The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 21
Prized Possessions

Chapter 21

 

Prized Possessions

 

 

They sat and talked idly and watched the bash roll on.  Bait didn’t question Corn Stalk further on business issues, he let matters rest for now.  Relaxed casual conversation revealed other gems of information at times.

 

Kevashka joined them after about half an hour of their snacking, drinking and talking.  In her hands she had the book Penelope had with her.  She brought the book to Bait with Seven and Penelope at her side.

 

Penelope was questioned about where she found the book, how she was able to obtain it and who had tried to relieve her of it.  There had been many attempts, but the bookworm was able to outfox the culprits every time.  She was crafty.  She had found Squat.

 

“And there’s this sir.”  Seven said and unfolded a map from inside of the book.

 

The map reminded Bait of the map E had shown them at the historical center.  There were four sets of marks with north and south lines drawn, each end had a line that crossed over to the bottom line at the opposite side making an X over a location. 

 

Then these marks were used to lineup a pencil line that ran on the east and west sides.  These lines were longer but also had the opposing ends connected putting an X over the final location.  Though the map was old, Cavet Prison was clearly printed next to the location the map held as it’s main purpose. 

 

“Ludvn demosslin veltoamin sarthra.”  Penelope read from the scribbles on the map, she was pointing to one particular hand written note in the upper right hand corner of the folded out map.

 

“Tomb of conviction, home of the lost.”  Bait translated from the old werewolf tongue. 

 

Penelope nodded fast with a smile and put a hand to her neck near her bite mark.  She would carry a faint scar there all of her days now.  The mark of sacrifice.  She blinked as she looked at the map, her eyes were still adjusting to their new vision.  It would be a day or so before they finished their change, along with other werewolf conversions.

 

“Yes, in this book, there is a primer that teaches the language it’s written in from a very old and obscure Irish and Hebrew… mash-up language.  It’s its own language built from the two originals and completely different.”  Penelope explained.

 

Bait shook his head at her.  “You went the wrong way, you are assuming were-kind adapted their language from humans, it was actually the other way around.  Hebrews, then the Irish adapted their languages from the original spoken language which the werewolves used.”  He corrected with a distant look, he gaze past those in front of him out to the floor below.

 

‘X’s and tens, tens of X’s, marks and places and people with their messages.  Everyone looking in different directions and seeing the same thing.  Dance, dance, dance; the dance goes on.’

 

A topless Sea Mist bounced up the stairs to their location toweling sweat from her person and her tongue hanging down past her chin.  Bait looked at the image and took in the entirety of it.  A cocky smirk broke on his face as he looked at her.

 

“What?”  Sea Mist said and quickly looked at the others around her.  They looked at Bait who seemed to be the one with the issue.

 

“Sweating and panting?  So what is this, werewolves have a dual-cool system or something?”  Bait asked instigating-ly humorously. 

 

“Hey, you try working a show like that, see if your ass isn’t soaked when you’re done!”  Sea Mist ejected in defense of her performing art.

 

Bait chuckled.  “Working or ‘twerking’ the show?”  He tittered more.

 

“Ta - whating?”  Sea Mist asked with a dramatic confused looked.  Lesser versions of the same varied across those looking at him. 

 

He laughed nervously.  “You know, the dance or whatever thing these young chick singers and such do with their ass or something, Miley Cyrus is all over YouTube doing it.”

 

Confused vacant stairs were returned to him.

 

“What are you talking about lover?”  Snow started with a quick glance to the others.  “I think you lost us.”

 

Bait looked between the others also.  “You don’t know what YouTube is?  You know, humans put mostly dumb videos up and expect you to endure them for a laugh…”

 

Sea Mist scoffed.  “Sheesh, I know what YouTube is, is this some recent viral video?”  She asked sounding affronted. 

 

“Young ones, is this productive and relevant to anything pertaining to this map and what it means?”  Corn Stalk said in a motherly voice drawing attentions back.

 

Bait looked at her.  “Connie, when dealing with werewolves, you have to expect a certain amount of common distraction, especially during daylight hours, or hours of a party.”  He had added the last part in himself, to meet his needs.

 

Corn Stalk shot a look at Snow.  There was no hiding from her the fact that Bait was reciting something Snow had told him not too long ago regarding his new family.  Snow’s face showed she remembered the words she had used when she talked to him about Sea Mist and her forgetting her passengers.

 

Corn Stalk’s gaze locked on Bait.  ‘Don’t mess with me’ her expression said, politely.

 

Sea Mist looked down at the map.  “Oh, Exten’s map, where did you get that?”  She passively commented.

 

All eyes fell on her.  She looked around with only her eyes, every other part of her being frozen in realization.  She sighed deep and slowly started nodding.  “Right, I was a bit younger than Worm is now…”  Sea Mist began.

 

“So, yesterday?”  Snow cut in with.

 

Sea returned to her an annoyed ‘give me a break’ younger sister look.  Corn Stalk cleared her throat again and gave them both a look.

 

“I was about eleven, I had just done my first cross-ocean flight, landed in Amsterdam since we have kin there.  When I was visiting I met Exten who was also visiting the den, only he was on business of some kind, hunting something or someone, not sure.  I found him interesting to chat with.  He had interesting books and charts.”  Sea Mist tapped at the map with a finger.  “This map he kept in a soft leather wrap, like a scroll.”

 

Cocking her head she picked up the book.  She closed it and put it next to an ear and thumped it with her knuckle, then she flipped to the back and pulled the back cover apart.  Penelope called out but stopped short when Sea Mist pulled a parchment from the back of the book in a hidden compartment. 

 

She unfolded the parchment and laid it out.  It was the original map the folded page map in the book had been made from.  This one had notes littering the edges.  Near where Squat’s den, the former prison was indicated, was a significant block of hand written text.

 

Most of it was a rambling of misused words, bad grammar and poor sentence structure that made no sense.  The last portion of the writing was clear, though not much help.

 

Sealed in and locked away, to be forgotten about, close yet far from those above me.  The sounds of a silent tomb.

 

There was a sudden change in the room from one focused point.  Bait turned and looked at Penelope.  Her face was shocked.  “You’ve heard this before.”  He said to her, the others took note and looked to her also.

 

Her head slowly nodded.  Her world had changed so drastically, now she was important to someone, not dismissed and shuffled off.  She had gotten used to that, no matter how good her work was, she was always passed over for someone more… charismatic.  Someone with a bigger bust. 

 

“I was overseas at an excavation site.  This man came up to me…”  She started digging in her bag she carried, “he gave me this, said those words and told me to give this to the man that fit where he was out of place.”  She extended her hand with the large shiny bauble on a heavy chain she extracted from her overstuffed bag to him.

 

A necklace?  It was very heavy, the bauble was ornate on one side with a mural carving and on the other was an odd design of intricate three dimensional carvings of various shapes in many sizes.  The chain connected via a loop forged into the bauble, the chain itself had no means of unclasping it from the bauble, it had been crafted onto it. 

 

Bait took the map from the back of the book, folded it up as it was again and returned it to the dimensional pocket in the back.  The book repaired itself once the map was back in. He then closed the book, stood and dropped the necklace where he had been sitting before taking the book over to the large desk off to the side and putting it in a drawer there.  Returning to the couch he picked up the necklace, looked it over, then placed it in one of his dimensional pockets. 

 

“What is that?”  Snow asked.

 

Bait looked over to Corn Stalk.  She knew what it was, as did he.  “There is a party going on down there, why don’t you all forget about this for now and get back to making merry.”  He said.

 

Murmurs and idle talk came from his attendees.  He was encouraged to join them as they slowly milled off and down into the crowd.  Now, Snow and Sea Mist were the only ones that remained.  The three sat on the sofa, Snow next to Bait.  She looked at him and was about to speak.

 

“It’s a key.”  Sea Mist said looking to her but not focusing on her.

 

Snow looked over to her sister.  “A key?”

 

“Yup.”  Sea Mist said confidently and crossed her arms with a head nod.

 

“A key it is.”  Bait said in agreement.

 

Snow looked quickly between the two.  “A key to what?”  She asked.

 

“A lock.”  Both Bait and Sea Mist said in unison, and with the same cantankerous smile.

 

Snow rolled her eyes.  “A lock to… on what?  What is locked?”  She asked trying to get around their play.

 

“Don’t know.”  Both again said in unison.

 

Sam leaned in with his elbows on the back of the couch between Snow and Sea Mist.  “A prison.”  He said.

 

Sea Mist nodded.  “That would have been my guess.  Whoever is locked inside, someone went to a lot of trouble to see to it they stayed there.”  She said thoughtfully.

 

Snow gaped at her sister.  “You can see him?”  She asked with a fisted hand bent up and a thumb pointing at Sam.

 

Sea Mist chortled.  “Of course.  I can see many things between worlds.  Many souls walk the neutrals.  Few walk outside the lines.  You just need to look.  Now scram, this is my time.  I came up here to talk with my brother, and you’re not welcome.”  She ended with a curt smile and wriggled nose movement.

 

Snow’s face pulled back and her eyes widened.  Bait tittered.  She looked over at him.  Still amused and laughing he shrugged at her.  She looked back to Sea Mist who was sitting there expectantly waiting.  Snow made a raspy noise with her throat and flapped her arms while looking forward at the crowd.

 

“I guess that’s my cue to leave.”  She said sounding unsure.

 

She stood looked around then started down the stairs.  Several steps down she looked back.  Sea Mist had moved in closer to Bait and put her arms out across the back of the couch with her head back.  She had put quite a performance on.

 

“Put a shirt on, he’s still human.”  She shot back then quickly made her escape into the crowd.

 

-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-

 

Bait wasn’t sure how long Sea Mist and he sat there.  He had joined her in leaning back and staring up at the ceiling.  The lights strung across twinkled in their programmed pattern giving the effect of a starry night. 

 

“Blade Dance won’t even let me give him head anymore.”  Sea Mist said while looking up at the fake sky.

 

Bait’s head came up fast, his eyes fully open.  “That was rather abrupt.”  He said looking over at her with a somewhat scolding undertone.

 

Sea Mist rolled her head on the back of the couch and looked at him.  His face changed as he understood what was happening.  She needed someone to talk to, and had chosen him.  He wasn’t sure how to take this event.  Sure, he had had people talk with him before on sensitive personal matters, other agents, but they had been men.  He looked at her bare chest as it swelled with her breathing.  Sea Mist was definitely not a man.  He looked to her eyes and waited.

 

“We used to be very affectionate.  I’m trying to get pregnant now, but he’s never in the mood lately.  At first we were banging each others brains out every chance we got after we were mated.  Hell, even I’ve lost the hornies.”  Her face became a puzzled question.  “Is that how it is once your mated?  You were married once, does that part of you die away?  Do you and Snow still… you know.”  Sea Mist’s eyes were sad.

 

He sighed deep and looked off across the floor and thought for a moment.  His wife.  Bad example in the end, but their marriage had been good, for the most part, until she started fraternizing with the enemy.  Snow was a completely different scenario.

 

“That is a loaded question.”  He said looking over to her.  “As for Snow and I, we have never made love.”  He said bluntly.

 

Sea Mist looked at him confused.  “Why not?  She’s mated to you?  What gives?  Why the hold out?”

 

He was thoughtful now as he answered.  “She’s mated to me, but I am not mated to her, the process isn’t complete.  So, um… we can’t… be together.”  He felt embarrassed.

 

Sea raised her head from the couch and looked off in thought now.  “I feel like an ass.”  She said.

 

“Why’s that?”  He questioned back.

 

Sea Mist exhaled and shook her head as she looked at the people performing on stage now.  “All the ribbing I gave her… sex stuff.”  She had a depressed look when she turned to face him.  “You know, I thought we were both mated and… I just wanted us to be able to share in some inside humor and stuff, I wasn’t trying to be mean or anything.  I didn’t know.” 

