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Master of Insanity Prologue 2

March 25, 2015

© M.J. Robertson, December 12 2014

1715 – Blackfire Wolf Pack Territory, Feral Realm…

Padded paws pounded against the grassland of Blackfire Meadows, dry from the sun and now stained with so much crimson.

The silver wolf bounded and leapt, open mouth drawing in breath after breath for his hungry lungs.  His heart pounded as he exerted himself, traversing the expansive grounds back to the Blackfire compound.

How had these bloodsucking parasites managed to outsmart the entire pack?  Scratch that, how did they even manage to breach their defences?  Every warrior and scout they had were out patrolling the grounds.  There was no way they could have managed to sneak their way in.  It was impossible.

Wal bared his teeth and snarled as he ejected the thought from his mind.  He didn’t have time to waste on pointless ponderings.  What did it matter how they had managed it?  The important fact of the matter was:  They were here.  The bloodbath was not yet over.  Wal could continue to quench his battle lust.  He could take out his frustrations, enact his violent fantasies, slaughter to his heart’s content, vent all his aggression on those audacious and unfortunate enough to have befouled this land with their disgusting, abhorrent, abominable presence.

As Wal’s excitement grew, so too did the growl emanating from deep within.

Wal tore through the back entrance to the compound.

It was open!

So it was true.  They really had entered the building.  The cowards weren’t willing to take the warriors on in a straightforward battle.  They would rather sneak around and slip past the battlegrounds to murder the children.  It was a battle they could actually win, the wolf supposed, but they wouldn’t be winning for very much longer.  Not if Wal had anything to say about it.

Wal tore into the compound and down the empty hallways.  The ground was littered with the corpses of both sides.  Several weapons lay on the floor next to those who had used them.  Various swords, axes, knives, and guns.  Still stained with blood.  Probably still warm too, but now they lay silent, unused, worthless.

Wal left them where they were, undisturbed, and moved on.  Those goddamned vampires had to be around here somewhere.  He could smell them.  They were close.

Suddenly, a shrill cry pierced the Lycan, drilling through his ears, his brain, his flesh, even his bones.

Wall took off at full steam, rounding a corner in time to see her fall.  She was in line to become a warrior, once she received her trial.  The daughter of proud theta wolves.

Her lifeless body fell to the ground.  Blood poured from the open wound in her throat.

The vampire hadn’t bitten her, he had torn her open.  Her scarlet life left her in a torrent.  The wasteful creature hadn’t even bothered to drain her, though he had clearly tasted her before throwing her away like trash.  The evidence was dripping from his blood-covered mouth.

Wal didn’t know whether to be relieved or outraged by that.  He had killed her for nothing, but on the other hand, it wasn’t as though this foul abomination deserved her blood.

Wal bared his teeth and snarled, a threatening growl emanating from deep within his bowels.

The vampire turned to face him, blood running from his open mouth, covering his face, dripping from his bared fangs.  He took a wide stance and advanced upon the approaching epsilon.

“It’s about time one of you showed up,” the creature taunted in his strange, gritty voice.  “I was growing tired of slaughtering these pathetic underlings.  They weren’t presenting much of a challenge, even for me.”  The creature looked every bit the monster, with his grey skin, bald head, pointed ears, and equally pointed teeth.  He resembled a deformed elf more than a vampire… at least he would if he were not so short and plump looking.

“So the monster wants a challenge, does he?  Murdering children not difficult enough?  Alright beautiful, how about you take me on?”

Wal charged, a roar launching from his open jaw.  An open claw tore through the vampire’s skin, a lump of grey, grotesque looking meat coming out with it.

The vampire shrieked like a banshee and used his own claws on the wolf, raking the skin beneath his fur and drawing blood.

Wal shifted back to his human form and punched the miserable creature square in the face.  He sent a knee into the thing’s gut, eliciting another squeal.  “Don’t act like such a fucking bitch,” Wal roared.  “Fight me!  Or is this the best that you can do?!”

Wal’s face distorted, forming a muzzle and his teeth lengthened.  He had the head of a beast, but the body of a man.

The partially shifted wolf bit down onto the pusillanimous excuse for a vampire’s arm… and ripped it clean off, the appendage pulled strait from its socket as the skin and flesh tore like paper.

The vampire howled in agony as his valuable blood flooded from him.

For a vampire, nothing was more important than blood.  It was the one and only tool they had.  With it, they could turn the dark aura shadowing their cursed souls into raw power, but without it, they were nothing, and this one was just about tapped out.  Wal shifted back to human form and picked up a nearby axe from the ground.  It was time this demonic creature was put out of its misery.

Honestly, it was pathetic.  How typical for a fuckin’ Orlok.  Weak, pathetic, and never up for a decent fight.  They preferred to skulk around in the shadows.  They were cowards, pussies.  Hell, they were even worse than the Cainites.  At least the children of Cain put up a decent fight, even if they were afraid of the sun.

Oh well, Wal thought.  It was time for this thing’s decapitation.  He readied the axe for one final swing, when his target suddenly leapt up into the air.  He flipped backward and landed behind one of the young lycans.  With his good arm, he clasped the pup to him like a shield.

Wal narrowed his eyes in disgust.  “You’re pitiful!  Using that kid as a shield?  You really think I won’t attack through him to put you down?”

The vampire sneered behind his hostage and whispered into the young boy’s ear.

The pup froze for a moment, before he screamed, “Do it!  I don’t care if you hit me, so long as you kill this bastard!”

“Strong words, little boy,” the Vampire hissed, backing away, taking his helpless shield with him.  The bald creature lowered his head, bringing it closer to the boy, who appeared to gag on the stench of the foul creature’s breath.

The vampire opened his mouth to speak, but paused for a moment… before bringing his fangs down on the boy’s neck.

Shit!

Wall’s eyes widened as he realised what was happening.

The boy moaned pathetically as he was drained.  His face began to pale, and as he grew weaker, the vampire grew stronger.  His cuts stopped bleeding and healed.  Even his arm began to regenerate.

Why hadn’t Wal seen this coming?

“Fucking vampire cunt!” he roared, leaping forward and swinging the axe at the fiend before him.

The blade made contact, slicing through the boy’s head and spraying them all with lycan blood, but the vampire was able to dodge the attack.

Why was he so fast?  He had not been this powerful before!

Wal roared and leaped over the deceased child as he hacked at the deformed vampire’s body.

The Orlok was able to dodge most of the attacks, but Wal pressed on, not letting up for a second.  There was no way the vampire would get the upper hand over him.  He shifted once more and snapped with his mighty jaws.  He’d tear this piece of shit apart with his bare fucking hands.

As the heavy axe hit the ground, Wal sped toward the cursed creature, murder burning brightly in the golden gleam of his eyes.

The vampire leapt backward, out of the wolf’s reach, flipping in the air.  He wasn’t much to look at, but he was quite the acrobat.  It probably helped him to run away.

Wal clawed and snapped at the creature, who did nothing but evade every attack.  Evade, dodge, retreat.  Was that all he was capable of?

“Stop running and fight me!” Wal demanded.

The vampire sneered, revealing rows of long, sharp teeth.  The way the creature stood, hunched over, squatting, its legs sending it into the air for jump after jump.  It resembled a toad more than any kind of predator.

For every leap Wal made to advance on the vampire, it simply jumped back out of his reach.  It was infuriating.

The battle was a slow, tedious one.  How the hell was Wal supposed to snuff out this cretin if he couldn’t even hit him?

Wal released a loud, sharp growl as he felt a powerful rage come over him, consuming him, enveloping him.  He couldn’t even see his surroundings any more.  All that mattered was tearing this bastard’s head from his body and bathing in the blood that flowed from his corpse.

Wal pushed his body to its limit, jumping as high and running as fast as he could.  The vampire’s fancy acrobatics would help him no longer.  His frail

form was no match as Wal’s jaw closed in around him, tearing a chunk from his leg.

His claws followed, ripping the vile thing to shreds.

The vampire jumped back.  His eye glanced to a group of young casteless, taking cover behind an upturned table.  Their hiding place was poorly chosen.  The vampire smirked and made to head off in their direction.

“No you fucking don’t!” Wal roared.  He’d already beaten this piece of shit down twice.  If he let the vampire drain another defenceless wolf, he’d just regenerate and they’d have to begin the process all over again, until either the vampire died, or he killed every last lycan in the compound until there were only the two of them left.

Wal didn’t have time for this shit.  He let out a guttural bark that echoed within the building, as his speed overpowered the vampire.

Jaws enclosed around his arm once more, tearing it off.  “How many times do you plan on making me dismember you?!”

Wal leapt over the wounded vampire as he screamed pathetically, and turned on the spot, tearing out his other arm.

