Soulbound ‡ clash

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 13

"Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war."

-- Mark Antony from Julius Ceasar by William Shakespeare

It was a somber group that met in the Agony community center that night.

Daniel and his soulmates stood on the stage, waiting for the Agony humans to take their seats in the auditorium. Then Daniel moved to the front of the stage and spoke. "Thank you all for coming tonight. I'm afraid we have bad news to share with you." There was no need for Daniel to ask for their undivided attention. All the humans in the room were staring intently at him now.

Daniel continued, "You listened when I told you what was really going on in this town. You all had your suspicions, and I confirmed your worst nightmares when I admitted that some of your neighbors were werewolves and others were vampires. You trusted me when I assured you that we meant you no harm, that we simply wanted to live here with you, taking care of our loved ones, raising families, living at peace with one another."

Daniel sighed and looked around the audience. The humans were now nervous and concerned. All the good will he'd fought so hard to create in Agony was fading away, and he saw a room full of frightened people, worried about what they and their families were now facing.

Daniel resumed speaking. "I told you the truth then. I didn't hide anything from you, and I'm going to tell you the truth tonight, so you can decide what is best for you and your families." Daniel took a deep breath and said, "War is coming to Agony. Supernatural conflict that none of you are capable of fighting. We may not be able to win this fight either—" Daniel gestured behind him at Connor, Xavier and Diego— "but we have no choice. We're the target, and if we don't fight back, we'll be hunted down and killed. But you have a choice. You can leave tonight. Get out of Agony and save your families. We want you to know what is coming so you can save yourselves."

Trudy stood up and boldly asked, "What exactly is the danger, Daniel. Tell us everything you know."

Daniel turned to Xavier and motioned for him to come forward. As the only vampire in the building, he was best able to explain the threat.

Xavier moved up next to Daniel and addressed the humans. "Centuries ago, the vampire world faced a rebellion within its own ranks. A group of ancient vampires attempted to take over all the existing Covenants, with the goal of eventually taking over the world. Their express purpose was to enslave all of humanity and to destroy all who opposed them, including all lycanthropes. The Covenants fought back, and most of the ancient vampires were killed or sent into hiding. One of those—a being who calls himself Ignatius—escaped and went into hiding. He has now returned, more powerful than ever."

"Powerful how?" a man in the back of the auditorium stood up and asked. "I mean … vampires are already powerful, aren't they?"

Xavier nodded. "Yes. And ancient vampires are stronger than most other vampires when it comes to their ability to control people with their minds. That is not what makes Ignatius so dangerous. Ignatius possesses something we call a soulblade. It is a weapon that absorbs the soul of any creature it kills and transfers the abilities of those it kills to the one who wields it. He has used the soulblade to take capabilities that even vampires don't normally possess, and he has grown so powerful that it may be impossible to stop him now. He may be able to accomplish what the ancient vampires tried to do centuries ago … the domination of the world."

The man sank down into his seat, shaking. "Why is he here in Agony? What is he after?" he asked, his voice quivering now.

Xavier and Daniel looked at each other, and Daniel turned to face the humans. "We believe he's after one of us. Probably Diego or myself, because he wants to add the abilities of a vaewolf to his own. This isn't your fight. He doesn't want you. He wants us."

Frightened murmurs rose all around the room as the humans talked to one another.

A woman, her voice quivering, asked, "How much time do we have?"

Connor stepped forward and said, "Very little. It would be a mistake to try to pack your belongings and leave tomorrow. We think Ignatius is on his way here and will arrive some time tonight, so you should leave now … as soon we finish here."

"And just abandon our homes?" one man asked.

"It's that or be killed," another man said.

"But if he just wants them, why don't they give themselves up. Maybe he'll take what he wants and leave," a trembling woman said.

Judy Anderson stood up, furious. Turning around to face the others in the room, she pointed back at Daniel and asked, "Is this how you repay my son and these other boys? They have fought for you. Defended you. Protected you with their own lives. And now you suggest that they give themselves up without a fight?"

Mike Anderson stood next to his wife, taking her in his arms. "Judy's right, and not because Daniel is our son. We'd fight for him if it was your son putting his life on the line. Because that's the right thing to do!"

The trembling woman refused to back down. "That's just it! We can't fight these … these monsters that are coming. We can't."

