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Nocturnal - Chapter 3: Inner Strength

Chapter 3 of Nocturnal

The vote was made and the procession moved onward. They had only a few hours before nightfall and hoped to reach their companions in time. On the trail, as they walked, Lycan pondered the possibility of making another like him, wondering if Jace could handle it and trying to judge his character. At the same time, his thoughts kept going back to why the killings had ended so quickly and, if there were survivors, how they had survived. During the travel, Lycan did not talk much, but when he did it was to the guards, as they seemed willing to at least risk their lives for their fellow townspeople. He knew he had to build his numbers and was looking for strong willed people to aid in the fight.

The trail was long and tiresome, but not many complained. They were moving much quicker than the caravan that left before them; however they had much less time to reach their companions. Lycan was trying to work out a strategy for the group, but all he could come up with was to keep them close together, as they were out in the open and moving. While he was still in thought, the group began to let out gasps of astonishment and some of them dropped their belongings and ran forward. Somewhat to Lycan’s surprise, there were some people about 40 yards ahead, which appeared to be with the caravan. The group they came upon were fewer in number than, when they left but most seemed to survive.

As Lycan approached the camp, he noticed near its edge, several makeshift graves. Many of the people in their party rushed ahead, as they saw people and shouts of relief and jubilation filled the air, but were soon followed by a soft somber tone, as they began to notice the ones who were no longer there. As the two groups merged, everyone began to talk. Lycan was listening intently to discover how they had managed without him with them and why the vampires had left so many alive. He was listening to a group that seemed to be distant relatives, cousins and the like, retelling what had happened and how surprised they were.

“We were making camp for the night when we heard something on the edge of our vision. We did not know what it was, but assumed it was just someone gathering firewood, as we had sent a few that way, It took only moments for the screams to start. When two the men came back hysterical, we knew something was wrong. As soon as they made the clearing, two of the demons ran like lightning out of the brush behind and killed the men right in front of us.”

The woman’s voice began to shake, as tears welled up in her eyes.

“They were just playing with us, trying to scare us and make us watch. They quickly left the two men and began to pick at the main group. They were like cat’s playing with mice, it was horrible! Then out of nowhere, wolves came out of the forest and started after the vampires, as if they were being commanded by someone, there must have been 12 or 13 in the pack. They were able to drive away the vampires and seemed to chase them out. We were saved by wild beasts!”

The man she was talking to gestured to the graves.

“Is that them?”

“Some of them, they took the two they started the attack with, when they fled. Buried there is only their memory."

Lycan stood by thinking about the wolves and why they would have attacked or even known these people were in trouble. He thought maybe there was some connection, as there were wolves where he had been fighting as well. Then he remembered, while fighting he had been silently hoping that they would be safe or someone would protect them. When he was given power by the white wolf, he remembered he was also given the ability to communicate with the wolves. They must have heard my plea, he thought.

That could be very useful indeed. I cannot completely destroy these demons with only wolves, nor could I depend on them entirely for protecting these people, not forever anyway.

As dusk approached, the now large caravan began to make preparations for the night. Upon Lycan’s request, they set up all the hand carts in a circle around the camp for a barrier, albeit a nearly useless one. Lycan began to make his own preparations, as well. He tried to reach out to the wolves in the area, to request their assistance. Stay near us, he thought but instructed them to also stay out of the line of sight of the townspeople to try not to scare them too much. As he did, he could hear the subtle, stalking, steps of the wolves near the camp. All of the townspeople gathered within the makeshift barrier, as night descended upon them.

As the last rays of light faded, the people Lycan had traveled with were telling how they had survived the night with many pointed fingers and shocked looks at Lycan. Lycan was silently hoping that the stories would give these people enough hope to not panic and run from the barrier should anything happen. As the night took over, a silence crept over the people. It was fear that kept them wanting to talk to one another and ease their minds, but a greater fear to listen kept them quiet. As Lycan was sitting, listening and waiting, one of the soldiers from the previous night came up to him.

“Lycan, uh sir, I have learned something you might want to know. You seem to know a lot about these vampires, but just in case you do not know this, I feel it is important. Last night, when we were attacked by the two vampires in the back of the courthouse, I thought I may have recognized one of them…I was not entirely sure so I said nothing, I did not want to demoralize anyone you see…But when I asked who the two men were that were taken from here last night….One of them….Was him, the one I saw. We have heard the vampires had the ability to turn others, but we had no idea it could be this fast. Anyway I thought you should know this, I’ll be leaving”

As the soldier started to leave, Lycan spoke up. “That is good information indeed, thank you for sharing this. I know it must have been hard for you, and I am very sorry you had to see someone you knew, my friend.”

"Th-thank you..."

The man sputtered as he left. The night pressed on and many of the townspeople had made beds to try and sleep in that night. As the fire began to die out, Lycan had a strange sensation. He knew danger was approaching, but it was not as if he had heard it, but felt it. He then realized, he was sensing the warnings of danger from the wolves surrounding the camp. They must have heard or spotted something. Within seconds, Lycan could smell the strange mixture of blood and decay.

