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Vanago

by P L Nunn

 

13

 

Scott ran. The rakes in his side, down his stomach were slow to heal, the newer set still leaking blood down his side. But then, wounds from her when she'd been full beast had been slow to heal, too. The stronger the creature delivering the injury, be it wolf or something else, the longer it took for the body to repair itself. In comparison, the shredded flesh of his arms, where he'd torn the razor wire loose, was already knit, save for the places where the metal still cut into his wrist.

He hadn't taken the time to unwind all the twisted lengths of wire in his desperation to find Stiles before Zlata did, simply wrenching his arms free, barbed metal slicing literally to the bone in his haste. But pain of late had become dismally familiar and the sting of shredded flesh was less debilitating than the rush of acid through his veins. It didn't steal his strength so much as fuel the adrenalin surging through him.

He didn't know how long he'd been out. Just that they'd both been gone when he'd woken, that last taunt ringing in his ears. He heard the gunshots, while he was still trying to rip free of the razor wire. Just a pair of reports and by the time he was out the house there was nothing more. But they'd come from the house across the field and Stiles scent led towards the woods and almost he started that way, before he caught a flash of movement from the corner of his eye and he saw her, sprinting across the yellowed grass of a vast front yard towards the road. He changed direction on a dime, across the patch of back yard and into the fallow field before he caught sight of Stiles, at the road, pelting across asphalt towards the woods on the other side.

Alive still and relief flooded him. But if Zlata caught up with him before he could, all it might take was a slash of her claws and he might not be for long.

So he ran, putting everything he had into closing that distance. And she was fast, but he was faster. She knew he was there, looked over her shoulder as she bounded for the road and snarled. Scott almost had her when she made it, darting in front of a pickup truck loaded down with bungee cord secured furniture. Almost she made it, but the edge of the front bumper caught her, and when the driver swerved in desperation, he clipped Scott, who was fast on her tail. The impact sent him tumbling into the gravel-laced dirt at the side of the road. He rolled to a crouch, head spinning.

She crouched on the other side, shaking her head, knees bleeding from where she'd skidded in the gravel, looking as stunned as he felt. The truck screeched to a stop, an old man getting out, yelling about 'goddamned kids in the road' and how he hadn't seen them, before he stuttered to a halt, getting a good look at her, fangs and claws and all.

She tensed, growling, and the old guy staggered backwards, wide-eyed in shock. Scott sprang between her and him, before she could make the decision to pounce. He stood there, bloody and gasping, meeting her glare with a red-eyed one of his own. She screamed at him and it was like sandpaper grating on the inside of his head, hoarse and shrill and eardrum-shattering loud. Instinct surged in him at the challenge though, the wolf rushing to the fore and he roared back. And this time the old guy with the truck got a look at Scott's beast and between the two of them, he fell over himself trying to get back into the cab, burning rubber as he screeched away. A few pieces of the load stacked onto the back teetered off, crashing to the asphalt.

"You fast," she sneered. "Fast like rabbit, running for life."

"Wolves are just faster than bears."

She grinned at him, that toothy, rip your face off grin she had perfected. "Bear stronger. Bear claws longer, they take a wolf down with one swipe."

"Only if they connect."

She laughed outright then, before spinning and running into the trees. A game. It was a game to her and he had no choice but to play.


 

It must have been getting on towards evening, hours passed since Zlata had taken him at school. Plunging into the woods, tearing through underbrush and bramble in a desperate attempt to put distance between him and her, the foliage cast everything in shadowy darkness.

Stiles didn't look back to see if she was on his trail. He just ran, stumbling over roots and stray sticks, clutching the shovel like it was a weapon that might actually have done more than make her laugh if she caught him. He called himself a fool as he ran, because he'd gone exactly where he hadn't wanted to go, into her element. Into the cover of woods where she could rip out his insides at her leisure and nobody would likely find his remains for weeks if - - worse case scenario - - she got to him before Scott managed to tear his way out of the razor wire and get to him first. If Scott could even get the upper hand with her, which he hadn't done a very good job of achieving as of yet. If she didn't kill them both and leave them for the scavengers to pick clean of flesh - - for their bones to nestle in the leaves and the mulch, relics that maybe someday might make their way back to the people that cared.

Scenarios raced through his head, grisly, terrible images born of an imagination that tended towards the macabre. His heart raced from more than the exertion.

The cry rattled the woods. A terrible, gut wrenching sound that made the hairs on the back of his arms stand up. Then a second roar on the tails of the first, drifting through the trees. For a handful of heartbeats, everything went silent, before the avian wood life started chattering and chirping in shrill alarm. The second one had sounded like a pissed off wolf. Please, please let it have been a pissed off wolf.

