Chapter Ten: Hell to the King
Lucas stood by the window, knocking his hand on the sill absently.
"Something the matter?" Dirk asked.
"You really have to ask that?" The FBI agent turned to face him. "I just watched you kill dozens of people. Local law enforcement won't pick it up, because you said nothing will show up on the cameras. But doesn't what you just did bother you?"
Dirk sat at the table, looking at Lucas. "Let me tell you a story, okay?" The FBI agent pulled up a chair. "The year was 1954. I'd finally gotten the silver replacement for my missing leg, and to stay away from the monsters I hunted, I moved to Kaktovik. You won't have heard of it; it's a small town in Alaska. I was a dog musher, a mechanic, and a few other things. Life was good. Then, one night, they showed up. Two dozen Wendigo." He sighed, looking at the knife on his hip. "You ever seen a Wendigo? They're nasty creatures. Apparently, the group of them had been eating and turning hunters as they went, so the group that showed up were a bunch of stone cold killers." The hunter took the knife and started to sharpen it. "Anyway, they tore into the citizens. I lived on the far side of town, and I didn't see them coming. They got me up, though. They're not quiet killers. Anyway, I had my hunting gear and some nice weapons, so I went at them. The battle for the town lasted days, and even the arrival of other hunters didn't help much. I saved as many as I could, but..." his voice trailed off. "They turned most of the town, Lucas. The ones who didn't were never the same. Truth be told, no one will ever remember what happened there that day. No one. I barely let myself; getting your organs torn out through your mouth is literally the last thing you want to think about at night."
"Is there a point to this, other than to give me nightmares?" Lucas asked.
Dirk sighed again. "My point is that being a hunter and a lawman at the same time isn't easy. I didn't have that burned, and I made some decisions that I shouldn't have. Because of that, I don't sleep well. Look, kid, I want you to be different from me, and I'm sorry you had to watch what just happened, and if I could have stopped it, I would have. Just be different, okay? Don't make my mistakes again, kiddo. That's the last thing you want."
"Okay." Lucas looked out the window. "What will you say? If they come looking for you, won't you need an answer?"
"I have no answers," Dirk replied. "Part of the problem. Now get some sleep."
"What'd you tell them?" Ruby asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"What they needed to hear," Dirk said, taking off his long coat and rubbing his scarred forearms. "None of them know about a few nights ago."
Ruby nodded, flopping down on the bed. "Married. Who'd have thought?"
"Not me," Dirk said. "I never thought you'd be sweet on me." She snorted.
"And where are we now?" She asked.
He came over, taking off his outer shirt. "I'm married to the woman of my dreams, and I think I'm just about over the moon." Dirk leaned back, slowly laying next to her. "What about you?"
"I'm married to an idiot," she replied. "But he loves me even though I'm stupid too. I know that there's a lot we don't know, and..." Ruby looked over at him. "I'm a little scared, Dirk. Are we going to be okay?"
Dirk looked at her. "We're together, whatever we are. And we can work through whatever comes our way. We're strong enough."
"We need sleep," she said.
He nodded. "Okay." And they curled up, together. Her first thought was, I'm here. He's here. It's real, all of it. His first was simple: I'm home.
Alestair spun the knife blade on his fingers. The silver felt cold against his skin, and he knew that, were it penetrate, it would burn his flesh away.
"You seem angsty." This was Luther, the Shadowborn. He did not say much, but the boy had a heart of gold. "Anything behind it?"
"Gavin and Ariadne are expecting," Alestair murmured. "Dirk doesn't know. Dirk and Ruby are married, and Ruby wants to have a baby, but Dirk's scared. Thor's been having doubts about this whole thing from the get-go, and having a human to babysit doesn't sit well with him. Lucas is still trying to wrap his mind around things, and Kenji's pining over a cute Kitsune he met a few weeks ago. William's just angry. Or that's what he'd like to pretend; what's actually going on, I can't say.. Meanwhile, we're here, when we could go and shred these freaks. Maybe if we taught them to fear us, then this might not happen."
"What about me?" Luther asked, steepling his fingers. "You've said nothing on the subject."
"You are an odd one," Alestair replied, spooling the wire around his ringed fingers and his watch. "See, the others, I understand. I've spent most of my life figuring out monsters. But Shadowborn..." His voice trailed off.
Luther sighed. "Look, I get it, I do. The horns, the whole other dimension thing, the fact that the place looks like hell, all of it bites. I don't even understand it, Al. If you remember, I'm human. Or at least partially. I don't know everything about what's happening, and I can't fully explain everything. Of what he knows, Dirk's said almost nothing. What he has told me is that getting back there requires strong magic or expensive technology. Either way, the last time it happened was when you guys met me in Poland all those years ago."
