Among the Living
Mikkel finished relaying all that he knew, all that was known about the wolf Maxilyn Tandem Lykaios, last descendant of Lykan. He had long suspected the return of his master, but not in such a way, but nonetheless he was loyal, was bound to his creator. The wolf leaned against the windowsill, contemplating all that was revealed, wondering how it was she was different. The wolf looked at her hand, flexing it in and out; all others of the line had obeyed, had submitted to the power of the one True Wolf, but not this one. Either she had a strong will power or she had evolved in a way he did not anticipate.
“She should not be this small, my power should have made her easily larger than a human.” The wolf said, his voice of Old English influence, as the raven cleaned his feathers.
Maxilyn was forced to suppress her power, I imagine her growth would have been stunted. Be proud, she has done well without your interference.
The she-wolf nodded, “I suppose being without a teacher posed its own problems. Had I been able I would have more direct contact with her, but this time...I was unable to influence her as the others.”
Looking out to the island, the wolf found much had changed in the time of their slumber. True occasionally there was a glimpse of the world on the outside thru the eyes of their descendants, but it was not often enough to have interest. This world was not its goal after all. The wolf squinted their eyes at the setting sun, wondering how such a blinding light could be considered beautiful. It was hot and irritating, bright and blinding, what an ugly and selfish thing to burn those who wish to look upon it. How they craved to see their own sun again.
What is your will? Archon has opened the door and now walks Earth, will you go after them head on?
“No.” The wolf said curling a lazy smile, “Archon would only reincarnate in the Abyss, I must force them to return themselves and kill them there.” They stood up straight, unwrapping the bandages, “It will be much easier than before, I have been sending pieces of my followers throughout history to the Abyss. They await my command.”
The werewolves. Mikkel clarified.
“They served their purpose: to infect as many as possible in order to build my army back home. What they did in the meantime was of their own volition. Taking up arms with the parasites...they truly lost all pride for themselves, their demise was enviable—allowing another to put a collar around their necks. Still, just as my hounds, the parasites, those vampires, were created for a purpose. The fact it was for a similar purpose was pure coincidence.”
Mikkel looked at the wolf. What of Earth?
The wolf said simply, “If the humans cannot survive, then they were not strong enough. After all, the weak will be culled.”
The door opened, Sabrina and Achlys enters, freezing in place when seeing Max up and conscious. A sense of happiness would have otherwise been present in both women’s’ chests, but what they both felt prevented that. A darkness gathered around Max, the same darkness that distinguished Strigori from the rest of this world. That should not be, Max had always given off the aura of a human, this darkness, this evil is not her.
The wolf looked to the two women who entered the room and smiled. She stood at the opened window, her crimson and golden eyes glowing in the shades of her face as the setting sun cast a large shadow across the room. A dark feeling slowly crept closer, reaching its hands to the two—Sabrina moved suddenly, casting a spell that trapped Max in a box. The woman that stood before them looked around the prison, her shadow faded once cut off from its source. She tapped the sides with a finger, entertained by the golden light that trapped her within.
“Sabrina? Achlys?” She said with concern, “What are you doing—“
“You’re not Max.” The witch shot out, her hands up in a position to attack.
The short-lived facade faded into annoyance, “Well...aren't you the perceptive little witch.” The wolf rose a finger, tapping the box, piercing the integrity and shattering the magic and the prison into fragments as tiny as a grain of sand.
“Do you intend to betray me again Achlys...or would you rather I call you Valerie?” The wolf asked taking a step forward, “I wonder, how long did you intend to deceive Max? How long would you have waited to tell her the truth about who you are?”
The Strigori looked at the possessed women with no understanding of the words.
“Who are you?” She asked.
The wolf frowned with a sadness, then held out her hands to the sides, “Do you not recognize me?” She brought a smile, “It’s I, Achlys, its Lykan.”
Silence over took the room. Achlys looked to the one who had taken over Max. The memories of the life she left in the Abyss flooded her mind. She remembered the first time they met: Achlys was hiding in debris of a collapsed home, her parents’ shredded bodies lay outside on the ground. Raiders had come wanting to take everything the Strigori family had and when material goods were not enough her parent’s lives were taken instead.
