tagNonHumanStorm of Shadows Ch. 05

Storm of Shadows Ch. 05

byJazCullen©

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. May 2016 bring you all closer to your dreams.

Love Jaz xxx

Enjoy!


*****

Mila stilled in the trees, her head turning to the right. There was a pervading sense of danger, something so dark it was sending a cold chill down her spine. She didn't know what it was, but it triggered her primal instincts, and she remained still, sampling her surroundings.

There were a myriad of scents on the air, and her brow puckered in a frown. What was confusing was she could scent wolves close by, a larger pack than the small family she had encountered a while back. However, she could distinguish the child from earlier, and that was odd because the girl had been travelling in the opposite direction with her parents. How could she have found her way to this pack, and why couldn't she sense the child's parents?

Mila didn't stop to think about what she was doing. She automatically moved towards the pack. Whatever was happening, Dante would need to know. Their survival could depend on it. Moving as silently as she could, Mila had barely travelled any great distance when her breath suddenly caught, and she was still once more perusing the scene below her. He was there, the one she had seen in her vision. The Justice Seeker was watching the child run towards the wolves, his head snapping around as he scented the air.

Mila thought her heart might well stop as she watched him, his instincts clearly superior to those she had encountered before. Most would never have detected her presence, but the boy below was on edge, searching for something his senses told him was there. Would he discover her? Could he smell her hiding place? She was afraid to breathe just in case he heard her.

He stood still as a statue for a long moment, and then the air seemed to shimmer around him and she had to stifle the gasp that threatened to burst from her lips. He was the living vision, the exact replica of what she had seen in the cave that day with Dante. That wasn't what caused her heart to stutter wildly in her chest though. No, her stifled gasp was because of what she was seeing...she could actually see him, though he appeared to be shrouded by a thin veil.

She could see him move away, the way the breeze rippled through his hair, his mesmerising animal grace as he moved. It felt like it was taking her stunned brain forever to acknowledge it, but it was mere seconds, and the message was as clear as day. Mila could see the Justice Seeker as if she still had her normal sight!

It was impossible, and she couldn't understand how it could be, but the boy had done something so amazing it was as if he'd reached into her mind and flipped on a switch to her damaged vision. For a handful of heartbeats, all Mila could do was sit there and watch in fascination as the Justice Seeker vanished in the opposite direction.

Her heart hammering wildly, she had to make the most difficult of decisions. Follow the boy so she could watch him move as if she wasn't blind, or follow the child towards the wolf pack that may be the one she had been searching for? She would have been lying to herself if she didn't admit that she was sorely tempted to follow the Justice Seeker, however, there was too much at stake to allow personal desires to get in the way.

Mila slipped soundlessly down the tree, shadowing the little girl, using her forward movement as a means to get a snapshot of her surroundings. They didn't have far to travel before she once more took to the trees and safety. They were almost at the campground of the wolf pack.

Mila watched attentively, seeking out each movement so her inner eye would snap a picture of her surroundings and the people in the makeshift camp. She needed to see if the human girl was here, and if she was, she would need to find some way to turn the Justice Seeker around so that they could meet.

*****

The child appeared from out of the thickets, pale and blonde, with blue eyes that were so haunted the entire group around the fire could only stare at her in silence.

"What the hell?" Roland, one of the pack betas, jumped up and moved quickly towards their visitor, ignoring the way the child flinched as he reached for her. "Colin, Matthew, check the perimeter, see if anyone else is out there."

The child was stiff in his arms, the acrid scent of fear pervading the air. Despite that, he could tell that she was one of them, she was a wolf pup, and she appeared to have been through something traumatic. He wanted to curse but bit his tongue, as the child was so young. Their Alpha had very strict rules about watching their language among their young. It was a pity she was off somewhere on some top secret mission right now, and he was left to deal with this unexpected incursion.

What perturbed Roland the most was they had checked out the area before setting up camp. They had ensured there wasn't anyone around them for miles. Now a child just appeared in their midst? Clearly, the area wasn't as safe as they had first thought, and that was concerning. He needed to be out there with the remaining betas of their small pack. It was his responsibility to protect them.

