Bane of Tenebris
Tala’s chest hurt from running. Unfamiliar screams filled her ears, shifting into angry snarls and growls. Something rammed her hard enough to knock her down, but she quickly recovered and continued to run. Black shapes surrounded her, lashing out with their claws, leaving painful bites across her skin.
Exhausted, Tala collapsed. As she lay on the ground, her vision blurred and faded from the dark images to one of an angelic-faced man with dirty blonde hair.
Tala opened her eyes, free from the fractured memories, finding she no longer lay on the ground in the woods. Groaning, she tried to push herself onto her elbows to take in her surroundings and her condition.
She looked down to find herself naked, half covered in thick blankets, and her wounds cleaned and wrapped.
Lifting her eyes to the rest of the room, she saw a round, black wood burning stove in the corner. In its maw an orange fire glowed.
When the door opened, Tala jerked her attention towards the noise of the creaking hinges. The same man she thought she only dreamed of walked in carrying a plate of food and extra bandages.
Polished, sculpted muscles lay scarcely hidden beneath the white undershirt he wore. The faded, dark blue jeans sat low on his hips. The features of his face remained soft, yet Tala could see they were worn by time.
She felt her cheeks heat the longer she stared. The only imperfections were the jagged scars covering the copper skin of his arms.
“Oh, you’re awake. I’m glad. I began to wonder if you would wake at all,” the strange man said as he set the plate on the table next to the bedside and grabbed the bandages.
Tala backed away so quickly she underestimated the distance and fell over the bed’s edge, landing to the floor with a THUD!
The man clenched one eye closed, hissing through his teeth. “I’m sorry. That looked rather unpleasant.”
The man strode around the other side of the bed and took a knee in front of her. His gentle eyes met hers. In a tender voice, he said. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Alexander Kain. May I ask your name?”
Kain held out his hand to help her up.
“Tala. My name is Tala,” Tala replied, taking Kain’s hand. “Where am I and how did I get here?
“You’re in my home. I found you injured in the woods not far from here. You’ve been unconscious for almost a week now,” Kain said. He took the food from the bedside table and setting it down in front of her. He followed with his own question, “Do you know how you came to be in the woods?”
Tala rubbed her head, groaning. The images from the dream returned to her, causing her to tremble. “I…I remember running. There were black shapes. I don’t remember anything before that.”
Kain helped Tala sit back down on the bed. “These black shapes. Do you recall something strange about them?”
“They moved fast. I remember the stings of pain each time they got close.”
Kain sat down next to her on the bed. “It’s okay. It may take time for your memories to return. I’m not sure how long you were out there. Try to get some food and rest. I will come back later to check on your injuries.”
“Wait. Where am I? What city?”
“Big Timber. About a mile outside of it to be specific,” Kain replied.
“Big Timber?” Tala’s eyes widened. “I was trying to get here.”
“Get some rest and eat. We can talk more later.” Kain departed the room without saying another word.
Kain leaned against the wooden railing of his covered porch, his eyes focused on the line of trees around the perimeter of his cabin. In the shadows, he made out glowing eyes staring from beyond the gloom. Snarls could be heard above the silence.
The lights of a black Mustang could be seen driving up the gravel road towards the cabin.
He soon recognized it, grinning. “Well, well, well. It seems I’m suddenly very popular.”
Kain waited for the car to stop and the engine turned off before descending the wooden stairs.
Gabriel stepped out of the driver’s side, running a hand through shoulder length, curly dark hair. “It’s good to see you, old friend.” He commented in a thick European voice, embracing Kain.
“You as well. What brings you so far out of your pack’s territory?” Kain asked, his eyes never leaving the trees.
Gabriel followed Kain’s line of sight. “You see them as well?”
“Yes. As of yet, they have not ventured any closer. I cannot be sure of how long that will last. Come, we can talk inside.” Kain motioned Gabriel towards the front door.
When they got inside, Tala sat in the living room in front of the fire with a cup of water in her hands, wrapped in a borrowed blanket. She jumped when Kain came in with Gabriel.
