Heart of Stone - Book 3: Souls Entwine

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Chapter 37 - Stone

In one swift motion, Stone reached up, caught the vampire in his huge claws, and threw her against the trunk of a tree.

Grunting upon impact, she tried to recover, but he slammed his foot against her chest, pinning her against the trunk, and tore her knife-wielding arms off with one quick pull. Before she could even scream in agony, he had her head in his claws and twisted it off.

Lowering his foot, the body slumped to the ground as he held the head by her long curly hair as it dripped with blood, before kicking it into the glen. It cracked against the rocks before rolling into the creek as he let out an ear-piercing roar of rage.

They will all die tonight! None of them will be spared!

Before he could take another step, the shape that previously blurred in the corner of his eye returned in his peripheral vision to his left.

Stepping back a split-second before the vampire collided with him, the vampire swerved and ducked behind Stone instead and pushed him forward, out into the open before he disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Acting on instinct, Stone tucked his head and knees together and rolled out onto the grass before jumping to all four paws. Snarling, he looked around the narrow glen, ears taking in every flicker of sound, and nose inhaling every minuscule particle in the air.

A shallow, five-foot-wide creek bubbling over rocks wound through the almond-shaped glen surrounded by large shagbark hickory trees. The shagbark hickories were ominous in nature. The thick bark peeling away from the trunks, like serpent tails or demon claws, were the trees pictured by children reading scary folk tales of monsters lurking in the woods.

Stone could sense the monsters lurking high within those treetops, hidden behind leaves and branches, watching, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

Darkness was his companion. The stars, his witnesses.

Blood would bathe the glen and the creek would cleanse his hands free of their evil.

One, two, like ripe apples falling from trees, the pair hit the earth with a thud. At ten and two o’clock, the duo advanced toward him. A flicker of starlight against a long, thin blade in both sets of hands.

His nostrils flared as his eyes swept to the left and right. Surrounded at all fronts.

Glancing a few feet ahead at the skull of the vampire he’d killed, Stone snarled at himself.

How could he have been so foolish?

Muscles rippling underneath his coat, he stood on his hind legs, extending to his full height as he let out a feral growl of challenge.

There was nowhere to run. Even if he could outrun them, as soon as he tried breaking through the line and slowed down, he’d be swarmed.

[I’m surrounded,] he sent out into the pack mind-link. [Hurry.]

As the pair approached the creek that separated them, Stone crouched down, ready to pounce, pivot, or lunge if necessary.

The faint metallic zing of silver wafted up his nostrils. He could smell traces of it all around him. Did every one of his opponents carry a silver weapon? How many of them were there? How long could he last against a skilled fighter until back-up arrived?

Gunner wasn’t the fastest member of their pack and the werewolves did not possess the same speed as lycans. At top speed, it could take him five minutes to get there from the border, and the werewolves another few minutes after that. Depending on how close Alistair was, he could be a few minutes away. Gwen was the farthest.

It only took one small slip for the bite of silver to end his existence. One small mistake to end his life before anyone could come to his aid.

Aubree’s face flashed in his mind. Those large hazel eyes of green melting into brown the deeper he looked into them.

He had to see those eyes again. His soul would never rest if those eyes shed tears over his gravestone.

Gwen and Gavin then appeared in his mind. His pups were all grown up and could take care of themselves, but no parent wanted to see their pups cry. He wanted to see Gwen become the strong and powerful luna she was destined to become. He wanted to see his grandpups grow. He wanted to meet Gavin’s mate and see them live in happiness.

He had to fight. He had to win. For them.

His lips pulled back in a toothy sneer as the pair of bloodsuckers crossed the creek and sprang forward, running with their swords over their heads and battle-cries spewing from their wide-open mouths.

An arrow flew at his backside as he lunged forward, kicking up dirt and grass under his claws as it struck the earth behind him.

He ran between them as they closed the distance.

Meeting in the middle, the left one swung his sword down and grazed Stone’s flank as he pivoted behind the slower vampire on his right and struck him in the back with his massive claws. He yowled as he hit the earth, but there was no time for Stone to finish him off.

He turned sharply as the other vampire lifted his sword up again to strike him and kicked him to the dirt, his sword clamoring against a rock. With him down, Stone turned back to the first vampire on his right as he pulled himself up, his eyes locking on Stone’s as a third vampire charged toward him from the dark treeline.

No time for mercy. No time for questioning. He had to slaughter them all before they got the chance to take him out.

Letting the beast have full-reign, bloodlust coursed through his veins as he struck the left side of his weakened opponent. With the force of the blow, the vampire hit the ground with a smack. Stone pounced on him immediately and ripped his head off before turning and throwing it at the third vampire only a few yards away.

The third vampire was a relic of Medieval Japan. His garbs, though padded, were lined with silver chainmail. A more modern breastplate of silver and iron covered his chest. Even his helmet stank of silver. His katana, however, had not been treated with silver.

The samurai sliced his katana through the severed skull before lunging at Stone.

The second vampire that Stone had kicked to the ground was back on his feet, sword in hand and charged.

With two sword-wielding fighters, Stone jumped back defensively. When one struck, the other positioned himself in anticipation of Stone’s evasive maneuvers. Both opponents lunged and attacked him from both sides as he dodged the cutting, slicing, and stabbing of their blades, swiping a paw across their flesh and armor when the opening presented itself.

