By: Joe Hagen February 2012

Part 5

“What!” Alan exclaimed. Rising from the couch in Autumn's living room he began to pace, again. “This is too much. How are we, how could you, we can't...” Right beside him, Autumn paced and cajoled, “Let he help you understand. I've had most of my life to accept and understand these things. It's a lot to try and accept in one night, or even a month. Please, sit down.” “Grave robbing! Your own brother's body!” “He hadn’t been buried yet and it will be easier for me to use Karl's body than it would have been for you if we were using your brother’s” Alan's knees almost gave beneath him after hearing her last words. Holding a blade of grass in her hand, Autumn rested it against his back and led him to the couch. “We couldn’t have used your brother anyway. His preparations for burial would have rendered all the magic from his body. His soul’s at rest.” Alan practically dropped onto the cushions as she released him. Hands back in his hair, he leaned forward and breathed deeply as Autumn placed the blade of grass on a table and went back into the kitchen to fill his empty glass. Returning, she sat beside Alan on the couch and offered the potion to him. “Drink this and listen.” Lifting his head from his hands, Alan gingerly took the glass and looked at her.

Pursing her lips, Autumn began, “Like I said, the plants in my yard and one’s in nearby fields will allow me to prepare most of the potions, charms, amulets and poultices we’ll need both to help you keep control of yourself and to keep the were-serum from making any permanent changes, but we need several, ingredients, from the body of someone killed by one of them. We also need samples from a werewolf who’s still living. It would be best if it was from the werewolf that bit you and we’re in luck with that as well.” “In luck?” Alan managed to ask in a shaky voice. Autumn nodded. “I got onto the police storage lot and found your brother’s Ranger. The blood on the inside of the car was yours and the wolf’s. That’s perfect for some of the potions I’ll be preparing. They would need to be mixed anyway.” Alan cringed but Autumn didn’t notice. “I’ll need additional material from you but that won’t be a problem. The blood on the outside of the car and the nonhuman hair I found out and inside the car will suit some of our other needs as well. With more time I might have been able to find some of your brother’s hair but… That’s where Karl came in.” Alan took a long swallow of the drink Autumn had given him and, keeping his eyes on the glass, nodded for her to continue. Pursing her lips, Autumn was about to comment on Alan’s expression when he looked at her. “Go ahead, I’m alright,” he said and even managed a small smile. After a small nod, Autumn’s expression changed from hesitation to annoyance as her mind returned to what she’d been saying. “The police wouldn’t let me see my brother. I’m only his sister after all,” she grumbled. It wasn’t until they’d sent him to the mortuary, where the bastards had already began to butcher his body, that I was able to see him. I insisted they leave us alone…” She picked up and waved her blade of grass. “With a little persuasion, the one who’d taken be back agreed.” Despite her previous impartiality, Autumn’s eyes teared as she continued. “They’d already made the cuts to pump out his blood and replace it with their chemicals. Also, despite the clear cause of death, the police had done an autopsy. Gratefully, both of those things only made my job easier.” Standing, Autumn walked over to a side table and picked up a box of tissues. On her way back she pulled one from the box and wiped at her eyes. Sitting down she put the tissue to her nose and blew before starting again. As she did, Alan took her hand. She smiled gratefully and continued.

“On the news I’d learned that you’d survived, although it wasn’t until I saw Karl’s body that I had proof that this was no simple wolf attack. The marks were clear.” “After the things you got from Mark’s car, what did you need Karl for?” “I don’t want to upset you again,” Autumn said as she looked him in the eye. Swallowing deeply, Alan did look away for a moment before answering. “I want to know. The more I know and can understand the better.” Not convinced, Autumn put her hand on his. “It really isn’t necessary for you to know all…” “I want to,” Alan said gently cutting her off. After a slow nod, she said, “Stop me whenever you want, but remember, Karl is dead. His body is just a vessel. A vessel which is now empty. While it still wasn’t easy for me, I knew what I had to do, both for him and for us. It all was incredibly necessary if we’re going to come out of this alive.” “They don’t know about you,” Alan insisted. Autumn shook her head. “Salvadore knew the name Hicks. It isn’t our real name. My parents used it so that, if the wolves every learned it, they couldn’t use it to find them, or Karl and me. I don’t know how they know the name Hicks, only another hunter could have told them, they may know about Karl and me as well.” Alan sighed. “Well Salvadore definitely knows about Karl.” “Yes, and if he doesn’t know already, he’ll be interested in finding out if Karl had any siblings.” “Why does he care?” Witches and werewolves have fought one another from the wolves’ beginning.” “So you’re enemies?” “Yes.” Alan nodded and swallowed. “OK, what did you do with Karl?”

