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09 December 2017 @ 07:46 am
_Stone_ The End  

Chapter Demon

"Kill them all!" The big man, the King of Portland, pointed north. Dogs and men charged, dogs pulling ahead as the men threw clothes aside, changing as they ran.

A shot echoed around the basin. The big man spun and dropped, blood pumping. He spasmed, throwing himself at the nearest fire.

"My blood, for you!" Smoke billowed as the Hunter fell on the fire, pulsed with the spurts of blood, slowing . . . Thick tentacles rolled out . . .

I threw myself against the tree, felt it give, threw myself as hard as I could again. A snap. Again, and I was falling, clumsy, feet trapped. I kicked my legs up in the air, got one up over the stump and I was free . . . with my feet hobbled together and my hands behind my back.

I bunny hopped to a pair of pants, discarded on the ground. Felt the pockets, bingo! A pocket knife, not very sharp, but it cut the rope between my ankles. I dashed back to the posts. With all the howling, I hadn't actually heard their screams, but they were screaming. I managed to cut the first one loose with my hands behind my back. She snatched the knife and ran for the next post.

I checked the progress of the smoke tentacles, and sat down. I have long arms, I'm flexible . . . I didn't dislocate a shoulder getting my hand-cuffed hands past my butt, but for a moment, I wondered.

Lady One cut Lady Two loose and ran for the woods. Luckily she dropped the knife, so I cut the third woman loose and pointed down hill. It was the only direction I was reasonable sure no Hunters had gone. She went.

And I turned back to the dancing floor.

:: Dance! Howl and sing me into the world! ::

A tentacle uncurled and reached for me. I backed away. How to disrupt what little dancing was happening? Ah, there was the Seattle group, dancing beside a huge boulder that hid them from the snipers up on the ridge. They were trying to keep up the power, the strain . . . whatever the hell it was. I picked up rocks and started throwing them.

I was a pretty damn good athlete in high school, even if not good enough for a scholarship.

I threw a dozen Hail Marys into the Dance before the Hunters came for me.

I back pedaled to avoid being surrounded.

"One more sacrifice will do!" Old and wiry, fanatical gleam in his eyes and a familiar looking long knife in his hand.

Each group must have a sacrificial knife. Is it something special, a part of the mechanism? With blood and fire?

:: Come! Give me your blood! ::

I took a quick glance at the dance floor. A shark's mouth on a long neck, twisting and snapping. I backed faster. If I was going to die, it was going to be as far away from the demon as I could get before they killed me.

:: I am not yours.::

:: Come! ::

I turned to run, stepped on the end of the rope still around my ankle. Turned the pratfall into a roll. Nearly levitated to my feet as sick pale vapors curled up from the gritty ground.

I was surrounded.

The Hunters howled and the old one grinned and stepped forward. "Uncuff him. The All Mother should see the traitor killed in a fair fight. We are better than he is."

One of them walked up warily. I held my hands out. He was growling low his throat, barely holding back his anger. And the dog-form. But he unlocked the cuffs and retreated.

The old Hunter stalked forward, the sacrificial knife held low, point up like a sword.

High school wrestling, football, and track were not going to be very useful here. A couple of years of karate . . . but not very much stick work . . . I grabbed a stick off the ground as I retreated around the circle of Hunters. Unfortunately light weight. I tapped it on the ground, sturdy enough, and there wasn't enough time to try another as he charged me.

I dodged. "Is this a good idea? I mean, do you actually know what to do with that on someone who isn't tied up?"

He lunged. Nothing half-hearted. This was a huge fencer's lunge at full extension.

I jumped back in shock, a shallow slice down my forearm. Bleeding. Dripping onto the ground, that steamed as if hot, as if growing tendrils like noxious plants.

:: You are mine, you will serve me. ::

:: Never. :: I put stubborn immobile rejection into the thought, and remembered my attempts at mental shields, and tried to seal her out.

My swing with the branch was woefully slow, more blood hit the ground . . . and did not steam.

I jumped away, fell over a knee-high boulder and rolled away, grabbed his knife hand and twisted. The knife fell. A fast scramble, and I was up, with the knife.

He laughed. "Cut me! Just try!"

The blood of a believer? Shed on this ground?

The little boulder had a crack in it. I jammed the knife in and threw my weight against it. It snapped.

They screamed and charged. I reached for the dog-form as I kicked and punched. Slashed out—No, dammit! No Blood! Stay human!—was knocked flat and rolled.

They piled on, yelping—half drowned out by roaring, bright lights and gunshots.

I grabbed a man in a very illegal wrestling hold and wrench his head around. Something gave and he dropped. I kicked out, scrambled out of the scrum and spotted the old man. He was prying at the crack in the boulder with the stub of the blade left on the handle.

I pounced, got him in a choke hold. Spun and used him to knock back a couple of Hunters . . . and then I could see what was happening on the dancing floor. The roaring was helicopters, two. The gunshots were from the guys in full SWAT gear.

It wasn't all one sided. There were black-clad lumps among the canine and casually dressed or undressed human bodies. I stared as a tentacle of smoke wrapped around a SWAT guy and lifted him from the ground. Threw him.

The tentacle reach up and grabbed the landing skid of a helicopter and pulled it down. It landed hard, motor cutting off and more men spilled out both sides.

