The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 30
Doing The Right Thing

Chapter 30

 

Doing The Right Thing

 

 

 

Sea Mist, Blade Dance, Hovlek and the Monarchs made their way down the roof stairs to the elevator.

 

“She seems to have taken to our music.”  Sea Mist commented with a chortle.

 

No one said anything in reply.  They rode the elevator down in silence.  The quiet continued as they loaded their gear into the Suburban and climbed in.  It wasn’t until they neared the turn off to the dirt road home Snow finally spoke.

 

“People are arriving by the hour, half hour even.  We have a lot to do before tee time tomorrow.”  She looked back at her sister.  “Seven has your power station finished, so we have that.  We’ll get you as much help as you need to set up tomorrow, how long do you estimate?”

 

Sea Mist flapped her lips as she exhaled.  “Six, maybe seven hours.”  She sighed.  “That’s just for the stands and stage though, all the wiring and speakers.  At least another three.  We’ll have to skip our rooftop stint to start on the setup.”

 

Snow nodded.  “All of Seven’s crew will be there just for you, I’ve told him he’s to put everything else on hold and get himself and his crew on the truck with you.”

 

Sea Mist smiled back.  “Thanks puppy-chow.”

 

Snow’s eyes narrowed and smoldered.  “Don’t… ever… call me that one again.”

 

Bait started laughing.

 

Snow socked him in the arm, a little harder than she realized and he almost drove off the road when he piled against the door of the Suburban.

 

“It’s not funny.”  She said to him.

 

“Yes it is, that was all the store had unless I got you the really cheap shit.”  He replied with a wink.

 

Snow looked forward with her arms crossed over her chest.  She stayed that way until they pulled into the yard at House Squat.

 

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Snow was the one to lean over the book Ruth had given up.  For the most part, the information was pointless, they already knew the portal was being built and there was nothing in it that helped with stopping the process or destroying the portal.

 

She wanted to know more about the physical book itself.  She could see someone, Ruth she guessed, had tried to find out what was written on the last page.  She called the Hall of Knowledge and spoke with Beth the seeker.  She advised Snow that WeiBoing would be an excellent person to speak with about the making of the book as she used to be a binder.

 

“What’s up lover?”  Bait asked as Snow was on her way out of their quarters.

 

“Book, WeiBoing, Beth told me to talk to her about this book, how and when it was made.”  She said with a smile and continued on out.

 

Bait made a face, “Okay, good luck then.”  He said as she went out the door.  She waved her hand back at him and went to find the binder. 

 

Asking around, she learned WeiBoing was on the surface, per her orders, at the far end of tunnel three where they were also working on a house.  Snow took one of the ATV carts they now used and drove off to the surface through tunnel number three.

 

WeiBoing’s voice carried from a gazebo in the yard workers were building a house at with tunnel access.  She had a laptop on a table and was highly involved in whatever it was she was doing.

 

“Aw crumbs, now I need to find another cube.”  She was saying to the computer apparently.

 

Snow came up behind her and watched for a moment.  “What is that?”  She asked.

 

WeiBoing looked back over her shoulder at Snow.  “That m’lady, is a companion cube, tis the only friend you’ll have in this game.”  She cackled a laugh as she moved around in the game she was playing.

 

“No, what are you playing?”  Snow clarified. 

 

WeiBoing’s face lit up now getting what Snow had asked.  “Oh, yes, you see this is Portal 2.  It’s… well a strategy game I guess.  Yes, that’s what I’d call it anyways.  Ever played?”

 

Snow held for a second.  “Ah, no…”  She was going to say more but WeiBoing started sniffing, something caught her nose.

 

She turned and sniffed in Snow’s direction.  After a few long snorting sniffs she got up and moved in close to Snow.  “Aye, what’s this.”  She said and started sniffing harder.  “You’ve got a book, an old one too.”

 

Snow nodded a little then reached to a dim-pocket and pulled out the book Ruth had tossed.  A very happy bright expression came to WeiBoing’s face.  She clutched the book with vigor and took it from Snow and started sniffing it over, turning the book every which way and sniffing more.

 

“Oh, yes, you’ve got an old one here, been rebound three times, no, four.”  She sniffed more.  “Aye, this one was made in three parts over… I’d say about seven, eight hundred years.  Yes, eight hundred would be closest guessing from the papers used.  Don’t make em like this no more do they.”  WeiBoing chuckled and opened the book.

 

She sniffed various pages throughout the book.  “Yes, bound each time a new section was added.  Last bound, oh about a thousand years ago.  It’s held up well, considering where it’s been.”  WeiBoing gave Snow a look then went to the last page.

 

“Ahh!”  She said and sniffed the ripped part of the page.

 

“Considering where it’s been?  What do you mean by that?”  Snow asked.

 

“Where’d you get this love?  Oh, been in the hands of vampires, minions exactly.  Bad one last, female.  I smell Alexander on this, yes, and that Fyodor.  But this page,” She pointed to the remaining sliver of the torn page, “this one was added when it was bound last.”  WeiBoing revealed.

 

“A black minion gave it to me.”  Snow told her, she was more interested in sniffing the fragment of page left in the book.

 

“I smell Cridzgic.  Yes, this is their paper.  Old style, very proper paper they made.  Clay, that’s where he got his mastery from, their formula and recipe for paper.  Good paper yes.  See here love?  See how it rips.  Only Cridgzic paper tear like that.  And the smell, yes, that is theirs most assuredly.   Crime really to have ripped such a fine bond like that.”  WeiBoing looked up at Snow with a ‘sad thing to do’ smile on her face.

 

Snow took in the information and thought.  WeiBoing went on.

 

“It’s held up well, considering, this manner of binding.  Not the best of time, but it has endured.  Those vampires, they must have been nasty to this poor book.  They have no respect for good print and binding.  I wonder why Clay tore the page out?”  She said causing Snow to look fast at her.

 

“Say that again?  The part about Clay?”  Snow said with intense interest.

 

WeiBoing gave Snow a look like she was surprised Snow didn’t know this already.

 

“Well your Grace, simple, his scent is on this page, even after this time, and the way it’s torn...  clean, not broken tear.  Clay has his manners, made sure to take the page clean.  He must not have wanted anyone to know he had removed it, tis why he didn’t just rebind it with the page removed.  Barbaric really, but a clean tear.  A paper maker would have known how to rip it so it would be clean.  Torn on a straight edge.  Slightly angled so the fibers would pull apart, clean.  That’s Clay’s hand.”

 

Snow was off in thought again.  She nodded slightly to WeiBoing from her distant mind.  “Thanks WeiBoing, you’ve been a big help.”

 

WeiBoing chuckled.  “Anytime your Grace, glad to be of help.”  She handed the book back to Snow.  “And if there’s anything else you be needing me to do, let me know.  Nobody has things for WeiBoing to  do, so I sits here and plays this damned game.”  She went back to her laptop.

 

Snow smiled.  “Actually WeiBoing, with your nose for paper…”

 

“Wood actually miss, I smell the wood.”  WeiBoing interjected.

 

Snow chuckled.  “Yes, with your nose for fibers, think you can find this missing page?” 

 

WeiBoing’s face dropped.  “That… might prove to be a problem.  If Clay removed it, and I believe he did, aye, he’s sure to have destroyed it.  And if he didn’t, it’s hidden well out of sight, you can be sure of that.”

 

Snow had already thought of what WeiBoing said.  “I suppose.  See what you can find, would you please?”

 

WeiBoing nodded affirmatively.  “You’ve got it love.  I’ll put my feelers out for you.  Let you know the moment WeiBoing finds anything.”  She said with a pleased look to be doing something.

 

“Thanks.”  Snow said then took the book and headed off.

 

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Thirty seven vampire females fled their masters for the shadows.  In three days time, shadow watchers would head for the neutrals.  The down side of raping a vampire female, was the cleansing time for the male werewolf who endured the act. 

 

Several bishops were relearning the rhythms of cleansing for the ones currently afflicted.  There was also the need to continually bath in holy water.  There was much learning that would be done now that old ways were returned to.  A rotation of werewolf men would be needed.

 

Once a male werewolf had committed the act of creating a watcher, then undergone the cleansing, they wouldn’t be ready to do the deed again for a while.  It was very physiologically damaging to them, as they were now learning.  They would need time in a rest den.

 

Hyden was available, and thanks to Bait, was able to provide information that without Bait’s questions he was forbidden to provide on his own.  Them’s the rules.

 

What questions he couldn’t directly answer, he provided Bait the direction to look for the answers, which was in books.  With the information from both sources, Hyden and books, he found out a years time between each creation of a watcher for the werewolf male was typical and advised with two years clean before mating season which left a five year window for stocking watchers.

 

His learning helped Bait understand the cycles of werewolf life better, all things had reasons.  They were currently about three years from the next mating season, which happened every seven years.  That left them with a year to stock the neutrals with watchers the best they could.

 

The return of any watchers would be advantageous as they currently had none, leaving the immortals blind in many respects.  This entire fragment of werewolf life left him wondering about neutrals and shadows.

 

“What’s in the area between light and dark?”  He asked Hyden during their conversation.

 

Hyden’s head lowered, his eyes along with it.  He wasn’t able to answer Bait’s question of that.  Them rules again.  For whatever reason, he needed to learn that on his own, or the answer wasn’t known.  His next question would clarify this issue.

 

“Do you know what is between the light and the dark?  Where light and dark touch, and simply can't answer?  Or hasn’t anyone bothered to ask and look yet?”  Bait posed to Hyden.

 

A faint smile came to Hyden’s lips.  “Good, you are a thinking man.  Yes, I do know.”  Hyden stood.  “I am forbidden to answer your question on that.  None have asked, ever, until you.  I suspect that is the reason I am not allowed to answer.”

 

Bait nodded, at least he had that to go on.

 

Hyden had left and Bait had gone to talk with Hovlek, who was in the quarters he shared with Snow and Bait, and asked his questions of him.

 

“(grunt) Interesting questions, yes.  Hovlek thinks Bait should talk with Hyden, Hyden would have answers to Bait’s questions.”  He answered when he heard what Bait had to ask.  “What is between light and dark, the two can never touch.  Shadows, not between light and dark, reflections of both they are.”

 

“I’ve already asked Hyden.  He can’t tell me, rules again.”  Bait said with a down look.

 

Hovlek grunted again and bobbed his head.  “Rules.  At least his rules, we know, are only rules imposed on him.  Not one to follow fads Lord Hyden.  Likes to give information Hyden does.  Big fan of knowledge.”

 

Bait smiled at Hovlek.  “Now that’s something the two of you have in common.”

 

Hovlek chuckled and wobbled a hand in front of Bait.  “This that you say of Hovlek it true.”

 

Hovlek’s reputation among leadership may have been tainted, the respect given to him by those he taught, was undaunted.  Deemed an outcast and wayward person by ‘them rules’ was very overshadowed by the teaching that everyone wanted for their clans.  Respect outweighed any authority.

 

Hovlek officially had no authority, but if he ordered something, it was done.  His influence was vast and far better than any official authority.

 

Snow entered their quarters, she looked haggard and worn.  As Trustee, she had the burden of main command on her.  She’d been dealing with all the arriving werewolves.  It was turning out to be considerably more than expected.  Those that weren’t here for the fight, were here to support it, and to partake in what was billed as the biggest bash ever!  What werewolf could resist that?

 

“Ug!  If I could I think I would be bald from pulling my hair out!”  She proclaimed as she entered.

 

She came and sat down on the floor next to her mate.  “I have no idea how we are going to put all this together.  So many, I never thought I’d have this many people!”  She exhaled hard and laid back on the floor.

 

“Can’t find enough places for everyone?”  Bait asked, probing to give her the chance to vent.

 

Snow propped herself up on her hands and looked over.

