I regret everything.
“For the love of all that is precious STOP SNIFFING ME!”
“But it’s so strange…”
The tiny woman jumps back with a stricken look, but not for long. A man taps her on the shoulder and she turns with a smile.
He is naked.
Regrets. So many regrets.
I agreed to follow the big grey werewolf back to his encampment with the rest of the horde in order to discuss what would follow. I will admit that my unwillingness to negotiate terms with a butt-naked individual in the middle of a statuary of frozen corpses played a big role in my decision. I thought it better to talk while the euphoria of their newfound liberty lifted their hearts.
That was a mistake.
First, my smell is apparently strange to them. It allows me to walk among their numbers without being perceived as an intruder, an advantage that my allies do not share and the reason why I left them behind. The other side of the medal is that they are rather curious. The most daring specimens challenge my personal space to sample the goods and only my unflappable countenance has allowed me to spare their miserable lives. How dare they! I am not a slab of meat! Gah!
And the odd inquisitive wolf is the least of my worries. To be fair there are only a handful of them, they are harmless, and they leave when prompted. The main problem is… Frankly, I should have anticipated it.
Sex is a great activity, in general, a true celebration of life and pleasure. Its practice is somewhat limited by a combination of factors, such as babies which werewolves cannot carry to term, diseases which they are immune to, and social constraints which they are devoid of.
As a result, a great celebration is occurring in the surrounding tents, with no concern given to propriety or, indeed, keeping one’s voice down.
And as if things were not bad enough, they STINK. By the Watcher the situation is deteriorating every time a sweaty, naked, aroused ruffian lifts a tent flap to switch groups! My poor nose!
After an interminable walk, we finally reach the command pavilion. Thanks to my indomitable will, I resist the urge to leave this forsaken place, find the highest tree I can and hug it like a Christmas ornament.
Enclosed space. A central table with a map surrounded by seats covered in fur. A few chests.
A stench like no others, a mix of wet dog, sweaty genitals, and INTRUDER.
I should have taken a perfumed handkerchief.
“Now that we’re—”
“First things first, wear some damn pants!” I hiss.
The man stares at me with his sad brown eyes and I realize the overwhelming gap between us. He has been through a lot in the past few weeks, for sure, while for me fighting for my life while embroiled in cutthroat politics and diplomacy is just another Thursday. Perhaps, for efficiency’s sake, I should cut him some slack.
After he covers his nads.
With a heavy sigh, the new leader grabs a pair of leather pants and pulls them on. They look dirty. He picked them from the ground! They are not even his size! Stop thinking about it too much, Ariane, that way lies insanity.
Pah! Pah pah pah.
“Better?” the man asks coldly.
“Somewhat. You wanted to talk, so talk,” I declare.
Blake gave me leave to negotiate in her name, provided that her bottom line is respected. In that case, it means all of the wolves leaving her territory posthaste. Besides that, I am free to negotiate the terms I see fit.
And now that we are finally settled, of course, he remains silent. I use this opportunity to study this new addition to the list of people I am supposed to pay attention to.
The grey werewolf is interesting. He is not what I expected from an improvised leader, especially not one who was the first to throw himself at his captors. His eyes are too soft and his expression too melancholic for a warrior, though with his square jaw and bulging muscles, he might just cut it. Seriously, I could hammer a steel ingot on those abdominals. And yet, he looks more like the doomed prince of a dying duchy, staring at the ocean from the battlements of his crumbling fortress with only an old butler and a few dogs for company.
I should probably slow down on reading Jimena’s novels. I fear that they might be affecting my judgement.
As I was inspecting him, my interlocutor had been dreamily staring into the distance. His musings are interrupted by someone tossing the tent’s flap aside to get in.
I turn around to see a naked woman, flushed with lust and ambition. Our eyes meet and she bares her teeth.
I deploy my aura, crushing her under its murderous pressure.
“Don’t try me,” I state.
The intruder lowers her head before skulking back. I return my attention to the pack’s de facto leader with increasing annoyance.
“Keep your people under control.”
“We men do not interfere in power struggles between the fairer sex.”
“I am not one of yours.”
“You are not completely out, either,” he calmly observes. His manners are mild and his voice mellow and I find myself lowering my guard.
“It’s the smell. Your scent is…”
Never mind my previous reflection.
“If you tell me I smell weird one more time…”
“My apologies. We obviously started on the wrong footing—”
Understatement of the century.
