"Sapphire, what do you mean evil is coming through?" Riley asked the dragon while brushing off some fresh snow that'd covered his shoulders. He ran a rough hand through his hair and the wet locks flopped right back to where they'd been without any noticeable change in his appearance. I hadn't thought of Riley as vain, so I gathered the gesture was more along the lines of frustration.
Uncle Harry began walking into the forest forcing us all to trail after him. He seemed amused by Riley's question. The werewolf looked at Uncle Harry and asked, "What? You know?"
Uncle Harry ignored them both and said to me, "So Emma, what do you think you'll do with the sword?"
Taking a page from Uncle Harry's book, I ignored the dragon and werewolf and replied, "Dunno, it is pretty bright and shiny."
He laughed with genuine pleasure at my reply and I kept up with him, leaving Sapphire and Riley to hiss bickering comments to each other. I continued to shut them out, and enjoyed the winter-scented air. The blizzard seemed to have dropped off somewhat but it was still too cold. The trees grew thicker and the trail we were on was barely visible with the quickly accumulating snow. There had been someone or something on the path earlier; I could see shuffling marks ahead of us. Whatever had passed this way had been dragging another behind it. I didn't automatically assume that the creature had been human, but simply a predator taking home its prey along the trail. There were some drops of blood melting into the snow every few feet, further confirming the notion of prey being hauled down the path.
Uncle Harry said, "Nothing that can harm us." He'd noticed my glances. Both Sapphire and Riley fell further behind as they argued and squawked.
"He was worried you know." Uncle Harry said very softly.
There wasn't any pause in Riley's rants so I risked a reply, "No way. He thinks that I am a giant pain in his ass."
Chuckling he said, "Well, you know you are."
I had to give him that one and didn't feel like arguing. I was too busy savoring the freedom even if it was cold.
We came to a fork in the pathway, and one path shot out to the west with the signs of the body having shifted and been dragged over an unseen bump in the road. Uncle Harry chose the other wandering trail that didn't seem to have been traveled for a few hours at least. Without comment I simply followed. But now Sapphire and Riley were a good twenty yards or more behind us and not showing any signs of catching up with us any time soon. The blizzard hadn't exactly stopped, but the trees prevented it from covering us from head to toe in snow while also keeping some of the winds from pushing us around the stark landscape.
Winter was something that Michigan folks mocked. The weather forecasts were always ominous promising the worst snowfalls since a decade or century mark depending on the channel. Much like the hurricane-riddled East Coast, the news folks made a point of telling the locals how many things could happen should a storm hit them. Unlike the hurricane lists there wasn't plywood and water needed for the pending blizzard, but more along the lines of blankets and battery operated lights, heaters -- if possible and dry goods that didn't need to be cooked. Truly dismal lists were posted up and printed in the much-ignored newspapers. The talk around the coffee shops was always about a worse storm decades before that froze people in their beds and snapped power and phone lines with icy fingers. While sipping their hot chocolate, coffee or tea the locals would banter about how the coming storm wasn't anything to fret about. And yet I'd noticed that folks joined me in stocking up when I'd been out shopping for Riley's arrival. The false bravado was often overshadowed by plain old Midwestern common sense. From the news reports of hurricane victims, I was pretty sure that most of those folks didn't have a lick of common sense, because they were often on top of their roofs hoisting up bottles of adult beverages while waiting to be rescued. Maybe they thought evacuation notices were just for the weak.
Blizzards rarely came with evacuation notices so the fact that I watched many of the neighbors sneaking in bags of canned goods and blankets made sense. We all liked to whistle casually around the scary things in life, but when push came to shove, folks around here did do some preparations.
But this current blizzard was pretty nasty. The icicles hung from the bare branches and snow frosted the evergreens. I could hear the snow crackle and crunch under my feet and the sound of Riley and Sapphire had grown softer and more distant. Uncle Harry broke into my musings with a soft, "Emma?"
"Yes?" I didn't stop but slowed my plowing through the snow right behind him. He was good enough to be first down the trail and his lack of warmth -- vampires do tend to drop off body temperatures fast with or without snow once they don't have blood -- seemed to make it easier for him to shove aside the drifts.
"I'm sorry Nico's prison cell didn't give you any answers," he said, not turning around but slowing slightly in case I stopped.
"Actually it did. It told me I'm alone for now." I know my voice wasn't much louder than a whisper but it was the truth.
Uncle Harry's abrupt laughter caught me by surprise.
"Emma, you have family. You know this!" He spun to see me looking shocked.
"Not like me." I sounded whiny even to my own ears.
