Blood in Siberia
Chapter 23: Careless Whisper
Once again I felt as if every creature within a hundred miles could hear my heartbeat. It was pounding so hard I couldn’t hear myself think, and I knew that the smell of my fear was strong enough to saturate the air. I had a feeling the werewolves realized it had been a bad idea to bring me, but it was too late to go back now.
Otto, Heero and Trowa ran at full speed for hours before stopping here... wherever ‘here’ was. I had no idea where the other werewolves were. The moon was blinding, but the reflection off the snow wasn’t enough for me to really see any detail. I was also freezing. Heero’s robe and fur kept me warm enough, but having snow and wind blown in my face for hours negated that. My hands were so clenched, I didn’t think I’d be able to unclench them ever again.
I held on to Heero’s fur tightly as he trotted back and forth, sniffing one patch of snow before zooming over to a rock, or a tree, or something else just as insignificant. Otto and Trowa were doing the same thing, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of the situation.
‘Then make yourself useful!’ I could hear Howard’s ranting at me half a world away. Well, he was right.
I lowered a couple of shields and nearly got knocked off of Heero’s back. There was so much... energy in the air it was cloying! I could taste it in my mouth. “Magic...”
That wasn’t all though. Lowering another shield, I was able to tell that the magic was... sick, for lack of a better term. It felt twisted where it should’ve been straight, matte when it should’ve shimmered. It wasn’t evil by any means, but I was able to understand that Air and Earth magic weren’t compatible. It was like trying to mate a rottweiler with a chihuahua.
I could also tell that we were way, way off from the source. We’d probably be all night getting there! I didn’t want to go, but I sure as hell didn’t want to journey all the way to the castle and back again. “We’re going in the wrong direction,” I croaked. All three werewolves immediately focused on me. “We need to go west, than due south.”
Without question the werewolves did exactly as instructed. We quietly flew through wooded areas, frozen creeks and snow. I kept my mind as open as I dared, ensuring that I wasn’t leading them astray. Otto and Trowa left a trail of clues for the others to follow by breaking branches and rolling in the snow.
Dawn was breaking when we reached the source, and once we did I knew there was no way this place would’ve been found otherwise. It was a clearing of no more than ten by ten feet, and would’ve been unremarkable except for the damage. Without my gift, I would’ve guessed a small squad of stormtroopers captured a creature of some sort. Blood was frozen in chunks in the snow. The trees were burnt, if not knocked down. There were claw marks the length of my arm. Worse, was the magic. It was so oppressive I felt weighed down by it.
I slid slowly off of Heero’s back into a crouch, and watched silently as he and the others sniffed around. Even without my gift I could tell this was where Noin had made her stand. Here were so many clues to what had happened, but we were too late in getting here. We were too late for the Prince’s son.
After a few minutes of spacing out, I snapped myself awake to get to work. Still in a crouch, I braced myself for pain and let down my shields. As my breath left me in a sigh, my eyes lost focus as the entire scene played before me like a movie.
I was horrified to find that I was seeing everything through the eyes of the Air Wizard.
A bundle of blue robes was twisting in the air that I knew to be Noin. She was brought to this area against her will. Not by the ghouls as I had thought, but by a sort of... whirlwind. I recognized it as what the wizard was trying to do to me. However, I could feel through the vision how the wizard was desperately struggling to control the whirlwind. I could feel how his body was fighting to contain the incompatible magics, which were trying to separate into their own halves.
I could also feel how in love he was with Noin.
The werewolf knew her kidnapper. Her recognition felt like a sharp zap in my eye. As soon as she was dropped, Noin immediately changed over and attacked. Throwing his hands towards the sky, he raised the mist of ghouls. The ghouls attacked viciously, but after a few moments it became apparent that they would not be enough to defeat the Alphagué. So his last recourse was to take out a pouch of crushed silver. Flinging it into the air, it was only a matter of seconds before Noin started to react violently. Afraid that this would kill her, he gathered his power underneath her and threw her straight up. He tossed her high enough to be a speck against the sky. As she came down he tried to catch her, but was only able to somewhat slow her descent. She hit the ground hard, her impact knocking him off of his feet and spewing snow everywhere.
