The Weretiger Assassin’s Chronicles: Chapter 13
© 2009 by Lootah Akecheta

Warning! This story contains physical violence, strong language, and bloodshed. It is not intended for the faint of heart. Read at your own risk

Note: While this story will have interment moments in it, it is not intended to be an erotic tail. There will be no more of the graphically explicit sex sense as is found in chapter 4 of this story. I’ve chosen to do this because I wish to try and publish this story with a mainstream publishing company for a general audience when I get it complete.

Disclaimer: This is a story of adult content. If you are offended by this type of material then please do not read further. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), then do not read this. It is strictly intended for mature audiences who enjoy reading material of this content. This is a purely fictional story and any resemblance to any persons is strictly coincidental. It is not my intention in the writing of this material to shed an unsavory light on any person by the use of any names in this material. This material is copyrighted by me and may not be used in part or in whole for group entertainment or education, including class rooms, without first obtaining written permission from me. I would appreciate any constructive criticism, complements, or suggestions my readers may have to share with me, however I will flatly ignore flaming out at my material. You may write to me via:

Chapter 14

Counter Strike

Being underground can be a bit disorienting for telling time but the next morning I woke to the delicious scent of bacon and coffee. God: what a wonderful dream. I thought. Then I felt the bed beside me stir and Pumar’s voice cut the silence. “Is that bacon I smell?”

“I think so. I thought I dreamt it.” I said. We stumbled out of bed and followed our noses to the source of the smell. In the far side wall of the common room were Torquil brought us last night we found an open doorway and otter mutterings accompanied by the clang of pots and pans. I looked through it and smiled. These rascals had an enormous breakfast cooking with scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, sausage patties and links, fried chicken breast, tomato gravy, milk, and best of all coffee, real honest to goodness Columbian roast coffee. “Where in the devil did you find all of this?” I asked awed at the site. There had to be enough food to feed a small army or three very hungry shapeshifters. The mounds of food prepared Southern style and ready to dig in sat waiting in their various dishes on the stone counters.

“We stole it from our host’s pantry.” One of the otters said grinning. “And I say ‘good’ if they happen to miss it.” His grin turned evil as if he’d invented the term ‘monkey business.’ “We figured you guys would be starving when you woke, especially Greg, poor guy.” The twin said shaking his head; I couldn’t tell which one he was but his next words answered that question. “Torquil told me what they did to him and if I had a way to get the rest of our people here we’d show them whose boss.” His affable nature turned sour as though he’d like nothing better than bashing in jaguar and vampire heads with a battle axe. “Healing and the transformation make you guys so hungry. Where is Greg anyway?”

“I hadn’t noticed him when we got out of bed. He went to sleep on my feet and over half my legs.” Pumar said sleepily. He yawned to emphasize just how sleepy.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on Greg. The connection between us strained weak, but I sensed him in the other rooms over near our bedroom. Greg, are you OK? I asked.

Yes, I turned back to human during the night and woke up cold. A hot bath seemed a good idea. He thought back.

I relayed his answer to the others. Are you hungry? I asked.

Oh man I’m starving Galin. Don’t tease me like that dude. He shot back.

Well, come across the common room and get something to eat while it still last. I think Pumar is about to dive in. I let the food smells carry over the link. Before I turned my attention back to the breakfast displayed before us a sopping wet Greg bounded into the room. “Oh my god, you have to be kidding me. Where did you get this?” We told him what Tobin said about stealing it from the jaguar’s pantry and it brought a brilliant smile to his face. I liked seeing him smile. After the little chamber of horrors I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see it again. We carried the food to a stone table in an adjoining room to the kitchen and used only the closest end of it. I’ve never seen a table so large in my life. If it spanned less than a quarter mile, I’m a monkey’s ass. The table sat close to the ground and piled around it lay cushions in the style you see in the Nights of Arabia and other movies of similar ilk. “How old is this place?” Greg asked in awe at the sheer size of the dining hall every surface of which had symbols, abstract designs, and animal figures carved into the living rock. The animals looked so real I expected them to jump out of the stone at any moment.

“It’s ancient.” It was Torquil who answered the question I think.

“Then how is it that the furniture isn’t rotten?” Pumar asked.

“Dwarf magic protects the hall and everything in it. That’s why you’re free of Loretta’s influences here and why these cushions are still supple and comfortable. The only thing that will not keep in here is organic matter that can rot such as dead animal flesh or vegetables like squash, okra, and mangoes. Now, enough talk. Let’s eat while it’s still hot.” He said and his eyes twinkled. “Or did we make this for nothing?” We all mumbled our thanks and sat to eat. No one needed to tell us twice.

A more delicious breakfast has never been made and there was plenty to go around. As we figured Greg ate the most. His recent ordeal drained him of energy and he needed to replace it as best he could. If it’s a sin to eat seventh portions, then he’s guilty. Before I ate anything I drank a cup of coffee and then dove in too. Not eating in nearly five days will make an uncouth mongrel of any person and Greg and I both acted like it once we started. Tobin and Torquil enjoyed watching it. “We can fix more if you like?” Tobin said as Greg scraped the bottom of the eggs raking the last of them onto his plate.

“No, dats OK.” He said around a mouth full of sausage. “Dod dis is so dood!” His enjoyment made the rest of us laugh. After breakfast we sat and talked, mostly about nothing at all really. None of us especially wanted to discuss our circumstances or plans on how to get out of this predicament but as with all things this too had to come to an end as Greg asked the obvious question we’d been avoiding. “How do we get out of this?”

“First we need to figure out a way to capture one of the jaguars and see if this hall has the same affect it had on Pumar and me.” I said. Turning to the dwarves I directed a question to them. “Is there a map of this place and how it relates to the Jaguar’s Compound?”

“Of course,” they both answered at once. “There’s a map room down the hall that shows all the passageways and how they interact.” Torquil said.

“That’s how we stole the food and how we came to understand so much of their plans.” Tobin added.

“The only thing not shown in the maps is the Pit. I’m not sure why but it’s not on any of them.” Torquil said looking a little aggravated by its omission. “I’d have found you long before I did if it’d been on them.”

“That’s OK Torquil, I’m just glad you did find us, but what do you mean the way they interact?” I asked.

“This hall is built in the ‘in between’ spaces of the Jaguar’s Compound and often share the same walls. Enchantments prevent them from hearing us but we can hear them plenty well. All the stone walls respond to us the same as the entrance from the river did last night. After you went to sleep Tobin and I snuck off to the pantry and stole breakfast and enough food for about a week. I have little doubt their cooks will notice but maybe they will not put two and two together for a while.” Torquil seemed proud to tell us about the ingenious engineering of his relations and their craft with stone. I could not have thanked the gods enough for this unexpected blessing.

“Does this hall share walls with the bed chambers our people are staying in?” I asked.

“Not as much no, but they do bend around the chambers Loretta and Stephano use as well as those used by Eva and Philippe. It will not be difficult to find our people though. The problem will be finding them alone.” Torquil said since he had more time to explore and examine how everything works than his brother.