 

They sat in silence for a bit, both returning to looking up at the appearance of a night sky.

 

Sea Mist finally raised her head and looked over at Bait.

 

“What are we doing sitting in here looking at a fake night sky when the real thing is just a few minutes away?”  She said then leaned over to him a bit.  “Yeah, I bet you partied hard when you were young.  There’s a bit of misfit in you, I can smell it.”  She said with a maniacal smile.

 

He looked back at her.  “What?  You want to go outside?  Be my guest.”  He said back.

 

“Yes.”  She said grabbing onto his arm and standing.  “And for you, oh commander of mine, to come with and enjoy some of the night’s embrace with me.”

 

He didn’t move to rise at her urging.  He looked up while she pulled on his arm.  Considering the suggestion for a moment he decided to play along.  Who knows what she might inadvertently say again that might put a few pieces into the right places for him.  And in a more Sea Mist relaxing environment, she might say things she wouldn’t otherwise. 

 

“Alright fine.  We’ll go look at some stars.”  “He said and reluctantly stood.

 

-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-

 

They were behind the house to one side in the lawn sitting on some lounge chairs set up near a table with an umbrella and other lawn amenities.  There were no other lights, Sea Mist had turned off the only outside light as they exited the den house.  Only the stars lit their night now.  Bait had to admit, this was better than sitting inside.  The breeze was gentle and the Milky Way could be seen clearly.  It was a perfect night.  Not a vampire in the sky.

 

A sharp pungent but sweet smell hit Bait’s nose, he looked over at Sea Mist.  Something white and tubular was in her mouth, fire came from her other hand, a lighter.  She puffed a few times on the joint she had lit then took a drag, held it and handed the joint towards him.

 

He looked at it with it’s fuming end, a surprised look on his face.  She moved her hand again trying to hand it to him.  She exhaled.  “You can’t tell me you have never partook before college boy, and this isn’t Mexican agriculture, we grow this ourselves.  It’s called Blue Moon, one of the Werewolf lines.”  She said to his questioning face.

 

“Isn’t that illegal?”  He posed.

 

She laughed.  “Not even in human law here or back home now.  Werewolf law, nope.  Beer, wine, smoke, okay.  We aren’t human.  We can have fun, and if need be, can cleanse ourselves in an instant and be ready for whatever.”

 

Bait nodded and considered.  “Just no refined spirits or chemistry set pharmaceuticals.”  He commented.

 

“Exactly.”  She chimed back.

 

She took another hit and held it then held the joint out to him again.

 

He looked at it again.  “What the hell, I’ve only got seventeen days left anyways.”  He said then took the joint from her and hit on it.

 

Sea Mist chuckled as she exhaled.  “See, I knew there was a party animal in you someplace.  Go easy old man, this isn’t your college days smoke.”  She said as he returned the joint to her.

 

They finished smoking together and watched the stars talking idly and enjoying each other’s company, getting to know each other a bit better.  They spent a considerable amount of their time together talking about humans and the human world. 

 

“I just don’t get how they can drive like that.  It’s a wonder anyone survives rush hour traffic.”  Sea Mist was commenting on their latest topic of human irritations she was ranting about.

 

Bait chuckled at her comments.  “Well, there are some that would simply say it was women drivers and leave it at that.”  He said absent mindedly to her comment on drivers.

 

“That’s another thing.”  Sea Mist started as she sat up and produced another joint and lit it then handed it to him.  “I mean I get that separation and division, jealousy, all that are tools of the darkness, but why do humans feed on these so when all they do is cause themselves pain and problems that they then try and fix with bullshit attempts at political correctness?”  She blurted out.  “Inclusion, not exclusion is needed, but humans seem exceptional at finding ways to put dividers between certain people for lame reasons.”

 

She took her turn as he passed the joint to her.

 

Bait held his look towards her.  “Dividers, like social standing?  Upscale neighborhoods verses low income neighborhoods?  Ethnic groups living near each other?  A lot of that is self imposed, Mexican’s want to live around other Mexican’s, German’s in the same area as other German’s, Norwegian’s, Pollock’s  so on and so forth.  It’s the nature of things.  Birds live with other birds, cats, dogs, goats, chickens.  People are the same way.”

 

Sea Mist passed to him.

 

There was a momentary pause in the conversation while both held their breaths.

 

Bait coughed.  “Wow…”  he gasped,  “that’s some… intense shit.”

 

Sea laughed.  “I lived in Amsterdam, nothing but the best.”  She said smiling.  “Animals don’t have economic separation, but that isn’t what I’m talking about.  A certain type and amount of separation is natural, normal and healthy actually.  The order of things is very true.”

 

She motioned for him to take his turn and went on.  “In our own den, the upper levels of the commons quarters are for the general staff and combat leaders and their families.  As you go down levels the typical rank of the enlisted people drops and non ranked personnel are in the tenement housing below the main commons assembly area, with the lowest of those areas for transient undesirables.”  Sea Mist waved a hand around and took her turn.

 

Bait looked off at fireflies that popped in and out of notice in the night breeze.  Focusing his hearing he thought he could pick up the faint rap of their tiny wings as they fought for flight against gravity.  Or was his mind simply filling in what he expected to hear?  Maybe it was Sea Mist’s Home Stress Remedy.

 

“Behind the upper and middle levels of the commons housing, which does sometimes have VIP quarters in them, are the matriarch and patriarch’s home and homes reserved for their children.  Lords and Ladies reside here, and typically the VIP quarters for guests.  The next level down is the top officers, department heads and commanders, then command grade officers and field commanders.  A natural order.”

 

She looked over at Bait and gave a facial shrug.  “Humans have their same thing going on in their own way.  A judge won’t be living next to a minimum wage factory worker and his waitress wife.  He’ll live next to the owner of the factory and the chairman of the board of the corporate franchise headquarters of the restaurant the wife works at.  One gets food stamps, the other gets dividends.”

 

Sea Mist craned her neck back towards the house.  “Damn, should’ve brought a drink.”  She said in a restrained voice.

 

Bait reached to one of the pockets on his belt and pulled two bottles from it.  “Goch-ya covered there babe.  Just need your strength and fingers to pop those tops off.”  He said handing the non twist top beers to her.

 

She hooked a finger under the sharp crimped edges of the bottle top of the first beer and bent it out from the lip of the bottle, her finger pulled, about three of the ridges of the crimp moved from the bottle, then she lifted the cap off.  Handing the beer to Bait. 

 

“Damn, that stuff hits like a Mack truck.”  Bait commented after he took a pull from his beer.

 

“And much better then…”  Sea held her unopened beer bottle out and up some, “alcohol.  No headache and it doesn’t make you piss, and believe me, I don’t need any help there!”  She broke into laughter, slapped Bait on the arm and laid her face on his arm.  Her body lurched several times from her laughing then she sat back up.  Even in the dim star light he could see the redness of her face.

 

Bait laughed lightly at her.  “Ah yes, the tinkle sisters.”  He said mockingly.

 

“Hey, it happens sometimes.  Get startled or embarrassed.  It’s gotta have happened to you, something made you squirt.”  Sea Mist said in defense.

 

Bait looked as though he was considering her statement and remembering.  His head started shaking.  “Nope, only time I went home with wet pants was after being tackled during a football game when I was in junior high.  My bladder was full, I got tackled in it.  Now that would make anybody… squirt.”  He said laughing at the memory. 

 

“I can pee standing up and hit a water glass.”  Sea Mist said off the cuff.

 

Bait cocked an eyebrow at her.  “You’d be a smash at college frat parties with that trick.”  He said chuckling as Sea sat up and clutched her knees to her chest as she looked over the grass out into the night sky and rocked herself.

 

She snorted a chuckle through her nose.  “It was.  Separated quite a few people from their money betting me I couldn’t do it from ten feet.  Fortunately jocks aren’t the best at guessing distance, and I have done it up to twenty two feet.  Gotta push really hard though.

 

Bait started laughing and shaking his head.

 

“What?”  Sea Mist said as she watched him.

 

“Nothing, I just can't believe I’m sitting out in the back yard with you, talking about…”  he gestured with his hands at her, “this!  he said.

 

Nodding Sea Mist smiled comfortably at him.  “It’s nice to see you lose the stiffness, be more you.  You’re more fun when your not such a tight ass.”  She said reaching into a pocket on her denim shirt that she’d left unbuttoned.

 

“Oh no, none for me.  How many of those you going to smoke?”  He asked as she dug out her lighter.

 

“Three joint coffee break sport, and you’re joining me.  Seems to have done you some good.  We’re talking, you’re learning.  Good times.  You’ve been sleuthing all night, now, relax while you sleuth.  Just be yourself and go for a ride on the Sea Mist midnight express.”  She said smiling and acting a clown.  Then she sparked up her joint.

 

They laid back in the lounge chairs and passed the kind bud between them and talked about stars and the legends they spawned.

 

“Orion’s belt is something everyone finds, but they seldom see the rest of the picture, Orion himself.  They see the belt and forget to zoom back some and see the rest of what’s written in the stars.  They look too close.”  Sea Mist was saying.

 

Bait closed his eyes.

 

“What are you doing Duncan?  Your not going to get your homework done that way, why is that pinned to the wall?”  His father said to him when he walked into his room to make sure he was doing his schoolwork.

 

“That way I can step back and look at it from a distance, if I keep my eyes off to the side I can see the picture it’s supposed to be.”  Young Duncan had explained to his father.

 

He was in elementary school then, one of the homework assignments had been a connect the dots picture that you got the numbers to connect by answering the questions.  Complete the picture correctly and you get an A.  Duncan had completed the picture right, and never answered a single question, because he looked at it from a distance and without looking directly at it.  His eyes did the rest.

 

“Sea…”  Bait said with a start.

 

She froze.  “That’s the voice she was talking about.”  Sea Mist said from her frozen state.  Her head slowly turned to him, his face wondered what she was talking about.  “You just connected something, figured something out or need to assemble the right people and dig.  Snow described how you sound at this point, damn, she was frelling accurate.”  Sea Mist went on.

 

“An idea, yes.”  He said somewhat called out by her comments on reading him.  Was he really that bad?

 

“Who do you need me to get and where too?”  She asked as she snuffed the roach out.

 

Bait looked off for a moment.  “Worm, and you.  Let the rest have their fun.  Promise, this won’t take long.”  He smiled at her.

 

“Fine, but then you, me, this yard and one more smoke.  I want to talk with you more, see if I approve of you for my sister.”  She said smiling wryly at him.

 

He snorted and shook his head at her with a light chuckle.  “Okay, talk fine, we’ll see about the other.”  He answered her.

 

They rose from their chairs and started towards the den house.  Sea Mist called out to try and find someone who still had a radio and knew were Worm was.  She was pleased when Worm herself answered the call.

 

-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-

 

They were making use of the tactical room because of it’s projection system integrated into the computers in the room.  Sea Mist had brought up the maps Bait wanted and was trying to comply with his requests.  She gave Worm a relieved smile when she walked in.

 

“No not all of them, just the sightings of Alexander, and coven locations.”  Bait was ordering Sea Mist as she entered.

 

Sea was fumbling with the computer as she moved to deselect what she wanted to remove.

 

“Would you like me to take over for you Marshal Sea Mist ma’am?”  Worm chirped when she walked up to Sea.

 

“Absolutely!”  She said and quickly vacated the helm.  Worm was in her place in a blink.

 

The map moved and dots vanished then the map re-centered itself on the central display.  Worm clicked a few times and the map rotated before Bait could ask her. 