The Air Wizard reached Noin as fast as he could, and dropped to his knees to check her pulse. He sighed in relief when he felt it. As he leaned back, he noticed the curve of her belly. Panicked, he air-lifted himself and Noin out of the area. The vision ended abruptly and started to replay itself.
I was watching the scene for the third time when something wet touched my face. Jerked out of my trance, I fell backwards and stared up into blue eyes. Heero whined softly then touched his nose to my face again, Otto and Trowa flanking either side of him. I tried to tell him I was okay, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t. I was shaking so badly I couldn’t speak. I could only scream ‘Help!’ with my eyes.
The werewolves didn’t waste any time. They crowded me on all sides and laid down to sleep. With me dead center, it didn’t take long for me to warm up. Unfortunately, it took much longer for me to fall asleep. I had no idea how I could relay this information without compromising what I was.
After all, how else could I explain knowing the wizard’s name?
I woke up when I was jostled. One of the werewolves had gotten up to stretch, and the other two made the motions of waking. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and then stood, arching my back to pop the bones. After a good stretch, yawn and ball-scratch, I looked up to find the sun. It was dimmed by the cloudy sky, and a decent ways west. “There’s nothing more we can do here, guys. We should head back. The Prince has probably shit a brick house by now.” I smiled as Heero’s tongue hung out of his mouth in laughter. Trowa snorted as Otto smirked, showing a sharp upper row of teeth. Scary, sharp teeth. Yeah. I wasn’t going to make him laugh anymore.
I climbed onto Heero’s back, and then we were off. The pace was brisk, but the werewolves had no problem maintaining it for hours. I kept my shields down as we made our way back, the time cut in half as it was more or less a straight shot.
The silence was a bit disturbing, seeming to be a sign of death instead of hibernation. In Southern Texas, since it really didn’t get cold, the lack of animal noises was something I wasn’t used to. To distract myself, I went back through the mind of the Air Wizard. Again I felt his struggle, his determination, his love... shit. This was frustrating as all hell! It seemed as if the more I figured out, the muddier the water became.
We settled into a slower pace when we were maybe an hour from the castle. The sun had set long ago, and the night air was biting. I hunkered so close to Heero I was a second skin, but it really didn’t help. The breeze blew my hood and my hair in every direction. The moon’s reflection off the snow was once again not enough. I was exhausted, cold and in pain. All of that combined meant that I was not as careful with my thoughts as I should have been.
As I held on drowsily to Heero, I flinched in remembered pain as Noin growled the name of her kidnapper. To taste it on my tongue, I whispered to myself, “Oburi...”
Something suddenly plowed into Heero and I, slamming us to the ground. We laid there for some time, too stunned to move. As I came closer to consciousness I curled in on myself, trying to breathe through the pain. Off to the side I heard snarling, like two dogs fighting. Squinting into the darkness, I could see the outlines of Trowa and Otto. I didn’t know what started this, but I could see that the werewolves were tearing each other apart. Literally.
I heard Heero panting over me. He sounded as bad as I felt. “Heero,” I whispered, raising a shaky hand towards him. “Run,” I breathed, curling back in on myself. There was no way I would be able to get up under my own power.
I jerked in surprise when I felt the sharpness of teeth. Heero gently picked me up in his mouth, and I held onto the fur around his jaw. Unfortunately, it was the best I could do. He turned away and continued towards the castle, but I could see we were going to have problems. It became obvious that Heero took the brunt of the impact. His steps were clumsy and uncoordinated, to the point where he sometimes stepped on my hair. He would shake his head gently, as if trying to clear away dizziness.
Otto came crashing through the trees, but not under his own power. Not a second after he hit the ground he was pounced on by Trowa, who grabbed him by the neck and threw him over our heads. Trowa jumped over our heads to give chase as I heard Otto crash through some more trees. A second passed before I heard a growl. I didn’t know who growled, but it was enough to put the fear of the devil into me. I curled around Heero as best as I could, completely terrorized.
I didn’t know if it was my smell of fear that got to Heero or if he was getting over his injuries, but each step was faster than the last until we were all out running. I couldn’t hear anything except the wind whistling through my ears, and every few seconds I caught a glimpse of someone chasing us. At this speed I couldn’t tell if it was Trowa or Otto, not that it mattered. I just clung to Heero and prayed with my everything that Wufei was at the castle.
