Watching the crowd disperse to live the last few moments, of their life, Eli addressed the four that remained rooted by his dominant position. "For the next three months, each of you will be in co-command of this army of clans. Within those three months we have to develop a trust between one another. Keep in mind George and myself are in higher stature as the law of our people and the presentation of the situation dictates. However, your positions are just as vital as ours. Each of you will become the supporting points that circle the army and strengthen them. You’re allowed to govern each of them only using the long set laws of our people. Not the laws that you created for your clans. With that said, many of your clansmen are now part of the mass. Equality is a must. Treat each male and female as if they were your kin. Protect them, motivate them in any way possible and when needed, discipline them. Weakness causes death, and we have no room for stupidity. So, if you grow lax within your duty, you will be made an example of in front of your peers by either one or all of us that stands here.
Nevertheless, I'm sure each of you will hold yourselves to these standards as well as we will. Neither of us is above these laws. Strength, unity, and our purpose will keep our hearts beating as one during the battle. We fight together, we die together, we will thrive together. Now, I’m going to question each of you to find what useful skills we have among us. We’ll place you in the appropriate ranks where your skills will be of much use. We haven’t the time to linger further. Do I make myself clear?"
Another voiced agreement was spoken in unison by all, except for one who nodded and caused his voice to burst through the automatic response with a different thought. The male werewolf spoke confidently, smoothly. "It's evident, General, your current drive is because you fear for your wife's life and the life of your growing child. You sent her with Sheryl without even a goodbye to her or your boy. Am I right? I don't blame you. If my wife had become threatened by a Thogagi and his army, I would raise a thousand armies. But time didn't allow that luxury for you. Didn’t it?"
Shocked someone knew him so intimately was too close for any comfort. Eli snapped his head to look to his left. He locked eyes immediately on the large blue orbs of the werewolf who held challenge in his gaze. He walked passed George and the remaining three to the newly appointed Elder couple on the far left of the line. He quickly looked them over. The female had a large observing green stare and pure gray fur. Pools of black faded into streaks around her eyes and spread to her perked ears. She was dainty compared to her burly mate. Nevertheless, she looked as if she could hold her own when push came to shove. Eli moved on and growled as he stared the male down. In his beast form, the man was every bit as tall as Eli, but twice the size of his mountainous frame. The stranger’s fur was a dark smoky blue, which complimented his royal blue eyes. He looked deeply into the male's face and suddenly understanding struck him. "You’re a fucking Inceptor.”
The stranger fidgeted slightly. “Good eye. Noticed the split pupil, did ya?”
Eli felt smug from making the challenger squirm and guessing what he was. “You’re a rare breed to find. Can’t be around a group of people for too long or else you can...go insane.” Eli saw the man didn’t like the last comment to well. But, he didn’t care he spoke the truth as crude as it was. Inceptors could split their soul and place it in different locations and people. Being an incredibly fluid substance, sometimes the soul would return corrupted, thus putting the Inceptor through violent episodes mocking several personalities. It could take days to recover. Sometimes years depending on how many times the soul had become split at one time and the level of corruption.
“I’m impressed. You’re knowledgeable in what I am. We enjoy our seclusion to meditate and cleanse the soul. It’s a must, but your mother knew that.”
Eli became hyper aware and felt a tingling over his body. The stranger had a sliver of his soul, reading his memory. Eli strengthened his will and in a flash, it the numbing tingle was gone. “Are you done now?” Eli asked irritated that the man would boldly mention his mother. True, his mother was an Inceptor before depression had quickly driven her to take her life. Unlike the male before him, she had become limited on how she could transfer herself. She needed to touch her choice of prey. The stranger just needed the will to do so.
“For now.” The man remarked firmly, but with a twinge of despondency. "I saw everything I needed able to trust your leadership."
Eli picked up on the hidden meaning and knew Talos had witnessed what the angel showed him on the boat. It brought a grim tone to his voice and soured his disposition. He leaned and whispered to the man. "I've accepted my outcome. But know this, I am going to fight as hard as I can to try to change this fate. You better keep this to yourself."
He shook his head as his eyes locked onto Eli's black stare. He replied accordingly and with a pitying flare to his outspoken thought. "Those that try to change their fate, often meet it just the same."
Eli’s face curled into a sneer. "Speak quickly and tell me your names. Based upon the camouflaged markings you and your life-mate have, I take it you hail farther north from here. " Eli harshly said as the male's words struck a cord of hopelessness and doubt he was trying hard to keep wayward from his mind.