 

“Perfect.  Now, give me the grid… left two and include the first one down.”  Bait told the young blonde girl.  Squares that were drawn on the map lit up and any requested dots showed up.  “Okay, now go to foxtrot fourteen.  What do we have in the rest of the district that falls into?”  He asked.

 

Sea Mist went to a terminal and started pulling up reports while Worm brought up the next region Bait wanted to look at up on another wall of the room. 

 

They worked for a solid twenty minutes.  “STOP!”  Bait yelled at his girls.  “Wait, wait, wait, hold it a second.”  He thought back to earlier when he and Worm were working in here, he had asked her to… “Worm, give me only Alexander’s sightings where he is seen stationary.”  He said in an anxious voice.

 

Sea Mist’s attention and interest grew and she moved near her commander watching the screens as he worked.  “Seventeen sightings of Alexander in that area over the past two years.  Fourteen confirmed.”  She reported and watched.

 

Worm clicked at the keys and dots on the map blinked in and out as she edited filters and adjusted display data logs.  Soon four walls were filled with close up images of the locations requested.  Still a mess.  Bait tapped at his lips and paced looking at the maps.

 

Twenty years, that’s how long their current enemy had been working on the portal. However, in order to begin on this item, he would have had to prepare before he began, and actually learn about the portal.  From his understanding, Alexander did not know of the plans to construct a portal between worlds until recent times.  Recent, from a werewolf perspective.  What was he missing?  Or was it more a question of where or what was he supposed to look in or at now?  He needed new questions.


“Zoom out like an aerial view, give me the entire thing on one display.”  Bait ordered.  He looked at the map.  Nothing.  Still a mess, even when looked at it from the side.

 

His face pulled in and he squinted.  There was something on the map Sea Mist had pulled out.  Below each mark on the map, the ones that looked like X’s or Roman numeral tens was another mark.  Exten’s, his real one.  It was nothing like the mark on the swords. 

 

“Worm, take away every dot on that map, all of them, and only give me sightings of Alexander stationary within the last two hundred years that repeat more than ten times.”  He asked.

 

She looked back at him and blinked.  It wasn’t a hard request, just very precise and odd.  “Yes sir, but it will take the database a while to siphon through all those records, most will be in archive format and at a remote storage.”  She informed him.

 

“How long are we talking?”  He asked with a face of concern.

 

Worm shrugged.  “It could take as little as an hour, more like a couple days I would expect.”  She answered factually.

 

Bait scoffed and shook his head and started pacing about.  “How about the last twenty years, make it ten.  Can you get something fast for the last ten years?  He asked looking at the girl as she moved her hands delicately over the keyboard and mouse. 

 

“On display Colonel Bait sir.”  She chimed.

 

Bait looked at the images.  “Only confirmed ones.”  He said.  A few dots vanished.  “Take those two out, here and here…”  he instructed and pointed “now back out, give me a distance view over the entire area.  Yeah, little more.  Good.”

 

He looked the image over and smiled.  “That one, there…” he pointed again, “make it gone.”

 

Bait paced back and forth across the room behind Worm and Sea Mist looking, thinking and thumping on his lips with his index finger.  “Exten marked the swords with the same mark that appears on old maps.”  He rambled as he walked and thought.  He looked back at the image.  “Back out more.” he instructed.

 

Dots.  Groups of them, now backed out, any that seemed off looked like the same point. 

 

“See these, they form a single dot.”  He motioned over the display.  “Make all of those one dot, and put in the top and bottom lines.”  He said.

 

“Top and bottom lines?” Worm asked.

 

“Yes, north and south lines like on the map at the historical place we were at.”  Bait said calmly.

 

“Oh!”  She ejected and went to her task.  Lines appeared at the sets of four dots that were grouped.  “You want the corners crossed to Colonel Bait sir?”  She further asked.

 

“Yes.”  He looked the map over.  “Now, put a dot where the lines cross at each one, save it then remove everything except the new dots.”  Worm moved to comply.

 

Bait had Worm move to each location and looked at what was under or close to the mark.  He was still coming up dry.  There was nothing worthwhile at any location. 

 

“Zoom out again, give me the entire view on one.”  Bait ordered as he looked. 

 

He saw no pattern here, more randomness.  Another rabbit trail that led nowhere.

 

Sea Mist snorted.  “It’s like a star map thing, I can see a triangle thing, the bottom part goes up and looks like that Star Fleet federation thing.”  She said looking at the map and dots in front of her.  She suddenly became excited.  “That’s it!  We need Captain Kirk and his Maltese Falcon!”  She ejected in a shrill voice like she had solved some difficult problem.

 

Bait looked at her with a face of pain. 

 

“What?”  Sea cried out suddenly concerned.  “You need me to get Doctor River Stone, you’re not having reversion or something are you?”  She asked hurriedly. 

 

“No, no.”  He assured her.  “I just felt ten thousand geeks cry out in agony.” 

 

Sea Mist pulled her head back with her face moving from concerned to confused.  “Huh?”

“Triangle.”  Bait said and look back at the map.  “Nothing Sea, Captain Kirk commanded the Enterprise, Hon Solo was Captain of the Millennium Falcon, not the Maltese Falcon which was a Humphrey Bogart movie.  But... you might have giving me a place to look.” 

 

Sea Mist smiled.  “Glad I could help.”  She said.

 

“Well, you know what they say, out of the mouths of… son of a bitch.”  He stared off.

 

“Out of the mouths of a son of a bitch?  Not familiar with that saying.”  Sea puzzled.

 

Bait was pointing at the map.  “Worm, top center point, connect a line to the two wider points at the bottom from there, then connect the two.”  He watched as Worm did as he requested. 

 

“Huh, and the other dots would make another triangle upside down.”  Sea Mist said as she watched with him.

 

“You want to see my tits.”  Bait muttered.

 

Sea looked over with a raised eyebrow then shrugged.  “If you want, I guess you’ve seen mine.  What is this show and tell?”  She said a bit snarky.

 

“No, every large beer comes with a free shot, the waitress showed me her tits.”  He explained loosely as he looked at the map. 

 

“What kind of bars have you been hanging out in?”  She posed.

 

“Not a bar, a bar in my vision.  The waitress had a cord or something that formed a triangle from her breasts to her navel.  I was right, I was right.  Worm, connect the others the same way only upside down from the first.”  He said and watched.

 

“Bait, that will form a…”  Sea Mist started.

 

“Exactly.”  The image formed on the screen.  The star of David.

 

“Okay, that makes a very large area to cover.”  Sea Mist said as she looked in the center area.

 

“Wait, there’s more.  Exten’s map, it had the main point on the map, the end result done ninety degrees off from all the others.  He was pointing to something else.  Worm, bring a line down and connect the top point and the bottom point of the north and south points of that star.”  He ordered.

 

Worm did as requested.

 

“Now, messianic Jews or Jews that have married Christians, often put the cross inside the star of David.  You wouldn’t happen to know where they place the top cross part in that would you?”  He asked looking to Sea Mist.

 

She nodded and moved up to where Worm was.  “Put one dot here, then the other in the same position on the other side, right half way down on that part.  Perfect.”  Sea Mist instructed the young girl.

 

Inside the star of David the two lines of the Christian symbol crossed over a point of land.

 

“Worm, mark where those two lines cross and move in.”  She did as she was told.

 

The map zoomed in, then again.  It kept moving in until the landmark points listed on the map were visible where the two lines crossed.

 

“The Ag Church.”  Sea Mist said as the map finished zooming.

 

-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-

 

“Commodore Squat to Colonels Snow or Bait over!”  Came over the radio.

 

Bait hesitated a moment giving Snow the chance to answer first.

 

“Snow here Commodore, over.”  Came in answer.

 

“We have a situation here… you and Colonel Bait need to come to the command deck.”  Squat stated, his voice clearly distressed.

 

“What’s going on?”  Bait called out.

 

“I… there’s no way to explain it, you have to see this.”  Squat said.

 

“On my way.”  Came the unison response over the radio from the two commanders.

 

When they arrived on the command deck, Squat’s face matched the nervous in his voice.  “We monitor police frequencies, incase anything happens near us, you know.  A report of a stagecoach was heard, a bit odd but at first nothing was thought of it, until it was realized it was heading this way, and at seventy miles an hour.

 

he’s firing again, lay back.’ Came from a speaker that was putting out the audio of the police band they were tuned too.

 

“Stagecoach, what the hell…”  Bait said and trailed off as the police radio came alive again.  He looked at Snow.  “Bill!”  He said then started for the door.

 

“Bait, where are you going, Bill?  Talk to me.”  Snow said to his back.

 

“Come on, I’ll tell you on the way outside.”  He called out to her as he kept moving.  Squat went with.  “Has anyone seen Baby since Twitch disappeared?”  He asked as they ran.

 

“No, I don’t think so.  I haven't seen her in several hours now that you mention it.”  Squat said.

 

Snow shook her head when he looked over at her.  “What’s going on?”  She asked as they entered the elevator, Squat put it into motion.

 

“Twitch is also ‘Buffalo Bill Cody, William Cody, of the same famous wild west show.  A perfectly sane person until somewhere around nine ten years ago.  Now he is mad and Baby went with him.  When shit happens to one werewolf, the mate is affected.  Whatever happened to drive a man like William Cody mad, is something I need to deal with, it’s a piece of the puzzle.”  Bait sighed as the elevator reached top.  “This is part one of some pinnacle shit I feel.  One more piece.  And I think I know where it points.  Now I just need to find the last pieces.” 

 

Squat called out for a status update, they had a visual now. 

 

“Lover…” Teagan’s voice came back, “you’ve got to see this, piping the feed to you now.  Worm.”  The radio dropped.

 

Squat pulled out his mini-tablet.  Tapping on it he brought of the feed Teagan had linked to him.  Snow and Bait crowded around him as he held the small display out so they could see.  All had a stunned look as they viewed what was happening from an aerial view. 

 

One of Seven’s ladybugs had caught up with the show.  Several county sheriff’s squads were chasing after a larger sized stagecoach, Pinkerton engraved on the front footplate of the coach where the driver sat, on the door the bold emblem of and name Wells Fargo. 

 

The man holding the reigns of the thirteen horse team racing down the dirt road, in excess of seventy miles an hour, was sitting next to his smiling mate, affectionately known as BGB.  Bait watched as Twitch stood on the stagecoach, pulled his Peacemaker and fired back at the officers chasing him. 

 

The horses were large black monsters that with every hoof strike an exhale of fire and smoke came from their nostrils, their eyes blazed orange with fire.  Sparks flew from their hooves.  Twitch sat back down and snapped the reigns of the horses bringing another burst of speed to the coach racing along.  It went into a turn and slid some around the corner, the stagecoach was on the road that ran in front of the den house.  Twitch reached to his throat, then his voice came over the radio.

 

“This is Cody, I’m coming in hot!  Got a passel of them bastards on me!”  They watched him say on the display, not even a second lag. 

 

Then Twitch reached to his leg and pulled the radio pack from a pocket and worked on it with his fingers.  Over the radio music started, Bait looked up, the tune was familiar.  He couldn’t help but smile just a little as the image on the screen combined in his mind with the music as the voice of Johnny Cash brought it alive:

 

An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day.

Up on a ridge he rested as he went along his way.

When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw;

Plowing through the ragged skies… and up the cloudy draw.

 

Twitch stood again, his pistol sprang into his hand, six flashes from the Colt and he was back in his seat, cylinder open, six more cartridges in, closed and in the holster.  He took the reigns from smiling Baby. 

 

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel.

Their horns were black and shiny, and their hot breath he could feel.

A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky;

For he saw the riders coming hard, and he heard their mournful cry…

 

Bait grabbed his radio pack and punched a private link.

 

“Worm, dummy that feed from Twitch.”  He called out.  Had he remained on the general channel, he would have heard his order was already in effect.

