Authors: Mike J. Banes
The young lady whimpered as the final drops of blood were sucked out of her veins and with it, her final hold on life. Her lifeless body dropped limply at the vampire's feet and he watched his friend who was draining a deer.
"You know man. It's an unsolved mystery how you're still so strong when all you eat is this low grade stuff" he teased, and Christoph smiled, wiping his mouth.
"That's for me to know, and you all to wonder about, Remus" he replied settling down beside his friend.
"No really. I mean, I literally have no clue. I can't stand the taste of those things" Remus argued pushing the now-drained deer further away from him.
"It takes a more refined palate to appreciate the subtler tastes my friend and a refined palate, is not something you possess" he said, tapping his friend's shoulder good-humouredly.
They both laughed.
"I overheard some of the boys yesterday saying how they missed the war. It was rather odd. One would think the constant fighting finally coming to an end would be a relief"
His friend scoffed
"They've made a habit of ripping out werewolf hearts my friend. Your father's peace treaty with the fur faced alpha chief has come as a bit of a sudden break from what has essentially become a routine"
"Werewolf hearts are not all that have been ripped out in this war that we don't know the inception of Remus. A lot of us have fallen on the battleground as well. You know all too well." he looked at his friend checking for a reaction. All he saw was humour
"You don't seem all that bothered by the change though" Christoph pressured.
"Well, maybe I'm just tired. You know. I mean, before now, sitting here would not be all that comfortable as we would be expecting an attack at any time. Hunting's been way easier since it was signed. You know I'm all about the easy life" Remus finished, leaning back
"Hmmm. Well, personally, it's the change we needed really. At least now we can thrive a little and not constantly be in fear of raids on our nurseries"
"Yeah." Remus agreed. "You know what, I'm not satisfied yet. I think I'll grab another quick snack"
"Two from the same village. On the same night. You animal" Christoph said with mock exasperation.
"Aren't we all, deep down?" Remus asked as he headed into the village, stepping over the body of the young girl.
Christoph ducked and the saber sailed over his head and impaled a tree behind him,
"You're getting insanely good at that" he said "almost got me that time"
"Next time you won't be so lucky" she said, flaring her nostrils
"Cocky as ever" he said and charged her, diving towards her, she dropped to the ground and rolled under him, evading his attack. She retrieved her saber and ran towards him slicing at him as she reached him, he brought his blade up to parry the attack, and with his free hand slammed his fist into her ribs, only pulling back at the last minute, diminishing the effect.
The punch sent her reeling backwards, and her grasp loosened over her weapon. With a quick movement, he disarmed her as she lurched backwards. She was on her feet instantly and advanced towards him, claws protracted
"Hand to hand. Finally" he said and tossed the saber and his blade to the ground. She lunged at him, clearing the distance between them in one leap. Before he could react, she threw a left hook at his chin and he raised his hand to block, realising too late that it was a feint. Her other hand came up and knocked his face to the side sending him careening into nearby tree.
He felt the broken bones in his jaw slowly heal as he got to his feet.
Man, she could throw a punch.
He couldn't remember when last he'd been caught off guard like that. What was it about her really, that threw him off his game?
As he stood up, she raced towards him. He jumped, succeeding in making a clean forward dive over her head and landed behind her. She turned round quickly, but he was already in front of her and as his hand advanced towards her face, he suddenly switched tactics and opened the fist while lowering his arm a bit, letting the palm make contact with her chest. The shove, backed with amazing strength would have broken an ordinary person's chest and collapsed some internal organs. Keena tumbled backwards and sat there, hand to her chest as a trickle of blood coursed down the side of her lip.
"Had enough?" Christoph taunted
"You wish, bloodsucker" she growled, wincing as she got up.
This time she went in claws first and made contact. The claw mark went all the way down his chest, stopping just short of his belly button, ripping his shirt open in the process.
Stepping backwards from the impact, he took of the shirt and tossed it aside. His pale, lean, muscled body seemed to glisten under the moonlight and for a second she paused to catch her breath. Catching sight of his half naked form. She swallowed as her eyes followed the claw marks down their path towards his belly button. Her eyes caught on the muscled 'V' that vanished into his trousers.
She shook her head and raised her eyes to look at his face instead. He was looking at her, a peculiar, knowing smile on his face.
Dammit. He'd caught her staring.
What was wrong with her?
She'd seen muscled men before. The pack was full of them. But there was something about Christoph. The way his long black hair fell over his face as he looked at her now. The way his lips stretched out in a smile over his immaculate dentition. The way the smile made his nose crink up ever so gently. The way the moonlight played on his pectoral muscles, giving them an ethereal sheen. Suddenly, she realised she longed to touch the velvety skin. Just to know how they felt.
She realised the path her mind had taken and shook her head again.
Something was definitely not right with her.
"You okay?" he asked, the smile still on his lips. Taunting her.
She wasn't sure
. Had she ever been?
"That was my favourite shirt you just ruined fur-face" he ventured again
"Good" she managed to say simply. Then after a deep breath, "Wipe that silly smile off your face"
"What smile?" he said, feigning ignorance and shrugging.
