Disclaimers: I guess see the first Part. But for a brief summary…blood and sex do lie ahead-and yes, sometimes in that order and at the same time. A few of these chapters are not for the squeamish, but I don't think you've made it this far without being tough.
Grovelling Pit: To Mikee, to Jennis (sorry I never wrote you back last time, I know I'm an ass), to Jain for giving me some landscaping tips and to the countless others who kept loading my inbox…massive love to you all.
Survey Says: As always feel free to bitch-constructively of course. Tell me you loved it, tell me you hated it, tell me you think I'm a sappy sucka'-just tell me something. Catch me if you can at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace and soul grease.
Peace and soul grease.
Clarion awoke next to an empty space, underneath sheets that had long been cold. The inclination to worry never entered her mind as she heard the shuffling of feet around her and assumed that all was well. Well enough, so that she picked up her cell phone, dialing a familiar number, and lost herself in conversation for a good hour.
A good time later, when lunch seemed more important than phone calls, she was startled as Colin burst into the kitchen-hair matted with sweat, heaving with breath. Clarion raised her brow both in amusement and alarm as she watched the big man guzzle a bottle of water. "Where's the fire man?"
He smiled at Clarion as he grabbed two liter bottles of water from the fridge. "Where have you been, sleepy head?"
"On the phone." She tapped the object in question. "What's going on?"
"Doing Roundabouts." He said it as if she understood. Clarion shrugged. "C'mon. Grab some water and come outside with me." Fearful that he would drag her to her feet, she rose on her own and followed the nearly giddy man outside.
The early afternoon sun beat down hard on the clearing and it was apparent both why Colin was sweating like a dog and what Roundabouts were. Without looking, Clarion found her way to a fallen log to sit down and watch. The basic principle of Roundabout boiled down to one Hunter in the middle, while the other Hunters circled-all the while they attempted to beat the stuffing out of the one in the center. The present game centered on Yoshi had been going on for quite some time.
"How long has she been in there?" Green eyes could not stray from the sight of the dark woman prodding her brethren with a cock-sure smirk. She winced only out of instinct, as she watched Yoshi bend back Joaquim's arm and toss him off to the side.
At first it was if Clarion hadn't heard Colin, but his words finally registered, as she whipped her head around in his direction. "What!" She turned wide green eyes back to the woman who looked like she was merely holding a demonstration. "Is she even sweating?"
Colin chuckled, but never got a chance to answer as Hamish called out. "Switch out!" At that Colin took Joaquim's place on the outside of the circle. The Spaniard rotated his shoulders as he walked to where Clarion sat and plopped down beside her. "Enjoying the show?" Defined cheek bones raised as he smiled at the small woman.
She took in the warm smile of the man at her side and nodded. "If this is what you guys do when you get together, I can see why you stay apart."
He laughed in between sips of water. "What can I say, we like to play." He spoke with a soft tone accompanied by a rich accent.
Clarion visibly flinched as the sound of metal clashing together boomed though the clearing. She opened her eyes fully to the sight of Hamish swinging his axe towards Yoshi. Once again the sharp clang of steel meeting steel assaulted her ears as Yoshi met Hamish's downswing with a broadsword. She held nothing back as she pushed up with a fierce determination in her gut. Hamish opened his stance as he was forced back and left himself open. He did not even wince as she dropped her shoulder and rammed it into his sternum nor did he let out a grunt as she rose up quickly, driving her head into his chin. The mammoth man did not fall down, but he staggered back. Yoshi did what most people would never do sane or otherwise, turning her back on the Scots man and tending to the eyes and advances of the eight others around her.
Clarion shook her head as she watched the woman taunt her attackers. "She's so mean to you guys isn't she?"
Joaquim laughed. "She's good, that's all."
"So what. I bet she's been hogging all the time."
The sound of laughter came from the right. "Well if you can get her out of there, I'd appreciate it." Clarion turned her head towards a pouting Makeet.
"Don't be sore hermano, let her have her fun."
"Fun." He rolled his eyes. "I'm aging over here."
All three laughed. Clarion eyed the woman in the middle and then turned towards the two men at her side. "I can get her out." At that Clarion stood up.
Joaquim hopped to his feet. "I can't let you go in there."
She touched his shoulder and grinned. "I don't have a death wish Joaquim, but I do need to be standing for this."