 

“Find places, yes, but then there is everyone wanting to know if certain clans or people are here or coming, they want close family or specific people, clans.  It’s almost a political event!  Never knew my own kind could be so picky over silly shit.”  She had a vexed tone in her voice.

 

Bait chuckled.  “Sounds like a human version of a family reunion, ‘I’ll take cousin Bobby but aunt Martha ain’t stayin’ at my house’ Bait said in a falsetto voice. 

 

Snow scoffed.  “Well, on the upside, no one is really refusing to take anyone, except members of Clan Ven-Hide.  Which is almost understandable but really, they’re no more barbaric than Clan Vikki.”  She scoffed again and let herself back down on the floor.

 

“Well, here’s an easier question for you then.  What’s in the space between light and dark where there are no shadows?”  Bait asked her with a cantankerous smirk.

 

Snow scoffed again while laying on the floor.  “How the hell would I know, why don’t you just look.”  She responded.

 

Bait and Hovlek looked at each other.  Bait shrugged, Hovlek followed with the same action.  “Best idea Hovlek has heard.”  He said.

 

Bait stood and looked at an area in the room where the light cast a shadow in a corner.  He focused his attention on where the light ended and the shadow began.  He pushed out with his mind, his eyes blurred and burned.  His head started to hurt, but nothing happened.

 

“Between, between, between…”  He started repeating as he focused harder, looking at what he couldn’t see.  He tried for about five minutes, even used a few rhythms he knew. 

 

Suddenly, catching all by surprise, the room broke into a yellow glow.

 

“What the frell!”  Snow ejected sitting upright.  “A freaking neutral here?!” 

 

Hovlek looked around, the yellow corridor flowed from Bait to his front and back, creating what looked like a neutral looked like from the fractures. 

 

“Between, Bait has gone there, Hovlek, Snow, came with.”  Hovlek spoke with a voice of shock and realization.

 

As Bait turned around to look, the corridor followed him.  Hovlek and Snow both stood and came next to him.  He took a step forward and they rushed in the direction.  They had traveled a great distance.

 

“I get it.”  Bait said, he had a knowing smile of just figuring something out on his face.  He closed his eyes and focused on a point.  Then he stepped forward and the world rushed past them. 

 

Snow looked around at where they were.  She recognized the place.  They were at the den of Lord Floyd, House Trust, just outside the front door of the castle.  Bait moved his hands near his sides and the yellow vanished, and there they stood, at Lord Floyd’s den.

 

Snow laughed a somewhat confused but happy laugh.

 

“That’s how they do it!”  Bait said with excitement.  “That’s how Sebastian travels like he does, always showing up out of nowhere, the neutrals, they are the separation between light and dark.  And he, we, can create, no, use the area to travel in a blink!”

 

They all looked around.  Someone opened the front door of the house.

 

“Lady Snow, Lord Bait… Hovlek?”  Lord Floyd said, shocked to see them there clear on his face.

 

Smiling Bait turned to the Lord.  “Old ways Lord Floyd, old ways.” 

 

Lord Floyd nodded understand what had happened.  “Yes, secret old ways that not even I have the knowledge of.  I caution you, your Grace, Graces,” he added with a look to Snow, “what you have just learned, use with caution.  I know the head of my House, Leyland does such things, Sebastian, Hyden too.  Those of us that head their House’s, we are told to keep mute on the matter.”  He cautioned.

 

The three new arrivals at Lord Floyd’s door looked at each other and nodded in understanding.

 

“Wisdom Lord Floyd speaks, for Trustee and Inquisitor this is, like immortals.  Not for Hovlek.  I will forget this.”  Hovlek said with a deep voice.

 

“Wisdom Hovlek speak, Sir Bull.”  Lord Floyd had a worried look on his face that faded some when Hovlek spoke.  Lord Floyd clearly trusted him, the others… his eyes returned to Snow.

 

“Your Grace, Trustee, are you coming in or not?”  Lord Floyd asked.

 

She looked at Bait and Hovlek for a moment.  “Ah, no.  We would love too, but,” she looked at Bait now, “we need to get back.”

 

“Yes, we do.”  Bait’s face was of agreement.

 

Lord Floyd looked at Bait now.  “You know how to get back?  Or should I call Leyland to help?”

 

Bait held up a finger and tried to repeat what had worked the last time.  He still had trouble at first, this was a new trick he was learning, but in less than a minute the yellow glow returned.

 

“Got it, thanks Floyd.  I expect to see you at the party, the bash you know.”  He looked at Snow and smiled.  “Let me know when you’re ready, I’ll come pick you up.”

 

Lord Floyd rolled his eyes and was about to say something when Bait stepped forward and returned them to where they had started from, only off a couple feet.

 

“Monkey vomit snake yakkin freak me out snarkle puss!”  Sea Mist exclaimed from the corner of the ceiling and wall she had sprung to, startled by the sudden appearance of the three. 

 

“What the frell?!  How in the frell did you frellers frelling do that frelling shit?  What the frell?!”  Sea went on, still hanging from the ceiling.

 

They laughed some at her reaction and use of her own creation of ‘verbage’.

 

“Chill sis, just learnin’ with the human is all.”  Snow said.  “I’ll explain later, maybe.” 

 

Sea Mist slowly clawed her way down the wall and stood on the floor.  She gave them a look then looked between her legs.

 

“Moist but not flooded, still need to change, thanks for that.”  She scolded then turned and walked out of the room, slamming the door after her.

 

Bait looked at Snow.  “Ah, you didn’t happen to get why she was here did you?”

 

Snow shrugged.  “She’ll tell us after a shower I’m sure.  Guess we scared the piss out of her.”  She broke into a laughing fit when she finished.

 

Hovlek rolled his eyes and shook his head at Snow.

 

“Look who thinks she’s funny now.”  Bait said as he gestured at his mate with a thumb.

 

Hovlek grunted.  “Eh, if Snow not have said it, Hovlek thinks Bait would have.  Pot, kettle, black.”

 

Bait shrugged and gave a facial expression that said Hovlek was probably right.

 

“Well, we learned something new today, not that this helps us much currently, it’s in the nice to know category.  We need to focus on the job at hand.  Shit, Sea Mist was going to go over the concert set up and work schedule for tomorrow morning!”  Bait thumped himself on the leg realizing why she had been there now.

 

“She’ll be back, you could use this time to fill me in your plan.  With the bishops?”  Snow looked expectantly at her mate.

 

He nodded.  “Yeah, there is that isn’t there.  You know the gist of what I want, I’ll go over the particulars, Hovlek, you’ll like this.”  He smiled large at the warrior.

 

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Cody was just finishing a hand coat of wax on the stagecoach when Calamity walked in.  The coach gleamed in the fading sunlight.

 

“Lookin’ good there Bill.  You always had a way of making anything shine, especially me.”  She smiled at him with loving eyes.

 

“Hey, little miss Calamity, was wonderin’ where you’d gotten off to.”  He looked back to the stagecoach and started the circular motions on the deep red wood putting the last of the shine on.

 

“Ah, just finishing up you know.  Amazing how it all came back to me once I started working those mixes again.”  She shook her head and scoffed at herself.  “Hard to believe in my state like I was, what I came up with.  Who’d-a thunk that of me.” 

 

Cody stopped his polishing, flapped the rag on the side of the coach a couple times and with a sigh climbed down from the stepladder he was on.  He dropped the rag on a step of the ladder and looked at his mate.

 

“See, now there you go again, all bashing yourself up when no one else is.”  He came to her and placed a hand on each of her shoulders.  “Just like when you gave up our daughter because you knew we wouldn’t be able to raise her proper.  That was a good thing you did Calamity, and you’re still beating yourself up over it aren’t you?”  Cody leaned his head in and touched his forehead to hers. 

 

Calamity made a depressed convicted face.  “You know I do Bill.  Sheesh, couldn’t even raise my own daughter.”

 

“Yeah, and you knew that and did the right thing.  You should be proud, most wouldn’t have the smarts enough to realize what you did, and see to it she got the best.”  Cody said being supporting.  “And look at her now, she turned out just fine, better than just fine.”

 

Calamity looked meek.  “Yeah, she did Bill, Kevashka’s done well for herself.  Better than she would’ve if’n she’d a-been raised by me.”  She looked down to the ground.

 

“See, there you go again.  Beating up on yourself when you shouldn’t”  Cody lifted her chin with his hand.

 

She looked up into his eyes.  “The coach sure looks nice Bill.”  She smiled sadly.  “You know, we’ve been chasing each others tails since we’ve been pups.  Better part of my four hundred and thirty eight years, and you’re just a few past me.”  Her face took on a somber look now.

 

Cody’s face joined hers in the somber look of reality.  “Yeah, our race is nearly run old girl.  I’d like to finish that race with style, good showmanship you know.  Finish with some honor.” 

 

Their eyes held each others. 

 

“Me too Bill.”  Calamity scoffed and smiled.  “You just have the team hitched up in the morning, okay?  I’ll take care of the rest.”

 

Cody smiled back at her with a large and toothy grin.  “Count on it.  I’ll handle Snow and Bait for ya.”

 

Calamity nodded and walked around looking at the coach.  “She sure looks good Bill, I must say, no one can make good wood shine like you do.”

 

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There’d be no street bands, no sidewalk performers, no missions at all tonight.  With all clans and dens reporting in, there was more to do than anyone was ready for.  No one had ever expected this kind of a turn out and from all corners of the globe.

 

Lord Mort had come to aid Kevashka in organizing the new arrivals, she was playing travel agent and hostess.  She had overheard one of the gripe sessions Snow was dealing with regarding which den or clan a stateside den or clan wanted to host.  She took the microphone from Snow unannounced.

 

“Listen maggot, I don’t give a rats tail section about who you want or why, you’ll get who we send your way and like− no, you’ll love it or I’ll come there personally and kick your head in, got it?  We’re fighting a war not building a hostel, deal with it and shut up!”  Kevashka barked at the caller.

 

The caller had questioned whom had spoken so harshly.  Kevashka identified herself.  The caller then insisted on speaking with the Trustee again.

 

This time, Mort took the microphone from Kevashka.  “This is Lord Mort, the Trustee has better things and far more important things to deal with than your banter, care to play with me?”  Lord Mort said back to them.

 

“Lord Mort?!  No, no, no, that won’t be necessary your Lordship, Clan Ven-Hide, would be our pleasure to host them, no need for you to come.  Please tell Lord Ven and Lady Hide we welcome them and look forward to hosting them!”  The person on the other end of the radio said.

 

“Perfect, glad we understand each other, Clan Ven-Hide will be happy to hear this, good day.”  Lord Mort ended the call, he had been smiling his usual smile the entire time.

 

He looked at Kevashka.  “Should anyone else give you lip my dear, please, feel free to hand them over to me.”  He looked at Snow.  “Your Grace, we’ll handle this, please, take your leave.  You and your mate need some time.  I’ll see to matters for you personally with my ever lovely assistant Kevashka the Bitch.” 

 

Snow smiled back at Mort.  The time to be her namesake as well as Lord Mort to live up to his reputation was well at hand.

 

“Thank you Lord Mort, I will at that.”  She turned from him and started off to find Bait.  A few steps away she turned partway back.  “You loveable Bastard.”  She said with a wink.  He giggled as she headed off.

 

Morning would be arriving too soon.  If they were to get any rest, now was the time.  Many Lords and Ladies had taken over duties and were making things run much smoother.  Snow was happy they had shown up.  Their experience was most welcomed, by Snow as well as by Bait.

 

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Day 8

 

With the influence of the Clay clan gone, werewolves were coming out of the woodwork, so to speak.  Lord Mort and Lord snZm both kept the new Monarchs from being disturbed and they were blessed with an extra few hours of overly needed sleep.  A full five instead of just three, one or none.  Every two to three days.  Maybe…

 

“Marshal Sea Mist to Trustee Snow and Lord Bait, Marshal Sea Mist to Trustee Snow and Lord Bait, urgent over.”  Blasted from the speakers in their quarters waking them.

