- Magic Club 5 #1 – Bad Moon on the Rise
- Magic Club 5 #2 – Werewolves of Fredericksburg
- Magic Club 5 #3 – Of Wolf and Women
- Magic Club 5 #4 – Hungry Like The Werewolf
- Magic Club 5 #5 – Little Red Riding Hood
- Magic Club 5 #6 – Bark at the Moon
- Magic Club 5 #7 – The Animal She Has Become
- Magic Club 5 #8 – She-Wolf
Burritos forgotten, Jeremy turned a quick circle, scanning the Eagle’s Nest for Angel and finding not a sign of her. “Bad.” He muttered. “This is bad.”
Images of Jennifer’s disapproving expression, of Elle rolling her eyes, and of Theresa looking at him like the incompetent he was flickered before his eyes. Then other images: other people in the room and people he knew torn to pieces by a rogue werewolf, followed and made his belly churn.
He headed for the doors. Maybe Angel hadn’t gotten too far away. Maybe things could still be salvaged and he wouldn’t be the goat of the whole investigation. ‘Not the goat’ was about all he could hope for; certainly not ‘the hero’–especially if word of how he lost Angel because he was chatting up the Honor council president.
Pushing past a group of lacrosse players coming in with all their gear in hand, Jeremy found himself stumbling out into the hall, facing the Campus Information Center and the post office. He almost crashed into Angel in the process.
The young woman was, herself turning a slow circle and drawing no small amount of attention from passers by.
“Angel?” Jeremy wasn’t sure what to do at this juncture. She wasn’t hiding or running away. If anything, she seemed to be looking for something. Or rather sniffing for something. His question seemed to break her concentration, as she groaned and shook her head before turning in his direction.
“It’s not working.” she murmured, looking close to tears again.
Jeremy took the risk and moved up beside her. Without warning, she latched onto his arm and leaned heavily on him. ‘Heavily’ seemed to be the operative word—she was at least half again as heavy as her size suggested, almost knocking them both over.
“W-what’s not working?”
Angel shook her head. “Maybe I’m going crazy. I thought I smelled…” She remembered where they were and lowered her voice. “My brother. His blood.”
Trying hard not to shiver, lest the woman holding onto hi felt it, Jeremy steered them back toward the Eagle’s Nest. “You mean here? Now?”
“Like I said,” Angel struggled to keep her voice even and failed, “Maybe I’m going crazy. I thought it might mean that his killer, the vânători, might be here.”
Reflexively, Jeremy took a look around. Spending the bulk of his life small and meek, he could just instinctively pick out people likely to be both capable and willing to kick his ass at a glance. The Nest was a target-rich environment in that respect: besides the lacrosse guys, there was a table with three lean, unpleasant looking guys that had a look about them that screamed ‘criminal activity’, a woman sitting alone in the corner casting nasty looks at everyone, and another sitting with a group but who was showing an undo fascination toward her silverware that indicated she liked to play with sharp things.
But the vânători was supposed to be a spellcaster, given Jennifer’s description. Jeremy didn’t even know if his finely honed danger sense would pick up on someone like that. After all, a mage didn’t need to look tough to do nasty things to you.
“Sure you can’t narrow it down?”
Angel shook her head, taking a few more experimental sniffs. “There’s too many people, plus it’s starting to get into the heating vents and dispersing. Maybe if I changed but…”
“Yeah, let’s not do that.” said Jeremy, imagining the stampede for humanity that would result from Angel shifting into a gigantic, slavering horror in the middle of the Nest. “Look, let’s just get out food and get out of here. The others probably know ways to narrow it down now that we have this place as a starting point.”
The grip Angel had on his arm relaxed and she nodded. “Yeah, okay.” She let go of him completely and tried to smooth her hair back from her eyes. “Thank you, by the way.”
Jeremy swallowed a lump in his throat and gestured toward where his burritos were waiting for him on the counter. “Um… well yeah. That’s just what the Magi Club is here for…” His thoughts wandered to days of quiet study and seemingly miraculous discovery. They seemed a long way off from running interference for superheroes and providing moral support to distraught werewolves. “…Apparently.”
Jennifer met Elle and Theresa on Campus Walk. It just looked…wrong to see the resident wild-child and the calm, meek girl walking with such purpose, though she imagined her gait at present wasn’t normal for her either.
“Hey.” She said as her longer stride allowed her to overtake them. Theresa gave her a look of disappointment, but nodded in greeting. The look Elle gave her almost made her trip over her own feet. Involuntarily, she shied back from the other girl. “What?”