She rolled her eyes and walked towards the discarded weapons. Picking up her saber, she sheathed it and smoothed down her clothes. He walked towards her and retrieved his blade and sheathed it as well, then together they walked towards a huge tree and sat down beneath it.
"Don't do that again" she said suddenly after their silence had drawn on for a while.
"Do what?" he asked, genuinely confused. The claw marks on his chest had healed leaving a slight scar.
Werewolf inflicted injuries never seemed to heal quite completely. Their bites took longer to heal, while their claw wounds, healed a bit faster, but left behind some scarring.
"You know what"
"I really don't Keena"
She turned sharply. This was the first time he'd ever used her name when talking to her. The look she saw on his face told her that he was equally flummoxed by his utterance. He looked at her and turned away immediately.
"You were pulling your punches" she said then, temporarily over the surprise at his use of her name.
"No I wasn't" he denied unconvincingly
"Don't lie to a werewolf, bloodsucker. We can detect lies. Every single time" she retorted pointedly turning to look at him. "I mean it. Do not do it again"
He returned her gaze, resisting the urge to ask if she meant he should not lie anymore, or pull his punches. Her yellow eyes seemed to look into his very soul with their intensity. His eyes wandered down to her full lips, pursed stubbornly as she stared at him waiting for him to acknowledge her request. Her breathing was slow and even and her ample breasts heaved and fell beneath the cloth.
His awareness of their presence, especially at such a close proximity amazed him. His reaction to them amazed him even more.
He caught himself barely in time and returned his gaze to her face. Her beautiful face. Her gaze had not wavered and he realised he was ogling.
"Well" he began, clearing his throat "If I came at you with full strength, I could very well kill you" he explained, and she scoffed.
"We both know it would take a lot more than a stupid punch to kill me. I don't want you giving me any preferential treatment because I'm a girl or something. I will not stand for it"
"Where's all this coming from?" he asked simply, and she looked up at him again, wondering how it was that he could tell so easily that there was something more to her rant.
"Nowhere. I just don't want to be treated like I'm unequal. I'm every bit as strong as you are, if not stronger" she said, raising her chin and squinting.
"You and I know that's not it Keena"
Her breath caught again. If he could stop doing that, it would be highly appreciated. Could he see the reaction his use of her name was getting from her? Is that why he used it again? And more importantly, why was it having such a reaction?
"Yeah, you're right. But it's personal, and I'd rather not talk about it."
"I've been famed to give really good advice. I am really old you know" he said, smiling.
"Like I was born yesterday" she replied, rolling her eyes.
"Well. I've been famed to give good advice" he said again, shrugging. "Who says our bouts only have to be of the physical kind?" he added
She understood what he was saying and she knew she would probably feel better if she told him what was truly bothering her. On the other hand, the lupine sceptic within her warned her on the possible dangers of such a revelation.
For all she knew he could just be searching for information that he could use to cripple their defences. The peace treaty was still young and as shaky as the first day it was signed. It was not news that a lot of them from both sides still harbored grudges against the other side and would sooner see the treaty broken than see it flourish.
He's had more than enough opportunities to kill you if that were the case. Why hasn't he?
A little voice questioned her.
That was the case though wasn't it? He seemed like he could be trusted, which was the very reason she was so reluctant to do that. In her lifetime she'd learned that nothing ever came easy. She had been brought up that way.
Still, her worries were threatening to eat her up if she did not open up to someone about them.
There was a time when she would already have given him a total breakdown of her fears and worries without a single thought. A time when she would reach out to him to comfort her in her time of need.
That time had long since passed.
"Well. It's my father"
Christoph shifted where he sat. He was surprised she was actually going to open up to him. Surprised, but oddly, glad.
"Yes, what about him?" he asked, adjusting so he could look at her squarely
"He's old. As you well know. More than two centuries old. And the time for him to ascend is approaching. Meaning, it will soon be time for the pack to choose a new leader" she paused, and looked to make sure he was listening.
His attention was rapt.
"Normally, it would fall to one of my brothers. But I am my father's first child. So it's going to be settled with 'bardaga'. I'm going to have to battle them for the alpha position."
He did not say anything for a while and just looked contemplatively, then.
"So What? You don't want to fight?"
"Yes. Exactly. I mean, why do we have to? I'm oldest, I should be the one. Why do I have to fight my brothers to prove that? I've proved myself on the battlefield against your kind one too many times. I'm more than capable"
Christoph chuckled without mirth.
"Rules, Keena." he paused, as if saying her name somehow made it harder to speak immediately afterwards. ". . . Sometimes, rules just have to be obeyed. Especially those ones that have been passed on from generation to generation. I mean this is how all the former alpha chiefs were chosen right? I doubt it could have been easy for them at the time too."
She nodded slightly, her expression still troubled.
"Look at it this way. You'll be defending yourself. Because, your brothers are going to come at you with all they have. We've established peace now. This is the best time to be an alpha chief. Everyone will thrive."
Keena sighed resolutely. He was right. Her brothers would definitely be gunning for the position of alpha chief of the pack. She looked at Christoph, he was his father's first son as well. Would he have to do terrible things too at the demise of his father?
She couldn't help but wonder.
Christoph stepped into the nursery on his way to his room. The new-borns, were all asleep in their cribs. He stared at all of them and sighed.