 

Snow was out of the bed and answering while Bait picked himself up off the floor after trying to match her dexterity and pace, only to end up tangled in the sheets.  “Snow, go ahead, over.”  She kept her hand ready on the transmit button.

 

The only channel linked to their room currently was the priority private command channel directly to them, only a scant few had access.  Even that had been limited by Seven at the ‘request’ of Lord Mort.  Seven didn’t argue one bit.

 

“Shit, sis, we’re in badger shit up to our frelling armpits here, suffering succotash, I can’t believe this, shitting frell, we have people all over the place, the risers are almost all up, sound system is being wired as we speak and the stage, shitting frell the stage!”  Sea Mist jabbered out as a machinegun pace.

 

“The stage, it’s huge, high, wish I was, I can’t believe it, Hocktrah, her brothers, all of them, they showed up with semi trucks of stuff, it’s, it’s, wow, frell I can’t begin to explain, it’s amazing!  Frelling shit the frellers that were lingering out here frelling ran their frelling asses inside so frelling fast it was frelling amazing, frelling wow, you have to see this!”  Sea Mist went on without a pause even to take a breath.

 

“Marshal Sea Mist!”  Snow practically yelled into the speaker. 

 

Sea Mist stopped. 

 

“Breathe.”  Snow said, Bait laughed as he came up to her side.  She gave him ‘the look’.

 

“Yes, forgive me Trustee.  Marshal Sea Mist reporting ma’am.  Many werewolves have shown up to help, several hundred thousand.  Things are proceeding much faster than anticipated, ma’am.  The stage is being set up now and will be considerably larger and higher than our original set up which has yet to arrive.  Further ma’am, the seating risers that were first to arrive are almost fully set up and the sound equipment is now being placed.”  Sea Mist was much more professional now, however, excitement was still pressed back hard in her voice.

 

“I would also report at this time ma’am, upon our arrival there were about a dozen plus day walkers that were outside of the building.  They first started towards the approaching semi trucks, then turned and ran when we parked some hundred feet from the front of the building and disembarked.  Over.”

 

Snow tapped at the small screen on the new box mounted on the wall and put the communicator in phone mode.

 

“Bait and I are both here Marshal, we, ah… did you say several hundred thousand?  Marshal, how accurate is that estimate?”  Snow said as she started to pace around.

 

Sea Mist had a flutter when she responded.  “Trustee, ma’am, I’m afraid that there is some inaccuracy in that number due to the amount of vehicles that keep arriving and unloading.  We may be pushing closer to a hundred twenty thousand, and growing.” 

 

Snow froze in place.  Bait’s mind came to hers. 

 

we need to move now.  Skip whatever else we had and run with it lover.’ Snow received from her mate.

 

She was still stuck in position, only her heaving chest gave witness to the fact she was not a statue.

 

Nothing came back.  Bait waited a moment then sent her a mental jarring.

 

right, go, we have to, yes.  That’s a lot of werewolves.  What time is it?  She thought back finally.

 

…it’s… five fourteen.  I think we’ve been left alone to sleep in.  Snow, focus.  Bait went to her and lightly touched her under her chin.

 

Snow looked at him, her face was empty at first.  Her eyes blinked fast for a half second then a laugh started from her as she smiled goofy, like her laugh.  Suddenly she yelled ‘yeah’ and threw her arms around him.

 

This wasn’t what he expected at first and was thrown back for a second then his face caught up to the momentum in the room caused by his mate and he took on some of the joy with her.  He looked inside himself.  Now, he could feel it too.  This was a good sign.

 

Bait jumped with his excited lover for a moment, then put his hands on her shoulders and bent his head at her, his face said ‘serious moment’ and Snow contained herself.

 

“Yeah?  Yeah what?”  Sea Mist said back over the radio.  They had forgotten about her for a moment.

 

“We’re on our way Marshal, Out.”  Bait said and closed the call then returned to looking at Snow with a ‘serious business’ time look.

 

“Shower?”  He asked with a smirk.

 

Snow quickly took on a debonair look and moved her head to fluff her hair some with her nose slightly up, “But of course.”  She said in a silky voice.

 

Both started laughing at the same time and bolted for the shower.  It wasn’t so much an over confidant act as so much as a needed time to absorb what was transpiring and wake up. 

 

The shower was one of the most fun they had had in ages.  Snow sprayed Bait with cold water, he smacked her fanny and when she opened her mouth to protest, he put soap in her mouth.  She naturally counter attacked his counter attack.  Tickling and other antics with an abundance of laughter went with.  The weight on their shoulders had become much lighter.

 

They were toweling off and talking lightly when Lord Mort let himself into their quarters.  He was walking his usual gay lofty gate with the same gay loftiness in his face and body language as he moved into the room they were in. 

 

It wasn’t loftiness in arrogance though, Bait had come to understand this.  He was simply exceedingly casual, during daylight hours.  At night, he was only moderately casual.  Just don’t piss him off, as casual and simple as he seemed normally, he was equally as ruthless when delivering an ass chewing.

 

“Ah, forgive me.  I see you have already risen.”  Lord Mort Smiled, he hid an anger.  “It was my intention that you be allowed to sleep till now, a quarter to the hour of six so as to be ready to leave by six.  I see that someone has taken it upon themselves to change my intentions without consulting me.  Forgive me your Ladyship,”  Mort bowed to Snow then turned in Bait’s favor, “your Lordship,” and bowed.

 

Mort cleared his throat.  “If I may, Lady Snow, of whom was it that rattled your cages?”  Mort was pissed.

 

Lord Mort was a volcano, and whomever woke them would be whom would receive his Pompeii eruption.  That was the thing about Mort, if he suddenly became ever so polite, with a cutting directness, somebody was going to regret pissing him off.

 

“Marshal Lady Sea Mist of House Trust, Lord Mort.”  Bait said with a light chuckle and open grin.

 

Mort’s face went to an ‘ah’ position.  “Ah, I see.”  He shifted his eyes to Bait.  “Then I trust, it was important?”

 

“A hundred thousand and growing in numbers crowd of our kin have shown up at the battlefield.  The set up of equipment is almost completed.  Does that sound important to you Lord Mort?”  Snow shot back with extra glib in her voice.

 

“Ah, hm, yes, interesting, and did our fair maiden have any other news?”  Mort said with a sly smile.  His cheeks were still rosy, but his eyes stopped boiling.

 

Snow and Bait developed the same smile together.  Fair maiden, Sea Mist was off the hook.  Technically, she out ranked him, but technically, Lord Mort didn’t give two squirts of piss.  Like Hovlek, respect had it’s privileges.

 

The radio pack Mort carried made a sound and vibrated.

 

“Ah, my 7phone wants me, pardon?”  Mort said with his usual light candor. 

 

Snow motioned with a hand to proceed.  Mort put the phone on speaker and greeted the caller.  Sea Mist’s voice came on.

 

“Lord Mort, sorry for the late notice, Marshal Sea Mist your Lordship.  I had to have Lord Seven make an update to my radio pack so I could call you.  I was able to contact the Monarchs and notify them.  Lord Mort, I am reporting that we have one hundred and thirty two thousand werewolves presently on site.  They have shown up on their own your Lordship.”

 

Lord Mort looked over at Snow and smiled proudly and gave a small bow of his head in pleasure.

 

“Marshal Sea Mist, what a pleasure to hear from you.  My, that is a tasty amount of fur on the lawn, yes.  Oh, dear girl, I prefer to call it the seven-phone, like that i-gadget that I didn’t like only, Seven’s.  Just put a numeral seven in front, I like that, don’t you Marshal Sea Mist?”  Lord Mort had his own glib in his voice.

 

There was a noticeable delay in Sea Mist responding to Lord Mort.  Perplexity was probably taking Sea at this moment.  She may very well have wanted to scream at him too, had we been able to see her face, we would have known.

 

Snow and Bait both looked past Lord Mort with gawking faces.  Sam and Fairuza both raised their left hands and waved at them.  Lord Mort followed their eyes and looked back.  His head turned at it’s usual relaxed pace back to them, barely stopping when he looked back.  His face was as disinterested as could be.

 

Did he see them?  Snow thought to her mate.

 

Doesn’t matter, really.  Bait responded.

 

Snow gave a little shrug.  True dat.

 

Bait openly looked at her with a glare.  “You’ve been hanging around your sister too much.”  He chided aloud.

 

“Lord Mort, have you been into my buds early?”  Sea Mist asked.

 

Snow and Bait both erupted into laughter.  Lord Mort shot a look in their direction then looked off again.

 

“Of course dear girl, but what’s the point of it.”  He said back with a gruff edge.

 

“Ok, fine, 7phone it is, now, back to important stuff.  Stage is set, seating is fully done, sound will be ready… very soon I think and we surprised some day walkers; they shit their pants and frelling ran off.  Your Lordship.”  Sea Mist reported.  “You have me on speaker and are in my sister’s quarters, aren’t you?”

 

Mort snickered.  He responded in a very bad Texas accent.  “Why sure am lil’ darlin.  Got’s your little doggies rhight hare.”

 

“Don’t ever do that again Mort, you’re making my ears bleed, k?”  Sea Mist quipped back.  “So, algae  slurpers, you filled cream puff here in on the tails right?”  Her professionalism waned a bit. 

 

Lord Mort tittered and covered his mouth with a hand.

 

“Sea, we’ll be on our way soon, with a bus!”  Bait said loud so Mort’s 7phone would pick him up.

 

“Great, hurry your slacker asses up, crowd wants a show already.  So far Smokey’s swallowed three flaming torches, set himself on fire and been shot out of a cannon, into a tree.”  Sea Mist reported further.

 

Snow and Bait looked at each other with excited faces again.  “Smokey’s here!”  They said together, again.

 

Mort continued to chuckle and titter.

 

“Well cream puff, you hitting the road with us?”  Snow asked smirking at Mort.

 

“Oh, yes dear girl, yes.  By all means yes, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”  Mort’s face went somewhat serious as he held up a finger.  “I’ll get my toga.”  He said then causally walked from the room, humming and scat-singing.

 

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She sat fuming in her throne.  She screamed and beat her hands against the arms of it once.

 

“Mistress Alexander?”  The slave delivering the bad news asked with a whimper.

 

Woman or not, the rage still burned inside the beast.  Her chest heaved with anger.

 

“On my lawn?!”  She roared then lunged from her throne.

 

She landed on the man and started pummeling him on the chest.  She pulverized his bones on the stone floor he lay on.  The man’s face was a death grimace now, Alexander grabbed his head and ripped it from his body and tossed it across the room.

 

Mitchell watched from his iphone with a gleeful smile.  It was always best to send an underling to deliver the bad news.  He had hidden small cameras in Alexander’s private rooms many months ago now.  It was good to see how good he was at avoiding the wrath of Alexander.

 

He hated when Alexander requested him personally.  It had taken a century or two, but he finally was one of the favored slaves.  The only upside was Alexander put his head close enough to regenerate to.  Sometimes he even placed it back on his neck. 

 

Now was Mitchell’s time to deal with the boss.  He darkened the phone, walked from the room, and made his way to Alexander’s tub room.  He knocked on the door, then turned the handle and waited.

 

“Get in here Mitchell!”  Alexander screamed.

 

He slinked in the door and made a cautious trek to his master.  “Yes, my dark master?”  He said with a meek demeanor. 

 

She growled at him and hissed.  “Slime.  Having someone deliver the bad news for you, I didn’t think you had it in you Mitchell.”  Anger and rage filled every word.

 

Mitchell looked to the floor and bent himself some.

 

“In the day, we are surrounded?  Is this true?”  She seethed.

 

“Yes my dark master.  In every direction, werewolves.  What will you have your faithful servants do your Excellency?” 

 

Alexander roared at him.  “Faithful, I care not about your faithfulness, you are pathetic slaves!  Nothing more!”

