Soulbound ‡ clash

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 9

There is no greater hatred than that of vampires for werewolves, and of werewolves for vampires. It is good thing they despise each other so.

-- From Methods of Destroying Vampires and Werewolves by Fr. Ignatius Benedictus and Sir Alfred Baskervylle

Friday night, the Agony Cougars demolished a rival basketball team 68-42. During the halftime performance, the Pep Band and dance team delighted the home town fans with their version of Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. Though he'd never done so before, Coach Sean made an exception that night and gave Daniel and Connor permission to step outside the locker room long enough to hear Xavier's and Diego's duet.

After the game, the boys spent the night together at the cabin, celebrating the win, cherishing their love.

Saturday afternoon, the Silvermane werewolves and Smyth Covenant vampires gathered again near the old mill to practice wargames. They made enormous strides in learning to trust each other and work as a team. Xavier, Connor, Coach Sean, Regina, Sebastian, and Donny each led small teams of vampires and werewolves mixed together, while Daniel and Diego worked on coordinating the movements of multiple teams, much like generals marshalling their forces on a battlefield.

The most surprising part of the afternoon was how they discovered that vampires and werewolves were much more effective when they worked together, playing to each other's strengths. Even more amazing was how much they actually enjoyed working together.

After an exhausting afternoon, they all gathered inside the abandoned mill to talk and strategize. Daniel outlined plans he'd made for defending Agony against the coming menace. Next, Xavier listed the types of powers they could expect to face, describing what was known and documented about ancient vampires like Ignatius Caedes. Finally, Connor stood up and addressed the entire group. "You've all worked very hard today, and we sure do appreciate that. And this next thing we want to suggest isn't really about fighting at all. In fact, it probably won't make it any easier to defend Agony, but it's something the four of us have been thinkin' about for a while, and we think it's a good idea."

Regina, Xavier's second-in-command within the Covenant, chuckled and said, "Connor, you don't have to beat around the bush. We all trust and respect you. And Daniel and Diego. And sometimes we listen to Xavier too." She winked at Xavier and the Smyth Covenant vampires laughed hearing that. Regina smiled and continued, "We've followed you guys so far, not questioning anything you've asked us to do. Whatever it is you want us to hear, we're listening."

Connor nodded his thanks and said, "Well, it's like this everyone … we've been talking for a long time about changing the name of the town from Agony to Unity. It may not make much of a difference any more, but it just seems like now is a good time to do it. To make a statement to Ignatius and everyone else. We're together. No matter what we face. No matter who comes against us. We're united."

Regina looked at the other vampires and asked, "What does everyone think? Do we tell the world that vampires and werewolves in this town work as one?"

Sebastian chortled. "I'm all for it. I think it's a great idea, but what will the humans in town think about the change."

"They'll think it's about time."

Everyone turned to see who had spoken and saw Trudy Cantone standing in the doorway of the old mill, smiling. "They'll wonder why it took so long for someone to suggest that Agony is the most horrible name ever conceived for a town. It does have a certain creepy appeal, if you are a supernatural creature of the night … say, a vampire … or a werewolf … but it doesn't really work for everyone else when we tell UPS our delivery address is Agony, North Dakota. I often wonder if the mail guys laugh when they see that."

Daniel stood up and walked toward Trudy, a baffled expression on his face. "You heard what we've been discussing."

Trudy nodded. "And I saw you practicing your maneuvers in the woods and across the river. You're working well together. Using werewolf speed in coordination with vampire teleportation. Quite impressive, I should add, and the cooperation definitely makes a change in the town name appropriate."

The werewolves and vampires looked at each other nervously. They'd never had humans openly aware of their supernatural nature.

Connor looked at Trudy and said, "That's something we sorta want to keep a secret."

Trudy sat down on an old crate. "I assure you all that your secret is safe with me. I have no intention of sharing what I know with anyone, either in Agony or in the outside world. I'm not sure anyone would believe me if I did tell. That Rob Ransom podcast guy was awfully bold about exposing your world, and no one believed him, even though he had an inside source apparently." She glanced at Daniel. "Why did you do that, Daniel? Why did you offer to expose Agony on the Rob Ransom report?"

Daniel gulped. "Well, it was a bit of subterfuge on our part. We were dealing with an out-of-control government agency at the time, and that was the only way I could think of to get them to show us their hand."