 

“Sir, yes, I… Already done sir!”  Worm reported back.

 

“Kid’s good.”  He said with a nod.

 

“Of course, twelve years of werewolf education.  Good, she’s…”  Snow made a face and held out a hand and wobbled it side to side, “so-so, you know, for a werewolf, but compared to a human, frelling outstanding.”  She ended with a sideways look at her mate.

 

Bait quipped a snort.  “I wouldn’t be to proud of your kin right now, one of yours is driving a stagecoach with what, six, seven, sheriff’s deputies chasing him, and by now the news is on it and that means the state police will get in the mix.  Yea for werewolf intellect.”  He said with a touch of a cold insinuation. 

 

Bait reached for his radio again, another private link, he hoped. 

 

“Steve, good, do your cleansing mumbo-jumbo and get up here, we’re going to need containment.  Local law and Twitch.”  Bait answered when Steve replied.

 

He could hear the sirens now of the deputies cars.  At the speed they were traveling, they would be here soon.

 

“Containment team on deck, clear and go.  Make sure to grab anyone without a radio, front lawn now!”  He heard agent Rheineer call over a channel he had selected to monitor activity on.  He hoped they were fast.  This could get ugly.

 

“Colonel Bait.”  Seven’s voice called over a private link.

 

“Go Seven, got a situation here so unless you can help you’ll have to wait.”  He responded with a gruff tone.

 

Seven keyed up mid chuckle.  “… Channel six news’s helicopter will not be joining you, I’m afraid they had to return to the pad when warning alarms went off in their cockpit.  I do hope that helps.  Seven out.”  He said.

 

He looked in the direction of the sirens.  Now, how many of those jackals were following in vans. 

 

Squat had been busy himself, talking over his radio to his people, containment was their priority too.  He finished talking with one of his lieutenants and went to report to his commanders.

 

“Colonel Bait sir.”  He said, there was something about the way he held his face, it almost looked like he was enjoyed what he was about to report.

 

Bait raised an eyebrow.  This was either going to be very good or…  He tried to have the proper perspective from a werewolf attitude.  “What did you do?”

 

-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-

 

“Look out!”  Linda screamed from the passenger side of the squad car.  Milton was already hammering the breaks. 

 

“Did you hit it?”  Linda said, then she gasped.

 

He thought he felt the car hit the dog, they were doing eighty, he didn't have a chance to stop.  It was a big dog he thought as he raised his head.  The squad was struck from behind hard.  The news van following them close didn’t see them stop because of the dust from the road in the night and all the lights of the squad car.  The other van avoided impact with any other vehicles as the driver swerved and avoided them, he however was unable to avoid a tree when he tried to dodge other dogs.

 

Milton took in the scene around him better.  Wolves, very large and angry wolves surrounded them  on all sides. 

 

Linda started unlocking the shotgun from the rack inside the squad.

 

Milton looked over at her.  “I don’t know what you’re planning on doing with that.  Keep the doors locked and the windows up.  Unless you’re planning on getting out of this car, you don’t need that, and I wouldn’t advise getting out.”  He said ending with a snide edge.

 

It was the largest pack of wolves he had ever seen.  Before he left the enforcement division of the DNR to become a deputy he had been involved with repopulation of a federal preserve where they released wolves back into the forest.  He had seen most of the wolves before and when they were released, seen them many times as he protected them from poachers.  But these wolves, they were much larger, smarter. 

 

“What are we going to do?  Should I radio for animal control?”  Linda asked him in a scared voice.

 

The wolves weren’t moving away at all, they were staying near the vehicles.  He looked towards the vans behind and to the side.  Everyone was staying inside.  Good.

 

“Nope.  I’ll tell you what we’re going to do, we’re going to sit here till they leave, then we are going to radio in that there was an accident and wait for the tow truck to get here.”  He said looking out the front window at a wolf standing on the hood facing him and growling.

 

When he finished telling Linda his plans the wolf stopped growling, licked its chops and jumped from the hood.

 

-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-

 

Bait blinked several times as what he heard worked through his mind.  “Thirty wolves, and they stopped the deputies and the news vans?”  He said looking at Squat again.

 

Squat moved his eyebrows as he considered what Bait said.  “Well, we cut a few of the deputies off, stopping all of them would have been hard.  We were mainly aiming for the news crews.  Cops we can keep quiet, news crews, not without a shovel and some lime.”  He chuckled at his attempt of humor when he finished.

 

Bait closed his eyes and shook his head.  He looked back to Squat.  “Well, it seems to have worked fairly well.  Sounds like there will be no further news coverage.”

 

His attention was drawn to the road that crossed the drive again, lights were clearly visible now and the sound of Twitch yelling at the horses and the cracking of a whip.  They were moments away, he turned around.  To his relief Steve Rheineer and his team were emerging from the den house and running towards him. 

 

The stagecoach came into sight as Steve and his people joined them on the front yard.  It was traveling fast, Bait had no idea how it made the corner into the den yard.  Twitch turned into the yard, the horses took out part of the fence and mailbox on the approach of the drive with the coach itself sliding and clipping the fence on the other side sending parts flying into the air.  Three pursuit vehicles were behind.

 

Twitch pulled back on the reigns and yelled out his command word for the horses to stop.  They locked their legs and skidded bringing the stagecoach to rest some twenty feet from the door.  Smoke and a short flame jetted from their nostrils.  Steve’s men closed in on the driveway entrance, the sheriff’s cruisers stopped, hitting a few of the men as they did.

 

From the first car came the Sheriff himself.  Steve was striding towards him.  When he was close enough he held out his ID and started to identify himself.  The man smacked the ID from his hand knocking it to the ground.  An automatic pistol appeared after a sudden movement from Agent Rheineer, it was on the Sheriff’s forehead. 

 

“Man tries to show you his identification Sheriff and you knock it out of his hand, quick way to make a bad situation worse.  I’m field director Steven Rheineer of the CIA.”  He glanced down at his ID.  “Now pick that up, read it and hand it back.”  He said and took a step back so the man could do so.

 

The other deputies had taken position behind open door of their squads, shotguns out.  Steve was arguing with the Sheriff about the incident when Bait walked up to them, Sea Mist at his hip.

 

“…you think I’m just going to walk away from this because you flash some CIA bullshit badge, I’m not.”

 

“Report it, everything, all of it Sheriff, be my guest.”  Bait said.

 

“And just who in the hell are you?  Another G-man come to back your buddy up?”  The Sheriff said in an angry voice at Bait.

 

Twitch climbed down from the stagecoach and was standing by the drivers side watching the goings on at the end of the driveway.

 

Bait looked down his front then to Steve.  “You know, I’m going to have to see if Sebastian can set me up with his tailor.  He really does have nice suits.”  He said.  Steve nodded in agreement.  Bait’s head shot back to the Sheriff.  “You’ll want to get all the information correct.  Probably want some proof.”

 

He turned and looked towards Twitch and pointed then looked back at the Sheriff.  “Now that man right there, why that’s none other than William Cody, Buffalo Bill as some call him, and next to him, that’s Calamity Jane.  Not sure but I think I might have seen Elliot Ness lurking around here someplace.”  He said to the Sheriff’s displeased face.

 

“We’ve got Elvis Presley too.”  Sea Mist said calmly, but was she serious or trying to make a play in the mess.

 

Three,

Two,

One.

She didn’t laugh.

 

Bait looked back at the Sheriff.  “And we have Elvis too, he’s alive and apparently a werewolf.”  He nodded his head with an expression of fact.  “Report that, all of it.  I’m sure it’ll do your career and election wonders.”  Bait finished and turned from the man and started walking away.

 

“What usually happens to local law that sticks its nose in CIA business anyways?”  Sea Mist asked looking up at him as she walked with him.

 

Bait shot a look over his shoulder at the Sheriff watching him.  Steve had returned his pistol.  “Well, usually in a situation like this, they get a free trip to south America and learn to drool down their shirts.  The frontal lobotomy helps with that nicely.”  He looked forward and walked on a few steps then looked at Sea Mist again.

 

He stopped.  “Why don’t you make sure he believes us.  Would you do that for me please oh sister of mine?”  He asked in a playful manner.

 

Sea smiled large.  “Sure thing bro.”  She said and turned around walking towards the Sheriff.

 

A few feet from him, she became what was inside her.  The blast of a shotgun rang out in the night.  Sea Mist flinched, her hand in a clenched fist in the direction the shot had come from.  She looked down into the terrified face of the Sheriff, brought her hand in front of him and opened it.  The B-Bs from the shotgun fell from her hand.  His eyes widened more.  Sea Mist stepped onto the roof of the Sheriff’s cruiser and over.  She raised a paw and slammed her claws into the trunk lid near the back and ripped it from the car then stuffed it into the vehicle through the back window, bending the trunk lid to fit.

 

The short stature of Sea Mist came from the back of the car, she had a plastic bag of candy in her hand.  She walked to where the Sheriff was and put the bag in his hands as he gaped at her.

 

“I’d say, cut out your candy habit and you might loose a few pounds sport.”  She said then poked him in the belly and walked to where Bait stood near Twitch, Baby and the stagecoach.

 

Steve Rheineer was smiling a few feet from the Sheriff, his hands clasped in front of him.  “Goodbye Sheriff.  Best of luck on your report.”  He said then walked over to join Bait and Sea Mist with Twitch and Baby.

 

“That man was shooting at my deputies, that I can report.”  The Sheriff said in a hard voice trying to make some kind of a stand.

 

Bait looked to the man.  He recognized that look on his face, it was the same look Sheriff Hanks had worn when he was removed from Bait’s house.  It seemed like years ago now instead of months. 

 

“And did he hit any?”  Bait said bluntly.

 

“No.”  Came his answer.

 

“You are in the land of make believe, are you sure those guns weren’t movie props?”  He replied.

 

The Sheriff looked the crowd over, his deputies were already in their cruisers waiting to exit this place.  They’d seen enough. 

 

“Right.”  The Sheriff said then went to his cruiser, looked inside then gave those looking at him a pissed look.  He climbed in his car and started it.  The cars behind and beside him backed up onto the road, leaving enough room for the Sheriff to back out, they let him take the lead as he blasted off, the second car did the same.  The last car had backed up more than needed and started off slow, then turned back into the drive and pulled up close to the stagecoach.  Steve started forward, Bait stopped him with a hand signal.

 

The door of the squad car opened and a young and nervous deputy climbed out.  He hesitantly made his way to them, looking at Sea Mist when he arrived.  His eyes said he was sorry he shot at her.  His face said this was something personal that the Sheriff didn’t need to know about.

 

“Welcome to Clan Squat.  How can I help you?”  Bait said to the man who smiled nervously and looked around a bit unsure of how to begin.

 

The young man stammered a bit and wrung his hands.  Trying to get a grip on himself he stopped any movement and inhaled deep then released his breath slowly trying to build determination as he did.  “I, ah.  Look, I’m not crazy…”  He began.

 

“Then you’ve come to the wrong place because, mamma, we all crazy now.”  Bait said snippy/comically.

 

The deputy looked at him with a worried look, he was considering if he had made a mistake.  The thought of leaving now while he still could was in his mind now.  His foot about to move back and begin the turn away.  He just needed to come up with something to say to excuse his being there.

 

“Kid, you’ve just chased a stagecoach with horses snorting fire, met Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane and seen a real were-chick.  What could you possibly say that would sound crazy to this crowd.”  Bait said steadying the man’s feet.

 

“Don’t forget Ezekiel.”  Sea Mist piped in.

 

Bait’s head turned towards her as the deputy watched with a ‘are these people completely nuts’ look of wonderment. 

 

“Ezekiel?”  Bait questioned her not being familiar with the name or the person owning it.

