“How come none of the Hunters are strategists or inventors?” the red wolf asked. Kain should have known his name but he hadn’t bothered with names for at least five hundred years.
“Calling them Hunters when we are just as much hunters as they are. You are a disgrace to our kind, Richie.”
“But you don’t live longer than a human and never as long as we do,” Kain smiled at the older wolf flashing fangs. “Kid, we live forever. We don’t seek change. We love our old ways. That’s why we have never been able to keep up with people. It was just bad luck for humanity that the flu pandemic came. 1918, the year we took the world back. But short-lived creatures always burn so much brighter. You cling to life like there is no tomorrow and for you it may be true. The point is Hunters always like the ways things are if they are on top so we are just not interested in inventing new things except maybe new ways of torture. But I think that special cup is already full. We could be the best strategists since we had so much time to learn the art of war and we were before the new inventions. However, with our unchanging personality we cannot fully appreciate the new inventions. This renders us useless in the modern warfare. That’s why there are only human strategists. And as for weres, Hunters just think you inferior to humans. Even to animals actually.” At this point the weres in the room erupted in growls all over the room. “I didn’t say I agreed,” Kain smiled a killer smile. “But I didn’t say I disagreed either.”
Richie sprung out of his chair and started for him. He really hoped it was worth antagonizing a room full of weres because he was bored out of his mind and he needed the action. As it turned out, of course, nothing happened. At least nothing that reached him. Two other wolf caught the red one. Alex looked in his eyes and said, “Sit.” She pointed at the chair he vacated seconds earlier. The little red one spared a cold glare for Kain, then sit back like the obedient dog he was.
Kain started to think Alex was the trainer in this animal circus since almost every one of the wolves did as she said or asked. It was impressive. “So what should we do? Is there anything we can do against this kind of odds?” Alex inquired with as much enthusiasm as before.
There was something Kain had been considering since they started to work on their strategy. He thought it was time to reveal the only viable plan he could come up with. “We should kill their strategists. Without them, the Lords won’t be able to act against us in time. I think this is the only way we have a slight chance to win.”
They had done just that. Now she was lying in her own blood waiting for the end thinking about how it had all started. She realized she was wrong. It had all started earlier. So much earlier…
Kain put his half-smoked cigarette out and moved back to the giant table heaving himself onto a chair with a sigh. Steeling himself, he tried to pick back up the line of conversation.
“Why are we even trying? We are not strategists. We should just capture one from one of the Lords.” The little red wolf was always so eager to fight. He thought they should have gone head to head with the Hunters’ army. Even Kain wasn’t that reckless.
“We can’t capture a strategist. Haven’t you learnt anything? They are the most precious possessions of the Lords. Of course, they are the most guarded ones, too.” It made Kain feel a little bit better that they had some more sensible people here. It would have been bad if he had been the most reasonable one for commonsense had never been his strong suit.
“But they are humans, too. They should help us. We have no hope to win without one.” Alex wasn’t an optimist at the best of times and this wasn’t the best of times. Regretfully, she wasn’t wrong either. At the age of six, every human was made to take a test that determined their mental abilities. Those who had the ability to invent things were ranked inventors and those who had strong strategic skills were ranked strategists. Children in these two categories were separated and taught in specific schools from then on. The others became slaves and food.
“Have you ever met a strategist? You can’t think of them as humans. They don’t think in terms of species and race even though all of them are humans,” Kain said. “They are taught to think of everybody as enemies or allies and everything as a tool to use. They are incapable of taking care of themselves so they just serve whoever takes care of them. They can’t identify themselves with humans or Hunters or any other group. Strategists live to win battles but those battles are like games of chess for them. They don’t understand the loss of life. If they did, they would go mad. No human being can have that much blood on his consciousness and not go crazy. They grow up in isolation and think in games. They don’t understand your cause because they live in a different world and you won’t be able to make them understand. Maybe you can kidnap one but they are all chipped. We are not equipped to remove those chips so we can’t hide them. Their Lord will either send warriors after them or just activate the destruction program taking their lives in seconds. It would do us no good to kidnap one of them.”
“From the age of six they are taught to win fights, battles and wars. We can’t win if can’t outthink them. How are we supposed to rise against the Lords if they all have strategies ready against us?” Alex sounded defeated.
They were sitting around a table full of papers. There were maps, charts, photos, even book sized reports. They were over and over it again and again and it seemed it wasn’t enough since they had a go at it a few more times in the last couple of days. It shouldn’t have been their task. They weren’t strategists but somebody had to do it and without one, they did it the old-fashioned way – trying to find anyone with half a brain to form an opinion and come up with a decent plan.
He was feeling a headache coming that couldn’t be eased even by temple rubbing. He needed something stronger like that bottle of whisky on the small table at the wall. That had to do the trick. He stood and made a beeline for the drink. No one even noticed his absence so he leisurely drank a big gulp from the bottle, put a cigarette in his mouth and got his lighter out of his pocket. He was about to light up and get considerably calmer when he felt it. Somebody did notice him taking a break.
He couldn’t actually feel people staring at his back but Alex always had her eyes on him and it was a little bit creepy. She hated that he called her Alex. That made him snort with amusement. A man’s name suited her even though everyone else called her Lexie. She was no Lexie just as she wasn’t a delicate being but a warrior. She just didn’t see the compliment in him accepting her as an equal. She had a lot of growing up to do.
