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The Wolf Pack – Chapter 41 – Hidden Monsters – Conclusion

Photo credit: Bob Haarmans / Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: Bob Haarmans / Foter.com / CC BY

The fluidity of Jill’s movements faltered as the adrenaline drained from her system.  Her legs wobbled and she stumbled away from the crash feeling afraid and alone.  She found a small bush away from the crash but still within sight of it and settled down beneath it.  The supple vegetation camouflaged her black and tan coat and also shielded her from any prying eyes.  A sob escaped her lips.  She sounded like a distressed puppy.  She felt like one too and hoped her father would find her soon.

The smell of cigarettes wafted on the breeze.  Jill’s nose twitched and she lifted her head, pinpointing the source of the smell.  Her keen sight caught the lit cigarette as it drifted down the embankment.  No doubt a passerby flicked it from their car.  She almost dismissed it when she saw it land dangerously close to the overturned car.  It skidded along the ground in the breeze until it connected with the gas, the small spark enough to catch.  Fire engulfed the vehicle quickly and spread to the nearby vegetation.  Plastic melted away from the wrecked car and fell in large globs.  The frame become malleable and distorted under the rising heat.  Various combustible items popped and exploded throughout the wreckage sending flames in all directions.

The acrid smells assailed Jill’s nostrils and she almost missed it.  The scent of another animal caught her attention.  She sniffed and cocked her head, tracking the scent until she spotted him just beyond the flames.

“Jill!”  Tom called as he rushed frantically around the inferno, moving dangerously close as he tried to find her.

“Help!” Jill called but her words continued to sound like a puppy’s pitiful cries.  He turned in her direction and moved closer, sniffing the ground until he stood before her hiding place.  He bend down and saw her.

“Jill?” he asked.

Jill tried her voice again but her words came out in whimpers and whines.  He pushed his way through the bushes and frantically licked at her face.  In her wolf form, she found it surprisingly soothing.  He lay down beside her and lay his head across her neck.

“Shhhh, it’s ok now, I’m here,”  he said.

She cried more, frustrated at how her voice sounded.

He licked her again.  “I know your frustrated but try to calm down.  Think of the human words first and then try to say them.”

Jill thought hard and tried again, “How did you know what I was saying?”  Relief washed over her to be able to speak again.

“Trust me, I’m fluent in puppy speak.  Our adaptability to shift from human to wolf is always hardest the first time.  I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for your first time.  It must have been a pretty frightening thing.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure you could change.  Most young ones do it years earlier because their pliancy is better.  Late shifters have a harder time and sometimes it’s very painful because their bones are not as flexible.  Are you ok?”

“Yes.  It wasn’t painful just scary,” Jill said.

“Who’s in the car smelling liked burned haddock?”

“Officer Billy.  He died in the crash before the fire erupted.  Daddy, he knew I wasn’t completely human.  He knew about you too.  He was taking me to see a Professor Pendergast.  He came to our school with Billy once.  He’s still a threat.”

“Well, any evidence you were in the car is going up in flames.  We’ll have to deal with the professor when the time comes.  Let’s go home,” he said.

Tom and Jill moved from under the bush and stood.  Tom sniffed the air and shook his head.

“Your pack is here,” he said.

Jill lifted her head, scented the air and smiled.  As if on que, Robbie and Layla bounded through the trees and skidded to a halt in front of her.

“Sweet!  You shifted!” Robbie said, greeting her with a few licks to her face.  Layla joined in greeting her too.

“Alright kids, let’s get out of here.  Jill can you find your way home by retracing their trail?” 

Jill put her nose down and found the trail with ease.  She howled in triumpth before she bounded through the trees with Robbie, Layla and Tomas close behind.

