- 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
Every time Occult visited the Magi Club, she used a glamor to make her look like someone else, but not always the same one every time. The most frequent was a black-clad goth named Linda. That night, she was in the guise of Perdita, a slightly chubby black girl who was a prep as Occult could bear to make her wardrobe.
Her day had been a bad one; two of her professors had alerted her at the last minute about a pop quiz, her project partner for Philosophy 101 was ducking her, the Books of Reason and Passions refused to yield even basic information about werewolves to her. She’d been getting in touch with Kay whenever she could to get her friend to tell her everything she’d read for fun out of the mystic tomes.
Tired and bedraggled, she was just stepping up to the porch of Jeremy’s dorm when the door burst open and Angel Dancescu nearly slammed into her.
“Sorry, sorry.” Angel, whimpered, hands clasped over her ears. She scurried down the steps, took a moment as if to orient herself, then ran off across the small, paved circle out front of the dorm, toward the stand of trees at the edge of campus.
It wasn’t even a choice anymore, it was instinct. Occult saw someone in trouble and she automatically felt the tug to try and help them. She had already turned and started to run after her when a more sensible part of her pointed out that something had caused that girl to run—something in the same dorm room where she was meeting the Magi Club.
Danger would lie in the direction the girl was coming from, not where she was going.
Scarcely had she turned around then the dorm door opened again and she was nearly trampled by the very people she came to see. Much to her surprise, it was Jeremy leading the charge. The young man stopped just short of running into her—only to have Elle collide with his back and crush him between the two of them.
“Occ…I mean Lin…” Elle said over Jeremy’s shoulder while the others followed them out. “Whatever your name is, it’s about time you got here.”
“I had complications.” said Occult, stepping back so Jeremy could get some air. “What’s going on here? Where’s the—”
Jennifer stepped around the whole group, looking around the now-empty circle in front of the dorm. “She just ran out of here. Something made her freak out and leave.”
“A spell!” Elle chimed in.
“That can’t be it.” said Jennifer, “I put a curse on whoever was spying on us, a spellcasting jinx. If they cast a spell, it would have shorted their abilities out.”
Jeremy slipped past Occult and looked around as Jennifer was. “That’s really not important right now. We need to find her before she gets killed.”
“Right.” Occult nodded. “She shot past me, seemed to get confused, then ran into the woods.”
The grove of trees that separated the dorm and nearby library from a student parking lot was less than fifty yards deep, but the terrain was rough and hilly, the tree cover dense, and overall, the entire area foreboding. Elle gave them an incredulous look. “She ran into that place? What? Has she never seen a scary movie?”
Occult and the others including Theresa were already on the run, heading toward the trees. “Maybe it’s a wolf thing. She’s trying to go to ground.” From the pocket of her khakis, her palmtop chirped and she took it out.
The digi-Book of Reason had opened itself to a spell called Guardian Wolf. She scanned it quickly as they ran. “Okay, I think the Book finally decided to give me some information. You friend and her brother are the inheritors of a spell called Guardian Wolf. It’s a spell that was passed down in the bloodline—a mage would cast it on trusted servants so they and their families would forever be able to transform into a part-wolf warrior to defend them. The downside is, transforming hurts a lot unless it’s mitigated by the full moon. The upside, they always have the heightened senses of the wolf.”
“How does that help us though?” asked Jennifer, taking out her own palmtop. “Is there a counterspell? If we make her not a werewolf, will the vânători stop hunting her?”
After a brief scroll down to the actual spell procedure, Occult shook her head. “No counter. It’s not a curse. Everything about it besides the senses is completely voluntary. Whoever designed the spell thought it was a good thing, so why device a cure?”
“But we’ve got to come up with something.” Jeremy said, out of breath, but still pushing. “We can’t just be rushing to find her body, right? You guys have something in mind, right?”
The group tore into the woods, searching feverishly for a trail Angel might have left, but none of them were in any way experienced with tracking and found not a sign. Within a few minutes, they had covered the entire swathe of woodland.
“Nothing.” Jennifer shouted to the others as she stood at the top of the hill marking the wood’s boundary. Below her, the hill dipped down to meet a sidewalk and beyond that was a residential street; well lit and empty. “I’ve got nothing. She might have come this way, she might have cut back onto campus—I have no idea.”
Occult came up to join her, sifting through spells on her palmtop. “If you’ve got something… blood, sweat, a hair—I should be able to track her, but it might take an hour to construct the spell.”
“She doesn’t have an hour.” Jeremy was slumped against a tree and unable to rust his legs to hold him up anymore. Theresa had set herself down next to the same tree and was seemingly deep in thought. “However they did this, the vânători set this up to get her away from us. To kill her. Come on, there’s got to be something else we can do. Maybe a clue?”