“—and I propose that we begin anew. My name is Augustus Jennings of the now-defunct Deepwood Pack. Whom do I have the honor of addressing?”
“Ariane of the Nirari.”
Augustus waits some more as if expecting me to go off with ‘high queen of Northumbria, the unwashed, medical doctor’ and so on. When no such thing occurs, he resumes the conversation.
“You are a vampire, correct? A master?”
“Well, what do you know of our kind?”
“You taste delicious.”
Ah. Oops? Not very diplomatic, Ariane.
“Besides that?” the man grumbles.
“You headed north and split into groups you call packs. Being in one balances the curse, somehow. All was well until a man calling himself Fenris and leading a band called the Black Peak Pack started to subjugate everyone. Now you are more or less united under him, due to a mix of fear and the power of the skalds. Fenris decided to expand south and here we are.”
“Brief, if not entirely inaccurate. You are still missing an important part of the puzzle.”
Augustus looks into the horizon, broody and dreamy.
I roll my eyes. Why does he have to be so dramatic?
“What we know, we gathered from fragments of journals and ancient parchment yellowed by age over the centuries, a thankless task to find the source of the curse and the cause of our torment.”
I don’t caaaaaaaaaare.
“Our dreadful tale begins during the darkest period of the hundred-year war, in the French region of Auvergne.”
Someone please shoot me.
“A mage of considerable power weaved a dread curse, a thing so horrid and devastating that it twisted the very human form which should have remained sacrosanct. As for its purpose, we shall never know, but some suspect that it was used to punish an entire family…” the man continues in a pained whisper.
Why would he assume that I would be interested? I just want to hammer out an agreement and head out. Aaaaaa if only I could just bite him and be done, but a meek leader of werewolves is of no use.
“When the curse was made, our tormentor committed a fatal mistake. In their urge to spread destruction, they forced an instinct on the cursed: we disable our prey then move on to the next one, only to return to finish them off after no one is left standing. This turned against their intention as many wounded recovered enough to hide and thus survive the onslaught, and so our curse has spread throughout the world like a dreadful plague, causing the death of thousands.”
I must look like an attentive audience. That must be it.
“Now, and for the first time in history, we have a chance to turn our lives around, but to do so we must make peace with the curse, with the trapped wolf in our soul, and to do so we must adopt some of the beast’s social habits.”
“I assume you have a point?” I ask, utterly out of patience.
“I do,” the man replies unamused, “it relates to us and the way we work as a group. Many of the rules we follow are taken from the behavior of wolves. That means that we do not delegate authority as a government would. The army arrayed against York is it.”
“It. All the remaining werewolves in the northern territories. Three hundred of them, give or take. It will take more than a few of your kind to hold back this tide. I am willing to guide the werewolves of this group north if you give us enough provisions and if you promise not to go after us.”
I widen my eyes in surprise, then I realize I cannot help it.
I laugh. I am being vulgar and my fangs are showing but I cannot stop. This man! What a great comedian!
“Oh dear, how precious. You are simply too much.”
“I assure you that—” he begins.
I move over the table, stopping only a few inches away from him and hit him fully with my Charm. I take the strand of apprehension, the one that is born of the knowledge of what I am, what I did, and feed my aura into it until it turns into a fat worm of terror. My claws dig into the wood below, which creaks torturously.
“You are in no position to demand, boy,” I hiss.
Augustus jumps back with a curse. To his credit, he gets his fear under control faster than I have ever seen. From what I can tell, the curse fights back, somehow. It releases him from my influence with the utmost speed.
I lean back and smile, pretending that his newfound courage is simply me releasing my hold on his emotions. His resistance to my power matters little when bluffs and manipulation can achieve so much.
“Do not think us defeated, vampire,” he retorts as his voice trembles ever so slightly, “we still have—”
“I have the horn, and I can operate it,” I interrupt.
That shuts him up. Good.
“You are the shambling leader of a defeated and brittle band of disposable soldiers. Yesterday you could field dozens of ferals. Tonight, you have none. Yesterday your army had a skald and a warlord at their head. Tonight, well, there is you.”
I sneer. Augustus grits his teeth, but he does not reply.
“You also wrongly assume that I care what happens to the population of York.”
“You do not?” he replies, half-surprised and half-scandalized.
