By the time I had gotten free of Xavier, the first competition was about to start. I barely made it to the front line in time.
“Ready… Set… Go…”
There was a gunshot, and dozens of werewolves sprinted forward into the forest. Within moments, my view of them was obscured by trees and branches. I followed after, the bow slung over my back as I slowly moved in. They were surprisingly quiet; the werewolves seemed to hunt in silence.
As we had lined up at the start, several of the men had given me blank or outright hostile looks. This definitely felt like a boy’s club that I was stepping into. Who knew that werewolves could be such sexists? Katrina had explained that female werewolves often had trouble changing. During the period around the full moon, werewolves were at their most potent. Many women could change during the week surrounding that period.
The weakest werewolves could barely change at all during a full moon and were ridiculed for it. Women, as an unwritten rule, had been banned from becoming Alpha because of this weakness. The strength and the capacity for werewolves to change was apparently very important to them. Daniel, for example, could change any time throughout the month, but like everyone else was the strongest under a full moon. Treena was apparently an abnormality, stronger than many of the men. It made finding a mate difficult since most of the men were intimidated by her. I understood now why she was so bitter and hateful towards me. It didn’t make me like her anymore though.
They didn’t like that I was competing. It was both because I was a woman and because I was a human. Katrina informed me that some of them may go easy on me, while others may be determined to put me in my place. Even though the hunt was supposed to be no fighting, I may still find myself being attacked by werewolves hoping to make it look like an accident. When Andrew heard that, he was quite vexed. However, it was too late to back out now.
I pulled my bow from my back and turned around as I heard another twig crack. Daltom? No, he was back in a tent with everyone else. He wasn’t crazy enough to be out here, like me. All I could say was that the boy werewolves better not get any ideas. There was one in particular that had unnerved me. They were completely cloaked so that I couldn’t see their eyes, but I could swear they had given me numerous dirty looks. It might have been Jorgan’s real killer. They might be willing to stop me at all costs.
There was some rustling from a nearby bush and I turned to it. Birds exploded from the bush. This was my chance; this was how I was going to win. I drew back the bow as if I had an arrow already notched. As Andrew had promised, the arrow appeared. It was long and white, the fletching looked less like feathers and more like flowing fire.
I carefully aimed. Why did the birds need to move so fast? There was one bird still in my view. I could get it. I could do this. I took a deep breath, letting the bowstring go. It flapped forward, the arrow releasing at an incredible speed. It flew high, catching the bird just as it attempted to turn. Then there was an explosion. The sky itself seemed to explode in bright light, an enormous loud eruption emanating from it.
I turned my eyes away from the intense light, and when I turned back there was nothing but a few floating feathers. A tree nearby was smoldering as if it had been burnt by fire. I growled in frustration. It had been burnt, by a holy fire. I cursed Andrew’s name. He gave me a freaking holy weapon. How am I supposed to hunt anything if I turn the corpses into ash in my wake? Did he know the weapon was this powerful? Did he give me this so that he could protect me? Never mind the fact that I couldn’t possibly win, as long as I was safe?
“Damn it!” I shouted, hoping Andrew could hear it from outside the forest and feel just a little bad.
I didn’t really know what to do now. I couldn’t win the competition with some kind of stupid exploding arrows. Victor hadn’t even given me any of his serum. He said that Allan was helping him do something with it.
Then I heard a growl, and I turned to see a cloaked form leaping at me. I dived away, barely giving myself time. I saw gleaming teeth and claws out of the corner of my eye. I landed in a roll and came back up, bring my bow up. Maybe it wasn’t so bad that I had a bow like this. I pulled it back and shot. The werewolf dodged, the arrow striking a tree behind him. The explosion that followed threw the werewolf off their balance, causing them to fly back. I turned and ran with all my force.
This wasn’t going the way I planned at all. I just wanted to sit quietly, shoot down a few birds, and win. Why was this happening? I looked out of the corner of my eye to see a werewolf shooting towards me full sprint. This one wasn’t wearing the cloak. Well, at least he wasn’t hiding anymore. I forced my feet to run as fast as I could. Then I noticed another werewolf coming from the other side. Was I being chased by two werewolves? A howl came from directly behind me. Three? What was this, an execution?
