The campfire roared, chasing away the overpowering winter cold. Sarah lay in front of it, letting it warm her belly. The rest of their group was gathered around as well, and the smell of stew filled the air, making Sarah’s mouth water. In the distance, just at the edge of the firelight, Porter was busy practicing with Flicker. The sword danced in a hypnotic pattern, reflecting the firelight with every swing. Then, when Porter reached the end of his routine, he summoned the rest of his Kalion armor and began again. Droma was busy stirring the stew, but he still called tips to Porter whenever he thought he needed them.
“You are stronger when you have the armor on,” the giant said, pausing to taste the stew. “Your movements need to compensate for that.”
Sarah’s stomach growled, but Droma shook his head when she looked at him. With a sigh, she glanced around the fire. Ozzie sat on the opposite side, almost as far away from the flames as Porter was. The young man sat with his legs crossed, gripping a length of rope with both hands. The other end was tied around the neck of a wolf.
Sarah got up and made her way over to them.
“How’s she doing?” she asked.
“She’s stopped fighting me,” Ozzie answered with a sigh, behaving nothing like the manic boy he’d been only days before. “But she still won’t talk to me.”
Ever since they had kidnapped her from her adopted father, Drake Mortoph, Misty had behaved as if they’d all stabbed her in the back. Her twin brother, Ozzie, got the brunt of her aggression as she tried to attack him over and over again until he had been forced to tie her mouth shut. When that had proved fruitless, she’d tried to run, and he’d had to put a leash on her.
“I’ll try to talk to her,” Sarah offered.
Before they’d found out the truth, Sarah had known Misty as Misoki, the name Mortoph had given her when he’d adopted her. When the Slayers attacked Jellaska Kob Lertan, Misty had revealed that she had been working with them all along, leading them straight to the Sanctuary. As much as the betrayal hurt, Sarah found that she couldn’t make herself hold a grudge against the werewolf, not after everything she’d been through.
In the end, she was just a kid trying desperately to make her daddy happy.
“Hey, Misty,” Sarah said softly, laying down next to her. Misty couldn’t reply, since her mouth was tied shut, but she managed to send an angry glare at her. “I guess you’re still mad at us, huh?”
Misty looked the other way, refusing to meet Sarah’s gaze.
“You shouldn’t take it out on Ozzie, though,” Sarah went on. “After all, he’s your brother.”
Misty went rigid and turned to glare at Sarah again. This time, her eyes were icy cold with wounded anger, and a growl came from her throat. Sarah understood. Misty had rejected the idea that Ozzie was her long lost brother, and grew furious whenever someone suggested it. Whatever Mortoph had done to her over the years, it had made her entirely dependent on him.
“I don’t see why you’re reacting like this,” Sarah said. “Wouldn’t you want to be with Ozzie more than Mortoph?”
Misty shook her head furiously.
“Misty, I saw what that man did to you!” Sarah insisted. “He hurt you just for calling him your father! How can you love a man like that?”
Misty’s growled again, and her hackles rose.
Sarah sighed. “Fine, be that way then. But whenever you feel like coming to your senses, we’ll be happy to take the leash off.”
With that, the sphinx got back up and rejoined the others. As Droma ladled out a bowl of stew for her, she mentally kicked herself. She shouldn’t have spoken so harshly to her. Hard words and sharp comments would only drive her further away. Maybe she’d try again later. First, though, she needed to think of something Misty would actually want to listen to.
Misoki watched as Sarah walked away, leaving her with her brother.
No, she reminded herself. That wasn’t Ozzie. He couldn’t be…
She gave the boy a quick glance, but looked away again when he turned toward her. He looked like Ozzie, there was no doubt about that. Even though she hadn’t seen her brother in over ten years, she had known him well enough that she would always be able to recognize him, no matter what he looked like. If Ozzie was still alive, then he would undoubtedly look like the young man sitting beside her.
But it couldn’t be him!
