My hand paused over the door handle, listening to the howl echo down the hallway. Involuntarily shuddering at the sound, I looked back to Diana on the bed. Shit. I couldn’t leave her if the wolves had come and all hell was probably going to break loose. Outside the door, I heard the footsteps, presumably my guard rushing towards whatever shitstorm was about to happen. I opened the door and peeked out, looking down the hallway and into the main cavern.
Wolves were pouring out of the entrance, one after another, they were leaping out and into the main area, where I couldn’t see. Terrifying sounds of snarling, mixed with men’s screams and wails came reverberating down to our cell. Jess’ words two months ago floated back to me, about protecting yourself from wolves. They didn’t care who you were, they were a force of nature.
The wolves didn’t know my cousin, or me for that matter, but sleeping Diana would be defenseless if I left her and they happened to find her in here alone. But then again, her baby was here somewhere, also alone or with one of these Hunter assholes, which was probably worse. Deciding quickly that she would want me to go and look for her baby, I walked over to her. Placing my hand on her head, I recited the chameleon incantation, both of us disappearing from view.
I released my hand and felt myself break from the spell, while Diana remained hidden.
Grimacing, this was the best I could do for her, but the baby was more important at this stage. Whatever plans my mother had for Diana’s baby, she was going to get some sense knocked into her, I hoped.
Steeling myself as I approached the door again, the sounds of fighting had intensified, and as if she had read my mind, my mother burst into the room. She had a large duffel bag strapped around her shoulders, and in her arms was a bundled blanket, with a little face poking out.
I reached my arms out immediately for the baby.
“Mom! Where have you been? ” I went to take the child, but my mother turned her body to the side, putting the baby behind her.
“Kelly, we have to get out of here, the wolves will kill us all.”
I frowned at her.
“Mom, that is Will outside, I don’t know what you think he is here for, but it is probably me.”
It was like she didn’t hear me, she peeked around me to the cot,
“Good, you have hidden Diana, good thinking. Now, I have the car waiting for us, but we need to leave now.”
Turning on me, she started back to the door. What was she playing at?
“Mom! You’re not hearing me. You are the bad guy here, you attacked the coven, you attacked the Weres, fuck, you cut that baby out of your niece. Why should I go anywhere with you? Why shouldn’t I turn you over to them?”
Her shoulders straightened, and she turned, tears in her eyes looking hurt that someone she birthed would speak to her so.
“I’m the bad guy? I have never murdered for no reason, daughter. There is always a reason, and the pack, the Coven? They are my reasons, they began this nearly thirty years ago.” A loud bang from the hallway sounded throughout the room, and mom looked over her shoulder, nervous. Whatever was happening out there was escalating, the fighting growing more intense, more wolves and men dying, the rest of them struggling to survive. She was scared and visibly upset. Turning back to me, the baby in her arms was starting to stir, her voice clogged with emotion and pleading,
“Kelly, please, I can’t do this by myself. I’ll explain everything on the way to the plane, but sweetheart...please help me with this, help me... put your father to rest.”
Our eyes met, and my heart went out to her, her words strangely starting to make sense. My father, Jolene was still desperately in love with him. I couldn’t remember ever seeing my mother like this, vulnerable and asking for help. She was always the strong one between my parents, always the bad cop. Whatever had happened to him, whatever she was carrying inside meant that he was still the love of her life. He was only my father for 13 years, and I still thought of him every day.
Looking into her teary eyes, I decided that whatever she had done, she was still my mom, and he was still my father even if he was long gone.
I gave a wordless nod in affirmation, and she returned it gratefully. From her duffel, she pulled out a medium sized dagger and handed it to me, sheath first.
“Okay, first, we have to fight our way out of here. Wolves are ruthless, so aim for their eyes if they attack.”
I accepted the knife but gestured to the baby.
“Leave the baby.”
Jolene’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head.
“To the wolves! Never. Chameleon won’t work for her, babies move too much.”
She saw my face giving her a stern look.
“I promise, she will be returned to Diana and the Coven when we return.”
Glancing back at the cot, where Diana was still hidden, I frowned at the predicament. I could try harder to wake her up, but perhaps it was best that she stayed asleep and therefore hidden. Vowing that my cousin and her baby would be reunited soon, I again nodded at my mother and prepared myself for whatever was outside.