“You may consider them as rivals, of sorts. In fact, the best solution for me now would be to let them suffer so much that our knights must intervene while I wipe you out to the last.”
“You cannot. We will--”
Augustus stops abruptly. I have the horn. I can use it. The terrible artifact is the crux of our negotiations. It places me in a position of strength from which I can demand much with little in return.
“You can no longer stop me,” I observe, “if you fight, I will disable then slaughter the packs. You scatter, and I will pick you off band by band, wolf by wolf, until I have drained every man, woman, and juvenile. We are discussing the terms of your surrender, Augustus. Do not provoke me again.”
The man leans back in his seat, contemplative. He displays no sign of giving up and I can practically see the gear turning behind his distant eyes. I respect him for it, and for not giving in despite the circumstances. If he were not so much of an insufferably stinky mutt, I could see us cooperate.
“You do not smell like a leader. You cannot change or direct the curse like I can either, even with your newest toy, and besides, you do not strike me as another slaver. There must be something we can do for each other that you could not get with just the horn. Why don’t you tell me?”
“Tut tut,” I reply with amusement, “my newest toy is you, Augustus, and as for what I want, why, it is power of course. Let me explain…”
In a few sentences, I describe the context while remaining intentionally vague about the current standing of the participating Houses.
“… best solution would be for me to save my kin in York and bring a long-term solution to the werewolf problem. My victory would be assured.”
The leader crosses his arms, always a bad sign in a conversation. At first, I take it that he is averse to cooperating but soon realize my mistake: he is revolted.
“So, that is what this is all about to you. A political game.”
“Everything is a political game when more than three people are involved, boy. Spare me the theatrics. Now, are you willing to assist me, yes or no?”
“You seriously want us to take down Fenris, Maul and Rolf?”
“Of course not, I do not believe you to be capable of such a feat. I expect you to assist me while I take care of it myself. Do so, and I will help you in returning to your homes, wherever they may be.”
I already made that commitment to Jeffrey. It costs me little to simply repeat it.
“Ariane of the Nirari, my people have suffered a terrible ordeal. They are weakened and wounded.”
Somewhere nearby, a couple screams in the thrall of a particularly intense orgasm.
Augustus winces while I show no reaction. Still annoyed, I raise a finger to interrupt him as is about to resume his impassioned plea.
“You do not know much about my kind, do you?”
“Knowledge is sparse, and for good reasons,” he replies defensively.
I imagine that we do not eagerly share the specifics of our nature. Quite the contrary, in fact.
“Then let me enlighten you in a concise manner. We are arrogant, territorial, and deadly apex predators who do not care in the slightest about your freedom or, indeed, your continued survival. What you are doing is useless, because we are only vaguely aware of the mercy you are appealing to. We do not do charity. We do deals. Give me the incentive I need, and I will assist you, otherwise you are wasting both our times. Am I being clear?”
“Crystal clear,” the man grumbles, his eyes shining dangerously. I will let it go so long as he does not provoke me further.
“It changes little,” he continues, “we cannot stand against Fenris and his groups. They are three times our numbers. Attacking them is suicide.”
“We do not have to defeat the army in battle, we just need a path to those three,” I reply.
Augustus shakes his head, then returns his attention to me.
“I need to think of a plan, Ariane of the Nirari. Would you consent to reconvening tomorrow evening?”
And giving him the time to recover or even split up the packs? Not a chance in hell.
“If I leave this tent without a formal pact between us, I am coming back with the horn and my silver spear. None of you will see the dawn.”
Augustus growls. His eyes shine in the light of the tent’s single lantern as his teeth sharpen. I hiss back with fangs displayed.
With what appears to be a supreme effort at self-control, he leans back into his throne.
“Has anyone ever told you that you are difficult to deal with?”
“No one who mattered,” I sweetly reply.
Augustus twines his fingers and closes his eyes. They flutter against their lids as their owner desperately looks for a way out, while outside, the sounds of revel continue unabated. The werewolves celebrate their newfound freedom with unbridled enthusiasm, unaware of its fragility. Behind the scene, a lone man has shouldered the burden of responsibility. He must complete a deal or the cries of ecstasy will soon turn to screams of horror, and then, silence.
In a way I appreciate his self-control and dedication. I could almost respect him if he did not stink so much. And if he wore pants without being prompted. And if he were not so dramatically broody.
“How well can you use the horn?” he suddenly asks.
