“What is going on!” Sintia shot at Don with his driver’s window down halfway, the glass supporting his gun aimed at the wolves, she looked back at the five enormous wolves now on the same road as them snarling, lips curled back, displaying a frightening number of teeth, she didn’t understand how the man wasn’t shaking with fear, less so Rod, who was actually outside the vehicle inches from one.
“Just try to remain calm,” Don said as if this was just a normal everyday thing, she watched him staring one down, one brave enough to come within two meters of the car. Rod slammed his hand on the hood again pointing his gun at another calling out another warning. The wolves’ ears twitched at the sound each time but they didn’t move.
“Leave, am warning you, there will be consequences.” Rod shouted as two neared him, “I will not be the one to start this war, but take one more step, I will kill you.”
She watched in stunned amazement as the wolves stopped as if understanding.
“What the hell,” Sintia whispered in disbelief.
They sniffed the air as if trying to find someone, the largest standing before Don sniffed past him toward her, she held her breath as large brown eyes looked deep in hers, a lifetime passed till the wolf turned around, they all turned to follow and made their way back up into the fields, disappearing out of sight. She watched Rod keep his ground, gun still raised, not moving for a long time, Don as well. Eventually, Rod lowered his gun returning to the car. Don un-cocked his gun and slid it back into place before turning the car back onto the road, they took off slowly observing the road for any hidden obstructions, Sintia kept looking behind her expecting to see something, but they were still alone.
Sintia could hear her rapid heart beating in her ears, and looked out her door window when her window suddenly blackened with a solid thud. She screamed sliding away with fright as Rod half jumped out of his seat to shield her, Don snapped the gears out of auto to manual first gear and put his foot down, the car took off with outstanding speed almost flinging Rod onto her lap.
“It’s alright, only a snowball.” Rod let out a breath of tension returning to his seat in the front.
“Got a hold of the office, more men are being deployed.”
“No, their phones are off.”
She watched them chat amongst themselves as if everything that had just happened was very much an everyday thing, who was DV?
“One of you better start to explain what the hell just happened! And I do mean right now!” Sintia demanded throwing her elegant posture out the window with that dam snowball, taking a seat in the center of the back seats, her legs on either side of the middle armrests, her South African stubbornness coming out.
The men shot each other a look, then her, then looked ahead.
“I will not be getting out this car till I get the truth.”
“If you say nothing, I swear ill slap you both over the heads.” She snapped. Rod side-eyes Don trying to hide a smile twitching at his lips.
“It was just wolves.”
Sintia sighed dramatically. “Yes, that much was very obvious.”
“They were just chasing the car for fun; animals get bored sometimes.” Don shrugged as if it was a normal thing.
“You’re both lying!”
“If so then, why don’t you tell us the truth?”
“I wouldn’t be asking if I knew,” She grumbled recalling something that had disturbed her deeply, “Why did you speak to them like that?”
“Do you not speak to your pets back home?”
“Stop deflecting! You spoke as if they would understand you, why?”
“Because they do, that group of wolves has been around for a long-time terrorizing people, like that black wolf that almost got you? I believe it’s the same pack.” The men looked at each other, but Sintia missed it starting to frown with confusion.
“But the lodge said all the wolves were gone, the tour guide spoke of them as if they were dead, if these are such a problem why have they not been caught, put in the reserve, and monitored?”
“I don’t know.”
“It was looking at me as if trying to remember my face,” she said absent-mindedly looking out the window again. Don and Rod shifted uneasily, thankfully the turn for the lodge was up ahead.
Watching the road become rougher as they passed the entrance, she played the scenario over again, something was just not adding up here, then she recalled Rod’s words.
“I don’t get it, you said the words war, what were you on about? What war, and why did you need back up? Who is DV?” The silence was almost deafening. “Ah, I’m getting to the truth of something hey?” She smiled leaning back watching the men hardly move sitting like statues as the car hoped side to side over the rough road, if she flicked them might they shatter? The tension was palpable. “Is that it? Silent treatment now?”
