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Posted:|| October 17, 2020 Views: 25|
Chapter 20 of the book DIFFERENCES (final draft)
"Chapter twenty (final draft)"
As Jake exited the general's hut, he scanned the area around him for any signs of Callore. He watched a group of soldiers play guess the bite and bet on how many they can guess in time. It looked very like the children's game, Guess Who but instead of people its teeth on the flappers. He glanced towards the combat zone and spotted Mr Goat as he terrorised a group of young pups, but Callore seemed to have disappeared. A warrior in a brown uniform with a wolf embossed badge turned the corner and almost collided with him but swerved at the last moment.
"Sorry, Noble wolf." He grinned. "Didn't see you there."
Jake rolled his eyes. I hate this traditional crap. 'They need to respect you before they can call you anything but your given names meaning,' he heard
Callore's voice in his head. 'Then they will use your given title, The Assassin and welcome you into the pack.'
Jake sighed. Yeah, I know. Be patient. Jake looked left and right. Where are you?
In the mess tent.
The soldier cleared his throat, but Jake ignored him. He shrugged and walked off.
Uncouth pup, Jake heard him think, thinks he's better than everyone else. Let them think bad of me if they want. At least, if they're badmouthing me, they're leaving Callore alone.
Jake headed off in the direction of the mess tent. Situated in the centre of the compound. As he got nearer the smell of hot pot hit his nostrils and his stomach grumbled. His mouth watered at the anticipation of food. As he approached, he heard Callore voice, she sounds agitated. He opened the flap and soon discovered why.
A big burly lout shouted in Callore's face. "You think you're too good for us now, untouchable?"
"Leave me alone Boaz," Callore sighed as she pushed him away and sat down at a table.
"You think just because you are his number two and sleeping with the boss's son, you can order me around!"
Callore stood and turned to face the bully. "I am your superior officer, that and that alone gives me the right."
"Yeah," he grabbed her wrist, "Well how about you give me some sugar, sweetheart, or are you just the wannabee's prostitute?"
Jake saw Callore clench her fist and pulled it back. She punched Boaz in his stomach. The half-man doubled over and fell to the floor. The other soldiers roared with laughter.
"Why you little…" Boaz scrambled to his feet and advanced on Callore. She got ready to pounce.
"That's enough," Jake barked as he entered the tent.
Boaz glared at him and opened his mouth, but another soldier called Josiah, put a hand on his shoulder. "Leave it, "he whispered. "This isn't the time or the place." He turned to Jake and clicked he heals. "Sorry, sir, Boaz didn't mean anything by it." He tapped the bully on the head and put his hand up to cover his mouth. "He is a good solider but has nothing up top if you see what I mean." He pushed his friend towards Callore. "Say sorry to the human."
Boaz scowled at Josiah. "Sorry," he snarled.
Josiah took the man by the arm and led him out of the mess. Jake wasn't sure, but he thought he heard Josiah whisper; "We will get our revenge, my friend."
Jake and Callore followed the two hounds out of the tent and walked towards Jake's living quarters.
"So, what did the general want?" Callore asked.
Jake shook his head. "Not here."
They reached his hut, he opened the door and ushered her in.
She sat on the bed nearest the wall. "Well?"
"He wants us to hunt down Hassorev and kill him," Jake whispered.
Callore stopped and turned towards him. "Both of us?"
Jake shrugged and hung his head. "He doesn't trust me on my own. Mr Goat reckons I'm not good enough."
"I don't think it’s anything to laugh about. He doesn't think I'm good enough, the soldiers think I'm a joke and Father thinks I'm still a liability." He flopped down on the bed next to him and pouted.
Callore sighed, stood and sat down beside him. "Did he say that?"
Jake gave a curt shake of the head.
"As for Mr Goat... He thinks everyone is not ready. He said that about me on my first mission."
"Really." She put her hand around his shoulder, and he leaned into her. And as for the other guys in the platoon—" she shrugged— "join the club. The General, he, eh."
Jake lifted his head and looked at her; their eyes locked. "You think he thinks I'm not good enough."
Callore shook her head. "No, my love. I think he realises killing a ghospire is going to be difficult for a first mission."
Jake frowned. "How? All you do is cut off their heads and bury it far away from the body. I have killed 'Pires before you know."
"It's a bit more complicated. If he was a vampire, we could kill him in the day. They are weaker as you know, but he's a 'pire so he will be weaker at night."
