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Vendetta

by P L Nunn

 

Chapter 7

 

 

She listened to the Man at work. Listened to the screams of the wolf. Smelled the scent of his blood, the scent of his pain. But it was the scent of the Man's zeal for his work that sent her over the edge into a fervor of her own making. That triggered memories of her own dim past - - before this shape she wore had consumed everything. There had been a man - - a lover - - a predator in human form - - who had shared her predilections. Who she had followed through lands ravaged by war and rebellion. Finding like souls in desperate, displaced men. Men who took out their anger and desolation on any hapless enough to cross their paths. And her hands - - her human hands - - had been drenched in blood and she had reveled in it. Just like the Man.

She paced the length of the cage the Man contained her in and stared with animal eyes at the red coating his hands. A man very much like the one she had attached herself to in another life. If she had not been his victim, she might have attached herself to him in the same manner. But she had never appreciated the bite of pain as much as she enjoyed the giving of it and she had always been a creature with a taste for vengeance. And the need for it was building, a raging beat of need inside her that grew as the awareness of that other self did.

She heard the howl before the wolf did, consumed by his pain as he was. The distant call of predators searching for their own. Her blood surged, and she raised her own voice. The wolf joined in, answering in response before the Man could silence him. They would have heard and wolves always came to the aid of their own.

The Man knew, as well. He cursed, grabbing from his sibling bitch the black stick that drove bright sparks of electricity into the body and striking the wolf that was already convulsing from the collar's poison. Again and again until the wolf hung limp in his bonds and the man's wrath was sated. The sibling bitch was already calling for their men and the scent of tension in the air made her vibrate with coiled excitement/rage/hunger. She was done waiting.

The collar had bled itself dry. The cage door stood between her and the carnage she craved and the poison had always been more of a deterrent to her than the sizzling sting of voltage. She wasn't a thin skinned wolf, after all.

With a roar that shook the rotting boards of the rafters, she surged against the bars. The current that laced through her only fed the building glee as they gave under her strength.

The Man and his sibling bitch stared at her in shock, before they both fumbled for holstered guns.

She growled, low in her throat, welcoming their attempts - - and then she went on the hunt.


 

The screams and the deafening boom of gunfire roused Scott from the stupor that multiple electric shocks had plunged him into. His muscles still seized from it, new blood running down his arms from where the full weight of his body had dug the metal edges of the cuffs into his wrists. He got his feet under him with an effort, flinching at the explosive burst of gunfire that came from just behind him. It took a moment before his vision cleared enough to see the slope shouldered bulk of the vanago raise blood drenched jaws, fresh from ripping the face off the twitching body beneath it. For a split second, its small amber eyes locked on his, its gums drawing back to reveal red stained fangs in a feral grin, then it turned its attention to the next closest man with a gun.

Bullets hit it; he heard the muffled thud of impact of bullet to flesh. A great number of bullets. There were men in the barn that hadn't been there before he'd been shocked into oblivion. Dupont's minions who scrambled for cover, leveling weapons at the vanago, spraying the old barn with bullets that ripped into ancient wood and moldy hay as much as they did the beast they were aimed at. Dupont himself was close behind him, firing rounds himself between screaming orders at his men.

The Vanago launched itself at a man, the leap taking it halfway across the barn. Claws longer by far than his, slashed into the body, diagonally from shoulder to hip, opening up a torso like a butcher splitting a newly killed hog. The body hadn't hit the floor before the thing was bounding towards the next. And that man got out a burst of gunfire and a scream, before his throat and half his lower jaw were ripped away. Blood spattered the weathered gray of the plank wall behind him.

Blood everywhere. A chaos of screaming men, and discharging weapons, the smell of gunfire as acrid as the smell of blood. One of the lanterns went out in the spree, plunging half the barn into a morass of shadow in which the sound of claws ripping flesh, and the screams of a man came like echoes from a nightmare.