“I can convey emotions through it,” I reply with a shrug. The horn is a makeshift blood magic focus, not exactly the most elaborate tool.
“What did it feel like, when you heard my call?” I ask, suddenly curious.
His eyes glaze over as he reminisces. His voice grows distant.
“Like I was almost there, almost free. I could feel it. I was so close. I only needed to reach out and kill that last person in the way.”
He turns his eyes to me, gauging.
“Your emotions are more abstract than ours when we are changed. Freedom remains a human concept, after all, and our equivalent would be the ability to move freely. That is not the same thing. The horn still called us, but it did so from above instead of from within, if that makes sense.”
I understand that even our instincts do not operate on the same level.
“If you can truly reproduce this effect then we may have a chance to both complete your main objective and avoid a wholesale slaughter.”
“Do tell,” I answer as I lean over the table.
“The horn’s call goes beyond the mere physical. You must have felt it too.”
“As if reality itself echoed the sound?”
“Precisely. A call occupies space like sound normally cannot. When a skald uses the horn, there will be a delay before another can impart the world with another meaning. Blowing the horn also exhausts the skalds quickly. I believe that if we time it right, we may be able to use it to our advantage.”
“What did you have in mind?”
“If we manage to approach Fenris’ camp undetected and blow the horn first, we will have a few minutes of initiative before they can bring their own skalds and numbers to bear. Within that time, we must break our way through their ranks until we reach Fenris. There, I will issue a formal challenge.”
“Yes. I will fight him for dominance.”
“Hold on,” I interrupt, “if it were that easy, why did you not do it before?”
“Were you not paying attention?” he snarls, “the skalds stole everything from us, including our drive to be free. I did not challenge him because they robbed me of the will to do so.”
I frown, keenly aware of the many holes in that plan.
“How confident are you that you can take him on?”
“If I commit to it, I will kill him. Don’t ask me how,” he replies with a confidence that I am tempted to call undue.
It does seem simple. Carve a path through an unsuspecting foe until we reach their leaders, then let the big wolf sort his differences.
I see three loss conditions. If we are detected, the breakthrough will fail, and our troops will break against superior numbers. If we manage to charge but not to pierce, then the same thing will happen. If we succeed but Augustus loses the fight, the plan fails as well. In all three cases, the enemy army takes over the defeated pack and even if I survive, then a loss will deal a fatal blow to my chances at winning the contest.
On the other hand, Fenris is in York. If the Cadiz manage to eliminate him, they will have solved the werewolf problem for the time being, and won the contest.
I still cannot think of a better plan and time is not on my side. I simply need to make this one workable.
Vampires can eliminate the scouts ahead of the army while Frost covers our approach. My allies would be in front while I stay with the werewolves. It could work.
For the breakthrough, I would simply need to convey the right feelings and stay at the tip of the formation.
As for the duel, I need to know more before I commit. Fortunately, Jeffrey should be an excellent source of information considering that he never shuts up.
“Very well,” I finally answer, “we will go for your plan and if it succeeds, I will take the survivors under my protection and allow them to return to their lands, even if it puts me at odds with other vampires.”
I am confident that Constantine would approve of any problem-solving that does not involve a bloodbath. As for what the Cadiz may think of this agreement, I do not give a damn.
“Please note that my protection only extends to the packs present here, not those assaulting York,” I finish.
Augustus considers my words for a long time. Eventually, he licks his lips and turns confrontational once more.
“I swear on my honor and the pack that I will abide by your terms, with two more conditions. You will not use my people as cannon fodder.”
“Some will die during the fight,” I observe.
“You know what I mean.”
“I do. And yes, I will not send them to a pointless death.”
“And second, no sexual abuse.”
I pause at the enormity of his declaration.
“I beg your pardon?” I reply, outraged.
“You heard me. You will not abuse your authority to gain sexual favors from my people while we work together,” he firmly replies.
I… What? No, I get where this is coming from but still! Me! And… Seriously?
“Let me be perfectly clear. I would rather stab myself in the liver with a rusty iron spike and greet the sun from atop a pile of manure than lie with you, or anyone else on this encampment!” I hiss, irate. What do they take me for? I have standards! And my heart is taken.
Augustus turns curiously contemplative.
“I do not believe I have ever been that forcefully rejected.”
“And I am delighted to be expanding your horizons.”
