For hundreds of years, there has been an unspoken, fragile alliance between the Coven and the Pack. That's all about to change when a young vampire meets a young human.
"Stupid weather channel..." Ava muttered to herself. Right on the TV as she'd been wandering around the store, they'd called for clear skies the whole night.
"A clear, cold, December night folks, so stay outside for that Christmas party and stargaze away..."
Those had been the weatherman's exact words, smiling that fake smile, his tanned face widening to accommodate it. Ava had heard it vaguely as she read over the newspapers in the back. Something a little more pressing than the weather had caught her eye as she browsed for a book to keep her attention during the Council. The headlines flitted through her mind, in near-gothic bold letters. Despite her self-professed worldliness, the images and words still sent a shiver down her spine. The articles had described vicious animal attacks in the metropolitan area; the corresponding images were almost too gruesome to be shown. Bodies torn, limb from limb, eyes horrified, staring toward the sky in surrender. Ava shuddered again, trying to banish the images from her head. Visceral memories of past deeds were arising, making her stomach clench. She wasn't proud of her past, and from a certain point she'd never been one for violence, it had begun to turn her stomach to a sickening degree. The others had scoffed at it, calling her soft and weak. Ava's eyes narrowed at the memories of the jeering smiles of some of those in the Coven. That hadn't been a pleasant century.
Ava gave her head a slight shake and quickened her pace; she didn't want the dark memories within her, halfway home and not getting there any faster, she'd only come home upset. Gradually, her memory returned to the bookstore, gazing listlessly at the grisly Technicolor photos on the newspaper. This sort of violence, while not unknown to her, was still not a pleasant experience. Those wounds, the article said, like an animal, but in the shape of a human hand. The bite wounds, like those of a wolf's; almost as a joke, the reporter had put out the suggestion of werewolves, seeming to know it was a foolish idea.
But, was it? Ava paused without realizing it, staring at the tips of her shoes. Was it such a wild idea to think that the Wolves were responsible for this? Blinking slowly, Ava mulled this new idea over, as her feet slowly began to move again, one after the other. Wolves weren't usually this outright with their attacks and occasional feeding. But with Rolph gone.../Ava pondered this new thought, images of the rakish leader of the local Wolf Pack flitting through her mind. Rolph had kept the Pack together and out of trouble, even holding a shaky alliance with the Coven for a couple hundred years. With him, they'd actually prospered for a while, instead of being the scavengers they were known for being. He'd either died or disappeared several weeks back, and the Pack had from that point on, gone to the "dogs", though Ava winced at the unintentional pun. It wasn't so hard to imagine that they would stoop to attacking humans almost in public; Wolves were a barbaric, anarchic bunch, and without a strong leader, it wasn't hard to believe they would be lost. /Especially with her running the Pack now.../Ava thought angrily, her fists clenching until her nails bit into her palms. With /her in charge, it was surprising that things hadn't descended into utter chaos and cannabalism.
No, she'd told herself that those things wouldn't be brought up, never again. With effort, Ava unclenched her fists, and walked a little faster, as if she was leaving the harsh feelings behind. Despite the icy rain and near-freezing wind, fire raced up from her chest, spiraling around her neck and behind her ears; the air seemed to be choking her, a bitter, metallic taste rising in her mouth. That was not something she needed to be thinking about, not ever. Ava paused, biting her lip, too many heart-wrenching memories rising from their dormant places to barrage her in a cacophony of arguments, fights, slammed doors and soft sobs, the flashes of tearful sky blue eyes and sad smiles ripping through her soul. Resolute, Ava lifted her head, staring forward; she would not let them overtake her. Never again would she let them overtake her. In an attempt to distract herself, she glanced at her watch, and all past thoughts were forgotten. The council was meeting in less than an hour and she was only halfway there; without haste, she was sure to be very late.
