by Adrak Graves
Snippet of a WIP story about a lone werewolf.
| Seth sat up abruptly, gulping in large lungfuls of air. He stared wide-eyed into the darkness around him, one hand pressed against his chest, fingers searching the edges of an injury long-healed. He moaned in anxiety and a memory of pain, his other hand groping wildly for the lamp that sat on the nightstand. He nearly knocked it from its perch before he found the switch and with a twist and a click, soft golden light flooded the room, chasing away the darkness and the remnants of his nightmare.
He breathed a deep sigh, running his hands over his face and into his short hair, wiping the sweat away. He looked back at his pillow with a mixture of regret and distrust before throwing back the covers and leaving the warmth of his bed.
Seth padded soundlessly across the floor, stepping over the boundary where the carpet met cool linoleum. He flipped the light switch up as he passed through the doorway and into the bathroom, turning on the faucet as he stopped before the sink. He didn't wait for the water to warm, splashing handfuls of cold water onto his face quickly. He grabbed blindly for the hand towel hanging from a nearby bar, jerking it free and scrubbing his face roughly with the worn cloth.
As he pulled it down to his chin, his gaze flicked up to the mirror before him. Cool blue eyes studied the haggard man they saw reflected in the mirror's depths. His own reflection was almost a stranger to him; his eyes were bloodshot with puffy, dark circles under them, his skin was pale and there was fine blonde stubble running rampant over his chin and jaw.
As he stared, his reflection moved suddenly without him and he jerked back in surprise. The features of his face smoothed a little and the image winked at him and grinned before melting into the visage of a woman, the rest of the mirror's surface changing to a cloudy iridescence. "Have a rough night?" A sweet, light voice asked teasingly, a crystal ring to the words.
"Get out of my mirror, Silest." Seth growled, his voice deep and rumbling with menace as she smirked at him. The woman raised an eyebrow, still smirking, and leaned forward, her head and shoulders emerging from the smooth surface of the mirror. "And that's not what I meant."
"You look like you didn't sleep well. I know your sleep has been troubled since we met, but it does seem to be getting worse. What demons are lurking in the dark, waiting for you?" She asked, her voice no longer crystalline and a pouty frown replacing the smirk.
"You've been watching me sleep?" Seth asked, incredulous. He tried to narrow his eyes in a glare, but he couldn't banish the surprised and mildly disturbed look from his face.
"Not just when you sleep" Silest cooed in a sultry tone, leering at him as he stood before her in only his boxers, and if he had been shifted his ears would have gone flat against his skull, "And you didn't answer my question."
"It's none of your business." He growled as he tried to fight a blush down, crossing his arms defensively.
"You're worrying me." She told him matter-of-factly, her voice firm and devoid of the teasing tone, "I haven't seen you in over a month! Last I heard, you took some suicidal job for that order of human fanatics and almost died. You've been holed up here in your lair, and I was really starting to think you had kicked the bucket! It's taken this long for their accursed wards to wear off so I could even check in on you. And if you don't want me to look in as I please, then cover your mirrors." The two of them faced off in a glaring match; Seth's gaze was scorching heat, and Silest's was the essence of the coldest frost.
Seth looked away first and Silest lifted her chin a little in victory. He huffed and turned away, slamming the bathroom door behind him as he left. Silest rolled her eyes at the childish display and withdrew into the mirror, leaping into a hanging full-body mirror in the next room. "Very mature, Seth." She told him, her voice once more ringing crystalline from behind the glass, "Anyways, I didn't come here to discuss your sleeping habits. Marc wants to meet up with you. He's waiting here in the bar, so hurry up and get your butt down here. After you shower and shave of course, scruffy; you reek." With that last parting shot, she vanished from the mirror, the surface clearing and showing the proper reflections.
Seth stared at the mirror for a moment, then jeered at his own reflection and threw a wadded up shirt at it. "That woman..." He growled to himself, gathering his things and heading for the bathroom again.
The warm water pounding down on his shoulders and back was soothing, helping to wash away the last of the lingering nightmare's memory. He didn't let himself think as he stood under the spray; he only let himself feel the sensation of the water running down his body, washing him clean of the scent of the city. He knew it wouldn't last long, but it was one of the rare times he felt close to his old life, free from humanity's chains.
He picked up the bottle of body wash from the edge of the tub, looking at the brightly colored label for a moment and snorting as he remembered when Silest had given it to him. He popped the top and the scent of green apples filled the shower. She liked it because of a taste for the fruit it was scented after; he liked it because it was strong enough to overpower most other scents around him.