Gabriel whistled at seeing how pretty the young woman was. “Who’s this?”
Kain shook his head, sighing and reaching the heel of his hand to the side of his head, eyes turned towards the ceiling. “Honestly, Gabriel, must you really?”
Gabriel shrugged, holding his hands up as he approached Tala. “I won’t hurt you. My name is Gabriel Locke. I’m Kain’s friend.” Gabriel held out his hand. Tala waited for a nod from Kain before she reached to shake it. “There, see? What’s your name?”
Tala told him.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Gabriel kissed her hand before addressing Kain. “Kain, I wish I came here to catch up, but I’m afraid that isn’t the case.”
“I imagined it wouldn’t be. You rarely come to make a social call. What is it?” Kain sat down in the recliner while Gabriel chose to sit on the floor.
“Ramona contacted me,” Gabriel said. A low rumble in the back of his throat. “Stoker survived the battle at the Stones and slithered to the Cardozas in Great Falls. He’s informed Anthony of the events that happened here. So far, it doesn’t appear to Ramona that Anthony even cares.”
Kain listened to Gabriel go into the details about how Anthony Cardoza, the Don of Great Falls, began to search for an item of unknown origin. His escapades caused horrendous damages to the lycan packs surrounding the city.
During the conversation, Kain’s eyes never left Tala. Her actions indicated signs of familiarity with the situation.
“What is the damage so far, Gabriel?” Kain asked.
Tears began to fall down Tala’s face. Out of the blue, she commented on how the Don began slaughtering the pack, recalling instances of smells of smoke and copper. Black shapes ripped and tore flesh from bone amidst crumbling cinders of houses lycans used to live in peace.
Gabriel pushed his legs underneath himself to stand. “That about sums it up. Ramona says Desdemona is trying to reign Anthony in, but her efforts are going unheard. Whatever he’s looking for, he wants it enough to commit genocide.”
Kain shoved himself up from his chair so strongly, the force sent the legs skidding across the wood floors. “We will not let this go unchallenged. Gabriel, give me two days and I will return to the battlefield. For now, considering our unwanted guests, you should stay for the night. Return to your pack in the morning. They will need you.”
Gabriel nodded, retiring to one of the guest rooms Kain often let him use when he visited.
After Gabriel left the room, Tala watched Kain walk into the kitchen. Curious, she got up to follow him and peeked around the doorframe to find Kain staring out of the window above the sink.
“You don’t have to hide. Come in,” he said in the same tender voice he used in the room upstairs.
Tala walked into the kitchen, sitting in the chair closest to Kain. She stared at his arms, taking in every jagged scar tarnishing his skin. She wanted to ask where he got them but held herself back.
“You said your last name is Kain? I’m not sure where, but I’ve heard it before.”
Kain pulled up a chair and sat in front of her, his elbows resting on his thighs. “Have you? It’s an unusual name around here.”
“Yes. I heard stories about someone named Kain from the elders of my pack. They called him Penta-something,” she closed her eyes trying to remember.
When their eyes met, Tala could see how sad he looked. “I think so. Did you know him?”
Kain closed his eyes. A remorseful sigh blew through his nose as he rose from the chair. “It does not matter. Be ready. In two days, I take you to Big Timber.”
The following morning, Gabriel left after having coffee and talking with Kain over breakfast. He hadn’t been gone long before a rustling and clanging from outside made Kain focus on the window overlooking the shed he usually prepared his catches in.
“They have finally come closer.”
“They?” Tala asked. She glanced around, her brows lowered in fear, scooting closer to Kain.
As he headed to the front door, Kain spoke of the black shapes Tala mentioned, labeling them as werewolves and being sure they followed the commands of someone. He put on his jacket and went outside to confront the monsters tearing his supply shed apart.
Kain stayed close to the side of the cabin and snuck around the perimeter until his shed came into view.
Werewolves ripped and tore at the wooden walls of the shed, tearing meat from drying racks and fighting over meat they took from the overturned freezer.
A slight rustle in the tree line behind him brought Kain’s attention to the new visitor. The large wolf form identified him as a lycan, not a werewolf.