“Get out of my way!” shouted a voice from my feet. “They’re trying to kill me!”
I looked down and saw a familiar white bunny frantically running next to me.
“You get out of my way! They’re trying to kill me!” I shouted back.
I pulled the bowstring and shot wildly. The arrow shot up, striking the top of a tree branch between two of the descending werewolves. The explosion caught both of them off guard, causing them to flinch. I shot again in the direction of the third, striking the ground, causing another enormous explosion. The holy fire erupted from the ground like a fountain.
“Will you stop blowing up the entire forest?” Reginal shouted at me.
“All they freaking gave me was exploding arrows, damn it, so exploding arrows is what I’m going to use!”
I shot another arrow, which hit a branch far closer to me than I was hoping. The blast threw me to the ground with force. Ouch, those arrows really were strong. A furry creature leaped on top of me. It took me a second to realize it was far lighter than a werewolf. I peeked up at Reginal as he gave me a stern look.
“Look, those werewolves want to eat me and kill you. So, let’s make a deal. Let’s just make it out of the forest. You turn me in as your award and take third or fourth or whatever place one bunny will fetch you.”
I nodded, grabbing the bunny and getting back to my feet. Trying to win this competition ended when I became the target of a murderous werewolf. The last barrage of arrows seemed to have caused the werewolves to flee, though, so it offered a little bit of a respite.
“They’ll be back,” Reginal said wearily, “And in greater numbers.”
“They’re not sand people, Reginal,” I rolled my eyes, running towards the exit to the forest.
“No, they’re worse. They have sharp fangs, and claws, and body odor. I almost thought about using my demonic form.”
“Demonic form? Does it also have sharp fangs and claws.”
“And odor,” Reginal nodded.
“I have stink glands, they emit a noxious gas…”
“I wonder why you don’t have a girlfriend,” I snorted.
“I have a girlfriend,” Reginal protested.
“The goat?” I replied in shock.
“No, that was a fling! My beau has four arms and twenty tentacles. She has the bluest skin and has the shrillest death scream you ever heard.”
“Sounds like a keeper.”
Reginal nodded enthusiastically and I fought the urge to roll my eyes. To each their own, I supposed. Blue tentacle beasts need loving too if a good portion of Japanese pornography was to be believed.
The pair of us emerged from the forest. I was almost surprised when we made it out without any further werewolf interruption. Rune and Andrew were waiting for me, running up as I moved up to the elder. I plopped Reginal in front of him. The man raised an eyebrow as the bunny stared up at him innocently.
“One bunny,” I declared.
“Are you sure you want to turn in your catch now? You have another fifteen minutes to hunt.”
I looked back at the forest full of werewolves ready to attack me, and down at my basically useless-for-hunting bow.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
The elder nodded, scooping up Reginal and turning back to the table.
“We were worried about you,” Rune explained. “When we started hearing those explosions, I was afraid something bad happened.”
I turned a glare at Andrew, “It wouldn’t have been a problem if someone hadn’t given me a weapon of mass destruction.”
Rune frowned, eying the bow up and down until his eyes widened as he turned to Andrew, “You gave her the Atrius? That weapon has smitten many a demon back to hell. Did you even think that was safe for her to have?”
Andrew shrugged with a little bit of a blush on his cheeks, “I was more worried about the other werewolves than the stuff she was hunting.”
“Well, the stuff I was hunting kept blowing up!” I snapped.
Andrew lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
Did he have to look so cute when he sulked? These boys were going to be the death of me, in more ways than one.
“It… wasn’t the worse thing,” I murmured, “One of the werewolves did attack me.”
“Which one?” Andrew demanded, recovering from his sulk.
“I didn’t see who it was. It happened too fast,” I lied; I wasn’t about to start something now.
“Well, let’s just hope one bunny is enough,” Rune glared out into the forest.
We continued to wait, staring into the relatively quiet forest. There was very little sound to indicate one thing or another. The elder picked up a large horn five minutes before the hour mark and blew loudly. After that, the werewolves began emerging from the forest, a few at a time. As the elder went to recover their hunt, most of the werewolves just shook their heads, looks of frustration and anger on their faces.