The samurai was the most skilled of the two, his blade biting across Stone’s flesh again and again. Stone sidestepped each strike, listening to the way the steel sliced through the air and pivoting quickly to avoid a deadly blow. Blood poured from his wounds, drenching his fur before slowly healing. With the speed of the samurai vampire’s weapon and skilled hands, he sliced and diced Stone’s arms, legs, chest, and back before the wounds could heal.

Blood bled into his eyes, blinding him as he jumped back to give himself a second to wipe it from his brow, but another vampire jumped out from the trees a few yards away, brandishing a heavy iron hammer.

With no time to think, Stone lunged for his head with his massive jaws before the vampire could lift his hammer and tore his head from his neck and shoulders. Acid dribbled down his throat, making him gag, costing him precious seconds as the samurai and other sword-wielder darted after him, their weapons pointed straight at him.

Alistair jumped out from the trees on the left and threw all his weight on the unsuspecting pair, knocking them to the ground.

Hisses protested around the glen as Alistair beheaded the sword-wielding vampire as the samurai struggled to escape from being pinned down under the two.

As Stone spat out the vampire blood from his mouth, six more bloodsuckers dropped to the ground from the trees they were hiding in and charged forward.

Arrows rained down on them then as axes, scythes, and knives dipped in silver bombarded them.

Alistair was merciless—ripping, clawing, kicking, shoving, and tearing as he panted hard with exertion.

While the vampires worked in teams of three, with the samurai standing back to catch his breath, assessing the battle and hollering out whenever one vampire went down, two more appeared in its place until there were too many against one lycan. Chaos exploded as weapons missed their targets and hit an ally instead.

Gunner arrived moments later, shaking a screaming vampire in his jaws vigorously until limbs began to snap and break as he tore the leech in two.

Battle cries rang up around the glen from the treetops as more vampires dropped to the ground and surged forward.

The rain of arrows ended. A few embedded into the backs of vampires while most dug into the soil.

Silver blades sliced across Stone’s arms and one slashed across his chest, but the vampires fighting them now were less skilled. His body ached, but the end was in sight as the three of them slaughtered their opponents, evading their sloppy moves with ease and using them against each other when they could. Their speed outmatched the vampires’, their strength overpowered the vampires’, and clumsy moves ensured the weak were destroyed on their own accord.

By the time Gwen reached them, the stench of vampire blood hung in the air like a heavy curtain of fog. Blood bathed the soil of the glen as Stone panted and looked around for his next target. With all the blood, he couldn’t smell if there were any bloodsuckers left.

Ten yards away, Alistair drove his fist into the skull of the last leech in their midst with a sickening crack.

[Is that all of them?] Gwen asked as Stone crouched into a defensive position, straining his ears for any sign of more encroaching at the edge of the forest that surrounded them.

With a crack, Alistair ripped the head off the body he was pinning down and dug his claws into the orifices of the creature’s face. [Only one way to be sure.]

He threw the severed head into the trees. It thumped against a trunk. An owl took flight, but the forest was silent except for the thud of the head as it hit the ground.

No rustles. No movement. Not a single sound or whiff of something on the air to indicate there was anyone else lurking in the dark.

It didn’t prove anything, except that he had no qualms with smashing skulls and throwing heads against trees. Vampires could keep deathly still when they wanted to and a little head-throwing wouldn’t cut it for the more disciplined ones.

[Where’s the samurai?] Stone asked.

He lost track of that one, and he had his doubts that the archers were among the casualties littering the earth.

[I don’t recall sensing a samurai here,] Gunner said as the werewolves reached the glen, panting slightly with exertion.

[He should be around here... Samurai would not run from battle,] Stone said.

[Not all beings are honorable,] Gunner said. [Especially ones who sold their souls for immortality.]

[True,] Alistair agreed, [I’m sure we’ll see him again sometime soon. Bet he was fun. Did he have the big flashy helmet, saddlebags, and pointy sword?]

Stone’s lips tugged in a grin as he shifted back into his human form to greet the werewolves. [Yes. I’m sure you would have enjoyed sparring with him with Excalibur in hand.]

Alistair gave him a big toothy grin at the mention of his sword. [I call dibs next time.]

The fact that Alistair named his sword after the one from the Tales of King Arthur shouldn’t have surprised him centuries ago, but it did. Adelaide accused her brother of being “unoriginal” when he obtained the sword shortly after Arthur’s birth. Alistair only laughed in response and said, “Someday, I’ll give it to Arthur and he’ll lead us like a great king!”

Until now, the sword hung on Alistair’s bedroom wall, untouched, for over a hundred years.

The head warrior of the North Fang Pack greeted Stone after he shifted into his human form. His accompanying wolves paced at a distance, sniffing the bushes and hickory trees for signs of vampires hidden away.

A few words were exchanged, but Stone saw no need for them to stay. The battle had been won. Gunner counted twenty-two bodies as Gwen and Alistair set to work on disposing of them.

When the werewolves left, Stone collapsed to his hands and knees as his silver-inflicted injuries continued to bleed across his body.

Gwen pressed her nose to his shoulder and licked his wounds. [Come on, Papa. Let’s get you home. We’ll take it from here.]

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