.  “That’s about the size of it.  Good deductive reasoning Duncan.”  He laughed at the poke she gave him. 

 

About this time Snow went into a panicked state of shock as the plane suddenly dropped, lifting her from the floor momentarily then started to thrash around as the airliner introduced her to turbulence. 

 

“The captain has turned on the fasten seatbelts signs, if all passengers would please take their seats.”  Came from the speakers in their cabin.

 

Before Duncan could say anything Snow’s bottom was firmly in the seat and she was trying to get the belt in its slot.  She felt herself rise up from the seat as the plane dropped in the air again.  She was suddenly shoved abruptly back into her seat and managed to lock the ends of the seatbelt together as Duncan picked himself up and made it to his seat.

 

A mans voice came over the speakers.  “We are experiencing a bit of turbulence, we should be past it shortly.” 

 

“Snow, this is normal, ok, it’s just rough air.”  Duncan said to her trying to calm her down a bit.

 

“I know what it is I read up on flying, knowing something and experiencing it are two different things.”  She said practically yelling from fear.

 

Duncan leaned back in his seat.  This time he had his hand on top of Snow’s, she was gripping the armrest hard.  The turbulence lasted about ten minutes.  Duncan must have dozed off at some point.  He was waking up and didn’t feel Snow’s hand.  He opened his eyes and looked over to her seat.  It was empty.  He turned and looked out the window next to him.  The sky was dark and he couldn’t see any lights below.  They must be over the ocean.  He looked around the cabin, it appeared he was alone. 

 

Duncan went to check the area the executive cabins shared for the restroom.  The doors on the stalls were all open, no one was in the hall.  He could hear sounds coming from down a short hallway.  The plane he now noticed was moving rather oddly, it seemed to rolling side to side and occasionally lifting then dropping, and it didn’t feel like turbulence or air currents.

 

Duncan moved slowly down the short hall trying to keep his feet on the ground.  When he came to the small alcove where the flight attendants served food and drinks from he saw Snow.  Her back was up and her head turned to the side and he could see her eyes, both wide open, a pool of blood extending from underneath her chest. 

 

Duncan moved quickly to her and turned her over.  He body was starting to stiffen as rigor mortis was setting in.  When he had her turned over there was a set of silver claws sticking out of her chest.  The medieval hand weapon had been left in her to ensure she did not regenerate.  Duncan froze. 

 

Thoughts of what happened ran though his head, only vampires would even have a weapon such as this made of silver.  He heard a loud scream and something hit the door at the end of the hall.  The familiar sound of a vampire followed.  He looked up, thinking, slowly me moved from Snow’s corpse. 

 

Vampires were on the plane.  The pilots must be dead, that was why the plane was flying the way it was, Duncan reasoned.  The passengers out on the main floor were being fed upon.  He ran back to the cabin that had been his and Snow’s.  He went to the overhead carry on luggage storage area and pulled out his sword wrapped in a blanket.  Holding onto the leather wrapped hilt he pulled the weapon from its sheath.

 

Duncan moved to the door that lead out onto the main floor of the plane.  He needed to see how many vampires were aboard the plane.  He slid the door back just enough so he had a crack to peek through.  The walls of the plane he could see were covered in blood.  Several bodies of passengers were hanging over the backs of seats.  He could see a vampire feeding on a flight attendant, her body convulsing as she died. 

 

The air coming through the crack in the door stank, blood and death streamed though the air.  He could see at least three vampires out on the main floor, another had walked in front of the door Duncan was behind, laughing manically as he moved.  He was black with wings, obviously the leader of the party. 

 

A passenger got up from a pile of bodies and started running for a door at the back of the area Duncan could see, his screams soon ended as one of the vampires flew towards the man, grabbing him then thrusting his head forward and chomping down on the man’s neck.  The leader of the vampires stepped again and was now blocking Duncan’s view completely.  He turned so his back was to the door. 

 

Duncan had to try and put up a fight, and taking out the leader was the best option.  Being careful not to touch the sword where there was no leather, Duncan raised it and made ready to attack, then as quickly as he could, making as little noise as he could, he slid the door open and charged the vampire.  The vampire started to turn towards him, Duncan was brining the sword down and letting out a battle cry.  Duncan slammed the sword onto the vampire’s neck.

 

Duncan’s body twitched harshly and he inhaled hard as he opened his eyes and looked around the cabin.  Out the window he could see the brilliant light of the sun reflecting off of the clouds below them.  The plane was moving gently though the sky, the turbulence now past. 

 

He looked beside him to where Snow should be.  She had a nervous look on her face and was breathing a bit fast.  A bead of perspiration ran down the side of her face.  There was a thick musky fragrance in the air.  Snow looked over at Duncan.

 

“Do you think we are past that now?”   She asked him.

 

“I think so.”  He responded, feeling as though he had just been running hard.  He was slightly winded, his palms felt clammy.  “I think I will just stay sitting for now though, I’m a bit tired.”

 

Snow slowly nodded.  “Good idea, works for me.”  She said in her own winded voice.

 

Duncan laid his head back.  Ever since he had been staying at the den of Lord Floyd he had been having odd lucid dreams.  But they had all been just that, dreams not awake lucid visions.  The dreams had all involved Snow and members of his team at times, always focused on Snow and himself with others playing a minor roll. 

 

Some were peaceful while others involved battle.  He only had had one lucid vision while awake at the den, and that was when he pleasured Snow with his tongue.  Her mating scent had flooded his senses, he felt electric inside.  Her musk had a powerful affect on him when his nose was in close proximity to the source. 

 

The vision was very intense, extremely involved, her scent was like a drug.  He honestly couldn’t remember what exactly they did, couldn’t separate the dream world from reality.  He seemed to black out only coming to the next morning when the buzzer on the intercom had woken him.  

 

While Duncan was thinking back and trying to gain understanding on why he was having the dreams and why Snow was having such an effect on his senses, he finally heard the sound of her fast raspy breathing beside him.  He looked over at her.  Her face was flushed red, her mouth open slightly and was breathing in short breaths.  Her face was covered in sweat, though the cabin was rather cool. 

 

“Snow.” She looked over to Duncan.  Her eyes, her face, reminded him of the night she had him pinned to the loveseat.  He bit his tongue.  He didn’t want to talk about what he was thinking at that moment.

 

“Night Harvest told me about, my wife.”  Duncan said hesitantly, trying to get his mind and Snow’s on a different track of thought.  He reached up and turned on the air vents overhead to try and reduce the effects of Snow on him.  She appeared to be suffering from the same condition he was.

 

“What exactly did he tell you?  Or aren’t you supposed to talk about it?”  Snow asked in a husky voice.

 

Duncan rubbed his hands over his face and held his head up so the cool air could blow on his face.  “I will tell you what he told me about that you already know.”  He said to her as his mind went back to Night Harvest’s office and Duncan recalled what was said as he talked to Snow…

 

 

 

“What do you know about your wife and what happened to her?”  Night Harvest asked Duncan.

 

Duncan looked back at him, he hadn’t gone to that part of his mind in quite a while, though she crossed his mind frequently, he avoided thinking about the night his daughter died and what his wife had become. 

 

He felt the urge to tell the Grand Inquisitor to go frell himself and avoid the topic.  But he realized that was a momentary knee-jerk reaction that wasn’t warranted.  The wound was well over eight years old now, and still kept fresh by himself.

 

“She was doing research on the vampire we brought back, testing tissue samples.  She discovered something about the tissue, found out the solution she was using made the sample fresh, brought it back to life, she didn’t realize how back to life it was.”

 

He moved in his chair, trying to adjust himself to make the memories more bearable.  “She decided to see what would happen if she flooded the open body cavity with the solution.  The vampire came to life and attacked her.  The guard in the lab with her blew its head off.  My wife was put under observation because she had three scratches on her neck after the incident, then she was released.” 

