Episode 13: When Hope Is Abandoned part 1
Hope’s tower stood as though to greet them. He stood with his two friends next to the three that had come from Zene and Nevetes’ town.
“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Reis was idly scratching the back of his head. His confidence was not there.
“Nope,” Bryn was the one to answer. He then looked at Marie, “but I think we’re supposed to be here.”
She nodded affirmation.
“So, he’s a friend now?” one of Marie’s brothers had spoken with a heavy dose of criticism. By the look on Reis’ face, he shared that sentiment.
Holding Bryn’s gaze, Marie made her claim, “I think that he’s someone worth standing next to.”
“Zene see’s something good in him,” Bryn affirmed.
With a wry note, Chad pointed out, “Zene see’s something good in everything.”
Walking next to each other, Notes and Kihivas watched the small group of humans as they observed what remained of Hope. Their conversation, even to the disfigured ears Notes had, was easy to pick up on. They spoke of loyalty to a vampire that didn’t seem to want it. With a self-deprecating grin, Notes admitted to himself that he understood their stand.
He looked at Kihivas, “so, why did we come?”
Behind them, the rest of Notes’ gang followed. They totalled twenty; not exactly high numbers for a battle. But each were willing to be here if it meant killing humans that hunted them. They each had their own sad story, so the bloodlust was easy to understand and work off.
Kihivas’ eyes were upon the humans in boredom, “do you remember what it’s like being human?”
Though he wouldn’t explain, Notes nodded.
Dark were the eyes that saw into the past, “I don’t know anything about a…mother. All I remember is the pain of being beaten. For years, my blood was being taken from me. No one told me why. Then one day, blood was put in me. The pain of being turned…it’s like something is squeezing your very heart. There was no explanation. Only tests and more needles.”
Notes looked uncomfortable.
Kihivas looked at him, “Nevetes knows. About our mother. About why the humans hate us. About what they did. If he’s here for answers, I deserve to know them too.”
“How do you feel, being back here, Captain Dae?” the general looked at the man.
Anger, resentment, disgust, but no fear. He was glad to see that.
Dae was looking upon the tower, “I thought I’d spend my life as a scientist.”
“Do you have regrets?”
Dae moved his head to look at his commanding officer, “the things I accomplish under your command far exceed any feelings of loss I have over what used to be. That monster took everything away when we introduced the vampiric curse. So, I want to know why. And I want to know why the demonic curse hasn’t killed it yet.”
General Vania simply nodded silently in response.
Dae continued, “I have regrets about underestimating what would happen when we crossed the curses. I have strong feelings about being back here now. And I will use both to focus upon capturing that thing. We will have our answers, and what happened here before will never happen again!”
“What do you see?” Zene’s voice was as soft as the touch of her hand within his.
He wasn’t looking, but rather listening. At this vantage, the tree growth was too thick for visuals. And at this distance, his hearing was the better sense. He let her know, “Kihivas is with Notes and his gang.”
His chin jutted minutely in their direction. She followed with her gaze even though she couldn’t see.
“Bryn and his friends are with Marie and her brothers,” his head turned their direction.
“Who’s Marie?” there was an edge to Zene’s voice.
With an amused grin beginning to emerge, he looked at her, “a Primal, and someone I opted not to kill.”
Zene’s lips pursed into a pout.
Though amused, he would explain no further. He readjusted his hold on her hand, which seemed to placate her. He was looking dead ahead now. The moment of levity was a thought on the breeze. She was watching him as he alerted her, “Vania is ahead. Eighty heartbeats surround him. All human.”
“So, how many does that make?” she was now trying to count it out.
He helped with an annoyed sigh, “twenty-two to eighty-one.”
There was a crash behind them. Zene turned her head to look, but Nevetes remained focused.
“Twenty-four to eighty-one,” he amended.
“Prepare them,” the general’s voice was hard and flat. “It’s about to begin.”