 

“Yes my dark master, pathetic slaves we are, your pathetic slaves and glad of it, great Alexander.”  Mitchell quietly said.

 

Alexander closed her eyes for a moment and tried to calm herself enough to speak to this worthless creature.  She thought for a moment, a smile came to her face.

 

“Yes, there is that way.  You, slave, Mitchell right?  Doesn’t matter.  There is a tunnel out the back of this cavern.  Send our day slaves out that and have them flank the werewolves.  Send every day slave we have!”  She yelled at him.

 

Mitchell slinked back from his master.  “I have already tried that, my dark master.  I am afraid the werewolves found this as well.  It has been flooded with blessed water and the end has been collapsed.”

 

Mitchell dodged the blow that came when Alexander lunged at him.  It may not have been the smartest move he’d made.  She wheeled on him again, this time with claws out.  She connected with his midriff slicing him open.  He lay on the  floor looking up at his master waiting for the end.

 

Alexander started laughing.  She’d read his thoughts.  Backing from him she returned to her throne.

 

“We’ll wait until tonight then.  When night blankets us, I will send forth the entire horde to distract the werewolves and slay them while I make haste to the portal room and finish it!”  Alexander was pleased with her plan.  “Yes, we will finish them right here.”

 

Mitchell had mostly regenerated now.  He stood, but he didn’t come any closer.  “Master Alexander, the werewolf numbers are many.  We would lose many if not most or all of our horde.”  Mitchell informed her.

 

Alexander’s laugh became hollow and of pure loathing.  “No matter to me.  Once I open the portal I’ll have no need of slaves, you can all die for me!”  She became consumed with her laughter.

 

Mitchell bowed and tried to quickly slither from the room.

 

“Slave!”  Alexander yelled.

 

Mitchell looked back.  Alexander raised an eyebrow and smiled.  Mitchell felt ill now.  “Yes my dark master?”  He whimpered.

 

“You still have a dick, right?”  She said to him then laughed hard, motioning with a finger for him to come closer.

 

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Snow and Bait joined up with Lord Mort on their way to visit with their prisoner, Clay.  The question of the page that had been removed still remained, though Bait felt it was irrelevant at this time it was still a good idea to ask.  And that was something he could do, ask and demand answers from Clay.

 

Down into the stagnant bowels of the den they descended.  The air was foul and smelt of mold and rot, moss and old water.  It had been a long time since it had been a formal prison, and even then, it was not as detestable a place as when it held Exten.

 

“So, the guilty finally show their faces.  How does it feel to be a warden now?”  Clay spoke with a voice of boiling hate.

 

Lord Mort had held back a few steps, waiting and listening.

 

“Release me, and I’ll put in a good word on your behalf with the Council.  They might go easy on you.”  Clay spat out at them.

 

“Clay…”  Bait started.

 

“Lord Clay peasant!”  Clay shot back cutting Bait off.

 

Bait smiled coyly.

 

“Not anymore.”  Bait stated.  Clay was trying to be the heavy until the end, it wasn’t working in his favor one bit.

 

Lord Mort decided to stroll up and see Clay himself.  Clay’s face fell when he saw him.

 

“Ernest, my, seeing you here does bring back memories.”  Mort made some faces and muttered to himself.  “Well, not really memories so much as fond thoughts.”  He smiled pleasantly.

 

“Mort.  What an unpleasant surprise.  Personally I’d favor seeing you on a slab.”  Clay responded with ice in his tone.

 

Mort’s face lost it’s color, he didn’t smile anymore and like Worm’s face, it wasn’t nice when he didn’t smile.  Lord Mort had his own interesting past.  He became a tactician because he was declared to violent, to accurate, to dangerous to be a fighter in the field.  He had been a one man army, but that was past now.

 

Mort was a calm daytime man with a gift for strategies that the werewolves felt was better used in the planning room over the battle field.  In his youth, he nearly started a war.  He had also had confrontations with young Clay before he took the name Clay.

 

One of them almost didn’t survive.

 

When Bait spoke again, he was of three voices, his own and a tone above and a tone below.  Clay would have to answer the voice of the Inquisitor.

 

“Tell me about the page you ripped from the book of the portal Alexander is building.  Where is it and what was on it.”  The Inquisitor demanded of Clay.

 

Clay tried to fight the command of the Inquisitor, the effort was futile to say the least.  Had it been Night Harvest giving the order, Clay wouldn’t have even tried to fight it.  Somewhere in his heart he refused to accept that the Monarchs had been established, first from outside of his clan, and second, without his approval.

 

“It was a warning.”  Clay uttered with a pained face.

 

“A warning for whom?”  Bait asked.

 

Clay loosed an odd laugh.  “Not for you…” he struggled not to say the next words, “your Grace.”  He hissed the end of grace.  “For her.  Not Alexander, for the one that will take his place.”

 

“Ruth?”  Bait pressed.

 

“Yes you− your Grace.  Had she read it when she would steal the book, she… she would have stopped what needs to happen, that’s how I will survive this!”  Clay was fighting hard still.

 

Clay screamed as he tried to resist.

 

“Where is the page?”  Bait leaned in and stared at Clay.

 

Clay began laughing hysterically.  “By now, destroyed I’m sure.”  His laugher wasn’t the result of a lie.  “Destroyed by your own forces against me!”  He was enjoying this part, his only pleasure.  “My hall crest, my family marker.  It’s in that, two scrolls of paper, been there since the build of my clan, two scrolls of paper crossing.  I placed the page in there, hid it in plain sight!  I’m sure it was burned when you desecrated my palace!” 

 

Clay stomped his feet as he laughed.  “Destroyed by you!  Inquisitor shithead… AHHHH!”  Pain ravished him after he insulted his Inquisitor.

 

Standing up Clay pointed a finger at Bait.  “You’re the farce, jokes on you, Bait.  So, were you there to watch them burn my house down?  Melt down the crest of Clay?”  He laughed hard now.

 

Bait was smiling pleasantly, almost looking like Lord Mort had rubbed off on him.  Lord Mort himself had his smile on now.

 

Mort leaned in slightly, smug, pleased.  “Dear, dear Clay.  The Inquisitor is wise, far wiser than you.  He ordered all your house to be packed away for later inquisition.  Yes, it is still all intact and undamaged.”  Mort watched Clay as he lost his amusement.  “Yes, dear, dear Clay, it seems the last laugh is… on you.”  Mort patted his stomach and turned his back to Clay.  This was a shunning.

 

Snow turned her back to Clay in the same manner as Mort had done, eye contact was only broken when she turned.  She did not lower her eyes, did not bow her head and did not clasp her hands in her front.  Snow shunned the man who had used her.

 

Only Bait faced him now.  “When this comes to pass, and the formal trial for you held, I am recommending to the Master of Clans, that you be held in a tower.  Like you wanted for Lady Snow.  It is because of you her name was tarnished.”  Bait smiled. 

 

Clay didn’t like how he smiled at him.  ‘Your goose is fully cooked and will be served soon’ his smile said.  Clay rushed the cell door intending to spit on the Inquisitor but before he could Bait broke eye contact with a turn, leaving his back to Clay.

 

Together the three walked from the cell that would be home to Clay until he faced his final trial, before the Master of Clans. 

 

“A tower.”  He whispered in the solitude of the cell.  The same cell he had placed Exten in.

 

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“We kept it out special your Grace.  Right here.”  Kollek pointed to the large precious metal crest with inset jewels in it of the former clan of Clay.

 

Bait cocked his head as he looked at the two rolled up pieces of paper, tied with a ribbon, for display in the crest of Clay.  He had come from a long line of papermakers and naturally used it in his crest.  He reached his hand out and pulled one from it’s holding place.

 

He unrolled it, he had a fifty-fifty chance of picking the right one.  He went with the one that looked, not good enough for Clay.  It was the missing page.

 

“So, is it useful?  What’s it say?”  Snow pressed as she tried to look over his shoulder.

 

Bait handed the page to her.  “Mostly what we already know.  Like Shyhon told me, Fyodor and Alexander are the original creations.  The rest is nothing we can do anything about, yet.”

 

Snow read fast.  “So, she ends up the vessel of darkness when Alexander dies.  This part doesn’t make sense, ‘she will be the birth of well-men, digging the path of travel between worlds…’ what does that mean?”

 

“Not a clue.”  Bait said with a sigh.  “Best guess is she will try and finish the portal when Alexander dies.  We don’t have time to figure it out right now.  Stow it someplace handy, clues might just show themselves today.  Things have been moving that way.” 

 

“Think Shyhon might be able to clue us in more?”  Snow asked as she read the page again.  “Well diggers, birthing the passage, well-men.  I… this is odd and kind of disturbing.”

 

Bait nodded in agreement.  “Yeah, and right now we have a field of werewolves waiting for us, and a party that wasn’t supposed to start for hours.  Let’s roll.”

 

They left the storage area clan Clay was stored in and headed off to the limo Lord Mort had for them.  His reason was ‘you’re the stars of the show, you should arrive in style’.  Having no objections, they went along with him.

 

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The sight was something to behold.  An archway had been set up for werewolves to be dropped off at over the dirt drive.  Cars were being driven to other locations with the drivers shuttled back.  Parking was to be conserved, thus, parking garages for passenger vehicles were used as much as possible.  Busses and other larger means of transport were dropped in the parking lots of big stores and warehouses. 

 

Their limousine drove right under the archway and through the mass of people.  The flashing dignitary lights mounted in the grill and through the normal lights on the limo caused the people to part and allow them through.  At some point midway towards the open area around the stage, Hovlek appeared in the crowed commons area.  He didn’t move, he looked right at the approaching car, standing like a wall.

 

When the limo was within about seven to eight feet, he turned around and started yelling and waving his arms, though his voice wasn’t audible within the hush of the limousine it was easy to tell by the way his head moved, he was rather loud.  His arms also told people to get away and make a path.

 

Both Snow and Bait were filling in what Hovlek was saying, and fairly accurately had they been able to hear.  It was still amusing.

 

Hovlek ushered them towards a small quickly constructed shed of a building near the back left of the huge stage.  The crowd dropped from a thick of people to an open circle on the inside of the flock around the church like building.

 

When they emerged from the back of the stretch limo, the crowd started chanting their names.  Both waved along with Mort who was all too happy to bask in the attention the crowd was paying to him as well.

 

There was a scatter of people that ran around the field in the inside of the ring.  Some had items they were carrying while others were simply on the move.  Seven breezed out the door and passed them as they moved into the doorway.  He looked at them as he passed, gave a stressed laugh and never slowed.

 

“See you two are still going with the Blues Brothers look, well, it does work for you.”  Mud commented after she dodged her way past people getting to them as they made their way along inside with the help of Hovlek.

 

Snow looked at her mate and looked him over.  She looked at herself the best she could then looked back to Mud.  “I admit, I was against it at first but now I rather like it.  Sort of fits us, you know.”  Bait gave her a look when she said this and a hand motion that said ‘told you so’ and they both laughed.

 

“Mud, move.”  Hovlek said as he pointed towards the back of the structure where Sea Mist was waiting for them.

 

They pressed through the smaller mess of people inside the building to where Sea Mist had an area roped off for the Monarchs.  Mud went with until they entered the small ‘star’ area then went off to do other things.

 

Sea Mist greeted them with a stressed smile.  “This is way more than I ever expected.”  She didn’t even include one of her normal sudden nicknames for them.

 

“Us either, but it’s a good thing, I think.”  Bait looked unsure of his statement.

 

Snow considered the situation for a moment then spoke to Sea Mist.  “So, what do you need from us?” 

 

Sea scoffed.  “Sanity?”  She started.  “We need to do something to keep these people occupied.  Entertained even.  Else this whole party might start too early.  Already had a few wanting to bust in the church and drop the roof right now.”

 

Snow and Bait looked at each other with worried looks.  This many vampire hunters grouped up with nowhere to put their energy with vampires so close.  It could cause trouble. 