THE END

CCC#324

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Final Threat – Chapter 40 – Hidden Monsters

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Jill stared at the clock on the wall, willing it to go faster.  The teacher’s lecture held no interest for her today.  She’d been home two weeks and although returning to school seemed a little boring, she didn’t mind it until today.  She reread the text on her phone and smiled.  After suffering together through the autonomous rule of the Wolf King, Ulvarg, Robbie and Layla were coming for a little recreation and fun.  Layla’s translocation from the realm of the wolf clan to the human world would begin today.  Jill knew her disassociation from the pack might be hard so her parents had insisted she stay with them for as long as she needed to become accustom to life as a human.

The final bell rang and Jill sprang from her chair.  She rushed through the halls and deposited her backpack in her locker for the weekend.  Another text buzzed into her phone.  She read it as she exited the building and headed toward home.

“We’re here!  Hurry home!”  Jill laughed and picked up the pace as she texted back a list of things they were going to do.  She’d gotten pretty inventive on the activities and knew her friends would enjoy them.  She turned a corner and almost ran into a man coming the other way.  She looked up briefly to mumble an apology but never got the chance.

Jill’s head buzzed and ached as she fought her way up from unconsciousness.  She felt the movement of a vehicle and opened her eyes.  She lay in the back of a an old squad car, her hands and feet bound tight.  She rose as far as she could and glanced at the driver.  Officer Billy.

“This is kidnapping,” she snapped.

“Since you’re not really human, I don’t think it matters much.”  He smiled, glancing in the rear view mirror and met her gaze.

“My father will kill you for this,” Jill said as she struggled against the restraints.  Her fingers tingled.  The ropes cut into her circulation and made moving almost impossible.

“I certainly hope he tracks you down.  Your blood is too much like your mother’s.  Your DNA hints at something abnormal but it’s not conclusive.  I think once Doctor Pendergast has a look at you he might be able to detect your non human heritage.  Kidnapping you adds a special incentive though.  Your father will track you down and when he does, we’ll have the right specimen to test.  We might even try to get a hold of his lovely bride, Rebecca.  A whole family of lab rats just waiting to unlock the secrets of finding and traveling to other worlds.

Guilt ran through Jill’s veins like ice water.  She shivered at the thought of her father being used as an experiment.  Anger rose above the guilt and she struggled even harder against the ropes.  Jill kicked at the door and contorted her body trying to find something that would help her get free.  Officer Billy swerved  and slammed on the brakes.  Jill fell to the floor of the car, her movements limited even further.

“You can’t do this!”  She yelled.  She continued kicking her feet and twisting her wrist against the ropes until her skin burned and bruised for her efforts.  Panic set in as she looked out the window.  They were headed up the mountain.  She saw only rock on one side and sky on the other.  Jill felt a tingle in the back of her skull.  Her vision blurred and she thought she might pass out.  She gasped and sucked in air.  Her limbs trembled against her will as the sensations began to spread all over her body.  She wanted to cry out but the only sound her lips produced was a low growl.

The shift took over.  Jill snapped her eyes shut as she felt her body morph and shift.  Her limbs became slender and long.  The ropes loosened around them and  pulled free of the restraints.  When she opened her eyes, her vision seemed clearer but oddly muted of color.  She gasped and righted herself, pushing against the front seat in an effort to understand the transformation. 

“Settle down back there!”  Officer Billy yelled.

The anger rose again, pushing down the panic and fear.  Jill jumped up on the back seat and lunged for the grate between her and Officer Billy, her teeth bared  and a feral snarl escaping her lips.  He swore and swerved dangerously across the road.  The car slid against the bare rocks and knocked Jill off balance.  Rocks scraped against metal and shattered the glass before Billy snatched the wheel right and they careened across to the other side.  The car smashed the guard rail, bounced back and hit it again.  Jill’s feral mind registered the open window and leapt out in one bound.  She hit the asphalt and turned just to see the car push past the barrier and slide down the steep embankment.  A lone car came around the curve blaring its horn.  Jill scampered across the road and down the embankment.  Her new limbs moved effortlessly and she found the climb easy.  The car lay on it’s top, one wheel spinning while others lay mangled in the heavy underbrush.  Jill smelled gasoline and death.  Circling the car she saw Billy hanging from his seat.  His eyes were open but unseeing and a gash across what was left of his forehead signaled his mortality and threat were gone.