“OK, it will be easier then to find a jaguar alone than it will to find Shea and the others so let’s focus on kidnapping one of our enemy.” I said. The rest of our discussion focused on the vampires and possible ways to defeat them. “Loretta is the largest problem because as long as she’s alive the jaguars will be under her control, but Stephano is the wild card. We don’t know what he’s capable of or what sort of powers he possesses. I really wish the myths held true for all vampires, then we’d know what to expect.”

“Stephano is a mystery.” Torquil said. “None of the jaguars really talk about him. You can hear them say all sorts of things about Loretta but hardly anything about Stephano.”

“I know he can move objects without touching them.” Tobin said.

“How do you know that?” I couldn’t help but wonder where he’d gotten his news.

“I overheard one of the jaguars talking about it when I snuck out to go to Cancun. They post guards at night around the whole of Chichen Itza and sneaking by them took some time, but one of the men mentioned how Stephano’s ability to levitate and move objects at will makes him nervous. He said something about it being unholy and the work of the devil.” Tobin answered.

“As though anything about vampires is holy.” Greg harrumphed.

“Not all vampires are bad Master Greg.” Torquil said looking a bit put out by the werewolf’s comment. “I’ve met some who go about their lives trying their best to improve the conditions of those who live around them.”

“We knew one who owned an orphanage and took care of her charges like they were her own children. Hardly anyone who grew up in there made bad for themselves.” Tobin added. “He looked at me. “I understand you knew Mistress Chang.”

I looked a bit startled by his comment. “How did you know about that?”

“I overheard Rakish and Loretta talking the day after we got here before I left to find Isaac. She asked if your story was true but he couldn’t confirm nor deny the event happening. Is it true?” He asked.

“Parts of it are, yes.” I said. “I was never under her spell although she could call tigers. Someone placed a contract out on her and I accepted the job.”

“You killed the Shanghai Devil?” Torquil inquired.

“Yes, since I am a tiger I pretended to be under her control which allowed me to get close to her. After I’d been in her court long enough for her to feel at ease around me, I killed her.”

“How did you avoid being taken in by her power over cats? He asked.

“Tigers, she only had control over tigers. She wasn’t that strong, or maybe I’m stronger than I think, but her hold over the rest of the tigers in her control was solid enough. I’d not have taken the assignment if I’d known anything about her abilities beforehand.” I said.

“Well, I cannot say I grieved her death.” Tobin said a bit sourly causing me to look at him quizzically. “She was OK, I guess but she believed everyone was beneath her and treated them like the dirt under her shoes.”

“That seems to be pretty much par for the course where vampires are concerned.” Greg said. “Captain Black is absolutely full of himself and you should see how he treats the pack back home.” He looked at the ‘what do you mean’ stairs we all gave him. “He has a similar control over wolves that Loretta has over cats.” This was news to me and apparently to Tobin and Torquil too because the look on their faces could not have been more confused.

“Well, that certainly explains a lot.” Tobin said. “I often wondered how he always knew so much. Why has no one ever told us this?”

“He forbids us from telling anyone.” Greg said. “He’s nothing like Loretta and her sadistic control over cats, but he is full of himself and treats us like servants most of the time.”

“Then how are you telling us now?” I asked.

“He no longer has a hold on me. I felt it lift about three days after we left Pensacola.” We all sat silently for a while. I wondered how much of the battle between the Escambia Panthers and Wolfs was caused by Angela or if Captain Black had something more to do with it but I decided to ask later. At the moment I felt tired and wanted to take a nap before executing our plans for capturing a jaguar and excused myself to lie down.

Pumar and Greg decided they wanted to explore the Dwarf Hall we’d taken refuge in and set off with the dwarves’ permission with the understanding they not attempt to pass through any door with runes on it. “This hall is actually called Minusdurnghold.” He said. “The magic here will not keep you from leaving and all of the doors with runes on them lead out of the Hall. You will not be able to get back in if you pass though one and that will place you back in Loretta’s grip Pumar.” The warning shook Pumar enough I felt sure he’d take it seriously and obey our friend.

Later in the day we put our plan to work. We found a nice little unused alcove in the Jaguar’s Compound at a juncture with the river upstream of the landing and decided to use this as a place of assault or ambush. It didn’t take long before a male jaguar came along down the hall on which the alcove stood and Greg stepped out in front of him. The man stopped in his tracks looking confused as to how the werewolf managed to be on loose. Greg took a fighting stance and circled around him in the hall causing the jaguar to turn his back to the niche in which we waited.  When he faced away from me, I slipped up behind and gripped him in a choke hold applying enough pressure to make the man pass out. He proved stronger than I thought but eventually succumbed to the hold on his neck. Once he collapsed I carried him through the alcove and into the river where Tobin closed the wall behind us and we drifted down to the landing. Easier than I thought it’d be, to be sure. Tobin let us in and that as they say is that.

Our captive woke in a small room where we laid him comfortably on a nice but small bed. Food and water sat on a table beside him and Greg, Pumar, and I stood or sat in chairs on the opposite wall watching him closely. He saw us and sprang to his feet too quickly, dropped to his knees and threw up all over the floor gripping his head with both hands supporting himself with his elbows. He let out a scream and a string of rapid fire Spanish that I assumed were curses. When he glanced up at us again he drew still as a mouse looking from one to the other. We’d all gotten up when he sprung out of the bed and stood waiting to fight. “Where am I?” He asked. He spoke broken but understandable English. “What have you done with me?” He demanded and the sound of his raised voice in such a small stone room brought pain making him flinch and gasp. “Fuck, what’s happening?” He asked holding his head in his hands again.

“We captured you and you’re our prisoner.” I said quietly so as to cause him as little discomfort as possible. “How do you feel?”

“What the hell did you give me? I feel like shit!”

“We didn’t give you anything. You’re suffering from withdrawals.” I answered.

He laughed at this. “Withdrawals from what? You know well enough drugs have little or no affect on lycanthropes. We don’t get withdrawals.”

“You’re having withdrawals from Loretta, her control over you.” Pumar said. “I suffered similarly when they brought me here and shielded me from her.” He left out he hadn’t suffered as badly. “Her hold on us is like a drug and she controls almost every aspect of our lives from deep inside, so we ask how do you feel?” He said.

“I fucking hurt and I’m sick.” He said as he crawled out of his vomit and sat on a clean part of the floor looking at us in turn. “I feel strange.” He mumbled almost to himself.

“Define strange.” I said.

“I don’t know how to explain. I feel different, everything is quiet.”

“Well, it’s a quiet chamber except for when we talk and you get sick.” Greg said bringing a sharp look from the jaguar.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Pedro, my name is Pedro Gonzalez.”

“Do you feel Loretta’s presence?” Pumar asked squatting down to bring his head closer to Pedro’s level.

He thought about it for a while before answering. “No, I do not feel her.” He looked around realizing his freedom even though he sat there a captive. “I do not feel her. She is not pulling on me.” He said amazed. “How is this possible?” He asked looking eagerly from one to the next of us.

“I’m shielding you.” I said.