Lycan motioned Jace over and began to whisper, “Jace it is starting. They are coming now. If you can, station your guards in the gaps between the hand carts we setup. If they hear or see anything have them sound the alarm and move back to keep the people calm. We must keep all the townspeople within the barrier. If they are together, I can protect them better.”

“I’ll tell the men right away. Be careful Lycan, these new ones may not be as surprised to see you this time."

Jace left immediately after to get the guards into position for the possible attack. Lycan strode out into the night beyond the barrier. He remembered the strange sensations of his altered form and began his transformation. With his new body, he stalked stealthily to where the scent was coming from. Moving through the brush nearly silently, he came upon a figure seemingly hovering about a foot off the ground. The figure did not move, but stayed stationary, lifeless. Lycan’s instinct told him something was not right. Any time he saw the monsters, they were always moving, there was no doubt they could jump long distances, but fly? And why was it just sitting there not moving?

Lycan slowly approached the floating body, when he realized, to his horror, what was wrong. As he was closer, he could now see a rope of some sort hanging the figure from a nearby branch. It was a corpse dug up from the ground and hung, he could only guess, as a distraction. To the right of him, he heard a quick motion and a wolf bark in warning. As he tried to turn, his vision blurred, as a searing pain stretched across the side of his face. He felt his body flung through the brush, until it thudded into a tree. As his vision cleared, he saw the fast approaching vampire drop the giant splintered log that had, apparently, broken over his head. As the creature rushed forward, he stumbled to his feet to prepare himself for attack. The instant he knew he could not counter, he only tried to dodge. The vampire smashed into the tree trunk and clipped Lycan on his left side.

Lycan spun in the direction he was hit widening his stance to keep balance, as he turned half circle from the vampire’s momentum. He stopped facing the demon and launched forward to attack. The vampire reached a razor sharp clawed hand forward in a stabbing motion. Lycan sidestepped the vampire, his previous experience, as a warrior combined with his new reflexes gave him speed. As he sidestepped, he used his momentum to slam the vampire’s skull into the tree with his right arm. For an instant, the vampire was dazed, but at his proximity an instant was long enough. Lycan used his arms to bash the vampire several more times into the trunk, further disorienting him. Then with a snarl, he closed his jaws around the vampire’s neck and severed it from his body. The vampire’s body thudded to the ground and lay still at his feet.

Lycan began to hear numerous barks and growling from the direction of the camp, he swore and ran to aid the townspeople. When he arrived, he found a vampire attempting to attack the people beyond the barricade, but held back by nearly 20 wolves. Lycan approached from behind the struggling vampire and tackled it to the ground. On all fours, he quickly dispatched him and the surrounding wolves howled. Amidst the cries from the townspeople, Lycan heard a cry of agony, as many of the wolves retreated back to the woods. Lycan entered the camp and heard some gasps and screams of people looking upon him.

He could hear the soldiers trying to calm them, to tell them he would not harm any of them. But his eyes moved to the man writhing on the ground holding his neck. He walked up to the man on the ground and found it was Jace. One of the guards walked up to him and explained the situation while Lycan was kneeling next to his new friend.

“The vampire you just killed tricked him. It was his brother, the wolves tried to keep them apart, but once he was close enough the vampire was too fast and Jace was already outside the camp. The vampire bit him on the neck before the wolves tore him off. He must be turning."

Lycan looked at the man and recognized him as the one who had told him about the others turning earlier that night. Jace was writhing in pain for over 2 hours into the night, constantly shouting and yelling that he would not let this take him. Some of the townspeople were getting restless saying they should put him out of his misery that he won’t make it.

Lycan sat with him the whole time keeping the bleeding down, but knowing the man was turning and he could not do much for him. After a few moments more of thinking, he decided what he was going to do.

“Judging by how fast the others turned. It should be much quicker than this. You have been fighting it for hours now Jace, and if you can fight this for so long. You must have the inner strength to handle the power that I can give. Since you have not fully turned I may be able to change you still. My power is a poison to the vampire blood; this may hurt… A lot.”

Lycan turned back into his hybrid form, as he had changed out of it during Jace’s struggle, and leaned closer to Jace, biting his forearm. Jace screamed in pain and started to seizure. After minutes, the pain started to subside and Jace began to transform. His legs and arms growing longer and more muscled. His skin grew a thick, dark grey, coat of fur. And he took on the appearance of wolf and man. The transformation lasted only a moment then faded back, as he turned back to himself breathing heavily.

“Remember what the transformation felt like, Jace, this is how you will transform in the future. I do not know how much of my ability you have received, but it is enough to help the cause. This has taken a lot out of you and you must rest. But remember from this day forward, we are protectors of the people, we are the bane of vampires, and we are brothers.”

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