Augusta 8, 1035 P.W.D.
The reception hall at the IWHA’s South-Central Millios Regional H.Q. was packed that evening. Eighty or so newly ranked and licensed werewolf hunters, their well-wishers, and the entire Regional Board of Directors were all there for the annual promotion ceremony. The actual ceremony was already over, though, and the celebratory gala was now underway.
Wolfsbane Bendis took one last swig of his punch, then ran a hand through his short, jet black hair. The twelve-year-old boy’s eyes were focused on just one girl in that entire room that evening—his team mate, Emily Vardell. Yes, Emily; she of the brown hair and many knives. He had tried not to fall for her at first, but he just couldn’t help it! She was a masterful knife-fighter, had a mean right hook…and her eyes were the prettiest shade of brown he’d ever seen. She’d only gotten prettier since her boobs had started growing and her butt began to fill out last year.
However, Wolfsbane had no idea how to talk to girls in a romantic capacity. He could barely talk to Emily at all lately unless it was about work. Nonetheless, he had decided that tonight would be the night. He would tell Emily that he had a crush on her. After all, this could be the last time that they ever saw each other. The life of a werewolf hunter was deadly and dangerous, and one could never tell when “I’ll catch you later” could turn out to mean “see you in the afterlife.”
“Are you really going to tell her, Wolfsbane?” his little brother, Inferno, asked. The scrawny, brown-haired nine-year-old had been hanging close to him ever since the gala had begun. Inferno was shy with strangers and a bit socially awkward, so sticking with his big brother was probably only natural.
Wolfsbane set his empty glass down on the buffet table and nodded. “If I don’t tell her now, there might not be a second chance,” he replied. “I have no choice.”
With that, he headed across the room toward Emily with Inferno close behind him. She looked so good in that black and pink party dress, her brown hair done up in a lady-like up-doo accented with rhinestone butterfly hair pins with cascades of faux pearls dangling from them. She was like a princess from a fairytale…and Wolfsbane hoped that, for tonight, he could be her prince.
“H-hi, Emily,” Wolfsbane said as he reached her side. His palms were sweaty and his throat was suddenly very dry, but he did his best to look cool and collected.
She turned around and smiled at him—she had such a gorgeous smile. “Oh. Hi, Wolfsbane,” she said. “You enjoying the party? …Not that it’s so much a party as a bunch of adults making polite chit-chat over cocktails and caviar while a bunch of kids revise their wills…”
Wolfsbane laughed nervously. “Well…yes. I guess it could be wilder…” he said. “There might be some hope, though. I thought that I overheard my uncle talking about a piñata a little while ago. Knowing him, it’s likely part of one of his pranks…Uh, by the way, have you met my little brother Inferno yet? Say hello to Emily, Inferno.”
Inferno timidly peeked out from behind Wolfsbane’s back and uttered a quick, “Hello.” Then, he ducked back to his original position.
“Aw! Aren’t you adorable?!” Emily said. “I hear you’re a real genius when it comes to magic, too. Rich, smart, and cute—you must be beating the little girls back home back with a stick, huh?”
“Uh…actually…” Inferno said, “it’s more like I have one girl beating the bullies off me with a stick. Th-thanks for the compliment, though.”
“And so polite too! No wonder you already have a girlfriend!” Emily teased.
“Sh-she’s just a friend!” Inferno insisted. “Wolfsbane, tell her!”
Wolfsbane laughed and nodded. “Inferno is too young for that sort of thing,” he said. Now was his chance. This was the perfect moment to slip his confession in. “But, Emily…I…” He began to freeze up and his heart began to pound as if it were getting ready to leap from his chest.
“Huh? What is it, Wolfsbane?” she asked.
“Well…y-you see, Emily…I…” Wolfsbane stammered as warmth flooded his cheeks. “Emily…I…I…”
“Well, spit it out already, Bendis!” Emily said impatiently.
And then, the fatal error. “M-me like your boobies much-much!” Wolfsbane blurted nervously. The words that he had wanted to say hadn’t come out at all…and he’d just made himself sound like a moron and a pervert all at the same time. The force of Emily’s slap—hard enough to knock him off-balance for a moment—fully reflected that.
“You jerk!” Emily exclaimed as she turned her back on him and walked away. “All this time I thought you were a classy gentleman, and it turns out you’re just another perv! Don’t grow up to be like your idiot brother, Inferno. He’s a bad role model!”
