The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 14
Dusk

Chapter 14

 

Dusk

 

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Hovlek

 

Hovlek just finished the final piece of the project Makah had requested his assistance with.  Bringing it to the well laid out array of the others he had made, a fulfilled smile crossed his face as he laid it on the brilliant white heavy terrycloth blanket in its place with the others. 

 

He eyeballed every piece for a fraction of time.  Hovlek was analyzing to build a mental tool list.  This took less than a minute.  His eyes remained on the parts for a couple steps before he gained in his drive towards his tool crib. 

 

Inside the crib he wheeled a cart to a large gray metal cabinet.  Opening the heavy doors and surveying the contents for only a second, he started neatly laying out his desired tools on the flat edged top of the cart.

 

Hovlek took to whistling as he pushed his cart out of the crib, navigating through his room of benches and large floor mounted tools to the bench with the hand held water powered fire extinguisher parts.  That was what he called it when Malkah went over his designs with him.  Now that he had tools, Hovlek opened and flattened his copy of Malkah’s blueprint.  He looked from the blueprint to the parts several times before reaching for his first tool.

 

The assembly was moving along well.  Hovlek kept looking to the window of his shop as he worked.  He took part of the assembly he was working on over to a large press.  Positioning the parts on the press’s table, he placed a pin and reached for the tools lever.  The pin eased into place with Hovlek’s steady, slow pull on the actuator. 

 

When Hovlek turned from the press with the part in hand, he spotted Duncan.  Hovlek hurried his steps to the door.  Sticking his head through the door that he only opened far enough for his head, he called out.  Duncan’s attention turned to Hovlek who held a hand under his chin and motioned for him to come to the shop.

 

“Here, Hovlek show you Duncan.”  He said and turned into his shop. 

 

Hovlek went to one of the many cabinets in his workshop and returned with the sword Duncan had asked him to remove the silver from.  “Here, just down from the hilt, see, the stamp ‘I J’.”  Hovlek put a finger near the stamp.  “Hovlek covered it in clear poly coat.”

 

Duncan nodded.  Good idea, werewolves wouldn’t want to handle it otherwise, even with the bulk of the silver removed.  “I J.”  He recited.

 

Duncan took the steel form that had once been a werewolf slayer.  Holding it and concentrating on the worn rounded edges of the letters he started pacing down the length of two benches.  As he neared Hovlek again Duncan looked to him,  “Tell me about this stamp.”

 

Hovlek tilted his head, his eyes focused on his thoughts.  “Hmm, the stamp is single tool, not two separate letters mounted in a punch set.  And it has been well used, on several types of metal.  If it were only used on silver, the edges of the letters wouldn’t be as rounded as they are.”

 

He reached to the form and tapped a finger on the letters.  “This stamp has been used on a lot of steel, as well as gold, lead, platinum; Hovlek even found some brass flakes in the letters when Hovlek was picking at them.” Hovlek moved closer to Duncan and pointed to the letters again.  “See how large these are, twice the size of a normal makers mark, maybe more.”

 

Hovlek shook his head and grunted.  He placed his hands easily on the form and politely removed it from Duncan’s hands.  Holding it vertical before his face he rotated the form around, eyeballing it. 

 

“This steel, it is not normal.”  He nodded his head briefly.  “It is blended, solid steel, just many different types, grades.  There is steel from several different regions of ore.  Having two types, not uncommon.  Four or five, makes it look like it was made from recycled metal.”  Hovlek put the form back in Duncan’s hands.  “As far as the owner of the stamp, Hovlek has no idea Sir Galt.”

 

Duncan surveyed the sword form again, new thoughts running through his mind.  When he started trying to find the source of the silver, he was told that due to the amount of silver, more than one source had to be providing the goods. 

 

Duncan rationalized that the vampires would seek a single source to try and keep as discrete as possible.  The initials I J were not any from the silversmiths they had checked on that could handle the volume being sold to the vampires. 

 

It was late in the game now; Alexander would be attempting to open a gateway between the human world and that of the darkness soon, unless the werewolf forces could somehow stop him.  Finding the source of the silver may prove to be a moot issue now.  If the vampires won the war, it would be irrelevant. 

 

They would rule the earth, wiping out the protectors.  If the werewolves won, Alexander’s network and plans would fall to the ground like so many snowflakes.  The purchasing of the silver swords and bullets would also cease without the mastermind behind the plot.  Still, Duncan wanted to prove himself right by finding out who and why.

 

“What about the silver, does it come from many sources too?”  Duncan asked, if it did, he would have a definite avenue to look towards.

 

Hovlek looked away, his face drawn tight.  Clearly he was not pleased with this information being requested from him.  “Sir Galt, Hovlek worked with the silver as much as Hovlek is going to.  Hovlek is not unlike others, silver, working with it.  Not something Hovlek wants to do.  Hovlek has not examined the silver as you ask.”  He looked back to Duncan when he finished.  His face was set and solid. 

 

Though, if Duncan asked, he would examine the silver he had removed further.  That was also in his eyes.  Duncan had rooted out many things for them, helping him was beneficial to all werewolf kind.  Hovlek respected Duncan.  He had become the fulcrum of their battles. 

 

Without his sleuthing, the vampires would have won for sure.  Because of this, Hovlek would do anything asked of him by Duncan.  Duncan could read in Hovlek’s eyes the disdain for working with the metal and how much it bothered him to be research assistant to find the source of the silver. 

 

Was it worth it to investigate the actual silver further?  Hovlek had given Duncan his direction, uncovered facts that he could use to move the hunt for the source forward.

 

Duncan looked up from the sword form.  “Good enough Hovlek, I think I can find out what I need from what you have told me about what you have discovered thus far.  Save the silver just in case thought.  I may need you to analyze it, but I am going to do everything I can to solve this without having you work with it anymore.”

 

Duncan looked off out the windows of the shop to the floor.  His mind was racing again.  Considering the new information, he was formulating questions and orders he would be putting out.  He wandered from the weapons shop without any further words to Hovlek.

 

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Malkah

 

Malkah had been working for two days nonstop since Duncan brought him his ideas for new weapons.  Using force that was nonlethal to humans was a good idea, but time was short.  Hovlek had finished the trigger assembly he designed the first day, now the problem was getting the water and air to mix and provide the needed pressure for the weapon to be effective. 

 

Being the supply tank was a dimensional pocket applying air pressure was being a bugger.  The jug was considerably larger than needed, but the pocket inside could hold nearly two thousand gallons of water.  Putting air in the pocket would not work as Duncan had thought.  He knew this from the beginning when Duncan first talked to him. 

 

Malkah had thought using a secondary air cartridge with a smaller dimensional pocket with a different incantation would allow him to pressurize the water in a separate compartment.  The results had been mixed.  He was able to provide about a fifteen to twenty foot flow of water, however the source needed to be primed before it would work. 

 

Once primed the flow was good, downside, it tended to loose its prime and needed to be primed again.  Not advantageous to the battle field.  The stream from the squirt gun also surged from the action of the water being brought into the chamber to be pressurized. 

 

Malkah was leaning against the workbench he had his prototype of the new weapon sitting at, looking down at it in disgust at his failure. “Malkah, Hovlek has this ready for you.”  He heard after the door to his shop opened, pulling him from his mental beating of himself.  “Where you want Hovlek to put this?”

 

Malkah pulled up from the bench and sighed.  “Throw it in the garbage or beat me on my head with it.  It’s a bust.  Isn’t working.”

 

Hovlek came beside him and looked to the combat version of a super-soaker laying on the bench that he was staring at.  “What is matter?  Why you sound like sour fruit?”

 

Malkah waved his hands at the gun.  “I can’t get it to work like I want, like Duncan needs if this contraption is to be effective.  Not enough force out, and it isn’t solid or steady.  Plus, it can catch air and stop working.  Takes about five minutes to get it primed again. Not practical in the field.”

 

He shook his head then scoffed at his work, running his hands angrily though his hair.  “It just won’t keep pulling from the supply tank as it should, or keep a good stream of water out the business end.”  Malkah’s voice reverberated of defeat.

 

Hovlek moved to the other side of Malkah to where the print of the weapon was.  He bent to it and looked it over.  He ran his finger over several points on the draft.  He would nod and hum to himself as he looked at the design. 

 

Malkah walked away from the bench a few feet, stopped and threw his head back, releasing a defeated sigh.  He was out of fresh ideas for the gun and its problems.

 

“Hovlek sees you are using siphon for supply.”

 

Malkah turned towards the weapon smith.  “Yes, water is pulled into the chamber as it is emptied then pressurized and pushed out.  That is what causes the surging effect, when the water brought in pressurized.  And if it sits, the air tends to create a bubble which makes it lose prime.”

 

Hovlek nodded.  “Aye, yes.  That is problem, yes.  You need pump to bring in water.  Not siphon.  You also use the air pressure to compress behind the water.  You have hydraulic system.  Use air to power pump instead.  Build hydraulic pressure instead.  Like screw, keeps the pressure constant and creates suction to pull from reservoir .”

 

Hovlek’s interjection of thought gave Malkah ideas.  Fresh ones.  He returned to where the upper assembly of the failed hand held water cannon lay.  He stared at it for several seconds with Hovlek’s words running around in his brain. 

 

His glimmer returned to his face.  “Yes, yes, I get it, like a screw compressor only with water instead.  Constant pressure, high volume.  Yes, yes, me thinks you’re right.  Pneumatic drive, yes, yes!  That might work!”  Enthusiasm filled the gadgettier’s voice.

 

“Hovlek can build for you.”  He said smiling at Malkah.

 

“Good, good, yes, but it has to fit in this space here.”  Malkah said reaching towards the print and pointing out the area he was talking about.  “Can’t be very tall, as you can see.  I can adjust some on the width a little, but it needs to fit in here.”

 

“Give Hovlek a few hours, Hovlek have something in mind for you.  Hovlek will build and bring to you.”  He said then patted Malkah on the shoulder and started towards the door.

 

Malkah turned to catch him before he left.  “Hovlek, you’re a genius.”  He said to the weapons smith with a broad smile.

 

Hovlek turned his head towards the gadgettier.  “Yes, this you say about Hovlek is true.”  Smiling with a chuckle he went to his shop to solve Malkah’s problem.

 

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Snow

 

“I am worried Duncan, why shouldn’t I be?  I just had my ass chewed on by Lord Leyland.”  Snow’s flexed voice said.  Her pitch had elevated as she spoke.  She short paced the bedroom; spreading her fingers out at her side as she did.

 

“Look, Snow,” Duncan said as he tried to sound both calming and convincing.  “I know as well as you the clock is ticking.  This will work and Malkah is closing in on a final prototype.”  Duncan took one long stride when Snow was almost her closest to him. 

 

He timed his step so he could catch her waist as she made her crisp turn.  His hands quickly eased to Snow’s front as his other leg came to rest in front of her forward leg about half the distance of his size eleven clodhoppers; his hands coming to press against the flat of her belly right over the navel. 

 

Duncan held his arms ridged and pressed his hands gently into her.  Snow stopped.  “Talk to me beautiful.”  He whispered into her right ear.

 

Snow stood motionless for several seconds; working her fingers between each other.  There was much she wanted to say.  The order she talked about her concerns in was almost as important as the subject.

 

“Duncan, it’s been three days and Malkah has trashed plans twice.  Neither him or Hovlek have slept in three days.”  Snow turned to face Duncan, his hands now on the small of her back. 

 

“And what about getting this new weapon made in quantity to arm our crews?  That’s going to take longer than we have.  Alexander has been heavy on the move, which brings me to the fact that we don’t even know where his home base is.”  She dropped her head to his chest, rocked it back and forth a few times then looked back up at him.

 

Duncan smiled at her.  Snow seemed to relax slightly when she saw his smile.  It was reassuring.  “Malkah has assured me that he can have them made and delivered in ten days, once he has the final design.  Claims he has resources that can accomplish this that fast.  I believe him.” 

 

Snow broke from the ring his arms formed around her and started wondering around the bedroom. 

 

“Ok, I’ll accept that, but that still leaves us not knowing where Alexander is.  He’s being very bold and has been seen all over the place, but no one has been able to track him to his home coven.  We need to find his hold.  The vampires may have too many forces now for us to overcome.”

 

“Snow, sweetie, how many he has doesn’t matter. We take him, we win.  Many of those forces will fall when he does.  Vampires will return to ‘normal’ levels that we can handle without all the extra forces.  Trust me, I can feel… I don’t know how to explain it, something inside says we are on the right track. We are going to take this bitch down.”

 

Snow stopped and looked to her partner.  She had feelings concerning him she couldn’t explain either.  She felt there was something deeper than the impending battle with the darkness, Alexander, and the portal.  It seemed all she was seeing was the surface. 

 

Duncan’s insights had been extraordinary.  What he was able to discern from trivial events and observations she couldn’t explain.  He seemed connected to something; whatever it was gave him his vision and direction. 

 

Thus far, he’d been accurate on every account.  This war seemed to be the purpose of his life.  Duncan had lived serving his country, its people.  He was driven to protect.  He used everything, every sense in his quests. 

 

Snow was amazed at how he relied on his sense of smell as much as any other sense.  Most humans ignore a lot of the stimuli around them.  Duncan was able to use sight, sound, touch and smell at the same time making connections in logic and foresight that almost all other humans would miss, even most werewolves. 

 

“It’s your game now Sir Galt.”  She said, her eyes were distant at the moment.  Soon, she focused on Duncan.  “I trust you, you have more than proven yourself. I will tell Lord Leyland to chill his ass out, Duncan has a plan and I am standing behind it.”

 

Duncan smiled again.  He made small nods with his head looking to Snow.  She had an old, long lost look in her eyes now.  ‘We’re going to win this thing’ he thought to himself.  Snow’s face took to a familiar smirk.  It was the same look that charmed him the night they first met at his door.  Snow was back.

 

“Come with me, got something to show you.”  Duncan said to her.  She came to his side and the pair walked from the bedroom.  Duncan took her to the ‘garage garage’ as Max called it.