 

“That night when I arrived at her apartment, I found her feeding on my daughter, she was already dead, there was nothing I could do.  She attacked me, and I was able to get a tracking device on her before she fled the house.  That’s how we were able to locate the coven and destroy it.”  Duncan looked at his lap, sorrow in his heart. 

 

What happened to his wife was part of why he signed on when Robert had asked.  He wanted as much revenge for what happened to his wife and daughter as he could get.  “My wife was a good person, practically a saint.”  Duncan finished, he spirits very low now.

 

“I am sorry you feel such loss, for your daughter.”  Night Harvest began, his tone disconnected.  “But a saint, your wife was not.”  He said.

 

He looked up at Night Harvest, his face turning red with anger.

 

“You need to be objective, Duncan, what I am going to tell you will be hard to hear, but it is information you need to understand.  I have withheld allowing Snow to be judged because I wanted you to learn from her what we know about vampires.  To fully understand what it is you are dealing with and how they operate.”  Night Harvest told him.

 

“I’m listening.”  Duncan said in a hot angry voice.

 

“How long was your wife held for observation after the attack?”  Night Harvest asked.

 

“Three days in a sealed observation room.  She was kept naked and given food through a three trap window so she couldn’t possibly have any contact with anyone.  Everything she did in those three days was observed by a team of scientists to determine if she was contaminated, even when she used the toilet, her discharges were taken and tested.”  Duncan responded with a cold voice that spoke of the humiliation his wife endured during that time.

 

“Tell me about your wife’s work, she wasn’t living with you then was she.”  He went on giving Duncan’s emotions no regard.

 

“Not then, no.  A little over two years before then she took a promotion that required her to move to the west coast, she took a supervisory position as part of a special projects research team.”  Duncan answered, knowing Night Harvest already knew this by the way he asked his questions.

 

“You visited her there, tell me, what was her apartment like?  It was an expensive penthouse, was it bright and sunny there, that high up in the sky?”  Night Harvest asked with a tone of insinuation.

 

Duncan looked down, thinking.  His brow furrowed slightly.  “No, no it wasn’t.  All the windows were blacked out.  She said she hated the view anyways and since she worked mostly at night she wanted dark so she could sleep.”  Duncan answered, his voice giving question to the reasoning for his wife’s answer now.

 

“Tell me Duncan, as part of a special research team, and a supervisor, would she be performing autopsies?  Night Harvest asked.

 

Duncan was thinking, he didn’t like where his thoughts and Night Harvest’s questions were leading.  “No.”  He answered as his face twisted from his thoughts.

 

Night Harvest nodded to himself, he could see Duncan was making the realizations that he had wanted him to.

 

“You and your late wife, you had tried for several years to have children, even went to doctors to find out why you couldn’t, correct?”  Night Harvest asked changing directions.

 

Duncan brought his attention to the man’s face in front of him again, the question confused Duncan as far as the reason for it.  “Yes, the doctors found nothing wrong with either of us.”  He answered wondering where the conversation was going now.

 

“Your wife contacted you when you were in the field to tell you that the two of you finally had success and that she was pregnant.”  Night Harvest said as a matter of fact.

 

“Yes.”  Duncan answered.

 

“How long was that after you left?”

 

“Three months.”

 

“And how long were you away on that mission for?”

 

“Six months.”

 

“What was the month and day you left to go into the field?”

 

“April seventeenth.”

 

“And your wife informed you sometime in July then, right?”

 

“About then, yes.  Hard to get a message to someone in the field, lot of channels to go through, can take a while depending on the urgency of the message.”  Duncan explained.

 

“You returned when?”  Night Harvest went on.

 

“October twentieth.”

 

“When was your daughter born?”

 

“April twenty-eighth.”  Duncan said.  He started blinking.  Life was very busy then.  He had spent six months behind the iron curtain, when he got back he hardly had any time to himself, he was in meetings and occupied with the company after he returned, dealing with what their mission had uncovered and what was to be the action taken. 

 

He never did the math on his wife’s pregnancy until now.  His daughter should have been born in January if he was the father.  Not April.  His wife got pregnant in July, three months after he left.

 

“I wasn’t Lisa’s father.”  Duncan said in a ghostly voice staring at Night Harvest.

 

“Not biologically, no, but you still loved her and cared for her as though she was, you were the real father to her in life.”  Night Harvest replied.

 

He gave Duncan a few minutes to himself to accept the reality of what he now understood.  Now that what had been true in his mind, now had a different perspective and reality.  When Duncan finally looked back up nodding in silent understanding he went on

 

“How long does it take for a human to be fully turned into a vampire?”  Night Harvest asked.

 

Duncan shook his head removing the thoughts from it and returning to the question at hand.

“Seven days.”  Duncan said.

 

“And your wife was in observation for how long?”  He asked pushing the deduction into Duncan’s hands.

 

“Not that long, that would mean she…”  Duncan’s eyes started moving around in thought as he realized what this meant.

 

Night Harvest explained what he didn’t know.  “Your wife had been a day walker for several years.  Before you left on your mission, she had started going out at nights when you weren’t around.  She took to partying on weekends and going out ‘clubbing’ I believe is the term used.”  Night Harvest said drawing Duncan’s full attention now.

 

“She started caterwauling with seedy people, going to after parties with employees of the clubs and their friends that hung out in them.  Strippers and male dancers, not exactly church going folk.  It was one of these men whom impregnated your wife during a drunken drugged up orgy where she partook of pleasures from both women and men.” 

 

Duncan’s face was slack as he listened.

 

“Some of the people that she partied with both in the clubs and after parties were vampires.  From their own network of day walkers they found out who she was, and invited her to join them as a day walker.  Eventually she begged to become one of the coven.  They were more than willing to accept her request.”

Night Harvest waited a moment before going on to allow Duncan time to work the information through in his mind.

 

“That is when she moved to the west coast, where they could arrange for her to be able to work in safety from daylight.  The apartment building had an underground parking garage, your wife was taken by limousine to her work, which also had an underground garage.  She never had to set foot in daylight and worked late into the night at her new job, all arranged by Alexander himself.”  Night Harvest informed Duncan who was shaking his head.

 

“My daughter....”  Duncan said, his voice distant, thinking the worst.

 

“No, she was not from a vampire, she was completely human.  Your daughter was conceived and born well before your wife was a day walker.”

 

Duncan’s face showed relief hearing this.

 

“After your wife’s, second death, you received a large sum of money from her investments and bank accounts.  Several million dollars.  A lot of money for someone in your wife’s position, even if she did make more than you, wouldn’t you say?”  Night Harvest asked to cause thought.

 

Duncan thought about this.  He had never really questioned the money before, she was a doctor, she invested well.  He never looked beyond that.  Night Harvest was right, her investments were barely over three years old, he had used part of the money to fund his lab after he left the CIA.  She had left him with just over eighteen million dollars. 

 

Neither of them came from money, her parents owned a small convenience store and worked as much as they could to save on labor costs.  His father worked for the Justice Department, though he made good money, he was no millionaire.

 

“Alexander’s money, Duncan.  Money he wants back.  There are many reasons he has for wanting you.  Your wife just so happened to also be his favorite play toy.”  Night Harvest stated rather bluntly.

 

Duncan took all this in.  His wife had been acting strangely the year or so before she left for the west coast.  They had stopped having sex when their daughter was around eight.  Duncan had said he wanted another child.  He had even suggested adopting one so Lisa would have a sibling.  A brother perhaps. 

 

His wife was quite verbose about her desire to not have anymore children.  It was around that time his wife started declining his advances and stopped the occasional ones she would make on him.  I told you I don’t want anymore children!’ she would say as her reason for pushing him away.

 

“Still think of her the same?  Or can we retract her sainthood now?”  Night Harvest said coldly. 