"I get it," Alestair murmured. "I just...It's weird. Extradimensional monsters, extraterrestrial monsters, it seems that they're showing up everywhere." He sighed, looking back at Luther, his eyes glowing red. "I miss cutting vampires down. I miss just hunting werewolves when they made trouble. Simple things would make it easy, and that's just not our lives."
Luther fingered the ornate ring on his right hand. Alestair had seen what that ring could do in weapon form, and he had no desire to see it again. "Maybe we're due for a break."
"You look like the devil," the vampire said, barking a bitter laugh. "I've butchered hundreds of monsters. I'm pretty sure that we don't deserve a break."
"Maybe there's mercy to go with justice," Luther suggested. He sat beside Alestair. "Does it ever bug you that we don't have to sleep?" The vampire rolled his eyes.
"It's right up there with losing my powers in direct sunlight on the list of 'weird things I just accept because'." Alestair sat back. "What do we do now?"
Luther shrugged. "We wait. We find out what to do next and go from there. How hard can it be?"
"So let me understand this." The man's voice was soft. He strolled around the table slowly, deliberately, as though he owned the place. "I send a group of out best to the city, and you mean to tell me that they have been foiled. I send more, and they are wiped out quite unceremoniously by a human. You tell me that this is happening. So I offer you a chance to redeem yourselves." He stopped behind one of the chairs, and suddenly grabbed it. Its occupant, a woman, jumped slightly. "You are members of the Families. You're not the businessmen or stars or officials that you pretend to be. You are monsters. Act like it." He looked down at the table before he continued. "We lost a Wendigo in this engagement, ladies and gentlemen. A Wendigo on loan from the Devourer herself. That kind of firepower doesn't come cheaply, and even if it did, well, she's not the forgiving type. But then she calls me up and, instead of tearing me the new one I so richly deserve, she explains to me that the person who killed my monster happens to match an MO of a hunter that they presumed dead."
"It's one hunter," a vampire scoffed. "He can't be all that dangerous."
Emile Graymalkin sighed melodramatically. "One hunter," he said, laughing half to himself. "Yes, how much of a threat could one hunter be? You know, I've heard that question before, but I can't remember where...Oh, yes, I know!" He raised a finger to punctuate the exclamation. "It was Elise of House Dracula. Right before she was killed by a hunter. Then came her father, Victor. After him, there was Lucien, the werewolf patriarch. And they were all killed by him, this one hunter. A hunter the Families were assured were dead. So we descended on him, all of us, together."
Emile folded his arms as he returned to the head of the table. He leaned over his chair, his eyes going from green to black. "We sent two dozen people to deal with him. None survived. We thought he was killed in the ensuing explosion, but hunts later proved that he was, in fact alive. So you asked me what threat one hunter could be? One hunter can wipe out hundreds of monsters, kill branches of families. This man went hand-to-hand with Wendigo and primal vampires and won." He slammed his fist on the table. "And he's not alone. Would you, perhaps, like to test his might?" He asked, pointing at the vampire. "Or you?" he pointed to a coatl. "Perhaps you?" This was an okami, who refused. "My point is that we can't approach this the way we have traditionally. Perhaps, if he wishes to be a man, we have men target him...?" He shook his head. "No, I have a better idea." He pushed the intercom on his desk. "Jennings, cancel my appointments for the day. And send me Tyfon. I have a task for some of his children."
When Dirk woke up, Ruby was already out of bed. He rolled over and his legs hit the floor. As he rose, he saw her, slipping a shirt on over her shoulders. She had already put on her loose grey pants and a pair of socks, though she had yet to do anything with her hair.
"So," he said. "We have a name. Emile Graymalkin." Dirk pulled a button-down on over his undershirt. "And we know what we can do."
Ruby looked at him. "You said Graymalkin?"
"That name means something to you?" The hunter asked.
"It sounds familiar, but I can't place it." She shook her head. "Seen the news?"
He tightened his belt and pulled on his boots. "No. Why? Something I should take note of?"
"They're calling the two attacks acts of terror." Ruby sighed. "At least we wouldn't be getting much sleep otherwise. So not a big loss."
"What are we going to tell them, Ruby?" Dirk asked.
She looked at him. "What do I want you to...Dirk, we're still trying to figure out what exactly happened. We had a moonlight wedding on the woods, and we haven't told any of our friends. To be honest, I loved it, but..." She hesitated. "It was scary, Dirk. How couldn't it be? I've never..." She looked down. "I love you, you know that, right?"
"Of course," he replied, sensing something coming next he most likely was going to hate. "Why?"
"I want a baby," she said quietly. He blinked and shrugged.
"OK," the hunter replied.
"That's it?" She asked. "I thought you said a family wasn't in the cards."