"So, what's the problem?"
"When he is weak the vampires will be strong and vice versa. Intelligence informs us, there are a lot more 'Pires joining their full-bred clan into battle.
Since we've been away, quite a few 'Pires have deserted and joined the vampires and werewolves."
Jake's shoulders slumped. "Why?"
"Every community has haters, Jake." Her chin trembled. “There are some in creature world that think the general is asking for trouble with his town and vision. It’s a nice thought, everyone living in harmony but practical, some think not. He’s a big man with an almost impossible plan but if anyone can, the general can. She gave a watery smile. And some are like Hassorev, traitors. They only joined the clan to spy on it and now their job is done, have returned."
Jake turned white and stared at Callore with his eyes open wide. He shook his head. "Why?"
Callore touched the back of his hands with her fingertips. "Who knows, but we don't dwell, we act." She lowered her eyes to the floor. "There are also a little more to it, but we won't go into that now."
Jake eyebrows furrowed but, at the sight of her square jawline, he didn't push.
Jake peered at Callore through the slots in his fingers. "You know I blame myself for Jason's death as well"
"If I hadn't kissed you that night… he wouldn't have seen us… he would have understood… I could have explained it… and I know he would've understood."
Jake slumped over and Callore caught him just in time. "Enough of that," she scolded. "If I… I should have… if only, doesn't help. We can't turn back time, but we can find justice and we will. Now we have a job to do."
Jake stood up straight and nodded. "You are right. We need to stay focused." He forced a smile.
Callore grinned. "Of course, I'm right, I'm always right. That's why you love me so much."
Jake laughed and tapped her on the bottom, but she dodged, and he hit the air. He shook his head, and smirked, the girl is quick.
Callore glanced at her watch, "Okay, let me collect some provisions and other and we can catch a few hours' sleep before we head out. As it doesn't matter when we kill Hassorev, I think we will travel by night and sleep by day. We will meet by the ravine at dusk."
Jake nodded, bent over and kissed Callore on the lips before she exited to give him some well-deserved rest.
* * *
Jake paced up and down the path, where was she? He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around.
"You're late," he growled.
"Sorry, the general wanted to talk to me," she panted.
"Nothing much," she looked away. "On the bright side, I've bought the half-eaten deer and Eva cooked you some beef, so we won't go hungry."
"I thought we would hunt so we didn't have to carry much."
Callore shook her head. "Too risky. The vampires will be asleep in the day, but the 'Pires won't and vice versa."
Jake threw his hands up in the air. "If the vampires are up at night and the 'pires are up to during the day, it's going to be pretty hard to reach Hassorev and kill him undetected."
Callore dropped her gaze. "You have no idea.
Jake's forehead creases. "What do you mean?"
Callore shook herself, looked up and smiled. "We better get on before it gets dark. The good thing about the 'Pires who have joined your grandfather are they're all trainee's. The vampire king won't let them hunt on their own or venture out of the camp."
What secret is she keeping from me now, I wonder?
She picked up the rucksack, slung it over her shoulder, and ran across the river which acted as a border into vampire mountain.
Pebbles protruded through the water and Jake slipped once or twice on them. He steadied himself and crossed the river at a slower pace. He climbed up the bank at the other side and stopped. He tilted his head to one side and smiled at the bird choir's song. His nose twitched at the smell of fresh grass and the flowers in a row on this side of the bank. Jake gazed around the vast forest with a tall mountain covered with snow in the distance. "Wow is this all Grandfathers?"
Callore nodded. "The forest used to belong to the wizards and witches, but the vampires raided their village one night. Killed over three hundred warriors and took the forest for themselves."
Jake shook his head. "Nice guy, my grandfather."
Callore growled. "You don't know the half of it. When he found out about Eva and the general; he put a hit out on her. His daughter. The kindest, generous, good-natured—"
Jake laughed and raised his hands. "Okay, we all know you're Eva's number one fan."
Callore turned a bright red. "I owe her and your Dad a lot. They took me in, even though it might have cost them a civil war. They treated me as kin, even though I was an untouchable. They're the only family I know have ever known, really" She lowered her head.
Jake touched Callore's arm and the young Humpires body shook. "We must get on. It'll be light soon." Callore disappeared into the trees and became a blur.
"Hey, wait up or I'll lose you." Jake stumbled.