He tore off the creature’s bad leg, leaving him to hop around on his one remaining foot, armless, bleeding, crying and screaming like a new born.  A truly pathetic sight.  Wal would have found it amusing, if he weren’t so fucking pissed.

“You think you can come into my land?  Trespass on my territory?  Break into my compound?  Attack my pack?  You should have known what was waiting for you!  So what?  You thought you could sneak past the warriors and have your way with the children?  Disgusting.  Your cowardice knows no bounds.  You should have seen this coming.  Take what you deserve!  Have your just desert, you’ve earned it.  So, how does it taste, cunt?  How does it fucking taste!”  Wal screamed in blind fury, his rage and bloodlust having long since taken control of his body.

In blissful wrath he removed the creature’s last remaining limb, leaving him to fall to the ground, a quivering, worthless stump.  He’d always been an insignificant piece of shit, but now he actually resembled one.

The wolf brought his jaw down onto the vampire’s torso.  Teeth sunk into the rancid flesh, tongue discerning its putrid flavour.  It tasted how it looked.

Wal spat the mouthful onto the ground, before taking another bite, again spitting it out.  He took another bite, then another, then another.  He would not swallow this creature’s flesh.  The orlok did not deserve to be devoured by one such as him.  He was not worthy of even being turned to shit.  It was not necessary, the transformation had been made long before now.

Finally, Wal turned his attention to the Vampire’s most vital spot, and tore it out, ripping the jugular from his throat.  The defiled abomination’s screams turned to gurgles as he choked on the blood of his own vomit.  It flowed profusely from every one of the many orifices Wal had made in his rancid excuse for a body.

The Epsilon shifted back to his human form.  “I’ve heard that decapitation is the only way to snuff out a vampire’s life,” he sneered, “or should I say unlife?  I hope this will suffice.”  He lifted his foot, hovered it over the dying monster’s head, and brought it down, hard, crushing the vampire’s skull.

He felt the bone splinter and fracture beneath him.  Blood pooled at his feet.  Shards of skull cut into his skin, mixing his blood with that of the vampire. How many of the corpses in here had died to fill his veins?

Wal took a few deep breaths as the violent afterglow calmed him.  He lifted his foot.  He felt the bone and brain squishing between his toes.  He attempted to wipe it on the ground, cleaning it as though it were something he’d casually trodden in.  “Disgusting.  I stepped in…” he glanced over to the young Lycans.  “Hey, come here, boy!” he ordered.

Reluctantly, one of the children came out from his hiding place and approached, his eyes fixed to the ground, clearly ashamed of his unwillingness to take part in the battle.  What would have happened it Wal hadn’t shown up in time?  Would he have even tried to defend himself, or would he have surrendered on sight to that vermin?

“Yes, my Epsilon?”

Wal glared at the boy as though he’d just spoken an insult.  This boy was pathetic.  Wal was not his Epsilon, to be thought of as such was an insult.  Wal wanted nothing to do with this coward, but the Therian Hierarchy was clear, and the boy was technically correct to address him as such, even if the honour did feel more like shame.  Wal pushed the thought aside.  “The vampires.  Surely there are more of them in here, where are they?”

“They went downstairs.”

Wal’s eyes widened.  “They’re not after the elders?”  Downstairs… why were they heading down there?  Did they not know the layout?  The only things down there were the research labs.  Had they done all this to—“Shit!”

Wal quickly shifted back to his wolf form and took off in pursuit of the invaders.  He desperately hoped that he wasn’t too late.  He’d let that last fight drag on too long.  He’d always had a penchant for playing with his food, but if the vampires managed to break into the labs—He froze, turning his head to look back to the boy.  “Hey!”

“Epsilon?” the boy responded.

“Make yourself useful.  Round up any survivors and keep them safe.  Take care of the injured.  You can at least do that, can’t you?”

“Yes, Epsilon.”

Wal bowed his head, then took off once more.

Good for nothing fucking vampires!

Wal tore through the corridors of the basement, tearing down every bloodsucker he encountered.

He tore out the throat of one, took the head off another, and ripped out the heart of a third.

Wal shifted back to human form, losing his blood-soaked coat.  He stood in the empty room surrounded by the dead bodies of enemies.  Their liquid scarlet stain coated the tan skin of his nude, human body.

He picked up a discarded weapon from the ground – a lycan-made shotgun.  Looting the corpses of kin, he managed to stockpile a supply of ammunition.  God bless the geniuses in the labs for churning out these inventions.

Wal loaded the gun to full capacity with the anti-vampire shells.  When fired, they would splinter and shatter, sending a barrage of purified slugs, blessed by a holy man, at the vampires, penetrating their bodies, entering their bloodstream, and piercing their hearts.

The slugs would sap the vampires of their aura and drain them of their blood until they collapsed and fell apart.  They would turn to dust.  It would be a quick death, but it would be agonising.

Of course, the nature of the weapon meant they didn’t have a fantastic range.  They required the wielder to be up close and personal with the vampires to slay them, but that was fine with Wal.

The blood soaked Lycan seemed to glisten under the overhead lights as he unleashed a demented laugh and sang a song from his youth.  “Come little midians, be not afraid.  Enter the land of your nightmares.”  He cackled, his demented sneer revealing sharp, gleaming white teeth.  “Welcome to hell.”

Wal dressed himself in the clothes of a fallen comrade:  A pair of ripped jeans and a leather jacket, which he placed around his shoulders, leaving it open, exposing his toned, glistening, blood-soaked chest.  He had no boots, but it didn’t matter.  As a therian, he was more than used to running barefoot.  The soles of his feet were tough enough to handle the cold, concrete floors without discomfort.

Steadying the shotgun, he pumped a shell into the chamber and descended the first of many flights of stairs into the basement.

They rushed at him, jumping out from corners.  How many were down here? It didn’t matter.  Wal allowed the vampires to get just close enough, and then squeezed the trigger, firing the shotgun.

The slugs fired, ripping through the vampires’ frail skin.  Their gleaming red eyes widened in agony.  Their battle cries turned to screams of pain as they crumbled, falling to the ground as pathetic piles of ash.

Perhaps the vampires deserved a more glorious death, one that involved knives and bloodletting, but this would have to suffice.  It was faster, and the Lycan was in a hurry.  Besides, this was every bit as fun.

Wal didn’t usually like to use guns, but this was different.  It was accelerating, allowing the bloodsuckers to get into biting range with no way to defend himself, knowing he had only one chance to pull the trigger, knowing his timing had to be perfect, and then seeing the look of shock and horror on the parasite’s faces as they were drained and incinerated in a matter of seconds.  It was priceless.

This.  Was.  Bliss!

Wal made his way down the hallway, blasting all the vampires that crossed his path, the grin etched into his features never for a second leaving him.

Finally, several dusty hallways and many shells later, Wal found himself at the entrance of the research facility.  There were three figures at the front of the door, but they didn’t seem to have gotten it open just yet.  At least that was something.  He wasn’t too late.

The figures… only two of them were vampires.  The first of the two held the third figure by the throat.  Wal recognised him.  He was pack!

“Nothing to say, holy man?  Where is your human God now?  Why does he not help you?”

The second vampire drew a sword and ran the lycan through, stabbing him through the heart, all the way to the hilt.  The vampire roughly yanked his weapon from the wound and the other tossed the injured wolf to the ground.

He lay in a heap, bleeding, spluttering, dying.  His bald head turned to face the armed newcomer.

The first vampire approached the bald lycan and ripped the cross from around his neck, tossing it to the ground in disgust.  “Did you really think this would save you?  You’re not some ignorant human, you should know better.

Wal took off in a sprint.  The vampires turned to the source of his footsteps, but it was too late.

Wal closed in and fired.  The shell ripped through skin and the first vampire screamed as his body crumbled.

“I guess the priest had his use after all,” Wal taunted.  “How else would we slaughter you vampire scum so easily?”

“You bastard,” the last remaining vampire cursed, readying his sword.

Wal smirked.  “You’re the only one left.  I’ve killed all the rest.  I slaughtered you like savages, like animals, like cattle.  So how about it, are you ready to die yet?”

The vampire glared and swung his sword.  “Tough talk coming from a filthy, mongrel, attack dog.  It’s time somebody put the rabid beast down.”

Wal blocked the attack, using his gun as a shield.  He parried a slash, then another, and another.  They just kept coming.  How appropriate for a vampire, Wal sneered.

Seeing an opportunity, he aimed his gun and quickly fired, narrowly missing.

The vampire stabbed at him, striking the Lycan’s shoulder.