Across the field twenty figures stood watching them. They were not united as a group. They were untrained. Kids mostly. And even though Captain Elsie’s and Captain Dae’s troops only totalled eighty, they had trained under one discipline and had battle experience.
“This will be over soon,” he was very confident.
Following their orders given by their captains, the troops were readied. Standing alone at the head, Vania watched as two additional figures emerged from the woods. From this distance, it would be impossible to say where Nevetes’ eyes were focused. And yet, without a single shred of doubt, Vania knew that he alone was in that darkened, soulless sight.
“I should have brought about your demise a long time ago, Nevetes,” he stared across the expanse separating them. “But your mother’s suffering had been too short, and you were her surrogate.”
There was only the slightest movement that could be detected from this distance. A lowering of the chin in deadly challenge. A moment after, and a growl came along with the breeze. A base that hit the chest and brought about a palpable fear in all who heard it.
Her focus was on how it felt to have Nevetes hold her hand. Despite what they faced, he was calm and confident. Was it that he had a plan for how this confrontation would go? Or was it that he was confident that he could react in time to whatever happened? It was hard to say exactly what Nevetes was thinking. Whatever he knew, it would be kept to himself. Used only if it became advantageous to.
She looked up at him. What she knew in her heart was that even if he didn’t share what he knew, he would use that knowledge to stay by her. Her left hand moved to hold his arm as she closed her eyes. Slow was the breath she took in and released. Like a pebble being tossed into the lake, her power moved out in a ripple around the two of them.
Beneath their feet a feeling was rising. It was foreboding and ominous. Grey eyes shot open revealing the power she had invoked. Looking at Nevetes allowed her to see the warmth of his spark. Her gaze silently sought a rescue. His gaze was questioning her. The way her heart had faltered would have been easy for him to hear.
“What is it?” Nevetes asked of her. There was no gruffness, only patience. At least, that’s what she heard.
Holding onto him, “we’re not safe here.”
They held each other’s gaze. She wasn’t sure what Nevetes saw as he was looking at her. She wasn’t even sure what it was she was trying to say to him. The feelings boiling up inside her only felt wrong. Like something bad was coming, only she didn’t know what or when. Nevetes nodded softly.
They walked out onto the field. The ominous feelings Zene had weren’t felt by him. But, when the time came, if the opportunity came, they would act accordingly. His trust in her was absolute now. And he absolutely trusted that she was using her power. She was in his arm, her eyes closed to the world. She wasn’t hiding from him though.
To their right, Notes cut a line to mirror them. At the left, Marie was the one to step forward. Five guys reached out to stop her, but a sharp glance over her shoulder silenced their protests. There was a note of approval in Nevetes’ gaze.
He and Zene continued on their path. Would the general come forward to meet them? Eighty people followed his command, and were looking to him right now. The hesitation the general had was not based in fear. That heartbeat was as steady and strong as it had always been.
The taunt that came under the general’s breath reached Nevetes. A past between the general and their mother was once again hinted at. But dwelling upon a past that could not be changed, held no interest for Nevetes. And this constant needling had grown old.
The growl that emerged faltered the others, and it sparked a fear within the general. Sharp eyes held him without blinking now.
Hearing that growl brought out their final two like a whistle called a pet. Trees snapped in half as a massive creature plowed through them rather than around them. It was as though the trees were mere flowers in a meadow. A burble of laughter came from the tiny figure situated upon misshapen shoulders. They were an odd pairing that worked.
When the beast caught wind of a familiar scent, it stopped dead with those beady eyes focusing fiercely upon Kihivas. The snarl allowed more drool to fall from the curled lips. Alert to the change in her pet, Mae rose upon its back. She too was snarling. Seemed that she didn’t particularly care for Kihivas either. Kihivas saw the threat. His response was to bare fangs and claws.
Soft was the warning growl out of Nevetes that stopped this encounter. Mae and her pet watched him. Kihivas’ eyes danced between them. The glare over his shoulder conveyed his command. A chirp from Mae had her pet moving to follow Nevetes. Left with no threat before him, Kihivas slouched with arms crossed over his stomach.
