I hadn't heard many werewolves even try to speak when in their natural forms of fur so hearing the werewolf say 'Enough' was startling. Either way it sounded painful, and Marcus quickly said, "Damn, this has to be Bruno!"
Which meant absolutely nothing to me. I didn't know many werewolves much less any named Bruno. Did werewolves have multiple names like vampires? Ours tended to change because we'd lived as someone for so many decades when we moved we tended to change names to protect the fake dead. Harry nodded as if that name meant something to him -- hell, maybe it did. Harry had layers. My blood still was full with the taste of him. I was drawn to him in all the wrong ways. I needed to get back to Simon. That was my mantra. I focused on what was happening at the opening of the death chamber. Archer really was one sick puppy.
The werewolf again dipped his muzzle confirming the name Marcus had spoken.
"Well, Natasha, I think we are ready to go see Archer and collect the reward," Harry announced. I nodded. Both Renee and I had retracted our fangs, but still the adrenalin was pumping in both our veins. There was too much going on, but for the moment at least, I wasn't in the middle of another fight. That was to come once we got back to Archer with the scavenger hunt items. Solomon's Fang was going with Harry to be returned to the vampires no matter what we had to do. Harry didn't need to tell me that. It was one of those automatic bits of life and death. We vampires didn't ask questions about things much less ask permissions from others -- supernaturals or not.
"What about fur boy, Bruno, here?" I thought to ask while jerking my head towards the big were. I still didn't trust the feelings of magic rolling freely around the werewolf apparently named Bruno. He was a damn large creature by any measuring stick and even when he had been in his submissive pose giving Marcus his throat he still had been impressive.
"He's not going to do anything, Natasha," Marcus filled me in patiently, "He's offered his throat and with that he has given me command of him. Since he's one of Carlos' family-related weres it means I have to protect him as he does me and those I control."
That wasn't a great deal of information but at least it meant something. Harry shrugged and we walked back towards Archer's house at a fast clip. We could have gone faster but we weren't willing to expend any more energy than needed. We had some ass to kick and it wasn't going to be pretty.
Bruno stayed in werewolf form and loped along side of us. When we neared the house Marcus slowed down and said, "I think to qualify for the 'reward' I have to be in my were form when we turn in the quest items. And it's a better state for me with any sort of confrontation." That was an understatement given how he fought. Claws and fur against the same was usually a good match. Naturally, in full vampire form our fangs outranked the weres but I wasn't going to explain that to Marcus. He moved to the side of the path with some heavy chaparral and stripped down, then stretched back into his werewolf form.
I could see the effort cost him as he changed. The nasty wet sounds of his change were accompanied by minor groaning that didn't sound enjoyable in the least. Marcus' ability to keep going back and forth had to be exhausting. I didn't know how many more changes he had left in him. Seeing a huge werewolf go crazy wasn't high on my list of things to experience. Once back in his natural form, Marcus took the lead as we neared Archer's house. Marcus was deadly either way. but the werewolf shape suited him. He was nearly as large as Bruno. His battle scars weren't as prominent or distinctive, but there nevertheless.
As we approached the house I noticed that there weren't many bright lights shining in the windows. Which wasn't how we'd left the place. Costa was supposedly in the study waiting for the teams to return with their elements. It seemed like it had been forever since we'd left on the scavenger hunt. The time spent underground hadn't been as long as I'd thought. Being temporarily stranded made the minutes stretch. I owed Archer a swift kick in the ass at the least. Too bad his blood was tainted as far as I was concerned, because otherwise I'd have ripped out his throat and emptied him out in a minute. Harry caught my eyes and shook his head.
"Natasha, I swear you are getting more bloodthirsty the longer you are down here near Kenyon and the werewolves." Harry was right but I just smiled and shrugged one shoulder. Why argue? It wasn't like he was wrong.
"So we going in hard or soft?" I countered without mentioning the bloodthirsty bit.
Renee breathed in and exhaled saying, "There are at least a dozen strong werewolves inside and none of them are Carlos."
She'd know her fiancée's scent better than us so we looked down at both werewolves. They had dropped to their paws, not that they had to, I'd seen plenty of werewolves run full out while upright. Both turned their muzzles towards the back of the house as one. There was someone approaching from the south.
Without a sound, they raced side by side down to meet the newcomer. Naturally it was a werewolf. The humans on the property were well out of sight and we were the only three vampires for miles. Harry stopped and tilted his head.
I didn't have a clue what he meant.
They came back with the third werewolf. I didn't recognize the markings on the face or pelt but Renee gave a soft gasp. Great, again I was in the dark. I saw the werewolf was female but I hadn't seen any of the werewolf women switch shapes before we took off racing so I wasn't able to guess which one it was. Then she tilted her head.