A few people had started snickering at various points between the slap and the end of Emily’s speech. Wolfsbane had failed miserably. He not only had not been able to express how he really felt about her…but he had made a public laughingstock out of himself in the process. Just peachy…
“Well…that didn’t go well at all…” Inferno said as Wolfsbane regained his balance and rubbed his still-stinging left cheek. “Maybe you should try bugs in her hair next time.”
“Inferno…” Wolfsbane sighed, shaking his head.
“What? It works for some guys,” Inferno replied, totally serious.
‘The innocence of youth…’ Wolfsbane thought as he wandered to the other side of the room and out onto the wide balcony. Here and there, couples and small groups of friends were enjoying private chats with each other out in the fresh air. Wolfsbane, however, just leaned against the elegantly carved stone railing and stared dejectedly up at the waning gibbous moon above.
“Wolfsbane, was it really that important to you to get that girl to like you?” Inferno asked.
“Life and death,” Wolfsbane replied sadly. “I totally blew it…”
“Aw, don’t sweat it,” a familiar female voice said off to his left. “She cared enough to get mad and slap you, that’s a good sign.”
Wolfsbane tuned toward the voice and found none other than Caroline Magnus standing right beside him. The fifteen-year-old girl’s long, mousey brown hair was pulled back into a simple ponytail with a black and white striped ribbon which matched her lacy black and white dress and white opera gloves perfectly, and her brown eyes sparkled with mischief. Behind her stood Wolfsbane’s older brother, Silver. He was the same age as her, dressed in a suit which was all black aside from his tie and the lining of his coat—which were both a deep blood red. His jet black hair sported a gray streak which ran from just above his brow on the left side to all the way to the center of the back of his head—a mark earned from one of his earlier rookie missions. That streak, combined with the blade at his hip, the cold look in his dark brown eyes, and his icy manner, only served to enhance his air of impenetrable badassery.
“Yes, that means that instead of dismissing you as beneath her, she despises you as the scum of the Earth,” Silver said with an evil smirk on his face. “Congratulations, Little Brother. You are to women as garlic is to vampires.”
“That’s not funny, Silver,” Wolfsbane sighed.
“Oh, but it is!” Silver said. “Inferno, go inside and bother Father or Mother or someone. We have adult business to discuss here.”
“I can understand adult business—better than most adults!” Inferno protested.
“No you can’t, you flimsy little brat,” Silver said flatly. “Now, get lost.”
“I’m not going,” Inferno insisted.
Caroline giggled and said, “You know what? I think Silver said your Uncle Falcon needed some help with a special surprise. I saw him over by the big double doors. Maybe you should go and see what you can do, hm?”
At that, Inferno’s little eyes lit up and he went running off toward the doors. “Alright! I bet it’s the piñata!” he exclaimed cheerfully as he left.
“Well, now that the runt is out of the way,” Silver said coolly, “the three of us need to have a talk.”
“About what? How bad I am with women?” Wolfsbane asked dejectedly.
“That would be interesting…but no,” Silver replied.
“Then what?” asked Wolfsbane.
“Our team, of course! Duh!” Caroline said, ruffling his hair playfully.
“What team? Starting tomorrow, I will be working under Ren Ascot,” Wolfsbane sighed. He wasn’t particularly happy about the team-up himself. He had actually been looking forward to working with Silver and Caroline…but Father thought that it would be better for him to work with a more experienced team.
Caroline put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes. “Ren Ascot can eat a dick for all I care,” she said dismissively. “He ain’t shit, and neither are those two bitch-ass punks and that dumbass slut he hangs around with. In fact, I heard that bitch Helga is really a man and she only got her top magiced.”
Wolfsbane winced and flinched backward. “C-caroline! That’s not nice!” he cried.
“But that’s what I heard,” she said, smiling mischievously. “That bitch has a dick.”
“You shouldn’t spread mean rumors like that,” Wolfsbane said.
“Oh, they deserve it,” Silver said. “Wolfsbane, you know what team you really belong with. That idiot Ascot and his pathetic little circus troupe will only hold you back. Only I know how to use you properly—to unleash your true strength. Join us, Wolfsbane, and the three of us shall be unstoppable!”