Nodding in understanding, Trudy added, "I'm sure that's an interesting story, and I'd love to hear about it sometime, but for now, I want to assure you that I'm a friend. And although you guys might not believe this, I think you'll find many other humans in this town will be the same."

"They're afraid of us," Xavier replied, "and rightfully so. We've terrorized them for decades."

"Perhaps," Judy agreed, "but they see how things are changing in this town with you boys in charge." She pointed at Connor and Xavier, then smiled at Daniel and Diego. "You have earned great respect at school among the students and teachers, but I hear the same admiration from town folk. Don't sell them short. They might surprise you."

"You think we should tell everyone what we are?" Diego asked.

Judy shrugged. "I don't know about going that far, but you should definitely consider letting everyone know about whatever it is you're preparing for." She looked around the room, meeting their solemn gazes with determination in her own eyes. "It's our town too."

After fourth period drama class on Monday, Trudy asked Daniel if he would mind staying for a few minutes. She had something she wanted to discuss with him.

"Sure, Trudy. What's it about?" he asked.

"Come to my office. I want to show you something," she replied.

When they arrived at her cluttered office, Trudy opened a folder on her desk and showed it to Daniel. Inside, he found a script for a play entitled 26 Pebbles.

"It's fairly new," Trudy said. "The playwright is Eric Ulloa and it's based on the Sandy Hook tragedy."

Daniel looked up, surprised. "About the guy who shot up that elementary school."

Trudy turned the first page of the script and pointed at the acknowledgements. "Yes. Inspired by the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six children and adults died that day, and that's where the title comes from."

Daniel grimaced. "I'm not sure a play like this would go over very well in our community."

"Why not?"

"It's a pretty conservative place," Daniel replied. "A lot of people hunt, so they own guns. A play like this might be stepping on their toes."

Judy chuckled. "First of all, Daniel, let me say that plays like this are supposed to 'step on toes.' They should make people think and ask what we can do to make this world a better place. And secondly, being a gun owner doesn't mean you don't view what happened at Sandy Hook to be a tragedy. I own guns. My dad taught me to hunt when I was a little girl. Now I live alone, and I use my guns for safety and protection. I go for hikes in the hills around Agony, where cougars and coyotes roam. I'm definitely not going out there without a gun. I'd be a fool if I did."

Daniel stared at Trudy, surprised by her admission.

"What's wrong, Daniel?"

"Nothing," he replied, grinning. "I just never imagined you would be a gun enthusiast."

"Because I'm a drama teacher?"

"Well … you have to admit that's an unusual combination."

"Vaewolves are an unusual combination, too," Trudy replied with a wink, "but it works."

Daniel laughed. "Okay. You got me there. But if you're into guns, why would you want to do a play like 26 Pebbles?"

Trudy closed the folder and dropped it back onto her desk. "Daniel, despite all the political posturing we see in our world today, I believe most people want to see changes that will make a difference. I'm not afraid of guns because I was raised around them. My father taught me how dangerous they are and showed me how to handle them as the tools they are. I happen to agree that schools should never be a crime scene, but I don't always agree with the way politicians propose to deal with it." She tapped her finger on the folder. "I think a play like this will start people thinking about what can and should be done. It's one thing I can do to make this world a better place."

"Then we should do it," Daniel said.

"Good. You know, Daniel, you and the rest of your crew have learned something valuable about working together, using your differences to be stronger instead of fighting against each other. That's a terrific lesson for everyone to learn."

Daniel smiled and asked with a mischievous grin, "Are you suggesting our world would be a better place if we stopped fighting and started working together?"

"I know, right? A radical concept. Too revolutionary for us to consider!"

"I guess we'll start in Agony and try to spread the disease of cooperation around the nation next."

Trudy walked Daniel to the door of her office. "Excellent plan, young man. You definitely have my vote for mayor of Agony."

As they walked out of her office, headed for the lunchroom, Daniel asked, "Would you teach me to shoot?"

"I thought vaewolves were powerful enough without guns," she teased.

"Never hurts to learn a new skill," Daniel replied.

"Okay. I'll consider it under two conditions. First, your parents agree to it. Second, you follow my directions exactly."

