Huntress (Chapter 6)


Hugh nodded.

"I'm supposed to stop the end of the world? How?"

"First, I ought to tell you that it's not just me that believes all this about the millennium. It's not even Circle

Daybreak that believes it. It's the Night World Council, Jez."

"The joint Council? Witches and vampires?"

Hugh nodded again. "They had a big meeting about it this summer. And they dug up some old

prophecies about what's going to happen this time."


Hugh looked slightly self-conscious. "Here's one. It used to rhyme in the original, I think, but this is the

translation." He took a breath and quoted slowly:

'In blue fire, the final darkness is banished. In blood, the final price is paid."

Great, Jez thought. Whose blood? But Hugh was going on.

"Four to stand between the light and the


Four of blue fire, power in their blood. Born in the year of the blind Maiden's vision; Four less one and

darkness triumphs."

Jez blinked slowly. "What's blue fire?"

"Nobody knows."

"'Four to stand between the light and the shadow…' Meaning to hold off the end of the world?"

"That's what the Council thinks. They think it means that four people have been born, four Wild Powers

who're going to be instrumental in whatever's coming, whatever battle or disaster that's going to destroy

us. Those four can stop the end of the world-but only if all of them fight together."

"'Four less one and darkness triumphs," Jez said.

"Right. And that's where you come in."

"Sorry, I don't think I'm one of them."

Hugh smiled. "That's not what I meant. The fact is, somebody around here has already reported

finding a Wild Power. Circle Daybreak intercepted a message from him to the Council saying that hell

hand the Wild Power over to them if they make it worth his while. Otherwise hell just sit tight until they're

desperate enough to agree to his terms."

Jez had a sinking feeling. She said one word. "Who?"

Hugh's expression was knowing and regretful. It's one of your old gang, Jez. Morgead Blackthorn."

Jez shut her eyes.

Yeah, that sounded like Morgead, trying to shake down the Night World Council. Only he was crazy

and nervy enough to do that. He was stubborn, too-perfectly capable of letting disaster come if he didn't

get his way. But of all the people in the world, why did it have to be him? And how had he found a Wild

Power, anyway?

Hugh was speaking again softly. "You can see why we need you. Somebody has to get to him and find

out who the Wild Power is-and you're the only one who stands a chance of doing that."

Jez pushed hair off her face and breathed slowly, trying to think.

"I don't need to tell you how dangerous it is," Hugh said, looking into the distance again. "And I don't

want to ask you to do it. In fact, if you're smart, you'll tell me to get lost right now."

Jez couldn't tell him to get lost "What I don't understand is why we can't just let the Council take care of

it. They'll want the Wild Powers bad, and they have a lot more resources."

Hugh glanced back at her, startled. His gray eyes

were wide with an expression that Jez had never seen before. Then he smiled, and it was an incredibly

sad smile.

"That's just what we can't do. You're right, the Council wants the Wild Powers. But not so they can fight

the end of the world. Jez… they only want them so they can kill them."

That was when Jez realized what his expression was. It was gentle regret for innocence-her innocence.

She couldn't believe how stupid she had been.

"Oh, Goddess," she said slowly.

Hugh nodded. "They want it to happen. At least the vampires do. If the human world ends-well, that's

their chance, isn't it? For thousands of years the Night People have had to hide, to live in the shadows

while the humans spread all over the world. But the Council wants that to change."

The reason Jez had been so slow was that it was hard for her to imagine anybody actually wanting to

bring on the Apocalypse. But of course it made sense. "They're willing to risk being destroyed

themselves," she whispered.

"They figure that whatever happens, it'll be worse on the humans, since the humans don't know it's

coming. Hell, some of the Night People think they're what's coming. Hunter Redfern is saying that

vampires are going to wipe out and enslave the humans and that after that the Night World is going to


Jez felt a new chill. Hunter Redfern. Her ancestor, who was over five hundred years old but looked

about thirty. He was bad, and he practically ran the Council.

"Great," she muttered. "So my family's going to destroy the world."

Hugh gave her a bleak smile. "Hunter says the Old Powers are rising to make vampires stronger so they

can take over. And the scary thing is, he's right. Like I said before, the Night People are getting stronger,

developing more powers. Nobody knows why. But most of the vampires on the Council seem to believe


"So we don't have much time," Jez said. "We have to get the Wild Power before Morgead makes a deal

with the Night World."

"Right. Circle Daybreak is fixing up a safe place to keep the Wild Powers until we get all four. And the

Council knows we're doing it-that's probably why that ghoul was following me. They're watching us. I'm

just sorry I led it here," he added absently, with a worried look around the room.

"Doesn't matter. He's not telling anybody anything."

"No. Thanks to you. But we'll meet someplace different next time. I can't endanger your family." He

looked back at her. "Jez, if the Night World manages to kill even one of the Wild Powers-well, if you

believe the prophecy, it's all over."

