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Morningstar: The Malaise - 35. Chapter 35 The Winds of Change

Tables turned, lessons learned.

Morningstar: The Malaise

 

 

Chapter 35

 

 

The three-quarter moon still hung in the sky when Kellar and Tobyn ventured forth, although it was constantly being obscured by fast-moving clouds. There was no denying Kellar’s concern, yet he was surprisingly calm. He had been since the previous evening.

They’d talked about the need to be methodical and not take any chances, while they were putting together a quick breakfast. Once they began to look at this as a job requiring thoroughness, their focus sharpened. Tobyn’s expression, over coffee and fried egg sandwiches, had gone from grim to resolute.

After last night’s completion of their joining, their senses too had sharpened. Kellar was feeling a new edge to his awareness… nothing too spectacular, but it was noticeable in his overall capabilities; they were more finely tuned. He could feel his mate in a different way. Without trying, their connection was more consistently engaged than it had ever been. He’d woken up an hour after first falling asleep, knowing a sleeping Tobyn had some residual soreness from their lovemaking, and felt no qualms about easing it. Trickling, he sent energy to the slightly bruised area, and watched as the colors returned to normal. He wasn’t sure yet, but judging by this one act, it seemed his healing energy without a plant’s assistance had gained some added strength and effectiveness.

Another surprise was Tobyn knowing his mate had eased his ache. He said he’d felt it at the time. It was his first comment upon waking, but he delivered it with a thankful smile. He still wasn’t aware of the healing trickle Kellar had used the night before to help Tobyn adjust to his size and allow entry, but that had occurred prior to their consummation and blood exchange. There was no evidence of the traded nips on their necks. Was their ability to self-heal returning to the levels of the past?

The knowledge Tobyn had woken up with illustrated his heightened awareness, even in sleep. Yeah, there’d been changes, but unfortunately Tobyn had not been able to bring back the colors after they’d initially faded. Kellar’s previous disappointment didn’t manifest itself again, though, because Tobyn’s face shone when he spoke of them, and that was enough for him. And, who knew? Maybe they would make another appearance eventually.

They’d come up with a grid pattern to follow in their search for the hunter. Discussing the possibility Reznick might choose to operate in the bordering crown forests because of their proximity to pack lands, Tobyn was the one to point out the river was a natural barrier he might see as an obstacle for wolves who would prefer the safety of their own stomping grounds. They, of course, could swim it, but why? There was no shortage of game in the area. He also pointed out how readily available information was through google maps and highway surveys, if you had a cell phone and knew what you were doing. He was convinced the man would know by now exactly where Morningstar’s borders were.

It was Kellar who’d been skeptical, but Tobyn reminded him these guys had to be experts in the modern world in order to do what they did and get away with it. If nothing panned out on pack lands, they’d move their search to the south the following day. It was another example of Tobyn’s honed focus, and that made Kellar relax even more.

With all pack activities concentrated in the north, including the businesses and the livestock, they decided to begin their search in the dense, deep woods to the south, at the western end, and methodically move east towards the highway. There were two old culverts on their side of it, and they wanted to leave that area till the very last because those were the most likely spots the hunter would park his truck.

Because Tobyn knew every inch of the territory, Kellar let him take the lead, but he kept the distance between them to a minimum, his big head on a swivel as they systematically searched along every trail, around every boulder, and through each stand of brush. The wind had picked up all last evening, and now it was gusting, warning them of a potentially stormy day in the forest. He had hoped it would be their friend, but the constantly changing direction of it called for extreme caution. By the time the sun peeked over the horizon, they’d smelled neither metal nor elk, let alone their quarry. A few deer had been scented, but they were on the move, and therefore the real deal. Tobyn’s frustration became apparent when he took human form. Kellar immediately did the same.

“What’s up? You getting discouraged?” Kellar whispered, sensing the man’s agitation.

Tobyn answered in a barely audible voice. “No, I just keep second-guessing what we’re doing. Do you think there’s any chance he could have slipped past us?”

“I don’t think so. Why? Do you?”

“I don’t know. This fucking wind is driving me crazy, and I’m smelling things I never could have before. I’m not complaining, but it’s hard to get used to my nose’s new sensitivity.”

“Oh, okay. I’m getting that too. I’m catching three, four, five odors at once, and it’s almost impossible to sort where they’re coming from.”

“Exactly. And what if Reznick doesn’t use any bottled musk at all? What if he’s just hiding out somewhere waiting to shoot any wolf he sees? We could miss his scent with the way it is out here. I can’t lose you… I keep picturing him getting the best of one of us, and not ever….”

“Come here.” Kellar stepped close and pulled his mate into a hug. “Last night was something, wasn’t it?”

Tobyn nodded as he returned the squeeze.

“I have faith in us, but I’ve got all these emotions too, baby, and they’re swirling like this damn wind the longer we’re out here. Do you want to call it quits? It’s okay with me if you do.”

Tobyn shook his head back and forth this time, pulling back but not letting go. “No, I just needed this. Sorry… it’s still early, and we have a lot of ground to cover. I was ready, and now I’m letting fear get the best of me.”

“No apologies. I have a hard time controlling mine too. I can’t lose you either. We can’t forget how good these hunters are, but I really don’t think we have to worry about him getting past us because we’re moving slow enough. Even with the screwy wind, we’d smell him if he was near.”