Then the dogs came for me—the Seattle Hunters had gone canine—and a black clad man ran towards us, shooting. Two more behind him, and he was yelling to not shoot the dark haired man . . .

"Kris?" I yelled as loudly as I could. "Try to not spill blood on the ground! It strengthens the demon!"

His head swiveled back to the pitched melee at a scream, very human. A man in SWAT gear held aloft by two tentacles . . . pulling . . . the spine gave way and muscles ripped, the body in two parts swung, spewing blood as they were thrown. Intestines stretching . . .

The old Hunter finally went limp in my hold, and Kris was behind me, shooting.

"Leo, you want him alive you better let him breathe."

I hesitated, shook my head and squeezed harder. "He's too dangerous. Too . . . close to the demon to ever be safe."

As I watched, the shark-head tentacle reached to bite . . . and passed through the SWAT guy as he leaped away.

All the tentacles were fading, losing solidity and blowing away like the smoke that had partly formed them.

I looked around. It was over. I was the only werewolf standing.

Kris flipped up his face plate. "No blood on the ground, eh?"

One of his escort pulled a long straight knife from his thigh sheath. "I'll just make sure." He reached out casually and slid the knife inbetween the old Hunter's ribs.

He left it there. Flipped up his face plate and looked around. "Huh. Never seen anything like this before."

I made a note of his face, telling myself to never give this man cause to kill me.

I laid the body down on it's back. Not that there was any blood . . .

"So, Leo . . . I don't suppose you have any clothes around here somewhere?"

"Umm, yeah. Over somewhere, if I won't get shot walking over there. Umm, I was expecting Mr. Wright, and wondered if I was going to have to run for it again."

"Oh, he's around somewhere. Poor fellow. Finding out I was his new boss has been a bit of a blow." Kris headed across the battlefield, and I walked beside him, pretending I wasn't the least bit embarrassed by being totally naked. Which I wasn't, much. I guess because I spent so much time as a naked dog.

I tried to ignore the fact that a few of the SWAT guys might be SWAT gals, and that I was harvesting a whole bunch of unfriendly looks.

"So was that guy something special?"

"Head of the Seattle Hunters." I looked around. Pointed. "The big guy in the fire was the head—called himself king—of the Portland Hunters."

I spotted my stuff and Quickly pulled on the briefs and jeans. Sat down and pulled on my socks . . . examined my shoes, which had been stabbed several times. I put them on anyway.

"I appreciate the sniper and the rest of the rescue."

"Meh, anytime." Kris looked around. "Almost two hundred of them, and I think less than a dozen of them had guns."

I nodded. "I they do most of their fighting in dog-form. They take pride in their deadliness, and like to taste blood."

"Still stupid of them." Kris looked around. "So, where's Wright?"

Several glances at the top half of the ripped apart body . . .

"Oh . . ." Kris walked over and knelt briefly.

One of the guys nudged me. "So what were those tentacles?"

"Uh, just guessing, you know? The physical manifestation of an energy being from another dimension. The Hunters thought they were summoning their demon ancestress. Which I suppose is just a matter of terminology. I think it may have created the Hunters to assist it in opening cracks for it to enter the world."

Kris snorted. "Still trying for science instead of mysticism, Leo?"

"Damn straight. I refuse to believe in magic. Mostly."

ekuah on December 9th, 2017 02:57 pm (UTC)
Can I suggest an epilogue? (nt)
matapampamuphoff on December 9th, 2017 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Can I suggest an epilogue? (nt)
Yes, but it won't happen until I get back to the story in six months or so. I'm trying to finish Last Merge, and then I'll be kicking stories out the door all spring.
(Anonymous) on December 10th, 2017 12:15 am (UTC)
RE: Re: Can I suggest an epilogue? (nt)
I shall hope so, i've been waiting such a long time.
I just love your writing.

Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on December 14th, 2017 12:04 am (UTC)
I should say, for six months time.

That the different number of chromosomes BUT inter-fertile breaks me out of reader's trance.

I thought this was a classic for Not-inter-fertile?

I suggest making it a thing with lab tests of sperm and "we thought it impossible" or quote actual cases or change it to any other identifiable chromosome difference.
matapampamuphoff on December 14th, 2017 01:39 am (UTC)
No. Even close critters like horses and donkeys have problems not in the first cross, but in the second. It's not because of the uneven numbers of chromosomes, but because the same genes they both need for proper embryonic development are parcelled out among different chromosomes, so the following generation very rarely gets a proper, complete set of essential genes.

In my postulated case, there's everything needed for proper embryonic development, and then the extra genes kick in later. Half bred children don't have all the extras they need to shape change, but some of the three quarters Hunters do. However, their fertility is quite low, probably because of errors in meiosis, due to the uneven numbers of genes.
matapampamuphoff on December 14th, 2017 02:20 am (UTC)
When I get back to it, I may change things around. I definitely need to emphasize the cult-like nature of the Hunters and their absolute control of their children. Especially homeschooling until the children get voluntary control of their changing, and perhaps they are particularly possessive of the girls children, who might be able to have proper Hunter Babies.

Of course I'm trying to be eerie. (roll eyes) So maybe the boys are born puppies, and the girls are born human. The boys with both extra chromosomes will be able to change, generally sparked by an adrenaline surge--or a slice by one of the four sacrificial knives. The boys that can't change are useful watchdogs, or possibly willing sacrifices to the All-Mother. I'll figure that out later.