"Ava."

He didn't need to turn his head to know his mate had come out of their tent at his call. She always knew when his need was great, and never asked any unnecessary questions, but then that was just the way his mate was. Giving her a brief smile, he handed the child over. "I need to check the area with the others. Look after the child."

Ava watched her mate leave, and then her warm brown eyes dropped to the child in her arms. The girl was so young, far too young to have blue eyes so haunted. Her heart immediately went out to the child, and her natural maternal instincts kicked in. "Hello, sweetheart, I'm Ava. Can you tell me your name?"

The little girl just stared back at her and then her small fingers threaded in Ava's shoulder length hair, which was loose around her shoulders, and she was surprised when the hand fisted it tightly. "Mama...Mama."

There was something in the child's voice that sent a chill down Ava's spine; a sense of foreboding coming over her that she couldn't explain. She knew better than to ignore it though, and turned to the other two pack females who were watching her with intent expressions. "It might be best if you take the children onto the next rendezvous point. The Alpha should head towards there if she's on her way back; otherwise we can meet you there in a day or so."

Both Astrid and Frankie shook their heads before she'd even finished speaking. Ava wasn't massively surprised by their reaction, it was understandable that they wouldn't want to leave their mates.

"Terra can take the children," Frankie countered, her tone brooking no argument.

That wasn't going to stop Ava from speaking though. With Fox off somewhere on a separate mission for their Alpha, that made Roland the head beta and by rights, she was the senior female in the pack. "Terra is too young for the responsibility. She's just had her eighteenth birthday. What if there are vampires out there? The children need an adult to protect them."

"Don't take this the wrong way, Ava, but you still think like a human...and that's understandable considering your daughter has yet to make the change," Astrid commented, her words tough, but her expression sympathetic. ""Terra is a born shape shifter. She's been raised and trained in survival techniques. She's more than capable of escorting the children onto the next site. In fact, you may be as well to send Natalia with them too, and the young one you're holding."

The very thought of sending her daughter away was unacceptable, though Ava had to concede the other women had valid points. She pondered on their words, looking back down at the child who had maintained her silence, apart from when she'd called her mama. Making up her mind, she let out a small sigh. "Very well, Terra can take the children to the rendezvous point, but Natalia and this little one are staying here. Roland may want to talk to the child."

She could tell the other two women didn't agree with her decision but they held their peace, and both headed over to the larger tent where the handful of children were still sleeping. Ava turned her attention to one of the other tents, the one that contained the most precious person in her world, not counting Roland.

"Tali..."

There was a moment's silence and then a muttering under breath, as her daughter pulled herself out of her tent. She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and blinked into the sunlight, a frown marring her pretty features. Her brown eyes appeared slightly glazed, as was wont to happen when Natalia was dragged unceremoniously away from her science books.

"Mama? What's happening?"

Ava couldn't help smiling as she stared at her daughter. Her Natalia lived in another world within their own, often being the last to know anything that was happening within the pack. There was no way in hell she would ever be separated from her often-distracted daughter. She relied too much on her mother to guide her through life.

"This child just wandered into the camp a moment ago. Your father and the others are out trying to find where she came from. Terra is going to take the youngsters onto the next rendezvous point as a precaution."

Roland wasn't Tali's real father, though he had brought her up as if she were his own since the day he had found Ava dying from blood loss after being attacked by a vampire. Tali had been less than six month's old, and it had only been her love for her child that had helped Ava withstand being turned to a Were to save her life. Roland had taken them both under his protection, and as time had passed, the mate bond had formed between him and Ava.

They had been a family ever since, even though Ava could bear no other children. It hadn't mattered to her mate. As far as he was concerned, Tali was his daughter.

While Natalia was processing what she'd been told, the child's initial reaction to Ava's hair had quickly waned, and she wriggled in her arms. Ava set her down as she felt the little girl's fear rising. Whatever had happened to her was so traumatic it was as if she couldn't bear to be touched. Her natural maternal instincts were to comfort the girl, but she didn't want to frighten her any further.

