â€œHe thinks that we should use his farm as our base?â€ David asked after Michael had called and suggested the move to Sarah.
â€œYeah,â€ she said. â€œHe says that Laurel was paralysed when they got there and we’re running out of space here, plus there’s less chance of human casualties if we’re attacked there.â€
â€œThose are both good points,â€ Tanya said. â€œMerry can you get us that minibus again because I think it’s a good idea.â€
â€œIt is,â€ Meredith agreed. â€œI think the place is more defensible as well. And yeah, I can get the minibus again.â€ She looked a lot better than the previous day but still subdued and sad. â€œI also need to do a circuit of my remaining subordinates to see if anyone else is being mind-controlled. We’ll get to Michael’s first and then you’re with me on that, Sal.â€
â€œMake sure you dose yourself first, Sal,â€ Tanya said. â€œJust in case any of the others have been alerted to you.â€
â€œI wouldn’t forget that, Tan,â€ Sarah said. â€œI’m sort of attached to being alive. I’ll go and grab Dan to brew the tea.â€
â€œYou can’t brew it yourself?â€ Meredith asked.
â€œIt requires a bit more than just following a recipe,â€ Sarah said.
Meredith frowned and then made an enlightened sound. â€œIt requires healing ability to create?â€
â€œHe alters it somehow,â€ Sarah said. â€œIt’d be poisonous otherwise. I don’t really understand it but I don’t think it’s the healing. Dad wasn’t a healer and he was a brewer as well.â€
â€œIt’s a form of alchemical magic,â€ Daniel said from the door. â€œIn that respect, it’s similar to the recipe vampires use for bloodwine. Sal’s just not trained to make it. I am going to need to find an apprentice though since Uncle Mark is dead. Having just one brewer is a bit risky for my taste.â€
â€œWill I need this tea?â€ Anna asked.
â€œProbably not quite yet,â€ Daniel said. â€œEven with a premature change the silver allergy shouldn’t kick in until after your first full moon change, but it’s worth doing a metal test just in case given just how precocious you are.â€
â€œA full spectrum one, I think,â€ Philip said. â€œGiven that she’s Karen’s daughter and a seer she might be an outlier like her mother.â€
â€œOutlier?â€ Anna asked.
â€œThat’s not a bad idea,â€ Penny said. â€œWe need to do one for David as well.â€
â€œSometimes a werewolf is sensitive to a metal other than silver,â€ Philip said. â€œSome poor sods are even vulnerable to more than one. We think it happens because of other ancestry. Karen was allergic to iron not silver and you have both reynadine and mistwalker ancestors in the recent past. You really shouldn’t react to anything at all yet but like Daniel says, we’ll check just in case. And we’ll check again next month.â€
Meredith’s eyebrows shot up. â€œAre the reynadine what I think they are?â€
â€œIf you’re thinking they are our fox shifter cousins you’d be right,â€ Philip said. â€œWe have good relations with the local skulk and Anna’s father’s mother was one of the reynardine.â€
â€œI don’t think we should tell Rhianne that there’s more werecreatures than just Werewolves out there,â€ Meredith said. â€œI guess these others explain the times when I sense things that aren’t quite werewolf. I thought it might be.â€
â€œThere are lots of werecreatures out there,â€ Tanya said. â€œBut the four native to Britain are Us, the weredogs, the werecats and the werefoxes and only werewolves have a problem with silver generally.â€
â€œI’d guess all the others are weak to iron,â€ Meredith said. â€œBut that’s just me recalling folklore that links the others with the fairies.â€
â€œYou’d think right,â€ Philip said. â€œThough again, that’s only mostly true.â€
â€œFrom what I can tell, managing to get the other werecreatures classified as fairies was one of the only victories the moderates won during the coup,â€ Tanya said. â€œAnd it’s not a small one since it kept them free from as much persecution.â€
â€œSpeaking of variations, I think we should check David against silver as well.â€ Penny said. â€œThat would explain why his aura looks more wolfy than I’d expect for his apparently ordinary change.â€ She scowled thoughtfully at David. â€œAnd there’s something else; something that’s only just started. I keep seeing patterns in there.â€ She glanced sideways at Tyler. â€œYou see them too, don’t you?â€
â€œYes,â€ he said. â€œAnd I really don’t like the implications.â€
â€œImplications?â€ Philip asked.