 

“And I still have to get my end of things ready.”  Sea Mist said with gloom now.

 

The Monarchs both nodded when she said this understanding her meaning.  “You go and do what you have to do, Bait and I will take over here.”  Snow told her sister.

 

Sea Mist nodded in agreement and filled them in a bit on the status of everything.  Her rundown took about ten minutes then she left for House Squat.

 

“What’s the plan, Bait-man?”  Snow asked with a calm face, adjusting her sunglasses.

 

Bait shrugged.  “Only one thing to do, get the usual suspects together and start the concert early.”

 

Snow agreed and called Mud over.  When she arrived Snow told her to assemble the command team and tell them to bring their weapons of music.  Mud’s face lit up.  They talked about what to do a bit, then Mud started off to collect the members of their battle band.

 

“Get Cody here too, he can serve as MC over the entire show today.  He’ll like that.”  Bait told her as she started off.

 

Mud made a face.  “I haven’t seen Cody around.  He’s probably still back at House Squat.”  She perked up and smiled.  “He’s coming in his stagecoach.”  She chirped.

 

Lord Mort breezed up to them after Mud headed off to assemble the usual suspects.  “If it would please, I can fill in the gap until you begin your festivities with some stories.”  He smiled proudly.  “I can entice them, entrance them for a spell.  All are fond of my stories you know.  Would contain them for you your Graces.”

 

With approving faces Snow and Bait looked at each other.  “Sounds good to me, anything from your end Inquisitor?”  Snow asked.

 

He snickered.  “No, just that you introduce your self to your audience as ‘Toga Master Mort’, other than that, go for it.”  He answered.

 

Mort rolled his head back and laughed.  Mud returned with their collection of people, less Cody whom she said radioed back he would be here soon. 

 

Mort went off and started the show.  Their command team was excited when they heard what Snow and Bait wanted.  Together they all worked on a ‘seat of our pants’ schedule for performing.  They would mix music and performance to keep the crowd subdued.  It was about half an hour into their planning session that was almost over when the two Monarchs pulled their body’s back from the conversation with distant faces.

 

Slowly, Bait looked at Snow. ‘a choice has been made.  He thought to her.

 

Her eyes went to his.  I feel it too.  A choice of life, a choice of sacrifice.

 

Snow’s face reflected his own emotions.  Both happy and foreboding. 

 

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Sea Mist had her Sikorsky landed in the front yard of House Squat, a twenty foot cube truck parked next to it.  The back doors of the chopper were open and she was hauling boxes from the truck and packing them into the helicopter with a depressed face.

 

Blade Dance came from the house and walked up to where she worked. 

 

“I’m here to help my lover.”  He gave her a soft gentle smile.  “I’ll be going with when you fly down.”

 

Sea Mist’s face became flooded with tears, she dropped the box she held and ran to him throwing her arms around him and hugging him hard.

 

Blade brought his arms around her.  “Thank you.”  She whispered in his ear.  “My place is by your side, where else would I be.”  He whispered back.

 

Blade started taking the boxes from the back of the truck and walking them up to Sea Mist inside the Sikorsky and handing them to her for her to pack in place.  The chopper was packed tight now.

 

“Sea, there’s a mesh here, holding the back section of boxes.  What do we do with these?”  Blade said to her standing on the back of the truck.

 

Sea Mist was facing back at him as he spoke.  Hearing what he said her face crunched in question and she started for the truck.  “I’m full, baby… I mean Calamity Jane must have made extra.”  She reasoned as she came up to look inside the truck.

 

About that time the sound of the hidden underground garage door lifting up and open caught their attention.  Both looked over in the direction of the house as the team and stagecoach came from around the backside of the building.  Cody and Calamity sat atop the coach and were driving the team towards them.

 

“Whoa… there.”  Cody said to the team.  He had driven them so they would pass behind the truck, and stopped the team with the stagecoach positioned right at the back of the truck.

 

Cody climbed down from the top first then Calamity moved after and followed down with him.

 

“What are you two doing here?  Thought you’d be at the grounds by now.”  Sea Mist questioned.

 

Half of Cody’s mouth moved up as he smiled.  “Been a slight change in plans I’m afraid little miss.”

 

Blade Dance remained quiet and watched intensely, he sensed something was up.

 

Sea Mist’s face embodied her question.  “Changes?  What changes?”

 

Cody laughed in a convicted manner.  Calamity placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Well, you see, what you have loaded in your flying contraption there is the special brew WeiBoing made for Lord Bait.  An energy drink of some sort, lots and lots of caffeine, make sure when you land, you park someplace the natives wont find it.  Don’t want things to get rowdy too early, ya-know.”

 

Sea looked back at her helicopter then back to Cody and Calamity.  “What do you mean?  I don’t understand.  I have to have the explosives loaded in the Sikorsky to fly it down the hole.”

 

Cody’s head started shaking.  “Fraid not.  Like I said.  Been a change in plans.  Like my brother Exten, I’m a general.  That means, I outrank you Marshal.  Can’t let you fly that thing and get yourself killed.”

 

Cody looked at his lover.  “We talked it over, Calamity and I,” he looked back to Sea Mist, “we decided we’ll take the explosives down in the coach.”

 

Calamity chortled.  “Never thought I’d live to see the day Buffalo Bill Cody would use his rank as an excuse for somethin’.”  She said to no one in particular.

 

Sea Mist gawked at him.

 

“You see little miss, it’s like this.”  Cody began as he explained to her.  “Old man dies, young woman gets to live.  Seems like a fair trade to me.”

 

Calamity nodded in agreement.  “Sea Mist, we couldn’t, can’t  let you do this, Bill and I.  We’re near our end.  Our race is run, and yours has just begun.  Your place is here, with your sister, not dead down in the bottom of some vampire pit.”

 

Sea Mist faced between the two of them then at the stagecoach and team.

 

“But… you won’t be able to get the stagecoach to the bottom in time, and centered.  You’d just go over the edge and fall.  It has to be me… and Blade Dance in the Sea Stallion.”  Sea argued.

 

Calamity went and climbed into the back of the truck and started unlatching the shipping mesh that held the actual explosives in place.

 

Cody turned and pointed at the team.  “Them ain’t no ordinary horses, you can see that.  Them’s dragon hunter mounts.  They don’t stay on the ground only.  They’ve got speed, hundred and forty miles an hour on the ground top speed.  Over three hundred in the air.  No, won’t be a problem getting centered on the pit and to the bottom.”  He explained then looked back at Sea Mist.

 

Sea Mist had heard the stories, about dragon hunters and the horses they rode.  They were bedtime stories told to young ones, when she first saw the team Cody had driven up when he was still Twitch that was what she had thought of, dragon hunters.

 

“But, what about Snow, our Trustee?  I told her I’d do this…”  Sea started.

 

“You let me worry about Snow.  Now, why don’t you and your lover there get in that contraption of yours and head off, there’s a party starting.  You’re needed more there than here; Calamity and I got this handled.”  Cody said to her.

 

Sea Mist’s face said she understood and knew this was what was supposed to happen.  Something deep inside her told her, her blind eyes saw this too.  “Come on lover, let’s get this flying machine in the air.”  She said to Blade with a sad smile.

 

-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-

 

Sea Mist and Blade Dance were in the cockpit of the chopper when a stream of Harley bikes started into the drive.  At the lead was Ace riding on the back of a decked out hog.  Each bike carried two people.  The operators of the bike were dressed in the colors of Hell’s Angels, their passengers wore a uniform with the banner of the IRA on the sleeve.

 

The bikes parked in a line off to the far side of the yard.  Ace and Tuesday walked up to the chopper. Sea Mist and Blade Dance had opened their doors while they watched and were waiting for them when they started towards them.

 

“Hey squirt, what’s up?”  Sea Mist asked Ace.

 

She returned a light smile to Sea Mist.  “No parking allowed at the church, so we asked if we could park here.  Lord Squat insisted I guess.”  Ace turned and pointed to Tuesday.  “Tuesday here leads my Day Watch unit,” she pointed back to the others. “and they’ve signed up to be Day Watchers, Hovlek’s riders and Exten’s militia.”  She looked back at Sea Mist with a grin.  “I’ve got a crew!”

 

Sea Mist laughed with her in her joy.  “Why don’t you and Tuesday hitch a ride with us, not much room but we’ll squeeze you in somehow.  Have the others take the moving truck there, I’ll get someone to bring it back to the garage.”

 

Ace and Tuesday climbed in the helicopter and the others helped Calamity and Cody with the explosives.

 

-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-

 

Lord Mort had run out of gas when Sea Mist finally arrived at the concert grounds and he was participating with a couple comedians and olio acts.  As she passed by the stage he pointed at her then motioned to the stage and pointed at it.  Sea smiled and waved at him then gave him a nod and a thumbs up sign.

 

Ace lifted the chopper up and took the cargo to a more ‘secure’ place.

 

With Blade Dance at her side, Sea Mist went back to the building her sister and Bait were at to report in.  Max and Meadow were with them talking, the other command team members were flitting around getting ready to start whatever show they could muster.

 

When she came to them, she was about to start explaining about Cody and Calamity, Snow held up a hand at her.

 

“We know.”  Was all she said on the topic. 

 

Bait spoke next.  “More important right now is that we keep things controlled, we need you to get ready, fast, and get things rolling on stage.  Lord Mort did great, but they want more than his tails now.”

 

“Right, I’ll grab Ace.  Oh, she’s here now too, and we’ll… I don’t know, do something!”  Sea Mist answered.

 

She grabbed Blade Dance’s arm and headed for the door.

 

“Come on weasel breath, you’re coming with me!”  She told him and pulled him along as he pointed back saying he still had things to do.

 

Blade finally relented and went with willingly as Sea keyed her 7phone and called for her band to get their shit set up, ‘it’s go time ostrich faces’ she told them.  He found her little names rather amusing at times, disgusting at other times. 

 

Fortunately most of her band had been waiting in the wings as it were, knowing that the show was starting early and being werewolves at a bash, they wanted on stage.  Many had already set what they would need either on stage or behind things on stage that were there to allow for changing and new acts coming on. 

 

Sea positioned Blade where she wanted him and ran around in a frantic zoom meeting up with people and tossing out her instructions as she passed them on her way to the next in line.

 

Finally she lit next to her lover with a big smile and her bow guitar strapped across her.  “Ready?”  She asked.

 

He was holding his bass guitar, looked around with his eyes for a moment.  “Ah, no.  You’ve told everyone but me what we’re doing.”

 

“I know.”  She said with a quirky smirk and signaled the band behind them.

 

He quickly recognized the song as the group of women behind them started all together.  They sang in harmony with Sea Mist taking the lead parts.

 

He…y.  The girls sang.

 

Sea Mist:  Where you going with that load of nothing in your hand.

 

The crowd started paying attention, the sound of the band firing up was a welcome thing.  Mort and the others had been entertaining, but to a werewolf, those were for olio acts between sets of music.

 

The girls sang in harmony now as everyone moved to form around the stage, some playing along while most sang along.

 

I’m going down to Liverpool to do nothing… I’m going down to Liverpool to do nothing… I’m going down to Liverpool to do nothing, all the days of my life, all the days of my life.

 

Hey there, where you going with that UB-forty in your hand…  They sang on and played.

 

When they reached the instrumental part the other players joined Sea Mist and Blade Dance at the front of the stage and played at each other, each taking a turn stepping to the center.  Nothing more they loved than playing music and showing off.

 

When one song ended, there would be a quick scatter around stage with Sea Mist or Blade Dance announcing the next song.  She only started with keeping her mate in the dark, she knew he’d quickly recognize one of his favorite songs.  The performers would take place for the next song and Sea would signal them to start.

 

“Alright, this next one is ‘The Golden Age’ by the Asteroid’s Galaxy Tour…”  Sea announced.