“Okay, let’s shift back and keep going. I feel better now. I love you, doc.”

“Me too, my mate,” Kellar said, knowing his feelings for Tobyn had to be written across his face. “Be careful. I think we might be getting close.”

“You do?”

“It’s only a feeling,” he whispered, but hairs had begun to stand up on the back of his neck.

Shifting, they continued moving east through some dense undergrowth, trying to stay out of plain sight as much as possible. Full daylight, if you could call it that, was now upon them, but there was no longer any visible sun… just fast-moving dark-grey clouds. Both wolves froze at the same time. It was faint and fleeting, but a whiff of elk reached their enhanced noses. He’s here! Kellar’s heart picked up speed as he tried to locate where the hunter was. No such luck, but they had their warning.

Kellar was impressed with how quickly Tobyn went into complete stealth mode. His belly dropped closer to the ground and he inched forward with incredible restraint. It took everything Kellar had not to push past his mate and take the lead. It was a long twenty minutes before more of that ominous but sought odor visited them, and this time it was stronger. They were still inching along, taking in everything around them.

Kellar recognized where they were. He and Tobyn had run this trail they’d come upon, and he knew it headed around a bend and over a little rise as it wound to the south. The soft clink of metal chain told them they were closing in, and he stopped when Tobyn did, waiting for the wind to co-operate. Scant minutes that seemed an eternity later, it verified their target was on the other side of the rise between them. How far, Kellar wasn’t sure, but he remembered the long narrow clearing his mate and he had played in after visiting the lookout. It would be an ideal place to set traps.

Expecting Tobyn to go in the direction of Reznick, he was unprepared when he crossed over the trail and crept eastward. He put his faith in the man’s knowledge of the terrain, trying to keep his eager wolf in check, and followed, at times crawling at a snail’s pace under and through brush. It all made sense when they took a hard right and moved parallel to the trail they’d crossed. Tobyn was bringing them up on Reznick under concealed cover. If not for their copper necklaces they’d be screwed, but with no pulsing of the man’s silver, they’d soon have the opportunity to bring the bastard down.

Their slow-moving patience paid off when they reached the exact spot they needed to be. Still concealed, but with room to stand, Kellar could see Reznick’s broad back as he crouched in front of two large tree trunks, fiddling with a trap whose teeth gleamed silver. A rifle that was a twin of his uncle’s rested against one of the trunks, and two more traps were laying nearby.

He heard the huge man curse as he busied himself at ground level. This time the elk scent, while strong, wasn’t as overpowering, which told Kellar it was something he re-applied after getting everything set. It was enough, though, to hide the man’s scent from most shifters.

Seeing Reznick’s distance from the rifle increase as he shuffled sideways, it became clear it was the perfect time to rush him. If that firearm made it into his hands, it could become an entirely different scenario. Just as they both stepped out into the clearing, two things happened. Reznick stood up, and a twig snapped to their right, causing the older hunter’s look-a-like nephew to spin around.

Everything happened with blazing speed after that. The fleeting shock on his ugly face was replaced with a grim grin as he made a lunge for his rifle. Tobyn, a foot ahead, began his rush forward with Kellar almost beside him. Too late, Kellar saw the knife fly from Reznick’s hand and imbed itself in Tobyn’s shoulder as he began his leap, hopefully missing his heart as he lurched sideways. The move caused their wolves to collide mid-air, and Kellar took the impact broadside, knocking him off target. Scrambling, he regained his footing as the large man reached behind him while keeping his front to Kellar. He was a foot from the gun, and Kellar sprung for the man’s throat to prevent him from reaching it.

As he left the ground, he heard Tobyn scream, “Knife!” In mid-flight of a tremendous leap, Kellar realized the man wasn’t reaching for the rifle at all. Twisting his body at the warning, he barely avoided the upward thrust that would have gutted him, instead getting a searing slice along his side. It separated hide from flesh as he still strove to reach this hated man’s neck.

He found it impossible to reach his goal because the hunter, showing his experience, speed, and astonishing strength, followed through on the less than successful knife thrust with another unexpected move. He somehow grabbed Kellar’s ruff with both hands, using his leap’s momentum to swing and smash him with incredible force into the tree trunk at his back.

Kellar felt and heard the snap of breaking ribs. He dropped to the ground, inches from silver-coated jaws, the wind knocked out of him, and excruciating pain racking his damaged sides. Fortunately, the slam had dislodged the knife and sent it flying. It had taken mere seconds for the hunter to triumph.

Despite his groggy condition, he was able to check on his mate through eyes filed with a haze made up of pain and rage. He could see Tobyn, back in wolf form, struggling to get to him, but it was proving futile. His mate was rendered immobile by the deeply-set blade bisecting the major tendon connecting his leg to his shoulder. Fuck. How had it all gone so wrong, so quickly?

Reznick was now in total control, with rifle in hand. He had backed up, and while keeping a gleeful eye on both of them, he was also staring at the thin thread of copper he held in his hand. “What do we have here?” He stepped closer to Tobyn, who reacted by snarling. He had given up his struggle to get to his mate, and was now partly on his side, but Kellar could tell there was no quit in him. “I know what you are. Your fur doesn’t hide you, demon, and whatever you’re planning, I welcome.”