Grasping the baby in a more secure hold, my mother opened the door to the main corridor, and suddenly a small grey wolf rushed past the door, going further down the hallway. He was closely followed by a flash of a man, and I immediately recognized the profile.
The asshole named Brent, the man that had looked me in the face and watched me choke. The pig who then got himself off from seeing me asphyxiated, branded me, and then from what Carlyle said, touched me while I was knocked out. We exited the room and while Jolene turned left towards the main cavern and the exit, I looked right to watch him and the wolf.
He had caught up to the wolf and it was on its side on the ground. My molester had a makeshift weapon in his hands, a steel pipe obviously just ripped from something. He whacked the wolf’s abdomen and the whimper from the animal showed that he didn’t have much fight left. Seeing such a violent act done to a creature on the ground inflamed my sense of justice and deemed him to be an affront to everyone living and breathing.
Feeling the leather of the knife’s handle in my palm, I unsheathed it from the thin scabbard, feeling my pulse rise as I did so. From behind he looked feral, more like the animal in the fight between a man and wolf. The shame I felt before at being molested while asleep returned. But so did my furor, I was thick with it and my resolve was cold while my blood ran hot. He raised his steel pipe, this time with both hands, the sharp end of it pointed down, about to stab the wolf with a death blow.
Shrieking out my anger in a wordless cry, I rushed him from behind and jumped on his back, he was taller and my legs wrapped around his lower hips. His arms came immediately down and tried to whack me with the pipe, but I was too close. Realizing I had no time against his skill or size, I quickly slid one arm through the space in between his neck and shoulder, the other around his scalp and pulled his head back. Without voicing a word for my grievance, I brought the knife up and across his throat, feeling tension across the blade as it cut through skin and blood.
Twisting and struggling to get me off his back, as soon as the knife finished its route, his focus shifted to the irreparable breach. I unwrapped my legs and quickly jumped off, slightly pushing him forward. The wolf at his feet had recovered while we briefly grappled and nimbly moved to the side as the man fell to his knees. Still facing away from me, his hands were futilely attempting to contain the blood flow, gasping noises came from his mouth and his body fell forward to plant onto the dirt of the hallway floor. I heaved in and out, watching the puddle of blood slowly begin to grow, and another burst of adrenaline hit my bloodstream.
How ironic that the preferred method for killing Witches should be one of their own deaths. I felt vindicated, almost saintly for the act of killing this trash and getting a little payback for Franny and myself.
The small wolf looked up at me briefly before coming to his four legs and running past me and back to the ongoing fight. Watching him run into the main cavern, my mother was there, a few doors down, staring back at me with something I couldn’t place. Maybe pride, maybe horror, I didn’t know her well enough to understand her faces yet. I looked down at the body again, he was still squirming and a death rattle was coming from the throat I just cut. This time I felt no guilt, this waste of air wouldn’t bother anyone anymore, and certainly not me or the Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder. I bent down to wipe the blade on his pant leg and I turned back to mom, still holding a sleeping baby. Her lips were turned up at the edges. Pride then. That was a welcome change after an eternally disappointed Gran.
“Ready?” I huffed, still trying to catch my breath from the burst of energy.
She solemnly nodded and gestured for me to lead the way and I walked past her and to the sounds of chaos. After passing the few doors, the cavern opened up and the extent of the number of wolves and men was shown. Holy shit, the wolves were overwhelming the men, there were not many left standing. Probably only a third of the total amount that it had been, judging by the dead on the floor.
I was mesmerized by the scene and paused for several moments, when from behind my mother poked me and whispered to keep going. Several wolves nearby turned at her whisper and watched us move across to the entrance. A black wolf came forward and stopped a few meters in front of us, examining me and then Jolene in silent scrutiny. From behind she frantically whispered.
“Keep going! They will kill me and the baby.”
At her insistence, I moved to the entrance and climbed the short, steep ramp and walked into the darkness, her hand on my shoulder for support. Once we were surrounded by darkness, she squeezed and told me to stop.
“Kelly, grab that tree root sticking out there and grow it otherwise they’ll run us down in the tunnel.”
