Are you enjoying the wolf hunt? It's about to get even more intense. I feel like I had a hard time with this section in balancing the attention given to Roosevelt and Sonia. Given that she's the main character, I knew Roosevelt couldn't outshine her, but still, it's Theodore F'ing Roosevelt. He has to do some cool stuff for this fight.
So... let me know how I did and what you thought. I present the next part of Wolves and Wild Roses.
Whether from the roar of Roosevelt's words or simply as a tactical move, the few wolves in left in the camp retreated into the forest. Panting, he marched toward a bloodied but undamaged Sonia. She picked up her discarded pistols and began the process of reloading.
"A dozen?" she asked with a frown.
"I said 'over'" he replied. "Jesse!" The young man from earlier limped into view, his clothes torn and bloodied, but otherwise seeming okay. "Get the wounded to inside the tents."
"Shouldn't we get them into the trucks, sir?"
"They're waiting for that. This isn't over."
Sonia surveyed the forest as the wounded were slowly brought into the tents. She couldn't be sure how many more were left, but it was certainly more than the remaining men could handle. What would Pasha think to see her having trouble with such loathsome creatures?
Sonia turned to see a young man on the ground, writhing in pain. She called for a lantern as she knelt beside him. Blood was pooling around him, far more a man should survive. He clutched his chest and neck tightly and Sonia could see this was the source of the blood loss. The young man shivered and convulsed, grimacing in pain. Taking the lantern, Sonia pulled his eyelids open wide, revealing golden irises.
"P-please..." he repeated, reaching a weak hand toward Sonia.
She handed off the lantern and stood, unholstering her pistol. She took a deep breath, shaking her head as took aim, but a strong, rough hand fell over hers.
"Stand down, Hunter," Roosevelt commanded.
"He's turning," she argued.
"I'm aware." Sonia released her grip, allowing Roosevelt to take the pistol. Stepping closer, he knelt beside the young man. "What's your name?"
"M-Murdock... sir..." he stuttered.
"Where are you from?"
"A good place," Roosevelt replied, gripping the young man's hand. "They breed strong men there."
"I... I don't want to die... " the young man wept.
"We all have to face death," Roosevelt replied, "what defines us is who we are when we meet the Reaper. You, Murdock, are a brave man."
"I... but... I ..."
"I don't make a habit of selecting cowards to ride with me. Are you with me, Murdock? Are you one of my Rough Riders?" The young man, shaking and crying, clutched Roosevelt's hand and nodded. "Then you are brave man."
Sonia raised a curious eyebrow as she watched. Roosevelt leaned closer to the young man, nodding back.
"I only select the bravest to ride with me, and I selected you," he continued. "Now... are you ready?" The young man's eyes streamed with blood and tears, but he nodded. Roosevelt brought one hand to his forehead, saluting the young man. Murdock returned the gesture, holding his hand in salute. As fangs began to push past the man's lips, Roosevelt pressed the barrel of the pistol to his temple and pulled the trigger. Sonia flinched, turning away. A moment later Roosevelt's was beside her, holding out her pistol.
"That was... unfortunate," she said, holstering her gun.
At that moment, Jesse ran up, still clutching his injuries. "Sir, it's not looking good."
"How many casualties?" Roosevelt asked.
"Half a dozen dead, nearly twenty injured."
Roosevelt looked toward the front line where the bodies a three werewolves lie beside a collapsed machine gun. "This night will not be in vain," he replied.
"I'm not sure that's up to you," Sonia said as the pair moved to survey the damage. "I suspect there are still a number of them waiting out there and I doubt we have the manpower to repel their next attack."
"Are you surrendering?" Roosevelt asked.
"Hardly," she replied, loosing her chain once more. "Only informing you that I'm likely to be the only survivor."
Roosevelt grinned and shook his head. "Your faith in us is staggering, madam, but I will not die tonight. Not without a hell of a fight."
Sonia cocked an eyebrow as she watched the older man pull his long coat off. Producing his saber, he cut into it, tearing it in half and ripping loose a long strip. He approached one the fallen machine gun and, without a word, tied the strip near the barrel and looped it around, letting it hang from his neck and shoulder.
"You're going manually wield that thing?" she asked.
"Too many of my men have died tonight," he said moving toward the open barrel of Wolf's Bait. Without any explanation, he removed his glasses and dunked his head into the mixture, pulling it back with a splashing arc of liquid.
"You've gone mad!" Sonia noted.
"Not yet!" Roosevelt bellowed with a growing grin. Throwing open the box of rifles and ammunition from earlier, he pulled free a bottle of whiskey. Calling for Jesse, the Rough Rider procured the young man's lighter and shoved another strip of his coat into the neck of the bottle.
"What the hell is that?" Sonia asked as he pushed past her and walked into the darkness.
"A little trick I discovered in Cuba," he announced, lighting cloth and hurling the bottle into the canopy. It collided with a tall tree and flames exploded into the foliage, lighting up the forest. "Jesse! I've changed my mind. Get the men to the trucks. I'll hold them off."
"You are insane," Sonia declared marching toward him.
"You're free, my good lady. Go home. Your book will be waiting for you."
"My contract was through this mission," she argued, watching as the flames spread from tree to tree. "Though you be a doddering fool of a man, I'll see you through this."
"Bully!" Roosevelt cried out, lifting up the machine gun. "Now, where will I mount their heads?"
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.