He stood on his toes, trying to get a grip on the chain that was clipped to a ring on the bar that linked the cuffs. He wasn't sure the rigid manacles would allow him the dexterity to unclip it, even if he gave himself a little slack.

The he froze, fingers of one hand hooked in the links of the chain, picking up a scent through the myriad array of other unsavory scents, that was as familiar as his own.

 


 

Every instinct Stiles had said run. Run like hell. As far and as fast as he could if the vanago was alive and kicking. Only problem was, if Scott was in that barn too, he couldn't desert him. And Allison wasn't hesitating. Allison was scurrying through the knee-high grass, low to the ground, towards the back of the huge barn. She stopped once, grabbing his arm and yanking him down as the gunfire started in earnest and men ran from the house towards the source of it.

And God, there were screams coming from inside the barn. And the snarling roars of a beast on the rampage. Allison rose and started moving again, while Stiles stomach was trying to wedge itself up into his throat. He pushed himself up and followed, a dozen terrible scenarios, all of them ending up with him dead in some horrible, gruesome way running the gambit of his imagination.

There was a small door at the rear of the barn, but it was latched from the inside. Allison went old school badass and kicked it open, wooden latch that was probably dry rotted anyway giving way under her boot. He could have done it, he was sure, if he hadn't been so distracted by all the noise of violence that they were diving right into like a pair of idiots with death wishes.

There was the huge bulk of a rusted out tractor just inside the door. A lot of accumulated junk as well, that sheltered them from the chaos just beyond.

He heard a bloodcurdling scream - - the sort of scream that hinted that somebody was maybe having their eyeballs pulled out or a hundred nails driven into their skull sort of scream - - and he poked his head above the shoulder high back tire to get a look.

Allison pulled him down by the sleeve, as a spray of gunfire ricocheted off the tractor. Not aiming for them - - just random, desperate fire at the thing he'd caught a glimpse of mauling what looked, at quick glance like a bloody sack of meat in human clothing, but he was pretty sure had been a man.

"Say down," she hissed at him.

That wasn't all he'd seen.

"Scott," he whispered. "Scott's out there."

Her mouth tightened, and she ventured a quick look herself. She dropped back down, back to the tractor wheel, clutching the crossbow to her chest.

"We have to get him," she said, then grabbed his collar and drew him in, staring at him with eyes that held as much desperation as intent. "If I cover you, can you get to him?"

He drew in a gulp of air to fight off the panic that wanted to steal it. "I can if nobody shoots me or rips my face off."

"Okay. Do it," she said as if that supposition on his part hadn't been chock full of gallows sarcasm. "Now," she scrambled up the side of the tractor, for vantage, crossbow at ready.

Fuck. Just fuck. If he thought about it, he'd falter. So he didn't think about it and just darted out from behind the tractor and ran, low to the ground, skirting one terrible, mutilated body leaking blood onto the ground, towards Scott.

Scott who was shirtless and bloody, arms drawn up and attached to a chain hooked to a crossbeam over his head. And he swung around before Stiles got to him, wide-eyed with surprise.

"Hey," Stiles skidded to a stop against him, rocking him half off his balance. "So, how's your day been going?"

"How - -?" Scott obviously wasn't feeling the desperately nervous need to babble. Scott just looked distressed and shell-shocked.

Stiles couldn't help it. "Mine's been stellar so far. Best ever - -" he saw the clip that attached the chain to the cuffs and reached up to unfasten it.

"Watch out - -" Scott cried, and Stiles whirled, staring down the muzzle of the gun Jan Dupont aimed at him. How close she was to pulling the trigger he didn't know, because the crossbow bolt that took her straight in the shoulder made it a moot point. She screamed in outrage, staggering backwards, but she still had the gun and brought it up, firing towards the tractor where Allison perched.

He saw the tail end of Allison's coat as she dove for cover. Scott made a miserable sound, half growl, half moan and yanked at the chain hard enough to make the beam groan and dust sift down from above.