He peered closely at Tobyn’s ruff. “You too, huh? Is this how you were able to sneak up on me? I feel you now, though. This copper blocks my silver? We know it’s why sterling doesn’t work,” he said, as if to himself. He looked from the wire to both wolves. “Huh. Very clever… but, you blew your one chance. Even without the silver, my Lord protects me from changelings.”

The laugh he emitted was downright maniacal, and so reminiscent of his uncle’s. If Kellar closed his eyes he would think him the same man. “Didn’t expect the knives, did you? You scum never do. Such stupid creatures.”

Dammit to hell. Miss Sybil’s words about how good hunters were with knives echoed in his head. He should have taken them as a warning and been prepared, instead of fixating on only the rifle.

Reznick continued his maddening laughter. “Thanks for letting me know I must be more careful from now on. I’ll be sure to pass this along.”

Shifting his attention to Kellar, he surveyed him as if contemplating something. “Never seen a pelt like yours before. I have a collector who’ll pay me lots of money for such a prize. Yes, this is good twice over. It can’t be a co-incidence my uncle spotted a beast with that same coat, along with his gold companion, in the same area he met his end. It was your filth I felt at the truck that day, wasn’t it? I heard you heading north, werewolf. You escaped me that time, but I knew I would find you if I trusted in my God. I didn’t expect you would be delivered to me so easily, though. Not only will I avenge a great man’s murder, but I will make some money too. My Lord and savior continues to guide me.”

His grotesque smile was cold and cruel. “Morph, and I’ll burn you alive. Stay in your dog fur and I’ll kill you both cleanly. Either way, you’re both going back to the fiery hell that spawned you.”

Kellar experienced overwhelming hatred as he absorbed the man’s warped words, but he forced himself to calm. It didn’t matter they’d been his targets all along. How many of us have been skinned over the years? How many shifter pelts were hanging on someone’s wall?

He figured he might have one good leap in him. He’d regained his breath, and the pain had leveled off, but he continued to pant like he was in great distress, whimpering every time he moved. Reznick needed to believe he was completely out of commission, like he already believed he was protected by God. Crazy fucker!

He would willingly die before he’d let this man kill his mate. If he could knock the hunter down, or even off-balance, Tobyn should be able to shift and run. Kellar only hoped he didn’t have the same sort of plan because it was obvious he was plotting something, and it would most certainly be to protect him. He needed this killer to relax his guard for a couple of seconds, and he’d make at least one more move. Maybe he’d get lucky, and succeed in ripping the bastard’s throat out. He was determined to try.

An eerie howl brought about by the blowing wind, diverted everyone’s attention for a second. The big hunter’s eyes did a thorough sweep of the surrounding woods, and Kellar witnessed uneasiness flash in them.

“I’m wasting time. Someone warned you I was here, didn’t they? Yes. Traitors must die too. There could be more of you nearby, not that I couldn’t handle a bunch of mutts. I’ll let you keep your fur, and be satisfied with returning the unclean where it belongs. You can rot here as a reminder to the rest of your kind we will prevail in wiping you from this earth.” He raised his gun to his shoulder without any warning, spinning toward Tobyn and taking aim. “For my God,” he declared.

Kellar reacted instantly, ignoring the pain, and lunging upward with all the strength he possessed. But the gun went off before he made contact. Clamping his huge jaws on the side of the man’s neck, his heart was near to exploding from the sick fear for his mate. Following the man down to the ground, awash in two different kinds of pain, he ripped free and spun around with a mass of human flesh in his mouth to see Tobyn up on his haunches. A split second later he shifted and stood, his hand going to his injured shoulder. Kellar couldn’t believe his eyes. The expert hunter had missed?

Flickering, to be sure, he could see no evidence of a gunshot. Shifting, he stood as well, grimacing at the pain of his broken ribs. Only then did he look back at the dead man. The man’s throat was gone, but that wasn’t where his focus went. What caught his attention, and blew his mind, was the gaping hole in the man’s chest, like it had been blown out from behind. Holy fuck. He’s been shot! What the hell had happened?

He looked back at his mate, confusion clouding his mind when Tobyn pointed to the left with his good arm. “It came from over there.”

The wind had settled, and was now blowing steadily toward the highway, making it impossible to catch any scent from that direction. Stumbling, but quickly reaching Tobyn, he trickled to give his mate some relief until he could remove the knife, and then did the same for himself. Thankfully, there had been no poison on the weapon, but it was going to hurt like hell when it was pulled out. They held onto each other as much as their injuries would allow, staring the whole time at the woods to the east. Kellar could make out a rustling sound just before he saw a man stand up out of the dense foliage. He was stunned when Warren walked into the clearing on visibly shaky legs. After weakly smiling at his brother, he sank to the ground, one of the camp rifles slipping from his hand.

“Warren? Why are…? Are you all right?”

“Me? Yeah. Physically, anyway.” Warren’s voice was as shaky as his legs had been. “Are you guys okay?”

“We will be,” Kellar answered. His mind was going in every direction. His concern for his partner weighed heavily, but his curiosity was overflowing.

“I’m fine, mountain man,” Tobyn said in his ear, “so cool your jets. Whatever you did really helped the pain.” He gave Kellar a reassuring smile. Turning to Warren, he asked, “Where the hell did you come from? I mean, it’s great to see you, but you weren’t supposed to be here.”

