The next morning, we woke up sheltered in the high school cafeteria. Mackenzie was near me. She was always near me these days. I didn’t mind. I knew she was afraid of Alvina. It was hard to miss. She jumped and clinged onto me whenever Alvina was near. And I didn’t miss how Alvina would occasionally, subtly turn her eyes to my youngest sister.
Grace came and sat next to me. She placed her head on my shoulder and looped an arm around mine. Victory and Arthur sat with Mackenzie nearby and of course Molly was with them. Alex, Gunnor and one of the women stepped out into the hall. I wasn’t sure why. We all knew that Alex had to drink blood now. He didn’t have to do it as often as the other vampires and he still ate regular food. When they came back into the cafeteria, several of the werewolves looked at him disapprovingly and then I understood why Alex didn’t want to drink in front of everyone. The werewolves obviously knew what he was doing, but knowing and seeing were two different things.
After we ate, we headed out the back. The sun was bright overhead, the snow crunched under our feet. The footprints from the day before were beginning to disappear as the snow slowly began to melt.
Our little group was towards the back of the main group again. Everyone followed the footprints we had followed out through the schoolyard the day before, but I saw something I didn’t see the day before. It made me pause. Maybe it was because it was almost sunset yesterday or maybe because it was the excitement of following the footprints to find the venefici that had been hold up in the high school, but there were more footprints that veered away from the larger group and went to the left.
“Grace,” I called out. She turned from where she had been walking with Victory and Mackenzie and made her way to me. When Mackenzie and Victory saw, they came with her. Arthur and Molly trailed after them.
“What is it?” Grace asked when she arrived.
“What do you make of these tracks?” I asked.
I pointed to the ground “These footprints. They lead off this way. She looked at me slightly worried.
“I don’t see any footprints,” she said. “Just snow.”
“I don’t see any either,” Mackenzie said when I turned to her.
“Me either,” Victory and Arthur said at the same time. Molly however was carefully sniffing the ground over the prints.
“Lily,” I called out. She was walking a little ahead with Maria. When I called for her she turned around. I waved for her to come over so she did. Now the rest of our little group was also paying attention. All of them started to make their way over.
“Do you see these footprints?” I asked Lily when she arrived.
“Yes,” she said as if it was obvious.
“I don’t see any,” Maria said.
“Me neither,” Darren said.
Jin and Gunnor exchanged a glance. “Do you see the footprints?” I asked them. They shook their heads.
“Clever venefici,” Coyote said suddenly standing next to Lily. I hadn’t seen him approach us. It wasn’t the first time Coyote had taken the time to signal out my sister and speak with her. I didn’t know much about tricksters, but just from their name alone, they were deceivers. I didn’t want him to trick my sister. “Covering their tracks with magic,” Coyote went on, “while sending the zombies off in a different direction to fool us.”
“Then,” Lily said, “they must know that we are coming after them and that we’re a bigger group. A group with beings that can hurt them.”
“You two,” Alvina said now suddenly standing next to Coyote. Mackenzie gave a little squeal and buried her head in my arm while she clung to me. Alvina indicated me and Lily. “Lead us on this trail. We will now follow you.”
Lily and I looked at each other. That meant the venefici magic fooled the leader of the vampires too. It seemed that Lily and I were the only ones that could see the tracks. The werewolves sniffed in the air around to where I had pointed out the tracks, but it seemed like the venefici not only covered their footprints with magic, but their smell as well. That meant they knew we had werewolves with us.
Lily and I led the way along the new set of tracks.
“It is beneficial to have humans that are immune to magic along with us,” Alvina said.
We traveled until the sun was setting. Alvina wanted to continue on, but Elwin reminded her that Lily and I were the only ones who could see the tracks and we were humans. We could not see well in the dark and might lose the trail. We made camp for the night. It was a cold night even with the fires we had made. We all huddled together. The cold didn’t bother the vampires or the werewolves and it didn’t seem to bother the tricksters either. More than once Alvina’s eyes trailed to Mackenzie. I hadn’t seen Alvina drink blood from anyone. She was obviously powerful and probably really old. I didn’t know if vampires like that even had to drink, but if they did, she was probably hungry. There was no way I could stop her if she decided to drink from Mackenzie. There was no way any of us could. Except, I couldn’t exactly just hand my sister over to her either. I would try to stop the vampire if she tried. And that most likely meant my death. But if that was the only way to save my sister, so be it.
“Don’t,” Grace said. She curled her arm around mine and put her head on my shoulder.
“Don’t what?” I asked.
She lifted her head so it was close to my ear as she said quietly, “If Alvina wants to drink from one of us, there is no stopping her. If you die trying to stop her, she’ll still drink from Mackenzie once you are dead.” So I wasn’t the only one who noticed. “Please,” she said and her arm tightened around mine. “You have to live. For Mackenzie and Lily. And for me. Please. If Alvina decides she wants to drink from Mackenzie, we have to let her as much as we hate. But that doesn’t mean, we can’t look for a way to kill the vampire leader in the meantime.”
I nodded and turned my head to look at her. She smiled gently seeing that she got through to me. I kissed her chastely, aware of everyone around us.
The next morning, after we had eaten and broke down camp, Lily and I led the way following the footsteps. We were still the only ones who could see them so the venefici still had magic on the trail.
It was midafternoon when we heard a howl in the distance. Goosebumps ran down my spine. All of us – including the vampires and werewolves – froze. And then zombie groans joined the howls. I knew without anyone saying anything, but Mason said it anyway. “Werewolf zombies.”
And then a high pitched screeching arched across the sky. I had never heard anything like it. I didn’t know what it meant, but Gunnor and Jin were clearly unsettled. “Vampire zombies,” Gunnor whispered.