Lykan was alone, he came when the raiders had moved on, finding Achlys crying. He told her if she stayed here she would die, that if she came with him then he would protect her. He too had no one left, he had been cast from his pack, his family just for being small. Living on scraps for as long as he can remember, hiding from raiders, but using this dump he called a home against them.
Achlys took his hand, but stopped at the remains of her parents. Soon their bodies would crystallize and become apart of the world. All things return to the ground eventually, but she would not allow their memory to turn to dust and fade—the scraps that remained she took into her, their strength, however little gave her the will to go on.
From there Achlys and Lykan were always together, they stole from markets, animals, drink, water they could get their hands on, but the only true sustenance was to consume another Strigori. They followed the raider packs, picking off the leftovers like scavenging birds. It was not much of a life, but it was living, fighting, clawing for just one more bite, once more chance at life. The only trusted each other at first, but then more and more children followed them and they formed their own pack of orphan scavengers. Bit by bit, bite by bite they grew, they evolved.
Growing stronger, they graduated from scraps to weaker Strigori, consuming and changing until at last they stood above the bodies of the very raiders they chased after. Those they had bullied, they had murdered, they had eaten, vengeance had finally been had and it was sweeter than any meat before. The entire region was now under their rule and governance. But that is not where Lykan, their leader had stopped. He always saw beyond their mountains, to the furthest horizon of this realm where the peak of the hierarchy’s castle touched the tip of it.
He would reach that castle, one day he would sit on that throne. Lykan said it was his destiny.
Achlys stared at the one who bore Maxilyn’s face and shook her head.
“That is impossible—Lykan died.”
Lykan shook the head, “I merely assumed a different form, living thru the union of a mortal and myself.”
Sabrina takes a hard step forward, her arms up, each baring a separate offensive spell.
“Where's Max?” The witch demanded.
Lykan tilted his head, “Gone.” He shook his head, “It will not do you well to on it, she was merely a host, born solely to be my vessel. A role she fulfilled splendidly.”
Sabrina attacked, the hospital room was blown out, from the dust and debris, Lykan lept back into the air, dropping down the cliff to the forest floor. He brushed himself off casually.
“Quite a hot-tempered witch.” He said jumping back again as a bolt of magic hit where he had stood.
Sabrina came at him again, swinging at close range. Lykan dodged every swing, he batted one of her arms and pushed his palm into the witch’s chest, but before he had a chance to use his power Achlys used hers and a wall of shadow came between the witch and the wolf. Lykan laughed at her.
“Why do you fight me? Were we not allies? Friends? Lovers even? Even if it was you who were the one who betrayed me, I am willing to forgive you.” He taunted jumping back at the Strigori’s attack.
This body he was still not accustomed to.
“Do you care about Max? You are being misled Achlys, she is nothing more than a vessel, my host born to be consumed by me. The only this you loved was a genetic copy of me.” Lykan ducked under a shadow, “Every cell in her body; her power, her very life—is me.”
He turned to offense. Throwing his hand into the ground, uprooting the entire area. Lykan jumped on a fallen tree, keeping above them. What use was there in talking to them? They were not his concern, they were pawns in his grand game. His path was elsewhere, beyond this dismal island ruled by a false queen. It was only a matter of time before they were found anyway, but as a reward for fulfilling her role above and beyond expectations he would spare those of this land death by his hand. Despite her odd friendship with the parasites.
“Max!” Sabrina yelled loudly, “Max you have to wake up! Don’t let him control you!”
Lykan smirked, “Even if you were to die here, you would never see her again.”
Lykan jumped onto a mound of boulders, taking up the high ground against Sabrina and Achlys. He his movements were becoming sluggish, but he did not allow the other two to realize it. The wolf growled, his movements becoming restricted and as a result he relied more and more on his ability oto shift. Sabrina and Achlys had persuaded others not to engage, but the growing number of soldiers were proving to be an inconvenience to him.
Suddenly a group of witches cast a spell, circles of black paper talismans spun around Lykan then tightened. He felt jolts of electricity course throughout his body. I did not sense them—I am still not used to this body. Remaining on his feet, Lykan struggled against the magical restraints, his eyes darkening to black, his body convulsed; in place of Max’s body was a jet black wolf whose howl shredded the papers of the spell, sent the casters off their feet, flying across the ground and uprooting many trees.