“Is it a race thing?”
“Yes. You stink.”
Augustus flexes his biceps and sniffs his armpit. Then, he shrugs.
“Aaaand I’m off. We reconvene tomorrow at dusk. Good night, sir! I say, good night!” I declaim on my way out.
Outside, I take a deep breath and come to the realization that, like most things, stench is relative. In the open ground, the smell of wet dog is barely tolerable.
“Hey bosswoman, you’re here. This is June, my packmate. She’s a sweetheart. Say hi, June!”
With a perfect poker face, I push my exasperation to the back of my mind and greet my future little informer with a genial smile. I phase out his incessant drone and take a moment to inspect his companion.
June is slightly taller than him with the honest face of a farm girl. She seems a bit dazed and wears an ill-fitting shirt that looks hastily put on. It reveals one of her shoulders and the lower part of her stomach.
Interestingly, female werewolves appear to share similarities with their male counterparts. June is lean and muscular but she is also lithe. Her body reminds me of Nami’s: all vine-like cords hinting at the power underneath, yet still feminine and seductive. She lacks her grace and polish, however. I would still enjoy having her as a model. It is not every day that I get to paint bodies like hers.
Come to think of it I should ask Augustus too, as he is rather fetching. I shall just have to make sure it happens somewhere with a strong air current.
“Yeah, so are you heading back to the city?” Jeffrey finally asks.
“Yes, would you care to join me?”
I have an inkling that werewolves have enhanced senses. It would be easier to interrogate my new minion away from prying ears. We would not want to be interrupted.
“Finally! A bed, in a real bedroom! We can have a bed, right?” the boy asks, excited.
A month ago, I had dreams of becoming the queen of North America, the head of an assembly of lords and ladies united in our desire for independence and uninterrupted dinners. Now, I am trading information on some werewolf against a room with a roof on top. How the tables have turned.
I gaze up at the Watcher and feel more amusement than usual. Have a nice laugh at my expense you big celestial dolt. You are lucky not to be a giant nose.
Imagine that. The Smeller.
“Yes, you can have a bed, Jeffrey. And even share it with your lady friend. Now come on.” I declare as I take my leave, “AND STOP SNIFFING ME!”
The trip back goes smoothly. I easily step over the fresh-fallen snow while they happily walk through it with unexpected grace. I had imagined that werewolves would just break their way through the thick white layer like plow horses, but I was just being unduly dismissive. They know how to move.
Jeffrey is not the kind of man I need to crack open. Instead, he is so open I need to slow him down and sort through the drivel for the occasional nugget of wisdom. I need a direct approach.
“What can you tell me about Augustus Jennings?”
“Augustus Jennings? The moody twin? Figures. I told June, I did. I told her; he will step up to do the job if there is no one else. Didn’t I, June?”
“Ah? Huh,” she grumbles. The girl seems a bit out of it. I suspect that something is wrong in her, and she does not look like she was the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with.
“Anyway. Augustus. He’s Thomas’ twin. Did I ever tell you about Thomas Jennings?”
“You did not.”
“Alright. When Fenris started to take over, not everyone remained passive. There was this guy, Thomas. He tried to gather packs around him. He was not as quick or efficient as Fenris but he did start to get a following. Instead of coming and beating the crap out of the local leader, he would try to convince people and sometimes do helpful stuff like killing the weird animals himself. You know about those?”
“Like a giant crocodile who can hide its presence?” I answer, recalling the first time I met Loth. We hunted a few abnormal creatures after that, but nothing came close in terms of danger or intensity.
Those hunts bring me no reward either. I cannot drink bear blood.
“I guess it would be a crocodile down south huh. Never seen one o’ those myself. We have grizzlies, normal wolves and the odd elk. Mostly. Anyway, at some point he disappeared while escorting a caravan to some forts. The pack he was helping got immediately absorbed by the Black Peaks. My bet is that they ambushed him as he was alone and did him in.”
And so, the naïve hero falls. I am not even remotely surprised.
“If they assassinated Thomas, why not kill Augustus as well?”
“Huh? But why would they? He was not the leader. Thomas was.”
I stare into his guileless face for any sign of humor. Alas, I find none.
“Are you serious?” I still ask, incredulous.
“Hm, yeah? That’s the story anyway. They were not from my pack.”
“Are you telling me that Fenris assassinated Thomas but left his twin alive? Would he take that risk?”