From behind them all, Elle emerged from the woods with a squirrel on each shoulder, chattering to her in ways only she cold understand. “Trust me, we’re looking for clues, but so far it’s a bunch of food wrappers, used condoms and printed cell phones that are pissing the animals off.”
She gave the woodland behind her a disgusted look. “A lot of used condoms, you guys. Who hooks up outdoors? Don’t the know the animals can see them?”
“Not helpful.” Jeremy snapped.
Elle raised her hands defensively. “Look, sorry. I’m trying, okay. I don’t want anyone to die anymore than you do. I can wake up some birds to give me a view from above, but she’s got a big lead on us now.”
“Why are the animals pissed off as cell phones?”
After a brief search for the source of the voice, Elle finally noticed Theresa sitting next to Jeremy. “The noise. Some kind of interference or something, I guess. Folks probably dropped them when they dropped their drawers and butt-dialed without noticing. Heh, or something-else-dialed.”
Theresa looked at the ground, a serious look on her face as she ran some scenarios in her head. “A printed phone only has a one-hour talk time.”
“Maybe people were here in the woods right before Angel ran through.” Jeremy said, eyes lighting up with hope. “We can find them and ask which way she went.”
“Wait.” said Occult. “She said ‘phones’. Plural. How many people accidentally drop and dial burner phones all in the same hour all in the same place.”
Shaking her head, Jennifer folded her arms. “So they might be there on purpose, but what does that mean?”
After a moment of chewing her lip, Theresa spoke again. “She put her hands over her ears. The Book just told Occult that Angel Dancescu had animal senses, and Elle says that the noise from the phone is bothering the animals. Angel is hearing the same thing and it seems to be hurting her.”
A grin that easily showed that Elle didn’t just call herself feral because of her affinity with animals split her face as she put together what the others were saying. Not only that, but she had the solution. “If she’s running away from the noise from the phones, then we just have to follow the phones to wherever Angel’s being herded.”
Whipping out her stack of cards, she shuffled through them until she found the one she was after. “And It just so happens that I’ve got a friend who hears in three dimensions.”
In becoming a werewolf, Angel also became accustomed to all the jokes and expectations about werewolves even as she learned what was and wasn’t true.
She and Garth always joked about playing fetch, turning in place before sitting down and other weird ‘doggy’ behaviors cartoon werewolves had when they weren’t mindless killers. The truth was that while they had all the senses of a wolf, they had none of the instincts.
That fact was haunting her now. A real wolf would have gone to ground. A real wolf might have had the cunning to realize it was being hemmed in and cornered by the sonic walls that assaulted her ears. It seems like every time she got far enough away from one, she got an aural blast from another, forcing her to change direction.
She was in Downtown Fredricksburg now, pushed into fleeing down backstreets and scurrying through people’s lawns. She could smell the river somewhere nearby. Over the past month of being at school, she and Garth had explored the city, but panic and pain made it hard to recall exactly where she was…
…Until she hopped a six-foot stone wall with her supernatural agility—and instantly wished she just stayed and braved the din that merely hurt her ears.
More than once, she’d walked past the church she found herself behind. Just as often, she crossed the street rather than walk right past the cemetery. It might have been a silly superstition, but she and Garth had agreed that being a werewolf justified believing that ghosts and zombies were possible.
The other problem was that it was quiet.
The hellish noise had stopped the moment she went over the wall. No matter how much of a relief that was to her ears, her brain told her that this was not a good development. Someone had been driving her in a very specific direction—and she had arrived.
Breathing in deeply, Angel ended up coughing as strong cayenne pepper stung her nose. Someone had dusted practically the whole graveyard in it.
Cloth rustled somewhere to her right and she looked up to see a figure emerge from behind a tall memorial stone. A gray, tattered cloak hung around them, blending into the moonlight and gloom. It was the only thing visible besides soft, black leather boots that made the scattered leaves on the ground crunch as the vânători approached.
“Hmm.” Though it was hard to tell just from an exhalation, Angel guessed the voice was female.
Too close to the wall to get a proper running jump to vault it, Angel backpedaled. “Please,” She said. “Please don’t kill me.”
The vânători wasn’t listening. “After all that pain, all that panic, you still haven’t changed?”
“I never hurt anyone.” Angel said, tears stinging her eyes. “My brother never hurt anyone. Please, we’re not monsters. We… please, we don’t deserve this!”
“All monsters deserve death.” replied the vânători, but there wasn’t much inflection in the words. “And it is the duty of the vânători clans to rid the world of the corrupted mistakes of the wizards and cunning folk. I am the last of the Tradition. But I’m lucky: my prey has come from all over the country to this place. Drawn, you see, by the leyline. You’re not the only monsters on campus, you know. I’ve got months of work ahead of me.”