The rain was coming down, harder than before, the lightning and thunder more frequent than before. Even some of the alley pets were taking a shelter, a scruffy looking black cat darted out of a desicated cardbard box and into Ava's path, startling her and almost making her fall. Ava, in an effort to get home on time began to run, keeping her breath and pace even, she had a long ways to go. Physical exertion always seemed to take her mind off things, and soon enough, her mind was pleasantly blank of almost everything aside from concentration on her pace. Even with the heavy rain weighing her down, her steps seemed lighter as she ran through the back alleys of the city, occasionally getting a look from a stray animal. The freezing rain felt good against her hot face, fresh, chilly air filling her lungs. Her heartbeat seemed to meld with the pounding of her feet against the pavement, carving out a rhythm for her to follow as she wove her way through her own private shortcuts. This was the life, no one telling her where to go or what to do, just pure instinct right down to the core, just like the pioneers--
It seemed like someone screamed not five feet from her, splitting her head like an axe. Ava skidded to a dead halt, heart racing, her ears keen for any noise. Complete silence; Ava strained to try and hear something, anything, but all she could hear was the rain and the soft sounds of a city preparing for the night. Thunder rumbled in the distance, signaling the gradual end of the storm. Breathing heavily, Ava stood there in the pouring rain, wondering if it'd just been an animal upset by something. This area was well known for its...colorful wildlife. But in her heart, she knew it was no animal. That had been a human scream. And most humans didn't just scream for no good reason. All but holding her breath, Ava swiveled around, trying to find the best location to hear something. There it was again, quieter this time, stacatto in nature, almost sounding like words. It echoed out into the air, unintelligible in by definition, but the tones underneath were obvious. Ava could all but smell the fear throughout it. She looked around, trying to figure out where the sounds were coming from. An ancient subway entrance was to her right, and to her surprise, she could see a faint light glimmering from inside, and just barely, she could hear scuffling sounds deep down within. Carefully, Ava jogged down a couple steps, curiosity overcoming common sense. She had to find who was screaming, there was something about it, something familiar.
Stepping lightly, Ava slipped down the stairs, keeping her eyes out for anything or anything odd. Though on a dimly lit subway platform in the bad part of town, that could be about anything. You shouldn't be down here, a voice that sounded uncannily like Lucia whispered within her, you should be heading to the Coven so you can be there and look presentable in time for the Council. Ignoring the voice that was growing steadily louder, Ava stepped down onto the platform. A fluorescent light flickered threateningly, seeming to warn that at any moment it could go out. Somewhere unknown, something dripped into a puddle, elsewhere, a train was rushing by. It was completely devoid of life, aside from maybe a few rats in the pipes. For a moment, there was silence in the dark tunnel, dead silence. It was almost frightening. Ava stood stock still, listening for something, beginning to feel more and more like a jumpy idiot. Running down the stairs like the calvary, ready to save the day. Mentally kicking herself for being so ready to jump in, Ava turned to jog back up the stairs and put this behind her; a small noise caught her attention. It was a soft cry of pain, weak and without effort, but a cry nonetheless. Slowly, Ava backed down the stairs, and peered around the staircase towards the end of the platform where the light seemed to be even dimmer.
A figure flashed within the muted , flickering lighting, leaving a soft trail of fleshtones. Ava's stomach dropped to her knees, there was no mistaking that shape. It was a Wolf. A big one from the looks of it. Turn around, the voice was screaming in her head, turn around, start running and don't stop. You are unarmed, outnumbered more than likely, and have no backup available. Run. Now. Indecision ripped through her, one half telling her to leave, the other telling her to check it out. The two opposing halves argued heatedly, each with a good point.
You should go, the Wolves didn't need to have another victim along with this one under their belt, it's just a human. A filthy mortal. Run.
A human still needs to have a chance at life.
Back and forth they argued, but one deciding factor took over. The human cried out again, in terror and pain, louder this time.
"No, please don't!" It was a woman's voice, pleading with her attacker.
Too many memories came with that one cry. Too many bad memories that she wanted to keep buried. Taking a deep breath, Ava took a slow step forward, followed by another until she was peeking around the edge of the stairway. With surprise, she noted only one Wolf standing in the shadows in front of a corner, looking down at something. He was half-Changed, a human torso with a Wolf's lower body. A head of dark hair was shaking slightly, almost in chastisement at whoever he was looking at, a throaty chuckle arising from him. That was unusual, just one Wolf, Wolves were almost always in a Pack, a lone Wolf wasn't something that could be trusted. That more than likely meant dark mischief was afoot.