"I'll ask Mom when I get home, and absolutely, I'll do whatever you tell me!"

"Good. Have your mom call me if it's okay. I'll take you out to the shooting range north of town."

"Sounds like a plan," Daniel replied.

Judy Anderson agreed to the training with one request of her own, that Trudy would hold another class on the weekend for Judy herself. With Mike away during the week, working in the oil fields in the northern part of the state, Judy sometimes wished she had better protection for her and Daniel. Trudy agreed and promised extra lessons the next Saturday.

When Trudy and Daniel pulled into the parking lot of the shooting range, Trudy turned to Daniel and said, "The first rule of gun safety is always, always, ALWAYS point the muzzle in a safe direction. Never point your gun at anything you don't intend to shoot. It doesn't matter if the gun is loaded or unloaded. It doesn't matter if the safety is on or off. Point the gun in a safe direction at ALL times."

Daniel nodded. "Got it."

"Rule number two: always keep your guns unloaded when they aren't in use." She pointed at the back seat and the gun cases. "Neither of those are loaded. The ammunition is in a separate case, and we won't be loading the guns until we get onto the gun range, just before we shoot."

"I wonder how many accidents would be avoided if people did that all the time," Daniel observed.

"Quite a few," Trudy replied. Then she went on to explain several other basic rules of gun safety, questioning Daniel from time to time to ensure he understood them all.

At one point, Daniel decided to tease her. "All this talking about guns is really improving my aim, but I did think we'd actually be firing a gun sometime today."

Trudy looked at Daniel with a serious expression. "I know you're pulling my leg, Daniel, but I want to remind you of the second condition I had for teaching you today. Whatever direction I give you, you follow exactly. Right?"

Daniel took her gentle scolding well and replied, "Yes, ma'am. I do understand how important these rules are."

Trudy smiled to take the sting out of her words. "They aren't simply important, Daniel. They are essential, and I wish every gun owner knew them by heart and followed them faithfully."

The rest of the lesson went very well. Trudy explained all the safety features on her hunting rifles, then demonstrated how to fire them. For half an hour, Daniel learned to aim, to fire, to make targeting adjustments, and finally to stow the guns correctly when finished.

"You're a quick study," Trudy observed as they stored the unloaded rifles in the carrying cases.

"Thanks," Daniel replied. "You're a good teacher. Inside and outside of school!"

Trudy smiled in response to Daniel's compliment, thinking that now might be the best moment to broach the subject she'd been wanting to mention to Daniel for over a week. As they placed the rifle cases in the back seat of her car, she said, "Daniel, I'm curious about something."

"What's that?"

"When were you planning to tell your parents?"

Daniel looked over at Trudy, suddenly nervous. "My parents? Tell them what?" Had Trudy somehow stumbled on his secret love for Xavier, Connor and Diego? Did she know about their soul-binding connection? How had she figured it out?

Trudy saw the fear and concern in Daniel's eyes. "It's important for parents to let their children have privacy in their personal lives. I've always believed that. But I've also always felt that young people need to keep their parents involved when it comes to the really major issues."

Daniel swallowed nervously. "So … you think I should tell them about …"

Trudy nodded. "Don't you think they should know that you are a vaewolf?"

Daniel was so surprised to hear that question that he didn't know what to say at first.

Trudy gently squeezed his shoulder. "Your parents love you, Daniel. It's so obvious, and I'm sure they won't stop loving you when they learn that you are … well, a very special young man with unique powers. It's something I think they need to know."

Daniel felt somewhat relieved to hear that Trudy wasn't pushing him to come out of the closet. That would be truly terrifying. But when he thought about it, confessing to his parents that he was a supernatural creature, a werewolf and vampire hybrid, was almost as heart-stopping.

"Will you help me when I tell them?" he asked.

"Of course, I will, Daniel." She squeezed his shoulder again. "Tell me when to be there."

A few days later, Mike Anderson looked up from his newspaper to see Daniel and Trudy walking through the front door. "Oh. Hello," he said, standing up to shake Trudy's hand.

"Dad, this is Trudy Cantone, my drama teacher."

Mike smiled. "Daniel loves taking your class. He says you make it fun and educational, all at the same time."

Trudy laughed. "I try my best. It's nice to meet you at last, Mr. Anderson."

"Please. Call me Mike."

