“So where do we go from here?” Coyote asked. He was suddenly standing in front of Alvina but I hadn’t seen him there before. Now that I thought about it, I couldn’t remember seeing him or the other two tricksters in the school. But they must have gone through it with us. “Do we follow where these tracks lead us in hopes of finding the venefici or do you want to stop, think and regroup since vampires can now be turned into zombies as well?”
Alvina’s crimson eyes slowly left Coyote to look out over the snow where the multitude of footprints led.
“Perhaps,” Elwin – the vampire who drank from Grant – said, “we should at least pause to give the human’s time to rest and eat. We can then discuss a better formation to move in than the one we have now.”
Alvina’s eyes scanned the humans. Mackenzie slid closer to me as Alvina’s eyes landed on us briefly before moving on.
“Fine,” Alvina said. “We will go back into the school to rest.”
Those in the back led the way back into the school. No one said anything as we moved through the empty halls, but we ended up back into the cafeteria without any discussion. The discarded candles were lit, the leftover bean bags were gathered and we broke out food from our stores to eat.
Alex joined our group and ate with us. Mason and Elsie also joined us to eat. Liam glanced over at them, but didn’t protest as he ate with the other werewolves. Grant and his dad ate with the men from the tricksters’ group. He would glance at us every once in a while. His eyes would linger forlornly at Monica as she sat next to Richard. Monica and Richard didn’t seem to notice him. I got the impression Grant wished he was still with our group instead of those other men and not just because of Monica. We were his age and at least he had known us from high school even if we hadn’t really been friends. I didn’t miss him though and I didn’t think anyone else in our group did either. From that first Halloween night, he had only proven himself as a hindrance and a liability. His father made it so much more dangerous. If Grant could be brave and fight alongside us against the zombies and abandon his father who had pushed Monica to the zombies, maybe we would have taken him back. But Grant wasn’t going to change that easily and he wasn’t going to abandon his father no matter who his father threw to the zombies along the way. I feared one day, he would even throw Grant to the zombies and none of us would be there to protect him because he had chosen his father over us.
Coyote caught my eye as he stood in a corner of the room with Raven and Hare. His eyes darted to Alvina before going back to me. I turned my gaze to the vampire leader. She was staring at Mackenzie. When I looked at my little sister, she was purposely avoiding Alvina’s eyes. She was right up against Tanner as if she could meld into him so Alvina couldn’t look at her anymore.
The implications of Alvina watching my sister so closely was worse than anything I had to face yet and I instantly regretted getting the vampires involved in all of this.
I turned my gaze back to Coyote. He didn’t say anything, but he was reminding me of our conversation anyway. The one where he informed me how to kill vampires and in particular, Alvina. I swallowed hard as a sudden wave of dread and sickness hit me. I wasn’t going to have to let Alvina drink from my sister in order to kill the vampire leader was I? No. I couldn’t allow that. I couldn’t stand by and let Alvina freely drink from my sister. Then again, if that was what Alvina chose to do, I couldn’t stop her as much as I wanted to. She would kill me if I tried to stop her, or she would ignore me and do what she wanted anyway.
Maybe I was overthinking all of this. When I looked at Alvina again, her eyes were turned away from my sister. Maybe I had been imagining all of that. But when I met Coyote’s gaze again, it was clear he was thinking the same as I was. Only where I was sick by the notion of Alvina drinking from my little sister, he was thinking of it as an opportunity.
I couldn’t eat anymore and I gave the rest of my food to Molly who happily lapped it up.
“I know you came out of your house thinking you would be safer with a large group,” Hunter said to the new family that had joined us. “But, we are planning on going directly to the venefici to kill them. We are expecting a fight. I think you would be safer in your home.”
“You probably should go back,” Grace said. “It seems like the zombies have left with the venefici. At least that is what I’m hoping. You could restock your supplies and then go back home.”
“There is no guarantee we are safe there,” the dad said. “What if we go to get supplies thinking we are safe and there are zombies shut in the store that we don’t know about?”
That was a good possibility. But I didn’t think coming with us was a good idea. There was only so long the vampires would hold back before deciding they needed to drink from them too. Our group had been relatively safe only because Jin, Gunnor and now Alex were already drinking from us. While Alex only seemed to need to drink blood every few days and he was drinking from the women we freed, Jin and Gunnor still took turns drinking from the rest of us. And we were more than ready to let them. It made them stronger and they were the only thing standing between us and the other vampires. Well, the werewolves too, but Jin and Gunnor were with our group while the werewolves mostly stayed to themselves.
“They could go to our pack,” Elsie said.
“Your pack doesn’t seem very welcoming,” Hunter muttered.
“Not to you, lizard boy,” Mason said, “but Erik has already opened the doors to the children and said their families are welcome to join them. We can ask him to be sure, but I’m sure he’d let this family stay too.”
“He knows the world has changed from what it once was,” Elsie added.
“But they’d still have to travel there,” Grace said, “and who knows what trouble they could run into. I don’t think Alvina will let anyone here leave the group to accompany them.”
“She has no say over what the werewolves do,” Elsie said with an angry undercurrent in her tone.
“But we won’t leave Liam and the rest of the pack that came to fight,” Mason said. “There weren’t any signs of zombies as we traveled here. It seems like the venefici gathered them all. Whether that is to guard them because they somehow knew we were coming or for some other nefarious reason, we don’t know. But I think this family would be safe to travel to Erik.”
We waited for the family to say something. When they didn’t say anything right away, Mackenzie whispered, “Will Alvina even let them go though? She didn’t let those other women rejoin their kids.”
“These people weren’t part of our bargain with them like the other people were,” Dr. Patel said.
“Yeah,” Dr. Higgins said. “If you’re going to go, you should go now before Alvina and her vampires really take note of you.”
“Is it alright if we go to your pack?” the mom asked Mason and Elsie. “How will they know we aren’t enemies?”
“We’ll tell them you are coming,” Elsie said.
“How?” the mom asked. “It’s not like telephones are working.”
“The perks of being a werewolf in a pack,” Mason said. He got that far away look that he got when he was communicating with Erik. After several moments of silence, he blinked and his eyes focused on the family. “Erik said it was alright for you to go to them,” he said. “They’ll be watching for you.”
We each gave them some of our supplies while Mason and Elsie gave them directions on where to go. We all stood up when they went to slip out to hopefully make it less noticeable to Alvina and the other vampires.
When I glanced at Alvina, she watched us with a too knowing smile, but she didn’t say anything and she didn’t tell the vampires to go after the family. The family sneaked out the door and out of sight. They were on their own now, but since the zombies weren’t around anymore, it seemed like they had a better chance than they would have on Halloween night.