Wal jumped aside and struck at him with the gun as though it were a blunt weapon.  He pumped another shell into the chamber and fired again, it partially hit the vampire’s arm, but it wasn’t fatal.

Wal kicked at the vampire’s head and brought the gun down hard on his arm.  The vampire grunted.  Wal took the opportunity to send a punch at the creature’s face, leaving him dazed for a moment.  He disarmed the vampire and bashed his shoulder with the gun until he heard the bone crack.

Swiftly, he circled around the creature, jamming the barrel of the gun into its back.

He pumped one final shell into the chamber, and pulled the trigger.

The vampire let loose an ear-piercing shriek as his body seized and shattered like glass.  He crumbled to dust before the Lycan, who dropped the gun and turned his attention to the door of the research facility.

The door opened, and out stepped the pack’s head research scientist.  The man wore a long, white lab coat.  His skin was pale, and eyes were hidden behind thick safety goggles.  His blonde hair was tied into a ponytail that ran from his nape to just above his shoulders.

“I thank you,” the scientist said.  “It would have been disastrous if they had made it into the laboratories, though I do wish you brutes wouldn’t swing my inventions around like that.  They’re not designed with Neanderthalic werewolves in mind, keep treating my arsenal with that same level of care and respect, and it might just break when you need it most.  Don’t you cave wolves know how to shoot?  That’s supposed to be a gun you’re holding in your unworthy hands, not a club.”

“Yeah, whatever.  How are the specimens doing?”

The scientist grumbled irritably before indulging the warrior’s tangent.  “They live.”

“Are we close to a breakthrough?”

“I can’t say for certain.  They are not very dexterous.  They are far too young, too weak, too frail.  There is a chance they could perish before the research is complete.”

“Expired test subjects don’t concern me.  If they die, we can always get more; but that research is important.  We need it, and quickly.  Time is running short.”

“Indeed.  This was a devastating ordeal and we have lost much.  If we are attacked again…”

“Do you think they would?  Attack us while we’re vulnerable?”

“It would make tactical sense.”

“But to split their force… they would have to know that we would be all but decimated by only half their number, not to mention be willing to sacrifice the first wave.”

“You doubt they could do such a thing?”

“I doubt they could plan the entire scenario, including our actions.  They would need to be tactical geniuses, and know us better than we know ourselves.”

“They managed to get past you.  Not only that, they wiped out half the non-warriors before you even caught up to them.  Who knows what else they could do?”

“Well… that’s why we need to get this project of yours finished before it’s too late.  Get it done, and we can avenge everyone we’ve lost today.  Get it done, and I’ll personally make sure that every last one of those bastards fucking pay.”

“In that case, I think we should heighten security down here.  It would be unfortunate if somebody should make it into the lab and shut us down, be they vampire, or even Lycan.  The invaders almost breached this door.”

“I know.  I was right here, in case you didn’t notice, but what you’re asking is impossible.  I am a warrior, not a diplomat, not a politician.  What do you expect me to do about it?”

“You’re the top warrior here.  You may have some sway over the elders.  If we both petition them, they may see fit to heighten the guards down here.”

Wal looked away for a moment, considering his options.  If there was a chance…  He returned his golden gaze to the doctor.

“I’ll take care of it.”

X

The young wolf walked through a ruin of death, the tattered remains of his once home.  Broken, bloodied corpses littered the expansive grounds; staining the green grass red, the red pasture of these killing fields.  What had happened?  And when?  How much time had passed, by how much had he missed this battle, this bloodbath?

The Lycan ran a hand through his thick, blonde hair, long enough to frame his face, tinted lighter than his golden eyes.  This was horrible.  “How could this have happened?”

“Bill?”

The Lycan turned and stared through his blonde bangs to the source of that heavenly, melodic voice – ironic, given that it came from one cursed with darkness; though at that moment, her voice sounded hurried, anxious, afraid.  “What is it?”

“I… I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“But—“

“Don’t,” the Lycan cut her off.

The young woman approached the werewolf and knelt down, examining the severed head of a nearby carcass.  Holding it in her hands, she examined the pale, milky skin, stained with blood; the elongated canines, the lifeless, scarlet eyes.  “A vampire…”

“Yeah, looks like we were invaded by an entire army of them.  Both sides took heavy losses.”

“Who won?  Did your pack manage to fight them off, or…?”

“It’s hard to say.”

“You don’t think they made it past your warriors… do you?”

“I don’t know.”  Bill shook his head.  “No, there’s no way.  There’s no way my brother would stand by and let the entire pack be massacred.”

“Why would they do this?  Come all this way?”  Bill remained silent.  “…they were looking for us, weren’t they?”

“It’s not our fault.”

“But…”

Bill snarled, gripping the vampire tightly by the shoulders and pulling her close to his face.  “I said it’s not our fault!”  The raven haired beauty flinched before him.  “Vampires are supposed to be proud and strong aren’t they?  Why don’t you act like it?”

The young vampire turned away.  “I’m sorry.”

Bill sighed and released his hold.  “And stop apologising.  Try to remember, you’re deep In the middle of therian territory.  Tensions have been high ever since the war.  Now more so than ever.  After this… maybe it was a mistake to come here.  I’ll do what I can to keep you safe, but you have to stand on your own two feet.  If you don’t, you’re going to be eaten alive in there.”

“I…” The vampire swallowed.  “Right.”

The two pressed on, venturing further into Blackfire territory, entering the compound, damaged – not beyond repair, but still pretty bad.

“It’s hard to believe that anyone could do this,” Bill admitted, gazing in dejected awe at the destruction.  “I remember growing up here.  These walls made me feel so safe.  I didn’t think anything could get through them.  I thought they were impenetrable, we all did.”

“I know what you mean.  It’s just like the castle back home.  It seems so indestructible, yet it is possible to destroy.  It’s been done in the past.  Anything that can be created can also be destroyed with enough force.  The humans showed us all that.”

“Kat.”

“Hm?”

“I… are you sure you’re ready?  I don’t know how they’re going to react when they see you.”

“I’ll be alright, but… are you ready?”

“I’m here to protect you, remember?”

“I know, but… this is your family.  I don’t want you falling out because of me.  Maybe we should turn around.”

“And go where?  There is nowhere else.”

“Then… maybe we should part.”

Bill deadpanned. “You’re not serious.”

Kat looked away.  “I’m only thinking of you.”

“After all we’ve been through?  No, there’s no way I’m’ abandoning you now.  Whatever happens, we face it together.  Just stay close to me.”

“O-okay.”  The young vampire hardened her eyes, and her resolve, but she couldn’t conceal the shadow of a smile as she gripped Bill’s hand.  “Thanks.”

“Why’re you thanking me?  I want to stay with you, I’m just doing what I have to to make sure that happens.  I’m just doing what I want to do.”  That… didn’t sound right.  Bill had never been good at expressing himself.  “If anything, I’m being selfish here.”

“It’s just… this is what I want too, no matter what happens.”

“Glad we’re in agreement,” Bill said, stepping through a crack in the wall to enter the compound.  He reached out a hand to help his companion into the building.

“There’s no going back now,” the vampire admitted, stepping into the building.

Bill smirked.  “There’s been no going back for a long time now, don’t you think?”

“I suppose you’re right.”

The lycan looked about the desolate ghost house, the interior of his once home.  Corpses littered the ground, and blood stained the walls.  If anything, the death and destruction was even worse on the inside than it had been out in the fields.  The dead were everywhere.  “This is unforgivable,” Bill seethed.  “These people weren’t even fighters!  They were councillors, scientists, children.”

“You mean they were defenceless?” Kat asked, shocked that her own people could be so merciless.

“There would have been a few in here who could fight back.  Surely there would have been a few warriors kept behind as a precaution.  Also, the scouts, hunters, and enforcers would have fallen back for safety.  Even if they’re not the best combatants, they can at least defend themselves.”

“Enforcers?”

Bill looked to his vampire companion and saw the uncertainty on her face.  “Enforcers, you know; they keep order within the pack, settle disputes, provide security.”

“So they’re like a police force.”

“Kind of.  You’re people don’t have something similar?”

“Not really.  Most disputes can be settled through trials of courage, aptitude, and combat.  If a matter is still causing unrest, the elders usually decide the solution.”

“I see.  What about our situation?  Could that be decided by the trials?”

“I have disgraced my family, my clan, my coven, and my entire race.  I have allowed myself to become tainted by a…” she hesitated, as if unsure whether she should continue.  “By an animal.”  She swallowed.  “Impure blood is not usually tolerated within Vampire society.  The matter would be cause for a council of elders.  I would have to attend a hearing, but I can guess what the outcome would be.”

“Exile?”

“If we’re lucky.  More likely death, for me… and you as well.”

