Hey guys and everybody. Sorry for the long delay. I’m not going to dig into the reasons, it’s just been a hell of a weekend. Sigh. My life’s going to change again. Drastically. I’d welcome change if I wasn’t so tired. I’m reminded of why I write because heaven helps me, it keeps me sane. But, enough of me, J you came here for my characters so, I present to you the 11th instalment of NaStyRoMo. It’s coming to and end. I might rewrite this later, I think I can do better, but for now, I just enjoyed typing.
Bitten – Part 11
“So, I came here,” Vaughn said softly – still looking at Francis, starting to feel calmer than she has since waking up with the need to howl. “Am I right?”
Francis, still on the couch beside her with her legs tucked in underneath her, smiled at her kindly, nodding her head ever so slightly. “I had warned you so many times not to drive up this mountain in the dark,” she said softly. “I had just come back from a long ride and Bucephalus was actually quite tired.” She sighed. “I just knew when I saw you that something was wrong, something that stretched beyond me and my problems of the day though, I most probably set it off. What else do you remember?”
Vaughn swallowed as she remembered seeing Francis lead her horse to where it’s stable was, already tacked off and lead just by her hand in his mane. The woman had looked closed off and alone as she turned to look at her, the headlights of her work truck flashing in her eyes. She could not see Romulus, except for the two green orbs of his eyes in the dark. She remembered how Francis had frowned when she leapt out of the car and ran towards her, frightening her horse. Francis had calmed him down quickly with a quiet word, then turned her dark eyes on Vaughn, fear tight in her face, demanding to know what’s wrong.
Vaughn had told her of the conversation that she had over heard in the pub and told her that she had heard the boys decide to come up during the night to kill Athena’s cubs. She understood now the look of fear that she had seen in Francis’s eyes, the wild look that screamed; ‘Not again, I don’t want to see that again.’
She had not known then, but she had understood that Francis was deeply afraid for her wolves. She did not say anything, but pulled Bucephalus around and lead him to her porch where she had hung her bridle. Vaughn had tried to talk to her, tried to ask her if she needed to phone help but Francis just shook her head tightly.
‘This is my responsibility,’ Francis had told her as she tacked up her heavy draught horse and shoved the reins into his hands. ‘Hold him.’
She went into her house, with Vaughn numbly holding her horse’s reins, wondering if she should put a saddle on but knowing that she wouldn’t know which end went wear… Francis returned quickly, carrying a rifle and a backpack and had scrambled onto Bucephalus’s back without a saddle.
‘Stay here,’ she had barked at Vaughn as she took the reins and turned the gelding with one hand but Vaughn quickly grabbed the bridle. ‘Should I come with you?’ she had asked. ‘Should I…’
Francis reply had been quick, but not unkind. ‘No,’ she said. ‘Don’t follow me Vaughn, you don’t want to know where this will lead.’
She then kicked her horse again, urging him forward as he pulled out of Vaughn’s grip and cantered into the dark forest. Romulus had remained behind for a second longer, looking at Vaughn as if accusing her of causing this trouble. Then, he threw his head back and howled once – a long, spine chilling sound that felt as if it froze the marrow in Vaughn’s bones before he disappeared after Francis.
Vaughn looked up at Francis on the other side of the couch, finding the woman’s eyes tired but kind. “I remember that you told me not to follow you,” she said softly. “But – I didn’t listen.”
Francis shook her head sadly and gently, carefully, reached out to touch Vaughn’s leg.
“No,” she said – her voice holding all the sadness of the world. “You didn’t.”
What has come before…
She remained where she was for a few moments longer before she found herself bursting into a run in the direction Francis had gone in. She was fit, though not very fast, but she knew with the terrain and lack of light Francis wouldn’t be able to go very fast either. Sure enough, she soon heard the faint sound of Bucephalus’s heavy hooves and breathing ahead of her. She tried to see the black cob but it was too dark already and she could not look ahead of her for very long, needing her eyes before her to keep her footing. Instead of risking a fall, she trusted her ears to guide her towards Bucephalus.
Vaughn didn’t know how long they ran and, if the circumstances weren’t so dire, she would almost have enjoyed it. When her eyes adjusted to the dark and she could see the dangers in her way, she found herself falling into a comfortable rhythm of movement and breathing, savoring the feeling of the forest around her. She wondered if this was why Francis went riding, to feel so in touch with her surroundings or whether the woman sometimes ran with the wolves she loved so much.