 

Snow’s eyes flared as she looked around at the tactical vehicles, no longer their straight black.  They had been mocked up to look like old vehicles, civilian.  Painted various colors and made to look rusty, even dents in several.

 

“You know, before they stuck out like a sore thumb, vampires would see that black rig with blacked out windows, they would know who’s it was.  This is less . . . predictable.”  Duncan said to her as she looked around at the vehicles, moving from one to the next.  “Now, they will blend in.”

 

The left side of Snow’s face moved up forming part of a smile.  “I like it Duncan, good show old man.”  She said looking to him with a sinister look of approval.

 

“Old man, look who’s talking.  There’s fifty years between us sport.”  He retorted.

 

“Forty something. Trying to make a lady older than she is?”  Snow responded.

 

Duncan looked around the area they stood, his face looked confused.  “Lady?  Only you and I here.”  He finished, giving Snow an inciting look.

 

The moment was short lived, humor was not on Snow’s plate.  Her mind went to Duncan’s health.  Her face drooped.

 

“Hey, cheer up.  Don’t go all glum on me.  It can’t rain all the time.”  Duncan said to her with an attempted cheery smile.  “Glad you like what we have done here boss.  I’ll catch up with you in a bit, going to go check in on our boy wonder.”

 

Snow nodded and came to Duncan.  He bent to her as she embraced him and they kissed passionately.  When their kiss broke, Duncan nuzzled Snow’s face before he headed off to Malkah’s workshop.

 

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Truth or Dare

 

Malkah looked up from the large lighted magnifying glass he was looking through at the gun parts under he was assembling. 

 

“Sir Galt, I am putting together my latest design now, if that is what you are here about?”  His voice changing as he read the look on his commanders face, questioning the reason Duncan had come.  The project he mentioned didn’t seem to reflect the reason for the visit from Duncan. 

 

Duncan walked firmly up to where Malkah was.  He looked around the young man at the parts mostly assembled on the bench.  Without any emotion showing Duncan’s case hardened stare penetrated Malkah’s eyes. 

 

“Malkah.  Where is it you came to us from?”  Duncan asked, conjecture in his knife’s edge voice.

 

Malkah blinked as he looked back to Duncan.  He felt a bit unsettled by the sudden question.  This was a direct delving into of the young gadget enthusiast.  Malkah had come to decide, recently, he didn’t much care to be the subject of Duncan’s inquests. 

 

“I, well, I came here from clan, heh, yes, clan Nottingham.”  He answered.

 

Duncan’s stance temperament changed.  Malkah could pick up from the change in his eyes he was not pleased with the answer.  He rolled his bottom lip out from his upper teeth, making a popping snap sound when the lip ended its run on his teeth. 

 

Duncan nodded in an aggressive manner.  “Nice, really going to stick with that?  Or would you like to take option number two and begin with the truth from the get go?”

 

Malkah blinked fast again several times as he looked at Duncan.  He pawed left, right, left, right on his feet, his now frazzled nerves showing. 

 

Duncan was doing one of two things; honestly confronting him after connecting some of his well known dots, OR he was trying to sound accusing enough, sure of his accusations while being specifically vague and indistinct to get Malkah to let go of some scrap of information from guilt.  He had a short time to figure out which it was.

 

Malkah fluttered his hands at his sides.  He couldn’t break Duncan’s gaze.  Duncan pressed in toward him.  The feelings running through him at that moment told him any digging that was done by the bloodhound before him would be short; very pointed the questions would be. 

 

Duncan’s nostrils flared with every breath.  That’s when Malkah realized he had been slowly stepping backwards and was now up against a bench to his back.  Duncan’s feet and legs were near his, there was only about a foot of space between their faces. 

 

Duncan had him effectively cornered; despite his advanced strength he had no intention of laying a hand on Duncan.  Malkah felt that Duncan did not seem to feel in the least bit threatened by him.

 

Should he point out werewolves can’t lie?  That wouldn’t fair well for him; Duncan was more than aware of this fact.  He tried to read the scent from the man so close to him.  There was no scent from Duncan whatsoever.  He had neutralized himself.  Duncan knew what he had hidden. 

 

Malkah realized he needed to find out how much the sleuth had figured out.  “What are you looking for… me chum?  I’ve been working on your squirt… water weapon, soaker device.  As soon as I have it assembled, I can demonstrate it and Hovlek will build several for training purposes.  Yes!  Yes?” 

 

Malkah leaned forward, Duncan wouldn’t yield.  He stopped short of butting heads with the second commander.

 

Everything about Duncan remained steady, his eyes, breathing, face as rigid as the side of a cliff.  “What clan were you born into?  And just to be clear, I mean when you were born, to which patriarch were you born too?” 

 

He left no wiggle room for the enterprising gadgettier.  A low solid growl came from Duncan’s throat, the reverberation lasted several seconds then faded. 

 

Malkah was positive Duncan was not trying to fake him out in any way.  That left him but one option.  “Sir Galt, respectfully, I choose silence.”

 

Duncan leaned back.  He could see the gadgettier he had against the bench held dislike for the look that came to his face after he blatantly told him to go screw himself.  “Don’t think I won’t pitch your ass into an oubliette until you decide to talk.” 

 

He could tell Malkah understood he really would.  Idle threats were not his Modus Operandi.  He had the gadgettier by the chandeliers and he knew it.  “You know, I was provided with copies of everyone’s personnel file.”  Duncan took note of the subtle body changes occurring before him.

 

“You were given… personnel files… on everyone?”

 

Duncan nodded.  “Everyone except for anyone ever named Malkah.”  He watched as the gadgettier’s face fell even more.  “Now is the time you talk to me.” 

 

He pulled all his resolve together as he looked at Duncan.  “Ahem, again, with respect, I choose silence.”

 

Duncan’s eyes flashed, even through the neutralizer the young gadgettier could smell he was about to lose this battle.  The scent of victory is hard to cover.

 

“Well of souls.”

 

Malkah broke from Duncan to the side, towards the door.  Duncan made no effort to stop him.  He hurriedly closed it then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small remote control, pressing several buttons at once it seemed. 

 

The blinds closed cutting off any outside observation.  Malkah turned to face Duncan who was now leaning back against the bench he had been pinned against, arms crossed and expression of success.

 

Duncan held up a piece of paper.  “I have a memo here from Lord Boxtemmill regarding his statements against cell phone use.  He claims he has a radio system that will work in place of cell phones with a lot greater security and features tailor maid for our... lifestyle.” 

 

Duncan reached towards his back.  “I had one next day aired to me.”  His hand came forward holding a small black box.  “Looks very familiar to me, how about you?”  Duncan dropped the radio pack on the bench next to him.  “I ask you for the last time, I have an oubliette waiting, which clan are you from?”

 

Malkah’s eyes moved around the floor before he turned them back to Duncan.  “Boxtemmill, I come from Clan Boxtemmill.”  He said.  “Patriarch’s first born alpha.  I am Lord Boxtemmill the Seventeenth.”  Malkah, Lord Boxtemmill the seventeenth, took several steps towards Duncan. 

 

“At the den, my family calls me Seven.  Please keep using my cover name.”  His stance became more, stately. “Keep any knowledge you have about… the well you mentioned, to yourself.  Don’t even speak of it.  What else have you divined?”  Malkah asked.

 

Duncan remained as he was.  “An old book told me a story about a well that the darkness had used to cross over.  Originally it had a different purpose, before the great fracture between the Light and the dark.”

 

“The Light visited its creation through it.  After the fracture a rift was created, the well now had a path to the domain of the Light, and that of the darkness.  Battle raged, darkness forced back by the Light to keep him from ravaging the earth for his own dark pleasures.  Then the well was destroyed.”

 

Duncan paused, his eyes ran over the gadgettier.  “A clan remained to guard over the well in case someone, vampire or otherwise, tried to rebuild it.  This ancient tome was partially written in a type of hieroglyphics.  I hand translated them.  Followed the clues in what I read.” 

 

Duncan uncrossed his arms and walked the short distance to come within two feet of Malkah.  “I used the code I figured out from reading to decipher a single word, name actually, Boxtemmill.”

 

Malkah’s eyes were frozen.  Duncan had dug deeper into their history and legends than anyone had since the information was considered recent history. 

 

Duncan spoke again looking hard into Malkah’s eyes.  “All the clans had left the holy land.  At least that is the accepted history.  After some time, and due to vampire activity fairly close to the holy land, a den was built and a clan set up shop.  Clan Boxtemmill.  Legend says Lord Boxtemmill is the fourth immortal, only in a different way.”

 

“The knowledge of the father is passed onto the first born alpha son.  Interesting thing, every first born of clan Boxtemmill has been a male alpha since its founding, or should I say re-founding.  They never actually left.  They have always guarded the well of souls.  The head of this clan is even called the Guardian.”  Duncan stated.

 

Malkah cringed when Duncan mentioned the well by name.  “Don’t, no, don’t use it’s name, please.  We have wanted that history forgotten for a reason.  Where did you read this?  How?  Who helped you learn this?”

 

Duncan smiled.  “Your cousin, Beth the seeker.”

 

Malkah’s jaw tightened when he heard this.

 

Duncan went on.  “Gadgets run in your family.  Your father was a gadgettier, so are you.  Though for reasons of digression, inventions were passed on to a sharp young inventor.  This person would present inventions to the clans instead of the actual inventor.  Keeping all eyes off of a common clan, Boxtemmill.  They have a huge manufacturing facility.  You have been shipping your inventions to Snow over the decades and having her… ‘invent and display’ them.”

 

“How did you figure that part out?  Snow?”

 

“The ladybug.  You said you used part of Snow’s invention, the lights, to come up with them.  In order to do that you had to have an intricate knowledge of how ‘her’ invention worked.  A lot more than what you would have had just tinkering with the finished product.”  Duncan answered.

 

Malkah smiled.  “Actually, we stole your original design and modified it.  But you are right, I have been peddling many of my wares through Lady Sadness.  And like you, I have read all of the tome that you also possess.”

 

Duncan became even more stoic.  “I trust you know to keep everything you know to yourself?”

 

“I should be asking you that.”  Malkah responded.

 

“Night Harvest and I have an agreement.”  Duncan answered.

 

Malkah nodded his head.  “Night Harvest.  Yes.”

 

“Why are you here?”  Duncan demanded.

 

Malkah guffawed.  “Sir Galt, you know the answer to that question already.”  He held out his arm and pointed back towards where the parts to Duncan’s weapon lay.  “If we’re done here, I need to get your gun finished.”  He dropped his arm.  “You are good at figuring things out, Duncan, but discussing old history and lore, isn’t helping us with our current problems now, is it me chum.”  His normal demeanor returned.

 

Duncan turned away from Malkah and passed by him on his right, between the benches and to the door.  Without looking back, he opened the door and walked out.

 

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Minion, Master, Alexander

 

The water felt good.  One of his servants brought him a golden goblet of wine.  He looked at her breasts as she handed the goblet to him while he sat in the whirlpool.  As he took the drink she offered, he grabbed her hand.  “Get in here with me.”  He told the naked young girl. 

 

Her oiled body glistened in the light from the fires of the braziers and torches.  Alexander looked on her face with its black lips and bloodshot eyes.  She climbed in the tub, first moving to sit across from him. He motioned for her to come next to him. 

 

She huddled timidly under one of his arms outstretched across the back of the large whirlpool with an alluring smile.  He could tell she was forcing herself.  He didn’t care.  She was here for his pleasure; he could give a rat’s ass how she felt about it.

 

“How long can you hold your breath?”  Alexander asked turning an unconcerned face to his slave.

 

“A… as long as you need me to master.”  She answered.  Her eyes looked back at him from behind the wall she had built to protect herself from whatever she felt she was enduring.

 

She should appreciate him more than she did.  She had it good here, unlike others in his service.  Here in his palace she lived the good life, serving him.  She was one of many who attended to his needs and wants.  Lately this meat bag had become melancholy. 

 

Alexander had owned her about ten years now.  He had liked her spunk when she was just a lost school girl who wanted a television fantasy of the vampire life.  She was young and all to willing to part with her soul to fulfill her childhood fantasy.  She hadn’t aged since the night he turned her, but she looked so much different now. 

 

Her eyes held age beyond her years.  The initial giddiness and enthusiasm from her lasted though the first year, slowly replaced by complacency which had now grown into regret.  He rather enjoyed her when she still tried. 

 

The servant that stood near the door had been with him over forty years now and still enjoyed the life.  He would have to slam some spark back into this one.  If he didn’t enjoy her, he would simply drain her and bring in a replacement.

 

Without any forewarning Alexander grabbed the head of the girl sitting at his side stroking his chest trying to appear interested in pleasing him and shoved it under the water towards the fork of his legs.  He kept his hand on the back of her head and forced her to remain underwater. 

 

A whimper came from a small girl in a blood stained white smock with her hands chained behind her around one of marble pillars behind where he sat.  Alexander looked back to the young girl with a cruel smile.

 

He heard the door on the far end of the room where the other present naked woman stood, open. Turning to the sound, Alexander saw one of his servants, a man, walk near the hot tub and face him with his hands in front waiting to be acknowledged.

 

“Yes Mitchell, what are you bothering me for.”  Alexander asked the man with a perturbed look, still holding the girls head underwater.

 

Mitchell stepped forward several steps now that he was permitted to speak.  “Master, we have lost contact with the betrayer.  Robert of the Clay seems to have vanished.  His apartment was searched, no indication of what happened.  Contact was lost after we lost the bugs when the power was dumped for the work being done in the building.”  He looked down nervously.  Alexander never took bad news well.

 

Alexander’s face lost what grin it had and crossed over to vile anger.  He pulled his hand that he was holding the head of the girl down with up, brining her head with.  She inhaled hard and gasping, once her lungs were full she started gagging and coughing; water discharging out her mouth from her lungs as she did. 

 

He shoved her back across from him.  “Sit, you’re not finished yet.”  He told her then returned his attention to his messenger of bad news.  “Obviously the squatting puppies have rousted him out, idiot.  Saved me the trouble of having to slay the prick.”