“Then we’ll just have to steer clear of vampires, won’t we.  Lycan don’t usually kill their own.  The worst punishment we know is exile.  We are cast out, never to return.  We become enemies of the pack, left defenceless in the wilds.  Alive, but it’s a fate every bit as bad as death, if not worse.  Hell, it may as well be.  We don’t usually survive long on our own… perhaps death is preferable.”

“You mean… the exiles take their own lives?”

“Honestly… I don’t know.  We are pack – social creatures by nature.  We were never meant to be lone wolves.  The wilds are a dangerous place at the best of times, without adding the peril of being alone and unequipped.”

“What if they do that to you?  I don’t expect your elders will be much more supportive than mine.  Could you survive on your own?”

“If that happens… then it happens.  It can’t really be helped now, can it?  We can’t change the past.  I wouldn’t want to, even if I could.  I have no regrets.  What about you?”

Kat paused for a moment.  “Well, I kind of wish that us being together wasn’t seen by our clans as such a heinous crime.  I wish we could make a real life, a real family for ourselves.”

Bill smirked.  “Other than that… Besides, even if I’m exiled, it’s not like I’d be alone.  You’d come with me, right?”

“Of course,” the vampire instantly confirmed, reaching for the lycan’s hand.  “Wherever you go, I’ll be right there beside you.  Together forever, even in death.”

“Tearing hand-in-hand straight into the bowels of hell?  I can think of worse ways to go.  Of course, I can think of better ways too, but…

“If it comes to that, I’m sure we could make some kind of life for ourselves, somewhere.  If not in the wilds… then in the human world, or maybe someone would be willing to ally us.  The vampires must have enemies outside of this realm.  Come on, let’s get going.  I want to see if the elders made it out unscarred.”

As the unlikely coupling navigated the hallways, they passed more survivors.  They seemed well, all things considered, but that in itself did not bode well.  It was likely that the injured had all died; from the battle, or of their wounds.

Those that had survived looked up at their passing.  Nostrils flared, eyes narrowed to hate-filled stares.  Most creatures could detect a vampire from a mile away, and here one was, deep within the heart of their domain, imposing on their territory.

The survivors stood over their dead, hearts heavy with mourning, features etched with hate; hate for her kind, for her.  Hate for Kat, and for her beloved; for daring to bring her here.  This was beginning to feel as though it were a terrible idea.

Although she tried to ignore the murderous looks the werewolves were giving her, it was impossible to forget the dead bodies that lay scattered about the place.  Kat could not escape them, they were present everywhere she looked.

Time and time again, the thought kept returning to her.  She could not escape its suffocating hold.

“Was all this… because of me?”

Bill clenched his teeth, lips pulling back in a snarl.  He began to growl.  “What are you all looking at?!” he demanded of the mob.  “Have none of you ever seen a vampire before?”

“We’ve seen too many!” somebody replied.  “In case you can’t tell, we’ve just been completely butchered by them while you were out fuck knows where putting your scent all over that bitch!”

Bill placed an arm possessively around his vampiress.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?  All of you!  Why do you think I brought her here?  She’s in the same boat as us.  Her own family wants her dead!”

“Well, look at that, you two do have something in common!”

“Oh yeah, they after her?  They trying to hunt you two down?” another spoke up, “and you thought you’d bring her here?  Lure those vampiric bastards here?!  What’s wrong with us?  Look around.  What the fuck’s wrong with you?!  Give us one goddamn reason why we should protect that bitch!”

“Yeah!” spoke another.  “Why should we die, just so you can bury you’re bone in that parasitic ass?!”

“Would you rather I bury your bones in the blood-soaked grounds?”

“And why do you think they’re blood-soaked?  You pissed off those god damned bloodsuckers, you lured them here; and we paid for it.  It’s all your fault, you and that whore of yours!”

Bill tightened his hold on the vampire, reminding Kat that he was there for her.  His scowl hardened.  When his voice spoke, it was low, calm, void of emotion.  “So you’d all turn against me, against your own flesh and blood.”

“Can you really blame them?”

Bill’s eyes widened, turning to the source of that voice.  He hadn’t heard it in…

There he was, leaning against a far wall.  He pushed off from the structural support and smoothly made his way over to the intruders.  The small mob parted to make room for the newcomer.  “Brother…” Bill spoke.  “It’s… it’s good to see you again.”

“Is it really?” the older lycan smirked.

Bill turned to the vampire he was guarding.  “Kat, this is my brother, Wallace Blackfire.  Everyone just calls him Wal.”  He turned back to his brother once again.  “Wal, this is Katlynne Bathory.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Kat meekly greeted.

“Pleasure?” Wal replied, quirking an eyebrow.  “No, I don’t think so.  Not today.  Perhaps someday, but not today, not here, not now.”

“I’m sorry?” the vampire questioned, not understanding.

Wal gestured around him.  “Look at the destruction you’ve caused us.  I wouldn’t call this a pleasure.  It’s more of a pain, really… but I suppose the two often go hand in hand, don’t they?”  The wolf curled his lip in a vulgar smirk.

“Um… Bill’s told me a lot about you,” Kat said, ignoring the unsettling look that Wal was giving her.

“Oh, it’s Bill now, is it?” the older brother questioned.  “When he was living here, he went by Will.  My my, how things change.  People, for instance.”  He turned his back on the two and made to leave, halting for a moment.  “Come, there’s something I want to discuss in private.”

“Um…” Kat murmured, unsure of what might happen if she were to be left alone with all these murderous wolf-men.

“Bring your bitch, if you must,” Wal nonchalantly conceded, “This concerns her, too.”

“Don’t call her that!” Bill growled.

Wal quickly turned and delivered a backhand slap to his brother’s face, causing him to stagger back.  “You’ve been away a long time, brother.  In case you’ve forgotten our ways, I’ll remind you to watch your tone.  If you challenge me, I will destroy you.  Besides…” Wal said, now speaking in a much calmer, indifferent air, “there are worse things I could call her.  Now, are you coming, or do I have to drag you by the ear?”

Bill released his pent-up anger in one short, bark-like breath.  He didn’t have a choice.  His brother was his senior, his superior, and he was much, much stronger.  Begrudgingly, he moved to follow the elder wolf.  Grasping at Kat, he held her firmly by the hand, gently pulling her along behind him.  He wouldn’t leave her to the bitter mercy of these wolves.

They followed the older wolf through several hallways until they found an empty room.  All the way there, everyone they passed seemed to shoot them hate-filled glares.  Was it that obvious what Kat was?

Reaching their destination, Wal stopped and waited for his brother to catch up.  The moment he did, Wal rounded on him and delivered a powerful punch, pummelling his face and sending him to the ground.

Bill stood to his feet, ready to defend himself.  He may have been caught off-guard, but—

The second he was back on his feet, Wal grabbed him by the throat and pinned him to the wall.  “Just what the fuck were you thinking?!” he screamed.

“Let him go!” Kat demanded, rushing to her lover’s defence.

She was fast, but she was young, inexperienced; and Wal was faster.  A quick elbow jab to her face sent her plummeting to the ground, bleeding from her broken nose.

“Don’t you fucking touch her!” Bill gurgled.

“You don’t threaten me, Willie,” Wal taunted, “or is it Billie now?  Tell me what was going through that slow mind of yours, or was it stalled completely?”  He threw his brother to the ground, standing over the abhorrent couple.  “We were just attacked… we were slaughtered by her kind!” Wal roared, pointing a finger squarely into Kat’s face.

“How were we to know?” Bill asked.

“Okay, I’ll give you that, but it doesn’t excuse your stupidity.  They’re still the enemy.  Don’t you realise you’re protecting one of the kind who enslaved us for centuries?!  We’ve been fighting a war of independence for the better half of a hundred years, surely you haven’t forgotten!””

“Of course not, but that has nothing to do with Kat!  Don’t blame her for the actions of her people!”

“I’m not blaming that anal cunt, I’m blaming you!”  Kat winced at the insult, and Bill narrowed his eyes.

“The war’s over!  I don’t think you realise that.”

“Look around.  Is the war really over?  They were the ones invading us.  It’s a pretty familiar feeling.  Either they want to keep fighting… and believe me, we’re more than happy to oblige them… or they came here looking for you, because they knew you’d lead them back home, like the worthless dolt you are.  The dust has barely had time to settle, and you bring an anal cunt home with you.  What the hell were you expecting?  A banquet?!  What the fuck were you thinking?  Bringing her here?  Here?!

“She was kind to me!  Her family had me captured, they treated me like a dog.”

“You are a dog.”

Bill glared at his older brother, but continued.  “She gave me company, kindness…“

“Kindness, huh?  Did she bend over for you too?”