 

Duncan felt the same as Night Harvest now, looking back in retrospect.  A saint his late wife was not.

 

“Tell me Duncan, why would a mixture of saline and plasma be used in testing tissue samples?  Wouldn’t the plasma contaminate the sample?”  Night Harvest asked.

 

Duncan thought about this.  Plasma would have had DNA from several sources possibly.

 

“You know vampires can go into a dormant state, saving the red blood cells and pushing out all other fluid.”  Night Harvest said.

 

“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense about the plasma for testing, it would have contaminated any results.”  Duncan responded.

 

“Of course, she wasn’t running any tests, she dumped two gallons of thinned plasma into the chest cavity of the coven leader you brought back to restore him, that was all he needed, he hadn’t been dormant long, and the only thing that he would have needed from a vat of blood was the plasma basically.  So she provided what he needed.”  Night Harvest told him.  “Is it standard procedure to have a guard inside the lab?” 

 

Duncan shook his head.  “No, never, for starters that would contaminate the clean room environment.”

 

Night Harvest nodded in confirmation of this fact.  “The guard was there at your wife’s request, approved by a vampire within the agency.  He was supposed to be used for the coven leader to feed on.  But, the guard was given special instructions on what to do by people other than the vampire who approved his being there.” 

 

“We also had our people within that operation.  As soon as your wife started dumping the plasma into the chest, he knew something was up.  He was human, but what gave him the edge was that the vampire needed to feed, wasn’t as quick yet, and he had advanced warning.  He was instructed that should the corps start to move, blow its head off, regardless of Dr. Galt being in the way.” 

 

“She was hit, in the neck, according to the guard.  She gave herself those scratches to accommodate the guard’s story of hitting her in the neck.  It was assumed she was grazed there.  She had to keep giving herself these marks as they would heal fairly quick.  Just to make sure they hadn’t been from the vampire, she was only held for three days, the humans in charge didn’t know of the seven day span.” 

 

“When she was released, she was very hungry.  She was a mature vampire, that is what enabled her to last the three days without feeding.  Lisa was not yet thirteen so no contract could be made with her for her soul, which is what your wife wanted, but she realized Lisa would never willingly give up her soul, too much of her father’s teachings in her, so, she used her for food.”  Night Harvest explained to Duncan’s dismayed face.

 

Duncan looked ill realizing what the reality of what was behind the events.  He had come to the west coast when he was notified his wife was being held.  He wanted to be there for her when she was released.  He had just arrived when he came into the apartment. 

 

He used his code to enter the apartment and had walked in as his wife was feeding on Lisa, she appeared to have just finished her off.  But she was still hungry and he entered at just the right time.  He was stunned for a moment when he saw what was going on by disbelief.  His instincts were still working though, he had pulled his sidearm.  When his wife charged him he opened fire. 

 

She knocked him across the room.  While Duncan was laying there he realized he couldn’t win the fight, he happened to have a small tracking device in his pocket still, it was left over from another mission, he hadn’t returned it yet as he had hurried to his wife.  He activated the device and charged his wife trying to put the device on her so a team would know where she went.  She kicked him backwards. 

 

Duncan remembered someone else in the room.  He saw them before he hit the wall behind as he was kicked back.  He was knocked out from the impact on the wall.  He couldn’t have place the device on his wife, it was still in his hand as he was thrown back. 

 

Duncan looked up with realization, information from recent revelations filled in the missing gaps to what happened that he had been trying to put together for years.  “Snow!”  Duncan exclaimed.  “She was there, she put the tracker on her.”

 

Night Harvest nodded.  “More accurately ‘in’ her.”  He said.

 

Snow had held up her nose ring, she said it was for Lisa Galt, Snow was there to protect his daughter and him.  She must have been following his wife, but was too late to stop her from killing Lisa.  Snow blamed herself for Lisa’s death.  It made sense now.

 

Duncan and Snow sat in silence for a few minutes beside each other after Duncan finished recounting the discussion he and Night Harvest had.

 

“I don’t blame you.  You saved my life that night, you did the best you could and I thank you for that.”  Duncan told Snow.

 

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

 

Snow was driving them to the den house from the airport, the company had delivered her car to the airport, it was waiting for them out front.  As it was getting late, arrangements had been made for them to stay at a small den along the way.  The clan was small, eighty some members, they were new, and welcomed Snow readily.  Duncan could feel they weren’t pleased with his being there, but the arrangements were made for both he and Snow so he was welcomed in with her, though his welcome wasn’t all that warm.  

 

They arrived just before the evening meal was served.  There were two people sent to escort them to the hall, one for Snow, and one for Duncan.  When the two escorts broke off from each other, Snow followed Duncan, who was led to the back of the dinning area, and sat with him, despite the protests of her escort. 

 

The patriarch of the house recovered the situation having understood Snow’s message and announced them both as guests and had two elders escort them both through the main hall for all to see and greet them as they moved to the head table.  Snow accepted this apology. 

 

The patriarch and matriarch were a bit disheveled though when Snow took their seats with Duncan by her side and motioned for them to sit to her left.  ‘She does have her ways.’ Duncan thought to himself, amused by how she negotiated with a sledgehammer.  She wore the crest of House Trust, and was a noble of that House now, just as Lord Leyland had sat at the center of the head table in Lord Floyd’s House, Snow sat in this clan.  It was her way, a nobles way, of teaching a lesson.

 

-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-

 

Morning found them on the road again after Snow had a short meeting with the patriarch, matriarch and elders of the clan.  Duncan was not privy to that meeting and Snow never mentioned it so he let it lay.  By noon they should be pulling into Snow’s driveway, Duncan was looking forward to that. 

 

The peace, quiet and solitude of the cliff side house for as long as they could have it.  Lord Leyland had said they were to get back to work.  Duncan was assuming that soon, he would be bait again.  This time though, he would be a bit more prepared.

 

As they approached the long driveway that would lead to the den house, Duncan noticed a mailbox now stood at the end of the drive, and it had also been developed.  No longer was it a set of two ruts that passed through a small section of trees into the open fields beyond, it had been dug up and filled with road base then tarred. 

 

Snow looked over at Duncan and smiled, the way she was beaming, he gathered that she was expecting something, and this was part of it.  And considering the car she was driving, Duncan was glad this was part of the support she was getting.  The driveway was about a mile and a half down to the house.  As they were pulling in view of the house Duncan noticed another change, so did Snow.

 

“A garage!  I was hoping they were going to do that.  Should have been in ages ago when the den was built.”  She said with excitement in her voice.

 

“Ok, what’s going on?  I seem to have missed the memo on this.”  He asked looking sideways at Snow as he surveyed the garage and the workers around it.

 

Snow pulled up near the house to keep the car away from construction.  “Support.”  She responded.  She flared her eyes at him when she did.  “Remember, things I will need, back in the states?  This is they.”  Snow started getting out of the car.

 

“This is they for what?”  Duncan asked.

 

Snow moved to the door of the house, she was reaching with her key out when the door opened.  Julia came from the door.  “Welcome home Sadness, Duncan.”  Julia greeted them.

 

“Julia!”  Duncan said in a surprised voice.

 

“Julia, you’re here!”  Snow chimed in at the same time.

 

“Very much so, thank you both for your blessings over me.”  Julia said, looking between the two.  “Duncan, thank you, my friend.”  She ended with a warm smile.

 

Duncan’s mind reminded him of exactly what he said over Julia.  “You, do you know… remember what I said?”  He asked not wanting to assume.

 

“Yes, I may have not been able to respond, but I was very much conscious of what was going on near me.”  Julia hugged Duncan then Snow.  “Come in!  Why are we standing out here?  The team is in the den, some of our support has arrived, and we are cleaning right now.”  Julia informed them as she moved into the door helping Snow with one of her bags.