Whites overtook Kain’s eyes at the realization of the familiar black fur. No, it cannot be.
The lycan grinned, his fangs dripping with saliva over dark gums. Triangular ears stiffened towards the sky, deep orange eyes the color of a burning sunset thinned with satisfaction. Something about him seemed distorted; defiled as though he were bathed in Barghast’s shadow. In a flash of fur and shadows, the lycan vanished into the trees.
A moment in his past flashed in his mind. The howling of a lycan in pain, the taste of blood, an angry promise of vengeance. Rage filled gales of wind and rain whipped, stinging with the icy knives of winter. Those eyes. I remember those eyes.
Tala jumped as Kain burst through the door, slamming it shut. He ran up the stairs only to return with what appeared to be a camper’s bag. He ordered Tala to be prepared to go, his words laced with urgency.
“What’s going on?”
“There’s no time. We need to go.” Kain rustled through a drawer, grabbing the keys to his car. Handing Tala some clothes to borrow, Kain told her to wait for him to call to her.
Tala wanted to argue but resigned to getting dressed and waiting until she heard Kain call to her from outside before following him.
Kain stood next to the open driver’s side door, focusing his eyes on the surrounding area. He waved his hand, beckoning her towards the car.
Tala ran down the stairs, brushing her hair away from her face to keep it from hindering her sight.
She got into the car as the first werewolf jumped towards her, snarling. Tala raised her arms to her face, prepared to be struck with its claws. When no attack came, she opened her eyes to see Kain restraining the flailing monster, his strong arms around its ribs.
Kain growled as he tightened his forearm around the thrashing monster’s neck. A sickening snap made the monster fall limp, its tongue lulling out of its mouth.
Kain threw the body aside before he got into the driver’s side of the car, closing and locking the door. His breath heaved.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done that,” He smirked. Shifting the car into reverse, Kain slammed his foot on the accelerator making the tires shriek in protest.
When they reached the main road, Tala saw the werewolves running alongside the car in the trees. “What do they want?”
Kain didn’t answer. The arrival of the lycan made him second guess his original theory as to why the werewolves stalked his cabin.
A werewolf slammed its body against the driver’s side door of the car, jarring it.
In response, Kain used the body of the vehicle and the guardrails of the highway to pin the werewolf between them. It whimpered and howled in pain as its flesh was severed from its side, in a storm of sparks and grinding metal.
Another werewolf took a flying leap into the windshield from the middle of the road, claws outstretched, fangs bared. The impact cracked the glass. It grasped at the hood with its claws, sending sparks where steel met bone.
“Hang on!” Kain said, slamming on the brakes, sending the creature flying down the pavement.
There were too many of them to outmaneuver, especially when Kain couldn’t change and had Tala to contend with. He began to wonder if he could get either of them out of this encounter alive.
A howl above the wind made the werewolves freeze.
“What is that?” Tala asked.
Kain smirked, stopping the car. Just beyond the tree line, he saw Gabriel skidding down the side of the hill.
Lune followed behind him while an obsidian wolf, Kain recognized as Jillian sprinted ahead of them. Scott and Nathaniel followed close on her flanks.
The werewolves remained still. Another howl, like the shriek of a banshee, forced them to retreat into the woods.
Kain got out of the car to greet his friends.
Gabriel walked to the head of the pack, shaking his head side to side, snuffing.
“It’s good to see you. How did you know?” Kain asked.
Gabriel turned his head. Kain followed his gaze to see a pure white wolf with black markings on his paws, chest, ear tips and tail walking towards them.
Kain grinned, offering a slight bow of his head. Damien broke into a canter until he reached Kain, whimpering. He lowered his ears, nuzzling his friend’s stomach.
Tala got out of the car, her eyes locked on the white wolf Kain petted. “Lycans.”
Kain rose up to look at her.
“My mother is a lycan. She’s the one who told me to come here,” Tala replied, remembering the voice of her mother begging her to run.
Damien looked at Kain, tilting his head, whimpering.
“I will tell you more when we get to your house.” Kain turned on his heel to walk back to his car.
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