 

Standing up, Alexander motioned for the girl near the door.  She came to him, a dark grin on her pale face.  “Towel, slave.”  He snapped at her.  She picked up the towel near him and handed it to him. 

 

As he toweled off he noticed the girl in the tub looking at the scar that went across half of his torso.  “You, stop looking at that, never look at it again, hear?”  Her head turned away. 

 

Snow’s near fatal attack on him had left its mark.  She was only an inch away or so from finishing her job that night.  He would bear another scar from her for his all of his days. 

 

Soon though, he would have his revenge.  His foes were far outnumbered and had been forced into a full retreat.  They would never be able to regroup and manage to engage his forces adequately now.  Soon when the lunar cycle was right, he would have all he needed to open the portal and allow his master through.  Even with Robert gone they would still be unable to locate him in time to have any effect on the outcome. 

 

The whimpering of the girl chained to the pillar drew Alexander’s attention.  He looked back at the girl in the tub he was now standing next to, her face indifferent.  Facing the chained girl again he snickered. 

 

“This one was too easy.  Just old enough to make a decision about her soul.  Didn’t believe it was a real thing now did you snack.”  He laughed hard at the anguish of his prisoner.  

 

“It was all fun last night when I turned you. Damn you were so much fun, such energy.  But alas, the poor thing has realized her destiny now.  I don’t see her lasting long here, can’t even fake it good.  Such sadness, such a display.  You’re pissing me off you know that!?”  He ended yelling at the now crying girl.

 

“Bring that to me.”  Alexander ordered sitting on the edge of the hot tub. 

 

Mitchell made a hasty nod as he moved to where the girl was chained and sobbing.  The marks on her neck from being turned were still fresh.  Though they had regenerated now, the scars would remain as long as she was allowed to live. 

 

When Mitchell started dragging her to his master by the chains he had unlocked, she started to shake and panic.  “No!  Please, I want to live, please, let me go!”  She cried.

 

Mitchell jerked the chains that ran to the binders on her wrists pulling the girl forward and closer to Alexander.

 

“No!  Don’t, please, I’m sorry!”  She screamed then started repeating in a terrified voice quietly “please...please...please, I just want to live, please.”  She fell to the ground.  Her arms pulled over her head as Mitchell pulled her along the rest of the way to Alexander. 

 

The girl was now a quivering lump sobbing on the floor.  Mitchell kicked her in the back.  “Get up, don’t piss your master off girl.”  He said to her then kicked her again.  “I said get up.” 

 

He reached down and grabbed her oily blonde hair, collecting enough and pulling her up by it then bringing her to a standing position while she fought against his pulling, clawing at his hand in her hair.  Mitchell brought an arm to her front with a fist while standing at her back.  He brought his fist in as hard as he could striking her in her stomach. 

 

The girl gasped as the wind was knocked out of her.  She started to double over but he jerked her head up and put a knee in her back to straighten her up to face Alexander and stop her clawing at his hands. 

 

“Stay!”  He yelled hard at her then released her hair.  The girl stood as she was told, shaking from the tears she rolled down her face.  Her eyes cast to Alexander’s feet.  Blood was on her legs below where the thin white garment ended.

 

In a sudden movement Alexander grabbed the girl with one hand.  Two fingers went along one eye and into the socket, thumb into the other eye; he grabbed the bone in between her eyes and pulled her closer to him while she wailed from the pain he was inflicting on her. 

 

With his digits still holding her through her eye sockets he reached to her front grabbing her smock and ripped it from her leaving her naked before him.  An eye followed his fingers as he pulled them from her face.  It rolled out of the socket sticking most of the way out of her skull.  The girl panted and gasped.  Her eye pulled back in and the tears in her skin from the force of his fingers being shoved into her eye sockets started to close.  Alexander waited patiently while she regenerated. 

 

“You’re not happy here now?”  He asked the girl.  Mitchell and the servant girls watched quietly.

 

The girl was blubbering as she tried to speak. 

 

“I can’t understand you sweetie, you have to calm down and talk to me.  And hurry up, you are wasting my time.”  Alexander said with boredom on his face at the girl’s plight.

 

The girl collected herself some, taking several hard breaths trying to slow her sobbing enough to talk.  “Please sir, let me go.  I want to live, I didn’t know what I was doing, please, I’m so sorry, let me go please!”

 

Alexander stood and laughed.  It sounded somewhat joyful in a maniacal way.  “You made a deal with me.  What of that, and the gifts I have bestowed upon you?”

 

The girl cried loudly for several seconds.  “Take them back, I don’t want them!”  She choked out.

 

Alexander ran a long slender index finger across her face as he looked at her.  “Take them back?  Immortality, exceptional health and looks.  You can’t be hurt by mortal means.  Any wounds heal in seconds, making you a hunter instead of prey.  You are a god among humans.  Take all that back?”

 

He rolled his head back and laughed coldly then returned his gaze to the girl.  “Money, the best food, human, good drugs to make you feel just right all the time.  Pleasures you could never have as a mere human.  All this just for you.  In exchange you only have to spend time with me when I request it.  Your only duty to please me.  You want me to take all that I have given you, and at such a cheap price?”

 

“YES!”  The girl screamed at him.

 

Alexander placed a firm hand on one of her shoulders and moved the other to the top of her head.  Gripping the top of her skull hard enough that bones could be heard crunching, he slowly turned her head while keeping her body facing him.  Snaps and pops came from the girl’s neck, her mouth opened and she started to cry out. 

 

Her mouth became frozen in a scream, her sound ended when the snap of a tendon in her neck letting loose was be heard.  He continued to turn her head now facing two thirds to her back.  There was a crunch as her vertebra started breaking.  

 

Her body thrashed for a split second as her spinal cord severed slowly.  Alexander had her head facing straight back.  He released his grip on the schoolgirl and she toppled to the floor landing on her face with an arm awkwardly in front of her.  A shard of bone shot out from her elbow from the fracture to her arm as she landed. 

 

The three with him watched with masked faces.

 

Alexander erected as he stood over the body of the girl.  His penis bobbed as urine started to flow from him.  His erect member fanned his stream over the entirety of the girl.  The flow weakened as the girls arm moved. On its second movement her arm was straight and the bone jutting from it pulled in and reset itself. 

 

His stream ended and he dribbled on her thighs.  Bending to reach for her head Alexander bound his hand in her hair and pulled her up to his waist and wiped himself off in her hair.  The faint sound of her neck restoring itself could be heard.  She was flung off and back to the floor as her eyes opened. 

 

“I snap your neck, you get back up.  Isn’t that worth a soul?  You weren’t using it for anything, said so yourself.”  He said with an evil smile.

 

The girl tried to stand faster than she was ready to yet.  She faltered but caught herself.  Her wet skin shimmered as Alexander looked over her formerly virgin body.  She had been fun for the day.  Second thoughts had made her unacceptable in the eyes of her new master.

 

She panted fast several times.  “You never told me about the dead feeling, not just my body but my heart, my feelings too.  They’re all dead!”

 

Alexander snorted.  “They aren’t dead, they are changing, to better suit your new life.”

 

She shook her body.  “I feel mean, I want to kill people!  I’m empty now.  I want to be free from this feeling of… darkness inside me.  The evil!  You never told me about this stuff!”  The girl screamed.

 

Alexander motioned to the girl with a bad finger.  The girl hunkered down and made a short quick side to side motion of her head.  Her face said she had chosen death over her new life.  Prith’s minion focused on the girl.

 

Restrictedly, she started moving towards her master.  Seconds later she walked freely to the monster commanding her with ease.  Her will was nothing compared to his.  She stopped in front of Alexander and laid her head back. 

 

The flesh around her larynx produced a squishy pah sound as it burst from his fingers pushing into her neck and encircling her larynx.  With a sudden hard yank the girl bucked forward and fell to the floor gasping from the severed end of her larynx protruding from her chest after a good four inch section was abruptly removed.

 

Alexander laughed honestly amused at the sight at his feet.  He kicked at her head while he waited for her to gather herself, hard enough to cause it to move several inches.  His leg stopped kicking when the girl cried out and was able to move to avoid the next approaching kick. 

 

“You want to be free.  That’s what I’m hearing from you.  Is that right?”  He asked her with a loathsome malicious grin.

 

“Yes, please sir, let me go.”  She chugged out short of breath from standing as soon as she could.  “I’m only…”

 

“You’re old enough to make a contract for your soul, human laws do not cover the sales of one’s souls. You made a deal, a deal that you have received your gifts for, and are now trying to break while not upholding your end of the deal.”

 

“Cancel it please, you can have your gifts back, I don’t want them, I hate them!”  She screamed.

 

“You want me to set you free, is that it?”  He asked of her.

 

“Yes!  Please, let me go!”  The girl begged.

 

“Let me hear you say ‘I want to be set free’ just like that, ‘I want to be set free’ and I will do so.”  Alexander instructed her.

 

All eyes were on the scared girl now.  The observers held their breath.

 

“I want to be set free!”  The girl bellowed.

 

Alexander smiled wide.  His eyes narrowed; his nostrils flexed.  “I was hoping you would say that.” 

 

Deep laughing came from the daemon who desired dominion over humans.  He looked to her eyes and she walked to the hot tub and bent over the edge resting her palms on the inside edge of the tub.  Raising a leg she stepped up onto the ledge bringing her other leg with to the outside edge.  Her hands still on the inside edge, her butt stuck straight out. 

 

She was breathing fast, scared.  Alexander brought an open palmed spank from his right hand onto the same side of her butt hard.  The crack of his hand on her fleshy bottom sounded and the girl tumbled headlong into the tub, her head connecting with the girl still sitting in the hot tub.  She popped up out of the water and climbed from the tub.

 

“Well, that didn’t work so well.”  Alexander said as the girl came and took position in front of him again, this time with her feet on the ground and her hands on the outside edge of the whirlpool tub. 

 

He slapped her bottom again.  Taking a half step forward he placed a hand on either side of her waist, positioned her and stepped forward.  As hard as he could he put himself hard inside her.  The girl cried out.  Alexander quickened his pace on her as he leaned forward placing an arm across her shoulder blades and pressing down forcing her chest to the wide edge of the tub. 

 

He showed the girl no mercy.  His other arm came around her neck, elbow crooked under her chin.  He bent his arm in as far as he could as he began moaning.  His leverage started pulling up on the girls head while he held her shoulders down.  Choking noise came from the girl’s mouth now instead of the cries that came with each forward moment of her executioner. 

 

“I’m setting you free!”  Alexander hollered as he pulled up harder on her head and slamming his hips in as hard as he could.  Sinew ripped and tore as the girl’s head was savagely pulled from her neck. 

 

“Oh yes, now that’s so much better!”  He slowed then stopped his assault on the girls corpse. 

 

Her shoulders were half in the water.  The girl in the tub climbed out as the water reddened.  Alexander stepped back and pushed on the dead girl’s buttock thrusting her body into the whirlpool.  “Anyone for soup?”  He said turning his smiling face towards his slaves present.

 

They stood near each other.  Taking in Alexander’s stance, the girl from the tub broke from the blank stares they were giving him and put on a flirtatious smile and a slink.  She walked to Alexander and rubbed her hands over his chest.  She reached to his face and ran fingers down his jaw line, smiled at him and knelt.

 

“I see you’re coming to reason.  Good choice.  You can do that later, bring me a knife, a long one.”  Alexandra said to her. 

 

She stood and walked slowly working her moves, trying to be provocative while going to retrieve what she was asked to fetch with a suggestive giggle.  Alexander had moved to a table in the room and place the head of the girl sideways on the it.  He was looking back to the slave he had sent to fetch the knife, waiting.  When she approached, he took the knife from her, turned to the head on the table and chopped off the top quarter of it.

 

He handed the top part of the girls head to the girl who had been in the tub.  She took it from him and he looked to the other female servant.  “Bring me two spoons.”  He ordered her as he set the girls head upright.  “Hell, make it three, you can share mine.”  He yelled after her.

 

Alexander picked up the empty skull after the three finished dining and pitched it towards one of the braziers, it landed in his target and made a half roll into the flames when it landed. 

 

“Not much for tits, but she had a great mind.”  Alexander said and started laughing.  The two girls, one sitting on either side of him joined in the laughter. 

 

The girls started running their hands over Alexander’s body, kissing his shoulders and neck.  Excited sounds came from them, they complemented him on his build and body.  He leaned back and allowed them to give him their attention, smiling diabolically. 

 

He didn’t care if their hearts weren’t in it.  He had made it pointedly clear they existed for his pleasure.  Should they fail, he could replace them.  They meant nothing to him.  As he let the girls work on him, his eyes fell on the man still standing in the room across from him several feet from the door.  His hands were in front of him and he was quietly waiting.

 

“Are you going to watch while I service these two?”  Alexander snapped at him.

 

He cleared his throat and raised his head.  “No master, not unless you want me to, again.”

 

“Then what the frell are you doing here still?”

 

The man closed about half the distance to the table where his master sat.  “Master Alexander, what are your orders about the werewolves?  We still have their cell phones on GPS, and we seem to be able to track them.  They haven’t left holy ground yet, they remain pulled back.”

 

Alexander stood and stepped back from the table and stretched his arms above him.  He was a full six foot eleven in height.  Height played a significant roll in vampire ranking.  Taller members were given position of authority.  Typically a vampire would not turn someone who was taller than they had been when alive.  Whereas werewolves lost height after being turned, vampires gained in it. 

 

He looked to the girl who had been the melancholy in the hot tub.  “You can do your thing now.”  He said standing almost in front of her.  She slid over a little on the bench and leaned forward to her master. 

 

“They have Robert, who is most assuredly no longer with us.  If they figured out his connection to us, you imbecile, then the GPS from their phones is no longer of value to us.  They will use it to throw us off track, that would explain the recent ass pounding we took from them.”  Alexander reached down and grabbed the girls head and harshly pulled it into him.  Gagging and choking came from her as he worked her head. 