“You lie.” Pedro’s face twisted with a sour look. “You are a cat just like the rest of us. You cannot ward her off any better.”

“Over the last hundred years I’ve walked a very powerful spiritual path that teaches control over the mind that I learned in Asia and it protects me from mind games and psychic attacks like what Loretta uses. Since I’m a weretiger instead of a mere mortal, I can project that protection over others when I wish.” I lied.

“Then why didn’t you use it in the hall when you first got here? You could have protected all of your people from her if this is true.” He said.

“And it would have gotten us all killed too.” I said. “Or am I wrong?”

He looked down at his puddle of sick and answering. “No gringo, you speak the truth. She would have killed all of you if she could not find the source of it.” He leaned back against the bed looking at us tensely. “Is there a way for me to clean this off?”

“Yes when we’re through talking I’ll show you to a bath.” I said. “I need to know how you’re feeling at regular intervals and I need some answers without worrying about you lying to us. Do not say what you think we want to hear. Tell us the truth and if you want I’ll let you go, but if you’d rather stay and be free of her influence then you may. I don’t’ want to harm or kill you, but I will if I think you’ll betray us.” I waited for him to acknowledge what I said.

He relaxed against the bed frame, looked at his hands and the puke on his arms, and then raised his head to look me in the eye. “I do not know how to act without her telling me what to do, but I’d do anything to remain free of her. I hate her. We all do, but until now it has been useless to resist. She can make you feel so wonderful when she wants, or she can make you double over in pain if you displease her. Can you teach me how you shield from her?”

“Very well,” I said. “If we had the time I would teach you, but we don’t.” Without meaning too Pedro answered one of my most urgent questions about how the jaguars feel about their vampire masters. “Do all of you feel this way? Would you all like to be free of her?” I asked.

“No, not all of us, but most of us, yes.” He said. “There are a few like that piece of shit Jose who will do anything to please her and would grieve her loss.”

“How many of you are like Jose, how many would not like to see her gone?” I asked.

“Only a handful like the bloodsuckers and she made them her guards. People her and Jose personally handpicked to protect Stephano and her.” He answered.

“How about Eva and Philippe, how do they feel about them?” I asked.

“They have reason to hate them even more than the rest of us. Eva despises Loretta and would kill her if given the chance. Eva is our queen, our matron, the most powerful person in our clan. Everyday Loretta finds fault with her in front of the rest of us and belittles and degrades her. The fact that she’s a vampire only makes it worse because our society always viewed vampires as scum to kill on sight without question.” The contempt in Pedro’s voice and its matching look on his face convinced me he told the truth.

“How many jaguars are there?” I asked.

“There are 220 who live here, another thirty live in Cancun, and a few live here or there in the country side totaling around 310.” I made a mental note to keep that bit of knowledge if I Isaac ever finds us because he’ll want to know it.

I continued the questions. “Other than your long held view of vampires, is there reason to hate these two so much?”

He gave me a very sharp look before answering. “Yes, there are lots of reasons to hate them. Her control over us is bad enough because it is awful to lose ourselves so completely and be forced to do things we normally would never do. But the worst of it…” he glared at me and spoke the rest of his thought slowly as though I’d have trouble understanding it. “She make us mate. Shapeshifters as you well know cannot have young, but she tries over and over again to make us bring children into this world. One still born after another and it nearly kills our women when they miscarry. It is part of her plans to make us ‘strong’ so no one will challenge us. Only after thirty years of one failed attempt after another did she consent to allow us to try luring other feline groups to us. No one came because everyone in Mesoamerica already knew of the vampires and their control over us. The news spread quickly to stay away. It surprised us all when you’re group sailed into our port. Eva grieved your arrival but could do nothing but what Loretta commanded her to do. So yes, there are tons of reasons to hate them.” He looked away. “Stella,” he whispered as though a long shadowed memory surfaced.

“What,” I asked.

“Stella” and tears welled in his eyes at the mention of her name. “My wife Stella killed herself after twenty miscarriages.” He said so soft I thought I misunderstood him.

“Twenty,” I asked.

“Yes, that bitch made us mate over and over again getting Stella pregnant again and again until it broke her. It ripped her mind to shreds turning her into a mumbling lunatic and only then did Loretta loosen her grip on her. Stella drank nearly a liter of silver nitrate.” He said quietly as tears streamed down his cheeks. “I was too late to do anything. I came home to find her dying on the floor. The poison had already made its way into her blood stream and I watched helplessly as it ate her form the inside until little remained but a puddle and bones.” Pedro pressed his palms to his eyes and screamed loud and long shaking with his sobs. He continued when he’d calmed down enough to talk again through the tears. “I wasn’t even allowed to grieve her loss. Loretta found another ‘suitable’ mate for me and started it all over again.”

We all sat there quietly stunned until Pedro’s crying stopped. It was a long wait. “Come,” I said. “Let’s get you cleaned up.” I held my hand out to him and he took it. Soon we made our way out the door, down the corridor, and to the bath.

Pedro stumbled along listlessly like a man with no soul. He only came around back to the living when he saw the bath chamber with its large pool of steaming water in the center. “Where is this? I’ve never seen this place before.”

“It’s a secret that must be kept.” Torquil said as he entered from another door I’d not noticed before.

Upon seeing the little guy Pedro stopped dead in his tracks and fell prone to the floor in a humbled beseeching manor before the dwarf. “My god’s you have returned to us. Forgive me for trespassing on sacred grounds.” He said with his voice muffled by his position.

“Oh please Pedro, enough of that.” Torquil said.  

I looked dumbfounded at the dwarf. How in the devil did he know his name? I cleared my throat looking from the dwarf to the jaguar at his feet. “I believe you have some explaining to do Torq.”

Torquil looked up at me with an ‘U’oh’ look on his face and after what seemed to be several seconds of indecision, he made up his mind. “We did not always live in Pensacola, FL Galin. We moved there from here.”

“So you and Tobin didn’t just arbitrarily find this place, you knew of its existence all along?” He nodded his head. “So this used to be your home?” I asked.

“Yes, we lived here until about a hundred years ago.” Tobin said as he walked in behind us.

“We left because of the way the jaguar priest treated us. The rest of the citizens here treated us like gods, but the priest hated it and went out of their way to make us miserable.” Torquil added.

“So you had ulterior motives for coming on this trip.” I said.

“We knew you planed to come to Cancun and decided it would be a perfect time to see how things were going here. Master Frisk asked us to join your group to see if things have changed. I guess if we cannot correct the damage Loretta and Stephano have done, then things have most certainly changed and for the worse.” Tobin said. “Get up Pedro. It is good to see you again.” The dwarf held a hand out to the jaguar who reluctantly accepted it and rose to his feet.

“I am a mess and I do not deserve to be in your presence.” Pedro said bowing his head again. The reverence in his voice made me wonder if he didn’t still view the dwarves as gods.

“Come Pedro and wash yourself. We’ll take care of you. I’d very much like to catch up on old times and find out what all has happened in our absence.” Torquil said.