â€œA pattern like we’re seeing in a David’s aura usually means that he is a mistwalker and has the potential for court rank,â€ he said. â€œIt can also points to the potential for some of the independent roles like The Wanderer or The Huntsman but there’s more court roles. I can’t say which role because I don’t know the Court of Seasons patterns but whatever it is, the pattern should have been visible even before he transformed â€“ it’s the one time you know for sure someone will be a mistwalker â€“ and they weren’t. I think that theory, I didn’t believe yesterday, may be true. But, if it is, then it gives credence to the Rebel Court’s claims about Gwen being responsible for the mess the court is in.â€
â€œSo you’re saying that this might be about who I am rather than what I am?â€ David asked, a sudden knotting in his stomach suggested to him that Tyler was right.
â€œYes,â€ Tyler said. â€œThat’s a good way of putting it. Let’s get to Michael’s as soon as possible. I want to discuss this with Liam and Kate, because if we’re right about this, it means things are even more dangerous than we thought.â€
It wasn’t a feeling of anxiety or any other obvious premonition that alerted Anna to the fact something terrible was about to happen. Rather it was the same unnatural calm as she had experienced during her first change creeping over her as Meredith drove them all towards Michael’s farm. Until that moment she had thought that it had been a side-effect of her change but now she realised it was something else, though she still wasn’t sure what. What she was sure of was that the calmness presaged nothing good, that its presence was to prevent her panicking in a situation that would normally cause that reaction.
Still if something bad was about to happen she would do better to worry about that now. She could worry about the mystery later, but she had no idea what the danger was.
Look behind the van.
Anna wasn’t sure that the whisper was real, certainly no one else reacted. It sounded like her mother’s voice too and she couldn’t see any ghosts in the van so was probably her subconscious. Still it probably knew more than her conscious mind so she twisted in her seat and looked out of the rear window.
What she saw nearly shattered that unnatural calm and it was a few moments before she could grab David’s arm and point desperately out the rear window. She rather thought he was the only other person who would be able to see the wild storm and the riders behind them as both had that hazy look that told her she was seeing something in the Mists.
â€œWhat the hell!â€ David obviously seeing it as well.
â€œSomethingâ€™s in the Mists?â€ Penny asked. â€œI’ll take a look.â€
â€œCareful, Pen,â€ Brenna said. â€œDon’t get stuck in a seat when you phase back.â€
â€œReally, Bren, I’m way too good for that.â€ She turned in seat and faded slightly as she passed into the Mists. It was only a moment before she returned, she looked somewhere between sick and terrified. â€œMeredith,â€ she said shakily. â€œCan you go any faster?â€ She took a couple of ragged breaths. â€œAnd Tyler, you’d best ring Liam and Kate and tell them that we have the Wild Hunt on our tail.â€ She clutched the back of her seat. â€œGwen must have summoned them! What was she thinking? She knows she can’t control them.â€
â€œIt reeks of desperation,â€ Tyler said as he fished out his phone.
â€œOkay,â€ Meredith said. â€œI can speed up a little but is there anything that will actually stop them and how fast can they travel?â€
â€œFaster than this probably,â€ Sue said. Anna looked over at David’s mother. The woman was sitting between David and Emma and had been quiet for most of the journey until now. â€œMy mother always said the Wild Hunt travelled at the speed of thought.â€
â€œThey can’t cross running water,â€ Penny said. â€œNor a barrier of Hawthorn. The Hunt is predominately what humans call fairy and can be stopped by iron charms but unless banished they will abide and await their marked quarry to be unprotected.â€ She sounded like she was reciting something by rote.
â€œAnd in the meantime they will seek other prey to sate them and they are insatiable,â€ Tyler said. He put his phone away. â€œKate’s on her way. She should be able to banish them as she’s the Day Queen and its daytime…â€
â€œIf she gets here in time,â€ Brenna said.