"I hope not. You are an original. But that doesn't mean you are alone. Look to your heart and you know I am telling you the truth." He caught my gaze and I was able to see his sincerity. I didn't have the uncanny knack for knowing when vampires or werewolves lied as most supernaturals seemed to have, but I knew he was telling me his truth.
I didn't immediately answer but tossed that notion into my thoughts and found he was right. I did have a family of sorts. Riley and Sapphire came into view and I saw Riley's eyebrow lift at the two of us pausing mid-path.
"We easily could've caught up with you. You guys didn't have to wait!" A smile chased across his lips as he neared.
Shaking off the melancholy mood, I snatched a handful of snow, and not bothering to shape it simply flung the wet mess at the werewolf. He wasn't hampered by a sword and a backpack so he easily ducked and quickly shaped a chunk of snow and pelted me square in the chest. He'd used a bit of his werewolf strength and the snowball staggered me a bit. Hearing Uncle Harry hiss softly, I simply tossed him my sword and dove into a nearby patch of snow-covered greenery.
It took me no time to form a few snowballs of my own and I tried to hit Riley with them to no avail. The werewolf was using bursts of speed that weren't even remotely human. Seeing how he was cheating, I didn't hesitate to pop over next to him and slam a frosty snowball right into his face, then popped back to Uncle Harry's side.
Uncle Harry shook his head while I tried to hide behind him when Riley came roaring towards me.
Popping again away from him I landed right next to Sapphire while Riley said, "That's cheating."
"Nope, fair play since I don't have your speed." I phased back to Uncle Harry's side but this time he put a firm hand on my shoulder and said, "Enough."
I trembled and stayed. It had felt good to let loose a little of my nervous energy but Uncle Harry was right. Sapphire on the other hand looked very amused. But she still looked worried. I looked at her and said, "Sorry. You were saying evil is coming?"
Riley was next to me and simply shook off the snow like a wet dog, covering me with the flakes. Uncle Harry looked at Riley with an eyebrow raised as some of the snow plopped onto his shoulders.
"Ah, sorry Harry. It's her fault." He didn't look in the least sorry and I curbed my impulse to stick my tongue out at him just barely. Some of what I was thinking got through to Riley anyways and he flicked a chunk of snow off his chest over at me. I moved back a step and it fell to the ground without further decorating me or Uncle Harry.
Sapphire came closer to me and nodded. Her teeth were thankfully clean of dead bodies but her breath was still carrion-scented. Her fangs didn't scare me, yet somehow I knew she was trying to make me focus on her. I thought that dragons possibly had enthrall spells like some other creatures from her intense stare.
"Vampire, she really isn't like the rest."
"Of course not." Uncle Harry didn't seem in the least put off by her comment. While I could see Riley's eyes flicker back and forth between his human side and his werewolf form. He didn't like Sapphire talking about me, I gathered.
"Yes, soon much of the prison will break free. The Guardian is dead and they all know it. I don't think those werewolves will be able to hold them inside." Sapphire stretched her words out carefully trying to make sure we all were listening. I know I was.
"Don't count Gordon out just yet," Riley said with a bit of a growl. He hadn't stayed with the Michigan pack and Sapphire's comment brought out the protective side of werewolves for each other. Even though they weren't pack mates, he still had a tie to them.
Uncle Harry seemed solemn and distant for a moment, then closing his eyes I could feel him somehow drifting away from us. He rapidly blinked his eyes open and said, "Sapphire is correct. There are many creatures starting to break out of their cells. It is only a matter of time until one of them is old enough and strong enough to magic their way out. If not to here, to another world, and the damage will still ripple over us all no matter where they flee."
Riley sniffed the air and seemed to be thinking about what they both said.
"Let's go. No need to be on ground zero if they escape to our world. This sucks." It wasn't a statement that any of us felt the need to comment on, and as one we turned back to the trail that Uncle Harry had been leading us up. I retrieved my backpack and my sword. The earlier frivolity felt uncomfortable now and I was again cold and worried. I resisted popping out of phase back to California, because I was safer with these three than I'd be out on my own. A storm was coming that would make this blizzard look like a sunny day in the park if the supernatural prisoners made their break to Earth.
Worried, I followed Uncle Harry while Riley and Sapphire trailed us. We didn't speak but concentrated on keeping warm while getting away from the mine. I found myself touching Uncle Harry's back unnecessarily as we closed ranks and fought through the storm. Uncle Harry's steps never faltered as he led us towards a glowing house I could just see on the horizon. There was a fireplace in plain view through a frosted bay window. Smoke curled out of the chimney calling us. Not even seeing my puzzled expression Uncle Harry assured me with, "I'd made some arrangements before you went down into the mines, Emma. It's one of my places."
Smothering a smile inside, I found the energy to quicken my pace.