I promised wolves and today I deliver. If you've ever been curious about how good old Theodore Roosevelt would handle werewolves, well, wonder no more. This section is long, so I had to break it up a bit, but rest assured, you're on the home stretch as far as the story is concerned.
I establish a bit of lore in this section of the story that acts as a nice companion to the lore of The Paladin. Within the main novel, you actually encounter something quite different from what Sonia and TR are dealing with and this story helps give it some context, I think.
Enough stalling. You came here for wolves and wolves you shall receive! I present the latest installment of Wolves and Wild Roses.
With the full moon rising into the darkened sky, the forest sat silent. Men held their breath as they gripped their weapons tightly. Sonia, with silver daggers and her whip wrapped around her waist, nodded to Jesse. With a loud pop, he wrenched the top of the large barrel near the tent off, the thick smell of Wolf's Bait now wafting through the entire camp. Sonia steeled her nerves. Clearly Roosevelt hadn't properly planned out their position, as they were open from all directions. There was little Sonia could do to move an entire camp in one night and Roosevelt would not hear of delaying the operation, so here she stood, hands moving to check the pistols on her thighs.
It started easily enough. Rustling in the trees drew the men's attention. There were a few calls of "wolf!" which drew Sonia over. Before she could offer any order, Roosevelt commanded them to open fire. Rifles rang out into the dark night as the creature in the forest began retreating.
"These aren't soldiers!" Sonia cried.
"I've hunted plenty of beasts, Madam. These creatures must be eradicated at a distance," Roosevelt retorted.
"They're careful! You're going to lose your bead on them!"
Before their argument could escalate, gunfire rang out once more. The pair turned to see a creature, something like a man but with fur covering its entire body, rushing toward the camp. Shot after shot riddled the creature, dropping it to it's knees.
"Aim for the head!" Roosevelt commanded.
His words were easier heard than acted upon as the creature seemed to recover quickly, leaping back toward the forest. Roosevelt marched toward the line to look for signs of the creature, but at that moment shots were fired on the opposite side of the camp. The pair turned and rushed over, watching as the men shot wildly into the darkness.
"Did you find it?" Roosevelt barked.
"Two of them!" a soldier cried. "They're diving in and out of the shadows."
"They're testing the defenses," Sonia said. "I've never dealt with a dozen at once, but I'd be willing to wager they'll swarm once they find the weakest spot."
"Then it is good that Rough Riders don't have weak spots," Roosevelt remarked, lifting his rifle. "Use the lights! Look for the shine in their eyes!" Lights flashed across the foliage, Roosevelt following them through the sight of his rifle. The golden flicker of wolf eyes glinted in the darkness. BANG! A terrible roar echoed in the forest as a creature stumbled forward, clutching its now bloody face. "Fire!"
Sonia watched in a mixture of awe and incredulity as the agents turned soldiers fired on the beast, bringing it to the ground. Before the could celebrate, a second rushed from the darkness, charging the line. Guns fired and the beast staggered, but not before reaching one of the gunners, knocking aside his machine gun and ripping at him. Several men moved in, unloading shot after shot at the creature and forcing him off their now bloodied comrade.
Cries rang out from the first side again; the wolf was there now. More cries from the west side. Now from the north. Sonia looked around, watching as the lanterns illuminated the forest and shots rang out. She drew her pistols as she watched the targets grow in number. Seven. More gunshots. Ten. More cries. Thirteen. Roosevelt moved furiously through the camp, commanding his men, Jesse rushing to fill the gaps he left behind. The creatures were beginning to swarm.
Drawing a long breath, Sonia spun on her heels, leveling her pistol at an approaching creature. It had barreled through three men and was soaring through the air as she pulled the trigger and stepped aside. With a mad howl, the creature crashed into the ground, clutching its chest. She watched the pathetic thing writhe for several seconds before going limp. She ignored a chill that ran through her as she looked at it. It still wore clothing. It was a man, or was once, and now was this... thing. What atrocities had it committed without even being aware. This man, whoever he was, woke up that morning and put on a jacket, but now, as this beast, he would never return to that life.
