Council of Elders Ch. 05
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I warn that this chapter contains scenes that readers may find gratuitously violent. Sorry.
The Black Widow swooped down, cackling as she flew. Her locks of shining black hair streamed behind her as her feathered wings beat contemptuously at the thin evening air. She accelerated towards the tiny figure running towards the light and safety of the small town that lay twinkling in the near distance.
Her desperate prey was sprinting harder now. She was leaving a cloying trail of fear and adrenaline, which acted like giant neon sign that said “HERE I AM! EAT ME!”
The girl could tell that she was being followed, that much was obvious. She kept turning her head to steal furtive glances at the impenetrable darkness that lay behind her. The Widow increased her speed even more so that she was almost on top of the girl, the wind rushing through the space between their bodies. She could just reach down and tear the terrified child from the ground like plucking a blade of grass.
The little girl chose that moment to look up again and the moment that she did she was doomed. Those red eyes, those red eyes that glowed like the embers of a dying star, those eyes that burned into her and made her blood turn to ice. The girl could feel her legs locking into place, powerless to resist the force of will behind those terrible eyes. She froze on the spot as the Widow landed like a butterfly on the sodden field.
“Be calm little-one.” The Widow cooed softly, her forked tongue lashing out to taste the air. “I’m not going to hurt you. It’ll be much easier if you stop running.”
“W-w-who-who are you?” The girl stared at the beautiful woman who had been following her. The Widow’s skin was a pure ivory that shone in the moon’s borrowed luminescence. Her lips were the shape of Cupid’s bow and red as sunset. She smiled showing perfect rows of teeth.
“My dear, the better question would be ‘what are you’. But that’s a story for another day. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to hear that story.”
“Please, let me go. I-I-I’m sorry if I’ve upset you for some reason.” The girl began to choke on her fearful sobs.
“Oh no. Don’t cry. I hate it when my food cries. Everything gets all salty.” The Widow let out another harsh cackle and began to circle the shivering child.
“Why are you doing this? Why were you chasing me?”
“I’m absolutely starving, that’s why.” The Widow began to lick her lips at the thought of sinking her teeth into the pale throat of the young girl.
In the face of terrible danger, the girl did what she had been taught to do by her grandmother: she began to sing. The song had no words as such; it was more of a feeling deep down in the soul. The notes gave off a thin shimmer as they spilled from the girl’s mouth. The air above the girl began to dance with spectral light, acting like a flare that, on a clear night, could be seen for miles around. The power was raw, unfocused; yet it was trained enough to make things even more difficult for the Black Widow.
The Widow raised a pale hand and sent a jagged fork of lightning at the girl, but the electricity dissipated on contact with a thin membrane that seemed to hover above the girl’s skin. She tried again, but the young voice continued to blossom forth.
This was old magic, old and powerful. There had been a time when the Black Widow would have batted the girl aside with a single glancing blow, but she was so very hungry and so very weak. What awful luck that she should face an opponent trained in the Vocative on her first day back on Earth. She would have to use some other tactic to lower the brat’s defences.
“What a beautiful voice you have child,” she crooned. “Who taught you?” The girl continued to sing, obviously intelligent enough not to break her concentration. A single lapse in the lyrical weaving of the magic would result in her immediate demise.
“I doubt it was your daddy’s side, men don’t see the power in music. It must have been your mummy… or maybe your granny?” The Widow was determined to distract her meal from her task. She was rewarded by a brief flicker of fear. “Hmmm… yes, I see. The matriarch of your family has been teaching you.”
Unsurprising, the magic was too old to be from just one generation. Though sorcerers had a disturbing habit of living much longer than they should (it had something to do with the constant magical field that surrounded their bodies), no mere human could be over one thousand years old.
Right. That was enough. The girl clearly had a set of lungs that a blue whale would be proud to own. The Widow inhaled deeply and started to scream blue-bloody-murder at the top of her voice. The sheer ferocity of the noise made the girl lose her place for the single moment needed.
The Widow lunged with triumph blazing in her eyes, but in the instant before contact with the girl’s skin a white shining light barrelled into her and she was sent flying into the mud.
“Not my granddaughter you bitch!”