As he raised his lighter to finally light that cig he saw her eyes narrow in his head. She hated smokers with rare passion. She said they had stinkma – a stinking stigma they couldn’t wash away even if they wanted to. There were some health issues, too, but as the first vampire that walked this earth Kain wasn’t sure he should be bothered by that. He couldn’t get lung cancer. And these humans? Most of them were going to die in the near future anyway so they didn’t have to worry about it either.
There was no reason for him not to indulge himself and still he hesitated for a moment. He hated himself for that moment of delay. He was too old to care about anything – important or not. Why would he care about the opinion of one puny human girl? A warrior girl but still… just a girl. Barely old enough to be called an adult these days.
Finally, he lit up. The smoke hit his lungs and he felt like a drowning man taking the first deep breath. He chased it with another sip of liquor and another long drag for the road. He heard her clearing her throat. She was watching him all right. She always did. There was something soothing in the certainty of it. However, it was still creepier than it was anything else.
Abel caught the knife before it could do any damage. Damned vampire reflexes. He threw it back with an annoyed expression like he was swatting flies. The blade came back with a speed she couldn’t comprehend. She moved too late. Although it wasn’t buried in her throat, it still nicked an artery. She fell to the floor as blood pulsated from her neck. The smell would have made her gag if she had had energy for that. She put her hand over the wound and tried to slow the bleeding but she knew she wouldn’t make it. She saw Kain getting up and reengaging with Abel. She even saw him kill his brother. It made her calm. They won. Nothing can stop them now.
As the black spots took over her vision, she was wondering how the hell she got herself into this. She wanted to be a hero and now she was dying for her people. But she was just one of the uncountable many who sacrificed everything. She wanted to be better. She had always wanted to be better than the others. As it turned out, she couldn’t be. But at least she could be as good as them.
When had it all started, though? Maybe when they decided that the best way was to take out the strategists. Yeah, that had to be it.
It seemed the practiced moves didn’t make her thought process disappear. Her brain was just a little slower as she cut through skin, muscle, tendon and bone. Kain took point; they just cleaned up after him and watched his back. It was kind of boring. Cut off an arm, sever a leg, thrust into heads.
Everything changed when Abel showed up. The little shit would do anything just to see his brother fail. Or rather die. But it wasn’t that easy to kill Kain. It would have been funny to see Abel cut down his own allies who stood between them but as he was the only one who could stop the rebellion it was just plain disturbing. The brothers looked almost the same. Only the tattoos that ran from the top of his head to his toes made Kain distinguishable.
When they clashed everything and everybody stayed as far away as they could. They became a blur of bodies and swords. She couldn’t follow the movement with her human eyes. She never stopped doing her job, engaging the enemy, but she kept one eye on them waiting for an opportunity to arise.
She didn’t have to wait for long. After a few minutes Kain flew through the room and landed in a heap at the base of a wall. He needed time to gather himself. She was able to give him something at last. She grabbed a throwing knife from her belt and threw it at Abel. After a moment she realized how stupid she was. Standing up against maybe the most ancient killing machine with a few years of experience was the epitome of stupidity. Still, she wanted to help Kain any way she could. She didn’t think she would pay with her life for this little distraction.
She ducked when a taloned hand tried to grab for her throat. She thrust her blade towards a head. Thrusting was not a good move, she knew that. A blade through a skull killed lots of things but not all of them. Beheading? Yeah, that worked like a charm every time. There was no creature that could regenerate a head.
On the other hand, humans were easy to kill so they had trained really hard to be a forced to be reckoned with. She was good but not the best. Even like that she had been allowed to be the third through the door. And that way she could see Kain cutting a way in the crowd of monsters. It was a sight to behold. He was dancing with his swords and there remained nothing alive in his wake. It was a beautiful. As beautiful as rain of blood, sweat and innards can get with the background music of dying screams. Every movement was efficient and it seemed like nothing could touch him.
He was the man for the job. Maybe he was the only one who could do it. Take out the last strategist of the enemy and they will fold. They had no hope of winning without one. The last bastion would crumble and the rebellion would rise.
It was the last mission. They did this over and over for a while now. Meeting with more and more resistance. But the rebellion would not be stopped. They had nothing to lose. They had had no life of their own before, so it hadn’t been a real choice to give it up. Those in the rebel army would give anything for the freedom of their people. And if everything went according to plans, this was the last time they had to risk everything.
“Time for the last dance.” She unsheathed her blade and gripped it with both hands. It would have been more badass if she could use two swords simultaneously like Kain, but she didn’t have the strength for that.
You needed a lot of power to behead a creature and using explosive rounds wouldn’t be wise. She liked herself without parts of her face missing. That would be a turn off. She didn’t need any more of that. Although, that might not be of any concern after this gig. It may be her last one.
The third through the door. That was a good position. It meant Kain trusted her at his back. She appreciated it. Though something more than trust would have made her happier, but she knew where the lines were. No feelings for him. Walking the earth for so many years made him numb. She didn’t think he understood human feelings. He realized the complexity of them and their capacity to change the outcome of a war. He just couldn’t relate. It was sad, really. She wanted to give him a happy memory at least. But he didn’t know what happiness was. On the plus side, he didn’t know what sadness was either. So there was balance in the universe after all.
The creatures inside were waiting for them. No one thought they would just lie down and die. It would have been so much easier. Pity, that easy never was the way of fate. Most of them would never see the end of this. This was the last strike they needed to be victorious. And every last one of them would gladly give their life for the cause. But it made her sad. So it was really good that she didn’t have any more time to think about the situation.