Lykan charged, his fangs trained on the first witch he sees—his movements had him aimed left, missing the woman giving her enough time to scurry away. Fools. Lykan sighed. Do not interfere. He shook his head, looking to the force gathering behind him. Did they think they could truly take him on? He, the most powerful Strigori to ever walk the Abyss? The wolf, whose fur was as black as night, stood alone in front of the oncoming force. He howled, the force uprooted trees, knocked down people and made the land bare of green life. To think this was only a fraction of his power.
“Is this the best Earth has to offer?” Lykan asked returning to a human form, referring to Achlys who was the only one left standing, “It is unfortunate to see this world's weakness has seeped into you Achlys. Has your peaceful living made you soft to the past?”
Achlys frowned, “No, it has shown me there is more to life than just fighting. That is what we once stood for, what you once stood for, before you allowed your own pride, vanity, and appetite for power to consume you.”
A louder laughter rung in the air, “Consume me? What of you? You allowed fear to consume you. You betrayed me, who you loved, who you grew up and survived with.”
“You are the one who forgot that, not I.” Achlys said quietly, “I cannot change what has happened, but I wonder if you have remembered what you forsook?”
Lykan chuckled, what he forsook? Nothing can be forsaken if it is not valued beyond its use. Those he lead, he commanded in battle, they were pawns, they were those he would use to go forth to the throne he sought to claim. It is their way, how could she fault him for this? Weakness is only from one’s own unwillingness to live, to survive by any means necessary. Weakness is a disease that breads anarchy and conflict, so long as there are those who are weak then there will always be people who try to exploit them.
In a world of only the strong, a place where there is no weakness, there is peace, their is strength, there is unity. The world he imagines is one where all weakness is snuffed out and a new generation of Strigori are born, are trained from youth—there would never again be weakness, never again be conflict, a true peace where all were equal. That was what he sought, what he desired back then—at least that is what the others believed.
His true intent, his goal from the moment he was cast into the deepest depths of the Abyss, was to break those who lived in its light. He was betrayed before by those he thought he could trust, by the one person he thought understood him. That was a mistake he will not make again.
“If you wish to defy me still, shall we see if you have forgotten what it means to be strong?” Lykan smirked, holding his empty hands out, “I will even go without a weapon.”
Achlys vanished, appearing behind Lykan swinging a shadow toward his back.
“Good. Time has not softened your blade.” His shadow batted her back, without him moving a muscle, “How sharp is your edge though?”
His strength broke many treesthru numerous trees, turning sharply around a few to show the continued skill of his power. Achlys continued to jump further back, until stopping, the shadow oncoming—but it stopped just short of her face. Lykan frowned, still a jackrabbit. Her skills have no dulled so much in her peaceful life. Despite his testing, darting between trees she managed to still calculate the distance within an instant to know where exactly his limit was.
“Why do you not fight me at full power? It has been so long since I had my body—“
“That body is not yours; Maxilyn has not been consumed by you, I can feel her.” Achlys said, pointing to Lykan, her words frustrated the fellow Strigori, but he did not dwell on it too much. She was always the more hopeful one of them.
Lykan shook his head, “She was never real, simply a copy of me. You know the truth as well as I, you only cared for her because of her resemblance of me.”
Achlys charged, Lykan decided to take her a bit more seriously. Despite the past, he will forgive her, so long as she kneels. Pledge herself to he and he alone. To never betray, never leave him again, unto death they would go and in return he will protect her, he will make her stronger than she would have ever thought possible. They will fulfill their vow and reach the castle and tear it down stone by stone. She need only kneel.
“Maxilyn is nothing like you.” Achlys said calmly, swiping her shadow with a force that Lykan had to step back to brace.
She was not so stubborn back then. He decided to appease her fit.
“True. At least I was able to stop people from dying.” The Strigori jumped to avoid another shadow, batting away two attacks from either side mid-air.
“I would have even stopped that vampire from dying, what was her name...?” Lykan’s tail came up his back, colliding with Virgil’s sword, “Ah, that’s right.” He chuckled glance back at the vampire, “Kassandra.”
