Chapter 21 .

Lily

There was a dark, stillness in the air.  It permeated everything, seeped through my bones.  We walked freely on the street towards the cafe.  There was only silence.  It was cold, but the sun was shining.  Even in the winter, there should be some kind of animal life around.  Especially on a sunny day.  But there weren’t any birds, no dogs barking, no mice scurrying about.  Nothing.  The heaviness grew weightier the closer we got to the cafe.

The door was closed when we arrived.  The windows were blacked out.  “It smells good,” Monica whispered in the stillness.  “I wasn’t expecting it to.”  

“I don’t smell anything,” Tanner said.  I didn’t smell anything either.

“Smells like rotting venefici,” Zoe said.

“They’re rotting?” Arthur asked.

“She didn’t mean that literally,” Gunnor said calmly.  “They are not rotting and that smell is the charm trying to do it’s thing.  Let it slide off you.  Refuse to let it affect you.”

We paused to let our companions ward off the charm.  I studied the closed door and the blacked out windows.  “Do you think they know we are here?” I asked.  It would be great if we could just go in and take them by surprise.

“Undoubtedly,” Gunnor said.  Then we would have a struggle from the get go.

“What if there are innocent people in there?” Darren asked.  “Like when I was first lured in.”

“They’ll be too high on the potion to do anything,” Hunter said.  “Just try to avoid them.”

“Okay, humans,” Gunnor said.  “Do you all have your barriers up with the exception of Tanner and Lily?’

“Yes,” the other members of my group said.

“Stay close to me, Molly,” Arthur said.  She obeyed by standing very close to his leg.

“Then let’s go,” Gunnor said.  “I think it best if the faster of us go in first.”  The weres around him shifted into werewolves and werefelines- Alex was by Gunnor’s side.  Gunnor led the charge.  The door splintered inward as the vampire didn’t even bother trying to open it, but instead ran right through it.  The weres quickly followed him.

“Run to the back,” a woman inside yelled.  “We will protect you from these monsters.”

Grace and Hunter followed the weres.  Tanner and I were right behind them.  It was chaos inside.  Innocent people charmed by the venefici’s potions screamed and tripped over each other trying to get to the back separated only by a curtain.  The venefici did not seem surprised by all of us entering.  They stood organized and already hurling fire at the vampire and the weres.  Gunnor and the weres were faster and they leaped out of the way.  The fire held no heat as far as I could tell.

I recognized the venefici who were there.  The woman who I thought was their leader stood in the middle of them.  Her eyes focused on Hunter as she frowned.  “I told you never to return,” she said.  

“Did you really expect me to comply?” Hunter asked.

Hunter and Grace had balls of crackling lightning in each of their hands.  They threw them at the leader.  The electricity hit an invisible barrier and shimmered away.  Hunter and Grace moved further into the room drawing the attention of the venefici away from the door temporarily.  Tanner and I entered and quickly moved away from the door.  The others followed us.  Seeing new seemingly defenseless targets, many of the venfici now targeted the new arrivals.  Spells of fire, wind and electricity arched across the room where they hit into the humans’ barriers and dissipated.

Mason was the first to move as he leaped high into the air and landed on an invisible barrier around a venefici.  His claws pushed against the barrier, the tip of one claw made it through before he was hurled backwards and landed hard into the wall.  He got up and easily shook it off.  Elsie, Zoe and Callie each tried a similar tactic with the same results.  Alex stayed close to Gunnor, watched him as if waiting for a signal.  The humans in our group fanned out as the venefici continued to attack their barriers with their spells.  This allowed some cover for the weres if they needed it.  But if the strained expressions on Mike’s, Richard’s and Monica’s faces were any indication, it was difficult for them to maintain their barriers after the barrage of spells.  But they had to or they would die.  Arthur and Darren seemed to be having an easier time maintaining their barriers.  Molly growled low, her hackles were high.  She stood slightly in front of Arthur, but did not leave him.

Gunnor attacked the nearest venefici.  He got an entire hand through the barrier.  His elongated fingernails inched their way to the venefici’s face.  His red eyes glowed.  He smiled showing off his elongated canines.  The venefici’s expressions had mostly been calm.  It was clear they thought they would win.  But as Gunnor’s hand slipped through her barrier and his smile promised death, this particular venefici’s expression changed.  She was afraid.  She still had her wits about her enough to cast a spell.  Fire engulfed Gunnor’s hand.  He hissed and pulled his hand away.