“We are your bodyguards, not friends, our duty is to protect you, if that means keeping bits of information to ourselves then so be it.”
“So be it,” She snapped back, “I’ll just take this up with Delacourte Alexeyev, I’m sure he will straighten this all out.”
Rod snorted, “Good luck with that.”
* * * * *
“Brothers, you have all come here today to join our cause, you are here because you saw our message, craved change, are tired of being ruled over, governed by too many laws by those who call themselves our government and kings.”
“Yeah,” A few men in the crowd shouted in agreement fist-pumping the air.
“You are here due to your life just not being enough, you want change, crave excitement, crave a new beginning,” The hooded man preached to the crowd from his stage, Vinchenzo watched more men clap, others shout their agreement. “We are the answer, we are the stepping stone in the right direction, together we can overthrow those who wish to stop us, united we can be an unstoppable force to overthrow the laws, create our own new age, be free men!”
The statement was answered with roars of praise, the men getting revved up with excitement.
“We need men willing to sacrifice their lives, leave behind all your family and baggage, join our revolution. Cut ties with the world you know, be born again as soldiers to fight for your chance at a new life. Our time to shine is now, the faster we grow, the faster we unite, the sooner those that call themselves kings fall.”
Delacourte looked to his brother, and there it was, the threat they had been looking for, yet he still didn’t recognize the voice, or anyone in the room.
“Are you willing to kill for your country? Kill for what’s right? Rid the world of all that’s wrong? Because if you are willing to do that, we will stand by your side, not as those who would judge you, but those who would help you.”
“What kind of cult is this exactly?” Vinchenzo whispered into his brother’s ear. Delacourte snorted a small laugh scanning the room again, as the door leading back to the bathroom opened letting in ten tall and well-built men, he knew instantly they werewolves. He looked back as Vinchenzo hoping his brother recognized at least one, but his brother's jaw was set and his eyes we studying them as if seeing a new enemy for the first time. He turned back listening to the man on stage finish his big speech.
“Step up and join us, become a part of the Molchalin family, all you need to do is pass one, simple test.”
Delacourte bristled, he knew that name.
“Why does that name sound familiar?” Vinchenzo whispered as the crowd moved forward to sign up.
“Because it is, Molchalin are the small wolf clan in the far south,” Delacourte stopped talking “Fuck,” He ended with a whisper.
“What?” Vinchenzo asked losing color, he seemed to be guessing where this is going. “Why would a clan be recruiting so far north, unless?”
“Unless this is just one of many places across Russia, they are gathering people.”
“No, it can’t be,”
They stared ahead stunned silence, perhaps they were jumping to conclusions.
“Hopefully they only recruiting this far north to avoid being caught back home.”
Finally, nearing the front they signed fake names and circled back to where they had been standing listening to the crowd of men get louder, with curiosity and excitement.
“Right gents, your test starts now, you will be divided up into groups and taken to your tests. If you pass you get given R100000.”
“What is the test?” One of the men called out.
“In time my friend.” The speaker assured him lifting his head back up to address the crowd again. “For those of you that fail the test, you will be given, for lack of a better word, and amnesia injection erasing the past few hours, finding yourselves back in the bar having a drink with no memory of this event. And no there are no side effects, we have been doing this for a long time.”
“So, if we lose, we get our old lives back and remember nothing about this ever?”
“And if we back out now before this test?”
“It is considered failing.”
“So, what’s the test?” the same man from earlier asked again.
“The test is this; you will be taken into remote parts of the wild further north in small groups, dropped off at different sections alone, you will be given no weapons, and will need to rely on your own hands and nature to win this one. Each one of you is to track down a wolf, trap it and kill it. Once done you will give us a call and we will fetch you and the dead animal.”