Stiles hesitated a moment, one hand on the rough bark of a pine, gasping for breath, staring over his shoulder in the direction he thought the cries had originated. He allowed himself a few lungfuls of air, before forcing himself into motion again. There had to be something to throw her off his trail. A stream would have been nice - - the water maybe a path to diluting his scent trail. But the landscape was proving uncooperative, providing no handy streams or brooks that he might plunge into and wade down. If that would even work, because hadn't Scott said that the scent trail when it was strong floated in the air, like a phosphorescent trail that he could almost see. If he survived this, he needed to do a little research and find out. He didn't have claws and fangs, but a little knowledge went a long ways.

Some sixth sense made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, and he just started to turn, when he caught the flash of movement from the corner of his eye. Something fast and silent hurtling towards him. His feet slipped in leaves and the ground dropped out from under him. With a yelp, he slid down an incline, ended up on his ass at the bottom of a dry gully, before scrambling backwards, desperately searching for the source of the movement.

And there she was, crouching at the top of the slope, elongated mouth pulled back in a tooth-baring grin. It was horrifying and hideous and he couldn't even find the breath to come up with something to say that might stave off the inevitable.

Then Scott hit her from behind. A full body tackle that sent them both rolling down the incline towards Stiles. He hissed, scrambling out of the path, trying to get to his feet, but sneakers slipping in leaves that still held onto the dampness from yesterday's rain. They weren't paying attention to him, though.

They were snarling and swiping at each other as they tumbled, Scott rolling away from her as they hit bottom, slashing out with an arm that trailed a good couple of feet of loose razor wire twined around wrist and forearm. The loose end slashed towards her face and she screeched in outrage, rushing him, raking claws in his direction with single-minded mania. Scott avoided the charge - -mostly. Got raked across the forearm so deeply, that Stiles could see bone - - and somehow didn't let it slow him down when he drove under her attack and bowled into her legs, taking her off her feet.

He got in a good swipe at her then, as she was off balance and scrambling to regain it, raking claws down her hip to her thigh, shredding fabric and flesh beneath, but she dug her own clawed hands into his shoulder and flung him with contemptuous ease into the bole of a tree a half dozen yards away. Scott rolled to his feet, a little slower this time, looking a little dazed, and the arm she'd raked, the same arm she'd just latched hold of to throw him away from her, hung limp at his side.

She crouched in the leaves, blood soaking the right leg of her jeans where Scott had scored his own hit, eyes glowing under the shadows of a heavy brow ridge that had developed a startling case of unibrow. Everything about her was dense, bone thicker than it had been when he'd seen her shift towards her beast in the house. She hadn't just shifted form, she'd gained mass and that sort of blew his mind a little, trying to comprehend how a 110 pound girl could just develop bulk out of thin air. Where did the additional mass come from? And where did it go? The wolves didn't suddenly turn into hulking behemoths when they shifted. Well, most of the wolves he knew. They kept their same body mass. And he wasn't talking a few pounds of muscle weight, going from the Vanago to Zlata - - it was maybe three or four hundred pounds she'd shed. Of course, he was nitpicking a little thing like simple physics as applied to freaking supernatural creatures that shouldn't exist in the real world at all, so maybe he was over thinking.

She turned her gaze towards Stiles and he swallowed, clutching the shovel, afraid to take that step backwards that might set her off.

"Me. Look at me," Scott growled, moving into that space between Stiles and her. "He's not the threat. I am."

She lifted a hand, licking blood off the tip of a claw. "One bleeding wolf not much of a threat."

She pushed herself up, stalking towards them. Scott edged backwards, wary.

"Go," Scott didn't glance back when he said it, but Stiles knew he was pleading with him. "Please, go."

The last time Scott had asked that of him, Scott had been half out of his head on wolfsbane and she had been a damned big, supernatural bear. He'd had better than a shovel in his hands, too.

So it was only reasonable. It wasn't like he was anything but a hindrance in this battle of claws and fangs and superhuman strength. And if she was going to tear them up, it didn't make sense for both of them to stand here and let it happen. He might actually stand a chance if he ran. If Scott could hold her off long enough for him to get to the road and wave down a car. It was a chance at survival.

And he couldn't make himself do it. Scott hadn't abandoned him and damned if he'd abandon Scott to face her alone. Even if all he was good for was giving Scott a damned desperate reason to keep on fighting.

"Yeah - - no." He tightened his fingers around the shaft of the shovel, backing up as Scott backed up. If he could offer a distraction, maybe Scott could get in another decent hit. "When this bitch goes down, I wanna be here to see it."

