Monday, November 21, 2016

Midnight Mist & Moondust - Chapter Eight

Beginning is here

Chapter Eight
Two hours later they were in Raleigh’s car heading out of town. As they drove, Raleigh described his dad’s territory and how it covered three counties, which also included a state park. Caleb had no idea Raleigh’s dad, Jeremy, was that influential or rich. Had he always been so blind to things around him?
Raleigh shared with him that his family had held those lands since before the white man discovered America, that the natives had known what they were and left them alone. Caleb simply couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
“Okay, moving on. Get ready. I’m about to give you a crash course in werewolf etiquette,” Raleigh said as they drove.
Startled, Caleb yanked his mind from the endless thoughts plaguing him. “Sounds like fun. Am I going to be graded? Is there a pop quiz afterward?”
Raleigh shot Caleb a disgusted glare. “I know you’re nervous, but you need to take this seriously. My father is an alpha, and even though you’re not a shifter, if you inadvertently challenge him, things will get messy quick.”
“Messy? Messy as in… messy? Um, he does realize I’m not werewolf, right?”
“He’s aware, trust me. You’ll be granted some leniency, but there’re certain things you must not do. This isn’t a joking matter, Caleb. Get your head out of your ass and pay attention.”
Caleb cringed. “I know, I know. Sorry. It’s just…. I’m a little wigged. Vampires, werewolves—who knows what else I’m going to run into before this is all over. All this is fascinating, scary, and I keep thinking I’m going to wake up at any moment, but I don’t. I have a million questions, but at the same time, I’m terrified. And tired. I’m so, so tired.”
Raleigh flinched. “God, I didn’t mean to sound snappish, but this is a big deal. I understand you’re scared, and you should be. Even if you didn’t have the whole vampire thing hanging over your head, you just got told humans aren’t the only beings on this planet.”
Caleb’s emotions rose up and tried to put him in a strangle hold. It all seemed so hopeless. “It’s overwhelming. There are times I wish…. But I guess it doesn’t matter now. What’s done is done. So, tell me what I need to do so I don’t inadvertently piss off your dad.”
“The main thing is don’t maintain eye contact with him. That’s considered a threat. It’s definitely considered a challenge to his authority.”
“Even though I’m human?”
“Yes. You can meet his eyes, but don’t hold his gaze.”
“That’s completely opposite of how I was raised. It’s going to be really hard not to, you know? We’re taught that lack of eye contact signifies weakness or having something to hide.”
“Again, were not human. Stare over his shoulder or stare at his chin. It really doesn’t matter where you look, just don’t maintain eye contact.”
“Got it. No stare offs.”
“Hell no.”
“Anything else?”
“Don’t walk in front of him. It’s a sign of respect.”
“That won’t be a problem since I’ve never been to where we’re going.”
“Answer his questions as truthfully as you can. Don’t lie. Our sense of smell is much better than a humans, as is our hearing. Believe it or not, we can detect when another is lying.”
“Ah, okay, wow. Care to explain that?”
“When someone lies, their body reacts. We can detect increase heartbeat or a sudden rise in breathing. Blood flow increases and we can hear that too. And quite frankly, lies have a scent to them like… huh. Like the stale scent of decaying leaves and grass wafting over the air.”
“Oh my God, are you saying emotions have an odor?”
“Well, kinda. I… I don’t know if I would say that exactly,” Raleigh hedged. “It’s hard to explain especially since you’re not one of us.”
“You can tell if somebody is lying. That’s… a little disturbing. And invasive.”
“I guess, for you, it is. Anyway, if we should share a meal, nobody eats until he sits down and starts. We wait for our alpha.”
“Kind of like a real wolf pack. I guess I can see that.”
“And whatever you do, keep that smart mouth of yours under control. Where we’re meeting is sacred to us.”
“Where are we meeting them, anyhow?”
