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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Drums of War - 2. Some Bad News

It was a thirty-mile hike from the airstrip to the edge of Homestead territory. Being up here made me smile and look over at my squad. They could feel it, too. No one around for miles, clean air, clear skies. Perfect weather. I turned to Colton and nodded.

He closed his eyes and looked within himself. It was always a bit cool to watch him Pathfind. His eyes would twitch behind his lids, jerky motions would make his head move as if dodging mentally around boulders and under fallen trees, nose twitches which meant he had found the 'scent' even if the trail was not smellable.

"Damn, he moves fast. I know he's alive, but I can't see where he is, only where he was." Colt opened his eyes and looked confused.

"That's a good thing...right?" Phuong asked.

"Meh," said Colt. "I usually see the target and only a vague path. This time it's the opposite. I see his path clearly, but not where it ended." I knew it frustrated him. He'd been working really hard to get this tracking shit down, often with Gene and Papa Travis. Now it was doing something he didn't expect, and I could see he was frustrated. "No matter how much I strain, the trail ends at a river with a small fall in it. About five days northeast."

"That's good," said Zeke with a smile. "We can follow that and see what we see. Much easier than your usual 'I think it's this way' stunt." Zeke's grin made Colton sock his shoulder, but I could tell he felt a bit better.

"Quit picking on him, Cub. That's my job. Yours is to sexually frustrate him," said Quint with a straight face.

"Oh yeah," Zeke said and took off his pack and shirt, only to put the pack back on. Everyone's eyes but mine were glued to his mountainous, hairy pecs and slightly soft furry tummy. "There, mission accomplished. Madam, do you mind?" Zeke asked in mock affront, covering his chest as if Phuong's gaze made him embarrassed.

"Yup, I'm looking for a mate outside the Flock. None of the boys there look like that," she said, her own flush coloring her cheeks. "Colton, stop staring at his muscles and lead on. Do I really have to be the mature one here? If so, we're screwed." Us guys laughed and Colton started off at a good pace.

"Phuong, you're probably more knowledgeable about what may make a trail disappear like that," I said.

She looked at me with a perfectly neutral face. I knew it meant trouble. "There are many things that could do it, and there is only one that I fear. If it is that one, then there is little chance to see them alive again." She let a brief smile show. "Since Colton says he's alive, there is a strong chance that it's not the one I fear."

"You're being cryptic, Lady Bird," said Zeke with a frown, giving her a nickname like he did with just about everyone. "Cryptic is not good."

"Would you like it spelled out?" We all nodded. "Simple terms: magic. Shamanism is the one I fear. I am one shaman, and it would take either a very strong one or several shamans to mask a trail from a coyote. Either way, we'd be fucked. I'm not capable of taking on more than three moderately strong."

"I kinda wish I kept my mouth shut," said Zeke, his shoulders slumping forward.

"We have a long journey ahead of us," I said, and we strode onward.

Why is it that most of my problems seem to stem from magic? I mean, Lycans were started via magic, the attempted sacrifice was a magic rite, and now shamans may be in the mix. Just...fuck magic. I know there is good magic, but I am sick of it popping up when things go wrong.

The day's trek was long, but the countryside was beautiful. It was all new to us, so every sight and sound were intriguing, and I could tell Colton wanted to go off exploring. Honestly, I would love to do it myself, but my skin itched. I knew something was going on that I couldn't see, but I didn't know what.

"Out with it, Creep," said Quintin. Damn bond.

"You explain it. I can't," I grumbled.

"Something has our creepy leader on edge. I'd almost say it's something Solaris related, but I'll be durned if I don't feel something too. Maybe it's just overflow." Quint just looked at me with that semi-worried expression he had when he was mentally thinking I was going up in creep factor. He knew my history as well as Dad and Pat, most of it picked out of my head even when he didn't want it.

"It could be. The Summer Solstice is in nine days, and there will be a partial eclipse."