Angel’s panic was temporarily supplanted by curiosity. That explained a lot; feelings she and Garth had sometimes, scents that were unfamiliar. She wondered if the Magi Club knew.
And then her moment of clarity was gone. What did any of that matter when she was on the cusp of being murdered?
“L-look. Pleas,e just… just let me prove I’m not what you think.”
“Prove it by what? Deciding not to murder innocents for a while until I let my guard down? That’s how my great uncle died. Different kind of wolf than you. A loupe garou. My father paid it back—and kept this as a souvenir.
Metal rattled on metal and something fell out of the vânători’s sleeve. It was a silver-plated paw the size of a softball with its claws extended, affixed to a silver chain that was likely worth more than Angel’s tuition. Over even the smell of the pepper, a familiar and chilling odor hit Angel’s nose: Blood. Garth’s blood.
Angel shivered uncontrollably. Now she knew how her brother died. Now she was certain why. And there was nothing she could do about it.
The vânători slowly began to swing the claw back and forth, gaining momentum. “Make this a fair fight, wolf. Change and come at me. You might even get to me before I get you.”
The gleaming weapon turned a full revolution in the air. Angel found that she couldn’t look away from it.
Still twirling the claw, the vânători let out an exasperated breath. Not to save yourself, not to avenge your brother. What kind of wolf are you?”
Angel had never fought anyone as a human, much less as a werewolf. She knew there was no point in changing. The change itself took so long that she’d be dead before she was through at any rate.
An irate snarl bubbled up from the vânători’s throat. “Fine. You won’t change, I’ll make you change.”
She kept the claw spinning while raising her free hand and intoning something in a tongue that sounded slippery to Angel’s ears. Long, gloved fingers drew symbols in the air and it seemed for a moment that the moonlight was focusing, growing brighter in the graveyard.
A sound like a violinist pulling their bow too enthusiastically cut through the night air, sounding worse to Angel than anything she’d faced that night. Ghostly shards of red glass speared out from the aether and embedded themselves in the vânători‘s raised arm. There was no blood or sliced flesh, but she withdrew the limb with a hiss of pain.
Her spell collapsed, the concentrated moonlight evaporated into nothing.
The vânători cursed and tried the spell again, but nothing happened. Angel’s eyes widened as she remembered: the curse. Jennifer’s jinx had taken effect, canceling the woman’s magic. With a sudden surge of hope, she started to move laterally toward the church where she might be able to hide.
That hope was shredded along with the grass and dirt as the silver wolf claw flashed down within inches of her face, tearing through the earth as it was pulled back. All of Angel’s fear instantly asserted herself and her knees buckled, sending her crashing to the turf.
Somewhere up above, a shadow passed over the moon: an owl.
Angel looked up at it because she didn’t dare lay eyes on her attacker.
“Just. Change!” The vânători expertly turned the chain around her body, rebounding it into another strike that passed behind Angel at shoulder height and gouged four deep claw marks in the cemetery wall.”
Having felt the wind and being struck by stone chips from the attack, Angel turned in time to watch the weapon be withdrawn.
That should have been a killing blow. With the skill and precision the hunter used, the first swing ought to have beheaded her and the second should have severed her spinal cord. Neither of those things happened. Not that she was upset about it but… why?
“You… don’t want to do this?” She asked, watching the shining claw orbit the vânători‘s body, ready at any moment to strike out at her.
“I have to do this.” the woman’s voice shot back, cold and hard. “Now make this easier and change, damn you.”
Angel blinked. “How would…” And then she understood. “You don’t want to kill me while I’m… while I look human.”
“I am not!” screamed the vânători screamed and hurled the claw once more. In her moment of passion, her aim was true and deadly; the four murderous points of the claw aimed straight for Angel’s chest.
Someone shouted and an unseen force tugged the claw aside at a right angle.
“Why did you pull it toward us?!” Someone shouted.
At the same moment, another voice called out. “Levanto esta pared!” The corresponding flare of red light drew Angel’s attention to the Magi Club, plus a dark-skinned girl in designer clothes holding a staff. They stood behind a wall of overlapping planes of red force. The claw struck the barrier and deflected into the ground.
Not missing a beat, the vânători reeled in her weapon and shifted her position to keep both her quarry and the new arrivals in her line of sight. “You live another month, wolf. But one night, you’ll become the beast you are and stalk the night—and I’ll be there.”
“Hold it!” The girl with the staff charged forward with the Magi Club at her back.
The vânători reached the hand she’d tried to cast with into her cloak. “I don’t think so.”
“Please. Even if you could cast, I could counter it.” the new girl said, having to weave around headstones in her charge.
“Good thing I’m not casting.”
Something flashed in the moonlight. It was tossed underhand and poorly at that. The advancing group ignored it—right up until the world became awash with light and noise.
To Be Continued…