Wolfsbane sighed and turned back to the moon. He really didn’t want to team up with Ren. He had been looking forward to partnering up with his big brother and Caroline. Maybe…maybe he still could. There was still time, right? But…still…
“I…I don’t know…” he said apprehensively. “Father would be terribly upset if I just—”
“What? Took control of your life for a change?” Silver taunted. “Must you always insist on playing the dutiful son? You used to relish getting into mischief…”
“That isn’t me anymore. It hasn’t been for a long time,” Wolfsbane said, still not taking his eyes off of the moon. “Honestly, I’d love to join you guys, but I—” Just then, a loud explosion rang out in the main ballroom. Wolfsbane whipped around just as a thick cloud of white mist enveloped the balcony.
“Play ‘B’!” Caroline yelled, and suddenly Wolfsbane was enveloped not only in mist, but a burlap sack as well.
Before he could even react, he was hoisted up over someone’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes and moving at running speed through the chaos. Around him, he could hear people panicking, screaming…and delighting in the random candies that were raining down endlessly all around them. All of the excitement and noise was enough to drown out his own screams as he was carried across the room.
It wasn’t long before he heard a door opening and felt whoever was carrying him take a sharp left turn. From there, the sounds of confusion and revelry faded away and only the sound of dress shoes on marble floors echoing through the cavernous hallway could be heard. “What are you guys doing!” Wolfsbane finally asked…just as he was being rushed down the stairs.
“Getting you the Hells out of here!” Caroline said. Her voice was practically right in his ear. She was the one carrying him?!
“No time to explain, fool!” Silver yelled—he was only a few steps in front of Caroline. “Just shut up and let us kidnap you!”
Now, most people would have been frightened—or, at the very least, freaked out—at a moment like this. However, Wolfsbane couldn’t help but feel good about it. His friend and his older brother cared enough about him that they were willing to kidnap him to ensure his happiness. It was truly heartwarming.
Suddenly, a muffled male voice—that of Wolfsbane’s squat mate, Blake Hardcort—rang out on what could only have been a magic mirror. “Dark Lord, this is Hotshot! Do you read me? Over!”
“Loud and clear, Hotshot! What’s your status? Over!” Silver said.
“The guards at the back entrance have been neutralized! Repeat, guards at the back entrance have been neutralized! Escape plan Alpha is a go! Over!”
“Good work, Hotshot! Over!” then, Silver said. “Dark Lord to Squad Three! Still waiting on the all-clear for the South Hallway! What’s your status? Over!”
This time, it was his other squad mate, Orin Knash, who answered. “Sorry for the delay, Darklord,” he said, “but we had a small black flan problem. Those sisters of yours just killed the last of them. All-clear. Proceed to the rendezvous point. Over.”
‘Wow…Is everyone in on this…?’ Wolfsbane thought as they finished going down the stairs and took two hard right turns. ‘Is Ren really that bad of a guy…?’
About a minute later, the echoing click of shoes on marble floors gave way to the un-reverberated clomp of shoes on stone. They had reached the outside…but they still kept moving. On and on they went until Wolfsbane could no longer hear shoes on stone. Instead, the footfalls of his captors—or rescuers, really—were muted by soft soil. They slowed to a walk then, and after about ten more minutes, finally stopped.
Caroline sat Wolfsbane down on a rock and the sack was finally removed from his head. Once he was finally able to see his surroundings again, he found himself in a forest clearing. Silver was reclining against a tree with his hand on the hilt of his blade, while Caroline was beaming at him—obviously giddy from the thrill of completing a well-executed operation. Off to the left, thirteen-year-old Orin was keeping watch, sniper rifle in hand and looking as dead-serious as always. Beside him stood Kira Linux, one of Silver’s squad mates—a tall, muscular eighteen-year-old girl with red braided pigtails, a very big gun, two bandoliers of bullets strapped across her chest…and, at that moment, a very cute gold cocktail dress and very high matching heels.
“Ta-da! Welcome to freedom, Wolfsbane!” Caroline said cheerfully.
“He’s not free yet,” Orin said, pushing up his glasses, their lenses temporarily being overcome by reflected moonlight before going transparent again. “We still have to hold off any search parties and smuggle him out of the province in the morning. We’ve so far only succeeded in getting him out of Regional H.Q., nothing more.”
“That’s right,” Kira said with a nod. “They probably won’t go easy on us either. We did a number on those guards back there…and Orin told me about how his squad offed those attack monsters. We can’t drop our guard or celebrate until we’ve got the kid safely in Cypressdale.”