Elle folded her arms and looked straight ahead. “You know ‘what’. You’re like… the one who’s in charge. You’re supposed to know what to do. What the hell were you thinking when you sent Jeremy on ahead with that bitch?”
Ignoring her preexisting guilt rising to the bait, Jennifer instead ave voice to the rationalizations she’d been using to keep it at bay. “Okay, for one thing: I sent them one of the rooms above the Nest, not a fog-shrouded moor. If Angel is our bad wolf, she can’t do anything there without getting caught. For another: we aren’t sure she is ‘that bitch’ at the moment.”
In reply, Elle turned her surprisingly effective glare on her roommate again. “Oh, we know. You know any other people on campus with a ‘wolf claw’? Animals might not be as smart as humans, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid or blind for that matter.”
After a beat, she added, “Except moles. And blind cave fish. But not bats. People think bats are blind, but they’re not.”
“Moles aren’t blind.” Theresa said quietly.
Elle blinked. “Yeah they are. I know some moles and they can’ see for shit.”
Despite Elle’s inability to hold back on transferring her hostility over the situation, Theresa remained nonplussed. “They can see light and dark, just not acute shapes.”
Scowling, Elle took a moment to reassert herself by glaring at Jennifer. “Well she’s still a bitch because she’s a wolf and female.”
“Technicalities like that aside,” said Jennifer as they entered the building and made their way up stairs. “I think we might all be underestimating Jeremy here. He held his own during the Morganna thing and I think we can agree that his specialty has proven much more useful than we originally thought.”
“Uh-huh, and would you go up against a werewolf with just push/pull spells?”
Out of rationalizations, Jennifer sighed. “You’re right, I wouldn’t. It was reckless of me and I’ve been terrified for Jeremy ever since I realized what I’d done.”
Elle reached the door to the Red conference room ahead of the others and grabbed the handle. “You’ll feel even worse if we go in here and find Jeremy—” She pushed the door open, “—and some chick crying into his shirt?”
Sure enough, Jeremy was there, sitting on a padded bench set before one of the room’s large windows. Angel had her arms around him, her face buried in his chest as sobs wracked her body. Jeremy shot the girls at the door a ‘help me’ look that couldn’t have been more desperate if Angel were tearing him to shreds.
For a handful of seconds, Elle’s jaw worked but no sound came out. Finally she stepped into the room, looking around expectantly. “W-where’s the werewolf? Who’s this?”
Jennifer followed her in and put a hand on her roommate’s shoulder in an effort to make the other woman hold still. “Elle, she is the werewolf.”
By then, Angel had turned her head to see who had barged in. Her tear-stained face, bloodshot eyes and sniffling nose didn’t add any credibility to that claim.
“Bullshit.” said Elle succinctly. “I’ve read books, I know what werewolves are supposed to look like in human mode. They’re big blacksmith dudes with golden eyes that carry axes.” She ignored the looks of confusion and pointed instead to Angel. “They’re not short doe-eyed girls who cry a lot. Not even when the whole werewolf thing is supposed to be a puberty metaphor.”
“That last one wasn’t a book, it was a movie.” Jennifer said, rubbing her temples with her free hand. “Look, Angel is a real werewolf.”
“Have you seen her change?”
Jennifer started to answer, then paused. She really had just taken Angel’s word on that. While Elle’s animal friends confirmed that Garth was a werewolf, there was no actual proof that the rest of his family was the same way save for Angel’s word for it.
Elle smirked and folded her arms anew, giving Angel a smug look. “Prove it.”
The doe eyes Elle mentioned earlier widened a big at the demand. “I…” She started, then took a cleansing breath and nodded. “Okay. Just… close the door please?”
“One minute.” Theresa said from her post at the door. She shrugged off her backpack, which made a heavy thud on the ground and knelt to open the top flap. Without taking anything out or even looking inside, she then stood up and pulled the door closed.
Jennifer nodded to Angel. “Okay, go ahead.” She nonchalantly slipped her hand into her pocket and got a hold of her palmtop just in case she needed to cast something offensive.
“Alright.” Angel let go her hold on Jeremy’s shirt and started to get up from the bench.
“Ow.” Jeremy muttered sharply.
Elle’s gaze snapped onto him. “What? What happened?”
Jeremy gave her an odd look, then expanded it to all three girls who had stiffened at his exclamation. It was nice that his friends were protective, but on some level, it was also embarrassing. He felt like the team pet in peril. “Nothing, I guess.” He said, looking down at his chest where he’s felt the jolt of minor pain. Something glinted near the zipper of his open coat.
He picked at the offending object until it slid free of the coat’s material. “Just a pin?” It could only be phrased as a question—he wasn’t even sure he’d seen a straight pin in real life before.
