Invitation Accepted: Chapter Nineteen

Image from Unsplash, taken by Daniel Mirlea

“So how did you end up on the naughty table?” the boggart asked. “I’m Phil Neston, by the way, and I’m sort of a representative for the local boggarts.”

“I’m Gareth Peterson,” Gareth said. “I’m the paladin from Otley.

“And I’m Bron,” Bron added. “And I may be the reason we’re in the corner.” Phil blinked slowly at the dual voices and then shrugged.

“Not because he’s an ancient bronze age warrior whose spirit was called into me,” Gareth said. “But because he needs to be kept calm if Mark turns up.”

The third man, hard faced and hard muscled, raised an eyebrow. “Won’t Mark be here?” he asked. “I’m Ian Tait, by the way, the leader of a sub pack in York and here to represent Kieran from the overpack. I’m probably in the corner because I summoned a demon once and it still makes people twitchy.”

“You don’t make a habit of it, do you?” Bron said, looking at him thoughtfully.

Ian grimaced. “It was only once and that was by accident.” He waved a dismissive hand. “But what’s all this about Mark?”

Gareth answered. “Mark’s gone missing,” he said, picking his words with care. “And he needs to answer a few questions about how Violet died, and the whereabouts of the Orache Stone.”

Phil raised an eyebrow. “It’s pretty cut and dried from what I heard. Lord Marius has a lot of questions. Anyway, the point is that Mark’s missing.”

“Bron was close to Violet, years ago,” Gareth continued. “So he’s upset about her death. And he was the one who dealt with the Orache Stone the first time around.”

“I was talking with Steve about that,” Ian said. “We were kicking some ideas about getting it destroyed.”

“I didn’t know that werewolves did magic,” Bron said, looking Ian up and down.

“Most of us don’t,” Ian said. “I’m also a qualified plumber and there’s not many werewolves in that trade either.” He held Bron’s gaze. “But I’ve done my penance and me and Steve were talking about some work arounds. It’s elfen magic, from the sound of it.”

Bron nodded. “But it’s elfen magic that called to werewolves, bedded into the hills near Ilkley and seriously nasty. It drives the owner mad.”

“And Mark was…” Phil looked around the huge marquee filled with sharp eared werewolves. “Mark was already being driven mad with grief.”

“I’m sure I’ll listen closely to his excuses,” Bron said, icy sarcasm dripping from every word.

“So if Mark turns up, Bron needs to keep cool,” Gareth said.

“And I suppose that’s why we’re next to you both,” Phil said. “Just in case Mark turns up.”

“This isn’t the time or place,” Ian said. “But perhaps we can have a talk afterwards. I’d be interested in your experiences. Steve said that he couldn’t contain it.”

Bron nodded. “Sure, but hang on, it’s the toast.” He raised his glass of whiskey and water.

Rhys stood on the dais, a glass in hand, his eyes shadowed as he reached the end of the eulogy. “To Claire,” he said, raising his glass and then swallowing the drink.

“To Claire,” the room responded.

Rhys looked around. “And that’s the end of the formalities,” he said. “Now it’s time to eat, drink, remember Claire, remember old friends and family and come together. The buffet is open at the back.”

“Not so fast,” Mark stepped into the marquee, followed by three strangers.  “Rhys, get out. I’m exiling you from the pack.”

Gareth could feel the tension racing around the space. “What’s going on?” he murmured to Phil.

“Rhys has been running the pack unofficially for the last two years,” Phil murmured back. “Mark now sees him as a threat.” He grimaced. “Mark owes Rhys everything and Rhys has been nothing but loyal. It shows what the Orache Stone can do to you.”

“It’s not the effect of the Orache Stone,” Bron said as he stood. “He was heading down this path long before he got hold of that. No, this is Mark – a mad dog without a leash.”

“That could have been put better,” Ian said. He glanced around the tent and was unnerved to see that a lot of the werewolves agreeing with Bron. “Who are the goons with him?”

“I think one of them is a mad magician called Edragor,” Phil said. He caught hold of Bron’s arm. “This is a challenge that Rhys needs to answer. If there’s anything left of Mark afterwards, I’ll give it to you to play with.”

“Seems fair,” Bron growled. “Rhys seems halfway decent and the pack doesn’t deserve turmoil. And Mark waited until Violet was weakened before he attacked.”

“This Edragor,” Ian murmured. “I think I’ve heard the name. But there’s something going on…”

“I’m going nowhere,” Rhys said. “You owe me.”