He backed away, revealing a handsome, if boyish face, with bright blue eyes and elegant features. Ava didn't recognize him, although with all the new ones coming into the Pack ever since Rolph left, that wasn't surprising. He looked down at the human, a hand on his hip, shaking a finger down at his prey like a scolding mother. A whimper arose from the the human.
Ava directed her attention to the human, a woman. She was slender, pale, though that could've been from the light, golden-brown hair hanging in soft curls around her face, damp from the moist conditions and the rain. Blood was crusted around her left eye in a nasty cut, and Ava could see more staining the cream-colored peasant blouse the woman was wearing, in places that didn't need to be showing blood. She was backed into a corner, eyes following the Wolf's every move. Her chest heaved with the effort to breathe in spite her injuries; she was trembling like a trapped doe within the hunter's grip.
The Wolf chuckled again, surprisingly deep for being such a lean guy, allowing a smile to spread across his lips, showing off his razor sharp teeth. Ava couldn't help but feel confused about this whole situation, this was completely out of her element. Wolves almost never attacked alone, and even if they did, they were to the point and didn't play around with their prey. Maybe he was just a rogue lunatic on the the fringe of the Pack, but the absurdity of such a statement was obvious even to Ava. The Wolves took care of all their brethren, as did the Vampires within the Coven. They wouldn't leave one of their own to fend for themselves, especially if they were...challenged.
Another pang hit Ava hard; at least, it would've been like that with Rolph in leadership, but with her, there was no telling what was going on. She'd cut off all contact with the Coven almost a month ago, causing Kane to go into a fit. He'd stormed into his office and didn't come out for nearly three weeks. In fact, the Pack had been an issue for debate ever since Rolph left...or died. Tempers had flared concerning what had actually happened to the Pack Leader, with rumors as wild as that he'd run off with some human woman. In fact, as Ava had been leaving, Lucia and Kane had been arguing heatedly about the Pack and what they were going to do about it.
The Wolf began to speak, drawing Ava out of her reverie. Her had a soft voice, almost sounding like an adolescent, denoting from his air of authority; but, there was no mistaking the icy demeanor and clinical distance of a Wolf in his eyes. This was a cold-blooded killer.
He looked down at the woman, as if trying to give a sense of peace, "Now, you know what's going to happen. I told you before, so I hope you were listening. Don't take it personal or anything, orders from the top and all. I'm just a messenger." He knelt down, stroking the woman's bloodstained cheek almost tenderly; the woman flinched at his touch, and Ava saw his eyes harden. She watched as he unsheathed a single claw slowly, and trailed it along her jaw. A thin line of blood followed the claw's path, but the woman didn't move.
The insanity of the situation was growing. Since when did the Pack have footsoldiers at its bidding to do its dirty work? Since when did the Pack have dirty work? As far as she knew, they kept to themselves and didn't much socialize with others. Aside from your experience, Lucia's voice sneered, that was a bit a fluke wasn't it? Ava bit down on her lower lip, quickly silencing that voice before she did something stupid. Vaguely, within the recesses of her mind, she began to wonder what she was going to do, apparently she needed to do something soon or the human woman might not be around for much longer. But what could she do? She wasn't the strongest of people, though the Wolf didn't seem to look like much of a challenge. But even if she did get involved, she'd be breaking the Coven's biggest rule. The Coven's policy of non-involvement had been drilled into her for as long as she could remember, but faced with this situation, she couldn't just walk away. The compassion she'd held deep within herself, allowing no one to see began to seep through her bones, whispering softly, Save her. Save her or all will perish. Save her...