"Only if you call me Trudy. I feel so old when people call me Ms. Cantone."

Mike turned and shouted over his shoulder, "Judy, we have a guest."

Judy Anderson came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a small towel. "Hello, Trudy," she said, breaking into a grin. "Time for my first lesson?"

"Hi, Judy. No, I'm simply here as a friend of the family today."

Judy smiled. "Well, Daniel seems to believe you are an exceptional teacher, whether it's learning to fire a weapon or act in a play. He said you are the best director he's ever had."

Trudy chuckled and then frowned. "I think I'm the only director he's ever had."

"That's true," Daniel admitted, but you make it crazy fun for all of us."

Mike motioned for Trudy to have a seat. "Welcome to our home, Trudy. What can we do for you?"

Trudy sat down, answering, "I'm just here for moral support." She glanced at Daniel and smiled.

Daniel gulped. "Yeah, ummm. Mom. Dad. I have something I need to tell you." Daniel sat down next to Trudy and took a deep breath and blew it out. This was so much harder than he thought it would be. "Maybe you should both sit down."

Mike and Judy sat across from Daniel on the couch, looking at him with mild concern. "Whatever it is, sweetie, you know we'll support you," Judy said.

Mike nodded. "That's right, son. We love you. So relax and spit it out."

Daniel sighed. It was easy for them to say that, but how would they feel when he finally told them? He glanced at Trudy, saw her nod encouragingly, and turned back to his parents. "Mom, Dad, this is the probably the hardest thing I've ever had to tell you…" Daniel paused, begging his heart to stop pounding out of his chest.

Judy leaned forward and softly said, "Dear boy, you don't have to say it."

"I don't?"

Judy nodded, smiling. "We know, honey."

"You do?"

"Yes. We've known for some time. Right, dear?" She turned and smiled at Mike.

He nodded and said, "It's okay, son. You're our boy. We love you, and that's never going to change. Being gay is not going to affect our relationship."

"Huh? What are you talking about, Dad?"

Mike tipped his head slightly. "Are you going to sit there and tell me you aren't gay, son? Your mom and I both know, and we don't care."

Stunned, Daniel stuttered, "Well, ummm, yeah, I am gay, but—"

"But what?" Judy asked. "There is nothing for you to add, Daniel. It's your life, and we support you in who you choose to love. I'm sure you and Connor will be very happy together. He's such a sweet boy."

"What? You think I'm gay and Connor is my boyfriend?"

Mike chuckled. "I told you it wasn't Connor, Judy. I was right. It's Xavier. Daniel has always gone for the dark and mysterious types."

Daniel shook his head in confusion. "Xavier? No, that's not it."

His parents looked at each other, confused. "If it's not Connor or Xavier, who could it be?" Mike asked Judy.

She shrugged. "It must be Diego. He's an adorable boy, and they make a cute couple."

Daniel huffed, "You guys … no, actually, yes. It's all of them, but that's not what I wanted to tell you."

"All of them?" Judy asked.

Mike patted her knee. "Dear, they're teenagers. Experimenting is normal, and all four of them are probably still trying to figure out what they want in a relationship."

"You're right, Mike. I'm sure that's it."

"No," Daniel insisted, growing frustrated with the direction the conversation was going. "We aren't experimenting. We all love each other. Our souls are connected, bound together. I can't really explain it, but I love all three of them and … and that's not what I wanted to tell you."

Judy smiled. "Then what did you want to say, sweetie."

"I'm a vaewolf!" Daniel shouted, relieved to finally say the words.

"A vaewolf?" Mike asked, raising an eyebrow. "What's a vaewolf? Is that a clique at school … something like the Goths? Are you going to start painting your fingernails black?"

"No, Dad! A vaewolf." Daniel sighed and shook his head. The easiest way to do this was simply to show them. He collected himself, then transformed into his vaewolf form, shredding his clothes in the process.

Light blonde hair covered a ripped, powerful, wolf-like body.

Bright golden eyes shone with a supernatural light.

Fangs dripped from his extended snout and sharp claws curled at the ends of his paws.

Daniel took several deep breaths, then transformed back into a teenager, tugging his shredded clothes back into place as best he could. "That is a vaewolf. That's what I am."

His mom passed out.

His dad gulped and said, "I think I need a drink."

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