“She was the only one to treat me like a person, like an equal.  She even helped me to escape.”

“Believe me,” Wal replied, as calmly as he could, “I get that part.  You seduced her to get the key to your cage, but why keep her around?  Once you were out of their reach, why not simply kill her?  Why bring her home with you?”

Kat shot Bill a nervous eye.  “Is he right?  Tell me he isn’t, tell me you didn’t use me just to get free.”

“It wasn’t like that!” Bill defended.  “Okay, yeah, I did want freedom, I’d be lying if I said I suited a cage, but I wasn’t using you, not even in the beginning.  There was more to it than that.  I wanted more than liberation, I wanted you.  I’d stay in that cell if you were in there with me, but you were out of reach.  You were on the outside, and so was my freedom.  There was nothing in there for me.  Think about it, if I were using you to get out, why would I have kept you around?  If I saw you as a pawn, I would have ransomed you back to your father long ago; but I haven’t.”

Kat reached for the lycan’s hand.  Smiling slightly, she nodded.  “Okay, I believe you.”

“If she was the one you wanted,” Wal argued,” you could have remained captured.  You’d still see her every day.  If she’s that important to you, that would surely be enough.  You’re story doesn’t make sense.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Bill gestured to his brother, “he wouldn’t understand.”

“Well, you’re right there,” Wal added.  “You broke out of enemy captivity and came straight home with your tail between your legs, staying away long enough to avoid taking part in the battle you more than likely caused.  Not only did you fail to turn your breakout into a bloodbath… but you brought the enemy’s daughter home with you.  I’d pass it off as a spoil of war, but it’s a war you never took part in.  You’re protecting her!”

“And why shouldn’t I?!”

Wal sneered.  “Don’t tell me you’ve ‘fallen in love’ with your captor,” he spat, contempt dripping from his voice.  “How the fuck did that happen?  Do you like the way she sucks the blood out of your wolf cock that much?  Is the rough sex really that good?  Does the vampire submit to the wolf, or is she the master?  Do you call her mistress?  Do you fuck her doggy style?  Is that human form enough for her, or does she make you transform?”

“Yeah, it’s just like I said, you wouldn’t understand.  Your vulgar, pornographic mind doesn’t know anything but killing.”

“At least I can kill,” Wal argued.  “At least I can fight my way out of a prison cell.  At least I’m not a disgrace to my kind.  You wouldn’t catch me sitting around on my ass for five years behind enemy lines and come out with nothing to show for it.  I’m a killer, and so I should be.”

“You make us sound like nothing but attack dogs!  We are lycan, a proud warrior race!  Warriors, not psychopaths!”

“The pride of the wolf?  Romanticised, fairy-tale crap.  I don’t know where you’ve been… that’s a lie.” Wal smirked.  “I know exactly where you’ve been.  In your absence, I think you’ve forgotten what we are, what we represent.  I don’t know about you, but we are the Blackfire pack.  We are fighters.  Brutal, violent motherfuckers to the end.  No mercy, no remorse, no surrender!  I would never allow myself the humiliation of being captured, and even if it were to come to that, at least I can defend myself.  I’d wait for my opportunity to strike.  I’d escape on my own, and I’d take down every last one of those blood sucking anal cunts with me.  I wouldn’t have to fuck my way out of captivity.”

“Don’t act so superior!” Bill snarled.  “It’s not as though you’ve never fucked a vampire.  At least when I do it, it’s consensual.”

Wal’s smirk widened.  “Consensual, that’s funny.  Vampires see us as animals.  Up until a century ago, they kept us as pets.  You must have found yourself a real slut.  Consensual sex with a werewolf?  That’s about as big a taboo as they have in that society of theirs.”

“Oh, so all those children you murdered and raped, what about them?”

“What?!” Kat asked, flabbergasted.

“That’s right, this hypocrite looks down on me for getting intimate with a vampire, when he’s done the same thing, loads of times.  The only difference is: He rapes them, and then when he’s done, he kills them.  He’s credited with achieving more kills than anyone else in the pack.”

“Well, more than anyone my age, anyway.”

“What most people don’t know however, is that this coward only goes after juveniles:  Vampires under twenty years of age.  In fact, he usually goes after them much younger than that.  He attacks little girls, because they’re the only ones he can handle.  They’re the only ones who can’t fight back.”  He glared into his brother’s eyes.  “You’re pathetic.”

“I’m not pathetic,” Wal seethed.  “I’m not a coward!  You never even took part in the war, what would you know?!  You surrendered in your first battle!”

“I never wanted to be a warrior in the first place!”

“That’s a textbook definition of cowardice right there!”

“In that case… you and I must have a very different definition of the word coward.”

“Clearly we do.”  Wal turned his back on the two and made to leave.  “Enjoy your anal cunt while you can.  I get the feeling she won’t last out the night.”

Bill sent a glare to his brother.  “Would you stop saying that?”

Wal turned around.  “What was that?”

“Why do you keep calling her ‘cunt’ all the damn time?”

“I don’t mean her any offense.”

“Bullshit!”

Wal smirked.  “But it’s true.  I’m not trying to insult her.  I used the term ‘anal cunt,’ because that’s what she is.  You’re the one who didn’t want me referring to her as your bitch… though maybe that’s because she’s truly the master.  Perhaps it’s you who’s the bitch, am I right?”

“I didn’t want you calling her a bitch,” Bill seethed, “but this isn’t exactly a big fucking step up!”

“I’m just calling her what she is.”

“She’s a vampire of clan Bathory!  Not some ‘anal cunt!’”

“It’s not just her, her entire race are a pack of filthy, pseudo-aristocratic, debauched anal cunts.  Don’t you even know where the name comes from?”

“No.  Why would I?  Just stop using the word.”

Wal smirked.  “You mean you really don’t know where the name comes from?  You’ve been fucking this blood sucking whore and you don’t even know that?”

After a tense moment of silence, Bill gave in. “Why do you refer to vampires as… that?”

“I’m sure you must have figured this out for yourself, but vampires are sexual creatures.  They’re even more promiscuous than us, and her clan,” he gestured to Kat, “is notable for being more carnal than most.”

“So?  What’re you getting at?”

“If you’d let me finish!” Wal huffed, seemingly agitated.  Just how much did he really want to tell this story?  Bill wondered if he’d rehearsed it beforehand.  “As I was saying, vampires have the biggest sexual appetites of almost all the praeternatural creatures in the world… maybe not the succubi, they were both descended from Lilith after all… but vampires also have some strange views concerning chastity.”

“Why’s that so strange?  So do we.”

“Werewolves are protective of our mates.  We tend to be monogamist for the most part, true.  Once we’ve bonded with someone, we stick to that person, and we don’t forgive infidelity.  Vampires on the other hand, are the complete opposite.  It’s not uncommon for mated vampires of both genders to acquire large harems to entertain them… but only after they’ve been mated.”

“You mean they don’t believe in sex before…”

“Marriage?  Such a human notion, but that’s as good a way to put it as any.  They make a big deal out of it, like the unions of noble families in the feudal era.  It is a grave insult to be presented with… shall we say, a second-hand bride?”

“If vampires are so sensual, why wait?”

“They don’t.  Of course, only the females need to be in unused condition.  Nothing prevents two males, or even two females from getting off together.  And of course, if unmated men and women decide they can’t wait… there are other ways, other holes they can use.”

“You mean oral?”

Wal smirked.  “Well, there is that, but surely you know the unmated vampire’s favourite fuckhole?  Especially considering your choice of companion.

“Vampire females have taken to treating anal sex as a precursor, or an entry for those unworthy for the more prized event.”

“Why?”

“I guess they consider it dirtier.  Their partner hasn’t proven himself worthy of entering through the front, so he has to use the rear, which is supposed to be less sought-after.  I personally disagree, but vampires have always been haughty and stuck up their own backsides.  It makes sense that they’d treat anal with an air of indignity.  It goes all the way back to their human roots.  After all, undesirables have always been forced to enter via the back door.”

Bill turned his attention to Kat.

“It’s true,” she admitted.  “It’s an ancient, archaic tradition, but it still holds.  There are some girls who break the rule, who offer to their mates fruit that has already been picked, but they are usually punished:  Often severely, even brutally.”

“Fatally?”

“It’s been known to happen.  In such a circumstance, the groom is usually permitted by the elders to act as he sees fit, and a scorned partner usually isn’t likely to temper justice with mercy.”

“How could you not know that?” Wal asked his brother, incredulously.  “Or did you not even bother to ask?  Did you simply plough ahead, or do you go for the ass anyway?  Or perhaps she’s the one entering your ass.”  The Epsilon’s sneer returned at the thought of the insinuation.  “Tell me you didn’t let her stick her whole arm up there.”