 

“Sorry, Elvis?”  She presented to him.

 

“Oh, no problem.”  Bait looked back to the deputy.  “Yeah, we got Elvis too I’m told by a reliable source.”  He placed his hands on his hips and waited.

 

The deputy looked at Sea Mist, held the look for a half second then looked to Bait, held for half a second then looked at Snow.  His eyes went back to Bait then to Sea Mist.  Bait picked up a barely noticeable twitch at the last sixty-fourth inch of his mouth.  It would have been a smile.  His mind worked how it would form on his face, what would it say.  Bait quickly looked at Sea Mist.

 

“He likes you!”  He switched to a silly falsetto voice.  “He thinks yous cute.”  He went on and tapped the end of her nose with his index finger.

 

“Is he loco?”  The deputy asked Snow while pointing a finger at Bait.  “You’re not all like… escaped mental patients are you?”  He further asked as his arm dropped and he looked at the people around the yard. 

 

Bait looked at Snow, and she at him. 

 

“Escaped?”  Bait said.  Snow shook her head in a short motion and made a negative response sound.

 

Bait looked back at the deputy.  “No, we haven't escaped.”

 

The deputy and Bait stood and looked at each other for several moments.

 

Twitch’s voice cut in.  “Pardon me, but if we could just kick Binky here down the road, I’ve got something more important.”

 

Bait looked back and held a palm out at him.  He dropped his arm and looked back at the deputy.  “Alright, let’s hear what you have to say.”  He said in his agent voice.

 

The deputy’s eyes moved around those gathered once more, then he focused on Bait and spoke directly to him.  Taking a deep breath, he began his tale.  “This started a little over a month ago.  My little sister.”  He began wringing his hands again. 

 

“She called me, said some weird shit, stuff, sorry, was going on with some of her friends, they had also stopped going to classes.  Some only showed up to night classes and usually left shortly after getting there.  They’d start talking with people and leave.  Some of her friends she never saw again after a couple parties.  She claims she saw…” 

 

He stopped.  His eyes were scared.  His perspective had been changed.  What had been crazy talk was now within his realm of possibilities.  “… she said one of her friends bit another person on the neck… she said he killed him by sucking out his blood.  She said… I can’t believe I’m saying this, she says her friends are vampires.  She’s afraid they’re coming for her soon.  People around where she lives have been disappearing.  Someone goes missing, then their family.” 

 

The deputy’s chest shuddered as he inhaled to continue.  “Three blocks from her, a girl her daughter goes to school with, a year older, fifteen, disappeared and turned up a week later one night, just showed up at home.  Two days later that family was murdered, except for the daughter, no one knows what happened with her.  Her body wasn’t found at the house.  No one has seen her since.  It’s being handled as a murder and kidnapping.  The Sheriff’s Department thinks the girl was abducted and escaped then her abductor came after her and killed her family to get to her.”

 

The deputy’s eyes were locked hard with Bait’s.  “I don’t think it happened like that at all.”  He ended.

 

Bait broke the man's stare and looked to the ground as he thought.  This didn’t sound good.  The breeze changed direction.  “When was the last time you heard from her?”  He asked as he thought.

 

Snow started sniffing the air, others soon followed.

 

“This morning, well, yesterday morning now, just before dawn she called.  Told me not to worry, said she over reacted…”  The deputy answered.

 

Bait naturally had noticed his were-friends sniffing.  A scent caught his attention, he was sniffing now also.  This distracted the deputy.  His look of wondering if he had made a wise choice returned.

 

“WORM!”  Snow bellowed out over her shoulder back towards the house.

 

The blonde girl popped into their presence about ten feet away, a blade of grass sticking from her guilty smiling mouth.  She walked up to Snow and looked up at her still smiling.  Snow reached and removed the grass from her mouth for her.  Bait rolled his eyes and groaned.

 

“I was a grasshopper.”  She said matter-of-factly. 

 

Then she turned and stepped directly in front of the deputy and stuck out her hand.  “The picture, show me the picture.”  She chirped at him.

 

The others watched, curiosity gripped them.  The deputy had an expression of a mix of suspicious and confused with just a dash if surprised.  Glancing at Worm he looked to his shirt pocket and fidgeted with the button, his fingers slipping from it several times as he undid it.  He pulled a small photo print from it, the back was towards them.

 

“I started carrying her picture with me after the first time she called, I… I was worried for her.  I…”  He stammered then handed the picture to Worm looking intently at him, her mouth curved down in a demanding look.

 

“Huh, she stopped smiling.”  Bait muttered to himself.  “Didn’t think that was possible.”  Snow elbowed him and gave him a look.

 

Worm looked at the picture, her eyes danced over every pixel of it.  She started breathing faster as she looked.  With the fingers of her other hand, she touched the photo.  Her eyes changed.  Worm held the picture back to the deputy.

 

“I’m sorry Jerrold.  Your sister has been bitten, tonight.  Seven days.  That is the time you have before she is lost to you forever.  But there is more Jerrold.  In nine days you will die trying to save her.  It would be best if she were to kiss the rising sun this morn.”  Worm said to the deputy who took the picture back from her.

 

All eyes were on Worm.  Once the deputy put the picture back, she turned and started walking back to the den house without being told to.

 

Bait leaned over to Snow.

 

“That kid just got really creepy.”  He whispered to her.

 

“No kidding.”  She whispered back in agreement.

 

It was at that point Worm’s rhythmic calling voice caused the two of them to look back at her.  She was still walking towards the house, her right arm held up.  She was holding her index finger out and bent it up and down repeatedly reciting ‘redrum, redrum, redrum…’.

 

Snow and Bait looked at each other then back to the deputy’s stunned face.

 

“So… what do I do?  Can she be saved?”  The deputy asked in a lost voice.

 

Bait’s head dropped slightly as he thought.  The solution, or the cure as it were, Worm had merely spoken the obvious.  ‘Kiss the rising sun’, face the sunrise and be judged, no, and choose.  Anyone turned to a vampire would have been effectively lied too. 

 

Not telling everything is as much a lie as fabricating facts. 

 

That was their trick, vampires only told of the good things, from a certain point of view.  True, werewolves played their own games with words and how they presented information or answered questions, but their answers were always true, and if pressed for an answer, the option of creating an untruth to cover was not available to them. 

 

These word shuffles were only to keep the speaker telling as little information as possible while answering the question asked of them.  There was no intent of deception.  Quite typically the person slipping out from a direct answer, was doing so to be nice or polite. 

 

When werewolves made a deal though, their words were clear and concise.

 

Vampires on the other side of the coin, they survived and thrived on the essence of the ‘raw deal’ that never quite lived up too what the description of the bag of goodies the victim would receive was.  Outright lies were not part of their deals either. 

 

The rules said they couldn’t lie their way into a willing contract of a human soul.  So they left out negative details and lied in their opinions of life as a vampire.  Immortality and the ability to control others.  Money.  These things were always the main focal points vampires talked about when making their deals.  Add to that the prominent display of fancy watches, rings, designer clothes and high end cars, was an easy hook to catch the young with.  Even easier with the middle aged broke and desperate. 

 

Cruising a neighborhood and systematically taking people, this was a different tactic.  Some fresh thinking was at play here.  Move into an area and make a foothold.  Then take everyone.  If they refused, they were food.

 

Bait looked over at Twitch.  The cause of his antics was of greater interest to him, but he had his duty to perform ahead of personal interests.  Twitch was pacing, he seemed almost angry.  His duty now demanded he take his action and see to Twitch.

 

Bait looked up and around until he saw Steve.  “Agent Rheineer, take two of your men… Squat, four of your squads go with them.  Go with the deputy here, have him call his sister and set up a meeting.  From there I want you to capture her and bring her here.”

 

“That would kill her Colonel.”  Squat interjected bluntly. 

 

He shook his head at him.  “This isn't hallowed ground,” he looked back over his shoulder, “is it Twitch.”

 

“No sir.”  Came his cold answer.

 

He looked back to Squat and Steve.  “Grab her, bring her here and chuck her someplace until fifteen minutes before sunrise.  Then plant her ass kneeling right next to Shyhon.  Let them both kiss the morning sun together.  And when I say right next to her, I mean right next to her, I want their shoulders touching!”  He barked at the end.

 

“Yes sir!”  Came the unison response. 

 

Steve and Squat trotted towards the house to comply.

 

“Deputy, just up the road here a piece,”  Bait began pointing off the direction he had driven early that morning, “there’s an old one room school, know it?”  He asked.

 

The deputy nodded.  “Yeah, the old Harper School, I know it.”

 

“Good.”  Bait said with a nod.  “I want you to get in your car and go straight there, my people will meet you there.  Do not get out of the car and look around, stay right in that car until you see Agent Rheineer.  Got it?”  He said intently.

 

The deputy nodded then turned towards his car and did as he was asked.  Or was that an order?

 

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The deputy was gone, Steve and his men would be leaving in a moment from the tactical garage that exited into the dotted woods across the road from the house.  Most of the command team was in the yard now, along with a few spectators for general purpose.  Should they be needed…

 

Snow took her final step to place herself in line with her mate on his left as he faced Twitch.  He was antsy, couldn’t remain still.  There was another scent in the air, Snow could tell Bait could smell it too.  A human that paid attention to his nose. 

 

But Twitch himself was… off.  She didn’t know exactly what about him and the situation was amiss, it was off, but it was right.  Snow was confused by what she was sensing from the world around her, the living in it, Twitch.  Something about his actions she was missing, but her mate was tuned into it.  On the beam as Sea Mist would say.  The faces of those around told of anticipation.  For what?  Why couldn’t she see what they were seeing in this moment?

 

“Ah… your Grace, my Colonel sir, I, I ah…” Twitch’s eyes rolled around upward, he was chasing thoughts, trying to push through himself and say what he wanted, not what madness made him say. 

 

“I accept your request for judgment… Twitch.  Speak your piece.  Start with the charges you’ve brought, claimed against yourself.”  Bait said.

 

A judgment, that’s what this was.  That was what she missed in Twitch, that was the look.  Had she had a mirror at her own trial, her face then, would be the same one Twitch was wearing now. 

 

Twitch calmed, his eyes steadied and his body and limbs stopped their random movements.  The glazed look left him.  Her mate had caused something when he called the judgment to a start.  Madness, there was always a cause for this.  For were-kind, when you stand for inquisition, you will have a clear mind.  Thems the rules.

 

Twitch stood straight with his eyes focused into Bait’s eyes.  “Your Grace, Lord Bait, Inquisitor of House Trust, I give myself for your judgment.”  He said loud and clear.

 

Not a sound came from anyone.

 

The stagecoach squeaked as Baby climbed down from where she sat this entire time.  Ducking under the slats and tack that linked the horses to the coach she came around to the side the judgment was being held on.

 

She stood straight beside Twitch.

 

“I’ll be standing with him governor.  The judgment you pass on my lover here, the same you pass on myself as well.  I have always been, forever at his side.”  Baby said with her chin up and in a clear voice of commitment. 

 

Twitch gave Baby a look accompanied with a smile.  He moved his hands in front of him and kept them there.

 

“Of course.”  Bait said to Baby with a nod.

 

He returned to Twitch.

 

“Cody, state the charge you claim against yourself.”  Bait said.

 

His voice.  It was Bait’s, it was the way he spoke that was catching in Snow’s mind.  She had heard that voice manner before.  Night Harvest, he spoke just like him now.

 

“The charge I claim is that of wrongful turning against freewill.”  Twitch said loudly with a voice that said he would challenge anyone who called him a liar.  “But this charge I bring before you, against myself it is not.  Imposed on me by another.” 

 

“And who is that other.”

“Self imposed magistrate of the Americas, Lord Clay in the line of House Hyden.”