“Why do you have a pin in your coat?” Jennifer asked the obvious question.
Turning the foreign object over in his hand, Jeremy could only shrug. It looked to be made of brass and the head had a little glass dome on top with something round and red trapped inside. “I didn’t put it there. It’s pretty though; looks like an antique.”
“Put it down now.”
Everyone gaped at the unusually forceful words that came from usually quiet Theresa. Jeremy dropped the pin immediately. For her part, she paid no attention to their surprise as she dropped to one knee and started rummaging in her bag. “Burrs are one of the basic foci for tracking spells, according to the Book of Reason. Back when magic was more widely known,” She pulled out three heavy rocks, each the size of both of her fists and set them aside without a second thought. “they were easy to come by, but the flaw was that they fell apart easily. Magi with enough wealth used enchanted pins instead because they were durable and could be used over and over.”
The binder full of plant samples came out next, followed by her spare glasses kit, which she flipped open to reveal a set of rimless spectacles with small round lenses glazed over with a smokey white impurity with reddish streaks in the glass. She took off her normal glasses and replaced them with the new ones.
Jennifer tried to split her attention between Theresa and the mystery pin. “Um… what are those?”
“Native quartz from Virginia.” the blonde said as if that explained volumes. In the next breath, she whispered out an incantation. There wasn’t a visible change to the glasses, but Theresa winced upon looking in the direction of the pin and snatched the glasses off, blinking rapidly.
“What?” asked Elle. “What just happened?”
Theresa didn’t answer, she just got up, went over to the pin and picked it up. For a few minutes, she scrutinized it, then fished her palmtop out of her pocket. Rather than look up a spell, she fired up a word processor program. After typing quickly, she held the screen up so the others could see.
‘DON’T READ THIS OUT LOUD’
She waited for the others to nod before she erased that and typed her next message.
‘THIS ISN’T JUST A TRACKER. THERE’S A TINY DROP OF THE CASTER’S BLOOD IN THE HEAD. IT’S A SCRYING BEACON. A POWERFUL ONE. WHOEVER CAST IT CAN HEAR EVERYTHING WE SAY.’
Elle started to say something, them recalled what she’s just read. She pulled out her own palmtop and tapped out: ‘WTF?! WHO WAS IT!!’. She showed that around, then typed again, showing this one specifically to Jennifer: ‘CAN U BREAK IT?’.
Jennifer nodded at the question, leaning forward to look at the pin in Theresa’s hand. She knew all sorts of spell breakers and counterspells—it was part of her whole ‘enhance magic’ study. She pulled out her palmtop to look up the appropriate one when a different idea came to mind. Her studies let her do more things than just break spells…
She also opened a word process and typed out: ‘I CAN BREAK IT, BUT I WON’T. I HAVE A BETTER IDEA’.
Across campus, in a corner dorm room in Carver Hall, the identical twin of the pin in the hands of the Magi Club vibrated at the bottom of a silver bowl, turning the bowl into a perfect speaker. For several minutes, the ‘speaker’ had only been playing the ambient noises from inside the Red conference room.
Its owner knew that meant that not only had the pin been discovered, but also that it was more than just a tracking device. There would be no more information forthcoming from said pin, and no doubt, the other magi of Mary Washington would try to use the blood it contained to trace its source.
That would be useless of course. The blood that paired the two pins weren’t from the one who paired them. They would have to check their notes to remember who exactly that blood would bring the young magi down on. Luckily, they didn’t seem the violent type—at least not the type of violence that was irrevocable.
Otherwise, they might have been trusted to aid in the hunt. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be considering protecting that monster wearing the skin of a woman.
They didn’t understand. They probably never would.
That was unfortunate.
The vânători—the last vânători—stood from where they’d been sitting cross-legged on their bed and plucked the now useless pin out of the bowl and tossed it in the trashcan atop a heap of disposable coffee cups from the campus cafe and make-up stained tissue paper.
One last sufficiently full moon that month. If the wolf didn’t die tonight, it would be another four weeks before the chance to kill it outside of its human form came again.
If there was something good to say about wolves, that was it: they had non-human forms. They were easy. But the vânători knew that there were others that didn’t; that always looked human—and eventually they would run out of wolves… and have to kill something that looked just like any other person in what would look (and feel) like cold blood.
For a brief moment, they considered not going out that night. It would put off that terrible day by another month at least. Then they shook that thought right out of their head. The older of the siblings hadn’t gotten a chance to kill anyone and the younger wouldn’t either.
Grabbing a violin case from their closet (from its place right next to the one with the actual violin in it), they headed out the door.
The world had to be made safe; starting with the Fredricksburg Leyline.
To Be Continued…