 

Once they were inside the den house Duncan dropped his bags and turned to Snow. “Ok, fill me in here please, I wasn’t told about, things, again.  What support, what is this support, what is going on here?”  He asked.

 

“Why Duncan, sweetie, I thought in all those books of yours you must have come across what happens when a special operation division is created.”  Snow said a bit cocky.

 

“Ok, spill the beans, out with it Snowball.”  Duncan said to her, moving two fingers as though he were telling her to come closer.

 

“Well, you know I was made part of the House of Trust, but would still serve in the states.  I was given responsibility of maintaining and operating a special operations team, this means I get direct support from the House and the clan.  I don’t need to hope for some hand me downs from clan Clay.”

 

Duncan started to nod.  He liked the sound of not needing the Clay’s.

 

“We no longer answer to any of the clans here, we answer straight to House Trust and carry their authority, if we want support, we get it.”  Snow told him as a smile that said he liked what he just heard grew on his face. “We will have our own funding, supplies and support crew along with field teams.”  Snow added.

 

“Wait, I thought you couldn’t be a part of a hunt team, you’re Lady again and all that.”  Duncan inquired.

 

“Well, technically as a first born, no, but I am not part of a hunt team, this is different, you might call it a loop hole.  Special operations are not classified as hunt teams as we do not necessarily hunt, though we can.  We have a lot more… leeway than a hunt party, and a lot more support.”  Snow explained.

 

“So, this is a good thing.”  Duncan stated.

 

She tittered.  “Very good.  Instead of a house rented from someplace or use of one owned by a clan, we set up here and have crews to do our recon and supplies and such.  We can have our own hunt teams and raid force if we want.  Think of it as clan light.”

 

“Clan light, ok I get it.”  Duncan said.

 

“We’ll go to the den after we unpack.  I’ll show you how to get there from the garage, that’s where the secret entrance is for everyone to use so I don’t have to drop the stairs here.”  Snow informed him.

 

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Julia helped them move their things around and put them where they wanted them.  She asked them about their trip and what it was like.  They told her some of what happened at the judgment. “Is there anything else Lady Sadness?”  Julia asked Snow.

 

“No, Field Grass the fair, thank you.”  Snow responded.

 

Julia turned to Duncan.  “Kind sir, do you require anything of me?”  She asked him.

 

“Ah, no, no nothing, thank you.”  Duncan said in a questioning tone and looking to Snow.

 

“Very good, then I shall return to the den.”  Julia said to the two.

 

After she left Duncan looked at Snow who was almost giggling knowing his question.  “Attendant, Julia has been assigned to us.  The term the fair indicates that she is assigned to serve specific people, like Margaret at House Trust, she introduced herself to us as Margaret the fair, because she was to attend to our needs.”  Snow explained before Duncan could ask.  Snow responded by showing her the proper respect for her duty to them.

 

Duncan nodded understanding.  “So Beth was the seeker because she worked in the Hall of Knowledge then, right?”

 

“Correct.  Suffixes are to show pride in the job one does for the clan.  They identify what we do so others know.  It helps identify who to go to for assistance also.  If you know what someone does at introduction, should you need something, you know who to ask.”

 

Duncan shrugged.  “Job titles, like assistant manager at a store.  Just like humans use, only, well, more efficient.  We don’t introduce ourselves ‘Hi I’m Joe the accountant’.” 

 

“True, but if you did, you would know an accountant then wouldn’t you?”  Snow interjected.

 

“That’s what the yellow pages are for, and web searches.”  Duncan retorted.

 

They bantered back and forth about various things as they settled back into what would now be their home for good.  Duncan was a lot more at ease here, things had improved.  He liked the idea of being in control of their own missions instead of whatever some stuffed shirt decided.  Once they had taken some time to unravel after the events and flight, they went to the garage and made their way to the den.

 

The hidden stairs in the garage dropped down into a spiral staircase, if one chose to take the stairs, beside the stairs along the back wall of the garage was a hidden elevator.  A much better choice to use in Duncan’s mind as the stairs went down quite a ways. 

 

The elevator opened onto the main floor of the den.  When Snow approached someone called all to attention.  Snow walked forward then raised her left hand, made a fist and dropped it to about her waist.  When she did this the people around gave a quick bow of their heads and went back to work.  Duncan associated this with a ‘carry on’ command.  There were at least twenty people working in the den.

 

“Sadness, good to see you.”  Max came walking up to them and shook Snow’s hand then Duncan’s  “Welcome back dudes, check it, we have the den almost cleaned, kitchen is usable and, tomorrow, techs from across the water coming to hook us up with all the latest goodies, internet, cable TV, updated wiring in the den and house, and, and, a frozen yogurt machine!”  Max ended sounding like a kid.

 

“So, is the rest of the team here?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Yeah, bro, all the fuzzy pups are here, sure are, and, we are getting additions, yup more crew to the crew.”  Max replied. “And, and, we are getting two more support, mated,”  Max held up a finger when he announced they were mated, “so, you know, they’ll be, good.  Yeah, I think, they are from across the water too.  All these slugs are.  Sadness, Lady-ness, you got us hooked good.”  Max said bobbing his head.

 

Duncan looked around.  It was good.  He was still adjusting to the new setup.  But it was feeling more like a real team now instead of just a collection of misfits. 

 

“Duncan, my main human, have you seen the garage?”  Max asked.

 

“Yes, we came down through it.”  Duncan answered.

 

“No bro, not the garage, the ‘Garage’.”  He said with air quotes.

 

“Ah, well I guess not then.”  He answered.

 

“Aw man, you gotta see this, it’s totally stoked man, Sadness, babe, you gotta see.  Come, come let Maxi show you.”  He said practically bubbling with happiness.

 

He lead them up several flights of stairs ending at a large set of double doors with a smaller person sized door in the middle of one.  Once through the door Max made a vocal drum roll as he put his hands under two large switches on the wall then lifted them to the on position. 

 

When the lights snapped on Snow and Duncan could see the reason for his excitement.  There were over a dozen vehicles.  They ranged from sedans to vans and Suburbans.  Snow started smiling and nodding her head.  Duncan nodded his approval as well.  Tactical vehicles of their own.  It was time to get to work.

 

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Putting Things In Order

 

“Duncan, get up, we have more support arriving in ten minutes.”  Snow said waking him in the morning. 

 

“Huh?  More what?  What time is it?”  Duncan said in a stupor.

 

“Support, five-thirty.”  Snow answered.

 

“Okay, do I have to be there?  Why?  I’m just the human.”  He said rubbing his eyes.  It was too early for how late they were up.

 

“Yes, because our place is at each others side, we do things together.”  She responded, her voice was very business like. 

 

Duncan looked over at her.  “We do, do we?”  He smiled at her.  “I like the sound of that.”

 

Snow smiled back briskly.  Duncan eased himself out of bed and started putting on his jeans. “Ahem.”  Came from Snow.  She was holding up a uniform in front of him.

 

“Seriously?”  He asked making a face.

 

“It was given to you for a reason.  You are part of the team, right?”  She said raising an eyebrow at him.

 

He looked at her and shook his head.  Reluctantly he took the uniform from her and started putting it on.

 

They were standing out in the yard waiting when a van pulled up.  It wasn’t the standard black that was typical.  From the side came two very young looking people, a boy and a girl.  They came to stand in front of Snow and Duncan.

 

They snapped to attention after setting their bags down.  “Lady Sadness, Sir Duncan Galt.”  They said in unison.

 

Snow nodded to them.  “Welcome to Trust Operations One.”  Snow said, then turned to Duncan looking to him to greet them.

 

“Hello, and it’s Duncan, not sir.”  He said.

 

Snow leaned over and whispered in his ear.  “Oh.”  He said after she stopped.

 

“You will be serving us at Trust Operations One, what are your functions for us?”  Duncan asked, Snow had tutored him.

 

The boy spoke first. “I am Malkah, the gadgettier.”  He introduced himself as.  “And this is my mate.”