Jez understood now. She still had questions, but they could wait. One thing was clear in her mind.

"I'll do it. I have to."

Hugh said very quietly, "Are you sure?"

"Well, somebody has to. And you were right; I'm the only one who can handle Morgead."

The truth was that she thought nobody could handle Morgead-but she certainly had a better chance than

any Circle Daybreaker. Of course, she wouldn't survive the assignment Even if she managed to steal the

Wild Power out from under Morgead's nose, he'd hunt her down and kill her for it

That was irrelevant

"He hates me, and I hate him, but at least I know him," she said out loud.

There was a silence and she realized that Hugh was looking at her oddly. "You think he hates you?"

"Of course. All we ever did was fight"

Hugh smiled very faintly-an Old Soul look. I see."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

'It means-I don't think he hates you, Jez. Maybe he has strong emotions for you, but from what I've

heard I don't think hate is one of them."

Jez shook her head. "You don't understand. He was always gunning for me. And if he found out I'm half

human-well, that would be the end. He hates humans worse than anything. But I think I can fool him for

as long as it takes to get the Wild Power."

Hugh nodded, but he didn't look happy. His eyes were bruised and tired. If you can pull it off, you'll

save a lot of lives."

He knows, too, Jez thought. That I'll die doing this.

It was some comfort that he cared-and more

comfort that he didn't understand why she was doing it. Sure, she wanted to save lives. But there was

something else.

The Council had tried to mess with Hugh. They'd sent a stinking ghoul after him. They would probably

send something different tomorrow-certainly, they'd keep trying to kill him.

And for that, Jez was going to wipe the floor with them. Hugh wasn't any kind of fighter. He couldn't

defend himself. He shouldn't be a target.

She realized that Hugh was still looking at her, with pain in his eyes. She smiled to show him that she

wasn't afraid of dying.

"It's a family affair," she told him-and that was true, too. "Hunter's my

great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. It's only right that I stop him. And if anything happens to

me-well, one Redfern less is probably a blessing to the world."

And that was the last part of the truth. She came from a tainted family. No matter what she did, who she

saved, or how hard she tried, there would always be vampire blood running in her veins. She was a

potential danger to humanity by her very existence.

But Hugh was looking horrified. "Don't you ever say that" He stared at her for another moment and then

took her by the shoulders, squeezing. "Jez, you're one of the best people I know. What you did before

last year is-"

"Is part of me," Jez said. She was trying not to feel his warm grip through her T-shirt, trying not to show

that his little squeeze sent a shock through

her entire body. "And nothing can change that. I know what I am."

Hugh shook her slightly. "Jez-"

"And right now, I have to get rid of that ghoul. And you'd better be getting home."

For a moment she thought he was going to shake her again; then he slowly let go of her. 'You're officially

accepting the assignment?" The way he said it sounded as if he were giving her one last chance not to.


He nodded. He didn't ask how she planned on getting back into a gang that she'd abandoned, or getting

information from Morgead, who hated her. Jez knew why. He simply trusted that she could do it

"When you know something, call this number." He dug in a different pocket and handed her a square of

paper like a business card. "I'll give you a location where I can meet you-someplace away from here. We

shouldn't talk about anything on the phone."

Jez took the card. "Thanks."

"Please be careful, Jez."

"Yes. Can I keep the articles?"

He snorted. "Sure." Then he gave her one of those sad Old-Soul smiles. "You probably don't need

them, though. Just look around. Watch the news. You can see it all happening out there."

"We're going to stop it," Jez said. She reconsidered. "We're going to try."

Jez had a problem the next morning. The problem was Claire.

They were supposed to drive to school together, to ensure that Jez didn't cut school. But Jez had to cut

school to go find Morgead. She didn't want to imagine the kind of trouble that was going to get her in

with Uncle Jim and Aunt Nanami-but it was crucial to get to Morgead as soon as possible. She couldn't

afford to waste time.

At the first major stoplight-and there weren't a lot of them in Clayton-she smacked her forehead with her


"I forgot my chemistry book!" She unfastened her seat belt and slid out of the Audi just as the light

turned green. "You go ahead!" she shouted to Claire, slamming the door and leaning in the open window.

"Ill catch up to you."

Claire's expression showed her temperature was reaching the boiling point. "Are you crazy? Get in; I'll

drive back"

"You'll be late. Go on without me." She made a little fluttery encouraging motion with her fingers.

One of the three cars behind Claire honked.

Claire opened her mouth and shut it again. Her eyes were shooting sparks. "You did this on purpose! I

know you're up to something, Jez, and I'm going to find out-"

Honk. Honk.

Jez stepped back and waved goodbye.

And Claire drove off, as Jez had known she would. Claire couldn't stand the peer pressure of cars telling

her to get moving.

Jez turned and began to jog for home, in a smooth, steady, ground-eating lope.

When she got there, she wasn't even breathing hard. She opened the garage and picked up a long, slim

bundle that had been concealed in a corner. Then she turned to her bike.