The shadows whipped around, but Virgil was faster, far more nimble than the struggling Strigori. Sparks flew at their collision, Lykan was overjoyed someone was willing to put aside their feelings for the hosts and treat him as the threat he is. This man, this vampire, was one Lykan recalled held respect, but no trust for Max. He was a true warrior, an experienced veteran of battle who has survived and grown stronger throughout his long life. Mikkel had said he was one of the three of the eldest vampires, the first three turned by the first infected. Not that it truly means they are anything special in terms of inherit ability, but their manipulation, battle prowess and leadership is a testament to their age.
“I have business with the owner of this body.” Virgil said, rotating his sword in his hand, “You are in the way.”
Lykan sighed, “Children should run along, parents have business of their own.”
“Children?” Virgil questioned what he originally believed to be an insult.
The Elder moved, swinging his sword. Lykan caught it with a shadow, then attacked, but Virgil vanished. A sword swipe came from behind, but limb blocked it, then from the side, and the other, the next from the front and then the back again. Randomly Virgil attacked from different fronts, having no sort of pattern, nor indication of where he would be next. Annoyed with the pesky parasite Lykan enclosed, then threw them out in all directions; Virgil blocked two, but the third opened his side. Izona grabbed him in time, creating a safe distance.
Achlys came between the vampires and Lykan.
“This is between you and me Lykan.”
“No.” He disagreed, “You are simply interfering.” He shut his eyes for a moment, they opened, black and crimson, “Again.”
Achlys’s form changed, she became a figure of misting shadow, her crimson eyes glowing. Shadows came forth, colliding with Lykan’s arm. This surprised him slightly, he did not expect her to reveal herself to the vampires. She has seemingly hid her true nature from them, but is oddly defensive for them. Does she have some maternal instinct? How curious, considering their make-believe family consisted of children who had no parents. Unlike him, she loved her parents, she had known them and their love, while he—Lykan clenched his jaw—never had just a thing. The Abyss does not permit weakness, the weak are culled and he would never allow himself the weakness of family ever again.
“Once...” Lykan looked out to the fallen trees, “...I thought you would be the one person who could understand me.” He said to Achlys, “But I was wrong.” His fist tightened, “The weak will never understand the burden of the strong.” He vanished, appearing right in front of her, his fist already cocked-back and throwing forward.
It stopped before reaching Achlys. Lykan clenched his fists, his body trembled as veins pulsed, pushing to the surface as though they were being overfilled with something.
“Enough!” Max yelled, Lykan grabbing his head.
“What are you—insolent child!” The wolf cringed, “Do not disobey me—I am your creator!”
Max seized Lykan by the throat squeezing it, “You will—kill—us—both!”
The she-wolf bared her fangs into a smirk, her colors of black and gold shun through in her right eye, “Then--die--!”
Lykan and Max struggled back and forth, fighting for domination of a single body. Virgil moved around Achlys, his sword in hand he came right behind the wolves. Max yelled, “GIVE—IT—“ She spun around and slammed her head into the Elder’s head, “—BACK!”
Virgil hit the ground.
“Listen here you son-of-a-bitch!” Max gasped, as though the air had been let into her lungs after a period of suffocation.
Max grabbed Lykan from the surface of consciousness, pulling him down and throwing his self into a cell, locking the door. Lykan stood, his shadow spread out, smashing at the cage violently, but it would not yield and could not break the limits of the cage. I will not forget this Max. He growled. Good. The she-wolf said with a bite, reached past the bars, clasping her hand around his throat. This is my body, you are nothing more than a parasite, leeching off of me to preserve your life. She pulled him closer, her sinister yellow haze displaying her malevolence. You’re alive because of me, forget that again and I will take everything from you.
Lykan, taken back by her abrupt seriousness and rise in power chuckles, resting his arms at his sides. You are beginning to sound as a true Strigori.
Virgil rubbed his head. Calling her hard-headed would be literal from now on. He sat up, seeing that Lykaios was un-moving; her struggle with herself and whoever was possessing her had ceased movement of the body entirely. The grey from her arm followed and the red of her eyes returned to a yellow and then faded into the human hue of grey. The emptiness of her eyes disappeared, full of life, but tired, Max slumped, her weight shifted forward and she dropped to her knees gasping for air.