A dark eyebrow raised in skepticism. "Am I going to get my ass kicked for this?" He could read the mischievousness in her eyes as clear as he could tell time by the sun.
The redhead licked her lips and winked. "She'll be too busy being worried about my ass to even notice." As the words fell from her lips she whistled high and long, gaining everyone's attention, especially Yoshi's. The moment blue eyes met green Clarion tangled small fingers in the hem of her t-shirt and pulled up. The exposure probably didn't last more than a good second, but it was a second too long as every eye took in the sight of Clarion's breasts: alabaster globes colored pink around the nipple. The unexpected revealing was more than enough to catch Yoshi off guard.
When the first punch met Yoshi's jaw, Clarion let her shirt down and managed to watch with one eye open as the octet collapsed on the dark woman, shoving and kicking and punching until they had tossed her from the circle. She was still clearly in shock and perhaps even awe, as she sat on her butt, jaw agape, and confusion in her eyes. The eight let out a holler of triumph and then as if it was planned, Hamish went about his business as he bellowed, "Switch out!"
Joaquim patted Clarion on the shoulder as he began to walk away. "That was cruel you know." He could not hide the smirk.
Clarion shrugged. "But it was worth it right?" Joaquim moistened his lips before speaking, prepared to make a lascivious comment, only to be stopped by the presence of a scowling Yoshi at his back. The Spaniard swallowed the lump in his throat and bowed his head towards Clarion. "Perhaps I'll answer that some other time, querida."
Yoshi eyed Joaquim as he moved to another part of the field. Quickly, she turned her eyes towards the grinning Clarion. "Why?"
Clarion didn't mean to laugh, but Yoshi sounded so sad, she couldn't help it. Her laughter grew, as Yoshi furrowed her brow in a child-like manner and began to pout slightly. "You gotta stop doing that or I'll be here laughing all day. You're just too cute." Yoshi looked confused. Clarion just shook her head as she grabbed Yoshi's hand and led her to the tree stump to sit. "Stop pouting will ya' or I'll be forced to really embarrass you."
Yoshi sat up a little straighter as her eyebrow arched and the pout disappeared. "What makes you think I was embarrassed?" Challenge was in her voice.
Clarion drew her tongue across her teeth. "So maybe I think I'd like to let them watch." Her tone was as serious as the look on her face.
Yoshi abandoned the game and look startled. "Are you for real?"
Clarion burst into laughter, ending in soft chuckles as she kissed Yoshi on the lips. "You're a sure-fire idiot, yeah ya' right." Clarion chuckled. "Get your mind out of the gutter please."
Yoshi began to sulk a bit, but soon found herself laughing along with Clarion. "I guess I was showing off, huh?"
"Other people want to play too Yoshi."
She smiled. "True enough, but really, I'm good because they're all afraid of me. Now, Makeet, he's good." She pointed a finger towards the man now in the middle of the ring.
Clarion watched Makeet for a moment and then turned to Yoshi. "Where are his weapons?"
Yoshi grinned like she had a secret. "Watch him."
Clarion matched the dark woman's grin and then turned her eyes toward the men in front of her. She was mesmerized by what she saw. For a brief moment Makeet fought with only his hands and then just as quickly he used his feet. He moved in and out of fighting styles as if he were a puppet on a string. He did not bother to disarm the other Hunters, but instead turned their weapons against them: grabbing Hugh's staff and slamming it back against him; halting Tristan's blades between his closed palms and kicking him in the gut; reliving Zibu of his chobos and handling them like mere drumsticks. It was Tristan who found himself being switched out as he gladly took a seat next to Yoshi and Clarion.
"These kids are trying to kill me." He fanned himself and then guzzled water from a bottle.
Yoshi laughed. "How do you think I felt about you?"
Tristan scoffed and rolled hazel eyes. "Whatever chick, we weren't nearly as bad a these guys."
Clarion smiled as she watched the two friends interact. "What's the division with you all?"
Hazel eyes regarded Clarion. "Me and her or the whole lot?"
"All of you?"
"This one, Colin and Hamish are the old farts." Yoshi rolled her eyes and Tristan ignored her. "I'm the middle kid, well what's left of the middle kids anyway." He ran a slender hand through his hair. "I guess Joaquim comes next. He kind of ushers in the 'babies' of the bunch. After that, you've got Chalvi, Hugh, and Makeet. Zibu and O'hai are the last."