The man reluctantly obeyed and looked embarrassed to be nude in the presence of people he clearly viewed as sacred if not outright divine but after a moment’s hesitation he accepted their invitation and slipped into the hot pool with a long sigh. “It has been a very long time since I had the pleasure of bathing in a hot bath. When you left the gods forsook us. Most of the human population grew ill and died. My father blamed the jaguar priest for chasing you away and executed the lot of them. After that the gods seemed to forgive us somewhat because things quieted down and even turned for the good when Philippe brought Eva in, but then Loretta and Stephano came and enslaved us all.” He grew quiet. “It’s been terrible Masters, absolutely terrible.”

“You’re father had all the jaguar priest killed?” I asked. “Who was your father?”

“My father was king of all the land for a thousand kilometers around and further. He was Quetzalcoatl, a Mayan King named after our most sacred god.”

“So, how old are you? Is Pedro your real name?”

“Yes, Pedro is my real name. Quetzalcoatl was my Spirit-father. The term you use is Lunar-father. He brought me over around two hundred years ago. I was but a lad, a very young jaguar when I met Masters Tobin and Torquil.”

I looked at the otters. “We are older than 150 years Galin.” Tobin said.

I nodded my head because if they had reason to keep being from here a secret, then it’s understandable they kept other things secret as well and who was I to judge them. I’m always lying about this or that and keeping things secret. “This is all well and good but how do we go about rescuing the rest of our people and freeing the jaguars of the vampire’s hold on them?” I asked.

“The only way to break the her hold is to kill her, but to kill Loretta without killing Stephano would be a serious mistake. They are both very powerful and no one holds grudges like vampires.” Pedro said. “However there are passages they know nothing about that would allow better access to your people.”

My attention peaked at the mention of secret passages within the Jaguar’s Compound the vampires were ignorant of. “I find it hard to believe after the length of time Loretta has been here and her hold over you all, that she hasn’t found all the secrets of this place yet.”

“It is true she found a lot of Chechen Itza’s secrets, but some are bound by spells even she cannot force us to break. The home of the Earth Lords,” he glanced at the dwarves, “is one such secret, but the priest had their own secret passages throughout Chichen Itza and those too are protected by magic. I only know of them because of my father and can only speak of them now because Masters Tobin and Torquil are present.” Pedro said.

I looked at the dwarves for verification of this new bit of knowledge. “It is true Galin. He speaks the truth. We would have told you but like him we are bound by the same spells from years past. Dwarf magic cannot be broken by anyone no matter what the torture or bribe except in proper company. Pedro’s very presence releases us from that obligation as our presence releases him. Also, once a spell of this magnitude has been cast it last for an eternity.” Torquil confirmed.

“Where do these passages lead?” I asked.

“Most of them are small and connect rooms together but there is a network of larger tunnels underneath our compound that also connects the sleeping chambers to the ceremonial temples. It is how the priest moved from one part to another like magic. A priest would appear out of nowhere and disappear again only to appear in another place altogether far away from the first. They used it to keep us afraid of them. No one knew when the priest would appear in our champers and steal us away to sacrifice to the gods.” Pedro said.

“This certainly could prove useful.” Greg said. “We can sneak into the bed chambers of our friends while they sleep and steel them off without anyone being the wiser until it’s too late for them to do anything about it.”

“Provided we’re able to get them all before Loretta has time to realize she cannot sense them. If we miss any of them, it will give her an edge.” I said. Looking back at Pedro I had to ask a question his answer brought to mind. “What about the underground water? Wouldn’t the passages you speak of flood?”

“Señor, the river does not go everywhere. It is not a subterranean lake but a river. It winds in and out of our compound, but not everywhere.” I nodded because his answer made sense.

“What can you tell us about Stephano? What sort of gifts does he possess we need to be aware about?” Pumar asked.

“Stephano is unlike any vampire I’ve ever known about. The reason he gets along with his sister so well is because he is not just a vampire. Vampires cannot stand the presence of others of their kind. They are very territorial hunters and protect their hunting grounds viciously. Stephano is a vampire but he is also a cat, a shapeshifter but not a lycanthrope. Even he does not know how it happened but it seems to be a gift he has.”

“Shit!” I said. “This complicates things. We heard he has the ability to levitate objects, is this true.”

“Yes, but only small things no larger than a small iron skillet. A problem this gift presents is his ability to levitate multiple objects at once. As I said, nothing large, but a full drawer of knives can prove dangerous if not lethal.”

“Anything else we need to know about him?” Tobin asked.

“Not that I am aware of but do not underestimate him. Remember he is a vampire.” Pedro said.

“Are there any extra gifts Loretta possesses?” I asked.

“No Señor but her control over cats is plenty bad enough. Let your guard down even a little and she will have you. She can make you fuck your mother and you will do it smiling hating yourself deep inside the whole while.”

“I suggest we all get some rest. Night will be here soon and as soon as our people are asleep we need to move.” I said getting up looking at all the faces around the steaming pool. “Thank you Pedro. We’ll prepare a proper bedchamber for you. Tobin…” I didn’t have to finish the question.

“We’ll take care of it Galin. Pedro is an old friend of ours. It will make us happy to make him comfortable.” The dwarf scuttled off to make a bedchamber ready for our guest.

“Pedro, I do apologize for capturing you, but we needed to know what we’re up against. Maybe some sleep will help ease your headache.” I said as I headed for the door. “I’ll see you all in a few hours.”

“No Señor, it is I who thanks you for rescuing me. You cannot imagine how horrible Loretta can be and the relief I have for being free of her.” Pedro said before returning his attention to his old friend Torquil.

Pumar and Greg followed me to our sleeping quarters and crawled into bed with me. None of us were really sleepy but we tried at any rate. “Do you think we’ll be able to find all of our people?” Greg asked.

“I don’t know, but I certainly hope so. To leave anyone behind would give that bitch a very powerful card to play with. She knows we’d surrender before letting her kill or torture any one of them.” I said.

“Trent and Toby are in the same room. We’ll have to take them both on at the same time. It’s not going to be easy. Rakish is still in our chamber and Shea is in the one between Rakish and Toby’s.” Pumar told us. “I wonder if these halls they told us about will protect us from Loretta also because if not, we’re going to have a bigger problem doing this.”

“I don’t know, but if they don’t it will be up to the dwarves, Greg and me. I cannot and will not risk you or Pedro falling under her spell again.”

At some point we did drift off to sleep and if not for the strong scent of coffee to lure me out of dreamland, I’d have slept right through the night. A dwarf waved the cup under my nose again dragging me out of my slumber. “What?”

“It’s time to do this if we’re going to.” Tobin said. “It’s late enough they are most likely in bed asleep.”

“Oh god, I feel like I just lay down.” I sat up taking the proffered cup and sipped it slowly savoring the full bodied flavor of the dark roast Columbian bean.

Greg and Pumar still lay entwined sound asleep. I nudged one with my foot bringing a soft growl from him. I repeated the gesture. “What?” Greg complained.

“We need to get up. It’s time.” I said.