Uncertainty raged within her soul as she stood there, watching as if in slow motion, the Wolf stand, and Change fully into a Wolf before her eyes. The woman exhaled sharply in fear and shock, gazing up at the face what she must have surely thought was the devil. Wolves were a gruesome sight fully Changed, standing on their haunches, they reached a staggering seven feet, their fur thick and often clumped with blood, eight-inch claws extending from hand-like paws along with terrible razor-sharp fangs dripping with saliva. With a chuckle that sounded more like a growl, the Wolf raised his paw, bloody claws glistening in the suddenly too-bright light. All mirth was gone, this was all business; the chuckle had become a full-fledged growl, and every couple seconds, she could make out a word or two. It sounded like Latin or Greek or some dead language. This was a Ritual. Rituals had been banned within the Pack for almost three hundred years, this was definitely an unusual situation.
But for all her reasonings that she was doing the Coven and the Pack a favor by stopping this, that she was saving them the trouble of arguing for the next century or so, Ava knew deep down why she was interfering. The look on the woman's face, her expression, the fear in her eyes was something more than her conscience could handle. That look haunted her dreams enough as it was, she didn't need another chip added to her shoulder, the one she had was more than enough.
Kneeling, Ava sought out a large throwing object. Right at her feet it seemed, were several large pieces of rubble from the concrete wall beside her. Picking one up, she straightened quickly and with a loud yell, she chucked it right at the Wolf's head. Her aim was better than she realized. The rock hit her target dead-center, catching him square on the ear. He let out a roar of pain and whirled around, teeth bared in readiness for a fight. Ava chucked another rock, this one landing right between the eyes. Stunned, the Wolf stepped back, before regaing his composure. Without a plan and without any sort of weapon, Ava stepped into the light, praying she didn't lose this battle.
"Why don't you pick on someone your own size?" She said, her demeanor cooler than what was going on inside.
Something resembling a smile spread across the Wolf's excuse for a face. A low chuckle sounded from his throat, and the Wolf's stance loosened. "You'd better be careful, Vampire. Dabbling in the affairs of Wolves can have dire consequences."
Ava eyes narrowed at his condescending tone; he couldn't have been but a few years older than herself, and yet here he was, telling her what to do. Anger coursed through her veins, but unlike most, she could keep control over it, anger was an ally in a fight, rage was not. She growled, teeth elongating and sharpening into fangs. Her blood began to run hot, and she took a deliberate step forward, snarling,
"Come get me, Dog."
His own fangs bared, the Wolf took a step closer. This had gone beyond her saving the human woman, beyond him protecting his prize; this was dredging up a millenia-old rivalry that was ingrained within every Vampire and Wolf there ever was. This was the dark battle between them that had been cautiously suppressed for too long for them. The Wolf took another step forward, towering over Ava's lanky frame.
"Ready to die, Leech?" He grinned, showing all his teeth, paws raised for battle.
Instead of responding with a witty retort, Ava took the surprise route and delivered a hard kick to his groin. The Wolf grunted in pain, bending over for a brief second, breathing heavily. Taking advantage of that moment, Ava dealt a second blow to the Wolf's head, knocking him on his back, sensing his inexperience in combat. He may have been bigger, but Ava was a seasoned fighter by force, not by nature, and was ruthless from of years of training and some instinct. She was coming in for the third strike when the Wolf caught her by the legs, swinging her into the wall. The concrete cracked loudly, debris falling to the ground from the force of impact. Pinwheels of light skittered through her vision as she slid to the floor. Through the red haze of pain, Ava could see the woman sitting there, staring at her in utter terror. With the erratic thoughts of someone who's just had her head smashed into a wall, Ava noticed with growing panic the woman was getting progressively paler. She needed to get to a hospital before she died from bloodloss.
Shaking her head, Ava rolled to her feet just as the Wolf placed what would've been a well-aimed jab to her stomach. On instinct, Ava grabbed a pipe that was lying a few feet from her and taking a leap, swung hard at his head. Wolves' head were notoriously sensitive and lacking the thick skin and bone the rest of their bodies were covered with. The Wolf yelped, the pipe having come in direct contact with his senstive area, eyes and muzzle. With the Wolf's paws clapped to his muzzle, Ava gave another blow, this one to where she guessed his knees would be. If she could bring him down to her level, things could work out even better for her. By this point, anger had completely taken over; all she could hear was the woman's screams mixed with others, splitting her skull in two. They were saying something she couldn't make out, but it was enough to psyche her out. Trying to silence the voices, she swung with such force that the pipe broke when it hit flesh.