A few of them muttered to each other about the strange explosions scaring away all of the game in the hunting area. Hope began to emerge within me. It looked like Andrew’s bow had an unexpected side effect. I might be able to win this. My hope died as a massive form emerged from the forest. It was the cloaked werewolf that had attacked me. On their back was an entire deer. On their belt looked to be at least another half dozen animals strapped to it. My smile slipped. I didn’t know the exact math, but there was no chance one bunny would beat that haul.
At the final horn blow, a few straggling werewolves emerged from the forest, most with angry expressions on their faces. One or two had managed to find a rabbit or squirrel, but the pickings were slim. The elder counted the remaining game and sighed.
“Well, I suppose it is no surprise that you won,” The elder grimaced while nodding to the cloaked werewolf.
The mysterious werewolf returned a nod before turning away. There were several angry mutters that followed them as they walked away. It would seem that someone here was as unpopular as me. It had to be the real killer!
“In 2nd place is Bigsby,” the elder nodded.
A buff werewolf without a shirt on moved up and there were a few halfhearted hoots and hoorays.
“In 3rd place is… Jane,” the elder continued stiffly.
The silence in response was deafening. I wasn’t even afforded angry mutters, just blank-eyed stares. I felt more out of place at that moment than I ever had in my entire life. Andrew and Rune seemed to move around me in protective stances. The gesture was nice, but in some ways it made me feel ashamed.
“I suppose,” the elder broke the silence, “That you should kill the bunny now.”
My eyes widened, “Do what now?”
The elder held some annoyance in his voice, “The bunny you brought back. We will have a feast tonight. It will, unfortunately, be a meager one, but even the scrawny bunny will help. Since you caught it, it’s your right to kill it.”
“I…I…” I looked at the cage Reginal was in, his nose was twitching with worry, “I think we should let this one go.”
“That isn’t an option,” the elder spoke almost as if I was a child; the tone irritated me.
“If you don’t want to do it,” the elder grimaced again, “Then someone else can.”
Before I could get another word out, one of the werewolves opened the cage and reach in, grabbing Reginal by the neck. The bunny let out a squeal as the werewolf positioned him on a nearby table, lifting a large hunting knife. I shot a worried look at Rune.
Rune grabbed my arm, whispering, “Holy weapons will send him back to hell, but if he dies by a mortal weapon, he’ll die.”
“Wait!” I shouted, causing the werewolf to hesitate.
He cursed as the bunny bit his finger. Reginal slipped from his grasp and began running. Within two bounds there were half a dozen werewolves charging, their snarling faces trapping the bunny in a circle of death. Reginal exploded, his forming being replaced by the massive snarling demon. I stopped short. Oh, so that was his demon form? It was certainly the textbook example of demonic.
Reginal was tall, nearly 9 feet high. His skin was a darkened marble splashed with red. His muscles were large and solid. He had two long horns on his head. Thankfully, his demonic form seemed to spawn with a loincloth. At least my eyes would be spared from that sight.
The appearance caught the werewolves off guard, and Reginal charged first, grabbing one of the werewolves and tossing him like a rag. The other werewolves descended on him, gnashing and biting at the howling demon. I had to do something. I took a step forward when I felt another hand grab my other arm.
“If you try to help him, the werewolves will think you’re a demon and kill you,” Andrew warned, “He needs to get out of this on his own.”
I watched helplessly as the werewolves managed to bring him down to the ground. This was painful to watch. Poor Reginal was going to die. Why weren’t the boys doing anything? They were just watching me with blank stares. I had to do something, I had to. Even if this was a perverted demon I only just met, I couldn’t allow him to die this way.
Reginal moved forward in an explosive motion, tearing the werewolves from his grip. I shook the grips of the two boys holding me back, taking a step forward. Reginal bellowed, the werewolves circling around him once again. This had to stop, and I had to be the one to do it.
I reached behind and pulled out the bow. In a swift motion, I pulled on the string, a glowing arrow appearing in its place. Holy weapons send him back to hell, right? I took a deep breath, aimed, and fired. The arrow flew forward, striking Reginal in the back. The demon turned to me. His eyes were furious, but when they met mine, they immediately relaxed.
Reginal put on a silly grin, “Well, isn’t that a bi-“
The arrow exploded.