Before she could contemplate the matter further, a second creature was charging the line. It whined and cried as machine gun fire severed it's leg and sent it sprawling through the camp. Sonia added one silver bullet to end its misery before marching to the opposite side. Waiting for her were several men, all engaged in stabbing and shooting a wolf among their ranks. The hunter leveled her pistol to end the creature but another firearm rang out first. As the wolf tumbled to the ground, howling, Sonia traced the shot back to Roosevelt, his rifle smoking as he drew a saber. He pushed through his men and hacked at the poor creature several times before beheading it. She narrowed her eyes in disgust at his actions, but when he turned, his face was not the boisterous, loud visage it had been earlier. He seemed to genuinely pity the creature, taking no movement to celebrate his victory or belittle the creature further. Instead, he moved on to the next target, directing his men to shore up the line. Her judgment eased, she turned to find her next target.
After several minutes of fighting, the gunshots became less frequent. Then men were flashing their lanterns through the darkness, but seemed unable to find any more targets.
"Bully!" Roosevelt cried, surveying the scene. "I think we've got the bulk now."
"I doubt it," Sonia replied. "They're regrouping."
"I thought these werewolves didn't act together," he asked.
"I've never faced this many at once. My information may be... unreliable in that regard."
Roosevelt pulled his rifle over his shoulder, staring into the darkness. "Then I'll make sure to update the Bureau's records after this."
The pair turned toward the cry from the eastern front. Gunfire rang out as two wolves rushed in. As the men concentrated their fire, Sonia noted movement in the darkness.
"It's a distraction," she cried. "They're drawing the fire!"
Sonia's suspicions were confirmed as she turned, six wolves came in from the side, hitting the men from behind. Sonia moved in quickly, unloading her weapons, and dropping the wolves, one by one, but as they fell, more and more flooded in to replace them.
Through the camp, at least fifteen werewolves had pierced the line and were fighting hand to hand with the men. Sonia's silver ammunition was drained by a final creature that was tearing into one of the men, sending blood and viscera splattering across the ground. She had no time to reload her weapon as another wolf was rushing for her. Dropping the pistols, she unsheathed her silver blades, deflecting the claws of the creature as it attacked. She stumbled back, avoiding the lightning quick swipes as the creature pressed in on her. Timing her counterattack, she landed a solid kick into the creature's midsection, stopping it's assault long enough for her blade to slice through its throat. The creature whined and gurgled, clutching its neck, leaving itself open for the hunter force one blade through its heart.
Sonia had no time to recover as two more creatures were now attacking a gunner, ripping the firearm from its tripod and slashing through the man's chest. In an instant, Sonia's chain was out and it's silver tipped spikes were ripping through the creature's face. As it reared back, Sonia rushed in, throwing her entire body weight behind a kick to the second wolf. She turned quickly to assess the gunner, but it was too late. The blood and open wounds told her he would last more than a few minutes. She cursed silently as she turned to face the retaliating creatures, her chain slicing through the air in a spiral before her boot sent it shooting out again, piercing the first wolf's chest. The second leapt at her, slashing and biting, but the hunter dodged and weaved, pulling free her chain and sending it wrapping around her attacker's legs. The wolf crashed to the ground and before it could right itself, Sonia buried her knife into its back.
Several yards away, Roosevelt bashed another werewolf in the face with the butt of his empty rifle, sending it tumbling back. The former president roared as drew his saber once more and plunged it into the creature's chest. The wolf howled, but refused to fall, pushing forward to tackle Roosevelt to the ground. With it's gaping maw snapping at him, Roosevelt threw a short haymaker, connecting with the wolf's snout and knocking it back. Turning the table, he leapt on the creature's chest and began pummeling it over and over before seizing the embedded saber. Jerking and tugging at the sword, he widened the wound in the creature's chest, ripping and tearing at it's flesh as it howled in pain. Lifting the blade up and out, he sank it once more into the creature's heart. With blood dripping down his face, Roosevelt watched as the life drained from the creature. Standing, he pulled loose his blade and grabbed a fallen man's gun.
"Come foul beasts and taste the horns of this bull moose!"
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.