The Wolves of War. A Short in The Mermaid Series

I wrote a short story for the Baen fantasy contest. Since it didn’t win, here it is. Since the Big story is going much longer than I anticipated, I’m going to post snippet and things I edited out of the mermaid story for length.

The Wolves Of War

“Daddy, tell us about Uncle Brad and the war.”

Tom Benton looked at rather his precocious daughter, holding the picture of her uncle and sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy.

 Burlington Vermont, November 1917.

“Name?”

“Bradley Benton.”

The rather stiff clerk wrote down the name on a list.

“Hand me your Induction notice, please.”

Brad handed the clerk the telegram. The clerk looked at it and wrote down some details. He handed the card back and said, “Report to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, January one, 1918.”

“I am not expected to report now?”
“You had a month to respond to your receipt of your induction notice. You have done so and here are your travel orders and train tickets.”

The clerk handed Brad the packet,  Brad untied his horse and headed back to the farm. Brad’s teenage brother Tom was shoveling some snow and said, “That was a short war. Did they send you back?”

“Squirt, I just picked up my travel orders and train tickets. I have to report to Camp Devens the first of January. I need to talk to father.”

Brad went into the house and into the space where his father had his desk. His father looked at him and said, “Did anything look fishy?”

“Not here. There was a clerk handing tickets and travel orders out. I report in January first.”

“Be careful. I wish that I could come up with a reason for your deferment, but with Larry working in the war plants, and Tom here, I can’t claim a reasonable deferment. I do know that there have been too many inductions from our county, and many from the community and family. So watch your step.”

“I will father. They should give me leave after boot camp. I will tell you what I saw.”

“This is not some vampire king. This is bigger, if they can manipulate the government. This draft, right off the bat, is something the country has never done.”

“Do you see something bigger?”
“Very much so. Something very dark.”

“So Uncle Brad was in the Army?”

“Yes. Of course the Army had some issues.”

  Fort Dix, February 1918.

The sergeant looked sarcastically at the boot. “So, Mr. Benton, you think that your rifle is defective. Have you ever considered that it’s just that you can’t shoot straight? The Target is that way.”

The boots were on the range and Brad had made a mistake. The range instructor, First Sergeant Doolan was not happy with a boot’s suggestion that the rifles should go back to the armorer for adjustment. Brad stood at attention and said, “Sir, I can shoot straight. I can shoot crooked if I have to. What I can’t do is put a bullet where the sights on that rifle says that it is supposed to go. I tried adjusting the sights and the sights are too far out of adjustment to correct on the rifle.”

“Maybe it’s that a boot has never seen a rifle and was playing with things he wasn’t supposed to play with. You were all instructed to leave the sights alone and not mess with the rifles.”

“Sir, I know that, and as I said, I can shoot crooked.”

“Prove that.”

Brad returned to the range stand, picked up the rifle and fed a clip into the magazine. He looked down the sights, corrected for the error and put all five rounds in the black. Then he fed another clip into the rifle, pointed the sights in the black and all five rounds were in a group at the edge of the target. He closed the bolt and flipped the safety.

“Well maggot, it seems you do know how to shoot. Now you give me five and then you all hit the chow line. I need to take one of these and have a chat with our armorer. Of course I’m giving him your name, Mr. Benton and you just may see extra duty fixing those rifles.”

“I can do that, sir.”

Chittenden County, Vermont, March 1918.

Greta looked at her son and said, “You come back. Don’t let that picture you had taken be the only thing we have of you.”

“I will return, mother. I promise.”

“Don’t be foolish.”

“I won’t mother.”

“We have a dance this evening and you will be there with Caroline.”

“There is nothing that can happen between Carol and I.”

“I know. You only dated her because that Bobby Smith dropped her.”

“Bobby is an idiot. He thinks that because he’s been going to college on a football scholarship, he’s something special. How come his number didn’t come up?”

“I’m not going to respond to that. The draft is supposed to be fair.”

Brad’s father looked at his son and said, “I sent a telegram to the congressman about the rifles. Were they really that bad?”
“Father, I don’t know if it was sloppiness or somebody making sure that the rifles had the sights set wrong, but there was something fishy going on. Once the armorer and I started to look, there were just too many of the rifles sent to Fort Dix that had the sights way off line. The armorer didn’t have the trained people to check and correct the problem until I came along.”

“Is that why you were promoted?”
“Among other reasons. The armorer wanted to keep me, but the higher ups wouldn’t approve the transfer to permanent status.”

“So you are going overseas after all. Be wary.”