Warren looked up from his place on the ground. “Ah… I followed him. Fuck… I shot a man in the back. I was so fucking scared.”

“You and us both. It takes a lot of guts, bro, what you did, and you shot a serial killer, not some man. Fuck… thank you for saving my mate. That son-of-a-bitch was just about to kill him.” Kellar’s voice shook with emotion as his own words sunk in. In fact, his whole body began trembling as his adrenalin crashed.

“I know. I heard most of it when I got close enough… told you my hearing was better,” he muttered, looking away for a few seconds. “I wasn’t scared about killing him; I was terrified I was going to hit you. He… he moved so goddam fast.” He shook his head in disbelief. “As soon as he swung that gun toward Tobyn, I knew what you were going to do. I missed you by inches, man, and I wasn’t sure I did at first because you fell with him. I… fuck… I never shot a gun from down on the ground before, but I couldn’t stand up, you know?” His voice cracked as he said the words.

“It was an incredible shot, Warren.”

“No… no it wasn’t… not really. I was aiming for his head.”

Kellar snorted, and said, “Close enough,” before he started to laugh. It hurt, but not near as much as he expected. His ribs were already healing. Checking the slice on his side, he saw it was closing up nicely. The joining? Had to be.

Tobyn and Warren had slowly added their laughter to his, and his brother ended up flat on his back by the end of it, his body shaking with sobs, not all of them from mirth. Kellar understood the need for this release of tension. The man had come through in the biggest way, but it had taken its toll, and he left him some time to cope and regroup.

Turning to his mate, He studied the knife’s entry wound. “I’m already healing, Tobyn, and I think you are too.”

“I know… I can feel it. You think it’s because of last night?”

“Yup, and I think that knife has to come out now before it becomes a part of you.” He touched near the wound and trickled. “Are you ready?”

“Go ahead. I want rid of it.”

Kellar wasted no time in complying, and it came out with little resistance. Tobyn winced, but that was his only reaction. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Wasn’t bad at all. It’s not even bleeding all that much. Unbelievable. Can I hug you, if I’m careful? I really need one.”

Kellar’s response was to move close, pulling Tobyn’s head against the side of his own. There was no squeezing this time, but it was as meaningful a hug as they had ever shared. “That was fucking close. I didn’t think we were going to get through it.”

“Really? I had complete faith in you.” He pulled his head back and grinned at Kellar. “I knew you were hurt, but I could tell you were faking some of it to try and catch Reznick off guard, and even if Warren hadn’t have shot him, you would have been in time.”

“I’m glad you thought so,” Kellar said ruefully. He had some serious doubts Tobyn was correct.

“You didn’t see me, but I got my hind leg under me and pushed sideways when he aimed his rifle. It gave me an extra second or two, and you were already in the air.”

“I didn’t know that… maybe you’re right, but I’m still thankful for Warren. He took away the uncertainty of the outcome.”

“God, me too. At first I thought the shot came from the hunter, but then I realized it came from the east. I was never so thankful to see someone die before my eyes. I’ll never get used to it, though.”

“Me neither, but there is a lot of satisfaction in seeing that monster lying there with his throat ripped out, and that hole in his chest. He sure looked like his uncle, didn’t he?”

“A younger, bigger version. No scar, but just as ugly… and fucking strong. I couldn’t believe it when he slammed you against that tree.”

“Yeah, he swung me like I weighed nothing, but he was smart enough to use my own body weight against me. My ribs aren’t bad at all now… what about you?”

“My shoulder itches, but there’s not much pain. I’m so glad we didn’t wait. Last night was perfect, and it made us stronger.”

“Yeah, it was perfect. So, what did you have up your sleeve?”

“What do you mean?”

“I know you had something planned to surprise Reznick. You’re my mate, remember?”

“Oh… yeah… it didn’t pan out, thankfully, but if he gave me an opening, I was going to shift, pull the knife out and throw it at him… took me a while to come up with it, though. It would have been a last resort because I haven’t thrown a knife since I was fifteen. If he’d turned to shoot you instead, it would have been the only thing I could have tried unless he came closer.”

“It was a good plan, babe. Even if you didn’t plant it in the bastard, it would distracted him enough to have given me a chance to take him out. I think his only real weakness was his cockiness… fucking fast for such a big guy.”

“Hey, guys?” Warren drew their attention. “What do we do now?” He was sitting up again, looking thoughtful. There was also a determination in his expression that resonated with Kellar, making him feel proud of the man's resiliency. “I know where his truck is… should we try and drag him to it?”

“There’s no way Tobyn and I can drag anything, and that fucker is huge, so you can’t do it by yourself.”

“Yeah, that’s for sure. That’s why I didn’t want you guys facing him alone,” he said, almost apologetically as he stood and walked towards them. “I heard what he said about traitors. He meant me, didn’t he?”

“I think so.”

“Good. I’m glad the prick knew it was me.”

The satisfied expression on his brother’s face surprised Kellar, but it also impressed him. Who knew Warren was a warrior. “Bro, where is your truck… my truck? You didn’t walk this far, did you?”

“Hell, no. I… your truck is parked on the side of the highway, about a ten minute walk north of where Reznick pulled his Chev in. I didn’t want to get any closer. I drove with the lights off.”

“Shit. It’s in plain view if a cop goes by. That could draw some interest.”

“Is that bad? They wouldn’t be able to see the camo truck. He drove it in quite a ways. That monster will go through anything.”