“Our medicine woman, Magdalene, is going to try to break the spell from the pendant. Her magic works best at the stone temple. So please, show respect while you’re in there. You’re going to see and hear things you might not have thought was possible, but I’m telling you, are. Don’t make fun of it.”
Caleb was horrified. Did Raleigh really think he was that uncouth? “I would never do that. And believe me, my horizons have been broadened since this started. I don’t discount anything now. And while I may not be a werewolf, and understand your culture, I like your dad. I would never do anything purposely to offend him… or you.”
“I know. It’s just….”
“Raleigh, am I going to be in danger around your pack?”
“No, of course not.” Raleigh bit his lip. “You have to understand, humans don’t know we exist. So, unless we find a mate among humans, we don’t have much to do with your kind. I’m a little different in the sense that we’ve been friends for a long time.”
“I take it that’s unusual?”
“Yeah, very. The fact that we became friends is unusual for us. Plus, you’ve met my parents, even though you didn’t know they were werewolves. That’s unusual too. Then there’s the fact that you’ve attracted the attention of vampire.” Raleigh sighed. “No one wants to take on a fucking vampire.”
“So, why are you?”
“Because, dammit, you’re my best friend. I’m not going to let you die if I can help it. I’m damn sure not going to allow a fucking vampire to turn you against your will, if at all possible.”
He was beginning to get the distinct impression werewolves and vampires didn’t like each other. “Okay off-the-wall question time.”
“Do you know any other kind?”
“Ha-ha. Several times, when you’ve referred to vampires, it’s been with a derogatory tone. Do your two species not get along?”
Raleigh’s laugh had a tinge of desperation to it. “You could say that. You know how some of the vampire/werewolf movies plots are based on how werewolves were enslaved to vampires?”
“Yeah, I can’t think of the movie’s title right now, but it was the one with the sexy woman vampire. Remember? Didn’t that have wolves enslaved in it?”
“I think so. Hundreds of years ago vampires did use us to guard them during the day. Trust me when I tell you the service was nonvoluntary. We were treated as pets, literally. We were enslaved, abuse. Eventually we broke free, but the damage was done. We hate them, and they consider us a little better than dogs.”
“I had no idea.”
“No reason why you should, but it did drive me crazy knowing you are obsessed with them. But, to be fair, vampires aren’t for well-liked by anyone in the paranormal community. Like I said before, they tend to be the proverbial ‘bad boys’.”
“These vampires don’t sparkle?”
A startled laugh escaped Raleigh. “Um, no. They’re devious, cold, and incredibly dangerous. They take what they want and don’t give a damn about anything or anybody else. They’re killers, Caleb, especially the older ones. There’s so fucking powerful and have very few weaknesses.”
“Are werewolves not as powerful as vampires?”
“No. Keep in mind that vampires are immortal too. We’re not.”
“How long does your kind live?”
“Five hundred years max. We’re more powerful than humans, but not as strong as vampires—although we’re fairly close. We’re not as fast too. They have the ability to move so quickly they disappear from sight. They can levitate and the older ones can actually fly. And, as you found out, they can influence humans into doing whatever they want.”
“Like when he compelled me to let him in?”
“Yep. That’s a perfect example. Every last one of the fuckers are gorgeous beyond belief too. Gorgeous and deadly. They must have blood to survive. The younger the vampire, the more they need to feed to keep the bloodlust in check. If Brone is as old as I think he is, he wouldn’t need blood more than once every couple of weeks.”
“Yeah. They appear human, even though they’re not. Let’s see.” Raleigh scowled at the steering wheel. “The myth about sunlight is actually correct. Exposure will turn them to ash.”
“There is some truth in the movies and books, then?”
“Yes. Silver is another truth, but that tends to apply to several paranormals, us included. And before he asked, no, I don’t know why. The jewelry I wear is actually white gold, which we can tolerate.
“Oh.” Caleb pulled the pendant out from around his neck again and studied it closely. “I just assumed this was made with sterling silver.”