 

“Sir Duncan, Lady Sadness, I am Silence, the arsenal bastion.”  She said rapidly. 

 

“Gadgettier?  What exactly is that?”  Duncan asked

 

“Sir Duncan, I believe here in the colonies you would use the term technician.  I prefer gadgettier, technician sounds so, bland.”  Malkah answered.

 

“Sir Duncan.”  Snow said holding a hand out in the direction of the garage.

 

He gave her a smirk then looked back at their two new support members.  “Yes, right this way and we shall show you to your room and the den.”  Duncan said as he and Snow picked up the couple’s bags for them. 

 

“How old are you two anyways?  Aren’t you a bit young to be part of a hunt party?”  Duncan asked thinking they looked about thirteen or fourteen.

 

“Yes, for a hunt party, yes we would be much to young, but we are support, we don’t go into the field.  I am fifty-two and Silence is forty-eight.”  Malkah said.

 

Duncan raised his eyebrows.  He had forgotten himself, werewolf aging was much different, Snow, even though he had come to accept her as much older then the sixteen she looked to be.  Looking at the two compared to her, they looked about right.

 

When Snow and Duncan returned from showing the two to their rooms and introducing them, the van was pulling away from the side of the garage where supplies for the two additions to their operations team had been unloaded. 

 

Once they were in the house, Duncan asked Snow to come to the sitting room with him.  “Snow, what the hell is going on here?”  He asked.

 

“You’ll have to be a little more specific Sir Duncan, as to which hell that is going on you are asking about.”  She said to him, being a bit pert. 

 

“All this, stuff, all the people, the supplies the gear, everything.  There is a helicopter landing area marked off in the yard.  Vehicles, I was given a credit card for anything I wanted.  We have a chef now, a bishop, and more stuff is on its way and people.  I have been in the field enough to know, this is an ass load of ‘support’ for an operation, there is a load of money tied up here.  Just what is this ‘special operation’ all about?”  Duncan said a bit irritated.

 

Snow’s face became serious, she sighed. 

 

He shook his head and scoffed.  “Alexander isn’t it, this is all about him.  This is no ordinary hunt team, none of these people are from the states.”  Duncan stated.

 

Snow could read in his face he was demanding a full explanation, she was actually surprised he had taken this long to ask.  Maybe he thought she would tell him on her own.  She had thought about it but decided she would wait till he had his time to investigate things on his own.

 

“Yes, it’s all about Alexander.  Lord Leyland had a meeting with me.  We are getting support from all three of the high clans, everyone is the best from each clan at what they do.  Lord Leyland is tired of frelling around with Alexander, pissed off at the way the clans here have been pussyfooting around with him.  He commissioned me to run this operation and get to Alexander.”  Snow revealed to him.

 

“Why is Alexander so damn important?  And if he is, why haven’t the stateside clans done their jobs?”  He responded.

 

Snow got up and walked away.  Duncan sat staring after her until she was out of sight.  He was cussing under his breath about her walking off when she returned, she had a bottle of beer in each hand.  She handed one to him and sat in a chair facing the one he was sitting on the arm of.  Duncan took his seat.

 

She took a pull off of her beer and started.  “Alexander isn’t an ordinary minion of the darkness, he is the oldest and most powerful one on our side of existence.  The clans here, they are afraid to engage him directly.  I have sent several letters to Lord Leyland directly stating that we needed to move on Alexander and take him out.”

 

Snow pressed her lips together tight and nodded for a moment.  “He agrees with me, that is part of the reason Robert started the mission in the first place.  He was supposed to bring in members from the other clans as a cooperative effort to draw Alexander out and hopefully get some bearing on his coven location.  His coven, not ones he breezes into, his main home.”

 

She turned her head with a light shake and looked off before returning to his eyes, agitation was in her face.  “We have never found it.”  She motioned at him with a hand.  ”But thanks to you, he moved and we have a general idea of where he ran to when we hit him.  He ran home where he’s the strongest with the darkness to recover.  I frelling near killed the bastard that night.”  Snow took a drink, her face said she was chastising herself for not succeeding. 

 

“Alexander is powerful, he has many covens, and allies of other minions, their servants and their covens.  He is uniting them to bring the darkness into our world again.  His greatest opponent  is over the land we were taken, where clan Strong Oak is, this minion hates Alexander, he wont be any part of his plots.  Prith doesn’t worry about Alexander wanting his position, Prith knows Alexander doesn’t want it, Alexander loves harvesting humans and moving in their world.”

 

She moved her hands around in a mocking disgusted manner.  “He can move about and tantalize his dark lusts.  Murder, rape, bizarre sex, drugs and most of all, getting contracts from humans.  He has his fingers in over two thirds of the covens in the world, all with the blessing of Prith.”

 

Snow looked intently with conviction at him now.  “Alexander must be stopped before he can breach the divide between our world and that of the darkness, if he isn’t, all hell will literally break loose, he is the key, the link that binds all the other covens and their minions together to cause such a breach.”  She finished.

 

Duncan was staring off at the floor.  Lord Leyland was building a specialized strike force, that’s what this was all about.  The three high clans were putting their best into this, to stop Alexander.  Snow helped Duncan put it into perspective. 

 

This was big, end of the world type of shit.  This didn’t help with what else was put on Duncan’s plate by Night Harvest.  They had to get into the dragon’s lair itself.

 

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Silence was helping Duncan with his new armored uniform.  Unlike stateside clans, the ones across the water did work with humans.  They even had special uniforms to help protect them.  The weave of the fabric was designed not to allow claws to penetrate, and there was padding that worked like airbags on impacts. 

 

Though not completely infallible, he was told the armor would at least double his chances of survival.  Duncan commented what good was it to double zero.  The response did make Duncan feel better, that he wasn’t working with stateside clans now, his starting chance was considerably higher just because of that. 

 

“Does that work good on you Duncan?”  Silence ask as Duncan stood in the new uniform. 

 

It fit just as the other one had, it didn’t feel any different. “It fits fine, but are you sure this is going to offer me any real protection?  It’s just cloth and not any thicker then my last uniform.”  He commented standing about five feet from Silence and facing her.

 

Silence reached down while Duncan had his hands out to his sides looking down at the uniform, she pulled up a double barreled shotgun.  When Duncan looked up at her, she cut loose both barrels before he could speak or react.  He was knocked back, maybe a foot from the impact of the slugs in his chest, but remained standing.  The slugs fell to the ground. 

 

Duncan had felt the uniform inflate on his chest, the blow was mostly absorbed by the uniform.  Duncan laughed nervously.  Even though the uniformed worked perfectly, the thought of being shot like that rocked his boat a bit.

 

“What do you think Duncan?”  Silence asked with a confident smile.  “Is that better?”

 

“Yes!  But don’t do that again, Okay?  Damn near gave me a heart attack!”  Duncan said as he felt around the front of the uniform where the slugs had hit him.  His chest didn’t even hurt from the blast.

 

“It’s best if confidence you have in the things we give you, and in us.”  Silence said, then she walked away returning to her work.

 

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The others were working with various members of their new support team, some were training while others were learning about new weapons and devices that would be useful to them.  It really was an all out effort. 

 

Duncan watched the floor from above for a bit, this was a do or die mission and he knew it.  He had spent a lot of time talking with Snow about the situation with Alexander.  It was far worse then he could have imagined.  The fact that he had moved on Duncan at all indicated that he was getting bold.  He was warming up for a big fight. 

 

Recon from across the water indicated that covens were moving in vast numbers, their holds found empty when raid forces moved in.  Even the occurrence of harvesting parties had dropped.  The hunt parties and recon forces were having trouble finding vampires out and about. 

 

Day walkers that they had been tracking were turning up dead from withdrawal, they weren’t receiving their doses of brain fluid that kept them going.  No longer having a need for many of the day walkers, the coven master they served abandoned them.