“That’s something at least. If they’re busy, a cop won’t bother. It just depends, but we have a dead body here.” Kellar looked at Tobyn. “What do you think?”

“We have no choice. We have to leave it here and go back to the compound. We’ve got to either bury him or burn him, and we’ll need tools to do either. Warren, you should get Kellar’s truck off the highway, but don’t walk out with the rifle. Hide it somewhere, until you’re sure no one is around. Kellar and I can make our way back at our own pace.”

“Okay. Um, just curious, but how did he know you guys were near… I mean, you both had the copper on, so….”

“A goddam twig snapped, is how it all went to shit, and I don’t know what snapped it,” Kellar answered, looking disgusted.

“I swear it wasn’t me… I never made a sound, and when I got here you both were on the ground, and he had his gun.” Warren said.

“No, it definitely wasn’t you,” Tobyn said. “It was a bull elk on the other side of the trail. I caught the difference from the bottled scent… it was subtle, and only for a second because of the swirling wind, but the smell on those traps probably drew him in. The fucker must have come from the northern side of the lake, and swam the river when he smelled the attractant. He skedaddled when he caught a whiff of us, or heard the commotion.”

“The fucking wind damn near finished us today. And, bro, I never thought it was you. Not with those tracking skills you learned in scouts,” he said with a smirk. “We owe you our lives. I’m glad you didn’t listen when I said there was nothing you could do. I was wrong. I underestimated this guy and I should have known better. Bring it in, Warren.” Kellar held out his arms.

“I appreciate that, but, dude, you’re naked.”

Kellar laughed from deep down inside. “So what? You’re not.”

“True, but we can’t be making a habit of this,” he said, humor in his voice. Kellar grabbed him in a one-armed, gentle hug, and Tobyn got in on it too, with his good arm over Warren’s shoulder. Eventually backing away, Warren gave an embarrassed laugh. He looked down at the two naked men, and back up again, with amusement spreading across his face. “So, when I become a wolf, will I get one of those?”

Kellar grabbed the smaller man by the back of the neck affectionately. “You’ll have to make do with what you got,” he said with a grin.

“Okay, well, I had to ask. No complaints yet,” he said with his own smirk. “By the way, what was the big deal that happened last night you guys were talking about? Better hearing, remember?”

“None of your damn business.”

It was Warren’s turn to belly laugh.

 

Laughter stopped when Tobyn held up his hand for silence. They all heard the brushing of leaves just before a near-black wolf with a grey ruff trotted out of the same brush Warren had been in. Two more followed. Kellar recognized Denver’s distinctive wolf right away. All three approached the body, a growl coming from Denver before he shifted. Ingram and Hutch followed suit, looks of revulsion directed at the man who scant minutes ago was a very real threat to the entire pack.

“So, you guys are all okay? We’ve been worried.” Denver said, looking them over one by one.

“Yeah, we’re all fine,” Tobyn answered. “What are you guys doing here? Did something happen?”

“Good question, that. Since my employee didn’t show up for work, and the gun was missing from the shop, I did a little search, and lo and behold, there was your Dodge on the side of the highway. It wasn’t hard to figure out what he was up to. You know you got Adelin in quite a state, don’t you?” He pinned his assistant mechanic with a glare.

Warren looked extremely sheepish when he started stammering. “I did show up, but I was early so I sat in the truck, and then I saw Reznick’s truck drive by, and I thought maybe I should follow him. Where’s Adelin?”

“Was that before or after you took the rifle? Jesus, Warren! You thought you should go after an experienced hunter?” Denver shook his head without taking his eyes off the object of his wrath. “You must have gotten there awfully early, because I was there at six, which tells me you were waiting for said truck. What’s done is done, I guess, since everyone’s okay.” His expression softened. “Your mate is with Elinor and Tilly. We practically had to tie her down. The only reason she isn’t out running the woods is because we promised her we’d find you. Two more, Maynard and Hugh, are coming behind us with guns. Way to stir up a hornet’s nest, young fella. This wasn’t the plan we all agreed to.” Denver sounded serious, but he was smiling just a little. “So what the hell went on here?”

“Wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but we’re still standing, and Reznick isn’t.” Kellar took possession of Warren’s neck again to show support. “He was one tough son-of-a-bitch, and the damn wind was on his side. He almost got us when an elk snapped a twig at the worst possible moment. Actually, thank the earth mother Warren didn’t stay out of it because he probably saved both our lives. He took Reznick out just as he was about to shoot Tobyn,” Kellar said with pride, even though his stomach clenched at the memory.

“Well, hell,” Ingram interjected. “You were already a hero for figuring out the copper. Now, we’ll have to knight you or something.”

“It might be posthumously because Adelin is going to kill him when she sees him,” Hutch said with a snicker.

Warren was back to looking a trifle ill. “Oh crap. She’s really pissed, huh?”

“Spitting nails, buddy. But, she’s scared; she’ll get over it when she hears what you did… maybe.” Hutch laughed again. “You best get back, though.”

“Yeah, and I need to get Tobyn back for some healing.” Kellar looked at his mate’s raised eyebrows. “And me. I need some healing too. Ingram, what should we do about the body?”

“You just let us take care of that; you two have done enough. We’ll burn the fucker right here after we get some gasoline, and we’ll get rid of that big old killing machine of his. Christ… never saw a truck that looked evil before.”