Ava's heart swelled with pride a second later, as her daughter reacted to the child's distress, her instinctive empathy kicking in as tears well up the little one's eyes.

"It's okay, sweetheart. That's my mama and she's very kind. She won't hurt you." Natalia's tone was soft and soothing as she sat down on the ground to bring herself closer to the girl's height. It was clear she felt sorry for the child, a little girl who was as lost and out of place as she was. "I'm Tali...what's your name?"

*****

Natalia held her breath, trying to be as non-threatening as she could. Truth be told, in a pack of wolves, that usually wasn't too hard to achieve. She was worried about whatever may have happened, and what that could mean for their pack, but she wanted to help the little girl, she just looked so haunted and forlorn.

The child stared at her for a long moment and then she sniffed noticeably, recoiling a couple of step backwards, her mouth dropping open. "You're not a wolf." It came out as an accusation, as was to be expected from one who was so young she hadn't had any life experience with the other races that made up her world.

Natalia didn't let the girl's tone upset her though. She smiled to show her that she understood her confusion as she nodded her head in agreement. "Not yet," she answered. "I am still human. My mama's a wolf though, and one day soon I will choose to become one."

The unexpectedness of her answer seemed to capture the child's interest, and she moved forward again, sitting down a couple of feet away from the human girl. "I'm a wolf and my Mama and Papa were wolves. How come you're not one?"

Were...Natalia didn't look at her mother, keeping her gaze fixed on the child but she knew she would have caught the past tense the girl used. Something had clearly happened to her parents, something bad. "I was only a baby when I came to live with the pack. Our Alpha is very wise and she decided that I should be allowed to grow up before I made the decision if I wanted to be a wolf or not."

When she saw she had the child's undivided attention, she decided to press for some more information, trying to maintain the build-up of trust that had begun. "Are your Mama and Papa close, little one? Can you tell me your name?"

The child's face turned sombre at the mention of her parents, sorrow causing tears to well up again, and her voice to drop to a whisper. "He called me that. The monster who could do magic..." Though she named this person monster, there was no fear on her face or in her voice. It was as if she was telling a secret, one she didn't want the others to hear.

Natalia could sense the instant tenseness within the pack, and knew that she needed to hide hers so as not to spook the child. She put as much wonder into her tone as possible, leaning a little closer, and dropping her voice down to a whisper too. "You met a monster who could do magic? Wow, that sounds amazing! Is the monster still here, sweetie? Did he bring you here? I'd really like to see him if I could."

Big tears spilled over onto the girl's cheeks and she let out a little hiccup as she tried not to sob. "He went away again...after he cut up the bad people who hurt Mama and Papa. He told me to come here. He said you would look after me now that Mama and Papa are dead."

"Mama?" Natalia didn't know what to say. Her heart automatically screamed yes they would look after her, but she knew better than to agree to anything on behalf of the pack. Technically, the decision was the Alpha's, though Natalia was reasonably sure that she would take the child in, it was who their Alpha was.

Ava moved to kneel beside the weeping girl, tentatively touching her back and supressing a sigh of relief when she didn't pull away. "I am sure you must have a little knowledge of pack life, sweetheart. We must speak with our Alpha who is away at the moment. She is a good Alpha though, caring and wise. Most of our pack once travelled alone or in smaller groups. Our Alpha accepts many into the fold, and I see no reason why she wouldn't accept someone as brave and strong as you, little wolf. We will take care of you until she returns. You have our word on that."

The child swallowed hard, brushing a hand against her wet cheeks. "I can stay here with you? I don't have to go away with the others?"

Natalia met her mother's eyes, a hint of unease filling her soul." "Why do you need to stay, little one? Is there a reason?"

Nodding her head, the blonde wolf scrubbed at her cheeks once more, her expression lightening a little. "He said he would come back for me. He said he would remember this place and come and get me when he was finished."

The unease blossomed into full fear, Natalia struggling to keep her face as expressionless as possible. "The monster said he would come back?"