 

Self imposed magistrate.  It seemed Clay held a high opinion of himself.  Though he would not have people referring to him as the self imposed magistrate, Cody who became Twitch spoke only the truth of his belief.  How he understood the law and them rules.

 

Clay had imposed a sentence on Cody.  Cody’s soul, his person fractured because of this.  He believed he had done no wrong and had acted in accordance with the Light and the laws by design they had to follow.  For a were-person, being called guilty of such an act was a devastating event. 

 

Cody’s mind broke, he became Twitch, and Calamity went with him becoming Baby-Go-Boom.  Neither acting as who they had been since this happened.  They had to live their lives as completely different people with broken and scattered memories of who they  once were.

 

“And what evidence of this act do you present?”  Bait asked.

 

Snow felt a change in the air.  The breeze had picked up, it was a steady stream of air now.  She felt light headed, her ears ringed.  She felt cold spots on her body.  The marks, the pigments she hid were moving, making their marks on her flesh beneath the clothes she wore.  Her eyes went to the door on the stagecoach.

 

Twitch’s hand was on the handle and moving it.  The door opened.

 

“I’d do it again sir, I would.  I have no regrets for doing it!  They sent me away, told me to leave, not to interfere any further.  But I had to go back, I had to.  It wasn’t right to leave her like that.  There was no choice!”  Twitch blubbered ending in tears.

 

“I find no fault in you.”  Bait’s voice was a whisper when he spoke.

 

That face, that beautiful face.  She stepped down from the coach, Cody helped her with his hand.  She stepped past him and stopped in front of Bait with a gentle smile.

 

“Lisa.”  The faint whisper that came from him said.

 

Snow stared at Lisa, her face bright with amazement.

 

“Lisa!”  Bait yelled and took his daughter in his arms.  “Lisa.”  He said softly.

 

Snow looked at Twitch, he had a hand on his knee kicked out.

 

“How?  She was…”  Snow said feeling lost.

 

She was there that night, she never saw Twitch.  Duncan was there.  She had saved his life then.  She had looked at Lisa on the floor.  Her mother had drained her and fled when confronted.  Snow had gone after her.  The human authorities didn’t get to the apartment until almost noon the next day.  Her body would have dissipated with the rising sun through the broken windows.

 

Twitch was shaking his head and giving her a smile that reminded her of Sam Elliot.  Father and daughter were looking at each other, savoring the moment they were reunited.

 

“Duncan here interrupted the feeding.  That wife of his then didn’t quite finish the job.  Clay ordered me to leave, told me I wasn’t to interfere with Duncan and his wife.  So I left.  I was outside the building, on the side of it near the top getting ready to jump to the next building when I picked up the scent of another werewolf.  Well, I added things up and went back to see what was going on.  Figured I’d report what I saw to Clay.”

 

Twitch adjusted his stance, looked at Lisa and Bait together then continued.

 

“I saw pretty much everything that went on.  He was out, you were gone chasing after vampira.  You might say I secured the scene after you left.  Lisa here, she had life in her, enough to survive.  She wasn’t of age yet, she was bitten.  Left like that she’d a become a half-light.  Dark creatures caught between worlds.  Until her time of age came, then she’d have to choose.  I couldn’t let that happen to her.  I took her to a field, not far from here.  I knelt her down facing the morning sun.  I had to use two sticks to get her to stay upright.”

 

Lisa took over speaking.  “After the sun had cleansed me, I asked, begged Cody to turn me, I wanted to fight against what had taken my mother from me.”

 

Twitch nodded.  “Alexander would know, he’d know your daughter lived.  He’d hunt her down, she wouldn’t be safe anywhere she went now.”  He ended making a grim face.

 

Bait nodded.  Lisa’s eyes had been opened to an entirely different world.  Just like him, she couldn’t stand idly by and watch it be destroyed. 

 

He put his hand on Twitch’s shoulder.  “Welcome home Cody.”  He said then looked at Baby.  “Welcome home to you too, little miss Calamity.”

 

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Hovlek, who had stood near the back by the den house, started ushering everyone away, telling them to ‘go back to party, give some room okay’ as he moved them along.

 

Her mate and Lisa went to the chairs out in the lawn and sat while Snow went into the den and down towards the medical deck.  The place never had a full hospital, even now they were short on equipment and space.  Snow ducked into all the little cubicles and looked quick.  After she checked the entire deck she stopped in the middle of a pathway with her hands on her hips and looked around with a scolding look.

 

“Of course he wouldn’t be here, he’d be at the party like everyone else, no ones sick.  That’ll be tomorrow.”  She said to the empty space around her chastising herself for being there.

 

She marched from the medical deck up to where the bash was and started asking around for her missing doctor.  Worm was making her rounds again with a dim-bi-tri cart dispensing food and drink.  Despite her claim of hatred for kitchen duty, which Snow suspected was more than true, serving didn’t seem to fall into the same category as the other duties she was called upon for in the description of ‘kitchen duty’.

 

“Worm, have you seen Doctor River Stone anywhere?”  Snow asked hurriedly.

 

The girl nodded fast and stepped away from the cart then reached to Snow’s waist and plucked her radio from where she wore it.  She immediately began tapping at the display on it.  Then with her eternal smile handed it facing Snow.

 

“Follow the blinky, it’ll lead you to him wherever he goes.”  She said politely.

 

Snow raised her head and looked off dumbly with a ‘dumb ass’ expression towards herself.  She never would have thought of pulling up River Stone’s radio tracker.  Simple solution to a simple problem.  Schooled by a twelve year old.

 

She looked back at Worm.  “Thanks.”  She said.

 

Worm went back to her cart and Snow followed the ‘blinky’ to River Stone.

 

He was clearly as intoxicated as his werewolf metabolism would allow him to be.  He was sitting at a table playing chess with one of the workers from the den.  He appeared to be winning, which was to be expected.  River Stone never lost at chess.  He claimed the skill came from his Russian heritage. 

 

His skills were legendary.  Tales of challengers waiting until a time of frolic when the good doctor would be a little less on his game abound.  He would purposefully become as intoxicated as he could.  Then play chess.  He said it was his way of giving the rubes a fighting chance.

 

Snow watched for a bit.  River Stone was currently drinking wine from the bottle and smoking a bong in an attempt to become as mulled as possible.  His contender moved, taking a knight.  River Stone didn’t pause to think and moved his next piece.  Snow’s head pulled back and her eyebrows furrowed down as she looked at his move.  An odd decision at best, not the move she would have made.  But he had never lost, maybe this would be his fall.

 

The challenger didn’t take long to move.  He looked at what the doctor had done, shook his head with a snort and made his move.  He took another piece.  Back and forth for several moves, River Stone had lost a piece every move, and taken none.

 

River Stone’s challenger smiled, he had the scent of victory in his nose, and from what she saw, in two moves would win.  He moved his piece.  Snow’s eyes flicked over the game and the position of the pieces.  She smiled.

 

“Check.”  The challenger said with a grin.

 

River Stone had a smug grin.  So did Snow.

 

With an elegant hand movement, River Stone daintily picked up a pawn and moved it, blocking the move putting him in check and taking a piece.

 

“Check and mate.  You have been weighed, you have been measured, you have been found lacking.”  River Stone started waving the back of his hand at the man.  “Come back when you are able to present a challenge to me.  Now be gone!” 

 

The man bowed his head in defeat and slinked away with his head low.

 

“Clan Ven-Hide, their best at chess.  Scant more than a snack.”  River Stone said to Snow with a disgusted voice as he watched his victim leave.

 

He began arranging the pieces on the board again for the next game that was sure to come.

 

“You have an interesting approach.”  Snow said as the doctor looked to her.  “I need you to cleanse yourself, I need to talk to you.”  She ordered.

 

River Stone leaned back some and considered Snow, his look was coy, slippery.

 

“I have worked to become this wrecked.  I would like to know what it is you feel you need me sober for that I can't answer stoned.  Tell me what it is you want to know girl, I may be able to help you right here without so much formality.”  He spoke easily and with a light tone.

 

Snow sighed.  “This is rather personal.”  She said giving him a hard look.

 

River Stone looked around.  There was no one right near them, and the people closest to them were otherwise occupied.  He held his hands up and looked to Snow.

 

“Do you actually think anyone is going to hear, care or remember anything you say?  This is as private as any place in the den.  Only a few care to challenge me, and no one cares to watch a boring chess game at a bash like this.  Speak.  I will listen and tell you what I can.  I’ll try to be confusing and indiscreet.”  River Stone said to her.

 

She looked around.  He was being an ass, but he was right.  And being an ass was what he did best.  She had called him out on his attitude once some years back.  She had rather bluntly asked why he seemed to try and piss people off.  People remember things that irritate them better than things that please them.  It’s my goal to never be forgotten.’ Was his response.

 

He held a hand out to the empty seat across from him.  Snow sighed and went to sit. 

 

“Riddle me your questions commander.  I’ll ridicule you back with my answers.”  If anything, he was honest.

 

River Stone moved a pawn.  Snow followed.

 

“It’s about Bait, are there any side effects from what you did to him that might cause him… … to act… different?”  She asked, she had an expression that said she didn’t like how what she said sounded, or her thoughts.

 

River Stone was looking at the board after Snow’s last move, considering with an index finger crooked under his nose, 

 

“Different?  How?”  He asked as he surveyed the game.  “And in answer to your question, no, nothing I did would change a thing about Bait.  Everything is clear from his system now, the membrane doesn’t last long in human blood.”  He answered then took his turn. 

 

They exchanged a few turns in silence as Snow thought about what she would say next.  “He’s acting… I don’t know how to say it, he’s acting like he believes the legend of the new foundation.”  She started.

 

River Stone made a hmm sound and rocked his head off to one side and back.  “Many are ‘acting’ like they believe the legend, and acting so because they do.” 

 

“It’s more than that.  He’s taken it to action, giving orders and making judgments on people like he is the Inquisitor and he keeps trying to get me to believe I’m the Trustee.  I thought for sure Lord Leyland or Night Harvest would have words with him and slow him down, if they did, he isn’t listening.”  Snow said in a lost and concerned voice as she moved her queen.

 

River Stone looked up from the game and looked Snow in the eyes.

 

“Duncan, when he took the name Bait, did so because he chose to accept the duty offered to him.  You have miss-seen and interpreted his actions poorly.  He is not wrestling with whether or not he is the Inquisitor, he wrestles with being the Inquisitor.  You, my dear girl, are still stuck back on step one, you won’t choose, you refuse to believe what you see, you are not the Trustee.  Because you haven’t chosen to be.  You still struggle with if it is being offered and hide from the evidence around you.”  River Stone looked back to the game and moved.

 

Snow looked at him with cold eyes and a hurt face.  She reached slowly for her next piece keeping her eyes locked on him.  Her eyes flicked down as she placed her rook down then returned to River Stone then she stood.

 

“Checkmate.”  She said with an empty voice, then turned and walked away leaving River Stone to stare at the board.

 

“Before you go…”  River Stone’s voice was clear.  It caused Snow to freeze in her tracks.

 

It took several moments but she finally turned then painfully took the few steps back to River Stone.

 

Her eyes met his.  Goosebumps rose on her arms.

 

“There is something changed about Duncan, why he had to become Bait.  But it’s nothing I have done to him.  Rather what you have done to him.  You’ve brought a human to live with were-kind.  He breaths our air, eats our food, smells our scents.  Also, I assume he has sampled your scent close up and been flooded by it.  Our scents, our hormones, everything in our scent has permeated his body.  When we exhale, some of us is in the air we discharge.  Others, like Bait, breathe in.  When in confined space and in constant contact with were-kind, there is an effect on humans, always has been.”  River Stone’s face changed.