CCC#323

Going Home – Chapter 39 – Hidden Monsters

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Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

King Veelka wasted no time diffusing the hostilities.  He sent out his populist to encourage the rebels to rejoin the pack and offer peace to the jackals for the former king’s egregious behavior, requesting audience with a constituent of their clan to further discuss their truce.  He and his new guards escorted Tomas, Jill and Layla to the holding cells to release the prisoners.

The door to the cells stood open.  The chains lay in a heap on the floor and one guard lay moaning just outside.

One of Veelka’s new guards moved forward, sword at the ready and ventured through the opening.  Soon they heard sounds of a struggle followed by the guard’s reappearance.  He stumbled out and fell hard against the floor battered and bruised.  He raised his eyes and addressed Tomas.

“Your mate is a dynamo and a very angry one.”

Tomas couldn’t help smiling.  He lay a consoling hand on the guard’s shoulder, shifted his appearance to human and ventured through.  After a short minute, he signaled the others to follow.  Jill entered first, eager to see her mother and check on Robbie.  What she encountered sent her into dry heaves.  A  guard she recognized from the hive room lay dead on the floor.   A frozen expression of agony twisted his features.  His skin looked burned and had turned a sickening shade of brownish green as if he’d been consumed by a thermonuclear blast.  Tom pulled Jill away from the gruesome discovery and shielded her from the sight.  Soon she felt her mother’s arms encircling her as well.  Jill tried to breathe but their seemed to be a deficit of oxygen in the air.

“Breathe, baby,” Rebecca said as she rubbed Jill’s back.

“Did the wasp poison do that to him?” Jill asked in a shaky voice.

“Yes, but Robbie’s ok, dear.”

“How?” Jill asked looking up.  Her mother led her to the back of the cell.  Robbie lay on a bed of hay with his mother by his side.  His complexion didn’t look as bad as the guard’s but she still saw the awful greenish hues on his skin.  Jill dropped down beside him and lay a hand on his brow but he didn’t stir.  Paloma gave her a weak smile.

“I’ve stopped the spread of the poison for now but in order to remove the rest from his body, he needs an infusion of a plant extract from our territory.  It’s a ephemeral flower that blooms late in the season.  I purged what I could but it continues to multiply and spread at an alarming rate.  I can keep him in stasis until I get him home.”

Jill continued to rub Robbie’s forehead and smooth the fur around his ears.  She thought a minute and looked up at Paloma, “You put the poison in that guard, didn’t you?”

Paloma’s face turned hard, “He deserved it!  Treating my Robbie like he was already dead, an expendable casualty of war!  He laughed at my son’s discomfort and told me to give up.”  Her face softened as she looked back at her son and tears welled in her eyes.

It didn’t take long for Saal to arrive at the castle.  He met briefly with the new King before he rushed to take Paloma and Robbie home.  He returned later for Tom, Rebecca and Jill.  He spoke as they followed him to a designated portal site.

“Robbie’s responding well to treatment.  His mother should have him back to normal in a few days.  He wants to visit when he’s well again.”

“He’s more than welcome,” Tomas said.

No one knew how Ulvarg had managed to open a portal to the human  realm.  It was an ability delegated to the Guardians.  Saal had proved himself worthy and received this rare gift.  It was a mystery that disturbed them all.

Tomas pulled his family close as they waited for the portal to appear, relieved to have them back and soon, safe in the human realm.  “We should celebrate tonight.  Our first night back home, what do you think?  Dinner out?” he asked.

“Yes!”  Jill said.  “I really want a big juicy burger!”

“I could use a Chardonnay,” Rebecca said.  “Maybe two.”

Tom laughed as Saal opened the portal to their home.