Droma put a bowl down in front of her, but she ignored it. Instead, she thought back to the day Drake Mortoph had first come to her.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news, Misty,” he had said, his voice gentle and his eyes full of sorrow. “Both your father and your brother are dead.”
Immediately, Misty had gone into shock. Daddy and Ozzie dead? It was like saying the sky had fallen. And it certainly had felt like the sky had fallen on her that day, hadn’t it? She hadn’t asked how it happened, or who did it. Misty, overcome with grief, had simply curled up into a little ball in Mr. Mortoph’s big soft chair and cried. Nodding his understanding and whispering comforting words, Drake had picked her up and brought her to a small room inside what she would later learn was called Red Castle.
For the next several days, Misty had neither eaten nor drank. All she could do was wake up in the morning and cry her eyes out until the sun set, and then fall asleep again. On the fifth day, she finally found the strength to stop crying and eat something— but only because her body demanded it. Mortoph had used this as a chance to come and speak to her again.
“There’s something I need to tell you,” he had said, sitting next to her on her bed while she ate her breakfast. He held up a picture of a man with furry legs, hooves, and tiny goat horns. “Do you know what this is?”
Misty had nodded. “I’ve heard stories about them, but I can’t remember what they’re called.”
“This is called a satyr,” he explained. “It’s a monster.”
“But the stories say they’re nice,” Misty had protested.
“The stories are wrong. Satyrs have no consciences. They cannot tell right from wrong. To them, killing someone is just as reasonable as holding the door open for them.”
Mortoph had leaned in close to her then, a severe look in his eyes. Thinking back, the memory of that look still gave Misoki chills.
“Misty, your family was killed by one of these monsters.”
Misty had stared at Mortoph, uncomprehending. “But you said they’re monsters. Monsters aren’t real!”
Mortoph had sighed and laced his fingers together patiently. “Yes, that is what children are taught these days. The truth is, though, that monsters are real. They are real, and they want to hurt you very much.”
Mortoph had stood up, his long black coat doing little to hide the muscular body underneath it. “But there’s something else you need to know, Misty. There are men in this world who refuse to let the monsters run free and do as they please. They are brave men, and they care more for this world than they do their own lives. They are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the monsters from hurting the ones they love.”
“Are… are you one of them?” Misty had asked.
A proud smile rose to Mortoph’s face. “Yes, yes I am.” He’d sat back down then. “These men call themselves the Slayers. I am their leader. Today, Misty, I would like to extend an invitation to you to join us.”
Misty had hesitated. “Me?” she’d asked. “Why?”
“Because you have experienced firsthand what these monsters are capable of. You, more than many others, are prepared for what you will have to do.”
“I don’t know,” Misty had said, looking down.
Mortoph had put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Take all the time you need to think about it.”
It had taken Misty three days of thinking before she finally decided to accept Mortoph’s offer. Almost immediately, he had brought her to his office.
“Misty, you are a very brave girl for doing this,” he had said. “There are very few women in the Slayers’ ranks.”
“What will I have to do?” she had asked. Visions of herself swinging swords and beheading all manner of evil beasts flashed through her mind.
“I have a special job for you. One that nobody else in the Slayers has ever had. If you do well, you may open the doors to bigger and better things for us.”
He had reached down and pulled a long, white tooth from his desk drawer. It was as sharp as a needle.
“This,” he had informed her, “is a werewolf fang.” He set it down on the desk for her to look at. “Misty, what I’m going to ask you to do will not be easy. We need people on the inside. Spies, if you will. The monsters are out there living alongside normal people like you and me. You never know when they will decide to strike, but when they do… Well, you know what happens.”
Misty had looked away.
“What I need you to do,” Mortoph said slowly, “is be our eyes and ears on the inside. Watch them, listen to them, and then bring anything you learn back to me.”
“How?” Misty had asked.
Mortoph slid the tooth across his desk towards her. “With this,” he’d said. “If it were to prick your skin, you would become a werewolf. You would be able to infiltrate their defenses. You’re young. You’re innocent. They won’t think twice about letting their guard down around you. All you have to do is watch and listen.”