The crowd burst into questions and debates, but the Vinchenzo and Delacourte remained still waiting to hear more, the wild further north was their lands, the animals there protected. It was also where so many of their perimeter breaches were, another mystery falling into place.
“And if the wolf kills us?”
“We only accept the best of the best, if you die, we will be impressed that you tried, but as we do not know you yet, you will be left there to feed the animals.”
Objections were voiced and alarm by a few men, till the speaker raised his hand to hush them, “Did you think changing the world would be easy? What did you think the test would be? Picking fucking flowers?”
The room fell silent till another man asked “The wild further north?”
“But that’s private property?”
“But that belongs to the Alexeyev family?”
“Yes.” The speaker began to grind out the same answer in distaste. Delacourte one eyebrow rose, picking up the underlining fury in the speaker’s voice after hearing their family name.
“We have their permission to use their protected lands for this test?”
“They are the kings we are working to bring down little sheep, see the bigger picture, we are the start to a new age, a place that won’t have your bowing down to kings anymore.”
The brothers tensed battling to contain their rage, recalling the threat at their home earlier, the risk their father had nearly faced. This was the revolution against them.
Did the Balakin know about this he wondered, they had to, why else would they have constantly challenged the contract, fuck this was much bigger than they could handle, Da was right, they needed the entire family back home to show a strong front.
* * *
Split into groups and placed in vans, they were driven up to the borders of their property. Thankfully they had remained together along with one of their personal guard, but the other four in the back with them, still had no clue who they were, they planned to keep it that way. The driver was a Molchalin wolf, Vinchenzo could see it in the way his unnatural hazel eyes reflected certain light on the road. Was just one of the very few tell signs.
“You can now switch on your phones.” The driver said handing them a box with all of theirs in it, stopping at one of the fence lines. “You will notice that there is no signal, this is for our safety and so that you cannot record and send what happens here today,”
Ah, it finally made sense why they used their land, the mountains blocked everything except emergency calls.
“How are we supposed to call you?” Vinchenzo asked.
“On this emergency number, ask for Alice and tell her you think a wolf escaped the reserve.” The driver said handing them each a piece of torn-off map with a red dot on it and the police number.
“What the,” Delacourte cleared his throat nearly asking what the hell was the police doing involved in such an uprising, how bloody deep did this all run? But saved himself. “What’s the dot for?” He knew though.
“It’s where you will be setting up your traps and camp to catch a wolf.”
“How long do we have?”
“Till the moon shines, now get out.” The driver said climbing out himself cutting a hole through the fence, ignoring the warning boards. Delacourte growled low but Vinchenzo nudged him to stop, reminding him with one look to focus on the mission. Once the fence had been cut enough to allow them to squeeze through the driver returned to the van, getting in and rolling down the window, “Follow the map, and it may not look it, but each one of you is being watched, so don’t fuck up.” With that, he started the engine and took off leaving the small group of them standing there.
“Any of you ever caught a wild animal before?” A nervous voice asked as they all turned to view each other’s maps.
“Yes, good luck,” Vinchenzo said breaking away from the group with Delacourte, pulling the fence back to enter their private reserve. Climbing up the steep embankment, they weaved their ways through frozen branches and unkept bush till they were sure to be alone.
“Want to catch a wolf?” Delacourte winked at his brother.
“Hell yes,” Vinchenzo smirked.
With that they parted ways, hiking up the hills to find their set locations given on the maps. They weren’t born yesterday, there were no wolves in this Alexeyev reserve. The maps were for the Molchalin clan to know exactly where to find their prey, shift and attack testing the new recruits will for change, will to fight, will to survive. Those the stood to fight would be bitten and turned into werewolves, but the weak would not be returned to the damn bar, it would be too much labor for them, why bother cleaning up when it wasn’t even their land?
Delacourte smiled approaching his point, they hadn’t been recognized, they were just men to the Molchalin. He had been building up so much inside against the Balakin, having a good proper fight was way overdue. He needed to sink his teeth into something, strike fear, rip, unleash, kill. Fighting an actual werewolf had him more excited than anything he had done in the past year.