Valerie ran to Maxilyn, reaching her hand to the wolf, instead, a fist slammed into her gut throwing her off her feet and into the ground. The wolf came to be seen, revealing to all that the race of wolves was not ended and the line was stronger now more than ever. Valerie sat up, coughing as she was faced with a mouth full of fangs quickly approaching. She could not be understood by the Strigori now, her mind was protected by walls so high and thick nothing would penetrate them by force.
The wolf’s body language however was enough to know what was said.
“Maxilyn...” Valerie rose a cautious hand as she jumped to her feet, “I did not know, you must believe me, I had no idea he was the warlock we were searching for.”
The wolf continued to bare enraged body language, very nearing tearing the Strigori’s throat out. The she-wolf sprinted, Valerie only defended herself, using her shadows something that only infuriated the wolf further. Maxilyn shifted between human and wolf, attacking Valerie with a furry of blows, each one dangerously closer than the previous to hitting the Strigori.
“From the start—!” Maxilyn roared, kicking at the shadow, then shifting to a wolf to get behind her target, “You never intended to help me!”
Valerie shook her head viciously, “I did everything I could to help you, if I had known Lei was to betray us I would have done everything to stop him to save you!”
Hearing her say that only made Maxilyn angrier, “I WASN'T THE ONE THAT NEEDED SAVING!”
Eight years of Marine Corps Martial Arts, nearly a decade of fighting people who were trying to kill her. Every skill, every strength, everything she has trained for was to survive, to fight, to kill someone who tried to kill her. She has always prided herself in her control of never seeking unnecessary bloodshed, to have never harmed innocent people. Today she was willing to break that rule, that law, the promise to live for the sake of one who could not. All she wanted now was to take all her rage out, to let everything go, to kill the ones responsible for Kassandra’s death.
Maxilyn threw another punch, “If only—!” She saw the fear in Kassandra’s eyes, she knew exactly what eyes those were, fear for the person before her, not herself.
“If only—!” She kicked the shadow used to shield the Strigori’s side, but the force cracked the shadow. Valerie moves back before it shattered, “You had been there! I asked you—I practically begged you to help me—YOU DID NOTHING AND KASSANDRA IS DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU!”
Virgil interfered, grabbing Maxilyn’s arm before she could swing again.
“That is enough—“
Maxilyn pulled freeing, moving forward. No words from him would reach her, nothing could stand in her way, the wolf demanded blood and she would have it one way or another. Kassandra should not have been the one to die, she should never have been there to begin with, this never should have happened. If only she had not put misplaced faith in Lei, if only she had put aside her desire to change, to trust people again she would have seen thru his lies. No. This was not her fault! She did everything she could, it is they, the Strigori who are to blame. They sought to return, they sought to dominate and rule. All of them are the same.
Maxilyn shifted into a wolf and charged, snapping her fangs wherever she could to clamp into the Strigori’s flesh. Blood demands blood, a life for a life—the weak will be culled.
The she-wolf opened her mouth and clamped her muzzle into meat, into flesh, but it was not Valerie's whose blood she tasted, but a witch. Max ceases her frenzy, the red she saw, was not blood in her sights, but hair. The fragrance she remembered, something that always reminded her of a chilly fall beside a fireplace watching as the seasons changed. This light auburn hair matched the changing seasons and it was then Max realized who she had sank her teeth into.
“A...man...da...?” Max muttered as a human, the taste of blood in her mouth as she took half a step back to see if her eyes had truly deceived her.
Amanda Bloke stood between the Strigori and herself, a tender smile on her face, though in slight pain by the would on her shoulder. The sailor stepped forward, grabbing the back of Max’s head she pulled the woman into her good shoulder and held her there.
“It’s okay.” She said warmly, “Let it out.” Max’s eyes clenched shut as she tightened the muscles in her body, forcing herself to hold back.
“Let it all out.”
Max grabbed the back of Amanda’s shirt, clenching it as they sank to the ground, her chest and back rising and falling rapidly until at last, everything came out. She screamed loud into the ground, her howls of anguish, of pain, despair; everything came out and at long last the rivers which long ran dry flowed again with the breaking of the dam.