The white light coalesced into a tall woman with hair the colour of moonlight. She raised a long sword from a scabbard on her belt and advanced on the Widow, who stayed motionless in the muddy earth. Her cream robe billowed around her bare feet as she strode forward. The Widow rose oddly. Her neck was twisted and her arms seemed to bend at strange angles. Her face was caked in dirt and blood was dripping from a mouth that was now full of black razor-sharp teeth.
“I see that you no longer bother with the glamour, foul beast.” The elderly sorceress said with a smirk of triumph.
“You caught me off guard you old hag!” The Widow crowed as she shed the final vestiges of her human form. “We both know that you can’t beat me in a fair fight. You haven’t got the power. I may have just arrived, but I’ve still got enough juice to crush you into the ground.”
“My granddaughter seemed to do excellent job of holding you off all by herself.” The old sorceress smirked again.
“I have not battled a gifted Vocateur in quite some time; I must admit I was impressed to see that someone still studied the old ways. But that’s not enough to stop me eating her.”
The Widow bent over and two pairs of legs burst out along her torso. She rose on eight clicking talons on a body covered in black, barbed scales. Her face morphed so that it was covered by a row of eight glowing red eyes and a gaping red mouth. The Widow was now huge and spider-like. She let out an odd screech that sent echoes into the night.
“I don’t know who or what you are, but if you think I’m going to let you kill my granddaughter then you’re in for one hell of a surprise.” The old woman settled into a stance that would allow her to attack and defend as necessary. “And who said anything about a fair fight?”
Runes began to slide up and down the surface of the sword in her hands. They raced along the blade, covering it with dancing golden light. The edge seemed to glint and as if to demonstrate the weapon’s power, the old sorceress left a trail of sparks in the air as she spun the sword in her hands.
“A magic sword? God… what a cliche.” The Widow’s voice was garbled by the many jaws that worked to shape it. Clearly, the Widow was not quite so adept at speech in this form.
“I’m so sorry Granny. I tried to keep going, but I just couldn’t.” The girl was nearly in tears.
“It’s okay love, you did very well. You kept her off long enough for me to get the signal and get here.” The old woman’s expression suddenly changed from pride to iron. “Claire, I need you to run. Do you understand?”
“Yes Granny!” came the hasty reply, followed by the sound of shoes clomping away through the thick grass of the fields.
The moment the noise was gone, the sorceress whirled into a flurry of action. She sliced forward with the blade, but was rebuffed by flames that flew in plumes from the Widow’s mouth. She dodged a second gout and swivelled in towards one of the legs. The sword slashed through the air and severed the first leg like a hot knife through butter, making the Widow scream in pain, surprise and fury. A spout of green blood gushed from the stump and the Widow was left unbalanced. The patch of earth where the blood sprayed began to bubble and froth as spiders the size of a man’s fist started to crawl out of the ground.
The spiders leapt for the old woman, landing on her robes and clamping down with razor teeth. She spun out of the robe, leaving only the flower-patterned night gown she had worn to bed. She threw herself aside just in time as the spiders exploded like eight-legged grenades.
Another billow of fire snaked out of the Widow’s red maw and lashed across the sorceress’ thigh. She stumbled back in agony and only just raised the sword in time to block a clawed foot that struck out at her.
She pushed forward and sent the Widow backward a few paces. She bit her right thumb and thrust her hand into the ground. The blood mingled with the earth for a moment, and then cracks started to form along the ground. A fissure opened up between the Widow’s legs and she fell down into the hole with a cry of rage. The sorceress bit her left thumb and then thrust that hand into the ground causing the fissure to close up and swallow the Widow into the depths of the soil.
A momentary glimmer of victory shone in the sorceress’ eyes, and then the field began to shake under her. A lone talon gouged its way out of the mud and then another and another. The Widow dragged herself to the surface and lunged at the startled woman.
The Widow struck again and again, her claws never quite managing to get through the sorceress’ parries. She tried a different tack and backed off before spitting a ball of fire towards the kneeling old woman. The fireball struck the edge of the blade, which held for a few moments and then flew from the woman’s hands in a lazy parabola that ended with the sword buried in the mud a few yards away. The old lady tried to make a desperate grab for it, but was yanked backwards by the Widow’s claws.