“If it was, I wouldn’t have been able to touch it without getting burned. Neither could Brone. I hate to say it, but if he manages to convert you… you couldn’t wear it either if it was silver. That pendant is proof you belong to him, so he’s not going to give you anything you can’t wear and he can’t touch.”
“Jesus.” Caleb dropped the pendant and stuffed it back under his shirt. “So, they can’t do sunlight, silver burns them, and they have to have blood to survive.”
“They can turn into a mist, and they compelled humans. Anything else?”
“Oh, I’m sure there’s lots more, but I’m really the wrong person to ask.”
“You said they are immortal. Can they be killed?”
“Absolutely. Just because they are immortal doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. So yes, they can be killed.”
“How? Just curious.”
“Sunlight, for sure. They only have a couple minutes before they start smoking. Ten minutes is about as long as they can go before they disintegrate. Silver, but it has to be injected straight to their veins. It burns them up from the inside out. Taking his head will do the trick too.”
“Another point for movies and books.”
“Yep. But they’re wrong about crosses. Religious symbols have no effected on a vampire. Vampires didn’t spring from the devil. They’re not demonic.”
“I guess holy water doesn’t work either?”
“Right. Neither are going to do you a damn bit of good. Vampires are predators, yes, but they’re not cursed by God. That’s utter bullshit. So holding a cross and throwing holy water on them is waste the time.”
“Well, you could always stake them with the cross.”
“Actually, that’s another falsehood. Staking won’t kill a vampire.”
“Wow. Really? I thought it would.”
“No, that’s one of the things they got dead wrong. Staking a vampire in his heart doesn’t kill him. All it does is put him in stasis. The minute you remove the stake, they wake up—and wake up pissed. A pissed off vampire is a deadly vampire.”
“Huh. What about garlic? Isn’t that supposed to repel them?”
“Not unless you’re afraid of bad breath.”
“Yeah, always wondered about that one.”                      
“We’re hard to kill in general. As far as I know silver affects every shifter and vampires. Pretty much beheading anything is going to kill it too. Weakness to sunlight is pretty much a vampire problem though.”
“What about fire?”
“That’s hard to do—well, short of cremation, that is—because we all have accelerated healing. That’s not to say it wouldn’t hurt like hell. It would. And for a while they we’d look pretty horrific.”
“He can feel pain?”
“Oh yeah.”
“Tell me that this is accelerated healing.”
“Well, it sounds pretty like what it is. We heal incredibly fast. Where it would take you roughly eight weeks to heal a bone, it takes me a couple of hours, tops. Less if I can shift a couple times. Cuts heal almost immediately. Deeper cuts may take a couple minutes. I mean, don’t get me wrong. If there’s enough trauma to the body, we can die. But it would take a lot.”
“I’m just not seeing any disadvantages to being like you guys.”
Raleigh shrugged. “I guess. But it isn’t all roses either. We have to be very careful and we tend to say to ourselves because if humans ever found out about us—”
“You’d end up in lab somewhere been tested on.”
Raleigh nodded. “Not to put humans down, but that’s just how your species is.”
“Yeah, we can be real assholes.” Caleb perked up. “You can change into a wolf, right?”
“Am I going to get to see?”
Raleigh rolled his eyes. “I’m surprised you waited this long to ask.”
“I didn’t know if it would be insulting or not. But I would really love to see.”
“Yeah, I probably do it while we’re here.”
“Cool!” Caleb rubbed his hands together. “Is there anything else vampires can do that you guys can’t?”
“Honestly, I don’t know that much about them. They can do the mist thing. We can’t do that.”
Caleb frowned. “That was creepy as hell.”
“I can only imagine.” Raleigh took a deep breath and let it out. “Do you need to stop and use the bathroom?”
“No, why?”
“Because we’re about to leave civilization. Seriously, where we’re going? There’s miles and miles of endless nothing.”
“In that case, yeah. Let’s make a pit stop.”