Episode 1 Suspicion The frigid Nova Scotia snow crunched under my paws. I cared little about it since vampires don’t feel cold. Nova, my heart’s desire, walked with a naked Kane, my human vampire brother, in front of me as we foraged the woods surrounding my master Brogio’s Wolfville Wine Estate. My last two kills had sated me, and I was more focused on the sway in the she-wolf’s walk than on chasing more prey. Kane’s telepathic thoughts slipped into my mind. Father and Selene should return from Italy in the next few nights. I think— Nearby blood-curdling howls shattered Kane’s comment. They were not familiar calls to me. I mentally shot a warning to my wolf pack, all my progeny, who had broken off to chase down an Eastern Cougar. Kane, Nova and I went into reflex action, placing our backsides together in a three-pronged circle. A few eager moments passed. Three giant black snarling Rottweilers suddenly faced us. Foamy saliva dripped from bared teeth. Red eyes glowed in the darkness. I bared my own fangs, feeling my body growing into my demon-self. I quickly glanced behind me. Kane had shapeshifted into a huge black bear with elongated claws. Nova began to morph into a fiery red demon with three
rows of fangs. She shook and sparks flew off her enlarged dragon form, melting the snow under her. I turned to face the vicious creature approaching me from the scattered trees to the north of us. He took a few thunderous steps in my direction, leaped and vanished into the dark sky with the other two just as they sailed over our heads. The three of us instinctively jumped into the air, trying to catch them by the legs, but all three had somehow disappeared before we could touch them. I hit the ground with a thud and bumped into the demonized Nova, yelping at the fiery contact. I could feel the scruff on the back of my neck ignite. Kane’s bear form behind me shook the surrounding trees with its weight. Tree branches heavy with snow deposited their burden on us, dampening the flames from my fur. An acrid residue of rotten eggs assaulted my nose and lingered in a cloud around us. Transitioning back into naked human form, Kane began to speculate aloud. He always had an answer to everything. Our maker and master, Brogio, had once referred to Kane as “Mr. Wikipedia,” and I often affectionately called him that. “My gods!” He held his nose. “That stink they left behind is sulfur.” What were those things? I asked Kane with my telepathic thoughts. Words were not needed among us. Telepathy was the norm for Brogio’s kindred and mine.
Even Selene, Brogio’s wife, who had been slow to pick up our silent communication, now rarely used unnecessary spoken words. “Hell hounds. These specific hell hounds are an indication that Hecate is returning.” Hecate? Who’s Hecate? Nova had now transitioned back to her beautiful form. She glanced from Kane to me and then back to our brother. My progeny of wolves slid into our circle, the six of them almost knocking us down with excitement. Joker slammed so hard into Gaspar that he almost lost a floppy ear, which his pack mate attempted to slice off with razor-sharp fangs. Scrawny immediately seconded my question. Hecate? Hecate, the Greek goddess of witches! Kane’s voice rang in all of our heads. Another Goddess to try and mess with our lives? I growled my displeasure. Enough of this! I took off at a dead run. This was a challenge to our territory. Come! Protect what’s ours. I looked back at the others to follow me. Kane immediately took flight in the form of a huge condor. My pack and I scoured the woods, noses to the ground. On the snowy forest floor, we spread out wide and moved fast, swiftly moving through brush and fir trees, trying to scent the elusive, vicious Rottweilers. I followed a faint line of sulfur, and the wolves joined me, locking on to the stink of the hell dogs. A distant hiss from above alerted us
that Kane had spotted something. He landed just in front of us and morphed back from bird to man as he ran. Feathers became pale, naked skin. Claws became feet with legs. Arms sprouted, and the lines between human and bird became blurred as he evolved. It never ceased to fascinate me. The pack and I were alerted to the hell hounds some 50 yards ahead of us. They suddenly reappeared together beneath a clearing in the trees. Fangs bared, foam dripped from their angry mouths, daring us to approach. Kane ran headlong, smashing into the crouched dogs. They all were knocked backward by the force of the collision. When the hounds recovered, they went for Kaneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s exposed throat. He jumped so high that they missed, but not before he reached down and tore open the shoulder of one with his fingernails. The other two slammed into the nearby trees, temporarily stunned. The pack was on the three of them before they could react. Thor, the fearless warrior, bit into the hind legs of the largest of the three, generating a cry of agony. I charged into the scrimmage, but Nova almost knocked me down, blocking me and biting off a piece of jowl from the third and broadest dog. Gaspar, Scrawny and Fergus surrounded the hound with the torn jowl, backing it against a copse of bushes. Joker and Chase jumped on the dog with the injured shoulder. Kane immediately landed behind the bushes and reached over to seize the intruder with the wounded jowl and toss him
against a fir tree. Nova scurried after and stood menacingly in front of it. Was she trying to protect me? I felt an unexpected thrill at the hope that she might care about my well-being. As we held them at a stalemate, I registered surprise that the venom my pack had inherited from me hadn’t killed the Rottweilers or at least affected them in some negative way. They are supernatural, Snow Blood. Your pack’s venom can’t harm them, or at least for long. Kane’s thoughts answered mine. I was about to ask Kane what we should do with the wounded hounds when the demon dogs began to glow. A bright emerald light surrounded each of them. The stink of what Kane called sulfur assaulted our sinuses. Everything appeared to shift and tremble. The three hell dogs began to shimmer and fade, growing invisible. Then they vanished. Again. The pack scratched and sniffed at the snow, whining and walking in circles searching for the demon dogs. I looked to Kane for guidance. It’s as I suspected. Hecate. It has to be. Kane ran his slender fingers through his long, dark hair. His dark eyes flashed as he shook his head. These hell dogs always bark an announcement of Hecate’s approach.