“But…all of this…for me? Seriously?” Wolfsbane asked.
“Personally, I don’t care if Silver and Caroline get to partner with you or not,” Kira said. “I’m doing this to spite that snotty Ren Ascot! I’ll show him who’s a muscle-bound hick!”
Wolfsbane shifted uncomfortably on his rock. He had nearly forgotten how scary Kira could be when people insulted her femininity. “So…where’s everyone else?” he asked.
“Back at the party,” Silver replied. “If too many of us were missing once the smoke cleared, it would raise suspicion. So, we decided that a small escort of our best fighters would do.”
“I…you guys…I don’t know what to say…” Wolfsbane said. “I…”
Just then, a male voice to his right said, “How about saying ‘goodbye’ to your little friends. It’s time to get back to the party, Wolfsbane.”
Wolfsbane looked over toward the voice and saw a young man in his twenties with perfectly neat brown hair step out of the shadows. His black tuxedo showed not the slightest hint of disturbance from his pursuit, and he held an assault rifle in his hands which was trained on Caroline. Behind him, five or six shadowy figures waited in the forest beyond.
“Ren Ascot. So we meet again,” Silver said, slowly unsheathing his blade and stepping confidently into position. “The gun is not enough, I see. Now you must prove yourself even less of a man by pointing it at an unarmed woman. What an ignoble beast you are…”
Ren humphed. “You call me a beast when she is the suspected werewolf?” he said, not moving the barrel of his gun one inch.
“I was cleared, douche-breath!” Caroline said, fearless and unfazed, as if the man didn’t have a gun pointed at her head.
“Caroline, get Wolfsbane out of here,” Silver said in a tone so cold that Wolfsbane could practically feel icicles forming along his spine. “Orin, Kira, prepare to fight.”
“No, there are too many of them,” Wolfsbane said as Orin and Kira got into position behind Silver and Caroline slowly took a hold of his hand. “You can’t—”
“We’ve got this, Wolfsbane,” Caroline said. “Trust me.” With that, she pulled Wolfsbane up from his seat and Silver rushed in between them and Ren as they took off into the woods.
“Ascot!” Silver cried as they raced into the woods. “Look at me and face me like a man you piece of—” But, that was all he got out before a shot rang out.
As soon as the shot was fired, Wolfsbane pulled away from Caroline and went running back to his brother’s side. “Silver! No!” he cried as he rushed toward Silver, who was kneeling on the ground, holding his right shoulder as blood poured out over his fingers.
“Wolfsbane! Go, you idiot!” Silver yelled as Caroline caught up to him and grabbed his arm.
“No! I’m not leaving you!” Wolfsbane replied, struggling against her grip as the rest of the search party—all of them strangers—rushed in and surrounded them.
“Well, now he’s come to his senses,” Ren said. “Good boy, Bendis. Now, all of you drop your weapons and put your hands behind your heads. Otherwise, this childish act of insubordination may turn out bloodier than it’s already gotten.”
All but Silver complied. He, instead, reached for his dropped blade. Before his hand could touch the hilt of his weapon, however, the click of half a dozen cocking weapons stopped him in his tracks. “Fine, have it your way, you bastards,” Silver sneered, pulling his hand back. “But, know this—I shall avenge this night.”
And, just like that, this glorious kidnapping/rescue/escape attempt was all over. People rushed over to put Silver, Caroline, Kira, and Orin in handcuffs, and a medic came over soon after to administer first aid to Silver’s bullet wound. Then, the five of them were marched back to Regional H.Q. to face their elders and superiors.
That night’s adventure would make the front page of the next day’s edition of The Silver Bulletin, however. It would be the talk of the hunter community for months to come as well. Then, over the years, it would fade into rookie hunter legend as the greatest last ditch effort to rescue a colleague from an arranged team-up ever attempted.
Great story, huh? Well, join us next week when we interview Flood Bendis. Until then, check out The Star-Runner Chronicles on Amazon.com (print and Kindle ebook editions available). You can also spy on me on Twitter and Pintrest, check out other entries on this blog (if you liked this story, go and check out other pieces in the “Short Stories” category too), or read some of my hobby pieces at my Fan Works Spot. If you like the books or my blog, make sure to tell your friends in real life and online all about them. Also, don’t forget to review the books on Amazon, Goodreads, and anywhere else good books are reviewed.
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