“I have an ankle sheath as well, with a bowie knife with a serrated edge.” He checked that as well.

I showed him all of the smaller knives I had along my arms and torso, detailing all the additional equipment that I had packed. He studied it all personally, even checking my vest with his hands. I should have told him that any gear that had already passed Caleb’s inspection was above reproach, but I remained silent. I stood perfectly still for his appraisal. I was determined to get through this encounter without laying a finger on him.

Finally he stepped back. I breathed a sigh of relief. See, I could be in the same room with him without jumping him. It was a close thing, though.

He smiled briefly. It was a sad smile. I wondered if his smiles ever looked happy anymore. All of the brief glimpses I’d seen of them had been bittersweet at best. “I like your hair.” His expression quickly went serious again. “Be careful out there,” he told me softly, before walking away.

“You too,” I told his back.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Battle Charge

 The nightmare voice drifted out to us as if by accident. Like we were overhearing a conversation that grew in volume as we listened.

That voice inspired a fear in me that was reserved almost exclusively for my bloodthirsty family, oh yeah, and the occasional demon from hell. It was that, oh shit I wanna run and hide somewhere until life goes back to what it should be, kind of fear. And it wasn’t just the glamour in that voice that inspired it. It was also a fear of what the necros represented, what they could do. If left unchecked, they could turn the world into ravening monsters like themselves. Perhaps thats why I took particular joy in butchering them in bulk.

The huge necro settlement had been a military base at one time, and was surrounded completely by a tall, barbed-wire fence. The druids were making short work of the fence, using cutters to make a large opening for our large force to slip through. They were almost done when we realized that our presence had been detected by the nightmare creatures inside. It was far from ideal timing.

I could hate the druids for a lot of things. In fact, I did. But I did have to give them some serious credit where the necros were concerned. They were the major force that kept the things from running completely amok. If not for their considerable efforts, and constant vigilance, the world could quite possibly turn into something from a zombie apocalypse film. And for that, even I was a little bit grateful to them.

After what was called ‘The Great Druid Wars’ had ended nearly fifty years ago, the ‘cleansed druids’ had fought and eventually abolished the ‘blood druids’. The cleansed druids were what we knew today, a law-enforcing people who had turned their back on a dark past riddled with human sacrifice and other atrocities. Blood druids sought the old ways, and refused to give up the practice of human sacrifice to gain powers. From what I had heard, the blood druids were more powerful, but a great majority had sided with the cleansed. It had involved centuries of battles, the last years of it dwindling down to routing out the enemy in hidden keeps, caves, and groves. I had learned all of this, and nearly everything I knew of druids, and that I shouldn’t know, from Dom. His parents had, tragically, died just before the very last battle in the war. Their heads had decorated spikes on the walls of the fortress that the cleansed had stormed to take out that last malevolent pocket of bloods druids. They had been captured just days before the entire war had ended.

Dom had been just a teenager when it happened. I had comforted him in his grief. He had run to me when he learned the devastating news, and it had broken my heart to see his anguish. I had wept for him, the first time I had wept since I was a small child. It had been too much, to see a perfect boy who deserved his perfect parents, lose everything in a senseless act of brutality.

We’d had to run again shortly after that, as a too young Dom had started to become too attached to me. He had been impossible to deter or resist almost the second he’d turned eighteen. The only way to deal with his relentless pursuit had been to leave. He hadn’t found me again for decades.

After that horrible war, the bulk of the druids’ attention turned to the growing threat of the necros, whose sickness spread like wildfire. I’d assisted with many of their raids, but this was one of the biggest druid forces I’d seen gathered for such an attack.

“Druids!” It’s voice was like a mix of dead tortured things sewn together, some screeching, some singing discordantly. The core of the voice sounded almost human, deep and menacing, with a strong punch of power that raised the hair on the back of my neck. “You trespass here. You thought to burn us in our sleep? Well, we are ready for you!” He screamed at the end. A legion of unearthly screams cheered his words. If all of those voices were more than illusion, we were vastly outnumbered.

In spite of myself, I felt a tremor of terror move through my body. I willed it away, knowing fear was one of their greatest weapons.

“Sounds like we won’t have to fight over kills,” Christian’s voice rumbled into my ear. He was directly behind me, almost hugging my back. I couldn’t imagine it was comfortable for him, since I had a massive double-bladed battle-axe strapped there. We were surrounded by druids in various animal forms, using the magic of their beastcall. Many were over-sized wolves, cougars, and other cats. The more powerful druids were mostly bears or tigers. They were the strongest and most coveted forms. Some were armored, others preferred to fight unencumbered, covered only in their fur. More still kept to human form, either by preference or necessity. All of those ones were heavily armed and armored.

We were one of three units flanking the settlement. Our unit was assigned to the west side. Dom led us, poised at the front line. It seemed foolhardy to place your leader at the front, but I knew from experience that Dom would allow nothing else. The druid leader’s battle prowess was a matter of greatest pride to them all. Sloan, Dom’s 1st Lieutenant, led the group to the north, poised to charge the front gate, and Cam, as 2nd lieutenant, led a large force that would be taking the east. A much smaller force was stationed on the outskirts of the complex, in position to catch any runaway necros. Lynn and Caleb had been roped into joining that crew, which was led by Collin, Dom’s 4th Lieutenant. I hadn’t liked the separation, but we cooperated, since we all figured we’d raised enough hell already that evening. They might not invite us to any more of these parties if we were more trouble than we were worth.

“You think because you are Born Other it gives you the right to rule the Created?” The chilling voice wailed again into the night. It seemed to be slithering around us now. There was no way to tell which direction it came from. “Tonight we will show you who has the strength to rule! Necros, tonight we will feast on druid blood!” A chorus of unearthly cheers rent the air.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Heretic Daughters Vampires
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