“I said, get out, pup,” Mark said. He looked around the tent. “I’ve got plans, big plans, and the power to put them into practice. Claire will be back any day now, and between us, we’ll put things right.” He turned to Lord Marius. “And why are the werewolves always knocked back? Why aren’t there any werewolf princes? We need to know our worth.”

Lord Marius stood and put a little space between him and Rhys. “A prince isn’t an easy position,” he said. “And a few centuries of experience help. Werewolves don’t live long enough.”

“But you’re not a proper prince, are you?” Mark said. “You have no real authority in this tent. It’s just the pack, and I say that Rhys goes.” He glared around the tent. “Throw him out,” he snapped at the nearest men.

A shudder ran through Ian. He turned and grabbed Stella. “Get the women and cubs out of here now,” he said desperately. “Quickly! And you can help her.” He grabbed a gangling werewolf teenager and thrust him towards Stella. “Get the cubs and women out of here and get them somewhere safe!”

“What do you mean, Claire will be back?” Rhys said. “Mark, I’m sorry, but she’s gone.”

“Edragor, what is the meaning of this?” Lord Marius said sharply. “I do not permit necromancy.”

Edragor stepped forward, a mocking smile on his thin lips. “You are not the true prince,” he said. He looked around the marquee. “How many here have as good a claim as you? And no-one can interfere with pack matters.”

Ian stepped forward. “You’ve brought wraiths with you! Everyone – keep back!”

“Wraiths?” Gareth looked at Ian who was kicking the legs off a chair. “What the hell?”

“Don’t touch them,” Phil said, picking up a trestle table and hefting it carefully. “And don’t let them touch you. They drain your life force.”

“Edragor!” roared Lord Marius. “How dare you!”

“This is my hall, Lord Marius,” Mark said. “And I say get out.” He looked at the surrounding werewolves. “Throw them all out. Throw everyone out that isn’t one of that pack. And that includes Rhys.”

“No,” an older werewolf said, staring straight back at Mark.

Gareth felt himself pushed out of the way as Bron took over. “You’re not ready for this,” Bron said, glancing around and picking up a chair. Gareth watched helplessly as Phil hurled the table at the figures behind Edragor. It caught one of them on the arm and, to Gareth’s horrified shock, it crumbled to ash. Screams rang around the marquee as the few remaining cubs and women were hustled out of the back. The old werewolf snapped out orders to fetch scaffolding poles as tables and chairs were grabbed for shields.

“Your call,” Steve yelled over to Ian. “You know this stuff best.” Ian grimaced and nodded, holding up a hand. Gareth, helpless as Bron advanced with the chair, watched Steve throw a rope of sparkling green magic. It arched across the space over the heads of the werewolves, twisting and splitting as it writhed towards Ian. Ian caught it and swore as he shuddered, trying to control it.

“I’ve got it!” Ian yelled, hauling the green energy into his grasp.

Mark snarled and went to fur, diving at Rhys. Rhys stayed out of fur for a moment, grabbing Mark and using his momentum to run him head first into the edge of the dais. Mark howled and struggled as Rhys kicked him hard in the ribs. “Get rid of Edragor!” Rhys yelled.

“My pleasure,” Lord Marius snarled, advancing on Edragor.

Ian wrapped the power around his fist and then whirled his arm around, flinging the energy out towards the wraiths like a whip. “They’re tough!” he yelled.

Rhys went to fur and lunged in, fangs bared as Mark yowled, twisting away. He was trying to change back from fur but Rhys was going in hard. “Don’t let him use the Orache Stone,” Steve called. “I’m pulling more power, Ian. Brace!”

Ian caught the ball of green light in his free hand and seemed to feed it into the existing store, flicking the power out again and again to lash against the wraiths. Bron stalked closer to the whirling, snapping ball of fur. “I’m waiting, Mark,” he snarled.

The wolf flinched and fought to break free. As Phil threw another table at the fading wraiths, Lord Marius stepped closer to Edragor and snapped out a flash of blue light. Edragor deflected it into the wall of the marquee and flames shot up over the canvas.

“Everyone out!” Phil yelled. “Rhys, you need to get your people out of here. Ian – how are you doing?”

Ian was muttering under his breath, before yelling. “Discedite tenebris!” More energy shot from his hands and wreathed the wraiths in green fire. He sagged as they crumbled into shadows and slipped out through the flames. Phil picked Ian up bodily and raced towards the back exit. “Bron, Marius, get out of here.”

Gareth felt Bron’s hesitation, then saw Edragor reach out and grab a wolf by the scruff, then vanish. Lord Marius vanished after him and then it was him following Steve out of the tent as extinguishers hissed against the flames. “I’ll get him next time,” said Bron.

You can read the story from the beginning here.

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