From within Vania’s ranks, unease flowed as murmured voices rose. Though their numbers exceeded the enemy, it seemed many of them believed Mae’s beast to be dead. Its presence rattled them. That note of dissension made up the general’s mind. Arrogance kept that chin up. Something behind the anger kept eyes hard.
Nevetes listened closely as they approached. Each person in this strange gathering had their own rhythm. Knowing those rhythms would be beneficial. His eyes didn’t waiver from Vania. His arm held Zene a little tighter.
They met. Vania. Nevetes. And those that were a convenient annoyance. Heartbeats raced. Marie was terrified. Notes lacked the sense.
Standing just far enough away from each other to keep out of physical reach, they each stopped. Stares, as individual as the people, moved about. Only Nevetes’ stayed focused. He would not release the general.
Tensions rose until it was Vania that broke the standoff, “surrender yourselves…”
“The shift has happened,” it was snarled with a vicious grin from Notes. “You’re too late to bark orders.”
“You are outnumbered,” the general scoffed.
“And you’re out-matched,” Notes retorted with malicious glee. “I’m Notes, I don’t care if you remember that name or not. But you’d better remember that we’re done taking the orders of humans. From this point on, we’re our own masters. And you can either go tell the other humans that, or you can die here today.”
“He dies,” Nevetes stated coldly. The chill in that tone cut through everyone.
Marie’s eyes were determined as she stepped forward, sending the pupils into slits so cat-like. Curt was her tone, “peaceful people may not have the training you do, but you shouldn’t underestimate us because we’re fighting for something you will never have.”
She didn’t explain further. There was a flash that made others blink. When eyes adjusted, they saw a huge, sleek cat in a molted tan and black coloring. Thick paws, stalky build, intelligent gaze focused upon the general in challenge.
“Wow,” Notes was impressed.
Eyes lit with the power of an Elemental opened, “you don’t hesitate to take lives. If you would, my power could be used to help you.”
There were breathless glances their direction. Smoke, a deep charcoal in color, began to lift about the two of them. The red in Nevetes’ eyes was lit, a dull echo of her Elemental glow.
Continuing with the same soft resolve, “then again, I know what you did to Nevetes, and I was there when you killed my sister.”
Her light was gone.
Her smile was stronger as she looked at Nevetes, “so, maybe I’ll keep my power for us.”
He wouldn’t pretend to be unhappy with that answer. Slow, his gaze moved from her to the general. The very subtle movement of a hand closing to a fist was caught since it had been held out only just from the hip. Narrowed, red eyes made the connection.
With Zene safely in his arms, Nevetes carried her out of harms way as a volley of arrows descended upon the group. Arms around his neck, Zene watched the others scramble. Marie raced through the barrage back towards her brothers and Bryn’s group. Notes pulled an arrow from his shoulder. The look cast at Nevetes was accusatory.
Vania was moving in smooth strides back to his troops. Nevetes’ heels dug into the ground. He watched as Vania turned his back upon them. Eyes turned a shade darker as he watched. Then he turned about with Zene still in his arms. He walked away.
He cut her off, “heal those only with near fatal injuries.”
“You’re okay if I do?”
“Because I know you will anyway,” he accused. He set her down at the edge of the forest at the point furthest from Vania and the fighting. He turned to leave her, “stay out of my way.”
He turned back to her. Running the two steps that separated them, she grabbed his hands. Standing upon her toes she was able to bestow the lightest kiss upon his lips. Surprise kept him from saying anything. She smiled bright and warm. He shook his head at her actions. With Zene safely set beyond the active fighting, Nevetes could return to the battle he’d encouraged.
Impatient, Kihivas was already racing forward with the speed of a vampire. Sights were focused upon the general. Anger brought about speed so that Nevetes could intercept his brother. Claws at Kihivas’ shoulder threw him with force into the ground. The impact left a crater. Pulling himself up, revealed injuries and anger. Seeing Nevetes sailing overhead spurred Kihivas. Powerful muscles pushed him out of the ground after Nevetes.