I turned to Phuong, hoping she was mistaken. "Seriously?" She nodded. "Fuck. Just...fucking fuckety fuck fuck." I can be so eloquent when I'm upset. "If we don't find them by then, they will be dead, and I worry you will be, too."

"Share," said Phuong.

"It's a powerful time for solar Lycans like a blood moon is for lunar. I'll shift, all the way, once the sun starts to eclipse, and I won't have any human thought left. Full lion, no Dylan." I could see them go wide-eyed, and my nose told me they were suddenly scared. "It is if I remember my history lessons with Grandpa and Papa Travis, a time of magic to peak. The longest day being shrouded by night. Am I right, Phuong?" She nodded. "So...yeah. We need to find them, and then you guys need to get the hell away from me. Let's move." All of us hiked our packs up and started to jog with our guide leading the way. "Phuong, can you add more to our knowledge of the event?"

"A lot more, but I can't share too much. Before you ask, it's mystic mumbo-jumbo and oaths." We nodded. We understood enough. "When Horus finally entered the great war, giving form to his own followers, he gave them also the gift of magic and bade them to go forth into the world." So the Falcon God stuck his beak in. Good to know, I thought. "There were many problems with the other Lycans, us being physically weaker, but we had various abilities given to us, weather being the most common magic. Our strongest is the ability to give our powers to another, much as my father will do to me when he steps down as Wind Master."

Her brother had told us enough of what would happen that we didn't react to this. "When the Children of Horus joined a people, they would teach them of magic in an effort to protect them from Wepwawet's wolves. Only a very few could learn such foreign magic, but some did and passed it down to their children. Over time, the ability broadened, and now, some shamans have the ability to take the powers of others at rare times. Planetary alignments, eclipses, equinox and solstice, and All Hallows Eve are some of the most notable."

"So, Gene and the others could have been taken for this purpose?" Zeke asked. Honestly, I love Zeke as a brother, and one reason was his total commitment to knowing everything he can. Most people think he's a busybody gossip.

"Could, but the people taken would not be a benefit in such numbers. Take one or two, and you can extract their strengths." She was skating around something, but none of us pressed her since it probably would violate her oaths.

"Take a lunar Lycan and get rapid healing, a solar one for immunity to silver, a coyote for his tracking ability," stated Zeke, "or a lynx for their stealth." Phuong nodded curtly. "So why, if this is the reason for their capture, assuming it is capture, would you take a Lunais, three Lupus, and four other lunar Lycans?"

"For this ceremonial reason, there is no call to take them. They could have just wandered into a shaman's territory," said Phuong.

I shook my head. "Maybe the boys on their mission stumbled, but Gene would have sent word about a territory and ask for permission to enter. Gene wouldn't just walk into another territory without taking precautions."

"Then your guess is as good as mine," she said with a shrug. "Once we get to the site, I'll be able to feel any magic strong enough to cover the trail."

"Until then, Colton, you need to let us know the moment anything changes."

When we stopped that night, we set about for our assigned duties. I was cooking while Quint and Colton set up the camp. We could hear Zeke and Phuong chatting away like old friends while they set up some sort of perimeter. I can honestly say she fit right in with our group. While she had the power and wisdom to lead, she also never tried to usurp a person's place. She knew Colton was the best tracker, knew Quintin would be the best when it came to stealth, knew to listen to Zeke's natural instinct for protection, and she never once tried to take command from me. Even though I would give it up when magic came into play, and she knew that too. We worked well together because we acknowledged each other's strengths and stepped up to help with their weaknesses.

Plus she was a sassy bitch, which gave Zeke someone to natter on with about all things gossip. Even Quint would wuff at him when he went too long without a breath. Zeke never took it hard or was even upset when we essentially told him to shut up. Phuong never did. She just accepted it with grace and dignity, even when she mimed shooting herself in the head when his back was turned. It would get grins from us, and I know Zeke knew she was doing it, but...she just fit in so well. The sister none of us had.