Clarion nodded. "I gathered that from last night. Are Zibu and O'hai even a hundred?"
"Under a decade." Yoshi answered as she cast her gaze upon the circle and then back. "Zibu is a few years older than O'hai."
"That makes them the weakest of the bunch."
"Well sure. A few well-placed wounds and they will bleed out. Why do you ask?" Tristan put down his bottle and Yoshi looked to Clarion awaiting her answer.
" I wish I had some plan to formulate, but really I was just curious." Clarion was silent for a moment as she stared off into space. "So, it's true there is no permanent death for you either."
Tristan chuckled and then swatted Yoshi on the shoulder. "Didn't you tell this girl anything?"
Yoshi redden a bit. "We were usually otherwise occupied."
Tristan winked. "Yeah, I bet." They all laughed. "I don't know what tall, dark, and silent told you, but we can die Clarion. I mean it's not as dramatic as losing one's head or being stabbed through the heart, but it happens. To be honest, it boils down to how weak you are." He pointed his finger towards Colin. "Colin for instance, could get shot with a double barreled shotgun in the head and get up and walk away. Yoshi here could probably take a cannonball to the chest at close range and not flinch. It's all about time and experience." Clarion took in the new information given to her and tucked it away as she focused her attention on the show of skill before her.
The clock indicated that it was twenty after one, as the ten Hunters and one Vampire sat down in the large living room. Hamish crushed the plastic bottle that once housed his water and laid it to the side before he spoke.
"All right, we got some stuff to discuss." The customary head nods passed through the room. "I think it's quite clear we're out of time and hopefully Clarion here is going to shed some light on who it is we are looking for. We all know what's at stake here Boyles," he paused to clear his throat, "I want us all to make it through this one." A round of 'ayes' and head nods moved through the room. "All right, Red, what ya' got for us?" He turned his eyes towards Clarion.
"What I have it not necessarily much, but I think we can make something of it." She ran a hand through her hair and tried to make eye contact with everyone around her. "For those who may not know, we've come to the conclusion that Stolov's trying to create a new race. Essentially, he wants to breed everybody out, starting with him as ground zero. It seems he has gone beyond ideas of simply becoming a Master and has decided to make a race of Masters." Audible sighs and groans moved through the room. "Obviously none of us are looking forward to that. As far as I can tell he's found himself a woman to bear his child. Untouched by Stolov this is a pretty special kid, but with Stolov's help this child will be the end of us all. For all intents and purposes the child will be a Master at birth."
"Centuries of power without the wait, eh." Makeet voiced his thoughts with a sigh.
Clarion nodded. "I've narrowed it to down to seven women, all of whom will be ready to give birth before the week is out."
"So the kid's not all ready born?" asked Tristan.
"The odds of that are slim to none." Colin answered.
"Not that it couldn't happen," Clarion added, "but the blood of the mother is crucial at this point. It not only feeds Stolov but it's going to feed the child. The blood is the ticket to immortality."
"Where are we at finding her?" Hamish looked to Clarion as he spoke.
The redhead ran a hand through her hair. "Well on paper you're looking at seven different locations."
Grunts arose in the room as Hamish spoke again. "A trap no doubt."
"More than likely, but we can use it to our advantage." All eyes focused on Yoshi as she spoke. "I think he has her all ready or she's within his reach. He's interested in seeing how desperate we are, he wants to know if we'll separate and seek her out."
Clarion turned to Yoshi and furrowed her brow. "You knew that and you let me go?"
Yoshi nodded and held up her hand hoping that would began to quell Clarion's annoyance. "If you didn't go you'd tip our hand. I've been given the distinct impression that this has all been in the works for quite some time. So long in fact, that we basically have no defense. I intend to prove Stolov correct." Yoshi paused and swept her eyes over those assembled.
"Well Yoshi, it's not as if we can let him go through with it?" Zibu voiced the concern of those around him.
Dark hair swung as she shook her head and then a faint grin touched her lips. "It won't happen, but while he thinks we're out hunting for his girl we'll be destroying his crops."
"I don't follow." Zibu spoke again and those around nodded their heads in agreement.
