Lord of the Wolves Chapter Twenty-Eight

March 24th, 2018  |  Published in Haventon Chronicles  |  1 Comment

Start | LoTW Chapter Twenty-Seven | Index | LoTW Chapter Twenty Nine

In spite of the many dealings he’d had with Mistwalkers over his three centuries of life Michael had never actually been in the mists before. And even though he was terrified for Laurel he couldn’t help looking around in fascination as they rode on fairy horses towards the Summer Palace.

For the most part it looked just like Haventon normally did… well except for the bit where everything was shrouded in a luminescent mist that reduced visibility to no more than a hundred yards. Occasionally however he would see a building that either no longer or had never existed in what Mistwalkers called the sunlit world. Even more rarely he would spot some alien creature darting vaguely through the fog. And there was something else nagging at him but it was until he noticed the faint silver disc which was all that could be seen of the sun in this place that it hit him. He didn’t feel any increase in hunger as we would expect being abroad in daylight.

“The sunlight isn’t sapping my blood!” he exclaimed.

“Really?” Liam, who was still in his human form, twisted in his saddle and looked back at him curiously. “I wonder why the Mists would effect you that way? They certainly don’t protect me from the sun.” He tutted to himself. “It probably suggests something about vampire nature.”

“Theorise later, Liam!” Kate snapped. “We have a battle to attend to!”

“If you think I can’t theorise and fight at the same time you don’t know me as well as you ought, Kate.” Liam smirked at her. “Anyway I’m not going to be much use until the sun goes down. The first part of the battle is all yours, Day Queen.”

Kate scowled at him before nodding tersely. “And I intend to see it ended before you need to take over.” She paused as the scent of a thousand summer flowers seemed to suffuse the air. “We’re nearly there. We’ll see it soon.”

Indeed less than a minute later the Summer Palace loomed before them, bright enough to that its glow cut through the Mists. Michael wasn’t sure what he had expected – an idealised medieval castle maybe or a magical hillfort perhaps. It was neither of those things. The Summer Palace, the heart of the Summer half of the Court of Season resembled nothing so much as a giant stylised rose carved of amber and marble. The petals brushed the sky, higher than many mountains and the whole thing was surrounded by a massive hedge of thorns. Michael stared at it and tried to think of something to encompass what he was seeing.

“Sweet heaven!” he said finally.

“Yes, Mistwalker Palaces tend to have the effect on people,” Kate said. “And the Summer Palace is particularly impressive.”

“It used to be smaller, though still impressive,” Lillian said. “The traitor remodelled it.” She tilted her head as a coded whistle reached their ears. “And the last group is in position.” She lifted a horn to her lips and sounded it.

The noise resounded around the town and reflected off the buildings fading unaturally slowly. Michael had the sense that it would have been audible even outside the mists. A moment later other horns echoes back from their allies positions and they advanced en masse towards the Summer Palace’s shining gates.

* * *

Laurel was waiting for some sign that the prisoners she had released were keeping up their bargain to give her a distraction, but what she heard first was horns from somewhere outside the palace.

“No!” Jana’s voice was half horror half wonder. “They couldn’t… they wouldn’t dare… not after so long…”

“What’s up?” Laurel asked.

Jana stared at her. “It’s because of you I think…”

Laurel gritted her teeth. “But what is it?”

“The rebel court is attacking the Summer Palace directly… they’ve never dared before, so it’s got to be because of you–” she paused as another horn sounded. “And that would be the Court of Hours… shit! We’re heading into a pitched battle.” She hugged her daughters closer. “This is terrible…”

“Well at least that means that we won’t have to run as far once we’re out of here,” Laurel said.

Jana shook her head. “No! You don’t understand… Gwen will be out there facing them. We don’t stand a chance of slipping past her.”

“It’s not like she can be everywhere,” Laurel said. “So we’ll head somewhere she is–” She broke off as the sound of several large explosions came from behind them, they were heading inwards towards the heart of the palace.

“Well, I guess that’s our signal,” she said. “Let’s go. Lead us to the window and I’ll do the rest.”

Jana hesitated for a long moment before nodding reluctantly. “Very well, but if my daughters suffer for this I will never forgive you.” She grabbed Laurel’s hand and pulled her up some stairs and along a deserted corridor. At the end stood a larged, unbarred window. Jana forced it open and turned to Laurel. Go on then.”

Laurel made sure that the two little girls were holding on to her, took Jana’s hand and then slipped out the window with all three of them in her mist form.

* * *

The park was still open at this time in the evening and a small crowd was gathered on the green in front of the glasshouse listening to some sort of free concert. Currently a jazz band was playing and David couldn’t help smiling in spite of the trouble ahead. Music always cheered him up.