Mike turned around to look up at Daniel and the other young men on the stage. Daniel stared back at his dad with tears in his eyes. Mike swallowed hard and said, "I may not be able to do much in this fight, but by God I intend to try."

Judy nodded her head, noticing the look her husband and son exchanged. "I probably won't be able to fight at all, but I'm a nurse, and I'll do whatever I can to help." She pointed at the trembling woman. "Anne, you're an EMT. You can help me. We'll get medical supplies from my clinic. We can fight in our own way."

Voices around the room were raised as the humans began debating among themselves.

Trudy stood up and faced the others in the room. She raised her voice above the murmuring and asked, "Didn't you hear what they said? This creature isn't stopping here in Agony. He wants to take over the world. Do you think you'll be safe somewhere else?" Trudy paused and looked around the room, daring anyone to interrupt her. "Are you ready to give up so easily?"

A man stood up next to Trudy and said, "I agree. This is my damned town too. My home. I'm not leaving."

"That's easy for you to say, John," a woman shouted. "You don't have a family or children to protect."

The man next to Trudy started to answer, but Trudy put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "No … neither of us have children, but we do have family here in Agony. You are our family. Our neighbors. Our friends. Our coworkers. Everybody living here. Even the vampires in the Smyth Covenant and the werewolves in the Silvermane Pack. We're all family. If you need to leave … if you need to get your children out of here … we understand and we won't judge you. But I'm not leaving."

"I'm not leaving either," the man next to Trudy stated, turning to face Daniel. "I'm with you Daniel, and I'll fight with my bare hands if I have to. Those sons-of-bitches are comin' in here over my dead body!"

Several others stood up, shouting agreement. "We're behind you, Daniel," one man yelled.

Trudy turned to face Daniel and added, "You said it isn't our fight, Daniel. Well, my boy, it just became our fight too. What can we do to help?"

Diego, thrilled to hear the humans responding so forcefully, laughed and said, "I don't think it will be necessary for you to fight with your bare hands. I think we have a way to even up the odds for all you non-supernatural types. Right, guys?"

Diego easily snapped the chains on the main gate of the National Guard armory. The locked front door was harder to beat down, but Connor was able to break it open by shifting fully into werewolf form. The door to the gun room wasn't so easy to break; Connor couldn't budge it using all his strength. Xavier walked up and pulled Connor back before he hurt himself. Then Xavier held up a set of keys he'd found in a front office. Trying several, one unlocked the door, and Xavier gestured for Trudy to lead the way into the room.

"The blue rounds are coated with silver," Connor explained. "The government used them against m'Pack when they attacked our Lodge last year. They will kill a werewolf."

"And the gray rounds are coated with arsenic," Xavier added. "Suitable for taking out a vampire, although we're not sure they'll be effective against Ignatius Caedes."

"Please be careful where you aim your weapons," Daniel said. "Try not to kill our own people or each other. These are still deadly rounds if they hit a human."

Trudy pulled an AR-15 from a rack and checked the movement. Looking around at the other humans, she said, "I suggest you alternate blue and gray rounds in your magazines. That way you can kill a vampire or a werewolf with a burst of fire. And if you run into this Ignatius bastard, hold the trigger down."

The sun was setting behind them. They were scattered out in defensive positions behind buildings, trees, anything that might provide some cover.

Donny was behind the feed store with several other vampires and werewolves. They hoped that by working as a single unit, they'd be able to play on each other's strengths, no matter what they faced.

Trudy and a small group of humans waited on the top of the theater with Xavier and several other vampires. The vampires' eyes glowed red as they all enhanced their vision to see as far into the distance as possible. They were to be the eyes for the humans, telling them where to aim.

Scattered throughout the city park were Silvermane werewolves, led by Connor. They were all in wolf form at the moment, crouching down to remain hidden in the bushes and shrubs, waiting for Connor's signal to transform into werewolves.

Daniel stood in the middle of the street, the only one who was exposed, providing a target for enemy attacks. He was prepared to teleport instantly, jumping through time if necessary, once he saw where Ignatius sent his forces.

A deep rumbling growl came from the far side of the park. They all turned and saw a massive white bear approaching. The bear's form shivered and transformed into that of a tall, muscular man with white hair down to his shoulders.