He lathered up quickly, using it in place of shampoo for his short hair as well as for the rest of his body then rinsed it out, shutting the water off once he was free of suds. He was about to push aside the shower curtain when he remembered Silest's recent and unannounced arrival in his bathroom mirror, and he poked his head out instead to look uncertainly at the offending piece of glass. It was fogged over from the heat of his shower and he had no idea if she could use it in such a state or not, so he just grabbed the nearby towel and pulled it into the safety of the enclosed shower. He didn't step out until he was absolutely sure the towel was securely around his waist, his face flushed from more than just the hot water. He swore he heard chiming laughter as he used another towel to cover the mirror's surface while he got dressed.
Once he was decent, he uncovered the mirror's surface, using the towel to wipe the condensation off it. He sprayed shaving creme into one hand and used it to lather his jaw and cheeks liberally before picking up an electric razor and going to town on his rebellious facial hair. He hated the feel of the stubble on his chin and was glad to be rid of it, running his free hand along his razor-smoothed skin to make sure he hadn't missed a spot. He eyed his reflection critically, glad to see much of the haggard look he had worn earlier in the morning was gone, refreshed by the shower and shave. Seth left the bathroom, turning the light off behind him and grabbed his jacket, making sure his wallet and cell phone were safely in the pockets.
Seth stepped out of his apartment building and turned up the collar of his jacket against the brisk wind. He tucked his chin down into it, the newly shaved areas of his face protesting the lack of stubbly protection. His eyes roamed the streets restlessly as he walked, constantly searching for potential threats.
He felt eyes on him, though he didn't know if he was really being watched or if he was just paranoid as the other people on the street glanced towards him as they passed. If he'd had hackles they would have been raised, and he felt himself growing tense.
He must have been putting off an unfriendly air, because the humans around him gave him a wide berth as he stalked down the walkway. He easily stood half a head higher than most around him and he was pretty solidly built, so it wasn't hard for him to imagine that he could be intimidating to them. Or maybe their mostly-dormant instincts told them what their brains couldn't accept; he certainly felt like a wolf wearing a sheep's clothes. He was more than a little pleased at the distance as the smells of them and their machines cut through even the normally sterilizing bite of the chilled air. He would have wished for a rain to cleanse the city like it had the wilds, except that rain in this place was tainted by their chemicals and felt more like acid to him.
When his cell phone rang suddenly, vibrating to a cheery tune, he jumped like he had been shot, and a passing child giggled at him. He tried to calm his racing heartbeat and level his breathing as he increased his pace, glaring a dare to anyone who thought of laughing at his reaction. He fumbled and pulled the offending hunk of plastic from his jacket pocket, flipping it open and growling into the receiver, "What?"
"Don't we sound chipper this morning?" A light voice responded, sounding amused. The corner of Seth's mouth lifted automatically in a snarl, "I haven't heard from you lately, I wanted to make sure you were still well. I heard your last job ended up being... quite the chore, and that you had some recovering to do."
"I'm sure my death would just get you all choked up." He bit back caustically.
"There's no call for such hostility, my friend." The man said smoothly, "Of course news of your death would upset me greatly."
"Only because you'd have to do your dirty work yourself. Cut the crap Cain, and tell me what you want."
There was a dramatic sigh of tried patience on the other end, "Since I cannot seem to convince you that I truly do care for your well-being...I have a task I need you to take care of. It is most urgent so we must meet immediately. I will send a car for you..."
"Don't bother." Seth interrupted, "I have something to do first, then I'll be over. I know my way." He flipped the phone closed on the start of Cain's protest and smirked at it for a moment before slipping it back into his pocket.
He hurried pace again, not trusting Cain to not send someone after him anyways; and they had the most annoying ability to actually find him. He didn't know if they had something attached to his phone or if there really was someone watching him. The thought of the phone being traced made him want to ditch it, but he steeled himself against it. They couldn't find him when he was in Silest's domain anyways, and ditching the phone would only annoy them and they'd make his life even more miserable.