 

“Our adversaries lack creativity, they operate strictly on their ‘rules’ and keep trying their same old tactics.  Watch the dens they had formed up at before, they will return to them when they think they have come up with something new and are ready to begin dying again.”

 

Mitchell looked to the floor for a second then back to Alexander.  “Master, what of the daughter from the line of Trust?  The legend?”  He asked in a repressed voice.

 

Alexander’s face flowed with anger.  He pulled the girl in front of him up by her hair and held her off the ground.  His voice raged a roar as he slammed his fist at the girl’s abdomen; the thrust connected and his fist went through her.  Blood shot out her mouth and her face was struck with agony.  No sound came from her open mouth as her body twitched. 

 

He removed his arm from her then slammed her head down on the table and the bones crunched.  Picking her head up he slammed it into the table again and repeated the action several times.  A light squeak came from his slave.  When he released her she slumped to the floor mostly, with an arm and her head on the bench. 

 

“I don’t give a flying flipping frell about that old werewolf legend!”  He loudly bellowed.  “That cunt isn’t mated, no pure born will have her.  The legend is a farce you gutless turd.  The excrement master of clans line has to be mated to a true descendent of the Grand Inquisitor!  That, you moron, cannot happen.  There are no true blood line descendents from that piece of shit!  None!” 

 

Alexander picked up the knife he had used to serve up the girls skull.  He threw it at the servant who had pissed him off.  The man caught the blade in mid air as it approached his chest.

 

“Be gone, never bother me with ridiculous legends and werewolf hopes again!”  Mitchell turned from him and made for the door.  “You, get up, you have work to finish.”  Alexander said to the slumped girl he had severely beaten, he kicked her body and she fell the rest of the way to the floor.  “Hurry up and regenerate whore.”

 

-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-

 

Malkah knocked on the door of the den house again.  He pulled his heels up and rocked several times while he waited.  He was reaching to knock again when the door opened, Snow was on the other side.

 

“Malkah, it’s four freaking thirty in the morning, what’s up?”  She asked through her grogginess.  His face was beaming from ear to ear.

 

A muffled laugh came from behind his closed mouth.  “Put on some clothes me lady, grab your mate, bring him too.  It’s ready!”  Malkah rattled off unable to contain his excitement in his voice.

 

“Now?”  Snow’s face held both shock and perplexity. 

 

“Yes m’ Lady, sooner is always better than later, and you both have been itching for me to complete this.  We do have to get things rolling again, right?”  He responded way to chipper for this early in the morning Snow thought.

 

“Fine, we’ll meet you in the main chamber.”  Snow answered as she ran her hands over her face trying to clear the sleep from herself.

 

Malkah turned and started walking away.  Snow stepped back to close the door.  “Cute bellybutton.”  He said back at her without looking as he trudged towards the garage through the new fallen snow.

 

“Thanks.”  She said as she closed the door and started walking back towards the stairs up. 

 

She looked down and started examining her bellybutton.  Duncan had also told her she had a cute bellybutton as well as several members of her father’s clan when she was growing up.  When she had worked among humans she had received complements on her navel several times.  She couldn’t see what people found so interesting about it. 

 

“It’s just a bellybutton.”  She said out loud to herself as she reached the stairs, looked up from her stomach and started climbing.

 

When she reached the top she changed to her wolf side.  Trotting to the bedroom she jumped onto the bed and started barking at Duncan who moved and looked at her.  She grabbed the covers in her mouth and playfully growled while pulling them from Duncan.

 

“Sheesh, Snow, what gives?”  He said to her.  She barked and yapped at him.  “Malkah?  Now?”  Snow made more noise.  “He has it ready?  Great!”  Duncan said and sprang from the bed.

 

Snow stood from the floor, human again.  “You… understood me?”  She asked him.

 

He was struggling with his pants as he looked to her.  “What?”

 

Snow moved closer to him.  “I was in wolf form, you understood what I said.”

 

Duncan stopped.  “I did?”

 

“Yes, how do you explain that?”  She questioned.

 

Duncan shrugged and finished with his pants before answering.  “I can’t. There’s a lot of things around here lately I can’t figure or explain.  Like with Shyhon, how did you call me to the house when I was in the den?  Maybe you should explain.  You called me.  I’m just the human.”

 

She looked back at him a bit shocked.  “You think I’m doing it?  You think it’s me?  How can it be me when you are the one who came running, and now just understood what I said in wolf.”

 

“Snow, I can’t explain it. I don’t know, maybe I have been hanging around werewolves long enough now you’re all are starting to rub off on me.  Maybe we’re psychically linked, I don’t know.”  Duncan reached for his shirt.  “Let’s go find out what Malkah has for us, we can figure the rest of this crap out after we win the war.”

 

Snow shrugged this time.  Duncan had his shirt on and was now placing his shoes where they belonged.  She changed into her wolf self and followed after him when he left the bedroom to go to the den.

 

-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-

 

Out the door they followed Malkah’s footprints in the snow to the garage.  Snow laid down on the floor of the elevator while they rode it down trying to catch a few seconds more of sleep.  When they came to the main assembly area, most of the command team was there.  Two others were as Snow, in wolf form.  Sea Mist and Max both were in the buff.  Apparently Snow wasn’t the only one too lazy to get dressed.

 

Malkah was pacing across the top of the head table holding his prototype.  Excitement poured from the young gadgettier.  Duncan looked around the room while he waited for Malkah to start. 

 

Mud was at a table to his left sitting on Morning Dew’s lap, they were kissing. She moved her head and kissed on his neck some and nipped him.  The two laughed softly to each other.  Duncan smiled to himself.  It was pleasing to see that the hurts from their past were mending. 

 

“Ah, good, you’re here, we can start now.”  He heard Malkah say.  Looking to the front he watched Kevashka come reluctantly into the room, she also had been lazy.

 

Snow sniffed Duncan and looked at his face.  There was no hint of embarrassment from him.  The nudity of his teammates no longer seemed to even be noticed by him.  There were other changes in him she had taken note of. 

 

She smiled inside.  He was adapting to his new life among the werewolves and accepting their ways.  His cheeseburger habits were a thing of the past now.  He no longer ate pork.  His meat consumption had also diminished to a werewolf normal.  Meat was usually only served at the evening meal.

 

“Sea Mist, may I borrow you for a moment, please.”  Malkah asked.  The room watched as she climbed the steps to then onto the head table and walked to him. 

 

“Alrighty, me chums, what’s I have here is a combat version of a super-soaker, the idea as I am sure you all know comes from Lord Galt.  This gun shoots a strong blast of water, holy water.  Excellent idea really, shame we hadn’t come up with this before when you think about it, yes.”  Malkah realized he was wondering and returned to the topic.

 

He placed his hands on Sea Mist’s shoulders and walked her back to the end of the table.  Then he walked to the opposite end and aimed the gun at his target.  There was a quiet whirr from the water gun and a river of water flew from it at Sea Mist.  The water hit with such force it threw her back causing her to fall.  Malkah released the trigger and came running to her.

 

“Oh my, I’m so sorry, I should have warned you first, the water does have some force behind it.”  He said reaching down to help the drenched girl up.

 

“No shit Sherlock.”  She said with a miffed tone as she stood with Malkah’s aid.  “Glad I wasn’t dressed, got any soap, haven’t had my shower yet.”

 

Duncan couldn’t contain his laughter.  Others joined him with amusement.  He could tell that she was Snow’s sister, they seemed to have the same satirical attitude. 

 

Snow barked at Malkah.

 

“No, no, it won’t hurt a human, well, aside from dropping them on their butts, maybe.”  Malkah answered her.  She barked more.  “No worries my Lady, already have one sent out.  Will be at the manufacturing clan before long. Clan Westbridge is also willing to help make these.  Hovlek is making another prototype as we speak to send to them.”

 

Again Snow barked. 

 

Malkah nodded at her.  “Ten days, they should be shipping to us.  The main clan that will be doing our manufacturing will be putting all of their resources on this project.  I have already sent them blueprints and specs for making the guns.  I would assume they have already begun production.”  He answered Snow.

 

Malkah jumped down from the table and walked towards the hallway surrounding the room.  “Duncan, Sir Galt, I have something else if you would please?”  He said looking back at him but not stopping his gate. 

 

Duncan rose and followed.  Snow and the others came with.  Malkah led them to the vehicle garage.  Inside he opened the back of a Suburban.  There was a small tank with fire hose attached.  “Five thousand gallon capacity, the guns hold two fifty.  The output of the hose is adjustable between five hundred and fifteen hundred psi.  I included an automatic hose recoil for it also.”

 

Duncan smiled.  It was more compact than he had envisioned the tank, which was good.  It was small enough to fit into the trunk of one of the sedans, though the amount of hose would limit that.

 

“I had ten more built for other teams, also, I should have notified you of this first, but, time is of the essence so, yes well, what I did, bishops are on their way here by my request.”  Malkah finally stated.

 

“Bishops?”  Duncan queried.

 

“Yes, Sir Galt, bishops, need them to help with the holy water supply.  This mission will require far more than we have ever used before, and thus is exponentially greater than what our lone bishop can produce.”  Malkah explained.

 

“How many are we talking about?”  Duncan inquired.

 

Malkah smiled and gave a short laugh.  “Hundreds.”  He said.

 

The team moved back to the main room and talked.  Malkah went over the features and operations of the water cannon with the members present.  He had also incorporated a single shot shotgun under the tank with the barrel above the water nozzle.  It used the same rounds as Bad Betty.  He explained he included this just incase they needed to shoot something that holy water didn’t quite meet the need. 

 

They talked with Kevashka about how they would train to use the weapon and how it would affect tactics.  She admitted the range the weapon offered was desirable for them along with it not being harmful to non vampires.  They could open fire on a crowd, humans would scatter, so would their vampire foes only in a different manner.  The conversation eventually died down from the topic of the weapons and turned to other things.

 

“It snowed last night, do we even have a plow truck, or a snow blower?”  Duncan asked at one point.

 

“What about your truck?”  Max asked.  “You have a mount on the front of that for one.  Right?” Duncan nodded, the mount was still on the truck. The plow however, was back in his garage, not of much use to them here. 

 

Snow changed to her human self and sat next to Duncan. “There is a dealer for plows about half an hour from here hun, can see if they have one that will fit your truck.”  She mentioned to Duncan.

 

He nodded at what his partner said.  “You know which brand they carry?”

 

She shook her head.  “Place has a big yellow sign, if that helps.  Think they advertise a couple types.”

 

“Will have to do that today, hopefully they aren’t swamped now with this new fall.  Everybody and their brother will probably be trying to get a plow or get one fixed.”  Duncan said aimlessly to no one in particular.

 

“Got a good three inches last night.”  Snow stated.

 

“Are you talking about from Duncan or the snow?”  Sea Mist chirped.

 

“You little brat!”  Snow yelled at her sister, jumping to her feet to give chase as Sea Mist moved from her, laughing.

 

The others laughed with her, there was some ribbing of Snow and comments at Duncan in good humor.  Sea Mist eventually ran back into the main hall, Snow shortly followed, now laughing herself from the banter with her sister. 

 

The command team talked and joked lightly for a bit before they all started moving towards the large shower room the teams shared after a mission.  Talk of their mission returned while everyone showered.  Duncan advised that they not use the same larger dens for staging they had the first run, but rather seek out smaller common clans.

 

Sea Mist looked over at him.  “Our eldest brother is patriarch of a small clan, it’s not a commoner, but it is small.”  She said looking to her sister while they shared the spray from the showers with their partners. 

 

“I thought the mating for him was refused by the Bishop.”  Duncan said.

 

“That was our third brother, I have five, but only one sister.  He mated with Teagan from clan Beer from Ireland.  He started his own clan a year later, clan Squat.”

 

Duncan stopped scrubbing Snow’s back.  “Your brother is named Squat?”

 

“Don’t stop, I liked that, and yes, my mother did that.  Long story, and I’d rather not revisit it.”

 

Kevashka’s voice erupted into the shower room  “Alright phlegm balls, get your funky asses showered and get moving, breakfast in a half, then fall out for training.  Time to get back with the program!”  She yelled louder than needed as she turned her shower off.

 

Duncan looked around the room.  Noktok and Shelma were showering together just like he and Snow were.  So where Max and Meadow, Morning Dew and Mud, all showered with their mates, only Kevashka showered alone.  He could see the loneliness in her eyes, smell it from her as she passed him leaving the shower room.  He turned off the shower once Snow rinsed.

 

“Malkah, when are these bishops of yours arriving?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Today, sent for them once I started on your project, knew we would need them.”  Came his answer.

 

“And you just told us about this today?”  Snow questioned after.

 

Malkah chuckled and swung his arms up at his sides then let them fall.  “I... what can I say, I got distracted, this was a challenge, forgot about that till I had finished.”

 

Snow rolled her eyes at him as she walked from the shower area to the dressing room.  Duncan helped dry her then started putting his clothes back on.  She stood and looked at the closet for a moment.  “I have no clothes here.”  She said and looked at Duncan.

 

He gave her a smile.  “I’ll walk with you back to the house.  Need to make a few calls anyways.”  He told her. 

 

He put on his shoes and the two walked to where the stairs to the den house were retracted.  Duncan lowered them for Snow then motioned for her to take the lead.  Shortly after she started up, she looked back at Duncan with a pert half cocked smile.  When his eyes rose to hers, induced by her sudden slowed gate, they both laughed.

 

-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-

 

Silence

 

Silence was sitting at her desk staring at the computer screen, her hands rested beside the keyboard.  She was distant, her face blank as her mind traveled the flows of her thoughts.  Malkah entered her bulwark and came to stand behind her.  She didn’t seem to notice his presence.  They usually spent some quiet time together after breakfast.  Today she had just left the table and gone to her work area. 

 

“What’s chewing on you my life?”

 

Silence snapped back into the world when she heard her mate’s voice.  Turning her head she looked at Malkah and smiled; her visual focus returned to the keyboard in front of her as she shook her head.  “Nothing.  Was just thinking.”