 

Blade Dance cut in with a smirk.  “Yes, that’s right, she’s going to do another song from a squeaky blonde chick, there’s a reason for that.  Can anyone guess?”  He said into the microphone that was a prop actually as they all used wireless microphones from Seven.

 

“Because she’s a squeaky blonde!”  Someone yelled from the crowd.

 

“Yes!  Give that man a tankard of WeiBoing’s best brew!”  Blade shouted back.

 

Sea made a miffed face at him and gave him the finger quickly in jest as the band started.

 

She had swapped out of her last getup into a slinky black dress that Blade made eyes at while she swayed with the intro bars.

 

I wish I lived in the golden age, giving it up on the Broadway stage.  Hang with the rats and smoke cigars.  Have a break with Frank and count the stars.

 

Sea waved a hand over her front at her dress.  Dressed to the nines, with hair to match.  Shiny jewels, casino cash…

 

Everyone had taken to a posh dress for the song, even Blade played his standup bass.  He did prefer it.

 

As Mud took to the flute and played a flighty scale, a stagecoach pushed it’s way through the people.  There was no escort and Cody at the reigns didn’t slow.  Those in the path of the racing coach ran or dove out of the way.  The coach stormed to the end of the stage and past the building at what was presumed to be the end of the riser seats.  There he slowed the coach and drove it under the bleacher seats to the right of the building out of sight.

 

As Sea Mist finished her song, Cody was on the far end of the stage, dressed to the nines, and coming towards them.  His attire was in the fashion of what he would have worn, back in the day.

 

When he was almost to where Blade and Sea stood watching him, Blade grabbed the prop microphone and announced him.

 

“Ladies and gentleman, pups of all ages, your master of ceremonies for today, and my personal hero, (‘mine too’ Sea chimed in.) I give you Buffalo Bill Cody!”  When he finished his introduction Blade released the microphone and began clapping leading the crowd to do the same.

 

Sea Mist ran up to him and hugged him hard.

 

“Hey, no crying on stage little miss.”  Cody said to her as he patted her on the back.

 

She loosed her grip on him and looked at him with a laugh.  She didn’t know what to say.  What do you say to someone whom has taken your place in a suicide mission?

 

Cody took over the moment relieving her of embarrassment. 

 

“Morning pards, little pards, older than dirt pards, how we all doing?  Are you ready for a show?”  Cody barked out.

 

Seven came running out of someplace to him and started hooking Cody up to the sound system.  He placed the microphone on him and linked it to his 7phone and fussed with it until Cody’s voice came over the speakers scattered around the arena stage in the round.

 

The stage itself had been built with two different facing areas.  The currently facing performance was along the side of the church building, the other would be towards the building.

 

Cody brushed Seven from him now that he was hooked up and took to announcing again.  He was in his heyday now.

 

“Like you all couldn’t hear me before…”  He said with a chuckle.

 

“What?  Speak up!”  A woman yelled from the crowd.  Cody fanned a hand in her direction.

 

Turning back towards Sea and Blade he asked, “What’s next on your agenda?”

 

Blade spoke first, actually beating Sea Mist.  “Well, since you’re here all decked out in your old west costume…”  Cody waggled a finger at him, “why don’t I lead us in some cow tunes?”

 

“No!”  Sea Mist interjected.  “Not shit kickin’ music, rock and roll baby-cakes, rock and roll!”  She waved her arms in the air.

 

“You’ll get your chance… again.”  Cody said to her with a smirk.  “Go for it Blade, let’s see what you got buckskin.”

 

Blade moved to where several band members were standing.  He told them his next song and moved to take his place.  Sea rolled her eyes but joined him. 

 

“If you hit me in the head with a rock, I’ll play this stuff better.”  She said to him. 

 

Blade Dance ignored her.

 

Cody held his hands out, palms up near his shoulders as he looked at Blade Dance.  “Forgetting something aren’t ya?”

 

“Oh!”  Blade Dance emitted a nervous laugh.  “Paisley, American Saturday Night.”

 

Cody gave a nod and turned and announced the next act to the crowd then the band took off with the full intro.  The audience and many of the members on stage started dancing.  Even Sea Mist wiggled along with.

 

She’s got Brazilian leather boots on the pedal of her German car… listening to the Beatles sing Back In The USSR.  She’s going around the world tonight but she ain’t leaving here.  She’s going to meet her boyfriend down at the street fair…

 

There were hoots and hollers from the crowd as they got into the song.  Snow and Bait came on stage as the performance went on, sitting off to one side of the stage watching with the few members of the command team not on stage.

 

Bait developed a conniving smile.  While the song went on he grabbed Snow by the hand and pulled her from her chair.  come on lover, lets not be lumps, let’s dance!’ he thought to her pulling her near where Blade was performing.

 

Snow was smiling and laughing as they took positions and started dancing in an older fashion with each having a hand at the others back and one hand holding the other.  The band seemed to appreciate their dancing in with them, and started moving around the couple as they danced. 

 

Bait spun Snow out and held her hand then twirled her back into him and they danced to the other side of the stage.  Bringing her around again he did a dip move.  They were both enjoying the dance and it did add a lot to the show and even started something with others of rank joining in on stage.

 

When the song ended Blade Dance called Snow and Bait up and took a moment to introduce them.  Once he finished Bait moved to the prop microphone.

 

“Thank you Blade, not bad, not bad for a pup trying to do country.”  He looked back and called out.  “Someone bring me an axe, a country axe.”  He looked at Blade Dance.  “Let me show you how to do real country son.”  He grinned at Blade.

 

“Oh!  Sounds like we’z gots us a challenge here!”  Sea Mist spat out with mock fight in her voice.

 

Their antics were working.  The werewolves there were less impatient now, less aggressive towards the day walkers and vampires hidden from them.  Occasionally one would stick their heads out the door and look.  A few had been snatched from the doorway and dealt with, early.  Even though orders were ‘no attacks until sundown’, some just got a touch antsy. 

 

“Ok Bait-ster, let’s see what you gots.  I will be hard to beat, being a werewolf and all.”  Blade Dance taunted.

 

Bait laughed at him in a mock, mocking manner.  “Yeah, but this ain’t bout speed son, this is about heart and soul.”  He shot back taking the guitar that was offered him.

 

Cody came to him and leaned in and listened as Bait whispered to him.  Then Cody keyed his throat pickup and told the rest of the band.

 

Kevashka lead off on the piano and the others joined in with a slow melody and Bait sang the lyrics.

 

I was totin’ my pack along the dusty Winnemucca road when along came a semi with a high and canvas covered load.  If you’re going to Winnemucca Mack, with me you can ride.  So I climbed into the cab and then I settled down inside.  He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand (The music paused) and I said, listen bud, I’ve traveled every road in this here land.

 

The music picked up again at a faster pace.

 

I’ve been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere man.  Across the deserts bare man, I’ve breathed the mountain air man.  Of travel I’ve had my share man, I’ve been everywhere.

 

Blade took a step back as though he were making room and held a hand out to Bait.

 

Been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota, Wichita, Tulsa, Ottawa, Oklahoma, Tampa, Panama, Mattawa, La Paloma, Bangor, Baltimore, Salvador, Amarillo, Tocopilla, Barranquilla, and Padilla, I’m a killer.  I’ve been every where man…

 

The crowd erupted into a cheer of whoops and calls of approval of Bait’s singing when he finished the first list of places.  Many of those in the audience had either been to the places, or had recently come from them.

 

After the chorus Bait made a panting face and the band rounded the beat making the song sound faster and Bait took off again, the crowd was pleased.

 

The audience cheered for the Inquisitor and chanted his name some when he finished.  Sea Mist came up to the center stage again, she had to get into the act.  It made things more interesting to the easily distracted kin of hers.

 

“Hey, can I get in on this action?”  She said with a hand on her hip and rocking her body with a cocky attitude.

 

Her mate shook his head with an exasperated look.  “Hah!  You, do country, and standup against me, and Bait wasn’t too bad.  I think you may want to quit while you’re behind lover.”  Blade Dance said, which naturally only chided her on.

 

Pushing him back and giving a look at Bait that said she’d give him the same shove if he continued to stand there, she took center stage.  Cody went up to her and she whispered her song to him and he radioed it to the band.

 

Blade, being on the same channel rolled his eyes.  “Oh no, that’s barely country, hardly music!”

 

“Shut it lover, you’re just jealous is all.”  She said then turned to face the audience and started singing out in a deeper Sea Mist voice.

 

If it hadn’t been for cotton eye Joe, I’d been married a long time ago, where did you come from, where did you go, where did you come from cotton eye Joe? 

 

Two of the people from Tuesday’s crew stepped forward with electrified fiddles and started playing while Squat brought in the bass drum beat.  The line repeated and Blade Dance put a finger towards his open mouth, making fake vomiting actions as he did.

 

When Sea arrived at the higher female part of the song she danced her jig out and wiggled and shook herself around with gyrations that made both Blade and Bait’s eyes open wide.

 

He came to town like a midwinter storm.  He rode through the fields, so handsome and strong.  His eyes was his tools and his smiles was his gun, (Sea bent with her hands on her knees, sticking her bottom towards the two men and twerked it at them) “but all he had come for was having some fun.

 

The two men looked at each other making amplified faces of shock with ‘O’ mouths then smacked their palms together and went back to watching Sea Mist be a ham.  The audience was participating fully, as would be expected and cheering and singing with.  The more up beat song riled them up and the whole of the audience was dancing with and many pointed and enjoyed Sea Mist’s sexy shakes.

 

No one had paid any attention to Cody.  They were paying attention now as he rode in from off left stage about twenty feet above stage and brought his horse down onto the stage and into the show.  He led the horse with the reigns and his legs as he brought the horse to a dancing trot. 

 

Hovlek even got into the bit with a banjo which he played like a pro.  People pointed and laughed watching him.

 

Then, at the proper time, Cody pulled hard on the bit and the horse reared up and blew a flaming whinny and held the position and trotted in rhythm with the music on its hind legs, Cody himself sanding on the stirrups pulling both six-shooters and fired into the air.  With a jerk on the reigns he turned the animal of legend in a tight circle.

 

When he brought the hose down from its hind legs he widened the reigns pulled the horse’s head down.  Leaning his head forward he gave the beast a command and smoke blasted from its nose filling the stage with thick smoke.

 

With a hand on its neck he had the horse dance sideways, back and forth with the beat.  The audience as well as those on stage loved what he was doing.  Sea didn’t miss a lick and ran towards them and did a hand vault over the back of the horse then caught herself and pulled herself back under the horse and popped out in front of it and danced in the same manner it was (only on two legs).  She reach back, out of sight and flagged a signal.  Cody made the horse blast smoke again and when it cleared she was gone.

 

She showed up for the next female lyrics of the song from another part of the stage, using the smoke to cover her shadow stepping.  She stepped sideways as she sang working her way back to the center of the stage.

 

When Sea Mist finished her song Bait took to the microphone.  “Well… well…”  He tried to start, using his hands to cause the crowd to quiet.  “Well Sea, that was one hell of a performance, however, I think that’s way out of the country category we’re contesting over.”  He turned his attention to the audience.  “What do you say,” he held a thumb up on one hand, “she get that song to compete with us against,” he held the other hand with a thumb down, “or was her song just a rabble rouser, more rock-a-billy than country?”  He asked the audience.

 

Sea Mist danced around pointing both her thumbs up trying to encourage them to vote her way, using her chest and bottom to try and entice a more positive response.  However, these weren’t humans she was trying to win over and music was the thing at question.

 

“Country,” Bait repeated indicating a thumbs up signal, “or rabble rouser?”  He indicated the thumbs down sign.  He repeated himself several times as he moved along the front of the stage looking to the crowd and gauging their response.

 

It wasn’t hard to judge, the thumbs down was given by almost all.  It seemed only young ones called her song true country.