 

Stateside had its own issues.  Harvest parties weren’t harvesting, they were turning in record numbers and bringing the people into the covens.  This was typically the sign of a force build up.  They were taking anyone they could to use as infantry.  Their only importance was as soldiers to fight and die, to keep the werewolves busy while the main part of the coven worked on bigger things.

 

Duncan and Snow took their latest invention to Malkah and demonstrated what it did and explained how it worked.  Part was Duncan’s slug design for a ten gauge shotgun, the one he had claimed Snow held on Robert was filled with silver. 

 

These slugs had a miniaturized version of the modified light design Snow had created.  The concept was a small orb that had a lithium battery inside could be installed inside the slug, when it was fired into the chest, or preferably head, of a vampire, the slug would push the orb inside of the vampire and activate. 

 

With Snow’s advanced design the light produced a high intensity of light on less power and in a less visible but effective spectrum of light.  The small orb would consume all of the power from the small battery in about a minute.  Being in extreme close proximity to the target, that of being inside its head, the light didn’t need the size and power of an external light, also any protective suit they might wear was rendered moot.

 

Malkah set one of the orbs they had brought to him on the table then disappeared back into his workshop.  They could hear the sounds of him digging around in the back and talking to himself with an occasional laugh. 

 

He soon returned with a box looking device and was dragging a cord along with him that ran from the back of the workshop.  He set the box device down and looked it over, making adjustments to the controls on the angled faceplate.

 

“Alright, me chums, let us find out what we have here.”  He said opening the face of the box and setting an orb in.  “Any which way this gizmo of yours needs to face specifically?  Or have I got it right, I assume front is best?”

 

“It’s omni-directional.”  Snow said.  “But the greatest intensity of it would be towards the front, somewhat.  Only the back where the battery is doesn’t produce the light spectrum.”

 

Malkah made some further adjustments on the box.  “Ok, lets see what she kicks.”  He said then fired the light.  A faint glow came from the orb, but the numbers on two of the indicators on the box scrambled up.

 

“Wow!”  Malkah said watching the readouts.  He waited until the battery finally had given its all.  “Impressive, and it’s organic light, we defiantly have a winner here, if we can get the blasted thing inside one of them critters.”

 

“So you think it will work then?”  Duncan asked as Snow looked on.

 

“Oh most definitely, the output of this gadget is intense, in the small area of a vampire brain, it would be fatal, well, on an undead scale.”  Malkah said then pulled his smart phone out and called his mate to come over. 

 

He thumbed his lips and mumbled to himself a moment.  “The only problem I can see is in the delivery mechanism.  As you know their hide is tough, and the cruor combibo we are going to be dealing with will be much older, established coven members, much tougher hide then what a field worker on a harvesting party would have, or their recruits.”

 

Silence came over and joined them.  Malkah explained what the device was and how it was to be used.  She shook her head some looking at the slugs.

 

“Not, not, these would bounce off, like your armor did.  The design nice is, delivery mechanics look sound.”  She said as she looked over the slug and drawings Duncan had provided to show how it was supposed to work.

 

Duncan looked over at Snow, his face showed his disappointment in his own design.  His face flinched when he heard what he was afraid of, that the slugs were not sufficient to puncture the hide of the vampires.  The round fronts, even with the substantial power of the shells, wasn’t enough. 

 

“This is a bit beyond what I do, I manage arsenal, but I know what we need, Hovlek, the weapons crafter, his help, I will take this to.”  Silence said with her heavy accent. 

 

Silence smiled at Duncan and Snow and pumped herself up and down on her feet several time.  Duncan nodded to her and she went off to find Hovlek.

 

Malkah had a look of thought on his face while his mate worked with Duncan and Snow.  Once she was off he shared his thoughts with them.

 

“I can, I think, shouldn’t be hard, make this into a portable light, like a torch.  A pair of these lights, yes, with the larger battery capacity a torch offers, could be effective in say, ten feet.  Perhaps more, maybe less, if you want I will put it on to do.”  Malkah said looking between Snow and Duncan.

 

Snow looked over to Duncan then back to Malkah.  “Sure, if you think it would be a good weapon, would it have to be focused on the vampire long?” 

 

“Hm, not sure, only a field test would work for knowing that exactly, never worked with this type of light, daylight only needs a few seconds to cleanse the beast from us, not sure.  Worth a stab at it thought, right?”  He said looking up with a blissful smile.

 

Duncan looked Malkah over a bit, he liked the boys energy, his drive.  Though he was physically near Duncan’s own age, he wondered about his ability.

 

“So, tell me Malkah, exactly how good are you at these gadgets of yours?”  Duncan bluntly asked with an expectant stare.

 

Malkah smiled and bobbed his body when he replied.  “Second best in all the clans sir.”

 

Duncan nodded slowly taking in what the boy had said.  “Second best huh?”  Malkah nodded to Duncan’s iteration of what he had just said. “Who’s the best then?”  Duncan asked putting the boy on the spot.

 

Malkah laughed comically.  He could tell Duncan was wondering, if this project was so important why they only had the second best.  “You’re partnered to her.”  He responded with a smug smile.

 

Duncan looked at Snow who was staring off, trying to look innocent.  He shook his head and started to walk off.  “Should have known.”  He said and made his way off to make his appointment with the combat trainer who would educate him on some finer points of staying alive.

 

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Duncan and Snow were in their den house, he was looking rather exhausted after the rounds with the trainer.  Part of the time was spent on sword training, a special order from across the water Duncan had been told, though he didn’t see the need since he couldn’t wield the sword he had and a standard sword would be useless against their foes. 

 

He had even tried to explain that he had fenced during college and already had enough sword training to get him by.  His shortcomings were made clear when the trainer had Duncan engage him.  He had intended to show off his championship fencing skills, however, moments after the instructor moved, Duncan blocked only to find his sword sliding away from him across the floor.  He dropped his argument against more training.

 

Snow, during a break Duncan was allowed to take from training, had him join her at the edge of the yard. 

 

Kicks was standing just inside the line where hallowed ground started.  As his mate was dead and he lived on, he couldn’t come closer as the presence of other werewolves would be more than he could bear, it was clearly already causing him great pain. 

 

Snow asked Duncan to speak for her as she stood a ways back, had she come closer, she would have caused him more pain.  Duncan extended Snow’s offer of Kicks becoming part of their recon team, working with Julia who headed that part of the operation. 

 

He accepted and became the fourth member of the crew Julia led, though none were partnered with the other members of the team, they all operated solo and communicated to each other as needed.

 

They were eating their supper when Snow informed Duncan that they were to have a visitor from across the water, a master tactical strategist would be bringing some of his people over to meet with them. This strategist was Lord Mort.

 

“Lord Mort?  He’s a strategist?”  Duncan questioned in a tone of disbelief.

 

“The best, and any team he brings us, will be the best he has.”  Snow affirmed.

 

This took Duncan back a bit, but he was coming to understand that daytime werewolves could not be compared to their night time mind.  In face it appeared that the more outlandish the person was during the day, the more intense they were at night.

 

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The following morning Lord Mort’s bus pulled into the yard and Snow and Duncan escorted him to the den.  He was much the same as when he and Duncan first met, an almost musical tone in his speech, not seeming to care about much, a very wistful attitude. 

 

He was dressed in brightly colored clothes and wore a bowler hat with a large feather in it, which clashed with the appearance of the hat.  With him was a woman who appeared in her mid thirties and three other people that appeared to be colleagues of the woman.  They were taken to the room that was designated as their tactical area with maps of the country and the state with highlighted areas.  Lord Mort had asked that the primary operations team be brought forth. 

 

Once all were present and seated Mort looked them over, he seemed to laugh lightly all the time finding some amusement in everything.  When he looked over the team he would emit ‘ahs’ and cackle at times.