What does this mean to us? I sat back on my haunches in expectation as the pack continued to circle and paw at the frozen ground. Let me gather my thoughts while we head home. I need a glass of wine. Kane marched on toward the house, his naked backside glowing in the moonlight. He struck a handsome figure. His wide, strong shoulders and back joined a small waist and muscled legs. No wonder human and vampire ladies fawned all over him. He could only be outdone by Brogio, my master and our sire. I snorted at my own musings. Then, I commanded the others to follow. We will have answers soon enough. â&#x2C6;&#x17E; The estate property was always a welcome sight. We trotted past rows and rows of cultivated grapevines. The whole east side was covered by Brogioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vast vineyards. We hunted in the south where his forest supplied us all with wild prey. Lakes to the west provided the vineyard with water. Right now we headed north to the large house and winery nestled in the center of his land. We entered the old Victorian house behind Kane, who walked the 50 feet from the front door to the den. He grabbed the robe awaiting him on one of the overstuffed maroon chairs next to the ever-present fire blazing in the human-sized fireplace. I glanced around Brogioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ornate den with its high-beamed mahogany ceiling and matching broad-
planked floors. My paws stepped on an opulent Italian rug as I padded under artwork as old as my master. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d once said heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d met da Vinci at one of his parties as a wine maker. Overstuffed chairs always gave me comfort, as did the oversized plush burgundy beds placed on either side of the fireplace and around the room for the comfort of my pack. My progeny began to take to their beds, tired from their recent conflict. I surveyed each one of them with fondness. Scrawny, my feisty second-incommand, along with Gaspar, my large brown wolf and our perpetual guardian, took one long glance out the front window before joining us. Tall, lanky Joker, with his floppy right ear, nipped at Scrawnyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feet as he followed his superior to his bed. Yellow-eyed Chase scratched at his black fur, making several turns while biting at his tail before settling on his bed. Thor, the gray, was the last to enter, after patrolling the front gates to the estate and warding off any evil presence. Fergus, the wise, multicolored one, approached his bed yawning. He soon yielded to slumber. Nova padded over to her bed opposite mine at the fireplace and curled up, letting out a deep sigh. She soon snored. I sat and watched Kane pour a glass of wine at the crystal built-in bar to the left of the fireplace. He gulped it down and then poured another to savor. He sat
down in the overstuffed chair closest to the bar and next to the fireplace and twirled the sparkling crystal glass between his fingers while he inhaled the aroma of what had to be one of Brogio’s finest vintages. Only the best for Brogio and his number-one son. I watched as Kane used a hand towel to wipe off the blood that had been splattered on his face and legs from the hunt and encounter with the hell hounds. The slight scorching I had suffered from my earlier collision with fiery Nova stung a bit but would heal with my next feeding. I licked my own legs and attempted to use my paws to wipe away the blood on my nose. Kane reached down and used the towel to wipe away the remainder from me. My progeny slept in oblivion, not bothering to do their usual preening. With Nova’s snoring, I ventured a question. Did you notice how Nova appeared to go to extraordinary lengths to keep me out of the battle tonight? I did. Kane sipped his wine. She must be softening. You turned her six months ago, so it’s about time she started warming up to you. His words encouraged me. I had imprinted on her the moment I saw her, so wherever she went, I would follow. It would help if she started to like me a little. So this imprinting, Kane interrupted my thoughts. What does that mean to you?