“I can dismantle it and turn it into parts,” Warren offered.

Denver turned to him. “Got your phone on you?”

“No, I left it back in Kellar’s truck.”

“Okay, I get that you did a good thing here, but you need to march your ass back there, call Adelin, get that truck off the highway, and open the shop up. You still work for me, right?”

“Yes, sir. I’m on my way now.” Warren took off at a fast trot after sharing a look with his brother.

“Make sure Elinor knows everyone’s safe,” Denver called to Warren’s disappearing back.

“Will do, sir.”

“That man has to stop calling me sir,” Denver remarked with a grin.

Kellar scented Maynard and another shifter just before he heard them coming. Now the fucking wind turns! They stepped into the clearing a couple of minutes later, checking out the dead hunter with the same obvious disgust the others had upon seeing him. Ingram joined them as they discussed the burning of the body. Hugh appeared thoughtful as he turned away from the corpse, and then his face lit up at the sight of Tobyn. Walking up, he drew him into a hug.

“All that stuff you talked about when we were kids? You’re doing it, Tobe. We don’t see each other much anymore, and it’s been lambing and calving season, so I don’t hardly get to the lodge, but I want to thank you for coming through for us.”

“Thanks, Hugh. I just realized you haven’t met my mate. Kellar, this is Hugh, my best friend growing up.”

“Nice to meet you, Hugh.”

“Nice to meet you too. I’ve heard lots of good stuff. And I was Tobyn’s best friend only when Tilly wasn’t around,” he said, smirking at Tobyn. “So, I have an idea. Instead of burning that hunter, I could get the little bobcat up here, no problem, and then we wouldn’t be drawing any attention with the amount of smoke, and the smell. This spot isn’t all that far off the road… too close to be burning something.” He looked from one to the other. “What do you think?”

“So, what? You’d move him somewhere else to be burnt?” Ingram, Maynard, and Denver were all standing with them at that point, while Hutch checked Reznick’s pockets for keys to the truck.

“We could, or we could take him out into the middle of the lake and dump him; let the fish take care of him. It might be a better solution. We could do it tonight… bury him under some straw behind the barns until then? I can have him hidden in an hour, tops, if you guys want?”

“Sounds good to me,” Ingram said.

“What if he ever floated up to the surface?” Tobyn asked.

Ingram chuckled. “We’ll just have to make sure he doesn’t. We’ll wrap him up in that old steel cable lying in the scrap yard. What are you boys still doing here? Go home, and let us handle this. Those are some pretty nasty wounds you both have, so worry about them and not that piece-of-shit over there.”

“We will,” Kellar said. The group moved over to Hutch, who had no luck finding keys. Kellar heard Denver say the bastard would have hid them near the truck and he’d find them. He smiled when he heard the man say his nose would sniff them out easily. Sighing in satisfaction, he squeezed the hand he was holding in his. “We’re not needed here. I think it’s time to go home. How’s your shoulder?”

“Yes, doc, our job is done, thank the earth mother. It feels stiff, but there’s no pain. How is your side? That’s one wicked slice.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I’m surprised how fast it’s healing. It would have been a lot worse if you hadn’t yelled Knife! when you did.”

Tobyn raised his eyes from the wound with a questioning expression on his face. “Kellar, what are you talking about? I didn’t yell anything.”

“Yes, you did. You screamed it as loud as I’ve ever heard you.”

“No, I didn’t. I thought it, but it happened too fast for me to shift and warn you. I was so relieved when you twisted out of the way because it was headed straight for your guts… my heart was in my throat, I was so scared.”

Kellar’s expression went from perplexed to shock as comprehension dawned. “Tobyn. I know I heard you, and that means I heard your thought!

“No way! Oh my God… the joining? Holy shit.”

“Yeah, holy shit. You know what this means?

“We can communicate as wolves?”

“Sure as hell looks like it.”

Many thanks to my editor, Timothy M., and to all those who support my writing smile.png

Copyright © 2017 Headstall; All Rights Reserved.
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Gary-now i fracking love Warren....great job....keep up the fantastic work....see you next Monday
Jay

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That was so darn exciting!!!! :read: My heart was in my throat and beating so fast. I knew you wouldn't let them get seriously injured or killled but it was so close. :o Yay Warren. I couldn't believe that he rode to the rescue and saved the day. Yee Haw, just like Erroll Flynn or John Wayne or The Rock in F&F7. Warren is a HERO (without the supersuit) :wub:

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On 12/13/2016 11:35 AM, JayT said:

Gary-now i fracking love Warren....great job....keep up the fantastic work....see you next Monday

Jay

Yeah, he's turned out to be a pretty lovable dude, hasn't he? Thanks for the kind words and the support... next Monday, then... I'll be here... cheers... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 11:37 AM, LadyDe said:

That was so darn exciting!!!! :read: My heart was in my throat and beating so fast. I knew you wouldn't let them get seriously injured or killled but it was so close. :o Yay Warren. I couldn't believe that he rode to the rescue and saved the day. Yee Haw, just like Erroll Flynn or John Wayne or The Rock in F&F7. Warren is a HERO (without the supersuit) :wub:

Yee haw! I love it. Warren 'the Rock' Flynn. Works for me. I'm glad you found it exciting because that's what I was hoping for :) . Warren is our everyman hero, and I love writing him... thanks for the awesome review, my friend... cheers... Gary....