“Hmm, I’m not sure I follow. Is it a vampire thing?”
“It’s a commonsense thing! If you behead an organization by slaying its leader, you also kill off his identical sibling! I understand leaving the children alone but come on, a twin?”
Both werewolves stare at me with equal expressions of bovine bafflement. After scratching his dirty scalp for a few seconds, Jeffrey’s eyes widen as he finally understands.
“Ah, it’s because you think Augustus was a leader too!”
There is no hope.
“I need to explain then, bosswoman. You see, there are three kinds of werewolves’ behaviors and a leader is only one of them. When you’re a leader like me, your transformed body gets bigger and brawnier and you have to show people what to do, where to go, take care of everyone. That sort of thing. Then there are the followers like June here.”
She nods briefly then returns her gaze to the snow before her feet.
“Most of us act as followers. A good follower reduces the burden on the leader and also makes him stronger. June is really good at it.”
June’s support must contribute to his surprising mass, though I suspect that the curse also plays a role. I find myself more and more curious about them. I would never have imagined that they could develop their own culture and hierarchy.
“Then there are the outsiders,” Jeffrey continues. “They don’t need to be in a pack to keep the curse under control and having them around is relaxing.”
“I’m not sure. It just feels like all the little things that usually piss you off don’t matter that much anymore and you can think more clearly.”
So, an outsider restores their mind to a semblance of functionality. I need to get myself one of those. And soap.
“Come to think of it, I believe Alistair mentioned something of the sort. He was an outsider to be traveling alone.”
“He was?” Jeffrey adds, suddenly more energetic, “then maybe he survived! Outsiders are the rarest of our kind. They are too valuable to kill off. Maybe he’s kept somewhere?”
“Perhaps…” I reply noncommittally. Alistair was certainly the least irritating werewolf I ever dealt with. I would certainly prefer to deal with him than the others.
I was trying to get information on Augustus! Misled again!
“Jeffrey, Augustus seems sure that he can provoke Fenris to a duel and win. What do you think?”
The young werewolf stops behind me, soon imitated by June. I turn back and am forced to look up to him as we are currently walking downhill. From that angle and with his contemplative gaze, I believe that I am catching a glimpse into what kind of adult he will grow up to be. He appears more composed. Calmer, somehow.
“There were rumors about Thomas. They said that he was invincible in direct combat. Maybe that’s why Fenris didn’t challenge him like he did everyone else. But that’s the thing, Augustus used to be an outsider, so I don’t know if it’s confidence or wishful thinking.”
“You can change roles?” I ask with surprise. Our own hierarchies are much more static.
“We change roles all the time, yeah, though mostly it’s between leader and follower. It can even happen without a challenge!”
“I see. And you never saw him fight?”
“Did you not look at him during the brawl, earlier?” Jeffrey asks with some surprise.
“I was checking our perimeter,” I explain. Jeffrey looks askance, as if he had never heard the expression before.
“He was strong,” June speaks for the first time. Her voice is raspy and a bit slow, yet it is perfectly clear too.
“He tore through Olaf without effort. I watched him do so. It was… not pleasant. He was too cold.”
She shivers, and the pair remains lost in thoughts for a few moments before Jeffrey recovers his usual smile.
“He looked almost sad. Not very werewolfy, if you ask me!”
“You have not answered my question,” I observe tiredly.
“Do you think Augustus has a chance of winning against Fenris.”
“A chance? Yeah. After seeing him fight, I think he has a chance against anybody.”
We spend the rest of the trip in silence, and soon join back with the others. Melusine and Blake both frown to see that I have two mutts in tow now, but they do not comment on it in front of the mortals. A brief discussion is all we need to align on what to do.
Blake will stay here and manage the city, including the cleanup of the frozen corpse garden. As she requests, I agree to leave the wolf slayer with her until the current crisis is resolved. I can tell that she really likes it, and plan on offering her a custom version as long as I get the time to forge it.
As for the rest of us, we will be going. Frost is satisfied with the slaughter he caused and is quite eager to see if he can add a few more notches to his already massive kill count. He and Melusine will clear our approach while I stay with the horde and make sure that they get the boost they need at the right moment. The mortals will rest for a day, then we move.
As we head back to the city, I realize that, for the first time, I will go to a conflict where both sides are my enemies and attempt to rescue all of them.
Truly we live in interesting times.