Why, Mr. Wikipedia, look it up. Imprinting means that my soul is bound or connected to hers for life. It happens with wolves. No matter that I am a husky. It’s in my DNA. Kane looked at me without reaction for a moment, and then his mind drifted away. I sensed he thought of Selene and the love he felt for his father’s wife. Something he had pledged never to act upon, but he, too, would always be imprinted on her in some way, even if only as an eternal friend. I scratched an itch behind my ear and looked at Kane expectantly. Tell me about Hecate. She is the Greek goddess of witchcraft and magic. Also, she controls the night, ghosts and necromancy. Kane drained his glass and hopped out of his chair to pour another. Necromancy? What’s…? She can conjure dead spirits to reveal the future or influence it. Kane turned to me and patted me lightly on the burnt area of my back. Is she dangerous to us? More than other goddesses? I walked over to my bed next to the fireplace and sat down.
She is goddess of witches, sorcery, poisonous plants and a host of other witchy things. So, what do you think? My kindred brother sighed deeply. She commands the dead. She could use an army of dead against her enemies. But wouldn’t Brogio’s superhuman abilities and all of our combined powers be able to defeat her? I squirmed in my bed in anticipation of Kane’s response. Here’s the problem. Witches are the only creatures that can gain control over us. Yes, we can shapeshift, have preternatural abilities and are, well, pretty vicious. I like that word, “vicious,” don’t you? I stared at him and shook my head. I hadn’t thought about it, Kane. Of course you wouldn’t. Kane snorted. It isn’t in your nature, even as a vampire. He stretched out his legs in front of him. Anyway, witches can cast spells on us. Their strength matches ours. They too can shapeshift. They are resistant to physical and even magical attacks. And they match us in immortality. Kane swiped his long hair away from his face and took another long pull from his wine glass. She is the goddess, so her powers must be greater than all others of her kind? I slumped down into the plush velvet of my bed and licked my paws. Yes, Hecate is the most powerful of all witches. Not only does she control the mist, but she can create illusions, false memories, even hide locations from us. She
is the goddess who troubles the reason of men, and she can use that against us. She can control our minds. Kane closed his eyes, as if he imagined some horrible scenario. He grimaced. She even has the capability to disguise people and hide monsters from us. She can conjure up creatures out of the mist. I scratched under my chin vigorously. I didn’t like the sound of her. Is she related to our enemies—Apollo and Artemis, I mean? She’s the daughter of a Titan, Perses. The Titans were overthrown by Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. They divided up the sky, seas and underworld. Hades took over rule of hell after the Titans were defeated. That was Hecate’s domain, and she’s been trying to get it back from him ever since. Kane poured himself another glass and sauntered back to his chair. The gods and the Titans are always at war. I sat stunned with the revelation that—even though Zeus had forbidden the other gods and goddesses to interfere with us any longer—this Hecate, a Titan, could bring us down. Do you think she could destroy Brogio? Kane inhaled sharply. Possibly. And if he experiences the true death, so do we all. Yes. He is the first, the original, and every vampire in existence carries his blood. If he ceases to exist, so do we all. We’d be goners.
I pounced on the thought that Selene’s deal-making with Hades might have some connection to Hecate’s pending arrival. Could there be a connection from last year when Selene was trying to win Brogio’s soul away from Hades? Could be. Kane stroked his strong, smooth chin. Hecate assisted Demeter, Persephone’s mother, when Hades abducted her. Hecate guided Demeter through the night with torches. Kane twisted in his chair and looked me in the eyes. After the mother-daughter reunion, Hecate became Persephone’s companion in hell. I jumped up from my bed, quivering with wild thoughts. Wait! When Selene was trying to convince Persephone not to leave Hades last year, and to win Brogio’s soul back from him, Hecate must have had knowledge of what was happening! That must be it. But why would that bring her here to us? Kane shook his head and again drained his glass. She has no love lost for any of the gods or goddesses who have attacked and harassed us. Unless… you might be right… this has something to do with Persephone? I took a step forward toward his chair and froze in mid-thought. Perhaps she is angry that Persephone didn’t win her freedom away from Hades and blames us? It’s the only connection I can come up with. I just hope it doesn’t come back to harm us all.
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