"You've all said your towns are empty. The lieutenants have left and all the scum are left behind." Nods moved through the room "They're all there, but once again they're being quiet." Blue eyes cut to Hamish and Colin as she spoke. "Some of you are too young to know, but once before, they were all quiet." Colin and Hamish nodded their heads in understanding and Clarion looked to Yoshi, as she too understood what was being formulated.
"We can't take them all on by ourselves Yoshi. Some of those towns are too large." Colin said.
"Which is precisely why we are simply going to lock them in their rooms so to speak."
Small chuckles wafted through the room. "So fine we salt the earth, pack it with rotting flesh, erect some fences and bless the water. Eventually, they'll get out, so what's your point?"
"Makeet, that's going to take time and before they crawl out of their holes Stolov will be dead and there will be no one to follow."
"How can you be sure?"
She shrugged. "I'll admit I'm not completely sure, but they've been following this man for centuries, hell I've been following him for centuries and I've learned the same thing they know. And it's what we've known all along…you cut out the heart and the rest will wither and die." Blue eyes moved over those around her and she watched as understanding seeped through the gathering. "He is the heart and soul of a nation that we have never understood." She glanced to her side where Clarion sat and then back at her brethren.
"What is it that you're saying Yoshi?" Joaquim raised his brow high as he regarded the dark woman.
She sighed. "I'm not really sure what I'm saying. Trust me, I'm making all this up as I go along. But what I do know, what I do sense, it's that there is a change to come. I have no idea what the future holds, but I know in this present we are dying if we are not all ready dead." Blue eyes looked to Clarion for support and understanding that she immediately found. "I have no idea how this will all end, but I am sure that our preservation lies in what occurs in the coming days. It may be very well that are breed is done-
Hugh interrupted her with the clearing of his throat. "I think you resign us to death too easily Yoshi."
She held up her hand at the small man. "I'm not resigning us to death Hugh. I acknowledge that there is the possibility of death, but out of that there is the promise of rebirth. Now I don't know about you all, but in nearly a millennia of life I have surely lost myself and my purpose. It has been too long since I have had the will to live." She paused and took hold of Clarion's hand that lay on the seat between them. "This is our beginning, not our ending."
The room grew quiet as they all took in Yoshi's words and ideas. It was a silence that was as peaceful as it was charged with energy. The calm was broken when Zibu stood and focused his attention on both Yoshi and Clarion. He bowed his head before he spoke and then met Yoshi's gaze.
"I make my apologies to you Yoshima, and to you Clarion." He bowed his head at Clarion and then looked back to Yoshi. "I won't pretend to know where your strength comes from but it is something that I know we all aspire to. Perhaps this is the end of our chapter, but I will gladly follow you into the arms of death if it means our children will grow stronger."
Yoshi did not fight the smile of pride that came to her lips as she stood. She clasped Zibu's forearm and held fast. She had no words to voice the happiness that his words gave her and she could only nod at him and continue to smile. Zibu bowed under the weight of her obvious pride and felt it best to not speak. She let go of his arm and moved to take her seat again. She stopped as she gazed around her. The room was thick with emotion and normally she would have turned away from it, but instead she embraced the moment. "Thank you." Her words were soft. "I don't know why you all choose to follow…but thank you." Yoshi met Clarion's soft green eyes and found strength there. They stayed quiet for a moment as the intensity of the scene settled.
It was Colin's voice that made its presence know first. "Ahem. Well while I don't know whether I want to laugh or cry, I suggest we all have a beer and then sit down and figure out how we're all getting out of this alive." He grinned wildly as he spoke.
His words clearly shattered the moment and Clarion could only shake her head as she threw a throw pillow in his direction. Colin looked shocked as if he hadn't said a word.
Yoshi paced the floor of the bedroom in nothing but her underwear as she repeated the words in her head. "Sullit, sullit. Kynera fore sholt." The pillows began to move on the bed and then tumble to the floor as Clarion began to awaken. Disheveled red hair poked up through the mound of covers as still sleepy green eyes observed the Hunter pacing the floor.
"It's, "sullit, sullit, kynera, fore-a, sholt." She spoke through a yawn. Yoshi sighed and gracelessly fell onto the bed.
"Why is this so hard?" She growled and Clarion stifled a giggle.
"Because, Samurai you don't know the language and you don't know what you're saying."
Yoshi furrowed her brow as she turned on the bed and faced the impish woman ensconced between pillows and sheets. "Why don't you tell me what I'm saying and teach me the language." She focused her blue gaze on the smirking Clarion.