There was an alien light in the darkness suddenly and a shout, so alien in the serenity around her that it send a jolt of adrenaline through her body, urging her to run faster. The light, perched at the top of an incline in the forest, became brighter, joined by the sound of a running truck that drowned out the sound of hooves. And, above the noise of the truck there was the clear sound of dogs starting to fight. For the first time, Vaughn stumbled and fell down amidst the moist undergrowth but, she quickly picked herself up and ran up the hill, her lungs burning by the time she reached the top. There, she paused a moment, leaning on the tree for support, to survey the scene before her in the clearing.
Romulus was furiously fighting with a black bull terrier hear the car, the wolf’s ears flat and his teeth already bloody as he tried to best the fighting dog. The two boys were there as Vaughn had anticipated, John lying on the floor, curled up in a ball as he tried to get his breath back. Although she couldn’t be sure, Vaughn wouldn’t be surprised if Francis had rode him down on her cob. She didn’t see the horse, but she quickly found her lover and the other boy. Benjamin was standing over a tear in the earth, a stick of dynamite in his hand and a Zippo lighter in the other. His eyes were dark and feverish as he looked at Francis, his body language challenging her to stop him. Above the fighting of the animals, there was a strange quietness that hung between the two people. Francis looked like the Greek goddess Artemis as she calmly stood in front of Benjamin, her legs spread slightly as she trained the rifle on him.
“I’ll repeat my command,” Francis was saying softly – her green eyes almost shining in the faint light. “Drop it and go home.”
Benjamin glanced at John and then turned a smooth smile on Francis. “You won’t do it,” he said slowly. “You might be mad woman, but we all know that you’re no murderer. You can’t shoot me.”
Francis took a deep breath and closed her one eye, still aiming the gun at him. “Go home,” she said again, though Vaughn could’ve sworn that she saw her finger twitch. “You lost nothing here. Go home.”
Benjamin sneered and glanced down to the crack between his feet. There was a faint whimper from the depths of the earth and Vaughn almost became sick when she realized that he was keeping the cubs inside the den. “I have business here,” he said. “Your the one who should go home woman, you have no business here.”
Francis shook her head and dropped the gun slightly. “This is my home,” she said bluntly. “And those cubs are mine. I won’t let you harm them. Go home boy, end it here.”
“Oh,” Benjamin said with a barked laugh, “it will.”
He struck the lighter, the flame dancing above the silver Zippo.
Everything suddenly seemed to happen at once. There was an ear splitting crack through the clearing as Francis fired her rifle and a shout as Benjamin fell. Vaughn yelped in fear and realized suddenly that she had closed her eyes. She opened them quickly to see Benjamin scrambling up as Francis armed the rifle again. Frightened that she had done something terrible, Vaughn started running down the clearing, yelling Francis’ name at the top of her voice. Still looking at the boy, Francis looked up surprised as Vaughn yelled again, running to grab the gun from her lover. Her shout was drowned out by another as John screamed his mate’s name. The world slowed down as he too ran towards Francis, his hands gripping a baseball bat. In a split second Vaughn changed her angle and ran into him, her need to protect her lover from herself and them exploding in her like a bomb of emotion. And, then, from no where, she saw Athena. The wolf too was running towards John, her teeth bared as she raced to her cub’s rescue. They barreled into the young man together, Vaughn stumbling as she pushed him out of the way, a split second before Athena leaped from him.
The world stopped completely when Athena leapt, not into John, but miscalculated and at her snarling fiercely as she grabbed Vaughn by the shoulder and threw her to the ground, growling as her teeth tore into Vaughn’s flesh. Vaughn experienced a split second of shock before her world was enfolded by a wave of pain and fear. She screamed and tried to push Athena from her, the wolf’s nails digging into the soft skin of her stomach and thighs as she remained standing over her, shaking her head and tearing deeper into her flesh. Vaughn screamed once more, thinking of the rifle and Francis and then, suddenly, everything became warped.
Something shifted and her emotions turned inside her like a whirlwind of sensations. Above the pain, above the fear, she became aware of not only her need to protect Francis, but realized that it was also Athena’s need, knowing that the woman had protected her cubs from the boys. Her blood was hot on her neck, as hot as Athena’s saliva and her screams of panic blended with Athena’s fierce growls and, as their body fluids mixed so did the crescendo of sounds that they were making. Vaughn didn’t know anymore if she was screaming or growling or how it was possible to taste her own blood as her fingers wove into the wolf’s fur, blending so that they became one of body and of spirit. Vaughn lost all awareness of the world around her and found herself slipping into the dark recesses of the wolf’s mind. The last thing that she was aware of was a voice with no name, a kind voice that she loved whispering at her.
“Athena, let go. It’s alright, they are gone. Let go of her, please…”
To Be Continued…