 

CCC#322

The New King – Chapter 38 – Hidden Monsters

Photo credit: Moha’ Al-Bastaki / Foter.com / CC BY-NC
 
 
 

They stood silently facing each other.  Layla showed no fear of the guard who stood before her, his sword drawn and gleaming by his side.  She inclined her head as an acknowledgement.  He did the same.  With exaggerated flourish, he pulled his sword high and saluted the princess.  Holding the sword across his palms, he dropped to one knee and bowed his head.

“My sword is yours now, Princess.”

“I have no need of your sword, Sir.  My father’s poisonous reign is over.  Our clan requires a new King.” 

She glanced around at the faces watching her.  She caught Jill’s eye and smiled.  Finally, Layla looked toward her uncle, who managed to wrap a cloth around his bleeding shoulder.  They exchanged a meaningful look before she turned back to the pack.    

“As heir to the throne I must confess that I cannot remain here.  It’s a complicated and weighty decision but I must leave this realm.   However, as my first and final official decree, I appoint Veelka as King.”

Jill watched as Veelka approached his niece.  He looked lousy after his battle with The Grey but moved with as much dignity as he could muster.  Jill watched the eyes of the other wolves around them and saw relief everywhere she looked.  As Veelka ascended to the throne, many of the guards helped to remove the dead bodies from the throne room before they could become bloated.  Others took positions beside Veelka as personal guards.

“It might be a little early to say but I think the war will be averted.  Veelka will have a lot to smooth out with the jackals but no one wants more bloodshed,” Tom whispered.

Jill gasped as she remembered something horrible.

“What’s wrong?”  Tom asked.

“Robbie!”

CCC#321

No More Fear – Chapter 37 – Hidden Monsters

dark-red-drop

Photo credit: DennisHolzberg / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Tears streamed from her eyes and splashed on the cold stone floor.  Jill blinked hard to focus on her father’s face.  He stood mere yards away but he wouldn’t be able to stop the blade poised at her throat.

“Ulvarg, please!  I’m the one you want.”  Tom removed his fighting staff and slid it across the floor past his king.  He removed a long dagger and small knife and slid them across the floor as well.  “I’m unarmed, Ulvarg.  Please, take your vengeance out on me, not her.”

“My vengeance requires more than your life, Tomas.  I wanted you to suffer and know agony before your death.  You do not deserve the quick end of a slit throat.  I vowed if you returned, I would smash your will to live until you begged for death.  And even then, I would not bring your end until I grow tired of your screams.”

“Do with me as you will, my King, but I beg you to let her go.  She will never be a threat to you,” Tom said.  He moved closer, his palms out in a submissive manner.

“A war is brewing at my borders because of you, Tomas.  I have no time to punish you as you deserve.  But before I kill you, you will know agony and a grief so powerful, it will suffice.”

Jill watched her father’s face.  She saw hope withdraw from his eyes before he met her gaze.  He mouthed, “I love you” as if saying his goodbyes.  A weird sensation spread through her mind.  A need to protect rather than be protected.  Her heart no longer slammed against her chest like a base drum.  A calmness stilled it and she gave him a small smile.

The blade pressed hard against her skin before she felt the King stiffen.  His grip loosened on her hair and the sword fell from his hand, clanging against the floor.  Jill twisted away and looked back to see a long blade protruding from the King’s chest.  All semblance of sanity faded from his features.  They twisted into an ugly display and finally froze as his body pitched forward.  Jill scrambled away as the King fell unseeing to the ground.    She stared at the body like someone had pulled a cruel prank on them until she looked back and saw Layla standing behind where the King once stood.  Blood trickled from a small gash in her forehead and her hands shook slightly.  She seemed shocked at her own actions.

Tom pulled Jill from the ground and held her so tight it actually hurt but she would never complain.  It felt good.  Guards appeared as if waiting for the stand off to end and rushed into the throne room.  They filed in and stared dumbstruck at their dead King.  Tom pushed Jill and Layla behind him but Layla step out and stood to meet the guards.  Her face no longer registering confusion but confidence.

The closest guard pulled his sword from its sheath and Layla walked out to meet him.