 

“I know that look, the thoughts you were having were not happy ones.”  He said then placed his hands on her shoulders and rubbed them, occasionally caressing her neck.  She raised her head some and smiled when his hands came to the front of her neck.  Lifting one hand he stroked her face lightly.

 

He would quietly stand there until she talked.  She knew her mate well.  He had a kind heart and was always interested in what she had to say about things, would inquire as to her feelings about said things.  He would respond with blunt honesty, but with kindness.

 

“What do you do the day you realize you will be made irrelevant?  How do you press on and work when you know your usefulness is coming to an end?”  Silence said in a melancholy voice.

 

Malkah’s forehead scrunched down as questioning showed itself on his face.  “Ah, my waking dream, I fear I do not understand what you are fretting about, when we defeat Alexander you will still be needed, we all will.  Many vampires will be done in me lady, but we will still have many left to contend with, unfortunately.  But wouldn’t you rather never having to load another quiver, stock another sword because the vampires were wiped from existence?”

 

“Yes, gladly!”  She said then turned herself in the chair to fully face him.  Malkah backed from her as she turned.  “But my moonshower, that is not what I see.”  Her head bent down and she stared at her hands as she fumbled with them. 

 

“You’re new… gun, that’s what’s going to make me obsolete.  Crossbows, we won’t need them anymore.  Your new weapon will soon replace it.  I won’t have to fill shatter bottles with holy water anymore, anything that I do now.  Any fool can put swords in a rack, not sure how long we will even need those either.” 

 

She raised her face to him.  “I’m not blaming you or mad at you, nothing like that.  You did a good thing, great job, you and Duncan.  I’m not so vain though to think my job can’t be eliminated.  I mean, fill the bottle, change a cartridge, nothing to that.  I won’t be needed anymore.”  Silence sighed.

 

“Sci, Duncan’s gun is not going to make you obsolete, if anything it will overfill your inventory until certain things are eliminated; other weaponry will diminish in numbers used, reducing your inventory as well.  Change your day, yes, eliminate your need, never.”  Malkah reached to near her ears and brushed her hair to reveal her neck. 

 

He bent his waist and neck to lean into Silence, gently kissing her just below the earlobe.  She smiled and leaned her cheek to his forehead.  She cooed when he repeated his affections.  Malkah raised his head.  When he placed his chin over and onto her shoulder she cradled his face.  Gently she ran her hand down his face, to his shoulder then dropping to his forearm. 

 

Malkah knew how to calm her.  He most always put her at ease about her anxieties.  He lacked tact, but that that was a small matter.  She never had to guess his intent or meaning.  Silence thought back to a night some years back now.  They were making ready to attend a proper gathering. 

 

“ Does this bustier make me look fat?”  She had asked him while she dressed in front of the three view mirror. 

 

“Yes, the way the vertical supports run the lacing pulls them in too high, causing it to pull on your abdomen and push your tummy out.  Wear the purple one, the lower part hugs you nice and runs with your shape, and very nicely I might add, m’ lady.”  He had said. 

 

She smiled remembering this.  He always provided solutions with his observations and answers.  “You’re sure?”  She asked leaning her head back.  His face came to her level then he stepped around the side of the chair, stroking her cheek once as he faced her. 

 

“Without any doubt at all.  As long as there are vampires, we will need weapons.  As long as we need weapons, we need a bulwark.  That’s you.”  He smiled, both contentment with his mate and honesty in his assurance.

 

-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

 

“How many?!”  Duncan asked in an agitated voice as the stream of motor coaches continued into the yard. 

 

Malkah had asked he plow a section of the yard for the Bishops to park in.  Malkah had said he wasn’t sure how many coaches would be parked at the den, Duncan had cleared more area than he thought would be used.  This cleared area was full and the drivers were parking in unplowed snow that had partially melted, more was on its way though.  There were at least thirty of these busses now parked with more coming.

 

“Five hundred.”  Malkah answered.

 

Duncan stared back at him in shock and disbelief.  His mouth was agape as he rationalized the number.

 

Seeing Duncan’s reaction to his announcement of the number, Malkah offered up a reason.  “Sir Galt, sir, we need to be able to supply the troops with the… ammo for your new weapons.  The first shipment from… home will be arriving soon,  once past customs.  Five thousand pieces, two hundred and fifty gallons required to fill each.”

 

He made nonsensical noise for a moment and fiddled his fingers.  “Then there is the fire hose tanks.  Just to fill all of these items once will be resource intensive, then we have to keep up the supply me chum.  We are the front.”  Malkah stepped in close to Duncan and motioned with a finger for him to come close. 

 

Duncan leaned in bringing his ear to Malkah’s height.  He cupped a hand over Duncan’s ear and whispered into it.  “Alexander isn’t opening a portal to let the darkness through here, he is opening the portal to rebuild the well of souls.  That is the only path for the darkness to return.”

 

Duncan backed from Malkah.  Keying up his radio he called to Snow.  “Meet Malkah and I in the office at the house.”  He said.  Snow replied her confirmation. 

 

When he looked to Malkah his eyes were hard.  He said nothing as he turned from the happenings in the yard and strode fast to toward the house.  Malkah took to following.  He was a bit nervous about what Duncan was about to do. 

 

Though he gave no information nor indication of what was on his mind and the actions he had decided to follow, Malkah knew he was involved and would probably object at some point.  His objections wouldn’t matter to Duncan though.  He knew this well.

 

When Duncan saw Snow come from the garage he paused and waited for her.  With her at his side the trio continued on to the house, Malkah a step behind.  Inside Duncan walked to the sitting room, his steps were stiff.  He didn’t go to the office, instead he stopped in the sitting room. 

 

Snow moved with him staying on his left as Duncan turned and faced Malkah.  No seats were taken and the offer to sit was never made.  Malkah stood facing his commanders and clasped his hands behind his back.

 

Duncan held an arm out at Malkah.  “Malkah here is patriarch Boxtemmill, the next one that is.”  He announced.

 

When he did this both Snow’s and Malkah’s faces fell and their eyes moved to the floor.  Malkah looked rather agitated, Snow’s expression said this revelation was no surprise to her.  There was also a hint of agitation that Duncan felt was directed at him.

 

“I know.”  Snow softly said.

 

Duncan snorted.  His eyes moved from Malkah to his partner.  One hand patted at his leg as he looked at her.  “And exactly how long have you known?”

 

Snow inhaled hard and released her breath.  Her eyes still cast to the floor.  Malkah looked to her. 

 

“I knew he was coming.  Lord Leyland arranged it.  You already figured out his inventions were being funneled through me to keep clan Boxtemmill out of sight.”  She raised her head slowly bringing her sullen eyes to Duncan’s.  “You didn’t need to know.  It didn’t affect you at all Duncan.”

 

Duncan moved a leg to turn more towards Snow.  Once settled in his stance he crossed his arms at her.

 

Before either spoke again Malkah cut in.  “Me thinks the two of you need some private time to talk alone.  Begging your pardons, my commanders, I will take my leave now and give you that privacy.”  He stated looking to Duncan and Snow, each nodding to him respectively, he took their permission to leave.  Coming to a stance of attention he gave a small bow to each then made his way to the door and back to the den. 

 

“Duncan...”

 

“What else have you decided I don’t need to know?  What else are you keeping from me?”  Duncan asked harshly.  His dislike of not being ‘trusted’ and the attitude of his being kept on a need to know only basis blatantly evident on his face and in his stance. 

 

Snow turned from Duncan and took several steps away.  She stopped once for a brief moment then moved to a chair and sat, resting her chin on the palms of her hands with her elbows on her legs near her knees.  Her face was blank and her eyes distant. 

 

Duncan turned his head towards her.  “And what about all these bishops?  Five hundred of them, do we even have the room to house them all?  Two full crews and now five hundred bishops, I thought we were near capacity already.”  He put his hands on his hips and waited for an answer. 

 

Snow wasn’t mentally in the room with him right now.  His question went as unanswered as it was unheard.  He could tell she was weighing decisions of some manner. 

 

Was she deciding where to start, analyzing the repercussions of what she wanted to tell him, or merely deciding what she could throw at him to get him off her back without revealing much of anything?  Snow had started the turn towards being more of her old self again.  There was still much hesitation from her at times. 

 

Inside he hoped the trend would continue and strengthen.  They needed to get things rolling again, there was no time for Snow to be indecisive.  She needed to cut to the chase and bring him fully into the loop as it were.  Even if he could’nt do the same for her.  Though he doubted she had been asked by any of the immortals to keep their secrets. 

 

“Novus crepidoinis.”  Duncan said coldly.

 

Snow’s head raised when he said this.  Her eyes widened and she looked to him.  After a moment her eyes wandered off, moving around the room in thought and realization.  Duncan could tell she was wondering what all he knew, had figured out or read.  Where had he heard the term, what did he know of its meaning?  Did he know the entire story?

 

“Explain something to me partner.”  He said as he moved to a chair then pushed it into position near and in front of Snow.  “Werewolves aren’t religious you told me, but every clan, every operation has one or more bishop involved with it.  If you’re not religious, then why do you have bishops?  I have tried to find some reason for them, I have read about their duties, noteworthy ones, tons of shit.”

 

“Nothing that explains why you have them in the first place though. It seems to contradict the ‘we aren’t religious’ aspect of werewolf society.”  He leaned back in the chair and continued to look at Snow.  Her presence had returned to the room when he started speaking, again though she was lost in thought.

 

“Where did you hear that?”  Snow eventually asked.

 

“Some here have made reference to phrase, often while looking at you, or me.  Today several of the arriving bishops have commented between themselves about if we were the novus crepidoinis.”  Duncan crossed his legs and his arms as he looked at his partner. 

 

“There has also been talk of fulfillment of a legend.  I have read a lot of werewolf history and the legends derived from it.  Translated text about the well of souls, Malkah knew of it and somehow I know you do too.”  Duncan ended.  He had already presumed a legend or prophesy was at play in their world.  He wanted to know for sure which one.

 

Snow leaned her head back and groaned, giving the impression that she had been avoiding going down this road and having to explain it to Duncan.

 

“Religious, we are not.  Religion is a human creation, denominations all that crap.  Bishops see to teaching about the Light, how to use the gifts of it and the science, or as humans refer to it, the magic we are allowed access to from the Light.  We follow no religious track, we are faithful not religious.  Consider it this way, what religion is the creator?”  Snow paused and looked to Duncan. 

 

He nodded, getting her point.

 

“As to references to legends and such, novus crepidoinis refers to a legend that can never be fulfilled.  The most rational among us realize this.  The fable has faded with time, most werewolves have never read the legend and those that speak of it only know it from handed down tales told to them as young ones.  Often it is twisted and parts left out with someone’s interpretation added.”  Snow sighed shaking her head and loosing an agitated laugh of chagrin. 

 

“Like me.  Growing up I was expected to mate with an alpha from the line of the Grand Inquisitor.  Even more someone from that line that was also connected to clan Boxtemmill.  My destiny it was said.”  Snow ran her hands through her hair and groaned with disbelief.

 

Dropping her arms she returned her eyes to Duncan.  “My father was supposed to be the foreshadow of the arrival of the one who would bring novus crepidoinis.  Like me he grew up with that expectation on him.  It’s all bullshit Duncan.  Those among us that have hope in this legend being fulfilled keep their faith on an empty legend.”

 

“You’re talking about the story of Sor-ket, right?”  Duncan asked.

 

“Correct, I take it you have read this as well?”  Snow asked fully expecting him to have.

 

“Actually read it, no.  I have heard about it though.  I have had references made to it with parts iterated to me, and how I don’t fit into any plans.  Stories about you, how you were supposed to become the fulfillment of it.  People have chastised me for fouling the path you were supposed to take.  Not to my face mind you, behind my back.”  Duncan relaxed his formidable appearance. 

 

He ran a hand over his face with a heavy sigh.  Living up to a legend was a hard thing, impossible usually.  “Why don’t you walk me through all this hubbub and give me the short and skinny of it.  It would be nice to know what I am taking the blame for.”

 

Blame.  Snow understood that word all to well.  Her mother had used the prophesy to assert clan Frost’s authority over the other clans.  Used it as her reasoning for her offenses.  Getting up from her chair, Snow took the step and a half between her and Duncan.  Reaching down she grasped his hands in hers and squatted down in front of him and took a cross-legged sitting position at his feet, still holding his hands.  Duncan listened while Snow recited her understanding of the fable.

 

The story she told Duncan had come to know well.  It was the reason so much hope had been invested by many werewolves from the states in Snow.  But they weren’t the only ones.  Overseas protectors had much of the same view. 

 

The short version was that two werewolves, Sorrven a bishop and Kettamish an oracle, had foretold of a new land under new stars that the werewolves would one day travel to and build new forces against the vampires that would also seek the new land.  In time a new foundation of order would be built from the true blood lines of the Exalted Master of Clans and the Grand Inquisitor. 

 

The two new leaders would build their clan and rule over the werewolves of the new land for the immortals and maintain order and structure.  But there was more to the story.  There was unwritten logic that rendered the legend to fable.  Duncan’s eyes were cast on the space between them as he was listening to Snow’s rendering.

 

“After the Light had established the three who would govern all werewolf clans, formal dens were built and what had once been a disorganized band of hunters, became efficient trained hunters.  The lines of the immortals were to be carried on through their siblings, both the Exalted Master of Clans and the Supreme Bishop of Clans had several other brothers and sisters.  The Grand Inquisitor had but one brother.”

 

Snow lowered her head to clear her throat.

 

“Over time the darkness’ ravages against the earth and its occupants increased in both frequency and severity.  The Light intervened; werewolves eventually engaged in the battle.  Ozkar was a majestic werewolf warrior who used a hammer not a sword.  This was the master of the hunt’s, Night Harvest’s, brother.  Very large for a werewolf everything I have heard or read says.  Almost five ten, our males born or turned all go between five-five and five-eight.  His arm muscles were bigger than his legs.” 