Clarion sucked her teeth and shrugged. "It'll cost you."
An eyebrow arched at the challenge. "What are you offering?"
"My unwavering gratitude and devotion."
Yoshi pursed her lips as she feigned contemplation. "Got anything better than that?" She kept a straight face as she spoke.
Clarion fought the urge to roll her eyes. "Fine then, my unconditional love…but that's all I'm offering."
Dark hair moved about Yoshi's shoulders as she bobbed her head. "I guess that's okay, nothing else though?"
Clarion pressed her palm to the Hunter's head and pushed. "Nothing else? I oughta give you a fat lip, pahtna'." She shook a playful fist in the air. Clarion rolled her eyes as she sprang from the bed, being sure to toss the sheets onto to Yoshi's giggling frame.
Yoshi cleared the sheets from her body as she sat up and admired the petite woman who was stepping into a pair of sweatpants. "Just jokes, Clarion, no need for clothes."
Clarion emitted a low chuckle as she watched the dark woman pout. "Not this time Samurai, besides I got some reading to do and some studying." She groaned and ruffled her hair as she searched for a shirt. She kicked through the strewn clothes about the floor not finding what she needed. A white spot in the corner of her eye prompted her to turn towards the bed, where Yoshi sat, legs askew twirling her t-shirt in the air. Clarion grinned at the woman and wiggled her fingers. "Give it up."
Yoshi shook her head. "Come get it." She batted her eyes and winked at the smaller woman.
Clarion felt her insides turn to mush. "Any other day , any other second, and you would calling me God right now." She laughed as Yoshi raised her eyebrows up and down. "But, we've got work to do and you know it, so give it up." She held out her hand and waited. If possible, Yoshi's pout got more pronounced, as she stuck her lower lip out as she held onto the t-shirt. A minute passed and neither woman seemed to be moving. Clarion shrugged her shoulders. "Okay hot shot, I'll just work topless." Clarion turned her back to the woman and moved towards the door.
With speed akin to a tornado, Yoshi moved from the bed and stood between Clarion and the door, with the t-shirt clamped between her teeth. Clarion could not fight the laugh that rumbled in her throat, as she took in the taller woman with the puppy-dog eyes. "If you behave," she paused as she pried the shirt from Yoshi's mouth, "maybe I'll work fast." She planted a warm and wet kiss on the Hunter's lips and then proceeded to put on her shirt, as Yoshi stood dazed. "Just think, the quicker we get everything in order, the sooner we can pull this off, and then we can just… disappear." Small hands spread wide and Clarion smiled.
"You want to get lost with me, huh?" Yoshi tousled her hair and regarded the sincere smile Clarion wore.
Her smile grew larger. "Definitely."
"I can completely arrange that."
The smaller woman laughed and kissed Yoshi on the cheek. "I'm thinking at least 50 years."
Yoshi winked and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "You're on pahtna'."
Clarion laughed out loud. "Yeah ya right!" She kissed the grinning Hunter once more and then disappeared down the hallway.
The loss of Lucien seemed to present no problems for Stolov as shadowy figures still managed to find their ways to the airports and docks to watch the Hunters, as they appeared to disperse in search of the girl. The first day of Mardi Gras was three days away as the seven Hunters caught their flights or met their ships. It would take an entire day at the most, but eventually the message would be relayed to Stolov and would indeed appear that the Hunters were desperate and scrambling. What would appear desperate to Stolov was in reality calculated and well thought out. While in Ireland, Joaquim would be packing burlap sacks with the hallowed earth from St. Patrick's. Zibu would do the same in Sao Paola, and O'hai would repeat the process in Jerusalem. Tristan and Hugh would gather water from the Vatican and the Aborigines. Makeet would gather coal in Soweto and Chalvi would return to Athens and ask for a blessing.
One by one, each would return to the spacious cavern in New Orleans a day before Mardi Gras, full of confidence and hope for a promising end to all of this. If everything else failed from here on out, in less than a week's time, the Hunters would not be the only one's left with nothing. All though Yoshi's plan would leave Stolov and his followers without homes and even without sanctuary, the dark Hunter was merciful in that she was leaving them with the ability to take their own lives-which was far less than her kind had received so many centuries ago.
To Be Continued……
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