 

CCC#320

Deadly Encounter – Chapter 36 – Hidden Monsters

“This should be interesting, young human,” Ulvarg whispered into Jill’s ear.  She could do nothing but watch the events unfold before her.

Veelka zeroed in on The Grey and Layla.  He said nothing but advanced upon them.  The Grey moved back, smiling as if reeling Veelka in like prey.  Layla continued to struggle for release.  She squirmed and kicked until she connected with a soft spot.  The Grey’s face contorted in rage.  He whirled and launched her into the wall near the throne.   She crumbled to the ground and didn’t move.

Veelka hesitated slightly, watching Layla’s still form before he turned back, shifted in an instant and dove into The Grey.  They fell together, teeth gnashing, claws scratching.  Jill pressed her palms to her ears to subdue the horrendous sounds.  She knew this would be a fight to the death.  Remembering her own attack, and The Grey’s vicious fangs piercing her skin, her heart sank as she watched.  The Grey shifted and quickly pinned Veelka against a far wall.  He bit hard into Veelka’s shoulder, ripping fur and flesh with his canines.

Veelka snapped his jaws, keeping The Grey from his neck.  Their growls and snarls echoed through the high halls of the throne room.  No one else moved as they watched the fierce battle.  The Grey threw a smug look Jill’s way, his teeth gleaming and dripping of warm blood, a look of triumph in his wicked eyes before he snarled and dipped his head for a fatal strike.

Veelka pushed off from the wall just as The Grey moved to bite.  It was just enough to send The Grey forward and off balance.  He slid over Veelka, who scrambled to gain his footing first.  Not missing a beat, Veelka sank his fangs into The Grey’s flanks, jerking his head quickly and snapping bones.  The Grey through his head up and howled in agony.  Spinning around, Veelka’s teeth found purchase in The Grey’s exposed neck.  His bite snapped hard and crushed bones, severed tendons and tore through veins.  Blood erupted from the wound coating both of them but Veelka didn’t let go.  He shook his head and ground his teeth until all life drained from The Grey’s eyes.

Jill felt the King shake with rage as his grip tighten.  He shoved her down to her knees and wrenched her head back.  His blade rose to her exposed neck.

 

CCC#319

Show Down – Chapter 35 – Hidden Monsters

It had been a simple plan designed to save lives and stop the impending war.  Jill hadn’t thought it reckless at the time but now, they were in serious trouble.

She and Layla stood before the Wolf King, his features a mixture of hatred and satisfaction. 
“We found them in the swarm room releasing the wasps,” The Grey said.
“And where is the young jackal?” Ulvarg asked.
“He received fatal injuries from the swarm.  I sent him to the cells so his mother could watch him die,” The Grey said.
“A fitting death indeed,” Ulvarg said.  “And you bring me a traitor, Grey.  One that has been hidden from me, my own daughter.”  He turned to Layla and frowned.  “This will be the last time you bring shame to your family, Laylianna.”
“My King, let me deal with her.  Once mated, I will make sure dramatic improvements are made to her loyalty.  That is, if I have your blessing.”  The Grey ran a heavy hand down the back of Layla’s neck, wrenching her head back by the hair.
“Then she is yours, Grey.  Perhaps she will show a higher regard for your authority.”
The Grey smiled and jerked Layla toward the door.  She fought him and clamped her teeth down on his hand.  The Grey howled in pain before he back handed her.  She fell to the polished stone floor, her bleeding lip making a slick spot where she fell.  The Grey snatched her up ready to inflict more blows.  He demonstrated a real passion for causing pain.
“Father!  You can’t do this to me!” Layla cried.
Jill fought also.  She needed to get free.  She needed to help her friend.  She kicked hard at the guard behind her and slammed her head back connecting with his nose.  He flinched and she broke free but Ulvarg grabbed a handful of her hair and jerked her back.  He pulled a sword from the guard’s sheath and held it to her neck.  Jill froze.  They needed a miracle and fast.
The door to the King’s throne room opened and everyone stopped.  Veelka came through, his eyes like stone and behind him stood Tomas.