â€œSo we just have to keep ahead of them until then,â€ Meredith said. â€œThe river is just ahead can they cross a bridge?â€
â€œThey can, but not easily,â€ Tyler said. â€œIt will slow them for sure. They’ll seek a way around before risking the bridge.â€
â€œGood!â€ Meredith hit the accelerator and sped the minibus onto the bridge.
Anna looked out of the back window again. â€œThey are milling about on the bank.â€
â€œThat’s good,â€ Tyler said. â€œLet’s keep going though.â€ He gave a wry smile. â€œStephen is going to be so mad about this once the Hunt is banished.â€
â€œWho?â€ David asked.
â€œStephen is the current Huntsman,â€ Tyler said. â€œHe’s actually a decent guy so he gets pissed when the hunt is summoned because he hates the loss of control it forces upon him. He especially gets pissed if the hunt is summoned against an innocent target, which you are.â€
â€œAre you sure about that?â€ David asked. â€œVampire hunter, remember?â€
â€œOh, Stephen wouldn’t care about that,â€ Penny said. â€œIts crimes against Mistwalkers he’s concerned with. Given what we suspect, Gwen may have made a big mistake here. He may call the hunt together himself when he finds out.â€
â€œAnd go after her?â€ David asked.
â€œYes,â€ Tyler agreed. â€œShe’s probably a match for the hunt but it would definitely inconvenience her. And she’s not stupid, which means she thinks getting rid of David is worth having to fight off the hunt afterwards.â€
Anna listened as she continued staring out of the rear window at the Hunt. They were still milling around at the head of the bridge and she could see their leader staring across the river towards them. With glowing red eyes and deer antlers he barely looked human at all. As she watched she saw him raise a horn to his lips and the faint sound of it reached her ears. The hunt collected around him thenâ€¦ moved onto the bridge.
â€œThey’re coming,â€ she said.
â€œDamn!â€ Meredith said. â€œThere’s traffic ahead! We’re so screwed… David what are you doing?â€ This last was because he had unbuckled his seatbelt and reached for the door.
â€œThey’re after me,â€ he said. â€œI’ll lead them away from you.â€
â€œDon’t be stupid!â€ Tanya grabbed hold of him. â€œThey’ll catch you in moments if you leave the van.â€
â€œAnd will the van keep them out if I don’t?â€ he asked sharply.
â€œHmm?â€ Penny reached down and touched the floor. â€œThere’s enough mild steel in the chassis that it’ll slow them down. A shame the bodywork is aluminium or it might have stopped them completely.â€
â€œIf it were made of mild steel it’d have stopped you getting in as well,â€ Tyler said dryly.
â€œThat would have been worth the inconvenience of having to make my own way,â€ she replied. â€œBut yes, the van will slow them and I don’t imagine Kate will be lon–â€ She broke off as thump came from the front of the vehicle.
Anna turned to look as well and saw a tall, dark haired woman dressed in white with a bronze scythe in one hand and crowned with circlet of golden grain standing on the van’s bonnet. She was semi-transparent which meant she was in the Mists. She obviously realised Anna could see her because she winked at her before leaping up onto the roof. The thumping as she ran along it was apparently audible outside the Mists because everyone else in the van stared at the roof.
â€œHold, Huntsman!â€ The woman’s voice apparently wasn’t since they didn’t react. â€œHold! I am the Day Queen Katarzyna, this is my time and I place my will upon you! These people are under my protection and have committed no crimes. Hold!â€
At her words everything seemed to stop. Not just the sound of the hooves and baying hounds approaching but the sound of the van engine and the surrounding traffic had gone. Even her breathing had stopped.
Anna fought the unnatural stillness that seemed to have taken them all to look to the rear again and saw the Wild Hunt also frozen in place. A moment later the Huntsman raised his hand. The whole of the Hunt except him vanished and the world started moving again. She gasped out a relieved breath. â€œI think its okay now.â€
â€œIt looks like it,â€ David agreed. â€œThough he’s still there.â€
The Huntsman was indeed still behind them, as Anna watched he dismounted and his horse also vanished. He walked towards Kate who had leapt down and was awaiting him.
â€œPull over, Merry,â€ Tanya said. â€œLet’s find out who sent him.â€