It’s only natural to be scared in the midst of battle. It’s a normal reaction, you don’t really get less scared as you get more experienced at it, only better at managing it. Fear is part of what makes us human.
This emotional reaction however was deadly when facing a bogeyman who actively feed on it. We’d only survived the fight in the woods thanks to Simon Abendroth’s magical brew. With around twenty bodies in the tunnel the Innocent --the ironic name I’d given the bogeyman -- was pulsing with power from the feast. Her little hand flew through the air faster than was possible even for some of the strongest inhumans. She carved Lisa’s chest, arms and legs to ribbons, not deep enough to kill, but enough the make all her muscles useless until she’d regenerate.
“Kaleb!” I yelled. “Whammy her!”
He took a moment and Lance left, probably to help someone. You don’t get to see what happens in the midst of a melee, things are too fast and chaotic to let you take in what happens. Soon, I couldn’t tell how long it had took, Kaleb arrived and put his hand on Lisa who was squirming, unable to defend herself under the assault anymore.
He seemed to concentrate. But nothing happened.
“My juice is too weak right now.” He said.
“You can’t do it?” I asked. Fending off one of the wolf trying to get us.
“I can, but it’s going to hurt.” He said.
I spared him a look and saw what he meant. He took out his knife and jammed it down his tight at full strength.
“Holy shit! Kaleb!” I screamed.
He grunted in pain and put his hand on Lisa, concentrating. She transformed into the young woman I’d met at Land’s End, completely naked in the filth of the tunnel. I put my sword to her heart.
“It’s over!” I yelled. The battle fell to a standstill and I took the time to see the state of things.
Most of the wolves were in pretty bad shape, burned, cut or with broken limbs but alive. But so were we. Lance and Liam were both bleeding, with nasty raking wounds across his back and legs, Liam was in worse condition, actively missing bits of flesh, but nothing his regenerative powers wouldn’t fix.
“What do you want you tranny cunt?” Lisa spat at me, both figuratively and literally. “Us to surrender and disband?”
“No no, it’s too late for that. That offer was if you agreed to end this without any fuss.” I declared, loudly enough so everyone could hear. Natalie had surrounded us in a circle of flames, making sure nobody would interfere. “It’s funny, if you’d taken it, nothing would have changed for you, you’d have been free to reform under a different names, but you’d have admitted to being scared of us. Now, real consequences must be applied.”
“You now have two choices, they’re both sadistic of course.” I explained. “Either you you disband your pack now and swear under the covenant’s law to never ever transform or initiate anyone ever again, or we kill your pack and you walk free to do whatever you want. I still have a turbo-charged bogeyman, three wraiths and a powerful pyrokinetic, what do you have, maybe three or four standard wolf left?”
She started laughing. “I’ll kill you, you bitch. You think yourself so clever? That I care about these runts? I’ll make a new pack and I’ll hunt you--”
She never finished her sentence, I drove my rapier through her heart. Her body spasmed and her eyes went wide. Her expression beyond the pain was clear, she was shocked, shocked that she was dying she couldn’t fathom this was happening.
I expected something to happen to me; crushing guilt, a rush of excitement, anything but nothing came. Instead I just felt hollow and empty. I’d taken a life and yet it hadn’t been a big deal...
“Natalie.” I said, barely above a whisper.
She dismissed the flames and everyone sort of came closer, the wolves still in shape growling at us.
“It’s over.” I said, I was angry. “You’ve seen Lisa’s true nature, she didn’t care about you, about her pack. She cared more about herself and her own ego. Just go… You’re free to do what you want, join another pack, stay in this one, leave this world… I don’t care anymore.”
I was drained. The fight hadn’t lasted long, it was hard to tell but hardly more than two or three minutes. I walked at Kaleb’s side and took out a vial of elixir. He’s thankfully left the knife in the wound, removing it would have made the bleeding worse.
“Lance, get us out of here.” Natalie said.
The wolves seemed stunned, I knew they’d heal. It was one of my condition on this fight, nobody needed to die. Most of the pack were just teenagers like us looking for a place to belong.
Darkness wrapped around us and we moved someplace else. The darksiders’ crib. Once it cleared and the lights were on, I continued working on Kaleb’s legs, stitching it close and letting the elixir do it’s job. It would have been so much easier if you only had to drink it like a potion, but it had to be put in the wound and before it had healed on it’s own. Elixir lost potency the longer you waited.
“That was really dumb of you Kaleb…” I muttered after most of it was done.
“I needed to up my juice.” He answered, grunting. “The bigger the wound, the stronger the juice I get for it. Lisa was in another league than that wolf girl I unshifted.”
It was a good thing we had elixir, Kaleb had another stipulation on his power: He could never heal what he’d self inflicted. With today, we still had about a dozen vials from what we’d gotten from the Abendroth, I shuddered to think what they’d ask of us for the next batch…
When I finished, I took the time to see what everyone was up to. Lance was doing his best at patching himself up. I offered to help him do his back and he accepted. Liam and Natalie were in a corner, lying on a set of cleanish bed sheets, he whined lowly once in a while, he was in a pretty bad shape, but he’d heal on his own. Natalie had survived the fight without more than scratches. In a surprising display of humanity and kindness, she was reading a book to Liam, seeming almost motherly. He seemed tired if content. With Liam’s size, it was easy to forget he was just a six years old kid. I couldn’t help but feel sad for him.
When it was done, I walked to Kaleb’s side, it wasn’t late, but everyone was just so tired, I walked him to his area, hidden by plywood partitions, it wasn’t much, an plastic covered old mattress and a set of milk crates acting as a makeshift bed table and clothing rack.
I placed him gently on the bed and lied down next to him. He cuddled up gently and he dozed off quickly. I on the other hand couldn’t get to sleep. A combination of guilt, from killing a person for the first time, and craving, I hadn’t had any blood in over two days and I was trembling, my body covered in a cold sweat. Withdrawal is a bitch...