This time, the Wolf roared loud enough to bring dust down from the ceiling and make the lights blink on and off wildly. Blindly, as he came down, he struck out, trying to reach a solid mass. He made contact, his claws sinking into Ava's shoulder, bringing her down with him. Ava cried out, her shoulder on fire, the pain spreading through her whole body. Immortality, unfortunately, was not a pain deterrent. In desperation, as she went down, Ava spun the pipe she was still holding with her good arm and shoved the broken end into the Wolf's chest. Anything to get him to loosen his grip on her shoulder, to take the pain away for just a second. The pipe left her hand was the Wolf jerked back in shock, rising to his feet; he stared stupidly at the metal protruding from his chest and then looked to Ava, as if asking why she would do such a thing. Ava just gazed blankly at him, trying to work her way through the pain. Her vision was slowly clearing, just a moment more and she'd be ready. But, she didn't have another moment.
The Wolf, his eyes wide with anger, almost screamed at her, infuriated that she would dare to stab him. Ava didn't know where he was getting this high and mighty attitude, but it was getting irritating fast. She stood, pushing the pain back in her mind to concentrate on at some other time, right now she had to concentrate on staying conscious. Without stopping to take the pipe out of his chest, the Wolf lunged forward, teeth bared and claws raised, slashing away. Any self-respecting person would be a little afraid of a seven-foot-three Wolf running at them full speed. All Ava could see was his glaring error and took complete advantage of it. He charged, but she was quicker. She yanked the pipe out of his chest, spun with the speed only a Vampire could muster and shoved it straight into the back of his neck right where the skull would meet the spine. The Wolf went down with a surprised yelp. The impact of his body made the floor vibrate slightly. He twitched slightly, before falling unconscious. Wolves were a little harder to kill than humans or Vampires. Ava stood there, trying to catch her breath, the odd events slowly finding a place in her cognitive abilities. This had been so strange. Wolves never attacked on their own terms, and never under orders.
A whimper from behind her caught her attention; the woman, oh shit. Ava turned, praying she was still all right. The woman was leaning back against the wall, struggling to stay conscious; Ava could see that her injuries had gotten even worse than before. Returning to her normal state, trying not to scare the woman anymore than she already had, Ava rushed to help. Too much in shock to really realize anything, the woman accepted Ava's help, all but collapsing into Ava's arms, halfway unconscious. /Jesus, she's so frail/, Ava thought to herself. Up close, her delicate features made her seem all the more fragile, brown-hazel eyes betraying a soft innocence. Her breath came softly and in fits, her lids half-closed, skin turning a frightening blue-white. Ava could almost feel her lifeforce slipping away as she lost more and more blood; it looked like the Wolf had punctured one of her lungs, along with a few other choice areas. Gently, Ava lowered herself to the ground, cradling the woman in her arms.
She didn't know what to do, she'd never been in this situation before. When given no other alternative, Vampires helped each other heal by giving blood to one another, but she had no idea what kind of effect that might have on a human. Vampire's blood, had a toxin that could be deadly to non-mortals, but what choice did she have? The woman was dying right in front of her, and if she didn't do something, she'd have the woman's blood on her hands. She stared at her wrist, watching the blood pulse slowly through it; could she give her just enough to keep her alive? Making a quick mental calculation, Ava made her decision. Hiking her sleeve up, Ava extended her fangs just enough to break the skin on her wrist. A bead of blood rose to the surface, a deep crimson nearly black, darker than a normal human's blood. With as little force as she could muster, Ava lifted the woman's head and held her wrist over her open mouth, letting a few droplets trickle in, praying it wouldn't have a terribly adverse effect.
Almost instantly, the woman's color improved, her breathing began with new effort. For a fleeting moment, her eyes opened and focused enough on Ava. Her brow furrowed and she raised a slim hand to Ava's face. "Your nose is bleeding." She murmured and brushed her fingers against Ava's nose, her voice pleasant and soft, before closing her eyes again, falling unconscious. Overtaken by compassion for the stranger, Ava gazed down at the woman in her lap, gently stroking the brown curls, wondering why she seemed so familiar. She was sure she'd never seen her before, and yet, Ava was sure her face was one she had known before. Images flashes before her unblinking eyes as she gazed down at the woman.