 

Cody took center stage.  “Ok Bait, I’m calling the shots here, you’re one of the contestants.  Sorry little darlin’ but the crowds calling it a rabble rouser and so am I.  Disqualified, that song, you’ll get another chance.”  He told her and the crowd cheered, for what exactly we don’t know.  Do we?

 

Cody calmed the crowd down with his hands.  “Let’s keep things moving, Blade Dance, you ready?”

 

In the antics he had forgotten to pick another song, and in all honesty the challenge was impromptu and he really wasn’t expecting another round or his mate competing against him.

 

Blade looked at Bait and put a hand to his chin as he thought.  He bobbed his head and talked to himself and Cody started tapping a foot.  The crowd joined in the urging in a way by shouting out the names of songs he should do.

 

He waved a hand at some of the songs shouted out at him and gave an ‘oh really’ look out towards the general direction of whomever he was waving off.  Finally he had made up his mind and gave his selection to Cody. 

 

“Well then, Kevashka, lead him off and lets hear it,” Cody said back to the band then turned to the crowd, “an old Mel McDaniel song, Stand On It!”  He announced then stepped away and let Blade take his place.

 

Kevashka ticked the ivories and the band jumped in with Blade Dance playing lead and making a good show.

 

Well, now Jimmy Lee was hookin’ round the far turn of a funky southern Florida dirt track.  He had mud caked on his goggles and a screaming three fifty stacked up on his back.  Well as he passed the stands he was feelin’ all tuckered out, when through the roar of the engine he heard somebody shout stand on it, come on boy stand on it!

 

As Kevashka ramped on the piano, the audience clearly was enjoying the song.  Ace made an appearance on stage grabbing people she passed and dancing with them.  Once she got them moving she’d whoop and move to someone else. 

 

Well now Columbus he discovered America even though he hadn’t planned on it.  He got lost and woke up one morning when he’s about to land on it.  He wouldn’t of got out of Italy, man that’s for sure, without Queen Isabella standing on the shore shouting stand on it, go ahead man stand on it!

 

Kevashka threw in her Jerry Lee Lewis and stood fast knocking the piano bench from her and hammering the keys.

 

Once Blade Dance finished, Bait was giving him a disapproving look.  “I think your mates rubbed off on you too much there pard.”  He looked to the crowd.  He was about to speak when Cody took over.

 

“Okay, audience decision time, same question as last time…”  He didn’t need to go on, the crowd was already putting their thumbs up.  Cody looked back at Bait.  “It’s Mel McDaniel, audience agrees, country!” 

 

Cody led the crowd in applause for Blade.  He let them go on for about a minute then quieted them again and looked to Bait.  “You’re turn Bait, what’s it going to be?”

 

Bait had a cocky smile as he walked up to Cody and whispered his selection.  Cody nodded as he listened.  “I like it.”  He said then radioed out the song to the band that made a quick set up while Cody announced it.

 

“Inquisitor Bait has gone all bluegrass on us, yes!  A Man Of Constant Sorrow done in the style from the movie, go figure,” he added with a back glance at Bait, “Oh Brother Where Art Thou.”

 

Sea Mist was missing from the stage, Cody wondered if she had given up on competing in a country-off competition.  It didn’t seem like her to back from a challenge though.  Bait took to the microphone prop in the center stage and two others stood near him with a third behind with an acoustic guitar. 

 

The guitar led off and they three singers harmonized the beginning.

 

In constant sorrow all through his days.”

 

Bait took lead.  I… am a man of constant sorrow, I’ve seen trouble all my days.  I bid farewell to old Kentucky, the place where I… was born and raised.

 

The harmony singers took their turn.

 

The audience was far less rowdy during this song, but they clearly were into the music.  Many had joined in with guitars and the sound across the field lawn of the home of Alexander was magical.  As Bait sang his face conveyed the emotions of the song.

 

“… to love another while I am sleeping in my grave.  Bait went on then the harmony singers filled with their line.

 

Maybe your friends think, I’m just a stranger, my face you’ll never will see no more.  But there is one promise that is given…

 

The werewolf Bait didn’t know that was playing the guitar was exceptional and was very into playing the song.  He figured the man volunteered because he favored the song.  When he finished his second challenge song, Cody called out to the crowd for their approval.  It seemed the songs by Blade Dance were more of their fancy than his selections based on their response. 

 

“So, well, Sea Mist?  Have you tucked tail and ran or are you still around?”  Cody called looking around the stage. 

 

He was about to call and end to the impromptu challenge and declare a winner, clearly Blade Dance, when Sea Mist’s voice rang out from back center stage.

 

“No one out performs me.  This ain’t over till I’m done.”  She said loudly.

 

Cody, Blade Dance and Bait as well as all on stage and the audience, looked to her.  She was dressed in a frilly saloon dress and was accompanied by many women dressed the same.  From behind the entourage that came with her werewolves moved to where the current band was and replaced them.  Hand picked by Sea herself.

 

Sea walked up to Cody and with a palm pushed him back.  “Step aside Buffalo Bill.”  She said to him then looked back at her band. 

 

Nods were exchanged and Sea stepped back from the microphone prop and took her ready stance.  Swanky music started to play and as the piano tickled down Sea Mist began.

 

It’s, just, a little bitty pissant country place, ain’t nothing much to see.  No drinkin’ allowed, we get a nice quiet crowd, plain as it can be.  It’s just a piddly squattin’ old time country place, ain’t nothing to high toned.  Just lots of goodwill and maybe one small thrill, but there’s nothing dirty going on!  Sea Mist sang.

 

The brothel girls with harmonized “Nothing dirty going on!

 

Sea Mist walked along the front of the stage, in her best Dolly Pardon style complete with overly high and complete platinum blonde wig.  Her chest did Dolly justice without any extra padding.

 

We get simple farmers, local business men.  Congress folks from Austin, young boys looking for sin.  Now we used to get a lot of roughnecks, when the oil boom was high.  But payday would get a little rowdy, thank god the field ran dry.

 

The chorus girls moved in and danced around with Sea Mist as she promenaded around the stage with them.  Bait took notice that among the chorus girls, was his mate.  Snow danced in line with them and was dressed the part, naturally in an all black frilly dress.

 

He started laughing and pointed at his lover, calling attention to her from Blade Dance and anyone else near him.  Meadow had apparently been recruited for this production and stepped from hiding behind all the others to the front.

 

Meadow: “Yeah every girl that lives here knows Miss Mona’s no-no rules.

 

Sea Mist called out the girls one by one for their part.  Ruby Ray start em

 

Allahna stepped forward, her red and blue dress was fetching.  Beds are not to be wallowed in that the kind of thing that big fat lazy hogs do!

 

Sea Mist: “And it don’t make money!  Betrix…

 

Ace was the one who stepped forward next.  I won’t tolerate no tying up my telephone with other peoples business

 

Sea Mist: “Eloise honey…

 

Snow stepped forward.  And please don’t show us no tattoos, no hearts and flowers on your thigh.

 

Sea Mist: “It’s downright tacky!

 

Chorus girls together: “Brands belong on cattle, and that ain’t what we’re sellin' at Miss Mona’s.

 

Sea Mist faced the crowd and crossed the stage pointing and singing to them.

 

Do you catch my drift?  I pay the food and the rent and the utilities, you keep your mind on your work responsibilities.  Don’t let your mouth overload your capabilities, and we can get along.  Dawn…

 

Again Sea Mist called out the girls one by one.  The audience was enjoying the show.  One member tried to climb on stage to Sea Mist, she didn’t even give him a look as she moved and pushed him off stage.

 

And as for pimps, pimps are something you don’t need to get your daily business done.  Are you listenin’ good?  Keep them leaches and bloodsuckers off the back roads;” Sea Mist produced one of Bait’s four barreled shotguns and held it out, “I know how to use a gun, and no one messes with my girls…  She put the gun away and went on with her song, enjoying every moment of her performance.

 

Sea Mist was at the top of her game.  As her performance went on, it only got better.  By the time the girls formed a Rockets style chorus line, all singing together and doing the flashy kicks showing off their legs, she was clearly the winner in Cody’s eyes.

 

When he called all three ‘contestants’ to the front for the final vote, Sea Mist did win, by a loud volume.

 

Cody congratulated her with a handshake and beaming face.  “Now you dear heart, you are a showman!  Right after my own heart!  Damn fine show, damn fine indeed!”

 

Sea Mist thanked him for his complements, then knelt in front of him, placed her hands on the stage and lowered her face.  Buffalo Bill had to turn from the audience and hide his face, he misted up a bit.

 

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Several hours passed and at the request, order, of Trustee Lady Snow, a double layered perimeter had been set up keeping the werewolves back from the building the day walkers were in.  It was a simple circle of stanchions with a heavy rope linking them.  Then ten feet to the inside another circle of stanchions were set up linked by rope.  This was to give those in the ‘church’ a safe zone to watch the shows from.

 

All werewolves were ordered by Snow in an announcement from the stage to stay on their side of the rope.  Bait went up and knocked on the door of the ‘church’ to inform them that they could use their yard without fear of attack.

 

“No, no, it’s the truth.  Werewolves can’t lie you know.  And I have to abide by the same rules.  We aren’t attacking until sundown.  Then your asses are ours.  So enjoy what time you have left… if your master will allow.”  Bait told the frantic faced girl that answered the door.

 

She must have been the lowest or deemed the most expendable in the coven.  A male never would have answered the door.

 

“Y… yes, yes, I’ll tell them.  I will sir.”  The girl said. 

 

She looked freshly beaten.  Bait guessed she had been forced to answer his knock, thus the mauled face.

 

“Oh, not that I have to offer by werewolf law, if you want, we have plenty of holy water if you’d like to drink some.  We’ll treat you better than whoever did that to your face.  Well, if you survive that is.  Holy water will have some nasty effects on you.”  Bait informed the girl. 

 

She quickly pulled herself back into the doorway and softly closed the door.  He could hear her getting more of what she had gotten before she answered the door.  He almost felt sorry for her when he heard the sounds she made as she was beaten, again.

 

He met up with Snow where WeiBoing was at.

 

“I, really your Grace?  You want me to set up refreshments for those things?”  WeiBoing said to Snow with a disgusted face as Bait walked up.

 

Snow had requested that she make non-holy water refreshments available on the outside of the inside ring of rope.  It didn’t make sense to her, but Snow assured her that was what she wanted.

 

“We are using their yard, it’s the least, and I do mean the least, we can do for them.”  Snow added with a smirk.

 

WeiBoing wandered off to do as Snow wanted muttering to herself.

 

“Oh, and be sure to put signs up stating that there is no holy water in the drinks, ok?”  Snow added.

 

WeiBoing looked back.  “Sure.  I guess that might make them more… ah, I’ll do it.”  She said then went back to muttering while she walked.

 

Bait looked at Snow, questioning what he had just heard.  “Refreshments?”

 

Snow nodded with a smug smile.  “Yup, figured we should be polite, not to do so would be rude.  I want them to see the difference between us, and who they serve.  You know damn well Alexander doesn’t give a shit about these people and treats them that way.”

 

Bait looked back towards the building.  He thought about the girl and what was probably still happening to her.  “Yeah, that wouldn’t be hard to do, even without the refreshments.”  He said with a hard face as he looked at the church like building.

 

WeiBoing set up a nice arrangement of refreshment stands around the front of the church, beers and wines from human sources with ample glasses, plastic ones, and even arranged some cheese, crackers and cookies.

 

Snow questioned her on that.

 

“I didn’t say anything about food.”  She said looking cross at the woman.

 

“I know Lady Snow, but, well, we went to all that trouble of putting out drink, aye, it only seemed right to put something with it.  I mean, you know… wine and cheese, nothing fancy mind you, but proper like.”  WeiBoing said with a guilty face.

 

Snow looked over at what WeiBoing had done.  “You’re right, I was shortsighted.  What is refreshment without a snack?  Thanks for covering my ass WeiBoing.”