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Awesome chapter. So much love for Warren, and I am so glad you saw it through the whole way and didn't play the cliffhanger game with our hearts. :)

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Wow! What an action packed chapter! I was on the edge of my seat reading! I'm so happy they got rid of Reznick! Warren showed up just in time. He's beyond redeeming himself, he's now a hero! I am SOOO enjoying this story!

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OMG OMG OMG that was awesome! I was at the edge of my seat most of this chapter and had to keep myself from skipping to the end! Like other reviewers, I was happy you gave us a resolution, and didn't leave us dangling over that clifff for a week :) I love that Warren was a part of the resolution, even if he's going to get his ass handed to him by Adelin when he gets home :lol: I have to admit I wasn't sure how this was going to play out. It could have gone many different ways and could have been a lot worse. I really think the joining is what saved them. I am looking forward to them exploring more of their communication as wolves. Does it only work when in stressful or highly emotional situations? Can they control it? Thank you for making this your longerest chapter, chapter :)

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What an ordeal that was! You had me riveted the entire time with that suspense Gary. I'm glad you heeded my warning and kept my boys safe :D. Well... relatively safe anyway. But I was still pretty freaked out for a minute there.

 

Like I'd said previously, they needed backup, and Warren is the best backup ever. So glad he followed his own instinct and followed Reznick. Oh how it all could have gone so much worse without him. Also, about Warren, I'm glad he's already planning on joining the shifter ranks himself. For being a "regular" with mere days of experience, Warren is remarkable in how he's adapting. He's such a great character. Oh and the naked hugging scene was golden.

 

Loved this chapter! Kellar and Tobyn are closer than ever, with their new earth mate telepathy. Such a cool addition. As always, thank you for this Gary.

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Your writing kept me on the edge of my seat until the end! So what's next? An interlude of peace and quiet followed by another menace? I've said it before. I can't wait to see what happens next. Thanks. Jeff

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Wow ! Gary, thank you ! (everyone turn down the volume now) But ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK ?! Honestly ... I understand the need for some action sequence, however you should know that I could only take so much excitement at one go ...

 

Reznik was one hell of an opponent, strong and clever and experienced and a f--king fanatic. So our dynamic duo need to be very careful when they go out in the world to seek other packs ... Fortunately Reznik died before he could tell others about the copper effect ...

 

Warren is a HERO, so maybe I'll throw myself at him like a damsel in distress ... WAIT, I am the wrong sex, wrong age and wrong orientation for him; and Adeline is much prettier ... Awkward with the half hugs with his NAKED brothers, and that comment on the "size" after his own shift ... OH, let me dwell on that image in my mind for a further hour or two ... (drooling here)

 

Glad to see the whole pack coming together to clean up the mess and we get to meet Hugh ! There're never loose strands in your story, eh, Gary ?

 

Keep the longererer chapters coming, keep them coming Gary !
:thankyou:

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Well, that was an okay chapter, Gary. (You know I'm kidding, right!). It was beyond okay, very suspenseful! Really enjoyed it.

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¡Carajo! :2thumbs: Now that was an intense, exciting, suspenseful, loving, scary, heart-warming, maniacal-sociopath-killing, soul-satisfying chapter! My heart is still racing (although the first espresso of the day may be contributing). I wondered at the twig snapping whether Warren or Fenwick might be there and contribute in some way, but Tobyn saying it was a bull elk explained away my explanation. Like the others, I am delighted that it was Warren who showed -- again -- how much he has to offer the pack. Still, I can't help but wonder when Fenwick might make another appearance. Also, now that we know there are other hunters still around, something is going to have to happen to address that lurking danger -- unless that denouement is being saved for the next book. :unsure:
Thanks again for this latest addition to the Morningstar Universe. Until the next chapter, Peace, and may the remaining weeks of 2016 be Merry and Bright!

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Well hot damn! Okay, so things didn't go according to plan but everyone survived, well the ones that matter, and they learned a few things. Nice job.

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Nicely done my friend.

 

I only have one request, please make Warren's death a quick and merciful one. Adelin will be stringing him up by bits of his anatomy that he might want to keep

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On 12/13/2016 12:11 PM, Lux Apollo said:

Awesome chapter. So much love for Warren, and I am so glad you saw it through the whole way and didn't play the cliffhanger game with our hearts. :)

Thanks, lux. There WAS a great place to divide the chapter, but I really don't like to do the cliffie thing. It frustrates readers and it can take away the power of the chapter... glad you appreciated that... and love your proclaimed love for mt man Warren :) . Cheers, buddy... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 12:16 PM, jaysalmn said:

Wow! What an action packed chapter! I was on the edge of my seat reading! I'm so happy they got rid of Reznick! Warren showed up just in time. He's beyond redeeming himself, he's now a hero! I am SOOO enjoying this story!