Scott hissed softly, about as pleased with Stiles' bravado as Zlata seemed to be. She growled, refocusing her amber stare past Scott towards him.

"You talk big, little rabbit," she sneered. "But you stink of fear."

He imagined he did.

She lunged at Scott, raking clawed hands faster than Stiles could easily follow. And Scott back peddled, a desperate dance to avoid her attack. Crazy fast, both of them and Stiles forgot sometimes how fast Scott could be, because he went out of his way to contain it. To hide it and pretend he was something he was not.

Scott got in what Stiles thought was a pretty good hit and Zlata staggered to one knee. Blood blossomed across her lower back, before she spun, lashing out and catching Scott with a backhanded blow that hit with the sickening sound of bone snapping through the muffling layer of flesh.

He went down, skidding in leaves, clutching at his leg, high up on his thigh, jaw clenched in pain. Bone would knit fast. Stiles had seen him heal in minutes from broken bones - -but minutes were a luxury they didn't have.

She swung her gaze towards him, mouth splitting in a feral grin, before she leaped at him. Scott screamed at her, floundering in his attempts to push himself up.

Stiles screamed himself, wildly swinging the shovel, trying to hold her off. She knocked it out of his hand with one swipe of her claws, almost taking his fingers off in the process. He scrambled backwards, trying to get up that slick incline, regretting to his bones not taking Scott's advice and running while he'd had the chance. She would have had to work to take him down then at least. Put in a little effort at chasing him down before she disemboweled him.

She caught his ankle, claws ripping through denim, tearing into the flesh of his leg as she dragged him down.

"Oh fuck - - fuck - -" He rolled onto his back, both hands up, flimsy shields against six-inch claws, as she loomed over him.

Scott roared at her loud enough to make the insides of Stiles' eardrums pop with the shock of the volume. She winced, her hearing no doubt a lot more sensitive than Stiles', half turned to look over her shoulder at Scott, who was teetering on his feet, favoring the one leg heavily enough that Stiles figured if it came down to putting actual weight on it, he'd fold.

Which was around the time the second roar rattled the leaves and both she and Stiles' both snapped their attention up towards the top of the incline just in time to see the flash of a body hurtling down towards them.

It was Derek. Stiles was pretty sure the flash of dark clothes and pale skin was Derek that hit her full frontal, slamming her backwards down the slope, tearing at her as she tore at him. Derek wasn't taking Scott's course of actually trying to avoid all her blows, he just waded in, taking damage while trying to deliver some of his own. Which resulted in blood. A damned lot of blood and the sound of ripping flesh, and the screams of wolf and half bear, until she threw him off with about the same ease she'd tossed Scott around and Derek rolled to his feet, dripping red, horrendous gashes across his chest and shoulders.

Another body skidded down the slope, right on his head, almost. Stiles managed to avoid yelping as Isaac slid to a stop below him, crouching in the leaves, as full on wolf as the other two. They'd tracked Scott. He didn't know how or really care to be honest, the relief was so strong.

She shifted, flexing her red stained claws, ignoring the gashes in her own flesh, flicking her gaze between the three of them, ending up focusing it on Scott. He was moving a little easier, the pain tension gone from his face.

"Pack of wolves not much harder to kill than lone one." She purred, all about the sweet talk.

"You had a chance," Scott said softly. "You could have made a new life for yourself."

"You give her too much credit, Scott," Stiles pushed himself up, edging further up the incline, away from what he figured was going to be a damned bloody area, once one of them snapped. "She was a monster before she became a bear. She's still a monster. Waking up in a different century isn't gonna change that."

Which pissed her off. She attacked, hurdling in his direction, and the only thing between him and her was Isaac. Isaac snarled, lunging at her and she shifted direction, mid-pounce and took him down, ripping and clawing, going for his throat, before Derek and Scott came at her from behind.

Then it was free for all, brutal and bloody and Stiles scrambled backwards, leg throbbing where she'd gouged him. Somebody got in a lucky hit, tearing away part of her calf. She screamed, slicing into Derek as she went down. He tumbled into Scott, clutching his throat, blood leaking out between his fingers. Scott got in her path when she came at him again, dragging that shredded leg. She was equal opportunity in her rage and went at him instead, snapping her jaws around his forearm when he put it up to fend her off. The wire around his wrist proved as painful to her as it had to them, more so when Scott ripped his arm free of her hold, and tore the side of her cheek away in the process.