Stopping at the so-called X marks the spot, he looked around memorizing vantage points. Standing around would seem too bold, he had to at least pretend to set a trap, after all, they had been told eyes were on them. Nearing the tree closest to him he kicked the trunk, the shock shaking all the snow off its branches, he pulled himself up into the tree finding a strong enough branch, almost as thick as a spear would be, snapping it off and hopping back down. He stood still a few minutes listening for any sounds, anything that might be approaching; he picked up on a fox’s stress as it went deeper into the reserve, obviously picking up on all the men now entering. But apart from birds, this section was quiet. He walked to a nearby rock starting to scrap the branch against the rock’s sharpest edge to create a spear tip, it was all for show, a spear would never stop them or him.
Within half an hour he finally heard the heavy padding of paws through the snow coming towards him, his heart rate picked up with the eagerness to fight. Taking a deep breath, he stabbed the spear into the ground hiding his smile as he bent to retie his already laced boots, letting the intruder sniff him out.
A low growl was the first sign a human would have picked up, Delacourte stood up straight grabbing the spear facing the massive mocha brown wolf before him. He wondered how his brother and guards were fairing against the Molchalin men, they were impressive in wolf form, defiantly a strong house displaying outstanding strength and mass. Delacourte wasn’t afraid, he knew his strength, knew, in the end, he would be the last standing. The wolf padded forward, flexing its muscles as it growled again studying him then the spear, he gripped it with both hands waiting for the werewolf to make its move, hoody still up, cover not blown, he almost couldn’t wait for them to find out.
Wasting no time, the wolf growled again snapping at him before launching forward into an attack. Delacourte drew back and threw the spear forward at the wolf’s chest, it ducked just in time, pausing to look back at the unordinary strong throw, seeing the spear sink deep into the snow. The confusion was just enough time for Delacourte to shift, and charge at the beast. The Molchalin turned to face him, and if a wolf could show shock and terror it would have.
Delacourte bit down on the Molchalin’s neck twisting in the air pulling him down, the wolf chunked and cried in surprise. Together they slid down a small embankment, Delacourte releasing his hold licking his snout. He didn’t want the wolf dead just yet; this was just getting interesting. The wolf stood up slowly watching him, stunned in place as Delacourte began to circle. He knew it was confused, knew something was very wrong, just didn’t understand how very wrong yet. Delacourte charged and the Molchalin nearly tucked tail but whipped around to protect his neck, already bleeding and matting its fur. Again, he charged and this time the Molchalin tucked tail bolting down the hill. Delacourte chased him nipping at his hind legs, but the wolf kept on weaving through trees, down another hill, across a small stream, and upon climbing the bank, it slipped, Delacourte bit down on its hind leg. Together they rolled to the water’s edge in a fit of bites and slashing of claws, within moments again he had the wolf by the neck and it immediately stopped its attack laying still in surrender. Delacourte’s began to drool down the neck at the temptation to rip him open began to blind him, the will to do so almost overpowering his logic. He bit down harder and the wolf yelped trying to pull free ripping its neck open further trying to pull free, Delacourte growled at it to remain still, the blood filling his mouth driving him so very close to over the edge. After another protest from the wolf, he finally released stepping back, the Molchalin lay still looking into his face and shifted.
“Who the hell are you?” The man said holding his ripped shoulder and bleeding neck, the wound was so very near to being fatal to a werewolf, but it would heal.
Delacourte remained in wolf form taking a few powerful steps forward looking down into the Molchalin man’s face. And just like that, recognition, he knew those striking grey and blue eyes, only the royal house had them.
Delacourte shifted throwing his hoody back revealing himself to the now terrified man.
“Now would be a great time for you to start explaining why you want us dead,” Delacourte growled stepping nearer to the man on his knees in a weakened state.