Heero almost gutted me with his teeth when he suddenly stopped. With a shout, my arms and legs flung forward due to the momentum. There was a silhouette in front of us that was so black it could’ve been a black hole on Earth. It felt especially menacing because of the too-white snow. The mushroom-shaped head though, gave the person’s identity away.
Sound and sensation came back to me. I could hear Trowa and Otto’s fight winding down. I could feel Heero’s hot breath rushing through me as he panted, burning me as well as soaking me. The cold air sucked away whatever heat I did have, leaving me shivering. I could imagine how I looked too: hair standing straight out and permanently windblown, snot and dirty snow frozen to my face, pale and covered in bruises... yeah. Totally ready for a closeup.
G calmly stepped towards us until he was at arm’s length. He glanced in the direction of the Alphagues before looking me and Heero over. Sighing dramatically, he made a gesture with his hand that made the ground shake. Unsure of what was happening, I gripped Heero’s snout.
“I have Summoned one of the smaller mountain trolls,” G explained, bouncing a little as the shaking continued to become stronger. “It will take us back to the castle.” Bounce. “You two are too hurt to continue on foot.”
“Tro and Otto?” I asked tiredly, my teeth rattling together from the ground shaking.
“Fuck them,” G snapped with his teeth bared. “You two apparently have been fending for yourselves. That wouldn’t be an issue if they were doing their jobs.”
The mountain troll came to stand behind G, and lowered its hand to the ground without being asked. I snorted as I looked up and up... “You call this guy ‘small’?” I asked in disbelief. The damn thing was as tall as a water tower.
“Small compared to its kind,” G said, humor in his voice. With a quick movement, the wizard stripped off his cloak and laid it over the troll’s palm. “Get on.”
Heero didn’t waste any time. Once he turned me loose I took off one of my cloaks, throwing it over me like a blanket. Heero changed back into a human and curled against my side. I threw the cloak over both of us and laid down, burrowing my back against G’s fur cloak. It was so soft...
That was my last thought.
We stopped moving.
I was surprised I woke, considering how utterly exhausted I felt. Heero and I slept through the troll walking here, and Lord knew that was not a quiet nor smooth way of travel. I could only guess that the vibrations rocked us to sleep.
Startled, I turned to my left as I sat up. G was standing over my head calmly, as if riding in the hands of trolls half naked was an everyday occurrence for him. Hell, maybe it was.
“Yes.” He indicated with his head. “The castle.”
Oh, right. I turned to Heero to wake him, but stopped. There was something... off about him that I couldn’t pinpoint. Looking him over I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. There weren’t any signs of physical trauma, even though he and I were hit by what felt like a train. And he seemed to be sleeping peacefully enough. It was just that there was something in the air almost, a scent that told me something was out of place. He was hurt. Really, really hurt. Only I couldn’t understand its significance. “Heero?”
“Leave him be,” G told me kindly. I turned to face him and jumped when I noted Sedici at his side. God damn sneaky werewolves. “He will be taken care of. As will you.” Without a word Sedici stepped forward and picked me up. There was a second where I thought to kick up a fuss, but it went away just as quickly.
We had taken two steps when a white blur shot passed us. It was the Prince!
I damn near crawled over Sedici’s shoulder to see what was going on. He slowed his stride, as if he too was curious. We glanced at each other for an instant then turned our attention behind us, both of us agreeing to work together in order to settle our... curiosity. Yeah.
The Prince ran straight for Heero and dropped to his knees at the Special’s side. With the utmost tenderness, he caressed Heero’s cheek with the backs of his fingers. He dipped his head to run his nose along Heero’s, purring so low it sounded like cooing. Heero jerked slightly and whimpered, which sent the Prince into a rage. Snapping straight up, his Royalness went on a barking frenzy that had foam dripping from his mouth. Unfortunately two battered werewolves walked up right then, body language submissive and wary. They had their tails between their legs, with their heads lowered and ears flat. Trowa and Otto.
Without warning the Prince attacked Otto, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him into the ground. Before I could shout in surprise the doors slammed closed, firmly separating me from the world outside. I cringed as I heard Otto shrieking in pain, the sounds even more frightening considering how powerful I knew the Alphagué to be.