The man snorted at Eli's correct evaluation as his eyes squinted in immediate liking to the man he had pledged his life to. He knew Eli was only young in body, but his mind was attuned to become a leader. He would guide them well with the experienced wisdom of them all, which that fact alone was the reason why his oath to fight became resolute. The male spoke in a rounded tone and had honor and battle in his stance. "I am Talos Wolfgram, an Elder by blood and age. The only surviving member of my great-grandfather's long forgotten Viking clan. He saved my life by forcing me to hide under the dead bodies of the children that bitch had slain before she could kill me too. Blood pounded in my ears causing a deafening roar as I feared for my life and mourned for those I lost. After several hours of waiting under the stinking flesh of my friends and kin, I emerged with revenge burning hotly in my chest. I tracked my family to her place of torture. My great-grandfather and his clansmen were tortured, decapitated and set on fire with hot irons and blades. I found their mangled corpses hanging from the ceiling. When she was thriving in the glory of her kills, I avenged their death. All it took was a quick blow to the head with my mace, then several more after.” Talos stopped as he seen their eyes glaze in sorrow. “Don’t clog yourself with pity. I don’t need it, and the dead is better off without it. I’ve fought for them every time I’m slaying one open. I feel them rejoice in that.”
“I’m sure they do. Where do you hail from, Talos?”
Talos answered Quicksilver’s question as he looked to Eli and the others in pride. “From the forests of The Great North. We thrive in our solitude in the greater part of the country still unseen by mortal eyes. A Half-Breed would die by the bitter cold before they could ever reach us again." He looked to his side. "My wife, Sizrra, is decades younger than me and is of aged blood as well. She doesn't possess any other talents that come with it. Nonetheless, she's a warrior scout for our clan. Her skills are unmatched by any other that I know of and that's including me. She even kills clean and quick. No blood, not a drop is ever left behind. Although, it’s expected of her since her people are known as the Shadow Wolves from the Rockies."
“Their methods are that of ancient teachings. The harsh conditions of the mountains sharpen their sensory. They’re incredibly hard to defeat. Almost near impossible. George said as he had a sly look to his surveying gaze.
Softly Sizrra replied, “It is indeed a smaller world. I remember hearing of you, Quicksilver. My mother told me stories about you. She still brags how you were her best trainable novice. She was proud to hear your victories when they had finally reached into our high sanctuary.”
Eli looked at them both, interrupting before their reuniting turned their minds from the purpose. "It’s great to know we called on such skillful blood. Given your dexterity, the both of you will match well in the outer ring of defense. After we reach our destination, you both will begin to scout and keep watch.” Eli called to George without looking at him, “What you say to that, Quicksilver?”
“It’s a smart placement. After the first full month of training, you will have a choice to select the few that would aid you the most to secure our base. Train them well. We need their eyes outward to keep unwanted eyes from peeking inward. After you have prepared and posted them, you will take the responsibility and lead the hunting parties, and will be a burden carried by both of you. Do it well." Without a transitional pause, George took a step back and looked down the line and abruptly addressed the others. "Does anyone else here have any set of prior skills in battle, intelligence or any other that would strengthen our ranks?" A male eagerly stepped forward and turned to Eli. In the moonlight, his fur illuminated to a rich brown and his light turquoise eyes glowed in an eerie starkness. He was tall, but thinner compared to the others. He spoke with a well-educated mind, and his inner voice reflected his high intelligence.
"I am Professor Andante Hartman. I’ve never governed a clan before this one, but I am born of Elder blood. My father had over twenty sons, with all different women. Until he met his life-mate, and they conceived me over six hundred years ago. I'm the twenty-first, but not the last. We thrive peacefully within society. I've never had to take place as a commander or face a Thogagi or even a Sighati. My experience in battle or commanding during one is nonexistent."
Talos snorted through his words. "You’re lack of experience puts you out of sorts here in this line, Professor."
Andante locked his blazing gaze onto Talos. "Is it required to have a tortured past to do what's right?"
Talos growled low, ready to use his brawn to fight the brainy ass that stood at the end of the line. He took a step forward as he felt the clutching hand of his wife on his wrist.
Taking preventative measures, George snarled as he stepped forward toward the line. But, he looked at Talos. "Be still, Elders."
Eli stated with reason in his tone. "It works better to our advantage that you’re a novice being trained by a seasoned master. Though, go on, Professor. You have the floor to speak without interruption."
Andante looked to Eli to stake his place within the ranks. "I understand everything about the history of the Holy Order, and I know about the Code. I answered the call because it’s my duty to do so. As we all know, there are worse things to experience than the pain of death. Especially when it isn’t your own."
Developing an instant respect for Andante, Eli’s reason aligned with his outlook. He too was facing a certain death to ensure his wife and child's future. Andante’s voice broke him free from his thoughts as he added firmly. "I have the proper knowledge to command as I know the art of war."