Become a werewolf.
Misty’s eyes had opened wide with horror, and she’d sank back into her chair. “You want to turn me into a monster?”
“Like I said, this will not be an easy job,” Mortoph had explained patiently. “You will need to be brave and strong. I know you can be those things. It won’t be for forever, though. Once you have helped me enough, I will give you the cure and make you human again.”
Misty had given the fang another wary glance.
“I believe you are the right person for the job, Misty, but I won’t force you to take it. It’s up to you. If you say no, you will be free to go and make your own life. But if you say yes, you will be doing us a great service. Just think of all the lives you could save. All the families that won't be broken apart.”
Still, Misty had hesitated. Mortoph sighed and stood up, coming around his desk to kneel down in front of her.
“Maybe this will help,” he’d said. “I know that nobody could ever replace the family you’ve lost, but if you accept my offer, then I, myself, will adopt you.”
Misty had stared at him in surprise.
“Would you like that?” Mortoph had asked. “Would you like me to be your new daddy?”
A tear had leaked out of Misty’s eye then. Whether it had been out of happiness or sadness, she couldn’t remember.
“Yes,” she had said, her voice thick with emotion. “I’ll do it!”
“Then brace yourself,” Mortoph had said, picking up the tooth. “This is going to hurt.”
Without another word, he raised the glistening white fang and rammed it into her arm. Immediately, Misty was overcome with pain the like of which she had never felt before or since. She had screamed and fallen from her chair, clutching her body and shaking like a leaf blown in the wind. Her skin felt hot and itchy, and then cold and clammy all in the space of a few seconds. Her head was spinning, and her vision faded in and out. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the world had snapped back into focus. Overcome by instincts she could neither understand nor control, Misty had tilted her head back and howled.
When she’d looked down at herself, she had been shocked to find that her body, the body she’d had since the day she was born, was gone. The one she had now was covered in fur, and had four legs instead of two. She had gotten shakily to her paws and looked up to see Drake Mortoph, her new father, looking down at her.
“Come,” he had said, his voice suddenly devoid of emotion. “You have work to do.”
It had not been long after that that her daddy had given her a new name. Misty, he’d explained, was her old name. A new name would protect her. She had been born and raised in America, but she still looked distinctly Japanese. Therefore, he named her Misoki.
After that, she had been trained. Mortoph himself had done the training, claiming that she was still a secret. He didn’t want the other Slayers to know what he was doing yet, so he taught her in private. He was a harsh teacher, sometimes even brutal. If she made a mistake, she would be repaid with a sharp kick in the ribs. Over time, she came to accept this punishment. Her daddy loved her, and it was her own fault that he had to kick her. If she got better and stopped messing up, he'd be happy, right? Then he wouldn’t’ have to kick her anymore.
He didn’t just train her to control her instincts, either. He taught her how to fight. Even though her teeth and claws were to be her primary form of offense, he instructed her in the use of several other weapons. Before long, swords, knives, staffs, bows and arrows, and a few other weapons felt as familiar in her hand as her wolf body did when she shifted. Mortoph had never let her master any of them, saying that her wolf form would always be her primary weapon, but she was proficient enough that she could hold her own in a fight.
It took Mortoph several years to teach her everything he wanted her to know. When he finally declared her ready, he’d given her one last gift: a collar. It was enchanted to read her mind and translate her thoughts into audible words when she was in wolf form. That way she could stay in her animalistic body without revealing herself in order to communicate. After that, he’d sent her out into the world. Around people, she was to be as human as anyone else. Around the Mythics, she was to be a wolf. Bound and determined to make her daddy proud, she had set out without a backwards glance.
It hadn’t been long after that that she’d met Sarah.
Misty shook her head, clearing it of those thoughts. She wouldn’t make herself remember those years, all the fun she’d had, or how she’d become like a sister to the little sphinx. Sarah wasn’t her friend anymore. Remembering all the good things would just make it harder to do what needed to be done.