“Oh please dad let me sleep, I don’t want to go to school today.” He mumbled.

I laughed. “You’re not at home Greg, you’re in a Yucatan Jungle and we need to get our people back.”

“What?” He asked rising up on his arms looking around at the dimly lit stone chamber. “Oh man, I was dreaming I was at home again in my old bed. I thought you were dad, my bio-dad, calling me to go to school.”

“Sorry to disappoint you Greg. But we have a job to do.” I said pulling my leg out from under them and swinging to get off the bed. “There’s coffee if you want it.”

“Oh man, that sounds great.” Greg started to get up but Pumar wrapped around him tighter purring deep in his throat. Greg shook him. “Come on Pumar, we have to wake up.”

“I don’t want to wake up.” Purr.

“I don’t either, but we have too.” Greg said shaking his friend.

“OK,OK, I’m awake.” Pumar lied because he rolled over and started snoring.

“Come on man.” Greg said shaking Pumar harder this time bringing a growl from my lunar-son.

I would have stepped in and forced my little tomcat out of bed, but it was so much fun watching Greg try and rouse the sleepy feline. “Watch out Greg, he has sharp claws.” I warned.

“So do I.” The werewolf said with a hint of his own growl in his words. “Come on Pumar, I’m not asking again. Get up or I’ll throw you out of this bed.” The way he said it made me wonder if his real dad used the ploy on him.

Pumar surprised us all when he sprang up and to the other side of the large bed, crouched, waiting for a fight. It surprised me more to see his fangs distend and claws grow out of his hands. He hadn’t completed the partial change but it was a damned good start. “Easy son.” I warned letting my energy roll over him easing him back down. “He’s your friend, remember?”

“I know, but if he wants to toss me out of bed he’s going to have to fight for it.” I laughed smacking Pumar on his ass which turned him on me growling.

I caught his wrist just in time to keep those clawed fingers from tracing bloody furrows across my cheek. “STOP!” I growled letting my body slid into full half tiger form. The dominant command did the trick. My lunar-son cowered rolling onto his back exposing his stomach to me. “Just ease down and relax there.” He complied.

“Sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” He said.

“I do, you’re going through puberty. Now calm down before I make you.”

“Puberty? Oh fucking great. You mean I have to go through that shit again?” He complained.

“Not like you did in your human adolescence, but yes. You’re coming into your own. Now, control yourself so we can get this done.” I eased back into human form and released his wrist.

“WOW!” Greg said. “I haven’t even done that yet and I’m at least six months older than you.”

“Jealous?” Pumar teased.

“Yea, actually I am – a little.” The wolf admitted. This brought a smile from my lunar-sons and the next moment found them tussling playfully on the bed. Kids, I swear! I thought. One moment ready to kill each other and the next horsing around like nothing happened.

Getting Toby and Trent went easier than I thought it would. Tobin assured me the enchantments protecting the Minusdrunghold also protected these passages because the dwarves made them for the jaguar priest. Therefore since dwarf magic defends them as well then they should offer the same protection. “Are you sure?” I asked. He admitted he wasn’t. When he opened a door between the Dwarf Hall and the priest’s passages I felt a slight tug but nothing defined. It made me nervous. I called Pumar forward. “Do you feel anything?” I whispered. He thought for a moment and shook his head no. “How about you Pedro, do you feel her?”

“No Señor.” He shook his head to emphasize his words.

“Very well, let’s go on then. I want either of you to warn us the moment you feel her presence. Understand?” I said and they both nodded their heads in agreement. We eased down the dark corridor holding torches since none resided in the wall’s holders. Pedro led the way guiding us toward the bedchambers area of the community. To my surprise these passages mirrored the ones above which meant I was hopelessly lost. I could follow our scent back to the Dwarf Hall, but I had no clue where we headed.

Before long Pedro turned a corner and stopped before a passage leading to the right. He turned and looked expectantly at Torquil who’d followed us so he could open doors for us. “Master Torquil, if you please, we need to hear what is going on up there.” Torquil didn’t hesitate but placed his hand on the stone wall and spoke a command in the same unintelligible language he’d used every time he commanded the rock to do something and we began hearing conversations. Pedro seemed to recognize the voices because he moved on silently to another hall and turned in. We followed and I heard Toby’s distinct voice in his Southern drawl. “Trent, would you hurry up in there. I’m about to bust my bladder.”

I had to laugh. Seeing a stone stair leading up to the floor of the chamber above I climbed it pressing at the solid stone ceiling but it didn’t give or even show any sign of an entrance. “Now what do we do?” I asked.

“I open a hole in the ceiling and call him down. You guys keep out of sight so he won’t have a reason to be suspicious.”

“And seeing you open a hole in his floor isn’t going to make him suspicious?” I asked.

“Not the way I’ll do it, no.”

“OK, do your stuff.” I said motioning the others back into the darker parts of the tunnel.

Torquil climbed the stone steps and placed his hand upon the stone chanting a different incantation then the ones he’d used in the past to open doors. Before our eyes a stone slab formed from the living rock to reveal a hatch. He pushed up on it nearly startling the panther in the compartment above out of his skin. “What the fuck!” Tobin exclaimed.

“Shush, it’s me Toby. Help me move this.” Torquil said.

“Torquil, Tobin, damn it which one are you?”

“Torquil, Master Toby, Torquil. Please help me move this stone.” Apparently the dwarf’s pleas for help moved Toby to comply. “Where is Master Trent?” He asked.

“He’s in the bathroom. Been in there for nearly an hour and I’m about to pop.” Toby said aggravated.

“Maybe I can get him out.” Torquil said.

“I certainly hope you can?” Toby said hopefully. “Go on and try, maybe he’ll listen to you.” I could hear the little guy trot off toward the bathroom.

“Trent, would you please hurry up. I need your help.”

“Oh my god, you survived. Which are you?” Trent’s muffled voice barely reached my ears.

“I’m Torquil, but Tobin is hurt and I need help.” I heard a door open.

“Oh my god, it’s good to see you Torq. I thought for sure you two died.” Trent’s voice came to me clearer. “What’s wrong with Tobin?”

“We were mucking about in the passages below when we found a loose stone. I told him to leave it alone but you know Tobin. He had to pull it and the wall fell in on him. I can’t move the rubble to get him out. When I heard Toby yelling at you for hogging the bathroom I decided to ask for help.”

“Shit, I’m glad you did. Where is he exactly?” Trent asked.

“He not too far, but I can’t get him out.” Torquil said. “He looks hurt pretty bad.” He added for good measure.

“Sure I’ll help you man.” Trent said then he called out for Toby. “You coming?”

“Sure, after I use the bathroom.” I heard footfalls heading quickly for the bathroom.

“Where did you come from?” Trent asked.

“From there.” Torquil said and I imagined him pointing toward the opening and steps leading down into the dark passageway below.

“Holy shit, where the hell did that come from?”

“It was there all along, you can see it clearly from below. I thought I’d try knocking on it for help. Toby helped me open it.” The dwarf said convincingly.

“OK, lead the way little buddy. Let’s go help Tobin.”