With dinner out of the way, Quint and I stayed up while the others bunked down for their rest. The small fire we had going wasn't necessary for heat or light, but we let it burn down naturally after it was used for cooking. He and I sat on opposite sides of the fire with our eyes scanning for anything, our noses working to pick up any scent.

You seem lost in thought, Creep, thought Quint, bringing my eyes to him briefly. Wanna talk?

He knew I wouldn't talk if I didn't want to, and I knew if I felt strongly enough he would not try to pick it out of my head. I sighed softly. Grandpa has given me warnings about Solaris who are forced to shift. It ain't pretty, it ain't calm, and it ain't peaceful. You know what it's like for lunar Lycans, and I seen it's bad for some, but they keep something of their minds. I looked away. We don't. We go full beast mode. Savage. You know what Zeke is like when he's got his temper up in his fur. Quint did too. He'd seen his friendly, lovable, jolly bear go apeshit on his ex Amos. A pissed off polar bear was nothing to turn your back on.

Now imagine that without any direction. Just pure rage and thirst for the kill. I could see him mentally shudder. A half-ton polar bear was a lot of fury to contain. Make it a three-quarter ton African Lion. Zeke was big, but I would be bigger. Grandpa said he was close to eighteen hundred pounds when forced to shift, and I was only slightly smaller in muscle but an inch taller.

So what are you worried 'bout? Quint asked in my head.

Hurting anyone. You know me, Quint. Better than anyone. You know my temper, you know my mind, my heart. Hell, you know my body better than I do. It sounds much creepier than reality, but Quint had come over one evening to work out a minor neck tension before I even realized it was there. Just showed up, turned my shoulders and neck to mush, popped my neck, and left without saying a word or explaining. My fiancée has gotten used to him just popping up, giving me a hug or a cup of coffee, before I even ask or realize I need it. I don't want anyone near me when I lose my shit.

I'll be there. I was about to tell him no when he raised his brow. You won't hurt me. You can't. No matter how gone you are, I'll be safe.

Quint has been the big brother I always wanted. He's smart, kind, laid back, but he'll tell me when I'm being an ass, has kicked my ass for being overly rude to someone who deserved slightly less sass than I gave them, and held me when I needed a shoulder to cry on when my nightmares get too bad. He has been right every time when it concerns me. Like I said, he knows me better than I do.

But how can you know?

Because it would be like chopping off your tail. You were just thinking about the time I put you on the ground for being a dick. I felt every pain I gave you. I didn't hurt my knee when I took you down. I hurt yours and I had a limp. I stared in mild shock. We can't hurt each other without feeling it.

I couldn't help but chuckle. Serves you right, taking out my knee. Assface.

Dick.

Jerk.

Bitch.

Bottom whore.

Enchantée, he shot back at me with his dorky Southern grin. It was a normal exchange for us, at least mentally. I couldn't help but grin.

But I thought of something else. So, if you experience everything I have...

Yup, I know what it felt like last Tuesday in the shower. Next time use a bit more soap, you almost rubbed it raw. He slapped his hand over his mouth to stifle the laugh when he saw my horror. Quint's face was so red from trying not to wake everyone by laughing. Don't worry, I'm kidding. I shot him an evil glare and shook my big fist at him. You used plenty of soap.

"I hate you," I said aloud. He just grinned. I'm worried, I continued mentally. Not just about me. All of this is just too much. The boys from Salt Lake Pack going missing, a few members from the smaller packs near us, Gene and the guys. Why's it all happening?

Quint leaned over and patted my shoulder, his calm eyes drawing out some of my stresses. When we find them, we'll have our answers. Until then, just focus on the mission. We have men to save. The rest can wait.