“Don’t toy with me! Just end it!”
“But I like to play with my food first…” was the chattering response. The Widow raised the old woman up so that she was level with her many glowing eyes.
“Bad idea.” The sorceress grinned and barked a single note of pure defiance. The sword wrenched itself from the ground and flew into the old woman’s outstretched hand. She swung it up and then brought it down heavily on the Widow’s head, cleaving the cluster of eyes in two and partially blinding the Widow. The creature screamed again and lowered her impossibly sharp mouth onto the sorceress who was laughing hysterically even as she saw the rows of teeth surrounding her. The Widow clamped her jaws around the old woman’s head and bit down, ripping the neck and sending torrents of blood in every direction.
The sorceress died in torment as she was eaten alive by the Black Widow, but her death ensured that any future opponent would have a much better chance of victory.
The Widow was temporarily too weak to transform back into her human form, she was forced to crawl away and hide until the exhaustion of the battle faded. Her torn limbs would never regrow, not in this reality at least. When at last she had the energy to raise the glamour again, she had one eye and one empty socket as well as two fingers missing from her left hand. The wounds inflicted by the ensorcelled blade would never heal entirely. Her mouth was still bloody from the kill, teeth still blackened and inhuman. It was almost daylight and she was still too tired to fly, so she slumped down in the bushes she had hidden in and went to sleep.
They were sitting in a small clearing, resting from yet another day of
endless walking. Neither of his companions seemed to be suffering from the torturous trek they had been on since dawn. In fact, Owen had never seen either of them go to sleep at all. It was quite the mystery, but Owen didn’t have the energy to delve into it at the moment.
“How big could this forest possibly be?” thought Owen as he rubbed his aching legs. “We’ve been walking for days.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand. They dress up in weird clothes and randomly burst into song?” asked Fenris with a perplexed expression.
Owen had been attempting, without much luck, to explain the finer points of musical theatre to the pair of werewolves. But he was about as successful as he had been when he had tried to teach them about Harry Potter. He had just finished describing the various types of voices and had started detailing the plot of The Sound of Music to some people who had apparently been living in a cave for the past fifty years.
“Don’t they have TVs where you guys come from?” His two travelling companions began to share sheepish grins. “Seriously? What are you, Amish?”
“Yes that’s EXACTLY what we are!” Cried Caesar with a masterfully subtle elbow to Fenris’ diaphragm. “We’re on our Rumspringa right now actually.”
“You seem a bit… old to be doing your Rumspringa. And you two sound like you come from completely different places. And you have a crucifix around your neck. And you-“
“Alright, alright! We’re not Amish. Why do you care so much?”
“Because you have, for all intents and purposes, kidnapped me. You are taking me on some convoluted trail through a forest to god-only-knows where and you keep lying about who you are.” Owen placed his hands on his hips and frowned at them until one of them cracked.
“He’s right Caesar; we can’t keep hiding things from him forever. He’ll find out eventually and by then we won’t be able to help him.” Fenris gave Owen a broad smile that made the young man’s heart flutter.
“Okay, fine. Owen, it’s time we told you something we should have told you a long time ago. The truth is… we’re aliens.” Caesar’s lupine face was totally deadpan, not a single twitch belied his blatant dishonesty.
“Yes. Aliens. You have been selected as the specimen of the human race who will be taken back to our mothership and examined. Don’t be scared, the probing only hurts a little the first time. I’m told that with adequate lubrication, the probee can even enjoy the experience.”
Owen’s mouth gaped in disbelief at the audacity of the old man’s lie. He swivelled back to face Fenris and gave him a menacing look. Fenris blinked, momentarily taken aback by his mentor’s creativity, and then grinned again. The giant then turned on the spot and began walking into the forest. Both remaining men heard the sound of his footfalls getting softer and softer until there was silence. Owen hitched up his too-big jeans and stalked after Fenris while Caesar brought up the rear with barely concealed mirth.
Owen increased his pace until he was jogging beside the massive werewolf.