“Let’s wait for Toby. I’d like to have both you help me so one can steady the fall while the other helps me dig him out.” Torquil said. “I’d hate to make the collapse worse.”

“OK, we’ll wait.” Trent said then called to Toby. “Hurry it up there bub, we gotta help Tobin.”

I heard a door open and Toby’s sarcastic voice. “You are telling me to hurry it up? Man, that’s the pot calling the kettle black.” Soon two panthers followed the otter down the stone steps. Torquil stopped and looked back at the opening and made his way back up the steps. “Where you going?”

“I thought I heard something.” As soon as Torquil neared the top he said a command and the stone trap door slid in place sealing the passage as though it’d never been open. I heard two distinct thunks as both Toby and Trent passed out cold. Torquil relit the torches and we hauled our quarry back to Minusdrunghold. Tobin stayed with them as we went to retrieve Shea and Rakish.

Shea was asleep when we entered her quarters but she woke just as we emerged springing to her feet ready to fight until she saw Torquil. “Oh my god, Torquil, how are you? Wait, what’s going on here?” She demanded.

“We came to ask your help.” I said.

“You!” She snapped. “You’re supposed to be in the pit. Oh Loretta’s not going to like this one bit. How did you get free?”

“I freed him.” Torquil said. “We need your help Lady Shea.”

“Help for what and how did you get in here?” She asked not easing her stance at all.

“Shea calm down. With all of us here you’re sorely out numbered. Do you really want to fight us?” I asked.

She hesitated and then relaxed a bit. “No I don’t want to fight any of you, but you are supposed to be in the pit being punished for disrespecting Lady Loretta.” We eased around her, or at least we tried but she kept moving back until the wall stood at her back. I really didn’t want to fight Shea. She is a formidable force all on her own and if it came to scrapes someone would get hurt and most likely that someone would be me or Greg. Torquil stepped up closer than the rest of us but she stopped him. “That’s plenty far enough Master Torquil.” He stopped. How she could always tell these two apart amazed me. The dwarf knelt in front of here like he planned to beseech her but at the last moment he placed his hand upon the stone floor chanting his usual command to open the stone and the floor underneath her gaped open eliciting a shrill scream from Shea as she fell into the chambers below. Just as quickly the hole sealed shut and we made a quick escape into the passage from where we entered the room. Shea was at the bottom of the stairs waiting to fight her way back up when Torquil closed the trap door behind him and she fell to the floor in a dead faint.

Like Toby and Trent we carried her to Minusdrunghold. The boys were awake when we emerged carrying Shea. “God, is she alright?” Toby asked easing up and over to where we laid her on a pile of pillows and blankets. Tenderly he caressed her forehead with the palm of his hand. The look in his eyes told me all I needed to know about his feelings for her. If it wasn’t romantic love, it was the deepest brotherly love I’ve ever witnessed.

“She’s fine, or she will be.” Torquil said. “How are you doing Master Toby?”

“My head is killing me, but I feel fine otherwise.” He said. “Who’s still missing?”

“Rakish,” I answered. “I’m afraid we need to get him quickly before Loretta realizes she’s lost the three of you. If you would Toby, keep watch here with Tobin and take care of Shea. She’ll be disoriented when she wakes up.” He nodded his head as the rest of us slipped off into the tunnels to get my lunar-father. It took a little longer to find Rakish’s quarters. Once Pumar disappeared, Loretta thought it wise to move him. We finally found the rooms where he lodged, but I was dismayed to find him accompanied by no other than Jose and three other men. It appeared the rooms were living quarters for the guards who protected Loretta and Stephano. “Great, oh fucking great!” I breathed.

“I can open the floor to his particular bedroom, but I doubt we can we lure him in like we did the others.” Torquil said.

“I wish we could but you’re probably right.” I answered truthfully.

As we listened a man rushed into the room where Rakish, Jose and the other men sat talking. “Quick, Jose, Rakish, Loretta requires your presence immediately.” Fuck, fuck, fuck, fucking damn! I thought. The bitch knows.

“Damn it, she knows.” Greg voiced what I thought. “How the hell are we going to do this now?”

“I don’t know but we need to follow them.” I said. “The more we know, the better our chances of finding a way to get him back.”

Pedro led the way to Loretta’s chambers and we got there just before the guard entered with Jose and Rakish in tow. While we sat below in relative safety we listened to their conversation. “My Lady, what’s happened?” Jose asked. She didn’t answer Jose but addressed Rakish.

“Do you know what happened to Shea, Trent, and Toby?” Loretta’s voice sounded cool, but not contemptuous or threatening.

“Are they not in their rooms?” My lunar-father asked.

“I don’t know where they are? Do you know what that means?” She asked.

“No, I’m afraid I do not my lady.”

“It means one of two things: One: they are dead or two: they’ve found a way to overthrow my control on them. Under normal circumstances I’d say they died for whatever reason and not worry about it further, but considering how Galin…” When she spoke my name anger filled her voice. “After the way Galin defied me, I cannot help but believe he’s found a way to break my hold on the others as well.” We heard her walk slowly over the floor above. “Do you know what I want from you?”

“No my lady, I do not.” Rakish answered.

“I want you to find out for me.” She whispered something to him then. We could hear the words but not clearly enough to make them out. “Do this and I will reward you greatly, fail me and you will live to regret the day you came into this world.” She gave an almost little girl laugh as she walked back across the room. “Rakish you may go. I’ll call on you tomorrow afternoon. If you have an answer for me you will make me very happy, you want to make me happy don’t you?” Her voice took on a pouting quality.

“I live to make you happy my Lady.” Rakish said in complete adoration.

“Good, do not fail me.” The sound of her voice grew harsh. “I do not tolerate failure.” She completed her threat in an almost board tone. I swear following her mood swings is like following wisps of ghost: here one moment only to disappear and reappear someplace else. We heard Rakish mutter, “Yes my lady,” and leave, or I assumed he left because Loretta addressed Jose next. “I want them found at all cost.”

“Where do I begin my lady?” He asked.

“Where do you begin?” She asked mockingly. “You begin in their chambers. After all that is where they were when they disappeared. Go and search everything, underneath everything, inside everything. Taste the air, smell the scents but bring me something to go on.”

“Yes my lady.” Jose said and it surprised me to hear a tinge of fear there.

“Dismissed!” She said and once again her voice waxed board.

We heard him leave and the door shut. We were about to leave ourselves when we heard Stephano speaking. “Do you really think Galin has found a way to free them from us?”

“I don’t see any other possibility. It’s highly unlikely they’re dead and even more unlikely they have found a way to escape my control on their own. No one has been able to do that since Spartacus.” She said the name with contempt but I couldn’t help but wonder if she meant the fabled gladiator of ancient Rome.

“He was an unusual creature. The crowds in Rome loved him to the point he defied Caesar in his revolt.” Stephano held a tone of admiration. So they were talking about the fabled gladiator after all.

“You do not need to gloat Stephano, nor do I need the reminder.”

“What should we do?” He asked.