When she nodded again, Natalia felt a bead of sweat trickle down her left temple. "Do you know what it was that he had to finish first, sweetheart?" She held her breath as she waited for the answer, afraid of what it might be.

"I think he's going to kill some more vampires, though he didn't say that."

Natalia gasped out loud, her fear-filled gaze meeting her mother's once more as she was unable to contain her rising terror. If what the child said was true...

"He's coming back for her, Mama. He's coming back here."

"Frankie! Astrid! Get Terra and the kids moving now!" Ava barked out, rising quickly as Frankie hurriedly exited the children's tent at the urgency of her voice. "One of you go find the men, tell them to get back here ASAP. Natalia, grab what you can quickly from your tent. Take the child with you. We need to be ready to move out when the others get back."

"I want to wait for the monster!" the little girl wailed, her composure slipping and her voice rising shrilly. "He let me bite the vampire that killed Mama and Papa! I want to go with him!"

Natalia gagged, all colour leeching from her face. "Sweet Jesus!" she gasped, her expression turning horrified. He had let a baby eat a vampire? What kind of a monster let a child eat a...she couldn't finish the thought. Her stomach suddenly lurched, and with another muffled gasp, she ran to the edge of the camp and promptly vomited up her breakfast.

Something was nagging at the back of her mind, an inner warning that was clambering for attention. She'd had the feeling a few times since she'd reached puberty. It was something akin to an inner awareness when true danger was near. Twice their Alpha had changed the direction of their travel when her fear level had spiked harshly. Twice, it had been proven a wise decision when they'd heard tales of a smaller wolf pack being decimated by a hidden coven.

This time, the fear was so intense it was nothing short of terror, and that could only mean one thing. The threat to the pack was great, but the personal threat to Natalia was off the scale. It had blossomed the moment the child had said the monster was coming, and that could only mean that she was in close, immediate danger from the man.

Natalia wretched and vomited again the instant the thought crossed her mind. Tears welled up in her eyes as she heaved, sweat trickling down the side of her face. A monster was coming, and he was coming get her. The worst part was, by the way her terror refused to abate, she was certain he was going to find her.

She turned back around to see her mother glancing sideways at her as she tried to comfort the now distraught child. The look of horror in her eyes just served to increase her own sense of terror, and her certainty that something ominous was coming to get her and it wouldn't be deflected.

It was evident her mother could tell by her reaction that the threat was directed more greatly towards her. Her eyes were frantic as she watched her daughter, her voice breaking as she spoke. "Move, Natalia! Now! Don't wait to gather anything. Just run!"

Natalia's feet wouldn't obey her though, her fear so absolute she could only hunch over once more and clutch at her stomach. She knew it was pointless to run, to try to hide from him. There was nowhere she could run to that he wouldn't find her, of that she was certain, so she was as well as staying with her pack where she had at least a modicum of safety.

Finally straightening up, Natalia wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve, and fought to find some inner strength. She would stand with her family, with her pack, and she would meet the danger head on. This was the only life she knew, and it was the only life she wanted. Paradoxically, the fear of impending doom had suddenly crystallised her decision about her future. If she made it out of this in one piece, if the pack made it out alive, then she would make the change to Were. She would join the pack properly.

"There's nowhere to run to, Mama," she whispered, crossing back to them and kneeling down beside her mother and the little girl. "I won't leave you. I'm not going anywhere until we all do."

Natalia didn't wait for a response, instead she turned her attention to the child, framing her face in her hands. She brushed at her wet cheeks. "Come and help me in the tent. We won't be leaving right now, sweetheart, but you can help me get prepared." Her words settled the child a little, and she brushed her lips across her forehead. "What should we call you? I can't keep calling you sweetheart."

It was odd how her own heart was calming a bit too as she spoke. Her fear should have been increasing but it was starting to abate. Did this mean the decision she was making was going to turn out to be the right one? She was still very afraid, but not as bad as she had been. Perhaps it was only because she was taking charge of her own life. Whatever it was, if today was the day that she was destined to die, then she would do so on her own terms, and not by running away.

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byJazCullen© 43 comments/ 18303 views/ 41 favorites

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