I nodded. To think I would find my literal soulmate. I mean, I had to lead a pretty lonely life first, but once I met Dad, it has been entirely uphill. Which is fucked up because Ritual Sacrifice was uphill from where my life had been before I got adopted by Dad. Now I got brothers, a fiancée, a steady job, family, friends...I have happiness. Except for magic. That don't make me happy.

We forced ourselves to move as quickly as we could without hurting ourselves. The pace Colton set was just over a forced march, and I was glad that Phuong could keep up easily. Zeke was the one who was the slowest, but bears ain't known for speed and endurance, and I wasn't much better off. Neither of us complained, but we shot Phuong some grateful looks when she said she needed a rest. How she knew we were low on energy is still a mystery. Colton and Quintin knew, but as long as we didn't say anything, they would not stop or even slow.

The five-day hike took three because of our pace. It was understood that we needed to hurry, but it was my mind that I worried more about. I could feel the solstice coming. Six days. It was constantly nagging the back of my mind, slowly taking it over. When I got too stuck on stupid, Quint would nudge my brain, and I would give him a nod.

When we were only a few miles from the place, Phuong stopped us. She looked around, shaking her head. "I have never felt this much power in one place." Her voice was awed and slightly afraid. "At least a dozen shaman covered their traces from this point on. I can follow the magic, but I have the biggest case of the willies."

"Is there active magic going on right now?" I asked, which got a shake of her head. "How far does the trail go?"

She closed her eyes, and I felt something rush past me. It was like a brisk wind swept to my left. "At least five miles," came her reply from outside her body. Outside her fucking body! The damn wind spoke for her. I watched her body twitch once and her eyes opened. "Another day's hike." Her eyes cut toward Colton. "Find the horse totem with the tails for ornament."

Colton, at first, looked at her oddly, but I watched his eyes roll back and his head whipped around to the northeast. He gasped and staggered as his eyes resumed being normal. "Oh fuck that was intense!" His breath caught in his throat as he looked at Phuong. "Three hours away beside a small lake and shrouded by a bluff with six waterfalls. I see the path and the totem clearly. What did you do?"

"I...had the wind show you the totem. There was no time to prepare your mind." Phuong looked very apologetic, but it had to be done.

"No, I'm not mad. Thank you!" Colton grabbed her up in a big hug. "I see how to use my tracking better now. It's like I had a silky curtain in my way all the time, but the wind just blew it away." He was overjoyed. We all grinned at the biggest smile I had ever seen on him. It was a big doofy grin.

"Set down the lady, Colton, and let's get going."

Zeke stopped me. "No. Sorry to insist, Prime Enforcer, but we need to stay by the water tonight. It's the safest place."

I was more shocked by him calling me by my rank than him stopping me. Quintin's head tilted a bit in confusion, but he nodded. I shook my head to clear the shock and nodded. "As you advise, Zeke. Let's camp for the night." It was only midday, but we set up a camp on a small sandbar next to the water, right where Zeke said.

Once it was done, Zeke came over to me looking embarrassed. "Dylan, I..."

I clapped him on the shoulder. "Zeke, you're a defender. You say this place is the best, I trust your call. We are a team, each with a specialty. I defer to Quint in tactics, Colton for the tracking, and you when you say it's either safe or not. It's in your blood. Solaris were not given any trait like this. We're guards. We protect our leaders. Outside of that, even Grandpa says we're nothing special."

His big Zeke smile came out from behind the cloud of his darker emotions. "Thanks, Dyl. I still worry I may overstep my bounds. You're the higher rank, and I'm still new to the pack."

"You do your defender thing. If it's just us out here, let me know your thoughts on our safety. If Dad was here, he might have to ignore it, but I won't." I squeezed his shoulder, and he pulled me into a huge hug. Other than Grandpa, Zeke was the only one in the pack who could lift me that easily. "Alright, you big teddy bear put me down." He did...after shaking me like a ragdoll and plopping me in the sand.