An inadvertent score that Scott staggered back from, looking horrified at. Her scream this time was shrill with a different sort of fury. Desperation. Fear maybe, that she'd underestimated a trio of wolves. She roared again and this time, it came with an elongation of her torn jaw. Teeth growing longer, bone shifting - - shifting everywhere - gaining more mass, dark hair beginning to bristle forth from smooth skin - as her body started going through another transformation. Not half measures this time, but heading towards full-fledged vanago. And if they'd barely been holding their own against her when she was only half the beast, their chances against her when she went full vanago were a lot slimmer.

"Stop her," he screamed. "Don't let her turn."

But they were already on the same page. Derek with half healed gouges in his neck rushing her from the front. Isaac feinting at her from the side, drawing her attention, while Scott hit her back. Latched onto her as her spine was curving, thickening, melting into something bigger and badder. He drew the piece of trailing razor wire across her throat, tearing up his hand as he grasped the loose end, wrapping it around his palm and yanking back. Hanging fast as she spun, trying to dislodge him, trying to tear at the wire cutting into her throat, while Derek sliced into her from the fore.

When she whipped around, half flinging Scott off her back, there was very little human left in her. The way the bones of her arms had shifted, she was no longer agile enough to reach the wire around her throat, but she had the power to hit Derek hard enough to send him flying. To shrug off Isaac as if he were hardly more than an annoyance, and to pick a new target.

With a strangled roar, and a flash of amber eyes, she bore down on him.

 


She shifted under him. No longer brown hair and human skin against his own, but broad muscle and bristly fur. And it wasn't just the physical transformation that shook him to the core. It was this emanation of power that rippled over her skin, crackling and primal and full of rage. That was the essence at the core of her that she pulled from. Her rage, maybe the rage that had fueled the curse that she'd brought upon herself almost a century ago. Blood fueled and blood fed and she'd never be satisfied unless her hands were drenched in it.

And she was heading for Stiles, who was scrambling backwards, feet slipping in the leaves, wide-eyed and horrified at the death that was hurtling towards him. One more death before she got to the rest of them. And Scott didn't know if he could stop her.

He felt a rage of his own surge up, born of desperation and fear. A blind wash of red around the edges of his vision. He pulled back on the wire, until the metal tore through her flesh and his, grating on the bones of his arm, of his hand, tearing through the muscle mass she had formed about neck and throat, until she staggered, veering into a tree, slamming against it in efforts to throw him off. He held on, biting down on the scream that vibrated at the back of his throat at the utterly horrifying sound of metal scraping against bone. The pain was almost inconsequential, the nerves that would have made it worse, probably severed through and through.

Until the wire snapped, tensile strength not up to the pressure he was applying. He tumbled off, skidding in the leaves between her and Stiles. He could hear the rasp of Stiles' breath behind him, the low, gurgling growl emanating from her maw. There was only a trace of the girl in the eyes of the beast before him. A malicious glint in the amber, as the gums pulled back in a blood and froth speckled grin. If she bowled him over she'd be on Stiles before he could stop her and all it would take was a swipe. Barely clipping him with the claws she had now would likely be a fatal blow.

Derek was pushing himself up, shrugging a shoulder back into place that had likely been dislocated. Isaac was on all fours, shaking his head, bloody and stunned, neither of them close enough to make a difference.

She moved, and Scott did, a hot rush of power flooding through him, putting everything he had into the fist he drove against her breast. And through, shattering muscle and sinew and bone, sinking into hot, sickening wetness. It was possible she was as surprised as he was as his fist drove in, her own weight and her own momentum driving it deeper. He felt the thud of life around him, the rush of her blood the flutter of her heart, before it stuttered.

Her jaws closed on his shoulder, the desperate wrench of a pain-wracked beast. She shook him hard enough to make bone snap. And again, before she lost her hold, jaw slackening as she went down, shuddering, to the blood spattered ground.

He sprawled, hands still a bloody mess, shoulder throbbing and useless, the arm attached to it dead at his side. The glow in her eyes dulled, the body shifted, a slow, painful creep back towards something closer to human, but not quite. A grotesque fusion of beast and girl. She stared at him, wide-eyed and shocked, dark blood foaming at her mouth. Still disbelieving.

The hole in her chest was still a gaping, oozing thing, not healing, or if it was, slow to accomplish the task.

"Not - - prey - - after all -- huh, wolf?" she mouthed.

"Not even close," Stiles said, and brought the sharp end of the shovel down upon her throat.

Scott started, sitting there with the cold wash of shock - -the physical sort more than the mental kind - - making him lightheaded and cold. Stiles brought the shovel down again with a sickening crack of iron against bone. And again, until her head was a separate bloody entity from her body.

He stood there for a moment, shovel in hand, eyes shut, breathing harsh and uneven, before he dropped the shovel and staggered a few feet away, fell to his knees and vomited.

 

 

 

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