Something inside him instantly calmed as the bar came into view; the entrance to it anyways. He had to applaud Silest on her expert setup of the establishment. The front was a normal small apartment in a line of other normal apartments in the same sad appearance of disrepair; the only telling mark being the bar's logo and initials over the mail slot in the fashion of graffiti. Any normal human that would have tried opening the door would find it locked, and any human bearing spiritual or magical powers would find the door easily opened, but nothing within but the dilapidated apartment they would likely expect. The only out-of-place object in the main room was a large, full-length and elegantly crafted mirror hanging on the wall facing the doorway. A human would likely see it, but be unable to use it, or even touch it because of all the wards and enchantments Silest had coated it with. She was very protective of her mirrors.
Seth shut the door behind him and his boots rang heavily on the creaky wooden floor. He stopped before the mirror, admiring the craftsmanship before he reached deep down within himself and pulled up some of his magic. He concentrated it into one hand, ignoring its transformation into a paw as it was filled with the wild magic, and touched the mirror's surface. "Aperire." He said quietly and the mirror's surface quivered under his touch, ripples spreading from where the palm of his changing hand rested against it. He took a deep breath, shaking his arm lightly as it tingled while it resumed its human form and stepped into the frame.
Seth hated traveling through mirrors. To him, it always felt like he was wading through gel, or densely tangled weeds in a forest. But it was worse this time, almost seeming to drag back at him, as though it didn't want him to pass; as if it was trying to repel an unwanted intruder. It reminded him of a discussion he'd had with Silest about the outcome of a human trying to make the cross, and he began to feel claustrophobic as it pressed in against him. He wanted to struggle to be free, though he knew that would only make it worse, but he felt like he couldn't breathe.
Panic began to rise in his chest, his heart hammering almost painfully, eyes wide and staring into the nothingness that was the mirror world. A ringing started to clamor in his ears and his whole body went cold. When he felt on the verge of passing out, he was enveloped by warmth and he felt himself being yanked out of the mirror and back into the world of the living. He'd never been happier to leave that cold, vast nothingness that was inside the mirrors. "Seth? Can you hear me?" Silest called to him, her voice concerned.
Seth blinked his eyes open, staring up at Silest as she leaned over him. He realized he was laying on the floor of the bar, some of the nearby patrons looking down at him curiously. He moved to sit up and pain lanced across the back of his head, making him hiss in a breath sharply. He raised a hand to the back of his head, but his fingers were clean when he looked. "What happened?" He groaned as she helped him to stand.
"The mirror tried to kill you." Her voice was puzzled, "I don't know why, you've crossed it before without incident. I'm just glad I got to you in time. Here, let me get you something to drink." She left him leaning against the bar to pour a shot quickly, bringing it back around the bar and leading him to sit at a side table. "Here. It won't do much for the pain, I'm sure, but it'll warm you up." He didn't realize until she pointed it out that he was trembling with cold. He thanked her, subdued, and threw the shot back, wincing as the brandy burned a line of fire to his belly. Silest took the glass, gave him a small smile, and left him sit at the table across from the man he'd originally intended to meet.
"I'd ask you how you were doing," Marc said in his usual hushed and cynical tone, "but I am fairly certain I already know the answer." Seth looked up into the deep red eyes of his companion and snorted, looking back after Silest as she almost danced behind the bar, fulfilling requests and delivering them with a fluid grace.
"What have you got?" He asked, his tone as civilized and detached as he could make it. He didn't like vampires, really hated them almost as much as Cain and his organization of fanatics, but he strove to be civil to Marc; the vampire had proven to be an invaluable source of information and help, and also shared Seth's lack of love for the vampire race. He knew Seth's pain of losing a family to the bloodsuckers; at least Seth counted himself lucky that he was immune to the transforming bite that had been inflicted upon Marc. He wouldn't have been able to live as what he most hated.
"I have some information I know you want. And, since you helped me with that...pest problem when we last met, I think you deserve it without charge."
"So what's the news?" Seth asked, only half his attention really on Marc, the rest focused on his surroundings. Even among the darkkin he had to be wary; he'd made more than a few enemies by working for the humans. He took a sip from a glass of water that had been sitting on the table when he arrived, knowing Marc wouldn't mind; he couldn't drink it anyways.
"Your vampire coven has returned, and word on the street is the Master is with them." Seth choked on the mouthful of water, setting the cup down roughly, all his attention focusing in on Marc, "I don't know how long they'll be here, or what they even want, but they are staying somewhere near the park district. And they also say that they're taking in new wolf-blood to work for them, whether it's packs or strays."
