I did not like leaving my sister again. Especially knowing she was going to face hostile vampires. But the decision was ultimately hers and if we could get the vampires on our side, that was a lot better than having them follow us to hurt us. Grace walked at the back of the group with Victory. Victory kept smiling as she looked up at her sister clearly happy to have her here. Mackenzie walked next to me with her gloved hand slid into mine. I pushed one of the bikes along. It wasn’t easy in the snow and a big part of me wished we had just left it behind. Bikes were good when there wasn’t snow, but they became a hindrance when there was snow.
Alex and Gunnor were in the lead of our little group. Alex in particularly would straighten and sniff the air at regular intervals, but they were both alert at all times. It was my first time traveling with the small children and I thought they would forget and become noisy, but they stayed close to Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Anderson. They were quiet as they walked along with us. Their eyes darted to and fro as alert as the rest of us.
We all wore good winter clothes so we didn’t get wet trudging in the snow. That didn’t mean we didn’t get cold. It was cold, but it wasn’t freezing. I wasn’t looking forward to being out here when night came on though. I felt bad for Molly since her fur did get wet walking in the snow. She wasn’t shivering and didn’t seem too bothered as she bounced along in the snow beside Arthur so I assumed she was okay too. Maria walked next to Richard and Monica but it was clear as Richard and Monica walked close to each other that they were quickly becoming something more than friends. Dr. Patel and Dr. Higgins walked along the middle of the rest of us. Gunnor had wanted the children and Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Anderson directly behind him and Alex so they could easily protect them if we ran into anything.
We traveled a few hours before Alex said, “They didn’t travel far from the last time we saw them.”
“They wouldn’t have been able to in the snow storm,” Gunnor said.
“I can smell frostbite on some of them,” Alex said.
I hoped we weren’t out here long enough for frostbite. I was already imagining us back in that cave or Jin’s and Gunnor’s mansion. I would be alright waiting out the winter before going after the venefici, but I didn’t think the others would and I knew Lily wouldn’t. And in truth, as much as I wanted to stay in as much comfort as possible during the winter, I also didn’t want to allow the venefici to grow even more powerful while we waited.
I also didn’t think we could take them on all by ourselves. Even if we got Alvina and her vampires to help and Erik and his werewolves, this was happening all over the world. Even if we took care of the local venefici, that wasn’t going to fix the world. What we needed was some way to communicate with other groups like ours around the world to coordinate our attacks. But that was impossible. We had to at least do what we could. I hoped other groups around the world were doing the same. We couldn’t be the only ones who figured out the venefici were the threat.
“Let’s go a little further,” Gunnor said, “so that we’ve put them between us and Alvina’s brood.”
Alex nodded. We all followed him as he continued on.
“You probably can’t tell,” Monica said, “but do you have any idea if the women and children they captured are alright?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said.
“I think they would have concentrated all their efforts on getting warm and sheltering from the storm,” Gunnor said. “I think – I hope – that the women and children are safe.”
“We all know magic,” Maria said, “couldn’t we go in and scare them away by brandishing our magic and then we could rescue the women and children.”
“If they were all human,” Gunnor said, “but they aren’t and the tricksters aren’t going to fall for that.”
“But you and Alex could take care of the tricksters,” Maria said.
“It isn’t that easy,” Gunnor said. “You don’t know what we are up against. For now, we’ll wait on Jin. If he can get Alvina to help us, together we can easily take out that group.”
“But if Alvina helps us take out that group,” Dr. Patel said, “I’m assuming they’ll want to use that group as sustenance, right? Will they treat them as you and Jin have treated us?”
“I doubt it,” Gunnor said.
“Then how will they treat them?” Monica asked.
“Like food,” Gunnor said. “They’ll keep them alive, but they won’t be treated with affection or fairness.”
“That’s fine with me after how Grant and his dad treated us and after they teamed up with a group of men that would treat women and children that way,” Maria said.
“If that’s what Alvina’s brood will do,” Mrs. Smith said, “we should try to keep the women and children with us. You said you needed more people in the rotation to drink from anyway. Especially now with Alex.”
“That is what I would prefer,” Gunnor said.
“Is there no way to stop them from treating them like that?” Dr. Patel asked.
Several heads turned to him as if he was crazy. “I just mean,” he went on, “isn’t it setting a dangerous president to let them treat them that way? What’s from stopping them from treating us that way too. Or what if we run into a good group of people who want to join us. We wouldn’t want the other vampires to treat them that way either.”
It was silent except for our feet walking along in the snow. “That’s a good point,” Maria finally said.
“Vampires usually start out by being kinder to the humans they get their blood from,” Gunnor said, “but as they get older, they forget what it was like to be human. They began to see humans not as another being with thoughts, feelings and goals, but just as a means for sustenance.”
“But you and Jin aren’t like that,” Maria said. “I didn’t get the impression you were both young vampires.”
“We’re not,” Gunnor said. “We’ll stop here.” We had come to a spot by a rocky outcropping so the snow wasn’t as deep here and we would be somewhat shielded from the wind. We began to set up camp when Gunnor said, “Jin and I were like that before we met all of you too. Having beings with you that weren’t entirely human and humans that negated magic made a huge difference in actually making us listen to you. At first, we were just biding our time, but now we genuinely care for all of you and want to protect you. You have resparked the part of us that was once human. I can’t say Alvina and her brood will ever feel the same. Don’t ever let your guard down around any of them if they decide to join us and don’t let them ever charm you.”