She pointed at the sidewall, and a straggly, wrist-thick root poking out, much like the one in my cell. I looked at her like she was crazy, the darkness doing nothing to conceal it.
“Don’t look at me like that!” She said, annoyed. “Grab it and pulse energy into it, quickly!”
My face kept the bewildered look until she sighed in annoyance and frustration and grabbed my hand and placed it on one of the loose roots, thicker than the others.
Closing her eyes, she whispered words I didn’t catch, and beneath my hands, I felt a strong pulse, similar to what had healed Diana, but this had rhythm. It was intentional as if someone had composed it and it was a song meant to inspire growth and freedom. In front of my eyes in the dim light, the tree root was thickening, and fast. This was nothing like what I had done with the little cornflower, or what Gran had done with the lavender.
This was mother nature on steroids, scary and uncontrollable. The root thickened and grew, its twin on the other side of the wall also elongating and thickening, the surface of the root thickening too fast, cracks were forming within it. After thirty seconds or so, we had to step back as the passageway was filling up with a broad and dense root system that continued to gnarl itself down into the floor.
A few more seconds and there was very little light left coming through the burly roots. I stepped back in wonder, shaking my hand that had become numb with the power that had sifted through it. Was that me or Jolene? I didn’t feel drained or exhausted like before. And if this was the root, what the hell did the tree on the surface look like? Before I could ponder anymore, Jolene grabbed my shirt by the shoulder and continued back through the passage, beginning to power walk the rest of the few minutes to the entrance.
This was a mistake, I was leaving Will. He was probably down there in the cave, looking for me. What was I thinking? Of course he was looking for me. He was probably worried sick after what I had been through in the last day. His last words to me were about love and mine were that I felt the same. I briefly wondered if that was true or I was thinking in the heat of the moment, would I still feel that way if I hadn’t bitten him in return? Were we still mates anymore for that matter? I know that being around a wild wolf was dangerous, but surely Will would know me?
Our footsteps were the only sound reverberating as we quickly passed through the silent tunnel, approaching the end of the long passage. A howl behind us suddenly sounded.
Will. That was a howl of loss and betrayal. It had to be him. We burst out of the tunnel entrance into the dark night that was filled by a nearly full moon. I looked up at it briefly and felt something akin to fretting, like my muscles were trying to jump out of my skin and I was momentarily transfixed by the sight of her hanging so still and low. A car’s engine started up and broke me out of reverence, a sleek black sedan was in the immediate vicinity and pulled forward. Arawn in the driver’s seat, apparently waiting for us to emerge.
I turned back to the tunnel. This was definitely a mistake, I should quickly take the baby and go back in to find Will. My mother had a lot of baggage it seemed, and her own ideas of what was going to happen, but she wasn’t crazy enough to hurt me or a baby. I was confident that she hadn’t changed that much.
One glimpse back at her and she knew what I was thinking. She saw the desire in my eyes to return, return to him. Her voice turned cold and domineering, and she opened up the car door,
“Kelly, you and I have things we need to finish. We owe it to your father to make sure everyone who hurt him, hurt us, never does it to another soul again.” I began to voice my protest and started to reach for the sleeping baby. Instead, she twisted her body to hold the baby away from me.
“I am taking the baby, Kelly. Now you can stay here if you like and maybe if I fail, you’ll always wonder what happened to her...” My throat closed up at the thought of what she was implying. “...or you can get in the damn car and help me!”
Oh shit. This was the mother I remembered, strong, demanding, unwavering. Her way or the highway. She slid into the car effortlessly and left me standing outside, looking into the darkened interior. I looked back to the cave entrance, the sounds of howling now becoming louder. Jolene’s reasons sounded pure to my brain, take justice for my father’s death. Apparently there were many people besides my Gran to blame and I still needed to learn that story. But she was now threatening the baby and she knew I would never leave it. Wherever it went, I would follow.
Giving the tunnel entrance one more remorseful glance, I slid into the car and shut the door behind me. Arawn gave me a warm smile as he looked behind us to reverse the car, eventually pulling out of the area and speeding down the dirt road. My chest clenched and I made the now familiar move of holding my hands over my heart to stop it from bleeding out. We were leaving dead men under the ground and Will betrayed.