More movement behind Scott, a man, bloody and torn, tossing down a spent gun and running for his life towards the door. And from the shadows at the far side of the barn, the monster lifted its head, shaking blood from its maw and bounded after him. And that thing loping outside after some sorry son of a bitch that maybe deserved what he got, and maybe didn't, was nothing but good luck for them.

Jan Dupont fired into the shadow drenched junk Allison had disappeared into, and again before a bolt appeared in her hip and she went down, loosing her grip on the gun and curling blood stained hands around the black shaft. Where Allison had fired from he didn't know and didn't have the time to suss out. He spared Jan a half second look to make sure she wasn't going for the gun, before reaching back up and desperately working at the chain. Scott was shaking. He could feel it when he leaned against him. Not the nervous trembling that had Stiles' fingers fumbling for purchase, but these uncontrollable spasms that kept wracking his body. Shock maybe. Or the residue of something worse.

The clip came loose and with it Scott's unexpected weight. Stiles almost buckled under him, hands scrabbling for purchase to keep Scott on his feet. Scott's skin was damp with blood and sweat, but Stiles hadn't the time to see if there were any unhealed wounds. He just got an arm around him while Scott was still adjusting to being down, and tried to get them both moving towards the cover of the old tractor and the back way out.

"Allison - -?" Scott gasped, staring into the shadows.

Allison, Stiles figured, could damn well take care of herself. He wasn't particularly worried about her at the moment. He was worried about getting out the middle of this damned blood drenched barn.

Then Scott screamed. This garbled, choked shriek of agony, manacled hands clutching at the dull grey band at this throat, and went down so hard that Stiles couldn't keep him up. He went down with him, one knee hitting the dirt.

"What? What the fuck?" he cried as Scott writhed.

The he caught movement from behind him and spun. Julian Dupont staggered towards them, blood dribbling down the side of his head, a ragged flap of flesh dangling loose from his temple, straw clinging to blood soaked clothing, as if he'd been rolling in it.

"Do you think you little bastards will get the best of me? Again?" he hissed. He had a small remote in hand, that he was stabbing with his thumb. Scott's screams had turned into a choking, blood filled gurgle, he was arching off the ground, tearing gouges down his own neck in this blind desperation to get at the collar around his neck. The collar. The little remote. Stiles made the connection.

"I'll finish this hunt if it's the last - -" was about as far as Dupont got before Stiles lunged at him, hitting him shoulder to gut, bowling him backwards. Dupont was bigger than him, probably knew a lot more about dirty fighting, but he was injured and Stiles was experiencing a singular bout of rage that made him see red. The fist Dupont drove into his side seemed almost inconsequential. He'd feel it later, he was sure. But right now, the adrenalin was rushing and the only thing he could focus on was getting that remote out of the bastard's bloody hand. He got both hands around the wrist with the remote and slammed it against the floor and it tumbled from Dupont's fingers. His single-minded focus on relieving him of the remote did not a good defense make.

This time Stiles felt the fist that drove up and impacted around the area of his sternum. Really felt it. It drove the air right out of him and he tumbled backwards, gasping. Dupont came after him, drawing a knife from a sheath at his belt, death in his eyes.

He scrambled, backwards, feet sliding in old straw on the dirt, so focused on Dupont and the knife that the massive black shape of the Vanago escaped his attention entirely. Granted, it came in fast and Dupont was lunging towards him with the business end of a knife, so distraction was understandable. Between one second and the next the beast pounced, latching hold of Dupont's shoulder in its jaws and flinging him like a terrier flinging a rat. Then it was on him, pinning him under its weight roaring loud enough to shake the rafters.

There was the front end of an enraged, indignant answering cry from Dupont, before it turned into a bloody gurgle and the sickening rip of flesh. Stiles sat there, staring in horror as the thing ripped apart a human body, claws and jaws mangling the soft flesh of the torso with rabid ferocity.