Autumn began rubbing her hands against the tops of her thighs as she began. “There are parts of the body which have great power. The body of one killed by a werewolf has even greater power for several purposes.” She looked into Alan’s eyes. “Some, parts...” she paused apologetically as Alan stiffened. “… can keep the were-serum from making your change permanent. Others can be used to make spells, potions or charms which can repel the werewolves, contain them, and even kill them.” “How...” Alan braced himself against her answer. “How do you know this stuff? Plants and body parts, I mean, is this all you all do is fight werewolves?” Rubbing at her face, Autumn explained. “It’s not all we do but many of us have. My parents were werewolf hunters. They both died from bites received in battle.” Alan swallowed and tightened his grasp on Autumn’s hand. She squeezed back. “Karl was still very young when it happened.” Alan frowned. “Aren’t you younger than Karl?” Shaking her head, Autumn took a breath before answering. “No. Karl was twenty three when he died. I’m thirty two.” Alan gasped. “No!” He stared wide eyed at her face. “You don’t look much older than me!” Autumn allowed a weak smile. “Yes, I’m vain.” Alan frowned. “I don’t use all of my powers for the world’s good. I’ve got a few tricks I use just for me.” Embarrassed again by their kiss, Alan looked away. He also didn’t want her to see the disappointment on his face. “Anyway…” Autumn continued, “…my artificial biological age is nineteen, so don’t be grossed out too badly.” “Immediately blushing, Alan said , “I’m not grossed out. I just…” “I know. It's all very confusing. Both my magic and what's happening to you, but the magic allows us to deal with the changes in you so it’s a good thing! Focus your concern on the next full moon.” She allowed a small smile. “Besides, the kiss wasn’t all bad,” she added, squeezing his hand again. Alan’s blush deepened but faded as his thoughts returned to Autumn’s magic and all that could be done with it. He frowned. Looking toward her he asked, “Does the curse make them evil?”

Nodding, Autumn looked sad. “It makes intelligent animals out of them. They take on the nature and predatory aggression of the wolf, while mixing it with the base ruthless and selfish nature of man. It is a true curse.” “Then what about me? How am I going to be of any help to you if…” “I can stop it. The potion you’re taking will allow you to keep human control of your baser instincts as well as making it possible for you to fight off the predatory nature of the wolf.” Frowning, Alan shook his head. “Then there are werewolves who aren’t bad?” “Um, none that I know of.” Autumn answered, confused by the question. “But if magic can keep the bitten from turning into monsters like Salvadore and the rest of his pack, why haven’t you…” “I see,” Autumn interrupted. “For us to accomplish that, the treatment has to start before the serum sets too deeply into the victim’s body’s tissues. “With all the magic you can do, from glowing crystals, flying sticks, anti-aging all the way to helping me with the changes happening to me and curing me once this is all over…” “Most werewolf attacks happen in secret. The very few survivors usually are hidden by the pack or run and hide. If we do find them it’s usually not until after the next full moon which is too late. Those we do find in time are usually well into their transformation. We have to take drastic measures to cure them. Often, the effort is fatal. It’s only when the bitten are found early, as in your case, that we have options.” Autumn paused and looked at Alan. “Your situation is different in other ways too. Usually, after the attack, the wolves run and the exact location of the attack is unknown. Without a sample from the attacker our options are very limited.” “But with me...” Alan asked. “With you we have the material to save you but…” Alan spoke over her hesitation, “If you do it now, Salvadore will kill me, or my parents, or even all of us.”

“Yes,” Autumn agreed. “Revenge is not usually part of the equation. Also, there are the souls of your friends.” “What do you mean?” “I've already freed Karl. That’s another reason I had to get to his body. Your…” “I don’t understand.” Alan jumped to his feet. “What's happening to their souls?”

“They're in limbo,” Autumn explained, trying to pull him back onto the couch. “My mother’s soul is there too.” “Your mothers! What are you talking about? What do souls have to do with…” “It’s another part of the curse. The souls of those killed by a werewolf are trapped in limbo until the wolf that killed them dies too. “Then, what did you do to free Karl?” “There is a nerve in the spinal cord that must be cut. It frees the body of all magic, including the effects of the werewolves’ curse. “But Eric and Glen! If they…” Alan paled and looked down at his hands. “…if they ate them, wouldn't that have destroyed their spinal cords?” Autumn sadly shook her head. Alan looked at her and back at his hands. “So you don't think they…” Alan finds he can’t say the words again and Autumn doesn’t make him. “Yes, I'm sure they did,” she answered sadly. “Many werewolves believe their strength increases the more souls they strand in limbo. I haven't found proof of that in any of my books but the wolves believe it. Even though they strip the rest of the body, they leave the head attached to the spinal column before they hide it.” “Bastards!” “Yes,” Autumn answered. Dropping against the back rest of the couch, Alan sighed. “This just keeps getting worse.”

“I'm sorry.” “I don’t blame...” Alan’s eyes suddenly widened. “…what about Mark?” Your brother is fine,” Autumn assured. “The embalming of his body freed his soul. The damage the chemicals do to the body also clears it of magic and all its effects.” Alan held his head, placing his elbows on his knees as Autumn continued. “Remember, werewolves originated due to a magic curse. All magic works through nature. If nature is destroyed and what death doesn’t destroy, those chemicals do, than the magic is destroyed as well. “So, even my parents and others who can’t use magic have magic in them?” Autumn nodded. “All of nature contains magic. Trees, animals, even rocks and non-magic users.” She smiles. Magic is everywhere, including the werewolves’ curse. That's why magic works so well against them. The magic is still in the bodies of your friends and my mother. It will keep them stuck between here and the other side until Salvadore and the other wolves that killed them are dead.

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