Dirk strapped his machete to his waist. "I thought being your husband couldn't happen. Look where I am now. If that's what you want, we'll make it work." He looked at the door. "Now we have to ask now what. Those attacks were distractions, but from what, I have no idea."
They came out into the small living area, and everyone was already there. Ruby looked at Dirk, the question in her eyes clear. Was it really smart to give everyone a key.
He shrugged. If they need us, then yes. And they do need us.
"So we figured out where the cease and desist order came from. That's the good news," Ariadne said.
Dirk looked at her. "I'm assuming there's bad news, then?"
"It's the Order," the Gorgon explained. "It appears that they're moving in now. Our FBI agent friend's refusal to go back has brought them to us."
"What was I supposed to do?" Lucas protested.
Alestair waved his hand. "No one blames you. We'd all have likely done the same, given your predicament."
"What's the plan, then?" Gavin asked. "We can't fight the Order, the Liberatum, and the authorities."
"Maybe we let the Liberatum and the Order tear each other apart," William suggested.
Ruby shook her head. "Every time the Order fights a group of monsters, it ends badly. The Liberatum wouldn't be any exception."
"Ruby's right," Dirk said. "I know a couple of guys who can tie up the authorities, and the Order will be occupied dealing with the Liberatum for a few days."
"One more thing. Emile Graymalkin is here." Ariadne looked up at Dirk from where she was sitting, her fingers still beating out a staccato tattoo on her keyboard. "And the Families are in an uproar. Apparently, some of their outcasts showed up in town the other day. I can only assume Graymalkin is the reason."
"Where?" Dirk asked.
She shook her head. "Dirk, I can't let you. It's suicide."
"Nothing can kill me," he reminded her.
"That we know of," Alestair protested. "We don't even have any idea of what Graymalkin is. What if he knows how to kill you? Dirk, we can't go in and attack him."
He folded his arms. "So we just let our enemies' leader hang around in town? Pardon me if I think that's a terrible idea."
"We need a plan," Alestair said. "A way to cover ourselves and escape if we get in over our heads."
Dirk looked at Lucas. "Can Lionel help you stay hidden for a few days?"
"Sure." Lucas said. "Why?"
"We might need him to," the hunter replied.
"We have a problem," Ariadne said.
Dirk sighed. "Tell me."
"He leaves for Berlin in three days." She tapped her finger on the computer. "And it's a red eye flight too." William swore.
"What?" Ruby asked, surprised by the sudden outburst.
"There's a meeting of several wolf families in Berlin at that time," he said.
"It's a publicity stunt," Alestair said. "He's going after the wolves."
Dirk frowned. "And why would he do that?"
"A personal favor." Gavin shrugged, seeing the others' surprised expressions. "What? The wolf who's leading his contingent got rejected as Alpha a few years ago. He's had a personal vendetta against Eleanor, so perhaps he's using that as leverage."
"We should go after him," Alestair suggested.
"Not you." Dirk folded his arms. "We have to assume he knows how to kill vampires. Not that it's hard, given that whacking your head off is the easiest solution."
The vampire frowned. "It's not fair that decapitation doesn't kill you. But you can't just go alone. Even if you can't die, that doesn't mean he won't torture you. If you're outnumbered, you'll be captured."
Dirk folded his arms. "I won't be going alone. Luther and Gavin will be coming with me."
"You're not taking Gavin without me," Ariadne protested. "Let me come with you. Take mirrored sunglasses or something, but please let me help you."
"I can't," Dirk said.
She sighed. "Seriously, let us split up, but I want to go."
"All right," he acquiesced. "Listen, we don't know who or what Graymalkin is. Honestly, if we did, that would be immensely helpful, but as they say, beggars can't be choosers. We know he's in a hotel s0mewhere here, but that's the best we can do under the circumstances." He sighed. "Ariadne, as soon as I know where he is, we'll give you a crack at him." He looked at Lucas, holding out Locklear's list. "Go through the names on here. Find me any and all outstanding warrants that match these names. Given that I know several of them are wanted criminals, it shouldn't be too hard." The FBI agent flipped open his computer. "William, Alestair, we're going to need a few more weapons. Go talk to the Foundation, see if they have anything they can offer in the way of weapons. I could use a few more fireburst shells if you can get them. Slugs would be nice too, if you can purchase a few. Take the card from Edwin. That'll have enough cash on it to purchase almost whatever you want."
"So the plan is to just...kill Emile Graymalkin? Seriously?" Luther asked. His arms were folded, and he looked extremely angry. Or maybe angsty was a better term, Ruby thought. Luther was the youngest of them by far, and every time he looked upset it was almost like looking at a slightly miffed chihuahua. She just could not take it seriously. Which, predictably, was what he expected.
"Yes," Dirk said. "'Just kill' might be doing the plan a disservice, but that's exactly what we're going to do."
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