Connor jumped up from his hiding place and ran toward the white-haired man, shifting as he ran. He was in human form when he reached the man, throwing his arms out wide to wrap the man in a tight hug. "Hota! Thank you for coming!" Connor shouted.

"I'm where I should be," Hota replied. "Where I am needed. Did I not say we would fight side by side when next we faced this ancient one?"

Connor grinned and gripped Hota's broad shoulders. "You asked me to raise an army to fight Ignatius." Connor gestured around him. "I did, Hota."

Hota nodded solemnly. "You did well, little brother. Let us prepare for what must be done." Hota shifted back into bear form and trotted across the park to stand next to Daniel. There was no point in him trying to hide anywhere. How do you hide a white-furred bear bigger than the largest grizzly?

Connor returned to his spot in the park, grinning with excitement, and shifted back into wolf form. Caleb slinked up next to Connor and crouched on the ground beside him, waiting.

From their spot on the roof of the theater, Trudy turned to Xavier and asked, "Who's the bear?"

Xavier smiled. "A friend. A cousin of the werewolves, a lycanthropic bear. But most importantly, a sworn enemy of Ignatius Caedes."

Trudy nodded and checked the safety on her weapon. "Let's hope more of his enemies show up."

"Indeed," Xavier said with a smile.

'Now what's he mean by that?' Trudy asked herself.

Two hours, twenty minutes, and a handful of seconds later, they were all beginning to wonder if the fight was actually going to occur … when all hell broke loose.

The trees in the park began creaking, bending and twisting their branches in every direction, but there was no wind. The Silvermane werewolves, their senses on high alert, slinked away from the trees, sniffing the wind cautiously. Caleb Murphy leaned into Connor, snarling with concern. Connor licked Caleb's face, reassuring him. They both moved to a pool of shadow next to the gazebo in the middle of the park.

The trees shivered, shook and wrenched themselves from the ground. Suddenly alive, their branches reached down, attempting to capture any werewolf who was near. Connor howled a complex pattern of yipping wails. The Pack pulled back to his position, dodging the grasping branches.

The earth cracked beneath them as buried roots erupted. Deborah Murphy was grabbed and pulled below the surface with a muffled yelp. Her packmates jumped at the spot where she disappeared, digging frantically. They exposed the roots and the buried wolf, biting the roots and ripping with their teeth until they were able to free her. Deborah leapt from hole and shook, throwing dirt in every direction, then turned with a snarl and transformed into a furious werebitch who used her claws and teeth to tear large pieces of wood from the twisting roots.

Two other trees snapped their branches down, grabbing the furious werewolf by her arms and legs and pulling in different directions. She howled in fury and pain, yelping when her body was torn into several bloody pieces and tossed to the ground, now gory lumps of fur and bone.

The Pack pulled back, stunned at their first mortality in this fight. Caleb howled mournfully, a heart-wrenching wail for the death of his big sister.

Connor yowled again, calling the Pack off and leading them to edge of the park, away from the ambulatory trees, looking for enemies they could actually sink their teeth into.

Trudy and Xavier peered over the edge of the theater roof at the turmoil in the city park. "Do you see anything?" Trudy asked.

"Nothing," Xavier replied. He scanned the horizon, but there were no enemies in sight. His eyes glowed bright red as he struggled to see as far into the distance as possible. Still nothing. He frowned and mumbled to himself, "Where are they? We should be able to see them if they're casting spells already …" Slowly, he tilted his head up and looked into the sky above them. Tumbling green-tinged clouds were directly above Agony, and falling from the clouds were dark shapes. Werewolves. Vampires. Wild-haired Amazonians. And in their midst was Ignatius Caedes, weaving his hands before him, summoning wind that dropped them slowly from the sky into the middle of Agony.

Xavier shouted and pointed. "Above us!"

Trudy and the other humans looked up and saw the invaders dropping from the sky. Lifting their weapons, they began firing off quick bursts of gunfire. The bullets seemed to stop halfway there, ricocheting off some type of shimmering barrier.

"What the hell?" Trudy muttered. "What's going on?"

Xavier stood up and gestured for Regina, Sebastian and the other vampires with him to follow his lead. "The witches must be doing something to stop our gunfire. We need to jump to their position and stop their spellcasting." Turning to Trudy, he said, "Careful where you aim. We're going up there."

Trudy nodded, lowering her weapon and shouting at the other humans to cease fire.