In a childish attempt to block out his cries, I covered my ears. Because of that I was able to feel vibrations in Sedici’s chest. At first I thought he was purring, but then I realized that he was laughing at Otto’s expense. Infuriated, I elbowed him across the face as hard as I could. I cried out in agony, and clutched my arm to my chest. After all, hitting these guys was like hitting a brick wall. Sedici glared fiercely at me and growled low in his throat. However, I could tell he was hurting by the way he wouldn’t bare his teeth. So I bared mine and hissed through him, smirking when a little spittle landed on his cheek. I laughed as he aggressively wiped his face with his sleeve, and kicked him in the balls after he ‘accidently’ dropped me.
I guess our little alliance was over.
I was so stiff when I woke up it was painful. I could only lay there for a moment, wondering if my neck would break and shatter into a million pieces if I tried to turn my head. Flipping a mental coin, I let out a huff when it landed on, ‘Either way you’re screwed.’ With a groan, I turned as much as my screaming muscles would allow. Once I got somewhat comfortable, my stomach growled. It was loud enough to be heard in the next room, I was sure. I could also feel how it had eaten its way to my back. I pulled the pelts up to my shoulders since I was naked, once again.
It wasn’t until the door opened that I realized I was in a room I had never been in before. The walls were the stone of the mountain with the usual torches placed. However, it was the smallest room I had seen so far in the castle. It had a resemblance to the antechamber in Wufei’s house. There were various pelts all over the floor where others could sit, as well as a slight dais against the wall. It had an intimate feel, and I could sense that many important decisions were made here.
G had walked in with a tray of food, which he placed in front of me. He snatched his hands away with a chuckle as I attacked, shoveling food into my mouth with my hands like some crazed animal. He had a blue robe hung over his arm that he draped over my shoulders. I was aware of nothing else as I ate, so it was a huge surprise when I looked up and saw the Prince and Wufei. Both were seated on the dais, eyes open but not seeing. Halfway between us were Quatre and G, seated on pelts and watching me.
Feeling completely embarrassed by my behavior, I wiped my hands clean with the napkin and moved the tray to my side. Sliding my arms into the sleeves, I watched wearily as the Prince and Wufei woke up from where ever their minds were. I was most surprised by the appearance of all of the Shifters. G seemed to be his cool, collected self. The other three appeared as if they had been crying. Their eyes were pink-tinged, puffy, and exhausted. I didn’t know what the hell they had been doing, but I knew they hadn’t been crying. This was something much more serious.
“My Primus Privileged,” Wufei said, and it took me a moment to figure out he was talking to me.
“My Packmaster,” I responded, shifting to bow to him. The seriousness of this had my hair standing on end. Wufei had never used my title to me before.
“Your Highness,” I said, shifting to bow to the Prince. Afterwards, I rose and sat cross-legged. When a minute passed without a word, I figured it was up to me to get things started. “Packmasters, how may I be of service?”
“There is no need for such formalities here,” the Prince said, voice about as smooth as gravel. “I want the truth, now. And if I don’t get it there will be hell to pay.” I only had enough time for my eyes to widen before he asked, “How do you know it was Oburi?”
It took me a moment to process the question. When I did I was still confused. “I’m sorry. What?”
“Oburi!” he barked. “How do you know it was Oburi?!”
“You don’t bark at my Primus!” Wufei shouted, eyes bright and claws out. “I will gut you!”
“Packmasters!” G shouted. Quatre scooted closer to me, as if to protect me. I grabbed his arm and pulled him closer. “This will not get you the answers you seek!” G continued to shout.
The Prince leaned forward, and I could feel all of his determination in that move. Wufei leaned forward as well, except all of his focus was on the blonde werewolf. The Prince didn’t care. The weight of his eyes boring into mine was substantial. “I saw him,” I said, my voice trembling in fear. “In my mind. I saw him kidnap Noin. He’s in love with her.”
The Prince sat back. “That is not possible.”
“Oh?” Wufei said slowly, his fury making his fur sprout on his face and hands. “Are you saying that my Primus is lying?” He lifted one clawed hand almost negligently. It looked completely capable of decapitating a Prince.
“Packmaster...” Quatre warned.
“Oburi died six months ago,” the Prince snarled, glaring dangerously at Wufei before whipping his head around to face me. “And *I* was the one who killed him!”