“But what about you?” Bill asked his vampiress, ignoring his brother entirely.  “You boke the rule, with me.”

“It doesn’t matter.  The fact that we’re together at all means the end of me.  I’m never going to be welcome back into vampire society, so I don’t think I need to worry about my wedding night, do you?  Besides, considering what’s growing inside me even now as we speak; the fact that I gave you my virginity is a redundant crime.  The elders aren’t going to care about the how, they’ll be far too distracted by the end result.”

“You got her pregnant?” Wal asked, shocked.

“Yeah.  That’s why we need sanctuary.”

“You stupid motherfucker.  No wonder the vamps are pissed.  They’re…” his eyes widened.  “They’ll be back then!  They won’t give up until they know your half-breed is removed from existence.  If I know them, they’ll probably want to do it themselves, in front of everybody.  They like to make a big spectacle out of it.  They’re like that:  Theatrical.”  He looked to his brother.  “Have you ever seen a vampire abortion?  It’s quite the show.  It’s the usual punishment for an adulteress stupid enough to get impregnated by someone other than her mate, or something other than her own kind.  They tear the unborn foetus straight out of the womb and leave the mother to bleed out.”  He glanced to Kat.  “If that happens, she won’t survive.”

“That’s why we had to get away!” Kat pleaded.

“Hold on,” Bill interjected.  “Why is there such a terrible punishment for adultery?  I thought vampires were pretty open when it came to sex and relationships.”

“Not when blood and lineage are involved.  The elders are very concerned with blood purity.”

“So they’ll be coming for us,” Bill said, getting back on track.  “That’s what I just said.  We need somewhere to rest, somewhere to hide out.”  He turned to Kat.  “Somewhere you can be safe, until…”  The vampire nodded.

“And you brought her here?!” Wal demanded.  “How fucking stupid are you?!  How fucking selfish can you be, you put us all in danger. You put us all in death’s path.  Look at what you’ve done, look at the death, the destruction you’ve caused.  This is your fault, all your fault!”

“I know!” Kat screamed.  “It’s because of us… me.  It’s all my fault,” she uttered.  “I’m sorry, but…”

“What’s done is done,” Bill concluded.  “There’s nothing we can do about it now.  We have to look forward.”

“The vampires won’t forgive this,” Wal replied, “and the Lycans won’t go to war on your behalf.  You’re on your own.”

“What about you?  We’re brothers, and I know you’ll take any excuse you can to get your paws dirty.”

“True, but I’m just one person.  As much as I love slaying vampires, I’m not going to take on all thirteen clans singlehandedly.  I’m not going to kill myself by undertaking an unwinnable battle for the sake of a half-breed that shouldn’t even exist in the first place.”

“What about the elders then?  If I take this matter to them…”

“The elders—“ Wal began, only to be cut off.

“Will speak for themselves,” announced an ancient looking figure.  “William, I must ask that you and your companion come with me.”

“Sir… where are we going?”

“We have decided to give you an audience.  We elders will listen to your case, and then decide what shall be done.”

“I… thank you.”  Bill grasped Kat by the hand and made to follow the elder.

“As for you, Wallace, we thank you for fighting so hard to defend us from vampire attack.  We will have words with you later.”

With that, the elder lead the two young outsiders toward his chamber, leaving Wal on his own once more.

The unconventional couple followed the elder to his intended destination:  Likely the audience room.  It was where people usually came when they wished to speak to the rulers of the pack.

Most werewolf packs, as far as Bill knew, were ruled by a single alpha.  There were other higher ups of course; the Alpha usually had a second, as well as some advisers and a personal guard, but the Alpha didn’t defer to these others.  As pack leader, the Alpha’s decision was final.  This pack, however, did not have such formal leadership.  Instead, they were ruled by a group of five elders.

The journey took them into the heart of the compound, but finally they arrived and the elder ushered them into the room where the top five spent their days.

Bill and Kat stood in the centre of the chamber, at the front most point of a hexagonal table.  At the shape’s five other points sat an elder.  The two intruders however, were required to stand.  There was no seat for either of them.

The pair stood.  All eyes on them.  Blank, empty, unreadable.  What did the elders truly think of the situation?  There was no way of knowing.  These wolves had lived a long time.  There was no way these ancient leaders would give away their personal feelings with something as simple as a facial expression.

Bill felt his vampiress shuffle uncomfortably beside him.  He could sense her hesitation.  She was disadvantaged after all, and smack in the heart of enemy territory.  She grasped his hand with her own and gently squeezed it.

“Do you know why you’ve been summoned here?” one of the elders enquired.”

“Yes.  We appreciate you taking the time to see us,” Bill answered in a formal tone that tasted foreign.  It was such an unfamiliar flavour, such an unfamiliar colour for his voice.

“Then may we assume that you are fully prepared to explain yourself, William?” asked another.

“I am.”

“Then proceed.  The last we heard about your mission, your entire unit had been either captured or killed.  We had no way of knowing either way.  For all we knew, you were dead.  Now you show up on our doorstep, after the war is over.  Unannounced and hand in hand with the enemy, no less.”

“With all due respect, Alphas,” Bill retorted, “you said it yourself.  The war is over.  The vampires are no longer our enemies.”

“They are still a great threat.  This peace was hard won, and is an uneasy equilibrium to say the least.  Who’s to say how short-lived it will turn out to be?”

“Is that really at question?” another elder replied.  “Is it not obvious that the peace has been smothered?  We have been decimated by an old enemy that wishes to continue the bloodshed.”

“We will discuss that matter in private,” the first elder replied.  “Our investigation into the recent battle is not for the eyes and ears of a young one or an outsider.”  The elder sat directly opposite them, steeling his icy gaze upon the young wolf.  “We wish to know what has transpired in your time away.”  Bill glanced to Kat.  “It is alright,” the Elder assured him.  “She is with you.  Speak freely, there is no point in keeping secrets now.”

“You want a full report?”

“You are the only person to return, and considering the circumstances… surely you can understand our curiosity.

Bill proceeded to tell the room the details of his failed mission.  The way the tide of battle turned against them.  The way his compatriots charged headfirst into hell.  The way he surrendered, saving his own life, while subjecting himself to the enemy’s example of humanity.  The way he was enslaved and tortured at vampire hands.  The way Kat had showed him mercy, kindness, and eventually; liberation.

He told them how Kat had helped him escape, forfeiting her own life in the process.  He told them how he had taken her with him, rather than leave her to suffer the wrath of her own people.

He told them how they had inevitably come together as a couple, and of their current predicament.

“We have nowhere else to go,” Bill admitted.  “I wouldn’t have brought a vampire here otherwise.  I know the tension we’ll be causing, but we didn’t have a choice.  I’m a Blackfire. After all is said and done, I’m still pack.  I’m still family.  I thought it was worth a shot, but… I didn’t realise that the vampires would attack.”

“You haven’t been a member of this pack for some time now,” one of the elders commented.  “You never came back, you never sent word, you didn’t even give us a sign that you were still breathing.  Now you decide to grace us with your presence, now that you need something, now that you need protection.”

“I didn’t have a choice!”

“Silence yourself, both of you,” the first elder countered.  “William… you and your companion shall wait outside.  We must deliberate on this situation.  I thank you for your report, and I understand the urgency of your situation. 

“That being said however, we must consider the safety of the pack.  If these vampires truly are hunting you, your trail may well lead them here.  We must consider the risk.”

Bill politely thanked the five elders before leading his guest out of the room.  As the pair stepped into the hall, they heard the door close behind them.

“What do you think’s going to happen to us?” Kat asked him.  “What will they decide?”

“Who knows?  I’m sure it’ll be alright,” he said, noticing the anxiety eating its way through Kat’s expression.  “I’m sure they’ll side with us, they have to.”

“You really think so?”

“Of course not,” Wal remarked.  The two turned to see him, again leaning against a wall a short distance away.  How long had he been there, had he followed them?  “He’s just trying to reassure you.  Even my younger brother, ignorant and stupid as he is, can see that you’re both fucked.”

“You’re not helping,” Bill seethed.  He hadn’t seen his brother in the better part of a decade, and was already growing sick of him.

“And you really think you are?  Why is it that idiots always assume that lying to their supposed ‘loved ones’ is remotely helpful?”  Wal kicked off from the wall and approached them.  “How is coddling and sheltering her going to help?  You’re only going to get her hopes up, you know.  You should be more realistic.”

“Unlike you, I’m not a defeatist.”

“So says the first werewolf in history to surrender a straight up battle.”

“They could still see it our way, there’s always a chance.”