Besides Hugh, it was the love of her life. A Harley. An 883 Sportster hugger. Just twenty-seven inches

tall and eighty-seven inches long, a lean, light, mean machine. She loved its classic simplicity, its cold

clean lines, its spare body. She thought of it as her steel and chrome thoroughbred.

Now she strapped the long bundle diagonally on her back, where it balanced nicely despite its odd size.

She put on a dark full-face helmet and swung a leg over the motorcycle. A moment later she was roaring

away, heading out of Clayton toward San Francisco.

She enjoyed the ride, even though she knew it might be her last one. Maybe because of that. It was a

dazzling end-of-summer day, with a sky of September blue and a pure-white sun. The air that parted for

Jez was warm.

How can people ride in cages? she thought, twisting the throttle to shoot past a station wagon. What

good are cars? You're completely isolated from your surroundings. You can't hear or smell anything

outside; you can't feel wind or Power or a slight change in the temperature. You can't jump out to fight at

an instant's notice. You certainly can't stake somebody at high speed while leaning out of a car window.

You could do it from a bike, though. If you were fast enough, you could skewer somebody as you

roared by, like a knight with a lance. She and Morgead had fought that way once.

And maybe will again, she thought, and flashed a grim smile into the wind.

The sky remained blue as she continued west, instead of clouding up as she approached the ocean. It

was so clear that from Oakland she could see the entire bay and the skyline of San Francisco. The tall

buildings looked startlingly close.

She was leaving her own world and entering Morgead's.

It was something she didn't do often. San Francisco was an hour and fifteen minutes away from

Clayton-assuming there was no traffic. It might as well have been in another state. Clayton was a tiny

rural town, mostly cows, with a few decent houses and one pumpkin farm. As far as Jez knew, the Night

World didn't know it existed. It wasn't the kind of place Night People cared about.

Which was why she'd managed to hide there for so long.

But now she was heading straight for the heart of the fire. As she crossed the Bay Bridge and reached

the city, she was acutely aware of how vulnerable she was. A year ago Jez had broken the laws of the

gang by disappearing. If any gang member saw her, they had the right to kill her.

Idiot. Nobody can recognize you. That's why you wear the full-face helmet. That's why you keep your

hair up. That's why you don't custom-paint the bike.

She was still hyper-alert as she cruised the streets heading for one of the city's most unsavory districts.

There. She felt a jolt at the sight of a familiar building. Tan, blocky, and unlovely, it rose to three stories

plus an irregular roof. Jez squinted up at the roof without taking off her helmet.

Then she went and stood casually against the rough concrete wall, near the rusty metal intercom. She

waited until a couple of girls dressed like artists came up and got buzzed in by one of the tenants. Then

she detached herself from the wall and calmly followed them.

She couldn't let Morgead know she was coming.

He'd kill her without waiting to ask questions if he got the jump on her. Her only chance was to jump him

first, and then make him listen.

The building was even uglier inside than it was outside, with empty echoing stairwells and faceless

industrial-sized hallways. But Jez found her heart beating faster and something like longing twisting in her

chest. This place might be hideous, but it was also freedom. Each one of the giant rooms behind the metal

doors was rented by somebody who didn't care about carpets and windows, but wanted a big empty

space where they could be alone and do exactly what they wanted.

It was mostly starving artists here, people who needed large studios. Some of the doors were painted in

gemlike colors and rough textures. Most had industrial-sized locks on them.

I don't miss it, Jez told herself. But every corner brought a shock of memory. Morgead had lived here

for years, ever since his mother ran off with some vampire from Europe. And Jez had practically lived

here, too, because it had been gang headquarters.

We had some good times….

No. She shook her head slightly to break off the thought and continued on her way, slipping silently

through the corridors, going deeper and deeper into the building. At last she got to a place where there

was no sound except the humming of the naked fluorescent lights on the ceiling. The walls were closer

together here. There was a sense of isolation, of being far from the rest of the world.

And one narrow staircase going up.

Jez paused, listened a moment, then, keeping her eyes on the staircase, removed the long bundle from

her back. She unwrapped it carefully, revealing a stick that was a work of art. It was just over four feet

long and an inch in diameter. The wood was deep glossy red with irregular black markings that looked a

little like tiger stripes or hieroglyphics.

Snakewood. One of the hardest woods in the world, dense and strong, but with just the right amount of

resilience for a fighting stick. It made a striking and individual weapon.

There was one other unusual thing about it. Fighting sticks were usually blunt at either end, to allow the

person holding it to get a grip. This one had one blunt end and one that tapered to an

angled, narrow tip. Like a spear. The point was hard as iron and extremely sharp.

It could punch right through clothing to penetrate a vampire heart.

Jez held the stick in both hands for a moment, looking down at it. Then she straightened, and, holding it

in a light grip ready for action, she began up the stairs.

"Ready or not, Morgead, here I come."