“A soul hungry for battle.” Talos assessed at the correct moment as he discreetly explored the complex mind of this man. The Professor was a peaceful man that fell in love with a mortal man of war when the world was dark and medieval. Talos could see the memory of Andante’s thin hands running along old wounds of his lover’s back as sorrow struck his heart. Suddenly, Talos saw fire on an arrow's oiled tip as it flew through the air to meet the body of his dead lover. A man clad in armor and blood dead from battle. Talos receded his soul from the man realizing Andante had gained the wisdom of bloodlust of all men. Wars became ingrained in the violent agendas of all breeds and each had a similar pattern, and a strategic master could end it quickly.
Andante rushed readily."You can say that. A passion burned hot and steady when it couldn't become stoked. Over five hundred years, I have studied the dynamics of war and most follow a pattern. It's surprising what men will fight for and how it begins; a woman, expansion of land, religion, freedom from oppression, greed, desire, hatred. No matter who strikes first, these are what link their strategies. If you know what they fight for their moves of offense and defense, become almost predictable. ”
Intrigued, Eli carefully listened intently as he questioned, “What do you think our enemies move will become based on what you’ve heard tonight?”
Andante became a little startled by the question. He knew the answer, but Eli wouldn’t like the answer. He stopped to gather his thoughts to find the words to say without prompting an explosion of arguments. “We can treat this battle as game of chess. The Thogagi’s already made a strike against our defense the night he killed your clan. Now, he’s waiting for our turn while planning his next moves. He’s going to come in fast with his pawns, thinking he will have the element of surprise with his bishops and knights next to his side behind him. We take them out by rigging the board with traps. In the end, he’s the king piece. It’s limited in movements. But, we have a queen. She becomes flamboyant across the board. If you position your queen to take the killing blow towards the vulnerable king..."
Without delay he severely interjected. "Your mind is well adapted to help with the strategic aspect of this plight. I know where you're going with this. My wife will not be fighting. She's far along in her pregnancy and is carrying our firstborn male. It would not be fair to ask any man here that his wife shall fight when she's at her most weakened point as a Beast Blood.”
"I'll do it. I'll take place as the queen." A female stepped forward. All had turned to find the voice that was a light whisper compared to their passionate tones. She started again, but more firmly to be taken seriously, "I'll do it."
Eli looked her over, and it only took him a microsecond to notice she wouldn't do. Roslyn had white fur that was as pure as freshly fallen snow. The female before him had dull brown fur. The color of deification. A cavern dweller. He thought as he moved to look into her saddened eyes, which were a blonde yellow, not a golden earthy brown that shines with life. "You look nothing like my wife when she has taken her shape."
"Does Keller know what your wife looks like when she has transformed?" The female asked with a tone as if she already knew the answer.
His tension eased some as her point became understandable. "No. She had always remained with me when we responded to the Calling. Even that night when we had to flee, he wasn't there. I'm sure the others couldn't tell the difference between a lesser werewolf to an elder."
“Though it’s simple to notice the different a male between a female.” So a female has to take the position as bait.
"Then he won't know it's me instead of her. Your wife can be safe; you can position me to kill him, or you can kill him. Either way, the Thogagi will die after we severed the head from the body. We're left to free the army from his influence and either save them or kill them, depending how far gone they are."
"It's sounds like a good plan so far, Eli." George chimed. He looked at the female. "What's your name?"
"Holly Skuleye. I’m an Elder and made of the blood. As you can tell by my heartbeat, after so many these years, it still sounds as if my heart is still trying to keep up. I lead a massive clan of cave dwellers, as we’re commonly known. My people are a mixture of born and made, and all are lower-ranking beasts. I’m the only leader among them."
Speaking again, as he reverted the conversation back to George's previous statement and agreed with it. "It's something we can work with now. We have our security; Talos and Sizrra. George will train all of us to become offensive and defensive fighters. Eli, you're the overseer, the connection between what Keller wants and Holly will act as the bait. She will secure Keller into the trap. I know how to ensure our lives and our positions. Once I know where we end up, I can construct the devices accordingly. I just need to see the layout of the battlegrounds."
George looked to Eli. He noticed his black eyes glazed over with calculating thought as his head hung toward the ground. "What do you think, Eli? Lead the enemy to us?"
Eli snapped his eyes to George, and his calm demeanor sprang to life. "As long as Roslyn stays away from the battle, this will work. Tonight, as you all run East, I will head South. I will leave traces of my scent leading to the place George will take you. I'll set the bait, and we prepare, waiting for him to follow the trail. We will know when the time has come." Eli looked at the moon and saw the hour had passed, and took action. Quickly he removed himself from the group and released a roar to the united clans, and heard their echoing response as silence filled the void once more. Eli smelled George's scent and knew he had stepped close to him, ready to lead.
“Godspeed, my friend,” George said before he gave three short yelps and everyone began to flock around him. Eli felt good about the plan. Even the gods of generals would approve. With that last thought, he left them in a dead run south.