Prologue: Auctoritas Non Veritas Facit Legem
“Authority, not truth, makes law.”
― Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
Isaac Constantine sat at his makeshift command table in a New England Freight warehouse. The table was constructed from empty boxes, and pallets. They were in the fifth hour since his Neuri and Aniwaya squads had staged their maneuvers against Veronica Rafe and her Nocturne war packs. The wounded combatants had been trickling in over the hours. The small warehouse was full of wounded Neuri and Aniwaya. The few men and women kept in reserve had been committed to the battle hours ago. The Neuri and Aniwaya skin changers had a small edge in numbers, each fighter was ferocious and committed to the cause. But their enemy the Nocturne were as close to immortal as anything in this world. They were strong, fast, and naturally cunning. Their leaders had centuries of gathered knowledge at their disposal, which had allowed them to dominate the Argent war for over a thousand years in spite of their smaller numbers and inability to walk in the light of the sun. Veronica Rafe, the New England Nocturne leader had lived through almost every major event in history. If rumors were true she was born in the age of Alexander the Great and turned to Nocturne on the cusp of her fortieth year. He and Veronica Rafe had both shown in their long history of conflict that no quarter would be asked for or given. They were long past an amicable end to their conflict. He had lost two sons and an eye to this war. He had wiped out more than half of her brood in the last five decades. The wounds and grievances were far too deep for such measures.
He stared at the two-way radio on the desk in front of him anxiously. He held his hands bridged together waiting for a report back from the battleground out in the city. Every strategy he had planned and executed for the past ten years was working towards the defeat of his Nocturne rival. For most of his almost century long life they were evenly matched. The scales had tipped in their favor when the Aniwaya agreed to commit their forces to full-scale war. Their minimal conflict philosophy had changed after the massacre of the Rockbridge. An enterprising Baron saw an opportunity to add valuable territory by creating a false threat with the local Aniwaya. The end result was the destruction of an entire protectorate of the Aniwaya. The Aniwaya of Georgia were wiped out to the last man, woman, and child.
The radio crackled to life. “Wolf-home… this is Alpha Dog come in. Over.” The voice over the radio then cut off to silence.
Isaac picked up the radio receiver and pressed the transmit button. “Alpha Dog this is Wolf-home reading you clearly. Over.”
“Wolf-home… the target is bagged. I repeat… the target is bagged. Over.” The voice said.
The warehouse erupted into loud cheers, discipline and noise restrictions temporarily forgotten. Isaac let out a deep breath he did not realize he was holding. He closed his eyes tightly and pressed the radio to his forehead. They had caught her. It was almost over. He motioned for silence and pressed the transmit button again.
“Good job Alpha Dog… bring yourselves home with the package. Over.” Isaac said.
“Roger that Wolf-home, we’re on the home stretch now. ETA sixty minutes. Over.” The voice responded.
Isaac watched his Neuri counterpart Nita Carter speaking with Amala Locklear with quiet urgency. Something had them unusually tense this evening beyond the obvious. They had been throwing meaningful looks his direction all day. Amala was a stunning olive skinned brunette in her forties, the only sign of her age was a streak of grey in her hair and faint lines at the corners of her eyes. She was dressed in form fitting army green fatigues and a button down shirt. Nita lived up to his name whether that was his given name or a nick name Isaac never asked. He was bearded broad shouldered with long grey hair and sapphire colored eyes. He stood a head above Isaac and was an easy four hundred pounds. The Aniwaya had brought a much needed advantage to the war. Their ties with the unseen world of spirits made them invaluable for reconnaissance and intelligence. Nita and Isaac had a terse relationship considering the unfortunate encounters of their past. Isaac stared at the cargo entrance to the warehouse waiting anxiously for the various teams to return. He counted each Neuri and Aniwaya as they returned over the next hour.
Out of the hundred that had committed to this operation twelve were dead, twenty were seriously wounded, and seven more would not likely make it through the night. The wounded were carried to the rows of cots where their combat medic were triaging and treating the worst of the wounded.
The fifty man Nocturne battalion that Rafe had led had lost forty-six of their number. Only Rafe and three of her closest lieutenants were taken prisoner. Alpha team was the last to arrive. Leading four individuals bound by silver chains with blackened airtight bags tied tightly around their necks. They were pushed to their knees long true-silver blades placed point first at the base of their necks in case they should try to move.
Isaac felt years of suppressed rage bubbling to the surface as the bags were removed from their faces. He recognized them from photographs and descriptions he had seen and heard over the years. Samuel, Marcellus, Corena and of course Veronica. He stood up from his seat with his hands balled into fists before he even realized. They were all four murderers. They had slaughtered his people throughout their unnaturally long lifetimes. Making children orphans. Killing husbands and wives.
His hands began to change of their own accord, the muscles and bones lengthening and curving into claws. His feet brought him inexorably forward. There were nothing but looks of silent agreement and grim approval from the Neuri and Aniwaya in the room for what he was about to do. He looked towards the darkened half of the warehouse where twelve still forms laid on the ground covered by tarps and sheets, whatever could be found among their supplies to cover the dead.
He gripped Corena by the hair and forced her head back. She stared back at him with defiant hate filled eyes. Remorseless eyes.
“Wait.” a soft male voice said.
Isaac looked around, Nita stood by him.
“What is it Nita?” Isaac asked.
“I need you to do something that you will not want to do.” Nita continued. “I need you to let them all live.”
“WHAT! NO! I CAN NOT DO THIS!” Isaac screamed back at him.
“You must” Nita replied. “For our children, and our children’s children.”
Isaac shook his head “THIS IS HOW WE END THE WAR RIGHT HERE! BY DESTROYING THEIR LEADERS!” Isaac yelled back at him in angry disbelief.
Nita took the brunt of his anger calmly. “No. It is not. Let me show you why you must let them live.”
Nita moved closer. Isaac tensed but did not pull back, Nita touched its index finger to his forehead. Isaac blinked.
“Is it real?” He asked.
“It could be.” Nita responded. “We can’t take that risk.”
Isaac’s muscles were taunt with the strain of not acting. He wanted to slaughter them all. Make them pay. He gritted his teeth tightly. Amala opened his hand and placed the folded crayon picture of a wolf his granddaughter had given him before he left New England. It must have fallen from his pocket.
“It must be done. It is time for it to end.” Amala said gently.
He envisioned once more in his mind what Nita had shown him and sighed as he released his hold on Corena. Isaac looked around at the Neuri and Aniwaya watching him in confusion. He clutched the crayon drawing in his hand.
“It’s time for a change. It’s time for peace. I want our children and grandchildren to grow up during a time of peace.”