 

“It is from him, as the history says, we have rogues and renegades.  He chased the darkness towards the Well of Souls where the darkness attempted, and succeeded in escaping the duo hunting it.  Shoshanna, Ozkar’s mate, closed in from a flank.  Ozkar struck a blow on the darkness.  The sky shadowy with its form of black air, the darkness knocked Ozkar back but Shoshanna attacked, blocking the darkness’ escape.”

 

“Ozkar rose and charged in; his intent of destruction raged toward the darkness.  As the path to the well contained Shoshanna, the darkness charged towards her, engulfing her and carrying her along as it crossed to safety.  Ozkar could not follow.  The darkness could carry a werewolf or human through the well portal, but neither could cross alone.”

 

Snow’s head dropped as her scent changed.  Duncan couldn’t place the scent from her.  Scent from a werewolf was far stronger than from a human, his keen sense of smell was a major asset for him.  He still had many scents to learn the meaning of.  It was like learning a new language.

 

Snow released Duncan’s hands and rocked on her legs a couple times finally raising her face to Duncan again.  “Ozkar’s gland emptied, he spat blood from his mouth.  The familiar firm lump under his tongue was no longer there.  He screamed in rage, fully expecting to die very soon, his mate waiting for him.”

 

She gave an empty sigh.  “Calling on the Light to give him strength, he raised his hammer, the first living metal weapon, into the air and released his rage and life on the stones of the Well of Souls.  He hammered until the keystone loosed and fell; the well collapsed in upon itself, sealed.  No longer could the darkness directly travel to the earth.  The minions of the darkness came about.”

 

“The darkness projects its essence into the world and manifests a servant of itself.  Not an easy task, not something done very often due to the personal cost.  Ozkar returned only to inform his general what had happened, what he had done.  He didn’t wait for a response. Ozkar left not only his general, but the den as well.  He roamed the known world, slaying darkness of any kind; his restitution for dark ways.” 

 

“This was not limited to vampires or minions; humans whom served the darkness were also recipients of his actions.  Ozkar was never seen after he left the den, by anyone who lived to tell.  He was a ghost.  The stories of darkness being battled against by this unseen warrior carried on for several hundred years.  He was a mortal werewolf.” 

 

“The stories and events tapered off and eventually ceased.  Ozkar and his mate never produced any children.  His parents had perished in a battle some time ago.  Night Harvest could not mate and thus, would never have any true line descendants.”

 

Snow rose to her knees in front of Duncan who was resting his elbows on his knees to support his head resting on his palms.  Her face was now level with his again.  “It’s a nice bedtime story, but not something to place faith into.  The legend can never be filled.  Night Harvest is the last of his line, has been for thousands upon thousands of years, squared.”  Snow ended with a glum smile.

 

Duncan nodded his head then lifted his head from its supports and straightened in the chair.  “So, where exactly does that leave us?  We have dens full of people who believe in this legend that now either think you aren’t the one, and some that think you just messed up but still are the one.  Some people are pissed at you, some love you.  Another day in the life.”  Duncan snapped his lips when he finished.

 

She scoffed with a small nod.  “Pretty much, apparently this has affected morale.  People, soldiers, see the legend as not being fulfilled.  The idea of this war ending in failure for us is spreading because of this.  I hate to say it, but this frelling legend is causing us problems.”  Snow remarked.

 

Duncan pursed his lips for a moment before speaking.  “You need to rally the troops.  Get them motivated again.  It wasn’t just this legend that demoralized them, it’s all the defeats and how many of their people didn’t make it home.”

 

“More like added credence to the legend and why we were failing.”  Snow filled in.

 

“What we need to do… is use this legend to our advantage, get people to believe that it is being fulfilled.  If they start believing that, then they will believe in themselves again.”  Duncan stated.

 

Lines formed around Snow’s nose.  Her forehead crinkled down as she looked into Duncan’s eyes.  Legends were powerful things in both werewolf and human culture.  Duncan understood this.  She was all for rallying the troops and getting some energy back.  However she didn’t want this based on a lie.  If, when found out it would end poorly for them.

 

“Duncan, you can’t lie to them.  If you want to use this legend to get the superstitious of our ranks to follow with vigor, it has to be done with honesty.  Lying won’t get us there, even a little.  Someone will figure it out, then we are done.  You for lying, and me for supporting you.”  Snow’s face was serious, though she had relaxed some from Duncan’s advice, now was a time not to frell around.

 

She felt better when Duncan’s face broke into a large toothy grin.  This warmed her inside to whatever it was he was planning.  “That’s the best part, in order to use the legend, we have to use fact.”  He informed her. 

 

Snow understood.  Duncan had a knack for finding facts.  She felt silly for thinking he would trust something this important to a fabricated story relating to the legend.  Duncan wasn’t the type that would try that, why would he when he had so many facts he could present from a perspective that would accomplish the same thing but couldn’t be refuted.

 

-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-

 

Noktok

 

“What do you think?”

 

He looked the weapon over again.  Flipping it from one side to the other, leaning in close to eyeball some aspect, feature or writing on the gun.  Turning towards the target on the wall he fired the water cannon again, this time from the hip.  The stream hit just off center in the white.  Noktok held for a solid three seconds before releasing the trigger and looking back to Kevashka.

 

“It’s a bit top heavy, balance is good aside from that.  Feels good.  Has a feel that guides you to the fire line.  In general, I like it.”  Noktok reported.

 

Kevashka nodded her frowning face at him.  “Can you train others on how to use it?”  She pressed.

 

Noktok guffawed.  “Give me twenty four hours to work with it, then I can give you an answer to that question Major.”  He answered her.

 

Kevashka put fingers to her mouth, eyes lost in thought.  She took a three step pace away from him, crisply turned and paced back, then past him, three more paces, crisp turn back, stopping and facing him.  “Eighteen, and you’re working with Morning Dew.  I hear he’s actually a good instructor in combat arts.”

 

Noktok saluted Kevashka.  After she returned the salute he dropped his arm, stepped to the padded bench in the ranged weapons training room and placed the water cannon on it.  He ran his eyes across the weapon once more then turned and looked to Kevashka.  “Is there anything else Major?”  He asked.

 

“No, you may go.”

 

“Thank you.  I’ll be back for that in about twenty.  Shower and a wardrobe change.”  Noktok responded with a smile then strode to the door and vacated the training area.

 

He was back in the main chamber in fifteen minutes, Shelma at his side; Mud was alongside Morning Dew as they strode past the window of Kevashka’s office.  Her desk was positioned so a clear view of main chamber and surrounding halls were available to her, should she want it.

 

Noktok watched as Kevashka rose from her chair.  Though her movement toward the door was graceful, it was also intense. 

 

The door popped open.  “Explain, Mud and Shelma.”  Came as a stern statement from Kevashka.  The precession stopped. 

 

Noktok straightened, he was facing her.  “My mate, she is implied in any order unless specifically ordered she is not.  You gave no order for neither Morning Dew nor myself to proceed without our mates.  Therefore, they are implied.  They will be of great value in our research.  Think of them as crash test dummies.”  His voice was stately as he spoke.  Fully behind every word he said. 

 

Once he finished speaking, he waited five seconds.  Kevashka looked him in the eyes, she said nothing.  Noktok turned and walked from her towards the training room the water cannons were at. 

 

With one bus of bishops came prototype models for training purposes.  Five hundred pieces.  Malkah had sent his blueprints ahead of the approval to begin production.  His ‘manufacturing’ clan had begun production of a research build of his design to speed up training, at Malkah’s request. 

 

Once inside the training room Noktok took his position along the back wall with an assembly of targets behind him, the gun he had laid down was resting at his left.  There was light conversation from the others as they filed into the room and lined up across from him. 

 

He looked towards them and started.  “You are all aware of Lord Galt’s new weapons.  As you can expect, it is my job to design field methods for use and handling of it.  Morning Dew will be assisting me in this due to his years of both training in combat, and weaponry tactics, and years spent training others in various combat methods.” 

 

Noktok reached over and picked up the hand held water cannon.  “Every new weapon has its own method of use and operation.  This is what we are here to figure out, and develop a repeatable and thus teachable method.”  He pulled the trigger and saturated Mud.  “This is ordinary water for training purposes, as you can see to us or any human, it is non-lethal.”  He released the trigger.  “Wet humans, better than dead humans.”

 

Mud bent her arms until her hands were near her shoulders.  She released them fast and stopped her hands hard when they neared her thighs causing the water on and in her sleeves to fly to the floor.  Her face showed her anger.  The smile Noktok had on his face washed away at a quick rate. 

 

Her head was lowered and her eyebrows pulled together from the scowl that wrinkled her cheeks and upper lip.  What Noktok had intended to be part of a humorous demonstration had failed miserably.  He had clearly frelled the pooch on this one.

 

“I’m sorry Major, I... should have notified you ahead of time, it was not my intention to show the Major any disrespect.”  Noktok said as he lowered the gun to his side and stood at attention.

 

Mud’s face remained in its angry state.  “Carry on, captain.”  She snapped her words sharply with her voice like ice from a lake as it piles up on the shore, cracking and popping. 

 

Noktok nodded once to her then held up the water cannon for all to see.  “This is Sir Galt’s hand held water cannon, it has a two hundred and fifty gallon capacity and a pneumatic drive compressed air cartridge.  Maximum range is three hundred yards...”

 

“Actually, it’s now fifteen hundred yards accurately.”  Malkah began cutting him off.  “How would you like to play with the real thing me chums, instead of that outmoded prototype?”  He asked as he held up a considerably smaller pistol. 

 

“Same capacity, sleeker design and increased range.”  Malkah started walking towards where Noktok stood.  The others parted to make room for him as he moved to where Noktok was giving his demonstration from. 

 

“Sighting system that is integrated with the eyes-up display from our contacts.”  Malkah held up the gun to show the controls for the targeting interface.  “Safety here, and water level capacity and air pressure are these indicators here.”  He said pointing out the features then he handed the weapon to Noktok. 

 

He took it from the gadgettier and looked it over then held it in his hand and aimed it to one side away from everyone.  He rolled it in his fingers and checked the balance.  The weapon moved gracefully as he moved it around.  Hovlek entered and approached to where Malkah stood.  Noktok holstered and removed the gun several times.  “Nice. Much better than the prototype.”

 

“Hovlek helped me with that, told me it was clumsy, and not user friendly.  With his help we trimmed it down and made it a well designed field weapon.”  Malkah said with a proud smile.  Hovlek clasped his hand on Malkah’s shoulder firmly giving it a shake.

 

 “Aye, just needed some weapons-craftsmanship is all.”  Hovlek responded.

 

“How many of these do we have?”  Noktok asked in the direction of both the crafters of the weapon.

 

“Twenty.”  Hovlek belted.  “Little friend here and Hovlek, worked day and night, get this to you.”

 

Noktok nodded.  “Good, bring enough of these for everyone please.”  He requested.  He turned to face the others.  “Mud, please, take this water cannon and get the feel of it, use the targets we have set up.”  He said motioning with an arm at the targets behind him.  As he stepped away to give Mud room to try the gun, Malkah and Hovlek left to bring in weapons for the others to train with. 

 

Mud fired the weapon hitting the target easily.  It was fairly close so she stepped back and fired the gun again.

 

“What do you think of it?  How does it feel?”  Noktok asked her. 

 

Mud turned towards Noktok.  Her anger flashed onto her face again.  Noktok was too slow in realizing what she was about to do and was struck center of mass with the blast from the water cannon.  She had opened the gun up to maximum range and volume.  The jet of water picked him up from his feet and dropped him on his ass.  “Payback.”  Mud said releasing the trigger.

 

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Sea Mist

 

Kevashka had the usual suspects lined up again for yet another ‘think tank’ session which mostly consisted of her lecturing them.  Sea Mist was dazed and looking off at the wall as Kevashka moved around and talked.

 

“We’ll be observing and commanding operations from the noble clan Squat.  Currently about a third of our troops have moved to their staging locations.  Our recon forces have not reported any change in vampire activity due to the buildup.  New smart-phones are being distributed, these operate completely on our own network now.  None of our communications use conventional cell phone towers or repeaters.  This new system is secure.” 

 

‘So was the last one.’ Sea Mist thought to herself after Kevashka commented on the security of their new communications network.  If they hadn’t been betrayed from within they never would have changed.  Maybe it was a good thing they owned the network, might prevent any future hacking.  Or at least make it more detectable. 

 

She had completed round one of training with the new weapon.  Though Malkah had boasted it had a fifteen hundred yard range, accurately, that accuracy was subjective.  Over five hundred yards the water jet from the gun tended to spread out, making the accuracy required to be accurate less.  At fifteen hundred yards the discharge was more of a shower than a single target stream. 

 

The shotgun was removed from the new sleek design.  A fifty caliber three shot pistol replaced it.  The bullets intended for use exploded on impact.  Duncan had recommended this change after he told the story of how vampires had used protective suits at his house to protect themselves from holy water.  The main purpose of the bullets was to render any protective suit useless. 

 

Noktok and Morning Dew, along with their mates, were off to other dens near the operation field training crews on the operation of the new weapons.  This was not just the guns, but the hose and tank as well.  Though werewolf strength was sufficient enough to manage the force of the hose, two or three were needed to keep the operator on the ground.  Sea Mist herself weighed eighty pounds.  Not quite enough to keep the force of the hose from lifting her up. 

 

As Kevashka droned on, Sea Mist tried to listen.  Round two of training would begin when the others returned.  Duncan would be training them in what he said was like urban warfare with a machinegun.  Werewolves had never used guns before.  Swords, crossbows, trebuchets, and the porcupine had pretty much made up their arsenals.   Duncan said they needed to learn how to use a gun like a ‘room-broom’.

 

“Our forward trainers will be returning sometime tonight.  Tomorrow commanders Snow and Galt will be teaching Noktok and Morning Dew combat maneuvers with the new artillery.  Then you will receive combat training with it.  Some of you will then be taken to other dens to their crews and teams.  I am allowing a week for this, then we engage the enemy.” 

 

Sea Mist focused and began listening again.  Kevashka went off on a string of insults and slurs.  Her nonsensical assault lasted for a good fifteen seconds before she returned to relevant and understandable audio. 