Gore flew, spattering the surrounding ground, and maybe he made a sound of horror/fear/repulsion because it stopped, lifting its bloody maw and turned its gaze towards him.

 


She took the Man. And his blood in her mouth was bitter ecstasy. The hot stench of his guts as she ripped out his belly drove her wild with the want of more. And there was more. The prey that had put a bullet in her eye, staring with wide, terror filled eyes at her as she lifted her maw, a string of dripping intestines drooping from her jaws. She might have enjoyed hunting him down, but now was as good a time as any to take another chunk of bloody vengeance. She shook the gore free of her teeth and lunged towards him.

He made a frantic sound, scrambling to his feet, trying to dart away like a rabbit trying to evade a clever fox. A bolt lodged in her shoulder. Another in her chest. Another razing her jaw to the bone, all of them fired from one last soft skinned female human prey who perched atop a stack of molding bales of hay. Insignificant in the face of her bloodlust and she would take that last one when she tasted the life's blood of the one in her sights. He had scored a telling blow against her and she had spent time contemplating the rending of his flesh.

She hit him. Not a killing blow, but a bit of malicious play before she split him neck to groin and ripped out his organs. The impact flung him against the rusting bulk of a tractor and he crumpled like puppet with its strings cut. She stalked towards him, the fresh scent of his blood making her growl, low in her throat.

An impact hit her from the side, and the wolf was on her, tearing at her throat, raking her flesh through her fur even hobbled as he was. He drove one of the bolts deeper into her chest and it hurt, the tip of it hitting something vital inside her.

With a roar she shook him off. He rolled with it, coming up in a crouch, eyes full of red fire, roaring a challenge that made her blood rush. She met it with a roar of her own, then feinted in the other direction heading towards the prey she knew he would put himself at risk for. He had done it before. Young, male and wolf all made him easy to predict when it came down to protecting pack.

He came at her again, putting himself in the path of her charge, which was where she wanted him. His strength against hers was a loosing battle. He went down under her weight, weakened enough from the Man's work and the copious amounts of his blood staining the floor that he was half the predator he had been when she had chased him and his prey down in the woods. He snarled at her, though, baring teeth, raking at her as best he could with still bound hands. She could have eviscerated him. Torn out his throat and severed his spine with one wrenching tear of her own teeth, twice as long and twice as many as his.

She plowed through his defenses and lunged down, teeth to his throat. But when she clamped her jaw to his vulnerable neck above the hateful collar, she didn't exert the pressure she might have. She simply crouched there, the heat of his skin under her jaws, the thrumming beat of his frantic pulse against her tongue as he froze, realizing he was one wrench away from her ending him. Not whimpering submission, but the wary acceptance that it was death pressing him into the earth.

A bolt hit her in the side of the neck, another bounced off the thick bone above her eye, the female with the bow, off her perch and on the ground moving toward her as she fired.

She snarled in pain, considered driving her claws through the wolf's chest, putting him down long enough for her to finish off the rest of the irksome human prey before he had the chance to heal.

The pain and the bloodlust clouded her senses enough that she didn't smell the other wolves until they were upon her. One bowled into her, fast and strong, larger and older than her wolf. Claws dug into her face, as he tore at her throat with his teeth. The hateful collar served to benefit her for once, protecting her from the brunt of his ferocious attack. The other new one, darted in, snarling and swiping at her legs like his four-legged progenitor, darting back when she whirled, dislodging the older wolf. Then she had a pack of them facing her, her own wolf included, and the female prey aiming at her with her wretched bow.

The beast would have faced them down, driven by rage and pain, regardless that she was injured now and two of the wolves facing her were fresh. The old/new part of her that was wily and clever, knew disadvantage when she saw it. Knew very well from that cloudy past experience that refusal to run for pride's sake was a man's prerogative.

So she ran - - because retreat was the only option if she wished to lick her wounds and come back to strike another day.

 

 

 

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