Misty raised her head and glared at Sarah, who was sitting with her back to her. She would pay for this. Misty would kill Sarah herself. And the boy who pretended to be Ozzie, too. She would drag both of their bodies back home to her daddy.
Then he would finally be proud of her.
Mortoph was not happy. When the Master Slayer was unhappy, he exuded a strange aura of fear that could lower the temperature in a room.
Today, Granger could feel it all the way down the hallway.
The third-in-command Slayer’s skin was crawling as he made his way toward Mortoph’s office. The Master wasn’t just upset, he realized as he reached for the doorknob. He was furious. Opening the door, Granger was greeted by a deceptively calm Mortoph. He stood with his back to the door, hands clasped behind him, looking at a map hanging from the wall. A series of strings ran across it, held together by pins, tracing the movements of the monsters all across the world.
“Sit down, old friend,” Mortoph instructed without turning around. Granger took a seat. “Have you heard any news from Vega?”
“Nothing yet, Master,” Granger reported.
“It’s been more than a week,” Mortoph mused, as if he were only discussing the weather. “One would think he would have at least used his mirror to report back to me.”
“You know Dominic, Master,” Granger consoled him. “When you put him on a mission, nothing short of success can distract him.”
A soft chuckle came from Mortoph, cold and humorless, and he finally turned to face his third-in-command.
“Of course,” he said, taking a seat behind his desk. “I’m sure we’ll hear from him the minute he’s taken care of the werewolf.”
“Misty?” Granger asked. Out of all the Slayers, Granger was the only Slayer who knew the truth about Mortoph’s daughter.
Mortoph’s gaze turned dark, and he folded his hands in front of him. “The werewolf,” he said stubbornly.
Granger nodded, accepting the Master Slayer’s answer. He understood Mortoph’s anger. Over the past few weeks, he had lost many meaningful resources. Porter, for one thing, the first subject in the Repurposement experiment. Vega was nowhere to be found, supposedly on a mission to eliminate the rogue werewolf. Not only that, but there were signs that the monsters were planning something.
The two of them sat in silence for a few minutes. Granger knew that saying anything would only darken Mortoph’s mood further. It was better to let the Master speak when he was ready.
“I’m sending you to find Vega,” he said at last. “I don’t know exactly what the monsters are plotting, but it’s going to be big. I need Vega here. Tell him to forgo finding the werewolf and return to base.”
“Are you sure, sir?” Granger asked, leaning forward in his seat. “If I cannot find Vega, then you will be without both of us.”
“I trust you to do this for me, Granger,” Mortoph insisted. “With him gone, you are my second-in-command. There is no one in this castle that I trust more.”
The Master Slayer stood up and put his hands on his desk, towering over Granger. “The only question is, should I?”
For a moment, Granger was still. Mortoph’s fear was still sending chills down his spine, but he didn’t allow it to show. He stood up, a solemn look on his face.
“I will not let you down, Master. Whatever the monsters are planning, I will return with Vega before they make their move.”
Mortoph sank back into his chair, nodding in satisfaction. Granger wasn’t fooled, though. The meaningless feeling of fear and dread still filled the room, which meant the Master’s mood hadn’t improved the slightest bit.
“I know you will, my friend. I know you will.”
NEXT TIME: Looks like Ozzie and Misty have some family issues they need to work out. It’s been weeks since Vega went out looking for Misty, though. What could possibly be taking him so long, and what’s going to happen once Granger finds him?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey, readers! Hope you enjoyed the first two chapters of The Protector and the Peacemaker! It really means a lot to me that you're here. But I must ask... are you already tired of waiting for updates? Well, those days are over! See that pretty red button down there on the right? Just give that a click, and it'll take you to the book's Amazon page, where you can purchase the entire book for only $2.99! That's right, you can get the entire book all at once. No more of this one-chapter-a-week nonsense. Either way, thanks for being here for the debut of my new book, and be sure to come back next week for another new chapter!