 

Duncan’s voice cutting in helped her return to the room.  “After we are done here, Snow and I can begin training our command team, that way we can get the others up to speed faster and train more effectively.”  He interjected.

 

Kevashka nodded her acceptance.  “Damn straight, great idea Sir Galt, you maggots heard him, training as soon as the command team is done here.  That’s all I have for you, crews dismissed.  Princess Snow?”

 

“Dismissed.”  Snow responded.  The room cleared with minimal conversation from the crews, soon leaving what remained of the command team.  Max, Meadow, Sea Mist and Blade Dance moved up and took seats at the table with Duncan and Snow while Kevashka spoke with one of the bishops.

 

Duncan unrolled a map onto the top of the table.  “This shows the locations Alexander has been sighted.  Confirmed sightings.”  Duncan began.

 

He went on to explain that Alexander was moving around California, Oregon and Nevada.  So far none of the strategists or recon teams had been able to pinpoint a location he seemed to be traveling from.  Even though they had remedied the situation of being tracked by the vampires via GPS, Alexander still knew the locations of dens and clearly was avoiding anyplace with werewolf presence. 

 

At one point in his dissertation Duncan reached under the map and flipped a clear overlay that was attached to the map over the front.  This overlay had neat lines on it that all connected locations that Alexander had been seen at. 

 

The lines worked their way from the farthest south eastern point to the farthest north western point moving into the next dot over until there was a web of lines that seemed to converge in a central area of northern California. 

 

“Alexander isn’t going to wander far from home right now, he can’t afford to.  The portal he is opening needs his attention and his power regularly.  Everyplace we have attacked that was reported as a location he entered has been a bust as far as finding his home.  I believe he is using these locations as a distraction.  Using Occam’s razor, I think his strong hold is somewhere in the area these lines converge.”  Duncan said.

 

Sea Mist looked at the map.  There wasn’t much in the region the lines crossed the most as far as large cities.  That didn’t seem like Alexander, he liked the big cities, lots of victims there.  She felt Sir Galt was grasping at straws, but her sister had said his straws usually had the needle in the haystack sticking in them. 

 

“Snow is going to take us over this area in the chopper, I need one volunteer to go with me in the back while she flies to take pictures and look the area over, we have a lot of ground to cover.”  Duncan was saying.

 

Sea Mist raised her hand.

 

“Yes, Sea Mist, you volunteering?”  Duncan asked her.

 

“Well, yes and no.”  She started as she lowered her hand.  “Why don’t you and my sister do what you need to from the back while I fly the helicopter?  I’m not much good at using a camera.” 

 

Duncan looked at her, his face said he was confused.  “Excuse me, fly?  You actually know how to fly a chopper?”  He asked.

 

“Yes, if it flies, I can operate it.  Helicopters and planes alike.”  Sea Mist affirmed.

 

“When did you learn to fly?”  Snow questioned.

 

Sea Mist laughed as Blade Dance shook his head.  “Been flying since I was ten.  I have a commercial pilot’s license.  I can fly 707’s, 727’s and recently certified on the big triple sevens.  As far as helicopters go, I can fly an air crane.”

 

“Air crane huh?”  Duncan made an approving face and nodded at her.  “That takes some talent.  What about the one we have out in the yard?”  He asked.

 

“Well, it’s no Sea Stallion, but it will do.”  Sea Mist said with a cocky smile.

 

“Sikorsky H-53?”  Duncan retorted.

 

“One and only.  Did my training for landing on a flat top and on a destroyer with one.”  She responded.

 

Duncan looked to Snow.  “Well then, unless you don’t want to give up flying partner, that good with you?”  He asked her.

 

Snow looked from Duncan to her sister.  She looked her up and down.  “You can really fly that thing?”  She asked tenuously.  She had no idea her sister could fly.  Had she been that removed from her sister’s life that she didn’t even know she had been taking flying lessons, had been flying for nearly two decades?

 

Sea Mist chortled.  “I’ll get the preflight done while you guys get your gear onboard.  If you want, I can have my helicopter brought here, has a lot more room than Sad’s.”  She said as she stood, making ready to get to work.

 

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Sea Mist was banking the chopper around to begin the return flight over the next swath of land Duncan wanted them to investigate.  “Sir Galt, do you really think it’s that simple?  That Alexander has been operating from a location that can be found by cross sectioning sightings of him?”  She asked over the radio.

 

“Don’t know, nothing else seems to have worked.  It’s worth a shot at any rate.  And for him, whatever he has been doing has worked so far.  Sometimes old tricks are the best.”  Duncan responded as he viewed the ground through the long lens of the camera mounted by his window.

 

“What’s this here?”  Snow asked as she zoomed in her camera after they had been flying back for several minutes.

 

Duncan turned to the map that lay between them.  Sea Mist gave him their coordinates and he marked their location on the map.  “Says there is a grain elevator by us, and a dairy farm.  Two largest items marked.”  Duncan turned back to his camera.  “Not even sure what we are looking for.  Doubt it would be as small as a house, but wouldn’t dismiss that possibility.”

 

They flew on for a couple more hours then needed to land for fuel.  They had covered between two thirds and three quarters of the area.  Duncan had marked two spots on the map he wanted to return to.  So far nothing stuck out. 

 

Sea Mist and Duncan bought bagged snacks at the terminal while they waited for the chopper to be refueled and the impending remuneration for said fuel.  Snow refused any food, she said she didn’t want to need one of the bags onboard later.  Sea Mist checked several things on the chopper then they were airborne again.

 

“You said you have your own chopper?”  Duncan asked at one point while he and Snow covered the ground she was flying low over.

 

“Yes, a Sikorsky H-53.”  Sea Mist answered.

 

“How many people can you carry in that?”

 

“Thirty-seven.”

 

Duncan continued to look through his camera.  He turned to the map, made some marks then returned to his looking.  “Yes, bring it in.  Looks like we have two pilots now.”  He said not taking his eyes from his work.

 

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Duncan continued his search over the next couple days.  Clans from the area met them when they landed with a car and driver for them while they did a closer up inspection of the areas Snow and Duncan had marked on the maps.  All turned up to be a dead-end.

 

Sea Mist had to make up some training with the new weapon as she had been kept in the air in service to her commanders.  Though she liked the idea of nonlethal force, she felt you couldn’t beat a bolt through the chest of a vampire just to be sure.  She handled both the prototype and the final design.  The latter was far superior to the original. 

 

She was practicing with the new weapon when Hovlek walked into the room.  The weapon was very simple to operate.  The hardest part of using it would be changing the compressed air cylinder.  Malkah had truly built the gun well and done an excellent job incorporating the sighting system into the design.

 

“Ah, my young archer friend.  Hovlek have something for you miss.”  The weapon crafter said as he made his way to where Sea Mist stood.

 

She set the water cannon down and turned to face Hovlek with a smile.  They hadn’t talked much, and when they did Hovlek always asked about her bows.  He smiled back.  He lifted a flap of a pouch on the belt he wore and reached in.  There was a slight humming as he pulled his gift to her from the dimensional pocket.

 

“This is a compound bow, made same as our swords, from same living metal.”  Hovlek said as he handed the bow to her.  Her face glowed and her eyes beamed.  “The break on it is at eight hundred pounds.  Range Hovlek thinks should be easy, twice as your re-curve.”

 

After she looked the bow and its interact design over, she raised it and pulled back on the string.  She had to pull hard until she reached near half the pull then the bows tension broke and it sighed as she brought the string back to full draw. 

 

She looked down the sighting studs.  She slowly returned the string to its relaxed state then pulled again, this time having somewhat of a feel for the bow.  She had used compound bows before but always abandoned them for her old re-curves.  She eased the string back again.  Holding the bow in one hand she checked the weight.  This bow was light in her hands. It seemed to weigh nothing at all.

 

“Thank you Hovlek, this is very nice, but I always use a re-curve.  I’m really sorry, I wish I would have known before you spent the time making this.”  She said to him.  It truly was a nice bow.

 

Hovlek laughed.  “Yes, Hovlek has seen.  Sea Mist will not after Sea Mist try Hovlek’s bow.  Hovlek have range set up for Sea Mist outside, if Sea Mist does not mind the snow.  Break bow in.  Sea Mist will see, Hovlek’s bow, better.”  He reached and patted her on the shoulder.  “Best make use of the time Sea Mist have.  Lady Sadness, Lord Galt, moving troops to locations.  Sea Mist will need this bow.”  He ended then walked from the room leaving her with the new bow.

 

She was on her way out when Silence caught her as she passed.  “You’ll need this.”  She said as she handed a quiver to Sea Mist. 

 

Once out in the yard she could see where Hovlek had set up the targets for her.  They were spaced starting from one hundred yards, two hundred and fifty yards then five hundred and every five hundred yards after that until three thousand then the four and five thousand yards increments were marked with targets. 

 

Sea Mist notched an arrow, raised the bow and took aim.  There was a solid crosswind coming in from over the cliff.  Her eyes focused on the hundred yard target.  Her shot was off.  She adjusted the sight and notched another arrow.  One more small adjustment and the third arrow was on target. 

 

She repeated this until she shot the five hundred yard target.  Once she had that target sighted in, she adjusted the other sights.  Despite her original thought on a compound bow, this one Hovlek had made was amazing.  She had never had a bow from the living metal their swords were grown from.  It seemed to help her aim.

 

She had the mastery of the new bow well in range when Sadness came to the yard and called for her to join the team in the main assembly hall.  She was actually enjoying using the bow and was reluctant to stop.  She tried asking her sister for another hour, explaining Hovlek had given her a new bow and that she needed time with it. 

 

Sadness refused her request stating they had more urgent matters to attend to.  She had turned from her sister and started putting the bow away when a cold ball lobbed onto her face.  When she looked back towards the sound of Sadness’s laughter, her sister was already on her way back to the garage at a run. 

 

Sea Mist reached down and quickly made a snowball and launched it.  The snowball connected directly where it was intended to.  “Should know better than to start a snowball fight with a ranged fighter.”  She yelled after her sister who was flicking snow from her neck and collar as she went through the side door of the garage.

 

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Snow

 

Duncan was sitting calmly in a chair behind the head table while Snow paced to where he sat.  The final bus of Malkah’s bishops had arrived and with it their shipment of the finished product for the hand held water cannons and two generals, one from Lord Leyland’s den, the other from Hyden, The Supreme Bishop of Clans. 

 

It seemed two of the immortals were a bit unsure regarding the command of Trust Operations One.  Duncan had had words with the two men.  The exchange had become heated. 

 

Duncan looked good in his dress uniform.  The look became him, unlike Snow.  She felt her dress uniform was out of place on her as she looked like a bit of a roughneck with her hair and mauled face.  She also felt it made her chest look even smaller, flattening her breasts.  On Duncan though, the uniform showed off his chest muscles. 

 

Sea Mist walked onto the raised platform of the head table from behind the curtain that provided privacy from the hallway that wrapped around the room behind the table.  Her mate and the rest of the command team followed. 

 

A sadness filled Snow’s throat as she watched the sleek wiry form of her sister slink to where she now stood near Duncan.  Like Snow’s dress uniform, Sea Mist’s also was not flattering to the female form; Sea had a considerably larger chest and the uniform didn’t cooperate with her sizeable chest. 

 

She was only thirty-eight.  Far too young to be caught up in the battle like this.  Snow had moved her sister to the command team.  Some officers had objected based on her age and lack of experience.  ‘That,’ Snow had said ‘is what this entire operation is, a lack of experience.’  She also made mention of the fact that she herself was technically to young to be part of the formal battle and was commander of the operations in the states.  It was then she realized the confidence her officers had in her. 

 

The command team took to their seats at the head table.  They talked with each other for about ten minutes while their crews started assembling.  The bishops joined them, waiting until the combat team members were seated then taking the back and outer tables. 

 

Snow kept a silent gaze across the room as people filed in and took their places.  She tried to hold her head high and look stately.  The room became quiet, Duncan stood.

 

Malkah lowered the cameral platform he was on bringing himself and the camera centered on Duncan and the head table.  “Alright, live in a minute thirty Sir Galt, standing-by me chum.”  He said then reached for the headphones hung over one of the handles from the camera apparatus. 

 

After he placed the headphones where they belonged, he keyed on the pickup on the headphones and began talking to someone.  They would be broadcasting not just to the American werewolves, but to all werewolves world wide. 

 

Snow smiled.  Duncan’s thoughts breezed into her mind.  He was acknowledging her being correct in her rational that they work on this apparent telepathic link between them.  They had gotten better at it.  Duncan had said it was because of her, her gland held his blood, and werewolves were magic, as he put it.  Snow dismissed his commentary.  She reached and squeezed his leg as she tried to respond mentally to her partner. 

 

“Minute fifteen!”  Malkah announced.

 

Time.  The one thing they were short on.  Using a repulsive sports reference in her mind Snow equated their situation to fourth quarter, and the two minute warning just sounded, and they were six points behind.  They had become engaged in the battle late.  She had discussed this particular point of interest with Duncan.  Why were the werewolves running so far behind the vampires? 

 

Getting to where Alexander was now towards opening the portal between universes would have taken a year at minimum she assumed.  He’d probably been staging for this much longer.  Only now were werewolf forces fully committing formal war against their enemies. 

 

Duncan had offered Robert as the reason for this.  He reminded Snow of how Robert’s crew was standing ready three and a quarter miles from his house yet did not arrive until well after Alexander had arrived.  He delayed sending his people; following every rule and protocol. 

 

She had argued back that creation of a portal would be impossible for him alone to hide.  Their discussion ended in agreement that Robert would’ve manipulated facts to create innuendo; twist rules and point out implications from his desired perspective.  But could he hide this from the immortals?  That was the question they were left with dangling.

 

“Thirty seconds!”  Malkah announced snapping Snow’s attention back to where she sat.

 

Duncan reached over.  Snow didn’t have the press time he had.  “You’ll do fine.  Just stay on topic and try and build some emotion.”  He said as he massaged her shoulder.