“I want you to gain a scent for anything unusual after Jose reports back to us. That is if he finds anything unusual. Then we’ll spread the word around they have been kidnapped by the rebel Galin. I want everyone to know we will execute any of them on sight unless they all surrender in mass. If this doesn’t work then we’ll prepare to put Rakish to death if Galin doesn’t submit to us.” Everything stayed quiet for a time before she continued apparently to someone else in the room. “Go to the barracks and give the command that Rakish is never to be left alone, ever: not when he’s sleeping, not when he goes to shit, never, not until we clear this up.”

“Yes my lady.” An unfamiliar voice said and we heard footfalls heading for the door.

“Stephano darling?”


“Do walls have ears?” She asked.

“I surmise in this case they may.” He answered.

“Shit,” I said. “They seem to know more about this place then they let on.”

“So all of that was for our benefit?” Greg asked.

“It would stand to reason. Why else would they speak in English? It’s not their native language nor is it the language of most of their followers.” I said.

“Do you really think they will execute him if we don’t comply?” Pumar asked. He sounded worried and I couldn’t blame him. Rakish found his way into all of our hearts and none of us wanted to see harm come to him.

“It would not surprise me if she meant every word of it.” I said.

“We cannot let her get away with this!” Greg growled.

“I have no intention of doing so.” I answered. “But for now, we need to regroup with the others and bring it to their attention and possibly get some feedback on how to proceed.”

So we did. In a matter of minutes we regrouped with Tobin, Shea, Trent, and Toby and told them what we learned. “Apparently they knew we could hear them or at least guessed we may be able to.” I said. “Can you make the walls and floor of the guard’s compound so we can hear what’s going on in there all the time?” I asked the twins.

“Of course, it’s just a matter of changing the enchantment to keep it open.”

“Good do it please.” Tobin nodded his head and headed off to the passages under the guards quarters.

“You do realize don’t you they are most likely to lying a trap for us. We try and rescue Rakish and they are there to grab us.” Shea said.

“I have thought of that, yes.” I said.

“So, why walk into a trap?” She asked, not with malice but practicality.

“Because he’s one of us and he’s my lunar-father and Loretta’s leaving us little choice but to try. Because to leave him would be to condemn him to the life Loretta’s imposed upon the jaguars. If you think it’s a life worth living maybe you ought to have a heart to heart with Pedro here. Ask him about his late wife and Loretta’s breading program.” I said and I didn’t even try to keep the contempt out of my voice. I wasn’t angry with Shea. She has not been here long enough to find out exactly what Loretta is doing with those under her control but I’ve seen enough and heard enough to hate everything that’s going on in this place. I walked over next a bare wall and slumped to the floor in though. I caught a glimpse of Shea as she looked at Pedro expectantly. I got up and left the room as he began telling his story. I really didn’t want to hear it again.

My feet found their way back to the guard’s barracks where Tobin, Pumar, and Greg sat listening for any hint that the guards weren’t carrying out their orders to the letter. We really need for
Rakish to be left alone. It wouldn’t take long. Just long enough for a passageway to be opened and for Greg and me to grab him. “Tobin, can you do the same thing with the floors and walls around the vampire’s suite to let us hear what’s going on in there?” He nodded his head and headed out the door. I wondered why he’s being so quiet. He’s usually a mouthful of words. “Pumar, go with him please and try to find out why he’s so quiet. It’s not like him.” Pumar nodded his head and left after the dwarf. “Is everything OK?” I asked Greg.

“Yes, they’re just worried. Now that Loretta and Stephano know, Rakish’s chances of living just went to the shits.”

“Do you think she’ll kill him if we don’t surrender?” I asked.

“You don’t?” He asked a little heated.

“Only so long as she thinks she can regain the rest of us he’ll be safe. If for any reason she thinks we’ve given up on him he’ll be dead before we can say his name. Not because she has to kill him, but she will because she’s that vindictive.” I answered. Greg nodded his head in agreement.

“If we don’t comply she’ll resort to torture, you know she will.” He said quietly. “I don’t want him to have to live through what I did. It gives me nightmares every time I close my eyes.” He confided and a tear trickled down his cheek – I wasn’t sure if the memory of his ordeal brought it on or the threat that most certainly faced his friend Rakish if Loretta didn’t get her way.

“I won’t let it come to that.” I said. “I’ll give myself over to her before I let her do that to him. If I’d had a card up my sleeve to stop them from doing it to you I would have.”

“You saved my life twice Galin and I will forever be in your debt. If you’d not begged her for my life, I’d have died after that bastard had his fun with me.”

“Is Captain Black as cruel and ruthless with your former pack as Loretta is here?” I asked.

“No, he’s good to us.” He paused. “I mean good to them.” He amended. “The pack watches out for him and protects him and he lets us do pretty much what we want. He could control us the way Loretta does the cats but he doesn’t. I’ve never felt him control me except after I boarded the Twilight Obsession and that was to keep me quiet about his ability over wolves.” I must admit my respect for the good pirate captain just raised about a thousand fold. Maybe the twins were right; maybe there are good vampires after all. Imagine that.

A chance to grab Rakish opened nearly two days later. Rakish has always been a private person and he hated the guards accompanying him to the toilet prompting him to beg his ‘protector’ to give him that bit of privacy at the very least. I had little doubt it could be a trap and Rakish would play right along with Loretta’s plans without complaint but we had to try. He sat on the loo when we opened the hole for us to go up and grab him and it surprised me to find the room was vacant except for Rakish. We rushed up into the room to accomplish our task when the door burst open permitting three jaguars and the largest cat I’ve ever laid eyes on to rush in attacking us. We fought like mad trying to kidnap Rakish and get away in the process but in the end not only did we fail in our attempt to grab my lunar-father, but Trent and I was taken captive. “Damn it reseal it, reseal it!” I yelled as Tobin obliged resealing the floor. He didn’t want to but I made him promise he’d do it to protect the others if something like this happened. The last thing he saw of me was a saber-toothed tiger holding me down with one paw and an enormous muzzle sniffing hungrily at my face. I looked into those very black eyes and realized Stephano looked back at me trying to decide of he’d make a meal of me now or wait for Loretta to give me to him. He swatted my head with his paw and I remembered nothing more until I woke up in a very dingy, dark, and smelly dungeon held with silver binding to the wall. At least twenty guards watching me. Fuck! Ain’t this a tub of happy horse shit! I thought.

After what seemed like hours Loretta, Stephano, Rakish, Trent, and Jose came to visit. “Good you’re awake.” Somehow I think heard that before I thought. “Trent told us how you gained access to their bedchamber but I’d already figured it out for the most part after Jose and Stephano picked up the otter’s scent in the room. Tell me what you planed to do after you got all your people. How did you plan to get out of our country without me knowing about it and stopping you? Did you not think that far ahead?” She made a tsk tsk sound as though chiding a very naughty and stupid boy. “I have no doubt your friends are listening in on us right now. What? Oh yes, Trent told us how the otters, or should I say dwarves, can control rock with their magic. So,” she turned her attention to the walls not sure which way to look so she turned slowly taking them all in. “I’ll give you twenty four hours for all of you, including the dwarves, to give yourselves up or I’ll kill this one and torture Rakish and Trent until you do.”  I prayed they’d leave us, take their losses, and escape, but I knew them better than that. The last thing we needed is this bitch gaining access to the Dwarf Hall but to my dismay the wall to my left shimmered and a hole formed in the lower center of it. Torquil came out alone and sealed the opening behind him. “Take him.” Loretta ordered and two jaguars seized a hold on the little fellow like he posed the greatest threat of all. “Where are the rest of you?”

