Soulbound ‡ clash

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 11

No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

-- Attributed to Prussian Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke

Two hundred miles from Agony, in a bed-and-breakfast inn that the owners no longer managed (since their bodies now occupied shallow graves in the back yard), Ignatius Caedes stood in front of the fireplace, explaining what he had in mind. "I want to see how the creatures of Agony respond to an attack. Consider this merely a feint. I wish to know how well prepared they are and how they counter an assault. Draw them out, my children, then retreat when they react. I will be watching, and I will reward the bold and fearless. You are my valiant followers, my instruments of chaos, and it is time for you to be unleashed upon my foes."

The vampires around the table nodded, their eyes dim and mesmerized by Ignatius' words.

The werewolves licked their lips in anticipation.

The witches struggled to remember why they were here, so far from their home on the River of the Ancestors. Though they fought against Ignatius' domination, he held them firmly under his control.

Paulo stared at Ignatius, fighting to understand how the Tribe continued following Corpo Seco, struggling to understand why he didn't transform into a flamingo and fly as far and as fast as he could.

Each of the invading groups had their instructions and their targets, so they knew what was expected of them. The Dubois and Koleva Covenants were assigned to attack the Silvermane Lodge. The Müller Covenant was tasked with testing the defenses of the Smyth mansion. The three wolf packs were to roam the streets, slaying any creature they found unprotected. The witches of the Tribe were to stay with Ignatius, watching and observing for now.

"If there are no questions, move your people into position and wait for my signal to attack." Ignatius pulled out a cell phone and studied it carefully. He held it out to Michel Dubois and asked, "How do I send a text message again?"

Michel showed Ignatius how to access the group text feature, then helped him to transmit a short message to all the Pack alphas and Covenant executors.

When the cell phones around the table began beeping all at once, Ignatius snorted with amusement. "How intriguing? What will humans come up with next? I suppose we should keep them around just so they can create more toys such as these." He waved his hand dismissively. "You all have your orders. You have three days to get in position and await my signal to initiate the attack. Go and wreak havoc, my children."

"I can't go. Please, don't ask me to leave." Tears cascaded down Diego's cheeks as he pleaded with his father.

Miguel Ruiz bit back the frustrated answer he had planned to give his son. It was obvious to Miguel why Diego didn't want to leave Agony. Fleeing Brazil had devastated them all, abandoning their home and leaving for a foreign land, but it had been especially hard on Diego because it meant losing his childhood friend, Paulo. It had been less difficult to uproot themselves from Houston, for they hadn't lived there long enough to feel at home, living in hotel rooms just long enough to legally change their names and purchase their new home in North Dakota. Now, having lived here in Agony for a year, Miguel had seen Diego become happier than he'd ever been. It certainly had a lot to do with the friends he'd made, of that Miguel was certain, but the family's safety overrode all other considerations.

Miguel sat down next to Diego and gently asked, "Do you understand why we cannot stay here, Diego? After what happened to your grandfather?"

Diego sighed and nodded his head. "I do, Father, but I can't leave. I just can't."

"Why, Diego?"

"I can't explain it, Father."

Miguel nodded. Perhaps the boy thought his relationship with the other boys was a secret, but it hadn't escaped the notice of the Ruiz elders. They all saw how much Diego loved his soulmates, and they had even discussed the possibility that he would soon leave the family in favor of Daniel, Connor, and Xavier. But he was still so young. Miguel decided to offer a compromise. "The family will be leaving in two days, Diego. You know the reason why. And you know where we are relocating, right?"

Diego looked up, sniffing back the tears. "Yes, Father. You are going back to Houston, where the rest of the Order has set up an enclave."

"And you know how to get there?"

"Yes, Father. I can teleport that far without any problem. I've done it once, with Daniel's help."

"Then perhaps there is something we can do that will allow you to stay here while the rest of the family returns to Houston."

"I have a HUGE favor to ask," Daniel said as he sat down at the table with Judy, his mother.

"Oh? What's that, dear?"

"Diego's family is leaving for Houston, but Diego really wants to stay and finish the school year here in Agony."

Judy tilted her head at Daniel. "And you were hoping Diego could stay here with us?"

Daniel smiled. "How'd you guess?"

Judy chuckled. "You've been my son for 16 years. I think I know you pretty well by now."

Giggling, Daniel asked, "So? Can he stay with us?"

"I don't see why not? He always helps with the dishes when he comes over to eat. I'm sure he'll be the perfect house guest." Judy paused and then asked, "Is he also …?"

Daniel grinned. "Yes, Mom. Diego is a vaewolf, just like me." Daniel didn't add that it was his own fangs that had injected Diego with vaewolf venom, biting him in the inner thigh just below his balls, converting Diego and making him a soulbound lover in their foursome. Some things you just didn't discuss with your mom.

"I suppose it doesn't matter," Judy added. "I'm not even sure why I asked that question."

Daniel jumped up and ran around the table to hug her. "We don't turn into vaewolves when the moon is full, so you don't have to worry about that. And we'll keep our rooms clean and eat the same amount as all other teenagers."

"Wonderful!" Judy replied, sarcastically. "That means I'll have to go shopping every other day to keep enough food in the house for the two of you."

Daniel kissed his mother's cheek. "Thanks a million, Mom. You're the greatest."

Two days later, with happier tears, Diego said goodbye to his family, promising to come eat supper with them every night. And then he moved his personal belongings into the Anderson's house, where he would be using the guest room. He planned to sleep with Daniel, but for the sake of appearances, he used the closet and dresser for all his clothing.

Before the Ruiz family left for Houston, Miguel took Diego aside and made it clear that at the first sign of danger, Diego was to leave Agony and teleport to Houston, where he would be reasonably safe with the rest of the Order of the Golden Stone. Diego agreed, hoping with all his heart that it wouldn't be necessary.

Miguel kissed his son tenderly on the forehead, then summoned a windstorm to lift the family and their luggage into the air and carry them south.

Late that night, with the moon now at full and providing plenty of illumination for the invaders to see, the Dubois and Koleva vampires began moving forward from the cover of the nearby forest, headed for the Silvermane Lodge. Jumping several yards at a time, they leap-frogged up the hill to the Lodge, onto the balconies and porches, and checked the doors.


They rushed inside, checking each room.

Empty. No one was there.

Michel Dubois sent a quick text message to Ignatius, informing him that the Agony werewolves weren't in their Lodge that night.

Ignatius growled, frustrated to hear that most of his vampires were assaulting an empty building. He ordered Michel to return to their base and await further orders. It would have been interesting to see how his vampires fared against the Silvermane werewolves, but it was useful to know that their Lodge was unoccupied. One less place to send his forces when the actual fight began.

The Müller Covenant vampires approached the Smyth mansion carefully. It was also dark, though lights had been noticed in several windows earlier in the evening. They'd seen the messages between Ignatius and the other two Covenants, and Oskar Müller did not want a similar embarrassment. Cautiously they moved forward, surrounding the large house. Testing several doors, they found them locked, but a quick glance through any available window gave them the bearings they needed to teleport past the locked doors, into the dark interior of the mansion.

From there, it was a simple matter to move silently up the stairs from the first floor to the second-floor landing. At that point, their plans were disrupted by Regina opening her bedroom door and walking outside. She looked down from the landing and saw the dozen or so strange vampires walking up the stairs. She immediately disappeared, teleporting back into her room. Picking up her cell phone, she called Xavier.

Miles away, in the cabin high up on the mountain, Xavier awoke with a start, grabbing the beeping cell phone off the table next to the bed. "Hello … okay … we'll be right there." Xavier turned to Daniel, the only one in bed with him at the time. "It's started. They're attacking my house right now."

Daniel nodded, transforming into a vaewolf and transporting himself backward in time one hour and just a few feet to one side. Bending down over the bed, he was slightly disconcerted to see himself, lying there, cuddled up between Diego and Xavier, with Connor stretched out on the edge of the bed, one arm tossed over his eyes as he slept. Daniel gently shook Connor, waking him up.

Connor groaned as he opened his eyes and saw Daniel leaning over him.

Daniel whispered, "In one hour, they will be attacking the Smyth mansion."

Connor grunted and sat up.

Daniel disappeared, returning to the future to help Xavier prepare.

Connor woke up Diego, who yawned and stretched. Connor motioned for him to slip out of bed, leaving Daniel and Xavier cuddled together. Connor placed his finger over his lips, whispering, "Let them sleep. I'm going to the McCoy's. You spread the word."

Diego nodded and disappeared, jumping to the Smyth mansion to organize the vampires to head off the attack.

Connor picked up his own cell phone and sent a quick text to his Pack mates, asking them to head directly to Agony to meet the attack head on. Then he transformed into his werewolf body and headed out the cabin door. Sprinting down the mountain, he could cut cross country and be at the McCoys' house in 10 minutes, then they could all drive the rest of the way into Agony.

Ignatius Caedes wasn't the only one who could use modern technology.