 

She turned her head and gave him a comfortable smile.  “This is true oh wise one.  Public speaking is something you’re raised with as a noble alpha, and a matriarch on top of that.”  Snow shook her head slowly.  “It’s not the speaking so much as the reception.  Legend weighs heavy in werewolf culture.  Doubt in my being part of any legend is becoming common place.  Moral is low, some are already feeling defeated.  That is what’s chewing on me.”  Snow sighed.

 

Duncan turned from her and looked to the room in front of them.

 

“Fifteen!”  Malkah announced.

 

Duncan had spoken with the generals about their not being at the head table during the command team’s broadcast to their troops.  He reasoned that their prominent presence might cast doubt on high commands confidence in the team.  And that at this point in the game, that was a very bad thing.  The generals concurred.

 

“Five!”  Malkah yelled.  The lights of the main hall dimmed and he held up three fingers, two, one and a point.  They were live.

 

Duncan stood to his military best.  “By now you have all received at least a partial shipment of the new HMG Model IV.  If you haven’t received your second round of training on the new weapon, crew captains, please ensure all your team members, as well as yourselves, have this second round of training before O’ six hundred our time.”

 

“You have all been given travel plans to your host dens.  As you should know we are using small dens this go around.  Myself, and Commander Colonel Snow will be running operations from clan Squat.  I give you Colonel Snow, stateside operations commander.”  Duncan ended with as he held his hand out towards Snow as she stood.

 

Use of formal rank in titles and daily interactions had waned over some centuries.  At Snow’s request, Duncan implemented the use of rank in daily life.  She had hoped it would impart some sense of belonging, responsibility, pride.  Maybe provide an ego boost, anything to help shore up the moral of her troops.  It seemed to be having somewhat of a positive effect.

 

“Thank you Lieutenant Colonel Galt.”  She straightened herself in her uniform with a shoulder movement and focused her eyes on the camera after giving the crowd before her the once over. 

 

“Alexander is dreaming big.  We are going to wake him from this dream.”  She began with her voice firm and electric; hushed yet loud.  “We are what stands between chaos and order.  Alexander wants to upset this order, feast upon those whom we are born and sworn to protect.  His only desire, to devastate humanity for the souls he seeks to harvest.”

 

She added some power to her voice.  “We will rage together against the darkness that is Alexander and all of the minions of the darkness, we cannot allow the darkness to open the path to this world again.  We have never fought as we are about to.  Urban warfare has not been our fight, until now.  We have become complacent in our battle against the vampires and the minions of darkness they serve.  Become too civilized for our own good, too caught up in our own methods to be effective.”

 

She emphasized her next statement hard and moved with confidence as her voice built to a crescendo.  “This ends now.  Our purpose is to protect human kind.  Today we let the animal inside us out and rage war against the darkness, not as timid soldiers but as savage warriors!  We are going back to the ways of our patriarchs and matriarchs and their ancestors  of old, our real ways.  We do not offer sanctuary to day walkers or the turned.  We send them on the express elevator to hell!”

 

Snow paused a moment for effect, then proceeded with a driven, even voice.  “We have new weapons, better designed for close quarters combat against vampires.  You have received basic urban combat training with this weapon.  Now you will put this training to use and we all will learn new ways of fighting together.” 

 

Her voice broke into a roar that made Kevashka smile.  “We will drag Alexander’s corps into the morning sun for his final judgment!”  Snow was trying her best to rally her troops, to get them invigorated for battle. 

 

There were some murmurs from the audience.  Snow had been hoping for a rousing response in support and belief.  The unmotivated response was not what she was hoping for.  She turned to her mate.

 

When Snow stopped speaking Duncan’s attention was drawn to her.  His eyes caught her in the midriff area then ran up to her face taking in her body language as his eyes traveled.  He could see the slight fluctuations of her irises as he took in her eyes.  The slight dilation of her pupils.  He could feel her heartbeat.

 

Duncan stood abruptly.  His eyes grazed the crowd.  The camera was of no interest to him.  His eyes would lock on another set in the audience then move on to another as he turned his head across the room.  He could feel the heat in his face as it rose from his chest and neck.  The muscles in his neck tightened. 

 

“Frelling panty waists.”  Duncan almost muttered under his breath.  Those around him and at least the first two tables below heard him, their attention now on him.  The room silent now.  “You people make me sick!”  His harsh voice barked.  His eyes kept moving around the room. 

 

“Legend.  My partner, House Trust’s Princess Snow, Valiant Knight of Blood Night, could give anyone of you a legendary ass kicking.”  Duncan’s body convulsed. 

 

Snow backed from him, as did Sea Mist on his right.  A torrent of food and blood spewed from him onto the head table.  Kevashka stood, she was at the end of the table.  Snow picked up a napkin and sidestepped towards Duncan’s back.  When the regurgitation ceased, she stepped in and handed him the napkin.  He wiped his mouth and looked down the front of his uniform.  “Keep the camera running.”  He told Malkah slightly out of breath. 

 

Kevashka had moved behind the curtain, attendants for those at the head table stood ready.  Snow could hear her hurriedly shout-whispering instructions to them.  Snow backed up to make room for Duncan as he moved away from his mess and down her side of the table. 

 

“This woman is a frelling legend.”  Duncan recovered then paused again and collected his resolve.  “The New Foundation, the legend of an established Monarchy in the states.  I know the legend, probably better than any of you rat’s asses.”  Anger burned again in his voice and eyes. 

 

“How many of you tail chasers actually know the legend?  And I don’t mean from being told as a bedtime story when your mammy and pappy werewolf tucked your nasty asses into bed, I mean actually know it, cover to cover?”  Duncan could feel from Snow the shock she was experiencing from how he spoke, not just to their crews.  Though he never looked into the camera, his performance was for all. 

 

One hand raised far back.

 

Several others followed.  There were thirteen hundred people in the den, all attending this event.  They were over capacity. 

 

“You, the first one who raised his hand, come up here.”  Duncan yelled towards the back side of the room. 

 

It took several minutes for the man to make his way from his corner to the head table.  He was one of the bishops that had come to help produce holy water.  Duncan quickly surveyed the man who appeared about his own age.

 

“Have you actually read it?  Or just studied what other people have written about it bishop?”  Duncan asked abrasively.

 

“Lord Galt.  From cover to cover have I read the story, and the history behind and surrounding the legend you speak of.  To read the legend is required of those striving to be bishop.”

 

Duncan nodded fast for a second.  “Good, excellent even.  Who does the legend say will be this ‘new foundation’ in the states?  Give us the skinny.”

 

The bishop nodded then looked nervously towards the camera and crowd.  “A mated pair, she from the heraldry of The Exalted Master of Clans.  Her selected mate from the heraldry of The Grand Inquisitor.  The legend says these two shall be keystones of the new foundation of Monarchy in a new world.  They will endure severing hardship and emerge from their quest and be recognized by the immortals and be established as governors of the new world under the immortals.”  The bishop bowed to Duncan to indicate he had completed his answer.

 

Duncan nodded fast again.  “Good.  Tell me bishop, is it not also a regiment of bishop training to learn all of the noble lines?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Duncan’s eyes began to smile Snow observed.  She hoped he knew what he was doing.

 

“Tell me bishop, does the Grand Inquisitor have any kin?  Just to be clear, I mean any blood kin?  Brothers, sisters aunts, uncles, nephews cousins, anyone at all?”

 

The bishops eyes danced as he dug through his mind, not for the fact but for how he would phrase his response.

 

“Bishop!”  Duncan bellowed.  “Answer the question NOW!”  Duncan made Kevashka look moderate Snow thought.

 

“No, there is no bloodline descendent from the Grand Inquisitor.”  The bishop shook ever so slightly as he answered.

 

“What were Night Harvest’s parents?”  Duncan said in a silky voice.  “I don’t mean their names, I mean what, what were they?”

 

The bishops eyes danced again.  This time his face worked as he thought through both what Duncan had asked, and which facet of the question was the one he wanted an answer for.  He bobbled his head for a second, fully expecting another blast from Duncan regarding his timely response.

 

“He was a born werewolf, and ah, she, no, she was a turned.”  The bishop uneasily answered.

 

“So then human would be in the heraldry of the Grand Inquisitor, correct?”  Duncan fired back rapidly.

 

The bishop paused for a moment and thought.  “Yes, that is true.”

 

“Then a human could fulfill the heraldry of the legend, based on werewolf recorded history correct?”  Came his machinegun question.

 

The bishop openly stammered.  His eyes darted fast around the room and floor.  He closed his eyes hard then opened them, his face pulled with the action that was short.  His face returned soundly to Duncan again.  “Yes, a human could fulfill the legend, but sir, there is the mating.  Lady Sadness cannot turn a mate.”

 

Everything about Duncan became stone.  The bishop backed from him a good full step.  Snow read the scent she picked up from him.  Goosebumps rose on her arms.  Whatever Duncan was about to do would strongly affect both of them, she assumed also everyone who would hear his words.  Risk, that was the scent.

 

“Lady Sadness, my Snow, is abhorrently mated to me.  The traitor Robert of the Clay did this to her.  With a syringe, he filled her gland with my blood.”  Though there wasn’t one, the feeling of a large gasp from the audience as well as those viewing seemed to emanate into the room.  “How’s that legend of yours standing up now?  Still rock solid?”  Duncan said with a voice of contempt.

 

He didn’t wait for the bishop to respond.  “Everyone, and I mean everyone,”  Duncan for the first time looked into the camera, “fall out and start packing.  I want an immediate bug-out; everyone is to move to their field operations den.”

 

“Sir, we still have two days, we need the time to prepare properly.”  An urgent voice said from the floor.

 

Duncan turned to Snow.  “Do you have any objections Colonel Snow?”

 

Snow was looking to the floor of people.  Her face resembled Duncan’s in its ‘chiseled from stone’ appearance.  Her head made a slow single left to right motion.

 

“Move out!”  Duncan roared.

 

“Alright you heard the commanders, assholes and elbows people! Assholes and elbows!, Pack and on the deck, ASAP!”  Came from the floor as the captains took command of their troops. 

 

Snow stood next to Duncan, the others rose from their seats and followed their commanders as they came together and led them across the back along the curtain and out of the room.

 

-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

 

Duncan was up early, four in the morning early to begin plowing snow.  The busses couldn’t push through the fifteen inches of snow that had fallen, and they needed to leave before he could clear the landing pads the helicopters sat at. 

 

Sea Mist would be busy the next few days.  Everyone was coming this time, not just the hunt crews.  She would make shuttling their support crew which had remained at the den last time to their den of operations considerably quicker then by ground vehicle.  Their hunt crews wouldn’t be staying with them this time, they would be split between two other dens.  Support team members would be staying with them at clan Squat. 

 

He had most of one side of the yard in front of the busses cleared when Malkah came to relieve him of plow duties.  He climbed in the passenger side of the truck and Duncan back to near the house.  The ground in front of the garage started to drop. 

 

He waited until the tactical vehicles with their new covert paint jobs finished filing from the underground garage before he turned the truck over to Malkah.  Duncan spoke briefly with him then proceeded into the house, he hoped to catch some more snuggle time with his partner before they started their day.

 

Arriving upstairs too late, he was able to catch Snow in the shower.  She warmly greeted him.  “Done?  How much did we get?”  She asked.

 

“Heh, no, not done.  Malkah took over, got about fifteen inches.”  He answered.

 

Snow moved from the shower head to allow Duncan some use of it.  “Back in Minnesota we called this ‘lake effect snow.’  Heavy, wet, and a pain in the ass to move.”

 

“Well I got the driveway done, the crews are on their way.  I saw Sea Mist clearing her choppers before Malkah came to take over.”  He said while Snow scrubbed his back.

 

“After I drop the command team off, I am going to help.  With one person riding shotgun I can carry eight and cargo.”  She informed him.

 

Duncan nodded and moved to rinse.  He returned the favor to Snow, while she rinsed her back he started applying conditioner to her hair.  He knew her routine, her hair was already washed.

 

“The traitor Robert of the Clay.”  Snow blankly said.

 

“Hmm?”

 

Snow chuckled.  “Your iconic phrase, ‘the traitor Robert of the Clay’, it’s become talking point you know.” 

 

“It has?” 

 

“Yes, you helped me motivate them.  Once you laid out your ‘interpretation’ of the legend, it’s like a battle frenzy has spread through the troops.  They see the legend as being lived out now, during their lives.  My name has become part of returning a salute. Your iconic phrase is running around too.”  Snow said as Duncan worked the conditioner into her hair. 

 

She could smell that he had thrown up downstairs before he had come to the shower. 

 

“Well, that’s going to sting for the Clay clan.”  Duncan answered.

 

Snow guffawed.  “Going to? Hell, it already is.”

 

They finished showering and getting dressed.  They had intended on leaving today themselves, however, the snow was delaying the departures of the bishops.  The two generals became the topic of discussion while they finished getting ready. 

 

Snow said that they would be coming with to clan Squat. From there they would move to dens across the city from where the operations team was to the north and south to aid in commanding attacks.  The generals were here to help as well as observe and report.  All communications with the higher ranks would be handled by the generals relieving the duty from Snow or Duncan.  This was an upside for the pair. 

 

It took until mid day before the last bus of bishops finally left.  Snow had asked that some of their support staff ride with the bishops, as their busses had ample room.  Malkah’s assistants and various others that helped their lead personnel in workshops took to the busses along with Hovlek who refused to fly. 

 

The den was left with a skeleton crew to maintain it.  Snow had finished her preflight and Sea Mist was well on her way carrying her second load of passengers to their destination.  She walked around the halls that over looked the main assembly floor. 

 

She smiled both happy and sad as she looked around the den.  It hadn’t been too long ago the place had been vacant, no sign of life anyplace in it.  Even now it was busy with life as the command team completed whatever it was they had to do before they left. 

 

Sadly Snow realized it wouldn’t be long and the den would again be a cold and empty hole in the ground.  She hoped she and Duncan would be able to return to the den house for their passing.  She wondered if he, a human, would be waiting for her on the other side of life.

 

 

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