The thin-framed brown werewolf was the drugged-looking one, Desiree. I was still wearing her bikini bottoms under a thin, now rather tattered, pastel gauze skirt topped with a pink cotton shirt I was using as a jacket -- all of which the housekeeper, Ginger, had inflicted on me in her attempt to put me in my place. Desiree had sneered at me along with the other werewolves in Archer's pack a few hours ago. Then she looked stoned or high in her human form, not so much in her werewolf shape. She looked right. I'd heard some werewolves never shifted shapes after decades of flipping back and forth and seeing how this werewolf looked I thought that was possibly her problem. She hated being in her human form.
Harry continued looking pleased about something. I wanted to smack the smugness off his face but that was just my nerves running wild. There were too many angles and too many possibilities for me to feel prepared. He laughed softly and pulled out one of my sharply curved blades. I was still wearing on my index finger the pinky ring Harry had given me earlier. It rang out against the handle of my blade and sang through me. There was magic crackling in the air again. The moon seemed to shine brighter and illuminated the entire yard.
"Six against a dozen or so. I like the odds," Harry wasn't kidding.
The werewolves had put their heads together and seemed to bond at some unspoken level. They didn't speak in human voices or make many sounds other than soft chuffs and growls. I was pretty sure that their subtle forms of communication were actually inside their minds like we vampires did when connected. The animal noises were just punctuation so to speak. It was oddly fascinating to me because they were from three different territories of Carlos' large werewolf pack and extended family yet they were united in their purpose.
Vampires had to work harder to get automatic mind connections. We tended to have to exchange blood or participate in some other intense sorts of activities with fluids. A vampire pushing unasked into another vampire's mind was asking to be given final death. We didn't give in easily or without a very specific purpose. The werewolves didn't seem to have that reserve. But then I guess Archer's little worship of the death goddess underneath his property hadn't gone completely unnoticed by other werewolves. I got the distinct feeling that the wedding between Renee and Carlos was an excuse for both sides to clean house. I know Simon had sent my fledgling, DB, and me down to make sure Kenyon wasn't running his own game. He was, naturally, but Harry rounded out the equation and would be kicking ass on the vampires' side when the need arose. Now it seemed that the werewolves were doing some of their own adjustments. There was nothing like a wedding to bring a family or two closer together.
We needed to get Solomon's Fang back and clean up Kenyon's mess over at Dark Whispers and to do that we had to get the show on the road. We quickly decided how to approach -- through the front door. We put Renee in the middle with the four elemental-filled Ziploc bags and Harry and I were each on a side. The three werewolves stayed on all fours and were directly in front of us. Harry had told them to drop and roll behind when the bag of Wind was unleashed. He and I would move quickly to the right and left while Renee was instructed to drop straight down. It was a quickly coordinated routine that would have to flow like a choreographed show or all could be lost. Harry would be in charge of seizing the Fang whenever the opportunity presented itself. Knowing Harry, if Archer didn't hand it directly over, the opportunity would be less than the blink of an eye maybe even with the loss of an eye.
The foyer wasn't manned and most of the lighting was cast off bits of the moon slicing through the various windows. No candles, lamps or any of those weird magically lit devices Archer had created that were scattered throughout the dungeon we'd just left. The house was designed to let light in at odd places I quickly determined, while keeping an eye open for anything off. In the daylight the place would be bright and feel like nature was just a whisper away. In the crafting of the home I could easily see the personality of werewolves they would love the way the moonlight and sunlight streamed through the openings and windows. Both would dapple the walls night and day. Comfortable environment for the creatures, but nothing I'd want to live with, that was for sure.
At first, I wondered where everyone was. It took me a second then I could hear the humans deep in the bowels of the place, hiding from us evil vampires and protecting the werewolf child of Archer. I would have expected they'd have been sent away if the werewolves were thinking of ambushing us. Stupid arrogance on Archer's part, thinking they would be the victors of any battle. At least we wouldn't have far to go to get a blood donation after our little interaction with the werewolves. There was a mixture of fear and excitement bouncing off all the walls. We slowly walked into the hall leading into the body of the home. The wave of energy was overwhelming, so I sharpened my focus and carefully figured out that Archer was inside the gunroom with Costa. Archer had used it as the grand gathering room every time so it was armed with enough weapons to take out a small army and a few vampires. In fact, all the warm-bodied werewolves were poised there. I doubted after the initial rush for the 'scavenger hunt' that anyone went out to find things. It was staged so they could stage this little meet and greet when we returned.
Harry was nearly vibrating with unleashed energy and anger. Oh, damn, it wasn't good. Harry didn't get pissed off very much but when he did it was never pretty. I felt a strum along my nerves of his energy and fury. It tasted like warm blood flowing down my throat and through my fangs, washing the world in lush sounds, scents and violence. It was the natural state of vampires -- at war with the world. I glanced at Renee to see she was smiling. Her fangs were out and her eyes huge in her face. She was rolling with the same flow of power. It wasn't exactly magic but was why we vampires tended to keep our clans small and not heavily loaded with older and stronger vampires. We fed each other's passions and lusts. Fully loaded vampires were problematic at best -- utterly ruthless and deadly at our very best. We looked like we were at our very best.
To be continued...