Neither of them talked, it seemed like some unspoken agreement that they would never mention what Caesar had said ever again. They continued in this fashion for some time until Owen could no longer maintain the speed and started to wheeze. Instead of slowing down, Fenris simply swung around and grabbed Owen under the legs, dragging him over his shoulder into a fireman’s carry. Even with Owen’s 160lb frame hanging from his right shoulder, he kept going at the same velocity.
Instead of complaining, Owen simply took the opportunity to enjoy the view, namely that of Fenris’ buttocks rising and falling as he swept over the grass at a trot. Caesar was loping gracefully behind them in powerful strides that made up for the difference in altitude between he and Fenris. Owen scowled at the dirty grin working its way around the old man’s mouth then noticed something else that made him rub his eyes; he could have sworn for a moment that Caesar’s feet left the ground and he walked on thin air. He looked again but the old man seemed to be very much connected to the floor. But no, that was impossible. He pushed the idiotic thoughts away, blaming his lapse in rationality on caffeine withdrawal. If he had been paying more attention he would have seen that Caesar left no footprints where he trod.
Fenris strode on through the trees, his nose guiding him towards civilisation that lay beyond the woods. He couldn’t believe that Caesar was being so rigid about not telling Owen the truth. It seemed pointless to keep lying to the guy for much longer, he was going to work it out eventually. The werewolf felt oddly compelled to talk to the man about, well, anything. Was it because he was so full of life and unmarred by the cynicism of the world? Was it because he had an easy laugh and a fiery temper? Or was it simply that he was Fenris’ ideal man? Or maybe it was D – All of the above.
“You okay back there?” he asked the limp figure over his shoulder. It was important to him that Owen wasn’t uncomfortable, even such a compromising position.
When there was no answer, he stopped walking and hefted the man into his arms. The Daemon was fast asleep, snoring gently and burrowing his face into the werewolf’s chest like kitten squirming to get comfy. Fenris carried him in his arms like a newborn, until at last, the sun went down and they made up camp. He carefully wrapped the boy up in his sleeping bag and sat down by the fire. Caesar was pacing around the embers, muttering quietly, planning their next move.
They were on the very edge of the woods now. It would be much easier going from here, but he hoped that Owen knew how to drive. Fenris looked into the sky and saw the full moon. But that wasn’t right. The full moon shouldn’t be for at least another few weeks. Fenris grimaced as he felt the first wave of tremors course through his body. He ran deeper into the forest, trying to get as far away from the light of the campfire as possible before transforming.
Fenris stumbled and fell as his bones began to crack and realign. He moaned in pain as thick black hairs began to sprout. His skin began to tear, but sealed itself immediately leaving no trace of a scar. It was almost impossible to kill a werewolf mid-change because his cells were replicating so fast that any damage would be healed almost instantly.
He cried out again in agony as he felt his feet and hands grow sharp claws. Fenris leaned against a tree and bit hard into one of the thickest branches to stop himself from screaming. But he tore right through it with his serrated teeth and powerful jaw. His mind went momentarily blank as he was filled with a burning desire to rip and tear, but reasserted itself before his instincts overpowered him.
Something was definitely up. Hs entire body was thrumming with power and he seemed to be getting stronger every second. He scraped a lengthened talon against the tree and clove it in two with that single swipe. He howled and the noise was echoed by wolves that prowled in the distance.
“I suppose you’re wondering what’s going on kid. Well I’d better explain
myself.” Caesar’s voice was coming from inside his head rather than from some projection. “You must be wondering why you’re suddenly twice your normal size.”
“You did this?” thought Fenris.
“Apparently the fact that you have all the magic of an Elder mixing with your own means that your werewolf is now as big as the two of ours combined and then some. It makes sense if you think about it really; our wolf form is based mainly upon our magical strength.”
“Then why was I always the runt of the pack? My brothers were always bigger than me.”
“You had never accessed your power before, so the magic couldn’t be let out. Your old form, though magnificently impressive by normal werewolf standards, was nothing compared to what you can become now. Especially since my presence is adding to your strength. My, my, you ARE a big boy aren’t you?” Caesar’s projection appeared and walked around Fenris’ hulking frame, examining the sleek fur and the coiled layers of muscle with expert interest.
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