“Oh, yeah, a chance.  A slim one.”

“We have to wait and see.”

“Do you really believe that?  It’s obvious what’s happened today.  This battle, all these casualties, all this death, all of it; it’s all your fault!  The vampires came here looking for you, didn’t they?!”

“Maybe…”

“Of course they did, it’s obvious.  We’re all thinking it, you’d have to be a complete fucking idiot not to assume that the elders will come to the same conclusion.”

“Then call me an idiot.”

“Okay, you’re an idiot.”  Bill snarled.  “Hey, you told me to.”

“I don’t get it,” Kat said, speaking up after remaining silent for so long.  “If these vampires were looking for me… us, then why did they come here?  How did they know where we were going?  If they were tracking us, then why not hit us out on the road?  Why risk open battle with your entire pack?”

“Because they obviously knew you’d come here, or maybe they guessed, based on your direction of travel,” Wal reasoned.  “Why should they attack you head on, out in the open, when they can set up an ambush?  They overshot you and met you at the pass, so to speak.”

“They could have done that before now,” Bill argued.  “Why here?  Why not ambush us on the road, or at camp?”

“They probably thought they could conquer our land and take over ready to throw you a surprise welcoming party.  Maybe they wanted you to see this devastation, to see what your actions had wrought.  They wanted you to know the price of your transgressions, the consequences of your crimes.  They wanted to see you suffer before they killed you.  They wanted to break you.  They might have succeeded, had I not been here.”

“You have a high opinion of yourself,” Kat remarked.

“Has the cat finally found her tongue?” Wal sneered.  “She has a mouth on her when she gets going.”  He glanced to his younger brother.  “I knew there must have been some reason you kept her around.”

“Watch it,” Bill growled.

“I should say the same to you, brother.  After all, you’ve seen the devastation your selfish actions have caused.  You’ve seen what happens when you think with your head.”

“My head?  How else should I think?  With my heart?  With my fists?”

“You misunderstood me,” Wal smirked.  “I was referring to your other head.  The small, pointy, red one.”  He dropped the amusement from his tone.  “In all seriousness, a lot of good wolves lost their lives today.  Mothers, fathers, siblings, children – literally, in some cases.  Not all of them were warriors, but even those that were didn’t need to die today.

“This battle… it never should have happened.  It was your fault, and you’re going to have to own up to that.  The pack are going to want retribution, justice, revenge… and they deserve it.”

“Don’t use retribution and justice in the same sentence as though they’re the same thing.”

“But they are the same.  Enjoy you’re pretty little vampire slut while you can.  Come morning, she’ll be unrecognisable, if she’s even alive.  I wonder if you’ll still want her then.

“You’ve clearly enjoyed yourself, marking her with your scent, but will you still want her after that scent’s been long buried?  After she’s guzzled and drowned in a torrential ocean of Therian wolf cum?”  He turned to Kat, peering right into her wide, scarlet eyes.  “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be gang raped by an entire pack of werewolves?  You’re in for a rough night.  It’s just a shame there’s no full moon… or not.  If the males want to fuck the vampire to death; it wouldn’t be fair if she was ripped apart by the first cock.”

As Wal’s crude amusement had grown, so to had Kat’s appalling distress, and Bill’s indignant rage.

Wal turned to his brother.  “And don’t think you’ll get away with what you’ve done.  This is your fault after all.  You’ll be there too.  You’ll be watching.  We’ll make sure you’re right there to see the whole thing, up close and personal.  You’ll have the best seat in the house… well, maybe not the best… but you’ll have a ringside seat, right in the front row.  You’ll be close enough to smell it.  Better be careful, you might just get wet.”

Bill let loose a low, menacing growl.  “Is that a fucking threat?!” he demanded.

“No, it’s a warning, but keep glaring at me like that and I’m gonna have to tear you’re fucking eyes out.  And that is a threat.”

As the older wolf turned and left, Kat’s strength finally left her.  Shuddering, she collapsed entirely into Bill’s supporting embrace.  “I wish we’d never come here…” she whispered.

“It’s not like we had much choice.  I already told you, don’t listen to Wal’s bullshit; he likes to play mind games, that’s all.”

“But what if he’s right?”

“You really think there’s a chance you’re going to gangbanged by vengeful werewolves?  That scenario’s so laughable I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a show at some Succubi’s sex club.”

“I’m not laughing, Bill.”

“I know, neither am I.”

The wolf could feel the frail vampire trembling against him.  He’d always known she was more delicate than most of her kind, especially for a pure-blooded descendant of the illustrious Elizabeth Bathory.

Then again, that was probably the only reason she had bothered to show him any mercy or remorse, any pity.  If she were like the rest of her clan, she’d have delighted in his torment.  She’d have joined in, and gotten off on it too.  Instead, she’d comforted him, protected him, defended him, even freed him; and he would do the same to her.

“Whatever happens, I’ll protect you, from anyone and anything.  If anyone, especially that bastard brother of mine, lays a finger on you:  It’s because I’m already dead.”

“That’s not very reassuring.”

“I guess I’m not so good at making speeches.  Wal was always the charismatic one.  Maybe my words aren’t all that comforting, but they are sincere.  I’m going to stand by you, no matter what.  Whatever the elders decide, I’ll be right in front of you, taking the brunt of the attack.”

“Very commendable of you to take responsibility for your mess,” spoke a familiar voice.  Bill turned around to see the first elder standing behind him.  How long had he been there?  Had he heard everything?  How had so many people been able to sneak up on him today?  “I’m glad to see we won’t need to rub your nose in it.”  Bill resisted his jaw’s urge to slacken.  Was that supposed to be a joke?  He’d expect that kind of comment from Wal, but not one of the proud elders.  He ignored the issue, and proceeded with what was important.

“Have you reached a decision?”

“We have… reached a consensus.”

“And…?  What is it?”  Bill suddenly remembered who he was talking to and bowed his head.  “I apologise… Do you want us back in the audience room?”

“That will not be necessary.  I have always considered these formalities burdensome and unnatural.  After all, we are Lycan; creatures of passion, not discipline.  Why should our pack address our elders so ceremoniously?  What are we, vampires?”  The elder regarded the female before him.  “I mean no offense.”

Kat nodded her head slowly.  “It’s alright,” she barely managed to say.  She swallowed.  Her mouth was so dry.

“It sorrows me greatly that it has come to this, William, but we must make a stand.  We must put the welfare of the pack above that of a single member, regardless of whom that might be.”

“So you’re going to abandon us?  How is that making a stand?”  Bill should have expected as much.  After all, he’d been met with nothing but disdain ever since he got home…  No, this place was not his home, not anymore.  It had changed, or perhaps he had.

“There is a chance that your actions may have been the direct cause of today’s vampire attack.  If that is the case, they may well return.  Proceeding based on that assumption, we cannot provide you the sanctuary you seek.  We cannot risk open war… open annihilation, for the sake of one interspecies coupling.”

“In other words, you disapprove of my choice in mate and so you’re throwing me to the wolves… or to the vampires in this case.” Bill seethed, his face drawing back in a snarl.

“Remember your place, young Blackfire.  Threaten me and I will be forced to act accordingly.  Though I’m not sure I could call this young vampire your mate, believe me; I have nothing against your… union.  Not personally.”

“Then you’d be the only one… if you’re speaking the truth.”

“Unfortunately, the pack feels differently than I, as do the Thirteen.”

“What do they have to do with this?”

“The heads of the thirteen Vampire houses have everything to do with this.  They do not allow crossbreeds into their society, in fact, they would prefer that they not exist at all.

“Assuming that they know you are here, they will return.  Based on that assumption, we will not, and cannot defend, nor hide you from them.  If the vampires return, we will have no choice but to fully cooperate with them.”

“You’re selling us out!”

The elder raised a hand to silence the young wolf.  “We will permit you to stay the night.  You will be under our protection for as long as you remain here.  Any of our own that dare to attack you will be severely punished for their actions.

“Know however, that if the vampires should return while you are here, we will have no option but to hand you both over.”

“Am I to be held prisoner by my own pack now?”  Bill couldn’t look at the elder anymore.  This was ridiculous.

“No.  You are free to leave whenever you wish, but once you do, you will be on your own.  Once you step into the wild, you will never be welcome within our lands again.  There will be no coming back for you.  I suggest you get some rest.  You’ll need it, and a word of advice:  Time your departure carefully.

“If you’d care to follow me, I’ll show you to your accommodations for the evening.”

The Elder had shown the two to their room for the night and left them alone.  This had been a big day after all, and the couple had had quite a bombshell dropped upon them.

Was another war really erupting around them, so soon after the last one?  Was it really their fault?  Were the vampires really hunting them down so soon?