Tanner nudged me.  I looked at him and knew it was time for us to get involved.  Both of his hands tightened around his bat.  I brought up my ax and readied my heart.  They looked human, but they weren’t.  I was probably going to have to remind myself of that fact many times during this fight.  I nodded to Tanner.  He nodded back.  We ran to the nearest venefici.  

The man in front of me saw me coming, assessed I was a human and not a were or a vampire and immediately dismissed me.  I felt his barrier even though it didn’t hinder me.  It was like a light tickle as I stepped through it.  His eyes widened and he opened his mouth, but that was all he could do as I pretended he was a zombie, pretended his pupil’s had that green glow and brought my ax down deep into his skull.

Tanner stepped through the venefici’s barrier next to me.  She let out a little squeak in surprise as he cracked the side of her head with his bat.  She fell hard to the floor.  I pulled my ax out of the venefici’s head that I had just felled and looked around for my next target.

Alex now stood in front of Gunnor as Gunnor looked at his blackened hand.  Gunnor’s red eyes grew even more intense.  His face twisted into a feral expression as he hissed – actually hissed like a cat – at the venefici that had just done this to him.  She swallowed hard and threw more fire at him even as she stepped back.  Gunnor and Alex moved together.  Gunnor came at her head on and didn’t dodge the next fire attack.  Instead he let it hit him as he ran through it.  He didn’t seem too damaged by it.  Alex  attacked the venefici from the side.  She turned to his werewolf form shocked as both front paws got through her barrier before he was stopped.  With her attention now on Alex, she didn’t see Gunnor as he rammed right through her barrier, gutted her with his hand that wasn’t blackened and bit into her neck with his elongated canines.  It wasn’t clean like in the movies.  It was bloody.  Entrails spilled from her stomach as blood rushed from Gunnor’s mouth at her neck.

Elsie and Mason worked together and attacked another venefici.  Both their front paws got through the barrier before fire caused them both to yelp and rush back.  Zoe and Callie worked together with the same results.  They moved back behind our human companions and their barriers to regroup.

I moved on to the next venefici.  The one that had just sent lightning at Arthur’s barrier.  It made me furious that they were so willing to attack a child.  The venefici saw me coming.  He glanced at his companion that I had just killed and then casually sent lightning my way.  But this wasn’t real lightning.  I couldn’t feel the electricity or static from it.  It faded over me like a gentle breeze.  But the venefici had looked away from me thinking I was taken care of.  His eyes turned to me in shock when I stepped through his barrier unscathed.  It was a conscious choice I made to bring my ax down into his chest rather than his head.  The head was just instinct now after fighting so many zombies.  But he had tried to kill a child so I went for the heart.  My ax crunched past the ribs into the softness beyond it.  Blood spit up on his lips and gushed out of his chest as I pulled my ax out.  He fell dead. 

Tanner moved to the next venefici too.  This venefici tried to push him back with wind, but it didn’t even make Tanner’s hair move even though it tossed beanbags, cups and unlit candles.  Tanner stepped through the barrier.  This venefici figured it out faster than the others.  There was another yelp, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Tanner and the venefici to see which werewolf was hurt and how badly.  The venefici pulled out a knife.  

“Tanner!” I screamed.  I moved towards him, but knew I wouldn’t make it in time.  My scream drew Grace’s attention.  She threw lightning at the venefici even as she started running towards Tanner.  It hit the venefici’s barrier, but didn’t penetrate it.

Tanner saw the knife too.  He swung the bat into the venefici’s arm.  The back of his hand got cut in the process, but there was a loud crack and the venefici’s arm bent at a strange angle.  The knife dropped to the ground.  The venefici cried out in pain, but Tanner didn’t wait as he stepped in close and bashed in the venefici’s jugular.  The venefici grabbed at his neck with his good hand and tried to gasp for air, but nothing would go through his crushed windpipe.

Now that I knew Tanner was safe enough, I moved onto the next venefici.  This one had been watching not only my fight, but also Tanner’s.  It was the leader.  I heard the gurgling as another venefici died and looked in time to see Gunnor biting the throat out of one of the venefici while Alex held the venefici to the floor.

“Don’t use magic on these two,” their leader yelled.  “They are immune.”

Gunnor broke away from the venefici he had just been drinking from.  Blood was all over his lips, ran down his chin, dripped from his fingers.  His blackened hand was now healing.

“Darren,” Gunnor called out.

“Got it,” Darren replied.

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