 

“I am Mort the bastard.”  Lord Mort identified himself as, pressing a hand to his chest.  “This is Kevashka the bitch.”  Lord Mort said motioning to the woman at his side.

 

Duncan’s eyes shot wide when the woman was announced.  Pure shock on his face.

 

Lord Mort took notice of this.  “Ah, Duncan, do not be offended for the young woman, she chose the name herself.”  Lord Mort broke into odd laughter, sputtering as he did.  “We are tacticians, we are not polite people, we pride ourselves on the vulgarity of our names.”  Mort explained. 

 

Duncan shook his head, werewolves were an odd breed for sure.

 

“All right my little pups, we are going to go over how you are to proceed and what it is you are expected to accomplish.”  Mort said, when he continued he was screaming like a madman.  And you little frelling pricks are going to follow these tactics and not frell it up else I will kick your frelling heads in!  Spit flew from Mort’s mouth when he spoke in the harsh voice, his face turning red and looking insane.

 

His voice returned to its musical tone.  “We are going to anger the mighty Alexander, we are going to target his home turf.”  Then Mort changed personalities again.  No more frelling sheep like you frellers have been!  Bunch of panty waists, hiding in the woods afraid to frelling engage real targets, you bastards make me sick! 

 

Mort’s face became wistful again.  “We need to know where his home lair is, that way, we can attack it directly, and engage Alexander himself.  But this is going to require you little bitches to do as you’re told by your strategist here, Kevashka the bitch will give you your strategies and you will follow them or she will kick your frelling heads in for me!  Are we clear on that my children?”  Mort finished smiling blissfully again.

 

Duncan was in a bit of shock at how Lord Mort bounced between his pleasant musical side and the raging monster that insulted everyone.  The man appeared to be of two personalities.  Kevashka simply looked mean, never smiling, never changing from her pissed off glare at everyone in the room.

 

“I assure you Lord Mort, we will follow your orders and tactics precisely.”  Max said to Mort.

 

“Oh, thank you little Maxi, you bucket of shit, you’re not going to shite in your pants again are you?  Frelling turn to pudding in the middle of combat again are you, you frelling pussy?  Mort screamed at Max.  “And it’s Mort the bastard, you little prick.”  He finished politely, his voice sounding musical once again.

 

“No sir Lord Mort, the bastard.  My balls have dropped.”  Max said in earnest, nodding his head. 

 

They damn well better have, else I will kick your balls all the way up to your face, then kick them in with your head!  Kevashka roared at Max drawing his attention to her.

 

Duncan felt as though he had stopped breathing.  The actions of the strategists left him stunned and speechless.

 

Snow stood and addressed the two strategists.  “Lord Mort, you impetuous bastard, I am honored and thank you on behalf of my team and House Trust for your service and time.  I am grateful for the services of Kevashka the bitch, her reputation precedes her, she is truly the bitch of bitches we need on this mission and to keep the team and myself on track and make this operation a noble success.”  Snow bowed to Mort, then to Kevashka, then returned to her seat.

 

Duncan stood, figuring this was the best chance he would have to make his request, following Snow.  “Lord Mort, I would like to have some of your time after you are done with us here, I have some tactics from a human standpoint that may be useful to the bitch here if you would grant me my request, you fat bastard.”  Duncan sat after trying to sound as insulting as he could.

 

Mort started laughing.  Kevashka actually broke a large toothy smile.  “Sir Duncan, yes, thank you, you’re getting with it I see.  The bastard and the bitch agree to your request.  However, should you be wasting our time, Kevashka will slap you bloody while I kick your guts in.”  Mort said smiling and charming the entire time.

 

Mort the bastard and Kevashka the bitch went over the plan for the team, what they were to have hunt parties and raiding forces do.  Targets were identified, what to look for, types of targets to hit and how surveillance was to be conducted. 

 

Mort changed between his polite demeanor and his raging lunatic side constantly, Kevashka didn’t seem to have a polite side during the briefing, when she spoke to them, she was always yelling and threatening personal violence just as Mort did.  It was a bit hard for Duncan to understand at first, but it made sense after he thought about the actions of their strategists and applied werewolf logic to it. 

 

They were protectors, born to fight against the darkness.  All took pride in the service they provided to the clans and houses, aiding in the fight as a whole.  Strategists were the brain works behind every mission.  The vampires would curse their names, knowing it was the strategies they provided that made the teams successful. 

 

They took names that the enemy would already be calling them, so when the enemy did curse them, inadvertently they would be praising the strategist.  The insults that they threw at the team represented what their enemies thought of them, how hated they were by the vampires, the pure loathing that their enemies had for their very existence.  It conveyed in a strange way, just how important being prepared and planning was.  They acted like drill sergeants.

 

-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-

 

In the morning Snow told Duncan it was time to take a drive.  Duncan remembered Lord Mort saying to Snow as he was leaving that it was time for her little trip, and to make it tomorrow.  He had meant to ask her about that, but Snow had other things on her mind and kept Duncan distracted most of the night.

 

They drove on through the day, Snow said they were going near Curlew in Ferry county, they would hopefully be to their destination by two in the afternoon.  Snow informed Duncan that they would spend the night on the road at a small den and return to their den before noon so they could start getting ready for their mission in California.  They would be staging in Oregon to meet up with other teams they would be working with before moving into California.

 

Duncan could see the anxiety on Snow’s face as they turned into a wide long drive with a large redbrick archway that held two wrought iron gates.  There was a code access box near the gate on the driver’s side of the car.  Snow punched in numbers and pressed her finger on a small lens.  As the gates started to swing open, Duncan took to the assumption the large letter F in each gate stood for Frost. 

 

The drive was hand laid in cobblestone.  The yard they were passing through was impeccably kept, with shaped bushes and several fountains.  They passed a large pristine barn that had thoroughbred horses, some with fancy tack and saddles on them hitched near the barn.  There were people riding on several horses out in a fenced in training area.  The area was designed for steeplechase training.  Duncan watched the riders take the horses through the course as they passed. 

 

Snow’s face looked disheartened.  She clearly was not happy to be here, Duncan thought she didn’t care much for the extravagance they were passing through either.  He had to admit, the place was pretty high brow, even Lord Mort’s house, though nice, was nothing compared to this.  What parts of the lawn weren’t perfect gardens were grass that looked like it belonged on a golf course green. 

 

The drive turned and went through a line of neatly kept trees, once past, the house could be seen a distance away.  The mansion stood a full five stories tall with a peaked roof.  There were white columns that lined the front which appeared to have the stories above creating an overhang to create a porch along the entire front of the main entrance. 

 

There were two other doors, one to each side of the main entrance, near where the front of the house ended.  The roof was lined with gables, each with a double set of dormer windows.  As they came closer Duncan could see there were wings to the house that ran back and away from the main building.  It was larger than the castle that House Trust held. 

 

Duncan thought this was done to please the matriarch of the clan, given from what Snow had told him of the woman.  Decadent.  Only word that came to his mind.

 

As they approached the house, Duncan saw people looking over at them that were sitting at tables in the yard on stone platforms near the front of the house.  There was a gazebo on the other side of the drive that one man left from and went into the house.

 

Snow parked in the circle drive directly across from the main entry.  She took a deep breath and exhaled hard as she undid her seatbelt and opened the door.  One young man had approached the car and was standing a good fifteen feet away, he was checking out Snow’s ride.  Others were staring at her. 

 

Snow climbed out of the car, Duncan followed her lead.  He could hear whispers between the closest people to them.  Their faces were sour, they clearly were not pleased with the appearance of the prodigal daughter at the clan of Frost.

 

Snow walked up to the main door with Duncan at her side.  She raised her hand slowly to the handle of the one door and exhaled heavy as she reached out to open the door.  Duncan could tell she was collecting herself for what was about to happen. 