Lili looked at her father and asked. “When does the Colonel come?”

“Brad was in France when the Colonel showed up.”

The American Sector Western Front April 1918.

Brad looked over no man’s land through the periscope. It was another quiet day on the Western Front. It was amazing what the troops got used to in trench life. The stench of dead bodies, dead horses, dead farm animals and not so dead rats barely registered. With the lack of any activity on the other side, boredom set in fairly quickly. There was a sense of the Macabre and skulls were frequently mounted on the wire, with the helmets the skulls had supposedly worn on top. There was no real way to tell between a French skull and a German skull but any skull could wear a helmet. The Americans had not added greatly to the skull collection as yet. Even when quiet, the trench was as close to hell on earth as it could get. Brad just hoped that the hell didn’t come over the top. The scuttlebutt was that the Huns were planning a big offensive to end the war, but there had been no sign of that here.

The occasional shell went off in the distance as heavy artillery dueled with each other as to which side could make the largest crater. The big French gun that had been brought into the sector last week seemed to have that locked down, but Brad imagined that the Huns would bring up their own big gun all too soon.

What he hadn’t seen in this war was the dark fae or their works that he and his father had discussed back home. Arnie Stiller had joined as a volunteer to watch Brad’s back and typically, was taken out of line infantry when his math skills became evident. So Brad was left in the trenches, with his squad, in a slow sector. What was unusual was that half his squad consisted of fae from various communities. There had also been rumors of the Huns using wolves or dogs in their assaults. Brad wasn’t sure he believed the rumors, but the rumors persisted, like the rumor that the Red Baron could fly without a plane.

As he was looking over the bleak landscape in the growing darkness, he suddenly saw what looked like a pack of dogs or wolves weaving in and out, dodging the machine gun fire and ever more frantic rifle fire, some of which hit, but the creatures that were hit got right up again. Suddenly there were wolves in the trench and Brad reached for his pistol just before things went black.

When Brad woke up in, he was amazed by the vision in front of him. Any girl would have been amazing, but this was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.  He said, “Who are you?”

The vision replied in German, “Hilda, Hilda Pixxe. Who are you?”

“Bradley Benton, sergeant, 3456973.”

“Do you know why we are here?”

“Where are we?”

“In a village that has been damaged by the war. I think that we are the only ones here.”

Is the door locked?”

“No, it is not.”

“I think that we should explore and then I think that we should separate and you should find a place to hide.”

“Why?”

“Because it is the full moon tonight. I think that I see what is going on.”

“What is going on?”

“Soon the blood will rise and I have probably been Turned. The monster will overcome me and I will hunt you.”

“I think that we have bonded. At least I feel for you more than I should.”

“I do as well.  Do you have Change?”

“Not as yet. I am just seventeen”

“Where is your family? You are obviously high fae.”

“Gone. Our keystone was taken by the red witch and the family driven apart. What about yours?”
“My family is intact, in America, but has been attacked. We thought it was random, but there is something bigger going on. My mother’s family over here has disappeared as well. There may be an aunt still alive, but we could not find her.”

“I have a solution to the monster perhaps. When the Change starts, we complete the bond. I will Change as well and you will not hunt me. That way the monster will be restrained somewhat.”

“Are you asking me to rape you?”

“We are bonded. By some miracle that happened. Our joinings will never be rape because we will always desire them. If you go through hell, we will both go through hell, together.”

The couple explored the village as the darkness neared and then returned to the house. Hilda spread a blanket and undressed. The sergeant could feel the monster rising and let the Change take its course as the monster mated with the girl. The girl underwent her own Change and the two wolves went into the night looking for prey. A faun was unlucky and the two returned to the house sated and exhausted to sleep. When they awoke, there were two men and a woman in the house with them. The man said in German, “This is a surprise, Milady Gywnne. I expected that the young man would be covered in the young lady’s blood and the guilt would have driven him to madness. In any case, Hans, you must return him to his lines with the others.”

“Yes, father.”

“Who are you?” Brad asked.

“You can call me the Colonel. I have taken control of your life as I will need you, or at least somebody like you, for some tasks. We will discuss that at a later time. Go with my son and then forget everything that happened here. Welcome to the pack, Bradley.”

Brad woke up on the borders of no man’s land, naked except for his dog tag, as a patrol went by and then a man called out, “We’ve got another one, sarge!”

Brad was taken to first a dressing station and then back to a tent where a medical captain sent him on to a new unit and special secure quarters with few amenities for new duties. Fortunately, his things followed him to his new quarters and he could add the events to his diary before the things he had gone through receded into fog. The Colonel’s compulsions were powerful, but Brad could resist, now that the Colonel himself was not present. He wrote down what had happened, the bond with Hilda and what had happened to her family, as well as the Colonel. Afterwards, he locked the diary so that only the key could open it. Because he knew his brother Tom’s key, he used it.  

“The Army didn’t shoot the monsters like Uncle Bill does?”

“They couldn’t. They could arrange to get them shot, though.”

American trenches, Western Front September 1918.

The general watched as what used to be men were marched down the communications trenches. General Vickers turned to the man who shared the former Hindenberg line bunker that had been recently, with the connecting trench, been taken and held against the nasty German counter attack. “Al, upstairs must think that the Jerries are going to want this back.”
“I don’t know, General. They may just be sending these poor boys over the top to cause trouble and get themselves killed. I don’t think that certain people want to risk some of these men going home and exposing certain things. That squad looks interesting.”

The general looked at the squad that the major was pointing to. Rather than just the boots and ponchos that the others had, these men had helmets that they had taken from German soldiers who no longer had a need for them and actually managed to acquire guns, that being shotguns. “I’m surprised that they let them have the shotguns.”

“There’s that rumor going around that Ludendorf had sent an order around that men carrying shotguns would be shot if captured because they violate some rules of war.”

The general laughed. “The rules that gas shells, flamethrowers, and invading your neutral neighbors don’t violate? Of course I won’t mention how those poor boys became what they were in the first place.” The General turned to his adjutant who standing behind him, “Lieutenant, what squad is that?”

The adjutant consulted some papers and said, “The twelfth DD section, Sergeant Benton commanding.”
“The twelth? He’s lasted a long time in the Dirty Dozens. What are they up to, about 100?”

“The latest unit formed in the prison battalions is the 105th   DD section.”

“So two thousand men taken by the Colonel, turned into monsters and dumped back where they became our problem. They deserve better.  At least we managed to give the Colonel a bloody nose and shut him down. Al, has he tried to start up again down the line?”

“HQ would get me if he started something serious. I think that Pershing’s people think of me as some sort of Colonel expert simply because I figured out what he was going to do and we baited him.”

“That’s better than anybody else has managed. You killed his son as well.”
“I was shooting the monster because I could see that he was a boss monster, giving orders to the others and he stayed just a bit too long in my kill zone, giving those orders. I probably didn’t even need a special for the shot.”

“They promoted you for it. The French gave you a medal.”

“So did the Brits and Pershing handed me a silver star for that night. My main objective was to stop the Colonel that night and I did. I also had to shoot four of my people who the Colonel did manage to get his hands on so they wouldn’t end up like these poor sods and I could make sure that their families were taken care of.”

“The Colonel seems to have backed off.”

“General, I think he’s tried to set some more of his things up. I have some buddies in intelligence and we are going to have to get together about why he knows what units to hit and why a certain kind of people were concentrated in units like yours.”

“My staff knows. You can come out and tell me. The Colonel attacks units with  high fae concentrations.”
“Not just concentrations of fae, but concentrations of high fae. Young Mr. Benton, over there, for instance. I haven’t had a good look at the records, but I come from Cape Cod and a seafolk family. Even though a big chunk of my family lives underwater, we know who our neighbors are and I imagine that somebody’s dad is asking the same kinds of questions we are.”

“Have you met the man?”

“No, have you?”

“No. I’ve been in the army and my family comes from the West. Our community started up in Texas.”

“The family up there has a certain reputation regarding dark fae and monsters, especially monsters. They’ve also had some rather fierce battles and had some family injured. There’s one aunt, for instance, that lives apart for an affliction she received from a bite.”
“Vampire? What happened to the vampires?”

“From what my buddies tell me, the king was killed trying to rescue his daughter. The man’s son put together some people and destroyed the nest. Too late for his sister, though. His mother also died after it was over.”

“So he had to take over. He also destroyed the vampires and that isn’t easy. Even dealing with the singles that we get feeding off the armies is a problem.”

“I know. That is another of my little jobs that HQ set on me. It looks as if it’s time.”

“You’re right, dismissed.”

The sergeant watched the man leave the bunker. He pulled the sense string back and turned to his grinning corporal. “I think that we’re attracting the wrong kinds of attention again, George. We need to be careful if we want to stay alive.”

“Staying alive is not in our future, Brad. Making the black fae bastards pay for what happened to us is. Do you think that the Colonel’s boys will show up?”

“You did slip that message to Major Macdougal in the tapped line didn’t you? I bet that the Colonel doesn’t like the major very much. Maybe he doesn’t like him as much as we don’t like the Colonel.”

“We’ve tried for the Colonel. He’s slippery. We also can’t do it ourselves because our compulsions kick in. So if we can get the major to do it, all the better.”

“I keep having this feeling that the Colonel wants us for something. There’s also some sort of collusion between some people in Washington and people over here. We need to live long enough to find out what and get the word out so that these people really get hurt. As for the major, the general too, for that matter, they seem like good men. I doubt that they can do very much, but they are looking at the right things. I wish that I had my little brother here.”

“Why?”

“He doesn’t seem to be fae, but when he gets going, he’s unstoppable. He drives my sisters crazy. He’s also very good at working things out. Fortunately he’s only fifteen and too young to be drafted.”

“Is he bonded?”

“No, and since he is an unattached royal fae, which causes some problems at home, he is probably the biggest fae catch in the country right now. I can’t wait to see what kind of girl grabs him.”

“Let’s get us out of this mess first. I think that some Change is being ordered.”

The sergeant looked at where the corporal was pointing, the lieutenant saw him, pointed at his watch and held up five fingers. The second squad had two Lewis guns and the section was armed with BARs. But the first squad was used to that and understood why. The second squad was to make sure that first squad’s monsters didn’t get where they could hurt their own men or the civilians. The sergeant turned to the corporal and said, “gear up, we go in five minutes.”

“Nice of those sturmtrup characters to give us this nice armor that they didn’t need any more, wasn’t it? Why did you think about taking it?”

“My dad has a similar set up for his fights with monsters and whatnot. You boys gear up, I want to talk to the lieutenant.”

The sergeant walked to where the second squad was set up and stood outside the perimeter of the guns. “Lieutenant, we’re good to go. If I don’t make it back, make sure that my diary gets home to my dad.”

“Brad, I’ll handle it. Be careful out there.”
“Has upstairs had any information on our furry friend?”
“They haven’t said. They don’t think that he is here, though. Now let’s get this done.”

The werewolves removed their ponchos and donned the metal sheets of armor and helmets that the sturmtrups no longer needed in the growing darkness. Then the appearances of the men became more wolflike as they went through their Changes and the Sergeant led them over the top and into the darkness and chaos in the bleak spaces and shell holes of no man’s land. Unlike the other squads, the sergeant’s wolves spread out and used cover to avoid the machine gun fire that started once the flares of star shells appeared in the sky. The sergeant spotted a machine gun and waved to the corporal and the sergeant and another wolf from the squad threw grenades into the machine gun pit as the Corporal ran from cover to cover to draw the gun’s attention then the sergeant and the other man jumped down into the nest and finished the job with their shotguns. The sergeant looked at the other man and said, “Secure this, Bill, I need to keep going. Rig a charge so that the other boys don’t have it shooting at us again.”
“I wish that we could take it home, but these Maxims are just too heavy. When you write home, thank your brother for those things he sends.”

“They don’t kill anybody.”
“No, but they are a nice surprise. We’ll rig them up and make some surprises. On the other hand, if your brother has any ideas that do kill people, I think that we can use them.”

Brad laughed and ran on. It looked as if his section was doing well and it was a bit of a surprise when Ed, his second corporal came up with something they rarely handled, prisoners. “These boys just gave up.”

“That’s a surprise.”

The sergeant did a quick scan of the three prisoners and two of them had shields. The sergeant pulled Ed aside and said, “Run them back to the lieutenant, but tell him that two of the fellows are fae. They may be pulling a fast one.”

“I should have checked for that. I’ll run them back and pass the word that any prisoners we take may be fae.”

The corporal left with his section and prisoners. Brad and his section headed on to the battalion headquarters that had been his assigned objective. The officers and staff had hurridly evacuated, so Brad started to pull any and all papers and stuff them in a satchel. When the first one was full, he handed it to one of his men and started in on another. By the time Brad was finished, the third satchel was crammed. The five werewolves left the dugout and headed back to friendly trenches.

Since the raid was a surprise and the Huns were dealing with the major offensives elsewhere, the sergeant’s squad didn’t lose any wolves, this time. By the time the sun rose, the squad was back in the trench and the area over in German trenches was quiet until the trenches were suddenly pounded by shell fire and there was a surge of yelling and shooting as the sturmtrups followed the shell fire, shooting any werewolves stupid enough to stop for a meal in the German trenches. Division artillery and the 75’s fired over the heads of the squads as they headed toward the rear, guarded by their second sections even as they were outside Change. The troops marched through the communication trenches toward the rear and the waiting canteens and trucks back to the special barracks that held the werewolves until the next time. As the sergeant and his men emerged from trench, the lieutenant was waiting with his hand out. “I think that the brass will be uncomfortable with you people having guns.”

The sergeant and the rest of the werewolves handed the shotguns over to the waiting section, as well as the satchels full of the things obtained from the HQ bunker. As the handover was finishing up, Brad said, “Make sure that you have the guns cleaned, sir. Here’s the haul for intelligence.”

“This will make them happy. You got what they wanted. The other squads were essentially diversions.”

“The other squads don’t fight the monsters and the monsters can be stupid. My father said that you should never give into despair and take the time to not be stupid.”

“Heads up, the general’s here!”

All the soldiers stood up and came to attention. The general called out, “At ease and go about your business!”

Everything returned to normal as the general and the major walked over to the sergeant and the lieutenant. “You had a good dust up out there last night.”

“We made it through alive.”

“Yes you did, which means that you were exerting a fair degree of restraint on your men and they were restraining on themselves.  Most of the rest were decimated, yet your people came out without a scratch. You also took some rather interesting steps to make that happen.”

“I’m not sure what you mean?”

“You had helmets, the body armor and the guns. None of the others bothered with something like body armor, or guns.”

“I refuse to let the monsters win. My father would be rather upset with me if I did, that is both the monster inside us and the monsters that have put us where we are. My men and I have an agreement about that. One part of that is that if the monster looks to be out of control, we are to arrange for our deaths.”

“Being what you are, that is going to be rather difficult. Since you are heir, I doubt that your keystone will allow you to commit suicide, you are probably very hard to kill and there are very few here that will have the power to change that.”
“The major here, probably. There are some others I’ve encountered. The problem we have is that the fae that were sent over here are for the most part without bonds and there haven’t been fae girls around.”
“You’ve noticed.”
“What did those characters we captured say.”
“I haven’t had a chance to talk with them yet. I also want to keep them under wraps. There is something strange with the fae here and I want to know where they all are. In any case, you did good work and the major and I thank you. We will leave you to your well earned meal.”

As the general and major left the tent, the general said, “Al, I wish that we had known about men like him being drafted before things got over here. We will have to be discreet about this, but the War Department is going to have to get a look over by some people that I know about. I will send a discreet message soon.”

“That might be tricky, general. You don’t have anybody in brigade that makes routine trips to Le Havre, let alone the states. We don’t want to send this over the wires where the censors can look at it. Or other eyeballs that we don’t know.”

“The problem is that we can see the results over here, but we can’t tell anybody. At least we have a handle on the Colonel getting fae to Turn into monsters.”
“Have you been able to convince the worrywarts that some sort of special housing and restraining the boys only during that bad time of the month would be better than keeping them locked up?”
“Not an iota and I can’t find the character on staff responsible. They are either dark fae and hiding or compelled and I haven’t found them yet. That task hasn’t been made easier because I’m here and whoever is setting the policy is at HQ and may not be in our army.”

“You think that it is somebody from the French?”

“Somebody local could make a bigger case about civilians getting murdered by loose werewolves. I think that whoever is responsible for the werewolves has plans for them.”
“That’s going to be rough if they are all dead.”

“I don’t think that they will be. For that matter, if the Colonel is behind this, he probably wants fit werewolves and he’s playing survival of the fittest and strongest.”
“If I were planning to infiltrate monsters, I would want tough monsters rather than a lot of monsters.” 

 Lili had a thoughtful expression on her face as she asked “If Uncle Brad and Anut Hilda were apart, where did Andy come from?”

“They weren’t always apart.”

The Chateau, Bordeaux, France, September 1918, Leave.

.

Brad woke up to a vision again. Hilda was beside him in a very fancy bed in a very fancy room. “Wake up sleepyhead.”

“Where are we?”

“You sir, are on leave and I, your girlfriend, has joined you.”

“Dirty Dozens don’t get leave, let alone a stay in a place like this.”

 “Did you forget me?”

“Somewhat, but not entirely. I knew that there was somebody special on the other side of the line. Of course there was no way that I could reach you. Where do you live?”

“For the time being, at the old family estate in Germany. It is in Bavaria. When the time comes, look for me there.”

“What about the war?”

“It will be over soon. The people at home have reached an end and the generals’ scheming is starting to fall on deaf ears. There are fewer young men to send and the mothers are tired of giving up their sons.”

“The front seems to have the same story. The French, the German’s, the Austrians are all worn out. The British have been husbanding men, but only we Americans have really fresh troops.”

“Why did this war go like this?”

“Nobody wanted to be the first to say, enough. I think that all the countries think that the first one who does, will be punished by the “victors.” They are probably right about that, especially now. Too much blood and treasure has been spent on this mess and nobody can really win anymore. So the war goes on, with more horrors.”

“The werewolves, for instance, that the Colonel has made of us and others.”

“I don’t think that we were what the Colonel expected.”

“You sir, are on leave, and we should not waste the moment.”

Hilda kissed Brad and they went on making love until they both Changed and the room filled with their howls. After they were basking in the afterglow, there was a discreet knock on the door. Milady, milord, we have breakfast here for you and the lady would like a brief chat with you for lunch.”

Hilda looked at Brad. “Should we go in Change?”

“While that may be fun, I think that we should be a bit more formal than that, at least for today. The rest of the week may be a different story. Go get our breakfast.”

Brad went to the door and opened it to find a tray of rabbits, uncooked, nicely done eggs and fresh toasted bread with a rather large pot of jam. Hilda looked at the tray. “I think that they want to spoil us.”

“After what they feed us in the army, this is heaven. When we get home, mother will make you the best breakfast ever.”

“Not you?”

“My efforts may come up a bit short. I tend to lack my mother’s touch with bacon.”

They consumed the rabbits and the rest, released their Changes and dressed. Then Brad took the tray down to the kitchen and said “Merci beaucoup. The breakfast was wonderful.”

There was a thing waiting at the door who said, “I am Louis. I protect this place. The lady has requested a brief audience.”

Hilda grinned.“I think that we should thank the lady who is providing us with this wonderful opportunity to be together, Brad.”

“Who is she?”

“I cannot say anything very much about all of it since I promised not to, but the conversation should be interesting.”

Brad went with the strange man and his bonded out the door of the guest house where they were staying and over to a large chateau where they were taken to a reception room where a very elegant woman was seated. “Welcome. I am Gwynne De Le Sorci, mistress of this place.”

Brad looked at the woman. “So why have you had us brought together here, Milady?”

“To see something a bit different. The Colonel did not expect you to bond. He provided Hilda to your recruitment as a potential increase in the power of the werewolf Twist. You bonded instead, even though Mademoiselle Pixxe does not have a strong tie to a keystone. At least she did not. She certainly does now, through you. I wonder if the Colonel considered the implications of turning a royal fae and heir. He was looking for the most powerful fae to turn, but I don’t think he thought the implications through.”

“I’m certain that he did not. If my father even gets an inkling that my being drafted was not a random event, there may be consequences for the Colonel and his associates.”

“I doubt that he has the kind of power that could reach over here, at least not now.”

“My father can find friends if he needs them. He also has good connections with the local political people and because we live in a small state, that influence extends to the Capital. If I were these folks I would be a bit nervous about what he might do and when.”

‘I will tell my associates. They may want to cause your father some problems.”

“That would be a mistake. My father has a way of dealing with problems when they present themselves.”

The meal switched to small talk and a discussion of the local wines and then the lady said, “I don’t want to waste time that will be precious, so why don’t we have another chat just before Brad’s leave is up at the end of the week.”

With that the couple had a wonderful week of runs, cuddles and howls in the woods and on the second to the last night, a wonderful dance by the local fae in a grove, away from any prying eyes and in Change, with the Lady holding court as the faery queen.  After the last night, Brad woke up in the barracks, with the whole thing seeming to be a dream.The Lieutenant found him at chow and told him that the unit was being transferred, to Russia.

Brad asked, “How did the Colonel get Uncle Brad?”

“Your Uncle Brad was sent to Russia so that the Colonel could collect him.”

 Archangel, Russia

October 1918.

Brad looked out over the now familiar patterns of war in the snow and the woods. The occasional rifle or machine gun fire was a constant spattering of noise, punctuated by the odd mortar round. The old smells of war permeated the air with the stench of powder, rust and death. The Dirty Dozens had been collected and hauled off with the rest of some odds and ends that might become inconvenient to the generals and dumped into the cold and snow of Northern Russia in the onset of winter. Brad had no illusions about why that was. This was where they had been sent to die, or at least to never go home.  Brad said to the squad, “Let’s get this done.”

The next few weeks were repeats of the same kind of brutal actions in the snow that the DD sections had see in France. By the end of October, other than the sergeant’s squad, the pack had perhaps twenty left. One morning, the Colonel arrived in the yard and said to Brad, “Sergeant, I have need of your services. You bring your people and your equipment and meet me at the railroad station. As for the rest of you, I need a bit of diversion and there are some loose ends here that should be taken care of. The captain will instruct you.”

The sergeant started to object and then turned to his men and gave the orders. By the time the squad exited the barracks, the screams of terror and the shooting had already slowed down. The Bear turned away from the chaos and thought about how he was going to expose his new partner to the weird and the strange. Mike seemed like a fairly straightforward type and didn’t seem to understand what he was, even though he was high fae. Fortunately one the things had been killed recently, there had been some soldiers that had been released by American command after using silver jacketed bullets and the local government was rather annoyed. Of course the rather annoyed was based on the fact that a bribe had not yet been offered, but the Bear was familiar with those things. In any case, he and Mike had been invited to a meeting that was probably going to be an interesting opportunity.

Brad grinned. “Then Uncle Mike and Uncle Boris rescued Aunt Hilda and Andy.”

“Yes they did.”

Loire, France, April 1919, A Bloody Mess and a rescue.

Brad looked at the mess that had been an inn. The patrons and the staff were dead. The patrons, except for the rather bloodthirsty regular customers had been innocent normals fed on by the low vampires that had run the in. They were dead, torn apart by Brad and his pack in a fit of destruction. The captain had ordered the mess and then disappeared again. Looking over things one last time, Brad waved to the pack and left. He could feel the monster taking over more of him atrocity by atrocity. The only thing that kept the monster from taking over was Hilda and their son Andy.  Hilda had managed to collect the other girls that the Colonel had used to create his werewolves, and the lot of them followed along as the Colonel sent Brad and the pack across Europe.

The pack headed to their headquarters and Brad made a detour to a train station and a meeting with Arnie. Arnie was sitting in the station café when Brad sat down. As Brad was sitting down he said, “Did you get the things I asked for?”

“I have the missing persons’ reports and the rest. It’s fairly obvious what is going on when you know what to look for.”

“Are any of Hilda’s family alive?”

“That’s hard to tell. First of all, I’m just a sergeant collecting statistics for the treaty negotiations and second, the German government is a mess and the local authorities aren’t going to talk to me about dead cases. On the other hand, the pattern is fairly obvious and there are too many monsters.”

“More than we had at home?”

“Very old monsters and big nests. Also, from what I can tell, the fae have been shattered and the communities destroyed. The evidence is fairly clear. It’s there with the rest of it.”

“Thanks Arnie. If things go very bad for me, make sure that Hilda and Andy get to mother.”
“That’s a given. Mom and your mother would never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t.”

Mike turned to Al and said, “Should you be doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“Helping us and the police?”

“My people and I are here under army to provide assistance if Americans  perform criminal acts. We have the authority to do this. In any case, we’re going in.”

The only members of the pack in the inn were the ladies and a baby. Boris came up with a young lady with the baby and said, “What do we do with them, Mike?”

“Take them to Mary. We get the ladies here out of this.”

“That might upset the boss monster.”

“If the boss monster wants to come after me, he’s going to do that anyway. He’s tried twice already. Let’s get these ladies out and free.”

Hilda had tears in her eyes as she left a brief note for Brad. Brad had been clear about what she was to do if the people that had been chasing them found them. Hilda was to take the other girls and leave. She was to go to Brad’s parents with their boy, regardless of what happened to Brad. The tears had stopped as she left the inn, handed Andy to Theresa, boarded the truck and took Andy back, watching as the inn receded into the morning mist.

When Brad reached the Inn, he knew that Hilda was gone. While Brad was relieved that Hilda and the other girls were gone, the monster was not happy at the loss of its property. The pack went on a hunt, but the trail led to a canal.  

“The monster got Uncle Brad because Aunt Hilda wasn’t with him,” Lili said, rather sadly.

 The Mary’s Pride off Nova Scotia, May, 1919.

Brad looked at the carnage that had been the ship’s crew and wanted to retch. The pack, the twelve of them that were left when the new “recruits” that the Colonel had arranged to join them had stowed away on the ship. Brad could have done without the additional members and it had been the new pack members that had started the carnage rather than staying in quarters during the full moon as Brad had ordered. Once the carnage had begun, even Brad hadn’t been able to avoid the bloodlust or restrain the monster. Left with little choice, Brad had the pack prepare a boat, so that the pack could head to shore. The ship had originally been expected to Port in New York after Halifax and Boston and Brad had planned to disembark there and meet the mysterious “Manager” who was supposed to take over the pack from the masters. Instead, he would have to take the pack through Vermont. George looked at Brad and said, “We can deal with the idiots.”
“Our compulsions won’t let us.”
“There are ways. Especially since we are going through Vermont.”

“What do you mean?”

“My home is in Vermont. My dad’s foreman doesn’t like monsters. Really doesn’t like monsters.”
“Is he fae?”
“You know, I’m not sure. All I know is that a vampire lord went after his wife and Turned her up at the farm. Ever since, any vampire within a hundred miles is living on borrowed time.”

“What happened to the vampire lord?”

“The thing went after Bill when he was in my uncle’s barn. There was an old double barreled shotgun and some buck as a barn gun for the nasties that show up. The thing was an idiot, showed himself and then went after a can of nails that Bill threw. It got both barrels through the bottom of the head. A vampire lord can survive a lot. Having the bottom of your head blown off isn’t one of them.”

“He could deal with us, if he had to. It’s getting harder to keep the monster down.”

“I know. At least one of Bill’s hunts will be quick.”

“Yes it did. Your uncle came home with home with the monster.”

Crittenden County Vermont, Late May, 1919

“Hello squirt. You’ve made improvements.”

“Brad!” Tom looked up from the job on his “new” horizontal mill as he heard his brother’s voice at the entrance to the shop in the old mill that he had made his own. “You’re back!”

“Yes I am. So what is going on here?”

“Larry bought a lot of gun scrap in January with his war work money.”

“How did you finagle that into expensive new tools?”

“Easy. I convinced Larry that I could work faster than a file. I am so glad that you are ok.”

“I made it back. Mother sent me to tell you that dinner is ready.”

Tom followed his silent brother back to the house, explaining how he had finagled the tools, the quiet deal he made with the phone company over a phone system they had been trying out and his ongoing battles with their sister, Stephie. Most of it went right over Brad’s head until Tom mentioned the Russian that had shown up at the sheriff’s office and that Stephie had apparently latched on to. He turned to Tom and said, “A Russian?”
“I don’t know where he came from. Some government agency.”

“Is he still around?”

“I don’t think so. At least I haven’t seen him around. Tell me about over there.”

“That isn’t easy. It was not fun.”

Brad and Tom went inside to dinner. That was a common pattern for the next two weeks until one night, Brad came to Tom’s shop and said, “Tom, I need your help with something.”
“What do you need, Brad?”

“I need to secure some documents and I may not be here to retrieve them. I also need to talk to you about a monster. The monster is me.”

Brad told his brother his issues of the draft, how he had been taken and Turned, the monster and about the shadowy Colonel while Tom made a box and lined it with rubber and then placed the various documents in the box and closed it up, before placing the box in an aluminum box and riveting the whole thing closed. When Tom was done, he said, “I’m going to hate lose this stash.”

“This is important. Don’t pull this stash unless the Colonel is here.”

Tom lifted a floorboard and placed the box inside. “I’ll move the shaper to cover the stash.”

“There are things that need to be looked at I may not be here to do that. So it’s up to you.”

“Why me?”

“Because I don’t have anybody else to look into this. Somebody told the Colonel where to look for me. Somebody in Washington. One last thing, the full moon is coming up and you are likely to be up and walking around. I left a shotgun on the rack next to the door. If you hear anything strange in the barn, take that gun and whatever you see, kill it.”

“What if it’s you?”
“It won’t be me, but something else. After I’m gone, be on the lookout for somebody looking for me. I was sent as a tool for somebody and they will be looking.”

“Should I tell father?”

“I’ll handle that. I wouldn’t involve you, except that you need to be wary of the monsters.” 

A few days later, Tom was heading back to the house from the shop when the dogs, rather than charging into the barn after whatever was there, were scratching at the door. Tom opened the door for the dogs and hearing the cow’s sounding rather frightened, he reached for the shotgun instead of his own gun and turned to walk across the yard to the barn. He lit the lantern beside the door and turned to look into the frightened cows. There was movement next to the calf stalls and a bloody mouthed apparition charged out of a stall. Tom fired and racked round after round, firing until the thing fell and died. Tom looked at it as it began to change. Overwhelmed, things went black for him.

“What happened then?” Lili asked.

“I was taken by the Sheriff, your uncle Mike explained and I went to Washington. It’s you two’s bedtime, so that is enough for now.”

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