“Nevetes, he’s mine,” Kihivas shouted!
Nevetes turned about without losing momentum. His right arm delivered a backhanded slap sending Kihivas backwards. Strong jaws were quick to snatch him out of the air. Mae’s beast clamped hard on his midsection. The headshake was a dog making a kill.
And anyone less than Kihivas would have died. A fist slammed into the large nose, which was a sensitive part of the beast. With a yip, it released Kihivas. Using the face, Kihivas kicked off and came for his brother.
Racing in, Kihivas questioned, “she made friends with it?”
Nevetes made a swipe with his claws when Kihivas was looking back at the duo. Narrowly avoiding, Kihivas countered, gaining himself a fistful of Nevetes’ jacket.
Nevetes commented calmly, “she’s an Elemental. Seems in their nature to make friends with monsters.”
“Huh,” was the only utterance of muted acceptance. “You’re going to kill him, right?”
He affirmed, “not for revenge.”
“For her then?” Kihivas was affronted!
Nevetes’ stare held Kihivas, “do you know what it means to have a brother?”
There was a confused shake of his head. Disgust and annoyance hid emotions.
Nevetes pulled Kihivas close, “I do, thanks to our mother. It’s on me to succeed where she failed. Stay out of my fight.”
Reluctant acceptance came following those words. Kihivas grabbed the jacket at his throat. His glare was petulant, lacking in authority, yet conveying much. Then he threw Nevetes.
The throw had been controlled, sending Nevetes over enemy lines. Anticipating this turn, Nevetes turned to the only battle he cared about. Alone, Kihivas faced the soldiers sent to kill them. He landed hard among them sending them scattering.
In the air, with his gaze solely upon the general, Nevetes let his true nature finally emerge. It was a battle he’d been fighting against himself since they’d arrived back here. That battle was something he needed Zene for, only she wasn’t aware of that truth.
If it were up to the demon inside Nevetes, there would be no survivors. Wings exploded from his back! His jacket fluttered uselessly to the ground behind him. Darkness swallowed the red hue of his eyes. Claws glistened with something evil as they trembled for the death they would cause.
Those never before confronted by a demon, fell away in fear! The small few who had, had never met anything like Nevetes. Fear would be their death. One of the captains brandished a sword as he rushed in to save his commander. An older man, unimportant to this battle. A minor obstacle meant to be swept aside with a thoughtless sweep of a wing.
The arc of the sword mirrored Nevetes’ arrival as he slammed into the earth! It would have sliced in where neck met shoulder, but a hand capturing the blade stopped it. Blood trickled down Nevetes’ hand where the blade had made impact. The force should have been enough to sever his hand. Yet, from his kneeling position he stood slowly carrying the blade up with him despite the desperate effort of the one wielding the weapon.
Familiarity touched his ear in the heartbeat now heard. Black eyes shifted to the captain, for the first time taking note of the human.
A scoff of laughter tried to hide fear, “I remember you too, demon. Because of you everyone I…”
Fear had washed over the now frozen features of the captain. Poison saturated claws had cut furrows into the chest. Human blood moved far quicker than his. The call of that blood would remain unanswered. Boils rose and skin shrank from the open wounds as it turned black. The body fell to the ground alongside the discarded weapon. When the heart stopped, Nevetes was turning towards the general.
A knife thrown with precision pierced the skin along the skull at Nevetes’ temple. It was quickly lost to the smoke of his wings as one closed in. From the side, the knife emerged with more momentum than it was given to hit him. Sailing through the air, it found a mark in the neck of the second captain almost half a field away. Surprise washed over Kihivas’ features. As the situation was processed, annoyance moved heavily from his brother.
With a dark smile, and darker blood beginning to move down his face, Nevetes moved in on the general.
A snap of fingers called a dozen soldiers forward!