 

He looked at her like a sniper focusing in on a target a mile away.

 

“He cannot lie, he cannot disobey.  He must protect humankind.  The moment he accepted our law as his own, he set aside his freewill.  He may not be one of us, but he is, one of us.”  River Stone looked back to the chessboard and began setting the pieces up.

 

Snow was fully immersed in what she had heard.  With a dazed look she slowly turned around and started to leave again.

 

“It would take the mind of a great leader to beat me.”  River Stone said in a factual voice.

 

Snow hesitated a moment but didn’t turn or fully stop.

 

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“You know, there’s one hell of a party going on down…” Bait pointed back to the house with a thumb, “in there.  What say we go on down and take a look around?”  He said to Lisa.

 

Once down in the den, they eventually made their way back to his perch.  Hovlek came up to them just as they were sitting down with a mug of beer in each hand.  Bait looked over, the one Sheriff Hanks had brought him sat forgotten on the bar.  Hovlek handed the mugs to them as they sat, ‘drink, good beer from sister of Hovlek’ was all he said then quickly tromped back down the stairs. 

 

Lisa and Bait were left to their own.  They talked more.  Twitch had been her family, she lived in a den he provided.  He also saw to her education, bringing her books and weapons he acquired from other dens.  Though his teaching lacked any formality, it was apparent he had quite adequately filled her head with knowledge. 

 

He had also seen to her combat skills as well as her mental growth.  Anything she had an interest in, Twitch provided materials to learn from.  This was her first time in an actual werewolf den.  Her first time really around others of her kind outside of Twitch.

 

There was a disturbance from the crowd below.  The band stopped playing and someone was coming from the crowd to the stage.  Night Harvest, he walked to the front center of the stage and held his hands up to get everyone’s attention.  The audience quickly quieted.

 

“Among you one mated has lived and worked, among us they are right now.”  Night Harvest said into the old style microphone that centered on the stage for speaking to the audience. 

 

“Never giving thought to their own comfort or gain.  Always willing to cast themselves aside for those in need.  Thuobfen and Noniena please.”  The Grand Inquisitor said in a stately voice.

 

All eyes were on Sebastian.  Many taking in the recent discovery of who the friend ‘Sebastian’ was to them was the same Night Harvest they feared.  He had dropped his anonymity when he arrived with the others.  For the lives of those here now, he would never be able to hide behind the face of Sebastian and the hood of Night Harvest again.  He had never lied to his people, he had only allowed their own perspective to play its part.  To those that knew Sebastian, Night Harvest seemed less ominous.

 

Thuobfen and Noniena had made their way to the stage and were standing off to Sebastian’s right, he held out his left hand towards the stage floor next to him and motioned for them to come to his left.  The humbly smiling pair walked to his side and faced the crowd.

 

When Sebastian turned to face them, the mates followed his lead.  Sebastian smiled, Bait watched intently, like himself, Sebastian didn’t do things without a reason.  This was one of his mentor’s ‘teaching moments’.

 

“You two have been selfless all your lives.  Never having a place to truly call home, always a vagabond at the dens you have served well.  Noniena, whenever you would hear of a den in need, be they of a named lineage or a common line, you have always said to Thuobfen ‘they need us, we should go and help’.”  He said to her gently.  “And you Thuobfen, ever understanding of your mates compassion for others, always willing to forgo your desires, seeing the good of Noniena’s heart.”  Sebastian looked to the crowd watching.

 

“Ones actions define who they are.  These before you now have lived demonstrating this.  Noble acts are deserving of noble deeds.”  He looked back to Thuobfen and Noniena.  “Take a knee.”  He said with pride.

 

With a glance at each other Thuobfen and his mate knelt in front of the Grand Inquisitor. 

 

“As is the authority of my position, and without objection from my counterparts…”  Sebastian held his head up and listened around the room.  His face said he heard no objections, “Thuobfen and Noniena of Clan Squat,” he placed a hand on top of each of their heads, “I Grand Inquisitor Night Harvest, grant you title and place in Clan Squat.”  A shrill squeal came from someone in the audience.

 

There was a small commotion a short bit back in the crowd.  Bait kicked in his contacts and zoomed in to see.  Worm was laying face down on the stone that made the floor, she had apparently fainted.

 

“I object!”  Came a loud boisterous voice from within the crowd.  Lord Leyland barged forward through the mass of people to the side of the sage and up the short stairs then to center stage where Sebastian stared at him with Thuobfen and Noniena.  Sebastian’s face held a glimmer of anger.

 

“Lord Leyland.”  Night Harvest said to him with a small bow.

 

“Clan Squat, to that I object, not to your title and place within it.”  Lord Leyland said gruffly looking at the faces of the mated pair with looks of worry on them. 

 

“If some here do not know, then now you will.  Clan Frost is officially listed as fallen - abandoned.  This leaves Clan of the Moors without a foundation here in this new world.  Though because of their dishonorable title, they could not become a house, but that is not true of Clan Squat.”  Lord Leyland chuckled and gave a sideways look to Sebastian.

 

Squat stepped from the audience to the front of the stage bellow on the floor looking up.  His eyes went to Sebastian.  He saw him differently now, knowing his true position among them. 

 

“Ah, boy, yes Squat.  You did your father an honor.  And I return that honor to you ten fold, Clan Squat shall stand no more, in it’s stead, House Squat, Clan of the Moors.”  His eyes rested on Squat.  “Now go boy, find Lord Floyd before he leaves, whenever that might be, he will help you with the change to a House.”  He looked at Sebastian again.  “I am finished now old friend.  Back to your moment.  Teach him well.”  He said then lumbered off to the stairs and melded into the crowd.

 

Sebastian looked back to the crowd before him.  “I give you, House Squat’s first new Lord and Lady, Lord Thuobfen and Lady Noniena!”  He yelled loud throwing his arms into the air as he did, dusting off the showman deep within himself.

 

The crowd erupted into hoots, hollers and a mix of other jubilant noises.  Sebastian looked directly at Bait and locked eyes with him, his face stoic.  Then he snapped a turn and walked from the stage. 

 

Thuobfen and Noniena were taken from the stage by the crowd that closed in on the front of the stage and reached up to them; they were ‘crowd surfed’ around the room for a few minutes then allowed to walk on their own.

 

House Squat, of Clan of the Moors.  Though all three immortals governed their people, each was responsible for different duties.  Lord Leyland as Grand Master of Clans, was the head of their government.  He was their law.  House Squat, this put Lord Squat slightly up the pecking order from Clan Clay on two levels, one being that of House status, the second being heralded from the Master of Clans clan. 

 

He was now officially a branch of werewolf government and law.  His House would serve Lord Leyland and the Trustee.  The first House in the Americas.  The winds had changed again.  Lord Clay would not receive this news well.  It was sure to be tickling his ears now, the broadcast was still live with a central camera aimed at stage, and the presence of two of the three highest leaders on that stage, would draw attention.

 

Bait stood and straightened his clothes with brushes of his hands and looked forward down the stairs to the stage.  It was empty now, people would begin taking to it soon.  He started down the stairs as his daughter watched.

 

The bash attendees had begun returning to merriment making as he walked on stage, this abruptly changed to attention returning to the stage.  Bait took to center stage at the microphone.

 

All sound stopped.

 

“Congratulations, Lord Squat, Thuobfen and Noniena.”  Bait waited while the crowd applauded.  He resumed as the last claps and barks ended.  “Hovlek, if you would please, climb or crawl from wherever you are.”  Bait said with a laugh, his own showman coming out now. 

 

Hovlek pushed his way through the crowd onto the stage.  He grunted as he arrived to where Bait was.  “Hovlek here, Hovlek not like what Hovlek thinks Hovlek thinks Bait is thinking about Hovlek.”  Hovlek said close enough to the microphone to be picked up and clearly heard by all.

 

The audience erupted into laughter.  Bait waited for the noise to pass again as he laughed along.  Hovlek held his palms up near his chest at the audience at one point and said ‘what?’ which only resulting in more tittering at him. 

 

The crowd quieted and Bait leaned into the microphone smiling at Hovlek.  “My friend, you have taught more young ones than anyone.  Because of your teaching, they are alive today.  In all my days, though they fall short and inferior to a moment of time you have spent on this earth, I have never met a more humble and kind person.  Always looking out for those around you, and always with good advice.  All traits worthy of recognition alone, then there are the many selfless deeds you have done in service to humankind.  There are none here who could stand long enough to list them all, and I wouldn’t be worthy of the faith and trust placed in me if I did not take this moment to speak of you before all these witnesses.”

 

Bait smiled again, he pulled his frame straight.  “Hovlek, take a knee.”

 

The warrior in front of Bait stammered.  His arms fidgeted at his sides as his eyes moved out to his family that filled the room.  As he looked back to Bait, there was a moment of uncertainty in his eyes that he caught. 

 

It was clear to Bait that the man’s humility did not like that he was about to be recognized, but it was far beyond deserved.  Bait had read Hovlek’s personnel file long before he asked his permission.  As his understanding of the man grew, so did his respect for him. 

 

The fact that he had already read the file was moot compared to the respect of asking, even after the fact.  Cause and effect.  Occam’s razor.  As his assumptions of the man were removed, respect filled the place.  He wished he had shown him the respect of asking first.  Simplest solution… ask.

 

Hovlek knelt slowly, still fidgeting anxiously. He had one knee on the ground, and one up with his arm crossed it and his face to his commander.

 

Bait reached to his side and opened a dimensional pocket.  From it he pulled Lisa, the sword.  It had no leather protecting it’s hilt and his hand had no cover.  Hovlek’s eyes widened, a large smile broke across his face with a soft chuckle.

 

“She likes you.”  He said.

 

“And the crafter of the finest weapons.”  Bait said softly as he looked down at Hovlek.

 

Bait raised the sword upright in front of him, closed his eyes and bowed his head to touch the blade.  He backed the blade from him and opened his eyes, the blade lowered to Hovlek’s left shoulder. 

 

“Before the eyes and in the honor of the Clan of the Moors…”

 

Bait moved the sword over Hovlek’s head to his right shoulder…

 

“…the Clan of the Highland Citadel…”

 

He moved the sword up above Hovlek’s head and gently rested it on top.

 

“…and as a blessing to the Lord of your heritage Clan Hyden, Hovlek the Hammer Fist…”

 

Bait raised the sword from Hovlek and aimed the point down and brought it swiftly down between himself and Hovlek.  “I knight you, Sir Hovlek, The Bull.”

 

Had either men said anything after Bait spoke his final word, no ear would have heard, human or werewolf.  The roar of the audience caused the room to vibrate.  Hovlek stood and faced his fans.  The noise continued for several minutes, as the moment started to fade on its own Bait helped it along centering on the microphone and raising his palms near his head at the crowd which began a quicker subside.

 

“Twitch, Baby.”  Bait said as he pointed to them through the masses.  Then he held a hand towards where he had spent most of the night and where his daughter currently sat watching.  “Lisa, if you would please, join me here before we get this bash really going!”  He finished with a yell, the party mood finally setting in on him.

 

The crowd murmured as crowds do when they are waiting for people to take stage.  Though this crowd was a mix of human, wolf and werewolf so the murmuring had an interesting sound to it.  Bait looked around at the people, taking time to acknowledge them as he waited for his guests to arrive.

 

Hovlek tried to escape the stage, Bait held on to him with a word.  With his weapons master watching off to one side Bait stood with Lisa on his left, Twitch and Baby on his right.

 

“We also have a welcome home to give.  Some of you knew this man…”  He motioned to Twitch, “…before he lost his marbles, and his mate as well.  Twitch and Baby-Go-Boom have left, Cody and Calamity have come home, and they brought my daughter Lisa with them.”  Bait was near tears when he finished.