“Okay, this is actually good,” Cheryl said.

“The music?” David asked.

“No, silly, the crowd. We can blend in, use a bit more glamour and the guards will be less likely to find us. It’s all good.” She paused and then added, “But I do like jazz.”

David snorted at that and looked towards the Victorian Glasshouse that was Haventon Park’s pride and joy. “Is the palace hidden some how? I can usually see things in the Mists now.”

“Yeah, and it’s not just glamoured,” she replied. “Gwen used some sort of human magic to hide both palaces.” She headed towards the doors. “Come on we need to go in here to reach the hidden back door I told you about.” She led them into the glass house and up on to a mezzanine floor that allowed you to walk among the canopy of the tropical trees. “Nearly there.”

“There’s something painfully ironic about an entrance to the Winter Palace being in such a warm and humid place,” Maelin said quietly. “But I suspect Maddan likes peeking out at this.”

“Oh, yes,” Cheryl said. “He loves it. He has a garden of his own inside the palace as well. It’s full of every winter flowering bloom his loyalists can find. Gwen doesn’t like it of course.”

Maelin stopped short and stared at her. “She dislikes him having a garden?”

Cheryl reached out and plucked a bright orange bloom from one of the trees. “She dislikes him leaving his room,” she said neutrally. “Plus he’s barred her guards from it. One of the other loyalists is taking him there and that’s where we’ll meet him.” She turned and grabbed a red blossom from another branch. “Can either of you see a yellow blossom that looks like these two? I need all three to form the key.”

“A key made of flowers? How very summer.” Maelin raised an eyebrow.

“Which is exactly why Gwen doesn’t suspect.”

David in the meantime searched the tree with his eyes and spotted the solitary yellow blossom high among the branches. “There!” He pointed at it.

“Great!” Cheryl clambered up the tree with surprising grace and plucked the final flower. She rapidly wove the stems of the blossoms together before casting the flowers into the lily strewn pond below. Instantly a pillar of ice rose from the warm waters of the pool until it’s top was level with the mezzanine then a doorway of ice grew out of it.

“No wonder my accursed mother hadn’t found this yet,” Maelin said. “She would never expect such a seasonal juxtaposition in a door.” He leapt from the Mezzanine to the ice and stood in front of the mist shrouded doorway. “Shall we?”

Cheryl leapt across the gap with equal grace leaving David and the others to leap after her cautiously. Cheryl laid her hands on the ice of the doorway and concentrated. The mist inside the doorway slowly parted to reveal an empty corridor of blue ice. “Follow me.” Cheryl stepped across the threshold and into the mists.

“Be careful,” Maelin said to his pack. “If she’s going to betray us or lead us astray it will be soon.” He looked at David, Emma and Anna. “And that goes for you as well.” He stepped through after her as two of his pack took up position behind David.

With Anna and Emma on either side David found himself at the centre of the group. Which made sense, he guessed, since he would be the main target if they were attacked. Maelin’s warning couple with his own nerves made David draw the Winter Blade with his right hand and one of the spikes Liam had given him with the left as they moved forward cautiously into the Winter Palace.

“The biggest problem is going to be avoiding the guards,” Cheryl said as if the group had not just reorganised itself in a way that would make it easier to fight back if she led them into a trap. “I don’t know where all of them are. Hopefully we can reach the winter garden before we run into any. There ought not to be too many in this area as it’s rather internal but she will probably expect us to head for the garden.” She walked along the corridor with a confidence step that belied the shining ice of the floor and looked cautiously around the corner before turning and beckoning them to follow her.

It really wasn’t slippy David realised as they walked forward. He had expected it to be. He didn’t realise he has muttered out loud about that until Maelin looked back at him with a smile.

“It can be,” he said quietly. “Not so much for you – you belong here. But I can feel that someone – probably my mother – has triggered the aggressive wards to attack any outsiders, so the fact that it isn’t slippy for my pack and your sister and cousin is a good sign. Maddan is the only one who could override her to tell it not to reject us.”

“Well, I told you he sent me,” Cheryl said. “But I can’t imagine Gwen activating the wards. Too many of the guards that are loyal to her here are Summer types. It’d inconvenience them as much as us.” She checked around another corner. “Clear.”

“But that would mean… you think Maddan did it?” he asked.

“Well, he didn’t tell me he was going to and it would be an awfully proactive thing for him to do,” she said. “But if they are active it would have to be him or Gwen, wouldn’t it?”

“Well David could do it if he knew how,” Maelin said. “But it hardly something he could have learned yet.”