Thanks, jaysalmn! I'm so pleased you liked it. I was hoping readers would be on the edge of their seat :) . Thanks for reviewing, buddy... cheers... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 01:07 PM, LitLover said:

OMG OMG OMG that was awesome! I was at the edge of my seat most of this chapter and had to keep myself from skipping to the end! Like other reviewers, I was happy you gave us a resolution, and didn't leave us dangling over that clifff for a week :) I love that Warren was a part of the resolution, even if he's going to get his ass handed to him by Adelin when he gets home :lol: I have to admit I wasn't sure how this was going to play out. It could have gone many different ways and could have been a lot worse. I really think the joining is what saved them. I am looking forward to them exploring more of their communication as wolves. Does it only work when in stressful or highly emotional situations? Can they control it? Thank you for making this your longerest chapter, chapter :)

Thanks, Lit! I'm getting the feeling you liked this one :) . I feel so grateful for this kind of reaction... it's like getting a paycheck. I think once Adelin knows Warren is okay, and what a hero he was, she'll forgive him... hopefully. And yeah, you're the cliffie queen... not me hehe. Thanks for your support, my friend... loved this... cheers... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 01:19 PM, spikey582 said:

What an ordeal that was! You had me riveted the entire time with that suspense Gary. I'm glad you heeded my warning and kept my boys safe :D. Well... relatively safe anyway. But I was still pretty freaked out for a minute there.

 

Like I'd said previously, they needed backup, and Warren is the best backup ever. So glad he followed his own instinct and followed Reznick. Oh how it all could have gone so much worse without him. Also, about Warren, I'm glad he's already planning on joining the shifter ranks himself. For being a "regular" with mere days of experience, Warren is remarkable in how he's adapting. He's such a great character. Oh and the naked hugging scene was golden.

 

Loved this chapter! Kellar and Tobyn are closer than ever, with their new earth mate telepathy. Such a cool addition. As always, thank you for this Gary.

Thank you, spikey! Riveted is such a good word. Yeah, Warren came in pretty handy... the best laid plans and all that. I'm so pleased you mentioned the naked hugging scene... I was kind of partial to that bit of levity in the aftermath of so much tension. Thanks for all the kind words, and for reviewing, my friend... cheers... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 01:23 PM, JeffreyL said:

Your writing kept me on the edge of my seat until the end! So what's next? An interlude of peace and quiet followed by another menace? I've said it before. I can't wait to see what happens next. Thanks. Jeff

Hey, Jeff. There may be a bit of calm now... maybe. I'm glad you're invested in this little story, and I can tell you it's far from over. Being on the edge of your seat makes me happy... thanks for your support and for reviewing, buddy... cheers... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 01:27 PM, hohochan657 said:

Wow ! Gary, thank you ! (everyone turn down the volume now) But ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK ?! Honestly ... I understand the need for some action sequence, however you should know that I could only take so much excitement at one go ...

 

Reznik was one hell of an opponent, strong and clever and experienced and a f--king fanatic. So our dynamic duo need to be very careful when they go out in the world to seek other packs ... Fortunately Reznik died before he could tell others about the copper effect ...

 

Warren is a HERO, so maybe I'll throw myself at him like a damsel in distress ... WAIT, I am the wrong sex, wrong age and wrong orientation for him; and Adeline is much prettier ... Awkward with the half hugs with his NAKED brothers, and that comment on the "size" after his own shift ... OH, let me dwell on that image in my mind for a further hour or two ... (drooling here)

 

Glad to see the whole pack coming together to clean up the mess and we get to meet Hugh ! There're never loose strands in your story, eh, Gary ?

 

Keep the longererer chapters coming, keep them coming Gary !

:thankyou:

You're welcome, buddy! Thank you! I love all the screaming hehe. I really don't want you to have a heart attack... maybe just a little fibrillation :) . Yes, Resnick was formidable indeed. If he's any indication of the rest, it's a scary world for shifters. And yes, Warren is a hero for sure. I think he sized Reznick up as being a real threat to his new family... he saw the hunter first... and I even got to make you droll... very rewarding for me hehe. We HAD to meet Hugh... you're right... I don't like loose ends. Thanks for the awesome review, hohochan... cheers... Gary....

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On 12/13/2016 01:55 PM, Kitt said:

Thanks, Sis! I'm really pleased with the reaction to this one... cheers... Gary :hug:

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On 12/13/2016 02:35 PM, Mikiesboy said:

Well, that was an okay chapter, Gary. (You know I'm kidding, right!). It was beyond okay, very suspenseful! Really enjoyed it.

Thanks, tim. I even gave you the length you like :) . So glad you enjoyed it, my friend... cheers... Gary.... xo

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:o :great: !!! Just thought I'd get those marks out of the way first, since I know you don't like me using them.... :D
I hope the other guys remember to search the body and the truck for any information about more Hunters, since we know there are others out there. It worried me when Resnick mentioned knowing about the copper's effect, but now that the Lycans know, I think they'll be safer even if that knowledge is more widely known. It seems there's no way to counter it thank goodness.
I needed that laugh when Warren asked if he'd 'get one of those' when he shifts--just what you'd expect from a brother--and a further cementing of their relationship's new incarnation. Now all we have to hope is that Adelin leaves him what he has so it will be there when he becomes a member of the Pack.
Words fail me, my dearest friend...you're a crafty wordsmith, you are.
xoxoxoxoxo

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Whew. Too exciting! But Reznick is gone and gone, and their advantage is preserved. But what a lucky and unforeseen victory taken from the jaws of a terrible death. This should give everyone pause about going hunting, and it should send Kellar back to thinking hard about hunting as a pack. So much learned, and so much gambled in this chapter. Needed my heart medication partway through...

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