We were towards the back of the group as we moved out to follow the trail in the snow out the back of the school yard. There was an uneasiness that had settled in my chest, but I didn’t know why. The vampires and werewolves were calm as if vampires now being able to turn into zombies too wasn’t a big deal.
It was late afternoon. The sun would be going down in an hour or so. We had argued that we should rest in the high school for the night and head out in the morning, but the vampires and the werewolves were unbothered by the prospect of night and they wanted to get to the venefici before they could get too far away.
The pace was quick. Us humans were practically jogging through the snow. The vampires and werewolves of course were unfazed. I looked around for the tricksters. They often separated and blended in with the other humans. It was difficult to spot them sometimes. I saw Hare first. He was traveling among the human men near Grant’s dad. Raven was on the other side of the group. I never did see Coyote, but I assumed he was there somewhere.
The tracks led back to town. They spanned the entire road as they headed in the direction that would lead them out of town. I was happy to see it was the opposite direction of the wolfpack and where we had sent that family to. The women that had to leave their children behind with the werewolves were not happy that we hadn’t snuck them out along with the family. But Alvina hadn’t paid much attention to the family. She didn’t mind their absence. She would have noted the absence of the women.
We traveled for a few hours. The break we had taken in the high school hadn’t been that long. Streaks of reds and oranges crossed the sky as the sun began to set.
Groans began to lift on the wind. A multitude of groans all in chorus. It reminded me of when we had first approached that diner. That seemed like so long ago. We hadn’t even been reunited with Tanner and Grace then. We didn’t know Hunter and Grace were part dragon. We didn’t know that vampires and werewolves existed let alone tricksters.
I immediately brought out my axe. I felt better with the handle in my hands. Tanner had his bat in his hands. It had been several days since we had to use our weapons.
The groans grew louder. Smiles began to form on the vampires’ faces. With some signal I missed, the vampires moved out and ahead of us with speeds my eyes couldn’t follow. I would get glimpses of streaks here and there but that was it. Jin and Gunnor at least stayed with us. The men that the vampires had claimed as their sustenance chased after the vampires at a much slower pace.
All of the werewolves looked at Liam. “We’re not going to let the vampires get all the credit are we?” One of the werewolves asked him.
Liam gave a half smile and transformed into his werewolf form. The other werewolves quickly followed. As one, they hollowed into the sky and then they two were leaping and chasing, easily surpassing the humans as they ran after the zombies. Alex stepped back and forth anxiously clearly wanting to follow the werewolves that were once his pack. He immediately stilled when Gunnor reached out and held his wrist. Once Gunnor saw that he was calm, he released him.
My little group was left behind. We looked at each other waiting for someone to say what we should do. I didn’t want to run into a group of zombies, especially with my little sister with us, but I also worried that Alvina would retaliate in some way if she didn’t think we were at least trying.
With that thought, I ran after the group of human men with my axe leading the way. The others in my group quickly followed. Jin, Gunnor and Alex could have easily left us behind, but they formed a protective triangle around us as they stayed with us. Darren and the others put up their protective barriers. Similarly as to when we had gone in and killed those other venefici, Darren put up a barrier around me and Tanner.
By the time we could see the advancing, groaning zombies, body parts were flying in the air, zombies lay lifeless on the streets and the vampires and werewolves easily destroyed them as if it was nothing. My group joined the group of human men, but there were no more zombies to kill. The vampires and werewolves had destroyed all of them. There weren’t just a few zombies either. Not even just dozens. There were around a hundred zombies that were once humans that the vampires and werewolves completely decimated.
Raven was suddenly there at the nearest group of men. I had completely forgotten about the tricksters in the excitement of the vampires and werewolves advancement.
“Well done,” he complimented the humans even though they had arrived too late to do anything. “See,” Raven said, “that is our power as a group. Nothing can stand in our way.”
The men around him cheered and congratulated themselves.
I looked around for the other two tricksters. I didn’t see them right away, but Alvina and Elwin were now at the back of the group near us. Grant moved to Elwin as if under a spell as soon as he saw him. Elwin for his part, didn’t acknowledge Grant in any way as Grant came to stand next to him.
A moment later, Liam was also near the back of the group – now I thought of it as the front of the group – but he kept his distance from Alvina and Elwin. Soon the other werewolves joined him.
“Well done,” Alvina said in her normal voice, but it traveled all around us. “We will now claim the high school as ours. Let any venefici know that their magic no longer works there. We will go back and let the humans rest.” With those words, she immediately headed back the way we came to the high school. We all followed her.
I looked again for the tricksters. Hare was still near the group of men he had been speaking to. Raven was now near the back of the group talking to another group of men. I didn’t see Coyote.
The sun had set by the time we got back to the school grounds and there was a cold wind in the air. We eagerly went back inside the building to be sheltered from the wind and any other harsh weather.
We all ended up back in the cafeteria. Food was brought out and prepared for dinner. Molly sprawled out at Arthur’s feet, but she would open her eyes whenever she heard the crinkle of a package.
“You should be proud,” he wasn’t speaking to me, but I tuned in when I heard Coyote’s voice. I found him finally speaking with Maria, Darren, Richard and Monica. “We fought and won that large group of zombies tonight,” he went on.
I glanced at Hunter to see if he was paying attention to Coyote’s words, but he was engrossed in a conversation with his sisters. None of them were paying any attention to the trickster. I glanced at Tanner to see if he was listening, but he was talking with Mackenzie and Arthur.
“There’s nothing we can’t do if we stand together,” Coyote went on. All four of my friends were nodding as they listened to him. Dr. Patel and Dr. Higgins were beginning to listen to him too as if enthralled. Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Anderson were engaged with their own conversation and didn’t seem to notice.
I looked to Jin, Gunnor and Alex to see if they were paying any attention, but Gunnor and Alex weren’t around. Jin was looking away from our group to the other vampires. I followed his gaze. Elwin was staring back at Jin. Their looks were not harsh or mean or distrustful of each other. It almost seemed like they were silently conspiring with each other. And then at the same time, they looked away from each other.
“Great job tonight,” Coyote said as he came and sat next to me. There was a grand smile on his lips.
“You don’t think it was too easy?” I asked. “All of the zombies that I saw were once human, not weres or vampires. I expected a variety of zombies. And I didn’t see any venefici at all. I thought they were leading the zombies out of town. Where did they go? Why didn’t they use their magic?”
His smile slowly disappeared as he blinked at me. “I momentarily forgot you are immune to magic,” he said. He stood up and walked away to join Raven and Hare.
He had been trying to use magic on me? Is that what the tricksters were doing as they went around to the humans telling them ‘good job’? But why?