“Definitely not,” David agreed. “I have only the vaguest sense of what you are talking about right now. What’s an aggressive ward? Wards are a passive defense right?”

“Definitely not you then,” Cheryl said dryly. “And usually yes, but there are also wards that can attack an interloper rather than simply barring their path. They’re harder to create and take a lot of time so they are only used in important locales.”

“Like this one,” he asked.

“Indeed.” She shot a look around another corner then pulled back and put a finger to her lips before signalling four. Then she signalled one and waved her hand in a way that clearly showed someone sliding about on the ice. There were four guards, David surmised, and one of them was inconvenienced by the wards.

Brenna leaned past Cheryl and also looked around the corner before nodding. Obviously concurring with her signals.

“We should rush them,” she whispered. “It might attract attention but they are heading this way so they’ll find us anyway. Best do this on our terms.”

So much for avoiding fighting. David sighed to himself and readied himself as best he could and was surprised when Maelin shook his head.

“There’s only four, we can handle them easily.” The wave of his hand encompassed his pack. “You should not risk yourself unless it’s unavoidable.”

“I hate to agree with him, but he’s right, Dave,” Anna said. “You shouldn’t rush into a fight, we’d no doubt win but accidents happen in fights and you’re too imortant to risk.” She glared at Maelin. “Let them handle it.”

“Jacob, stay wiith them and watch their backs,” he said. “The rest of us will deal with this distraction.”

There was a brief pause while he and his pack shifted and then they pelted around the corner. There were started shouts, followed by a loud crash and a strangled scream which was cut ominously short. David found himself holding his breath as they waited, then Maelin reappeared and signalled them to follow.

They followed and found the corridor slick with blood and four bodies lying on the icy floor with their throats torn out. The scent was intoxicating and his stomach roiled with hunger even though he’d forced himself to feed before they left Morna’s bar. It took sheer force of will for David to keep walking past it. He only realised he’d slowed down when he felt someone touch his elbow He looked around and met Emma’s understanding eyes.

“Come on, Dave,” she said. “Just keep moving forward.”

“I- I want to…” he hesitated.

“I know,” she said. “Believe me I know. Eyes forward and try not to smell it.”

Of course she did, David realised. It was probably affecting her the same way. He held his breath and let her guide him away,

“Do you ever get used to that?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” Emma shrugged. “Fortunately it doesn’t happen too often,” she said. “Small amounts of blood just don’t hit you quite the same way. But I was witness to that big car accident on the bypass last year. You should try giving first aid when your fangs are itching inside your gums. It was all I could do stay focused.”

“But you did?”

“I did,” she said. “Stopped the guy bleeding out.”

“Self-control,” Cheryl murmured. “That’s a good trait.” She looked around another corner and pulled back with a scowl. She didn’t even have to signal why. David could hear the sound of booted feet running towards them.”

“Damn, we weren’t quick enough!” Maelin said. “How many?”

“Seven,” she replied. “And I can see two more outside the door to the Winter Garden. I think we can take them but…” She looked at David. “Will you be okay with more blood, Winter Warrior, you’re very new and control is hard at that point.”

“I’ll have to be,” David said. “It’s not like we have much choice now. Em will help me.”

“That I will,” she said.

“Okay,” Cheryl said. “Let’s do this. You three wait until we signal that it’s clear.”

The fight took longer this time, presumably because they hadn’t taken their opponents by surprise. David found himself holding his breath as he clutched his weapons and waited to hear it was safe to join the others.

Instead what appeared to be a satyr charged around the corner, took in the three of them and charged straight at David with an iron tipped spear. Iron might not e his weakness but David had no doubt being impaled would still be bad,

It was mostly instinct and a bit of prompting from the winter blade that allowed him to leap aside at the last moment throwing his opponent off balance and leading to him losing his footing and smashing into the wall. David spun around as he did and stabbed at his opponent with the Winter blade before he could recover. It must have guided his hand because he struck true and found the satyr’s heart. As the enemy fell lifeless to the floor David followed him down, crashing to his knees and shaking in reaction to what he’d just done. He knew it was self-defence but he felt sick.

A moment later Maelin rushed around the corner and took in the scene. He knelt in front of David and placed his hands on his shoulders. “Are you okay?”

David shook his head slowly. “You’d think I’d be used to this being a vampire hunter but…”

“Killing shouldn’t be easy,” Maelin said. “And you presumably didn’t think vampires were people which changed things.” He offered him his hand. “But the path is clear. Let’s go and see to my brother.”

 

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One Response to “Lord of the Wolves Chapter Twenty-Eight”

  1. torvawk says:

    Sad but merciful ending coming soon eh.

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