Seth ran the information over in his mind, planning out what to do with it. He remembered the phone call from Cain and wondered if it had anything to do with the news Marc had just delivered. As much as he hated the man and the Order, he would have to make that his next stop. He couldn't pass up a chance for revenge by giving in to his need to annoy the humans. "Thanks Marc." He said, standing quickly, "Go ahead and order something on my tab. I have to run." The vampire chuckled lightly and raised his glass in gratitude.
"Silest." Seth stopped the demoness at the bar and she raised an eyebrow at him, hands full with mugs, "I need to get back out. Do you think you could make sure your mirror doesn't try to eat me again?" He heard snickers around him and Silest grinned, putting the drinks down.
"I can do you one better, sweetie." She purred, taking a small mirror on a chain from around her neck and slipping it over his head quickly, "This mirror will let you pass through any other mirror without a hitch as long as you are wearing it. And you can call me any time you need me. Be careful with it, though," She lowered her voice, "it's my soul-mirror. I'll be wanting it back, so you better not go and do something stupid, like dying." She leaned in and gave him a light kiss on the lips before he could react, then danced away from him and resumed what she had been doing. Seth blushed hotly, but he didn't take the necklace off. He stalked to the porting mirror instead, doing his best to ignore the hoots and cat-calls following him out.
The trip back through the mirror was a lot faster and far more pleasant. He glared back at the mirror, wanting to vent his frustration but decided that it wasn't really worth incurring Silest's wrath by smashing it. He looked around as he left the bar's hidden entrance, paranoid and alert for signs of anyone following him. As annoying, frequently confusing and flustering the woman was to him, he didn't want anything to happen to her. He thought about the kiss she had given him and felt his cheeks warm again. He was disturbed that it had left him a little disappointed, that he hungered for more. He licked his lips despite himself, tasting the cherry lip balm she had left behind.
He huffed a sigh of annoyance again, ducking into the first alley he came across. He had left Cain hanging for a while there and if he didn't hurry the man would send his lackeys out to find him and pick him up. The only advantages to being in such a bustling metropolis was there was no shortage of places to hide from unwanted company and that there were so many buildings and fixtures that the place was a veritable urban jungle.
A couple of short jumps from the pavement to a trashcan and up onto a dumpster and he was able to take a running leap to a normally inaccessible fire escape. He sped up it to the roof of the building it was attached to and across the flat expanse, heading for the next building. He didn't hesitate as he reached the edge of the roof, jumping across the open expanse of the gap between the buildings, reveling in the freedom it made him feel. His heart was beating rapidly with the thrill and he almost made the transition into his wolf form in his excitement. He had to clamp down hard with all the control he could muster, forcing the fur down and his arms and legs back into a human shape before he landed on a rooftop harder than he had expected. His hands and knees ached with the impact and he breathed heavily as he sat still for a moment, getting himself back together.
He wouldn't allow himself that form, not until he had wrought the vengeance his pack mates deserved. He couldn't face his inner wolf until he had satisfied that need. He stood when he got himself calmed down, taking a deep breath before getting back on track. He moved across the city quickly, finding his own path though the close-sitting buildings and streets. He wound his way through the concrete and metal, traveling along a mixture of rooftops, mid-level structures and the ground.
It wasn't long before he had to come out onto the main streets again to get to the group of buildings Cain's organization used as their headquarters. He hunched in his shoulders a little warily as he came out from under cover and approached the main gateway. He eyed the man standing in the gatehouse warily as he approached. The guard didn't notice him until he was almost there, the man standing hastily and greeting him with a smile. He was on in years and seemed almost grandfatherly to Seth, his manner pleasant and welcoming. Seth didn't say anything to him, merely pulling out the ID card Cain had given him on a previous visit and the older man opened the gate without question, bidding him a good day as he passed through the iron-crafted doorway.
Seth stuffed the card back into his pocket and listened as the gate creaked closed behind him, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He began to feel closed in though the courtyard was wide open to the sky. He hated coming here if only because he felt like he had entered a cage as soon as he stepped foot into the grounds. The place was so saturated in human magic that it made him uncomfortable, but he counted himself lucky that he wasn't a demon or vampire; the wards had been specifically made to keep them out. If he felt this uneasy as a mere shifter, he couldn't imagine what a real darkkin would feel.
He tried to walk casually down the halls, but he was still tense with apprehension as the people he met in passing watched him intently and with a good deal of contempt. They knew what he was and reviled him for it, but they also knew why he was here and that he was still untouchable. At least he had that to be grateful for; the last thing he needed was to have the Order after him too. He didn't doubt the immunity was temporary and intended to hold only so long as he continued to prove himself useful.