We turned when we heard three identical sighs and saw three goofy grins looking at us. I knew that look. It said 'Isn't this lovely?' and all three batted their lashes. "Male bonding," Phuong said with a simpering grin.

"Male bondage," said Colton, his grin turning into a sexual leer.

"I'll get the popcorn and the cuffs," said Quint, tossing me a quarter. "Loser bottoms," he said as the three jokers turned away.

Zeke, ever the quick one, grinned broadly. "I don't see how I lose in this. Top or bottom."

I sighed dramatically. "I hate you all."

Thanks to Timothy for his amazing help in editing not only this books but much of this series.
Copyright © 2018 Fantasyboy69; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

Great job with the bantering dialogue! It's one of the many things I like about this bunch. This was a good transition chapter. Just enjoying the character's interactions and the lead up to a big confrontation. Thanks.

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Nice chapter. Everyone settling into their rolls.  The banter and the continuing bonding is something to see.  I sounds like they may need these bonds and familiarity to confront what is coming.   Looking forward to what’s next.  Thanks for the chapter. 

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Love how well they all fit together; Phuong just merged with the group seamlessly.  I do worry about that many shaman being in such a small geographic area like this one; seems like a rogue action of some sort; not just the others being taken but covering their tracks the way they have.  Can't wait to see where you take this one.

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This was a great chapter. Certainly seems to be a trap being set. I really like Phuong.  She has that no nonsense straight to the point aura around her. 

Edited by BlindAmbition
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Sounds like the shamans so far gathered the bait. And our merry band is the prey....

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Scary to be facing so much magic and not know what is going on. They'll need all their cunning and specialities to solve this puzzle. 

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This is an excellent chapter with a great deal of bonding while the group heads North. I love the way that the five of them bonded so well together especially when they had never worked with anyone from the RVF other than Kao. With Phuong just joining the guys as an additional tracker who has a different perspective on tracking than Colton has, while he’s a straight forward type of tracker Phuong is different as she can use shamanistic skills as well as airial tracking because she’s a falcon like Kao and she’s Kao’s sister and future Wind Master. I also like how they can tease and joke around with each other until their particular traits are needed then it’s all business. The guys, Colton, Dylan, Zeke, and Quintin have been training together for a year now and then for the possible rescue mission they have Phuong added to the group and the way that they joke around with each other is like they’ve been training with her since the beginning. I’m glad that even the Alphas are getting involved by going before the Council of Lycans to help in getting additional help to get all of the missing people out of captivity all because they possibly have violated someone’s land. Dean and Kao are going to talk to Alpha Goldie Kirkland and Victoria about help that is needed for the packs that are left without a strong leader in the place of the true pack Alpha. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter or so.

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My head hurts. There is so much going on with the character development. Fantastic.

Congrats also to your beta who has helped produce writing that is a pleasure to read.

Great story.

I'm on my patio enjoying the London heatwave. The soft breeze allows me to enjoy being outside while I read your story. Thank you.

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The big mistake was made years ago by leaving Angus alive.  He is knowledgeable in magic as evidenced by his first attempt to steal Dylan's magic.  He probably well aware that Dylan will be vulnerable to magic again when his is at his strongest power and least able to think during the eclipse.  Angus is like a chess player who has his strategy planned several moves in advance.  He set up the kidnapping of the SL Pack kids, then went closer to packs close to Homestead Pack and finally to Gene and the hunters sent with him.  He knew Jon would have to send his top team and might even expect Jon would ask for the help of the RVF for help.  

As an Alpha of one of the strongest North American Pack, he probably has the resources to command several falcons who have magical powers.  He has set up a trap to once again try to steal Dylan's powers, and possible the powers of Phuong and the rest of the team with the number of magic users Angus has at his disposal.  When Angus loses this one, make sure he is dead, please. This is a powerful chapter that got me extremely angry for obvious reasons.  Of course I will look silly if Angus is not involved in this, but he is the Prime Suspect.

Edited by raven1
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