Bill would never see this place again.  He’d never be able to return.  He’d never see his pack again.  That was… that was big.

Maybe it was for the best.  Besides, he didn’t want anyone else fighting or dying for his sake.  Not even the pack.  Whatever happened, it would be Bill and Kat against the world.

“I’m sorry,” the vampire uttered, coming to sit next to her wolf on the bed.  “I got you into this… I guess getting me pregnant really has ruined your life, huh?”

“What are you talking about?  Don’t even joke about that.”

“I mean it… because of me, you have to leave your home, your family behind.”

“So?  You already did all that for me.  It’s only fair, right?”

“True… but I never got on with my family.  I was always a black sheep… or a white sheep in a black flock, I don’t know.  I guess I was always something of an outcast.”

“We have that in common.  You heard my brother:  I’m a coward living in a pack of warmongers.”

“They don’t seem like warmongers to me,” Kat argued, “Not all of them at least, and you’re not a coward.  A pacifist, maybe.”

“That amounts to the same thing.”

“No it doesn’t, and you’re no coward.  I’ve known you for years now.  I’ve seen the way you handled captivity, the way you handled being a Bathory prisoner.  I know it wasn’t easy, my clan is known for three things:  Libido, manipulation, and cruelty.  A coward would have cracked under all that.  A coward would have given in, betrayed their family for even a small reprieve.  You didn’t.”

“That doesn’t mean—“

“It does,” Kat interrupted, her soft voice somehow cutting through the wolf’s self-deprecation.  Placing her hand upon the wolf’s face, her thumb gently playing with his lower lip.  She smiled soothingly into the wolf’s downcast gaze, warming his isolation despite the physically chilling temperature of her touch.  Bill had defended Kat from the cruel words of his family, now it was her turn.  Now she would defend the dejected wolf from his own critical tongue.  She would protect Bill from himself.  “What’s going to happen to us?” she murmured.

“We’ll get out of here first, and then…”

“Then what?  There must be somewhere we can go, somewhere we can hide.  Even if we go to the human world.  Maybe we could get lives, jobs there…”

“Maybe I could…” Bill supposed, “But I suspect you’d be relegated to housekeeping duties.  I don’t imagine you’ve had much contact with them, living in that castle of yours up in the mountains; but humans are pretty backward, especially when it comes to social issues.  From what I’ve heard, women don’t really work jobs the way men do.  They usually stay at home and take care of their husbands and children.”

“So they’re mothers… to their husbands too?”

Bill smirked.  “Something like that.  It’d be for the best that you stay out of sight.  You might draw attention to yourself.”

“You mean the way I look?” Kat asked, glancing over to a nearby mirror on the wall.  Bill watched the young vampire as she examined her reflection.  Her milk white skin contrasted the long, ebony tresses that ran all the way down her back; and the bright, scarlet eyes that decorated her face.  She was a meisterwerk of aesthetic splendour. “I can look more human,” she mused.  “If only I could get my hands on an enchanted rosary to seal my aura.”

“Doesn’t matter, most humans can’t sense auras anyway.”

“No, but other vampires can.  We don’t want to be discovered and reported back to the elders.  A rosary could change the colour of my eyes too,” Kat argued, “make them less conspicuous.”

“That’d be a shame… I’ve always liked your eyes the way they are.”  Kat smiled at the compliment.  “Besides, you’d still look deathly pale.  We’d have to tell people you have a skin condition of some kind, but then the doctors might get involved.  We can’t afford to draw that kind of attention.  As far as the average human knows; we don’t exist outside of folklore and legend.”

“My skin is pale, yes,” Kat admitted, looking to her wolf coyly.  “But it doesn’t have to be.  I can appear more life-like, more human, if I keep myself well-fed.”

“What about…” Bill alluded, gesturing to the vampire’s abdomen.  “I mean, what’s the gestation period for a vampire anyway?  Even the most stupid of humans are going to get suspicious about their neighbour’s wife being pregnant for over five years without actually giving birth.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that.  I don’t know about halfbreeds, but full-blooded firstbourne vampires usually stay in the womb for just over six years… I see your point.  I guess humans would find that strange, huh?”

“But… blood can really do that, make you more human-like, I mean?”

“Superficially, yes.  Blood keeps me alive, but if I have it in excess, this white skin would colour.  These pale, dead lips would become as red as my eyes.  These ghostly cheeks would become flushed.  Even this cold, lifeless body of mine would become warm and alive… well, as alive as can be expected for someone who doesn’t eat or breathe, and whose heart doesn’t beat.”

“If you can do that… why do you remain as you are?  Not just you, I mean all vampires.”

“Because it’s a hassle.  To remain… alive, as it were, a vampire only really needs to feed once a week.  Our body absorbs the blood we drink.  The more of it we have, the stronger our aura becomes, and the longer we can sustain ourselves.

“But… there is a level beyond that.  There are some vampires who live amongst humans, who can easily pass for one of them.  At a glance, they look no different, but this requires them to gorge themselves.  For as much blood as it requires for a vampire to remain at top physical condition, it takes twice as much to pass for human.  Since I’ll be carrying a baby, it’ll take even more blood to keep up the charade.

“I would have to become a glutton.”

“Is that so bad?  You enjoy feeding, don’t you?”

Kat stared at her wolf, taken aback by the strange comment.  Despite what she’d said before, the vampire could feel her chill cheeks warming just a little.  “Well, yes, but I feel bad that I have to leech off you so much.”

“Don’t be stupid, that goes with being a vampire.  You don’t eat like we do, there had to be a trade-off somewhere.  Actually, it could be an advantage, sustaining yourself with only my blood.  I’m the one who needs a fresh food source nearby.  Just think, if we get trapped or stranded somewhere where we can’t hunt, who’s going to be the burden then?  So to pass as human, how often would you need to… drink?”

“I’m not sure.  How often have I been doing it now?”

“I haven’t really been keeping score.  About once, maybe twice a week, I suppose.”

“I think I’d need to feed at least every day.  You’re sure you wouldn’t mind… aren’t you?”

“Of course I won’t mind.”  The wolf’s lip turned up in a grin.  “It’s not as though I don’t enjoy it too, you know.  Plus, If you feel so guilty about feeding off me, I’m sure you can find some way to pay me back.”

The vampire’s scarlet eyes widened, not expecting such a proposition, not that she opposed the idea.  She was his after all, as he was hers. Kat smiled, placing an arm around her therian partner and leaning into him.  “You know,” she casually changed the subject, “I still can’t really get my head around all of this.  I can’t believe it’s all happening, all because of one child.”

“We just have to accept it.  It’s already happening, that’s life.  There’s nothing we can do about that, we just have to keep moving forward.”

Kat nodded, agreeing with her wolf, while simultaneously nuzzling into him.  “Despite everything… I’m kind of looking forward to it.”

“You mean the baby?”

“Yeah.  What about you?  Have you had any thought about what it will be like to have a son?”

“Or a daughter… I guess not.  We’ll be on the run.  Can we provide a decent life for anyone, let alone a young child like this?”

“I guess… we’ll just have to do what we can and hope for the best, it’s like you just said:  That’s life, all we can do is roll with it.”

Bill nodded.  “It’s not much of a plan, but we’ll have to make it work.  Whatever, if my bastard brother has what it takes to be a negligent father, then I guess I’ll just have to step up prove I can outdo him.”

“He… has a child?”

“Yeah, a son.  He’s about fifty.  He doesn’t have a caste, so the bastard barely even acknowledges him.”

“Fifty… that’s young for a lycan, right?  There’s still time to earn his caste.”

“Tell that to Wal.  The bastard’s mated, has a son, and he spends all his time fighting and training.  He has his own little family, and he doesn’t even spend time with them.  It’s like he doesn’t even care!”

“You’ll do better.”

“Damn straight I will,” Bill sighed, leaning into his vampiress, bringing their foreheads together.  He ran a gentle hand through her silky, raven tresses.

“Hey,” Kat spoke softly.  “I know it’s early, and we don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve been thinking about names.”

Bill’s lip pulled upward in amusement.  “Already?  Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself?”

“Yeah,” Kat smiled.  “I know, it’s stupid, but I can’t help it.”

“Come here,” the Lycan cooed, bringing the raven haired beauty to lay beside him on the bed.

The two embraced side by side, their lips joined in a kiss.  Their tongues met and danced and played in the warmth of the passionate embrace.  Bill gently caressed the pale petals of the delicate lily beside him.

They reluctantly parted for a moment.

“So… what did you come up with?” Bill enquired.

“Well, I was thinking:  If it’s a boy, how about…”

XX

 

 

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