 

WeiBoing looked relieved.  “Thank you ma’am.”

 

Snow looked off at the stage.  Sea Mist had left for a break, she hadn’t taken one yet and it had been quite a few hours she’d been performing, helping with performances and generally keeping the show rolling with Cody.

 

“Go tell Cody he needs to take a break too.  If he give you any lip, tell him I said it was an order, okay?”  She told WeiBoing.

 

She nodded and headed off to tell Cody it was break time for him.

 

“Snow, over.”  Bait’s voice called from the 7phone.

 

“Snow here my lover, over.”  She answered.

 

“Sheriff Hanks is here with James, they want to speak to us alone.  I kicked everyone out of our… greenroom thing, you got time?”  He asked.

 

“Yeah, be there as soon as I can make it through… everything.”  She answered and headed towards the building on the side of the stage area.

 

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When she entered the building there was tension in the air.  Sheriff Hanks, Thorn, looked concerned with a side of pissed.  When she looked at Bait she could tell he hadn’t been told anything yet.  James on the other hand had a sullen look with a determined edge.

 

“Thorn, James, I’m here.  I take it you wanted both of us here before you said anything?”  Snow said looking between Thorn and James.

 

Thorn nodded.  “Yes your Grace, following the rules and all.”  He stated just to be clear.  He looked over at James.  “Well, get talking, their times precious.”

 

James nodded and looked at Thorn.  “Yes sir.”  Then he focused on Snow.  “Your Grace, I’ve made up my mind, I want to be fully turned.  I want to join the fight, not just stand back on the sidelines.”  He said bluntly.

 

Snow raised her eyebrows, Bait held steady and gave no indication of emotion.

 

“I told him he doesn’t have to do this, that he still has most of his five years to decide.  But he’s headstrong, wanted to do it now.”  Thorn interjected.

 

“If I may?”  James said.  Snow gave him a nod to go on.  “Lady Snow, you know about what’s happened in my past, the things I’ve seen.  I wanted to be an archeologist, but too much other stuff happened, just like your mate, Lord Bait, I’ve been in this mix all my life whether I’ve wanted it or not.  I gave up on my dream of being an archeologist to become a cop, deputy.  I did this because I wanted to protect people, against what I knew was out there.”  He looked between Snow and Bait then gave Thorn a glance.

 

James cleared his throat and continued.  “I appreciate the concerns you have, but nothing will change in five years, I’ll just have waited to make the same choice I’ve made now.  My choice was made years ago when I went into law enforcement.  I want to do everything I can to protect people from these things, so no one else has to go through what I did.  At least help as many as I can.”

 

Snow listened to what he said and watched his eyes, his breathing, everything.  Bait’s teaching was present in her now.  She listened to her freewill.  Then she listened to her werewolf.  Both were of the same feeling.

 

“Inquisitor…” she said turning to her mate, “your feelings on this?”  She asked him.

 

He said nothing, he held her gaze for a moment then clasped his hands in front of himself, lowered his eyes and stepped back one step.  Snow gave a nod of understanding.  He had no objections, and supported James in his decision. 

 

“You object though, Thorn?”  She asked the Sheriff.

 

His face was mixed.  He sighed and looked down for a moment before returning to Snow. 

 

“Yes… no, both.”  He sighed again.  “I’ve known James for, a solid four years now as my deputy, two years before I ran for office we made each others acquaintance.  I think he should wait, but that’s the personal side of things.  He’s a good man and would make a fine werewolf.  His heart is in the right place and I believe he’d make the same choice if he waited.”

 

Friendship.  Even though they’d been at odds for those four years they had still developed a strained friendship.  As Sheriff Hanks, he was concerned for his deputy.  As Thorn, he saw someone who had the right stuff to serve as a protector.  A hard choice to make and an even harder question to answer.

 

“In the end Trustee Snow,”  Thorn put his hands on his hips and stood straight, “it is his choice not mine, and it’s your decision whether or not he gets to make it now.”

 

Snow rested her eyes on Thorn with an edge of ‘thanks for putting everything on my shoulders’ in her look.  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and listened to the feelings inside her, separating the freewill from the werewolf guide.  All eyes were on her when she finally opened her eyes.  She looked each person in the eyes for a moment.

 

“Our law states that as soon as a human in service decides they want to join, they are allowed to make that choice, it is theirs.  Five years is the maximum time allotted for this.  Once they are in service, they surrender their freewill.  They experience what it means to be a werewolf.  It doesn’t matter if they’ve only been in service five minutes, they can choose.”  Snow looked at James.  “This is your choice then?  To become one of us, once done it cannot be undone.  It is not like serving with us as a helper.”

 

James nodded in affirmation.  “Yes, your Grace, I understand and this is my choice.  I don’t want to be on the fence as it were.  I am committed to keeping people safe and protecting them.”

 

“No one here has any objections, the Inquisitor has indicated as much, and I say it now, I have no objections.”  Snow looked at Thorn.  “Notify Lord Squat, tell him he has a turning to do of a helper of kin.  He’ll handle it from there.”

 

Thorn brought Squat to the building and Hovlek brought a full bishop to recite the ritual of turning for a helper in werewolf service.  Then Squat made James a full werewolf.  After that, Snow and Bait along with the others went to the stage.  They waited for the band to stop playing and notified the current MC that they wanted to take a few minutes of time.  When they went to center front stage, Thorn stood with James.

 

“Your attention please.  Trustee Snow has an announcement.”  Bait said to the audience.  They applauded her when she moved to the prop microphone.

 

“Friends, kin, protectors.  Today we have good news, news that we haven’t had for many years, too many.”  Snow looked back at James and Thorn and motioned for them to come to her side.  “Welcome with me now, new kin to us all, helper James has made his choice.  He stands before you now as a werewolf.”

 

As the crowd welcomed him into their fold with a massive roar, James bowed to the crowd, straightened and waved a hand with a large smile.  The crowd started chanting his name.

 

Lord Bait stepped forward beside Snow.  “James, is your human name.  It is a werewolf custom to name their kin at different seasons of their lives, you are starting your first season as a werewolf.  Would you have Thorn name you, or would you choose your own now?”

 

“I would like to choose my own at this time your Grace.”  James said.

 

Bait looked to Snow.  Snow held his look for a moment, then clasped her hands before her and lowered her eyes.

 

Bait smiled.  “James, tell us, what are we to call you now?”

 

James cocked a half smile and glanced at Thorn.  “Pima.”  He said.

 

“Pima?”  Bait said with a questioning face.  The bishop attending with them radioed over to someone. 

 

“Yes your Grace.”  James tittered.  “It, ah, comes from Sheriff Hanks, Thorn.  Something he always used to tell me, ‘you’re a Pain In My Ass you know that James’ he’d always say.  And I was.”

 

There was laughter from the stage and the audience. 

 

Bait curbed his laughter looking to the bishop who gave him a nod.  “Then welcome Pima!”  The crowd cheered again.

 

James took a bow again in front of the audience.  Many called for him to come to them for a proper welcome.  Pima jumped from the stage into the crowd and let them properly welcome him.  Several day walkers watched from their circle.  Their faces were sad.

 

-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-

 

The official time for the start of bash two had finally arrived.  Though not much had changed.  There was a steady flow of werewolves into the area.  Snow and Bait were mingling with their kin and had ended up near the circle where the day walkers were told they were safe.

 

There was a small crowd of day walkers in the area provided for them.  After the first few had tried the refreshments and not died, others joined in.  Most were intoxicated now.  Snow watched them thinking that was a side benefit of being nice.

 

They weren’t paying to much attention when someone, a young girl, threw a rock at Bait nearly hitting him.  Snow snatched the rock out of the air just before it would have struck her mate on his side.  She looked and glared at the girl who ducked down and slinked away but stayed near the edge of her side of the rope circle.

 

Snow was about to toss the rock on the ground.

 

“Hold on, let me see that rock.”  Bait told her and extended his hand towards her.  He recognized her as the girl who had answered the door.

 

Snow gave him a puzzled look for a spit second then handed him the rock.  Bait looked at it.  There was something scratched into the rock.  “Help me.”  He read from the faint scratching on the rock.

 

He told Snow about what happened, how he had met her.  Snow smiled back.  “So what are you going to do?”  She asked.

 

Bait keyed his 7phone.  “Hovlek, bring me one of your pints of holy water.”  He radioed out.  He looked back to Snow.  “Can’t refuse a request of help.”

 

Snow nodded, her face spoke of what was about to happen to the girl.  “I hope she survives.” 

 

Her survival would depend on how long she had been a day walker in slavery to the vampires she served.  With all the activity, her mind wasn’t being closely watched.  Her action of throwing a rock at the Inquisitor would have been to her benefit. 

 

Hovlek came fast.  “Here is pint, hrm, Hovlek think Bait has someone to help?  Yes?”

 

Bait nodded.  “You’re good Hovlek.”  He said to him as he took the blue bottle from Hovlek’s hand.

 

With a grunt, Hovlek said, “Hovlek knows Bait, good heart in Bait.  If Bait can help, Bait will.”

 

Others seemed to have been paying attention, possibly eavesdropping on the conversation.  That wasn’t against any werewolf law.  They would have to move fast, once the girl crossed the line, others would notify her master.  Depending on if they notified Alexander with their thoughts that were being monitored or by going to tell in person would affect the amount of time they had. 

 

Erring on the side of caution, it would be assumed that as soon as she crossed the line, her master would know.  That would leave a few seconds to let her break the link with the holy water.  Bait pulled the cork from the bottle and looked for the girl.

 

She wasn’t far away or hard to find.  He flashed the bottle to her when he saw her looking at him.  Her face was very bloody and bruised.  She looked off when she saw the bottle and went and mingled with her kind.  She knew what she was doing, she wasn’t a full vampire and hadn’t suffered the full loss of intellect yet.  When she mingled it wasn’t long before one of the male day walker smacked her on the back of the head.

 

“Get me some more bitch.”  The day walker said to her handing her his glass. 

 

When she moved off to comply he tripped her and gave her a push sending her to the ground face first.  The glass hit the dirt with its opening.

 

“Get me a clean glass too you clumsy bitch, man you’re worthless.”  He scolded her with loathing.

 

She kept her head and eyes down as she walked past two of the stands with refreshments and food on them selecting the one nearest where Snow, Bait and Hovlek stood.  She never looked at them.  She started filling a cup.  She looked back at the other day walkers quickly.  None were watching her, they were too involved in their own drunken discussions.

 

She set the glass down and reached for some food that was on the side closest to where her rescuers stood.  She dropped a cracker and bent to pick it up.  It was at that moment she charged under the rope.

 

The moment the girl moved under the rope, numbers of werewolves moved from their side.  They filed around the girl and made a wall between her and the other day walkers.  Two of those that rushed the line grabbed the girl.  Bait thought for a moment she was being attacked but quickly realized what was happening.  They hurried her under the second rope and to Bait.

 

Her mouth was already open, one of the werewolves helping her across had told her to open her mouth.  Bait dumped the bottle into her mouth and she drank as fast as she could while the werewolves that crossed the rope line moved back and under the rope that was their boundary.

 

While she screamed and shook, Hovlek and Snow picked her up and ushered her off towards the building that served as the greenroom.  Inside Doctor River Stone and two bishops stood ready.  River Stone cleansed himself as soon as they entered the room.

 

River Stone took the girl from them and went to work with the assistance of the bishops.  Lord snZm was one of them.  They worked fast, submerging her in a barrel of holy water.  Her screaming subsided, but she still shook violently. 

 

She was under water for a good five minutes, only being allowed to bring her mouth to the surface when she stopped blowing bubbles.  Then, River Stone heaved the limp girl from the barrel of holy water which was now tainted and laid her on a table and examined her.  He poked and prodded for almost a minute before looking to Snow and Bait.

 

He gave them a warm smile.  She’d make it.

 

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