 

Lisa came to him and both wrapped their arms around each other.  The room moved with sound again.

 

The room finally quieted again as Bait patiently waited.  He looked to Lisa again.  “I offer you sanctuary and a sword here at House Squat.”  Bait said to her as he took the sword he had used to knight Hovlek with.

 

He grasped it by the blade and held the hilt towards his daughter.   “I had given this sword the name Lisa, to honor your memory.  This sword was crafted for Christopher by Hovlek.  On his passing, Christopher gave the sword to me.  It is yours now, if you accept.”  Bait said with a proud expression as he looked at Lisa the daughter.

 

Lisa took the sword hilt offered her in her left hand.  She felt its weight, or lack of.  The sword accepted her.  Its touch was a warming cool.  Her hand tingled where it made contact with the living metal.  She put the point of the sword to the floor between them and knelt before her father with her head cast down, one hand on the sword hilt. 

 

“In your service, your Grace.”  Lisa said, then raised her head, and with a nod from her father, she stood.

 

Bait took her hand and turned with her to face their audience.  He wished he had ear plugs, the abundant sound of the crowd returned to reverberate though the dome of their arena.  He gave Cody a look with a smile.  He had taught her well.

 

The crowd lulled then faded to quiet again.  Bait smiled at the crowd then looked around at the people with him, his expression made them wonder what he was thinking now.  He spoke to the audience, but one person in particular.

 

“We have a command, now we have a House.  That leaves us in need of a commanding general.”  He said in a moderated manner with his eyes locked on Snow’s.

 

No!  Don’t do this to me!  I can’t  Came to his mind from Snow.

 

My teacher gave me the lesson, now I’m passing it on to you.  He answered.

 

Snow broke his gaze in a sharp turn.  Stomping as though she had hoofed feet, she barged from the room with stiff arms and her hands in fists as she walked with acceleration.  Bait tried to give chase so he could talk with her, Snow darted through the crowd and he lost her.

 

“Fine.”  He said as he made his way back to center stage.  Should he have followed after her into the crowd instead of stopping at the bottom of the steps?  He had no idea which direction she had gone in the crowd, he let it go.  Time would settle thoughts in her brain, she would look at things rationally, he hoped.

 

Bait laughed and waved a palm over the crowd.  “I seem to have spoken early, my counterpart has yet to make her decision.  Enough ado, congratulations to all, now get back to making merry, what is this an oil painting?”  He ejected with jubilance and holding his open hands out towards the audience. 

 

The bash resumed, vigor restored to it by the events.  Those he had gathered on stage moved off, ushered into the crowd by the crowd where everyone close wanted to congratulate them and possibly shake a hand.  Bait slid off and back up to his roost again.  There was some activity on the stage of making ready to perform for the next people taking to stage.  Sebastian was at the bar when he walked up and sat.

 

-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-

 

Sebastian joined him at the couch with two beers and a plate of food he set near Bait on the table.  “You’ve been talking with Sea Mist, I would assume you have the munchies.”  He said as he sat then drank from his beer.

 

Bait snorted picking up his beer on the table.  “Yeah, wish I could do that cleansing spell.” He said offhandedly. 

 

Sebastian looked over at him.  “That’s something Snow should be teaching you.”  He said with a firm face.

 

Bait looked to the stage where sound had come from.  Another microphone matching the first was placed center stage about three feet from the first.  Cody was walking up to the first, Calamity took her position to his left.  Cody waved to the crowd, then stepped from behind the mic and took a bow to the audience, righted himself with a wave again, adjusted the hat he now wore and stepped behind the mic again as the crowd applauded.

 

Cody looked to his mate and nodded his head at her then both looked out over the audience with reverent looks.  They harmonized a cappella with forlorn voices.  They looked over the audience starting from center and moving away from each other as they sang.

 

Come all yea Texas Rangers, wherever you may be.

I’ll tell you of some troubles that happened unto me.

My name is nothing extra, so that I will not tell.

And here’s to all you Rangers, I’m sure I wish you well.

 

Was at the age of seventeen I joined our jolly band.

We marched from San Antonio down to the Rio Grand.

Our captain he informed us, perhaps he thought it right.

Before we reach the station boys, you’ll surely have to fight.

 

And when the bugle sounded, our captain gave command.

‘To arms to arms!’ he shouted and by your horses stand.

 

The crescendo of their voices built.

 

I saw the smoke ascending it seemed to reach the sky.

 

Their voices changed with the words, a mournful sound.

 

And then the thought had struck me, my time had come to die.

 

Bait was transfixed on the mates as they sang, the emotion they brought with their singing, the feelings they were bringing to their audience.

 

I saw the Indians coming, I heard them give a yell.

My feelings at that moment no human tongue can tell.

I saw their glittering lances their arrows round me flew.

And all my strength had left me, and all my courage too.

 

We fought for nine hours fully, before the strike was or.

The likes of dead and wounded, I’d never saw before

And when the sun had risen, and the Indians they had fled,

We loaded up our rifles and counted up our dead.

 

The full attention of the audience was focused on the stage, their voices filled the auditorium without another sound to flaw the performance.  Their faces showing the emotion the music stirred in them.

 

And all of us were wounded, our noble captain slain.

The sun was shining sadly across that bloody plain.

Sixteen a-brave-a Rangers had ever rode the west.

Were buried by their comrades, with arrows in their breast.

 

And now my song is ended, I guess I’ve sung enough.

The life of any Ranger, you see is very tough.

And if you have a mother that don’t want you to roam.

I advise you by experience, you’d better stay at home!

 

Calamity and Cody stepped away from each other from their microphones to the side and bowed to the audience, then stepped forward and came together and joined hands, then bowed together to the crowd as their applause stormed.

 

“I thought sad songs and melancholy music weren’t allowed in werewolf land.”  Bait said to Sebastian. 

 

He drank from his beer before responding to Bait’s statement.  “Not by any law.”  Sebastian began.  “Not across the water.  Only here is such foolishness done.” 

 

He looked over at Bait and read his face.  “Sadness, the blues.  All emotions we feel just like humankind.  All part of our lives, and only a fool tries to quash this from people.  If it isn’t for sadness, do we not appreciate the good times more?  If we don’t allow ourselves to feel these things, we are cutting part of ourselves out.” 

 

With that Sebastian stood, straightened his suit then walked to the stage.  His timing was good, the next song hadn’t started yet, Calamity and Cody had just cleared the stage.  Sebastian spoke to several people who Bait could see nod to him.  A stool was placed near the microphones center stage.  Sebastian moved to the stool and another person brought him an acoustic guitar and strap.  After taking position on the stool, he looked back to the band behind him and gave a nod.

 

He said I’ll love you till I die.  Sebastian sang out, then the band began to play slow.

 

She told him you’ll forget in time.

 

As the years went slowly by… … …She still preyed upon his mind.

 

Bait watched as his mentor played the sad song.  He watched the crowd and how they moved with the music that filled the room.  Looking around he noticed something.  In concerts it is not uncommon for people to be singing along with the band.  Werewolves seemed to go a bit further with many in the audience holding instruments and playing along.

 

He stopped loving her today… … they placed a wreath upon his door.  And soon they’ll carry him away…  Sebastian sang the hook of the song.  You know, she came to see him one last time.  Aw, and we all wondered if she would.  … … And it kept running through my mind… …this time, he’s over her for her for good.

 

As the performance went on, people began crying.  Some mates hugged one another, the music had an effect on all watching.  Those that played along worked their emotions into the music they played.  Bait looked around taking in all that he saw.

 

When Sebastian finished, applause again filled the room.  He made his escape and rejoined Bait.  They sat together and watched as Sea Mist took to the stage again.  She announced she would be kicking things up some with a song she favored from Die Antwoord.  Bait groaned as the down beat of a bass drum boomed. 

 

The room went dark and Sea danced around, changing her costuming as she blinked from one side of the stage to the other.  Bait marveled at how she was able to accomplish a complete makeup and wardrobe change.  She would do her dance with a white face with a red stripe on it, then take off into her next part from the other end of the stage in blackface.  She really did put her all into performing, but that seemed to run in the species.  Bait commented on this to his guest when the song-noise ended.

 

Then he watched as Sea Mist revealed her trick, Worm.  Each was dressed and made up for the part they would play, Worm could become any living creature, which included Sea Mist.  Worm, not being able to shadow-step yet used the advantage of blackface to appear to vanish in a dark area of the stage while Sea Mist would shadow-step in and out for her parts.

 

The crowd loved it.

 

Sea Mist announced she would be going back to… change, with a hand movement over her makeup and turned things over to Fauxxen who would be doing his rendition of an Avenged Sevenfold song.

 

“I’ll be leaving soon.”  Sebastian said as he watched with Bait.

 

He nodded as he watched when Sebastian said this.  “Yup, had that feeling.” 

 

Sebastian looked over at Bait and snickered with an ‘is that so’ look.

 

“Say hi to Snow when you see her.”  Bait followed with as Sebastian stood.

 

“I will.”  He answered, then without looking back left Bait for his next visitor.

 

-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-

 

“I thought I’d find you here.  Bait says hi.”  Sebastian said from the hallway when Snow answered the door.

 

She looked back blankly and motioned for him to enter.

 

The quarters they shared with Hovlek weren’t nearly as large as the ones they had first been in.  She led her guest to the small settee room just past the entrance.  They sat across from each other.  Snow looked to be bracing for whatever she felt was coming.

 

“I’d offer some refreshments or something, but I’m afraid we have nothing here.”  She said to Sebastian in a repressed voice.

 

“I’m afraid I have no comfort to offer you Snow.  I can only confirm to you that you do have a choice to make.  I’ve already made mine, and what I am going to tell you, will not make your choice easier.  That is something that has to come from inside.”  Sebastian said without acknowledging what Snow had said.

 

She blinked back at him several times.  “You’re saying I am the Trustee?”  She said in a somewhat high pitched voice. 

 

“No.”  He answered bluntly.  “You are not the Trustee, because you haven’t chosen to be.  Like I said, you have a choice.  Bait had a choice, he has made his.  I have had a choice, I have made mine.  Mine came when you stood before me for judgment.  I chose a different way than what was expected of me.  I took a risk.  You see, Sea Mist was named to be mated to Bait should you be found guilty, and you were to be, and Bait, would now be with Sea Mist.  That is how things were supposed to happen.  I however, was given a choice, and I put my faith in you.”

 

Snow buried her face in her hand and cried out into them in frustration.  More burden placed on her shoulders, now from Night Harvest.  He was counting on her too and making it clear what he had done.  Sea was mated now.  Bait had no fallback… bride as it were.  She felt cool air on her.

 

Snow raised her face and looked towards Sebastian.  She was alone.

 

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

 

Snow was sitting in the same place Sebastian had left her when her mate walked into the quarters.  He looked at her then looked down.  He held a plain brown paper wrapped thin box in his hands.  He went to the seat across from her that Sebastian had been is some time ago now. 

 

“What’s that?”  She asked, the looks between stated the unspoken.

 

Bait looked at the box.  “A gift, from Worm.”  He answered her.

 

Her face crunched as she looked at the box.  It was about the right size… “Open it!”  Snow said anxiously now.

 

Bait pulled the wrapping off then opened an end of the white box.  He slid the item from it and stared along with Snow.

 

Snow reverse gasped.  “Her crest, her most prized possession!”  Her face was astonishment.  “You don’t know what this means, lover, she gave you her crest!”

 

Hovlek had hand crafted every intricate detail of the crest.  Bait looked over the blue and silver crest.

 

“She gave you this before clan Squat was founded as a House, didn’t she.  She didn’t know the crest would change.”  Snow said from a distance as the meaning of the act washed on her mind and trailed her thoughts.

 

 

 

 

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