Xavier turned and picked a spot next to a descending witch. He attempted to jump to that location, but couldn't. He turned and looked at Sebastian. Sebastian's eyes were wide in surprise. "I can't teleport," Sebastian said.

"I can't either," Regina said, adding, "Why can't we jump, Xavier?"

Witches descended to the top of the theater, mumbling and grasping the amulets at their necks. Werewolves dropped to the roof with them and leapt at Xavier, the Smyth Covenant vampires, and the Agony humans standing there.

It became a free-for-all fight. The humans tried to fire their guns into the face of the leaping werewolves, but the rounds bounced off their fur, which now glowed with a frosty sheen. When the werewolves closed with them, the humans were no match for sweeping claws, which ripped them open with each vicious swipe. A man twisted and fell, dropping his gun to clutch at his bleeding throat. Another jumped back, firing ineffectively in the face of the werewolf before him, who casually swiped the gun away and ripped open the man's stomach, howling in victory as the human collapsed.

Xavier and the Agony vampires fought to defend their friends, throwing the werewolves back and pulling the humans behind them. Now evenly matched, it was vampire against werewolf, with cackling witches watching from the edge of the roof.

Trudy, seeing that they were outmatched, called for a retreat, opening the door leading down into the theater. The humans who could still stand ran through the door and down into the theater while the Smyth Covenant vampires held off the attackers long enough for most of them to escape.

It was chaos, and soon the rooftop was slippery with blood … human, werewolf, and vampire.

Sebastian found himself pinned beneath three werewolves, fighting for his life. "XAVIER!" he screamed.

Xavier grabbed the arm of the werewolf he was fighting and spun in a circle, throwing the lycan across the roof, knocking two witches over the edge. "REGINA!" he shouted, pointing at Sebastian.

Regina looked up, her fangs bloody from tearing open the neck of a werewolf she had defeated. Searching in the direction Xavier pointed, Regina saw Sebastian's desperate fight.

Together, they leapt across the roof to help Sebastian.

The werewolves holding Sebastian down saw them coming. One reached down and twisted Sebastian's neck violently to the side. Then they jumped over the side of the building, retreating with witches scrambling after them.

Xavier and Regina skidded to a stop next to Sebastian. His head was turned at a sickening angle, and his eyes were wide in surprise. He blinked slowly, looking up at Regina with a sad smile. "So this is what it feels like to be mortal …" he whispered as the light left his eyes.

"NOOOO!" Regina screamed, sobbing and clutching at Sebastian's shirt. Xavier wrapped her in his arms, pulling her away from Sebastian's body.

"COME ON, REGINA," Xavier shouted, hugging Regina to his chest. "We can't stay here!" He pulled her across the roof and motioned for the surviving vampires of his Covenant to follow, leaving behind the bloody carnage of the rooftop melee.

Ignatius and his army descended safely to the ground and began spreading out through the streets. Small packs of werewolves hunted together, always with a witch from the Tribe in their midst, clutching the jade amulet at her throat, muttering spells of protection. Other witches accompanying roaming bands of vampires, searching inside buildings for targets to destroy.

Gunfire erupted here and there, as the humans of Agony fought to defend their town. The witches grunted and gestured, and every bullet bounced off harmlessly.

"How are they doing that?" one man shouted, desperately emptying his magazine.

"I don't know," another replied, snapping a new magazine in place. "Fall back and keep firing."

The witches' voices changed pitch as they cast new spells. Frosty armor coated each of their werewolves and vampires. Their fur and skin were glacially hard now, and the rounds bounced off, doing no damage.

Ignatius stood in the street, several vampires and witches ranged behind him. He casually stroked the green amulet hanging around his neck, smiling in anticipation of the carnage to come. When he saw Daniel and Hota standing in the street a block away, he began walking slowly toward them.

Daniel and Hota waited.

Daniel turned to Hota and whispered, "I'm jumping back in time to warn everyone how the attack will start."

Hota nodded and stepped in front of Daniel.

Daniel closed his eyes and focused on a spot and moment in time. He opened his eyes. He was still in the street, next to Hota.

He tried again. Nothing.

"Something's wrong, Hota," he whispered. "I can't time jump. I can't teleport at all."

Ignatius kept walking toward them, grinning maliciously while rubbing the amulet at his neck.

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