He fell forward and closed his eyes. Gentle hands reached out and steadied him.
"You're a real human, you know that?" he heard her tease. "You are a werewolf; you can see in the dark. Just close your eyes, picture me, and start running. Our connection will guide you and your mind. As long as you can see me in that; you will never lose me." She let him go, turned around, and sped off in the direction of the vampire camp.
Jake sighed and started to run.
The pair sprinted in silence for a long time before Callore came to a sudden halt.
Jake almost collided with her but managed to swerve at the last minute. He stumbled over his own feet, fell forward and bumped his head on a tree trunk. "What's up?" he growled as he rubbed his lump.
She put her forefinger up to her lips. "Shh." She crouched down, put her hand on his arm, crawled into a bush and pulled him with her.
Two vampires in white and green tunics with flat caps perched between their pointed ears appeared from behind a clump of trees. "Did you hear that?"
The taller one asked. His long black and red cloak opened to reveal a double gun slinger's embroidered belt and two 45 Magnums.
The other one munched on what looked like a human leg grunted. "You are hearing things, Cirino."
Cirino sniffed the air. "I think I can smell something as well, Dario."
Dario shook his head and wrinkled his nose in disgust. "That is your stench. You smell like rotten humans and what's that you're eating?"
"It's the last of the man we killed last night." He held it out to his friend, "You want some?"
Dario pushed Cirino's hand away. "I tell you what I want. I want to start heading home before it gets light, that's what I want."
"But I heard something! This way."
The two vampires stood inches away from the bush where Jake and Callore hid. Callore reached into her belt and pulled out a sharp, wooden knife in the shape of a stake.
"There is no one there," Dario moaned. "I'm going home. Look." he pointed to the sky. "It is almost light. I don't want to be burnt and blistered!"
The two hidden 'Pires held their breath. Callore held her knife to her chest and crouched; ready to attack.
"Okay, I'm coming," Cirino grumbled.
Jake exhaled as he heard the vampires walk away. Callore climbed out of the bush and brushed herself down. "That was close." She glanced around and spotted a nice tall oak tree. "I think we'll camp here for the night." She bent her knees, and as she jumped, grabbed onto the next branch and swung herself up until she landed on a high branch invisible to the ground. Callore poked her head through the leaves and grinned. "Are you coming up or not?"
Jake threw his head back and laughed. I'll show her, although, that wasn't my finest hour. His face turned crimson. After that complete failure, every spare moment he'd practise his jumps until he could make it to the highest branch in the highest tree in the compound. He gazed up at the tree in front of him and sighed. This tree is far taller than anything I've tried, though. I hope I can make it.
"What's taking you so long?" Callore yelled down to him. "Can't you make it?" She teased.
Jake walked away from the tree. He turned and ran towards it, jumped and landed next to Callore with a bow.
Callore punched his arm. "Show-off," she giggled.
Jake grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him. He lifted her head and kissed Callore on her lips. She pulled away from a little and gazed into his sky-blue eyes. The young Humpire smiled and he bent down to kiss her again, but she pushed him away. "We'd better get some sleep. We've got to reach the camp by tomorrow night."
Jake turned away and sat on the branch with his back towards Callore. "Why?"
Callore sat next to him and took his hand. "I love you, but we haven't told your parents and we need to kill your cousin, and after Jason—" She put her head on his shoulder.
"When we get back to camp, I am going to announce it to the world," Jake growled.
"Are you sure. Some 'Pires and full breeds won't take kindly to this union."
Jake jumped up and pulled Callore to her feet. He pulled her to him and put his lips on hers. He opened her mouth with his tongue and forced it in before she could object. She responded in kind and the two kissed. This kiss wasn't tender, like the first, but hard, passionate, brutal and full of promise.
Eventually, Callore came up for breath and pushed him away. "We need some sleep if we're to get there by nightfall and kill Hassorev."
Jake let her go and stepped back. "Why?"
"Your grandfather sent me a mind message before we got here. It said he's being informed that most of the vampire army is going on a provision hunt in a nearby village and the camp will be deserted except for Hassorev and two 'Pires. If we hit them then, chances are we can get in and out without too much fuss. By the time they find the bodies we'll be home again."
Jake slid down with his back against the trunk and Callore sat in between his legs. She leaned her head back until it rested on his chest. He put his arms around her and closed his eyes. The pair drifted off into a restless sleep with Callore ever alert for danger.
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