She smiles at her, speaking in a language she does not understand. They are sitting in a small field, the sun is shining, birds are singing. There is a soft breeze. This is a peaceful place. Ava smiles back, sitting across from her in the field. The woman raises her hand, splaying her fingers, the sunlight in a soft pattern across her face. She opens her mouth--
Hospital! She needs to get to a hospital before she actually does die! Ava blinked, nodding to her conscience. Right, hospital. The nearest hospital was about a block from where they were, she could be there in less than five minutes. Ava stood, gathering the woman in her arms, making sure nothing else was coming to get them in the dark. With the way that Wolf was acting, anything was possible tonight. She could never be too careful. But, nothing came, the coast was clear for Ava to make her escape. Making sure her bundle was safely contained, she made haste, stepping gingerly over the Wolf's body and jogging up the stairs. Outside on the street, the rain had stopped and the skies had cleared, giving way to a beautiful winter night, the full moon shining above. A cursory glance at her watch gave way to a surprise. Down in the tunnel, it'd felt like nearly an hour had passed since she'd slipped down there to investigate the scream. Only about fifteen minutes had gone by. Readjusting her cargo, Ava took off in the direction of the hospital, all thoughts of the Coven and the Council gone, her only concern was getting to the hospital.
It took her about five minutes to reach the large, square building near the edge of town even with the increasingly heavy bundle in her arms. Not that she minded. Ava walked quickly up to it, having passed it enough times to know where everything was. Besides, most hospitals had the same structure anyway. Avoiding the front door where most people would be around, Ava headed to the emergency room that entrance was around the side, with a long overhang in front of the doors. An ambulance was parked in front of the doors, but it looked empty. It had been a quiet night. Knowing that she still probably didn't have much time, Ava decided to forego common sense and rushed through the double doors, startling the grave shift nurse sitting at the desk.
Knowing full well this wasn't going to be a pleasant experience, Ava forged ahead and walked up to the desk, a pleading look on her face. "Please, she needs help, I think she's been stabbed or something."
The nurse, an older woman, maybe in her fifties, with graying brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses, jumped up from her perch and quickly pressed several buttons before rushing to them. "Are you her sister?" She asked worriedly, giving them both a once-over. Ava inwardly cringed as the woman's discriminating gaze swept over them. She could feel the nurse's thoughts beginning to form. A shiver ran down her spine.
Trying to appear a innnocent as possible, Ava shook her head, following the nurse's every move. This had been a bad idea, she shouldn't have done this, there would be too many questions, too many prying eyes. But what else could she have done? She couldn't have just let the poor woman die down there. "No, I just found her, around the corner there." She jerked her head in an eastern direction.
Clicking her tongue like a worried hen, the nurse began an examination on the unconscious woman as two young men with a gurney arrived. They motioned to a hesitant Ava that she should set the woman down on the gurney before she, herself, fell down. Reluctantly, Ava gently let the woman down onto the gurney, eyes watchful of the men to make sure they didn't try anything funny. She would never see the woman again, she knew that much. And for some reason, that frightened her. Her stomach tightened with the thought. Before the men wheeled her away, Ava did something that even surprised herself. Bending over, she placed a soft kiss on the woman's forehead, and wished her a safe journey.
The nurse cooed with the show of affection that Ava had shown before beginning to poke and prod at her, examining her face with a critical expression. She paid special attention to Ava's shoulder, brow furrowing at the crusted blood on her shirt and coat. "Honey, you need to get looked at before you pass out..." She began, only to be cut off.
"No, that's all right, I'm quite fine. I just bruise easily." The lies were starting to be just a little more than unbelievable. Escape was a must at this point. Ava gave a reassuring smile and before the nurse could protest, she was out the door. The cold air bit deeply into her aching bones, the still damp clothing seeming to weigh her down like wet cement. Suddenly very tired, Ava began her journey home, praying for a safe recovery and that Kane and Lucia would be in a good mood in the morning.