 

Whatever was going on, it was not by Snow’s choice, but rather some duty put upon her by those above her.  Snow lifted her head, pulled the door open and strode into the foyer of the house.  There was a man in what looked like butlers garb standing at the edge of the foyer into the house.

 

“Outcasts of Clan Frost are not welcome here!”  The man loudly announced to the two of them.  “Leave immediately!”   The man finished and pointed to the door.

 

Snow had her eyes locked on the man, she clearly was expecting such a reception.

 

“I am Lady Sadness of House Trust, the great hunter.  You will take me to the patriarch of Clan Frost by order of the Exalted Master of Clans, Lord Leyland of the Moor.”  Snow said with a strong and official voice.

 

The man’s eyes darted to Snow’s chest, he read the crest she wore, then back to her eyes.  The man’s eyes said he didn’t like what he was required to do, but he accepted what he had read. “You’re of House Trust now?  And Lady?”  The man said questionably.

 

Snow glared at the man.  He lifted his head realizing his error. “Very well, Sadness, Lady Sadness.  Right this way.”  The man said and started towards a set of stairs leading down on the other side of the foyer.

 

They descended down two flights of stairs then entered an elevator that took them deep below the house to where the main den was.  Once out of the elevator they were starting towards the open area where the head table was, and both the matriarch and patriarch sat with several elders. 

 

“Stay here.”  Snow said to the man leading them.  He stopped fast, not wanting to be a part of what was about to happen.  Snow may have been trying to spare the man some of the repercussions.  Maybe she wanted to engage directly with out his announcement.

 

“Get out of this house!”  A woman’s voice shouted from the table.  The matriarch saw Snow as she and Duncan walked up in front of the head table.

 

“Quiet yourself!”  Snow retorted to her mother.

 

Duncan stepped forward.  “I present, Lady Sadness of House Trust. line of the Exalted Master of Clans, Lord Leyland, Clan of the Moors.”  Duncan announced for Snow, then bowed to her and stepped aside.

 

Eyes fell on Snow’s crest.

 

“I said get out of this den now, you are not welcomed here!”  Snow’s mother roared again, her mate stood.

 

“You bear the crest of House Trust, is this true?”  Patriarch Frost asked, his face said he already knew the answer.

 

“Yes, I am now of House Trust and on official business for the Exalted Master of Clans Lord Leyland of the Moor.  I expect a proper reception.”  Snow said, her voice serious and cold.

 

“You are an outcast of this clan, remove yourself.”  Her mother announced again.

 

“I said quiet yourself dishonor of Clan Frost, you are speaking to House Trust.  Patriarch, are you unable to control your mate?”  Snow said as several men walked in with swords in hand and approached her.

 

The man in the lead approached Snow fast, He clearly looked as though he intended to engage her, he looked at her crest and slowed his approach.

 

“Remove her at once bastion!”  Snow’s mother yelled at the man closest to Snow.

 

The man stopped as Snow turned her head to look at him.  “Lady Sadness, I am the Den Bastion, I am at your disposal should you need me.”  The man said to her.  He knew his place, he understood the position he was in as she was in the position of head of the clan coming from House Trust.  Her father, patriarch Frost understood this too.

 

“I am still your mother!”  The woman said to Snow, the anger in the woman amplified by the bastion executing his duty so eloquently to the matriarch’s chagrin.  She knew the battle was lost, no one in the den would go against Snow now that she held status in House Trust. 

 

“We all have things beyond our control that we are not proud of, you are one of mine.”  Snow replied deadpan.  “Now sit down and quiet yourself or I shall have you removed and held for judgment before Grand Inquisitor Night Harvest personally on my charge.”  Her voice was so cold, if you held a glass of water in front of her when she spoke, it would have frozen solid then became liquid again from the intensity of the cold.

 

“How dare you…”  Snow’s mother started, cut off by patriarch Frost.

 

“Beautiful Flower, sit down and shut your frelling mouth!”  Patriarch Frost yelled at his mate.

 

Duncan leaned over to Snow and whispered, “Your mother’s name is Beautiful Flower?”

 

“Yes.”  Snow whispered back.

 

“That’s a bit vain to choose as a name.”  Duncan whispered in reply.

 

Snow stifled a laugh at his responded.  If he only knew the half of how deep her vanity ran.

 

“Thank you patriarch Frost, now then, as I was saying, I am here on official business from Lord Leyland, also I bring word from the Supreme Bishop of Clans.”  Snow said as she moved to the high table and stood across from her father.

 

Raising her chin as she clasped her hands behind herself she nodded to the patriarch of Clan Frost and relayed her message.  “The Supreme Bishop of Clans rejects your request for approval of noble Isaac of the dishonored Clan Frost to mate with noble Sable of Clan Clay.”  Snow said then reached into the pouch she had on her side and pulled out an envelope, ensured it was the right one and handed it to patriarch Frost.  He took the envelope and broke the seal on the back and read the letter from inside.  Nodding he set it down and looked back to his daughter. 

 

“The Exalted Master of Clans, Lord Leyland with support of the other two high clans have placed in my charge an operational unit to engage vampire forces, the exact details are not open to disclosure.  As commander of this special operations unit, I am ordering you patriarch Frost of the Noble Clan Frost to surrender to my service, all of your raid force and half of your hunt parties effective immediately and to order them to a prearranged rendezvous point.” 

 

Snow reached again into her pouch and pulled another envelope from it and handed it to patriarch Frost.  “This document is for your eyes only and the information contained within may only be divulged to the commanders of the raid forces and the lead hunt party that will bring the others to the location.  Is that understood patriarch Frost?”  Snow ended.

 

“Understood Lady Sadness, and acknowledged.”  Patriarch Frost said.

 

Snow’s mother was fuming.  Her hatred for her daughter reeked from the woman, she looked as though she would try and strike Snow down if she had a weapon. 

 

“Thank you patriarch Frost.”  Snow said as her father bowed to her accepting the orders handed to him.  “I will be leaving directly, should I return, I will expect a more proper reception, now that this clan has been made aware of my standing in the clans.”

 

Snow turned to leave.

 

“You’re still disavowed here, still outcast from this clan!”  Snow’s mother shouted at her as she left.  Snow turned and was about to retort when Duncan put his hand on her shoulder.

 

“I’ve got this one partner.”  He said softly to her.  Snow’s eyes smiled.

 

He turned to face the despicable woman with a confidant smirk.  “Yes, matriarch, you have a Lady of House Trust disavowed by a lesser clan that is in dishonor, let me know how that works out for you.”  Duncan said.

 

Snow and Duncan turned and moved to leave.  The bastion of the den bowed to them and took his place as escort for their exit and followed behind them.  Hushed voices were softly heard coming from the high table.  “Assemble the elders at once.”  Both Duncan and Snow made out.  They were starting to shit their collective pants.

 

Duncan and Snow high fived each other as they entered the elevator.

 

Lord Leyland had held off on notifying the stateside clans of Snow’s elevation within the ranks of the clans, mainly so she would be the one to announce it to her birth clan.  As all the attendees of Snow’s trial were from across the water, a simple order kept news from reaching them.  To say Lord Leyland was pissed about the antics of Snow’s mother and the stateside clans as a whole would be an understatement. 

 

He had his reasons for wanting Lady Sadness to divulge her new status personally to clan Frost.  With the elders of the clan now meeting to discuss her disseverment, certain wheels would start to move within the clan.  Lord Leyland was expecting something, but he kept his expectations to himself while entrusting this duty upon the new Lady of House Trust.

 

Snow had proved herself as a woman of honor time and time again.  His vision of her was that she was of the character that all clans should strive for.  Lord Leyland, Night Harvest and the Bishop of Clans had been working on plans to restore discipline and order to the clans of the colonies.   They had started these plans in action over thirty years ago now.  They were nearing their fruition.

 

 

 

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