“Safe.” Torquil said calmly to the vampires before him.

“I guess you don’t care about your friends then?” Loretta asked smugly.

“Oh I care a great deal for them.” He said. “I’ve come to negotiate.”

“There will be no negotiations. The only option is for all of you to surrender.” She obviously didn’t like or trust him.

“To surrender unconditionally will solve nothing. You will still kill Galin and Greg, overpower the wills of the werecats among us and either try to kill or hold captive Tobin and me. “That’s not much incentive to give you want you want.”

“I do not negotiate.” She said slowly as though Torquil would have trouble understanding her. “Either you all surrender or I will torture and kill every tiger, panther, and otter in this room.” She let her voice grow cold as she said otter.

“Our fellows don’t want that, but if you do torture or kill us you will leave no incentive for them to give themselves over to you. Tobin can and will take them out of here right under your noses and you will have no idea which rout they’ll take to exit your territory. Now are you willing to hear us out or not?” He said firmly and confidently.

“Very well, let’s hear your proposal.” The look in her eyes told me she’d agree to anything he says to regain control and then betray us all. I had little doubt Torquil noticed it as well.

“We will surrender to you under the condition you leave our wills intact, don’t torture any of us, that you release Galin and Greg either to leave or to live in peace apart from us here, release your control over all the jaguar population, and end your sadistic experiments on them.”

“Are you mad?” Loretta seemed astonished anyone would have the gall to make any demands on her.

“That is our proposal, take it or leave it, but heed this warning. Tobin and I are immortal, we cannot die and no prison you can conceive of can hold us. If you refuse, Tobin and I will escape with the others who are not here and we will bring reinforcements that you will have no control over. I can assure you, you will lose.” He said as a matter of fact. “Between my family and the wolf population in North America you will be overwhelmed and I for one will thoroughly enjoy killing you. Accept our proposal and we will willingly live among you and produce more tigers and panthers for your protection, but your control over and sadistic experiments on the population here have to come to an end.”

Stephano surged forward so fast the eye couldn’t follow and stopped only inches in front of the dwarf. “Maybe I should eat you now and see just how immortal you are. His body shifted into the saber-toothed tiger he’d been earlier but it wasn’t liquid like our transformations but a shifting of bone and sinew into another form. I have to admit I like the way we transform a lot better, not as painful looking. Just before the transformation completed Torquil muttered a few words and the stone flowed like so much water to form a tight cage around the vampire. Only then did I notice he stood there barefoot and realized the little guys have to be in physical contact with the stone to make it do their bidding. The caged tiger roared furiously and smashed into the bars of his confines but to no avail. He couldn’t break out. He then transformed back into his human figure and tried slipping between the bars but they tightened preventing his efforts.

“Release him!” Loretta ordered with a hint of fear in her voice.

“No.” Torquil said calmly. “I will only release him if you agree to our conditions. If you do not, not only will my warning before come to pass, but he will remain imprisoned forever but I will reform his hold so he has no air, no food, no light, and no fellowship with anybody for eternity.” The imprisoned vampire snarled from between his fangs at the little otter reaching an arm out trying to snare him. He was close enough to grab Torquil, but the man transformed smooth as running water into his otter form loosening his guards grips and scampered out of reach before turning back into himself again. I had to laugh but I kept it quiet so I wouldn’t incense my capturers to abuse me.

Loretta fumed. I’ve never seen a woman this angry and believe me I’ve seen my share of them so mad I thought their heads would explode. Torquil had chosen his actions carefully because capturing Stephano is about the only thing that would move Loretta to agreeing to his demands. “I cannot accept your demands. If I do we’ll be forced to leave or the jaguars here will kill us.”

“You should have thought of that before you tormented them so much.” Torquil said calmly. “However I have their king’s word they will not harm you if you let them go.”

“Philippe’s word means little to them, he is not their leader and Eva would kill me herself if I release my hold on her, besides with the hold I have on Philippe and Eva I know for a fact they have not spoken with you or anyone else for that matter.” She said.

“I never said the word came from Philippe or Eva, I said the word comes from their king, king of old, and true leader of the People of the Jaguar. He is the son of Quetzalcoatl the true ruler of this land.” Torquil spoke with such authority even Loretta stood still and quiet listening as did the caged vampire in front of her. He muttered more words in his own language and stone slipped up over Loretta’s feet binding her in place to the stone floor of the cavernous dungeon. “What do you say Loretta, shall we live in peace or will you force me to kill you and your brother?”

Her jaws clinched with the effort to hold her tongue. “Very well, I accept your proposal.” She said through gritted teeth. I had no doubt she lied and I had little doubt she’d try her best to find a way to kill or at least render neuter Torquil’s and Tobin’s position of power over her. Torquil and Tobin both told me they were not immortal only long lived and I don’t think they lied about it, so he played a shaky hand here if that is so. The only real ace he held was Loretta’s ignorance about dwarves.

“Very well, we accept. Release these people and all the people in this compound under your control and I will release Stephano and bring our people out here.” He said.

She looked at the men around her, all of whom were her guards. “Did you hear his words?” They all acknowledged they had. “Very well, I release you.” She closed her eyes but for a moment and everyone in the room passed out who were directly under her control. Jose was the only one who didn’t. A hole in the wall opened and all of our people emerged ready to fight if need be. At the same time the cage holding Stephano melted back into the floor from which it sprang and the vampire sprang out of it like he’d been shot in the ass. I saw Loretta step to the side and realized her bonds had released as well.

As I expected, no sooner did the hole in the wall close behind our people when I saw Loretta close her eyes regaining control of those she’d freed only moments before. It surprised me when the men recovered consciousness rising to their feet looking only a little sick and no worse for wear. The eyes of the cats in our party glazed over as they fell under her control. “Grab them!” She ordered and the men sprang into action trying to grab Tobin and Torquil but they were too slow because the dwarves vanished into the stone wall of the chamber and out of sight. Only then did I notice Greg hadn’t come through the opening with the others. Loretta screamed her frustration and I knew we were all in trouble. At least the otters escaped again and hopefully we’ll all still be alive and well enough when they brought the reinforcements they spoke of. I hoped it wasn’t all a deception.

*          *          *


This concludes Chapter Thirteen. Please feel free to write to me to share what you think about this story so far. I'm not sure how long I'll make it, but I will continue as people express interest in the story. Again constructive criticism, comments or complements are welcome, but if you just want to flame the story, then I respectfully ask you to keep your opinions to yourself. I may be reached at: