I am so VERY sorry for the wait! Things in my life kinda exploded, and I haven't had the time that I used to in order to sit down and write. Without further ado, Ch. 6!
DISCLAIMER: I neither own nor profit from the GLORIOUS characters of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. I only borrow and mentally molest them, and pair them with my own flirtatious mind ramblings and plots!
Ch. 6 No news isn't always good news
"Except for the goblins, they are," replied the wolf named Nick with a grin. I just about fell out of my seat.
"WHAT?" I screamed.
With a hand on the wolf named Nick's shoulder to silence him, the male named Antonio took up the topic from there. "My son is correct. Witches and demons do exist, and are part of the Supernatural council. Or at least half demons and witches are. Sorcerers and vampires also have representatives on the council, as well as others" he said.
This time I really did fall out of my seat, and Cayo had to pick me up off the floor. "I knew about brujas and shamans being real, but—" I began to say as I was getting up, but the male named Antonio held up his other hand to stop me from continuing.
"We can discuss more about the Supernatural representatives later, but first I would like to know more about this Council of yours that you spoke of," he said. "Who are they, and why do believe that werewolves are extinct?"
"The only council I'VE ever heard about before today is the Council of the Claw," I replied. "You know, the one set up to issue territory, settle disputes between clans, and set the universal laws for all Changers?" I looked at them, hoping to see some dawning realization, but saw only blank looks and more confusion. "The UN of the Changers?" I tried again. Still nothing. "Oh geez, you really have no clue what I'm talking about, do you?" I asked, with a little panic starting to set in. The mutts all shook their heads. We were so screwed once the Council found out about them. I reached up and pinched the bridge of my nose and took a deep breath. "The reason why the council thinks werewolves are extinct is because they haven't been heard from in the more than a hundred years. They were thought to have killed each other off, or been killed off by other Changers since they lost the protection of the Council about 600 years ago when they suddenly left the council," I said, lifting my head back up to judge the reaction of this group of unknown Changers. Geez, this was about as much fun as telling someone that their favorite Aunt actually died 10 years ago in one of those bad nursing homes people tell stories about, and that their Mom has been forging her signature on their birthday cards from her all these years.
One look at their shocked faces sent me pacing the floor behind me, pulling my hands through my hair and muttering in Spanish about how much of an idiota I was to tell them. Cayo returned to his chair, and Teó was still trying to talk Papá into getting us the information we wanted, and assuring him that we weren't doing anything TOO estupido, so he didn't notice the tension that sprang up in the room. The mutts shot each other looks, and all five of them got up and headed for the door and out into the back lot of the restaurant. Clayton flashed us a "Stay" look, expecting us to obey like dogs. I glared in response, but kept pacing. Obviously they wanted a little more privacy than they had thought they had during their last pow-wow, and I wasn't going to begrudge them the image of that. Too bad they forgot that the last time they were closer, but were whispering to keep their voices low. This time they were much further away, but still using normal voices.
It was a little harder to hear, but I still caught the odd phrase here and there from their conversation, despite the distance. Leader Elena's voice was the hardest for me to hear, since her alto range voice didn't carry as far as the rumbling of the males' deeper baritone, tenor and bass. Clayton's was the easiest to hear, since it was obvious he was not happy, and not caring to keep his voice low. But just because I could catch a few words here and there, doesn't mean I had a clue of what those words meant. All I could tell was that I had dropped a bomb of information on them, and they were doing their best to deal with it, and trying to tell if we were yanking their legs, or telling the truth. There was obviously more, and it had something to do with safety and the mutt Cayo killed. That was made very clear by Clayton's roaring things like "Don't you DARE try to tell me that Kate and Logan's safety isn't as important!", but how that had anything to do with what we had discussed today was beyond me.
10 minutes later, the mutts were still having their "discussion", I was still wearing a hole in the ancient petrified vinyl flooring with my pacing while further disheveling my hair, Cayo was napping in the chair he had been sitting in, and Teó finished convincing Papá to not fly out here and drag us all home by our ears, as well as to pull the right strings (that he didn't know I could have pulled if I wanted to) in order to get the information we needed sent to us. I knew that Teó and Papá would arrange it to use one of the disposable email addresses that we regularly set up, and that I could expect a PDF form or three to be there in another 10 minutes. I probably could have gotten more information faster if I had pulled out all the stops, but I didn't feel like burning those connections just yet. I might have been physically sheltered my whole life and kept from other changers, but the World Wide Web provided me with plenty of ways to reach out and touch someone with more than a little anonymity. Sometimes, it pays to be a technophreak, and I had managed to build up quite a network of friends, allies, and acquaintances in all sorts of social circles over the past 10 years by being one. Better to use legitimate sources to get the information right now than for me to call in my contacts and either risk hostility in the future, or risk exposure now.
My phone chirped at me, and I stopped my pacing long enough to get it out of my back pocket and look at the message the chirp denoted. My sleek new Android phone was hacked to do things no other Android phone was ever designed to do. It was one of the few high-dollar items I had, and I always made sure my electronics were top of the line, even if it meant making modifications after purchasing them. There are just some things you can't do with Apple's overpriced I-crap, and the extra programming on my phone was one of them. This time, the chirp was telling me that one of my hacker contacts from my changer network was trying to reach me through a back door messenger system. I glanced out the door at the mutts, and seeing that they were still deep in "conversation", I moved out of direct view into the corner of the room and began the process of checking the message in what little relative privacy that I could achieve in such an open room. What I read when I had the message fully pulled up had me sliding down the wall.
Hidden in danger. Tribal Shaman loose. Possible companions. Going after all females. Already stolen 2 from Fox and Lion.
Oh shit! I need to get the word out mi familia…
FUCK FUCK FUCKITY FUCK FUCK FUCK!
Realization smacked me in the face, and I took a few moments to hyperventilate in the corner before I finally got up the courage to go face off with what I was pretty sure was going to be an angry lobo mamá y papá, being backed up by three very pissed off mutts. I got up off the floor and double-timed it through the room and out the door. As I slid to a stop just outside their pow-wow circle, I earned myself a few glares, probably because they either thought I was being nosy, or pushy. Cayo and Teó were hot on my heels, which probably didn't help. One look at my face though, and those glares disappeared.
"She was taken, wasn't she," I said to Clayton and leader Elena.
Leader Elena turned and stared at me wide-eyed, and Clayton practically snarled out "What do you know about it? Were you three involved?" Oh yeah, he was pissed. The others must have taken their cue from Clayton's anger and decided to circle us. Cayo began hissing at them, but I held up a hand to warn them all off. Their males were being remarkably focused and non-molesty, but that probably was because they were amping up for a fight, which meant that later I'd be fighting them off for a different reason. Great. The boys and I would deal with that later. Right now, I needed an answer, and my nerves were strung too tight to care about anything else.
"Am I right? She was taken?" I asked again, trying to be calm. This time, it was leader Elena who answered.
"Someone tried to take her, and our son Logan managed to slow them down and warn us in time. Kate is with our Alpha and the rest of the pack currently, but Logan was severely injured while trying to save his sister. We tracked one of the two individuals here, and I understand your brother did us the favor of killing him. Or were you trying to protect yourselves by killing your accomplice?" She shot me a hard look, much like a momma bear that just had someone threaten her cub. Her nostrils flared, and I knew she was making sure she had never smelled any of us before; making sure that none of us had been her daughter's kidnapper, or her son's assailant. It's what I would have done in her shoes.
I sighed and showed her the message on my phone. She looked at it, clearly confused at what I was trying to tell her with the less-than-clear message. "I just got this message from another changer," I told her. "There's a tribal Shaman on the loose, and apparently he or she is kidnapping females from the various changer clans. I fear that's what may have happened with your daughter, though how the Shaman knew about her is beyond me."
I heard Cayo gasp, and soon after I heard him run back inside. I knew he'd be calling la familia, and getting the word out to Jaguar clan and the Hidden. Usually Teó would be the one to call, but Cayo was sweet on the daughter of one of the elders of Jaguar clan, and I knew he'd need to reassure himself that she was safe. I felt Teó touch my arm, and I passed my phone over to him. Apparently I had stolen the show again, and everyone wanted to see the email for themselves. Even the male mutts ringed around the soft glow of my screen, ignoring the fact that 30 seconds ago they were more than willing to do irreparable damage to me and the boys, or anyone else that might have been party to the kidnapping.
Leader Elena's shoulders slumped a little, and I really wished I knew what she was thinking. Clayton gave her quick squeeze on her shoulders, probably for reassurance that everything would be ok. It was odd how he could seem so caring for his mate, and be so angry at me and the rest of the world at the same time. His hard steely glare made it perfectly clear that he wasn't done suspecting me and the boys.
"You still haven't told us if you three were involved", he drawled with a sneer.
I sighed, but replied as calmly as I could.
"I would THINK that the fact that I just got a WARNING, and mi hermano just took off to call his GIRLFRIEND Y MI FAMILIA to PASS ON that warning, it would be OBVIOUS, even to a mutt like YOU that we AREN'T INVOLVED." I grit out through my clenched jaw.
Oh yeah, I was in a bad mood, and he was pissing me off even more with his attitude. He was DEFINITELY the kind of professor who got his house egged on a regular basis, and probably got told off more than once by a student. I ground my teeth, and pushed back a snarl of my own. He just crossed his arms over his well muscled chest, and continued to glare at me with a growl. I felt my nails start changing into claws in response.
All of a sudden, Lady Gaga's Bad Romance started blaring from my phone as it started ringing in Teó's hand. Dammit, I'm gonna have to get the boys to stop playing around with my phone. Cayo had no sense of taste in music, and insisted on listening to top 40. He also liked to change my ringers, just to annoy me. Teó's taste in music was almost as bad, with his preferences being for country music and classical. I preferred a good, dark rock song any day, and Lady Gaga was like nails on a chalkboard to me. However, it was just the stress breaker that was needed, and most of the mutts burst out laughing as the music played. I ripped the phone from Teó's hand and glared at the screen. I didn't recognize the number, so I just shut off the ringer and let it go to voicemail. Not so easy to do on a touchscreen without ruining the phone when your fingernails are more like claws… Good thing I'm a girl and have PLENTY of experience with working around freshly painted nails. Oddly enough, that gives a changer gal just the experience she needs to learn how to avoid her claws when extended. I guess it's kinda like wax on, wax off… Too bad I didn't get my own Mr. Miyagi in order to teach me these things too. The Hidden change all at once, or not at all, so I had to learn the little things like that the hard way.
"Now that the tension is broken, can someone PLEASE explain to me what's happening?" called the boots named Reece from behind me. Oh wow, someone that WASN'T clued in.
"They weren't the ones that tried to take Kate or hurt Logan, and I think Pía here might be in as much danger as Kate and I are" clarified leader Elena. "However, I think they have more information on this than they are giving on both this Shaman, and the kidnappers" she continued, and turned to look expectedly at Teó and me with her hands on her hips. She must have been giving us her best Mom look, because I was definitely beginning to feel like a kid caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Teó threw his hands up and backed away. "Don't look at me, I know as much as you do" he said. Great. My own brother threw me under the bus. Again.
I took a deep breath and, with a small sigh, I began telling them what little I knew.
"A tribal Shaman is someone from one of the Native American tribes who has discovered the powers that some humans can wield and all humans have ties to, and have decided to build up that power for either personal or tribal use. These individuals were once called Medicine Men by the white European settlers, but are in actuality something more akin to what is called magicians or sorcerers, though without the spell book or funny hats." I paused, trying to keep the childhood image out of my head of Tiger Lily and her clan from Peter Pan dressed up like Mickey Mouse from the Sorcerer's Apprentice tale in Fantasia, and waving magic wands at levitating books while chanting in the old language and making sacrifices of teddy bears to the old Gods. Mamá had always thought it was better for us to laugh at the scary things than be afraid of them. I blame her for my sick and twisted sense of humor nowadays.
I went on, letting the gravity of the situation, and the burden of the knowledge weigh heavy on my shoulders, effectively removing my previous childish thought. "Shamans have traditionally passed their knowledge down from one generation of Shaman to the next, but not all knowledge has been recorded, and not all Shamans pass on their most potent rituals. The rituals usually require some kind of sacrifice, either physical, spiritual, material, or energy, in order to function. The strongest sacrifice is always death, for it makes for the most potent black magic." Leader Elena let out a small gasp at this. I let my deep brown eyes lock with her icy blue ones, registered the shock she was feeling, and knew she was fearing what every mother would fear: the death of her children. "Energy is the next most potent," I continued, "as it is what drives the body. Most Shamans will use ritualistic sex or other physical activities to use energy in their spells. This leaves their 'donor' alive, but can leave them dangerously exhausted." Leader Elena's eyes widened more at this knowledge, and I broke eye contact with her before I dared see any more fears go through her. "Physical comes next, usually in the form of blood letting, or a hunk of flesh. Sometimes it is an animal, or food, that is used in place of one's body, but those are only slightly more potent than material. Material is the least potent, but the most binding, and is usually used in curses and potions." I finished my recitation on Shamanistic magic, and waited…
I guess I expected to be shunned, or stoned to death, or SOMETHING. But all I got was silence. I bit my lip, and looked up, not sure what I would see. Instead of anger, I saw confusion, and looks on faces like everyone was trying to process the bomb I just dropped on them.
"How do you know all of this?" the male named Antonio finally asked. I looked over into his soft brown eyes, and answered him truthfully.
"Mi Mamá was trained to be the next bruja of her tribe, before she ran off with Papá. Brujas and tribal Shamans used to work together at one point, but now hate each other because the nature of a Bruja is to help the people, where as Shamans tend to only help themselves. Mamá tried to train me in the ways of the Bruja, including to know one's enemy, but I guess I don't have the touch because I never succeeded in wielding the magic." I said the last part shyly. It's one of the only things I've ever completely failed at, and I wasn't proud of it. "She always says I have such potential, and that mi hermanos y mi hold more magic than any other human. I think it has something to do with being changers."
I had my theories on why we were so 'energetic', just like I had my theories on how the changer gene is a recessive dominant gene on the X chromosome, but the Hidden's power lies in the mitochondrial DNA (which is why it can only be passed through matrilineal heritage). But, this was not the time or place to be discussing the theories of the biological and genetic ramifications of what is commonly (though mistakenly) called lycanthropy. I stuck to only the bare bones basics that the mutts needed to know, and got on with my next point.
"I think that the girls are being taken for some kind of sacrifice" I blurted out.
That got all of their attention.