One hour later, the Müller Covenant vampires saw Regina teleporting back into her bedroom. Oskar Müller motioned for his vampires to rush the stairs before she could call for help. As they ran to the second-floor landing, a dozen Smyth Covenant vampires led by Diego blocked their path, throwing the first few invaders backward into the others, sending them all tumbling down the stairs. Moving out of the shadows of the darkened room below, Daniel and Xavier led several other Agony vampires, who attacked the disorganized invaders from behind, ripping and tearing, killing several before Oskar Müller hastily shouted for them to retreat. How the bloody hell had the Agony defenders responded so quickly and with such deadly effect?

The invading werewolf packs moved through downtown Agony. Their orders had been vague. Kill anyone they found as they roamed through town, hunting for defenseless prey to catch and rend.

So far, it had been a pointless mission. The streets were empty. No one was about.

Up ahead, Trudy Cantone walked out of her house and faced the werewolves. She held a hunting rifle in her hands. Lifting it quickly, she aimed and fired off several rounds. The bullets tore through the shaggy bodies of the werewolves, slowing them down only for a moment, for their bodies healed quickly.

Trudy stood her ground and kept firing.

The werewolves slavered, foaming at the mouth, and sped up, heading directly for her.

The lead wolf suddenly found himself tumbling head over heels, with the enormous rust-furred shape of Connor Finnegan snapping his jaws on the invading wolf's throat, choking out his life as they rolled into a bush.

Ethan and Donny McCoy launched themselves through the air, striking the next wolf in line, working together to tear it open. With the damage being so severe, even the werewolf's recuperative powers couldn't keep up and it died with Ethan and Donny standing over it, continuing to tear it apart.

The rest of the invading werewolves paused in their strike. Vehicles were pulling up and Silvermane werewolves were pouring out, rushing to attack.

The bushes next to the street rustled and Connor walked out, his fangs dripping blood, his eyes bright and glowing.

The invading lycans whimpered and retreated hastily, tails tucked between their legs.

Lights came on in the nearby houses. Doors opened. Humans stepped out, staring in shock at the carnage in the streets.

Connor shifted back into human form. His Pack followed his example. The people of Agony looked on, stunned to see their suspicions finally confirmed.

Connor looked at Trudy, who shrugged as if to say, 'It was bound to happen sooner or later.'

Humans in bathrobes gathered around Connor and his pack. Daniel and Diego teleported in when Connor alerted them to the problem. Xavier was right behind them. The four boys faced their neighbors and friends, knowing the time had come to explain what was going on.

Daniel moved to the front and said, "I suppose there's no point in pretending any more. We are what you think we are … werewolves, vampires, and vaewolves. Creatures of the night. Supernatural beings with special powers. But we won't hurt you. Just the opposite. We're fighting against these other creatures to defend you and your homes."

One of the men came forward and asked, "Why are we under attack?"

Xavier stepped up and said, "We aren't sure yet, but we're doing our best to find out. Until we know, we assure you that we will defend your lives with our own."

The man was puzzled. "Let me get this straight. You are vampires. Or werewolves. And you're willing to die for humans? For us?"

Daniel held up his hand. "Hold on just a minute. We're human too. Maybe there's a wolf or a vampire on the outside, but inside, in the heart, we're no different from you."

Connor nodded. "Daniel is right. Agony is our home. And we'll fight to defend it, doing everything we can to protect our friends and neighbors." Connor paused and added, "But I think we owe you more than protection. There are a few things we've learned that you all have a right to hear, so you can decide what you will do for the good of your own families."

Ignatius Caedes was unusually calm after the failed attacks on Agony. He paced back and forth, toying with the black dagger and occasionally stroking the jade amulet at his throat. "How did they know?" he asked himself over and over. "How did they respond so quickly?"

Michel Dubois nervously cleared his throat and said, "Perhaps the vaewolves have unknown powers."

Ignatius turned and stared at Michel until he lowered his eyes.

Ignatius grinned malevolently and said, "It would so appear. And I wish to know what those powers are and how to counter them. You will make it your personal mission to learn this, Michel."

Michel nodded quickly and stepped back.

Oskar Müller, one arm in a sling and a nasty gash across his cheek, snarled, "You spoke of rumors of an alliance. Of the Silvermanes working with the Smyths. Well, now we see those rumors are true. There are some who have heard they are changing the name of their town from Agony to Unity. Were you aware of this when you sent us in as sheep to be slaughtered?"

Ignatius spun to face Oskar and launched the dagger underhand to pierce the vampire's throat. His body collapsed upon itself, turning into a pile of ash. Ignatius walked slowly forward and bent down to retrieve the dagger. Sniffing the blade, he found nothing useful about the soul it had just consumed.

Turning slowly, he studied the vampires, witches, and werewolves in the room. "Unity? Really? Give them their moment of false security, for soon I shall show them what it means to reside in Agony once again."

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